Bushman Rock Safaris – the final farewell. ZIMBABWE

December 2019.

The heart wrenching reality of visiting an adored place again, is having to say goodbye again.

Bushman Rock Safaris, goodbye for the third and final time. Never an easy task.

In some broken Shona for the stable crew; maita Basa tatenda chaiezhu stable shamwaris, from your stable musikana. Chokwadi I’ll miss our tamba time. Tunana time time, nda kuenda kumba, unless you guys find me that plot of land you were talking about, for me to come back and grow some tobacco. Zvakanaka!!!! ***thank you very much stable friends, from your stable girl. It’s true I’ll miss our horse rides. See you again, in a long while, for now I’m going home, (well soon…). Unless I come back sooner and become a tobacco farmer – it’ll be fine!!!!! #bushlife #zimbabwe #bushmanrocksafaris #with_belles_on

My big bros at Bushman Rock, they always had my back.

With Belles On – backyard winemaking. Marlborough, NEW ZEALAND

To set the record straight, I am not a winemaker.

But I do love to be a cellar hand and drag hoses all day. A true blue ‘cellar rat,’ up to my eyeballs in grape skins and muck, dragging hoses flat out and hooning around the winery – especially at harvest time.

So, I decided to have a dabble at making my own drops for a few years. A special thanks to all my industry friends who have put up with all my questions and annoyingness.

Here in this section you’ll see vintages of 2014, 2015 and 2016, each with their own story.

2017… well let’s ‘just pretend that one never happened…’ and well, 2018 is actually still in the fridge, chilling out, because the brix were so high I  think its still fermenting – watch this space!!!

I mean, it’s an ancient drop that’s been made for thousands of years… What could possibly go wrong?

In true With Belles On fashion, I will continue to make my own drop, and hoping for the best.


And, for a few additional words about me and my wine journey, you may want to check out https://withbelleson.co.nz/wp-admin/post.php?post=4184&action=edit

Hempies du Toit, Annandale Winery. Cape Region, SOUTH AFRICA

October 6, 2019.

Where patience meets passion.

Annandale Wine Estate, a stone’s throw from Stellenbosch where the mountains and rugged ridge lines rule, and where Hempies du Toit lives, the man behind the liquid gold in the Annandale bottles that epitomize what can happen when art, confidence and love weave together.

Hempies was once a Springbok front rower, with a story or two to tell about life on the pitch, in particular the 1981 tournament to New Zealand where they chucked the oval ball around against the All Blacks. Being pre-professional days, on this tour these giant-sized Boks reaped a nightly rest or two on camp stretchers – which were barely long enough to reach their knees. Rugby life may be a far cry from vines and winery life, but what they do share is true grit and passion.

“I love life and if I’m not passionate about something I’ll pass it by.”

Hempies casually lined up a few bottles on the table for us today, in the tasting room that was once the hub of the Annandale riding school. These were his current releases; a 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, a 2005 Shiraz, a 2004 Merlot…. to name a few.

“I just leave the barrels alone, I hardly touch them.”

The oak barrels will house these wines for a number of years before Hempies bottles them. Well wine can look after itself when the soils the vines live in are in such good nik; the land was once commercially used for broccoli and melons. Hempies wild ferments too, and this method has never let him down.

“I love sharing my passion with special people.”

The health out in the vineyards rings loud in our glasses as we whole heartedly stick our noses in, swirl and sip.

He rattles off his stand-out vintages off the top of his head, his ‘uitskieter’ (stand out) years – this guy is proudly Afrikaans. 

Hempies knew my enthusiasm for this ancient drop, and nailed it when he said “this is like your walk in the clouds.” So cheers Hempies, thanks heaps for your generosity, tales, and such a rad memorable morning. You’re a super cool dude. And all the best for the Rugby World Cup… 🍷🍇🤣🏉


Travelling Harvest, ZIMBABWE

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


Travelling Harvest, WA. AUSTRALIA

January 2018 – Managed to escape corporate wine office life for three weeks and get my harvest hands back – this time with Houghton Wines in Swan Valley, Western Australia. I learned my way around some excellent chardonnay, and had the treat of visiting vineyards a few hours down the road towards Margaret River. Shiraz and Semillon too; the last time I’d dabbled with these in Australia had been cellar-ratting at Mount Pleasant in the Hunter Valley, NSW in 2014. That’s the very cool thing about winemaking; forever changing. A fun few weeks where I learned lots and got to see a few roos.