Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200607 2 South Africa Swaziland

MONDAY 17 JULY – We set out early to return to the garage.  The fields are full of the black workers harvesting the cane.  At Midland Caravans it takes them until afternoon to sort out the tank leak (in a pipe joint) and repair a door lock and wobbly table.  We try to find the Mercedes truck depot for some spares but get hopelessly lost and give up.  Heading back to the farm a troop of monkeys cross the road in front of us.  In the evening I cook up a meal for Harry and Linda to join us in the van, it all goes very well but highlights one or two implements I have forgotten to buy.  Getting ready for bed the water pump packs in. 



TUESDAY 18 JULY – We have a very comfortable night in the giant bed made up in the lounge area of the van; it’s 7’ wide and 6’ 6” long so even Steve can stretch out.  Wake to find we have no electricity, fortunately nor have the farm so that’s not a van problem.  The pump problem is traced to a dodgy connection and we are back in business.  Harry has rigged up a generator to enable me to sew the new seat covers and with Linda’s help in the latter stages, over locking the corners, the job is done by evening and looks really good.  Steve has spent the day going over the van and found a few leaks around the window and one or two other small faults.  It’s really hard to do a full check quickly and often things come to light over the course of time.  Join Harry & Linda for a last supper of soup and “House of Norton” homemade ice cream. 



WEDNESDAY 19 JULY – Elizabeth the maid is busy ironing the last of our washing; we leave a small tip for her, equivalent to a day’s wages of R50 (£4).  People here are still poorly paid but Harry houses his staff and helps with schooling etc.  This has been a fantastic Hospitality Club experience and we intend meeting up with Harry and Linda in the future, as we have become good friends.  At the workshop they begin fixing the leaks and a few other things, including a lose cooker, but when they put the hose on the van they find even more spots where water is seeping in.  Finally escape mid afternoon but need to pick up spare parts for the van.  Go on another wild goose chase and finally end up at a spare part shop where the owner says he can get them all for tomorrow morning and will refund on any we can’t use – at last a result.  Do a bit more shopping in Liberty Mall before returning to the farm to park up for the night.



THURSDAY 20 JULY – The day begins well with all the parts available at just R195 (£15) for fuel and oil filters, fan belts, plugs and fuses.  We bought and froze lots of meat yesterday so put the fridge on to gas.  When we are ready to leave and switch to 12v we think we can smell gas but put it to the back of our minds when Millie refuses to start.  We’ve had a bit of a problem before but this time even a push start won’t get her going.  Mergan at the parts shop phones a garage to pick us up and check out the problem.  After a long time they have not arrived but a neighbouring shop owner has been chatting to us and recommends Neville at Fix Right garage.  The shop owner gives us a jump lead start from his van (at least we know the jump leads we bought are working) and takes us to Neville who in turn leads us to Robin ,the carburetter man.  He asks us to wait awhile so I crouch down to put the fridge on to gas.  There’s a bit of a bang and a flash as residue gas under the fridge ignites.  I call Steve to quickly turn the gas off at the gas bottle but this takes some time, as he can’t locate the 2 different special keys for the 4 locks on the boot.  Luckily the flames went straight out but I’m a bit shaken.  Put the fridge problem on the back burner when Robin comes to look at the van.  He thinks it may be the battery or starter motor at fault.  We get the battery checked and proved good at Sabat and the starter motor declared not faulty by a nearby Auto Electrician.  Back to Robin who is still convinced the starter motor is the fault or at least part of the fault.  He takes us to neighbour Winston and elderly man who knows “Lucas” motors.  A slow but thorough worker he removes the starter and strips it down.  On a previous repair replacement brushes were too long and have burnt out a spring.  He makes a new spring and adjusts everything else.  It takes him over 3 hours and costs R372 (£28).  Millie now starts but Steve is not convinced we are at the bottom of the problem.  It’s late afternoon and the frozen food has defrosted but we head to Midland Caravans where they discover that whilst securing the stove yesterday they pulled a gas pipe across and pilot light, this has burnt through the rubber and caused the problem.  Thank goodness we had not gone out for the day and left the fridge on gas or it would no doubt have exploded and caught fire and burnt the whole van out.  We’re mentally exhausted and it’s almost dark so we return to the farm where Harry welcomes us back.



