Dusty Road Victoria Falls

I started this blog with the words, “The first thing I noticed about Dusty Road..” and then my fingers froze over my keyboard. Because when I stepped through the rusty gate in the Chinotimba township, I was overwhelmed by an eclectic tidal way of colour and craft. There was no one thing to notice- in every corner an eccentrically beautiful feature jostles for your attention.

Spinach bursts from the ground, stretching its green arms towards the sky as though it is trying to escape from its sandy roots. Flowers pour down the wall from tin cans, looking and smelling like a field you want to get lost in. An old pick up truck, painted vivid blue, stands proudly against the wall. The metal goats and chickens on the roof seem to be patiently waiting for the robot lights to turn green. If you look away for a second, it seems as though another quirky creation organically springs from the earth so that no matter how many times you walk through, there is always something new to catch your attention.

Autentic Zimbabwean Restaurant

Every step down ‘Dusty Road’ feels like a walk down memory lane. A small market stall is tucked beneath a sheet of tarpaulin, and a table laden with hessian sacks spill their contents like jewels from a treasure chest. Oprah, a small lady with a big smile, warmly takes your hands in her as she explains how they source and use the traditional nuts and beans. We sat down at our table, and a platter of starters was brought over.

Indlubu and Indumba bean hummus on toasted Chimhodo bread is Zimbabwe’s superior equivalent to avo toast. The creamy texture of the beans put chickpeas to shame, and I couldn’t believe that it was my first introduction to the dip. It almost makes you want to march into the kitchen and start asking questions, but fortunately, there is a large assortment of spreads and nuts to distract you from any interrogations.

I have to devote some of this review to Dusty Roads glassware because anything that makes me pause with a glass of wine halfway to my lips is worth writing about. Protea wine and Roses Lime Cordial bottles have been repurposed, and cleverly cut into glasses. Dusty Road is a haven for anything and everything that can be redefined and more often than not, it is more beautiful this way that in its original form.

As someone who won’t do anything to an egg other than scrambling it for fear of what may happen, I found talking to Sarah Lilford, owner and chef, utterly enthralling. She crumbles a mongongo nut infused biscuit between her hands and explains how they have to experiment to get the textures and flavour balance right continually. She and her team are pioneers, artfully and passionately redefining the way ingredients are used. Their fusion of flavours celebrate local produce, but their ingenious techniques bring a modern twist to every bite.

The main course is served buffet style. Long before the bell dongs to let you know the food is ready, a deliciously rich and nutty aroma wafts over, embracing you in its warm arms and tugging you towards the grill. Sarah’s sous-chefs confidently pile your plate up, telling you that you will love it because they know without a doubt it is true. And it is. Flames slick up through the grate, licking the pots of peanut butter rice, flame-grilled chicken, kudu stew and crocodile kebabs. Enormous wooden bowls overflow with different salads, from samp coleslaw to minty greens. Lights hang like golden orbs from the tree branches, bathing the tables in a gentle glow and an aura of enchantment settles over diners.

To make some room for dessert, we took a stroll through the garden, before ducking into the curio shop. It was like we had stepped into an incubator for local artistic talent, with everything from chitenge earrings to homemade peanut butter. Dessert was a delicate assortment of chocolate, orange and mongongo nutballs, followed by baobab amasi cream with masawu and a mnyi berry drizzle.
With an endless jar of biscuits, pots of tanganda tea, and quirky things to discover while you unbutton your jeans, it is hard to find a reason to leave.

Zimbabweans will flock here because it feels like home. Tourists will come because Dusty Road epitomises what travelling is all about – experiencing a different culture through great food, people, traditions and décor. I also feel compelled to mention that I spent a lot of the evening fighting the urge to steal the glasses and plates. So book a table at Dusty Road now, before more people find out about this hidden gem and it the waiting list reads like a phone book. And also, don’t steal the plates.

Autentic Zimbabwean Restaurant in Victoria Falls

Empowerment Project: Educating 67 young minds

There is a proverb that tells us, “If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.” We have harnessed this philosophy in our corporate social responsibility, a program that we are unwaveringly committed to honouring.

We want to reach young minds in every realm of education, extending beyond tourism and conservation, so that the next generation is equipped with the tools they need to change the course of their future, and that of the country. In 2014, we began an education empowerment project, and paid the school fees of 15 student beneficiaries. This number has grown to 72 children across eight different rural schools in Victoria Falls.

Wild Horizons does not define sustainability as the conservation status of natural resources alone. We are focussed on the custodians of the country, and we believe that children are the guardians of Zimbabwe’s future.

The Last Straw

The world is facing a plastic problem, and it is snowballing- but so is awareness and determination to halt the crisis in its tracks. Wild Horizons has several strategies in place, and all of these have seen massive success.

Only a few years ago plastic bottled water was thought to be an inescapable essential on safari. Then, the world seemed to draw a collective breath as images of sea horses carrying earbuds emerged. A plastic bag was found thousands of feet below the ocean’s surface in the world’s deepest trench. Birds were seen nesting in shreds of shopping bags.

As heartbreaking as it is to think and see these images, our planet and our wildlife need us to realise the extent of the damage that is caused by these fickle, yet indestructible products.

