There was some promise of sun when I first woke up at 06h30, but sadly the cloud soon rolled in. I sat and did some journal writing while Ivor and Michael repaired the GPS cable. They had success and our signal was restored! In the meanwhile, Rosie (the ranger's daughter) asked if she could please scrub our fire-soiled kettle and pot, which I gave to her gladly. We cleaned up all evidence of our campsite, and after saying our goodbyes and paying Rosie for her excellent scrubbing efforts, we set off south again. We ensured the GPS cable was securely taped down and kept a close eye on any rogue branches which might cause damage. I got out at one stage and coaxed some of the overgrowth back over Nyathi's roof, because it was snagging quite badly.
The road emerged at the sea again, and after trying an alternative route back through the undergrowth (and discovering what used to be a great campsite burnt down and in a total state of disrepair) we resorted to returning back to the beach, deciding to head directly south for Ponta de Oura. We drove for quite some time down the beach - twenty to thirty kilometres or so, keeping a close eye on the incoming tide and having a few anxious moments when the sand got really soft, but as usual Nyathi performed admirably and cruised along until we found a suitable turn off inland.
There was no formal perimeter at the south of the park and we seemed to just find ourselves back out in the open again. We drove down to Ponta da Oura and went to Cafe del Mar for a delicious prawn lunch followed by tasty, rich chocolate pancakes and ice cream for dessert. We headed off for the border at about 16h00, taking a wrong turn to start which wasn't ideal because the border closed at 17h00. We made it in plenty of time driving up and down the sandy hills to get there.
It has to be one of the quickest border crossings in Africa ever - it took no more than 15 minutes. The Mozambique side stamped out the carnet, but the SA customs guy said we shouldn't worry even though we asked them to stamp it in. The Mozambiquans were particularly pleasant - great ambassadors for their country.
We decided to to a shared night drive so we put the sleeping board in the cabin and eventually arrived at Shelley Beach where we found a somewhat deserted campsite, but open gates, so we drove in and went straight to sleep.
I was up first and had a wander around the campsite. It was pretty empty, and rather run-down, and reminded me of those old sites we used to go to as children, with massive ablution blocks and caravans packed in like sardines. Anyway, we had lovely hot showers and got ready to leave. However, there was nobody we could find to pay, so we simply left.
We went for a walk at Ramsgate beach and played chicken with the waves crashing over the rocks. We had a scrumptious breakfast at the Waffle House overlooking the lagoon and discovered there are two branches in the UK so we'll have to visit them when we get home!
We made our way down to Port Edward and stopped to have a look at Umtamvuna Lodge for old times' sake and then went on to the Wild Coast Sun. We went water-skiing which was great fun. Michael slalomed first and took a couple of attempts to get up - it is about 5 years since we last water-skied. He really seemed to struggle at first, but about halfway through his session he fell, and decided to try putting his left foot in the forward binding, which made all the difference. I went next and am not sure stylish applied, but I got up on two skis first time and had a great time crossing the wake and trying to 'catch up' with the boat.
Then the entertainment began... Ivor, having never skied before got up first time and promptly fell over and then spent the next few attempts doggedly holding onto the rope while bouncing his backside in and out of the water receiving an Umtamvuna River enema! When he got up successfully - he stayed up - and only fell down again when he took the inside line when the boat was turning. It was all very good fun and Ivor has some massive new bruises to prove it!
We spent the afternoon lazing in the sun, drinking a few beers and trying to shelter from the wind. We wandered along the beach to the hotel and rounded off with some cocktails at the poolside. We drove back into Port Edwards and camped at a site overlooking the sea. We had a braai and cooked steak and ribs - delicious. Michael trimmed my hair for me and I gave him a number one haircut.
We spent the majority of the day at Port St Johns. The drive down there was scenic and I really like the way the Xhosa's paint their homesteads all in one colour, either green, blue, cream, pink or purple. It gives the landscape a much more cheerful appearance, rather than collections of clay houses.
