On Safari with a Bushman – 3. Cook’s Tour

Cook’s Tour:

Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique via Botswana. We only had a month, so not as leisurely as we would have liked. Can hardly believe it was fourteen years ago! The kids are now 19 and 15!

Mostly we drove at a leisurely pace and didn’t do great distances. We did put in a long day of driving on four stretches, which allowed us to chill most other days: Lusaka to Chipata in Zambia; Blantyre in Malawi to Tete in Mocambique; Tete to Vilanculos in Mocambique, and lastly Zavora to Nelspruit back in South Africa were all long-hauls. On those days we left early with the kids strapped in and sleeping. We’d drive for hours before breakfast. Aitch always had food or entertainment for them.

LuangwaWithKids (1) Tom

For the rest our days were unhurried. Slowly with the windows usually down, as we didn’t use the aircon. Anyway, speeding and potholes are not a good combination. At places we liked we’d stay up to three nights. Each of our five three-night stays felt like a complete holiday on its own. The Bushman off-road trailer proved its worth at every stop.

Waterberg, South Africa

Zambia

On through Botswana and to the Zambian border at Kasane where a ferry carries you over the Zambesi. One of the ferries had dropped a big truck overboard and got damaged, so only one was in operation, which slowed things down. Took about four hours and we were safely across the Zambezi river in Zambia. Tommy took to the “fewwy” in a big way and called all boats fewwies for a while. The battered and half-drowned second ferry and truck and trailer were visible looking sad at the side of the river. The border post was pleasant enough. They charged us more for our “minibus” and tut-tutted sympathetically at my exaggerated protests that this was not a fee-earning taxi, but just our vehicle! Laughingly insisted “Well, sir, it’s the rules”. Had a good chuckle and they wished us well in their country.

In Livingstone we camped on the grounds of the Maramba River Lodge. It was full, so we squeezed in near the gate – not the best site, but quite OK. Lovely pool again. Drove to the falls at daybreak where a vervet monkey snatched Jess’ breakfast apple out of her hand. Our first sight of the falls from the Zambian side. Spectacular even though low.

Drove to Taita Lodge on the very lip of the Batoka Gorge downstream of the falls overlooking where we had rafted years before. A warm welcome and a great lunch on the deck hanging over the river. Ice-cold beer, great sarmies. Looked for Taita Falcons, saw Verreaux’s (Black) eagles soaring below. Tom & Jess banging on the dinner drum and xylophone was un-musical, but no other guests around, so no one minded – in fact the staff loved the brats and spoilt them with attention. I thought I’d better step up and perform as Aitch had been doing all the lessons and homework, so I taught them Cheers! Salut! and Prost!

Whoa!

On the way out of Livingstone we hit the best section of road we saw on the whole trip – brand new wide black tar with centre white stripe and side yellow lines! Amazing!

BUT: Just as we hit the smooth, the ole kombi died. Stat. Not a shudder or a hiccup first. Just suddenly nothing. That much-dreaded “CAR TROUBLE” thing! Well, after 197 000km I spose it’s OK. Unpacked the back and lifted the lid to stare at the engine. That’s my mechanical trick: I stare at engines.

Some school kids walked up and said ‘Don’t worry, they know a mechanic at the nearby village’, and the toothy one on the battered bicycle offered to go and call him. Sure, I said, not hopefully. “JP” from Gauteng, on his way to service some big crane, stopped his rented car and kindly offered his assistance. Soon he was joined (I was amazed) by Carl the mechanic, who arrived with a metal toolbox on his shoulder, and between the two of them they peered, prodded, unscrewed – and broke the distributor cap! Using mostly my tools and swallowing the ice-cold drinks I passed them, they eventually gave up. ‘Must be something computerised in one of these little black boxes’ was their verdict. Right!

‘There’s a VW agent in Lusaka’ says Carl cheerfully. Right! 200km away. As they’re about to leave, Carl spots a loose wire under near the sump. Finds another loose end of a wire and joins the two. VROOOM!! Apparently the wire was from a cutout switch to a heat sensor in the block. The kombi roared to life to tremendous applause! Well, four of us cheered. JP said ‘My pleasure’, Carl said ‘R200’, I said ‘Bargain’, Trish and the kids said ‘Thank you!’ and we were on the road again!

Next stop Lochinvar National Park at the south end of the Kafue National Park. We’d never heard of it but saw it on the map. Quite a bumpy road got us to the gate after dark. ‘Sorry, but you can’t go in’, said the soldier with a gun. ‘Sorry, but I have to’, said me. ‘You see, I can’t let these little kids sleep out here and nor can you, so hop onto your radio and explain that to your main man’. Back he came – ‘Sorry. The main man says the gate is closed’.  ‘You just didn’t explain it to him nicely enough’ I said – ‘Please tell him I can’t, you can’t and he can’t leave a 22 month old sleeping in the sticks’. Off he went and back he came. ‘The main man will meet you at the camp inside’. ‘You’re a marvel, well done, thank you!’ we shouted and drove in on a 4km free night drive in Lochinvar. No animals, but some nightjars. A primitive camp, so we rigged up our own shower. Nice big trees.

It has beautiful flood plain lakes in the middle of dry surroundings.

