Thursday, 1 October 2009

The Final Chapter

Countries Visited: 28
Distance Travelled: 36650km
Litres of fuel bought: 5136
Punctures repaired: 9
Food poisonings: Lots!

With an afternoon to kill we headed out to Cape St. Lucia for lunch, tarmac turned to gravel, and gravel to dirt track as we re-entered Africa. Waving children and smiling faces. We eventually reached the coast and went for a walk along the windswept beach. Deserted, apart from three children walking towards us carrying something. They obviously didn't own any bags, so they were carrying a hard hat and a big rubber tube full of mussels they'd collected. We bought a hard hat of mussels for that evening, realising afterwards that we probably could have donated them a plastic bag or two.

Dawn and David at Overwin Lodge had been raving about Hluhluwe National Park, so we took a slight detour north again staying at Isinkwe Backpackers, the most overpriced place we'd stayed for a while. Nothing particularly wrong with it, just it was nothing special at a ridiculous price. There was one nice touch however, they put out a plate of bananas for the bush babies as the sun sets. The bush babies were all sitting in the tree ready and waiting for their breakfast snack.

We slowly crawled through Hluhluwe the following day, a beautifully hilly park with a fair amount of wildlife around. We managed to tick off three of the big five but failed on the cats yet again. A little disappointed we headed further down the coast that evening towards Durban.

We turned inland the following day towards Nottingham Road, we'd been told about the 'Midlands Meander' by a guy we'd bumped into in Richards Bay. A winding dirt road through the foothills of the Drakensberg. A very picturesque road with golden light created by all the dry grass. We arrived at Sani Pass Backpackers late in the day and settled down for a cool evening.

With the backpackers looking exceptionally well organised and the weather being beautiful we went for another meander the next day, a self guided walk for four hours or so from the lodge. A really lovely walk up a mountain and down a river. There were various pools for swimming on route, but as these are currently being filled with snow melt we decided to give that a miss.

Another good nights sleep and then it was time to give Stanley's new springs their first proper test by driving up the infamous Sani Pass. This is South Africa's highest pass heading up into Lesotho, with the Lesotho border post at 2865 metres. We passed a couple we'd met where we were staying trying to drive up in their hired Toyota Yaris, they were stuck and trying to reverse back down. The sign at the bottom saying that only 4wd vehicles would be allowed past the South African border post, approximately half way up, should have been an indication it wasn't a very good road. The road was rough and rocky as we crawled on up, and surprisingly busy as there and many agencies that do "Sani Pass Tours", where they throw a load of people into a Land Rover and take them to Lesotho for lunch.

A beautiful road with amazing views, slow with some frightening hairpin bends but nothing too challenging. As we climbed the temperature dropped and the wind got up, eventually reaching the top in a howling gale with patches of snow dotted around. We did the immigration thing, very painless as they're so used to visitors. The road improved but we kept climbing up the Kotisephola Pass to a very snow covered 3240m. By now the freezing gale was really taking its toll on Hannah and I, we decided we'd had enough of Lesotho and it was time to go back to South Africa. We headed back to the Lesotho border post and the 'highest pub in Africa' for a spot of lunch before starting the descent. On seeing Hannah was still wearing flip flops when exiting Lesotho the official looked at me and declared "You've got to buy this girl some shoes!".

The descent wasn't as tricky as we'd though it might be, and we were back at the bottom in under an hour. The gale was still blowing, but now it was a warm gale, probably our warmest evening yet. Apparently called the 'berg wind', it happens when a cold front is moving up from the cape. This was the first night of the trip we'd had to actually strap the tent down as the swirling wind was lifting it. We crawled into the tent that night, the cold front passed us, the wind dropped and we woke up with a sheet of ice over the tent for the first time since Europe, it was a tad nippy!

Time to get out of the mountains we decided and hit the road towards Port St Johns. We'd been told there was a hippy vibe there, vibe was the wrong word, it was overrun! One campsite we entered we had a 'forensic pathology unit' vehicle follow us in, we didn't stay there! With run down accommodation and too much tie dye for our liking, we headed back out of town to a place we'd seen on the outskirts. A really nice location on the river, reasonably priced and it had its own Helipad and airstrip, a little overkill maybe?

Further down the wild coast the next day we reached Cintsa. Beautiful rugged and windswept coastline again, a well run backpackers and super powerful hot showers, this was the place we should rest for a day! Lazing around for me, and early morning runs for Hannah we killed some time before headed on.

We had to go to Port Elizabeth to pop into another 4x4 Megaworld for a 'safety check' on the springs we'd had fitted to validate the warranty. We camped just outside in an amazingly remote campsite given its proximity to the city. Cruising on south with a night just outside Plettenberg we turned inland through George towards Oudtshoorn.

Oudtshoorn is an interesting place, the world's ostrich capital apparently, the place is surrounded by ostrich farms. We popped into Jemima's for lunch; I decided it's be rude not to order the "ostrich burger". It wasn't really a burger at all, rather fillet strips, but spectacularly good! The following day we invested in some ostrich steaks and an ostrich egg, yes, a whole egg. We were given a recipe sheet, the smallest meal was said to serve 12! We then drove along the famous route 62, the main wine region in South Africa.

We stopped for the night at Warmwaterberg, you don't need to be an expert in Afrikaans to realise that there might be a hot spring in the area. We stayed at the hot springs for what would be our last nights camping, we also realised we had rather a lot of fresh food to eat and we were unlikely to be cooking for ourselves again for a while. So after a dip in the hot springs we started on a mammoth cooking and eating session, with an interval to have a roman bath. These were huge private baths that were over a metre deep, fortunately the tap filled it at a good rate. All the water at the hot springs came from the spring itself. Everything from toilets to outdoor sprinklers was throwing out hot water. Our food that night was really good, topped off by spectacular ostrich steaks, some of the most tender meat we'd ever eaten.

The following morning the cooking marathon continued, a ostrich egg omelette was the plan, "serves 18" the recipe said. We eventually managed to break into the egg and Hannah started the ten minute job of beating it while I chopped the veg. We threw everything into our largest pan, filling it almost to the brim and slowly cooked it through. Then came the eating part, a little disappointing, quite bland, but plenty of it. We managed to polish off about half before we started feeling far too ill to eat any more.

That evening we'd arranged to stay with Jasper and Aileen who we'd met in Malawi. We headed towards Worcester, stopping at a vineyard on route to pick up a bottle. We shared a lovely evening with the family, Jasper knocking up some great food on the braii. We tried to sort a few things with the car that morning, having a chat with the owner of one place I said South Africa was a beautiful country, his shocking response was "The problem with this country is the blacks, we've got forty million of then you know, they'd rather steal than work". We decided to take our business elsewhere! We moved further south towards the cosmopolitan city that is Cape Town. My aunt, Sue, and family live in the suburbs giving us a convenient base for that part of the world.

