Category Archives: travel

Flying in 1973

As a seventeen-yr-old in January 1973 I flew from Jo’burg to Rio de Janeiro, then on to New York in an SAA Boeing 707 (‘a narrow-body, four-engined jet airliner built from 1958 to 1979. Boeing’s 707 was the first jet to be commercially successful. Dominating passenger air transport in the 1960s and remaining common through the 1970s, the 707 is generally credited with ushering in the jet age’ – that’s what wikipedia says. Also that 10 of them were still flying in 2013!!).

SAA 1973 Boeing 707

I flew on to Chicago and ended at Oklahoma City, where I was met by Apache Rotarian Robert L Crews III.

I knew very little about flying and maybe that’s just as well. I now know this –

January 1973 in FLYING

  1. January 2 – Attempting to land in Edmonton, Canada in blowing snow, a Pacific Western Airlines Boeing 707 carrying 86 head of cattle and a crew of five, crashed and caught fire. The entire crew was killed. The cattle? Who knows.

  2. January 2 – Released from a psychiatric hospital days earlier, 37yr-old Charles Wenige hid in a lavatory aboard a Piedmont Airlines plane after it arrived in Baltimore, Maryland. When all the passengers had disembarked, he emerged and pointed a .45-calibre pistol at a crew member, demanding access to the liquor cabinet and to be flown to Canada. After two hours of negotiations, he agreed to release the stewardesses in exchange for a meeting with a psychiatrist and a priest. An FBI agent advised Wenige to tuck his pistol away in the priest’s presence. When Wenige did that, the agent overpowered and arrested him.

  3. January 4 – As a Pacific Western airliner prepared to take off from Vancouver, Canada with 18 people on board, a passenger, 26yr-old Christopher Nielson, drew a gun and demanded $2 million in cash and to be flown to North Vietnam, threatening to blow up the airliner if his demands were not met. During negotiations he allowed most people to disembark, leaving three crew members aboard the plane with him. Police then stormed the plane and arrested him, finding that he was armed only with two toy guns.  

  4. January 5 – The mandatory security screening of all airline passengers began at all airports in the USA.

  5. January 12 – The 197th and final American air-to-air victory of the Vietnam War.

  6. January 15 – President Richard Nixon ordered a halt to all bombing, shelling and mining of North Vietnam.

  7. A Boeing 707 chartered by Nigeria Airways crashed after the right main landing gear collapsed while the plane was landing in high winds in Nigeria. It was the deadliest aviation accident in history at the time.

  8. January 27 – A U.S. Navy plane was shot down over South Vietnam – the last American fixed-wing aircraft lost in the Vietnam War.

  9. January 27 – Frontier Airlines hired the first female pilot for any modern-day U.S. airline, Emily Warner. On the same day, the airline also hired its first African-American pilot, Bob Ashby.

    ===================

Air India!

On the way back I flew Air India from New York to London. On the plane I read in an abandoned newspaper I had picked up on the way to board, that Air India had been voted World’s Worst Airline – again. I have since learned this:

‘The years 1971-1973 were very bad for Indian Airlines. The 1971-1972 Pakistan War didn’t help. The airline reported a 45 million rupee loss in 1973, the carrier’s largest to that point. Exacerbating the aforementioned crises was the continual strike being waged by labor. Management, concerned by growing labor costs and inefficiency, eventually locked out many of its workers, operating only a skeleton schedule with a non-union workforce’.

I notice groping is a problem on Air India and they now keep plastic handcuffs to bopha the culprits. I feel I have to report that none of those sari-clad hostesses groped me, despite their promises:

==========================

World Trade Centre

The Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre in Manhattan were opened in April 1973. I didn’t see – or consciously notice – them. How observant is that!? And I must have seen them – I went up the Empire State building and looked around. Maybe I was staring at Central Park and the river?

Manhattan


bopha – isiZulu for bind, tie up (pronounce “bawpah”)

Long Lost Letter

Donald Coleman was my good mate and older side-kick in Harrismith up to around 1964. He died in a car crash (alone in the car) around 1975 (I have no detail of what exactly happened).

In around 2011 or 2012 I found a letter on the floor of my garage at 10 Elston Place.

