The 258km from Harrismith to Parys via Weiveld takes six hours to negotiate if you haven’t yet seen a korhaan and you need to see one.
This includes a stop for steak egg and strips at the Royal Hotel in Reitz. Instead of strips I got potato wedges crisply fried in batter. Yum!
Here’s the route for slow pokes not in a hurry:
The roads are really quite good mostly. There’s a section between Petrus Steyn and Heilbron where the ANC oke who got the pothole tender must have pocketed the money and not delivered them. It’s smooth and kinda first world! He’s gonna be in trouble. The dirt roads are also mainly fine, but can get rough, and in the dips they get more interesting, as they’ve had some rain. Mud and some deep pools.
I saw my korhaan at last. Not the Blue, which I’ve been searching for, but the Northern Black Korhaan. Also a few Namaqua Doves, a favourite. Pics from my Newman’s Birds app.
Heavy storms are predicted but I had only a few showers on the way.
The feature pic is the view from my B&B on the left bank of the Vaal (not the Seine, silly!) in Parys, Free State. Paddling mate Chris Greeff had told me about this lovely rapid in his home town. Read a bit about him here. There’s A LOT more – Greeff should write a book.
Very warm in bed in Mistique Waters guest house on the banks of the Vaal after a hot bath. Tomorrow the streets of Paris!
It takes five days to go the 250km* to Harrismith from Westville. This is because you visit friends along the way. First, there were leaving formalities with amazing friends and supporters Petrea and Louis Lodder:
First stop Jenny & Tabs Fyvie in the Tala valley; My luck it was Justin’s 40th and Caitlin had baked a cake! Hayley also arrived and there was a flock of very deja-vu Fyvie-Mandy looking kids running around. What a busy happy extended family household! Tabs and Jen are hugely experienced travellers and campers, so I got a bit of Kruger Park advice and info, Kruger being one of my intended destinations. We did an inspection of their alucab camper with rooftop tent on a double-cab Landcruiser. I’ll pick their brains again when it comes to solar power, batteries and fridges.
On to the Rosetta Hotel as it was getting late. They were having a St Patricks night – lucky me again. I washed down a huge eisbein with sherry, a large Windhoek draft, a pint of guinness for Oirish luck, and a glass of house red – *burp* – then to bed in a huge warm room. In the morning I swallowed their substantial all-in breakfast.
To Mandy & Carl Reitz on their farm The Bend on a big bend of the Tugela river and a view of the high Drakensberg from the Sentinel to Cathkin Peak. What a fantastic three days I spent there. We laughed a lot thinking of how clever and beautiful and irresistible we were in those far-off alcohol-fueled days when The Bend was our mecca for sex drugs n rock n roll and variations on those themes.
I did lotsa farming with Kai in my normal fashion: Sitting in the passenger seat and nodding. Kai knows better than to take farming advice from me – he has had experience of me as a temporary deputy farm manager! He drove me all over his farms and the district and we took walks in the mud – they’ve had good rains. A special sighting was a large grey mongoose – the ichneumon or Egyptian Mongoose – running into cover; too quick for my camera.
Durban friends Greg & Roly Bennett had been to their old farm Oppermanskloof on the Geluksburg road to scatter their Mom’s ashes. I met them near Bergville where Roly and I had a great laugh remembering our young n clever daze; – His seconding us on the Dusi canoe marathon, doing a fine job on the first overnight stop, handing us cold beers, deckchairs and a hot meal; sheer luxury! On the second night we couldn’t find him: He had disappeared into the pub leaving us to fend for ourselves; – Water-skiing on Hazelmere dam where I dropped the tow rope as I rose out of the water behind Greg’s 220hp Yamaha outboard; The boat made a tight u-turn and came back to me. When I told them I’d pulled a muscle Roly roared with laughter and said, Swanie you couldn’t have pulled a muscle, you must have pulled a fat! Skinny bastid – he still doesn’t have calf muscles.
Next through Geluksburg and up Middledale Pass into the Vrystaat.
