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    The Mkhuze Game Reserve was officially handed back to the Natal Parks, Game and Fish Preservation Board in 1953, following the successful conclusion of the Nagana campaign.  Anti-poaching patrols by Board staff had, however, already started in the adjoining Nxwala State Lands, to the south of the reserve, as early as 1952, while that area was still under the control of the Veterinary Department. The dry conditions being experienced in the reserve during that year had led to a considerable exodus of game from the reserve into the State Lands, with a corresponding increase in poaching activities by some of the neighbouring farmers. Ian Player was sent down to Mkhuze in September 1952 to organise raids in the area and reported that he "saw Singie and got guide, Sikohlo" before proceeding to Nxwala, where night raids were conducted and two local farmers arrested and charged for poaching. One of the culprits paid a £15 admission of guilt fine for shooting an impala, while the other was acquitted on a charge of assault.

    One of the first tasks to be undertaken by the Board in 1953 was an attempt to bring the poaching situation on the Nxwala State Lands, under control. For a number of years prior to 1953, the area had been regarded as a private hunting and grazing area by some of the local farmers, who even went so far as to water their cattle in the adjoining game reserve. In the Board's annual report for 1953/54 it is reported that "as many as 250 shots in one night were heard from spotlight poachers" and immediate and drastic action was necessary to put a stop to this unhappy state of affairs. Ranger H.L. Matthee was appointed to the task in July 1952 and was in charge of Nxwala and Sordwana Bay until October 1953. Ranger Hennie van Schoor, in turn, arrived in the reserve in September 1953 to try to combat the poaching in the Lower Mkhuze area. In January 1954 Ranger Norman Deane from Hluhluwe joined him in the southern section of the reserve, to arrange a game drive to get animals back into the reserve. Another such drive would be held six years later. Hennie records in his monthly report for January 1954 that the drive was successful, with large numbers of impala and blue wildebeest being driven back. Shortly after this, a start was made with the erection of a fence along the southern boundary of the reserve.

    The Board's negotiations with Onderstepoort, for the transfer of Singie Denyer and 8 guards to its service, were successfully concluded and he and his reduced staff started with the Board on 1 September 1954. On 8 September 1954, Singie officially took over as Ranger-in-Charge from Norman Deane, who was to return to Hluhluwe. During the Nagana campaign, Singie had had 17 guards under his control but this number had been reduced to 8 towards the end of the Nagana campaign. There were no roads in the reserve at that time, only rough tracks criss-crossing the thornveld. On his first day of duty with the Board, Singie had a busy day. Apart from branding the Nagana bait cattle, Singie sent six poachers to the Charge Office at Ubombo - an activity that was to become almost a daily routine in his life in the reserve. Three of his eight guards stayed at Singie's base camp at Mantuma while the remaining 5 guards were spread very thinly over the reserve. Singie records in his first report that "there is much snaring in the reserve, with snares being abandoned if poachers become suspicious. The reserve is 105 square miles in extent, each guard having 21 square miles to patrol".

    Another of Singie's early actions was to request that additional guards be appointed and fortunately his plea did not fall on deaf ears. His guard force was increased to 12 guards in November 1954, the extra staff being specifically employed to control poaching on Nxwala.

    Three of Singie's best guards from the Nagana days were transferred to the Board's service with him - Khonjwayo Ndhlovu, Funwayo Mlambo and Mqolosi Gumede. These three exceptional men knew every inch of the reserve, having cris-crossed it innumerable times during the years they were employed on game control during the shooting campaign. Their knowledge of the natural history of the area and terrain was unrivalled and Khonjwayo and Funwayo in particular were deadly shots with their ancient and cumbersome Ist World War Lee-Enfield .303 rifles. I was privileged to have been able to work with the four of them and to have them as guides and mentors during my stay at Mkhuze. Funwayo Mlambo retired from the Board's service in March 1975, after more than 35 years of service in the Mkhuze Game Reserve, but regrettably died some years ago. Khonjwayo Ndhlovu retired shortly after Funwayo and this grand old man was still alive and well as the original manuscript was published in the year 2000. Cycling in to collect his pension in December 1980, Khonjwayo was charged by a black rhino near the airstrip and was lucky to escape alive, although he sustained some bad cuts to his face. His bicycle came off less lightly, as the rhino hooked the back wheel with its horn and totally demolished it.

