We were up early and as there was nothing in the park to go and see, we thought we might as well just leave early and get back to Stellenbosch by mid afternoon. It was a 6 hour drive on the motorway and so was easy enough as there was very little traffic until the final hour or so. For the majority of the way, there are mountains so there was something to look at but in general, they’re not too spectacular and so we didn’t stop at all. It was weird when we got close to Stellenbosch as there is quite a lot of traffic round there and for the vast majority of the trip, we had hardly seen any cars on the road so it seemed like the M25 during rush hour!
So all in all, a very enjoyable trip. The weather had been a bit up and down in places but I think I can say, we’ve seen the vast majority of the main sights and scenery South Africa has to offer (and most types of wildlife) and visited all the provinces in the country (except the Free State) and also Swaziland and Namibia. It’s been a bit strange only very rarely having internet access and quite often no phone reception either, I’d never class myself as a technophobe but it’s only when you don’t have things, you realise how much you use them….
I’ll try and write a summary of the trip when I get a bit of time – the garden has gone wild in the time we were away so needs a lot of work and the car will take about 2 days to clean with all the sand and dust in and on it!!
We only had a 200 km drive so took it easy and left about 10.00. Although the route was through mountain areas, they weren’t particularly good scenery so apart from some road works, it was quite an easy, uneventful drive – until we had to drive the final 25 km on really bad gravel roads! I am really amazed that our car is still in one piece, I kept expecting to get out close the door and for it to fall apart after all the shaking and banging it has had. This was our last night away as we had decided to drive back to Stellenbosch the next day and Elsa had wanted to stay in this park. It is basically a park that is full of flowers for a couple of weeks a year – but we’d missed it by about a week and so there weren’t that many flowers left. The actual park hasn’t really got anything else to see so we spent the rest of the day with me updating my blogs and Elsa reading.
Again, we’d bought food so we had a braai and a few drinks and then watched football on the TV. Elsa went out on the deck and took some really good pictures of the sunset which was pretty impressive so at least we got some good photos of the day. I watched Liverpool v Man United and it was so boring I went to bed at half time – which was lucky as it ended up 0-0 and from all reports, the second half was just as boring!!
We had been looking at places to go to on our last section of the trip, from Namibia to Cape Town down the West coast. Nearly all of the coastal towns involved driving quite large sections of gravel road and as I was getting fed up with them now, I was quite keen to basically drive on easy roads and just stay inland on the way home. Therefore, we booked to stay the night at a place just back across the border in South Africa.
It was a 6 hour drive so we set off on very good tarmac road and Elsa drove the first section. Again we were driving through the desert but this time I got to look at it properly and it is amazing. When we got to the gravel road, we swapped and I drove the remaining 100 km. The road was absolutely terrible in large sections (the scenery was great but I couldn’t look at it as I was veering from side to side missing potholes and being shaken to bits!) and I was really pleased when we got to the end of it and back on tarmac for the last 50 km. It was a bit strange when we saw a small township where they’d covered the usual tin shacks they have, with bamboo type wood – but considering the temperature it must get to in them, any sort of heat reduction must be essential.
The exit through the border was pretty quick and we were at the tented camp we were staying in by about 4.00. Our room / tent was basically a properly built bathroom with a tent connected to it. It was air conditioned and really nice so we just relaxed for a bit. We had bought meat etc in Namibia to cook a meal but you cannot buy drink in Namibia on a Sunday so we didn’t have any. When we’d booked in, the owners said they had some beer we could buy so we went and sat on their terrace and a drink with them. We found out they were from Stellenbosch and after a little bit, we found out we knew their daughter and also that they knew our brother in law very well so it is a small world!
We went and cooked ourselves a meal and again, had an early night.
We got up and had a leisurely breakfast and then went to see Kolmanskoop which is an abandoned mining town and which is now half covered by sand dunes. They discovered diamonds there in the late 1800’s and as it was a German colony at that time, it was set up like a small German town, and for it’s time was very advanced with some pretty high tech systems. The whole of that part of Namibia is sectioned off as a diamond mining area which obviously means nobody can enter it. It’s a pretty popular tourist site so there were 2 guides who split everybody up between English speaking and German speaking – and it turned out about 80% were German!
We then went on a drive around a peninsula, stopping off at various beaches and the lighthouse at Diaz Point and taking our pictures. There’s some nice areas but it didn’t take us too long so we went down to the Waterfront area of Luderitz. It doesn’t quite compare to Cape Towns Waterfront as there are only about 4 shops and a restaurant there! We had a meal in the restaurant and had a chat with some people we had bumped into a few times since meeting them at the border post and they told us about a place in the town called the Diaz which they said was worth going to. It took a bit of finding but we got there in the end – and the 4 people were there too! We were only going to have a quick drink but ended up chatting and drinking with them for about 4 hours before stumbling home to bed!
We only had a drive of about 200 km to Luderitz. We were staying there for 2 days so that we could have a bit more time to relax so took our time leaving the hotel. As we were still a bit concerned about the repaired tyre, we kept our speed down. Initially we were on the gravel road and driving through very boring scrubland areas but as we got further on, we got onto better roads and moved into the Namib Desert. This was my first experience of what I always thought of as desert, with miles of flat sand as far as the eye could see. There were also mountains surrounding it so the sand dunes there were banked high up on the mountains so looked a bit surreal. As we got closer to the coast, the desert changed to miles of sand dunes and then finally the sea so all in all was one of the best drives we have had.
Again, we dropped our stuff off and went on a drive to see a couple of the sights around the town. We firstly went to Shark Island (didn’t see any!) and then to Agate Beach which is surrounded by dunes and as ever on the trip, was nearly deserted. It was a nice afternoon so was good just taking it easy. We also drove round the town which is quite pretty with all the houses and buildings painted in different, generally very bright, colours
We planned on going to a bar to eat which was recommended and which you were supposed to be there at opening time to get a table. We got there for opening at 6.00 and had quite a good meal. I had eisbein (like a big lamb shank but pork) and it was the biggest meal I’ve had in years! Apparently it is the best eisbein in Namibia – but then again, I’ve had quite a few of the best hamburgers and steaks in South Africa in many different places! We stayed in there a while and had a few drinks before heading back to the hotel.
It was only about 150 km to our hotel, the Roadhouse, so we drove up there. The scenery got a bit better with more mountains though we had to do the final 80 km or so on dirt and gravel roads. The room wasn’t ready so we just drove straight on to the Fish River Canyon. This is the second biggest canyon in the world, after the US Grand Canyon, and is really spectacular. It isn’t as colourful and the main section to see is nowhere near as long but is well worth going to see as you can see in the pictures below. Elsa and I are not people who spend hours staring at the same thing so we drove to have a look at the sections we wanted to see, took our photos and then headed back to the hotel along the dreaded gravel roads.
When I was unloading the car at our hotel, Elsa said it looked like we had a puncture. I can only guess that it had happened in the last couple of hundred yards to the hotel as it was going down fairly quickly. I started putting on the spare wheel when a guy from the petrol station came over and said he could repair it so we let him fix it and planned to get a new one the next day at our next stop on the trip.
As were then stressed out, (that’s my excuse anyway), we went and sat on the terrace and had a few beers in the sunshine. As it was still fairly early, we had a nap before having a meal in the restaurant and then watching a film on the lap top.
We were up fairly early and as we were only going to be having a stopover in Grunau on our way to the Fish River Canyon, Adriaan took me on a drive around the farm. I’d never really been round a farm before and he explained what all the crops were in each of the fields nd how it all works etc which I found pretty interesting.
We left about 10.00 and drove the 150 km to the Namibian border. After a bit of mucking about, we got through the South African side after about 45 minutes. Adriaan had told me that we needed to pay for a road licence on the car on the Namibian side of the border so we drove through the SA gates and expected the Namibian border to be a few hundred metres up the road. But we drove about 3 km and still hadn’t seen it so I thought we’d better go back to the SA border and see if was actually there we needed to get the licence from. The border control found it pretty funny when I asked and told me we still had a bit to go to the Namibian border gate – 17km!!!! Once we got there, we went through fairly quickly and went to or guest house at Grunau. On the drive, on both sides of the border, there was nothing really to look at as it just very big areas of scrubland with the occasional cow or sheep on it so we just stopped at one of the major towns (about 4 houses, a shop and a petrol station!) and got some food to braai and some petrol and went to the guest house.
There was nothing to do there so we just sat outside in the sun reading our books before lighting the braai and making our dinner. We obviously had a few drinks with it so by about 9.00, we were ready for bed!