The African Adventure with HERO 4x4xplore

Hi to everyone who read my website from The Great China Tour in May 2004.

Our car in Tibet on the way to the base camp of Everest
Well here we go again, this time it's Southern Africa and an 11,000 kms drive through Soth Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana, Zambia and Namibia. You can read all about the Tour on the HERO 4x4xplore website by clicking on the link, on the right, HERO African Adventure and then click the African Adventure icon.

The Tour starts on the 3rd August 2005 from Cape Town and I will endeavour to post to this site as frequently as possible.

The photo above is of the car at the Barking London container depot being loaded for shipping in June. It's the same Toyota landcruiser that we took round South America in 2001 and China and Tibet in 2004. The container ship left London on the 28th June and arrived a week ago in Cape Town. It has just cleared customs and the Landcruiser is awaiting collection on the 1st August.

That's it for now, but I will post once more before we head south.

SAA Strike!!

Well, with our preparations almost completed, out the blue SAA have gone on strike and all their flights have been grounded! We are due to fly with them on Saturday. A few hasty phone calls and we have seats reserved on the Sunday evening flight with BA to Cape Town. The delay of a day isn't a disaster but the fact that the fare is 60% more, certainly is! The hope is that SAA will resolve the dispute over pay quickly enough to ensure that the weekend flights are back to normal. The latest news is that they are back talking with the unions.

Are we going or not?

Still don't know if today's flight will go or not!

Flights resumed on Thursday but there are so many stranded passengers around the world that there is no guarantee that our seats will be available. Other participants from the UK and the USA have been hit by the strike. Just hope we all get to Cape Town for the start on Wednesday.

Next post will be from Cape Town.

BA it is

Now we know. No SAA flights to Cape Town from London today and, its seems, the same tomorrow. Our flights are cancelled and all we can hope is that the full refund promised comes through in our absence.
So, finally it's sorted and we fly with BA tomorrow evening, arriving at 8am on Monday. The first group of participants are off to collect their cars at 11am on Monday, so it will be touch and go for me to get to the hotel in time. If we arrive too late then we'll arrange to pick up the car on Tuesday, which will be a shame as we were hoping to have a free day sightseeing.

I hope that others flying with SAA have managed to rearrange their flights to make sure they get to Cape Town in time for the start.

We are off

Well, the day to leave on our African Adventure has arrived.

At 7.35pm the BA flight from Heathrow will leave the UK and then arrive in Cape Town at 8am tomorrow.
Don't know what other participants flying with SAA have done to get to South Africa but the BA flight is full and I expect the same goes for the other airlines.

Weather in the Cape is warm with rain in the afternoons.

August 1st - Cape Town

Surprise meeting at Heathrow with Mary English, daughter of Terence. They were both with us on The China Tour. She was seeing off her aunt and uncle travelling on the same flight as us to South Africa.

Good night flight arriving in Cape Town at 8am yesterday. Short cab ride to our waterfront hotel where we met up with Jingers and several of the group. Our hotel has wonderful views of Table Mountain across the Waterfront shopping complex.

Next, in three cars off we went to collect our cars. No problems at all and seeing my car being washed was an added bonus. Everything was OK with nothing missing! The drive back was fine and we filled up with diesel at 50p a litre!!

More meetings with old friends - David and Patsy Mitchell from New Zealand and Jim Taylor from the States.
Tomorrow it's a trip up the mountain and then to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years

August 2nd

More participants arrived this morning from London and the States. John and Joanna Brown and the rest of the HERO team are also here, ready for the pre-event meetings tomorrow.

Good weather for our trip to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was held for 18 of his 27 years in prison. The island is only 7 miles from the mainland and a 30 minute boat ride. The tour was very interesting made especially so by the guide who was himself a political prisoner on the island. The prison was finally closed in 1991.

At the end of the tour we went and saw the penguin colony. Apparently there are over 58,000!

August 3rd

Last day before we start the African Adventure. Signing on from 8am and we all get T-shirts, hats and safari waistcoats with the tour logo. Two route books give us 'tulip' directions for the complete route as well as detailed information about the countries and each day's journey.

