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Nick Bee’s to die for potato salad

 

  • Peel your potatoes and chop into bite sized chunks
  • Boil until soft/firm but at the same time, do two eggs with them- it saves power
  • Drain and allow to cool
  • Preferably slice your eggs with one of those cute egg slicers and pop the whole lot into your favourite bowl
  • Now put ½ onion through a grater and spread evenly on top of potato/egg combination.
  • Add your mayonnaise=-= quantity will vary depending on how many/size of potato salad but you know how much anyway
  • State secret #1- get a triangle of blue/Roquefort cheese, cut in half, and finely chop and sprinkle over the whole mix (the remainder can be munched later)
  • Now stir/mix the whole lot up
  • Chives make a welcome addition to the aesthetics and flavour. Don’t chop too finely
  • State secret #2- Get some fried onion chips similar to bacon chips) from your local supermarket (normally found in the veggie section somewhere) and sprinkle liberally with the chives. The balance can be kept in the fridge and has a good shelf life
  • You can substitute the cheese with a Roquefort salad dressing, or add to as well according to taste although it might make the mixture slightly runny. It does add tang though

Munch with many smiles and relish!

 

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SAAF Days MKIII

It wasn’t even a year later and the dreaded registered mail slip arrived in the post. I’d left the SAAF in July 1984, had found a job in civvy street and even had a car! Life was good. Except that donderse piece of paper.

In those days the then NATS had failed to look after campers and national serviceman alike with regards to their salaries. In short, your employer was not forced to pay you for your unintended holiday, and this one was a whole 60 frikking days. Quite a cheek really- you’re expected to protect the state but the state couldn’t protect you.

Never mind that like Pietersburg where I did my two years, I had no idea where Hoedspruit was once the brown envelope had been opened and revealed its contents revealing my intended temporary home.

Packing my kit into the trusty Tarzan car ( A canary yellow 323) I headed to Pietersburg and then through Phalaborwa, Gravelotte etc toward Hoesdpruit. The long way round yes, but a nice drive anyway.

Hoesdspruit Air Force Base was modern compared to Pietersburg. It even had aircons in the bungalows and the bungalows only had 14 beds or so in them. The ablutions were clean and the hot water never ran out.

The attitude was also more rustig, with the PF’s knowing that we were tired off all their bullshit experienced over the 2 years previously, except some two liner called Potties who was there to try and make life miserable. We were civvies and they/he knew it.

They gave us all R5s and it was only two week later that we headed to the range to fire the things. Many of us had only had fired G3’s so something light without the recoil of an angry buffalo made a refreshing change.

In the meantime they kept us busy by sending us on a daily stroll around the perimeter fences in pairs. They’d drop us off at 5km intervals and off we went at a leisurely stroll for the next 6 hours. Given we hadn’t been set a target on how far to walk, we didn’t walk much on a few occasions.

Half way through the beat the trusty Bedford would do its rounds with orange juice on tap. I’m sure it was Mazoe and we soon caught on that filling one water bottle with Vodka and the other with water helped to make the walk more interesting. When the Bedford came into range, we’d empty the water from the one bottle and pour half of the Vodka bottle into the now empty bottle. Both bottles were subsequently topped up with orange juice after which the Bedford would continue on its way.  Walking all of sudden became a lot more pleasant.

For those that don’t know, Hoedspruit was a declared nature reserve and the place was teaming with creatures, especially warthog, the next subject.

The group of campers that we were relieving were a crafty bunch and had potted a ‘hog a week or so previously that they claimed had a broken leg of sorts. A good bullshit story that was hardly believed by the brass at Hoedspruit but innocent until proven guilty always works when there are no witnesses. They kindly offered to throw a departure/arrival party for the two groups and the security officer agreed in principal to that notion with the kind request of ‘don’t dop too much’

Hahaha…..

We borrowed a Bedford and beatled off to the dorp to fetch grog. Then we set about bribing a few national serviceman to act as barmen and cooks for which they could enjoy the braai with us and obviously, have a few drinks too.

The aircons came in useful at this stage and kept the beers at an amazing temperature

The ‘hog had spent the better part of a week in marinade and if you thought granny’s roast pork on Sundays was good, you haven’t tasted well prepared warthog yet. It was tender, tasty and in abundance too.

The security officer’s eyes nearly popped out his head the next morning when he saw the aftermath…. The 44 gallon drum was overflowing but by that time, half of us were on duty and half had buggered off just in case he decided to reward us with an impromptu opfok for our fine efforts.

On that subject, the corporal Potties took exception to one of my sniggers when he shouted an incorrect command during parade one morning. “Moenie op my parade grond lag nie troep” he barked.

True to form, he rounded up the group the next morning and gave them a bit of exercise. I was on the early morning stroll so he missed outright, much to his chagrin and the group that wasn’t on beat that morning.

On the subject of grub, there was a quaint steakhouse in the dorp which served the most amazing pepper sauce burgers, a meal that made a welcome change to the rather boring ‘menasie kos’ normally on offer. We soon befriended the owners who made our trips worthwhile – a starter salad, a generous burger and finally washed down with a Don Pedro, all for R30 bucks.

We soon cracked the nod to watch the infamous “The Wall” by Pink Floyd at their place and accepted.  The screening of the movie was accompanied by some rather potent gorilla grass, Even after several viewings, I never quite got a handle of what it was all about with each version dishing up a different interpretation.

When we weren’t strolling around the 37km perimeter fence we dawdled around if we were off in the morning, or if we’d done early morning duty, often headed to the dorp for entertainment at Motel Fort Coepieba or ‘Kapieps’ in colloquial terms.

Probably the most run down joint in the Lowveld it offered a cheap reprieve which became even cheaper once we got hold of it…

The dump boasted two bars- a “Ladies” version and the plain old men’s version, which were joined via a small corridor and shaped in a loose “L”. Both bars had bulkheads onto which the bottles of common drinks with optics were attached and secured. If you leaned forward a bit, you could reach the optics…

It didn’t take us long to work out that poor Alfred couldn’t see what was going on in one bar if he were serving in the other, so a simple stretch was all that was required to charge your glass with a double brannas. To hide or disguise the game, the occasional single was ordered but the coke sales rocketed. Poor Alfred- as one group ordered, the others were recharging and of course visa verse. This went on for hours….

