Mom was on furlough from the home – Azalea Gardens. Sheila fetched her and Barbara, Linda, Tholo and the two terrors Mary-Kate and Dawie and I joined them at 16 Ivy Road in Lincoln Meade, Pietermaritzburg.
What a lovely day – a great lunch, fun with the kids and ending with a surprise: ancient movies from our youth taken in the sixties with Dad’s 8mm movie camera. Sheila had arranged and paid for hours of old footage to be put on a memory stick! Dad says he had a small Canon movie camera first; I only remember his Eumig camera.
As we were leaving Tholo spotted a birds nest right above the car door with two little chicks begging, and showed Mary-Kate.
After everyone left I waited till I could spot the mother: a Cape White Eye.
See the top pic: When the old man moved out of earshot – which means six inches away – Linda murmured to me sotto voce, ‘Here’s the man always telling others to get dressed early mornings: still in his jarmies at noon.’
The recipe: Fifteen glorious people and forty glorious kilometres of wide open sandy beaches of the Zululand or Maputaland coast. Years earlier I had hiked a section of the Wild Coast, far to the south.
Ten of us were walking; two were guiding – Jabulani and DC walking up and down the dunes ahead and behind to keep an eye on us; two drivers for our vehicles to pick us up at the end of the first and third days; and then there was one Shirley Carey: She plotted and arranged, cooked and drove, organised and made it all happen – well done Shirley! It was a great start to what I hope becomes a thriving ‘slackpacking’ enterprise: Introducing people to a magic, less-traveled part of the coast in adventurous, yet laid-on and comfortable style. Put-Foot-Shirl in her optical blur Toyota sped us around to and from the hike start and end-points, and looked after us in style!
The vistas were spectacular, the weather varied from perfect to overcast and a cool stiff following breeze to a constant ‘irrelentless’ steady headwind on the last day. Thanks to a few overnight showers and spring tide the sand was hard and we didn’t get sand-blasted. We also had no scorching hot Zululand temperatures, for which I was grateful and relieved. Anyway, we pushed on irregardless under interesting skies.
The recipe also included great meals, snacks and puddings, enough alcohol and plenty ice. Come to think of it, it was quite saintly of us to leave the kitchen and hit the beach – we could easily have lurked in comfort! Another ingredient was laughter; lots of laughter; loud peals of laughter. Some ribald humour too; you wouldn’t expect that from ladies, would you? Nor snorting with laughter! But it was all there. It would be fascinating to know how many laughs-per-kilometer there were. ‘Many’ would be a conservative estimate.
Now one would think if you went to a remote Maputaland beach, sallied forth in a 4X4 then walked fourteen km without seeing another soul on a deserted beach, that Retail Black Friday would have been escaped and no – zero, none – purchases would have been made. But one would be wrong. These ladies set off after a sweet potato and bought a dress! It’s a mysterious and powerful force, retail:
I find beaches fierce and exposed; trudge, trudge; I find forests peaceful and protective; peer here, peer there. On the Zululand Beach Waddle you get both: Wide vistas of sand and water with moving clouds, trudge trudge; balanced by the green peace of the forests and all the little things hiding in them; even a Jan’s Shovel-snout, a seldom-seen nocturnal burrower who lives just below the loose sandy surface, eating gecko eggs; he was dead; we wouldn’t have seen him alive, he’s shy like me; and also polite.
This expedition was supremely relaxing, but there was one very tough part of the trip: Driving out on the last day with four outspoken, astute, well-read and opinionated ladies as ballast in my non-4X4. I made the mistake of telling them we were going to drive on the Most Beautiful Road in Africa. When we finally got onto it and it was a little bit bumpy, swervy, twisty, sandy and their ballast started shifting, they twisted the story to say I had said “The Best Road in Africa”! So with every spin and rock and roll and wobble it was “Oof! So this is the best road in Africa? I’d hate to see the worst!” and other helpful comments.
There’s Put-Foot-Lizelle in the bottom pic disappearing into the distance in her Landrover which – amazingly – didn’t get stuck. Oh, hang on, it did once. We had to dispatch Musa to find her.
