South Africa & Swaziland

Written by admin on April 5th, 2009

Sunday 22 February

Early morning we crossed into Kruger National Park in South Africa!  This felt like a big milestone in our trip, having all 3 of us successfully made it there! 

We had not been in Kruger long when we came across a large elephant bull coming toward us on the road.  We switched off to assess the situation as the car in front started to reverse up past us and stop a comfortable distance back.  However, this ele seemed like he might be on a mission to walk all the way to Mozambique and we didn’t really want to go all the way back there, so we sat it out a bit longer.  As he drew close he finally veered off the road.  We carried on, but only got around the next bend before we were faced with an even larger bull bowling along the road (and behind him in the distance another).  Again we decided to play chicken, but on this occasion the bull ele was swaggering with a little more mischievous intent!  We waited and waited and finally switched on and waited and with only a few metres between us revved a little and crept back gently and revved a little and almost within touching distance the ele felt he had made his point and decided we could pass this time! Cherry check out the photo, we think you would have loved it!! 

We arrived at Letaba where we were going to camp the night and it was suddenly very clear we were in South Africa.  Even though we were still in a National Park the shop had far more choice than most we had visited on the way down and the price was vaguely reasonable and not more expensive than shopping in the UK.  After an excessive number of celebration cool drinks and ice-creams, which we hadn’t had since Egypt, we decided we felt happily a little sick.

Wednesday 25 February

We spent the last couple of days in Kruger, which we enjoyed even though it was a bit drizzly much of the time and so we didn’t see huge amounts of game.  The best bit was camping in a bird hide at one of the dams last night, which you get all to yourselves.  There are beds that fold down from the hide walls and behind the hide is a boma (wooden fenced area) where you can have a braai – very cool!  Bob also got a lot of attention, admiring looks and was the topic of much conversation in Kruger!

Leaving Kruger we stopped briefly in Phalaborwa to check email and were once again a bit daunted by the shops; too much choice, fashionable clothes and stuff and so we avoided going in most of them to allow ourselves more time to adjust!

We then headed to Monkey Rehab project and on to a conservation project bordering Kruger where we stayed the night.

Thursday 26 February

We had quite a long and hectic day of project visits.  We left the conservation programme and visited a Horseback/Conservation Programme and then a Reptile Park.  The reptile park was quite interesting to walk around and we held some baby rock pythons that were about to be released.  The only other thing we could fit into the day was pies and ice-cream!

We were running out of time at the end of the day, so stopped off en route to Swaziland at a campsite in the Blyde River Canyon – enjoying that we had enough time in S.A. to have the flexibility to do so.

Friday 27 February

We drove along the Panorama Route to Nelspruit, stopping at God’s Window one of the better known views.  Unfortunately, his window was a little misted up and so we couldn’t see anything through it.

In Nelspruit we made a pitstop to get the bushes replaced on Bob’s steering, as he had developed an occasional violent juddering.  We then carried on to Swaziland, where we met with a volunteer organisation and chatted over a good steak dinner.

Saturday 28 February

We spent the day at the project accommodation where we were camping and had a bit of a catch up day.  One of our old friends from Real Gap, Rachael, was managing the backpackers place, so we (Felicity and Racahel) had a good old gossip.

In the late afternoon we drove up into the hills to stay at the Rock Lodge, a really cool, very remote, community run place.  The whole lodge, ceilings and walls, is basically just boulders and it has great views over a river valley – possibly the most unique place we had stayed on the trip.

Sunday 1 March

Today we hiked down into the valley to go tubing on the river, or in Felicity’s case swimming/partially drowning!  It had rained all night and we could feel the river level rising as we were going down.  When we reached the end point to get out and hike back up the river was visibly higher and Rols mentioned that if it had been that high when we started he probably wouldn’t have gone.  An enjoyable day though.

Tuesday 3 March

We had a couple of days at the projects, sitting on an arrival orientation, visiting project sites, meeting with staff and Felicity gave some first aid training.

In the evening, to end our time in Swaziland, a few of us went up to a sundowner spot, overlooking the Ezulwini Valley and Mbabane.  We watched the sunset and then sat around a fire having a few drinks.

Wednesday 4 March

We stopped off at Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary on the way out of Swaziland, mainly so Felicity could see the quite habituated warthogs and get up close and personal!

We re-entered South Africa and drove through to Injasuthi, a fairly remote National Park campsite in the Drakensberg, but, because we left a bit late, got there in the dark just before 20.00.  We had decided to wing it and hope there wasn’t a gate closing time, but we were not in luck as the Park Gate had closed at 19.00 and was chained and padlocked.  We really didn’t want to drive all the way back along the dirt road to find somewhere else to camp overnight, so decided to park up outside the gate for the night.  It was very dark in the shadow of the mountains and there was a strong wind blowing down the valley.  As we stretched our legs and assessed where would be the best, most flat spot to park the gate swung open behind us and we turned to see who had opened it and hoping they may let us in late.  Shining the spotlight on the half-open gate there was no one there!  We didn’t like this at all, as we were both certain the gate had been properly chained up and locked when we had pulled up in front of it.  We said hello, but got no response and decided to climb back in the vehicle for safety.  Now with half the gate open there was a clear opportunity to enter the Park and carry on to the site.  Felicity preferred to stay in the Landy, so Marc got out and after shining behind the wall on each side opened it fully, so that we could drive through.  We quickly closed it behind us and carried on, still very confused and quite spooked about how suddenly the gate had swung open for us!   

Thursday 5 March

We went for a long hike in the mountains today.  It is always nice, having driven for so many hours to go for a long walk and the Drakensberg are beautiful.  When we got back it looked like it might rain, so we set up the awning and for the first time the side walls as well. This was just in time and we sat in the shelter, having a cup of tea and another first - some of the popcorn we had brought with us from England - and watched the pouring rain.

