We joined the Hills on their annual pilgrimage to Ponta Milibangala in the Maputo Elephant Park in Southern Mocambique. I think ca. 1999 – must check.
We needed 4X4 to get there, so swapped our smart, sleek up-to-date VW kombi for Bruce’s old rusty battered VW kombi 4X4 Syncro. OK, so that description wasn’t strictly true, but you’ll see why I needed to make it soon – upfront – for strategic reasons.
It was hot on the way. Between Xmas and New Year. Windows down wasn’t enough so we opened the front doors and a breeze wafted around our legs. That was better. Up and down we see-sawed in the sandy dunes. It had rained and water pooled in the bottoms of all the dips between dunes.
Then we hit one of those puddles a bit too fast. I was amazed at how big the bow wave was! We really weren’t going fast, but it still WAS too fast. Muddy water flooded the cab. I stopped to clean. It cleaned easily except: There was muddy water in the headlights outside and in the speedo gauge inside. I thought I saw tadpoles swimming at the 40km/h mark. Later they emptied but a high-water mark remained! At the camp I gave the kombi a big cleanup again, but the mudstains inside the headlights and speedometer were out of reach. There was no dodging this: I would have to confess to Howick’s Mayor-in-Exile, Broose Soutar.
Theo – 50kg Kingfish – latin name. Trevally – Spear fish
We snorkel’d with a whale shark – briefly. With no seeming effort he just swam away, too fast to keep up with.
Update 2020: The Hills went to Mili again – its about 22 years now that they made their sacred annual pilgrimage. The family has grown in all directions. Here they are, minus Tatum, but two girlfriends added:
Denis finally passed away just short of his 88th birthday. The last few years were not good. Glen and Alli came to visit from Mudgee, which is to Australia what Kestell is to the Free State. We went out to supper after they had visited Denis; They were not sure if he had recognised them; The next day Alli phoned to say he had gone.
Despite his wake being held at very short notice and in the middle of a long weekend (the next day was Tuesday Workers Day May 1st) it was really well attended.
It was held in the Umzinto church he and Faye had got married in – which they had bought when the congregation fizzled and the building had been demystified. They moved it lock, stock, pulpit and baptismal fountain to Selborne. Then they got married in it all over again. Then Faye was buried from it four years ago. And now Denis.
Just like Faye’s the wake was first-class, and we all made sure the bar tab the family picked up was a hefty one. ‘I’ll have another one of those, please, and let me tell you THIS about Glen . . ‘
Denis and Faye had farmed in the Dumisa district – which made Kestell look urban – on Tanhurst and then moved to Selborne on the coast. I had once visited Glen at Tanhurst as a student, and then visited them often at Selborne, golfing at Umdoni, exploring Linton Hall and Botha House, checking out ‘Vernon the Villain’ Crookes’ beautiful manor house at Selborne – now Glen’s home; Denis and Faye were always so very kind to us and interested in our affairs. I saw Glen turn 21 there and get married there. Free beer!
Denis soon began changing Selborne from sugar cane fields, a dairy and an anthirium nursery to his dream golf course. He had traveled to golf courses all over the world* and THIS was how he wanted his golf course to look. With more than a bit of an Augusta National Golf Club look evident!
*in the ‘States somewhere – I must ask Glen where – Denis once got a hole-in-one on a par four! What kind of bird is that!? An apteryx?
Denis and Glen were mad keen cricketers. Sometimes their club was really desperate and Glen would ask me – a FreeStater! – to fill in for them. I would happily oblige. About three or four times I traveled down to Umzinto, got a duck, dropped a few catches and did very well at lunch. Later when Denis wrote a book ‘Umzinto Cricket – The First 100 years’ I bought one, he signed it, and I eagerly read it from cover to cover. Then I checked all the stats. I was sorely disappointed. Complete waste of money. Obviously an incomplete history: I didn’t feature at all.
I believe he wrote another book about a forefather who had survived Isandlwana. I didn’t read that one. I only hope he gave that brave warrior a bit more credit.
PS: If you really want to know accurate Barker history for goodness’ sake don’t read what I write! Ask Glen – he’ll give you lock stock and barrel!
Dave Hill responded: Nice one Pete.
Denis and my dad, George were at Kearsney together…..so when I arrived there, a freshfaced Zambian boy in 1968, the only person I “knew” was Glen.
He took me under his wing and I spent many weekends at the farm. Denis taught me, sort of, to water ski on Ifafa Lagoon! Hard to imagine nowadays that there was water right up to where the highway passes by.
Later on I was called upon by Denis to drill for water at Selborne. We spent many hours talking during the 3 weeks we were there and I really got to know him rather well.
boreholes are still working today and I always bore [sorry!] my mates
when playing a round there with war stories about drilling in 1983/4.
gave me a copy of his Isandlwana book and we kept in contact via
email until he sadly was unable to do so.
hung in tough though and he can now finally rest in peace with his
beloved Faye and Jane.