A lovely welcome from Leon & Elsa Strachan on their farm Nesshurst where again I was shown all over and fed and entertained royally. I forgot to get a pic of their beautiful big guest çottage on the banks of their dam.
I must ID that interesting plant. Then I got to Harrismith to Pierre and Erika du Plessis to stay in their lovely home. I have been so spoiled by Erika, and Aletta and Paul, her two helpers. Yesterday I heard a scream from Aletta in the garden. I rushed out to find she’d been stung by a wasp jealously guarding his spider prey on the lawn!
Next post: A fascinating trip to Memel.
* 250km as the vrou cries – or crow flies – a bit further if you insist on going ‘on the ground’
Back in the winter of 2020 we tracked the approaching Okavango flood. Now here’s news of the summer rains. Up in the North East of Botswana, Pandamatenga had over 200mm of rain in about one day! As with the flood footage, this comes from Janet in Maun, via her network up there. This time her friend who farms outside Panda.
This water has fallen in the Zambesi catchment, so it will run off to the NE, cross the Zimbabwe border north of Hwange game reserve, flow into the Matetsi river and then into the Zambezi below Vic Falls. The flood will benefit nature, but we will complain it has ruined our ventures. But floods like this are a normal occurrence, though possibly higher than usual as we are changing our climate faster than we can cope with.
Fascinating stuff! That area can be dry as anything, but periodically it can get inundated showing us what it is: A floodplain, a drainage course. This is clearer when looking at it from high above. See the google earth view. It looks like a lake now because of changes we have wrought, such as building up the road, effectively damming the drainage course.
Here’s a pic taken by Janet’s Dad Neil out of a plane window of the kind of rain dump / cloudburst that can dump so much rain all at once:
I enjoyed my stay in Hluhluwe. I stayed in Hilltop camp in the old rondawels that were built in the fifties or sixties. About sixty years ago.
They’re very comfy now, with a ceiling fan, big cupboard, fridge, cutlery and crockery and cooking utensils, power points, lights, washbasin with hot water, kettle. And aircon. The bed linen was luxurious, fresh and clean and seemed brand new. The kitchen and ablution building is shared by all. The shower had hot water.
I spent both days there in the camp, no driving. The bushy hills where once there was grassland is not a good sight, so I elected to walk the camp forest – much of which was also once grassland!
Top right the Tassleberry tree has the most tassles I ever saw. Bottom right the Grewia shows why its called a crossberry. Click on them for a better look.
A beautiful old paperbark Commiphora had an interesting hole-in-the-bole, so I zoomed in: Bees, honeycombs and a butterfly that went back again and again despite the bees buzzing her.
Some flowers I lazily havent yet identified:
As I said, I enjoyed Hluhluwe, but I don’t think I’ll go back in a hurry. The disappearance of the grasslands ruins it for me. I wonder if there’s an eco management plan for Hluhluwe?
Lovely three nights in Mantuma Camp at Mkhuze game reserve in Zululand. Nothing much happened, animals were not plentiful, the grasslands are still sadly bush-encroached, but the birds, insects and plants more than made up for that. So as not to moan about Homo sapiens vaaliensis polluting the lovely hides with farting, phone calls, smoking and loud shutter clicks of the cameras with more computing power than their owners, I have politely refrained from commenting and instead played some games with the rather ordinary pictures I took with my phone and my pocket Canon. Enjoy!
this tiny little spider on my rearview mirror elongated himself to look like a mini octopus when I came too close –
At last an ele in Mkhuze! I was beginning in the last few years to think there weren’t any left. There must be very few, anyway.
At Kumahlala hide, after an hour of being alone and quiet, the Foam Nest Frogs started up a chorus. Took a while, but I found one up on a twig just outside the hide and got a pic of him. I wish I had thought to tape their call – a lovely loud chorus – I’d guess about four of them doing a fine barbershop quartet! Here’s a shy soloist:
Found a new frog! I went through my frog calls: A Rhythmic Caco – Cacosternum rythmum. I must look for a picture of one. I couldn’t find him in the flooded grass in the waterhole. He is little over a centimetre long, mind you. Another name for them is Dainty Frogs.