Our visits to the Riverlodge Motel also had interesting consequences. Situated just outside the Strydom Tunnel it had a nice view and cozy pub.

Of course our fascination with the large fruit jar on the bar counter led to a rather unintended windfall. It had a tulip shaped shooter glass placed in the bottom and the jar was filled with water. Finally the large lid had a small slot cut in it so essentially it became a money box. Dropping a coin through the slot would see the coin falling through the water in a very erratic fashion and supposedly a drink per coin was the reward if the coin landed in the glass. There were several in it when we started…..

The challenge was on we were soon on a winning streak.  After many experimental runs using different denominations by my pal Martin we’d worked it out. A volley of some 30 old nickel 5c coins found themselves in the shooter glass.

Our enthusiasm in getting so many in and a coin per drink was soon dampened when the barman claimed he didn’t see our efforts and our reward could not be honoured. Not to be outdone, we simply told him to empty the jar, and we’d start all over again. He could then count our coins and honour the arrangement. He obliged by emptying the shooter glass and also moved the glass from its original position hoping to outfox us. We also bought back the 5c coins which offered the most consistent travel. Beeg Mistake!

Given we felt a bit screwed the first time out, Martin made a concerted effort to reclaim our lost winnings and after a few test runs, dropped a record 21 consecutive 5c coins into the tulip glass. The barman nearly had a fit, but rules are rules

The mixers were chargeable but to our joy, we spent just R38 each on coke over the 6 hours of madness, but hell that was a lot of coke in those days. We kept a tally of drinks won/drinks consumed and with our generous balance sheet, were buying all and sundry complimentary drinks. When our tally ran low we simply got the barman to empty the glass and we’d start all over again.

Once such farmer was enjoying our generosity and took pity on us trying to play 301 which saw 1 out 3 darts actually reaching the board, but nowhere near its intended target.

He’d “show us how to do it” was the next offer and after missing the bull with three darts promptly potted it with .38 special.

Seems this was a common occurrence and after the marksman handed the barman R120, a new dart board was procured to replace the now destroyed one hanging on the wall. The numerous slugs still embedded in the wall when the new was hung up proved this theory.

It was at this stage that we decided to head home. On return a few days later, the glass jar was nowhere to be found..

 

Spoilsports..

The second camp, now a one monther came and went and besides a few braais at Swadini, proved largely uneventful. Ok, I burnt the living sheet out of my thumb spooking a brandy bottle which was followed by a shot of Omnopon by the medics but soon recovered..

It was at that stage that I got the local MP to query parliament as to why there was no law to force companies to pay us during our yearly camps.

The feedback was that there were no plans to introduce such law and being a bit wiser to the world, decided to call it a day after two camps and ninety days of walking around fences.

I didn’t change my address when I moved again and sadly, or gladly, that was the last the SAAF heard from me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Noddy

I scribbled this a few years back… pardon the typos…

 

Dear Noddy

Many thanks for entrusting me with the well being of #34 ( I still think Schwantz is a jerk) for the yuletide period. I trust this brief update will put your mind at rest and reassure you that all is well at your home.

1) Koi pond

I fed the scaly bastards as requested, but the little buggers wanted more and more and more, which I duly gave in to. They’ve each picked up 200g in a brief, very short two days or so. William and I thus decided to flog them to the local but rather informal chisa nyama franchise operating outside your workshop. The short armed, deep pocketed buggers would only pay us 55c per fish so we took it anyway and bought a bankie from the new fuel station over the road to keep our moods up.

With the pond now empty of its inhabitants, we took your new fridge, welded on a few 3mm capillary pipes and have converted it to a 1000 litre cooler compared to the crappy, rather minuscule 350 litre version previously on offer. By comparison, the new version can cool just over 8 cases of Windhoek, 4 bottle of brannas and a few 2 litre cokes versus the 6 cases of sundry dop. We know you’ll be impressed!

2) African Grey- that really is a ‘brak’ of a chicken, but we took it to the same Chisa nyama franchise outside your workshop and managed to get R200 for the squawking thing. This was not before the baasted removed the lower section of my thumb and I had to go to Olivedale Clinic to get it all sewn up. I gave them your PO Box number and negotiated that you settle up over 90 days.

-The okie at the local chisa nyama said the local meisies like the look of the feathers and he assured them that the feathers would make them look shaaarp for Thursday and that he could easily settle his shebeen bill from the proceeds. We took pity on him, took the bucks and bought two bottles of Cape Hope brannas, coke and packet of ice. Life is good!

3) The bargain of the day was hotwiring your Triumph. Ok, we had to skiet over the road to get more brannas and coke while Shangaan aka Will I am sweated over the wiring harness but William and I succeeded (not before we scaled half the components from your new Explora) to get it firing. We did however run into a few hassles after that but with the help of a few gracious, very generous individuals, it will make Marquez’ Honda look tame! Tin Tin was too dronk to fly up to Joeys to sort the suspension as this was bottoming out under William’s not inconsiderable mass (see fat boep) when I wheelied her past Cescos after 40 brannas. We opened the workshop and Willy got busy with the tig/mig set-up while I kept him hydrated with beer from the shebeen over the road. He simply welded up the rear shock and Voila! We were up and running again, albeit with our livers shouting blue murder. This in unison at 127.6 decibals I might add from the newly patented free flow exhaust we designed. Its now 6.7 inches long

4) The Triumph seemed to be under performing by the time we sorted out the rear suspension so we enlisted that oke from Bark SA to help us, old Charley. True to form, Charley arrived with a dozen Guzzi pistons which we did a ‘mix & match’ job on your boney. Willy set about building them up a little to match the diameter of the bore while I used that crappy Ryobi angle grinder to fine tune them to size. True to form we picked up another couple of kW after we tested it on your dyno and it now makes an extra 80kW over standard. The dyno unfortunately kakked itself so we ordered a new one from Deutschland at an economical 90 000e. It should arrive mid July which we thought was great service and a bargain at the price, given this time of the year.

