Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Cape Town - post tour

First day without the truck and we headed off to Robben Island. We pre-booked tickets while stopped in Livingstone as we heard that it was very popular. In hindsight that was a very good decision as the tours for the next 2 days were cancelled due to boat maintenance and rough seas. When visiting the island you are pretty much herded onto waiting buses and then an onboard guide takes you on a tour. The bus component takes around 2hr to complete and it is definitely very informative. Perhaps information overload. At the conclusion of the drive component a former prisoner of the island took us on a tour through the cell blocks, and depicted what life was like in prison in Nelson Mandela's stay.
The quarry where the prisoners worked.
The view back towards the mainland.
Our guide
The 'recreation' area where the rocks were broken
After arriving back in Cape Town, we spent the remainder of the day walking around the 'Victoria and Albert waterfront' adjacent to the marina. It was really nice to be back in a familiar westernised shopping centre. The day finished with another group dinner. This time at a pizza restaurant up the road from the hostel. We hadn't realise it but it was trivia night and just for fun we separated into teams and joined in. Our team won the first round, and came second to the other group from our truck in round 2. It was then that we realised that the prize was tickets to a concert being held long after we were to leave Africa.

The next day we had booked onto a cycling trip with Daytrippers that visited The Cape of Good Hope. The group was small and on the way to the Cape we stopped at Boulders Beach to visit a penguin colony. These are African penguins and have small dots on their bellies and pink bits around the eyes. Nearly all of them were malting ready for summer. While wandering around we also saw a whale having some fun in the bay, which was an impressive sight, albeit a long way away.
The whale doing leaps out of the water
The rest of the drive down the coast was quite spectacular with scenery and included a few baboon stops. It seems these guys like to sit in the middle of the road. When we arrived at the gates to the National Park we all decided to save the cycling until after lunch as we would be riding straight into a fierce headwind.

At the lunch stop, we were surprised to see Pip & Craig who arrived as part of their Dragoman overland tour. We'd travelled with them the first 3 weeks of the trip until Livingstone where they had changed onto Dragoman, and we stayed with Acacia. It was a good opportunity to line up dinner and a wine tour for our last few days in Africa.
We drove to the Cape of Good Hope seeing some Ostrich along the way. There were around 100 other tourists all trying to get a photo with the sign, so we snuck around the back and then battled the wind as we walked along the cliff top to Cape Point. There were heaps of cute little furry things called Rock Dassies sunning themselves along the path. They didn't seem too phased to have us walking by. At Cape Point we noticed the park guards have these massive sticks and were walking along the roof of the buildings. It seems the Baboons like to launch themselves off the roofs or anything high and try and take food straight out of your handsYep, it was a little windy
Clifftop walk
The very cute Rock Dassie
This little baby was taking its first rather wonky steps. A spot of grooming beside the track
From Cape Point we then jumped on the bikes and cycled back to the gates. The first section was easy, all downhill and almost no pedalling required. Unfortunately the last few kilometres were quite different. All uphill and into a strong wind. A few of the gusts came close to blowing us straight off the road and it didn't help we also met some of our friends from the hostel who had hired a car and found us struggling up the hill and offered us some encouragement.That night we moved out of the hostel and into a hotel in the centre of town. To celebrate having our own reliable hot water, fridge and TV, we grabbed some takeaway from the Italian restaurant across the road and opened a bottle of Sparky's Merlot!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cape Town - the last day on tour

Packing up the tents and cooking equipment took forever today. For the first time Jacques and JP didn't hurry us up. We were all a little sad realising that today was the last day and tonight we would all be sleeping in different places. As a result the drive down was quite subdued, that was until we saw the unmistakable Table Mountain far across the bay.
Our last official group activity was a tour of Langa Township. We were picked up by the local guide and driven to the Township where we had a walking tour through all the different types of housing. It was a strange and uncomfortable feeling being in the township. For us we felt like we were intruding into the lives of people that call this area home. If it hadn't been a part of the trip we probably wouldn't have done it. On the positive side it was very interesting and humbling to see the different standards of living and how some of the newer government housing incentives seemed to be working, if only for a few lucky people.A row of bathrooms
A new football stadium in the background
At the end of the walking component, we went to a Shebeen. Typically this is a place where men congregate, but the brewer is usually female. Exceptions are made for tourists. We all had a wary sip of the local brew and decided to leave the rest of the pail for the localsOur tour leader proving that it is drinkable.
What was left in the pail after we had tried it!
The children of the township were generally very friendly but we were soon to learn that they really only want your drink bottle. There is an initiative where money is given for recycling and tourists always have water bottles!

The highlight of the tour was definitely lunch. We were taken to a local Braii restaurant which was packed. It seems to be where all the tours come for lunch as amongst the crowd there was magically a spare table for 20. The locals were also arriving in huge numbers and bringing with them eskies of their own drinks. It looked like they were planning to stay for the entire afternoon. The hardest part was leaving as the crowd had spilled over into the street and a few kids were challenging each other with soccer tricks. The atmosphere here was definitely more uplifting to that in the township proper.
A couple of kids putting on a show
Now our African trip is officially finished!! We were dropped at The Backpack and free to go our own way. We had booked into this hostel before leaving London and quite a few of the others were able to get beds on the day. A little tip, if you can wait, the price is significantly cheaper if you book within 2days of arrival. A couple of people cancelled and rebooked all in 5min to save 50%. Our room was hotel standard and we considered cancelling the real hotel that we had booked for our final couple of days in Cape Town.

Many of the South African people that Claire worked with in London had advised us that if Table Mountain was clear then take the first opportunity to go up there. It seems that the cloud that gives it the table cloth can hang around for days. All the group took advantage of the the clear afternoon and seeing as we didn't have enough time to make the hike we used the cable car. The view was stunning and after the confronting sights of the morning it was a great way to relax. The day was finished with a group dinner that Jacques and JP came to as well.Looking back up the coast away from Cape Town
This is how we usually see Steve
Keeping the Kwando tradition
If we had walked up this is where we would have arrived.
One final group picture

Monday, June 14, 2010


Leaving Orange River we drove further into South Africa. The scenery was changing again as we left the mountains and rocks and suddenly started to see grass and flowers. Driving through the area known as Namaqualand we were looking forward seeing the wildflowers. There were some patches of pink and yellow that really stood out against the green hills. One of the party goers the night before told us that we were about 10days late. The wildflower season had been a couple of weeks early this year.

A slightly different perspective of the truck

All of us were looking forward to our next camp site. We were going to be staying at Highlanders winery and having a wine tasting. The owner (Sparky) was originally from Scotland and also used to be an overland guide. His vineyard is situated on the side of a hill and it was one of the best afternoon's spent tasting wine overlooking the valley. Sparky's grapes are combined with those of his neighbours in a co-operative to produce the wine which is exported to various countries in Europe including England. The view from the tasting

Early morning with the mist rolling in

During the afternoon, the other members of the group realised that we had not had our hen's and bucks days for our wedding so it was decided that tonight was the night. We were both banished from the bar while preparations were underway. When Claire returned she discovered that she had become 'Mrs Africa' and the boys had obtained some interesting clothes for Steve. We didn't manage to get any photos of Steve but he did look fetching in a white and pink bikini with black tights.

It is amazing what you can do with bin bags, masking tape, and alfoil!!

Sparky put on a fantastic Braii (aka BBQ) for us that night and it was definitely a great way to spend the last night of our trip. We can recommend the Trevino but suggest steering clear of anything called Little B.....

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Orange River

Today it really hit home that we were nearly at the end of this amazing trip. Crossing into South Africa = 3 days left.

We camped alongside Orange River just a few kilometres up the road from the border. The afternoon was spent attempting to play volleyball with a very flat ball. It was made harder by the resident dogs who thought it was just a difficult game of catch. In the end we gave up and headed down to the river where we all took up the challenge to swim back across to Namibia. Luckily for us there is a 'grace' zone of about 10m of the river bank. If we went further ashore we could be arrested. Considering we were only 5km upriver from the border we all stayed at the water's edge!

Looking at Namibia. You can't see it very well, but there is a surfboard anchored at the halfway point.

Another amazing sunset

4 of the other 6 that we started this trip with.

There happened to be a 21st on at the bar that night so decided to join in with the celebrations. A few were lucky and managed to acquire a cupcake or too. I am sure the birthday girl wasn't expecting to come across 20 foreigners attemping the overlanding tradition of 'the springbok dance'. All in all a great night and it was good to meet some some other locals who had tips for our time in Cape Town.

We not only had to deal with the extra friendly dogs, but also the pet pig!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Fish River Canyon

Our last stop for Namibia was at Fish River Canyon. The canyon is 160km long and up to 27km wide and is one of the most popular multi-day hiking trails for those adventurous ones.

We arrived quite early to the campsite and spent the afternoon relaxing. Another overlanding company was in the site next to us and were having problems with their truck, so when we decided to head out to the canyon edge for sunset we took them with us. We were all dropped off at a small viewpoint and then had the opportunity to walk the couple of kilometers back to the parking area along the canyon edge. The view was spectacular.

Loo with a view!

Lighting conditions were quite difficult. The river only flows for a couple of months a year.

The canyon is up to 500m deep
Back at the truck JP had set up a surprise of champagne and nibblies while we waited for sunset. We then discovered that our truck was going to be staying at the canyon for dinner and some stargazing. Luckily for the other group, Jacques had managed to get their truck working again as we didn't have enough food for them. Apart from that, as soon as the sun set the temperature dropped to near freezing and the other group didn't have any warm clothes.Trying to keep warm. TIA - This Is Africa!!

We finished the evening back at camp with an 11 person game of cards (with glow in the dark cards!!) held inside one 2 man tent. I think it was the first time we had felt warm since the sun set!

Believe it or not but all 11 people have at least one body part in this photo...

It was also here that we realised our trip was nearly at an end as the next morning we were crossing the border into South Africa.