Sunset at Masinga Waterhole: The sun sets behind the big old Boerbean tree that was probably already there when I first visited ‘Mkuzi’ in 1965. The hide wasn’t here then. The famous Bube hide was the ‘in place’ then, just a few hundred metres away (north, I think).
Driving out of the park to go home, a bushveld scene: Stripes and horns and a few egrets hanging around, hoping for some disturbance to happen. I ”shopped’ in the lily into the foreground, as it was lonely in its own picture with nothing around it. And it was nearby . .
Or I thought I was. Packed the hebcooler, the book box, the camera bag – now huge with two tripods and a new spotting scope (the main toy to be tested out at Mkhuze’s hides!). Food. Ice bricks from the freezer, the lot. Having been a critic when Jess forgot things, I went through my mental checklist. Nah, I’m sure I have it all.
Oh, clothes and toiletries. OK. Coffee. Right. Charcoal. First aid kit.
Loaded the whole lot in the car then remembered I had undertaken to get my will signed, witnessed and courier’d today. Did that, then had to arrange a locum optometrist to work for us – quick! before he changes his mind! Did that, then remembered I’d arranged to meet the lady who sold all my furniture for final payment. Did that. Then Gugu texted me: Can the girls come for a swim this afternoon in my newly cleaned sparkling blue pool? That did it.
I unpacked, back in the deep freeze and fridge. I’ll leave tomorrow. Early start. The three young ‘uns had a noisy, fun swim, chips and red cooldrink. Perfect day.
I gave a talk in the Kruger Park once called The Art of the Game Drive. It was magnificent, complete with exciting sightings and livestreaming. Pity was, I had an unappreciative audience. Well, they were from behind the boerewors curtain, so . . you know how they are.
It almost sounded like they had a pet monkey with them, as they kept muttering Ari Aap as I drove them serenely in quiet splendour and exquisite comfort in my VW Kombi 2,1 in subtle camouflage blue and white. But you won’t believe this, when I stopped to examine old poo there was audible sighing. Philistines. The talks are still wildly popular* but I notice none of that particular batch were ever repeat guests. And I mainly have repeat guests.
*Jessie has been a repeat guest dozens – scores – of times. She can appreciate the Art of the Game Drive. Specially if she has her phone, her music and noise-cancelling earphones with her.
(A re-post with added pictures, as I throw out paper photo albums after copying and uploading. Major un-cluttering happening as I prepare my home for the past sixteen years for sale. Next chapter about to begin!)
Another trip to the Delta!
Aitch and I flew from Maun to Xudum in August 2001 when Janet & Duncan were helping Landela Safaris run their show. We landed on the nearby bush strip. We had been before, in January 2000. This post has pictures from both trips.
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, earning my keep as a guest of the lodge managers. Only afterwards did I think hmm, crocs.
Visited Rann’s camp for lunch where Keith and Angie Rowles were our hosts. That’s 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.
Lazy days in camp drinking G&T’s
Here’s Trish’s paper album – photographed and discarded:
Later Xudum was taken over by super-luxury company ‘&Beyond.’ OTT luxury, and R15 000 per person per night! Very different to the lovely rustic – but still luxurious – tented camp it was when we were there. Should ‘conservationists’ really be using miles of glass and wooden decking and flooring in the bush!? Methinks rich spoilt children are doing the designing for Daddy’s company and perspective has flown out the canvas-zip window and crashed into the plate glass floor-length picture window.
In May 2019 it burnt down. Had it been canvas there’d have been less pollution from the fire and the re-build.
Friend Rohan owns Detour Trails and arranges the most amazing bespoke mountain bike holidays all over Africa. We joined him Easter 2010 on a ride from the Mtamvuna River to the Mtentu River. At least I did. Aitch drove the kids to Mtentu in the kombi (or maybe in friend Craig’s Colt 4X4 – not sure).
