Catching Up, Last Days And Cyclone Freddy

Posted in Travel / The Honey Badger Diaries

Catching Up, Last Days And Cyclone Freddy

We needed an entire month to organise ourselves before entering unknown territory. I told Butch, “fine,” he said, “you can have February.” And so it was that we decided to take up a February special offered, by the ATKV (Afrikaanse Taal en Kultuur Vereeniging) resorts’ Die Eiland near Tzaneen.

We could stay and enjoy all the amenities at a very reasonable rate. I would catch up on my blogs after taking a six-week break from my computer. Butch would get cracking on updating our insurance and especially our travel insurance into Africa, which turned out to be far more challenging than we ever expected.

Every day there’s a list of “Best of” stories on Social Media. Yesterday Cape Town was, once again, voted the best city to visit in 2023 etc. The top of my list of Friendliest People is undoubtedly Limpopo Province. It took a while for me to realise that people cared about your answer, would stop, look me in the eye and say, “Good day, how are you?” At first, I was startled and would respond, “Good morning”, turn and walk off and often shout, "I’m fine, and how are you?” in my hurried, distracted way until I realised the person had stopped and was looking at me with a huge smile. I slowed down and reciprocated in the same way. Those greetings made my day and often led to a conversation. Some days those chats could be the only conversations I had all day. This friendliness will be the highlight of my stay in Limpopo Province.


Our beloved motorcar, which had been on bricks for five months in Bellville, would eventually be repaired after waiting months for a tiny electronic part shipped from Germany. I was sure I could’ve walked there and back with the parcel. Once up and running, would flog it for us. The last of our possessions to be sold off before we had our passports stamped exiting South Africa.

We were advised to obtain a Carnet de Passage for the Honey Badger. Her passport is a requirement to enter some African countries. The AA (Automobile Association of South Africa) issues these documents, and the nearest office was Pretoria. We would apply at the very last minute because the document, valid for one year, is issued four days after payment is received and not at the time of one’s departure.

Although amicable, knowledgeable and helpful, the officials only issue the documents but do not offer a delivery service under any circumstances. Their “delivery person” had left their services; no one had filled the vacancy.

Post Net once again came to the rescue, they appointed a courier service who received our documents, and then Post Net in Pretoria forwarded them to the Tzaneen branch. Thank you, Kim Scholtz, our outstanding contact at Post Net in Tokai, for your outstanding service.  Without fail, you always pull the rabbit out the hat for us.


While we bobbed in the heated pool, cycled and hiked a few times, we became aware of Cyclone Freddie. Although hot and humid, the heavens opened, without a breath of wind, and soon rivers of water washed past the Honey Badger.

The Letaba river slowly filled up, and when we next passed by, we noticed local ladies couldn’t do their laundry under the old bridge. The old bridge was barely visible. News of devastating floods, storms and high seas reached us, and photographs of our niece in Tofo on social media told a disturbing tale. At least Casa Butch was still standing.


One morning my beloved asked me to inspect his bottom. He was feeling discomfort on his derriere and thought it best I examine it. Dr Van Heerden to the rescue. A sight to behold. Butch’s plump bottom was covered in red blisters, and some wept. I was at a loss. Subtropical skin rashes are not my forte, but what I could report was that things were not looking good.

Google’s our friend, and soon he had an appointment to see the local GP in Tzaneen—the diagnosis. A Blister beetle had somehow wormed its way into his underwear. Possibly settling in the folds while on the washing line. The little critter got agitated when he realised he was trapped in his pants and got into fight mode, spraying his poison, which he released from his hind legs.

Believe it or not, the Blister Beetle, one of a thousand different species is the very same genus as Spanish Fly —all secrete a very toxic venom. For days a cream had to be applied to the affected area, and antibiotics were prescribed. Eventually, the blisters healed, and it is now two months later, and ugly purple scars remain. That little beetle is not to be trifled with.

The Bottom Line! Blister beetles excrete a toxic blistering agent called cantharidin, which can cause irritation and blistering when it comes in contact with the eyes, skin, mouth, throat, or digestive tract. The irritation and blisters that form can be painful but usually are not life-threatening.

The two photographs above of the Blister Beetle are from the internet. They're very common in the Kruger National Park it appears.


Butch, a very loyal patient, immediately liked Dr Andre Botes, who did a thorough check-up, did a few necessary tests and declared his patient fit to travel north beyond our borders. Dr Botes worked in Somerset West before moving to Tzaneen and remembers Dr. Keith Joubert fondly. Butch and Andre had things to natter about.