After some battling with the GPS we eventually found their house. My Grandpa was also staying with my aunt for a while, he escaped the horror show that is the current Zimbabwe a few months before and was now living in Cape Town. This was the first time I'd seen him in many years which was fantastic. I think he was also pleased to meet Hannah for the first time. We settled in to having a room, bed and supermarket just down the road frighteningly quickly!

We were blessed with good weather so decided we should climb Table Mountain, Mike, Sue's husband drove with us to the cable car where we left our vehicle and were then driven back to Kirstenbosch Gardens to start our walk up Skeleton Gorge. A walk followed by lunch at the top and a cable car down was the plan. We eventually reached the top after a hard climb and were greeted with amazing views over the city. We then realised the memory card for the camera was in the computer, so photos weren't going to happen. We walked across the windy mountain top to the restaurant to find it closed, by now we were hungry, exhausted and a little frustrated by the lack of food. Not a problem, we'd have lunch at the bottom, unfortunately the cable car was also closed, and they'd closed everything because of high winds! Now very hungry, we had to start our descent; we had some tennis biscuits in the car to help spur us on! Eventually, five hours after we'd started walking Stanley came back into sight, we devoured the biscuits and headed back to base.

We had a few more days pottering round Cape Town doing the sights, we also spent a fair bit of time doing car stuff, getting Stanley ready for the boat home and preparing him to be sold, a sad day that'll be. Sue and Mike were heading down to their holiday house in Arabella, near Kleinmond. We went down with them as this was a good base to explore the area.

We invited Ian to join us for a few days, doing some more wandering, vineyards, breweries, saw some more whales in Hermanus and headed down to a very important waypoint, Cape Agulhas. Cape Agulhas is the most southerly point of Africa, and having got this far we decided we should do the last bit. We'd made the car all beautifully clean in Cape Town, and then proceeded to hit some unexpected dirt roads and get it all filthy again!

We'd arranged to share a shipping container with Ian, and back in Cape Town we did the final bits of sorting. Then the big day came, we were loading Stanley into a crate on the Thursday and loading ourselves into a plane on the Friday. We'd been told that although you can't carry much petrol in a shipping container diesel isn't an issue, so we filled to the brim.

We sorted out payment and then drove in convoy to customs. On arrival they spotted our tanks were full, Ian had done the same, and informed us that we couldn't carry that much diesel without registering the crate as hazardous and paying an extra $500! We were only allowed just above reserve fuel. After a bit of a debate is soon became clear that our only option was to drain the fuel. Fortunately Nick, who's arranged the shipping, agreed to buy it off us at a discounted price. I neglected to mention the auxiliary tank, so with 80 litres drained from our main tank they then got to work on Ian's vehicle.

Once everything was sorted we squeezed the vehicles into the shipping crate and watched the doors close behind them, a sad sight, this really was the end. We then headed back to Sue and Mike's with Ian for our last evening in Africa. A amazing Rojan Josh, and lots of wine and photos later we crawled into bed.

Our flight back was with Emirates via Dubai. While there is only a one hour time difference between the UK and South Africa at this time of year, Dubai is a little more out of the way. We were rudely woken up at about 1am, given breakfast and then kicked off the plane; this was now 5am Dubai time. We then had to board another plane a couple of hours later, to be given another breakfast. We both slept better on the second flight, eventually landing on time, tired, but very well fed having had four meals in 17 hours.

The seven person welcome party at Gatwick was a fantastic sight, and we all headed back to my parents for a good celebration and catch up before settling back into the real world.

That's all folks!

Saturday, 8 August 2009

The beginning of the end

We moved further south the following morning to Tofo, a popular beach destination near Inhambane. Tofo is famous for a few big animals that frequent the area, humpback whales migrate along this coast to their breeding grounds, and whale sharks and manta rays linger in the area all year round. That combined with an amazing beach, Mozambique's best surf spot, good fishing, diving and plenty of other activities, turns this area into a hive of activity at certain times of the year. Fortunately for us all South African school holidays had just finished so it was nice and quiet.

We were still searching for lazy sunny days on the beach but were still being unlucky with the weather, the day we arrived it just rained and rained. It's like being in the UK here, not just the weather, but that fact that everyone is talking and whinging about it. I was also planning on doing some diving so it wasn't ideal for days on a boat.

I decided to do a couple of dives anyway going in search of manta rays, my first day of diving was cancelled due to the weather, we had a stroll along the beach and round town instead. We'd timed our visit to Tofo well for the humpback whale season and we could see water blasting into the air from the beach as they surfaced to breathe. On our return that afternoon we saw a couple of whales thrusting their entire bodies out the sea and belly flopping back down in an explosion of water, an amazing sight.

Diving went ahead more or less as planned the next day, but heavy surges and the bad weather meant conditions weren't ideal and there were no mantas to be seen. Apparently there were killer whales in the area the week before, the same thing had occurred the previous year and no one saw any manta rays for about three weeks, so maybe it just wasn't to be. We did have humpbacks surface just 30m from the boat which was an impressive sight.

After a week in Tofo we decided we should probably leave, we woke up to our first glorious day and decided to wander down to the beach to watch the whales for the last time. We'd sat and watched them most days we'd been there. We ended up spending several hours watching whales and lazing on the beach. A group of humpbacks surfaced about 150m off shore and just sat there for a while, we also had dolphins playing in the surf. By now is was too late to leave so one more day in Tofo it was.

We escaped Tofos magnetic appeal making a push towards Swaziland. We spent a couple of days getting to Maputo where we spent a night just north of the city. We ventured into town the following day to be met by some amazing thunderstorms, the city's roads turned to rivers. We stopped for lunch at the famous Costa do Sol restaurant, a seafood place that does quick, relatively cheap and exceptionally good grub. After our amazing meal we headed west towards the Swaziland border, staying in the Swazi mountains that evening. We arrived late and the night watchman didn't know anything about camping, so we took a hut located with amazing views. We had no electricity but a hot outdoor shower with views for miles made up for that.

We drove to the opposite side of the country the next morning, only a couple of hours away. We had no real plans, but ended up venturing into Mlilwane Nature Reserve with amazingly tame wildlife wandering round the camp. We did some walks the following day through the mountain scenery. We then ventured from craft shop to craft shop, there are hundreds of them in Swaziland all selling hand crafted works of art, amazing to look at even if you're not buying.

