Sunday 29 August 2010

Motoring in the Rhodesias and Nyasaland


The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland which came into being in 1953, comprises the self-governing Colony of Southern Rhodesia and the protectorates of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. A little over a century ago, the Rhodesias and Nyasaland were a wilderness inhabited by warring native tribes and wild animals; permanent white settlement of Rhodesia began in 1890 when Mashonaland was occupied by a Pioneer Column. Both Northern and Southern Rhodesia were administered by the British South Africa Company until Southern Rhodesia was granted self-government in 1923 and Northern Rhodesia became a British Colony in 1924. Two Scottish Churches, inspired by Livingstone, established Missions in 1875 in Nyasaland which was declared a British Protectorate in 1891, "with the consent and desire of the chiefs and people". The possibility of closer political association between the three countries was considered for many years before it was eventually achieved in the Federation.

The mineral wealth of both the Rhodesias is of considerable significance. Southern Rhodesia has extremely rich deposits of coal and gold, and is one of the western world's largest producers of chrome and asbestos. The mines of the Copperbelt of Northern Rhodesia have brought over R800-million into the protectorate in a little under fifty years.

Farming occupies a vital part in the economy of the Federation; the chief crops are maize and tobacco and almost every other sub-tropical crop is grown. A government department advises farmers on the proper utilisation of land and on all aspects of crop and animal husbandry.

Climate and Touring Season.

The Federation lies within the tropics, but on account of the altitude the climate is more typically sub-tropical. Most of the towns are over 3,500 feet above sea-level.

The two main seasons are the wet season, which begins in November and continues with minor breaks until the end of March, and the dry season, which is in turn divided into cool and warm periods. The hottest time of the year is in October and early November before the rains begin, but temperatures during the day seldom exceed 100 degrees and the nights at high altitudes are pleasantly fresh. As the winter climate throughout the Federation is pleasant and healthy, this is undoubtedly the best time to visit it. The Victoria Falls too, are usually at their best during this time, as clouds of spray resulting from the large volume of water frequently obscure the view during the wet season.

During the rainy season many of the district roads in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland become impassable after heavy rains and motoring off the main roads may be hazardous.

Customs and Immigration.

Formalities and Currency.

The primary requisite for touring the Federation is a passport, but in addition to this there are a number of important formalities to which the motorist should attend before leaving South Africa Members can obtain details of these at any A.A. (Automobile Association) office. Leaflets outlining the formalities with which visitors to the Federation are required to comply are obtainable free of charge from all A.A. offices.

South African currency is not legal tender, but can be exchanged for Federal currency at the banks and at some of the larger hotels and shops

Motoring Hints.

Tar "stripped" and In many cases completely tarred roads link the main towns in Southern Rhodesia. The "strip" roads consist of two parallel strips of tar, each approximately two feet wide. A motorist meeting an oncoming car or being overtaken on the strips must pull over to the left and use one strip only so that his left wheels are running on the gravel verge of the road; the same principle is adopted over blind rises. Most of the roads in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland have gravel or earth surfaces, but sections of the more important roads are being tarred. Sometimes during the rainy season, from November to March, even the trunk roads become impassable for short periods and It is, therefore, advisable to inquire in advance about the state of all roads. This information can be obtained from A.A offices at Lusaka and Kitwe and A.A. agencies at Livingstone and Blantyre Petrol can be obtained in all larger centres of Nyasaland; in the northern districts supplies are sometimes uncertain and a reserve supply and a funnel should be carried.


Reciprocal arrangements exist between the A.A of South Africa and the A.A. of Rhodesia and membership of one organisation entitles a member to three months' free service a year from the other.

All A.A. facilities arc available to members of the other organisation except breakdown services and legal defence.

Accommodation and Garages.

Motorists will find hotels and garages at most towns and large villages in the Federation, but should book accommodation in advance, particularly during the winter season, when all three territories have their largest number of visitors.

Accommodation at Government rest-houses should be booked in advance; travellers who wish to stay in them should carry all supplies of food. Bedding, in most cases, is provided.


Particulars of camping sites may be obtained from all A.A. offices. Malaria and bilharzia are still prevalent in certain areas in Rhodesia, but if reasonable precautions arc taken the traveller will be in very little danger. Campers should carry mosquito nets, a supply of prophylactics and if camping near water, should wear long trousers and sleeves after sunset.

