Maun n Surrounds

Kaziikini camp

Boteti River Bridge

Out on the Makalamabedi road south of Maun the Boteti river is flowing nicely. Three or four of the pipes have a swift current and the birds are loving it. And I only got two pictures, none of the lovely scene!

I’m a Grandfather! and . .

. . also a Godfather! (as is Tommy!)

Here’s how it works: Thirty-some years ago I was invited to a wonderful gathering with great friends Dave & Goldie who’d just had twins to add to their Tatum. There was good food thanks to Goldie and lots of beer which Dave may have had something to do with. Also there was something in a church, I dunno why, but hey! Did I mention the food and beer?

Turns out childless, clueless me had said something in church that was actually a lifelong commitment! I had joined the Mafia become a Godfather! I immediately set about neglecting my duties, but when the twins started performing terrifically in the famous Dusi Canoe Marathon I mumbled Them’s My Godsons and got told to shurrup.

But now! NOW! Googs has just run the famous Comrades Marathon in the insanely quick time of 7hrs 14mins – over 15mins inside silver medal time! So once again I step forward out of the shadows. Although claiming some influence on his good performance, I did mention that I hadn’t won my Comrades when I ‘did it’ back when we wore heavy hobnailed boots and hand-knitted vests.

Being the gentleman he is, Googs sms’d me back: Chuffed you are back to claim godfathership! Glad I could lure you back from retirement.

Less than a week later I became a Granpa for the first time. Ziggy had a baby boy on Saturday!

– still no-name Ngcobo – maybe he’ll be named after me?! –

Tom is claiming godfathership! Knowing Zig she probly did confer the honour on him! He’s super-chuffed. Will prolly walk around with his chest out and do nothing, just like his father before him. **Some people!**


Small World

Mopani camp was full. How about Letaba? I asked. Sorry, its also full. So Jessie found Tingala Lodge on – What a happy diversion it turned out to be.

About 15km north of Phalaborwa gate into Kruger Park, Tingala Lodge is terrific. While we chilled on the big patio overlooking a waterhole, a lady arrived in a double-cab bakkie and I noticed a couple of cases of Painted Wolf wine being carried into her room. When she joined us on the patio I said, ‘Lovely Wine, that Painted Wolf. My sister sells it in Durban.’

Oh, she said, It’s my wine. My husband is the winemaker. Your sister must be Sheila! I’m visiting lodges promoting it, asking them to include it on their wine lists.

‘Yep, Sheila’s my sister. I love the labels,’ I said, ‘Who does your artwork?’

Originally an artist who worked on a game lodge in Botswana.

‘Which lodge?’

Lloyds Camp on the Savute channel.

‘I knew an artist at Lloyds Camp,’ I said, ‘Jenny Song, she was there when we visited way back when.’

It was Jenny! She did our original artwork!

‘What a lovely person, we got on so well with her. My wife Trish bought something she painted. We had such a special time there,’ I said. ‘When we flew in from the Delta, back in the day, we were picked up at the landing strip by Emma, a young pink-cheeked Pom who said she was the chef, and she was on guest-fetching duty that day. She loaded us into the open Landrover and drove us right up an elephant’s bum at the waterhole on the way to camp. When we got to camp she had prepared a delicious lunch for us overlooking the camp waterhole in the channel, and we ate and drank ice-cold beers looking down on eles heads as they drank freshly-pumped water.’

I’m that Emma! she said. I worked with Lionel and Jenny Song in Lloyds Camp in 1993! I loved driving new arrivals to Pump Pan to watch the eles!

In 2022 we had bumped into Emma the pink-cheeked Pom from our 1993 trip to Lloyds Camp! You sadly just have to behave wherever you go – someone, somewhere will know you – even 29 years later!

I carried on reminiscing about our time in Savute: ‘Our fellow guests were cabin crew from SouthWest Airlines in Texas, the world’s biggest airline at the time.’

That would be Doug and Linda, said Emma, and you won’t believe it, I was in contact with Linda just yesterday. We have kept in touch ever since! She’ll be amazed when I tell her who I met today.


The next day we were due at Mopani Camp in Kruger, so we only stayed one night at Tingala Lodge. I’d love to go back. The birding was terrific, and on the way out we saw an African civet in broad daylight.


