Saturday, 6 August 2011


WOW !!!  Where do I start?

Thanks to PANDA, the hero of the trip; without his dream, vision and research, we would never have embarked on this amazing adventure. What started off as an item on his bucket list has turned into something so much bigger – Africa has sucked us all in – we can’t tick it off because we have to return, there is so much still to see and do.

Some of our statistics:

·         We travelled over 19 000km by road
·         Another 2 000km on water
·         We travelled through 7 countries (some twice):  South Africa (x2), Namibia, Zambia (x2), Malawi (x2), Tanzania and Zanzibar, Zimbabwe and Botswana.
·         We made 11 border crossings
·         We visited 12 parks
·         Lifers in 4 antelope species and numerous bird species
·         We visited numerous World heritage and historical and cultural sites.

Despite all the amazing experiences and places visited, what tops it all, were the people we met; the friendliness and generosity of spirit we encountered from the people of Africa surpasses everything. 

I would also like to thank all our family and friends (in S.A. and abroad) who supported us – some would have loved to have joined us and some thought we were stark raving mad. It was amazing to get messages from you all along the way. Thank you to all those who followed our blog, most of you we know but stats have shown that people from all over the world have logged in. Thanks to all for following our adventure.

Would we do this again? Absolutely, but we would travel lighter next time (minus trailer and Gray’s beard) and take more time to smell the proteas. 

Sandton to Serengeti was just a taster – Johannesburg to London here we come.

Day 110: 2/08/2011 – Sandton, South Africa

We woke up to a cold morning and were forced to get straight back in the saddle. Robs, despite being given permission to take the day off school (we are such bad parents) elected to go as it was sports day and she really wanted to catch up with all her friends. So it was back to breakfasts and school lunches.

After dropping her off at school, I headed off to the shops – the new Pick ‘n Pay in William Nicol (the flag ship of P’n P’s in S.A.). It took me ½ an hour to wonder through the bread and fruit sections. In the bread section, I had a choice of brown, white, seeded, cheese, rye, French loaf, rolls and so on – for months we were happy to find a loaf of government issue white bread. Then the fruit section; apples with skins of all shades of reds, pinks and greens, seasonal and non-seasonal imported fruit. I could put items in the trolley, without worrying about them fitting into the food boxes and fridge and I could pay for them with a credit card, instead of wads of the local currency. For the first time in my life I found grocery shopping a pleasure, I know the novelty will wear off soon.

The rest of the day was spent unpacking the car and trailer and catching up with friends and family.
Where to from here; School breaks up on Friday and next week we are off to the Drakensburg with Julie, Adie and Baby Luke. Then down to Cape Town for Kirsty’s birthday.

Term 3, starts 5 September and life goes back to normal but with amazing and wonderful memories of our African trip.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Day 109: 1/08/2011 – Nata, Botswana to Home – Sandton, South Africa

I woke up, trying not to think what it was going to be like to have to get back to domestic 'bliss'. It was a confused state of mind - I have loved this trip and don't want it to end but at the same time, I have missed my friends, family and animals and look so forward to catching up with everyone.

We decided to skip breakfast and head off for an early start - 7:30. We are definitely on our way south, each morning gets colder and this morning it was straight into winter clothes.

The novelty of yesterday's veterinary check point stops wore off very quickly. By the third stop at 10:30, we were so over it and the officials were less than pleasant. We are clearly heading south, gone are the friendly and helpful officials from north of Botswana.

 At the stop at Sesse, we had no smiling face, just some bolshie guy barking orders for us to get out and dip our feet. Then he wanted our flip flops dipped; trying to explain they were in bags, in the bottom of a tied up trailer that would stay that way till we arrived back in Jhb, would not appease him. Gray could only find one of his flops in the car and told him he had lost the other one – grouchy official was still not happy and demanded slops from me. Having extracted my bag, Gray, for the first time in 4 months, kind of lost his cool and threw my bag on the ground. I found my slops, dipped them and then he demanded that I do my slippers - trying to explain that my comfy sheep woollies were back home (no doubt giving foot & mouth to my dogs and cats)  - and that  I did not think they would be much use while camping in the Serengeti. After a cursory search of my bag, he seemed satisfied that slippers were not part of my luggage. While Gray was repacking, the official proceeded to give him a hard time for holding up the queue. Yep, we are definitely on our way home.

