Small World

Mopani camp was full. How about Letaba? I asked. Sorry, its also full. So Jessie found Tingala Lodge on booking.com – What a happy diversion it turned out to be.

About 15km north of Phalaborwa gate into Kruger Park, Tingala Lodge is terrific. While we chilled on the big patio overlooking a waterhole, a lady arrived in a double-cab bakkie and I noticed a couple of cases of Painted Wolf wine being carried into her room. When she joined us on the patio I said, ‘Lovely Wine, that Painted Wolf. My sister sells it in Durban.’

Oh, she said, It’s my wine. My husband is the winemaker. Your sister must be Sheila! I’m visiting lodges promoting it, asking them to include it on their wine lists.

‘Yep, Sheila’s my sister. I love the labels,’ I said, ‘Who does your artwork?’

Originally an artist who worked on a game lodge in Botswana.

‘Which lodge?’

Lloyds Camp on the Savute channel.

‘I knew an artist at Lloyds Camp,’ I said, ‘Jenny Song, she was there when we visited way back when.’

It was Jenny! She did our original artwork!

‘What a lovely person, we got on so well with her. My wife Trish bought something she painted. We had such a special time there,’ I said. ‘When we flew in from the Delta, back in the day, we were picked up at the landing strip by Emma, a young pink-cheeked Pom who said she was the chef, and she was on guest-fetching duty that day. She loaded us into the open Landrover and drove us right up an elephant’s bum at the waterhole on the way to camp. When we got to camp she had prepared a delicious lunch for us overlooking the camp waterhole in the channel, and we ate and drank ice-cold beers looking down on eles heads as they drank freshly-pumped water.’

I’m that Emma! she said. I worked with Lionel and Jenny Song in Lloyds Camp in 1993! I loved driving new arrivals to Pump Pan to watch the eles!

In 2022 we had bumped into Emma the pink-cheeked Pom from our 1993 trip to Lloyds Camp! You sadly just have to behave wherever you go – someone, somewhere will know you – even 29 years later!

I carried on reminiscing about our time in Savute: ‘Our fellow guests were cabin crew from SouthWest Airlines in Texas, the world’s biggest airline at the time.’

That would be Doug and Linda, said Emma, and you won’t believe it, I was in contact with Linda just yesterday. We have kept in touch ever since! She’ll be amazed when I tell her who I met today.

~~oo0oo~~

The next day we were due at Mopani Camp in Kruger, so we only stayed one night at Tingala Lodge. I’d love to go back. The birding was terrific, and on the way out we saw an African civet in broad daylight.

~~oo0oo~~

Chilling in the Mopane

Zena said We must go to Kruger, my man Martin is a fabulous guide. I said Let’s Go!, and when August rolled round there we were, chilling in the mopane woodlands around Mopani Rest Camp in the famous Kruger National Park, drinking gin and tonic, gazing out over Pioneer dam from our under-thatch bird-watching stoep.

– seek out chalet 43 in Mopani Camp –

Martin runs Laughing Hyena Safaris, and his experienced Kruger Park nose soon led us to great sightings – big ones, feathered ones and little ones too.

Suddenly! We spotted some spots in the mopane shadows! With great skill we tracked the shadowy spots through the dappled sun and shade of the mopane woodland. What could it be?

Hey, it was! It was a . . a . . leopard! Kruger’s holy grail. With great tracking skill, we had found it:

– Martin showed us how to tell that it was a boy leopard –

. . . ‘course, we actually found it the traditional Kruger Park way:

– check the Sharkie going offroad to shove in front of us – I’m guessing his name was probably Richard –

To celebrate we had lots more gin & tonic, which improved our sightings even more:

A keen photographer and Canon ambassador, Martin aimed his long lens out the window and later let us have some of his pics:

. . and he made us a video:

and he taught us a new bird species: the Burchell’s Poupol

~~oo0oo~~

More Suffering (not)

Jess and I have loved our stay at Somkhanda Community Game Reserve in northern KwaZulu Natal.