Both hands on the handlebar, so no pics of the ride. I only fell off once, and no-one saw. On the way we stopped for a refreshing swim in a clear deep pool in a steep valley.
Once we got to the magnificent Mtentu River mouth (see the feature pic above) I abandoned my bike and joined the family for lazy hiking, while the keen MTB’ers rode out and back each day.
An easy stroll across pristine coastal grasslands took us to where the Mkambathi River drops straight into the sea at high tide.
At low tide the falls (very low flow here) drop onto the sand of a beautiful beach. Tommy knows there’s bait under here somewhere for his fishing!
Everyone loves this little bay. Aitch, Jess and Tom each had a spell where they had the whole beach to themselves: (click on pics for detail)
Upstream along the Mkambathi River you find Strandloper Falls. The last time we’d been we said ‘Must Bring Our Diving Masks And Snorkels Next Time!’ – and we remembered.
Then we strolled back:
Back on the Mtentu River, Rohan had kayaks for us to paddle upstream in search of another waterfall
Then back downstream to the Mtentu mouth
Paradise – three hours south of Durban. There’s a lodge there now, so it’s even easier to stay.
“In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught” – Baba Dioum
Of course, that’s only if we don’t Kill What We Love. We’re very good at that, too.
The places I always think of that we killed cos we loved them are on the KZN north coast. Farmers would go to the beach with their tents for their fishing holidays, camping under the trees in the dense coastal forest. Then they built cottages, then their friends built cottages; then they built roads then the roads got tarred (about then we visited in 1963); then came flats, then high-rise flats and concrete paving and the rock pools had to be enlarged and deepened with concrete walls. Next thing you have a city right on the beach. There’s water, then a strip of sand and then concrete. No more dunes, no more forest.
Wonderful blogger The Bushsnob got me thinking of this when telling of his trips to the Masai Mara in the 1980’s. Lots of people love the Mara, so much so that he reckons we now have 118 lodges and camps and lodgings around the game reserve! That means MANY vehicles on the roads!
Soon we’ll need a parking lot.
‘You don’t know what you’ve got till its gone . . . ‘
Here’s what Joni Mitchell means by a ‘tree museum’ – we concrete the world, then leave tiny, ever-smaller islands of (sort-of) what used to be. This is a botanic garden she knew in Hawaii:
Baba Dioum – Senegalese forestry engineer, joint winner of the Africa Food Prize.
Jules Pierre Verreaux (1807 – 1873) was a French botanist and ornithologist and a professional collector of, trader in, and sometimes thief of natural history specimens.
Verreaux worked for the family business, Maison Verreaux, established in 1803 by his father, Jacques Philippe Verreaux, at Place des Vosges in Paris, which was the earliest known company that dealt in objects of natural history. The company was later run by his older brother Édouard. It funded collection expeditions to various parts of the world. Maison Verreaux sold many specimens to the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle to add to its collections.
Jules Verreaux began his training in the family business at just 11 years of age, when he accompanied his uncle, naturalist Pierre Delalande, to the South African Cape. They stayed there exploring and collecting from 1818-1820, among their achievements being the first hippopotamus skeleton acquired for the Paris Museum of Natural History. Back in Paris, Verreaux attended anatomy classes under zoologist Georges Cuvier, and began to show an aptitude for taxidermy.
Verreaux worked in South Africa again in 1825, where he helped Andrew Smith found the South African Museum in Cape Town.
No stranger to scandal in his lifetime, while in South Africa Jules Verreaux was summoned to court after a woman claimed to have borne his son. Verreaux had previously asked Elisabeth Greef to marry him, but revoked the proposal. The young mother then brought a suit against him, but lost the case as Verreaux was still a minor at the time of the proposal in 1827.
He was reputed to have set out on the trail of various already extinct and mythical creatures in the Cape, including the unicorn.
