After a hectic day sightseeing around London or going to the depressing football we had to make a mad dash to Heathrow to catch our flight to Durban via Dubai. We had hoped after such a busy day we would all sleep on the flights but apart from a few short naps no one really slept until Lucy fell into a deep sleep as we were landing in Durban! Her crying all the way through immigration after been woken helped distract them from as,I got for the return flight ticket which we did not have and could have been a problem. Instead they were really nice trying to cheer her up.
It must have been all the excitement from the last few weeks combined with the excitement of going to Africa. It has been lovely back visiting family and friends but I think we were ready to get back on the road again.
Checking the Internet we learned that the ship with the truck had docked in Durban 30 minutes before we had landed. Perfect timing. We headed to our hotel just outside Durban in Umhlanga hopeful that we would soon be reunited with the truck.
The next morning I headed to the shipping agent with all my documents and was assured they would quickly secure the release of the truck but that it would not be today. We spent the day relaxing in the hotel and visiting the very large shopping centre just next to the hotel which is supposedly the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. Fortunately the hotel also had a good restaurant attached so we enjoyed some good meals there. We were not missing Argentina as South Africa is also famous for its great steak and wine.
The following morning I received a note from the shipping agent. Everything was ready and I had to head down with them to the port to pick the truck up. At the port everything went very smoothly and I was quickly reunited with the truck. It was great to see our home again and all was well with it. The shipping agent had handled things really efficiently and all I needed to do was drive it out of the port and back to the hotel.
This might sound easy but the first thing I had to manage was driving on the other side of the road from South America. As the truck is left hand drive this meant I had to ensure I was next to the kerb. Not that easy to start with especially on my own. Fortunately it was a long virtually straight road back to the hotel. On arrival you can see how happy the girls were to be reunited with the truck.
We had one last evening in the hotel and coincidentally a former colleague of mine from Russia had just contacted me saying he had transferred to Durban and if we happened to be passing through we should look him up. As we were leaving the next day Iain came over that evening for a drink and dinner. It was great to catch up and clearly living and working in Durban is a lot different than Moscow.
Before heading off we had a couple of jobs to do on the truck. We needed some new front shock absorbers and I had contacted the nearest MAN dealer who had them in stock. As has been the case when we have gone to the MAN dealers along our trip they were really helpful. Not only did they have the shock absorbers but they fitted them there and then and also changed our headlights over so we had the right headlights for driving on the right hand side of the road.
Now we just needed to find a campsite so we could finish unpacking and organising the truck for the journey ahead. In South America and especially in Patagonia we just camped up in the wild. We understood this would be more difficult in Southern Africa due to the amount of people and concerns about security and that most people used campsites. This though should not be that difficult as South Africa has a very big camping and caravanning culture.
We found a campsite in Scottburgh a short distance down the coast. Mind you this was not the type of campsite we were used to… lots of facilities and loads of other holiday makers. We slipped into a parking slot and tried to fit in. At least it was set on a lovely beach.
Another thing we need to adjust to is that it is heading into winter here. After coming from late spring in Europe we were surprised to see that it got dark by 5.30pm. Mind you it was light at 6.30am. This meant we needed to get up early to enjoy the daylight. This had the added benefit of seeing a lovely sunrise.
It might have been winter but it was not cold. In fact our first few days were around 28 degrees. Not bad for winter.
We headed further down the coast to a small nature reserve, Oribi Gorge. Here was our first test of whether we would struggle in the nature reserves with the size of our truck. Gilly and I have driven in Africa many times but always in Land Rovers or Toyotas. The reserves are clearly not designed for our truck and we are worried this will severely limit what we can do. At Oribi Gorge we could only just squeeze into the campsite before heading out for a walk to see the gorge as the sun set.
The next morning getting out of the campsite was more difficult. To get out we had to reverse about 600m down a tree lined narrow lane. A pretty fraught start to the today.
We were heading across the Transkei to the Wild Coast. The Transkei used to be one of the Homelands during Apartheid and is home to the Xhosa people. It is also where Nelson Mandela was born. As we drove through the rolling countryside there was lots of traditional Xhosa housing and small scale farming.
Driving down to the coast we arrived at Coffee Bay. Coffee Bay is set next to a lovely wild beach. Unfortunately we did not enjoy it in its full glory as the weather had changed on the drive down and there was now grey cloud. Also it was a Sunday so everyone was out drinking. And whilst everyone was very friendly there were a lot of drunk people rolling around. We were also keen to see some large African animals and as our first real National Park was still more than 500kms away we decided to continue South West.