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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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On our way

19th October 2013 Happy Birthday Lek.

Is this Sydney?

Is this Sydney?

Looks like we have a few days to kill before our car arrives. Today we drove about an hour west to the Valley of a Thousand Hills. Beautiful rolling, green hills reminiscent of the Southern Highlands of NSW. Some very upmarket communities here, all guarded with a lot of electric fencing. It was foggy and cold, 11 degrees. We drove through the area using various tourist routes one of which took us down-hill through an African area. What a contrast. It was the complete opposite of upstairs, a very poor area. A lot of Africans walk along the road to get to their destinations and you can see some interesting sights. Dapper men in suits with umbrellas or women carrying great loads on their heads out in the middle of nowhere.

25th October 2013

Mediteranian Shipping Company

Mediterranian Shipping Company

The MSC Tomoko birthed  two days ago and we are eagerly awaiting the phone call to come and collect our car.

For the last two days we have driven up the coast to the towns of Umhlanga and Ballito. If there were three sides to a coin this would be the third. These two towns are as up market as it gets with even fewer electric fences. It is a sophisticated Gold Coast (A famous Australian resort area). We just wandered around the shops and beach taking it all in. On one bush track we got talking to a Zulu park worker who took us around his park and was very enthusiastic and happy in his descriptions. There were about thirty ships on the horizon waiting to enter Durban harbour, all delayed due to the high winds. Apparently Durban harbour is tricky to enter. We actually saw our ship floating around out there off the coast and then moving at a rate of knots, pun intended, south. It must have got the word. We have been able to track the progress of the vessel from Sydney via a shipping website and so had a good idea of where it was positioned off shore.

27th October 2013 Yesterday we went for a walk to the Lagoon area called Green Hub and then all the way to the city. The wind here was ferocious and we could hardly walk against it. The Indian spice market had every imaginable spice, variety of lentil, incense, all other things Indian and of all things Kellogs Corn Flakes. By the time we got back to Gibela, our backpacker lodge, it was 4pm, nearly time to watch the Rugby grand final between The Durban Sharks and Western Province (The Cape Town team).  The proprietor, other guests and myself settled down in front of the TV and Judy, not a huge fan of football, read her book “Questions of Travel”. After ten minutes a huge electrical storm erupted, the TV went blank for one hour, groan, but came back on just ten minutes before the end, allowing us to see the final score, live. The “Sharkies” won and Durban put on a fireworks display to equal Sydney.

By the way Gibela means “Hop on“ in Zulu.

Judy watching the Rugby

Judy watching the Rugby

Gibela has given us a very comfortable place to stay while we wait for car to arrive.

28th October 2013

Oh what a feeling!

Oh what a feeling!

We got it. The car arrived. No Damage. Did a little dance with the stevedores and Maurita, the shipping agent and took it for a bit of a drive to recharge the battery.

We unpacked in the afternoon and tomorrow have a couple of legals to attend to, then we truly start our holiday. In a way we are on our way home.

The unveiling

The unveiling

 

 

 

 

29th  October 2013 Our first day of travel with the Troopy. Flat battery had to clutch start it and the small chip in the windscreen ,from our test drive, has developed into a sizeable split. So off we go. We travelled to the Drakensberg Mountains and camped overnight at the White Mountain Hotel, which has a camping area out the back. What a place this is. It is a “Camp Granada” for private schools with multiple Afrikaner dorms and lodges, an artificial lake and a huge restaurant and bar. This place is A1 and can cater for up to 2000 guests. We were their only guests, out of season perhaps? Prices were very reasonable.

30th October 2013 Stayed at the Sani Pass Lodge and met Rupert, a motorcyclist adventurer who gave us a lot of valuable information about the road ahead. We met up for dinner with other travellers at the restaurant there and before too long everyone was swapping stories and info. It was a real travellers rantan.

 

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Around Durban

We arrived about 5pm and were processed reasonably quickly receiving a 90 day tourist visa at no charge. I probably didn’t get a great exchange rate but in the wash up about 8 rand per Aus. $. So far Durban is still cheaper than Sydney. We are staying at the Gibela Backpackers Lodge. It is clean, comfortable and reasonably priced with outdoor terraces,pool and daybeds. We are within walking distance to an upmarket restaurant area.

9th October 2013   3.30am can’t sleep jetlagged.

Buffalo

Buffalo

We travelled to the down-town area on a mini bus for 5 rand each where the conductor  operates the door and touts for business as the bus moves along, all very funny as the bus driver stops and has a chat with someone he may know or stop and do a hi five with a mate, meanwhile the conductor is leering off every “chick” in sight and of course the bus is full, but there is always room for another passenger or chicken.

Getting into down-town Durban we check the port area and note where the first gas station is, as the troopy has about 30k’s of diesel in it (tanks emptied for shipping) and we will need to fill up before too long after the car is unloaded.

Durban is a busy place and gives the impression of former glory. We roamed the beach and walked back to our lodge via the new Moses Mabhida Stadium. We saw some back streets and got a feel for the place.

10th October Walked to the beach then went to sort a sim card and withdraw some money.  Call me a hillbilly but I really thought there would be trouble here. I put my debit card into the ATM dialled in the details and out came my money. Got a really good exchange rate to boot. SMALL WIN.

Tomorrow we go to the Doctor to get our Malaria script and then do some dockside business re; Troopy, and then we plan to hire a car and drive north for a few days. Might go to a National Park.

White Rhinoceros

White Rhinoceros

11th October 2013 Sorted our GPS and Tracks4Africa map. Same whingy voice as our home GPS, it gets annoyed if you take a wrong turn.

17th October 2013 Returned to Durban this afternoon. We drove up to St Lucia on the 12th, monkeys and mongoose down Main Street with some Giraffe and Hippo in the evening in the game park just out of town.

Giraffe at sunset

Giraffe at sunset

It was raining next morning so we drove up to Cape Vidal, Zebra etc. then to Huhluwe-Umfolozi Game Park. We really were overwhelmed. We saw it all, straight away, rhino, buffalo, different types of antelopes, a tortoise, elephant and giraffe all up close.

From our breakfast window at Hilltop Lodge we saw a passing parade of elephant, white rhino, baboons, antelope and an unidentified white apparition in the distance. We haven’t seen a snake yet. They have a big problem with Rhino poachers and have armed patrols and choppers moving around to try and intercept them. I thought the poachers were up in Central Africa but when a Rhino horn is worth about $300,00.00AUS it’s easy to see the temptation.

Rondavels

Rondavels

 

We were treated like Kings up at Huhluwe-iMfolozi, great value and the service could not be faulted.

Tomorrow we will take stock and sort out my debit cards and Wi Fi connections, malaria tablets.

The troopy seems to be at Port Elizabeth and should arrive in Durban soon???? Raining and miserable at moment, in foothills it was 13 degrees.

 

 

 

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