More body-snatching: In 1830, while travelling in modern-day Botswana Verreaux witnessed the burial of a Tswana warrior. Verreaux returned to the burial site under cover of night to dig up the African’s body where he retrieved the skin, the skull and a few bones. Verreaux intended to ship the body back to France and so prepared and preserved the African warrior’s corpse by using metal wire as a spine, wooden boards as shoulder blades and newspaper as a stuffing material. Then he shipped the body to Paris along with a batch of stuffed animals in crates. In 1831, the African’s body appeared in a showroom at No. 3, Rue Saint Fiacre. It was later returned and buried in Botswana in 2000.
Jules’ brother Édouard delivered a consignment of collections back to Paris in 1831, and returned to South Africa with the third Verreaux brother, Alexis. Alexis remained in South Africa for the rest of his life, while the course of Édouard and Jules’ lives over the next decade is somewhat confused. Some sources say that both travelled to China and the Philippines and remained there until 1837, but it is also possible that Jules stayed in South Africa during this time. He seems to have returned to Paris in 1838, in which year a large number of his collections were lost in a shipwreck while being transported back to Paris.
In 1864 he took over as assistant naturalist at the Paris Museum. In 1870 he left France at the start of the Franco-Prussian War, seeking refuge in England. He remained there for the concluding three years of his life.
Jules Verreaux left a particular legacy in ornithology. Verreaux’s Eagle (Aquila verreauxii) and Verreaux’s Eagle Owl Bubo lacteus bear his name; More a trader than a scientist, his specimen labels often give only the country of provenance and are sometimes attributed to localities incorrectly, perhaps to make them more commercially valuable, but diminishing their scientific value.
Sources: JSTOR; wikipedia Anon., 1874, Ibis, 16(4): 467-469 M. Gunn and L.E.W. Codd, 1981, Botanical Exploration of Southern Africa M. Molina, 2002, “More notes on the Verreaux brothers”, Pula Botswana Journal of African Studies, 16(1): 30-36.
Pierre Antoine Delalande (1787 – 1823), French naturalist, explorer, and painter from Versailles, was the son of a taxidermist in the Musée d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris. He worked for the museum from a young age, and became the assistant of Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire. He was also a painter who had trained in the studio of animal painter Jean-Baptiste Berré, situated in the Jardin des Plantes, and who exhibited landscapes and animal paintings in the Salons de Paris.
As an employee of the Museum, Delalande travelled to southern Africa in 1818, accompanied by his 12-year-old nephew Jules Verraux. They made three journeys into the interior between November 1818 and September 1820: eastward along the coast from Cape Town; northward to Olifants River; and northeastward from Algoa Bay as far as the Keiskamma River.
On their return in 1821, they took back an astounding 131,405 specimens, among them the museum’s first complete whale skeleton (from a 23 metre beached whale he dissected in situ over a period of two months), as well as giraffes, rhinoceroses, a hippopotamus, and human remains (some of them unearthed (i.e stolen) from an old cemetery in Cape Town and from the Grahamstown battlefield). He also brought back a mineral collection, 10,000 insects, 288 mammals, 2205 birds, 322 reptiles, 265 fish, 3875 shellfish, and various human skulls and skeletons from a Cape Town cemetery and from the 22 April 1819 Battle of Grahamstown between the invasive British forces and the local Xhosa. All the living plants in their collection were abandoned in Cape Town and many specimens of their extensive herbarium were lost in transit.
He returned to France with his health badly damaged by tropical infections. For his efforts he received the Légion d’Honneur but no financial reward. Shortly before his death, he published an account of his expedition in the museum bulletin.
He is honoured in the specific names of a swallowtail butterfly, Papilio delalandei ; three birds, Delalande’s sand frogTomopterna delalandii in the picture above, three lizards, a gecko and a snake.
Sources: JSTOR; wikipedia; M. Prevost and J. Balteau, 1933, Dictionnaire de Biographie Française: 662-663.
We have a new book out! ( – get it on takealot.com – )
OK, the author has a new book out, his first. School friend Harry ‘Pikkie’ Loots is Harrismith’s latest published author, following in the footsteps of FA Steytler, EB Hawkins, Petronella van Heerden and Leon Strachan. There must be more? Indeed – Pikkie reminded me of Johann Lodewyk Marais and Anita van Wyk Henning.
