Country: South Africa
Dates Visited:
March 17-May 19, 2007
Distance Since Last Update: 1,940k
Total Distance: 47,126k
Population: 45 million
Capital: Pretoria (admin), Cape Town (leg), Bloemfontein (jud)
Languages: English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Zulu, Ndebele, Vende, Pedi, Tswana, Sotho Tsonga, Swati
Currency: Rand (US$1=R6.8)
Borders: Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland, Lesotho

 
  Crossing Into South Africa
(Jim Writes) On March 17, 2007, nearly seven years after our first visit, we finally crossed the South African border. During our first trip back in 2000, we did all the requisite things you do on vacation in South Africa. We went on safari in the Timbavati Game Reserve, explored Kruger National Park, toured the wineries around Stellenbosch and Paarl, drove the coast to the Cape of Good Hope, peered into the fog shrouded expanse of Blyde River Canyon, visited a township outside Cape Town, and gorged on ostrich, impala, kudu, crocodile, and other exotic fare. It was a wonderful, if not exactly representative, introduction to Africa. An introduction that we’ve often reflected on with nostalgia. Now seven years, 24 African countries and 41,000 kilometers later, we’ve come to know Africa more intimately and have gained countless more memories. All the while however, South Africa has continued to consume our thoughts and we’ve looked forward to our return ever since the day we departed Cape Town on our South African Airways flight home seven years ago.

As we crossed the South African border, we mourned our hasty departure from Namibia but celebrated our return to South Africa. Unlike our vacation seven years earlier, our return was as much about the business of repairing, retooling, and resupplying, as it was about indulging in South Africa’s excellent food, culture, and scenery. Nevertheless, in between all the knee and truck repairs and the resupplying and retooling, we found ample time to indulge. Here’s the highline on two very relaxing and glutinous months in a very agreeable country...


 
 

Stellenbosch - March 17-19, 2007
(Jim Writes) After a hasty traverse through Namibia, we crossed the border into South Africa on Saturday, March 17, two days ahead of our Monday morning appointment with Dr. Marais, an orthopedic surgeon located in Durbanville. As Durbanville is roughly equidistant from Cape Town and Stellenbosch, we decided to base ourselves in Stellenbosch, the heart of wine country and one of South Africa’s nicest towns.

From the border we headed south, stopping for the night in Vanrhynsdorp, a small non-descript town with a small non-descript rest camp. I say non-descript, however I can easily describe our experience.... WINDY. VERY WINDY, which made our stay somewhat unenjoyable as the constant whistling of the wind, flapping of our tent fly, and overwhelming sensation that we were going to be blown off the roof made sleep elusive.

The next morning we woke up, having hardly slept, and prepared to depart for Stellenbosch. As we went about our morning routine, we were met by a couple from Pretoria who gave us a warm welcome to South Africa and offered us hot water for tea and advised on travel in the country.

Other than the relentless wind, the weather was perfect. Crisp blue skies and perfect temperatures. Absolutely perfect. The drive to Stellenbosch was beautiful -a relaxing drive through countryside dotted with orange orchards and wine vineyards – and we arrived in Stellenbosch around 2pm, marveling at the town’s picturesque white washed buildings, sidewalk cafes, quaint churches, perfectly manicured gardens, and mountain vistas. It was like we’d just stepped out of Africa and into Santa Barbara. We were in heaven and after quickly stopping off at Stumble Inn, a backpacker hostel recommended by other travelers, to arrange lodging for the night and safe parking for Betty (Stumble Inn promotes 24 hour security), we walked a few blocks into town for a late lunch.

With almost too many restaurants to choose from, we finally selected The Blue Orange, a quaint little sidewalk cafe on Dorp street. Like everything else about Stellenbosch that day, lunch at The Blue Orange was perfect. A perfect setting under a shady umbrella. Two perfect smoked chicken salads with brie. Even the service was excellent.

After lunch, we strolled into town and meandered through boutique shops selling upscale African art and past cute cafes, where students were typing away on laptops and sipping cappuccinos. For the first time in a very long time we felt like we’d stepped into the First World. Simply put, everything combined to make the perfect day. We were in heaven!

