Thursday, September 16, 2021

Ndzopfuri to Pafuri Picnic Site. (Approximately 60km)

The last morning's alarm clock was provided by the francolins; I quite like these natural alarm clocks and they are infinitely superior to the hadedah calls that we get at home.

Packing up was quick and efficient now that we have all got our processes together and making that extra pot of coffee and putting it in a flask for consumption mid or late morning is definitely something we will be doing in the future.  Having a good cup of coffee in the middle of nowhere is a great experience, well, at least I love it.

We were all ready to go and we both hopped into the car only to realize that the keys were missing; I though Caron had them and she thought I had them.  Turns out the tent had them so we had to unpack, unroll and vroetel around in the tent looking for the pocket they would have been in, re-pack the tent while everyone else waited patiently for us to finish.  Even with that abortive start we weren't that late away from the campsite.

Along the drive today we saw some "Kuif Kop Tarentaal" a.k.a crested guinea fowl which was another first for us but somehow 'kuif kop' just describes the bird better than the bland 'crested'.

Morning coffee was at crooks corner which is named for the scoundrels that used to congregate here at the confluence of three countries so irrespective of which countries law enforcement wanted to catch them they could easily escape into a neighboring country and be out of reach of the long arm.  As we have seen over the whole trip, as soon as there is water which, in this case is in the Levuvhu river, the vegetation thrives which attracts the game which, in turn attracts the tourists.  After being all on our own in the park for the last 5 days it was a bit of an adjustment now having to 'share' everything with arbitrary other people.

After a couple of days of mishap free days we had to have one for the road.  On the very short drive from Crooks corner to Pafuri picnic spot we were driving in convoy five in a line and Tony, right in the midle of the convoy, had a head on collision with another car.  It wasn't too serious at least from Tony's point of view, Landcruiser vs Hyundai ... there is only one winner and it wasn't the Hyundai.  Nobody injured and it all happened at low speed but one wonders what the woman was doing driving around a blind corner without stopping and right into the middle of a convoy of vehicles.  Tony was rather calm about it all and even though it all happened at low speeds and nobody was injured, it is still an accident and that always gets the adrenaline pumping.  They swapped numbers and five minutes later we were at the Pafuri picnic spot where we all went our separate ways.

Photo courtesy of Amanda

The apprehensions of our first day have been allayed, it is not true that in every four-ball there is an arsehole.  Maybe we were just lucky but all the people on the trip turned out to be really great people and their presence enhanced the trip rather than diminished the experience so I think in future we won't be quite so reluctant to participate in ventures where we don't know anyone.

Theresa gave a little farewell speech thanking us all for not talking about COVID nor politics and generally being pleasant, normal people and ended with a quote by memory from the bible which was very appropriate for the circumstances and I think that everyone, irrespective of one's own beliefs or lack of them, appreciated the sentiments expressed.

So trip done and I would recommend it to people and especially to people that haven't done overlanding, as opposed to a game drive, before as it gives a real taste of what it is like in a relatively benign environment with readily accessible outside help should one need it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Shilowa to Ndzopfuri via Shingwedzi Rest Camp. (Approximately 90km)

We woke up to the baboons arguing about something, not the most peacefull way to start the day and I definitely prefer the Pearl Spotted Owls but I think Caron prefers the baboons for some unfathomable reason.  We are starting to really get into the swing of things and everyone was ready to roll well before 07:00 so we left spot on 07:00.  I was very sorry to leave Shilowa campsite, I could really see myself spending a few days here under the shady trees in the bend of the dry river with nice hills nearby to climb.

Today was the day we started to see Baobabs which are a truly iconic Southern African tree and the first one we stopped at was about 300 years old and it turns out that the elephants really like to eat the tree and in the photograph below the big hole into which Tony and Cheryl have climbed is the result of the elephants.  Some of the Baobabs that we saw had been gnawed all the way around which for most trees would have been a death sentence but the Baobab is special in that kind of way.


