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!!

The Flat Paddle Society

I am a paid-up member of the Flat Paddle Society. Owner and boat-maker at Pope’s Canoe Centre, Owen Hemingway was alarmed that I even existed in the year 2016 and earnestly (more of ‘earnest’ later) explained to me how much more efficient a wing paddle is than a flat blade, demonstrating with a teaspoon under a flowing tap. It was remarkable. I could see clearly that the spoon shape exerts much more force on the water with less wasted energy.

The reason he was concerned for my well-being was I had bought a plastic boat from him, a lovely Detox, second-hand but like new. I now wanted him to make me a left feather flat-blade paddle and Owen assumed I wanted it for forward motion. He didn’t let me explain that I rely entirely on the current for forward motion and my paddle is only for balance and – occasionally – to roll back up into the sunlight again if I’ve flopped over.

This is why I never entered any sprint races. They’re held on flat water and if the wind had been against me I’d have drifted backwards at the gun.

** Ernest Hemingway – NOT **

Speaking of Hemingways, famous Ernest could write,

Hemingway On Safari

but Owen didn’t inherit any of his genes. My pleas for Umko stories always elicited an enthusiastic yes! but nothing forthcame. Only when I visited him in person did the excited stories and anecdotes, gossip and insider skinner as only a 30-times Umko paddler could know it, pour forth enthusiastically. But in writing? Not so much.

All of this reminds me I still haven’t fetched my left feather flat paddle from him.

 

R.I.P Linda Grewar

Linda Grewar was a Kingfisher paddler from back around 1990. She and Bernie Garcin paddled really well – a number of mixed doubles podium finishes on the Dusi, Fish and Umzimkulu. Then she buzzed off ‘overseas’.

In May 2016 Bernie gave me Linda’s address, so I wrote  to her:

Hey Linda!
LONG time no hear!
Meantime I have freely been using your name in vain in the Umko book we put together for this year’s 50th running of the marathon and for a story on an Umko trip Bernie and I did where you helped us out with driving. MOONS ago!

Last I heard you were out East teaching English, now I hear you’re in England. IMO a lot of them could do with being taught English proper there too!

Me I’m raising kids at my age, they’re 18 and 14 now.

Haven’t paddled for ages, but bought a new boat (no logic involved). Be careful when you look at the pics of me n Bernie with my new boat – you may get a fright!

bernie_detox1.jpg

 

Saw Greg Bennett yesterday. He’s well. Thanks to the book I have seen or spoken to a lot of the old paddling guys in the last year that I hadn’t seen for ages.

Allie Peter, Mike Frizelle, Ernie Alder and various other maniacs are currently walking the whole Wild Coast. Three to four weeks heading South from Natal and ending in East London or Kei River or somewhere near there.

Fill me in on your movements since – when? – about 1990!?

Cheers now – Love to you – Pete Swanie

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On 2016/05/23 01:17 PM, linda grewar wrote:

Hi Pete

So good to hear from you after so long.

Yes, I was out East, in Taiwan. I then also taught English in Slovakia and Czech Republic before ending up here in the UK. I live in Esher, Surrey and was teaching fairly close by, in Surbiton.

As Karen probably told you, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer in January- one hell of a surprise, as you can imagine. So far, I have had a course of radiotherapy and have had four sessions of chemo. Obviously I have not been able to work since I have been ill and things are quite hard financially.

Is it possible to buy hard copies of the Umko book? My brother is keen to get one and he can buy me one at the same time! Those days are but a distant memory now….

All the best – Love – Linda

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Dammit. Dammit! What a bliksem! Bloody cancer!

Good luck with your treatment. Hope it goes well.

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** May 2018 – Bernie contacted me to tell me Linda had passed away. Dammit. Bloody cancer.  **

 

Floods in KwaZulu Natal 1987

September 1987 floods

Between 28 and 30 September, the central and southern part of Natal were ravaged by floods that were amongst the most devastating to have occurred in South Africa. The destruction of property was catastrophic, nearly 400 people died and about 50 000 were left homeless. Damage to agriculture, communications, infrastructure and property amounted to R400 million (report: De Villiers et al, 1994).

