Kruger and Limpopo - RSA to Mozambique

South AfricaPosted by Espen Tue, July 31, 2012 15:52:02
So! Time to get up to date on the blogging. We left off somewhere after crossing the border from Botswana back into South Africa to visit the famous Kruger National Park. Spotting a Leopard crossing the road in front of the cars just after the entrance gate, we through this could get really good. Not very photogenic, though, and this pic was the best we got…

And unfortunately, that was about it… We spent the day driving around in the northern part of the Kruger, visited Crock’s Corner, where the borders of South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe meet in one point, and eventually found a campsite at Punda Maria. We saw birds and antelopes. In the evening we were watching elephants at a waterhole nearby playing in the mud.

The next morning we drove south towards the town of Phalaborwa. One reason was that the campsites inside the park was full (South African school holidays..), and we had an appointment with a Nissan garage. After the service we did on the front axle in Knysna about two months ago, the right hand side (the one that was not leaking before the service) had been pouring out diff oil. After a quick check we concluded that there must have been something wrong with the new seal that was put in, and that Nissan would take the cost of replacing it with a new. Excellent service from the guys at Nissan in Phalaborwa!

We also had time to do a little exploring in the area, and drove up to a view point where we could get a glimpse of what most people in Phalaborwa work with. This hole was just incredibly huge, and there are two more…

Kruger National Park borders to Limpopo National Park in Mozambique. Recently they “opened” up between these two parks, and the animals can, theoretically, walk from one to the other. There is also a border crossing, and we decided to take a look also at the Limpopo side. It was also a short cut to the Mozambique coast and the beaches.

While we were at Nissan our friends had been all the way to the southern part of the park. Kruger is one of the largest parks in Southern Africa covering 19500 square kilometers, and extends 360 kilometers (straight line!) from north to south. It takes easily two, preferably three, days to drive through on relatively good roads. The plan was to meet up at Girondo border crossing at 1300 hours and cross the border together. That story will be posted shortly in our border crossing section.

In the southern part of Kruger our friends had seen more wildlife than in the north, even mating lions. They were quite excited when we met up, and happy for doing the longer drive to the southern part. We, based on what we had seen in the northern parts, were not too impressed with Kruger. Compared to i.e. Chobe River Front, there was not much wildlife to be seen from the roads where you actually were allowed to drive.

On the Mozambique side of the border we bought our Limpopo National Park permit. In the info we got they emphasized that there wasn’t really much wildlife to see. Okay, good to know. In South Africa they joked about all the wildlife at one point being transferred to the Limpopo part had been eaten. Maybe there was some truth in this after all.

We made our way to Messingir Dam where we camped for two days enjoying the views over the lake. On our way from the border we concluded that the info from the park officials were right, we’d hardly seen any animals on the way.

Leaving the park we drive over the dam forming the lake. Quite an impressive construction. Later we were told that taking pics wasn’t really allowed, but hey, this is just below the dam, right?

And after buying Mozambiquean insurance for the vehicles, we went for the coast at Xai-Xai. Sun, warm weather, and beach life here we come!


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Cape Agulhas - southern tip of Africa

South AfricaPosted by Espen Tue, May 22, 2012 23:29:00

As our journey has taken us all the way north in North America and all the way to the southern tip of Tierra del Fuego in Argentina, we kind of had to drive down to Cape Agulhas to start our African adventure as far south in Africa as you can get.

Out there somewhere is Antarctica

Cape Agulhas is a quiet, sleepy town, and we decided quickly to drive on towards Cape Town. We took the route along the coast, and it is a beautiful drive. It reminded us a lot of the Highway 1 in California, US.

On our way we also stopped at African Overlanders to visit Duncan at see how his new “overlander place” looked like. Are you driving through, or planning to ship in or out of South Africa, ask him for a quote. http://www.africanoverlanders.com

In Cape Town we stayed with friends in Noordhoek, and spend several days to get organized and set things up for the drive north (prev post). Fortunately, our friends insisted that we spent some time being tourists too. While I tried to hook up a temporary manual switch for our aux batteries, Malin went with our hosts to climb Chapman’s Peak. The views were not bad at all…

Espen at Cape Good Hope

Our friends also found took us on a wine tasting tour, as South Africa has lots and lots of excellent vineyards. You pay a couple of dollars and taste three – four – five glasses of wine. Great way of spending a day! This is from Rust en Vrede in Stellenbosch, and the wine was excellent! (they even let us taste a glass from a 170 USD bottle for less than 3 USD!!!)

