Archives for November 2013

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Namibia Part One

23rd November 2013 Left Cape Town and headed north to the Namaqua National Park. I thought I must have missed the last left turn and ended up at Oodnadatta. It was a bit basic on first impression, however after settling in had a nice braai in front of a rural panorama.

24th November 2013 In the morning we took the back road to the town of Springbok and practiced our orienteering in the remote parts of Namaqua, which has a sparse beauty. This was practice for Mongolia. We reached Namibia mid afternoon with brief formalities. Small anecdote coming up. We had received our visa and had the Carnet stamped and were informed that we had to pay a road levy. Small problem. No money. “That’s OK,” said the customs man, “I will come with you to the garage down the road to an ATM”. He wanted to get his lunch and so we drove to the garage to find the ATM. “Out of order” on the screen. No money available at the checkout and the cashier informed me that the nearest ATM was 300 kilometres away. “Oh no”. My customs man stepped in and it turned out that the aforementioned ATM was in fact 300 metres away. Got the money. He got his lunch.

We and continued to Ai-Ais National Park. The temperature was 50 degrees centigrade outside but by 8.30pm had decreased to a cool 36 degrees. Judy fainted into my arms in the restaurant from heat exhaustion, but came around quickly just as I was about to clear her airway, recovered, and we continued the meal as if nothing had happened.

Approaching Ai-Ais was stunning. Firstly 80K,s of desert, excellent dirt road, and then huge rock formations that resembled gigantic gravel quarries, very not of this planet.

 

29th November 2013 I am now sitting looking out across the desert of the Skeleton Coast. We arrived at the gates of the Skeleton Coast National Park half an hour after they closed for the day, 3pm. The officer who mans this outpost has allowed us to camp here, thanks to Judy’s powers of persuasion, next to his house overnight, until the gates open tomorrow at 7.30am.

Namibia has been 99% desert so far and I mean desert. Very little grows here, not like the Simpson Garden back in Oz.

Backtracking now just a little. We have been to the Fish River Canyon, which was spectacular, being the second biggest canyon in the world, I always thought it was Glen Davis near Newnes back in NSW.

We stopped at Sossusvlei and saw huge dunes at sunrise with unbelievable colours. The big one was as big as a sixty-storey skyscraper, which we climbed    not. We did climb a smaller one though, named Deadvlei (vlei means marsh).

The Hollywood of Namibia

The Hollywood of Namibia. At Luderitz we tried to see the abandoned German town but could not even get out of the car due to the sand storm. I wonder why they abandoned it?

Limped into Walvis Bay having experienced a really bad stretch of 800 Ks. One tyre almost bald at 6000 K’s of its life and a flat on the other side. The basic wage here is 5 Nabimian dollars per hour or 50 cents in our money, so to fix a puncture and change another wheel cost me 55 cents.

Onwards to Swakopmund, a top tourist destination of Namibia, with luxury to be seen everywhere. Our campsite had it’s own on suite, even had grass.

The last 230 K’s to get up here to the Skeleton coast has been sand and a grey, green Atlantic ocean with a constant haze which sometimes makes it hard to discern the horizon, and, it is only about 20 degrees. Surprising to me, as we are quite a way north of the Tropic of Capricorn. This stretch is bleak and I can imagine a shipwreck survivor would have had no chance. There are many shipwrecks here.

We came upon a colony of seals at Cape Cross during birthing season with lots of young already flopping about. You could walk along a fenced boardwalk where the seals were all around, literally at our feet. There was even a seal on the boardwalk but I think it was dead, didn’t want to get too close to it though, in case it woke up. In fact there were quite a few dead ones amongst the 100,000 or more of them. The stench was stupendous and I could only take it for a few minutes. Sitting here in the warm afternoon sun has turned into quite a chill now at 6pm:        that’s a desert for you.

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Garden Route and Cape Town

5th November 2013 We had arrived back in South Africa and were on our way to Queenstown for the night when we came upon a roadblock 30K’s south of the town of Craddock. We waited and waited but there was no movement and the queue behind us ever increasing when a road construction vehicle came along and told us that the road would be closed for at least another three hours. This is a major highway were talking about. Rather than wait we decided to take an alternative route, what could possibly go wrong? We spent four hours and used quite a bit of diesel to end up catching up to the truck that had been parked in front of us in the queue. We did see some nice backcountry though.

