Friday 10th July 09 continued
A guy comes into the backpackers bar with his set of harmonicas and so a bit of a jam starts with the owners son Josh. He is on a music course and has a placement with SABC to do sound engineering. I am encouraged to join in and it is quite a fun night. Off to a pretty cold tent.
Saturday 11th July Addo
Nothing remarkable to recount except that the first person I meet in Addo is the guy with the harmonicas who is driving people round on a game drive. I have a good day in the park.
Sunday 12th July Addo
After a nights sleep disturbed by young party animals I have a bit of a lazy day and just spend a short time in the park. I am invited to supper with the hosts at Orange Elephant and this is good fun also meeting quite a few of the guys who work in the park. I plan to sort out my permit which the guy on the Botswana border would not stamp for me. I hope it all goes smoothly. I will then check out Port Elizabeth for a little while. I wonder if I can find the guy who Pete Lacey met here.
Monday 13th July to Port Elizabeth
I say my goodbyes to the folks here, I really felt welcomed, and head into Port Elizabeth to find the Home Affairs office. I am waved to a parking space by the car guards who are also selling passport photos and other services.
I ask which queue and join it. When it is my turn I am seen by a lady who listens and then looks at my passport. ‘You have been border hopping’ she says. I ask what she means and seems to think that because I have left and returned to South Africa several times I have done something wrong. She consults with the guy next to her who has seemed quite efficient in his work while I have been waiting. It turns out I have to apply for a permit extension writing a letter and showing a return air ticket and bank statements with sufficient funds to travel plus pay R425 for the processing. I am shocked, the border people mislead me all the way through. Not sure how to go about this I decide to head back to Orange Elephant at Addo as I know they have internet and may have a fax. I text Stephanie to have her making copies of my bank books to fax and to get hold of a bank statement from my Mum. I am lucky I went home as this gives me the air ticket they require. As I get in Cheryl listens and says they don’t have a fax but John will be back soon and know what to do. I get on with composing the letter to the Home Affairs. Stephanie gets on to Guy who remotely operates her computer to show how to e-mail the documents to me. It helps to have clever friends. I am soon in possession of all the documents I think I require and John is heading into PE tomorrow so he offers to take me in as he speaks all the local languages and it will save on fuel. I try to relax but am like a coiled spring trying to work out what my Plan B is should the application be rejected for some reason. I have a fitful nights sleep.
Tuesday 14th July to PE again!!!!
Up very early as John is running a shuttle for 4 Dutch girls to the Baz Bus from PE. We make good time and drop them off but have another hour before Home Affairs opens. When we arrive I am second in the queue and hope I am not going to get the girl again but she rolls in late and the guy has dealt with the first customer before she gets to the counter. He reads the letter and I show him the supporting documents and he stamps my application telling me to go to the cashier and then return to him. I go and pay my money and then sit back in the queue as he is dealing with someone else. He calls me up when finished and places things in a folder. I ask him what happens next and he says ‘I need you to wait for a while’. ½ an hour later he has my passport again and is stamping it up and we are on our way. All is good again. I go into the park for the last time to celebrate and cook spicy chicken for John in the evening as a thank you. So I am now ready to move on.
Wednesday 15th July Properly to PE
I say my thanks and can thoroughly recommend the welcome at Orange Elephant. Off to Port Elizabeth and I am first off to try and get my gas bottle filled. The first place shows me that the adaptor is leaking and in fact it unscrews showing that the O-ring is destroyed. It looks like the guy that filled the bottle for the Lichtenstein couple over opened the valve and blew the O-ring. I now have to find another place to fix it.
I then go to MOL to get a shipping quote and the lady in there seems keen to get me to straighten my hair. After driving with the window open I know this is futile but she persists. I end up getting a quote for shipping North and will now try to get clearance costs quoted so I have a ball park figure.
I head off to a backpackers I have picked out and it turns out to be just round the corner from where John dropped the Dutch girls yesterday.
