Shepherds’ cottages in Lesotho are often quite primitive affairs, used itinerantly as their flocks graze in that area; then moving on to pastures new, where – especially in winter – a new shelter may be built, or an old one re-roofed with available grass or shrubs.
We enjoyed their hospitality there when we went up to celebrate the new chef at the castle above serve his first formal meal. A lovely experience!
Kosi Bay is a special place and the campsites are superb. Good birding and great habitat. It’s an estuary system comprising of four lakes – Amanzimnyama (dark waters), Nhlange (reeds), Mpungwini (?) and Makhawulani (boundary? haste?) – the system is connected by meandering channels and fringed wetlands before it runs into the Indian Ocean via a shallow channel and estuary. A boat excursion from Lake Nhlange to Lake Makhawulani is a scenic meander on open water and through reed channels. At the mouth you can snorkel among rocks and along the mangrove banks. The rocks are exposed or covered depending on the amount of sand present at the time.
You can get to the mouth by 4X4, but if you want the full Kosi experience you really need a boat. Fortunately for us, on two of our three trips there in 2002 / 2003 good friend Greg Bennett lent us his boat. The freedom this gave us, plus the knowledge of the area provided by a local guide made all the difference.
JonDinDin joined us. His RAV4 4WD was feeling intimidated by my mighty Kombi 2WD, so we kindly let it do a little work . .
Our first trip was ca,1990, newly married and blissfully chidfree.
Don’t tell a soul, but when we took the kids in 2002 and 2003 I smuggled our heavy AEG microwave along and plugged it into the plugpoint in the campsite. Made warming up Tom’s bottles so much simpler!
There’s a lovely old sandstone farmhouse in the Lotheni Valley, one of the Drakensberg / uKhahlamba’s beautiful valleys. We had some great adventures with good friends and our kids up there.
As an adult retreat it’s our idea of paradise: no electricity, no cellphone reception, no wifi. Peace. Plenty of hot water, a gas stove to cook and boil water on, candlelight, a lovely fireplace, cozy inside. Luxury. Long-suffering friends the Adlams, Taylors and Abercrombies, all blissfully child-free, would tolerate the disruption our two – who were aged from about one to about thirteen over the ten years we went there – could cause. I think they loved it! I know they loved the brats and were very kind to them.
A great spot for fishing, birding, botanising or sitting with a G&T and gazing into the distance . .
Adventure in Yellowwood Cave
It had been years since I’d slept out in the ‘Berg and I was pleased when Gayle and Grant readily agreed to spend a night in a cave in 2011. Aitch was feeling a bit weak, so decided to stay in the comfort of the cottage. It was May already, so getting a bit chilly.
Settling down for the night on the hard floor of the cave I gazed out through the yellowwood tree branches at the night sky, ablaze with a million stars. I was just thinking ‘It’s been too long, this is the life! I’m in paradise!’ when a small voice piped up next to my ear, ‘Daddy I don’t like it here.’ Oh, well, she may not repeat the exercise, but I doubt she’ll ever forget it. Jessie lay on my one side. Tom on the other side in a double sleeping bag we shared. At least they were warm.
Getting Bolder on Bikes
Fun with Aitch
Once Ma took the kids off up the mountain trail, to give the fishing and reading adults ‘a piece of quiet,’ as TomTom used to say for peace and quiet.
Another Piece of Quiet
We snuck the kids off to have breakfast one morning in the kombi soon after they woke, to allow the adults to sleep in. Good birding opportunity, too.
Crispin was concerned. The locquat wasn’t getting any action. It happened since the streetlights murdered the hawk moths. He himself is a man of action, so he sprung or sprang into same.
Every fetish has its paraphenalia. This case it was stepladders and camel hair brushes. Handlangers were rustled up and we went a-fertilising. I was a keen volunteer as I hadn’t had much to do with sexual parts and sperm and ova myself for some time; and even if this was actually pollen and stamens, hey, you take what you can get.
Crispin knew where our targets lived. We crept up to and up them, tickled their upright stigma and style delicately with the soft camel hair brush and bang! pregnant! one shot! The candle flower, Oxyanthus pyriformis, natal locquat didn’t know what hit it. For all it knew it may even have been a hawk moth fondling it with its moustache.
Driving south to the Wild Coast I glanced down at my feet. Right foot on the accelerator, left foot chilling next to the clutch. No shoes. Barefoot.
OK, I’d forgotten to take shoes on our six-day beach walk. Too late to turn back.
It was fine. I’d make do. I said nothing. Didn’t want Aitch cackling about my dodgy 49-yr-old memory glands. I’m not known for being a meticulous packer or planner, so what the hell . . I was used to making do.
