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Saturday, 6 April 2013

South Africa, again

Day 1 – 24/3/13
RSA formalities took time: there was confusion over our initial entry (19 months ago) into RSA, then a vehicle inspection. We made time to assist some motor bikkers from Gabs who needed a jump start.
The country side was similar to Botswana i.e. flat and desert. The difference was that in RSA most/all of the land was farmed.
Again, with good roads and no speed bumps we made good time to Kathu, ~ 50 kmk past Kuruman.

Ray  driving; 700 km; 10 hrs; S 270 41’ 57.8’’ E 0230 02’ 46.2’’

Day 2 – 25/3/13
Another long days driving. We passed through Upington and checked in at a tyre garage to get an wheel alignment. Unfortunately it seems that the tie rod ends have worn to such an extent that the alignment is not possible. Ewe asked the garage to source the parts and we will fit them on the way back.
We managed to get to Kgalagadi NP in the mid afternoon. We had tried to book a camp site on the internet, but the site would not allow us to do that, but it showed accommodation was available. On arrival  the receptionist informed us that the park accommodation was fully booked. A family beside us at reception overheard this and offered to share their site with us. How great is that! So, we had accommodation and as events turned out, there were camping spaces available so we did not need to impose.
On exiting the reception area a chap approached us and told us where we could spot a cheater and some mating lions. On entry to the park we went straight to a game drive and dutifully saw the cheater and mating lions. Nearby the mating couple there was another very dejected looking lion. IN addition we saw some hyena, gemsbok, springbok and wildebeest.

Avril  driving; We forgot to take the coordinates. But the coordinates from T4A are: S 260 28’ 23.8’’ E 0200 36’ 45.6’’

Day 3 – 26/3/13
As good game viewers, we were up reasonably early, but not as keen as those who were at the gate opening at 06:00. On entry into the park we saw a lioness strolling up a dune and across a ridgeline. That took the pressure off for the day – “we had seen lion”. We also say 2 other groups of lions, including the copulating couple again. We were very fortunate to see a rare Brown Hyena, just after we had seen a more common spotted hyena. Another highlight was some giraffe sitting down under a tree – we had never seen a sitting giraffe before. We were also fortunate to make a number of sightings of (cheeky) jackals, including 6 at one water hole. In addition to the buck we saw the day before we say a herd of Hartebeest. We stopped for a while to watch a colony of ground squirrels acting sort of like meercats.
We drove around until ~ 16:00 – Avril wanted to get back early and do some washing.
In the evening we went for a night drive. There had been a fierce storm late in the afternoon and the guide apologised that the game would have probably sought shelter. However, we thought it was rather good. We had our first sighting of a Cape Fox, a number of jackals, incredibly another sighting of a Brown Hyena and of course the normal buck.

Day 4 – 27/3/13
Another early start to the day. On our game drive we really only saw large herds of buck. Unfortunately, the BFGoodrich tyres failed again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Both the rear tyres developed bubbles. The left one failed and we had to change it. Whilst we were doing this the police happened along. They were concerned for us, as there were apparently lions in the area. So, nice chaps they are, they changed the tyre for us. They told is that a number of RSA soldiers had been killed in the CAR and the President (whom we met when we were there) had fled. They were (rightly) outraged at the deaths of the soldiers. Apparently the 200 RSA soldiers fought 13 hr fire fight against 3,000.
We had the spares fixed at the rest camp. The fellas there did a great job matching tyres to rims etc. But, we decided that we should go through to Upington and get the issues sorted.
During our time in the park we noted a camaraderie among the game viewers. Folks would stop us to tell us where there were interesting sightings may be just to chat whilst we were looking at animals. Everyone waved to each other when passing. Everyone in the camp ground was interested in our travels etc. We also noted that Afrikaans was the predominant language spoken.
In Upington, we stayed at the River Bank Guest House and had an absolutely fantastic red meat dinner (Ray steak & Avril lamb chops) at a local pub. This was at a fraction of the price we would have pain in Australia.

