A Splendid Wedding

Raksha Singh had a magnificent full Hindu wedding, and me and Jess were invited! I did a bit of homework as the only other one I’d attended was probably fifteen years ago:

Marriages are made in heaven. Once you are married, the bond is to last for seven lifetimes. Hindu weddings can be long, and various rituals may be held on different days. Every custom and practice in a wedding ceremony has deep philosophical and spiritual significance.  Hindu traditions of marriage vary, but some form of them take place throughout the world.

Raksha and Pratish looked magnificent sitting on stage in the center of the mandap, or wedding altar. A fire burnt brightly in an altar in front of them. The bride’s brother gave her popcorn as a wish for his sister’s happy marriage. Each time, she offered the popcorn to the fire, an offering known as a homam. I kept thinking Don’t let her clothes catch fire! especially when they did The Seven Steps, getting nearer to the fire with each step!

The traditional white horse the groom would arrive on is more often a motorcar these days, and Pratish arrived in a very noble steed: A white Merc 6.3 AMG!

But Raksha trumped him! She arrived in a McLaren 650s – much to Tommy’s awe when I sent him this picture:

The food was delicious and plentiful and everyone was so welcoming and friendly. I had the lucky job of keeping five ladies company: Jess, Prenisha and Yandisa from work, Raksha’s colleagues; Prenisha in a Hindi outfit, Yandisa in a Xhosa outfit and Jess in a Dress! plus Seema and her daughter were also at our table. It really was an awesome day.

Prenisha, Jessica & Yandisa


It’s Just Cos You’re Old

My ole man complains his doc doesn’t even try to help him. He always just says “It’s cos you’re old.” Any problem, there’s no attempt at fixing or understanding – just “Hey, you’re old.” Now I really empathise with people wanting to be heard; I think every effort should be made to hear out 95yr-olds and understand their problems; But I did also suspect that some things – human and mechanical – are simply “because they’re old” – reinforced by Tom’s refrain from The Boondocks: “You’re just mad cos your ass is old.”      SO – although I told the ole man he really should get a second opinion (to which he replied, “I’m going to make one last appointment with him and I’m going to tell him I’m leaving him!” Why? I asked, Just leave. “No, what about his other patients!?  He needs to be told!”), I did also secretly think, Hey, some things can’t be fixed.

So my Ford Ranger – that’s my white 3litre diesel 4X2 hi-rider double cab Ford Ranger – has been a bit noisy, but I was not admitting to it. What? What noise? I can’t hear anything. I once heard a noise and it cost me money.
Then three things happened and forced my hand: One, a very young lady, teenager really, reversed into my left front wheel, BANG. I got out and she burst into tears Waah! I’m sorry! Waah! I’ve had such a terrible day! Waah! I’m going to be in such trouble! I looked at my car: not a scratch. I looked at hers: a dented soft bumper. I said Off You Go. Just Go. As I drove off Tom said Dad! You’re such a sucker! You should have sued her ass! Nah, I said, nothing happened. Then the car starts to shake like its got Parkinson’s. See!? says Tom, I told you. She just suckered you, you should have sued her. We’d gone ten metres and a glance at the young lady, teenager really,’s car showed she’d already gone seventy metres in the shade. She was outta there!  What to do? I pretended not to feel the shake. What shake? I don’t feel a shake; I once felt a shake and it cost me money. Tom just gave an exasperated eye roll and shook his head.

Two, driving up our road with Jess, a cacophony of sound like forty seven tin cans had been thrown under the car made it hard for even me to ignore it. What was that Dad!? says Jess, who usually doesn’t notice anything automotive. Did you throw all your tin cans under the car, Jess? I deflect. No! She says firmly, That noise is from your car, Dad! Jess, I once heard a noise . . oh, hell, I just kept quiet.

The clincher was I had volunteered my vehicle as able to take the nine lady walkers and me to the Zululand walk and I now found out they expected it to drive to the actual beach, then on to fetch us at the next stop and I suddenly thought, “What if it lets me down in front of these grown, not teenage, ladies? That could prove embarrassing.” A 4X4 it ain’t. So I leapt into action: I fixed the left rear door, which hasn’t opened for a year; And I decided I’d give it new tyres. That always makes it look better. The front ones were worn quite sadly. New tyres, I thought, and then the alignment will probably fix all the other problems which are simply a matter of being out of whack after being whacked by a young lady – teenager really.

