Trip to the Matopos

      19/6/2024       Next-->

Some of us remember Reg and Jean Tuckey of R.E.G. Tuckey Agencies, back in the day Reg sadly passed away but Jean is now in New Zealand and agreed to rewrite her amazing trip to the Matopos, sixty years ago.!!
Thank you Jean.

'It all started with the arrival of the white rhino and their being settled in the new little Game Reserve in the Matopos Hills - great excitement and I read the article in the Chronicle and thought I must see them, was a lovely sunny Saturday afternoon so I got the car ready, made sandwiches and put in packets of biscuits, water and there were three little boys at our house - David Boynton from down the road, Nigel Biffen my younger son Ric's very best friend, (still is), Ric of course and the kitten. I had found her in a rubbish bin at work so she was christened Scrap Heap and Scrappy for short, and had to be fed with a pipette and formula as she was so tiny, blind and we set off. I had a full tank of petrol in case anyone is thinking that was the reason for our adventure
We drove through the entrance to the Game Reserve,, still in its infancy , so not much done about signing in or anything, they just waved us on..mistake Number 1 as it happened, and we drove quietly along , eyes peeled, for those white rhino..we saw other animals of course, not many as the reserve was still developing and a black Eagle hovered overhead; we cruised round and round getting more and more frustrated and then I spotted a turn off , mostly sandy , but two distinct ridges of grass to show it was used so I thought last chance perhaps they are down there - mistake No 2 - I didn't have a 4 wheel drive just an ordinary car - I think from memory a white Cortina, but don't quote me, it was a very long time ago..Ken had just gone to boarding school so that made him 11 and he is 71 one now - so quite a time lapse.

We were doing fine staying on the grass bits and then lurched down into a river bed and it didn't go up the other side just stopped .....I revved but nothing happened. Remember the drill Jean ..reverse out of trouble,..put sticks under the wheels to help them grip. I sneaked out of the car looking around in case of trouble but there was nothing, and shoved grass and sticks under the wheels, the boys helping and tried again..nothing doing. They pushed and I tried to reverse, even go forward but no sir ..I got David who was the biggest to sit in the drivers seat and I pushed hard but the car was there to stay and by then the front wheels were truly embedded in sand...i tried some more and thought no save the battery..and so we sat- beautiful silence..not a soul in sight, oh boy.

I fed the kitten with the pipette and the boys finished what we had in the way of food and we shared the water and Mazoe orange sparingly to make it last..I found an old jersey in the boot and towel too, and wedged Nigel and Ric together inside it so that they would be warm during the night - it was lovely and big stretched and worn so sort of worked, and used the towel as a blanket - and they curled up on the back seat as the light faded. At one stage a bunch of chattering monkeys clung to the window, and I gave them crushed biscuit but when that was finished they took off. David had bare feet and I wrapped the tea towels from the food basket tight round them, as once the sun went, it got colder. Kitten was tucked into my blouse warm and sleepy and I sat behind the wheel and thought about things like Winnie the sound , dark - as pitch - I sounded the hooter and flicked the lights until the battery died and obviously no one had missed us....and no cell phones in those days.

We spent a fitful night and were freezing in the car so at first light I thought lets walk and get into the sunshine and hope someone finds us...with not having signed in the Rangers didnt check to see everyone had left, so there we were in the middle of nowhere. I was sending thought messages believe me, even thought about Indian smoke signals but no matches fortunately with all that dry grass.

In the meantime back home I was told later, my husband phoned the Police and they said check she hasn't taken all her clothes and left you...'what with other folks children don't be daft'..and Nigel's parents arrived and Doris Boynton ..David's only parent, and off everyone went to quarter the Matopos as Tuc knew that was my favourite place. No luck so they went home to sleep and were out again at first light so I was told. Tuc had our driver with him as well and quartered the bush up and down every road, hunting for the white car in the Matopos Park and all the surrounding roads too...the army were out in the area for manouvres so they were roped in to keep an eye out, and a helicopter was called up !

The boys finished the water and a couple of biscuits left over and we started. Nigel said Mrs Tuckey what about leopards..oh says I they are nocturnal but if they do see us then think - who is fattest and biggest - and he eyed me discreetly and marched on ahead quite satisfied I would be the first. We ploughed through the bush and climbed up a small kopje with a broad ledge of rock and sat in a row warming up in the rising sun..not an animal anywhere and then we heard the dulcet tones of the Peugeot ..Tuc had found us and we jumped up and down waving and they stopped the vehicle and we all ran towards it. Oh joy..lots of hugs and chatter and explaining, we all crammed in and then we went to the Rangers office to tell them and they in turn contacted Mrs B and Nigel's Mum and Dad and all was baths and bacon and eggs oh joy.

The outcome was heaps of apologies from me for the distress I hungry kitten topped up and incidentally she lived to a ripe old age and produced kittens of her time. After that escapade every time I went to the Matopos I had to go to the Rangers office first and pinpoint where I planned to go..very important peoples ha ha. They were all very kind and we had many a good chat about the various points of interest in the kopjes and not just the animals actually.

Last bit.
Once things were settled Tuc took the driver Ernest back into the bush with shovels and mats and jump leads , and in no time got the car started and out of the sand and back onto the road and believe it or not..there in the sun not far from the car lay those elusive but gorgeous white rhino - my husband and Ernest saw them..and I still hadn't seen them ! took forever in the end but I was very very careful whenever we went back believe me.'


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