Head North!

On the road less travelled . .

I paid and moved on after posing a big challenge to Swamp Stop’s sewerage system. I’d cooked wors, pap, steak and chicken high sosaties and it took two flushes to get rid of it. Did I say cooked? I mean eaten. Cecelia had cooked it. Also potatoes in foil, butternut and a salad. Her broad beam and broad smile had convinced me immediately that her offer of supper would surpass my intended cold baked beans straight outa the tin. And it did, it was delicious.

Two misbehaving teenage fishermen Peter and Ken (ages 75 and 79) were camped next to me the two nights. I tried to get them to behave, but would they listen? Constant gin, beer, wine and tall tales of the bream they were going to catch. Next time. They did catch some fine tigers and barbel, it must be said. They told frightening tales of the terrible A35 road after I had said the road was fine. ‘No it’s not!’ said the driver of the new Discovery, ‘It’s a nightmare! I couldn’t even go 70,75 towing my Conqueror off-road trailer!’ I had to admit I cruise a lot slower and no trailer, so the road was fine for me. Also, I was driving a 2007 Ford Ranger – Ja, they made the obligatory groans that all envious okes seem to do when I mention this fact.

When I left camp after breakfast (Cecelia’s scrambled eggs) I thought, Can 154 Years of Experience be wrong? so I decided to dodge the now dreaded and newly notorious A35 and get to Nxamasere off the grid, taking a road parallel and nearer the Okavango’s western-most channel. ‘You can’t go that way!’ they told me in Sepupa village but I read somewhere, “All Roads Lead to Nxamasere,” so I felt confident. I think that’s what it said.

And I was right. It was a magic little bush track, smooth sand mostly, and winding along merrily, scratching my pristine 15yr-old paintwork only occasionally. After an hour I stopped for a pee in the cool shade of a magnificent Knob Thorn.

So two magnificent knobs there.

At times the road did seem to peter swanie out a bit, but it would re-appear, and every now and then blue concrete beacons marked WP would appear reassuringly. I thought, If this route goes to Western Province I’m sure it goes through Namibia, and Nxamasere will be en route.

At Kajaja health post two men were building a house right on the road. They gave me a smile and a big wave so I asked them (quickly trying, but failing, to ask them a question that could not be answered ‘YES’). ‘NO,’ they said, You cannot get to Nxamasere this way, you have to take the tar road.’ OK, thanks, I said, I’m sure you’re right, but I am going to try. I’ll see you back here if I fail, to admit to you: You Were Right. They thought that was helluva funny. I started to move off and he said, ‘Wait! Let me ask our father.’ I bowed my head and closed my eyes but he meant his earthly father who was sitting on a chair under a shady tree behind the house they were building. “Dad! he shouted in fluent seTswana, ‘Can one get to Nxamasere this way? There’s an ancient white-haired goat here who is determined not to drive on tar.’ No, said our father, There is no way to Nxamasere that way. ‘Our father says no, there is no way to Nxamasere that way,’ said my man. OK, I said, I’m sure he is right, so I will come back if I get stuck and I will say to you, I admit: You Were Right.

The road meandered on vaguely northwards, maybe a bit more overgrown and a touch less confidently, but on it meandered nevertheless, with an occasional detour and only one bit of gardening needed where a tree had fallen across and needed a bit of a chop, a rope and a backward tug to make a gap. It was surrounded by elephant droppings so maybe those pachyderm foresters had felled it. Still a smooth sandy track, no corrugations, hard enough to not deflate my tyres; occasionally a patch of calcrete which made me think maybe this was the old great north road before the A35? Second gear 30kmh; Third gear 40kmh at times.

Then it did peter out. I took a left detour but that turned back towards Kajaja; a right detour going downhill towards the channel ran into some dongas where lots of sand had been extracted. They call them ‘borrow pits’ – I think that is seTswana for ‘quarry.’

Defeat.

I arrived back in Kajaja with a grin and my men grinned back. Our father waved from under the tree. You Were Right, I said, triggering laughter again, and made my way with my exhaust pipe between my legs to the tar.

And Peter and Ken were right. The road was bladdy awful. Smooth; Straight; Wide; Boring.

Even this donkey felt my disappointment, as you can see if you zoom in on his ass. Terrible road.

