Journal 2

The Mountain Trek

20 June 2005

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Thanks Updated 15.03.06 Virtual Tour of Mel Please join us - added 20.02.06

After spending so much time at Home Affairs and getting nowhere we found out that it was easier to renew our visa if we left the country. Off we went to Swaziland for a long weekend - it was really great to get away from Johannesburg and into the countryside. We stayed at a couple of nature reserves and had a fantastic drive across the border at Pigs Peak. With another three-month stamp in the passports, which saved us a couple of hundred quid in visas, it was a great weekend away.

Almost all the rest is sorted. My uncle Bruce now owns the truck - on paper that is. We have also nearly got the Carnet De Passage which will allow us to temporarily import the vehicle into countries on the way. We are just waiting for the bank to sort out the guarantee - then we can go.

Driving over Sani-Pass
Sani Pass between Lesotho and S Africa.
Sardines in shopping bags
Carrying Sardines away in shopping bags.
Sunset over chapmans peak
Sunset Chapman's Peak, Cape Town

We left Johannesburg for our trip down to Cape Town on 5 June, exactly a month after arriving in SA. The first leg took us towards the east coast through Lesotho, which is known as the Roof of Africa, where roads are something else - we reached 3283m over one of the passes. Driving out of the country was also pretty hair raising. The descent down the Sani pass, a dirt road cut into the side of a mountain (suitable only for 4 x 4s), caused problems as I lost traction of all 4 wheels and started sliding towards the edge with a 300 m vertical drop.

Our next stop was Port Edward where we saw the sardine run, people basically going mad pulling sardines out of the sea with buckets, hand nets or anything they could get their hands on. I jumped into the sea with my video camera and then jumped straight out again when someone said there was a shark in the rock pool I was in. There were thousands of gannets dive bombing the mass of sardines. From the surface we saw three sharks and hundreds of humans behaving the same way as the gannets, grabbing as many sardines as possible.

Further south, Port Saint Johns in the former Transkei, is a beautiful place with white sand beaches, cliffs entering the sea and tropical rain forsts. The only problem was that tourists were being shot at, two had been killed the day before. The head of police comment in the newspaper was that "They are just reckless kids misbehaving, after easy money from tourists, it is nothing serious". (Jeez, I wonder what he thinks serious is?) From there we headed to Umtata, the old capital. The Lonely Planet describes it as "The place had a fierce reputation for crime, perhaps uncalled for." When we arrived there seemed to be a riot in progress with so many police cars about, but I think this is normal. We needed fuel so pulled up at the petrol station, and before we even stopped someone was trying to open the back door, which luckily was locked. We drove straight out of the Transkei and ended at a beach resort, Cintsa West. Here I changed the oil and filters and Cheryl finished sewing another curtain. From here we headed back up to the hills for a stay at Hogsback - a fantastic place at 1300m with indiginous rain forst, waterfalls and great walks. Also the hostel where we stayed had a great bar at which we had far too much to drink. We are now in Plettenberg Bay and just going off to find the Knysna sea horses.

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