A Quickie

Mfolosi again. Just one night with three twenty year old lasses, Jess, Tarryn & Jordie.

 On the way one of my pet theories got a bit of backing evidence! When birding by car, I say, ‘Stop anywhere: There will almost always be some birds around’. Busting for a leak I stopped under a bridge on the N2 North. While sighing with relief, I spotted what looked like a black plastic bag flapping in the breeze in a small tree about 30m back; but my binocs revealed it to be a long-crested eagle staring intently at the ground a mere metre below it; then it pounced and fossicked around in the grass; when it flew up it had a plump grey rat with a shortish tail in its beak – a vlei rat, I’d guess. What a lovely sighting at a chance stop.

Kill Site!

In the reserve Jess took the wheel awhile; she hadn’t driven for years, so I was pleased when she asked to; she did real well until – Murphy’s Law! – an open-top Land Cruiser came around the corner right in front of her, full of tourists and a handsome tour guide driving; Distracted, and having to suddenly remember clutch in, steer left and gently brake was a bit too much so she just drove into a little thorn tree, slammed on brakes and stalled. I pretended to be peering into the thorns, some of which were in my open window, through my binocs! Here you can spot her little skid marks:

The tree that Jess hit! – or almost hit!

The Cherries in Ficksburg . .

. . were delightful. But they were all chaperoned by big ugly old males:

Ficksburg_Hysterical_Tour_2018[1].jpg

Oh well, I made the most of it by looking for Vrystaat poppies. At least some of them were unaccompanied:

Hysterical Tour Ficksburg-002.jpg

And the local birds were also obliging:

Ficksburg Hysterical Tour 2018_3

Ficksburg Hysterical Tour 2018_2

Ficksburg flower & mountain

Saturday Supper was delicious. Cafe Chocolat hidden in a massive pile of priceless collectibles:

Hysterical Tour Ficksburg Junkyard
Barbara’s pic of the treasure

We had a hilarious mixed message, crossed wire and different-planets outcome when I enquired about birders who might know where to watch birds around Ficksburg. The only ‘bird guy’ they knew was Johan and he replied to my sms asking where we could watch birds in the Ficksburg district thusly (translated):

Hey! Jong, in Ficksburg it’s only me and Martin and Willie. But its breeding season now and I don’t take people through my cages now, only end-January again.

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Meanwhile, back at home some life lessons were being learned:

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Luke Flew out the Train Window

There were two birthdays on the steam train and the pictures are from Tom’s. He turned four. 2005. Aitch arranged a magic day after much preparation, cake-construction and Mom-liaison. Here she orchestrates:

Inchanga Steam Train - Tom 4th Birthday-003.jpg

I was on the train and we had a lovely day. Later Luke, Tom’s big china, turned four and had the same birthday. On Luke’s birthday I was a designated driver, taking a car to the end-point to take stuff and ferry passengers.

So I wasn’t on the train on Luke’s birthday trip when he flew out of the window.

But first: These pictures are of Tom’s birthday:

DSCN0149

That cake:

Tom 4th bday Inchanga Steam Train collage 1Tom 4th bday Inchanga Steam Train collage 2Inchanga Steam Train tracks

Here’s our Luke-fella with Mom Terry. Both on the train and at the stop for Tom’s party (you can see TomTom’s cake). On his way up he was without make-up, and on his way back he was all face-painted:

Luke flew out of the window! Inchamga Steam Train collage
Luke flew out of the window! Inchanga Steam Train

On his big day the same train journey was arranged; Up, then a party in Inchanga and then down: the return journey. Afterwards, I got back to Hillcrest; To Stokers where the journey starts and ends; When the train puffed in I heard a strange tale: Tom huffed and puffed, “Dad, Dad! Luke flew out the window!” The adults said Luke had fallen out of the train and been taken to hospital. I was aghast! What!?

Later the tale unfolded. Luke had fallen out while the train was choofing along. His Dad Steve had leapt up and wanted to jump out after him, but the train was going too fast so he hared through the carriages, rushing through the gaps till he got to the front and could attract the attention of the driver who stopped the train. Steve ran back and found Luke with some railroad trackside dwellers, who had found Lukie-boy –  maybe even seen him fall.

The hospital checked our Lukie-boy over bone-by-bone and organ-by-organ and pronounced him all intact. Massive sighs of relief!

Amazingly, Luke later also said he’d “flown out the window” so who knows what actually happened? Weird!

Nature Red in Tooth and Claw

Memory is a Dodgy Business. I remembered the scene so clearly. Standing next to a fresh buffalo carcase red with blood; looking around, nervous that the lions who had obviously recently killed it might come back and be annoyed with us for putting our feet on its lunch.