Lovely accommodation, such friendly and helpful people. I decided to go full-on loafing and arrived expecting dinner, bed and breakfast. They had us as self-catering and the chef had taken leave. We said No Problem; They said No Problem; and between us we pooled what food we had. The delightful Nana who welcomed us and whose face fell when I asked what time dinner was, ended up cooking breakfast for us all three mornings. She was teased by the other staff in her new role and as I listened to them bantering in isiZulu, she ended off her reply with this American English: “There’s a new chef in the building!” to warm laughter. For our dinners she hauled venison out of the deep freeze and we cooked for ourselves as she goes home at 4pm. Today she said “I’ll make you a proper breakfast tomorrow, we have been shopping!” – the shops are about 27km away in Pongola.

Great birding for me, and Jess saw another special predator: A pack of seven African Painted Dogs.

At night a leopard (the resident female, said Adrian) could be heard ‘sawing logs’ while walking in or near the camp, while a lone lion oom oom’d at various distances all three nights.

~~oo0oo~~

Somkhanda website

Somkhanda at Wildlife Act

Jessie’s Truckload Leaves

Tom’s truckload was the first to leave.

And there goes Jessie’s today! She and her family are looking forward to the fridge and the microwave.

Now they can feed themselves and I’m free to roam! Our household goods divided fairly for the kids to start their own new lives. Yay! Fingers crossed.

~~oo0oo~~

Life without a fridge – first time since forever – and a microwave should be interesting. First meal: Starter, a packet of peanuts & raisins; Main, a camping sachet of three bean salad, crisps and freshly fried home-made potato chips with salt and braai spice. Washed down with a wee bottle of Vergelegen Reserve Merlot 2015 – a gift from Coo Evans. Yum!

How much?

Jess phoned from Folweni:

Dad, I see Sheila posted on facebook that it’s your Dad’s birthday.

Oh, yes love, 98 hey!

Dad! He’s 99. You don’t even know how old your Dad is!

Ah, you’re right, 99. How old is your Dad, Jess?

Erm . . . um, I don’t know!

I had a hearty chuckle at that!

Dad! Why’re you laughing!?

I’m laughing at YOU, my Jess!

OK, Jess – so how old is my Dad?

99.

Right, turn that upside down, how much is that?

66.

CORRECT!

Oh, are you 66 Dad?

That’s right my girl. Clickety click. And there endeth the maths lesson.

~~o00o~~

Madagascar 2008

(the album has been discarded, here are all the pages for posterity):

– l – r: Dickie, Claire, Bert, Sonja, Tanya, Pete, Trish, Jessie, Tommy – where’s Mowgli? –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Sell

Another chapter begins. I’ll be leaving the home I’ve lived in the longest in my life – sixteen years. The kids were eight and four when we moved in.

How hard can it be, right? You sell, bank the cash and drive off into the sunset. So I called Aitch’s friend and colleague in her four-year stint as an estate agent, Pam.

Pam, You Know What You’re Doing, You Come And Do This.

So you know what she does? She gives me a list as long as your arm! You do this, then you do this, then . . she’s as bad as Aitch was!

So she tells me: Sell your furniture; sell your books; sell the many wall hangings which haven’t hung on a wall for ten years since Aitch went; Fix the cracks, the windows, the doors, the ceilings; Paint – a lot; Rip up those carpets; New light bulbs;

Yes, Pam.

Mow the lawn – WHAT!? Now you’ve gone too far!

Hell, if I didn’t do all those things for us, why should I do them for strangers? Cos you want to sell the house, Pete.

Oh

– bookshelves half empty now –

Sold!

I decided I’ll never get this done, so we put the house on the market “as is” – its called voetstoots in South Africa. And on that very day we got two offers for the full asking price. A week later their finance was approved and so I asked ‘Must I Leave Now?’ No, they said, it takes about three months before you’ll have your money! Damn!

Now it is very real and I sat Jess and Tom down and broke the news. They picked what they wanted from the house, a truckload went off to Tom’s rented rooms:

– Tom’s truckload departs –

Jess wants less, but the other fridge and microwave will go to her.

(later: Have now gone to her).

~~oo0oo~~

Mtentu Paradise

Friend Rohan owns Detour Trails and arranges the most amazing bespoke mountain bike holidays all over Africa. We joined him Easter 2010 on a ride from the Mtamvuna River to the Mtentu River. At least I did. Aitch drove the kids to Mtentu in the kombi (or maybe in friend Craig’s Colt 4X4 – not sure).

Both hands on the handlebar, so no pics of the ride. I only fell off once, and no-one saw. On the way we stopped for a refreshing swim in a clear deep pool in a steep valley.

