Sunday, 13 November 2016

South Africa (round 2)

I meant to post this blog a few days ago however thanks to a new update on my iPad I didn't even want, my normal blogger app is now not working! Great when you have been writing and it crashes.. lots of swearing at Apple, and now 3 'In the pipeline' blogs to forever stay in the pipeline.. anyway I felt I had written too many blogs about the trip to keep you all in suspense about the final hurdle so I found a new blogging app, and despite the text on screen not keeping up with my typing, has proven thus far to work! May just mean I have to actually proof read my work!

Driving into South Africa from Botswana wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be. We had been across here the previous time we have visited Pretoria so we knew the formalities! This time we had to sort out the carnet and also hope I had counted how many days I had on my visa correctly. Leaving Botswana we had to get the Carnet closed, a simple enough process - stamp out of Botswana and the customs officer to fill out the closing page. Because of the 5 country secure customs policy these borders don't often close Carnets so we did have to instruct the officer however once he knew what he was doing it was all fine and our carnet was free to be sent home to get our deposit back (around £400). On the South African side, after explaining about our Carnet expiring, the customs officer agreed to give us a Temporary Import Permit (or TIP), the biggest problem being she couldn't be bothered to do it..! They gave us 6 months for free which will be more than sufficient! The customs officials in South Africa really know what they are doing, and they don't take rubbish from any one.. on the incoming side of the desk a truck driver was trying to get through without a TIP, the customs officer was having none of it and a male officer stepped in as he was disrespectful to the female officer attending him! It was good to see! We left the border only after we were stopped for a pula check by a policeman who was searching for pula as he was 'taking them'.. taking them for his own pocket more like.. despite having 600 on us I politely told him unfortunately not we had spent them all on fuel! Funny how quickly you learn to stretch the truth in Africa!

We arrived in Pretoria at Charles' family around lunch time and were treated to a braai. Mandy arrived home from work, she is now back in the real world, and it was nice to catch up and get up to date with their plans for the future! Things seem to be moving forward steadily for them which is great (they are still posting as Where to Next Africa on Facebook).

We spent a week in Pretoria with the family, the first few days we spent some time shopping - stocking up on bits and pieces, clothes and shoes - and getting the car serviced and washed (!!). This was a painful affair as we only wanted the oils changed but things kept being found that really needed to be fixed.. a small, cheap job turned into an expensive and long job, however at least the car is running fine etc! Mandy had three days off over the weekend so we spent Friday with her and Ronel at the Cradle of Humankind. It was a interactive museum documenting the earths evolution, it was great and included a boat ride through different kinds of rock! We also went to some caves where they found some of the earliest fossils of man - this was hilarious, us four definitely being the naughty school children at the back.. our guid was very funny also attributing and crediting the first 'pout' to Mrs Ples, an example of the first modern woman (or could be man they still aren't sure!). Our journey home included seeing lions, bison, brown wildebeest and a white tiger! Very surreal and only in Africa!

Saturday we went to a beer festival at the Pretoria Botanical Gardens with Megan, Charles and Mandy's cousin, and Matt, her husband. The weather was amazing, and the selection of beer and cider was huge, as well as cheap! The music was pumping and it was a really great day! Arriving home we realised we should probably eat so we headed off to Ocean Basket for sushi! All in all a great day!

After spending Sunday chilling and braaing, Charles and I decided to head off on Monday to explore a little! We drove to Bela Bela, to a hot spring resort.. it was a little like an African Butlins, but the pools and hydropool were lovely! The weather again fantastic as we lazed about around the outside swimming complex! I keep referring to the weather because after crossing the border the weather in general got colder with rain and storms most nights (Ronel and Mandy were convinced we brought it with us!). It was a little too commercial for us and we headed towards Mablingwe, a private game reserve the next day to spend the day and evening. The private reserve was amazing, it wasn't expensive to camp and you could drive around the beautiful landscape with a fair few animals and some spectacular private homes! I had a sneaky look at them online and there were some huge ones.. 7 bedrooms with a gym, swimming pool and private watering hole.. how the other half live!
As the afternoon rolled on the storm clouds began to close in, there is nothing like a storm when you're in a tent (we had experienced this once in Angola), so we got everything ready to weather it out! The rain was pelting down, the thunder rumbling and the lightening ripped across the sky, we soon realised our awning was doing very little to prevent the rain coming in so for the first time on the trip we put the sides up. This helped a lot even when the hail started raining down - this was so strange! In true African style the storm began as soon as it started and the sun was back in the sky! We settled down to our braai and wine finishing of the day in style!

