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Travel Diary - 2003
5 January | Senegal
22 January |Gambia
18 January |Guinea
9 February | Mali
22 February | Burkina Faso
3 March | Ghana
19 March | Togo
20 March | Benin
25 March | Niger
12 April | Chad
15 April | Cameroon
16 April | Nigeria
30 April | Congo
24 May | RDC
31 May | Angola
5 June | Namibia
27 June | South Africa
30 August | Lesotho
10 September | Swaziland
9 October | Botswana
17 October | Namibia
19 October |
Zambia
29 October | Malawi
4 November |Mozambique
16 November | Tanzania
12 December | Rwanda
16 December | RDC
18 December | Uganda
24 December | Kenya

Travel Diary - 2004
9 January | Ethiopia
6 February | Sudan
21 February | Saudi Arabia
23 February | Jordan
3 March | Syria
5 March | Turkey
12 March | Greece
21 March | ...And Home

 

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17 months, 43 countries, and 2 vehicles

South Africa

Middleburg, 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 Afrikaners about?

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 Camel 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 Mozambique.

Time to move on...

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Kruger

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 habitat.

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.

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The Battlefields

Alone again I drove into Natal the province of battlefields that Id 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 cant name it for fear of freeloaders abusing the place, but heres 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 quid.

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 Id recommend a visit.

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Cape Town - 49,015km

Three bloody months. People werent 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. Id expected to get an apartment, but this was a place with a bar, good food, a pool table, and ADSL. No competition, especially once Id 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 Id missed or shopping for all the things Id missed for so long.

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.

The Visit

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 its 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 Lesotho. Then back down to Durban where Mum was to catch her flight back to Cape Town from.

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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 least.

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?