Africa Adventure Tours and Overlanding Stories by Nomad

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Dreaming of Travelling to Africa?

BY: JESSICA BARKER | 2012-11-07

If there’s one place in the world that you have to visit, it’s Africa!

What is it that makes you want to travel?  I’m not talking about taking a weekend outing with your friends; I’m talking about the kind of travel that makes you come alive!  The kind of travel where you push all your boundaries, slip in and out of your comfort zone, live and experience adventures that are outside your realm of possibility!

Jumping for Joy
Looking over Blyde River Canyon

What is it that makes you book that long haul flight and travel half way across the globe?  Is it simply curiosity?  A bucket list maybe?  Or have you been inspired by a friend or family member who has done a similar trip?  Did you see a mind blowing programme on television or read something on the internet that inspired you?  Ultimately, each of us have a story that we want to create and tell and we all have an endless yearning to make that story the most interesting and exciting story out there!  The human spirit is always on the lookout for a unique experience, a new environment and a moment that will intrinsically change its way of life.

On the Top of Kilimanjaro, Uhuru Peak
On the Equator in Uganda

If this sounds like you, you need to come to Africa, and if you’ve been here before, you have to come again.  If you have never considered Africa as the ultimate destination, it’s time to take your journey of discovery and start talking, listening, watching and reading about the endless possibilities and the life changing encounters that could be yours!  For those of you who have visited, spread the love and tell your stories and get ready to create new ones as every visit will astound you with the abundant variety and possibilities.

Cute Himba Kid

Be warned, Africa will capture your heart!  You will fall in love with her people, no matter what colour or creed.  Families, who have struggled for survival in the harshest environments, financially own nothing, yet are the kindest and most generous of spirit and soul.  They will easily offer you the gift of new friendship and dazzle you with their uninhibited smiles and vicarious way of life.  Africa, a land of mighty warriorsnomadic pastoralists and hunter gatherers.

Okavango Sunset in a Mokoro

Watch the sun set over the ocean then simply turn around and watch the moon rise over the mountains, stand on the Southernmost tip of Africa, walk in the bush with wild animals, have a foot in each Tropic or on either side of the Equator, trek through tropical rain forests to see one of the world’s most endangered primates or climb craggy mountains on horseback, soak up the sun on an endless white sand beach or watch the sun rise from the top of one of the most ancient deserts in the world!  The wide open spaces, the diamond sparkling night skies and the endless possibility of experiences will captivate your spirit.

The animals that you will encounter are being pushed to the brink of extinction by the growth of the population and man’s endless demand for more resources.  When you visit, your park fee contribution will go towards ensuring the survival of these unique and fascinating species.  There are not many places on earth where you can witness a leopard hunting an impala, dive with a great white shark, sleep in a tent with no fences between you and the wilderness, walk with a rhino or dodge a hippo.

Two big male lions

How can you afford to miss out?  You can’t!  So come and play with us and have an authentic African experience as you discover all the quirky charms this fascinating continent has to offer.

Jumping Masai

For more information on any of these tours, please email us on nomad@nomadtours.co.za or you can call us on             +27 (0)21 845 6310      

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Expect the Unexpected – a waterfall in the Namibian desert!!

Sunset and a waterfall in the Namibian Desert

I have been fortunate enough to participate in three scheduled tours with Nomad and decided it was time to share the experience with my friends, so we headed to Namibia for 10 days, on a private charter, booked through the Groups & Charters department.  We decided February was the most convenient for us, taking into account our work schedules and for our overseas based friends to be able to join.

The route was simple, but most importantly included all the highlights Namibia has to offer, Orange RiverFish River Canyon, Namib-Naukluft Park, SossusvleiSwakopmundEtosha National Park & Windhoek, or so that was what we planned & expected, what we got was the “unexpected”….

Heading North from Cape Town, we made our first overnight stop at the Orange River, now what I need to explain is that a few weeks before our trip, we received news of “heavy rains”, “not seen in decades” in Namibia.  “Really?  But it’s a desert, it never rains in a desert, does it?”. 

Crossing the border between South Africa and Namibia, we had our first glimpse of the “heavy rains” and upon arrival at our overnight stop, we saw further evidence, but, we had blue skies, sunshine and the most delicious bobotie (a dish of curried mince with an egg custard baked on top) for supper, besides, we were on holiday, what’s a bit of heavy flowing water?  As we had a mixture of camping & accommodated, the campers chose to sleep under the stars, while those that chose accommodated settled into their river facing bungalows for the night.

