Flying to Paris

The 258km from Harrismith to Parys via Weiveld takes six hours to negotiate if you haven’t yet seen a korhaan and you need to see one.

This includes a stop for steak egg and strips at the Royal Hotel in Reitz. Instead of strips I got potato wedges crisply fried in batter. Yum!

Here’s the route for slow pokes not in a hurry:

The roads are really quite good mostly. There’s a section between Petrus Steyn and Heilbron where the ANC oke who got the pothole tender must have pocketed the money and not delivered them. It’s smooth and kinda first world! He’s gonna be in trouble. The dirt roads are also mainly fine, but can get rough, and in the dips they get more interesting, as they’ve had some rain. Mud and some deep pools.

I saw my korhaan at last. Not the Blue, which I’ve been searching for, but the Northern Black Korhaan. Also a few Namaqua Doves, a favourite. Pics from my Newman’s Birds app.

Heavy storms are predicted but I had only a few showers on the way.

The feature pic is the view from my B&B on the left bank of the Vaal (not the Seine, silly!) in Parys, Free State. Paddling mate Chris Greeff had told me about this lovely rapid in his home town. Read a bit about him here. There’s A LOT more – Greeff should write a book.

Very warm in bed in Mistique Waters guest house on the banks of the Vaal after a hot bath. Tomorrow the streets of Paris!

~~oo0oo~~

MAHEM

M.agical A.vian and H.ysterical E.xpedition to M.emel

I decided to look for elusive gentlemen farmers Des and Ian by launching a stealth visit to the Memel district, choosing the Memel hotel as my base.

I settled on the stoep with a cold beer and asked if anyone knew Des Glutz? Well, they all did and had lots to tell me. Just wait right there, said Rudi the friendly hotelier, He’s sure to pop in, it’s Friday.

Various bakkies arrived and men in khaki wearing boots or velskoens trooped into the bar. Then a Nissan parked right in front of me and under the chassis a pair of bony feet in blue slip-slops appeared, followed by a pair of bony legs in faded navy blue rugby shorts with plenty of ballroom. His face and neck were covered by beard but I could see this was my man. He’s kinda unmistakable.

– my view of the ropy Nissan –

I accosted him from my prime spot on the stoep: ‘Excuse me, what you think you doing? You can’t come in here dressed like that!’ Well, then he knew I was from far, cos he most certainly can and does go into the Memel pub dressed like that. He stopped in his tracks and stared at me with his chin tilted up and his eyes half closed, you know how Des does that. Then he kicked for touch: Wait, I’m just going to tell these fuckin old fossils I’ll be late. He ‘stuck his head in the door and cussed his three slightly older drinking pals, telling them he’d be outside; then he came back to stare at me. Took a while to see through my new beard, then he said Coppers, is that you? He always called me Coppers after a Clifton primary schoolmate oke called Copchinsky. He also called policemen copchinskys.

As people arrived everyone greeted Oom Des and he had a cussing and a slur for each of them. Except the ladies. Hello my sweetheart, I still love you but I’m worried about your heart, he says to one, Come here and let me listen to your heartbeat. She leans over him and he nestles his ear in her boobs and rubs back and forth going Mmmmmm. Hai Oom Des, she says and rubs his head affectionately. Incorrigible. No change. And no improvement. We had a wonderful evening before he left for home, late, but with a pizza for Mercia as a peace offering. I discovered a few things that Memel evening: One was that the mense of Memel love the oke.

The next day I drove around the well-known Seekoeivlei nature reserve; Des was off to pretend to buy bulls at a vendusie with one of the fuckin old fossils.

Des and Mercia have a lovely spacious home in town and Oom Des decreed that a braai would be held there. Unfortunately I hopped into his bakkie to go there, mid-conversation, so I had no beers, no car. Soon after, another apparition arrived with a snow-white beard. The Bothas Pass hermit had emerged from his cave, bearing enough beers for an army, plus a bottle of brandewyn. Ian Stervis Steele, who I had not seen for many decades. What a night. About ten people, about a thousand beers and a gallon of brandewyn; lots of mutton chops, pork ribs and boerewors, a huge pot of pap and a very lekker sous. Very good oldtime music and Des at the head of the table till WAY late. Generous hospitality and much laughter.

