MY DAD

I read an article in the Daily Maverick, on Father’s Day, where a son writes about his Dad.
And, it dawned on me that, beside most of the drivel emanating from my fingers on a keyboard, I have never written about my Dad, my Father, or Pa Abe as he was known to his grandchildren. Or Abraham Morris Dolley, his full monniker.

To do so could result in one of two things: a short essay (essentials only) or a longer one in a more narrative fashion. I chose the latter, which could later be distilled into a more condensed version. So bear with me, or speed read for your own convenience.

My father was a calm (mostly) man with the interests of his close, and expanded, family at heart. He also maintained a sense of humor during more stressful times in our lives. Between him and my mother, they tended toward letting us, as children, “have our way”. This was sometimes interpreted as us being “spoilt” or “unruly”. No matter.

Keep in mind we were not “rich” in the narrow sense of the word relating to filthy lucre. However, as children, we were rich in a broader sense. We had the minimum needed in terms of the necessities of life in “our world”. The latter phrase implies that you gauge, as a child, everything against your view of the world, including the boundaries set for you.

My father “endured” a lot in terms of him assisting with, and acceding to, demands on his time and goodwill. This especially refers to some parts of our extended family. He always seemed to go the extra mile for such, even though in instances he was sometimes a subject of rejection and criticism by the same people.

He, with my mother, supported a growing family, over time, eventually being four brothers, a sister and a step-brother.

We moved from South End (the Valley) to Korsten (a rented house) and eventually to Parkside (owned by the bank for a while). The latter abode was built on a shoestring with the assistance of family and friends. All this moving was due to the Group Areas Act in action. Ah, that’s why it’s called an Act, hey!!

This was, according to him, one of his bigger achievements. He always wanted each of us to have our own bedroom. And, when the house ws done, the eiting three bothers and sister each did have our own rooms. Of course, this pre-empted the appearance of a fourth brother (“laat lammetjie”) and also a step-brother of which we had not hitherto known. He did promise us a special tap in the kitchen which would dispense Coca Cola. It sadly did not materialize.

Again, please note, I am not dematerializing my mother in all of this. She was there all the way with him and us. She shared in all the ups and downs. She is a story to tell another day.

Being of modest means, our home life and also our social life was equally modest. My father liked nothing more than making a small braai and eating straight from the grid with a piece of bread. It would usually be followed by Coke or a beer. Either way he would have hiccups or emit serial burps of satisfaction.

Having grandchildren around him heightened his enjoyment. Burp followed by “pardon”. Two serial burps elicited “pardon pardon”. Caryn found this extremely entertaining. It became a family joke which was shared as more grandchildren arrived. And I am sure the grandchildren have many more anecdotes they could tell, probably in a lot more detail than I could.

I suppose, at this point, I should contextualize the last sentence: when I left home for university in 1976, I only really was at home for vacations of varying periods up until this day. I thus can only really speak in detail about the period prior to 1976. As an example, my baby brother was conceived while I was in my final year. He thus grew up in my absence or I tried to grow up in his absence:-)

Anyway, further reminiscences.

Beside having a day job for all his life, my father also had an entrepreneurial side. A side hustle if you wish. Since his whole life centered around fitment of radios to cars, he spent a lot of time doing this for General Motors followed by Delta. I know that he charged R14.50 per car since I typed out all the invoices. This was all done under his company name: Autosound.

On the side, he did fitments privately for many different people, very likely for a pittance. He also at one stage started a clothing mending business known as Speedy Garment Menders. My Mother and Aunt were the menders and he was the delivery boy in his lunch break. Note the use of the diminutive “boy”, a typical South African belittling of “lower caste” people doing menial work.

The latter all came to an end largely due to the workload trying to do two jobs at once. He also briefly had his own premises for fitting car radios, but it closed due to similar pressures.

His last working years were spent at GM where we, as children (including cousins) spent a fair amount of time perfecting our radio fitment skills (for a pittance:-). Child labor was rife in the day. Fish and chips was just about the only reward.

He had a habit, toward the end of the day, by letting out a weary (or sometimes self-satisfied) sigh: Hoyaaaaa! Again, our girls loved these little idiosyncrasies. He also had a habit of letting the kids fiddle with the braai fire, in his presence for the safety conscious. One day, they even took some cushions off a couch, ready to add it to the conflagration. He watched without saying a word until my mother came out and chastised all of them:-)

He was rather conservative and, in strange company, or informal processes, kept himself to himself. He had a lot to say outside of this but would not easily speak in public. I sometimes suspect I have inherited a bit of that myself. Not our two daughters or Beverley. In the company of family and friends he was not shy to voice his opinions.

He almost always had good intentions. He liked family, direct and indirect. He always wanted to take us, as three boys, camping. This rarely happened due to constraints of the day.

Due to his occupation, his car was always a “mess” or a “menglemoes” or a poutporri of tools, screws, drills, gunk and a tantalizing array of things for us with which to play. The boot in particular was a house of fun on its own. In Korsten, the back (third) room of the house was a workshop for repairing radios and other fun things. In Parkside we had a space under the back veranda which served a similar purpose.

The latter is where our late brother Mervyn learnt the basis of electronics by fiddling on his own and with some tuition from our dad. I could never get to understand transistors, resistors and valves. Mervyn did and made it part of his eventual profession. And he used it to our amusement as well. An example is having a condenser discharge against an aluminium (‘tsek American spelling) beading strip on the melamine kitchen table (another mini-workshop). All friends were encouraged, unwittingly, to lean against it before a huge discharge shocked the hell out of them.

Obviously, when the youngest (Neil) was born, he set about spoiling him much more than we ever were. One big reason was that he was more by the means to do so. I would suggest there was some retrospective jealousy in this but, today, I cannot see anything wrong with this. I am sure I would do the same when it came to grandchildren. Neil was so young he could have been a grandchild, only being a few months than our eldest (his niece). He was at out wedding in a smelly nappy, indicating the age differences.

As he grew older, and as he had more disposable income, he would often surprise us with different things. When I went home on holiday, he would almost always fit the newest radio to my car, or even the latest citizen band radio, when it was still a craze.

Sometimes I sit and think of all the trouble we gave our parents, in many different forms and at different financial costs. I so wanted pair of Levi jeans to fit in with the crowd but, at R22.00 a pair, it was beyond us. Now I have about seven different pairs in wardrobe, all due to the support I was given to get to where I have. And that goes for my siblings, in different ways, as well.

As he aged, his health started fading and eventually ended up blind and bed-ridden. This process also made us take stock of our experiences with him, some of which are related below.

He was proud of the fact that, unlike his bowling friends, he had a flat stomach (no paunch). He always felt that a paunch indicated you had too easy a life. I am struggling with this right now:-) Once hospitalized, he started mixing words and pronunciation, entertaining the grandchildren no end. Elephant became “humpherlant”, as an example. He loved Cremora in his coffee. Not milk. It’s not inside its onnnn … top! And now Michelle works for Nestle, the manufacturer of the product. Mmmhh! Any causal connection between the two? A discussion for another day. He loved whistling to music while working. He enjoyed treating himself to a T-bone steak once in a while, something he ate with relish (enjoyment, not a sauce) after a braai. He was diligent in looking after others first, including visiting his mother (our Gran) at least once a week.

For me, he was a fixer and solver of most, if not all, problems. He could work with his hands and fix physical things using his plethora of tools and its attendant nuts and bolts and things.

That is enough rambling from my side. If my siblings were here, this ramble would grow by leaps and bounds in very interesting ways. Maybe we should do that one day?

After being hospitalized for a while, he passed away in his sleep.

His ashes are buried with his mother.

Hamba kahle!

#rambling #larryrambles #lallyboywalking

Sheep in the schaapriver canyon?

Definitely not in the parts we walked. There were two Jack Russells’ though – Milo and Buddy. But, let’s contextualize it. The Schaap River Canyon is a smidgeon north of Springbok and a tad west of Bulletrap (I think) in the Northern Cape. So now you know where I am (or where we were). And the farm where we were to be based was Nigramoep, which works in conjunction with Trisport (Hano & Sonja Otto) to bring this hike to you. Visit their website for the many other offerings they have!

Prologue
I was to drive to a little beyond Springbok with a lady who was flying in from Ballito. It was a hail fellow well met moment for the drive at 07:00 on the day of departure.

Of course, the route, the road quality and the flowers were excellent conversation starters. However, my male mind was also concerned about food, drink and fuel. We passed through Piketberg in style: coffee, Houwhoek pies (for me) and strangely flavored Amarula (for her). That’s how we rolled, hey!

At one point, the conversation hovered around sleeping in your car while camping. Not knowing her partner is 6’5″, and upon learning this, required entrepreneurial thinking. The best with which I could come up with was a hearse. You know, those things of extra length with a turntable to get in, and out, more easily. Adding huge gull-wing doors to it would of course lead to a best-seller on the showroom floor of bespoke commercial peddlers of such.

And she, being of an artistic bent, could see herself adorning said temporary abode with watercolors, both to improve its sartorial elegance and to make it more appropriate for sleep, and the parking of her (hu)man.

Ok, meeting my Kunene Camino friend in Vanrhynsdorp was in itself also a highlight, notwithstanding our ongoing flowery beauty around us. Kerrie vetkoek, Houwhoek pie remnants, and a beer were the order of the day at Kamieskroon. After last minute provisioning in Springbok, we were off to Bulletrap and Nigramoep, both of which were on my bucket list of “must visits”.

Bulletrap itself is a small village with very little to differentiate from other little communes I have seen, beside it being very neat and tidy. Thirty kilometrers after Bulletrap we arrived at Nigramoep, the intriguing name behind an interesting history. It’s name, beside not being spelt in the correct San way, evidently has something to do with black water, according to local pundits. I trust them as my source for now.

On arriving at our base camp, we immediately started greeting our fellow hikers. Meeting so many people in a short space of time brought out my best forgetfulness, since I forgot most of their names immediately. No offence to them but, this was par for the course for my brain all during my working life.

After being allocated accommodation, we enjoyed home-cooked “vaalvleis” (translated as “grey meat), rice and vegetables prepared by the beautiful ladies of Nigramoep. And I must emphasize the beautiful part of that statement. Sjooee!!

Ok, once settled in our accommodation, we prepared for the next day of walking by accidentally, or purposefully, falling asleep. It all depended on how much ethane-2-ol you would have consumed over dinner!

Day 1
The next morning we were all bright-eyed and bravely chirpy during breakfast as we prepared ourselves, mentally and chemically, for a 15km circular walk on the farm.

Y’know how it is: everybody looking to show the others what strong walkers we are, warm-up stretches, other forms of limbering up, including packing lunches into boxes and taking a last swig of coffee, etc. Oiling those achingly long limbs (soon to be aching painfully), making them glister in the early morning light. Of course, I was not making such comment regarding my own stubby, Corgy-like limbs. Or should I say: “Jack Russellish limbs? But, y’know!

I, of course, was one ahead of the pack. I packed in two beers to prepare the need for water. Beer is a mixture of water (mostly) with carbohydrates and other beery nice things. Germans are convinced that beer is food. Or it could have been the drug merchant down the road that convinced me of this at the barrel of a gun?

In addition, I had a secret weapon with me: a head net. Yes, you may well ask what this is. To use an analogy, I looked like a cake on the afternoon tea table, protected by the usual gossamer-type material fending off the flies.

And off we went, followed by a cool breeze on a sunny, and soon to be warm, day. We were to be stopped suddenly, and often, by our very clued-up guide. This lady was a gem on this whole tour. A wealth of verbal information overwhelming my slowly heating noggin.

During this whole expedition, she explained the beauty of our surroundings, including flowers, birds and history of the area. She really added so much value to our tour. It would be way beyond the scope of this epistle to include all such delicious detail. There was also a second person (her sister-in-law) adding further titillating snippets of information on the remaining days.

I do have a pocket guide in terms of the flowers. However, If you need assistance with such, please don’t call me with offers of money, unleaded petrol or NFTs , for assistance. I would rather that you look at my own erudite copying of such information from the guide (see later).

The history of the Niegramoep Guest Farm is tied to the now defunct O’Kiep Copper Mine. The remnants of the mine, and it’s slime dam, scars the landscape. It’s scary that the DMRE, under Gweezy’s management, intends resuming mining in the area. We need to stand up to this reckless behavior.

Ok, walking started becoming more difficult once we started ascending a small hill on the way back. The hill became steeper as the temperature increased. Or maybe it was my imagination about the steepness, or the temperature. Simultaneously, at the same time, my dodgy chest showed up to make things more interesting.

I think “steepness” on a hike is directly proportional to temperature, brightness of the day and the relative pull of cold beer. Put a proportionality constant to it and we could have something to match the Drake equation. An equation recognized all over the hiking world!

As we ascended, higher and higher, some banter revolved around soda water and dental health, whether beer is good and whether present height above sea level contributed to my puffing and wheezing. On sitting down in a “sinkhokkie” later, one member commented on my exercise-induced asthma, sounding just like a text book from my student days in the ’70s.

Suffice to say that the tramp almost ignored all the beauty around us once we were under physiological stress. The two dogs were given a lift home due to the heat, while I stared forlornly as they roared past me on their way to cold beers.

However, a warm shower, clean attire and a good supper was a perfect finish to a perfecter day.

Now comes the morrow when we descend into the canyon for a two-night stay.

Day 2
It started with a roughish ride from base camp just about to the edge of the canyon itself. I must admit to clenching my hands around the iron bars of the “pypkarretjies” so tightly, I was worried they would not be able to pry me off them to get off in the end. However, the warming air allowed me to de-clench.

And, as is the wont of all trail designers, there was some work to do first before we descended. You see, my theory is that trail designers, by their very nature, are sadists in the way they tease you with potential pleasure by administering pain in the first place. Hikers in turn are masochists by wanting to take on these walks and suffer the travails of ignoble fortune. A veritable sadomasochistic fest.

We gained altitude, lost sweat, increasing our breathing rate as we ascended, eventually culminating in a classic group photo at the beacon on top of Spektakelberg. Evidently, not many people have had the privilege of being where we were. I were there, as woz others!!

Epithets escape me to adequately describe the beautiful sights hundreds of meters below us, and all around. Milo and Buddy were still energetically embarrassing, considering such short legs (four of them) and smaller step length. Their love for their parents easily drove them forward though.

And then we had to descend about 800m down a loose gravel jeep track. We were warned about this and to be careful of slipping. I, of course, was wearing my wonderful new Caterpillar sandals with deep treads and ultra-grip. And, when queried about its grip, I immediately launched into a technical description followed, just as immediately, by a “balang“.

For the uninitiated, in terms of the Afrikaaps lexicon, a balang may be described as an ungainly fall, usually in front of a crowd. Together with this went immediate damage to the ego and the reputation of said sandals. I was wondering if the lady causing this fall was not perhaps an undercover agent, or was she just the larger than life dear woman she eventually turned out to be. An unforgettable character!!

A quick patch job, similar to an F1 pit stop, mostly remedied the situation. Later in the day, there were a number of near misses, in which one young lady did have a small balang down a rock. Fortunately no serious damage was sustained, but it did lead to her opting to drive the rest of the walk (how do you drive a walk? Is it a contradiction in terms?).

By this time the heat was testing us to the limit as we approached a wonderful oasis at a farmer’s house. Dousing by cold water freshened us up for the short walk to our overnight bush camp.

Toilets and hot water showers were a blessing. My tent was placed in the “seedier” part of town since, it being spring, the flowers were ovulating (or something like that). Ok, I only completed Botany up to second year level, so forgive me. But “seedier” really means far away in the naughty corner for snorers.

Day 3
Now we are to go further into the Schaap River Canyon, along the way enjoying the beautiful, and sometimes unique, floral kingdom. At this point I should not hesitate to tell you more about the different flowers we have seen. I will just mention those I recall. For the more florally endowed persons familiar with the different biomes in the country, forgive me for missing your favorite. For the lovely expert guides of Nigramoep, forgive me for my failing memory.

I saw, or heard about, the Botterblom, Bittergousblom, Sambreeltjies, Sporrie, Katnaels, Suikerkannetjie, Kapokbos and so many others, the names of which I cannot recall. Sadly. Needs another visit?

Oh yessss! We were there to see the canyon as well. It was majestic seeing the the walls of that canyon, closing in as we entered it, and then toying with us as it made us quick-step, double-step and almost fall over our own backsides as we tried to look up while traversing tricky tramps among rocks.

It is always a bitter-sweet mix i.e. trying to look at the view while walking along tricky pathways. Imagine the thousands of calculations your brain needs to make while negotiating such a diverse array of perambulatory permutations. One mistake and you could balang again!!

Considering that the brain uses up roughly about 30% of your total energy usage per day, I think were were clocking up about 60% consumption. Note: these figures are from an old brain digging back 50 years in time. Don’t shoot the mistaken messenger🙂

So many rock formations. So many unique flowers displays. So many rock pools that drew certain members into immersing themselves in it, supposedly to warm the cold water. ‘Strue, I saw the water boil when one young lady entered it. No names mentioned to protect the innocent young folk.

And then the Amphitheatre. A natural rock stage for rock around the clock concerts and for a few people to exercise their secret desire to strut the stage. Shem, I tried singing “I found my love in Portofino” in a voice mimicking Andrea Bocceli, but I forgot the Italian parts of it. Epic fail.

Again, getting to the camp was such a wonderful pleasure, considering how we were treated and greeted. Kudos to the operational staff, including our guides who were moonlighting in so many different roles.

So, there we were, sitting in the moonlight , when I noticed that one young lady’s legs were clad in fishnet stockings. Mmmmhh!! I boldly told her that I liked it, just to learn that it was actually the shadow of the shade net around the campsite imposing itself on her pale legs. I further notice that everyone sitting there was similarly “netted” Note to self: “bedaar“.

Again, after being spoilt with good food, and a good sleep, we were preparing for our final walking day.

Day 4

After a good breakfast, we slowly wended our way out of the canyon via a gradually inclining path following the canyon floor, eventually leading into a side canyon to take us home. At one stage, I even needed a bit of a push to get up a little ledge, since my joints don’t obey the laws of physiology related to a 21-year old anymore.

And, of course, more swimming events, fully clothed. Not me though, since I have my decorum. Well, actually, the water looked, and probably was, cold. And all along the way the wonderful rock formations just kept rolling on.

The final climb was something else, Not steep, yet unrelenting. I was even driven to consuming a fruit juice and one bar of chocolate of an unknown name. This gave me the vuma to complete the walk strongly.

Of course, walking into the base camp compound demanded a beer and congratulations to all. What a wonderful bunch of people.

The hidden crew under all of this need to be congratulated as well. The logistics for these types of events, as I have seen on the Kunene Camino, which was an even bigger group of people than this, can be quite complex.

The last dinner at Nigramoep summed it all up. My sandals were a hit. My body was hit badly, so much so that I retired early to lick what little was left of my body and its wounds.

It was now down to a breakfast prior to departure.

Good night!

Epilogue

And so it was that we returned to our respective homes and comfort zones, knowing that we would be reminded by our travel bugs that we should not relax, but plan for the next move.

I was asked to pass comment on this hike versus the Fish River hike and others. All I can say is that the Fish River is unrivalled in terms of it being a canyon, and a well-known one at that, something I’ve hiked five times. In terms of difficulty, it is easily surpassed by that of the Namib Naukluft Adventure Trail. The northern part of the Fish River, which I recently walked, is a good distillation of the main Fish River Canyon.

The Schaap River Canyon is just as much a magnificent canyon, but its added advantage is its floral display all along the way. Obviously this is related to the season in which you walk it. And, of course, its degree of physical difficulty is much less then either the Fish River Canyon or the Naukluft walk of 8 days. It’s a comfortable one.

We all arrived home safely in the usual bitter-sweet way, already planning the following adventure.

Postscript

I met numerous people on this trip, not the least of which were some unforgettable characters which, to protect reputations, are vaguely described below:

The guy that flies, or flew, or flue, or ‘flu!

The lady that laughs uncontrollably once having arisen and who is larger than life!

The Trisport folk!

Suzette and Jonanna (oops!!)

The logistics crew!!

A softly-spoken lady!

Two devoted dogs, ‘cos dogs are people too!

But you’all were all wunnerful!!!

#rambling #rambler #lallyboywalking

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A KINDERGARTEN JAUNT

You see, I have done this walk about five times now – (click here for details of the Gondwana Klipspringer trail). However, I still find it such an attractive proposition, even more so now that it has a slackpacking option. The Afrikaans term is so descriptive: “sloertoer“!

In the beginning (no, not that beginning) it was a 4-day walk with rough camping. Now it’s a 3-day jaunt with up-market accommodation. OK, the term up-market is relative to the concept of sleeping on a thin strip of rubber on sand as opposed to a bed, mattress and kitchen.

But, what made this one even more attractive was that I was to meet up with my Kunene Camino friends, a sub-group of which was nicknamed “THE KINDERGARTEN”, for reasons which will remain confidential. I must admit to some trepidation in terms of only having communed with them once. Would it be the same? Would we have the same carefree fun? But, no worries. Everything gelled, as may be gleaned below.

Prologue
I travelled solo from Cape Town to Vioolsdrif and thence to Base Camp in the Karas region of Namibia. This drive in itself was part of the holiday vibe. The GPS Coordinates for the meeting point is S 27 16’ 58.436”, E 17 45’ 34.153” for those interested (and if you know how to decipher it).

It was a long drive that took frequent naps and grit to get through in about 15 hours in total. At Noordoewer, my modest pack of four raw lamb “tjoppies” was confiscated (fresh meat not allowed) while the curry and rice that Bev cooked up and froze was approved.
Being the “gimba” I am, I ordered two burgers from the local eatery, one for breakfast and the second for just in case later in the day. I mean, you never know, hey! I may get stuck out in the desert with nothing but twelve beers to eat, remembering that beer is food.

Let me alert you that, when I tried to purchase hard licker (or liquor in more genteel circles). there was none for sale between Noordoewer and Grunau, only beer and wine. But, no matter, Base Camp also had beer and meat, etc.

I arrived at said Camp before the madding crowd that are my friends. My reception by the local managing staff was so warm and touching based on my previous visit there. Leon, in the absence of Simon and Mariana, made me feel so welcome and at home.

A good shower, and pimping of my decrepit body, and I was ready for the reception of what is loosely known as the Kindergarten, with one younger lady as a familial extension.
It was a happy reunion with me being informed of each person’s nickname for the jaunt. It may be a bit too spicy for this family show. But mine was “The Fart Father”. I wish to add that it was not based on previous associations or history.

Bev’s curry was the backup meal that evening to background music supplied by our resident Disc Jockey in the group. The poor young newcomer had to listen to Kunene reminiscences while listening to good music.

OK, so, to bed we went in anticipation of the first day’s walk. This was done amid much speculation about the trials and tribulations that could lay ahead, especially after Leon took us through the supplied map.

Day 1

The packing process was a riot. We needed to pack light. “Light” is a relative term, especially in this age of GBV and political sensitivity. But we managed to pack everything on the poor bakkie.

The one hour trip to the start point was executed by a tough driver and tougherer bakkie. We were cattle (or sheep) fodder on the back of that truck. Standing at the back I was confronted by jiggling flesh wrapped tightly in lycra. Many expletives and raucous jokes later, we arrived at our starting point.

Alighting, I fell straight into it. At this age, do not attempt to jump off the tailgate of a bakkie, whether stationary or not. I got away with a light scrape but a dented ego. Fortunately, aging also includes the facility of having very little ego left.

The walk itself was spectacular but, when we arrived at the Battlesnake (first hut) turn-off point, the trouble started. You see, I had not done this part of the walk before, so it was new to me. Phew, it went slowly uphill through a grand ravine, but with too many  obstacles for my liking. A 5 meter ladder climb up a dry water fall topped it off, or so we thought.

At one particularly difficult spot, I passed a rainbow (in keeping with my Fart Father nickname) of massive, voluminous proportions and thundering stereo with hifi quality audio. The smell lingered longer than needed, almost causing me to have a second fall.

Yet, it was not the end of the climb. Upward and onward. Finally, on topping the ravine, it still took a long, hot walk toward the huts. Some in our party, by this point, had enough of walking for the rest of their lives, but this feeling was short-lived.

Feasting was enjoyed amidst numerous Jaegermeisters and beers in congratulatory style.
However, my own reputation had taken a bit of a knock, since most of the ladies thought it would be a much easier day. Supper, and more lubrication, changed the mood against the magnificent backdrop of the canyon and its nearby precipice. Photographs just cannot do the view justice from 500 meters up.

A donkey-fuelled hot shower put everyone to sleep.

Day 2
This would be a short 8km walk to Koelkrans which was in view from the top of the canyon. Our planned morning start was rushed by Leon arriving early to collect luggage. All of this heady rush was tempered by the fear of going down that venomous canyon wall, notwithstanding my reassurances to the contrary. I think this translates to having watery stools and wet emissions during the evening, due to the self-induced fear.

Fortunately, beside one minor fall on the way down, it was a walk in the park, both back down to the river and to the end point for the day. A Zebra carcass and a Duiker skull (poor little thing) with horns were spotted, as well as a Kudu which scarpered up the hill.

Koelkrans is a cool campsite, but a bit too cool with a consistent cold breeze all over the place. The mood was lightened by a lovely rice and smoked chicken salad with beers. Snoozickles was a must for the afternoon.

But, that was not the end of the excitement. One person, freshly snoozed out, entered into a deep conversation with me. Topics included quantum mechanics, wills & testaments and other wild and wacky ideas.

It was topped off by taking a top off for photography. Tits are interesting birds. Click on the link to find out. Did you know there is also a Greater Tit? Note: do not punch “tit” into your browser search engine. This was all in preparation for a bigger project, for which I dared not make a boob of myself, Boobies being other strange birds.

Being a meticulous technician in this regard, I did not even notice the detail while carrying out my assigned role. And no, these photographic master pieces are not for public viewing. All I can say is that the reflective glow off that skin dazzled my camera. Or me, ‘coz I did not see a thing!! And I forgot to say: Turn around!!

Well, what would the night bring, I asked? Well it brought on a long-simmering chicken and lamb potjie – a chickmut pot in true form, the latter being a big family joke for me. The chicken was the secret ingredient, courtesy of being mistaken for lamb when removed from the freezer in its domestic setting. It was brilliant though, in terms of its texture, taste and spiciness.

And, after much fireside storytelling, Morpheus intervened to prepare for the final summit of the whole hike.

Day 3

We hit the road at 08:30 with some trepidation amongst part of the group. I had tried to allay their fears about the degree of difficulty but, considering my street cred already being dented, it did not help much. The impending climb was to be via a Zebra track glued to the side of a steep promontory.

But the walk toward this point was windless and spectacular. It really is such a classic walk. In actual fact, the whole route is a distilled version of the canyon which most people consider “The Fish River Canyon”. This one was equivalent, minus the very dangerous descent at the beginning about 10km from Hobas. At the time of writing this blog, a hiker had just fallen on the descent and had to be rescued by helicopter due to having a broken leg.

We crossed the river to cut a corner and, voila! There the Horseshoe Camp huts were, perched again on the damn edge of the canyon. For some of us acrophobes, this was not ideal.

But, before getting there, the participants decided on doing a group photograph, on a rock, sans certain aspects of upper clothing. What a hoot(er)! There were promises made that a sepia photograph would be placed in numerous houses around Namibia. I cannot wait to see it.

Then a pleasant tramp toward the final trial of the trail. It was like approaching the Wailing Wall. Not that anybody was wailing, but am sure there was mental wailing at the fate that awaited us. We spent about 30 minutes at the base of the climb loading up on carbs.

The ascent itself looks horrendous but is, in fact, not necessarily that steep an incline. It’s just that you are standing on a slope, at an angle of scree that is intimidating. However, my personal theory, and being quite acrophobic myself, is that you cannot fall far. You would hit the ground and roll a meter or two before being stopped by all the stubble on the mountain.

And then the ascent, some slow, some faster. Much muttering under the breath and frequent references to “never gain” were heard. However, before long, the summit was made without having to don our oxygen tanks. Beer tankards were yearned for though.

Summiting bloomed into another photoshoot of note. So many flowers pointing toward the magnificent horseshoe curve of the canyon. It really was an achievement for everybody, especially those who had not done something as radical as this. Just as much so for those with a fear of heights.

But, arriving at Horseshoe meant waiting for our luggage, including beer and food. And another photoshoot in a bath in the field. A quiet afternoon of cleansing the body was followed by a braai to end the evening. Now to prepare for a 06:00 pick-up to take the long road home.

Epilogue
This is the day where would be transported back to Base Camp to make our separate ways home. Bittersweet, but necessary! It again amazed me at the volume of luggage the group had, accompanied by my one smallish bag. Just saying! No hint of gender bias in that statement. And I have to congratulate my hiking mates on their planning around the menus as well as their execution in producing lovely food.

After fond farewells all round, we set off for home, myself for a ten hour drive. This gives one much time for thought and reflection. And that can be dangerous. Because my mind wander and wonders all the time, sometimes to my own detriment. And some of these thoughts meandered around odd snippets of conversation and comment over the days of walking.

One is the mixing of mathematics with the alphabet. That’s enough to cheese off any self-respecting scholar. Algebra is not “ayoba“. The youngest of our group really reigned when it came to food preparation and looking after her Mamma. She was “da bomb“!

The ladies I will not forget are Esther and Candace. They were with us and their human camels all the time. Esters, as the organic chemists would know, are formed by a reaction between organic acids and alcohols to form a soap. Maybe that’s a way to get rid of the two. There was enough alcohol, we just needed an organic acid such as vinegar. Mmmhhh! A new invention for an entrepreneur to exploit? A new slimming fad??

How do you get “spykered” inadvertently? Hang a lamp on the roof beams and see what happens! Sorry guys, I know what you were expecting, but this is a a family show, remember.

Listening to the local radio station, I had to smile when the announce made a simple error that seemed so typical of the country I was in. He mentioned that Garth Trailer (Taylor) would be playing that evening in one or other town. It’s a tough world is Namibia, and you would possibly have a trailer or Taylor attached to your car.

I will end of by saying that it was International Banana Day, and this was played. Click to hear the soundtrack.

I was home by 18:30 that evening!!

What’s next guys?

P.S. No egos were injured too badly, no animals were hurt, nobody saw anybody naked (I swear) and no mountains were left unclimbed.

#rambling #larryrambles #lallyboywalking

CATS ARE AWARE OF THE ROME STATUTE

Ok, just to make sure we are all on the same digital page, with no waste of precious wood pulp and suchlike, the Rome Statute to which I so nonchalantly mention, basically refers to the establishment of the International Criminal Court which could preside over four core international crimes: genocidecrimes against humanitywar crimes, and the crime of aggression.

The last is of interest to this discussion viz. our two cats who have a passive aggressive relationship, depending on time of day, degree of hunger, mood swings and just about any other factor which could contribute to an on/ off relationship. I, being an astute follower of fashion as well as that of cat relationships, have noticed the liquidity of reactions to different situations.

One that always intrigues me is that, when a random attack is mounted, refuge is taken in front of the food bowl. When the attacked is in eating mode, all things become equal and no further faux violence is perpetrated against the eater by the eatee. I think this is so sweet. The rule rules, so to say!

Imagine of this was always observed when we inhuman humans made war with each other. I mean, the very current Ukraine/ Russia situation is a case in point. We have lost the art, if it could be called such, of waging gentlemanly war. And, since I am on the topic, I am sure that it is, and was, not only gentleman who engage in war. Women did so too. And, was this observation of the Statute in play, even before it was statuted? I must admit to not knowing much history, if any, in this regard.

But, back to the felines. Their rules of engagement is really a lesson for us humanoids. They know that rest is an absolute essential in their daily drudgery. They exercise this necessity as a right. Religiously so, even if they are “irreligious“. Or “areligious“. Or something like that.

This obsession, if one could call it that, seems to be temperature dependent. I would almost wish to suggest a problem statement to be devised whereby valuable doctoral studies could be conducted in the name of science, and also wanting to know more about less, if that were compatible thoughts.

It almost ties in with a recent (20-26 August) edition of the Daily Maverick where such types of research were conducted by, amongst others, Sir Andre Kanstantin Geim, who felt it was better to be wrong than boring. He does not have to thank me for this idea. Just get onto to the research “broer“!!

Cats are also quite territorial, almost in a narrow-minded sense. I mean, territorialism is a natural instinct, but not when it is counter-productive! But, mind you, now I am imposing my anthropomorphic sentiments on a an entirely different setting. However, it would entirely fit in with my initial averment that cats are aware of the Rome Statute and, almost inadvertently, obey it.

But, before I mix my metaphors and any malapropistic intents further, let me leave it here. Or there. Or anywhere you please.

Cats rule! Make no mistake about that. And they know a lot more than you think about the state of the nation and also the state of the universe. Nine lives? Yep, figure that out against the standard theory about one life, live it!

Maiow!!

YOU KNOW YOU’VE MADE IT WHEN …. ?

Yep, you’alls will remember your past life to date as one littered with your “must haves” e.g. money, car, yacht, pool (swimming, not the board game with balls), the best-looking partner at the ball, big house, more money, early retired living, and endless other trophies indicating wealth or self-satisfied, smug, happiness.

And you’alls, if you are of a certain age, will recall how little this really means, in the end. Ok, OK, having some of that stuff allows you to stop and think about it in the first place. But I’m more on about excess, rather than sufficiency. And, at the end of the day, it often comes down to being better than the Jones’s (or any other surname relevant to your circumstance).

But, let’s recall some of those “empowering”, ego-enhancing excesses. Or, to put it another way, those things that you thought related to the epithets previously employed.

Such as when mobile phones hit us! Everyone just had to have one except, in the early days, it was out of my reach due to financial means being absent. Oh, the envy when I heard my cousin’s phone (which I did not know he had) ring, almost surreptitiously in his pocket. And then, his embarrassment and obvious pride when answering it (I think it was pride but he may dispute this).

There were also days when shopping at certain retailers were way beyond my means but was something to which I could (and did) aspire. Woolies trumped (ooooh, not a nice word) Pick n Pay by quite a bit! But, over the years, things equalized a lot in this field, including all other purveyors of domestic goods as well as clothing, etc. Now, I find myself back at PnP more often than not. An old friend never let’s you down, as they used to say in Gqeberha when purchasing a bottle of lower grade sherry.

Obviously, a bigger, better car would always have been helpful for my ego, as well as travel pains with two small girls (and one bigger lady) on a long trip in a car with no air-conditioning. Now, everything’s equal since most, if not all, cars have this as a standard feature. Do you remember those little triangular windows right in front on the driver and passenger side? Absolutely wonderful for fresh air circulation in the car. My old Beetle had those air vents at foot level which either blew cold or extremely hot air into the car. Eina!!

Oh yes, and the “gold” credit card. What were we (or I) thinking!! Firstly: a credit card!! Secondly: gold?? What big teeth you had I said to the bank of standard choice. It just purred back at me: All the better to eat you, lock, stock and extended credit! Now I avoiod it like the plague as best I can but, every so now and then, do succumb to its use in order to assuage one or other consumerist need. Stay away from it I say.

This change from “must have” to “not necessary anymore” is almost like political girouetteism i.e. a constant changing of principles or opinions to suit the latest trend (see “girouette“). We go through all these phases to different degrees throughout our lives. It is only the most ascetic amongst us that resist this or ignore it completely.

In children, for those who still have little human beings trundling around the house using resources without paying, it’s very much the same. Who remembers the Tamagotchi? When that was a craze, a certain member of our the household just HAD to have one. And it was out of stock all over the place. I ended up like an infant, mewling and puking, outside Toys ‘R Us, begging for one. Eventually this need was assuaged and, after a month or so, it was on the scrapheap of time.

And most of these “things” were based on wanting to be cooler than cool. Yes, that’s it, Ice Cold!! Beer pressure, I call it. Or “peer” or something like that. It drove me to beer sometimes.

Finally, the ultimate in having reached there (wherever there is e.g. the top), your best indicator of having arrived is when the crumpet you refer to when drinking tea, with pinky in the air, does not refer to a young lady of generous proportions. Those things do not worry you anymore.

I am sure you will have many more examples of what your “wants” were, as opposed to your “needs”, when you were younger. And, having said that, I still feel that pull every now and then.

Get thee behind me, jealousy, envy, hatred and pride!!

#rambling #larryrambles #lallyboywalking

TABLE TALK

Many, many (Peter, you know this?) years ago I read an article titled “Table Talk with Ann”. 

It was in no less a publication than Reader’s Digest, one of those two-page articles, at the end of which was a quip or joke.

Now, about myself, I pronounced the name as Reader’s Diggest, without enunciating the apostrophe and not reading the “d” as “j”. Don’t laugh, you would have done so too at three years old (well, actually about six or seven).

Also, before, and even after, reading the article, I could not link the table talking to Ann with the narrative. It took my young, developing, yet oh so soft and mushy brain, to identify the phrase “table talk” with general conversation while having dinner, or other activities involving a table. By this, I do not allude to anything below the waistline sunshine (guess the song to which these lyrics are attached).

Ann herself was younger than me at that stage, so you could imagine the inconsequential exchanges with her parents about behavior and habits, etc.

At this point it is important to contextualize “inconsequential”, since there are so many hidden values to such kindergarten-type chatter. Many words have already been written about modern families seldom sitting down together for a meal, unless it is a special occasion or soiree. These conversations have immense instructional value for young, impressionable minds. It is an extremely valuable social interaction in a family unit.

But, back to the table which, as I had mentioned, did not speak to Ann. OK, once I had realized my faux pas, I was taken to another part of my life and to another table, this time an old fashioned kitchen tablet with Formica top and aluminium beading.

My younger brother had mastered the art of working with resistors, transistors, condensers and suchlike. He would attach a loaded condenser to the aluminium beading and wait for any visiting friends to touch it. Then, wham!! Discharge time!!! Painful, but worth all the fun, with the latest victim enticing new visitors to assume the position.

A further tabular event, the memory which was brought upon by all these memories being dredged up out of an almost impenetrable (by now) pile of detritus (my brains), was one in primary school basic mathematics classes. In this class, the teacher (bless her poor unexpecting soul) would draw a matrix of numbers on the board, five across and five down. We were then expected, as a whole class in the standing upright perpendicular vertical position, be asked to add, subtract or multiply. She would point out the relevant figures in the matric to which these abstract mathematical operation would be applied.

We, a bunch of kippies, would sing out the numbers in unison. Or so she thought. There were some of us who were good at mouthing but not singing, in effect, mimicking what we thought the rest of the class would be saying. Please note the word “we” in this sentence. If you were good at the real or the false, you would be requested to sit, and the rest of your fellow prisoners would suffer further. I was good. I would always sit early in the process.

One day, she called in another class teacher to see how excellent a few of my peers and myself were. I failed that miserably and was beaten to a pulp with a 12-inch ruler on my soft palms. I was caught out by the paucity of others to drown out my mouthing properly. I did pass Matric mathematics in the end, though. So maybe the exercise at that level was not indicative of my obvious calculating mind.

All three tabulated events were so much a learning curve in my life, one conversational, one electronic and finally, sums or, possibly more correctly, arithmetic.

But, in the words of a friend, “daai’s nog niks!”. There are more stories of this nature.

More later!

#rambling #larryrambles #lallyboywalking

NOTHING FROM NOTHING MEANS NOTHING

Or does it?

Billy Preston made bold statements about this many years ago, even though he is not an astrophysicist (neither am I, by the way).

Accompanying this is the question: is there any place in the universe that contains nothing? Or, more correctly, does not contain anything?

It would seem, with a built-in disclaimer by astrophysicists to cover their bums, that there is no such place, barring a 0.001% chance that there is (my guess at the error:-).

Funny stuff this. What is meant by “thing” in these words: nothing, something and everything? “Hier kom ‘n ding!” – and this does not relate to the All Blacks versus Springboks rugby match tomorrow.

I would posit that it means an absolute vacuum, the latter meaning no stray helium or other space “goetermajalles“. Nothing. However, I do understand from the literature that there is something, even in the most devoid voids in space, as low as 10-30 grams/cubic centimeter. Something akin to my brain when walking the beautiful coast of the Transkei.

Now, that is low, but still something. And then, the big reveal: these voids between galaxies may contain very little, yet they encapsulate or contain dark energy. The latter is a collectively powerful force which is causing the ongoing expansion of the universe.

Being an African, I sometimes baulk at the indiscriminate use of the words “dark” or “black” attached to negative things. In this case there is no negativity attached to dark matter which is, by the way, so named since nobody knows what is and it cannot be visualized.

Me, I am suspicious of something I cannot see but is known to be there! I think the dark matter of this country, corruption, is slowly but surely being brought into the light. It may yet turn out to be driving force bringing the country together, united against those dark forces committing such.

I only trust you as far as I can see you. That’s seems applicable. If we can’t see (or know) we would not know how to handle whatever it is.

The big takeaway from the article I read was that astrophysicists are now looking at where there is almost nothing, as opposed to where there is light e.g. galaxies and other space “things”, all mixed up and also in itself difficult to fathom.

Finally, how can something with almost nothing in it, play such a big role in the universe via “dark matter”? Part of the answer is that the voids in space are many, many (Peter!) more times bigger than the lit up part of the universe. This implies that, even though the concentration of matter is so small therein, its total mass is huge enough to exert its own gravitational force across the rest of the universe, with significant effect and consequences.

A macrocosm of our microcosm (South Africa and corruption)!

I don’t understand it.

Do you?

#rambling #larryrambles #lallyboywalking

SOME HUMAN FOIBLES!

I suppose what I wish to write about is not only just foibles, but also strange, sometimes counterintuitive behavior. Or maybe the word is fallibilities, and not foibles? Some of this, if not most of it, is because the brain is so easily habituated and, once done, it takes a little work to undo it, or to alter behavior.

An example is when we moved our old microwave from one corner of the kitchen to the other many moons ago. Yet, when I walk into the kitchen, I still tend to look into the wrong corner to read the time on the appliance! The very same for our drawer full of cutlery. I sometimes still find myself walking to the wrong end of the kitchen. Habit habituated, like and inebriated nun falling around from one cupboard or drawer to the other, tripped up by a trailing habit.

Now, let’s not confuse this with an aging mind, hey! You know, those times when you walk to the fridge to put the cups away! Or when you open the fridge, not knowing what you needed, and ultimately finding out that you needed the sugar in a cupboard. Yes, I see you laughing at recognizing yourself!!!

Our eyesight is another sense of ours that, although technologically and physiologically brilliant, can also confuse us sometimes. Like, when reading the word “grievance”, locals often pronounce it as “greeviance” instead of “greevince”. So, once you get to pronounce it incorrectly, your eyes do not stop you from doing it again by habit instead of by properly reading and translating. And there are many more instances that I could quote where this happens. In his book, The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins covers this in quite a lot of detail i.e. can we always trust what we think we see?

And what about speeding on public roads? In particular, suburban one where the roads are generally narrower with houses just a pavements width away. Yes, the speed limit is 60 km/hour but, in such confined spaces, it is too fast, especially if needing to avoid kids or animals wanting to dart across the road. People do it all the time past our house and, even though we have a wider than normal suburban road (apartheid streets, my father-in-law called it), it is downright dangerous. But, in the mind of some drivers, it is necessary to get all the way up to 5th gear while covering about 400 meters. Hey? Why? Do you want a criminal record? It’s a mindset, and not just applicable to young males that consider it their mating cry to vroooom past our house.

Now, if I started talking about use and abuse of the English language as she is supposed to be spoken, ooohhhh “jirrie“, there would be a bunch of explanations, interrogations, mixed metaphors, past participles, unrhyming couplets, somnambulistic pentameters and a host of other sentences at the end of my prepositions:-) Sjooee, a long sentence, yet perfectly understandable gobbledygook!!! But, let’s not go there, in terms of English usage!!

Another thing that amuses me is (or are, ‘cos there’s many) old wives’ tales still in use common use today. You’ll get piles (hemorrhoids) when sitting on cold surfaces. You’ll catch a cold when going out into the cold (again, that word) after having a warm bath. A cold key pressed to the back of your neck will stop nasal bleeding. A poultice of raw, sliced potatoes in a napkin against your head will draw out the infection or fever. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Sugar water for shock – this one I can relate to, and agree with, or maybe glucose water would be better. Another one I agree with, from personal experience, is that peeing on bluebottle stings actually calms the sting, although this website says not – click on the link. Most times though, you cannot do it yourself when it’s in an awkward place. My brother helped out. And I could go on in this vein!!!

Why are slippers called just that? Do you slip into them and slip when you use them? Or are there non-slip slippers? Does the latter not sound counterintuitive?

OK, so before I out myself in terms of my own foibles, I should start ending here. Let me do so by referring to an article by Mark Barnes wrote, in a recent Sunday Times edition, regarding “currency” (not just money). As you get older your valuable currencies change. Yours could have been “moolah” , but over time this changes. Mine is now more of the empathetic nature, both given and received.

What is yours?

#rambling #larryrambles #lallyboywalking

MY COLLECTIONS

Most people would think that I only have recollections, based on part of the way I collect and write my thoughts! But, that’s OK since, due to my ongoing derelict state, I could be seen to be re-creating my past by writing about it.

Remember, history is recorded by the victor, and mostly remembered by this, possibly horribly incorrect, recording. But I have neither anything, nor everything, to lose by purposely re-creating my past. My re-collections, about my rude collections, are thus of no significance in the bigger scheme of things in the next few thousand years. But, let me push my luck where I can.

I must admit to abusing, in a sense, my collection of beautiful things. But, to contextualize, please understand that “abusing” is a relative thing, in this case benign. And it is a hot topic in today’s society of Gender-based Violence (GBV) and such-like. And by “such-like”, please do not think I am trivializing the issue. On the contrary, I would like to highlight how easily people (another very vague term) tend to bandy the term about to push different social and political issues. This is notwithstanding the critical influences and outcomes of such abuses, based on the genus or species of choice being abused.

Mine is related to a sticky adhesive, or two, attached to a little sheet of paper. It is a collection of printed and stamped little modern papyrus slips to which the the common name “stamp” is applied. Yes, you older folk know it. The legal tender to get a document or envelope to move from one part of the world to another. Imagine the archaic feel of that in this modern world. How much trust was put in that “stamp” and that your most private feelings or communications would not be tampered with on its journey to who knows where!

Anyway, my stamps. I have a few, but too few to mention (‘Ol Blue Eyes would know what I mean)! I have a collection. Not organized. Not valuable, Not first day covers – where would I have gotten the funds for such in my youth, which was, as you know, ensconced in penury?

No, I have a rag-tag collection of things which mean the world to me, but possibly of very little value to the philatelic world of today. It is a memory of the magic of obtaining new specimens, either by barter or due to the kind enthusiasm of a now-departed Uncle in the United Kingdom. I received monthly dollops of donations, including a Penny Black, mind you. Unfortunately, in my enthusiasm to protect this specimen, I hid it beyond my own memory. It is now missing in action.

Considering that other class mates in early high school were also collecting stamps, there was much comparison and envy (almost like that other envy thing). Some deviants even tried to steal the darn useless pieces of paper. No names mentioned here:-)

Now, those same objects of envy and pride, which must never in my heart abide, reside in numerous envelopes and cake tins in a drab brown box in storage, taking up valuable space to store other useless things. I have enquired of the local philatelic society as to how to get an opinion on its nominal vale with a view to either selling it or to put it to good use in any other way.

I do recall, many years ago, creating a poster of all those stamps relating to food products, the latter being part of my teaching career. It was quite an interesting exercise. Sadly, I do not even have a photograph of this creative effort.

My other collection is a lot more modern, yet still esoteric viz. my long playing records a.k.a. vinyls or LPs. Where does the term vinyl come from? Again, we turn to chemistry: polyvinyl chloride or a number of different derivatives of polyvinyl. The collection occurred accidentally in the first phase, followed by a planned effort to purchase second-hand specimens from numerous record shops around the city and country (even Germany).

The accidental part included remnants from my parents and other family members ending up with me. Now I have a spiffy LP-player with the ability to convert analogue to digital formats for those wishing to do so.

In terms of the composition of the collection: anything goes, really. It ranges from two Pooh Bear recordings to John Lennon, jazz greats such as Duke Ellington and even MFP melodies (if you can remember these from many years ago). I now also boast a few modern vinyls reproduced from original master tapes, including Eric Clapton and Amy Winehouse.

What makes listening to these LPS special: (a) just because I can, (b) nostalgia with the non-high fidelity sound and (c) the novelty of not so new technology being reintroduced to the world. Vinyl sales are climbing all the time when compared to Compact Discs (what are those, I hear you ask).

And, of course, there are competing collectors and appreciators of such music. And some very astute collectors and also disc jockeys of fine music. I know a few persons having small collections. I intend, now that the pandemic has cooled down, to start trawling second-hand dealers to procure more for my own collection. And to listen to at least one album a day. I now have a collection of approximately 100 nuggets from which to choose.

Finally, the last collection I have is three Recorders. Nope, not recording devices, but a “blokfluit” or flute or something akin to a piccolo. The first was a plastic one given to me by my parents as a birthday gift while in primary school, due to my wish to learn to play a flute. What I really wanted was a proper concert-type flute, but again, the funds were not there.

My second was inherited accidentally and is exactly the same as the first but, in this case it was a fine wooden exemplar. I can play basic melodies on them, but I do know that accomplished musicians can really make these instruments sing, so much so that it shames me to even give a simple recital. But, I persevere.

The third is a handmade one made of “wood” which was gifted to me by a person intimately involved in all things musical, especially the growing of new, young, talent. I use the word “wood” in this format since I am not sure what type of wood or reed. I need to enquire. This particular version does not allow you to stick it straight into your gob and blow! No, this one you blow like those concert flautists do. I am still mastering it. I will master it.

So, there you have it! I am not a collector nut, but I do have my bolts screwed on properly.

Now, let me blow a tune to stamp my approval on my John Lennon version of “Imagine” on that polyvinyl chloride!!

Join me in singing it!!!

#rambling #larryrambles #lallyboywalking

THE GREAT TRANSKEI TRAMP

Yep, my first long walk since the Kunene Camino, sadly without my well-met friends from that episode. I miss them in this situation that I am entering. Click on the link to see that experience.

The Transkei, and the Ciskei, as names have always amused me, since I used it in my teaching days. Well, I thought I was teaching, but was there any learning taking place? Anyway, it all has to do with double bonds in organic chemistry and the way that geometric arrangements occur around these bonds. Cis = on the same side; trans = on opposite sides ( it’s like cis-gender and trans-gender).

Prologue:

So this trip entailed an early morning (verrry early) flight to Durban, a 4-hour shuttle drive for a sleep-over in Port Edward and a 5-hour drive to the starting point of the hike. It is reminiscent of the Kunene’s 9-hour drive from Windhoek to Ruacana.

The best part of the day in Durban was the trotter curry lunch at the Britannia followed by a light supper at the Bootlegger in Port Edward. The latter establishment reminded me of those movies in a small-town American diner. Very few people were present, drab décor was the order of the evening, a few pool tables with desultory play and average, yet good, food. The dim lighting, notwithstanding Eskom, did not help much either. I expected to see tumbleweed blowing past the window, followed the Sherriff entering and arresting some drug dealer after a short, yet fatal, gunfight:-)

Anyway, tomorrow is the day we meet our fellow hikers at the Wild Coast Casino. I am holding thumbs for good company to match that of my previous walking foray which, in the hiking community, almost always happens. But, you never know!

The standout point of the day was that I sat so much that my bum had saddle sores (airplane and shuttle). Makes sense – saddle sores – referring back to the spaghetti Western scenario at the burger joint.

My hiking friend and I eventually had to share a double bed since, I think, only pairs of people visit Port Edward i.e. never single “loslopers“. Yep, I kept my running shoes on just in case I needed to make a run for it. But, it all worked out well since I threatened to snore if any advances were to be made on my youthful, lissome body.

Day One

A 06:00 start was made, via taxi, to the Wild Coast Casino to see if we could get a coffee and nibbles before the meeting and departure. Irish coffee was had in the absence of available food. Who cared!! We’re free!!

After brief, yet conservative, introductions, Bongani drove the ten of us capably in a Toyota Quantum toward our eventual starting point at Mbotyi. This was despite hills, dales, potholes, animals and frequent, yet hidden, speed bumps. And his car heater worked well to counteract the cold southern Drakensberg snow. Driving on the righthand side of the road seem de rigeur for this part of the world. Scary stuff sometimes. Squeaky bum on top of being saddle sore.

I wonder if I would be able to live long-term in this area? I think so!

The group today consists of 2 gentlemen, myself and 7 ladies. The question was posted: what’s wrong with men? Why so few? I say: who cares? Women make for more interesting company and conversation. There, I’ve said it! Now to await homophilic vitriol:-)

At the first rest stop, my partner converted me to a liquor mule. My bag was stuffed. I will be doing heavy lifting on this walk. Admittedly, everybody invaded the store to buy drinks of high calorific or ethanolic value to ward off the cold.

Animals rule, that’s the rule and lore of the land here. They have right, left and center of way in just about all instances. And I am on their side. This may be their revenge for us wanting to eat them and drink their milk. Later I found that I may actually have two hiking friends who agree with this fully.

I have a spare burger and chips for a later luncheon while we bought a steak and offal pie to tide us over. Lovely!!

So many people stay out in this, and other parts, of the Eastern Cape, hidden in full view from our city slicker eyes. Amazing. And they’ve been here for aeons. However, from what I understand, it is a dynamic, yet static, existence in terms of culture. Figure that one out in terms of a transient populations when looking at it over a few thousand years.

Magwa Tea Estate … and Magwa Falls! Fraser Falls!! Bucket list stuff. The history and folklore behind it is amazing. I did not realize I would be ticking things off the list at this rate. But don’t drink and drive, even if you’re not the driver, as learnt by a fellow hiker after nodding of with a beer in his/ her hand (culprits are being protected here:-).

Eventually, Pumla’s Place in Mbotyi was our refuge from the wind and rain as we got to know our fellow hikers over food and drink. Special people pampered the lactating dog and her puppies surreptitiously. Shame she needed it so much. Like was said: heroes don’t always wear capes:-)

After an info session we slept tight until the big 22km with hills and river crossings in the morning.

Good night Transkei. More on this in the morning!!

Day 2

The 22km walk seems daunting, is unknown and is like a soft nightmare over which I will have to drag my soul, rather than my body.

And, as we went to bed, it turns out that our fellow hikers were attacked by a predatory bottle of sherry. In essence, as the charge sheet went, it was not sealed correctly and promptly emptied some precious liquid into the clothes of said ladies. Much late night washing of clothes took place. I intend walking closely behind them on the morrow to sniff the odors.

But, as luck would have it, there was also a silver lining to the cloud. We decided there and then to create a fragrance called Au Broowan Cherié, or OBC for short, something like OBS!

And our guide also showed us the stem and root of the Palmiet plant. It looks like an ideal candidate for sourcing completely natural false (ahhhh!!), see that?) eyelashes. Another entrepreneurial initiative straight from the Transkei brought by intrepid walkers!!

An entymologist engaged with a would-be etymologist (me, myself and I), who also aspires to being a wordsmith, around aging (ageing?). What is our eventual destiny beside physiological death? Is there an afterlife? Why do we put so much trust and importance in “things” as opposed to “well-being when we do not even know where we will be going later in life”? It’s an old question, but one which is continually asked by successive generations. We did not have the answer but did have the luxury of discussing it as kindred spirits.

After walking down and up a few ravines we eventually reached a village which was followed by a ride in a bakkie awaited to transfer us to a lovely lodge at Port Grosvenor for an even lovelier evening meal. We stayed at Lambazi Lodge, a beautiful place which needs a re-visit. This is not to dismiss the viewing on the walk itself. it was breathtaking! Waterfalls, Cathedral Peak, whales and dolphins. I was convinced the whales knew we were watching, so they played peek-a-boo. When we peeked, looking for them, they were just under the surface, watching us and giggling childishly and a-booing.

Entertaining conversation was the order of the evening. We even had a prankster who coerced another to knock on a cabin door seeking sustenance of some sort or the other.
I cracked up with this one. Said prankster will receive revenge treatment.

Watch this wide open space on the coast of the Transkei for the next episode!

Day 3

This ended up being a short walk (6km). However, it was rich in history and views. And let me expand on the last term i.e. “views”. There were so many awesome views, it numbs the brain. You start being a bit blasé about it, but it was just too much to handle.

Tutani, our guide, is so conversant with the history and nature of this area, it really makes the land come alive. Without him, it would just a wonderful trudge, With him, the rich tapestry of history was palpable.

Just before we reached the next lodge, we were afforded the opportunity of buying beer from a lady trading from her home. What an experience, one in which I short-changed her in advertently. I did repair the damage though.

It’s amazing how many streams we crossed, mostly at ankle level. We were also shown the water line and landslides during the April floods. On arrival at Vonnie’s Rest, we were treated to an early braai lunch, a visit to a wild vulture colony and numerous pizzas for dinner. Yvonne herself is a beautiful young lady who, with William, made our stay something to remember. Beside her beautiful complexion and epidermis, the ladies admired her for this, as did I.

This lodge is a treasure trove of animals, including five dogs, nine cats and numerous feathered beast (chickens and Muscovy ducks). It is an ideal spot in which children could amuse themselves for hours. I must go back.

The weather remains fine with a cool breeze. This area is so wild and relatively unspoilt, I am sure I could spend a few months here just relaxing.

We were finally sent off by Yvonne and William together with their dogs.

How quaintly cute the stay was!

Day 4

Today was a surprise in two ways: one was two  canoe river crossings, and two was one dog named Brexit. Actually, three, the third being a high jump into a rock pool. OK, this sounds like a numbers game. All in good time.

We were now heading toward Mtentu Lodge. Along the way, with erudite input from Tutani, we learnt more about the culture, flora, fauna and geology of our landscape. The culture, in particular was so fascinating, linking what we as city slickers think we know, and what Tutani highlighted to confirm our thoughts, or correct it.

We also saw numerous mole heaps along the way. My small mind interpreted them as little farts released by this big ball upon which we step. Yes, and if you need to make comparisons, the explosions after a spicy trotter curry at Brittania could be the equivalent of a volcano burping.

Just before the first canoe river crossing, we bumped into a beautiful dog (the plural of which is doggle). I recognized him immediately from a Facebook group related to the Transkei. He is frequently lost when following hikers. His name is Brexit. We immediately adopted him and informed his owner we would return him to Mtentu. He was mine for the interim.

What a beautiful unspoilt coastline in the nature reserve we entered. Brexit loved chasing birds. And Tutani named them. We also saw tracks of the Clawless Otter and another species of whose name I cannot recall. In the distance numerous buck species could be seen.

We likened our guide to Google in these surroundings. He was a font of knowledge in all regards. I would recommend him to anybody wishing to explore the Transkei, whether on foot or by other means.

A hiker suggested that someone should write a book about him, including his life, his learning curve to where he is now, his experiences and his take on life, both cultural and physical. Wish that I could. And would he be the only representative of such a life in this area? Food for thought!

The horizon is so big out here, it gives you time to think. We so seldom get this in the rush of the city.

Another lady is da bomb in more way than one. She is a feisty young matriarch, alongside her daughter on this trip. We were at a high rock climb overlooking a big pond at Kambathi Falls. Our guide showed the way by leaping in, skillfully I might add. Six meters (give or take a couple of hundred kilometers) was nothing to him.

A younger lady just walked to the edge and jumped. Wowzer! The next lady spent about 10 minutes psyching herself for the jump. Brexit, the dog, looked on balefully. It’s only when I offered to marry her that she jumped. But this ended up in threats to make good on promises. Wedding suits ended in lawsuits. An annulment was called for, and granted. We’re still good friends.

The next jump was by a young gentleman of amazing stature, the latter epithets since he would, with his wife, eventually drop us off at the airport. And then the Amazon lady made a surprise jump. No, Amazon is too strong! A beautiful, strong, interesting specimen of a waif-like human being!!! What a woman. After my own heart I would say. She and her daughter have made tentative, hopefully concrete, arrangements to commune after this walk. I look forward to this.

Brexit finally was reclaimed by his owner at Mtentu. We were so glad he was re-homed at his own home.

A member celebrated her birthday with cake and champagne, after which a lovely dinner and bed.

My overnight sleep was interrupted by a kerfuffle in the next bed. Contrary to my lascivious imagination, it was not an illicit relationship, but a fight with an invading insect. The insect lost.

Sjooe, my legal funds are now depleted after hearings on the annulment, as previously told in this story.

Slaap lêkkig!

Day 5

Today was another beautiful, scenic walk, as it has been all the way. However, the most important part was the passion with which our guide told us about the ups and downs of the potential fate of the presently unspoiled Transkei.

Without wanting to take away from the Transkeian beauty, one has to dwell on this topic. It involves the community and all levels of government. This is my take on it, based on the little I know and the things one could guess at. And it all revolves around transparency when dealing with anybody, most of all between the people and the State.

This relates to mining the coast for titanium. There is strong community resistance to this, without them knowing all the potential positive, but more especially, negative outcomes. to the community in the broadest sense.

To date, there have been assassinations of activists heading the resistance campaign. And it’s not only Xolobeni, but other coastal areas. The proposed upgraded N2 through the Transkei is also related to this.

The bottom line is that the Pondo do not want their rural lifestyles and crops to be sacrificed in the name of development without the full facts being made transparent and available. But, enough of this. I am no expert on the issue. And this is not a political or social development forum. Read up on this please!!!

Just before completing the walk we stocked up  on cold beer at the tuck shop before taking up residence at a rustic lodge with good home cooking.

My betrothal annulment was raised, again and again, by the injured party as mentioned previously. I somehow suspect I could have been the injured party:-) As one pundit put it, that’s why archeologists are mostly ladies i.e. they keep digging up the past:-)

Anyway, let’s bury the wedding bells and start walking. Get it? Bells? Walker? Walking? Johnny?

Day 6

The easiest 15km, mostly on the beach, ended at the Wild Coast Sun. Our original starting point. Our guide pointed out numerous fossils as wells a shards of pottery indicating resident being here thousands of years ago. This included numerous examples of fossilized (or fossilizing) wood lying on the seashore. Amazing!!

It was so beautifully poignant to meet a group of young schoolchildren in uniform exploring the seashore in this Friday morning, with a Teacher and a Guide. He and our own Guide were acquainted. He explained to us what his own goal (not a soccer pun) was in terms of relocation artefacts and fossils from this area, now stored in other museums, back to its point of origin in a local museum. What a noble and pragmatic idea. I trust this will happen. I would pay to come and see this.

New hiking friends made. Bucket list ticked.

Now for the next one. I will let you know where it will be.

#rambler #rambling #larrryrambles #lallyboywalking