    After its resumption of control, the Board immediately arranged for the surveying of the eastern and western boundaries of the reserve and this was done in September 1954. They also had to locate and flag the beacons on the Mpila and Ukhombe Hills. In 1950, during the Nagana days, the then Native Affairs Commissioner at Ubombo had a line of concrete beacons set up at his Department's expense, to demarcate part of the eastern border of the tribal land and the western boundary of the game reserve. The beacons stretched from the trigonometry beacon on Ukhombe Hill down to the Dagela Stream in the south and were installed by a Mr Hoffe who was employed by the Native Affairs Department, accompanied by Chief Ndolomba's Indunas and Sub-Headmen to ensure that no mistakes were made in their placing. Singie reported in 1954 that "one of these beacons is clearly visible at the "no entry" sign on the Nhlonhlela Poort track" The accurate surveying of the whole of the western boundary was of vital importance as local residents continued to dispute the boundary. In October 1954 two of them were prosecuted for building huts and planting maize fields in the reserve; this Despite the fact that Mr Alfers, the resident Magistrate at Ubombo had ruled that the boundaries, as set out in 1902 were valid.

    It had been agreed some years previously that, in times of drought, residents living on the eastern escarpment of what was then known as Native Reserve 2, would be permitted to drive their cattle through the reserve to water at the Mkhuze River, using the Mtshopi track. This arrangement was to continue until a borehole could be sunk next to the Nhlonhlela Stream in Reserve No 2. The understanding regarding this arrangement was that the cattle were to be accompanied by herders at all times, that they were not permitted to graze in the reserve and they had to be returned to their kraals immediately after drinking. The borehole was installed and was fully operational by the time Singie transferred to the service of the Board in September 1954 and is still in operation today. 

    Shortly after the boundary dispute, large rocks were hidden in the grass on the track leading into Reserve no 2, causing damage to the Ranger's vehicle. A further infiltration occurred in December 1954, with local residents claiming that the area was part of native reserve. Illegal residents in the reserve compounded the problem. In September of the same year Singie optimistically reported that "the reserve is now cleared of native residents". This clearance did not bring about an end to his problems though. The infiltration of illegal residents was to be a long-standing problem and one that would continue until well into the sixties. In January 1961, plantings of maize, pumpkins, and monkey nuts were found on the banks of the Msunduzi River, near Nxwala.

    As early as 1941, population census for that year had recorded that there were over 120 kraals in the reserve, each with an average of 10 residents per kraal. By 1947 it was thought that at least two-thirds of these had been cleared, but that was to be wishful thinking. The problem of infiltration, which had first been recorded as early as 1922, was to continue to make its appearance at regular intervals for the next 15 years until the matter was finally resolved by the completion of the fencing of the western boundary of the reserve in the seventies.

    The Board's staff had other distractions to contend with in that first year of their control of the reserve. Singie continued to live in the house that he had occupied during his time with the Veterinary Department and its unsatisfactory water scheme was taken over by the Board. He recorded in his report for November 1954 that "Rex our terrier, showed us a large cobra under the hydrangea drums near our bedroom window - a real spitter. Destroyed same". In December of that year the thermometer recorded a maximum temperature of 45°C at 15:00 and the water became so hot in the shallow pools of the Mkhuze River that fish jumped out of them, onto the sand, where they died and were collected by local residents. Marula trees were also affected by the drought and the heat experienced during that year caused many of the older trees to die off, a situation that was further, aggravated by an infestation of caterpillars. Activities in the reserve started returning to normal in 1955, with firebreaks being burnt by staff and progress being made with the fenceline along the southern border of the reserve. Deliberate fires were started by arsonists within the reserve's firebreaks during April to July of that year, when approximately a third of the reserve was burnt out. In the meantime, work on the fenceline from Nxwala to the Msunduzi River also continued, the work being done by Ranger Hennie van Schoor and his labour force who were camped out near the Nsumu Pan. 

    In March 1957 a further 5 guards were appointed to the staff and a start was made with the extension of the series of guard camps around the periphery of the reserve. The Mtshopi guard camp at the entrance to the reserve was completed in May 1958 and a barrier pole and short stretch of fenceline was erected there. In December 1957, Learner Ranger Tony Pooley arrived in the reserve and moved into the rondawel behind Singie's house. It was here that he constructed the first small dam and enclosure for his research project on crocodiles. This interest which, in time, was to lead to Tony becoming an authority of world renown on this reptile, would eventually lead to the establishment of the Natal Parks Board's crocodile research centre at St Lucia Estuary.

    The question of the correct spelling of the name "Mkhuze" has been the subject of debate and opinion that goes as far back as 1958. In part the problem arose from the fact that when the reserve was officially proclaimed in 1912, the official documents spelt Mkuzi with an "i", whereas the name of the village was spelt with an "e". For many years  we had the situation that the reserve's correct address was "Mkuzi Game Reserve, P.O. Mkuze". In recent years some Zulu linguists have felt that the name should be spelt "Mkhuze" and at the time of writing the original manuscript, the name of the reserve was in the process of being officially changed. To compound the confusion, a rubber stamp was incorrectly supplied in 1954, for use on official correspondence, which spelt the reserve's name with an "e". i.e. "Mkuze Game Reserve".

