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.
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’ 😉 “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.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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.