Viva Comrades, Viva South Africa
61 Countries. 90km. 20,000 runners. 1 Race - The Comrades Marathon.
Standing at the start as the last strains of Chariots of Fire fade away sends tingles of excitement mingled with trepidation down my spine. I’m surrounded by so many different people - old, young, large, small, talented, untalented, tall, short - yet all with one goal - to finish the race that means everything. Many have been called crazy to even try this. Many have been been warned of the dangers. Yet we stand together, determined but humble.
A loud boom signals the start, as we set out on the race of a lifetime.
From the sun rising on a new day to the burning heat of the midday sun, this brave cohort of runners marches on. Over hills and through valleys. Relentless. Determined. A Comrade from the past watches from the side. His race is now over, but his words of encouragement still making a difference.
Kilometres more. Sweat. Cramps. Nausea. Pain
An elderly white man stumbles. A loud thud as he hits the road. Immediately a young black runner is there to help him up. No thought of colour or talent. One race. One goal.
Kilometres more. Sweat. Cramps. Nausea. Pain.
Loud sounds of retching from a young coloured girl vomiting on the side of the road. Her race taken from her. A white lady stops. Fumbles in her pouch, and tenderly whispers to her, handing her something to give her hope. No thought of colour or talent. One race. One goal.
Kilometres more. Sweat. Cramps. Nausea. Pain.
Then there it is! The stadium. The spectators' cheers are deafening. My heart bursting with joy. Arm in arm we cross the finish line together - old, young, large, small, fit, unfit, tall, weak…61 Countries. 90km. 20,000 runners. 1 Race.
The commentator celebrates - Viva Comrades, Viva South Africa.
11 Languages. 9 Provinces. 50 million people. 1 country - South Africa.
Standing at the start as the last strains of N'Kosi Sikeleli fade away sends tingles of excitement mingled with trepidation down my spine. I’m surrounded by so many different people - old, young, black, white, able, disabled, rich, poor - yet all with one goal - to become the new South Africa that means everything. Many have been called crazy to even try this. Many have been warned of the dangers. Yet we stand together, determined but humble.
A loud cheer signals the start, as we set out on the journey of a lifetime.
From the sun rising on a new nation to the burning issues of a new democracy, this cohort of brave citizens marches on. Over troubles and through despair. Relentless. Determined. A comrade from the past watches from the side. His journey is now over, but his words of encouragement still making a difference.
Years more. Violence. Protests. Scandals. Crime.
A rich white businessman crashes his car. A loud smash as he hits the barrier. Immediately a young black student is there to help him out. No thought of race or status. One country. One goal.
Years more. Violence. Protests. Scandals. Crime
Loud sounds of wailing from a young coloured girl crying on the side of the road. Her purse stolen from her. A white lady stops. Fumbles in her bag, and tenderly whispers to her, handing her something to give her hope. No thought of race or status. One country. One goal.
Years more. Violence. Protests. Scandals. Crime
Then there it is! The dream. The worlds' cheers are deafening. My heart bursting with joy. Arm in arm we become the new South Africa together - old, young, black, white, able, disabled, rich, poor…11 Languages. 9 Provinces. 50 million people. 1 Country.
The world celebrates - Viva comrades. Viva South Africa.
I wrote the above story after completing my 11th Comrades together with my wife who completed her 10th last year. This year we stood ,for the first time in 11 years, on the sidelines as supporters. However, one thing remained - witnessing the amazing spirit of comradeship in this epic race. Here's hoping we can foster this same spirit in our beautiful country South Africa.
“Wow, that’s a nice entrance,” I say as we arrive at Bushman’s Nek hotel. It’s our first time here although we are regulars in the beautiful Southern Berg. The bubbling sound of the waterfall welcomes us in, but that is nothing compared to the pools inside. Soon we are oo’ing and ah’ing at the hotel’s huge rim flow rock pool, complete with waterfalls, a slide and even hidden heated pools and coves. The pool ushers in the view across the green valley below, dotted with horses grazing, to the majestic Drakensberg mountains. It looks like we’ve found another reason why we love the Southern Drakensberg. We are going to enjoy wiling away our days in these pools.
What we don’t take into account is that there is just so much to do here, and so pool soaking time will have to fit in with cycling, running, hiking, putt-putt, paintball, tennis, bowls, archery, squash, coffee-shops, sundowners, horse riding, bingo, games, exploring. It reminds me of Basil Faulty’s quip in response to the brash American tourist boasting about all they could do in a day, “Sounds exhausting!” But this is the exhausting we just love!
