A FLIGHT OF ANGELS
Early in 1968 I was asked to join a hockey tour of South Africa. I accepted never realy believing that I should get there. In fact I was not convinced until August 8th. when I stood in the airport waiting to go. An illassorted pile of cases, hockey bags, sticks and odd parcels growing steadily as 40 of us gathered to catch the Boeing 707 flying to, not South Africa, but Rhodesia!
Eventually just before take-off time the last member arrived and our bulky luggage was loaded. Special ties and headscarves had been made for us, but unfortunately they had been put onto the wrong train and missed the plane. ‘Never mind,’ said our intrepid leader, organiser and manager Jim Pollock. ‘They can come on the next plane!.’ We left a chilly, wet London suwner and arrived 19 hours later in a hot, sunny Rhodesian winter! This was Salisbury, We were taken to the magnificient club house and then went to the homes of our individual hosts for lunch. Probably due to the fact that land is relatively cheap, the houses are nearly all one story with exciting gardens, growing such things as oranges, lemons and paw-paws. Also the colourful blue Jacaranda, red Flamboyant and scarlet Kaffaboom trees. These colourful trees line many of the roads adding colour to the wide well layed out streets. At lunch we were waited on by a cheerful native boy.
Nearly all the native people we saw looked very happy and carefree, even though some of them were poorly clad. That afternoon we had a practice game and were a little surprised to be asked to pose for action photographs for the Press. We were soon to discover that the Rhodesian and South African Press show far more interest in hockey than do their English counterparts, in fact we had full press coverage throughout our tour. The following day, after a mornings shopping, the Angels (us!) mens and ladies teams had their first matches. We both lost to Mashonaland teams. The games were hard but the standard of play was high and very enjoyable, some of the party thought the altitude was affecting our stamina. Here and indeed throughout our tour the games were watched by large crowds of spectators. In the evening we all went to a dance and crawled home in the small hours.
The following morning I was taken to a small game park and saw giraffe, zebra and wildebeest. Then we went to a snake park, where we were told how to pick up things like cobra, mamba, tree snake and puff adder. Each had to be delt with in a different way and if you made a mistake it seemed you had only 20 minutes to 2 hours left to live! There were matches again in the afternoon with rather similar results and then in the evening we went to magnificient Rraai (barbicue). Here we cooked enormous steaks and savory sausages. Rest steak cost about 5/- a pound and Braais are a very popular form of entertainment, we went to several on the tour.
While we were in Salisbury a telegram arrived from England to say that the Board of Trade would not permit the ties and scarves to be sent to Rhodesia, as there was no trading betwePn the two countries! Our last day in Salisbury was spent sightseeing and shopping. In the evening we gave a party for our hosts and then left at dawn the following day on a
Vicount bound for Victoria Falls. The plane was late ta??ing off because our baggage was so much overweight that some freight had to be removed before the plane could take off. In spite of the saying ‘South African Airways waits for no one’, every one of our 10 fl&ghts was delayed, often because of our baggage or because we were prolonging our goodbv??s with our hosts, and once because of an electrical fault in the plane.
At Victoria Falls we had 24 hours rest, sunbathing in the grounds of our luxurious hotel and admirng the truely magnificient falls. The hotel breakfast was one of the largest meals I have ever been offered, no one managed to eat it allt A few of us saw a herd of wild elephant while on a trip up the River Zambezi from the Falls.
Our next stop was Bulawayo with tremendous reception and hospitality by Matabeleland. We spent a morning visiting the Matopas with its marvellous view. ‘Worlds View’ and then the Matopas game park where we saw two white Then farewell to Rhodesia and across the border to South Africa and, via Johannesburg to the 20 year old city of Welkom. A very modern ‘one architect designed’ gold mining city. Welkom is famous for its flamingoes, and three of us actually got up before dawn one day to visit the water panns, lakes of water pumped out of the mines, and saw many hundreds of the birds. ??elkorn is notorious for its winds and dust storms and most of us came off the hockey field with sore eyes and throats, but triu1nphant with our only win. Many people wore striped coloured blankets – an ideal garment in these conditions.