    I remember seeing a specific memo on the subject in the reserve files, from Colonel Vincent, Director of the Natal Parks Board, shortly after I arrived in Mkhuze in 1960. He pointed out the error on the rubber stamp and suggested a practical and simple way of eliminating it. I was delighted to find a copy of his memo in the Natal Parks Board archives during my research for this book. The memorandum was sent to the Chief Conservator, Zululand Peter Potter on 19 December 1958 and it demonstrates the meticulous concern with detail that was applied to minor, as well as major matters in the administration of the Board, by the then Director.

    Colonel Vincent wrote: "It is noted from monthly reports that the rubber stamp used at Mkuzi continues to spell the name of the reserve with an "E", which rightfully belongs to the station and post office, but not to the reserve. The proclaiming of the latter has not been changed and I shall be glad if you will indicate that a razor should be utilised on the rubber stamp concerned, with which it would be a simple matter to remove the three projections of the "E" and thus turn it into an "I". This was, of course, duly done.

    Colonel Jack Vincent, First Director of the Natal Parks Board

    Life in the reserve could always be depended upon to produce the unexpected. Returning home late one evening in May 1956, Singie's Landrover struck the carcass of a blue wildebeest cow that had died in the middle of the track, which was covered in long grass. The impact of the collision caused the steering rod of the vehicle to bend and it was later discovered that five blades in the front spring on the driver's side were also broken. This accident resulted in a long walk home and a great deal of inconvenience. As this was the only vehicle on the reserve, he was without transport while the steering rod was straightened and the spring repaired. Fortunately, neither Singie nor the game guards travelling with him at the time were injured, although they were all thrown against the cab.

    Ensuring that the reserve's vehicles were maintained in a roadworthy condition was not an easy task in the relatively isolated conditions prevailing in Zululand in the fifties. The tar stopped at Empangeni and not a great deal of regular work was done on the gravel road from there on. Once the road making material containing large pieces of stone was spread by graders and roughly levelled off, it was left to the motorists to compact the road and flatten it! Any mechanical parts required for repairing vehicles had to be railed up to Mkuze station from Durban, a journey that took the best part of 18 hours. Spare a thought for the frustrations that the rangers suffered in their attempts to keep their vehicles on the road.

    Singie's phlegmatic report for April 1958 tells a graphic story of the problems he encountered in his efforts to get his Landrover repaired. "On April 28, whilst en route to the Mkuze garage for a service to N.P.A. 757, the silencer of the exhaust blew out. As several holes had rusted through in the main line, Mr Stone (The mechanic at the garage) stated that to weld the pipe would be a waste of time and he recommended an entirely new system, which he ordered from Durban. A further check of the back wheels revealed that the back bearings were both very loose and would require renewing in the near future. Mr Stone was therefore requested to order these as well. While returning from Sodwana Bay on 7 May, the bearings were rumbling quite audibly".

    "On Friday, 9 May, while en route on the Makatini Flats to the Ubombo Charge Office and hospital at Ubombo, the U-bolts on the back (left) spring broke and the centre bolt went at the same time. It was thus impossible to move the vehicle". This was especially bothersome for Singie was transporting Mahukwana, whose foot was swollen and very painful, to the doctor. Both of them had a long walk back to the camp, which aggravated Mahukwana's condition considerably, for he was in great pain during the night.  " The following day, a trip was made to Mkuze Garage with private transport to fetch new U-bolts. None were available but improvised bolts were made at the garage. The bolts were fitted and the vehicle brought back to headquarters".

    "Shortly after this, the Landrover started boiling and backfiring after travelling a few miles and it refused to pull. A check on the carburettor availed nothing. On Sunday afternoon the 11th, Mr Riley, who was visiting us, offered to tow it to the Mkuze garage with his lorry. This was done with my wife following up in our own transport to bring me back to the game reserve. Mr Stone was of the opinion that the gasket had blown, saying that he would order the parts and the truck would be available on Wednesday the 14th .We called for it on Wednesday, as arranged, but the gasket had not arrived. The agents were contacted again and they promised to send the gasket up the same day. Mr Stone informed me that even if the gasket did arrive, the truck would not be available until Saturday the 17th, due to prior bookings".

    "On Saturday 17th the truck was called for, only to find that the gasket had still not arrived. Mr Stone was extremely apologetic and it was not entirely the fault of his garage. He informed me that this treatment from the agents was nothing new by any means and had often occurred in the past, causing both him and his customers extreme irritation, plus the price of many telephone calls. The agents have now definitely promised that the parts will arrive on Monday's train. Back bearings have been fitted and Mr Stone promised that he would complete the job if the parts arrived on Monday's train. Thus again to Mkuze on Monday! The gasket etc had arrived and two mechanics were ordered to work on the vehicle all afternoon and delivery was made at 6:30 p.m".