Wednesday was my birthday so back to Pretoria we went to go out for dinner with Ronel, Mandy, Megan and Matt. I was very spoilt, Charles made me breakfast, we went out for lunch and dinner was a very nice pizza and the Village Bistro! A very lovely day, and very lucky to spend a second birthday on the road!

Having around two weeks to spend before my family come over, we decided to head out towards the North Eastern part of the country to end up at the top of Kruger. Our first post of call was Dullstroom, a small English type town set amongst rolling hills and beautiful scenery! Journeying there went past Belfast and were shocked to see so many trees down. They weren't cut down but blown over, roots were up on pine trees that used to stand meters tall, rows of trees and branches ripped off, alongside tin roofs and metal littered across the ground. It was such a shock and we were told they had had a small hurricane type thing in the last few days! Arriving in Dullstroom we realised there were very few campsites, we had an inkling that was the case so headed towards the accommodation centre. The ladies there were fantastic, finding us a one bedroom self catering house for a really good price, they also managed to give us huge discounts so despite it being more than we would normally pay it was cheap in comparison to the UK. The house was fantastic, it was the first time we had rented a house and it was such a luxury! Oven, fridge, toaster, kettle, sofa, DSTV (decent television), two bathrooms, a bath and a very comfortable bed! It even had a small outside area and a braai! Three nights we had booked for and they were well worth the money!

We set off to explore the town the first afternoon - set amongst pine trees, it was a long high street with lots of craft shops, restaurants and coffee bars! We got slightly waylaid by the self proclaimed 'English' pub which was a good substitute and arrived back at the house slightly merry! It definitely felt like we were on holiday! Our second day, after a coffee, we drove the 21 km to Tolteldoos, again the drive was stunning, rolling hills, cliffs and green grass lined the way there, zebra, bonte-bok and heartebeest grazed by the road sides. Animals out of the way it could have been Wales.. we arrived in the small, farming village and stopped off at 'The Cheese Shop'. Our cheese platter of 8 cheeses was amazing, and the home made chutneys topped it off! I am normally a cheddar girl but there wasn't one cheese, including the stinky one, I didn't like! As we drove back we past a biker group sat outside the shop having a drink, we joined them and after getting chatting got given a Honda African Twin hat - Charles was rather happy! We got chatting to Ross who owns a farm in the area, and before we knew it we were chilling at his house by the pool overlooking the surrounding countryside! His hospitality was amazing, and we left after dinner to drive the dodgy road back to Dullstroom!

Saturday, our last day in luxury was spent wandering around the surprisingly busy town.. we have yet to buy many souvenirs and as the trip is coming to a close we are now 'panic' buying! This plan is to our detriment because in South Africa and the more touristy places the prices are a lot more along the West Coast.. serves us right for being tight at the beginning! We managed to find a cheese shop so bought some locally made cheese and munched away on it back home! We won't be making cheese eating a normal thing.. back to the exercise!

We moved towards Sabie along Long Toms pass an alp like road twisting and winding through the mountains. The scenery was awesom and made the driving far more intersting! The car complaining a couple of times.. funny smells coming from the gear box but after a quick cool down and coffee it seemed to be ok!

In Sabie we camped a night there.. back to reality, but we met up with Max whom we had met in Botswana. He came for a beer and invited us to his the next night about 30 minutes away. Leaving Sabie the next morning we visited Chimpanzee Eden, a chimpanzee rescue place. It was a great place, on our tour the guide, who was very knowledgeable, told us the back stories of the 34 chimps they have there. It was amazing to hear the levels of cruelty some of them faced in circuses and private houses.. makes you wonder! The work they were doing there was great, but as like most charitable organisations very under funded. It was definitely worth a visit however! We stayed the night with Max in White River, it was a beautiful house with a very comfortable bed.. having stayed in a proper bed under a proper roof more often than our tent in the last two weeks I feel I may have to get used to being on the roof again!

Leaving White River we stopped off at Max's wood workshop where his family make custom wooden furniture. There were some beautiful pieces, the smell of the wood reminding me of my Grandfather's garage! Funny what smells can do! We had a vague plan to head to Nelspruit, mainly to get an electrical plug converter.. despite us having a South African plug adapter, in most campsites they have electrical hook ups for caravan and trailers.. not useful for us! Finding one in campworld we spent the afternoon walking around the Botanical Gardens. For 30 rand each it was a bargain, with different sections - the river, rainforest and medical gardens. Another successful day trip!

Spending the evening in Lake View Lodge (incidentally with no lake..), we had a little look on the map and realised that being so near to Swaziland we may as well pop in. With the two weeks left before Kruger we have a lot more time than when we are bombing down to Cape Town after. A quick decision, again demonstrating how often our plans change!
#africa #southafrica #overlanding