I first heard about this lovely lodge on Jejane Private Nature Reserve“up towards the Olifants River area” way back last century. Now at last I got to visit thanks to Carl and Mandy, co-owners with four other families – all farmers around Harrismith and Bergville.
It was everything I’d imagined and more; we had a lovely stay with game drives, lots of laughter, great meals, lots of beer, sunshine, lots of rain. Carl and I were on our best behaviour as we were outnumbered, Mandy having brought in three young lasses from her distant past to stand by her. They cheekily nominated me Airfryer Fundi, pretending they didn’t know what to do with the machine; so I pushed, pulled and stroked various knobs so they could cook dinner.
The rain was lovely – not as hectic as in the Kruger Park next door. Dams and pans that were mud puddles filled rapidly and overflowed. Streams rushed all over, threatening road crossings, but the level would soon drop and the roads remained good as the water soaked into the sand.
Three days in Mfolosi’s Mpila camp with two demure young ladies.
We saw a few confrontations: Two male impala, two male lions, four rhino, with one male threatening the others. Nothing much came of these feints and threats, despite the loud shouts which came from the back seat, where the two demure young ladies were seated: FIGHT! Fuck him up!
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! So I’ve put one of Janet’s lovely home on the right bank of the Tamalakhane river instead.
Mopani camp was full. How about Letaba? I asked. Sorry, its also full. So Jessie found Tingala Lodge on booking.com – 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.’
‘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.
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.
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.
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:
. . . ‘course, we actually found it the traditional Kruger Park way:
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
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.
The 258km from Harrismith to Parys via Weiveld takes six hours to negotiate if you haven’t yet seen a korhaan and you need to see one.
This includes a stop for steak egg and strips at the Royal Hotel in Reitz. Instead of strips I got potato wedges crisply fried in batter. Yum!
Here’s the route for slow pokes not in a hurry:
The roads are really quite good mostly. There’s a section between Petrus Steyn and Heilbron where the ANC oke who got the pothole tender must have pocketed the money and not delivered them. It’s smooth and kinda first world! He’s gonna be in trouble. The dirt roads are also mainly fine, but can get rough, and in the dips they get more interesting, as they’ve had some rain. Mud and some deep pools.
I saw my korhaan at last. Not the Blue, which I’ve been searching for, but the Northern Black Korhaan. Also a few Namaqua Doves, a favourite. Pics from my Newman’s Birds app.
Heavy storms are predicted but I had only a few showers on the way.
The feature pic is the view from my B&B on the left bank of the Vaal (not the Seine, silly!) in Parys, Free State. Paddling mate Chris Greeff had told me about this lovely rapid in his home town. Read a bit about him here. There’s A LOT more – Greeff should write a book.
Very warm in bed in Mistique Waters guest house on the banks of the Vaal after a hot bath. Tomorrow the streets of Paris!
M.agical A.vian and H.ysterical E.xpedition to M.emel – 2.0
I decided to look for elusive gentlemen farmers Des and Ian by launching a stealth visit to the Memel district, choosing the Memel hotel as my base.
I settled on the stoep with a cold beer and asked if anyone knew Des Glutz? Well, they all did and had lots to tell me. Just wait right there, said Rudi the friendly hotelier, He’s sure to pop in, it’s Friday.
Various bakkies arrived and men in khaki wearing boots or velskoens trooped into the bar. Most wore langbroeks in khaki. Then a ropy Nissan parked right in front of me and under the chassis a pair of bony feet in blue slip-slops appeared, followed by a pair of bony legs in faded navy blue rugby shorts with plenty of ballroom. His face and neck were covered by beard but I could see this was my man. He’s kinda unmistakable with his half-closed eyelids. Also, khaki shirt.
I accosted him from my prime spot on the stoep: ‘Excuse me, what you think you doing? You can’t come in here dressed like that!’ Well, then he knew I was from far, cos he most certainly can and does go into the Memel pub dressed like that. He stopped in his tracks and stared at me with his chin tilted up and his eyes half closed, you know how Des does that. Then he kicked for touch: Wait, I’m just going to tell these fuckin old fossils I’ll be late. He ‘stuck his head in the door and cussed his three (perhaps) slightly older drinking pals, telling them they were fuckin old fossils and he’d be outside; then he came back to stare at me. Took a while to see through my new beard, then he said Coppers!? Is that you? He always called me Coppers after a Clifton primary schoolmate oke called Copchinsky. He also always called policemen copchinskys.
As people arrived everyone greeted Oom Des and he had a cussing and a vloekwoord for each of them. Except the ladies. Hello my sweetheart, I still love you but I’m worried about your heart, he says to one, Come here and let me listen to your heartbeat. She leans over him and he nestles his ear in her boobs and rubs back and forth going Mmmmmm. Haai! Oom Des! she says and rubs his head affectionately. Incorrigible. No change. And no improvement. We had a wonderful evening before he left for home, very late, but with a re-heated and re-heated pizza for Mercia as a peace offering. I discovered a few things that Memel evening: One was that the mense of Memel love the oke.
The next day I drove around the well-known Seekoeivlei nature reserve; Des was off to pretend to buy bulls at a vendusie with one of the fuckin old fossils.
