Africa, Aitch, Canoe & Kayak, Family & Kids, Life, Nostalgia, Travel USA, Wildlife, Game Reserves

DIY Bush Wedding

I don’t do DIY. I was going to say except for our wedding, but on reflection, I also did that the way I do everything: Stand back and watch as others do it all, while trying to save money.

What I did do was buy the booze and fill Mike Lello’s Isuzu Trooper and trailer with it and drive it out to Barry and Lyn’s farm Game Valley Estates – or just Hella Hella – on the Friday. Lots of rain, muddy roads. It had been a wet summer following the huge September 1987 flood.

Wedding Hella Hella Isuzu Trooper.jpg

Like most bachelors when they do fall, I headed off cheerfully to meet my fate, all my own advice forgotten, marching singing to the gallows!

Luckily Saturday cleared up. I always sing ‘The robots change when I go thru, the clouds dissolve and the skies turn blue, and EVERYBODY loves me baby – – – what’s the matter with you!?

And the clouds did dissolve . . It got Sunny. Then Hot. Then Scorching Humid Sultry.

Wedding Hella Hella (4)

Barry’s old 4X4 Ford F150 gave people a tug up slippery Hella Hella Pass so they could get to their lodgings at the nearby Qunu Falls Lodge. The Brauers, the du Plessis, the Reeds, the Schoemans, the Stoutes, the Stewarts. The Hills live nearby. Family stayed in the concrete A-frame lodge on the farm.

Wedding Hella Hella.jpg

The sauna was pitched on the lawn under the Hella Hella mountain.

The beautiful Hella Hella Kop

The Porters were linked up to ESKOM but just because ESKOM has arrived does not mean that when you throw a switch with a flourish that anything will happen.

And so it was on our wedding day that ESKOM was feeling a bit off that day and we were without krag, power, lights and fridges.

Enter David Hurle Hill !! He roared off in his bakkie and fetched a huge diesel generator on a trailer. David is a Drrrillerr and will drill you a borehole. In fact his company motto is ‘On The Hole Our Work Is Boring.’ He linked up and threw a switch with a flourish and nothing happened. She was not wekking, as David Hurle Hill would say.

Enter Enea Spaggiari!! All the way from Italy via Kenya and Petit outside Benoni. He climbed up onto and over and under the trailer and fiddled with wires and threw a switch with a flourish and Let There Be Light! Music! and Cold Beers!

Wedding Hella Hella (3)

Iona coaches her daughter: Make all the big decisions, but make him think he made them . . . Aitch: Ha Ha I already do that . . .

Wedding Hella Hella (7).jpg
– plotting –

Then the usual stuff, the ominous music Tun Tun Ta Da!; The father of the bride having second thoughts; Guys thinking hm hm hm; Ladies smiling; Aitch saying – ‘Honour? OK; – Obey? Are you mad!?’ and so on:

Wedding Hella Hella-001.jpg

Then The Lies! You just can’t trust some people. Ten years prior to this I had done a very good job being his best man and if he had paid attention he’d have learned something. Like, to stick to the flattering truth and not tell scurrilous alternative truths that nobody wants to hear. At least nobody called the object of your attentions wants to hear them . . .

Brauer spinning yarns

Followed by The Truth, plain and unvarnished:

Wedding 1988 speech.jpg

At last, we could change into shorts and relax and party. Later came The Getaway:

Wedding Hella Hella Getaway Car.jpg

We wore getaway kit appropriate for our honeymoon. We were headed for Deepest Darkest America.


On the Monday friend Allie Peter flew over Hella Hella in a helicopter and took pics of Rapid 5&6 looking downstream and then back upstream:


Twenty Five Years Later – 28 Feb 2013

—– Original Message —–

Crazy, innit! 25yrs ago today Aitch and I got hitched down in the Hella Hella valley in a fun DIY game farm wedding.
She made it to 23yrs of married bliss (OK, she might have had something to say at this point . . ) and one month short of 26yrs together. We celebrated that 25yrs-together milestone in August 2010.

Thinking of all you good peeps that made our wedding so memorable – that’s the bachelor days before, the day itself, and the 25yrs since!


Lotsa love – Pete – and now Jessica & Tommy!

BTW, Lyn and Barry Porter of Hella Hella also died in 2011:
Lyn in January – also breast cancer; Barry in April – hospital infection; And then Aitch in July.


Dave Hill: I remember it well – I ‘nipped’ home to fetch my generator when the power went off.

