Wellies Or Winter Warmers - A Trip To Lake Jozini
I’m sitting here freezing, wondering how anyone can say, “I love winter!” I do get the crackling fire in the huge grate, which we don’t have, the red wine, which I don’t drink and the comfort food, which has settled around my waistline and will not budge.
At night Butch and I wrestle to get enough of my crochet blankie wrapped around our legs. He has a way of hooking his gigantic foot while winding it around his leg. At the same time, I grab what I can. He deftly tucks a huge fistful under his butt and around his shoulders, anchoring the whole lot behind his back. Out of breath, I struggle for a minute triangle to cover myself. Arms folded, he purrs like a Cheshire cat. Not fair. You see, size counts.
Suppose anyone had to ask me where I’d rather be right now. In that case, I’m reminded of our houseboat experience on the Jozini dam, commonly known as Lake Jozini, situated along the banks of the picturesque Jozini dam near Pongola in Northern KwaZulu-Natal.
Gifting experiences rather than “something you need” or desire, like jewellery or expensive perfume, is terrific. We opt to gift our nearest and dearest with an experience, be it a meal in a lovely restaurant, a night or weekend away, an evening at a theatre (not possible at the moment) or a picnic in the park.
Our stay on the Shayamanzi Houseboat was a gift from Butch’s sister Lorraine. A first for me.
A Shayamanzi Houseboats cruise sets off from the Jozini Tiger Lodge and is situated in the heart of the ‘Kingdom of the Zulu’ with its rich heritage and untamed natural beauty.
The Pongola River is the only water source feeding the manmade Lake, a particularly good fishing spot, with the extreme Northern tip creeping into Swaziland. This “water island” is surrounded by the Pongola Nature Reserve and the Pongola Game Reserve, and teeming with wildlife.
From the deck, you can cast your fly for bream, barbel and tigerfish. Tender boats take passengers on two trips daily. Fishing and photography were priorities on our cruise, and getting to the best spots on a speed boat did the trick. The birdlife is prolific, but getting as near as possible to a sitting duck needs a skilled boatsman and a keen/knowledgable birder. I think we were too pernickety and found our experience, although enjoyable, a little frustrating.
If memory serves, our houseboat accommodated 12 guests. The air-conditioned, en-suite Cabins are spacious and remind one of a bygone age with polished teak panelling, cream cotton and voile. The eight-seater Jacuzzi was a godsend, and we all spent many hours cooling down, sipping cocktails while watching the world go by.
The Game Reserves surrounding Lake Jozini host many animal species, some of which can be seen in herds from the decks: White and Black Rhino, Elephant, Buffalo, Hippo, Crocodile, Wildebeest, Giraffe, Zebra, Kudu, Nyala, Bushbuck, Mountain Reedbuck, Common Reedbuck, Red Duiker, Grey Duiker, Waterbuck, Steenbuck, Suni Antelope, Black-Backed Jackal, Hyena, Cheetah, Wild Dog, Serval Cat, Warthog, Bushpig, Banded Mongoose, Legavaan, Terrapin and the occasional sighting of Leopard which roam the slopes of the Lebombo Mountain Range. (this list was copied from the website https://www.shayamanzi.co.za/luxury-houseboats/ )
Our experience was made all the more special because we had an opportunity to spend time with Lolly, Butch’s sister. They’d sit legs outstretched on deck chairs or in the Jacuzzi until all hours catching up and reliving their childhood in Zambia or their early years in Pongola. It was a joy to hear them laugh out loud, recalling trips with the family and their years “in the bush”.
Lolly, diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, is an inspiration, someone who does not endure her illness and will not be defined by her condition lives a full and significant life with gusto. Until recently, she co-owned and managed a large, well respected short term insurance company in Pongola. Now retired she tends her orchids, gardens and takes life easy enjoying her children and grandchildren, family and a multitude of friends.
The Captain and crew on our voyage were fantastic. Chef produced all our scrumptious meals in his tiny galley kitchen while the rest of the crew attended to us, helping inexperienced fly fishermen with their flies. This boat was ship shape in every way and the crew ensured we had plain sailing all the way.
At our long table, we enjoyed the company of our fellow passengers, a wide-ranging group of people from all walks of life. We all had one thing in common; we were Covid exhausted and ready to interact. Responsibly. Our conversations were boisterous, animated and fun, but with a liberal sprinkling of controversial opinions at times too. .
Our cruise was a two nighter. Departure from Jozini Tiger Lodge was after lunch on day one; our first anchorage was at Hippo Bay; on day two, we sailed to Nkwazi bay, and on day three, we returned to the Lodge.
Thank you Rebecca and Mark, Hanna and Evianna, Marikus, Hermien and Michiel, Ben and Annette, Lolli, and of course my Butch, the Captain and his crew for making my first experience on a houseboat unforgettable. You certainly float my boat!
Many families from the Western Cape and Boland enjoy a holiday up North during our winter months, and planning getaways are one way of dealing with winter. “One always needs something to look forward to”, Butch believes. I can’t recommend this trip highly enough. I felt like an African queen and disembarked, feeling revitalised and ready to resume our journey.
Lol, I can’t thank you enough for gifting us such an awesome experience; not only was it something I’ve always dreamt about, but it was also the perfect time to reacquaint in peaceful surroundings embracing two of our favourite locations, water and the bush.
In the kitchen, our dryer is constantly busy tumbling our laundry. It’s not a new piece of equipment; it squeaks and grinds and grates. I can hear the drum singing shrilly, “Le-ta-ba. Le-ta-ba,” A sure sign it’s time to move, I’d say? If I had a choice it wouldn't be crackling fires and Wellington boots.