Signing-on in Cape Town
Once the formalities were over we decided to drive about 80 miles up the Atlantic coast to the West Coast National Park, which is open at this time of the year for visitors to see the spring wild flowers. We took Dee Anne Croucher, while Kenny sorted out their hire car. It was well worth the drive. Spectacular carpets of white, yellow, orange and purple flowers were everywhere in the park. Ostriches, springbok, eland, herons and even a tortoise that we had to stop for as it crossed the track. An hour later and we had to head back for the medical and event briefings.

The day finished with coach taking us to a fish restaurant at Hout Bay about twenty miles from Cape Town

August 4th - Day 1

8.03am is our designated start time. The cars are leaving at one minute intervals. At long last after months of preparation the start the Tour has arrived.

John Brown waving off Car No.1, Antoine, Maria and Victor de Hullu from Holland

The cars lining up for the start

The first part of the day's drive is down to the Cape of Good Hope, about 45 miles. As we approached the Cape park we stopped to look at several baboons eating pine cones in the road.

Baboon in the road near the Cape of Good Hope eating a pine cone

A short while later and we were at the Cape of Good Hope. Not, as we were to discover, the southernmost point of Africa, that is at a point some 200 mile east. 

False Bay from the Cape of Good Hope

The drive then took us up the western side of False Bay to Simonstown and Fishhook. On the way we saw a colony of South African penguins. Such wonderful animals, ungainly on land, but beautiful in the water.
Next through the beautiful wine growing country to the east of Cape Town and on to our lunch halt at Stellenbosch. A lovely town with many old colonial buildings.

Beautiful Stellenbosch

Then south through marvellous scenery to our overnight stop at the five star resort near Kleinmond, some 15 miles west of Hermanus.  So far there does not appear to have been any serious problems with the cars. Let's hope that continues.

August 5th - Day 2

Spoke too soon about the cars having no problems!!

Up at 6.30am for an early start only to discover that I have a puncture. Get the tyre changed with the help of Jingers as the wheel was jammed on and I needed his expertise to remove it. We left only 15 minutes later than we had planned, at 8.15am. The drive took us south through Hermanus and on to the southernmost point of continental Africa, Cape l'Aghulas. The route was through some stunningly beautiful scenery. Very green, almost like England and quite unlike how I expected South Africa to be. Across wide open fields along gravel roads to Cape l'Aghulas. About ten of the cars were there when we arrived and everyone took turns taking photos at the plaque marking the southernmost point of Africa.

Edo, Veronique, Lynette, Quint and Terry-Lynn Weening at the southernmost point of the African continent, Cape l'Aghulas

An hours drive due north took us to the town of Swellendam. Wonderful old buildings, nearly 200 year's old.

Lunch in Swellendam with Antoine, Maria, Victor, Wendy, Jim, Kaitlyn and Leejun Taylor

The afternoon drive took us due east for about 100 miles to Mossel Bay, our overnight stop. 8 kms short of our destination and disaster strikes for a second time and we have another puncture!  Still, I have two spares, so all is not lost. This time it's Mike Johnston from one of the back up cars who helps and an hour later we are on our way.  Into Mossel Bay and straight to a tyre place to get the punctures repaired.

Let's hope tomorrow brings better luck.

August 6th - Day 3

We left Mossel Bay at 8am hoping that the puncture problems of yesterday were behind us. Continuing fine weather makes the driving so much more fun. Empty roads and wonderful scenery make the miles fly by.
We headed north for about 100 kms to our first stop at an ostrich farm. A good short guided tour explained to us what strange birds they are. They weigh up to 125kgs and with a brain of only 60 grams they are not the brightest of animals.

Rosalie Gatsonides 'riding' an ostrich!

We then drove into the Little Karoo, the start of the dry areas away from the coast and then up the Swartzberg Pass, a gravel road that wound its way up to 1500 metres with magnificent views on each side of the pass.  Shortly afterwards we stopped for lunch in the delightful old town of Prince Albert.  Lunch was followed by the drive taking us east and then south to our resort hotel at Kynsna. The road took us through lovely gorges and mountain passes that were built in the 19th century for coaches.

