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!

Honeysucker Visit

Dad! Who farted!? exclaims Jess this morning, wrinkling up her nose.

Not me! Not me! Not me! say all three of us, each suspicious that someone is holding back. Or not holding back?

Soon the mystery is solved as we hear a rumbling in the road at the bottom of our garden. Someone must have been full of shit and the honeysucker has come to the rescue. It’s slurping up the neighbours’ overflow, as it were.

Sewer Honeysucker Truck

Ours was a boring municipal truck, this one from Hillcrest looks better.

Last Maputaland Beach Drive

No more driving on the beach!

Our Environment Minister Valli Moosa had at last grasped the nettle and was closing the beaches to hooligans! We approved and time and research has shown it was the right decision. It has had a positive impact on the ecology of the coastal zone, with a recovery of resident reef fish species.

Regulations for the control of use of vehicles in the coastal zone

(Government Notice 1399 of 21 December 2001) published in

terms of section 44 National Environmental Management Act (No. 107 of 1998).

Bruce Soutar was quick to spot the opportunity for a Last Drive before the regulations came in to force, so he gathered a bunch of people to both celebrate and mourn the closure.
Beach Drive (1).jpg

Beach drive-001

We had the Soutar kombi, Kemp Jeep, Gail Pajero, Duncan __ and Swanie Ford and one other –?

Judging Books by their Covers

“Don’t judge a book by its cover”.

A recent quora question “Have you ever had an experience that proves this adage?” got an answer telling of four shady-looking guys who stopped to help a lady stranded by the roadside one evening. Her heart lurched, but they turned out to be great, kind mensch’s, who got her car going and saw her safely on her way.

Reminded me of the winter evening I ran out of petrol in my VW Kombi on the N2 in Cato Manor. And of how people malign taxi drivers, who I happen to admire. They do a damned good job of getting most of the work force to work very day. Our economy would die without them.

It was getting dark, so I hopped out, got my tow rope out, attached it and started flagging down cars. Plenty whizzed past and it got darker. Suddenly there was a guy at my shoulder. “You’re in trouble” he said. With the traffic noise I hadn’t heard his taxi stop behind me.

Damn right I said.”Come, let’s hitch you up”, he said, hopping back in and catching a gap in the traffic, he drove round me, then reversed to where my tow rope lay on the ground.

We couldn’t find an attachment place on his Toyota Hi-Ace and as it was his Dad’s taxi he wouldn’t just attach it to an axle. It would have messed up the soft bumper had we done that anyway.

“Hop in” he said, “Let’s go and fetch petrol”. We roared off to the Engen near the Pavilion centre, bought two used 5l litre containers from the attendants, filled them, paid by card. I then drew cash for my taxi driver good samaritan unbeknown to him and we roared back to my car. We passed it on the south-bound side of the highway, went to the next exit, crossed and drove north, got to my car and emptied both containers into the tank (I had once put one 5l container in and the damn thing wouldn’t start until I’d added a second, hours later, which is why I had bought two this time. Yes, this was not the first time!).

On the drive he told me how he paid his Dad R600 a day (this was about ten years ago I guess) and got to keep whatever he could make over and above. Sometimes zero, but up to R600 on the busiest days. Life was a rush and they were all under constant pressure to keep moving people. He objected when I insisted on giving him some cash but he got over that. What a decent and pleasant chap. And what a relief to get my kombi going and get safely home!

I made (another) vow NEVER to run out of fuel again.

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Taxi drivers are overwhelmingly good drivers who do a great job. There are around 250 000 taxis in South Africa, the industry employs about 600 000 people and they move about 15 million people daily. Yes, they stop anywhere. That’s because they are not buses. No-one wants to drive a kilometre past their nearest point and walk back, like you have to with bus stops. If you were in a taxi you would say “Please stop here”. Cos you’re human. Once you have said “They just stop anywhere!” tell yourself “They just stop anywhere” and then know that they just stop anywhere, expect it and don’t rant and rave when they do. Just give them space, wait politely if you have to and drive on, thinking “Thank you for keeping the economy going”. And if you’re feeling really ubuntu-ish “Sorry I’m all alone in my car”.

Okay?

Skilled At Last!

The fifteen year old has very definite opinions. On my driving he is clear: Sedate, boring, too slow. “Break some laws, Dad!” he’ll urge from time to time. “Just once!”.

So we went to Bluff Meats yesterday Sunday to bulk buy essentials like biltong, roasts, chicken nuggets and his favourite thick aged steaks. On the way back I need to turn right into Old Main Road. As I’m turning I realise Whoa! there’s a big island across the road, we’re actually at a left-turn-only intersection. Too late, I’m committed, gotta follow through. Luckily mine is a high-rise Ford Ranger bakkie so I hop the island and ‘proceed’ hoping no-one I know saw me.

“Cool Dad!’ says the opinionated one. Tonight he follows up with “Hey Dad that was cool yesterday. You were real gangster for a change”.

At last I’ve made it. Acceptance in gangster circles.


Home with the spoils:

Tom cooks.jpg

The Learners Licence Learning Curve

Sat with Jess in the long queue at the Marianhill Drivers Test Centre.

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This time we had all the required ducks waddling in formation like Egyptian goslings (which are ducks, not true geese) and R150 later we had a booking for two days time: Jessie’s first attempt at her learners test!

She came out with a stiff upper lip but it was quivering and when in the car and driving out she dissolved and blubbed ‘I failed!’ – even though we had rehearsed how it didn’t matter, how the first attempt is often failed and how persevering was the main thing. She still didn’t like it and was NEVER going to try again.

But she will.

Ken Gillings’ Hysterical Tours

Dear old Ken died too soon. His tours were hugely educational – and such fun. You had to listen carefully or you’d miss his wicked Sergeant-Major little asides and throw-away comments. We should have recorded them all. Well, here’s one, anyway.

We walked the Fugitive’s Trail from Isandlwana to Fugitive’s Drift. Ken arranged for a local man to take us to the start and fetch us at the end in his taxi – a shiny new Toyota Quantum like this:

Toyota Quantum

On the way we stopped to look at something and Ken ordered us to hop out of the taxi. Then he paused, gave a slight grin and said “You could call that a ‘quantum leap'”.

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Our traipse along the trail was not uneventful. Once again a bunch of pale people were out of their depth. Also, our average age was way above that of the pommy soldiers, and we had no horses. Even though we weren’t being pursued by victorious Zulus, panting was heard and hearts fluttered. Some had to lie down a while.

We walked from the mountain to the river:

Fugitives Drift down in the valley on the left

Fug Drift (39)

We were a bit slower than the fleeing poms at the uMzinyathi (Buffalo) River: Didn’t want to get our shoes wet:

Once again a bunch of bumbling Wit Ous cross the Buffalo at Fugitives Drift

After one tour I thanked Ken for a wonderful weekend and awarded him the Victoria Cross for his brave endeavours:

VC from Isandlwana 21km

The one on the left. I had earned it by running a 21km half-marathon from Isandlwana to Rorke’s Drift.