Up Sani Pass in Redfoot

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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.

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.

 

And Now Greg Seibert Has Died

Greg came to Harrismith from Ohio in 1972. We lost touch then thanks to Sheila picked up as though no time had passed! Greg was helping Sheila research ancient family history and was also sending lovely pics of his schooldays in Harrismith.

He was planning to come and visit and, among other places, visit Steph de Witt’s game farm near Tshipise with Steph.

Then Steph died.

Now Greg’s gone, suddenly, out of the blue.

R.I.P Greg! Dammit!!

** I’ll find a pic of Greg. Meantime that’s one of his pics above **

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Wonderful memories of walking down Normandien pass in the Drakensberg with Greg, just me and him along lonely dirt roads and railway tracks, through these tunnels and ending up near Van Reenen – at Moorddraai where we were fetched – I think by Father Sam van Muschenbroek? I had to keep telling Greg to slow down! He was a fast walker and I was in no hurry!

Near van Reenen where Greg Seibert & I hiked thru tunnels

I don’t have a pic of Greg yet. The top pic is one he took in our physics class back in 1972.

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Greg’s last message on 28 April 2016:

On Apr 28, 2016, Sheila had written:

Gregor! Where the hell have you been? Are you okay?

You just dried up and went away! A bit like our money is doing right now! All’s well here – am having fun putting old pics on FB – am loving the responses. I hope you’re okay.

Lots of love, Sheila

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Greg replied same day:

SHEILA!

I'm doing just fine. Been a bit of work finishing up the estates of mom 
and dad. Was quite ready for mom to go, but dad went kinda suddenly. 
Such is life.
What brought about this great burst of picture activity? I'll have to get 
back to posting more of mine again.

My brother is probably going back to Port Elizabeth later this year. 
I might try to come with him this time since my last trip got all messed up.

Glad you are doing well!

Grego

Sent from my iPad
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So Greg's poor kids lost their Grandma, their Granpa and their Dad in 
quick succession!
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Greg's brother Jeff did come to SA. I took him to Hluhluwe game reserve. 
Greg did not accompany him. 
He should have. 
He never did make it back to SA to visit. Damn!
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Coldest Nights

Some of the coldest nights of my life were:

– At home some nights at 95 Stuart Street, getting in between cold sheets in a cold room; Harrismith FS in winter! In the ’60’s
– On the Wilge riverbank with Claudio – sharing a wet sleeping bag; ca 1970
– Above Oliviershoek Pass, out in the open (no tent) on Jack Shannon’s farm Kindrochart with Pierre and his cousin Kevin, fresh from Durban in the July hols. We rode there on our bicycles – about 19 miles. Kevin thought he was gonna die; ca 1968
– With Tuffy and Fluffy in Bloem in a school hostel (Jim Fouche Skool?), no bedding, huddled under our school blazers. ‘Cept I don’t clearly remember this one, but Fluffy reminded me; ca 1970
– On the Berg River Canoe Marathon in the Cape. July! Rain sweeping in horizontally on the freezing cold gale-force wind. Two days on the river around 60km and 49km long. That second day, the shortest of four, was the longest day of my life; The last two days warmed up, thank goodness; ca 1983

With Aitch in the kombi in Kalahari Gemsbok Park. Like sleeping in a refrigerator. The lions knew to wait till the sun was up before getting it on; ca 1996

Cold! Kalahari Gemsbok (1)

Kalahari Gemsbok (16) Frozen fox nuts in fur!

With Aitch on Sheila’s expedition up Mt aux Sources. Sheila insisted we camp right in the open, exposed to a freezing gale with our tents leaning at 45º and rolling away if they weren’t weighted down (pegs were no help). The reason she wanted this became clear at sunrise; ca 1996

This is why Sheila made us camp in THE most exposed spot! Wasn't hot. Aitch still huddling in the tent!

With Aitch on Nyika Plateau in Malawi 10 000ft asl – but then we dragged our mattress to the lounge and got a roaring log fire going (felled timber from the pine plantation being cleared!). So that night only counts before the fire got going; ca 1993

Nyika plateau Nyika plateau; Spoiling Aitch again with luxury lodgings . . .

Ladies of Stone

Way back in high school we spent a night in an old sparsely furnished Drakensberg farmhouse with no ceilings and a tin roof.

We accompanied Klein Kerneels Retief to his Dad’s winter grazing farm below Oliviershoek Pass and were left on our own overnight. Adventure! The skies were overcast and soon there were deep rumblings and flashes of lightning. A heavy rain started falling followed by hailstones. The storm built up until it was a roar and we couldn’t hear each other at all – not even shouting into your ear from an inch away was audible above the tinroof fandango. We jumped a foot high when a massive crack of thunder clapped half an inch above the roof. The loudest bang I’d ever heard.

The next day we explored the ouhout thickets above the house and came across a well-endowed woman lying naked on a huge stone in the woods. She sported huge shapely boobs and was a wonder for the eyes of lustful teenagers. She was gorgeous! OK, she was made of stone, but hey, what else did we have?

I have often thought of her over the years and started thinking I may have imagined her but then I read of the stone carvings of the Drakensberg and determined to go and find her.

I took the kids and we stayed at The Cavern, lovely old-style ‘Berg hotel.

The Cavern-001

Beautiful things in the grounds. And some flowers.