I don’t do DIY. I was going to say except for our wedding, but on reflection, I also did that the way I do everything: Stand back and watch as others do it all, encouraging and applauding while trying to save money.
What I did do was buy the booze and fill Mike Lello’s Isuzu Trooper and trailer with it and drive it out to Barry and Lyn’s farm Game Valley Estates at the foot of the well-known Hella Hella on the Friday. Lots of rain, muddy roads. It had been a wet summer following the huge September 1987 flood.
Like most bachelors when they do fall, I headed off cheerfully to meet my fate, all my own advice forgotten, marching singing to the gallows!
Luckily Saturday cleared up. I always sing ‘The robots change when I go thru, the clouds dissolve and the skies turn blue, and EVERYBODY loves me baby – – – what’s the matter with you!?
And the clouds did dissolve . . It got Sunny. Then Hot. Then Scorching, Humid, Sultry. It felt like all the rain of the big flood was trying to get back up into the clouds.
Barry’s big old 4X4 Ford F150 gave people a tug up slippery Hella Hella Pass so they could get to their lodgings at the nearby Qunu Falls Lodge. The Brauers, the du Plessis, the Reeds, the Schoemans, the Stoutes, the Stewarts. The Hills live nearby. Family stayed in the concrete A-frame lodge on the farm.
The sauna was pitched on the lawn under the Hella Hella mountain.
The Porters were linked up to ESKOM but just because ESKOM has arrived does not mean that when you throw a switch with a flourish that anything will happen. And so it was on our wedding day that ESKOM was feeling a bit off that day and we were without krag, power, lights and fridges.
Enter David Hurle Hill !! He roared off in his bakkie and fetched a huge diesel generator on a trailer. David is a Drrrillerr and will drill you a borehole. In fact his company motto is ‘On The Hole Our Work Is Boring.’ He linked up and threw a switch with a flourish and nothing happened.
She was not wekking, as David Hurle Hill would say.
Enter Enea Spaggiari !! All the way from Italy via Kenya and Petit outside Benoni. He climbed up onto and over and under the trailer and fiddled with wires and threw a switch with a flourish and Let There Be Light! Music! and Cold Beers!
Iona coaches her daughter: Make all the big decisions, but make him think he made them . . . Aitch: Ha Ha I already do that . . .
Then the usual stuff, the ominous music from Jaws: Tun Tun Ta Da!;Tun Tun Ta Da! What? Oh, the wedding march. The father of the bride looks like he’s having having second thoughts; Guys are thinking hm hm hm who’d a thunk this day would arrive?; Ladies are smiling – they seem to enjoy weddings; Aitch saying – ‘Honour? OK; – Obey? Are you mad!?’ and so on. The usual kak.
Then the cake, made by Lyn’s talented friend with a green frog couple in tux and wedding dress – probly a strongylopus and an arthtroleptis. In the heat they keeled over. We should have got a pic, but something like this, just green frogs and not from alcohol:
Then The Lies! You just can’t trust some people. Ten years prior to this I had done a very good job being his best man and if he had paid attention he’d have learned something. Like, to stick to the flattering truth and not tell scurrilous alternative truths that nobody wants to hear. At least nobody called the object of your attentions wants to hear them . . .
Followed by The Truth!, plain and unvarnished:
At last, we could change into shorts and relax and party.
Later came The Getaway:
Which took a while, handicapped as we were. We wore getaway kit appropriate for our intrepid honeymoon. We were headed for Deepest Darkest America.
On the Monday friend Allie Peter flew over Hella Hella in a helicopter and took pics of Rapid No.5&6 looking downstream and then back upstream:
Twenty Five Years Later – 28 Feb 2013 – I wrote to friends:
Crazy, innit! 25yrs ago today Aitch and I got hitched down in the Hella Hella valley in a fun DIY game farm wedding. She made it to 23yrs of married bliss (OK, she might have had something to say at this point . . ) and one month short of 26yrs together. We celebrated that 25yrs-together milestone in August 2010.
Thinking of all you good peeps that made our wedding so memorable – that’s the bachelor days before, the day itself, and the 25yrs since!
Lotsa love – Pete – and now Jessica & Tommy!
BTW, Lyn and Barry Porter of Hella Hella also died in 2011: Lyn in January – also breast cancer; Barry in April – hospital infection; And then Aitch in July.
Dave Hill: I remember it well – I ‘nipped’ home to fetch my generator when the power went off.
Pete Stoute:Remember the week-end like yesterday! Struggling up the other side of Hella Hella to the Qunu Falls hotel in the mud and rain – Dave Hill saving the day with a BIG generator.Will have an extra glass of vino this evening – great mates and good times.
