A White Horse in the clouds

When I visit the Vumba Mountains, I feel like I’m being swept up in a fairy-tale, a make belief world! For me this enchanting land stirs up the memories and imagination of a child; with mist that pours over the mountain edges like frothy white milk, monkey ropes that hang from mossy branches and exotic gardens that drip with colour. How can you not be captivated by a land so beautiful?

Every winter we cross the border into Zimbabwe and make our way up the steep incline to the White Horse Inn, tucked away in the crease of a mountain cloaked with forest. When I step into the old English-style inn, I’m transported into a magical world frozen in time. Where bathrooms are still called powder rooms, where my perfectly soft boiled egg is served in the finest silver egg cup, and where the lounge and bar are made cozy by the warmth and crackle of a log fire.

This is my kind of winter magic. I don’t need 5 stars or modern décor. I don’t need TV or an internet connection. I don’t need an award winning chef serving me 17 tasters before my main meal.

I do however need homemade marmalade, dollops of thick, fresh cream and slow-cooked oxtail. And after dinner a pot of freshly brewed local filter coffee. I need good hospitality – the type where the owner comes down to the restaurant, dressed in his finest tweed suit for a small chat before dinner is served. I need character and staff friendliness. And last but not least – I need nature – surroundings that come alive with gardens, forests and wildlife. I’ve got that here, at the White Horse Inn.

But the Inn is quiet, with a few guests trickling in here and there. The bird calls and the chatter of the Samango monkeys seem to be louder than anything else. And while we are treated like kings and queens, there is a hint of sadness…loneliness even; like Alice is still lost in Wonderland, like the Sleeping Beauty still awaits her prince.

Is the Vumba a forgotten place? I think not. As a South African, I have vivid childhood memories of annual school holiday trips to Zimbabwe…not just to Victoria Falls, but long, winding round trips! We don’t forget these places overnight. So why the absence?

I think the Wicked Witch of politics has cast her evil spell, keeping the buzz of tourist activity down to a gentle hum.

That’s the story with tourists, they’re a sensitive bunch – trouble in paradise and within minutes they are repacking their bags with a pair of beach shorts and heading to Mozambique instead. And if not Mozambique, there is Botswana, Zambia and Namibia. The competition is fierce these days.

I don’t know what the latest round of Zimbabwe elections will bring. But in my opinion, Zimbabwe is still a serious holiday destination contender. Especially since many of those places we visited as children, are unchanged and clinging on by a golden thread, waiting for your return.

For more information on the White Horse Inn, check out their website http://www.whitehorseinn.co.zw/