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.

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!

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

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

 

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

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We sang to the resident goats:
I ain’t afraid of no goats

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

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

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Ah! Those were carefree daze!

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The top 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.

 

Tshwane

Tshwane – Famous for the protection of its inebriates;

  • Home of the self-guided car
Few people know that Pretoria Boys High, Audi and Elon Musk were secretly piloting a new self-driving car in Tshwane when their test pilot, one PH Brauer, Esq, pulled out of the program for reasons unknown, although rumour has it his wife gave him a thick ear one evening after golf. Details are sketchy, as is the test pilot, a Pretoria Boys High old boy. A PHB from PBH you could say. Some of the project’s left-over funds were spent re-building a school wall.
So that didn’t really work out.
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  • Home of the amphibious canoe
OK, that didn’t work so well either, but at least there was no ongeluk thanks to the presence of two more responsible parties and the same long-suffering wife who took over the wheel of a high-powered vehicle at a crucial point when the inebriated one on the roofrack, one Brauer, Esq, thought paddling the Dusi was as easy as running Comrades.
kayak roofrack
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  • Home of the original toilet bowl airbag
This field project took place outside Tshwane city limits in rural Yeoville. It also didn’t really work so well as the protective airbag  failed to deploy until after the teeth of the main character in the act, one Brauer, Esq, had already chipped the porcelain. Work is continuing on developing a more robust alcohol fume sensor that triggers the bag. It seems the original sensor was simply overwhelmed by the overload and went phhht.t.t. and instead of inflating the bag it caused deflation in more areas than one.

 

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  • Home of Gullible Stromberg Suckers

Although handicapped by the absence of any alcohol consumption, this project went surprisingly well, when the sucker in question, one Brauer, Esq, paid a premium price for a piece of inert plastic to attach to his car’s sparkplug cable. The resulting marginal improvement in performance from sat to so-so was enough to impress another Tshwane deskundige into believing the scam. Both were so taken in they gave the old pale blue Cortina its first service and wax.Cortina stromberg

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Interesting place, Tshwane, ancestral home of the australopithecine Tshwanepoels.

australopithecines

The Lowveld Croc

Never mind crocs, watch out for hippos!

There’s a Crocodile River in Gauteng, so the river near Nelspruit that flows east into Mocambique and forms the southern boundary of the Kruger National Park has to be called the “Lowveld Croc”.

A wonderful canoe (kayak really) race is held annually on this river. The presence of hippopotamuses in the river adds a risk and a thrill to the two-day race. Race organisers engage with local farmers and wildlife people and trip the river in the weeks before the race in order to identify possible hippo hotspots which are then compulsory portages on race days. Sometimes a helicopter is used to do a scouting flight on race day morning, and volunteer paddlers also scout the route by starting ahead of the competing racers.

The year I did the race (1983 or 1984) I remember the route as from above Montrose falls to Mbombela town (formerly Nelspruit). We portaged around the falls.

montrose-falls 3

The hippo were in the last pool before the finish in Nelspruit, so the race was ended a few km short at the last accessible spot before the hippo pool. I see they now start higher up and end the race above Montrose falls.

Lake St Lucia and Dukandlovu

Dukandlovu rustic camp was underutilised. Parks Board wanted to increase its use and were looking for new ideas. It was a walk-in or cycle-in rustic camp and they were reluctant to open it up to drive-in access, so wanted to try other ideas first.

Rustic, but splendid, it’s a four hut, eight bed camp with basic kitchen facilities and cold water showers. The widows are openings with roll-down reed blinds which keep about half the wind and none of the mozzies out. The beds had mattresses, but bring your own bedding.

It was doomed. So few people want to rough it! Not ‘nowadays’ – always. Since humans first walked upright the majority have chosen the cushiest of whatever’s available. ‘I prefer roughing it’ has always been the weirdness of a few.

Dukandlovu (3).jpg
Our pic – the rest are internet pics

But the rugged few in Parks Board were reluctant to give in too easily, so first they tried us: “Let’s test the feasibility of adding canoeing-in to the access menu!” they said. Robbie Stewart was approached and he took Bernie Garcin and I (and others – who?) to test the waters. Literally. We set off with our plastic kayaks to False Bay, launched them and headed south towards the mouth of the Hluhluwe river on the Western Shores. Right from the outset we could see this wasn’t promising: We touched bottom often. Our draft was mere inches, but the lake was that shallow in places. Great for small worms and other marine creatures and for the wading birds that spear them from above, but not good for paddling. Oh well, we had tried. Not long after this they actually did open it to vehicle access. With a sigh, I’ve no doubt.

false bay shallow

After staying a night the rest of the guys went home on the Sunday. I stayed over with Parks Board Rangers Dick Nash and Trevor Strydom. Monday morning I woke, eagerly looking forward to my day of ‘rangering’. What derring-do would we get up to with me as ‘ranger-for-a-day’?

Paperwork at a desk, that’s what. As head ranger, Dick first had a whole bunch of admin to sort out! Not what I’d imagined.

But later we got going on their regular bird count in the wilderness area in the north-east arm of the lake. We set off in their spacious craft with a Hamilton jet propulsion system (an impellor rather than a propellor, it sucks water in the underbelly and spits it out the back). This was fine in clear deep water, but when we nosed up the Mkhuze river we soon sucked up waterweeds and came to a halt. Dick pulled rank and ordered Trevor to jump overboard and remove the weed from under the boat. On the bird count we had seen at least fifty thousand and ten of their distant cousins – crocodiles – so the thought of jumping overboard was not inviting! Anyway, before Trevor could remove his shirt Dick was already under the boat doing it himself. A bit disconcerting when you looked at his hand as he chucked the weed away: He only had two fingers and a thumb. Had a croc taken the other fingers?

False bay st lucia - mkhuze mouth.jpg

We got going again in fits and starts and after a few more stops to clear the impeller we turned back to the lake and continued to count birds. And thumb our noses at the crocodiles.

So do go to Dukandlovu, you can drive there now. You wimp.

Lake St Lucia