Bela Bela to Johannesburg

I packed up at the strange campground of Marula Oase, leaving all these Caravans jammed together. I headed south back on the N1. I had found an inverter repairer at Sandton. It was Saturday, so I didn’t rate my chances that they were there, but I had to try and see if I could get my inverter fixed.

The N1 was pretty busy. It dawns on you after travelling in so much of Africa, that Johannesburg is so enormous and so rich.

I eventually got to the inverter repairer, and with amazing luck a worker was there to do some cleaning, and I left my inverter with them. Then it was a 60km drive from that part of Johannesburg to another part of Johannesburg the campground at Benoni. At about 2:45pm I pulled in to the campground getting back to where I had started. I had four days until I flew out, so time to do some repairs, and get Clancy ready for at least 6 months of storage.

Palapye Botswana to Bela Bela South Africa

A long and eventful day. I was going out of Palapye by 8:30am. I had 350km and a border crossing to get to the caravan park at Modimolle. I could bail at the Big Fig campground near the border, if the border crossing went bad.

So down the A1 turn off towards Martins Drift. Its a 100km fairly straightforward drive. I get close to the Botswana border post, and the trucks start piling up. I get past the trucks, and the Botswana border post is nearly empty. So ten minutes and I am out. Then its across the single lane bridge that crosses the Limpopo and can be jammed with trucks. However I am in luck and I get straight across, then I hit the truck traffic jam at the RSA border. There seems to be no gate guard, different from last time. I have done this border post I think 4 times, and its always different. I manage to squeeze past the trucks to the car parking area. I go to immigration, and ask a truck driver if we have to show our vax certificates at a different building, but he says they don’t care about the vax certificates anymore.  I go to the immigration window, and explain to the immigration guy that I just need a transit visa of 7 days because I am flying out. He gives me a month, (I think) its hard to read.

Then off to the Customs window for a Temporary Import Permit (TIP) for Clancy. I can see the book through the window with all the previous TIP’s written in the book, so I know I am at the right place. Eventually a woman comes in and opens the window. I pass over my rego papers and say I want a TIP. She asks where is the vehicle registered, I answer Australia. She says you don’t need one and waves me on. I am totally confused. Is this Customs laziness? or have the rules changed? or are Australian cars unlikely to be imported into RSA or what? So I enter South Africa, without a TIP.

I manage to squeeze myself into the truck queue, which is being held up by the Police inspection point further up. I have been through this inspection point before. I have no idea what the Police and looking for. I open up some flaps they have a cursory look and wave me on. This Police inspection point clags up the whole border post, for I don’t know what benefit.

I must also point out I crossed a whole country, namely Botswana, without once being stopped by the Police. Although there were police doing checks, they just didn’t check me.

So I stopped after the border post to get my MTN sim working and hit the road. I stopped at Mokopane (after getting caught in a 30minute traffic jam out of town) at a PnP to get some more supplies. Then onto the N1. I had 100km to get to Modimolle, on the N1, should be easy.

I went through one toll booth, then the second. The second toll plaza, had lots of traffic, and I was weaving around trying to get into the right queue when someone called out, and eventually I realised I had a flat tyre. So changing a tyre in the middle of a toll plaza with dozens of cars wizzing around. I shifted to a toll lane that was out of use. I got my safety triangles out, and my Hi-viz vest and got to work. It was close to dusk, but in 20 minutes I had it changed and got going. I went through the toll both, and out the other side. I turned on my lights, and the engine started cutting out. If I turned my lights off the engine was fine. I couldn’t understand what was wrong. Then down the road I stop at a service station, I measure battery voltages and try to figure out what is going on, but I can’t figure it out. I leave the servo, head south and then realise in all the confusion I had missed the turnoff to Modimolle, and I was stuck on the N1 heading south with an engine that was cutting in and out. I eventually got off the N1 at the turn-off to Bela Bela. I stopped at another servo, and figured out that my engine was cutting out because the oil pressure switch was momentarily turning off. This was still a voltage problem, but I knew I could disconnect the oil pressure switch, and at least drive with out the cutting out. So I drove into Bela Bela. It was 43km back to Modimolle, so I though I have to find something at Bela Bela. The options on iOverlander are not good. I try WarmBaths, a huge resort in the middle of Bela Bela. They want $A75 for a nights camping, I tell them no. I head up the road 6km to option 2. They want $A65 for a nights camping. I say no, but they so point me to a cheaper one about a km away. I am running out of options. I roll up and they open up reception for me. Its $A38, still enormous, but I don’t argue. I am camped amongst dozens of other caravans. Its all very strange.

