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Our time in Africa was short now; in a few months we would be back in Europe, back in the UK, back home. Read more..

South Africa and Namibia

November 6th, 2010

Whilst we had an imminent appointment in Namibia to collect Carl’s brother Christian, we couldn’t just break straight for the border without taking in probably the most important landmark in this trip, Die Hel.

A few months before we left the UK we received an email from a guy called Steve, who had been following our preparation in the Land Rover magazine. Steve offered us a place to stay and relax in his luxury chalets over at Franverleigh Lodge (, near Die Hel and on the famous Garden Route of Africa. Once in SA, Steve was in regular contact giving advice on companies and parts and to our complete surprise explained that he had managed to get about 8 other land rovers to escort us to Die Hel!

So on the morning of Sunday 24th October we left Cape Town and backtracked slighty heading East along the scenic coastal road via Gordons Bay to take in Cape Augulus, the southern most point in Africa, before aiming to arrive at Franverleigh Lodge late that evening.

At Augulus, we reversed the Landy down onto the beach and simultaneously dipped it’s wheels in both the Indian and Atlantic oceans. As we engaged diff lock to get off the beach, we thought it wasn’t bad for an old Landy to have dipped its wheel in the Menai Straights between Wales and Ireland just 6 months earlier and then to have driven every inch of the way to the bottom of the African continent!

The following morning we were off, surrounded by other Land Rovers, heading into the wilderness of the Small Karoo, where Die Hel is situated. After a 4 hour drive on dirt roads, crossing umpteem rivers with water flowing over the bonnet, we found ourselves on a clifftop road, looking down into The Hel. Surrounded by hills on all sides, this tiny place gained its name simply due to the difficulty in getting there and getting out. With the Landy parked within feet of a 1000m drop we thought what better time to stop, pop the champagne and take some photos.

And so, on the 25th of October, after 211 days covering over 15,000 miles, having cracked the chassis and rebuilt the engine en route, we reached Hel, our most significant marker yet on the way to the culmination of almost one and a half year’s work. Although we are still waiting on final confirmation, the world didn’t stop for this moment, but it was a pretty big deal for ourselves and all of the people who have helped us to get this far in so many ways, shapes and forms.

Following Tom’s Michael Schumacher-esq champagne celebration we rolled down the hill, being careful to get the right line in each hairpin to ensure we got round in one!

Whilst we knew Die Hel was situated in a fairly remote valley, we were thrilled not only to have good company, but also that the final drive there had been immensely challenging, taking in rocks, rivers, mud and hairpins – a far more fitting road than merely asphalt!

At the campsite at the bottom we were kindly given another bottle of champagne by the guys from the Land Rover club, Brian and Amy, and chilled out for the rest of the day and into the evening, drinking and eating off the fire.

 We had a lovely time, enjoying a lot of banter with the South Africans who, much to our surprise, barely mentioned Land Rovers during the entire evening! It was a truly fantastic day and we are truly grateful to all the people who came along to make this halfway marker such an event (many of whom had taken time off work to be there!). Thanks also go to Steve and Sue from Franverleigh for organising everything and for their help throughout our time in SA.

The following day, heading north for the first time on the trip when we weren’t lost, we received a call from South African TV who wanted to do a feature on us for the 6pm news, having been passed our details by a local radio station.

The timing was terrible, as we were 300 miles away and about to cross the Namibian border, so it just wasn’t feasible. Feeling as if we had been told by a beautiful woman that she wanted to sleep with us just as we had left the party, we were gutted. However, considering what we had come through recently and were back on the road, the disappointment didn’t last long.

We camped that night at a smart campsite in Uppington, near the Namibian border and were amazed to wake up to find that our buckets had been stolen off of the roof. This was the first item to have been stolen off the car in Africa and it had happened as we had been sleeping!

We set off and were on the road to the border when the engine suddenly died. At the side of the road a quick check of the fuel filter told us that the engine wasn’t getting enough diesel so we instantly suspected another stray piece of silicone in the fuel tank had caught up in one of the connections on the fuel pipe.

However, when we took apart all the connections we found nothing. Frustrated at not finding a cause for the problem we used the compressor to blow out all the fuel lines, the fuel pump and then fuel pick-up from the tank. We reassembled everything and the engine fired first time, running just like normal.

