South Africa, Xmas, New Year and old friends

Well, the complete idiots at Limpopo Caravans did eventually finish the work on the roof of Colonel K, it turns out we had two leaks one under the solar panel (sorted by removing completely, and resealing), and another under the air-con unit (again removal of the Dometic unit and a new piece of flat aluminium sealed across the joint fixed this). We also had 4 new leisure batteries fitted, these power everything in the living accommodation (fridge, lights, water pump, toilet fan, etc). In the end our bill was 9,200 Rand (£575.00), but after a very heated discussion with the workshop manager and the owner, where we pointed out that we have incurred considerable costs due to it taking 7 days instead of 3 days, and there was some damage caused to one of the units where they left Colonel K out in an epic storm over night, we eventually agreed to pay them 4,000 Rand (£250.00).

After a quick stock up of essentials (Yum Yum Caramel Crunch Peanut Butter), we set out on the long drive down to Hilton, near Pietermairitzburg, with an over night stop near Newcastle. We arranged to meet Sandy and her sister Ninette at a very swish small shopping complex on the edge of nearby Howick, then followed Sandy to her dads smallholding. The farm is set in the most beautiful of settings, set on the side of a steep valley about 10km outside of the very upmarket town of Hilton. 

Christmas didn’t quite go to plan as both Sandy’s parents were admitted to hospital just prior to our arrival, with her Dad Nico, having major surgery and being released on christmas day! We stayed at Ninette and Brendon’s on both christmas eve and christmas day, and had a great time getting to know their family and friends, and were made so welcome by everyone. Christmas is very different here to in the UK, perhaps the biggest difference in the weather, everything is done outside, including the eating (though obviously shade is needed). The other thing that seemed very different is that kids don’t seem to be showered by dozens and dozens of presents. 

Brendon took me on a tour of his timber yard early on christmas morning, delivering some cold meat to his security guys. This was an extremely impressive set up, with all the ripping saws, pressure vessels and the workshops where fencing, trellis, and garden furniture is produced. He employs 100 people here, with approx. 90% of them women (its mostly men driving the trucks, and security), apparently Zulu women are much more hard working and reliable than Zulu men. Almost all his staff are housed on site just outside the yard, it seems that Brendon really knows his staff and looks after them accordingly, it seems that this is also the key to having a peaceful and safe time living in theses parts. Attacks on farms in South Africa are a real problem, with violence on an unprecedented scale, since being in SA we have seen many accounts of this. Another common problem is deliberate forest/bush fires, and there were a spate of these just before christmas, and many people believe there were started by disgruntled employees that were not happy with their christmas bonuses!!!!! A very different world eh.

Sandy had arranged to fly to Port Elizabeth (on the south coast) for four days and Ninette was also going away, so we  happily agreed to stay at the farm and to look after Nico.For someone that had just had major surgery, he was doing his best not to show it !!! It was impossible to keep him still and rested as he really does like to entertain visitors .We were also kept busy rounding up the extremely errant cattle that were determined to escape and cause havoc at every available opportunity.

The four days that Sandy wasn’t about were mostly taken up with driving Nico to various hospitals and clinics, not only seeing various doctors with his own ailments but also to visit Jeanette, his wife. In between these medical stops, we were treated to the sights of Howick and the surrounding areas, including all Nico’s usual bar and pub stops, and the stunning Howick Falls. We wish Nico, Jeanette, Sandy and the family well for 2017.

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Nico’s neighbour’s, Alister and Elma, made us particularly welcome and we enjoyed a fantastic evening meal at their stunning new house. Alister decided a few years ago to get rid of all his cattle etc and stock his farm with various African game, including Zebra, and various types of Antelope, all for his own game viewing pleasure. They also have a few “A Frame” self catering chalets that they let out, this really is a beautiful place, both the house, the farm and the views.

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We really hit it off with this lovely couple and ended up having a great New Years Eve at their son Callum’s house (also on the farm), and then being invited back on New Years Day (with slightly sore heads) for lunch of Haggis, Tatties, and Neaps, all expertly cooked by Alister (yes he is originally from Scotland).Callum was also particularly interested in Col K, having just left the British army . 

On Nico’s Small holding, there was a lovely (if slightly dim) dog called Lola, that lived on the farm but was owned by one of Nico’s tenants June. June and her daughter also disappeared from the farm for a few days and so we agreed to feed and water Lola ,she was sleeping under Colonel K anyway. Suddenly another dog appeared, Hobo the very old and stiff Jack Russell apparently just goes from farm to farm spending a few days at each one before moving on to the next, it seems that they all feed Hobo. Now we have two dogs curled up and sleeping under the Daf.

