Wilderness Walk – Mfolosi 1985

The Umfolosi Wilderness is a special place. Far too small, of course, but its what we have. I’m reading Ian Player’s account of how Magqubu Ntombela taught him about wilderness and Africa and nature. The idea of a wild place where modern man could go to escape the city and re-discover what Africa was like

My first trail was ca 1985, when I went with Dusi canoeing buddies Doug Retief, Martin & Marlene Loewenstein and Andre Hawarden. We were joined by a 19yr-old lass on her own, sent by her father, who added greatly to the scenery:

What a beauty! 'Our' 19yr old D___ (Donna?); Martin Lowenstein on right

A good sport – took our gentle teasing well

We went in my kombi and some highlights I recall were:

Doug offering “bah-ronies” after lunch one day. We were lying in the shade of a tree after a delicious lunch made by our guides: Thick slices of white bread, buttered and stuffed with generous slices of tomato and onion, washed down with tea freshly brewed over a fire of Thomboti wood. Doug fished around in his rucksack and gave us each a mini Bar One (“bah-ronie”, geddit?). Best tasting chocolate I ever ate, spiced as it was with hunger and exertion.

After the 5-night trail we went for a game drive. Needing a leak after a few bitterly cold brews I left the wheel with the kombi trundling along amiably and walked to the side door of the kombi, ordering Hawarden to take over the driving. Not good at taking orders, he looked at me, waited till I was in mid-stream out of the open sliding door and leant over with his hiking stick and pressed the accelerator. The driverless kombi picked up speed and I watched it start to veer off-road, necessitating a squeezed premature end to my leak and a dive for the wheel.

Thanks a lot, Hawarden! Pleasure, he murmured mildly. Hooligan!

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30yrs later Andre Hooligan Hawarden wrote:

“Hey, remember that cool walk we did in the game reserve when you had the tape recorder and we attracted the owl? Then next day we lay on the bank of the Umlofosi river and watched the vultures coming down for a lunch time drink and a snooze?

That was a wonderful experience. I’ve never forgotten it.”

Beating a Not-So-Hasty Retreat

The Dundee (pronounced DinDear locally) athletic club and the Dundee Hysterical Society run a 21km foot race called the Isandlwana 21 or The Fugitives’ Trail half marathon every January on the closest Sunday to the 22nd which is when the homeland-defending Zooloos routed the wickedly-invading Poms in 1879 and gave them a well-deserved smack on the snoot. After this thrashing Mrs Queen Vic dished out her Crosses by the dozen like smarties to cover up their embarrassment. A fig leaf for the Empire’s nakedness, I say.

The race starts on a hill overlooking the Isandlwana mountain and ends at Rorke’s Drift.

I went to run it one year and it was very special: Half the club members manning the water tables dressed as Zulus in full regalia, and half dressed as pith-helmeted, redcoated Poms. Some of the former were pale and some of the latter dark, to add to the hilarity.

The oke who started the race looked like a drunken Pommy colonel. He had no gun, no whistle nor no trumpet. He rambled on about who had done what to whom in 1879 – a potted history – and then, when the ‘off’ time arrived he shouted:

“THE ZULUS ARE AFTER YOU!! RUN!

‘Course, in my specific case, all the Zooloos running that day were well ahead of me. Nevertheless, just like Mrs Queen Vic, the DinDear athletic club dished out Victoria Crosses liberally that day, even to slow coaches.

~~~oo0oo~~~

redcoats n zulus

The race result was something like this photo above.

We crossed the Buffalo river at Rorke’s Drift and finished at the famous mission of the same name:

The finishers medal is special – a cross between a Victoria Cross and a Zulu shield:

My VC from Isandlwana 21km

I later gave mine away to a great cause.

~~~oo0oo~~~