Saturday 8th August To Namibia

Leaving the campsite at Springbok I fuel up and we head North to cross into Namibia. It is again beautiful to see the flowers which bloom at the side of the road here in Namaqualand. At the border post all goes smoothly and we are in Namibia which I hope will be one of the highlights of my trip. At the border the landscape changes to a more arid semi-desert feel. We aim for Ai-Ais which is a hot spring resort site in the Fish River canyon. Unfortunately we have no swimming costumes and cannot take advantage of the hot pool. Three young lads make a bee-line for us as they are driving a Series 3 Landrover albeit with a 4.1l Chevy engine in it. They ask a few questions and it becomes clear they aren’t too clued up mechanically so I hope they are okay. I’m sure they will have a great adventure anyway. Stephanie goes to the shop for braai wood but there is none in the shop. I use my resourcefulness and try asking at the filling station. They have just taken bags to the shop but are prepared to give me a bigger bag from their own supply for the same money. It is the way of things here. The night is clear and it is great to see the milky way again.

Sunday 9th August 09 Ai-Ais to Bethanie

Leaving Ai-Ais we head up to fish river canyon. The viewpoints are marked on the GPS and it is incredible. The scale is huge and I try my best to capture it on camera but I am sure I have not done it justice. We head on and call in at a couple of possible places for accommodation including a motel which has no rooms having suffered a lot of damage in a storm. There is also no fuel which is a bit of a surprise so we head on to Bethanie which is the next town as I like to keep ahead on range and we are told they have fuel. Surprise, they don’t have diesel but apparently the next town does. It is too late to continue so we pull into the Bethanie hotel which has camping. I set up camp and get on with the cooking. They let us use one of the rooms for washing and Stephanie seems quite pleased at this. The hotel has quite nice facilities but is typically run down. In one of the lounges there is a surprise lurking… a Steinway Baby Grand piano! I send Stephanie to have a go while I play pool with one of the 2 guys working there. What a shame, it sounds dreadful. The chap listening to Stephanie calls the owner but she is out of town. He wanted her to hear the piano being played and encourage her to get it tuned. All in all it was quite a surreal visit.

Monday 10th August 09 Bethanie to Sessriem

Once again it is up early and we get a goodish start. We fuel up in the next town and head out across on the road to Sessriem. We travel to Duiseb Castle which is a small traditional castle built at the beginning of the 20th Century by a German and which is now a small museum. It stands out as being unusual but this is Africa so you are perhaps not so surprised by strange sights. The entry fee was on a sliding scale depending on which country you were from. The regular foreigners fee was ridiculous and I wasn’t going to pay it and so the lady charged us the Namibian rate which I thought was a fair price. Further down the road we pulled into a halt called Betta for some provisions and it appeared that I had a puncture. There was a man there who did repairs but it took him 3 attempts and even then I wasn’t so sure it would hold up but we needed to get on our way if I was going to get Stephanie to all the places I wanted her to see. We got to the Gate for Sessriem and they wanted stupid money to camp about 600N$ which is around £50. We met some other people in a landrover and together we drove 3 miles down the road to a roadside halt and camped there. I offered them some wine which went down well and we were all able to see the Milky Way.

Tuesday 11th August 09 Sessriem to Solitaire

Up at 5.30 am as the gates open quite early. We go and join the queue of vehicles waiting outside and I meet a motorcyclist who left UK with 4 others and is the only one left on the route. We get our tickets and head along the tar road towards Sossussvlei taking photos of the dunes at various stages. It is magnificent even if anyone can drive this way and my vehicle looks a bit over-prepared for this simple trip. We see Ostrich, Impala and Gemsbok on the way. After a good many kilometres we get to the point where only 4wd vehicles are allowed through. I drop the tyre pressures and head off into the sand. We sail through with ease. Arriving at the end of the trail we climb a dune called Big Mama. It is hard work but quite spectacular. I lent Stephanie my hat and the wind blows it part way down the side of the dune. There is a family climbing the dune at the same time and their son Luke does a crab impersonation as he goes and retrieves it for her. We get to meet this family again later in the trip.

