Friday 23 September 2011

The grand finale

Well well well the final entry for our adventure down the length of Africa, it is has clearly been noticed by all how quick almost five months on the road goes it always seems to accelerate after the halfway mark and then bang you're in Cape Town (the grand finishing point for those who haven't been following along too closely!).

So lets quickly play catch up over the last few days but before that, a correction must be made to include another jumper off the world's highest bungy at Bloukrans bridge, as not only did Jason jump but Zoe led the way and did it first and probably didn't scream as much either. Luckily for Jas the dvd has background music so we can't prove this!

Our next stop along our winding route south was Knysna a popular small town set just inland on the edge of a lagoon which is guarded from the sea by "the heads", which are two big headlands that form a beautiful natural entrance to get into the lagoon. They also make a great place to walk up from our campsite at the bottom to sit and enjoy a glass of wine or two as the sun drops.

Everyone enjoyed roaming around town, catching up with the internet and for a fair few watching lots of rugby on the telly. We headed a short way out of town for an afternoon round of golf, really good fun non-serious golf, flip flops all round dress code throw in a couple of clubs and lots of lost balls.

Back on the road again we made our way towards our most southerly point on the trip Cape Agulhas, being a bit out on a limb it does get a bit battered by the weather after setting up camp we all headed out along the board walk to take some group photos to celebrate getting as far as we could possibly go south. God it was blowing us around a fair bit but we all made it, before retiring to a bar for the afternoon to escape elements; if we're going to be honest some people continued into the evening too...
Alison and Rogan demonstrating their teamwork
At the southernmost point
The 2011 Cairo to Cape'rs
Alison flying high
Alison, Caolan, Cherie and Claire

Our next stop was a nice short drive off the tar for a bit and along the coast towards Hermanus, the place to do a spot of whale watching from the cliff tops. The Southern Right whale is not difficult to miss and we had a good opportunity to see them up nice and close with mother and calf blowing off and breaching just metres from the cliffs.

Our evening at camp was very cool, after reading in a magazine about the new thing to do in the outdoor cooking world is a "Braai-athalon" in laymen turns 3 types of animal on the bbq:
1. Something that flies (Chicken)
2. Something that swims (Hake)
3. Something that walks (Cow)

Bruce had alerted us to this new must-do meal and luckily he was on cook group to lend a helping hand. So after eating very well we sat down to the entertainment. Heading the committee were Kevin and Sue who had organised a "skit night" and those up for it braved the cool night air to perform to the masses.

It was very entertaining with performances from the likes of Bob, Paul, Glenn, Hazel, Kaye, Bruce, Caolan, Neil, Kevin and Sue, we had singing, poems, readings, a barber shop quartet(??) and a good laugh and reminisce about events and memories from our trip that some of us may have even forgotten.
Bit chilly
Voices of angels...
The next morning at crack of dawn we snuck off quietly in the truck with 5 people who decided it was a good idea to go Great White Shark cage diving off the coast of Gansbaai. So a quick hop back up the coast, brekkie and then off out on a boat before jumping into a cage suspended off the side of the boat where you can get up close and personal with one of the world's most feared adversaries (thanks Jaws!). Everyone loved it even more so Caolan who was the winner of the best blog of the trip (you can check it out at and so got the dive courtesy of Odyssey, this was very lucky for us as he became very generous and brought the entire bubbly supply from the shop in town on the way back for the group to sample, cheers again.

Our final stop before Cape Town after a stunning scenic coastal drive was Stellenbosch where wine production originated in South Africa and is still going strong, we headed to a couple of Estates to sample their wares and do a quick cellar tour before getting back to a bit more tasting. Those who weren't too keen spent their time instead exploring the beautiful University town of Stellenbosch with its stunning streets packed with funky cafes and art galleries, Hazel took it one step further and ended up in a Uni lecture!!

That evening we headed out as a group for one final meal at a fancy restaurant based at Spier's vineyard where we were treated to a huge selection of different food buffet style and some cracking drumming and singing on the side.

The day of reckoning was upon us and tents were skilfully rolled away for the final time, before a quick breakfast accompanied by bucks fizz in celebration (you may have guessed there has been a lot of celebrating recently!).
Time for a final clean
Colleen cleaning windows
Thanks Colleen!

A short drive had us buzzing down the N2 with blue skies and stunning views of Table Mountain, our hotel in Green Point seemed even a little trendy for 19 bush beaten travellers but after a bit of sprucing up we went out for final drinks and farewells.

