Palmiet Night Walk

A few Palmiet Rangers went on a night walk led by herpetologist snake catcher and all-round naturalist Nick Evans. And they saw good stuff:

Meantime I took some pics in my garden lately

And another of our naturalists, Suncana, was busy as ever, spotting new and fascinating things:

While Roger and Rory shot more birds:

~~~oo0oo~~~

This “emperor moth” from Cowies Hill wasn’t. Turns out iNaturalist says it’s a Giant Silkworm Moth. Genus Lobobunaea. Beauty!

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A Gardener’s Wisdom

Bruce sent this:
always mow the lawn after 3pm.
Then the dog turds are dry !!

….

Me:
Hosed myself!! Just picked up some steaming ones this mornin’
Strategically placed by Sambucca the black labrador where I’m most likely to step in them.

I just KNOW she’s thinking “Ooh! UGHHHH! There! He can’t miss that one”.

….

Jon Taylor wrote:

Very thoughtful dog u have. But time to delegate the task.

….

Me again:

A few years ago I offered Tobias R10 a day to do it Mon, Wed & Thursday. I figured it wasn’t part of his JD, so when I asked him I added a carrot. He said “Sure!” He’s no fool.

I offered my kids R5 a day to do it on the other four days. I got, “NO WAY” “Yecch!” “She’s not my dog, Dad!”
….

‘A gardener’s wisdom’ reminds me of my Clarens mate Steve Reed’s quiet wisdom.

On windless days he’s apt to murmur:

“Not a leaf stirred;

  Not a dog stirred.” 

(needs to be said out loud)

~~~oo0oo~~~

Roomerazzit dogs face north while crapping. Useful to know. Lost your compass? GPS battery flat? Find a dog doing his business: He’s facing North

So maybe that’s why they step around and fuss around before finally ‘assuming the position?’ They’re aligning themselves with the Earth’s magnetic field. Aaah!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Nine Years Today

. . and then Jessie’s tribute:

Who’ve I missed out? Who else should be posed with Aitch here?

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A Vrystaat Shepherd’s Cottage

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!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Kosi Bay with a Boat

Kosi Bay is a wonderful 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 – the system is connected by meandering channels and fringed wetlands before it runs into the Indian Ocean via a shallow channel and estuary. Kosi is one of the most beautiful and pristine lake systems on the African coast. A boat excursion from Lake Nhlange to Lake Makhawulani is a scenic meander through the reed channels, offering an opportunity to snorkel along the mangrove banks,.

So if you want the full Kosi experience you ideally need a boat. Fortunately for us, on one 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.

– jessie in awe of Dad’s skill –
– to get to the mouth takes a boat ride and a walk . . .
– some walked, some caught a ride . .
– that age when simple little things can be a big adventure! –

Jon Taylor joined us. His RAV4 was feeling intimidated by my mighty kombi, so we kindly let it do a little work . .

– freedom! We could go picnicking on the lake shore, or the beach at the mouth, or at Bangha Nek –
– Kosi Bay camping and boating 2002 –
– bath time in the ablution block – Kosi Bay camping 2002 –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Find Kosi here too.

Simes’ Cottage in Lotheni

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.

– Simes’ Cottage – . Lotheni valley -. in Ukahlamba –

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.

– we set off to overnight in Yellowwood Cave –

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.

– pic from drakensberghikes.com – thanks –

Getting Bolder on Bikes

– wheee! –

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.

– off they go – Aitch takes our kids on a walk – with her camera as always –
– peace descends on earth – goodwill too –
– Aitch says Shuck your clothes and jump in! Mud bath Simes Cottage 2007 –
– Really Mom? – Yes, Go ON! Jump in! – OK!! –
– What? Go back now? – – Just like this? – Yes, off you go! Just don’t go indoors! –
– Dad cleans up apres mud bath

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.