5) While this was all going on, I stumbled upon your newly overhauled jetski magoeters. Given that your boney and jetski are similar in cc (1050 vs 1000) respectively, Willy and I put them to the test and your swimming pool proved the ideal obstacle/medium. Quite how we formulated the rules over an 8 hour brannas session is debatable but nevertheless I won after Willy spotted one of the bokkies with African Grey feathers in her kop and forgot what that he had to ride the Triumph around the garden twice before crash landing into the pool. He eventually found the pool and is surveying his handiwork with two bokkies hanging around his neck, among other things. Not to let the team down, I drove the jetski down the driveway creating a furrow 4” wide by 3” deep ensuring that water deposited during heavy precipitation is channeled away from your valuable property at speed. Noel Haarhoff’s fine stainless steel work on your impeller of the jetski is however, history.

That said, is all is fine and well at #34

We look forward to your safe return and present our handy work as CV’s in the hope of future/gainful employment under your watchful eyes.

Nick and Shangaan

P.S. Some okie arrived at your possie with something called an “Eviction Notice”. We weren’t sure what to do with it so rolled it into a joint and smoked it. The ink alone proved quite hallucinating

A Gyppo in Germany

By the time you’ve read the Namibian saga, you’ll understand what we ‘have to go through’ to bring you good copy. (Copy is editorial for the DENSA members out there)

Typically, BMW got wind of Concorde coming here and promptly booked bulk seats for the hacks to fly on”Speedbird’s nicest toy”. (Speedbird is BA’s call sign, as what Springbok is to SAA) You learnt summing again…)

So what do they do- fly all the freeloaders to Smuts, fly all to CTN on Concorde and even arrange to have the E36s on the apron. Dunno how they got that one right….bribery I think?

E36 was the previous dolphin shape BeeEm.

A quick drive to Perel (Paarl) ensued, after which an 18 star meal was enjoyed by all. Imbibing of the Cape’s finest was encouraged too, much against industry standards.

The drive was all of 45 minutes or so- not much to evaluate the new Munich based contender…..and a shitload of money. But more later….

Back on the plane, the pilots headed to the Indian ocean and put balls to the wall- in the olden days, the throttles had ivory balls and to raise rpm, were pushed against the firewall of the instrument panel. Hence balls to the wall…(you’re learning again!)

At Durban the pilots slacked off and brought Concorde down to more manageable speeds and re-routed for FAJS. Said journo’s were dumped and sent home. Cheap exercise I’d say….

Yep, we’re spoilt, I agree, but per my previous blog, it’s all coming to an end……meltdown I think….

It gets better- when still working at 47 Sauer Str (the Star, motoring) I cracked the nod to go to Germany for a Volvo launch.

For the virgins, Germany possesses a wonderful, rather orgasmic road system – it’s called the autobahn and every journo that has passion for cars attends these. There’s normally a fight in the office as a result of the invite..

First things first and back to the spoilt thing. We always fly business class.

So onto Lufthansa flight “let’s spoil you with expensive dop ond mediocre hostages’, we’re off to Frankfurt am Main as it’s known. Couldn’t sleep so ended up drinking Johnny Walker Blue with chief purser at 2am.

Kak life…

Get to Frankfurt, meet Volvo reps and we’re off to Baden Baden – that’s on my map too.

Get there and stay in beautiful castle now renovated to hotel status- life is so shit I wanna come home on air-conditioned silver cigar tube.

We worked out the rev limiter kicked in at 238km/h in sixth, which yields a shudder as it kicks in- easy fix- drop to 235km/h and hit the cruise control- max speed, no shuddering.

Quaff countless fine Weissbiers and then decide life is boring so head off to the Black Forest for some entertainment in new cars.. drive like garage boys too.

Go-kart derby is conducted and we duly report for more drinks and great food at 7pm. (I’m suicidal by now)

Next day we’re off to Trier and arrive a few minutes in some pub just minutes before qualifying for the German (European) GP. Egmont (the bearded wonder) from Rapport and NB are in cahoots and promptly order a dozen Weissbiers to watch the spectacle. Tour guide forks out.

Fisticuffs almost ensue, as the Bavarians, quietly drinking their dops, are interrupted by much shouting for Kimi. This was not PC we’re told afterwards. Fuckem!

After Kimi secures pole, we’re off to some cute place near Koblenz, which is cute itself. Even left cell phone at bar table and recovered 3 hours later in same place. Must have been a kak handy as the Germans call them.

Sunday- we’ve awoken to team shirts in our rooms (Eggie and I get McLaren golf shirts) while the less informed choose Ferrari and other crap and we’re off to Nuremburg to watch the race.

Buy some caps at euro prices and find our seats. It’s now nine thirty and the first round of drinks arrive. The Germans are clearly impressed with our ability to turf huge amounts of liquid down our throats so early in the morning.

Some Dutchmen arrive, pick up on the accent and engage us. Now we’re really in shit as speaking our respective languages bridges the gap. There is fighting among us as few can walk and the tour guide acts as waitress. We can’t walk.

Wind up German’s about Schumbag sucking hind tit to Kimi until said drunkard Finn retires with broken wishbone. They laughed much harder with two laps to go before Finnish.

Bugger off to hotel, Egmont drives, we’re legless by now…

Monday- go for booze cruise on Rhein- turbo charged coffee is popular and I get a great Slade CD in some shop.

We stop in Wiesbaden for lunch (beer) home of Nico Rosberg and head back to Frankfurt.

Check in, Ian and Eggie visit the naughty shops and arrive on plane with DVD’s and magazines of questionable quality. Sluts.

Business class lounges sees me befriend with some millionaire couple from Umhlanga- ‘she’ happily raids fridge and delivers 10 Weissbiers to me the next morning as we stand around at Smuts customs…. I had eight of my own too.

All this for an engine upgrade and a bet between Ford etc and others who could gyppo a trip to a Grand Prix first under false pretences.

Who am I to complain?