Now for the cheesy ending speech...... well its been awesome, amazing, varied, exciting, brilliant, tiring, breath taking we could go on but my vocab isn't that good. To cut it short and sweet we have successfully made it as a group a long long way from the top to the bottom of a superb continent and seen way more than we could ever hope to remember. A big thanks, farewell and good luck to everyone who came along for the ride its been great!

Ciao from the crew

Alison and Rogan

Friday 16 September 2011

Cintsa to Tsitsikamma

Bruce found a pizza oven and we moved in! Think you can see from pics... We're beginning to get a bit sentimental, and even made a special Cairo to Cape pizza, marking our route. Thanks Bruce, Sue, Caolan, Carlos and Glenn for some awesome home-made pizzas!
Rogan and Alison appreciate their pizza

This is fun
C for Cairo and for Capetown
Awesome pizzas!
Successful cook group
Caolan and Bruce, successful cook group
What a committed cook team
What a committed cook team!
Pizza making in a woodfired oven.
Sue and Bruce making pizza in a wood fired oven
Maybe a bit longer
Maybe a bit longer...
Preparing for the second bake off
Preparing for the second bake off
We visited the last of the game parks on this trip, Addo Elephant National Park. As the name implies, loads of ellies; we were also lucky enough to spot a caracal, jackals, some beautiful kudu with impressive horns, and this spotted genet that visited our camp. Still no leopard for Jon :(
Addo elephants morning drive
Addo elephants morning drive
Spotted genet
Spotted genet

From there we headed further along the coast to Tsitsikamma National Park, on a very windy day, camping right on the edge of the ocean. A really wild coastline, with some lovely walks and a suspension bridge over Storms River. A place where you can watch the waves breaking dramatically for hours.
Wild coastal scenery at the start of the Garden Route. Our tents are just metres from the waves.
Wild coastal scenery at the start of the Garden Route.  Our tents are only metres from the crashing waves.
Tsitsikamma 028
Tsitsikamma National Park

Now we're off to watch Jason do the highest Bunji in the world, at Bloukrans, followed by a bit of wining and dining (and recovering or celebrating?) in Knysna.

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Our final country

We’re down to our final country – South Africa; and last few days. But let’s back-track for a week or 2, and it will take us back to Maputo, Swaziland, and even Lesotho for some.

Maputo is the capital of Mozambique and we spent a day and a night in this interesting city. Patisseries, Pizza restaurants, espressos all bring home the European influences, along with Portuguese being spoken more commonly than English. The city has a great vibe to it with this merge of African and European cultures and beautiful old buildings in the narrow one-way streets that surround the busier weight-restricted streets (sorry- probably too much info – you notice these things when you’re in a truck. I probably also shouldn’t mention that some of us get excited when you find a shop or go into a supermarket that sells new dustbins, brooms, tupperware, fancy cheese and/or other truck accessories and delicacies...).

Moving on, we left Mozambique and spent almost a week in Swaziland. Shewula Mountain camp was our first stop, with awesome views camping on a cliff down to the farmland below and watching the sugar-cane fires burning in the night. Some people paid a visit to the local sangoma – a traditional healer or ‘witch-doctor’, to learn a bit about how he operates, so to speak. The women at the camp also prepared for us a wonderful local meal including peanut chicken and spinach dishes. Mmmm, wish I had that recipe.

Our next stop was Mlilwane Nature Reserve. While it’s not a ‘big-5’ park as such, what was nice about Mlilwane is that you are free to walk around the reserve. No hectically dangerous animals – if you stay away from the hippos and crocs, so you can be out walking/cycling/horse-riding and encounter antelope en-route.
Bob and a friendly Nyala

Swaziland is also pretty well-known for their arts and crafts. There are quite a few projects that encourage recycling, making jewellery out of glass, weaving, candle making, and lots of beadwork. We visited a couple of these craft- centres in the Ezulwini valley, while Paul and Zoe opted for the more adventurous activity of caving.

Here was also where we had to say good-bye to faithful Athena. South Africa has implemented new laws this year that no longer allow foreign-registered vehicles to commercially carry tourists in this country. Poor old Athena is British (and can’t help it) so we jumped ship for our last couple of weeks in SA, but look forward to picking up Athena (or the other way round) on our way back up.

South Africa – big freeways, petrol stations with smart toilets (and toilet paper) and Steers burgers, supermarkets with all the products you want, and more, cheap wine, drinkable tap water, ATMs everywhere. These are just some of the things that you notice here, coming from other African countries.