One night we were awoken by Hobo barking and growling, then there was lots of slapping noise, and more growling, Jac got up and peered out of the truck window to see Hobo proudly standing over, and still growling at a very dead snake. We also heard stories of Hobo killing cobra’s and puff adders, he might be old and grey but he’s still quick enough to dispatch a deadly snake, maybe thats why farmers are so keen for him to visit them! Hobo stood guard over the decapitated reptile for the rest of the night, and the next morning until it was taken away by Alister. 

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After New Year it was time to leave Hilton and to, as promised, visit “The Invisible Man”, a fantastic character that we met over a year ago while travelling in his old Mercedes 911 truck in Namibia. Paul lives only about 80km down the road from Hilton in a amazingly affluent area called Kloof, this is only about a 40 minute drive to Durban. He cut short his truck travels and returned home, not really knowing why (something just told him in his head to go home). Within a very short time he was admitted to Hospital and it was found he had a very rare infection that had spread from his skull and had infected all his spinal disc’s, very very painful, and caused they think by a button on the top of his baseball cap after he bashed his head!!!!! Anyway thankfully Paul has made a full recovery and is definitely back to his old usual crazy self. Paul explained that as he was supposed to still be travelling, he couldn’t accommodate us in his house as he still had tenants in there, but we could park or stay at his “granny flat” where he was currently living. His “granny flat” was a large 2 bedroom bungalow that was bigger than most peoples house in the UK. We stayed here for seven days and used his spare bedroom which had its own ensuite. Luxury……..

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We really had a great week here with Paul, meeting some of his friends, having Braii’s, eating out, visiting the sights of Durban, and surrounding areas.

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Paul really does have many stories to tell, about characters that he has met and known. Some of them almost unbelievable, but guaranteed to make you laugh, including the story of his old friend that used to own this armoured car pictured below, stories maybe from a bygone age from South Africa.

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On one particular day Paul drove us into Durban where the plan was we would rent some cycles and bike north along the sea front. A great plan that was doomed from the start!! First of all as it was still holiday time here in SA, all the roads to the Waterfront area were closed off by police and the only option was to park up in one of the “rougher” areas of town and walk in……. not really an option in Durban. So after a drive about town, Paul thought it would be nice to visit one of his old haunts in the dock area (Paul and his family sailed their yacht on two year Indian Ocean adventure many years ago). The Pub had been closed long ago……… ok not a problem Paul knew a lovely place on the way back to Kloof where we could have coffee and cake (the key to Jacs heart), guess what?….. NO CAKES!!! Despite Paul being very apologetic we had a lovely day, and this was topped off with meeting one of his friends in the evening and us all going for what must have been the best Thai food we’ve ever had.

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We did manage to walk along the waterfront on another occasion up to a very upmarket development to the north of the city, they have even built a brand new pier for the holiday makers.

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Eventually we had to leave Kloof, and Paul was back to “work” on Monday, so on Sunday 8th of January we re-boarded Colonel K to continue our journey. We really hope to see Paul again, whether that is in SA or England, he really made us welcome and we enjoyed spending time with him again.

We didn’t want a huge journey that first morning but wanted to follow the coast down toward Port Elizabeth (in the south), so Paul recommended Rocky Bay which is just south of Durban and still in KwaZulu-Natal.  This is quite a large campsite but in a truly stunning location.

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We ended up staying here for a couple of nights and again met some really friendly people. We also saw first hand, camping “South African Style”, for many this involves having locals not only setting up your caravan, awnings, tents etc, but also in some instances getting the locals to wash your dishes for you in the morning and clean your braii (barbecue), like I say a different world eh….

Next up we decided to stop in the small town of Port Edward, this is the last place in KwaZulu-Natal, before you enter the much more troubled and possibly dangerous Transkei region (we had already been warned not to stop on the road in the Transkei, due to the high numbers of car jackings and robberies here). In the Port Edward area there are lots of campsites, but the 1st one we tried wanted 600 Rand (£37.50) a night for camping (for us and the truck), NOOOOOO THANKS….. The next place was closed and up for sale, the third one whilst looked open had its gates firmly locked shut and no one was answering the phone…. At the fourth campsite I managed to wake up the owner only to be told they were now shut until Easter (she did say we could stop there but as she was so rude to me I said don’t bother)……. Then we rang the fifth one (The Port O’ Call Campsite) to be told we can stay there but there would be no security that night as it was short notice and he wasn’t expecting any clients that night!!! After all that driving about, we settled for a night here, and it turned out to be a nice quirky little campsite. This campsite is also up for sale!

On the way to Port Edward we went through some very English sounding places including Trafalgar, Port Shepstone, and of course Ramsgate and Margate, Ramsgate is slightly more up market than Margate….. sound familiar? 

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Next we go into the Transkei and then the much hyped Garden Route…….

Thanks for reading, sorry its a little behind the times, I promise to try harder!











6 Comments on “South Africa, Xmas, New Year and old friends

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