Water Under The Bridge Felix Camp under water

Our journey continued north, next stop Ai-Ais hot springs, tucked away in the southern end of the Fish River Canyon.  The afternoon was relaxed with a few rounds of poker being played while the chicken potjie was on the go.  As the evening approached, we all hopped on the truck and headed to the Fish River Canyon viewing site for a spectacular sunset, and spectacular it was!  We spent about an hour hanging out at the Canyon viewing point just staring into the sunset and beyond.

Day three greeted us with a sprinkling of rain as we headed for the Namib-Naukluft National Park and our overnight spot, Sesriem.  Every kilometre driven showed more evidence of the “heavy rains”, the normally dusty gravel roads were soaked, muddy and slippery which made for an interesting ride.  The landscape was something I had never before witnessed – green, green, green.  Having travelled to Namibia on many previous occasions with my family, I was used to the dry, arid landscape, I was in awe at the amount of water and the shrubbery and felt privileged to have been able to see the desert this way.   Upon arrival at Sesriem, we pitched our tents, lit the fire and had an early night in preparation for our earliest morning and the climbing of Dune 45 at sunrise.

A green desert A muddy lunch stop

Sadly our dream of climbing Dune 45 did not materialise, the road into Sesriem and Sossusvlei was closed as the river had come down during the night which made the road impassable, however, this did not deter us as we made our way into Sesriem and found the next best dune called Elim dune.  Taking all the huffing and puffing into account to get to the top of the dune, it was all well worth it.  While we were up there, a hearty cooked breakfast was being prepared, which we gobbled down upon our return to the truck.  Next stop… Swakopmund.

Now this is where the fun really began and the warnings of “heavy rains” started making sense.  Just outside Solitaire we came across a number of cars parked in the road, the river was in full flow over the road and was impassable.  Luckily there was a detour further back, so we backtracked and carried on our merry way, it was after all tea time and we were salivating just thinking about the famous Solitaire apple pie.

Examining the road Road Washed Away

Take a moment to notice the beautiful blue skies, we opted to spend a few moments admiring this raging river and photographing it as we all thought it rather impressive.  Finally, after our detour, we made it to our warm apple pie.  If ever you find yourself in Solitaire, buy yourself two slices, one to eat while in Solitaire and the other to save for later, you will regret it if you don’t!

Now what I have not mentioned yet is that Sonny, our beloved truck, developed a disliking to the mud, rain and river beds which he had to pass through on the last two days, he was starting to choke up.  But it was manageable as we would be in Swakopmund within a couple of hours and there Sonny could be sorted out and given a rest.  Ready to leave Solitaire, we heard a couple of stories from the shop assistants that the Kuiseb pass was closed as the river was raging down, that is the only direct route to Swakopmund from Solitaire.  In the meantime, another Nomad truck had pulled into Solitaire, and a second truck was well on his way to go and investigate the Kuiseb situation.  We decided to follow truck #2 and investigate the Kuiseb pass, after all, we wanted our photo at the Tropic of Capricorn which was in the same direction, so off we went, poor Sonny huffing and puffing along.

While having our pics taken at the Capricorn sign, in the distance we saw truck #2 coming back, not a good sign, he was headed back to Solitaire as Kuiseb was full of debris and there was a strong build up of water.  Back in Sonny, we turned around and headed back to Solitaire, once there we would plan our next move.  Heading back to Solitaire, we saw the reality of the situation right before our eyes!  A huge big rain storm was in front of us and we were heading straight for it.

Another Storm is Brewing

Sonny had now decided enough was enough and he was going to wait while the rain passed, so we decided to wait with him.  While our guide and driver attended to the problem, we watched as the storm moved over and so the downpour began.  Who would have thought that a river could form within five minutes!

Waiting out the storm in Solitaire

It was late afternoon and we were still waiting in Solitaire, would we still make Swakopmund?  The baker of the famous apple pie had just heard a rumour that there was a grader down in Kuiseb busy moving debris and the pass would be open soon.  Truck #2 headed back down to the Kuiseb Pass.  Sonny was still being stubborn, so we waited.  Truck #1 in the meantime also decided to leave, after consultation with our operations department, they headed to Swakopmund via Windhoek on the C24.  By now it was probably around 15:30, our guide proposed the alternative, that we follow truck #1 to Windhoek and onto Swakopmund, which meant arrival in Swakopmund would be late, very late.  We all agreed to and were very happy with this plan (we had big plans in Swakopmund, we packed the snowboard to play on the dunes and we had a birthday to celebrate).

