Week 3: False Starts and Perfect Beginnings

This post takes us away from Jo’burg (finally!) through lakes and red sands to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park.
—-
As I write this we are resting between animal viewing at the Twee Rivieren campsite inside the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park. We finally managed to be up for the sunrise and got in just as the gate opened! But more on that later. Here’s a quick breakdown of our third week in South Africa (already!) and what’s in store for us next.

The Guests that Wouldn’t Leave

After Pilanesberg, we came back to Jo’burg, picked up the foam for our mattress, and after taking our hosts out to a nice steak dinner (that only cost us $80 CDN for 5 people!!), we opted for an early night to get out ASAP the next day.

But alas, there were a lot of small fixes the Landy needed, and by the time we were packed up it was once again after 3pm – way too late to get on the road, especially since we still needed some supplies. Nevertheless, we were determined, so we took photos, said our goodbyes, and started off on our great adventure.

Moreno with Kuda just before leaving - Anywhere Bound
Moreno with Kuda just before leaving (the second time…)

And then, driving out the gate and on every speed bump thereafter, we heard a horrible metallic clunk somewhere in the back. When, after shopping, Moreno still couldn’t tell what was wrong, there was nothing left to do but put our tails between our legs and go back to our hosts for help.

I can’t even tell you how agonizing it was – it was one thing to overstay our welcome, but a whole other to come back, again. But they took us in, helped us figure out what was wrong (one of our shocks broke!!), and found us a mechanic that had the parts we needed. On top of that, I had apparently forgotten my toothbrush! Phewf!

The Landy getting its shocks fixed - Anywhere Bound
The Landy getting its shocks fixed.

And We’re Off!

In the morning, we squeezed in a visit to the Apartheid Museum, one of the only real tourist attractions in the city, and the only thing I had really been set on doing so that our time in Johannesburg wasn’t just spent hurrying up and waiting. Then we got our heavier shocks and we were off, and wanted to get as far away as possible from Jo’burg. The little site on the Rietspruitdam Lake was a perfect beginning to our ‘on the road’ adventure.

Camping on Rietspruitdam Lake - Anywhere Bound
Camping on the lake. A perfect beginning.

We didn’t get as far as we expected on the second day, so we camped and drank ciders and beer while star gazing among antelopes that came out of the bush.

Camping - Red Sands, Kuruman, South Africa - Anywhere Bound
Where we put our feet up and watched the stars.

The Kgalagadi

We found out there was a border crossing into Namibia within the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park (one of the best places to see cats), so we changed our route to head there instead. This was our first time at a real big park, and we were very surprised to find that they didn’t have any room for us. We booked a spot for the two following days and found some camping on the red dunes which were absolutely stunning and the view right behind our Landy was one of my favourites ever.

My favourite view, Kgalagadi Lodge, South Africa - Anywhere Bound
Love love love this view from our campsite.

It doesn’t look like much, but the colors were absolutely stunning. Shortly thereafter, I became convinced the prints around back where giant cat paws, so I was pretty much terrified the rest of the night.

At the Kgalagadi we finally saw some cats, mostly a bunch of lions lazily resting under some trees, but our biggest happy moment was when we saw a cheetah! They have some absolutely beautiful animals here, with patterns and colours that are out of this world. We’ll have posts full of photos to show you what we saw soon.

We also attempted to tidy up the car since we had a couple of days not filled with driving, but it. was. HOT.

Kat cutting bench fabric in the heat of the Landy - Anywhere Bound
Kat sweating profusely while cutting fabric for the bench in the heat.

Next up: Our first border crossing into Namibia!!

Week 1 & 2: Johannesburg Catch-Up

Week 1: Settling into Jo’burg

We arrived in Johannesburg on the 24th to pick up the Land Rover we had purchased online from a guy that turned out to be a modern day G.I. Joe (whom we’ll call James Finch). James had grown up on a wild African farm and had been in the South African special forces, and man, did he have stories to tell us! Of training in the dark, eating rotting baboon guts, scaring away lions, and getting stranded at sea off the coast of Mozambique…And that’s really just the beginning!

Sunset over field in Johannesburg.
Gorgeous sunset at the house we were staying at in Johannesburg.

His family was absolutely amazing not only to let us stay with them while we sorted out our stuff, but also to very much help us sort it out. They spent part of the first week making phone calls for us to find out some key visa and car insurance stuff, and James was able to take Moreno around to help him with the car stuff.

That said, they also absolutely terrified us with stories of how dangerous Johannesburg is. Everyone here has pretty much been affected by crime – serious crime – and it doesn’t show signs of stopping. The consensus seems to be that while Africa’s an amazing place to holiday, living here is a whole other ballgame.

The Land Rover

Inside of the Landy before... - Anywhere Bound
The inside of the Landy before….

As mentioned, our overland adventure will be done in the Landy, but we got it completely bare (more on that coming soon), and needed to get cabinets done and fitted so that we could actually live in it.

This came with some snags and delays, but the biggest hiccup came when we found out that despite what all the papers said, as non-residents, we weren’t able to purchase the Landy off of James. So just to be better safe than sorry, we’ve come up with an agreement on paper to “rent” the vehicle from James, even though we’ve actually purchased it (we have paperwork for that, too), with lots of preparations for the various scenarios that might pop up when it’s time for us to leave the continent.

Week 2: Almost Final Touches

Moreno and Kuda prepping the cabinets.
Moreno and Kuda sanding, staining, and otherwise prepping the cabinets.

By the beginning of the second week we knew we wanted to be on the road already – we didn’t want to overstay our welcome, but there was still so much to do with the Landy. Moreno was able to hire James’ farm hand, Kuda, to help him with some of the labour during the day, but was still up till midnight every night working on it.

Cabinets in the garage.
“Yup…more lacquer…” Airing out the cabinets in the garage.

We also had to go into Pretoria to get our entry permits extended: as Canadians, we’re allowed entry without a visa for 90 days, but since our flight out of Cape Town is past the deadline, one way or another we’ll either be kicked out, or not let in in the first place.

By the end of the week, we were so close to leaving, but we still had no mattress for our bed and no one was available to size and cut foam day-of. We actually had to leave because our hosts were throwing an overnighter birthday for some family, so we decided to take our Landy on a mini camping/wildlife viewing test run for the weekend.

Pilanesberg Test Run

Three zebras, Pilanesberg National Park
Zebras!!!! They were just standing there!!!

We decided to go to Pilanesberg National Park, which is a reserve three hours away from Johannesburg and has the Big 5. Despite our mini adventure getting there (they tell you not to drive at night for a reason), it was a great experience and a great first run! (And you’ll be able to read about all of it and see photos of what we saw shortly!)

Yes, we did finally leave Jo’burg, but not till mid the next week, and not before another hiccup had to be taken care of. That’s coming up in the next post!

Southern Africa: Shots

We recently got our shots for southern Africa. Below is a list of the vaccinations you’ll likely need if heading in that direction.

Countries Covered

Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Vaccinations Needed

Hep A: Liver disease most easily transferable as it is done so through food and drink. You need a primary dose and then a booster shot and you’ll be good for life. ($65, then $45 for booster. Also available as Twinrix with Hep B, $75 x 3 doses, or Vivaxim with Typhoid, $115).

Hep B: Liver disease transferable through blood or saliva. Seems unlikely but this could mean if someone spits in your eye, or you have a cut and someone’s spit or blood touches you, etc. If you went to school in Canada, you should be covered for Hep B. Otherwise, you’ll be required to get it. ($40 x 3 doses. Also available as Twinrix with Hep A, $75).

Measles/Mumps/Rubella: You need a live vaccine that you would’ve likely gotten as a child; however, as they are good for only 10 years, it might be time for a booster shot. If yours has expired, you’ll be required to get it. ($40).

Typhoid: Fever after ingesting food contaminated with human feces. Sounds gross, but in the developing countries that still use this as fertilizer, totally possible.  The shot will have you vaccinated for two years. ($45, or $55, see below).

Advice: Get this in your non-dominant arm, because it will be sore.

Also: There are a series of four pills you can take that are only slightly more expensive and will protect you for five years. I’m not a fan of pills myself, but if I hadn’t misunderstood the duration difference, I would’ve probably spared myself the pain and just got the pills.

Tetanus/Diptheria/Polio: A trifecta of infectious diseases. I didn’t need the Dip/Polio this time as I got that for my SEA trip, but I did need it for the Tetanus shot. One of the more painful ones. ($15).

Yellow Fever: Acute viral disease causing pain and fever. This is not required anywhere in southern Africa, but many countries require proof of vaccination in case you are coming from a country at risk. Not worth risking having to get this shot on the spot. ($130).

Rabies: No one survives rabies, so you need to get to the hospital immediately if you think you’ve been scratched, bitten, licked, etc., by an animal with rabies. That said, at three required doses within a 21 day span, and $180 a pop, it’s not a very popular vaccine. It is recommended if you’ll be somewhere far away from the nearest clinic or hospital; however, the vaccine will only buy you time, not immunity. You still need to get to the hospital within 24 hours where you’ll get two post-exposure shots. If you don’t have the vaccine, you’ll get four shots (two pre- and the two post-exposure ones). We did not get this. ($180 x 3 doses).

Malaria: From what I’ve heard, you don’t want to get malaria. Lots of options for prevention though, some expensive, some less so. I’ve gotten a pack of pills for $10 in Chiang Mai, Thailand and was fine (I did check for the ingredients), but some might not want to risk that. Pills can be done on schedule so as to coincide with times when you are in at-risk locations; however, as our trip is not set to specific locations or dates, attempting such a schedule would be nearly impossible. We went with Mefloquine, which is taken orally once a week (so less ingestion), and we’ll start it when we leave South Africa.

Note: Known to give you crazy dreams.

Also: Read the instructions, and unless otherwise noted, eat something beforehand! I’ve gotten extremely nauseous a few times before I noticed the pattern.

Dukoral: A vaccine, not a disease. Not really noted anywhere, but recommended to us for Ecoli and Cholera, the most common of the traveler problems: food poisoning from contaminated food and water causing diarrhea, vomiting, etc. A pack of two drinks, taken one week apart, two weeks prior to the trip. Covers Ecoli for 3 months and Cholera for 2 years. ($85).

*IMPORTANT: We had an assessment done by a healthcare professional to determine which shots we actually needed, which were required and which were optional. Please consult a professional before deciding which vaccines to get – there were many that we would’ve missed if it had been up to us!

Southern Africa Itinerary-to-be

We’re in Africa!!  And as we get ready to start our adventure, I thought it’d be fun to post our “itinerary-to-be” for the trip.

The last time I did this was for my Southeast Asia trip, where I opted for the “one beach, one city, one other” plan for each country to get the most experience for what time and money I had.

But southern Africa has a lot of quintessential “others” (like sand dunes!)(and snorkelling!)(and safaris!), so I’ve organized our possible “must-sees” and “want-to-sees” under different names: wildlife, beaches, adrenaline, and landscapes. Quintessential “must-sees” will catch anything else.

South Africa

We weren’t planning on spending much time in SA just so we could concentrate on more out-in-the-wild independent 4×4 time, but it seems plans might be changing:

Landscape: Cape Town – This was always on the docket, because of Table Mountain and because of this view:

Table Mountain Cableway
Table Mountain Cableway by Paul Scott
Wildlife: Kruger National Park, probably the most famous of all the wildlife reserves. We were going to ignore it, but were told we’d be crazy to, and also, that it’s one of the more convenient ways to get from Mozambique back into the country.

Namibia

Namibia was Moreno’s primary focus for the trip, and it seems to have the most to offer from our list of “priorities”…

Namibia - Dunas Sossusvlei by Rui Ornelas
Namibia – Dunas. Sossusvlei by Rui Ornelas
Wildlife:  Etosha National Park, one of the world’s greatest for wildlife viewing, including lions, elephants…you name it.

Beach: Skeleton Coast – Not quite a beach, but an exciting coastline of rolling fog and scattered shipwrecks.

Adrenaline: Swakopmund, known as the adrenaline-capital, to try some sand boarding!

Landscape: Fish River Canyon for a five day hike in the valley of this astounding gash in the earth.

Quintessential: Sossusvlei sand dunes, towering 300 meters over the surrounding roads.

Zambia

Crossing Luangwa River by Geoff Gallice
Crossing Luangwa River by Geoff Gallice

Wildlife: South Luangwa National Park for the highest quality guides in the country and one of the best park experiences in Africa  .

Adrenaline: Victoria Falls – Bungee jumping here has been on my bucket list for years!

Zimbabwe

Victoria Falls - Zimbabwe Side by Steve Jurvetson
Victoria Falls – Zimbabwe Side by Steve Jurvetson
Quintessential: Great Zimbabwe, the medieval city of ancient Africa.

Wildlife: Mana Pools National Park, “Africa’s only park (with lions) that allows unguided walking safaris.” (LP) I suppose this also fits under adrenaline.

Adrenaline: Canoeing down the Zambezi River for some game viewing.

Malawi

Village facing lake malawi by hiroo yamagata
Village facing lake malawi by hiroo yamagata
Wildlife: Majete Wildlife Reserve for some possible black rhino spotting, as well as for the lions, recently reintroduced into Malawi parks. 

Beach: Lake Malawi – We’ll definitely be stopping on Africa’s third largest lake for some snorkelling, kayaking and beach-bumming, whether on the main shore, the Chizmulu or Likoma islands, or Nkahata Bay.

Landscape: Mt. Mulanje, the highest point in Malawi standing at 3000 meters, with most summits reachable without technical climbing.

Mozambique

Once we decided to expand our trip from just Namibia, Mozambique’s beaches became my primary focus.

Ilha de Inhaca, Maputo, Mozambique by Paulo Miranda
Ilha de Inhaca, Maputo, Mozambique by Paulo Miranda

Beach: Mozambique is made for beach getaways, so we’ll likely be beach-bumming all the way down the coast. That said, Quirimbas Archipelago with its white sands and translucent turquoise waters looks absolutely idyllic.

Adrenaline: I’d like to try my hand at surfing again, and Moreno loves his diving, so we’ll likely be stopping at Ponta Malongane and Tofinho for a mix of some surfing/snorkeling/diving/yoga-ing/hammocking fun.