South Luangwa National Park in Zambia was my main destination – I had read about it for decades. It was everything and more I imagined. Flatdogs Camp just outside the park was a blast, too. Big shady trees, a hearty meal available if you didn’t want to cook, and a swimming pool with a slide. Jess loved it so much she wore a big hole right through the bumular zone of her cozzie.

We met an American Mom with three kids. She’d married a Zambian man in the USA and had shipped over a converted school bus to tour around Zambia.

– the three ZambiYanks with Jess n Tom –

Then into the park – a long-awaited dream. It was terrific. Saw puku antelope for the first time.

– Thornicrofts giraffe looked huge, but zoom back and the sausage tree dwarfed him –

To get there we had to drive from Chipata town – that dreaded road we’d been warned against! Well, the grader had been a few days ahead of us and it turned out to be one of the smoothest stretches of the whole trip!

Luangwa Road small_cr

On to Malawi

Chembe village on the shores of Lake Malawi, and freshwater snorkelling off Mumbo island in Lake Malawi, cichlid fishes, and bats and swifts in a water cave.

MalawiWithKids (5)
Chembe village beach fig tree, Lake Malawi

We stayed at Emmanuel’s. Fair-minded people will agree with my assessment of it as ‘luxury’ but Aitch veto’d that and stuck it firmly under ‘basic with roof’, even though the shower was almost en-suite.

Outside the room, Aitch was in heaven:

Mocambique

Leaving Malawi we crossed the wide Zambesi at Tete, where we stayed in a motel on the right bank as we wanted to head straight off the next morning. Probably Aitch’s least favourite lodgings of the trip – mozzies and an empty swimming pool. Leaving town two garages had no petrol. They said the word was that the town on the far bank had, so we crossed back over the Zambesi, filled up and crossed back again. The kombi liked that!

The mighty Zambesi at Tete

Our biggest luxury was three nights at Vilanculos Beach Lodge. Sea, sand, a bar, lovely food, huge soft beds, friendly staff. Especially João, who spoiled the kids rotten, writing up cooldrinks to our room number! They thought he was a wizard.

We took a boat to Bazaruto Island and then on to Two Mile reef offshore in the big Indian Ocean. Lake Malawi and Bazaruto were Aitch’s main snorkeling destinations and she LOVED them both! Two-Mile reef really is ‘like an over-stocked aquarium’.

Two-Mile reef
Two Mile Reef Bazaruto
Two Mile Reef, two miles east of Bazaruto Island off Vilanculos, Mocambique

Zavora Bay near Inharrime. Stunning lakes and a wi-ide bay; A reef at the point, so you can walk in and snorkel in sheltered water for a kilometre; Lovely cottages – houses, really, on top of the dunes overlooking the bay. Our best find in Mocambique. We hadn’t heard about it before and we fell in love with it. We agreed: “We MUST come back here one day!”

MocamWithKids (13)
Ponta Zavora, Mocambique
Zavora beach
One Child, One Beach

Here’s where the kids got sick. We tested them – high positive readings for malaria. Luckily the lodge owner gave us Co-Artem pills which we fed them and then set off early next morning for South Africa.

When we got to Nelspruit hospital they tested all clear! The Co-Artem had done its job perfectly!

Two Memory Highlights: The rivers – stunning! The Chobe, Zambezi, Kafue, Luangwa, Shire, the Zambezi again (at Tete it’s wi-i-ide and beautiful), the Save and the Limpopo rivers were all magnificent and welcome and we stopped and stared. South Africa has some lovely rivers, but these were wider, swifter-flowing and clearer.

The friendly people. Everywhere we went we were helped and fussed over and we heard laughter and “No Problem!”, and quite often: “Are these your children?”

Accommodation: We camped 14 nights; Basic shelter with roof 6 nights; Comfy lodgings 7 nights; Spoiled ourselves with luxury 5 nights;

Duration: Five 3-night stays; Three 2-night stays; Eleven 1-night stands;

================OOOOOO==================

Cook’s Tour: Thomas Cook (1808 – 1892) was an English businessman best known for founding the travel industry. In 1855 he took two groups on a ‘grand circular tour’ of Belgium, Germany and France, ending in Paris for the Exhibition. The expression ‘A Cook’s Tour’ was humorously used for any rapid or cursory guided tour: “If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium”.

Lloyd’s Camp, Savuti

We flew east out of Oddballs / Delta leaving the green delta; then across the dry Kalahari to Savuti:

We flew on to Savuti

The flight was a bit bumpy in the hot clear air and Aitch started to go green about the gills, but we landed before she resorted to any lumpy laughter.

At the Savuti strip we were met by pink-cheeked Emma the Pom in an open game drive vehicle. She was the camp chef – and the airstrip fetcher that day.

– fetched from the airstrip by pink-cheeked Pommy chef Emma who drives us right up an ele’s butt . . –

Just three of us in the vehicle. The last time I had been to Savuti was in 1985 when I’d arrived in a crowded old Land Rover full of Kiwis, Aussies, a Pom and a Yank on a budget overlander. We pitched our tiny tents in the public camping area and the eles bust the water tank.

Sixteen years later, luxury! Emma took us on to camp and fed us overlooking the famed Savuti channel. After Oddball’s semi-roughing it: YUM!! Fresh food, cold beer!

– . . . and then feeds us at camp –

Jenny and Lionel Song hosted us. She was a honey, he was lion-obsessed. And we had Texans with us, so we did a lot of lion-chasing. ‘Myomi’s pride’ (or Maomi) was the focus. Gotta see lions; lions gotta have names.

