Our ship arrived in Cape Town where we disembarked. For some reason my father decided to drive the 3,600-miles to Dar es Salaam instead of continuing our journey by sea. After seeing the sights, including Table Mountain, dad drove along the coast towards Durban visiting Mossel Bay, Port Elizabeth and East London.
For most of our journey, we spent nights with friends and hotels. On other times, we would stay in more primitive quarters. For example, our parents were billeted in one hut and while in another. There wasn’t a door in the entrance and the windows were unglazed. During the night, I awoke to the sound of movement outside, upon looking I could see a lion prowling in the moonlight between our parents’ hut and ours. There was nothing I could do but stay silent and cross my fingers.
On reaching Durban, we were introduced to the Zulu rickshaw pullers. They have been operating since the 1900s and I understand there are still a few pulling rickshaws for tourists today. I remember them jumping high into the air and slowly landing as they used the carriage as a counterweight.
We headed for Johannesburg and drove over the beautiful Drakensberg Mountains. I do remember visiting the zoo, but more so a giant hole in the ground; it turned out to be the Cullinan diamond mine, east of Pretoria. This is where the large gems in the Crown Jewels came from. What scared me most was that I was allowed to walk right up to the edge and look down into an 800-metre-deep pit. Now I believe it is a major tourist attraction.
Moving on we crossed the Limpopo River at Beitbridge into what was then called Southern Rhodesia now Zimbabwe.
There was a detour to visit Victoria Falls, where you could see the mist some miles before you arrived. After returning to Bulawayo our next stop was Fort Victoria (now Masvingo), the oldest colonial settlement in ‘Rhodesia’, which is near the even older historical site of Great Zimbabwe. We spent one night at the Victoria Hotel before setting off for Salisbury (now Harare).
Sleeping arrangements were always difficult, if I wasn’t spending the night in the car, it was on the floor of family friends. On the latter occasion, a centipede walked over my hand and woke me up. I was not worried about the multiple pairs of legs or the bite that can send a child into anaphylactic shock – it was just creepy.
Taking the Salisbury-Lusaka Road, we crossed the Zambezi River just north of where they had started to build the Kariba Dam, we had entered Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). After Lusaka, the road took us north to the border with Tanganyika. Once across, we bedded down at the ‘Mbeya Hotel’ (mud huts), the very place where I had seen the prowling lion between the huts.
Most of the roads were rough, especially the further north we drove. When you came to rivers without bridges, this was all right in the dry season, but when the rain came it could be dangerous. You would have to gauge the depth and flow of the water before entering. I remember getting my feet wet while sitting in the back seat. The water pushed hard against the side of the car and we were lucky that the engine did not stall.
Soon after returning, we moved to a new house in Burton Street, closer to the centre of town with more anecdotes.