Uganda and the Gorillas

And so the big day dawned- I was off to Uganda, playground of Idiot Amin but also to Gorillas, Chimps and amazing birdlife, never mind the culture, food, people, drivers and good beer.

 

Here’s how it all started 15 May 2010 when I downloaded my email, one being from life time friend Carl, who is now based in Singapore.

 

“Just wanted to let me know my dates for a trip to SA and Uganda. I was also wandering if you wanted to join us in Uganda. I can help with the cost, and would be great to have you along. Mainly going to see the Gorillas, assuming we can book in.” Carl

 

Bit of a dumb question I guess.

 

Safely transported to the airport by pal Miles, an air rifle acquaintance, we got Carl’s finer half Davina checked it and then checked in ourselves. Goodbyes were said to Davina and we boarded SA160 to Entebbe.

 

The onboard service was superb and our hostage did a superb job in ensuring we didn’t dehydrate over the 3h50 flight up North and the middle seat’s food tray came in extremely useful. The 1st officer, a lady named Wendy I had met years ago when she was flying Beech 1900’s did the leg and greased it in – absolutely superb. We’d been joined by Carl’s pal Paul, also from Singapore and an avid photographer.

 

We got through customs ok and were fetched by the lodge where we’re staying at by their driver. A tasty bowl of soup and a few beers put us to bed.

 

Chris, the fourth member of our party arrived Sunday morning as did our driver, Godwin, a master in defensive driving which I’ll talk about later. Take this link to see the chaos- http://www.autodealer.co.za/node/0ae61cab9e16500fc55588904e8a07c2/

 

His Hiace type transport soon has us loaded as we made our way to Kibali, where our adventure would truly begin. Not without the obligatory puncture I might add, along with the incorrect jack. All was sorted however in an hour.

 

Monday morning arrived and we assembled in the forests for our first trip- Chimpanzee tracking. The affable Johnson, complete with AK-47, was our guide and no sooner having been dropped off in the forest did the action begin.

 

Just 20m away and high in the canopy we’d found the chimps. It was now a game of patience as their shrill calls travelled through the forest. One by one they came into view and started their descent to ground level. We followed as they moved closer toward the remainder of the troop some distance away and what we were about to see amazed us- domestic violence at its best, in the middle of Africa. Uganda is after all, on the equator.

 

A youngish female has come into season and had set her sights on a subordinate male.

This is not the Chimps’ modus operandi and although free to choose her own mate, may not stoop down to a junior.

 

The ‘cabinet’ set about rectifying her wayward thinking and systematically took turns in beating her up with their fists, and with ado I might add, along with much shouting, screaming and wailing from the various parties involved. She took pounding after pounding with one male deciding that his fists weren’t having the desired effect and simply kicked her off a branch from around 10m up. A short while afterwards, our victim was seen sidling up to a more senior member.

 

If a female does do the dastardly thing and bear a child from a male in another troop, her troop will beat her mercilessly for three days, kill the baby after that and eat it to punish her.

Nature…

 

We then happened upon a chap further into the forest who was quite content with his lot in life and simply lay on his back, staring into space and occasionally giving us a glance with his one eye- the other eye had a large cataract.

Playing with his feet like a newborn does, he simply stayed in the same spot while Paul and Chris snapped away.

 

We took a leisurely stroll out the forest a bit later on and headed off to lunch.

A tour to a vlei/swamp later that day proved interesting with its many inhabitants, including the rather rare Blue Turaco. Several Colobus species were present including Black and White, Red and Red Tailed, although they aren’t habituated and tend to keep their distance.

 

Next up was a trip to the Kazinga Channel in the Queen Elizabeth National Park which joins Lake Albert with Lake Edward. There are lions there, plenty Bushbuck and Kops, similar to our Impala, but not much else. We didn’t see the kitties in the park and I’m not sure I’d recommend going there given the poor variety of game on view.

 

The channel itself proved much more interesting and besides the birds, some angry Hippos with calves not much older than two weeks made their unhappiness known.

 

Getting your smallish boat nudged by a grumpy mother isn’t fun but the sightings were amazing.I had more skidmarks in my under jocks than Brands Hatch!

 

From literally thousands of Pied King Fishers feeding in the rich waters, countless Fish Eagles providing the background music, Terns, Maribou and Saddle Billed stalks also made appearances. Now add in Black Throated Coucals, Darters, Little and Great Egrets, Goliath and Great Herons, African Jacanas, a Palm Nut Vulture, Hamerkops, Crested Crane (Uganda’s national bird) Skimmers and the brilliant Malachite King Fisher and this was truly Twitcher’s Paradise!

 

We then made the long trip to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park for the highlight of our trip. It’s not called that for nothing either!

 

Chimp’s Nest where we stayed was truly awesome, along with the tree-houses we stayed in. Ok, the trek from the lodge itself hardly made us happy, and neither did the coldish water for showers, but hell, sitting back in the darkness after a long day with tall scotch in hand watching a large bat navigate his way with high precision through our veranda catching his supper was awesome.

 

Thursday dawned and we made our way to the assembly point for the Gorilla part. There are three families in the forest and each tour consists of just eight people who are allowed just one hour with the primates once successfully tracked. The Ugandans are a clever bunch though, and at $500USD per person, know which side their bread is buttered. Trackers are sent way ahead of each group and they in turn relay the position of the family to each tour guide via two way radios. Less fuss if you want to look at it that way, more efficiency, less walking.

 

( I could have sworn I saw my insrtuctor’s face fron Bourkes Luck when he gave us an ‘opfok’ in 36 deg C when subjected to this quiet amble. Looking back as I carried a boerbull up the slopes, Bourkes Luck was tame!)

 

That said, we stumbled our way up the mountain, stumbling being the operative word on a 45 degree slope. In just over an hour, we’d reached the troop, which now consists of 19 members, thanks to the addition of a youngster a few months back.

 

The tour guides and her aides are extremely efficient, the former brandishing machetes with much deftness and quietness – they chop away foliage to give a clear view for pictures etc, which in some cases isn’t necessary as you get really close to them. Gorillas are habituated and take little notice of humans, but merrily go about life stuffing as much foliage into their faces as possible. They eat perpetually and in huge quantities.