With our bellies stuffed and it getting dark, we strolled back to Stumble Inn, chatting along the way about how wonderful our day had been. Back at Stumble Inn we decided to grab a few items out of the truck before heading inside to have a beer and relax until dinner. As I approached Betty I pressed the button to deactivate the alarm. The alarm chirped, signaling that it had been tripped sometime while we were away. Not terribly uncommon, I opened the driver side door. Inside I found a terrible scene. We had been robbed. Our 12mm security glass protecting the front passenger window lay doubled over in the front seat. Our glove box was open and empty. My heart sank and I instantly felt sick. I turned to Sheri and told her that we’d been broken into. Her heart sank as well, as the potential gravity of the situation started to sink in. We’d been careful to find secure parking and to store our GPS out of sight and set the alarm, yet our security measures had still been sloppy and we’d forgotten to take several of the steps we usually take to secure the truck – tossing our GPS in the glove box instead of the lock box and forgetting to lock the lock box and store away our camera equipment. For several moments we stood in shock beside the car, too nervous about what might be missing to have a closer look. I finally mustered the courage to have a look inside. The glove box was empty – our GPS gone along with two headlamps and the Leatherman knife that my parents had given me for my birthday just before we left for Africa. Our video camera was also gone, having forgotten to remove it from under the passenger seat where it had been stored for easy access during our trip through Etosha. I opened the lock box. Much to my surprise nothing was missing. Next I checked our camera equipment. It was in order as well. We both let out sighs of relief. As bad as it had been, it could have been much worse!

By the time we’d surveyed the damage it was almost dark. We knew that, with a window missing, we needed to get our truck to a safe place for the night. Finding no security guards in the “secure” parking lot, I ran inside to tell the manager what had happened and seek some assistance. Totally aloof, the manager (a college student at Stellenbosch University) seemed as shocked as we were that our truck had been broken into. When we asked what he suggested we do about secure parking, he recommended that we park it at the BP Station down the street since they are open 24 hrs. Clearly he’d lost his mind. Desperate however, I prodded him for other recommendations – perhaps the police station. He called the police but the officer he spoke to said it wasn’t possible to park there. Apparently they’d had one of their police cars stolen from the station’s parking lot a couple of weeks prior. Clearly we were getting nowhere so we asked him to contact Roland’s Uitspan, a B&B recommended for it’s secure parking by another overland traveler that had been through Stellenbosch a few months prior. When we asked him to call Roland’s for us, he looked at us and replied “But, aren’t you staying here tonight?” NO!

A short time later we arrived at the B&B where we were met outside by Harriet, the owner. She was friendly and compassionate, quickly working with us to secure Betty behind a gated parking area and cover the open window with plastic. To help us relax a little, she gave us a room next to Betty, suggested we park the passenger side tightly against the window of our room, and said that she would make an appointment at a local glass shop first thing in the morning. She was wonderful!

After moving all of our valuables to our room, we crashed on the bed and reflected on what had happened. We were dejected. During our long difficult run through Central Africa, we’d dreamt often about South Africa. We’d finally made it and yet, on our first full day in the country, we’d been robbed. We know that South Africa is dangerous and in fact I believe that it’s a country with one of the worst crime problems in the world, yet, we were not in Jo’berg or even Cape Town. We were in quaint Stellenbosch. Parked in a parking lot that promotes 24 hr security, with guests going and coming, in broad daylight, with the doors locked, the alarm set, and 12mm security glass that’s supposed to prevent such break-ins. To be certain, it was a major slap in the face. It’s as if we just couldn’t get a break! And to make matters worse, we had to cancel my doctor appointment in order to get the glass replaced. The upside to it all... we were in a secure and very comfortable guesthouse (Roland’s) and Harriet was wonderful.

On Monday morning we rescheduled my doctor appointment for Friday and went to Glass Fit to have new glass fitted. Fortunately, there was one pane of glass in stock. It was in Cape Town and could be delivered and installed the same day. Relief! As it was being installed, the manager, Dwain Campbell, said that such break-ins are common and said that in South Africa’s world of organized crime, most likely someone saw us drive into town with foreign tags and, using a team of scouts, followed us until we parked and then broke in as soon as we left the truck.

