Build-A-Boat

When we grew up outside Harrismith ca 1959 we couldn’t use the lounge. The lounge was filled edge-to-edge by an upside-down speedboat. The old man built his first speedboat in this lounge, shown below many decades later:

1990 Birdhaven Mum, Dad & Sheila

Younger sis Sheila, in the picture with Mom & Dad, says he also built that fireplace.

Then, after we’d left home and Mom & Dad had retired, he developed another urge to build a boat. Luckily this time in a boatyard with the help of boat builders.

1990 April Dad's newly built boat0002

On a cold winter’s day ca1990 we took it, shiny new, for a spin on Sterkfontein Dam outside Harrismith: Me, Dad, two Eskimos and a semi-eskimo.

Trish eskimo, Mom eskimo, Dad, Sheila semi-eskimo

1990 April Sterkfontein 50002
Dad, Mom, Trish & me – pic by Sheila

We zoomed over the spot where Mom estimated her old farmhouse was – on Nuwejaarsvlei, where she grew up.

 

 

Childhood Trauma

Back in 2005 our kids were quietly acquiring wisdom and knowledge (and singing and dancing skills) from an impeccable source – me – when they received a setback: A weekend visit from the Brauer at 10 Windsor Avenue. Old Pete visited. Luckily with Terry.

The bribery started immediately:

Brauers visit 10 Windsor (1)

It took effect:

Brauers visit 10 Windsor (2)

Precariously, reluctantly, ominously (more words here) I had to go to work Saturday morning. I KNEW this did not bode well. Indoctrination intensified in my absence. Sugar-laden indoctrination.

 

When I got back it was too late. You think corruption is bad nowadays? It was worse back then: The kids were now calling HIM Clever Pete and ME Old Pete!

It took a long while for Tom to recover:

Oh, no! The Brauers are coming?!

I don’t think he was – I sure hope he wasn’t – bemoaning the fact that fate had given him a paleface barber who obviously didn’t know what he was doing.

Sole Searching Wild Coast Walk

Driving south to the Wild Coast I glanced down at my feet. Right foot on the accelerator, left foot chilling next to the clutch. No shoes. Barefoot.

OK, I’d forgotten to take shoes on our six-day beach walk. Too late to turn back.

It was fine. I’d make do. I said nothing. Didn’t want Aitch cackling about my dodgy 49-yr-old memory glands. I’m not known for being a meticulous packer or planner, so what the hell . . I was used to making do.

Reflections on the Wild Coast
Reflections on the Wild Coast

It was April 2004 and our hiking route was southward. From Kobb Inn about 60km to Morgan Bay. Another group would head north at the same time and the organisers saw to it we met up and swopped vehicles so ours would be waiting for us in Morgans Bay at the end of the hike. Slick. Good friend and colleague Allan Marais happened to be in the other party so he drove my diesel VW kombi and I drove his petrol 4X4 Mitsubishi. He messaged me that evening: “All’s well. Your kombi is parked outside the hotel. I filled it up to the brim with petrol”.

Luckily I know Allan Marais, so I simply replied, “Great. I filled your Mitsi up with diesel. Also to the brim”.

We’d be staying in hotels and cottages on the way. Slackpacking! What a pleasure! Good weather, lonely beaches, light daypacks with only water and lunch in them. Friendly local people acted as porters on each leg and carried our real packs ahead of us. Cold beers, good meals and comfortable beds awaited us each night.

Wild Coast walk_2004 Candys Beach Hse (4)
Tom and daughters, Taylors, Swanies, Gayle & Janice and our porters

Wild Coast walk_2004 Kobb Inn (18)

Past the Jacaranda thirty three years after its 1971 stranding:

One day was really windy. All the rest were clear and calm. We kept Africa on our right and the Indan Ocean on our left and sauntered along blissfully.

Wild Coast walk_2004 Wild Coast (23)

There’s nothing to eat here, there’s nothing to drink here, so what’s up, bovine beauties? Beach comfortable to lie on? Looking for a furry tan?

Wild Coast walk_2004 Wild Coast (9)

River crossings – by boats and wading

Wild Coast walk_2004 Wild Coast (31)

Janice had to fly home a day early from a little airstrip near the beach. Work! The curse of the drinking class. There she goes; look, she’s waving:

Wild Coast walk_2004 Janice flies early

Morgan Bay with its spectacular cliffs

Wild Coast walk_2004 Morgan Bay (2)

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And shoes? Didn’t need ’em. I walked barefoot most of the way, slipping on my yellow flip-flops when the rocks got pointy. Mostly it was beach sand or smooth foot paths, really easy on our feet.

wild coast map.jpg

See the tiny portion we walked. Friends walked from Port Edward to East London in 2016. Way further, and carrying all their kit! Allie Peter and Mike Frizelle wrote about it. A lovely and highly entertaining read of ancient old goats staggering from shebeen to shebeen fuelled on Transkei dumpies, Wild Coast weed and cataflam. Especially cataflam!

Allie Mike Wild Coast Hairy Hikers

Possible Lost Opportunity

In the shadow of old Platberg this weekend I sat down to lunch with an array of superb swimmers at my table. On my right was Sonja du Plessis, Top Ten swimmer; and on my right was Lyn du Plessis, Top Ten swimmer; and on my right was Pierre du Plessis, Top Ten swimmer. And that got me thinking of the days I’d line up next to the pool and on my right there’d be nobody. Nobody.