Pete Stoute: Remember the week-end like yesterday! Struggling up the other side of Hella Hella to the Qunu Falls hotel in the mud and rain – Dave Hill saving the day with a BIG generator.

Will have an extra glass of vino this evening – great mates and good times.

Sheila Swanepoel: Those pics are great. What a wonderful record of a very special day.
I remember the incredible heat and how you, Pierre and Pete sneaked off and changed into shorts straight after the ceremony. And how the phone kept ringing in the middle of the ceremony in the house.
Linda was flower girl, Robbie was so proud of his brand new red “tight”

Wedding 1988 Linda Robbie (1).jpg

. . and Jeff kept putting off going to change, saying that he was charge of the antelope on the spit – he dithered for so long that there was no time to change and that pleased him no end.
Bess & I sneaked down to the pool for a kaalgat swim and found Iona had beaten us to it!

Steve Reed: Will always remember the weekend; a great occasion. I think it was thanks to Mike and Yvonne in the 4×4 that we traveled safely back through the mud to our lodgings. Fond memories – raising a glass tonight to all of you!

I remember Brauer chasing a tight deadline speech writing – wise.

Pete Brauer: Damn. Been holding my breath during this stroll thru memory lane hoping that no-one noticed at the time or that no-one would still remember that poor last-minute effort.

Terry Brauer: Steve nothing has changed! PB has his own website called

Steve Reed: Speech was excellent. Not many can compose a wedding speech while putting on a tie with the other hand. Besides, Swannie probably tasked Brauer with the job as he was getting dressed himself.

Terry Brauer: Yip Brauer remains an orator of note and Swanepoel continues to notify me he is coming to stay usually on the day when he lands in Pretoria – 😀 Those old dogs ain’t gonna learn new tricks but love them both! T

Pete Swanie: I had prepared well in advance.

Wedding Hella Hella Groom scribbles truth.jpg

Brauer procrastinated and ignored my two rules: Keep it short; and NO LIES.

Wedding Hella Hella Brauer scribbles lies.jpg

Pete Brauer: If I stuck to the latter rule the first would have fallen into place quite easily.

Tanza Crouch: Thinking of you, Aitch, Tommy and Jessy at this time. My spider days at Hella Hella are very special to me and Aitch, Barry and Lyn were very special people.


Turn up the volume:


Aitch, Life, Travel Africa, Wildlife, Game Reserves

Recent Hella Hella History – Including a Wedding

My potted history of the two farms on opposite banks of the Umkomaas below the Hella Hella:
About fifty years ago when The Beatles were still The Quarrymen, a Pom family Wimbury hopped on to the mail ship in Pomerania to boldly go forth and do work in the colonies for the Great White Queen.
On board that ship was an 18yr old nubile South African on her way back from a gap year before they were called gap years, in Europe. Especially Italy where she learned some Italian, some Italian cooking, and did you know Lyn had a magnificent opera singing voice?
The Pom family and the Seffrican lass hit it off on board and soon the Wimbury family of England met the Payn family of Hella Hella on the banks of the mighty Mkomazi.

Hella Hella 2016 (5).jpg
The Payn homestead at Hella Hella

Meantime elsewhere a Jo’burg architect called Porter was making a good living and buying farms as a hobby. One of them became the Harold Porter Nature Reserve in Betty’s Bay. He sent his son Barry off to PMB varsity to get a BSc agric and then bought him a farm on the right bank of the Mkomazi opposite the Payns. This magnificent 5000 acre farm had the imposing Hella Hella mountain on it.

They called it Game Valley Estates and stocked it with nyala, impala, zebra, wildebeest and blesbok to add to the bushbuck, duiker, warthog, reedbuck and oribi that were there. That was the only time they ever stocked it. ca 1970.

Well, Barry had a Landrover cabriolet and wore short pants and long socks, and Lyn wore dresses so it was inevitable. They spotted each other across the mighty Mkomazi, their eyes locked and the two families were united in a river dynasty, solving the problem of parts of Barry’s farm being cut off from him and him having to traverse the Payn land to get to Ottos.

Hella Hella 2016 (15)
Otto’s homestead nowadays

Except not really, as Barry and the Payn parents had quite a prickly relationship, kinda like porcupines meeting and sniffing but not embracing. So the farms were never united, Barry would grumble about how they didn’t appreciate the value of game fencing and when Mrs Payn put the farm up for sale and Barry could have negotiated they never got round to discussing a price and Trevor English bought it for a good price and Barry STILL had the prickly feeling of having to traverse someone else’s land to get to the other half of his farm! And English didn’t appreciate the value of game fencing.

