Hluhluwe Grasslands

Gone.

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.

– same view – 1966 and 2021 –

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:

– crested francolin – beautiful feather patterns –
– one European Roller on an interesting branch –

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?

~~oo0oo~~

R.I.P Yandiswa Luphondo

She was so so special. Cheeky, irreverent, bright as a button, she’d done her bachelor degree in psychology and had just heard she’d passed her honours. Next year she was going to do her Masters, on her way to becoming the clinical psychologist she would have been so good at. Many people would have benefited from consulting with this special lady. She could tease me like few others, and she was wonderful with my kids when they helped out in the practice.

Yandiswa worked for us whenever she could between her studies and raising her little three year old daughter Thia. Whattapleasure to have known her. She was a huge asset to the practice and to us all personally. Astute as well as irreverent she would grin, cock her head to one side and say something that put her finger exactly on what was bothering you, distracting you or amusing you.

And now she’s gone, just twenty five years old. We met her lovely parents for the fist time and could share some of our sorrow and our admiration for their daughter with them. We miss her keenly, as do they. We still haven’t come to grips with her loss.

~~oo0oo~~

In the picture, Yandiswa is in a beautiful traditional Xhosa outfit, Jessica is in red and I’m in my element – at Raksha’s wedding. Prenisha took the photo. Happier days

Mkhuze Mini-Break

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!

I dunno what he saw in there, but he was making an awful racket for a long time – snake maybe?
  • 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.

– Chiromantis xerampelina –

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:

Then I heard a new sound:

– thanks, Cliff and Suretha Dorse on biodiversity focused website

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).

– very little water – full of green algae –

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 . .

~~oo0oo~~

Like a Bucket of Prawns

I’m off!

Or I thought I was. Packed the hebcooler, the book box, the camera bag – now huge with two tripods and a new spotting scope (the main toy to be tested out at Mkhuze’s hides!). Food. Ice bricks from the freezer, the lot. Having been a critic when Jess forgot things, I went through my mental checklist. Nah, I’m sure I have it all.

Oh, clothes and toiletries. OK. Coffee. Right. Charcoal. First aid kit.

Loaded the whole lot in the car then remembered I had undertaken to get my will signed, witnessed and courier’d today. Did that, then had to arrange a locum optometrist to work for us – quick! before he changes his mind! Did that, then remembered I’d arranged to meet the lady who sold all my furniture for final payment. Did that. Then Gugu texted me: Can the girls come for a swim this afternoon in my newly cleaned sparkling blue pool? That did it.

I unpacked, back in the deep freeze and fridge. I’ll leave tomorrow. Early start. The three young ‘uns had a noisy, fun swim, chips and red cooldrink. Perfect day.

~~o00o~~

1988 Albums

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.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Sold!

I just sold my longest-lived-in home. We’ve been here sixteen years. After being given a long fixit list I decided to sell voetstoots – as is. It sold on the day it hit the market – for a song, if you ask me.

Here’s my sequence:

First home Whittington Court. I forget how long, but bought as a bachelor, then Trish moved in ca.1986. When we moved out, sister Sheila lived in it for a while. It was a lovely old one-bedroom flat; big rooms, high ceilings.

.

1989 we bought our first suburban home at the bottom end of the cul de sac River Drive in Westville. A magic place right on the banks of the Mkombaan river. Stayed there fifteen years.

– 7 River Drive –

Then we rented Ian Whitton’s lovely home in Windsor Avenue Westville for about two years.

– Windsor Avenue –

2005 we bought here, a magic home in a cul de sac above the Palmiet river – ‘to be near the schools.’ Now, there’s a story for ya!!

– Elston Place – sold! after sixteen years –

This pic is the house as we bought it – the feature image is Elston Place after our 2011 / 2012 revamp.

~~oo0oo~~

Mary Poppins

‘They gave us supper early. We were saying, Soon They’ll Feed Us At Three.’ I said, In this cold weather if it was me I’d say to you all at lunch: Eat Up! Your Supper’s Ready! so I could get home early. She had a good laugh at that.

‘I played the piano at supper.’ Oh, good. What did you play? ‘The piano’ she says mischievously and laughs. The she sings, ‘Lady of Spain I adore you – right from the night I first saw you … ‘

We would dance to this in the Masonic Hall. Folk dancing. Also to When Irish Eyes Are Smiling. And a Welsh dance and a Scottish reel.’

