George F. Hart
Being an account of a Land Rover safari from Johannesburg, South Africa through northeastern Bechuanaland, eastern Southern Rhodesia, Zambia, and the northern Transvaal, undertaken by Dr. George Frederick Hart, a British geologist, and a group of geography students during the period from Sunday June 23rd 1966 until Sunday, July 3rd 1966.
List of slides.
Published as part of the Hart Diaries: — © George & Clare Hart, 1966 —
Manuscript set in Sawadee and Cézanne
The idea of undertaking a Land Rover safari to Bechuanaland [now Botswana] was discussed by Mike Phillips, a Canadian geologist working for the Union Corporation company, and myself in mid-1964. However, we decided to go on a foot safari along the Wild Coast of South Africa instead and do the Bechuanaland safari at a later date [see The Hart Diaries: Africa 1965, the Wild Coast].
Mike went back to Canada in 1965 and my wife Clare and I decided to make the trip in 1966. However, in early 1966 we made the decision to move to the United States of America permanently and dropped our plans. However, in mid-June, just before we were due to leave for America a group of Geography students from the University of Witwatersrand approached me to lead them on an official University sponsored trip into the general area that Mike, Clare and I had wanted to travel. I accepted after Clare agreed to handle the rest of our moving affairs, which was not a minor project..
The geography group was to comprise 6 persons and we expected to take some 10 days the University Land Rover to make the circuitous trip from Johannesburg into the Kalahari, to the Kaprivi Strip and Victoria Falls, Wankie Game Reserve, Zimbabwe Ruins and back to Johannesburg. The people were hand picked and consisted of Miss Judy DalGleish [in charge of petrol and trip finances]; Miss Careen Van Sale [in charge of general finances]; Mr. Ian Dickie, Mr. Ronnie Taylor, Mr. Cliff Midgeley [in charge of vehicle maintenance]; myself [official leader and mainly responsible for safety and survival].
When traveling in something as spacious as a Land Rover, even with 6 people, there is a tendency to include luxuries in ones kit. However, our essential equipment was an important consideration, as at our furthest we would be some 350 miles from the nearest outpost. Vehicle parts such as 4 half axles took prior consideration. Fortunately, Cliff Midgeley was a knowledgeable Land Rover mechanic and he did an excellent job of covering fundamental contingencies. However, we did decide to pack the vehicle on the Tuesday before leaving on the Thursday to make sure we had sufficient space. We packed well and ended with plenty of room for each person, for we knew it would be a hot, dusty journey over dirt roads. The cash we carried was minimal: R10 each for personal expenses, R150 for vehicle expenses, and R50 for emergency funds.
No doubt we all had different reasons for doing the trip but my own was that it was one of the few really primitive regions left in the whole of southern Africa. We would skirt the fringes of the Kalahari and probably meet up with some San people [Kalahari bushmen] who had had very little contact with Europeans. The Depression Shelter, in the Tsodilo Hills [Nquama] shows evidence of continuous occupancy from at least 17,000 BC through the 17th century. We would see the Makarikari area, possibly the fringes of the Okavango Swamp, and certainly the Victoria Falls, Chobi Game Reserve, Caprivi Strip, Wankie Game Reserve, and the Zimbabwe Ruins. It is probably the only short trip in which one can see the whole beauty of Africa that is displayed virtually untouched. The entire northward journey, until reaching the Zambezi River would be crossing the fringes of the Kalahari sands.