 

Searching for solutions 

Our mission began when we joined the ”straw war”, banning the use of plastic straws at all of our lodges and on our activities. The next step was to address the use of plastic bottles. We installed water purification systems at each lodge and provided every guest a reusable water bottle that they could refill with fresh filtered water. We stopped serving plastic bottled water during meal times and instead we provide purified glass bottle of water. The initiative has been a massive success, and we are proud to report a 100% decline in plastic water bottle consumption in all three lodges, with not one plastic bottle of water being provided.

 

Nine million reasons to join the war on plastic

Victoria Falls has an average of almost 605, 000 international visitors every year. If each visitor stays an average of 4 days and consumes 2liters of bottled water per day, over 9 million plastic bottles will be discarded annually. Recycling programs in Africa are severely limited, and one plastic bottle can infest the earth for 450 years before the elements can decompose it. The enormity of the problem can not be ignored.

We need to change the way we think about plastic. When we ”throw it away”, where is it going? When plastic is buried, it does not nourish the earth. It leaches toxins into the soil, poisoning or ensnaring wildlife. The purpose of a safari is to appreciate the earth’s natural beauty, a pleasure and a privilege that we will go great lengths to protect.

Five tips to limit plastic waste on safari 

Most plastic products take centuries to decompose, which means almost every piece of plastic ever produced is still in existence… much of it in oceans or landfills. The small changes you make now could create a big difference for future generations.

  • Say no to bottled water, and refill a reusable one.
  • If you are concerned about water quality when you explore off the beaten track areas, take a Life Straw or Steripen with you to filter out harmful bacteria. Alternatively, do some research and purchase a water bottle that has a built-in filtration device.
  • When you go souvenir or grocery shopping at local markets, take an eco-friendly cotton bag with you. These are light and very easy to pack.
  • Many people who go into rural areas are tempted to give the local children sweets, but the wrappers from these are extremely harmful to the environment. Instead, take a box of fruit with you.
  • Avoid travel-sized toiletries and plastic-packaged toiletries when you pack. Instead buy a bar of shampoo, conditioner and soap with a steel tin to store it in.

If you have bought some new gear for your trip, remove any plastic packaging it may be wrapped in and send it to a nearby recycling station. Don’t bring it to the bush.

Chef Daisy: ‘I am vibrant’

There is something hypnotic about watching a chef preparing a meal. The soft hand that shook mine moments ago now confidently wields a butchers knife, swiftly slicing up ingredients like they are made of butter. I can hear the smile in Chef Daisy’s voice as rich aromas rise in warm waves from her frying pan. Her tone seems to be in tune with the sizzle, and her story emerges through the plumes of steam that have started to dance between us.

Daisy’s passion for cooking began in her modest family kitchen, where she watched Chef Daisy sitting on the deck of The Lookout Cafeher mother lovingly prepare traditional meals. Since then, she has worked at the Wild Horizons Lookout Café and now on the Malachite, a luxury dinner cruise boat.

These exciting kitchen environments have inspired Chef Daisy’s skills and become transferable to the taste of her cuisine. Her bold and fearless experimentation with flavours mirrors the dramatic landscape of the Lookout Café, an iconic restaurant perched on the edge of the Batoka Gorge. Today, as the Malachite slips along the surface of the Zambezi, Daisy plates up her popular Beef Mignon. “The Zambezi River is breath-taking and refreshing, so the environment on its own makes the brain fresh”, explains Daisy, as she trickles a decadent jus over her dish. The dots and squiggles of nouveau cuisine are artfully incorporated, but they are accompanied by hearty, wholesome ingredients that strike the delicate balance between home cooking and fine dining.

As in all kitchens, a sense of urgency buzzes through the atmosphere around us, but the calm smile never leaves Daisy’s lips. Her lightning-quick hands stir and sprinkle fresh herbs into the simmering pots, but there is no futuristic culinary chemistry or flamboyant tableside showmanship. The ingredients for the Malachite dining experience are simple- spectacular food, prepared and served by a spectacular team, in spectacular surroundings.

While Daisy favours fine dining when she cooks, her favourite meal is Mild Peri Chicken served with a parsnip puree, asparagus, baby carrots and chilli sauce. Like her, it is unpretentious yet inimitable- the kind of meal you would want to share with friends. Though Daisy may work like a machine, there is emotion in her food that resonates with all who taste it.

Chef Daisy describes herself as a “vibrant, energetic woman who is willing to go the extra mile” and she shows this in her food. An hour ago, we sat down at a table laden in fairly ordinary groceries. Under Daisy’s expert hands, the vegetables, herbs, spices and meat came together in a delicious dish that only someone who truly understands and appreciates good food could create.

At Wild Horizons, a spirit of empowerment, passion and positivity emanates from within. The women in our company shape our vision to make a difference, and their fierce sense of strength and leadership weaves a golden thread throughout the organisation. Keep an eye on our website for more blog posts about the many Wild Horizons Wonder Women.

Join Chef Daisy on a Malachite dinner cruise by booking here, or get in touch with us at info@wildhorizons.co.zw