So we did *sometimes* go where the signs *sometimes* said Maybe You Shouldn’t.
We were rescued by friendly Damara ous in the Namib desert, by feisty ous in tight khaki shorts on Mocambican beaches, and by faithful Bahá’ís at their picnic on the Báb’s birthday on a Malawian beach. Bless em all.
Vilanculos, said Jaynee J, is a beautifully sunny spot . .
. . with the odd shady person!
When she was about to leave Joburg for her paradise in Mocambique; to find another atmospheric cottage to inhabit and love; move into a new town, in a new country; and change the place – Vilanculos, not just the cottage – she asked some muscled 4X4 mechanic with his sleeves rolled up high on his bulging biceps, wearing tiny khaki shorts* what she should drive – and he sold her this:
well, this is how I picture him anyway!
After she’d been passed by her tenth Uno, her twelfth Polo, her fifth Corolla and numerous bicycles, she sold it. And found a cottage with a view:
One day I’ll have to write a story about Jaynee J – It’ll have intrigue, suspense, suspenders, laughter, optometry, launching colleagues and setting them free; Sundry veterinarians, optometrists, champagne, ophthalmologists, vets, veterinary specialties, veterinary marketing, veterinary publishing, veterinary posturing, veterinary skinder, candle-lit baths; It would have hospitality, laughter, publishing, amazing meals, cottages, fairies, champagne friends, neighbours, boat trips, idyllic islands, champagne, hospitality, bed making, bed using, champagne, joy, faeries, friends, a long-ago husband, champagne, laughter; Tales of taking real, genuine, valuable veterinary services to under-served countries, castrations old-style, castrations state-of-the-art, laughter, adventures; There’ll be two fine kids, special grandkids, favourites-in-law, champagne, a champagne suite at the cricket, amazing meals, champagne, The Reeds, The Rock, champagne, hospitality, success, laughter, laughter!! Champagne-induced laughter, some hicupping, nostalgic laughter . .
I’m only scratching the surface here . .
She sees things:
. . and boy, can she organise things! When her Manky Mocambican Mongrel (that’s a registered breed) needed treatment, only the best would do. So a hand-picked Joburg vet had to make a 1450km house call by road – from Joburg to Vilanculos! How many house calls need an overnight stop on the way?
Of course, the Manky Mocambican Mongrel did what any MMM does, and croaked, but not before sub-continents were crossed by the vet and his lover, love was made, proposals were made, proposals were accepted; all done in large, huge STYLE. The vet and his fiancee drove back to South Africa with huge smiles on their faces! Best housecall ever! You do things right, Jaynee J! Unforgettably . .
We joined the Hills on their annual pilgrimage to Ponta Milibangala in the Maputo Elephant Park in Southern Mocambique. I think ca. 1999 – must check.
We needed 4X4 to get there, so swapped our smart, sleek up-to-date VW kombi for Bruce’s old rusty battered VW kombi 4X4 Syncro. OK, so that description wasn’t strictly true, but you’ll see why I needed to make it soon – upfront – for strategic reasons.
It was hot on the way. Between Xmas and New Year. Windows down wasn’t enough so we opened the front doors and a breeze wafted around our legs. That was better. Up and down we see-sawed in the sandy dunes. It had rained and water pooled in the bottoms of all the dips between dunes.
Then we hit one of those puddles a bit too fast. I was amazed at how big the bow wave was! We really weren’t going fast, but it still WAS too fast. Muddy water flooded the cab. I stopped to clean. It cleaned easily except: There was muddy water in the headlights outside and in the speedo gauge inside. I thought I saw tadpoles swimming at the 40km/h mark. Later they emptied but a high-water mark remained! At the camp I gave the kombi a big cleanup again, but the mudstains inside the headlights and speedometer were out of reach. There was no dodging this: I would have to confess to Howick’s Mayor-in-Exile, Broose Soutar.
Theo – 50kg Kingfish – latin name. Trevally – Spear fish
We snorkel’d with a whale shark – briefly. With no seeming effort he just swam away, too fast to keep up with.
Update 2020: The Hills went to Mili again – its about 22 years now that they made their sacred annual pilgrimage. The family has grown in all directions. Here they are, minus Tatum, but two girlfriends added:
I told Dad I’d taken the kids on a boat trip to Maputo and he remembered his two older Swanepoel sisters Janie and Lizzie going on a trip from Maritzburg to Durban by train then to the same city in Moçambique by ship back in 1934. The city was called Lourenco Marques back then and the ship was called the Julio or Giulio or Duilio or the Giulio Cesar, he said.