Truck Sonny getting some love

Off we headed towards the C24, cellphone reception was dodgy while we were making our way through the mountains, so only about an hour into the drive, our C24 journey came to an abrupt end as a message was received from Tosca, our beloved operations manager “STOP, C24 has been closed – road in bad condition, do not proceed” (in case you were wondering, Sonny had since been given a good talking to and was happy to continue).  We all stood there, in the mud in the middle of nowhere, speechless.  Our operations department had already put Plan B into motion, we would be backtracking to a lodge just between Sesriem and Solitaire.

Getting to our Plan B overnight stop was without incident, back through the mountains, past the detour and so we arrived.  Lucky to have a beautiful sunset and a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon – a waterfall in the surrounding desert mountains!  Yes, a waterfall in the middle of the desert, how many people can honestly say they have seen a waterfall in the desert of Namibia?  After a long day on the road, well, over 500km, 10 hours in and out of Sonny, we ended up 47km from Sesriem, where we had started that morning.

Sunset and a waterfall in the desert

After a group meeting, we all agreed that to go to Swakopmund would no longer be realistic and therefore opted to proceed north, to the gates of Etosha National Park, which would mean we would have more time to explore Etosha and relax.  The C24 had been opened and off we went, quick shop stop in Windhoek and onto Outjo where we spent the night in Plan C accommodation.

And so we entered Etosha National Park and the game viewing started immediately.  Over the next few days, we would encounter an old male elephant, 2 packs of lions, a rhino and her calf at the watering hold in Halali, antelope and various bird species.   And what would a trip to Etosha be without a stop on the pans themselves.

Desert elephant and lion in Etosha
Salt pans in Etosha

After 2 wonderful days of sunshine, spending hours staring at the campsite waterholes, we said goodbye to Etosha and headed back South to Windhoek, which would be our second last night of our tour.  While we only had one night in Windhoek, we chose to spend this evening at Joe’s Beer House, enjoying a great meal.

Our second last day of tour saw us taking the long drive back down to the Orange River, back to where our journey had begun 8 days earlier.  Having had a late night out in Windhoek, the morning felt a bit rough, so I thought it would be a good idea to slip on my three quarter pyjama pants and travel in those, after all, it was going to be a long day in the truck and comfort was my number 1 priority.

Just outside a town called Rehoboth we pulled off to the side of the road to have a quick “bathroom” stop, making use of bathroom #3 (which for those that have travelled with us before will know is a bush toilet), you look for a bush and squat.  Myself and two others eyed out the perfect spot and off we went through the ankle high grass.  All of a sudden, there is a scream and my name being called!  With a “WTF” expression on my face, I turned around to my friend who was waving her hands and screaming wildly, yet no words came out her mouth.

In the movement of me turning around and my “WTF” face – something became entangled in my legs, natural instinct told me to start screaming, jump, shake my legs and run!!  S.N.A.K.E!!  Aha, that is what my friend was trying to warn me about!  I stood on a snake and apparently not a small one either.  The moral of the story, never wear your pyjama pants when in the bush!

And so we arrived at the Orange River, our final night of our adventure.  Exhausted, we had a refreshing swim followed by copious amounts of red wine, reminiscing about our last 9 days.  Our last day saw us head back to Cape Town.  Our wonderful, memorable adventure had come to an end, but that was not the last adventure, as soon, we would be heading to Mozambique to start a brand new adventure!

Namibia is a dry country, please adapt! 

Join us on and adventure of your own!  Contact our Groups and Charter department if you’d like to build your own tour:  groups@nomadtours.co.za 

If you would prefer to join us one one of our scheduled tours to experience Namibia – we have a whole selection for you!

Camping:

20 Day Vic Falls to Cape Town – available in the opposite direction
14 Day Vic Falls to Swakopmund (Desert and Delta) – available in the opposite direction
12 Day Cape Town to Windhoek (Best of Namibia) – available in the opposite direction
7 Day Cape Town to Swakopmund (Desert Explorer) – available in the opposite direction

Accommodated:

7 Day Desert Explorer (Cape Town to Swakopmund)
12 Day Namibian Experience (Cape Town to Windhoek)
14 Day Desert and Delta (Swakopmund to Victoria Falls)
20 Day Cape Town to Victoria Falls 

BY: ANNELIESE KORSCH | 2012-10-29


How to minimise your risk when booking your dream holiday adventure tour!

Off the back of the unfortunate collapse of overland tour operator, Kumuka Worldwide, and an unstable market economy, we’d like to offer you a few suggestions of how to ensure that your dream holiday does not get ripped out from underneath you before you’ve even travelled.

