Home » General » Coffee in the Guti At Mukuvisi!

We had 11 consecutive awful dreary, grey, grim, guti days in late April here in Harare, which is very unusual.

As dilapidated and distressed as it is, Harare’s still known as Sunshine City among world’s capitals and even Zanu PF hasn’t found a way to deny citizens and visitors sunshine, nor have they cooked up ways to tax it!

On one of the gloomiest of those 11 miserable days I went to Mukuvisi Woodlands for mid-morning coffee. The sky was the colour of gun-metal… there was a nip in the air… venerable trees dripped water from the previous downpour and ornamental brick pathways were bright green with lichen and algae.

But reception staff members were cheerful broad welcoming smiles were evident at the Woodlands Coffee Shop, offering some of the best value in the country and as I left, a uniformed church group of five-to-eight-year olds poured into the grounds, eager faces alight with anticipation.

Mukuvisi really is a delightful treasure, enjoyed regularly by hundreds of folk, but perhaps roundly ignored by thousands more! That’s their loss!

Not the least of Mukuvisi attractions is that the 265-hectare prolific, rolling nature reserve –betwixt Hillside, Eastlea, Msasa and Queensdale — is under 2km from home and we can enjoy lots of birdlife in our garden: we usually have several red-faced mousebirds, pin-tailed whydahs, black-collared and crested barbets and grey go-away birds (formerly grey louries… which seem reluctant to pose for the camera!) Babblers are often heard as is a noisy flock of guinea fowl, which may have escaped someone’s poultry run.

We enjoy several varieties of sunbirds, waxbills, mannikins, weavers and countless doves.

A pal living nearby reckons the ever burgeoning birdlife in Harare’s gardens may be down to our little feathered friends no longer having much to eat on once well-husbanded farms surrounding the capital, which seem to produce little, since the mindless land reform “programme”.

You can ramble in Mukuvisi from 8am to 5:30pm it’s ideal for picnics, braais, nature walks, game-and bird-watching people even marry there!

Plains game to look out for includes eland, wildebeest, impala, zebra, giraffe and warthog.

There are crocodiles on site, aviary and children’s zoo. (I once left a meal at the cafe, creeping through bush to investigate strange high-pitched baby bird-like sounds, only to peer around a shrub, 250mm lens at the ready, to find… scores of guinea-pigs “wheeking” for food!)

It costs adults US$4 to enter, but season tickets, annual membership etc, reduce per diem charges. For those of pensionable age (60+), entrance is free, even if Dr Gono’s efforts a few years ago mean you must work until you drop!

If using the coffee shop — even for a US$1 cup of tea or US$2 coffee, entry is free.

Mukuvisi has a well-illustrated tree booklet (US$5) to help identify numbered indigenous and exotic specimens.

Dendrology’s not a g point, but even I was aware the venerable shade tree under which I often sip morning tea is a mango, which I guess is at least a century old. Native to India and Ceylon, the Portuguese brought them to Africa in the 15th century. Geckoes seem to love this tree. You see them basking in dappled sun just above head height.

The booklet cross references 141 different trees and shrubs found in the miomba woodlands, giving scientific, common English and Shona names and myriad uses for their timber, bark, pods, leaves, seeds, roots etc.

The long-crested eagle, lizard buzzard, gabar goshawk and purple-crested turacao are among rarer bird specimens seen at Makuvisi, as is the tawny-flanked Prinia. I’ve heard an African fish eagle there (Cleveland Dam’s close by.) I’ve seen steppe buzzards, martial and bateleur eagles and black-shouldered kites in the same area.

Red-billed wood-hoopoes often noisily squabble through the thick bush, but are notoriously hard to snap. I’ll be in Cape Town when this page is made up, but I hope you can see a picture of one of a flock of about half-a-dozen I’m rather proud of.

One Sunday, after breakfast, “twitching” from the hide overlooking the water pan, I was pleased to see the Woodlands’ string of horses, used on mounted safaris, galloping through dusty bushveldt — a herd of zebra initially joining in the fun — to the banks of the pan and several of them bounding into cooling waters on a cloudless, humid day with temperatures hovering around 340.C.

Most of the string wore comical pale blue “gauzes” (face masks to stop flies biting) it was grand to seem them splashing in the pan, thoroughly enjoying themselves, as startled water-loving birds: herons, cattle egrets, plovers, oystercatchers, terns and hamerkops squawked into the air, mainly doing a panicked 360 of the area soon re-settling close to the horses.

One Sunday at breakfast, I was focusing on a splendid purple-crested lourie when noisy folk at the next table scared it off.

As I enjoyed a filling no nonsense US$5 “mini-breakfast” (egg, bacon, sausage, tomato, baked beans, toast and butter, with tea (US$1)… a yellow-bellied sunbird sipped his own nectar breakfast within range, a gecko caught a bluebottle with his long darting tongue and small fish plopped up out of one of several ponds.

I’ve known hungrier members of the community order two mini-breakfasts, which, logically, cost US$10 and even a fillet steak with fried egg and tomatoes US$10 breakfast, plus US$5 “mini”.

Other breakfast items, such as omelettes, scrambled eggs and French toast cost US$5, as do new items bacon and egg roll (with three rashers) and mushrooms on toast. Breakfast is “on”until 10:30am.

They bake excellent pies served with salads at US$4, toasted sandwiches at the same price main course salads are US$6 or US$7 a pop and burgers US$8.

On Sundays, the amiable Tsitsi Munemo, who runs the place, serves English-style lunch (roast chicken or lamb with all the trimmings and pudding is typical) at US$15. They are not licensed to serve booze and don’t charge corkage if you BYOB.

Mukuvisi Woodlands, Hillside Road (East) off Glenara Avenue. Tel 747152. Open every day of the year 8am-5:30pm.

— dustym@zimind.co.zw

Source : Zimbabwe Standard