post

Tanzania Part One

23rd December 2013 Entered Tanzania with no difficulty and are now ensconced in the grounds of an evangelical centre, in Mbeya, which provides camping. Appropriately an African choir is practicing in the hall next to us in preparation for Christmas. Sounds good too. Judy is defrosting the fridge.

The police are very courteous and cheerful at the road blocks and driving through Tanzania is similar to Malawi if not even prettier with rolling, green, lush hills.

By the way the toilets here are different to ours and are of the Latin variety. If you are a wallaby you will have no problems. Judy needed instructions. No I didn’t say demonstration. I piked out and used a conventional toilet when I saw an apartment open with an ensuite at the centre. I really am an opportunist.

24th December 2013 Received another speeding fine, $20, it’s easy to do here. As the sergeant was writing down my particulars, in his hand painted squad car, he asked what “Tribe” I was from and at first I didn’t understand, “Australian” was the correct answer. He guffawed when I shook his hand as I wished him a “Merry Christmas” and was truly grateful for the sentiment.

The driving here is something else with the mini buses being the worst. They are all packed with people, chickens, matresses and will overtake on blind bends or crests, no worry. The Juggernauts are much the same but even slower at it. We saw a three-truck pileup and if there wasn’t a fatality in there it would be a miracle. In the cities the driving is challenging in a different way i.e. It is utter chaos, honking, bumper to bumper, dog eat dog, no quarter given but my successful tactic was to get right behind a minibus and let him do all the hard work.

We camped at The Old Farmhouse campsite on Christmas Eve and listened to the Michael Buble` Christmas album for our Christmas cheer.

We wish you all a merry Christmas and New Year.

Our Christmas tree

Our Christmas tree

27th December 2013 Christmas day found us at the Riverside camp near the town of Iringa. It is very pretty here and we made a baked dinner in our camp oven. The firewood here was of dubious quality and when we started eating the meal, it had a strange flavour to say the least. Judy adlibbed an excellent Christmas pudding. On Boxing Day we just loafed around. Some African boys gathered around the old guitar again, later to be joined by the whole family and it was guitar lessons all round.

There are guards roaming around the campsite carrying double-barrelled shotguns or machetes but we are used to these sights now.

28th December 2013 Drove up to Ruaha National Park about 120k from Iringa. Very bad road and the park was quite expensive US$160 for the both of us including one night of camping within the park. The campsite was next to the river flats and the beauty of this was that we could sit there with our campfire and watch the animals coming for a drink. We saw elephants, warthogs and hippos. In fact we saw the hippos a little too close for comfort. There was another family of campers there, and at dusk, without warning, two hippos ran right through the campsite. Well! people ran everywhere, into cars, onto car roofs and into the toilets. It was really very funny. These hippos probably weigh about a ton each but we did not hear their approach, they kind of snuck up on us. They say hippos kill more humans than any other animal, apart from horses.

In the morning we drove around the park and it was wall-to-wall animals but no lions, although they were around as they’d been spotted the day before. We were bailed up by a cranky, adolescent, elephant who would not let us pass and later had an altercation with another elephant.

On the way back we had our fifth flat tyre, AUS$2.30 to repair.

30th December 2013  We’re on the Highway To Hell. The road to Dar es Salaam was even worse than the previous day by a degree of ten. We were nearly run off the road by a bus. These people are madmen. I believe the bus drivers have to undergo a psychological test here to get their licence and if they are proven to be a psychopath, well, they get the job.

I was pulled over for yet another speeding fine, this time dodgy, and was able to talk my way out of it, Judy put in her ten cents worth in, as well. Good teamwork.

Got into Dar and it was one form of madness transformed into another. Unbelievable chaos. Three hours to get through the city, just like Sydney and then crossing the harbour by jampacked punt to lead us to our camping area on the southern shore at Mikadi Beach Camp. This could be Tahiti or Nirvana, one of those two, I have been to Tahiti, working on the other. Tropical sand, palm trees, 33 degrees, unimaginable colour of the sea, turquoise to try to put a label on it.

 

31st December 2013 New Years Eve. Booked the car in for a service and got a sim card which took all day and had my sixth flat tyre on the way back. I am really going to have to do something about these Xxxxxx tyres as probably the hardest part of the trip is upon us, not to mention Mongolia, and what I am going to do is replace them with B.F.Goodrich All Terrains.

So in about 10,000k I have had six flats and two ruined tyres, one shredded and one with wall deformities and splits. Two tyres were brand new at the start of this trip and four had done 13000k.( see more details in “Travel Notes”)

In the night the camping area here had a New Years Eve Party, and we got to meet some of our fellow travellers.

This campsite is patrolled by Massai tribesmen complete with traditional togas, spears and swords. They answer to Hey Massai, are courteous but silent and don’t pry. They keep to themselves.

Happy New Year everybody

post

Malawi

13th December 2013 Friday Yesterday drove to Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. It is a very busy, bustling place with people milling everywhere, bazars, stalls and all manner of shops painted in garish colours. Many with exaggerated signage such as “Shopping Complex” above a one-room shop.

As we left Lilongwe I was caught in a radar trap and a resulting fine of 5000 Kwachas was imposed. How outrageous, until I calculated that this to about AUD $11.00. As the policeman was handing me the receipt he was very nearly sideswiped by a speeding passing truck. He had to run and dive to the front of our car to avoid a fatal contact. The truck was not booked.

The countryside is picturesque and there are always people, many riding bicycles,     many, many bicycles, riding in 37 degree heat and carrying impossible loads such as five, two metre long bags of charcoal. I did see one with six.

Arriving at Monkey Bay on Lake Malawi we checked into The Fat Monkey Camping Ground, having selected a waterfront position. Parking the troopy under a shade tree we discovered it was a mango tree that, thoughtfully, had left about a dozen samples for us. All was well until the wind picked up and a rain of mangos descended upon us to the point where we had to take shelter in the car and hope they didn’t put too many dings in the Duco.

Prices are very reasonable here as we can have a meal here for AUD $4.00. and camping is $3.00 each per night for an unpowered site, $6.oo powered.

This lake is a huge fresh water sea and you cannot see to the opposite shore. Swimming here was great as the water temperature was equivalent to a tepid bath.

14th December 2013 A dugout canoe excursion to an island two kilometres away was on offer. The deal was for myself and Jude to be paddled out there, (one of us had to help paddle), do some snorkelling and then be fed a lunch of braai, bbq of local fish, rice and a sauce of capsicum, potato and a pap of corn flour which you roll into a ball and then dip into the sauce. Delicious. Total price 15,000.00 kwachas or about AUD$30.00. The day started at 8am, although we didn’t actually push off until 10am, and ended at 4pm and the tropical fish we saw were the equal of what you would see at the barrier reef with clear underwater visibility of about ten meters.

Judy thought an amusing sight was myself, a Norwegian and a villager having a political discussion on the beach as a boatload of, twenty or more, gospel singers rounded our bay, standing in their boat and harmonising. It could have been Polynesia.

The dugout canoes are interesting in that they a very labour intensive, slow, top heavy, unstable and leaking. Perfect.

Being a slow journey gave our captain the opportunity to tell us of his life, a bit sad I’m afraid. He is twenty two years of age and his entire family has died from AIDS which means he has had to stop his schooling to do this paddling to earn a few kwachas. He doesn’t consider himself to be young, as many of his people die prematurely by our standards, his uncle at thirty five years. The villagers live from hand to mouth with their only concern being to get some food for the day. They sometimes raid the camp mango tree. At least the weather and scenery here is good for them and in themselves they are cheerful and friendly.

The secondary camera that we took with us got wet and wouldn’t operate, so no pictures.

15th December 2013 Today we intend to drive out to Otter Point a few kilometres away which is meant to have crystal clear water.

Later; Became completely lost, missed Otter Point and Eagle Nest and ended up at Cool Runnings Camping at Senga near Salima. A pleasant oasis again on Lake Malawi, the beach being a little overused over the last few centuries. Travelled north and detected an ever increasing depth of poverty. I saw a three year old with the bloated belly of malnutrition. At a roadblock I was, by routine, questioned as to my destination by the smartest young police man yet, and, as he was about to let me proceed, mentioned that there was a lot of famine in the area and “Could we spare some food?” We gave him two bread rolls but he stated that there were three policemen in total so we gave him the third. He turned to face his colleagues and we knew he had a big grin on his face and that the colleagues approved. Thumbs up all round. It pointed out to us, though, how desperate these people are, not for money but food.

Obverseley or perversely we have made our way for the night to the opulent Chintheche Inn Camp Site. A beautiful resort on Lake Malawi with a pristine beach, perfect temperature, the place all to ourselves, and yes our old friends, the fireflies. Just had our braai.

We notice often, uniformed and ununiformed bands of men or sometimes women carrying machine guns. Yesterday there were three men in black uniforms sitting in the back of a Ute all carrying arms.

20th December 2013 Has it been five days later? Yes. We have lazed around on the beach, reading, a little guitar plunking and that’s about it. Paradise here, a little more expensive than the usual camping area but still very reasonable. This resort is gearing up for the Christmas rush and not quite ready for business, however, last night they set up a table and chairs in the middle of the lawn, overlooking the bay and served us a candlelit dinner of roast chicken as we watched the lights of the fishing canoes.

One of the few locals allowed on the premises came to us the first day that we were here, selling catfish and paintings. The next day he came offering to buy groceries at the village for us. We placed an order of fruit and vegetables. On his return he told us that his daughter had fallen into a drainage pit the previous day and could not walk. He could not get her to hospital as there is no ambulance and he could not afford to hire someone with a car to take her there. He said that the other camper here had given him a thousand kwachas to help out so I donated the same amount. He was very grateful. A thousand kwachas are about two dollars.

Whenever we get talking at any length to a Malawian a sad story will eventually emerge.

22nd December 2013 Yesterday we drove inland just 20k or so into the mountains to stay at Lukwe Gardens Eco Camp              4k short of Livingstonia. The drive up to here was a hair-raising experience as it is a very steep rough dirt road with twenty or so tight hairpin bends. I mostly had to use 1st gear in low range 4wd to get up here. It was worth the trip. The camp is perched on the side of a mountain, overlooking Lake Malawi and it is a permaculture garden built from scratch by a Belgium couple some fifteen years ago. A small restaurant is at the cliffs edge and you just sit on the deck taking it all in, just making out the distant shore of Mozambique.

Judy was very happy to make a reacquaintance with her old friend the “salad”, which we haven’t had for a while now, as vegetables in general are hard to get in Malawi.

In the afternoon we drove to Livingstonia and let me just say that so far, driving the length of Malawi, we have passed a myriad small, poor villages and only a couple of large, poor towns. Well! Livingstonia, in these remote mountains boasts a large university, technical and further education college, a well-reputed hospital, cathedralesque church, museum and a small poor village. I am gobsmacked.

Dr.Livingstone I presume

Dr.Livingstone I presume

This morning it is raining with dense fog, perfect for the drive back down the luge. Let me change “raining” to teeming rain, thunder, lightning, an even more denser fog and the dogs got the only dry spot in our shelter. I think we’ll stay.

The rain has stopped and we have decided to go, after checking with the owner of the camping area as to whether the road was safe to use. I use the term “road” loosely. Again it was a hell ride probably worse than going up but we made it unscathed.

We ended up staying overnight at the FloJa campsite, right on Lake Malawi. The interesting thing about this place is that it is run by a Dutch couple whom have set up a day care centre for eighty local, needy children and any profit derived from the campsite and lodges goes toward the foundation. www.FloJaMalawi.nl   All donations gratefully accepted.

They have also just adopted a baby who was found abandoned, wrapped in plastic, in the bush near Mzuzu. It had been there for two days. They should call him Lucky.

As I was strumming my guit at our campsite by the beach three small children appeared and sat in front watching. I tried to discourage them by playing “Pub with no beer” but to no avail as they seemed to like it. I played on and after a while they were dancing, each on their own rather large boulder that were on the beach. Rock music.

post

Zambia

We had a choice of entry into Zambia. One was via an indirect way on the map, which appeared to involve a crossing of about 100 metres of Zimbabwian territory (with all of the incumbent formalities), or a direct way, straight to Zambia but via a punt. Yup, I chose direct. On the Botswana side there were notices stating that no agents were needed on the Zambian side. As I motored past two kilometeres of trucks trying to get into Zambia a glaze developed over my eyes a I became enslaved to the “AGENT ” offering me an easy passage through all of this. I did defer to the Botswanan police who told me I should go with the agent.

In the end we paid US$80 for something we could have done ourselves as Judy had all of the info,  just by bumping around like a ball in a pinball machine until we got out of the border control. There were many fees to pay, carbon tax, road tax, insurance, Carnet, etc. however having said this the experience was truly frontier.

The Zambian government has no control of this border crossing and allows this opportunism to go on. The Botswanan policeman also misled me. I also got a washed car by the time I got back, and not very well at that for which US$20.00 was asked KRIPES. I kind of liked my mud anyhow as I know that down the road it’s gonna be back on before too long. I haggled it down to US$10 but not until I’d had a huge argument with them. Was it worth it?

I recommend that you do not accept anything from anyone unless they have a hat or uniform or both. Good rule of thumb. Even then be wary.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Tomorrow we go to the falls (Victoria) and are pre warned. I wonder how they will trick us this time.

7th December 2013

Now that it is tomorrow I can tell you how they tricked us this time.

In the morning I had to attend to getting some COMESA yellow card insurance, and, while I was doing this Judy stayed with the car at the shopping centre car park. The constant touting and begging that goes on here distracted Judy and someone raided the rear saddlebag. They got away with our dirty laundry. I would like to put a rattrap in there for them but the only rat I might catch is myself, when I forget.

We visited the falls, which were not quite as spectacular as during the wet season and after yesterdays experience did not feel like crossing into Zimbabwe and back just to get a view from the other side.

We are now halfway to Lusaka, the capital, at a pleasant campsite near Choma, Gwembe Safari Lodge which has good facilities and is a working farm. Incongruously, Judy is getting water by pressing a button whilst through our window we can see the villagers gathering water from the communal pump and then carrying it, on their heads, back home some distance away.

8th December 2013

                                                                                                                                                                                                               Bivouacked well past lusaka at Luangwa Bridge on the Luangwa River in Dr. Livingston’s footsteps, we are sitting in Zambia but looking into Mozambique. It is a balmy 33 degrees at 8pm, but a dry comfortable heat , Judy has not fainted yet and If you feel like a midnight swim forget it as there are croc a plenty and hippo further down. Apparently there is fighting in Mozambique at present, as our fellow overlanders here have told us.

Zambia, to my eyes, is a lush and fertile place. The native Zambians, much like other Africans, seem to be an industrious lot. We see them up early each morning doing their chores or working on road gangs with shoulder firmly to the wheel. And yet still a 3rd world country. I don’t know why. Everyone says Government corruption!

Our road trip today involved some interaction with the locals as we bought fruit from several roadside sellers. They are genuinely charming people and I find I sometimes cannot keep my eyes off of them. They fascinate me.

In the 450 or so K’s we travelled today there was a constant passing parade on the highway of people walking, stalls, and villages. People here walk or ride a bike. Being Sunday many where going to church in the morning. Church is big here with Seven Day Adventists having a big presence. We often saw men in suits, shirt and tie, riding their bikes in the middle of nowhere and some pretty natty dressers there are. Petrol Trucks with, say, two wheels missing, bikes loaded with huge bags of coal, woman carrying everything on their heads with babies on their backs and fields being hoed with everyone helping.

Tomorrow we head to South Luangwa National Park. It is a little out of the way but we have heard good reports about it.

9th December 2013

Rolling down the road when I heard a gravelly rumble and the car became a little wonky. A flat tyre. As I exited the car I immediately noticed the oncoming helpers. Like Anzacs marching twenty abreast coming towards us. I exaggerate. There where at least twelve of them though, snappily dressed and able bodied men who materialised from the native rondavels to help me by watching my every move and offering technical advice such as “ Where is the jack?”

At the end we chopped up our watermelon and all cooled off.

 

A little way down the road we saw a guy repairing tyres just by the side of the road so I pulled over to have the repair done. He extracted, out of my tyre, a tube totally ripped to shreds and exclaimed “Big hole”. I answered ‘Yes but can you fix it”. He didn’t get the joke.

So we didn’t get as far as we may have hoped today and are camped at the Mamma Rula’s Campground at Chipata.

Just as I sit here typing I am dismayed to see not one but two huge pink tour busses full of Swedish backpackers arrive next to us. They are a busy lot, putting up tarps and general camp preparations all with headlamps on and making a lot of noise. Paradise lost. Could be in for an interesting night.

I cannot believe what I’m seeing here now. The bus has been morphed into sleeping accommodation and the roof has somehow been turned into a dormitory with mosquito nets. They all look like locusts in their cocoons.

To be continued.

Later that night we noticed several of their number sleeping directly in front of the toilets instead of being on the bus, possibly the victims of diarrhoea or worse still dysentry. They had to be able to get to the toilet quickly. We gave them a wide birth the next day.

10th December 2013

Arrived at South Luangwa National Park quite early, 10am, and no sooner had we driven through the gate when we saw about one hundred hippo and, a short distance on, a leopard. The ranger had told us of the lions that had been spotted earlier in the day and gave us detailed directions ending with “Just past the vultures, there you will see them”. He thought there might be twenty or so lions.

We looked and looked but could not locate the lions, that is, until we did. They were exactly where the ranger told us, just past the vultures, we must have driven right past them the first time. There were seven females and cubs and, in their own den and little way on, two males in their shed.

Had a standoff with a heard of water buffalo. I backed down, and on the way back for lunch we saw elephants and zebra. In fact there were elephants all the way back to our campsite, which is well out of the Park, free range you know. The adult elephants always shepherd their young away from us.

I am now sitting at lunch at our campsite, looking across the Luangwa Luangwa (not a typo) River and in the distance I see a herd of hippo. There are crocs in there also and surprisingly, fishermen along the bank.

We will head back into the Park this afternoon for round two.

Round two: Wow. Went back at about 3pm and at first not too much was happening, a few giraffe and the usual zebra, antelope etc. On our way back, though, we saw a leopard stalking a zebra. The zebra was totally unaware of the leopard until finally it twigged and made a run for it, however it appeared that the zebra was lame. We did not see the final outcome, luckily.

Had the zebra not been lame it may have made a fist of the leopard, as their kick is harder than their bite.

We then decided to check out the lions that we had seen earlier, thinking that they may be more active at dusk. We were treated to a feast of lion activity, if I may use the expression. Pulling up at the lions den the male, alpha, appeared from his sleep, in profile. Bid yawn and then did an ablution, just like humans. Then the others appeared and started eating from the meal they had prepared earlier. A hippo. All sorts of antics from the cubs and adolescents.

This is by far the best park we have visited and it was almost by chance as it’s a little out of the way. The park itself is very pretty to drive around as well, making the whole experience just breathtaking.

The baboons are a real pest and are very brazen. They got our milk right in front of our eyes. An effective deterrent is a slingshot. You don’t even have to fire a rock at them, just aim it and they run away.

11th December 2013

Today we will regroup, do some washing and take our time getting back to Chipata before we go to Malawi tomorrow.

 

 

post

Botswana

6th December 2013

Entered Botswana with easy formalities, with only our tomatoes and firewood confiscated. All the meat, dairy products and a springbok skin were acceptable although we had to walk in a chemical filled tray and the troopy also had its own trough to drive through. Drove on through the Chobe National Park at the very north of Botswana with just the usual antelopes and giraffes until the very end where we saw a herd of elephants twenty strong and many hippos. We reached the border town of Kasane where we lunched and tried to get Zambian currency before entering Zambia. No deal. First premonition.

post

Namibia Part Two

1st December 2013 What a day it’s been. Yesterday we saw the rock carvings of Twyfelfontein, six thousand years old but you could identify each animal quite clearly, and again, almost had the place to ourselves. Judy almost fainted, once more, and I’m beginning to think she can’t take a temperature over 45 degrees!

So today;

We started off by going to see the “Living Museum” of the San people, but, no one there, so we strolled through the village huts and souvenir stalls, all stocked, and left. Next the Petrified Forest and then on to Khorixas where we were well and truly conned by the “Mayor” of this town, who sold us some trinkets at an exorbitant price. He was good, though. His technique was to casually start a chat with Judy, whilst I was at the garage, and within the conversation asked her name. Next he showed one of his carved balls and turned it around to reveal the name “Judy”.  I came back and he had already carved the rest of the family. I fell into the trap and added the grand children. AUD$35.00 thank you. I did haggle down from $50.00 but somehow I don’t think I won the contest.

We had lunch at Outjo at the Etosha Hotel and were greeted at the door by a young Namibian man and woman who explained to us the buffet on offer. They were very charming and the meal was sumptuous, comprising ten or so courses. We explained that we only required a light lunch, upon which they offered us the light buffet.   We chose this at AUD $8.00 each as opposed to the full buffet at AUD$17.00. We received a, huge, four-course meal and a demonstration of the Click language of the Bushmen by our host, whose father was a genuine “Bushman” who could speak the seven click language. His mother was from the town and could speak the four click language. He explained that he had grown up as a Bushman but had started school at the age of eleven and so, now, he can come to town and put on some western clothes to work at the hotel or go back home and wear his traditional clothing and become a bushman once again.

We arrived at the Etosha National park finding our campsite to be next to a waterhole, and so, we went down at dusk to see if any animals would appear, but, only a rhino and five lions. Oh well!  Better luck tomorrow.

2nd December 2013 Travelled the length of Etosha National Park and saw various antelope, wildebeest, giraffe and zebra, but no lions. We will go down to the westernmost waterhole at Namutoni tonight and try our luck.

No luck.                        We must be hungry for lions……….or is it the other way round.

3rd December 2013 Motored on to Rundu in the far north of Namibia and the last stretch from Grootfontein was absolutely beautiful, green and village after rustic village all kept very clean with fire wood stacked neatly, goats and stalls by the side of the road with plenty of people milling about or strolling along. They all seem to be active, many still working the fields at 6pm.

This last leg of our Namibia section will take us through the Caprivi Strip starting at the Okavango and taking us through to Victoria Falls in Zambia.

4th December 2013

We took the “preferred tourist route” east. This was a good dirt road that took us through rural villages running parallel to the main road heading toward Livingstone. We stopped for the evening at Ngepi Camp, just out of Divundu, which had been recommended. The owner of this establishment has a good sense of humour and there are many quirky and funny signs all around the campsite. As an example there was one at the front gate, at the start of a dirt track, instructing drivers of 4×4’s to “Engage four wheel drive, select low range and lock all diffs- all other cars drive normally” and, at the bar “We accept cash”.

We arrived at about 4pm and found that the canoe tour would start shortly so we enrolled and were treated to 2 ½ hours of adventure on the Okavango. This included many hippo which at times got a little too close for comfort, even for our paddling guides, and crocs, literally six feet away (in the old money).

We ended the evening with dinner at the riverside restaurant, all very good.

5th December 2013

Judy is about to cook “Toad in the hole for breakfast”. I must have done something right. Eggs were off but! Had modified French toast instead.

5pm we are sitting in Namibia on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River, looking into Botswana, with a loose lion hanging around here somewhere. The drive into this camping area was a challenge, it’s the start of the rainy season, but on arrival it turned out to be a boutique, glamping resort with huge tents as taut as a snare drum, clear windows, timber panelling and silver service, Judy wishes she was there instead of our campsite, which, I might add does have running hot water. What more could a girl need?

By the way, I just heard the roar of the male lion across the river. I hope he’s the one they were talking about. Can they swim?

8pm we are sitting in our van with our Scott of the Antarctica roof tent up, the wind is howling and its raining but we are snug.

post

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.

post

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.

 

post

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.

post

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.

 

post

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.

 

 

 

css.php