Back in 2005 our kids were quietly acquiring wisdom and knowledge (and singing and dancing skills) from an impeccable source – me – when they received a setback: A weekend visit from the Brauer at 10 Windsor Avenue. Old Pete visited. Luckily with Terry.
The bribery started immediately:
It took effect:
Precariously, reluctantly, ominously (more words here) I had to go to work Saturday morning. I KNEW this did not bode well. Indoctrination intensified in my absence. Sugar-laden indoctrination.
When I got back it was too late. You think corruption is bad nowadays? It was worse back then: The kids were now calling HIM Clever Pete and ME Old Pete!
It took a long while for Tom to recover:
I don’t think he was – I sure hope he wasn’t – bemoaning the fact that fate had given him a paleface barber who obviously didn’t know what he was doing.
1972: I was obsessed with the Dusi Canoe Marathon and had been training for it. A lonely pursuit when you’re in the Free State and there’s no canoe club and few have even heard of such malligheid. Planning was more advanced that I’d remembered. here are my notes on things to do – written on about 30 November 1971! I even knew I must phone Ernie Pearce and ask ‘How does a Vrystater enter your race?’
Then my boat got stolen in December, so come January I hitch-hiked to PMB with schoolmate Jean Roux to watch the start. We then bummed a ride with some paddler’s second, sleeping in the open on the riverbank.
I had been following the van Riet brothers’ winning streak closely, but that year a fella named Graeme Pope-Ellis teamed up with Eric Clarke to win his first Dusi on a full river.
222 paddlers each paid R3,60 to enter the race.
In Durban we walked from the Blue Lagoon finish to South Beach, where we spent the night on the sand. The next night the cops kicked us off the beach and we spent a night on the red polish stoep of the Point Road police station. Noisy! Rough!
1976: I drove down from JHB with Louis van Reenen with two boats on his blue VW’s roofrack. We tossed a coin, he won, I took my white Limfy off the rack, and I drove in the mud, while he paddled his brand-new red Hai closed-cockpit white water boat, and often swam next to it! It First time he’d ever been on a river. Emmerentia Dam had been his only training ground. He swam miles and drank gallons of the river in the flood-level Dusi and Umgeni! But he was one tough character and he finished! Graeme Pope-Ellis and Peter Peacock won – their second win as a team, Pope’s fifth, equaling Gordie Rowe and Harry Fisher’s five wins..
I finally get into a new Limfy and do the race. I’m one of 1020 paddlers – the first time that the entry had broken through the 1000 barrier. I’m in a black Kingfisher Canoe Club T-shirt paddling a red and white Limfy from Gordie Rowe and Rick Whitton. Gordie made my boat “light but strong” – in-joke! On the water at the start I spot Louis – he’s back for more! His second Dusi, my first. A very low river. Louis swam his first; he was about to run his second.
— Mainstay cane spirits took over as the title sponsor. Pope-Ellis and Cornish beat the Biggs brothers to give “The Pope” his tenth win –
— Is the Pope a Canoeist?!
This time Greg Bennett’s brother Roland seconds us and we live in the lap of luxury the first night: Cold beer and hot food at Dusi Bridge. Then he loses focus. Then we look after ourselves.
For the first time paddlers were allowed to go home to their Mommies overnight. We thought that was a terrible development, so tried to drink for those who weren’t there. Apparently a new rule made paddling round Burma Road compulsory that year. A low river.
Sheila seconds me. In theory. I’m in a white Sabre, which reminds me how Arthur ‘Toekoe’ Egerton called his Sabre ‘Excalibur’ – “King Arthur” see?
I pitch the tent after finding Sheila in the beer tent, I cook the food and I pack the car! If she was ‘seconding’ me, I spose I was ‘firsting’ her? As always with Sheila though, she made it lots of fun and I met more people than I would have!
Pope-Ellis was beaten by John Edmonds on a low river. Women were allowed to race in K1’s for the first time – as long as they were accompanied by a male paddler! Marlene Boshoff was the first woman to finish the race in a single, accompanied by Martin Lowenstein, beating her twin sister Jenny Bentel.
Hansa sponsored 1987, bringing bigger media exposure and the entry numbers picked up again. Pope-Ellis broke the K1 record by beating John Edmonds to claim his 13th title. In a monstrous injustice and swindle we are not met by bikini-clad Hansa girls as we finish – they only came later! I paddled a white Sella.
A thought: All four my Dusis were booze-sponsored! *hic*
The official records show me having completed seven Dusis but I have only done four, and nogschlepped on two. The three phantom ones I probably paid and entered, meaning to do them, but life got in the way. Probably 1986, 1988 and 1989.