Stervis, myself and a local couple stayed the night with Des and Mercia and their four dogs, the most notable one being a pekingese / sausage dog cross. Pitch black and chubby, about ankle-high, with that Pekingese-style smashed flat beak. Name: RAMBO. If you weren’t careful it would lick you. I got the comfy couch in the lounge.

The next day I was off-peak and had a snooze back at the hotel and booked another night. In the afternoon I drove out to Normandien and Mullers passes and then visited Des. For tea this time. Then back to the hotel where Rudi cooked me a huge T-bone and I had an early night, dank die hemel, Memel.

I saw stonechats, mountain wheatears and amur falcons; and the beautiful Klipspruit valley.

Before I left on this drive I called in at the butcher for some fatty biltong. The owner enquired what I was doing in town and I said I had been sent on a special mission to find and fix a man called Des Glutz. He and two customers in the shop roared with laughter and told me in no uncertain terms that there was no way I could ever live long enough to achieve that.

~~oo0oo~~

mahem – the sound this bird makes

mahem – grey crowned crane

bakkie – pickup; ute; status symbol

slip-slops – Glutz fashion footwear

fuckin old fossils – people slightly older than Des

Oom Des – old codger

mense – people; folk

braai, boerewors, etc – ritual burnt offerings; various animals sacrificed

brandewyn – sacramental drink served in braai ritual in tall glasses; distilled from grapes or peaches, they say

dank die hemel – Memel ‘sanks heavens’ ritual chant

~~oo0oo~~

Memel is maybe named after a Memel in East Prussia where they fought a battle in 1257, even before Des was born I’m told. The name means silence, but that has been broken since Des moved to town and since Memel joined with Zamani to become Memel-Zamani.

Harrismith District

Driving around on the Verkykerskop, Eeram, Aberfeldy and De Beers Pass roads with my binocs and scope – and occasionally taking pics with my little Canon pocket camera.

Yellow Mongoose; Wasp with Spider; Meerkat on antheap; Dassie and Butterfly; Cape Ground Squirrel

Red-knobbed Coot; Sabota Lark; Bald Ibis; Red-capped Lark; Shelduck; Spotted Thick-knees; White-Throated Swallow

Lovely sighting of two African Snipe in my binocs. Too quick for my Canon, which is a bit frustratingly slow.

Next I got to have the film removed off my bakkie’s windows. They’re more wrinkled than me; it’s like looking through a submarine’s windows.

~~oo0oo~~

Sally Forth

It takes five days to go the 250km* to Harrismith from Westville. This is because you visit friends along the way. First, there were leaving formalities with amazing friends and supporters Petrea and Louis Lodder:

First stop Jenny & Tabs Fyvie in the Tala valley; My luck it was Justin’s 40th and Caitlin had baked a cake! Hayley also arrived and there was a flock of very deja-vu Fyvie-Mandy looking kids running around. What a busy happy extended family household! Tabs and Jen are hugely experienced travellers and campers, so I got a bit of Kruger Park advice and info, Kruger being one of my intended destinations. We did an inspection of their alucab camper with rooftop tent on a double-cab Landcruiser. I’ll pick their brains again when it comes to solar power, batteries and fridges.

On to the Rosetta Hotel as it was getting late. They were having a St Patricks night – lucky me again. I washed down a huge eisbein with sherry, a large Windhoek draft, a pint of guinness for Oirish luck, and a glass of house red – *burp* – then to bed in a huge warm room. In the morning I swallowed their substantial all-in breakfast.

To Mandy & Carl Reitz on their farm The Bend on a big bend of the Tugela river and a view of the high Drakensberg from the Sentinel to Cathkin Peak. What a fantastic three days I spent there. We laughed a lot thinking of how clever and beautiful and irresistible we were in those far-off alcohol-fueled days when The Bend was our mecca for sex drugs n rock n roll and variations on those themes.

I did lotsa farming with Kai in my normal fashion: Sitting in the passenger seat and nodding. Kai knows better than to take farming advice from me – he has had experience of me as a temporary deputy farm manager! He drove me all over his farms and the district and we took walks in the mud – they’ve had good rains. A special sighting was a large grey mongoose – the ichneumon or Egyptian Mongoose – running into cover; too quick for my camera.