Finally arriving at Queenstown there were no camping areas to be found and we drove around and around trying to find some accommodation when Judy spotted a well-hidden sign to Roydon camping.  This turned out to be a nature reserve and as we had booked in quite late, the owner upgraded our accommodation to a luxury cabin, which gave us unexpected R&R break to a long day.

In the morning we will have a look around here, as there are meant to be antelope and giraffe, and then we are off to Addo Elephant Park.

6th November 2013 Stayed at The Aardvark Guesthouse/Camping area, which we would recommend. It had an organic restaurant next door, Hazels, which promoted permaculture but also served many kinds of carnivorous delights such as antelope, ostrich and other meats. I had springbok and wildebeest and Judy had springbok and kudu. I seem to remember when Judy was a vegetarian. It also had a talking menu in the form of Hazel’s partner, a large Canadian who repeated the unique and intricate daily menu to each diner. What a memory!

 

Addo Game Park was wonderful with many animals especially elephants, Judy said “elephants by the ton” however, we did not see a lion or rhinoceros and I am yet to see a snake.

7th November 2013 Arrived at Tsitskamma National Park, which is on the southern coast about 700k’s east of Cape Town. There was a very strong wind at the spot we were allocated, right next to the ocean, and it would have been great on a calmer day. Judy reconnoitred and found a cosy spot out of the wind on a cliff top overlooking the ocean, perfect. We had a Braai, read barbeque, of kudu sausage (kudu is a kind of antelope) with wine to wash it down. I serenaded Judy with my guitar, much to her delight  $^&%@! and we watched the waves crash down spectacularly on to the crags below. We were also treated to a lightshow courtesy of the local fireflies or at least that’s what I think they were, and no, it wasn’t after six Castle lagers.

8th November 2013 South Africans speak several languages i.e. Afrikaans, English and a local indigenous language such as,say, Zulu, that seem to be interchangeable, even mid sentence. A good example of this was when we stayed at the Wilderness National Park. We were sitting, relaxing by the river when along came two men paddling upstream in their canoes speaking loudly in Afrikaans. Twenty minutes later they returned speaking loudly in English. I admire their linguistics as I myself can have trouble with just one langidge. (My little joke)

Winding our way along the garden route, it truly is it’s name, we ended up at the southernmost tip of Africa, Cape Agulhas, not as many people think, the Cape of Good Hope. It is where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic, though in all truth I could not make out where one started and the other finished. We camped at the local camping area in town and before too long a lady came along and invited us for a wine at her house across the road. Alana and Christian entertained us with stories and local history and some kudu boerewors braai. We also sampled some wine, made by their son, which was exceptional.

9th November 2013 Alana and Christian bade us farewell at 8am and helped me with my flat battery. Thank you for that.

10th November 2013 We have arrived in Cape Town and already have a good impression. Table Mountain is a spectacular backdrop to a beautiful city. Still have some chores to do here such as replace a windscreen, yep the little stone chip from Durban turned into a huge crack which I could have lived with except that I have to get a roadworthy certificate locally to reregister our car back in OZ, and a new battery.

17th November 2013 The roadworthy certificate that we needed to reregister the car is harder to obtain than we thought, as we are not on the South African system. All we could obtain was a full mechanical inspection by a government approved testing station. In Australia this is called “going over the pits” and it really is the pits as any minute problem is picked up. In our case it was a blessing as some damaged and missing bolts, holding the rear bumper on, were detected. I was also astonished to find that the steering and brakes also needed some serious attention as I had had a full, “pre major trip”, service done on the car just before we left.

All of this is a bit boring as we have to wait for parts to come from Johannesburg and we are itching to get going. We will have been here well over a week by the time we restart, but can’t think of a better place to be stuck in.

We have now seen a lot of Cape Town and have really enjoyed our stay here. We took ourselves on a self drive tour of the coast south west of Cape Town and this shoreline is magnificent, reminiscent of Big Sur in California, with very winding, cliff edge, roads and rustic villages such as Simon’s Town as we plied our way to the Cape of Good Hope.