In my mind I imagine the NCC / Dusi boys asking ‘Did we lose Swanie under a rock?’ ‘Nah, he probably finished. Mark him down as finished, then we don’t have to go looking for him.’
Aitch and I went to Mombasa in 1995 and checked in at a hotel on Diani beach. The next day I walked the crowded streets of Mombasa looking for a cheap hired car. Mombasa is quite a place:
I did my sums. I’m meticulous. Not.
While Aitch chilled on the uncrowded beach and pooldeck, no doubt quaffing ginless gin&tonics. She used to do that! Tonic & bitters. Ginless! I know! You’re right. Search me. Where’s the medicinal value?! The personality enhancing factor, PEF? Still, she loved it.
I found a lil Suzuki jeep. Marvelous. I could turn round from the drivers seat and touch the back window! Almost.
Birding Advice: Back at the hotel I went for a walk, leather hat on my head, binoculars round my neck. An old man came cranking along slowly on a bicycle, swung his leg high up over the saddle and dismounted next to me.
‘Ah!’ he said, ‘I can see you are English.’ I didn’t contradict him. ‘You are looking for buds,’ he said, also in a way that made me not argue. ‘There are no buds here,’ he said emphatically. ‘If you want to see buds you must go to the west, to the impenetrable forest. There are many buds there.’ And he put his left foot on the pedal, gave a push and, swinging his right leg high over the saddle, wobbled off. After a few yards he had a thought, slowed, swung off in the same elaborate dismount and came back to me: ‘But in this hotel over here you can see some peacocks in the garden,’ he informed me re-assuringly.
‘Ah, thank you sir. Thanks very much,’ I said, wishing him well and thinking of Kenya’s 1100 species of birds – eleven percent of the world’s total. The USA has about 900, and the UK about 600. He was a character a bit like this:
Traveling Advice: We also got pessimistic advice on the roads. We were on our way to Tsavo National Park the next day and we wanted to avoid the main road to Nairobi. We’d heard it was crowded with trucks and buses and we’d rather avoid that, if at all possible. On our Globetrotter map I found a little road south-west of the main road that showed an alternative route via Kwale, Kinango and Samburu.
‘No you can’t; No, not at all; There’s no way,’ says everyone. Even the barman! ‘The bridge has been washed away by cyclone Demoina,’ they all said. This was a bit weird, as Demoina had been in 1984, eleven years earlier, and had mostly hit Madagascar, Mocambique and KwaZuluNatal, well south of Kenya.
Usually I can eventually find ONE person to say ‘Don’t listen to them, the road is FINE,’ but this time I was stymied. No-one would say ‘Yes!’ nor even ‘Maybe.’
SO: We headed off along the road toward Kwale anyway. ‘Tis easier to seek forgiveness than permission, we thought. Aitch, what a trooper, was right with me in adventurousness. ‘We’ll see new places,’ was all she said. She knows me.
As we neared Kwale a minibus taxi approaching from the other direction did a strange thing: They actually flagged us down to tell us ‘Stop! You can’t go this way! The bridge is gone, Demoina washed it away!’ We nodded, we agreed, we thanked them kindly; then we kept going.
And they were right: The bridge over the river between Kwale and Kinango had indeed washed away. But there were recent tyre tracks down to the river which we followed. Below and just upstream of the wreckage of the bridge we stuck the Suzuki in 4X4 and crossed the low river. Then we stopped for a break, parking our mini-4X4 under a beautiful shady tree on the river bank:
And we were right: Besides being devoid of traffic, the road surface was mostly good, sometimes great:
Then the honeymoon ended: We ran out of detour and got back onto the main Mombasa-Nairobi road at Samburu: Aargh! Every so often a blob of tar would threaten to cause damage. Huge holes had the traffic all weaving from side to side so trucks seem to be coming straight at you, but it’s actually quite safe. Its rather like slow-motion ballet. Cars and trucks went slowly, the only vehicles ‘speeding’ – probably up to 60km/h – were big passenger buses with their much better suspension.
Thanks to Google Earth we can find the place where the bridge had washed away. Here’s the new bridge and new road on the right, with the old road on the left where we crossed the drift (yellow arrow) and that beautiful tree (red arrow and top picture ) that we rested under. The long red mud scar is a new road and new bridge that wasn’t there back then.
Then we got to Tsavo! I’d wanted to visit Tsavo since I was ten years old, and read books by Bernhard Grzimek and others! Well, here I was, thirty years later! Yavuyavu! Fahari!