Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200609 Mozambique Swaziland South Africa



FRIDAY 1 SEPTEMBER 2006 – Repeat of yesterday but with a bit ore sun in the afternoon.



SATURDAY 2 SEPTEMBER – A beautiful hot sunny morning.  We buy another R20 (£1.60) worth of prawns and Steve peels them whilst I go for the bread.  The market stallholders are getting to know us now and give me a friendly wave.  Spend the morning on the beach and even venture into the sea.  On the campsite we realise that we know the person in the motorhome who arrived yesterday, it’s Lionel who we met with his wife at Phalaborwa but now she is on a photo course and he is checking out Mozambique for a future trip.  Steve manages to catch both rugby and football in the bar.



SUNDAY 3 SEPTEMBER – Morning at the beach and Steve spends the afternoon chasing up TV in the bar, as there are a load of bikers in who want to watch motor biking instead of football!   Just about the time when the football is on there is a power cut.  They trace it to the car park where a car got stuck in the sand and uprooted the electric cable when it was towed out.  In Mozambique style the electrician wears gloves to man handle live wires and insert an extra piece of cable



MONDAY 4 SEPTEMBER – The site begins to get busy with families from Swaziland arriving.  It’s a holiday weekend coming up and many have got away early.  The electric fault has extended to the sockets near our van and they decide to by pass the main cable and wire us in to a nearby caravan by joining 8 small pieces of cable of various types and thickness, amazingly this seems to do the trick!


75,000 Mtc (£1.65) pp plus 120,000 Mtc (£2.65) site from 1 September


TUESDAY 5 SEPTEMBER – As well as the campsite price increasing on 1 September the petrol station has put his fuel price up and the exchange rate for the rand down.  Head off just after 7am and retrace our steps on the good road back to Maputo, by passing the city just before 11am.  This time we have to pay road toll at the truck rate of 58,000 (£1.32).  Turn off towards Swaziland and arrive at Namaacha border just after 12.00.  There are big queues and then we get sent back to pay the newly increased road toll up from R5 (40p) to R50 (£4).  After a quick check inside the van we are free to enter SWAZILAND only to be stopped just down the road for another inspection to make sure we don’t have any raw meat.  An army check point is our next stop and again a cursory glance is given to the inside of Millie and comments made about how nice it is.  A huge advertising hoarding indicates the extent of the aids problem in Swaziland stating “Sex is holy, enjoy it with your husband or wife only, be faithful”.  At Simunye we visit the country club for the recommended lunch.  The 100% beef burgers are tasty and good value, R15 (£1.20) served with salad and chips and eaten on the terrace by the pool.  Arrive at Hlane Royal National Park where our Wild card saves us the R25 (£2) per person admission but we still pay for camping.  The Ndlovu campsite is very near the gate and as soon as we have parked up we walk over to the watering hole where lots of white rhino’s can be seen.  This park is very rustic and how Kruger used to be with just a couple of strands of electrified barbed wire keeping the bigger animals out of the campsite but allowing smaller ones to pass through.  Some of the rhinos walk to within 2 metres of us and we actually find ourselves stepping back.  It’s late afternoon so we book onto the 4pm sunset safari, R140 (£11.20) per person for a 2-½ hour drive and drinks.  We are the only takers so the driver asks us what we are hoping to see and we say leopard and lion.  He gives us 30% chance for leopard but better for lion.  In Hlane most of the animals are separated into different areas to prevent the problems in Kruger where the elephants destroy the trees leading to species becoming extinct due to lack of food.  In the land rover we bounce along the very rough tracks and stop when the driver sees something interesting where he can tells us about the trees etc.  Pass into the elephant and lion area with 10,000 hectares for the single pride of lion to hide.  Following a tip off we encounter the whole pride and at really close quarters.  At one stage we are only a couple of feet away from them and spend a lot of time watching the cubs playing.  We see elephant, vultures and lots of antelope but fail to see leopard and cheetah and return well after dark.  Really the trip would be better ½ hour earlier as for the last ½ hour it has been too dark to see anything.  We just have time for our meal before the 7am “Sibhaca” dancers, much like the Zulu dancing with lots of high kicks. Looking back and having travelled over 1600km in Mozambique we feel it wasn’t really worth doing but for us the only way to establish that was to go and see for ourselves!   