It was from “your mate Donald” and consisted of one page (probably page 2 of a 2-page letter) and a scrap of envelope addressed to:
poel
rrismith
e Free State

A franked 2½c stamp in good condition is still on the scrap of envelope (but the date part of the franking was/is missing).

I suspect it fell out of the old Cape Colony post office stinkwood desk Dad gave me, as I had moved it to give it back to him before it fell to pieces.

The letter, in neat, flowing cursive writing in blue ink, said:

This is slightly exaggerated but between points
0 and 1 it is 50 miles and between 1 and 2 it is 13 miles and between
3 and 4 it is 14 miles. Even if you go at 10 m.p.h all the
way you will make it in a day. Well don’t take
too much equipment etc because you’ll shit yourselves
coming. Don’t forget to take hats and plenty of patching
equipment. If something goes wrong and you reach
Bergville or Winterton after dark just ‘phone us our
number is Winterton 2412.

              Well I hope I’ve got everything down here, any-
way I still hope to run the Mountain Race
with you. I’m going to try harder this year.

              It’s a pity I won’t be seeing you fellows
because I’ve got some jokes to tell you.

                        From your mate
                             Donald

Not a single correction or spelling mistake (oh, one tiny one changing your to you).

So it seems he had sent a map as well as the (presumed) 1st page of the letter. Obviously we were planning to ride our bikes to Winterton!

——————————————

I must ask Dad about the old stinkwood desk. Was it a Harrismith find? From when?
That could explain how the letter got in there, I spose. Suspicion: Did my folks open it and not pass it on!!?

I searched the desk again and found the rest of the envelope: It was franked on 30 March 1971. I was in Std 9, Donald would have completed his time at Estcourt High School.

20141130_081257.jpg

Down the Grand Canyon

1984 was one of the very few years since 1960 that Colorado river water from the Grand Canyon actually reached the sea. High snow melt pushed it past the point where golf courses and old-age homes drain it of all its water and so – at last! – the waters of the Colorado reached the beautiful estuary at Baja California and flowed into the Sea of Cortez again!

Unknown to many, 1984 was also the ONLY year Mexico would have been able to taste Mainstay cane spirits (distilled from South African sugar cane) mixed with Colorado river water. Well, recycled Mainstay and river water, as the Mainstay had first passed through the kidneys of a mad bunch of South Africans that Chris Greeff had assembled to paddle through the famous American Canyon.

That’s because we were on the river sponsored by Mainstay Cane Spirits and South African Airways. The “Mainstay” we drank was actually an SAA Boeing 747’s supply of tot bottles of whisky, brandy, gin, vodka, rum – and Mainstay cane spirits. We decanted all the little bottles we could find into two-litre plastic bottles to help the stewardesses on board with their end-of-Atlantic-crossing stock-take. We had resolved to drink the plane dry but man, they carry a lot of hooch on those big babies (I spose in case they end up with all 350 passengers happening to be as thirsty as paddlers are?).

Fifteen paddlers from South Africa joined our guides Cully Erdman and his delightful partner JoJo on a trip down the Grand Canyon from Lee’s Ferry to the take-out on Lake Mead 300 or so miles downstream. We were accompanied by one other paddler, an Argentine José who was ticking off his bucket list, having climbed Everest. Five rubber inflatable rafts carried the food (and the Mainstay and a few hundred beers) and a motley assortment of rapid riders from America and SA. Talking of motley: Us paddlers ranged from capable rough water paddlers to flatwater sprinters to happy trippers to complete novices. Some had Springbok colours, others had a lot of cheek.

GrandCanyon'84 Greeff (48)

GrandCanyon'84 Greeff (8)
Cully shows us. He has done it before.
GrandCanyon'84 Greeff (30)
Herve, George & Jojo

Some twists in the tale: My boyhood kayaking heroes had been the van Riet brothers, Willem and Roelof, who won the Dusi three times just as I was first learning about the race ca 1970. As I started to participate in the race ca 1972 Graeme Pope-Ellis was winning the first of his eventual 15 Dusi wins. Both Willem and Graeme were with us on this trip.

Another twist: In the year I first saw the Colorado river (1973) by walking/running down the Bright Angel trail from the South Rim to the Colorado’s swiftly-flowing green water (see post), Willem had launched a boat at Lee’s Ferry, done an eskimo roll and come up with ice in his hair, causing him to postpone his trip. Now he was back, eleven years later – in the summer!

