An Armrest Kink

You need to kick back with Binocs, Beer, Telescope on Tripod and – lately – Camera to do your front porch birding justice, and I have just the chair for it on my porch – a Lazy Boy thingamiebob. Newish . .

An Argentine-African United Nations veterinarian writes a lovely blog he calls A Bush Snob Out Of Africa. In it he has a feature called Spot The Beast in which he shows a picture of a cryptic or camouflaged creature and invites you to find it. Then he zooms in to reveal an insect on bark, or a mantis, a leaf butterfly or moth, a frog, even a cheetah hidden in grass. I love it.

So go back to the picture above and see if you can spot the dragon or dinosaur sharing my chair today. Only then scroll down:

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A Striped Skink waits for flies to approach

While I’m at it, I may as well mention some other lizards I have seen . .

A snake?

No, a Legless Skink, on the road in Hluhluwe Game Reserve

A snake?

No, A Grass Lizard – The Cavern, in the Drakensberg
Spot three of his tiny legs

A snake? About the size of an earthworm . .

Yes, a Thread Snake at home in Westville. The sharp tip is his tail

Maybe Peters’ Thread Snake Leptotyphlops scutifrons – known to be found in the Durban area.

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Here’s the birding spot in full operational mode:

What a Storm!

Left home at 9am and got back at 2pm. Never did get to work.

Sat the whole time in this storm. Thought it was bad till I saw the videos of the worst places! This was mild!

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Meanwhile at the practice, the ladies were having their own good time:

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Bloody Tropical Storm Koos!

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Cleanup day today. Jessie and Tobias came in to help Raksha, Prenisha and Yandisa.

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After we’d mopped we got the pros in – R5000 for the wet vacuum cleaner hire!

Bass Straits and Dire Straits

Early Sunday morning I roust the lil bastids. C’mon, Up! Let’s go. Off to Inanda Dam where they’re going to slay the bass. Tom, Jose & Ryan. 45yrs of trouble on six legs and, according to them, fishermen of note.

We hire two canoes from Msinsi and off they go. “See you in about two hours, Dad!” shouts Tom as they wobble off.

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I chill and watch the terrific birdlife. Wrynecks, woodpeckers, waxbills, prinias, canaries, sunbirds, geese, a fish eagle, herons, neddicky, bush shrikes, etc.

Six hours later a weary and sunburnt crew return. They had flattened the eats and drinks I packed and it’s lucky I did: No fish were harmed in the filming of this movie (none were even disturbed).

Lugging the boats back to the boathouse (with much help from Dad) they unanimously decide they would not be doing the Dusi anytime soon.

Inanda Dam fishing (16)

Dusi – The Dusi Canoe Marathon, 120km 3-day river race from Maritzburg to Durban passes by this point on the Umgeni river.

 

The Old Pont

It’s 2015 and I’m on the banks of the Umtamvuna on the border of the old Transkei  and old Natal. It’s paradise. There’s a broad deep river, a great sunset and the sounds of herons, guineas and francolin settling for the night. Also a black cuckoo complaining he’s feeling indisposed.

All of it drowned out by my camping neighbours from BoksburgBenoniBrakpan whose fokkins are matched by the  local South Coast chicks’ fuckings. Loud music. LOUD. Did we ever play it this loud? Well yes, but it wasn’t a mixture of much-too-current  and rooi rokkies, bakgats, Meidjie en Lola.

‘Kinell!!

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At least my three 13yr-olds are in their element. They’re at the riverside on the wooden peir catching Africa, real crabs and imaginary fish.

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My second double G&T from the bar is helping, also a good book.

But it’s hard not to eavesdrop. One oke has just chooned a chick he met that evening she’s a fokkin’ pussy and another chick complained confidentially to her mate that “Mandy’s a problem when she gets drunk: She takes off all her clothes”. Obviously entirely a chicks-only problem, I think, peeping out of my tent.