We stopped off at Palapye; for money (got lucky at the 4th ATM), a quick Nando’s take-away (lost our order and so took forever - no apology), and diesel (no problems) - I was ready to head back up north, where things sometimes get done, but always with a smile.

Our Botswana leg, with all the foot bath stops, took 2 hours longer than expected. The scenery was extremely dry and the bush is pretty barren.

We arrived at our, sort of remote border post, at 1:30. The Botswana side at Parr's Halt, had a customs official missing in action and once located, had no idea what our Carnet was and it took a lot of patient convincing to get him to sign it.

On the S. A. side at Stockpoort, the official told Gray he had been caught speeding in Bots - Gray tried to convince him that it was impossible as he was using speed control but he persisted, saying they had it all on camera - just as I saw steam coming out of Gray's ears, the customs policeman said it was a joke - the rest of us found this hilarious but Gray has kind of lost his sense of humour.

We officially arrived back on S. A. soil at 2:00pm. As on Day 1, we were plagued with road works and had to wait ages at road stops for the oncoming traffic to come through. After the roads we had encountered up north, we were just grateful for the condition of the roads in S.A. and the fact that they are maintained.

And we have touch down - the 800km journey took us 11 hours and we arrived home at 7:30.

We received a warm and slobbery welcome from our 4 dogs and even the two cats, who had put on huge amounts of weight were all over us like a rash. Animals are so forgiving – you leave them for 4 months and they just forgive you and love you when you get home.

Dinner and groceries were on the kitchen table, thanks to Al, the best neighbour ever.
We all had long, hot baths and sunk into our marshmallow mattresses – we dreamed of Africa.

                                                         Our last pack up
                                           Home - sweet - home

Day 108: 31/07/2011 – Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe to Nata, Botswana

We had breakfast and headed off on an early start, as we had a border crossing today. Gray, having done his homework, as always, found us one of these obscure, little border posts to head for. All the more exciting because it was called - Pandamatenga.

After breakfast we headed off south east and back through parts of the Hwange Reserve and then into the Matetsi Park.

We arrived at Pandamatenga around 12:00. When Panda chooses an obscure border post, he does a good job, we were the first car through in a week and the officials were so excited to see us that the paperwork went through in double quick time - so they could chat to us for a while. No mans land and then the Botswana side- likewise the lady was so excited to see us and we got treated like royals passing through. The Zims rotate their officials monthly, so the guys only had a month to sit around and twiddle their thumbs. The Bots people have a 4 year rotation - shame, you really have to do something bad to land up there (like sleeping with the bosses wife).

Just as we were congratulating Gray for the easiest border crossing yet - there was a surly gate guy waiting for us. Then it all went pear shaped; we had to dip our feet in some old, dirty liquid (all except Gray had flip flops on) - what foot diseases we hadn't picked up in Africa, we now have. Then he started on the car and trailer - we knew we couldn't take meat into Botswana and had given what was left in the fridge to local villagers along the way. We still however had to unpack the boot as the fridge and cooler box are at the bottom. Once satisfied, our cheerful official started on the trailer - we , as I have mentioned have a sick trailer and have to tie and ratchet the top down every morning - so now all had to be untied, locks opened and trailer opened for him to inspect our bags, pillows and sleeping bags.
This guy would have made a great employee for Aussie Border Patrol - still he was just doing his job.

With everything repacked we headed off through a dipping trough for the car - only to be stopped less than 100km later at another check point. This time we all managed to locate takkies and hide all other footware (as this also has to be dipped - by hand) and head through the wet cloth trough. This time, after unpacking the boot only, they took away our tomatoes - guess we had the rabid sort. Then the car was back into the dip. All this was a right pain in the arse - but they have have big foot and mouth problems in the area, so this is understandable.

Shortly after entering Bots we came across an 'elephant crossing' sign and yes - there was this big bull Ellie crossing the road - where is the camera when you need it?

We drove through Nata, another little African town and headed to our destination for the night - Nata Lodge.

We are using Botswana as a route home and not touring around. We have been fortunate enough to travel Botswana fairly extensively over the years and have had some awesome game viewing experiences. However, it is a popular destination and with the European holiday season starting, we would not find accommodation in the parks as we had not booked ahead.

This being said, we decided not to draw out the home stretch and head home tomorrow - so this is the last night of our African adventure.

