Mittwoch, 26. Juni 2013

Final week as an ordinary tourist in a rental car in South Africa

 Sunday-Monday 9-17.6

Although we only had 9 days left until our plane left back home we used them quite efficiently driving another 2000 km in a rental car visiting Sowetho - the Cradle of Humankind -the Blyde River Canyon - the Kruger Park and finally went surfing at in the Sondwana Bay at the Indian Ocean.

Here a summary of the last week as an ordinary tourist:

We woke up with a bit of a headache the next morning and went straight to the Budget car rental place downtown Sandton. It turned out the car was not available yet so we missed the 10:00 am Soweto bike tour we wanted to join. Instead we saw how security guards beat up a homeless crippled person who was not supposed to be begging in the clean streets of Sandton. Once we picked up the car we drove downtown Johannesburg which is truly a scary place. We left it as fast as we could to go to Soweto the largest Shanty town in Africa. It is possible to explore the black district of Johannesburg on a guided bike tour which is said to be safe. We drank the local brewed beer in one of the local “pubs”, which was nothing more than a wooden shack. Also we cycled passed the house where Nelson Mandela used to live before and just after he was arrested.

apparently famous tours in Sowetho
dressed locally in a traditional pub in Sowetho

bicycle tour through Sowetho neighborhoods

                                                               Mandela's former home

On Monday we left Johannesburg to visit the Cradle of Humankind. It is an area where fossils of up to million years old ancestors of humans where found. We spent the night in the middle of the country in a beautiful chalet that we had to heat by firewood. The temperatures go below 0 Celsius in the night in this time of the year. 

11-13.06 Tuesday-Thursday:

After a great ham and eggs breakfast we visited the caves where they found most human fossils. In the afternoon we continued to drive for 7 hours to reach Graskop at the Blydre Canyon. We stayed in a backpackers. It was freezing outside.
Early in the morning started driving along the Blydre canyon. Along the road we stopped at stunning viewpoints into the canyon. 

not so elegant

views into the Blyde River Canyon

In the late afternoon we arrived in the Kruger park. We still had one hour to do a game drive before we had to be at our booked campsite. We could not believe our eyes when we suddenly saw a leopard walking slowly across the road a few meters in front of our car. 

At sunset we arrived at the campsite where we pitched our small tiny tent next to all the highly equipped South African campers. At that moment we really missed Elli with the rooftop tent. We barbequed a huge rump steak  which was delicious and spent the rest of the night talking at our small fireplace beneath the stars. 

 At sunrise we packed our stuff and went on a 11 hours game drive through the Kruger Park. Towards the end we saw Rhinos, Hippos and again a leopard right next to the road. That was definitely the last National Park we visited on our long trip. What a great finish. 

We left the park and found a cheap but unfortunately quite dirty little hut to stay in not far from the park exit.

Friday-Monday 14-17.6:

The next day we decided to drive 500 km to Sodwana Bay at the Western Coast to spent the last days of our long trip at the beach. On the way we had to cross the tiny country of Swaziland. Seeing the young kids at the side of the road we were sadly reminded that apparently 50 percent of the population of Swaziland is HIV positive leaving many orphans behind which also most likely are infected.

In the dark we arrived in Sodwana Bay. After searching for a long while for accommodation we met Jonathan who was the temporary manager of a backpackers place. In his confused and witty way he led us to an eco lodge, which was bascially a shack without electricity. After we lid some candles it was a nice and cheap last place to stay the last 3 nights of our trip.

The next day Jonathan took us out surfing and at night to a concert with local more or less talented musicians and a completely drunk audience.

At our last night in Africa we walked along at the beautiful beach and felt thankful for the privilege to have been able to spent the last 5 month together on this beautiful journey.

Saying Goodbye to Elli - South Africa

 Friday-Sunday 7-9.6:

On Friday we brought our car to a Nissan service station to let all necessary things fixed for it to be sold the next day. In the end 2 of the mechanics wanted to buy the car right there but they did not have the money we asked for. We also got the necessary road certificate (although we needed to convince the official at the testing facility) which you need to sell it .

The next day we had arranged 4 different appointments with potential buyers. The first one, Frans and his wife Claire, immediately said they buy it. We got all the necessary paper work done and he transferred the money on my account in Germany.  Then it was time to say goodbye to Elli. It was a sad moment for both of us to see her drive away. It was the perfect car for this once in a lifetime trip. 

                                     last picture before we had to finally say goodbye to Elli

                                                           there she goes on new adventures without us....

In summary  Elli drove us 20 000 kilometers in 130 days from Capetown through Namibia-Botsvana-Zimbabwe-Zambia-Malawi-Tanzania-Mozambique back to Johannesburg in South Africa.  We crossed 13 National parks escaped from wild elephants and hyenas chasing us. Slept at over 60 different places and and camped at the Atlantic and Indian Ocean. In the end we only got stuck in the mud once thanks to the strength of Elli. However we also had to spent numerous times with the local mechanics to bring her back to life.

Considering that we both did not have a clue about cars before we bought Elli in the end we learned quite a few things about it the hard way like bushes are not just plants, always look back when reversing the car in a national park, never fill diesel in a petrol tank, rooftop tents can fly if they are not securely fastened to the roof, a brake saddle should never lose both screws at the same time and finally never trust the work of a mechanic etc. ....

At the end of the day we celebrated with Hanneke and her friend Johann drinking lots of excellent bottles of wine thinking about the many unforgettable moments we had the privilege to experience on this once in a lifetime trip which already seemed like just a dream.

                                                                                Hanneke, Johann, Ju

Maputo and crossing the border to South Africa

 Tuesday-Thursday 4-6.6:

                                              last night in the roof top at Xai Xai Beach

                                                                Xai-Xai Beach

                                               Piri Piri Chicken barbeque in Maputo
                                                          driving through Maputo

Via Inhambane where we balanced the tires one more time without any success and Xai Xai where we spent the very last time in our beloved roof top tent we arrived in Maputo, where we happily did the usual tourist stuff until the last day, when we found out that we might have difficulties entering into South Africa again. According to the South African Visa regulations (for Europeans) one can get a 90 day tourist visa per year. The problem is, that these 90 days count starting from the day you enter SA regardless wether you stay fort this time or leave the country in between. Both of us have entered SA more than 90 days ago which could have been a huge problem, as we needed to be in Johannesburg on time to sell our car and according to various sources we would have actually needed to fly back to Europe in order to enter SA again!!! We went to the Embassy of SA in Maputo where the lady at the counter seriously told us to fly back to Europe!! Then we called the SA Embassy in Germany, who mentioned something like “just try your luck” but “yeah, the situation looks bad for you guys…” and so we were quite stressed when we arrived at the border to “try our luck”.  AND: we were lucky! Just when it was our turn to go to the counter they were changing shifts, so the lady who was about to leave her desk just stamped our passports without even looking at it!! I was about to jump over the counter and give her a kiss! What was interesting is that they scanned our passports into their computer system, and I expected that the computer will tell her that our Visa has expired. But it seems as if South African border posts work different and I have no idea what their computer systems look for, but they definitively don’t match people to their passports/Visas….

After an 8 hour drive we arrived very exhausted but relieved in Johannesburg at Hannike’s magical house  where she offers couch surfing. Hannike is a extraordinary woman with many interest and hobbies. After staying with her for 4 days and drinking lots of excellent wine we found out about her that she is an artist, singer, cook, wine tasting expert, manager of a newspaper delivering service, founder of a wolves sanctuary…..