So The Heartman and I will trundle out of Durban from Wilson’s Wharf on Monday (ETD: 8.30am) headed for 1,700km of pure adventure. We are jumping up and down with anticipation. There is a humungous reservoir brimming with adrenaline that needs to be broken. As my young surfer tjommies would say, we are “amped to a scale of total radness”.
But I’ll miss the Bush Palace, our Heart & Sole Tour control tower nestling in the bush on a hill overlooking our sublime Indian Ocean in Umdloti. I’ll miss the resident population (five people, seven dogs, a troop of vervet monkeys, a few buck and gollyness only knows how many beautiful birds and snakes.
I’ll miss the irregular cabaret put on by the humpback whales and dolphins. I only wish they would give me a start time, like they do on television, so that I can have my Kodak Instamatic at the ready. The sunrises, the electrical storms, the lagoon, the Bushguy.
Me and Bushguy are making quite a nice connection. We passed on the 147 steps leading up to the Bush Palace the other day and got to talking about our bush idyll and how long it would last before the greedy property developers start munching on it to regurgitate huge profits with even more high-rise holiday apartment blocks which wealthy people occupy for a month each year.
He asked me if I had watched “What The Bleep!” and I said I had seen it a couple of years ago. “Would you like to see it again?” asked Bushguy, “I have a DVD I could lend you.” “I would,” I replied and before I had finished saying that, Bushguy had raced back to his hut in the bush, grabbed it and was thrusting it into my hands. “You can’t watch this often enough,” he said.
There you go. If you want to begin to understand what makes the enigmatique Bushguy tick, get out “What The Bleep!” and learn.
In the meantime, enjoy some images of life at The Bush Palace, an extraordinary place that I will greatly miss over the coming weeks…
This school of dolphins graced our bit of the ocean yesterday morning Pic: Hatman
This electrical storm popped by to say a loud hello yesterday evening... Pic: Hatman
Then not one rainbow but two decided to give us a bit of a show... Pic: Hatman
Then there was just time for quite a nifty sunset before the sky fell into blackness and the stars burst forth... Pic: Hatman
But that wasn’t enough. At 1am this morning, The Heartman takes a call from distant neighbour Darren Aiken that a bushpig has been spotted snouting around in his part of the bush…
... and this is what it looked like. Schweetness overload, hey? Pic: The Heartman
All in a day’s hard labour while living the holiday in the Umdloti bush. I’m sure we have your sympathy. Because we’ll need it when we leave all of this behind to unicycle all the way down to Cape Town! Kaapschstad, hier kom ons!
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 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)…
In the fifth of my weekly interviews with interesting people living in Umdloti (on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast, South Africa), I asked the Big Five questions of Germaine Horowitz, tireless founder and co-ordinator of The Kidz Clinic, which reaches out to and counsels children, living in and around Waterloo township, near Umdloti, who have been sexually abused.
FH:Please describe for us how you got into doing the work you are doing for the children of Waterloo township?
GH: Waterloo was once a sugar farm which belonged to the Rey family. I was at school with one of the daughters of the farmer and I had horses at the Ottawa stables. I have great memories as a teenager of my visits and Bob Marley parties at the farm house which is actually today a magnificent but badly neglected registered National Monument now known as Ottawa House. I have held several meetings over the last six years with the eThekwini Mayors Office, the Department of Housing, the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Arts and Culture to establish an Arts Community Centre at Ottawa House. So far no signatures but the community continues to manage hosting conferences, various theatrical rehearsals and three weeks ago a radio station playing on FM 94.7 started broadcasting there from 5am to 6am – I did an interview this morning. Now we have the task of raising the funds to have an independent radio station. Where was I? While I was running the Market Theatre Photography School for David Goldblatt in the late 1990s, I met up with people from Women and Men Against Child Abuse whose anti-child abuse demonstrations made great photographic material for our photography students. I eventually started campaigning for them and have remained in contact with them over the years… so when their main supporters Vodacom asked them to go national in 2008 they called me to research and set up a Kidz Clinic in Durban. With the help of Jacki Bruniquel, the fabulous Umdloti artist who you have already interviewed, and two Waterloo artists, Linda and Xolisis, helped me to open a beautiful “clinic” in the Waterloo Community Centre and we had our first case in June of 2008.
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.
Here in Umdloti we are very accustomed to dealing with cheeky monkeys.
There’s Julius Malema, the loudmouthed oke from the ANC Youth League who uses any media forum available to tell all South Africans what to do and not to do, there’s the Manchester United chop at the Bush Tavern who never fails to get on my case when Liverpool FC lose (currently every time they play) and then there’s the local troop of vervet monkeys (see one of them below) which use Hatman Mansions as their local supermarket (well, they would if The Scrapster and Doodlebug, my Jack Russells, weren’t constantly barking up their blue arses).
Yes, the southern African vervet monkey (male gender) have bright blue arses and, wait for it, crimson-red penises. They are colourful characters and I apprehended three in my bedroom the other day just as one was about to chomp into the Hatman Mansions copy of Kama Sutra 365 (Dorling Kindersley, R106).
This is what Juli, I mean the southern African vervet monkey looks like (when it’s not making inroads into my bedtime reading)…
A vervet monkey, not in a book-eating frame of mind
Apologies for not showing you the blue derriere and red “tummy banana” but this is a family blog, OK?
OK. So then there’s something else completely. A monkey that takes taking things to a new level altogether. Allow me to introduce you to, at first glance, a rather charming little monkeyette (a Tamarind I believe, and not indigenous to South Africa) which I stumbled upon on Umdloti beach while cowrie-collecting with The Darj. It managed to nick her ear-ring and, as swift as a Julius Malema insult, deposited it in her pram from whence it never returned.
That’s right. I said “pram”. Patience, please. Watch this most heinous of South African crime stories unfold before your astonished eyes…
Tammy, dressed for the beach in her best pink frock, sucks up to me (and my leg) in order to strike up an instant camaraderie. Please note the ring on her finger... this will become important as we go on...
Tammy, by frolicking in a most appealing manner on the arm of The Darj, shrewdly engages with her sweet nature and lulls her into a sense of false security...
All the fun under the sun turns into felony as, suddenly, snatch-bang-wallop, The Darj's right earring disappears into Tam's little pink frock...
Quick as a thief, Tam's back in her pram, the earring is secreted away deep in her stash and she's already scanning the beach for her next victim...
No pork. This is actually what happened. What do you think of that? I’ll tell you what I think of it. The couple who were sitting next to the pram and to whom Tam intermittently jumped to and fro from her pram, probably receiving logistical instructions, remained silent and stared out to sea while all this was going on. When The Darj exclaimed “Hey, it’s taken my earring” – to which I responded with a loud “What? The monkey STOLE your earring?!” – the couple turned and looked northwards down the beach with deadpan faces.
When I moved in front of them and said, far too politely, “Excuse me, your monkey appears to…” the guy looked at me, smiled and shrugged his shoulders. At the sight of me starting to suck in my stomach so as to increase the size of my chest, The Darj said “Hey, Hatman, they’re cheap earrings, just forget about it.” I stared at the guy and he gave me the laziest of eyes, as if he were from Kakkiesfontein and didn’t understand English.
We continued our search for the ever-elusive cowrie shells while I toyed with various guesstimates of how much jewelry was hidden under “baby” Tam’s pillow in that ridiculous pram.
Yowzerness. Given the tough economic climate and all that, I reckon that couple are on to something there. Catching a tan on the sun-drenched sands while putting your pet Tamarind monkey to work on innocent beachgoers is taking “Living The Holiday” to another stratosphere, isn’t it?