And you won’t believe what the tyre man told me as he was doing the alignment! Your Shocks Are Fucked, he tells me. Bluntly; Just like that. How dare he? I was still puffing when he scribbled on my tyre invoice “Four shocks” and said “Go get a quote.” Well, I’m a diplomat and they say the meek will inherit the earth without any land claims, so I absorbed the shock and next thing I’m driving away with two new Dunlop with superblue tyres, balanced and aligned and four new yellow Monroe shock absorbers.

And would you believe it!? Silence! Smoothness! Amazing. Maybe things CAN be fixed. I may have to re-evaluate.

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While these shocks were being applied, this party bus was having its wheels aligned nearby:

So I dial the number and a voice behind me says “Are you calling me?” It’s Ndumiso and he’s the owner-dude. Sure, he can do Jessie’s bar for her 21st party, he says. No prah-blim. Ha! Two birds with one stone.

You can see from their bumper they’re probably steady, reliable ous.

Update: NOT. He hasn’t phoned, hasn’t returned messages. I’ll have to play barman.

Honeysucker to the Rescue

* updated *

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

Not me! Not me! Not me! say all three of us, each suspecting 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. Just as well. We don’t want to become known as an effluent suburb!

Sewer Honeysucker Truck

Ours was a boring municipal truck, white and blue, this one from Hillcrest looks better: A pink honeysucker, YAY!!

Tsavo in Kenya

After a slow drive from Mombasa we spent a night at a plush hotel in the metropolis of Voi. There it is in the left background. Don’t let Aitch tell you we didn’t spoil ourselves at times. The dining room had a linoleum floor, plastic chairs and metal tables, no table cloth. It was clean and the chicken and rice was delicious. I had a Tusker beer and that too, was delicious.

Voi, Kenya
Voi in October 1998

Then on to a destination I had looked forward to all my life: Tsavo National Park!

All my life? Just about. We got the quarterly African Wildlife magazines and I eagerly read about Africa’s great parks. I also knew of Bernhard Grzimek’s work in the Serengeti and his book Serengeti Shall Not Die. The great parks I knew and fantasised about included Kruger, Etosha, Luangwa, Masai Mara, Amboseli, Wankie, Ngorongoro, Gorongosa – and Tsavo. I remember seeing an aerial picture of the drought in Kenya and how the vegetation IN Tsavo was worse than that outside the park. The story was it was due to Kenya (Leakey?) refusing to cull elephants and other game. Of course it may have been a story by the pro-culling people in SA’s parks. Who knows? Lots of jealousy and rivalry among the ‘good people in conservation’!

. * Tsavo East * .

Tsavo East gate

Chris and Tilde Stuart, great Africa-philes, chose Tsavo as one of ‘Africa’s Great Wild Places’ in their book of that name, mainly for the huge wild expanse of Tsavo East where you can drive for hours without seeing another vehicle.

Elephant Hills Lodge in Tsavo
Arrival at Elephant Hills Lodge

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Here’s where the underground hide leads down to the waterhole

Driving around Tsavo East was amazing. We hardly saw any other vehicles.

The Galana River in East Tsavo
The Galana River in Tsavo East

Firsts for us were Vulturine Guineafowl, Gerenuks and Lesser Kudus:

 

Lesser kudus & gerenuk - both firsts!

Golden-breasted Starling, Red & Yellow Barbet, Superb Starling & White-headed Buffalo Weaver:

 

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. * Tsavo West * .

 

We saw Kilimanjaro! We weren’t expecting to, but as we drove around we suddenly saw a snow-topped mountain top WAY higher than one would expect through the low clouds; way higher than the hills around us. We realised that it  must be Kili, the world’s highest free-standing mountain!

 

Of course we should have realised we’d be close to Kili, but we didn’t give it a thought. We were in Kenya, Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania, and it just didn’t occur to us! That’s our pic of the low clouds on the left and an internet pic of Kili from Tsavo West. Our view was a glimpse through a break in thick clouds, though.

 

 

Here we also saw the magic clearwater Mzima Springs.

