Mfolosi Wilderness Walk

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 was born and actioned.

My first trail was ca 1990, when I went with Dusi canoeing buddies Doug Retief, Martin & Marlene Loewenstein and Andre Hawarden. We were joined by a young 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
Martin peers; I grimace; We’re both thinking of the gorgeous Donna next to me!

A good sport, she 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, salt and black pepper. 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 five-night trail we went for a game drive on the way out of the park. 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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Thirty years 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.”

Early Self-Driving Cars

Self-driving cars won’t need steering wheels one day.

Car, Self-Driving

Reminds me of thinking WTF? at the wheel of my puke-green 1974 Peugeot 404 station wagon on the corner of Musgrave Road and St Thomas near the Robert E Lee nightclub of old after hearing a loud thump left rear. What could that be? I asked my companions, but them being drunk they just thought whatever it was it was hilarious. Irresponsible passengers!

Either the pavement had leaned forward and caught the wheel and whipped the tyre off the rim, or the self-driving car had irresponsibly cut the corner. Nothing to do with me, but now I had to try and change that tyre while planet earth was rotating dizzyingly all round me irregardless. Peugeot having not yet perfected the self-changing tyre. My companions were only a handicap, giving raucous and useless advice. They’d been drinking.

And do you think the planet would just cool it for a minute and rotate and revolve less vigorously while I wrestled with the diplopia, the wheel and the swaying? No, in fact I swear it accelerated somewhat. Probably a Chandler wobble happened just then, moving the wheel about 9m from where I was trying to change it. It happens every 433 days.

Being a superb handyman and able to handle my liquor, and by leaning my forehead against the wheel-arch, I got the wheel changed and we staggered into the Robert E Lee and ordered a round, the drunks still telling me what I coulda, shoulda.

In the morning I staggered to the window in Wakefield Court Doctors Quarters in Durban’s Point Road area to look down at the Peugeot parked below in Prince Street. That feeling of relief that it was there and the mystery as to how it got there. Auto-pilot. Who needs Elon Musk?

1974 Peugeot OHS 5688_2
This colour – but a handsome French wagon like the feature pic –        OHS 5688

Of course I no longer do that shit. In fact the last time I acted irremesponsibly was LONG ago in Mocambique after a few mega R&R’s (rum n raspberries). I was much younger. Must be eight, nine years ago. And I wasn’t driving. A drunk driver on the sand roads in the dunes was trying to shake me off the roof of his 4X4.

So why can’t my kids just skip this portion of their lives? I ask. I also ask critics of self-driving cars, ‘You really think cars can do a worse job than some of us drivers?’

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My first R&R actually astonished me, true. The barman in Ponta da Oura (you guys will remember his name) filled the 500ml beer tankard with ice then poured cheap rum out of a plastic bottle to 1cm from the top. NO! I laughed, Whoa! Not so much! He looked at me in genuine concerned sadness and said “It is too late. I have already poured it”. I understood then, as I watched him add a splash of Schweppes raspberry. This was how it played in Ponta. I girded my loins. It would have to be done.

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Part of Earth’s wobble may be our fault for driving around aimlessly at night burning up fossil fuels! Seems since 1899, the Earth’s axis of spin has shifted about 10.5 meters. Seems a third of the shift is due to melting ice and rising sea levels, particularly in Greenland. Another third of the wobble is due to land masses expanding upward as the glaciers retreat and lighten their load. The final portion is the fault of the slow churn of the mantle, the viscous middle layer of the planet.

 

Up Sani Pass in Redfoot

scan0033

Three modern bakkies and a 1979 Series II Landrover LWB with a Ford V6 3litre engine shoved in – and hand-painted flat white with bright red wheels – ventured up Sani Pass one day. The three very capable bakkies sailed up with ease, while Redfoot had to pause for a breather on a stream crossing and have its radiator topped up and let its heart rate subside.

Yet at photo op time everyone posed on old Redfoot the Landie! Hit it!

The three more capable - but less photogenic - bakkies
The three more capable – but less photogenic – bakkies
Redfoot Sani crop
And on which vehicle did everyone pose for their “Conquered the Mountain” picture?
sani_1
Beautiful rockjumpers on the rocks

Aitch found Redfoot. One of her PMB doctors was ‘doing up’ an old Landie, putting a new engine in and it ‘would be like new’ he said. He was a fibbing car salesman but my Need-A-4X4-O-Meter was up and he could have sold me a – Wait! He DID sell me a Landrover! Never thought I’d fall for one of those.

