African Greybeard

I’m coming down to Durban to buy a parrot. Where’s Overport? asks the ole man.

Ole lady phones, all worried as ever. Can you tell us how to get to West Road in Overport, Koosie? I say I’ll try, phone you back. I need to hatch a plot. I phone back and say Come to my place for lunch, I’ll leave work early and I’ll take you, it’s not easy to find. She sounds dubious but she’ll try that.

Ole lady phones back, amazed. He saw sense. We’re coming for lunch, she says, relieved. She can’t see, he can’t hear, so she was dreading looking for a small parrot in a strange haystack.

When I get home they’re on my stoep and Jess has given them tea and Tommy is busy cooking pasta carbonara for lunch for all. My children! Bless them! I had told them I’d love it if you’d give them a polite hello, but you needn’t stay, just make your excuses and go. They decided to completely exceed all expectations and charm the old bullets. Proud of ’em!

Off we go to meet Sumie who has three baby African Grey parrots in a box. His grandfather breeds them in Utrecht. Dad had said he wanted to choose his own. We check them out on the tailgate of my bakkie in West Road Overport. Dad picks one and now I think, Here comes the bargaining. R2500 says Sumie. No way says the ole man and shuffles off to the front seat of my bakkie. He comes back with the bird magazine and shows Sumie his own ad: R2300, moaning how he has wasted his time coming all the way from Pietermaritzburg. Fine, R2300 says Sumie.

And the food, says the ole man. That cost me R100, Uncle Pieter, I’ve just fed them, so give me R80, says Sumie. It’s my birthday on Friday (true), counters the ole man, you should give it to me as a gift. How old you’ll be? asks Sumie. Ninety Five says the ole man (true) so they settle on R50.

Now they debate who’s box is better. Sumie has a shoebox – it’s wider – and ole man has a box some electronics came in – it’s deeper. Ole man realises if he takes Sumie’s he gets both, so he settles on Sumie’s shoebox.

We go back home for our delicious pasta lunch, followed by ice cream and coffee, and off they go back to PMB. The ole man changes into second too soon up the steep hill. He would have hated it that I heard that.


And I didn’t take a single photo! Damn! Well, here they are with great-grandkids:

Gogo Mary & Great_Grandkids (2)

And I just thought: When last did I post a recent pic of my favourite children? Here they are willingly posing for me:

Tom’s One Stop

On the way back from Afriski one year (I think 2012) we drove through Harrismith instead of our usual route down Oliviershoek Pass. Stopping to refuel at the Engen Tom and his mate (Josh, I think) said “Dad. we’re really thirsty, can we have a cooldrink?” Sure, I said and gave the the only cash I had: A R200 note.

When they returned they hopped in and off we went. Later I remembered and asked Where’s my change, m’boy?

“Um, there’s no change Dad”. No change!? “No, in fact, we had to pay in”. Let me see the slip, I asked.

Here’s their “cooldrink”:

Dad, can we stop for a cooldrink, please, we're thirsty!

At least they willingly shared their loot with Jess and me!

On Safari with a Bushman – Preparation

Having decided “We’re Going” we wanted to keep things simple.

Over-preparation can cause delays, complications and second thoughts! I took long leave (I asked me, I said yes, I hired a locum optometrist, all good). Trish was between jobs – looking after kids was her current full-timer – so she was good to go. Mario serviced the kombi for us and gave me his usual lecture about looking after it. He told horrific stories about his trips up north in 4X4’s and how terrible the roads were. Especially the road between Chipata and Luangwa, ‘the worst road in Africa’. I made a mental note.

And instead of buying all sorts of stuff I bought a . . . . drum roll! . . . .

1975 Bushman Tracker 1 Off-Road Trailer

R27 500. Made in Nelspruit / Mbombela 28 years earlier. It had a stove, a gas bottle, a tent, a mattress, a table, ground sheets, cutlery and crockery, a spice rack and a 45l water tank. What more could you possibly need?

In the kombi I removed the bench seat in the middle row and fitted the single seat for Tommy’s car seat next to the new National Luna 65l fridge (about R6500, if I recall correctly) so we could walk around both sides to the back bench, to which Jessie’s sturdy and comfy car seat was attached.

