Charlie's Bird

living the dream with Charlie and Thandi and chirping all the way back to the nest.

I am struggling

…today, with what to write. I fear I will be unmasking myself today, which I never intended to, but I am so angry about something that happened, and the injustices in this world, that I will have to do some naming and shaming, which will, no doubt, give my game away.

So this weekend we had our now annual bookclub weekend away. Although I am not sure we can call ourselves a bookclub anymore, since we don’t buy books anymore… Anyway. We headed to a tiny resort up the coast that I had not previously heard of. It is a camping spot, with some chalets. Charlie, Thandi and I had a chalet. We had heard shortly before we left that this was one of those institutions which that do not allow people of other races through their gates; and it seemed true, especially when you saw their security with the ultrasecret gate code, which got phoned through to you on the morning of your arrival, and the guy in the next door chalet wearing his Boeremag Tshirt, and the fact that the demographic really was starkly white… In this day and age, there really is no place for that kind of nonsense anymore, really. So once I put my annoyance away, and just relaxed into the weekend, it was good to spend quality time with good friends. Friday night we braaied and saturday evening after a wine and chocolate pairing (a whole post over that will come shortly), a general knowledge quiz, we had a delicious potjie. And then the drama began…

Thandi awoke at about 00h45 on Sunday morning, very unsettled (unbeknownst to us, this was happening in other chalets too, small children were waking up, all rather miserable) After fighting to get her to go back to sleep, we eventually popped her into our bed, all rather cramped and uncomfortable. While lying there scratching her back we heard lots of noises of nature, and then human noises, footsteps, running, a few indistinct calls, and then some footsteps really close, a German accented ‘Hello’ and ‘Help’ or 7. Charlie hauled his weary bones out bed and went to investigate…

He found 4 dishevelled, ashen and smokey Germans who were part of a hiking group doing the local Strandloper Trail. The sleep over hut in the Cape Henderson reserve was just in front of the resort, and in the early hours of the morning it had gone up in flames, with many of them loosing their hiking bags, passports, shoes, clothes… They were devastated. At this point Charlie tried to get some help, which was laughable. First 112 on the cellular network, bearing in mind our coverage was patchy at best. They directed him to the East London Fire department – not their problem they said, and directed him to the Amathole Fire Department, who did not know where Haga-Haga (the nearest hotel) was, or Cape Henderson, and did not have a map to look it up. ‘We need an address, sir’, was their only response. At this point after a few  many minutes of frustration, he came in, and we reckoned his best bet was to take them to Haga-Haga, where hopefully there was a police station – we were not sure. On arrival in the sleepy hollow, he discovered there is in fact, no police station there. He tried the hotel, banged on the door, rang the phone number; no response. He tried the hotel’s emergency number – it was turned off(!!!!). At this point, my Charlie rang Port Control East London – the only reliable point he could think of, and got the number for the head of Disaster management in the Metro, roused him at 02h45, and got some kind of a response mobilized. He then woke one of our fellow campers and they ferried all 12 tourists to the Haga-Haga Hotel, where the police would fetch them and get them to some kind of safety. And so, there we were at 04h00, 12 tourists, with their local ‘guide’ who himself didn’t have any emergency contacts either (not sure what kind of a guide that would be), deposited outside the hotel with their sleeping bags; and police eventually on their way from Kei Mouth, a Thandipants eventually asleep, and a rather shell-shocked and tired Charlie and Birdie.

What has happened in this world, when emergency services fail us so dramatically – the next day at 11h00 we finally saw someone from EC parks department making their way to the site – which when we’d been to look at it was still smouldering, with little areas catching again in a very strong wind. The entire site was devastated, razed to the ground… What has happened to us when we casually ignore the burning bushes, which could have sparked a major disaster – anybody remember St Francis just the other day? What has happened when responsibility and accountability mean so very little? How can the guide not have emergency contact details? How can the fire department not know what is in their jurisdiction, and not have a map of their area? How did we become so callous that we pay our emergency workers so poorly, they feel the need to strike? FFS!

I’m a lot calmer now, but very saddened by what happened this weekend. I don’t want to be part of a society that has race as criteria to assess whether you can stay in a holiday resort. I don’t want to be part of a society which is failing its people, its tourists and its land so dramatically. But how do we change it?

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3 Comments»

  Renee wrote @

Oh No, how terrible for you guys – what is happening to this world of ours.

  CR wrote @

That is awful!! Very sad!!!

  em’s mommy wrote @

Omw!! Shocking beyond shocking!! How do resorts like that even still operate!! Let’s hope they get exposed and shut down!!!!

As for the fire how sad! And how annoying no one cared to help! Well do Charles for helping out


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