It was April 2004 and our hiking route was southward. From Kobb Inn about 60km to Morgan Bay. Another group would head north at the same time and the organisers saw to it we met up and swopped vehicles so ours would be waiting for us in Morgans Bay at the end of the hike. Slick. Good friend and colleague Allan Marais happened to be in the other party so he drove my diesel VW kombi and I drove his petrol 4X4 Mitsubishi. He messaged me that evening: “All’s well. Your kombi is parked outside the hotel. I filled it up to the brim with petrol”.
Luckily I know Allan Marais, so I simply replied, “Great. I filled your Mitsi up with diesel. Also to the brim”.
We’d be staying in hotels and cottages on the way. Slackpacking! What a pleasure! Good weather, lonely beaches, light daypacks with only water and lunch in them. Friendly local people acted as porters on each leg and carried our real packs ahead of us. Cold beers, good meals and comfortable beds awaited us each night.
We felt positively Victorian as we surveyed the number of people it takes to make pale city slickers feel like we’re roughing it!
A good reminder that few of the famous bold and dashing explorers would have made it out of their ships if it hadn’t been for local guides who showed them the way, found food and water for them, and negotiated safe passage through occupied territory. And who cooked and cleaned for them – sometimes even carried them!
Past the Jacaranda thirty three years after its 1971 stranding:
One day was really windy. All the rest were clear and calm. We kept Africa on our right and the Indian Ocean on our left and sauntered along blissfully.
There’s nothing to eat here, there’s nothing to drink here, so what’s up, bovine beauties? Beach comfortable to lie on? Looking for a furry tan? Wanting to be seen to be seen?
River crossings – by boats and wading
Janice had to fly home a day early from a little airstrip near the beach. Work! It’s the curse of the drinking class. There she goes; Look, she’s waving:
Morgan Bay with its spectacular cliffs
And shoes? Didn’t need ’em. I walked barefoot most of the way, slipping on my yellow flip-flops when the rocks got pointy. Mostly it was beach sand or smooth foot paths, really easy on our feet.
See the purple arrows for the section we walked? Friends walked from Port Edward to East London in 2016. Way further, and carrying all their kit! Allie Peter and Mike Frizelle wrote about it. A lovely and highly entertaining read of ancient old goats staggering from shebeen to shebeen fuelled on Transkei dumpies, Wild Coast weed and cataflam. Especially cataflam anti-inflammatory pills!
Our two walks in the wilderness with the Taylors, Foggs, Janice Hallot and Gayle Adlam blur into one and I have got the photos all mixed up, so here are some more memories from 1999 or 2005.
On the drier of our two walks there was very little surface water about, so around the campfire one night . .
. . when my companions were suitably lubricated, I put one of my (many) pet theories to them. Tomorrow, instead of walking about scaring the animals, let’s go to that waterhole we saw where a dry streambed joins the Mfolosi river and get comfortable and simply lurk there till lunchtime! Let the animals come to us. Who’s in favour?
To my surprise and delight they were all so mellow and agreeable they voted in favour and we did just that. It was wonderful! We got comfortable a nice distance from the water and watched as all sorts of birds and animals came to drink. My idea of heaven: Lurking with telescope, binoculars and books!
These were slackpacking walks, so our kit was carried to the outlying camp by these handy bongolos. Here you can see Dizzi looking for her luggage, saying “Where’s my bongolo? Why don’t they have number plates?”
On the wetter walk it got hot one day and we asked our Rangers if we could swim. They said they knew just the spot. Miles later we got to the river at their swimming hole. But it was occupied:
Aw! Two buffs, an ele and a lioness had all had the same idea. We didn’t argue with them, we trudged on. Miles later we crossed the river again, and had a swim. Sort of. Luckily no pictures were taken. These were of a shoes-off river crossing, footwear and footprints:
These wilderness walks end with a last night back at base camp. We had left celebration supplies there in anticipation.
Then a champagne breakfast kombi drive before we left the park.
imbongolo – donkey; two donkeys: izimbongolo
Denyse took the kudu, zebra and vultures-on-kill photos in the feature collage
Memory is a Dodgy Business. I remembered the scene so clearly. Standing next to a fresh buffalo carcase red with blood; looking around, nervous that the lions who had obviously recently killed it might come back and be annoyed with us for putting our feet on its lunch.
We were on a walk in the beautiful wilderness area of Mfolosi game reserve; no roads and restricted access; accompanied by our two armed Rangers we weren’t in any specific danger, but the feeling of ‘we’d better be careful’ was there, and I kept scanning the area around us.