Many rivers are free of both bilharzia and crocodiles, but inquiries should always be made before bathing. No milk or water should be drunk unless it has been boiled.

Special emphasis is placed on the risk of starting bush and grass fires. The thick vegetation found in parts of the territory becomes highly inflammable during the dry season and members are urged to take ever)- care in extinguishing fires before leaving a camping site.

Note: The numbers of the paragraphs in the text below correspond with the numbers in circles on the map overleaf.
Unfortunately the map is missing


Bantu Life.

The total Bantu population is estimated at 2,263,000 of which the majority live in reserves. Here the Bantu are taught scientific methods of modern farming so that they may conserve and farm the land to its utmost value. Health centres and clinics have also been established in the reserves. Legislation affecting Bantu has to be approved by the British Government before it becomes law.

Game Reserves.

Wankie National Park is the largest of its kind in Southern Rhodesia and is situated in the western section of the colony, covering an area of 5,000 square miles. Almost every' species of Southern African game except hippo is found within its boundaries.

The Park is open from June I to November 30 and the entrance fees are R1 per person 16 years of age and over, and 25c for children under 16. The entrance fee for each motor vehicle is R1 and for a caravan or trailer 50c. Full particulars may be obtained from the Tourist Manager, Wankie National Park, P.O. Dett, Southern Rhodesia.

The Park is not far from the main road between Bulawayo and the Victoria Falls. Three roads lead from the Bulawayo-Livingstone road to the Park, enabling the motorist to make a detour from the main road and to rejoin it after travelling the length of the Park. There are several other game reserves in Southern Rhodesia, some of which are as yet undeveloped, although the Government intends building roads and rest camps in many of their during the next few years.


The fish found in Southern Rhodesian waters are divided into two groups, namely indigenous fish such as bream and tiger fish, and exotic fish such as trout and bass.

The season for exotic fish is between 1st October and Easter Monday. In addition to a licence which costs 50c per day, R2.I0 per week and R6.30 per season, fishermen must first obtain permission to fish from angling societies or riparian owners who together control all the water stocked with exotic fish.


(a): The main approach from South Africa into Southern Rhodesia is the Great North Road which runs from Pretoria and enters Southern Rhodesia at Beit Bridge.

(b): The entrance to Southern Rhodesia from Bechuanaland is entirely gravel and is generally in fair to poor condition. The Great North Road should be taken in preference to this route.

(c): There are two main approaches from Portuguese East Africa, namely, the Beira-Umtali road; (S.R. Customs at Forbes Post, Umtali, 6 a.m. to 11.30 p.m.); and the road to Salisbury via the Portuguese town of Tete and Changara, the Portuguese Customs Post. The Beira-Umtali road is nearly all tarred but the Tete route has an earth surface, and is likely to become very slippery in wet weather. The Tete route is generally in fair to poor condition; it is fully described in the paragraph dealing with "Approaches in the Nyasaland section of this brochure.



This is the main port of entry from South Africa into Southern Rhodesia. The bridge which spans the Limpopo was built as a memorial to Sir Alfred Beit, an early pioneer who bequeathed over a million pounds for education and transport developments in Southern Africa. It is 1,554 feet long and 35 feet wide, and cost R250,000 to build. The customs offices arc open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. The South African post is one mile from the border on the Transvaal side while the Federal post is on Rhodesian territory.

The Nuanetsi Ranch is a vast expanse of bushveld over a million acres in extent, which lies in the south-eastern corner of the country, to the east of the Beit Bridge-Fort Victoria road. Game is prolific.


This bridge on the road between Fort Victoria and Umtali is one of the most spectacular feats of engineering in Africa. It is one of the largest single span bridges in the world and the top of the span is 280 feet above the Sabi River.