Cape Town was unfortunately damp and cold, but the clouds lifted off fable Mountain to enable us to go up in the cable car and enjoy the view. A visit to Stellenbosch University proved a tremendous success and as the wine was almost as cheap as water, a marvellous night was had by all. One of the students drove us back by coach. llnfortuna tely the coach ran out of fuel about 400yards from our hotel, so we staggered or were carried the last bit. An observer from the hotel thought that there had been an accident when they saw us corning int While staying in Cape ‘Pown, we went round the Cape by road and viai ted Cape of Good Hope. There was also time for shopping, but on the whole souvenire and cloths were very expensive, only the leather goods seemed to be a really good buy. Our ties and headscarves managed to catch up with us in Cape Town.
We then flew in short hops, eastward round the coast stopping briefly at Port Elizabeth, where we spent hour with Haig the performing dolphin and saw the snake pit – now tragically no more after the recent terrible floods, Next came Fast London with a morning spent getting very bruised with surf boards on the beach. Then Durban with its colourfUl Rickshaw boys on the sea front, and Natal University looking out over the city and port. 6ur next hop took us inland to Pretoria. Here I met Bill Malherbe who has the most complete hockey library in the world, he even has a copy of the W.H.H.C. Jubilee book. Finally we went to our last matches in Johannesburg.
During the two days between playing in Pretoria and Johannesburg 3 car loads of us travelled the 200 miles to the Kruger National Park. I was lucky enoug to be in the car which probably saw most game. On our first afternoon we saw only giraffe, impala, kudu and blue wildebeest, in excellent condition as were all the game. Vie spent the night in one of the camps in the park. These have small straw covered buts with 2,3 or 4 beds in each, there are central washing rooms, a shop and resturant. That night we were lulled to sleep by the howling of hyenas and chirping of cicadas. We left camp at 6•45 next morning hoping to see the animals coming to cl.rin.?? at watering boles. Our first new animal was a sleepy crocodile, but soon after this we had to stop for an elephant to cross our path. On entering the park one is warned only to look at elephants through the back window of the car, so that a quick get away is possible if necessary.
Here were we with an old bull elephant crossing in front of us1 He got half way across the road then stopped, turned towards us, about 15 yards away, lifted his enormous ears, then his trunk and then, thank goodness, turned and walked off into the undergrowth. Six very tense people relaxen and breathed a sigh of relief. Not long after this we han a puncture. Now one is not allowed to get out of the car because of danger fnom lions and leopards, so while our driver ohangen the wheel in absolutely record time, the rest of us acted as lookouts, and one door was left open for him to leap into in an emergency. Later that day we did see a lion, several in fact, at their kill. However the most unforgetable sight came the following morning as we were rushing for home. Suddenly out of the mist at the road side a lion appeared, we stopped and two beautifUl lions with soft hazel eyes walked right up to the car, had a look at us and then walked off while their lionesses and cubs were playing in the long grass beyond.
On looking back I feel that all members of the Angels Hockey Club must have very memories of the tour of Rhodesia and South Africa. The kindness and hospitality were overwhelming and our large party was accomodated most efficiently.. However sour politioal relations between countries may be, tours such as this do, at least, sweeten things at individual level and lighten, if
only briefly, the gloomy outlook of the intennational scene.
Lealey Barter, Pamela Best, Anne Booth, Brigette Chapman, Margaret Chadderton, Eliabeth Hamilton, Elizabeth Hare, Elizabeth Hunter, Peggy Haddon, Rosalind Jarvis, Diana Mesey, Irene Moonlight, Janet Miles, Betty Smith, Rae Thorpe.
Mashonaland B 2-6 Salisbury
Mashonaland A 1-6 Salisbury
Matabeleland 0-1 Bulawayo
Northern Free state 5-1 Welkon
Stellenbosch Univ. 1-7 Cape TOWn
Western Province 1-7 Cape TOWn
Western Province 2-3 Port Elizabeth
Eastern Province 2-2 East London1.
Natal 1-1 Durban
Northern Transvaal 0-1 Pretoria
Southern Transvaal 0-2 Johannesburg