January – March 2019 – These words are a reflection thorough the eyes of a Kiwi eager for Africa. A gigantic thank you to everyone at Bushman Rock for making me feel so at home. My dad has told me many tales about exploring the mighty Zimbabwean bush, now I’ve had my turn too….
Landing at Harare Airport mid-January, the immigration desk was almost up to my chin. Maybe they’re only used to normal-height adults. Bumping down the pot holed dusty road to Bushman Rock on my first day, a touch after 5am, the sun began to creep above the granite rock outcrops. My heart pumped fast as I took in the lights and sounds of Bushman Rock Safaris, my new home for a wee while. Sometimes I wouldn’t go in a car for a fortnight. 40km South East of Harare, in the Mashonaland.
Winery life: Grapes hand harvested into bins, loaded onto a rickety trailer on a rickety tractor. Clothes of all colours and styles, footwear the same, including football boots. Organized chaos and lots of volume as the grapes were crushed, pressed, juice drained, ferments starting. Bees. Munching on corn cobs. Yelling in Shona. Lots of banter. “You takey the hose…” “Eish…. I don’t know…” “We go now now….” Huge smiles. Long days. Sunrises. Sunsets. Hot work. Rewarding work. Tired bodies. Beautiful smells as the wines develop. Red hands. Sticky skin.
Life on the land: 6.30am starts every day. Morning Shona greetings exchanged across vineyards, lawns, gardens, yards. Smiles. Laughter. Injections of disorganized panic. Chickens, horses, reptiles, birds, bees, dogs, cats, hustle and bustle as everyone takes their work spots for the day; house gardens to the market garden with giant aubergines, huge asparagus stalks and produce of vibrant colour, to houses to vineyards to the winery to the stables to the lodges and restaurant. Soft morning light is replaced by the intense African sun, and a spot or downpour of rain. Claps of thunder and bolts of lightening sometimes too. Down tools for ‘tea’ mid morning, then another one as the midday heat seeks havoc on the labouring body. More hustle and bustle in the afternoon, then the light softening again. Early sunsets, the ball of yellow dips as the moon appears again. Stars soon sparkle, the sky has many dimensions. Baboons sometimes heard hollering in the distance.
Horses: Morning trots around the game farm; wilderbeests and zebras taking particular interest. In the stables for breakfast, daily grooming them for ghastly ticks. Then out to the paddocks to roam near the vines or one of the dams, or staying in for more exercise. Back in for lunch, afternoon rides for some, then dinner as the sun goes down. A wonderful life for a horse at Bushman Rock, managed by a superb team of grooms who laugh and joke and sparkle with energy as they take massive pride in their work with the four legged friends. My absolute favourite place to hang out, the kiwi ‘Bushman musikana,’ sometimes we’d all be laughing so hard we’d have tears streaming and barely able to stand up straight, holding onto stable doors. And let’s not forget Bongo the stable cat.
Game farm: I was the luckiest runner ever to be training for a marathon in a game farm every day! Giraffes roam throughout the night, lucky enough to spot as the sun begins to rise. Zebras and wilderbeests hang out together, and combine forces to give the horses a scare on during the morning trot. Eland, impala, sable, the list goes on. Massive bird life. Ostrich and buffalo are out in the back blocks. Together they make up the pocket of Bushman Rock where one can visit, whether it be by foot, horse or vehicle, to sit and observe with the eyes and ears, and let the mind wander. The mood forever changes depending on the weather and the time of day, dictating who is out and about, what sounds are made, and what the light is doing. But no matter what, it is aways a treat. And a fabulous place to walk the dogs as the sun sets, letting them kick up dust and rough and tumble in the dusty paths.
Family life: The Passaportis family started their life at Bushman Rock in the late 1990’s. In two decades they have moulded this spot of land into their own haven; replanting grapes, planting asparagus, creating an extensive market garden, building dams, pouring time and love into the lodges and restaurant, upgrading the winery, the list goes on. The younger generation has taken over; Jono and Justine and their two young sprongs Mila and Theo, alongside their two Great Danes Leo and Maggie, and the willful cat Vida, and don’t forget the 20 or more tortoises, chickens, guinea pigs, the occasional rescued bush baby, and I’m sure I’ve forgotten something or someone. Life under brick and mortar would not be the same without the loving helping hands from Tabi, Tete and Sadu who help maintain the haven.
Now, my eight week adventure amongst the majestical Zimbabwean bush life at Bushman Rock is done n’ dusted. And what majestical and beautiful dust it was. Not sure if I can blame the dust in my eyes for the tears that trickled down my cheeks the day I left though… The grapes are off the vines, the ferments are bubbling away. Polo season is just cranking up now, ponies as fit as beans and buzzing to get started.. Done and busted, these boots will forever remain in the dust n’ dirt at Bushman Rock, gathering plenty more colourful Zimbabwean bush life tales of winemaking, horses, and superb people. Life at Bushman Rock Safaris, a memory to behold.
A few quick snippet Facebook posts:
You know you’re living the thick of the Zimbabwean bush life when; you’re on a pre sunrise run this morning up in the back trails and hear animal noises that sounds like barking. ‘Bloody hell did the dogs get out?’ you think to yourself. Listen again… ‘Oh phew, it’s just baboons.’ 👣
Polo life in the thick of the Zimbabwean bush… I was hanging out with the grooms inbetween chukkas today, and snapped this pic. ‘Hey Steve’ I said to the groom next to me; ‘Do you think it matters that I’ve chopped off the top of the horse’s ear? ‘Ah no,’ he replied with a straight face; ‘it’s okay, people will still know it’s a horse.’ The Shona people’s humour and way of thinking- absolutely brilliant. 🐴😂
You know you’re living amongst the thick of Zimbabwean bush life winemaking when; your cellar mate takes your hands this morning, puts them next to his, and says with a broad smile and a twinkle in his eye, ‘Now our skin, same same.’ Bushman Rock Safaris
You know you’re living the thick of Zimbabwean bush life when: You’re schooling one of the polo ponies in the game farm this morning, when all of a sudden he comes to a screaming halt as there’s a rustling in the trees. “For goodness sake Leonard, (words to that effect) just relax, it’s only a few zebras!” (Just like you but wearing pyjamas.) Bushman Rock Safaris