JO'BURG TO FRANCISTOWN
Thursday 23rd June
We set-off from Jo'burg at about 18.00 hours with the odometer reading 32115 miles and the altimeter at 5525 ft. [22 inches of mercury]. We had a quick hamburger at the Colorado Steak House. Our first stop was to be the De Rust Farm near ZeeRust belonging to the Aunt and Uncle of Ian Dickie [Mr. and Mrs. Whitfield]. Our travels were in the dark so we saw but little of the scenery. I had done this part of the trip a number of times before so it did not matter so much to me but it would have been of interest to some of the group who were new to this area. We did the journey very quickly and I was surprised that the Land Rover could do a steady 50 m.p.h. on the road. We arrived just after 22.00 hours and Mrs. Whitfield had two rooms prepared for us into which we moved with our sleeping bags. We were all fairly tired and after coffee we turned in. The odometer was 32271 miles and altimeter 3875 ft. [26.25 in]
Friday 24th June
We arose around 06.00 hours and had breakfast of bacon, eggs and porridge, cooked by Judy and Careen. We were on the road by 07.00 after doing a little grocery shopping in ZeeRust. We drove straight to the Bechuanaland border station, at Koopfontein, through fairly arid country but with good dirt roads. The odometer was at 32,337 miles and altitude 3,277 ft. We arrived in Gaberones at about 10.00 hours, where we filled up the Rover and headed towards Francistown. The dirt road was surprisingly good although somewhat sandy. We traveled through small bush with quite a high grass cover. There was no evidence of drought, although we found about 40 vultures feeding on a dead cow by the side of the road. We arrived at Malapaye at 14.00 and stopped to drink a beer. By 16.00 we were at Palapye where we met some Kalahari bushmen. They were encamped by the railroad line and we had some good conversation with them as they had goods to sell or trade. Only a couple of them had good english and they conversed together in their 'click' language. They were dressed in old european clothes and the women had kaross' over them and a young baby. They said the kaross was their house and showed me how they covered themselves , huddling together under the skins. This was an entire family group that had come into Palapye following the railway line. I bought three African masks [R2] made out of ironwood, which they told me they used in dance. I bartered for two Kaross' [silver jackal and a civet-cat]. These are still some of my prize possessions that adorn my home in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains where I now live. I went over to the local veterinarian office and got a vet certificate certifying they were not diseased and sent them off to Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, where I would take up a position as Associate Professor in a few months. San women who simply bite the skin over and over again and break the fiber cured the skins. The Kalahari bushmen kaross We gassed-up the Rover and traveled about 25 miles before making camp under a dolomite koppie [hill]. Supper was braised steak, onions and potatoes cooked in a tin foil, followed by coffee, bread and butter. Before turning-in a chap from Malapaye came into camp. He had just hit a cow on the road with his Volkswagen and his front end was in a bit of a bad state. Cliff and Ian took the front wing off the car for him, and adjusted his lights so he could venture onwards. He was heading for Salisbury, Rhodesia where he worked for he Agricultural Department. A bearded gent who seem quite bush happy he told me to look him up next time I was in the area and he would supply me with some good zebra and other animal skins.
Saturday 25th June
Woke at 05.30 and chatted but did not get moving until 07.30. There was a slight dew and we awoke somewhat damp. Judy and Careen had slept in the Rover and the rest of us under a tarp. Breakfast was leisurely and afterwards we headed into Francistown, which was about 8.45. Ian, as usual, did most of the driving. We were in town by 10.40 and loaded up with 37 gallons of petrol and 15 gallons of water. A beer at the bar in the Grand Hotel went down well and we took the opportunity to question the locals about the road ahead. At the bar I talked to one of the patrons to see if [Major] Mike Hoar, who was running safaris in the Okavango in the early 1960's was still around. I had met Mike on one of my earlier trips to the area and had wanted to take one of his 14-day canoe safaris if I could arrange it. The previous time we had met I had mentioned going into business with him running safari's in the Kalahari Desert, Okavanka Swamp, and the Zimbabwe Ruins and he had expressed an interest. However, I was unable to make contact again. Another, Des Evans with the Public Works Department, advised us to take the Hunters Road from Nata. He told us that the Game Ranger was Pat Hoburn and that we must tell Pat that we will be up near the Rangers Hut in a couple of weeks. The Rangers Camp is at Tamafuta just before Tama Tstesa.
