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The marmite of Africa: Ethiopia

Day: 221

KLMS: 34,097

Never has a country divided people’s opinions so strongly, as Ethiopia does. It really is the marmite of Africa, you either love it or hate it. For us, we are definitely marmite lovers and all our preconceptions about what Ethiopia would be like, were completely wrong.

For a start, the images of drought stricken land, famine and swollen bellied babies that we grew up with are fortunately now a distant memory for most Ethiopians. The countryside is green and fertile and agriculture is now the biggest industry here. The population is massive, around 85million, so yes there are people everywhere but we found them to be just as welcoming and friendly as anywhere else we’d been, not at all aggressive or hostile as we’d been lead to believe. No matter where you stop, even if it is seemingly in the middle of nowhere, people appear from out of the bushes. At one point, we pulled over to make some coffee and within minutes we had an audience of over 50 children!

A quick coffee stop draws a big crowd!

A quick coffee stop draws a big crowd!

Unfortunately the only English word that everyone seems to know is ‘You!You!You!’, which you can hear being yelled at you from all sides as soon as you drive into any village. It’s not quite, ‘hello, how are you, welcome to my beautiful country’ but as it’s the only word they know, i’m sure that’s what they really mean!  As the only African country to have never been colonised (apart from the Italians who claimed it for 5 years – long enough to leave their pizza recipes behind – thank-you!! ) Ethiopia is the first country we have been to which has it’s own real identity and unique culture – including it’s own calendar which is 7.5years behind everyone else (!) making it an absolutely fascinating place to explore.

Following our adventures out of Kenya, we literally collapsed into Moyale. Fortunately the border crossing was pretty straightforward and the immigration guy even came back from lunch early to check us through. However, before we had a chance to pump the tyres back up, a nine inch nail delighted us with our first puncture of the trip! We pulled into one of the tiny tyre repair shacks and got to patching up the hole in the tyre. By the time it was finished, it was getting late so we drove back down the high street to try and find somewhere to sleep for the night. Ethiopia isn’t really geared up towards campers, so this is our first country where we regularly stayed in hotels – but at $15-$20 for a room and $10 for two of us to have a two course dinner and beers dinner it still worked well within the budget.  Border towns are never pleasant and Moyale is no exception. As we sought a bed for the night we spotted a number of NGO vehicles parked outside one hotel so figured it would be our best option. Despite our tiredness, we had a really lovely evening with the local NGOs and tried our first tastes of Ethiopian cuisines – Injera (a sour grey pancake) eaten with an assortment of different spiced meats and traditional coffee, which was as coffee lovers, was sensational. The room itself was simple and despite the horror stories about toilet facilities in North Africa, our bathroom was ok! But from now on, there are some important hygiene rules to remember – always roll up your trousers before entering, don’t touch anything, take your own loo roll and always shower with your flip flops on!

Despite our best plans for sight-seeing in Ethiopia, the car had other ideas. Following the extreme mud on the Marsabit:Moyale road, although the car came through it surprisingly well, the engine had suffered a slight injury as mud had forced its way into the alternator pulley bearing creating a deafening squealing sound which needed to be looked at sooner rather than later. So instead of heading into the lower Omo valley region to see the different ethnic tribes, we headed straight for Addis Ababa. The drive was still beautiful, but the wonderful tarmac we’d been promised soon turned into broken and pot-holed road and to celebrate my birthday we were given another puncture – 2 in 2 days! Standing in the rain by the roadside, fixing a flat tyre on my birthday is not exactly how i’d planned to celebrate another year, but that’s overlanding for you!

