Aaaargh! I shrieked in my head but “O-ka-ay” I said out loud, all calm-like, “Have you thought about it?”
Oh yes, lots.
“OK. What’s a tattoo? Is it safe? How much does it cost? Does it hurt? Who would do it? Have you got enough money? etc”
Oh, she hadn’t thought of any of that.
“OK. Do your homework and get back to me with the answers please.”
She did. Now that she knows more, she’s more nervous. But still determined. After all, Sindi has a lovely outline of Africa tattoo’d above her ankle.
The very next day she arranges a visit to the tattoo parlour with Sindi, where they are going to find out more and then come back for a final decision. They take themselves there by taxify.
The main thing I’m interested in is: Who’s the artist? Is he/she good? Does he/she do a skilful, safe job? Ask to see their work. Show me their work.
So I’m furiously kicking for touch and I think I’m delaying things nicely. I went through enough trauma with the piercings, I hope to dodge this mutilation. I feel like I’m handling things well as The Dad. I’m In Charge.
So I get a message: Hey Dad please can I have mom’s birth date and her death date.
There were two birthdays on the steam train and the pictures are from Tom’s. He turned four. 2005. Aitch arranged a magic day after much preparation, cake-construction and Mom-liaison. Here she orchestrates:
I was on the train and we had a lovely day. Later Luke, Tom’s big china, turned four and had the same birthday. On Luke’s birthday I was a designated driver, taking a car to the end-point to take stuff and ferry passengers.
So I wasn’t on the train on Luke’s birthday trip when he flew out of the window.
But first: These pictures are of Tom’s birthday:
Here’s our Luke-fella with Mom Terry. Both on the train and at the stop for Tom’s party (you can see TomTom’s cake). On his way up he was without make-up, and on his way back he was all face-painted:
On his big day the same train journey was arranged; Up, then a party in Inchanga and then down: the return journey. Afterwards, I got back to Hillcrest; To Stokers where the journey starts and ends; When the train puffed in I heard a strange tale: Tom huffed and puffed, “Dad, Dad! Luke flew out the window!” The adults said Luke had fallen out of the train and been taken to hospital. I was aghast! What!?
Later the tale unfolded. Luke had fallen out while the train was choofing along. His Dad Steve had leapt up and wanted to jump out after him, but the train was going too fast so he hared through the carriages, rushing through the gaps till he got to the front and could attract the attention of the driver who stopped the train. Steve ran back and found Luke with some railroad trackside dwellers, who had found Lukie-boy – maybe even seen him fall.
The hospital checked our Lukie-boy over bone-by-bone and organ-by-organ and pronounced him all intact. Massive sighs of relief!
Amazingly, Luke later also said he’d “flown out the window” so who knows what actually happened? Weird!
At five years old Tom was mad keen on soccer. His first tournament in Westville North was cause for great excitement. His team wore orange bibs and tackies and he played everywhere on the field and in the goals. Which he didn’t like. Boring, Dad.
He preferred the role of full-field chaser:
Champion Soccer Mom was there in full force and voice. That’s her on the right, Mom of triplets Yaya, Yasir and __. She was great, shouting encouragement and advice to all, especially her kids, TomTom and the star player for the orange bibs, Ntutuka. Here are her triplets in orange, on the left, 3rd from left and on the ball:
Supporters traveled from afar to support their favourite team. God-parents Dizzi and Jon live a few hundred metres up the road so made the trek to cheer on their hero:
Essential support came from the team manager Sir Aitch Ferguson:
and the expert coach and tactician Me Mourinho – wearing a Galatasaray S.K cap (that’s Turkey’s best soccer club, turkey!):
After the game that all-important thank you team handshake. Tom not exactly the tallest team member:
Later tournaments required more kit. We HAVE to have these latest and greatest boots, Dad! We simply CAN’T play without them! Us superstars need our bling!
Tomaldinho! I was seeing dollars sign$ I was going to sign him up with Amazulu – No Dad!! PSG in Paris!! Oh. My bad.
But then suddenly it was rugby. RUGBY Dad! I need new boots. You can’t play rugby in soccer boots, Dad! I’m a rugger player now!
Driving south to the Wild Coast I glanced down at my feet. Right foot on the accelerator, left foot chilling next to the clutch. No shoes. Barefoot.
OK, I’d forgotten to take shoes on our six-day beach walk. Too late to turn back.
It was fine. I’d make do. I said nothing. Didn’t want Aitch cackling about my dodgy 49-yr-old memory glands. I’m not known for being a meticulous packer or planner, so what the hell . . I was used to making do.
It was April 2004 and our hiking route was southward. From Kobb Inn about 60km to Morgan Bay. Another group would head north at the same time and the organisers saw to it we met up and swopped vehicles so ours would be waiting for us in Morgans Bay at the end of the hike. Slick. Good friend and colleague Allan Marais happened to be in the other party so he drove my diesel VW kombi and I drove his petrol 4X4 Mitsubishi. He messaged me that evening: “All’s well. Your kombi is parked outside the hotel. I filled it up to the brim with petrol”.