The next night the gazebo next to our tent on the opposite side gets going. I meet a swaying Kehle nearly my age in the ablution block and over the communal urinal he tells me that he’s from ‘Toti and his wife works in Umthatha and they’re gathering with family and isn’t it *hic* WONDERFUL how peaceful and quiet it is here on the Umtamvuna compared to the din of the city *hic*? I would agree with him except I can hardly hear him as his party has a massive boombox thundering deep bass  while the ladies of the party are singing and ululating to an entirely different choon. The car is playing modern while the aunties are shouting traditional.

Squeaking through every now and then is the paid lone guitarist at the camp pub on the far side of the gazebo. He’s doing stuff I actually recognise – umlungu hits from the 70’s, but he’s losing the volume fight.

Later on the three 13yr-olds in our tent (I’m sleeping in the bakkie) get the giggles as they hear what’s happening around them.

Bloody hell! I’m looking forward to peace and quiet back in the city.

At least the nearby coast was peaceful:

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Tugela Gorgeous – Boats & Bosoms

Bernie Garcin (Bernie and the Jets), Doug Retief (Doug the Thief), Dave Walker (Lang Dawid) and me at Fig Tree Sandbank campsite, one of the planet’s most beautiful spots.

Three plastic (or ‘tupperware’) Perception Dancers and one Quest in 1984 and 1985 – we went both years. In those early days old-timers would still mock plastics, saying ‘tupperware keeps turkeys fresh’ but we knew the joy of not having to schlep fibreglass patch kits along and just smiled!

At the time Greg Bennett was sponsoring and competing in, a motorised rubber duck race down the Tugela (sacrilege!!). In ’84 he had Jerome Truran as crew, in ’85 Rip Kirby. We used Greg’s bakkie to get to Ngubevu.  Who fetched us at Jamieson’s Bridge?

On one of the trips bare-breasted maidens flashed us. We saw a Landrover parked on a hill on the left bank, then saw some swimmers in the river, who ducked down as they saw us. As we passed two of the girls popped up their lily-white tits to huge approval. They were like this except the water was brown. And they had no cozzies on:

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The current swept us past them, but the mammaries lingered on.

Four-man Hole was soon after that and I crowded into a Bernie-occupied eddy straight after the drop and punched the nose of my Quest into his ribs. Being Bernie he didn’t even wince, but I knew it had hurt.

Overnight at the duck race camp the sponsors Lion Lager thought we were competitors so their beautiful beer hostesses liberally plied us with ale. OK, lager. When they ran out I rummaged in the boats and found wine papsaks we used for flotation and squeezed out the dregs. Karen the gorgeous, voluptuous newspaper reporter (remember the days when they wrote stuff on paper?) covering the event for The Natal Mercury held out her glass and as I dispensed I gave her the patter: “A good wine. Not a great wine, but a good wine, with a delicate bouquet”. She shook her mug impatiently and said endearingly “I know fuckall about flowers, I’m in it for the alcohol” and I fell deeply in love. My kinda dreamboat lady in shape and attitude. She was like . .

Cleavage

Dave too, was smitten as one of the comely lager hostesses joined him in his laager and treated him to sincere sleeping bag hospitality above and beyond the call of duty, ending the session with a farewell flash of delightful décolletage as she kissed him goodbye in the morning.

She was like . .

Tugela beermaid

As we drifted downstream we sang:

The landlord had a daughter fair – parlez vous

The landlord had a daughter fair – parlez vous

The landlord had a daughter fair

Lily-white tits and golden hair

Inky Pinky parlez vous

We sang to the resident goats:
I ain’t afraid of no goats

We sang (to the tune of He Aint Heavy . . . ):

Hy’s nie swaar nie, hy’s my swaer

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Ah! Those wuz the daze!

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This should actually be on my pre-marriage blog vrystaatconfessions.com

Palmiet Rangers

Field Marshal Geoffrey Carruthers OBE VC ESO with bar, decided we needed to jack up the patrolling of the Palmiet Nature Reserve.

So he issued a decree and press-ganged a bunch of people into becoming rangers – Palmiet Rangers! and promised us suitable uniforms for the job.

We thought YAY! something like this:

Palmiet Ranger Issue

but all he gave us was this:

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We feel very vulnerable on patrol . . .