The beach was lovely, although the wind only died down in the afternoon when it became a lot more pleasant. Two local dogs adopted us and wandered with us from the third bay, over the rocks and back to Nyathi. I made tuna mayonnaise for lunch and we all sat on Nyathi's roof in the sun, away from the whipping sand, and stuffed our faces!
We lay down on the far side of the beach with our newfound companions. It was wonderful, except when the one dog wanted to play and I wanted to sleep. Michael and Ivor braved the cold and went for a dip in the sea.
We all had very cold showers to wash of the sand and salt and headed off for Umtata. Umtata is a truly African town with loads of cars, taxis, street sellers you name it and rushing past each other at once, but somehow not colliding.
I drove to East London while Michael and Ivor slept and then Ivor drove to just beyond Humansdorp. His stint was punctuated by a 2am puncture which we all could have down without, but it's the first one for a while, so we won't complain!
Not the best night's sleep as we couldn't get that far far off the road so we could hear and feel when cars and trucks drove past. We were all pretty hungry as we hadn't had anything to eat last night. We stopped at the Storms River bridge and walked across the gorge, which Ivor didn't feel too comfortable about (especially when he looked down).
Then we had a 'Maxi Breakfast' at the restaurant nearby, which was not only very filling (3 eggs, bacon, sausage, mince, mushrooms, tomato, toast, jam and coffee/hot chocolate) but also delicious and it only cost R38 which was great value.
We drove down Nature's Valley and Ivor and I went for a walk along the estuary to the beach. On the way back Ivor dug in the sand to try and discover what kind of little creature made loads of holes in the riverbed.
Then we headed down to Plettenberg Bay, where we visited Greg and Jenny. They are building a very impressive house up on the hill with lovely views of the mountain and the sea. We went down to the beach for a stroll and just nattered about all sorts of inane things. We went and did some shopping ready for Paul and Joy's place and then drove through Knysna (with an obligatory stop at the roadside Cheeseman who sells excellent cheese and always gives you tasters first)!
We had a quick Kentucky Fried chicken to fill the gap and discussed whether we would need fuel or not. Based on the mileage reading Michael said we needn't put in now, so I drove to Ruiterbos. Very very embarrassingly we ran out of diesel about 1.5km before Crane's Crest. We had to call for the Paul and Joy rescue party to bring us some fuel (which Steve, there neighbour from The San campsite, allowed them to siphon from his tractor). So it was a much later arrival than expected, but we all had a very tasty braai and got to bed after midnight!
This morning was spent preparing things for lunch and chatting to a friend of Paul and Joy's called Jannie, who has done so many things in his life, lived in so many different places and made a very entertaining conversationalist. We had an absolutely fantastic lunch with freshly baked bread the piece de resistance!
In the late afternoon Michael, Joy, Ivor and I went for a walk down into the ravine to the rock painting overhang. It's very exciting, as they have only recently discovered this cave, and it has a unique painting, quite clearly showing a ship. Some experts have already taken a brief look, and got very aroused. They are coming again sometime to take measurements, and study it more thoroughly.
We also went to see if the there were any more animal bones or skulls from our 'predator', but there weren't any. We did the steep walk up the hill arriving back at about 18h30, stopping to admire the scenery on a number of occasions!
Then we just relaxed and watched a movie and got to bed around midnight.
Michael stayed on the farm and located (among other things) a shipping agent in Port Elizabeth.
I organised a flight home to the UK and then Ivor and I went and did the tourist thing. First off we went to Highgate Ostrich farm. We were very impressed by the service offered at the farm and our guide, Geraldine, was excellent. We are now much more knowledgeable about all thing ostrich! We fed them and I goaded Ivor into riding an ostrich, which provided loads of entertainment not only for me (as evidenced by my cackling on the video footage) but also for the rest of the tourists in our group.