Before the white man came in 1893 this area was the headquarters of the Matabele Chief, Lobengula, and today Government House stands on the actual site of Lobengula's kraal. The name "Bulawayo" is a Matabele word meaning "The Place of Killing". In recent years Bulawayo has developed into a fine modern city with a European population of 50,000; it is the centre ot the rich agricultural and mining region of Matabeleland. Outside the town are several places of outstanding interest, chief among which are the "Matopos", a rugged mountain range covering about 1,000 square miles south of Bulawayo. Superstition has long regarded the mountains as haunted by benevolent spirits, and Cecil Rhodes chose "The View of the World"—the best-known spot in the Matopos—as his burial place. Here, too, lie buried Sir Leander Starr Jameson, a close friend of Cecil Rhodes, and Sir Charles Coghlan, first premier of Southern Rhodesia. The remains of the men of the Shangani patrol who fell in battle against the Matabele were, in 1904, entombed in a shrine at “World's View".

Another feature of great interest is the Khami Ruins. They are 14 miles north-west of Bulawayo and like the Great Zimbabwe Ruins their origin is unknown, although it is believed that they are the product of four different historic periods. The surrounding country is attractive and excellent as a camping ground. Cyrene Mission, home of the famous school of African art, is 22 miles from Bulawayo on the Plumtree road, and is open to visitors on Thursday afternoons or by appointment.

4: Fort Victoria.

Fort Victoria was founded in 1890 by the Pioneer Column and is the oldest town in Southern Rhodesia. It is the centre for the Zimbabwe Ruins which lie about 17 miles south of the town.

(See Zimbabwe Ruins.)


Gwelo with its European population of 6,800 is the geographical centre of Southern Rhodesia. It is the hub of an important mining, agricultural and industrial area, and the capital of the midlands.

There are many interesting ruins in the Gwelo district; the best known are the Dhlo-Dhlo Ruins, 14 miles south of Shangani, and those of Naletale. The Naletale Ruins are reached by a good road which turns south off the main Bulawayo-Salisbury road near the Daisyfield Orphange.

Salisbury, with a white population of 84,000, is the capital of the Federation, and is the scat of its Government and that of Southern Rhodesia. It is the site of the Federation's only University. Lake Mcllwaine is the chief pleasure resort with excellent yachting and fishing. There are several other beautiful dams in the neighbourhood of the city, one of which is the Mazoe Dam. Another attraction is the Sinoia Cave, which is 4 miles west of Sinoia and about 80 miles from Salisbury on the main road to Northern Rhodesia. Here the percolation of moisture through the roof of the cave has given growth to weighty stalactite columns, and pools of crystal water—one as much as 300 feet deep—lie in the rock formation.


The Eastern Highlands is the holiday land of Southern Rhodesia, having a variety of scenes unsurpassed in the country and being well equipped to handle visitors. There are numerous hotels scattered throughout its 600-mile length.


There are two roads between the Birchenough Bridge and Umtali; the direct road traverses the tropical bushveld of the Sabi Valley and passes Hot Springs, where the mineral waters attract many visitors. The other road is longer and more difficult as it penetrates the foothills of the Chimanimani Mountains. The village of Chipinga lies five miles off this road, surrounded by beautiful farms and the finest natural forests in Southern Rhodesia. The Chirinda forest, 19 miles south of Chipinga on Mount Silinda, is a remnant of the tropical forest which once covered the heart of Africa. The "Big Tree" in this forest, which is 216 feet high and of fabulous age, is a specimen of red mahogany.

The old road between Chipinga and Umtali passes through Melsetter and Cashel; in places it is cut out of the sheer mountainside and winds through magnificent mountain scenery. Melsetter was named in 1893 after the ancestral Orkney home of the family who pioneered the area; it lies at the foot of the Chimanimani Mountains and there is much to interest the holidaymaker and the naturalist in the Chimanimani National Park in which a mountaineering chalet has been erected.

The new road to Umtali leaves the Chipinga-Melsetter road south of Melsetter which it by-passes. It is a fine piece of engineering designed for easy motoring and reaches its peak at Skyline where the traveller is rewarded with breathtaking views.


The capital of the Eastern Districts, Umtali, has a European population of 8,200 and is beautifully situated in a valley close to the Portuguese border. The town is renowned for its flamboyant’s and jacarandas, and in addition to being the centre of a prosperous farming district it is becoming increasingly important industrially. It was in 1891, near the site of Umtali, that Cecil Rhodes, who had ridden up from Beira, first saw the country which was to bear his name.

10: VUMBA.

