The secret of Aberfoyle Lodge is to be uncovered in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe. Hovering just a few kilometres from the Mozambique border at the far end of Honde valley, this hotel is at an altitude of 800 m keeping it hotter and more humid than the nearby upland areas of Bonda (1600 m), Juliasdale (1850 m) and Nyanga (1700 m).
Towering in the clouds over the whole of Honde Valley is the Mount Nyangani massif, leaping vertically, straight up, reaching for 2595 m (8504 ft) at the top.
It is from here that the Mtarazi Falls drop water down 772 m (2532 ft) into Honde below, making it the second tallest waterfall in Africa. Indeed, this high mountain range ‘traps’ or condenses moisture from the east to produce the rain water and streams that keep this side of Honde Valley irrigated and green, on their journey to the Pungwe river.
Locally, Honde Valley is renown for its bananas and avocados which make their way to our markets; prepare to be confronted by banana plants at literally every turn on the drive in. What we don’t realise is that Honde has a massive tea growing estate, planted 50 to 60 years ago at Wamba where the Aberfoyle Lodge is situated.
Grown on around 1500 hectares, Wamba’s tea is all exported – the internet tells us that Tetley, and Morrisons supermarket in the UK have both bought it in recent years. (FYI: our national brand of tea – Tanganda – is all grown in Chipinge, much further south in the Eastern Highlands.) You can tour Wamba Tea Factory for an up-close, hands-on understanding of the process required to turn leaves of tea into tea leaves.
Close by the factory is Nyawamba Dam (i.e. lake) which you should certainly see for its serene setting and cool, calm waters winding amongst the hilly tea fields.
Don’t take ‘serene’ or ‘calm’ for granted though as apocryphal rumours of crocodiles reached our ears later on – though there is no evidence to be found online. Just ask the tea pickers on the tarred road who will direct you to the next suitable track to drive down. Around here all the tracks leading away from the tar through the tea fields are well maintained and graded with a convex surface to provide proper drainage (something you may not see elsewhere).
A second ex-tea estate, Katiyo, has recently been converted to macadamia and avocado.
These estates are at the lower, eastern end of the valley, bordering Mozambique so you have to drive practically the whole length of Honde to reach them providing some contrast and perspective, especially as you take your leave of the hotel surrounded by memories of verdant tea fields, fine foods, and relaxing days at the end of your wonderful stay at the end of the never-to-be-forgotten valley, and drive back out through the countryside of small holdings, villages and the local town of Hauna, all without stopping and later on as the road snakes and climbs there is a friendly roadside lay-by filled with women and children selling you bananas, avocados, nzimbe (sugar cane) and yams whether you like it or not and bombilating on the roof of the car until you tell them to stop, and presumably oranges, naartjies, mangoes, pineapple and lychees when in season, followed by more climbing then soon enough your car is back on the Mutare to Nyanga road and this particular dream has rolled up the hill towards the Shona-speaking mountains and come to a close, for now.*
Many more pictures:
*(Apologies to Dylan Thomas 🏴:Quite Early One Morning, reproduced in First Language English for Cambridge iGCSE, Oxford University Press, 2018, p57.)