That back bench seat also folded down to become a double bed, so we could all sleep in the kombi if need be, as I also rigged a removable bed between the two front seats for Jess and for Tom we had a mattress on the floor. While checking the tyres Jacks Tyres showed me a second-hand kombi mag wheel just like mine, so I bought it. Now we had two spares, like rugged okes!

For each of the kids I had a rectangular six-sided mosquito net “cage” made that zipped closed over them once they were in bed and we then lifted up the four corner straps and hooked them to fittings I had affixed to the kombi roof, completely enclosing them each in a mozzie net “Four Poster Bed”.

We were ready to go.

We packed food for three days plus plenty of snacks – Aitch’s forte. The rest we’d get on the way, in line with my motto: Weight is the enemy!

Bass Straits and Dire Straits

Early Sunday morning I roust the lil bastids. C’mon, Up! Let’s go. Off to Inanda Dam where they’re going to slay the bass. Tom, Jose & Ryan. 45yrs of trouble on six legs and, according to them, fishermen of note.

We hire two canoes from Msinsi and off they go. “See you in about two hours, Dad!” shouts Tom as they wobble off.

Inanda Dam fishing (12).jpg

I chill and watch the terrific birdlife. Wrynecks, woodpeckers, waxbills, prinias, canaries, sunbirds, geese, a fish eagle, herons, neddicky, bush shrikes, etc.

Six hours later a weary and sunburnt crew return. They had flattened the eats and drinks I packed and it’s lucky I did: No fish were harmed in the filming of this movie (none were even disturbed).

Lugging the boats back to the boathouse (with much help from Dad) they unanimously decide they would not be doing the Dusi anytime soon.

Inanda Dam fishing (16)

Dusi – The Dusi Canoe Marathon, 120km 3-day river race from Maritzburg to Durban passes by this point on the Umgeni river.


Tommy Burgers

Jess has gone ice skating with friends. Tom says “I’ll cook Dad”. Suits me.

“Come and get it!” he shouts after a spell of loud gangsta rap music blasting out from the kitchen.

“Tommy Burgers!” yum

Tommy Burgers.jpg


Another Year Moertoe

or put more politely: ‘Bites The Dust’.

Woke up to breakfast in bed. The bacon was crispy:


The card was mushy:


Thank you Jessie love!!

Tom was first to wish me. That’s because he got home in the wee hours and woke me to open up for him, giving me a big “April Fool!” as I welcomed him home.

April Fool’s Day started before me! PROOF:

On this day in 1582, the Council of Trent called for France to switch from the Julian calendar. People who were slow to get the news or failed to recognise that the start of the new year had moved to January 1 became the butt of jokes and hoaxes.

These included having paper fish placed on their backs and being referred to as “poisson d’avril” (April fish), said to symbolize a young, easily caught fish and a gullible person.

Historians have also linked April Fools’ Day to ancient festivals such as Hilaria, which was celebrated in Rome at the end of March and involved people dressing up in disguises. There’s also speculation that April Fools’ Day was tied to the vernal equinox, or first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, when Mother Nature fooled people with changing, unpredictable weather.

England had a similar tradition and by the 18th century, April Fools’ Day had spread throughout Britain. In Scotland, the tradition became a two-day event.

Afriski without Aitch

Travelling in the kombi! The T5 1,9TDi’s first trip to Lesotho! Strange travelling without Ma, but she’s decided to skip this one (first time!). She’s on a PE-EL trip for Pfizer plugging cancer products (‘oncology’). It’s winter 2009.

Stopped in at Gogo Mary’s in PMB. Had tea. Kids ‘watched’ a bit, but no “303 Disney” so SABC couldn’t hold them for long.

Tried to phone Pierre in Harrismith. When I hadn’t got hold of him by decision time, I turned for Oliviershoek Pass. We stopped on the pass at the lovely thatched restaurant and the kids did their traditional “Let’s tease Dad” by bringing a long grass stalk. “Don’t pull out the thatch!” I said again to their “innocent look”.

Spoke to Pierre on the way to Clarens. In Clarens I filled up the kombi and the Petrocard topped out at R500 – needed R600. Wasted time trying to speak to Firstcard, but ran out of signal.

