Cry, the beloved country as our land lurches from one political crisis to the next.
Guests on tour recently spoke of a possible “tax revolt”, yet SARS are bemoaning being R30 billion short in tax revenues – perhaps the revolt has already begun? One way or another, matters need to change for the better very soon.
On a more personal note, after an utterly magic cruise to Antarctica with Karen, our trip to Iguassu Falls will remain forever etched in our memories. For anyone keen on the natural wonders of our world, Iguassu must surely be on their bucket-list. My return from Iguassu was welcomed with a talk in the Magaliesburg, before racing home for back-to-back battlefield tours. Looking towards the mighty Drakensberg from the summit of Spioenkop certainly fills me with deep belief that we as South Africans who love this gorgeous land, must find an equitable way forward?
The Knysna Literary Festival invited me back to their ever popular event. It was a fantastic experience catching up with old friends, enjoying talks by authors, picnicking in Harkerville forests and selling our books and DVD’s after a sold-out function. Extreme athlete, Mark Collins, presented a fantastic talk on adventure racing. His team, Painted Wolves, placed 4th at the recent world championships. Mark, and his brother, John, are fitness, humility and stamina personified. What ambassadors they are for South Africa, having won the Camel Challenge and now plying their extreme trade out of Sedgefield.
Kwandwe Game Reserve on the Great Fish River outside Grahamstown have built a beautiful new boma, right on the banks of the river. I was invited to speak to guests attending the wedding of the American owner’s son. My voice kept returning by way of an echo off the cliffs on the other side of the river – a unique experience. The Eastern Cape bush creates a wonderland for game, and it is wonderful to see so many farms converting to game. The nightlife in terms of owls, insects, nightjars, snakes, moths and bats en route beggared belief. Many of the guests were on an adrenaline high after being mock-charged by a large Black Rhino bull with a sense of humour and territory.
Roadworks and general driving habits on the N2 through the Transkei forced me to take the long road home via Cradock, Middelburg, Colesburg, Bloemfontein and Harrismith. Twelve hundred kilometers in one hit provided some fine bonding time between myself and my dream motorcar, which is performing gloriously. It is a shame that the beautiful road from Zastron to Clarens remains in such poor shape. Driving sensibly, the 300 potholed kilometers are anticipated to take 5 hours! We are grateful that the Oliviershoek route via Sterkfontein has been repaired.
Friends invited me to join them for a birding/photography weekend in the Thornybush Game Reserve, so after a day at home to regroup and do laundry, we set off for the Lowveld. Whilst Karen spent time with her new grandchildren (twins) in Johannesburg, we were lucky enough to view and photograph the Big 5, Wild Dogs and 140 species of birds. Niall Perrins of Bustards Birding is veritable wizard with birds and camera alike. En route to Thornybush, we were fortunate enough to spot the rare Taita Falcon on the cliffs near the Strydom Tunnels. The little fellow required a spotting scope (40x) to be seen clearly, but what a thrill.
I could hardly believe my luck after the Kwandwe event, to be invited to address wedding guests at Pafuri, in northern Kruger. Apparently the event is called a “buddymoon” where the bridal couple go off and spend time with their mates. In this case 90 mates, for 4 nights, taking over the entire Pafuri/Makulele concession. An outdoor dinner was scheduled on the airstrip. With a canopy of stars overhead under an African sky, evenings like these rate as speaking highlights. Early the following day I found a big lion on the road very close to the airstrip, probably attracted by the aroma of the outstanding oxtail! En route back to Polokwane in a hired car, a stone unfortunately cracked the windscreen. Thank Heavens for glass and tyre insurance, as I boarded the plane to fly back to ORT.
April Fool’s Day found me back at Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift with 6 South African guests. Although it was searingly hot, we enjoyed the friendship, and drama of those fantastic stories. The guests were horrified that I had driven 3 hours to get there, and would do the same en route home. My day job and work I love.
Having spent 12 weeks in the past calendar year in Antarctica, and returning there in December, I am delighted at how Life has panned out. The variety, challenge and travel aspects combine to create the vocation I always dreamed of. I pray our land allows us all to keep our dreams alive…….