It took us 4 hours to get through Immigration and Customs yesterday, I’ll write more about that when our internet access is better, but to be honest, I didn’t even think we’d have internet access here, other than in large towns.
We spent last night camped near a huge baobab tree near Xangongo, about 130kms from the border. It’s reputed to be the largest baobab in Africa. We met a young Frenchman today and spent a couple of hours chatting with him (Hi, Joffrey!) and we’re staying here again tonight because it’s a nice place and we’re all set up and comfortable. We’ve said bom dia good morning and boa tarde good afternoon to visitors and locals. The locals walk near where we’re camped to go and get water to take back to their village. The visitors, including a local policeman who was born near here. come to see the tree.
We now have our e-visas for Angola, thanks to a lot of hard work on Greg’s part – scanning, applying online and emailing. The process was (fairly) straightforward, but there were a few hoops to jump through, in terms of getting the scan sizes right. Lonely Planet’s Thorntree forum has a very helpful thread/post on how to do it.
So, we are now committed to crossing the Namibian/Angola border at Oshikango/Santa Clara on Saturday. Distance from Windhoek to the border is around 750kms, which is 2 days driving for us. We did 420kms to Tsumeb yesterday, so we’ll have a shorter drive today. When we reach the northern border, we will have driven the length of Namibia, all on the B1 highway. Some parts south are pretty ordinary – just a narrow strip of bitumen with a line down the middle. And then there’s the new bit just north of Windhoek – new road, still being built, 2 lanes on either side, lovely.
There’s a police checkpoint a few kms north of Windhoek and we were stopped by a young woman wanting to check that we had paid our road tax. We had paid the N$295 AUD$29.50 at the southern border, so we just had to show her the official bit of paper, plus Greg’s passport and driver’s licence and that was all good.
There’s a particular form of greeting here that I’d forgotten about until our exchange with this lovely young woman
Her: Good morning, how are you?
Us: Good thanks
and then before we had the chance to enquire after her own wellbeing, she replied: I’m good also
Then got down to the reason for stopping us. It’s a friendly, efficient way of getting pleasantries out of the way. She also had a quick look in Clancy, because he’s interesting both in terms of where’s he’s from – South Australian numberplates, AUS sticker on the back – and what might possibly be behind the side flaps and door.
So, our first brush with a Namibian official was fine.
Later in the day we stopped at a SuperSpar in Otjiwarongo, which is near a couple of popular national parks – Waterberg Plateau to the east, and Etosha to the north. A lot of overlanders, travellers, tourists and buses stop there to get fuel, food and whatever else they need. The SuperSpar is big and very well-stocked, including a whole aisle of imported German food in cans, packets and jars. Anna, Henry and any other Germans reading this – it’s worth a visit if you’re missing anything from home.
As we were parking, a local man went up to Greg and started talking, asking his name, how it’s spelt, where he’s from, why we’re there. Then another man started the same with me, asking the names of my kids and if I had any grandkids. By the time we had locked the car and camper, the men had carved our names on pieces of stone that they wanted us to buy. Our standard reply to this kind of sales pitch is ‘we aren’t allowed to bring it into our country’, and these days I just don’t buy souvenirs, I don’t need any more stuff. So that went on for a short while, then I found a car guard who happened to be carrying a big stick, asked him to watch Clancy and we went into the retail haven that is SuperSpar. We didn’t buy much, having already stocked up at Food Lover’s in Windhoek – cold drinks, a South African power board, razors for my hairy legs (just checking to see who’s really reading this – ha!). Our stone carvers were still waiting for us when we got back to Clancy, but quickly changed to just asking outright for money ‘for bread to feed their children’. No, sorry guys, we don’t give money to beggars, although if they had just asked me to buy a loaf of bread before we went into the supermarker, I probably would have.
And so … onwards, towards Tsumeb and our final and most interesting encounter of the day.
We got about 80kms up the road and were stopped by another police officer. This wasn’t a checkpoint, just a single police car with a couple of cops parked under a tree near an intersection. He told Greg that we had been driving 86kms in an 80km zone. The speed limit on the B1 is 120kms, unless otherwise signposted, but this particular short stretch of road is 80kms because a lot of heavy vehicles turn into and out of the intersection.
Okay, so we missed the 80km sign, but Clancy doing 86kms on a flat bit of road is extremely unlikely, he just can’t go that fast unless we’re going downhill with a tail wind. Anyway, Greg was very apologetic and contrite. Cop asked for his driver’s licence, but no other paperwork, which seemed odd. He told us it was a N$400 AUD$40 fine, and that we would have to pay it at the town we had just left, 80kms south.