From Francistown, which we left at around mid-day we headed for Nata. The road was very good and we made good speed. We cross the Tati River before heading for Dukwe. We had been instructed that just after Dukwe we must look for a large Boabab tree just off the road on the left and to take that to the Sona Pan, which is part of the Makarikari. We found this without trouble and got to the pan where we had lunch. We observed scores of birds and about 50-60 impala in a herd but nothing else. This road goes north to Nata, which consisted of a couple of houses and a store. Fortunately the store had a petrol pump and we filled up our tanks. We considered going on to Maun, on the edge of the Okavango Swamp, but decided we did not have the time and this would have to wait for another safari. We set off on the Panda-ma-tenga road to Chobi. This road forks after about a mile and it is necessary to take the left-hand fork which is the Hunters Road. There are, of course, no road signs. The right hand fork [probably] also goes to Panda-ma-tenga but we were told it was not as interesting. We ended up camping about 20 miles past Nata. We cleared the bush and made a fire just off the road. There are many trees knocked down around the camp: a definite sign of elephant.
Sunday 26th June
We had expected to hear lions roar and elephants trumpeting during the night but heard nothing. Arose around 5.00 am and had breakfast before dawn, which occurred about 06.15. We were ready to move north once more by 07.00. The road was very sandy and definitely a 4-wheel drive vehicle was necessary. We saw a huge bird [the Gompou Bird].
There are many trees down on this part of the route and we saw fresh elephant dung, but no elephants or game at all. At 08.00 we began to see game. First a Daika and the impala followed by a herd of giraffe [about 15]. We came across a broken down Toyopet in the bush; it was quite new but had been abandoned. A few yards further there was a broken down bus, laden with people, chickens etc. Apparently, the water hose had broken but we managed to mend it with some masking tape and an egg! Around 10.00 we entered part of the Wankie Game Reserve and we began to see more buck, zebra and ostriches. Ian road on the top of the spare tire on the engine and looked out for game. We stopped at a water hole to take photographs and calculated our petrol usage. The Land Rover was getting about 9 miles per gallon.
At about 12.30 we came across a broken down Land Rover, it was about 100 miles north of Nata [registration plate B3589]. It’s amazing how people abandon vehicles here. We saw sable antelope and then a small herd of zebra. By 14.00 we stopped for lunch. This looked like lion country and we were on our guard. We came to the Hunters Camp run by Mr. Henderson about 25 miles from Panda-ma-tenga. This is where my friend, the petroleum geologist Ted Bear from Bear and Kistler Inc., of Los Angeles had come hunting. It was a very pleasant camp and we stayed and had a chat and a beer with them before moving on towards the Ngwezumba River. We were now traveling northwest through alternating Park Forest and open grasslands. There was a small amount of game, particularly Daika and Zebra. At the Hunter’s Camp they brought in a dead Sable Antelope that had just been shot. It was a beautiful beast and made me glad I was against sports hunting. We headed for the Game Rangers temporary camp at Ngwezumba River at Kokori. The camp consists of a green hut at the side of the river that is a few yards from a wooden bridge across the river. The river is totally dry at this time of the year. We were told to cross by the riverbed, as the bridge was not 100% safe, although it would probably take us. We are now well in the Chobi Game Reserve and as night approached heard the elephants trumpeting. We made a big fire, as there are a few lions around. So far we have traveled 181 miles today. This took us 10 hours driving. This first half of the trip has been pretty rough riding. However, from the Hunters Camp onwards it will get much easier, and the stretch to Kokori was particularly easy without any rough sand. We retired at about 22.00 with 32963 on our millimeter.
To Victoria Falls
Monday 27th June
We slept late and left at 09.00. There were elephant tracks around the camp when we woke in the morning: one about 8 inches from Ian head. The pad of an elephant is convex so that it moves quite silently through the bush. We followed the river from Kokori Camp to the Zambezi River. Traveling through elephant country there were signs of recent elephant movement everywhere, fresh dung, tracks, broken trees. We stopped at a water hole and went down to look for elephant but although there were many signs there were none to be seen. Turns out that Judy is very scared of elephants. We passed two more broken down trucks, both with occupants. Other than another truck which passed us going the other way that was the sum total of our contact with others.
