Submitted by Andy Stuart-Hill

Dreams – Chapter 1 

Growing up in South Africa, I had always dreamed about and visualized my being on an overland expedition from Cape Town to Cairo. Working as a junior in the mine manager’s office, West Rand consolidated Gold Mines since my commercial matriculation – I was unsure of my future career plans. However, travel and basic curiosity about other countries and peoples in the world kept me occupied in my spare time. I tried a Geology course for a year, learned a lot, but realized this was not a career option for me.

One evening in 1954, I saw a tiny ad in ‘The Star,’ a local paper, which read “4 Seats available on Safari trip to U.K. 10 weeks commencing February. Cost 75 pounds one way. Return ex Rhodesia. Apply…” I immediately wrote an application indicating my interest, and mentioned the fact that, as a King’s Scout, I was conversant with basic navigation, observation techniques, as well as rudimentary first aid.

At this time, as the beginning of my international travels, I travelled to Durban, where I boarded a Union-Castle ship travelling to Mozambique. Found the city of Lourenco Marques, with its Portuguese culture, a real eye-opener to the European way of life. Then north to the city of Beira on the Coast. I was fortunate to join a two-day jaunt up the primitive “Buzi” (Goat) river to view big game on the banks of the river. At this time, my future interests had turned to Photography. A professional wildlife photographer on board piqued my interest as to the exciting, adventurous life that awaited (as well as sharing some very important photographic tips that have remained with me to this day.)

Upon returning to the ship, I found a message from my mother advising me that I had been accepted to join the overland safari adventure. (I was one of the lucky four out of nearly a hundred applications). Instead of disembarking at Durban on the way home, I opted to continue to Cape Town to start my long sought-after dream of travelling from Cape to Cairo (“C to C”). After a few days spent exploring the magic city of Cape Town as well as climbing Table Mountain for the view, I travelled back home by train.

I put in my time at my job, sold my little Ford Anglia, bade my family and friends adieu. Received word that the Limpopo River was in flood and therefore impassable. Plan ‘B’ being to fly from Johannesburg to Bulawayo in Southern Rhodesia, the starting point for the Safari. This being my first ever flight – I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and the remarkable views of the African bush from my window on the aircraft.

The start of the adventure – Chapter 2

In February 1955, a party of hopeful adventurers set out on a trip that was difficult and more interesting than they dared to hope. The story began when Mr. Keats of Shabani, an Englishman and leader of the party, bought the chassis of the bus, which included a 60HP diesel engine. He then constructed a body on the chassis, complete with bunks and a kitchenette. The first row of four seats was for the driver, navigator, and two passengers. Next were two long benches which faced the side of the bus. These were for the remaining passengers and served as bunks during the night. Behind the benches came a double bed which was the abode of the owner, his wife, and two small children. The rear of the vehicle was divided into a kitchen and toilet. Both were completely impractical on the trip and were eventually used for storing the gear for mud and sand problems.

Expedition passengers – Bulawayo in Southern Rhodesia.

The owner had overcome the difficulty of sleeping accommodation by constructing a platform, extending the full length of the bus (about 6ft. wide and allowing four feet of headroom.) My sleeping place was in the top right-hand corner). The two ladies that started the tour with us slept downstairs on the benches. Ventilation was a problem, particularly when we stopped in the warmer climates. The construction of a sturdy 2 ft by 4ft hatch in the roof helped circulate the air as well as providing access to the roof where several of us travelled during the day. The elevated position was much cooler and provided wonderful views. The vehicle carried 200 gallons of diesel and 60 gallons of water. Unfortunately, the water tank developed a leak which persisted and later caused much anxiety in the desert. As mentioned, most of us had answered an ad in the local paper, which gave the impression of a highly organized overland expedition through Africa to England.

The start of the adventure. Rhodesia – London, February 1955

At the appointed time, we all congregated at the Bulawayorailway station – five South Africans, three Rhodesians, an Australian, and an English family of four. The latter group included two children – a little boy of about six and a baby not ten weeks old! The baby was not according to schedule but arrived after all plans had been made, and there was no choice but to add her to the passenger list. We were mindful of Mrs. Keats and her comfort as she was still breastfeeding the baby. Amazingly both children were no trouble and survived the total journey with no ill effects. After introductions and being told we would be picking up the remaining three Rhodesians in Lusaka, Northern Rhodesia, we headed north to Gwelo and Gatooma (at that time, because the government had little money, only the two tire grooves in the road were filled with tar for many miles!) An overnight stop in the Capital Salisbury for supplies over the border Into Northern Rhodesia.

Early the next morning, we stopped at Sinoia, (now Chinhoyi and a World Heritage Site), viewed the limestone Caves, and had a bath in the Ladies’ bathroom as the Men’s side had been demolished. Arrived in Lusaka at noon – enjoyed swimming in the local pool. Explored the town before heading to Broken Hill, where we picked up Van Rooyen. On to the Copper Belt. N’Dola-Kitwe, where Ted and Bette, the final two passengers, were waiting for us. We now had a very crowded bus – 16passengers, including the two small children. A brief stop for fuel at Mufulira – I was particularly interested in this particular copper mine as my Dad, in the late 1920s, worked with the engineering crew during the time the headframe was being constructed.