 
 
 
 

Knee Repairs
(Jim Writes) With the gaping hole in Betty’s passenger door repaired, we turned our attention back to Jim’s leg. On Friday March 23rd, two months after Jim’s knee swelled up in the rainforests of Gabon, we finally met with Dr. Marais, a highly recommended orthopedic surgeon located in Durbanville. Dr. Marais, and in fact all the doctors, nurses, and medical technicians we consulted in South Africa, were excellent from the start.

On our first visit he performed a detailed medical history as well as a series of physical exams. Consistent with Pat’s assessment back in Brazzaville, the physical exam revealed no major indications of a torn meniscus and the history pointed more towards infectious arthritis. To further check for possible damage to the knee, Dr. Marais ordered an MRI.

On Monday, we met with Dr. Marais again, this time to discuss the results of the MRI. which not only ruled out a torn meniscus but showed very healthy cartilage, a major bonus after years of running. Reluctant to perform a potentially evasive arthroscopy, Dr. Marais performed another physical exam, which like the one performed on Friday and the MRI, showed a stable knee with no indication of damage. This led to a more detailed medical history followed by a blood test to check for rheumatoid and other forms of chronic arthritis. The blood test results were also negative. All signs seemed to point to infectious arthritis, so Dr. Marais referred us to Dr. Pont, a rheumatologist located in Stellenbosch.

On Friday, March 30th, we met with Dr. Pont. Like Dr. Marais, Dr. Pont’s bedside manner and general approach to medicine was excellent. Sitting in comfortable chairs in her casual office, we reviewed the MRI and blood test results and discussed Jim’s medical history. All signs pointed to sero-negative arthritis, an infectious form of arthritis caused by Ryder’s Syndrome. As Dr. Pont explained, the urinary and eye infections Jim came down with in Gabon were directly related to his knee. In effect, Jim’s body had picked up a virus which affected his urinary tract and eyes. His body, tried to fight the virus which triggered an auto-immune response in his knee. In other words, his body thought the virus was in his knee and was trying to kill it, even though it wasn’t there. This is what caused the grotesque swelling.

The prognosis was good. Sero-negative arthritis is treatable and isn’t chronic. The bad news was that it can reoccur over an 18 month period. Dr. Pont’s treatment was simple. A steroid injection (straight into the bum) to jumpstart recovery followed by self administered physical therapy to work the joint and strengthen Jim’s atrophied muscles. If necessary a regimen of drugs could also be used, however she wanted to wait to see if the steroids and physical therapy worked. Knowing that we will be traveling in Africa, Dr. Pont also prescribed another course of steroids and some anti-inflammatory meds should Jim relapse after leaving South Africa.

Over the next seven weeks, Jim (and I) worked out as much as possible – first hobbling slowly, then walking with a limp, walking, and finally running. The steroids did wonders and soon he was very much on his way to recovery! Hopefully, the end to a very long and painful saga that exemplified just how lacking healthcare is in much of Africa.

 

 
  Betty's Extreme Makeover
(Jim Writes) By the time we reached Cape Town Betty was in serious need of an overhaul. Nearly 40,000k of sand, mud, water, corrugations, potholes, and bad fuel had taken their toll. Her fuel system was clogged, her alternator and other electrical components fried, and her seals, bearings, brakes, and tires spent. Our expensive refrigerator and other kit were dead or dying and generally everything was in need of a serious service.

Inside, there was dirt on top of dirt and on top of the dirt was still more dirt. And under all the dirt were ants. An entire colony had moved in during the rainy season back in Mali. And living alongside the ants were roaches. Yes, roaches! Somehow they’d taken up residence in dark recesses out of reach of the industrial strength insecticides like DOOM that we’d employed to root them out.

During our two month stay in South Africa, Betty got her makeover. A deep cleaning, a full service, and a complete reengineering of her packing system and other kit. By the time we departed South Africa in late May, she was better than ever. In a word, her extreme makeover was complete and she was ready once again to face Africa.