We stopped off in Oudtshoorn for a delicious light, lunch at Friedl's. We sat outside and soaked up the sun, which was great. We stopped off and bought a lemon meringue pie and some fudge and headed up for the Cango Caves. As I'd been before, Ivor went cave exploring while I sat in the car and caught up on journal entries (after fighting with the computer for 45 minutes).
We bought some raw ostrich eggs en route home and the journey back took us 2 hours! As a result, we only got down to the Garden Route Casino for dinner at about 20h45. They have a 124-dish buffet for just R85 per head. I tried all sort of interesting (and mostly very delicious) game dishes - zebra, rhino, giraffe, nyala and elephant (not so nice). We almost convinced Ivor to eat Mopani worms, but he crumbled and couldn't do it! (Cannot say I blame him).
We gambled at the Blackjack table for a while and then Joy, Ivor and I headed home, leaving Michael and Paul to build their fortunes (or not, as it turns out). We had a nightcap at home, listened to music and got to bed after 02h00.
Didn't sleep particularly well - must have been ALL that food we ate. I told Michael and Ivor they have to eat the whole lemon meringue pie and all the fudge, because otherwise I won't fit into any of my clothing. Ivor went for a long walk all the way down to the waterfall, so he was pretty exhausted and hungry when he got back. We spent the morning doing a variety of things... chasing shipping quotes, checking emails, doing the linen and towel laundry, drawing a revised route on Nyathi's world map (and accidentally spraying permanent marker all over the place in the process), packing up our clothing and getting ready to leave.
Our camera has suddenly stopped working - the lens won't come out. Hopefully we will be able to get it fixed in Johannesburg.
We said our goodbyes to Paul and went into Mossel Bay to collect my air ticket and have a late lunch. The restaurant view was terrific and we spotted a dolphin in the bay. The service was pretty slow , so when my salad arrived I wolfed it down, as I hadn't eaten anything all day and it was already past 16h00. Michael and Ivor had a slightly disappointing pizza.
I spent the first two hours of the journey updating the last of the journal entries - all that remains is to add about eight week's worth of photographs (and the GPS and mileage data) - ouch!!!
We drove into Hermanus in the dark, and hunted around for a camping ground, eventually ending up next to the beach, in a little clearing where people park their cars to go for walks etc. We were pretty tired, so we decided we would just crash out there for the night. We felt a bit like gypsies.
When Sandy and I woke up, around 7-ish, Ivor had gone for a walk, and we joined him up on a nearby dune-top, binoculars in hand. The whole bay was full of whales. We could count a dozen definite individuals - there must have been at least twice that number in total. Those we could see clearly were Southern Right Whales. We also saw several dolphins.
Then we continued on to Cape Town, stopping for a promising, but as it turned out, mediocre, breakfast at a roadside farm stall. We arrived at the Ranozeks just before lunch time.
Ivor and Sandy took advantage of the clear day to take the cable-car up Table Mountain, and then drove Nyathi down to Cape Point, the southernmost point of the Cape Peninsular, where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet.
I (Michael) spent the day at the Ranoszeks, mainly on the phone trying to establish whether we do, in fact, have a berth on the ship for our container, and making arrangements to test whether Nyathi actually fits into a standard 6m shipping container.
When we first arrived in Cape Town a few weeks ago, we had got some quotes for shipping Nyathi from Cape Town to Buenos Aires, the best of which was from Project Freight, totalling about R8500, including the processes at both ends.
We then contacted P&O Nedlloyd in the UK, and they very kindly agreed to assist us by not charging for the freight of a standard 6m General Purpose container from Port Elizabeth to Buenos Aires. We would still be liable to pay port charges and any other expenses involved with the shipping. In return, we would give them appropriate mention on our web-site, link to their web-site, let them use any photographic material for reasonable promotional purposes etc.
