Well we finished yesterday with a short run of about 200 K. We went over a paved pass that should have been beautiful, but it was very foggy and couldn't see a thing. We also did our last 25 k of gravel.
We have travelled over 6000 miles and been thru some wonderful country and met a lot of different people along the way and in our group. Last nite we had our final dinner at a winery about an hours drive from Cape Town; wonderful food. Some danced til midnite.
Was up early and on the tread mill, then did a little last minute shopping with Kait. Then took her to the airport so she can get home in time to start her last year at Colby. I hope Ubershoop makes it O K.
We will have a lot more pictures on next week when we return.
Guest Columnist: Fred Nelan
Greetings from Cape Town South Africa:
Our journey is over and we have arrived in one piece. Words or pictures cannot express what we have experienced. It is one of those things that you had to be here to believe. The pictures will capture things and events in time but never the constantly evolving action of our journey.
There were no accidents and we only ran down a few goats.
There were 65 of us driving 29 4x4s including the control vehicle 48 hours ahead of the rest of us. We were given our road books with each days route shown on maps and more specific instructions for intermediate distances as short as one tenth of a kilometer. The typical day began checking out with control as early as 5AM or as late as 8:30AM depending on the distance and attractions for the day. They always wanted us off the road before dark. We traveled alone but would always have someone just behind and we would gather at the points of interest. We had breakfast at the hotels. Lunch was on our own usually a stop along the road with something off the breakfast buffet but sometimes a pleasant roadside restaurant or coffee shop could be found. On the route we were guided to all the points of interest along the way with some side trips off the route and then a return to the route. We arrived sometimes in time to explore the town we stayed in and sometimes late if we had trouble along the way or if we had just piddled. We had a control car behind as sweep with the doctor and mechanic that would make sure all vehicles were safely in at night.
We gathered each evening for drinks at the hotel bar and exchanged our stories of the day. We ate at the hotel and it was always a buffet. We were with few exceptions in bed by 9 or 10 each night. The food varied from wonderful to ok. We had a wide selection on each buffet including frequently some well prepared wild game. The hotels varied from 5 stars to just comfortable.
The group was from Sweden, Finland, Holland, Luxembourg, Spain, Germany, England, New Zealand, USA, and South Africa. The common language was English although with different accents. This made communication with the locals all of which also spoke English interesting to say the least. I had always thought that these other people had the accents and that in the USA we had none. I now know that it isnít true.
The animals we saw were many. As I described in Etosha Park we saw thousands. We saw the big 5 in Sabi Sabi where I was within arms length of a Leopard. We saw elephants on the road as well as many other animals. We were warned at the bush lodges about walking to and from our room. Some were confronted by Hyenas. In one lodge you called for escort.
All the National Parks were special and appeared that they truly were protecting the animals.
We drove with some speed limits posted which we ignored for the most part. Alan got a speeding ticket in Botswana and paid it. Stewart Jamison got two and fled the country without paying. On the pavement we drove as fast as the Nissan would go which was about 100 miles per hour down hill. On the dirt which was over half the trip it was from 60 mile per hour down to a crawl. The total miles driven was 7,000.
We saw the tragedy of Aids. The cemeteries were full of fresh graves. We found many villages that were deserted and told that those alive were sick inside the huts. We were told that as much as 50% of the population is HIV positive. How sad. Our group decided early on to instruct the Doctor to get blood from another participant if necessary and nothing from the local supply. He had all our blood types and devices to transfer blood directly, if necessary. There were billboards everywhere with warnings to practice safe sex. Condoms were free at border crossings and in hotel rooms with more available at reception.
We were never in the big cities and stuck to the rural areas. I can only speculate about the crime and security problems in Johannesburg, Durban and Pretoria.
There has been a lot of money spent on education. In the rural areas there were many schools with uniformed kids walking the road to and from the area school. It seemed that most of the schools were supported by religious groups. The Catholic Church was the most in evidence.
There are three racial groups. The whites, colored ( a mix of black and white or other) and blacks. The blacks are more concentrated on the eastern cape with colored mixed around and concentrated on the western cape. The blacks were in charge of all the countries we visited politically yet economically in South Africa and in Namibia the whites had economic control. Some of the participants were raised in South Africa during apartheid. They feared that with the blacks in bureaucratic control the wonderful infrastructure in roads etc. would deteriorate. They are in agreement that this is happening.
We saw the natural beauty of Africa. We also saw the good and we saw the bad and the ugly.
I hope I havenít bored you with my daily messages. This is the last one.
God Bless America!
Guest Columnist: Fred Nelan
Greetings from Cape Town South Africa:
Well..............................we made it. After 4 weeks journey we are back at the luxurious Table Bay Hotel where we first began. We crossed the finish line a few hours ago with great fan fare including a jazz band. Ernie and some women danced on the roof of a Land Rover from Holland.
Our drive today was easy and it was sad to leave the last run on dirt. We are going to our farewell dinner in an hour or so. Tomorrow is a day to return the trucks to the docks and to the rental agency. All the broken parts on mine are in the back. Thank God for insurance.
We are tired and our thoughts are of home yet I still would "drive on". What a wonderful journey this has been. Tomorrow or Friday I will send my last email trying to sum this all up as best I can. It is so difficult to describe what we have seen and done.
We return to news of the tragedy of Katrina, of which we had little knowledge until now. We have CNN now and also learned of the mass deaths in Iraq.
Our journey will continue as we fly home very late on Friday night and travel for 30 hours and arrive in El Paso late Sat Evening.
God Bless America!
Guest Columnist: Fred Nelan
Greetings from Ceres in the Western Cape of South Africa:
Sorry that I have not had access to email for the last two nights. When I last wrote we were on the Atlantic. We have moved inland and south the last two nights
The Western side of Southern Africa is like a different world than the Eastern. I am quite comfortable here and feel I can walk around at night in safety. Remember we are in the rural areas most of the day and early on we saw the poverty and villages but we don't see this so much on the western side. There are tourists. Westerners that are camping out and seeing the country side. We see them at all the attractions and meet them at our hotels. Impossible for them to travel like that on the eastern side.
Day before yesterday we broke from the group for the first time in any of our Hero trips. We had been to the rim of the Grand Canyon of Africa and along the road was a suggested break stop for refreshment at a restaurant with a lodge attached, in the bush and 150Ks from the night stop. We were on the veranda enjoying a beer when by chance a room in the lodge became available which we quickly snatched up and decided to sleep there. In the end we were not alone as 3 other cars had already reserved rooms. We had a delightful evening with a total of twelve of us and ate wild game for dinner. Alan and Ernie and I shared a room but that was ok. We did avoid another buffet at the night halt.
We crossed out of Namibia yesterday morning and headed for a National Park that was full of wild flowers at the end of the park. We decided to go to the opposite end to enter and to save some driving. We stopped at a town for a snack close by. At the coffee shop we were told that the owner knew a better place to view the wild flowers. So off we went to a ranch with instructions to get access using this guyís name. We were also give directions for a challenging drive. He was right, the flowers were better and we had a great ride in the bush. We were way off route and Ernie and Alan had me return to the main route sooner than I wanted.
Jim finally put his pictures on a CD and Fed Exíd them to the states. You can view them on seamus.cc. They are pictures of his but we should be in a few and they do have some of Kennyís birthday party some nights ago. Nevertheless it is the same trip.
Today we had a relaxed 300K day over mostly dirt with one 4x4 section that was exciting. It is probably the last although we have some dirt tomorrow. Tomorrow is arrival in Cape Town to cross the finish line after 7,000 miles.
The little Nissans have had a work out and are falling apart in many ways. I lost the second of my rear helper springs today and will return the pieces to the rental agency. I have given up trying to keep the brush guard and front end completely together and will return it with many missing bolts. I pity the persons that buy these trucks second hand because they will be trouble forever. In reality they have served us well but would not last much longer.
Our thoughts are with mixed emotion. We are beginning to speak about flight times for return home and thinking of friends and family. There is still a part of you that wants to drive on in this fascinating place.
The good byes come on Thursday and Friday and are difficult. We have made such good friends on these trips and some we know we will never see again.
We are all talking about the next HERO events and hoping that we will see each other then.
Until tomorrow after crossing the finish line!
God Bless America!
Well if you have been following you know that we haven't been on line in a few days. It seems that the internet is a mystery to a lot of hotels here. We are staying at a nice hotel in Ceres S. Africa tonight, our last night before returning to Cape Town, and when I asked about internet access I got a blank stare. But I found an internet cafe in the down town.
