Fort Victoria, Rhodesia, 25.8.77

This is the jumping-off point for the Zimbabwe Ruins which we hope to see tomorrow a.m. Then we have to get back here for a midday armed convoy to the S.A. border at Beit Bridge. We haven't yet heard a shot fired in anger, but it's a pretty spooky feeling, knowing that there's someone out there who'd like to shoot you. In the more sensitive areas where there are convoys with machine-gun-armed soldiers front and back (some of them WW II Spitfire vintage - none of the small arms bear country of origin), the locals get along with rifles poking out the windows. Somebody was shot up in a car in a convoy near Fort Victoria yesterday, so apparently the thing is for real. Four soldiers died yesterday. The locals are rather jittery but mostly very determined. They think Smith is certain to win the coming elections, but can't see a very bright future whatever happens. Even the black factions are fighting among themselves. From what we can make out, even the majority of blacks are very uneasy about the guerrillas coming to power.

As the last time I was here, I feel more sympathy for the Rhodesians than for the South Africans. It seems to me the Africans have a better deal here in a human (even if not economic) sense than in S.A. - or in many black African states for that matter.

We expect to arrive in Jo'burg about midday Sat. It seems Qantas have cut out the Jo'burg-Perth run, so I'll have to traffic about that too. I have "status OK" on my ticket, so they are probably obliged to use their "best efforts" to get me there.

I'm afraid there's too much noise and activity in the truck for me to concentrate on writing. There hasn't, until the last couple of days, been a lot to write about since Dar. Lots of driving down the Hell Run past villages (with uniformed schoolchildren out for their morning jog with their teachers - marvellous what socialism can do for you) to the Zambian border, where we found a Holden ute, confiscated because the driver was smuggling currency. There are a lot of Aust. cars on Zambian roads - can't imagine why anyone would buy them, unless they come in the form of foreign aid. Also a lot of north-bound trucks with copper ingots (mostly FIATs, I was glad to note), so it doesn't all go by Chinese train.

Stopped to shop in a small town near the border (on the Zambian side) and watched a score of scruffy 6-8 year-old boys drilling each other in perfect imitation of their military elders. It was quite hilarious until a snooty real officer turned up to warn us not to take photos unless it was specifically permitted. National security?

The Poste Restante in Lusaka (surprisingly modern city with some quite remarkable architecture) had your letter of 2/8 (arrived 11/8), a card from RHC, and a letter from the ready writing Misses Abbot. We changed our money for double the number of kwachas (!) on the black market and stayed on a farm out of town, owned by a very Christian white family who charged us next to nothing and looked after us with tea and cakes. There we had the pleasure of our first hot bath since London, and killed and dressed 4 hens for dinner. We pitched our tents by their little river and even had a swim. They had a swing hanging on a nylon rope over the water, which I tried with the result that the rope snapped and imprinted a delicate pattern on my face with its whiplash reaction. The scabs are just now falling off.

It being impossible to visit Kariba dam without special permission, we stayed another day lounging in the sun, picked up a new Aust. girl passenger (weirdo from Cairns who made money catching taipans and tiger snakes for export), before driving on through lots of good undeveloped countryside to Livingstone. Camped near the Vic. Falls where we spent a good deal of time and photos, as was to be expected. Not as much water as at my last visit and the Zambian side is less impressive.

Left our two new Americans behind and crossed on "pontoon" into Botswana. Took a Swiss to the Rhodesian border and left him to hitchhike to his brother in Salisbury. Camped by the Zambesi River (heard hippos? snuffling around the tent at night and a hyena's howl close by), intending to drive down the dirt road along the Zambesi to Francistown. Next day, the driver suddenly decided to try going through the Chobe National Park but they wanted $5/head and said the truck was too heavy anyway, so in a fit of pique he decided to go through Rhodesia. Found our Swiss still at the border waiting for his brother to pay a bond on his behalf and took him on to Vic. Falls.

Visited the pool and barbecue at the Vic Falls Hotel where I stayed several years ago and viewed the Falls once more. Camping areas in Rhodesia cost very little and have super-clean facilities, inc. hot baths and showers. Things generally are quite expensive here by African standards after they add 15% sales tax (presumably to finance the war). The soldiers (in contrast to the rest of Africa) are all very friendly and happy to be photographed.

Bulawayo is a prosperous modern city with an excellent camp ground. Found a (local) mother staying there with her children for the school holidays – probably too frightened to go anywhere else.

Today has been a sad day for me: left my much-loved Paddy Pallin cape by the side of the road where we picknicked. Probably we shouldn't have been sitting around there anyway.

The weather here is really quite cold. They say it is even colder (and wet) in S.A.

I see the car rally got as far as New Delhi. Maybe I'll be able to hitch a ride with some of them in the outback. Probably won't bother with medical tests - I feel perfectly well, but then some of these diseases have very long incubation periods. Depending on transport arrangements I will probably spend only about a week in S.A., maybe on a beach near Durban. Don't like JHB much and Cape Town is too far.