Hurrah! We are in South Africa. I got up early and started the fire to put the kettle on for hot chocolate. It was quite chilly so the hot chocolate was just what we needed. We drove slowly out of camp looking for our lost dust-cap , but still no luck.
The drive out of the gorge was lovely and so was the road alongside the Orange River.
We stopped a the fuel station to use up our remaining N$. I chopped up some tomato and cheese for sandwiches and we headed for the border which we reached shortly after 10h00.
It was nice to be in an organised border post, except that they asked us for the receipt for our road tax which we had never been told to purchase when we entered from Angola and were never asked for, up until now. Simon had his receipt for the N$100, so they handed their's in a bit later and when Michael went back in the guy asked for ours and when Michael said he didn't have one and hadn't been told to buy one, the guy said we could buy it there. when Michael asked how much the guy just said not to worry and that we could go. All the time Togo remained quietly in Nyathi, which was great. One down...
The South African side was very organised. We parked and a security guard took down our registration number and gave us a piece of paper with four numbered boxes, of which he signed the first. Immigration was fine although not having a departure air ticket threw them a bit?! They stamped box 2 and sent us to room 3 (customs). We said we had nothing to declare and they stamped their box and sent us to room 4 (police) who also asked if we had anything to declare, particularly firearms, they stamped box 4 and off we went - without having our carnet stamped! Nicole and Simon also had an easy crossing, which was great.
It was a relief being safely in SA, with Togo sleeping peacefully in Nyathi...
We drove through to Springbok, where Michael stayed with Togo, Nyathi and Jenny, while we went shopping in the Spar. We spent ages ogling the shelves and filling our little trolley - fantastic! Michael busied himself with the compressed air, blowing out as much dust as possible from all the nooks and crannies. They have only had 6mm of rain so far this year and would normally have had over 100mm by this time of year, so there were no Namaqualand flowers, which is really bad for business.
We drove on to Vanrhynsdorp were we found a really nice little campsite owner by Peter, where Togo could run free and play with their somewhat ageing dogs (who tired of Togo rather quickly). Togo did her ritual camper visiting and was rewarded later by some kind soul with some enormous T-bone steak bones! We tethered her and walked into town for dinner, where we had delicious T-bone and fillet steaks, but sadly no hot desserts which would have been good considering the cold temperatures.
Michael and Simon spent the morning transferring photos from our camera to Simon's laptop, as Simon and Nicole want to spend a bit longer travelling down to Cape Town than Michael and I. I had a terrific hot shower and sat in the little bit of sun which peeped out from the overcast sky. We said our goodbyes and promised to see each other in Cape Town.
We stopped off at the supermarket and bought some food for the road. The scenery was beautiful, but it was most exciting to catch our first glimpse of the sea and Table Mountain (though unfortunately, it was a little hazy).
It felt almost surreal to be driving into Cape Town in Nyathi, instead of just from the airport, as we have usually done. We passed an ostrich farm which had funny sign encouraging motorists to keep the noise down, saying 'No Hooting, Ostriches Getting Laid'.
We drove down the winding roads past Kirstenbosch Gardens and into Constantia. It was wonderful to see Claudia and of course Togo could hardly wait to get out and say hello. Stefan and Luke were thoroughly impressed with Nyathi and were keen to have it all opened up to have a look see. We unpacked some stuff from the tent and took some other bits and bobs from the cab, locked Nyathi up and retreated to the comfort of the house!
Togo made friends with Moonshine and Brandy and ran around the garden getting rid of her excess energy. Marek arrived home and we all just relaxed, ate (a delicious dinner prepared by Claudia - what a treat!) and had a superb evening.
Nyathi looked large and dirty parked in Marek and Claudia's drive, but she certainly attracted lots of attention. The parent's of the school lift club wanted to see inside and later on in the day I saw a guy in a Discovery drive past, stop, get out the car, walk over to Nyathi, have a good nosey around and then drive off. Claudia and I agreed we should start charging!
We have decided, since we are not really travelling at the moment, to write about our time in Cape Town as one single journal entry.
We spent the remainder of the week getting details about shipping and animal travel regulations, did some shopping and banking, and applied for our SA passports.
On Saturday we collected Glen and went for lunch. That night we had a lovely dinner party at Marek and Claudia's and met Diane and Dave, and Bill, who are all connected with the oil industry. On Sunday we went to Kirstenbosch Gardens and got a bit of exercise and saw spectacular views of Cape Town and False Bay. We met Simon and Nicole for lunch at the Waterfront - it was great to see them.
