Africa, Birds & Birding, Family & Kids, Food, Motorcars_Automobiles, Travel Africa, Wildlife, Game Reserves

Nibela on Lake St Lucia

What luck! friends couldn’t make their timeshare for happy reasons (grandchild due) so we took over! With pleasure. Nibela is in prime Broadbill sand forest territory and I have dipped out on seeing a Broadbill, coming close a number of times, but no sighting. I was keen, so was Jess. Tom considered the fishing options and the food a la carte, but decided in the end that it was just too remote for a city slicker! ‘Enjoy your sticks and trees, Dad!’ he bid us farewell.

– chalet in sand forest overlooking Lake St Lucia –
– Nibela Sobhengu flowers –

Jess liked the place immediately. It had cellphone reception and DSTV. Also there was wifi at the main building. What was not to like?

– hey Dad, there’s DSTV! –

The food at the lodge was great. The one pork belly dish was the best I’ve had, and all their soups and veges were superbly done. We ate there three nights and I made supper one night.

– ’twas cordon red –

We searched for the African Broadbill, but no sign was seen or heard, so it remains on the wishlist. This is what its sand forest haunts look like, where it performs its little bird-of-paradise dance to get laid so an egg can get laid:

– Lucky at Nibela trying to call up broadbills – I soon put a stop to calling them – I’ll wait –

Lovely local specials we did see were Woodward’s Batis – a pair displaying and calling two metres away in a tree; Rudd’s Apalis; Purple-banded Sunbird; all good sightings and obligingly chirping as we watched. Narina Trogon, calling each day, but not seen; Heard but didn’t see a possible Neergard’s Sunbird. Two lovely bird parties popped up right in front of our chalet: One evening Dark-backed Weaver, Puffback, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Terrestrial Brownbul, Yellow White-Eye and Southern Black Tit; The next morning Dark-backed Weaver, Puffback, Pink-throated Twinspot, duetting Southern Boubous, Square-tailed Drongo, Yellow-breasted Apalis and Collared Sunbird.

Jessie’s Best Sighting:

In the grounds of the lodge Jess spotted something beautiful in a tree! Look! Dad! wifi! You didn’t even have go indoors to have wifi!

– wifi in the bush – a millennial’s delight –

A drive out to where the Mkhuze river flows into the lake brought back memories of my last trip there – by boat on a bird count with the game warden nearly forty years ago. Greater Flamingos, one Lesser Flamingo, White Pelicans, a Rosy-throated Longclaw, Common Ringed Plovers, Kittlitz’s Plovers, Stilts, Yellow-billed Ducks, Hottentot Teals and many more.

– where the Mkhuze flows into Lake St Lucia –

Pelicans fishing in a ‘laager’ – surrounding the fish then dipping in: Heads up – Bums up.

– White Pelicans fishing near the Mkhuze mouth into Lake St Lucia –

Lots of creatures:

Nibela Sobhengu creatures collage

~~~oo0oo~~~

Africa, Free State, Vrystaat, Travel Africa, Wildlife, Game Reserves

The Descent of One Mans

Charles Darwin wrote The Descent of Man. I’m going to write far more briefly and light-heartedly, about The Descent of One Mans Pass. His is 900 pages long and has sex in it. Mine is one page and only has suffering.

It was Barbara’s fault, of course. She was the instigator and in a fair and just world she would have been given a heavy backpack and her kierie would have been confiscated. As it is, she hared down like a springhaas, leaving the other four of us who deserted the platoon for our ‘shortcut,’ gasping in her wake.

– Nigel Hemming’s unusual shot of One Mans Pass from directly above –

‘It’s steep but it’s not far,’ I said confidently, clearly remembering the last time I had descended this pass on Platberg, or Ntabazwe – only about fifty years ago when I was a fit, lightweight klipspringer. Well! The first, rocky, section turned out to be twice as long as I’d remembered; and someone had loosened the rocks:

– dancing on the dolerite down One Mans Pass – it carried on and on –

This part ended at the sandstone cave, which meant we had ‘conquered’ the dolerite cliff section, if we remembered Leon’s geology lesson correctly.

– Tim in sandstone cave where his ancestors left graffitti – J Jacobs – but couldn’t spell their name –

The second section is the grassy-rocky section which I also remembered well – except it was also much longer now. Perhaps there’s been a tectonic upwelling since I last did it?

– descent of One mans Pass – grassy slip part –

. . then a section I had completely forgotten about. A bonus section, you could say.

. . a last little bit:

. . and we were on terra firma horizontalis, on the Bloekombos site of many a happy Methodist Sunday School picnic in the ‘sixties. As Tim correctly pointed out: As Methylated Spirits, we were only allowed tea and ginger beer at our picnics.

Now all we had to do was walk on the level to the Akkerbos – or Oak Forest – which I clearly remembered as being at point A:

– Platberg – and the Akkerbos which somehow moved east in the last few decades – tectonic shift, no doubt –

. . but which is actually, and disconcertingly, at point B.

So we trudged. A reconnaissance patrol was dispatched to find us, but their vehicles turned out to be less capable than we’d have wished for, unable to negotiate a few fallen twigs across their path. Field Marshall Lello RSVP also seemed to have less pull with HQ than we hoped, so no helicopters were dispatched either.

So we trudged. On the way we passed some ladies packing a lovely smelling herb into bundles. We greeted them and trudged on. Luckily Gail had passed them before us and been more engaged. She told us how they had been delighted she could speak isiZulu and knew their herb was Imphepho (Helichrysum, or liquorice plant – that was the smell!). They were bundling it up for sale in eGoli, eThekwini and eKapa (Joburg, Durban and Cape Town). Imphepho is used for ritual purposes by sangomas for summoning the ancestors. According to Pooley ‘to invoke the goodwill of ancestors, to induce trances – and to keep red mites away.’

Soon we arrived at the Akkerbos to tremendous applause and a lavish spread. Well, one of those. A lesson learned: The old ‘Don’t Split The Party’ is a good principle!

~~~oo0oo~~~

kierie – unfair walking aid which well-balanced people don’t need. At first

springhaas – jumping hare; bouncing rabbit

klipspringer – petite antelope which lithely and blithely bounces from rock to rock without causing them to start mini avalanches

bloekombos – gumtree forest

akkerbos – oak forest

~~~oo0oo~~~

Weather: Light westerly breeze; gale, actually!

A bit of stopping to smell the flowers en route:

~~~oo0oo~~~

I’m afraid the conservation status of Platberg, this precious mountain, is precarious. Do read about it.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Read about how we were not the only, nor the first, holy folk to descend this mountain: ‘It was the arrival of the Prophet Isaiah Shembe at KwaZulu Natal (Durban) from Ntabazwe (Harrismith) as he was instructed by the Word of God to do so.’

~~~oo0oo~~~

This stroll was Monday. It’s Thursday and I’m still walking like Charlie Chaplin in slow motion. Tom seriously said ‘Dad, maybe you should see a doctor.’

~~~oo0oo~~~

Monday, exactly one week later and I’m tripping the light fantastic as usual – Normal gait restored.

Africa, Birds & Birding, Family & Kids

What’s In There, Dad?

Nephew Robbie must have wondered what the heck could be so interesting that Koos was always peering into that thing.

So he investigated.

Ten or fifteen years later, we re-enacted the scene.

The original was on their farm Umvoti Villa between Greytown and Kranskop on the Mispah road; the re-enactment was at Mangeni Falls where ‘Lord’ Chelmsford was arsing about while his men got killed at Isandlwana. Isandlwana has been the scene of many re-enactments, so this was quite appropriate!

It’s about ten years later again – time for another re-pete.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Top: Introducing daughter Jessie to the wonders of the ‘scope. Now she’s 21 and her response is ‘bo-oring!’

Africa, Birds & Birding, Wildlife, Game Reserves

Face-Palm Nut Vultures

As British birding weirdo Bill Oddie rightly said: ‘Bird-watchers are tense, competitive, selfish, shifty, dishonest, distrusting, boorish, pedantic, unsentimental, arrogant and – above all – envious’.

Driving down SinJim avenue one morning I had to brake for a Fruit and Nut Vulture perched on the busy tar road! Right here, on the way out of Westville towards the Pavilion shopping centre, where St James crosses the Mkombaan river! Looking for all the world like a lost kalkoen.