Puncture repair No.2 plus audience

Puncture repair No.2 plus audience

We headed onto Awassa for a lovely stop by the lake, where we decided to celebrate both our birthdays properly at a fantastic little Italian, gorging ourselves on pizza and red wine! The next day we headed onto  Addis which has to be said, is probably the worst African city so far and as the base for the African Union, i was really expecting a lot more! Developers have decided to dig up the entire city centre road network in one go to make way for a new metro line, meaning that the whole city is a construction site. The traffic was abysmal and the pollution so bad we wheezed the whole time we were there – we really do not enjoy our time in African cities! Fortunately, we had a nice, if noisy, place to stay at Baro Pension where the very helpful manager allowed us to camp in the carpark. After checking out the rooms we decided we’d be happier in our tent! We met two other groups of overlanders, 3 guys biking down the length of Africa and 2 Frenchies touring Africa in a Fiat Punto! This little car, has in fact already completed 3 circuits of Africa and with 430,000klms on the clock  they proved you don’t have to have a 4WD to travel Africa……although keen to hear they go through Northern Kenya!

Stinky Addis

Stinky Addis

The Frenchies and their Fiat Punto!

The Frenchies and their Fiat Punto!

For Richards’ birthday celebrations we spent the day at Ethio-Nippon – the main Mitsubishi dealership in Addis. The team here, could not have done more for us and gave us the most fantastic hospitality and  service. Typically the part we needed was  specific to our engine, and no replacements could be found anywhere in the city and so we began discussions as to how long it would take to order one in – the birthday boy was not looking happy. As our faces looked more and more glum, the manager said he could try one more option for us, a black market option, which would be more expensive but they might have what we needed. Sure enough a few phone calls later, we were jumping into the car with the manager and heading off into downtown Addis where a dodgy looking guy, in a pokey little shop produced exactly what we needed! A genuine Mitsubishi part. He Of of course he charged us triple the price, but in that situation we had no choice so paid the extortionate fees and raced back to the garage to get the part fitted.

The extra time taken to get the car fixed up in Addis, also meant we no longer had time to visit the Bale mountains and the famous rock churches in Lalibela and instead needed to take a shorter route up to Lake Tana. Fortunately, the drive did not disappoint. The scenery was spectacular and as we drove out of Debre Markos the road wound it’s way down steep hairpin bends to the Blue Nile valley below, dropping over 1,000m before beginning the climb back up the otherside.  We reached Bahir Dar at the bottom of lake Tana, which although described as the ‘Riveria’ of Ethiopia did little for us, so we decided to push onto Gondar. Gondar is described as the real-life Camelot as it contains a central walled compound containing 6 different castles built by different Emperors in the 17th century.  We stayed at a fantastic place called Fasil lodge, where our first evening was spent sitting around a fire in the courtyard with the hotel owner who told us a lot about the history of the city and the culture of Ethiopia. As it was Friday night, the Coptic Christian prayer calls continued all night, which when sitting around a campfire with a glass of wine is rather atmospheric, but at 4am when you’re trying to sleep it can get pretty irritating!

Beautiful scenery

Beautiful scenery

The Blue Nile gorge

The Blue Nile gorge

Driving into the Blue Nile Gorge

Driving into the Blue Nile Gorge

 

We enjoyed a fantastic few days in Gondar, exploring the castles and the old town. We also tried to venture up into the Simien mountains, but park rules require each vehicle to carry both a park ranger and a scout – as we only have 2 seats they wouldn’t let us in unless we hired another vehicle for the company. ! They were our first and only unhelpful Ethiopians that we met and back in Gondar, our hotel owner was so disgusted that he was going to report it to the tourism board! Arriving back in Gondar, we also found that the fantastic Fasil Lodge was now solidly booked out – it was a big weekend across the country as Ethiopia faced Nigeria in the world cup qualifiers, so the whole town was full of football fans who’d come to watch the game on the big screen in the Piazza. The owner however  took us to another hotel in town which despite being much more expensive only charged us the rate we would have paid at Fasil. It was a great atmosphere in town and from the roof deck we could see over the rooftops of the whole town and watch as thousands of people piled into the town square to watch the game on the big screen. Everyone was dressed in Ethiopian colours, and had their faces painted in green, yellow and red so we joined in and got flags painted on the car too. Sadly they lost, but everyone still remained in good spirits and there was no childish/loutish behaviour that is often seen after England lose a big game!