The trip was put together by yet another iconic paddler Chris Greeff, winner of more kayak races than I’d had breakfasts. One of the craziest races he won was the Arctic Canoe Race on the border between Finland and Sweden. About 500km of good pool and drop rapids in cold water. When he arrived at the start with his sleek flatwater racing kayak (the others had wider, slower, more stable canoes) the local organisers thought Ha! he intends portaging around all the rapids! (they’d heard of the Dusi and how mad South Africans run with kayaks on their heads) so they amended the rules: Every rapid avoided would incur a time penalty. Chris just smiled and agreed enthusiastically with their ruling: He was no Dusi runner and he had no intention of getting out of his boat!

Later:

On the trip our American kayak and raft guides kept asking us about our sponsors stickers we had attached to kayaks and rafts. SAA they understood, South African Airways, but what was this “Mainstay” stuff? Ooh. you’ll see! Was all we’d say.
At ___ rapid on Day __ around the camp fire we hauled out three or four two-litre bottles filled with a suspicious amber liquid. THIS we said, was that famous stuff! Hilarity and a bit of insanity ensued. I remember seeing Willem sprint past me, run nimbly across the pontoons of a raft and launch himself in the darkness into the swift current of the Colorado running at 50 000cfs!

GrandCanyon'84 Greeff (65)
George, Allie, Swys & Toekoe

1984Grand Canyon (1)At the confluence, the Little Colorado was flooding and massively silt-laden. We stopped on a skinny sandbank and had mud fights and mud rolls. The muddy water from the flooding Little Colorado merged with the clear water coming out of Lake Powell and from here on we had traditionally red-coloured water – “colorado”. I fell out just downstream and got some of that muddy water up my snout. A month later I had to have an emergency sinus washout! As Saffeffricans say ‘Ah neely dahd!’

Foreground and background: Muddy Little Colorado. In the middle: Clear water from Lake Powell:

GrandCanyon'84 Greeff Confluence (1)

Lunch on a small sandbank – Five rafts, seventeen kayaks

Lunch on a small sandbank, Colorado River, Grand Canyon - Five rafts, seventeen kayaksGrand Canyon Chris 2Grand Canyon Chris Crystal-001
Crystal Rapid Colorado.jpg
Here comes Crystal!
Jannie Claassen stands. Clockwise from front Left: Swys du Plessis (red shorts), Me just visible, Dave Walker back left, Willem van Riet, Herve de Rauville kneeling, Alli Peter lying down in back, Chris Greeff ponders, Bernie Garcin stands behind Chris, Wendy Walwyn, Cully Erdman (our guide) is front right. All poring over the map, plotting the next day!
Jannie Claassen stands left. Clockwise from front Left: Swys du Plessis (red shorts), Me just visible, Dave Walker back left, Willem van Riet, Herve de Rauville kneeling, Alli Peter lying down in back, Chris Greeff ponders, Bernie Garcin stands behind Chris, Wendy Walwyn, Cully Erdman (our guide) is front right with the peak cap. All poring over the map, plotting the next day! Willem telling us about the MOERSE rapids he went through.
The whole gang (or was this “The Swim Team”?):
The Mainstay SAA Team from SA; At the usual take-out before Lake Mead; Paddling is over (for most of us!)

At the usual take-out (Diamond Creek) before Lake Mead the high water had washed away the road. We had to keep going. Then we hit the calm waters of Lake Mead. Paddling was almost over (for most of us!). We lay on the rafts as they were tugged out by a motorboat to another take-out point on Lake Mead many miles downstream (‘cept there was no longer any ‘stream’ – we were on flat water now). Greeff and a few other crazies (including Wendy Walwyn) paddled the whole flat water way!

?Me and trip girlfriend Wendy in foreground

Bernie Garcin – great mate; – – and WHAT a campsite!

Bernie Garcin - great mate; - - and WHAT a campsite!!

Happy daze drifting in the current, lying back gazing up at the cliffs and watching the waterline as century after millenium of geological lines rose up out of the water and each day rose higher and higher above us. Willem the geologist would explain some of it to us.

