Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cape Town, Springbok, Vioolsdrif

Our first and only car trouble struck at Garies, about half way to the Orange River on Day One. We tested the spare tank of diesel, a handy add-on in this Landcruiser, carrying 120 litres of fuel... It would not pump into the main tank. Which meant we had a lot of extra weight to carry around. Much later on an extremely bad road it jolted into action and pumped 30 litres over, but not again.

Window picture. Somewhere around Kamieskroon, 80 km from Springbok and near the last third of our first day.

We stopped on the road near the Vioolsdrif border crossing to Namibia to take pictures of the first glimpses of dry desolation. Everywhere there were pretty white crytal stones on the dry ground.

Ever-present barbed wire fences fencing in...what? Stock, presumably, but we saw relatively few sheep and springbok. Mostly separating stones from stones.

In Springbok I bought a toothbrush at a gas station. I liked their sign over the dry goods.

Endless straightness. Excellent road, the N7.

We had an eventful border crossing, having reached it at 4.30pm on the 10th. It left a foul taste in my mouth, though no one else seems much perturbed by its telling.
We cleared South African customs, three hot offices right on the river, and went another few hundred metres to Namibian customs. Exiting those unwelcoming offices we found a young Namibian policeman circling the truck. He asked if we had meat or alcohol. Chops and wine, I said. He asked to see the wine. I showed him the box. He told us to follow him. In his airless office he told us that in the past we would have been fined R100 for not having a ZAR sticker on our truck, designating its country of orgin. Oh, we said. Yes, he said. And we would have to pay duty on the wine, but The Guy was not there to inspect it. Oh, we said. So....So! he said, we have a football club here, and we are taking donations. He pushed a piece of Xeroxed paper over showing official transgressions with their corresponding fines, and helpfully circled the ZAR Sticker Absent transgression, with its R100 fine. Then he redirected our attention to the football club.
Ah, said Vince, and filled in our donation of R100.
The policeman said he would waive any duty or fines.
Yugh, yugh, yugh.

Above, you wouldn't think it, but this is the largest river in South Africa.
We drove another ten minutes through a dry moonscape and followed the signs to the Abiqua River Camp, our first night's stop. Green lawn, trees, and great brown Orange River, with South Africa across its waters, flowing lazily into the Atlantic.

We bought the first of many bags of ice, and put up the tent, Vince teaching me how.

And popped our bottle of Prosecco into the impromptu ice bucket.

The afternoon wind sprang up as it would do every day that followed, and once it had calmed down and our tent remained fast, we sat and watched the river, a fish eagle overhead, a heron on a sandbank, and planned our first braai fire.

Dinner was easy after a rough start with setting up the kitcehn: kebabs, the leaves from our fridge, and hard yellow cling peaches, sliced into the leftover wine.

Our first morning's coffee was long in coming. We realized our stovetop espresso maker did not fit onto the gas bottle's plate. And the wind kept blowing the flame out. After about 6 attempts we had our first, fraught cup of coffee, using the grill for our braais balanced on the gas. I thought nervously of mornings to come. Vince wondered why he had not married a camper.

We deflated the air mattress, packed up the tent, reclipped the storage boxes, and headed north.


  1. extortion is always distasteful, no matter the context.

    you may not have started out a "camper" but at least you were game to try, which is more than could be said for me. My basic feeling is that a tent is a raincoat with an ego problem.

  2. Ag, ja, Marie

    If you took note of the AA's "Motoring in Namibia" brochure that I sent you and Beence in November last year, you would have noted on page 3 that ZA plates were required. Not to mention, on the same page 3!, that you needed the original vehicle registration papers for the vehicle in order to cross the border, which would have obviated the 6am dash to Chambers by HPV on his BMW motorcycle immediately prior to departure. Gelukkig was Mamma op en wakker.

  3. Welcome back from the long and not winding road. A really African border story, unfortunately. Look forward to the tales.

  4. Melanie - yup!

    Guy - ag man, it's nice to have the last word, hey ? :-)But the book says nothing about bribery!

    Jane - hi! How's the green isle?

  5. Marie might have started witout the "camper" title but she sure earned it! 4:00 am wake up calls to go climb the dunes, scorpions all around the tent, jackals scavenging our kitchen stuff, setting up camp every night and breaking it down every morning, oversized spiders (we're talking ping pong ball size here...), 40 deg. C in the shade and the nights that go along with that, leopards roaming 500 meters from the tent across a miserable fence, cooking extraordinary meals on the brai and with minimal supplies, etc.

    Kudos. :-)

  6. ah Beence, you make it sound so . . . very . . . very . . . (what's the right word, here? ah! ) appealing. So lovely to read about. From a safe distance. Like my own very distant, very urban, very snug, very complete with hot and cold running everything, indoor hemisphere.

    Glad you made it back. Quite sincerely glad.


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