With my knee diagnosed and treatment underway, our attention turned to finding a mechanic capable of undoing all that Africa had done to Betty during the past year. The mechanics at Toyota fell far short of the challenge, unable even to procure brake pads and other basic parts for our “gray market” UK registered Land Cruiser. A post on Horizon’s Unlimited produced Baillie’s Offroad, a highly recommended TLC workshop and outfitter that specializes in modifying Land Cruisers for use as safari vehicles in Southern Africa’s wildlife reserves. A good option aside from the fact that Baillie’s is located in Midrand (i.e. Johannesburg) nearly 1,500 kilometers away. Then Quinton, the owner at Outdoor Escape in Stellenbosch, recommended Fanus Cronje, owner of Proto Engineering. And with Fanus we struck gold. Formerly owner of Proto 4x4, Fanus is no longer in the business of modifying overland vehicles. This is unfortunate, as he has fabricated some of the most innovative and finely crafted vehicle modifications we’ve seen anywhere. A Land Rover fanatic, his Land Rover Defender 110 is an outstanding example of his work and the longer I stared at it the more I wished that he was still in the business. In the course of conversation, however, we struck up a friendship and he said he’d be happy to work with us on some reengineering ideas we had for Betty. But first, Betty needed to be serviced. For that, Fanus recommended Johann Meyer, owner of JB’s Auto Repair, a 4x4 workshop specializing in Land Cruisers. Johann, as we later learned, is widely regarded as “the guy” for heavy maintenance on 4x4’s, with repeat customers traveling to Cape Town from all over South Africa to have their Land Cruisers serviced. The only challenge was getting an appointment. For that we’d have to wait two weeks.

As we waited for our service date to arrive, we took Betty shopping for new shoes. Partial to chunky mud tires, she opted to replace her Michelin XZL 10-ply mud tires, now worn down to nubs, with a sporty new set of BF Goodrich Mud Terrains. We also repaired the rim we’d cracked on a donkey track back in Mali. Wearing her new shoes, she looked simply dashing. Once again, she’s ready to face the mud we hope is now behind us.

Back at Roland’s, Harriet let us use her vacuum cleaner to clean out Betty’s interior. We removed everything. Vacuumed up so much dirt and broken glass that it filled the vacuum bag, scrubbed for hours and then vacuumed again. Once the truck was clean we unleashed Armageddon on our ant and roach infestation. Using aerosol canisters, we filled every crack and crevice with a potent cocktail of Raid and Doom. 24 hours later, we launched a second offensive with equal intensity and 24 hours after that a third. In all we pumped Betty with two bottles of poison – enough to kill every living thing in the truck – and likely reduce our own life spans by at least 20 years. By the end of the third wave the carpet and seats were filled with the dead. It was like our truck was the site of Custer’s Last Stand and our victory seemed apparent. But after months of living under siege, we weren’t satisfied. Total annihilation was our aim and to ensure absolute victory, we purchased two boxes filled with a dozen roach and ant motels. Enough to hopefully get us through the rest of Africa. Once Betty was clean and our pests eradicated, we vacuumed and cleaned again. Betty was spotless. More worn than upon our arrival in Africa but certainly just as clean and bug free.

On April 23, we rented a tiny subcompact from Avis and dropped Betty off at Johann’s in Parrow Industrial Park. Following an initial inspection, Johann shook his head in disbelief and asked us what we’d done to our truck. Evidence of our difficult passage was obvious and he seemed impressed. We agreed on an extensive overhaul, which Johann said would take four days. If he discovered any major issues he’d give us a call. We left his shop at just after 9am. The first call came 45 minutes later. Several more followed over the next few days. “Jimmy (Johan took to calling me “Jimmy” and Sheri “Jimmy’s Wife”), your truck is killing me. There’s another problem...” The radiator was clogged with seeds and grass from our traverse of the Bateke Plateau in Congo (Yes, yes, I know you’re supposed to use a seed net, but I was very sick at the time and putting it on wasn’t our top priority). It would have to be pulled out and cleaned. The alternator was damaged by water and gummed up with mud and grass. It would have to be rebuilt. The solenoid on the glow heater was clogged with mud causing the heater to run continuously. It had already melted and there was a good chance it could start a fire. It would have to be replaced. The center diff was full of mud and inoperable. It would have to be rebuilt. Seals were spoiled. Wheel bearings worn out. The fuel system clogged. The calls just kept coming and our four day service turned into two long and very expensive weeks. Johann however was excellent and when we finally got Betty back she was a completely different truck. She was ready to face Africa again!