Then you’d sit up and listen intently. Then peer ahead with a stretched neck and drift in a quickening current as the roar of the next rapid grew in the canyon air. The river was running at an estimated high 50 000cfs (about 1650 cumecs). Once you could see where it was, you pulled over and got out to scout it. Plot your way through it.

Here’s Lava Falls – *click on pic* Spot Ryan’s blue helmet. He got trashed.

Lava Falls
Singing:

The canyon burro is a mournful bloke
He very seldom gets a poke
But when he DOES . .
He LETS it soak
As he revels in the joys of forni- CATION!

and (to the tune of He Ain’t Heavy)

Hy’s nie Swaar nie

Hy’s my Swaer . a . a . aer

We went down the Canyon twice

I always say we did the Canyon twice. Once we would bomb down in our kayaks, crashing through the exhilirating big water; The second time was much hairier, with bigger rapids, higher water and far more danger: That was when Willem would regale us with tales of his day on the water around the campfire at night. “Raconteur” is too mild a word! The word MOERSE featured prominently in his stories.

High Speed Tug – or Stress in the Army

 1979 and the army. Hurry up and wait. Ballasbak. Zero stress.

Except for this one time:
My 2-tone 1965 Opel Rekord 4-door column-shift sedan (in sophisticated shades of grey: dark grey body, pale grey roof, grey upholstery) got indisposed while parked under the bluegum trees outside the camp at Medics, Roberts Heights (Voortrekkerhoogte, Thaba Tshwane). She wouldn’t start.

koos-opel-1976

This was serious! We had a weekend pass and there was a party on in the City of Sin & Laughter (aka Harrismith).

Not a problem, KO __ (we were all KO’s: candidate officers) offered to tow me to Harrismith behind his V6 Cortina or Datsun bakkie. A short piece of nylon rope was found and we set off.  I immediately thought Uh Oh!! as we hared off, accelerating furiously. Soon we reached what felt like 100 miles an hour. Slow down! I screamed silently. We hadn’t arranged any signals or communication, so I simply gripped the steering wheel and concentrated. (If cellphones had been invented I’d have sms’d him: WTF RU MAD?)

I sat tensely, staring at the rear of the bakkie a mere 6ft from my bonnet (couldn’t even see the towrope!) as we roared along. We’re going East so fast we hasten the setting of the sun.

Then it started to rain! Then twilight fell. Then it got dark, with the rain falling ever heavier as my wipers feebly swished back and forth. With the motor not turning (thus no alternator) the battery got flatter and flatter and the wipers got slower and slower. Blowing the hooter and flashing my lights just made things worse. Upfront in the bakkie the music was so loud and the chit-chat so intense they didn’t even notice us (or pretended not to?). So there was nothing for it but to hang in there for hours. Worst journey of my life. My chin got closer and closer to the windscreen and my knuckles got whiter. Still the KO kept the bakkie floored! He had to get to Durbs where a girlfriend was waiting. My neck was tense and I don’t think I blinked once, staring at the top edge of the bakkie tailgate. My right thigh ached as it poised ready to brake – delicately! – at any moment.

An eternity later we pulled up in Harrismith, unhitched the towrope and off he went, on to Durban. Hey, thanks!, I said. Appreciate it!

Fu-u -uu-uck-uck!!!!!!! I have NEVER felt such relief.

Messing about in Boats

THIS IS A ROUGH DRAFT

The original quote is from Kenneth Grahame’s Wind In the Willows:
“There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

Motorboating
Dad built a wooden motorboat in our lounge ca 1959. Here’s what was left of the lounge around 50yrs years later (2007).

Speedboat built in the lounge

As far as I recall Dad used the boat just a few times on the Wilge River (“The Mighty Vulgar”) at Sunnymede.
Later he bought another – bigger – boat, it had a 50hp Mercury outboard. He soon sold that one to Harry Mandy for delivery to Richards Bay. I went along with Dad towing it behind the Morris Isis to Richards Bay. The Morris must have filled up at the back as at a re-fuelling stop Dad said “Come on! Hop in!” and I said, “But the boat isn’t hitched up” and he had to quickly hook up the trailer before we could go! I felt very important.I remember crossing an impressive high-arched bridge – probably this one across the Umhlatuze.

felixton-mill-nearbye-umhlatuze-bridge-3

pic: Hugh Bland kznpr.co.za

Sunnymede on the Wilge River, waterskiing behind Richard Scott’s boat.