Des and Mercia have a lovely spacious home in town and Oom Des decreed that a braai would be held there. Unfortunately I hopped into his bakkie to go there, mid-conversation, so I had no beers, no car. Soon after, another apparition arrived with a snow-white beard. The Bothas Pass hermit had emerged from his cave, bearing enough beers for an army, plus a bottle of brandewyn. Ian Stervis Steele, who I had not seen for many decades. What a night. About ten people, about a hundred beers and a gallon of brandewyn; lots of mutton chops, pork ribs and boerewors, a huge pot of pap and a very lekker sous. Very good oldtime music and Des at the head of the table till WAY late. Generous hospitality and much laughter.
Stervis, myself and a local couple stayed the night with Des and Mercia and their four dogs, the most notable one being a pekingese / sausage dog cross. Pitch black and chubby, about ankle-high, with that Pekingese-style smashed flat beak. Name: RAMBO. If you weren’t careful it would lick you. I got the comfy couch in the lounge.
The next day I was off-peak and had a snooze back at the hotel and booked another night. In the afternoon I drove out to Normandien and Mullers passes and then visited Des. For tea this time. Then back to the hotel where Rudi cooked me a huge T-bone and I had an early night, dank die hemel, Memel.
I saw stonechats, mountain wheatears and amur falcons; and the beautiful Klipspruit valley.
Before I left on this drive I called in at the butcher for some fatty biltong. The owner enquired what I was doing in town and I said I had been sent on a special mission to find and fix a man called Des Glutz. He and two customers in the shop roared with laughter and told me in no uncertain terms that there was no way I could ever live long enough to achieve that.
mahem – grey crowned crane
bakkie – pickup; ute; status symbol
slip-slops – Glutz fashion footwear
fuckin old fossils – people slightly older than Des
Oom Des – old codger
mense – people; folk
braai, boerewors, etc – ritual burnt offerings; various animals sacrificed
brandewyn – sacramental drink served in braai ritual in tall glasses; distilled from grapes or peaches, they say
dank die hemel – Memel ‘sanks heavens’ ritual chant
Memel is maybe named after a Memel in East Prussia where they fought a battle in 1257, even before Des was born I’m told. The name means silence, but that has been broken since Des moved to town and since Memel joined with Zamani to become Memel-Zamani.
I heard a tap tap tapping next door. Industriousness can be very irritating, so I went to have a look. My neighbour on the other side is industrious and what a pain. There’s a lawnmower, or a leaf blower, or a high pressure hose going so often it drives me crazy. I haven’t shouted GET A LIFE! over the fence. I’m far too polite.
Turns out this tap tap tapping is a bloke building a new home. He has chosen his site for the best possible fibre access. Progress has been stopped today after his lady friend came to look at the joint. Maybe she didn’t fancy the bathroom tiling or the layout or something? I like it. It’s east-facing, gets the morning sun, and is protected from our prevailing wind and rain from the SW.
If he abandons it a Crested Barbet may move in. He’s been prrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr-ing in the yellow-flowered Cassia tree next to the pole.
Later I saw him doing some interior work – and spitting out the sawdust:
There’s a beautiful patch of coastal forest left in Durban, hanging on as development happens all around it. Strolling around in the forest and on the fringe with sister Sheila and friend Jules, we heard a host of birds, saw a few and took pics of a few of the plants and creatures that would sit still.
Next visit we walked through the forest to the deck overlooking the river.
Useful to top up your salt intake every so often by sticking your tongue in your nostril. Must practice that.
Mpila camp’s ‘safari tents’ are great. Comfy with all modcons, own kitchen and en-suite semi-outdoor bathroom. It’s walled in with reeds, like the kitchen wall you see here, but only to shoulder height – above that, it’s open to the outdoors under the big canvas roof. It’s a treat. A Purple-banded Sunbird sang to me as I showered. No pictures.
While photographing these ‘acacia’ flowers (must get the real name – maybe Senegalia?) this biggish weevil or snout beetle dropped into my hand. I’ll ask iNaturalist.org to identify both the plant and its weevil. Otherwise it would be like I saw no weevil.
A slender mongoose made a breakfast appearance at a waterhole. If anything was nesting in there, they were egg and toast, as she inspected every nook and cranny.
Driving along, an oft-heard sound and a not-often-seen sighting:
At the hide (must add the name – Bhejane?) I saw the lovely Mocking Cliff Chat, Lesser Striped Swallows, Village Weavers building nests and a Hadeda Ibis pulling down their new nests around its nest! A Diederik Cuckoo was calling, probably waiting to get into those weaver nests. This hide looks out over a waterfall – dry today:
At another waterhole a bird flew past as my little Canon snapped a 3-shot burst:
I took a new route home, exiting the Cengeni gate in the south-west of the park and heading for Ulundi, Melmoth and Eshowe. Right outside the gate exiting the Umfolozi Big Five Game Reserve there’s this puzzling sign:
I asked the man at the gate, How far to Ulundi? 37km. I asked him, And how is the road? and he got all coy, hummed and hah’d a bit, then blurted, “but it is a tar road.” It wasn’t too bad. A fairly normal look-sharp neglected tar road as we’re used to.