Saw Destiny Castle near Fouriesburg. Border uneventful

Afriski PIN chalet. We have taken a small unit this time: Two bedrooms with bath only. No other room, and no self-catering stuff (no room for it!). Turned one bed in my room on its side to make room for the microwave on the bedside table. Checked for blankets: Plenty. Checked the gas hearth: Working well. Gas bottle outside: Full. The room soon warms up. It’s here:


Off we go to the ski shop while its still open to get kitted out with skis. Tom wants to “one-board” but chief instructor Rudi tells him not yet. Rudi (who’s admittedly biased in favour of skiing!) says there’s still lots to learn at eight yrs-old, m’boy. Methinks Rudi regards snowboarders as unruly hooligans.

I book a morning lesson for Jess & Tom with Charles. They get a HUGE welcome from all last year’s instructors: Wessel, Charles, Bronwyn, Rudi, Moruti at the ski lift, etc. Spoilt brats.

Off to supper in the room. Sure, I’m a cheapskate. We warm up a meal of Aitch’s pork sausage n baked bean pie for the first supper.

Jess & Tom are on the slope early the first morning, before the skilift has started.

Can we go up the lift?” they chorused as it started up. Definitely not, says their law-abiding Dad. First, you have your lesson with Charles, then he’ll decide what you can do. “Aaw Dad, go on!” No. No means No.

Next minute Bronwyn arrives: “Hey, guys, you wanna come up the lift with me?”

Can we Dad?” Um, of course you can (Bronwyn is a delightfully sexy, fun-loving, dare-devil, can-do instructor and expert skier who knows what she’s doing and has them sussed, so who’m I to argue!?).

And away they go – first up the ski lift. Jessie with Bronwyn, Tom on his own. Tom going all the way up to the very end of the line where the big knobs and instructors hang out. Jessie starts first, comes down snow-ploughing and zig-zag turning, graceful.


Halfway down Tom zooms past her going head-first straight down, hell-for-leather “Yee haa”.

Overheard at the ski lift: One of the new instructors saying to Bronwyn: “Is this the Tommy you were telling us about?” (this after he left his braking a bit late and crashed into the little hut at the foot of the lift, sending snow flying all over, a huge grin on his dial and waddled off to the T-bar, jumping the queue by about three people).

Later: TomTom: “Dad I weed in my pants”. All the way down the slope. Just couldn’t stop the fun long enough to find the loo!

LOTS of washing and drying of underpants, long johns, ski pant inner and outers. Then drying. Fuckit. Being a Dad is the pits 😉

Another day (early morning): “Dad, my tummy’s sore”. C’mon TomTom, you’re going skiing.

No, but my tummy’s really sore, Dad”. OK you can ski for just an hour.

Suddenly Oops! Projectile vomiting! Five big spews – and NOT ONE on his clothes or on the bedclothes or anywhere but on the floor in a trail all the way to the bathroom.

Tom you’re a super-hero, I said. You didn’t hurl on any of your clothes! Well done! “Thanks, Dad”, he said with a proud smile. And “I feel much better now”.

Our Morning Ritual:

Have a wee – don’t forget that! It’s a mission once you’re suited up! Then it’s thermal unders on; Suits on; Blockout on; Gloves, boots, beanies.

Cereal in the chalet; Muti (Ritalin) after that; Full fry-up breakfast later in the restaurant;  Homework on the restaurant deck;

THEN (at last, Dad!): First on the slopes – “Why do we have to wait?”

Midday sleeps and movies on the laptop. Charlotte’s Web gives a last showing before it locks up (a gift sent from the USA, won’t play again in SA). Charlie & the Chocolate Factory and Polar Express (sent from the UK) won’t even play once for us! Pigs! Thieves!

So The Incredibles and The Little Mermaid have to do duty (only after an Earobics session, though!).

Taking the microwave was a definite win. Rice sachets a big hit for suppers; Hot Milo before bed; The last night we splashed out on a restaurant meal.

Homeward bound we stop for a meal on Oliviershoek pass. Kids get to buy themselves a coolie and sweet in the shop. Joy!

The kombi gets 7,3l / 100km as we cruise along, no hurry, dropping from 3222m on the Mahlasela pass down to (probly) 222m in Westville. Yay! 1,9l diesel!!