Reflections on South Africa

   Lucy We arrived in Africa and the sun was gleaming hot, in the shade of the tree it was nice and cool. When we were on a drive we saw lions, lazing around the savanna. The birds twittered as they hopped from tree to tree. We even saw a Lilac Breasted Roller, they are very beautiful birds with a lilac chest. They like to sit on treetops near the road, Mummy says they sit there so everyone can admire their plumage.        Alisha It was fun being in South Africa and I liked going to see all the animals. We saw lots of lions in the Kgalagadi National park, we even saw mating ones I thought that was a little funny.  When we came back to South Africa we went to a cool museum that was made in a really weird way out of layers of tiles, at least 10 layers thick. It was a curved shape, a bit like mud huts.  I loved seeing Grannie last week but cleaning the truck for Australia wasn't much fun. We bought a vacuum cleaner to try and get it perfectly clean. While daddy cleaned the outside of the truck we stayed in an apartment in Durban. It was nice to be back in a town and live in an apartment for a change, we enjoyed: sushi; using the internet; and going to the shops.        Gilly I think South Africa is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, it has everything beaches, mountains, grasslands, desert and the most amazing wildlife. We have loved spending time out in the countryside, especially in national parks. As wildlife lovers we have really taken advantage of our "Wildcard" spending as much time as possible in the parks. We had seen much of South Africa before on previous visits, so really concentrated this time on what we love most. It maybe didn't give us a truly balanced view of the country but I think it is the best bits. The parks are so well run and absolutely perfect for self driving campers. I fear that the girls will always expect an immaculately clean bath tub in every campsite from now on.  The country has come so far in the last 21 years and we heard that huge changes have taken place since apartheid days. Visiting the battle sites at Blood River/Ncome, their museums and their curator's explanations, really gave us small insight into how the country struggles with its history. It seems that in urban areas although the races mix well at work, they return to their own communities in the evening and don't socialise together. The people, especially in the countryside, have been very welcoming and friendly but the huge economic differences between the people are very noticeable. The threat of crime, or the perceived threat, also hasn't sat very comfortably with me - I have never seen so much razor wire in my life. We have not had any problems but in towns everyone is very, very conscious about security. Although the country has great people; scenery; natural resources; and fantastic food and wine - it's not somewhere I would ever want to live.        Steve I have really enjoyed South Africa. It is a fantastically beautiful country and is really easy to get around. The South Africans love been out in the bush so everything is very well set up. The food is fantastic and with the weakness of the rand everything is very cheap for overseas visitors. Reading the newspapers and talking to people it's clear the country still has its problems. However I never felt unsafe anywhere. It's true we spent most of our time in the National Parks so well away from the problems but even when I was shopping in towns or down near the port I never felt threatened. In fact quite the contrary people were friendly and helpful. Whilst thankfully apartheid is a thing of the past there still seems to be a big degree of separation with the different races not seeming to mix except perhaps at work. Whilst this is largely driven by economics it does seem somewhat strange. I hope that progress continues to be made such that there is less crime and more trust between people because then it would be a truly amazing place.      

Urban Living and the Big Clean (Part 2)