The Mgeni and Mvoti rivers had flood duration periods of up to 24 hours and this caused dramatic erosion. In the Mgeni the island near the mouth was totally removed and scour of generally about 2m took place. In the Mvoti the river channel, normally 35m, widened to about 900m. Large quantities of sediment were deposited over the flood plain. Many bridges were washed away. The greatest disruption to humans was caused by the destruction of the Mdloti and Tugela river bridges on the N2 highway (report: Badenhorst et al. 1989).

A letter to Aitch from Lyn from their game farm at Hella Hella in the Umkomaas river valley:

Flood 1987 Letter (1) crop
Letter to Aitch from Lyn Porter

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Flood 1987 Letter crop (2)

Top picture is actually of the Umgeni river. We went with the 4X4 people to help ferry stranded people across to their homes or back from their homes so they could go to town. Corran Addison in pic. On my one trip I had a person plus a bag of mealie meal on the deck of my kayak.

The Umgeni at Blue Lagoon:

1987_flood_Umgeni mouth_2

We got married on Lyn & Barry’s farm in the Umkomaas valley the following February and the effects of the flood were still being felt.

DIY Bush Wedding

I don’t do DIY. I was going to say except for our wedding, but on reflection, I also did that the way I do everything: Stand back and watch as others do it all, while trying to save money.

What I did do was buy the booze and fill Mike Lello’s Isuzu Trooper and trailer with it and drive it out to the farm on the Friday. Lots of rain, muddy roads.

Wedding Hella Hella Isuzu Trooper.jpg

Like most bachelors when they do fall, I headed off cheerfully to meet my fate, all my own advice forgotten!

Luckily Saturday cleared up. Sunny. Then hot. Then scorching.

Wedding Hella Hella (4)

Barry’s old 4X4 Ford F150 gave people a tug up slippery Hella Hella Pass so they could get to their lodgings at the nearby Qunu Falls Lodge. Family stayed in the Lodge on the farm.

Wedding Hella Hella.jpg

The sauna was pitched on the lawn under the Hella Hella mountain.

The beautiful Hella Hella Kop

Necessary preparations like beer and braai:

Wedding Hella Hella (3)

Iona coaches: Make all the big decisions, but make him think he made them . . .

Aitch: Ha Ha I already do that . . .

Wedding Hella Hella (7).jpg

Then the usual stuff, the ominous music tun tun ta da; the father of the bride having second thoughts; guys thinking hm hm hm; ladies smiling; Aitch saying ‘honour, OK; obey? are you mad!?’ and so on:

Wedding Hella Hella-001.jpg

The lies!

Brauer spinning yarns

Followed by The Truth:

Wedding 1988 speech.jpg

At last, we could change into shorts and relax and party. Later, The Getaway:

Wedding Hella Hella Getaway Car.jpg

We wore getaway kit appropriate for our honeymoon. We were headed for Deepest Darkest America.

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On the Monday friend Allie Peter flew over Hella Hella in a helicopter and took pics of Rapid 5&6 looking downstream and then back upstream:

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Twenty Five Years Later – 28 Feb 2013

—– Original Message —–

Crazy, innit! 25yrs ago today Aitch and I got hitched down in the Hella Hella valley in a fun DIY game farm wedding.
She made it to 23yrs of married bliss (OK, she might have had something to say at this point . . ) and one month short of 26yrs together. We celebrated that 25yrs-together milestone in August 2010.

Thinking of all you good peeps that made it memorable – that’s before, the day and the 25yrs since!

Cheers!

Lotsa love – Pete – and now Jessica & Tommy!

BTW, Lyn and Barry Porter of Hella Hella also died in 2011:
Lyn in January – also breast cancer, Barry in April – hospital infection, and then Aitch in July.

———————————————————————–

Pete Stoute:

Remember the week-end like yesterday! Struggling up the other side of Hella Hella to the Qunu Falls hotel in the mud and rain – Dave Hill saving the day with a BIG generator.

Will have an extra glass of vino this evening – great mates and good times.

Sheila Swanepoel:

Those pics are great. What a wonderful record of a very special day.
I remember the incredible heat and how you, Pierre and Pete sneaked off and changed into shorts straight after the ceremony. And how the phone kept ringing in the middle of the ceremony in the house.
Linda was flower girl, Robbie was so proud of his brand new red “tight”

Wedding 1988 Linda Robbie (1).jpg

and Jeff kept putting off going to change, saying that he was charge of the spit – he dithered for so long that there was no time to change and that pleased him no end.
Bess & I sneaked down to the pool for a kaalgat swim and found Iona had beaten us to it!

