When you’re twenty two months old you can venture off north into neighbouring African countries in a kombi as long as you’re prepared and have the right companions. Like Stripey. He’s unflappable and always smiling.
And your Mom. She’s the best for food, clothes, warmth, that sort of stuff.
and your sis and your Dad can come along too . . He’s quite handy as transport and a vantage point.
Just watch out if you go to Lake Malawi . .
and catch the ferry to Mombo Island . .
. . that you don’t drop your companion Stripey overboard! ‘Cos then the ferry driver will have to slow down, turn around and go back so that your Dad can hang over the side and rescue Stripey. To avert a disaster!
THANK YOU Mr Friendly Ferryman! signed: TomTom and Stripey
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.
Driving south to the Wild Coast I glanced down at my feet. Right foot on the accelerator, left foot chilling next to the clutch. No shoes. Barefoot.
OK, I’d forgotten to take shoes on our six-day beach walk. Too late to turn back.
It was fine. I’d make do. I said nothing. Didn’t want Aitch cackling about my dodgy 49-yr-old memory glands. I’m not known for being a meticulous packer or planner, so what the hell . . I was used to making do.
It was April 2004 and our hiking route was southward. From Kobb Inn about 60km to Morgan Bay. Another group would head north at the same time and the organisers saw to it we met up and swopped vehicles so ours would be waiting for us in Morgans Bay at the end of the hike. Slick. Good friend and colleague Allan Marais happened to be in the other party so he drove my diesel VW kombi and I drove his petrol 4X4 Mitsubishi. He messaged me that evening: “All’s well. Your kombi is parked outside the hotel. I filled it up to the brim with petrol”.
Luckily I know Allan Marais, so I simply replied, “Great. I filled your Mitsi up with diesel. Also to the brim”.
We’d be staying in hotels and cottages on the way. Slackpacking! What a pleasure! Good weather, lonely beaches, light daypacks with only water and lunch in them. Friendly local people acted as porters on each leg and carried our real packs ahead of us. Cold beers, good meals and comfortable beds awaited us each night.
Past the Jacaranda thirty three years after its 1971 stranding:
One day was really windy. All the rest were clear and calm. We kept Africa on our right and the Indan Ocean on our left and sauntered along blissfully.
There’s nothing to eat here, there’s nothing to drink here, so what’s up, bovine beauties? Beach comfortable to lie on? Looking for a furry tan?
River crossings – by boats and wading
Janice had to fly home a day early from a little airstrip near the beach. Work! The curse of the drinking class. There she goes; look, she’s waving:
Morgan Bay with its spectacular cliffs
And shoes? Didn’t need ’em. I walked barefoot most of the way, slipping on my yellow flip-flops when the rocks got pointy. Mostly it was beach sand or smooth foot paths, really easy on our feet.
See the tiny portion we walked. Friends walked from Port Edward to East London in 2016. Way further, and carrying all their kit! Allie Peter and Mike Frizelle wrote about it. A lovely and highly entertaining read of ancient old goats staggering from shebeen to shebeen fuelled on Transkei dumpies, Wild Coast weed and cataflam. Especially cataflam!
Its gone wimpish! Actually Oddballs is still a wonderful, more affordable way to see the Okavango Delta and this post must be taken with a pinch of salt; My tongue is in my cheek;
This is classic “The Good Old Days was better” bulldust.
When WE went ca. 1990 we had to take our own food! But because there’s a 10kg limit on the Cessna 206’s and because one has to take binoculars, a telescope, a tripod, a sleeping bag and books:
I exaggerate, these were Jessie’s books for her field guide course last year, but still: weight. So we took very little food. At Oddballs we bought their last potatoes and onions and then we pitched our tent. Not like these wimpish days when the tent is pitched for you on a wooden deck with shower en-suite!! We were like this:
Nowadays New Oddballs is soft and squishy:
Here’s Aitch in the Old Oddballs Palm Island Luxury Lodge – and the wimpish new arrangement!
Luckily, the rest is still the same! You head out on a mekoro with a guide who really knows his patch:
You pitch your own tent on an island without anyone else in sight:
And you enjoy true wilderness. When you get back, Oddball really does seem like a Palm Island Luxury Lodge:
There’s a bar, there’s ice and cold beer, gin and tonic. You can order a meal! And – NOWADAYS! – a double bed is made up for you, ya bleedin’ wimps!
Jessie’s Tummy Mummy Thembi became a good friend thanks to Aitch and her conscientious follow-up and ‘adoption’ of Thembi.
Aitch nurtured her and encouraged and empowered her. She arranged classes such as computer and sewing courses; she had her teeth seen to and hugely improved by the state orthodontists at Addington and King Edward hospitals.
Once a month she would take Jessie – and me and Tom sometimes – to meet for lunch with Thembi when we would also take her supplies and goods to sell; Jessie loved those lunches. She and Thembi would gossip and giggle and point at people walking past commenting on their looks, dress, gait, whatever. Scandalous! They loved it!
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Once we took her back to Port Shepstone so she could show her Mom and Gran that Jess was fine.
Thembi met a guy who was very good to her and was very happy but tragically she then contracted AIDS; Aitch pitched right in and arranged to meet the lady doctor in charge at King Edward and saw to it that Thembi got her treatment on time. She sickened rather quickly though, and grew weak.
Jess wrote to her when I visited her in Addington:
She died in Addington hospital. I took her boyfriend and brother Dumi in the kombi to buy a coffin and then to fetch her body; then arranged for them to get her remains – and themselves – to Port Shepstone.
I wrote about Aitch’s eye for and taste in art here when she spotted a Willie Bester in Cape Town in 1993 and bought it over my “are you sure?” ignorance.
Around about the same time we met Ingrid Weiersbye on Barry & Lyn Porter’s game farm at Hella Hella and Aitch loved her work and quietly bought two of her paintings, later presenting them to me for my birthday. Ingrid is married to Barry’s brother Roger, ecologist with KZN Wildlife.
Well, sure as anything, Ingrid just got more and more famous and I’m sure whatever Aitch paid, the paintings are worth way more now. This one is on offer for over R20 000:
And I think ours are better!
More about Ingrid Weiersbye:
Born in England, raised in Zimbabwe, Weiersbye has held eight solo exhibitions. Beside these she has printed five limited edition print releases, has participated in numerous art and environmental projects and her work has been published in several books. She has been well supported by corporate and private collectors, particularly in the UK, Germany and South Africa.
• She has exhibited work for seven consecutive years at the Society of Wildlife Artists’ annual exhibition in London.
• She has exhibited at the British Birdwatching Show for three years at which she won the ‘best stand’ award in 1995 in the art category for her bird paintings.
• She was invited by the Tron and Swann Gallery in London to participate in several major art exhibition from 1992 to 1996 including ‘Parrots of the World’, ‘Wildfowl and Waterfowl’ as well as the British Game Fair.
Additionally she exhibits on most major South African wildlife exhibitions of international wildlife art held regularly at the Everard Reade Gallery in Johannesburg.
Robert’s 7th edition. Handbook of Birds of Southern Africa. 2005…main contributing artist
Roberts Bird Guide – Kruger National Park. 2006…main contributing artist
Roberts Bird Field-guide. 2007
Roberts Geographic Variation of Southern African Birds. 2012…co-author and sole illustrator
Birds of Botswana Field-guide, Princeton University Press. 2016…co-author and sole illustrator
Roberts Comprehensive Field-guide to Southern African Birds. 2016…co-author and main illustrator