As luck would have it, Butch needed a dental check-up too and, on recommendation, had Dr Marlies Meintjies check his ivories. Much to his surprise, she made an exception and had him in the chair at 7h30 the next morning, before her day started. He beamed when the procedure was done, singing her praises. “such tiny fingers, no pain when she injected him and the extraction, although tedious, was a piece of cake in her capable hands.”


En route to Tzaneen in January, we were recognised by a friend’s husband, Leon, who was driving to Johannesburg with their new Motorhome. They had spent a few days in their newly acquired Iveco truck and, as expected, had a snag list to attend to.

Hilde sent a message that we’d been spotted on the highway. I was over the moon, and we soon made plans to meet once we were settled at the Eiland.

The highlight of our stay at Die Eiland was undoubtedly the visit from my roomie Hilde and her husband Leon. Hilde and I met on a Black and White photographic course a few years ago and have since kept up a correspondence. A very talented graphic designer and photographer, Hilde designs and manufactures unique products, e.g. lamp/candle shades. She is often one of the exhibitors at Kamers vol Geskenke held all over South Africa. Browse her gorgeous creations on the EyeCandyLibrary FaceBook page

With a basket laden with gifts, I filled my fridge with Hilde’s delicious, spicy Neapolitan sauce. Garlic filled our kitchen when I served the sauce with pasta on a miserably wet evening, and again it lifted my boring Gnocchi to new heights a few days later when we needed something comforting—the dregs I scooped onto our Boerie rolls. I had to use every last drop Hilde. Bellissimo!

There was no time for a lavish meal while we had so much catching up to do. Hilde’s sausage was perfect for lunch, which Butch braaied, and we served that with another winner from the basket, a garlic ciabatta, and my salad whipped up in a few minutes.

Not only did you drive to see us, Hilde and Leon, but you also brought lovely treats and spoiled us horribly. I am saving the lanterns for Zanzibar. We hope you can wrap up your working life soon and join other nomads on the road. A life-changing adventure awaits you. Next time it might be me texting you with a message, “You’ve been spotted!”


A few minor upgrades had to be made to the Honey Badger before we finally left South Africa. On my insistence, we’ve fitted tracks (ladder-like tracks for negotiating short clay or muddy potholes and short roads).

Our Wi-Fi modem has been upgraded with a booster and multi-directional aerial system, hoping our internet connectivity improves.

The rain didn’t leave us unscathed; silicone came to the rescue, which was applied along the length of our awning, preventing water from slithering into our windows.

The one-stop shop made all these additions, Tzaneen 4X4, where the charming owner Steven Bishoff never said no or later or was too busy. Thank you for being so helpful and caring.


On the spur of the moment, after Butch’s dental appointment, I suggested we tart up the Honey Badger. TZN printing is situated across the road. We swung in, and Eric de Jager knew precisely what needed to be done. We started small—just a logo, “Honey Badger on Tour”, with the website address etc. Rave reviews from friends and family followed, encouraging us to inch further and requesting an African map. We’d mark our route as we went along. Grand idea.

There was no stopping me now; two more decals and another map were added. The Honey Badger’s looks improved dramatically, and her admirers have increased tenfold since the beautification.

Wherever we stop, people come around to check her out, asking questions about our route. My favourite question is always, “when will you stop?” Never I hope. Butch will pipe up, “it all depends on health, wealth and desire. We have no end date and no final destination.”

Butch with a red marker keeps our route travelled up to date. With colourful local cloth adorning our dashboard and flags and decals announcing ourselves, we’ve only encountered friendly officials who have, mostly, let us pass, wishing us a safe and pleasant journey.

Thank you, Eric, for your excellent work.


I promised the manager at the Fish Away shop/restaurant in Tzaneen that I would mention their excellent Fish and Chips. We never eat fish up country only at the seaside.  Tzaneen, of all places, broke our rules. At the strip Mall, we had stocked up on a few groceries at the Checkers, we decided to have lunch at the Fish Away on a whim, enjoyed it so much and then did it again.

10/10 The best Fish and chips I have ever had, Crispy panko crumbs coated the delicious, flaky hake fillet. Served with golden potato chips and a crunchy coleslaw and the best crispy deep-fried onion rings, a sachet of mayo and a generous wedge of lemon accompanied the fish. The price: R49.95 (yes, I’ve not made a typo)

On both occasions, we complimented the chef and told the manager our meal was the best we’d had in Tzaneen. Congratulations on serving an delicious meal. 


