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:
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 . . . . .