It’s true I have been a poephol in the past. But that was behind me. I now knew more. I was wiser. So when I got to the toll booth at Marianhill and reached for my bag on the front seat next to me I thought it must have slipped off. I pulled over. And I searched. And searched again.
So now my recent past flashed before my very eyes. I had parked my sleek white Ranger 4X2 3litre diesel – turbodiesel actually – bakkie on the pavement outside the old man’s place and left my bag on the front seat. I now remembered thinking I shouldn’t really do that but it’s fine and I won’t be long. After that I had driven to Azania to visit Mom, also parking outside on the pavement. The bag may or may not still have been next to me – I don’t know. I didn’t need my wallet, ID card, drivers licence or credit cards to visit my folks. Nor did I need my Petzl head torch or my new tiny Canon camera.
Nor . . MY ZEISS BINNIES!! Oh shit! NOW this was a disaster! The other stuff I could do without, but I cannot live without my binoculars! DAMN!!
It’s three days later. I’ve been to the traffic department. The lady fetched me out of the queue and took me to the front along with some old people. I think it had to do with handsomeness. The clipboard she gave me said this:
I’ve been to the police station – very helpful; they took my case in Montclair Durban, even though ‘the incident’ happened in Pietermaritzburg. They sent me my case number for insurance the same day via sms. Tomorrow I go to Home Affairs. The bank is sending new cards. Insurance has emailed me – they’ll pay R20k towards new binocs. This is almost behind me again. I now know more. I am wiser.
Oh, and at the toll? One of the guys who works there said can you send me ewallet? I said Good Idea! Instead of a huge backtracking detour he paid R12 for me and I sent R50 to his ewallet. Win-Win.
poephol – South African – The anus; (derogatory: a stupid or unpleasant person). Origin: 1960s. From Afrikaans poephol from poep + hol – literally shit hole; arsehole, asshole.
The Montclair police captain said he’d forward the docket to PMB. I thought, All I Want Is A Case Number, and wondered if there was any point. Next day I got a call from Alexander Road police station: Where is Lincoln Park? I explained exactly and she was puzzled: Is it a gated estate? she asked. Then I clicked! It’s Lincoln Meade, not Lincoln Park, sorry! Oh, OK, now she knows where it is. The next day another call: Any chance of a surveillance camera at the scene of the incident? he asked. I said No. What else was in the bag? A little Canon camera. What make were the binoculars? Zeiss. OK, we’ll do our best, sir, he said. I’m ashamed to say I thought they’d do nothing. But they did follow up. Well done, guys!
postscript: It gets worse! Sheila found my bag with everything still intact inside it in the old man’s lounge, where I must have carefully placed it, proving I am actually very organised – I hadn’t left it in my car after all! ** sigh! ** Tomorrow, exactly one week after first reporting it missing I will be phoning the insurance company and the police in PMB to cancel – false alarm!
I admit to being rather delighted! I get an uninsured camera back; my head torch back; my binocs back without having to pay extra to get new ones; and my ID card back without having to queue; It feels like I just played a Country and Western song backwards.
Geoffrey Kay, birding optometrist, put together a trip to Namibia in 1986.
We landed in Windhoek, picked up a VW kombi and rigged it up with a nice big hebcooler in the back. Ice, beer, gin & tonic. Now we were ready for any emergency.
West to Daan Viljoen game park where a lion’s roar welcomed us that first night. On through the Khomas Hochland into the Namib Desert. Then on to the Atlantic Ocean at Swakopmund. On to Spitzkoppen; Usakos; Erongo Mountains; Karabib; Omaruru; Otjiwarongo; and Outjo;
Then up to Etosha: Okakuejo, Halali and Namutoni camps. In Etosha we saw a very rare night ‘bird‘;
Then on to Tsumeb; the Waterberg; Okahandja; And back down to Windhoek.
Geoff Kay, Jurgen Tolksdorf, Jill Seldon, Mick Doogan, Me & Aitch; Three optometrists and three normal people.
We spotted 200 bird species that week! Also a new mammal for me: The Damara DikDik.
Jurgen Tolksdorf newbie birder spotted many birds for us with his keen eye. “What’s that?” he’d say. In Etosha one night we woke up to the b-b-b-b-bhooo of a white-faced owl near our tents. We shook everyone awake and grabbed our torches and binocs and went to look for it. Except Jurgen. He said “A WHAT?” and rolled over and went back to sleep. We searched in vain and got back to bed very late, disappointed.
Next morning after a short night’s sleep, on our way back from breakfast we met Jurgen who had risen late after a long night’s sleep and was now on his way to eat. While we chatted he looked up in the tree above our heads and said “What’s that?”.
Lunchtime high on the Momfo cliffs overlooking a great bend in the Mfolosi river. Our guides lit a fire and began to prepare our lunch. We settled down for a well-deserved break after the hike up the hill.
