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Jan van Eden

bio - biography

Stories of our life in the foreign


1967-1970  Travels from Zambia


1969 Honeymoon


Victoria falls - july 1969






After our marriage on the 20th of July 1969 we left on honeymoon in our Morris Mini on a trip that led us through Zambia, Rhodesia, Mozambique, and back to Kalulushi through Malawi. First stop at the impressive Victoria falls we stayed in the Victoria Falls Hotel on the Rhodesian (now Zimbabwe) side. Those days the hotel was a little bit run down and preserved its colonial style, also it was “whites only”. We got a luxury suite with an old fashioned double bed with an ornamented copper heading, but as we were just married we didn't like the squeaking noise and we decided to put the mattress on the ground next to the bed. We enjoyed our night and in the morning they served us a coffee which was customary. With a faint knock on the door the formally dressed black waiter entered with his serving tray to the surprise of Pepa who hastily covered her naked body with a sheet. In the meantime the look in the eyes of our waiter expressed even more surprise, finding us lying beside the bed. Never mind we were treated with all respect. I still recall these black servants in their formal dress with white topped black shoes. At the dinner the night before they asked “Coffee or tea”, and making our choice “sorry sir no coffee today” and this repeated the same way during breakfast next morning.





Whites only in Rhodesia under the government of Ian Smith, 1969


















 Continuing our journey with Pepa driving she nearly drove into a small herd of elephants and on braking abruptly on the red colored gravel road, the car swirled a complete turn around, but fortunately the Morris Mini, with its wheels on the outside corners, showed its remarkable stability and road holding. We carried on enjoying the beautiful landscape and seeing the occasional wildlife on our way to Beira on the coast of Mozambique. From there we went northwards in the direction of Malawi through areas contested by the independence movement Frelimo. Many roads we traveled on had worn out tracks from heavy vehicles with a high bump in the middle and with our Mini we had to negotiate these tracks with wheels on one side on top and the other side in a lower track, which made us hang pretty crooked. I planned our trip on the best road map I could find, but in the war-torn country it happened to be unreliable and at one point we could not cross a river because they had blown the bridge. We had spare petrol in a jerrycan, but even so we were at half our resource and had to decide either to return the same way or take a risky road ahead of us. The tracks seemed totally abandoned, maybe, because of the risk of landmines. These mines were designed and aimed at heavy vehicles and I think our Mini would not be affected in any case. We carried on and after hours without seeing a soul, we came across a camp with improvised huts made of zinc corrugated iron manned by an undefined group of soldiers who were very surprised, but who received us very generously. Darkness was setting in and we accepted their invitation to stay the night. We had a sober meal with half a dozen men on a kitchen table illuminated by a single running lamp, which you had to take with you to go to the toilet (a latrine). We slept in our clothes on some camping beds in an adjacent room. Next morning they accompanied us to a wide river (probably the Zambezi river) where an abandoned railroad track went to the other side. They loaded our Morris Mini on an open rail car and with us inside, we got over.





Black Chida at the Dick Whiskey store, Liwonde Bridge (Malawi)












Letter of Black Chida, Liwonde Bridge (Malawi)


















From here the Malawi border was not very far and once in Malawi we found a petrol supply. It was a relief to be in an organized country. Malawi (the former British protectorate Nyasaland) was independent since 1964 and had a guided economy with Banda as president. We made a stop at Liwonde Bridge, which is at the southern outlet of the Malawi lake, where we made some photographs of the open air workshop of a shoemaker. We asked for his address to send him the photographs by mail. Color photos that, by the way, I developed myself in my dark room at home. After our mailing he replied with a letter that I have kept as a dear treasure. Thanking me for the pictures, he says “I didn't believe that there are some white man who are so kind as you are...”. The address was c/o Dick Whiskey Store, Liwonde Bridge, Malawi, and because of this we have a check on where we had been during our honeymoon.





1970 A journey from Zambia to Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.


Intensive periods of hard work were compensated with generous local holidays and we made month long trips with our Morris Mini 850. Colleagues said we we were crazy to go with a small car like that, advising a Landrover or a Peugeot for the mainly unpaved roads, but never mind. During the lifetime of our Mini with lost the motor block 3 times in the middle of nowhere. The motor was mounted on 4 brackets and when they broke because of excessive vibrations on the corrugated gravel roads, the block fell down on the chassis, making a hell of a noise with the radiator fan. With some branches you would jack it up and then proceed step foots to the nearest village to find a mechanic with welding equipment., I must say the mechanics in those desolate parts of the world were very handy and helpful. After repair of the brackets you were ready to go.