Unfortunately, there are no shipping lines between South Africa and South America that offer (or allow) a passenger service, so that put paid to our idea of accompanying Nyathi on her voyage - we will have to fly. This was one of the major factors in our decision to leave Togo with Annmarie and Roger.
P&O in Cape Town insisted that we use a shipping agent (I still think we could have done everything ourselves). We rather randomly chose Dragon Freight from a variety of shipping agents in Port Elizabeth, who ended up charging us R4300(!). Worse still, this only included the exporting side - we intend to try to clear the vehicle through Argentine Customs ourselves. I really find it absurd, though, that the shipping admin costs more than the freight!
Anyway, P&O's kind offer made it very important that Nyathi should fit into a standard container - if it turns out we need a 12m container, or an open-top container, P&O won't pay for the freight for us. We have measured her carefully, and it will be touch-and-go in terms of length. The height is also worrying. We will definitely have to deflate the tyres substantially, and let down the suspension (maybe even pull it down onto the bump-stops with some ratchet-straps).
The Plan is that after our few remaining day with Ivor here in Cape Town, Sandy will fly back to England - Paul and Karen are moving to Australia in March, so it will be nice for her to see them before she goes, plus we need to make alternative arrangements to have our post, bill-paying, etc. managed while we are away.
Meanwhile, I will go to Port Elizabeth and pack up Nyathi ready for shipping, and see her safely into her container. Then I will catch a bus up to Johannesburg, and stay with the Skeens, and fly out to Buenos Aires in time to meet the ship. If we get the timing right, we will only need a few days in a hotel, and then we will have our home back again.
That evening we had a braai at the Ranoszeks'.
In the morning, Sandy went and did a big food-shopping expedition, to restock Nyathi for South America.
Afterwards, the three of us paid a visit to Buitenverwacht Estate, which is one of several wine farms in the Constantia area. We tasted several wines, and bought a few bottles (including a delicious dessert wine), but reluctantly declined to eat lunch at the restaurant at R219 per person.
Instead, we held off for an early supper at the Fisherman's Market in the V&A Waterfront complex - by then we were ravenous and ate ALL the bread before the meal was served.
On the way home, around 11pm, we drove around looking for a strip joint (what better way to celebrate Ivor's last night in South Africa?), but we didn't find it. It was just as well, as we have to be up early tomorrow morning.
Sandy dropped Ivor and me off at the Waterfront at 8am, as the two of us were going on a half-day tour of Robben Island. She spent the morning packing for her flight back to England, and our new food stocks into Nyathi.
The tour was interesting - our tour guide spent 5 years there as a "political prisoner" - he told us he had been a member of Umkonto W'Sizwe (the armed wing of the ANC). Popular interest centres on the little cell where Nelson Mandela spent several of his years there, and predictably there is not much emphasis on, or information about the island's less political history.
The view of Table Mountain from the island is perfect - the classic postcard pictures of the Mountain are taken from this angle.
We saw a big puff adder slipping away into some penguin nesting holes, just as we were getting ready to take the boat back to the mainland. The weather was closing in as we came back into the harbour, and Ivor and I were somewhat amused at the crew's rather poor seamanship as the boat came alongside and they made her fast.
Sandy picked us up in Nyathi, and we went for a very good pizza, ribs, and a beer or two, before going back to the Ranoszeks to finish packing. I took the leftover ribs and pizza for padkos (food for the road) on my journey back to Mossel Bay.
Needless to say, our "plenty of time to get to the airport" turned into a "just in time", and I dropped Sandy and Ivor off at around 5. Ivor was on a stand-by flight, the arrangement being that he would catch a taxi back to the Ranoszeks if there was no space for him (and try again tomorrow). As things turned out, he managed to get a seat without any problem.
The traffic was a nightmare for the next two hours of my trip, and I only arrived at Crane's Crest after midnight.
While at Crane's Crest, I took the opportunity to enlist Wampie's help in checking all Nyathi's oil levels. The new transfer box appears to be working perfectly.