So first thing in the morning we’d hare off to where the lions had last been seen and at last light we’d hare back to camp – Lloyd’s camp’s game drives are in Chobe, a national park, so you can’t be out after dark. Once on the way we saw two ratels or honey badgers, ambling along busily, stopping occasionally to skoffel around. At least we did slow down to watch them awhile. A very special sighting for me – my first ratels in the wild.

In Lionel’s defence he was doing his job, the Americans – two guys and a lady – were frequent repeat guests who worked for Southwest Airlines based in Dallas – world’s biggest carrier at the time. They were delighted when he gunned the Cruiser after a lioness as she started sprinting at a giraffe. She and five others brought down the giraffe and that was it, we spent the rest of the day watching lion lunch.

The good thing is a vehicle is a great hide, so I could scan around for birds too. While doing so I saw two ears above the grass some 100m off. A cub watching and waiting. It stayed right there till the pride leader looked up and made a funny high-pitched bark and they – turned out there were three of them – came running straight onto the carcass and started making a nuisance of themselves. When we left they were all fat as ticks, but had hardly made a dent in the huge female giraffe.

Next morning we drove straight back at first light and all that was left was a blood stain on the grass, a chewed head nearby  and scattered bones! Two males had arrived and they were lying there the size of dirigibles. Eight round lions and three bloated cubs. They looked like the animals from Rollin’ Safari:

Roolin Safari
Botswana Oddballs Savuti (7)
Savuti Botswana (1)
– Lionel & Jenny Song –

In camp Lionel, teasing, said to a guest who asked about the Lloyd of Lloyd’s Camp: ‘You should meet him! Pity he’s not here. He’s 6ft 4in tall with long black hair tied back in a ponytail”. Yeah, right! Lloyd Wilmot’s a legend in deeds, but not in stature, and no longer in hair.

– Lloyd and his fellow safari guide sister Daphne –

It was 2001 and the Savute / Savuti channel was dry, so the only waterholes were supplied by boreholes. The Savute flows with water from the Linyanti river. It apparently flowed in Livingstone’s time, around 1845, then was dry in 1880 and remained dry for over 70 years. It flooded again in 1957, dried up again in 1982, flowed again in 2008 and the marsh flooded fully in 2010. This was documented by Dereck and Beverley Joubert in their films Stolen River and Journey to the Forgotten River. Mike Myers tells how the whole dynamic of the region changes depending on what’s happening with the water. I heard in Maun how Lloyd Wilmot had found a crocodile up under an overhang in the rocky hills above the marsh around 1982 after the channel ceased to flow.

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

skoffel – rummage; being a badger; badgering?

Some history from Lee Ouzman’s Jacana Enterprises site: The Wilmot family first came to Botswana in the early 1900’s. Grandfather Cronje Wilmot’s son Bobby Wilmot was part of the group that were involved in the early exploration and opening up of the Okavango Delta at a time when it was virtually unknown and unexplored. Bobby’s son Lloyd, once a hunter, now a conservationist, is a veritable mine of information. You name it – he’s done it. Swimming with elephants, tracking lion, leopard or cheetah on foot, building hides to view game at remote waterholes, following the amazing African migrations and more. His famous Lloyds Camp in Savuti was a legendary place of wonder and excitement and not surprisingly probably more credited in wildlife documentaries than any other camp in Botswana. It was here that Lloyd developed his special affinity for lions. It is not surprising that one delighted guest wrote of Lloyd Wilmot: “While Lloyd is my shepherd I Wilmot fear…”

Lloyd and June Wilmot – early days at Savuti:

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

Lloyd has since retired and written his memoirs in a rollicking book of mischief, daring, fun and – yep, occasional recklessness! He identifies the South West Airlines people as Doug Reiser, Mike Costello and Linda Fuller. I’m going to search to see if any of them have written something about their hairy adventures with the naughtiest little boy (aged about 70 now) in the bush! (. . . haven’t found anything)

~~~oo0oo~~~

Oddballs Palm Island Luxury Lodge

Getting into Botswana’s Okavango Delta can be awfully expensive.

A cheaper way is to fly in to Oddballs Palm Island Luxury Lodge, get on a mokoro and disappear off into the wild with a guide who knows where he’s going and what he’s doing. In 1993 Aitch and I did just that, spending a night at Oddballs, where you are given a little dome tent to pitch on the hard-baked earth.

You get visitors:

The name is ironic, see (“contrary to what is expected, and typically causing wry amusement because of this” – I made a quick check; don’t want to get ‘ironic’ wrong). While in camp you stock up on the meagre supplies available in their shop, like potatoes and onions; a tent, a braai grid; add it to the 10kg you’re allowed to bring in on the high-wing Cessna 206’s and you’re away! 10kg doesn’t go far when you’re a books, binocs and telescope junkie!

The next morning we pushed off in our gentles S-shaped tree trunk mokoro to enjoy six nights out on the water in the care of a wonderful man named Thaba Kamanakao. He rigged up the seats so they were really comfy, the backrests enabling you to fall asleep at times!

Thaba said we could choose where we wanted to camp – anywhere. Soon after lunch we saw a magnificent jackalberry tree on an island and said ‘there!’ – my guess is he knew that! We set up camp – our tent and two deckchairs and a ready-made campfire spot which he’d likely used many times before. The rest if the day was given to lurking, loafing, listening, lazing. Thaba set his gill nets, gathered firewood, pitched his smaller tent and set his chair at the fire. We were all quiet most of the time, listening and loving as night fell. After we’d eaten we sat talking and listening some more. Then Thaba played his mbira – his ‘thumb harp’ – and sang to us; I’ll never forget his introduction as we switched on our tape recorder: ‘My name is Thaba; Thaba Kamanakao; Kamanakao is surname;

– shady jackalberry camp –

We chose not to move camp each day, electing to sleep three nights under a jackalberry and three nights under a mangosteen, both giving welcome shade and birdlife. We had little food, but Thaba provided us with the fish he caught in his gill net each night.

I ate the barbel and he and Aitch the bream. Lucky me, it was delicious! He also loved barbel, but his lifestyle advisor – a sangoma? a shaman? a nutritionist? – had told him he wasn’t allowed it! So a myth robbed a man of a useful source of protein. The first night we were joined by newly-qualified Pommy doctors Louise and Richard and their guide “BT.”

When we moved camp from the camp Aitch named Jackalberry Camp, to her new chosen Mangosteen or Squirrel Camp, we decided we needed a bath on the way, so Thaba took us to a stunning clear lagoon, carefully checked for big things that could bite and then stood guard on the mokoro while we swam and rinsed – no soap, please! Anyone going to this beautiful inland delta: Pack some small swimming goggles and an underwater camera if you can. The clarity of that water is awesome.

Beautiful underwater pic by David Doubilet – to show the clarity.

OddballsOkavango Camp

Squirrel Camp nights were again spent cooking and sitting around the fire; talking and listening to Thaba playing his mbira and singing;

Days were spent birding the camp, hiking the island and an daily foray in the mokoro. Once we we were ‘moved off’ by an impatient ele, Aitch getting mildly reprimanded for turning round to get a fuzzy picture as we retreated. Another time Thaba – scouting ahead – spooked a herd of buffalo, who thundered in a tight mass towards us. We climbed the nearby termite mound – Thaba had told us to stay next to or on it – and they thundered all around us;

– our ‘buffalo hide’ termite mound –

We would sally out daily on short mokoro trips,

– colourful dragonflies, lilies and reed frogs at eye level –

Back before the sun got too high so we could loaf in our shady camp, where the squirrels and birds kept us entertained for hours. Six lazy, wonderful, awesome days.

One night a herd of eles moved in and we lay listening to their tummy rumbles. We kept dead quiet and just peered at them in the moonlight through the tent flap, as they had a little baby with them and we didn’t want to upset mama.

Botswana Oddballs Savuti (2 small)
– still life with Sausage Tree flowers & leaves – Aitch saw the beauty at her feet –

Then we headed back reluctantly for a last night at Oddballs. Warm showers under the open sky; cold beer & gin’n’tonics on the deck, ice tinkling in the glass; watching spotted-necked otters in the lagoon, lounging in comfy chairs. Topped off that evening by a big hearty hot meal prepared for us and plonked onto a table on the deck. We ate watching the sunset turn the water .

And suddenly it dawned on us that, even though we did have to pitch our own tent again, Oddballs really IS a Luxury Lodge!

Oddballs (5)
– chandeliers of sausage tree flowers hang over the lagoon –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Oddballs is fancier nowadays.

mokoro – dugout canoe; one mokoro, two mekoro

sangoma – shaman? traditional healer? medicine man? says he communes with the ancestors

mbira – thumb piano or thumb harp musical instrument

~~~oo0oo~~~

postscript 2018: This post was found by Thaba’s son, who informed me in the comments below that Thaba the legend had passed away. Damn!

R.I.P Thaba Kamanakao; You made our trip unforgettable.

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

Read an account of another 1993 trip to the Okavango Delta – Delta Camp right next to Oddballs) by Bill Keller, a US journalist for the NY Times based in Joburg.

Jazz at Oxbow

Stayed at Oxbow Lodge one cold winter night. Can’t remember if we were childful yet or child-free. The whole lodge is tightly squeezed in a narrow space between the road and the river. Our little rondawel was icy: Concrete walls, thin iron windows with flimsy curtains, a slate floor. The bed looked and felt like an ice cream tub. We fired up the gas heater and went off to find supper.

The bar / dining room / lounge area was big and bleak but warmer than our room. Supper was delicious: a big hot filling stew. Maybe oxbone? With sherry.

Plus we had one more great reason to settle down and stay: Lovely jazz music was playing over the speakers perched on the cornices. After a while I went to enquire at the pub. The lovely lady at reception showed me the CD cover below. We have listened to it ever since. *Click Play* and hear it y’self:

Back in the rondawel it was still cold but Oxbow back then was an oasis in the frigid winter Lesotho highlands. There was nowhere else to go for miles. Anyway, we were young and soon heated up the bed knowhatimean.

The rocky, waterfall-strewn river right outside was frozen solid the next morning, miles of ice and beauty in bright sunshine. Still freezing though.

Oxbow snow.PNG

These pics are of a more recent, revamped oxbow.

Time Scurries

Hate it, but it’s true: Things fade. A month late on our annual tribute. Six years now. Don’t worry, you still do occasionally cause changes to the way we do things, and “But Mom said . . ” is still used to some effect!

Jess still regularly asks if there wasn’t more we could have done to save or cure Mom. When she hears of a new treatment for some or other disease she’ll ask “Why didn’t they do this for Mom?” I explain the difference between bacteria and viruses and cancer to her each time.

Here’s what she wrote to you this Mothers Day:

Jess Mom's Day 2017 (1)

Jess Mom's Day 2017 (2)

Yeah, I cried . . .

She was on her Bhejane field guide course up north of Hluhluwe and lonely as anything. Her selfie was taken in the little wooden Wendy hut she stayed in.

 

Mkhuze in Winter

Jess and I spent two nights at Mkhuze. Looking very dry and animals were few and far between. Still, we saw lots of the usual dependables: giraffe, zebra, impala, hippo, nyala, wildebeest and – at last! – one elephant. A young bull right next to the road. Jess, who watches too much youtube of eles goring and flipping cars, did not want to hang around, so we drove past him.

Also Banded and Slender Mongooses. One band of Banded and two individual Slenders.

But lots of birds. I won’t give the boring – to me exciting – list (78 species) but I will tell this story. In Mantuma camp – here:

Mkhuze July2017 (3)
Pink-throated_Twinspot_Mkhuze

I went looking for pinkspots (pink-throated twinspots). Like this:

I followed their high-pitched trilling cricket-like sound and found them and more:

There they were, in a bird party in the grass! Blue waxbills, green-winged pytilias, grey-headed sparrows, yellow-throated petronias, yellow-fronted canaries, red-billed firefinches pecked alongside the pinkspots on the sandy soil. And in the tree directly above them a small flock of red-billed woodhoopoes, a dark-backed weaver and a golden-tailed woodpecker. Just that one bird party made the whole trip worthwhile. I stood twenty metres from them and watched through my Zeiss’ for ages. ‘Saturation Views’!

On my way back to the chalet I watched a black cuckoo-shrike give a full, relaxed display all round me. I didn’t know this jet-black bird could be so BLUE! In the sunlight his ‘black’ shone a beautiful cobalt blue. This picture I found on ethiobirds is the only one that captures it well. See the difference!

– thank you ethiobirds and birdseye.photo –

Jess was our chief photographer:

Mkhuze July2017 (27)

~~~oo0oo~~~

I shoulda said Gosh!

Jaynee J had a luxury courtesy suite at Centurion Park cricket ground and she invited us to watch a game. The Springboks / Proteas were playing someone in an international test match. 2001, so Sri Lanka, maybe.

Jayne didn’t call it a courtesy suite; she called it her ‘champagne suite’. Jayne Janetsky could POUR, and – as always – she had laid in enough stock for a siege. Or a rainy day. And that day Centurion Park was not like this:

Centurion cricket ground
– internet picture –

It was like this:

Jayne J Champagne Suite Centurion Cricket (2)
– me telling Jessie “See love, this is cricket: Not much happens” –

This led to puddle-jumping with Jess behind the stadium:

I had great fun watching the people. Especially a guy in the next-door Telkom box, scanning the crowd with powerful binoculars, looking for girls. Whenever he saw someone watching him he’d say “I’m looking for my sister.”

We had to take two year-old Jessica along and it wasn’t really her thing. It rained off and on, so we were indoors with Celebrity Guest Barman Johnno Green, who was intent on quality control, sampling and plying. Boobs and Booze. Aitch and I took turns amusing Jess and keeping her (mostly) out of the adults’ hair.

Jayne J Centurion Champagne Suite

After a while (cricket matches carry on and on and when you think they MUST be finished, surely? – they stop for tea) I had to feed and change Jess and decided to take her back to Jayne’s home. Change of scenery for her and a break for the adults.

On the way back to the stadium, with freshly-fed and -wiped Jessie strapped in the car seat behind me, I missed the freeway off-ramp to the stadium. Didn’t have a clue how I’d get back to the stadium now, so I was kinda tense and focused and fuming. What if I missed Jayne’s famous lunch? Finally I figured it out and managed a tricky u-turn after the next off-ramp and got back on track. Finally I could relax.

“Pete?” came a little voice from behind me.

Yes my love?

“FUCK!”

“FUCK FUCK FUCK!!”

Oh, boy . . . . .

Lepidopterism – an affliction

Lepidopterists lead exciting lives!

This from my LepSoc newsletter: Hi everyone; We will be doing a day trip to Tswaing crater, just north of Pretoria, on the 24th September, where special butterflies such as Brown-lined Sapphires, Saffron Sapphires, Hutchinson’s Highfliers, etc. can be seen.

~~~~o0o~~~~
Us lepidopterists see not only these high fliers, but others such as Skollies, Nightfighters, Pirates, Policemen and Admirals. Playboys, Pansies and Painted Ladies are also sought-after! One can go prancing after them wearing a pith helmet and waving a net! What’s not to love?

There’s even one called swanepoelii and one called brauerii

Lepidopterism is one of the more fun diseases to contract, and lepidopterists lead exciting lives!
~~~~o0o~~~~

Soutar wrote:

Keep your net stockings on.

We off to Karkloof today. Will try to bring back a dead Karkloof Blue.

That and a Pink Elephant.

~~~~o0o~~~~

Me:

¶¶ . . and a Stuffed Delegorgue’s Pigeon, a Dead Cape Parrot and . .

¶¶ Planks from a Yellowwood Tree . . ¶¶

.

Hey! We could write a song like that . . .

~~~~o0o~~~~

A Real-Life Lepidoptometrist:

Hilton Pike is a nimble optometrist fella who darts around lithely with a butterfly net, holding it rather like Obelix doesn’t hold his menhirs. A talented lad, young Hilton, he builds fancy hi-fidelity speakers, refurbishes phoropters and mounts butterflies with pins on polystyrene in glass cabinets, all the while making children. Lovely chap, I miss him. Where is he?

– from LepSoc‘s stunning website –

One of me own: Lepi Fordus radiatorii

– butterfly Fordus radiatorii
– ah, and he looks the part! –

Swanepoel, David Abraham (1912–1990). Swanepoel began collecting in 1925. Pennington’s Butterflies of southern Africa (Pringle et al. 1994) describes Swanepoel as follows: ‘Probably no other person has spent as much time and effort in the pursuit of butterflies in the field as this great collector, who had the tremendous gift of being able to excite others about butterflies. His immaculate collection is in the Transvaal Museum. He discovered many new species and subspecies and published many descriptions of new taxa.’

– pinned specimens – from DA Swanepoel’s book –

His list of publications includes the book Butterflies of South Africa: where, when and how they fly, published in 1953 in Holland at his own cost. At the time, it was one of the most valuable reference guides to South African butterflies, citing his many collection localities across the length and breadth of South Africa. He collaborated closely with both Georges van Son and Ken Pennington. Popular names for many of South Africa’s butterflies were proposed by him. ( SANBI Biodiversity Series 16 (2010)6 ).

Swanepoel ended his book with these words: ‘In laying down my pen at the end of what has been to me a pleasurable task, I take occasion to dedicate this book to all naturalists and friends, without whose kindness and ungrudging aid it must inevitable have left much to be desired; and to those naturalists who may one day wander over the numerous paths that have afforded me so many happy, unforgettable hours – these would hardly have been possible without the grace of the Creator of all the beautiful forms described in this book. As mentioned in the introduction, this work is by no means complete, and if one day it is revised by some future observer, may he fulfil my dearest wish by building a great entomological castle upon this small foundation stone.’ (Epilogue of D.A. Swanepoel’s book, page 316).

Read more about David A Swanepoel and other pioneering flutterby enthusiasts here.

steve reed wrote: When we lived in Clarens we had an annual visitation by what must have been the self-same Swanepoel. Khaki clad solitary figure, fleet-footing round the village with his net like something out of Peter Pan. Regarded by the locals with great interest (and a good level of suspicion ) . .

~~~oo0oo~~~

I was lucky enough to meet Ivor Migdoll, who wrote the next butterfly book (as far as I know, the first field guide) in 1987. He came to me for his glasses in Durban, and we had some good chats and I loved using his book (since mislaid!).

– I must find my copy of Ivor’s book –

And of course we are all lucky now to have Steve Woodhall, who has built on these two books’ foundations – as well as the big Pennington Butterfly ‘bible’ – and brought out his vastly improved field guide in 2005. He tells the story of how Ivor Migdoll became ill and quietly withdrew from public life. Pippa Parker of Struik Nature told him they were planning a completely new edition of the Field Guide to Butterflies (Ivor’s best-selling book) but could not get hold of him. He did some digging and discovered that Ivor had a horrible, little-known condition called ‘burning mouth syndrome’ and could hardly speak. Hence his reluctance.

~~~oo0oo~~~

And so this magic new field guide was born without Ivor’s input:

Two Fowl Swoops

Jonathan sent a video where a leopard stalks and catches a guinea fowl in one fell swoop in the Kruger Park. Well, a leap, really . .

Amazing! But of course, we saw a similar event down in Cape Town about seventeen years ago.

The target was also a guinea fowl, but this time . . .

the stalker was a Tiger . . .

tiger-guinea.jpg

Mother Mary Methodist

Tue 2nd May 2017 –

I got a phone call at work from a good friend of the folks who had just visited Mom and Dad – “Your Mom was saying strange things and was not herself, I think you should visit”, said Keith Griffiths. I phoned sister Sheila, who phoned other sister Barbara, and then drove to Maritzburg.

Mom was physically fine, but a bit confused and – tragically – with marked short-term memory loss. Trying hard to be alright, she asked me ‘How’s Trish?’ Trish who died six years ago. Dear old Mom has had a ‘turn’ leading to sudden short-term memory loss. Tragic. She has always been so sharp and organised. Luckily her long-term memory and sharp sense of humour is unaffected.

DAMN!! Probably a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) or “mini stroke”.

~~~oo0oo~~~

TIA – caused by a temporary disruption in the blood supply to part of the brain. The disruption in blood supply results in a lack of oxygen. This can cause sudden symptoms similar to a stroke, such as speech and visual disturbance, and numbness or weakness in the face, arms and legs. However, a TIA doesn’t last as long as a stroke. The effects often only last for a few minutes or hours and fully resolve within 24 hours.

But Mom’s memory loss is still apparent a week later.

She blames a bad fall she had when she banged her head hard on a corner near the kitchen door.

~~~oo0oo~~~

I phoned them the next morning:

Dad says he told Mom to stay in bed till the sun came up but she didn’t. He thinks she should see an audiologist as she doesn’t listen! He’s as deaf as a post and her hearing is great, making the joke all the better.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Mom says she prays for Tom n Jessie every day that they’ll understand their lessons and pass their tests.

I asked her in mock-worry if that wasn’t cheating?! Mary Methodist immediately saw the joke and hosed herself. Slightly cautiously, though. She was raised not to tempt fate. No, she didn’t think asking for divine intervention was cheating on their behalf, she chuckled.

~~~oo0oo~~~

In the midst of a big cleanup, Sheila found a photo. On the back is written:

Marjory, Pat and Peggy – Harrismith 1938 – Signed DC Reed

*** pic here ***

So she phoned Mum for more info:

Marjory was Farquhar – her younger sister was Dossie, who was Mum’s great mate and bridesmaid, She now lives in an old age home in Bethlehem and she and Mum chat quite often. Pat was Bland, Mom’s older sister. Peggy was Hastings – Michael’s sister – she had a lovely sense of humour – she had three kids and then her husband walked out on her. So she came back to Harrismith and married Bert Starkey – her kids were Barbara, Stuart and AN Other.

~~~oo0oo~~~

The “DC Reed” Mum thinks was Peggy’s cousin Daphne, whom they called Dodo – Mum says she was lovely and they all loved her.

It’s really a gorgeous pic and Pat looks so full of fun and nonsense, which she usually was!

So now you know. Love Sheila

~~~oo0oo~~~

More Mom Memories:

One day, before Mum started school, Brenda Longbottom came to play. She lived across the road in Stuart Street and was much older – a full eighteen months older. Mum very proudly told Brenda about a book she was reading – all about a little girl called Lucky.

When Brenda saw the book she told Mum in a withering tone that the little girl’s name was Lucy, pronounced Loosie, not Lukkie! Mum was devastated.

(Years later I was also teased for getting hard and soft ‘c”s mixed when I said Sir-Sum-Fur-Rinse for circumference. Hey, we read phonetically ‘by our own selves’, so this happens!).

~~~oo0oo~~~

Mary’s niece Frankie Cowie married and became a McCarthy. She named her sons Patrick and Henry. When a grandchild was born she phoned Mary with the good news and asked if she could help with a name. ‘A name that goes with McCarthy.’ Well, Mom knew not to suggest Gert, even though that was the granpa’s name, so she immediately asked: ‘Have you thought about Benni?’

Benni McCarthy was South Africa’s ‘bad boy’ star striker in the national soccer team and was very much in the news at the time. A real character, he marches to his own drum and has even been a rap artist! Now he’s a coach and father of four daughters.

I can just imagine Frankie throwing her head back and HOSING herself at Auntie Mary’s suggestion!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Cape Vidal Camping

So I took these –

Cape Vidal Apr17 (50)

. . to here –

and when they saw these harmless creatures –

they squealed and ran out of the campsite shouting “I’m taking an uber home!”

Cape Vidal Apr17 (71)

We saw kudu, nyala, hippo, buffalo, giraffe, mongoose, zebra, warthog and hyena. Sindi pipes up on a drive: “There are no animals here!” She meant we hadn’t seen an elephant or a lion.

’twas like casting pearls before swine . . . .

iSimangaliso Sindi Apr17.jpg

They had a ball.

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

81 years of Matric

1938 – Dad – Maritzburg College, Pietermaritzburg.

Pieter Swanepoel 1938 matric
– Maritzburg College’s 150th -enary –

1972 – Me – Harrismith se Hoerskool, Vrystaat.

Science class - Elsie Campher watches me searching - Jean Roux on right
– looks like Elsie is chirping me as I pretend I might have done some homework –

1975 – Aitch at Muizenberg High – head girl!

– Mom Aitch was head girl as a Humphrey –

2016 – My Jessie – Wendon Academy, Westville, KwaZuluNatal.

20160307_072509
– eish! school! –

2019 – My Tommy – home schooling – did the GED course

– tutor Langelihle Dube and TomTom hard at work –

We went from steam power to cellphone power! Well actually, I spose the internal combustion engine was up and running when the ole man left matric . . .

~~~oo0oo~~~

Ken Gillings’ Hysterical Tours

Dear old Ken died too soon. His tours were hugely educational – and such fun. You had to listen carefully or you’d miss his wicked Sergeant-Major little asides and throw-away comments. We should have recorded them all. Well, here’s one, anyway.

We walked the Fugitive’s Trail from Isandlwana to Fugitive’s Drift. Ken arranged for a local man to take us to the start and fetch us at the end in his taxi – a shiny new Toyota Quantum like this:

Toyota Quantum

On the way we stopped to look at something and Ken ordered us to hop out of the taxi. Then he paused, gave a slight grin and said

“You could call that a ‘quantum leap.’

~~~oo0oo~~~

Our traipse along the trail was not uneventful. Once again a bunch of pale people were out of their depth, just like in 1879. Also, our average age was way above that of the pommy soldiers, and we had no horses. Even though we weren’t being pursued by victorious Zulus, panting was heard and hearts fluttered. Some had to lie down a while.

We walked from the Isandlwana mountain to the Buffalo river at Fugitives Drift:

Fugitives Drift down in the valley on the left

We were a bit slower than the fleeing poms at the uMzinyathi (Buffalo) River crossing. Didn’t want to get our shoes wet:

Once again a bunch of bumbling Wit Ous cross the Buffalo at Fugitives Drift

After the tour I thanked Ken for a wonderful weekend and awarded him the Victoria Cross for his brave endeavours. Or rather, my Victoria Cross-on-Zulu-Shield:

I had earned it by running a 21km half-marathon from Isandlwana to Rorke’s Drift.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Long Lost Letter

Donald Coleman was my good mate and older side-kick in Harrismith up to around 1964. He died in a car crash (alone in the car) around 1975 (I have no detail of what exactly happened).

In around 2011 or 2012 I found a letter on the floor of my garage at 10 Elston Place.

It was from “your mate Donald” and consisted of one page (probably page 2 of a 2-page letter) and a scrap of envelope addressed to:
poel
rrismith
e Free State

A franked 2½c stamp in good condition is still on the scrap of envelope (but the date part of the franking was/is missing).

I suspect it fell out of the old Cape Colony post office stinkwood desk Dad gave me, as I had moved it to give it back to him before it fell to pieces.

The letter, in neat, flowing cursive writing in blue ink, said (I have kept the way he did his lines and spacing):

This is slightly exaggerated but between points
0 and 1 it is 50 miles and between 1 and 2 it is 13 miles and between
3 and 4 it is 14 miles. Even if you go at 10 m.p.h all the
way you will make it in a day. Well don’t take
too much equipment etc because you’ll shit yourselves
coming. Don’t forget to take hats and plenty of patching
equipment. If something goes wrong and you reach
Bergville or Winterton after dark just ‘phone us our
number is Winterton 2412.

              Well I hope I’ve got everything down here, any-
way I still hope to run the Mountain Race
with you. I’m going to try harder this year.

              It’s a pity I won’t be seeing you fellows
because I’ve got some jokes to tell you.

                        From your mate
                             Donald

Not a single correction or spelling mistake (oh, one tiny correction, changing your to you).

So it seems he had sent a map as well as the (presumed) 1st page of the letter. Obviously we were planning to ride our bikes to Winterton!

Bicycle Dikwiel deluxe
fancier than ours!

I gave the letter to his Mom, Jean. Wish I’d taken a photo of it and the stamp!

——————————————

I must ask Dad about the old stinkwood desk. Here’s the mystery: He gave me the desk when I was at 7 River Drive some time after 1990. In 2003 we moved to 10 Windsor Avenue and in 2005 we moved to 10 Elston Place.

Was it a Harrismith find? From when?

That could explain how the letter got in there, I spose. Suspicion: Did my folks open the letter and not pass it on!? Must ask Mom! We had done this around then, so maybe she wasn’t keen on another jaunt? Unlikely, though. Not like Mom not to give me a (very rare) letter addressed to Master PK Swanepoel!

I searched the desk again and found the rest of the envelope: It was franked on 30 March 1971. I was in Std 9, Donald would have completed his time at Estcourt High School. He would have been “a student at varsity” – an exalted state of being that I couldn’t WAIT for!

20141130_081257.jpg

Later:

Nope – Dad says he bought the desk at Cannon & Findlay Auctioneers in PMB long after 1971. I have no idea how the 1971 letter could have got lodged in the back of the desk behind the drawers.

SO glad I found it though!

=======ooo000ooo=======

Armchair Birding

Quietly sipping tea on my patio today I spot a Grey-headed Bush Shrike – a first for the garden. I’ve been hearing him, but today’s the first glimpse in the garden.

greyheadedbush-shrike-cmf_3361-pbase
– thanks Con Foley

Also a boubou, puffback, golden-tailed woodpecker, hadeda, yellowbilled kite, white eye, olive sunbird, yellow-breasted apalis, spectacled weaver, yellow-fronted canary & fledgling; black flycatcher & fledgling; purple-crested touraco, hlekabafazi (the woodhoopoe); toppie bulbul, tawny-flanked prinia, white-eared barbet, yellow-rumped tinker, red-eyed dove, red-winged starling and a fork-tailed drongo.

10ElstonPl (1)

Earlier I’d received a call from a Westville estate agent. Wanna sell? You’ve been in that house eleven years. Nah thanks, I’m going to die here, I told her.

Thanks Con Foley for the pic. See his amazing galleries.

No Respect . .

. . for their own natural history!

Book Borer.jpg

They found it by boring but they wouldn’t have found it boring – we all love reading about ourselves. If they’d navigated to the right page they’d have found their ancestors – or cousins – in here.

~~~oo0oo~~~

2020: Clearing out old books during the April 2020 lockdown, I found the author’s autobiography. A fascinating man. An English schoolteacher, he took a teaching job in Rondebosch on the spur of the moment and stayed in SA all his life.

Sydney Harold Skaife (‘Stacey’) D.Sc FRSSAf. (12 December 1889 – 6 November 1976) was an eminent South African naturalist. His career and educational publications covered a wide field. He was also a teacher, school inspector, broadcaster, and conservationist. Of his many achievements his greatest was probably his leading role in the creation of the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. He lived for most of his life on his smallholding ‘Tierbos” in Hout Bay. He was a prolific author of scientific and popular books (mainly detective novels written for Huisgenoot under the pseudonym Hendrik Brand). More here and here.

~~~oo0oo~~~