Steve Reed:
Will always remember the weekend; a great occasion. I think it was thanks to Mike and Yvonne in the 4×4 that we traveled safely back through the mud to our lodgings. Fond memories – raising a glass tonight to all of you!

I remember Brauer chasing a tight deadline speech writing – wise.

Pete Brauer:

Damn. Been holding my breath during this stroll thru memory lane hoping that no-one noticed at the time or that no-one would still remember that poor last-minute effort.

Terry Brauer:
Steve nothing has changed! PB has his own website called lastminute.com

Steve Reed:

Speech was excellent. Not many can compose a wedding speech while putting on a tie with the other hand. Besides, Swannie probably tasked Brauer with the job as he was getting dressed himself.

Terry Brauer:

Yip Brauer remains an orator of note and Swanepoel continues to notify me he is coming to stay usually on the day when he lands in Pretoria – 😀 Those old dogs ain’t gonna learn new tricks but love them both! T

Pete Swanie:

I had prepared well in advance.

Wedding Hella Hella Groom scribbles truth.jpg

Brauer procrastinated and ignored my two rules: Keep it short; and NO LIES.

Wedding Hella Hella Brauer scribbles lies.jpg
Pete Brauer:

If I stuck to the latter rule the first would have fallen into place quite easily.

———————————————————————–

R.I.P Ernie Alder

Dammit n SHIT!! Ernie died!

Fuckity fuck.

It’s bullshit. He wasn’t ready. He wasn’t finished. He wasn’t even close to wrapping up all the things he still planned to do.

Damn! Too soon.

A very special human being.

The wake will be held in Ernie’s Pub in Kingfisher Canoe Club on the banks of the Umgeni River in Durban. You KNOW you have led a really wonderful life when you’re going to be saluted in a pub named after you while you were still in your prime by your mates!

Ernie's Pub

Ernest Alder – 17/08/1942 – 21/01/2018

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Also:

Involved in the Caister old age home while his Mom was there;

Involved in a game farm up near Mkhuze;

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Ernie on the Umko;

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Travis Wilkinson of KCC wrote:

It is with a heavy heart that I write of the passing of Ernie Alder!
There are very few truly selfless individuals, those that give of their time beyond what could ever be expected without seeking reward or adulation!
Ernie you will, for me, always be synonymous with KCC and there will never be a time, driving in to the car park, that I do not look for your vehicle, your welcoming smile or your loudhailer!
Rest in peace my friend, you did so much to assist me in my time as chairman and for the numerous chairs before and those that came after.
Your legacy will forever be intertwined with the history of KCC and you will be sorely missed at the club and along the many riverbanks and boat pounds across the country!

A gentleman, a gentle man! We will miss you – Elvis Kingfisher

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Xudum in Okavango

Another trip to the Delta!

Aitch and I flew from Maun to Xudum in 2001 when Janet & Duncan were running the show for Landela Safaris. We landed on the nearby bush strip.

 

After a few days in camp they had business in Maun and we accompanied them on the drive out of the Delta to Maun in the Land Cruiser. Rickety bridges, deep water crossings with water washing over the bonnet onto the windscreen.

On the drive back to camp after the day in the big smoke of the metropolis of Maun we entered a Tamboti grove and saw two leopard cubs in the road. They split and ran off to left and right, then ran alongside of us on either side for a minute calling to each other before we moved off and let them be.

We enjoyed mekoro trips, game drives & walks and afternoon boat trips stretching into evenings watching the sunset from the boat while fishing for silver catfish or silvertooth barbel – I forget what they called them. Later, wading in thigh-deep water sorting out the pumps. Only afterwards did I think hmm, crocs.

Xudum (5)

Visited Rann’s camp for lunch where we first heard the now-common salute before starting a meal: “Born Up a Tree”.

Janet moved us from camp to camp as guests arrive, filling in where there were gaps in other camps. We transferred by boat, mekoro or 4X4 vehicle. One night we stayed in a tree house in Little Xudum camp.

Okavango Xudum Camp

Lazy days in camp drinking G&T’s