FRIDAY 10 JULY – We ask Harry not to tell us we are welcome to return, as this seems to be a bad omen!  Set out towards Durban and join the motorway heading east.  It’s amazing to see people walking along the roadside and others travelling at speed sat on the back of flat bed trucks.  Reach a toll station where we have to pay R10 (80p) as a class 2 double axle vehicle even though we only have 1 axle but twin wheels.  Avoid the city by taking the outer ring road and join the coast at Umdloti.  It’s a pleasant drive along the Indian Ocean to Ballito and The Dolphin Holiday Resort where the Motorhome Club are holding a rally.  The sites are spacious and as soon as we have parked we are brought a tray of tea.  If you have a caravan there are people on hand to erect the awnings for you.  Meet the club president Peter Grobler and a number of other members who are already parked up in the vans.  Many motorhomes are old ones similar to ours although none have the Bedford engine.  We are introduced to everyone and they all seem very friendly.  Take a walk along the beach backed by dozens of apartment blocks.  White people, mainly families, are on the beach and black Africans are on the grass verges behind selling sarongs, flip-flops, hats and towels.  It’s a typical holiday resort and busy even though the school holidays are over.  Spend the afternoon on site chatting and getting lots of advice.  In the evening the club members break up into smaller groups and we sit with a load of ex poms.  George is a mechanic and offers to check Millie over tomorrow, what a stroke of luck. 


Rally rate R100 (£8) night


Grobler – Peter & Margaret, Kloof

Fox – Peter & Lorraine, Durban

Harlow – Alan & Rosemary, Durban

White Rod & Pat, Westville, Durban

Witten George & Sheila, Durban

Oosthuizen Chris & Baby, Durban

Titley -Arthur & Denise, Port Stephenson

Tim & Val, Dundee

Barnell – John & Ann, Pietermaritzburg

Dave & ?, Durban

Morris – Glyn & Margie

Dyss & ?



SATURDAY 11 JULY – When we get up we see a servant going round all the sites brushing up the leaves etc.  Reckon this is serious luxury camping.  Forgot to mention that the ablutions block is spotlessly clean and has bathrooms as well as showers.  George tinkers around under the bonnet and finds out that all the spare parts we bought are wrong!  At least he sees nothing obviously bad in the engine.  At 11pm the club gathers for morning coffee and to congratulate Chris & Baby on attending their 50th rally – a milestone we will definitely never achieve!  There’s a cool change coming so the evening braai is brought forward to 3pm.  We all take our own food and cook the meat on the communal fire.  Arthur gives a brief speech and presents us with a club-monogrammed tablecloth and wishes us luck heading into the “bhundu”, bush/wilderness.  Most people linger until after dark (early at just after 5pm) and we are surprised to find that when we bid everyone “good-night” it is only 7.30pm. 



SUNDAY 12 JULY – A few people pack up to leave early whilst other linger.  Many give us their names and addresses and an invitation to visit.  It’s been a great weekend and we feel we have made many new friends and received lots of helpful advice.  Avoiding the toll motorway we make our way north, into the heart of Zululand.  The only people we see are blacks and most of them are on foot.  Return to the coast at Tugela Mouth and check on to the campsite.  It’s small, quiet and very nicely done out in a rustic theme with lots of local artists adding finishing touches.  There are 2 swimming pools, a TV lounge and other good facilities.  After a late lunch (the oven is very slow) we take a walk along the wild and windswept beach.