With Hannah's date to be back at work fast approaching, we decided to leave Swaziland on the south side and head into South Africa towards Richards Bay. The border officials had a look at the expired insurance stickers on the windscreen and started complaining that they were no longer valid. One was for the Congo and the other for Zambia. They eventually understood this and started asking about our "road worthiness disc", basically proof of MOT. I guess a valid UK tax disc would do the job but ours expired a while ago, as did our MOT. I just said we didn't have anything like that in the UK, and they eventually accepted there was nothing we could do about it and let us across the border. The campsite we aimed for was closed, so with the sun dropping we set the next nearest accommodation on the GPS as our target, Overwin Lodge. We arrived to a very warm welcome from Dawn and David who said they didn't normally do camping but we could do so, and were given use of a bathroom in one of their beautiful chalets. They do a lot of work in the area and had a group of school kids staying doing work in the community. Official figures say the AIDS rate in the area is about 40%, but apparently private doctors say it's nearer 80%. They run an AIDS orphanage which they call the "Children's Village" trying to help out a community that is being devastated by the virus.

The reason for us going to Richards Bay was because we knew there was a 4x4 Megaworld there, we'd seen in an advert in a magazine Hannah happened to pick up they were Africa's only stockists of Old Man Emu suspension parts, the springs we wanted! We arrived on the Friday, they didn't have the springs in stock and phoned around the country eventually tracking some down for us at a different branch. As usual, this happened to be the Friday of a bank holiday weekend (I swear we have hit far more bank holidays travelling across Africa than we would've had in the UK in the same period!). They wouldn't be able to get the springs in until Tuesday. They tried to move mountains for us, phoning couriers and trying to sort it so we could get them the next day. They were unable to promise, but the couriers would try their best.

The next morning we received a phone call that I really didn't expect, it was good news and all four springs had arrived! We took our car down to the store and they put them all in for us. We left as extremely happy customers, amazed at the effort they'd gone to. We left on a slightly sour note being told to enjoy South Africa but to "watch out for the blacks" by the lady behind the till. Racism is still deeply entrenched in parts of this country it seems.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Prawns Prawns Prawns

We wanted some time on the coast so headed east towards the Indian Ocean, to Ilha de Mocambique. Lack of planning again meant we didn't realise how big Mozambique was. It looks long and thin so we weren't expecting it to take us three days to drive from west to east. The roads were pretty bad too which didn't help. Unable to wild camp due to the dense rural population and elephant grass lining the roads we made a detour for the night through beautiful tea plantations to a cheap hotel in Gurue. Things were feeling pretty West African again, a dingy room and filthy bathroom with no running water. I think things had gone downhill since the author of the guide book was there. Friendly receptionist though, and with lots of sign language and laughter we managed to communicate. They appeared to no longer do the best food in town, or any food at all for that matter so we went in search of something to eat. Finding another hotel we sat down for a pleasant enough meal of fish and more potato than we'd ever eaten in our lives. The manager was trying hard to sell us the hotel saying we should have stayed there rather than the pensao we'd chosen, we could have even had a free breakfast! We asked what that would have been, "egg, chips and sausage". Interesting, we thought, and although chips for breakfast seemed like a strange choice (though not too sure why as surely they would sit very well alongside a full English??) the guy seemed friendly, so we agreed to come back the following morning.

We arrived at the hotel, the manager wasn't up yet, and after some very slow service our food arrived. They were out of egg so tinned sausage and chips it was. Hannah wasn't too impressed to eventually stumble across some rat poo at the bottom of her pile of chips. Feeling slightly queasy, we did our best to complain in Portuguese, paid a discounted price and left.

Nampula was the destination for the following day. Roads were still bad and progress was slowed when we came across a collapsed bridge. A couple of steel beams had been placed across as a temporary repair, but they were slightly too far apart for our wheels. We nervously crawled across with Hannah driving and me directing with tyres partially hanging over the edge of the beams while a large crowd of locals looked on.

We arrived at a campsite marked on the GPS just outside Nampula, it didn't really look like much when we turned up, and what it did look like certainly wasn't a campsite. We asked around, and an English speaker turned up and recommended we went to the lodge next door. He said we could camp but there was no running water and the facilities were in a bit of a state. "We don't mind, as long as it's cheap." We settled on £2 to camp for the night. They were very friendly, cleaning the bathroom and even putting up lights for us, and we were pleasantly surprised to receive a big bucket of hot water for a shower the next morning.

The road changed to pretty good tarmac after Nampula and we raced along with lots of people running into the road and waving plastic bowls full of something at us. We eventually stopped to take a look, they were large bowls of freshly roasted cashews. Normally ridiculously expensive, we bought half a small washing up bowl full for £2, still warm from roasting. We realised we were in the middle of a huge cashew forest, with almost nothing but cashew trees stretching as far as the eye could see.

We reached Ilha de Mocambique earlier than expected. A historically significant place, it was the old Portuguese capital, strangely located on a small island 3.5km off the coast of the mainland. The Dutch East India Shipping Company had tried to take over the island several times but failed to take the fort. If they had succeeded it's said they would never have established their base further south that was to become Cape Town giving birth to South Africa. This would have led to a dramatically different Africa to the one we see today.

The island itself is beautiful, surrounded by clear tropical waters and sandy beaches with lots of fishing activity. The northern half is mostly crumbling old Portuguese buildings with people living in and amongst the ruins. We spent the following day wandering round the very photogenic island and sampling its restaurants. Mozambique is famous for its sea food, especially the huge tiger prawns they drag in from these waters, something we'd been looking forward to for some time. The food was certainly good.

We drove south the following day having to go via Nampula again and picking up more cashews on route. We stopped at Shoprite to pick up supplies. With shopping done we set off, just as we pulled out the parking space an arm reached through the slightly open rear window and grabbed my swimming shorts out of the roof net. A very valuable item of clothing now we're on the Indian Ocean! Leaving Hannah with the car in the middle of the road I leapt out the door and set off in bare foot pursuit of the thief. I had seen him disappear down a side street, and was pleased when I turned the corner to see he'd already stopped running. He was standing there with a big grin on his face, clearly very pleased with himself. He no longer had my shorts, they'd been palmed off immediately. I charged towards the kid in his early teens, he turned and saw me coming starting running again, but a little too late. I reached to grab his shirt stumbling on some soft sand and he slipped out of my grip again accelerating away.