Once we got to the magnificent Mtentu River mouth (see the feature pic above) I abandoned my bike and joined the family for lazy hiking, while the keen MTB’ers rode out and back each day.

An easy stroll across pristine coastal grasslands took us to where the Mkambathi River drops straight into the sea at high tide.

At low tide the falls (very low flow here) drop onto the sand of a beautiful beach. Tommy knows there’s bait under here somewhere for his fishing!

– the little bay half full – at Spring low tide the whole bay is beach –
– the falls at high tide – another time – also low-flow winter –

Everyone loves this little bay. Aitch, Jess and Tom each had a spell where they had the whole beach to themselves: (click on pics for detail)

– our Jessie really knows how to baljaar!

Upstream along the Mkambathi River you find Strandloper Falls. The last time we’d been we said ‘Must Bring Our Diving Masks And Snorkels Next Time!’ – and we remembered.

– smaller falls on the way upstream –
– Strandloper Falls –

Then we strolled back:

Back on the Mtentu River, Rohan had kayaks for us to paddle upstream in search of another waterfall

Then back downstream to the Mtentu mouth

Paradise – three hours south of Durban. There’s a lodge there now, so it’s even easier to stay.

~~~oo0oo~~~

baljaar – frolic

Jess and Kerry

I phoned Kerry this am to say, Sorry! Jess Won’t Be Making Her Apt This Morning. She’s not taking my calls. Please do what you would normally do with a missed apt. I don’t expect special treatment.

‘Oh No, No: You ARE getting special treatment! Not Negotiable,’ says special lady Kerry firmly! She who loves Jess and loved Aitch and still remembers her from way back when she used to take a young Jess to her consults! Must be fifteen years ago.

Eyes went all blurry for a while.

~~~oo0oo~~~

A Jessie Makeover!

Jessie’s new friend Sandy took her off to the Pavilion centre and sorted her out like a big sister! Even though she only takes Jess up to her shoulder, she’s a great big sis. They did hair, clothes, shoes – actually boots – nails, eyelashes, the works. A vast improvement from her boring Mom, me.

Sandy and husband Lwazi have been wonderfully supportive of Jess in her travails.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Hluhluwe with Jess

Just two nights with Jess at Hilltop camp. This time the luxury of ‘breakfast included’ in the restaurant, while for dinner we grilled big juicy steaks both nights.

Dad, you’re not taking photos of impalas, are you?! Jess likes to keep moving, looking for the Big Five and teases her friends who want to take pics of things she’s seen before! Yes, Jess, I like their bums and I like the different sizes, three Moms, a teenager, a pre-teen and a toddler. Hmph!

Omigawd! You seriously stopped for a butterfly!? she teases next. Don’t worry, it’s all a game.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Eggnog

Dad, What’s ‘Eggnog?’

Look it up, Jess. Ooh! It sounds good, Dad, it has alcohol and cream and sugar and eggs and nutmeg! Can I make some?

She does, it goes into the fridge and she disappears off to Folweni. So I’m sitting with a big batch of whisky eggnog in my fridge. What to do?

A few days later I spy the Jungle Oats in the pantry and aha! My Scottish blood rises along with me kilt and I think ‘porridge’ and make a big bowl of steaming hot oats and drown it in cold eggnog and add sugar, eating it the Scottish way: HOT porridge, cold milk, lots of sugar, don’t stir, let it mix in your mouth.

Yum, I had three happy breakfasts.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Muscle Memory

Finally! I paddled on moving water for the first time this century. I had often thought about it, I mentioned it a few times (I’m good at the talking side of things); I even bought a new boat in anticipation, years ago. Then yesterday, finally, I dipped my little toe into the nicely-flowing water of the wonderful Umkomaas river.

I was going to paddle with four other guys. Between the five of us we have about 371 years of life experience and 171 Umko canoe marathons; the “1” being mine.

I was going to paddle / drift the 12km with three of them, but Jess joined me and I didn’t want to leave her alone, so Charles, Hugh and Rob set off from Nyala Pans camp below the old No.8 rapid on their sit-on kayaks, while Chris, Ron (Hugh’s side-kick from PMB) and I drove to the takeout point at Josephines bridge.

