Pretoria, Jo'berg and all that - 53,026km
I'd met Liezel in
Namibia, and took her up on her invitation to Middleburg, home of Stainless
Steel. MB is actually a really pleasant town - small enough to be pretty
safe, and big enough to be comfortable. The steelworks are impressive too.
Doesn't stop me taking the piss out of though. Soche Soche.
Gem (I always thought it
was Jim), Liezel's strange cat, was constantly entertaining us with tricks
like drinking out of a tap, and leaving stools in strange places after
fights. Generally it was a time to relax and enjoy living under a roof again
for a while, and Liezel and her neighbour Tanya demonstrated the Afrikaner
art of cooking-for-more-than-will-be-there, which also includes the art of
making you feel guilty for not finishing it all. How come there are thin
Middleburg is close
enough to be a good base for Jo'berg, where I needed more preparation done
on my car (I never found a garage I was really happy with in SA), so I'd pop
over to Jo'berg for work. Jo'berg is a potentially great city, but there is
a tremendous amount of fear on the part of the whites - I found the local
transport system (use it and you will surely die) to be fast and efficient,
and the town centre was vibrant, friendly, and strangely almost entirely
free of whites.
While I was in the area I
looked up Nico, who is a member of the
Trophy Owners forum. and who invited me to stay with him in Pretoria.
Just up the road is Land River Pretoria who I asked to fix an oil leak that
I had had fixed at LR Durban - supposedly a tappet cover gasket. The buggers
charged me over R200 (twenty quid) to replace the oil cap when I knew damned
well that this wasn't the problem. After a couple of days of continued
leaking I found out from British 4x4 in Pretoria (possibly the best LR
garage in SA) that the actual cause was the turbo manifold gasket - I didn't
know such a thing even existed, but it made perfect sense when you looked at
the spray pattern of the oil. So I went back to LR Pretoria who then kicked
up a fuss about refunding me. I won. Prats. I'm not too happy about the rear
spring that Suspension Solutions fitted too - lets se how they get on in
Time to move on...
After my 'rest' in
Swaziland I re-entered SA with a new 3 month visa, thank you. Kruger is an
obvious destination, and although the leopards continued to elude me I saw
Cheetah, Rhino, Lion, Buffalo and Elephant in my first afternoon. And of
course that most interesting of creatures, the Afrikaner, in his natural
Game viewing apart this
was my first opportunity to meet the original white tribe, and experience
the hospitality that one meets behind the 'moustache curtain'. Each evening
I'd drive into a campsite, and within minutes find myself invited, usually
for a brai and a beer, or a least a chat and a beer, and as a visitor I'd
not even get a chance to dip into my own fridge.
I'll remember the
characters I met for a long time, and I'll also thank them for the insight
that they gave me - Afrikaners are a product of a country that they know and
love, and they deserve to be heard.
Alone again I drove into
Natal – the province of battlefields that I’d read about at school, and now
wanted to experience in the flesh and granite . First on the list was Spion
Kopje – an atmospheric place. After walking around the kopje and pitying
those poor soldiers trapped under intense gunfire in the heat of the summer
sun (it was hot enough on a winters day) I drove down into Ladysmith (Museum
closed on a Sunday – Sods law) where I stayed at the most hospitable B&B
imaginable – I can’t name it for fear of freeloaders abusing the place, but
here’s a place that fed me dinner, beer, breakfast, and gave name a
beautiful room, and then put all down as hospitality and charged me ten
I followed the Boer war
northwards, visiting many of the well known, and some of the less well known
sites, and often wondered at the excellent state of preservation of trenches
that are now a hundred years old.
Passing through Dundee I
made my way to Rorkes Drift, then Fugitives Drift, before ending my
pilgrimage at Isandlwana. These are the sites of the British defeat of the
Zulu war, immortalised by Michael Caine in Zulu, and are a testament to the
courage and discipline of the 20,000 Zulu, as well as to the courage of men
like Colonel Durnsford. The site is also a shrine to the military sin of
complacency, and to the shame of the butt-covering by the commanders
responsible for the defeat. But above all Isandlwana is a landmark that is
instantly recognisable to all – and a battlefield scattered with lonely
cairns that mark the remains of the British dead – I felt here more than
anywhere else a sense of history, and if you think that places can hold
memories, then I’d recommend a visit.
Cape Town -
Three bloody months.
People weren’t joking when they said the place would just suck you in.
Half the problem was that
the Backpack, my home in Cape Town, was just too nice to leave. I’d expected
to get an apartment, but this was a place with a bar, good food, a pool
table, and ADSL. No competition, especially once I’d arranged to trade may
varied skills for free internet access.
Cape Town is a great
place, even in the winter. The weather was generally clear and sunny,
although each good day came with a warning to make the most of it before the
winter set in (it did eventually, but only after I left). So instead of
sorting out my kit and the Camel, I spent my first month doing all the
touristy things – climbing Table mountain (many times) driving out to Cape
Point for the spectacular views, or hanging around in The Waterfront eating,
watching the films I’d missed or shopping for all the things I’d missed for
The backpackers seemed
always to have a good crowd in – one day I saw a particularly dirty BMW
coming towards me and waved it down – it was Karl who also ended up staying
there. Ed eventually joined us too, although the third of the three bikers,
Meindert, is probably still waiting for parts in Windhoek.
Lee and Toni, the owners
of the backpack, became great friends, and Lee invited me down to Arniston
for a few days in a beach house where the whales were frolicking. It was a
relaxing break for Cape Town, with long walks on the beach with Tembe the
dog whose name means Peace in Xhosa.
Alison and Mum came down
in August, and I was able to just about get the Camel fit for the road for
their visit, and then it was a last circuit of all the tourist spots, before
Mum and I headed east along the garden route.
We passed through
Hermanus with it’s whales to Cape Agulhas, and then on to the Cango caves
for a little scramble (for me anyway).
Port Elizabeth, East
London, a night (not nearly long enough) at Bucaneers, then inland to Kokstad
where we stayed at Tigerskloof backpackers and learnt all about
Then back down to Durban where Mum was to catch her flight back to Cape Town
Cape Town, 02/07/03
My welcome to Upington
was a bitterly cold one - my tent was a veritable ice-box - but inside my
down bag and liner, tucked under my duvet, I was warm as toast. The morning
light caught the wisps of my breath trailing upwards, and I was loath to
leave my warm cocoon - but crunchy nut cornflakes were calling...
Augrabies Falls is a
pleasant rather than spectacular place - it's the eighth highest fall or
something, but the dassies, like large brown guinea pigs, were probably just
as entertaining. After lunch I parted company with Liezel, Marisa and Ian,
and headed on to Springbok.
The Springbok Lodge is an interesting stop -
the owner has created a sort of mini museum on the premises, and you stay in
one of a bunch of cottages or houses in town - but there's not that much to
keep you there, so the next day I hit the road and as the sun set I arrived
at the Backpack in Cape town - my home for the next couple of weeks at
After Eight months, 40,000
kilometres, 19 African countries, and still only two vehicles, arriving in
Cape Town is a bit of an anticlimax - I forgot to organise the tickertape
parade, and it's a shame R&R couldn't make it all the way for a final beer -
that'll have to wait for my return to Europe.
So what's next? Laundry, updating this web
site, sorting out a new web host as the current one is crap. And putting
together an overlander's resource site - hence all the crap that's appeared
below the travel diary. For checking on future updates you'll need to start
looking at www.camelworld.com where
this site will eventually have its new home.
And somehow, I've got to find a way of getting
the Camel home - now how on earth am I going to do that?