Another busy week... I had to visit the dentist because I broke off my tooth right at the front and had to have that fixed (well at least it happened in civilization, instead of the middle of the Congo!) I took Togo to the vet for her vaccinations and she was really well behaved, even the vet said he would have her if we couldn't take her travelling with us for the rest of the way. The very sad news is we discovered she has a heart murmur (some valve is not functioning properly), but there is nothing we can do about it. She may live a full, normal life, or may die younger, but we'll just have to give her the best life possible! I had to work hard to control the tears when the vet was talking to me, but I have to say, he was absolutely fantastic.
Michael took Nyathi to a 'Land Rover Garage' to try and find out what was making the awful grinding noise from the gearbox. They had a quick look and told him to bring it back on Wednesday. It stayed there for six days and they did as much work as Michael and I could have done in one afternoon and charged us handsomely! They were not very good at keeping us informed and told us they had done stuff which upon arrival to collect Nyathi, Michael discovered they hadn't done after all. I was not impressed to say the least. It was also extremely annoying and frustrating as there was little else we could do while Nyathi was gone.
On the lighter side, Marek, Claudia, Michael and I went out to the movies and we spent many nights eating delicious meals together (often by candlelight, as there seemed to be a spate of electrical power cuts). Whenever the sun shone (which wasn't often) we took the opportunity to relax in the garden. I also had a wonderful facial as an early birthday present from Claudia and Marek, which was absolute indulgence!
It has been cold here, and it actually snowed in Cape Town (well, sleeted, really), which is almost unheard of.
We left the Ranoszeks on Wednesday lunchtime, heading for Mossel Bay, to visit Paul and Joy on their guest farm, Crane's Crest. On the way, we stopped by Paul's parents to collect Paul and Joy's gates for them, and then got some food for the road. The journey was scenic, with a fair amount of snow still on the mountains.
Our journey was punctuated by a stop to check and top-up the gearbox oil, which, as Michael discovered when it poured down his arm, was plentiful and very hot! We arrived at Crane's Crest at about 22h00. We had a great evening catching up with Paul (Joy was away on business) , eating big juicy steak cooked over their indoor fire, drinking and only getting to bed after 01h00.We crawled into bed at The Lodge, exhausted...
Michael and I emptied all Nyathi's external compartments and the contents of the cab and cabin into one of the Lodge's rooms. We spent a couple of days cleaning her out with compressed air and all sorts. It was unbelievable how much dust she has accumulated. Paul also got the maid, Rinder, to help us one afternoon by washing out all the jerry cans and cleaning some of the boxes, which was great! Togo had a terrific time dining on the smorgasbord of pig and cow poo, and taunting the pigs into playing with her.
On Thursday night we all went to George, about 60km away, to collect Joy from work. We got a guided tour around the woodworking training institute, Furnatech, which was really interesting. It is certainly high-tech - a far cry from what my father's workshop looked like, and some of the furniture they have made is fantastic. We had another late night catching up with Joy.
On Saturday we wandered down to The Kraal and relaxed in the conservatory in the sun. The we took Togo for a swim in the pool to fetch sticks. Both Paul and Michael were starting to get ill and caught up on some sleep in the afternoon. Nicky, Steve and Skyla arrived later on and we all proceeded to have a somewhat raucous evening eating, drinking and playing games to see in my birthday. It was terrific fun.
On Sunday, Joy and I decided to do something a little energetic and went down to the river and had a little hike to the cave overhang to look at the bushman paintings.
We took the motorbike part-way down to save us from the steep walk back up the hill after climbing out the river gorge. It was pretty slippery, but we got down alright, although I can't say the same for the way back up! After a good couple of hours walking down to the bushman paintings, taking photos etc. we decided to head home. It was all going quite well until we hit some very slippery mud and the bike was very hard to control. The bike swerved badly into the bush and cut out, but we both managed to stay on, however, our subsequent attempts saw us lying in the bush with the bike on top of us each frantically asking if the other was OK and then bursting into uncontrollable laughter!
After many valiant attempts (even with me giving Joy a shove from behind) we decided to abandon the bike and walk up. Michael went down and fetched it later... but Joy and I had lots of bruises to talk about!
I had lots of birthday calls from all over, which was nice and we had a somewhat more sedate evening than the night before...
On Monday we went down to Mossel Bay to do some banking, have some wood cut to make a bedding area in the cabin for Togo and do a few other 'organising' things. On Tuesday we got up early and started packing everything back into Nyathi. We also went through a process of adding more things to the 'discard' pile, including our big generator. We only finally departed at 4:30 in the afternoon, but we got a tremendous amount done.
Once again we found ourselves saying how good it was to be on the road again... We drove through the night, taking turns to sleep in the reclined passenger seat and of course Togo was as good as gold, thoroughly enjoying her new bed space we had created for her. We decided to keep on going to arrive at the Skeen's house by about lunchtime - about 1200km, pretty much non-stop.
