Scotland the Brave

Two delightful Scottish medical students arrived at Addington hospital. They were here to “do their elective” they said. We didn’t mind what they were doing, we were just happy they were in Darkest Africa and drank beer. Always a better chance if a lady will drink alcohol.

One of them asked me if I surf, which is a terribly unfair question to ask a Free Stater by the sea. It puts great pressure on us and reveals our secret fear of that-big-dam-that-you-cannot-see-the-other-side-of. Ask us when there’s no sea within miles and we can tell a good story, but the sea is right on Addington’s doorstep. “Even better” I said casually, leaning against the bar in The Cock and Bottle on the first floor of Addington doctors’ quarters, “I paddle-ski.”

Ooh, will you show me? she asked, which put great pressure on me. “Come to my flat in Wakefield Court after work” I ordered and she meekly nodded. Wakefield was part of doctors’ quarters, over the road from the hospital. After work I hared off to Stephen Charles Reed and borrowed his Fat Boy paddle ski, threw it in my green 1974 Peugeot 404 station wagon OHS 5678 and hared back to Prince Street in time to casually say “Hop in” as she arrived. Addington beach was right there and I proceeded to give lessons in the surf. Little did she know it was like the drowning leading the drowned. I’d help her on, hold her steady, time the waves and say “Now! Paddle!” and she’d tumble over like a Scottish person in the warm Indian Ocean, time and again. One wave was better than the rest, nicely obliging and masculine, and it did something like this:

Marvelously, she didn’t notice for a while until I blurted out “God you’re gorgeous!”. Following my grinning gaze, she giggled and hoicked her boob tube top up over her boobs from where it was sitting around her waist. *Sigh* I cherish wonderful mammaries of that day . .

Cuckoo Comeuppance

People often rail against cuckoos and use all sorts of pejorative descriptions about them and their ways. Hey! Cuckoos gotta do what cuckoos gotta do. Nature. Survival of the fittest. Evolution. Life. Bird life.

Consider three things: 1. Cuckoos have no alternative. This is the ONLY way they can breed; 2. Cuckoos eat a whole bunch of caterpillars, even the ones with poisonous hairs and barbs. We need cuckoos. 3. Anthropomorphising animals is never a good idea. Cuckoos aren’t little feathered humans deciding ‘What the hell, I’ll drop the kids off at a neighbour’s house and abandon them there.’

So I’m always disappointed when people use descriptions like ‘nasty cheat’, ‘treacherous’, ‘deceitful’, etc when describing cuckoos. Many birds like hawks and eagles who do bring up their own young catch and kill other birds – including baby birds taken from their nests – to feed to their young. It’s all just nature, people!

In fact the ‘arms race’ between cuckoos trying to lay their eggs in their hosts’ nests and the hosts trying to thwart the cuckoos makes for fascinating natural history. And every now and then one might even get to see it happening! I did once and this story of an African Cuckoo coming to a sticky end after trying to enter an Indian Mynah nest reminded me of it.

My encounter was on the last day of a Dusi Canoe Marathon back in the nineteen eighties. I was drifting along on the Umgeni River just upstream of the big N2 bridge across the river, wishing the current would do a bit more to get me to the finish at Blue Lagoon, when I heard a ruckus and saw a bunch of weavers chasing and mobbing a bird. As I got closer I saw it was a Diederik Cuckoo pulling its best aerial dogfighting maneuvres to try and escape the mob. Even flying upside down much of the time so its claws could fend off the pecking. To no avail. They beat her down into the reedbed and then down the reeds onto the water. Then I was past the scene of this neighbourhood vigilante action. So I didn’t see the end and don’t know if the Diederik was actually killed, as the Mynahs in North West Province killed the African Cuckoo. Fascinating!

Diederik being Donnered

Thanks, Africa Geographic (go and see more pics)

Thanks to rockjumperbirding.com for the Diederik and hbw.com for the African cuckoo photos.

Other birds also parasitise nests. And here’s a fascinating talk if you’re really keen. It’s The Royal Society’s premier annual talk. About an hour on youtube.

pejorative – yeah, I also thought it was perjorative

My Canadian Wooden Paddle

. . is a work of art.

Made of Beech, Birch, Cherry and Maple wood, it has a hollow laminated oval shaft, the oval at right angles so each hand has its own correct oval.

The blade is also laminated, then kevlar-clad and teflon-tipped.

Bruce the Moose Clark of Gauteng and Umko paddling fame was waxing lyrical about Struer sprinting paddles and that got me thinking about my Nimbus river paddle from Port Coquitlam in British Columbia. Not a racing paddle, not a flatwater paddle. A wild rivers work of art for slow-boating. See, I have an arrangement with rivers: I bring a boat to keep afloat, a paddle to keep upright. All forward motion must be provided by the current.

