This year’s Comrades Marathon has been CoVidded – no go. This was the 2013 Comrades ultra-marathon. The route runs past our doorstep, and I have a houseful of hooligans, so I hatch a plan . .
On the banks of the beautiful Umkomaas river at what the Porters used to call ‘The A-frame’ campsite. The A-frame washed away in the 1987 floods, heading downstream and maybe out the mouth, into the Indian Ocean and off to Australia.
Leopard and otter footprints; A tiny little dead shrew – what kind? dwarf?;
A magic lunch on the rocks next to a pool in the river below a little rapid.
And five kids.
Sand Forest is a rare, very distinctive forest type with a unique combination of plant and animal species. As far as is known, this vegetation type is more or less restricted to ancient coastal dunes in northern KwaZulu-Natal and the extreme southern portion of Mozambique (together: Maputaland). Sand forest harbours many rare and unusual plant and animal species.
Sand Forest Lodge just east of Hluhluwe village on the road to Sordwana Bay is a lovely spot. We spent two nights there this week, the kids each taking a friend along.
Sand forests are thought to be relics of coastal dune forests, which have been separated from the ocean for more than a million years as the shoreline has shifted slowly eastwards over the millennia. Dunes have accreted on the southeast African coastal plain since the Pliocene (around 5 million to 2.5 million years before present) and frequent sand mobilization events during climatic changes have resulted in some reworking of the dunes. The geological history of the region suggests that the current ecosystems here may be of recent derivation and many endemic plant taxa comply with the concept of neo-endemics (recent locally evolved species), and biological evolution (notably speciation) is still in an active phase.
Sand forest harbours many rare and unusual plant and animal species, including several Maputaland Centre endemics. Because of its restricted occurrence and unusual species complement, sand forest is perhaps the most unique plant community in the Maputaland Centre. Of the 225 Maputaland Centre plant endemic species, 30 are associated with it and 20 restricted to it. In the case of birds, Neergaard’s sunbird is strongly associated with it.
Plant species that characterise sand forest (licuati forest) are Drypetes arguta, Uvaria lucida subsp. virens, Cola greenwayi, Balanites maughamii, Psydrax fragrantissima, Hyperacanthus microphyllus, Dialium schlechteri, Pteleopsis myrtifolia, Ptaeroxylon obliquum, Croton pseudopulchellus and Newtonia hildebrandtii. The protruding crowns of many of the larger species are usually covered by epiphytes, such as the wiry orchid Microcoelia exilis and various lichens including Usnea spp. (Thanks wikipedia)
And boys will be boys:
*** publishing now, but a story I wrote six years ago after our annual winter trip to Lesotho – just ‘parking it’ for the archives! ***
The resort has taken another leap forward this year under PIN management since they got 51% share and with that, management control. Most noticeable was the parking, the roads and the walkways are neater and better paved. This makes getting around easier and safer. In an earlier year, Aitch once slipped on ice and got a big fright. The whole complex is tidy, too, where before material and equipment would be left lying around.
Much of the accommodation has been upgraded – notably the two big units which have been completely re-done and their outside staircases enclosed in glass (red arrows);
Two completely new staff quarters have been built below the dams which frees up more accommodation next to the restaurant. I think its up to 240 beds. Up to 800 day visitors can arrive on a busy weekend day in school holidays!
The restaurant is terrific now. They have expanded to upstairs and down, take two sittings and were fully booked Sunday night. Professional chef, lovely grub.
Weather was two perfect days – midday saw ladies skiing in skimpy tops! One day was too windy for the skilift to run, so the slope people used the Pisten Bully to take people to the top instead. With us was the Naude family Michelle and Craig and their three boys, and Tom’s mate Lungelo.
Not moving forward this year was the kids enthusiasm! Jess didn’t ski / snowboard at all – sore knee & wrist. Tom spent about half his snowboarding time doing other things, including sleeping! Three of the five boys who went with us were out on the slope early until they got kicked off when it closed – keen as mouseturd, like Jess & Tom used to be – so it was fun seeing their newby enthusiasm. Times change!
So come next January my two will have to convince me we should go – or we’ll hire out our week for the first time after eight years! Ons sal sien . . !
Let’s go to the lion park, Dad, I’ve never seen lions!
This is Jess. I remind her that she has, actually, in Zambia – but she was little – five years old, 2003. I must show her the pics in South Luangwa Park.
They’re in hard bargaining mode, as we’re on our way to my folks’ place in PMB. It’s my ole man’s 91st birthday lunch, which is why I’m dragging them to Sleepy Hollow. It’s not their best place to visit, so I agree: Behave sociably and we can go to the lion park after lunch. OK?
By the time we get to the “Lion Park” it’s closed, but we can “see the lions only”. Same price, one hundred Saffrican Ront. I decide stuffit, let’s rather do this properly. “Stuff these lions” I announce, “We’re going to Mfolosi game reserve for the day tomorrow”. “Let’s go and see if we can spot some real lions”.
We left at 6:00am sharp and were in the park at 8:40am, already paid and entered, R240 for the five of us and the car for the day.
We had a ball. The kids were expert spotters, we saw lots & lots of eles, rhino, buff, giraffe, nyala, impala, bushbuck, wilderbeasts, wartpigs ensovoorts. – And a clear sighting of a gorgeous bush shrike!!
We sang rap and Mama Mia all the way there and back. And we laughed! These brats have decided they don’t like mixing with too many communities. Especially in crowds. Used to be bantu, then plurals, anderskleuriges, euphemisms, etc. Now its communities.
“Don’t stop here, Dad” as we drive through a village, “there are too many communities here”. I threaten to buy them each a mirror so they can check their mahogany brown selves whenever they think of such nonsense, but they just hose themselves at me.
They must have introspected a bit, though, because at lunch at the picnic spot they announce: “Hey we’re the only communities here!” To shine them up I made them do a spot of community tribal dancing in a tree.
And of course the two 12yr olds Tom & Lungelo couldn’t miss the opportunity to disgust the teenage girls by letting rip on the way back, causing a hasty winding down of windows and heads hanging out for fresh air till the green fumes could waft away.
So the lion park sparked a search for ‘real’ lions.
We didn’t see a lion this visit, but I heard a whole lotta lyin’.
Saffrican Ront – South African Rand; worth anywhere from 70 US cents (1973) to 15 US dollars (2015)! Depends when you ask;
ensovoorts – etc.