– breakfast away from the cottage where addleds are sleeping – Jess takes blankets, Mom takes food – Afterwards, Jess drives back –

Whipping the Water into a Froth

– Simes’ Cottage Fishermen – please be polite – don’t work out the Hours-Per-Fish! –

Hiking

– Hike Lotheni –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Mabibi and Sibaya

Camping at Mabibi in Zululand with the kombi – and Taylor with his puny little JEEP.

On the way I pretended (!) to get stuck to give the JEEP owner an ego boost:

– sundowners on the lake – Tom, Dizzi, Gayle, Jessie & Aitch –
– every body had to get lip-stick’d –
– Jon took a shot of me emerging sylph-like out of the champagne-clear waters of the lake –

. . which reminded me of Ursula in Dr. No . . Me and Ursula were like twins, ‘cept I wore less clothing and had something useful in my hand . .

Ursula Andress did it in 1962 in Dr. No; Halle Berry paid homage in 2002 in Die Another Day; and I trumped them both in 2003 in Lake Sibaya.

Labour of Love – nudge wink

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.

– other new life elsewhere in Pigeon Valley –

~~~oo0oo~~~

handlangers – nogschleppers; hangers-on;

flower parts – check if I got them right;

~~~oo0oo~~~

Update from Crispin Hemson xmas 2019. It would appear no pregnancies happened! My thought of bang! pregnant! one shot! was over-optimistic – but he’s bok to try again . .

bok – game; up for it

Sole Searching Wild Coast Walk

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.

Reflections on the Wild Coast
Reflections on the Wild Coast

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!

Wild Coast walk_2004 Candys Beach Hse (4)
Tom and daughters, Taylors, Swanies, Gayle & Janice and our porters

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!

Wild Coast walk_2004 Kobb Inn (18)

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.

Wild Coast walk_2004 Wild Coast (23)

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?

Wild Coast walk_2004 Wild Coast (9)

River crossings – by boats and wading

Wild Coast walk_2004 Wild Coast (31)

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:

Wild Coast walk_2004 Janice flies early

Morgan Bay with its spectacular cliffs

Wild Coast walk_2004 Morgan Bay (2)

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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.

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

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!

Allie Mike Wild Coast Hairy Hikers
– Drop Outs at the Drop Off? Mike, friend and Allie –

Years later, another beach walk.

Wilderness Walk Mfolosi: The Gentle Art of Lurking

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 . .

Supper, great food, great wine, comfy chairs.       Story (and snory) time now

. . 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!Mfolosi Wilderness walk 1999 & 2005.jpg

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?”

Dizzi seeks HER bongolo

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:

Mfolosi Wilderness walk 1999 & 2005 waterhole collage

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:

Wading the Mfolosi

These wilderness walks end with a last night back at base camp. We had left celebration supplies there in anticipation.

Mfolosi Wilderness walk 1999 & 2005-002

Then a champagne breakfast kombi drive before we left the park.

Champagne all round! And there's a shot of Aitch the photographer at last!
– at last our photographer Trish is in a photo – behind Jon’s champagne glass

~~~oo0oo~~~

imbongolo – donkey; two donkeys: izimbongolo

Denyse took the kudu, zebra and vultures-on-kill photos in the feature collage

Nature Red in Tooth and Claw

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!

NOT Jonathan's picture - his was film-less

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.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Here’s the moth that will get to those horns in time:

Moth-horn-borer
Ceratophaga vastella

and whose larvae will make them look like this:

Moth-horn-borer_2

. . and here’s an old-timer-y look to make the carcase look fresher:

– olden daze –

. .and another desperate attempt at the realism I so clearly remember:

– we came upon a freshly-killed buffalo! –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Two Fowl Swoops

Jonathan sent a video where a leopard stalks and catches a guinea fowl in one fell swoop in the Kruger Park. Well, a leap, really . .

Amazing! But of course, we saw a similar event down in Cape Town about seventeen years ago.

The target was also a guinea fowl, but this time . . .

the stalker was a Tiger . . .

tiger-guinea.jpg

Harrismith Mountain Race – Again

Years later I was training for Comrades and thought it would be a good idea to persuade Dizzi and Jon Taylor to join me in another go at the mountain-goatish course.

Someone took pics, unfortunately, which showed Dizzi running spritely and the old boys shuffling ignominiously.

– Dizzi comes steaming past –

One old goat in indecently short shorts, me in Savages strip No. 451 and modest attire.

Ever since, Jon has sworn this is the race that gave him arthritic knees. I think his shorts were too short so his knees caught cold and gave him kneasles.

We eventually finished with knees like jelly after the downhill section. Dizzi asked ‘What Kept Us?’