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OBE – Old Bullet with Empire delusions

VC – Very Conservation-minded

ESO with bar – Extinguished Service Order with drinking experience

River trip Deepdale – Hella Hella

We left Bernie’s white Ford Escort at Hella Hella with the Porters, and drove round to Deepdale in my white Ford Cortina. Linda Grewar (who became a notable paddler herself – she later won the Fish river marathon mixed doubles with Bernie!) then drove my car back to Durban. ‘Seconds’! ‘Helpers’ ‘Chauffeurs’! What would we do without those wonderful volunteers?  It was winter on a low, clear Umkomaas and we set off happy as larks. Or otters. In our Perception plastic kayaks imported by Greg Bennett in his Paddlers Paradise daze.

We put in at the Deepdale railway bridge and drifted downstream, portaged around the waterfall – Well, you’d have heard a dull thud if you tried to shoot it at that level! It was a glorious afternoon, warm and clear with hardly a breeze. We paddled at my pace which meant this was a two-day trip,  lots of drifting, lots of chat with my mate Bernie ‘The Jet’ Garcin, frequent stops, carrying back and shooting the bigger drops again. We stopped early, to camp while there was still light to cook by.

How low can you go!

Deepdale Falls

The night was as cold as a banker’s heart and I was in my sleeping bag straight after grub. Not so The Jet who first had to go through an elaborate foot-washing ritual in the freezing dark. A long night on the hard ground, and off early next morning. We didn’t know how far we had to go. We knew some guys had done it in a day, so we weren’t too worried and kept to my usual blistering (!) pace. Bernie had stood on the podium in mixed doubles results in his day, so was no slouch. But he knew me and was resigned to (hopefully quite enjoyed?) my drift-and-gaze-in-awesome-wonder pace.

The rock gardens we’d heard about in Longdrop Rapid were wonderful. You’d drop into a little ‘room’ and find the outlet and then drop down into another, huge boulders all around you. We decided this would be very hairy in high water!

Dropping into a ‘room’:

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Bernie got wedged here. I made to rush back to free him, but he shouted “No! Wait! First take a picture!”

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Look Sharp territory

We paddled that whole sunny day with a leisurely lunch stop. As it started to get dark we quickened the pace, Bernie deciding we needed to get a move on. But night started falling before we got anywhere we recognised. Then we shot a weir we knew was not far upstream of the Hella Hella bridge and a nasty piece of rusty iron sticking out flashed past at eye height. We decided Whoa! time to call a halt. Bernie is not really a runner, and I knew the Porters well, so we decided I’d run to the farmhouse and drive back as close as I could get in his off-road Escort.

At the Porter farmhouse Barry & Lyn gave me a beer (‘forced a beer on me’ I explained to Bernie when he said “What took you so long?”). Driving back along the track down into the valley, a couple guys on horseback kicked their mounts into acceleration, just beating me onto the narrow path down to the river, so they had the benefit of my headlights to light up the way. Halfway down into the valley a fella on foot leaned in my window (it was slow going) and asked if HE could hitch a ride. “Sure” I said and THEY hopped in: Two guys, two dogs and a huge sack of maize meal in the Jet’s two-door Escort! Ahem, I’m sure Bernie won’t mind chaps, I said to no-one in particular.

I stopped with the headlights on the two kayaks, lying cockpit to cockpit. No sign of Bernie. I got out and a head popped up, yellow helmet still firmly on his head. He had wedged himself between the boats. As he blinked in the headlights I saw his eyes widen as a guy in a trench coat got out of the passenger door. Then another. Then a mangy dog. Then another rangy dog with a curled tail. His mouth dropped when the two guys reached back into the car and hauled out a heavy sack. He said nothing. That’s Bernie.

We loaded and set off for Durban. After a while Bernie had to talk: Did I know he was surrounded by dogs growling the whole time I was gone? and what took me so long? and was I aware his car smelt of dog?

But he forgave me. He always did. He was a really good mate Bernie and I was very sorry when he buggered off to Aussie (not because of the dogs or anything, mind).

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