~~oo0oo~~

Maun n Surrounds

Kaziikini camp

Boteti River Bridge

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!

MAHEM

M.agical A.vian and H.ysterical E.xpedition to M.emel

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. Then a 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.

– my view of the ropy Nissan –

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 slightly older drinking pals, telling them 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 called policemen copchinskys.

As people arrived everyone greeted Oom Des and he had a cussing and a slur 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. Hai 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, late, but with a 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 thousand 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.

~~oo0oo~~

mahem – the sound this bird makes

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

~~oo0oo~~

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.

Jessie’s Truckload Leaves

Tom’s truckload was the first to leave.

And there goes Jessie’s today! She and her family are looking forward to the fridge and the microwave.

Now they can feed themselves and I’m free to roam! Our household goods divided fairly for the kids to start their own new lives. Yay! Fingers crossed.

~~oo0oo~~

Life without a fridge – first time since forever – and a microwave should be interesting. First meal: Starter, a packet of peanuts & raisins; Main, a camping sachet of three bean salad, crisps and freshly fried home-made potato chips with salt and braai spice. Washed down with a wee bottle of Vergelegen Reserve Merlot 2015 – a gift from Coo Evans. Yum!

Madagascar 2008

(the album has been discarded, here are all the pages for posterity):

– l – r: Dickie, Claire, Bert, Sonja, Tanya, Pete, Trish, Jessie, Tommy – where’s Mowgli? –

~~~oo0oo~~~

The Art of the Game Drive

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.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Presence of Mind

Good photographers have presence of mind. I’d like more of that stuff.

Last night I leaned back in my office chair – director’s or boss’ chair deluxe, high-back, padded armrests – luxuriously and started to put my feet up on my imbuia wood desk. The smooth motion didn’t stop there, I kept going backwards, the high-back cushioned my head as I crashed, the wheels of the chair caught under the desk, sending a full glass of red wine and a plate of fine curried mutton pie and tomato sauce crashing to the tiled floor, along with the PC monitor and my drone remote control.

Fokop. Chair horizontal, desk at 45 degrees, blood on the floor, legs in the air, same air blue with profanity.

A photographer would have taken a great picture, especially as the blood oozed towards my collection of eleven Okavango Delta books I’d gathered together as I’m getting rid of my library.

I very boringly tidied the broken glass and ceramic, mopped the red wine, re-assembled the scattered shrapnel and then thought: Damn! A picture would have been good.

I sort of re-staged it this morning to show how the chair’s wheeled legs tipped up the old desk on the right.

Chef TomTom

Clearing out old emails

On Mon, Nov 22, 2010, Pete wrote:
I felt a snuggle in bed last night. Wasn’t Aitch. Eight year-old TomTom had come through and was spooned tightly against my back.

Later, when I had to roll over he was wide awake.
“Dad” he whispers close to my ear, scared he’ll wake his Ma.
Mm
“I’m hungry. Can I get up and make myself a snack. I’m really hungry.”
He’s 24 kg wringing wet, and his muti suppresses his appetite by day, so I say:
Mm

I wake again to a feeling that it has been some time. I can hear dishes clanking, so I get up and tiptoe to the kitchen, where the clock shows straight up 4am. Still dark outside, but the kitchen neon is blazing.

Lots of kit has been employed and a good dusting of icing sugar is evident on the chairs and the floor.
What? I ask
“Dad” he says, “I’m icing Marie biscuits.”
Have you eaten? I ask.
“Not yet, Dad, but they’re nearly ready.”

“And” he says, “I’ve made my school lunch.”

I didn’t ask.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Steve replied: Doncha just love it. This young man is not only a problem solver but also aware of the necessity for contingency planning. Hope this does not turn into a regular event though.
Our Neil [24] occasionally mentions he is “off to get some food” at the end of a phone chat to him down in Welly. I imagine this would mean most likely pizza, burger or when he is at his most domesticated, a ready-roasted chicken with some breadrolls.
Like you, I don’t ask. 

Sweet

The Old Goat’s usual crap when he phones: ‘What’s for supper?’ Sweet potato, I say. Blah blah, something about the price, always the price. The price here, the price in America, the price.

Ouma used to bake them in the oven with lotsa sugar and some butter, he recalls. I can remember the taste as if it was yesterday.

Wasn’t yesterday. That was a helluva long time ago.

ca.1927

~~~oo0oo~~~

Birds n Ballies

. . and a lower quota of Booze.