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Tsavo National Park was created in 1948. At approximately 21,000km², it is the largest protected area in Kenya. In the late 1960s, there were approximately 35,000 elephants in the Tsavo region. This population has suffered two population crashes, firstly there was the drought in the early 1970s when many died, especially pregnant females, females nursing a calf or young calves. Independent bulls mortality was lower as they were able to travel greater distances in search of vegetation and water.

The second crash was due to the illegal killing of elephants for their tusks. The bulls who survived the drought were now the victims. Kenya had banned legal trophy hunting in 1977. By the late 1980s, at the height of the ivory poaching era, about 6,200 elephants remained in the entire Tsavo region.

KenyaTsavo national park map

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Makgadikgadi Pans, Khumaga Gate

The Tamalakhane River runs south-west out of Maun and when it turns east it’s called the Boteti. After a while it runs southward forming the western boundary of the huge Makgadikgadi-Nxai Pans National Park.

At Kumagha village there’s a gate into the park. When the river has water in it a ferryman carries you across, one vehicle at a time.

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We were guests at Tiaan’s Camp as Tiaan is looking for someone to help him start a new admin system and Janet’s just the person to do that. I got lucky as they decided she needed to visit him to check out the camp and discuss how Janet’s consultancy could run the project for him. Tiaan is a character. He was once a diplomat although you would never guess that in a game of Twenty Questions. Nor in game of One Hundred and Twenty Questions.

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Tiaan has run mobile safaris in Zambia, Botswana and Zululand among many other places. He has been involved in lodges on the Delta panhandle and has now settled in Khumaga in a camp he built himself with comfy chalets, lovely campsites, a crystal-clear swimming pool and a huge central building housing an open dining area, an open raised deck overlooking the Boteti where 22 elephants came to bathe the afternoon we arrived. And a cool bar run on the honour system. You know, gooi and skryf.

Makgadigadi Pans view from Tiaans.jpg

He has a delightful accent, a mischievous laugh, speaks three languages fluently and has an amazing store of tales from brain surgery to government service to building in Botswana and Jakobsbaai on the Cape West Coast, to safaris, interesting guests, religion, Land Rovers (he’s afflicted with six of them), philosophy and fascinating animal stories. Maybe he does have a diplomatic side, but he keeps it well-camouflaged.

He took us on a game drive in one of his Land Rovers and we didn’t even break down, so he could show us his knowledge of and love for his patch, the very southern end of the great Okavango Delta, just before the waters from Angola sink into the Kalahari sand for the very last time at Lake Xau.

Makgadigadi Pans Kumagha Gate

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The next day Janet and I took the old Toyota into the park along the green Boteti river valley. We found plenty of interesting little things to photograph.

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In between all this there were the gin n tonics, whiskies and Tiaan’s home-made absinthe, generously dispensed.

 

Interesting birds included Double-banded Sandgrouse, Acacia Pied Barbet, Hoopoe, Crimson-breasted Boubou, a young Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, Pin-tailed and Shaft-tailed Whydahs, Red-faced Mousebird, Bateleur, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Blue-cheeked, European and Little Bee-eaters, Meyers Parrot, Goliath Heron and a Grey-backed Camerotera who clacked at me fourteen times. Here are some Lee pics from his website:

Makgadigadi Pans Kumagha Gate-001 (2)

Before this leg of the trip we had been to Mogotlhong.

Mogotlho Lodge on the River Khwai

Ten days in a verdant green Botswana in the ‘off-season’ – or ‘out-of-season’. What bliss. Here’s my lil sis Janet doing our pre-trip inspection of her trusty 1989 Toyota Hilux which clicked over to 400 000km on our way to the community trust area we visited on the Khwai river near where the Moremi and Chobe game reserves share a boundary.

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Janet Toyota Speedo Maun.jpg

We thought of “getting out and pushing it a mile” ala John Denver “back in 1958, we drove an old V8” but we thought, nah, let’s just sing about it!

It was this green:

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In places it was muddy:

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Knee-high grass and lots of water meant the animals were sparsely scattered all over. Even the Mababe Depression was wet. The first time I saw it was 1985 and it was bone-dry. That was also the last time I had been there overland. In-between I have visited Maun and the Delta often, and flown to Kasane, Savuti, Chobe river and Hwange.

