On the Road, at last

I bet at least 50% of you now have that Willie Nelson song ticking over in your brain. Sorry about that!

We headed out of Jo’burg yesterday morning. Finally. We really enjoyed spending 10 days at Airport En Route. It’s the longest we’ve spent anywhere apart from home in … forever. We settled into a nice little routine of Greg working on stuff on Clancy – new roof box, diesel-powered heater for our living space that we can also use to heat our outdoor shower tent, water heater for our showers. When he needed things from the hardware, or we needed something from the supermarket, Greg would ride his bike to the shops. I cooked, read a lot and did my best to maintain the campers’ kitchen to the high standard the owners keep it. There’s something about a very clean kitchen that seems to make us want to keep it that way, and our hostess Marion thanked me for keeping it so clean, but she still liked to splash plenty of Ajax around.

Most of the time, we were the only people there, but a couple of nights before we left there was a family from French Guiana who stayed overnight. And where is French Guinana? Just north of Brazil, and east of Surinam. If you have read ‘Papillon’, you’d recognise it. It was a former French penal colony and our host David took great delight in pointing out that all their campers were from former penal colonies – ie, us and the French Guianans.

We’re on our way to the SA/Bots border crossing  at McCarthy’s Rest, north-west of Jo’burg. We drove through the centre of Jo’burg yesterday, we hadn’t meant to, but we got to revisit some of the places we got to know quite well when we stayed in an Airbnb in Maboneng on our first trip to Sth Africa. We were driving along and all of a sudden I realised we were in that trendy area. It looks better at night when all the pretty lights are on and there are plenty of people out and about, but it still looked good.

Last night we stayed at a campground just off the N14, at Barberspan Lake, 300kms west of Jo’burg.We had a lakeside campsite, and were the only ones there! There were only 6 campsites, but loads of A-frame chalets which were also all empty. I guess it gets busy during school holidays, at least I hope it does, for the sake of the owners and their staff.

Tonight we’re staying at the Red Sands Country Lodge, just a bit west of Kuruman. It’s an impressive set-up … lots of rondeval-style cabins, campsites with private facilities plus campsites without their own bathrooms, restaurant, bar, pool etc etc. We’re just staying in an ordinary campsite and using the shared bathroom, but we do have our own sink, braai and bench with power points and light. It’s very nice and at the lower end of what we pay for a campsite – R240, around $25.

We’re planning on crossing into Botswana tomorrow and have read various reports of what food we can and can’t take across. We know we can’t take fresh meat, and why would we when Botswana beef is so good and so cheap? But then we’ve read of people having UHT milk confiscated, no idea why, and fish and all kinds of other fresh food. Seems like it depends on whether the customs officer is hungry or not! When we crossed from Namibia to Bots earlier this year, we had apples and potatoes taken, despite a notice in the office with information on maximum allowed quantities, and what we had was nowhere near the limit.

Camped by the Barberspan Lake
Location of Barberspan Lake
Red sands lodge
Red Sands

 

Still in Jozi

Our plans to only stay a couple of days in Jo’burg while we get a few things done have sort of gone out the window. Greg has been building another fibreglass box on the roof  to hold 2 more tyres with solar panels covering them. It’s taking a bit longer than anticipated, but we don’t really mind. We like it here at Airport En Route, and our hosts Marion and David don’t seem to mind us spending some extra time here. There have only been a couple of other overnight campers – one family at the start of their trip and another at the end of theirs – so most of the time we have the lovely campers’ kitchen and bathroom to ourselves.

The weather here is gorgeous at the moment, especially considering it’s winter here too – up to 25C during the day, down to -3 a couple of mornings, sunshine, clear skies. It’s much colder at home.  The countryside here looks like Adelaide in summer – very brown and dry. A combination of frequent morning frosts and not much rain. Apparently it’s not usually so warm at this time of the year and the locals are worried that they may be in for a hot summer. I’ve been feeling like one ear is blocked, as if I’m still on a plane and when I mentioned it to Greg, he reminded me that we’re at an altitude of 1750m here! Which also explains why I thought it was taking longer to cook and bake stuff. It’s the altitude.

We returned the rental car on Sunday and now if we need anything from the supermarket or hardware, Greg rides his bike. It’s about 4kms to the nearest large hardware store and there’s a good shopping centre nearby.

While Greg has been adding, subtracting and modifying stuff on Clancy, I’ve been cooking, refining my bread recipe and doing lots of reading. It’s all been very laid-back and low-key and I’m sure we’ll be happy to get on the road to Botswana, but for now, we’re happy doing what we’re doing.

