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

26 replies »

  1. Reblogged this on Stories From Safaris and commented:
    I found a fellow blogger, whose stories I really enjoy. Her photos are great and she has a way with words that I haven’t developed yet. I read this story with a lump in my throat – this is where I grew up and have the most amazing memories – but sadly no photos.

  2. Love it! My grandparents lived not far from The White Horse – we’d take a walk through the forest and into the garden of the Inn in the afternoon, just to have a tea and scones. And it was a birthday must for dinner. I loved dressing up and feeling so sophisticated – thank you for bringing back so many amazing memories – I will definitely be making a trip back there soon.

  3. I’m not sure with Botswana, Zambia and Malawi right in the same neighborhood why I would want to go back to Zim, except I met someone there who has become pretty special to me. She is the only reason I would return.

    • Zim means different things to different people. Each country that you mention is completely unique in that they have there own set of cultures, countryside, people and history. In my situ, I’ve had the opportunity to explore her before, during and after…. and still love going back to her!

  4. I know this traveler has avoided Zimbabwe due to the harrowing acts of Mugabe; hopefully the elections will work out but until then I’ll continue to enjoy your beautiful accounts. Thank you for sharing The White House Inn.

    • You’re one of many and I can quite understand. We’re all hoping for the best. For the Zimbabweans and on a more selfish note, for us tourists, so we can travel the country again without concern! Thanks for your comment Jet 🙂

  5. I’m sold! I love the way you write about this place: ” 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. . . tucked away in the crease of a mountain cloaked with forest”. “Homemade Marmalade and dollops of fresh cream”–me too! And your photos! The little girl tucked into the roots of that magnificent tree! The Lillie pads on the pond swimming with the reflection of sky and cloud. Wow! I always love visiting your blog and coming away feeling inspired and refreshed and excited about this beautiful, diverse world in which we are blessed to live–politics aside.

  6. Something from an era that was long ago, but that has survived unscathed in the deeps of the jungles. Who knows – perhaps fewer tourists helps keep places unchanged? I can barely speak, though; in Zimbabwe i was only ever in Victoria falls. Before heading back to (you guessed it) Namibia via Botswana. Great post, Lianne.

  7. what a wonderful write up, It is a truly magical old fashioned place, and I too have many memories of the Vumba. Did you visit Tony’s cafe further up the hill, for chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate!

    • Hi Joan, thanks for the comments! Yes, yes, yes – we went to Tony’s!!! I put on at least 2 kg’s within 1 hour! My next post will be about things to do in the Vumba and that chocolate cake I had will definitely be featuring!

    • love it! we used to go to Hot Springs a lot (before the diamond rush) and he used to work there a long time ago before he branched out on his own. have great memories of the place. could I share your post on my facebook?

    • Hi Joan, you certainly can post it on Facebook! I also have a facebook page called Africa far and Wide which has all my recent posts on it, including this one.

  8. What a fantastic place – lost in time and indeed in an enchanted forest. This collection of photos are so expressive – the way the light falls through the trees and catches the colours – just beautiful. Have shared this on my facebook for my friends to enjoy as well. 🙂

    • Thank you 🙂 It’s truly a magical place and I want everyone to know about it! They could really do with a little more business – but with the Zimbabwe election looming, the tourists are still timid! Thanks for sharing this post on facebook 🙂 Your comments and support is very much appreciated!