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Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Finally on the way…

Late on Saturday 3rd we got the news that the container had finally been offloaded.

We tried to fly down to Durban very early on Monday morning as the customs people were meant to be at F.A.T.S bond store at 09:00. Unfortunately the RSA infrastructure & transport had a further surprise. After taking off from JHB airport, we were forced to return to the terminal – fire engines etc were waiting for us on landing. Poor maintenance practices had led to a residue of oil in the jet engines, creating smoke in the cabin.

You can only begin to imagine our frustration! Now knowing the work practices of RSA Customs, we were very fearful of further material delays in Durban.

We finally arrived in Durban airport and got a taxi to the F.A.T.S warehouse. In fact we met the customs people on the way into the store – they were very late as well (who would have thought!)

After vehicle checks, we were on the way.  Odometer reading: 74,967  GPS: S 29o 52.041’  E 35o 00.170’ 

We returned to Pretoria to load up provisions, buy some mud terrain tyres to replace the current spares and get a professional mechanic to give the vehicle the once over. Of course this all took longer than planned – Koos Moorcroft (Angola tour leader) had arranged a very responsive & quick mechanic. But, the mud treads are a slightly higher profile than normal tyre treads, so it took time to get them into their right space. So rather than the leisurely packing we had hoped for, some of the “stuff” was thrown into the vehicle to be sorted, classified and packed in the proper place at a later date – an ongoing chore.

To try and make speed, we decided to transit through Botswana via the Trans Kalahari Highway rather than going to the western Cape, saving > 500 km.

We passed through both RSA and Botswana immigration and customs at ~ 1900hr on Tuesday 6th September. Discussing our plan to travel to London proved to be the best ice breaker – I think they all thought we were smoking something! We then spent the night at some quite costly accommodation (I am not sure what lodging classification it falls under). The staff prepared us an egg & bacon sandwich - one of us had a cold beer (maybe a couple of beers!) and we watched the 1st half of an England – Wales soccer match.

Again a very efficient and quick border crossing from Botswana into Namibia.

We finally met up with Steve & Ing at a the Kalahari Bush-break game farm 80 km east of Gobabis, 28 km from the Botswana ~ Namibia borders. You will be as surprised as I was to find them at the bar, having cool beers! So as not to be impolite, Ray joined in a beer. Then off for the 1st nights camping. Everything worked well and Ing cooked a magnificent Chinese meal with a minimum of equipment.
It was now time to slow down!! Get rid of the stress of waiting for the vehicle and get into overlander mode.

From the game farm we went to the Waterberg plateau. This was a reasonably long drive. In the morning we were raided by the resident baboons, who managed to procure a loaf of bread from us. We then walked to the top of the plateau; from the top it seemed like you could see forever. The roads below reminded us of the pictures of the lines in the Atacama desert. We then set off for Etosha and the Namatoni rest camp.
We spent 3 nights in Etosha – not bothering with the early morning drives, rather taking it slow and easy. We did drives through the park, but also managed to fit in sun downers back in camp and further wonderful meals. The game was plentiful - lots of the common game. The highlight, if there has to be one, was seeing rhino on two separate occasions (it was been a long time since we have seen rhino) – we also saw a large pride of lions, giraffe, red hartebeest, elephant, kudu, impala, springbok ( not the rugby-playing kind!!), warthog, wildebeest etc.

On the final night at Namatoni we decided to dine out – a great way to finish our time with Steve and Ing. Early on the morning of the 12th, we said good bye to Steve & Ing. They went south and we have come north.

We did some final shopping on the way to Ruacana. We discovered that credit cards do not work at fuel stations (you need a fuel card), so needed to withdraw cash on a credit card – hate to think what the per litre cost of that would be!
There has been a slight delay in our border crossing. Some of the group thought the crossing was on the 14th, not today. This is probably a blessing, it gives us some time to pack the car properly, do some minor maintenance etc.

Coming out of coldish Melbourne/Adelaide winter, the weather here has been quite hot. We have not seen a thermometer, but imagine it is mid 30s most days. In addition, it is very dry – so even Ray has taken up using moisturiser (but the manly sort!
Still looking for a name for the vehicle.

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