Monday 9 January 2012

WT - Bushwillow New Year

Wanting to show our appreciation we invited the Bushwillow Bunch to dinner but it was suggested that lunch at the 'Berg' would be preferred and so Chantel ('the Organiser') called the Protea Southern Sun to arrange a booking and was advised that this was unnecessary. Great we would go the next day, December 27. On our arrival we were stopped by security, it seemed that we would need to have made reservations in order to pass the checkpoint.

Lee and the Organiser were a little embarrassed and definitely not happy with this turn of events..., out came the mobile phones (the organiser's primary weapon of choice) and within minutes the checkpoint security officer was standing to attention, making entries to his clip-board between exclamations of "Yes Sir!", "of course, Sir!" over the two way radio, before letting us through with a friendly wave and "Enjoy your visit, Please!"

We had a wonderful meal and afternoon in the grounds with the children, Robert and Lexi. Ronnie was rather pooped after paddling the lake with Lee, Ilona and Robert. A great location and facilities well worth booking in for a holiday if ever you are in this neck of the woods.

Rob had decided to move the Bee Hive from between the kitchen and the workshop where he had been in the process of building it on an upturned 44 gallon drum when some bees moved in..., well ahead of schedule. The bees must have been impressed with his workmanship as their number increased dramatically in no time, There was now a fear that someone may get stung as the kitchen entry was the primary entry to the house.

It was the eve before New Year's eve (sounds ominous hey!) ....Rob had almost completed the preparation for the Bee Hive move when suddenly and without warning a a ferocious storm struck (75mm in an hour). Rob had just taped all entrances to the hive closed (one hive was occupied whilst the other was still empty) and fearing for safety of the bees, didn't want to leave the move till the storm had passed or call anyone out into the storm to help, so rushed the move in the storm. Catastrophe! the occupied hive fell from the bakkie into the mud and rain, spilling it's contents onto the road.

Rob salvaged the hive but was concerned that the queen may have been lost. The next day there were three swarms, one at the hive, a second at the accident site and the third at the original site on the side of the drum. Rob gathered about eighty percent of the bees from the drum and transferred them to the hive at the new location but the following day the number had increased on the drum quite dramatically, which raised the question, were these bees from the hive? There was no way of telling and so Rob decided to put the unoccupied hive on another 44 gallon drum in close proximity to the old drum but out of the way of the kitchen. This it was hoped might promote a second colony.

During an earlier light rain shower Rob had placed a cardboard box on the original drum to offer some protection to the bees (and to see what they would do). The bees moved into the box within minutes, quite a thing to behold. The box was then moved to the new hive but the bees were quite content in the box and would have none of the new hive,.... talk about stubborn! Within a few days we had another storm that destroyed the cardboard box which it seems is what was needed to move the swarm into the new hive. Now we will just have to wait and see if this generates a new colony. By the way, the original colony appears to be functioning as normal despite the trauma.

While Rob was busy with the bee's Lee had organised for a friend 'Cornell' to take Ilona, Ronnie and I for a flight in his Cessna over Bushwillow Farm, the surrounding area and Ladysmith. What a way to see out the old year! Ronnie and I were both blown away with the idea but Ilona had a huge fear of flying and was especially fearful of light aircraft, however she was willing to give this flight a go for Ronnie. Ilona thoroughly enjoyed the flight (as we all did) once we were into it - Cornell is a great pilot and prepares the passengers for every eventuality by explaining what is about to happen which did the most to allay Ilona's fears. It helped too that there was no wind on the day so the flight was as smooth as the proverbial 'baby's bum'.

That evening we went off to Platteland Lodge for a new years eve drink only to find to everyone's great surprise, the place was closed for the holiday's. We enjoyed the view, saw a little wildlife and managed to photograph the ever elusive Wart-hog before returning to Bushwillow to see in the new year with a few drinks. Ilona, Ronnie and I managed to stay awake long enough to welcome 2012 after watching the Royal Variety Performance on telly, probably doesn't sound too exciting for most but it came pretty close to utopia for us.

New year's day was spent relaxing on the farm of Rob's niece Meg near the 'Berg' and after a wonderful Braai (BBQ) lunch we learned a little about apple farming and little Robert demonstrated mud running with the dogs. Wonderful scenery and a truly beautiful farm really topped the day. Fantastic! and refreshing!

We accepted Meg's offer to take us to Blood River on learning of my interest in our ancestry and the conflicts in the region during the 1800-1900 period. We made a day of the trip and visited the Blood River museum and Boer monument where 480 Boers repelled over 10,000 Zulu warriors. We had a wonderful Boer meal of Vet-Koek and Mince, washed down with home made ginger beer in the local cafeteria for lunch - marvellous!

I learned that my ancestors and Ronnie's may well have been present during the conflict as there were four Lombard's and six Breytenbach's present during the conflict according to the roll. This gave me confidence in my research into the military role that my great grandfather played during the Boer war. I have a photo of him in a formal uniform that I have been trying to determine the origins of since I was 15 years old. It had been suggested that the uniform was British Cavalry and when I queried this with the Military Museum in London it was confirmed that the uniform was cavalry but further than that it could not be identified.

The following day I visited the Ladysmith Siege Museum and found the uniform that I had been researching all these years.... is in fact the 1890-1905 Boer N.C.O. Telegraph Corps Formal Uniform. In addition to this major find I also found that a 'Lombard' drew rations during the siege and that the large hill beside Gun Hill on the Colenso side of Ladysmith is in fact called Lombardkop. I didn't have a camera with me (unbelievable! - the thing has been an attachment for months and now) it was on charge back at the farm. I would have to return to photograph the evidence.

Shane invited Ronnie and I to go fishing and sightseeing on the Steenkop Dam on December 4, the day before our departure and of course we accepted. It was an early start Shane suggested we leave before 06:00 and return at lunch time as the days are exceptionally hot on the water. This suited us as I would have time to return to the Ladysmith Siege Museum to take photos of the historical facts that I have discovered.

We had a great day out on the water. Ronnie caught her first fish, a Bass which Shane had to untangle from a tree while laying across the bow of his boat (quite a sleek machine with some serious grunt). Shane caught a number of Bass and I had a go but am certainly no fisherman. My brother Guy loves the sport but Shane is in a league of his own when it comes to our group having been selected to fish for South Africa. Shane was telling me about his passion for fishing and how it has taken years to achieve his goal of being in South Africa's top ten Bass fishermen but how rewarding the fishing is for him

Once the fishing was done for the day and we were on our way back to the slip Shane offered Ronnie an opportunity to drive the boat...... uh-ohh! I thought, (I had tried to teach Bonnie Ronnie to drive.... once....) But! she took to it like a duck to water and amazed the heck out of me, and herself I suspect. Ronnie saw some Giraffe close to the waters edge and took us in for a closer view and some really spectacular photo's of a Giraffe coming to the waters edge for a drink, just feet from us.

We got back to the farm and went to share Ronnie's driving experience with everyone only to find that there was no footage of her driving at all. I can honestly say I have no idea what happened but not 1 second of footage could be found - we were all so dissapointed. There was just enough time to get the photos I needed from the Museum as I arrived there 15 minutes before closing. That night we had a wonderful farewell takeaway Chinese dinner (feast would be more apt) that everyone had contributed to and spent a few hours just relaxing and enjoying the company. All camera batteries were flat and the Handycam was having it's drive diagnosed so we had to take final group shots with the HTC (these will be downloaded later),

So ended our time at Bushwillow Farm, we left for the airport at 05:20 the next morning to ensure that Ed would catch his connection flight back to Francistown in Botswana. As expected this was a very emotional farewell for Bonnie Ronnie as we then made our way back to my brother Guy in Margate.



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