Some guys were repainting road markings on a road nearby. They were painting stop markings, but they didn’t use a stencil like we do in Australia, they paint it with a roller freehand, and it looks really good!
Adding the diesel heater into the storage area
Fibreglass panels most brought on the plane in pieces and fibre-glassed together
Making a mounting for the diesel fuel tank for the heater
The spare tyre storage
Mounting the inlet and controller for the diesel heater

 

 

Season 2 begins

We follow a lot of Overlanders on social media. Recently I read the final post of a guy who had been travelling for several years and he included the last lines from the movie, The Martian, in which Mark Watney says:

At some point, everything’s gonna go south on you… everything’s going to go south and you’re going to say, this is it. This is how I end. Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That’s all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem… and you solve the next one… and then the next. And if you solve enough problems, you get to come home.

Seems like very good advice for overlanders as well as astronauts.

We hit our first problem before we’d even landed in Jo’burg. On the flight from Singapore to Joburg, we realised that we’d forgotten to bring the keys to the camper part of Clancy. We’ve brought almost 90kgs of luggage and no keys. Excellent.  Actually, we’d forgotten to bring any keys at all, but we’d left a car key here with David and Marion at Airport En Route, the vehicle storage place/campground that has been Clancy’s home for the last 4 months. And from now on,the first and last items on our very long lists of stuff we need to bring will be KEYS!

It all worked out okay though. We were able to spend our first night here in an ensuite room at Marion and David’s, which meant we didn’t have to scurry 30m across frosty lawn to the toilets in the middle of the night. The next morning Greg got to work on the camper door lock and managed to lever it open, and we could then access the set of keys we’d left in the camper.

Greg re-installed the injectors he’d removed at the end of Season 1 to get refurbished, and that all went smoothly, got Clancy started without too much trouble and we’re now back to sleeping in the camper, but we’re using the nice camp kitchen here while we can.

It’s good to be back.

Clancy parked in the cold foggy morning in Johannesburg. Now we have to figure out how to break in…
Greg replacing the injectors in the 2H diesel
Unpacking everything

 

 

 

Starting to do repairs, a long list of things to do.
First nights dinner. South African Boerworst and these tiny potatoes that we see a lot in South Africa.
The days are cold in the morning but warm up and the days are bright and sunny getting over 20C
We thought about buying them but we didn’t. Bought 2 already-barbecued chickens instead

 

African Overlanders

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.

Anna, Henry and Judy jammed together in Clancy

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.

Some of the many vehicles in storage at African Overlanders
More vehicles in storage plus motorbikes at Africa Overlanders
Discussing how to forge documents and cross borders with other overlanders
Trying to repack and organise at African Overlanders
Fibreglassing brackets for the solar panel
Attaching the roof box
Panel and roof box attached

Leaving African Overlanders on our first journey
Camped on the nice grass at Kardoesie
Looking down to the pass at Kardoesie
Camped at Springbok
Unloading the bike at Springbok
Springbok town centre with very Alice Springs like hills
Soap behind the spare tyre mount so we can wash our hands with the water from the onboard tanks

The Getting of Clancy

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.

A large birthday Gin and Tonic at Moyo – note from Judy: tonic water has quinine in it, which is an antimalarial, so this was purely for medicinal purposes!
Sunset from Moyo, with Kite surfers and Robben Island in the background.

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.

So  now the African adventure can begin!

Opening the container, and it was all OK
Reversing out – Greg had to crawl between the tyres to get to the driver’s side door so he could open the bonnet and reconnect the battery

all out
Healthy Fruit- Cherries wrapped in bacon!

One of those days

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.

Redemption Burger menu
A Redemption Burger
Table Mountain looms over everything in central Cape Town.

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.

I hope your weekend is going well too.

 

 

Still in Cape Town, still waiting for 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!

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden

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.

Xin Pu Dong of Cape Town (the one on the right)

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.

Judy in front of a 100+ year old cycad

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.

The Tree top walk in Kirstenbosch
One of the weeds in the Garden of weeds

Before we start

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.

Nov 2016: Landcruiser HJ75 ute, before Greg transformed it into Clancy the Camper
Clancy the Camper parked outside our place. Steps lead to our small living area, lift-up flap to the right of the steps is storage area, and there’s also another flap on the driver’s side of the vehicle. Pull-out shade/shelter awning is fitted along the edge of the roof.
Our first trip in Clancy, at Redbanks Conservation Reserve near Burra, SA. June 2018
Living area set up as our bedroom. During the day it is 2 bench seats with a table in between. Storage areas to left and right of bed and also under bench seats