Thursday, May 26, 2011

And so the voyage started!

And so the voyage started. Hans left Belfast for Cape Town, while we were still fixing, wiring, assembling things. Then, by 10 pm on the 17th of May we were ready, packed, tired. I did not sleep well, and at six we were up. Having assured the dogs that they would be cared for, we drove out to the primary school to vote in the municipal elections, and by eight we had done our civic duty, and we hit the road.

A first stop in Meyerton to have coffee with my daughter and her fiancee brought a first surprise: A nasty clang from under the car as we reversed out of their driveway. One of the front shock absorbers seemed to have almost no rubber in the mounting, but at the back all seemed to be as it should.

Lawrence proposed the assistance of mechanics all the way to Bloemfontein, but we were reluctant to start the trip like that, and to bother people on a holiday. Fortunately the smooth road provided no repetition of the noise, and we breezed into Colesberg, tired, by sunset, having dodged around the road works with some advice from Hans.

However, leaving the parking lot of the Plattelander restaurant produced the same noise, and I spent the night dreaming of hunting through the streets of Colesberg for someone to fix shock absorbers, broken axles, cracked chassis, and what not!

Day two of our voyage started early. At 05h30 I was crawling under the car, trying to spot something wrong in the feeble light of the head torch. Nothing, even the shock absorber seemed solid. So we headed out again. A splendid sunrise over the Karoo greeted us, and by early afternoon we started looking for the Malherbe residence at Wonderfontein.

At that stage we were still trying to do something to get the Swarts' visas issued, while Stephanus had heard that theirs were OK. We had also heard that we did not need to put the car into the container the next morning, but that we had time till Monday.

We spent a pleasant time with Lizette in Fish hoek (

This gave us a base while doing what had to be done in the Cape.

On Friday 20 May I was able to get to Stikland in Bellville to have Johan Tyre look at the shock absorbers, and he not only condemned them out of hand, showing me that two were leaking oil, but also pointed out two other problems: The guys in Pretoria had mounted the air helper springs so that the exhaust touched the bracket, and the front spring bushes were badly worn. Now, may I wonder why the guy I asked to look the car over before the trip had not noticed this?

The day passed in waiting for parts, having the wrong parts delivered, and waiting again, but by late afternoon I headed back to Vishoek with a more solid, stable vehicle.

Monday morning we navigated into Cape Town centre, and soon after, sucking the fumes out of the tank, the Cruiser joined the other two vehicles at the Container Depot. The first leg is over, now we wait, do paperwork, and plan, until 15 June, when we leave for Doha and Casablanca!

Friday, May 13, 2011

We try again:

We are a group of semi-retired people who share a dream: To see the real Africa. And to do this we are going to try to drive from Morocco to South Africa, in three vehicles.

Our tour leader: Hans Swart, retired soldier, now tour operator, professional hunter, and businessman. His wife, Elisme, is an ex-teacher, now owner of a real estate business. They are also in the hotel business, and every winter they take to the road on a long safari, usually into East Africa. They leave with clients and come back with friends. Their vehicle is a Land Rover Puma with an upstairs apartment, and everything that opens and closes.

Stephanus and Mariaan Malherbe farm in the Cape, with fruits. She is an accountant, and they are hikers, campers and outdoors people from way back. They drive a Land Cruiser pickup with an aluminium canopy on the back.

Coen and Shahnaz van Wyk are from Pretoria. He is a retired civil servant and she is a yoga teacher and freelance translator. Their vehicle is a Land Cruiser FJ 62, and they try to keep to the minimalist approach.

Later on we will give more details of the vehicles, and the modifications. No doubt you will, along the course of the voyage, hear what parts of the equipment worked out and what did not.

Visa problems

The members of the group planning to go to Spain first are having major dramas. To go spend money in Spain they need Schengen visas. However, the plan is to leave Spain by ferry to Tanger in Morocco. The Schengen people insisted, since there was no plane ticket showing that they will leave Spain, that they book a flight to Casablanca, even though they do not intend taking it. Then they wanted to see proof that the shipping for cars to Morocco has been paid for. Now they want proof that we will leave Morocco! How do you do that? Get a booking from the border post?

