By the end of 1987 I was half way through the higher diploma in Fine Arts and Jurie had completed his diploma in Photography. At that stage of South African history young white men faced compulsory national service conscription. Usually, the school leavers would be allowed to study one academic course, but then had to join up. Prior to studying photography Jurie had already done a year of a medical degree, so his options as to how to avoid conscription were becoming limited. He wanted to pursue his interest in biology at the University of Cape Town, so found a posse of lawyers to keep him out of the army for another few years.

In January we set off for Cape Town in our Isuzu bakkie (pick-up truck). Jurie built me a screen-printing press, complete with bricks as counter levers, so that I could finish my higher diploma. I struggled along with writing my thesis on “Women in Art” while making frequent trips to Pretoria to touch base with my lecturers.
Cape Town being the beautiful city it is, with its mountain, beaches and forest right on one’s doorstep, getting any work done was not so easy: it took at least six months for me to realise that I was not on holiday. I spent so much time out in nature, despite brief spells of printing and writing, that it seemed only fitting for me to have a dog to share the long walks and bike rides round the peninsula.
Thus enters Bingo Pajama, a Staffordshire cross English bull terrier. I’ll never forget going to fetch her after answering an ad in the classified section of the newspaper. She hailed from an estate in the opulent suburb of Constantia. Our best friend Wally, Jurie and I arrived there in our smoke-spewing diesel Isuzu and were shown into the hall of a magnificent house. We stood there, uncomfortably dwarfed by the high ceilings and gigantic artwork as the owner informed us that the puppies were down at the stables. She produced a huge bowl of mince and placed it on a Persian rug as the puppies came gambolling up the rolling lawn with their weary mother in tow.
After the pups had finished troughing down a little female jumped onto Wally’s lap. I had already picked out a big handsome male pup, but by the time we got into the car I had decided I was not a “male dog” type of person, and went back to swap him for the little female - Bingo. For the rest of our four years in Cape Town and on all our travels Bingo was always with us. If I am not mistaken she travelled a total of over 17 000 km. While studying, and enjoying the Cape Town life style, we also travelled as often as we could up to the bush, whether in Botswana or what has become Mpumalanga. We did the 2 000 km trip up-country over three days, with frequent stops to let Bingo stretch her legs. When she was about six months old she had her first bush trip to the Tuli Block in southeastern Botswana.
In this area there had been many cross border raids by the South African Security Forces, so as South African citizens we were not at the time really the flavour of the month. Furthermore, so that we could sit on its roof while on game drives, we had purchased a second-hand steel canopy for the Isuzu, the canopy happened to be an ex-police issue, and therefore yellow. It was essential to disguise it if we were to have a trouble-free entry into Botswana. Being creative in spirit I decided on bright red as the perfect colour, and out came the cans of spray paint. Jurie removed the metal grids and canvas roll-up blinds and replaced them with glass, to make windows. A hole was cut into the roof and a fiberglass “sunroof” moulded and put in place. Naturally an opening was left between the cab and rear of the car so that Bingo could be part of the great trek up north. Wally and Inge, Jurie’s sister, travelled with us. Bingo had to visit the state veterinarian to have her rabies shots and all her paper work put in order for her international border crossing.
We stayed at a beautiful private camp, River Camp, in the riverine forest along the banks of the great Limpopo River, near the Pont Drift border post. The thatched building had a huge square floor plan of two rooms with a bathroom in between, as a core, around which was wrapped a broad veranda on all four sides. We chose to sleep out in the cool of the veranda at night. Outside there were stretches of well-kept lawn, edged with lush paw paw (papaya) and banana trees. Very little of their fruit was consumed by us because marauding baboons ignored all the threats of the women camp staff.
We had arranged to meet a group of friends up at River Camp and, with them along with Bingo, spent days walking down the Limpopo, which was just a trickle of ankle-deep water at the time. The best part of the walk was when we reached the confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo rivers, a vast expanse of sand with many tiny rivulets of water merging into a large pool where a pod of hippo had gathered. We were standing in Botswana, but from this vantage point could clearly see South Africa and Zimbabwe right before us. Enormous mashatu and impressive fever trees flanked the fairly dry riverbeds.
Another highlight of that trip was watching a mighty Black Eagle (now called Verreaux’s Eagle) hunting dassies (rock hyraxes) in a rocky granite koppie. The huge raptor, its pitch-black plumage relieved by a striking white cross between its shoulders, darted nimbly among the crevices as it stalked its quarry.
This trip was also the time when Bingo received her first and only beating. She was with us on a game drive. Most of the party balanced on top of the bright red “post box”, as the Isuzu had been fondly named. Nearby there was a fair-sized herd of impala grazing with their white, flicking tails keeping flies at bay. This was all too much for a puppy to handle and, with a deft hop onto the bonnet and from there to the sandy ground, she was off after the now pronking impala herd. Pronking is a prancing movement antelope do when alarmed or excited, lifting into the air with all fours off the ground at once. Jurie and I leapt from the car and tried to stop her with yells, but to no avail. A foot pursuit became imperative and, shoving thoughts of lions and elephants out of our minds, we raced off into the sweltering landscape. Far in the distance we could see Bingo periodically bound above the long grass to keep an eye on her “prey’. The swift antelope could outpace her and trick her by breaking up into smaller groups, causing frequent changes in direction for the tiring pup. By the time Jurie and I had caught up with her I was possessed by sheer anger and walloped her with a small branch ripped from a scrubby tree. I was very angry and emotional at the time, but Bingo had to learn that chasing game was a no-no and should never to be attempted again.
She learned two other great lessons that holiday. The one was to respond to the command “Look, Bing”, when we had sighted animals and wanted her also to see them. Another phrase “Careful, Bing” was called out when we went under low-hanging thorn branches. These words caused her to duck down low to avoid being scratched in the face by the thorns. She would often anticipate our words when she saw a low branch approaching, and her “flat-dog” pose would in turn alert us.
Great times were had, Jurie and I bonding with each other, and in turn tightening our friendships with those around us. It was good to have those years, between being reckless and young, and growing into a life of responsibilities and duties.


Bingo

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