Home Articles Tales of Zambia AN EPIC JOURNEY FOR A YOUNG LAD
Written by Bill Kelly   
Thursday, 08 April 2010 13:45

In 1969 Zambia was no longer a nice place to be, politically, whites were leaving in droves and the in thing to do was to head South – far South as the terrorist war in SR was beginning to get hot, add to this I was involved with a married women (ex school chum who shall remain nameless) and the writing was on the wall.

So I went to see George Marias (Chief Storeman : Zambia Kabwe Development Corp.) and handed in my time, his reaction was “ You little bastard, I’ve just got you a promotion to Storeman Grd.l, but I’m leaving as well so don’t feel too bad”. My Dad had got a job at the municipality in Empangeni :  Zululand so I decided to head that way as well. Friends who had gone before had advised me to buy a Land-Rover for the beach and so I sold my other two vehicles and bought a 2nd hand SWB Mk.ii  from a hunter friend, for 450Kwacha, bent and scratched, but the motor sounded good. He asked what I was intending to do with it, so I told him I was going to Zululand. He offered me my money back and said I was mad, in the end he said he would guarantee it to the Zambesi, after that I was on my own. Had it spiffed up, serviced, resprayed and got a canvas top for the cab, bought a trailer and I was set.

Loaded to the gunwales with family possessions and dosed up good with ‘Alert Tablets’ I set off from Khululu pumping station, in Kabwe,  at mid-night, so to arrive at Chirundu just as the Customs & Immigration  night shift went off duty, had some goodies and SA Rands onboard that I would rather hang onto. (Knew one idiot who stuffed his car tyres with US Dollars, the heat generated by the tyres set everything alight.)

I got to the border at about 04:30, stamped my own Passport, filed the customs form and wrote out a pass-out chitty and crossed the bridge. I must admit I had tearful eyes, God that was a beautiful country and I think that little Chickeeboo back home really loved me, but the valley was now before me and the escarpment loomed ahead, would my old Landie climb out? I took the canvas top down, folded the windscreen onto the spare wheel and set out, ‘Onward and upward and dam the expense sir’

Another problem was that you had to cross the valley in convoy because of the Gooks, now a Loaded 1750cc Land Rover was only capable of 45MPH tops, so I was soon left far behind to my own devices. One really hair raising experience in this respect, came around a bend and about ½ a klic ahead, was a row of figures across the road. my heart stopped, but decided to go on –what could you do? Got up closer and it was a troop of baboons, Gad I loved those guys.

Eventually we started to feel the escarpment, stopped and changed to 4x4 high range (remember the little yellow topped lever) and we were off again, stopped a couple of more times to cool off and eventually we hauled ass out at the Makuti turn-off.

We had made it, now I started worrying about the Zoutspanberg, which would make the Zambesi escarpment feel like a garden step. Also I had Salisbury coming up and us rural Zamboons were not too hot in traffic (My buddy used to tell me he was going to tie me to a tree and run around me with a wheel barrow to get me used to traffic).

 The ‘Alert’ Tablets acted true to spec and I drove right through that day (Even got kicked out of the pub at Enkledoorn as they did not serve Bloody ex Zambian traitors).

I slept that night and halfway into the next day, under the Land-Rover,  on the top of Moodie’s pass just past Fort Vic. Having had the top down all the way from the valley, without a shirt, I had developed a fantastic tan. After eating the last of my Padkos I set off again and reached the Lion and Elephant Motel at nightfall. Had the most fantastic row of ice cold lions, a huge steak and after about an hour long shower, I disappeared into a soft mattress for the next 12 hours. Its hard to believe now, but the tariff for that establishment was £10.0.0 per night D,B & B and a beer was 1/6d. A whole gallon of good regular octane petrol was 3/6d.

I spent the whole day at the Beit Bridge border post on the SA side. This little pervert had packed the trailer with girlie magazines, Playboy, Penthouse, Esquire Etc., how the hell was I supposed to know that the bloody South Africans had banned everything with nipples. I had to unpack and re-pack the entire load, both Land-Rover and Trailer, leaving an ever rising pile of magazines. (Should have seen the greedy lust on the faces of the customs officials) Added to this I had got everything prepared to immigrate, only to discover that as my father was a born South African, I was likewise by descent, so I had to change all the documentation. Managed to get to a Motel half way up the Zoutspanberg, “Clouds End” I think,  by nightfall. I was so mad at the wasted day that I had forgotten to worry about the mountain pass but, the Land-rover sailed up in 3rd (Must have been as a result of a reduced load from the loss of the magazines).

After Louis Trijkhard the next day, I stopped, stripped the top, dropped the windscreen and found a suitable rock, got the old girl up to 45 again and rolled the rock onto the gas pedal, put my feet up on the dash and we whined along to Pietersburg. Does anyone know that there are about 40 places on a Land Rover that can open a beer bottle?

Spent that night at the Ranch Motel; R12.00 B&B bloody expensive, nearly got involved with a young widow, but……. Next morning I headed off towards Tzaneen (I was a nervous wreck thinking that I might have made a mistake and would end up in the middle of Jo’Burg) Spent the next night under the Land-Rover at a lay-by just after the G.J.Strydom tunnel. The old girl loved that pass, down to HR 4x4 again in several places.

The next afternoon at Carolina I struck a problem; Generator came loose and we lost the fan belt. Spent that night at a real slutty hotel in the village; R3.50 B&B (The beer was cold, but I couldn’t understand a word anybody said) waiting for the local garage to open.  I was the first customer; Replaced the generator bolt and fan belt; Total cost R6.50 and we were off, on our way to Standerton, where I spent the night in a Motel owned by ex Rhodesians; R8.00 B&B less a 50% Rhodesian discount.

We had now got rid of all the mountains and it was downhill all the way, even got the old girl up to 60 in places, spent the last night of my trip at the Nyala Hotel just outside of Hluhluwe (I remember that night well because  of the heat and the moon landing was on the radio in my hotel room). Next day I drove on through Empangeni to Gingindlovu to find my brother. Found him in the pub of the Imperial Hotel, the barman wanted to kick me out because he thought I was coloured and more importantly because I wasn’t a Christian.

When we eventually settled in Empangeni, I sent the former Land-Rover owner a telegram; “Arrived Empangeni – Still firing on 4”

 I had that Land-Rover for years and eventually sold it to a chummy for 3 times the original cost.

Have never been back home since, but I still miss it.


Bill Kelly