Us: oh gosh, well okay, that’s what we’ll do then. How do we tell the station what we have to pay?
Him: Oh, I’ll give you the paperwork, but you have to drive 80kms to pay it because we don’t have a receipt book here.
He made a big point of what a hassle it would be for us to drive all that way back.
Eventually he gave up waiting for us to just offer to give him the money, and he let us go without paying, so he could move on to some other poor sucker who would cough up on the spot.
We didn’t realise while it was happening, but as we were driving away, we figured it was a con. Greg was definitely not driving 86kms/hr, but because we appeared to be prepared to drive back to pay the fine, the scam came undone. A lot of people would have been needing to get to Etosha or wherever they were going before dark and would have just paid … we were intending to get to Tsumeb, but that wasn’t essential, so … sorry sir, we don’t give money to people in uniform just because they ask for it.
To anyone reading who might get caught in a similar scam in the future – tell the cop you’ll go with him to his police station so it can all be sorted out. If it’s legit, you’re doing the right thing. If it’s a scam, he’ll back right down and let you go on your way.
We stayed at a lovely campground just south of the town in Tsumeb, part of the Kupferquelle Resort. Grassy sites, lots of trees, swimming pool and probably heaps of other stuff that we haven’t found.
Sounds so much better than figuring stuff out as we go along, right? We’re still settling into camper life – adding bits, moving things, tweaking how we do things. It’s all going well, though. Clancy is comfortable to sleep in and fairly sound-proof. We’re in Windhoek tonight, the capital of Namibia, staying in the campground section of Arebbusch Travel Lodge. We’re close to the airport on one side and a main road on the other, but so far it’s not too noisy.
We’re learning stuff too – when we were changing the flat tyre a couple of days ago, I put the wheel nuts on the ground and the threads got all sandy, and needed to be washed thoroughly, otherwise even just one grain of sand would have wrecked the thread. Greg already knew that. Now I do too.
Then yesterday we came very close to running out of fuel because we trusted our stupid GPS to tell us where the next servo was … but it had closed down. We must have been running on diesel fumes for the last couple of kms because when we filled up, we put 69.68 litres in the 70 litre fuel tank! The lesson here is to only trust the GPS if our printed map also says there’s a servo.
As soon as we got our Clancy, we switched from Airbnb mode to camping mode, so we headed to African Overlanders. Located on a farm about 30kms north-east of Cape Town (with a great view of Table Mountain to the west and the Hottentots Holland Mountains to the east), and not far from the Airbnbs we stayed at when we first arrived here, it is a haven for Overlanders needing vehicle or motorbike storage, mechanical assistance, advice or a place to stay – either camping in their own vehicle, tent or in one of the straw-bale rooms. Duncan can also organise shipping.
We spent 4 nights there getting organised to head off into the wilderness. Greg was busy doing big tasks including fibreglassing a storage box onto Clancy’s roof, bolting a solar panel onto the roof, putting his pushbike together and other important things. I kept busy doing little stuff like washing, cooking and moving piles of stuff from one place to another, then somewhere else then back to the original place. Well, that’s how it felt anyway. We’re still figuring out where to store stuff, but that’s always a work in progress.
While we were at African Overlanders, we met fellow travellers and exchanged stories. Most had been on the road for a while, travelling from north to south via various routes. It was good to hear their advice, tips and tales. The second night we were there, 8 of us shared a meal – someone had leftover curry sauce and rice from the previous night, I added the chicken sosaties skewers I’d planned to cook for our dinner, someone else had a baguette and salad ingredients and with all that we had heaps of food with seconds for everyone. We ate off Meakin English bone china plates, which are part of the very well-equipped camp kitchen that’s located in a 40ft shipping container. The bathrooms are in a 20ft shipping container.
African Overlanders is fairly close to the shopping centres we visited when we were Airbnb-ing, so we went back to familiar places to do our shopping. Greg also rode the 5 or 6kms on his bike a few times to go to local shops to get some food and hardware bits, because it was much easier than packing up the camper to drive there. Also, the camper had to stay stationary for 24 hours or so while the fibreglass on the roof dried. So it was handy having the bike for running errands.
We said goodbye to Anna and Henry on Friday – they were meeting friends for the weekend. We’ll miss them and will follow their adventures with great interest. As they are planning on spending a year in Africa, I’m sure we’ll get some good ideas from them on where we should travel on our subsequent trips within and around Africa.