For Girl Guides I had to play a March for my piano badge. Mrs Steytler said I was playing too fast, the girls marching couldn’t keep up. Then I had to play God Save The King, we were still under the monarchy then, in the Commonwealth. And Elizabeth has gone to hospital for the first time.’

Well, she’s 93, I said, same age as you. ‘Oh, I thought she was Pat’s age, older than me, and Margaret was my age.’ I think she’s 1928, same as you, I said. While we were talking I checked. True’s Bob, Mary was right, Mrs Queen is two and half years older than her. Pat’s age. I was foolish to contradict her. What do I know about poms?

I saw her in Boksburg, you know. She was keen to get back home to the only boyfriend she ever had. Philip.’

~~~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.

Sell

Another chapter begins. I’ll be leaving the home I’ve lived in the longest in my life – sixteen years. The kids were eight and four when we moved in.

How hard can it be, right? You sell, bank the cash and drive off into the sunset. So I called Aitch’s friend and colleague in her four-year stint as an estate agent, Pam.

Pam, You Know What You’re Doing, You Come And Do This.

So you know what she does? She gives me a list as long as your arm! You do this, then you do this, then . . she’s as bad as Aitch was!

So she tells me: Sell your furniture; sell your books; sell the many wall hangings which haven’t hung on a wall for ten years since Aitch went; Fix the cracks, the windows, the doors, the ceilings; Paint – a lot; Rip up those carpets; New light bulbs;

Yes, Pam.

Mow the lawn – WHAT!? Now you’ve gone too far!

Hell, if I didn’t do all those things for us, why should I do them for strangers? Cos you want to sell the house, Pete.

Oh

– bookshelves half empty now –

Sold!

I decided I’ll never get this done, so we put the house on the market “as is” – its called voetstoots in South Africa. And on that very day we got two offers for the full asking price. A week later their finance was approved and so I asked ‘Must I Leave Now?’ No, they said, it takes about three months before you’ll have your money! Damn!

Now it is very real and I sat Jess and Tom down and broke the news. They picked what they wanted from the house, a truckload went off to Tom’s rented rooms:

– Tom’s truckload departs –

Jess wants less, but the other fridge and microwave will go to her.

(later: Have now gone to her).

~~oo0oo~~

Aitch Art

I have spoken about Aitch being an art connoisseur before, here and here. I have also referred to the possibility that I might have philistinian tendencies; or plebeian judgement.

Some months after she died in July 2011 I found a parcel very well wrapped up and secure; cardboard, brown paper, parcel tape and well bubble-wrapped inside.

Inside were two beautifully framed botanical prints by an artist I had never heard of – Ha! of course I hadn’t. But Aitch had! . . and an invoice.

I gasped: HOW MUCH?!!

Just two and a half months before she died she was still investing in things she considered were beautiful; and would go far and grow. Given time.

Bless her.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Trying to sell them not so easy. So far I’ve had an offer of R1000; no reply from the gallery she bought them at; another art gallery said “try an auction house.” I’m gonna keep them for when I get a new place one day. Then I’ll hang them up and ignore them again.

More on Sibonelo Chiliza here and here and here and pictures of a few of his works here.

Watch the Trailer

It contains important fiscal lessons and warnings.

A while ago I decided to sell my offroad trailer. It cost me R27 500 but it is a 1975 model so I advertised it for just R10 000. A guy from gumtree offered me R4000 and I told him, ‘Sack! What you thinking!’

Years later its still parked on the lawn and so when a guy said ‘Hey! What’s that trailer, wanna sell it?’ I said maybe. I’m thinking : It has such character, I’m picturing it on the beach in Mocambique, and it has a fitted stove and a fitted water tank with tap and a grocery cupboard and all crockery and a tent and a ground sheet and . . I’m thinking:

Why was he leaning in and examining it so closely? Was he checking for rust?

I can give you R700,’ he said. ‘See, it weighs 640kg and the scrap dealers only give us R2 a kilogram.

I told him, ‘Sack! What you thinking?’

~~~oo0oo~~~

sack – short for foosack, English for voertsek, Afrikaans for fuck off!

