This isn’t our usual way, is it Dad? asked Jess. Nope, we’re not going to Zululand this time, love. We’ve been there dozens of times. Today we’re headed for the Drakensberg! OK? OK. We’re headed North-West to the nearest High Berg, where usually we head North-East parallel to the Indian Ocean. Oh, OK.
First stop BREAKFAST! I’m determined not to stop at a franchise-type cookie-cutter, me-too, fake, soul-less ‘one-stop.’ The Windmills Kitchen looks better. The people are nice and friendly and we order a big greasy fried breakfast each, Yay! We’re completely predictable: One strong black coffee, one sweet hot chocolate please. As always. Want more sugar with that Jess? Dad, you know I don’t add sugar. Oh yes, you told me that before, hey? Only about a thousand times, Dad. We have our little rituals.
I look for the pot-holiest road I can find: Nottingham Road, Rosetta, Redcliffe, Hlatikulu, Enyokeni, Emahlutshini. Weaving northwards, mountains on our left and ahead.
Hey Jess! I said excitedly when we drove in to Giants Castle after our slow drive: Let’s ask them if they have a room for the night? Jess just said, ‘OK.’ Yay! I love it.
Later as the wind increased, the clouds rolled in and it started raining we thought, OK, maybe we’re a bit under-dressed, Jess with a strappy top and me in a T-shirt and shorts; but I had taken along a Louis longsleeve which Jess threw on and we were fine. I knew we’d be warm sleeping. Ezemvelo has some of the finest blankets and duvets available. Supper was so good – veg soup, chicken curry with tiger prawns, papadum, green beans and basmati rice, red wine – that we soon warmed up. Jess finished with a hot chocolate. I didn’t ask and so she eyed me suspiciously. What? I asked innocently. Aren’t you going to ask me if I want to add sugar? Of course not, you told me you don’t.
Gravity and The Aged
Before supper I had told Jess I was looking for two birds in Giants Castle: Ground Woodpeckers and Bush Blackcaps. I showed her the Woodpeckers and showed her a pic I took of the Blackcap. I’d also said, Competition, Jess!: Who can see the first Berg animal!? She was polite, she didn’t quite yawn, but not really interested. She was trying to impress on me the wondrous thing SHE had discovered: The chalet has DSTV, Dad! So neither of us was really too interested in what the other was gaan’ing aan about.
When I spotted two baboons on the steep slopes above our chalet I thought I’d get pics to show her as she sat wrapped in a warm blanket watching Heaven something. Dad, does heaven exist? she asked from inside her cocoon. Whatcha think Jess? No, Dad, I don’t think so. Nor me, Jess, I said hastening out to catch the ‘boons.
My eyes were fixed ahead and a kestrel fluttered overhead then landed on a rock high above. Another thing to photograph, I thought and then I noticed I was airborne. The Irish blessing, May The Road Rise To Meet You was happening in slow motion, except it was Drakensberg rocky and grassy hillside rising; My knee was gouging a large chunk out of a rock, but the rock was harder so the gouge came out of my bare knee. My tripod smacked another rock and my camera dug into the peaty, moss-clad wet earth. I thought ‘I have fallen down’ and ‘how silly’ when I realised I was actually still airborne. About then, my forehead smacked a moss and lichen-clad Drakensberg rock which, as you know, is millions of years hard. Then I stopped. I lay there, stunned, for quite a while. Then I rolled onto my back and started laughing. No bones broken and luckily no witnesses. Gravity is a bitch. It never gives up.
I lay there philosphically. I arsed myself, How Rare Are Baboons in the Berg? Not at all. Hmm. How Impressed Would Jess Have Been By a Tiny Rock Kestrel On a Huge Rock? Not at all. Hmm. What’s The Rush? Hmm. Should codgers bustle or scurry? Deep philosophical questions.
Jess pointed out a tree on top of a distant hill showing up against the sunset-lit cliffs. This one, Jess?
There are tons of flowers, leaves, mosses, lichens, grasses, etc in the Berg. These can be photographed more safely:
Lots of creatures. I only shot a few of them. My camera has a slow shutter speed, and so often they hop mid-shot. Dead moths are easier:
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