Tabs’ Balmoral dam
His first little boat we fetched in Howick – On the way home a wheel came past us and we chuckled at “whoever it was”‘ misfortune. It was ours!

Battling to start the Johnson outboard in the Sarclet dam, we all took turns pulling the cord. EVENTUALLY it started, we all jumped aboard and promptly sank it!

Later Tabs got a bigger boat, ‘The Pheasant Plucker’ with a V6 inboard motor and a Hamilton jet – I embarrassingly beached it when the motor cut; Landed up high and dry next to the cars parked on the bank; There I met nursing sister miss sharp nipples.

Canoeing
The old weir on the Wilge river – shooting the old sandstone weir on tubes and our open red-and-blue canoe (didn’t realise then how dangerous that was!).
Pierre du Plessis and I paddled from town to Swiss Valley in our open red-and-blue canoe on my 15th birthday.

Swinburne to Harrismith down the Wilge River

– Once with Fluffy Crawley – very low level in our open red-and-blue canoe
– Once with Claudio Bellato – high level – both lost our spectacles – in an Accord K2 owned by the Voortrekkers, white fibreglass with green vinyl deck. We proceeded to wreck it in Island Rapid on Mrs and the Misses Jacobs’ farm. Had to pay for it. R50!

Charles Ryder arrives in Harrismith in a lime-green Volvo 122S. On his roofrack he had a  fibreglass Limfjorden 17’6″, glass cockpit, white vinyl deck, clear hull, wooden struts, crossbars and gunwales, brass handles.
I wrapped (‘wrecked’) it on the Wilge on the Jacobs’ farm Walton.
I then rebuilt it.
Trained for the ’72 Dusi on the mighty Wilge River. Then the boat disappeared! So I hitched to PMB to follow the Dusi. Later I found the boat submerged in the Kakspruit and reclaimed it.
One day I saw the late zoo warthog Justin floating feet-in-the-air downstream after the zoo closed down.

Before I knew the danger of creeks in flood, I took a short trip under the bridge on HS-Swinburne road N3, on the Swartspruit to test the Limfy (and me!) as it was running high – Mom took me in her car, trusting soul.

USA
1973 – Lake of the Woods near Quetico National Park, Ontario Canada in open ‘Canadian’ canoes. With Oklahomans Sherry Higgs, Dottie Moffett, Dale Moffett and Jonathan Kneebone from Aussie. The no-see-ems and mozzies drove us out after just one night!

Canoe Marathons
Dusi 1972 – My Limfy stolen in Harrismith, so no boat! Hitched to PMB with Jean Roux. Hitched a ride with someone’s second to 1st overnight stop at Dusi bridge; Hitched on to Diptank 2nd overnight stop; Slept in the open under the stars; On to Blue lagoon; Slept on the beach near Addington, then at Point Road police station (an eye- and ear-opener!).

Dusi 1976 – Drove down with Louis van Reenen in his blue VW Beetle. I had a white Limfy with a vinyl deck, he had a red all-glass Hai whitewater boat (small cockpit, rudderless) from Jerome Truran’s Dad in JHB! We tossed a coin and he won, so I seconded him driving his VW. We stayed in my orange puptent. It was a very high river – he swam and swam! But he finished, tough character that he was!

Dusi 1983 – at last I paddle the Dusi! White hulled Limfy with a red fibreglass deck. At the start I spied Louis, starting his second Dusi.

Umko 1983 – Hella Hella to Goodenough’s weir in my Limfy.

Berg 1983 in a Sabre – after (luckily!) training in ‘Toti with Chris Logan. Cold as hell! Freezing! Gail-force winds! Horizontal rain! Madness.