Durban friends Greg & Roly Bennett had been to their old farm Oppermanskloof on the Geluksburg road to scatter their Mom’s ashes. I met them near Bergville where Roly and I had a great laugh remembering our young n clever daze; – His seconding us on the Dusi canoe marathon, doing a fine job on the first overnight stop, handing us cold beers, deckchairs and a hot meal; sheer luxury! On the second night we couldn’t find him: He had disappeared into the pub leaving us to fend for ourselves; – Water-skiing on Hazelmere dam where I dropped the tow rope as I rose out of the water behind Greg’s 220hp Yamaha outboard; The boat made a tight u-turn and came back to me. When I told them I’d pulled a muscle Roly roared with laughter and said, Swanie you couldn’t have pulled a muscle, you must have pulled a fat! Skinny bastid – he still doesn’t have calf muscles.

Next through Geluksburg and up Middledale Pass into the Vrystaat.

A lovely welcome from Leon & Elsa Strachan on their farm Nesshurst where again I was shown all over and fed and entertained royally. I forgot to get a pic of their beautiful big guest çottage on the banks of their dam.

I must ID that interesting plant. Then I got to Harrismith to Pierre and Erika du Plessis to stay in their lovely home. I have been so spoiled by Erika, and Aletta and Paul, her two helpers. Yesterday I heard a scream from Aletta in the garden. I rushed out to find she’d been stung by a wasp jealously guarding his spider prey on the lawn!

Next post: A fascinating trip to Memel.

~~oo0oo~~

  • * 250km as the vrou cries – or crow flies – a bit further if you insist on going ‘on the ground’

Tom’s New Room

Years ago, we discussed a revamp for TomTom’s bedroom. Life happened, it didn’t happen. His and Jessie’s bedrooms are just as when we bought sixteen years ago. And now the house is sold.

I came across his hand-written wishlist while clearing up.

Tom's new room
Bigger
New desk
New cupboard
Three walls tiled snow white
One wall covered in cool graffitti
Floor tiled
Blinds, not curtains
Aircon
New lights
New plugs
Code system (for access)

Oh well, TomTom. One day . .

Jessie’s Truckload Leaves

Tom’s truckload was the first to leave.

And there goes Jessie’s today! She and her family are looking forward to the fridge and the microwave.

Now they can feed themselves and I’m free to roam! Our household goods divided fairly for the kids to start their own new lives. Yay! Fingers crossed.

~~oo0oo~~

Life without a fridge – first time since forever – and a microwave should be interesting. First meal: Starter, a packet of peanuts & raisins; Main, a camping sachet of three bean salad, crisps and freshly fried home-made potato chips with salt and braai spice. Washed down with a wee bottle of Vergelegen Reserve Merlot 2015 – a gift from Coo Evans. Yum!

End-Days Elston Place

I forgot to get the camera out – or rather, aim my phone at people – so that’s the setting for my farewell meals without Petrea, Louis, Charles, Barbara, Jules, Gayle, Grant, Ziggy, Tom, Mbono, Geoff, Janet, Heather or Bruce. A people-free zone before they arrived.

And I didn’t suffer all of them at once, are you mad? I only have five chairs left, so that’s my max guest number. And I sub-contracted out all catering – to Petrea, Louis, Ziggy and Checkers.

Some of these soirees were evenings, some were lunches. The evening ones were interrupted by le frogs calling loudly. Guttural Toads loud BRAAAP! and the gentle creak (that’s creak, not croak) of the River Frog – all in my sparkling blue-green pool. Here’s a guttural toad who scored – managed to entice a svelte young lady. The noisy one is the little guy on her back. He’s quiet now cos he doesn’t want any interruptions while theyr’e makin’ whoopee – and long strings of black fertilised eggs.

We’d have to get up every now and then and shurrup the toads, but you know what its like when you’re horny – they would only shut up for less than a minute. You do know what its like when you’re horny, right? Here’s one of them belting out a number:

Oh, hang on!? Anyway, Fats sounds better.

