Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Oudebos revisited

This Kaartman made his first visit to Oudebos a long time ago, during the Dark Ages. Wessel de Beer was the Forestry Dept foreman at the time. Raconteur and rampant racist, Wessel was a real gentleman too, and I accompanied him deep into the Kogelberg to re-inter the ashes of botanist TP Stokoe. After the deed was done Wessel proudly showed off the dent in the long kikuyu grass behind his house where his favourite leopard sunned itself every morning.
When the Dept employed its first Coloured forester Wessel resigned and joined Andries Treurnicht’s Conservative Party – the Dark Ages, to be sure. Wessel is long gone and I’m sure the leopard has been long-since replaced.
Much later Mrs Kaartman was appointed administrator of the pension of one Oupa Jan. Oupa Jan lived in a small wooden house at Oudebos, with a special ramp to the back door. Jan had no legs, largely as a result of his long-standing encounters with the fruit of the vine, and he needed the ramp for his wheelchair. No prosthetics for Jan – he wasn’t much of a runner. No gun or cricket bat either. Or should I not have said that ...
Oupa Jan lived in the top-left house, where the social worker is visiting.
Wessel lived in the slasto-slate-chimney PWD job on the right
Jan received R18.43 per month – bearing in mind that a Rand was worth at least 100 times its present value (a new Landcruiser 4x4 cost R3500), he was better off by nearly R6 than today’s state pensioners. However, a half-gallon glass jug of Virginia cost R2 to a thirsty man, so Jan had his cash administered and released in little bits, mostly in kind. Every month Jan pleaded with Mrs Kaartman for more cash and less mealie meal – he needed new underpants, he always said. The canny Mrs K knew what kind of underpants Jan wanted. More of a papsak than a papbroek, she reckoned.
Men at work
Then thirty years ago a distinguished A-rated scientist friend of mine, one of only three living South Africans elected as a member by the US National Academy of Sciences [forgive this name-dropping] and I did some research at Oudebos, aimed at quantifying the influence of invasive Argentine ants on fynbos survival. The resulting paper bears the names of Bond and Slingsby and has been my sole contribution to the world’s body of scientific literature.
Oh be kind to your six-legged friends ...
Be that as it may, we recently revisited Oudebosch [the name has now been sexed up to look more like a wine estate] to check whether the Argies had invaded further. It was the Kaartman’s second visit to the superb ‘ecolodges’ that now stand where Oupa Jan once lived, and if you haven’t tried them you really should. Apart from the funny ‘eco-loos’ [you need a shift of your comfort zone to get used to them] the cottages with their airy, open planning are truly magnificent, and are booked up for months ahead.
Ecolodges with ecopool, ecoloos, ecolectricity and even ecoargentineants ... 
the veg has grown up a lot since this 2012 pic when 
the lodges were brand new
We loved the visit, good times with friends and an incredibly warm, still, starlit night, and the ant survey produced some enormous surprises. We’re doing this research as a precursor to the initiation of an ‘Ant Atlassing’ project, of which more anon. And the results we found? More of those anon, too!
Kaartman, Easter 2014