Alan & Kathy's Trip To Africa
September / October 1997
Part 1 of 6 - How This Trip Came About

Alan grew up in Luanshya, a copper mining town in Northern Rhodesia. His parents had moved there from England in 1952 when he was 6, and lived there until he was 21. During those formative years, Alan had two friends: David Smith and Martin Brett. Once, to symbolize their permanent friendship, they tore a Zambian banknote into three pieces and each kept one piece.

Luanshya was a small, pretty town with a pleasant climate and a comfortable lifestyle, but it was living on borrowed time: in 1965 the former colony of Northern Rhodesia became the Republic of Zambia, and a great exodus began of all those whose ancestral roots lay in Europe. Alan ended up in Canada, Martin in New Zealand, and David in South Africa. Alan's exodus was particularly traumatic: in late 1966 while studying in South Africa, where he been an activist against apartheid, he was visited by the security police (who he knew were investigating him) and given three weeks to leave South Africa. During his rush to leave South Africa and find another homeland, Alan lost contact with most of his friends from those days, including David and Martin. During the subsequent thirty years, all three of the friends faced great challenges. But they never forgot their friendship.

In January 1997 Kevin Boer, a friend of our son Peter, moved to South Africa. Remembering that Alan had lived there thirty years earlier, Kevin asked if he could do anything for Alan while he was there. Alan asked him to run an advertisement in the personal column of a local newspaper to try to locate Dave Smith. A couple of weeks later, Kevin e-mailed Alan to say that Dave had been found, in Cape Town! Meanwhile, Alan had discovered a New Zealand telephone directory on the Internet and had found what appeared to be Martin's phone number, in Auckland. So it was that on January 20, 1997 Alan telephoned first Dave, and then Martin. After thirty years, the three friends got back in contact in a single day.

For some years, Alan had wanted to return to Africa with Kathy to trace his roots. We came close to doing so in 1995, when Alan had accumulated enough frequent-flyer point for us both to visit Africa. Then our daughter Michelle had an opportunity to visit Europe and meet her grandfather for the first time, so we used some of the airline points to send Michelle, and didn't have enough left to visit Africa.

But shortly after Alan reconnected with his old friends, the airline reduced the number of points required to visit Africa. Now we could go! But there were still many questions: how safe was Zambia, especially Luanshya which is close to the Congo border where there had just been a civil war? How would we visit both Luanshya and Cape Town, almost 5,000 km apart, on the same trip? Could Alan take a long vacation? How would we finance our daily expenses? Where would we stay each night?

The first barrier to fall was to get a long vacation: Alan's employer changed their vacation policy, giving Alan a unique opportunity to take the vacations of two successive years back-to-back. The second was the daily expenses: a long-awaited insurance settlement provided enough for modest daily expenses, if we limited our use of commercial hotels to about one day per week.

Then, through some reference books and a search of the Internet, Alan found e-mail addresses for Rob and Lois Neufeld, Canadian missionaries in Zambia's capital Lusaka, and Pat Coleman, an American missionary in Alan's home town Luanshya. When we asked them about safety, both were so positive that we decided to begin our trip in Zambia. When Alan tried to do that, however, he found the closest available starting point was Harare, Zimbabwe, with a two-day stopover in London, so we took that. How we were going to get from Harare to Luanshya and then to Cape Town was still to be determined!

At this point we made a mistake. We visited a local travel agent, highly recommended as an expert on Africa. He recommended against driving (too dangerous, he said); but flying everywhere was expensive, and would leave us stranded once we arrived in each town. After half a day trying to plan our trip around his advice, we left his office quite upset, sure there must be a better way.

At this point we began to make one contact after another. Alan phoned Steve Smith, son of a Canadian missionary who'd been in Alan's class at school in Luanshya. Steve put us in touch with Pat Forbes, who introduced us to her friend Gael Whelan (both former Luanshyans now living in Canada). Gael gave us the e-mail address of her brother Charles Coxall and his wife Brenda who live in Harare. When we contacted them we discovered each other to be Chistians, so Charles and Brenda invited us to stay with them our first night in Harare, and also told us about a wonderful game ranch called Imire.

Alan also wrote to the (then unknown) occupants of his childhood home, asking if he could photograph the house when we visited Luanshya. We received a warm reply from Elwyn and Roslyn Davies, who insisted that we stay with them!

About this time we also learned that our missionary contact Pat Coleman would be married to Sherry Welch, another missionary, in a Jewish ceremony in Luanshya around the time we planned to be there. Of course we wanted to fit that into our schedule!

Alan set out to research the railway schedules for South Africa through the Internet, and stumbled on the web page of David Forsyth, a fan of steam trains who lives in Grahamstown, South Africa and is also a Christian. David was kind enough to do some research locally and managed to track down Dennis and Ellie Winter, more long-lost friends of Alan's who had retired to that area. Through Dennis and Ellie Winter we were then able to re-establish contact with their daughter Jennie and her husband David Starkey. Alan had known the Winters through attending the same church and through the Youth For Christ meetings that were held in their home during Alan's time at the university in the 1960's.

Alan also found some African newspapers on the Internet. In one Zambian newspaper he discovered a letter from Pat Walden, who had been a leader in Luanshya's arts community during Alan's youth. He and his wife Beryl have retired in Hermanus, near Cape Town, and we were able to contact them via e-mail. Alan also found a Zimbabwe newspaper which accepted personal advertisements, so he placed one asking if anyone knew of Peter Frow and Jill Petherham, who he knew from the Student Christian Association in his University days and remembered as having lived in Zimbabwe. Within a short time, Jill's cousin in Australia saw the notice and put Alan in touch with Peter and Jill, who now live near Durban! They invited us to stay with them while we were in the area.

Finally, Alan's friend Christine Chapman in England, in whose home the Student Christian Association used to meet in those days, sent Alan the address of Andrew and Priscilla Kaye, who lived near Alan in Zambia, attended the same university in South Africa in the 1960's, and now live in Cape Town.

After this absolutely amazing sequence of connections, we had a lot of contacts to visit and quite a few places to stay. To this, we added our desire to see the Victoria Falls and the Imire game ranch, and we were able to plan our itinerary to take it all in! All we needed now was transportation.

Alan called several car rental firms and found one that offered a fairly reasonable rate for rentals in Zimbabwe, and better yet, their US head office assured us we could drive the car into "any neighbouring country". So we reserved a car, and (as requested) telephoned the details of our trip to their Harare office. "Sure, no problem," was the reply. That seemed too easy, so just to make sure, Alan called again a week before we were to leave. "Oh, no," he was told, "you have been misinformed. We never allow our cars into Zambia." "You can't do this to us," Alan pleaded. "We followed all your rules, and we've planned our whole trip around this car." After some thought, the car rental company made us an offer we couldn't refuse: because it was their mistake, they would replace the compact car we'd rented with a tougher vehicle with high ground clearance for the Zambian part of our trip, at no extra charge!

So everything was all set for the journey of a lifetime to begin on Tuesday 16 September 1997!

Click here for part 2 or Return to the Index
Page last modified 1999-12-11
Copyright © 1997-1999 Alan & Kathy Chattaway, All Rights Reserved
Site design and server administration by Paul Chattaway