A Travellerspoint blog

South Africa

Day Twelve - Don't piss on the cheetah

4th October 2011

sunny 28 °C

Up at 5.30 and out by 6. And boy was it worth it! After an hour we came across some stationary cars who had heard there were cheetahs nearby. At this point they were nowhere to be seen. The convoy trundled onwards until suddenly the lead car stopped. Twenty yards in front of him was a female cheetah. Suddenly along side the 6 or 7 cars appeared four fairly mature cubs wandering along after mum. We were the last car, and while everyone in front took amazing pictures of super close cats we were watching a small child smash a plastic dinosaur against the window of his fathers’ Toyota Hilux. Grrrrrrr. We thought about overtaking and cutting in but being that we’re British we thought twice.

After ten minutes the cats had all scarpered to our right and into the bush. One appeared fifty metres away and I began snapping away. As I took grainy and blurred pictures at full zoom I heard a rustling immediately in front of the drivers’ door. As I lowered my camera there was the mother creeping through the thicket! So close that my camera couldn’t focus! Somers performed similarly trying to view the cat through the binoculars before realising they were wholly unnecessary! The cheetah trotted around behind us as one by one her cubs followed her. Mum was hunting! Crouching she moved forward one paw carefully placed after another. All the time less than 6 feet from Redvers. Suddenly her focus changed as there was a series of loud barks from across the river. Two black backed jackals came running across to confront her; she didn’t want a fight, the hunt had been scuppered and diplomacy required a tactical retreat. There we sat watching her and her cubs sitting, watching, about 30 metres from us.

Around this time Laura revealed that she had needed the loo for some time and, if she waited any longer, may spring a leak. What a pleasure for us blokes, in the most trying of circumstances we can whip it out and the jobs a good’un. Somers however was more than aware of both her limitations as a lady and the hungry cats’ just metres from us. She searched for a vessel. That vessel came in the form of a tall coffee mug. I’ll save the vivid descriptions of a perched Somers desperately trying not to spill a drop but suffice to say, twice I opened the door, and twice the thirsty sands of the Kalahari received a full cup.

We made it back to the main gate by lunch to arrange our first border crossing. (The Kgalgadi becomes one huge no mans land if you choose to go through customs at its gate.) We sailed through but with no space in the South Africa camp site we booked a spot in the more basic Botswana site (no water, no lights, no electricity, come to think of it no actual site to camp other than a bush filled field.) We were out of SA and wanted to head for Namibia but you can camp in Botswana without officially crossing the border.)

Later on, news of a lion meant we drove for our lives along the Nossob river to Kij Kij waterhole. We found him and watched him sleep as the sun set. It was approaching 6pm and our camp gates closed at 7 meaning our maths was put to the test. What’s the shortest amount of time required to cover 37kms without breaking the legal speed limit of 50kph whilst still ensuring you see the lion stand up, roar, chase its dinner, reproduce and make cute cat faces? We stayed until ten past and then legged it.

Posted by ibeamish 23:01 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Days Ten and Eleven - Just Another Day in the Desert

2nd and 3rd October 2011

We spent day ten driving up the bed of the River Nossob. It gets wet once in a blue moon, by that I mean the last time you could get your knees wet while stood in it was 2000 and before that was 1974! We saw plenty of game but no cats. Braai, beer, bed.
Day eleven was the jopurney from Nossob to Mata Mata. Another pleasant day. We saw Red Hartebeest, Wildebeest, Kori bustards (the heaviest flying bird on the planet,) Ostrich and eighteen chicks (even heavier but no flying,) another mummy cheetah with her ‘yoofs’ and a whole load of Gemsbok. (Super-cool looking, swash buckling Samurai style warrior beasties that act a bit like horses with five foot javelins super glued onto their heads.)
Another swim, another braai, another beer and five days of journal caught up on.

Posted by ibeamish 22:57 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Day Nine - Off for a safari in the Kalahari

1st October 2011

sunny 30 °C

We hit the road early doors and stopped briefly in Upington for two things, 1.) our new security system. (A motion sensor that sets off an alarm when you move in front of it, we’ll leave it in the car to scare burglars away, its not attched to anything and its barely audible outside of the vehicle, can’t see how it can fail really...) and 2.) some feather pillows. Fan dabi dozy!

Next stop the Kalahari. Pulled a beauty to get 66% off everything we do for the next four days, I told them my new South African ID number. It was new because I made it up five seconds after they told me the difference in price between South Africans and Brits, and two seconds before they asked me what nationality I was. Easy peasy. Feeling flush, we booked an evening game drive and hit the pool for an hour or so. Then we went to get the beers in.