We darted through the back streets of Nampula for a few minutes, by now his youth and stamina were winning out over my lack of fitness. We came out onto the main road, there were other people around so I started shouting to draw attention hoping someone else might help. A few people turned and looked but no one was making any effort to stop the kid. I wondered if everyone was siding with the home team. About to give up two guys on opposite sides of the pavement tuned and started running at the kid. Realising the game was up he stopped. He was handed over to me, and with arms behind his back I marched him down the road towards where we were parked.

By now the sight of a white guy sprinting through Nampula after a local kid had drawn a lot of attention. The street was lined with staring eyes, and I was slowly picking up people who were walking with me and chatting away in Portuguese. Although I can now count to ten my conversational skills are still lacking. I was wondering if this was seen as acceptable when a man in his early 30's eventually piped up in English, "beat him, just beat him, we're tired of these kinds of people". I wasn't planning on going as far as beating him but was pleased the kid was clearly very embarrassed by the whole situation. We got back to the car and with the kid held against a wall there was some conversation with his friends and my shorts soon reappeared. I released him and we drove off leaving him to the huge crowd of gathered people, stopping a short while later to nurse my blistered seeping feet.

Central Mozambique doesn't really having anything of interest to the traveller except a lot of villages and a long road to get from north to south. We chugged along dodging potholes as best as we could pulling into Alto Molocue to track down somewhere to stay. Having a look round what the guide book said was the best place to stay we were pretty horrified, so we went to take a look at the worst. A marked improvement with friendly staff and cheap so we took a room. We were then shown there was secure parking. Deciding we'd much rather camp in the car park we tried to work out how to diplomatically explain we'd rather sleep in our tent than their room.

After a very comfy night in the tent we continued south, deciding to spend a day at Zalala Beach to break the drive. We were slightly surprised when it started to rain on route. We'd been promised beautiful weather in Mozambique at this time of year, being the dry season and all that. The "champagne climate" a South African woman had told us. We had been slightly surprised when a retired British couple we'd met in Malawi had told us they'd had rain the whole way up through Mozambique. Zalala beach was cold, wet and very windy, so rather than spending a day there we decided to plod on to try and escape the weather.

No such luck, we surged southwards with more rain the following day. We had however received some good news from the British couple in Malawi. We thought we'd have one more African ferry to contend with, but we'd been reassured that the new bridge over the Zambezi was due to open the week before we'd have to cross. We approached the beautiful piece of engineering stretching over the wide waters to see a sign saying it was still closed. We joined the queue of cars waiting for the ferry in the pouring rain.

We pushed on past Caia to some accommodation marked on the GPS. We drove through the grounds past exquisite looking chalets to a beautifully situated restaurant, there was no one around. We shouted, no response, so just sat down and waited. After half an hour or so a lady turned up. Despite not having seen a soul since we arrived, they were apparently full and there was no camping allowed. With no known accommodation south for a few hundred kilometres we headed back to Caia.

The Zambezi is a dividing line in Mozambique, separating the populated, undeveloped north from the less populated southern half of the country. Symbolically, the warning signs at level crossings in the north pictured steam trains and in the south, electric (not sure what that says about the UK's use of steam train signs!). We pushed on south all day, rudely interrupted by a policeman who legitimately stopped us for speeding. Some pleading and joking for ten minutes or so and we were let off. We reached Inhassoro at sunset, the most northerly area of coastal towns with tourist facilities that stretch for hundreds of kilometres all the way to the South African border.

The cold wind and rain were still clinging on, and there isn't much to do in this part of the world that isn't outdoors. We spent a day sorting, and a day praying for the wind to stop. A man walked past our campsite one afternoon with a box full of fresh crayfish, so we bought a couple and threw them on the fire that night for a delicious meal. Our days lazing around on the beach weren't going to happen so we pushed on again, this time to Vilanculos.

We went to speak to Sailaway, a company that arranges boat trips to the Bazaruto Archipelago. They had a weather forecast to hand, they next two days were going to be good weather before it all closed in again. We booked a boat trip round the islands for a couple of days.

The following morning we had beautiful weather as promised. We set off with three Belgians, Julie, Rose and Jerome, and our three man crew including a chef, guide and captain. The fire was lit on the boat to make tea, a fire in a wooden box on a wooden boat. At least there's plenty of water round to put it out if need be we were told before we left! Day one was out to Benguarua Island for a walk. Our guide lead the "half hour" walk. Regularly asking directions, and regularly feeling lost we eventually reached the big dune that was our target. After absorbing the spectacular views we headed back in search of our boat. We got back exhausted, hungry and very dehydrated four hours after we'd left. We rapidly demolished the meal of fresh crab prepared for us by Alfredo as we headed back towards the mainland. Camping on the islands is illegal and there is no budget accommodation, all the lodges cost many hundreds of dollars per night so the mainland is the only option.

After a pleasant evening chatting around the fire eating good food and a bad nights sleep, both Hannah and I can only sleep well in our tent these days, we set a course for Two Mile Reef. The plan for the day was snorkelling followed by some chill out time on Bazaruto Island. Alfredo knocked up some amazing omelettes and fruit salad for breakfast on route. We leapt into the freezing water (ok, that's an exaggeration, apparently it's about 22 Celsius at the moment) and did not very much snorkelling at all before we decided it was far too cold. We climbed another dune for the amazing holiday brochure views over the archipelago before returning to the boat for Alfredo's final masterpiece, squid stew. We raised the sails and sped south back to Vilanculos.

And finally...

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Thundering Smoke

We spent a few more days relaxing in Kasane, although the wildlife made it difficult at times. After the monkeys spent four hours at our camping pitch one day I decided to invest some time in making a catapult. It works really well, we don't need to use it, all we have to do it show it to them and they make sure they're out of sight. Catapults are generally the weapon of choice against monkey raids and they are well recognised. Even so, we've still managed to lose coffee, matches, bread and porridge to them. More annoyingly we lost a brand new 500g pack of butter to a warthog when it raided our breakfast table! The birds have also been braving up, learning that they can land on and eat bread while it's toasting on the fire - clever! It is amazing to watch the monkeys at work though (on other peoples pitches), they are so intelligent - opening drawers and bags, we even had one on the roof of our car trying to unscrew a jerry can!

During our time in Kasane we bumped into Ian, the guy we'd been in touch with since we'd left, and met in Ghana. He had shipped from Ghana to Durban, but our paths had crossed again, in Choppies supermarket of all places. He happened to be staying at the same campsite so we had a good catch up about the trials and traumas of overland travel.