~~~oo0oo~~~

What a beauty! Don’t disturb him

What a beauty! Don't disturb him

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.

– the snake and the butterfly were near here –
– Dizzi spotted butterflies against those far-off cliffs! – some will now recognise the place! –

~~~oo0oo~~~

toppieBlack-capped Bulbul, Pycnonotus tricolor

black mambaDendroaspis polylepis

Here’s a GIF to help spot him more easily: head left, tail right

Die Donkie is n Wonderlike Ding

I 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 dust.

We 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!

– near Sani Top in earlier days –

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.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Four Wild Toppies on the Old Coast

Secret Diary of a trip down mammary lane.

It wasn’t that we were actually, y’know, OLD, but . . . well, we needed a break and a brief flashback to our glory days, when the chicks used to hurl themselves at us. Well, that one. In the harbour, remember?
So we piled into a kombi and headed off to the Wild Coast, looking for That Famous Stuff they sell down there, and hoping to rendezvous with the Swedish Hockey team. OK, the Swedish Old Girls Hockey Team, who were rumoured to be doing pre-season training in Lusikisiki (or, as we called it after crawling out of The Shy Stallion shebeen) Lo-squeaky-squeaky.

As we neared the coast there was a lo-ong downhill ahead of us and I stopped the kombi and got onto Abbers’ mountain bike and whizzed down with glee. As I reached terminal velocity I did think Uh-Oh! as I felt the effects of the Black Label kicking in. At the bottom I coasted to a halt. I don’t do uphills.

It was the Black Label by the quart and sweet wine that did it, I suppose, but when we got to the actual coast where the waves break against the rugged shore, we were looking for some action. We needed a break from all the Sixties music we’d been playing, broken only by one awful interlude when Bruce snuck an Amy Winehouse CD into the player! So we lay down and had a snooze.

But Abbers had brought that borrowed mountain bike, and we no longer wondered why. Seems he wanted to get away from the competition and meet up with a longtime connection he had met when salvaging the good ship BBC China which foundered off Grosvenor back when he was but a boy in his forties. Off he went on his own, heading vaguely south, trapping that fiets stukkend.


Check carefully: No hockey girls

When he got back much later there was a distinct whiff of some smoky vegetation about him and the Msikaba mosquitoes avoided him like the plague. We pumped him for information, but all we got was a mumbled “Loose-titty-titty” and the fact that he had not found the now-overdue Swedish Old Girls Hockey Team, but that when we did he dabzed wrestling with the goalie.
Abbers’ head did clear after a few days and he set off fishing so as to be able to answer spouse Les reasonably honestly, give or take; but the fish were having none of it. You could actually see them giving his bait a wide berth and wrinkling up their nostrils.

wikipedia: MV BBC China was a 5,548 GT general cargo vessel. In October 2003 the ship was diverted to Italy while carrying gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment to Libya. In October 2004 it ran aground near Port Grosvenor, was declared a total loss and subsequently demolished with explosives. BY ABBERS! This is true.

——-ooo000ooo——-

trapping that fiets stukkend – pedaling vigorously

——-ooo000ooo——-

Meanwhile, unbeknown to us . . . a few rivers further north, the Swedish ladies K4 paddling team was training on the Umtamvuna:

swedish rowing team

This is true. OK, they might not have been there that same weekend but they did go there! And they were Swedish. And gorgeous.

Msikaba Boys Weekend

~~~oo0oo~~~