I get set up and pick up a snack for tea. One of the guys stopping there has to head home to the UK suddenly as he has had some work come in which pays for his winters away in the sun of Goa. He is a construction worker from Nottingham. The place gets busy around 10.30pm when the Baz Bus arrives. May be a reasonably noisy place.
Thursday 16th July Port Elizabeth
After an early wake up call as the guests trundle their suitcases to the Baz Bus I make breakfast and head off to try and get my adaptor fixed.
I check at a camping place and they recommend a place to me. Outside I meet Eben who has a 110 defender with a lot of toys on it. He has a Grindrod wheel cover (Grindrod is the company which runs the container yard we collected from when we shipped in) and I find he is in shipping with his wife working for a shipping company. I take advantage of this and ask his assistance in getting some quotes. We have a good chat and he takes my card, I hope to hear from him soon. At the gas place I meet another Landrover man who runs the other backpackers near where I am booked in. I say I will pop round later but it gets late so I don’t. The guy at the gas place gives me an O-ring but hasn’t the spanner to tighten the two pieces up so off I go in search of a thin 12mm spanner. All mine are better quality so they are too thick. I get a tool and then I am able to get gas. My brakes are very squeaky so I call in at Savoy Landrovers. Brett is very helpful and says that since they took all the asbestos out they have been having a lot of trouble with pads squealing. Back at the digs there are yet more new people but also the cricket on the television. I have hardly seen any TV so I am glued to the TV for a while. I meet some youngsters travelling including the smiliest girl I have seen this trip, Kristina from Austria, she is good for cheering the place up and the young lads vie for her attention. It is all good fun.
Friday 17th July to Bavianskloof
I have been told about a great pass to drive called Bavianskloof. I set off to get there and it is a pleasant drive arriving quite early. I get a really cool camping place run by a guy (Christian) who has a house called Glencoe. The cost is okay and I settle in. I have just got sorted when a couple in a silver 90 turn up. Jeremy and Anita. They are estate agents and getting away for the weekend where there is no mobile signal. We have a good chat in spite of me wanting not to talk. My throat hurts and I am at the beginning of a cold. I have been fairly lucky with being healthy this trip so I guess I can’t complain but it would happen when the temperature has gone down to freezing at nights.
Saturday 18th July driving Bavianskloof
Up early and fed I head off to drive the pass. It is a good long way and most is fairly basic but still very beautiful and I recommend it to all who get the opportunity. I would say it is a touch more demanding in places than Sani Pass but nothing that anyone with a decent vehicle and a bit of knowledge couldn’t handle. I just enjoy the drive and take video of an hours worth of the pass which I will compile after the trip with some other stuff and get it on the site. The place I camp tonight is in another great setting but quite exposed when the wind starts to whistle in.
Sunday 19th July to Oudtshoorn
I follow yet more information I had been given and travel via a pass called Meiringspoort. It is yet another place which I don’t think can be captured in a picture. This is the problem at the moment. The scale of things is quite amazing. Yet another place to recommend. I head to Backpackers Paradise and meet Marius the owner who is following both the cricket and the golf. I settle in then watch the place fill up as the rush hits. I think he is quite busy even though it is the off season.
Monday 20th July to Hell and back
After a breakfast of Ostrich egg on toast I am ready to head off. They give out a bowl of Ostrich egg for the self catering customers to use each morning as they have to use the egg from the shells which are being turned into souvenirs. A nice little bonus. One of the reasons for visiting this area is to go to the Cango Caves which are a series of chambers with stalactite and stalagmite formations. They have 2 tours available but the adventure one is a tour which involves crawling through narrow spaces so for the sake of my camera that one was discounted straight away. The backpackers give you a voucher that gives you a small discount. The caves are really nice and I hope I captured some of the mood having learnt to turn off the flash and find something to rest on in order to get some perspective into the shots.