We headed off to a local forest reserve one morning with the hope of spotting lion, inviting Ian along too. A fairly uneventful day, we saw a few animals but no lion. We'd had a slightly squeaky belt that I'd been putting off sorting out. On the way back the air conditioning stopped working. A jesty comment about how it was probably the air conditioning belt that was squeaking and we carried on. A few minutes later Ian spotted the dash board light up like a Christmas tree, and the engine temperature gauge started rocketing upwards. I hit the brakes and pulled off the road, cutting the engine just as it hit the red. A brief inspection confirmed what we'd suspected, the air conditioning belt had broken, unfortunately it had taken both alternator belts with it which also drive the water pump and fan. Fortunately we had spares of all three belts, so out came the car manual and we started fiddling trying to work out how to fit them. After half an hour of battling away a car pulled over to help. Conveniently it was two mechanics from Chobe Motors who happened to be passing. "The fan belt has broken, but it's ok, we've got spares" Ian told them. "Well why don't you put them in then?" came the ever so helpful response. Ah! So that's what we're supposed to do with spares then is it?? They took over and twenty minutes later all the belts were in and the engine was running again.

Friday arrived and we took Stanley into Chobe Motors for them to get to work on our suspension. After they'd changed one spring the car was looking very low at the front. Quick inspection and it was obvious there was not nearly enough lift in the new springs, the rubber stopper touching the axle. After some discussion and disagreement they insisted that if they put the other new spring in the other side it'd be ok, so I left them to it. Sure enough, it didn't help. We now effectively had no front suspension. They tried to persuade us to take the new springs, but as the old broken spring was more effective than the new ones we refused. They made a few calls and discovered they'd got the wrong parts, but they could have the right part the following Friday they said. Not wanting to spend another week in Kasane we looked for other options, I eventually persuaded them to weld the old spring. It would be weak, but it wouldn't do any harm. We had the old springs back in and all was looking good again. The problem now was they refused to refund the new springs, they could only exchange them for the right part. After much discussion we were left with a few options. Wait in Kasane, or come back to Kasane in a weeks time to get what may or may not be the right part, plus we'd have to pay for all the shipping costs, or leave and take the new springs with us to sell at a later date on eBay. So, we're now carrying two useless suspension springs round Africa with us, which isn't ideal when we're tight on space anyway.

We set off the following day for Zambia, only thirty minutes or so down the road to the ferry. Borders further north were a hassle with everyone demanding money, Zambia was similar, just this time the demands were official. Several different taxes, visas, insurance, ferry ticket, after all of which we were feeling very poor. We arrived at Livingstone that afternoon and ended up at "The Waterfront", a nice enough camp site if a little crowded.

We did the thing that has to be done the next day, Victoria Falls. The far nicer, and more appropriate local name is Mosi Oa Tunya, meaning "Smoke that Thunders". We could hear the roar of the falls from our tent in the night 4km away. At 1.7km wide, 108m high and with a flow rate that peaks in the wet season at over twelve million litres of water a second they are phenomenal. That's the equivalent of throwing about 4000 Land Cruisers over the edge every second!

We entered the park and were pointed down the most "exciting" path, so we thought we'd give it a go. The path ran along the top of the canyon opposite the falls. The people coming in the other direction were drenched, it looked like this was going to be a wet experience! Fortunately we'd remembered our waterproofs, and it wasn't long before we started to feel the spray from the falls. We walked from view point to view point, as the light spray turned into a torrential downpour at times, and a torrential uppour at others as the spray raced up the wall of the canyon. The waterproofs proved to be fundamentally useless - not much can stop bucket loads of water! It did also mean that we never saw the bottom of the falls. The spray is so dense at this time of year it's rarely possible. The falls themselves were an incredible sight - the sunlight penetrating the spray created spectacular single and double rainbows. They open the falls at night on a full moon so people can come and view the lunar rainbows that are created.

Back in the car park we spotted a very familiar looking car. Virtually identical to ours in everything but colour - a UK registered 80s series Japanese import Land Cruiser prepared by Footloose 4x4. There was a note on our windscreen saying "We're Footloose too, where are you?". We found Mark and Cain later, they'd shipped to South Africa and had been driving round for the last eight months loving every minute of it.

A decision was made to splash out a little the next day and treat ourselves. Victoria Falls is on the Zambezi separating Zimbabwe and Zambia with the falls best viewed from the Zimbabwe side. Being British we'd get stung for the highest visa charge if we entered Zimbabwe, $55 each, so we decided to spend a little extra and pay for a microlight flight from Zambia. That way we get to view the falls in their entirety without having to pay for a visa. The flight was amazing, only fifteen minutes, but we made two passes across the falls at an altitude of 500m, returning to the airstrip spotting elephants, hippos, giraffe and impala on the way. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to carry a camera, and $20 to pay for the photos they took was too much, so memories are all we have, but they are amazing memories.

Lake Kariba was the next destination with some fishing planned. A few hours from Livingstone we arrived at a deserted campsite, beautifully located on the edge of the lake, unfortunately with a cold gale blowing. The night watchman eventually turned up and we set up camp for the evening. The following morning it was still cold, windy and choppy out on the water so we decided to give the fishing a miss and head off.

The next plan was South Luangwa national park. We'd never realised quite how large Zambia was, and it wasn't until we left that we noticed it'd take us three days to get there. We had a stop just outside Lusaka so we could do some shopping the following morning. We needed to replace the spare fan belts that had been used. Hannah has also been on a mission to find some new shorts ever since I left the only pair she brought on a washing line in Gabon. Unfortunately with it being the Southern African winter they only have the winter stock in. Despite the daytime temperature being in the high 20s in some places, there are no shorts available.

After a night at Bridge Camp, we took the scenic route to the park, turning off the main road at Petauke. The road certainly wasn't great, but we'd driven far worse. About 60km down the track we started getting loud clunks from the suspension, a now familiar problem. Once again we had a broken stabiliser bar. More critical than the previous stabiliser bar breakage that we'd had on the trip - without this one the entire rear axle was shifting from side to side creating horrible noises. It was, however, not a new problem. This part had also broken before and had been welded by Footloose before we left the UK.

We strapped it up as best as we could and made the decision to battle on for the remaining 110km. The journey was very slow, not helped by detours round destroyed bridges and swamps. We eventually arrived at Wildlife Camp shortly after sunset. We pitched up at a spot on the riverbank with great views across the water into the park, falling asleep that night to the familiar sound of grunting hippos.

We decided we should have a sort out day, tracking down a welder in Mafuwe and doing some shopping. Later that day we walked from the campsite towards reception to arrange some activities, but only made it half way as there was an elephant chewing on a tree next to the footpath. We decided to try again later.

