A Childhood Revisited – The Lowveld - Hazyview

Posted in Travel / The Honey Badger Diaries

A Childhood Revisited – The Lowveld - Hazyview

Childhood memories should be like a field of daisies. Bright yellow sunshine. Perfectly designed blooms that radiate simplicity, joy, and create happiness. Pick a petal at a time to see if he loves you "loves me, loves me not, loves me..."

Some people vow never to return once they leave a place of employment, their home or town. Yesterday Butch remarked that he doesn’t make emotional ties to a place; therefore, he has no need or desire to return. I love returning to old haunts, and my greatest regrets have been when for some reason, I can’t return because of the burning bridges smouldering in my wake. Fortunately, there aren’t many, and those remaining are sbest shelved. No use shooting oneself in the foot. 

Hazyview is where my brothers and I grew up. On a small tobacco and citrus farm high up on a hill, we had our sprawling home with a wrap-around veranda, cool cement floors and creaking wooden doors with fly screens. They banged in the wind and did a staccato when they shut. A winding road, a parklike garden and an avenue of date palm trees led the way to our front door.

A patchwork orchard of mango, litchi and avocado trees with a tract of bananas, a clingy granadilla vine, and a few pineapples that shot up after my mother, with the green fingers, planted the tops in pots.  Rolling lawns, subtropical gardens and a forest of indigenous trees flourished under a misty cloud the sun burned away each morning.

The koppie was our playground, where I’d hunt for eggs, pick up stones, and sit daydreaming. Monkeys would swing in the rubber trees, and when the wind blew, I was frightened the hundred-foot Norfolk pine would fall on the roof, and we’d be crushed. The gardener told us we’d sooner have a coconut fall on our heads than the tree fall on the roof; now I believe him.

Snakes and scorpions of the most vicious kind kept us alert during the day and scared the bejeesus out of me in my nightmares. Mosquitoes were run-of-the-mill, and malaria was a common occurrence. The ironing lady said our clothes had to be ironed unless we were ready for sandworm tunnelling under our skin.

"The Sabie river would surely be the death of you. Either bilharzia would get you, and if not that, crocodiles and hippopotami would" my granny wrote in a letter from England after my aunt’s pitstop in her vintage car. She put-puttered off a day or two later, continuing their rally, an annual event in those circles.

At night fighter jets and Mirages would fly over our corrugated iron roof on their reconnaissance flights guarding our border with Mozambique. War, whatever that was, terrified me, and little did I know we were at war with the world.

Our carefree childhood in the Lowveld, primary schooling in Hazyview and later Uplands Prep School and our holidays in Maputo were idyllic and privileged.  

My brothers and I were Robinson Crusoe, and the farm our Mas a Tierra, an adventurous life of exploration while my parents kept the ship afloat.


Returning to Hazyview was quite a culture shock; things changed enormously in half a century since my departure. The village has shopping malls, Builder’s Warehouse, restaurants, Kentucky Chicken, an Engen Filling station, private schools, and a hospital.

The farm has changed; the only recognisable landmark is the massive rock in the valley below. Fortune hunters with metal detectors would traipse like crawling ants all over the perimeter in search of Kruger’s gold. Now Bon Repose Cottages grace the lawns, and tourists enjoy the views. Thats progress.

Willie and Edna Fick, old family friends, offered us a campsite at the Numbi Hotel and Garden Suites, which we gratefully accepted—prime property in the centre of town. Driving through the gates felt like time travel, and I was back in 1965.

The thatch-roofed stately home the six Fick children grew up in doesn’t look quite as imposing now, but the trees and extensive gardens have reached the sky. I had to smile when I saw the swimming pool. How small I was and what brave swimmers we were when we jumped into the middle pool.

It is only a childhood memory recalled that gives us a glimpse of who we were. I see a shy girl with long blonde plaits, skinny legs, all knees and elbows, clutching a wet towel, her toes gripping the pool’s edge. Legs and arms, brown as a beetle, are rashed in goosebumps. Her little brother runs past her, arms outstretched. She feels his cold hands on the small of her back as he shoves her. Her back arches and her arms flail wildly. She tries to stop the fall. But in she goes. Water gushes into her nostrils, burning white hot into her sinuses. The tears are real, and he knows she detests that.


We unhitched our bikes, saddled up and went on a recce to see whether I could spot any landmarks. Up into the hills we went, the roads dwarfed by citrus groves, banana plantations and forestry plantations. All the landmarks are so close together, and soon we were on an uphill road under construction. There are numerous accommodation options, spas and retreats. Quad biking, treetop aerial cable trails, sunset cruises, sunrise game drives and Kruger excusions.

The downhill part of the cycle was fun. Putting all my fears behind me, I flew down and around the bends and curves, exhilarated, energised and without fear of falling. It was delicious.