From our high vantage point we had already seen a buffalo in the sandy river bed, a rhino on the far bank and a lioness hiding behind the reeds on the opposite bank. As we watched she stalked across the wide river bed towards some zebra. She lay down and waited once she was on the near bank. A few more lionesses and a lion walked across the sand to our left, crouching and flanking the zebra, who panicked and dashed off straight towards the first lioness. She pounced in a cloud of dust and she and her target disappeared behind the thorn bush. We strained to see what happened. Did they get their lunch?
After a while they all walked out looking a bit disgusted with themselves. So no, probably not.
While scanning with my telescope I took a good look at the rhino and called out excitedly to the rest. Hey, come and look! It’s uBhejane, not another white rhino like the many we’ve seen. We all had a good look and confirmed the jizz and the hooked lip of the rarely-seen black rhino. What a sighting!
Scoping well left of the river up an adjacent valley I noticed baboons in two sycamore figs, the mfolosi tree that give the river and the park its name. Suddenly they started barking and swearing in fluent baboon-vloek, and a magnificent leopard appeared in view, staring up into the tree above him. I got the scope on him and called the others. He was most obliging and waited till all nine of us, including the two rangers had a good look before flicking his long tail and bounding up the tree, to increased pandemonium from the residents. We heard loud shrieks, even ruder words and then much barking and squealing. I watched for a long while to see if I could spot the leopard again. But we didn’t find out if he got his lunch either.
So as far as lunches go, we can only confirm that we definitely ate ours, and that it was the delicious traditional huge white bread sarmies with butter, tomato and raw onion with salt and black pepper, washed down with freshly-brewed Five Roses tea. Mmm mmmm!
Four of the Big Five for lunch. On foot! Actually, sitting on our bums at lunchtime. What a day! And the rhino was the real Big Five member, not the more placid white rhino. The big five idea originated in the days when they were considered the five most dangerous animals to hunt. The days when the way you “got” the big five was to kill them, not just to see them. We joked as we packed up to walk back to base camp that we now needed to see an ele on the way home to round off our lunch. Well, we did. It was almost ridiculous. But thrilling.
And that was not all . . .
The next day our walk took us on a different route. As we crossed the low Mfolosi in the blazing sun we asked our guides if we could swim. ‘Well, you can wallow,’ they said, ‘It’s not deep enough to swim.’ So wallow we did and that’s how we came to spot the Big Six, adding the rare Pink-faced Ceramic-white Freshwater Whale to our tally of wondrous things spotted in that very special place, the wonderful Mfolosi Wilderness Area.
The next day we walked upon this sleeping pride, loafing on the riverbed. They scattered when they saw us, the male on the right leading the flee-ing, tail tucked ‘tween his legs!
baboon-vloek – impolite baboon dialect used when worried
The Umfolosi Wilderness is a special place. Far too small, of course, but its what we have. I’m reading Ian Player’s account of how Magqubu Ntombela taught him about wilderness and Africa and nature. The idea of a wild place where modern man could go to escape the city and re-discover what Africa was like
My first trail was ca 1985, when I went with Dusi canoeing buddies Doug Retief, Martin & Marlene Loewenstein and Andre Hawarden. We were joined by a 19yr-old lass on her own, sent by her father, who added greatly to the scenery:
A good sport – took our gentle teasing well
We went in my kombi and some highlights I recall were:
Doug offering “bah-ronies” after lunch one day. We were lying in the shade of a tree after a delicious lunch made by our guides: Thick slices of white bread, buttered and stuffed with generous slices of tomato and onion, washed down with tea freshly brewed over a fire of Thomboti wood. Doug fished around in his rucksack and gave us each a mini Bar One (“bah-ronie”, geddit?). Best tasting chocolate I ever ate, spiced as it was with hunger and exertion.
After the 5-night trail we went for a game drive. Needing a leak after a few bitterly cold brews I left the wheel with the kombi trundling along amiably and walked to the side door of the kombi, ordering Hawarden to take over the driving. Not good at taking orders, he looked at me, waited till I was in mid-stream out of the open sliding door and leant over with his hiking stick and pressed the accelerator. The driverless kombi picked up speed and I watched it start to veer off-road, necessitating a squeezed premature end to my leak and a dive for the wheel.
Thanks a lot, Hawarden! Pleasure, he murmured mildly. Hooligan!
30yrs later Andre Hooligan Hawarden wrote:
“Hey, remember that cool walk we did in the game reserve when you had the tape recorder and we attracted the owl? Then next day we lay on the bank of the Umlofosi river and watched the vultures coming down for a lunch time drink and a snooze?
That was a wonderful experience. I’ve never forgotten it.”
I made a fat sarmie like they make you on a Wilderness Walk in Mfolosi: White bread, tomato and onion, all thick-sliced and buttered, lots of salt and black pepper. Took the binocs to the stoep and munched, washing it down with tea (ignoring the notion that Greeenpeace has just tested a bunch of teas and found many have traces of pesticides).
