SOUTH AFRICA 2010-2015-2016
ENROUTE TO AFRICA 2016
Back to Africa for yet another year (we can’t get enough! To break the long journey, we stopped over in Dubai. What a city and what an airport! Dubai International Airport has surpassed Heathrow as the world’s busiest global hub.
It ranked 99 in international air traffic and today it ranks number 1. 45 “A380” in service and 90 on order!! Dubai tourism now counts for 35% of GDP. Not a bad effort either in those few years. All in all a great city for a few days stopover. The arrivals-and-departures board clicks off the names of international cities—Dhaka, Colombo, Bagdad, Male, Perth, Manchester, New York, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Lusaka, Panama City, Rio De Janeiro, Los Angeles, Addis Abeba, Dar Es Salaam, Cape Town, Nairobi, Amsterdam. Stores are stacked with everything from the usual electronic gizmos and perfumes to $11,000 bottles of 1947 Cheval Blanc,
10 gigantic elevators shifting travellers up and down the terminal’s 11 floors, a subterranean train shuttling them between concourses, 82 moving walkways. Every week from this airport more than 140 international airlines operate more than 8,000 flights to some 270 destinations on every continent except Antarctica.
CAPE TOWN to DRAKENSBERG NATIONAL PARK
When we flew into Cape Town our South African friends, Petre, Talana and kids Tia and Andru were waiting for us at the airport. The next day we picked up our truck from the storage area, did some last-minute repairs and shopping and we were off to the Cape of Good Hope. “the southernmost point in the continent of Africa is not the Cape of Good Hope but the Cape Agulhas located 155 km southeast which we visited in 2010 and again last year. However, tourists by bus make the trip down thinking it is the most southern point only to be confronted with a sign stating: The Most South-Western Point of The African Continent.
We also revisited Table Mountain, South Africa’s most iconic landmark with its famous Cable Car. The flat top peak of the mountain reaches 1,086 m above sea level, with superb views over the city of Cape Town. Next a reunion with our friends in Felddrift for a weekend of boating, drinking and South African Braai. After a great weekend with fellow overlanders, it was time to leave the West Coast and head towards the East Coast. A long drive and we choose not to take the N1 but drive via Ceres the gateway to the Cederberg area. Ceres is one of the coldest towns in South Africa. During the winter months, the mountains are often covered in snow and the area has been referred to as Little Switzerland. There are plenty of snow activities such as skiing and snowboarding to keep the whole family busy. Not when we arrived though, it was 39 degrees! The following day we headed north towards Calvinia. Our original our plan was to bush camp in Tankwa National park, but over the weekend we were given a GPS location around 150KM north of Ceres on the track to Calvinia where we should turn of the track onto a station track and follow this for around 20KM. Nothing prepared us for the surprise at finding this oasis in the middle of the arid landscape, palm trees and all. We camped right on the water’s edge. Lots of shade and perfect swimming. At 3PM the temperature was 47 degrees, so the cool dam was a blessing. Getting there you must pass through 3 farm gates before arriving at De Mond Farm House, a perfect place to spend a few days.
The following days we crossed the Upper Karoo region a semi-desert natural region of South Africa, spanning nearly 400 000km2 in the geographic midriff of South Africa. One of the towns, Carnarvon, has the famous Blikkies (Tins) Bar in the local hotel, where we had a drink surrounded by wall-to-wall beer tins. There’s a jukebox in the corner and we played a couple of classics before moving on. Nowhere in South Africa is there more sunshine and blue sky than in the vastness of the Western Upper Karoo. The entire region is above 1000 metres in elevation with the highest peaks in the escarpment rising to above 1900 metres above sea level.
Extremes of temperature are common with winter temperatures often dropping below freezing and midday temperatures in summer often rising above 45°C. Snow on the higher elevations in winter is common. Like in 2010 we camped at Gariep Dam enroute to the Drakensberg. Unfortunately, due to lack of rain the dam was at its lowest level in 60 years. The primary purpose of the Gariep Dam is irrigation, domestic and industrial use as well as for power generation. The dam wall is 88 m high and has a length of 914 m.
The Gariep Dam is the largest storage reservoir in South Africa. Perfect spot hence we spent a few days. The following few days we spent in and around the Drakensberg. This Great Escarpment reaches 2,000 to 3,000 metres (highest point 3482 meters (Thabana Ntlenyana) at the North-Eastern border with Lesotho. We bush camped along the way and spent time in Golden Gate National Park and Royal Natal National Park like we did in 2010. Unfortunately, this time the weather was poor with heavy rain at times and huge thunderstorms in the afternoon.
DRAKENSBERG TO KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
After the Drakensberg it was time for some coastal areas and a visit to Zulu Land, generally the inland area of KwaZulu-Natal province. To experience traditional culture first hand, you must stop and visit small remote villages were many cultural practices remain intact. A visit to a traditional healer is most interesting. Once we reached the coast we explored iSimangaliso Wetland Park spanning 280 km from St Lucia to the Mozambique border. Zululand is also the place to go on safari as it is home to some of the country’s finest game reserves. In 2010 we visited Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National park, and Ithala Game reserve, this year we visited Mkuze and once again Ithala Game reserve.
Bush camping in this area is a pleasure. With lots of animals grazing under umbrella acacias and antelope skittering across dusty pans, hippo honking in the waterways and pans, giraffe silhouetted against the setting sun and the smell of the African bush in the early hours of the morning they are those magic experiences you have when overlanding in Africa. But first Mkuze, we had a one in a lifetime opportunity to witness an injured Rhino (poachers) being dehorned and evacuated for relocation and medical treatment. At the same time, we spoke with the head ranger and veterinarian, who explained the Poaching issue to us.
Rhino Poaching is now at crisis point with one Rhino being killed every 13 hours.
It is estimated that South Africa has 18000 White Rhinos and around 1900 Black Rhinos and 40% of the total world Rhino Population. In recent years poaching levels have soared and the current crisis is creating debates worldwide about the best way to tackle illegal poaching.
With the current severe poaching threat, experts recommend that rhinos should ideally be dehorned every 12-24 months in order to be an effective deterrent.
Poachers are now being equipped by international criminal gangs with sophisticated equipment to track and kill rhinos. Often, they use a tranquilizer gun to bring the rhino down and hack of its horn leaving the rhino to wake up and bleed to death very painfully and slowly. Poachers are also often armed with guns making them very dangerous for the anti-poaching teams who put their lives on the line to protect rhinos.
Since 2008, rhino poaching in South Africa has skyrocketed year on year, culminating in a total of 448 rhinos killed in 2011 and 660 lost in 2012 last year (2015) it is estimated that one rhino is killed every 13 hours.
In Mozambique, where most of the poachers come from, there are no strict penalties for rhino poaching or possession of rhino horn and poaching is simply considered a misdemeanor offence. Mozambique is one of the poorest countries in the world, and there are many individuals willing to risk their lives to earn money through poaching. The country suffers from high corruption and even Mozambican field rangers have been arrested for rhino poaching.
Recent reports claim that settlements have sprung up along the Mozambican border, with towns thriving on the money received from the illegal sale of rhino horn to criminal gangs. International criminal syndicates have been quick to recruit willing poachers, where lack of law enforcement means gangs are easily able to export the rhino horn Eastern Asian markets.
How is dehorning carried out?
- Rhinos are usually darted from a helicopter, but occasionally from the ground in smaller reserves
- A pen is used to mark the point of removal – usually 7cm from the base of the front horn and 5cm from the base of the back horn
- While under anesthesia, a chainsaw or hand-saw is used to cut the horn off horizontally
- Eyes and ears are covered to prevent noise / disturbance / damage from the saw
- The stump is trimmed to remove excess horn at the base, then smoothed and covered with a type of tar to prevent cracking and drying
KRUGER NATIONAL PARK 2016
We spent 2 weeks in Kruger National Park (not enough). We arrived while Kruger was in drought and 40 plus degrees temperature, in the end we experienced flooding rains. I don’t care that it is touristy or that it is not real bush camping. Kruger is just one of the best National Parks in the world with perfect facilities and great wild life viewing. Yes, in Botswana and Namibia you can camp in the wild while in Kruger this is not allowed, but so what? Kruger National Park offers a wildlife experience which in my book is the best in Africa*1 for a reasonable price.( *1 Etosha (Namibia) and Chobe National Park (Botswana) we visited in September/October last year are followed closely but those seem to increase prices twice a year for international tourists). Kruger National Park, in North Eastern South Africa, is one of Africa’s largest game reserves. Its high density of wild animals includes the Big 5: lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffalos. Lots of other mammals make their home here, but most visitors just seem to come for the big Five.
The 3 animals we mainly look for are Lion-Leopard and Cheetah, but Elephant and Giraffe are also wonder full animals. Kruger has mountains, bush plains and tropical forests all part of the landscape. Perfect campsites from classic Rustic (Balule) to full resorts like Skukuza, Lower Sabie, Letaba and Berg and Dal. The park was established in 1926 and now covers over 20000Sq KM. Having seen many Cheetahs in Namibia and Botswana last year this year in Kruger we did not see any.
SOUTH AFRICA 2015
Back in Africa for our 3rd tour.
Arriving in Cape Town after 45 hours of flying and hanging around airports, Africa did not disappoint.
1. The hotel we stayed in had no power (Load sharing; we were advised it would only be for 2 hours, but it took till after breakfast the next morning to have some power available)
2. The toilet did not work hence we had to change rooms just after we arrived. T I A. This is Africa. But all the smiles, the friendly people, the perfect service is also part of Africa and this is the part we love most and makes Africa one of those MUST VISIT PLACES.
Within 1 hour of our arrival we received a phone call from Petre and Talana who were on the way for a Welcome to Africa drink. It became late and lots of stories were told.
The next day we took our final flight to Port Elizabeth where we had an appointment with customs and other government agencies to allow the truck into South Africa. Like on arrival in Cape Town all was very efficient and all over and done within a few hours. We found a nice spot on the beach for our first night but were moved onto a caravan park as people told us it was not safe. There were quite a few “radical people” around destroying old history in Port Elizabeth. They must be watching ISIS do the same in the Middle East?
ADDO NATIONAL PARK to CAPE TOWN 2015
We did our shopping, picked up diesel and moved out of town to Addo National Park for a few days R&R to recuperate from the long flight. On the second day the rain had stopped and we decided to go for a drive and this did not disappoint. In just 6 hours and 22KM we spotted Elephants, Lions, Caracal, Zebra, Kudu, Red Hartebeest, Eland, Buffalo, Warthog, Meerkats and Vervet Monkeys.
Waking up next morning the weather had turned nasty, hence we decided to move on to a Cheetah Breeding Farm not far away where we stayed overnight. Next destination was Baviaanskloof. It took some convincing before the ranger allowed us into the park as he believed our truck was too big-heavy and wide for the 4WD tracks. He was right as the track was steep and very rutted due to the rain the day before. The estimated 19 km from the gate at the Poortjes to Rooihoek camping area took us nearly 3.5 hours. It was lots of low range and the diff lock did its work as wheels came up in the air. At some stage we felt like being in the tour the France as people in Toyota Land cruisers clapped as we attempted the bad rutted tracks. This track is narrow and designed for a land cruiser or a bakkie not a 12500KG truck 2.50Mtr wide. However, we made it to Rooihoek just before dark. Baviaanskloof is a wilderness area and a perfect stop after leaving Addo National Park. It is unspoiled, rugged mountainous terrain. The track is approx. 203 kilometres with a mix of Low and High Range driving. The track is narrow, steep in places, in total it took us 2.5 days to cover the 203 KM. For those of us who drive big trucks be prepared for lots of scratches. Lucky, we choose a light colour on our truck; if this would be a dark colour it would now look like a Zebra. The Elephant bush is unforgiving and so were the low hanging trees. Despite being warned for Leopards we never saw any. But it always keeps you on your toes while sitting next to a campfire. Baviaanskloof means Valley of Baboons and is a stunningly beautiful area, a vast mountain kingdom and a true wilderness.
Our next destination was Cape Town where we planned a few days with our friends Petre and Talana Crouse. It was also the town to top up on shopping, last minute shopping and improvements before heading towards the far North West of South Africa.
Enroute we made a little detour to Cape Agulhas the most southern tip of the African continent and the dividing line between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.
CAPE TOWN to RICHTERSVELD TRANS FRONTIER PARK.
This is our 4th visit to Cape Town since we started on our around the world safari. Cape Town is also known as the mother city. The city is dominated by the magnificent Table Mountain. But for us this visit was to meet up with our good friends Petre and Talana Crouse and kids Andru and Tia. The few days were used to catch up on past travels, and with the help from Talana and Petre doing our last minute shopping. We also had the opportunity to meet up with Jacques and Mandy who we met in Thailand in 2013 while they drove around the world on pushbikes. Having done all the sights in Cape Town in 201o we spent most of our time eating (and drinking) with our friends. It was time to leave and start exploring the West Coast. We spent a day and night at Tieties Bay and camped here in 2010, a superb spot in a small protected bay located in Columbine Nature reserve. We followed the coast north until Lamberts Bay before turning inland to Graafwater where we visited our friends Hennie and Madeleine. We got to know them while camping at Mana Pools in Zimbabwe.
They are also good friends of Petre and Talana and we spent some time on the farm with them in 2010. The west Coast of South Africa is an undeveloped area, with white washed little fishing villages, unspoiled beaches, lagoons and wetlands, and inland the Cederberg mountains with its spectacular rock formations (we visited this area in 2010). We continued to follow the coast north towards Hondeklip Baai, and Kleinsee. As we travelled further north the weather became warmer. (winter in South Africa) This part we had not travelled before and is called Namaqualand in the very north-west of South Africa and part of the Northern Cape province.
Its northern boundary, the Orange River, is also the border to the neighbouring country Namibia. Namaqualand is – due to the low rainfalls of less than 300 millimetres per annum – classified as semi-desert. At the coast it rains even less because of the cold Benguela current that frequently brings dense sea-fogs to this coastal desert region as well as to the Namibian coast. Wide landscapes and the intense colours of the desert, is what is Namaqualand all about. In springtime after the short rainy season, the area is covered in a lush carpet of wild flowers. Unfortunately, we were just a few weeks too early, but exploring all the sleeping fishing villages made up for it. After a few nights at Port Nolloth it was time to explore The South Africa side of Richtersveld Trans Frontier National Park, in a nutshell a desolate and forbidding landscape, seemingly devoid of life, the harsh environment of rugged canyons, high mountains containing the world’s richest desert flora. Miniature rock gardens, perfectly designed by nature, cling precariously to cliff faces.
Once we arrived at the park entrance we had some difficulty entering with our 12000KG truck? The park is only accessible by means of a 4×4 vehicle. Sedan vehicles are not permitted. Despite explaining our truck is 4X4 we did need to see the Boss man before clearance was given. After a few days in the park we arrived on the end of the 4WD trial at Sendelingdrift it became clear that the Ferry was not able to stay afloat with us on it!! Just the front wheels where enough to lift the ferry out of the water. Hence a 90km drive to the bridge at Alexander Bay. Camping along the Orange river is what Africa is all about.
BORDER BOTSWANA to CAPE TOWN
Next, we crossed into the Kgalagardi Trans Frontier Park straddling the border between Botswana and South Africa. The Kgalagardi is a semi-desert of red dunes and star-crammed skies where African animals run wild and visitors get a wilderness ‘fix’ that’s Viagra for the soul. This park spans an impressive 3.6 million hectares, making it one of the most extensive conservation areas in the world (Kruger is only two million hectares). Kgalagardi is a harsh place, where survival is an art leading to fascinating adaptations in the area’s animal residents. During our visit the temperature reached 50 degrees Celsius. Red sand dunes, sparse vegetation and the dry Nossob and Auob River where we saw lion, cheetah and leopards provided us with excellent photographic opportunities. People tell us once Kalahari sand gets into your shoes, you’ll be drawn back again and again. Well it did as this was our second visit and probably not the last. After the Kalahari Desert and Kgalagardi National Park our first stop was Upington where we needed to top up our supplies. Upington is a town on the banks of the Orange River.
The area is most famous for its export-quality grapes, raisins and wines which are cultivated on the rich flood plains of the Orange River. After shopping it was off to Kanon Eiland where we camped 2 nights on the Orange River. Next Augrabies National park covering about 500 sq. km and it protects the area where the Orange River changes from a wide slow-moving river flowing through sandy soils to a fast-flowing river that cuts through ancient granite. Unfortunately for us it was the end of the dry season, but we are told when the river is in flood the falls are spectacular and the noise deafening. In the Eastern Part of the park the river forms a small system of interlinked channels before cascading over a waterfall 90 meters high with a 60-meter free fall. Augrabies is a very arid almost desert like area. It is dry and hot. One feature of the park is the kokerboom (also called the Quiver Tree)
After 3 days in Augrabies National Park our next destination was Strandfontein.
This is the ideal stopover between Augrabies and Cape Town and the location is on a pristine coastline where whales and dolphins frequent the shores 25Km away from Lutzville and 8km North of Doring Bay. We had a few days R & R on the beach and on the weekend our friends Madeleine and Hennie visited us from Graafwater. Next stop was Cape Town (or Kaapstad in Afrikaans) where we stayed with Petre and Talana and where we are storing our truck. We also had another reunion with old friends from our 2010 / 2011 travels. The choice was to meet at Koningskop 4X4 Trial and Campsite. It happens to be the weekend the All Blacks played South Africa and the score needs no more mentioning. A great weekend was had by all. After this it was back to Cape Town, store the truck and fligh to Dubai to break the long journey between Africa and Cairns.
SOUTH AFRICA 2010
As we said goodbye to Borneo around 7.15pm, we are now really on our way to the starting point of our around the world trip. We landed in Kuala Lumpur at 10pm that night and left Kuala Lumpur for the 10-hour flight to Johannesburg at 1.45am. It was the captain who made me realise YES, we are in Africa when he announced “Ladies and Gentlemen, in 25 minutes we are landing at Or Tambo International Airport”.
OUR INTRODUCTION TO SOUTH AFRICA (2010)
The arrival and the expected touts were a non-event and it took 40 minutes through Johannesburg peak hour traffic to reach our hotel. To get into the mood and to understand the culture of South Africa we had a few must do’s on our list. One of them was the Apartheid Museum and this is what we did in the afternoon. Well what can I say? The pictures of what we saw on TV in the 1970s and 1980s and the early 90s were made very clear. No wonder the black South Africans had had enough. It also showed that they had difficulty in coping with the independence they were given in the 1990s. Who wouldn’t if for decades you were not able to move from one area to the next; or you were stopped by police on every corner, to check if you were on your way to work or home. Last week we saw graphic evidence of Japan and Australia at war in Borneo in 1943 – 1945 and the horrors of Japanese POW camps. Today we see what the white people did to the black people in Africa. It all seems to be so surreal. I suppose as a soldier or policeman you get away with the statement, “I was only following orders.” Well, that is all behind us now and hopefully we can all look forward to a better future. We organized a guide who was born and bred in Soweto and we saw this as the way to visit the World-famous suburb.
His name is Wonga. Wonga is 53 years old and was one of the students who spent much of his time demonstrating and in his words,” rioting back in the dark days of their struggle”. He was there when police and army threw tear gas in the Church that allowed the blacks to have meetings, which were forbidden during Apartheid. He told us horror stories of shootings when the people fled the Church. Wonga also explained the Nelson Mandela story. Mandela was central to every stage of South Africa’s epic struggle against Apartheid. From formulating a new radical approach in the 1940’s to leading the mass struggle of the 1950’s; the formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe in the early 60’s to his own imprisonment for 27 years. Beginning in the mid 1980’s, Mandela initiated and led the negotiating process that culminated in South Africa’s first democratic elections on April 27, 1994. He served as the first president of a democratic South Africa. He was called Father of the Nation. Wonga also showed us the darker side of the independence, the people living in shanty towns. During Apartheid this did not happen as everything was controlled, and black people could not move from one area to the next. He also showed us how they get electricity for their houses by tapping into traffic lights or power lines. Some run wires up to 3km to their shanties. The Soweto Township is well organized, people are now able to own land, and you can see many extensions, i.e. tin sheds next to houses where the family lives and the live wires carrying the electricity. Satellite dishes are also common and now seem to pop up everywhere. Unfortunately, many people are unemployed, and they do not receive unemployment benefits yet. Aids and alcohol are the two major issues. People are setting up little businesses in the streets and little shebeens (bars, not sure if they are legal or illegal as they are everywhere, with some run from private homes). After the Soweto tour, Wonga took us to a down town area of Johannesburg where we visited a Mufi store (Medicine Man). In this store we saw everything from dead monkey’s, bones of unknown species and many other dead animals. Further there were shelves of animal bones (we hope), roots, twigs, leaves etc. Many Africans believe in the medicine man and regard him like a doctor. Wonga could not believe why we were hesitant. On the way back, we drove past the stadium that the Holland football team will use for training, before the World Cup. Lesedi, a must for anyone who only visits South Africa for a week. It has 5 traditional homesteads where families of the Pedi, Sotho, Xhosa, Zulu and Ndebele live in the traditional rural way, all nestling into the pristine bushveld around 50km north of Johannesburg. Something we did not know is that they open the houses for overnight stays (let`s call it bed and breakfast) and you can learn so much more as they prepare traditional meals for you at night. After I was given a tasty worm to eat, I was happy to stay at the Protea Gold Reef City that night. Overnight we woke up during a violent thunderstorm. We are told Johannesburg has more lighting strikes than any other city in the world. While talking about the weather, we find it to be quite cool here. Anticipating a warm summer in South Africa, we left all our warm cloths packed in the Motor-home. We do not even have a jacket? We left Johannesburg late the following day and the rest of the day was un-eventful. We noticed the scenery was very much like the area around Bathurst and Orange in Australia. One thing that I have not mentioned yet is the 4 Way Stop. South Africa is home to the 4 ways stop sign. For those unfamiliar with this concept, the first car that arrives at the junction has the right of way, whether they are going straight on, or turning left or right. The second person to arrive has the next right of way, and so on. If you are not familiar with this road rule then you will have to pay attention when approaching stop signs, as you may find if your attention lapses for only a second, you’re likely to be involved in an accident. We are also concerned about the drivers of all the little mini vans beeping their horns all the time. In fact, in the end, we started to copy them. Then we realised that this was the local bus service! People standing on the footpath make all kind of hand signals. Example finger up means to town, finger down means local, moving your arm in a circular motion means train station. Therefore, the drivers of the busses beep the horn once they see where people are going, the driver either stops or keeps going.
When we arrived back at the hotel, we were advised that our hire car was organized for delivery the following day at 9am, but we would have to go back to the airport to pick up the GPS. This was not something we had planned on and we wanted to be in the Lesedi Culture Centre by 11am the following day. Then some unbelievable generosity! The lady from the front desk named Juanita, offered us her GPS to save us from having to go all the way back to the airport and missing the show. We organized with Hertz to pick up the GPS late in the afternoon instead. After a lot of hassle, we received our Hertz rental car. We finished up with 2 quotes and one was R800 dearer then the other. One did not include a GPS. It was explained that they have seven different departments and obviously two people have been working on our quote. Anyway, this is Africa. We had no choice but to go back to the Airport and pick up a GPS, which we were told we could get at the Vodacom shop at the Domestic Terminal. After a struggle to find parking we arrived at the Domestic Terminal but no Vodacom shop. We were then told the only Vodacom shop is at the International Terminal. Many apologies and the same story. A breakdown in communication or too many people involved? We are now starting to understand the letters T I A This Is Africa
Arrival of our truck in Durban (2010)
At 8.30am we arrived at the office of the shipping agent. He informed us that the ship had already arrived on Saturday, but the container was still on board. We left the original carnet papers and the waiting game then started.
First, we went to a caravan dealer to find out if he could fix our water purifier when the truck arrives. The weather was perfect, so we spent the rest of the day near the pool. We also laughed when we saw the African way of BBQ (Braai). Twenty barbeques lined up next to each other, each with its own chimney. We were going to the new stadium to join the festivities and ride the tram to the top of the stadium, but due to the bad weather we decided to travel to Zulu Land and visit some villages instead. We visited PheZulu, a traditional Zulu Village overlooking the Valley of 1000 Hills, where the Gasa clan entertained us with their dance routine. We also enjoyed a tour of the traditional village and visited the sangoma (witch doctor). The rural Zulu communities of Kwa-Zulu Natal are some of the poorest in the country. Many do not have access to running water, electricity or even medical care. On one hand, this has helped preserve the Zulu way of life – on the other, these communities have very little.
We had an 11am call from Bobby Singh our trusty shipping agent. Tomorrow between 8am and 10am Customs will come and open the container and inspect the truck. Great News. The weather was still poor, so we decided not to visit the soccer stadium. It closed at 12noon as South Africa plays Namibia tonight. Durban is called the city in the sun, but we are unlucky. The beaches are the main attraction. As we are a little exhausted from doing the tourist thing in Johannesburg last week and Durban this week, we decided to have another afternoon long lunch at the Sun City Casino. Like Johannesburg we have really enjoy the friendly people and very good service. Prices are lower than in Australia. Average cost of lunch for two is $25. For hotel accommodation, one must ask for deals, like what we do in Australia. For example, the casino charges 1500 rand per night, but after asking for a deal, it came down to 750 rand a night including breakfast. We needed a casino membership, which is available FOC from the Casino desk. It also gave us a 20% discount on all food. However, we can`t wait to go bush and sit around a campfire.
At 8am we arrived at the office of the shipping agent. Unfortunately, the customs agents where running late. By 10am they arrived, and we went to our container where they broke the seal. (GPS S29.53.829 E31.00.636) The first container they showed us was one that had fallen off the ship onto the wharf and into the water! Not a good start we thought to ourselves. Luckily, our truck and container were fine except we noticed some window damage on the side. The wharf had no platform to unload the truck on to. We had to lift the rear of the container with a large crane, so the solar panels would not hit the roof at the rear of the container. Inch by inch the truck came forward with a lot of `Forward – Back – Stop` then to the crane driver `a little higher, little lower, little higher`.
With one person on the roof and one on the bull-bar measuring the 10 millimetres gap that we needed to slide the truck out of the container without damaging it, one and a half hours later the truck was out. The next job was to change the wheels. The front and rear wheel nuts were so tight that no one could get them off. So, we needed to organize a garage to come out and get an air rattle gun and a large steel pipe to get the nuts off. The guys were very helpful and told us that if we needed to change a tyre with the wheel nuts that tight, we would never be able to change a wheel in the bush by ourselves. We refitted all the tyres and we worked out how we could get the wheels off without using a rattle gun. By now it was 3.30pm and we had 30 minutes to get the paperwork to the office and stamped, so we could drive the truck of the wharf. Our carnet is signed off and the truck can now be driven in South Africa. YAHOOOOOO.
OUR AFRICA TRIP START (DURBAN to CAPE TOWN) 2010
Upon arriving at the camping ground, we must have had 30 visitors before I switched off the motor. All wanting to know where we were from, where we were going and all wanting to take photos of the inside of the truck. One person even asked if she could come back tomorrow because her camera battery was flat! The overall comment was you must be joking driving all the way to Europe. It started to pour with rain just after we finished setting up and a gale blew all night. We decided to stay three more days at this very nice park. The South African people are very friendly and helpful. We walked along the beach, which is very wide. Beaches here are 150 to 200 meters wide. We said our farewell to the Nathalia Beach Resort and all the new friends we had made. It really felt like we had known all our new friends for a lot longer than the three days we were at the Resort. As a Dutchman I know Aussies are very friendly and helpful. But South Africans are just unbelievably friendly and helpful.
Today we saw some very beautiful scenery. Our lunch stop was at Cathedral Peak. Mike`s Pass is only accessible with a 4X4. Once at the top, magnificent views of the Central Drakensberg await you. A challenging 4WD track leads from here to the Royal Natal National Park. But as we are traveling on our own we decided to take the easy route (Clary decided this for me!) Traveling back, we saw some Zulu villages and despite living poor and in clay/straw/mud houses the villages are very clean. The huts are spotless and so is the area around the houses. We can`t believe how sparkling white their clothes are as all washing is done by hand. Mid-afternoon we arrived at Royal Natal NP. This park`s most famous feature is the Amphitheatre. Here the Drakensberg rises rapidly piercing the sky at a height of over 1000 metres. You can climb up a chain ladder and view the escarpment from the top. Furthermore, you can hike to Tugela Falls, which cascades down five drops forming the second highest waterfall in the world. The park offers lots of hiking for those interested in this. When we arrived at the campsite, once again our motorhome attracted a lot of interest from the other visitors. Then one lady asked me if I was Dutch. `Yes, I am` I replied. `Well my husband is Dutch, and he is from Arnhem` she said. (That`s where I am from.) So, in typical Afrikaner style, we were invited for a drink tonight. It was a cold night at 1485 metres, but the fire kept us warm. We were up early only to find an overcast sky and no mountain views. By 9 am the sun came out, but the top of the mountain remained in the clouds (3200m or 9600ft.) We left the campsite and meandered around the area hugging the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho border. At Oliver’s Pass we had a beautiful view but like this morning, the high peaks were in the clouds. Mid-afternoon we left the mountains and drove through fields of maize and windmills. We left the clouds behind for blue skies. Free State is also called the heart of South Africa. We arrived early in Bloemfontein and made our way to Reyneke Caravan Park. This is a typical overnight spot and by not listening carefully, we paid twice as much as what we should have. We now know there are better parks in the area. For us, this park is noisy and too expensive. (This was before Ioverlander existed) 200km south we arrived at Lake Gariep. Today was the first time we have seen road kill (not kangaroos but monkeys). We arrived at Lake Gariep at lunchtime and spent the rest of the day and night there. We were the only people in the reserve. The reserve is just under 17000 ha in size. The Gariep Nature reserve is located on the northern shore of Lake Gariep.
The Gariep dam is 88 meters high and 914 meters wide. It holds back the water for about 80km. More than 1.73 million m3 of concrete was used to build the dam. It is the largest human made water body in South Africa. It holds 5340000 mega litres of water and has a surface area of 370km2 (140m2 miles) when full. Around 4.30pm we drove the 25-km game-viewing route, which resulted in our sighting of a variety of game including the endangered Cape Mountain Zebra. We also saw the black wildebeest, eland, kudu, red hartebeest, impala and a brown hyena. After we returned it was time for a nice campfire and a BBQ. Lightning all around us but no rain. Nice and hot and sticky. The monkeys are a pest and do not leave us alone. They will try and pinch anything they can get their hands on and they are jumping all over our vehicle. We really hoped to see a cheetah but unfortunately, we didn`t get to see one. Sometimes they come into the camp at night, so let`s hope they wait until after we have gone to bed! We did however see plenty of zebra, Cape Mountain zebra, black wildebeest, springbok, red hartebeest, kudu, ostrich, gemsbok and Vervet monkeys. The Park is absolutely stunning with beautiful mountain scenery and panoramic views. Today we purchased our Wild Card. This is a joint initiative of South Africa National Parks, Big Game Parks of Swaziland, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and Misinsi Reserves. It allows us to travel into the parks without having to pay the conservation fee. We paid 1840 rand ($300 AUD) and after approx. 5 visits this will have paid for itself. The drive from Cradock to Addo National Park is like the start of the Flinders Ranges in South Australia.
We arrived at Addo around 1pm and set up camp. We were surprised to see so many European and US tourists. During the afternoon we were entertained by the monkeys who put up a show around and on top of the truck. As the day came to an end we had the place to ourselves and the day-trippers had all left. There are only 33 sites available for camping. We sat down near the waterhole, which was fully lit, and we waited for game to arrive. And we waited and waited…! After 3 nights we would have liked to stay longer at Addo National Park, but the 33 sites were booked for the weekend. Our next destination was Cambedoo National Park, near the town of Graaff- Reinet. Graaff- Reinet is the fourth oldest European town in South Africa. The park almost stretches around the whole town and has three sections. The section that we were interested in was the part with the Valley of Desolation. The steep track to the top (1400m) was constructed by labourers using picks, shovels and barrows in 1930. It was sealed in 1978. The track is wide enough for a car and the maximum weight is 3500kg. (OOOOPS … don`t worry, we made it.) From the top there is a magnificent view of the historic town of Graaff- Reinet and views to the Sneeuwberg Mountain range (2504m). Cambedoo does not allow overnight campers so we had no choice but to book into the local council caravan park. Poorly managed by the locals, the people running it had no interest in explaining the surrounding area. I suppose being a public servant means Saturday and Sunday is a day off! This is the first time we have experienced a less than friendly attitude since we arrived in South Africa. Anyway, only an overnight spot so we booked in and left to explore the National Park, which was only 5km from the town. We did our shopping in the afternoon, drove around Graaff-Reinet and spent the rest of the day in the caravan park looking at the monkeys. They are a pest, but they are also entertaining to watch. The following day we drove 200km to Karoo National Park near the town of Beaufort West.
The landscape reminded us of Australia except there are no Kangaroos but plenty of monkeys. Today we also experienced our first roadblock. No problems and the police were very polite just like all the South Africans we have encountered to date. They went over and under the truck and wanted to know why on earth we would like to drive north to Europe. The spectacular panoramas of the great Karoo came within sight about 30km before Beaufort West. We arrived at around 12.30pm, had lunch and enjoyed watching a leopard tortoise play around our camp-site. The scenery must be seen, to be believed. Driving up Klipspringer Pass in the truck there were spectacular views. We saw Dassies and a pair of Black Eagles. From the campsite, it`s just a short 4X4 trail up Pienaars Pass. This gets you to the middle plateau in the park. We also followed a longer 4X4 trail hoping to see a rhino or two, but no luck. We did however see plenty of Cape Mountain zebra`s, springbok, gemsbok, eland, klipspringer and red hartebeest. Back in camp, we were entertained by two leopard tortoise who finished the afternoon off by mating in front of our truck. Once the sun goes down the temperature drops dramatically, so we need to light a fire to keep us warm. It will be an early night tonight for us because tomorrow we have a 500km drive to Cape Town. Tonight, is the last night in a national park for a few days. The national parks in South Africa are very well run and the amenities are first class. Most also offer accommodation, swimming pools and a restaurant. Campsites have power and a braai (BBQ), which is cleaned every day.
We followed the N1 to Cape Town. When we were 100km from Cape Town the scenery changed, and majestic mountains started to appear. We started to climb the Hex River Pass and then the wineries started to appear on both sides of the highway as we looked down the Hex River Valley. The Hex River Valley is the largest of the Cape`s three fruit and wine producing valleys. Late afternoon we arrived at Imhoff Caravan Park, where we will stay until we have seen all the Cape Town highlights. We also must get our squeaky brakes fixed and the water purifier system also needs some attention. We are camping 30km from Cape of Good Hope and I can tell by the wild wind blowing at 45 knots or more that we are now close to the Cape. Tonight, we can enjoy all the city amenities, including TV.
Cape Town or as the South Africans call it (The Mother City). We explored the Cape Town CBD and the coastline. Cape Town is alive with creativity, colour and sound. Its greatest challenge is to overcome the contrasts of the city`s beauty and the visual legacy of poverty. However, the many improvements to the city have gathered momentum ahead of the 2010 FIFA world cup. We drove from our campsite to Hout Bay via Chapman`s Peak drive, and having seen most of the world. I believe this is one of the most spectacular passes I have ever driven on. It winds for 10km, linking Hout Bay to Noordhoek. We then followed the Atlantic seaside, which stretches all the way to the V&A (Victoria and Albert) waterfront in the city. It includes residential suburbs, one of which is called Clifton Beach (We live in Clifton Beach Australia) but the two nicest suburbs were no doubt Camps Bay and Llandudno. All are offering easy access and snow-white beaches, entertainment, food and with the Twelve Apostle Mountain Range on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other it has formed South Africa`s own Cote D`Azur, attracting the rich and famous and many hotspots.
Table Mountain, the rocky outcrop rising 1000 meters above sea level and towering over the city, is surrounded on three sides by ocean. Table Mountain will always have the power to enchant, attract and amaze locals and tourists alike. I wonder if Cape Town could be the most beautiful city in the world? As we arrived at the car park, we were told that we were not supposed to be there as Motorhomes could not come up this far. Anyway, ten rand and a smile and we could park next to the taxi stand. We were also told book ahead for the cable car, however 20 minutes later we were in the cable car and on our way up. Table Mountain is one of the most visited attractions in Cape Town with nearly 1 million visitors per year. Cape Town waterfront and city area is vibrant, and the nightlife is varied from live shows to all night clubs. The V&A waterfront and Long Street are alive with restaurants, clubs, bars and coffee shops. What a Town! When we arrived back at our camp we had a couple staying next to us who travelled all the way down from Norway. So, as you can imagine, the night was all about Africa, where to stay and where not to stay. The following day back to the V & A waterfront. This is a working harbour, shopping and entertainment complex just outside the Cape Town CBD.
From here we boarded the boat to Robben Island. Robben Island was the prison that housed Nelson Mandela and other black political dissidents. In the days of apartheid in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, dissidents were rounded up as political prisoners and were banished to this 518-hectare rocky outcrop in Table Bay. Some of the political opponents of the Apartheid regime in South Africa and Namibia spent more than a quarter of a century in prison. Despite the brutality and harsh conditions, those imprisoned on the island succeeded in turning a prison into a symbol of freedom and personal liberation. Its most famous inmate, Nelson Mandela, emerged from prison in 1990 to become President of South Africa. He led South Africa to a new-found democracy with a message of tolerance, reconciliation and hope that moved the world. The trip is both somber and sobering, but it is an unforgettable experience. We saw the prison cells in B Section, which held many leaders from different organisations, including the cell of Nelson Mandela who spent 18 of his 27 years of incarceration on Robben Island. We spoke to our guide who was also held for 7 years on the island for allegedly recruiting ANC members. Upon our arrival back in camp our new friends, the Norwegian travellers joined us for a few light refreshments and before we knew it, it was midnight. The area around Cape Town has awesome scenery even with poor weather.
Being a long weekend (Human Rights Day) we were not the only ones out for a drive. The queue to get into the national park was long. Lucky for us we were ushered to the Bus entrance because our truck was too high for the normal gate. We visited Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point, which is the most south-westerly point of Africa. The cliffs at the southern point towering more than 200 meters above the sea consist of three clearly defined promontories – Cape of Good Hope, Cape Maclear and Cape Points. Cape of Good Hope is situated at the junction of two of earth`s most contrasting water masses. The cold Benguela Current on the west coast and the warm Agulhas current on the east coast. Cape of Good Hope is popularly perceived as the meeting point of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. However geographically, the Indian Ocean joins the Atlantic Ocean at Cape Agulhas. This we will visit tomorrow. While we were at Cape Point, we spent a few minutes thinking about 16-year-old Jessica Watson who passed this area only a few weeks ago on her around the world sailing trip. Having seen 40 knot winds here only a few days ago we are pleased we are on dry land, but we do admire her courage. We wish her well on her last leg home.
Leaving Cape Town
After 10 days we left Cape Town and followed the Helderberg basin, a stunning area, with the Hottentots Holland and Helderberg ranges creating a beautiful backdrop against the valley, which comes down to the coastline swept with white sandy beaches. Strand, Pringle Bay, Betty`s Bay, Hermanus, Gansbay, Pearly Beach, Die Dam, take your pick. We had lunch along the way. In Gans Bay we would have liked to have had a go at cage diving with the great white sharks, but in water with a temp of around 12 degrees we thought this was too cold; despite the wet suits on offer. In the afternoon we hit the dirt and drove from Die Dam around Agulhas National Park to Cape Agulhas. Cape Agulhas is the southernmost tip of Africa and this is where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet. The official position is S34.49.58 E020.00.12 Because we wanted to camp as close as possible to the most southerly point, we found Africa`s most southern caravan park and set up camp. Unfortunately, this was another council park and being a public holiday there was nobody home! Dirty toilets, dirty grounds and lots of poor people around trying to sell things or get free food? Anyway, we enjoyed our evening and BBQ at Africa`s most southern point. I ventured just knee-deep in the water that was 12 degrees Celsius, an experience but I was pleased to get out of the cold ocean. As of tomorrow, we are heading north towards Europe, and eventually we will tip our toes in the water at North Cape the northern most point in Europe (North Cape in Far North Norway) From Cape Agulhas we pointed north towards Europe (40,000km by the route we are planning to drive!).
We passed the villages of Malagas and Infanta on the banks of the Breede River. This river enters the San Sebastian Bay and is known as South Africa`s Whale Nursery (June to November). In October 2006 the bay had 141 whales and 69 calves during the official annual whale survey. Malagas also has the only hand-drawn ferry (punt) in the country. The coastline from here to Mossel Bay offers a great choice of water sports and 4X4 drive trails. Traveling via the N2 and the lovely town of Knysna with its beautiful 65000-hectare evergreen forest, which is the largest protected canopy forest in South Africa, we arrived at Tsitsikamma National Park in the afternoon.
Our camp is right on the edge of the rocky beach. The campsite was stunning and with a few light refreshments and a magnificent campfire, we settled for the night watching the lightning show all around us. Tsitsikamma National Park, Place of Abundant Water. Our campsite lies on a 50-meter strip of land between the sea and the steep mountains. The mountains are covered with tall indigenous forest and vast unspoilt stands of the Cape`s unique fynbos. This place is stunning with waterfalls and rivers. Tomorrow school-holidays start, and we would like to arrive in the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho by Sunday or Monday, so unfortunately, we could not spend enough time here. However, before we left we walked up to the Storm River and then walked as far as the suspension bridge. We left the Storm River campsite around midday. It was to become a long, long day and the N2 became worse as we went further east. To make matters worse we got stuck behind an army convoy as we were climbing and descending the mountains. Our destination is in the middle of a game reserve so we (Clary) had to open and close quite a few gates and by now it had become dark. At 8pm we arrived at our river camp 28km east of East London. Enough time to enjoy a few coldies and a few wines while watching the fish jump in the river. While camping at the Kwelela Tidal River we had the fright of our lives. A giraffe stuck his head around the corner under our awning trying to pinch my breakfast! I was completely frozen for a minute. This is what had happened. The giraffe had opened the gate from the reserve next door and came into our campsite, followed by a worker who advised us quickly that it was a pet giraffe and we had nothing to worry. However, being a baby (as explained later by the minder) he was still 4 meters high. Anyway, it was a good photo opportunity. The giraffe was called Abby (abnormal big baby). The mother was killed by poachers and it is being looked after in the reserve next to the campsite. The plans we had to reach Lesotho today were never realised. We first had to do shopping to cover us for the next 10 days. When we started our trip, we encountered the worst roads so far on our trip. Full of potholes but we will have to get used to that. Nevertheless, due to the stunning scenery we didn`t really mind. The whole area is dominated by the southern Drakensberg Mountains. Being Saturday the markets in the villages were busy. From Elliot we went off-road before deciding to stop for the night.
At one stage we were driving at around 2100 meters above sea level and our campsite is at 1840 meters. The river flows a few meters away from our camp and is full of trout. The fire will be roaring tonight as the temperatures we are told get down to around 4 degrees Celsius at night. From here we explored Lesotho.
South Africa continues; Durban to Ithala National Park 2010
Upon arrival in Durban first we had to get rid of the mud from the truck because on Tuesday it had to go in for the 20,000km service and we still have the brake issue (squeaking noise). Further to this, we must find the Mozambique embassy/consulate to get our visas organised. We are also required to carry 2 warning triangles, 2 special stickers and safety emergency vests. We must purchase these items and it was also time to do some normal shopping. As a precaution, we purchased a few cans of pepper spray just in case we encounter any problems. In addition, we must fill up the water tanks and we also had to get a wheel alignment and other wheel readjustments. We have also been trying to find a bank, which sells Mozambique Metical, but so far, we have been unsuccessful. It appears that South Africa buys foreign money but does not sell foreign money. Anyway, on the black market on the border I am sure we can sell Rand and purchase Metical.
The Mozambique Visa in Durban
As we did not want to wait a week, nor did we want to be hassled at the border, we decided to get the visas at the Consulate (Priority). As the Embassy has no credit card facility, we then had to queue at the bank (1 hr) to deposit money in their account and return to the Embassy with the receipt. Thirty minutes later, we were now not only the proud owners of Mozambique Visas, but we also own part of the Consulate! ($200 for the 2 visas for 30 days!!!) While in Durban we had to make copies of our passports and driver`s licence because we have been strongly advised not to hand over our original licence or passport as it may take a bribe to get it back in Mozambique and some other African countries.
After a week it was time to hit the N2 Toll Road to St Lucia. St Lucia has a vibrant holiday atmosphere full of bars, restaurants, bed and breakfasts and small resorts. Tour operators on every corner, promoting diving, reef, river, game and cycling tours. Hippos and crocodiles are the big attraction near the mouth of the estuary. Hence this is where we would like to camp. We found a great camp spot near the mouth of the river. Just North of St Lucia is the entrance to the iSimamgaliso Wetland Park. iSimangaliso means miracle or wonder in Zulu. The park has UNESCO World Heritage status (since 1999) and covers a total area of 332000ha and stretches from Maphelane in the South to Kosi Bay in the North. After we had a bite to eat we left for the scenic drive to Cape Vidal 30km north on the beach inside the Park. On the way we saw lots of wild life, but our two major sightings were the white rhino and the hippo. As usual, the monkeys are a pest and jumped on the back of the truck for a lift. We arrived back at our campsite around 5pm to find hippos and crocodiles sharing the estuary in front of our campsite. What a sight! Clary assures me she heard a hippo around the truck that night? Today is also the first day we have entered a malaria infected region and as we are not taking medication (malerone) we are a bit apprehensive. I think we explained before that we will be in malaria areas for nearly 8 months and at $12 per day it becomes very expensive. Some reckon we`re nuts and my mate Alan suggests we at least drink lots of Indian Tonic Water. I suppose I could get used to the gin. We do have a self-testing kit and either one of us can give the other a blood test if required. If positive, we need to find a doctor. From hot weather yesterday, we woke up around 3am this morning with the rain pelting down and the wind howling. We left St Lucia around 10am hoping for better weather up north, but instead it got worse.
Sodwana is described as one of the world`s top 10 diving spots because of its spectacular coral reefs and over a thousand species of fish. The water is warm, and the beaches are wide and white. The average water temp is 26.5 degrees Celsius. Loggerhead and leatherback turtles nest on the beaches. Elephants, rhino and other big game animals roam the inland areas. In all, the area offers everything. Except on the day we arrived the weather was miserable with gale force winds. The entrepreneurship of black South Africans is unbelievable. Upon arriving at our campsite, they arrived offering their services. On offer was the following:
“Can I do your dishes?”
“Can I do your hair? “Can I do your washing?”
“Can I look after your truck when you go away?”
“Do you need security tonight?”
“Can I wash your truck?”
The amount they ask simply reflects their desperation and needs. Just $1.00 per job, or 100 rand (AUD$15.00) for a night watchman for the whole night. In fact, a few days ago, Clary gave the washing to one of the local ladies and she did it all for us (3 loads) at a cost of $15.00 or 9Euro. Clary did not want to negotiate because it was so cheap, and she felt she was helping the local community.
We are hearing horror stories about washed away roads in Mozambique following a lot of rain recently. As the stories go, there has been flooding with over 135,000 people evacuated in recent weeks. Not sure what the weather will be like tomorrow. As South Africans say *”We make a plan”. Our changed plan now is to follow the coast to Kosi Bay, then turn south again towards Hwluhwlu and Itala Game Reserve. We woke up to a beautiful blue sky. Breakfast and off for the inland track to Kosi Bay. The track was classified 4WD only. Soft sand was the main problem we were told. As the truck has phenomenal power and wheel travel, we were not worried. Once we arrived around Lake Sibaya, the largest fresh water lake in South Africa, (full of crocs and hippos) we realised that we had a major problem. Low vegetation and it was not long before the chain saw came out (OOPS) to make way for our truck. As we progressed, it got worse and we were traveling less than 5km per hour. To make matters worse, the track was very soft, and the edges were not designed for the weight of our truck, hence we slipped down the embankment. Very close to the water with crocs and hippos! Let me tell you at this stage we wished we had our long-term travel companions with us, Bob and Margaret Edwards, as we started to have a few domestics in the truck and Clary no longer felt confident about the angles we were progressing at. Lucky a car turned up and the driver advised us that it would get worse and that the vegetation became so dense that even a normal 4WD would struggle.
We were advised that 3km ahead there was a track where we could get off and follow a different route. With one of us sitting on the roof cutting and directing we made the turn. It was 3 hours later, just before we reached our campsite for the night, that we encountered the same problems with the bush. This time the rangers must have heard us, and they directed us cross-country around the low trees. Tomorrow it is up to us to find the way back. 8km took 2 hours. It was 6.30pm when we arrived at the camp. A lonely beach-side spot just behind the trees away from the wind. We would have liked to have camped on the point, but a closed gate stopped us. Clary wants to know about wild animals! I have no idea, but she realised we were inside a reserve that had no fences! Anyway, we had picked up some noises from the truck, so it was time to check. Verdict, the tyres had come loose on the roof and the snorkel had had a rough work out, so we decided to take the snorkel off for the return journey. We also secured the spare tyres. They had taken the first hit from the large trees and branches. We had a fair number of deep scratches on the roof and on the side of the truck. In fairness though, this is not really the terrain you should venture into on your own. But what is life without a bit of adventure? Time for a light refreshment or two in front of the fire and a BBQ.
Hopefully, there will be no visitors tonight. Early departure today and on our way to two highlights; Tembe Elephant Park and Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park. After yesterday`s trip coming in, Clary was very worried about the trip out. To cut a long story short, by trying to avoid the low vegetation, we got lost. The GPS told us the direction but with no tracks we started to go cross-country towards the track and the river (bridge) we had to cross. Every opportunity on high ground was used to try and find the track. Not to mention some very awkward side angles. Then we met a farmer (shepherd) who told us we were going in the right direction, but he could show us a better way. Clary hopped in the back (living quarters) and the farmer jumped in the cab. Soon we arrived at the bridge. The bridge was badly damaged and had parts missing and a sign stated MAX LOAD 2000kg. Another hairy experience and we made it across the bridge. Then with the pedal to the metal we made it to Kosi Bay. A bit of shopping and we left Kosi Bay for Tembe Elephant Park, 30km up the road. When we arrived, we got the bad news. We were too high and would be unable to drive through the low vegetation. Disappointed, we left and to our next stop Hluhluwe iMofolozi. Because we were early, we decided to start with a game drive before finding a campsite. Hluhluwe does not allow camping so we needed to find a campsite outside the gate. We phoned Hluhluwe Backpackers and they had space. Hluhluwe did not disappoint. Giraffe, buffalo, rhino`s, zebra, wildebeest, kudu and eland, all within the first 2 hours within 40km of the gate. We also wanted to explore Imfolozi Nat Park. Our campsite was 1km from the gate to the National Park. Quick shower, breakfast and off we went. Hluhluwe-Imfolozi is divided into two sections Hluhluwe, which we did yesterday and Imfolozi, which we are doing today. The park lies in the heart of the Zulu Kingdom, once the exclusive royal hunting ground of King Shaka. The park includes the “Big 5” and is a natural treasure store full of fascinating fauna and flora. Today we saw, elephant, buffalo, black rhino, white rhino, wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, impala, nyale, kudu and warthog. We left Imfolozi Park through the Cengeni Gate for the 140km drive to Pongola. Along the way we stopped in Ulundi, a typical Zulu town where Zulu woman in long traditional dresses and headscarves, hoe their fields near very modern suburban homes. Ulundi is the gateway to the heart of Zulu Kingdom. From here we continued to Nongoma the Royal City. The royal family is highly respected and has a dominating presence in this rural and very traditional part of Zulu Land. The biggest event is the reed dance festival held at the King`s residence and it is attended by thousands of people. The festival takes its name from the riverbed reeds and the symbolic part they play in the 4-day event. The reeds are carried by 25,000 maidens who have been invited to the King`s palace to take part in the traditional ceremony, which celebrates their virginity and their preparation for womanhood. The sight of the girls marching to the palace and later dancing wearing only loincloths and beads is a spectacle to be cherished. Driving through the villages you see modern luxury cars share dirt roads with slowly plodding cattle. Goats and chickens wander unhindered into modern shops and no-body cares in this heart of Zulu Land. This rich tapestry of natural and cultural history still beats to the rhythms of Africa. Late that night we arrived in Pongala Caravan Park. Early arrival at the Ithala Game Reserve for a day of game viewing. This magnificent reserve tumbles down over a 1000 meter into a deep valley, carved out by the Phongolo River. Ithala has 4 of the “Big 5” (no Lions), nevertheless it hosts a multitude of wildlife and even before we reached the gates, we had already encountered 10 or so giraffes. The days we were at Ithala, it was very warm and around 35 degrees Celsius or more. Except early morning and late afternoon when the temperature cooled down, there was very little action through the day. We camped in an unfenced campsite, which we shared with zebra`s, antelope and monkeys. We are not sure how many guests were in the reserve, but I think we were the only ones there.
KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
The week in Kruger National Park has given us everything one can expect to see in Africa when looking for game. Yes, the Park is very tourist orientated and yes, it is busy with game drives, busses, 4WD and sedans. But if you want to see it all in a few days it is the place to be. We spent 7 days in Kruger driving about 1228km on a mix of dirt and bitumen roads. We did not stick to the 6am start or 5pm afternoon rush; we did a mix of everything.
Our conclusion was that 2pm to 5.30pm was the by far the best time. After 5.30pm, it is getting too dark for photos. For bush camping, we have no doubts that Balule Bush Camp was by far the best. The height of the seating set up in our truck gives us a major advantage over the other 4WD and game vehicles. The great thing with our vehicle is that we can see over the high grass. While some people only heard elephants or lions, we saw them. And when the cheeky game drive vehicles park in front of the smaller 4WD or cars, we look over the top. Plus, because we are big, they probably thought twice about parking in front of us. By far, the thing we enjoyed the most was the enormous amount of wild life we saw. Contrary to what many people told us, we saw most wild life in the north and in the middle of the Park. While the brochures state that most is in the south. We also believe that game can be spotted at any time during the day. In fact, twice we saw lions and leopards at around 5.30pm but it was too dark to take photographs. We spotted our first hyena early in the morning, but it was still too dark. It is now the end of April and the sun sets at around 5.30-6pm. The facilities are like what we found in the South African National Parks. Restaurants, swimming-pools, huge outdoor seating areas, wildlife movies, squeaky clean wash rooms, cabins, bungalows, powered sites, unpowered sites and 24-hour security. We have been surrounded by wild life while at Balule Camp. We have been charged by a baby elephant; we have been surprised by 2 bull elephants while at the Tsendze Picnic site having lunch. (no wonder the rangers walk around armed). Nothing happened. The elephants did their business and we observed them with the ranger. It was an unforgettable experience. The only thing we did not like is the booking service. It appears if you book ahead, the camps are always booked out.
However, when you arrive without a booking you never get turned away and it appeared during our 7 days stay, that not once was the campsite full.
Where did we stay?
BALULE CAMP; The rustic atmosphere of Balule Camp suited us down to the ground. We were the ones who felt like the game, being fenced in while hyena`s, zebras, lions, giraffes and elephants walked around the fence line looking in at us. Paraffin lamps are used for lighting at Balule Camp and these are lit by the ranger each night. If you enjoy bush camping, this should be your bush camp of choice. Enjoy a fantastic close-to-nature experience.
LETABA CAMP; Situated on the south bank of the Letaba River, this is Elephant country and we are told 12,000 elephants roam throughout Kruger. Well, we believe we saw most of them! In Letaba we visited the Elephant Hall and the area around is full of Game.
SATARA CAMP; This area offers the best grazing in Kruger National Park with 3 dams, 6 waterholes very close to the campsite. It is famous for large concentrations of general game and in particular the lion.
SKUKUZA CAMP; This is the largest camp in Kruger NP on the bank of the Sabie River. We have seen so much wild life during our stay that we kept extending our time here
BERG and DAL CAMPSITE; This camp is situated in the southern part of the Park and is on the southern bank of the Matjulu Spruit with a view over undulating hills. The baboons were a pest and the wild life was not as rich as it was around Skukuza.
Kruger National Park Official Animal count 2009; Impala 130,000, blue wildebeest 31,000, Burchell`s zebra 23,000, buffalo 16,000, elephant 12,000, giraffe 7,000, warthogs 4,000, kudu 4,000, white rhino 3,500, waterbuck 3,000, lions 2,000, hyenas 2,000, leopards 1,000, wild dog 350, black rhino 350 and cheetah 250
Recent events in the Park (2010) Poaching: This is still a major issue and in January 2 Rhinos were killed. The poachers were arrested, and both received 10 years jail. On 20 March, lions killed a poacher. Since 1 January, poachers have killed 13 rhinos in Kruger National Park alone. Over 46 rhinos have been killed in South Africa alone this year.
Buffalo Attack: In April, a buffalo attacked a ranger. The buffalo`s horn went in the ranger`s right thigh and out the other side. The ranger is lucky to be alive after the amount of blood he lost and is now recovering at home.
28 February, black rhino rescued from sticky situation: Normally, rangers do not interfere with the wild life and they let nature take its course. However, as the baby black rhino was bogged in mud and had been abandoned by its mother, it became obvious that the carnivores would get to it. So, the decision was made to free it. The rhino was freed. It stopped first to call for its mother. For a few moments it stood there unsure what to do with its new-found freedom. With no mother in sight, the baby rhino did the unthinkable. It began to follow the safari vehicle that pulled it out. It even tried to suckle on the wheel. Hungry and rejected by its mother the rangers took the rhino back to Skukuza and it is now in rehab near Hoedspruit.
- Kruger National Park has 147 mammal species, more than 500 bird species, 114 reptile species, over 50 fish species, 34 amphibian species, 227 butterfly species and 336 tree species.
- The size of the park is 20,000 sq. km., about the same size as Israel. From north to south it is 400km and east to west 60km.
- It has over 2,500km of roads (1,650 gravel/dirt and 850 bitumen).
Kruger National Park is in a malaria area and although the risk is well managed, you should take precautions. In the dry season June to December, the risk is low.
FROM KRUGER NATIONAL PARK TO NAMIBIA BORDER 2010
After a week in Kruger National Park before travelling to the province of Mpumalanga (place of the rising sun), we stopped in Nelspruit to do shopping (out of beer) and arrived late that night in Sabie and bush-camped on the Sabie River. The following day we travelled the 70km Panorama Route taking in some wonderful views on the way. The star attraction in this area is the Blyde River Canyon. We are told this is the third largest in the world. On the way, we visited Pilgrims Rest, a beautiful restored gold mining village (a bit touristy) now a national monument. The Pinnacle, God’s Window, Lisbon Falls, Bourke’s Luck Potholes and Three Rondavels. Late in the afternoon we arrived at Blydepoort Dam (Limpopo Province) where we put up camp. After a week in this scenic area, it was time to start heading towards the Kalahari Desert. With overnight stops in Middelburg around 150km east of Pretoria and at Krugersdorp Nature Reserve and we were greeted by giraffes and zebras. To be honest, we are now a little ‘gamed’ out. From here we set out on the long drive to Kuruman, the sun-drenched Kalahari is an often-forgotten corner of South Africa. Its vast, ancient landscape reminds us of Windorah in Australia. Before we arrived in Kuruman we visited Ventersdorp, the town made famous by the recent death of the AWB leader Eugene Terence Blanche. We drove past the ‘whites only’ Church where his church service was held, before we continued to Kuruman. Amid its deceptive desolation, the Kalahari is a richly vegetated desert, which is home to a large variety of African wildlife. The oasis of the Kalahari, Kuruman is the main town and its wonder fountain, the Eye, has been known as the Fountain of Christianity since it supplied water to the renowned Moffat Mission from where the Gospel was spread deep into Africa. Heading north-west on the gravel road to the internationally famous Mabuasehube Game Reserve and the Kgalagardi Trans frontier Park, we enter the hunting mecca of the region. Various magnificent 4WD routes are also available. Off the beaten track are the mining towns of Hotazel and Black Rock where modern technology has only just begun to scratch at the surface of the manganese ore and the wealth that will bring to the region. If you are the type who wanted to avoid Customs, forget about it because it would never work. However, we did one way or another, by accident. We got lost and we are lucky that our GPS gave us good directions. “Recalculating, Go Back to Highlighted Route, Recalculating, Go Back to Highlighted route”, etc. To cut a long story short, we got back on the track well inside Botswana! No worries, all fine, who needs an entry permit? However, we needed our Carnet stamped out of Africa! We now had one big problem – our Carnet. (So, we can prove the truck left South Africa.) Our Passports also need to be stamped! We decided not to return to the Botswana border (Botswana is not aware we are in Botswana).
We will enter South Africa again tomorrow (no border post in the desert) and continue and go back from Nossob Camp to 2 Rivieren, which lies in the south west of the Kgalagadi National park back in South Africa. This means a 165km trip down from Nossob! Well another adventure. Our camp in the middle of the bush last night was what Africa is all about. Lions roaring and when we woke up they would be less then 200m from our truck (no fence). Well, as we were having coffee we spotted 3 cheetahs watching us! The world`s fastest animal. Luckily the cheetahs were not really interested in us, but we were taking no chances. So with one eye on the truck and the other on the cheetahs, we packed up. Back into South Africa from Botswana (where we had found ourselves to be purely by accident), we travelled off road through the Kalahari Desert (Kgalagadi Trans Frontier Park). The scenery is very similar to that of the Simpson Desert in Australia except we saw a lot more wild life than what you would see in the Simpson Desert. Today we saw hyena, black backed jackal, giraffe, springbok, red hartebeest, gemsbok, blue wildebeest and the tail of a lion. The Kalahari with its red sand dunes we thought would be ancient. However, it is not a desert in the strict sense of the word. It receives more rain than a true desert -well over 100mm per year. Having said this, the word Kalahari means waterless place.
The San Bushmen have lived in the Kalahari for over 20,000 years, surviving by hunting game with bow and arrows. Bushmen rarely drink water, getting most of their water requirements from plant roots and desert melons found on or under the desert floor. We were hoping to meet the San Bushmen, but that was not to be. Most have moved to the main tracks/roads to make money from tourists. San Bushmen have their own characteristic language that includes clicking sounds. Once we arrived at Nossob camp we were harassed by the ground squirrels. We tried to get a permit to travel the 4WD track to Bitterpan, but unfortunately this was not possible on such short notice. A sign clearly states, “transgressors will be severely dealt with” and after we had already entered Botswana illegally and by accident, we didn’t want to try our luck again.
Tomorrow we must get our Carnet and passports stamped at the border post at 2 Rivieren. So, it will be a long day because will travel a few more tracks an early start after a night of lions roaring. We were up before daylight and we had 2 lions and 3 cubs roaming around the fence-line only meters away from our camp. Unforgettable and like Kruger (Balule Camp) we felt like we were the game, because it was us who were fenced in, not only lions. Last night we also had jackals and hyenas howling through the night. This was a real African experience that words cannot describe. The Kgalagadi has 2 of the 3 Kalahari eco types. The southwest is mainly dunes with semi desert vegetation, the Northeast is Kalahari plains thornveld. The park is huge with a total area of 38,000sq km. On the Botswana side 28,000sq km and on the South African side, 10000sq km. It makes it the largest national park in the world. The Kalahari is a semi-arid region with an average rainfall of 150mm in the SW up to 350mm in the NE. Today we followed the Nossob River for around 55km before turning west. The road follows the river bed of the Nossob River. It was rough! The Nossob River on average, only flows twice every 100 years. The last time it flowed was in 1963. Just before Mata Mata (45km) we spotted 3 cheetahs, topping of a fabulous time in South Africa. WE WILL BE BACK.