– I paddled up a bit, then down to just above Wake-up rapid below the bridge and back –

I’ve often pooh-poohed the concept of ‘muscle memory.’ It’s your brain that remembers, I’d growl. But yesterday my muscles remembered that I hadn’t done any training for decades; and they remembered that paddling upstream is hard work and they don’t like it. Downstream was wonderful; whattapleasure drifting on the current. Brought back many happy memories.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Zululand Birds n Frogs

– a cattle grid gate on the D240 district road which runs thru it –

New place, I hadn’t heard of it. Manyoni. It’s west of the N2 highway opposite Mkhuze village, 26 000ha of land owned by various owners with one fence and an arrangement with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.

We had all sorts of weather and saw 82 birds and heard a further eight.

..

..

..

Being on the road with a 23yr-old I listened to her music. The song she played the most was a torch song for the boyfriend: “Ever since I met you my love, My heart is at ease . . . “

At this point one has to paraphrase Augustus de Morgan’s paraphrasing of Jonathan Swift:

Green beetle bugs have little bugs upon their heads to bite ’em,
And little bugs have lesser bugs, and so ad infinitum.
And the great bugs themselves, in turn, have greater bugs to go on;
While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on.

I thought they were ticks, but iNaturalist soon put me right: They’re mites.

In the cottage while Jess was being ridiculously fussed over a hawk moth in her bedroom, she spotted a snake under her bed. This didn’t faze her, it was the moth that bothered her! She watched me catch it, photograph and remove it and carried on gaan-ing aan about the moth on her wall! I said Jess! You’re my field ranger! Relax! It’s a moth, f’gdnis’sake. After releasing the snake we couldn’t find the moth, so Jess went to bed warily, one eye open . .

– sunrise Jess –
– sunrise over the Lebombos –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Birds Seen: 1. Ostrich Grey goway bird Loerie Speckled Mousebird Red-collared Widow Long-tailed paradise Whydah Pintail Whydah Southern Boubou Dark-capped Bulbul 10. Stompstert Crombec Arrow-mark Babbler European Roller Lilac-breasted Roller Rattling Cisticola Zitting Cisticola White-brow Scrub Robin Yellowbill Hornbill ForkTailed Drongo Lesser striped Swallow 20. Barn Swallow Black belly Starling Redwing Starling Blue Waxbill Grey head Sparrow Buzzard common Crested Barbet Scimitarbill Southern black Tit Palm Swift 30. Southern masked Weaver Lesser masked Weaver Village Weaver Spectacled Weaver Golden-breasted Bunting Village Indigobird Dusky Indigobird Whitebellied sunbird Amethyst Sunbird female Scarlet chest Sunbird female 40. White-throated Robin Chat Blue grey Flycatcher Spotted Flycatcher Black Flycatcher Crested Francolin Helmeted Guineafowl Redbill Firefinch Striped Kingfisher Brownhooded Kingfisher Magpie Shrike
50. Red back Shrike Black crown Tchagra Green Woodhoopoe Bronze wing Courser Tawny-flanked Prinia Cardinal woodpecker Emerald spot wood Dove Cape turtle dove Laughing dove Redeyed dove 60. Burchells Coucal (fukwe) Woolly neck Stork Black belly Bustard Redbill Oxpecker Cardinal Woodpecker Bearded Woodpecker YellowBreasted Apalis Diderik Cuckoo Hoopoe Rufous-naped Lark 70. Gorgeous Bush Shrike Pytilia Yellow-fronted Canary Cape Batis Natal Spurfowl Sombre Greenbul Wahlbergs Eagle Golden-tailed Woodpecker Little Bee-eater Chinspot Batis 80. Black collared Barbet Pied Barbet White helmet Shrike .. 82 species
Heard calls only: Grey headed Bush Shrike Orange-breasted Bush Shrike Camaroptera Black Cuckoo Piet my vrou European Bee-eater Brubru Woodland Kingfisher

~~~oo0oo~~~

gaan’ing aan – carrying on; making a fuss

~~~oo0oo~~~

and can one resist Monty Python . . .

~~~oo0oo~~~

Birthdays!

11 December. Jess is 23 and Tom is 19

Lellos and Lodders spoil them with gifts, lucky buggers. I told them Hey, after thirteen you don’t get any. They just gave me withering looks.

Tom cooked Petrea’s gift – a ‘tomahawk.’ Jess was away, so she dipped out. We waited for her, but she didn’t pitch.

We each ate a huge chunk, had some for breakfast and there’s still a bit left. Delish!

~~~oo0oo~~~