The Umgeni River in KwaZulu Natal would be classed as a stream in many other parts of the world, but in South Africa we are a bit shy on moving strips of water. Anything wider than a few metres tends to be promoted, in much the same way as the upper section of those failing a grade in school lately are moved up to the next year regardless.
Anyway, last soggy Sunday with wailing wind, Younger Daughter elected to employ her latest strategy for getting rid of Dad, this time as a belated Father’s Day pressie. She has already tried microlighting and whale watching and horse-riding and sending me for weekends to bits of country where she knows I’ll do some climbing. This time it was a canoe expedition up said ‘river’, and I had granddaughter R with me. J is still too young to qualify for attempts to bump her off in this manner.
The Parks Department has made a pleasant spot of the estuary, which was transplanted in early years from what is now much of central Durban. The Blue Lagoon and model yacht pond areas are neatly paved, lawned, and maintained.
However, although it was before nine o’clock, a disgusting section of the local population had seen fit to arrive in minibus vehicles which were stopped anywhere they chose to, and from which emanated over-loud music. Cooking was being done on the pavement, and litter and broken bottles were being strewn about with gay abandon. Plentiful bins were ignored, and cleaners on duty were fighting a losing battle against the littering. Prostitutes prowled brazenly. Liquor and/or substances appeared to be a feature of the revelry, and it was a wonder some of the noisy crowd were still able to stand. The abundant local bird life had, quite understandably, distanced itself from the immediate area
We parked away from the worst of this scene, found where to embark on our booked canoe ride, and R and I set off leaving the rest to take refuge in a tearoom. The wind and tide were against us, and I had to assist with some really vigorous exercise before we were able to view the cormorants, geese, herons, pelicans, gulls, and numerous smaller birds. The guide was a fountain of knowledge, though his accent made it difficult at times to grasp what he was telling us. A ‘heeRON’, for example.
We returned happy with all we had seen (also, I love being in anything that floats on water) and, after running aground a few times, disembarked and claimed our soft drinks which were part of the package. I meandered across to watch model yachts battling on the beating leg in horribly gusty conditions.
Then I was confronted by a hefty, rather wobbly, man. He had taken a liking to the drink in my hand and felt he should share or have it, so he grabbed. Restraining an instinct to inflict grievous bodily harm, I snapped, ‘No, you don’t!’, yanked it from his grasp — rather denting the can in the process — and marched back to the car with him trailing behind. We left. Pity. That rather took the gilt off the gingerbread. Education on how to behave in a civilised fashion in public is increasingly lacking.