He has published it as an eBook – and I have now received my hard copy too.
I had the privilege and fun of reading it as he wrote and re-wrote it, as one of his proof-readers. It was a blast! I climbed his mountains without getting breathless – except occasionally from laughing, as we relived the olden daze..
Now you gotta realise, Pikkie is a mountaineer and trekker. These are phlegmatic buggers; unflappable; understated. So when he says ‘we walked and then crossed some ice and then we got here: ‘
. . with lovely pictures and fascinating stories along the way . . you must know what he doesn’t show you:
And this is the third highest peak he climbs in Africa! There’s more to come!
Those of us who climb Mt aux Sources should also remember how we drive to within an hour or two’s leisurely walk from the chain ladder. To get to these higher mountains there’s days of trekking before you reach the point in the picture. And there’s way less oxygen available up there! After reading some chapters I had to go’n lie down for a while.
Here’s the back cover blurb: ( – get the book on takealot.com – )
Riposte and Touché:
Pikkie appointed a fellow-mountaineering Pom John as another of his proofreaders. This John asked ‘What’s it with you Saffers and exclamation marks?’ I puffed myself up and replied the problem was not that we use too many; the problem was that Poms use too few!
John’s rejoinder was, “Not true. We use our national quota. It’s just that we allocate almost all of them to teenage girls.”
Green beetle bugs have little bugs upon their heads to bite ’em, And little bugs have lesser bugs, and so ad infinitum. And the great bugs themselves, in turn, have greater bugs to go on; While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on.
I thought they were ticks, but iNaturalist soon put me right: They’re mites.
In the cottage while Jess was being ridiculously fussed over a hawk moth in her bedroom, she spotted a snake under her bed. This didn’t faze her, it was the moth that bothered her! She watched me catch it, photograph and remove it and carried on gaan-ing aan about the moth on her wall! I said Jess! You’re my field ranger! Relax! It’s a moth, f’gdnis’sake. After releasing the snake we couldn’t find the moth, so Jess went to bed warily, one eye open . .
Birds Seen: 1. Ostrich Grey goway bird Loerie Speckled Mousebird Red-collared Widow Long-tailed paradise Whydah Pintail Whydah Southern Boubou Dark-capped Bulbul 10. Stompstert Crombec Arrow-mark Babbler European Roller Lilac-breasted Roller Rattling Cisticola Zitting Cisticola White-brow Scrub Robin Yellowbill Hornbill ForkTailed Drongo Lesser striped Swallow 20. Barn Swallow Black belly Starling Redwing Starling Blue Waxbill Grey head Sparrow Buzzard common Crested Barbet Scimitarbill Southern black Tit Palm Swift 30. Southern masked Weaver Lesser masked Weaver Village Weaver Spectacled Weaver Golden-breasted Bunting Village Indigobird Dusky Indigobird Whitebellied sunbird Amethyst Sunbird female Scarlet chest Sunbird female 40. White-throated Robin Chat Blue grey Flycatcher Spotted Flycatcher Black Flycatcher Crested Francolin Helmeted Guineafowl Redbill Firefinch Striped Kingfisher Brownhooded Kingfisher Magpie Shrike
50. Red back Shrike Black crown Tchagra Green Woodhoopoe Bronze wing Courser Tawny-flanked Prinia Cardinal woodpecker Emerald spot wood Dove Cape turtle dove Laughing dove Redeyed dove 60. Burchells Coucal (fukwe) Woolly neck Stork Black belly Bustard Redbill Oxpecker Cardinal Woodpecker Bearded Woodpecker YellowBreasted Apalis Diderik Cuckoo Hoopoe Rufous-naped Lark 70. Gorgeous Bush Shrike Pytilia Yellow-fronted Canary Cape Batis Natal Spurfowl Sombre Greenbul Wahlbergs Eagle Golden-tailed Woodpecker Little Bee-eater Chinspot Batis 80. Black collared Barbet Pied Barbet White helmet Shrike .. 82 species Heard calls only: Grey headed Bush Shrike Orange-breasted Bush Shrike Camaroptera Black Cuckoo Piet my vrou European Bee-eater Brubru Woodland Kingfisher
Re-post from 1992 when Mike & Yvonne Lello kindly lent us their Isuzu Trooper 4X4 for a breakaway (OK, another breakaway) where I knew we’d be on soft sand and needing 4X4.