Barry stayed at Otto’s at first, so his and Lyn’s eyes actually probly locked while he drove his Landie across their lawn, not trans-river. Once they got wedlocked they moved up to Highover.

Barry & Lyn's old Highover homestead from 1974 (Warren was a 1yr old!)
Barry & Lynne’s old Highover homestead from 1974 (Warren was a 1yr old!)

Where they had a little porcupine – rescued when a Ford F150 did a caesarian section on its Mom at 65mph. It used to scurry around in the walls of their house between the corrugated iron and the rhino board inner walls. They also had Warren there and we bumped into him by chance a couple years ago and together we checked out the ruins of the house where he was born forty years prior.

Meantime Barry and Lyn built a lovely new home at the foot of the Hella Hella, and the little Wimbury baby girl was growing shapelier and shapelier and she went nursing at Addington where the Weermag had sentenced a newly-knighted luitenant in the Medical Corps to hard labour: “You arre herreby sentenced to live in Doctorrs’ Quarrterrs and test eyeballs, including those of the 600 nurses ensconced in the Addington Nurses Res”.

What could I do? I obeyed. One of them was called Richenda Wimbury and she said you must come with me to a farm called Hella Hella. I took a peek at her legs and said OK. And so I met Lyn and Barry. It was 1980.

Me, Barry, McDuff, Richenda, Warren and Lynne at Hella Hella
Me, Barry, McDuff, Richenda, Warren and Lynne at Hella Hella

Later Richenda did audiology and moved to Wentworth hospital where she met a cardiovascular perfusionist called Humphrey in 1985, arranged a Sunday braai and introduced her new friend to me and my friend Bernie the Jet. That was Aitch and the rest of that part of this tale was history.

Porters Hella Hella (1)

In 1988 Aitch and I got married at Hella Hella. We had been frequent guests and would continue to visit often for years to come. The farm meantime had been declared a Natural Heritage site. It was going to be the first marriage on the farm, but a Pee Aitch (professional hunter) and his chick got excited one night around the braai fire and suddenly got married. Technically, you could call theirs a shotgun marriage, right?

Here you can see the Natural Heritage plaque and certificate on the wall behind the bride-to-be:

. . and you make sure he knows who's . .

KCC mate Andre Hawarden made our wedding invites, complete with named rapids on the Dusi, Umgeni and Umko in case any guest wanted a quick paddle on the way!

Invite by Andre Hawarden (see how he has Duzi, Umngeni & Umko rapids named)

Hella Hella. Game Valley Estates. Lyn & Barry Porter our hosts
The Hella Hella behind us

We started raising kids around 1998 and that led to less visits. Later Barry & Lyn sold the farm to a consortium led by a local estate agent who – finally – united the two Hella Hella farms into one logical unit, doing what I wished Barry could have done decades earlier. Of course it’s always easy with someone else’s money! Oscar Wilde said “Advice is wonderful stuff – in the giving”.

They bought a lovely unit in a complex in Umzumbe and Barry hit the trail, traveling far and wide on birding trips. Their son Warren was selling big trucks nearby; Barry’s brother’s Litchi Farm was close – outside Port Shepstone; McDuff, the younger son did heavy duty diving (oil rigs n stuff) all over the world; Lyn got busily involved in local orchid society – ‘The Akward Society’ we joked – and other affairs.

After Aitch’s first chemo in 2007 we went to Hella Hella for the first time since those days, staying in the lovely new cottages next to The Approaches. We woke up one morning and there was a big furry creature on Aitch’s pillow. It was her hair!

Then in 2011 Lyn died of breast cancer, Barry got a leg infection and died, and Aitch died – also breast cancer. February, April and July. Annus horribilis.

Recently a vulture hide in Oribi Gorge was unveiled: Barry would be delighted that it’s not just called “Barry’s Hide”. It’s called

The Barry Porter Memorial Vulture Viewing Hide.



You’ll understand why he would have loved the full formal title when I tell you he made us a tool to dig up plants. It had a handle like a motorbike, footsteps to step on to dig deep and the blade was made of the high-tensile steel of a cultivator blade. A Plant-Digger you might think? No. It had a neat label on it:

Porter’s Powerful Patented Plant-Pincher.