Oupa would have organised the train trip at a special rate or free, being a railway man! This is where he worked:
Dad remembers the whole trip costing them seven pounds each, all in. Here’s a ticket from the Giulio Cesare in 1923, the year it was launched:
I went looking and found – as so often – that Dad’s memory was good. Maybe the Grundlinghs and Solomons know more about this trip? What an adventure it must have been for the girls! Dad said he was worried sick his big sisters wouldn’t return! ‘Cried my eyes out!’ he said. He was eleven years old.
Here’s the ship’s service history:
The SS Giulio Cesare was used on Genoa and Naples to South America voyages but also served North American ports. Until 1925 the SS Giulio Cesare and the SS Duilio were the two largest ships in the Italian merchant fleet.
In November 1933, the Giulio Cesare was reconditioned and made ready to serve on the Mediterranean – South Africa Service.
A feature of this ship was the Club situated on the boat-deck, with a bar. The ship also featured a saloon dining room, galleries and a ballroom. Second class was situated amidships. Talkie apparatus were also fitted to the ship and a long-distance wireless telephone was also available.
Tourist class accommodation was situated astern and also had several public rooms. The tourist passengers shared an open air swimming pool with the second class passengers.
SS Giulio Cesare
Italia Line (Navigazione Generale Italiana)
Port of registry:
Italy-South America & Cruising
Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Ltd, Newcastle-on-Tyne, United Kingdom.
7 February 1920
four sets of geared steam turbines manufactured by Wallsend Slipway
six boilers D.E. & four boilers S.E. creating 220lb of steam pressure by Wallsend Slipway & Engineering Company Ltd. Newcastle-on-Tyne
21,800 shaft horse power
Total passengers: First Class: 244 Second Class: 306 Tourist Class:1800
Paintwork: White hull and upper works ; Boot-topping green
Funnels white with red and black tops and narrow green band
During WW2, SS Giulio Cesare was chartered to the International Red Cross for a time before being laid-up in the port of Trieste. She was sunk there by Allied aircraft on 10 July 1944, along with the SS Duilio.
Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique via Botswana. We only had a month, so not as leisurely as we would have liked. Can hardly believe it was fourteen years ago! The kids are now 19 and 15!
Mostly we drove at a leisurely pace and didn’t do great distances. We did put in a long day of driving on four stretches, which allowed us to chill most other days: Lusaka to Chipata in Zambia; Blantyre in Malawi to Tete in Mocambique; Tete to Vilanculos in Mocambique, and lastly Zavora to Nelspruit back in South Africa were all long-hauls. On those days we left early with the kids strapped in and sleeping. We’d drive for hours before breakfast. Aitch always had food or entertainment for them.
For the rest our days were unhurried. Slowly with the windows usually down, as we didn’t use the aircon. Anyway, speeding and potholes are not a good combination. At places we liked we’d stay up to three nights. Each of our five three-night stays felt like a complete holiday on its own. The Bushman off-road trailer proved its worth at every stop.
Waterberg, South Africa
On through Botswana and to the Zambian border at Kasane where a ferry carries you over the Zambesi. One of the ferries had dropped a big truck overboard and got damaged, so only one was in operation, which slowed things down. Took about four hours and we were safely across the Zambezi river in Zambia. Tommy took to the “fewwy” in a big way and called all boats fewwies for a while. The battered and half-drowned second ferry and truck and trailer were visible looking sad at the side of the river. The border post was pleasant enough. They charged us more for our “minibus” and tut-tutted sympathetically at my exaggerated protests that this was not a fee-earning taxi, but just our vehicle! Laughingly insisted “Well, sir, it’s the rules”. Had a good chuckle and they wished us well in their country.
In Livingstone we camped on the grounds of the Maramba River Lodge. It was full, so we squeezed in near the gate – not the best site, but quite OK. Lovely pool again. Drove to the falls at daybreak where a vervet monkey snatched Jess’ breakfast apple out of her hand. Our first sight of the falls from the Zambian side. Spectacular even though low.
Drove to Taita Lodge on the very lip of the Batoka Gorge downstream of the falls overlooking where we had rafted years before. A warm welcome and a great lunch on the deck hanging over the river. Ice-cold beer, great sarmies. Looked for Taita Falcons, saw Verreaux’s (Black) eagles soaring below. Tom & Jess banging on the dinner drum and xylophone was un-musical, but no other guests around, so no one minded – in fact the staff loved the brats and spoilt them with attention. I thought I’d better step up and perform as Aitch had been doing all the lessons and homework, so I taught them Cheers! Salut! and Prost!
On the way out of Livingstone we hit the best section of road we saw on the whole trip – brand new wide black tar with centre white stripe and side yellow lines! Amazing!
BUT: Just as we hit the smooth, the ole kombi died. Stat. Not a shudder or a hiccup first. Just suddenly nothing. That much-dreaded “CAR TROUBLE” thing! Well, after 197 000km I spose it’s OK. Unpacked the back and lifted the lid to stare at the engine. That’s my mechanical trick: I stare at engines.
Some school kids walked up and said ‘Don’t worry, they know a mechanic at the nearby village’, and the toothy one on the battered bicycle offered to go and call him. Sure, I said, not hopefully. “JP” from Gauteng, on his way to service some big crane, stopped his rented car and kindly offered his assistance. Soon he was joined (I was amazed) by Carl the mechanic, who arrived with a metal toolbox on his shoulder, and between the two of them they peered, prodded, unscrewed – and broke the distributor cap! Using mostly my tools and swallowing the ice-cold drinks I passed them, they eventually gave up. ‘Must be something computerised in one of these little black boxes’ was their verdict. Right!
‘There’s a VW agent in Lusaka’ says Carl cheerfully. Right! 200km away. As they’re about to leave, Carl spots a loose wire under near the sump. Finds another loose end of a wire and joins the two. VROOOM!! Apparently the wire was from a cutout switch to a heat sensor in the block. The kombi roared to life to tremendous applause! Well, four of us cheered. JP said ‘My pleasure’, Carl said ‘R200’, I said ‘Bargain’, Trish and the kids said ‘Thank you!’ and we were on the road again!
Next stop Lochinvar National Park at the south end of the Kafue National Park. We’d never heard of it but saw it on the map. Quite a bumpy road got us to the gate after dark. ‘Sorry, but you can’t go in’, said the soldier with a gun. ‘Sorry, but I have to’, said me. ‘You see, I can’t let these little kids sleep out here and nor can you, so hop onto your radio and explain that to your main man’. Back he came – ‘Sorry. The main man says the gate is closed’. ‘You just didn’t explain it to him nicely enough’ I said – ‘Please tell him I can’t, you can’t and he can’t leave a 22 month old sleeping in the sticks’. Off he went and back he came. ‘The main man will meet you at the camp inside’. ‘You’re a marvel, well done, thank you!’ we shouted and drove in on a 4km free night drive in Lochinvar. No animals, but some nightjars. A primitive camp, so we rigged up our own shower. Nice big trees.
It has beautiful flood plain lakes in the middle of dry surroundings.
South Luangwa National Park in Zambia was my main destination – I had read about it for decades. It was everything and more I imagined. Flatdogs Camp just outside the park was a blast, too. Big shady trees, a hearty meal available if you didn’t want to cook, and a swimming pool with a slide. Jess loved it so much she wore a big hole right through the bumular zone of her cozzie.
We met an American Mom with three kids. She’d married a Zambian man in the USA and had shipped over a converted school bus to tour around Zambia.
Then into the park – South Luangwa!! – a long-awaited dream. It was terrific. Saw puku antelope for the first time.
To get there we had to drive from Chipata town – that dreaded road we’d been warned against! Well, the grader had been a few days ahead of us and it turned out to be one of the smoothest stretches of the whole trip!
On to Malawi
Chembe village on the shores of Lake Malawi, and freshwater snorkelling off Mumbo island in Lake Malawi, cichlid fishes, and bats and swifts in a water cave.
Chembe village beach fig tree, Lake Malawi
We stayed at Emmanuel’s. Fair-minded people will agree with my assessment of it as ‘luxury’ but Aitch veto’d that and stuck it firmly under ‘basic with roof’, even though the shower was almost en-suite.