Gondar Castles

Gondar Castles

English isn't great

English isn’t great

Football fever

Football fever

Our final stop in Ethiopia was at Gorgora on the top of Lake Tana, at Tim and Kim’s rest camp. A beautiful spot to relax for a few days, parked up under their huge fig tree with views across the lake. We enjoyed our final beers and began to get organised for our trip into Sudan – another overlander, Kevin O’Keef who is travelling down through Africa on his motorbike, gave us maps and lots of information about Sudan. Another country, which if you believe everything you read you’d never contemplate going to, but from everything we’ve heard from other travellers it is actually one of the most friendliest places you can visit in Africa. We headed out towards the Sudanese border, but before we could get there not only did we get another puncture, our third in Ethiopia(!),  but unbeknown to us the trauma of the previous corrugations had split the right hand side bracket holding our bull bar on! It only took a small bump to prise off the remaining weld and with a bang the bull bar was hanging off! Another bush fix and Rich’s handy work had the bull bar tightly strapped back on, much to the amusement of the locals who came to watch. We hoped the ratchet strap would hold it in place until we could find a welder.

We were incredibly sad to leave Ethiopia, it is is the first country that we feel  we didn’t really begin to scratch the surface of. There are so many amazing places that we still both want to see, so we’ll just have to come back another time!

 

Spot the goat :(

Spot the goat 😦

King of the Worrrrrrld!

King of the Worrrrrrld!

A scenic shot - photo-bombed by boy trying to sell me garlic

A scenic shot – photo-bombed by boy trying to sell me garlic

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Magical Mountain Kingdom

Day: 85,

KLMS: 12,936

Driving out of Durban, we were full of nervous excitement as we began the Africa leg of our journey. It felt so good to be on the road again – the month long wait had felt like forever and the additional time to over-think everything can drive you slightly mad! Our first destination would be Lesotho – the mountain kingdom – a tiny little country within South Africa that sits above 2,500m. We thought there’d be no better way to bed the car in, than to take her for a spin up to the mountains – the Sani Pass – claims to be one of the toughest roads in the world, so we thought that it would be a good test for us and the car!

The drive up to the Drakensburg was stunning, and we made our first camp in Africa in the garden of the Sani Lodge at the bottom of the pass – not surprising we were the only ones there as it’s currently winter and temperatures at night are around 0 degrees! Fortunately our sleeping bags are very cosy and i was really glad that we did end up bringing a hot water bottle!!! Usually at this time of year Lesotho is covered in deep snow, but fortunately for us it’s been warmer than usual lately, so only frosts to contend with, but snow is on its way apparently! Driving up into the pass was absolutely breathtaking – the photos just won’t do it justice – and no matter how many adjectives i throw in here, i don’t think i can convey just how amazing it is. The Sani pass starts fairly gently and the first stop is the South African border control – our first one! It was all very straightforward and they only wanted to see our passports and not the carnet – the remainder of the pass then winds on through no-mans land as the official border of Lesotho doesn’t start until the top!  The drive up itself is pretty easy, it’s only really the last 400m climb that gets your hair standing on end as the switch backs get tighter and tighter and the gradient hits about 30 degrees, not forgetting the sheer cliff on one side. That said, it’s not as bad as people say and despite slight reservations as to whether our fully loaded, 17year old Pajero would be capable, she absolutely flew up with little encouragement. Reaching the top was just such a huge wave of relief and joy, that not only had we made it to the top 2873m – but we’d done it in our car! We passed through the Lesotho border control, again all really easy, and headed straight for the highest pub in Africa at Sani Top Lodge – we definitely needed a beer after that, even though it was only 10am!