Chilling in the Mopane

Zena said We must go to Kruger, my man Martin is a fabulous guide. I said Let’s Go!, and when August rolled round there we were, chilling in the mopane woodlands around Mopani Rest Camp in the famous Kruger National Park, drinking gin and tonic, gazing out over Pioneer dam from our under-thatch bird-watching stoep.

– seek out chalet 43 in Mopani Camp –

Martin runs Laughing Hyena Safaris, and his experienced Kruger Park nose soon led us to great sightings – big ones, feathered ones and little ones too.

Suddenly! We spotted some spots in the mopane shadows! With great skill we tracked the shadowy spots through the dappled sun and shade of the mopane woodland. What could it be?

Hey, it was! It was a . . a . . leopard! Kruger’s holy grail. With great tracking skill, we had found it:

– Martin showed us how to tell that it was a boy leopard –

. . . ‘course, we actually found it the traditional Kruger Park way:

– check the Sharkie going offroad to shove in front of us – I’m guessing his name was probably Richard –

To celebrate we had lots more gin & tonic, which improved our sightings even more:

A keen photographer and Canon ambassador, Martin aimed his long lens out the window and later let us have some of his pics:

. . and he made us a video:

and he taught us a new bird species: the Burchell’s Poupol


Sudden Onset Arthur Right Arse

Bloody hell, me shoulders! All of a sudden, really painful shoulders lying in bed one night a month ago (written June 2021). Not an ache – actual pain. I couldn’t roll over, I couldn’t get up without flopping like a jellyfish. I was amazed, then I thought, Aha! I Know What Did It. Two days prior I had done a lot of tree branch trimming high overhead.

Using a pruning saw on the end of my aluminium swimming pool net pole, I was sawing off branches that obscured my gates. I’d been meaning to trim for a while as the jungle took over but . . procrastination. Then I got cameras on my gates so I can see who is there and now I had to actually do it.

So, I thought, I’ll be stiff for a day and all will be well. But it was pain, not stiffness, so I hoped: Maybe I’ve pulled a muscle! Luckily the Bennett brothers weren’t here this time to chorus in rude unison: ‘Ha Ha! Swanie, you couldn’t have pulled a muscle. You must have pulled a fat!’

Well, it’s a month later and I have really painful shoulders at night. Daytime they’re fine, nights are torture.

Bloody hell.


A few months later: It’s gone, fank ve pope.

Confession: The only thing I changed was prompted by a clickbait ad which I did NOT click on. It shouted: “Here’s what not to eat if you have arthritis! CLICK HERE!” with a pic of a panful of tasty-looking fried eggs.

I thought, I have eaten two fried eggs every single day of lockdown. I have breakfast down pat. I fry two eggs, make two slices of toast and scarf it down, salt and black pepper, washed down with sugarless black coffee, breakfast done.

So I stopped. The pain disappeared. Please note this anecdotal evidence is not research. The pain may have disappeared if I’d twirled around three times and farted facing north that day. But I’m too scared to chance it, it was seriously a kak spell, so it’s no more gardening for a long while now. Can’t take chances. Maybe less eggs too.


pic: I recreated the scene of the crime later.

More Suffering (not)

Jess and I have loved our stay at Somkhanda Community Game Reserve in northern KwaZulu Natal.

Lovely accommodation, such friendly and helpful people. I decided to go full-on loafing and arrived expecting dinner, bed and breakfast. They had us as self-catering and the chef had taken leave. We said No Problem; They said No Problem; and between us we pooled what food we had. The delightful Nana who welcomed us and whose face fell when I asked what time dinner was, ended up cooking breakfast for us all three mornings. She was teased by the other staff in her new role and as I listened to them bantering in isiZulu, she ended off her reply with this American English: “There’s a new chef in the building!” to warm laughter. For our dinners she hauled venison out of the deep freeze and we cooked for ourselves as she goes home at 4pm. Today she said “I’ll make you a proper breakfast tomorrow, we have been shopping!” – the shops are about 27km away in Pongola.

Great birding for me, and Jess saw another special predator: A pack of seven African Painted Dogs.

At night a leopard (the resident female, said Adrian) could be heard ‘sawing logs’ while walking in or near the camp, while a lone lion oom oom’d at various distances all three nights.