St. Lucia wetlands provided some more mostly-antelope spotting and great views and walks on a pretty untouched coastline. It was also Nick and Di’s last night with us on tour, as we left them hitch-hiking home the next day – they have work they had to get back to urgently, and have been trying to get home to SA for 10 years... They overtook us though and were spotted in Durban before we got there!
Di and Nick heading home
From here we headed inland, to the southern Drakensberg, the largest mountain range in South Africa. A fantastic setting for camping, with walks on your doorstep to waterfalls and natural pools to swim in. But the big draw card here this time was a trip up the Sani Pass, the steepest mountain pass in South Africa, only accessible with 4x4, and a different country, Lesotho, at the top. Our 14th country on this trip. It was a great day out – fantastic scenery, a bit of eland-spotting, some hectic hair-pin bends, with ice on the side of the road. At about 2800m above sea-level, Lesotho is pretty cold. Odyssey in Africa found snow! We had the opportunity to go inside one of the huts in a village and taste the locally-brewed beer and some freshly baked bread, and hear a little about life in Lesotho. And then there was a visit to what claims to be the highest pub in Africa. The gluwein was great, the pub-visit too short.
Sani Pass border control
Lesotho flag
Nice t-shirts Jon and Claire
Welcome to Lesotho
High altitude living
Friendly and welcoming
Africa's highest road?
Not a truck road...
Switchbacks galore
Glenn and Bob
Local dress, protection against the cold and high altitude sun
Local village
Glenn and Kaye

A cold early start (neither of which we’re used to anymore) took us out of KwaZulu Natal, into the Eastern Cape and down to the Wild Coast. A visit to the Nelson Mandela Museum in Mthatha for a dose of South African history, and as a slight detour on our route (and because we needed a place to stay for the night), we headed down a windy road to Coffee Bay. And what a windfall – definitely one of the biggest bargains of the trip, and a really really nice surprise. In the small settlement that is Coffee Bay, we ended up at the Coffee Shack, a backpackers right on the waters edge of a lagoon and the sea. Apart from a welcome drink, Sunday night just happened to be free dinner for all, and it was an awesome potjie and home-made bread – even Glenn was defeated.

From there we headed further down the Wild Coast to Cintsa, another beautiful lagoon and beach. And that’s where we are now. All of a sudden the 134 days are almost done and Cairo seems an age ago. No doubt a few parties and celebrations and reminiscing in the next week as we follow the Garden Route into Cape Town. See you there.

Saturday 10 September 2011

Truck Olympics

Gluwiein,  scenic flights and poker nights (where Claire beat the boys and took all. They say beginner’s luck, I say skill...).  We’ve done it all – and more:  Introducing Odyssey’s first ever African Truck Olympics.

Location: Tofo Beach, Mozambique.  Occasion: Rogan’s Birthday. The participants: Athena’s team. Ingredients: Sun, Sea, Sand. And vodka jelly.

An afternoon of fun and games on the beach showed up those competitive ones among us, and those not afraid of breaking the rules... the 27th August had us playing games and doing things some of us may not have participated in for many years.

The Games included a wheelbarrow race, 3-legged race, egg and spoon, sand castle building competition with a twist (permission to destruct other castles), passing balloons between legs, a course to be completed blind-folded, and bobbing for naartjies... with drinks and jelly in between.

But these weren’t your normal relay races - I think the pics show it all. And inevitably most people ended up in the sea. It really was loads of fun (despite what you see!) – definitely one of my best afternoons...
That was followed by cheese and wine and some people even made it out to dance. Unfortunately there was one casualty in the games – Claire sprained her ankle, but that didn’t stop her joining in the fun and we organised a wheelbarrow to carry her down the road to Dino’s, the local party venue. They let us park our wheelbarrow in their garden J

Thanks to Jon and Jas for their and the bar’s contribution to the day, and for everyone’s awesome spirit . Good times. 

Wednesday 31 August 2011

Beach life

We’ve been through Zimbabwe and made it to warmer weather in Mozambique, but let’s back track a bit and talk a bit about what we’ve been up to in Zim (you’ve had a sneak preview of some pics!)

We passed through the southern part of Zim, through Bulawayo, Matapos, a slight detour to a spot near Gweru, the Great Zimbabwe Ruins and finally the Bvumba mountains.