Lang Dawid came to visit after decades in the hinterland. Always very organised, he sent bearers ahead of his arrival bearing two lists: Ten new birds he wanted to see; and Three old bullets he wanted to see.

We delivered thirty percent of his bird list: A Red-capped Robin-Chat, A White-eared Barbet and a Terrestrial Brownbul;

Forty percent if you count the bonus male Tambourine Dove that landed in a patch of sunlight, a lifer for Dave.

– Dave’s dove –

All this thanks to Crispin Hemson showing us his special patch, Pigeon Valley in urban Durban. Talk about Guru Guiding! with his local knowledge, depth, anecdotes, asides and wandering all over, on the ground and in our minds. And his long-earned exalted status in this forest even allowed us to avoid arrest while climbing through a hole in the fence like naughty truant schoolboys. Whatta lovely man.

– Crispin scans, Dave holds his bazooka at the ready – turn a blind eye to the bottom left corner –

Then Dave and I retreated home to my patch in the Palmiet valley, where Tommy had cleaned up, readied the cottage for Dave’s stay and started a braai fire. Spot on, Tom!

One hundred percent of Dave’s list of old paddling mates arrived. Like homing pigeons, Allie, Charlie and Rip zoomed in. So I had four high-speed paddlers in their day on my stoep, race winners and provincial and national colours galore. We scared off any birds that might have been in the vicinity (feathered or human), but had a wonderful afternoon nevertheless, with lots of laughs.

After they left Dave and I had braai meat for supper; This morning we had braai meat for breakfast and he was off after a fun-filled 24 hours. I sat down to polish the breakfast remains and another cup of coffee and as a bonus, a female Tambourine Dove landed on my birdbath:

– not Dave’s camera –

A tragic consequence of their visit was an audit of my booze stocks the next day. Where before they’d have plundered, this time I ended up with more than I’d started with. How the thirsty have fallen!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Dave’s camera equipment is impressive: a Canon EOS 7D Mk2 body;
https://www.techradar.com/reviews/canon-eos-7d-mark-ii-review
and a 500mm telephoto lens and his go-to, a 70-200mm lens. His main aim is getting a pic of every bird he sees. He shot his 530th yesterday here in Pigeon Valley. So he chases all over Southern Africa ticking off his ‘desired list.’ A magic, never-ending quest: there’ll always be another bird to find; there’ll always be a better picture to try for.

Here’s an adventure Dave and I shared back when we were bachelors, not ballies. That time it was beer n boobs, not birds n ballies.

~~~oo0oo~~~

~~~oo0oo~~~

Eggnog

Dad, What’s ‘Eggnog?’

Look it up, Jess. Ooh! It sounds good, Dad, it has alcohol and cream and sugar and eggs and nutmeg! Can I make some?

She does, it goes into the fridge and she disappears off to Folweni. So I’m sitting with a big batch of whisky eggnog in my fridge. What to do?

A few days later I spy the Jungle Oats in the pantry and aha! My Scottish blood rises along with me kilt and I think ‘porridge’ and make a big bowl of steaming hot oats and drown it in cold eggnog and add sugar, eating it the Scottish way: HOT porridge, cold milk, lots of sugar, don’t stir, let it mix in your mouth.

Yum, I had three happy breakfasts.

~~~oo0oo~~~

The Goat and the Cow

On 2/8/2021 Collett wrote:

No worries.

Dad had me in stiches last week….wasn’t sure if he was joking until the second letter accepting the refusal, and Sheila re-inforced it was a joke…..he formally in writing asked to keep a cow here in the greens as milk is costing him too much each month….

Kind Regards,

Mrs Collett Doncaster

GENERAL MANAGER

Azalea Gardens Body Corporate

~~~oo0oo~~~

I wondered what he was on about just about a week before:

yob yob ting

You know I tried to get Mary to drink milk, but she wouldn’t. We had a cow, we had our own milk, we used to make cream in the separator right there in the pantry on the plot. But no, she wouldn’t drink milk, and isnt it true calcium builds strong bones?

Ah, I see where this is going. Mom broke her hip last year at age 91. Had she only done as he TOLD HER at age 31, no broken bones, QED.