Elephant damage. Photo courtesy of Caron.

There had been a family living at this particular trees location up until about 1960 even though the park was proclaimed in 1926 before they were evicted during the Apartheid era so I am sure that this forms part of a land claim by either themselves or their descendants.

After yesterdays tyre and the previous days caravan sage I was wondering what was in store for us today but, thankfully, today there were no untoward incidents and the driving was really easy.  Mostly sandy tracks with the occasional steep rocky ascent or descent.

Photo courtesy of Caron

The next Baobab that we stopped at was absolutely huge, it is estimated at about 1000years old but it was on the Mozambican side of the fence with a very enticing hole in the fence just where it needs to be.  Nobody dared to actually go over because, apparently according to Edward, the Mozambican authorities have got wind of tourists crossing the border illegally and have been known to lie in wait for the unwary tourst and arresting them for illegal entry.  It doesn't sound like anyone actually went to jail for this but it does sound like it was an expensive exercise to avoid any jail time.  It all looked perfectly peaceful and quiet on the other side but one never knows; anyway we were happy to just take our photo's from the South African side of the fence.

Shortly after the Baobab we bumped into an armed anti-poaching patrol looking for tracks of people entering from mozambique to poach Rhino, Elephant or Lions for profit or anything else just to eat.  One has to feel some kind of sympathy for those poaching to survive but for those engaging in it for profit, not so much.  A couple of days ago we had come across what looks like a heavy rubber blanket just left in the middle of the road and apparently what the rangers do is to hook that up to the back of a bakkie and drive the border road effectively sweeping it which makes any tracks of poachers really stand out and once they have the tracks they can find the poachers.  Caron takes quite a hard line against poachers which is apparently shared by the anti-poaching patrol.  We thanked them for their service and shared some droe-wors with them which I am sure they enjoyed later on.

After that, it was miles and miles of Mopane which is apparently not Tony's favourite environment.  I do have to agree as it does get a little monotonous but driving from south to north we can see the vegetation and the animals changing along with the vegetation.  For instance, grazers most stick to the soet (sweet) veld whereas the browsers or those that both graze and browse wander over the suur (sour) veld as well so the areas of suur veld appear to have fewer animals around.  Of course proximity to water is also a significant determining factor as to how many animals one sees so there are long stretches when one really doesn't see much wildlife due to the grazing being poor and far away from water sources.

We had a break at Shingwedzi Rest camp which is fine if looking a little tired and had a great sighting of a Bateleur on the ground which, it turns out, isn't an eagle.  Seeing her on the ground is quite unusual and it is surprising how powerfully built she is.  We also say some yellow-billed storks which was a first for us and with the water pools still in the Shingwedzi river there was loads of game in the area.  In quite a short space of time we say Elephants, buffalo, crocodiles, nyalas, kudu and of course, the ubiquitous impala.

Arrived at our final camp at around 15:30 which was great as it meant that we had some time to relax in the shade of the trees which weren't quite as nice as the one's we left behind at Shilowa but shady enough.  It was a really hot afternoon and my temperature gauge in the car briefly touched 47 deg. centigrade but I have a feeling that it is over-reading by at least a few degrees as nobody else saw 47 deg;  they were all down in the low 40's.

Photo courtesy of Caron.

For supper we had pasta while everyone else braai'd and this sharing a fire and just grabbing a shovel full of coals when one needs them really works well.  With it being the last night everyone brought out the delicacies that they had been saving like the "Salmon Roulade" shared by Therese and Pieter which went down extraordinarily well.  We ended up in the middle of the group around the camp fire and had a very pleasant conversation with Amanda and Jonathan who is now really starting to come out of his shell.  While we were busy snacking on all the delicacies we were invaded by the fancolins who are VERY habituated wanting their fair share of the food.