The truck queue outside Martins Drift
Working through the queue at the RSA border
Changing a flat tyre at a Toll Plaza

 

Louis Trichardt to Nthakeni Bush camp

I was late leaving Zvakanaka Camping at 10am because I was trying to cook everything, because it was the last power I would have for I don’t know how many days. It was mostly downhill from the top of the mountain range driving on the N1. At the turn off to Pafuri I stopped at the service station, to fill up the last empty jerry can with fuel. Then it was a fairly quiet road. I plodded again at about 65kmh. I stopped for lunch on a side road, and only 2 cars drove past. Then onto Masisi. 3 years ago we got fuel at Masisi, but this time they were closed. They were having a landlord dispute, which they hoped would be solved soon, so they could open up again. Another 12km to Nthakeni Bush camp. No one camped here. They are expecting an onslaught of early school holiday people next Thursday, so I am a few days ahead of the dreaded South African school holiday rush.

Weather has been good, with most of the afternoon about 23C.

Roadside lunch spot

 

Camped under the Baobab

 

The Donkey boiler to heat up the hot water

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Polokwane to Louis Trichardt

I left again around 8:30am. This time it was impossible to avoid the N1, it is essentially the only road.  I plodded along again, pulling over many times to let people pass. It was only 110km to Louis Trichardt, so I was there again before lunch. I went to PnP and Checkers to get even more supplies. I am loading up as I am not expecting much in Mozambique since I am taking the inland route.  I then went to the service station and filled up the tank and four jerry cans with 115l of diesel, which cost nearly $A300 at 26 Rand per litre. After that I crawled up the big hill to Zvakanaka Camping, where we had stayed before 3 years ago. I was lucky to get in, because there is a big bicycle race tomorrow, and every other campsite is booked.

 

Modimolle to Polokwane

Another 170km on. I left Weesgerus at 8:30am, continued to potter along the R101, got to Polokwane around lunch time. I drove to Makros and got even more supplies, spending an hour or so browsing. Then it was off to the outskirts of Polokwane, to Boma in the bush campsite. Nice campsite, I was the only one there. I spent time in the sun going through the boxes, trying to get rid of junk, and throw it in the bin.

 

Johannesburg to Modimolle

I left late because there was always more things to do. I avoided the N1 and drove through Pretoria, then via the R101. I was trying to avoid police road blocks, which I thought would be more frequent on the N1. However there were several police road blocks on the quieter R101. I didn’t get pulled over though. The R101 suited me better, I could plod along at a low speed. I arrived at around 4pm at Weesgerus resort 3km west of Modimolle. It was an OK caravan park. Its hard to find caravan parks close to Joberg that are not expensive and over the top resorts.

Five weeks in Joberg

58kg of luggage

I arrived back in Johannesburg on May 1st 2020, two years and two months since racing back to Australia at the start of Covid. I had 58kg of luggage. That included one change of clothes, the rest was car parts etc for fixing Clancy.

 

Clancy had been sitting out in the weather for those two years and had taken a bit of a beating. The good things when I arrived. The cranking battery was good having spent two years attached to a solar panel. The deep cycle batteries were good, having been totally disconnected, but still had a voltage of over 13V. I hired a car for the first 3 days and drove around Joberg getting things like epoxy resin, car parts and tools.

 

I spent five weeks fixing things. The list:

*Replacing the hinge of the door. I had left the door siliconed up, because the hinge broke the day before I left. This included fibreglassing the aluminum edge back on the door.

*making a new lid for the roof box. The roof box was something I made at the last minute before I drove to Sydney to load into the shipping container. The lid was badly designed and leaked when it rained, so I had to extend the lid so it fitted over the top of the roof box.

