Duzi – Cuckoos and Bush Mechanics

Bart Fokkens and friends take to the banks of the Duzi again….

The plan was to walk from Guinea Fowl Take-out, back upstream to Grimthorpe Road where we had met at Brian and Solly Peckett’s home. The weather turned out to be our first hot day along the river compared to the other misty, cool and rainy days we had been treated to.  Solly offered to drive our truck back to the start, which made our planning a lot easier.

The land “managed” by Don English is heavily infested with Lantana and would need tons of money poured into it to reduce the infestations of the pretty flowered weeds. Orange, pink white and purple flowers all over . We saw a vast number of weeds along the stretch from Guinea Fowl to Mpushini.  Maybe because I work eradicating weeds I don’t always include them in my accounts of our walk. I always love the birds and try to ID indigenous trees, appreciate all the flowering plants along the way including the grasses, nogal. Yes, they flower too at this time of year. Weeds aplenty all along the section where there has been cultivation and along the roadsides. Even in the natural veld, Lantana and other invasive plants move in at the hint of disturbance by livestock.

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The long dirt track eventually gets us close to the take-out. Solly in her MTB outfit  after an early morning ride was ready to tackle the track. The mournful call of the Black cuckoo greeted us as we sipped our coffee. The sun was out and the bush was thick. Today was going to be a challenge.

With Doug leading the way, and Sam, Sithembiso and I following, we headed off into the jungle. We stayed on the left bank (always referred to when paddling downstream) from Guinea Fowl Take-out all the way to Campbells with no chance of crossing as the river was flowing strongly. Die, die die Diederik was another cuckoo calling, then the “Skiet my gou”  sorry, Piet my Vrou.  Pretty Georgie (Emerald cuckoo) also made sure we heard him, and before long cuckoo number five called the familiar Meidjie, Meidjie, Meidjie (Klaas’ Cuckoo).

campbells1We enjoyed the shade of the nut tree plantation along the banks and were soon back in the sun along a sugar cane plantation. Simon, the manager on the Edmonds farm was supervising the application of fertilizer with specialised wheel barrows.

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I wonder how long this fertilizer lies on the land to be absorbed and how much ends up in the rivers after a thunderstorm (invasive hyacinth thrives on this, of course). I guess one has to plan to apply it before a period of drizzle and not just before an afternoon thunderstorm.

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After the canefields we headed up along an open track through some impenetrable bush with Mauritius thorn.

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Fish Eagle called from way up along the ridge. Trumpeter Hornbill joined in too, wailing away. I was trying to teach the others some bird calls and enjoyed the Black Headed Oriole repeating himself to make sure he could be remembered with his liquid oriole call.  Along the river banks were lots of Honey Locust trees (Gleditsia triacanthos), at one time blocking our path with its’ evil thorns, so that we had to retreat and find another way. The shrill chirp of the Cicadas was piercing and there was one who was not camera shy.

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As the terrain flattened out a bit we came across what looked like an abandoned farm with some 10 Landrovers standing around. Leon and Zak came out to greet us and told us about their involvement with the Duzi as part of the Landrover Club.  These were two real Bush Mechanics who fix other people’s Landrovers.

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I think one can only get here with a Landrover and not a normal car. Leon led us to the river’s edge which the two “kortbroeks” with us discovered was infested with nettles. With tears in their eyes they retreated.  I had been warned of the nettles and Sam was also in longs.

Across Campbell’s Bridge and into a brown field recently sprayed with herbicide, killing all the weeds and grasses.  A parked car along the river bank belonged to a fisherman down for the day with his son.

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Hyacinth patches scattered here and there. A little further along Bush Pig had ploughed the field in search of tasty morsels.

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Out of the fields we headed along a Bush Pig trail ducking along an ill defined path.

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The next kilometer was slow going, hacking our way through the thicket, past an animal cage trap, and a sad looking prickly pear infested with cochineal.

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The river was brown from past rains.

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A Narina Trogon made his presence heard with his familiar call (much like a dove), from across the river. We eventually emerged out of the thicket at a pumphouse stripped of its pump.

We followed a cleared section under the ESKOM lines for a while then along a road up to the old farm. Pigs wandered around,

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a lactating hunting dog with puppies,

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and further along a graveyard of farm vehicles and what could have been a new stolen bus with GP number plates.

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This was the Place of Pigs which I had smelt from far off.

Down the hill we went to meet up with the confluence of the Mpushini with the fast flowing Duzi. This was as far as we could go so we headed back up the hill, and while trying to find the quickest way out we walked past a poultry litter dumping area not far from the river. The stench was unbearable. We hurried up the hill to escape the evil smells. Out on the road we passed Pandora’s farm.

Pandora kindly dropped us off at the Ashburton Spar where we met up with Nkonsinathi who had come to fetch us and dropped us back at the vehicles at the Pecketts.  We were treated to boerie rolls and ice cold drinks before we were allowed out the gate. Thanks to Solly and Amy for the delicious tuckers at the end of our day.

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About Nikki Brighton

I live in a Magic Cottage near the mist-belt forest with my African dog, Dizzy. We enjoy long walks in the fields to gather wild greens, sitting on the verandah with a pot of tea, and harvesting vegetables outside the kitchen door.
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One Response to Duzi – Cuckoos and Bush Mechanics

  1. Pingback: Duzi at its Dirtiest | Midlands Conservancies Forum

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