Bulawayo treated us to a night in a guest house (the first night in a bed since Zanzibar for some), restaurants, and a bit of exploring around the second biggest city in Zim, with a very interesting museum.

From there we headed south to the Matapos region, a beautiful part of Zim full of granite rock formations. Some of us went on a guided day out, visiting some of the ancient rock art sites in the area and learning about Zimbabwe’s history from local experts. We went to a Shona village and were entertained by Mr Pondo  with his leopard-survival story, and even got to wear a leopard skin... While we didn’t manage to spot any rhino in Matapos National Park, despite some serious tracking, I think we all came away a bit more enriched from the experience, with more knowledge and understanding of both rhinos and some of the indigenous plants and bush-lore.

Our next stop was Antelope Park, just south of Gweru. The name is misleading as it is almost more of a lion ‘park’ rather than antelope. Essentially, this is a lion conservation area  where there are breeding projects and ‘rehabilitation’ programs in place, to try and widen the gene-pool and increase the numbers of lions in Zim. You’ll have to go there to find out more about the projects (they do take long and shorter-term volunteers) or look it up at Antelope Park, Zimbabwe... But apart from the lions and many activities to do with the lions, it was a wonderful campsite to stay at. We were treated like royalty – with excellent hosts and guides, a beautiful view over the river, lawns to camp on, and free tea/coffee and juice (which really counts when you’re a camper on a budget!). The lion-feeding was a hectic event, with male lions fighting for their food; cub-viewing was a bit more ‘cute’. Some went off to learn about elephant training, some went horse-riding, and as we were there over full moon, there were certain special activities available, like lunar horse or elephant rides. A very surreal and special experience. We also went off on a night drive, following lions as they went out hunting. Unfortunately, these things can’t be pre-determined and organised, and while we saw the lions stalk, we didn’t see them kill. The first night. Those die-hards of our group who went back for more the next day were ‘rewarded’ with a chase and a kill. (Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t a blood-thirsty bunch completely.)  The twins in our group (Glenn and Kaye) also celebrated their 25th birthdays at Antelope Park – with tea on the lawns, fishing for frizbys, and the best steak this trip. Good times.

Glenn and Kaye's 25th birthdays
Birthday party
Lion cub

A spot of canoeing

Fisherman Nick

On a cold and wet day we landed at the Great Zim Ruins, but they were intriguing enough for us to spend a fair bit of time there, learning about some of the different stories and interpretations relating to this massive stone complex.

Our final stop in Zim took us to the Bvumba Mountains, just on the Mozambiquan border, with spectacular views, lots of walking opportunities, a round of Golf for Kevin, tea and cake, more horse-riding, a lazy day, and surviving the cold nights. Al was treated to cheese and wine and pass-the-parcel on her birthday. More good times – at least for me.
Happy birthday Al
But time to move again – especially to warmer terrain. So here we are in Mozambique. A glorious week on the beach lies ahead, and then more time in the capital exploring this mix of African-Portuguese cultures.

It’s wonderful to be on the coast again, with warm weather and lazy beach days. From Vilanculos, we went out to an island in the Bazzaruto Archipelago for the day. A little piece of paradise, we spent the day snorkelling, swimming, walking around the island, and having a seafood feast.
Alison's T-shirt
Alison proudly displaying the trip t-shirt designed by the group in Livingstone
Coming ashore on Robinson Island in the Bazaruto Archipelago, off Vilanculos
Coming ashore on Robinson Island in the Bazaruto Archipelago
Indian Ocean coastline, Robinson Island
Indian ocean coastline, Robinson Island
Sunrise at Blue Water Beach Camp, Vilanculos
Sunrise views from the campsite in Vilanculos
Sunrise at Blue Water Beach Camp, Vilanculos
Sunrise over the pool, Vilanculos
Seafood lunch prepared by our dhow crew
Seafood lunch prepared by the dhow crew
Jason and Rogan cooking their crayfish
Jason and Rogan cooking their crayfish
We’ve been making our way slowly down the coast, changing gear and adopting African time more and more, with a few beach activities and challenges in between, like avoiding falling coconuts, putt-putt, snorkelling and frizby – in a different manner.
Putt -putt?

Loading coal purchased from roadside sellers in Mozambique
Loading charcoal purchased from roadside sellers in Mozambique
Loading coal purchased from roadside sellers in Mozambique
Girl power - roof crew
Diane compares shoes with a local lad in Vilanculos
Diane compares shoes with a local lad in Vilanculos
The rift valley