And then by early Saturday afternoon we were finally organised and packed up to get going. First stop was Food Lovers, our favourite fresh food shop, where we bought lots of new potatoes for Greg and 3 punnets of raspberries at the bargain price of $2.50 for all 3! As a comparison, at home I occasionally buy one punnet when raspberries are on special for under AUD$5.00. We bought some other food too. We spent our first ‘proper’ night in Clancy – sleeping in the camper rather than in a tent – at a lovely campground at Kardoesie, grassy sites, lovely views, quiet and not crowded. All went well and we feel like our set-up is working well for us.
Yesterday, Sunday, we drove further north and stopped at Springbok Caravan Park for the night. Another nice place with grassy sites and a swimming pool. Springbok is very much like Alice Sprince – low mountain range going through the town, very similar terrain and even some hills in the middle of town, like Anzac Hill in Alice.
The Namibian border is only about 100kms north of here, so today will be our first border crossing in our own vehicle, and we’ll get to use our Carnet for the first time.
Okay, so … we finally got Clancy late on Tuesday afternoon, after a couple of days of hanging around a lot and waiting for things to happen. It was my birthday on Monday and after an early-morning call to let us know that Customs were inspecting the container, we drove to Bidvest SACD where it was being stored. By the time we got there, Customs had left, having apparently opened the container, glanced inside and then closed and sealed it again. We stayed close to Bidvest for the rest of the morning, but by early afternoon we realised that it wasn’t going to be happening that day, so we booked another Airbnb, extended the rental car for about the 4th time and got on with our day. We had a lovely dinner at Moyo, an African restaurant at Bloubergstrand, which is on the coast north of the city with a perfect view of Table Mountain, Robben Island, kite-surfers, windsurfers and the setting sun.
Next morning we were up and out the door by 8am to drive back to Bidvest because we really, really thought we’d be able to get Clancy on Tuesday. It ended up being another day of a lot of waiting around, punctuated by a visit to a colleague of our shipping agent to hand over a very large pile of ZAR South African rand to pay for the SA portion of the shipping cars to Africa exercise. The colleague, Daya, asked why we were paying cash and not doing bank transfers, and we told him that we had been advised that we could only pay cash, so that’s what we had prepared for. Right. So …. payment made …. now let’s get our cars!
Hmm, not so fast. More waiting, more paperwork, a courier had to bring our carnets, which is sort of like a passport for a car and which is a requirement for any vehicle shipped here. By this time it was around 3pm and apparently whoever does the container stuff finishes work at 4 and so it was looking like we weren’t going to get our cars that day, unless we paid AUD$150 in ‘overtime charges’. We didn’t have to think to long about that one – it would have cost the 4 of us at least $100 in accomodation, plus extending 2 rental cars for another day, so we agreed to pay the charge.
And then when we were waiting for more paperwork so we could get our cars, the power went out because of loadshedding. Argh! More waiting, more muttering under our breaths. As Anna commented, it’s like every single person we have dealt with during this whole process has never ever imported a vehicle in a container before. Anyway, eventually we got to our container, and the company agreed to waive the overtime charge. We were all so happy to finally be reunited with our cars.Both vehicles and their contents were in exactly the condition they were in when they went into the container, apart from Willie suffering a broken battery terminal which Henry and Greg fixed with brown paper and string …… not quite, but a bush mechanic would have been proud of them.
We had been very careful packing Clancy, following a comment from our friend Liam who had spent time working as a Customs officer in Sydney. He told us about a vehicle he’d inspected that had got wrecked inside because of a loose box of cutlery which just smashed everything it came in contact with during the sea voyage. We made a rule that whatever we packed had to either be full or empty, no half-full boxes or storage spaces, and no ‘wriggle room’ between anything. We used cheap yoga mats, bubble wrap and bed linen as padding where we needed to. That worked well, nothing moved and we kept everything intact.
First stop was the servo 500m down the road (thankfully both cars had enough fuel to make it there), then we all drove in separate cars to the airport to return the rental cars, and then on to African Overlanders which offers a campground / vehicle storage / maintenance / mechanic / shipping agent that was highly recommended by other Overlanders. We unpacked just enough to get to our tent, mattresses and a quilt & took ages putting up the tent because it’s been a long while and we forget how to put it up in between camping trips. We sat and had a drink and a chat with the other people staying here and crawled into bed without worrying about finding pillows or bedlinen.
We all have them. Those days where, if it’s going to go wrong, it does. We had that kind of day yesterday. Nothing major or life-threatening, just a day of annoyances and irritations.