R40 (£3.20) pp


WEDNESDAY 6 SEPTEMBER – We hear plenty of animal noises throughout the night but when I turn on the outside light there is nothing to be seen.  Steve gets up at first light expecting good sightings at the waterhole but is disappointed.  Set out to drive the main track towards Bhubesa (lion) Camp.  Immediately see an ostrich parading along the road.  We have to stop for me to open the gate into the next enclosure and I have a good look around before exiting the van, as we are still in the rhino area.  See stork and wildebeest on the way to the camp and a selection of the usual antelope.  From the camp we cut across the top of the park and exit onto the Simunye Sugar Estate to rejoin the main highway.  It’s a public holiday today (independence day) and many shops and businesses are closed but I do manage to shop at a big Shoprite supermarket in Manzini.  Continue to the attractive Ezulwini Valley and turn off for the Mlilwane Nature Reserve, again a rough track.  From the reception area it’s another 4km to the main camp and a further 1km to the backpackers where we cannot stay as they only allow tent camping.  Back at the main rest camp we find a nice site with a view over the tranquil valley.  Ostrich, antelope, monkeys and warthogs roam freely through the camp.  There’s a lovely swimming pool and although a bit chilly it is well used and induces me to put in a few lengths.  There’s a big lake behind the restaurant with crocodile and hippo and around 3pm they are supposed to feed the hippo.  Today the feeding is a bit late, the hippo in the pool are not the ones who like to be fed and a warthog comes along and eats all their food anyway.  In they evening they put on the ubiquitous dance show.


R45 (£3.60) pp   


THURSDAY 7 SEPTEMBER – Peering out through our window we see lots of vervet monkeys playing in the campsite and antelope strolling around.  There are a number of self-guided walks in the park for which you register and pay a refundable R10 for a map.  We set out on the 2-½ hour hippo trail.  The track takes us very close to zebra and antelope and follows lots of streams with waterfalls.  Next we head upwards to the hippo pools.  The scenery is interesting and varied as is the vegetation and we reckon it to be 2 hours well spent.  The day is cloudy hot and humid and we don’t feel like doing much when we get back.  In the afternoon a rented "bobocamper" arrives with Dutch couple Lisa and Gerald.  They are here for 10 weeks, have a motorhome in Holland and also owned one in America for 8 years.  Take the evening buffet in the Hippo Haunt restaurant, R80 (£6.40), impala and pork are on the menu and the impala is tasty but I would prefer a steak rather than meat on the bone. 



FRIDAY 8 SEPTEMBER – Drive along the Ezulwini Valley but attractions such as the Royal Palace are either very badly signposted and can’t be found or the buildings must be totally insignificant.  Camping at the Legends Backpackers is sloping and there are no other campsites for us to visit in Swaziland so we are out of here.  Double back and turn off towards Malkerns and stop at Malandela’s Restaurant.  Two brothers own the complex; one is into art and the other theatre.  The artistic brother has created the quirky House of Fire complete with its own theatre.  Architecturally it reminds us of Gaudi, and we love it.  Continue over lots of mountains to reach the border at Sicunusa and complete the minimal formalities to re enter SOUTH AFRICA.  At this stage we hoped to pick up a new 90-day visa but new regulations mean they can now only issue 7 day ones at the land borders.  We must visit Home Affairs to apply for an extension or leave and fly back in again from England, yeah right!  Piet Retif is the first town and coming up to the weekend Steve is, as usual, looking to park up somewhere with access to the TV for the football.  We find a caravan park with a Sport Bar and it sounds ideal until we learn that there will be a power cut in town until at least 1pm tomorrow and at 3pm all the South Africans will be watching the rugby.  The next town is Paulpietersburg where I finally spot a few other white faces.  Its mid afternoon and we have already travelled much further than intended.  On the main Vryheid road, just 2km out of town, there is camping at Dumbe Dam.  It’s cheap and we have a super uninterrupted view over the water and it should be quiet as we are the only campers. 


