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Rupurara: a personal view

“Rupurara’’ in the local Shona dialect means bald head and describes the great, smooth-topped granite mountain that dominates the centre of Rupurara estate. The longer you gaze at the bald man’s head, the trees and bush at the base become his beard and sideburns. His mood changes with the weather — broody as dark clouds gather, then the sun breaks through, the mood lightens and everything is going to be all right again.


The climb to the summit, the crown of the egg head seen best from the north side, ascends some 240 metres. The barman at Inn on Rupurara, a fitness enthusiast, does it in 11 minutes, a young American in a fetching, sporty outfit who regularly goes to her gym back home did it in 45 minutes. The more leisurely and older folk like me take up to an hour and a half.


Why do it? Because it’s there, as Edmund Hilary said of Everest. And the all-round views of the Nyanga mountains are stunning. Glaciers sculpted this breathtaking landscape at least 700 million years ago.


That doesn’t mean much to we locals who know that not so long ago ZW$700 million didn’t buy a loaf of bread, but it impresses visitors whose numeric skills haven’t been skewed by the helter-skelter of our old currency. Remember the ZW$100 trillion bank note?


Rupurara mountain, what’s more, is the only place for a very long way where there’s a cellphone signal. Econet take note of the length people will go to use networks that are a decade behind international standards, according to our young American.


Cletas, the barman, also mountain bikes through the craggy granite outcrops and glades and streams hereabouts. Seven leopards have been identified living  in the wild beyond the game fence and there are enough klipspringer, baboon, dassies and other unfortunates to keep them fed without troubling the zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, eland, tsessebi and impala in the 500 hectare conservancy.


The wildebeest, says veteran guide Colin Chigura, is known in Shona as nkongoni,’ or the ugly one. It is also called the “quarter to one’’ animal. After creating graceful antelope, God made the wildebeest in haste as his lunch break approached.


The black markings on the eland’s knees make it look like it is wearing football socks.


The zebra are the dishonest ones in prison uniforms. Giraffe give birth standing up and when the calf falls out with a thump onto the ground it takes its first worldly breath, much like a human baby when slapped on the bottom.


Zimbabwe has 98 varieties of the acacia tree. Black Eyed Susan pop up through the grass in the morning, her yellow petals and dark central eye bringing passion, romance and love which might end in tears if not handled properly, according to local folklore, says Chigura.


I’ve been tramping through the bush for decades. Now there’s a thing. You’re never too old to learn something new.


The eco-friendly Inn on Rupurara, its lodges nestled neatly into the hillside, is not spared our nationwide power cuts. The generator it needs chews up 25 litres of fuel an hour but thankfully it is unobtrusive and doesn’t belch black smoke across the valley.


If it’s rollicking action you’re after, you won’t find it here. This is a place for relaxation and reflection, for reading a damn good book on the terrace or in the vistaramic lounge with its surround-sound birdsong, away from the stresses of city life. It’s for having personal thoughts and good conversation away from DStv and its depressing news bulletins of calamity across the globe. It’s for having good drink and good food…


You can’t go to Nyanga without ordering fresh trout and here it melts in your mouth. I’m generally not a gourmet or a three-meals-a-day person but at Rupurara I become one; there’s something of flavour for all palates. I take my hat off to the managers and staff who make it all happen.


In the bar, I hear a shrill cellphone ringing. Shock horror in this tranquillity. It turns out to be a New Zealander who’s taken a snooze on the veranda after a fine bottle of wine and set his phone alarm to awaken for the afternoon game drive.


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