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Archive for July, 2011

The old beehive huts at Lalapansi

My childhood is an old red kombi, its seats pushed flat so that a mattress can be stuffed in the back and three little girls can fall fast asleep on long drives up and down the country. Buddy Holly tapes were the soundtrack to many of these trips and the taste of fried chicken legs and cold coca-cola were always on our tongues. Boiled eggs with salt and the whispering of the lala palms in the wind as you flew along the dirt roads. The halfway point stop at the Forest Inn hotel for toasted sarmies and cans of MelloYello to break the long trip, are forever etched in my memory.

Niamh (left) and I (right) with Marietta and Aggie – Aggie you look exactly the same 32 years later!

It’s easy to forget great swathes of your childhood but thankfully it only takes a sound, a smell or a sight to bring it rushing back to you. And this can happen in the most unlikely of places; I was walking down a small street in a town called Kinsale in Ireland last year with my older sister when the smell of a peat fire wafted down the street to greet us. We turned to each other simultaneously and said: Zululand.

Mom and the girls in the lala palms

My dad coined the term a Zululand day. We’d often come home from school and he’d be gone. He’d wake up in the morning, take a look at the great expanse of blue sky with the sun streaming down and say, “it’s a Zululand day”; and off he’d go for a few days of peace up in the bush. The Zululand of my youth is biting into large, sweet, juicy pineapple chunks; watching shooting stars fall from the great black night; sitting around a boma fire mesmerised by the flickering light; night drives in search of nocturnal animals; and the crying of bush babies high in the tree tops. It’s a bush camp with bee-hive huts and brown bath water pumped straight from the bore hole. Scorpions dropping out of the thatch and onto the floor and checking under your bed and beneath your sheets for snakes seeking warmth on a cold night. Bush potato and corn on the cob roasted in tin foil on the fire.

Off for a game drive in the old rust bucket

Bush Potato is one of the easiest and most delicious meals to go with a good South African braai. We were given the recipe by a German tourist who had found a way to create a potato and onion dish swimming in butter using only one large pot:

    * Slice 10 potatoes into 5mm circles. Do the same with 4 large onions.
    * Melt a nice chunk of butter in a big pot on the stove or gas ring.
    * Add the onion and the potato to the pot.
    * Season with salt and pepper and stir so that all of the potato and onion is covered in the melted butter. 
    * Cover with a lid and leave on low heat, stirring occasionally so that the potato and onion doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
    * The condensation from the pot lid should drop into the pot keeping the moisture levels just right.
    * Keep checking until you think the potato is good and ready to be eaten.
    * This doesn’t work with waxy potatoes but works really well with the floury ones.
    * Serve this with a fresh green salad, corn on the cob and copious amount of meat; ribs, boerewors, steaks and chicken legs. Mmmmmm!

There is nothing quite like the African bush; away from the city with all its noise and light pollution, you really experience a world like no other. The night sky is so unbelievably wide and lights up with a trail of stars that extends far beyond what you have ever imagined. In our youth the stars used to fall straight from the sky in abundance; today you don’t see them as much as the light from the ever encroaching cities blot out the true black of night. This is a childhood I hope I can offer my children; one of excitement and wonder at this fascinating world which God created. The chance to send slender grass shoots down an ant lion hole and watch the creature move at the speed of light to catch the unfortunate and unsuspecting ‘prey’. To sit for hours on haunches engrossed in the antics of dung beetles as they carefully roll rhino poo into large balls and then wheel-barrow them to some unknown destination. The chirp-chirping of the reed frogs which declared the end of a long scorching day and welcomed in the soft night as the inky darkness folded itself around the trees and the palms.

Dippy Egg brekkie with dad

Days spent at the pool submerged like hipppos wallowing in the glutinous mud and nights spent stalking glow worms which we’d capture in glass jars and release the next morning once their eerie green bodies had returned to a boring brown pallor. The various testing methods of my sister Cara on buck poo (a la David Attenborough) to check exactly what had been eaten by said buck, and of course, which type could be thrown the furtherest.

No gameboy, no xbox or play station. Just trees to be climbed, lizards to be tracked and the wild to be enthralled by.

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