Slowly, slowly, the mystiqueness that surrounds The Bushguy is unravelling.
I’ve told you in previous instalments of The Bush Palace Chronicles about our bush-dwelling recluse who shies away from people and their cluttered, noisy lives and chooses to live quietly in a three-walled cabin deep in the coastal vegetation behind the Bush Palace.
To refresh your memories, I could add that he only ever wears a pair of navy blue shorts and shuns a shirt and shoes, even in the most adverse weather conditions. Well, as adverse as the weather gets in our sub-tropical paradise of Umdloti.
I bumped into The Film Director, the cool guy who lives in a cottage immediately behind the Bush Palace, at the foot of the steps leading up to our jungle hideaway. He had been surfing and was chilling on the steps with a Castle Milk Stout, apparently still mesmerised by the waves he had caught. Ever the nosey journo-blogger, I probed for info about our Bushguy.
TFD (the Film Director) confided that the only time he had seen Bushguy’s rustic lodgings was when he heard a loud crash one afternoon and went to investigate. “I called out into the dense bush to ask if he was OK and he said he was. Apparently, he had a fourth wall on his log cabin which operated on a pulley system so that it could be lowered on very hot days and then raised when it rained and got chilly.
“What had happened was the pulley system had rusted and that afternoon the whole contraption broke and the fourth wall collapsed,” said TFD. “He’s never bothered to have it fixed so he lives and sleeps with one side of his cabin totally open to the elements, not to mention snakes, vervet monkeys and all the creepy-crawlies that lives in our bush.”
I love this. I don’t know about you, dear Hatpeople, but Bushguy deeply fascinates me. Not least because I can see the appeal in the lifestyle he has chosen. It’s natural. It’s wild. It’s, yes, deeply spiritual.
But it got better at the weekend. On Sunday, the hottest day we’ve had in a while, I strolled along North Beach – still unfamiliar to me – looking for a gap in the rocks where I could swim. Bushguy’s coming towards me with two of his dogs and a piece of wooden panel under his arm. He recognised me and gave me that haute enigmatique smile. After he had shown me a spot in the ocean, clear of reef, where I could swim, I pointed to his piece of wood and asked him if he had been bodyboarding.
“No, skimboarding,” our man of few words murmured. “I made this out of something I found. It works really well. Want to see?” He ran off towards the waves and I got my camera out just in time to record this…
Bushguy's wooden panel from somebody's former wardrobe works a treat as he skims impressively into the ocean...
... and he's engulfed by the foamy stuff as his skimboard ride comes to an end...
... and, without so much as a 'how's your father', Bushguy lopes off along the beach back to his safe haven in the bush Pix: Hatman
Got to love Bushguy! Enigmatique or what? More on him and his life in the wild as it all unfolds…
I was asked by The Darj to photograph her little angel’s eighth birthday party. Sweetness overload.
A man covered in tattoos came along and gave an educational reptiles display. He pulled all sorts of scaly living things out of bags and boxes and had the little people oohing and aahing. Grass snakes, bush snakes, corn snakes, a python, even a boa constrictor. The kids got to touch some, even hold some. Fun and games.
But this little critter caught my eye…
Nice. Just how I like my frogs. Ugly, clammy, sweaty, supporating, beautiful.
But we can't be completely sure that The Birthday Girl feels that there's any chance that a prince will emerge from this scenario! Pix: Hatman
I sent your Intrigue-o-meter soaring when I intro’d you to The Bushguy in my first Bush Palace Chronicles post last week. And I promised updates on this highly unusual individual if and when information became available.
Not only has a snippet or two of info been leaked to me but I have a picture of the man who chooses to live only in shorts in a three-walled dwelling deep in the bush behind The Bush Palace.
If Austin Powers dubbed himself to be an International Man of Mystery, then Bushguy is Umdloti’s Local Man of Mystique. But let’s chat excitedly later and try to build a profile of a young man who flits about in the bush with his three dogs, wears the same pair of shorts every day, is seen only when he sprints down to the Bush Palace main residence for a cold shower under the building and, for all we know, lives off berries and goodness-knows-what-else, if anything, in our pristine patch of sub-tropical coastal bush hugging the Indian Ocean.
OK. I will keep you waiting no longer. Here is the only known photograph captured of Bushguy (since he left school, I imagine… and I can only assume that he attended school at some point)…
That's him! The Bushguy. Melting into the bush after a shower under our house! But wait. Thanks to new technology, of which I have only recently become aware, I can take your closer to our Local Man of Mega Mystique. Fasten your seatbelts as I zoom you in...
