Report back on the Suikerboschfontein Hike in October 2016

The simple hiking hut eponymously called Oom Japie se Huis was probably originally the living quarters of one of Dr Okie van Niekerk’s ancestors, all of whom have resided on this huge plot since 1911. 

It overlooks various streams that ultimately flow into the Komati River. Being on the escarpment, it is more Highveld than Lowveld. At this time of the year, the brown grassland is crying out in its anguished thirst, tortured by the expectation of the imminent summer rains.

Main picture: Huts among the sandstone rocks at Rooikrans Camp

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Incompetence of the Labour Department: A Personal Odyssey

Finally after 45 years working I retired. A new obstacle was in my path: incompetent government departments. First in the queue was an attempt to claim from UIF. As a verdict, I can claim that the Department has no more than a passing acquaintance with organisation efficiency and customer service. As incompetence triggers my pugilistic instincts, would I be able to restrain myself sufficiently and not be frog-marched off the premises?


This is the chronicle of that frustrating odyssey.

Main picture: A series of photographs on the theme “Now they Tell Us”

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A Nesting Crested Barbet

I have only caught sight of the bird fleetingly in the garden but evidence that it has set up home in our yard is obvious. It has been creating a hole in the dead limb of a tree. My best guess at the identity of the freeloader is that it is a Cardinal Woodpecker. By rights, I would have preferred if it had obtained the necessary Planned Permits but the deed has clearly already been perpetrated.

Main picture: The Crested Barbet obtaining free board and lodgings in my tree

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The Num-Num Trail in June 2016

The Num-Num Trail is located in the Skurweberge between Machadodorp and Badplaas. There are a number of trails on this site and one is theoretically able to start at any point on the trail. Our usual starting point is the Pongola Express which comprises an actual train’s dining car together with a carriage. On this occasion Saturday’s hut was Candlewood with its panoramic view of the full drop of the Uitkomst falls.

Main picture: How the The Pongola Express managed to take a wrong turning and end up in the Skurweberge, I will never know 

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The Sea can be a Dangerous Place as I Learnt

Being brought up by the sea brought us boundless joy as children. From a very early age we all learned to swim proficiently. As my father was brought up at the coast, he took us to the beach every weekend irrespective of what the weather conditions were like. Due to our competence, we were left unsupervised and unattended on the beach from an early age. Instead of the current generation frequenting the malls, we led an active life.

Even as a competent swimmer I twice almost did not see another day. On both occasions it was a spring tide which was the cause of my near fatal mishaps. Perhaps familiarity breeds contempt as I did not treat the sea with the caution it deserves.

These are the chronicles of those events still seared in my memory.

Main picture: This is a view of the main sand dune at Maitlands River Mouth  Continue reading

Could South Africa learn from Road Running?

Today’s race at the National Botanical Gardens in Pretoria was no exception. Again I was surprised by what I learned except that it was not from a South African but a foreigner who has been in South Africa for only nine months. One is not accorded a special status in road running. All runners are equal. Unlike the public discourse which is characterised by divisive racism, violent political rhetoric and the politics of rage especially by the EFF, road running does not suffer from these travails.

Main picture: The entrance to the Willows resort in Port Elizabeth. Instead of inserting some arbitrary pictures onto this blog, I have included photographs of Willows Resort near Port Elizabeth because as youngsters we spent many an Easter Holiday there.

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Dare Devil Bike Races down the Third Avenue Newton Park Dip

I cannot recall how old I was, but I must have been in High School because I never owned a bike in Primary School. Either that or I had foolishly borrowed somebody else’s bike. In what can only be described as an act of utter insanity – in retrospect – we would race down one side of the Third Avenue Dip in Newton Park, Port Elizabeth as fast as possible and then up the other side. Then one had to take into consideration the factors which bedevilled this race:  a narrow winding road, fast cars and road hazards in the form of pot holes, rough patches and bumps all in strategic places. Amazingly none of us was killed or even seriously hurt.

This is the story of this mis-adventure.

Main picture: The Third Avenue Dip in Newton Park which the road submerged due to floodingThe bike races were from the top of the hill near the houses. By the time one “hit” the bridge. one could be doing at least 80 kph.

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Of Cars and Tow Truck Drivers

In less exalted circles I might be deemed to be fortunate to drive a BMW but, for the most part, for me a car is merely a mode of transport. It might be classy, it might be comfortable and it might have few peers but when a BMW needs servicing or repairs, one rues purchasing it. In the annuals of motoring, the past month could justifiably be termed my mense horribilis [Latin for horrible month]. First it was my BMW and then Alesha’s Ford Figo. Notwithstanding those “challenges”, it was a tow truck driver who almost ruined the rest of my year to make it an annus horribilis.[Latin for horrible year]

Main picture: My BMW in less than pristine condition

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The Rand Athletic Club 10km Race on 15th May 2016

In his heyday, I recall Bruce Fordyce declaring in his non-dilettantish almost boyish way that once the cosmos appeared, winter was nigh and it was time to peak for Comrades. His fragile figure belied his steely determination, his steadfast conviction and his obsessive focus on the minutia of winning the Comrades. Moreover with his urbane charm, he bewitched the South African public and seduced a nation with his self-deprecatory charm.

 On the other hand, for me it was not the sudden emergence of this herbaceous perennial plant which made an impression but rather it was the annual RAC 10km run a week before Comrades. Almost like a cathartic release, it signalled the end of the Comrades taper but more importantly, a heightened awareness of the daunting task shortly at hand.

Main picture: Instead of the usual field of 3000 runners, it was a field in the hundreds which pitched courtesy of the inclement weather Continue reading