To South Africa

Limped on Southwards and decided we might as well stop at Ai Ais in Fish River Canyon, very wild rocky desert scenery all the way. Campsite had a large pool fed by hot springs – not exactly what you need in the desert but OK when you got out. We were only people there more or less which was nice as its a big site and not our normal cup of tea.

Plodded on to border, stopping every 50k to fill up oil. Crossing was so simple we couldnt believe it – which amused some South Africans as we kept going to counters only to be told to go away all was complete. So different to our previous several hour marathons.

 

Not far to go now, fingers crossed we headed south again stopping at a small town campsite. Here Emma distinguished herself by eating a huge SA style meat feast. The plate was about 600 mm in diameter and food comprised 4 chicken wings each of which had more meat on it than a complete west African chicken, a rack of ribs (about 2 foot square), an enormous pile of calamari, salad and rice – good work!! the girls would be proud. I settled for a more manageable massive double burger. Phones etc did not work despite roaming option and for the first time in Africa you can’t buy sim cards/ top ups everywhere as you can elsewhere so we could not let Peter and Fiona know whats going on.

 

surreal locust grasshopper thing – a lot on the road as we entered SA

Managed to find a hotel with Wi fi made contact and finally got to Cape Town for late Lunchtime.

All a bit odd really to think we had made it to the end of this stage of the journey.

Table Mountain – viewed from the North

Namib Desert

Arrived in Windhoek,crossing The Tropic of Capricorn and travelling via the Spreetshoogte Pass. The scenery was simply stunning,a crazy,winding road,down the escarpment(2000 ft)to the Namib Desert region. Still extremely hot with the Landy reaching ridiculous temperatures, but finally found a very cool camp-site with pool,so all was well.

At night we gazed at some of the clearest skies on Earth,as you can imagine the stars are a spectacular sight and the silence striking…..

Next morning,up at the crack of dawn(actually before that) to drive 100k into the desert to The Sossusvlei, a salt pan in amongst the huge, red Namib sand dunes,which is possible as a result of a geographical freak valley formed by the Tsauchab River. Quite literally millions of photo’s later(for they must be taken) we left the area and continued south through the Namib,only a few animals spotted as it’s so dry and barren(Gemsbok,Springbok,Ostrich etc)

Wonderful views, vast landscapes, stunning colours,so surreal,loved it!

Emma of Namibia

 

Now also in a glorious setting,camped up under the shade of a Camel thorn Tree,with mountains and desert all around us……….perfect.

(Sorry about all the splodges on the photo’s now, the camera is filthy and needs a good clean&service when we get to Cape-Town)

 

Set off once again, Landy not well, Michael thought it was more of the same trouble we had in Zambia caused by bodged mechanics in Malawi. He took of the rocker cover and this time the end sud had popped out – stripped thread again!! He tried to bodge it withsome nut lock gunge and off we went again. The Landy struggling,20 k along the gravel road , then coming to a standstill,About 200k from nearest townslightly worrying in the midst of the desert,but luckily under the only tree for miles around and even luckier,as we discovered, was a small track to a farmhouse. Off with the bonnet once more,out with the spanners,tools, etc.I wandered up the track to the farm to be greeted by a very helpful Father and son and possibly one of the best workshops we’ve seen since we’ve seen in Africa Michael says which I’m sure you are aware we know quite a few quite a few!!

The kind folk towed us in and got to work on the Beast immediately. Workshop had lathes and allsorts of stuff you would not find in most UK towns let alone the middle of the Namib desert. The Landrover gods had turned up trumps.

The De Waals farm

I was introduced to the lovely lady of the house, Sonia,who sat me down gave me a drink,chatted away whilst baking all sorts of yummy things. A couple of hours passed ,whilst the boys amused themselves with the Land rover,then Sonia produced the most delicious lunch including steaks,a delicious Namibian style Lasagne,salads and plenty more until we were nearly at bursting point! The boys sadly had to return to work, whilst I was thoroughly spoilt, given a bed to rest on,offers of doing our washing,baking us bread,the use of their shower(this could have been down to the way I smelt) and so it went on.

 

Meanwhile back at the sharp end it was discoved another bolt had sheared, 3 valve caps were missing – presumably in the sump somewhere. Anyway MP ( nickname) tapped out tripped hole cut a new oversized bolt on the lathe, welded back on a a stud so it would fitt through cam shaft, found 2 other bolts the right size and soon we were finished. I discovered that now heavy leaking oil was probably down to knackered crankshaft oilseal ( again thanks to Malawian bodgers) but the only way forward was to keep topping up with oil as we limped to Cape town

Quiver Trees in the garden

The sick bay

Joined the ladies- dinner was served and beds offered. We politely declined the offer of beds as they had already done so much,but we just couldn’t believe the generosity of this lovely family,after all they had never met us before until this rather stressed out,grubby looking English couple turned up with a battered up old motor.

We camped in their garden and were treated to breakfast early next morning.

On our departure we were given fresh farm eggs,home-made Gemsbok Biltong,steaks and various other tasty treats. We tried our best to resist (honestly)but they wouldn’t hear of it .

 

We cannot thank this family enough for not only fixing the car with great expertise,but also for their kind hospitality,which was much appreciated. Somewhat restored my faith in human natue says Michael

 

Botswana to Namibia – trans Kalahari

Stayed another night on outskirts of Maun, where temperatures soared to 48 (c) that’s 120 in the shade…….and there was no shade, now I don’t wish to grumble, but that dear reader is too hot, as you sit shivering,even the slightest gust of wind was like opening the oven door.

its too hot

At the camp-site,we sweated all night long ,the only light relief was provided by a ground squirrel, you may be familiar with Buster Gonad(Viz comic) and his infeasibly large testicles,this squirrel was his counterpart, Michael reckoned they were 20% of his body length, so work that one out! He waddled about legs akimbo and used them as a cushion occasionally,enough on that I think !

Buster Gonad

Headed South-West the next day across The Kalahari,lot’s of dead livestock littering the roadside,farmers can’t afford animal food and just have to let their animals die,it makes for a very sorry sight…..the only happy beasts were the vultures.

Dead cow – happy vultures

Also on the way we noted many women in Victorian style dresses and large hats,these are Herero people,but we have no idea why this style of dressing has continued,especially given the heat.

Herero woman in traditional dress

Crossed the border into Namibia again, our second visit,so nice and easy and continued on to Gobabis, here we decided to take a detour to Harnas Guest Farm,100 kms North-east from Gobabis,this place is noted for rescuing orphaned and injured animals and for the rehabilitation and reintroduction back into the wild. The animals include Wild dogs, Cheetahs and Lion’s, amongst other things.

We decided to go on what they call “ The Lion Roar”, this involved driving up,into the enclosure,surrounded by Lions,male and female, after a while of waiting they started to roar extremely loudly, this experience turned out to be incredible with the roaring echo-ing all around us, very eerie and made even more impressive by thunder and lightening strikes,which were taking place at the time!

The following morning we took a three hour tour,feeding animals with the volunteers,this is not normally the sort of thing we would go in for ,but we were pleasantly surprised at how interesting and informative it was. We saw many different animals,including some we’d never come across before, like Caracals and African Wild dogs.

First for feeding came the Lions,they seemed so much bigger than others we’ve seen,especially a male named “Macho”-a proper Kalahari Lion with enormous feet and beautiful black mane. As the volunteers lob large pieces of meat over the fence and into the enclosure,the Lion’s by now in a complete frenzy caught their breakfast and trotted off into the bush.

Mr Macho roaring

Next it was the turn of the Cheetah’s,who had a serious fight in anticipation of food, and leapt up into the air to catch their share.

A leopard jumped into the tree for his lunch,what a powerful creature and amazing to watch.

We then moved on to African Wild dogs,we’ve been longing to see some and have yet to find any in the wild,but weren’t disappointed,there were many in the enclosure scrapping and looked every bit as vicious as we had imagined,as they ripped up huge pieces of meat.

Also saw three Caracals,again ears back ,hissing,spitting and generally whacking each other.These creatures resemble the Lynx,so I’m told by my very own David Attenborough.

All the animals have acres in which they live and is as natural as it could be,but some would argue whether it’s sensible to save them,as in some cases they can’t be bred from or even introduced to the wild,definitely a topic for debate.

Malawi, Zambia and North Botswana

Link

 Leaving Malawi

 

Leaving Malawi is proving to be trickier than anticipated. Firstly,We decided to visit Geoff and Patsy up on Nyika,upon arrival we were greeted by an exhausted team having been fighting a “wild fire” for the past few day’s,someone had managed to set alight 200,000 hectares of pine forest,with a cigarette and all they could do was try and prevent it from spreading to the next block,which is even bigger. Everybody helped,they had no equipment,even the women carried water in buckets on their heads and babies on their backs, up and down the vast hillsides day and night until they had it under control, luckier the weather was on their side but the threat remains for several months, due to underground burning. Unfortunately,we discovered a week later they were still having major flare ups.

During the lull we had a lovely 60th party for Patsy and several lovely friends who had flown from New Zealand, having made a promise they would spend their 60th’s together ,no matter where they were in the world.

Back to Vwaza the next day so Michael could finish reports etc,but ended up packing six rangers,complete with large rucksacks and M16 rifles into the Landy because the only vehicle they had ,had broken down,he then drove them 20 km into the bush,where they would walk back over the next five days,hoping to find poachers.

Boys and girls setting off on patrol

Said our goodbyes to the team at Vwaza,assuring them we would return next year and headed for Makusi beach for a little relaxation before next leg of the journey.

Bicycle taxis used everywhere

On arrival,we found the camp busy,in contrast to the last time we visited, when we had it all to ourselves,but no matter ,we soon found ourselves relaxing quite nicely, the Lake was lovely and clear and wonderfully cooling to swim in. Met a greatlSwiss couple, Marcel and Gabbi, who very generously gave us a Swiss army water bladder (they had two) as we had been moaning about losing ours off the roof way back in west Africa,so thanks so much to them. Lovely to see the hosts Richard and Lauren again,Makusi is a very special place and already we knew we would be staying longer than intended. Many visitors have turned up for the night,to find themselves still there Ten days later! However we dragged ourselves away,heading for Lilongwe,only to get another puncture 50 km’s down the road.(must be about our 20th by now) Changing tyres in 38 degrees is no fun,but Michael is now pit-stop king ! Wheel changed and another 10 km down the road ,engine overheats,very quickly again,cause was split pipe,almost certainly a result of mechanics kneeling on it during last repairs – nightmare!!

Michael diagnosed head gasket failure – again – he says there’s no warning or lea way, the temp goes from normal straight up by which time its too late – gasket gone and head warped.

Limped into local town by filling up every few miles then coasting down hills when we could.

Diagnoses confirmed but such a pain. Anyone got any ideas how to improve on this known defect? Michaels says its probably down to slightly off the mark repair procedures but even so that’s the 3rd time, each without a chance to avoid any damage.

Spent two nights in the small town Kasungu,while mechanics crawl all over the car once more,very annoying but gave us ample opportunity to try out “The bicycle taxi’s”,which were a lot of fun, probably not for the guy’s who had to pedal our hefty weights around town(compared with the average African,we’re positively meaty) they seemed to be highly amused that we should want to use this mode of transport as it’s not really for the faint-hearted,quite hairy at times!

Zambia Again

With the car supposedly fixed,we head off for Zambia, experienced our first drops of rain since Cameroon and as we are now without windscreen wipers driving was a little tricky for a while,but still great to see some rain(sorry to be so smug) We managed to cross the border just before closing,this cost a bomb,by the time we’d paid for Visa’s,Carbon tax,council tax and toll fee,but had to be done. Drove on to Chipata and camped in “Deans Lodge”befriended,by my new son! His name is Max, French,twenty-two and hitching around Africa. He couldn’t believe his luck when we said we’d give him a lift to Lusaka (nearly 600kms) so in he hopped and he’s still with us ,hoping for a lift on to Livingstone(another 500 kms) which he got with two german girls.

Max – lucky hitchiker

Max claims as I’m missing my girls so much,perhaps I can take him under my wing instead,it suits him because I’ve usually got food ,play him good music and the Landy’s quite comfy compared with an African bus !

Now Camping in Lusaka where they have real shops so very excited to be going to the supermarket,it’s quite amazing what you get used to going without,but some fresh milk or cheese would be very nice indeed!

Met a lovely South African called Jacques staying at this camp with his business partner ,whose name is “Happy”…..what a great name.

They treated us to a delicious brai,with enough food for a small army, we still have Max with us who did us proud and had three helpings!

We would and should have slept like logs had it not been for a strange religious group who started chanting,ranting and rolling around on the ground at 4;30 am,so we are horribly grumpy today……….a good job my names not “Happy”

We are having yet another nightmare with the car, which has started billowing out thick white smoke,the mechanics are working on it at our camp-site, I’ve heard the words Turbo and charger used quite a bit and this sounds expensive to me as a non-mechanic, but we shall see.

Been here in Lusaka for 5 day’s,the car is still in pieces,scattered for miles around,Michael is permanently covered in oil (in fact everything is covered in oil)

the car minus a few bits

Mechanical report – turbo gone – one of those things plus a tricky little thing bad stud to centre of camshaft ( done no doubt by previous works!!) came loose randomly allowing camshaft to flex with result number 2 valves did not work. We kept thinking we had timing wrong.

Even Max, our newly appointed son decided to up and go after meeting two German girls who offered him a lift to Livingstone!

Meanwhile,I’m entertaining the strange mix of dogs,that have taken Max’s place,getting up-to-date with world events(and football matches) they have a TV in the bar and I see that a huge storm has hit the states and apart from the usual wars and people killing each other, life is much the same.

emma getting arty

 

Very excited to be seeing Laura, Meely,John &Smudge in January-lets just hope the car will be running well again by then. To be fair to The Beast,it has travelled nearly 30,000 kms,on some very rough terrain,but having just got going again after our spell in Malawi,it’s a real pain in the neck.

Just wanted to say We’ve put up a few more recent photos————–go to photo albums and scroll down a bit……I hope! Does anyone know how to arrange albums on picassa – it just seems to put them in a bizarre order?

 

Hooray-car seems to be fixed,travelled from Lusaka to Livingstone (460kms),rather bizarrely bumped into Brad and Ruth (of the famous chilli sauce ) managers of the camp in Kafue were we had stayed over two months ago.

Botswana Revisited

Crossed into Botswana,then to Kasane a short distance away,stocked up for a long drive into Chobe,then on through Savuti and into Moremi Game Reserve(The Okavango) these are huge parks,Chobe alone is the size of Switzerland. Besides these there are other area’s which are essentially private parks. The Northern section is very sandy indeed,we got stuck for the first time in the serious midday heat,but managed to dig ourselves out,too hot ,even to get the sand ladders off the roof,if the driver had been paying attention to the deep sand, rather than concentrating on the door that was hanging open the whole incident could have been averted !

about 600k of this through chobe, sauvuti and moremi

 

Stayed at Sauvuti site on a pitch called paradise – a bit overplayed but very nice. The channel only flows every so many years was flowing, huge elephants. And various other beasties. Weirdest of all was a strange very loud sucking sound as it got dark. Michael eventually went down to the river to investigate the white flashes we could see he said it was thousands of cat fish( barblefish they call them) on the surface opening big mouths- bout 75 to 100mm across. Having shone his light they swarmed towards it trying to come ashore – it was a near a full moon and all we can think of was its spawning of some sort, and once in the shallows they went mad thriving around. The torch seems to trigger a response that perhaps the moon normally does. Found out later this is a famous event triggered by receding floods only happens in the okavango the loud noises is them smacking their tails on the surface to stun small besties but not found anything on the charge towards light

Very BIg elephants here – sort out very big trees

elephant handiwork

red haartebeast

 

Left next day travelled SW to Moremi National Park in the Okavango region – essentially the dry bit , sort of depending on time of year. Michael decided to try one crossing but as the water came over the bonnet and we were not going forward, a panicked reverse did the trick. Strangely the Landy which is far from rain or dust proof didn’t let in any water at all.

Saw many animal’s, including a lovely pride of Lions on the roadside,two Lioness’s and three cubs-very unfazed by our presence (see photo’s and also on Chobe 2 photo’s on photo link) also Lechwe,Buffalo and Giraffe.

big sister

The camping pitches here are beautiful and enormous,but the mass of Baboons,not so good,we just had a glass bottle thrown at us from the tree-tops,however,their human-like behaviour can be quite entertaining!(sometimes). This was followed by large turds throughout the night thankfully we were away from trees a bit.

Emma had a bit of a shock – went for wee by front wheel with headtorch on and around the corner walked “a big brown fluffy thing” it was obviously shocked at the sight of her bum and leapt off into bushes as she kangaroo hopped in the opposite direction. Tracks next morning revealed its footprints to be very large so possibly hyena or even lion – most disapointed she did not stop to identify it.

 

Left park with only the 4 working tyres in middle of nowhere one of them gave out so I had to change tyres and whilst in serious heat ( 43c) in the midday sun with Emma hosing me down. Got to Maun and finally found some new tyres – Goodrich mud terrains so we will see how they go

 

Those of you considering such things should know the Goodyear wrangler Mud terrains only lasted 20000 miles, That’s about  30000k – about a third of the mileage you would expect in europe- local guy says they would normally expect twice that except on sharp gravel roads in a few districts. Mine were not just worn but had holes about 2 cm plus across in some cases- not up to Africa despite all claims. Hopefully punctures will be reduce for a bit although some acacia thorns which can be up to 100mm long seen to go through anything.