He also made us an intricate bird feeder labeled:

Barry’s Bizarre Balancing Bird Bistro. I found a photo with a bit of the bird bistro in the background behind Kiza Cele holding Jessie in the garden at 7 River Drive Westville. Note the dead branch for photography so you didn’t get artificial metal in your pic; the platform for seed; the various arms had spikes for oranges, cradles for bananas and pawpaws and small holders for suet and nuts. A full-buffet bistro indeed!

River Dr Kiza Jess Bizarre Bird Bistro



Africa, Birds & Birding, Life, Nostalgia, Wildlife, Game Reserves

R.I.P Barry Porter

BARRY PORTER 18th September 1946 to 27th April 2011

Barry as we’ll all remember him, soaking up the wonders of the big outdoors:

Barry Porter_3.JPG
Photo: Andy Ruffle

A memorial service was held for Barry at the Port Shepstone Country Club.

Dress attire casual – as Barry would’ve liked.

A request for no flowers has come from his family. His son feels it fitting that donations be made to Birdlife Trogons Bird Club in lieu of flowers.


Friend Colleague Confidant Gentleman

Born in Johannesburg into a family steeped in South Coast history.

Educated at St Andrew’s College, Grahamstown and immensely proud of it.

Reserved, scientific and tempered with technical ability.

Environmentally possessed.

Concluded his education at Natal University PMB with a BSc Agri Degree and commenced a farming career at Hella Hella.

His knowledge of environmental issues was unsurpassed and covered everything from birds to frogs to trees to grasses to game – from common names to scientific names to even Zulu names in which language he was fluent.

The use of this language in regard to Zulu tree names often led to very interesting and vigorous debates between ourselves and our Zulu speaking compatriots. To disagree with him was a complete waste of time, he would just quietly walk away, leaving one to wonder why did we even try and realising that we had not obtained an ‘A’ in that subject.

His knowledge of birds was unsurpassed and he studied avian issues with an undisclosed passion. He was a dedicated member of the Bird Rarity Committee and was always ready to give a fair judgement on all requests. As Chairman of Trogons Bird Club for a numbers of years (under duress) he never appreciated his ability being noticed and he led the club to be one of the most active and productive in Natal (if not the country) and he had the ability to motivate his committee to perform above expectations to the benefit of its members. He served on many Avian orientated committees where his knowledge was highly regarded.

Apart from his scientific knowledge, his technical ability was quite fascinating and he was adept at repairing and studying all aspects of modern engineering.

He was very computer literate and enjoyed all the advantages of its intricacies to the extreme .

The loss of his wife, Lyn, some six months ago left him tragically scarred – a scar that he bore bravely and undisclosed and no doubt had a bearing on his tragic demise.

His passing will leave a void that will be difficult to fill as there are very few people with his reserved manner and willingness to impart their knowledge to others available in this world today.

May he rest in peace.

Your civility and reservedness which endeared you to so many will not be forgotten.



I have sad news to report. One of the stalwarts of SABAP2, Barry Porter, passed away on Wednesday after a short spell in hospital. Barry’s contribution to the BirdLife Trogons Bird Club was legendary.
An email sent to me by one of his friends, Carol Bosman, includes this paragraph which helps to sum up all our feelings: “Barry lived for birds and whenever I stayed with him he would take me out to record the various pentads for the Bird Atlas Project. His wife Lyn passed away only five months ago. What saddens me the most, I guess, is the loss of a ‘fountain’ of information as Barry was so well read in so many subjects. Your project has lost an incredibly knowledgeable observer and participant.”
Barry submitted a total of 261 checklists for 77 pentads, mostly in southern KwaZulu-Natal, but extending further afield as well. His first checklist was made on 19 August 2007, right at the outset of SABAP2, and the most recent was on 27 March this year, a month ago. Over this whole period there were very few months in which Barry did not submit a checklist.

He was a regular contributor of interesting comments on fora such as SABirdnet.
On 14 June last year during the World Cup he wrote this email, with the subject line “Soccer Birds”: “I went birding yesterday in the normally tranquil rural tribal lands inland from Hibberdene. I struggled to fill my atlas card, very difficult to hear birds voices – ‘the hills are alive with the sound of vuvuzelas!'”

The birding community and SABAP2 are poorer with the passing away of this passionate citizen scientist.


Here’s a pic by Barry of the Trogons at his brother’s litchi farm. Lyn is in the picture, second from left:

Barry Porter & Lyn - Litchi Syndicate.jpg

The vulture hide at Oribi Gorge – in the feature pic – was named in Barry’s honour. He would secretly have loved that.

I wrote a tribute to Barry here.