We then hike out to the Dead Vlei before it is too hot. A decision is made to leave here and press on with the trip as the temperature is a bit oppressive for Stephanie. We head on the dirt road to Solitaire for the ‘famous’ Apple Pie. I don’t find it that good as I think he has burnt the crumble on the top. Oh well at least it is somewhere to stay and to fuel up. There is a Dutch couple driving a Unimog. They have wheel bearing problems which they have had fixed but the guy they paid hasn’t lined the hub and the stub axle up correctly so the brake disc won’t go on. They need a 30mm socket which I lend him and give a little help. Everything goes back well this time and they are quite pleased. They have had many mechanical problems including needing a new engine in Morocco. They have had to get all parts sent by air and it sounds like it is costing them a fortune.

Stephanie is suffering and has a bit of a migraine which gets worse into the evening. I finish doing the evening meal and clearing up then plan to backup my pictures for the last few weeks but the computer battery is down so leave it to charge and don’t get round to this task. This proves a costly error!



Monday 3rd August 09 Cape Town

Stephanie is due to arrive today and the noise I heard yesterday from the rear of the vehicle returns. I head into LR Services in Milnerton. They show me some play in my drive shafts and drive members so I buy a pair of drive shafts and fit the spare drive members I brought with me keeping the old parts as get you home spares. I then head off to do laundry and then go to the airport to pick up Stephanie. She arrives about ½ an hour late and clears customs quickly. We head off and I decide to give her a little tour. We head off and visit the waterfront area and then along the coast a bit before heading back to the Formula 1 hotel which is basic but convenient.

Tuesday 4th August 09 Cape Town

We head off to see Cape Point and stop at Boulders to see the Penguin colony. Stephanie is fascinated by them and we then head to Cape Point. Just as we arrive the noise returns. The weather is cold and windy and we head up to the lighthouse but don’t stay long. The noise starts to occur more frequently and getting back to the North area of Cape Town it is horridly loud in traffic. I aim to get to the LR Services workshop and we crawl in at around 4.15. They are packing up and say to come in first thing. I decide we will stop at Salty Crax Backpackers to save a little money and also because it is by where a guy to do with shipping lives. We check into the backpackers and we walk up the street getting the attention of the lady of the house who lets us in when I explain that the guys across the road told me about her husband Nick arranging shipping for their motorbikes to Mombassa. She makes tea for Stephanie and calls Nick. I have a chat and he promises me a quote by e-mail. The girls chat away and I worry that they will talk all night. Lovely though it is I am hungry and want to get away for some food. We head to a shopping centre and eat at Spur which is a ribs and steak chain. It is a good meal and we have a nice evening.

Wednesday 5th August 09 Cape Town

It is an early start to the Landrover place with really big noises coming from the rear and kicking back through the transmission. I am convinced the wheel bearing has gone but wouldn’t tackle it at the side of the road as it usually means stub axle trouble as well and I am not carrying one of those.

The guys pack us off to a big shopping mall and we wander round for 3 hours. I call them and am told Robert will call me back. ½ an hour later he calls and tells me it is the wheel bearings and they have caused quite a bit of damage. They come and pick us up and when we get back he shows me that the stub axle is really bad and the hub and brake disc are also shot. He checks for a part and can get a 2nd hand stub axle for Friday or a new one for later in the day. The hub won’t arrive till tomorrow. His parts prices are not too bad and he trims them a bit to help me out. We leave them to it and get a lift back to Salty Crax. This evening we cook and wait to see what will be the result tomorrow.

Thursday 6th August 09 to Citrusdal

We wait till noon before we get a lift back to the Landrover place. It is almost done and while it is there I get them to do the oil change. They give me a complimentary gearbox oil change and clean the car. Don’t worry though, where we are going it will soon be dusty again.

We finally get off around 3pm and I decide we will start our trip North. We get to Gekko Backpackers and I open the tent. Some of the bedding is damp and Stephanie decides it all needs washing, so much for an easy night. Luke at the backpackers lets us use the machine and start to dry stuff in front of the fire. We end up inside in the dorm rooms. We now have more stuff wet than before.