We spent the rest of the day driving across the mountain passes – the roads are very rough and slow going, but it was just lovely to bumble along and take it all in. Lesotho is one of Africa’s poorest countries and driving through the villages it seems like the place that time forgot. Most people live in the traditional ronadavels (round huts), most don’t have electricity and the land around them is still farmed in the traditional way with only simple equipment. Animals are a precious resource here, the most common form of transport are the Basotho ponies – it was amazing  to watch the boys riding them across the steep mountains, herding their assortment of sheep, goats, cows and donkeys. The shepherds cut a more sinister figure, wrapped up in the traditional Basotho blankets and full faced balaclavas so you could only see their eyes – we kept up the ‘smile and wave’ tactic and they almost always waved enthusiastically back! Unfortunately one annoyance we’d read about, was the begging children. The early French missionaries, wanting to make peace with the locals handed out sweets to the children – ‘Bon Bon’ – has now become ‘Pom Pom’ and as you drive up towards any village, the children all come scampering down the hillsides shouting ‘Pom Pom’ or ‘Sweeeeeets, Sweeeets’. We’d be told not to give into the begging as it only makes it worse – so we just waved back to them – sometimes the outstretched palms turned into waves back, but sometimes they turned into shaking fists!! We felt so guilty!!!!! It would take a harden soul to drive past any child standing out in the cold, asking for sweets while you drive past in your nice warm car!! We decided that we’d try and contribute in other ways by ensuring we tipped those who helped us well and buy from local stalls.

It took us over 2hours to drive about 50km and so we called it a day early and found the closest place to camp which was at St James Mission, who let us stay in the grounds of the little guest lodge and use the facilities there. For an extra 50R they made us a fire (there are no trees at this altitude, so wood is precious!) and we spent the evening sheltering from the cold inside the lodge where we ate and read by candlelight as there was no electricity. It was so peaceful and with no lights anywhere, the stars at night were incredible.

The next day we continued our drive north, we would have loved to ventured into the middle to the Katse Dam but the slow going would mean adding at least 3 more days on, so we stuck to the west side and travelled the ‘Roof of Africa’ route, most of which is above 3,000m! We visited Liphofung Cultural reserve where a guide took us to a beautiful sandstone cave that contained original ‘San’ paintings which are very much like the original aboriginal paintings in Aus but not as old. We decided to stay at the centre as they had a small grass patch we could camp on and once settled, it was still early afternoon so we decided to go for a walk to one of the nearby villages. We had read that the villages use a coloured flag system to show what you can buy there – white for beer, yellow for maize, red for meat and green for veggies. Typically, Richard had spotted a white ‘local beer’ flag in the distance, so off we went. Walking up to the village we met a group of children, who seemed to find our presence hysterical, but fortunately amongst the laughter one small girl stepped forward and in perfect English said ‘Good afternoon, how are you today’. The rest of the group found this even more hysterical and there seemed to be a lot of  teasing  her for being able to speak to us. Richard seizing on the opportunity of having a translator straightway responded with ‘I’m excellent thank-you, but can you show me where i can buy some beer’. She skipped forward and beckoned us to follow, so us, along with 10 or so other kids all tailed on behind until we reached a gate where the little girl told us to wait. She ran off to the nearest huts to let them know we were here and suddenly the hut erupted with shrieks and screams. Women began to pour out of the hut, laughing and smiling, with their arms raised and shrieking ‘Yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi’ and running towards us to welcome us! It was the most unbelievable moment and so unexpected. The women formed round us, laughing and shrieking and ushered us into the small round hut. Unbeknown to us, we had just gatecrashed their monthly ladies ‘co-operative’ meeting and the inside of the hut was packed with women of all ages and their babies. They sat us down and gave us cups of their home-brewed beer,  a watery porridge looking liquid that they scooped out of the huge bucket that was sitting pride of place in the centre of the hut. They were all tucking in, so no wonder the welcome had been so energetic! Rich and i looked at each other nervously, all eyes were on us waiting for us to take a sip. Oh well, ‘Bottoms up!’ It was like rocket fuel, the colour hitting our cheeks immediately! There were cheers all round, then the music was turned up and everyone was up dancing and singing – all lead by the oldest lady in the group who must have been mid-70’s! She could move her hips better than any 21year old i’ve seen, and their singing was just beautiful. It was the most surreal couple of hours of my life, but we felt so humbled to be invited into their home like this. It turns out that many women club together to form ‘Co-operatives’ where each month they contribute as much money as they can to the kitty which is then used to buy groceries for the group. It means that if someone is having a difficult month they will not go hungry. For many women, their husbands are working in South Africa in the mines and so the money they raise is purely off what they have earned themselves. They were so proud of all the money they’d raised that day, they even wanted us to see all the money – ‘Look, we did this, 7,000R, all our own, with no men!’. We contributed further to their fund by buying some of the beer (not that we were brave enough to drink much more!)but wanted to seem willing! We left light-headed and giddy, home brew combined with such an intense and unexpected experience we walked home in a happy daze. Watching the sunset over the mountains, we could still hear the beautiful singing in the distance and we both just sat in silence with huge smiles on our faces! I know not everyday will be like this, but even if only some are, we are going to really love this place.

