Zimbabwe – The Highlands

Crossing the border

It takes us about an hour to drive from Chimoio in Mozambique to the Zimbabwe border on a well-maintained road. The convoy of trucks transporting goods and fuel from the port of Beira in Mozambique to Zimbabwe, Zambia and the Congo begins several kilometers before the border. There are up to three rows of them on the left-hand side of the road, so that at times we can’t even overtake them. At the two customs offices, there is complete chaos because there is simply no room for the trucks. The customs offices in Machipinda (Mozambique) and Forbes (Zimbabwe) are completely overwhelmed. Some truck drivers help us to get to the front, as we have no load and therefore don’t have to wait for clearance.

The departure from Mozambique is progressing rapidly. Despite the chaos, the officials are friendly and do their job to the best of their satisfaction.
We also receive friendly service at the Zimbabwean border – but the procedure is much more complicated. Nevertheless, we get our visa without any problems. Things look a little different when it comes to importing the MAN. On the one hand, I simply can’t understand the lady behind the glass counter because of her slurred speech and the background noise. She makes an effort to inspect our truck. Well, now she has a huge problem, because a “vehicle that big” can’t belong to anyone privately, it can’t be a leisure or touring vehicle, no, it has to be the property of a company, etc.. So it takes time for her to stamp our Carnet de Passage. Later we realize that she should have sent us to the road customs office ZIMRA to pay the road tolls for our trip and have them confirmed, because later we are asked for a receipt at every road toll….


Mutare is a pleasant small town with a favorable climate at an altitude of around 1100m. We organize ourselves here. We buy a SIM card from Econet so that we can get online. 1 GB of data costs 1 US$. The two grocery stores, Spar and Pick n Pay, are generous and well stocked to replenish our supplies. As we are over 65 years old, we enjoy privileges in Zimbabwe: we don’t have to queue at the back, but are always allowed to skip the entire waiting line – age is still honored here!

Inflation is still galloping in Zimbabwe. This is why the US$ is considered a “stable” substitute currency. In the larger supermarkets we can pay with a foreign credit card. OR a local person pays at the checkout in our place in Zimbabwe dollars and we reimburse the expenses at a slightly more favorable rate in US dollars. That’s what happened to Lilliane. A win-win situation for them, as they receive a “hard” currency and we make a slight profit due to the slightly higher dollar exchange rate.

For three days we live on a meadow near the golf club, where we are warmly welcomed. Kevin – the person in charge – is on hand with help and advice. We are also allowed to go for evening walks on the golf course and we can eat in the restaurant for US$10 for two people. The club members greet us and there is a little small talk here and there.

Right next to the supermarkets is the fruit and vegetable market, which makes shopping very convenient. Here you also pay in US$, so that a few fruits, potatoes, etc. worth 1 dollar are put together. For example, 5 potatoes or 10 bananas cost US$ 1 (no matter how big or small they are) etc. Fortunately, Kevin from the golf club got us a bundle of US$ 1 notes, which is the only way we can pay at the market. The market women not only like to be photographed, but sometimes they even urge you to take a picture of them too. And if you shop at the same place several times, you soon develop a more familiar relationship, which we really appreciate.

Bvumba Mountains

We drive into the Bvumba Mountains, which lie south of Mutare. The steep mountain road is narrow, but asphalted and in very good condition. The Bvumba Mountains were once an important summer retreat for white settlers before they left the country with the land reform or had to leave because they were deprived of their livelihood.
The Bvumba Mountains are a border mountain range between Mozambique and Zimbabwe. The highest elevation is Castle Beacon on the Zimbabwean side at 1911 meters above sea level. The area is characterized by forested heights and deep, often mist-covered valleys. It consists mainly of granite. The average annual precipitation is 1800 to 2000 millimeters.

Tony’s Coffee Shop

At the beginning of the mountain forest lies the romantic place “Tony’s Kaffeehaus”. Tony is an architect by profession, but has now turned his hobby into his work. He brews the best coffee far and wide in different variations and bakes cakes with an incredible creativity of flavors. We order a Wienerkaffee à Discretion and I order a coconut-white-chocolate quark tart (cheesecake). Delicious, delicious, delicious – but the price is also delicious: the whole thing makes us a whole US$ 48 lighter (without tip).

HIVU Nursery

Sally runs a flower nursery high up on the Bvumba mountains, at around 1700 meters. We are allowed to camp here in the meadow parking lot – and we stay for six days because we like it so much in the middle of the forests and flowers. Unfortunately, the wonderful view is mostly obstructed by air pollution – at the moment the meadows are being burnt down, especially in Mozambique, and all the smog is being carried into Zimbabwe.
Nevertheless, the air up here is fresh and pleasant – you can take a deep breath.
The longer we travel, the more we appreciate staying in one place for several days and simply enjoying ourselves. This is also the case here. We feel completely at ease.

The forest

Wonderful, this mountain forest, which is full of mist at other times of the year and radiates something mysterious from there. We try to get some impressions with the drone. Hiking in the forest is possible, but not very appealing here because you can easily get lost without a guide. Unfortunately, many parts of the forest have already been cut down. The steadily growing population requires more and more land. This is also because people in this country do not live crammed together in blocks of flats, but each family owns or claims its own more or less large courtyard.

La Rochelle

The “La Rochelle” estate, which is around 70 years old, is located north of Mutare in a secluded valley. It was the last residence of Sir Stephen and Lady Virginia Courtauld, the glamorous couple who left Europe to build their “Shangri-La” in Africa – “Shangri-La” means paradise, an ideal place of well-being. The two not only built a beautiful country estate with gardens and a botanical forest, but also employed many locals, built schools and financed many other aid projects. They bequeathed the estate to the Zimbabwean state.

Unfortunately, the estate and its gardens fell into disrepair as a result of land reform and the accompanying hyperinflation. Fortunately, investors took on the estate and today it shines in new splendor. You can camp under tall trees at the back. We are here at the ideal time of year, as the roses are in full bloom. We enjoy the fine food served with style, the walks through the garden and the botanical forest garden and, as a highlight, the blooming orchids in the orchid house in the evening sun.

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