Lake Turkana… IMPORTANT!

If you’re considering the Lake Turkana route into Kenya then you must read this post from cornwalltocapetown … They had a scary experience as did we.

Richard and I chose not to say anything for fear of worrying our families but on our jaunt past Turkana we found a body on the shores, white in appearance and it left us very quiet and very shaken considering it was just the two us after deciding we didn’t need a convoy on this particular route.

Clearly you do!

Lake Turkana from Cornwall to Cape Town

Underpants over our trousers… And maybe a cape?

Yippee!

I finally have something to “blog” about… Absolutely nothing even slightly Africa, over-landing or off-roading related has occurred in the last few months and then we came across this poor fella last night…

20121220-122344.jpg

We shut out the oppressive darkness, rain, pollution and crowded streets and briefly returned to the Serengeti in Tanzania and Sossusvlei in Namibia where we encountered other sticky situations (excuse the pun).

This unsuspecting chap had driven over a large bollard/stone policeman on a narrow lane in the heart of central London and was beached at an extraordinary angle in his SUV. Richard took one quick look and almost leapt from our moving vehicle at the exciting prospect of rescuing someone with his beloved winch!

After some tight manoeuvring of the orange beast the winch cable was out in a flash and Richard was on the job.

I don’t think the stranded gentleman knew quite what to think but hey… He’s free to carry on and I couldn’t really say who was happier! Us or him 🙂

Merry Christmas everyone!… Spread a little festive spirit and help those in need if you happen to stumble upon them, its pretty fun (when you’re car nerds like us anyway, thanks for the adjective Gabrielle x)

Home is where the heart is…

And my heart is still in Africa I think.

Our little orange truck has been loaded on to it’s container and is awaiting departure from Cape Town, it already feels like we are missing a limb and that September is an eternity away. We really should have hired a private plane to transport it… It deserves the only the best you know!

20120803-223330.jpg

20120803-223337.jpg

What’s it like being in London again? “Mixed feelings” would be the standard response…

Pros? An ensuite; oh man, it really is brilliant. My handbag; it’s gorgeous and I missed it! Familiar faces; always comforting. Our own washing machine; we still hadn’t washed our Kilimanjaro clothes… Gross!

Cons? Wearing shoes; jandals (or flip flops) are the way forward. Job hunting; pffft. Cleaning; having a flat is great but you have to clean it all the bloody time! Car problems; you think you’ve left it all behind in Cape Town until you realise the other two need MOT’s, Tax, new batteries and what not. Blah blah, the list goes on, so there we go… I guess the point I’m trying to make IS:

You really only need the simple things in life and as equally frustrating as that can be at times I’d give absolutely anything to do it all again tomorrow.

i.e. Some of the experiences that put a big smile on our faces while we travelled were a washing machine, a clean toilet, hot water and a roadside meal that wasn’t skewers of whole-cooked rat. Richard found joy in scaring the excrement out of me on various off-road “adventures” and mountain climbing expeditions (we climbed a MOUNTAIN for crying out loud!).

It’s been an emotional few days to be completely honest. It’s actually very difficult to let our little African adventure go and in typically girly fashion there are sniffles and damp lashes as I think of how best to word this post.

We have a raft of facts, figures and stats to share with the fellow inquisitive overlander but as Richard is the mathematician in the household I will leave that to him.

Just to wrap things up though… We finished in Cape Town with 34567 miles on the clock. How totally perfect.

Overland travel in Africa really is as simple as 34567.

Love to all, we miss you.
Jo and Richard

Guess where we are today… Cape Town!

What a journey! 🙂

20120724-151130.jpg

5 months and 17 days (to find a proper flat white)

In an almost award-winning fashion, we’d like to thank…

Brent Skilton(AKA: HQ), you’re a legend B, thanks for doing all our banking, neglected car registrations, taking care of the flat and many other things X

Marco Buergisser, for a lovely cosy night in your family home, it was very much appreciated X

Waleed El Husseiny of Imaginative Traveller, you brilliant man! The best ever itinerary for Egypt-self-drive-travel and all the contacts one could ever need in order to make the most difficult borders some of the easiest. We love you for it X

Matt Young and Richard Tom, you saved our butts with Western Union in Khartoum when we were stranded without money or diesel! X

Karima, Daniel and Manish, for giving us an education in human kindness when we dropped into Mwanza. It was a huge highlight of the journey X