It felt very strange driving into Johannesburg. We had both forgotten how incredibly dry it is in the winter. We drove via our old house which now has a raised wall with spikes on the top of it. Seeing all the electric fences was a reminder of the crime rate, but on the other hand, there is an incredible amount of development in Johannesburg.
We arrived at Malcolm and Martina's house, and made ourselves at home as they were away at the Pilanesberg. They have a fabulous house, with enormous grounds and we had the run of the upstairs guests area. Anna, their maid, was terrific and helped me with some washing and carrying things from the car. Togo couldn't contain herself and after an initial period of submission to the other two dogs - Rocky and Rider, she ran about like a wild thing expending all her energy.
We spent the first couple of days doing admin, chasing the shipping agents, following up on dog transport and travel requirements etc. We ate lots of Nando's takeaways and it is beginning to show! On Friday afternoon we had to go to Airport Cargo to collect the reconditioned transfer box which Ivor had sent from the UK for us. The process was far more long and drawn out that it needed to be, but we got the box and headed back home to see Mal, Mart, Nicholas, Jeffrey and Amanda..
It was so wonderful to see them and we spent the evening with them and the Bucks, having a braai. I told Mart and Annmarie that things weren't looking good for Togo to continue travelling with us and they both offered to take her! Never thought we'd have the problem of having to choose a home for her. Still, I get tearful at the prospect of leaving her behind.
On Saturday, Mart and I went shopping, while the boys (Malcolm, Roger, Michael, and Roger's nephew) all went playing off-road down at the Jukskei River. They took Nyathi and Roger's Land Rover, and spent a few happy hours getting the Discovery thoroughly stuck in the river.
Not once, but several times - eventually winching it out with Nyathi.
Luckily, they didn't try driving Nyathi through, as it probably would have made Roger late for his own wife's 40th birthday party - which was that evening.
We all had a terrific evening at the party- Annmarie had arranged a murder mystery party, which was great fun.
Sunday morning we were up early to fetch Ivor from the airport. We discovered that we'd left the electronic gates open last night, but all the dogs were still there. Then, I thought I saw Togo running after some jogger down the road, but convinced myself I was being paranoid and besides, Michael had shut the gates. However, when we came to leave, there was no sign of her so we drove for quite some distance down the road in the direction the jogger went and we found her! We deposited her back at the Skeen's and off we went.
It was great to see Ivor. We stopped of en route home and had some breakfast at an outdoor cafe in Sandton Square.
We spent the rest of the day socialising and having a braai with lots of our Jo'burg friends. There was quite a crowd (Mal, Mart, Uli, Claudia, Wayne, Lynn, Annmarie, Roger, Bruce, Sarah, Wynand, Teryl, Detlev, Teresa, Joy, plus 14 children). By the end of the weekend, we were all exhausted.
On Monday and Tuesday Michael and Roger worked on the transfer box. The job was a whole lot more complicated, hard work and time consuming than they had ever expected.
With hindsight Michael said he'd wished he sent it to someone else to do, but with our bad experience in Cape Town we were reluctant to let someone else touch it. The good news is that Michael know the ins and outs of it now.
Ivor and I took the opportunity to do the tourism thing. We did some shopping and went on a guided tour of Soweto, which was very interesting, but not mind-blowing. We also went to Haartebeespoort Dam and the local craft market, which was very pleasant.
On Tuesday evening we took Mal, Mart, Roger, Annmarie and Ivor out for a meaty meal at the Butchershop and Grill.
I spent Wednesday morning packing up all our clothes ready to go into Nyathi and the boys went to Roger's and tidied up his garage where he and Michael had been fitting the transfer box.
I had to say goodbye to Togo as she has been adopted by Annmarie and Roger. Of course I couldn't hold back the tears as I found it so difficult and felt so so guilty. She's been with us for so long now that I know I am going to miss her companionship desperately. Of course she'll probably be happy wherever she is, but I'd like to think that being with us almost every hour of the day made it different. We said our goodbyes to the Skeens, and set off with Ivor for Sun City.
We arrived at Sun City in the early afternoon and headed straight for the Valley of Waves. Michael and Ivor spent the afternoon testing out all the rides, of course pushing it to the limits - with the bruises to show for it.
In the evening we went to see the Extravaganza which was very enjoyable and had impressive costumes and sets.
We decided to drive through the night to be in the Eastern Transvaal (Mpumalanga) by the morning. We all took turns to sleep and drive (though not simultaneously)!
