Memories of Rhodesia


A Rhodie Road Trip

(Note:  content not suitable for the overly sensitive or self-important)

July 2, 2013

Now look. Hey. We’ve allbeen on car trips. Here and there, up and down, short ones to the mountains, medium-size ones to Beira , and kuchala flipping lapaside Down South. I once drove from one coast of America to the other, and I can tell you with certainty that there is flip all going on in the middle bit except hillbillies, deep-fried food, bibles and bluegrass. Mind you, I smoked maningi dagga on that trip, so I might have missed a thing or two.

But there was never any road trip as good as the ones I went on when I was a when-we. Never. Out of Salisbury and you were in real Rhodesia , mopani scrub and vlei and yuge flipping rocks and who the flip only knows what. Gomos and trees and rivers, often with no water in them, but still, rivers. Also, packing light is not the Rhodesian way at all hey? Flipit man, let’s take everything to Beira, the dartboard, the bicycles, the paraffin freezer; we’ll just bopa it to the back of the VeeDub with some tambo and it will be fine man; do you think we should take the bridge table too just in case honey; what about the lounge suite? There’s murra room on the roof for the chairs too hey? You’d go past cars with their big fat old-fashioned chromed back bumpers making sparks off the tarmac. Most cars in Rhodesia were from Nineteen-Voetsek so they went slowly anyway, but the fully-laden ones headed on holiday got overtaken by chameleons.

The best bit was when you came to the strip roads. The strip road is living proof of how much Rhodesians trusted each other, because two cars would head towards each other at full speed through the shimmering heat haze in a cloud of dust and then, at the last minute, move to their side of the road to let the other bugger past, a finger or two raised off the steering wheel in greeting, because seeing another car out in the bundu was quite something. All performed nonchalantly with a sunburned elbow out the window, a Lexington in the mouth and the other hand juggling a bucking steering wheel and a cold chimboolie. In the late Seventies and Eighties, nonchalance was further tested by hoping like buggery that you didn’t choon a landmine when you moved over to the left. Plus of course, to keep things interesting, there were natural obstacles such as your donkey carts, ellies, mombis, suicidal kudu, goats and picanninies chasing old bicycle wheels with sticks. The worst natural obstacle of all was if a mamba was crossing the road, because, according to June anyway, they could wind themselves around the axle and then sneak in through the air vents and kill everyone in the car. flipping difficult to light another gwaai, open a beer, control a Peugeot 404 stationwagon with two wheels in the dirt, make sure the radio was tuned to the RBC, keep one eye out for tracer rounds and the other one out for mambas with all that going on. No-one drives like Rhodesians, because no-one ever had to.

The best bit about any Rhodie road trip was the food. June would go all out; cheese and tomato sandwiches with Stork margarine on Lobel’s bread, a packet of eet-sum-mor biscuits, the old tartan Thermos flask of hot coffee for the old man – if you drop that flask and break it Steven, I will kill you, do not even look at it – packets of thinly sliced biltong, and Mazoe orange for us kids, frozen in those screw-top plastic bottles that always smelled of Mazoe, and maybe even some chocolate frogs. And, always, maningi hard-boiled eggs and some salt in grease-proof paper to dip them into. June’s idea of a properly hard-boiled egg involved cooking overnight and then letting them cool in the shell, so that the yolk had a grey ring around it. My idea of a road trip was to try and eat all the padkos before the car was even out of the driveway. Jesus man Steven, seriously, did you not have breakfast? Ja ma, I did, why? This food is for the trip that’s why, and it is not for your sole edification. But I’m hungry ma, kinIjusthavasammich? No Steven, you cannot just have a sandwich. Jesus Les, I’m sure he has worms hey, worms the size of bloody pythons. Seriously my boy, I will come into your room with a torch while you are sleeping and check your bum for worms, do you hear me? I don’t have worms or pythons ma, I’m just hungry. Christ, is this going to go on for the whole trip Steven, hey, non-bloody-stop until we get there? I will not stand for it do you hear me? Sit there behind your father so you’re within arm’s reach.

The real highlight of each trip would come after I’d added a few hard-boiled eggs to a stomach full of biltong and sandwiches. Jesus bloody Christ what is that smell? Hey – who did that? Was that you Steven? Christ it was you – don’t laugh my boy, that is not funny. Seriously, your poor sister stuck there in the back with you. Breathe the other way Naomi, quickly. What did you eat to make such a stink? Hard boiled-eggs and biltong ma. We all ate hard-boiled eggs and biltong my boy and none of us smell like that, what is wrong with you man, can’t you just get bloody hiccups like other kids do? June would strike match after match and wave them out. I don’t know why; it never worked, it just made the car smell like someone was cooking poofie on a braai. Jesus man, another one? Open your window Les, seriously man, I don’t know why you’re laughing, you’ll never get the smell out of the upholstery. What is wrong with you Steven, can’t you hold them in? No ma, I’m trying to hey I’d answer through fits of giggles and more farting. Well bloody try harder that’s all I can say. Where are those bloody matches? Jesus man, I’m going to faint.

And so, happily, our family would make its way through the heat haze, donkey carts and wildlife, through the dongas, past the shambas and over the strip roads from Four Ridgelee Way, Avondale, Salisbury to Inyanga, Kariba or Melsetter; to Bullies, Fort Vic, Beit Bridge, and beyond, accompanied by a heady mix of hard-boiled egg and biltong fart, smell of burned-out match, the old man’s whistling, we kids giggling and June gasping for fresh air. And let me tell you something for nothing: to this day I can’t see a picture of a strip road without looking for a box of matches.

Photo kifed from The True Rhodesian Memories Facebook page

Author Steve Abramowitz <>. 
Used with permission.  For more of his stuff visit



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