The Lowveld

by Mike J

I lived and worked in the bush half way between the Lundi River and Mbizi on
Nuanetsi Ranch in 1964/5 (near a siding named Chingwize). There was no
electricity nor mod-cons, but it was a wonderful period of my life. The
wildlife, particularly the jumbos, was unreal. I never met Alan Wright (DC
Nuanetsi) and author of the Valley of the Ironwoods but was very familiar
with the area and of the times of which he wrote; in fact, though not named
in his book, t'was I who laid the irrigation piping from the pump-station
set in the sands of the Nuanetsi River East of Nuanetsi. To see cool clear
water gushing from a sand river to crop-lands (not to mention, cooking pots)
was a marvel of technology in those times.

My main job was to re-lay the pipes to water the cattle from the Lundi River
to near Mbizi. This was because the fellow that laid them originally had
spent his time at the Triangle Club rather than supervise the pipe-laying.
The bush (virtually all mopane) was adequate to feed the cattle at that time
and they were as fat as pigs. I know cattle because I ranched for the
Rhodesia Wattle Company at Chipinga and Mount Selinda. The things that stick
in my mind of the bush there at that time was the extreme Summer heat and
the wildlife. I got to see another white face about every 2 weeks when I
would take myself off to Mbizi or Triangle Club. I got to know a fellow by
the name of Arnold(?) Whitehead King there. He was a wild character and I
last heard he was farming near Sinoia. Anyone want to exchange stories of
this Oke?

My nearest neighbour was a young married fellow named Tony Gubb who lived in
the Chivumburu Hills. He and I went fishing on the lower Nuanetsi in some
pools near Chikombedzi. We had some wonderful adventures. No bream would
bite during the day, but we had great luck at night, particularly with a
little massess(sp?).....kaffir beer residual. With the great heat, we would
knock back a few cases of cold chibulis to get limbered up and at nightfall,
venture forth. One night, I could do no wrong, and caught nice bream, one
after the other. He caught squeakers and the odd maramba (barbel). I baited
his hook, but he still caught rubbish. In the end, I took his rod and gave
him mine, with the same result! I am sure that others in Indaba have had
this experience. A large crocodile attacked our keep-net one night and we
enthusiastically accepted the challenge. To this day, I still have
nightmares about us both (drunk as skunks), waist-deep in the river hanging
on to a wire keep-net and trying to beat this fellow on the head with a
burning log. Eventually, we both passed out, perilously close to the river's
edge and awoke the next morning with fresh elephant spoor next to us. I can
relate many more stories. One night, I fought a hippo in the middle of the
low-level bridge, near Lundi Siding with a Landrover .....again, I regret to
inform my readers, that drink was involved, being in transit from the
Triangle Club to my bush camp. I won, although after tooting my horn at his
determined advance upon my position (I had determined that I was too drunk
to reverse off the bridge), I retreated on foot, before he fell off the
bridge. The resulting hole in the river bed below was evident for many
months after. Many a ritual toast was drunk by my companions and I, to mark
this event while passing over this bridge subsequently, even after the rains
had long obliterated the evidence of his 'downfall'.

I enjoyed 'Sometimes when it rains', but the classic book has to be 'The
Valley of the Ironwoods' can almost feel the heat and smell the