After dropping Margaret and Rosemary off at the airport we headed to the pleasant suburb of Kloof just outside Durban where we had rented an apartment for a week. The apartment was in a complex mainly consisting of small offices. It was lovely and although there was not a lot to do in the area was ideal for a bit of downtime.     We had all the normal living amenities on our doorstep. A funky cafe just a few steps away and a small shopping centre just over the road that had a Woolworths foodcourt (think Marks & Spencer food) as well as a great Thai take away place. The apartment also had wifi and something we have done without for the last 2 years or so, a TV with satellite television, handy for the rugby. But the real reason we had chosen the apartment was not for a slice of normal living but that it was close to where the second stage of the big truck clean would take place. The MAN garage nearby that we had visited when we first arrived in South Africa had offered to help us get the outside of the truck clean. They had a wash shed and high powered hoses as well as the labour to help with all the scrubbing. This was no small job. Whilst the camper body was relatively easy to clean, cleaning the chassis and the engine was another matter. Every time you thought you had got a part clean you would see some more dirt. To get to all the dirt we even took the wheels off the truck.         It took four full days to get the truck clean. The garage was fantastic and they looked after me really well. Even picking me up from the apartment and dropping me off at the end of the day. I can not thank them enough, it would have been an impossible task without their help. On the last day of cleaning it started raining. Oh no, this would be a disaster as the port was 25kms from the garage and the thought of driving on wet roads with all the spray filled me with horror after all the work that had been done to get the truck clean. At the end of the 4th day the truck was shining. Cleaner than it had ever been, but will it be clean enough for Australia?         Fortunately the day I drove the truck to the port was dry. With the help of my shipping agent it was relatively straightforward at the port and I left the truck parked at the quayside.    While I had been at the garage and the port the girls had been busy doing extra schooling. They had also managed to get all those jobs done that are not so easy when on the road such as going to the dentist and having glasses fixed. We had spent the evenings enjoying the range of tasty and easy take away food at our finger tips.       After working all week I was wanting a very lazy weekend. The girls on the other hand were hoping to get away from the apartment where they had been all week. A compromise was reached. A slow start to Saturday morning was followed by a big breakfast at the local cafe. We then headed out to explore the local botanical gardens making sure we were back in time to watch the rugby.    Sunday followed a similar pattern except breakfast was replaced by lunch at the local pub. Then for me it was back to the port. The shipping line had offered me a chance to be shown around the ship we were shipping the truck on while it was in port. This was too good an opportunity to miss so I headed back to the port where I was shown around the ship. In many ways the ship is just like a mobile multi story car park. While I was there they were still busy unloading. Lots of cars (including a bunch of Maseratis) but also mining equipment and even a helicopter. Even though they were busy they still found time to show me around the ship and take me up to the bridge. It's a massive ship (200m long and 15 stories high) and I was surprised that when at sea the total crew was only 23.       Later that evening I received a mail from the cargo supervisor with a photo showing that the truck had been loaded and later in the night the ship set sail.    And with that it was also time for us to leave. Exactly 5 months after arriving in Africa we were flying out. When we set out on this trip we had not planned on coming to Africa but I am so glad we did. We have had a fantastic time in a wonderful place and seen some amazing wildlife. Whilst we are sad to leave I know we will be back.

Grannie and the Great Aussie Spring Clean (Part 1)

No, it's not a title of a children's book but our last week. The huge highlight for the week was that my Mum came to visit us and huge downside was we spent most of the week scrubbing the inside of the truck within an inch of its life. Lets start with the good stuff: My Mum and her friend Rosemary finished their month in Zambia where they are volunteer trustees for a charity for children who are affected by AIDS. Its an amazing organization that feeds, educates and helps create a future for these vulnerable children ( Unfortunately the time when we could have headed into Zambia didn't match with their time there, so Mum said she would come down to South Africa to see us for a week. When we looked at the timing it was just two weeks before the truck was due to be shipped to Australia, so we knew we would be pretty busy but she said she didn't mind. They had been working flat out in Zambia for the month so were exhausted and had loads of reports to write. So after looking at all the options we decided to head to the southern part of the Drakensburg Mountains to Glengarry, a campsite with cottages on a farm. It ended up being a perfect choice: gorgeous views; lots of space to sort the truck; baby animals for the girls to feed every day; but also very relaxing. The not-so-fun part of the week was preparing the truck for Australia. To stop the introduction of non-native species into their country, the Aussies have very, very strict rules about importing a vehicle. It has to be completely clean inside and out: "As new" is the requirement. A very tall order after having been on the road for over 2 years in 4 different continents! What do toothbrushes, earbuds, wirewool, scrubbers, wipes, kebab sticks, a brand new vacuum cleaner (which we can not even take with us as it has dust in it) and even the weird stick you use to clean the inside of a recorder have in common! Yes, you guessed it they were all brought into use to get the inside absolutely spotless. All the camping equipment, toys, kitchen stuff, scooters, school books etc. etc. All had to come out and be cleaned before going back in. All the drawers, cabinets and false floors had to come out and be cleaned under, a complete pain with the wires and pipes. All the nooks and crannies, of which there are a lot of, needed to be perfect. The mosquito nets and windows had to be cleaned with a toothbrush. In the end it took 4 days to get the inside spotless. Everyone pitched in with scrubbing, keeping the girls occupied and cooking, it was a real collective job. In the end after 90 man (woman and child) hours the inside was done. Now just the outside to do next week.....     We also got a chance in the evening to spend time together. It was so lovely to see Mum again, and reconnect with Rosemary. We did manage a day out to another area of the Drakensburg, Monk's Cowl before all the cleaning started. After what seemed like too short a week (maybe with all that scrubbing they feel differently;) we dropped them at the airport in Durban. While we headed to an apartment in the suburbs close to the MAN garage to phase II of the "Great Aussie Spring Clean". image