We stopped in at the Hluhluwe Spar to buy provisions on our way further north to camp in Mkhuze. Busy, crowded, more basic than city Spars, we gather our stuff and pay at the till.
As we cross the road to the bakkie, Tom looks up at me, lugging his Spar plastic bags: “You realise you were the only peach in there, Dad?” he asks. “People were thinking ‘What’s that umLungu doing in here?’ he says.
Actually, I think they were wondering why that umLungu takes so much cheek from that umfana.
umLungu – dignified person
umfana – precocious, insolent, shorter, younger person
Here’s that stunning hawk moth on my coffee flask again:
Saw twelve animal species (specials were banded mongooses and painted dogs) and 65 birds, but very few pics of those! Instead we have a TomTom selfie!
Aitch was impressed: Luxury with Wilderness Safaris at Ndumo, grub and game drives laid on. Aitch had fun with the giraffe’s dong. So where we going next? she asks. “You’ll see”, I say. Hmm, she said, knowingly, raising one eyebrow but saying no more . . .
Aitch being rude with the Giraffe’s dong. Check the expression!
We were in a magic Isuzu Trooper kindly loaned to us by Mike & Yvonne Lello and were on a Maptuland Meander. Leaving Ndumo we drifted east to Kozi and inspected the campsites, then drove on to Kozi 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! 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.
She says there was a bit of muttering and a few mild imprecations erecting the unfamiliar tent. OK, some cursing, she said. Loud cursing.
We drove to Kosi mouth:
Then onward, southward. Where we staying tonight?, she asked sweetly. “You’ll see,” I said. 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.
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.
You’re going to Mabibi, aren’t you? 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.
What a lovely vehicle was that Isuzu Trooper! What magic Maputaland roads!
Lello’s lovely old Isuzu Trooper!
Lift! Lift! Sure! Hop on! It’s Lello’s car!
One more night, in relative luxury, if the little wooden cabins at Sibaya camp can be honoured with description! and we hit the ugly highway home. A very special place Maputaland.
It’s 2015 and I’m on the banks of the Umtamvuna on the border of the old Transkei and old Natal. It’s paradise. There’s a broad deep river, a great sunset and the sounds of herons, guineas and francolin settling for the night. Also a black cuckoo complaining he’s feeling indisposed.
All of it drowned out by my camping neighbours from BoksburgBenoniBrakpan whose fokkins are matched by the local South Coast chicks’ fuckings. Loud music. LOUD. Did we ever play it this loud? Well yes, but it wasn’t a mixture of much-too-current and rooi rokkies, bakgats, Meidjie en Lola.
At least my three 13yr-olds are in their element. They’re at the riverside on the wooden peir catching Africa, real crabs and imaginary fish.
My second double G&T from the bar is helping, also a good book.
But it’s hard not to eavesdrop. One oke has just chooned a chick he met that evening she’s a fokkin’ pussy and another chick complained confidentially to her mate that “Mandy’s a problem when she gets drunk: She takes off all her clothes”. Obviously entirely a chicks-only problem, I think, peeping out of my tent.
The next night the gazebo next to our tent on the opposite side gets going. I meet a swaying Kehle nearly my age in the ablution block and over the communal urinal he tells me that he’s from ‘Toti and his wife works in Umthatha and they’re gathering with family and isn’t it *hic* WONDERFUL how peaceful and quiet it is here on the Umtamvuna compared to the din of the city *hic*? I would agree with him except I can hardly hear him as his party has a massive boombox thundering deep bass while the ladies of the party are singing and ululating to an entirely different choon. The car is playing modern while the aunties are shouting traditional.
Squeaking through every now and then is the paid lone guitarist at the camp pub on the far side of the gazebo. He’s doing stuff I actually recognise – umlungu hits from the 70’s, but he’s losing the volume fight.
Later on the three 13yr-olds in our tent (I’m sleeping in the bakkie) get the giggles as they hear what’s happening around them.
Bloody hell! I’m looking forward to peace and quiet back in the city.
My bad. We arrived at the Mocambique border with Tommy’s passport, birth certificate, Aitch’s death certificate, my application for Tom’s unabridged birth certificate plus the receipt for same. No go. They wanted his unabridged birth certificate itself, or a letter saying we’d applied for it. “But here’s the application and the receipt”, I protested. In vain.