 

We were ushered down the slope to view the jewel in the troop, the Silverback and in this case, the leader of this family. You might get one or two, sometime three in a family and they are termed this once they reach a certain age, thanks to the back that gets a broad band of silver hair. (Blerry tour guide nicknamed yours truly Silverback, thanks to him being the oldest in our quad squad!)

 

Silverbacks are truly spectacular and this particular chap’s shoulders were larger than a door’s width, much larger. The absence of a neck in appearance is also apparent, thanks to super developed muscles but as many would know who have done these trips, largely peaceful and ‘rustig’, despite his formidable size. The apes entertained for at least an hour as they foraged around and the canopy that they had occupied was largely destroyed by the time we left- they’d eaten, broken it and one specimen had a vine snap as it attempted to get down to ground level. Much laughter as it descended to the soft forest floor.

 

The highlight was of course getting really close to two Gorillas. Paul and I were watching the antics as one decided to cross the ravine. He simply slid down the ravine toward us, stopping halfway to decide and survey which route to follow across. Nick, Paul, shrub, Gorilla = 1.5m…. yep, Paul could have reached out and patted the beast but that’s dumb and a strict no-no. Gorilla genes are around 98% similar to ours and are thus very susceptible to catching our flu, colds or what have you, hence the 1 hour limit you’re supposed to spend with them. Our tour guide happily broke that rule…

 

Finally, they’d located mum under a small tree and motioned us closer. The youngster, just like a human, was incredibly inquisitive and after his third failed attempt to get closer to us was hauled away by mum who we could hear admonishing her offspring. Work on 2.5m proximity.

Of interest of course is that Gorillas make a new bed each night (around 4-5 minutes) and in the mornings, use it as a lavatory. This ensures that no-one else uses it, while the faeces simply dries up and eventually blows away in the light breeze.

 

Down the mountain and we came across another favourite of yours truly, a small chameleon of the flap necked variety. Much more colourful than ours too.

 

Our final point of interest was Lake Bunyoni, a former volcanic crater which now supports the locals and their subsistence farming. Our bus decided to overheat on the way there but was soon fixed in the dorp, no hassle.

 

Ok, coffee and tea are big exports but the population largely feeds itself and we didn’t see one tractor-ploughed field – it’s all done manually with hoes. There aren’t many fish in Bunyoni and birdlife is scarce. The terraced hills are an eyesore so turn that one down if you do head up that way and your tour company offers you a trip.

 

Finally, we were on our way home of Uganda’s abysmal roads, if you can call them that. A mere 430km from Bunyoni to Kampala and then onto Entebbe took an astounding 11 hours- guess who was frumpy when we got to Entebbe?

 

Besides that, Uganda is an interesting place. It’s progressed in leaps and bounds since they got rid of Idiot and are generally a happy lot, except when getting bombed during SWC. All in retaliation to Uganda lending military assistance to a neighbouring country.

 

The food is ok, but we steered clear of Matoke, a starchy banana, although the avo salads are a must have. Chicken (rather stringy) and chips are popular while steaks are ok, even if pulverised extensively.

 

Avoid tap water and preferably buy a tipple or two at duty free.

 

Eggs,  fruits and juice are common breakfast items although bacon is largely scarce. Jams are common which you tire of, so take along Bovril or Marmite!

 

The locals dislike having their pictures taken, a suspicious lot, so do that surreptitiously if you are going to snap away.

 

Public transport is non-existent so taxis are popular, as are motorcycle taxis. I’d avoid the latter, even if it is novel as they ride like complete kamikaze pilots. The riders rarely wear helmets either so fatalities are quite high when they do wipe out. I’ll publish an addition to this shortly

 

The Gorillas are protected with fervour and each tour group has a chap at the front and the rear, both armed with AK’s. It’s these chaps that are sent deep into the forest every time the Gorillas venture near the Congolese border and chase them back again, although the Gorillas have worked this one out  largely and stay far away from this non eco friendly country. Rwanda and Uganda appear to work together quite closely.

 

Besides protecting their Gorillas, Ugandans also protect their autobanks with aplomb.

 

Two chaps with AK’s and one with a bolt action hunting rifle were found at one in a rural town to give you an idea. The roadhouse we stopped at on Saturday when returning had an AK armed guard while the various hotels and lodges also

boast AK47 armed guards.

 

You also fear not walking around at night while the Red Rooster in Entebbe is a hoot too, although laced with countless hookers plying their trade.

 

Beer is cheap, especially from roadside stalls, although not always cold, given that Uganda has yet to run power lines in many parts. Nile Lager was my favourite and at around R7.50 per quart, was a bargain. Its has hints of Weissbier taste and goes down well, as does the locally made Gin derivative, Waragi, which has the kick of an ill tempered mule but also tasty.

 

Most accommodation has mozzi nets but your prophylactics in the form of tablets and Tabard are crucial.

The weather is great and you’ll need a light windbreaker or jersey on occassions.

 

On a very humbling note, I had the privilege of joining Carl for lunch with his uncle Keith. A doctor by profession, Keith arrived in Uganda in 1964 as a missionary doctor and is now 74 years of age. Keith has countless degrees and papers that he’s written so I won’t stop short of guessing that he’s pretty close to MENSA.

 

This kind man earns absolutely pittance and spends his time driving into remote areas with a trusty 1988/1990 Hilux where he performs eyes operations on the locals, mostly removing cataracts and so forth. He’s also taken countless children under wing in his 46 years in Uganda, supporting them and ensuring that they receive a good education.

He’ll be packing his bags shortly after which, among other things, he’ll lecture in ophthalmic science and medicine and which will hopefully put a few extra scheckles into his retirement fund. A truly remarkable soul, who’s intelligence, expertise and passion will be sorely missed in Uganda. He did hint at a return from time to time to pursue further eye operations.

 

Finally, to my friend of incredible patience, understanding and generosity. Never have I had such an amazing experience, and eye opener of all proportions and unforgettable privilege and holiday.