Stellenbosch area

So, as the Patrol was ready, we were ready, and the fridge and food boxes were full, we set out to Cederberg to go camping. Our hosts came along as guides and braai-experts, and of course as great company. Another example of South African hospitality, and we start to realize that the most dangerous part about South Africa is that it is getting hard to leave.

The next morning we set out on foot to explore the Wolfberg Cracks, and to hike in to the Wolfberg Arch. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, and for other travellers: Yes, it is definitely worth a stop!

Our friends had to go back to Cape Town for work, and we continued north towards the border of Namibia.

More soon!


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Preparations in South Africa

South AfricaPosted by Espen Wed, May 16, 2012 11:13:08

We have been a bit slow on our updates lately, but no reason to be alarmed. South Africa is the best place to stock up on supplies and prepare for another 30-40 000 kilometers of driving. There wa a questions about preparations, so here is a short update on what we’ve been up to the last couple of weeks besides visiting friends in the area.

The Patrol was up for a service, and as some of you perhaps remember, we had a broken oil seal in Argentina that I believed was caused by worn bearings. At Nissan in Knysna I had the front axle serviced and new bearings fitted. It turned out, however, not to be a problem with the bearings after all, just a bad seal. Still, there are now new bearings on both sides, and I count on these to last me at least 100 000 kilometers on bad roads before even thinking about them again. The patrol also got new filters and a good dose of full syntetic 5w40. Next service maybe in Dar es Salam…

A big thanks to Jack and Nissan in Knysna for excellent service!

After Nissan it was the tires that was up for a check. After about 10 – 15 000 kilometers, I try to have the tires rebalanced. Had to search really hard to find a shop that could help us with our 37 inch tires, but after asking at probably 10 different places we found these guys. They even took the time to rotate the wheels on the rims to get it as good as possible. First time….

South Africa is also a paradise for equipping a 4x4 for overland travel. The South Africans are masters of bush camping, and the ware houses look accordingly. I had for some time tried to source an extra fuel tank for the Patrol, but not really with any luck. I could of course order a new Australian one for a thousand or so usd, but with time for ordering and installation we ended up buying a couple of extra jerry cans. I really don’t like the idea of driving around with fuel on the roof, but I guess I’ll just have to live with it for now. It won’t be filled up unless we really need it though.

At the 4x4 shop we also picked up some braai-equipment (braai is the South African word for BBQ), and a radiator net for driving in grass so that we don’t plug the radiator with seeds. I had no idea, but this is actually a problem for vehicles driving in i.e. Kalahari.

Didn’t buy this one though…

Next stop was a book store with a good map section. We have of course downloaded some new African OpenStreet, and also the Tracks4Africa maps. Still, we like to have an “overview” map for planning and for asking advice from other travellers, and of course a detailed paper based roadmap. After advice from a2aexpedtion we bought the National Geographic African Adventure Atlas (hardback!), massive book, but very detailed. Looks very promising so far.We also booked an appointment with a travel medicine clinic to get an update on vaccines and medical kit advice for our route through Africa. Most vaccines are the same for Central and South America, so we were pretty much up to date on these. In Africa the yellow fever is mandatory and will be checked on some borders. We also got new stuff for things like diarrhea and infections as the medicines we bought in Norway more than two years ago had expired.

Finally we stopped by a huge supermarket and filled up with some dry food. Along the way in Central and South America I’ve had problems finding good breakfast cereals as I’m allergic to hazel nuts and almonds. In South Africa they have an excellent selection, and I bought 8 kilos!

So, now the car is again full of food and lots and lots of stuff. Hopefully our VISA cards will now have some time for cooling down. If we keep up our last weeks spendings, we’ll be shipping home sooner rather than later…

Planning is important, but as a wise editor in one of my favorite magazines put it, don’t let it get in the way of travelling. There is no absolute right or wrong. As an example, both of these made it all the way from Europe to South Africa!


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South African hospitality

South AfricaPosted by Malin Fri, May 04, 2012 21:23:26

While we were still traveling in South America we got a friend request from Luisa and Graeme on Facebook. After we mentioned on our blog that your next stop after Argentina would be South Africa we got an invitation to come and stay with them and their two kids, Jessica and Keelan, in Plettenberg Bay. It turned out that they were going to ship their Land Rover to South America and drive north to Alaska this June (www.a2aexpedition.com). In 2010 they travelled with their Landi to Tanzania. As you can imagine we had quite a lot to talk about and it was a lot of information to exchange.

But we did have time to do something else as well like eating the excellent breakfast at the Saturday Marked close by.