I ordered two from our trip leader Cully Erdman before we paddled the Colorado in 1984. Being left feather I didn’t want to risk being stuck up a canyon without a paddle.

Shit Creek

Dave ‘Lang Dawid’ Walker is also left feather so he used the second paddle for the twelve days. The river was running high so I didn’t touch a rock the whole 480km way. The only person I heard did touch a rock was Dave in Crystal and the gentleman he is, he immediately came to me to show me the damage: a slight scratch on the kevlar!

Bernie Garcin is holding my paddle in the top picture.

 

Tugela Gorgeous; Boats n Boobs

Bumbling down from Ngubevu through the legendary Tugela Gorge. Here’s Bernie Garcin (Bernie and the Jets), Doug Retief (Doug the Thief), Dave Walker (Lang Dawid) and me preparing to spend the night at Fig Tree Sandbank campsite, one of the planet’s most beautiful spots.

Kayak Tripping Tugela (4)

Kayak Tripping Tugela (2)

Three plastic Perception Dancers and one Perception Quest. We tripped in 1984 and 1985. In those early days old-timers would still mock plastic boats, saying ‘tupperware keeps turkeys fresh’ but we knew the joy of not having to nurse the boats, nor having to schlep fibreglass patch kits along and just smiled!

Kayak Tripping Tugela (5)

The most beautiful campsite on all my trips

The most beautiful campsite on all my trips

The bog roll got damp!

The bog roll got damp!

At the time Greg Bennett was sponsoring and competing in a motorised rubber duck race down the Tugela. Sacrilege! In ’84 he had Jerome Truran as crew, in ’85 Rip Kirby was his sidekick. Greg knew how to pick his rapid-readers. We used Greg’s bakkie to get to Ngubevu. Then someone must have fetched us at Jamieson’s Bridge at the end.

On one of the trips bare-breasted maidens flashed us! We saw a Landrover parked on a hill on the left bank, then saw some swimmers in the river. As they spotted us they ducked down, but then as we passed two of the girls popped up their lily-white tits to huge approval. They were like this except the water was brown and there were no cozzies and the parts hidden by this cozzie were lily-white – except for the central little bump. Not that we stared.

tugela boobs

tugela-boobs

The current swept us past them, but the mammaries lingered on.

Four-man Hole was soon after that and I crowded into a Bernie-occupied eddy straight after the drop and punched the nose of my Quest into his ribs. Being Bernie he didn’t wince, but I knew it had hurt.

Overnight at the crowded duck race camp the sponsors Lion Lager thought we were competitors so their beautiful beer hostesses liberally plied us with ale. OK, lager. It was exactly like I imagine heaven is going to be: You walked up to the beer can-shaped trailer, said to the gorgeous lady ‘One Case Please’ and she plonked a tray of 24 cans on the counter, opened every tab pfft pfft pfft pfft – all 24 and off you went. Stagger back to where you were pontificating.

When they ran out I rummaged cleverly in the boats and found wine papsaks we used for flotation and squeezed out the dregs. Karen the gorgeous, voluptuous newspaper reporter – remember the days when they wrote stuff on paper? – was covering the event for The Natal Mercury. Went under the byline Karen Bliksem if I remember correctly. She held out her mug and as I dispensed I gave her the patter: “A good wine. Not a great wine, but a good wine, with a delicate bouquet”. She shook her mug impatiently and said endearingly “I know fuckall about flowers, I’m in it for the alcohol” and I fell deeply in love. My kinda dreamboat lady in shape and attitude. She was like . .

tugela boobs_2

Dave too, was smitten as one of the comely lager hostesses joined him in his laager and treated him to sincere sleeping bag hospitality above and beyond the call of duty, ending the session with a farewell flash of delightful décolletage as she kissed him goodbye in the morning.

She was like . .

tugela barmaid

tugela barmaid boobs

As we drifted downstream Walker led the singing. We sang:

The landlord had a daughter fair – parlez vous

The landlord had a daughter fair – parlez vous

The landlord had a daughter fair

Lily-white tits and golden hair

Inky Pinky parlez vous

===

We sang to the resident goats:

I ain’t afraid of no goats

===

We sang (to the tune of He Aint Heavy . . . ):

Hy’s nie swaar nie, hy’s my swa-a-a-er

.

Ah! Those were carefree daze!

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The Figtree site picture was at the same site but on a later trip.

Desperately Seeking Miss Estcourt

We were camping in the Estcourt caravan park on the banks of the Bushman’s River when we heard there had recently been a beauty pageant in the dorp. The crown had been awarded. A Miss Estcourt had been chosen, and she was in town.

But where!? Our source of this local knowledge was Doug the Thief, who had heard it from a local.

This was her lucky weekend! She could choose from four handsome, willing and able bachelor paddlers. Well, willing, anyway:

She could choose from Bernie & The Jets’ yellow helmet, Swanie’s white helmet or Lang Dawid’s blue helmet. Doug the Thief had disappeared, nowhere to be found. Oh, well. His helmet’s loss.

