Mkhuze Peach needs a Balaclava

Later we go on a night game drive in an open vehicle with Patrick, ‘our’ Mkhuze Ezemvelo Ranger. The three of us and a family of four from Durban. On the drive I realise that of the eight people on the vehicle I am the only one reflecting an excessive amount of moonlight from my ‘peachy’ face. Probably scaring the animals.

I’ll have to get meself a balaclava.


Oxpecker collage
Oxpecker collage


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!

Falcon Heavy & Tesla.png

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!


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.

Koos 21st at Kenroy-001.jpg

On board the red sportscar is something very special.

Arch library Disk onboard Tesla_2.jpg

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.


*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.





I Don’t Read Science Fiction . . .

Aitch did.

She introduced me to Douglas Adams’ five Hitchhikers Guide books. For years I just looked at them on our library shelf, stuck in my natural history and science rut. Of course we’ve all read about them and seen many quotes from them, like these:

“In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”

“There is an art to flying, or rather a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.”

“For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons.”

“Don’t Panic.”

“Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.”

“He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.”

“You know,” said Arthur, “it’s at times like this, when I’m trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse, and about to die of asphyxiation in deep space that I really wish I’d listened to what my mother told me when I was young.”
“Why, what did she tell you?”
“I don’t know, I didn’t listen.”

“Space, is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.”

After Aitch died I finally read them. All. Voraciously. How could I not get hooked with those lines and others like this:

“The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t”

I also read Adams’ real-life travel book on vanishing species where he says something about how the rhinos “trotted like boulders”.

I can clearly hear Aitch saying, “See?! I TOLD you! Hmph!”  – triumphant grin, nose in the air.



Adams’ artistic sensibility is both specific and elusive. He can go from distraught to delighted in the space of a modifier. He combines Gary Larson’s irony, Bill Watterson’s wistful idealism, Oscar Wilde’s keen social observation, and Dorothy Parker’s mischievousness. But set in space. In short, he is a genre all to himself.

Jeff O’Neal, 


It bugs me that our “Restaurant” and “Mostly Harmless:” books are missing from Adams’ “trilogy in four parts”, so here’s an internet pic of all five, just because.

Douglas Adams Universe books


Xudum in Okavango

Another trip to the Delta!

Aitch and I flew from Maun to Xudum in 2001 when Janet & Duncan were running the show for Landela Safaris. We landed on the nearby bush strip.


After a few days in camp they had business in Maun and we accompanied them on the drive out of the Delta to Maun in the Land Cruiser. Rickety bridges, deep water crossings with water washing over the bonnet onto the windscreen.

On the drive back to camp after the day in the big smoke of the metropolis of Maun we entered a Tamboti grove and saw two leopard cubs in the road. They split and ran off to left and right, then ran alongside of us on either side for a minute calling to each other before we moved off and let them be.

We enjoyed mekoro trips, game drives & walks and afternoon boat trips stretching into evenings watching the sunset from the boat while fishing for silver catfish or silvertooth barbel – I forget what they called them. Later, wading in thigh-deep water sorting out the pumps. Only afterwards did I think hmm, crocs.

Xudum (5)

Visited Rann’s camp for lunch where we first heard the now-common salute before starting a meal: “Born Up a Tree”.

Janet moved us from camp to camp as guests arrive, filling in where there were gaps in other camps. We transferred by boat, mekoro or 4X4 vehicle. One night we stayed in a tree house in Little Xudum camp.

Okavango Xudum Camp

Lazy days in camp drinking G&T’s

Oddballs Palm Island Luxury Lodge

Getting into the Okavango Delta is awfully expensive.

A cheaper way is to fly in to Oddballs Palm Island Luxury Lodge, get on a mokoro and disappear off into the wild with a guide who knows where he’s going and what he’s doing. In 1993 Aitch and I did just that, spending a night at Oddballs, where you are given a little dome tent to pitch on the hard-baked earth.