    "On the way home the petrol lead from the tank broke free and, before this was noticed, the tank ran dry. Petrol had to be fetched from headquarters to get home. Owing to the time factor, it was not possible to fit the exhaust on the 19th and the following day it blew out completely - what a din. On Friday the 23rd, the truck again refused to pull and showed the same symptoms as when the gasket blew. As the truck had no power and in view of the fact that the carburettor and distributor were both newly set, it was felt that the trouble did not lie there. The vehicle managed along the flats, but had to be helped up the inclines, until finally the Mkuze Garage was reached. Here it was found that the timing was out, possibly unwittingly having been moved by the African who had cleaned the engine during the morning. I sincerely hope that the machine will operate with little trouble from now on".

    But Singie's troubles were not over!  Shortly after his saga with the exhaust pipe and U-bolts of his Landrover, his vehicle's fanbelt snapped and, ever resourceful, he used strong, waterproof Elastoplast to effect temporary repairs. Colonel Jack Vincent's laconic comment scrawled on Singie's report read "suggest carrying spare".

    From 1956 onwards, a steady stream of day visitors braved the rough entrance track and the boulder-strewn Nhlonhlela stream to visit the reserve. Once inside the reserve the tourist roads were little more than overgrown tracks, which, more often than not, were impassable in wet weather. Following the erection of the rustic camp with its three huts in 1958, the Board realised that it would have to undertake the task of improving the road network. John Kymdell was sent to the reserve early in 1960 to start grading and hardening the tourist road network in the reserve. In June 1960 John Dixon arrived in Mkhuze to replace Ranger John Tinley who was transferred to St Lucia. Shortly after John's arrival, in July 1960, Singie Denyer took ill and was admitted to the Nongoma Hospital. He was to be away from the reserve until the end of October. Tony Pooley had also left the reserve by then and running a reserve the size of Mkhuze, with the additional responsibility of the Nxwala State Lands was no easy task for a single ranger. In addition to managing Mkhuze and Nxwala, John had to control the Sodwana Bay National Park on the coast as well. A monthly visit was paid to this coastal resort to collect the revenue for the month, take a meat ration and other supplies to the game guard and labourer who comprised the total staff of that reserve and attend to any other routine matters and maintenance.

    Sodwana Bay in the sixties bore very little resemblance to the sophisticated and popular resort that it is today. On our periodic visits there we often had the privilege of having the whole beach to ourselves during an evening stroll, but Transvaal skiboat fishermen, who had previously gone to Mozambique, were already discovering its pristine waters and excellent fishing. Development of the reserve, from those halcyon days has been phenomenal and today it is one of the premier holiday and fishing resorts in KwaZulu-Natal. I haven't been back for twenty years, as I prefer to remember it as it was then.

    Being on his own in the reserve as he was at the time, it was impossible for John to control Mkhuze, Nxwala and Sodwana Bay efficiently and he appealed to Peter Potter, Chief Conservator, Zululand for assistance. Ken Rochat was sent to the reserve from Umfolozi in August 1960 and I was called in to the Chief Conservator's office to be told that I was to be transferred to Mkhuze.  I travelled down from the Hluhluwe Game Reserve, where I was stationed at the time on 4 October 1960, to assist John and so began an association with Mkhuze, which has lasted for 44 years. The area has never lost its fascination for me and my experiences in the reserve since my introduction to it are as vivid now as they were then. This association has, to a large extent, shaped many of the values that I carry through life. On that first afternoon of my arrival we went for a drive around the reserve and I can still well remember the great feeling of peace and identification with the spiritual serenity of the reserve that I felt at the time. The spirit of Mkhuze has been a vitalising force in my life ever since and is one, which has continued to enrich my life and reinforce my sense of identity for almost half a century.

    I moved into the large wattle and daub rondavel behind Singie Denyer's house, which had previously been occupied by Tony Pooley. Inside the rondavel, the roof was lined with reeds to create a ceiling. The area between the thatch and the reed ceiling was home to numerous bats. As it got dark the bats emerged from their dark recess between the roof and the ceiling to hawk insects outside, flying back to dismember and eat them. Every evening before going to bed I had to remove all books, papers, food, eating utensils, and everything else from the table and pack it away in a trunk or a cupboard. This was because every morning the floor of the rondawel and all other flat surfaces were covered in bat droppings and the wings, shells and other bits of insects that had been caught during the night. I rather melodramatically described it at the time as the - chaff from the harvest of death!