Here’s the polite lil chap:

Here’s his cousin from Petrea and Louis’ place down the road with a much showier ventral stripe:

One morning I called in expert help to deal with the noisy toads. I don’t know if he manage to relocate any of them. Hope so. He looks like he needs the protein.

I’m told my end-of-days is now only at at the end of February, so more to come.

~~oo0oo~~

Project Management

So the garage door was falling to pieces. Made of strips of aluminium riveted to a frame the rivets had mostly popped and it was flapping in any breezes that wafted.

Something had to be done.

So I waited a few months. And a few storms, for enhanced flapping.

Then I bleated to a project manager who sprang into action, roared off to a hardware store, bought some self-tapping screws and gave them to me along with his automatic, hydromatic, self-propelling, variable speed, battery-operated 14.4Volt hand-held Bosch Power Drill. With star bit for screwing screws with star heads.

He obviously hadn’t understood what I wanted.

So I waited.

Then I told Ziggy, ‘When you’re finished tidying the garage let me know. I need to repair the broken door.’ And sowaar, my patience was rewarded: ‘Why don’t you let Mbono do that? He’s very handy with man things,’ she said.

Now usually I would stop my daughters in their tracks with my standard, ‘Hey! Anything a man can do a woman can do too,’ but I listened and I shurrup. ‘OK’ I said and gave him the screws and a Spanish screwdriver (Manuel).

Mbono fixed the door in no time. Like greased lightning, it was hydromatic, automatic. I was going to post before and after pics here – too late.

So to end this lecture on project management: For suitable tasks all you need is to find one tame project manager and one tame matriculant from Northwood Boys. Then expertly source – or delegate the sourcing of – a bit of equipment and it’s actually quite easy.

~~oo0oo~~

sowaar – true’s Bob

Don’t Ask the Heathen!

I drove off to get some space and peace, and found out it’s hard to be on the road. Every space is taken. You can’t stop on the road and you really shouldn’t stop on the pavements. Nor should you block the few pull-over lanes the new South Africa made for taxis. But it was early Sunday morning, so I pulled into a lane that taxis can use outside St Elizabeth’s Church, not far from home. Who was Elizabeth, I wondered? And how do you become a saint? Do you have to be as evil as Mother Teresa?

So I’m sitting and thinking when a car cruises up slowly and stops opposite me. I wave and carry on with what I’m not doing when he winds down his window and I twig he wants to ask me something. He’s neatly dressed and the lady next to him is dressed for church. Lovely friendly-looking people who the Nats would have classified ‘Coloured’ – and the ANC kept these damned fake classifications! Under RACE in govt forms everyone should write NOT RUNNING.

‘Do you know what time the service is?’ he asks. Oh heck, no, I’m sorry, I’m a heathen. I wouldn’t have a clue, I tell him. It’s Anglican, right? I ask him. He says ‘Yes,’ smiling. His wife peers at me, interested, I think. Maybe: ‘So THAT’s what they look like!?’ They drive off and park to watch the church. A few minutes later someone drives into the church parking lot and they follow that car – hopefully to get a more useful answer.

~~oo0oo~~

Hawaan Forest

There’s a beautiful patch of coastal forest left in Durban, hanging on as development happens all around it. Strolling around in the forest and on the fringe with sister Sheila and friend Jules, we heard a host of birds, saw a few and took pics of a few of the plants and creatures that would sit still.

– Variable Diadem on the lawn –
– Dideric Cuckoo tries to enter a Red Bishop nest –
– where’s that blerrie cuckoo? –
– alive with All Things Bright and Beautiful –
– the reed frog chorus is a delight –
Also – All things dull and ug-ga-ly
All creatures short and squat . .

~~oo0oo~~

Next visit we walked through the forest to the deck overlooking the river.

– under the canopy – the best kind of cathedral –

~~oo0oo~~

How much?

Jess phoned from Folweni:

Dad, I see Sheila posted on facebook that it’s your Dad’s birthday.

Oh, yes love, 98 hey!

Dad! He’s 99. You don’t even know how old your Dad is!

Ah, you’re right, 99. How old is your Dad, Jess?

Erm . . . um, I don’t know!

I had a hearty chuckle at that!

Dad! Why’re you laughing!?

I’m laughing at YOU, my Jess!