“The roof is still the original roof, and the buildings are all over 100 years old,” says the elderly lady taking her dogs for an early morning walk. Nicky and I have headed out for an early cycle along the beautiful gravel road that runs from the hotel towards the mountains and the Lesotho border. We’ve stopped at an old stone building that houses a store and quaint coffee shop. “You must come back later when we’re open,” she says, “our carrot cake is delicious.” Friendly locals, stunning vistas, historic buildings, and fresh air – with the promise of tasty treats – this is a stunning place.
Sunday lunch. It’s one meal that holds a special place for millions of people around the world, and today we’re going to enjoy it in this beautiful mountain paradise. The smell draws us in, as only the smell of roast beef can. Unlike many hotel restaurants Busman's Nek restaurant is intimate and cozy but with beautiful views through huge glass windows of the majestic mountains outside.
“This is how Yorkshire Pudding should be made,” I say as I sink my teeth into the puffy, crisp on the outside but airy-soft in the inside, Sunday roast delicacy. Paired with perfectly done roast beef and the full ensemble of Sunday vegetables I'm reminded why Sunday roasts have an aura of joy about them.
Josh has chosen paintball as his outing of choice for his birthday, much to the horror of some of his siblings. Just below the hotel is a stunning horse farm, which also boasts a lovely coffee shop offering everything from Oreo milkshakes to BarOne waffles. It’s here amidst the tall trees of a forest that the action unfolds.
Thud, thud, thwat.
The sound of paintballs striking the trees harmlessly, leaving a trail of blue paint running slowly down them, like the promise of pain. As I run from tree to tree letting off a volley of bullets for cover I get closer to the flag poking enticingly out from an old car discarded amongst the tall forest trees.
OK, now I know why there was some reticence about this. It’s not paintball, its painball…but fun nonetheless, as we proudly compare bruises and share stories once the paint has dried.
The hotel is putting on an evening braai on the lawn, and so we grab our meat and go and join in. The sun is setting in dramatic beauty behind broken clouds, transforming the valley below into golden green. A spectacle we enjoy sitting on a cushioned swing bench hanging between two huge oak trees. Sipping a glass of wine and watching the stunning display unfold on this grand scale again affirms why this part of the world is one of my favorites.
Hannah and Josh braai our meat and soon we are enjoying it together with pap, sauce, salad and other extras the hotel has provided. What an epic spot to end an epic day…well, it’s not quite ended.
“Come on dad,” Hannah urges. “It's warm and you'll like it.” The children have decided that night swimming is a fitting end to our day. After leaping in the cold pool they are now luxuriating in the blue ethereal glow of the heated pool. Seeing the family all floating happily in the pool I steel my resolve and decide to join them. I’m immediately enveloped in lovely warmth as I float beneath an endless dark sky stretched above. It feels like a dream…but I suppose that is what this stunning place is - a dream destination.
Pack pack…quick quick - that's the joy of timeshare - too easy. We are headed to a place we have never been before, the Magoebaskloof area…wherever that is? Leaving Hazyview we head back through Hoedspruit and then on towards Tzaneen and then to Magoebaskloof.
As we ascend the Magoebaskloof pass the weather begins to change rapidly. “Wow. Look at that. It's 19 degrees,” we say looking at the temperature gauge. Then it's 18…17…16…15…14. A thick mist hangs over everything as we drive through a transformed world. What a contrast to what we are used to.
There is an air of excitement. It feels like we are arriving in Europe. We’re staying at my cousin Susan and Don’s home, and we’ve been told to wait for them at pre-determined spot so they can lead us to their home, because “there are no signposts or road names”. Sounds interesting. We follow them in their Jeep along a gravel road, past a dam, through forests…
“My hat,” I say as we wind along, “how did they find this house?”
The mist is thick as we pass sheep roaming in the road before finally arriving at a beautiful home set above a stunning dam. We have stepped out of Africa and arrived in Scotland, made even more authentic as we sip whiskey next to a roaring log fire, while outside the mist wraps in cold wisps around the house.