R80 less 10% motorhome club discount = R72 (£5.50)


MONDAY 13 JULY – The dark nights are encouraging us to go to bed early and this means we are ready to make an early start at 7.30am.  All along the roads the children are walking to school.  A couple of ladies have police style cones on their heads denoting them to be the “lollipop” ladies.  A sugar cane trailer has collapsed right in the middle of the main highway but no one seems to be bothered about getting it out of the way and all the traffic swerves around.  We make a big detour to visit Shakaland, the original set for the Shaka Zulu series and now a cultural centre.  R195 (£15) gets you a tour including demonstrations and dancing plus lunch.  It’s also a hotel and the receptionist tries to talk us into upgrading to the overnight package, which includes 2 cultural tours, evening meal, breakfast and accommodation in an authentic style hut.  She offers it for R940 for the 2 of us instead of R1000 each and it is tempting but we talk ourselves back to the original planned 11am show.  Having arrived early we sit out on the terrace with fine views over the lake.  Many of the women have their crafts on display with necklaces at very reasonable prices.  Our Zulu guide leads us through the village showing us the housing and different types of craft work in progress.  A movie explains the life of King Shaka and his battle against the British.  Finish with dancing demonstration and a good buffet lunch.  Whilst very touristy it is still a good educational and cultural experience. We’re away just after 2pm and return to the Elephant Coast heading north.  It’s frustrating that we have to go on a caravan park in South Africa as it means we must travel much further than we would have liked and make for St Lucia.  The first caravan park we come to is very basic, almost empty and they want R120 (£10) night.  Reject it in favour of the national parks ones near St Lucia town but unfortunately arrive after the main office is closed.  Manage to pay the guards and get on Sugar Loaf site, much nicer and has a number of campers. 


R 104 (£8)


TUESDAY 25 JULY – We get up early and take a stroll out of the campsite and along the estuary boardwalk and immediately spot hippos.  They are wading in the water quite near the edge and make strange noises.  Walk to the river mouth where the sand has been banked up to prevent and off shore oil spilling seeping in.  Back on the site we investigate why Millie’s horn would not work last night and it looks as though it has fallen off!  The Great St Lucia Wetlands are a UNESCO world heritage area and controlled by KZN Parks.  We have to pay R20 (£1.60) per person and R35 (£2.80) per vehicle to enter the park area and drive up the coast to Cape Vidal.  Almost immediately we are rewarded with zebra sightings and lots of different types of deer.  We also see many warthogs as we make our way to the end of the road at the beach.  It’s a beautiful spot and a hot day so we settle on to the beach but Steve bows out of the snorkelling when he feels how cold the water is.  On our journey back we see repeats of the wildlife sightings plus an enormous deer called a kudu.  In St Lucia we have found out you can camp at Bib’s Backpackers, and take up position in the car park round the back.  They offer free tea & coffee and a night drive to spot hippos at 8.30pm.  The night drive does not sound promising when the driver explains he has a leaking petrol tank and can’t take us far, it gets worse as he finds the first hill too taxing and asks a couple of people to hop out and follow on foot!  Luckily we did not volunteer as he sets off at much too fast a speed.  We go round the town but see nothing at all and return rather disappointed.  A second group are waiting to go and we retire to the lounge to chat.  About 15 minutes later the driver comes in to tell us they spotted hippos and he will take us again.  This time we have a fantastic drive and see a couple roaming the housing estate as if they own the place.  With big spotlights we can clearly see them foraging around, totally bizarre.  Settle down to an early night blocking our ears to the loud music.


R45 (£3.50) p.p.