Luckily I know Allan Marais, so I simply replied, “Great. I filled your Mitsi up with diesel. Also to the brim”.
We’d be staying in hotels and cottages on the way. Slackpacking! What a pleasure! Good weather, lonely beaches, light daypacks with only water and lunch in them. Friendly local people acted as porters on each leg and carried our real packs ahead of us. Cold beers, good meals and comfortable beds awaited us each night.
Past the Jacaranda thirty three years after its 1971 stranding:
One day was really windy. All the rest were clear and calm. We kept Africa on our right and the Indan Ocean on our left and sauntered along blissfully.
There’s nothing to eat here, there’s nothing to drink here, so what’s up, bovine beauties? Beach comfortable to lie on? Looking for a furry tan?
River crossings – by boats and wading
Janice had to fly home a day early from a little airstrip near the beach. Work! The curse of the drinking class. There she goes; look, she’s waving:
Morgan Bay with its spectacular cliffs
And shoes? Didn’t need ’em. I walked barefoot most of the way, slipping on my yellow flip-flops when the rocks got pointy. Mostly it was beach sand or smooth foot paths, really easy on our feet.
See the tiny portion we walked. Friends walked from Port Edward to East London in 2016. Way further, and carrying all their kit! Allie Peter and Mike Frizelle wrote about it. A lovely and highly entertaining read of ancient old goats staggering from shebeen to shebeen fuelled on Transkei dumpies, Wild Coast weed and cataflam. Especially cataflam!
There’s a lovely spot on the Mtumvuna that divides old Natal from old Transkei. We went with Sue and Mike Barnes in 2009. They own one of the unique semi-permanent ‘cottages’ or fixed tents there and arranged another for us to hire.
Before there was a bridge downstream, there was an old pont here. Nowadays there’s an informal do-it-yourself ferry.
Mike builds beautiful boats and had one of Mallards best there:
Good people, lots of kids, lots of action.
We did some mountain biking in the gorge overlooking the river upstream and visited Beaver Creek coffee farm.
Mike taught Tom to wakeboard and he loved it. Took to it like a grebe to water. I set him off and Trish photographed him from the boat.
On our bikes we came across the sewage treatment plant. Acres of dried kak in interesting patterns. Sorta like chocolate. That’s what the kids have remembered longest about The Old Pont.
A combination Sesotho / Setswana word, it means ‘good clean health’.
I had volunteered on the train before, in Bergville; Now Trish and I joined it in Underberg. At the time it was a pet project of Jannie Ferreira, optometry professor at RAU (now the University of Johannesburg). So it was full of RAU students. We had a kombi and on the way up from Durban to act as volunteer supervisor, we repaired to the bottle store and bought champagne, thinking we’d load everyone up and drive off to where we could watch the sun set behind the Drakensberg and its foothills and quaff champers.
Well, we did the quaffing, but well after sunset, as we couldn’t stop till we’d seen the last patient. No way we were going to say, ‘Sorry, come back tomorrow’ to poor people who had come from afar.
After that we went to a farmhouse (the local vet, I believe) where were treated to a lovely braai.
There are now two Phelophepa trains and the services it provides have increased. Long may it thrive and arrive at remote stations to provide needs and care and happiness – both to the people waiting at the sidings and to the students onboard.
Our two walks in the wilderness with the Taylors, Foggs, Janice Hallot and Gayle Adlam blur into one and I have got the photos all mixed up, so here are some more memories from 1999 or 2005.
On the drier of our two walks there was little surface water about, so around the campfire one night . .
. . when my companions were suitably lubricated, I put one of my (many) pet theories to them. Tomorrow, instead of walking about scaring the animals, let’s go to that waterhole we saw where a stream joins the Mfolosi river and get comfortable and simply lurk there till lunchtime! Let the animals come to us. Who’s in favour?
To my surprise and delight they were all so mellow and agreeable they voted in favour and we did just that. It was wonderful! We got comfortable a nice distance from the water and watched as all sorts of birds and animals came to drink. My idea of heaven: Lurking with telescope, binoculars and books!
These were slackpacking walks, so our kit was carried to the outlying camp by these handy bongolos. Here you can see Dizzi looking for her luggage, saying “Where’s my bongolo? Why don’t they have number plates?”
On the wetter walk it got hot one day and we asked our Rangers if we could swim. They said they knew just the spot. Miles later we got to the river at their swimming hole. But it was occupied:
Two buffs, an ele and a lioness had all had the same idea. We didn’t argue with them, we trudged on. Miles later we crossed the river again, and had a swim. Sort of. Luckily no pictures were taken. These were of a shoes-off river crossing, footwear and footprints:
The walks end with a last night back at base camp. We had left celebration supplies there in anticipation.
Then a champagne breakfast kombi drive before we left the park.