We were on a walk in the beautiful wilderness area of Mfolosi game reserve; no roads and restricted access; accompanied by our two armed Rangers we weren’t in any specific danger, but the feeling of ‘we’d better be careful’ was there, and I kept scanning the area around us.

Or that’s how I remembered it over the years. An actual picture painted a different picture! Photographic evidence of how dodgy one’s memory can be and how the years can enhance it! The top picture was sort of my memory; Here’s the actual carcase: No lion would want to look at it! Nor a hyena, nor a vulture! Only detritivores would still be interested in those horns n bones!

NOT Jonathan's picture - his was film-less

Aitch took the picture with her point-and-shoot Nikon. Our group photographer is the colonial Tarzan-like oke on the left. He had the penis-substitute camera and bossed us around and lined us up and made us pose (poeseer, he said), and fiddled with his f-stop. A purist, he was still deeply into film and darkroom development theory. So where’s his picture?

He’d forgotten to put film in the camera. We have not let Taylor forget it.

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Here’s the moth that will get to those horns in time:

Moth-horn-borer
Ceratophaga vastella

and whose larvae will make them look like this:

Moth-horn-borer_2

Oddballs, Then and Now

Its gone wimpish! Actually Oddballs Palm Island Luxury Lodge 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. As my friend Greg says, ‘The older we get the better we were.’

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 naturally 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!!

Ocean Cruise 1934

Janie & Lizzie Swanepoel

I told Dad I’d taken the kids on a boat trip to Maputo and he remembered his two older Swanepoel sisters Janie and Lizzie going on a trip from Maritzburg to Durban by train then to the same city in Moçambique by ship back in 1934. The city was called Lourenco Marques back then and the ship was called the Julio or Giulio or Duilio or the Giulio Cesar, he said.

Oupa would have organised the train trip at a special rate or free, being a railway man! This is where he worked:

pietermaritzburg-railway-station-natal1

Dad remembers the whole trip costing them seven pounds each, all in. Here’s a ticket from the Giulio Cesare in 1923, the year it was launched:

ticket-ss-giulio-cesare

I went looking and found – as so often – that Dad’s memory was good. Maybe the Grundlinghs and Solomons know more about this trip? What an adventure it must have been for the girls! Dad said he was worried sick his big sisters wouldn’t return! ‘Cried my eyes out!’ he said. He was eleven years old.

Here’s the ship’s service history:

The SS Giulio Cesare was used on Genoa and Naples to South America voyages but also served North American ports. Until 1925 the SS Giulio Cesare and the SS Duilio were the two largest ships in the Italian merchant fleet.

In November 1933, the Giulio Cesare was reconditioned and made ready to serve on the Mediterranean – South Africa Service.

giulio-pc-2

A feature of this ship was the Club situated on the boat-deck, with a bar. The ship also featured a saloon dining room, galleries and a ballroom. Second class was situated amidships. Talkie apparatus were also fitted to the ship and a long-distance wireless telephone was also available.

Tourist class accommodation was situated astern and also had several public rooms. The tourist passengers shared an open air swimming pool with the second class passengers.

guileo_brochure_pool

Name:

SS Giulio Cesare

Namesake:

Julius Caesar

Owner:

Italia Line (Navigazione Generale Italiana)

Port of registry:

Italy

Route:

Italy-South America & Cruising

Builder:

Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Ltd, Newcastle-on-Tyne, United Kingdom.

Launched:

7 February 1920

Completed:

March 1922

Maiden voyage:

1923

Homeport:

Genoa

General characteristics

Class:

Ocean liner

Tonnage:

22,576 grt

Length:

636 feet

Beam:

76.15 feet

Depth:

66.3 feet

Decks:

4

Installed power:

  • four sets of geared steam turbines manufactured by Wallsend Slipway

  • six boilers D.E. & four boilers S.E. creating 220lb of steam pressure by Wallsend Slipway & Engineering Company Ltd. Newcastle-on-Tyne

  • 21,800 shaft horse power

Propulsion:

Quadruple screw

Speed:

20 knots

Capacity:

Total passengers: First Class: 244 Second Class: 306 Tourist Class:1800

Notes:

Paintwork: White hull and upper works ; Boot-topping green

    • Funnels white with red and black tops and narrow green band

Her fate:

During WW2, SS Giulio Cesare was chartered to the International Red Cross for a time before being laid-up in the port of Trieste. She was sunk there by Allied aircraft on 10 July 1944, along with the SS Duilio.

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