New roof box lid
  • Repaint Clancy all over. The paint had faded over two years. Partly because it was painted so badly. I was still painting it the night before I left to drive to Sydney to put it in the shipping container.
  • Derust, I used rust converter on many parts that has rusted in the weather.
  • Replace the radiator. The radiator was leaking, and I had brought a replacement radiator just before Covid, but had never installed it.
  • Replace the tie rod ends. This caused a lot of problems. I sucessfully replaced the tie rod ends, but then it needed wheel aligning. Over two days and four different wheel aligners I found no-one could do it. Either Clancy was too heavy, or too high, or the rear wheels were too covered stopping the alignment targets being attached. Eventually the last guy I spoke too told me how to do it myself. I did and it drives quite well.
    DIY wheel alignment

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Numerous fibreglass fixes. I had many little pieces of fibreglass that needed fixing, or improving.
  • Replacing flap hinge. I needed to replace the hinge on both side flaps. I did one side, left the other side until later.
  • Replace the water pump and many valves. I am not sure what went wrong, but many of the 10mm ball valves got corroded, and the water pump died. I possibly think that because I pumped a bleach solution into the tanks before I left, and it probably sat in the lines and the pump, and corroded everything. I should have drained the water lines.
  • Installed the UV filter in line with the existing filter.  However I did not tighten it down enough, water got into the UV light and the ballast shorted, so it doesn’t work.
  • New inverter. Cabled but when I connected it up it blew all the fuses in the inverter. I pulled it apart and replaced all the fuses, reconnected it but something else blew. I have disconnected it pending further investigation.

The Tale We Didn’t Tell at the Time

It happened a few days after we left Jo’burg, when we were heading for Botswana. We didn’t tell anyone at the time because we didn’t want our parents to freak out, but we did tell them as soon as we got home. And have been dining out on the tale ever since! Ha!

We weren’t laughing about it at the time, but nothing was taken and Greg was okay, so we’re regarding it as a lesson we needed to learn.

I did write a short post the day it happened, and have just added it to the blog

So … we were in Kuruman which is south west of Jo’burg. Not far from Kimberley where there are diamond mines. We wanted to get a spare tyre and were told about a place, but were warned to be careful. It was a pretty dodgy part of town with lots of people and cars. Another guy who was working in the car park also warned us to be careful.

I stayed in the car, Greg went and got the tyre and while I was momentarily distracted as he was walking back to the car with the tyre, some little bastard tried to reach in through the open car window on the driver’s side and grab whatever he could. He didn’t get anything and I then made sure both windows were up and both doors were locked while Greg went to another shop to see if he could get some inner tubes.

While he was gone, someone came up and begged for money, and someone else told me there was something wrong with the back of Clancy but I just ignored both of them and waited for Greg to get back so we could get going. When he got back to the car, there were a few guys near him and I thought I’d just wait until they went past and then unlock his door. But they were after his little backpack and tried to grab it. It had his passport, credit cards and wallet in it and there was no way he was letting his passport go!
If it had just been cash he might have. So he held on, got pushed to the ground and ended up rolling under the car and started yelling out ‘Help! Help!’. Good move – that got rid of the guys and got people to come and see what was going on. Meanwhile, I’m sitting in the car too scared to unlock the door because I thought if I did that, the guys would grab whatever they could out of the car.

So Greg rolled right under the car and came out on my side. Few scratches but that was all the damage, apart from a broken strap on his backpack. About 20 people came to see what was happening. In hindsight, I should have just leant on the car horn and made loads of noise. That would have either scared the guys off, or got people to us faster, so see what all the noise was about.

Lesson learnt – now when we’re in a town or village, we don’t carry a bag, we keep our passports hidden inside the camper, and keep our drivers licences hidden near the drivers seat because cops want to see them when they pull us over. We only carry enough cash for whatever we’re planning to buy, or take one credit card if we’re buying groceries or other large purchases.

We were really lucky.

Heading home

We’re on our way home. Currently sitting in our favourite airport, Changi

We’ve discarded stuff, cleaned up, packed up and left Clancy locked up in storage until we go back to Joburg in 5 or 6 months. We’ll be sure to bring keys with us next time.

Compared with the 90-ish kgs of stuff we took over with us, we are bringing a mere 10kgs home, plus our laptops. No checked bags, just one very light 5kg travel pack each.

We were very lucky that on this trip, our problems were minimal. 5 punctures compared with 12 on our last trip, and we had none for the last 4 weeks. Last time, we got our final puncture 2 kms from our final destination!  A minor radiator problem that a bottle of Bars Leaks fixed. Inevitable wear and tear on our dear Clancy, but that’s always going to be a feature of overland travel.