We arrived at Kasambula at around noon. A few miles passed our camp we intersected the Chobi River. We continued to Kasarne and stopped at the hotel near the side of the river. Here I bought 3 tourists masks and two dance shields. We saw many Kudu, Leduan and male and female Tsessebe. After lunch in Chobi we headed up the Chobi river, which has the Kaprivi Strip on the opposite bank. We went along the river road and saw a couple of baboons and wart hog. At last we saw the elephants, in prolific abundance, lots and lots of them...wow! There were many Chobi River bush buck [Reed buck, Nyala buck] and we also saw a fish eagle. We stayed the night in the Chobi Hotel Camping Ground at Kasane. Our ride through the Chobi Game reserve was well worth it as we saw lot of game. We had a wonderful evening as the sunset was rather spectacular.
The proprietor of the Chobi River Hotel at Kasane, Bechuanaland is a source for Bechuanaland tribal masks. In addition, the Curio Shop, P. O. Box 587, Livingstone, Zambia can supply all kinds of masks and carvings.
Tuesday 28th June
We arose late and left at 09.30. The hotel camping ground cost only a couple of rand for the six of us. It was pleasant to have a bath and a shave. Judy and Careen slept outside last night. We decided to go to Livingstone via Zambia and proceeded to the border station at Chobi River. To the west and north lies the Caprivi Strip: the no mans land administered by the United Nations. Natives were branding cattle at the Chobi River crossing and then the animals were sent across the river. It was necessary to be VERY FORMAL with the station commander on the Bechuanaland side of the crossing. We entered Zambia around 11.00. The station commander was very smart – dressed in a navy blue uniform and extremely efficient. Getting through the Zambian-Rhodesian customs took about 1 hour.
Livingstone is only seven miles from the Victoria Falls. Unfortunately, we missed visiting the Rhodes-Livingstone museum but this is believed to be a worthwhile top. It contains Livingstone's diary - open at the page describing his first view of the Falls. At the African Craft Village, between the town and the falls, I bought two Barotse carvings, about 18" tall, made of ebony. They cost R12 for the pair. It is amazing, in retrospect, to note that in 199 I priced similar carvings in Denver, Colorado and they were selling for many hundreds of dollars each. The village consists of a series of native huts representing the various tribes of Zambia and is populated by artisans and craftsmen making and selling ethnic goods.
We camped at the Victoria Falls Trust Rest Camp on the Rhodesian side of the falls. This campground includes a series of Rondavels and it has an excellent view of the river above the brink of the falls. There are two game viewing trails in the Park, open from the beginning of May through November. The Riverside Drive is a 25 mile series of loops following the river and proved to be an excellent trip. The Chambonda Drive is 15 miles in the heavily wooded forest upland from the river. There are many pans where the game can be observed drinking, The Kandahar Fishing Camp, eight miles upstream on the Rhodesian side is apparently also a beautiful fenced camp which we had more time we would have stayed at. without disturbing them. The Victoria Falls are extremely beautiful from this side [Devils Cataract] and certainly ranks with the North West Highlands of Scotland and, Cape Town from the sea, as a wonderful sight to see. The vapor was rising well over 250 feet above the falls. The Bantu had called this place chongwe [the rainbow place] and mosi-oa-tunya [the smoke that thunders]. We were seeing what Livingstone had seen over a 100 years ago on 16th November 1855, when he was the first European to observe this place of wonder. We drove the Zambezi Riverside Drive [one of two in the Park], that started a Zambezi Camp and runs some 25 miles.
Wednesday 29th June
We got up early and watched the sun raise over the falls...it was MAGNIFICENT. The falls are worlds mightiest, and regarded as the best sight in Africa. They are 355 feet high and over a mile [1860 feet] wide and you can literally get next to them. At this time the water flowed over the falls at about 12 million gallons per minute. It gets as high as 75 million in April and as low as 3.75 million in October. The 1869 feet crest is divided into five separate waterfalls: Eastern Cataract, Rainbow Falls, Horseshoe Falls, Main Falls and the Devil's Cataract. The view from the Rhodesian side looks directly at Devil's cataract which is only some 36 feet wide but has a rim about 25 feet lower than the other falls. At high water the flow is some 100 miles per hour across the crest of the falls. It is a fearsome sight.