R65 per site (£5.20)


SATURDAY 9 SEPTEMBER – Return to Paulpietersburg to take the minor road towards Vryheid enabling us to visit Natal Spa.  A resort built around some hot mineral springs it is really nice and has a campsite near one of the pools.  Unfortunately there is a wedding on today and they will be using the bar with the big screen TV.  We are not impressed with Vryheid so continue towards Dundee and 15km before the town turn into Battlefields Caravan Park.  The owners are keen caravaners and have created a site on their farm catering to everything they know the caravaners need.  There’s a lovely swimming pool in the garden, many tables and chairs and lots of water features.  Most importantly for Steve they have a Lapa (recreation room) with satellite TV where he can watch football until 3pm.  I make use of the twin tub washing machine, R10 (80p) and soon have it out to dry.  Sit in the Lapa in the evening chatting to Mike and learning about the problems following land claims where the blacks have taken over farms in the area.


R70 (£5.60) per site


SUNDAY 10 SEPTEMBER – We’re meeting friends in Dundee later in the day but Mike says we don’t have to rush off and can stay all day.  Join him watching a TV tribute to Steve Irwin, Crocodile Hunter, who died tragically earlier in the week when a stingray punctured his heart.  It’s another beautiful hot day but the pool is too cold even for us poms.  Arrive in Dundee at Tim & Val’s just after 5pm, to also be greeted by the two Alsatians, Max and Jessie, and their 2 cats.  Tim & Val’s have been away at a motorhome rally over the weekend and have lots to report.  Stay up late chatting.



MONDAY 11 SEPTEMBER – Tim owns a mining operation and first takes us out to view their open cut and underground mining area.  After this we visit the coal washing plant in town and are glad of the protective coats to keep the terrible dust off us.  Interesting seeing the different processes compared to other countries.  In the afternoon Tim lends us one of their cars, the Merc, and we drive into town for shopping and Internet.     We begin to deal with the visa extension.  This turns out to be a big problem as they will only extend it for a further 90 days and they can’t believe that anyone would want to holiday in South Africa for longer than 6-months.  After lots of phone calls we find an office that will offer the full visa to take us up to 1 year, but one of the many things they need is for us to obtain a written Police report from England to show we don’t have a criminal record.  Surely the onus should be on them to check out our criminal record otherwise a professional criminal would forge his own report!



TUESDAY 12 SEPTEMBER – On the outskirts of town is Talana Museum on the site of a Zulu battle.  R15 (£1.20) admission to what turns out to be an excellent many-sided museum.  Begin in the main house with a coal mining exhibition, hall of clothing, bead, glass and clay displays and a mock old town shopping area.  Outside many of the original farms buildings still stand and house interesting displays including one all about the battles.  We spend over 2 hours mooching around and enjoy many aspects.  When we get back to Tim & Val’s we make a few more phone calls and end up pleading our case with the Newcastle Home Affairs Office, the only one to even concede that a 9 month extension is possible.  If we turn up on Thursday morning with all possible evidence to prove our lifestyle and intentions then she will consider us favourably even without the police report. 



WEDNESDAY 13 SEPTEMBER – Our 31st wedding anniversary and to celebrate we are going on a Battlefields tour!  Guide Evan Jones, owner of Battlefields Backpackers, arrives to pick us up at 8am.  With him is fellow tourist Bill from Scotland.  Some guides charge by group but Evan does it for R250 pp (£20) plus admission to the sites at R15 (£1.20) a time.   We begin at Blood River where 464 Voortrekkers repelled 15,000 – 20,000 Zulu leaving 3,000 of them dead.  A full-scale re-creation of the 64-wagon laager (wagon circle) in bronze gives a terrific impression.   Evan tells the story in an interesting way and it’s not at all boring like reading about it in the books.  Bill is ex army and has been a battlefield fanatic for years reading everything about it, for him it’s a dream come true to actually be here.  En route to the next site we pull up for some background history on the 1879 Anglo-Zulu war.  Isandlwana, a haunting place of slaughter, is at the base of a sphinx-like rock with individual whitewashed stone cairns marking the burial sites.  Basically the Zulu army caught the British army napping and destroyed it.  A short distance away our last stop is Rorke’s Drift where 100 British soldiers held off 4000 Zulu, winning 11 Victoria Crosses for their efforts.   Arrive back around 5pm and get ready to go out for the evening.  We take Tim & Val for a meal at the Golf and Country Club.  R65 (£5.20) for a buffet that includes a steak cooked to your liking and unlimited wine.  Steaks are individually vacuum packed and you select the type you want and give it to the chef.  Other diners are Bill & Ruth, new immigrants from Scotland, whom we met at the battlefield and Bill who was on the tour with us and is joined by another couple from the backpackers.  Considering we have only been in town a few days we are surprised to keep meeting up with so many people.  We have a lovely evening and return rather fuller than we ought to.



