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Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The last leg from Windhoek to Springbok and through the flowers to Cape Town

Long, straight stretches in southern Namibia.

Dusty, little towns... 

We spent the last two days of our journey savoring every last minute of the riding… knowing that it would all too soon be over. We had big distances to cover but it was made a whole lot easier by the amazing roads that stretch through southern Namibia. There is hardly any life- human, cattle or vehicle- on the roads which makes for seriously pleasant driving… just you and your bike! It was amazing to witness the change in landscape between Windhoek and Springbok. There are really beautiful mountain ranges around Windhoek but they soon give way to stretches of never ending desert and harsh natural conditions which dry up any evidence that there was once a life force pumping through the dry river beds. Soon enough the dry and cracked land too gives way to signs of life blooming in spite of seemingly inhospitable conditions… it is quite something to see hardy little flowers fighting their way through the dry soil.
English bikers and dad outside the Wimpy in the desert... :)

We stopped for lunch after a good 500kms run and I have never been so happy to see a Wimpy in my entire life. In fact I can’t remember the last time I ate in a Wimpy… but it has never tasted so good and probably never will again! At the Wimpy in the desert we bumped into a whole bunch of English guys who had flown out together to Cape Town and were doing a round trip of Namibia. It was great bumping into them and they were very shocked and surprised that I was not riding on the back of a bike and had in fact ridden my own bike down from Cairo- hehe! Photographic evidence was collected so they could take it back home to their biker’s club and entice other ladies to do the same- I was glad I could be of assistance in this campaign!
We managed to get to the border at around 5pm and were very impressed by how smoothly the days ride had gone and how the 900kms had gone by quite quickly and effortlessly, getting lost in the beautiful scenery and the meditative silence of the bare desert. We felt quite a sense of achievement crossing our last border post and having made it into South Africa in one piece and without A SINGLE PUNCTURE- WOW!!!
Me in awe of the flowers in full bloom....

After crossing the Orange River and entering into South Africa… the land once again makes a miraculous transformation. We planned our route quite well, I think, just in time to enjoy the flower season in the Northern Cape. We overheard a travel agent remarking that this was the best season yet for the flowers and I can believe it because they were just magnificent! You can really understand why they are referred to as ‘carpets of flowers’ because the ground is really just covered in a patchwork of beautiful deep purple, orange, yellow and red flowers… absolutely stunning! What a pleasure to finish a long day’s ride flying past this beautiful scene.
The last supper :(

We finally arrived in Springbok to spend the night in the historic “Springbok Hotel” which just exudes character and charm! We were feeling a bit like we were in a dream… not able to really comprehend the fact that we were actually back in South African borders and had driven all the way down the entire continent! We went to celebrate at the local favourite accompanied by a very large group of Harley Davidson riders!
Reunion with our two favourite bikers... Rony and Jorg! You guys are legends! :)
The next morning we arose to finish the last leg down to Cape Town… still feeling as if we couldn’t quite believe that this was the last 550km stretch! The roads were just absolutely covered in these thick, juicy and rather furry orange caterpillars who were making a desperate (and potentially fatal) dash across the road to feast on the glorious flowers which were out in abundance! We stopped just after Citrusdal to meet up with Rony and Jorg who had so kindly agreed to meet us for the last 180kms back to Cape Town. It was great to see them and to enjoy a lunch with the two men who were immensely instrumental in ensuring the success of our journey and it is definitely thanks to them and Rony’s excellent off-road courses that we manages to enjoy the trip so much, tame our bikes and come back in one piece!
Girls very happy to have their dad back home! Waiting patiently for us to arrive in Hout Bay...

After an excellent lunch and a catch up including some funny and terrifying overlander stories… we hit the road to enjoy the very last stretch.Riding into Cape Town was completely surreal! Once again we were finding it hard to believe we had actually done it! Family and friends were eagerly awaiting our arrival at Dunes in Hout Bay and we arrived just in time to enjoy a beautiful sunset over the bay. We were stormed by hugs, kisses and family very relieved that we had made it home safely!

I think it is going to take a while for us both to digest this amazing adventure! It has been just too incredible for words! It was a journey filled with challenges and the realization that you can indeed do absolutely anything you set out to accomplish! We learnt a lot… about our continent, about ourselves and one other. We connected… with perfect strangers, with father and with daughter. We will never forget it!

Thank you to all of you who were out there vouching for us every step of our journey, there are many of you and I am sure all the good-will and thoughts went a long way in ensuring we arrived home safe and sound and without even one unfortunate incident! It seems we have some seriously good karma on our side ;)  

I would personally like to say a big thanks to my dad for the trip of a life time! It was incredible, I feel very lucky to have you as my dad! Love you lots x

Lastly … Our trip has ended but Earthchild Project’s journey with the children of South Africa is very much still alive! Please don’t forget about them… if you find yourself inspired and want to continue your support of their wonderful work, why not consider a monthly donation? For more information about how to set this up contact:

If you haven’t made a donation please consider making one and supporting the amazing Earthchild Project vision. And a huge thanks to everyone who has made a donation, it is much appreciated and is definitely going to a wonderful cause!

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Thank you for all your support and do yourself a favour… go on a crazy adventure… ride across a continent… just… DO IT! You can do anything! 

Monday, 5 September 2011

Zambia: breathtaking sunsets, night swimming under the stars and Vic Falls … and driving through the stark empty stretches of Namibia.

We are sorry that the blog entries have been a bit scarce but we have been driving very big distances everyday and often have arrived too exhausted but mostly to places where there is absolutely no sign of internet. We are currently in Windhoek, Namibia and are planning to be back in Cape Town by Wednesday evening… we have mixed feelings. We are both really sad that this amazing trip is coming to an end but obviously also excited to see friends and family who we have really missed over the last 7 weeks!

This last part of the journey has had challenges different from other parts of our trip so far. Because we have been covering quite far distances, the recent challenge has been one of endurance. Doing 700km per day, on average, is quite challenging on these roads where one has to always be vigilant of potential road-kill… goats being the most anarchic of the lot… but human beings are no less unpredictable. Physically it has also been challenging… our bums are very tender! But we have seen some amazing sights and the scenery has been really wonderful. 

View over the river.

Beautiful bathing birds...

Our first drive in Zambia took us to the beautiful Luangwe River. We arrived just in time to enjoy the most magnificent sunset either of us have ever bared witness to. We were riding through a windy pass up and down dense green hills of bush while the sun was setting… it was a huge swollen pink sun that was dotting up and down inbetween the hills and peering through the bush at us. It is hard to explain it… but it was a really magnificent sunset… one we will remember forever. We got to a lodge/campsite that had been recommended to us by our hostel in Lilongwe, “Bridge Camp.” We managed to make the dirt road just before the darkness enveloped it and were very happy to wash off the day’s dirt in a beautiful pool that overlooked the river… underneath a sky just full of stars! The bungalow we stayed in had walls that were made only of netting… which didn’t seem to keep any of the bugs out at night and so seemed a bit unpractical however in the morning when we awoke to the sound of beautiful chirping birds and feeling like we were sleeping in the trees, we realized what a great idea it really was!
Outside Spar in Lusaka...

What has really stood out about Zambia for us as South Africans though, is how South African business has really taken over the country… it is quite startling really! Driving into Lusaka (but everywhere else as well) you really feel like you have arrived in Joburg, the place is just packed with South African retail stores and restaurant chains … Spar, Woolworths, Fochini, Truworths, Pep, Vodacom, MTN, Nandos, Ocean Basket, Debonaires, King Pie… the list goes on! We also overheard a Zambian guy being interviewed by local radio about what he thought about this South African ‘invasion’ … he was not positive. So it seems that it is not only Chinese and European imperialism that is prevalent in Africa but also South African… hmm! Well, the debate about whether this is a positive or negative thing for Zambians is a big one and we rode 720kms today so that is my excuse for not broaching the subject right now…
Amazing Vic Falls!

Another huge highlight in the Zambian chapter of our adventure has definitely been the Victoria Falls. We stayed in Livingstone for a night and spent the day wondering around the falls… it definitely exceeded my expectations! It is quite dry at the moment so the falls are not entirely covered by water and you get to see the beautiful rock features protruding out of the gushing falls… quite amazing. I always find the sound of water so peaceful and soothing and it was amazing just to let your mind wander and become entranced by the sound of the cascading water. The biggest treat though was seeing a big beautiful rainbow that seemed as if it had fallen down and was now trapped at the bottom of the falls… it was really magnificent!

The following day we head for the Namibian border and crossed into the Caprivi Strip through the Namib border town of Katima Mulilo. The drive was amazing through long straight stretches that seem to go on forever. The road was the best we have been on so far and there was far less cattle and people to worry about so it was great to just be able to relax and enjoy the riding. The Caprivi must have recently suffered from a bad fire because massive stretches of it were completely charcoaled, I am sure this coupled with the fact it was sweltering hot and very dry, unfortunately kept most of the animals away… although there are signs all along to beware of elephants crossing. We resolved to stay near Rundu and found a place with a view over the stunning Okavango River… as usual we were just in time for a beautiful sunset.

Today we made our way to Windhoek… driving through the dry open terrain makes Namibia just seem like an endless expanse of land. The distances here between towns are just massive, quite a stark contrast to so many other countries we have travelled through where there is just human settlement along the entire length of the road. The landscape between Rundu and Windhoek changes quite drastically and as we got closer to Windhoek the dry barren plains transformed into the blue mountains that frame the city. Unfortunately we are not able to explore as much of Namibia as we would like but we have got a good taste and know that we will definitely be back to find out more about what this beautiful country is all about.

