As previously announced, we are undertaking a single continuous journey lasting 7 months, travelling anti-clockwise around RSA, Botswana, Namibia and back down the West Coast. John & Lana Zulch are initially travelling up the East Coast at their own speed, to meet us for Section 1 of our Club trip program through Wild Coast, and we both departed Cape Town on 15th January. It was great to meet up with them in Mossel Bay for a celebratory drink. They went on up the coast and left their vehicle in East London.
MAINLY COASTAL RESORTS
We spent 10 days at De Bakke Santos resort in Mossel Bay, which gave us the opportunity to break from city life and working routines, sort out our travel packing, and work on our suntans. We met a chap from Germany in a small station wagon with rooftop, who had shipped his vehicle to Kenya, and travelled down Lake Malawi, and then via Tete and Maputo. Referred him to Ou Skip in Melkbos, as he will be travelling up the West Coast, and into Namibia. Many interesting people with variety of vehicles and travel lifestyles.
Then to Butterfly Creek, which is a great bush camp in the hills of Friemersheim inland from Hartenbos, after a quick stop at Tuinroete Caravans to attend to minor issues. [Highly recommended for any trailer issues! Hands-on help from the owner and staff – at no charge!]
Butterfly Creek: Owned by Chris & Belinda is in a forest gorge with babbling brook splitting the camping areas. Absolute peace & quiet, a river scramble, grassed and electrified sites, with best showers & firewood. We will be back! GPS: S33 57 31.02 E022 07 56.18, Belinda +27 65 812 4703.
Our next stop was Woodbourne in Knysna. Thanks to Kevin Steaggs for the referral! 6 nights here has given us much needed time to complete some outstanding work, walk to the Heads before breakfast each day, and explore new places like Leisure Island. We had pitched camp in the incoming 22mm rain storm, and endured the near hurricane winds the following day. Sticky black berries from overhead trees stained our awning. Fortunately, the weather improved on the third day. 3 young spotted eagle owls visit the camp site at dusk every day, at times with parental oversight, venturing very close to onlookers. Quite interesting to see the guinea fowl chasing them off the lawn where they often feed. Also spotted in camp were Knysna Louries. Shady trees, wetland views and friendly campers made this a worthwhile stop.
Next camp was Keurbooms Lagoon Caravan Park, where we had not booked. This is just past Plettenburg Bay, with the turn-off at Old Nicks. First night was away from the lagoon, but fortunately we managed to move to the front for 3 nights. This was amazing, with views from Beacon Island Hotel right up the East Lagoon. A waterfront site is essential there, and many long-stayers book up the best of them. The weather remained variable, with quite a bit of rain.
Our next visit was to Gamtoos Ferry Hotel just past Jefferies Bay, where we had a front row seat for a 6-night stop. The buildings are a bit run down, but very functional, with extremely affordable value. Then to The Willows near Port Elizabeth, which was rather grubby, followed by 3 nights at Port Alfred. There we stayed at Medolinos, which turned out to be a pleasant camp, from where we could drive around to view the area.
WILD COAST SECTION
At last we arrived at the Club 1st Stage Wild Coast route RV on Monday 20th February, which was Yellow Sands outside East London. What a great campsite! Tuesday saw John & Lana Zulch arrive, with Dave & Anne Roy arriving Wednesday. Unfortunately, Corne` & Erika Smal had cancelled their booking, and were sadly missed.
Friends of John & Lana, Eban & Marlize accompanied us on our first move to Double Mouth on 25th, outside Morgans Bay. This regular stop with stunning views and remote location provided the group with true bush camp feel, despite the forewarned building operations and windy weather. Cyclone Freddy had already affected our February weather, and was hanging around our Northern boundary, destined to further disrupt our progress up the coast. The previous week severe rainstorms caused camps to be overgrown, being too damp for mowing, however Club members all joined in for a pleasant braai, and activities included fishing, walking, and loafing around, for 3 more nights.
Dave and John assisted us with an electrical charge issue and discovered that our AC charger was not working. Solar and 12v charging therefore had to keep us going. Mary and I visited the Yellowwood Forest Campsite, where the owner Paul gave us a guided tour of this delightful camp, having 30 stands, river hikes, trails, and a natural rock swimming pool. Our last braai was washed out by an ill-timed rainstorm.
March 1st: Departing for Dwesa Nature Reserve Dave and Anne joined us for the ferry crossing of the Kei River, with John & Lana needing to backtrack to the N2 route, as their vehicle was too large for the ferry.
Re-united at Dwesa we hired Vuyani to guide us in this exotic area. This was the 4th time we had used him for club groups, this time for a hike through the forest, where he was able to educate us on a variety of plants and trees. Then we headed down the beach, and up to view the Dwesa Tunnel. A long hard climb which only John & Lana managed to complete.
March 4th: Having checked up on recent road damage we re-routed via Eliotdale en route to White Clay outside Coffee Bay., having been informed that there were bridges recently washed away. A pot-holed tar road led us down to the coastline until we reached to outskirts of the town, where we needed to detour through the hotel, as the main bridge had been demolished by floods, with many large trees washed downstream still visible in the village.