Arising in the morn, in this wee bit ‘o the Scottish highlands, we ease into the day chatting over a cuppa tea while a log fire crackles warmly away in the hearth. “Let's go and look at the village,” Susan suggests, and so we leap into our cars and are soon winding our way along the misty gravel roads. Haenertsberg is a tiny little village set at the top of the Magoebaskloof pass.
The quaint little shops and pub are like a small version of Franschhoek. We wander along the street in the light mist, which creates a surreal feel, looking at the shops. “This is the cannon the Boers blew up when they were retreating from the British,” Don says as we stare at the remains of a large Long Tom cannon. There's even a small museum with more about the fascinating local history.
After our stroll we stop at the pub for some lunch before following Don on a different route back, through a lovely forest where the mist hangs like a bridal veil in between massive pine trees that reach heavenwards like silent sentinels in silky garments.
“Ask Don about the bikes.” Susan whispers to us conspiratorially. “If you don't get him moving it will be too late.” And so we raise the topic of the quad bikes - much to the glee of he children. Soon Don has taken the four bikes out of the garage and kids, Don and dog are off on a quad adventure.
After a while, the kids arrive back with coat hanger grins stuck to their faces. “This is so amazing,” they gush, “there are so many cool roads to ride on.” It's the parents turn and so Nicky and I head out. We wind our way along gravel roads, dirt tracks, through dark forests, past ponds and grazing sheep.
It's a stunning ride in beautiful surroundings. I can see why the kids enjoyed it so much.
Returning home we're in time to catch sunset over the lake and the somewhat disappointing exit of the Scottish rugby team. However, as the log fire crackles away again, I raise my glass in toast to a grand display of rugby and a beautiful country - Scotland….in South Africa!
I know what I must speak on today, I can hear him tell me. I need to share this message. Someone needs to hear it. I bow and pray as I thank God for his message, as I begin to prepare my sermon for Sunday.
“We aren't running the Comrades marathon this year.” That's what we have declared multiple times to those who have enquired. “We are taking a gap year, and that includes running Comrades. I'll come back next year for number ten,” I confidently proclaim.
Then why is it that I find myself standing scantily dressed in running gear in the pitch dark huddled with 18,000 other nervous runners while the haunting strains of Chariots of Fire blast through the speakers at the start of the Comrades Marathon? Let's back up a bit.
It's a year of travel and adventure that we have planned. Getting in training for Comrades is not going to happen, and also after running 9 in a row a break will be good. Especially as there is only one word to describe the 90km experience for me - brutal! So we aren't running it this year. Well, that is until some crazy Aussie mates said “Hey we gonna come to South Africa to run Comrades...” so we couldn't let them do it alone. So we enter, you know, just in case they come.
The training is minimal as there are no marathons that seem to coincide with the out of the way places we are frequenting. No worries, I have plan. We're staying at Fanschhoek so I say, “Nicky, let's run a marathon.” Of course she's keen...and so after waking up a few mornings and looking at the dark world outside we roll over and say “maybe tomorrow”. But eventually “tomorrow” does come.
We set off from Franschhoek in the pitch dark using my cellphone torch for light. This is crazy! It's a simple plan - run 21km and turn around and run 21km back. Long story, short...42km is long, but we survive to tell the tale. And then a week later we do it again, but this time I feel like I've been beaten by an oversized wet porpoise. Eish! Comrades?
A few days later we find ourselves sipping wine and smelling the roses...literally, in the spectacular Kirstenbosch gardens. A message comes through from the crazed Aussies. “Sorry, we won't be able to make Comrades...” I do an Irish jig of joy. Well, that's off the agenda. I let the wine and roses wash over me. I'll drink to that.
We're back on KZN and Comrades is now drifting away into the void, where it belongs. We're headed to The Waffle House in Ramsgate. The prospect of a crispy Belgian waffles topped with icecream and honey lures us in. As we disembark from Pajey a friendly car guard says, “So are you running Comrades this year?” Huh? Who's this crazy dude talking to? “Umm, we're not sure,” I reply, still not sure why he's asking us this. “Well, if you've done 300km of training you're good to go,” he says. "I did that and finished in 11h25." We would be very happy to finish in that time...more than half an hour to spare, but that seems unlikely.
Ok, let me put this is perspective. Most Comrades runners do about 1200km of training runs between Jan and May. We, who like to come in fresh and undertrained, do about 700km...so 300km is very light indeed. I quickly check my Runkeeper app...we're closing in on 300km. But it's so little..and what's this crazy dude with the 8 month belly bulge know, even if he says he's done it?