Aitch was impressed with out first stop: Luxury with Wilderness Safaris at Ndumo, grub and game drives laid on. Ice in our drinks. Boy! For an oke who usually sought compliments if the ground she had to spread her sleeping bag on was softish, I was really going big! In our luxury permanent tent on a raised wooden deck with kingsize four-poster bed, she had fun with the giraffe’s dong, saying what a decent length it was – implying something? I dunno. ‘It’s his tail,’ I said, spoil-sportingly. ‘Or her tail.’
Magic walks among Sycamore Figs and drives among Fever Trees.
So where are we going next? she asks. ‘You’ll see,’ I said airily. Hmm, she said, knowingly, raising one eyebrow but saying no more . . .
This Isuzu Trooper was magic – just the right vehicle for our Maptuland Meander. Leaving Ndumo, we drifted east to Kosi Bay and inspected the campsites, then drove on to Kosi Bay Lodge. ‘I’ll just run inside and arrange things,’ I said, optimistically.
So I walked into the lodge and came out and said, ‘We’ll just camp outside the gate, I brought a tent!’ Ha! You hadn’t booked! I knew it! Aitch announced triumphantly. She’d known all along. She actually loved it. She didn’t really mind the roughing it and the uncertainty and she LOVED catching me out and teasing me about my disorganisation.
Afterwards, Aitch would tell people there had been a bit of muttering and a few mild imprecations erecting the unfamiliar tent, which I’d also borrowed from the Lellos. It had poles that seemed unrelated to other poles and it was dark. OK, she actually told of some cursing. Loud cursing. The air turned blue, she would exaggerate.
The next night we camped in a proper Kosi Bay campsite. They are very special sites, we love them.
We drove along the sandy track to Kosi mouth:
Then onward, southward. Where are we staying tonight?, she asked sweetly. ‘You’ll see,” I said airily. Hmm, she muttered knowingly, raising one eyebrow. Well, let me just say ONE thing: We are not staying at Mabibi. The newspapers have been full of stories about bad guys at Mabibi. ‘Izzat so?’ Yes. We can stay anywhere but Mabibi.
Through bustling KwaNgwanase town . .
Now we were on my favourite road in all of South Africa: The sand roads through our vanishing coastal grasslands. Some kids shouted Lift! Lift! and hey! ubuntu! and anyway, it’s Lello’s car . . .
Well, Rocktail Bay Lodge was also full and we drove on as evening approached. The fire watchtower man had knocked off and was walking home. We stopped to ask directions, then gave him a lift so he could show us the way. He settled down into the bucket seat, pushing Aitch onto the gear lever, taking us left then right then left – straight to his village. As he got out he pointed vaguely in the direction of Mabibi. ‘You can’t miss it,’ I think he implied.
You are going to Mabibi, aren’t you? I knew it! said the all-knowing one. ‘Well, there’s nowhere else,’ I mumbled. When we got there she surprised me by saying, Let’s just sleep under the stars, I’m too tired to pitch the tent. So we did. My brave Aitch! Here she is next morning, still snoring.
Soon after we arrived a night watchman came to see us. His torch beam dropped straight out of the end of his torch onto his toes, so I gave him new batteries. He was so chuffed! A torch that worked! Those bad guys better look sharp tonight!
The next day we drove the best part of this perfect road, past Lake Sibaya.
One more night, in relative luxury, if the little wooden cabins at Sibaya camp can be honoured with such a flattering description! I think they can, but I was over-ruled.
Then we hit the ugly tarmac highway home. A very special place, is Maputaland.