Fish 1983 (The second Fish) – In those days, the race was held on a much lower river (roughly half of the current level!) and it started with a very long first day (over 50km). The paddlers left the Grassridge Dam wall and paddled back around the island on the dam (the WORST part of the race for my hangover!!) before hitting the river, eventually finishing at the Baroda weir, 2,5 km below the current overnight stop. The paddlers all camped at Baroda overnight, before racing the shorter (33km) second stage into Cradock. “In those days the paddlers had to lift the fences, and the river mats (fences weighed down by reeds and flotsam and jetsam) took out quite a few paddlers”, said Stanford Slabbert (winner of the first Fish in 1982). “Getting under (or over) them was quite an art. I recall one double crew, the front paddler bent forward to get under the fence and flicked the fence hoping to get it over his partners head as well. It didn’t. The fence caught his hair and pulled him right out of the boat and they swam!”

Legends were already being born. Herve de Rauville stunned the spectators by pioneering a way to shoot Marlow weir. He managed to reverse his boat into the chute on the extreme left, and took the massive slide back into the river going forward, and made it!

The field doubled in 1983, as the word of this great race spread. 145 paddlers in 110 boats. It was won on debut by Joburg paddler Niels Verkerk, who recalls, “It was a very long first day, especially as the river was not as full as it is now (it was running at 17 cumecs in 1983). Less than half the guys shot Keiths flyover, which was not that bad as the hole at the bottom wasn’t that big. Very few people shot Cradock weir in those days. I won the race without shooting Cradock”, he added.

At a medium level, the lines at Soutpansdrift were also different. The weir above Soutpans was always a problem, as there was no chute, and even the pipes that created a slide down the weir face were not there yet. At the bottom of the rapid, the only line was extreme left, underneath the willow tree, and then a sharp turn at the bottom to avoid hitting the rocks, where the spectators gathered in numbers hoping to see you come short..

Crocodile 1984 (lowveld croc) marathon to Nelspruit.

Ocoee River in Tennessee 1984

Colorado river in Arizona 1984

—————————————————–

Other boats – I got a Sella – white deck, clear hull new from Rick Whitton at Kayak Centre.
Later I bought a second hand Jaguar (I think) at the KCC club auction.

Now have plastics – my old Quest, a Fluid Flirt, an Epic ? (bit bigger) and a Fluid Detox. Gathering dust.

Tripping
Wilge Swinburne – Harrismith
Wilge Harrismith to Swiss Valley (Near Nieuwejaarspruit confluence)
Vaal near Parys
Orange above Augrabies falls

In 1983 or 84 I bought a Perception Quest plastic from Greg Bennett at Paddlers Paradise – in the first batch he imported – for R525.
Tugela – Colenso to Tugela Ferry;
Tugela – Ngubevu to Jamieson’s – with Doug Retief, Dave Walker, Bernie Garcin

Umko – Mpendle – Lundys Hill
Umko – Lundys Hill – Deepdale
Umko – Deepdale – Hella Hella
Umko – Hella Hella – No. 8

Umzimkulu Hatchery to Coleford bridge

Lake St Lucia – Dukandlovu – Robbie Stewart, Bernie Garcin, and –?

USA – rented a Quest-like plastic
Ocoee river in Tennessee
Colorado river in Arizona (480km through the Grand Canyon). Got wonderful wooden paddle made in Canada: Hollow oval shaft at right angles, laminated blade kevlar-clad and teflon-tipped. Left feather, of course. Beaut! Still got one, gave Greg Bennett the other.

Vaal near Parys

Orange above Augrabies with Aitch (with some local outfitter).
Trip: We paddled in the Umfula’s store area for the last time before the Inanda dam flooded the Umgeni valley. I borrowed extra boats for friends, but we ended up walking it was so low!

Botswana – in borrowed plastic expedition sit-in kayaks
Thamalekane river – outside Maun, Botswana
Nhabe river in flood – we paddled the last 5 to 8 km into Lake Ngami and then back upstream to our vehicle.

Chaka’s Rock 1963

Chaka’s Rock Holiday 1963. We joined the du Plessis for our first holiday “by-die-see!”

Sheila writes:

“Found a postcard which Mary Methodist sent to her Mom Annie Bland (1½ cent stamp – remember the brown Afrikaner bull?).

Mary wrote ‘We’re enjoying the swimming immensely. Coughs no worse in spite of it. We’re sleeping well and eating very well. The coast is beautiful. This is a picture of the pool where we swim.’

I think the 3 little Swannies all had whooping cough. Must have been fun for the du Plessis family who shared our holiday!”

