Journey through South Western Africa

SWA_3_Table Mountain

The view of Table Mountain from our hotel in Cape Town

After our wonderful trip to East Africa I finally finished editing and sorting my photographs. It made me want to go to Africa again so I mentioned to my son Robin that I would really like to see the Okavango Delta in Botswana. He said “OK, I’m up for it.” And the scene was set

I mentioned the outline of a possible trip to my South African friend, Carel Verhoef, during one of my irregular emails to him and he was off and running with the idea. He is a safari specialist and has a busy life in Kenya and Tanzania, but at the time was living in Cape Town, so it was to Cape Town we went to begin our journey. Carel also began to expand on my idea.  “What about driving up through South Africa, into Namibia and on up to Etosha National Park. If we want we can drive up to the Caprivi Strip and follow the Okavango River into the marshes. Perhaps we can cut out across the desert. We could stop in bush camp sites along the way.”  It sounded just the sort of plan I like, we’d be bound to experience some fascinating places and see incredible wildlife.

Above left – our two Toyota Land Cruisers  /  Above right ‘Setting Off’

The plan was to hire two specially equipped Toyota Double-cab Land Cruisers. These extremely useful vehicles have an aluminium body fitted with a kitchen area and gas stove. One of the vehicles carried a capacious pullout fridge and the other a freezer.  Solar panels were fitted to the roof to generate an emergency supply for both fridge and freezer with a solid state converter to turn battery power into 200 volt power – just in case we didn’t make it to the camping area. It was also useful for charging electronics in general and cameras batteries in particular. The lift up roof became a sleeping tent and on the lower deck a pull out section concealed another bed. Both trucks carried massive long distance fuel tanks and clean fresh water for drinking and cooking.  Chairs and tables folded into special places and ladders and shovels adorned the side panels.

Robin and I travelled to Africa by British Airways on the incredible A380. I’m a lapsed private pilot and love flying, but the A380 is a cut above anything with wings that I have ever travelled in.  We arrived in Cape Town and spent a really busy day picking up the vehicles and getting them loaded and ready, we were bushed (no pun intended) but enjoyed an excellent fish dinner and got to know our other travelling companions.

Carel had arranged to take his annual holiday and planned the trip accordingly and our little party included Carel’s partner Sally, his two daughters Lara and Mila aged 7 and 4 (a never-ending source of delight.) I’d not met them before, but followed their progress from birth by e-mail and telephone. Robin has two daughters, Yasmin and Isla, now teenagers, so we are used to the ways of girls and within a few days Rob and I were granted the title of honorary uncle. Sally, also a travel expert is, by amazing coincidence, the daughter of a Rhodesian policeman (pre Zimbabwe) and a long term friend of one of our friends in the UK, who was also stationed in Rhodesia

Stuart, our other travelling companion had already been granted honorary uncle status and the nickname “Turkish” after a character in a TV series.  He is a professional photographer, who has risked life and limb in some of Africa’s hottest trouble spots. Hailing originally from Essex, he now lives in Dar Es Salam. He and Carel work together on safari plans and design. Stuart proved to be a brilliant travelling companion with a zany sense of humour and his skill and talent with a camera left me full of admiration. Stuart, Carel and Robin are similar in age so I was relegated to my usual grandpa status.

Having been introduced to our travelling companions and the land cruisers, we began our journey through the busy traffic of Cape Town heading for the silence and solitude of the hot dry country that is the western side of South Africa – and towards the trip of a lifetime

Our first Camp Site and Carel, Saly, Lara & Mila at sunset

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