With Betty clean and serviced, we shifted our focus from the necessary to the nice to have. Some of our kit, like our refrigerator, was broken or worn out. More of it, we’ve learned during the past 14 months, was unnecessary and, in fact, undesirable as it took precious room in our truck. With a long road still ahead, we decided to undertake a remodeling project. Our first task – service our worn and broken kit. This included our refrigerator, split charge electrical system, winch cable, 12V outlets, and second fuel tank. In South Africa this proved to be easy as there’s a plethora of 4x4 shops around Cape Town. We chose 4x4 Megaworld. Truly one stop shopping for this sort of thing, Dennis, the shop manager, sorted everything out for us in one day. They replaced the power supply on our Engel fridge under warranty, rebuilt our split charge system and installed a larger 105amp hr battery, replaced our 12V outlets with stronger Hella outlets, replaced our worn out winch cable with a safer plasma cable, installed a new in-line fuel filter on our second fuel tank. Dennis also quickly installed a much better rear tow point and helped me to replace our broken compressor hose with a much more durable rubber hose.

The second task was more time consuming – to purge Betty of all the unnecessary kit, downsize some of the bulkier items, and re-engineer our packing system. A dream we’ve had since we first entered Morocco, we’d been sketching plans for months and with Fanus’ help we achieved impressive results. We started by giving away a pile of kit and throwing away another pile including such items as our bulky and unreliable Brown Church water purifier, our table, Eeze-Awn shower skirt, as well as a variety of other items. Next we came up with space-saving ideas for some of the bulkier items. Examples include replacing our large laundry bucket with the dry bag we use to protect our camera equipment on kayak trips, and (thanks to Fanus) our 20ltr water jerry cans, with wonderfully compact and durable German military water bags (which take up almost no room!). By the time we were finished removing and downsizing kit, we’d freed up so much room that we had room for another passenger and their luggage and, other than the spare tire, our roof rack was empty.

This gave us loads of options for re-engineering our packing system. Again Fanus was immensely helpful by building us a very strong shelf in the cargo area. A very simple idea, the shelf provides perfect storage space for our backpacks, dive gear, tent, chairs, and everything else that didn’t have a home. Our Pelican Cases fit perfectly under the shelf so that everything is neat and organized. Best of all, nothing is without a home.

The result of all this was a significantly more comfortable and organized truck with room to spare. And then Fanus put another idea in my head. A wonderful idea that was now very feasible. He suggested that maybe we change out our leak prone, slow to stow away, noisy in wind, Eeze-Awn tent, which we have never liked, with the latest model Hannibal Tent. A more aerodynamic, leak proof, wind proof (no noise), incredibly easy to put up and down marvel. Fanus had been using one for a year and loved it. And after testing it out, we fell in love with it too. Built with gas shocks, all one has to do to open it is pop two latches on the back and it erects itself in about 2 seconds. And to put it down... Just pull a handle and flip the two latches. Voila! The only downside, it takes up most of our roof rack. But then again, by removing the tire from the roof it also saves loads of weight on the roof and more evenly distributes the tent weight across the entire roof rather than just on the back, improving off-road performance.

Fanus, who’s friends with Hannibal’s owners, made the introductions and Jacques took care of everything else, building us a custom model. After all of the remodeling and downsizing, we had so much extra room that all we had to do to accommodate the new tent was pull out our third seat and relocate our second spare where the seat used to be. Doing this actually created even more room in the back and believe it or not the tire actually serves as a pretty good seat.

Thanks to Fanus, Johann, and Jacques, Betty’s makeover was excellent and by the time we were finished, she was far better equipped than when we left England.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  Resupply, Indulge, Explore...
(Jim Writes) In between all the knee and truck repairs, we were running around taking care of all the other administrative stuff that builds up after 15 months away from home. Things like renewing health insurance and filing taxes. We also spent plenty of time shopping for replacements for our stolen and worn out kit. Things like our video camera and GPS. Not fun given the cost of such things in South Africa (a Garmin GPS for example runs about twice as much as in the U.S.).