So there we are, all lazy from chilling by the pool; sauntering, beers under arm, around the reserve shop with our wads of cash that we’d saved at the gate, when an ornately painted ostrich egg should catch my gaze and draw me in. I reached out and as I picked it up, didn’t notice the string attached to it. The same string that also happened to be looped around another, equally ornate and horribly fragile, candle holder. As soon as I’d knocked it, my spider senses kicked in. Aware that my arms were full (beer in one, egg in the other) I put my delicate right foot out to break the candle holders’ fall and maybe even gently ‘keepy-up’ it back onto its’ shelf. The lethargy however, and the fact my timing is only ever good during one in ten attempts, ensured that today I met that candle holder fully on the toe. It didn’t break at my feet, it went like a rocket across the shop floor behind the till point, through the cashiers legs and into the wall where it shattered. Not being sure whether to laugh or cry, I giggled and then apologised weakly. “You braik it, you bai it,” said the Dutch chick behind the counter. My smile disappeared. Five awkward minutes later, I’d explained to the shop manager about increasing profitability through sensible stacking policies. We had our beers, we’d outstayed our welcome.

Two lions, one mummy cheetah and three ‘ickle ones, a jackal, a few spotted owls and job lot of springbok and we’d finished the drive. No braai tonight though. Beer, pasta and pesto seasoned with sand.

Posted by ibeamish 22:55 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Day Eight - Broken principles and Augrabies Falls

30th September 2011

sunny 29 °C

Day 8 Broken principles and Augrabies Falls 30/09/11
Today was a good day we were heading to some super cool water falls and on the way found a little village where, just under a hundred years ago, some missionaries had decided to build a small cathedral based on some pictures they’d seen in a book.

As a prologue to the next bit, so far Somers and I have been ‘tight’ with the locals. Every kid, and a quite a few oldies, has their hand out. Be it ‘Give me money’ or ‘Give me something,’ they all want. Everything we’ve heard and read says don’t, and I agree. The poorer folk of these places can’t rely on handouts and must realise that they must enter the modern market place. I’m a white guy in Africa with a half empty land rover. Offer me tat and I’ll probably buy three, beg and I’ll look you in the eye and politely say no. So far I haven’t dispensed with a begging penny.

And then we pulled into Pella, home of the village cathedral. We were a little bit unsure of where this great structure was, despite the size of the village and the lack of two storey buildings to obscure the view. Anyway, a long story short, a kid came over and told us. He also explained where the Orange River was and then sold me down it with a story about him playing rugby with his mates and his team desperately saving up for a kit. We gave him five rand (40p.) He asked for more, and said we had to give his mate the same too. Laura asked him whether he’d like to say thank you. He said nothing as he threw a wicked look, turned and walked away. We were gutted that we’d broken our rule.
(As a footnote, there are three, beggars not ‘ Pellatians,’ in Liverpool that I used to see regularly, they would all say please, they would all say thank you and they'd normally tell you a joke too. If we all team up, and get the three of them over here for a seminar, we could end world poverty...)

We got to Augrabies Falls in the afternoon. We had a swim in the pool, braai’d, drank beers and watched the sunset on the falls, as the dassies (80%guinea pig, 10% rat, 10% beaver) mooched on the rocks.

Posted by ibeamish 12:06 Archived in South Africa Comments (1)

Day Six - Swimming with sharks (almost)

28th September 2011

snow -13 °C

Today was a day of sorting stuff out. We had some shopping to do. We were in desperate need of a few things including guide books, a camping mat and most importantly, travel scrabble. A Swahili speaking chap in Kenya beat Oli and I in 1993. Revenge is best served cold and he has no idea we’re coming...

With boring stuff done Emma asked would I like to go for a swim. At this point I'll introduce you all to Emma Alsop,vet extraordinaire. We lived with Emma in Durban before she moved to the McVeigh practice in the cape. Apart from being a vet and an awesome laugh, she swims for fun in some of the most shark infested waters in the world. Not only that, she breaks world records in doing so, recently knocking half an hour off the previous world record for swimming from Cape Town to Robben Island (Mandelas’ old haunt) and back. That’s about 16kms without a wetsuit through water that gets to 9oC and a place that Great White sharks call home (and dinner time apparently.) In my book that means she’s a world record holding mentalist so the invite couldn’t be refused really.

I got my trunks out (shorts, don’t get excited) and Emma had lent me a fetching red cap. At this point I should probably announce that the same morning a guy got eaten by a shark in Muizenberg. That’s not as far away as I'd have liked but did add some intredipidity to the affair. This was it... Emma had chosen Clifton beach, there are four beaches at Clifton and one of them is for chaps of a chap-o-philic nature. It didn’t matter because a.) sexuality aside, with my pallid white flesh, slender physique and newly added man handles I was attractive to all beings, they’re not made of wood, and Somers agreed. And b.) when I got out of the ocean I’d be a shivering mess for a while with my genitals back where they began life somewhere near my kidneys.