The campsite was unusual in that it had what Edward referred to as stingless bees which no anti-mozzie/fly ointment or prevention has any effect on.  The only known method is to take a branch with some leaves and fan one's self which feels a bit 19th century so there we were with most people fanning away furiously but for some reason they just didn't bother me.

After a nice warm shower we were off to bed a little worried that after the very hot day, the night may be uncomfortably warm as well.

Nyala. Photo courtesy of Amanda


Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Pumbe to Shilowa via Olifants Rest Camp. (Approximately 90km)

Alarm call today courtesy of the Pearl Spotted Owl which started calling at 05:10 and just would not stop.  Normally Caron loves the calls of the morning, but not today.  Today, if Caron could have found the Pearl Spotted Owl it would have been fricasseed owl.  After the long day yesterday everyone was looking forward to a easier day and, hopefully, no breakdowns nor punctures.

Easy driving. Photo courtesy of Amanda

We are starting to get into the swing of things and everyone was ready to go at 06:30 and the day was very easy driving even thought there were plenty of occasions when we used low range but it was more for comfort rather than because the conditions mandated it.  As we drove we could see the vegetation slowly changing and our first stop was a dry pan which is home to two species of fish which is pretty hard to believe given that the pan looks like below.  The species are called Killi and Lung fish and are able to bury themselves in the mud and depress their metabolism to such a degree that they can last years under the sun baked mud.


Arriving at Olifants rest camp there was a rush for the showers but we made for the restaurant and had a cup of coffee which I wrote up this diary.  It's a funny thing keeping a travelogue because it takes about 30 minutes per day but to find 30 minutes where one can just be on one's own and quiet and not too tired like at the end of a hard day is quite difficult so I snatch it when I can.  It is one thing that thinking back on the trip would be really nice; about an hour each day when one isn't driving or pitching/striking camp or making food and one can just sit and be quiet in the bush would really be great.  Returning from my cup of coffee I found that I had been parked in and had to go and find who the responsible party was and I ended up getting the restaurant staff to go from table to table; I thought they would have had a PA system and done it over that but it was a table to table affair.  The miscreant was a little indignant with me but I was less than cheerful that he was that inconsiderate.

View from the restaurant. Photo courtesy of Caron.

The view from the restaurant deck is definitely a must do in Olifants Rest Camp; it's spectacular!  After everyone other than us had showered and filled up with water and fuel and air we drove a short while and stopped in the middle of the low water bridge over the Letaba river which was nice but rather hot.  I think that Edward likes stopping there because there is lots of space to see any elephants, buffalo or crocodiles that may be lurking around.  Pieter put up his bat-wing wrap around awning which works really well except when there is a strong gust of wind so he ended up hanging onto the ends of the supports to prevent it flying away.

Letaba river for lunch.  Photo courtesy of Caron.

The thermometer in my car hit 43 deg. C this afternoon which is warm but I thought quite bearable although that temperature overnight would have me thinking differently.  The fences in this section have been taken down leaving only the railway tracks which were sunk vertically into the ground to indicate where the border is.  If they ever need to put up the fence again they will at least have the major posts still there and only have to re-lay the cable and wire mesh.

The last stop we had before arriving in the Shilowa campsite was on top of a small set of hills from which one could see far into Mozambique which looks exactly the same as Kruger; it really feels like one is in the monstrous uninhabited country rather than in a national park.  Shilowa campsite is magnificent and I could easly spend a day or two here under the big trees just relaxing; reading and enjoying the peace and quiet.  Supper was the usual braai and since there were so many braai designs on display it seems that the perfect design has yet to be found.  I made use of Pieters rather then unpacking my own and it worked really well with a very small number of coals so I may have to think again about which braai to use in the future but I think I may stick with the draai-braai for a while at least.  I had put our chairs on the one side of the fire and everyone else ended up on the other side and it felt a little like we were the show for the evening; it did make communication over the whole fireplace a little awkward but that is just how it goes sometimes.

Nice if VERY warm shower before bed at 20:30; fell fast asleep almost immediately.

The toilets in all the camps are some kind of composting toilet and, except for one, are relatively odorless and it is always nice to have real porcelain deep in the bush and it sure beats digging a hole.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Mitini to Pumbe via no Rest Camp. (Approximately 120km)

We had been warned that today was going to be a very long day so everyone was up early, courtesy of the fish eagles calling, and I think that by 06:30 we were all ready to hit the road hopeful that we don't have a repeat of yesterday caravan experience.  Apparently Doug was making some noise during the night which kept Tony awake but I heard nothing at all and we were equidistant from Doug's caravan.  I don't know why but I really seem to sleep better in the bush even with the possibility of elephants, lions or buffalo being around.  Day one's assessment of the time that it takes to strike camp comparing ground tent to caravan to rooftop it seems that there isn't much in it.  I definitely didn't feel rushed to keep up with the rooftop tent or caravans so my apprehension about this turned out to be misplaced.

We brewed enough coffee to have a cup with a breakfast of biscotti rusks and made some more to put into a flask for when we are getting desperate around lunch time.  Jonathan and Amanda discovered that the gas plate and the gas bottle they had purchased for the trip were from two different manufacturers and weren't compatible so we boiled some water for them as well and shared some of our coffee with Edward who was having his own gas problems.  There is meant to be a gas bomb in the car that he uses for the trip but someone either forgot or took it out so Edward was also having some kit challenges.  It did make me feel a little better for having left our camping table at home not to mention my lighter.  Fortunately Caron doesn't go anywhere without at least one, normally two spare lighters so that wasn't too much of an issue.

The road, as promised, was long and bumpy with many sections that we needed to do in low-range even though it was flat or downhill.  It seems to me that the secret to rough driving is to gauge how fast one needs to go that one keeps moving all the time without going so fast as to destroy one's car or partner and at the same time maintaining control.  Once one gets a feel for that then choose high or low range and the gear to suite having the motor in it's power band which, in my case, is about 1500rpm and then just let the car dawdle it's way over the ground.  The important thing is to keep the momentum, as opposed to speed, up and because the engine is in the power band if one suddenly needs a little extra it is readily available. Just my assessment of course, it comes with T&C's.

Baobabs. Photo courtesy of Amanda

We had a break next to a dry river bed at around 11:00 in the shade of some big trees.  There was a yellow-billed kite hovering around and "someone" whom I won't name, I think more as a joke than anything else, threw a small piece of boerewors out into the bush about 10m away from us to see what would happen.  I think I was as surprised as everyone else that the kite had not only seen it but understood that it may be edible and dove down and snatched it and we could see it flying around having a snack as it flew.  This is NOT good advice to give anyone to do, it really can lead to habituation which in extreme cases leads to having to put wild animals down through no fault of their own but it was amazing to see.

Starting the convoy again Tony volunteered to drive right at the back so when he called over the radio that there were two lions getting frisky just off the road we all, including the two caravans, had to turn around to go back to see.  Tony, it turns out, has very sharp eyes and this wasn't the last time he would call out something over the radio for all of us to look at.  By the time we got back to the lions the male had moved off but we still had a great sighting of the female who was really in excellent condition.  The sighting, by the way, was only about 200m from where we had all been nonchantly walking around during lunch throwing titbits to the yellow-billed kite.  A little sobering but no harm done.

Close than one would like ... Photo courtesy of Amanda

 By the time we stopped again at the lookout above the Nwandzi river which was quite an awesome view, the temperature was climbing past 37 deg C and time to close the windows and put the aircon on.  The dust today wasn't that bad and just hanging back a bit meant that there wasn't much to speak of.  Having driven many, many kilometers in other's dust as well as listening to the vociferous complaints of other's who have been in my dust it can be quite a contentious topic but really not a problem at any stage on this trip.