Following Richard Smith in his Toyota through a gorge north of George

Lady luck was on our side for once as we drove the final few miles into Kynsna. There were terrible roadworks and we came up behind a huge stationary queue of cars and trucks. As luck would have it there was a turning into a small village and the car in front reversed back and turned off. I thought I'd follow and three or four miles later, through narrow lanes, across a railway bridge where we drove on the railway track and then through a small national park and we were back on the main road! We couldn't believe our luck! We arrived at the resort an hour later as the first to arrive. Such a great drive through fantastic country again made me wonder how John Brown finds these way-out places for us!

August 7th - Day 4

A chance to chill out! Today is the first rest day of the tour. We are staying at the Pezula Resort Hotel just outside Knysna. It is a very well designed development of low rise apartment units carefully concealed in the rolling hills. The resort was opened earlier this year.

View of Kynsna Lagoon from Pezula Resort Hotel

The day has given some a chance to play golf, others to whale watch and us just to walk towards the ocean a mile away. Is it the Indian now, or is it still the Atlantic?

We took a short drive into Knysna and had a marvelous meal at South 34 (named after the latitude) on the waterfront. Knysna is on the edge of a beautiful lagoon and in the evening a trip had been organised on the paddle steamer that cruises the lagoon.

Protea bush in flower

We ended the day, as usual, drinking in the bar with the many new friends we have made. Tomorrow there are two alternative routes. One takes the mountain road into the wild country away from the coats and over 250 kms of gravel with some very rough sections. The other goes along the main road to Port Elizabeth, about 400 kms from here. We have decided to take the easy route to get there quickly and then have my tyres checked and tubes removed from the three remaining wheels. I don't want any more punctures because tubes are failing.

August 8th - Day 5

As I said yesterday we decided to take the coast route to Port Elizabeth rather than the inland road over the Baviaanskloof, an area of wilderness, with mainly unmaintained gravel roads. Our route took us along the old coast road through lovely pine forests. The road alternated between narrow twisting sections and long straights where 120kph was the norm.

View of the 'highest road bridge in Africa' on the main Cape Town to Port Elizabeth highway

Before lunch we stopped by the sea at the Tsitsikamma National Park. The park embraces a wonderful coastline of mountains and rocky shores with fantastic surf.

Rocky shore at Tsitsikamma National Park, 100 miles west of Port Elizabeth

We met up with kenny & DeeAnne Croucher. Kenny rented scuba gear and went diving.

Kenny doing his interpretation of 'The Graduate'

Lunch followed as a picnic by the ocean, with the waves pounding on the rocks close by, sending up great clouds of spray into the air.

The drive to Port Elizabeth took about two hours along a great, virtually deserted, highway. This will be our last view of the sea as we head inland towards Lesotho and then the Zulu battlefields in KwaZulu Natal, before we return to the Atlantic in Namibia, some two weeks away.

August 9th - Day 6

Today was our first real experience of African big game. Some 100 kms north of Port Elizabeth is Addo Elephant Park. You can drive your own car through the park. So, it was great fun to tour the park at our own pace. We saw elephants, kudu (large deer) and warthogs.

Then jackals, zebra, hartebeest and vervet monkeys.

The park also has lions, black rhinoceros and buffalo. We spent three hours filming and taking photos. At one point an elephant walked across the trach in from of the de Hullu's Landrover.

Just as we were about to leave someone said there were elephants at a water hole next to the park restaurant. Sure enough four adult elephants were drinking at the hole, only a few yards from us.

Watering Hole at Addo Elephant Park

Leaving the park at lunchtime we drove over the Zuursberg pass, a twisting rough track through rugged scenery. Shortly after we returned to tarmac and drove about 200 kms on deserted roads to our overnight stop at the Katberg, a small resort at the end of an extremely muddy track. At one point the road was blocked by a local car being pushed by six or seven people through the mud. A detour over a grass bank, and the help of the locals in providing planks to get over deep ruts, enabled us to bypass the worst section of road. 50 rand changed hands to thank them for their help. My clean car is no more!