Or that’s how I remembered it over the years. An actual picture painted a different picture! Photographic evidence of how dodgy one’s memory can be and how the years can enhance it! The top picture was sort of my memory; Here’s the actual ‘carcase’ – it’s a skeleton! No lion would want to look at it! Nor a hyena, nor a vulture! Only detritivores would still be interested in those horns n bones!
Aitch took the picture with her point-and-shoot Nikon. Our group photographer is the colonial Tarzan-like oke on the left. He had the penis-substitute camera and bossed us around and lined us up and made us pose (poeseer, he said, sounding like one of SanMarie’s jokes – she’s on the right with a rifle), and fiddled with his f-stop. A purist, he was still deeply into film and darkroom development theory. So where’s his picture?
He’d forgotten to put film in the camera! We have not let Taylor forget it.
Here’s the moth that will get to those horns in time:
and whose larvae will make them look like this:
. . and here’s an old-timer-y look to make the carcase look fresher:
. .and another desperate attempt at the realism I so clearly remember:
Walking around in a campsite which shall remain nameless (I don’t want anyone to disturb him), I heard a host of birds kicking up a big fuss. I couldn’t see anything, so lay down on my back and searched the whole tree with my binocs. Then a toppie revealed him by flying right at his head and slapping his face with its wings!! A big beautiful black mamba, who just quietly took the birds’ abuse. Maybe wrote down its name . .
I carefully marked the spot so I could find the snake again – I know how snakes can ‘disappear’ – and went back to our chalet nearby and called friends to come and look. I got them to X Marks The Spot . . . and I could not find him! I searched thoroughly, but no go.
We assumed he had moved off, but after my friends left I lay down again and searched the branches again. He was in almost the same position! He’d hardly moved. How the heck had we missed him? The incredible camouflage power of ‘not moving!’
While lying on my back on the mowed lawn I spotted a butterfly land on a blade of grass and twist its abdomen, wriggle, then fly off. I went to look and found a neat single spherical egg laid on the under-surface of the green blade of grass. Beautiful. A greenish-yellow colour, I think. I thought I took a photo of the egg but cannot find it.
was going too fast, but we were late and I could see miles ahead
along the sweeping roads on the hillsides of Lesotho. A speck of dust
would show up then disappear as we rounded a hill, then reappear
later a bit nearer, but still far away. Eventually a car would
materialise, turn into a white bakkie and sweep past in a cloud of
were hastening to get to Sani Top after entering Lesotho near
Ficksburg, and zooming over Khatse Dam after waiting a while for the
brakes to cool so they’d work again after too much sight-seeing
braking down the steep decline to the dam. Little Jessie and Tom
strapped in the back and me and Aitch in front. The Dizzis were
waiting for us and Aitch hates keeping anyone waiting and especially
the Dizzis, so I was putting foot, it’s true.
As I rounded one more bend at dusk my eyes widened and the donkey’s eyes widened much more. Huge, in fact as he stared at his impending doom. The look in his eyes was quite fatalistic, and he was rooted to the spot, massive bundle of sticks and bushes loaded on his back and sticking out more than his body width on both sides. On the left a high bank, on the right a cliff plummeting down to the river valley far below. Swerving was out of the question, as was hard braking, so I manual-ABS’d, slowing down as much as I could without endangering us.
As we hit the poor ass I probably closed my eyes. WHACK! A sickening bang. Dead, I’m sure. Kombi messed up. I stopped and hopped out thinking: You don’t stop and get out. For safety you keep moving. Like hell.
I walked into a wall of cussing and swearing and remonstrating in high seSotho. What the hell did I think I was doing and Who the hell was going to pay and Where the hell was I headed in such a hurry and How the hell was he going to . . . I hardly heard him. I was staring past him at the donkey walking away minus its load, seemingly none the worse for wear! I was so relieved I actually giggled and had to bite my lip.
I immediately launched into a sincere and abject apology oft-repeated and completely ignored. I apologised for speeding, endangering, carelessness, being younger than him, and for breathing. I was sorry that he’d have to catch his donkey and I regretted that he’d have to do all the loading all over again. I was getting nowhere and the tirade was warming up and getting more creative. I saw I wasn’t getting through, so I returned to the kombi and fetched R200 and pressed it into my fully-justified tormentor’s hand.
It was like switching off a radio. He was COMPLETELY satisfied and what were we talking about a minute ago again? A last apology and off we went. We still had a long way to go. Phew!
There was a sequel the next morning as we headed back into Lesotho on the same road. There was my man again, so I gave him a cheery wave. He was with a mate and he pointed at us jabbering away, grinning excitedly. We had fun imagining what he was saying. All complimentary, we agreed.