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.

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