There was no lie in the following morning as I had to be up and out by 6:30am for a walking safari, Hannah had decided to give this one a miss! Zambia, and South Luangwa specifically, is renowned as one of the best and safest places in Africa for walking Safaris. All guides have to pass exams to qualify, and all walks are lead by a guide and an armed scout. The idea being the armed scout always leads the group to deal with any "confrontation". Should a situation arise the guide can tell the clients what to do while the scout keeps his target firmly set on the animal in question to deal with it should the situation get out of hand. David, our scout and an ex hunter, showed us the hefty bullets he was putting in the gun, good for buffalo, elephants and hippo apparently. I asked if he'd ever fired a shot on a walking safari, a reassuring no was the answer.

Andrew, the very informative and knowledgeable guide impressed me immediately, although the long stories he told to get every point across got a little tiresome after a while. And wasting an hour while seven of us debated the theory of evolution on the walk wasn't exactly what we'd paid for. Overall it was an educational experience, it's just a shame there wasn't more walking and less talking. We saw a heard of Buffalo and that was about it!

That evening we had a "night drive". This was a drive starting at 4pm and ending at 8pm, so there were a couple of hours either side of sunset. Hannah came along for this one, and Sly was the guide this time who was a lot quicker in getting points across than Andrew was. We saw all the usual suspects, and were treated to a very sleepy looking male lion lying in the grass at the side of the road. After sunset a spotlight came out and we started hunting for nocturnal creatures, leopard being the word on everyone’s lips. We saw less than we'd hoped, just a Genet, Hyena, mongoose and bush baby.

We'd decided by now we'd had enough of animals so it was time to move on to Malawi, famous for its lake. We had a night at a backpackers in Lilongwe and were amazed to hear so many British accents, it hadn't been like this since Dover! Malawi is well and truly on the British backpacker’s circuit. We left the next day heading for Senga Bay. A little like Kariba, cold and windy so we set off the following morning for Cape Maclear. We stopped in at a fish farm on route, they export fish from the lake all over the world for aquariums. There are around 500 species of fish in the lake, most of these are cichlids, and 99% of these are found no where else on earth. That was all learnt from a guide book as the guide at the fish farm was probably the least informative person I've ever met. He never spoke unless questioned and most questions received a monosyllabic answer.

We arrived at Fat Monkeys and Hannah noticed the car was looking a little odd from the back. Our number plate had gone missing, the mounting snapped off! We trawled back along the bumpy 20km or so of road to Fat Monkeys but no luck in finding it. We're wondering if a kid may have tried hanging off the back of the car on the way through the village, as they often do, and broken it off. Fortunately we had a spare (thanks Andrew) which we stuck to the rear windscreen.

Cape Maclear was more successful than Senga Bay. A sheltered setting with light winds and calm water. We thought ourselves very lucky to grab a camping spot right on the beach front, a lovely location. We soon realised why it was empty, having to say "no thank you" every couple of minutes to the beach vendors walking past was quite tedious. They were trying to sell everything from fish and fruit to drugs and boat trips.

We did a boat trip the following day (not bought through a beach vendor) out to an island for a spot of snorkelling. Beautiful fish, although certainly not as spectacular as a good coral reef. We then had some fresh fish, cooked over a fire on the island, delicious. Fish eagle feeding was the next event, we set off in the boat, the boatman throwing out fish and whistling to the well fed fish eagles trying to persuade them to eat even more for the tourists. One eventually obliged and swooped down snatching a fish out the water.

Time for another change of scenery, we went further south down to Mulanji, Malawi's, and one of Southern Africa's highest mountains. Beautiful scenery and tea plantations on route eventually arriving to the obligatory hassle from "guides". Fortunately Mulanji is well set up with an office that all guides should be arranged through. They cycle all the official guides insuring everyone gets work. A man came rushing up on a motorbike demanding we went to the office rather than talked to the loitering guides. We assumed he was an official, although all became clear when we arranged our guide and he walked through the door to be introduced as Edmonton, the next guide on the list.

We'd unknowingly timed our visit to Mulanji well, the porters race was the talk of the town, due to start at 7:30 the following morning. Originally set up in 1996 and as the name would suggest, it was a race for the mountain porters. It's grown into a fairly large event, sponsored by NBS Bank with anyone welcome to take part. There were approximately 300 runners and about £300 for first prize, a lot of money in this part of the world. It's a gruelling event, a 25km(ish) race to the top, at 3001m, and back down again. The start is at just over 800m so it's a 2200m steep climb over uneven rocky terrain. For tourists this is normally a 10 hour walk over two days.

We were camping just up the road from the start and were woken up at about 5:45am by music blasting out of the speakers. Edmonton turned up at 7am and we wandered down. We missed the start of the race, either Edmonton was ill informed or they'd set off early. We went for a walk to a waterfall for a couple of hours, on the way back we spotted something red on the path in the distance, it was one of the runners on his way back down already. We quick marched down the very steep slope to the finish line with several more runners passing us on route. Edmonton excitedly insisted that we must take a photo of "number one", so we went to track down Mike, judging by his kit he was no novice athlete. He'd beaten Francis someone or other (I'm not good with these athletes names) who Edmonton was saying is a Malawian international. He'd completed the route in a record time of 2 hours 5 minutes.

The most amazing thing about the race was the average runner, there were a few people running in standard running attire, but most weren't, they were just running in their clothes, for many the only ones they'd own. Obviously running shoes are way out of reach for most people, over a months earnings for an average pair, so most runners were in bare feet over very difficult terrain. There were medical staff on hand at the finishing line dousing feet in antiseptic. Many women were running in long skirts, not good for allowing leg movement! Around about the 3 hour mark there were big cheers as a kid, who can't have been more than about 12 years old came over the finishing line. An impressive time on the flat for someone of that age, surely an athlete of the future if his knees survive! Big cheers again around the 3:45 mark when the first white person finished, there were five or so white runners, all severely outclassed by the locals.