“Let's do an ultra tester,” Nicky suggests when we are back at base camp in Cowies Hill “Let's just see how we handle it.” Sigh! And so we decide to test our bodies. You can't do this crazy Comrades thing without at least one ultra under the shoes. And so we awake before the roosters have even contemplated dawn and run for about an hour in total darkness before heading towards the Durban beachfront where we enjoy a short breakfast break before returning. 54km and it wasn't too bad...maybe it was the breakfast break.
But the fear gnaws. Yes or no? To run or not? We're enjoying ourselves in Sodwana, I'm trying to forget. Comrades is next Sunday. We attend a local church and God speaks.
“How many of you have heard God audibly speak to you?” asks the pastor. No hands go up. “How many of you would like to hear God audibly speak to you?” All the hands go up. “Well, if you want to hear God audibly speak to you, read the Bible out loud!” And how true that is. This is God's word. It is him speaking to me. And so I hear God speak.
“Fear not!” says God as the Pastor reads these words from the Bible. It's for me.
But he is not finished. His message is more direct than that. He continues, “run in such a way as to get the prize…Run like you are enjoying it.” What? This is not God speaking to me he's shouting at me. “Many people are running Comrades next week...” he continues. I'm stunned.
“There will be a wall. Press through it and before you know it you are in the stadium and it has all been worth it. Finish the race you've been called to. Listen to God when he speaks to you. He speaks to you through his Word. Sure he may also speak to you in other ways - directly, through nature, or even through other people. Listen.” It's God speaking directly to me. Wow! A peace I can't explain settles over me. Comrades is coming yet I feel such peace.
“It's last minute I know, but we've booked flights. We're coming to run Comrades.” That's what the crazy Aussie message says. After all this they're now coming. And that's how we find ourselves standing at the start of the 90th Comrades marathon, Nicky's 9th and my 10th.
Chariots of Fire fades away, the moment is here. The rooster sound crows through the speakers and seconds later the gun blasts heralding the start of our 90km journey from Durban to Pietermaritzburg.
We were never planning on doing this crazy run this year and so we have an H seeding...that means we are right at the back of the 18,000 field. When the gun goes we stand and stand and stand. It takes us 8 minutes to cross the start line and about 15 minutes before we can start to run. In a race like this, where 12 hours is the cutoff, those minutes can make the difference between a medal and no medal.
Finally we find some space and Nicky and I can run freely. We're feeling great as we move steadily up the field passing hundreds of runners. Yet nagging in the back of my mind is the wall. It's huge for me. Last year it hit at the 60km mark. That meant 30km of nausea, vomiting and walking - 5 hours! I don't want that. Yet I feel peace as we continue to push on. It's like we're flying.
We move comfortably through halfway in 5h20. We've made up loads of time. We're flying. Feeling great. The weather is not too hot and the up run, notorious for being brutal is feeling good. However at about 75km I meet the wall. It's what the pastor said. But he also said,”Press through it and before you know it you will be in the stadium.”
Nicky is, as always strong in this part of the race, but she stays with me. Nausea swamps me. Vomiting. Walking. Nausea. Vomiting. Yet before I know it we're over the daunting mountain called Polly Shorts and headed to the stadium.
The sound of that announcer's voice mingles with cheers and music pulling us inexorably towards our goal. We've slowed but have plenty of time now. As I enter the stadium I'm overwhelmed by the emotion of finishing my tenth Comrades. My children who have tirelessly supported us through the whole race with the selfless help of my cousin, are waiting. They hand me a banner and together with Nicky I round the final corner holding the banner high - “10 with God's Strength”.
There are no words to describe the feeling of finishing my 10th Comrades and earning my Green Number. They have all been a huge challenge, but somehow this is the culmination. My mind is racing, my legs are still running even though I'm standing still, my nausea fatigued stomach is still churning as I smile for the camera as I'm awarded my Green Number badge. It's over. Done in God's strength. Nicky and I have done it, and so too has the amazing Aussie-ex-Saffer crazy runner Roxie. The flood of joy is indescribable. Sometimes we just need to step beyond the line to experience the power of God - his love, joy and peace.
We finished...in 11h25. That's what the strange car guard said. Sometimes we just need to learn to listen!
