Off they’d go in Mary’s pale blue VW Beetle OHS 155. Off to Durbs-by-the-Sea, the Lonsdale Hotel or the Four Seasons for a whole week!
Might that be Mary’s VW outside the Lonsdale in this picture? Three cars behind the Borgward?
The cost of their stay: R2.95 each per day including meals. Mom thinks Randolph Stiller may have owned the Four Seasons. He certainly owned the Central Hotel in Harrismith where Annie stayed, one block away from her Caltex garage in Warden Street. Only the Deborah Retief gardens between her hotel room and her office, but she drove there in her great big old beige Chev Fleetline; one block up to the garage. Mom – ever kind – says her legs were too sore to walk.
In Durban Mom and Annie would visit Annie’s sister Jessie (Bain Bell) and her daughter Lesley (Malcolm-Smith ) in their flat in Finsbury Court in West Street. Lesley worked at Daytons – a supermarket, Mom thinks.
They would all hop into Mom’s car and head off on a drive – to the beach, to the Japanese Gardens; and – always – to visit Annie’s bridesmaid Maggie McPherson who lived in a ‘posh flat up on the Berea. Looked like a bit of Olde England’.
Many years later – 1980’s – we would go and listen to Joe Parker in the Lonsdale. Beer-soaked, we hosed ourselves, but I don’t think Mom and Annie would have approved!
While we’re getting nostalgic, some names to remember: Gillespie Street; The Italian restaurant Villa d’Este; The Four Seasons Hotel, with its Pink Panther steakhouse; Palm Beach Hotel; Millionaires’ Club; Lonsdale Hotel; The El Castilian nightclub (remember The Bats?); The Killarney Hotel, where the Monks Inn used to be (with the words “Steak, Eggs and Strips” posted prominently outside); Thatcher’s Bar at the former Parkview Hotel.
After the 1983 Berg River Canoe Marathon ended in Velddrif, we stopped in at Boet & Anna Swanepoel’s smallholding outside Malmesbury, about 50km north of Cape Town. Boet was Dad’s older brother. Mom and Sheila had seconded me on the race, driving my Cortina to each of the three overnight stops.
I’d forgotten this visit, remembering only an earlier 1977 visit with Larry Wingert, but Sheila had pictures! And there I am, sticking up above Uncle Boet’s head, watching the activity from a safe distance, hands in pockets. Probably too tired and cold to help after the four-day freeze I had just endured? Or lazy? I do know my hands would not have appreciated hoisting hay bales after 240km of holding a wet paddle!
We won’t mention child labour, nor overloading, nor our way of saying “I loaded the Chev with hay” rather than “I had the Chev loaded with hay”, OK?
The bakkie: My research suggests this was a 1955 Chev 3200 ‘Task Force’ 3/4 tonner. Probly with a bit more than that onboard!
We went to Durban around this time and stayed in the Impala Holiday Flats, self-catering. Free Staters on the loose in Durbs-by-the-Sea!
We probably drove down in OHS 154, a beige Morris Isis – or in OHS 155, a pale blue VW 1200 Beetle, along the narrow national road between Joburg and Durban.
I remember talk of dreading the infamous “Colenso Heights” – apparently the most challenging section of the route.
The high-rise we stayed in was in Gillespie Street one street back from the Golden Mile, or Esplanade. If you took all Harrismith’s houses and stacked them, you’d have a building like this. I remember the lifts and I remember getting back tired and full of sand from the beach. I don’t seem to recall the beach – weird.
The eastern-most pass up Harrismith’s Platberg is the fabled Donkey Pass. We called it Flat Rock Pass. Mountain Passes South Africa says it’s the sixth highest above sea level, and the second steepest pass in South Africa.
The road traverses a nature reserve and you need a permit to drive up. The steep parts – with sections as steep as 1:3 – are concrete stripped to aid traction. 4X4 and low range is essential for a safe and – especially – non-destructive ascent.
For those that do get to drive this amazing pass, you will be one of a select few to have done so.
On top you’ll find Gibson Dam, built by British soldiers soon after the Boer War.
Other passes on Platberg’s south side – the side facing the town – are Khyber Pass, ZigZag Pass and One Man’s Pass. They’re all footpaths only though.
Hopefully Platberg’s custodians limit the number of vehicles they allow on top to keep the mountain top as undamaged as possible. Sensitive wetlands!
All above are internet pictures. These next I took on a visit in 1973 with fellow exchange students and my Apache host brothers. From left: Dayne Swanda, Kent Swanda, Helen Worswick from Marandellas, Zimbabwe, Jenny Carter from Bromley, Zimbabwe, Jonathan Kneebone from Australia, Evelyn Woodhouse from Durban, South Africa and Robbie Swanda.
Wichita mountains with Pattersons
Dayne & Kent Swanda, Helen Worswick, Jenny Carter, Jonathan Kneebone, Evelyn ___, Robbie Swanda
Bison, elk and deer are protected on the 23,880 ha wildlife refuge. The refuge also manages a herd of longhorn cattle. The peaks are capped by 540 million-year old granite. Here you can see where the mountains are in SW Oklahoma. Apache is just a few miles north.
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.
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.
And Colorado River water should be brown: Colorado means “ruddy,reddish.” Literally“colored.” Pastparticipleofcolorar“tocolor,dye,paint.” FromLatincolorare.