And here’s that demanding committee in my poor Ford Ranger, discussing tactics:
Usually I’d end with a sunset pic, but we were drinking Cactus Jack, Six Dogs Blue Gin, Bubbly, Red, White and Rose wine, genuine Italian-made Lemoncello Ramaccio Pace and other stuff by then, so the sun had to set all by its own self. Here’s a rock pool pic instead: Oh! I’ll follow that with a blurry bird pic by Lou. You’d think with my binocs, telescope and bird book that we would have seen more than a few Sanderlings and a handful of Kittlitz’s plovers! – (BTW, the pics are from everyone – thanks!)
When we grew up outside Harrismith ca 1959 we couldn’t use the lounge. The lounge was filled edge-to-edge by an upside-down speedboat. The old man built his first speedboat in this lounge, shown below many decades later:
Younger sis Sheila, in the picture with Mom & Dad, says he also built that fireplace.
Then, after we’d left home and Mom & Dad had retired, he developed another urge to build a boat. Luckily this time in a boatyard with the help of boat builders.
On a cold winter’s day ca1990 we took it, shiny new, for a spin on Sterkfontein Dam outside Harrismith: Me, Dad, two Eskimos and a semi-eskimo.
We zoomed over the spot where Mom estimated her old farmhouse was – on Nuwejaarsvlei, where she grew up.
I think Mom’s Bland farm Nuwejaarspruit is under water about here.
Do not text and drive. It’s called Distracted Driving and it’s dangerous.
My old man aged 95 and eight months in the shade took himself off to Wartburg and got his drivers licence renewed for a further five years. He will still be driving legally on a street near you at the age of 100 years and eight months.
Herb Zunckel drove his grey Morris Minor in Bergville till he was over ninety. People would see a seemingly driverless Morris approaching with only some knuckles gripping the steering wheel visible. He said he’d never had an accident. People would mutter ‘that’s cos we scatter out of your way!’ Sheila and Mandy called him Herbicide.
Kevin Stanley-Clarke’s 1974 ouman driving advice to us younger guys newly-arrived in Joburg: Watch out for old toppies wearing hats!
ouman – he was older, wiser toppies – older, wiser ous, maybe driving on memory
I must tell you about a wonderful trip we went on recently (well, back in 2015 actually) to Deepest Darkest Zoolooland.
It was actually a rugged and challenging course in which we were required to survive under tricky conditions, with carefully thought-out obstacles and challenges put in our way by the amazing outfit called:
who led us astray boldly into the back roads of wild Zooloo territory where we watched and learned as he reached out to locals to see if they knew where they were.
This capable and entertaining master tour guide dropped us off at the beautiful Ngoye Forest for the next phase, handing us over to our next capable leader:
Fully equipped, this part of the course led us carefully through:
– Correct equipment
– Packing for an expedition
– The use of snatch ropes and tow ropes
– Handy stuff to always have in your 4X4 (axes, bowsaws, forest vines & lianas);
You had to be really young and superbly fit to survive, and we WERE and we DID! Covered in the mud and the blood and the beer, we emerged smiling from the forest, much the wiser.
Both tours were excellently victualled, lots of sweet and fortified coffee, sarmies, fruit, biscuits, biltong and more. Those who brought deckchairs thinking they would sit back and gaze serenely at the tree tops were optimists in the mist. Someone came up with an idea as we were leaving to go on a completely different kind of trip next time with this sort of outfit:
But NAH! – we enjoyed the first two so much that we’d book with them again. Unforgettable (and NOT, as Don muttered “unforgiveable”)!!
It was amazing and a whole lot of fun with great people.
(Slightly) more boring version:
We did go to Zoolooland on a birding trip ably guided by Don Leitch. He did get us a wee bit off-course, and he did stop to speak to some local people, for which he got some leg-pulling.
We did get blocked by fallen trees in Ngoye forest and here’s the thing: Among all the rugged pilots, 4X4 experts and farmers among us, NOT ONE had brought along a tow rope or any decent rescue equipment! It took an accountant with a pocket knife to fashion a tow rope out of a liana that eventually saved our bacon. ‘Strue.