South Africans are exempt from visas to visit Mozambique, our passports are stamped at the border, and we pay a road tax. That’s it. But it is only valid for 30 days. We need sixty days, at least, to visit Mozambique with the idea of travelling up the coastline and then into Malawi.

Butch posed the question on the Drive Moz FB page. Some smart Alec, with influence in high circles (presumably), replied and assured us we could apply for a visa online which we did. Our application was declined because “South Africans are exempt”.

It seemed impossible, so I posed the question on an overlanding site. Within minutes someone responded, advising me to phone the Mozambique Embassy in Nelspruit. I did, and I was told it was possible. All we had to do was ask for a “duplo" at the border, and we’ll get a sixty day stamp. She assured me. At the border I asked for a duplo, not possible. Our stamp allows us to visit as tourists for thirty days. 

Long story short. We went to Inhambane and consulted a visa expert. He said, explaining as to a child. South Africans can not apply for an extended  Tourist visa—finished and klaar. Our stamp is valid for one month.

The laws changed a few days ago, and most countries, except Austria, can now apply for a thirty, sixty or ninety day visa online. What’s more, they can do so 48 hours before entering Mozambique. NOT SOUTH AFRICANS,  we must return to the border and have our passports stamped.  


Now my dilemma. The visa photo. Mine was a reality check. Oh, my word, I’m ancient. And ugly. As my friend Audrey said when I mentioned my day-long self-worth decline.I have no reason to be confident.

“Hell. Yes, they tell you "don’t smile, pretend you’re vomiting and keep your head still against the backboard. While looking natural." Might as well have a broom up your !@#$”

“I ugly cried for a day, Auds!”

“Not worth it, they’re a cruel and demeaning bunch, and they don’t say “say sex while licking your lips.” For goodness’ sake.”

I immediately pulled out my vanity basket and mixed up a clay and Baobab face mask to remedy matters. A little too late you might think, but, hope springs eternal in the human breast. Before I pull the cucumber slices off my eyes I  remind myself that these wrinkles proudly and unashamedly tell the story of my life, the good, bad and the ugly but, they also tell of my smiles, joy and happiness.


Our cycling expeditions took us to very interesting places. During a cloud burst we were able to stop off and outwait the storm at a roadside "cafe" where the ladies were grilling spatchcocked chickens on the braai. Delicious smokey piri-piri chicken. On another occasion we watched a huge cauldron of maize porridge bubbling away. Farm workers stop for a ladle of piping hot porridge while waiting for their transport. On that cold, rainy day I caught Butch salivating. We met the most interesting people and one guy, a taxi operator, would hoot and flash his lights whenever he passed us. A good contact to have in case my legs gave in!

Our pit stops were extra special this time as we nibbled on the Zietsman's very special dried mango slices. They dry the hand cut slices laid out on an ancient bed, the kind with springs, which gets lugged in and out of the house each day. Hilarious to watch.

The rains and cyclone were behind us. Water levels in the rivers were subsiding, the veld was green and lush, and the days were warm. The smallest changes started happening around us, seeds germinated, and mushrooms emerged out of the peat, mulchy bark and soil. Frogs lay eggs in puddles everywhere, and soon armies of tadpoles floated cloudlike in the murky waters. Trees and shrubs burgeoned, new leaves unfurled, and flowers appeared. Platoons of ants marched in battalions carrying building materials for new nests and anthills. From the sky nature wreaks havoc terrifyingly yet rewards the earth with new life from the bottom up. The biggest moths would bug us at night as soon as we switched on a white light.


Although the month’s stay at Die Eiland soon passed, we accomplished everything we intended to do and enjoyed all the facilities, restaurant and take-ways, it was time to move on. I certainly would miss the washing machine, gym and hot showers, chats to the staff, but,  I don’t think I could’ve stayed a day longer. My itchy feet were eager to get moving.

As we drove out the gates, great white cotton wool balls swiftly moved across the blue skies. The Honey Badger ready to show off her new glad rags, had her nose pointing in the direction of Magoebaskloof.

Last but not least: One of my blogs was published in an overlanding magazine. I was immensely thrilled by the honour. Thank you Adventure Africa/Avontuur Afrika you made my day. To see my words in print and my photograph gracing the front cover. Extraordinary. 
Photo credit: Hilde's lamps were beautifully captured by her.