Aitch MTB Club

On finding out that Aitch belonged to a ladies mountain bike group, a friend said (in Sept 2013) . . “I didn’t realize she was such a keen bean cyclist – seems there were not many things she did not try her hand at?”
Maybe we can fathom why Aitch got so keen on pedalling . .
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“The bicycle is just as good company as most husbands.
And, when it gets old and  shabby, a woman can dispose of it and get a new one without shocking the whole community” – quote attributed to Ann Strong
“Marriage is a wonderful invention.
Then again, so is the bicycle”  (and – the bike comes with a far simpler repair kit)
quote attributed to Jacquie Phelan
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“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving”

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” . . before mountain-biking . . (and electric biking) . . came to the scene, the biking scene was ruled by a small elite cadre of people who seemed allergic to enthusiasm”
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“Work to ride – and ride to work”

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“Four wheels move the body.
Two wheels move the soul”

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“If you don’t ride in the rain, you don’t ride”

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“Don’t ride faster than your guardian angel can fly”

(Quotes written on a blackboard at Aitch’s “Angels Mountain Biking Club” coffee shop)

Here’s their guardian angel – who could ride MUCH faster than all of them . . He led their trail rides and looked after them. I never met him but she told me his name. And she’d kick me for not remembering it!

Aitch's ANGELS MTB club (6)

 

 

Oddballs, Then and Now

Its gone wimpish! Actually Oddballs is still a wonderful, more affordable way to see the Okavango Delta and this post must be taken with a pinch of salt; My tongue is in my cheek;

This is classic “The Good Old Days was better” bulldust.

When WE went ca. 1990 we had to take our own food! But because there’s a 10kg limit on the Cessna 206’s and because one has to take binoculars, a telescope, a tripod, a sleeping bag and books:

Jess Zululand Course Books

I exaggerate, these were Jessie’s books for her field guide course last year, but still: weight. So we took very little food. At Oddballs we bought their last potatoes and onions and then we pitched our tent. Not like these wimpish days when the tent is pitched for you on a wooden deck with shower en-suite!! We were like this:

OddballsOkavango (14 small)
Good Old Oddballs

Communal showers:

Yes, actually, Oddballs IS a luxury lodge!

Nowadays New Oddballs is soft and squishy:

New Oddballs
New Oddballs

Here’s Aitch in the Old Oddballs Palm Island Luxury Lodge – and the wimpish new arrangement!

 

Luckily, the rest is still the same! You head out on a mekoro with a guide who really knows his patch:

OddballsOkavango makoro

You pitch your own tent on an island without anyone else in sight:

OddballsOkavango Squirrel Camp

And you enjoy true wilderness. When you get back, Oddball really does seem like a Palm Island Luxury Lodge:

Oddballs (5)

There’s a bar, there’s ice and cold beer, gin and tonic. You can order a meal! And – NOWADAYS! – a double bed is made up for you, ya bleedin’ wimps!

Go there (or here) NOW!!

Seven Years Today

You would be SO jealous if you were watching down from your cloud right now. The kids are in SUCH a good space. They’re a pleasure to be with. Sure, they give me a bloody hard time often and sure, they manipulate the hell out of me but they love their Dad!

May this last a few more years and then may they depart and start sending money home. Hey, we gotta aim high.

We miss you and talk about you lots still.

2003Apr kombi tom dizzi gayle jess trish 2
Two sober kids in this picture – champagne on the shores of Lake Sibaya

Oh, and Sambucca has gone grizzly about the gills and eye sockets. Past grey, her muzzle is now white. Also her eyesight ain’t what it used to be and she’s deaf. Otherwise she’s fine. Still manages to fool one of us into feeding her twice by promising earnestly that she hasn’t eaten for DAYS, when someone else just fed her. She has recently discovered her bark (I think that’s about all she can hear now) so she has gone from a silent snoozer to an enthusiastic barker who can only be shut up by tapping her on the shoulder and signalling SHURRUP! That causes her to bounce around with glee saying “I KNEW there was someone here! So it’s you!”

 

Sambucca old (2).jpg

Also, we found this in the garage this week: Sambucca’s pedigree! You hid it! So this is why she cost us R2000 when all our previous dogs had come free or with a R20 note tied on their collar!?