 

Thank You Carl.

The Namibian Adventure

Life is retrospective I say. How many times has one asked of ones self “If only I had done that” etc?

I don’t have many regrets and becoming a hack isn’t one of them- you don’t earn gazillions but you certainly get to see the world…

Namibia is just one example as we were ferried up to Walvis Bay late January courtesy of Toyota to sample the arrival of their new Fortuner…(Work? What’s that?)

Minesh, possibly the maddest hack of all picks me up at the offices and we make our way to “Jan Smuts” (I’m old fashioned and I’ll drop the parenthesis shortly too).

We cleared customs and bugger off to the premier lounge to watch SA hammer Oz for the final time. We have to board before the end of the game, but at least the friendly crew upfront in the CRJ700 keeps us posted as they frequently radio their ops room from 34 000ft. We’ve won and Minesh and I stop short of ordering bubbly- he has a Lion to keep the mood up.

Arrive at Walvis after a rather bumpy landing and head off to customs. They have but two officials on duty and the aircraft has been turned around (Cleaned, fuelled, snacks and self loading freight uploaded/downloaded)) and shoots overhead by the time our passports are stamped. Speedy lot this….

Brief driver’s schpiel from Willie van Greune of Toyota who takes great pleasure in punishing the media and we’re off to Swakopmund via the dunes. Low range is essential as are low tyre pressures. I do the first stint as Minesh happily flips through my MP3 CD.

Trick here is to keep momentum up- anything much slower than 20km/h sees you bog down. ‘Drive it like you stole it’ as they say in the classics. Minesh does, frequently resting two wheels in the air. The two lighties behind haven’t learned the trick from the old dogs and get stuck no less four times. More of that later.

We stop on several occasions and bask in the sand – see photie album- and get to Swakop at 17h30. A quick beer and a shower and its off to the pub for pre-dinner drinks.

A relaxing supper is followed by a ‘few’ more drinks precluded by Toyota’s Ferdi De Vos giving the two youngsters a ‘strafdop’- Minesh and I gave them several more which saw the one involuntary regurgitate the contents rather early in the evening in a white porcelain bowl. Off to bed around half past….

We headed off to the desert proper on Tuesday for a retina pleasing occurrence. Stop in the middle of nowhere to view Tsama melons (they have a very fine leaf structure which covers around 2m- the plant gains its moisture from the fog and dew and produces melons around the size of gem squash, juicy but bitter tasting).

A few kays down the road in this rather desolate desert we stop at some Welwitshia plants and here’s the eye opener. For starters, the seed, once germinated, puts down a tap root of between 10m and 20m. Next, it sprouts just two leaves which eventually splinter to make it look like multiple leaves, but no, just two leaves are ever grown. The plants we viewed were a cool 1000 years old…. Oh, did I mention it takes ‘just’ 50 years for the two leaves to sprout?? Mother nature- she’s so clever!

If I were a Welwitshia I’d still be invisible.(You can wikipedia this and won’t get same info- seems wiki is a bit behind in that department.)

Meet an Aussie in the desert. Minesh comments that Oz is not doing to well in the cricket which the Uassie sadly admits is the case. Departing shot from your truly?

“Come back next month and see the beauty of SA. At least you’ll be able to watch Ponting and co get walloped on home soil

Next destination was to the Spitskoppe for lunch and return home at 5pm or so. Stop at “the lighthouse’ for a quick dop and then back to hotel.

Then it’s off to ‘The Tug’ for supper and Minesh and I pig out on prawns followed by a $few$ more drinks at the bar afterwards. Get back to hotel, nightcap, and off to bed again.

Wednesday and it’s off to Walvis again for a dolphin tour. Some of the seals are very tame and are on the boat when we embark. Fascinating chaps who are coaxed off the boat with liberal quantities of sardines which are thrown into the water by the crew. Once the last one is off the boat we get going toward the oyster farms- hundreds of baskets which float in the water around 4m deep. The water is so rich in plankton that the oysters are mature at 8 months old from just 3mm fledglings. Apparently the fastest growth rate in the world

The pelicans have seen all the actions of the crew throwing sardines around so also join in with their colossal beaks that open like dustbins and sardines are deposited into their sagging pouches. Seagulls join them and its my guess that around 100 sardines are fed to the gluttons per trip.

We stop and observe a rather foul ponging seal colony while ‘Google’, one of the seals that invaded our boat at the harbour has swum 10km and has joined us. The crew manage to keep Google off the boat and we pull off slowly to view dolphins. Google slips between the two motors and rides in the vortex of the boat with chest out the water. More sardines as he rides along effortlessly.

By now we’ve had a few refreshments and are headed back to shore with some well deserved snacks. We stop past some Chinese ships that have been impounded by the authorities for illegal fishing and after that, our adventure is sadly over.

It’s back to the airport and we clear customs a bit quicker this time. Get on the plane and I ask the pilots for some running commentary on the way back- the okes on the way down were rather quiet.

Half an hour into the flight at 37 angels I send a note to the drivers upfront- want know IAS, TAS, outside temp etc. The rather appealing hostage, Larissa, takes my note upfront and hands to them and then gestures for me to meet her at cockpit door.

“The Captain says you have far too many questions so rather join him and the first officer upfront and he’ll explain all. For those of you who don’t know, I love flying and have a fair understanding of these aluminium tubes so it’s like holding out a fillet steak to a starved dog- I’m in and perched on the jump seat!

And indeed, he does explain everything! From setting up the storm scope to look at weather at different levels to reserve fuel, the TKAS etc to the Comair 737 below us- we’ve climbed to 39 angels to avoid bad weather and overtake Comair thanks to better navigation so we don’t have to sit behind him on our approach to Smuts.

Larissa then instructs me to stay put as I’m sitting in the jump seat for the landing! Bargain!

Our pilot greases it in and it’s a pleasure to stand at the door as my fellow hacks disembark and ask “what did you think of my first landing?”

Hacks laugh, passengers a bit shocked….