WEDNESDAY 26 JULY – Make an effort and get up just before 5am to hit the road.  Once we have filled up with fuel we head out of town and to the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park.  It’s dark and very foggy making driving difficult with the added knowledge that hippos may be lurking nearby.  Reach the park just after daybreak at 6.30am, it’s another KZN park, R70pp (£5.60) admission, but I read about the R495 (£39) Rhino Card, 1 years admission for vehicle and 8 people to all KZN parks.   Unfortunately they are only available from parks offices and the nearest is back in St Lucia.   Head off along the sealed road shrouded in mist but as the sun rises the mist begins to clear and we begin by spotting a number of zebra and many deer.  Down a dirt side road we spot a huge black rhino.  Back on the main drag the road turns to dirt after Mpila campsite and we soon begin to see the beautiful majestic giraffe.  Some alone and others as a whole family, magnificent.  We are still seeing lots of deer and also a few ugly warthogs.  Off on another side road we come to an area with many huge vultures.  The van is really taking a hammering and we are more than happy with what we have seen so rather than complete the big loop we back track to the tar road and spot a couple of baboons on the way out.  The main road splits Umfolozi Park where we started and Hluhluwe in the north and we enter this via an underpass.  We stick to the tar roads and see more giraffe, deer and warthogs and get superb views climbing towards Hilltop campsite area.  We see buffalo in the distance on the plains but the best part comes near the Memorial Gate when an elephant emerges to cross the road right in front of us.  A little further along we see dozens of them coming out of the river and walking in single file across the paddock.  It’s now 1am and we’ve been on the road for 6 hours, covered over 200 km’s and feel rather weary so exit the park and just over 1km up the road check onto the camping area of the Hluhluwe Backpackers.  After lunch we do a bit of washing then take a nap. 


R60pp (£4.80) Inc elec


THURSDAY 27 JULY – 7.30am start and making our way north we soon arrive at the turn off to Mkuze Game Reserve.  It’s a rough dirt track of undeterminable length and the park is most famous for birds so we opt to give it a miss.  Stop in Mkuze town for a quick shop.  In the heart of Zulu country we are the only whites in the village but again feel quite safe and get courteous service.  On the main road we watch out for vervet monkeys and antelope that run across periodically and see many people selling small piles of firewood on the roadside.  Reach the border into SWAZILAND and have to park the vehicle and get a ticket.  With this we both go to passport control and where passport and tickets are stamped.  This gets us out of South Africa and into no mans land.  We can claim back the tax on all the non consumable contents we bought for the van but I get the run around from the tax refund office going many times back into South Africa to customs officials, vat offices and immigrations caravans.  Officially I should get an export type form and list every type of item individually, the form has space for 5 items and each form costs R50 (£4).  As we have literally dozens of items and the total refund is only R300 it doesn’t seem viable.  Eventually get a sympathetic official who stamps the back of all our receipts to enable the next office to process the claim.  A check will be sent out to us in England. Steve then takes our passports and R5 (40p) road tax into the Swaziland passport control where we are stamped for entry.  Formalities complete we cross the final hurdle.  Whilst Swaziland have their own currency it is linked to the South African Rand and this is also accepted.  We begin on an excellent road surface through the plains. This lasts for a short time until we hit the road works and notice that almost all the workers are female.  The old road is narrower and has many potholes but it’s not busy and it’s flat with long straight stretches.  Arrive at Nisela Safari’s with a campsite.  Everyone speaks excellent English and greets us with Hello and how are you|?  The campsite is round the back and we pick a shady spot and begin cooking dinner.  As soon as we sit out to eat ostrich that will not be shooed away surrounds us.  They win and we sit inside to finish our meal.  They have many animals in cages and we see a crocodile and a huge lion.  Meet English Dave who is doing some work on the new bar.  He comes over for a beer and we chat about the van and our concerns.  He phones us a friend who will check it over for us tomorrow – how lucky.  Through the night we hear the lion roar, luckily Dave told us it would sound even nearer than it was otherwise we would have thought it was under the van.


R40pp (£3.20) + R25 (£2) elec


FRIDAY 28 JULY – Pressing on towards the border we encounter cows, goats, donkeys and humans lingering on the roadside verges.   Road signage is poor but our AA map sees us through.  Sugar cane and cotton seem to be the main crops and we stop in one of the “sugar” towns to shop.  Again I am the only white in the village where I find prices slightly lower than in South Africa.  Reach the border post of Mananga where Hervey runs a brickworks.  Dave has phoned ahead so he is expecting us but needs to pick his kids up from school before he can look at the van.  We park under a shady tree and spend time making a shepherd’s pie to go with the broccoli I just bought.  Hervey arrives and begins checking the engine.  He has a spare parts room but with little to match our engine, however he is a very resourceful guy and in place of gaskets uses silicone!  Like everyone else he says the engine is good but that a few other repairs have been cleverly fixed in the past, for example we have 2 small air filters instead of one large one!  He works from 2pm – 4pm then sends us to the Shell garage at Mhlume for a clutch cable and spark plug spanner.  They only have a tractor cable and one spanner, which is theirs, but check the plugs and say they are fine.  He reconnects the horn that hadn’t fallen off.  The timing seems better and a few other noises are less noticeable.  Hervey wants to do a bit more work tomorrow morning so we settle on to a corner of the brickyard for the night.  Hervey tells us his Mozambican workers stay on site, in fact he accommodates them, provides food and pays them R600 (£48) month, double what David pays his workers at Nisela!