After I finished there I decided to drive the Swartberg Pass which is fairly spectacular and then head off on the road recommended to me by Pierre who is a local politician who just happened to be helping out in the bar last night. He told me to go to Hel!!!! It is a place called Die Hel in a valley called Gamkaskloof. I can thoroughly recommend this drive also. The road is not too tricky and just a long gravel road winding through the mountain but then it drops down to the valley floor and the last 15 minutes is breathtaking and worth the trek so far. I meet one of the few inhabitants and it is a bit like the movie Deliverance, I expect at any minute to hear Duelling Banjos! Camping here is quite pricey so I head back out. At the backpackers Marius lets me have a room for the camping rate as he can hear that my cold isn’t so good. That is a couple of backpackers who have gone out of their way to help. Brilliant.
Tuesday 21st July to Swellendam
I head off but get local knowledge where the cheap diesel is and pay R6.85/l when the local filling stations are asking R7.40. This makes a big difference on 90l. I change some money and find out that I get a better rate if I use travellers cheques here as I don’t pay commission. I’ll take advantage of that on the next exchange. I travel through Calitzdorp and call in at a wine growers buying one of their wines quite cheaply. The town museum has a sign outside for cheap 2nd hand books and I pick one up for R10 having a chat with a priest who is the curator and wants to escape to, believe it or not, Shropshire where he has some friends and visits every 18 months or so. I pass but do not stop at Ronnies Sex Shop, a pub on Route 62, but I’m not having a beer so I don’t see the reason to visit. I choose Swellendam to stop for the night and get ther evia the Tradow Pass which is another I can recommend. The difficulty with these passes is that you cannot capture the full scale of them easily in a photo. I pull into a backpackers which is set under the mountains but appears to be a secondary consideration to the owner. I get the impression that some of these places aren’t interested unless you spend a fortune and eat their quite pricey meals. I ate for around R20 and saw the meal they had for R90. I think I won on all counts. I leave my laundry to be done as I am almost out and have a relatively early night in spite of the campfire which isn’t really putting out enough warmth.
Wednesday 22nd July 09 still Swellendam
You may be surprised to see I stayed again. This isn’t due to the welcoming warmth of the accommodation but more to do with the fact that it is raining and has rained all day. Also my laundry hasn’t been done so I go to the local laundrette which is cleaner and cheaper when I find it. I call into another charity shop for a book but they don’t have any. The chap in there is very pleasant and I spend another ½ hour chatting about things in general but again about a recurring concern that seems widespread, that of education or lack of it.
I read my book and catch up on a little of this blog but am still way behind. I definitely hope to leave tomorrow when I will head to Cape Agulhas if all goes well.
Thursday 23rd July 09 to Cape Agulhas (Southernmost point of Africa)
Hooray, I can leave. There is a break in the rain enough to pack the tent away not completely wet. I head off trying to say goodbye but the owner is busy and doesn’t even acknowledge my wave. 2/10 for that place. The drive to Agulhas is not very interesting and, in fact, when I arrive there is a small town and a plaque plus the lighthouse but it looks as if the weather will pick up and the guys here are friendly. The owner of the backpackers designs boats and is currently finishing a design which looks pretty cool and will hopefully be sold………..well I am not going to say where in case of industrial espionage, as if anyone in that business would be on this site. There is a Collie here who wants you to throw the tiniest chips of wood for her to fetch. Mad but at least she doesn’t try to eat me like Taz. (Pete Ryan’s dog).
Friday 24th July Cape Agulhas.
I send a couple of e-mails and catch up on the remainder of my blog in order to post it later today. The weather has picked up and I am taking the opportunity to get a few things aired. I may work on my packing again tomorrow to make it ready for Stephanie to have some space. It is amazing how much you spread out to whatever space is available. I also have a small issue with my phone which is failing to log onto the network. At least I have the local SIM card to fall back on.
I will send this off now.