Somkhanda website

Somkhanda at Wildlife Act

This Glimpse was Spotted

‘Yes, but it was only a glimpse,’ said Jessie of her first-ever sighting of a leopard, a female walking in the grass about 30m off a dirt road south of Satara in the Kruger National Park. No matter what our guide Bennett and I said, she teased us with ‘Yes, but it was only a glimpse.’ You’ve waited ten years for that sighting JessJess. ‘Yes, but it was only a glimpse.’ Lots of people never see a leopard Jessica. ‘Yes, but it was only a glimpse.’

We saw other stuff:

We watched a gang of ground hornbills kill and eat a tortoise; We also saw waterbuck, kudu, steenbuck, scrub hare, buffalo, bewildered wildebeest, impala, warthog, zebra, dwarf mongoose, slender mongoose, hippo, crocs, nyala.

And all the while we were tortured with ‘Yes, but it was only a glimpse.’

So thank goodness we came across this male leopard who posed obligingly in the late afternoon for a very thrilled Jess to get a long look. Peace and quiet at last.

– he posed till we drove off so others could see him –


The day before, in Manyeleti Game Reserve:


She’s Normal

Jess has had me in stitches today recounting the sayings and foibles of her fellow inmates in rehab. This one said this, that one always says that; this one does that, that one looks like this, etc. She is a keen observer and has great recall, my Jess.

You crack me up Jess. You guys are a bunch of weirdos. And that includes you!

Hmph, she huffs; I was the normal one there.

Jess! You stole my line! I always say that!


Go West!

I started off going west to find cellphone signal. In the Pafuri area Vodacom (wrongly) told me, ‘You have left your area, you are now on Movitel Mocambique; calls will cost you more;’ So I had to drive 40km west of Pafuri gate to be “in SA” from a vodacom point of view. Local people all shook their heads when I asked where I could catch vodacom signal. ‘You have to be MTN here,’ they all said.

The day I left Pafuri River Camp I just kept going west. When I hit the N1 highway I realised I was halfway to the Botswana border, so I decided to keep heading towards the setting sun. I’d find room at my friend Dave Hill’s friend Duncan MacWhirter’s Kaoxa Camp. National Parks are mostly full because of school holidays. When I got past Musina, guess what? Vodacom (wrongly) told me, ‘You have left your area, you are now on Orange Botswana; calls will cost you more;’ Get your act together, Vodacom! Refund me, dammit!

Kaoxa Camp is everything I remember from a stay here in 2013. and better. There are now safari tents, a swimming pool, and the campsite (no longer a Drifters) looks even better. I had the whole place to myself, and wonderful hosts Virginia and David to look after me!

The farm is now open to the western section of Mapungubwe National Park – the fences between them have been dropped. It was amazing to drive west on the property and just keep going as the only vehicle around, all the way to the Limpopo river and the National Park camps there. I felt like the owner of the full 28 000ha.

To get to Mapungubwe east you have to drive out of Kaoxa gate on the main road and then into Mapungubwe main gate. It’s an amazing park – the more famous of the ‘two halves,’ east and west.

One morning I took a flask of coffee and drove to Duncan’s Lookout on Kaoxa. I sat on the comfy bench and scanned the mopane woodland below, looking north towards the Limpopo. Nothing to see, but plenty of birds to keep me there. A loud squeal told me there was an elephant nearby and I walked to the edge of the hill to see if I could see him. Nothing. Then he squealed again and I saw he was a distance from the hill, not as near as he’d sounded. Then I saw a second ele – they’d been right in front of me and I hadn’t seen them! Then I saw a whole herd of big and small – about twenty five of them. And then – how blind can you be!? A herd of seventy or more! There was a dry stream bed which hid them whenever they went into it, so that’s my excuse. Here’s the Lookout:


Cook’s Tour Catchup

One day I’ll be a reliable blogger. Meantime, here’s a brief mainly pictorial – catchup, as I’m “in wifi!” I was pleasantly surprised to find out the beautiful, rustic Kaoxa Camp has wifi. I don’t specifically seek wifi or cellphone reception in a place, but I cannot deny it is handy!

