Words by Roger Gaisford. Pictures by Roger Gaisford and N Selley.
The moon is known to be the cause of much trouble in the lives of man. Lunacy is an appellation given, not without reason, to forms of madness. Witness the troubles afforded Romeo baying beneath the moon at lovely Juliet.
It would seem that the moon and trouble go hand in hand in men’s lives; more so when women are involved. Mix in kinds of drink, and expect real trouble.
A fellow named St John Jones once got mixed up with the moon. It caused him no end of grief. The coast of the Transkei is one of the most beautiful of the beautiful parts of our country. Unspoiled, and in places isolated, it can be a place of high adventure in a world of clear deep blue sea, white beaches, great rivers and estuaries, cliffs, stunning forests, and open grassland dotted about with traditional homesteads.
Speak of the Transkei and people will bring up wonderful fishing, cattle and goats in the road, friendly people, and rain and bad weather. They will talk in far-away voices of the wonders of Mnyameni, Mtentu, Msikaba, Lupatana, Waterfall Bluff, Mbotyi, Hluleka, Mpande, Silaka, Mpame, Mapuzi, Hole in the Wall, Mpholombho and other places. Too many to record on the space of a single page.
Among the names above, Lupatana must stand out as a place of particular beauty. A lovely stream flows through a deep kloof and forest to empty into a little bay of the whitest sand fringed by milkwoods and palms. There is no other beach, the coast there consisting of flat rock shelves against which great waves crash with a thump that can be felt.
A few kilometres to the north is Goss Point, a perfect natural harbour and another lovely little bay of white beaches and sheltering milkwoods. South of Lupatana, the rock ledges become imposing cliffs hosting such features such as Cathedral Rock, a detached piece of cliff standing alone as a great monolith; and Waterfall Bluff, where a stream cascades over the cliffs straight into the sea.
A simple track winds along from Lusikisiki before standing on its nose to deliver travellers – via a series of death-defying drops and hairpin bends – to the flattish area at Lupatana. Four or five cottages, belonging to Transkei traders and such, huddle together above the bay. A bit after New Year some time ago, a group of young people from Zululand arrived at Lupatana for a week’s holiday. They came in Land Rovers and such things, loaded with chattels and other impedimenta, dragging along a red skiboat. They made camp in the dune forest on the edge of the flat rock shelves that constitute the coast there. They erected their quarters, a great construction of poles draped with an immense tent made of a South African Railways and Harbours tarpaulin; the sort of thing farmers pinch off goods trains. This set-up was known as the Playhouse by its originator, a trouble-maker by the name of Solly, who was a part-time farmer and tractor mechanic from Ntumeni.
Solly well knew the vagaries of the Transkei weather and the benefit of a large establishment for inclement times. Some people, who knew little, unkindly referred to the Playhouse as a joy house for girls with commercial interests.
The Ntumeni lot launched their ski-boat at Goss Point and spent their days fishing and water-skiing at sea. A little up the river that empties into the bay at Goss Point is a marvellous waterfall and great pool where one can disport oneself when tired of the beach. Adding interest to the place were the remains of a World War Two Air-Sea Rescue launch, long abandoned and buried in the sands. This had allegedly been used to supply dagga to ships passing along the coast. Evenings in camp were a riot of fish on the braai, loose talk, cold beer and hot women. Lots of all of it.
In the mid-afternoon some days later, St John Jones joined them. The product of a Natal Midlands private school, he farmed the so-called ancestral family estate near Heidelberg. His father had been a coffee planter in Kenya and the colonel of a famous British regiment in the War. The Second World War, that is. The regiment had used jeeps for raids on the Italians and Germans, and the colonel had kept up the tradition: the family still used Jeeps on the farm. St John Jones’ father had met Solly’s father while spending time in Tobruk in 1942, and had kept up the friendship. St John Jones arrived at Lupatana in his Jeep a day or so after the Zululanders. His Jeep was a mid-seventies short-wheel-base CJ5, one of those powered by the 3.8 litre Rambler Six motor. It was heavily overcast and threatening to rain when he arrived. He found the camp in the forest deserted, as the gang was fishing at Goss Point. St John Jones packed his stuff into the shelter of the Playhouse before the rain came, for when it came, it came, de luxe.
Opening a beer, he settled himself in a chair beneath a verandah built over the Playhouse door and contemplated the rain falling on the green hills of the Transkei. A mini waterfall from the verandah roof cascaded before him. After some beers, and now his second cane and coke, his contemplations were interrupted by the arrival of a sodden group returning from Goss. With loud greetings and good cheer they unloaded two good sized couta and then got on with drinking. Some of them took advantage of the rainwater pouring off the Playhouse roof to shower and change into dry clothes. One of these was The Woman Who Caused All The Trouble.
The Woman Who Caused All The Trouble, or TWWCATT, was a Fine Arts student at the University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg. She was a slim blonde who was scared of nothing. She had grown up with a bunch of brothers on a farm near Underberg, and because of the berg, was besotted with mountains and was a member of the University Mountain Club. She could down a beer more quickly than one could say “down a beer” and was a devastating Boat Racer. TWWCATT had however, not been so christened by her parents at birth, though her general behaviour in her youth had made her parents wonder why not. Events at Lupatana that week confirmed her status as TWWCATT, a position she holds to this day.