    During one of my early patrols to the top of Mpila Hill with Ken Rochat in October 1960, to have the beacons of the reserve pointed out to me, we saw 180 head of cattle grazing in the reserve. This was my first encounter with this on-going problem. On Singie's return from sick leave in November 1960 he instructed John Dixon to organise a game drive the following month. This too was a somewhat hair-raising experience. The idea was to get as many animals as possible into the reserve from the Nxwala State Lands, before the fence in this section of the reserve was completed. A gap had been left in the fence to the south of Nsumu, with the fence posts already in position to facilitate the closing, once the animals were in the reserve. All available staff who were to act as beaters, were assembled and transported to Nxwala and positioned along the periphery of the State Lands. The beaters were interspersed with game guards who had been issued with blank rounds for their .303 rifles.

    At a given signal, the line of game guards and beaters set off amidst much shouting, whistling, and the firing of cartridges. Advancing slowly they gradually converged on the gap left in the fenceline. A section of the fence had been rolled up in readiness to be put into position as soon as the animals were in the reserve. In his report for January 1961, Singie records "The success of the drive was very noticeable during a patrol of the area on 22 January 1961. The leaving of gaps in the fence during its construction certainly paid dividends for the animals became used to free passage and when the drive took place these two gaps served an excellent purpose. Ranger Gush, who acted as observer states that the stream of animals entering the gaps and returning to the reserve was a sight seldom to be seen and all species except rhino were observed returning. Of the several hundred Blue Wildebeest only six were subsequently seen. Of the two or three thousand impala, a near as possible count of those seen totalled upwards of three hundred. It will now be interesting to see what will happen in the future when dry conditions begin to prevail and the usual stamping grounds are denied to the animals. For the moment the fence appears to be very successful indeed. One gap was discovered where a black rhino had forced its way through. Here again, the fence stood up to the strain as the droppers had held the main fence from falling down. Three impala have been discovered dead on different occasions, when they became entangled in the higher strands when attempting to jump the fence".

    It was estimated at the time that 80% of the impala population and 90% of the blue wildebeest population of Nxwala were returned to the reserve. The impala mentioned by Singie, which were caught in the fence, were probably attempting to return to Nxwala after being chased into the reserve. I was with the beaters as the constricting semi-circle narrowed towards the gaps left in the fence. As the large herd of impala and blue Wildebeest approached the gap in the fenceline the animals shied away from the fencing and doubled back, causing some near misses as they swerved around us to get back onto Nxwala.

    Even after the fence had been put into position animals managed to jump it to return to familiar territory. Impala in particular became aware of the fencing poles placed in the gaps. These poles caused some of the animals to panic, as they were not sure whether there was a fence there or not and they turned around and ran straight back towards the line of beaters. Swerving around us and leaping into the air, the animals broke through the cordon of beaters to return to Nxwala.

    In December 1960, the staff house that had been under construction for some months was completed. I was not particularly sorry to say farewell to my bat-infested rondawel and I moved into the house with John Dixon - it was to be something of a mixed blessing and could metaphorically be described as jumping from the frying pan into the fire. December is a traditionally a very hot month in the reserve and December 1960 was no exception. The newly completed house was not exactly designed for comfortable living in a hot Zululand summer. The house, which was dug into a west-facing slope of a low ridge, had a corrugated asbestos roof and no verandah. Positioned as it was, it received the full effect of the afternoon sun. To make matters worse, the Board, in its wisdom, had installed a slow combustion coal stove on the inside wall of the kitchen, which heated up the wall into the adjoining lounge. The place was a sauna! As there was no electricity at the time, we relied on Coleman paraffin-burning pressure lamps for light and usually had at least two of these on the go at a time and they too generated a considerable amount of heat. The house was so hot in summer that the wax candles that were kept on hand for emergencies softened in their holders and stretched themselves out on the windowsills. Sleep was virtually impossible at night as the mosquito screens fitted to the windows cut off most of the air that could penetrate into the rooms from outside. Adding to our inconvenience was the fact that we had no fridge. Singie and Dawn very kindly allowed us to keep our meat in their fridge at the main house, but butter remained in a melted state during the summer months and had to be poured onto our bread at mealtimes and there was certainly no question of a cold beer! In February 1961 the temperature recorded at 12h00 on the maximum and minimum thermometer outside Singie's office was 43°C. It regularly exceeded 30°C at night during summer.

    All the field staff of the Board was on 24-hour call and we were on duty over weekends. The arrangement at the time was that 66 hours a month could be taken as "time off" to compensate for weekend duties. Trips away from the reserve were infrequent. Apart from the fact that such journeys could not be undertaken too frequently on a ranger's salary, it was something of a mission to get anywhere on the bad roads existing in Zululand at the time. The tar from Durban stopped at Empangeni and from there on, further north, the road was exceedingly corrugated and rough. Once having left the tar at Empangeni, my little Austin Farina rattled over the top of the rocky road-hardening, all the way back to Mkhuze. One could be forgiven for holding the conviction that the Roads Department quarried their hardening, used a grader to spread it, and then left it to the motorist to flatten and consolidate.

