Cycling the Free State Vlaktes

Sheila asked:

Hi Koos. What make were our bikes? Something with an R. Ruttludge? Rudling?

I answered ‘Rudge’. The same Rudge ridden by the English King.

‘Strue!

Sheila’s and Barbara’s were red, mine was blue. Given to us by Mom and Dad around (guessing) std 2 to 4 – grade 4 to 6. Which was around 1964 to 1966. They made the less-than-one-mile trip to school and back a breeze. We’d park them under cover at school in special bike parks with a slot in the concrete for the front wheel to go in and metal hoops to hold them upright.

Ours were WAY more basic than the one above though. Only a back brake, no gears, no cables, no light. They did have a little L-shaped attachment in front of the handle-bar we could attach a battery light on. The one in the picture probably had a Kingly bum on it.

I found this:

bicycle_Rudge_badge

The company Rudge-Whitworth Ltd. Coventry, England

Certainly one of the prominent makers of the classic British era … Eventually bought by Raleigh in 1943, the Rudge name takes a rightfully prominent spot in England’s cycling history.

Dan Rudge built the first Rudge high bicycles in 1870. In 1894 Rudge merged with the Whitworth Cycle Co to form Rudge-Whitworth. They made an excellent reputation for themselves over the next twenty years for producing a full range of beautifully made machines with many clever and unique features. They were ridden by King George V and family. See?

The name was finally killed sometime in the early 60s in Britain but may well have been used in export markets later.

bicycle_1897-RUDGE-WEDGE

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.

 

Early Daze

* updated *

My first recollections are of life on the plot outside Harrismith, playing with Enoch and Casaia, childhood companions, kids of Lena Mazibuko, who looked after us as Mom and Dad worked in town. The plot was was called Birdhaven – Dad kept big aviaries – and was in the shadow of Platberg. I remember Lena as kind and loving – and strict!

1955 Koos with aviaries
The one pigeon aviary – and me

What I remember is suddenly “knowing” it was lunchtime and looking up at the dirt road above the farmyard that led to town. Sure enough, right then a cloud of dust would appear and Mom & Dad would arrive for their lunch and siesta, having locked up the Platberg bottle store at 1pm sharp. I could see them on the road and then sweeping down the long driveway to park near the rondawel at the back near the kitchen door. They would eat lunch, have a short lie-down and leave in time to re-open at 2pm. The trip was exactly 3km door-to-door.

Every day I “just knew” they were coming. Wonder if I sub-consciously heard their approach and then “knew”? Or was it an inner clock?

birdhaven

1. Ruins of our house; 2. Dougie Wright, Gould & Ruth Dominy’s place; 3. Jack Levick’s house; 4. The meandering Kak Spruit. None of those houses on the left were there back then.

Back then they were probably buzzing home in the tiny green and black Ford Prefect or the beige Morris Isis, not yet the little powder-blue Beetle.

Our nearest neighbour was Jack Levick and he had a pet crow that said a few words. We had a white Sulphur-crested Cockatoo Jacko that didn’t, and an African Grey parrot Cocky who said more. And a tame-ish Spotted Eagle Owl that would visit at night. Next neighbours were Ruth and Gould Dominy and Ruth’s son Dougie Wright on Glen Khyber. They were about 500m further down the road towards the mountain, across the K Spruit over a little bridge. Doug’s cottage was on the left next to the spruit that came down from Khyber Pass and flowed into the K Spruit; The big house with its sunny glassed-in stoep was a bit further on the right. Ruth and a flock of small dogs would serve Gould his tea in a teacup the size of a big deep soup bowl.

Jacko the sulphur-crested cockatoo
Jacko the sulphur-crested cockatoo

Me and Jacko outside the rondawel on the plot with Platberg in the background. Judas Thabethe lived on the property and looked after the garden. I remember him as old, small and bearded. He lived in a hovel of a hut across a donga and a small ploughed field to the west of our house. He had some sort of cart – animal-drawn? self-drawn? I can’t recall.

Koos
Me and Sheila on the front lawn – 1956

Other things I remember are driving out and seeing white storks in the dead bluegum trees outside the gate – those and the eagle owl being the first wild birds I ‘spotted’ in my still-ongoing birding life; the snake outside the kitchen door;

1990 Birdhaven Mum & Dad in the Kitchen
Scene of the rinkhals leap – this taken thirty years later, in 1990

I don’t remember but have been told that my mate Donald Coleman, two years older, would walk the 1.1km from his home on the edge of town to Birdhaven to visit me. Apparently his Mom Jean would phone my Mom Mary on the party line and ask “Do you have a little person out there?” if she couldn’t find him.

1990 Birdhaven Mum & Dad on the front veranda
1990 pic Mom & Dad near where the 1956 pic was taken
1955 Barbs Birdhaven tyre Dad.jpg
Fun on the lawn – and Bruno the doberman

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A newsflash the year I was born – check the cars.

 

Grand Old Man Of Harrismith

My grandmother Annie’s father was Stewart Bain, former mayor of Harrismith. When he died in 1939 the dorp held quite the procession for him:

Stewart Bain 1939.jpg

Sister Sheila says he was known as ‘The Grand Old Man of Harrismith’ for his long service and the changes he brought about in the town. The most notable of these was his push for a new town hall. He wanted an impressive edifice for the dorp. Some called the building Bain’s Folly, but there it still is today, probably still a folly, still underutilised and still way more than Harrismith warranted! News is it’s now in serious need of repair!

Stewart was of the ‘Royal Bains’ of Harrismith. No crown, mind, just ownership of the Royal Hotel. And to distinguish them from their cousins the ‘Central Bains’ who owned . . well, you get it.

I thought I remembered that, despite the fact that every dorp has a Royal Hotel, the Harrismith Royal Hotel was one of only two that could officially legitimately and British-ly call itself ‘Royal’. Sheila has confirmed that I have a flawless memory. Well, something along those lines:

Royal Hotel article

This post on my other blog got a reply from a distant Bain relative in Scotland.

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.

Koos Steve flat ca1980

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 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:

salvation army

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.