Eleven miles south-east of Umtali is the Vumba, a great range of mountains whose name is derived from the native word for the mist which frequently shrouds them. Spectacular mountain scenery makes a drive through the Vumba an unforgettable experience, and three excellent hotels offer every recreational facility.


The Inyanga district, in which is included the Rhodes Inyanga National Park, lies north of Umtali; a detour may be made through Penhalonga and Inyanga village, rejoining the Umtali-Salisbury road at Rusape. The scenery varies from the thickly-wooded hills and downlands to imposing granite formations; some notable view sites are the Pungwe Falls and Gorge, the Hondi Valley and the Mtazari Falls. The whole district is rich in relics of great archaeological interest; many of the hills are terraced and the so-called "slave-pits" may be examined by visitors. The Van Niekerk Ruins, in the Inyangombe Valley, cover an area of over fifty square miles. There are several hotels in the area, and fly-fishing is a major attraction throughout the district.


The Victoria Falls needs no introduction; it has been called the "greatest river wonder in the world" and is aptly described by the native name meaning "The Smoke that Thunders". It is unquestionably Rhodesia's greatest tourist attraction and is one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring sights in Africa.

The Falls is at its best in the winter months; during the rest of the year dense clouds of spray may obscure the view. It is 1,860 yards wide with a greatest fall of 355 feet. Some of the most famous features are the Eastern Cataract, the Palm Grove, the Boiling Pot, the Knife's Edge, the Devil's Cataract, the Rain Forest and many others, among which is the famous "Big Tree". This gigantic baobab 146 feet high has a circumference of 66½ feet and is found upstream from the Devil's Cataract.


The Zimbabwe Ruins were discovered in 1868 by a wandering hunter. The earliest opinions suggested that they were remotely ancient and they have even been dated as far back as 3,000 years and identified with the ancient Ophir from which King Solomon obtained his gold.

Clearly the ruins have in the past had some connection with a gold-mining industry; gold and other merchandise were probably taken to Sofala, the great eastern port, 230 miles away; in nearly a century expert investigation has tailed to prove their origin, although it is generally accepted today that they date back several hundred years.


The Kyle Dam, 16 miles south of Fort Victoria and 9 miles from Zimbabwe, has been constructed for the purpose of irrigating large areas for the production of sugar and citrus. In due course excellent facilities for fishing, boating and camping will be provided.


The Kariba scheme, one of the world's most ambitious engineering projects, has been constructed to harness the waters of the mighty Zambezi in order to provide almost unlimited hydro-electric power for the Copperbelt of Northern Rhodesia.
Tourists can reach it by road or by air. Accommodation is available at the Kariba Hotel; there are rest huts at Tiger Fish Bay, Kariba, chalets at Siavonga Rest Camp and Redcliff Island; and camping sites can be hired. Anglers can enjoy good fishing, speedboats are available and trips on the lake can be made in cabin cruisers. Members requiring further information should apply to any A.A. office for a touring bulletin which is issued free of charge.


Bantu Life.

The Bantu population of the Protectorate is estimated at 2,300,000, most of whom live in Bantu areas, where they are ruled by a system of tribal self-government.

The Government spends large sums annually on education schemes for the Bantu; schools are still mainly in the hands of missionary societies, assisted and supervised by the Government.

Game Reserves.

The largest of the reserves is the Kafue National Park, which is open between July and November. There is a camp at Ngoma in the southern area of the Park from which circular tours may be made. There is a number of other camps. Bookings may be made through the Warden, Kafue National Park, P.O. Box 1, Chilanga.

The Luangwa Valley game watching camps are in the Eastern Province. Game watching camps differ from reserves in that visitors, escorted by game guards, may view big game on foot at very close quarters. Game is prolific and fishing in the Luangwa River is excellent. The best time to visit the camps is from June to November, and applications should be made well in advance to the District Commissioner, Fort Jameson, Northern Rhodesia.


Northern Rhodesia offers first-class fishing in its main rivers and its lakes and fishermen who wish to venture from the shore can generally hire canoes from natives.

The best fishing season is from late August to January and there is no fee for rod and line fishing in the territory. No exotic fish have been imported into Northern Rhodesian waters, but African game fish such as Nile perch, bream, tiger fish and eels are plentiful.


There are four principal entries into Northern Rhodesia, the best of which is undoubtedly the Great North Road which enters the territory at Livingstone and is practically an all-weather road as far as the Tanganyika border. There are, however, some sandy patches and motorists might be delayed in wet weather.

The second road enters Northern Rhodesia from Chirundu in Southern Rhodesia and links up with the Great North Road south of the Kafue River. The scenery along this route is more beautiful and more rugged than the Great North Road.

The third route runs from Nyasaland through Fort Manning and Fort Jameson to link up with the Great North Road at Lusaka.

The fourth route enters Northern Rhodesia from the Belgian Congo at Mokambo, near Mufulira, or at Kasumbalesa near Bancroft. (Customs hours, 24-hour service.)


Abercorn is situated on a high plateau 70 miles from Lake Tanganyika. Lake Chila, on the boundaries of the town itself, adds to Abercorn's charm and provides excellent yachting, bathing and fishing. There is a very good camping site near the lake.

The Kalambo Falls, one of the highest in Africa, are 21 miles from Abercorn and are undoubtedly one of the most amazing sights in the continent. The initial drop is 726 feet and thereafter the river falls a further 2,000 feet in six miles down to Lake Tanganyika. The road to the falls presents some magnificent views of the lake.


The Copperbelt, which in 1960 produced minerals to the value of over £125,000,000. lies on the Congo border. Cobalt, tin, gold, silver, lead, vanadium and zinc are produced in addition to copper. The vivid green ore which is usually shown to visitors to the mines is malachite, A valuable copper ore. The chief town of the Copperbelt is Ndola, which has a European population of 9,000 and is attractively laid out on modern lines. It is the rail junction and distributing centre for the Copperbelt and is the site of a new copper and cobalt refinery. Kitwe is the government town adjoining Nkana Mine township; their combined European population is 10,400. It is the shopping centre for the mine township and for the nearby township of Kalulushi and the Chibuluma Mine. Chingola is the progressive little township for the Nchanga and Bancroft Mines, with a combined European population of 7,000. Luanshya is the township for the Roan Antelope Mine with an estimated population of 6,500. Mufulira (population 7,000) is the only Copperbelt town called after the adjoining mine. All the townships are laid out with separate shopping and residential areas, and every medical, educational and recreational need is fully satisfied.


Fort Jameson is on the borders of Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia and is one of the territory's chief ports of entry. Much tobacco is grown in the district.


Kanona is an attractive little village situated 14 miles from Lake Lusiwasi, which is renowned for its fishing and duck-shooting. Twenty-seven miles from Kanona are the Kundalila Falls; they are 270 feet high and are one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country.

The Livingstone Memorial is at Old Chitambo and commemorates the place where Dr. Livingstone died in 1873. The turn-off to the memorial is 20 miles north of Kanona on the Mpika road. This 62-mile drive is particularly attractive and there is a likelihood of seeing game along the road. A Government rest hut has been built quite near the memorial.


Livingstone is an attractive town with streets lined with flowering trees and bright gardens. It is the nearest town to the Victoria Falls which are only seven miles away and has thus become the principal tourist centre in the territory.

Another of Livingstone's attractions is the game park situated on the river bank. This enclosure shelters giraffe, sable, zebra and many other animals, including almost every species of buck found in Northern Rhodesia. Livingstone has a European population of 3,900.


Lusaka with its European population of 12,500 has been the capital of Northern Rhodesia since 1935. It is centrally situated on the Great North Road as well as on the main railway line to the Copperbelt.

The Kafue river is 36 miles from the town and is excellent for boating and fishing.


Bantu Life.

The estimated population of Nyasaland is 2,761,000, of which over two-thirds live in the southern half of the Protectorate. The chief European influence has been that of missionaries, in whose hands much of the education still remains. Most Nyasaland Africans live an agricultural life, ruled by their tribal chiefs. The extraordinary density of the population has made necessary an extensive system of training in scientific farming. One of the largest tribes is the Ngoni who were expelled from Zululand by Chaka in 1825.

Game Reserves.

