Another day, another country.

Day 271, Monday 01 October 2012 – Orange River, Namibia

Another belated post, I had intended to type on the truck as we went, but the roads are rough as anything and typing is impossible, even photo editing is not worth bothering with.

I can see why the other truck was in bed early, they were on the road before 6:00! Compared to them we had a leisurely wake up of 5:30, I was mildly hungover after that combination of beer, red and white wine and whisky. A lesson learnt nice and early on the trip though one forgotten way too much!

I had a walk around as the sun rose and took some photos of the mist over the small river on the farm. I have decided to switch back to shooting JPEG, I have been using raw for a while, but having to do everything in a bouncing truck with little battery life was going to be a pain, though of course I lose some of the detail – a tough choice.

Breakfast was cereal and fruit and I had a great hot shower before pulling down the tents, loading up the truck and getting on the road again.

Our first stop was at the gas station at Bitterfontein, there is a weaver bird colony living there which was cool and we all stopped to take photos. I am not really into birds, but it was a good lesson in shooting moving objects with the heavy 70-200mm lens. I was not overly happy with the results, but the weaver birds have cool nests, so am posting a shot anyway.

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There were road works off and on all the way to the Namibian border.

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Over the morning the terrain went from rolling farm land, through mountain desert areas which were very much like the Desert Road are in NZ’s North Island – accept huge, and into some very arid and rocky areas. It was great watching it all roll by though we were all staring out the windows waiting for our first glimpse of wildlife. We saw lots of cows and sheep and goats until finally just before lunch we saw a small heard of oryx in the Goegap nature reserve. Yay – we were all massively excited to see them. Though it was another lesson in safari photography as they were quite a way off and shooting with the 2x extender on the 70-200mm was difficult in a truck with people moving around. I am going to have getter better at holding the lens steady. I learnt that the oryx is one of the most dangerous creatures in southern Africa – even though it is only an antelope. People think they are safe but they are very territorial and will defend if they feel threatened, and those horns are huge.

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There was this weird old quary site on the road side, from a distance it was hard to work out what it was, it looked like some alien fortress.

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Lunch was in the nature park, it was hot and dry and quite beautiful, I have fallen in love with Quiver trees and took quite a few photos of these awesome trees.

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I spotted this guy on a bathroom window.

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The town of Springbok was few minutes drive away and we had to stop here to change vehicles. A recent South African law change means that foreign registered vehicles cannot transport clients over the border into Namibia, so we had to unload all our gear and jump into the Bundi Adventures van for the trip to Namibia and onto our camp at Bundi. The journey to the border took almost two hours and was pretty hot crammed into the van.

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The border crossing was fairly straight forward, though it was interesting that at the SA border police post, after immigration we all had to hand in our passports to the police and then were told to leave the room leaving the van driver alone with the police. Not sure what happened there ! We did get our passports back though.

The last trip the guys did through the border everyone had to unload bags and were sniffer dogged and searched. We were all praying it was not going to happen to us – it was just too damn hot to be hanging about.

The border between SA and Namibia is the Orange River, named after the Dutch Prince William of Orange – not because the river is orange. The camp site was on the Namibian side of the border and not too far from the border crossing. The site was packed with loads of kids and families – it is the first day of school holidays in SA.

After unpacking the van, reloading the truck and putting up tents some of us took a quick dip in the river, it is perfectly safe to do so, no crocs or hippos this far south.

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We all walked up a small hill next to the campsite for a sunset photo shoot, Brett our tour guide, is also doing photography lessons as part of the tour and held the first one on top of the hill. It was interesting listening in and Brett is a good teacher. The countryside is very bleak as well as beautiful, on this side of the river.

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After dinner we sat around for a while waiting for the large group of people starting a five day river safari in the morning to clear from the bar area so we could go and have a quite beer and access the very slow internet. I managed to get to read a couple of emails, but the connection died before I could reply to any.

Brett found a small scorpion on the bench seat and grabbed UV light to show us how the scorpions glow under UV. The picture is crap, but you get the idea!

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Brett is a wealth of knowledge about the local environment as well as the beasts and flora we are seeing on the journey, we are lucky to have such a great tour guide.

Day 1 on the road, leaving the city behind

Day 270, Sunday 30 September 2012 – Trawal, South Africa

A very belated post, written five days later from some scribbled notes and photos and totally un-proof read as well.

I was up early, breakfast at 7:30 and packed up and ready to meet the truck and load up at 8:30 . Will our driver was also there to meet us, and we were picking up Ibron, our cook, at the supermarket up the road.

It was very cold, long pants, jackets and beanies were the order of the day and the polyprop stayed on until lunch time.

The truck is a Scania named Malakai and has seen a few years service on the over landing route. Africa in Focus only put a maximum of sixteen on their tours (unlike some who fit thirty!) though there are only twelve on this trip, so plenty of room. We have a side locker on the outside of the truck that Leonie and I are sharing and we have a smaller foot locker for cameras and laptops that also has a safe inside for each pair of seats. A-i-F take security seriously which is great. It took us a few days to work out how things best work with all the various lockers though. As I was one of the last on I ended up with one of the front seats, which have the least leg room – not bad though.

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It was a very excited group that got on the truck ( we are not allowed to call it a bus) and we were on the road for 9:00 – on time!

The first stop was Table View, a small bay just out of central Cape Town over looking Table Mountain. The cloud on the top is called the table cloth by the locals.

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The next stop was Bayside Mall and supermarket where we picked up a few last minute items and we were on the road for Highlanders wine farm our stop at the end of the day.

As we left Cape Town I noticed a large amount of hitchhikers on the road side from single men to small family groups, this was a feature outside all the towns we passed. It is a hard life in southern Africa. We were soon out into the rolling farm land hills and the atmosphere in the truck was excitable as we left civilisation behind.

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We stopped for a roadside lunch at 1;00 and all stood around working out what the process was for assisting Ibron at lunch time and where everything lived in the vast kitchen store on the back of the truck.

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Cleanliness is taken as seriously as security and we have to spray a detol solution on our hands everytime we get into the truck. At food times we have to have a soap wash, dettol wash and rince before touching the food.

We stop every couple of hours for a toilet and stretch break, Brett (out tour leader) wants to make sure everyone is drinking plenty of water so encourages lots of breaks so no-one stops drinking. Once we get up into Namibia the air is hot and dry and dehydration can be a real issue.

We arrived at Highlanders wine farm in Trawal late afternoon and had a lesson putting up the tents, which is pretty straightforward. They are four person tents though we only had two per tent, which was pretty comfortable.

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Once tents were up and shorts put on as it had warmed up significantly we went up to the bar area for a wine tasting with Sparky the farm owner.

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The three people in the middle were with another tour, couple of them were kiwi’s with really thick kiwi accents, funny.

The wines were Ok, I really liked the vermouth though and Leonie bought me a bottle for my birthday. I am going to have to say no-one makes a Shiraz like the Aussie’s though this one wasn’t too bad. I bought a bottle of the pinotage to drink with dinner.

After dinner a few of us chatted around an open fire and had a whisky or two, before heading off to the tents for some sleep. There were two other groups at the site, one filled with noisy young people, I was expecting for them to be partying into the night, but they were all tucked down before we were…

I am pretty sure it was the first time I was sleeping in a tent since my Europe trip in the 80’s!

 

 

 

Cape Town

Days 268-269, Friday-Saturday, 28-29 September 2012 – Cape Town

Friday passed by on the plane to Dubai, I am sure at some stage Saturday arrived and sadly I wasn’t asleep when it did. I am pretty sure I dozed a couple of times on the six hour fifty flight across Europe and North Africa. The flight was pretty good, seat was comfortable and the food OK, drinks were available on request but I didn’t have many as I had a couple of reds at the airport and popped one of my Vietnamese valium before jumping on board. I watched The Avengers and Safe and the rest of the time I spent staring vacantly into space waiting for the flight to end.

Dubai airport is MASSIVE. It was a fifteen minute bus ride from the plane to the terminal and a twenty minute walk to the departure lounge for the flight to Cape Town. The flight was slightly delayed and again the aircraft was very full. I didn’t sleep at all over the nine hours and was seriously bored for a long time, for some reason I did not feel like reading now watching movies, but after six hours I finally managed to stare blankly at a screen until we arrived, pretty much on time, in Cape Town.

Wow- I am in Africa – a new continent and a new adventure is beginning.

I was met at the airport by Stuart, an English guy I had seen on the plane as Gary the hotel owner was out moving his car. Stuart – and as it turned out, all the guests of the small Bellevue Hotel were on the tour. The hotel is in Sea Point, about a thirty minute walk from the main part of Cape Town, there are a number of small cafes and bars along the street so Stuart and I walked up the road for a meal and a couple of beers. The food was cheap and the risotto I had was excellent. We met Simon, who has just completed the reverse trip I am doing coming down from Nairobi to Cape Town. He gave us a few insights in to the trip which was great.

Leonie, who I met in Vietnam at my friend Dan’s wedding and hung out with in Ho Chi Minh City, decided to do the tour as well and flew out from NZ at a similar time to me though she did not arrived until late in the evening – and without her bag, though fortunately that turned up in the morning. We said a quick hello and I retired back to my room for my last night in a real bed for a while.

Saturday was a slow start, breakfast at eight, loads of cereal, toast and coffee. The weather was pretty feral, quite cold with a strong wind blowing, though fortunately not actually raining.

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Leonie and I walked in to the tourist Victoria and Albert waterfront area of Cape Town mostly along a sea wall. It was a surprisingly rugged piece of coast line given its location to down town. I managed to pick up a couple of desperately needed pairs of shorts and a camping shop and then we went for a walk around.

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We were trying to get to Table Mountain but it was heavily clouded and it just did not see m like it was going to lift, so we decided to do a new first and catch an open topped tourist bus for a hop-on, hop-off tur of the city. It was cold up top !

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Downtown Cape Town is not particularly attractive or interesting, it does remind me a lot of Auckland, Sea Point was like being in Henderson! Though we did go to the District six museum for a look around. District Six was one of the central city residential areas mainly populated by African and mix raced people. It was forcibly cleared over many years of the apartheid era, with residents being forced into less desirable locations. Sadly a lot of the places that were cleared and the houses destroyed are still vacant lots.

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We caught the bus to the Table Mountain cable car, but the weather was still pretty foul so we decided to take a couple of photos and then jump on the bus back to Sea Point and have a drink at the hotel.

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There was a pre-tour meeting at five pm and we got to meet the rest of the group as well as Brett our tour leader. There are five us doing the full six weeks. Dave and Nancy from Canada and Bill from New York. The rest of the crew are Inga and William from Aussie, Stuart, Jackie and Carol from the UK and Sanjeev and Vaishally from the US. Most of us are forty plus so it is a good balance of age and everyone has travelled before, some with vast and interesting experience. It should all be fun!

Gary’s (the hotellier) son Tristian, who had a real fascination with our cameras.

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Seven of us went out for a nice dinner at a local bistro before an early night, it was good to spend some time with some of the other folk on the tour before we kicked off.

It was an early night, and a very excited Phil went to bed for a last sleep in a bed for a few days.