Maputaland Meander

Re-post from 1992 when Mike & Yvonne Lello kindly lent us their Isuzu Trooper 4X4 for a breakaway (OK, another breakaway) where I knew we’d be on soft sand and needing 4X4.

Aitch was impressed with out first stop: Luxury with Wilderness Safaris at Ndumo, grub and game drives laid on. Ice in our drinks. Boy! For an oke who usually sought compliments if the ground she had to spread her sleeping bag on was softish, I was really going big! In our luxury permanent tent on a raised wooden deck with kingsize four-poster bed, she had fun with the giraffe’s dong, saying what a decent length it was – implying something? I dunno. ‘It’s his tail,’ I said, spoil-sportingly. ‘Or her tail.’

Magic walks among Sycamore Figs and drives among Fever Trees.

– my pic from a later visit –

So where are we going next? she asks. ‘You’ll see,’ I said airily. Hmm, she said, knowingly, raising one eyebrow but saying no more . . .

This Isuzu Trooper was magic – just the right vehicle for our Maptuland Meander. Leaving Ndumo, we drifted east to Kosi Bay and inspected the campsites, then drove on to Kosi Bay Lodge. ‘I’ll just run inside and arrange things,’ I said, optimistically.

So I walked into the lodge and came out and said, ‘We’ll just camp outside the gate, I brought a tent!’ Ha! You hadn’t booked! I knew it! Aitch announced triumphantly. She’d known all along. She actually loved it. She didn’t really mind the roughing it and the uncertainty and she LOVED catching me out and teasing me about my disorganisation.

Afterwards, Aitch would tell people there had been a bit of muttering and a few mild imprecations erecting the unfamiliar tent, which I’d also borrowed from the Lellos. It had poles that seemed unrelated to other poles and it was dark. OK, she actually told of some cursing. Loud cursing. The air turned blue, she would exaggerate.

The next night we camped in a proper Kosi Bay campsite. They are very special sites, we love them.

Borrowed Lello's tent, too

We drove along the sandy track to Kosi mouth:

ndumo-kosi-mabibi-isuzu-1
– fish traps in the estuary –

Then onward, southward. Where are we staying tonight?, she asked sweetly. ‘You’ll see,” I said airily. Hmm, she muttered knowingly, raising one eyebrow. Well, let me just say ONE thing: We are not staying at Mabibi. The newspapers have been full of stories about bad guys at Mabibi. ‘Izzat so?’ Yes. We can stay anywhere but Mabibi.

Through bustling KwaNgwanase town . .

Now we were on my favourite road in all of South Africa: The sand roads through our vanishing coastal grasslands. Some kids shouted Lift! Lift! and hey! ubuntu! and anyway, it’s Lello’s car . . .

Well, Rocktail Bay Lodge was also full and we drove on as evening approached. The fire watchtower man had knocked off and was walking home. We stopped to ask directions, then gave him a lift so he could show us the way. He settled down into the bucket seat, pushing Aitch onto the gear lever, taking us left then right then left – straight to his village. As he got out he pointed vaguely in the direction of Mabibi. ‘You can’t miss it,’ I think he implied.

You are going to Mabibi, aren’t you? I knew it! said the all-knowing one. ‘Well, there’s nowhere else,’ I mumbled. When we got there she surprised me by saying Let’s just sleep under the stars, I’m too tired to pitch the tent. So we did. My brave Aitch! Here she is next morning.

Mabibi Camp. Aitch aziz

Soon after we arrived a night watchman came to see us. His torch beam dropped straight out of the end of his torch onto his toes, so I gave him new batteries. He was so chuffed! A torch that worked! Those bad guys better look sharp tonight!

The next day we drove the best part of this perfect road, past Lake Sibaya.

– the Indian Ocean behind the dunes and Lake Sibaya at our feet –

One more night, in relative luxury, if the little wooden cabins at Sibaya camp can be honoured with such a flattering description! I think they can, but I was over-ruled.