Great friend Larry Wingert is out from the USA and we hop on a flight to Maun in Botswana. It’s 1985 and we’re bachelors on the loose with time and money!
From Maun we fly into the Delta (Tjou camp) in a Cessna 206. After many beers and wines a resident auntie starts looking enticing at around midnight but the moment passes.
The next morning a pair of tropical boubou fly into the open-air pub under a tree right above where we’re sitting and belt out a startling loud duet. Stunning! That’s a lifer!
After a short mokoro ride it’s back to the plane and a short flip back to Maun where we all squeeze into an old Land Rover, fill up at Riley’s Garage . .
. . and head off for Moremi, stopping just outside Maun to buy some meat hanging from a thorn tree. Goat? Supper.
We’re a motley crew. We get to know two Aussie ladies, a Kiwi lady, a Pom fella – 6 foot 7 inches of Ralph – and the gorgeous Zimbabwean Angel Breasts (Engelbrecht her actual surname)! Unfortunately, she’s the Long Pom’s girlfriend (*sigh*).
Our long-haired laid-back hippy Saffer guide Steve at the wheel is super-cool, a great guide. So off we go, heading north-east, eight people in a Series 2 Landie – “The Tightest-Squeeze-Four-By-Four-By-Far”.
Long Legs in a Landie
Anyone who has driven in a Landie will know there’s lots of room inside – except for your shoulders and your knees. Besides that – roomy. Land Rover’s theory is that three people can fit on the front seat, three on the middle seat and two on those postage stamp seats in back. Right! See that metal bar that your knees keep bumping against? That’s what Land Rover used instead of an airbag.
Unable to endure the cramped space on the middle seat, the lengthy Pom gets out at the very first stop and sits on the spare wheel on the roofrack. I sit with my thigh firmly against Angel Breasts’ thigh (*sigh*).
He stays up there for the rest of the week – whenever we’re driving, he sits on the roofrack! When we stop he has to pick the insects out of his teeth. I’m in seventh heaven. Mine and Angel Breasts’ thighs were made for each other. She was like . . .
Birding: Problem Solved!
I’m mad keen on birding but I don’t know how these guys feel about it. What if they get pissed off? What if they only want to stop for large furry creatures? The first time we get stuck in the deep sand, a little white-browed scrub robin comes to the rescue! He hops out onto the road in full view, cocks his tail and charms them. From then on I have six spotters who don’t let anything feathered flit past without exclaiming “What’s that, Pete? What’s that? And that one?”
At Khwai River camp a splendid, enchanted evening vision befalls me – my best wild life sighting of the whole trip: I’m walking in the early evening to supper and bump into Angel Breasts outside her bungalow – she’s in her bra n panties in the moonlight. Bachelor dreams. Oops, she says and runs inside. Don’t worry, I’ve averted my eyes, I lie (*sigh*).
At Savuti camp the eles have wrecked the water tank.
At Nogatsaa camp a truck stops outside the ranger’s hut, a dead buffalo on the back. The ranger’s wife comes to the truck and is given a hindquarter. Meat rations. They also drop the skin there and advise us to carry a torch if we shower at night as lions are sure to come when they smell the skin.
Later I head for a shower while its still light. A sudden cacophony makes me look out of the broken window: The lady-in-residence is chasing an ele away from her hut by banging her pots & pans together! We travel thousands of k’s to see elephant and she says Footsack Wena! Tsamaya! While looking I spot what I think could be a honeyguide in a tree, so I have to rush back to our puptent wrapped in a towel with one eye on the ele to fetch my binocs. It is a greater honeyguide, and that’s another lifer for me! Moral of the story: Always carry your binocs no matter where you go!
That night the elephants graze quietly right next to the tent, tummies rumbling. Peeping out of the puptent door I look at their tree stump legs, can’t even see up high enough to see their heads. Gentle giants.
As we approached the Chobe river the landscape looked like Hiroshima! Elephant damage of the trees was quite unbelievable. That did NOT look like good reserve management! Botswana doesn’t believe in culling, but it sure looked like they should!
The Chobe river, however, was unbelievable despite the devastation on its banks – especially after the dry country we’d been in. What a river! What wildlife sightings!
On to Zimbabwe, the mighty Zambesi river and Victoria Falls. We stayed at AZambezi Lodge. Here we bid a sad goodbye to our perfect safari companions. Me still deeply in love. Angel Breasts holding the Long Pom’s hand, totally unaware of my devotion (*sigh*).
At the end our guide gave me and Larry a letter. We read it on the flight out of Vic Falls.
Saffer – Suffefrickin; South African
lifer – first time you’ve seen that bird ever
Footsack Wena!Tsamaya! – Go away! Be off with you! Eff Oh!
Note: Larry had a camera on the trip, I didn’t, so I have asked him (hello Larry) to scratch around for his colour slides in his attic or his secret wall storage space in Akron Ohio. He will one day. As a dedicated procrastinator he is bent on never putting off till tomorrow what you can put off till the next day. Meantime, thanks to Rob & Jane Wilkinson of wilkinsonsworld.com and others on the interwebses for these borrowed pics!
edit: There’s hope! Larry wrote 16 December 2017: P.S. I will renew my efforts to locate some photos of our Botswana trip. If you saw the interior of my house, you’d understand the challenge.
—— OK, but if you saw the exterior of his old house you’d fall in love with it: