Western Australia Bundu Times June/July 1995


 Sonny Brooks has kindly sent in another reminiscence.

The first road towards the Victoria Falls was the "Panda ma Tenga Road",
it was a traders track, pioneered before the occupation and it became
the boundary line between the Bechuana Protectorate and Rhodesia.  It
ran directly towards the Falls but likely didn't go the whole way.
There possibly is still a boundary track.

The road to the Falls in 1928 was mostly a grader track used by hardy
motorists from South Africa encouraged by the new Beit Bridge.  This was
the route we took that year on Assize Duty.

It started with the road from Bulawayo to the Lonely Mine and the native
Commissioners Office at Inyati.  The road was made with a very coarse
gravel, so with the long stroke motor engines of those years meant
corrugations and big ones!  One bounced along the road with gravel
flying in all directions.  It was the end of July when we ventured forth
calling in on native trading stores along the way and ended up at the
Lonely Mine Boarding House at 4 pm to stay the night.  With a bit of
time on my hands I climbed a small kopje near by.  The view from the top
was of the mine compound and a large barren area with a running water
tap in the middle.  I expect that the tap had not been repaired since
installation with pumps emptying the mine it mattered not to waste
water.  Down a slight slope away from the tap there was a large patch of
wet ground over which grew a full acre, a carpet of sky blue convolvulus
in full cover.  A bit of heaven in a vast area of desolation.

Next morning with an early start, we took a winding track through the
teak forests on the way to Dett railway siding on the Falls railway.  It
was a long day with heavy sand and a couple of punctures.  Punctures
were a normal thing in those days.  It meant taking off the tyre with
tyre levers, removing the tube, solution, patch, putting it back on and
then pumping with much sweat with a crude hand pump.  No one to this day
has made an efficient hand pump!  If you didn't pinch the tube putting
it back together again one was on the way again.  We made Dett and after
a bit of scale testing made for Mrs Van Niekerk's Hotel.  A pleasure as
it was one of the best run pubs in the country as was Mrs Van's cooking.
Oh what bread!

The next days section of the road was over a sand veld track to the
Gwaai River drift and then on to Wankie through shale covered hills.  On
this section the main leaf of the left front spring broke.  This
entailed cutting a block of wood and wiring it between the chassis and
the cross member holding the axles.  Then thump, thump, thump over the
stony road to Wankie that seemed endless.  We spent 2 days in Wankie
testing the weights and measures of the traders there.  The mine
workshop made us a new leaf for the spring.  Wankie hotel was on the lee
side of the washery and coke ovens so the prevailing winds wafted a fine
dust on to the verandah so nothing could be kept clean and the water
pipes had a thumping noise when ever a tap was turned on, otherwise it
was comfortable and well run.  Wankie Thompson was the general manager
of the mine in those days and his house was on the hill above the hotel.
Mrs Thompson must have had a real problem keeping her house clean.

Wankie done, we left on the last section of the road.  It was the only
section that had any pretensions to be made up as it had been taken over
from the railways.  The line had been changed to a new route, so the old
section  made a good gravel road with a level run and what a pleasure.
The Falls in those days were unspoilt, everything was still in its
natural state.  The hotel with its beautiful view across to the Bridge
was  five star accommodation for 30/- all found per day.  The annex 22/6
a wood and iron section.  I went every year for 10 years after that
first venture usually by train.  I often wonder if people notice the two
beautiful trees in front of the hotel; view steals the gaze.  They are a
type of msasa.

Our trip was one of many over ten years to all corners of Southern
Rhodesia.  The old Buick was changed for a Ford V8 as time passed.  With
many friends around the country, it was a happy time.

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