Monday, October 10, 2022

STUNNING SCENERY IN SOUTH AFRICA

 

Well, here we are back in South Africa at McCarthys Rest. We have just finished with the various border people and are heading off when the lady from immigration stops us. Air is rushing out of one of back tyres. We find a nice level spot and John changes the tyre. There are plenty of helpers as there are lots of staff and no people crossing the border. The other back shock (remember we got one fixed in Kwai) is now hanging down, so we are directed down the road to get it welded. At last, we head out and find the Springbokpan Guest Farm for the night.

The following morning, we are heading westward on gravel roads towards Kgalagardi National Park, when oh no – another blow out. The tyre is stuffed! Amazingly in the middle of this nothingness 5 guys pop out to help. They have been doing repairs to the farm fence.  Biscuits and drinks all around before we say goodbye. We continue west to Askham to get the tyre repaired and wheels changed around. Now we have no reliable spare, so our plans will have to change. Instead of heading north we head south to Upington where there are a few tyre shops. We won’t make it today so we stop in the driveway of the Kalahari Guesthouse and leave bright and early in the morning.

The biggest tyre shop in Upington is Hi-Q where we really are in luck. They can order in new tyres, which will arrive next week (of course it is Friday) or they have 3 second hand tyres. Bonus, second-hand will do us nicely! While John has been busy with tyres, I have managed to book campsites at Kgalagardi Nat Park because we have discovered people have been turned away if they haven’t got a booking. But of course they are not for a few more days, so we need a new plan. We decide to head to Augrabies National Park for the weekend.  We are back on the road again. It’s a lovely drive to the park through countless gorgeous vineyards (most for raisins rather than wine) and citrus groves.

We settle in to our campspot and explore the walkways alongside the falls. Not heaps of water as it hasn’t rained for months but the rocky gorge is stunning. The next day we drive the “game” drive which is truly magical. Not much game but lots of stunning scenery. After our two nights we head back to Upington via a scenic back road. When we spy a huge luminescent tower, we go to investigate. It is in the middle of a solar farm and is a solar thermal tower with mirrors that magnify the light. Truly amazing in its production of power. Later we overnight right beside the river. It is a cold miserable day, but we still go out for an evening boat trip (about the only thing to do in this town). 

We are finally on our way to Kgalagardi National Park. And amazingly the road is tarsealed the whole way. We settle into our first camp and spend the evening with some very lovely South Africans camping there. The next day we drive deeper into the park. Not a lot of wildlife as we follow a dry riverbed with lots of permanent waterholes. What surprises us is how green the sanddunes are. The next day (as we cannot get another campspot) we cross the dunes, finally seeing rows of red dunes, and follow the dry river, that forms the border between RSA and Botswana, back to the entrance of the park. Then we return south to Upington and camp beside the Orange River yet again.

 We are driving westwards towards the coast and are hoping to catch the wildflowers everyone keeps telling us about.  But first we are heading to Klein Pella right beside the Orange River and Namibia. Klein Pella is a date plantation – the biggest in the southern hemisphere with 32,000 date palms. We can camp here and drive around the plantation. Stunning. The dates are pretty yummy too! On returning to our campspot one of the back tyres goes flat just like that. Its one of our old tyres. John has decided they are simply getting too old. This means visiting another tyre shop at the next town of Springbok. We drive through some glorious desert scenery (very like Namibia which isn’t surprising as it isn’t far away) and the dry mountain ranges are fabulous. One mountain range is being demolished and we discover that it is the largest zinc mine in the world!  Before we know it, we reach Springbok to try to sort out our tyres. No new ones here but our spare from the roof is brought back down and wheels rotated.

We decide to drive in to the Geogob Scenic Reserve just out of town as our book says this is a great place to see the wildflowers. We are told we are too late; they have all gone! John is devastated (Not) and promises to bring me to see them next year (Not) So again a change of plan. No point driving through the “wildflower” areas, instead we will head south on the main road. John says he’s tired of gravel anyway.

By the end of the day, we reach the town of Nuwerus and camp at Fuy’s lovely Hardeveld Lodge. Our plan is now to head to Cederberg National Park, and we see there is a road that makes a loop through the park, so we will follow that. But first we pop into the town of Clanwilliam, the home of Rooibus tea, and stop for lunch that includes a rooibos milkshake. We also spy lots of rooibos plantations. They aren’t lovely green bushes like black tea, but rather scraggy plants. Time now for the loop. First section great with massive jumbles of rocks and craggy topped mountains. Then we turn onto gravel road. Whoops - no more gravel John!!  Oh well the scenery makes up for it as we cross the Pakhaus Pass and head to Wuppental, which is a surprising little town. It is filled with old white Dutch buildings all in beautiful condition. Until recently it was a shoe factory set up by Missionaries in the 1700s. An amazing find.

In town we check the road continues to Eselbank as it is only a dotted line on my map. They assure us it does and we discover that our road is the one John pointed too and said “I hope that’s not our road!” The track (definitely NOT a road) goes straight up the mountainside with an incredibly scary drop-off! Petrifying. So glad we didn’t meet an oncoming vehicle as there is no extra space.  Phew, at the top the track doesn’t improve, but at least the drop off has gone. There are huge areas of rocky outcrops, fields of rooibos and groups of flowering proteas. I love the flowers, but all John can think of is the Proteas Cricket Team.

When we reach the lookout for the waterfall, we decide to camp there the night. No one is around and we are out of sight of the small village of Eselbank. In the morning the weather is even more glorious, making everything more magical. We set off on lots more slow miles, over rocky ridges, through creeks and along more mountains. Finally, we reach Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve where the road improves. We have reached the touristy side of Cederberg (I don’t think many drive the route we came). There are lots of camping places and people setting off on hikes. We could too, but with such lovely weather I am keen to head to the coast. It has been ages since we last saw the ocean. So, we head west to Lamberts Bay and the ocean, passing countless rooibos plantations. We drive down to the fishing port where we can walk to Bird Sanctuary Island, but find it closed. Instead, we drive through the streets and wander along the glorious white sand beach. Paradise, despite being a little chilly. It’s a little early to stop so we continue down the coast to the much smaller town of Elandsbaai. Again, a gorgeous beach to wander along. We overnight behind the Pub, giving John a chance to enjoy a seafood platter.

The aim is the reach Cape Town early in the week so that we can get the all-important tyres and a few other jobs done, especially the hole in the roof from the aircon unit that had the top blow off. We were wondering why it was draughty and both of us looked up and saw a gaping hole inside the aircon unit.  Not ideal!! So today we continue south. The roads are excellent as we explore the coastline. Towns are getting bigger and full of holiday homes. Love the bright white houses with stunning aqua water and blinding white sand. Then we take the scenic route through the lovely West Coast National Park and to top the day off we pull into Ganzekraal to camp right on the beach front. Its an awesome camping area a mere 100km from Cape Town.

Today we reach the city and start our chores. Just set the address on the GPS and head off. We go from place to place to place, but by early afternoon we have 2 new tyres ordered (they will be fitted tomorrow) and booked repairs at a caravan workshop on Thursday. Again, we set the GPS for Africa Overland – an area we can camp. It is right out of town, just beyond a huge settlement area. Hmmm interesting neighbours, but we are assured it is safe with farms and 2 sets of electric fences between us.

After the tyres are fitted, we decide to drive up into the mountains at Stellenbosch, the famous wine growing area in Cape Town. Perfect weather for a stunning drive and a late lunch at a local berry farm. Finally, back to town and a local campground we have found not far from our workshops. OK its not flash and 2 main roads pass it but it is convenient. Off to the workshop bright and early. Roof hole fixed, new water pump installed and we are booked in next Monday for our final job. (Hopefully the final job this trip!) So, we have 3 days to fill in. Pretty easy in the gorgeous city of Cape Town. We head out to the North Cape Peninsula to camp for the night. The motorway systems are really good here and it makes easy driving via the city then over the mountains to Cape Point. We are right near the lovely beach at Kommetjie. When we wander along the beach, we spy whales leaping out of the ocean in a great display (sadly a bit far out for a decent photo.)

Friday sees us heading along a scenic coastal route back towards Cape Town to visit friends for brunch. A glorious coastal drive (love the beaches here) and a lovely day. Mid afternoon we head back to the peninsula via the other side, giving us another scenic drive, to Boulders Beach where we camp with lots of fishermen. Very peaceful until they all head out fishing in the early hours of the morning.

Saturday morning, we head down to the beach to see the famous South African penguins, and they don’t disappoint. Many are playing on the beach,  having a dip or sitting in their nests. They are a rowdy bunch and a delight to watch. Back to Simon Town to explore the very touristy street and wharves and then we head out to drive the Cape. It is a stunning National Park, and as it is the first weekend of the school holidays, it is pretty busy. We take the obligatory photo of us and GR2 at The Cape of Good Hope and climb up to the lighthouse at North Cape. I am devastated that the cable car is not running. Probably something to do with “load sharing” that is huge over here. In other words, power is shared and can be off for big chunks of the day. Anyway, finally out of the park we drive to Scarborough Beach – simple stunning. Wish our Scarborough Beach at home looked like this. Then back to our campground at Kommetjie.

Sunday, we head back to Kaulk Bay (not far from Simons Town) for a delicious brekkie. Then time for another scenic drive as the weather is perfect. We follow the coastline of False Bay southwards all the way along a huge sandy beach. At the end we see that the huge shanty town of Khayelitsha that reaches the sand dunes. Miles and miles of squalor. So many people living in shacks, fortunately they have power and water, but the loos are in long rows and are shared by many people. Apparently 2.4 million people live here and it’s one of the biggest 5 slums in the world! A very sobering thought. We don’t head in, instead continuing our drive along cliff tops right beside the ocean. We had hoped to spy more whales, but the sea is much too choppy. We return along the waterfront and make our way back to the city suburbs for another night ready to head to the workshop in the morning.

Job all done. A simple enough job of replacing the worn-out rubber between the camper box and the chassis, but it involves lifting the box up, so hence a workshop. By the end of the day we are done and ready to become tourists again as we only have a few weeks left before we head home.

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