Avril  driving; S 280 27’ 18.4’’ E 0210 15’ 06.8’’

Day 5 – 28/3/13
Avril decided on a morning of leisure whilst Ray attended to the car. Unfortunately Toyota could not provide the parts for the tie rods – so we will have to put up with that issue for some more time. We did purchase 2 new tyres. Great  news, NOT BFGoodrich. We fitted Pirelli’s.
We then drove onto Springbok along an excellent highway. The initial part was flat desert, reminiscent of some deserts in Nth Africa. Around Springbok the countryside changed to small mountains, still desert.
We had wanted to do some grocery shopping in Springbox, but on Good Friday eve the whole town was in a shopping frenzy. So we decided to go without.

Ray driving; 376 km; 5 hrs; S 290 40’ 23.9’’ E 0170 53’ 57.4’’

Day 9 – 29/3/13
We had a quiet day relaxing in Springbok. We went for a drive around the barren hills surrounding the town. Then we did a bit of shopping and had coffee at a local café.
Mias & Ronel, friends from the Angola trip arrived in the mid afternoon. We spent the remainder of the day chatting and catching up and in typical RSA style, Mias cooked up a wonderful BBQ for dinner.

Day 10 – 30/3/13
Under the guiding eye of Mias and Ronel, we drove through the shore based section of the Namaqua National Park and onto the marine section. This is a relatively new NP and we were fortunate to see Gemsbok, Springbok, Steenbok, Hartebeest and a klipspringer. This was all unexpected. After fish and chips at a fishing village, we proceeded down the coastal section of the park.
Sections of the road down the coast are sandy. We did get stuck and then Ray remembered to lock the vehicle into 4WD! The going was a bit tough in stages, but as long as we deflated our tyres we were OK. At one point a couple of vehicles were stuck, we lent them our sand plates and continued onto some interesting caves/rock arches. On the way back to the road from the caves we retrieved the plates. Mias towed out a stuck vehicle and as a reward was given a freshly caught crayfish. The area is very big for recreational rock lobster diving.
We made camp at Vairswater bay – right on the sea. We cooked up a great feast of lobster, followed by a full beef fillet and veggies done on the BBQ. A wonderful sunset added to the delight.
It began to rain at ~ 21:30 and the rain followed us down the coast for the next + 24 hours.

Avril  driving; 206 km; S 300 41’ 11.8’’ E 0170 28’ 44.9’’

Day 11 – 31/3/13
After a bit of a sleep in, we packed up our soggy tent (LIB for Ray for not putting on the fly!). We continued down the coast, though a mix of drizzle and sea mist. The coast was a great variety of white sand beaches and rugged, rocky areas. The sandy sections of the road were generally OK, though we did need to deflate. However, in one area there was a clay/salt pan on a hill and we lost control of the vehicle. We commenced a series of 3600 turns. It was not dangerous and we both laughed loudly. It may have been a lot tougher for those leaving later in the day.
Mias & Ronel had kindly invited us to stay at their home, on a canal in Velddrift. They have a great community there. We were invited over to a neighbour’s house for fresh lobster, but had to decline (as a boat load of local chap arrived to raid the bar and have a chat) and so a young chap when a collected a couple for us.  Mias cooked up a wonderful seafood BBQ.

Avril  driving; 308 km; S 320 47’ 14.7’’ E 0180 09’ 16.0’’

Day 12 – 1/4/13
After a hearty brunch we drove through to Cape Town and spent the rest of the day with our niece, Brittany. We went for a delicious Italian meal we did a bit of shopping. In the evening we watched Brit play hockey, in the pouring rain.

Avril  driving; ~ 150 km; S 330 57’ 20.6’’ E 0180 28’ 28.0’’

Day 13 – 2/4/13
We were up very early to start the long trek to Pretoria. Fortunately we were against the traffic as there were massive and very long traffic jams into Cape Town. We had forgotten just how spectacular the mountains though the Hex valley and surrounding area were, so it was delightful to drive through them again. We had a similar experience in the Great Karoo.
After a couple of false starts, we stopped at Kroonstad in the Hacienda Hotel. Ray had red meat again – great taste as ridiculously low priced.
Oh, yes, we HAVE put on weight!

Avril  driving; 1220 km; 12.5 hrs; S 270 38’ 56.8’’ E 0270 13’ 55.7’’

Day 14 – 3/4/13
We arrived in Pretoria in the early afternoon. Avril went to the hair dressers and Ray checked out garages.

Day 15 – 4/4/13
Avril departed for hew sojourn in Australia and Ray booked the car in for a service. Fortunately, the garage will look after the car for the next week.

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