Lotheni Baby!

Lotheni Baby!

Our Campsite In Lotheni

The first of the Easter-time, long weekends has sadly come to an end. The good news is that it wasn’t wasted, as Sharon and I join Western and Karen for an awesome three days at Lotheni.

Unfortunately, since we both have new jobs, we had to drive up early on Saturday morning rather than the preferred Friday afternoon. Not wanting to waste a day, I woke up a grumpy Sharon at 5:30 and managed to get us onto the road shortly after 6am. Due to recent advancement in technology we drove through Nottingham Road rather than Underberg, which I previously believed to be the shorter route, thereby saving us precious time.

After a brief stop in Nottingham Road (for ice, not beer – that was bought WELL in advanced) we started the 50kms of dirt road to Lotheni. My Paj, which has now been named Rocky due to both the terrain it traverses and the brief rocking period it experienced due to a loose rear axle, covered the ground with ease, and camp was set up in no time at all. This meant that by the time Western and Karen arrived, Sharon and I were relaxing comfortably under the gazebo, beer in hand. The down side to arriving first is that I then had to help set up a second tent – damn my efficiency!

Once both camps were up, we enjoyed a quick lunch of spicy chicken mayo, before whipping out the cupcakes and chips for Karen’s birthday. Judging by the amount of junk food on the table, you would’ve sworn that we were at a 6 year old’s party. Mmmmm…

Warren And Sharon Prior Camping At Lotheni

After lunch it was time to hit the river for the first bit of fishing. Western and I trudged from the campsite back towards the chalets, and then headed into the stretch we were going to fish via a small feeder stream. We spent the next 2 hours flogging the water, with not so much as a rise. Eventually we bashed our way out of the river, through tall grass, brambles, and up one hell of a steep hill, back to camp.

By the time we got back it was starting to cool down, and the sun was dipping behind the mountains, so we lit a fire and grabbed a cold beer. We then headed over to Koos and Darryl to find out if they’d had more luck on the water. The two of them were staying in a little cottage in amongst the campsite, with perhaps the best view of the river the park offers. We stood around a fire and the discussion centered on fishing. Although they’d picked up a few fish they’d also battled, and had even blanked in the afternoon (if memory serves me correctly). Suddenly I didn’t feel too bad about our poor showing *phew*.

Amidst the discussion (and some pillaging of the flies that had worked for them) the rain suddenly came down with vengeance. We finished our beers and rushed back to camp, fearing the worst for our fire. But amazingly the ladies had created a weather barrier (combination oven) with the cunnings use of a grid and some tinfoil. The smell of stuffed butternut was filling the camp as we got on with butterflying the fillet.

By the time we got the meat onto the braai the rain had taken its toll on the fire. Luckily, being manly men, we eat our meat rare, so it didn’t affect us too much. Ironically, shortly after cooking, the rain died down and we enjoyed the rest of the chilly evening around a dodgy campfire (dam you wet wood) which needed to be remade several times.

Sharon And Karen Jumping Into The Lotheni River

Saturday morning started with a grand breakfast consisting of croissants, cheeses and jams, before we headed down to Cool Pools. The girls lazed on the rocks while Western and I fished the section up to the camp, hoping for better luck than the day before. It didn’t start well, and we landed no fish for well over an hour, even though there were some great looking pools. In fact, the only thing I managed to catch was Westerns neck, as he sneakily walked behind me.

Then, as we turned and saw the swing bridge, our luck suddenly changed. I had noticed a hatch coming off the water which, even though I hadn’t seen any rises, did offer a glimmer of hope. Thankfully I was not to be disappointed, and I picked up a small Brown Trout from under and undercut shortly after that. Within a few steps I noticed another rise in a riffle. I casted over it but nothing. I tried again, and this time the fish rose to the dry, and I was on. Within a few more steps I had another small Brown. All the fish were in the region of 6 inches.

In the same period Western, who was fishing just to the right of me, missed 2 fish which rose to his fly. Apparently there was a bit too much slack in his line, rendering his strikes useless. On the up side, at least he saw some action, and maybe he’ll have better luck next time.

Things went quiet after that and we ended up climbing out of the river just before the bridge. This might not have been the smartest move as we once again clambered out of the valley in head high grass. You go Achilles!

We drove back to Cool Pools (where the girls were now a nice shade of pink), had a quick swim, and then headed back to camp. After a couple of cheesy chicken hot dogs we settled around the table for the traditional Scrabble game. I’m glad to say that Sharon and I managed to hold on to our Scrabble trophy, while Karen and Western managed to hold on to their Scrabble Bickery cup.

The afternoon and evening were spent around the fire as Sharon and I made a Mutton Curry Potjie. Western and Karen spoiled us with an array of cheeses from camembert to blue cheese and brie. It was a rather confusing moment as I discovered certain cheeses were only allowed on certain biscuits, but I’m sure Karen and Western can help out further here. I also made the great discovery of Jalapeno dip on cold fillet *drool*.

Warren Jumping Into The Lotheni River

As we waited for the potjie we also spent some time learning to use off camera flash using Western’s 7D. Oh, and the good Captain also joined us for some additional company.

Monday arrived far too quickly, and after a fantastically greasy breakfast consisting of egg, bacon, sausages, tomato and toast, we headed to the Gorge for a few photographs, and a great swim. We hung around in the pool for a few hours practicing our belly flops – well, we were actually attempting back flips, somersaults, etc, but it didn’t pay off. In fact the only person who seemed to have any skill was Sharon, who did pull off an exceptional back flip.

Another notable incident occurred at the pool as a hot girl and her boyfriend walked past. I noticed he was wearing the same baggies as me and, without thinking, yelled out, “Nice costume”. This rustled a few feathers as he couldn’t work out if I was talking to his lady, or even worse, him. Eventually I managed to rid him of his gaze as I explained the comment, but he still didn’t look too pleased.

By this time some rather ominous looking rain clouds were forming and we decided to head back to camp to avoid packing up in the rain. It turned out this was a great decision, and as we put the last item in the car the rain came pouring down.

The drive home was rather more eventful than I’d have hoped for. Just after joining the freeway we came to a standstill. Western and Karen had stopped in Nottingham Road, so I thankfully managed to warm them of the problem. Sharon and I however spent the next hour parked on the freeway, watching a double decker bus burn out. And just to add to the pull, as we were allowed to continue, the hail came pouring down.

Thankfully, after being on the road for far too long, we arrived home and unpacked in record time. Not wanting to cook dinner we hit Spur for their Monday night burger madness (or whatever the hell its called) before sitting down to a DVD called “The Invention of Lying”. If you’re not offended easily by movies which take a poke at religion, this British style comedy is a must see.

And that was it, 3 days of bliss, and it was all over. At least it’s only a 4 day week…