That’s because I’d fought (and easily won, you’ll see why) for the right-most lane in the shallowest part of the pool at swimming lessons. On my left was Francois vd Merwe, coming up to my navel; and on my left was Deon Joubert, coming up to my navel; and then some even shorter girls; That blerrie whistle would shriek, they’d dive in and I’d jump in – bravely; I’d sink to the bottom – very bravely – then kick powerfully off the bottom in the direction of the distant other side of the pool. We were swimming breadths. The older kids – some of them as old as my younger sister Sheila and the even-younger Sonja – would swim lengths.  A few kicks off the bottom and much spluttering and gasping later I’d finally get to the blessed sanctuary of the other side of the pool just short of an asthmatic panic attack, sometimes even earning a podium place – well, if there were absentees due to coughs and colds and Harrismith’s notorious cold weather.

At about the same time I was also not a rugby player. I was in the u/11 second team it’s true, but that’s because there were 29 players and number 29 clearly deserves his place in the second fifteen-man team, nê? So although you could honestly say I was there on merit, there are also lots of other things you could say and I caused poor Giel du Toit much sadness and despair. But at the end of the season, a long season in which he had given me much encouragement and sympathetic ‘moenie worries nie’, he did an amazing thing. He did not say ‘Luister volgende week is netbal proewe, nê?’ No. What he actually did, I swear, this is Giel’s gospel and it is amazing. He had a rush of something to somewhere and he made me captain of the u/11B team for the last game of the season.

So there I was two days later, in Vrede, barefoot in orange, holding the ball and running onto the field at the head of an orange line of fourteen laaities doing something I almost never got to do: Holding the ball.

The rest is history: I scored the winning try against the olde enemy; I grew five inches that summer; the next winter I was the tallest oke in the u/13 team; and I scored the winning try against Grey College in the last game of that amazing season. So although Giel may have fluked it and definitely didn’t have anything to do with my growth spurt; and although he may have thought that was going to anyway be my last rugby game ever, he nevertheless changed something in my brain that day. It didn’t last long, but was fun while it did.

And thinking about this long-forgotten little tale, sparked off by sitting amongst those swimmers which, let’s be honest, may have sparked off a Caster Semenya-like debate had DNA testing been available – I mean did they have mermaid genes? dolphin genes? – made me think something else: Why didn’t Joan and Joyce think of something that could have sparked me off Mark Spitz-like? I dunno: Maybe choose me to hand out the oranges at half time at a gala or something equally inspirational?

Makes you think. Joan and Joyce may have missed a big one here.

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nê? – just nod; except, not about the netbal

‘moenie worries nie’ – tut tuts

‘Luister volgende week is netbal proewe, nê?’ – Look, you don’t have a talent for rugby, OK? maybe you can sing?

laaities – athletes of note

Sheils & Bess.jpg
Length swimmers at the scene of the torture

 

Phelophepa! – Good Health!

‘phelophepa’

A combination Sesotho / Setswana word, it means ‘good clean health’.

I had volunteered on the train before, in Bergville; Now Trish and I joined it in Underberg. At the time it was a pet project of Jannie Ferreira, optometry professor at RAU (now the University of Johannesburg). So it was full of RAU students. We had a kombi and on the way up from Durban to act as volunteer supervisor, we repaired to the bottle store and bought champagne, thinking we’d load everyone up and drive off to where we could watch the sun set and quaff champers.

Well, we did that, but well after sunset, as we couldn’t stop till we’d seen the last patient. No way we were going to say, ‘Sorry, come back tomorrow’ to poor people who had come from afar.

Phelopepha (1)Phelopepha (2)

After that we went to a farmhouse (the local vet, I believe) where were treated to a lovely braai.

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There are now two Phelophepa trains and the services it provides have increased. Long may it thrive and arrive at remote stations to provide needs and care and happiness – both to the people waiting at the sidings and to the students onboard.

 

 

Oddballs, Then and Now

Its gone wimpish! Actually Oddballs is still a wonderful, more affordable way to see the Okavango Delta and this post must be taken with a pinch of salt; My tongue is in my cheek;

This is classic “The Good Old Days was better” bulldust.

When WE went ca. 1990 we had to take our own food! But because there’s a 10kg limit on the Cessna 206’s and because one has to take binoculars, a telescope, a tripod, a sleeping bag and books:

Jess Zululand Course Books

I exaggerate, these were Jessie’s books for her field guide course last year, but still: weight. So we took very little food. At Oddballs we bought their last potatoes and onions and then we pitched our tent. Not like these wimpish days when the tent is pitched for you on a wooden deck with shower en-suite!! We were like this:

OddballsOkavango (14 small)
Good Old Oddballs

Communal showers:

Yes, actually, Oddballs IS a luxury lodge!

Nowadays New Oddballs is soft and squishy:

New Oddballs
New Oddballs

Here’s Aitch in the Old Oddballs Palm Island Luxury Lodge – and the wimpish new arrangement!

 

Luckily, the rest is still the same! You head out on a mekoro with a guide who really knows his patch:

OddballsOkavango makoro

You pitch your own tent on an island without anyone else in sight:

OddballsOkavango Squirrel Camp

And you enjoy true wilderness. When you get back, Oddball really does seem like a Palm Island Luxury Lodge:

Oddballs (5)

There’s a bar, there’s ice and cold beer, gin and tonic. You can order a meal! And – NOWADAYS! – a double bed is made up for you, ya bleedin’ wimps!

Go there (or here) NOW!!