The Kestell bus was like a half-loaf, but still they couldn’t fill it so we Harrismithians had been invited along. Leon Crawley, Pierre du Plessis, Tuffy Joubert and me, plus a few others joined the Kestell boys. It was R25 for 15 days. We said YES! and our parents said yes, so we were off!
It was boys-only, a seunstoer, but Mnr Venter of Kestell took his daughter along. She was about Std 4 we were Std 7 to 9. She was very popular and soon became like the tour mascot, second only to Wagter the tour dog – who was actually a found holey corobrick with a dog collar through one of its three holes and string for a leash.
The short bus had a longitudinal seating arrangement. Long rows running the length of the bus so you sat facing each other.
We all bundled in and set off. After a few hours we had the first roadside stop. Mnr Venter lined us all up outside the bus and said “Right, introduce yourselves”, as the Kestell ous didn’t know us – and we didn’t know them. Down the row came the names, van Tonder, van Wyk, van Niekerk, van Staden, van Aswegen, vanne Merwe, van Dit, van WhatWhat, Aasvoel, Kleine Asenvogel, Marble Hol. Fluffy standing next to me murmured “Steve McQueen” but when his turn came he let out with a clear “Leon Crawley” so I said “Steve McQueen” out loud. Without a blink the naming continued before I could say “Uh, just kidding” so I became “Ou Steve” for the duration.
When we entered SWA we headed for a pub. Us fourteen to sixteen year-olds.
We got to Etosha National Park after dark so the Okakuejo gate was closed. We didn’t pitch our tents that night to save time, simply bedding down outside ready to drive in first thing the next morning. On spotting us the next morning the game ranger said “Net hier het ‘n leeu eergistraand ‘n bok neergetrek“.
On our way back, we reached the SW corner of the country, heading for the border with the Kalahari Gemsbok Park. We spotted something tangled up in the roadside fences. Turned out to be a few springbok, some dead, some still alive but badly injured. As we spotted them one of the farm boys yelled out “Ek debs die balsak!”. He cut off the scrotum, pulled it over the base of a glass cooldrink bottle. What? we asked. When it had dried he would break the glass and he’d have an ashtray, he explained. Oh. The alive ones were dispatched and all were taken to the nearby farmer who gave us one for our trouble. It seems some hunters are indiscriminate and less than accurate and the buck panic before the onslaught and run into the fences.
That night we made a huge bonfire on the dry bed of the Nossob river or one of its tributaries and braai’d the springbok meat. It was freezing in July so we placed our sleeping bags around the fire and moved closer to the bed of coals all night long. Every time we woke we inched closer.
A wonderful star-filled night sky above us.
Ek debs die balsak! – ‘Dibs on the ballbag!’ The antelope scrotum;
Net hier het ‘n leeu eergistraand ‘n bok neergetrek – Right here where you’re camping a lion killed an antelope the night before last;