Archive for January, 2008
Once in Lesotho we headed to Molumong, which is about two hours from the Sani Pass, for some pony trekking. We stayed at an old trading post, now converted into a backpackers lodge. We only went pony trekking for 3 hours, which turned out to be just long enough to see the countryside, and just short enough to be sore the next day, but still be able to walk. My horse, Duke was gentle, but didn’t really listen to commands. No matter what I did, he just followed the other horses. So, if the other horses started to gallop, than Duke would gallop. Even if I didn’t want to, I had no choice but to hold on.
Drakensburg National Park is 243000acres, which means when you are in the park, as far as the eye can see in any direction, you are surrounded by the beauty of it. There are endless peaks and valleys. It’s green and lush, and wild. Before crossing into Lesotho, we decided to stay at the bottom of the Sani Pass and do a morning hike in Drakensburg. The trail was a 5 hour hike, which took us past a few nice waterfalls, and fresh water pools. The following day, we drove the Sani Pass into Lesotho. Years ago the Basotho people would travel on horseback from their country of Lesotho into South Africa to buy/trade supplies. The typical trip would take one week from Mokhotlong(in Lesotho) to the bottom of the pass. The road conditions are much better than in the past, which isn’t saying much. Only 4×4 vehicles are permitted to drive up the Sani Pass. It takes about 4 hours, which includes border control and a stop at the highest bar in Africa, the Sani Top Chalet.
Bulungula, located on the Wild Coast of South Africa near Coffee Bay, sits in an isolated location right on the Indian Ocean. Eco-friendly, wind and solar power is used as it’s source of electricity, and unique to Bulungula are their “rocket showers”(more on that later). The local Xhosa people are part owners of Bulungula and organize activities from the lodge.
We stayed in a rondavel which is a circular mud hut with a cow dung- washed floor and a wheat stalk thatched roof. In the mornings, we found cows, goats, mules and horses grazing outside our door.
One morning we walked on the beach and found the Xhosa women on the rocks collecting mussels for lunch. Even young children bore a large 4inch knife and bowl collecting other mollusks in the shallow water. A young man caught 4 octopi and one crayfish using a stick. Mike gathered 3 sticks, and waded into the water in hunt of the same, but lacked success regardless of being well armed. In the evening we walked along the beach to see the jumping fish and to go crab hunting.
As remote and difficult as it was to get to Bulungula, it was well worth the effort. It is un-spoilt, tranquil, charming and beautiful. It ranks up there as one of our favorite places.
In order to get to Bulungula, you have to be serious and verging on hard core, if you drive yourself out there. From the main road, it takes about 3 hours. As you get closer to Bulungula, each turn onto the next road deteriorates just a bit more than the last. The main highway, the N2 is a tar road. The next road you turn off onto is also tar, only with potholes littering the road and making it impossible to drive more than 25 miles per hour. The next turn puts you on a gravel road with pot holes. The last stretch can only be driven by a 4×4 vehicle. There is a shuttle available for those without a 4×4, but we figured, we could handle it.
On the last 2 miles, we stopped to “lock” the wheels and read the directions on how to engage the 4×4. While we were doing this, we somehow picked up a local woman looking for a ride home towards Bulungula. Some stretches of the drive, I couldn’t believe it was considered a road. About an hour in using the 4×4, we got stuck in a mud puddle, and, wow, was that great fun. Mike and I were yelling at each other, and I was swearing, and this Xhosa woman was just sitting in the back seat. She kept saying something, but we weren’t sure what. Eventually our Sani, powered its way out of the jam. We started up again and the woman started waving her arms. We figured out that she wanted to get out of the truck. She’d been trying to get out, but didn’t know how to open the door. oops!
Mike booked us at a private game reserve for my birthday, and it was fantastic. After two days of pitching the tent, it was nice to take a break from roughing it and have everything looked after for us.
We stayed in a luxury tent built above the tree tops close to Addo National Park. It’s a great experience because it gives you the feeling of camping, without actually camping. The “tent” exterior is canvas ripstop but comes fully equipped with electricity, shower, toilet, hardwood floors, and a/c. The tent is locate in an isolated area so you can’t see the other “campers” from your deck, the only thing you see are trees, trees and more trees.