OK, Jess – so how old is my Dad?

99.

Right, turn that upside down, how much is that?

66.

CORRECT!

Oh, are you 66 Dad?

That’s right my girl. Clickety click. And there endeth the maths lesson.

~~o00o~~

A-Frogging We Will Go!

Old English nursery rhyme song:

A frog he would a-wooing go,
Heigh ho! says Rowley,
A frog he would a-wooing go,
Whether his mother would let him or no.
With a rowley, powley*, gammon, and spinach,
Heigh ho! says Anthony Rowley.

Like all good nursery rhymes, they all came to a bloody end. Dead, the lot of them, by the end of the rhyme. And they’re for children, of course, so there’s mention of spinach! See all the words here.

Aitch and I enjoyed some lovely frogging outings in our courting days and pre-children days. Sometimes with Barry & Lyn Porter at their three main ‘patches,’ Hella Hella (Game Valley Estates), inland of Port Shepstone (the litchi farm) and Betty’s Bay (which Barry’s father donated to the nation for a nature reserve), but the two of us ‘frogged’ all over the place, filling in data for the frog atlas by ADU at UCT’s Fitztitute. We had a lot of fun doing that. We felt lucky, we had an early GPS.

– me and Barry frogging inland of Port Shepstone on ‘the litchi farm’ –

Top ‘feature’ pic: A red-banded Rubber Frog I caught in me underpants on Malachite Camp – a shortlived venture in Zululand by the Mala Mala crowd. Here’s the frog again, and the tuft he was calling in:

Sonderbroek frogging as sometimes the vlei was quite deep. Whistling catcalls would emanate from the Landrover. That woman!

~~o00o~~

sonderbroek – sans culotte; trousers off

vlei – marsh; wetland

Mfolosi

Useful to top up your salt intake every so often by sticking your tongue in your nostril. Must practice that.

Mpila camp’s ‘safari tents’ are great. Comfy with all modcons, own kitchen and en-suite semi-outdoor bathroom. It’s walled in with reeds, like the kitchen wall you see here, but only to shoulder height – above that, it’s open to the outdoors under the big canvas roof. It’s a treat. A Purple-banded Sunbird sang to me as I showered. No pictures.

While photographing these ‘acacia’ flowers (must get the real name – maybe Senegalia?) this biggish weevil or snout beetle dropped into my hand. I’ll ask iNaturalist.org to identify both the plant and its weevil. Otherwise it would be like I saw no weevil.

There you go! iNaturalist.org says it’s a Foppish Weevil Polyclaeis equestris

– a Wahlberg’s Eagle and a Yellow-billed Kite share a perch –

A slender mongoose made a breakfast appearance at a waterhole. If anything was nesting in there, they were egg and toast, as she inspected every nook and cranny.

Driving along, an oft-heard sound and a not-often-seen sighting:

– a very obliging Black Cuckoo calls ‘I’m So Sick!’ –

At the hide (must add the name – Bhejane?) I saw the lovely Mocking Cliff Chat, Lesser Striped Swallows, Village Weavers building nests and a Hadeda Ibis pulling down their new nests around its nest! A Diederik Cuckoo was calling, probably waiting to get into those weaver nests. This hide looks out over a waterfall – dry today:

At another waterhole a bird flew past as my little Canon snapped a 3-shot burst:

I took a new route home, exiting the Cengeni gate in the south-west of the park and heading for Ulundi, Melmoth and Eshowe. Right outside the gate exiting the Umfolozi Big Five Game Reserve there’s this puzzling sign:

– or turn around and go back fifty metres! –

I asked the man at the gate, How far to Ulundi? 37km. I asked him, And how is the road? and he got all coy, hummed and hah’d a bit, then blurted, “but it is a tar road.” It wasn’t too bad. A fairly normal look-sharp neglected tar road as we’re used to.

If I still had Marguerite Poland’s book on the isiZulu descriptive names of Nguni cattle I’d tell you how this beast on the way to Ulundi would be described:

– something like ‘she lifts her black dress to cross the river, revealing her white petticoat’ –

I’ll go back to Mfolosi. Soon, though. Before it also loses all its grasslands to bush encroachment.

