2021, my year in review.

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It has been an interesting year to say the least. May you live in interesting times, and I certainly have this past year. Trying to become a travelling travel writer once again has not been easy but I have persevered and it has paid off . Many have fallen by the wayside and I am grateful and blessed to have had support from both clients and my wife to keep me motivated when the light at the end of the tunnel was unceremoniously turned on and off by ESKOM. The words 'family meeting' will never be confused with meeting with real family as the pandemic has put a halt to that, especially if the family concerned is spread across continents. "This too shall pass"? Will it and if so when or is this what lies instore as we head into 2022? Or should that be 2021.2, the redux?

 

 

 

“The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.” Jack London 1903. The call of the Wild.

I hope that I used the year to the best of my ability…

 

 

 

Time to fade out 2021 and prepare for whatever 2022 has in store? In this post I take a look at how I spent some of the year. I have to thank each and every lodge that hosted me (and sometimes my wife as well).

Your kindness and hospitality enabled me to keep both my sanity and this Blog active during lockdown, not to mention making my bank manager relatively happy.

To the new friendships made and old ones maintained…I hope that 2022 will allow us to meet again in person and not via electronic devices.

 

 

 

What a stink the year has caused for a variety of reasons. Vaxxed vs Anti-vaxxed, conspiracy theorists v science and so much more. However, for me, it was about perspective. Did I want to be in front or behind, breathing in the negativity that was being spewed by those who were keen to disseminate false news and opinions based on nothing more than Facebook chatter?

Did I sit at home and complain ALL THE TIME? Not really, just SOME of the time. It was hard to remain positive all the time and my mask, both literal and figurative, would drop and I would have to reveal my true feelings.

 

 

 

Happy Valentines Day…A Pilanesberg traffic jam. At the time, my wife and I thought that this was a close encounter. All that changed later in the year when we had elephant trunks INSIDE our vehicle.

My wife and I spent time at one of the commercial lodges in the park but were not happy with the number of people on the vehicle and the general lack of social distancing at the lodge. The roads in the park also leave a lot to be desired as they are in desperate need of repair, but there seems to be a lack of funds to effect the necessary repairs. That being said, it is still one of the closest Big 5 reserves to Johannesburg and we did make some new friends while we were there.

 

 

 

We paid a return visit to the Old No7 Houseboats on the Vaal where I proposed to my wife back in 2006. We arrived in the rain, much like our first visit and chose to spend the night at the dock near the reception.

When the following day dawned clear and bright, we took off down the river and this time made certain that when we tied up for the evening, we were correctly anchored.

Since our visit, I believe that the boats have undergone a makeover and new guests will be able to enjoy upgraded features and facilities. This form of holiday is highly recommended as it can be both an adventure and an experience for couples and families alike.

 

 

 

What did I learn from COVID-19? Like giraffes, who are experts in delayed gratification, I had to learn that I had to adapt every time the protocols changed.

But then again, if you had to put yourself in a similar position every time you wanted a drink you would be just as cautious.

 

 

 

We paid a visit to Sabi Sands where daily leopard sightings can almost be guaranteed. This female was seen during a drive from my wife’s favourite camp, Idube. In this part of South Africa, these elusive predators literally fall out of the trees,

On this particular drive, aside from this female and her cub, we also found the dominant male in the area as well as two other leopards. This is why I love Africa!

 

 

 

Who knew that there were peaceful and calm waters in the South of Johannesburg. My wife and I crossed Commissioner Street to see what was on the other side and we were pleasantly surprised. I do believe that more of us who live in the Northern or Western suburbs should visit the South. It was like being in a different city.

Do you want to feel like you are on holiday without leaving your home town/city? Then fill up at a petrol station in a suburb that you have never visited before…

 

 

 

One of our favourite lodges and one that we don’t get to visit often enough. Thula Thula in KZN. Our accommodation was bigger than my apartment when I moved to Johannesburg back in 1976.

A return visit for us both and it was wonderful to discover that aside from the rhinos that were calves on our previous visit, they are now bigger and the male can be somewhat grumpy, nothing much has changed.

 

 

 

The elephants at Thula Thula are inquisitive but relaxed…

Given the history of this herd, it is amazing just how welcoming and accepting they can be. Leaving this reserve and visiting others, I had to be aware that not all elephants behave as these do.

 

 

 

A first for us, a visit to this tiny coastal town where we stayed at the St. Lucia Guesthouse. We were surprised by just how much of a tourist destination it is and the variety of activities it offers. There are cruises on the Estuary where huge pods of hippo and basks of crocodiles can be spotted. For me, one of the most interesting facts is just how quickly the sun sets in this part of our country. On the afternoon that we were on the estuary, it vanished in less than 10 minutes!

Visitors to the area are encouraged to pay a visit to Cape Vidal and, of course, the beach and the Indian Ocean that is not too far away from where we stayed.

 

 

 

I got to see some interesting animals during the year. This Bat-eared fox at Marataba was not a first for me but it has been a while since I have seen one up close.

 

 

 

We got to stay at the wonderful Griffons Bush Camp. No electricity, no connectivity but what a wonderful place to relax and unwind.

 

 

 

One of the best weeks of the year. Safari Guide of the Year at the NJ More Field Guide Academy. Getting to spend time with not only the top field guides but with legends and icons of the guiding industry was very special.

 

 

 

From a tent in the bush to the luxury of Clifftop Lodge. It was like being at a seaside resort set in the heart of the bush.

 

 

 

2021 seems to have been a Wild Dog year for me. I was privileged to find dogs at almost every reserve I visited. From a large pack of 20+ to a duo of two males, they were all exciting to watch and interact with.