Our Nissan Patrol needed a service and to get a few other things fixed before we can do some real offroad driving in Africa. There was a Nissan Garage in Knysna, but we had to wait a week before they had time for us and get the parts we needed. Luisa and Graeme said, no problem, and let us stay with them while we waited. One day while waiting Graeme got us on the local radio for an interview about our travels from Alaska to Argentina.

Besides getting the needed parts another reason that we had to wait for one week for the Nissan garage was that it was a long weekend coming up. Our host family took us driving and camping in the Baviaanskloof.

Scenery was beautiful, and it was great drive. We had three nights camping in the Baviaans, and in the campsites we saw that South Africans have a culture for camping. There were all kinds of tents, trailers and vehicles. But more important that anything while camping is the Braai (BBQ). As the sun was setting it was a small could of smoke hanging over the campground, and the smell from the braai’s was amazing. It tasted even better.

After braai, potjie is the other way to cook food while camping in South Africa. Along the road we saw vehicles that had a special Potjie holder on the back of their car.

Potjie is the name of the cast iron pot with three legs that you will cook in over the fire, and it is also be the name for the dish. We had lam potjie one night and two nights with braai in our long weekend in the Baviaans.

The day for the Patrol’s service came, and it was time to say thank you and goodbye to Jessica, Keelan, Luisa and Graeme, and wish them all the best for their travel in America. For us next stop is the Nissan Garage.

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Addo Elephant National Park

South AfricaPosted by Malin Thu, April 26, 2012 22:06:00

After picking up the Patrol in the port it took us one afternoon to get organized again. Because we shipped the car on a roll on roll off ship (that means the car is not locked all the time) Espen had removed everything from the front so that we could lock it all up in the back behind the cargo carrier. Everything meant: stereo amplifier, fridge, water filter, water pump, fire extinguisher, inverter, batteries, cables and all the loose stuff that you put into the cab of your car. It took some hours it put it all back in, but then we were ready for the road again.

First stop was Addo Elephant National Park 65 km north from Port Elizabeth. In the early 1900 agriculture in the Addo region was growing. For the farmers elephants caused problems because they damaged crops and were competing with the farmers need for water. Therefore, elephants were hunted down. One man was contracted by the government, and between 1919 - 1920 he killed 114 elephants. In 1931 a reserve that was set aside to protect the 11 remaining elephants in the Addo area was proclaimed National Park. From 1931 when the park comprised about 5 000 hectares it has grown to 164,000 hectares divided into five biomes today. There are more than 500 elephants in the park today, and other spices like the flight less dung beetle, Burchell’s zebra, warthog and hippo was reintroduced over the years. In 2003 spotted hyena and lion was introduced to the park.

When you drive into Addo Elephant National Park and are waiting to see the largest mammal in Africa it is fun to see all the signs that says that the dung beetle have right of way. It is probably because they are not so easy to spot on the road when you are looking for animals that weigh thousands of kilos and not a 5 cm large beetle.
It was pretty cool to see the first elephants outside our own Patrol. We did drive many of the different loops in the main part of the park on our first day, and these were some of the animals we saw.

But we did not see any of the large predators, hyena or lion. Our first night in the roof top tent in Africa was spent in the main camp in the park, and we had a good night sleep.

Next morning was Espen’s birthday so we had a good breakfast before we entered the park for our second day. The first few kilometers were really quiet and we hardly saw any animals. After quite a while we could see more and more branches and bushes on the road, and more and more elephant poop. When we got closer to a water hole we saw the elephants and they were all over the place. We drove a bit closer and stopped the car and it was amazing sitting there watching and listening to the elephants. Some was done drinking and were walking away from the water hole, others were drinking and others were on their way to the water hole.

I had to try and count them and I counted 78 elephants, but it was hard to see them all as they were standing in clusters. Guessing I think it most have between 80 and 100 elephants around the water hole. After watching the elephants for an hour we moved on.

Just a few hundred meters down the road we saw a black backed jackal as it was closing in on carcass. One of the large predators most have hunted their meal earlier that morning and now the little that remained was left to those who got there first, and the jackal was the lucky one. When we had a closer look at the carcass we could see that it was a baby elephant on the remaining skin on one leg. It is sad to see, but all the animals in the park have to live and that is the circle of life.

As the day progressed and we had seen many elephants, zebras, warthogs, deer’s and buffalos we kept on looking for the lions. We would really like to see a lion. In the afternoon we meet a car in a junction that told us that they had seen two young male lions a bit further up the road half an hour earlier. We drove looking, but did not see any lions. So we took another loop. Still no lions. To be able to get to the exit gate before it closed we had to leave the park. Driving towards the gate we saw the two male lions coming towards us.

It was incredible to have this to large cats walking past us only one meter away from the car. A perfect ending to Espens birthday.


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