If I still had Marguerite Poland’s book on the isiZulu descriptive names of Nguni cattle I’d tell you how this beast on the way to Ulundi would be described:
I’ll go back to Mfolosi. Soon, though. Before it also loses all its grasslands to bush encroachment.
I enjoyed my stay in Hluhluwe. I stayed in Hilltop camp in the old rondawels that were built in the fifties or sixties. About sixty years ago.
They’re very comfy now, with a ceiling fan, big cupboard, fridge, cutlery and crockery and cooking utensils, power points, lights, washbasin with hot water, kettle. And aircon. The bed linen was luxurious, fresh and clean and seemed brand new. The kitchen and ablution building is shared by all. The shower had hot water.
I spent both days there in the camp, no driving. The bushy hills where once there was grassland is not a good sight, so I elected to walk the camp forest – much of which was also once grassland!
Top right the Tassleberry tree has the most tassles I ever saw. Bottom right the Grewia shows why its called a crossberry. Click on them for a better look.
A beautiful old paperbark Commiphora had an interesting hole-in-the-bole, so I zoomed in: Bees, honeycombs and a butterfly that went back again and again despite the bees buzzing her.
Some flowers I lazily havent yet identified:
As I said, I enjoyed Hluhluwe, but I don’t think I’ll go back in a hurry. The disappearance of the grasslands ruins it for me. I wonder if there’s an eco management plan for Hluhluwe?
Lovely three nights in Mantuma Camp at Mkhuze game reserve in Zululand. Nothing much happened, animals were not plentiful, the grasslands are still sadly bush-encroached, but the birds, insects and plants more than made up for that. So as not to moan about Homo sapiens vaaliensis polluting the lovely hides with farting, phone calls, smoking and loud shutter clicks of the cameras with more computing power than their owners, I have politely refrained from commenting and instead played some games with the rather ordinary pictures I took with my phone and my pocket Canon. Enjoy!
this tiny little spider on my rearview mirror elongated himself to look like a mini octopus when I came too close –
At last an ele in Mkhuze! I was beginning in the last few years to think there weren’t any left. There must be very few, anyway.
At Kumahlala hide, after an hour of being alone and quiet, the Foam Nest Frogs started up a chorus. Took a while, but I found one up on a twig just outside the hide and got a pic of him. I wish I had thought to tape their call – a lovely loud chorus – I’d guess about four of them doing a fine barbershop quartet! Here’s a shy soloist:
Found a new frog! I went through my frog calls: A Rhythmic Caco – Cacosternum rythmum. I must look for a picture of one. I couldn’t find him in the flooded grass in the waterhole. He is little over a centimetre long, mind you. Another name for them is Dainty Frogs.
Sunset at Masinga Waterhole: The sun sets behind the big old Boerbean tree that was probably already there when I first visited ‘Mkuzi’ in 1965. The hide wasn’t here then. The famous Bube hide was the ‘in place’ then, just a few hundred metres away (north, I think).
Driving out of the park to go home, a bushveld scene: Stripes and horns and a few egrets hanging around, hoping for some disturbance to happen. I ”shopped’ in the lily into the foreground, as it was lonely in its own picture with nothing around it. And it was nearby . .
The big old album is hitting the recycling bin. I have recorded all the pictures.
Home after our lo-ong honeymoon and some surprise welcomes:
Also in 1988 we had a big optometry conference in Durban. As part of the hosting committee I produced a daily newsletter. Then I became president of the optometric association at the end of the conference.
Friends at the conference – and an induction (Brauer says they induced me):
I dragged some non-canoeing friends out to the Umgeni Valley. I wanted to see the valley for a last time before Inanda Dam drowned it forever. The river was rather shallow – um, VERY shallow! We dragged for miles!
We visited the folks in Harrismith, clambered the slopes of Platberg and sang around the piano:
Bernie & Karen Garcin got married in Empangeni – George Stainton and I were his best men.
In between all the scurrying we lived in our lovely Whittington Court one-bedroom apartment in Marriott Road, and I think I occasionally did a bit of work. Sheila reminded me that she lived there for two years after we bought our house in Westville.
Another of our frequest visits to Hella Hella. And a visit to the Hills on Melrose farm, Mid Illovo.
I gave a talk in the Kruger Park once called The Art of the Game Drive. It was magnificent, complete with exciting sightings and livestreaming. Pity was, I had an unappreciative audience. Well, they were from behind the boerewors curtain, so . . you know how they are.
It almost sounded like they had a pet monkey with them, as they kept muttering Ari Aap as I drove them serenely in quiet splendour and exquisite comfort in my VW Kombi 2,1 in subtle camouflage blue and white. But you won’t believe this, when I stopped to examine old poo there was audible sighing. Philistines. The talks are still wildly popular* but I notice none of that particular batch were ever repeat guests. And I mainly have repeat guests.
*Jessie has been a repeat guest dozens – scores – of times. She can appreciate the Art of the Game Drive. Specially if she has her phone, her music and noise-cancelling earphones with her.