Saturday, April 21, 2012

And the road back north, home with a leaking radiator

Order and quiet in Vishoek valley
Time, passing in a blur: False Bay at night
Sunset: Klein Karoo

The time in Cape Town passed in a blur. The Cruiser needed some tender loving care, and at last I found someone who cares, and has the level of professional integrity that I require. We may consider moving to Cape Town just for that! Three people checking each other's work! The radiator people were less helpful. Taking it out would take one, maybe two days, but then, if they could not repair it, they would require four working days to build a new one. I alone had taken it out and replaced in twice in one day, so I felt that I should rather keep filling from a can and hope for the best.

Church, near Calitzdorp
Then we headed north, taking it slowlythrough the famous Route 62, along the Klein Karoo valley between the mountains, and carrying the rain with us to Calitzdorp, but arriving too late to visit our favourite cellars. The radiator needed no water!

Mountain road
North into the Karoo
The next day was new territory for us, and we tracked along the old Voortrekker road, always between the mountains. The last rain of summer followed us as we traveled through places where my ancestors struggled to live as nomads, and the small towns we passed through had the air of tamed wilderness. 

We were beginning to see the first signs of winter approaching: leaves turning yellow, snow on the Sneeuberge, and the air had a bite in it. 

The night we passed in Graaf Reinet, one of the towns that had declared an independent Republic after the French Revolution. Next morning the radiator needed a liter of water.

Rain on the mountains near De Rust
Graaf Reinet
Then we set off again, on the last day of the Easter weekend, and we felt the anxiety of the migrating holiday makers. For a few short kilometers, near Colesberg, we joined the mad rush on the N1, but we cheated, and took a deviation on a gravel road, nowhere as good as the Namibian ones, on to Smithfield.

Autumn colours in the Free State
A pleasant if cold night was followed by a rather rude surprise. It needed three liters of water to fill the radiator! We crept through the great emptiness of the eastern Free State with one eye on the thermometer, and stopped at The Cabin outside Lady Brand, added a liter to the radiator, and went on.

Nearing the Rand it became clear that we would hit Johannesburg at the height of the peak traffic, so confirmed that we would visit Hester and Lawrence in Meyerton until the worst was over.

Stormy weather on the way
The radiator was really dripping when it had cooled down, and we resumed our journey with apprehension. Passing the airport at Kempton Park the temperature gauge started creeping upwards, and I stopped at the Engen to the sound of boiling water. From there we made it home, but by the next morning the water was flowing out as fast as you pour it in. So off to see if Mr Toyota in Japan can get me a new one. Yes, he can start making one immediately, and will send it by the first ship.

And so ends another safari. Interesting, new friends made, new places seen, new memories to cherish.
Autumn in the Free State

Cuddling under the hillside against the coming winter

The migration route. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Cape Town!

The long road south from Springbok

From Springbok we wended our way down to Clanwilliam, Citrusdal, and on to Cape Town.

Old world comfort
It was great to be able to come from the harsh highlands and desert of the Richtersveld, down into the Olifantsrivier valley, and into the richer, more fertile area around Citrusdal, on to the wide wheat fields around Mooreesburg, and then the winelands leading up to Cape Town.

Clanwilliam: frontier architecture
Imagine farming here, all on your own!
We enjoyed reminiscing about Van Riebeeck's explorers who passed this way looking for the fabulous wealth of Monomotapa, and the lives of the first farmers to settle here.

Beauty in a harsh land
Could this be our new offroad vehicle?
Needs some work, though!
We spent a couple of days chilling out in the warm waters of The Baths and then another few days doing the sights in Cape Town before putting our visitors on the plane back to Mauritius. Shahnaz has some diving to do, to get her soul wet again before we follow the Great Trek back to Pretoria.

And we had our share of problems too: the old radiator problem resurfaced! Jan Otto in Citrusdal found some Locktite for me, and that stopped the leak, but she is still loosing water at a worrying rate. In Cape Town I tried to have the problem fixed, even temporarily, but that seems to be difficult. So we will tackle the way home in 'safari mode' with a 5 liter can in hand!

Mountin patterns

Storm over the wheat fields

Table Mountain, at last!

Penguins and people at Simonstown

Friday, March 30, 2012

South into the Cape Province

Swakopmund lighthouse

And still the road drew us on. Windhoek, with its history and curio shops. Time went by as we browsed the art market, but then we were on the go again, into the mountains and onto the Khomas Hochland, and down towards Swakopmund.

Colours to dream of
It was fascinating watching the vegetation change, from lush grassland to mountains, to hard rocky grassland, to gravel plains, to sandy plains. A compulsory stop was to meet with that disoasaur of plants, the Welwitchia Mirabilis. And then the holiday town of Swakopmund and its German gemutlichkeit.

