Wednesday 22nd April & Thursday 23rd April 2009 Shrewsbury to Durban!

And so it is time for me to return to Africa and continue my adventure. It’s been a good break and probably was essential to recharge my batteries. Thanks again to Guy, Pete, Dan, Mike and all the others who have been helping with stuff at home while I am travelling. It is reassuring to know I have this kind of support.

Enough of the Oscars speech, I leave at 2.30pm to give Stephanie a little organisation time before she starts her teaching at 3.30. I take the Audi back to Mum’s to mothball it again, check the last bit of post and take a taxi to the station. The train is on time and only loses a couple of minutes on the run to Birmingham International Airport. As I walk into the main concourse there is a board showing all departures and mine is shown as being 1hr 25mins late. (We find out later this was due to a technical issue with a plane and they have to bring in a spare one!) This is a good start. I check in and then go and get something to eat as it will be after 11 before the plane food is served and I haven’t had anything since around noon. For anyone who is flying via Dubai please note you can get your duty free way cheaper there than when you leave England. No real points of note on this flight other than to say that I think Emirates is pretty good with good staff and food plus a really fine selection of TV, Film and music entertainment to keep you busy on a long flight. We arrive in Dubai at around 8.30 am local time and those with tight connections (not me) are rushed through to get them. I have a wander round the airport and then join my next flight and settle in for the next 8 hours. On arrival in Johannesburg immigration is very smooth and quick with a predated sticker and a stamp going in my passport. I collect my baggage as it must be retrieved in the first port of call in the destination country. I am sad to see that my new holdall has fared badly with several of the plastic pieces being broken and one of the wheels being skewed. Such is airline travel. Customs is also quite quick and painless and I head to check in for my final flight of the trip to Durban using a local carrier (Mango airlines) similar to Easijet. I strongly recommend that anyone looking to fly to Durban consider this option when booking tickets as it is way cheaper than using the connections they tag on at the travel agent to cover this leg. A single cost me R486 which is around £40. This 3rd flight is also on time and is nice and short. I get a taxi from the airport to the Anstey Lodge Backpackers where the others are already booked in and see they are almost all there and in the process of eating dinner. Another place is set for me and I tuck into a chicken casserole. I check in and am in a dorm bed for R90/night. It is good to see the crowd and we chat for a while before bedtime.

Friday 24th April 2009 Brighton Beach Durban

The guys appear to have found a relatively well priced agent to help us with our car release but we now have to wait for it to arrive. There is no news on that front today and so we walk to the nearest shopping centre and get in various bits of food. I inquire about getting a local sim card and at the MTN shop I can’t get one as they need a copy of ID. They tell me I can get one from most newsagents without the same restriction. A SIM card here is 99c but they have peak rate on texts as well as calls. I also head on to the next mall because I have been tasked with finding a travel soap dish for Lorraine. I find one at the Pick n Pay and then head back. Passing a newsagent I get a SIM card and am disappointed that it doesn’t seem to work. I am told I need to call the help line. Once back at the digs I work out why it doesn’t work. It is past it’s sell by date as it should have been registered 18 months ago. I head back to the shop which is up a long hill and get my money back as he has the same issue with all his other cards. This time I have my passport with me and get a card with a good easy to remember number. Quite tired back at the digs as I have probably walked around 8 miles today.

Shortly after returning to the digs and paying for the nights dorm spot I hear from Paul ( a friend from my time on the ships) that they are back in town and I can stop there if I want. Mmmm, nice comfy surroundings and a real bed or the bottom bunk in an 8 bed dorm. We arrange for me to go over there tomorrow. Another communal meal this evening and I bring out a treat that I found at the shops. The French are mad about cheese and I found some not too expensive Blue cheese that I share out on bread. They are very happy with this and I can recommend it as a way of breaking international barriers. We chat till it is time to retire.

Saturday April 25th 2009 Move to Morningside

Up and about quite early I leave a message for Paul and it proves to be convenient to collect me at noon so I retrieve my gear from Lorraine and Kevin’s room and sit by the pool having a chat with the guys. Paul turns up and I leave Marc and Kevin working out how to get one of the tracks from a local off-road magazine into Mapsource for use later.

We get to Paul’s house and it looks larger than I remember from when I visited years back. I find that this is because he and Darren have extended the property upwards adding 2 huge bedrooms upstairs with en-suites which make most people’s main bathrooms look like shower cubicles. The room I am staying in is massive so I’d better not get too used to this level of luxury. We chat during the afternoon and eat on the veranda. It is a relatively early night and I am keen to catch up on my sleep pattern.

Sunday April 26th 2009 Durban

Paul and Darren have their house on the market and are today having what is called a show home later today. What this means is that the agent lets prospective buyers know they can have a look round and there are also signs left on the street so anyone driving round an area they are interested in can see what houses are available. Normally this would mean that the owners go out and leave it in the hands of the agent but the weather has closed in and the boys don’t want to take the dogs to get messy so Darren goes off to meet someone and Paul and I stay in with the dogs watching the Grand Prix on the TV. The guys don’t have high expectations for the show home as the market is particularly slow for this size of house. After it is all finished we head into town and they show me a couple of places that are regular haunts. The first is by a place called Ushaka which has shark tanks a bit like the many seaquariums around the world. Service is ridiculously slow and we move to a much nicer bar which seems to be a theatrical haunt. Unfortunately my taste for English beer leads to us being offered a locally brewed beer without being told that it is three times the price of most of the other beers. Ooops. We have a take out pizza on the way back as a treat.