So its Christmas day and we’re looking for a place to stay. It felt kinda biblical. Reminded me of a story I’d heard in my youth. Everywhere we went was full. We drove on to Bhanga Nek, sandwiched between the big Kosi Bay lake and the beach. I’m in my element in a brand-new Avis rented Ford Ranger 4X4 with six forward gears and push-button 4X4 transfer case on the Maputaland Coastal Reserve’s sand roads. Kids would rather be in a different element, truth be told.
We get to the Bhanga Nek Beach Camp. Full. We drive to the Community Camp. Full, thank goodness: What an uproar! Everyone has spent their entire bonus on grog and they’ve already imbibed half of it. All are noisy, some are already staggery at noon.
Thulani sees me and lurches over, ice clinking in his glass. “I have a place where you can stay” he says. I ask the whereabouts and recognise it as a village we passed a couple of kms back. He hops in and guides me there. Doesn’t spill a drop of his drink on the bumpy road. He’s done this before.
It’s a lovely rustic chalet. We eat and sleep. Not a single mozzie! It has been booked for that night so we’re back on those wonderful sand roads in the morning, vehicle in 4WD High Ratio second gear and easing along like a dream.
“Wow! I say, “Look at that!” Huh? What? “That view!” Oh, Yes Dad. Whatever.
The drive back was along my favourite roads in Africa, through coastal grasslands dotted with umdoni trees. Paradise. Easing along effortlessly in 4WD high ratio second gear, barely touching the accelerator, barely touching the steering wheel, the tyres guided in the twin tracks in the sand. Again, I said to the kids “Isn’t this amazing!?”
“Huh?” they said, looking up and looking around. “What?”
Pearls before swine.
We cut through Mkhuze game reserve on the way home and see three of the youngest little warthoglets we’ve ever seen ‘on the hoof.’ Tiny little piglets running next to Ma with tails erect. “Look! They’ve got signal” the kids said enviously.
A week or two later, back home, I overheard Tom mocking my organisational skills, and telling his mate “My Dad took us to Bangladesh for Christmas.”
*sigh* At least they do love their home, that’s no maybe!
This time in winter. Tom loved it. Caught many small blacktail, karanteen, bronze bream, one shad and stayed on the rocks for hours. I had to fetch him and march him to the showers threatening not to feed him till he smelt civilised.
Jess and friend Jordi lay in their tent and watched videos. Could just as well have been at home. Then she asked to go home a day early, after four nights instead of five. Tom said fine so we got home today instead of tomorrow. Suits me.
When we got there Monday I found I had only forgotten the tent poles, the flysheet, the groundsheet, the kettle and the food, but otherwise we were Be Prepared. Like Boy Scouts.
So we ate at the restaurant, the girls slept in the back of the bakkie, Tom slept on the front seat and I slept under the stars. It rained, but I was warm despite my ear filling up. Tuesday I went home and fetched the above-mentioned and we were snug as bugs thereafter.
Get the kids to put together a check list for next camping trip while the discomfort is still fresh in their memories…. Tape it to the inside of the bakkie. And put them in charge of “equipment”
Just joking. my two would just roll their eyes…
(They both arrived last night on a flight from Auckland)
Ending the trip a day earlier – sounds familiar.
I think it happens when the home comforts beckon
Specially that new bathroom.
Thats so funny ! We forgot our tentpoles too once and had to crash on some poor chalets carpet as it was 4 hours from home . All five of us . very embarressing . But you beat me here ! Nice fishing Tom , Leo would be so jealous . Those two must fish together one day . And you know , kids , there is dad – killing himself and sleeping in the rain and they wanna watch videos and go home early . I can picture mine saying that too . Id force them all to stay and we d pull faces at each other for 2 days . You re much wiser . We had this grim holiday in Port Alfred once where it rained nonstop and was freezing . Jacques got flu and depression and stayed in bed . I tortured the kids for a week until Jacques persuaded me to give up and go home . He drove back so fast and only stopped once for a sandwich – no peeing allowed . You win some , you lose some .
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.
baboon-vloek – impolite baboon dialect used when worried