There arc five game reserves in the territory and two controlled areas in which hunting is virtually prohibited. The Kasungu Reserve (1,400 square miles) lies on the western edge of Kasungu District. It contains a large variety of game. The Kota-Kota Reserve (700 square miles) overlooks Lake Nyasa. Red duiker, blue duiker and suni are believed to be found in the rain forest covering the top of Chipata Mountain. Other reserves are Mwabvi (60 square miles), Lengwe (50square miles) and Majete (70 square miles).

The Nyika Plateau is one of the controlled areas. It is a wind-swept grassy plateau at an altitude of nearly 8,000 ft


The fishing on Lake Nyasa and the Upper Shire River is excellent, and perch, carp and catfish may be caught in large numbers. Fishing on the Lower Shire is mainly for tiger fish. No licence is necessary for indigenous fish and there is no close season; the best months are from September to January. Trout fishing is confined to the streams on Zomba and Mlanje Mountains, and a licence must be obtained. On Zomba Mountain the season is 1st September—31st January, but on Mlanje Mountain there is no close season.


Nyasaland is best approached from South Africa by way of Beit Bridge, Salisbury, Mtoko, Tete and Blantyre. This road is tarred or tar-stripped for most of its length in Southern Rhodesia; thereafter, it is a fair earth road, passable in all but the heaviest rain. The Federal Customs post is at Nyampanda (open 6 a.m.—6 p.m.), and the Portuguese post at Changara (open 6 a.m.—6 p.m.). The hotel at Changara is on the far side of the customs posts from Southern Rhodesia and travellers who wish to stay overnight should ensure that they arrive before the customs post closes. The Zambezi is crossed at Tete by ferry (R1.50 a car) which operates between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. (closed 12 noon—2 p.m.). On approaching Nyasaland there are Portuguese and Federal Customs posts at Zobue (open sunrise to sunset) and Mwanza (open 6 a.m.—8 p.m.) respectively. An alternative but much longer route to Nyasaland is through Salisbury, Lusaka, Fort Jameson and Lilongwe.



These two towns, which are five miles apart, are a single municipality with a European population of 3,750. Both are important commercial centres; Limbe is the headquarters of the Nyasaland Railways and the hub of the Nyasaland tobacco industry and Blantyre is the capital of the southern province. Blantyre, founded in 8175, (See Note 1) was named after David Livingstone's birthplace in Scotland.


Lake Nyasa lies in part of the trough formed by the Great Rift Valley, and at its northern end is 2,300 feet deep.

The palm-fringed beaches of the southern shores are popular with holidaymakers, and the swimming, yachting and fishing are excellent at such resorts as Monkey Bay and Palm Beach, and those on the coast near Salima. Kota Kota was once notorious for the slave trade, and the Mohammedan influence is evident; it is Nyasaland's largest native settlement. Nkata Bay and Florence Bay, set in some of the Lake's loveliest scenery, may be reached by the main road through the Vipya Mountains. Transport between points on the Lake is usually by water; the motor vessel "Ilala 11" does 9-day trips round the Lake and cars can be carried; particulars may be had from the Traffic Superintendent, Nyasaland Railways, Limbe.


This delightful small town, with a European population of 850, is the capital of Nyasaland and lies below the Zomba Mountain, sheltered by indigenous trees and watered by perennial streams. A good motor road leads to the grasslands and cedar plantations of the Zomba plateau. 3,000 feet above the town.

End of Article.

Although all possible care has been exercised in compiling this information, the Association accepts no responsibility for errors and omissions.
A.A. House, Johannesburg.
August, 1961.

Copyright reserved

Note 1. 8175 is the date stated in the booklet, I think it should read 1875.

Please note that unfortunately the map that accompanied this booklet was not available when I completed the recompilation.
If you have a copy please consider scanning and mailing it to me at

Recompiled by Eddy Norris for use on "Our Rhodesian Heritage" blog, and not for any or intended financial gain but rather to record the memories of these places.

Thanks to Diarmid Smith for making the booklet available.
Thanks to Robb Ellis for his assistance.
Image hosting sponsorship, thanks to Paul Mroz

Replies/comments. Please mail Eddy Norris on


At 30 July 2011 at 19:27 , Blogger The motoring said...

Great tour. Interesting post of journey.

At 17 October 2016 at 00:19 , Blogger ErikBellon said...

Interesting read. I think I would have truly loved Rhodesia. Thank you for taking the time to record these rich memories.


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