Saturday 7 March

We drove yesterday from Drakensberg to Durban were we stopped over for the night. Today we stayed in Coffee Bay for the night where we met up with Johan, one of the bikers hat we met up with on the fery from Egypt to Sudan. It was fun to catch up and hear the tales of what he and the others we had travelled with briefly had got up to.

Friday 13 March

After Coffee Bay we travelled down to Cintsa where we spent a few days visiting volunteer projects, catching up and most importantly, making the most of our first opportunity to kite since Kenya.

Buccaneers, where we stayed, has a great view over a river lagoon and then out over the sea.  The wind picked up on a couple of days and the shallow lagoon proved a perfect place to improve our skills, without being hammered by the surf.  We are definitely not pro yet, but at least were riding back and forward for a reasonable distance by the time we left.

Saturday 14 March

Today we drove to JBay, after 250km scenic diversion (wrong route) that Felicity took.  A cool place to surf, or kite if the wind had been up, but to us looked a bit like Margate with tons of surf shops.

Sunday 15 March

We had decided to press on quite quickly along the Garden Route.  We stopped in Knysna for an ice-cream at the harbour and then carried on to nearby Buffels Bay in search of a good camping spot.  We bypassed the backpackers that we had intended to stay at and found a camping ground right on the coast and by a good beach.  This was much wilder coastline than the more built-up town of Knysna, which we were happy about.  After a dip in what had been described as ‘bath tub temp’ sea! we had an early braai and enjoyed the sunset before getting into the tent to escape the cold evening and what became a very windy night.

Monday 16 March

Woohoo! The windy night became a hurricane day, but it didn’t stop us making the southernmost point of Africa, Cape Agulhas, today.  The weather was still pretty crazy at the coast, but all occupants of the vehicle and Bob got well involved in the celebrations of getting here, as we cracked open a bottle of sparkling and took the obligatory photos.

Tuesday 17 March

What most people would consider the end to a trip from the UK through Africa today, as we finally reached Cape Town after almost 6 months.  We don’t want to tempt fate, but we made the whole trip with just one puncture and on the same set of tyres (although now slicks), so we quickly set about finding the best deal we could on some more roadworthy replacements.  Bob was ever so pleased that, due to lack of supply of some cheaper tyres, the best deal for his new feet was a set of BFG’s!

Bob’s feet sorted we then went to the Waterfront to spoil ourselves a little with the most expensive  bottle of water we could buy and two pieces of bread.  Whatever, why should Bob have all the fun – a bottle of wine and some fish, as the sunset!

Wednesday 18 March

A relaxed start to the day and we took the fairly long bus-ride into the City from Bloubergstrand where we were staying.  An afternoon spent enjoying the shops at the Waterfront (Marc mostly sitting outside at a bar) and then we went for a great dinner at Mama Africa’s with live drumming (Marimba) band.

Friday 20 March

Having completed visits to the township projects in Cape Town and couple of meetings we decided to walk up Table Mountain today; ideally in the full heat of the day.  We still made rapid time, probably due to the strict exercise regime we have been on, and made it up in just 1.5 hours!  Hilda also hiked up with us to see the amazing views over Cape Town and surrounds, but wasn’t quite as good on the hiking front, so we had to lug a hippo up on our backs in the end.

When we had descended in the cable car we drove to Boulder’s Bay to see the penguins on the beach, some of which had newborn chicks.  We then carried on to one of the few campsites in the area near Chapman’s Peak and cooked dinner on the lawn mower!

Tuesday 24 March

On Saturday we drove to Langebaan, which is well-known for its kite-surfing and shallow lagoon.  Particularly beautiful was Shark Bay with knee to waist high, quite warm and calm, turquoise waters out for a very long way, and ideal we felt for improving our skills on.  We looked at the wind report, got a bit of advice on conditions and decided to stay on for a bit.  Unfortunately, the forecast winds, which were good, did not really develop into the kind of strength we had hoped for in Shark Bay during our stay, due to the direction and shelter.  We spent quite a lot of time patiently waiting for the winds to pick up, as forecast.  Late on the first afternoon it was just strong enough for Felicity to get some really cool runs in and then just strong enough for Marc to get up for a run out and back before he was pretty much surfing on the sea-bed and we called it a day.

We had to accept that to kite we would have to go to Main Beach, less sheltered and with better wind.  However, in contrast fricking freezing, deep dark waters and no tide to bring your board back to shore just a rip current dragging you down wind away from it, as fast/faster than you can body drag back!  Yes, it seems we are still in a bit of a fair weather kiting stage, but hey we learnt in Zanzibar!  Anyway, we knew the main objective was not to lose the board when we had ridden right out into the channel.  Marc sadly failed dismally at this – after a keen start, on just his second run in he decided to launch himself dramatically in the air and fly downwind for a considerable distance, sadly not taking his board with him.  After about half an hour freezing his tits off trying to get back to his board and then drag to shore, which was also a battle in itself, because of the wind direction, he had pretty much decided bollocks to Main Beach.

Felicity on the other hand had clearly grown in confidence after Shark Bay and tactically kited out and back quite a few times.  She was so confident by her last run in to shore that she dropped the kite and really started to tear along, not gradually slowing as she neared the shallower water, but still racing along.  Reaching the beach she flicked her feet (well one foot out of the bindings) then powered up into a bit of a jump landing on her feet just short of the beach!  Planned - you reckon!!

We did have a great time at Langebaan; relaxing, camping, braais, beach, and some kiting.

Wednesday 25 March

Winds didn’t really warrant us staying on today, so we decided to break up the journey to Namibia and drove to Springbok, about 125km for the border where we camped the night.

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