One regret was missing our trip to Robben Island, the prison Nelson Mandela was held in for many years. We had purchased our tickets the day before, at the wharf, and set out early the next day to ensure that we arrived at the wharf by 11am. We are staying at a camping area about 25k’s north of the city and we set off at 8am thinking that three hours would be sufficient time to get there, WRONG. We arrived at the wharf ten minutes after the ferry left, and no refunds. Ouch!

I have now discovered that the Cape Town bus timetable is in fact a work of fiction. Apart from this the bus service is very good.                       The ferries run on time.

It has been raining heavily for the last few days with maybe a slight improvement today so we will drive along the west coast as we are “bussed out” at the minute.

18th November 2013 Visited the West Coast National Park, which consists of mostly coastal heath and saw many ostrich, flamingos and snakes. Had a long lunch at an old farmhouse and the sun came out as we took the long way home via Cape Langebaan, famous for kite surfing. A perfect day.             “Oh well”, somebody’s got to do it.

21st November 2013 Over the last few days we have been true tourists, catching four buses to and from the city, walking about and generally getting a feel for the place. We also caught the city Red Bus tour that has a commentary in several languages and took us up to Table Mountain where we caught the cable car to the summit. Here we had magnificent views of the city and surrounds and were literally walking amongst the clouds.

Nearly every day we have gravitated to the Victoria and Alfred, yes Alfred not Albert, wharf area, which has a huge retail area, and restaurants of which we have made good use of, as prices for meals are very reasonable. A nice place to finish off the day before setting back on our long bus trip, which, with good connections, may take us two hours. Our reasoning for taking the bus is that we don’t have to search out secure parking which will fit a car of our height, 2400mm, and it also a good way to mingle with the locals who are always willing to help with directions, even unasked, or just have a chat.

Beautiful beaches here but the water temperatures a quite cool, 10 to 14 degrees, in summer. Oddly enough a bit warmer in winter, something to do with the prevailing winds.

Still waiting for the parts to arrive so we may have to do a tour of the surrounding wine country.

 

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Lesotho

31st October 2013 Sani Pass. Started early and it was a beautiful clear morning. As we wound our way up the pass the scenery became more and more spectacular, absolutely stunning. The pass itself was good dirt, very steep and circuitious but no challenge for the Troopy.

 

 

 

On reaching the top we had a coffee at the highest pub in Africa and were

treated to a musical performance by two boys sitting on a high crag just in front of the viewing platform. One boy played a petrol can guitar, strung with fishing line and no frets, and the other played drums. After Tara, our daughter, returned to Australia after working in Africa some years before, she  brought back such a guitar as a present for myself. I thought at the time, that it was just a tourist souvenir but they actually do work and, when I get back home, I’m going to spend some time on it.

Lesotho is a high altitude country and has a sparse beauty with sheepherders reminiscent of the Massi wandering the plains. We pass the odd rustic village with stone rondavels, round abodes and miniature donkeys.

We had stopped for lunch at a scenic and serene spot when we heard a huge explosion in the next valley the explanation of which was apparent a little way down the track. There was a major road building work in progress and they had blown up the existing road. I thought we would be there for a day or two but the workman we got talking to said it would be ready for us to drive in about an hour, and he was right. In fact we got talking to quite a few people, a bus driver, a Backpacker from Canada and others. The workman told us the road building was a Chinese initiative and that they were hard taskmasters.

Before

Before

After

After

At about five pm we entered the large town of Mokhotlong, arranged to stay at the back of the local Mokhotlong Hilton and walked down the road to the market that had very basic products for the locals. Things such as second hand clothing, shoe repairs, horse accessories and coffins that were sold from corrugated iron huts.

Lesotho is a peaceful country with little crime, no electric fencing or barbed wire and the locals are proud of this. They often asked what we thought of their country and always delivered a broad smile when we gave the correct answer.

1st November 2013 Today we will motor on but before this we will visit the hospital, just across the road and see if we can have a look at their X ray Department as we are both Radiographers.

3rd November A beautiful country from the green lowlands to the spectacular highlands. Hours of winding roads brought us to the Katse Dam which is huge, one of the tenth biggest of its kind in the world and then hours of winding road brought us back to the university town of Roma. The university buildings are all of sandstone and are a contrast to the rest of the town. We saw a uni student wearing platform shoes, walking on the rocky main street, balancing text books on her head whilst messaging on her mobile phone.

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