The view from Sani Pass

The view from Sani Pass

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We made it!

We made it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Not a bad view from the pub garden!

Not a bad view from the pub garden!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Basotho local & his pony

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The Ladies Co-operative

The Ladies Co-operative

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Local beer - would you be brave enough to try?

Local beer – would you be brave enough to try?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My new buddies

My new buddies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s time!

Day 80.

So here we are, are last night at Gibela’s in Durban – a little backpackers that has become home over the last 2 weeks, but tomorrow we are heading off in Africa to begin our long drive home. Kylie arrived as expected on Friday – which was a miracle, having been told that once in port it could take anything from 2 days to 2 weeks! We’d also had another slight mishap with paperwork as we didn’t have a waybill or original port of landing bill, again, something we thought should have been flagged previously, but nevertheless, the agent worked her magic and within hours had managed to obtain an ‘Express Release’ stamp. Having been told not to get our hopes up for a Friday pickup, We’d made plans to meet a friend for lunch, but as we were walking out the door, the agent rang to say ‘Come now – your car is ready’. Hearts in our mouths we hurried down to the port, and donning the hi-vis attire waited in the portside cabin for all the final paperwork to be exchanged so we could get our car. Our agent on this side, was amazing and not wanting us to get charged for storage over the weekend, was rallying around everyone to ensure the car would get released on time….we waited. It got to 4pm and just when i thought they’d shut up shop for the weekend, the shipping guy said we could go and get our car! We all hurried out of the cabin and across the busy dock to where amongst hundreds of huge containers, sat our lonely little 20fter! The bolt cutters were raised to break it open, and standing there with baited breath we waited to see if it really was our Kylie inside. What a relief to see her shiny backside! And even more of a relief to see that our rooftent, rooftop box were all still there too! She was a little stiff, when Rich reversed her out, but after letting her run while we put the kit back on the roof she was good to go. It was so good to be driving our car again – she felt so big and strong compared to the little Fiesta we’d been whizzing round it! However, it’s the strangest feeling to be in something so familiar, yet everything on the outside is so foreign – she really is our little home on wheels now.

The last few days, have been busy getting back into ‘traveller mindset’ and organising the last prep for the car. Everything here is so cheap, so glad we didn’t buy everything in Australia as it’s a fraction of the price here. We also had the good fortune to meet up with a friend of a friend, who took us to experience a Super-15’s rugby game at the Shark tank, followed by some local cusine – Bunny Chow – which consists of a half loaf of bread scooped out and filled with hot curry! So delicious, but hot, hot, hot! He also took us to meet his dad up at a fantastic bistro north of Durban which he’s built. His dad is a true bushman and filled us in on his adventures in Africa – so much good advice!. Thank you Jason for you hospitality!!!