SATURDAY 29 JULY – With the border closing at 8pm we have a reasonably quiet night until the workers start at 7am.  Hervey and Steve do an oil and fan belt change.  When we are ready to leave Hervey will only accept payment for the parts.  Crossing back into SOUTH AFRICA is quick and easy and by lunchtime we reach Spice of Life Backpackers near Komatipoort.  Yolanda and her partner who is away at the moment run it.  She’s been left behind along with 1 month old Joshua.  She is really friendly and says we can camp in the garden and use the facilities in the house.  She has a volunteer work group of teenagers from England staying and every room looks like a bomb has dropped.  Late afternoon we sit in the lounge and watch the DVD “Stander”, a true story about a Johannesburg policeman turned bank robber.


R40pp (£3.20)


SUNDAY 30 JULY – In the nearby town of Komatipoort we pick up a few groceries and bits for the van.  In front of the car shop Steve fits the new choke cable and needs a couple of extra washers to make it work.  Drive out to Crocodile Gate entrance into Kruger National Park.  We buy a Wild card for R1395 (£110) entitling us to 1-year admission to all National Parks.  Camping is R105 (£8) per site per night and we have booked onto a few different sites over the next 5 nights.  Tonight we are on Crocodile site just a few metres away.  Pick a shady site and check out the ablutions where again there are bathtubs.  Washing machines are just R5 (40p) a time so I strip the beds and Steve to wash everything possible.  The weather is perfect at the moment, hot days usually with a breeze, cooler evenings but warm enough to sit out and relatively bug free.  We are given the run around when we are told there is no LRP (lead replacement petrol) available in the park.  Drive back to Komatipoort to fill up and learn that the Octane 97 in the park is also LRP.  Find it very hard to get correct information here.  Many of the blacks will just give you yes as an answer or guess.  Back in the park we go for a drive to the hippo pools and see zebra, giraffe, Chacma baboon and Blue Wildebeest before we get to the pools where an elephant is bathing in the water.  You have to be back on the site before 5.30pm and can be fined if you are late.  The warthogs are making a nuisance of themselves ferreting in the rubbish bins.  We hear an elephant trumpeting but otherwise have a quiet night.


R105 (£8)


MONDAY 31 JULY – We’re ready to leave when the gates open at 6am but hold off for 15 minutes until it’s light.  Just outside the gates we see a white rhino quite near to the road, so near that when it makes as if to charge we feel quite threatened for a moment.  Notice a traffic jam ahead and find people pulled over to view a pride of lions.  They are quite distant but good viewed through binoculars.  We go further up the track to turn around and when we come back they are on the move and cross the main road to head off in formation.  At one stage a cub is left behind but a sibling soon comes back and nudges it along.  Magnificent male kudu roam near the road, as do lots of elephant.  In fact one crosses directly in front of the car ahead of us and makes it swerve.  There seem to be lots of interesting birds as well as strange trees including the sausage tree.  From the Sabie causeway we see hippos wallowing in the water.  Lower Sabie is our site for the night and it’s well organised with a restaurant, café and terrace overlooking the river.  The campsite is fenced in but still along the banks of the river where elephants wander along the banks.  Around the campsite there are lots of birds including the beautiful bright blue “Cape Glossy Starling”.  Take a snooze after lunch then head to the swimming pool for a very cooling dip.  Sit out reading until dark then eat outside until a few bugs become a pest. 



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: