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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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Kylie leaves Australia

Day 48:

KLMS Travelled – 11,932

In just under 50days we’ve driven nearly 12,000km!! The journey so far has taken us across the breadth and length of Australia in what has been an incredible ‘warm up’ for our next leg across Africa. Having the opportunity to get used to life on the road has been invaluable before we hit the unknowns of Africa and despite this being the ‘easy’ part of our trip, we have learnt so much in such a short space of time. Learning how to live out of your car certainly takes some getting used to and never being more than a foot apart from each other can be testing on even the strongest relationships! However, we soon found that we naturally fell into a new routine, each of us having our own roles in the day to day set up of camp, making fires, cooking dinner, car maintenance, route planning etc. Our days were full!

As we headed into Perth, it felt strange to be breaking up the team so soon – we were really just getting into it – but our plans had always  been to hit Africa in June, so we could start the drive north through the winter (hopefully drier) months.  My parents arrived from the UK, the day we got into Perth, ready to make the most of our downtime while the car was at sea and spend two weeks touring the Margaret River with us – it was amazing to be back in the luxury of a house again, with a comfy bed, flushing toilet, hot showers…you really do appreciate the simple things in life when you’ve been camping for so long!

Most of the ‘improvements’ will be done once we get to Africa, but we installed black coreflute board into all the back windows so the car is more like a van now and will stop those prying eyes from seeing in. We also gave the car a proper clean out, washed everything and then did another cull of stuff we’ll be taking with us. Thankfully mum and bought a spare bag for us, so they could take anything back we didn’t need.

We chose CargoOnline to send the car with – their quote was much better than the others we’d seen and we knew other overlanders had used them to. They were really easy to deal with and were very patient with our questions and constant date changes! We dropped Kylie off in Fremantle, and once the rooftop tent & box were taken off we watched excitedly as she got put into her container for the long voyage. The guys at the depot thought we were pretty weird to be bouncing about taking photos – but for us it felt like waving off your firstborn on! And just like that it was done…..all seemed a little too easy???

A few days after the car sailed,  we got an email from the shipping agent to ask if the car was on a Carnet – we assumed all cars needed a Carnet, so thought it was a bit late to be asking these things! Turns out the Carnet needs to be stamped by customs before the car leaves the country?? We didn’t know it needed to be stamped out of Australia and as it hadn’t been requested we hadn’t given it another thought. Shit. Emails & phone calls were flung back and forth, but by this time it was late Friday night of the long weekend and nothing would be resolved for a few days.  At least we were in the Margaret River – a few wineries later and our minds were soon distracted! Our agent Rhys, on the other hand worked through the public holiday to ensure that we would be able to get a customs stamp retrospectively and it was a huge relief to be sent confirmation that we could take our Carnet to Fremantle customs house to be stamped once we were back in town. Phew. We now know that a Carnet has to be stamped in and out of every country – including Australia!

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