Great to be back at White Clay for the Club`s 5th visit! Low range 1st down to this unique nest. Days were spent walking, and swimming, plus a scenic ride to The Hole in the Wall where we met Alfie Cox of Dakar fame, who was leading a group of Norwegian bikers on a local tour. They were also staying at White Clay, where we had a chance to chat. Then to Maphusi Point, which is the 2nd stunning place to visit. Uprooted trees were strewn around the river mouth, having been washed down the stream.
March 8th: Having been advised by Roy, who owns White Clay, that since the storms no vehicles had arrived directly from the North, we departed to Port St. Johns via Mthatha, which was unfortunate as we missed many Wild Coast highlights. We pitched camp at The Pont, which was well laid out with exotic plants and trees alongside the river, but soon were hit by a ferocious storm. We had just unfolded out awning when a major gust of wind lifted the canvas with force, snapping the heavy aluminium rafters in the process. Dave & John assisted to prop the canvas to provide some protection, and later helped us to pack the roof bag with broken pieces, as we had decided to leave the next day for Karridene on the South KZN coast. This gave us the opportunity to seek professional help to assess the awning, as well as bringing forward the fitting of a new AC charger. We were sad to leave, which robbed us of the planned waterfall visits around Lusikisiki.
Departing on Thursday 9th we reached Karridene, and next day were able to have a new charger fitted, as well as submitting an insurance claim for a new awning. Natal Caravan & Marine in Pinetown are the Bush Lapa dealers there, who advised that the awning was a write-off. We also enjoyed a family of Egyptian Geese who visited us 2 or 3 times a day and a Wooly-necked Stork who arrived every evening. We also had Louries but were not able to see them clearly or identify.
12th March: John & Lana arrived at Karridene for the night, and advised that Dave & Anne were already back in Cape Town. Pity that the trip was terminated early! Thanks to the 2 couples for their participation, and for the extra assistance when needed.
BUSH CAMP SECTION
It was our objective .to break away from coastal resorts and competing with the caravan clubs, and to explore northern KZN and Limpopo bush camps before reaching Botswana at Martins Drift. Days were spent in Cape Town identifying interesting opportunities, and we selected 2 venues before JHB and 5 to close in on Botswana. These 7 consisted of game parks, hunting lodge camps and farm camps where we allocated a minimum 4 days for each. All required 4×4 vehicles, with 3 needing low range with deflated tyres. Without exception we were extremely satisfied with the facilities and service. These value for money camps offered game drives, forest and bushveld hikes, and great variety of animals, and birds.
We had our destroyed awning replaced at Bush Lapa Centurion, where Mitch, Ben and Anna provided outstanding service and support.
Having now been on the road for 13 weeks, we have stayed at 20 camps, travelling just on 5000km, which averages at 4.5 days per camp. ….
BOTSWANA CLUB TRIP 14TH –30th April
Ivan Napoleon and his partner Anita signed on for this club trip, having never previously been to Botswana. Our mission was to provide them with a fair overview of the country and allow them time to visit Victoria Falls in the 2 weeks requested by them. As we were entering from Martin’s Drift border, we arranged to meet them in Palapye, where they arrived 1 day before us.
Our route was to Chobe Safari Lodge, with a `must do` night at Elephant Sands on the way. This turned out to be an amazing night, with about 20 elephant at the water hole, and we managed to secure a front row campsite with braai. This was far better than our previous 3 visits there.
Chobe Safari Lodge campsite was a great choice, only 1 croc was perched on the riverbank 20 metres from our site. Also resident are a family of warthogs, and a few rare bushbuck. They had arranged a Chobe day drive and Sunset cruise, sending out over 100 clients on 7 boats that day. The boat cruise is as usual worthwhile, and provided more interest than the game drive. We had 4 days there, which accommodated Ivan & Anita`s self-drive to Victoria Falls on a day pass through the Zim border. As expected, they found this visit very special and were drenched as anticipated.
After 4 nights we travelled to Khwai Community Camp via Savuti, where we found that progress had been made to provide facilities. Each campsite now has a braai slab and a raised braai, with the reception area having very adequate solar showers and flushing w.c.`s, with a refuse cage available. As always, the elephants wandered through our campsite for 3 nights, and on the last night Anita spotted a large hyena lurking around our camp fire. Other shining eyes warned of the presence of more, with night sounds confirming their ongoing interest. Highlight for us was, after many years, we saw our first wild leopard!
We spent 1 night at Island Safari Lodge in Maun to catch up on wi-fi and shopping before heading for the final 3 nights at Khumaga. This was our 4th stay there, but the first at migration time. April to October the enormous herds of zebra and wildebeest migrate from the drying Magadigadi Pans area to the Boteti River, and as our time went by the numbers increased enormously in the Khumago area, which was a great site indeed, together with elephant, hippos, kudo etc.
On Sunday 30th Ivan and Anita departed, having shared that their first surprise was that the camps had no fences! They had further enjoyed the campfire chats, sharing views and experiences. We then returned to Maun to plan our next section.
Viv and Mary