Kevin at Nene Overland, for sending out those bloody rear shocks so quickly and efficiently! It would have been 4 weeks otherwise X

David and Di Grimes, the three nights we had with you were bliss. Thank you so very much for taking us in and just being so lovely X

Mums and Dads of kiwisinafrica, we know you worried a lot, thank you for caring SO much! We also know you’re the most avid readers of our blog and we love you all dearly for it X

Sisters and Brothers of kiwisinafrica, you’re all pretty cool too, love you lots X

Road-workers of Torra Bay, THANKS for saving our asses in the Skeleton Coast National Park. It was a memorable occasion (Go the All Blacks!) X

New Friends, last but most certainly not least to our fellow travellers and overlanders… You’re the reason this trip has been so amazing and eye-opening. We’ll miss our campsite rendezvous more than anything else X

There are many more who helped us on our way but these are the people we can think of now amidst all this excitement!!

Now… a little side mention for all the scoffing cynics, doubters, greedy buggers that assumed we had more money than sense and just generally rude people that told us “we were crazy” to bring this amazing little orange car to Africa: You were all completely wrong. HA!

After 5 months and 17 days of all our polite smiles, polite nods of the head in feigned agreement and polite dismissive chuckles… this is the most polite way I can say what I was really thinking all along:

20120723-203622.jpg

Alright? Good.

(WOO HOOOOO to kiwisinafrica)

Jo and Richard

It just had to be a nail-biter of a finish…

Of course at some point in our journey the luck had to run out and it most definitely did the day we left Swakopmund to head north again.

We weren’t really supposed to be in Swakopmund to be honest but with yet more bad advice from our Lonely Planet, we “had” to go there in order to obtain permits for the Skeleton Coast National Park. You don’t need to, that’s complete rubbish.

We spent a couple of nights there anyway, had a campsite with private bathroom (!!), found a great cafe and dressed in clothes without holes or stains for a fancy dinner out. All wonderful. Then we headed north.

No need for diesel in Swakopmund… We’ll fill up on the way. No we won’t, as we had 100km’s of range showing on the dash we realised the closest station was 100km’s behind us. A night in Henties Bay, a full tank + plus jerry can and we were off again.

Enter Skeleton Coast National Park (via a STINKY Cape Cross seal colony) and we were well on track… For 11 hours of being stuck in the sand. Brilliant.

After our night of “adventure” referred to in the previous post, we head for Palm as we need fuel, money and the mother of all car washes. We arrive, there is no fuel, ATM or car wash in Palm.

On to the delightful little Kamanjab and our favourite bar at Oppi Koppi Rest Camp… A terrible road (not helped by very wobbly steering due to wheels etc heavily laden with sand) and we find a familiar and sympathetic face at the other end. Thanks to Oppi Koppi for giving us 5 hours use of their cleaning equipment and the first meal and beverage we had had in 30 hours (beer and pizza of course).

Let’s head to Opuwo, we’d been told about a gorgeous hotel in the area with a great campsite and views… Tarmac road! Things really are looking up! A few drinks, a beautiful sunset and two long sighs of relief.

We are only hours away from the Van Zyls Pass, “let’s do it!” says Richard, “NO” says Jo, “YES” says Richard, “NO FLIPPIN’ WAY” says Jo. We do the Van Zyls Pass (A notorious one way/downhill 4×4 track.)

Our slightly bung tyre as a result of our night of terror in Moremi can’t really do much more rock climbing/descents and has frightening looking bulges exuding from every angle inside and out after reaching the bottom.

We catch the sunset in the Marienfluss (stunning) and then continue to Marble Community Camp only 50km’s away…

The road is actually a rock track and it takes hours. Excellent. We sleep, change the wheel, and hit the river bed tracks in search of the famed “desert” Elephants (the whole reason for heading north). There are none and in a desperate bid to justify all this chaos we start taking pictures of anything that moves, it’s “desert adapted” says Richard so the giraffes, impala and zebra suddenly become different in some way. No problem, let him have his moment.

Hours and hours of river beds behind us and we hit the first road we’ve seen in days, it’s horrendously rutted and corrugated and another tyre completely disintegrates. Two tyres in two days after 20,000 miles. Just perfect.