We spun into the now grand Sabie River Sun and golf course. The Bungalows, where we watched movies on a Friday night as children. The Metro Goldwyn Meyer Lion’s roar petrified me, and the Lassie movies made me cry. Those were the days of celluloid, and the projector would inevitably heat up and burn a hole in the film, always at the most epic crucial moment. Or the reel would need to be changed. Lights on,  the reel spinning, making a flicking sound as the reels ended and click-clicked. The grown ups would light up and charge their glasses while we had to queue at the bathrooms.  The machinist would command "Lights out, everyone back in their seats" waking the little sleepy heads.

The golf course is lush and green and immaculately groomed. Golfers no longer walk but buggy soundlessly from one hole to the next, teams colour coded, capped and gloved.

At long last, Butch could satisfy his craving for a thin-based pizza which we enjoyed while cooling down in the misty spray on the deck at Topolino’s Italian restaurant.

Disappointingly the flip-flops I purchased from Tsongo Shoes from Perry’s Bridge Trading Post only lasted three weeks before the thong detached. When you’re travelling in a truck, and they’re the only shoes “for best,”  that’s nothing short of disasterous. C’est la vie. I’m hoping someone in Tofo will fix them. I’m back to my cheapies, good old Clicks flip-flops!

A night out dining in a restaurant has become an occasion to be celebrated. We get togged out in our best gear and step out all smiles with a smear of lipstick on my lips. Pioneer’s Grill was our destination. To our amazement, the charming Mrs Fick jnr, the current manager’s wife, shuttled us there and back.

Our table on the deck was perfectly positioned under a colossal flame tree,  I could observe guests arriving and the bustle of servers taking orders and serving drinks and plates of delicious fare. Our steaks were perfect, and our night out was a date night success.

The Little Pilgrim’s Boutique Hotel was irresistible, and I could revisit my childhood haunts. The Herndels Trading store, our GP Frans Mentz and Tannie Ems and Oom Willie Fick. Now they’re just the names of cottages, but to me, they brought back a childhood under their watchful gaze. Now I'll remember those old timers in pretty corrugated iron clad English cottages, with white brookie lace trims, brightly painted and old fashioned signs on the shingles.  

That they were young during the swinging fifties and sixties when Elvis and Buddy Holly ruled, and stove pipes, brylcreme, miniskirts, and  the bop was cool seems like an illusion! 


I couldn’t wait to jump out of bed on Sunday morning. We were going to spend the day with my very first best friend. We had reunited a year before Covid after many decades and a lifetime of separation, yet, we found we still had so much in common and enjoyed each other’s company. We could laugh like drains, and no explanations were necessary. The early morning drive to Nelspruit from Hazyview was an eye-opener. I couldn't recall the landscape at all.

In our little SAAB motorcar I didn't get to see the view as a child only the sky! Quite a revelation to see what I missed.

Butch would meet my besty for the first time, although it felt like he’d known her for years. They hit it off immediately. After coffee and rusks, we piled into her Subaru and headed off into the hills for lunch and a visit to the quaint arty village of Kaapschehoop.

While she chatted with all and sundry, I explored. Butch, I’m sure, would’ve preferred the village bench but humoured us and joined in our search for artefacts, Gatsby dresses, old tea cups, and mouldy books.

Lunch was the highlight when brother Willie and Edna joined us. To know these two peaches is to love them. Willie recalled his rugby days with my Dad. I heard stories hard to believe because the man I know is a far cry from the dashing, frivolous one-of-the-boys rugby player he was. We spent a delightful afternoon listening to stories and catching up. I laughed until I wept.

Our memories are pure, gentle, and true, reminding me of the WhatsApp my” little” brother Mark sent me when I told him about our visit. He recalls, “I have fond and happy memories of the Fick’s. Visiting them as a family was always fascinating and lovely. Tannie Ems and Mom saw each other almost daily for years. Guess who was playing with all the dogs and cats behind the hotel kitchen...?

Do you know, I stuck my small hand through Aunty Ems’ beehive curls en-route home from freshly coiffed hair in Nelspruit whilst she was driving her VW Combi and me standing behind the driver’s seat, the two chatting away...”

Lunch at The Bohemian Groove Café was delightful in every way. The eccentric manageress in her top hat and frivolous get-up was refreshing, and our choice of Durban Curry and Rice with Sambals was spot on. Thank you for making us see the past through rose tinted lenses. That's exactly how memories should serve us! 

At home we stretched out on the couch like cats, I couldn’t get enough and extended our time together like  a child with a mouth full of bubblegum. The longer we chewed on our memories, the longer I could drag my time out, Butch eventually left us to it and drifted off to read his book.