Louis Brocket wrote in to remind us that he was also there for his first “vakansie-by-die-see”.

chakas-rock-holiday-1962

In 2016 the beach and rocks still look familiar –

chakas-rock-11

– but don’t look inland, whee there used to be just rolling green hills with an occasional rustic cottage!

chakas-rock-20

Power Brakes and Brauer Breaks

While staying at 4 Hillside Road Parktown we prepared for the holidays. I was taking the delightful Cheryl Forsdick down to Port Shepstone in Natal where I think she was meeting her folks, the redoubtable Ginger and Mrs F. It was the grey and grey Opel Concorde OHS 5678’s longest trip and at the last minute I started to worry about the brakes. They weren’t the best. So I toddled off to the spare parts place and bought what they said would fix them.

21st birthday present!! An Opel Concorde DeLuxe 1700 in sophisticated tones of grey and grey. Note my reflection in the gleaming bonnet!
21st birthday present!! A 1965 Opel Concorde DeLuxe 1700 in sophisticated tones of grey and grey. Note my reflection in the gleaming bonnet!

The day before we were to leave I stripped the drums and put in the new shoes (does that sound right?). It was a fiddly job and took ages to get right, the springs kept springing. Testing them entailed many trips up and down Hillside Road (luckily a cul-de-sac) jamming on brakes and screeching into the left gutter, going back and adjusting them and then slewing into the right gutter. Then beertime came and it had to be good enough.

A raucous year-end party ensued and unfortunately Brauer had invited himself. So even more beer than normal was swallowed and cleverer and cleverer. In the wee hours he spotted the grey and grey Opel Concorde sitting sleekly in the driveway, poised for its long journey to that last outpost of the British Empire. His drink-addled brain (brain?) had recently been thinking (thinking?) about the Mercedes “pagoda roof” sports car classic and he decided my car needed a conversion, so he danced on the roof and the more sensible people told him to stop the more he danced. You know how he is.

He thought he was doing this (and in fact suggested I should pay him for enhancing the Opel):

merc-pagoda

But in fact he did this:

opel-roof-brauer

I had to lie on my back on the seat and push up the roof with my feet the next morning so we could sit in the thing for our southward safari. Was careful to use the brakes as little as possible all the way through the Vrystaat vlaktes, down van Reenen’s Pass and on to the sparkling Indian Ocean where the sharks (but not yet the Sharks) were awaiting their annual dose of Vaalie flesh.

Tragic Testicular Descent

I used to sing beautifully. The teacher who trained the boys choir in Harrismith Laerskool said so. Well, she might have. She was Mej Cronje I think, and was half the reason ous would volunteer for the choir. To look at her.
I was a soprano and we looked down on the altos who, though necessary as backup, weren’t in the same league as us squeakers. One directly behind me used to bellow in my ear: “Dek jou hol met bouse off hollie! FaLaLaLa  La LaLaLaLa“.
One day this discerning talent spotter Juffrou Cronje chose me to sing a solo in the next konsert.

Fame loomed.

Then tragedy struck!

My balls dropped. They handled it very diplomatically. By ignoring it and cancelling practice. The konsert didn’t materialise (co-incidence? Surely they didn’t cancel a concert just because one boy suffered testicular descent?) and by the time the next one came around I hadn’t been banished – just consigned to the back and asked to turn it down.

.
* * *
Just in case there are people who think Harrismith se Laerskool se Seunskoor was a Mickey Mouse outfit, lemme tellya:
WE TOURED ZULULAND. The Vienna Boys Sausages were probably nervous.

We got onto the light blue school bus and drove for hours and hours and reached Empangeni where the school hall was stampvol of people who, starved of culture in deepest Zoolooland, listened in raptures as we warbled Whistle While You Work, High on your Heels is a Lonely Goat Turd, PaRumPaPumPum, Edelweiss, and some volksliedjies which always raised a little ripple of applause as the gehoor thought “Dankie tog, we know vis one“.

If memory serves (and it does, it does, seldom am I the villain or scapegoat in my recollections) there was a flood and the road to ReetShits Bye was cut off, sparing them the price of a ticket (though those were probably gratis?).

Can’t remember driving back, but we must have.

Pow Wow

I was warmly welcomed by the friendly Native American folk in Apache. I really enjoyed them and I think they enjoyed me. They invited me as their guest to a Pow Wow one night.