Oh and the spare wheel winch jams so the ruined wheel has to be wedged into the boot. Things get a little quiet in the car… Our tyres (MT-R 19″ etc etc) are exceptionally rare and we have to consider the possibility of continuing to Cape Town with no spare at all.

Windhoek! What a bloody wonderful place! The option of a brand new 19″ MT-R or slightly used for half the price, fitted in moments. The gorgeous sparkly Land Rover dealership has a replacement spare wheel winch and we find the best car wash in the whole of Africa to remove the 10 tonnes of sand we are carrying around in the underbody of the car. We’re back on track! Properly!

Since then we have had a fantastic time. Sossusvlei, got the last available campsite in the area, caught sunset and sunrise and didn’t pulverise the huge Oryx that bolted out in front of the car! We have had a really relaxing couple of days, lovely accommodation, beautiful sights and tonight we are only 180’s from the border with South Africa.

How heart-wrenching.

Life’s a beach and then you dig


The Skeleton Coast National Park. Referred to as the “sands of hell” by sailors. Famous for shipwrecks, whale bones and inhospitable terrain. Salt/Sand desert meets rough Atlantic Ocean. 1000’s of square miles of salt plains completely desolate and uninhabited. Perfect for some illegal off-roading right? ….wrong.

It all started out well. Let’s do a bit of shipwreck hunting, we’ve worn heaps of tread off our very grippy mud-terrain tyres.

Next, the wreck of the Montrose. It was 5kms off the road.

But 1km from the wreck…

20120714-201930.jpg

Not too bad, dig out a bit of sand? Simple. 30 mins later…Jubilant!

20120714-202004.jpg

Reverse 10 metres and end up like this…

20120714-202036.jpg

20120714-202027.jpg

Hmm, not so simple. We made use of all our recovery equipment: air jack, spade, sand ladders and then some “desert adapted” rocks as Richard would put it (will explain later)… No joy. Everytime we try to move the car just digs deeper.

20120714-201058.jpg

At 4pm-ish Jo started to get a bit edgy and insisted we go for help and looking back that was a great idea (of course it was, Jo x). We walked an hour to the road and had precisely 20 minutes before we had to leave again to get back to the car before nightfall. Just as our 20 minutes had passed a car turned up (loving Murphy’s law!) We told the driver our situation and he kindly offered to drive to the next settlement (35kms away) and give them our GPS location.

The wind had picked up, the temperature was dropping rapidly, we could just see the roof tent in front of a (deceptive) wall of crashing Atlantic waves and we couldn’t be certain that anyone would come for us that night so we headed back to the car. (Oh and did we mention that the locals in Henties Bay had informed us of forecasted “extreme” sand storms for the next day?)

As we were about 1km away from the car we saw lights slowly moving along the road (searching). A dimly lit Sat-Nav at 3km’s with incoming fog really doesn’t suffice for signalling equipment so it was a mad dash for the car to illuminate the hazards. No good, the car is buried so deep you’d have to be two-foot-tall and a metre away to see them! LED head torches? No good. Headlights? No good, pointing in the opposite direction. Xenon roof-mounted spotlights? Yes, unbolting and waving them madly over the top of the roof tent works a treat, we’ve been seen! A confusing and unknown amount of time later reveals the shouting voices of a group of completely selfless individuals in the dead of night and not just one bright light in the distance but two headlights advancing slowly in our direction.

20120714-202049.jpg

After such a long blog post we really can’t be bothered going into much more detail! But MOST importantly… after three hours of these local road-worker heroes digging, pushing, reassuring us and accepting constant hugs from myself, they freed us and then let us camp next to their temporary road-worker accomodation.

Let’s just say that our New Zealand silver fern door magnets went to the most loving and deserving home we could have hoped for! They were completely crazy about the All Blacks and I don’t think we’ve ever been so grateful for our boys in Black as we were this night (other than the World Cup of course!)

The most enormous thanks goes to the road-workers of Torra Bay, Namibia. It was an adventure, no doubt! You have enriched our experience of Africa (and very grippy mud-terrain tyres!)

For the observant amongst you… there was a bottle in the sand near the car. I put a note in this bottle with the following: “If you are reading this note, you are probably stuck in the sand like we were.”

(post written by both Richard and Jo so you will need to read from both perspectives)

Richard and Jo (sand kings!)