We had stopped again just after a dry river crossing for a comfort break but as soon as we got out of the cars we could smell that burnt rubber smell which meant that someone had a problem.  It turned out that Amanda's Dodge had a flat tyre and they hadn't realised it so they had driven on the flat tyre for a least some time and totally destroyed the tyre.  Fortunately it looks like the rim was fine but the tyre was finished so for the second day in a row we were under one of the vehicles.  The dodge doesn't have any hard points to put a jack under so Tony climbed pretty much right underneath the car to position the jack on the chassis itself and then some power from Edward had the car up off the deck in no time.  Also learnt a nice trick when replacing a wheel because it is often difficult to get it to the right height to put the stud bolts back through but, as demonstrated by Edward, using the wheel spanner as a lever to get the tyre to the right height and the bottom of the tyre tucked in at the same time really works well.  There was a problem with putting the mag tyre back under the truck because the centre hole on the mag rim is much smaller than that of the steel rim so in the end Pieter strapped it onto the top of their roof rack with another of my ratchet straps so now spare ratchet straps has been noted as a required item in future trips.  The dodge has 20" rims which are, compared to local rims, huge and when it came to picking the wheel up we were all amazed when Amanda just picked it up as if it was no big deal.  It is a big deal, it's rather heavy but it turns out that Amanda, in addition to be a Scientist is also a power lifter but I do think that she is a little worried about the next three days because now she has no spare at all!

Photo courtesy of Tony
What not to do to a tyre. Photo courtesy of Tony

Dougs comment that he was surprised that we had only had one tyre issue thus far and I must agree with him; the going is quite rough and I would not be surprised if we have some more issues with tyres in the coming three days.

Some shade at last. Photo courtesy of Amanda.

The day was not yet done with us and we had just started off before we had to stop again as a tree had fallen over the road but between my axe and Edwards strength it only took about 10 minutes in all to chop through it and to drag it out of the road.  It was only about 120mm in diameter so not really a big tree but defintely thorny enough to require that we had to be sure that it was right off the track so that we don't have any further tyre troubles.

Arrival at our destination of Pumbe camp was at 17:30 only 30 minutes behind schedule and the day didn't disappoint, it really was quite a long 120km drive. It doesn't sound like very much but when one really can't travel at an average speed of more than 10 to 15 km/hr it just takes a long time to traverse any kind of distance. By 18:15 I think everyone had their tents or caravans setup and we were all sitting around the fire having some chips or cheese and wine.  A very pleasant end to a long day and while we were around the fire Edward pointed out that we could see Mercury, Venus, Mars as well as both Saturn and Jupiter all at the same time.

Sunset. Photo courtesy of Theresa

I had brought a gas powered water heater with us because the deal with Caron is that she doesn't mind how rough the trip is as long as she can have a hot shower at the end of each day so is in.  As it turned out, all my careful planning in this regard, was superfluous.  Each camp has separate men's and women's showers and toilets and for hot water Edward has a steel container that one put's one's water in and it sits next to the fire and by the time the evening braai is done, there is lots of hot water to go around. Scoop out about 5l of hot water and add another 5l of cold because otherwise it is scaldingly hot and that is enough for two people to get nicely clean before turning in for the evening.


Sunday, September 12, 2021

Crocodile Bridge to Mitini via Lower Sabie Rest Camp. (Approximately 90km)

The grande departe; we were up at 06:30, showered and had a sumptuous breakfast at 07:00 before departing and arriving at Crocodile Bridge which is where everyone is meeting up.  We arrived at 08:40 to meet at 09:00 and thought that we would be the first there but we were in fact the last of the cars to arrive.  Once we had met up, we followed the guide, Edward for about a kilometer where we all pulled off the road and gathered around for introductions and to be given radio's which we would then use for communications between the cars when in convoy.  The briefing was, well, brief.  Basically it is each car's responsibility to wait for the following car at each turn so that nobody loses contact with the convoy.  Oh, and, don't get eaten ... have you signed the indemnity forms?