    Our "66s" away from the reserve were therefore infrequent and as two periods of 'time off' could not be taken together, I only got away from the reserve every three or four months, when I would usually head for Durban. Should one have decided not to brave the roads but go to Durban by train, the prospect of the journey was even more daunting. Leaving the reserve early in the morning, having found someone to take you to the station, you caught the 'Zululand Express' at 10h00. The train then proceeded at a very leisurely pace to Mtubatuba, which was reached at 14h00 and where it waited until 20h00, before leaving for Durban. Whatever sleep one could grab on the journey was interrupted throughout the night by the clattering of milk cans being loaded. The train finally arrived at Durban Station at 08:00. The return journey was equally laborious. The train would leave Durban at 22h00 to arrive at Mkhuze Station at 15h00 the following afternoon.

    Travel was not the only activity, which was fairly laborious. Communication with the reserve was equally slow. As we had no radio or telephone at Mkhuze, Head Office in Pietermaritzburg or the office of the Chief Conservator, Zululand in the Hluhluwe Game Reserve had to rely on telegrams sent to the Mkhuze Post Office, to contact us. We usually only went in to the village for mail once a week and we would occasionally arrive at the post office to find a telegram waiting for us from Peter Potter reading "Please telephone my office urgently". Because of the delay, which had occurred before we received the message, more often than not we would be told, on telephoning his office, that the crises had resolved itself and we were to ignore the message.

    In February 1961, I was required to serve a period of duty as Relief Ranger. This was, a duty expected of all single rangers at the time. In his report for February Singie Denyer echoed my own thoughts at having to leave Mkhuze when he wrote, "It is with regret that Ranger Gush was transferred from this station. However, it is to be hoped that when the time is ripe, he will return to the Mkhuze Game Reserve where he certainly showed that his interests are with the welfare of this game reserve. A request that he be returned to this reserve has been directed to Head Office". After my relief duties at False Bay Park and Fanies Island, I was delighted to be told that I would be returning to Mkhuze.

    Shortly after I returned to Mkhuze after my service as Relief Ranger, there was an amusing incident involving game guard Mahukwana Mlambo. In accordance with usual practice, Mahukwana had been sent out on foot to shoot a blue wildebeest for staff rations. Having shot and wounded the animal he tracked it into the bush and finally despatched it. It was usual practice in such cases to cover the carcass with thorn branches and Euclea scrub to hide it from the vultures until it could be collected. In this case, as an extra precaution, Mahukwana hung his game guard's tunic in a tree above the carcass and went off to fetch Singie and his vehicle to cart the carcass back to the compound for skinning. The hanging of the tunic near the carcass was, according to Makukwana the safest method of keeping vultures away from a carcass. However, after years of following this procedure, it failed on this occasion. Singie reported at the time "One can imagine our astonished expressions when we came around the bush to find that two extremely large lappetfaced vultures with Mahukwana's tunic between them, having a real tug of war. Only shreds remained. The incident is the joke of the compound, much to Mahukwana's disgust. Incidentally, the blue wildebeest carcass was not touched."

    Towards the end of 1961 the saga of broken down and unreliable vehicles that had plagued Singie a few years previously, was about to be repeated. In September of that year the Board departed from its normal policy of buying Landrovers for field use and invested in a short wheelbase Willys Jeep. An inferior version of the old stalwart of World War 11, had just been reintroduced onto the South African market the vehicles being manufactured and assembled in South America, before being shipped to this country. I was chosen to be the guinea pig to test the suitability of the vehicle to general field conditions and I went down to Durban to collect the Jeep from the agents. My introduction to the vehicle could hardly be described as auspicious. Two days after I had arrived back in Mkhuze with the Jeep, I was required to take John Kymdell, the Roads Maintenance Officer who had been working on grading and hardening the road system in the reserve, back to Umfolozi.

    We set off from the reserve at 09h00 and were approaching Hluhluwe village, when the vehicle cut out due to an electrical fault and had to be towed to the local garage. John Kymdell telephoned Umfolozi and a vehicle was sent to pick him up, but I had to spend 8 hours at Hluhluwe village waiting to be picked up by him on his return journey. Hluhluwe in the early sixties consisted of a small garage, a general dealer, butchery, post office and very little else. I hung around all day with nothing to eat, waiting for the mechanic to try and find out what was wrong with the vehicle and repair it. At 1h:00 he finally abandoned his efforts for the day and locked up his garage when the shop and butchery closed. I was left standing outside the locked garage. The weather had changed during the course of the afternoon and, as it got dark, a biting, cold wind started sweeping through the dusty forecourt. I had not gone prepared to stand around at night and so had no adequate covering. I huddled next to the Shell petrol sign, trying to shield myself from the wind, waiting for John to return from Umfolozi in a borrowed vehicle. At around 20h00 the sight of John's Landrover pulling into the garage was a welcome one and I was very grateful to get out of the wind and back to the reserve.