We focused on preparation for the search, gaining bottled IQ points and suave wit before setting out in the Jet’s white Ford Escort which we thought the best vehicle to impress Miss Estcourt Sausages with. Look! Miss Estcourt Sausages, we’d say. We came courting you in an Escort! HaHaHa! She’d collapse laughing.

Bernie Ford Escort

Like this, just white

We eventually tracked down her flat in Estcourt’s only highrise building and knocked on her door on the top floor (also the third floor).

From inside came a deep man’s voice: FUCK OFF! it said. It was Doug the Thief’s voice, the swine.

Doug Eskort sausage

Umko Trip Mpendle to Lundys Hill

I remember a lovely day, spectacular scenery, an easy river level, quite gentle, good company, lots of laughs, but very little else till near the end when we came to the only rapid we decided not to go ‘down the middle’!

Among us were (as I recall) Doug Retief, Martin Lowenstein, Marlene Boshoff, Pete Zietsman and Bernie Garcin. Around 1983 or 1984 I guess? I wonder who drove our vehicles?

The rapid had a deep slot with the water dropping vertically over a ledge on three sides, a bit like a weir. Did someone call it The Coffin? We decided to take a sneak around it on the right and as I was on river left I started to ferry-glide across but lost my angle and decided ‘Too late, I’ll have to go for it’

I paddled hard and shot down into the slot, shuddered to a halt but then managed to pull away. All turned out alright, but I berated myself for a sloppy ferry-glide! Focus!

Don’t remember much else except a nice cold drink at the trading store on top of the hill. I wonder if anyone took a camera?

Impendle - Lundys Hill MapLundys Hill umkomaas river

Map from paddler celliers kruger; photos from mapio.net – thanks!

Grand Canyon Safe – for a while longer

As the Colorado River coming down from the high Rockies in Colorado state carves a deep canyon through the Arizona desert, it is met by the Little Colorado, coming from dryer country in Eastern Arizona and Western New Mexico – bottom right in the picture.

Approaching the confluence, the Little Colorado River carves an extremely steep and narrow gorge into the Colorado Plateau, eventually achieving a maximum depth of about 980m. The depth of the canyon is such that numerous springs restore a perennial river flow.

It joins the Colorado deep inside the Grand Canyon, miles from any major settlement. The confluence marks the end of Marble Canyon and the beginning of Upper Granite Gorge.

It’s a remote and peaceful place which can only be reached by river craft or by a long steep hike into the canyon.

Some developers thought it would be a good idea to put 3km of cable cars or ‘aerial trams’ and walkways down from the South Rim to the confluence, aiming to transport ten thousand paying guests a day down to this special place which they could then reach without effort, scoff fast food at a McD or KFC joint and zoom up out again. They planned the hideous Grand Canyon Escalade:

They planned to ruin a special place. Luckily Canoe & Kayak Magazine reports the Navajo Nation Council voted 16-2 against the development proposal on 31st October 2017. The proposal by developers Confluence Partners from Scottsdale, Arizona, also included a 420-acre commercial and lodging “village” on the rim, huge restrooms, an RV park, gas station, helipad, restaurants, retail shops, motel, luxury hotel, the ‘Navajoland Discovery Center’ and additional infrastructure.

Under the proposal, the tribe would be on the hook for an initial $65 million investment for roads, water and powerlines and communications, while providing a non-revocable 20-year operating license including a non-compete clause. In return, the Navajos would receive just 8 percent of the revenue. A “totally one-sided” and “rip-off” proposal, it met with a cold reception since project lobbying began seven years ago. Even after lengthy debate during the council’s special session led to significant amendments, overwhelming opposition to the project remained, prompting council delegates to pound a stake through its heart.

“We never said we were against economic development but, please, not in our sacred space,” activist Renae Yellowhorse from Save the Confluence said afterward. “We’re going to always be here to defend our Mother, to defend our sacred sites.”

Greedy developers, including some Navajo leaders, aim to try again, so vigilance is called for. Bottom line: There is no need for casual in-and-out tourists to ruin a special area when they can see pictures, videos and even 360º videos – even live footage – without crowding and ruining the place. We must be careful not to turn genuine natural areas into theme parks! We cannot re-create these places. They are not movie sets, they are real, often sensitive, ecosystems.

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When we got there in 1984 the rivers were running strongly, the Colorado at 50 000cfs, clear from deep in Lake Powell, and the Little Colorado running rich red-brown (“colorado”) from a flash flood upstream. Here you can see the waters starting to mix. From here on we had brown water all the way to Lake Mead.

Colorado confluence Escalade

And Colorado River water should be brown: Colorado means “ruddy, reddish.” Literally “colored.” Past participle of colorar “to color, dye, paint.” From Latin colorare.