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Janet organised it all along with outback trader, photographer and established curmudgeon Lee Ouzman; also with keen wildlife enthusiasts and expert 4X4 drivers Bev and Ash Norton, all hard-drinking Maun locals. I had to smack back the gin to keep up. I’ll add a random few photos taken from Lee’s website (not taken on this trip). His website is worth a visit! Do go and check it out.

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What a wonderful trip. Peaceful and fun with lovely laidback folk and cold beers and gin n tonics! We had all of my kind of good weather: showers, sunshine and massive thunderheads, and especially: no wind; lots of animals; plenty of good birding. My specials included Allen’s Gallinule, Lesser Moorhen, African Marsh Harrier, Rufous-bellied Heron, Kori Bustard.

Night sounds included Pearl-spotted Owlet, White-faced Owl, Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, African Scops Owl, hyenas, lions and elephants. We also saw three lions, lots of eles, hippo, croc, kudu, waterbuck, impala, zebra, buffalo, slender mongoose, dwarf mongoose, tree squirrels, baboons, and one ear-fly.

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The red represents swear-words

We were here: (click to enlarge)

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Map Moremi_Chobe border
in the yellow circle

Back to the metropolis of Maun, and then on to Khumaga after a few days.

Take a Moment . .

. . . to actually stop and think WTF and HOW TF and holy guacomole!

An oke from Pretoria who had the misfortune to be sent to Pretoria Boys Hah – and thereby dip out on a decent, co-ed, normal, non-pervy upbringing* – has just sent his car (which he happened to be involved in the design and making of himself) into deep space.

He took his own car, put David Bowie on the audio player, wrote DON’T PANIC ala Douglas Adams from Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy on the dashboard screen and fired his fuckin own aut OUT INTO SPACE!

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Up into orbit around the Earth, then out towards Mars, but past Mars so that a red convertible will now be orbiting the Sun for the next billion years! Obviously Pretoria Boys High was focused elsewhere in the 80’s while the rest of SA was keen on a big anti-littering campaign.

And there it goes, actually jolling in space, the first open-top car to ever cruise with the whole of Earth showing up outside the window, then fade away in the rearview mirror as Mars grows bigger. As far as picking up chicks goes, its odds are no worse than Pretoria in the 80’s.

Tesla Roadster in space

If you had told me this in the Doories pub I’d have told you:

Shut The Fuck Up and

Sit The Fuck Down

(I got that from my new millenium kids)

Holy shit!

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This is so amazing I can personally only think of ONE WAY in which it could have been made even more awesome:

If they’d fired a grey and grey Opel Concorde Rekord-breaker up with a slightly balding oke behind the wheel drinking Black Label and singing Lou Reeds’ Walk on the Wild Side on the playa and ALICE’S RECTUM written in lipstick on the windscreen – now THAT . .

THAT woulda trumped this.

Not a convertible, a convert-ed – it would have a roof, but same would be dented cos of some maniac jumping on it with a space suit on.

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On board the red sportscar is something very special.

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The Arch – pronounce ‘ark’ for archive – library, created using a new technology, 5D optical storage in quartz, developed by Dr. Peter Kazansky and his team, at the University of Southampton, Optoelectronics Research Centre. The disks are written by a femtosecond laser on quartz silica glass. Data is encoded digitally using plasma disruptions from the laser pulses. Arch 1 is smaller but this new medium is expected to soon achieve a storage capacity of 360 Terabytes – 7000 Blu-Ray Disks! – per 3.75 inch disk of quartz, and is stable for at least 14 billion years under a wide range of extreme conditions. Today this is the best way to store data for billions of years in space.

The Roadster will orbit the Sun for at least millions of years and will likely be the oddest object in the solar system, and thus the perfect place to put an Arch library so that it can be noticed and retrieved in the distant future.

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*maybe not. An interview in Rolling Stone tells of an abusive father, two marriages, two divorces, six kids – where does he find the TIME for all this!?

** We had an ancient goat of a Pommy optics lecturer named Frank Duro who would say “Alice’s Rectum” when anyone fussed. He meant “Alles sal Regkom” – all will be well.