It is not as if these are youngsters seeking jobs in Spain, they are all people settled in their ives and businesses, but the burocrats have to make life difficult.

Let us hope all will work out well.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

And we are almost there!

And the pace accelerates. I got my solar panel, had the radio installed, now the packing is to start. Hans leaves for Cape Town Sunday night, we will leave on the 18th, on the first leg of the great safari!

Here is Hans and Elisme, with their Land Rover.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Getting ready for the Safari

Time is running out, and we are getting ready with the last touches. There are still many things to do, and little time to do them in. I must still get a solar panel, and the radio must be installed. The Cruiser is serviced, oil must be changed. I had the wheel bearings greased, the brakes checked, and air helper (Firestone springs) installed. Tomorrow we start packing, I found some beer crates, although these are called agricultural crates. I still need boxes to put the nuts and bolts in.

Then the question is: How do we get the cars on the ship? The shipping company had an option for us to load them here in Johannesburg, but that has gone from the new quotation, and Glenn is not answering his cell phone. Hans has already decided to drive down to Cape Town, and it looks as if we are going to do the same. 1800 km, to start the trip with. Perhaps not such a bad idea, but there are two problems: Shahnaz has just had an important, big, urgent translation job thrown her way, and then we have the municipal elections on the 18th of May. The cars should be in the container by the 20th, so if we leave after voting, and drive till late, and all next day, we should be there in time. Provided nothing goes wrong.

But the Moroccan visa's are done, the Swarts and Malherbe's are now sweating the Schengen visas, but we do not have that stress.

So the saga begins.

Here are the Musafareen:
Stephanus and Mariaan:

Coen and Shahnaz:

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Two weeks to go, and lots still to do!

I once did some rafting on the Nile, and one gets this feeling, as the raft goes over the top of a rapid, and begins to dip down to the white water below, that maybe this was not a good idea. Well, I am getting the same feeling. By 15 May the cars go into the container, and there is still a lot of work to do. On Tuesday my car goes in for a major check, air helper springs, and so on, I must still buy a solar panel, we will fit it in Morocco. I still must buy a radio, and may have it fitted if there is time, otherwise, we will fit it in Morocco....

Interesting how things get simplified. From a R 10 000 drawer system we moved to ammo boxes in slides, to ammo boxes in a frame, to ammo boxes under a plywood panel, held with ratchet straps. My simple rear bumper with swing arms for the second spare wheel is in and welded, thanks Marnus! It is not completely mounted yet, as the wheel obscures the number plate, so I need a second number plate, and will mount that and extra rear lights on the roof rack. (May mount that in Morocco....)

I still need a Police Clearance, will do that first priority when she comes back from the Cruiser Whisperer. In the meantime our passports are with the Moroccans, Hans and Stephanus are on tenterhooks (anyone ever seen these?) because as soon as they have the Moroccan visas they must apply for Schengen visas, as they want to leave for Spain on 20 May!!! That is going to take some fancy footwork.

We tried out the Cobb stove today, did some rather nice lamb chops, with even a smoke flourish! Slower than the Weber, but with much less charcoal. From tomorrow the packing starts: 12 ammo boxes and two metal ammo boxes for tools. I have a spare alternator, water pump, must fit the new coil and pack the old. Still looking for a spare distributor. Also need an overflow bottle for the radiator, the old one finished in the exhaust manifold. Need poles for the awnings, need .... OK, enough.

We are reading up on the route, and writing to people, just got very helpful comment from a guy in Ghana, and waiting to hear about the Congo and Gabon parks. Merlinda Lotter gave me her whole planning file, with waypoints and maps, thanks!!

Once the cars are gone, we wait, catch up on all outstanding paperwork, get as many visas as we can, and on 15 June we leave for Doha and then Casablanca!