Monday, 17 February 2014

Appointment in Zambia

Everyone who has lived and worked in Africa has wonderful tales of adventure to tell over the dinner table. My dinner party story is of an eventful six days in Tanzania, 43 years ago.

But our tale pales into insignificance compared with that of our friends and neighbours in Chingola, Ross and Sara Dunn. Sara has just published an account of their epic journey to Zambia, in a fascinating book Appointment in Zambia.

In 1970 newly-weds Ross (23) and Sara (21) set off, with extraordinary naivety and a lack of proper preparation, to drive from Edinburgh to Zambia in a standard Hillman Hunter saloon car. For eight weeks, in a journey of over 20,000 kms, they slept in the car and coped with illness, and almost insurmountable obstacles, their only technology being the car and a compass.

Their journey took them across the Sahara Desert, where they dug themselves out of trouble with Tupperware containers (they were carrying their household utensils in the back of the car!), war-torn Biafra, equatorial forests and a crossing of the main tributary of the Congo River on a make-shift raft.  The journey took them across 13 countries with different customs, currencies and languages before they reached Chingola in time for Ross to start his first job as a mechanical engineer on the Nchanga Mine.

Not since reading Blood River, an account of a remarkable journey down the Congo River, have I been so entralled by a tale of adventure, and I would recommend the book to anyone who can empathise with the Dunns' feelings of remoteness and vulnerability in the vastness of Africa.

Ross and Sara in 1970
Ross and Sara finally arrived in Chingola in December 1970, and lived opposite Barbara and me. We became friends mainly due to sport- Ross and I played squash and he was for a time captain of Nchanga Rugby team, and did some training with me at the weight-lifting club. Ross and Sara left Chingola for London (this time by Union Castle boat!) in 1972; Ross had persuaded the mine to sponsor him to convert to a mining qualification at the Royal School of Mines. They returned to Chingola in August 1974 for 3 years until 1977, where Ross progressed from Mine Captain to acting Open Pit Manager.

They finally left Zambia in 1977 and the last ime we saw them was in 1978, when they stayed with us in Falmouth for the 'Bottle Match' the passionately-fought annual rugby match between RSM and CSM. Ross was then lecturing at RSM, but soon afterwards was employed by Blue Circle Cement until he took early retirement in 1999, after which he set up Incahoots Ltd, a consultancy for businesses looking for a 'Partnership' approach.

The Dunns today
Ross and Sara now live in Cyprus, and are friends and neighbours of Giles and Val Day, who will be well known to many mineral processors who worked in Chingola in the early 70s.


  1. I really enjoyed the book Appointment in Zimbabwe. I stayed in Chingola with a school friend one Christmas holiday in the 1967 traveling up from Cape Town. It was an exciting holiday and a huge eye opener for me at the time. His father worked on the copper mine.


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