In thirty years living in Westville, seldom venturing forth without my binocs I had not seen a Palm Nut Vulture here, never mind one dodging traffic.

So I had a good chuckle when I reported the sighting to the birding fraternity. The response was immediate face palms: 1. Oh, we often see them! and 2. Everyone knows there’s a pair that nests in Westville!

Oh. OK. Um . . 1. Not. and 2. Um, not.

I sent the response to Palmiet valley doyenne Jean Senogles and we had a hearty laugh and skinner about ‘birders!’ especially newbie birders! Us birders who have birded for half a century can still allow ourselves to get excited over interesting sightings. In the competitive game, not so much! Shut up, I’ve already seen that one!

~~~oo0oo~~~

skinner – gossip

kalkoen – farmyard turkey

Africa, Birds & Birding

Old Lilani Spa

On our first visit, with Bruce & Heather, the remains of the old hotel were still there. You walked into the foyer under a roof, the reception counter awaited you; But you soon walked out into the sunshine, as it was just a remnant of roof and a built-in counter with nothing behind it, only three of the walls still standing. Less than this:

But that was OK as it was the hot baths we were after.

While sitting in the warm water of these old baths drinking beer, we heard a loud ‘Pretty GEOR-gie’, looked up into the tree overhead and saw this:

emerald cuckoo
– emerald cuckoo – Roger Hogg’s pic from Westville –

Then they had a big revamp and it was like this:

– we enjoyed some lovely times here –

Now it has fallen into disrepair again and in 2019 there’s this:

– hope this sign is at the top of the valley, not only when you get to the bottom! –

I looked up some of the history of the resort:

In a 1900 school geography and history book, Robert Russell, the Superintendent of Education in the Colony of Natal wrote, ‘The Ehlanzeni and Kranskop districts are noted for their wild country. Hot springs with a temperature of 101°F, more or less sulphurous, are found in the Ihlimbitwa.’ These were Lilani’s hot springs.

In 1905, Mr St Vincent Erskine, on behalf of the Grand Lilani Hot Sulphur Springs Syndicate Ltd, leased 10 acres of land around the hot springs from the Natal Government for a period of five years at £25 per annum. The “syndicate was granted a lease of two of the warm springs to develop them for the benefit of the sick as a ‘sanitarium’ – especially to overcome rheumatism and nervous disorders, though they soon claimed way more benefits than that, including curing constipation. One would hope that particular cure wasn’t instantaneous; like, in situ, ne?

An article in the local newspaper announced that as of the 1st August 1906 a charge of two shillings per day was to be made for the use of the hot springs to non-syndicate shareholders. During this time facilities were being built down at the hot springs. The initial part of the hotel was then built which included accommodation for the proprietors. The first access road was built to the top of the northern escarpment at the present day village of Eshane, and people descended on foot or were carried down by litter into the valley.

Later a rough road was built to the hot springs resort.

In 1908, a new lease for 25 years was drawn up, increasing the land from 10 acres to 32 acres, in favour of the Hot Springs Syndicate, owned by Messrs Menne, Matthews and Gibbs. This was then sublet to Mrs Matthews for 10 years from April 1910. Dr J Wright Matthews, M.D., was the resident physician and Mrs LV Matthews was the manager of the Sanatorium In 1914 the Hot Springs Syndicate went insolvent and the ownership of the lease passed to Mrs Matthews.

Advertising was not shy: “The panoramic view of the surrounding mountain scenery was said to be truly magnificent, and the climate, one of the most equable in South Africa.” “The wonderful powers of the hot mineral springs found here have long been known to the Dutch community in Natal, and an analysis proves that the waters in a great degree possess the same chemical constituents as those which make Harrogate and other spas of a similar character in Europe in so much request.”

Breathless reports in The Greytown Gazette, Friday, 26 July 1912, page 4, col. 5 : ‘A large party comprising several families, left Greytown at the beginning of the month for the ever-famous Lilani Sulphur Hot Springs, which are under the able management of Dr and Mrs Matthews, who at all times show unstinted hospitality to visitors. On arrival at the Springs the party camped out in 15 to 20 large tents erected around the place which presented a gay appearance. The baths are very healthy and bathing commences as early as 4.30 in the morning and is indulged in till ten and eleven o’clock in the evening. The patent oven, dug out in a large donga, in which bread is baked comes in for a great amount of attraction and the bread produced from this oven is both delicious and wholesome. In the evenings Dr Matthews entertains the visitors with magic lantern lectures, which are greatly appreciated.