..

I remember the separator. We called it the yob yob ting. As you turned the handle it went yob yob ting and you could time how fast to turn it by getting into a rhythm. Also the butter churn – I seem to remember the propeller-like paddles inside glass. Maybe like this:

Birthdays!

11 December. Jess is 23 and Tom is 19

Lellos and Lodders spoil them with gifts, lucky buggers. I told them Hey, after thirteen you don’t get any. They just gave me withering looks.

Tom cooked Petrea’s gift – a ‘tomahawk.’ Jess was away, so she dipped out. We waited for her, but she didn’t pitch.

We each ate a huge chunk, had some for breakfast and there’s still a bit left. Delish!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Smoked! I’ll take two please

Here’s a re-post from 2014:

Mother Mary (85 in 2013) went into Pick ‘n Pay looking for smoked hocks to use for making soup.

Two delightful ladies behind the butchery counter looked at her curiously when she asked for smoked hocks.

What?” they asked “Smoked ‘ocks?”

Yes,” she replied, “Smoked hocks.”

No, sorry, we don’t have smoked ‘ocks.”.

But I bought some here last month and made the most delicious soup!” Mary protested mildly.

.

The two of them looked at each other, turned to Mother Mary and the one said decisively, “We have never had a smoked ox in this shop.”

– What!? – oh shit! –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Friend Rita in Cape Town remarked: Reminds of the time I ordered two de-boned chickens. When I went to fetch them, the ladies at the cash desk were having a big discussion about my chickens. Eventually, one said, ‘Madam, we can’t let you have these chickens – they are flat!’

Natural Health Drink

The conifers are a wonderful group of trees including pines, yellow-woods, redwoods, junipers, cypresses, larch and spruce trees.

From the bark and sap of the pine one can distill TURPENTINE; and

From the berries of the juniper one can distill GIN. – . . . sort of . . .

YAY!!

Juniper berries are actually modified pine cones, but fleshy and edible.

Gin was first mentioned in the 13th century (in Belgium – called jenever) and the first recipe for gin was written in the 16th century.

For all our lives we’ve had to drink London Dry Gin.

Now we can drink JOBURG DRY GIN!

YAY!!

Now, don’t tell anyone, but gin is actually distilled from ANYTHING and then that clear spirit is just infused with juniper berries to make it taste (slightly) better. It’s cheap! Shhh

The way they ‘infuse’ it is to sommer bliksem whatever they’re adding, into the container holding the gin (called ‘bathtub gin’); or to go fancy by sort of ‘steaming it with the botanicals.’ Right!

Gin was REALLY popular in London around 1750. Cos it was cheap, it was loved. So much so that there were 7500 ‘Gin Joints,’ and being drunk was called being ‘gin-soaked’ and gin was called ‘mother’s ruin’. In Victorian times Gin made a comeback in ‘Gin Palaces.’ Same thing, but slightly higher-toned.

So tonight we’re drinking – Local; – Anti-malarial; – Convivial – GIN & TONIC

To get gin-soaked and experience mother’s ruin.

And because IT’S MEDICINAL.

Tonic

The poms in India had to drink quinine to stay alive. Being poms, they mixed the quinine with gin.

It tasted awful but they persevered. They’re poms.

Someone began mixing the powder with soda water and sugar. That was a bit better, and thus a basic tonic water was created. That way the poms drank more gin.

The first commercial tonic water was produced in 1858.

So: The mixed drink “gin and tonic” originated in British Colonial India when the British population would mix their medicinal quinine tonic with gin. They’re poms, see.

So remember: IT’S MEDICINAL.

YAY!!

To make Pink Gin or Pink Tonic:
Simply add Angostura bitters, a botanically infused alcoholic mixture, 44.7% ethanol, gentian, herbs and spices, invented by a German doctor in the town of Angostura, Venezuela on the banks of the Orinoco River.

And remember it too, IS MEDICINAL!

Cheers!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Jessie’s Album as Slideshow – Safari 2003

On our trip up north in 2003 Aitch and five year old Jessie kept a diary; when they got home they made this picture album as a memento of the trip. Enjoy the slideshow!

(Slides change every four seconds. To pause a slide, click in the top right corner. To speed it up or to go back, use the arrows).

~~~oo0oo~~~