Friday 7th August 09 to Springbok

I am determined to make quite a bit of ground today and so we get off as soon as we can although it is a lot later than I want. I need to try and impress on Stephanie the fact that the earlier we set off the more relaxed the evenings can be and also the cooler the journey will be. Luke has provided us with a bag of citrus and I will definitely see him on the way back down as he is a very good host.

We stop at Klawer wine lodge to get some wine and find it is very cheap R12 and R14 for their bin end whites and R20 for the reds.

Carrying on I get a few more provisions and we stop a couple of times for the Spring flowers which are showing here in Namaqualand.

We get to a campsite at Springbok and buy wood to make a fire. I notice a while after the sunset we are just about to get the moonrise between the mountains. I point this out to Stephanie and I think this is the first real point where she gets why I wanted to do this trip. It is also her first look at the Milky Way and the Southern Cross.



Journal - Part 30 - South Africa (Stephanie's comments)

Monday 3rd August

My plane from Dubai was a little late arriving at Cape Town as we'd had to wait for a new battery, but it was great as I walked over the bridge to see Ian waiting for me in the airport foyer, and then after collecting luggage etc. to jump into the familiar land rover which I hadn't seen since leaving it in Marrakech in January. Ian gave me a tour that included a huge shanty town, views of table mountain ( I did say "hello" to it from Margaret who is a long way from her native Cape Town working in Shrewsbury UK) the Waterfront and coastal views where an ominous front was clearly coming in. We then settled into our Formula I accommodation for the night.

Tuesday 4th August

Unfortunately my hectic schedule back home prior to leaving coupled with the journey, resulted in waking with a migraine. However, we set out and I was delighted to see the African Penguins at Boulders (shame we lost the photos the following week) enroute to Cape Point. The weather was pretty much what I'd left behind in the UK - rain ! For me I had my first sightings of Baboons and Ostriches. Later that afternoon it was lovely to meet Carina, wife of the shipping contact that Ian had been given, and we really appreciated her hospitality where I had my first experience of african rusks that you dip into your tea/coffee.

We then settled into Salty Crax Backpackers which was very pleasant and then treated ourselves to our only meal out for the whole of my trip.

Wednesday 5th August

Visited a huge shopping Mall in Cape Town. Had another night at Salty Crax and for me, I was quite glad to have an early night after eating in with some food we bought at a local shopping mall.

Thursday 6th August

Today we started to head north arriving at Gekko Backpackers at Citrusdal in the Cederburg mountains. The plan was to camp but it was clearly going to be a chilly night and as I sorted the bedding, discovered that some of it was suffering from effects of damp and wet. Luke lit a fire to help us dry some things out and then let us use the washing machine, as well as giving us the use of a dormitory for the night.

Friday 7th August

We left Gekko laden with citrus fruit - it is from here that outspan oranges arrive in our super markets - thank you Luke.

As we travelled north through the mountains it started to get hot, there was a huge glow of orange and yellow flowers on either sides of the roads. This was the first night camping at Springbok in the Northern Cape and I had my first sighting of the milky way.Not easy for Ian who has had months to finely tune his camping routine to then have me slowing the whole process up having not camped since January.

Saturday 8th August

Continued to travel through the Northern Cape until we reached the border with Namibia. Having crossed the border the landscape changed dramatically to semi desert. It was incredible that in the middle of this quite harsh desolation we came across a Camp Site very much geared up for 21st century tourists with western expectations. It was a pity that I hadn't packed a swimming costume as here at Ai Ais you could swim in an indoor pool fed by a hot spring. Despite the heat, we were still trying to get the washing done at Gekko, dried, so much of it was laid out on the hot rocks.

Sunday 9th August

Set off early for Fish River Canyon. Had my first sightings of impala deer and from a distance, Zebra.

After a long hot day, we set about trying to find somewhere to camp. Having been declined at one place due to storm damage, we arrived at Bethanie Hotel where we camped in the grounds but had use of a private bathroom. We were the only guests and joined the staff in the bar after cooking tea.Here a big steinway grand piano was revealed with an invitation for me to play it - arh, it was rather poorly as badly needed tuning, but I gave it a bit of an airing as Ian played snooker.