Au revoir till the next adventure. But with the global meltdown, I’m not sure there will be any more of these launches…

SAAF Days MKI

And so the day dawned, 7th July 1982 . A rather auspicious day as my late mum would have celebrated her birthday. Old school pal Trevor Gallan picked me up in his volla and dropped my off at the gates of Valhalla Beach as it was known to the pongoes and the fun was about to begin.
Of course, lots of rumours planted in my cranium over the years were whizzing around at speed. Did they really put stuff in your coffee to quell your sexual urges? Did you really have to chain up your washing lest it got pinched? Ironing of beds? Was the food really that kak and would you keel over from exhaustion and end up in ICU on a drip?
As I walked through the gates with the guards giving all of us ‘roofs’ those condescending looks, all was about to become very apparent. The sight of that huge ‘sand only’ parade ground to my right was to become one of the most hated patch of earth, an area we would soon be introduced to as “The Sahara’
Scrubbing floors after the previous intake had stuffed them up for the next lot was a laborious task, while getting your nutria kit was a lesson all on its own- nothing seemed to fit well, while the boots had an appearance of a crocodile’s skin and were harder than granite.
Next came the lessons on bed making, bed ironing, folding and ironing your new browns and so forth. Being winter, the showers were rarely warm so cold showers were the order of the day. Your browns had to be clean for the next day’s punishment so were always ironed dry, which took forever and an age. It gave them houding quickly though, and soon took on that faded, ou man look.
Lots of things stand out as you get used to the military style of living, if you want to call it that. Washing your varkpan in a mixture of luke warm water, fat and washing powder comes to mind, as does the food itself. One meal out of twenty was palatable, and even that was rare.
The instructors of course knew exactly how to make your life a misery. Dragging a dustbin of mud through the bungalow at 11pm at night was a favourite, as was a quick visit at any hour to see who was sleeping on the floor rather than in their bed which was suitable gyppo’ed most nights and which didn’t have to be made in the morning. To answer your question, yes, you did iron your bed, using shaving cream to keep it all nice and boxy.
Then of course, the new recruits, who came in all shapes and sizes and obviously, from very varied walks of life. My favourite was Gatiep, who had the IQ of a jellyfish and logic says got his name from his missing top teeth. A sight to behold. Gatiep decided one day to move on parade which was spotted by the RSM, who duly gave our instructor Dave Shaw an earful of note. Shaw in turn took it out on us and we stood to attention in the sun for the next four hours, with the okes dropping like flies every couple of minutes or so. Gatiep was duly chased up a tree and locked up with laundry chains to sleep that night.
Of course, what would life be without the usual ‘vuilgat’ who refused point blank to follow any form of personal hygiene? His browns were dirty with sweat, he stank and so forth. After a good opfok one day, we marched him off to the showers and borselled him properly- shoe brushes, black polish all over, including any crevice you could find and the result was instantaneous. Vuilgat spent the better part of 3 hours under the cold showers scrubbing it all off and looked like a pink prawn for his efforts. Vuilgat transformed into the cleanest oke in the bungalow from that eve on. Then there were okes who were new to toilets, (I’ll leave that there) and others that simply had no idea. One oke arrived carrying so much weight we had to literally carry him 90% of the way when running the dreaded 2.4km in full kit, and even after three months, he was still rotund.
The first pass came and went, and finally we ‘klaared out’ from basics. We had a rare 3 day pass after which we returned to hear our fate in regards to our mustering. I got to be a ‘doggie’, while others were more fortunate and became drivers or office jockeys. At the end of the day, it didn’t really matter where you went- you still got to donate 24 months of your life to the State.
So it was off to Bourke’s Luck for me for another three months of opfokkery. See SAAF Notes Mk1 for that escapade but essentially, the same. Another three months of bullshit, cleaning kennels and having your ear chewed off. At least we could drink beer at the end of the day and there was always much trading for beer coupons with those that didn’t drink. Two beers hardly did it.
Back to Valhalla we went and were now posted to various bases around the country. I got Pietersburg Air force Base, a dorp I’d never even heard of. Captain Nimrod Bekker came to fetch us in a bus, and years later I tracked him down on the ‘Vleisbroek.’
Of course, the bullshit was about to start all over again, and the Ou Manne were always on our case, especially when they’d run out of money and wanted money for more booze which we were expected to sponsor. Luckily that didn’t last too long and a few weeks later, they klaared out for good and life would resume to almost normal. Not before of course they’d caused so much kak like discharging dry powder extinguishers through the bungalow the night before inspection. Stuff them.
Life as a ‘doggie’ wasn’t too bad- you stood a 6 hour beat at night, either 6-12 or 12-6, after which you were free to do what you pleased. That changed to a three shifter- 6-10, 10-2 and 2 to six. Obviously the kennels had to be cleaned daily and the dogs had to be dipped now and again for ticks etc., while some poor bastard had to don the attack suit now and again and be punished with sharp fangs trying to bite through it as the handlers let their dogs loose. This was normally reserved for the okes caught sleeping on duty. Moral of the story- don’t sleep, or don’t get caught. One of the two.
Keeping busy on beat was easy enough. Pietersburg had a good array of wildlife such as hedgehogs, bullfrogs in season, jackals, and the occasional feral cat which gave the hounds good exercise. Rabbits were also fair game for the mutts but were rarely caught, if ever.
The niceties included standing at Bulk Fuel when they were doing night flying and keeping low as the Mirages landed or took off was a site to behold, along with the glorious noise. Or the laundry- a few bucks off your salary each month was way better than doing it yourself while the bar sold dop at stupid prices. The trick was to order a double brannas and half way through, top it up with another shot or two, add the balance of the coke and repeat. I stood beat many a time with eyes that refused to focus and a head that just wanted a soft cushion.
Finally I got transferred into the security office, a small rung up the ladder, and few months later, I would become a guard commander. The office job was quite lekker- I drew up guard lists, escorted the school bus now and again and issued domestic workers with permits as well as vehicle permits. It was during this period that I cracked the nod to have a flip in an Impala, a privilege few National Serviceman had the honour of enjoying (see SAAF notes MkI1).