Not to be a wimp, Somers took a piccie of Emma and I, declined once again to join us and watched as we hit the Atlantic. I took it like a man, straight in, only one girly squeak and we were swimming. The view was stunning, out to sea the sun was dipping and inland the hills glowed in its evening warmth with Table Mountain looming in the background. This was fantastic, and as I started to lose feeling in my upper body, I couldn’t help but think how sublime the scenery looked. As I clawed at the water, my brain contracting and my lungs suddenly asthmatic, I tried not to think of the sharks. (I’d already seen the YouTube aftermath of the guy getting eaten that morning, the bystanders videoing the 15m shark circling the rescue boats, its’ fin protruding intermittently.) I may have panicked slightly. I put my head down and started ploughing through the water trying to keep up with Em. When I put my painfully cold head back above the surface I’d started swimming in a curve, out to sea. By this point, I have to say that I’d embraced the magic, experienced the thrill, and braved the cold. I had the t-shirt and now it was time to get the f out. I’d been swimming for about seven and a half minutes! We turned for home and I swam for my life. Back on land I shivered like a Zulu in the arctic, I held on to all that was dear to me to try and warm him up but he wasn’t risking coming out again just yet.

Warm showers all round and another boozy evening.

Posted by ibeamish 11:48 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Day Five – Southward bound and the turn for home

27th September 2011

sunny 24 °C

Last night we met a couple of guys from the UK who had come down from Cairo on their motorbikes. It was their summer holiday between terms and they had nothing better to do! Naturally they carried all they needed in their panniers; I laughed as I produced cold beers from our onboard fridge (I did have to move the selection of cold meats and cheeses before I could get to them though.) Anyway the best thing is one they were called Jim and Humphrey. I’d never known a Humphrey before today, he was a terribly nice chap but with a name like that I doubt he was educated in a state comprehensive...

So off we went all of a few km’s to the most southern tip of Africa. Not to lose the romance but it looked a little like any other rocky shore line and once again plans for swimming the ‘two ocean traverseTM‘ were shelved; mostly because it was choppy but a little bit because the water was bloody freezing. We did have a paddle though and I’m proud to say we straddled the two oceans like we were riding a naughty stallion. However with the repeat avoidance of ‘crazy’ swimming adventures, we’re clearly not getting any younger. Content with that, we popped to the Cape Agulhas lighthouse for a tour and some morning tea. (The scones were average but the tea was nice.)

After Agulhas we had to turn for home. The only way out was north so this is it; we’re on our way! The afternoon was spent on a cliff overlooking Hermanus Bay. From our lofty position we watched Southern Right whales doing back flips in the ocean. Proper boss.

Later on we made it to Cape Town where we met Alasdair and Emma and went for dinner in a restaurant called La Colombe in Constantia. It was very, very, very nice. Five courses all paired with wine and a chap called Roussouw seemed to like it so much he gave it three stars. (I’m told that in the restaurant business that’s very good. I’ve stayed in three star hotels before and their food is normally average, I’ve even seen a lad behind the counter in McDonalds’ with four stars on his badge so...)

Back home we had a few catch up night caps and called it a day.

Posted by ibeamish 11:43 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Day Four – Anticlimatic walks and as far south as we can get

sunny 24 °C

Went for a walk to see the great Storms River Mouth crash down dramatic waterfalls in a hellfire of fury into the ocean only to get there and find the bridge to the view point was closed. We got close and even though we didn’t see it, I could sense that it was amazing. Got back to camp and told some Dutchies that the walk was pointless, they schmiled as Dutchies do and carried on regardless.

Nipped into Plett for some beach fun and laughed at the beginner surfers missing every wave. I can’t surf either, but I was dry...

Went to Knysna and bought some world class Argentina flip flops for two quid, leftover from the world cup no doubt but a definite result.

Somers almost lived the dream with her 5.7km coast that broke all the rules I laughed as we then got pulled over again for Police Engagement #3 this time they were very polite, and although they had clipboards and there were lots of them I think they just wanted a chat.

Anyways, today was largely a day of driving, but we have internet access and are camping ten kms from the southernmost point in Africa, superlatives will abound tomorrow, for now its dark and we have beers that need drinking.