The convoy all nice and shiny but not for long. Photo courtesy of Tony

The first thing we did when we got back in the car was to write down the names of everyone because neither of us are good with names but we spent some time memorizing the names, partners and the cars that they were in.  Of the five cars, there was one rooftop tent, two caravans and two ground tents so it is going to be interesting to see which takes the longest to pitch and strike camp; my money is on the ground tents taking the longest.

 The couples were Tony & Cheryl, Pieter & Theresa, Amanda & Jonathan and Doug & Jennifer.

The gang. Photo courtesy of Tony.

 The first day is about 90km which doesn't sound like a huge distance to cover and is basically a loop around the bottom of the park and back up to the Lower Sabie Rest Camp.  We stopped briefly at a lookout point over Komatipoort which is on the border and we could see the whole town and into Mozambique.  Up to this point the driving had been slow but fairly innocuous but it got much more interesting after the stop.  The first hill was just rocky and steep but not too much of an issue but the second obstacle was a bit of a rock ledge with some holes that would cause some issues which it did but not in the way that I expected.


Looks pretty innocuous doesn't it. Photo courtesy of Caron
Looks pretty innocuous doesn't it. Photo courtesy of Caron

 The first up was Edward in his Isuzu followed by Tony in his Landcruiser then Amanda in her Dodge (5.7l truck as she would describe it) and then ourselves in the Fortuner and we all made it quite easily but none of us had a caravan to pull over the obstacle. Next up was Pieter in his Hilux and to my amazement it barely seemed to blink; no problem at all but Doug in the Mitsubishi Pajero needed a couple of runs at the obstacle before he too was up without too much of an issue but in doing so something broke on his caravan which only became obvious after the obstacle.

The 200l water tank under the caravan must have caught on the rock ledge as they went over and the force ripped half of the supporting brackets right off leaving the tank dangling below the trailer by the remaining brackets.  They certainly couldn't drive like that and our first thought was just to strap it up in-situ but there just wasn't anywhere to anchor the straps and, even if there were, I have a suspicion that it would have just been a matter of time before we had another problem.  200kg bouncing around under a trailer is a lot of force for a strap to take.  The next solution was to remove the reservoir from under the caravan which is much easier said than done as it turns out.  First we drained as much of the water out of it which meant that the rest of us would need to share water with Doug and Jennifer but since we are going through a rest camp it shouldn't be much of a problem tonight; tomorrow night and the next day would be more difficult but we have some time to plan that.  2 1/2 hours later we were finished and we ended up cutting some of the frame and piping away and then crawling under the caravan and yes, i did make sure that there were chocks under the wheels before any of us ventured under, to cut the final filler piples with a small hacksaw.  Because I was by far the smallest I ended up crawling under the caravan and between the tank and the floorboards with a stanley knife and baby hacksaw to cut the final attachments but the whole process required different people to do specific tasks which others either couldn't do or didn't think of so it turned out to be a real team effort with many ideas attempted.  Talk about a team building exercise to get everyone talking to each other.  I think I would still be there if Pieter hadn't somehow managed to prise a gap between the water tank and the floor board; it was only an extra 10mm but it was enough to get the hacksaw in to cut the filler pipe; still not sure how he did it but without that I wouldn't have been able to cut the filler pipe.

Me with the offending water tank. Photo courtesy of Tony.

With the water tank out from underneath the caravan Doug strapped it onto the front of the caravan with some straps that I fortuitously threw in at the last moment just before we left Joburg.  So I managed to remember the straps but forget the table!  It turns out that the caravan is the very best type of caravan that one can get, a hired one!  There is a part of me that wants to video the owners look when Doug returns it to them but I guess that it a real risk when renting out a 4x4 trailer or caravan that they factor into the fees.

With all that time we had to skip going to visit the Sabi River Gorge and only arrived at the campsite at 17:30 after a flying visit to the Lower Sabi Rest Camp.  There is a Mugg & Bean at the rest camp which was unexpected so we 'had' to get some coffee and some ice cream to go.  As we drove up to the campsite we saw two hyenas walking away from the campsite just to remind us that we really are in the bush and that there are no fences so it is entirely possible to meet something life threatening at any time.  Best to have a good look around every time one sticks one's head out of the tent/caravan.

