Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Pietermaritzburg show (South Africa), Rhodesian Colours and turning 21 in Umtali (Rhodesia).

That evening, we loaded the horses onto the train for Pietermaritzburg in South Africa, and set off smartly by car down the coast road, hoping to get to the Mozambique/South Africa border before it closed for the night. There were two cars; I was driving alone and the other two riders were in the other car, trying desperately to keep each other awake. I have always been lucky, in the respect that no matter how tired I am feeling, I seem to wake up as soon as I get behind the wheel of a car! This is inherited from my Dad I suspect, as he was much the same. 

On arriving at the border, we encountered Customs and Immigration, housed in just a caravan - this was 1964! Upon knocking on the door, we were told that they had just closed! After much pleading and begging, we were told that if one of us went over to the South African arrival post, and they were prepared to allow us through, he would let us exit Mozambique. No mobile phones in those days!  Off I went to speak to the South African border force, returning with a big grin on my face  and saying that we had the all clear! I had planned to stay with a friend in Pietermaritzburg but the other two riders were staying with friends in Durban, so we split up on arrival in Durban and I had about 100 kilometres further to go from the coast. After another 45 minutes drive, I was knocking on my friend's door in the early hours of the next morning. Unfortunately, the horses were also travelling overnight, so after only a couple of hours' sleep, I went off to the station to unload the Rhodesian team horses. 

We had a great show and my horse Mr Smith was beaten into second place in the Grand Prix  by only a short time margin. The horses then returned to Salisbury by train, but I was faced with the very long (1600 kilometres or 1000 miles) car journey home. The little map below is quite deceptive and the distances are great. It doesn't look far, but remember it took two whole days for of us to drive in our 1960's cars from Salisbury to Lourenco Marques!

Mum and Dad told me to have a rest halt and stay overnight at the hotel just over the border at Beit Bridge, the little town on the giant Limpopo river which forms the border with Rhodesia in that area. On arrival there in the evening, it was to find the place was fully booked; so I got back in the car and just kept going! I think this is probably the longest drive I have ever done in one go; in later years, I drove the 1100 kilometres from Johannesburg to Salisbury many times but with the extra distance from Pietermaritzburg  tacked on, it was not something I would wish to repeat! On my return from South Africa and Mozambique, I was awarded Rhodesian colours for equitation, of which to this day I am extremely proud!

Meanwhile, after his good showing in Pietermaritzburg, Kubla Khan was going from strength to strength. He was showing every promise that he would soon be competing with Mr Smith as my top shop jumper. At the beginning of the 1964 season, he started winning event after event in the D (lowest at that time) grade, and by halfway through the year, he had enough points to be well up into C Grade. 

The beautiful scenery in the background at Umtali, on Rhodesia's eastern border with Mozambique.

At Umtali Show, towards the end of his first season, he jumped brilliantly and I knew that with the points he had gained there, he was sure to be starting his second season in B Grade.
I only wore my pink hunting jacket for special events!
Kubla Khan and myself collecting a prize.

Umtali was a success all round and while there I celebrated my 21st birthday. A friend, Neil, whom I knew from both horse racing and show jumping took me across the border into Mozambique for dinner. There is nothing to beat Mozambique prawns and Portuguese wine and we celebrated well into the night! This was the start of a long friendship and only after five months of going out together, did I discover that he was almost 5 years younger than me! He was in fact still at school at the time, and only left there at the end of that year to go farming with one of my father’s race horse owners and a close family friend. By this time, age did not come into the equation and we continued to be constant companions.

Neil and myself 1964/5. Not sure where we where!  Possibly at Mermaids Pool, once a very popular resort  just outside Salisbury in the good old days!

My Life Before Charente to be continued :-) 


The section of my life story during our overland trip is published on Kindle if you should be interested:-


  1. Wow you sure did some driving and at a young age too. Congrats on your competition successes. Quite a star. Age doesn't matter in a relationship as long as you get on well together. He was a handsome lad.

    1. Diane I think in Africa you just get used to driving long distances. When we moved to France it was much the same driving back and forth from the UK. Thanks for the kind comment. I agree Neil was/is a good looking guy. I agree that age does not matter, but somehow from 16 to 21 it was more noticeable not that it worried me! Hope all is well with you, t'other Diane


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