Sambucca Pedigree.jpg

So now we know Sambucca was born 23 August 2006. Twelfth birthday coming up, greybeard!

WWAD

What Would Aitch Do? Tom and I had cause to ponder this deep question last night. I saw these cups in the sink. They were there because the usual twenty cups were all used and washing a cup just to re-use it is unthinkable.

I said, ‘Tom, rather don’t use these cups m’boy’ and he said mildly, ‘OK, Dad’ – employing the proven tactic of humour the old bugger, he’ll soon forget about it.

So I paused and said, ‘Actually, I wonder: What do you think Mom would have said about you using that cup?’ ‘Oh, definitely Don’t Use It, said Tom.

I agree then, I said, but I wonder now, peering down from her cloud, if she wouldn’t say ‘WTF, Life Is Short, Just Use it!’.

Tom pondered. ‘No’, he said, ‘She’d say Don’t Use It’.

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*update* They’re in full circulation now. Just cups.

Jess and her Tummy Mummy

Jessica & ThembiJessie’s Tummy Mummy Thembi became a good friend thanks to Aitch and her conscientious follow-up and ‘adoption’ of Thembi.

Aitch nurtured her and encouraged and empowered her. She arranged classes such as computer and sewing courses; she had her teeth seen to and hugely improved by the state orthodontists at Addington and King Edward hospitals.

Once a month she would take Jessie – and me and Tom sometimes – to meet for lunch with Thembi when we would also take her supplies and goods to sell; Jessie loved those lunches. She and Thembi would gossip and giggle and point at people walking past commenting on their looks, dress, gait, whatever. Scandalous! They loved it!

Once we took her back to Port Shepstone so she could show her Mom and Gran that Jess was fine.

Thembi's Mom and Gran
Thembi’s Mom and Gran seated

Thembi met a guy who was very good to her and was very happy but tragically she then contracted AIDS; Aitch pitched right in and arranged to meet the lady doctor in charge at King Edward and saw to it that Thembi got her treatment on time. She sickened rather quickly though, and grew weak.

Jess wrote to her when I visited her in Addington:

Thembi card frm Jess Jan2010

She died in Addington hospital. I took her boyfriend and brother Dumi in the kombi to buy a coffin and then to fetch her body; then arranged for them to get her remains – and themselves – to Port Shepstone.

 

 

Tsavo in Kenya

After a slow drive from Mombasa we spent a night at a plush hotel in the metropolis of Voi. There it is in the left background. Don’t let Aitch tell you we didn’t spoil ourselves at times. The dining room had a linoleum floor, plastic chairs and metal tables, no table cloth. It was clean and the chicken and rice was delicious. I had a Tusker beer and that too, was delicious.

Voi, Kenya
Voi in October 1998

Then on to a destination I had looked forward to all my life: Tsavo National Park!

All my life? Just about. We got the quarterly African Wildlife magazines and I eagerly read about Africa’s great parks. I also knew of Bernhard Grzimek’s work in the Serengeti and his book Serengeti Shall Not Die. The great parks I knew and fantasised about included Kruger, Etosha, Luangwa, Masai Mara, Amboseli, Wankie, Ngorongoro, Gorongosa – and Tsavo. I remember seeing an aerial picture of the drought in Kenya and how the vegetation IN Tsavo was worse than that outside the park. The story was it was due to Kenya (Leakey?) refusing to cull elephants and other game. Of course it may have been a story by the pro-culling people in SA’s parks. Who knows? Lots of jealousy and rivalry among the ‘good people in conservation’!

. * Tsavo East * .

Tsavo East gate

Chris and Tilde Stuart, great Africa-philes, chose Tsavo as one of ‘Africa’s Great Wild Places’ in their book of that name, mainly for the huge wild expanse of Tsavo East where you can drive for hours without seeing another vehicle.

Elephant Hills Lodge in Tsavo
Arrival at Elephant Hills Lodge
scan0063.jpg
Here’s where the underground hide leads down to the waterhole

Driving around Tsavo East was amazing. We hardly saw any other vehicles.