Monday 10th August

I am finally settling better into the camping routine and we are up at 5.30 a m. We visited Duwisib Castle built by a German. As we stopped en route at "Betta Camping" we discovered we had a puncture. As Ian was with the man attempting to repair it, I had the chance to observe the lives of the women going about their daily chores from the shade of the tree - it was a scene straight from a Wild West Movie.

Tonight was my first experience of Bush Camping in the Desert.

Tuesday 11th August

Up at 5.30 to join the queue for the sand dunes - they are seen at their best in the early morning light as the sun rises. This was an amazing experience. We climbed the 200 metres of the sand dune named "Sossusvlei" and climbed some of "Dead Vlei". I was grateful to the lad that recovered my hat (well Ian's hat) as it disappeared down the steep incline of Sossusvlei. As we then continued to head northwards I was rewarded with an increasing number of animal sightings. We stopped at Solitaire and sampled the apple pie that we had been told about. As it was now very hot, we decided to camp there. An Italian couple on honey moon on one of the trucks, showed interest in Ian's poster about his CD and subsequently requested to buy one. Unfortunately, for me a mild headache suddenly escalated into a monumental migraine so that rather ruined what was left of the afternoon and evening for both of us.

Wednesday 12th August

We set off across the desert crossing the Capricorn tropic into the tropics. It was quite a welcome reprieve initially to arrive on the coast where the heat of the afternoon was far less intense tempered by an atlantic breeze. We watched the flamingoes at Walvis Bay. Then headed to the next coastal town Swakopmund where we booked into a lovely camp site where each plot had its own lockable bathroom, which given what happened not long after, proved invaluable. Unfortunately what we had hoped to be a relaxing evening became anything but - I will let Ian explain.

Thursday 13th August

Today was dominated by dealing with the aftermath of our break in. On a funnier note, a carrier bag of mine that had a portable toilet and toilet roll in it was stolen - hope they enjoyed that one!

Friday 14th August

After another night at the Camp site at Swakopmund and farewells to people who had commiserated with us, we set off along the coast in the Sea Mist. We stopped at the Seal Colony where a Jackal had met its end - the smell we'd been warned about wasn't so bad being cooler but what an amazing number of Seals.From there we entered the Skeleton Coast National Park where I got excited as the information suggested we might see elephants, lions, whales etc. In reality we didn't see anything until we turned off the Skeleton Coast road, then there was impala, zebra, gemsbock and kudu. Another puncture on the gravel roads meant we didn't get as far as we'd hoped. After stopping at a garage in Khorixas we found a camp site near by.

Saturday 15th August

The camping routine was accomplished in record time since I'd arrived - 55 minutes so we set off at 6.55a m to get to Etosha National Park - the ultimate prize of my trip. We decided that as we'd not had an easy time getting to Etosha that we would treat ourselves by staying on site - we were allocated the camping space on the car park. We had  fantastic day sighting giraffes and elephants in the trees, wildebeest, zebra etc. At one waterhole an elephant was having a bath surrounded by a complete menagerie of animals. At sunset down at the Waterhole near the rest camp we watched as an elephant approached from the shadows framed by the setting sun, two rhino where one was out to pick a fight, an elephant noisily drinking, jackals always around.

Sunday 16th August

Up at 5 a m to see if any action at the Waterhole, however the animals were clearly still asleep and as the security guard pointed out - it was Sunday !!! We travelled around 100 miles of the park today, but that amounted to a tiny section of the whole. The real highlights were seeing two lionesses with their cubs walking through the long grass, then a lion snoozing under a tree and a further three lionesses also snoozing. Back at the rest camp waterhole that night we were treated to a scene of several giraffes with their young and rhino too also brought their young.

Monday 17th August

One last look at a waterhole before heading back down south to Windhoek. After stopping at Outjo to get provisions and where the aftermath of a fire at the Municipality building was still being played out, we had a straightforward journey to the city. That all changed when we got there, trying to find locations and then finding accommodation was full we made the decision to head towards the airport. We landed upon a farm that provided excellent bush camping and they had just one plot left. We had planned to eat out that evening but with our revised plans we purchased some game from the farm and had a good last evening around our log fire.

Tuesday 18th August

On leaving our bush camp we saw some Kudu - that was probably who I'd heard right outside our tent at dawn. We made the very short trip to the airport from where I was to travel back to Cape Town. We made our farewells, not quite as traumatic as in January as shouldn't be too long before we are reunited. The flight was fine and I had some shopping time at Cape Town Airport before getting my evening flight to Dubai. What a fantastic trip - Namibia is a very beautiful country with ever changing vistas, lots of wildlife and I am so grateful to Ian for giving me the opportunity to experience it and also a very contrasting experience to the one I had in Morocco.

Friday 24th July Cape Agulhas. Continued.

After sending e-mails I just settle in for what is quite a cold night. There is a fire here but it doesn’t cast it’s heat that far and I have done my cooking on the stove so don’t need it.

Saturday 25th July Cape Agulhas

I had planned to leave today but circumstances changed. There is a boat trip going out to see the whales. I can’t afford the standard price but the owner says he has enough to run the boat and can cut me a deal. It is a great deal and I gladly accept. I am even happier when after only 15 minutes we spot our first whale. The encounters are stunning and I am torn between just enjoying it and recording on both still and video camera. I hope I have some good footage. Again that will be shown on completion of the trip.
I stay another night and am ready to move on with another great experience under my belt.

Sunday 26th Cape Agulhas to Betty’s Bay

I take the road as close to the coast as possible an after a brief call in Hermanus head to Betty’s Bay to the backpackers. Ross is currently managing the place and he is from Scotland doing a bit of travelling. There is a young and fairly troubled potter staying there for a few months and I worry that he enjoys too many ‘jazz woodbines’. Also working there is Katrina who flies back to Norway on Wednesday.

I park out front and set up then enjoy the joys of pool on a full size snooker table. Ross has been told to play it like golf and treat each ball as a par 2 or 3 by trying to set it up for the next shot. It has been a relaxing day.

Monday 27th Betty’s Bay

So what is there to do here? I head down to the Penguin colony to have a look. Only R10 to get in and it is really rather nice. The weather is certainly mixed so I don’t stay that long. I head back around the coast and pick up food along with changing some money at the bank. I think I now have enough to get through till Stephanie arrives.

Tuesday 28th Betty’s Bay

I take today to change a track rod end and service the old one as it just had a split boot on it. I check a few other bits but am still a bit nervous about my right rear wheel bearing and don’t really want to take the hub off here as if there is a problem, which sometimes happens, with the bearing fusing to the stub axle I would be stuck with it up on an axle stand. I am pleased overall with most things I check.  We all head round the coast in the evening to have a look at the sunset and are rewarded by a whale sighting. It is Katrina’s last night so that is a nice way to end her time in South Africa.

Wednesday 29th To Cape Town.

Off early and round the coast I visit Hout Bay (we used to cycle to here when I was on the cruise ships) and have some fish and chips for old times sake. Following round past Camps Bay and Strand I follow the coast all the way and get to a few backpackers who aren’t suitable for the rooftent. I finally find Riverlodge Backpackers run by PJ and they have a place for me. It is a different place as a lot of the residents are workers shipped in for municipal projects.

Thursday 30th July Cape Town

I head up to where I found Salty Crax backpackers as I saw a vehicle with Out of Africa tours on it in the same street. This was the firm run by a guy I met at my first stop in Botswana while watching the cricket. It turns out Stephan just rents space here but when I talk about shipping the guy points me across the road and says the guy there sorted out a container for them to Mombasa and it sounded like a good deal. I make a note to check this out later.

Friday 31st July Cape Town

………………………………….the problem with blogs is they take a while and unless you make notes you can forget. Don’t remember anything unusual. Just had a lazy day.

Saturday 1st August 09 Cape Town

Head out today for a wander round as PJ has a wine tasting and art exhibition on. I use the opportunity to track down a Landrover specialist as I think I may have a wheel bearing issue and I don’t want to strip it down as I have no stub axle and am aware that often a collapsing bearing will and up fused to this part. The wine tasting is partly to do with PJ having some artist friends. I return and join in the fun. A nice event.

Sunday 2nd August Cape Town

A lot of re-arranging to do in the car to make it ready for Stephanie and, when completed, I sit and watch the cricket on the television. No other news today.

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.