Here are a few random stats –

Nights we have spent in Clancy since Greg finished building him – 100, over our 2 African trips and the 2 trial runs we did at home.

Kms driven since we left Cape Town in mid-February – 13,800

Number of punctures in 14 weeks of travelling in Southern Africa – 17

Kgs of bread flour used to make our (almost) daily bread on this trip – 10

Number of butane gas cartridges used on this trip – 8. We were able to use our electric hotplate a lot more than we thought we would.

Thanks for travelling with us, it’s been a really great trip. See  you next time!

Stored in Johannesburg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manyeleti Game Reserve

Leon at African Bush Backpackers told us about Manyeleti and recommended it as a good place to spent a couple of days. It’s just west of Kruger’s Orpen Gate, but can also be accessed from the south via the R40 and some side roads. Our host at Hippo Waterfront Lodge recommended that we avoid the R538 between White River and Hazyview as it’s busy,  may have a lot of livestock wandering across the road and can take long time to drive a short distance . We’ve learnt to listen to advice from locals!

After we left Marloth Park, we spent a night at Panorama Rest Camp, a lovely campground near Graskop. It had a horizon pool overlooking the kloof gorge, good facilities including coin-operated washing machines and dryers (which we made very good use of) AND beautiful azalea hedges that were in flower when we visited. Some were 3+ metres high! We were planning on driving north to Blyde River Canyon, then to Manyeleti, but when we got up the next morning it was so foggy we could barely see a car length in front of us. So going sightseeing seemed a bit pointless, and we’ll add Blyde River to our ‘to do’ list.

We crawled down the R533 and heaved a quiet sigh of relief when we were low enough to be able to see a decent distance in front. Headed north on the R40 to Acornhoek where we stopped at a shopping mall and stretched our legs and met a very dapper Car Guard … bow tie, shiny shoes and a lovely man. When we got back to Clancy, he was standing close by, talking to a young Austrian woman. She took a photo of us with the guard, his son and his son’s friend.

Then along the R531 to Orpin Gate. The entrance to Manyeleti is on the right, just before the gate. We paid the day fee of R55 per person, got a map of the reserve and drove south to Main Camp. Manyeleti Gate is about 4kms south of Main Camp.

There are several private lodges/tented camps/other accommodation in the Reserve in addition to Main Camp, which offers cabins, rondevals, campsites and Senate, a tented camp area. We parked Clancy on one of the campsites, which is a large area with a cold water sink, braai and paved area. Ablutions nearby were okay and people staying at Senate share those. We paid R250 per campsite per night  – they charge per campsite, not per person. We only paid the day fee for our first day there.

The day we arrived, we went on an afternoon game drive, being very mindful that the camp’s gate closes at 6pm. Saw a huge herd of cape buffalo and wildebeest, antelopes, a couple of elephants. Next day we went out earlier in the afternoon and found a big group of elephants in some scrub. Largest group we’ve seen! There were 4 or 5 babies including one very tiny one, and I guess the rest of the females are pregnant. They weren’t too bothered by us, or rather, by Clancy, and we sat and watched them for ages.

Poor Clancy has had a bit of radiator trouble, a small leak, nothing too serious, but we’ll be bringing a replacement radiator to add to the spare parts collection. Greg bought a bottle of Bars Leaks when we were in Malalane, just out of Marloth Park, so he added  the contents to the radiator …. problem solved. Magic stuff.

We spent our second-last night at Elangeni Holiday Resort, just off the N4 west of Nelspruit, then drove the 250ish kms back to Joburg to the place where we store Clancy and camp when we’re here.

The hole in a radiator fixed with Bars-leak
Camped at Panorama Rest Camp
the horizon pool at Panorama Rest Camp
the horizon pool at Panorama Rest Camp
the horizon pool at Panorama Rest Camp, with full moon rising over it
The Car Guard, us, and his son and a friend at Acornhoek
A large herd of Cape Buffalo at Manyeleti
Levelling Clancy at Manyeleti main camp
Elephants at Manyeleti
The campsite at Manyeleti
More Elephants at Manyeleti
More Elephants at Manyeleti
More Elephants at Manyeleti
More Elephants at Manyeleti
More Elephants at Manyeleti
Cape Buffalo skull at Manyeleti
A vulture?
Camped at Elangeni Holiday Resort