Lakeside Dam

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Anyone who was around in Bulawayo in the 1950's a 1960's knew about Lakeside Dam.
It was a mecca for folk who wished to get out of town for a pleasant weekend.

Situated off the Old Essexvale Road, the trip there entailed driving past the Leander Riding Stables (which had previously been situated in Leander Avenue Hillside) on the right, then past the Bulawayo Country Club with its superb golf course. Then there was the Hotel Rio further on, synonymous with its lovely grounds, food and the peacocks!
Then there was Lakeside Dam. Situated on the Kabot Brothers estate, the Kabots had made part of their fortune with their engineering firm, notably their windmills which pumped precious water to feed farmers' parched soils and nourish their produce and animals.

The facilities at Lakeside welcomed families. Like Hillside Dams, there were swings and see-saws for the kids and seats for all to enjoy. I'm quite sure that there may have been a kiosk there to supply drinks and victuals for all.
The reason why I know about Lakeside is direct experience but only many years later. My maternal grandparents had a smallholding that adjoined the Kabot estate. 52 hectares in all, they raised cattle, sheep, pigs at one stage, chickens and even geese! As kids we were so scared of the geese. They would hiss and flap at us in a threatening way. No wonder that 'guard geese' are so effective elsewhere. They would be the first to raise alarms with their loud calls.

As a dispensation, the Kabots allowed the sheep and cattle belonging to my grandfather to graze on their large estate. A young herd boy would keep an eye on them and chivvy them along if they lingered. It was an amicable and neighbourly agreement.

As a family we lived in Riverside, Redstone Drive to be precise. My father had built our home brick by brick. My grandparents' plot was a ten-minute walk away. What a time we as kids had there. The love of our grandmother, admiring her flowers for selling, the fig trees, the mulberry trees, the chickens, the sheep, the cattle and my favourites - the Muscovy ducks!

And as we got older, we became braver - we went into Kabot land! There wasn't much to see initially - just scrubland where the animals grazed. Then we came across a magical place where the eucalyptus trees grew. It was like an oasis in a parched land. They offered shade under the harsh sun. We would peel the bark from them, little knowing of their Australian origins, where koala bears would only live.

And then we discovered Lakeside Dam, my friend Darren and me. For us it was truly a surreal experience. The Dam was still there but had not been tended to for many years. The wall was still there but contained little water, silted up over the years. But then as we went around, we found the area where people had gathered many years ago.
There were lovely shady trees and it was another oasis. But the environs reminded me of a scene from the cartoon The Jungle Book where the 'palace' of the orangutans was so dilapidated. There were swings with rotting ropes dangling down. See-saws where the wood had succumbed to the ravages of time. Seats that were also in a sad state of disrepair and had probably not been sat on for many a year. We loved that melancholy ambience.

Then my friend Darren got a superb present - a rubber dinghy! Many a good weekend were spent paddling around on the dams in Matopos, Maleme and Mtsheleli. And then came the great news - Lakeside Dam was spilling! For the first time in many a year. The spill-over gushed down the bottom of my grandparent's smallholding. What an opportunity for Darren and me. We went down to the bottom of the plot armed with the inflated dinghy and stared with amazement at the gushing flow of the water as it passed by.
Tentatively we prepared to enter the water. And then we were off! Bumping across trees and banks we had the thrill of our time. Then all too soon it was over.

We emerged, triumphant that we had conquered that raging river even for a short time. Then back to reality - my Mom collected us, we had deflated the dinghy and we were covered in ticks! Nasty little creatures.
And then on to the 1990's - Lakeside again came to life, this time for biking and racecourse purposes. When I heard this, I was so pleased.
Lakeside being as it should be - a place of recreation for Bulawayans.

Darrell Insley

Watchdog !!