Mountains And Rivers Festivals

Warning: Even the most awkward of shufflers will flail their arms around in dance, eventually. Headaches may ensue.

For the last three years, the Mountains and Rivers Festival has beckoned the adventurous out from the urban dwellings of our capital city and brought them to the verdant surroundings of Aberfoyle Lodge. Mountains, among them Zimbabwe’s highest, and rivers, namely the Pungwe that rises on the Northern range of the Eastern highlands and empties into the Mozambique Channel at Beira, frame the annual festival that takes place in the foothills above the banana and avocado plantations of the Honde Valley. A world away from the monotonous mind-your-own business of typical city living, the weekend is the ultimate exercise in friendship forming, cold water plunging and awkward dancing.

Take the word exercise lightly. You absolutely don’t have to do any, if you so wish. The festival is formed in such a way that if you’d rather sun bathe, sip on GnT’s and watch the Palm Nut vulture pair fly-by before lighting up the dance floor till all hours of the morning, then you can be Aberfoyle’s guest. The bar is fully stocked with all the most delicious of tipples and the live music on the Saturday evening plays till (traditionally) very late – thank you McKays. However, the fresh, mountainous air and cold, clear water encourages even the most hardened of bar flies to slap on some sun cream, a life jacket and obligatory dark glasses to raft the Pungwe’s rapids.

Taking place over a weekend usually mid to late March, the Friday evening of the festival is, depending on how you choose to spend it, very chilled and relaxed or an exuberant night of drinking and revelry. The festival is set up to encourage people to explore the Honde Valley and get out of town. As such, accommodation ranges from very affordable camping spots with self-catering as an option for the weekend (an opportunity to experience the beauty of the area for a fraction of the price), to luxurious en-suite rooms and delicious three course meals for those who cannot fathom sleeping in a tent. Don’t ask me how they’ve done it, but the team behind the festival has managed to make families, young adults and those looking for a quieter weekend, all equally welcome and catered for. There are activities aplenty, from zip lining to bum sliding, to bird watching and tea factory tours. There really is something for everyone.

Saturday morning starts with an hour long yoga class to dispel any fogginess of mind and stiffness of body from the day before, followed by a hearty breakfast of porridge and eggs, toast, tomatoes and what ever takes your fancy. The tea is home grown and strong. The coffee is the real stuff. After breakfast, the gong is rung for festival goers to make their way down to the beach, about a 30 minute drive from the lodge. The rafts are put in at the beach and off, off, off and away you go for a few hours of pure, unadulterated fun on the water. The rapids are technical, the river bank is beautiful, somehow, the skies are always clear. The day is spent either in a raft, on the beach or swimming in the cold Pungwe waters. Bliss! As evening draws in, The Chain Gain and McKays pick up their microphones, guitars and drum sticks and the night’s festivities kick off at the lodge.

Sunday is a quiet affair, with most people sleeping through yoga, eating a late breakfast and summoning the strength to drive back to home after sneaking in a quick activity, swim and fortifying lunch. It is a magical weekend in the mountains, tonic for the tired soul and a weekend to create friendships amongst like-minded people. But most importantly, the weekend is a reminder of the environmental importance of protecting and supporting such wilderness areas – and, that there is a whole country to explore and a whole bunch of fun to be had while doing so.

A big thank you to all those who came out in support of Mountains and Rivers Festival, 2019. Profits from the weekend were donated by the festival organizers to the Cyclone Idai relief efforts.  An article by Bad Rabbit Studio.