~~o00o~~

Mkhuze Mini-Break

Lovely three nights in Mantuma Camp at Mkhuze game reserve in Zululand. Nothing much happened, animals were not plentiful, the grasslands are still sadly bush-encroached, but the birds, insects and plants more than made up for that. So as not to moan about Homo sapiens vaaliensis polluting the lovely hides with farting, phone calls, smoking and loud shutter clicks of the cameras with more computing power than their owners, I have politely refrained from commenting and instead played some games with the rather ordinary pictures I took with my phone and my pocket Canon. Enjoy!

I dunno what he saw in there, but he was making an awful racket for a long time – snake maybe?
  • this tiny little spider on my rearview mirror elongated himself to look like a mini octopus when I came too close –

At last an ele in Mkhuze! I was beginning in the last few years to think there weren’t any left. There must be very few, anyway.

– Chiromantis xerampelina –

At Kumahlala hide, after an hour of being alone and quiet, the Foam Nest Frogs started up a chorus. Took a while, but I found one up on a twig just outside the hide and got a pic of him. I wish I had thought to tape their call – a lovely loud chorus – I’d guess about four of them doing a fine barbershop quartet! Here’s a shy soloist:

Then I heard a new sound:

– thanks, Cliff and Suretha Dorse on biodiversity focused website

Found a new frog! I went through my frog calls: A Rhythmic Caco – Cacosternum rythmum. I must look for a picture of one. I couldn’t find him in the flooded grass in the waterhole. He is little over a centimetre long, mind you. Another name for them is Dainty Frogs.

Sunset at Masinga Waterhole: The sun sets behind the big old Boerbean tree that was probably already there when I first visited ‘Mkuzi’ in 1965. The hide wasn’t here then. The famous Bube hide was the ‘in place’ then, just a few hundred metres away (north, I think).

– very little water – full of green algae –

Driving out of the park to go home, a bushveld scene: Stripes and horns and a few egrets hanging around, hoping for some disturbance to happen. I ”shopped’ in the lily into the foreground, as it was lonely in its own picture with nothing around it. And it was nearby . .

~~oo0oo~~

Like a Bucket of Prawns

I’m off!

Or I thought I was. Packed the hebcooler, the book box, the camera bag – now huge with two tripods and a new spotting scope (the main toy to be tested out at Mkhuze’s hides!). Food. Ice bricks from the freezer, the lot. Having been a critic when Jess forgot things, I went through my mental checklist. Nah, I’m sure I have it all.

Oh, clothes and toiletries. OK. Coffee. Right. Charcoal. First aid kit.

Loaded the whole lot in the car then remembered I had undertaken to get my will signed, witnessed and courier’d today. Did that, then had to arrange a locum optometrist to work for us – quick! before he changes his mind! Did that, then remembered I’d arranged to meet the lady who sold all my furniture for final payment. Did that. Then Gugu texted me: Can the girls come for a swim this afternoon in my newly cleaned sparkling blue pool? That did it.

I unpacked, back in the deep freeze and fridge. I’ll leave tomorrow. Early start. The three young ‘uns had a noisy, fun swim, chips and red cooldrink. Perfect day.

~~o00o~~

1988 Albums

The big old album is hitting the recycling bin. I have recorded all the pictures.

Home after our lo-ong honeymoon and some surprise welcomes:

Also in 1988 we had a big optometry conference in Durban. As part of the hosting committee I produced a daily newsletter. Then I became president of the optometric association at the end of the conference.

Friends at the conference – and an induction (Brauer says they induced me):

I dragged some non-canoeing friends out to the Umgeni Valley. I wanted to see the valley for a last time before Inanda Dam drowned it forever. The river was rather shallow – um, VERY shallow! We dragged for miles!

We visited the folks in Harrismith, clambered the slopes of Platberg and sang around the piano:

Bernie & Karen Garcin got married in Empangeni – George Stainton and I were his best men.

In between all the scurrying we lived in our lovely Whittington Court one-bedroom apartment in Marriott Road, and I think I occasionally did a bit of work. Sheila reminded me that she lived there for two years after we bought our house in Westville.

Another of our frequest visits to Hella Hella. And a visit to the Hills on Melrose farm, Mid Illovo.

~~~oo0oo~~~