Joel & I have been home for just over a week now and whilst we're both very happy to be home and to be back with the ones we love most, there's a small part of us that's missing the busyness of the adventure a roadtrip of this scale provides.

We covered 7710.6 kilometres (almost 4820 miles) in twenty days and drove through eight of South Africa's nine provinces. We camped for 10 nights and stayed in accommodation for 9 nights. We wild-camped twice, both in the Eastern Cape where it was very cold. Our coldest night was -4C in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, our warmest night was 14C in the Kruger National Park.

It only rains in winter in SA in the Western Cape so most of SA's landscape was brown apart from the forestry plantations of Limpopo & Mpumalanga which were stunning and yet a little discombobulating too by virtue of their sheer scale.

We never felt threatened or at risk whilst traveling around the country, though our most stressful time was driving through Gauteng when it was under a strict lockdown. Many of you prayed for traveling mercies and we were blessed with a smooth journey through the province and weren't stopped at the major roadblock as we entered Gauteng. 

Our biggest sadness was being robbed of our final night which we had planned to spend in Greyton so that we could eat our final roadtrip meal together at Rupert's Bistro, one of our favourite restaurants. Thanks for nothing Cyril!

Thankfully, other than restricting our access to booze, SA's Adjusted Level 4 Lockdown didn't impact us too negatively, I even managed to score a beer or two for the England games, and we managed to complete the trip when at times it looked like it might be kicked in to touch by the govt. 

Truthfully, I really underestimated just how big SA is and how massive a trip this would turn in to. I also learnt that doing it on the fly was probably not the wisest way to do it, and I have to give much credit to my travel/booking agent (that would be Paula) who dug us out of a hole once or twice.

Generally on our way around the country we experienced nothing but warmth and hospitality, though the exception was the woman working on the desk at the Satara Rest Camp in the Kruger who managed to get our bookings for the next four nights cancelled. We only learnt of this the following day and were incredibly thankful to the guy at Berg En Dal Rest Camp who managed to book us in to their campsite for four nights. That was a very very stressful hour!!!

The rest of our time in the Kruger was amazing, we saw the Big Five in the first two hours of being in the park and Joel was thrilled to see over thirty rhinos during our stay. The truly spine tingling moment was seeing two lions on our last day. As we rounded a bend in the road suddenly we saw them just by the side of the road, they were completely uninterested in us and we just sat there in awe and wonder of these amazing creatures.

Back to the beginning... our first day was such a lot of fun as we found some great 4X4 trails & dirt roads and eventually made our way up the Swartberg Pass. We reached the summit at sunset which was stunning, but this also set the tone for much of the rest of the trip as we were then struggling to find somewhere to camp. Thankfully we found a campsite on the Prince Albert side, but we'd left it too late to find a wild-camping spot.

As I spent part of that evening pondering on the rest of the trip I also realized that we wouldn't be able to spend too many days messing about like this if we were to make it all the way around in three weeks. Sadly we had a time frame of Joel's college holiday and a tight budget.

After a long day of driving we eventually left the Western Cape the next day and really enjoyed the Eastern Cape. The first thing that struck us was just how Afrikaans the EC is, we hadn't expected that, but what really struck me was the feeling of finally being back in Africa. To understand what I mean by this you need to have spent time further north than SA. We stopped in Queenstown and it felt a lot like being back in Harare. It made me realise just how sanitized the Western Cape and the area around Cape Town really is.

The highlight of the whole trip for me was our drive up the Sani Pass into Lesotho. This is a genuine 4X4 only pass that isn't for the fainthearted!

After a bit of research and some helpful local advice, we spent the night in Underberg before heading onto the Sani in the morning. We had our Covid tests done at the SA Border post and ten minutes later we were in the Jimny bouncing our way up the ice covered pass. At the snowbound Lesotho border post they weren't interested in anything other than our passports, Covid test results and R45 for taking the car into the country. I had been warned to take all manner of documents with, but they weren't needed in the end. Even as we re-entered SA the border post weren't interested in anything beyond stamping our passports. Having driven in to the town of Mokhotlong in Lesotho, we turned back to SA and then spent the night back in Underberg. We both agreed that the Sani was an exceptional day out and would do it again. 

After the Sani our focus was on getting to the Kruger so we put in a massive day of driving and eventually arrived at a little place called Low's Creek in Mpumalanga. We both had a bit of a meltdown here. The day had been long and unpleasant and was topped off by a frustrating hour driving through a rough part of a township looking for the campsite. When we eventually arrived at the campsite we were both a bit deflated and not impressed by what we were looking at. However, they say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, and this place certainly turned out to be a whole lot better than we had hoped. The owners were the friendliest and most hospitable couple you could meet and we had such a great evening there. Again this is somewhere I would love to revisit.

Next stop was five nights in the Kruger National Park which was simply amazing and a real blessing. I've been on many game drives in the past but this was my first self-drive one and I absolutely loved it. I had spent a bit of time teaching Joel to use my DSLR camera and he took some fantastic shots of our few days in the park. Truth be told he took over 3000 photos and we've really enjoyed looking back at them several times so far.

To choose a highlight from these six days is next to impossible, but Joel's favourite animal is the rhino and we were blessed to see so many, including several that hadn't been dehorned yet. Hopefully they will do them soon.

We left the Kruger via the Orpen Gate into Limpopo which is the province with the craziest driving of all of SA's provinces! After a night in Sabie courtesy of a good friend here in the Cape, we then spent the next three days making our way to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Again I had underestimated just how big a journey this was. 

I was also a little nervous because we hadn't made any bookings for the Kgalagadi and I was being told by a few FB pages that the camping sites were all fully booked with no chance of getting in. After much prayer and a friend of a friend doing us a favour we managed to book in to the Twee Rivieren campsite for two nights. Thank you Lord!

The Kgalagadi is a wholly different kind of game park to the Kruger and it's far more about appreciating the smaller things along with some stunning bird life. Sitting by various watering holes watching the smaller things go by was very precious time with Joel and a definite highlight for me. It was also a blessing seeing Joel develop an appreciation for this, which only made it all the more amazing when we saw a cheetah with her three cubs and a bit later a leopard walking across the veldt and up a ridge out of sight.

The Kgalagadi was also the coldest nights we experienced camping and neither of us would rush to repeat that element of our trip!

The only sadness about our trip to the Kgalagadi was knowing that we just wanted to go home after it, but we had one more night to go in Springbok before we had the joy of heading south through the Northern Cape into the Western Cape. Our sadness was also compounded by the loss of our final night's plan to visit Greyton.

I guess towards the end we were experiencing those end of term blues and were ready to go home, but we also spent a bit of time reflecting on what an amazing trip this had been. We had seen and experienced stuff many South Africans will never see or experience in their own country and that alone is a tremendous blessing and privilege. For me though, the absolute highlight was spending time with my boy, he's a great lad and it's a pleasure and a privilege to be his dad!

A few more random thoughts on our roadtrip...

The Northern Cape was my favourite part of SA.

We laughed so much at my stupidity of leaving our boxes of food outside the car in our campsite at the Kruger. Joel will long be amused by the image of the monkeys ransacking our food boxes.

Our late evening walk in Nieu Bethesda was a precious father/son moment and one I will treasure for the rest of my life.

Our biggest frustration was the lack of wild camping we managed to do due to difficulty in finding safe spots. Most of SA seems to be fenced off and next to impossible to access.

I was also thrilled by our average fuel consumption of 15.73Km/lt for the whole trip.


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