2007 M.A.H.E.M Hysterical Tour

Ken Gillings led us on a Magical Avian and Historical Expedition to Memel in the Free State in 2007.

Mahems – Crowned Cranes who trumpet ‘Ma-Hem!’ as they fly overhead – are found year-round in Memel, but I can’t remember if we saw any. They’re nomadic, so they come and go. Did we see any? Someone may remember.

The reason birders go to Memel is the vleis – the marshlands – the wetlands

. . and the grasslands – the vlaktes – wide open spaces

Or, if you’re a history buff, cos kak happened here. Here’s Ken telling us what shit went down here, right here, on this spot

– right over there, Steenkamp shot Poncenby – morsdood – war is hell, I’m not to blame –

~~~oo0oo~~~

2009 D.A.F.T Hysterical Tour

Ken Gillings decided to make it more real this time: We’d actually walk the Fugitive’s Trail from Isandlwana to the Fugitive’s Drift across the Mzinyathi (Buffalo) River, then up a little way on the other side on Fugitive’s Drift Lodge land belonging to David and Nicky Rattray.

(Slides change every four seconds. To pause click top right corner. To speed up or go back, use arrows).

On the trail there was a bit of oofin’ and poofin’ – and some lying down and contemplating the sky.

It was 6km as the crows fly, but we weren’t equipped for flight. It took us a while, and when we eventually reached the next Quantum Leap (back into our taxis), it was good and dark. It was a lovely, unforgettable adventure.

~~~oo0oo~~~

I had run the trail before this – or the road more-or-less parallel to it.

Ken Gillings’ Hysterical Tours

Dear old Ken died too soon. His tours were hugely educational – and such fun. You had to listen carefully or you’d miss his wicked Sergeant-Major little asides and throw-away comments. We should have recorded them all. Well, here’s one, anyway.

We walked the Fugitive’s Trail from Isandlwana to Fugitive’s Drift. Ken arranged for a local man to take us to the start and fetch us at the end in his taxi – a shiny new Toyota Quantum like this:

Toyota Quantum

On the way we stopped to look at something and Ken ordered us to hop out of the taxi. Then he paused, gave a slight grin and said

“You could call that a ‘quantum leap.’

~~~oo0oo~~~

Our traipse along the trail was not uneventful. Once again a bunch of pale people were out of their depth, just like in 1879. Also, our average age was way above that of the pommy soldiers, and we had no horses. Even though we weren’t being pursued by victorious Zulus, panting was heard and hearts fluttered. Some had to lie down a while.

We walked from the Isandlwana mountain to the Buffalo river at Fugitives Drift:

Fugitives Drift down in the valley on the left

We were a bit slower than the fleeing poms at the uMzinyathi (Buffalo) River crossing. Didn’t want to get our shoes wet:

Once again a bunch of bumbling Wit Ous cross the Buffalo at Fugitives Drift

After the tour I thanked Ken for a wonderful weekend and awarded him the Victoria Cross for his brave endeavours. Or rather, my Victoria Cross-on-Zulu-Shield:

I had earned it by running a 21km half-marathon from Isandlwana to Rorke’s Drift.

~~~oo0oo~~~