    In April 1962 I had another major saga with the Jeep, although in all fairness I must admit that this time it was not the fault of the vehicle but rather our petrol which had become contaminated with water. The reserve's petrol supply was railed up from Durban in 44-gallon drums, which would lie out in the open at Mkhuze Station, exposed to the elements, until they could be collected. We filled our vehicles by screwing a pump into the drum and operating it manually. Having just filled up my truck, I set off one evening with Khonjwayo, to shoot a couple of impala for staff rations. I travelled down the beacon road to Mlambamude and, while in the dried-up Mlambamude streambed, the Jeep coughed a couple of times and died on me. All efforts to restart it failed. We were then still in the days before the introduction of the portable radio system, which later could have been used to call for assistance and We had no alternative therefore but to abandon the vehicle and start the 10km hike back to the camp.

     A vivid memory that I have of the walk back to Mantuma, is of a rest stop that we made fairly close to the survey beacon. Lying on my back in the grass next to the side of the road, I looked up at an incredibly starry sky. As I was gazing at it I saw a satellite pass overhead. Satellites were still something of a novelty in those days and I was hard-pressed to explain to Khonjwayo what the object passing overhead was. The nearest that I could get was that we were looking at a man-made object along the lines of a "banoi" (aeroplane) but one that flew incredibly high.

     The petrol episode had an amusing sequel, when Singie had to tow me into the Mkhuze Garage to have the petrol tank drained and cleaned. Tying the Jeep behind the Landrover, we set off the following afternoon for the garage at Mkhuze. April had been a hot, dry, dusty month in the reserve and, sitting in the open Jeep behind Singie's Landrover, we had hardly left the camp before I was covered in dust. By the time we reached the outskirts of Mkhuze village I was a real sight! My clothes were covered in dust and my dust-encrusted hair stood out from my head. I peered out of bloodshot eyes that had been irritated by the wind and dust and to make matters worse, the heat had made me perspire. Rivulets of mud ran down my cheeks and neck. In a dip in the road just outside Mkhuze I gave a toot on the hooter to get Singie to stop. I asked him to go into the village and collect a mechanic to come and take over the short tow of the Jeep into the garage. I chose to stay where I was and hide in the reeds of the dry streambed, not having the courage to face the local inhabitants in the condition that I was in. After the petrol tank had been removed, cleaned and refitted, Singie came back to collect me and I sneaked into town in my dust-encrusted state, to collect the vehicle as it was getting dark.

    Both Singie and I continued to be unimpressed with the performance of the vehicle that we found to be quite unsuitable for the type of work that we were doing. The Heath Robinson-like canvass top fitted to the Jeep leaked constantly in the lightest shower of rain, pouring down a steady stream of water onto my right leg. The small bin at the back offered very little loading space for a vehicle that had to be used for game control. The spare wheel was bolted onto a bracket mounted onto the thin metal of one of the body panels. It was not long before the vibration of the spare wheel caused the metal that it was bolted to, to crack and the wheel had to be carried in the back bin from then on, reducing the carrying capacity even further. I kept the vehicle for a year before it was taken up to Hluhluwe, much to my relief, to be kept for light duties and I was issued with a Landrover pickup.

    The reserve was slowly becoming more popular with visitors. In September 1961 I took a party of journalist from the "Natal Mercury" around the reserve, specifically to see the excellent birdlife at Nsumu and we were very grateful for the coverage they gave us. Around this time too "The Star" newspaper of Johannesburg and the "Daily News" from Durban came up and did a series of articles on the reserve. In February the following year, I had the pleasure of meeting Sir Peter Scott and his wife who paid a brief visit to the reserve during their South African tour.

    Nineteen sixty-two started off with my move out of the staff house that I had been sharing with John Dixon for the last year and into the newly completed staff squaredavel. This small unit had a double bunk and a small eating area, separated by a partition from the kitchen. There was also a bathroom with a toilet and shower. Peter Potter designed the layout of the squaredavel for bachelor living and it cleverly fitted into a unit the size of the small rest huts in the present hutted camp.

    In February 1963, the reserve had the doubtful distinction of having its first burglary. The rondawel behind Singie's house was broken into and a cupboard forced. As Singie reported at the time "nothing like this has ever happened before" and we were forced to reassess our carefree lifestyle that we had enjoyed before the burglary. Previously, we never bothered to lock anything and we would often go away for days at a time, leaving our quarters in the care of the caretakers, which we were given. Obviously a harbinger of things to come! Summer was with us again and I was pleased to have moved out of the staff house into the sqaredawel, which was considerably cooler.

