04 July 2009

From Stuart's Journal - Days 1 to 5

Trip Day 1 - Johannesburg, Clarens 

Up very early.  Merryl woke us and then went off to the gym for a final swim in the pool.  Fiver and I continued working - she concluding the Bourse Consult website design work and me sending out email to all our friends, family and colleagues, and then buying the health insurance we need for the trip.  We are all a little stressed which is not surprising.
Owner's representative and agent came soon after 8:00 to check over the flat - they seemed happy but we are down a teaspoon and some glasses!  Sicelo (cleaner) arrived soon after and started collecting together the stuff we do not need or cannot take with us. Then the packers arrived to pick up the stuff for Germany.  Good news is that the volume was just about what had been estimated and quoted for.
Took Merryl off to the Travel Clinic for her last rabies jab and then back to Melrose Arch.  Continued packing until 12:00 then off to JB's for final lunch.  Joined by several friends. All these good-byes are making us very sad.
We returned for final, final packing and for me to finally do some talking to camera in front of the big map (why did we not do this week's ago?). Then all was finally done and we headed for the car.

We had decided, after a lot of discussion, to head for Clarens.  This trip is a tour of Africa, not South Africa, which is much easier for us to visit than most other African countries.  Therefore, we are taking a more direct route to Cape Town and will try to be out of the country before Fiver's visa expires on the 7th.  Clarens is only 3 1/2 hours away so is a relatively easy trip.
We left home just after 2:30.  We filmed us leaving Melrose Arch and then headed for the Freeway south.  On the slip road we were pulled over by a car with a guy in the back seat flashing what looked like a police badge.  We stopped and the guy came over and again flashed the badge, but not very close to us.  He claimed he was looking for 2 Dutchmen who had heroin and he started feeling me, smelling my penknife, wallet, Fiver's bag etc.  He asked about how much cash we had etc.  All very strange but he soon gave up and went on.  We think he was a con.  Great start to the trip!
We battled on out of town and took the N3 south and then on back roads to Bethlehem and then Clarens.  We had booked ahead to a B&B and got a self catering apartment. It was expensive but convenient.  We got a huge place but it was not warm and the open fire was disappointing (i.e. the logs seemed to have been treated so that they would not burn!).
Had nice dinner of mushroom risotto and then worked out route for tomorrow (heading towards Addo).  
Trip Day 2 - Clarens, Cradock
Agreed last night to leave at 6:00 but Fiver did not realise that this morning.  She had a bad night and really did not want to get up and was very upset.  We packed up the car and left around 6:30.  The dawn was lovely as we drove West along the northern border of Lesotho.  We had planned to go all the way to Addo which is over 800km and it was possible to make good time on the empty and pretty straight roads.

We stopped for tea a couple of times but Fiver was unhappy about the rush to Addo so, when we stopped to get some supplies in Aliwal North, I called ahead to Cradock and got us booked in at the Tuishuise - An hotel that owned most of the street of old artisans' houses.  We got there around 2:00 and were shown a property called 'Butlers' which was quite amazing - 3 bedrooms, 2 large reception rooms and a main bathroom with a very large old bath, all furnished with antiques!  The only negative point was that the place was freezing cold!
We had lunch in the garden, where we were adopted by a local cat, and then everyone went for a nap (or a bath in my case).  Afterwards I lit the fire and we sat around the fire doing our own thing.  Dinner was a buffet at the main hotel (Victoria Hotel) which was pleasant but, again, the room was not particularly warm.  We returned to the house and got the fire going again.  The cat joined us and fell asleep on Merryl's lap.
Trip Day 3 - Cradock, Addo
We agreed to get up at 7:00 - for Merryl and I to take photos during the golden hour and for Fiver to do some repacking of the car to make it more comfortable.  We got out around 7:30 but the light was still a bit low. Fiver moved the car from the hotel car park to outside the cottage to start the repacking.  When Merryl and I returned after a half hour or so (with several photos we were happy with), we all went for breakfast at the hotel, which was pleasant and at least warm!  We then spent over an hour repacking the car but it was well worth it - much more comfortable.
After settling the bill we set off around 10:30 and headed out to the local 'Mountain Zebra Park' - home to the endangered Cape Mountain Zebra, which is distinctively different from the more common Burchell's Zebra. 
We were lucky and, besides the Zebra, saw Springbok, Gemsbok, Blesbok, Kudu, Red Hartebeest, Ostrich, Vervet Monkeys, Chacma Baboons, Black Wildebeest, a Secretary Bird and a Blackbacked Jackal.   We spent around 3 hours in the park in all and then headed out towards Addo.  We called the Addo Elephant National Park but it was fully booked.  However, we found accommodation in Addo itself at a place called 'Homestead'.  We went shopping in Addo for dinner; the shop, which was attached to the petrol station, was pretty basic, but we found a lot of what we wanted.
We drove to the campsite and set up tent.  This was the first time that Merryl had pitched Mark's tent that he had lent her for the trip.  Her and Fiver did it together and got it all to work, as I set up the roof tent.  Merryl then cooked lovely dinner of corn fritters.  We spent rest of evening blogging, downloading photos etc.
Trip Day 4 - Addo, Bontebok National Park
Up at soon after 6:00 again.  Had some tea and did some packing up until it was light enough to see and then we went for a couple of kilometre bush walk, watching the dawn break over the park.  A very pleasant change after all the driving of the last few days.
I cooked eggs for breakfast and then we cleaned up the camp and drove off towards the first objective of the trip - Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of Africa and the traditional starting or ending point for trans-Africa journeys like ours.
After finding some yummy fish and chips for lunch we drove off to Cape Town where we booked ourselves into a Formula One hotel near the waterfront for a couple of days as we do some diving and get ready for the trip north to Namibia.

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