Outside the room, Aitch was in heaven:
Leaving Malawi we crossed the wide Zambesi at Tete, where we stayed in a motel on the right bank as we wanted to head straight off the next morning. Probably Aitch’s least favourite lodgings of the trip – mozzies and an empty swimming pool. Leaving town two garages had no petrol. They said the word was that the town on the far bank had, so we crossed back over the Zambesi, filled up and crossed back again. The kombi liked that!
Our biggest luxury was three nights at Vilanculos Beach Lodge. Sea, sand, a bar, lovely food, huge soft beds, friendly staff. Especially João, who spoiled the kids rotten, writing up cooldrinks to our room number! They thought he was a wizard.
We took a boat to Bazaruto Island and then on to Two Mile reef offshore in the big Indian Ocean. Lake Malawi and Bazaruto were Aitch’s main snorkeling destinations and she LOVED them both! Two-Mile reef really is ‘like an over-stocked aquarium’.
Two Mile Reef, two miles east of Bazaruto Island off Vilanculos, Mocambique
Zavora Bay near Inharrime. Stunning lakes and a wi-ide bay; A reef at the point, so you can walk in and snorkel in sheltered water for a kilometre; Lovely cottages – houses, really, on top of the dunes overlooking the bay. Our best find in Mocambique. We hadn’t heard about it before and we fell in love with it. We agreed: “We MUST come back here one day!”
Ponta Zavora, Mocambique
One Child, One Beach
Here’s where the kids got sick. We tested them – high positive readings for malaria. Luckily the lodge owner gave us Co-Artem pills which we fed them and then set off early next morning for South Africa.
When we got to Nelspruit hospital they tested all clear! The Co-Artem had done its job perfectly!
Two Memory Highlights:
Firstly, the rivers – stunning! The Chobe, Zambezi, Kafue, Luangwa, Shire, the Zambezi again (at Tete it’s wi-i-ide and beautiful), the Save and the Limpopo rivers were all magnificent and welcome and we stopped and stared. South Africa has some lovely rivers, but these were wider, swifter-flowing and clearer.
Secondly. the friendly people. Everywhere we went we were helped and fussed over and we heard laughter and “No Problem!”, and quite often: “Are these your children?”
Accommodation: We camped 14 nights; Basic shelter with roof 6 nights; Comfy lodgings 7 nights; Spoiled ourselves with luxury 5 nights;
Duration: Five 3-night stays; Three 2-night stays; Eleven 1-night stands;
Cook’s Tour: Thomas Cook (1808 – 1892) was an English businessman best known for founding the travel industry. In 1855 he took two groups on a ‘grand circular tour’ of Belgium, Germany and France, ending in Paris for the Exhibition. The expression ‘A Cook’s Tour’ was humorously used for any rapid or cursory guided tour: “If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Should’n have asked, should’n have asked, should have gone to a game reserve . . . Jess decided she wanted an ocean cruise for her eighteenth birthday. Tom was cool with that for his fourteenth birthday, so off we went.
I checked with veteran cruiser Craig and booked the four night cruise to Portuguese Island in Maputo Bay in Mocambique on the MSC Sinfonia.
What a bay!
The cruise north was rainy, so the kids had indoor fun. Jess took to quaffing cocktails at the various bars. Hey! She’s eighteen now! And the nice barmen didn’t need money, they just swiped her room key card.
Tom focused on the meals, making sure we got to where we needed to be and using the pizza and burger cafes in between meal times.
The highlight was going ashore on Portuguese Island in rubber ducks, having a swim and lunch onshore.
On the beach a huge group of people formed a square and danced to some catchy tune. We swam and walked. I could see Jess actually wanted to join the dancers. But she didn’t. She just watched and watched and swayed in time to the music. Little did I know that tune was going to come back to haunt me!
Back on the boat an obviously Durban family walked past us chatting to their friends about going for a jacuzzi; I had seen the jacuzzi and thought “Good luck”; Minutes later they were back to where we were sitting and told their friends “Hey you can’t even go in there, it’s CHOCKED!” Elbow-to-elbow people. Bum-cheek to bum-cheek. Every facility was crowded, every deckchair taken.
Trish (Aitch) and 5yr-old Jess made a paste-and-cut album when we got back from our trip to five Southern African countries. I found it lying around so thought I’d photograph it and paste it here as a gallery. Hope you enjoy.