Through a homeboy of mine (I love that expression), Rollo Brent-Meek, I met Bruce Barichievy who was on agricultural course at the Pretoria Technicon with Rollo’s brother-in-law, Lyndon Hall. They both came from the Eastern Cape and were ardent sea fishermen. Aware of my plan to hitch-hike to Cape Town to seek a job on the Walvis Bay fishing boats, they asked me to join them for a few days fishing on the Transkei’s Wild Coast.
Spending a last weekend at home at the end of March, 1968, I said farewell to friends there, then Pretoria and Jo’burg, that I would not be seeing for some twenty months, although I planned to be away for a lot longer. I spent two nights with my godfather and old family friends in the goldmining town of Welkom before heading per thumb to Queenstown, the home of Bruce Barichievy, in the Eastern Cape. Nightfall beat me to it, so I slept under a bridge. Three lifts later, I was there. Lyndon Hall drove Bruce and me to Lyndon’s parents’ trading store in the tiny settlement of Nqamakwe, Transkei. Here Lyndon commandeered their Series I Land Rover, packed fishing gear and on we went towards the coast.
There have never been many white folk living in this section of the country, the homeland of the Xhosa people, but most villages had, at that time, at least a single trading store which sold everything from clothes to paint, from potions to furniture, owned and run by white traders who were for the most part respected and even loved, by the village folk. A lot of them obtained permission from local chiefs to build rudimentary fishing shacks at the coast where members of the traders’ families would snatch time to relax, drink and catch fish. The Halls had one such shack at Qolora. We collected Trevor Wigley, another of their friends, from another trading store, and spent the night at the Hall’s shack.
At last, the next day, after going across some wild hilly country, through swamps and lagoons, we got to isolated ‘Smith’s Shack’, the veranda of which was our base for a couple of days, near Cebe lagoon and the Gonge channel. I caught my first fish there and, although I was pretty proud of them, they were no great shakes. The fish we caught were moonies, blacktail, bronze bream, steenbras and cob, but all of no great size. For me, as a country boy from the Transvaal, it was the trip of a lifetime. As a wannabe writer, it was a glimpse into other lives. The beautiful Wild Coast of the Transkei when it was largely unspoilt, the life of the Transkei Traders, the passion of rock fishermen which is that of fishermen the whole world over. These are experiences I can still weave into my stories until I hung up my boots. I had completed a short novel recently, but that would be the last fiction I would write for nearly ten years. These would be filled with tasting life; licking, nibbling and sometimes tearing voraciously at it, covered sparsely by a diary and sprinkled with a little poetry.
Also, it was the start of a friendship that would last the rest of our lives. You will hear a lot more about a character of note – Bruce Barichievy. As Louis L’Amour put it: We went up the creek and over the mountain together…