The manne were curious at least, won’t say envious. Tom had caught five fish before the other ten or so anglers on the beach caught their first. Hey, Rasta! What bait are you using? Then they started catching too. And then the fish went off the bite. Tom only caught anther two. All small stone bream, he called them.
Maybe Tom had an advantage though? He had, after all, fished here before, in 2005:
This time he was his own gillie. No smelly fish bait for me.
We took the trailer and found a lovely campsite and settled in.
Tom was a mad keen fisherman and Jess loved the waves. Blissful. Peaceful. Tom had his first real fishing rod – a huge surf rod given to him by Trish’s Dad Gompa Neil. Jess was mad keen on gymnastics and swimming back then. Game drives were not as exciting – let’s go back to the beach! – but when I let them drive the kombi they were thrilled again. Such an easy-to-please stage of their lives!
While the gillie unties knots and baits up, the fisherman dreams of big catches: C’mon gillie, move it up already!
When we got back to camp from the beach fings had changed: The Boksburg and Benoni Fishing and Hengel Club had moved in with their V8 4X4’s, their caravans, tents and boats with twin many-hp Yamaha outboard engines, and surrounded us! There goes the neighbourhood, we thought. Huge tents and gazebos and afdaks and windscreens, caravans and trailers had sprung up, complete with large braais, TV satellite dishes and you-name-it!
Lovely people. We soon struck up a conversation with our nearest neighbour. The Boksburg and Benoni Fishing and Hengel Club had been coming to Vidal for their annual By-Die-See excursion for decades. The Highlight of Our Year, he told us. That night there was revelry and much smoke and brandy, but not too late – they planned an early start the next day to get their boats out to sea to fill their hatches and deep freezes. Serious fishermen, these.
Things settled and quiet descended on the coastal forest; then a big storm sprang up. A real gale. Soon the wind was howling through the trees and our trailer-top tent was rocking. I climbed down that treacherous ladder to check all was secured or stowed away. Soon after I got back to bed I heard an almighty crack and the sound of something heavy falling and striking a tent pole. Uh! Oh! I thought and listened, Dead quiet; then voices in the dark all around us, barely audible above the howling gale.
Soon a few engines were started and I thought “Here we go, they’re revving up their 4X4’s and the boat motors ready for a first-light departure.” Then a chainsaw started snarling and I thought “Give it a break, guys! Wait till morning!” but it carried on! Mayhem!
At last there was quiet. Next morning I hailed our neighbour: “Hey! Did you survive the storm?” He came scurrying over and in a hushed voice said “Yes, but Joan didn’t!”
Turns out a massive branch had fallen on top of one of their party sleeping in their tent near ours, missing the husband by inches but landing on Joan. A Durban friend of ours camping nearby went to assist, as the she was a veterinarian. She had to give them the sad news that Joan’s chest was crushed, she had no chance and had died instantly. The police arrived, then a mortuary van. The whole gang from the Boksburg and Benoni Fishing and Hengel Club, tight-knit friends as they were, packed up and left to accompany Joan’s husband home, the adventure over before it had really started.
We had a look at the branch: Now in pieces, it had been over 3m long and over 50cm in diameter and had fallen from about 10m up. What a bummer. As we watched, a beautiful green snake appeared on the sawn-up branch. Life and nature carries on.
We’ve always looked for the biggest, shadiest trees to camp under. Now we do a more careful assessment of where exactly to position ourselves.