Ah, that's better. You will have to take my word that he is a deadringer for a young Kenneth Branagh, the British actor and director. Pics by The Heartman
There you are. I’m sorry this pic does not show his face but even The Heartman is respectful of Bushguy’s clear wish to live undisturbed in our dense vegetation and be left well alone. This is the lifestyle he has chosen – for whatever reason… and this I would love to know much more about – and the other resident characters of The Bush Palace want to be as unobtrusive as possible. Apart from me, of course.
I can tell you that he resembles a young Kenneth Branagh, only more handsome, and that he must be around the age of 28. I suspect that reclusivologists would remark that this is young for a person to cut themselves off from the outside world and it does indeed seem that way. Right. Let’s come over all CSI or whatever those programmes are which feature nosey people who piece together bits of info to form a profile of somebody nobody knows much about…
1. The Bushguy is about 28, fair-haired, medium-build, looks better than Ken Branagh did at 28 and wears the same dark-blue shorts every day.
2. TBG (The Bush Guy), because I don’t want to type it all out every time, lives with three dogs in a three-walled wooden structure about 50m behind The Bush Palace and deep in very dense bush. There is a wooden fence which encloses his bit of land and screens off his private space from curious outsiders such as myself.
3. TBG only seems to leave the wider Bush Palace property to swim with his dogs in the nearby La Mercy Lagoon – I think he prefers to go through the bush to get there rather than use the beach – and has never been spotted in town doing anything like shopping, eating or drinking at the Bush Tavern.
4. He has never been seen carrying shopping bags, leading to speculation that he must be living off what he finds in the bush. In other words, and I mean no disrespect, he shares a diet similar to that of the local troop of vervet monkeys.
5. The only reasonably regular sightings of TBG are to be had when he rushes – he moves athletically and surefootedly – down the path and under the house to have a shower. Working as I do on my deck, I catch sight of him out of the corner of my eye and wave at him in a friendly manner, saying “Hi, how are you?” TBG never responds verbally, choosing instead to lift a hand in recognition and give out an enigmatic smile. Excruciatingly enigmatique. What I sense from his demeanour, his body language, indeed his energy, is an overwhelming gentleness, tranquility and perhaps a little vulnerability. An intense spirituality nourished, perhaps, by his powerful and virtually exclusive connection with nature. A man who is very much content to live away from people and their noisy cars, people and their noisy cellphones, people and their noisy lives. People and their noisy energy.
That, my dear Hatpeople, is all I know. The Heartman, The Fiancee and The Film Director, my fellow Bush Palace residents, know no more. Being an ex-journo, I am primed to dig deeper – but I, like the others, do not wish to upset Bushguy. But what drove him, drives him, to live reclusively among the monkeys, the birds, the snakes, the buck? What happened? Was there one extremely traumatic incident which led him to live this life? Was it a series of unfortunate events which left him disillusioned with humankind? I want to find out. I need to find out. Because, and I open my heart to you, there is a sizable chunk of me which feels strongly inclined to embrace a lifestyle similar to his. Because I would much rather listen to the haunting hoot (which sounds like two steel pipes being rubbed against one another) of the strange bird that I can hear right now than the brain-wrenching shriek of a car burglar alarm.
Oh, I took these pictures from my deck yesterday… and suddenly feel moved to show them to you (probably because I’m so powerfully in “intrigued-by-Bushguy” mode)…
If activity on this blog in the past couple of days has appeared to be less detectable on your radar than the usual blip-blip-blip, my dear Hatpeople, then it’s because I’ve been moving house. Through necessity.
Yes. The staff at Hatman Mansions, led by Alfred, demanded a summer break. I played with the idea of denying them their annual holiday, if only for the entertainment value of watching them toyi-toyi on the front lawn in colourful protest, but chose not to provoke an international incident.
Being an innately decent sort, I declared that they could naff off for a full three months – on full pay – as I was off to organise and participate in The Heart & Sole Tour – y’know, the one in which The Heartman (Geoff Brink) will UNICYCLE 1,700km from Durban to Cape Town to raise awareness of the very nasty scourge of landmines.
Nkosi Alfred roused the staff into a joyous and frenzied dance, sang “For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow” in isiZulu, grabbed their belongings and raced for the gate, pausing only briefly to give me an interesting wave which appeared suspiciously to feature quite prominently the extended use of middle fingers.
So it is that I find myself at The Bush Palace. Now I must try to find words to do justice to my new, if far too temporary home. Idyllic. Sublime. Chuffing magnificent. Those will have to suffice.
I mean, please take just a mo to drink in the view from where I sit right now, hammering out these words of happy…
The view from my desk on the deck outside The Hatman Wing... not altogether shabby, hey? Even if a tad cloudy on the first day. Oh, that's Meditation Man posing on the balustrade... he's another story at another time!
Mmmm. OK. Let’s step right up to the balustrade and take another peek at our slice of the Oceana Indiana, shall we?
Oh, look. A beach. that will be our private Bush Palace beach, people. Yumness. Care to join us for a braai this weekend? Bring and share.
How do you feel about that?
How did I feel when I awoke at my usual time of 4.58am, stumbled out of the Hatman Wing to sup on last night’s tea… and saw about a dozen dolphins catching waves directly in front of The Bush Palace? They were generally headed towards Durban but, ever in playful mood, had paused to ride a cool left-hander, peeling off at the last second to bounce back into the school. Stokedness. No whales as yet, but I trust there will be a Breeching Display sometime today.
OK. So allow me to introduce you to The Bush Palace Characters. You already know The Heartman pretty well. Madman. Extraordinary guy. Top-notch friend. He and The Fiancee (along with PhutuShark the Alsatian/Africanus crossbreed, Lucy Lu the pedigree Bull Mastiff and Bellatjie the Dachshund, occupy the main building, of which the new Hatman Wing forms a part. You’ll get to know this beautiful couple and their dogs very well as I update you on The Heart & Sole Tour. So let’s move on for now.
Behind the main palace building is a tasty not-so-little rustic cottage. The Film Director lives there. Cool guy. He surfs and dives and skateboards a lot when he’s not filming. And he attracts very hot women with his extremely positive vibe. I’ll develop his personality – not that he needs it developed – to you as we go along.
Ahoy! The Whales Breeching Display is on! Let me grab my Kodak Instamatic and see what I can do…
OK. I’m back and the film is being developed… hang on… here we go!
OK, so I need to upgrade from my old Instamatic to a turbo-charged Nikon V8 or something... but, if you train your binocs on your screen you can make out a whale at play... can you? What? Just move binocs down from container ship to black speck. Well done!
Alright. I’m sorry. Let me zoom in on those binocs of yours… ah, there you go. *Passes back binocs*
I told you. A whale. Or are there two? See the splash? It's either that or The Heartman going for his early morning goof!
Right. Can I go back to my Character illustrations? Coolness.
So, as I was saying before the whales deliciously interrupted me, then there’s The Gardening Executive. He lives in a wooden cabin adjacent to The Film Director’s cottage and tends to the small lawn and attendant palm trees which grows on the cleared space around The Bush Palace. Allegedly. I’ve seen him once. He’s very quiet. Big toothy grin. And he comes to the Bush Palace at strange times, asking for a few teabags and some bread. If I see him actually working on the property I’ll photograph him for you. And for posterity.
Now. Hear this, all ye who enter this blog! Bushguy. That’s what I’ll call him. He blows my mind. Bushguy lives in a three-walled structure deep in the coastal bush behind Bush Palace but still on the same property. He never wears a shirt or shoes, come winter or summer, rain or shine, and I’ve seen him three times. Once, before I moved in here, I saw him swimming with his three dogs in the nearby lagoon. He didn’t swim like a person. He used the lagoon as would a dog or perhaps a dolphin. A pure and simple celebration of being submerged in water. He seemed to form part of his pack of dogs. Splashing, diving, jumping, just being in the moment.
The next time I saw Bushguy, he was running up the 147 steps from the beach to The Bush Palace in the rain. No shirt. With his dogs. I had been dragging my worldly chattels up these steps for several hours, stopping several times on each trip to catch my breath, and was exhausted. “You must be super-fit,” I coughed, “to run up these steps like this!” Barely breathing, let alone panting, he smiled as he bounded past and said: “It makes no difference.” Enigmatique, oui?
Then, just 20 minutes ago, he charged down the hill into the clearing on which the Bush Palace stands and I raised my hand and said “Hey, “Bushguy” (but I actually addressed him by his real name, right?), how are you?” He didn’t speak but gave me the enigmatic smile and disappeared under the stilted Bush Palace, where I could hear him taking a cold shower in the old and otherwise unused shower cubicle below.
Are you intrigued by Bushguy? I am. Big-time. I’d love to interview him for my weekly “Umdloti Interview” but The Heartman and The Fiancee rightly suggest that I take my time to gradually get to know him and win his trust before suggesting anything as alien to him as an interview. So, I’ll content myself by sporadically reporting on this blog any new sightings of Bushguy. Too much of mystique.
One thing is for sure. I’ll only be seeing him running around shirtless in this piece of pristine indigenous bush which surrounds The Bush Palace. Nobody has even seen him shopping or eating or drinking in town. He’s seriously feral. For all we know, Bushguy lives off berries and other stuff found in the bush. I’ll pass on further info on him as it is becomes available. Fascinatingness!
And, oh yes, there is – as you would expect – a massive amount of richly diverse birdlife (sunbirds fly into the banqueting hall to suck nectar from the cut flowers), snakelife (nothing found in my bed as yet), and bucklife… a couple of sweet duiker like to nibble in the garden early-doors. Words and pictures on all this and much more as it unfolds, dear Hatpeople!
Let me leave you with this. After my BPC photo-shoot was done, I retired to my lodgings only to be confronted with this going past my window…
The Heartman heading off to the bush to shoot his breakfast. Needs protein for his 1,700km Heart & Sole ride to Cape Town he says. I don't approve. What's wrong with Milo Flakes, I ask. But our unicyclist rolls his own way. As you'll find out...
In the fourth of my weekly interviews with an interesting resident of Umdloti, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa – the idyllic seaside village in which I am blessed to live – I asked the Big Five questions of Andre Cronje, director of the Wild Touch programme on SABC.
Let’s have a quick look at him, shall we?
FH:You grew up in or near the bustling metropolis of Johannesburg, yet knew from a very early age that you wanted to be out in the bush and working with wildlife… how did that come about?
AC: You see, Jozi-city is one of the most hardcore jungles out there. If you look at any aerial shot of the place it’s striking how many trees there are, there are also some crazy animals lurking in the bushes. On a more serious note, most of my ancestors were hunters, farmers and fishermen. I guess a love and understanding for nature is in my blood.
FH:You have been involved with Wild Touch, SABC’s popular wildlife educational programme, since its inception and now direct the series. How did you get involved and what does working with the programme mean to you?
AC: I have been working in the television industry for 11 years now so you naturally get involved with the kind of projects that fits your profile. It’s important for me to believe in what I invest my time and effort in. Series Directing Wild Touch is very rewarding because I know that I’m involved with sharing something beautiful and important with the nation.
FH:We are constantly being alerted to horror stories related to the degradation of our environment. Working so closely with it, what is your experience of human abuse of the environment and what would your message be to the youth who are to inherit it?
AC: You said I must keep my answers short, this question might take days to answer! But I think if we look around us right now, you will see the answer. The abuse that’s visible in the environment is only a mirror of our abuse of ourselves. Just like the orangutang, we are also running out of living space and just like the fish in our rivers the polluted water will also kill us. If there is a message for the youth it would be to start a revolution! Don’t be as ignorant as me, your parents, your teachers or our world governments. Don’t accept the easy way out and do question what is going on around you. To this day we are pretending that we don’t know that we are killing the earth and ourselves.
FH: A group of foreign visitors to South Africa (let’s say, ahem, a gaggle of gorgeous Scandinavian environmental science students, shall we?) arrive on your doorstep and demand to be shown the finest wildlife attractions our country has to offer. Where would you take them? And why?
AC: It depends… the Scandinavian students can hang around my house for a week or so and they’ll get up close with vervet monkeys, various snakes, spiders, amphibians, whales, dolphins and the beautiful birds of prey that hang out here. If it’s a small group I’ll take them on a wilderness walk through the Umfolosi Game reserve. Am I allowed to punt any cool organisations on this blog? Check out www.wildernesstrails.org.za.
FH:Cool. OK. So, you’re often to be seen surfing off and skateboarding around our gem of a seaside village, Umdloti. And I happen to know that you live in a beautiful house hidden deep in the bush on a hill overlooking our bit of the Indian Ocean. How did you get to be such a lucky bugger? And, go on, make us all insanely jealous… please describe your paradisical living-in-Umdloti-vibe!
AC: Jeez, Hatman, you just blew my cover. I was put under a witness protection programme several years ago and they forgot about me. I’ve been trying to get out of this lifestyle for years! Jokes aside, if you let go of your fear, everything else happens naturally. I remember as a kid I dreamed that I was surfing some deserted island. Everyone around me always said that it’s a silly dream because I live in a city 600km away from the sea. So I thought F@*^ you all and I started imagining that my skateboard had no wheels and the concrete was water. The rest is history as I have since spent tmy life living my dreams. I do want to encourage everyone to live their dreams, however far your imagination runs… though it’s crucial that you never forget this: “Concrete is not water” and you will get hurt along the way. So to answer your question about how I got to be such a lucky bugger… “no matter how hard you fall if you get up and try again, you will succeed”. Oh, and by the way this doesn’t mean that it won’t hurt like hell either.