Then we hit the ugly tarmac highway home. A very special place, is Maputaland.

~~~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.

A ‘Bhangladeshi’ Christmas

My bad. We arrived at the Mocambique border with Tommy’s passport, birth certificate, Aitch’s death certificate, my application for Tom’s unabridged birth certificate plus the receipt for same. No go. They wanted his unabridged birth certificate itself, or a letter saying we’d applied for it. “But here’s the application and the receipt”, I protested. In vain.

So its Christmas day and we’re looking for a place to stay. It felt kinda biblical. Reminded me of a story I’d heard in my youth. Everywhere we went was full. We drove on to Bhanga Nek, sandwiched between the big Kosi Bay lake and the beach. I’m in my element in a brand-new Avis rented Ford Ranger 4X4 with six forward gears and push-button 4X4 transfer case on the Maputaland Coastal Reserve’s sand roads. Kids would rather be in a different element, truth be told.

We get to the Bhanga Nek Beach Camp. Full. We drive to the Community Camp. Full, thank goodness: What an uproar! Everyone has spent their entire bonus on grog and they’ve already imbibed half of it. All are noisy, some are already staggery at noon.

Savanna & Jess on the beach at Bhanga Nek

Thulani sees me and lurches over, ice clinking in his glass. “I have a place where you can stay” he says. I ask the whereabouts and recognise it as a village we passed a couple of kms back. He hops in and guides me there. Doesn’t spill a drop of his drink on the bumpy road. He’s done this before.

Bhanga Nek Map

It’s a lovely rustic chalet. We eat and sleep. Not a single mozzie! It has been booked for that night so we’re back on those wonderful sand roads in the morning, vehicle in 4WD High Ratio second gear and easing along like a dream.

“Wow! I say, “Look at that!” Huh? What? “That view!” Oh, Yes Dad. Whatever.

Bhanga Nek Xmas
Bhanga Nek beach and cottage

The drive back was along my favourite roads in Africa, through coastal grasslands dotted with umdoni trees. Paradise. Easing along effortlessly in 4WD high ratio second gear, barely touching the accelerator, barely touching the steering wheel, the tyres guided in the twin tracks in the sand. Again, I said to the kids “Isn’t this amazing!?”

“Huh?” they said, looking up and looking around. “What?”

Pearls before swine.

Thanks, strayalongtheway.com for the beaut image

We cut through Mkhuze game reserve on the way home and see three of the youngest little warthoglets we’ve ever seen ‘on the hoof.’ Tiny little piglets running next to Ma with tails erect. “Look! They’ve got signal” the kids said enviously.

Kosi to Mkhuze map with warthoglets

A week or two later, back home, I overheard Tom mocking my organisational skills, and telling his mate “My Dad took us to Bangladesh for Christmas.”

*sigh* At least they do love their home, that’s no maybe!

Thutty Yizz! (that's '30yrs' to you)

Aitch never held my culinary skills in high regard. Her favourite meal to mock was my chicken-onion-n-potato-in-a-pot special which she described as pale and tasteless. It wasn’t. It just looked bland. With a touch of salt and black pepper and enough red wine taken internally it was fine.

She was right about my braaiing skills, though. Luckily Tom’s genes skipped back about seven generations to when burning dead animals on a naked flame was considered an advance in civilisation, not like I believe it to be: a pointless exercise now that Eskom has been invented. So he is now my braaiing stunt double.

Tom braais

To show that I’m an early adopter and no Luddite, I’ll have everyone know that when Aitch met me back in ’85 there was already an AEG microwave ensconced in my bachelor flat, faithfully re-heating coffee, poaching eggs and heating up the half hamburgers I would find on my chest after a good night out.

Which same microwave gave up the ghost this week. That’s correct. My AEG microwave, bought on 26 March 1984 fizzled on me on the 26th of March 2014. How’s that for hi-fidelity?

And just to show I really will avoid playing the primitive pyromaniac if I can help it, here’s a picture of me pulling my shirt to hide that same microwave behind me at Kosi Bay, Zululand ca 2002. I snuck it into the kombi knowing their campsites had Eskom power and knowing that heating up Tommy’s bottles was a fiddle without it. So I took gas and I took firewood and I took Lion matches, but I used AEG electric microwave technology powered-by-Eskom’s coal burning to feed TomTom.

microwave in Kosi Bay 2002
– see the electric light burning by day to prove Eskom was a 24hr service back then –

Update: Now I’m pissed off it packed up after only 30 years:

NEWS STORY: 93-yr-old woman is pissed off her oven packed up after only 53 years!

In 1963 John F Kennedy was president of the US, the Beatles had released their first album, and Winifred Hughes of Crewe, then a mere 39yrs old, paid £79 for an ultra-modern Belling Classic electric oven. It turned out to be an amazing bargain. Winifred,­ now 92, has used it almost every day since, and she says, “it never let me down”. Sadly, just last week, the thermostat finally gave up, and Winifred says she is “heartbroken” her beloved Belling is no more.

53-yr-old stove

~~~~~ooo000ooo~~~~~

Peter Brauer wrote:

“…which she described as pale and tasteless. It wasn’t. It just looked bland. With enough red wine taken internally it was fine.”

Wasn’t she talking about you??

~~~~~ooo000ooo~~~~~

Terry Brauer wrote:

You truly are the nuttiest oke I know. For a greenie this is like true confessions. Nuking your food.

Go Tommy! You inherited your mother’s skills . .

~~~oo0oo~~~