 

 

 

I became the editor of this newspaper based in Hoedspruit.

This is the link to the December issue: https://issuu.com/heidileesmith/docs/kruger2canyon_vol_19.20_22_december_2021?fbclid=IwAR2_u0IcQDI9nd9ne4xvPOFSGszEvrmNVDEDSNAOGtVuXwk1MUyUxYu5mI8

 

 

 

I had a double cataract operation that has allowed me to not wear spectacles for the first time in almost 50 years! I can highly recommend the results to anyone who is considering the possibility of the operation.

 

 

 

The Dive Inn in Pongola was an unexpected gem. Hidden behind a high, bland wall, this was one of the best ‘finds’ of the year and one that we hope to revisit in 2022 on our next coastal trip.

 

 

 

I got two magazine covers in 2021! This was the second of those. Both covers were for Wild Campus

 

 

Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge…One day all lodges will be designed like this.

Although only a quick, one-night visit it is a must return destination for 2022.

 

 

I got to spend time with my daughter, Jayne, at Anew Hunter’s Rest in the Magaliesberg. A wonderful bonding weekend and time together that we had not had for a long while.

 

 

 

I said goodbye to my Mom-in-law, Dorrine in October. Our relationship centred around food, with her always making my favourites for a Friday night dinner or a special occasion like my birthday. She played a large part in my life and despite my teasing had welcomed me into both her home and the Fedler family. Although she had already died by the time we got to the family home on that fateful October Sunday, she enabled me to come to terms with the death of my father(in 2004) that I had not been present for as he had died in Port Elizabeth and I was unable to get there until the cremation. Dorrine, you have left a large void in my life and although your place at the dinner table may be empty, you will always be in my heart.

The Ship. Bishop Brent
What is dying
I am standing on the seashore, a ship sails in the morning breeze and starts for the ocean.
She is an object of beauty and I stand watching her till at last she fades on the horizon and someone at my side says: “She is gone.”
Gone!
Where
Gone from my sight that is all.
She is just as large in the masts, hull and spars as she was when I saw her, and just as able to bear her load of living freight to its destination.
The diminished size and total loss of sight is in me, not in her, and just at the moment when someone at my side says,
“She is gone”
there are others who are watching her coming, and other voices take up a glad shout:
“There she comes!”
and that is dying.

 

 

 

A hippo putting on a convincing territorial display. In the short time that I spent photographing this hippo, he put on such an awesome display that I thought he deserved his own Blog post: https://travelandthings.co.za/2021/12/not-a-happy-hippo-kwambili-safari-lodge-thornybush/

 

 

 

A return visit to Walkersons in Dullstroom…and we brought the rain and the mist with us.

 

 

 

Senalala, a special camp for a variety of reasons. One of the few camps where I spent the penultimate day of my visit trying to figure out how to explain to my wife I may never return home. And how to tell the lodge manager that I would not be vacating my room.

Sadly, and for obvious reasons, neither of those requests were spoken out loud.

 

 

 

I was commissioned to do a photoshoot for Ruggedwear and this advert was the outcome.

 

 

 

And one final trip to Limpopo Field Guiding Academy. I was there for a track and sign assessment. I was going to participate but decided that I did not know nearly enough. That being said, I got much more correct than I thought I would.

Thanks to (L to R) Pioneer, Massi and Mark for making me feel welcome.

 

 

 

COVID knocked on my door briefly. I tested positive on a Tuesday and negative the next day.  With no symptoms either before or after.

 

 

 

One last trip of the year. A return visit to KwaFubesi…a great way to end off the year.

 

 

 

December 31st would have been my Dad’s 96th birthday. I say would have been as he died in October 2004 from a massive stroke. Gone in 4 hours and he died in the manner in which he lived, he did not want to be a burden to anyone.

Happy birthday, Dad. You are missed every day.

Death Is Nothing At All. Henry Scott-Holland
Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Nothing has happened.
Everything remains exactly as it was.
I am I, and you are you,
and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was.
There is absolute and unbroken continuity.
What is this death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval,
somewhere very near,
just round the corner.
All is well.
Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!

 

 

 

For all those who have lost loved ones during the year…

 

 

 

THIS is how we celebrate the end of the year at our house. We cover ALL the bases, just in case.

 

 

 

And finally, to my wife Carolyn. My rock and my lighthouse…thank you for being you and for allowing me to pursue what makes me happy. Without you, I would not be who I am today…
“To love someone long-term is to attend a thousand funerals of the people they used to be.
The people they’re too exhausted to be any longer. The people they grew out of, the people they never ended up growing into. We so badly want the people we love to get their spark back when it burns out, to become speedily found when they are lost.
But it is not our job to hold anyone accountable to the people they used to be. It is our job to travel with them between each version and to honour what emerges along the way. Sometimes it will be an even more luminescent flame. Sometimes it will be a flicker that temporarily floods the room with a perfect and necessary darkness”~Heidi Priebe

 

 

Will 2022 be any better? We can only hope. I wish each and every one of my readers all that they wish for themselves for the 12 months that lie ahead. Use them wisely. Stay safe and stay healthy.

I will end off with these words by D. Simone    :

“May Light always surround you;
Hope kindle and rebound you.
May your Hurts turn to Healing;
Your Heart embrace Feeling.
May Wounds become Wisdom;
Every Kindness a Prism.
May Laughter infect you;
Your Passion resurrect you.
May Goodness inspire
your Deepest Desires.
Through all that you Reach For,
May your arms Never Tire.”
Time to wash off 2021 and prepare to meet 2022.

 

 

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