Gray has this deal with us; on our camping trips around southern Africa, we always spend our last night in the best place available. One of our best was after 3 weeks in Mozambique to stay in the Polana Hotel.

Tonight, he did well again, we booked 2 huts at Nata Lodge – they were big log cabins, neat and very comfortable with bush decor. It had Gray’s best, an outside reed shower and a ball and claw bath for me.

Robs and I hit one of the best stocked curio shops we have come across - you know you are in desperate need of retail therapy, when you spend 1/2 an hour in a little shop selling African curios, which you are not going to buy.

Nice as our accommodation was, the food in the restaurant was definitely forgettable and below average.

                                                                           Pandamatenga Border Post - obviously
                                                         Nata Lodge
                                          Our last sunset

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Day 107: 30/07/2011 – Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

It's so strange to wake up in a room and have a TV set to switch on, not that there was a huge variety of channels available, but it was still fun to have a cup of coffee in bed and catch up on the cooking channel.

After a lie in, we set off to meet up with the folks for brunch at the Vic Falls Hotel. Buffets, like this one, should be illegal; you just eat far too much. However, as it turned out, it's just as well we were well fortified for the long day ahead.

We took the walkway from the Hotel to the falls, escorted by the Falls police, not that there is danger but just to keep away the peddlers trying to sell their soap stone statues and wooden carvings (and one offering weed). The falls, on both the Zim and Zam sides, is one of the few places that we were bugged by locals.

We entered the falls area and first wondered up the top section of the Zambezi River and watched the flowing river channel through the rapids before cascading impressively into the gorge below. Then we wondered past the giant statue of Livingstone that is erected so he can permanently overlook the length of the falls.

Then for the best part - walking through the rain forests, along the path and watching the thousands and thousands of litres of water gush around islands and rocks and plummet over a kilometre into the narrow gorge below. It then hits the bottom and returns back up in a mist and spray that makes amazing rainbows and gives visitors a good shower. One can never tire of visiting the falls and we have been so fortunate to visit it 3 times in the last 18 months. Each visit was at a different time of the year and each time was different depending on the rains and volumes of water.

After spending a wonderful morning at the falls, we ambled down to the border post on the old bridge and got our pass to cross over into ZimZam (no man’s land). Besides giving another awesome view of the falls, it is also the place of the dreaded bungee jump.

One look over the edge was all it took to convince the kids this was all they had ever dreamed of doing in life and for the adults to feel the exact opposite. So off we set to the view point, come office (sure the kids would see more sense when it came to actually signing up). No such luck, so US$240 later, we were heading back to the middle of the bridge to wait their turn, while watching other idiots plunge into the gorge below.

Ga went first, after being strapped up, he walked the edge and without blinking executed a perfect swallow dive off the 111m bridge, as if it was a 3m diving board. After all the years of Lina, his diving coach, nagging him to point his toes, she would be delighted to know that in executing this dive, his toes were pointed- and we have the video to prove it.

Then it was Robs turn, she was  doing the gorge swing – almost the same and just as stupid (and apparently more scary) than the bungee. The main difference being that the jumper jumps off feet first and swings backs and forth across the gorge, instead of going off head first and bouncing up and down. Robs got to edge, looked down at the swirling waters below and had serious second thoughts but after a little pep talk from the guys there - about it being soooo safe and they had never had an accident - she also jumped off and swung around the gorge, waving up at us.

While watching my brave/idiot kids head off, Gus asked me how 'mommy' was feeling - actually  I was very calm and if it had not been so busy, I might have considered going across the gorge on the zip slide.

With all in one piece, we returned across the bridge to find the longest queue of people at a border crossing to date. A bus load of Chinese tourists were doing the whole passport and visa crossing. After waiting in the queue for 15 minutes, without it moving, Gray headed inside and managed to sort out our pass in a minute and then it was back for high tea at the Vic Falls Hotel.

We had another lovely dinner at Vic Falls Hotel (all except Ga, who was man down with a tummy bug).

The only thing that would have made this a perfect day was if Kirst was there to share it with us. As it turned out, she was having a pretty perfect day herself at the Stellenbosch Wine Festival.

                                                         Victoria falls in July
                                                        The Family
                                                        Rainbow in the gorge
                                                        Ga doing his bungee
                                          Robs on her gorge swing