And now it’s time to go – tomorrow we head out into the Drakensburg, with out first stop being Lesotho ‘The mountain Kingdom’. Kylie will be put to the test as we head up the Sani Pass – but hopefully she gets us up to the top where a beer at the highest pub in Africa awaits!

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There she is!

 

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Fiesta adventures in Zululand

Day 78

1,500 Fiesta Klms

Just back from our mini adventure – wow, driving in Africa is definitely not for the faint-hearted! Driving out of Durban was like being in Gran Turismo, everyone drives so fast and if you can’t keep up, then the polite thing to do is get out of the way and drive in the hard shoulder! Despite pushing the little fiesta up to 110km/hr, we soon realised that our place belonged firmly in the hard shoulder so pulled over to allow everything else to pass us. This would have been fine, except you are then faced with trying to dodge all the people, market stalls, animals that seemed to line the motorway despite being miles from anywhere. Coming from a place which has a population of only 20million, we can’t get over how many people there are here!

Our first destination was St Lucia, an incredible wetlands area and the first World Heritage site in South Africa. We arrived in the afternoon and although a blissful little place, unfortunately our accommodation was not what it looked like on the picture…well maybe it did 20years ago, but not now. Oh well, it was extremely cheap and once we’d fumed the room out with mozzie killer, it was just about bearable! It’s on nights like these we wish we had our comfy & clean bed in our tent! We are counting the days until Kylie is here! That said, it was pretty cool to sit on the balcony at night and here the hippos in the river just below us…our first African animal!

We took a boat trip the next day down the river to view the hippos close up – a fact i didn’t know was that hippos can’t swim! When you see them in the river, they are either standing in shallow water, or walking across the bottom and  jumping up to the surface now and then to take a breath!

Heading north we ventured up to our first game reserve – Hluhluwe-iMfolozi , the oldest reserve in Africa and credited with saving the white rhino from extinction. We stayed in Insinkwe bushcamp just outside the park – thankfully this one was fantastic! Driving into the park for the first time was exhilarating – you just didn’t know what would be around the next corner and being in a tiny fiesta only added to the excitement.  It must have been beginners luck, but in the first afternoon we saw 4 of the big 5 including both black and white rhino as well as giraffe, zebras and an assortment of different antelope. Our first encounter with an elephant however, was slightly terrifying, as we pulled up to the river’s edge, the dominant bull decided to charge out of the water straight towards the car in front of us. There was a mad panic as the cars all tried to get out the way, but luckily our little getaway car was amazing at reversing at high speed and we were soon able to breathe a sigh of relief! Our second close encounter was with a white rhino! Slowing down to check out 2 warthogs to our right, we didn’t realise that when they started running off, it wasn’t because of us, but a rhino charging full pelt towards us all from our left.  Fortunately, the rhino saw us and turned in time to miss our car (which is a miracle considering how bad their eyesight is) and i only saw him as his horn was about level with the passenger window! How we all missed each other i don’t know, but it certainly made for one hell of a first game drive!

We felt so privileged to have seen a number of rhinos on our trip they are under huge threat from poachers with the horn trade being bigger now than ever, fuelled predominantly by the demand for Chinese medicine. The game parks in South Africa are investing heavily to try and protect rhinos as much as possible and success stories of how many poachers have been caught or killed are banded about in the newspapers. However, with  rhino horn commanding such a high price it seems the risks are worth taking for poachers and the risk of getting caught is not a strong enough deterrent . If rhinos are to survive extinction,  there needs to be more focus  on tackling the source of the problem, not just the poachers who are simply supplying the demand.

After our animal encounters, we took the drive 4hours north to the battlefields, for a history lesson on the Anglo-Zulu & Boer wars. The scenery was just spectacular, with rolling green hills covered in lush long grasses – the livestock here look a lot healthier than those in WA! Driving through the rural villages, it’s hard not to be shocked by the poverty that sits just outside of the city. The disparity in wealth is unbelievable. From big mansions, well healed people and flash cars, to the small thatched circular huts , roaming cattle & ladies sitting on the verges cutting the grass with scythes.