Pizza, vino, cappuccino, deez are da things that make life worth living. As I cross the road I see someone looking at the menu. “Ciao,” I say. “We have the best pizzas in the world.” The girl, she looks at me and smiles. I think she will be back. I watch as she walks away. Yes, pizza, vino and cappuccino, they are the things that we live for.
After leaving the network of dirt tracks in Mozambique we return to South Africa. It's like chalk and cheese, sand and tar, wild and calm. It's been fun but it's good to cruise on a paved road with signs and lines and modern things. Yet it's short lived as we turn off on our way towards Sodwana. The route hugs Lake Sibaya, and just like in Mozi, it is mainly thick sand and undulations, winding through dense coastal forests. It's beautiful seeing glimpses of this magnificent Lake Sibaya, but I'm giving the driving full concentration as once or twice Pajey fights furiously to get through the thick sand. Getting stuck out here would be a problem - there is no cell signal, no humans that we've seen. Years later, all that would be discovered would be our remains picked clean by hippos. However, finally after about two hours we arrive at Sodwana Bay Lodge.
We awake and are ready for action. Today we are headed to Mkuze Game Park. Our first stop on route to Mkuze is the Spar at Mbazwane. We've had to adapt to a new style of shopping as we move off the grid, and shop where Africa shops. The shop cuisine sports everything from bulk packs of chicken claws to 50kg bags of mealie meal - enough to feed a small nation for a week. No suhsi in sight....Aah, for a taste of sushi. Actually just chicken that no longer looks like a recently departed chicken would be good.
We make our way along a bumpy dirt road that occasionally gives way to what appears to be the distant memory of a tar road before giving up completely and returning to gravel again. Added to this are the bonus points for dodging cows, goats, and equally non-intelligent pedestrians.
Eventually, we arrive at the Mkuze gate, flash our Rhino card, fill in endless, pointless forms, as though this is a border crossing, and are finally admitted. By this stage we are feeling peckish - it must be the lingering memory of chicken claws. We head to a lake-side picnic spot arriving just after noon having not seen another car or human on route here. It's wonderful having this game park all to ourselves. Soon we've set up our table, poured our chilled wine, and are smelling the wors braaing as we listen to the hiss of our promised meal mingling with the nearby sound of snorting hippos and the distant cry of a fish eagle. It truly is incredible to be just 20 meters away from these magnificent animals while enjoying fine food.
Sodwana Run & Snorkel
'Tis always a joy for the children to be awoken with the news “We're heading out for a run in 10 minutes”. But such is the lot that does on occasion fall upon them, as it is on this fine morn. With Hannah's mumbles muted due to a restraining order already imposed, we head out, and what a rave run it is…for us at least. We run the gently undulating road towards Sodwana beach but are forced to turn at 2.5km as some of the less running inclined kids deem this far enough.
The deep blue sea is calling us and today we will venture into it. We've booked a snorkeling adventure. “It's women and children first,” says the guy who is going to lead our dive as we get ready to launch. “And then when you are waist deep the rest can get in the boat.” So much for equality. Clinging white-knuckled to the side of the boat as the waves roll in I await the call to “abandon sea” hoping it will come before the waves swamp me or the boat propeller slices me into biltong pieces.
Getting out to sea in the rubber duck is like driving on a badly potholed road, which resonates with our driving experience in this area. We bump along the coast for about 20 minutes finding nothing more than a shoal of hyperactive tuna leaping through the waves. Aah, sushi...so close yet so far.
“This is the reef,” the dive master says once we give up on the elusive dolphins, “follow me,” he says leaping overboard into the big wide ocean. Reef? This looks like the great wide open sea. An ideal place for sharks to suck on turtle-looking snorkellers.
In moments we are all bobbing in the ocean like a flock of colorful jellyfish. Putting my face down a hidden world of visual splendor erupts into view. Floating high above the reef far below, I see schools of colorful fish dance and dart to the crackling sound of the coral. The scene is stunning as we “fly” over this hidden world and get a glimpse into the unseen.
Returning to the boat after about 30 minutes I find Hannah and Josh already there having succumbed to the ocean's kiss - nausea. Clinging onto the boat we bounce our way back and before long are showered and warming, like contented lizards, in the sun.
In the evening we attend the local church, Solid Ground, that takes place in a home. We are warmly welcomed and enjoy the worship and the powerful message ahout hearing God - something I really need as the fear of the upcoming Comrades marathon settles upon me! Should I run it this year? It's number 10...but this was going to be the year off. Decisions...