All our time however wasn’t spent taking care of “To Do’s.” We took full advantage of our time in South Africa to relax. Our stay at Roland’s offered a level of comfort that we haven’t experienced in a very long time. We stayed 41 nights. Long enough to get into several weekly sitcoms including Prison Break. And within a short walk from Roland’s was every culinary indulgence we could have hoped for: McDonald’s – the only place in Africa that has fountain drinks – Steers, the Stellenbosch University food court, Super Spar (with a wonderfully cheap cafe and pizzeria), and several delightful little cafes like Java Cafe. And what wasn’t in walking distance was a quick drive down the road. Most notably, the many wonderful wineries around Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and Paarl.

Six weeks after we arrived in Stellenbosch Pat and Ness caught up to us. When they walked through Roland’s front door they were straight out of Namibia. Still wearing their dusty travel attire, they looked weathered. Road weary. For the first time, we saw our own reflection through them. Just six weeks earlier we’d looked the same. What had seemed so normal to us then, now seemed very foreign. It was as if they’d just crawled out of the bush. And I guess, more or less, they had. Soon however, they too were bathed and sporting a whole new look – appearing as far removed from the bush as we now felt.

While in South Africa, they decided to purchase and outfit a Defender 110 for use in Southern Africa. That kept them close to Stellenbosch for several weeks and together we all indulged – getting together for breakfasts at L’Olive and dinners at Col’Cacchio and spending afternoons drinking wine at Muratie and Boschendal vineyards. It was wonderful. A very different experience than the time we’d spent fasting on sardines and box wine in Congo (Zaire) and Angola.

When we weren’t hanging out in Stellenbosch, we were taking road trips to places like Hermanus and Port Elizabeth...

While we waited for our appointment with Johan, we took a quick three night trip down to Cape Agulhas. Along the way we stopped at Betty’s Bay where we went to a quaint little cafe for cappuccinos and cheese cake before heading to Signal Point to photograph a large colony of African (jackass) penguins. We also stopped off for a quick hike through the Harry Porter Botanical Gardens, home to some of South Africa’s world famous fynbos, before reaching Cape Agulhas, the southern tip of Africa. At Cape Agulhas we hiked along the rocky point, snapping some photos and reflecting on our journey through Africa. We also took a few minutes to be interviewed by a local reporter interested in writing a story about us in the local news paper. Afterwards, we drove further down the road to Arniston, a picturesque fishing village lined with white washed cottages and flanked by sand dunes. There we spent a few hours walking on the dunes and enjoying the beautiful views of the turquoise blue ocean. 438 days after departing England, we finally reached the southern tip of Africa.

During Betty’s two week stay with Johann, we ventured down to Gansbaai to cage dive with great white sharks. Quinton at Outdoor Escape called up his friends at Shark Diving Unlimited, a dive operator owned by Mike Rutzen, one of only a couple of divers in the world to free dive with great whites. Mike is somewhat of a legend in the diving world and has been featured on National Geographic, BBC and the Discovery Channel. Inside his shop there are photos on the wall of Mike in free diving gear (no cage), arm outstretched, touching the nose of a great white. Our experience was tamer, protected inside a metal cage like those featured on so many Discovery Channel specials. After a 45-minute boat ride, we dropped anchor in rough seas just off Dyer Island, home to a large seal colony. As we suited up in thick wetsuits, one of the deck hands started pouring chum into the water off the back of the boat. Not long after, the first white shark appeared and the cage was lowered into the water. Soon I was inside the cage. My experience can best be described like this...the water was cold (freezing cold), the visibility limited, the seas rough, the great whites close, and the experience unforgettable. It was like entering an episode from “Shark Week” on Discovery Channel.

Mike’s team was great and we were treated like royalty (presumably because we’re friends with Quinton). Lindy, Mike’s sister-in-law, even invited us to come back when Mike isn’t busy filming documentaries to go on a seal dive – a much more full-on dive in which Lindy said that Mike would take us back to Dyer Island (the same place where we went on the cage dive) to dive, sans cage, with the seals (Read: The same seals that attract the great whites to the island). As Lindy explained, great whites don’t care much for the kelp forest around the island and therefore as long as you’re in the kelp you’re pretty safe. We talked to a couple of divers who’d just done it and they said that it was incredible. Apparently while they were in the kelp forest they spotted a great white swimming along the edge of the forest a short distance away and when the signaled to Mike, he calmly turned and gave the OK signal as the shark slowly swam away. Blown away by the prospect of diving without a cage in waters teaming with great whites is more than enough motivation for a return trip to Gansbaai (hopefully before we depart Africa).