Monday April 27th 2009 Durban.

It is a Public holiday today so there will be no news on the cars today. The Indian Premier League cricket is on in Durban today and I plan to go today so I can give Paul and Darren some space while they go and visit Paul’s mum. They drop me off and I go to the ticket office just as they are putting up signs saying that they are sold out. I text the lads and tell them I will amuse myself and not to rush back. They text back saying they think they can get me in. Their friend Jeanine is the local choreographer for the girls who are doing the cheerleading and she has a pass for me. Result. It is an excellent game and I am glad I got in..

Tuesday April 28th 2009 Durban

No positive news on the cars today but expect to hear something later. I head off with Paul as he is going to do some business up at Umhulanga and there is a big shopping centre up there called Gateway. It has a 4x4 centre and I have a good look around. I think it is a bit highly priced but they do have quite a good selection of gear. I spoke earlier with Marc Lurie from one of the off road forums and he has told me to look for a tracks book by Andrew St Pierre-White. They don’t appear to have it here. I also check in the local book stores with no success. In the afternoon Darren drives me down to another shopping area where there is an Outdoors shop which has much the same stuff but at better prices. On the way I see a wreck where a bus has taken out the central reservation. Looks bad but doesn’t appear to be any real casualties which is good.

Wednesday 29th April 2009 Durban.

It appears we aren’t getting the cars today but will do tomorrow so I decide to head to the cricket which is a double header. I am allowed to use the pass again which is good as the game is sold out again. At the tournament the sponsors are giving scholarships for schools and choose 5 kids each game. Each is interviewed in the break at the 10 over mark in the 1st innings. Some of the kids are really funny. One of the girls is asked who her favourite player is and she says Tendulkar. The commentator thinks he is on a roll and says it looks like someone has signed her hat. ‘Who was it?’ he says ‘I have no idea’ she says rolling her eyes. He moves on to the next kid wearing a Tendulkar shirt and says ‘I think we know who your favourite player is’ to which the kid says ‘Jaques Kallis’. Kids eh? Never work with kids or animals.

At the end of the interval one of the dancers nearly walks under the mechanical pitch roller, I think that’s taking keeping slim a bit too far.

In the next 10 over interval they have their Miss Bollywood competition. Today’s winner is very pretty but has a voice for silent movies.

The 2nd match is really close going down to the last ball with a team successfully defending 119 runs. I have received a text from Paul to say they have gone to a show and I go to a bar and watch the Champions League match till they can come by and pick me up. They went out for Darren’s birthday so Happy Birthday Darren if you read this.

Thursday 30th April 2009 Collecting the cars

I am up early and call Marc to find out what news? None as yet so I twiddle my thumbs until he calls back to say we need to get to the shipping agent for 10am. Paul drops me down there and I get there just as the others arrive. It is bad news. The fee has risen by around 40%!!!! There is much wrangling going on and it appears the French and Swiss take a front seat on this one with both French and English being spoken. Kev and I feel a bit left out of the loop but trust Marc to represent us. There is enough talk without another 2 voices joining in. 4 of them go down to the shipping line to hear their side of it and then come back to argue it out with the boss at the agents. It appears there are mistakes on both sides with the bill and eventually they come out of the office saying the difference is now down to 9%. I almost laugh out loud because Marie-Estelle (French Canadian who can talk for ages without a breath) says it would have been sorted in 10 mins but ‘the guy just loves to talk’. If you meet her you will know that is funny.

We put the 5 drivers in a taxi and head to the port. One advantage of being a bit fatter is you get to sit comfortably up front while the others cram in the back. The way this guy drives I think I wish I were slim.

When we get there the bike is already out and we are there to see them releasing the chocks on the other vehicles. All start except for Jurg’s Toyota which has a split charge issue and he forgot to turn off some navigation equipment. Henri tries to jump start him but the key appears to do nothing. I ask Jurg if he has some sort of immobiliser and he remembers one he has turned off. Just goes to show what a few weeks away from a routine will do.

We get the exit pass and drive out back to the Backpackers at the Bluff for the guys to pick up belongings and families. As we pull up we meet a guy with a 109 series Landrover (Paul). He is in heaven seeing not 1 but 3 expedition landrovers and hopefully he will contact me before I leave the Durban area. We head to the campsite they are moving to and I pick up my water jerries before heading back to Paul’s house.

He has arranged parking at his Mum’s apartment block so I head up there. All is well that ends well today. I get my laptop and start to catch up on the diary and e-mails.

Friday 1st May 09 Durban

Now I have my car it is time to get it sorted and make plans to leave. I fit the new switch to the inverter, fit the new hubcaps and generally sort a few things out retrieving the guide books and my maps so I can plan the 1st part of my South African adventure. I cook this evening for Darren and Paul to say thank you for letting me stop with them. I will also need to do a bit of a vehicle service as I am just coming due for an oil change but will probably wait till I empty this tank and get some good fuel in before I change the air and fuel filters. I will get this posted and then the real adventure part of this leg will begin. Unfortunately the Rand is strengthening against all currencies and has already gone from 14.5 to the £ to 12.5 to 1. As a result I will need to be careful. Nothing new there