A large group of guests arrived, so instead of staying in The Lodge, I stayed in the spare bedroom in the Cranes' house. The experts on Bushman Painting came en masse too, to do some more in-depth examination of the newly-discovered paintings, especially the ship. From the detail of the ship, and the style and condition of the painting, they conclude it was painted in the mid-1600's. (They were able to date it a bit more precisely, but I can't remember the details). They were very excited about it - apparently the subject matter is unique.
We spent most of the day with them, having a late lunch in the lapa near the pool. There was some debate over the competence of Nissan Patrols, which I tactfully kept out of ...
I tried uploading a website update, but the line kept dying, even in the dead of night.
Wampie and I repaired the tyre that got punctured at 2am a week or so ago, when Ivor was driving . (I have lost count of how many times that particular tyre has been repaired - it was the one that got the BIG bolt through it in Gabon). The plug/patch was worn, so I glued a new patch over the hole, and we fitted in a new tube.
I had made arrangements with Dragon Freight to go to the container company (SACD) in Port Elizabeth to see what I need to do to make Nyathi fit into a container. They close at 4pm, and I only got going at 9:30am, so it was going to be a close thing. 400km at 80km/h is 5 hours, plus an hour to experiment, left only a 30 minute margin to find the place etc. And averaging 80km/h means travelling at 90, which is faster than we normally go.
It didn't help when, only 100km into the journey, the newly-repaired tyre suddenly deflated at 90km/h. In the several seconds it took for me to pull over on the motorway and stop, the tyre was smoking hot, so it took 15 minutes to change the wheel.
A steady 110km/h thereafter saw me in P.E. in good time, though, and the fun began. Firstly, the SACD guys took one look at Nyathi and told that there was no way she would fit, height-wise (but no problem in terms of length). At my request, they measured the height, and waved me goodbye.
It took a bit of persuasion on my part before they were prepared to let me try and lower the vehicle. By now there was a group of SACD staff all curiously looking over the Land Rover.
I drove Nyathi up to the container, nosed her in, until the top of the container was nearly touching her roof. Then I deflated the front tyres almost completely, which provided about 10mm of clearance! I drove in further, in the low crawler gears, in 6x6, and with all diffs locked, hoping that at the low pressure, the tyre-beads would remain stuck firmly on the rims, else the valves would be ripped out of my tubes.
As the back wheels came up the ramp, I stopped and let down the rear air suspension bags, and deflated all 4 rear tyres tyres as well, which was enough to let me drive in all the way, with applause from the onlookers, who were now really entering into the spirit of the challenge.
Unfortunately, their estimate of the length was wrong, she was a good few centimetres too long. I had to squirm my way along the side of the vehicle, up onto the bonnet, and then awkwardly lean over the front to remove the vice-bench off the winch mounting. Squeezing back through the driver's door, I drove forward another 5cm, until I felt her touch the front wall.
The container doors still wouldn't close, so we removed the two spare wheels from the rear. Unfortunately, they are each mounted on three long steel spigots, which are welded onto heavy baking plates. These are permanent fittings, so removing the wheels only gains a few centimetres, but it was enough. When the door closed, Nyathi was solidly in the container, her bush-bar touching at the front, and her spare wheel mountings touching at the back!
It took another 15 minutes or so to gingerly reverse her out, reinflate the tyres and suspension, and remount the spare wheels.
With relief and grateful thanks, I went to find a camp site for the next two nights.
Having been spared the necessity of doing any serious work on Nyathi to make her fit into the container, I spent the next day buying a whole lot of bits and pieces. I stocked up with EP oil and engine oil (no Mobil Delvac 1 SHC available here, it seems, so I settled for a similar Castrol synthetic). I bought my air ticket to from Johannesburg to Buenos Aires and a bus ticket to Johannesburg. I spent the evening securing everything on board for the sea voyage, and packing the few things I would need before seeing the vehicle again.
