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.

 

 

 

Cape Vidal Camping

So I took these –

Cape Vidal Apr17 (50)

to here –

and when they saw these harmless creatures –

they squealed and ran out of the campsite shouting “I’m taking an uber home!”

Cape Vidal Apr17 (71)

’twas like casting pearls before swine . . . .

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.

 

 

‘kinell!

Back when I was running around the country opening SpecSavers stores I found myself in the village of Waterval Boven in a hostelry with a lovely pub. It was run by an Irishman whose brother was famous in the old colonial SABC. Waterval Boven is an amazing place – a rock-climbing mecca. I bought the book called something like “The Menu to the Restaurant at the End of the Universe” which listed all the climbs – dozens of them!

book Waterval_Boven_Guide

Here are two:

Waterval Boven.jpg

Waterval Boven falls

Isn’t that amazing!?

The publican was a raconteur and a wit and a delight. His brother was famous on SABC radio (Paddy O’Byrne, I think?). Seeing me all on my own, he chatted to me and taught me some Irish, of which I have never forgotten “‘kinell“.

As in ‘kinell! (you don’t say! or beats me!). It’s short for fuckin ‘ell.

His hostelry was special:

Waterval Boven Hotel.jpg

As is the whole village:

Waterval Boven village

He fed me guiness, old brown, guiness, old brown. Marvelous.

 

Playing in the Snow

“Dad why are these people playing in the snow?” shouted mu daughter Jessie. This happened in 2014 but to tell the story I have to take you back to 1973:

On my way back home to South Africa from the States in 1973, I flew from Oklahoma City to New York on a Monday in December and asked for a flight to Johannesburg via London. I had flown to the ‘States via Rio, so I wanted to fly back via London. No real reason, sommer just.

‘Sorry you can’t. Your ticket is non-transferable, and the next SAA flight is via Rio on Friday’. The old man had paid for my ticket on his shiny new Barclaycard and had put it over 12 months, so one last payment was still outstanding.

Ooh shit, four days in The Big Apple with no money. Well, about $25. I got $25 a month allowance in Apache from the Rotary club. Seventeen South African Diederiks Ront it was back then, and sixty cents. (R1 = $1.42)

I put my suitcase in a locker, put a quarter in the slot and took the key. Hopped on a bus to Grand Central Station ($2) in Manhattan to look for the SAA offices. ‘Sorry, can’t help’. Hey asseblief man! ‘OK, we’ll try’.

Back to JFK airport to sleep on the floor (the damn benches spitefully had armrests for each seat so you couldn’t lie down on them). Fitful sleep broken by a huge sit-on vacuum and polish machine that roared up at 3am. ‘Move along there’, said the cleaner.

Tuesday I did the same locker-bus-SAA office run, but now I was rather peckish so I strolled around Manhattan looking for something cheap to eat. I found a burger for $3. Not cheap in ’73, but that included as much beer as you could drink, so I thought OK. Big glasses, though, so I could only drink two. Wandered the Manhattan streets with a nice beer buzz going.

Wednesday I did the same locker-bus-SAA-hamburger-with-beers run but this time when I go into SAA at the end of the day they told me ‘Good News, you’re free to go!‘ To celebrate I booked into the YMCA so I could have a shower. $11 for the smallest room I have ever slept in.

Thursday morning squeaky clean on the bus back to JFK and I took the first plane to London: Air India. I grabbed a discarded newspaper lying on a bench before I boarded. Settling into my seat I read:  – “Air India has just been voted ‘Worst Airline in the World’. Again”. Their cabin crew were on strike so admin people stood in for them. The service was non-existent. A lovely much older lass I met on the plane (she must have been all of twenty nine) felt sorry for me and bought me a cold pork pie on the way out of Heathrow. You know you’re no longer in America when offered a cold pork pie. It was delicious, btw. Best pie ever!

I was on my way to meet an acquaintance Don Inglis, who once lived in Harrismith and was working in London for a year, so he knew the place. Turned out he had a rugby match (playing for some Saffer team against the London Irish**) so we scurried around Buck House circle and somewhere else where someone lived or died or married someone, and headed off to Wimbledon for the game in his little Austin something – with five rugby okes squeezed into it.

At the ground the players huddled in a cold shed to change and noticed they were a couple of boerkies short could I play? Sure, I said, but only half the first half, then I had to catch a tube to Heathrow. Thank goodness (it was sleeting outside) Don said ‘Rather don’t risk missing your flight’. So they ran out onto the mud with one blade of grass every ten yards without me and start puffing out steam and shoving some fat Irish blokes around.

Almost like this (not!) –

rugby in snow

Between scrums Don shouted out which tubes and buses I should catch and I left before the halftime whistle to head South after a year in foreign climes. I was very much looking forward to getting home.

Once in the air the SAA koffie poppie gave me lip when I ordered a third beer so I was feeling at home while still thousands of kays away.

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Forty years later (2014) daughter Jessie called out: “Dad why are these people playing in the snow?”
Playing what, Jess?
“I dunno, running around in the snow”. So I go and look: Rugby. London Wasps playing Northampton Saints. The pinkish poms don’t seem to notice there’s a blizzard swirling around their short-pants knees, but I see there’s a Wentzel playing and he’s probably feeling it.

So I explained to her the madness of Poms, and I explained how I hadn’t played rugby in the snow in London long ago. In Harrismith the u/11B’s played first thing Saturday mornings, so I had played on frosty white fields – kaalvoet nogal – but not in an actual blizzard.

My Jess looked at me as if I was stark staring mad. I think she was sorry she asked.

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** London Irish? Old Wimbledonians (below)? I dunno. All Poms look the same to us Africans . . .

Old Wimbledonians rugby