A bit non-plussed as to what had caused this, we continued with caution. We will save stripping and emptying the fuel lift pump and fuel injection pump unit we have an occurrence and can’t go any further!

The Namib border crossing was easy, helped somewhat by the trade agreement between RSA, Namib and Botswana. Three CARNET pages saved, woohoo!

Now in Namibia we feel we are closer to being back in ‘real Africa’, a good indicator of which is generally the police uniform of a country. Here in Namibia the boys in authority have plumped for a striking chocolate and coffee brown camouflage affair, not quite a garish as the bright blue and purple camouflage in Ethiopia and Libya respectively, but eye-catching nonetheless. As a general rule, the more garish the get-up, the more militant the men! The other good indicator of ‘real africa’ thankfully hasn’t reared it’s head just yet, as it’s still sit-down loos all around!

Blasting along the lonely desert roads of Namibia, we skipped stopping by at Fish River Canyon, following Tom’s explanation that it was ‘just a big hole really’, and made straight for Windhoek.

After an incredibly eventful, stressful, humbling and enjoyable one and a half months in South Africa we arrived on time to meet Christian and sat back on the first evening having a beer with friendly biking overlanders Jan and Dave, who we first met way back up in Ethiopia.

Following the obligatory first night party at Joe’s beer house and the Zanzibar nightclub, we headed South to take in the Sossusvlei experience, quickly becoming filthy on the reasonably smooth gravel roads.

                Camping close by, we then set the alarm for 4.30 am in order to get into the dunes to watch the sunrise, as is the done thing in Sossusvlei. Despite being exhausted from the climb up the dune and the early start, we sat in awe as the sun slowly worked it’s way up the surrounding dunes, casting the most incredible shadows and providing some amazing photograph opportunities. Within 45minutes the sand all around us was burning.

After climbing another dune further along the road, we engaged in some dune Olympics, completing the long jump, triple jump, high jump and 100m sprint down the steepest dune we could find. Lots of fun was had, but we then spent the rest of the day heading back towards Solitaire, picking sand out of our hair on the rough corrugated road.

From there we went North to take in the Skeleton coast and after arriving at Walvis Bay we can now say that we have seen the North, East, South and West coasts of Africa!

Just outside Walvis Bay we took a few minutes to play on quad bikes in the dunes. Great fun, though there was no perspective of speed, a completely surreal experience drifting a quad bike in 100foot high dunes, tearing up the steep banks and then sliding back round into the downslope, trying to see through the clouds of dust, sand and pebbles thrown up by the guy in front.

After buying bags of wood, brai tongs, beer and some marianded meat we got a fire roaring at the beach campsite and sat back marvelling at the unique landscape which Namibians habitate. As we had approached Swakopmund through the barren desert, within 100m of the coast stood miles and miles of immaculate, untouched dunes, such a contrast with the bright yellow sand and the blue/green ocean.

The following day we took in the Cape Cross seal colony along the salt road, being stunned by how smelly and aggressive the funny looking seals are, before bush camping on a very windy beach just 100m from a 1970 shipwreck.

The following day we visited another shipwreck but, mindful of our need to collect our Congolese visas that day (in order to avoid a lengthy detour back to Windhoek after saying goodbye to Christian) we hit the tarmac road back to Windhoek.

Whilst travelling along, we were intrigued to see the Namibian road working markings, citing “Road Rehabilitation”. We can only assume the road was addicted to crack. (Wait for applause…..thank you.)

So here we stand in Windhoek, topping up oils, water, diesel and food, ready to head to the Botswana border. It’s been an eventuful flying visit back here as the brake vacuum pump packed up on the way back, but amazingly the local parts shops LR Parts gave us a pump for free as they didn’t have the make of pump in stock which we wanted! Absolutely wonderful guys, thank you very much. Look out for more on these guys next time.

 Bye for now!

 For those who enjoy our blogs, we’d like to point you in the direction of other friendly overlanders Natalie and Paul ( who have just started their 18month trip from London to Cape Town. Unfortunately, things didn’t get off the best start as their engine blew up in Holland, requiring them to be shipped home and a replacement engine fitted. Take two seems to be going well however with them now in Eastern Europe. Goodluck guys!

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