I will stand by my story and I will protect my saucers, even if they were in their cups. Here Sheila shows the total rescue equipment we managed to rustle up; and there’s the tow rope fashioned from a forest liana that saved the day.
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.
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.
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.
The sauna was pitched on the lawn under the Hella Hella mountain.
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!
Iona coaches her daughter: Make all the big decisions, but make him think he made them . . . Aitch: Ha Ha I already do that . . .
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:
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 . . .
Followed by The Truth, plain and unvarnished:
At last, we could change into shorts and relax and party. Later came The Getaway:
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”
. . 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 lastminute.com
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.
Brauer procrastinated and ignored my two rules: Keep it short; and NO LIES.
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.
Went on a magic trip this weekend. Sheila put a trip together led by a friend of hers Don Leitch, ex-Melmoth farmer and great birder. The first part was to Melmoth itself – or more accurately nearby Ntonjoneni to friends and fellow farmers Gavon and Sandy Calverley. We traveled with another of Skiboat’s many friends, Simon Dunning, ex-SADF helicopter pilot, then a commercial airline pilot.
Gavon & Sandy farm black wattle for its tannin and Nguni cattle for their marbled meat with its yellow fat (“It’s good for you! It’s grass-fed. White fat means it’s grain-fed”) and have game-fenced 1000ha of their land in the Emakhosini valley – The Valley of the Kings – together with their neighbours into a beautiful reserve where they run giraffe, buff, wildebeasts, nyala, impala etc with their multi-coloured Ngunis (which I was surprised to hear they round up daily to count, and weekly to dip). Next door, Amafa (the official KZN heritage outfit) have bought farms – 12 at last count – and fenced them off to preserve them. We saw lots of game on that land. Also nearby is the 24 000ha Opathe reserve.
What a beautiful valley! Seven Zulu kings and one queen are buried in the valley and you can see – with the whole of Natal to choose from – why they chose it! There are monuments and museums all over. Dingaan’s kraal and the site where Piet Retief was killed are preserved and oft-visited by both Die Volk and aBantu. We heard tales of the large gatherings of Die Volk where I guess a whole lot of ‘stuff’ was spoken!! The valley looking unbelievably lush and green and alive with birds. I’m hoping to get some pics from the others. All I have is lunch and some Ngunis. Sheila’s friend Moogs (Marguerite Poland) who wrote the book on the isiZulu names of the ngunis – The Abundant Herds – tells us these three are:
Gavon, Sandy, Don and Sally (Melmoth local) have been doing a twice-yearly bird-count in their area for the last 17yrs for UCT’s bird fellas, the ADU of the Fitztitute. This one’s called CAR for “co-ordinated avifaunal roadcount” – you drive your CAR and check for birds, stopping every 2km to scan. Same route on the same days every year: the last weekend in January and the last weekend in July. We joined them for this one. Gavon had a new toy: An old white Landcruiser bakkie he has rigged out as an open game-viewing ‘shooting brake’. The seven of us set out early morning with enough food and drink to have supplied the whole impi that moved through here en route to bliksem-ing the redcoat Poms at Isandlwana in 1879.
What a lovely day. Birding at its best, crisp weather, cool at first on the high hills till the mist burned off as we descended the valley. The count has been dropping over the 17 years. They told us how they used to see plenty storks (we saw none), herons (none), cranes (we saw four blue cranes), secretary birds (one) and raptors (jackal & steppe buzzards, tawny, longcrested, martial & wahlberg’s eagles, vultures, lanner & amur falcons).
Gavon (60) and Don (70) are old Melmoth farming buddies so the quips and insults flew fast and thick. Plenty of puns and lots of unhelpful advice, criticism and suggestions. (eg: – When Don was earnestly pointing out a willow warbler in a fever tree, Sandy leaned over and tried to straighten the crooked end of his finger; – Don’s croc-like sandals squeaked every step he walked, bringing the quip “Hark! What’s that sound! I think it’s a step buzzard”!).
Sunday we went to Dlinza and Ngoye forests. That’s another story.
Author: Poland, Marguerite and Hammond-Tooke, David