The party are having a most enjoyable time at these Springs and are expected to return to Greytown early next week.’

Later a Mr and Mrs Hobbs ran the resort. During the Second World War they went to one of the large POW camps in Pietermaritzburg, where many Italian Prisoners were detained and chose three prisoners to work at the Lilani Hot Springs. The three men were Frank, Mario and Inchenso Caruso. The men worked there from March 1945 until 1948; building, terracing the gardens, and generally helped with the running of the Hydro resort for a shilling a day. In 1948 Frank Caruso applied to remain in South Africa and was accepted. Mr and Mrs Hobbs and Mr Sayer offered him a partnership in the resort which he accepted on the condition that he was given a trip home to Italy the following year, which condition was granted (Caruso, 1996). They now called the resort the Lilani Hydro Mineral Hot Sulphur Springs, Holiday and Health Resort. Trips off the tongue.

In 1966 the Apartheid government decided to make sure resorts were strictly Whites-only or Blacks-only, so they terminated the lease and paid the owners R44k for their improvements. In 1972, having done sweet buggerall with their investment, they tried to get Caruso to take back the lease, but he declined.

– the valley – check that glorious winding road – all downhill!

Correspondence and financial transactions before EFT and email:

Dr J Wright Matthews, the first proprietor of the Lilani Hot Springs Spa, applied for a prospecting license to search the valley for gold, asbestos, whatever. His application was granted and he paid the sum of £2.10 shillings as a deposit to the Natal Native Trust, Colony of Natal, on 28th July 1909.

In a letter, dated 21st December 1911, Dr Matthews applied for the return of his money as he had not used his prospecting license. In the reply to his request, dated 28th December 1912, his request was granted by the Acting Chief Native Commissioner in Natal, on the condition that Dr Matthews forwarded an affidavit to the effect that no surface damage was done under the prospecting permit. This affidavit was duly drawn up in Johannesburg, dated 5th January 1912. The Acting Secretary for Native Affairs in Pretoria was then instructed to forward a cheque to Dr Matthews by the Acting Chief Native Commissioner in Natal in his letter dated 9th January 1912. Nineteen days from application to ‘Refund granted – please pay the man!’ Not bad by any standards. Especially over Xmas / New Year time.

The hot springs

Six springs are known in the vicinity. Their temperatures range from 35°C to 40°C and their flow volume per hour from 770 to 3500 litres. The total flow of over 10 000 litres per hour would thus fill an average home swimming pool in about five hours.

The original founder of the Lilani Hot Springs as a spa

Mr Mbulungeni an early member of the community and who could have been an inkosi of the community, is spoken of in oral tradition as the ‘founder’ of the Lilani Hot Springs. Mr Mbulungeni is said to have sat on a large rock while waiting for the sun’s rays to shine into the valley, either before or after having a bath in the hot springs. He was buried beside the large rock and to some of the community it is known as a Remembrance Rock. It is situated above the road, at the last fork to the right before the turning circle at the old hotel site.

~~~oo0oo~~~

The history from a 2000 thesis by Ross Johnathan Hoole for his MSc in Geography at UKZN Pietermaritzburg – thank you!

Africa, Aitch, Birds & Birding, Family & Kids, Life, Motorcars_Automobiles, Travel Africa, Wildlife, Game Reserves

Mabibi and Sibaya

Camping at Mabibi in Zululand with the kombi – and Taylor with his puny little JEEP.

On the way I pretended (!) to get stuck to give the JEEP owner an ego boost:

– sundowners on the lake – Tom, Dizzi, Gayle, Jessie & Aitch –
– every body had to get lip-stick’d –
– Jon took a shot of me emerging sylph-like out of the champagne-clear waters of the lake –

. . which reminded me of Ursula in Dr. No . . Me and Ursula were like twins, ‘cept I wore less clothing and had something useful in my hand . .

Ursula Andress did it in 1962 in Dr. No; Halle Berry paid homage in 2002 in Die Another Day; and I trumped them both in 2003 in Lake Sibaya.