We stayed in Dundee and were fortunate to meet Evan Jones the local historian who told us a lot about the history of the area and the battles at Islandwana and Rorkes drift, made famous by the film Zulu. He was keen to point out the inaccuracies of the film in detail, i didn’t like to say that i hadn’t seen it, but fortunately Rich had! He really helped to bring it all to life for us and made the visit to the battlefields a lot more interesting!

We’re now back at our base in Durban waiting for the car. Apparently it arrived on Tuesday, so we are now in constant contact with our agent to work out when it will be offloaded and through customs. Maybe tomorrow? Maybe not? This is Africa time now.

**Update as i post this. We found out yesterday that to get the car released we also needed the original copy of our ‘Bill of landing’ which we only have as a soft copy. The Australian shipping agent had failed to mention we would need this, so once again they have let us down and left us ill-prepared. Fortunately our shipping agent this side is being fantastic and has managed to arrange a permission to release without original paperwork and we could have the car by this afternoon!!

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We’re in Africa!!

Day 68

So here we are, in Durban, IN AFRICAAAA!!! Still can’t quite believe we’re actually here, but i’m sure we will be saying that the whole way round! After a very easy flight, we arrived into Jo’burg in -1°C freezing fog conditions ( a little cooler than we expected!) so were glad to be moving quickly onto a connecting flight to sunny Durban.  We are currently staying in a fantastic backpackers – Gibela Lodge – in a very salubrious part of town, Morningside. We couldn’t have been made more welcome here and the standards and cleanliness make it hard to believe this is only classed as a backpackers – it is so much nicer than the hole we stayed in, in Freo and a fraction of the price. It really is our little oasis, and although we’re in a good area, all the houses are securely locked in behind high walls & electric fences – which we both found unnerving to start with, but you quickly get used to it!

Durban is renowned for being a dangerous city, but we’ve found that as long as you follow some common sense and avoid the no go areas it’s actually pretty pleasant. The city is a mix of beautiful old colonial buildings, alongside very rundown  sections all sitting along a beautiful ‘Golden Mile’ of beach . The area we’re staying in, is very close to Florida Road, which is full of amazing bars and restaurants – after $10 beers in Australia, we’re loving the cheap beer here ($2) and Rich is getting fully stuck into the various types of biltong which seems to be available in any animal! We are just so impressed with the food, the service and the high standards that everything seems to operate on here.

Today we headed down to the shipping agents office to being sorting out our paperwork. Kylie is due next week and we’re keen to get going as soon as she’s arrived. We spent ages gathering our paperwork, expecting our first African admin meeting to be a nightmare, but it was fine. We met Maurita, our agent, who spent the first 20minutes talking about her cheesecake recipe – followed by a tour of her grandchildren who’s faces were proudly stuck up all over her walls. The paperwork part took about 2minutes, but she seemed to want to talk about anything other than shipping. She seems to become quite fond of her clients – particularly those coming from Australia – Oli and Lisa, if you’re reading this, she was asking after you and was thrilled to know you’d ‘got to the top’ already! Send her an email, she’d love to hear from you and see some of your photos.

So with Kylie still a week away, we’ve decided to hire a car and head off on a mini adventure. Tomorrow we’ll head north up to St Lucia (wetlands area) for a couple of days before heading into our first game park Hluhluwe-Imfolzi – which although much smaller than Kruger still has the Big 5. Excited much??? We’ll then venture out into the old Zulu battlefields to find Rorke’s Drift –although i might have to ban Richard from quoting Michael Cane all the time – ‘Stop throwing those bloody spears at me’. So hopefully our next update will have our first shots of some African wildlife, although, i’ve feeling the car we’ve hired is probably no bigger than a Fiesta, i never imagined our first game drive would be in such a little car – hilarious! 

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