We arrived in the early hours of the morning and slept in a big, spacious lay-bye. We treated ourselves to a Steer's breakfast in Sabie and then bought some beer supplies ad headed off to MacMac falls. The walk down was very pleasant and we wandered down to the top of the falls where we sat looking over the edge (though not Ivor, who hates heights - he kept a safe distance and took photographs).
We ended up buying a number of carved giraffe and a wooden serving dish from the craft sellers (there are so many of them and of course everyone wants you to buy something of theirs - they really know how to make you feel guilty). Next stop was Pilgrim's Rest, the old alluvial mining town. It was as quaint as I remembered it from my Standard 8 school geography tour at Lyttelton Manor!
We took the 'scenic' route through to Blyde River Canyon, bypassing the craft sellers and walking down to the canyon edge. It was spectacular and we saw a house with what has to be one of the longest driveways ever leading down into the valley.
On the way back to Nyathi we bought a carved coffee table and a soap stone carving too. (My luggage is going to be rather heavy when I go back to the UK). We wound our way down to God's Window which has various viewpoints of the canyon. What makes it more enjoyable are the little forest walks which lead out to each viewing platform.
We drove down to Hazyview and stopped to get some Nando's for dinner and then went to check in at Kruger Park Lodge. There was a mess up with the RCI exchange booking, but eventually they conceded it must be correct and that they would double check in the morning.
Our chalet was fantastic. It sleeps six, as opposed to eight in our own one, but it had two lounges, the master bedroom had a massive en suite bathroom and there was a lovely big deck and entertainment area which overlooked the pond. We rattled around in it a bit, but it was great.
We decided to have a relaxing day today and stay in the resort. I went for a super, brisk walk around the perimeter of the resort. I got a bit of a fright when a crocodile splashed away into the water at the hippo hide. I stopped briefly in the hide and watched the hippos and various birds doing there thing! I even mustered up the energy to do some sit ups (I have to try and loose some of the weight I've picked up from all our decadent eating - it has been like famine to feast).
When I got back to the chalet Ivor and Michael were up and about. Michael made me delicious avocado on toast and we sat on the deck in the sun for a while. Then Ivor said he fancied a walk, so I went with him, but we went at a leisurely pace strolling next to the river, and taking photos of the croc which gave me a start earlier.
Later on we relaxed down at the pool. I had a salad for lunch and the boys played on the trampolines and had 'beer food' afterwards. Then I went and got some braai fodder, while they had a catnap. We had a great evening. It was really warm and we stood about in our shorts and t-shirts eating, drinking and being merry!
The hot evening brought the rain, just as we'd expected and the morning was looking pretty grim when we woke up at 05h15. We made our way down to Phabeni Gate (which has only recently opened). There was a long queue at the entrance gate and we spent 45 minutes getting our entrance passes. We spent the entire day in the park, stopping at Lower Sabie for a very mediocre buffet lunch, but we got to see an elephant very close up and Ivor was most impressed with his appendage (not just his trunk).
The skies cleared a little and although the the wind was still cool, we could still sit on the game viewing seat to spot animals.
The morning was definitely more successful than the afternoon and we saw a fair variety of game:
The most interesting viewing was the large family groups of elephants at the roadside and at the drinking reservoir, plus a very good view of a white rhino which had large scrathces down the side of its face and blood coming from its lower lip, we felt rather sorry for it as it look a bit ill and didn't have much energy as it just lay on the ground and it seemed a huge effort for it to lift its head.
Towards the end of the day an honorary ranger told us we were not allowed to use our game viewing hatch (how it is any different to the open-sided vehicles I have no idea - in fact - it's probably safer!). Anyway, he found it necessary to wait for us and follow our route to ensure we didn't get up again.
When we got back to KPL, I went for an evening walk (well away from the hippo hide and the river) to get some exercise. Then we all just relaxed, had a snack for dinner and went to bed.
Another early start and the same slow process at the entrance gate. Our most successful spot was a lion and two cubs. I was driving and saw them quite deep in the bush, sitting on top of a termite mound. They were lazily surveying the surrounding bush and seemed rather uninterested in our arrival, except when we convinced Michael to do his imitation of a lion's territorial call and the male actually flicked his tail, lifted his head and then slumped lazily back down again.
Ivor spotted a pair of buffalo which were quite close to the road, but slightly obscured by bushes. All in all though, we didn't have much more to add to our list from yesterday:
We had lunch back at the chalet. I was keen to play tennis, but the boys didn't show any interest. Then the rain came down so I did some long overdue journal updating. Michael did an oil change on Nyathi and I packed away all our clothes and wrapped up the curios we had bought.
Ivor still has some fine-looking bruises courtesy of the Slide of Death at Sun City:
We got Nando's takeaways for dinner and watched TV, before going to sleep at about midnight.