On Thursday, I drove to SACD again, where I was to meet Ivy (the Dragon Freight representative) and a Customs official, who would seal the container, and exit-stamp our Carnet. I repeated the rather laborious tyre and suspension deflation, and removed the rear spare wheels. I turned the master battery-switch to the off position, locked the doors, and squeezed my way out of the container. It seems that there is some tolerance as regards container construction - there was almost 20mm clearance at the back this time. I was grateful it wasn't the other way around!
It was a rather eerie feeling watching them tie the Land Rover down securely, and then close and seal the doors...
The ship, the PONL Chusan will depart tomorrow, and arrive in Buenos Aires on Thursday, 16 October. After some consideration, we decided that it is unlikely that we will be able to clear Argentine Customs on the Friday, and therefore we should be ready first thing on the Monday morning. My flight arrives in Bs.As. in the wee hours of Saturday morning, and Sandy's at 9am the same morning. So we have booked a hotel in the city for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday nights.
After getting the Carnet stamped, Ivy then drove me to the bus terminal, and at 6pm, I started the 13-hour bus ride up to Johannesburg.
It was a stinky bus ride from hell.
Martina very kindly collected me from Midrand at 8am, and I spent the rest of the first day doing not much at all. Roger and Annmarie have a spare car, which they said I could use while I was in Jo'burg, and I briefly saw Togo when I went to collect it. She seemed very content with the Bucks, and I left with mixed feelings - pleased that she was happy, but a bit aggrieved that she wasn't pining. Like dumping a girlfriend, you want her to get over you, but not too quickly.
There wasn't too much that needed doing over the next week or so - I took the camera in to be repaired, which cost nearly R600. When I got back to the Skeens, and put the battery and Smart-media card back into the camera, the battery was dead, and I realized that I had left the battery charger in Nyathi, so I will be without a camera until Buenos Aires. We did toy with the idea of buying a spare camera, possibly on eBay, and Sandy could bring it back from England with her. We decided against it, as we are already somewhat over budget...
Sandy picked up a whole lot of spare parts from Merlin Land Rover in Nottingham - part of our sponsorship deal- and a complete set of polyurethane suspension and steering bushes from Foley. Luckily she is flying United Airlines, which gives her a 64kg baggage allowance.
I am getting really excited about South America.
But on Wed 15th, in reply to a routine phone-call from me asking whether the ship was on schedule, I received this delightful little note from Ivy at Dragon Freight:
HOPE ALL IS WELL.
I HAVE JUST SPOKEN TO P & O NEDLLOYD WHO HAVE ADVISED ME THAT YOUR CONTAINER POCU-0171371 SEAL: 8219089 WAS SHIPPED ON THE MOL STRENGTH 6903A DUE TO PROBLEMS WITH THE PONL CHUSAN 6813A.
APPARENTLY THIS VESSEL WAS ALSO DELAYED ACCORDING TO PORT CONGESTION AND ONLY SAILED ON 11/10/2003.
P & O NEDLLOYD ADVISED THAT THE MOL STRENGTH 6903A WILL BE IN BUENOS AIRES ON 23/10/2003.
ENJOY YOUR DAY
Enjoy my day! Too late to change our flights, we are now going to have to find accommodation in Bs.As. for an extra week. I sent Ivy a hand-crafted reply.
Anyway, I told myself, cheer-up, things could be worse.
Roger was flying back from Italy, arriving the same morning as my departure, which meant that I could use their car to go to the airport, and then Annmarie wouldn't have to take time off work to fetch him. I left the keys hidden on the tyre when I parked at the airport, and phoned Annmarie to tell her where the car and keys were. I hope things worked out when Roger got there!
My flight was long, but not unpleasant, but I had to spend the six hour stop-over in San Paulo, Brazil, without leaving the airport, as I had left my Yellow Fever vaccination certificate in Nyathi (thank goodness it's not required for Argentina).