We are off now to try and see if we can find some dinner… perhaps something deliciously German. Our next post will probably be in Cape Town.

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Let’s support the efforts of people who are passionately trying to ensure that there is a bright and beautiful future ahead for our South African children!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Rejuvenating body and soul in Lake Malawi

First views of Lake Malawi

Villages along the lake.

Our ride took us next into Malawi and to the beautiful shores of Lake Malawi. We crossed the border with relative ease and set off, (in bellowing winds) to explore this little country so famed for their warmth and friendliness! Our first sighting on the lake was amazing… it really does exceed your expectations. This vast expanse of water looks far more like the ocean than a lake with its crashing waves and sandy beach shores. The drive took us meandering up and down hills and along the lake where many Malawians have made their homes along the shore and make their living as fisherman. The smell of these tiny silver fish drying on wooden tables along the beach permeates the air. For some reason they apparently ignore the large fish all together. Another speciality which I found rather “interesting,” was lake flies which are caught in nets and then eaten in biscuits… good source of protein I guess!
Beautiful beach we found at Chitimba along Lake Malawi's shores!

Grazing cows on the beach...

Dad enjoying the magnificent scenery and soothing sound of the waves

At around 2pm our stomachs started growling and so we pulled off the road and followed a sign to a restaurant, which was down a deep sandy beach road… interesting driving! Although we intended on making our way to Nkhata Bay, after pulling into this beautiful spot with an amazing beach… we were sold! We made our way to the beach for our first swim in the lake, which was absolutely wonderful! The lake’s waters just seem to go on forever into the distance. I expected the sand to be muddy like lakes usually are but it was exactly like the sand you find in the ocean…beautiful! Perfect, crashing waves… just like the ocean except better… no salt, so you don’t get that sticky feeling you do from the ocean. The water just feels so clean and pure and the absolute perfect temperature so you come out feeling completely rejuvenated! Chitimba beach is nestled next to the protruding mountain where Livingstone yet another mark at his mountain retreat of Livingstonia… so the setting was really quite spectacular. Mountain and beach… in my books it doesn’t get much better!
Just loving it!!!

The lodge's restaurant...

Sunset over the Lake

Cute little cabins...

We enjoyed a much needed rest day the following day lazing around the beach and knocking back our books. After five days of quite demanding riding my body had packed in a bit and I now look like a chipmunk with massive swollen glands behind my ear and throat… not withstanding my swollen weeping eye which must have got infected from all the dust on the sand road in Tanzania. Not the picture of health but still soldiering on!

We had a wonderful rest and some very interesting encounters with other overlanders including an Australian guy who has been traveling alone on his BMW 1200GS for the last 3 ½ years through South America, Central America, North America, Asia and now all along the West and East coast of Africa… wow! We enjoyed hearing about his amazing stories, interesting, riveting, frightening … some near death but all life changing! Quite remarkable and needless to say he was a very interesting man. It is great to see how so many people are making the choice to get out of their comfort zone and transform their lives into an unforgettable everyday adventure!
Lake flies... want some cookie with your lake fly?

How is that for a load?

We left the wonderful shores of Lake Malawi certain that we will return some day and headed for Lilongwe. It was a beautiful drive that took us winding up and down mountains, through a massive swarm of lake flies which completely plastered our bikes and our bodies, past beautiful massive boulders and through scenic little towns. One thing that really stood out was how people are able to carry the most amazing loads on their bicycles … I was very impressed but also thought it must be quite a hard life carrying these massive loads long distances, up and down these winding hills.
bicycles, bicycles all over the place....

We got to Lilongwe just as the sun was about to set. Despite what I have read about Lilongwe being “not much of a place,” I was pleasantly surprised to find that it has a pleasant and vibrant underbelly. We stayed in a really lovely and lively hostel and went out for a great dinner at a place called “Don Brioni’s Bistro.” We enjoyed a lovely dinner, of course by candlelight since as usual there was no electricity! The place is owned by a very interesting and eccentric English man who spent the night charming us… despite his slight distaste for the ‘left-wingers’ who are produced at London School of Economics… my next destination.  
In Lilongwe at our hostel

First cold Savanna...
The next chapter in our adventure led us into Zambia… tales to follow soon.

Our journey is sadly soon coming to a close. I would like to send a huge thanks out to all who have donated to our cause, it is much appreciated and since I have worked with Earthchild Project myself and been witness to the amazing transformations they are evoking in our community, I can confidently say your donations will go to a wonderful cause!

If you have not donated yet, I ask that you please make a small donation to help the Project continue their wonderful and transformative work. You can also help us by forwarding this along to your friends.

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Many thanks!