You get visitors:

The name is ironic, see (“contrary to what is expected, and typically causing wry amusement because of this” – I made a quick check, don’t want to get ‘ironic’ wrong). While in camp you stock up on the meagre supplies available in their shop, like potatoes and onions; a tent, a braai grid; add it to the 10kg you’re allowed to bring in on the high-wing Cessna 206’s and you’re away! 10kg doesn’t go far when you’re a books, binocs and telescope junkie!

We enjoyed six nights out on the mokoro in the care of a wonderful man named Thaba Kamanakao. We chose to sleep three nights under a jackalberry and three under a mangosteen, minimising packing up and moving. We had little food, but Thaba provided us with the fish he caught in his gill net each night. I ate the barbel and he and Aitch the bream. Lucky me, it was delicious! He also loved barbel, but his lifestyle advisor – a sangoma? – had told him he wasn’t allowed it! The first night we were joined by Pommy doctors Louise and Richard and their guide “BT”.

OddballsOkavango (7 small)

When we moved camp from Jackalberry Camp to Mangosteen or Squirrel Camp we decided we needed a bath, so Thaba took us to a stunning clear lagoon, carefully checked for big things that could bite and then stood guard on the mokoro while we swam and rinsed – no soap, please! (Anyone going: You MUST take a diving mask! Next time I’ll pack some small swimming goggles and an underwater camera. The clarity of that water is awesome).

Beautiful underwater pic by David Doubilet to show what it looks like.

OddballsOkavango Camp
Squirrel Camp

Days were spent birding, hiking, where we were ‘moved off’ by an impatient ele and where we had to climb a termite mound as a herd of buffalo – spooked by Thaba scouting ahead – thundered all around us; short mokoro trips & loafing in camp, where the squirrels and birds kept us entertained for hours. Six lazy, wonderful, awesome days.

After supper Thaba would play the thumb harp and tell / sing stories of life in the Delta and surrounds, including how his adviser had told him to stop eating catfish – lucky for me! I can still hear his musically-intoned intro: “My name, I’m Thaba. Thaba Kamanakao. Kamanakao is surname.”

One night a herd of eles moved in and we lay listening to their tummy rumbles. We kept dead quiet and just peered at them in the moonlight through the tent flap, as they had a little baby with them and we didn’t want to upset mama.

Botswana Oddballs Savuti (2 small)
Still life with Sausage Tree flowers & leaves

Then we headed back reluctantly for a last night at Oddballs. Warm showers under the open sky, big hearty hot meals prepared for us, ice cold beer & gin’n’tonics on the deck watching spotted-necked otters in the lagoon. Comfy chairs.

And suddenly it dawned on us that, even though we did have to pitch our own tent again, Oddballs really IS a Luxury Lodge!

Oddballs (5)


mokoro – dugout canoe; plural mekoro

postscript 2018: This post was found by Thaba’s son, who informed me in the comments below that Thaba the legend had passed away. Damn! R.I.P Thaba; You made our trip unforgettable.

151 Elephants

We spent a few hours in Hluhluwe Game Reserve on my first visit to Jess on her course. We got in for free using our new Rhino Card. For ages now we have battled to see eles in KZN parks. In fact in Mkhuze last year I offered the kids a reward if they spotted fresh ele poo!! Not even the live animals themselves! Nothing.

As always Jess was the spotter: “Dad! Elephants! Stop!” She does NOT want to get close, so we stopped a good 200m away and watched as 30 eles of all sizes sauntered past on a road across a streambed from where we were parked. In another first, I was without my binocs! The last time that happened was 2003. I only had my spares that live in the car, not my proper Zeiss’. Can’t believe what getting ancient does to one.

Then “Dad, there are more” – and then more. And more. They were all headed for the Hluhluwe river so we found an overlook on a bend and watched and counted.

Hluhluwe Jess May17 (24)

Hluhluwe Jess May17 (18)

We counted 150 eles! Our ele drought has been broken. One teenage ele took exception to the presence of the warthogs, rushing them, shaking his ears. They basically ignored him, scampering away at the last minute and trotting straight back to their positions in defiance of him.

On the way out a lone ele ran out of the bush across the road right in front of us, making it 151.