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Jan van Eden

bio - biography

Stories of our life in the foreign


1969  Travels from Zambia


1969 Honeymoon - Rhodesia, Mozambique, Malawi


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.




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