First, I want to thank Ellie for getting all the pictures on the web site. I hope you enjoy them. We will post a lot more when we get back.
Sunday was a lot of driving for little reward. We visited a place where there were some wild horses, but they appeared pretty tame to us. Then we drove several 100Ks to visit Fish River Canyon, which is a smaller, much smaller, version of the Grand Canyon, without all the wonderful colors.
We then had to back track 150 K to find our dump of a hotel and on top of that had another flat tire as we were pulling into the parking lot. (I wish the dealer had put the tires on that I requested.) We've had 4 in all, trashing 2 tires completely, and bending one rim pretty good. I find it hard to tell that we have a flat when driving in a lot of gravel. Anyhow we changed it and patched it.
We stayed in Keetmanshoop, Nimibia, the home of Kait's pet Ostriches family. Kait got a pet Ostrich the beginning of the 2nd week and he has been travelling with us for the whole trip. He is young and just weaned from his mother, but he is still quite small. His name is Ubershoop, and he is a pedigreed Ostrich. Although we got him in S Africa, we learned that his family line goes back to Keetmanshoop, Nimibia, hence the "shoop" in the name. We thought we might have to leave him in S. Africa, but the farm where we got him applied for a permit to take him to the states and called today to tell us that it was approved. It is tricky to ship an ostrich because of their neck, so the cage is shaped kind of funny. I wish I could put a picture of it on line. It's kind of funny. Anyhow Kait will take Ubershoop to Maine with her for her final year at Colby. We have been told that he will adapt to the cold climate O K., but you have to keep an eye out that he doesn't stick his head in a snow bank and freeze to death. We'll have some pictures of him when return. He's a cute little thing, but he'll get bigger.
Monday was a long day almost 800 K. We crossed the Orange River when we returned thru the border from Nimibia to S. Africa, and had to move our watches ahead 1 hour. The highlight of the day was several miles thru the back country thru Mamaqua National Park where we drove thru miles of wild flowers just coming into bloom. The pay back was that there were speed bumps every few meters that were really jarring and slowed us down considerably.
We then drove to Vredendal, in the heart of Olifant Valley, which has a big wine industry. I saw vineyards that were purposely flooded, but haven't learned why, yet. Stayed in another dump of a hotel with had a steak house attached where we had dinner, but weren't allowed to have steak because it wasn't part of the prepaid buffet. One thing the S. Africans need to learn is how to treat tourists if they want to develop their tourism industry. I couldnít even pay extra for a steak, the guy was so adamant.
Today found us taking a shorter route into the Cederberg. We were on narrow back roads for a while and landed in the Biedouw Valley and in the town of Wuppertal. They have a small soap factory and a small shoe factory. Everything made by hand. We bought some soap and I bought a pair of boots, Leejun a pair of shoes made from Kudu leather. The stuff wasn't stylish enough for Kait, so she didn't get any. I tried to explain to the head guy that I was from Gloversville, where we used to glove the world. And he didn't get it. He just kept telling me that they didn't make gloves. We travelled over several passes and thru some wonderful scenery that reminded me of Colorado. We also visited the Stadsaal Caves where there were some great cave drawings, mainly of people and elephants. We are staying in the Belmont Hotel which is old world, but nice. We arrived in time for a late lunch. A pretty good pizza. On to Cape Town tomorrow.
If you haven't checked the photos lately, please do. Some great shots are now posted.
Guest Columnist: Fred Nelan
Greetings from Luderitz in Southern Namibia:
I love Namibia! What a refreshing change from the rest of southern Africa.
No email yesterday. We traveled inland from the coast to The Namibib Desert. This desert rat is right at home here. We stopped last night at a lodge in the desert that was 100 miles from anything and it was wonderful. Half tent and half stucco bungalows. You heard the animals all night. I slept well as it was like sleeping at the ranch. For dinner it was Kudu, Warthog, Eiland Impala and Croc. Also the standard fare. I ate all the wild game.
We were up early and drove 600Ks today as we work our way down to Cape Town on Wednesday. Today it was as pretty a desert as I have ever seen. We climbed the highest dunes after sunrise I have ever climbed. The day was wonderful with indescribable colors of this Namibib Desert.
The German's descendents have obvious control of this country as we see nothing that we saw before in this trip. No slums in the towns no poor villages along the way. Blacks are not as conspicuous as before. Everything is very organized and clean. The towns we have been in are very European. German is spoken everywhere. This is a rich country. Uranium and diamonds. I am glad the diamond shops are closed this weekend due to the holiday. We have not gone to the big cities but tomorrow we will be inland in a larger place. Maybe I will get a better insight into the black population here.
The trip is slowly coming to its end but we are not ready. Ernie and I will be home a week from today. We are still having great fun with all our friends and experiences. Kenny and Diann are having great fun.
Tomorrow is a big day with a visit to the Grand Canyon of Namibia. I should have email tomorrow.
God Bless America!
Yesterday we did not have any phone or e-mail access. We slept in yesterday morning (7:00 AM). Hoping to visit a local rug factory that would make copies of photos into rugs at very reasonable prices.
Much to our dismay we learned that it was a national holiday (Nimibia Independence day) . Nimibia was a German protectorate until after WW I when South Africa took it over. I am not clear on all the details, but somewhere between the 60's and the late 80's Nimibia gained its independence, after some fighting, I believe. It is now a democracy and seems to have an effective government. The population is around 1,800,000 and it appears to be racially harmonious. It is fairly large in terms of land size and very few people. It is also very arid. The roads, although many are gravel, are the best.
We took off down the coast thru some sand dunes to the city of Alvis Bay, which also was closed down for the holiday. We then headed inland and climbed up about 3000 feet to a plateau where we travelled through somewhat arid rolling farm land. We went down to sea level thru the beautiful Spreetshoote Pass. Then on to Sesriem to our over night at the Sossusvlie Lodge. We slept in individual buildings that were part concrete and part tent, had a great dinner and early to bed. We were up early 5 AM, so we could see the sun come up over the Sossusvlie Dunes, huge sand dunes that go in all directions. We drove about 60 K into the national park thru marvelous dunes. Some climbed to the top of one of the dunes. The last 5 K going in and out was great driving thru deep sand. As previously described, it is a lot of fun to drive thru sand.
We then headed south to the Duwisib Castle that was built as a secure homestead in 1903. It was kind of dungeon like. We had coffee and tea at a little shop run by a farmer next to the castle, then took off for our run down to Luderitz. I cannot describe the scenery as we drove. It was arid with some mountains here and there. The colors were reds, purples, browns, black, tans and green. I have never seen scenery like it anywhere in the world. Unbelievable. We pulled into Luderitz in time for a late lunch. (650K of driving). Luderitz is a coastal village surrounded by diamond mines. We then headed out to the Diaz Point , where a Portuguese named Diaz landed in the 15th century. The wind must have been blowing 100 miles an hour. It was all we could do to climb up to the monument. Then back to Luderitz for the night.
Lynn, I got some pictures of a couple of more light houses.
Ellie has been able to get a bunch more pictures on if you want to check them out under photos.
Well Iím rewriting my journal entry as my time ran out and they cut me off with no warning. I lost the entire entry. And this is a really good hotel.
Anyhow we spent all day yesterday (250 K worth) touring around Etosha National Park in Nimibia. We saw 100's of animals. They were all concentrated around the water holes in the park. We were told tonight that August is the month to visit as the animals gather around the
water holes each day. The next two months are too hot so they try to find shade during the day. After that it is the rainy season so they don't need the watering holes. We started the day with a visit to a hole with several kinds of animals including wildebeest, springbok, impala, giraffe, ostrich, and other various and sundry types of antelopes. Also zebra. We visited several water holes where we saw elephants and baboons as well. At one watering hole there were over 200 zebras alone. We saw a leopard cross the road about 100 yards in front of the truck. We got close enough to get a picture with the 35 mm of his backside as he disappeared into the bush. At one water hole we watched elephants cover themselves with mud and dust to keep from getting a sunburn. They sleep on their feet and cross their legs in funny positions as they sleep. It really was a fabulous day for viewing animals. We were lucky to see the leopard, most did not, but others saw lions and rhino, but we did not.
This AM we started about 5:45 AM as we headed for the coast and the Atlantic Ocean and a visit to a seal colony. We travelled for about 75 K on the best 4 wheeling trail that I have experienced in any of these events. On a rocking road, up and down thru creek beds and a landscape that could have been Mars. Really wild. We travelled thru the desert until we reached what is known as the skeleton coast. There were many ship wrecks along this coast in days of yore. If you were lucky enough to get ashore you died anyway of thirst and starvation, because there is no potable water or catchable game.
We travelled down the coast to a seal colony where there are somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 seals of all shapes and sizes. They moan groan, bark, barf, and fight, among other things, and create a horrific smell. Kait was really wierded out by the spectacle. There were some jackals roaming around cleaning up the dead seals. It was an amazing site and smell.
We are staying in a really nice hotel and plan a later start tomorrow morning so we can look around the town a little bit. I understand that our discs reached G'ville and Ellie will be adding some new pictures to the web site. A week to go in one incredible trip. As we travel south we have crossed back over the Tropic of Capricorn and it is getting colder again. Long pants tonite. I really wish I was better at putting into words what these last 2 days, in fact the whole trip, have been like. Way COOL.!!!!!
Guest Columnist: Fred Nelan
Greetings from Swakopmund Namibia:
Sorry no internet last night. We spent yesterday in Etosha National Park. Drove the park for 7 hours. We saw thousands of animals. The ones we missed were the Black Rhino and the Lion. They were seen by others.
Namibia was once a colony of Germany and all the whites speak German. There is German food and the towns have German names etc. Very interesting. This part of Namibia is very prosperous and I have a much better feeling although we are still warned about security.
Today we drove west to the Atlantic and are in a 5 star on the beach again. It is winter here and the temp dropped from the 80s to the 50s as we travelled. Long sleeves again. The drive today was 500Ks and a 5:30 AM start as they were afraid that we would be on the road in the dark. We were not and arrived 1 hour before sunset.
The drive was through desert all the way and reminded me of home. It was all dirt with one stretch for 45 miles that reminded me of driving on the ranch. The landscape was beautiful. This seems to be an empty country we drive forever and see no one. Except the other day when we arrived in Namibia, we saw miles of poor across the north. We saw no animals on our route today but were told to watch for the desert elephant and black rhinos.
Still having fun . Tomorrow continuing south towards Cape Town for arrival next Wednesday. This weekend is a holiday in Namabia and we hope to see some native celebrations in some of the villages we pass through.
Ernie is waiting word from El Paso as she will be a grandmother soon and maybe as we travel it will happen.
God Bless America!
Guest Columnist: Fred Nelan
Greetings from a beautiful bush lodge in Etosha National Park in Namibia
Surprise surprise in the middle of the bush an internet connection.
Hard day today - 9 1/2 hours. Left late due to truck repairs but pulled in at sunset. One of those beautiful African sunsets you see in pictures. We have seen many of them. Lots of animals driving in here. We have seen so much wildlife it gets almost boring. Not really. Now that we have the kilometers behind us we will spend tomorrow touring the park and viewing more of the African animals.
This lodge is incredible. We are told we will hear the animals all night long and with luck a Lionís roar.
The area we entered Namibia was so poor I almost cried. We live so well at home it is hard to imagine what these people go through just to survive.
Last night Kenny needed to get his car after dark and was afraid to walk the 100 yards to the garage. Jim Taylor drove him there. Every shop was barred with wrought iron and guarded out front with an armed guard. Felipe would have a big business in Africa.
We are still enjoying ourselves beyond imagination.
Hard to believe we are approaching our last week. A week from tomorrow we arrive in Cape Town and our journey ends.
God Bless America!
Long drive with an easy border crossing into Nimibia. Saw a whole herd of spooked zebra that crossed right in front or us. Leejun was quick enough with the camera to get a picture of one with all 4 feet off the ground. GREAT PIC. I have some good stories to share, but will do so next time. We are on internet by radio from a game camp we are staying in tonight.
The Okavango Delta that we visited yesterday is the largest inland delta in the world. It is really a river to nowhere. The delta is 15,000 square miles. One of the things I found interesting is that you can't drive to the camp we went to in the dry season as it is too wet, but can in the rainy season. Why? The rains fall north of the delta in Angola during the rainy season and the water doesn't get to the delta until the dry season; hence you drive to the camp in the wet season and fly in the dry season. Got it?
We had an interesting time going thru security at the airport in Maun, Botswana. One of our guys walked thru the sensor several times ringing the chimes until the security agent pointed out that the knife on his belt was probably making the screener go off. So our man took it off his belt, put it on the table to the side, walked successfully thru the screening device, picked up his knife, put it on his belt and boarded the airplane. Airport security African style!! Some of group went a different way, for easier driving, but learned that Angolan rebels had been active in the area holding people up recently.
We were up early and at the local Maun airport at 7:00 A. M. (This is a rest day). We were airborne shortly after in small planes holding 3 to 9 passengers for a 20 minute trip (100K) to a camp in the delta. We then boarded dugout canoes. (2 to a canoe with a local guide poling us thru the swamp land). We saw a lot of game from the canoe, including elephants, giraffes, and impala.
After an hour and a half we beached on an island then hiked around for 2 or so hours. We received a briefing from the head guide on what to do if one of the animals became aggressive. (They were hunted by the local tribes until a few years ago so they are still aggressive.) That of course scared some of the people. Anyhow we went on our walk, single file to avoid the snakes. (We saw some snake tracks). We were given the low down on the different dung and droppings for each animal. For example elephants eat the nuts from the palm trees then pass them thru whole in a different area to, in the end, start new trees. I can tell you a lot more graphic stuff, but you probably don't want to hear it. We saw a couple of elephants, six giraffes, (I probably have 150 pictures of giraffes), 4 fish eagles. A group of baboons of all ages (at least 50 of them), impalas, other birds and near impalas, but I don't remember their name.
Then we poled to another island and had a picnic lunch. We made our way back to the camp where we waited as the planes came in at different times to take us back to Maun. It was a beautiful setting and we could hear hippos, but didnít see them, so we didn't mind waiting. Tomorrow is our longest day in terms of distance. We will travel almost 1000 K mostly on paved roads and enter Nimibia where we will visit another game park the next day.
Guest Columnist: Fred Nelan
Greetings again from Maun in Botswanna:
We had a beautiful break today. We spent most of the day in the Okavanga Delta in native dug out canoes called Mokoro's. We were two per boat and pushed along by a poleman. It skimmed along among the reeds and tall grass at a nice clip. A picnic was served and we saw lots of birds and Zebras as well as elephants.
On our return we rounded a bend and in the water were four elephants in our way. One bull challenged us very obviously. The boatmen were quick to stop and retreat and work their way around another way. Really exciting.
The truck is basically back together with some minor welding tomorrow before we leave.
We have our longest day tomorrow at 980Ks or about 625 miles. We will be burning the kilometers to get to the deserts of Namibia.
Hope I find convenient internet down the road.
God Bless America!
Today we were up early and on the road by 5:30 after a quick breakfast at the hotel. We headed for our border crossing and the ferry boat ride back across the Zambezi River to Botswana. We were told to expect a 14 hour day with tough going thru the sand in the Chobe National Park. It actually was quite a lot of fun and we were at the hotel by 2:30, in time to have a late lunch.
Going thru the park on the sandy roads was a little like skiing or surfing. You just had to keep the car in four-wheel drive and keep it going. We teamed up with 4 other trucks so if anyone got in trouble we could all help out. As it turned out it was a walk in the park. The land was very flat and a lot of bush; a couple of the trucks ran across some elephants, but our group saw little wildlife. We stopped a few times to regroup. The last stop included breaking out a couple of bottles of wine for the others. With the slip sliding thru the sand they looked like they were drunk driving all day, so might as well do the part for real.
It got up to almost 40 degrees C today and this is winter. We are above the Tropic of Capricorn now. We ran into some very large trucks on the narrow roads which was interesting to see them so far back in the Bush. We were told to expect to pay the equivalent of about 50 or 60 dollars per car in fees to go thru the park, but at every check point we were told that their sign in book was filled, so we never paid a dime. I think Bostwana could use the money.
We passed thru several native villages. The buildings were mainly made of mud and straw with some brick. Not a lot of people were moving around in the heat. Saw many goats and cows. Tomorrow is a rest day, but we get up early to fly in small planes out to the Okavango Delta where we will paddle around in canoes and watch the hippos and the crocodiles. We are told we will have a picnic if they can find a place without too many crocs hanging out. We'll be back on tomorrow if we don't get eaten by a croc or mashed by a hippo.
As we were travelling along today, having left Victoria Falls in our rear view mirror, I couldn't help but think of Dr. Livingstone and Stanley (of "Dr. Livingstone, I presume" fame) slogging thru this wilderness with all it's variety of wild animals, back in the 1800's. It had to be a wild time for all.
Guest Columnist: Fred Nelan
Greetings from Maun in Botswanna.
We reluctantly left our beautiful accommodations at the Falls and moved on. We are in another 1950s type place. Tomorrow is a rest day and we visit the Okavanga Delta for the day.
I guess you knew I would choose the dirt today. Well it was awesome. Reminded me of home. About 100 miles of sand and hard driving. Total for the day was 250 miles. We travelled in groups and ours was Kenny, the Howells from England, Jim Taylor and the Du Hullas from Amsterdam. The Du Hullas brought up the rear as they had a tricked out Land Rover and were our safety blanket. We did not need it as we all made it through. The Baja has nothing over our day today. The only problem on the track was dodging elephants which are plentiful over here. My brush guard is off again along with the front bumper. The shocks are gone in the rear as we tried to stretch the originalsí life. Worst of all I broke a rear spring. We passed a Nissan dealer about 1/4 mile from the hotel and I will take it in tomorrow for some warranty work. If I had brought my own truck I would not have been as aggressive today but since it was rented what the heck.
We are seeing a lot of wild life. Last night at the hotel Ernie and I walked from dinner to our room and ran into zebra grazing on the hotel grass and we gave them a wide birth and passed on. The HERO organizer, John Brown, decided to pet one of them and one adjacent zebra kicked him in the nuts. Oh well!
Tomorrow the Delta with a canoe ride into the Hippo territory. We are tired and will enjoy our last rest day before some hard drives into Namibia and the finish in Cape Town on Wednesday a week. This hotel is next to and internet cafe and I will write tomorrow.
God Bless America!
Guest Columnist: Fred Nelan
Greetings from Victoria Falls In Zambia:
Well HERO did it again. They have taken me to one of the seven natural wonders of the world. This is awsome to be here. The days drive was long but on fast tarmac. We arrived at a ferry about 75Ks away and it was a mob scene. It was going to take four or five hours before all our cars could cross. HERO had two of their women working the Botswanna side to help us and the macho ferry master did not respond to their demands for special treatment for us and they asked if I would help. I approached the ferry master with an offer of a few thousand rand and we were all loaded on the next trips. Money talks even over here.
A little "cabin fever" in some of the cars now. Some people are riding in different cars. We are doing fine in ours however. This all has a way of working itself out.
I feel that my inability to access internet comfortably has probably affected my message. Really this is a magical journey. It is the journey of a lifetime and we are enjoying it every minute in every way. I know I said
the same about South America and China and feel fortunate to have the opportunity to have the three journeys of a lifetime. We have reached our most northern point and now begin the journey west and south to Cape Town. It's difficult to see the days slipping by. We still have some wonderful places ahead...the Okanonga Delta as well as the deserts of Namibia. The food is great but too much and the hotels usually range from 5 star plus to a Route 66 type 1950s motor lodge. Most are much better than average first class. As I told you last evening they are away from town and tightly secured. Last afternoon we did venture out to a mall that would rival nice power centers in the US. After dark the same area gave you chills. You see few westerners and those that you do see are guided or secure in vehicles. There are no western hitchikers going from hostel to hostel. I guess that I must resign myself to the fact that I cannot mingle
with the locals as I did elsewhere.
Tomorrow we move on and are told we have a choice of a direct mostly tarmac route or a very long difficult one through some very sandy desert roads. Guess which one I will be on.
God Bless America!
Today we took off early for a 550K run up to Victoria Falls in Zambia. We had to wait for about 1 hour to get across a ferry to Zambia, some had to wait a lot longer, (The ferry would accommodate about a dozen 4x4's, but they were putting an 18 wheeler on each load which limited the 4x4's to 4 to 6) going thru Botswanian customs on one side and Zambian on the other. It reminded me of what an Indian told me when I was in India one time "The British invented bureaucracy, but we perfected it". More forms and stamps than I want to think about.
We finally arrived at the Royal Livingstone Hotel, which is really nice, in time for a late lunch. Then we walked about 1 K to the falls. They really are spectacular. Unfortunately it is the dry season so they were not at their full glory, but something to behold none the less. The president of Madagascar is staying at our hotel and I was able to get a picture of him on the way to the falls.
Tomorrow is the longest day of the trip, in terms of time. We are going thru a totally undeveloped game park and expect to have to contend with sand dunes and desert along the way. We will keep 3 or 4 cars together in case anyone gets into trouble.
Guest Columnist: Fred Nelan
Greetings from Francistown in Botswanna.
Long run today but easy as only 50ks were on dirt. Botswanna is a real surprise. It seems relatively prosperous compared to Swaziland and Lesotho. It seems that they discovered diamonds here after England gave it independence.
We crossed the Limpopo river to enter and played the elephants child as we crossed. The river was dry.
I want to venture into the Africa that is black yet it is difficult. Our hotels have never been in the city center. They were all developed on the outskirts of town with a great deal of security. We hope to walk around here as we arrived early and we are near the city center for the first time. The Boers never got their hold on Botswanna and the atmosphere seems a little different here. Maybe it is not as dangereous as South Africa.
Tomorrow we go into Zambia and stay tomorrow night at Victoria Falls. We should arrive early and have the afternoon to relax and enjoy the Falls. I will write when possible. The blacks are not yet into internet and it is difficult to find any service. They are just getting into cell phones. I am again in the hotel offices using their computer.
God Bless America!
Today was a long day with nothing much to see. We travelled about 770 k, mainly across bush with a lot of donkeys, goats and cows along side of the road. We did see a few impala. We crossed into Botswana where we are spending the nite. We go to Zambia tomorrow to visit Victoria Falls. Kenny went with us and Leejun went with Dee Ann. Kenny discovered that he had left his passport in his truck with Dee Ann , so we waited at the border crossing for an hour and a half until they caught up with us. All for now.
The Bush Lodge e-mail went out so I am combining two days worth of journal. Yesterday we got up at 4:30 AM to do a game viewing. We were supposed to be awakened at 5:30, but something knocked on our door an hour early. Anyhow at 6 AM we loaded up on open Land Rovers and went into the bush. It was spectacular. We saw all kinds of game including elephants, white rhinos, Kudos and impalas. The high light was following a leopard for a while. We leap-frogged with another truck to stay ahead of it as it walked thru the bush. Our guide really knew what he was doing. After awhile a 3rd truck came from the other direction. The cat did a left turn and walked right over to our truck and then behind it. I made eye contact with it and could have reached out and touched it, same for Fred. I was afraid that the cat was going to feel trapped and come over our truck instead of around it. After we returned to the lodge we had a big breakfast then went for a walk with our guide, Elliot, in the bush. Elliot is half Zulu and half one of the local tribes. He has been guiding for 24 years and really knows his stuff. We had to go out from the lodge by truck as there were a couple of elephants outside knocking over some trees. They do that to get to the leaves. We drove a little way away then got out of the truck. About 35 meters away was a Rhino down wind of us. He stopped because he knew we were there then walked off along a ridge. We circled around him, up wind, and watched him walk along the ridge line for awhile. He walked around behind another truck and the other people never saw him. We went on another drive from 4 to 7 in the afternoon. We saw a pride of lions that had earlier killed an impala next to the soccer field by the lodge. They were resting for awhile to continue their hunt as the impala was not enough to feed them all. Several trucks came over to view them, but they paid us very little mind. We also saw a civet, which is a kind of cat. Then we went back for a great meal and bed.
This morning we arose early again and went off to view some hippos. Hippos are very dangerous because they are very territorial. They kill more people than any other kind of animals. We then went and saw some cape buffalo, which are pretty mean looking. We saw some giraffes on all the viewings and this AM also saw a serval which is a pretty rare kind of cat. It is amazing how Elliot and his spotter see them. We also saw a couple of bull elephants in a hurry. We made sure that we didn't get in their way. We left the hotel around 9 and spent most of the day driving at 35 miles per hr thru 225K of Kruger National Park. Again we saw a lot of animals including wildebeast which Leejun and I hadn't seen before, but Kait had. We stopped at a restaurant in the park for lunch then continued on to our over night, The Coach House, which is a great little hotel. We get up early tomorrow as we have a 700K drive up into Botswana tomorrow. We have loads of pictures, but no way to get them loaded at this point
Guest Columnist: Fred Nelan
Greetings from Tzneen somewhere in northern South Africa
Sorry I cannot seem to get to computers. The last two days our hotel computer was down and no other options.
We spent the last two days at Sabi Sabi doing game drives (4 of them). Sabi Sabi is a first class hotel in the Bush that specializes in taking you on 3 hour drives in convertible Land Rovers. You need escorts to and from your room due to the animals. It is adjacent to Kruger National Park and the animals move freely as there are no fences. We have seen the big 5 and numerous other animals and birds. Today we travelled the whole day through Kruger. It was fabulous with animals everywhere. We are checking off the species we see and still have many more visits to parks and reserves.
Tomorrow is a long day 700 Ks as we head north into Botswanna towards
We are having a wonderful time and enjoying every minute.
I believe that I am seeing two Africas. One we arrive in, sleep in and sometimes travel in. We also see one out the windows of our truck. Day after day we see the blacks out the window but have little contact with them. We don't stop in their stores. We stop at gas stations that are clean and modern and are served by blacks. We are served by blacks in the hotels. When we venture out to a market it is usually very modern and full of whites. With the exception of the hotel in Lesotho all hotel guests have been white.
Kenny ventured out into a rural home. They fly flags to tell their neighbors that they have meat or veggies to sell. Kenny learned which flag was for moonshine. He went up to the home to get some. With all sorts of confusion he finally got some. A teenager was asking him for a cigarette. He only had a cigar and gave it to the kid. He had no idea what it was. In China and South America we had constant contact with locals. Here we have almost none. We are also warned by local whites that most of them will steal you blind etc. I am not sure they are correct but our group is not having much contact with them anyway. The ones we have come close to have been very nice.
Someone is waiting behind me for the only computer in the hotel. I don't know what to expect down the road as it gets more isolated but I will try. Watch Jim's web site at seamus.cc and at hero.org.uk you can see links to other peopleís web pages. All of us are having the same trouble however.
God Bless America!
Guest Columnist: Fred Nelan
Greetings from the Sabi Sun Lodge back in South Africa.
I have not had email service since the Sani Pass. Strange that Africa is so far behind China and South America on this.
In Sani we were waiting for the Weenie family as they were late. Hero bribed the border guards and they remained open to allow them to pass. They have three small children and didn't need to camp out neither did the Doc or Jingers. The Weenie Family is from SA and had a 6 door land rover tricked out for bush driving like nothing I had ever seen. It had given them trouble from Cape Town. Ms. Weenie refused to get back in the truck and go on. A range river was delivered to them from their home and they rejoined us last night after several days.
The following day was spent touring caves where native Africans (Bushmen) lived and we saw their art.
The next evening we had a lecture from a SA historian on a 1 hour summary of SA history from the arrival of the Dutch in 1650 through today. The purpose was to give us a background for the following day. The next day we toured many battle fields and with the knowledge gained the night before we were able to appreciate what we were seeing. We saw the battlegrounds for the Zulu and the Boers and then the Zulu and the British and then the Boers and the British. Facinating history going on while America was developing. The battles were to SA as important as Yorktown, Gettysburg and Vicksburg.
This country has been in turmoil and tension since its original settlers arrived in 1650. It gives me a little more perspective on why things are as they are here.
We celebrated Kenny's birthday in Zululand and great fun was had by all.
I am still trying to focus in on this racial thing.
Yesterday we drove through Swaziland. Another country that has always been ruled by blacks as was Lesotho. Very interesting contrast from SA. We are now back in SA and on the edge of the Kruger National park and ready for a rest day tomorrow. We will do a short drive today and a game drive this evening. I will have internet service at Sabi Sabi lodge for the next two nights.
God Bless America!
Today was a rest day for the girls. We were ready to leave at 10:30 to drive up to Pilgrims Rest for a lunch of pancakes, a local specialty, when we discovered that out back brakes were worn. Leejun and Kait then caught a ride over to Sabi Sabi Game reserve directly with jeff Poxon and his wife, while I sorted out the brake problem. I had asked that the dealer put on new brake pads all around, but apparently that didn't happen. I wasn't able to find any around here so he is DHLing a set along with a new stud for the right rear wheel. Hopefully we will have them tomorrow. After that I headed in the direction to Sabi Sabi. I thought. It turned out I went the opposite way and wasted over an hour, but made it in time for the evening game viewing trip. Mean while Leejun had a great lunch of crocodile and springbok. The game viewing went for three hours in an open Landrover. We saw alot of animals, including a male and female giraffe, a pack of 40 elephants including many young ones. When we found them the guide turned the truck in the opposite direction in case the dominant female charged. The female is the dominant one of the herd. We saw Kudus, Impalas (including a 409 with a stick shift) and alot of different birds. Part way thru the trip the guide stopped and we had a cocktail party in the wild. Kenny and Dee Ann drove thru part of Kruger park today and saw some lions feeding on some kind of animal. We all decided to ride in the same truck as Kenny because we all knew we could run faster than him. The lodge here is really terrific, we have to have rangers walk us to and from our rooms after dark because the animals can wander right into the area. There is a watering hole off the terrace of the hotel and Leejun and Kait saw some baboons and elephants while they were having lunch. We get up early tomorrow and go for another viewing at 6 AM then return for a 9 AM breakfast. Ta Ta til then.
Today we drove thru Swaziland, which is a land locked Monarchy totally surrounded by South Africa. We stoped at a cultural center where there was a creation of a local village. We were given a tour and then had a presentation of the local dances. Swaziland has an aids rate of close to 40%. The average age rate has gone from the 50's to the low 30's. Where ever we have travelled on our trip we have seen alot of fresh graves in the cemetaries. It is really devastating. We have seen alot of publicity and literature to educate the people on aids, and in the rest rooms they give away free condoms, but I don't know whether it is getting thru to the populous. Certainly alot more needs to be done. The King of Swaziland has several wives and has recently purchased 40 BMW's and a new private jet plane, which has upset some of his subjects. It is an absolute monarchy, so I don't think things will soon change. We also visited several shopiing areas where we were able to buy some local art. We got some beautiful batiks. We are leaving late today as we have just a short trip to the Sabi Sabi Hotel which is in the Kruger Game reserve. We will spend this afternoon and tommorrow doing game veiwing drives. Hope fully we will find a way to get some additional pictures on soon.
Today was a highlite of the trip as we visited several battle fields where the Brits got their asses handed to them at various times by both the Boers and the Zulus. I won't go into all the details, but Patrick Heron's talk the nite before was a big help in understanding the battles. There was a movie made several years ago starring Michael Caine about the Zulu wars we are going to watch again when we return home. The best was the monument to the Boer trekkers which is a complete wagon circle (ala the american west), life size, done in bronze. The boers were able to hold off a force of many thousand Zulus with only about 125 fighting men. I think this was in 1838. I really enjoyed it, but I think my companions were a little bored. It reminded me of how I felt when I saw the Staights of Magellan and Mt Everest. Some thing we studied in junior high school, but never thought we would see. We made our way to the Stillwater Hotel, like a fifties US motel for the nite, where we celebrated Kenny's 65th birthday. We gave him a walking stick to help him in his old age. Sir Terrance and Chris enteretained the young people by drinking flaming drambuie. At one point Sir Terrance stuck the shot glass to his forehead where it left a cicular brand as it turned out the shot glasses were plastic, not glass, and began to melt. They were lucky that they didn't burn the place down.
As you can see we are having trouble getting to places that we can get on line. We are staying in some nice hotels, but for some reason none have taken much action to get hooked into the internet. We did alot better in So America and China. Anyhow. We left the Sani Pass hotel and drove most of the day with the Drakensberg wall at our left, making several excursions up into the mountains to see various sites. We stopped at Giant's Castle where we did a 5 K walking loop to visit the caves with San rock art paintings done a few thosand years ago. They depicted people and animals in variuos endeavors as well as some pics done while they were high on grass. The young woman who was our guide demonstrated the ancient click language as well as the frog language. After she was done with her presentation, she asked if there were any questions. One of our group let out with a couple of clicks that brought alot of laughter, but left her nonplussed until she got it and laughed! We then went to Castle Peak where we visited a museum that further explained the rock art and the history of the people. We found some nice local made baskets which we purchased. We spent the nite at the Drakensberg Sun Hotel where we had a very interesting prsentation on the Zululand battles by Patrick Heron, a local lodge owner and historian. We had dinner with a friend of Hayden's and his girl friend. Basel owns a small shopping center which specializes in local arts and crafts and a restaurant. It is in great location and is doing very well. Basel used to work for Marc Rich of Clinton pardon fame. Hayden, Basel wanted you to know that he is no longer swimming in his lake in the morning, only canoeing. They recently discovered 2, 3 1/2 meter crocodiles in the lake. Hope you enjoyed your swims when you were here.
Guest Columnist: Fred Nelan
Greetings from Sani Pass somewhere in South Africa:
We had a great run today from Marecu. We were told to be at the border with South Africa before 4 PM when it closed or we would have to sleep in our trucks. We rode hard to get here all on rough dirt. We had two hours to spare. One truck has not checked in and I guess they are camping. Jingers and the Doc with them.
The country is as magnificent as any I have ever seen. Again like page after page of a National Geographic Magazine. (I haven't seen any of those african women that I used to see in the National Geographic when I was a kid.) Pass after pass and valley after valley with cliff hangers in between. Sani pass descent was the steepest. roughest, slowest and most beautiful I have ever done, including anything in Tibet or the Andes. It took one hour to go 6 miles with a decent road the last 2 miles.
Ernie is passing out pencils and bubbles left from Sally's wedding. They are a big hit with the kids.
Sorry I cannot fwd pictures but it all I can do to get computer time. I am in the hotel managers office right now.
The day was very difficult on our trucks as we pushed them hard. I am sure the rental agency had no idea what we were going to put these things through. Our quick fix on the brush guards still holding until we can get down the road.
We are all having great fun in our truck. Alan and I switch drivers every two hours and Ernie looks for birds and watches the people and scenery. Heading on north tomorrow.
God Bless America!
Baboons on the golf course. When we arrived at our hotel this afternoon there were baboons on the golf course, which caused one of us to ask how you scored it if a baboon ate your golf ball. It depends on whether you have the time to wait around for results, if you feed him a bag of prunes. Of course if you wait you have to play it where it lies. Today was another mountain day. We left at 6:15 to make sure that we made it to the border by 4:00. We made it with time to spare. The views again were spectacular. The road down the pass between the border check points was as challenging as I have seen on all the rallys. It was steep gravel with almost impossible hairpin turns, with other trucks coming up. Today reminded me a little of the Inca Trail because we met some large trucks and buses on the narrow mountain roads. But it was not nearly as busy as So. America. We were also up in the snow again and above 10,000 feet, our highest in the event. I had no idea that Africa had the mountains that it has. We had views today that I have never seen anywhere before. We arrived in time to have a nice lunch on the patio then Leejun and Kait took a walk. Fred and I went for a hike and climbed up to the top of a plateau and had wonderful views. We couldn't find the trail up, so we bush wacked. All I could think about was stepping on some kind of crazy snake and wondering if there were any lions around here. We did see something that was either some kind of deer or some kind of cat. Fred thought it was a cat because of the way it walked. Tomorrow we are going along the Drakenberg Wall for most of the day. We are going into the uKhahlamba Drakenberg Park which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We will do alot of site seeing. Hayden, we are having dinner tomorrow nite with your friends after we hear atalk about the ZULU Wars, from an expert. Herb, everyone from Inca trail says hello.
We left Rhodes early to make a very steep climb up a pass to the Tiffendell Ski area where i had hoped to make a run. We got there too early and didn't feel like staying around. Not much anyway. We then spent most of the day travelling thru high mountain vistas. Every which way we looked could be a picture post card. It looked alot like parts of the american west. We travelled thru many local villages. And then went into the country of Lesotho, where we stopped at the Malalea Lodge for lunch. That was a trip, Mr Jones has been in business for 20 years and caters mainly to hikers. He just lays out what ever food he has for lunch and charges thirty rand to eat (about $4) He ran out today because he wasn't expecting us. Lesotho is a mountain Kingdom founded in the early 1800's. They had A VERY STRONG RULER WHO WAS ABLE TO FIGHT THE COLONIALS AND KEEP THEM OUT. It is still a kingdom, but the king doesn't have much power and servers a t the pleasure of the rest of the chiefs. It has had an elected government since the early 60's. Before we left the USA Leejun bought a bunch of toys at a dollar store, to give to kids. Today we gave some to some kids along the road. They took them and started giggling, then ran away. We learned later that this is a no no, because they then expected to get some thing from everyone passing thru and then were not very nice to some of the others. we are staying in the capital of Lesotho, Maseru, tonite. It isn't much of a city, but the hotel is pretty good. Tommorrow we are going back into So Africa and have to be at the border by 4 PM when it closes or be stuck in no man's land over nite. So far the trip is going well, except for the computer problems.
Guest Columnist: Fred Nelan
Greetings from Masreu, Lesotho:
A country I had never heard of until this trip. Very different from South Africa. The blacks have been control for several centuries. It was a British protectorate. In South Africa the country side was all giant farms and ranches and the blacks seemed to only be laborers. Here they are the farmers on smaller plot.
In South Africa we felt in a white country and dealt seldom with blacks. They were only in service jobs. Here it is a black country. They are the hotel guests just like us. Whites are not visible in management jobs.
In a filling station a few hours ago I felt like I was in a US slum with the related paranoia. I need to get over that feeling as they have all been extremely nice to us. The roads are full of walkers. Very few vehicles. No
motor bikes and no bikes only walkers. The only problem we had were some school kids throwing rocks trying to get us to stop and give them money. We drove on with no damage.
The natives seem more prosperous than those in South Africa. I am told Lesotho has the highest per capita aids epidemic They are also more industrious.
Last evening was in a hotel in a mountain resort the had late 1800s buildings and a central small hotel. We all slept in guest houses and gathered at the hotel for drinks and dinner. I would take that place over a 5 star any day.
The bonding of the group took place last evening in the bar. A bar that shook with all the dancing even a little dancing on the bar. Sir Terrence was one of the dancers. And of course Kenny and Diann who are having the time of their lives.
The brush guard was reattached by me and Jingers but in the process of fixing it we realized that it was caused by the rental agencies installation. I began inspecting the other rentals and found half with the same trouble. It will take some special bolts down the road to fix. All the shocks on the rentals are trashed. Jingers is checking with the agency get instructions on repairs.
We get very little news the last few days on the outside world as all the tv stations are local. We do know the suttle has landed.
God Bless America!
We left the katberg early and climbed the pass in the rain. Unfortunately it was foggy and we couldn't see the view. Although it rained much of the day we did see some beautiful scenery as we travelled along, spending most of the day on gravel roads. We ended our day in Rhodes which is a very small village and itself is a National Monument. We stayed in guesthouses around town, but met for dinner at the Rhodes Hotel where they served us a dinner of lamb that had been roasting on skewers most of the day. Before dinner we went to a shop at a local farm. The farmer's wife is an artist. She was approached some time ago by some of the local woman. They were looking for a way to make some money (they can't read and write and live too far from anywhere to find jobs), so the farmer's wife taught them a number of skills including painting an embroidering fabric. They drop materials and pick up finished product to a # of villages 2 times a month. The farmer's wife then has some women that make quilts w, wall hangs, pillows etc, which are sold at the shop at wholesale. The also sells them to chain of airport shops in S Africa. Most of us bought some things, from her. While we were doing that some of the farm hands washed a number of our cars, and we tipped them pretty well. The farmer said he grew up there and now had about 22,000 acres of land with 6000 sheep or shoop(inside joke). He raises them mainly for the wool, but skaighte3rs about 1/3 every year for meat. The Rhodes Hotel has a bar that is remeniscent of the wild west and great time was had by all until late in the evening . Dee Ann had the best time from what I hear. There was no heat in our room so we were thankful for the electric blanket. It got down to freezing last nite.
Guest Columnist: Fred Nelan
Greetings from Rhodes still in the eastern cape of south africa.
Sorry yesterday no email service. I am surprised here. Finally the adventure began yesterday. Long day with many hours in national park. saw many animals in the park including elephants. Ernie has found her birds as they are everywhere.
The roads are a mess as it has rained the last two days and we are on dirt. The brush guard has fallen off our truck. Shades of south america again. Waiting for jingers to arrive to help fix it as I have no tools besides my leatherman. The difference in renting not shipping.
We passed a village a few miles back and the road wrapped around a cemetery. There seemed to be 100 or more recent burials. I assume aids. Very sad. We are finally in to the type of trip I expected after China and South America. There are many differences however. The Chinese seemed far more industrious. This is winter here and there seems to be very little activity in the countryside. Very few pedestrians on the remote roads as there were in china. The poor live in brick homes there seems to be a large % without electricity. I know there will be far worse than we see now down the road.
Last evening a truck with South Africans in our group got stuck. Kenny was trying to help when about 50 natives came to help. The driver loaned one a leatherman to cut some ties loose. The ties were cut but the guy disappeared with the leatherman and a backpack disappeared from an open window. They pushed the truck free and he drove on. Kenny is proud since he got muddy before I did.
Tomorrow we continue deeper into the bush and cross into Lesoto. We are going into the Drakensburg mountains and should find snow and real cold.
God Bless America!
Well my computer is completely gone so we will do our best to keep you entertained. WE are going to try to send some pics from Kait's if we can get a good hook up . Short of that we we'll try to burn a disc and send it to the USA for posting there. Day 6 found us leaving Port Elizabeth headed for Addo Elephant Park, where we spent about 3 hrs driving around the park . We saw alot of different animals including warthog, kudo, zebras, monkeys, ostrich, antelope, among others, Unfortuneatly, we saw only one Elephant. We left there and drove up the Zurberg Pass and had a great lunch at the Zurberg Mountain Lodge. I dicovered I'd left my AMEX card back at the Park. Luckily some of our people were still there and picked it up so I didn't have to drive back to get it. Kait drove the next 100 K on dirt roads and over a mountain pass. She did a great job. She had some trouble staying in the track as we are not used to driving on the other side of the road and the perspective is different. We saw monkeys along the road as we traveled along. WE stayed at the Katberg Hotel up on the side of a mountain. It had rained a good part of the day and it was muddy getting to the hotel. A few got stuck, but we made it.
Guest Columnist: Fred Nelan
Greetings from Port Elizabeth on the Eastern Cape of South Africa:
Email is very complicated here for such a civilized country.
Great day today. 9hours of dirt. Hard road and lots of baboons, buffalo, monkeys and the birds we missed yesterday. No worse than the roads on the ranch however. Ernie took the easy route today as something disagreed with her and she was under the weather last night. She is under the care of Doc and recovering well. She rode with Kenny and Diann up the coast. Tomorrow she will ride with Alan and I. We were inland over mountains and through rivers. Great fun and the whole group is electric with the stories of the day and the animals we saw. This is our last view of the Indian Ocean as we turn inland and north towards the animals. The next ocean we see is the Atlantic two weeks from now when we cross the continent.
Tomorrow we will see elephants. Today we had a possibility but they hid from us. This hotel is a 3 star but very welcome after 9 hours in the bush. I have been spoiled by the 5 stars.
God Bless America!
Yesterday I forgot to mention that three of the guys going on the hike are heart surgeons. I commented that if I had a problem that I would be in good hands. One of the Doctors pointed out that by the time they were done arguing among themselves as to the best procedure, I would be dead. Be careful what you wish for!.
Today we took off about 7 AM to do a drive thru the Baviaanskloof, which one of the remotest and wildest valleys in S Africa. Then over Prince Alfredís pass. Thru to some high valleys with farms. Then to Baviaanskloof Wilderness area and over Grass Neck Pass. WE passed thru an area where there reported to be elephants, but didnít see any. The weather was beautiful and we could see for miles. Grass Neck Pass is one lane with sheer drops. There were a lot of 4x4s going both ways so it was interesting. Other than more ostriches and farm animals we saw only a lot of monkeys and baboons. We thought we had been smelling skunks for days, but were told yesterday that it is the baboons that smell. I canít do justice in a description of the scenery. It is a cross between parts of Colorado and Big Sur. We came down out of the mountains and had a picnic lunch, then drove along coast. We went by some huge sand dunes. Today will be the last look at the coast as tomorrow we head inland. We are staying tonite on the water. Tomorrow we are visiting an elephant park in the morning. Still having problems with pictures.
Guest Columnist: Fred Nelan
Greetings from Tnysna in the Eastern Cape of South Africa:
Go to Hero.org.uk to see some info on the trip and some stories about Kenny. We had a great day yesterday with some tarmac and dirt over some steep passes. A South African on our trip made the trip to here in 1 hour and we drove for 9. We had a free day today and went to do some bird watching. No birds. Sort of like a deer hunt with no deer. Oh well. I had the famous Tnysna oysters and a great afternoon drinking the local white wine. The road book says tomorrow the adventure begins. I hope so as we are still driving in circles and from one 5+ star hotel on the ocean to another. Kenny thinks this one is the finest hotels he has ever stayed in. Tomorrow we hit the dirt and head north. It goes down hill from here on accomodations. The days will be long and hard as we head for the animals and other countries. We continue to get warnings about hitch hikers and fake accidents. We are instructed to drive on. We are told they will throw dead bodies in your way to make you think you hit them or they fake accidents and you will stop for a car jacking or something worse. Drive on! The trucks are ready and most of the bugs are worked out. The Mitchells from New Zealand are still sorting out theirs but everyone else is ready. The food is great but will also go down hill from here we are told. Still looking for Zebra steaks. The ostrich meat is great. We rode ostriches yesterday. Tonight we have a dinner cruise on the only paddle boat in Africa.
God Bless America!
Today was rest day, but 5 of us went on a hike around the Plattenberg peninsula, a hike of over 9 K. Quite a bit of up and down, along some cliff tops and along the water over some good size rocks. We saw a zillion seals and a lot of birds. It was really beautiful with the surf breaking on the rocks. Then we went o a beach side restaurant for lunch. A couple of the guys stayed and went for a swim, but three of us headed back. Kait and Leejun took advantage of the spa. Leejun and I went to pick up lunch for tomorrow as we will be up in the mountains with no restaurants. We picked up some Kentucky Fried chicken and some e veggies, cheese and a loaf of bread. And a cooler. Tomorrow is a long day, with about 300 k of gravel roads and a couple of high mountain passes. We will get an early start. Tonight we went on a paddle wheel boat for dinner. It was dark so I think the boat just kept going around in circles. We have about given up on trying getting pictures on the web site, internet is too slow. Hopefully we will be able to solve the problem, but if not we will load a bunch on when we return. Following is from Leejun, hi everyone, itís been three days on the road, we havenít seen real Africa yet, we saw some animals, and most of them are inside the fence and in a farm. Our group stayed overnight at Pezula Spa and Resort hotel in a town called Knysna, this town has many America influence such as fast food: KFC, McDonalds, the main street looks like any American town. Our hotel is located on 4 Km x 2Km of land with first class facility. The resort is owned by an American man who invented copy machine. We went to grocery store this afternoon, bought a few things for picnic lunch tomorrow, the grocery store is very similar to the ones in America. Itís a relaxing day for me and Kait, I meditated and read. Kait spent time with her new friend from UK, her name is Gemma, very pretty girl, a year older than Kait. Weather is rather nice during the day, temperature drops in the morning and at night. Well, itís getting late, talk to you soon.
Today was a busy day. We took off about 7:15 and headed down the road to an ostrich farm. This is the area of S A where they raise ostriches. We had a tour and learned all about them. Males mate for life , but females are very promiscuous and have several mates.
They live to be 60 or 80 years old. Ostriches actually have 2 fingers underneath their wings. They are exceptionally strong and have 19 vertebras in their neck which is very flexible. The are not very smart as their brain is only about 2/3 Ďs the size as one of their eyes. The females coloring make the hard to see during the day, so they sit on the eggs during the day
and the males sit on them at nite, due to their dark coloring. Anyhow we know more than you want to know or hear about. Next we fed them, then we got to sit on them. Because of my size I couldnít ride one, but Kait and Leejun did. Them three of the farm hands rode them
in a race. They really move out. Next we went thru Oudtsboorn on the way to the Cango caves. We did an hour tour of the caves. Only a small portion is open to the public, but it is quite spectacular. From there we headed up over Swartberg Pass, which in many places is only one lane wide with drops of several thousand feet off the edge. It was all gravel road as well. The
views are unbelievable. I donít think our pictures will do it justice. From there we dropped down into the small village of Prince Albert (do you have Prince Albert in a can? You do! Well then let him out) where we had a nice lunch at the hotel. We then headed on thru the spectacular Meiringspoort gorge and the Montagu pass to the town of George, where we visited a railroad museum. Herb, I took some pictures, but they came out pretty dark. Hopefully you will be able to make out some of the stuff. They had a lot of old steam engines and cars as well as many automobiles. We then had an hour run to our hotel and tomorrow is a rest day. I am planning on a hike with some of the other guys, while Leejun and Kait are planning on sleeping in and maybe using the spa. I know you have all been waiting with anticipation to hear the outcome
of the game between the New Zealand All Blacks and the S. A. Springboks. We were able to listen to it on the radio as we rode along. Put Kait right to sleep. Any how the Springboks won 22 to 16. Only the 3rd time in many years they have beat N Z in Cape Town. One of the participants, Dave Mitchell, is from N Z and was not a happy camper.
Today was a wonderful day. We were up early and left about 7:30. We made a short drive to Hermanus where we able to watch whales for a while. They come right in close to shore sometimes. Ours were a little further out, but we could see their tails and flippers and heads fairly clearly. We then made a run thru farm country on gravel roads, stopping in Elim, where we had tea at the water mill, and visited the church and the museum. A local man gave us a tour. Elim was founded in the 18th century and is populated by coloreds, not black or white, the man told us. The church tower has the oldest working clock in S A. Leejun and Kait went into the grade school and watched the kids sing. The whole town is owned by the Morovian Church. Next we drove to Cape Agulhas which is the southern most point in S A. This is truly where the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans meet. Next we traveled to Swellendam, where we had a super lunch surrounded by cats and chickens and visited the Drostdy museum. The last 150 K was on good roads to our hotel in Mossel Bay. The three of us went for an hour walk on the beach. The water is about 16C, so no swimming, although there were several guys surfing in wet suits. The scenery all day was spectacular. There were fields of winter wheat with fields of canola (which is bright yellow). Weíve had a lot of computer problems and in this hotel phone problems as well, but we were finally able to hook up thru the phone. Hopefully we will be able to get some pics on soon.
WE took off from Cape Town shortly after 8 AM. WE traveled a beautiful route along the coast down about 50 miles to the real Cape of Good Hope. It is a windswept peninsula with not a lot of trees, but pretty much covered with other types of vegetation. We climbed up a trail to a cliff lookout and could see the whole area. In some ways it reminded us of Big Sur in CA. We then drove to the light house parking area where we rode a funicular to the light house. By that time were ready for tea or coffee. AS we were sitting looking from the cliffs at the ocean some one said there we several whales out there. So we looked until some one saw something that we thought was a whale. As we talked about it a waiter came over and said it was seaweed. We said it may be seaweed to you, but we are looking at a whale. From there we headed down the coast to a penguin colony. We stopped for awhile. Better to look at the pics when we get them up. Then we headed inland and thru beautiful wine country. Then stopped for lunch in a little town. From there we headed up over a pass. As we crested the pass we found the road full of Baboons. We got some pictures of them as well. You canít open the truck windows because they will climb in. They can be very vicious. WE then headed down the mountain and turned off on a gravel road. WE went 30 K or so until we finished our day at a nice seaside resort. At one point during the day we went thru an area that had zebras, springboks, and deer on one side of the road and ostriches on the other. All in all a great day.
It has been a hectic 2 days getting ready to take off. I think I have everything ready as far as the truck goes; we leave at 8 AM in the morning. Kenny and Fred showed up in their Tennessee hats again. They look like they have cows with long horns on them, but we know they are really horny raccoons. They canít fool us. We went to dinner with Mike and his wife Jane at a great seafood place up the coast last night.
Today was spent getting some emergency food rations and last minute things for the truck. Also went to a sports store and got some jackets with the S A Springboks logo on them. This sat. The Springboks play the New Zealand All Blacks in a ruby match. That is the equivalent to our super bowl. I wish we were going to be around to see the game. Everyone is here. And I think ready to go. A lot were on the Inca Trail or the China trip, and many on both. It is good to see old friends again. The weather has been just about perfect, if a little chilly.
Gentlemen and women start your engines!!!!!!
Hi everyone, Kait and I took a boat ride to Robben Island this afternoon while Jim had to spend more time in the car garage getting our rally vehicle ready. Robben Island, for 400 years, from its beginnings as a dumping ground for mutineers up until modern life as a museum, Robben Island has been a symbol of oppression and punishment. Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years on this island, our tour guide was a political prisoner himself for 9 years on the island. One interesting story, a prison guards was helping those transferring letters and documents out of prison. One Christmas, the guard brought a big cake for the political prisoners, inside the cake, there was a camera. The pictures later were published on newspapers around the world; they were able to get help from Red Cross and U.N.
Message from Jim: We had a great day, but am having computer problem so will wait till tomorrow to make a longer entry.
By mistake we slept in this morning. We woke up at 10 AM. Leejun went with a hotel tour guide and I met Mike Beachyhead at 11AM and went over to the dealer to finalize any truck issues. Have to go back tomorrow morning to get some parts and get the spare tires onto the roof rack. Next Mike took me out to his hanger at the airport, where he has several of his jet fighters stored. Now, some of you guys think Iím nuts with my car collection. Iím sane!!!!. Mike is certifiably nuts. He has all these jet fighters hanging out and a bunch of helicopters. He is restoring a French Puma helicopter, that I think says will carry 16 or 18 people. They have been working on it for a year and are just getting ready to install the hydraulics. One of his jets has had a ground up restoration, including all new avionics. He runs it as a business and has people come from all over the world to pay for rides in them. He also has a stunt precession flying team. Wild, I mean wild wild!!! By the way Mikeís sons names are Jake and Lucas (I want give them equal billing to Aston). We then got a bunch of money changed to rands so we can pay for our gas in rands. Then spent an hour getting the odometer calibrated... Kait called from JĒburg and thought she might miss her connection to Cape Town, but made it. We picked her up at (PM and she came back to the hotel and ate then went to bed. We had 2 beautiful days, but now itís raining cats and dogs or should that be lions and hyenas. The rest of the crew is slowly dribbling in and we still have lots to do to get ready. Tomorrow is another day. Check out the pictures.
We arose early (4:45 AM) to make sure that we were at the head of the line to get our flight this morning. It worked and we were on the 8 AM to Cape Town. I sat next to a young man of German decent, who is 3rd generation in So. Africa. He and his family live near Sun City (S. Africaís Las Vegas). He is in the chicken business and was headed to Cape Town on business. We arrived at the Table Bay Hotel in time for a workout prior to lunch. The hotel is right on the waterfront with s shopping mall next door. We had a light lunch at a seafood restaurant then walked around the shops for awhile. Bought some travel books and a couple of atlases. Mike Beachyhead picked us up in our new truck (the truck is a used V8 Lexus that Mike has had outfitted with our trip odometer and a roof rack for spare tires) and took us back to his home for dinner. where we met his wife Jane and their three children. Their daughters name is Aston (as in Aston Martin). In fact Janeís maiden name was Martin. Anyhow they cooked us a wonderful dinner. We had great conversation. Mike owns 22 British jet fighters and some of you think Iím nuts over cars. His company is the only company in the world that is licensed to carry passengers at supersonic speeds. Jim Lane told me that when he was down here Mike took him over the Cape upside down at a very low altitude. The weather is cooler than we expected. Gasoline works out to about 2 dollars per gallon and we learned from Mike that we will have to pay cash because they donít take normal credit cards. So tomorrow Mike is going to help me get a considerable amount of dollars changed to Rand. We also will go to the cars dealer to settle up for the work he did on the car and get any operating questions answered. Cape Town is really beautiful. Our view from the hotel looks at the harbor and Table Mountain. Leejun wants to add some things. Hi everyone, S. Africans remind me of New Zealanders, very nice people, most of the S. Africans we met are white, 2nd or 3rd generations of immigrants, and they spoke softly with gentle manners. We were walking at Water Front after lunch trying to get adapters for our trip, the square is packed with people watching an African man performing martial arts, he was putting off fire with his mouth, at one street corner, and a man is making animal figures with tube balloon for kids. A very unusual sound of music come from nearby, we stood by and listen to the local band, the music is light and pleasant. Mikeís daughter Aston is a doll, she loved the lotus book mark I bought from America, and she wants to show it to her Chinese friend. By the way, we have to get a special gasoline card if we donít want to pay cash, locals have gasoline card, I guess tourist will have pay cash. Kait is coming in tomorrow night, weíll pick her up from airport, hope her flight is on schedule.
Well, we took off from Kennedy airport last night bound for Cape Town and beyond. Our first stop was in Dakar which I think is in the Central African Republic, but Iím not sure about that. We landed there just as the sun was coming up. WE then took off for Johannesburg. An eight hour flight, we landed just as it was getting dark. Since we are in winter down here the sunsets are early. Before we left, we were assured that the strike that had been going on at So African Airways was over and we wouldnít have any problems; however that appears to be only true for their international flights. When we arrived we walked into a full airport as many of the domestic flights are still not flying, including ours so they put us in a Holiday Inn near the airport. I think we were lucky to get any room. We are booked on an eight AM flight tomorrow, but many flights have been cancelled, so who knows. We shall seeÖ There were a lot of locals at the airport trying to provide assistance for a price. The going asking price is 20 dollars regardless of the service. One guy got pissed because I wouldnít give him 20 just to load a couple of bags in the shuttle busÖ Anyhow we hope to arrive tomorrow safely in Cape Town and pick up our truck from Mike Beachy Head, who has been really helpful getting the truck for us and getting it prepped.