Monday 7 December 2015

South Africa

And into South Africa we go – the final two countries in our epic journey across the length of Africa.  We stayed for a couple of nights in the iSimangaliso National Park near St Lucia.  After a little confusion as to where exactly we could camp, we settled into our homely spot.  The following day we took our new truck for some game driving around the national park.  Our animal spotting luck continued once again, and with five minutes of leaving our camp in the morning we spotted a number of rhinos next to the road.  We were able to get within a couple of metres of these stunning, and sadly endangered, animals.

Mongoose invasion
St Lucia coastline
iSimangaliso Park
Warning signs
Rhino by the side of the road in iSimangaliso
From here we headed up into the Drakensberg Mountains, our home for the next few nights.  From here we were able to take 4x4’s up and over the Sani Pass into Lesotho.  The Sani Pass marathon was held on the day we left Underberg.  This is where 1,000 crazy runners run 26.1 miles to the top of the Sani Pass and back, over difficult terrain and where the temperature at the start of the race was around 0 degrees Celsius.  Of course, I offered to change the itinerary to allow the group to participate in this optional activity.  But there were no takers….

Sani Pass, Lesotho
Sani Pass road
After the typically British weather in the mountains (cold, grey and raining!), we headed back to the coast.  We stayed by the beach in Cintsa, where we kept ourselves amused by talking walks, horse riding, learning to surf, chilling on the beach, and sampling the very delicious South African wine.
We continued along the coast, staying in Knysna, famous for its oysters.  It would have been rude not to try the local fare whilst visiting this lovely town, so many of us had champagne and oysters.  Overlanding can be tough sometimes….

View from our campsite in Cintsa
Southernmost point of Africa, Cape Agulhas, with Jan & Alison

We then headed to Hermanus, the home of diving with Great White Sharks.  So at 6am we headed to Gansbaai to get a safety briefing – and bacon and eggs – before heading out on the boat to look for these interesting creatures.  It didn’t take very long before a small shark was spotted.  After a little more patience and watching we were lucky enough to have another two sharks come to say hi.  Both were between four and five metres long.  Being in the water alongside them, albeit protected by the cage, was a fascinating experience.  The only downside of the morning was just how cold the water is there.  It is COLD!

Wilma & Jan prepare for their cage dive
Ann, Steve & Mikkel preparing to get in the cage
Great White Shark
After enjoying the lovely beach and town of Hermanus we headed to Stellenbosch, our penultimate night before arriving in Cape Town.  On the way to Stellenbosch we visited the penguin colony at Betty's Bay.   Then a lovely afternoon eating, drinking and being merry in Stellenbosch.

The penguin colony
Penguin with a mohawk
Ann getting some great photos
On our last day we had a short drive into Cape Town.  For our final dinner together we headed out to a lovely restaurant where we sampled local delights such as Springbok, Kudu and Crocodile – and of course lots of South African wine!  A great night was had by all.

And so we have come to the end of our epic road trip through Africa.  It is truly an amazing continent.  Every country is different.  There have been too many highlights to even begin to mention.  We have seen so many wonderful things, met fantastic people.  But all good things must come to an end.
23 people
2 trucks
15 countries
129 Days
21,459 kilometres
1 adventure of a lifetime
Thank you all for making it the trip that it was.  

Mozambique & Swaziland

And so into Mozambique we go.  We noticed an immediate change at the border – the language.  Portuguese is the main language spoken here.  The border crossing was relatively straight forwards, and so after much hilarity at the visa photo taken for me we continued on our way. 

We decided to go a little further than we had planned, as we were running a touch early.  And so we found what I can only describe as the weirdest place to camp ever.  It was like a cheesy holiday park that has been derelict for 30 years.  Someone did describe it (rather accurately) as a perfect setting for a horror film……

Tony saving Lee in the weirdest campsite ever
Welcome to the strangest camp in the world
Luckily we only stayed for one night before heading to the coast, and the lovely beach of Vilanculos.  Here many of us did boat trips to various islands off the coast – visiting the islands and also snorkelling along the beautiful reefs.

Em & Ann snorkel near Bazaruto Island
Vilanculos beach life
We planned to have a seafood barbeque feast on the beach in Vilanculos.  But that didn’t work out exactly as planned…. But a few of the gang had found some great local musicians and organised for them to come along to our camp to play for us that evening instead. 

Em buying genuine Mozambican piri piri sauce at a roadside stall
Our next stop was Tofo, another beautiful beach.  It is famous for swimming and snorkelling with Whale sharks.  Sadly we didn’t see any.  But everyone enjoyed the beach, snorkelling and diving nonetheless.  And we finally got our seafood barbeque…we managed to get through around 10 kgs of prawns and calamari.

Tofo beach
Alison & Jan chilling by the beach
We carried on our journey through Mozambique before heading across another border to Swaziland.
Our first stop was the Shewula Mountain camp.  Run by a co-operative group to help support the local community, we camped with a stunning view over the valley.  Here they made us a lovely local meal and also introduced us to the traditional way of life.

We visited the Mlilwane Wildlife Park, the oldest wildlife park in Swaziland.  There is an abundance of wildlife here, but no large predators.  As such, we were able to walk through the park and also hire mountain bikes to cycle around.

Lee was so easily replaced with a paper plate!
Sadly, our trusty truck Calypso, is not allowed to carry passengers in South Africa.  So we had to say goodbye to her in Swaziland.  It was a very sad moment of course.  But the owner of Odyssey, Pete, came along to pick up Calypso, and he made me drink lots of gin, which made saying goodbye to Calypso so much more bearable!  So goodbye Calypso and Hello Junior, our rented truck for the final couple of weeks in South Africa…..

Tuesday 1 December 2015


Our first stop in Zimbabwe was Matopos, famous for its Rhinos and national park.  Poaching is still a major problem here as rhino horn can fetch up to $100,000 per kilo and an average horn weights 10 kgs.  However, Zimbabwe has introduced a shoot on sight policy and there are over 50 rangers constantly patrolling the rhinos in order to protect them. 

We had the opportunity to trek after the rhinos and were lucky enough to see seven.  We also saw the amazing rock formations in the national park and the cave paintings from thousands of years ago.

Andrew getting a good viewpoint for the rhinos
David getting a good shot of the rhino
White rhino
A short drive took us to Antelope Park, a private game reserve.  We spent a few nights here, enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of the camp and getting up close and personal with the wildlife.  Antelope Park have been running a program over many years to try and reintroduce lions back into the wild.  As such, we were able to walk with lions that are used to humans, as well as witness lions being fed.  Some of the group also went out at night and were lucky enough to see lions hunting.

Alison playing with an elephant
Alison with a lion
Jan stroking a cat
Sissy and her horse
Steve playing with an elephant
Tony & Lee at one with the wildlife
To entertain us we created a hair dressing salon.  Tony went for a purple Mohawk, whilst Bruce decided on purple facial hair.  Purple was the only hair dye available at our salon.

Bruce having his facial hair dyed purple
After all the fun with wildlife, we had a bit of culture, and visited Great Zimbabwe, the second oldest historical site in Africa – only second to the pyramids of Egypt and the north of the continent.  Myself and Tony stayed behind to do breakfast for the group.  There were a lot of monkeys around trying (and sometimes succeeding) to steal our food.  But we were prepared with our water pistols! We also made a special breakfast for our Irish contingent….

Horse riding was not available so we improvised and used Tony.  It turns out Tony hasn't been broken in, and so Sissy fell off.
Irish breakfast - green porridge with a potato on top
Then we were off to the Bvumba mountains.  A beautiful spot for walks and relaxing, and our last stop in Zimbabwe before heading to the beaches in Mozambique…

Em & Ciara taking refuge from the flies at a lunch stop
Leanne & Ciara having lunch under a mozzie net to try to avoid the flies

Friday 13 November 2015

Zambia & Botswana

From Malawi we headed to Zambia and a bit more animal spotting at South Luangwa National Park.  We stayed at a lovely campsite on the bank of the river, where we could see hippos and elephants amongst other animals.

Monkeys in the camp at South Luangwa
Walking safari in South Luangwa

A couple of drive days took us to Livingstone and the mighty Victoria Falls.  The campsite was very nice, it had not one but two swimming pools!  One overlooking the Zambezi River, the other in the gardens.  Unfortunately, Zambia is having severe electricity shortages at the moment and power is not supplied for 8 hours every other day.  Which means most places run their electricity from their own generators every other day.  So the nice peaceful campsite sounded more like the runway at Heathrow every other day.

It is dry season at the moment, so the water levels on the Zambia side was pretty low.  But that did mean that people could go to Devils Pool – a natural rock pool on the top of the falls where you can swim right to the very edge of the falls and look over.  The rocks form a natural barrier to stop people going over the edge.  But the rocks don’t stop cameras from going over the edge….

The water was more impressive from the Zimbabwe side of the falls, so many people took a trip to Zimbabwe.  Not only to see the falls, but to enjoy a typical overlanding activity – high tea at a fancy hotel!

Overlanding has gone posh
Bruce & Lee having high tea
There was lots going on at Victoria Falls, helicopters over the falls, walks, Devils Pool, white water rafting, microlight flights.  But we still managed to find time for some pool action and water fights.  The water pistols we bought were a great investment – hours of fun!

Lenny & Ciara
Lee & Bruce enjoying an iced coffee
Still a way to go!
After three days of enjoying all that Livingstone and Victoria Falls had to offer, we headed to Botswana.  We spent a couple of nights at a campsite on the river, a very beautiful and serene spot – until 3am when the hippos started chatting amongst themselves.  We took a boat safari along the river, spotting lots more wildlife along the way.

Boat safari in Chobe
Tony & Ciara relaxing on the river safari
We then spent a couple of nights at Elephant Sands – a camp & lodge in the plains of Botswana.  They have a water hole for the elephants, and as there is such a water shortage across the region at the moment, there were constantly elephants walking around the camp looking for the water.  Luckily they also had a TV there, so we were able to watch the World Cup final.  A little difficult at times to hear the commentary over the noise of the elephants… But well done New Zealand! 

An elephant came into the bar for a drink
We also celebrated Halloween at Elephant Sands.  Pumpkins and fancy dress outfits are a bit difficult to find out here, so we improvised.  Pumpkin carving became, pumpkin, melon, squash or apple carving.  And we all made masks using paper plates.  Wilma’s zebra was by far the most creative.

Halloween pumpkin, melon, squash and apple carving
Wilma and her paper plate zebra mask
Lee & Tony having a swimming race... minus the water in the pool
Killian keeping cool in the heat of Botswana
The gang at Elephant Sands
Tony & Killian hiding so the elephants don't see them
We left Elephant Sands to head to Maun, where we had one nights before heading into the Okavango Delta.  We took traditional Mokoro boats in, and then set up a bush camp in the middle of the delta.  Many people also took a helicopter flight over the delta to appreciate the scale of this beautiful area.
After this, it was time for us to leave Botswana, heading to one final overnight stop in Nata before crossing the border into Zimbabwe. 

Jacq admiring the many types of flora in the delta
Killian in the helicopter above the delta
Mikkel & Geoff being poled through the delta
Sissy & David
Steve & Andrew looking comfortable in their mokoro on the delta