There was movement at the birdbath (there always is). Great! A female Black Cuckooshrike! She’s beautiful!
Also a Redcapped Robin-Chat, a Dusky Flycatcher, two sunbirds, hadedas, toppies & white-eyes as always – and these Purple-crested Touracos.
Made me completely forget I was dodging my day-off chores.
So I’m playing in an optom tournament at Umhlali in the 80’s. Golf.
Short hole. I drive the green.
Walking off the tee I spy a flash of yellow in the reeds (did I mention it was a water hole?). Something about it is a bit different, so I out with my binocs: It’s a brown-throated weaver – a first for me (or a “lifer”).
I calmly sink the putt.
This second birdie helps me almost break 100 for the round.
Just back from a Five Days, Five Forests birding trip to Zululand: Nkandla, Entumeni, Dlinza, Ngoye and St Lucia coastal forests.
My highlight was Ngoye, about which I’ve heard so much over the years. Especially after Aitch went without me: “Have you been to Ngoye Koos? Oh, no, I remember, you haven’t. So you haven’t seen the Woodwards Barbet then? I HAVE!” Only about a hundred times, she rubbed it in!
I took plenty snacks and drinks in my rucksack, so the waiting was comfy, luxurious and munchy. Next time I’ll take some poncho or dark sheet to break the human outline – see if that fools the voëls.
We stayed two nights in the Birders Cottage in Ngoye. Perfect for getting up at five every morning and getting straight into the forest at first light. Saw and heard lots of birds which I’d seen before but had written BVD next to them (“better view desired”) and one great lifer. Yes, Aitch-in-the-clouds, I did the see the barbet, so I laid that bogey-bird to rest!
– the Green barbetStactolaema olivacea used to be called Woodward’s Barbet –
WHEELS Craig Naude’s magic silver and blue Mitsubishi Colt 4X4 V6 3000 was superb. I needed first gear low ratio in places in the forest where the rutted tracks changed to slippery clay, and steep drops into stream beds meant equally steep climbs out of them, starting at snail’s pace. Boy heaven.
COASTAL FOREST At St Lucia we got into the forest at dawn, too, then walked on to the mouth of the estuary by 6.30am and low tide. Waders and terns remain confusing to me, and the sooty tern Sakhamuzi hoped to spot had trekked back to Mozambique. Pity, as it’s one of the easier ones to ID. Oh, well, as the baby tern said to the mother tern: Can I have a baby brother? Certainly, said the mother tern: ‘One good tern deserves another.’
On the way back we spotted a dwarf chameleon; then we sat in the forest in comfort again and a Green Malkoha (old green coucal) obligingly flew into a tree and displayed his banana beak in full sunlight.
Driving back to the B&B a Lemon Dove (old cinnamon dove) sat on a track at the side of the road for so long we eventually drove off! First time I’ve ever done that. Usually you just glimpse them flying off at speed.
Great break – the first real birding since before Aitch and I became child-infested. I’d forgotten what early mornings without scarecrows was like! We spent 32 days on our trip up to Malawi when the kids were 5 and 1 and only saw one bird, and that was a Zambian nkuku whose cousin was deliciously on our plates at a shisanyama at the roadside in Livingstone. I exaggerate. Slightly.
Bruce Soutar wrote: Pete – eye think this is a compliment – from Rooooth Garland:
Please tell Piet I LOVE his stories and want to see more . . . He makes me smile, even though he’s a drunkard and no good at flying. Does he have a blogspot I can sign up for? Xx
PS: Sakumuzi is a huge Twinstreams fan . . . Lovely man.
Ruth Garland – Sydney Australia
Ruth’s Dad was the legendary Ian Garland, whose exploits at Twinstreams in Zululand did heaps to save, propagate and teach about indigenous plants.
khehlas and gogos – Old men and Old ladies
gugile – ancient, as in buggered; decrepit; you know
nkuku – chicken
shisanyama – red meat on red hot coals restaurant; not teetotal joints
My Bird list St Lucia and in St Lucia coastal forest
Woodwards Batis; Rudd’s Apalis; Yellow-bellied Greenbul; Green Malkoha – LIFER in South Africa for me – full sunlight saturation view; Grey Sunbird; Livingstone’s Turaco; Burchell’s Coucal; Whimbrel; Osprey; Grey Heron; Fish Eagle; Spoonbill; Yellow Weaver; Green Pigeon; Speckled Mousebird; Swift Tern; Black-winged Stilt; Avocet; YB Stork; Pink-backed Pelican; Little Tern; Three-banded Plover; Blue-cheeked Bee-eater;Lemon Dove – saturation close-up; Crested Guineafowl; Pied Wagtail; Cape Wagtail; Goliath Heron; Great White Egret; Little Egret; Thickbilled Weaver; White-breasted Cormorant; Palm Swift; Brown-throated Martin; Black or Common Swift; Chorister Robin-chat; Crowned Hornbill;