By Norma Tsopo
A thick swirl of dust billowed into the air as we pulled into Champion Mine road, off the Harare-Mutare highway.
The two kilometre dirt access road set the tone for our escape into the authentic ethnic Shona village ambience that Musangano Lodge offers.
Modeled around a typical Zimbabwean rural setting, the leisure resort seats on the lower slopes of a scenic Miombo woodland covered mountain range just outside the eastern border city of Mutare.
Magnificent Shona stone sculptures, metal sculpts and many artifacts all over the property – in its gardens, along paths and in the buildings makes it something of an art gallery as well.
Beyond mere escapism, the rustic resort also seeks to heal severed connections with Mother Nature.
Beautified by dry gardens with healthy drought resistant plants, there is no ignoring the efforts to keep the environment as natural as possible.
Their efforts to keep the environment as pristine and as pure as is practically possible around a human settlement is impressive.
The resort is now constructing bio-gas digesters with each new building as it refines its waste management models.
All its bio-degradable restaurant waste is being converted to gas which is used for instant heating in the kitchen. And so is the sewer from its new 250-seater Sungano Conference.
Caned beverages or bottled water are not something guests would expect to see too due to their environmental impact.
For a tree-hugger like myself, it was refreshing being at a facility run by well-meaning environmentalists.
With chalets and self-catering lodges strewn across the woody 140 hectare property, well-spaced to guarantee privacy, walking around the footpaths that connect them brings the same euphoria one gets on a typical Zimbabwean rural village transactional walk.
Guests can choose between self-catering lodges with two or three bedrooms or smaller chalet accommodation – all of which are bricks under thatch with Zimbabwe’s iconic cone shaped tops.
All units are purposely furnished with home-made furniture designed for their specific and varied designs and decorated in ethnic style the facility to create a homely and cozy atmosphere.
Both have patios that allows guests to view the spectacular Odzi River Valley and the rising granite bulwarks in the distance – as just a teaser of the full splendor of the Eastern Highlands with Nyanga and Honde Valley inviting yonder.
Spacious self-catering lodges can accommodate up to six guests and are the perfect option for families or larger groups and are fully equipped with crockery, cutlery, cooking utensils, fridge, gas cooker with oven and an outside private braai stand.
The smaller and more intimate chalets are suitable for two guests but retaining all the homely comforts as they are provided with a tea-kitchenette – fridge, electric kettle, crockery and basic cutlery.
Each of them also has a fireplace which we enjoyed against the chills of a cold August night.
These well-equipped lodges and chalets accommodate up to 32 guests. And each has secure parking space for one or two cars.
They are all a few minutes away from the restaurant whose buffet and a’ la carte menus have quite a reputation from the full breakfast to the light lunch and a table d’hôtel three-course dinner.
Open to drive through clients, the restaurant has a 25 to 35 minute turnaround time for it’s a’ la carte menu.
Going through the place, one thing is clear – everything was carefully planned. The whole facility is also impressively engineered to be fully accessible by wheel chairs.
Eulogizing the country’s rural setting, Musangano Lodge delicately balances modernity and otherworldly atmosphere of a natural eco-friendly facility.
Television sets are the only notable absentees from any modern up-market facilities which is more than compensated for by WI-FI allowing guests to stay connected with the world as they unwind and relax in its cozy luxuries.
It also offers a big swimming pool with an adjacent safe paddling section for children. It has acres of sunbathing space with gazebos.
There is also an exciting Robinson adventure playground and wide expanses of lawn where the kids can romp around or play games such as badminton, table tennis and volley-ball.
The distant staccato sound of gold mills remind guests that this is not an artificial setting but a part of a rural setting with normal activities continuing in its environs.
Musangano Lodge offers three refreshing nature and hiking trails on its woody property and Bike and Mountain bike trails into its hinterlands.
It has three colour-marked nature and hiking trails on its 140 hectare property.
The Riverine Trail takes one over fairly level ground behind the Lodge along a seasonal stream. The Secret Valley Trail leads up past the Lodge’s water reservoir and from there via a high point with lovely views back down along a pretty hidden valley. The most challenging being the Aloe Trail which takes one across a stretch of seasonally wet grassland before ascending towards the summit of the ridge to the south of the Lodge.
The several biking routes vary from 10 to 65 kilometers in length. The main bike route takes riders towards the Nyanga Highlands and can be covered in 3 hours. Mountain bike trails vary from 10 to 28 kilometres with the shortest being eminently suitable for children and beginners.
It also offers peaceful and secluded location for camping for hundreds with clean and neat amenities.