South-eastern Kruger National Park – Pretoriuskop & Berg en Dal Camps

Groot Letaba reserve – Mtomeni, part of the African Ivory Route group of camps

– Mtomeni Camp on the Letaba river upstream of KNP –

Middle Kruger Park – Letaba & Shingwedzi Camps

– near Letaba & Shingwedzi –

Northern Kruger Park – Punda Maria Camp

Pafuri River Camp outside the park:

The Pafuri to Crooks’ Corner northern tip of KNP bounded by the Luvhuvhu river, is amazing birding country; here’s a glimpse:

I’ve read about this area for ages, and now finally got to visit; up where SA meets Zimbabwe and Mocambique, at “Crooks’ Corner”:

– Crooks’ Corner: a pod of 30 hippo snoozing in the Luvhuvhu before it flows into the Limpopo –

Next: I went looking for cellphone signal . .


Hot Spa & Rehab

On the way to Mpumalanga and rehab, Jess and I pulled in for two nights at the Natal Spa outside Paulpietersburg.

It was DB&B, so we splurged on our favourite drinks: hot chocolate for Jess, red wine for me.

Jess lolled in the hot spring water, but I decided discretion: Never know when someone after beluga whales might be out harpooning,

Before we left Durbs Jess met up with her longtime, great and solid friend Sindi (rella) and little boet Tom. They had a lovely reunion.

. . and of course, they hadn’t improved an iota:


I got to thinking, which I prefer not to do, but the nagging feeling eventually forced me to address the issue: What if I had a puncture in sandy soil?

Ah, shit, OK, I’d better address that.

See, I had fitted new shocks to the bakkie which raised it. And the bakkie’s jack was already too puny and couldn’t lift the vehicle high enough, so I should do something about it. Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve is known to have a bit of sand in places, and I’ve watched my jack heading down into the sand towards Australia without the bakkie lifting up even one millimetre. Not good.

Also, I have long been of the opinion that the elderly should not exhibit their plumber’s crack to the public at any time. Not even when changing a flat tyre in the sand.

So I went to Ford in Mbombela and the nice man didn’t just sell me an R800 jack. No, he said, “Let Me Look At Yours First. The new ones aren’t any bigger than the old ones.” That surprised me, as the new Rangers are a lot bigger than my 15yr-old Ranger.

I unpacked the kak off my back seat and pulled the backrest forward to show him . . . . the bracket for the jack and the brackets for the jack handle. No jack, no jack handle! I’ve been jackless for who knows how long! Not just clueless.

So the kind man fetched a new jack, but it looked just like my missing one: Small and made of tinfoil. I almost bought it on the grounds of it being anyway better than no jack, but luckily the good man suggested I first look at Midas, then at Askari offroad trailer place.  At Midas I almost bought a R1500 bottle jack but luckily the people there were totally unhelpful – didn’t even lift their heads when I walked in, so I walked out.

At Askari the very helpful fellow saw me coming. He said, ‘I’m Sommer Going To Show You Ve Best Fing First, Oom’ – and he did! So I bought a R5000 ten ton jack on the following logical basis: 1. I’m on my own; and 2. I’m old; I don’t want to huff and puff with my arse in the air showing my plumbers crack and sukkel.

I bought this automatic, pushbutton, plug-in, motor-driven, remote-operated ten ton 552mm lift hydraulic bottle jack GT – check out the impressive pic.

‘It comes in a very nice carrybag, Oom,’ he said reassuringly, so I knew I’d got a bargain.


Maybe this is why the Afrikaans for jack is ‘domkrag?’

domkrag – literally dumb strength

sukkel – struggle; battle


Update: I tested it. Sadly there is still a plumber’s crack moment when you have to position the damn thing, but after that it’s all nonchalant dignity and pressing a button on a remote while hitching up your trousers and watching the car rise with satisfaction. As long, of course, as the ground beneath you is not too sandy.

What a Maroon

One would almost think I’d engineered this. Poor Bruce n Heather!

The heavens came down, collapsed the bridge they’d specially had built to let me gain access to their back yard. And so there I was, marooned. Trapped in comfort after Natal’s second big rains in just over a month. The Soutar’s kind offer of a place to stay had turned into captivity. I was forced to stay and drink all their wine. And whisky and sherry. And eat their good food. It was hell.

The rains did eventually stop – after 328mm in just 32 hours!

The workmen started to build a second bridge, more solid than the first, starting from the bottom of the trench and filling it with sandbags.

Then they added thick steel sheets over the sandbags . .

. . and my new bridge was done! I could drive my car again after using ride hail cabs, using their son’s car, and bumming lifts from Bruce. They too, were free at last!