South Africa (again) and Zimbabwe

South Arica again: Blyde River canyon and Panoramic route

Since the middle and northern part of Mozambiqe recently became a bit unstable, we decided to travel via SA to Zimbabwe, a bit of a detour but a beautiful one! We decided to start from Sabie and drive up north via the panoramic route and the potholes. The waterfalls were quite dry because of the drought and we decided to drive up north instead of visiting a lot of them. This would help us the next day as we were going to one of the busiest and chaotic border posts of SA and Zimbabwe.

 

Bourke's Luck Potholes in Blyde river canyon
Bourke’s Luck Potholes in Blyde river canyon
Detail of the potholes
Detail of the potholes

 

Entering Zimbabwe

Around lunch we managed to leave SA and drive to the Zimbabwian border post. It started off promising since we already had a visum. But then we had to qeue for the TIP (temporary Import Permit) and although there weren’t many people waiting, nothing was happening really, the 2 officers were just staring at their screens and papers. 2 guys up front had already been waiting for 3 hours! Eventually the new shift started at 15h and aparently they did know what to do so at 16h we could enter Zimbabwe.

The next day we continued our trip to Great Zimbabwe. The road we took was one of the highways and the beautiful sceneries and friendly people surprised us: what a beautiful country! Every 5 to 10km and sometimes every other KM the Police asked us to stop. Sometimes we only had to show our TIP and drivers licence and other times they aparently wanted money as we were fined for: not having the right reflecting triangle, not having the right reflectors on the car and 4 lights on the roof (only 2 were allowed). to them it didn’t matter that they weren’t working! After a few times we became trained in how to deal with them and managed to get away with it or only pay USD 10,- since we had no more cash and had to pay toll fee as well :).

One of Zim's beautiful rock formations
One of Zim’s beautiful rock formations
Driving through 'Zim' at dusk
Driving through ‘Zim’ at dusk

 

Great Zimbabwe

When we arrived at Great Zimbabwe we decided to go the abandoned city at sunset, since it is less warm to climb the mountain and the light seems to be beautiful early mornings or late afternoon. The place is quite unique in a way that you’ll find old ruines in the middle of nowhere where people used to live a well developed village. The place feels peaceful and quiet, as if you could feel that they’d lived happily there ages ago. Zimbabwe is named after Great Zimbabwe after independence.

 

Bvumba mountains

Up to the mountains; the Bvumba mountains. As this was not too far from Great Zim, we arrived in Mutare around lunchtime. We found a lovely place to have lunch in a beautiful garden. We spent the night in the botanical garden with magnificent views over Mozambique. The friendly staff made us a fire and they were happy to have guests, as Zimbabwe’s tourism has dropped over the last years. I had read about Tony’s coffeehouse and the next day we went to have coffee and cake. Tony is famous for his cakes (and coffees+ teas) and without any doubt it was the best cake we’ve ever had (and the richest!). Besides that he is a charming and friendly guy, one who is living with passion and has a story to tell. Luckily I bought the recipe book :)! That afternoon we hiked for several hours as we took a wrong direction. Well at least we’ve burnt the calories of the cake by walking in this beautiful area.

 

 

Harare- Kariba

As we had ‘lost’ almost 6 weeks in Namibia due to the accident, we have a bit of a schedule, so time to drive up north! We spent 2 days in Harare and walked through town to visit the National Art Gallery and a restaurant to have lunch. The restaurant wasn’t easy to find and a friendly guy saw us walking and asked where we were heading to and gave us a ride to the restaurant. Again interested and friendly people! The Lonely Planet describe Kariba as the riviera of Zimbabwe but what we experienced was a dried lake and a kind of worn out village. Again people told us that tourism had dropped and then the drought added to that, so they were struggling to survive, but that they will find a way, as Zimbabwians always do!

 

Rainbow over lake Kariba
Rainbow over lake Kariba

 

Nambia, South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique :: back on the road

We left Swakopmund in the afternoon of February 11th and headed for Spitzkoppe, a mere 200 kilometer away and a nice startup for our renewed vehicle and crew.
The ride went smooth and after a good two and half hours we arrived at the quiet and beautiful campsite right underneath the mountain. There we slept wonderfully, back in our rooftop tent after almost six weeks.
The next day we drove a long stretch on the good Namibian tar roads, via Windhoek all the way to Keetmanshoop where we camped on the Garas (Quiver tree) Park, just before the town itself. Just after we had put up the tent the sun set leaving us a beautiful view – see the picture above this blog.

Saturday we headed for the Ariamsvlei border post where we completed our VAT refund claim with an obligatory inspection of the goods (i.e. all the parts we bought in Namibia to get our car back on the road). Although this border crossing was listed as one of the few that could handle refund claims Customs people were reluctant to cooperate, and fortunately after helping them with some arguments the Enforcement people forced their way around their bureaucratic colleagues and provided us with the required stamps and the address of their department in Windhoek that will eventually decide on our claim [to date we have not heard back anything]. Back in South Africa we used the remaining hours of daylight to drive to Upington and find us a spot on the municipal campground.

Kimberley

As we had decided to drive back to Jo’burg we choose our route over Kimberley and see the (‘the’ seems more appropriate here than ‘her’ ūüėČ “Big Hole”, one of the remains of the intensive diamant mining in the area and acclaimed to be the biggest hole made by man. This should have been an easy drive, but got a bit exciting as about 80 kilometers before reaching town the engine temperature started running away. A quick view under the car learned that the bottom radiator hose was not properly refitted and got worn through by a pulley. Well, nothing a bit of ducttape and a pair of cable ties can’t fix! And soon we were back underway, be it with only sparkling water to drink as we had to use the rest to refill the cooling system.
Checking liquid levels every 20km we made it to Kimberley were we found that the Big Hole caravan park was indeed situated right across the street from the town’s one and only attraction, but it was unattended and looked run-down. In what could be seen as a romantic strike we decided to skip camping and stay in the hotel across the street (and right next to the Hole). Really, we didn’t pay much attention to it being Valentine’s day, until during dinner I (Jasper) was asked to hold the phone of the guy at a table next to ours. Looking puzzled at the phone while it seemed to be on video and already recording I saw the guy kneeling down at his table. And then I go it: he was proposing! Afterwards he explained the restaurant at the hotel was one of the more posh in town, and therefore suitable for the location.
The next day the people at Silverton radiators couldn’t get their hands on a proper sparepart and fixed the radiator hose with a piece of pipe while we arranged for our VAT paperwork to be send to Windhoek. In the afternoon we finally went to see the Hole, which was indeed really Big and was accompanied by a museum on the history of diamants and mining in the area which happened to be really good.

The Big Hole in Kimberley, now in the midst of town
The Big Hole in Kimberley, now in the midst of town
Adventure Rovers (again!)

Monday we drove the final stretch to Jozi. When stopping to refuel the Silverton workaround couldn’t stand the pressure built-up in the radiator resulting in the pipe snapping out of the radiator hose draining our cooling system. Relying on a bit more than just ducttape we decided to refit the pipe into the radiator hose and put the hose clamps real tight. That brought us in a similar situation as the day before, making us check fluid level and leaks every so many kilometers. Time to call in help, and head straight for Adventure Rovers! Marc had helped us out nicely before and returning to his place was a bit like coming home. He could get his hands on a proper spare radiator hose quickly and yes, he had time to fix it during our intended stay in town as well! Such a relieve when there’s experts to rely on.

Marc and his men fitting the new coil springs
Marc and his men fitting the new coil springs

In Johannesburg we stayed a couple of days in a lovely small apartment via AirBnB and ticked of our little wishlist: lunch and dinner with friends of Stephanie, enquire about visa for Mozambique and of course some shopping and sightseeing. The highlight we found the Maropeng museum and the Sterkfontein caves in the Cradle of Humankind, just north of the city. On this UNESCO heritage site at various places remains are found of what scientist believe to be the earliest ‘homoids’, the apemen that evolved into our current Homo Sapiens species. Very informative and entertaining.


With our car fixed and -as a bonus- fitted with stiffer rear coil springs we headed for Swaziland. Not far from Johannesburg we had to slow down on the motorway to pass an accident that clearly had just happened and caused another of the annual 13,000 traffic fatalities in South Africa. Apparently the victim was one the many people strolling along the highway and got caught by a passing car.

Swaziland

The rest of our trip was smooth sailing into Swaziland. Arriving at the campsite we immediately saw a Landcruiser with a dutch license plate. It turned out to be Nico and Joska whose blog we just found, and used for inspiration when planning the rest of our own trip. They have been travelling southern and east Africa for nine months and were slowly on their way back to Cape Town. It was really nice catching up on each others adventures and we also spend the next, drizzly, day together. The night we spend in a little reserve called Mlilwane were we enjoyed wine, snacks and more stories around the fire.

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With Nico and Joska enjoying the campfire at Mlilwane.
Goodbye pic with Nico and Joska.
Goodbye pic with Nico and Joska.
Mozambique

Driving into Mozambique from Kosi bay border post proved a nice litte adventure: 10km of sand roads without signposting. Guided by our GPS we arrived into the little village of Ponta do Ouro about three quarters of an hour later, and then found our way to the lodge where we camped following the signs.

In Ponta we enjoyed the lovely beach and went diving to one of the many reefs in the sea in front of the village. We also spent some evenings with Penny and Brian, 2 lovely South Africans (thx for the chats and the wine!)

Steef diving at the Anchor reef in Ponta do Ouro.
Steef diving at the Anchor reef in Ponta do Ouro.

Unfortunately our second dive was cancelled due to bad weather, so we decided to move further and conquered the 120km of muddy dirt roads to Maputo. Just above town we camped at Jay’s Beach Lodge, beautifully located next to Indian Ocean.

Fishermen hauling their net at the beach just above Maputo.
Fishermen hauling their net at the beach just above Maputo.

Namibia: Part II

The day after the accident- Twyfelfontein

We spent one more day at Twyfelfontein Lodge (close to Kipwe, which was unfortunately fully booked) since our car was going to be towed away on monday and it was sunday. The towing trip was an adventure on its own! Stephanie had spent the whole morning from 9.00h to 13.00h at the ‘nearby’ police office (60km) to get the police report. First they didn’t want to write the report since she wasn’t Jasper. Then the police officer didn’t write down all the details when he came to visit us, so Stephanie had to contact Jasper which wasn’t possible since it was a remote location. Eventually she got hold of him via the satellite telephone and could ask for the details. Then the copy machine was broken and they wanted us to drive another 100km to the nearest police station. We managed to drive to Palmwag Lodge, ‘only’ ¬†about 40km on dirt road. At 14.00h Stephanie had arrived and the towing car was able to drive to Swakopmund. The roads were in such a bad condition that the driver had decided to drive via the north (Torra Bay). This what you call a detour! After the 2nd flat tire (and only one spare tire with him!) we understood why he wanted to get rid from this part of Namibia. We arrived at 22.00 in Swakopmund although we had a good time with the friendly driver and again a flat tire…..

Swakopmund- Swakopmund- Swakopmund

Again a warm welcome and a helping hand from Jeroen and Roos. Jeroen had booked us a hotel and the next day Roos picked us up to make a plan for the car and look for a self catered apartment. ¬†That morning they called a mechanic to check on our car and we were a bit afraid of the verdict, as the car looked seriously damaged. He told us it could be fixed, joehoe! Now we had to wait for parts to be found: a ‘new’ roof, 2 doors, a windscreen, a new diff, a new prob shaft, new springs. Especially the mechanical parts took a while to arrive, but after 2 weeks they could start fixing the rear axe and springs. This seemed to be the ‘easy’ part. From there the car was driven (!) to another garage to have the body parts done. We even saw our own car on its way to the other garage: yes the Landy is driving again! Now this turned out to be the difficult part in terms of time and patience…. It took this garage about 2,5 weeks to have the car fixed and the last week Jasper has helped them to rebuild the car after the spraying. Lean management, structuring and efficiency aren’t in the dictionary here……

Meanwhile we were visiting every lunch cafe and bar in Swakop, checking them on good food and wifi and reading books and watching films. Roos and Jeroen offered us to stay at their place and we were also offered to temporarily use one of their cars. We really appreciated those gestures! Though 5 weeks in Swakop is quite long and sometimes a bit boring, we do like the fact that we got to know Roos and Jeroen and have a great time with them.

While writing this blog I (Stephanie) see Jeroen and Jasper together working on the LaRo to rebuild it into our car again! Hopefully we can continue our trip on feb 11th.

Namibia: Part I

Windhoek- Sossusvlei

On boxing day we hit the road again to Namibia. The landscape changed from green, trees and bushes into dry desert. Late afternoon we arrived at a lodge where the lovely lady prepared us a X-mas meal with the best veal and game ever; how food and friends can make you a happy camper!

The next day we visited a general practioner (again) since Stephanie was having an abces that started a few days before X-mas and now she had an allergic reaction to the antibiotics. They gave her another type of antibiotics and that one turned out to work well. ¬†Early afternoon, we continued our trip to Sossusvlei. The landscape was beautiful with dusty and bumpy roads. We arrived in the afternoon and bought entrance tickets to the valley for the next morning. This campsite had a swimming pool and since the temperature was far above the 30’s, we dipped in the pool. Again a beautiful place to have sundowners and enjoy the sunset. The next morning we left at 5.00h to be able to see the sunrise at Death Valley. Either we arrived a bit too late or the weather wasn’t all that great but we didn’t see those beautiful skies. The dunes and the valley were still very beautiful though!

Swakopmund

From Sossusvlei we drove via Naukluft to Swakopmund, a beautiful trip with breathtaking views! Swakopmund is ¬†an old German village, a bit like a skiing village in summer, obviously without snow :). We spent a spontaneous afternoon having fun and drinking beer at the Brauhaus, a famous German beer stube. Shame Jan, Joost, Inge and Tijn were about to leave us since it was great fun to travel together! ¬†After a good bye dinner, J,J, I and T (thx for it guys!) had left the next morning to continue the last part of their trip. We decided to stay one more day in Swakopmund to clean the LaRo. Little did we know then…..

Brandberg:  White Lady Lodge

We booked a chalet at White Lady Lodge to celebrate new year. Unfortunately Jasper wasn’t feeling that well so we didn’t do much besides swimming and relaxing. This area is the home of the desert elephant, although we didn’t see him :(. We wanted to see the paintings on the Brandberg but the first time we got there they were ‘about to close’ and the next morning they hadn’t arrived yet. Maybe they were still recovering from the festive season??

 

Twyfelfontein- Etosha

We decided to go more up north to Dolomite rest camp in Etosha via Sesfontein where we would spend the first night. The road from Brandberg took us via the beautiful Twyfelfontein area. Just after having crossed a river bed (there are many), we heared a sound followed by another sound and the car started spinning. Then we got off the road and the car rolled over on its right side. Luckily we drove only 60km/h. Immediately a German tourist bus stopped to help us. They helped Stephanie to get our of the car and carried all our luggage out of the car. On the bus were 2 docters and they helped us with our small injuries. We are still very thankful for all they have done for us! After a while 2 guys from the nearby lodges arrived and offered us to stay at their place and take all the luggage. It was still high season but they had a guide room available at their beautiful Lodge Kipwe. We were still a bit in shock about what just had happened and the way Anton and his wife Kirsten helped us at Kipwe was just incredible! We soon realized that we’d been very lucky only to have a few scratches and bruised ribs.

 

 

Botswana with Tijn, Inge, Jan and Joost

On December 17th first Inge (African: In-dje)and Tijn (African: Tee-Jin) arrived in Jozi. With them we did a cycling tour through Soweto, mainly around the monuments on the Soweto uprising of 1976. After refueling with pizza and good wine we awaited the arrival of Jan (African: Jan Japan or ManPower) and Joost (African: Juiced).

That¬†turned out to be a long wait: someone mistakenly took Joost’s bag from the airport. Luckily they got hold of the culprit and were able to exchange the bag the next morning. Then we were all set to go to Botswana!

Botswana: Chobe, Savuti and Moremi

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Just before we entered Botswana, they warned us for the heat: it is so warm there, it will kill you!

Campsite in Palapye
Campsite in Palapye

After an overnight right after the border, we went to Kasane. This place close to the Chobe river was an ideal location to go to the Vic falls and do a tour on the Chobe.

The Vic falls in panorama (after the rain season the Zambezi river stretches over 2 km wide forming the legendary Victoria Falls
The Vic falls in panorama (after the rain season the Zambezi river stretches over 2 km wide forming the legendary Victoria Falls)
Linyanti

From Kasane, we drove along the Chobe river towards Linyanti. Underway we saw -literally- hundreds of elephants bading, drinking and playing along the river.

 

At Linyanti we had our first camping experience between hippos and elephants without fence. They warned us not to go to the toilet at night and make a fire, which we did. At night Steef saw the hippos come out of the water to eat and stroll over the campsite.

20151223_Chobe_Linyanti_sundownView
Sundown at Linyanti
Savuti and Moremi

The next day we left early to increase the chance on animal activity on our way. And we did indeed see a troop of African wild dogs, that went to hide in the bush when we approached. On our way through Savuti and Moremi we drove on the most sandy roads ever!

We spent the night at Third Bridge camp, right next to the Okavanga Delta.¬†Another night in paradise without fences. After dinner we saw the reflection of a pair of eyes staring at us. It could be anything from kudus to hyenas to …¬†¬†Uuh a bit scary!!!

Maun

The next stop to spent Christmas was Maun, also next to the Okavango Delta. ¬†We did about 500km of sandy roads in 3 days, it was good to see a tarred road again :). In Maun we also went ‘in’ the Delta, with a mokoro (traditional wooden canoe).

X-mas in Maun was probably the warmest we have ever celebrated!

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Johannesburg :: Adventure Rover

 

From the Amakhosi Lodge near Pongola we first went to the dreary municipal campsite of Bethal and the next day to Johannesburg to meet with Lorna, a former colleague and friend of Stephanie’s.

As our GPS navigation system was behaving weirdly we were sent through various suburbs including Benoni -next to where Stephanie did her work experie Greatnce twelve years ago- and the (in)famous Hillbrow downtown. This was or first Jo-burg ‘adventure’.

With Lorna we went to the up-and-coming Maboneng Precint, an area where food and art culminate in the midst of Jo-burg.

 

After spending some great days with Lorna and David (also a friend/former colleague of Stephanie’s) we went for an overnight trip to Pilanesberg. This National Park is only a¬†few hours ride away from Jo-burg but captives a large density of game.

There we had a great campsite with some of the (less-dangerous) game running past and a fabulous game drive in the morning showing us four out of the Big five, including three lionesses on the hunt. Great adventure!

AS on the way to Pilanesberg we heard a funny rattling from under the car, we decided to have it looked at as well as get the slave cylinder of our clutch fixed. After trying many of the official Land Rover dealers (which come up first if looking for a Landy repair shop) we found “Adventure rovers” not too far from Lorna’s place. So there we went and met Marc who did a great job¬†changing the clutch cylinder and our front propshaft (which happened to be worn after less than 6.000km ¬†ūüôĀ

Pongola :: Amakhosi lodge (photos)

9-11th December 2015

Heading east

It has been a while sinds we have posted anything and we have been travelling a lot. After the wineries we went via Cape Point to Gansbaai. Jasper did some shark cage diving here! From there we went to the most southern part of Africa, Cape d’Agulhas, for us the most southern part of our trip. We came up with the idea of travelling to the most Northern part somewhere in Scandinavia, although one must have dreams :).image

The car seemed to leak oil so we made an appointment at the garage in George. Although it was quit busy due to festive season, they managed to squeeze us in on tuesday morning. We are quite relaxed after a few weeks of traveling now and well waiting for a day isn’t a problem to us anymore…. The car was fixed at the end of the day and we drove to Knysna. We had found a camping just outside the village and again a beautiful place. Knysna is a lovely but touristical place so time for a decent lunch!

From Knysna we drove in 2 days to the Drakensbergen, Sani Pass. On the road to the mountains a guy filled our car with petrol instead of Diesel and a mechanic had to come to let the petrol out. Luckily we we found it out just in time. Time to buy a diesel sticker!

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We have spent a few days at Sani pass to do some hiking and drive to Lesotho. Times are changing and the Chinese have paved the roads in Lesotho, incredible!

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At the Sani Lodge we’ve met a few dutch group and they tipped us to go to Cape Vidal in the Wetlands. Thx for the tip guys, it do is a beautiful place! Unfortunately those wetlands suffer from lack of rain and the lake is half the size. It looks a bit desolate and it’s a pity to see the effects of global warming and not looking after our planet.

Yeah, time to go to Amakhosi Lodge, our most luxurious and exciting part of our South African trip because we are going to see game with a ranger in this beautiful game resort. They looked a bit confused to see us arriving with a big dusty Defender, all set for camping! Our time at Amakhosi Lodge was fantastic, mainly due to the great stories of the ranger, the game he showed us and the lovely couple we’ve met! Monique and Tal; we do hope we will meet again and the good thing about life is that time will tell :).

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Stellenbosch and Franschhoek :: fluids

We had a great time visiting the ¬†wine capital of South Africa, Stellenbosch and its surroundings. With great weather the views were fantastic, as were the wines ūüėČ

As we heard many of the best restaurants in SA are in this area we set out on a mission to visit some of the top-ten. However, naive as we can be, it turned out that most of them were booked for weeks in advance especially with the festive season coming up. Fortunately we managed to book a few for lunch and combined that with some wine tasting before and after.  Oh, the great spirits!

 

At the same time we noticed our Landy kept leaking oil, apparently from the transfer box where we had a seal changed just before shipping our car. In search for a garage we took a left turn into the centre of Stellenbosch and happened to pass an original Land Rover-Jaguar dealer! The friendly people over there made room to have a quick look at our car and confirmed the oil level in the transfer box was sufficient to continue for a few more days.

Our Landy at the Stellenbosch dealership, next to the 'last and latest heritage' the new HUE 166.
Our Landy at the Stellenbosch dealership, next to the ‘last and latest heritage’ the new HUE 166.

Cape Point :: first night in our new tent

It took a while, but there it was on Wednesday: well-fitted onto our car while we were visiting Robben island, our roof top tent and awning!

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As we did not have all the other camping gear (table, chairs, etc) yet and it was already late when we left the factory we decided to spend another night in a guesthouse. After a search for available (and affordable ūüėČ ¬†rooms in the area we found guest house Loevensteyn in Bellville which happened to be suited with a wonderful view over the valley.

The next day we waited in vain for the Hannibal people to drop us an extra bracket for jerrycans to be fitted on our roof rack, so finally we settled to not only visit Cape Point but stay there as well. So close to the Cape of Good Hope must make a great maiden stay.

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And although it was quite stormy -especially along the False bay coast where we were staying, the tent proofed all fine!