By 18:30 everyone was setup and the braai was going.  I had wondered how the braai was going to work because the information we received before the trip made it sound like we all have to be totally self sufficient but it would be silly for each of us to have our own little fire so the way it works is that there is one big, communal, fire and once there are enough coals people use a spade to get the coals that they need to cook whatever they have brought.  There were five couples and four different designs of braais; clearly the perfect braai has yet to be invented!

I think by 20:30 everyone had retired to bed sufficiently tired after the days drive and the mishap with the caravan.


Nightfall with our shower warming up. Photo courtesy of Amanda.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Lebombo 4x4 Eco Trail in the Kruger National Park

 Today started as does most holidays with a mad rush to finish work.  There has been an ongoing problem on the systems which we have been struggling to track down and we think that we found the solution yesterday.  We resolved it it last night and I was anxious this morning to find out if it had really worked.  The results were inconclusive, no issues but not 100% sure that it was a result of what we did or just a coincidence.  Like most difficult problems this is multi-faceted and we have found multiple small issues which have each provided a small improvement but nothing like the "eureka" moment as yet.

The drive all the way to Mbombela (Nelspruit) is very easy with our "normal" drive down to Stanford being 2x10 hour days, anything less feels like only a small drive.  At Schoemanskloof I realized that I had left the camping table behind even though I had put it with the other gear to be packed but I forgot that we subsequently used it when Graeme & Gill came over and I didn't put it back with the pile of gear to be packed.  I am sure that it isn't the last thing that I have forgotten and even though I have comprehensive lists to use one feels that by now we ought to know the packing list off by heart.  This is clearly not the case.

Just before Malelane  there was a huge traffic jam which took almost an hour to get through.  I thought there was an accident up ahead as there were some ambulances that overtook us while we were waiting but it turned out to be a stop/go over the bridge over the crocodile river which only had one lane open on a pretty busy highway.  There were some lunatics overtaking into the oncoming traffic periodically but for the most part everyone just waited, walked around, had a smoke, a pee and eventually we were through

Traffic jam before Malelane, photo courtesy of Caron

 As we entered Komatipoort there was another huge queue of trucks pulled over on the left hand side all waiting to cross the border.  We were driving past them at about 80km/hr and we went past them for at least 15 minutes before we turned off and we weren't even at the end of the queue so it was probably about 20 to 25km of trucks.  Very happy not to be in that queue.

The hotel (EcoLux) turned out to be really pleasant and since we arrived at about 15:00 we had plenty of time to have a beer shandy or two or three on the patio.  It's a ***** hotel but I think that like all hotels, a little behind on their maintenance due to the pandemic and the complete absence of tourists.  I can't imagine how difficult it must have been for them to even have kept going through the COVID19 pandemic but they seem to have survived.  Although they has Supersport they didn't have any of the rugby channels, only the soccer ones, so we ended up watching the Curry Cup final on the iPad using their wifi which worked pretty well but the Bulls thumped the Sharks so Caron wasn't the happiest.

Supper was very pleasant although the lamb shank should have been warmer, a lot warmer, but for the rest it was a very good tasty meal.  I think that it gets really hot here judging by the number of fans in the dining area; 8 fans to match the 8 tables in quite a small area and outside on the patio there is a whole row of fans above the sliding folding doors.

This is the first time we are doing a trip without knowing the people that we are going to be sharing the trip with and we were a little apprehensive that, as the saying goes, "In every four-ball there is one arsehole" but it was a choice of doing the trip with people we don't know or not doing the trip and we decided to take the chance.  How bad could it be, it is only 5 days and most of that we should be driving alone in our car in any case?

Our spectators for our dinner.  Photo courtesy of Caron