Here’s a teepee in the Apache showgrounds.

Apache showgrounds

At school the American Indian society presented me with gifts. Debbie Pahdapony Grey does the honours:

The Apache Indian Society presented me with a special hand-made shirt

Oklahoma was Indian Territory before we whites stole it all back, and there’s quite a bit of Indian history about. Read something about it here: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-shocking-savagery-of-americas-early-history-22739301/

For more, read Harvard historian Bernard Bailyn, who has revealed the very ugly, savage treatment of the indigenous Americans in his book The Barbarous Years.

European and U.S. settler colonial projects unleashed massively destructive forces on Native peoples and communities. These include violence resulting directly from settler expansion, intertribal violence (frequently aggravated by colonial intrusions), enslavement, disease, alcohol, loss of land and resources, forced removals, and assaults on tribal religion, culture, and language.  http://americanhistory.oxfordre.com

Here Melvin Mithlo readies Joe Pedrano for an event.

Melvin Mithlo dresses Joe Pedrano

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Museum stuff at Fort Sill north of Lawton, south of Apache. Apache chief Geronimo died here, 23 years after being taken captive. His Apaches were the last tribe to be defeated.

Robert L Crews IV at the Apache museum in Lawton (Ft Sill?)

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Brief History

Earliest Period – 1830
The tribes usually described as indigenous to Oklahoma at the time of European contact include the Wichitas, Caddos, Plains Apaches* (currently the Apache Tribe), and the Quapaws. Following European arrival in America and consequent cultural changes, Osages, Pawnees, Kiowas and Comanches migrated into Oklahoma, displacing most of the earlier peoples. Anglo-American pressures in the Trans Apalachian West forced native peoples across the Mississippi River; many including Delawares, Shawnees and Kickapoos-found refuge or economic opportunities in present Oklahoma before 1830. However, some of those tribes split in the process.

*Naisha-traditional reference to the Plains Apache

1830 – 1862
The Indian Removal Act of 1830 culminated federal policy aimed at forcing all Eastern Indians west of the Mississippi River. The Choctaws, Cherokees, Creeks, Chickasaws and Seminoles–the “Five Civilized Tribes”– purchased present Oklahoma in fee simple from the federal government, while other immigrant tribes were resettled on reservations in the unorganized territories of Kansas and Nebraska. Passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 precipitated further Anglo-American settlement of these territories, setting off a second wave of removals into present Oklahoma, which became known as “Indian Territory.” In 1859, with the state of Texas threatening genocide toward Indians, several tribes found refuge in the Leased District in western Indian Territory.

1865 – 1892
The Civil War (1861-1865) temporarily curtailed frontier settlement and removals, but postwar railroad building across the Great Plains renewed Anglo-American homesteading of Kansas and Nebraska. To protect the newcomers and provide safe passage to the developing West, the federal government in 1867 once again removed the Eastern immigrant Indians form Kansas and Nebraska reservations and relocated them on Indian Territory lands recently ceded by the Five Civilized Tribes. The same year, the Medicine Lodge Council attempted to gather the Plains tribes onto western Indian Territory reservations. Resistance among some resulted in periodic warfare until 1874. Meanwhile, the last of the Kansas and Nebraska tribes were resettled peacefully in present Oklahoma. Geronimo’s Apache followers, the last to be defeated, were established near Ft. Sill as prisoners of war.

Travel: Long Trips out of Harrismith

Long trips out of Harrismith started as walks. Up Platberg, say.

Then hikes. Like down Normandien Pass from Robbie Sharratt’s farm, down the pass and along the railway line, throught the rail tunnels to van Reenen.

Then bicycle rides. Like out to Oliviershoek Pass in mid-winter, sleeping the night on Jack Shannon’s farm Kindrochart. And day trips to Swallow Bridge over the Wilge River on the map below.

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Swallow bridge over the Vulgar River downstream of Harrismith
Swallow bridge over the Mighty Vulgar River downstream of Harrismith

Swallow Bridge 3

Then airplane trips. The first aged seventeen on a Boeing 707 to New York. The longest west to Orcas island on the US-Canada border in Washington state. The longest east to Lombok island in Indonesia, east of the famous “Wallace line”.

My Travels