Across the road from the church is an Italian pizza restaurant claiming to be the best in the world. We met the proprietor yesterday and he is Italian both in accent and enthusiastic spirit. The restaurant is just a caravan nestled on the side of the road with a few tables planted in the sand. Candles on the table and stars above create a truly remarkable ambiance as jovial music pumps out of a pair of small speakers coming out of the caravan kitchen.
The thin based pizzas are delicious and we wash them down with the wine served in paper coca cola cups. “It's an epic way to end an amazing stay at Sodwana,” I think to myself as we walk the kilometer or so back to our chalet. Africa just keeps on serving up the best in tastes, sights, experiences and people. Nkosi Sikilele Africa.
The water is glassy still as I look down at it from my vantage point on top of a dead tree. It seems as if nothing is alive beneath that glassy surface, but I know different. After a few moments I catch sight of movement just below the surface and launch myself into the air before banking sharply left and diving down towards the water. In seconds my talons break through the water and sink deeply into the soft flesh of my prey. With a mighty thrust of my wings I rise quickly above the water holding my catch as droplets roll off it like silver tears. I cry out my success to my mate as I rise high into the air.
From bush to beach. From north to south. We make our way from northern KZN and the beauty of Phinda's stunning game reserve 5 hours south to a cottage we have just outside the little coastal town of Port Edward (H). And once more God, using a different brush to the one he used to paint the bush in the north, sweeps his divine hand across this area to create an equally stunning, yet vastly different vista.
Gone are the thorn trees and endless bush - before us is a mirror-still estuary, framed by twin hills covered in dense coastal forest that reaches out to kiss the white beach and sea beyond it. Gone is the rich smell of dust and fynbos replaced by the scent of tropical coastal bush blended with salt spray.
One of our goals on our trip is to not only walk Africa but to also run Africa...that means we get to explore on foot the many wonderful places we are visiting.
It's a sticky humid day, the kind of day when the sweat drips off your body with just the slightest exertion - it's summer in KwaZulu-Natal. So if you decide to go for a run, you can expect to return hot and sweaty - and that's what we do. After a few days of inactivity balanced by equally active eating we know that a run is needed to help with the restoration of body and soul. And so despite the heat, already oppressive at 8am, we set off.
Running through the small coastal town of Port Edward on the south coast of South Africa is a real treat. The road wends its way between the sea and small old style homes that have been here for years, sporting interesting signs such as "Likable Local". Soon the paved road gives way to a dirt track framed on both sides by cool, shady trees that almost touch each other above the road. Our 8km run finally ends back on the beautiful white sandy beach where it began - but now there is the added reward, the tantalizing prospect of a cooling swim.
The moods of the Indian Ocean on this south coast of South Africa are as changing and unpredictable as the moods of a male elephant - one moment calm and serene and the next wild and dangerous. Today we are rewarded with a silky smooth sea that looks like God has turned it to glass. Beautifully formed waves grow slowly and perfectly as they approach the beach, rising in grandeur before crashing down in a spray of foam as they reach the shore and roll up the sand.
We need no second invitation and quickly doff our running gear and race towards the cool, silky embrace of the sea. The chilled liquid pleasure envelopes us and instantly washes away the heat of our run. It's invigorating, exhilarating, and what is most amazing - it's just like this nearly all year round.
Port Edward and the beaches nearby are what might be termed "far from the madding crowd". Unlike the busy and popular beaches of Durban and Cape Town, Port Edward and the nearby Ramsgate Blue Flag beach are tranquil and uncrowded - especially if you come out of season. Beautiful walkways and paths wind through the coastal bush and along the beach enabling you to walk many kilometers enjoying the beauty, searching for shells or just relishing in the amazing weather. This is the place of the endless summer!
I sit on the patio of our cottage at The Estuary, and even though we have been here many times over the years, I am overwhelmed by the beauty. The tranquil estuary stretches out to the tree-dressed hill beyond. The air is tinged with the salty smell of the sea air as the early evening sun paints the sky a kaleidoscope of colours. And then I see it - Africa's most magnificent bird, the African Fish Eagle. It rises with graceful ease off a branch and plummets towards the water to grasp a fish. In seconds it is rising again crying its iconic sound - the sound of Africa, the sound of tranquility. I raise my glass of chilled Chardonnay and toast this place of endless summer and endless beauty.