    John complained bitterly about the impossible conditions in the house, with its coal stove set in the kitchen against the lounge wall and the west-facing aspect. February is the hottest month of the year in Mkhuze and in his report for that month he wrote, "A most cordial invitation is extended to senior officers to spend an evening in this "?". Drinks free but please bring a copy of Dante's Inferno and a maximum and minimum thermometer". These rather pointed comments obviously did the trick for in April of that year insulation material was fitted into the ceiling, which improved the position slightly. In later years, the coal stove was replaced with a gas one and a verandah was built onto the front of the house, which finally made it habitable.

    Singie's bad health continued and after a spell in hospital he returned to the reserve in June 1963 to recuperate. He was, however, forced to return to the Nongoma Hospital in July.  His continuing poor health necessitated the Board making a new appointment to the position of Ranger-in-Charge and Adriaan Erasmus from the Umfolozi Game Reserve was appointed to the position. Singie's departure for Nongoma virtually coincided with Adriaan's arrival in June 1963. Having come from Umfolozi where horses were extensively used for patrol work, one of Adriaan's first tasks was to arrange for a paddock to be built at headquarters for the horses which he planned to introduce for patrol purposes in Mkhuze. A local Farmer at Mkhuze, Mr Tommy Marx, had a number of horses available for disposal and a deal was struck that these would be made available to the Board in exchange for impala, that would be caught for him in the reserve.

    Other developments in 1963 included the arrival of prefabricated corrugated iron buildings to be used as storerooms and the purchase of a 5-ton Bedford truck, railed to Mkhuze station and which I collected, for use as general transport. These rather mundane purchases were of considerable significance to all of us at Mkhuze as the reserve had been a "Cinderella" for so long, that any new development was heartening.

    There were several other new developments in the staffing of the reserve as well. In November 1963 John Forest arrived from Umfolozi and moved into the second squaredavel next to mine. A further 3 horses arrived in February 1964 and the laconic statement in John Forest's report for that month reads "assisted Ranger Gush to ride a horse".  Although I enjoyed those early riding sessions, I never got the opportunity of becoming an accomplished horseman.

    An incident of much excitement to us early in 1964 was the arrival of a fibreglass boat, which was to be used for patrol purposes, and which was initially onto the Nhlonhlela Pan. The craft was later moved to the Nsumu Pan, where it was used to advantage to monitor the birdlife on the pan. An activity that definitely placed us in the category of " You Rangers have a marvellous life, all you do all day is ride around and look at animals and birds".

    Singie was appointed Camp Superintendent of the newly opened hutted camp on 1 May 1964. Sadly, his tenure of the position was to be very brief as he died on 5 July 1964. The 10 years that Singie Denyer had spent in the service of the Natal Parks Board as Ranger-in-Charge of the reserve saw the emergence of Mkhuze as a one of the major conservation areas in Natal. His practical ability and adaptability in the field and his understanding of the African temperament was widely recognised. So too was his knowledge of animal behaviour and his ability to become attuned to the nuances and moods of the bushveld. These were aspects of his personality, which he used to very good effect in his efforts to further the cause of nature conservation. As a new Ranger at Mkhuze I benefited greatly from his experience in the field and his leadership. I will always be grateful to him for his guidance and friendship. Singie Denyer can truly be considered to be the 'Father of Mkhuze".

    One of the last interesting experiences that I had in the reserve before my departure for Head Office at the end of April 1964, was a flight that I took over the reserve in an airforce Alouette helicopter. The "chopper" had landed near the Mantuma hutted camp to collect an impala and I was fortunate enough to persuade the pilot to take me up for a flip. Looking down on anything from an elevated position always gives one an entirely new perspective of the familiar and as I sat in the chopper, looking down at Bube Pan and its newly constructed hide below me I had a feeling of déjà vu. I felt far removed from any immediate involvement with the reserve's problems and it was as though I was an outside observer, seeing the area and its history unfolding in context before me for the first time. It was an appropriate moment to say farewell to the reserve. My association with the reserve and concern for its welfare has remained with me through the subsequent 26 years of service with the Board and is as strong today as it was then.

    During my stay in Mkhuze the development of the reserve had been rapid. With the building of the hutted camp and the hides, the completion of the road system Mkhuze soon started attracting visitors. What we had all sought for so long, had became a reality and the reserve had entered a new era. This new era would largely see the end to the uncomplicated existence that we had all enjoyed as rangers: an uncomplicated lifestyle, unburdened by petty bureaucracy and with plenty of time for our own individual natural history pursuits. In March 1972, a significant event occurred that would affect the future control of the state land adjoining Mkhuze. The Department of Agricultural Credit and Land Tenure invited the Natal Parks Board to take over control of the Nxwala State Lands and an additional 5800 ha of land was added to the reserve.

    The memories that I carry of those early days in Mkhuze, will remain with me as long as I live and will continue to represent one of the most important and meaningful periods of my life.