Category Archives: Africa 2016

Day 4 – Cape Town

Day 4 - Cape Town by Big Al!
Day 4 – Cape Town, a photo by Big Al! on Flickr.

Drone arrived intact and, except for a few worrying moments of the dreaded “magnetic interference” error, it soon picked up the new GPS position and said “ready to fly”. Looking forward to getting it in the air, but perhaps not on the hotel pool deck in the rain.

Yes, its raining. Cold, cloudy and wet. Not at all what I expected or am kitted out for, but on this trip I’m in a 4×4 and not on a motorbike.

Day 5 – Cape Town

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The Beast takes pride of place in front of the Cape Town Hilton

I’m writing this post from my laptop. This is notable because when I tried it last night my laptop was broken.

At home, pesky little annoyances like that quickly make me irritated, but here, just as it was all the times I’ve been travelling by bike, the automatic response is one of resourcefulness. You immediately slip into problem solving mode because there’s no other option.

My laptop holds my route planning software and it was to be my means of copying photos and videos off memory cards to make way for the next round. More than that, one thing I remember very clearly about my round the world trip is how the laptop I’d taken along for the very same reasons broke somewhere in France, and when I finally found a replacement in Italy I discovered it was a duff that wouldn’t even switch on, and by then I was already in Croatia and could do nothing. It took me until Mongolia to find a replacement laptop, which, judging by the files I found on it, had probably been stolen from an American diplomat…

I have a bad history with travel and technology, so it should have pissed me off but I just switched to problem solving and was surprised to find myself entirely calm about it.

And I fixed it, eventually. Get this: Learn how to root my spare Android phone, so that I could then install DroidDrive, which let me use my phone as a USB bootable disk so that I could install Ubuntu then use a boot repair program so that I could finally get back to Windows. 2 hours of IT self-support of which I most proud.

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Stunning view of Table Mountain from my hotel suite

And I wasn’t bothered about losing 2 hours out of the day because Cape Town was cold, windy, and rainy.

As well as the laptop I’ve resolved issues with the truck’s electrical charging system, fuel gauge, 12V power socket (essential for charging GPS, camera, phone, laptop, gopro, drone….), and data roaming issues on my phone, and I’ve contended with bad weather, the hotel parking issues, traffic nightmares, credit card failures, and so on. All just normal for overland travel, and none of it comes close to bothering me because I remember being stuck in a thunderstorm in a Siberian forest on a motorbike with a broken frame, blocked carburettor, and dead battery, on my own, very literally 1000 miles from the nearest civilisation, and I got through it.

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Cape Town traffic is just like anywhere else

The Beast (nickname pending confirmation) was still parked out front of the Hilton this morning, unmolested. Hope for the same tonight. After an “exclusive and complimentary” breakfast in the executive lounge (away from the plebs) I did a tour of Cape Town suburbs to find an amazing hypermarket, an amazing liqor store, and an incredible camping store, where I stocked up for the trip.

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The incredible Brackenfell Pick’N’Pay Hypermarket

Cape Town has amazing supermarkets, liquor stores, and camping supplies, full of incredible stuff I wish I could get at home, dirt cheap, and with incredibly friendly service. Every person I’ve encountered in SA so far has been amazing.

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The even more incredible Outdoor Warehouse at Willowbridge

With enough water, wine, food, diesel, gas, cameras, memory cards, South African Rand, roadmaps, and biltong to propel an army, I’m now ready to hit the road. First stop, Namakwaland, and hopefully some bush camping with better weather than there is in Cape Town. I’m getting used to The Beast. It’s starting to feel like mine, which is good seeing as how I’ll be living in it for a month, and it’s starting to feel less gigantic.

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Home

Best of all, the weather seems to be clearing and just before I return to the executive lounge for a final batch of champagne and hors d’oeuvres, Table Mountain re-appears from behind the gloom for the first time today.

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Cape Town as the skies begin to clear

Well then. Enough fannying about with champagne, rainstorms, and luxurious bathrooms with heated floors, bring on the scorpions, lions, sand, and camping under the stars!

Day 6 – Namakwaland

Day 6 - Namakwaland by Big Al!
Day 6 – Namakwaland, a photo by Big Al! on Flickr.

First wild camp!

It’s going to be much harder to update this blog now. No phone signal at all, never mind data.
I leave CT very early, knowing that the first day on the road in a strange vehicle with unfamiliar equipment was going to keep me busy. City suburbs had already given way to rolling hills and farmland by sunrise, and the next three hundred miles passed easily with little traffic.
Ahead of schedule I turned off the tarmac for a first foray onto the dirt roads, hunting a suitable spot to set camp. Breathtaking scenery would have been nice but I settle for somewhere unobtrusive and where I’d be unlikely to encounter interference. The first 2 or 3 wild camps on a trip always have me feeling nervous, and with zero Africa experience the nerves hit hard this time.
But, there’s stuff to do, so I get on with it. Another go at reorganising all my gear. A quick first flight with the drone to make sure it’s all working. A boerwurs sausage on the camp stove. Would have been nicer to start a fire and use the brai (South African for barbecue) but I’ve got too many other things to do for the first time, like putting the tent up.
A glass of wine is the reward for getting things done and I’m glad I got on with it when darkness comes on very suddenly just after 7 leaving just me and my roof tent and a million freaky noises. First night nerves again, but every rustling bit of tent fabric or bird or animal noise has an effect like a horror movie soundtrack.
I’ll get used to it, and the tent is way more comfortable and spacious than I’m used to on the bike. A week from now I’ll have a routine and a system and this tent will feel like home.
Later on I unzip the tent window and peer out to see a sky full of stars, the milky way like a neon sign it’s so bright. 
Yeah, that’s more like it!
Ink black night skies with a million stars interrupted only by the silhouette of the mountains surrounding my own personal camp site.
Tomorrow I have to navigate the border crossing to enter Namibia, then on to the Fish River Canyon.

Day 7 – Into Namibia


(Big backlog of great photos and experiences to post but it’s proving very difficult to upload a photo over phone or wifi in Namibia, and it won’t get any easier in ever more remote areas and then Zimbabwe…)

Great sleep in very comfy tent restores wild camping confidence and the early morning drive through terrain like this is thrilling and satisfying for me, even if it is only beginner level dirt road, not hard core off road.

Damn cold in the night so the pyjamas handed out by Qatar Airways came in handy.

Next challenge is the border into Namibia.

Day 7 – Fish River Canyon

Crossed into Namibia with ease in just 45 minutes. Compared to most borders I’ve crossed, exiting SA and entering Namibia were both well organised and friendly.


It’s amazing the contrast in emotion on different sides of a border. No matter how many times I do it. The approach makes me nervous. Pulling away on the other side is a joyful blast of freedom. Exhilaration takes over, which is great when you’re faced with an empty moonscape like this.


It took me 14 minutes to reach the point where the road disappeared over the horizon. I it’s vast like Mongolia, only brown and sharp instead of green and soft.