As I said in my previous post, I spent about a week in Zimbabwe with my boyfriend’s family last month. Ray‘s mother grew up in Zimbabwe and Ray visited often when he was a kid. We took many trips down memory lane during our visit, which I found interesting as a newcomer to the family (and the country).
Ray’s family at the holiday home they rented in Nyanga. They flew in from all over the world to celebrate Granny’s 90th birthday. Fun bunch.
The time we spent in Nyanga, a mountainous area on Zimbabwe’s eastern border with Mozambique, was particularly filled with reminiscing. Ray’s family used to go to Nyanga often on holiday, and we spent much of our visit going back to places that everyone remembered fondly from the past.
Before we even arrived in Nyanga, during the five-hour drive from Harare in Granny’s ancient Mazda 323, Ray started talking about milkshakes. Back in the day there was a Nyanga dairy farm where you could watch the cows being milked and buy cream from a little window next to the milking room. There was a tea room on the premises selling ice cream, scones, and milkshakes.
“They’re the best milkshakes in the entire world,” said Ray dreamily. “I was never allowed to have two.”
“You can order two this time,” said Diana, Ray’s mom.
“If the dairy is still there,” said Tim, Ray’s dad.
We tried not to get our hopes up too much. A lot has changed in Zimbabwe over the last 20 years.
On our first morning in Nyanga we went to the Troutbeck Inn, the only big resort in the area, and asked about the dairy farm. “It’s still there,” the concierge told us.
We drove a few miles up the potholed road and turned left after the second bridge onto an unmarked driveway, as the concierge had instructed us. We rounded a bend on the dirt road, and there it was.
There’s something magical about rediscovering a happy memory from the past.
We pulled into the farmyard and saw the tea room — a small shed with a few picnic tables — to our right. It looked deserted. A woman named Thoko came to the gate of the farmhouse, trailed by a multicolored pack of labradors, and greeted us.
“Is the tea room open?” Diana asked.
“Yaaaays,” Thoko drawled, in that gentle Zimbabwean way. “But there’s no ZESA so we cannot warm the scones.” (ZESA stands for Zimbabwean Electricity Supply Authority. Zimbabwean electricity is off more than it’s on.)
“Do you still sell milkshakes?”
Thoko smiled. “Yaaays.”
We released a collective sigh of joy.
The tea room.
Thoko prepares to take our order.
We took a quick stroll around while we waited.
The milking room. We arrived too late to see the cows being milked.
A member of the dairy farm’s pack of chubby labradors. There was one yellow, one black, and one chocolate. I’ve forgotten their names.
Thoko spread a blue-checked cloth on our table. Soon, milkshakes were served. I had chocolate, Ray had strawberry, and Diana and Tim had vanilla.
Milkshakes, cheesecake, and (unheated) homemade scones with berry jam. All delicious.
The Nyamoro farmer, Debbie Nethersoll, came to greet us and sat down for a chat. Debbie has lived on the farm for most of her life; her parents started the farm more than 40 years ago.
I was enthralled by Debbie’s story. She grew up on the farm during the bush war in the 1970s, basically right in the middle of a war zone. After taking over the farm from her parents, Debbie worked through the Zimbabwean land reform movement in which many white Zimbabweans lost their farms. The farm survived the land reforms, but Debbie’s marriage did not. Her children have all grown up and moved away.
For the last seven years, Debbie has managed the farm alone with her 35-member staff (and about 110 cows). These days, the farm’s biggest business is selling a product called lacto — fermented milk that South Africans call amasi — to the local community. (The farm also grows flowers, seed potatoes, and a few other things.) Debbie feels that this direct link between her dairy and the people who live around it has helped to her to hold onto the farm.
Was it the best milkshake I’ve ever had? I’m not sure. Was it the best milkshake experience I’ve ever had? Definitely.
(In the end, Ray could only manage one milkshake. He made apologies to his seven-year-old self.)
Debbie holding some milk that Diana bought from her, and a couple of homegrown arum lilies for Granny.
The best part of the visit actually came after the milkshakes, when Debbie took us to visit the calves.
I’ve never petted a calf before. They’re quite friendly.
This guy loved the taste of Ray’s hand and didn’t want him to leave.
The Nyamoro Dairy is on the A14 (also called Nyanga Road), about 12 kilometers north of Troutbeck Inn. After you pass Troutbeck, you’ll cross two bridges. Turn left on the unmarked road directly after the second bridge and the dairy is about one kilometer up that road.
If you find yourself in Nyanga, please stop into Nyamoro Dairy for a milkshake and a calf kiss. For me, experiences like this are what make travel worthwhile.