Sheila Swanepoel:Those pics are great. What a wonderful record of a very special day. I remember the incredible heat and how you, Pierre and Pete sneaked off and changed into shorts straight after the ceremony. And how the phone kept ringing in the middle of the ceremony in the house. Linda was flower girl, Robbie was so proud of his brand new red “tight”
. . and Jeff kept putting off going to change, saying that he was charge of the antelope on the spit – he dithered for so long that there was no time to change and that pleased him no end. Bess & I sneaked down to the pool for a kaalgat swim and found Iona had beaten us to it!
Steve Reed: Will always remember the weekend; a great occasion. I think it was thanks to Mike and Yvonne in the 4×4 that we traveled safely back through the mud to our lodgings. Fond memories – raising a glass tonight to all of you!
I remember Brauer chasing a tight deadline speech writing – wise.
Pete Brauer:Damn. Been holding my breath during this stroll thru memory lane hoping that no-one noticed at the time or that no-one would still remember that poor last-minute effort.
Terry Brauer: Steve nothing has changed! PB has his own website called lastminute.com
Steve Reed:Speech was excellent. Not many can compose a wedding speech while putting on a tie with the other hand. Besides, Swannie probably tasked Brauer with the job as he was getting dressed himself.
Terry Brauer:Yip Brauer remains an orator of note and Swanepoel continues to notify me he is coming to stay usually on the day when he lands in Pretoria – 😀 Those old dogs ain’t gonna learn new tricks but love them both! T
Pete Swanie:I had prepared well in advance.
Brauer procrastinated and ignored my two rules: Keep it short; and NO LIES.
Pete Brauer:If I stuck to the latter rule the first would have fallen into place quite easily.
Tanza Crouch: Thinking of you, Aitch, Tommy and Jessy at this time. My spider days at Hella Hella are very special to me and Aitch, Barry and Lyn were very special people.
Our first dog TC was the product of a romantic liaison – a match made in heaven. Staffordshire Terrier Stan Hill jumped Jack Russel Terrier Mouse Hill and she produced a litter. Dave and Goldie’s Sir Stanley Staffordshire of Melrose Farm in Mid-Illovo was a semi-handsome, tuxedo-clad, white-gloved, almost-pedigree Staffie who’d lost his papers, but we were assured he was in the country legitimately. And they knew who his Mom was. Who were we to argue, the pup was coming as a gift!
The Hills once took Stan on holiday to hoity-toity Plettenberg Bay where they met people with a very stressful holiday job: To look after a fine pedigree Afghan bitch on heat. Big responsibility to keep it away from all lesser dogs and avoid an unwanted pregnancy.
Well, good luck with that with Stan the Man around. When they looked again, there was Stan on the beach, publicly locked in holy matrimony with the long-haired beauty. Something like this (Staffies are known more for their enthusiasm than their class):
A legend in his own lunchtime was Stan.
Now read just how faulty memory can be! Here’s the details from someone who was there: Stan’s owner, Dave Hill:
It was actually at Mbotyi on the Wild Coast and the femme fatale was a nubile young Spaniel sent there with the owners’ mother because she was on heat!
Stan left our cottage after supper every evening only coming home late late late.
One morning we couldn’t find him………..so we went a-searching.
Lo and behold! right on the main beach, in front of quite a crowd was young Stan the Man in flagrante delicto with this young virgin Spaniel.
In flagrante delicto in dogs, as you know, means dog-knotted.
When Stan saw us he belted up the beach with the damsel stuck fast around his underbelly!
My solution of course was to pick em up hurl them both into the water which caused great mirth and unknotted them.
We often wonder about that liaison and the end result . . . . .
I joined Jenny & Tabs Fyvie for a lovely week in the bush at their luxury lodge in Botswana. Right on the banks of the Limpopo river – a wonderful setting. Their friends Johan and Elsa from their days in the lowveld were there, plus other friends and fellow shareholders from the Eston KZN district where they farm now.
Wonderful wildlife, including two leopards; Great birding including a lifer: a White-backed Night Heron hiding out in daytime. The bird pics are all off the internet.
Weather changeable, hot and dry or warm and wet. Cool nights. October 2013.
We had a wonderful time, with only one minor catastrophe: The bread was not completely square; it was slightly buckled and squashed from being thrown in the back of my bakkie. Tabbo survived that thanks to Jenny’s laughter.
I sent these images – pinched off the ‘net – to interested friends after I got back. Some of the birds that fluttered down to drink at iMbuzi waterhole in Limpopo-Lipadi reserve in the two hours we sat there. What a feast for the eyes!