THURSDAY 14 SEPTEMBER – Tim & Val are off to a mining exhibition in Johannesburg and we want to sort out our visa so we all set off early.  By the time we arrive in Newcastle the Home Affairs Office is open and long queues have already formed.  Luckily for us the immigration office is separate and we go straight in to see Zelda.  She quickly studies our evidence and soon agrees to the extension, however unbeknown to us we should have applied at least 30 days before the old visa expired so now have to pay double the R425 (£33) fee per person as a penalty.  Return after an hour to find we have been given temporary residency visa’s to see us through to the end of our proposed visit.  Drive down to Ladysmith to visit Hoosen, one of the “Mad Muslims” we met in Mozambique.  He runs a bus company and lives on the premises.  We meet his wife Shaheda and she has got a table ready for lunch.  There is loads of food, all spicy Asian style and delicious.  Hoosen then takes us for an orientation drive around town to check out the caravan park before dropping us by the Town Hall.  We want to visit the museum about the famous Siege of Ladysmith and are amazed to find that having paid only R2 (16p) admission we are treated to an excellent and large museum with lots of displays. In a display case is a still unidentified piece of a soldiers skin with a tattoo on it.  Walk back to Hoosen’s and meet his children, boys Naeem and Faeem and daughter Humaira.  They insist we stay for an evening meal, similar to lunch, after which we drive round to the caravan park.  It’s a Municipal Park and the sign says R50 (£4) night but there is no one around to pay.  Steve returns from the showers and toilets and tells me not to even think of attempting to use them, as they are awful, luckily we have our facilities.



FRIDAY 15 SEPTEMBER – We are both awake early due to the traffic noise and drive to the look out for our breakfast from which we get superb views over Ladysmith.  Heading out of town we call in to say Good-bye to Hoosen and family.  We are delayed when Hoosen convinces us we should get the other 4 new tyres fitted here as he has got us a special price of R400 (£32) each at Supa Quick next door.  A couple of hours later and we head out of town, detouring to view the beautiful mosque.  On the outskirts of town we turn off for a quick look at the Burgher Memorial and Platrand Battle site on Wagon Hill.  The Boar Memorial is most unusual with abstract hand sculptures pointing in the direction of the battlefields.  A workers truck comes past and the driver asks if we would like to follow him, as he is about to move a very important stone discovered in recent excavations.  The gentleman looks rather like one of Snow White’s dwarves and is most friendly and polite.  He takes us to a pile of rubble and points out a huge stone with an inscription about Deakin Fort.  The 4-man workforce is insufficient to move the stone so the job is abandoned but Johan Moolman takes on the role of our personal guide to show us the battle sites, monuments, gun emplacements and cemetery along the ridge.  Steve is suitably impressed especially when he is presented with a shell casing.  Our early departure from Ladysmith is delayed even further by a lunch stop and 8 hours after setting out we finally leave town.  Spioenkop is our next destination and it’s a bit of a pilgrimage for Steve as the kop at Liverpool’s Anfield stadium was named after it.  This was because many of the 330 British who died here were Lancashire Fusiliers.  R15 (£1.20) admission and we receive a map with a self-guided trail.  It’s an amazingly steep assent to the top but Millie does us proud.  It’s extremely windy and we are the only visitors.  In this battle there was a bit of stuff up as the hill was ascended at night and camp made on what in daylight tuned out to be a false summit with the main ridge higher up.  There are lots of mass graves and memorials and absolutely stunning views all around.   It’s late afternoon when we leave and make our way to Drakensville Resort.  They advertise a low season special weekly rate and although it is meant to be for pensioners only they let us have it.  The camping area is rather sloping so getting a stand is difficult but we manage.  The resort has varied accommodation including dorms for school parties as it has an environmental centre attached.  Sport facilities included in the price are volleyball, swimming pool, mini golf, snooker, and pool and squash courts.  There’s a bicycle race on over the weekend so it’s quite busy but Steve manages to commandeer the TV lounge.


R230 (£18.40) per week


SATURDAY 16 SEPTEMBER – The bike races are already underway when we set out to explore the resort.  Stop for a game of mini golf on the way back to the van.  It’s very windy but warm enough to sit out.  Early evening we wander back to the marquees where the cycle event was held.  The resort are doing a BBQ, R45 (£3.60) buys you a tray with 1 beefsteak, 1 lamp chop and 1 sausage.  In the Lapa there are a number of braais heated up for you to cook your meat before adding coleslaw, pap (a sort of maize based mash potato) and tomato and onion sauce mix.  The meat is very good but the accompaniments are not to our taste.  Entertainment is provided by a country singer but everything is in Afrikaans, he isn’t that good in our opinion and as the wind gets up and it starts to rain we head for home.  



SUNDAY 17 SEPTEMBER – When we wake up it is still raining and much cooler but we are snug, as a bug in a rug and Millie hasn’t sprung any leaks.  Feel very sorry for the campers packing away their wet tents.  There’s a lull in the rain enabling Steve to walk to the shop and pick up the Sunday paper.  He comes back to bed and we sit there reading.  There’s little respite until evening when we escape to the TV lounge to watch a movie.  Steve stays behind watching sport and can’t get home until after 3am when the torrential downpour abates.



MONDAY 18 SEPTEMBER – Catch up with the laundry using the R5 (40p) commercial machines.  There are squash courts available and we hire 2 racquets and ball for R30 (£2.40) with the intention of having a gentle workout.  We soon realise that our timing and reactions have suffered more than our fitness!  Steve wins the first match 3-1 and as we have the court for 1-hour we continue.  I make to move forward and suddenly feel a sort of chopping pain in the back of my ankle; I suspect Steve has lost a hold on his racquet and it has hit me.  I fall down in agony and then see that Steve still has his racquet.   I writhe around on the floor until the pain lessens.  There is nothing obvious but I can’t put any weight on it.  Remove my shoe and sock and hobble home using a broom for support.  I have sideways and downwards movement but can’t flex my foot upwards. The resort first aid team strap me up and Steve fetches ice.  Fellow campers Johan & Rita phone the local doctor who suggests we drive back to Ladysmith for an x-ray.  It’s about 100km in the wrong direction so decide to wait and see how it settles.  Spend the afternoon on the sun lounger resting.  I remove the bandage but keep the foot on ice, no swelling or bruising suggest it’s not a sprain.  By bedtime it’s the same but I’m feeling very cold so switch to hot water bottle treatment and coupled with painkillers I get a good nights sleep.  So who says exercise is good for you? 



TUESDAY 19 SEPTEMBER – My ankle still aches, I can’t move my foot upwards or put weight on it and there is now a bit of bruising at the back.  I’m concerned as it’s obviously not a straightforward sprain.  If it’s a tendon or ligament then does it neat treatment?  Try phoning a couple of doctors but non-offer advise over the phone and the nearest is about 60km away.  Put out a few “help” texts to friends and it begins to sound like I may have ruptured my Achilles tendon and this could need surgery.  Our South African friend in New Zealand recommends two orthopaedic surgeons at a private hospital in Pietermaritzburg.  We are assured that any orthopaedic surgeon at a private hospital in South Africa will be as good as if not better than any in England.  However we are warned against going to the state hospitals due to the high risk of catching AIDs and that fact that you cannot be sure who will do your operation.  Not a good birthday for Steve as he spends all his time running round after me rather than the reverse.  I contact our UK travel insurance company to find out the procedure and am advised to make a reverse charge call to them once I have had an initial consultation with a specialist.