After breakfast we went for a two-hour motor launch cruise on the Zambezi River. We all sat on top of the covered-in boat. We saw numerous birds, a lot of hippo in the water and elephants on the southern bank. We were about 20 yards from a big bull elephant.... absolutely wonderful. After the river trip we took the Land Rover to be serviced and then went and had a look at the local ethnic [handicrafts] store. I met with Mitch Spencer the proprietor of Soopers Curios, Victoria Falls, Southern Rhodesia. He can supply some good ethnic materials particularly hippo bone carvings, soapstone figures, bark table sets, buffalo horn carvings, carved animals, salad sets, drums, elephants feet [made into stools and tables], kaross', musical instruments and masks. The masks are not as good as the Curio Shop in Livingstone. The Rhodes-Livingstone Museum also has a Craft Village. Got petrol coupons for 20 gallons at Victoria Falls. Petrol is rationed in Southern Rhodesia because of the trade embargo. Independence from Britain was declared unilaterally on 11th November 1965 and some things have been rationed since. However, goods are getting through from both South Africa and the African states to the north and east so things are not yet too oppressive.
We left for Wankie around 14.30 with our odometer reading 33130 miles and crossed the Matetsi River around 15.15 heading for Robins Camp in the Wankie Game Reserve, where we arrived at 16.30 and reported in. The first thing we did was to take an hour drive around the Wind Mills trail, to observe game, we saw giraffe and many buck. After eating we went to the bar for drinks. Judy [especially] and Careen were playing up to the Game Ranger and got very giggly. We all turned in late.
Thursday 30th June
We arose and immediately went for a drive to the Salt Pan but saw very little. After breakfast we set off for the Main Camp at 11.15 and headed for Crocodile Pools where we saw numerous crocodiles. Next we headed towards Deteema Dam and then Mauma Dam to Shumba Camp. There were many buffalo, elephant and one mono-tusked bull was within a few feet of us. We stopped the Rover and he came up to it, brushing the side of it on my side. I could have easily reached out and touched him. Apparently, this was a well know bull called ‘One Tusk’ and he would come up to cars regularly: a little scary as elephants are known to roll onto cars in the bush if they get annoyed with them. We did get some good close-up photographs. Continuing we climbed an observation platform at Guvalala Pan and saw elephants bathing in a pool. There was a young lioness around and buffalo, kudu, wildebeest, black backed jackal, Giraffe, Roan antelope, leopard, waterbuck, wart-hog etc. etc....quite a sight. We also went to the platform at Nyamandlovu Pan and then onto the Main Camp arriving around 18.00. We made supper, bathed and lay talking until about 22.15. It had been an excellent day.
Zimbabwe and home
Friday 1st July
Awaking around 06.00 I stayed in bed and the girls made breakfast which was eaten leisurely before leaving at 08.05 heading for Bulawayo. Ian was once more driving. We hoped to get as far as the Zimbabwe Ruins by the evening as otherwise we would never make it back to Jo'burg by Sunday. We arrived in Bulawayo just after noon and had a beer in the Grande Hotel followed by English style fish and chips in a basket for lunch. Bulawayo is Rhodesia's second largest city and close-by is the Khami Ruins and the grave of Cecil Rhodes.
By 14.00 we were headed for Zimbabwe. Along the highway we saw interesting granite exfoliation domes: classic examples of granite erosion. Upon arriving at Zimbabwe in the evening awe headed straight for the Zimbabwe Ruins. This was the "great house of stone" to the local Shona tribe. We walked up to the Acropolis, under an almost full moon, and sat in the moonlight for about half an hour. It was rather spectacular. We strolled around the Acropolis in the moonlight and then returned to camp to make supper.
Saturday 2nd July
In the morning we first went to look at The Temple and then the rest of the ruins. They are very spectacular. Cecil Rhodes claimed this was a Phoenician Palace and others linked it to the Queen of Sheba. From what I have seen in Scotland and Scandinavia I see no reason why it could not be a simple local structure. Structurally it is nothing special and as a fortress it would be fairly defensible. My own view is that it was either built by/for the Arab traders or by some local warrior chieftain.
We helped a guy who had locked his keys in is car to get in. This took about 3/4 hour of my time. I spent some time looking at ethnic handicrafts which are available at: The Rondavel Shop, Zimbabwe Ruins, South Rhodesia. They particularly sell local beadwork and pot work. The small pots are nice at R1-6 to R5 each. After the ruins we headed for the Beit Bridge border post.
Sunday 3rd July
We had an uneventful journey home. We all agreed that a good time had been had by all. For me, what would perhaps be my last African safari, the time had been precious. Botswana is no longer what Bechuanaland used to be. I was so lucky to live at this time when I could see the Kalahari when it was still wild and see Africa before it was changed by commercialization and warfare.
When I returned to my home Clare had everything organized. She had sold our Saab 92 [?] and our friend Corky Brouer, who was an export agent, was to come and help organize the shipping of out household effects. We eventually sold a lot of our old furniture that had been bought at antique and second hand stores. We thought, erroneously, that all was available in America. Later we discovered that our stuff, most of which was second hand, was far better than the cheaply make, poorly constructed furniture generally available in the USA.... but that is another story.
August 13th 1966
We were now in England waiting on immigration and our visas for USA. Socialist Britain, which a decade ago had shown so much potential, was a severe disappointment. South Africa had already opened up my eyes to the value of the free-enterprise system but I still believed that a strong degree of government intervention was necessary to stop the capitalism becoming a lethal social force. My re-introduction to British Socialism and the next few years in America were to radically change my views. The sadness of the Socialist Movement in Britain is that although it has leveled-up the masses it has also leveled-down the standards. This is not what it was supposed to be about. The quality of Britain seems to have been ruined by the bastardizing of democracy. People are no longer judged on there merit viz. ABILITY+EFFORT=MERIT. Rather it is the masses saying: "you have had it good for a long time; we have not, so give me, give me, give me". Few are interested in whether or not they deserve it. It seems that the argument is that "I did not ask to be born therefore society owes me a living". The hardship of my own childhood and youth makes me strongly opposed to such a view. Education and hard work is the best way for success, in my view. This debasement of the whole society has given raise to the crisis of leadership that the country now faces. This crisis is in the workshop, factory, universities and elsewhere. The real workers are few in number. My father calculates that only about 25% of Englishmen do an honest days work for the an honest days pay. I have no reason to doubt this and everything I see confirms it.
One can still divide Britain into a lower, middle and upper class decked by the upper crust. It is a tragedy that the propaganda machinery is very much on the side of the lower class - lowering the standards of the whole population. There is no longer a social conscience within the government which is essentially ruled by mass voting. Politicians want to get reelected to they give the masses what they want, not what they need. Even the theatre and television now glorifies the so-called ordinary working man. It makes a greengrocer say that scientists don't have to sweat for their money – sweat not being meant in the literal sense but synonymous with work. The anti-Vietnam war folk songs, which are designed to appeal to the intellectual, are ubiquitous: the message is mixed. These people know so little about soviet communism and why it is necessary to stop it in it’s tracks. It seems that the news and entertainment industries are prostituting their integrity in order to sell their wares. Wars will continue until we stabilize the population and equalize the economies of the world: but this should be done within a regulatory framework based upon the freedom of the market place of ideas. This is what democracy is about. Communism and Capitalism should be simply the way the national State raises capital. It should not greatly influence how the people live. Democracy is viewed somewhat differently in the communist and capitalist countries: I believe it is being developed best in the United States of America. That is why I intend to take my family to live there! Clare and I could have a very good life in Africa but the children will grow-up thinking that racism is correct and normal. Both Clare and I have fought against this, in our own way, since we arrive in South Africa. Besides the distant future is possibly one of chaos in this part of the world.