The next day we decided to add another country to the list and crossed the border into Mozambique. We had to get visas on the border, the only English speaking border official piped up saying it'd be $100 for two visas. I thought the visa was around the $30 mark so was a little surprised. We paid up and I asked for a receipt for the visa payments, he'd have to go and talk to his boss and we should come back later. We sorted the car paperwork and returned for our receipt and passports but they'd run out of receipts and wouldn't be able to give us one. By now we were very suspicious and made it perfectly clear that we would not be leaving until we had a receipt. Off the border official went to talk to his boss again, returning fifteen minutes later, they'd found the receipt book and had two receipts for $25 per visa. He then went on to explain how these were receipts for half the money, and the visas themselves were the receipts for the other half. Not being born yesterday we didn't accept this and started to argue our case. With my Portuguese being non-existent and the border officials English failing him he turned to a waiting Mozambique citizen who spoke English to help reassure us, which he obligingly did at first. I then explained the whole situation to him, saying that if we'd paid $100, we'd expect a receipt for $100. There was then what sounded like a bit of a debate between him and the border officials in Portuguese, at the end of which, a very embarrassed looking border official picked up the $100 we'd given him, counted out $50 and sheepishly handed it back to us. We thanked the guy that had helped us and hit the road.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

It's a wild old world

This rain had turned things a little upside down, instead of the warm days and cold nights we'd been expecting we were getting cold days and warm(er) nights - much better for sleeping in the tent though!

We set off south the next day, following the Okavango river to enter Botswana. An amazingly efficient border post, we were in and out in fifteen minutes, definitely a record for this trip. There was only one room on each side that dealt with all the formalities. Maybe they should suggest this amazing system to some of the countries further north? The Angola - Namibia border was the first time we'd seen computers at a border post since Morocco, they did have a couple of old typewriters at the Gabon exit post however.

So, Botswana. A more African Africa than Namibia was. There was actually a bit of a North South divide in Namibia. There is a fence with control posts to get through separating the huge cattle ranches in the south with the subsistence farms in the north to prevent the spread of disease. Once we'd got north of this fence in Namibia we lost a lot of the western world. Back to mud and timber huts with thatched roofs, people herding livestock down the sides of the road and a bit more of an African feel to the country. This carried on into Botswana, I've never seen so much livestock on a road as the one heading south from the border.

First stop, Tsodilo hills. These are an ancient sacred site with rock paintings, and pretty much the only four hills in Botswana, about 350m high. It must be one of the worlds flattest countries. 85% of the country is dominated by the flat expanse of the Kalahari Desert. It took us thirty minutes or so to travel along the 40km track from the main road. We found Alistair and Bosse sitting at the end of it eating their lunch, the guys we'd met in the Polo in Namibia. They'd got this far in 1.5 hours, but had decided they could not make the last 3km to the hills and would have to turn round again.

We went for a walk that afternoon with James, our guide, to visit the paintings and learn about the hills. The San people believed these hills were the point of creation so they were of great importance. Paintings dated from about 3000 years ago and were mainly of wildlife, most amusingly I thought, there was one painting of a penguin. People must have travelled up from Southern Namibia where penguins exist.

We crossed paths with the Botswanan military on our walk, being the only hills in Botswana it's where they come to do their training. Usually the African military are to be avoided, but all these guys seemed very friendly, one of them stopping to take a photo of us.

The next plan was to visit the Okavango Delta. Most rivers disappear into a lake, the sea, or another river. The Okavango is a river with a difference, flowing into the Kalahari Desert and disappearing into the sand and the air. In the process it creates the worlds largest inland delta bringing water and nutrients to millions of people and animals in this arid country.

We decided to take what looked to be the most interesting route down through the delta - down the east side cutting through the Moremi reserve. This involved heading north again back towards the Namibian border to get the ferry across the river. While waiting for the ferry I asked a couple of people how much it cost receiving blank looks. We drove onto the ferry anyway, and I asked the guy behind us, a local guy, how much it cost. "It's free, a service for the people". The thought of an African government actually trying to provide a free service for its population hadn't even crossed my mind! Onto the road the other side, we headed down to Seronga, to Mbiroba camp to arrange a boat trip into the delta the following day.

We set off with Tom, our "poler" (the person who powers the boat using a pole). He'd been doing this for eleven years and was an impeccable guide, naming plants, animals and even birds from their calls. The boats used are called Mokoros, basically a flat bottomed canoe. We were sitting very low to the water, gliding along silently through the reeds of the delta. Very peaceful. The thought that the area was crawling with hippos, crocodiles and elephants kept us on the lookout.

We arrived at an island where we would do a walk, I assumed this would just be a little potter round a small island. "Now this is where your game walk begins" Tom said. I saw the immediate horror on Hannah's face in realising what we were about to do, walking and animals do not mix well in her books! He then went on with a safety briefing, kind of like the ones you get in an aeroplane but without the fancy arm waving - what to do it charged by a buffalo (lie down), how to avoid getting charged by elephants (make sure you're down wind of them) and other dangers. We set off, within a few metres we stopped to analyse two piles of dung. One was elephant, the other hippo, the two most dangerous animals on the planet. The difference being that hippos only eat grass where as elephants dung contains sticks and twigs. We carried on with the walk, spotting baboons, warthog and impala, but none of the African classics. A couple of hours later back at the boat, and Hannah amazed that we had survived we set off again to find a spot for lunch and then slid back home through the reeds.

We carried on along our road following day, with the road steadily deteriorating. We eventually came to water flowing across the road and three huge pools stretching 100 metres or so. After a quick examination, we successfully drove through these pools, only to reach the next village where we were informed by one of the locals that the road beyond was impassable. Due to the exceptional rains earlier in the year there was an abnormal amount of water in the delta at the moment. We turned round heading back towards the ferry to find a huge queue of cars - it seemed that the ferry had broken down. Now we couldn't get off either end of the road! Never having much luck with ferries on this continent we sat and waited, watching an otter, then wondering why the locals seemed determined to hit it with rocks. Fortunately it escaped safely. After a couple of hours we got across the river, bush camping that night before heading on to Maun the following day.

This proved to be a much more successful route south, although the discovery at one of the many veterinary control points that we were trying to carry sausages around the country without a permit led to a spontaneous picnic, whipping out the stove and cooking up sausage butties, much to the amusement of passing drivers.

Maun is a funny little town, it just seems to be crawling with overland vehicles restocking for their next mission. We went to a campsite recommended in the Lonely Planet as a quiet campsite, I think the book was a little out of date as it was now the place where all the young and trendies of Maun hang out for the weekend. They were enjoying the unusual amount of water in the delta, waterskiing, fishing and just pottering around on boats, as well as attempting to drink the campsite bar dry.

We did the thing to be done in Maun the following morning, refueling and refooding. We decided against the track up to Kasane as it went through a couple of marsh areas, and with the abnormal water levels didn't want to risk having to turn round again. We decided to head on towards the Makgadikgadi pans instead. We reached Gweta, the area all looked quite flooded, it appeared they'd had a lot of rain recently. We started heading south on gravel, that turned to sand, that turned to mud. With the road getting worse and the sun setting we decided to pull off the track and camp for the night. Testing the ground it was dryish sand so we drove off, as soon as we were off the track the car went through the sand and into the hidden mud below grinding to a halt. We tried brute force to get out but that didn't work so we started the now familiar process of digging, jacking and sand ladders. We also noticed the rear left tyre rapidly deflating, not ideal. Everything in place and the sun now set we tried getting out again, moving the car a couple of metres back towards the track but stopping just short of firm ground. We decided to just put up the tent and sort it in the morning. Jacking up the rear right wheel to stick a sand ladder underneath to prevent it sinking more in the night and level the car for sleeping, we heard the dreaded tssssssss - the jack had torn the tyre valve, so now both rear tyres were flat - time to ignore it for now, and eat and sleep instead!

The following morning we reassessed the situation, the car wasn't too badly stuck. A little more digging and jacking to be done. We managed to get some air into both the rear tyres to prevent them from being damaged further and reversed out. We fixed the puncture and headed back towards Gweta giving up on the pans idea - if this area was anything to go by they'd be flooded anyway. We left the fixing of the valve to the professionals in Gweta, removing the tyre from the rim was something I'd only do if I absolutely had to, far too much work!

We'd later find out this was the first time it had rained in Botswana in June for 88 years. Maybe we should offer our services to other drought stricken parts of the world?

Leaving the tyre repair shop in Gweta, we headed towards Nata. Barely 15 minutes had gone by before once again we heard a now familiar sound, tssssss thud thud thud - yet another puncture! This was our first self-repaired puncture from Ghana that we didn't trust 100% that had failed, so we switched tyres again and got on our way.

Wildlife in Botswana has been amazing, in most of Africa it's mainly in the parks, but in Botswana we'd seen all sorts just at the side of the road including giraffe and elephants. Driving north towards Kasane we were lucky enough to spot two lions in the road. As we approached they walked off, although we could still see them just a few metres from us, watching us watching them. When we moved the car to try to get a better look at them they'd move to try to get a better look at us. After five minutes or so of staring at each other they decided we were no longer interesting and disappeared off into the forest.

We stopped at Pandamatenga that night. The following morning I happened to notice that Stanley's front right suspension spring had snapped. Fortunately the break was near the top and the way it had collapsed and lodged itself it place meant we'd lost a few centimetres of clearance but other than that it was working fine. Seeing as it was only an hour to Kasane we decided to carry on and see what they said when we got there.

We arrived at Kasane and went straight to Chobe Motors. They got on the case of trying to track down new springs for us, eventually telling us to return the following day for a quote. The next day, after another hour or so waiting they eventually managed to get hold of parts and prices from South Africa. We'd have to wait till the following Friday before they'd receive them for fitting, eight days away. Glad the car was still in a useable state we started to make ourselves at home in Kasane. Fortunately there are a few things to do in the area. It's the main entrance to the Chobe National Park for a start.

We'd spent our first couple of nights camping in Kubu Lodge. On our second morning while clearing up the tent, a bit of a clatter indicated the arrival of campsite raiders. A vervet monkey was sitting with the remnants of our loaf of bread in its hands, and another with a banana skin it had stolen from the dashboard. The games now began. I was trying to clear away breakfast to keep the monkeys at bay. As soon as I'd chase a monkey from the table another would sneak round behind me and be hanging from the tailgate with its hand in the kitchen or climbing in the door of the car. Amusing for the first 10 seconds or so!

After a day of chores we opted for a change of scenery and went to stay in Chobe Safari Lodge, a stunning hotel and not a bad campsite either right on the river. Our pitch was on the edge of the park, the park fence was only a couple of metres from the car! The warnings in the hotel about elephants wandering the premises at night suggested the fence wasn't very effective. The site was not too surprisingly overrun with animals, warthogs wandering between the tents, more vervet monkeys, monitor lizards, and amusingly we had a troop of fifty or so banded mongooses (collective noun for mongooses anyone?) charging down the path next to us. That combined with the warnings about elephants, hippos and crocodiles roaming around makes it feel like quite a wild campsite!

The next morning we went into Chobe National Park, it's a huge park that runs along the banks of the Chobe River. Chobe is known for its massive herds of elephants, apparently the highest concentration in the world, and they were certainly in evidence. Hundreds and hundreds of them along the waterfront. It's a beautiful park, all very natural and unspoilt. All the roads are still just dirt tracks, and other than that it's fairly untouched by human hands. There was a wide variety of life, mainly impala, with other classics such as giraffe, zebra and fish eagles. We also had a few unexpected, such as several species of mongoose, a honey badger and lots of hippos out of the water during the day.

We were camping in the park that night, as the sun was setting we started heading to the site. Lots of life in the road and we soon reached our first serious road block, a huge bull elephant just standing in the road. We stopped the engine about thirty metres from the elephant and waited. He started walking towards us. It's said that with elephant you will always get a warning that they're getting upset before they do anything serious, such as ear flapping, trumpeting or a mock charge, so we figured we'd just wait and see what happened. Appearing totally relaxed, just eating and throwing dust over himself, stopping occasionally to have a look at us he kept approaching, and approaching. He eventually walked past us almost touching the side of the car. All we could see were his hips through the window. After a couple more four legged road blocks we eventually reached our camp. A beautiful site, right on the river and exceptionally basic, just a toilet block. However, Hannah believed it was lacking something fundamental for the middle of a national park - a fence. We arrived at our site with the vervet monkeys waiting for us and a couple of elephants a little further down the bank. As we set up camp we could hear shouts of "Oi, get out" as a troop of baboons made its way from pitch to pitch stealing what they could. Fortunately (for us) the occupants of the site next to us had their tent up and weren't back yet, so this kept the baboons busy trying to work out how to get into the tent (I did occasionally do the right thing and chase them off). We tucked into some delicious fillet steak, £4.10 per kilo, we love beef prices in Botswana! We slept that night with a good racket outside from all the animals wandering around, having no clue what was making most of the noises we heard.

The next morning was very quiet in the park, we decided all the animals must have had a heavy Saturday night as there was hardly anything around. We left the park on the western side of the riverfront section and tried to track down somewhere to camp but there were no camp sites in the area so we headed back to Kasane on the transit road to relax while waiting for car parts.

Those of you who have been following us closely may have noticed that we're slightly off course, there is a reason for this. Due to the weakness of the pound we decided we'd have to cut the trip short and are therefore skipping out Kenya and Tanzania. The new route plan is to cut across from Namibia, through Botswana, Zambia and Malawi to Mozambique, then head south through Swaziland, South Africa and Lesotho to eventually ship from a port in South Africa.