Where does the time go? Our last blog entry was for the final part of our big trip across Europe and Africa, which finished at the end of June 2013. We’ve just hit the road again, this time for a shorter trip back into Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, into Zimbabwe for the first time and then back into South Africa via the east coast. We plan on being back in Cape Town just before Christmas.
So what have we been up to since we arrived in Cape Town last year? Well, before I (Karen) give you a rundown on that, I’m just going to mention that for this set of blog updates, I’m going to write in the first person. I don’t think that anyone was under the illusion that Marcello was writing any of these entries and, quite frankly, it just feels weird to refer to yourself in the third person! Before I get into trouble though, Marcello does read over the blog to make sure I haven’t forgotten to include anything, and the majority of the photos are his, so his contributions are invaluable!
Right, so just what have we been doing in all this time?
We spent a fantastic nine months in Cape Town between June 2013 and March 2014. During this time we enjoyed so much of what Cape Town has to offer, including lots of amazing dinners and braais with friends, regular walks on Table Mountain, a couple of rugby games, Marcello went fishing several times, we went to see a production of the Rocky Horror Show, enjoyed lots of good wine and therefore needed lots of trips to the gym. We were also honoured to attend the beautiful wedding of our friends Barry and Theresa.
In addition, we were lucky enough to enjoy some weekends away in Cape Infanta, Hermanus and back at Nick and Petra’s farm in Velddrif. On our first visit to Cape Infanta, the Southern Right Whales were in abundance for the mating season and it was a very special experience to watch them breeching the water, especially from the comfort of our balcony.
At the end of August we drove up to Namaqualand to see the spring flowers. We’d had a taste of these on our way down through the Northern Cape on our main trip, but wanted to see them in full bloom. They didn’t disappoint. When we got close to Skilpad, we started to see huge blankets of, mainly, orange daisies. The closer we got, the more we saw, until for as far as the eye could see were fields of orange. When we got up close, we could also see beautiful smaller white, yellow, pink, blue and purple flowers interspersed amongst them. It was spectacular.
In September (2013), we planned a trip back into the bush, to the Kgalagadi, and we were both excited at the prospect of sitting around a fire under the stars and going on some game drives. We got everything booked, packed up Charlie and headed north. Around 20km out of Cape Town we hard a snap and whooshing sound and suddenly lost power. We pulled to the side of the road and, after Marcello had checked things over, called “7 Landies” for help. In the meantime a cop pulled up in front of us and asked what had happened. When we explained, he asked if we were armed. My initial, very English, thought was that he was doing a random check for illegal firearms, but he then went on to say there had been a lot of robberies along that stretch of road, so to get out any weapon we may have on us to protect ourselves with. Right, not nervous at all now then?!
Anyway, we made it back to Cape Town, via a tow, in one piece and it was confirmed that the cambelt had snapped. Much as we were bitterly disappointed about having to cancel our mini trip, we did reflect that Charlie had got us all the way through Europe and Africa with only minor problems and it was better to break down just outside where you’re living than in the middle of the bush surrounded by lions!
Over the next few months, I went back to the UK for a couple of months to visit my family and friends, while Marcello picked up some contract work and enjoyed a bit of peace (!). Christmas was spent with Marcello’s family in Cape Town and we had a fantastic New Year in Cape Infanta with friends Marco & Louise and Roland & Kirsty and their families. Here we enjoyed many a braai, chilling in the sun and the boys caught us plenty of delicious fish to eat. Bliss.
In the New Year, we decided to rebook for the Kgalagadi and managed to get ourselves a nice variety of camping spots for a couple of weeks away in March. When the time came, we kept our fingers crossed as we drove past where we’d broken down the previous time. Sighs of relief could be heard as we sailed past. However, this was slightly premature as further up the N7 Marcello noticed the temperature gauge heading towards red. We stopped and Marcello checked things over and added some water to the radiator. Shortly after we set off again, we heard a noise and as we pulled over, all the water in the radiator shot out. Argh, were we to be duped a second time??? Thankfully we had a lot of water with us and we managed to make slow progress towards Springbok. After a consultation with 7 Landies, all that was needed was a new radiator cap and we were all set to continue our journey the following day.
We had decided to enter the park via Namibia and the Mata Mata gate, so we stopped off in Keetmanshoop and visited the Quivertree Forest Rest Camp on the way through. We did get a comment from the customs officer at the Namibian boarder to make sure we didn’t overstay our welcome this time!
Having now spent time in the Kgalagadi, we can safely say it’s one of our favourite parks to date. We mixed our camping between the fenced, managed camps and the wilderness camps. The wilderness, unfenced camps are definitely our preference, but it’s nice every now and again to be able to have a proper shower and a dip in a pool.
The Kgalagadi is known for its abundance of cats and we weren’t disappointed. On our first morning’s game drive we came across a mature male lion, with his distinctive Kalahari black mane, and lioness with four very young cubs in tow. By the time we left the park, we worked out that we had seen cats on each day, be it lions, cheetahs and even a leopard (spotted whilst I was brushing my teeth on the edge of our camp!). We had some amazing experiences with fairly large prides of lions right by our car and we finally got to see meerkats up close! We also met a lovely English couple, Will and Jubee, who we shared a braai and a few drinks with for a couple of nights whilst we were in the same camps.
On returning from the Mabuasehube area we had booked into Nossob for a night. It was here that my world came crashing down around me. Marcello decided to fill up with diesel before we headed back out for another quick game drive. He got chatting to the attendant and introduced himself. It was then that he looked at Marcello strangely and said that he had a message for him. It turned out to be a message for me that my Step-father needed to speak to me and when he managed to get through to the camp office, that message was that I needed to come home. My mother had been undergoing chemotherapy for the past couple of years and devastatingly they had just found out that it had spread to her liver.
We jumped back into Charlie to start the drive to Twee Rivieren and hoped to make it as far as Upington, the closest big town, that night. At this point the heavens opened, so we were driving as fast as we could for the conditions and got a few strange looks as we drove straight past some cheetahs with a kill, hardly giving the sight a glance. Luckily we were able to make it to Upington and I managed to book a flight from there to Cape Town the following morning and from Cape Town to London the following night. I am eternally grateful to Hanne, Peter, my Step-father, my father and my god-mother, Mon, for doing such a sterling job at tracking us down in the middle of nowhere.
I made it back in time to spend my birthday, Mother’s Day and several weeks with my wonderful Mother before she passed away on Good Friday. I can’t even begin to describe how much I miss her. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I lost my Grandmother four weeks later. Life certainly can be cruel at times.
I won’t dwell on the circumstances, but the months between returning to the UK and now have been somewhat of a blur. I am extremely grateful that Marcello has been with me in the UK and we did manage to fit in some down time, with a trip to the Lake District, Cornwall and also to see my family in the States (with a side visit to Vegas and Vancouver).
As well as catching up with many past friends, we also touched base with a few from our trip. We had a fab braai with Dale & Laura who we’d met in Aswan and then bumped into again in Nairobi, dinner and drinks with Lisa and Ollie, who we met in Tanzania and we were lucky enough to attend the wedding of James and Anna, who we met initially in Aswan and then travelled through Ethiopia and into Kenya with.
At this point in time we still haven’t decided whether it will be in South Africa or the UK when we finally do settle down. We’re therefore keeping the dream alive for that little bit longer and spending time in both.
So that’s a whistlestop catch up on the last 15 months – we’ve only included a few photos from Namaqualand and the Kgalagadi as we don’t have them all with us unfortunately, but this will give you a taste. We arrived back in South Africa in September and set off on 1 October. We are super excited to be back on the road, but more on this in the next update…