The Badger needed some new brakes. Three of the four rear brake cylinders were leaking and had to be replaced. It was Monday morning, and Butch was up with the sparrows to sort that out. This interlude allowed Troubelene and I  to do more catching up over mugs of coffee. Finally we enjoyed lunch and said goodbye. Our selfies say it all. 

Even if it’s my last breath, I will see you again, Troubelene, old friend. Next time, we’ll wrap our heads in silk scarves and be Audrey Hepburn for the day when we drive off in a vintage MG! Thank you for being exactly like I remember you.


In 2004 Butch and I did our first exploration into Mozambique. On an impulse and after a recommendation, decided to visit Tofo, an idyllic seaside village near Inhambane. While sitting on the beach after Butch’s rescue mission, (a couple of fishermen overturned their makeshift boat in the bay. Butch, with no thought of his safety, jumped into the breakers and rescued the crew.) 

As the sun set, we sipped 2M beer on a log and were joined by the Zietsmans, who have since become our Tofo friends. Ziets, a diver, spear gun fisherman, explorer, he did the Amazon river in a kayak as a student, if memory serves, and a forester with a passion for trees. Lenore is a story teller extraordinaire. Her fables, myths and fairy tales all have meaning, make you think and could be life changing. I always ask for one.

Their home, on a small farm on the outskirts of Nelspruit, is where we would spend the night. We all agreed we couldn't slip by and not say hi.

Like their home on the beach, their farmhouse oozes personality. Kids’ art, funky paint colours, colourful traditional cloths and capulanas from around the world, pottery and woodwork from Maputo, heirlooms and the family silver are casually dotted throughout the house. An inquisitive snooper like me's dream. Supper on the veranda was a Mango Chicken curry, sambals and salad. Perfect.

Butch and Ziets returned from the orchard with bags bulging full of fragrant mangoes for our breakfast, lunch and supper and bags of herbal, indigenous tea and dried mango strips. With full hearts we set off to Komatipoort.

Lenore and Ziets, we munched on your fresh mangoes, made smoothies and finally, to the freezer a few went, for later. Our fingers were sticky with juices, and my white T-shirt now sports a bright yellow mango stain, a bull’s eye on my chest. We make delicious frozen mango slushies and nibble on your dried mango slices. They are undoubtedly the best we’ve ever had. Sweet and sticky and delicious. The teas I’m saving for a rainy day when I need some TLC and a pick-me-up. Thank you. We hope to see you in Tofo.


On the Komati river bank, we parked the Honey Badger and readied ourselves to be picked up by our host and hostess to be whisked off to meet the family and friends for supper. We’ve realised that with the Williams’, there’s no rest for the weary and every day is filled with surprises.

The balmy night with a full moon rising and a red sun setting over the river reminded us that we boast the best sunsets in the world. The evening was made perfect for us by being included in a gathering of the Williams clan at the Riverhills Lodge near Komatipoort . Thank you.

After a delicious breakfast and final chat, it was time for us to saddle up and head north while you had an appointment in Hermanus.

These on-the-spur-of-the-moment visits are precious to us now that we’re primarily on our own, not knowing when or where we’ll meet up again, we’ll treasure them. Geoff's hugs are the best and Anne your kind heart is always a balm.

The lodge is conveniently located off the main road leading up to the Mozambique border post, Kruger National Park's gate,  it's an easy drive to Swaziland from there and I believe it's a very good spot for Tiger fishing.

Please click on the links below to be whisked off to the websites where you'll learn all the finer details regarding our accommodations.


Our friends understand our past, and together, we celebrate the future. They inspire us, and our mutual acceptance of our quirks liberates us. “By doing what you love, you inspire and awaken the hearts of others” -Satsuki Shibuya




I was born under a wandrin’ star
I was born under a wandrin’ star
Wheels are made for rollin’
Mules are made to pack
I’ve never seen a sight that didn’t look better looking back

I was born under a wandrin’ star
Mud can make you prisoner, and the plains can bake you dry
Snow can burn your eyes, but only people make you cry
Home is made for comin’ from, for dreams of goin’ to
Which with any luck, will never come true
I was born under a wandrin’ star
I was born under a wandrin’ star

Do I know where hell is?
Hell is in hello
Heaven is goodbye forever, it’s time for me to go
I was born under a wandrin’ star
A wandrin' wandrin' star

When I get to heaven tie me to a tree
Or I’ll begin to roam, and soon you know where I will be
I was born under a wandrin’ star
A wandrin' wandrin' star

The photo below is a comment I received from my childhood friend Nettie de Kock. BFF our families were with shared holidays in Maputo and our common love of books and stories. We were childhood librarians and had our own library on their farm Paraiso. I was a teacher of note and taught my bothers the rudiments of everything they needed for school in my classroom. To their horror of course.