The little sandy tracks we drove down each day took us to the remotest. Even in the centre of the communal lands could be large tracts of continuous bushland or Bundu, as many colonists called it. One track we went down passed out of the habitable communal lands through some areas which appeared to have been abandoned. One reason for the abandonment may have been drought, but the area was also near the border between Matabeleland and Mashonaland, the traditional areas of the two largest tribes in Zimbabwe. Much of the fighting during the civil war up to 1980 took place in this region, and many of the Tonga were caught in the crossfire and had to move on. These remoter areas had often not been recolonised. It made our maps interesting as we often could detect abandoned field shapes in some areas, where vegetation had taken back its possessions.
Continuing on down this valley we were within about five miles of the River Sengwa where we knew there was current day habitation. We wanted to reach this river and do a round trip back to Siakobvu via Siabuwa. We drove through some more abandoned fields and met another small river. While we could see the track rise on the far side, the sandy ramp on our side had been completely washed away leaving a cliff of some fifteen feet. No way would the Land Rover drop safely that distance, and our thoughts were that we would have to drive the thirty miles back to Siakobvu and forget this part of the field work. We looked around for possible alternatives. I traced the road back east a little way and tried to look to my right to see if there was another way down onto the river bed, where we could at least try and get along its course to the other side of the track. There was nothing. I went through an old abandoned field and was immediately stopped dead in my tracks. Have you ever been caught in a spider’s web? I felt this wire across my chest which physically halted me. Looking down I saw this thread, taut and still intact. To my right a blue spider of nearly six inches span with black and yellow legs was scampering off into the nearby bush. Now not only was I to watch for lions, but the invertebrates were also out to catch me.
A shout from Judith told me that Willy had found a way across and as I walked back along our original track, I saw that Willy had driven across a pile of branches put there to stop us, and that a new track, barely used had been marked out to my right (the opposite way to where I had been looking on my little expedition). By the time I had returned, Willy had driven the van over some dry grass to the new track and we crossed over. I stayed outside to help guide him across a number of slabs of stone in the riverbed and he roared up the far side. Once on the trail again, the fields disappeared altogether and we drove for several miles through virgin forest, before splashing out across the Sengwa River past some washerwomen who thought the last thing they would see was a Land Rover emerging from the reeds.