It’s a roller coaster

We are in Namibia and now venturing into our list of “lasts” … Last border crossing, last game park, last black market currency exchange and so on and so forth. We are only a few weeks away from Cape Town, how sad and exciting all at the same time.

We entered Botswana about a week ago, had a great time in Kasane reliving our first trip to the Chobe area but moved on quickly to Maun for the Okavango Delta experience we had missed in 2010. Amazing!! We took a stunning scenic flight over the Delta, taking in Wildebeest, Zebra, Elephant and Hippo from 500ft in the air.

Spent the day on a (very leaky) Mokoro canoe where we had to promise we could both swim and told not to worry about the Pythons, Crocodiles or Hippos.

We continued on to Moremi for a night of camping and what turned out to be the most terrifying night of our trip… Actually, our lives.

We have a hot shower (first one in a long time)… Prepare a Konyagi cocktail with fresh chopped lemons (first mistake)… Leave our packet of macaroni on the table (second mistake, the monkeys stole it)… Cook our fragrant beef dinner on the cooker away from the open fire, in the dark (third mistake)… A cacophony of genuinely blood curdling screams emanates from the darkness approximately 20 metres away… We hurl ourselves in to the car, crushing everything left lying on the seats assuming the worst has happened. It has.

After a few minutes of muted panic, we exit the car, locate our extensive first aid kit and head in the direction of the confusion… Torch lights racing back and forth, yelling, hysterical crying and rustling in the bushes. As our head torches illuminate a large set of glowing eyes lying in wait at the edge of our campsite I thank God for the man who approaches the animal from behind and chases it away… Richard was walking straight for it and was only metres away.

The gentleman explains that a child has been taken by a Hyaena. It has survived but suffered severe head lacerations… down to the skull.

News Link: http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/SA-boy-attacked-in-Okavango-Delta-20120706

What to do next? The family are holed up in their tent, no one knows what to do, cars start driving around with headlights on and then the crashing sound of an Elephant destroying the trees next to our car snaps us back into reality. Elephants love fresh fruit and lemons are all over us and the car.

That’s it then, we have to get out. Everything (chairs, knives, pots full of hot food, Konyagi cocktails and everything we could get our hands on) gets thrown in the car, any available space will do. We have to get out.

Back in the car again we realise the tent is up. Can’t drive anywhere with the tent up unless we kiss it goodbye for the rest of the trip! Poor Richard has to go back out and pull it down… No time to be fussy with me covering the surrounding area with torch light, it’s folded and clipped in record time and we are on the road to the nearest safari lodge. Except there is no road, in the darkness we have lost the trail and our only option is to turn back to the last place on earth we want to be.

There are two options, drive 30+ km’s through a deserted and pitch black game park full of hunting, meat eating animals or return to the campsite-of-terror for a long night waiting for sunrise. We decide to drive, stupid. Our tyre pressures are very low for sand roads and so we spend a gruelling 4 hours crawling our way back to Maun… The sand is deep in places and our faithful truck goes for a slide. Richard’s driving skills mean no harm or damage is done but our already frayed nerves really can’t take much more.

We arrive at the Old Bridge Backpackers at midnight, it’s completely full but after an emotional explanation of the evening’s events the watchman lets us sleep in the driveway, on the safe side of a locked fence.

In the morning we survey the expected damage, there is none! I realise I spent the 4 hour drive sitting on BBQ tongs, a camping lantern, the diagnostic tool, my handbag and our paper maps. Only the laptop had suffered with a few scrapes and gouges. The owner of the backpackers calls the local hospital to hear that the child is still alive and hopes are high.

Next up Richard wants to camp in Etosha, Namibia’s biggest and best game park. I don’t think so.

Malawi fuel situation…

For other overlanders heading to Malawi… We have had no trouble with getting fuel in the last two weeks.

I believe the changes in government have meant more fuel supply?

We were preparing to take 1500km’s of diesel with us due to the constant reports of dire fuel shortages but thankfully we didn’t bother as there was diesel (and petrol) available in the majority of stations. If one was out then the next station would be stocked up and without any significant queuing.

We still had 50 litres in the jerries to be safe and this was possibly still a wise choice but we never struggled to fill up and emptied the jerries for the sake of not lugging around extra fuel.

In fact, the diesel in Zambia was 30US cents more per litre so if you’re heading from Malawi to Zambia… Top up on the Malawi side!

Hopefully that is helpful to someone!
Jo and Richard