‘Only one previous owner’ he said and that was true: Besides him, only one previous owner – The KwaZulu bantustan homeland Police Force. I only found that out too late but anyway he’d have re-assured me that they treated it with kid gloves and as if it was their own, sticking to the speed limit, never over-loading it and staying on the tar.

I bought it for R12000 in partnership with my three business partners, 25% each. I assured them they would thank me. I don’t think Lello and Stoute ever used it. Yoell did once. And Prem Singh used it once to take a wedding party to Ladysmith. Maybe Soutar used it a few times.

I spent a further R13000 on two more Ford engines and sold it with relief for R5000. This Sani trip was the only worthwhile exercise it ever undertook. Come to think of it, I don’t think my ungrateful partners ever did thank me! I don’t know why. It was a real conversation stopper. You had to say what you wanted before you left, cos on the journey there was no way you could even yourself speak. There was a hole in the aluminium between your knees and the engine compartment and a hole in the aluminium between your heels and the road, so lots of noise rushed in.

 

Seeking to Dodge Salvation

Stephen sent a terrible picture of a recovering drunk back in the old days. Around 1980. He found this poor soul asleep on the covered veranda of his top floor flat in 10th Avenue off Clarence Road in Windermere, Durban and cruelly photographed him, him unknowing. Sleeping with his specs on so as not to have blurry dreams.

Koos Steve flat ca1980
Me – innocent

Later he accompanied the poor soul to the cafe on the corner for something to slake our Sunday morning cotton mouth thirst. En route we came across the Salvation Army on the pavement, gearing up their instruments, getting ready to go and blast a bracing dose of Christian ‘look sharp’ into some poor sinners’ ears.

We were convinced they’d marked us as just exactly the right type of sinners they needed. Neatly – if severely – dressed in their fierce outfits, sensible shoes and soldier-looking hoeds they glared at us, fiddling threateningly with their instruments.

I could feel their accusing stares boring through the back of my head as I minced delicately past them, taking a wide – but not too wide – berth by stepping down into the gutter – where I belonged? – trying not to upset them in any way. Had they sounded the horn and hit the drum we would have capitulated and joined immediately. Thankfully a baleful stare was all we got and we made it past them. We eyed them out from a distance from the cafe door and returned to Stefaans’ flat once they’d parum-pum’d off a goodly distance down the road.

They were like this menacing-looking mob, except there were more tannies with sensible shoes, like in the top pic:

salvation army

hoeds – headgear

tannies – aunties

The Legal Has Landed!

I was working with Serge in the UBS building in Field Street.

Bending over someone with my eye one centimetre from their eye gazing deep through their pupil with my ophthalmoscope when the building trembled and I heard a loud, dull thud. WTF? I thought; ‘Hmm’ I said, ‘Sounds like the UBS sign fell off the building!’ I was about to change eyes when next minute my door flew open and Serge darted in “Excuse Me”, flung up my window and hopped out nimble as a cricket, as old and grey as he was. WTF again?

I stuck my head out and there was Serge bending  over a man in a grey suit lying face-down on the tarry-stuff covering the roof over the street-level shops below me.

Turns out he was a lawyer. Partner in the firm on the fifth floor, who took to plummeting. We were on the second floor so he only fell three stories and survived. Came back to work a few months later limping with a stick.

I dunno. Haven’t a clue.

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pic of downtown durban from thegreengallery.co.za

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

.

Ah! Those were carefree daze!

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

A Crayfishing Oenophile CA LLB

John Newby was an LLB  attorney and a CA accountant, wine connoisseur, boyfriend of the lovely Heather – and a crayfisherman. A very capable and interesting fella. He would shove his scrawny frame into a wetsuit and disappear under the waves among the rocks and emerge with crayfish. Which he would then very generously cook and share with his fellow inmates at 72 Hunt Road, our communal house on the Berea in Durban.

I always knew when a crayfish treat was coming cos he’d walk into my room, mumble an apology, roll back the carpet and disappear under my floor. He’d emerge covered in cobwebs clutching a dusty wine bottle or two talking French and flowery poetical words which I took with a pinch of salt. Some people are just like that and you tolerate them while quaffing their wine.

But lo! As with everything he did, Newby wasn’t bullshitting. We suddenly found out he had won the Natal wine-tasters guild sniffing and spitting finals and was off to represent us at the nationals in Cape Town! I mean I always thought of myself as an oenophile but that was in a volume sense, not so much as a critic.

So now we were rooting for him! We always knew he was a connoisseur, we now said. We had helped him train, we said. My memory is that he won that tasting too and Hunt Road thus had an SA champion under our roof; I would take this 38yr-old self-serving memory with another pinch of salt, though. Or a swallow of chablis.

Hunt Rd
Our Hunt Rd neighbours – our house looked much the same