WEDNESDAY 20 SEPTEMBER – Leave the resort just after 7.30am and join the motorway rather than meandering along.  Get away with the car toll R23 (£1.80).  We’ve had many offers of help including accommodation from Esme, the mother of Ali from Tzaneen.  She’s at work all day but we drive by and find it suitable for motorhome parking.  It’s 11am when we reach a chaotic city centre with many streets cordoned off.  Apparently there is a big court case in progress and hundreds of blacks are out in protest.  Finally make it to St Anne’s hospital only to find the recommended surgeons are at the Medi Centre.  The Medi Centre, on Payn Street, is easy to get to and has a large level car park.  They soon have me in a wheelchair whilst Steve parks.   As I complete the arrivals procedure Steve walks in along with our motorhome friend Ann who is here to collect her husband John after his hip replacement surgery – small world.  Within a few minutes I am in Dr David Thompson’s consulting rooms explaining my injury.  He puts me face downwards on a couch and within seconds diagnoses a complete rupture of the Achilles tendon.  He shows Steve that when he manipulates my left calf the foot responds but on the right one there is absolutely no reaction.  He says he can operate this afternoon and I must expect 1 or 2 nights in hospital.  We return to reception to check in and contact the UK insurance company who agree to foot the bill based on the surgeons report.  Head to admissions where everything starts to go pear shaped.  Basically the UK insurance companies guaranteed payment offer is not acceptable at this hospital, they will only deal with BUPA or Europe Assistance.  If I want to go ahead with the operation I must sign to say I will pay the bill myself and then it’s up to me to claim it back from the insurance.   The computer shows an estimated R10, 000 (£800) for the operation, which we could cover, but with ongoing treatment required this figure is bound to go up.  We spend over an hour speaking to different people at the hospital and the insurance company and end up with me getting quite upset.  The surgeon is already in theatre and I’m next on the operating list.  In the end I sign to say that we will pay just as we get a break through with the UK insurance company offering to use a South African SOS agency to guarantee payment.  I’m admitted to the mixed surgical ward and put in a twin bedded en-suite room.  A mass of paperwork is completed and I slip into a gown before being wheeled to theatre with Steve along side.  It’s late afternoon so I tell Steve to give evening visiting a miss and return in the morning.  In theatre the anaesthetist introduces himself and offers me some options. A type of epidural spinal anaesthetic, alone or combined with a drug to make me drowsy, or full anaesthetic.  I’ve had surgery under local before and it didn’t work so after asking a few more questions I plump for the down and out option.   I have no problems in the recovery room and seem to have been out for around 1-hour; Dr Thompson says the operation went well.  Back on the ward I get lots of attention over the next hour.  There’s a huge cast on my foot from toes to knee, the bed end is raised and my foot is on a pillow but it’s quite painful and I accept a pain killer into my drip.  After a light meal I settle back to wait for the promised bed bath.  Having not showered since before the accident I feel in need of a good wash.  After 10pm they still haven’t come back to wash me so I give up and accept a sleeping pill from the passing trolley but decline the pain killer only to relent a bit later and have to ask for them   



THURSDAY 21 SEPTEMBER – I have quite a good sleep and could have done without the 5am coffee and rusk.  My room companion is Zelda from Newcastle who has had a brain tumour removed, she’s really friendly and we get along well.  Hospital meals are pre ordered from a menu and the breakfast is perfectly acceptable.  Dr Thomson comes round and says I must stay in another night, as today is a crucial part in my recovery.  He reassures me the operation went well, explains I must come back a week on Monday to have this cast removed and a walking cast fitted.  That will stay on for a further 6 weeks after which it will take between 3 and 6 months with exercise for my tendon to give me normal mobility.  Steve calls in to see me before taking Millie to the caravan dealer to book in for some work doing.  My observation of this South African hospital is that there are lots of staff but some jobs seem to get neglected whilst others are seemingly repeated too frequently. Painkillers are offered at every opportunity, maybe they are on commission!  All staff are female and other than badges or their manner there is nothing to denote their nursing rank.  The ward consists of a number of 2 or 4-bedded rooms along a corridor leading to a central nursing station.  There’s a TV built into the ceiling above each bed and you can buy headphones to listen in.  Telephones can be rented or you are allowed to use your own mobile.  Everything else seems much the same as an English hospital.  Steve returns for afternoon visiting and looks really bored and fed up.  We make a plan for the next few days as it will be better to stay in this area until the initial cast is removed.  Steve goes back to Esme’s for the night.  I’m issued with crutches and with a bit of assistance manage to have a shower.  The staff here work 12-hour shifts so they are all familiar faces when the evening shift clock on.  All my vital signs are normal (that’s a laugh) so there’s no reason why I should not go home tomorrow.



FRIDAY 22 SEPTEMBER – After breakfast I manage alone to have a shower and wash my hair and optimistically get dressed.  Dr Thomson calls round and signs my discharge papers enabling me to send for Steve.  At reception they ask if I would like a copy of the bill for reference.  5 pages of printout lists costs for every item including swabs at .13c (1p) each!  Use of the operating theatre, gas and oxygen are billed by the minute and the crutches must be mine to keep as I have been charged R99 (£8) for them.  It totals R7652.84 (£600), surely much less than a private hospital in England. 