Meeting a dinosaur! The Welwichia in an ancient plant

And after two days of rest, on, on towards the Namib. The Cruiser struggled with the heat, because we had the aircon going most of the time, and also did not notice that we were in a steady climb all day, ending a full kilometer higher than where we started.

Lovely gravel roads, great scenery,
what more do you want?
The next day we went on towards the Fish River canyon, and, perhaps stubborn, refused to pay what we thought were exorbitant fees to visit the lookout point. So, after a good night's rest and an expensive dinner, we took the last lap of Namibia's excellent gravel roads, and then the B1, down to Noordoewer, and a pleasant checking out of Namibia.
Saying goodbye in the Namibian fashion
And on to Springbok, over badly maintained tar. If this part of the road is not sealed soon, next year there will be serious potholes.
Now the planning starts running out, and we have some latitude to improvise before we are due in Cape Town. Watch this space!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The road goes ever on and on: Kalahari dreams

Road signs!

Oasis in the desert:Van Zylsrus hotel
 The road has called, and we must go.

Shahnaz’ mother had read our blog, and felt that she had to share our Africa. And Tante Renate had heard of the Namibian experiences, and wanted to follow up on a long-forgotten planned holiday to this ex-German colony.

Bat ear foxes
We set out, on a bright March morning, on the long road west, first to Kuruman, but due to a golf tournament there was no room at the inn or at any of the guest houses there. So we turned north, stopping for a photo opportunity at Hotazell which was rather cool, all things compared. Then we had a little argument between GPS, paper maps and road works, but by late afternoon we found the Van Zylsrus Hotel.

A pleasant oasis this turned out to be, a small town in the great Kalahari, conscious of the weight of the dryness, the ever-threatening drought. Hard land, friendly people, good food.

Peace, brothers!
Early the next morning we set out to Twee Rivieren, which my GPS insisted was in Botswana, and by late morning we had checked out of South Africa and into the Kgalagadi Transfrontier park.

Fortunately we were not camping, as the easter holiday crowd had started arriving: imposing assemblies of technology, with drivers of varying degrees of expertise. Overseas tourists with rented campers and 4X4 vehicles with rooftop tents made us wonder at the likelihood that they would get stuck…. But all seemed to be enjoying themselves.

We wondered at this scene. Was the dead giraffe the
little one's mother?
And we saw lots of animals in the three days we were there. Including a cheetah that we had heard had been unsuccessful in her hunt the previous day. We met her, trotting determinedly towards a water course where we knew there was a large herd of springbok, but we could not see the chase that we knew would follow.

Then we entered Namibia, with pleasant officials at the border, passed a relaxing night at Gochas, in the Auob river lodge, and then visited Isabis, to experience the authentic hospitality of this country, and see the breathtaking scenery found there.

And on to Windhoek, for some cultural soaking, but also the National Day, so many things were closed.

Hunting cheetah

And lunch on the hoof.

Tante Renate's birthday

Verdant Namibia, despite a low rainfall. 

And where can you see a better sight?
His Majesty had had enough of tourists

And so has Her Majesty
But the courtiers could not care less

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The mystery of Matlabas

Ancient mountains, red with iron, guarding
 their secrets
In the north-west of South Africa, in a remote, mountainous region lie the Thabazimbi range: Mountain of Iron. Since time out of mind iron has been mined here, and today several opencast mines operate. But that is soon forgotten once one goes deeper into the mountains, and even more so in the Marekele reserve.
Researchers in the Matlabas wetland

This reserve hosts a mystery: high in the mountains lie a marshland, source of the Matlabas river, which eventually flows into the Limpopo.

Tribal lore tells of a magical snake that could be seen in the pools of the Matlabas, an enchanted crowned snake that could make your dreams come true, or take you with into the depths of the water.

We have not yet seen this snake. But there is another mystery.

Junior researcher checking out the proteas
Of course wetlands have their fair share of mystery, but this one is eroding. Now, by their very nature wetlands tend to heal themselves, through rapid growth of plants that form a mat of vegetation to hold back the water, and thus provide a sponge that releases the rain water over a long period. And nature counts on this steady supply of water even during the dry seasons.

So, what is happening here? There is no human activity such as ploughing to cause the erosion. There has been no extraordinary rainfall, flooding or drought.

We went with Antoinette Bootsma, a Masters student researching this mystery, to support her but also to look after her baby while she walks through the bush.

In February we will have to go again, for a week, to help with a plant survey, and to support her research team. In the meantime, enjoy!

We will be back!


Returning after a hard day's work

The waters host many birds

Her first realization that there are wild animals!