It’s been hot here, getting up about 95′F during the day, and the animals don’t like the heat, so the safari drives are either in the evening or early in the morning when it’s cool out, which is the best time to see the animals, anyways because its when they graze and/or hunt.
After high tea, we went on our first safari drive. The first thing we saw were zebras and impalas– just grazing in a group together. Then we saw warthogs, and rhinos. Then off in the distance we could see the long necks of giraffes poking out from the trees. There were wildebeest, springbok, kudu, and the elands. How amazing! Being in their environement, rather than viewing them in a zoo; it all felt very ‘Jurassic Park’ in our open-top Land Cruiser just driving along next to the animals.
Since we didn’t see lions or elephants on our evening drive, the first thing we did was try to track the elephants. After about 2 hours driving around the game reserve, we finally found a lion relaxing in the shade from the morning sun. We were probably as close as 20 feet from her.
Hermanus is one of the top spots in the world to whale watch from land, so Mike and I decided to make it our first stop. We heard there was a sighting the day before at Sievers Beach, so we headed over there but didn’t see any whales.
Around 5pm, we decided to make camp at Onrus campsite right on the Indian Ocean. The sun doesn’t set until 8pm or later, but I thought we might need the extra time to put the tent up. It took about an hour to get the tent looking like the schematic, and two hours until we were completely set up and our bellies full from our first meal camping.
We drove a few hours east today to Lake Breton, and tonight the mosquitos are out in full force. But as far as getting the campsite up and running, it only took 15 minutes to get the tent up. From the looks of it, camping isn’t so difficult for Mike. It’s like he’s at home…with his laptop and internet connection.
It’s been nearly three weeks, and we’re finally ready to check out of Cape Town and discover the rest of south and east Africa. To prepare for our departure, we’ve been to every camping store in a 1 hour radius. I’m quite certain we have all the essentials to camp, and a lot more– tent, sleeping bags, lantern, gas cooker, plates, cups, forks, chairs, food, cooler, mosquito repellent, sunscreen, etc, etc, etc.
For those of you who don’t know, the plan is to drive from Cape Town up to Tanzania, and then back. The original plan was to head up to Kenya and Uganda, but I think we’ll stay clear from all the trouble going on in Kenya right now.
We bought a 1994 Nissan Sani 4×4 which we hope will make the 7500mile journey. According to the woman we bought it from, “She’s a really solid ride”. We had “her” tuned up and gave “her” new tires. For security, we installed a safe in the back of the truck.
To start off, we are taking the scenic Garden route along the coast of South Africa. Most people would say the Garden route is a nice transition into the rest of Africa, for me it will be a good way to ease into camping. I’ve never been camping before, so it’s a bit of a nature challenge for me.
I’m excited to give it a shot, but the odds aren’t in my favor. Considering I prefer driving to walking, A/C to fresh air, and clean bathrooms to shared out houses, the odds really aren’t looking so good. Not to mention I am a magnet for mosquitos, and I cringe at the thought of spiders, ants, or any other insect invading my personal space. But I want to give camping a shot and will be providing detailed reports on our progress to become outdoor sportsmen.
These cute little guys live amongst the sun worshippers and are not at all bothered by the crowds. They walk down the cement walkways, pick their spot on the beach, and occassionally take a dip in the water to cool off.
For the last eight years my friend Neil has said to me, come to Cape Town, it’s the most unbelievable place on earth… Neil is sometimes prone to exaggeration, so I never made it a priority. Now that I am here, I can confirm that he was true to his word. The beaches are beautiful, the mountains are striking, and the seafood is so fresh and delicious.
Neil, lives in Los Angeles but is back in Cape Town visiting family and friends for the next few months, and has done everything possible to make us feel at home. Two weeks ago Mike and I flew from Tel Aviv to Cape Town via Johannesburg. Since then Neil has introduced us to his whole network of friends, taken us to all the best restaurants, cafés and shops. In addition, we are staying with him in his apartment, and he’s helped us get organized for our overland trip across Africa. It’s been so relaxing here that it’s no wonder we’re in no hurry to press on.
(here we are at Jade on New Year’s Eve)