We call in for me to meet Esme and stop for coffee.  We’ve decided to go to Howick Falls Caravan Park, about ½ hour from Pietermaritzburg and within walking distance of the town centre.  The reception have kindly reserved us a stand near the toilet block and given us pensioners rate for the week.  Once settled in Steve does a quick scout about time and finds there is everything we may need.


R420 (£33) week


SATURDAY 23 SEPTEMBER – I have a bad sleep.  During the night the plaster cast has rubbed a sore on my good ankle!  Make a poor attempt at having a shower, assisted by Steve. We breakfast outside then Steve sets me up on the sun lounger with everything want.  He sets off to town with a long shopping list.  He returns within the hour having bought 2 pillows, pillowcases and a stool, all for less than £5.  He’s also found himself a small café with a TV lounge where English football will be shown this afternoon.  Our stand is very shady but for about 2-hours around midday the sun gets through and it’s really hot.  Steve enjoys his football, Vicky’s café only opened today and the opening offer is a free cappuccino with all purchases so Steve’s bacon toasted sandwich with salad at R16 (£1.20) is excellent value.  Liverpool wins so he’s very happy.  Late afternoon there are a lot of new arrivals on site.  Sunday and Monday are public holidays and the kids are off school all week.



SUNDAY 24 SEPTEMBER – The extra pillows helped support my leg in the night and kept it from rubbing the other one but I still didn’t sleep too well.  Think I am aching from spending too much time lounging around.  Showering is much easier with the plastic stool to rest on.  Steve pops out to the shops and returns to cook up lunch.  It’s a much cooler day so we are happy just to sit around ploughing our way through the Sunday newspaper.  Sitting out late afternoon I start to feel something tickling within the plaster.   I think an ant has crawled inside but at least it doesn’t seem to be the biting variety.  I’m getting around quite well on the crutches but my hands are getting sore so I bind the crutch handles with cotton wool.  Thank goodness we opted for a van as big as Millie rather than one with an over cab bed or even one of the other options we considered of a van with an outside roof top tent.



MONDAY 25 SEPTEMBER – It’s a lovely hot sunny day so we settle outside to plough away through the magazines that people have left behind and to stimulate our brains with the crosswords and sudoku puzzles. 



TUESDAY 26 SEPTEMBER – Heavy rain through the night continues along with lots of thunder and lightening.  I’m feeling quite sick.  I was given painkillers by the hospital and in spite of only taking 2 tablets at night I am suffering lots of side effects amongst them headaches, indigestion and worst of all constipation.  I’ve been taking tablets to relieve it since yesterday but to no effect so Steve gets togged up to venture to the pharmacy for some different laxatives.  Having taking the full range I finally get relief plus lots of exercise dashing to the toilets!  It’s been a cold day and we even get a hailstorm in the night.



WEDNESDAY 27 SEPTEMBER – I’m feeling much better.  Outside it’s still cool and dull but has stopped raining.  Steve rents some DVD’s, R8 (64p) each, and we spend the day watching Shaka Zulu.  Campsite owner Gail lets me use their computer in the afternoon.  Steve ventures out to the pub in the evening and returns rather cross, the pub has shut before the match has finished and he has to settle for getting the result by text.



THURSDAY 28 SEPTEMBER  Back to nice hot sunny weather.  Steve gets a load of washing in before going up town shopping.  He returns frustrated, complaining of how inefficient the service is in South Africa.  As a customer you feel like an inconvenience and get the run around after asking the simplest of questions.  A classic example of people holding positions that they are not qualified, neither trained for nor capable of doing properly.  I’m feeling much better and manage to help Steve a bit more. 



FRIDAY 29 SEPTEMBER – Another nice day, relaxing for me with my manservant pandering to my every need!  Steve washes all the bedding.  I do a bit more on the Internet and apart from that read and watch the rest of the Shaka DVD.  It’s a balmy evening and we have the van door and windows open until bedtime.  Sleep with the roof vents up but it’s payday this week and this leads to a noisy night about town including a couple of gunshots. 


R70 (£4.90) night


SATURDAY 30 SEPTEMBER – We’re both awake and up early.  Steve returns the DVD’s and checks out his football options for this afternoon.  He manages to watch the entire match at Vicky’s. Another hot day followed by a warm evening.



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