We had to check out of our lovely Airbnb place and when I was thanking and saying goodbye to our host, she commented that I looked so calm and relaxed about still not having Clancy. I replied that we had been deported from Russia, so this current situation is just inconvenient, not stressful. It’s all about perspective.
We were hopeful that we would be able to get Clancy yesterday though, and decided to go and hang out near the freight forwarder’s, in case we got the call to go there. We are the only ones with keys to the car, so when the shipping container is opened, we really have to be present. We decided to revisit The Old Biscuit Mill in trendy Woodstock, have something to eat at one of the eating places there, have a wander around and wait. When we were here 3.5 years ago, we had lunch at The Test Kitchen which is located in the Old Biscuit Mill. It doesn’t open for lunch now and we just wanted something simple so we went and had burgers at Redemption Burgers. What really caught our eye about this place was their clever menus. The burgers were delicious too.
We had a walk up and down Woodstock’s main drag, Albert Road. Lots of places to eat, antique and retro shops, clothing stores and other signs of gentrification from light industrial to inner-city trendy suburb. We found a shady spot inside the Biscuit Mill complex and sat and waited for news from the freight forwarder, but by 3.30 we decided that it probably wouldn’t be happening until next week, so we extended the rental car hire again and booked another Airbnb place, only a couple of kms from the previous one.
Our potential Airbnb host had been pretty good about replying to messages, but somehow once we’d booked and paid to stay for 3 nights, everything went quiet. We got to the address and rang the doorbell as instructed … nothing. It was just on 5pm and we thought maybe he wasn’t home from work yet, so we waited. Sent a couple more messages, rang the bell a few more times, sent some SMS messages. Still nothing. This place is fairly typical of suburban homes here – very high fence, built like Fort Knox, impossible to get into. This one doesn’t have razor wire or electric fencing, but a lot do.
So while we waited, we went off to the local shopping centre to find something to cook for dinner and as he was walking back to the car, Greg noticed that one of the hubcaps was missing. Sigh. We remembered hearing a noise as we were driving on the motorway to the Airbnb, and we now realise it was the sound of the hubcap rolling away. We drove back to where we thought we might have lost it, but couldn’t find it. So, back to the Airbnb, back to no answer when we rang the doorbell. We were starting to think that maybe we’d lost our money and our bed for the night, then decided to phone the number rather than just send text messages. Answered on the first ring and things went smoothly from there. No idea why he didn’t reply to any of the other messages we’d sent, but by that time we didn’t feel like pursuing the topic, we just just glad to get inside and get settled. It’s a nice place and we’re happy to spend a few days here.
And now, today has been fine. Lovely weather, Greg took our laundry to a laundry service nearby so we now have clean and beautifully folded clothes, and we went to a different Food Lover’s store where I found packets of dried tortellini and ravioli which is a staple part of our camping pantry and which had eluded me up until now. Food Lovers has excellent produce & meat, and offers a good range of groceries, all at lower prices than the other supermarket chains here – Spar, Pick & Pay, Checkers. We’ll probably go back to that one and stock up before we head off in Clancy.
Things are progressing, but very slowly. The container ship docked on Tuesday and ‘our’ container was unloaded, then yesterday it was taken by truck to a freight forwarders depot.
Now we’re waiting for an appointment with Sth African customs to come and inspect the contents of the container, ie Clancy and Willie. Then, hopefully, we can hand over the remainder of the freight / customs / fees payment and drive Clancy away.
We are staying at the Airbnb until tomorrow, but then they have new guests booked in, so we hope to stay at African Overlanders which offers vehicle storage, a campground and other services not far away from where we are now. It offers some cabin accommodation and camping.
So, we’re feeling frustrated and powerless at the moment, but very grateful that we have comfortable accommodation. And the weather is beautiful!
We’ve held off posting much because this blog is meant to be about our overlanding adventures, but as we’re still sitting in Cape Town waiting for our ship, the Xin Pu Dong, to come in, I think we should just post what we’re doing while we wait.
On the topic of Clancy, though, the ship he’s on is currently sitting just a few kms away from the Cape Town Container Terminal and it’s due to dock in the early hours of tomorrow morning. We’re still not sure when we’ll actually get to collect Clancy, but it’s getting closer.
We seem to have spent the last few days visiting shopping centres, trying to find stuff we need for Clancy and for our trip. Fire extinguishers were fairly easy to find. Smoke detectors …. not so easy. Seems like they aren’t really a ‘thing’ here, whereas at home we could find them in the local supermarket and Bunnings hardware would have an entire section devoted to different ones. We have found the butane cartridges we use to cook with, but the prices vary from an extortionate $5.50 per can to a more reasonable $2.50 per can. Greg has bought a few tools, but I have held off buying food and other essentials yet because I can’t remember what’s packed in the camper and I’m not sure how much space we’ll have when we have it set up properly. The number one rule when we packed the camper to ship was that all the storage space and boxes had to be either full or empty, so that stuff couldn’t rattle around and break.
On Saturday we got as close to the container port as we could, but at that stage the Xin Pu Dong was 20kms out to sea and we weren’t able to see it at all. It was a gorgeous day though, and we had a wonderful view of a cloud-free Table Mountain and Lion’s Head. Forgot to take any photos. Yesterday we had planned to go to a market in the Company Gardens and then on to Kirstenbosch, Cape Town’s Botanical Gardens, but it drizzled most of the day so we postponed our visit to Kirstenbosch until today.
Gorgeous day with another perfect cloud-free view of Table Mountain. High temps here are mostly in the mid-high 20s. Not very busy at Kirstenbosch as it was a Monday, but it would have been nice to visit on a Sunday as they have live music acts on the Concert Lawn during summer. Kirstenbosch is the largest of 11 botanical gardens spread throughout SA. It celebrated its centenary in 2013, and there are 100 year-old plaques on trees that were planted before or when the Gardens were first established. Prior to this, the land had been, at various times, vineyards, farmland, orchard, forest and in prehistoric times it formed part of the territory of 2 local clans.
The land was donated to the nation by Cecil John Rhodes, who had purchased it in the late 19th century to protect the eastern slopes of Table Mountain from urban development.
The Gardens are beautifully set out with sections including a Fragrance Garden, a Braille Trail, Useful Plants, a Waterwise Garden, a Weed Garden that features many plants that are very common in Aussie gardens, Proteas, Ericas, a Garden of Extinction and a really superb Tree Canopy Walk which was constructed to celebrate the garden’s centenary.
We spent a few very happy hours there and could easily go back and see more bits that we missed the first time.
We’re sitting in Cape Town, waiting for Clancy the Camper to arrive. He is in a container on a ship, which is currently en route between Durban and here. The ship is expected to arrive in Cape Town this afternoon and we hope to be able to collect Clancy early next week.
Let’s backtrack a bit though, while we’re waiting. We have travelled in Southern Africa twice – in Jan-Feb 2015 we rented a Corolla and camped around South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland. We liked it so much, we came back again later in the year, rented a 4WD and travelled around Namibia, Botswana and a bit more of South Africa in July-Aug 2015
Africa has somehow got under our skin, and we always thought we’d return, but in the last couple of years our sketchy plans have really taken on a life of their own. Greg bought a Landcruiser HJ75 ute in late 2016 and has spent the last 18 months or so building a camper on the back of it out of composite fibreglass. That project really could have had its own blog, but Greg will add a separate page or 2 with some information and photos. He has done an incredible job and built us a ‘tiny home’ on wheels so we can have more African adventures.
Our long-term plan is to keep Clancy in Africa and travel through some of the 54 countries that make up this incredible continent, heading in a sort-of south-to-north direction.
On this trip, we plan to drive from Cape Town through Namibia to Angola, then head south through Botswana and finish up in Johannesburg. We have already sussed out storage for Clancy at a campground/guesthouse/car storage place near Jo’burg Airport. We stayed in a cabin there for a couple of nights earlier this week, got to know the owners and have already paid to store Clancy for 5 months when we finish this trip.
Our travel plans are always very … um …. imprecise, perhaps informal is a better description, but at the time of writing, our next trip will probably be through some of Eastern Africa – Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania. Eventually we want to travel through Western Africa, finishing our African adventure in Morocco. And then, who knows?
The only thing we are certain of is that Clancy will never return to Australia. Our friends Anna and Henry, the Backroad Vagrants, spent 17 days cleaning Willie, their Landcruiser Troopcarrier, before shipping him from Vladivostok to Australia. And as Greg says, Landcruiser HJ75s are worth more out of Australia than in.
Clancy and Willie are currently sharing a 40ft shipping container. Fate and the Facebook Overlanding Africa group brought Anna, Henry, Greg and me together towards the end of last year when Anna posted, asking for information about shipping a vehicle from Australia to South Africa. Greg responded and many, many emails and several months later, we are very close to being reunited with our vehicles.