After picking up Betty, Johann invited us to a braai (barbeque) at his house in Melkbosstrand, a short drive up the coast from Cape Town. We’d heard that South African’s take their braai’s seriously, but I can honestly say that we weren’t expecting the red carpet that they rolled out for us. When we arrived at JB’s home (an impressive property that cleared up any questions about where our $2500 service bill went), we received a very warm welcome from his wife (a professional runner), parents, perfectly behaved children, and fascinating friends, who made us feel very much at home. Following cocktails, we enjoyed an excellent dinner (which included perfectly prepared steaks of course) served with South African wine. It was a very enjoyable evening in which Johann went so far as to arrange for us to stay in the honeymoon suite at the Gregorian Hotel, a four star guesthouse on the ocean. Our suite was... let’s just say comfortable. Rose petals on the bed, sherry, a hot tub, and an incredible view of the ocean. Very comfortable!

Before departing South Africa for Namibia and beyond, we headed east up the “Garden Route” to Addo National Park. Recommended by Jacques at Hannibal as a way to pass some time while he constructed our new tent, we weren’t expecting that much from the Garden Route or Addo. The drive up the coast however was a pleasant, if perhaps a bit over- hyped, journey through picturesque coastal towns and yellowwood forests, eucalypt and pine plantations, which was marred by periodic speed traps. We got caught in two of them. The first an automated speed camera. The second, three men under a bridge which sits beside a 60kph sign. A classic trap, we were so impressed by the officers fancy German engineered radar equipment and professionalism, that we hardly minded paying – it was such a significant contrast from the corruption we’ve come to expect from African police.

Addo turned out to be more enjoyable than we’d anticipated. A national park designated to protect a group of “addo elephants,” the park is well organized and maintained and is home to a large variety of mammals including lions, white rhinos and cape buffaloe. Elephants however are the main attraction and Addo is teaming with them. There are hundreds of elephants, including a large bull in musk who forced us backwards about 1k down a dirt track. During our three days at Addo, we saw many elephants. Particularly around waterholes, which attracted one herd after another – including a number of feisty adolescent bulls who would run about trumpeting and roaring and generally terrorizing the rest of the herd. We also saw a first – two elephants mating, a spectacle most of the guys I know would find humbling.

While we were there, the park was packed and we only managed to get a campsite within the park the last night of our three night stay. The first was spent at a huge and uninspired campsite in which we were the only guests. The second was more exciting. Exciting because we were running low on fuel and the service station at Addo was closed. So was the campsite we’d stayed at the previous night. The only place to camp forced us several kilometers down a dirt road to The Dung Beetle Farm, a campsite listed in our out of date guidebook which, as we found out upon arrival, has been converted into a luxury lodge. With the empty light on, the lodge’s manager called another campsite several kilometers further down the same road and told us to call him should we run out of gas. We didn’t, although I thought we very well might, which made for a nervous drive to a deserted campsite along a small river. A little excitement in a country where the roads are too perfect to warrant commentary.

Before departing South Africa for Namibia and beyond, we spent an afternoon exploring Morgenhof and Boschendal wineries as well as Franschhoek, perhaps the most charming town in the Western Cape. It was a pleasant end to our two month stay in South Africa.

Back in Cape Town, we stopped by Hannibal so that Jacques could install our new tent. A few final preparations and a final “goodbye” dinner with Pat and Ness (who were still sorting out there new Defender) and we were ready to hit the road again. Our stay in South African can best be described as an overly indulgent, glutinous affair in which we quenched our appetites for fast food and utter convenience. Recharged once more, by May 19 we were finally ready for the long road ahead. A road through some of Africa’s greatest attractions – places like the Namib Desert, Okavango Delta, Victoria Falls, Zanzibar, Ngorongoro Crater, the Nile River, and Parc de Volcans (one of the last places on earth you have the chance to see mountain gorillas). We are going!