Asking around, one of their hiking guides said he knew where my statue was and he’d take me there. I packed a rucksack, he packed lunch and off we went for the day, leaving the kids behind. They could not WAIT for me to GO! DAD! as they had discovered an amazing secret: If you gave any hotel employee your room number he or she would give you anything you wanted under the sun. They had discovered the key to endless riches.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA One movie – Dad will pay. Room 15

When my guide and I got to the little valley in the foothills where he said the statue was it didn’t look right. It didn’t feel like the place I remembered from – uh, 40yrs ago. But there she was: A maiden with luscious boobs carved in stone.
*Cavern upright Statue (small)
But this lady was standing up, not lying down on a rock in a seductive pose. There is another statue, I told him. This is not the statue I saw. Its beautiful, and thank you, but she is not the lady of my dreams. Ah! He knew where the other one was. It was on private property and he couldn’t take me there. Back at the hotel I asked around and they showed me a picture.

And there she was, exactly as I remembered her:
Cavern reclining Statue (small)
Well, almost exactly. Um, I must confess I did NOT notice that she had wings back then, nor that she had clothing. I was remembering naked bunnytail more than dressed wings. Hey, Testosterone! Vrystaat! 1970! No internet! Very few Playboy magazines! Cut me some slack here!

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The story was told of a reclusive sculptor who fell in love with a trader’s daughter and sculpted these rocks in homage to her. She was a Coventry. We had Coventry twins Glenda & Glynis in Harrismith who came from a Drakensberg trading family. And I think I see a resemblance . . .

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I found this by Rowan Philp: Rediscovering South Africa: A Wayward Guide.
“There are two boulders hidden deep in a Drakensberg forest which tell a near-Shakespearean tale of obsession, genius, and revenge. Completely unsign-posted, they feature magnificent, life-size sculptures of the same nude, full-breasted woman, painstakingly carved by her lover 50 years ago. The story begins when Willie Chalmers, a wandering artist with a wildly unkempt beard, came to the area from the Kalahari in the 1930’s to learn more about Bushman paintings from a farmer’s daughter, Doreen Coventry. He fell in love with her and spent 14 months carving her likeness into a flat sandstone rock on her farm, adding a halo and the face of a child alongside. He called it Spirit of the Woods.

But some of his younger in-laws saw him as a con man and a parasite at the family homestead, and at the height of the row, Coventry’s nephew hiked up to the sculpture in a rage and smashed off the nose. So, some say, Chalmers began a second Spirit of the Woods, this time in a secret location almost completely enclosed by other boulders, sometimes working for weeks without a break.”

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ouhout – literally ‘old wood’ Leucosidea sericea

Getting Around in the 70’s

School holidays. We have to DO something or we’ll go crazy!
Ma, we want to go and climb Mt aux Sources.
How are you going to get there?
We’ll hitch-hike.
Over my dead body! or words to that effect. NO, I think she meant.

So two days later we get home, drenched, muddy and weary, having reached Witsieshoek, but not the mountain, as the heavens had opened up, turning the roads into quagmires. So the mountaineering goal of the expedition had been thwarted, but the main goal – having fun – had not!.
Where have you been?!
To Mt aux Sources, like I said.
How did you get there?
We hitch-hiked, like I said.

One of our lifts was with one of the Trading Greys, dunno who exactly.
The rain bucketed down and I learnt a lot about driving in slick mud by watching him continuously turn into the skid on the muddy Witsieshoek road.

As always, Mother Mary couldn’t stay cross with me for long.
I think my companions on this adventure were Claudio and Carlos.

That same road in sunny weather years later (it was wet and gravel, not dry and tarred):

witsieshoek

Veld & Vlei

Veld & Vlei at Greystones on the banks of Wagendrift Dam in the July holidays of 1972. ‘Leadership School’ – a physical and mental challenge, they said.

Memories of a busy week: The tough obstacle course – carry that 44-gal drum over the wall without letting it touch the wall! Other obstacles, including tight underground tunnels. And HURRY!

Chilly winter nights in these old canvas bell tents – we slept like logs:

Cross-country runs; PT by military instructors. What’s with this love for things military? Brief immersion swims in the frigid water of the dam every morning; The lazy bliss of sailing an ‘Enterprise’ dinghy out of reach of anything strenuous!

Then the second week: Being chosen as patrol leader; A preparatory two-day hike in the area. One of our patrol was a chubby, whiny lad, so we spent some effort nursing him home. He was worth it: good sense of humour!

Then the climax, the big challenge: The course-ending six-day hike! By bus to the magic Giants Castle region in the Drakensberg.

Photographic trip to Giant's Castle Vulture Hide with Helen

We set off with our laden rucksacks down the valley, up the other side towards the snow-topped peaks, heading for Langalabilele Pass and the High ‘Berg. We had walked about 5km when a faint shout sounded and continued non-stop until we stopped and searched for the source. It was an instructor chasing after us and telling us to “Turn around, abort the hike, return to Greystones! Walk SLOWLY!”

Someone had come down with meningitis and the whole course was ending early!
We were given big white pills to swallow and sent home with strict instructions to take it easy: No physical exercise.

 

But our rucksacks were packed

** old rucksack pic here **

and our wanderlust aroused, so we headed straight off to Mt aux Sources soon after getting home. Up the chain ladder onto the escarpment and on to the lip of the Tugela Falls, sleeping outside the mountain hut.

In those days the chain ladder was single-lane, not double highway as in this recent pic.

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I had no camera, no photos, the only record I still have of the course is the felt badge they gave us on completion and my memories.

But then I found a website by someone who had been on the same course – Willem Hofland from the Natal South Coast – and he had these black & white pics which I am very grateful to be able to use! He also had his course report and certificate, which I no longer have.

Giants Castle pic from howieswildlifeimages.com – thanks!