The Galana River in East Tsavo
The Galana River in Tsavo East

Firsts for us were Vulturine Guineafowl, Gerenuks and Lesser Kudus:

 

Lesser kudus & gerenuk - both firsts!

Golden-breasted Starling, Red & Yellow Barbet, Superb Starling & White-headed Buffalo Weaver:

 

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. * Tsavo West * .

 

We saw Kilimanjaro! We weren’t expecting to, but as we drove around we suddenly saw a snow-topped mountain top WAY higher than one would expect through the low clouds; way higher than the hills around us. We realised that it  must be Kili, the world’s highest free-standing mountain!

 

Of course we should have realised we’d be close to Kili, but we didn’t give it a thought. We were in Kenya, Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania, and it just didn’t occur to us! That’s our pic of the low clouds on the left and an internet pic of Kili from Tsavo West. Our view was a glimpse through a break in thick clouds, though.

 

 

Here we also saw the magic clearwater Mzima Springs.

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Tsavo National Park was created in 1948. At approximately 21,000km², it is the largest protected area in Kenya. In the late 1960s, there were approximately 35,000 elephants in the Tsavo region. This population has suffered two population crashes, firstly there was the drought in the early 1970s when many died, especially pregnant females, females nursing a calf or young calves. Independent bulls mortality was lower as they were able to travel greater distances in search of vegetation and water.

The second crash was due to the illegal killing of elephants for their tusks. The bulls who survived the drought were now the victims. Kenya had banned legal trophy hunting in 1977. By the late 1980s, at the height of the ivory poaching era, about 6,200 elephants remained in the entire Tsavo region.

KenyaTsavo national park map

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Aitch Art Connoisseur – Again

I wrote about Aitch’s eye for and taste in art here when she spotted a Willie Bester in Cape Town in 1993 and bought it over my “are you sure?” ignorance.

Around about the same time we met Ingrid Weiersbye on Barry & Lyn Porter’s game farm at Hella Hella and Aitch loved her work and quietly bought two of her paintings, later presenting them to me for my birthday. Ingrid is married to Barry’s brother, ecologist with KZN Wildlife, Roger Porter.

Well, sure as anything, Ingrid just got more and more famous and I’m sure whatever Aitch paid, the paintings are worth way more now. This one is on offer for over R20 000:

ingrid_weiersbye_art

And I think ours are better!

Ingrid Weisersbye (2)
Old ‘Natal Robin’ – Ingrid Weiersbye
Ingrid Weisersbye (3)
African Wood Owl – Ingrid Weiersbye

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More about Ingrid Weiersbye:

Born in England, raised in Zimbabwe, Weiersbye has held eight solo exhibitions. Beside these she has printed five limited edition print releases, has participated in numerous art and environmental projects and her work has been published in several books. She has been well supported by corporate and private collectors, particularly in the UK, Germany and South Africa.

Furthermore:
• She has exhibited work for seven consecutive years at the Society of Wildlife Artists’ annual exhibition in London.
• She has exhibited at the British Birdwatching Show for three years at which she won the ‘best stand’ award in 1995 in the art category for her bird paintings.
• She was invited by the Tron and Swann Gallery in London to participate in several major art exhibition from 1992 to 1996 including ‘Parrots of the World’, ‘Wildfowl and Waterfowl’ as well as the British Game Fair.

Additionally she exhibits on most major South African wildlife exhibitions of international wildlife art held regularly at the Everard Reade Gallery in Johannesburg.

PUBLICATIONS

Robert’s 7th edition. Handbook of Birds of Southern Africa.  Published 2005…main contributing artist

Roberts 7

Roberts Bird Guide – Kruger National Park. Published 2006…main contributing artist

Roberts Bird Field-guide. Published  2007

Roberts Geographic Variation of Southern African Birds   published 2012…co-author and sole illustrator

Roberts Variation Weiersbye

Birds of Botswana Field-guide, Published Princeton University Press, 2016…co-author and sole illustrator

Birds Botswana Pete Hancock Ingrid Weiersbye

Roberts Comprehensive Field-guide to Southern African Birds. Published 2016…co-author and main illustrator

Roberts 7 Ingrid Weiersbye