Plus, some of the nyonis seen in and around camp:
I drove back from Botswana in just under 12 hours. It’s been a long time since I did that. Pressure from the kids to get home, so I resolved to keep moving, but overnight with Pierre in Harrismith, or with my folks in Pietermaritzburg if I got sleepy. But I didn’t. I just kept trucking, stopping regularly for a walk and a bite and hot black coffee.
Got a huge welcome when I got in! “Daddy we MISSED you!” No cellphone comms in the bush!
I wrote to Dave Hill: I haven't told you yet that we had a
long discussion about you (rolling cars, Hartebeespoort dam, etc)
He replied: Hi spekkies. I knew it would be dangerous letting you loose with those rubbishes. I bet they were full of heinous lies
about me. You of course were mum.
Me again: No! I had nothing but praise. Which they laughed at.
Trevor, Pete, Butch and Bruce. Pete and Butch dishing the dirt on you about rolling cars and choking Linda Lovelace. Funny how some things stick in your throat memory.
photographersdirect.com (this site has since disappeared)
shutterstock.com (royalty-free thumbnail pics)
On Tuesday, April 9, 2013, Pete S wrote: Drove twelve hours from home to Hazyview on Thursday. Then eleven hours back on Sunday. 1750km in all, with plenty of road repairs on the way. ‘Stop-Go Controls’ where the road narrows to one lane in places. Plus plenty of stops for juice, snacks and leg-stretching for the hungry hordes. Both of them. OK, all three of us.
But the two days we spent at Sabie Park were a real chill. Just us and Dave Hill in a wonderful corner of the bushveld on the Sabie River at Kruger gate adjacent to the KNP. Big Al’s Lodge, he calls it. We gazed across the river at eles, buff, waterbuck and hippos in the park coming down to the beautiful Sabie river to drink.
That’s the Kruger Park across the river. – – – Jess spotted ele, buff, waterbuck & hippo
Next time it’ll have to be for longer, though.
On 2013/04/08, steve reed wrote:
There is just nothing, nothing, nothing to beat sitting watching the other side of a riverbank with binocs, a beer and a savoury snack. It has to be an African river. I have tried it in Aussie and it’s not anywhere near the same.
I agree. I can lurk like a crocodile. Even better if one of the companions is restless and feels the need to braai nearby. I can smell the smoke, watch me birds and eat when told to.
I need to fix my telescope now. I missed it there.
So we enter the 19km event at Karkloof on our pushbikes. Me n Jessie.
Aitch n Tom are going to do the 10km.
We head off and Jess does well, stays on her bike on some gentle uphills, no pushing.
Riding up one hill after 4 or 5 km we hear a whooshing sound, and a wheezing and a loud shoosh and huh and a muttered curse and I realise its not a train or a wind turbine, it’s an oke saying “Spekkies – howzit?”. Young David Hill, peaking this early. He’s let himself go, as they say, since last season when he did Tuli in Botswana and was a shadow of his former self, and is paying the price. Finds his bike has lost all its former zippiness.
We rode together a while, but then gravity took over and off went Hill downhill at an ever-increasing speed on his high-tech multi-shock softail plenty thousand Rand special just when Jess ran out of steam and decided to chill a bit.
After another few kays I realised I was probably leading my category and was in for a podium finish and a prize: First SLOBO home (Seriously Lazy Old Bald Optometrists division). Jess was OK on the downhills (if rather cautious) and slow on all uphills – including some sections of “Dad, come back and push my bike for me”. Even so, I thought I had the win in the bag and was rehearsing my acceptance speech when, with much creaking and panting, an OLDER, BALDER optometrist pulled up next to me and called out “Swanepoel!”. It was young Graham Lewis, who, although MUCH older than me, was probably competing for my crown! I tried to delay him but he was eager to move on, so – although I could have blown his doors off – I let him go (on his twenty year old, unsprung bottle store delivery fiets, with his knees whizzing past his ears his seat was so low) as I had to wait for Jess. Ah, well, silver medal, I thought.
Meantime, back at the 10km, Aitch was waiting for 24yrs of trouble on six legs – Tom and the Bainbridge twins Peter and Philip. And waiting, and waiting. Hordes of cyclists passed her as she looked back in vain. Fifty, sixty of the slowcoaches they had been ahead of went past. “Have you seen three little boys?” she eventually started asking. Someone had: “I saw three little guys lying down in the grass near the drinks table chatting away” said an observant soul. Back went Aitch to roust them out and get them back on their wheels. “We were talking, Ma” was the explanation.
Just before prize-giving I had a thought and scurried over to have a quiet word with the officials. “First SLOBO home: Swanepoel” came the announcement over the tannoy system, and I stepped onto the podium to receive gold – to tremendous applause. Lewis had been disqualified, and quite rightly so. He’s running the Comrades ultra-marathon again this year, which quite clearly ruled him out on the important “SL” part of the category. Justice had prevailed.