I mean . . did he even factor in the value of that gorgeous brass tap?

~~~oo0oo~~~

update: SOLD!! to the gentleman shouting ‘Old Scrap! Old Scrap!’ for the princely sum of R600 – and that after I’d filled it up with plenty of other stuff I needed to get rid of.

So the Salesman of the Year Award goes to . . anyone but me.

~~~oo0oo~~~

sadder update: I finally got it off my name (‘scrapped’ – they call it de-registered) for a mere three times the cost I sold it for!

Breeding Afoot

Here’s hoping the Black Flycatchers breed on the old stoep again, Last time was in a cycling helmet; before that in the bougainvillea creeper that has been removed. This time a plastic flower pot modified and mounted for the purpose.

They have filled the pot with nesting material and the female is starting to spend more time in it. She’s there in the the top right close-up pic, you can just see her tail.

Here are the nests from years gone by, in the creeper and in the helmet:

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. 

Mtentu Paradise

Friend Rohan owns Detour Trails and arranges the most amazing bespoke mountain bike holidays all over Africa. We joined him Easter 2010 on a ride from the Mtamvuna River to the Mtentu River. At least I did. Aitch drove the kids to Mtentu in the kombi (or maybe in friend Craig’s Colt 4X4 – not sure).

Both hands on the handlebar, so no pics of the ride. I only fell off once, and no-one saw. On the way we stopped for a refreshing swim in a clear deep pool in a steep valley.

Once we got to the magnificent Mtentu River mouth (see the feature pic above) I abandoned my bike and joined the family for lazy hiking, while the keen MTB’ers rode out and back each day.

An easy stroll across pristine coastal grasslands took us to where the Mkambathi River drops straight into the sea at high tide.

At low tide the falls (very low flow here) drop onto the sand of a beautiful beach. Tommy knows there’s bait under here somewhere for his fishing!

– the little bay half full – at Spring low tide the whole bay is beach –
– the falls at high tide – another time – also low-flow winter –

Everyone loves this little bay. Aitch, Jess and Tom each had a spell where they had the whole beach to themselves: (click on pics for detail)

– our Jessie really knows how to baljaar!

Upstream along the Mkambathi River you find Strandloper Falls. The last time we’d been we said ‘Must Bring Our Diving Masks And Snorkels Next Time!’ – and we remembered.

– smaller falls on the way upstream –
– Strandloper Falls –

Then we strolled back:

Back on the Mtentu River, Rohan had kayaks for us to paddle upstream in search of another waterfall

Then back downstream to the Mtentu mouth

Paradise – three hours south of Durban. There’s a lodge there now, so it’s even easier to stay.

~~~oo0oo~~~

baljaar – frolic

Late Lunch?

That’s different, I thought. Something had zoomed into the Albizia at speed and the birds had scattered.

A juvenile Little Sparrowhawk. She sat for a while peering around and up and down intently. To me it looked like she was on the hunt. Then she darted off in a flash. I hope she got something to eat.

Meanwhile the Hadeda was unfazed, gathering nesting material.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Spring Sprung

Spring birding has been great. Some poor but fun pics of what’s been buzzing about.

– Cardinal Woodpecker – only one, but I inserted him three more times using FastStone –
– three birds in one shot! – top Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Spectacled Weaver and female Black Cuckooshrike bottom – I added in a clearer pic of the cuckooshrike –
– Yellow-bellied Greenbul – left one is same bird added in (a bit small!) – insert was nearby – there were three of them –

Above: Cape White-eye and African Firefinch – Spectacled Weaver – Olive Thrush

– the Lodders came to visit and Louis casually shot a Grey Waxbill while we were talking – see in the inset how she flashed her scarlet rump lingerie at Louis –

Below: A Pegesimallus robber fly; The tail hanging down from the branch? A vervet monkey; Temnora marginata (a sphinx moth); Ceryx fulvescens (yellow sleeved maiden moth); and – the white moth possibly a citrus looper? Thanks, iNaturalist.org for help with identification.

The female Black Cuckooshrike returned and I got a better view. Pics are poor as I took them through my dirty window rather than open up and spook her. One bird, I compiled this montage with FastStone again.

~~~oo0oo~~~