And then, guard commander. This is when it became fun while at the same time, you realise just how resourceful you and your mates had become over the past 14 months or so.
It was an exhausting job though. You were on duty by six and had a myriad of chores to do during the day, after which you’d hand over at 4pm to your fellow guard commander for night duty who grafted till six the next morning. After a week of day duty it was now your turn to push a 14 hour day.
A weeks pass followed the night shift which was great and given Pietersburg was just 4 hours from Jozi, it wasn’t a schlep going backwards and forwards.
Roll call, let the okes eat, and by six you were posting them to their various beats of which there were seven- five around the buildings and two a few kms away at 70 Mobile Radar Unit (70MRU) and Bulk ammo. And this is where the fun started.
There was always an officer on duty for whom you had fetch grub from the Officers Mess and where there were always left-overs. Porterhouse steaks were a favourite which were carried out in your ‘boshoed’ to avoid detection. (You had your stripe by then and could always commandeer a roof to wash it the next day) Some PF’s arrived on beat one eve with huge rucksacks, strictly verboden. I soon learnt they were going to have a quick braai at 70MRU so got a few steaks from the mess and joined them!
Getting the bakkie sideways in a four wheel drift on the way back from 70MRU was always fun- the okes in the back used to scream blue murder. Choppies bust me once honing my rallying skills and promptly dished out 7 extra duties. Luckily he never caught me wheelying the Chev Nomad with four doggies on the back, or lightly ‘kissing’ a large rock one night.
Then there was the matter of sleeping on duty. Given the dislike between us and the PF members, it was largely PF’s that got nailed, and this was done in two ways- either have your name written in the book and you’d be formally charged or make a small donation to the wellbeing of the guard commanders’ night life.
Given I had a batman to make my bed, clean and tidy etc in the varkhok, (a separate room in the bungalow) fetch and carry washing, etc, said ‘roof’ also had a key to the varkhok. I’d return on occasions to find my cupboard full of an array of mind altering, feel good beverages. That itself presented a small problem come inspection so the ‘roofs’ were dispatched with their money to fetch ice and coke from the local SAWI after which they were invited to help you dispose of your ill-gotten gains.
Sleeping in the varkhok had its advantages but one thing that was unpleasant was the day to day noise. And when I say noise, I mean it. The one runway was less than a kilometre from my bungalow and after a 14 hour stint on night duty you needed sleep, big time. The Mirage’s taking off made a hellava din- the snarl of the engines on afterburner on take-off was amazing, but it also rattled the windows which woke you up a few times during the day.
Going back to the resourcefulness of the troepe…
It was Christmas time and the ‘doggies’ had all been dispatched to their posts. Every half hour, they had to report in and declare all was fine, and being Christmas eve, I cut them some slack and didn’t patrol, but chose to relax in the guardhouse and read.
The ‘doggies’ had all jumped the fence and were having one moerova party somewhere in the dorp, smoking dope and dopping, but still reporting as if all was well. They’d cleverly worked out which radio was strongest and were all using the same radio to do their reporting. Come midnight and they all miraculously appeared at their posts with yours truly none the wiser that they’d had an absolute ball.
The more notable mischief making came in the form of two okes being caught trying steal an Alfa Sud motor from the scrapyard next door, one oke taking his pistol on pass with him and holding up a video shop for which he got a few years while Frikkie VD Westhuizen got bust on his Honda outside Potgietersrus at 187km/h and got six cuts on his bare backside for his Rossi impersonation.
Of course there always some sadness and stupidity. On one occasion, a ‘roof’ was playing with his 9mm which then AD’eed (accidental discharge) and shot his mate in the neck who was chilling on his bed. I’d left for my weeks pass that morning so they pulled a Mirage from the skies to afford the poor chap a blood transfusion directly- he was O Neg as was I and the Mirage pilot. The pilot’s donation saved his life and the transfusion was done on the runway once his Mirage had come to a stop, so urgently was it needed.
The final months at Pietersburg were a welcome slow down to my two year state expense paid holiday and as soon as the new commanders had been shown the ropes, the three of us guard commanders were drafted to Spes group, which did random patrols around the bases 14km fence among other things and were confined to the security area where all the lekker planes were stored in their hangars. We slept in a huge prefab and had the use of a Buffel and Unimog, which were both great to drive. Many a Sunday arvie saw me volunteer for driving duties around the fences while the okes sat at the back with beers and dope and got pleasantly wasted.
Just before we finished up came the annual Air Force Memorial Day, where we directed the civvies to parking spots and generally kept an eye on things. Once done and the civvies had buggered off a feast awaited us at the mess but as mentioned, we were confined to the security area at all times so had to have our braai there. Each oke at the mess received half a chicken so we duly we went to fetch ours which would be braaied by ourselves.
Trickery at its best- inflate the numbers so that it was almost a full chicken per oke along with salads rolls etc. But when I say thick as thieves it gets better. Each of the guard commanders arrived at the mess to collect the grub at different stages, but each spoke to a different cook and voila, three times the amount of grub needed was handed over. Then came the small matter of firewood. A huge dead tree was collected by Unimog from the veld and broken by placing against a wall at 45deg angle and reversing the Unimog up the tree stump. This saw it shatter into many, manageable pieces.
Next came the problem of labour but with lots of grub on hand, six ‘roofs’ happily made the fire, cooked the grub and fetched the dop from inside the bungalow for us ou manne. And on the subject of booze, I teamed up with an old mate and we bought a case of beer and bottle of brannas to get the meal down. We started at noon but by 2pm that was all klaar so we just repeated the order.
Of course, our chicken only meal reached the ears of one the national serviceman officer’s mess cooks and he duly arrived, invited specifically if he proffered steaks. He duly did, with lots of meat to satisfy a battalion. Luckily the ‘roofs’ were on hand to tidy up the deluge afterwards. It was after all, our swansong.
Finally, the day we’d all been waiting for – klaar out day. Our two years was up, and we duly headed back to Civvy Street to start life in earnest. Just 12 months later, I was back for my first camp, this time at Hoedspruit, another joint I hadn’t even heard of..