SS Liemba, Lake Tanganyika, 1970










In the year 1970 we made a round trip to Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. We started from Kalulushi to Mpulungu (northeastern Zambia on the shores of Lake Tanganyika), where we took a steamer to Bujumbura (Burundi) which was a journey of 5 days over a distance of some 800 km with several stops at villages along the Tanzanian coast. This coal fired steamer the S.S.Liemba (the name of Lake Tanganyika in the language of the tribes around Kigoma) was built in 1913 and had an interesting history. When we bought our tickets, I innocently asked for third class, but they they refused and gave us one of two VIP cabins on the upper deck, the middle deck was reserved for Indian and other colored races, while the blacks were at the very bottom. In the bottom there were long wooden benches, without backrest and it was crowded with people, luggage, cooking gear, food for the trip, and even live chickens. People were coming and going at villages where the boat made a stop, and swarms of small boats were along side to take the passengers or sell fish, vegetables, bananas and other food products. In the meanwhile we had the upper deck for ourselves together the crew, and our Morris Mini was parked there as well. We were having our meals with the English captain and the mates. Perfectly set tables with silver cutlery, starched napkins and a superb traditional menu. The English captain regularly left a loud burst followed by “pardon me”. All this in a colonial setting, while Tanzania was an independent socialist country from december 1961. We had a luxury cabin, but made a mistake by using an insectspray on a couple of cockroaches inside an open construction tube, causing a relentless stream of these animals to invade our cabin. Never mind it was a very relaxing and pleasant trip to Bujumbura in Burundi.





Pepa en el SS Liemba, 1970


























Boats providing food for black passengers on the lowest deck.












Burundi, at the Catholic mission of my friend from Puente Montanana (Huesca)









From there on we headed north in our Morris Mini. The first stop we made for a couple of days was a catholic mission where a friend of mine was one of the two missionaries. It was quite emotional to meet a friend in the heart of Africa and it felt like a redemption from the overwhelming emptiness that surrounds you. The next morning we were welcomed by a large dancing crowd on the rolls of drums, adorned with shields and spears, which we underwent as an impressive tribute. As a white person you are a curiosity in this far out african country side and Pepa attracted much attention from the women and the children in particular. After two days we carried on through Burundi in the direccion of Rwanda, travelling through densely populated agricultural areas with lush fields of bananas, cassava, cotton and other subsistance crops. Rwanda is small and from north to south you cross the country by car in a few hours.



Pepa in her Morrus Mini - Rwanda 1970











Then circling the Victoria Lake we were heading for Kampala the capital of Uganda. When we entered the country in 1970 it was still under the government of Milton Obote the first president after the British left in 1962. Kampala was a bustling city with a strange overwhelming presence of asians. All taxis, shops and other business seemed to be owned and run by asians. A disturbing left over from the British colonial days and and nobody should be surprised with the coming of somebody like Idi Amin who started with violent persecution of these people.



Jan at the Nakuru Lake













FRose Flamengos at the Nakuru Lake











After Uganda we headed for Nairobi on relatively good roads, passing by the Nakuru lake with its beautiful pink flamingo population. Nairobi a modern city and then southwards to Arusha and the Serengetti wildlife park in Tanzania. In the Ngorongoro crater we needed to take a guide with a landrover. With large herds of rhinoceros, buffalos, wildebeests, zebras, elephants and predators like lions and hyena, the nicest wildpark I have known.




Pepa with a young Masai shepherd - Tanzania 1970









From here on we were going south through Tanzania's vast savanna plains with the occasional massive Boabab tree, direccion Zambia. Along the road we met with traditional Masai men herding their cattle. From a young Masai boy we bought a dishlike plate on three legs carved out from a single piece of wood, made to eat from in the field. It is still used by us in our house of Sabayes, but we use it as a small stool (taburete pequeño). With an additional 4.522 miles (7.277 km) on the clock of our Morris Mini (and don't forget the 800 km on the SS Liemba) we returned safely home in Kalulushi



Continuation of the story: 1972 Republic of South Africa



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