Posted by ibeamish 11:38 Archived in South Africa Comments (1)

Day Three - Addo Elephants and where on earth is East?

sunny 22 °C

The next morning we took a leisurely breakfast and drank the juice of some freshly pressed freshly picked, home grown navel oranges grown on and Alysons’ Farm. The supply chain from here ends in Waitrose in the UK, eat your hearts out! The foals, in the paddocks surrounding the house, were on their third or fourth breakfasts by this point. All around us the smell of jasmine fought a sweetened war against the citrus that had been so strong the night before. Our parting gift from the Price family was a crate of grapefruit fresh from this years’ harvest. If this is traveling in Africa; it’s going to be hard...

From here we went, literally, just round the corner to Addo. Elephants of all size in their hundreds, at the watering holes, youngsters tussling, babies splashing and bachelors swimming (One deffo had a go at backstroke.) Kudu grazed and we got some cool photos as well as a few big leopard tortoises doing their thing, which I think is just walking, slowly. Another days driving ended in Storms River Mouth Nature Reserve where we watched the sun set whilst our food cooked on the braai and we drank some bubbly to celebrate the (eventual) successful start to our journey.

At this point, bellies full and slightly drunk, we stared up and saw the Southern Cross (star formation) in the clear night sky. So as lovingly patronising as ever I asked Laura which way we were facing, and how could she prove it. She correctly said south and pointed to the cross, result! Some more star gazing led to the question of which way does the earth turn. An hour later we had one of the aforementioned grapefruit, now skewered, adorned with some expert ‘world map’ artwork to explain why the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. It took some convincing that ‘east’ isn’t a place and that even if you live in the most eastern part of the Far East you can still be west of the rest of the world.

As a footnote, I also broke the coasting record with a cheeky 4km stretch on entering the Garden Route. You can’t imagine the extreme excitement that ensued. Worth mentioning, and it’s happening as I write but is really in tomorrows’ blog, Somers has just managed a 5.7km run entirely in neutral, on the road from Plettenburg Bay to Knysna. Sadly however she dipped to an entirely unacceptable 48kmh so there’s no praise for her here. Rules are rules.

PS. Tomorrow we’ll be making time by heading west.

Posted by ibeamish 11:23 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Day Two - In search of Rennie

sunny 25 °C

We found a new pet dog this morning who was very cute except for the mange. Obviously dogs need walking so we went for a walk in Coffee Bay. We did get bored of the dog a little bit and to be honest I’m not sure it was true love she gave us. Either way it had become mutual. We had to leave. With that we drove to ‘The Hole in the Wall’, but plans to swim through the ‘hole’ were shelved when we saw the four metre waves coming through it...

Spent the rest of the day driving down the N2 through the Eastern Cape and crossed the Great Kei and Great Fish rivers through some stunning Eastern Cape scenery with undulating hills and lush forest transacted by winding rivers in their cliff lined valleys.

Already our fuel economy is improving, mostly because we’ve invented the game, “Who can coast for the longest without dropping below 80.” Naturally I’m winning with a 3.1km dream ride down the Great Kei Pass. Its early doors so watch this space.

Police encounter #2: We got pulled over for what we thought was speeding (technically ‘super-coasting.’) One look at the English passport, two different facial expressions, (neither of which belonged to us and both meant confused) and we were back on the road.

As the sun dipped behind the rolling hills of Addo Elephant Park we arrived at the great Rennie Prices’ citrus farm. A raconteur and joke teller of note, Rennie welcomed us to the home he shares with his wife Alyson and their children. We sat on their veranda sipping pina coladas, the rich sweet smell of citrus blossom filling the air, as one half of his prized cows’ arse slowly roasted in the oven.

Posted by ibeamish 11:10 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Day One - And they’re off...

all seasons in one day 22 °C

We awoke in all too familiar surroundings. In our bed. In our bedroom at the McVeighs.

But today was the day. We had a date booked with Trevor and Norman at Allied Auto Electric at 660 something Old North Road but more about them shortly.

Firstly we had to depart. Now, with Amanda McVeigh involved, this was never going to be a ‘through the back door in the dead of night’ kind of an affair. If the car started it would be an improvement. And Redvers didn’t let us down, turn key/familiar chu-chu-clink-clink/jump start again (with new method involving bridging the terminals with a spanner)/ and back in the game. Unorthodox start aside, we were mobile again.

As we crept forward, up the tree lined driveway, the electric gate slid aside. Our South Africa flag billowed from the passenger door. Our British Union ‘Will and Kate’ commemorative Flag billowed proudly from the drivers’ window. As we breached the gate, the children McVeigh (James, Toosh and Ruari) emerged toting streamers which exploded from either side of us. As Titi (the eldest of the kids,) ever centre stage, proudly exclaimed “Goodbye!”

An hour later we were with Trevor. First of all let me tell you. If you ever have a problem with your cars’ electrics and you happen to be in Durban, go to this man. Over the next two hours about 16 years worth, and seventeen kilometres, of DIY Landrover electrics were stripped from old Redvers and his brain was rewired with a few gizmos to make him think straight when we wake him up on those cold dark mornings. He can now run the fridge, charge the laptop (I’m writing while we drive across the Transkei) and, most importantly, when we turn that key, he roars to life with a guttural verve that only a two and a half litre injected turbo diesel engine can. On starting he still manages to kick out his standard plume. (The kind of stuff you’d expect to appear from the fireplace as Dick Van Dyke falls out of the chimney and says ”’Ello Mary Poppins!” )

With the brain functioning, Redvers was a new man. We parted company with Trevor and Norman, armed with a few electrics related tips should we come unstuck over the coming months.

We were off! And what a start, we broke from the gates like a champion unleashed on his maiden run. So quickly, in fact, that Somers ignored the traffic officer marshalling his subjects at the Umgeni Road/N2 junction. At this point in time, somewhat fortunately I had jumped into the back to sort our stuff out and make sense of Redvers’ inner belly.

As Somers drove past the floundering officer she had to stop for the oncoming traffic. This pause was time enough for (Traffic) Officer Johnny ‘I love the black man’ Durban to catch up to us. His arrival began with him angrily announcing that he had been ignored and would be charging the small lady sat in the drivers’ seat of our not inconspicuous, jerry can and spare wheel crowned, behemoth that screamed ‘tourists in Africa.’ The lady protested, politely explaining that she hadn’t seen him. “I’M TOO BLACK FOR YOU AREN’T I! THAT’S WHAT IT IS, I’M TOO BLACK, I’M GOING TO CHARGE YOU. IT’S BEACUASE I’M TOO BLACK!” he screamed inches from Somers’ face whilst flapping his police book like a granny with a winning lotto ticket. A pause. “Don’t talk rubbish,” came Somers’ perfect retort. This was enough to confuse Officer Johnny and with close to perfect timing I entered the stage from the back. (The beauty of window tints is that no one can see you lurking.) I jumped into the passenger seat and joined the argument. “What’s going on?” He started on again about being black, which to be fair, he was, but up against two poms his will broke, “Oh, just go,” he announced waving vaguely in our intended direction of travel. We pulled off and left him playing with his fake aviators and whatever else he needed to scratch. And so Police Engagement #1 came to a satisfactory end. (I think we were too white for him...)

A good days' traveling through the Transkei with excitement added by a few near misses with the local wildlife as we arrived at Coffee Bay just after dark. Of these, the cow was not technically a miss. She trundled across the road on a blind corner and seeing our lights, carried on as normal. Thinking I’d stopped, (I hadn’t quite,) I may have gently tenderised the rump steak region on that one and she deffo went to ground. Redvers survived and so will the cow.

We stayed at the Coffee Shack had a few beers and world class pizza then hit the hay in a rain storm.

Posted by ibeamish 11:03 Archived in South Africa Comments (1)

The False Start

sunny 19 °C

After a quiet 'leaving do number 6' on tuesday night we spent forever on getting Redvers ready. I didn't feel good.

The boys at Landy Centre serviced him and put in some brakes that slow the moving car down which will be a joy. The guys at 4x4 megaworld installed some pimped yellow shock absorbers and the springs kindly donated by Thys Le Roux, hero. A chap called Hugh put a Turboflo in our air pipe which makes a vortex. This use of the word vortex means that it can only be a very scientific explanation, the shortened version is that Redvers can now achieve warp speed with apparently reduced emissions. (Our emissions being roughly equivalent to that of a 1910 coal fueled power station.)

Anyway we made it to the hospital for a farewell fanfare and after much hugs and kisses we climbed aboard, strapped in and prepared for lift off. The key turned, chu- chu- clink clink clink. Bollocks.

Just as our crescendo peaked Redvers was dead. Laughter, photos, disappointment.

We are however brainiacs and using such genius skills, jump started him (just about) from the second battery. We spent all afternoon with an autoelctrican called Trevor and even went for a ride in his dads landy. He's connected a gas line into the fuel line so he burns butane and diesel which is proper boss because now his car does 15 to the litre and 0-100 in about 8 seconds. I also nearly wrote off an old dear in a corolla doing 80kmh round a badly judged corner... Redvers can do 0-100kmh in a leisurely downhill one and a half minutes.

We phoned John McVeigh and asked if we could have one more leaving party, and a bed.

If at first you don't succeed...

Posted by ibeamish 10:55 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

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