It is not likely that your personal travel insurance or a travel company’s bond (which insures your deposit or full payment) will fully cover every single traveller if a tour operator goes into liquidation.  Do your homework and find out as much information about the company that you’re going to be travelling with before booking your next tour.

Whether you’re booking through a travel agency or directly with a tour operator, you are entitled to information about the company that you’re planning on travelling with.  A few questions that you could ask your consultant are:

  • What is the tour company doing to improve its standards and ensure growth in the market?
  • Is the company currently active on travel forums and social media sites?
  • Has the company gone through any redundancies or restructuring in the last 6 months?
  • What sustainable best practices does the company adhere to?If a tour operator is offering exceptionally large standing discounts and add-ons, this is indicative of either a pricing error, a lack of bookings or the inevitable cutting of corners on tour.  None of these bode well for future tour operations.

To answer these questions for you from Nomad’s perspective:

Currently, our trucks are full and we have had to rent in additional trucks to cover our requirements.  We are also currently building 6 new truck bodies to cater for the demand and to improve the quality of our trucks.  All of our trucks on the road are less than 5 years old and are SABS (South African Bureau of Standards) compliant , making them the safest and well-maintained adventure trucks on the road in Southern and East Africa.

We are continually and consistently active on travel forums and social media sites to ensure that guests have a clear understanding of our product.  We also use these platforms to advise on any situation and to respond to any constructive feedback from our guests.

Nomad has not had any redundancies or restructuring and 2012 has seen us experiencing our best sales months in Nomad history.

We invest in our guides education and careers to ensure that they are knowledgeable and passionate about Africa and the tours they are running. Continuous investment in our trucks ensures that they are some of the safest on the road and as we are a local specialist, we are always close at hand to resolve any situation immediately.  We maintain a rigorous maintenance schedule on our trucks and each one is roadworthy tested every six months.

We do offer select discounts on specific departures to ensure that we run full and healthy tours but no standing discounts or add-ons.

We’d love to have you on tour with us to experience the wonders that Africa has to offer, please do come and join us!  Our sincerest condolences go out to those who have been affected by Kumuka Worldwide’s collapse.

http://www.nomadtours.co.za


Part 3 of Monika Grabowska’s Cape Town to Victoria Falls tour… enjoy!

World's heritage travel

delta

We are now getting closer to the end of our journey. The final destination of this three-week trip was Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and I’ll soon describe what I think about this world heritage site. This journey started in South Africa, we went through Namibia and I’ll soon describe rest of the trip. Have you missed the beginning, just go back two posts.

After Etosha National Park it was time to see one more city. We visited Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. It was just a city and we wanted to see nature, so we didn’t spend so much time there. Why should we. We visited a restaurant though and had some pretty good meat. Maybe it was a typical touristic place and nothing to brag about, but it was still tasty and felt good.

From Namibia we went on to Botswana. We got flat tire twice, so it was…

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Part 2 of Monika Grabowska’s Cape to Vic Falls Tour

World's heritage travel

Zebra

After a week on the road with sleeping in tents and eating by a camp fire we were dirty and tired and then came the luxury: a hostel with normal beds in a town by the Atlantic Ocean, called Swapkomund.That’s not enough, we also went out and ate in a real restaurant, that served all kinds of wonderfull food from pizza to wild meat, like springbook or oryx.

On the way to Swapkomund we  passed the tropic of Capricorn and saw a desrt-part that looked like a moon landscape. It was very different from the other parts of the desert. A whole new planet.

We continued throgh the desert and suddenly the desert became a beach and we reached the ocean and the town of Swapkomund. The border between desert and beach was a road.

In Swapkomund or Walvis bay nearby we  were supposed to see flamingos, but they didn’t…

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Part 1 of Monika Grabowska’s Cape to Vic Falls Tour!

World's heritage travel

My trip to see the Vic Falls in Zimbabwe was the most amazing trip I’ve ever done so far. Not only because of the Vic Falls, but the waterfall was a big part of it. Victoria Falls was added to the world heritage list in 1989. The waterfall is almost 2 km long and the fall is 109 meters high on the highest place. And it is magnificent. It’s difficult to imagine the amount of water falling down from the Zambezi river. You just have to see it.

But let’s start from the beginning. It was December of 2010 and Europe was covered in massive amounts of snow. Around Christmas there was so much snow that many of the major airports were closed. Families were split apart, waiting for their loved ones to come for Christmas. Other went away for Christmas and could not return home. When the airports opened…

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Win a Free Masai Mara and Gorilla tour with Nomad Tours and Safari Interactive Magazine!

Win a FREE Masai Mara and Gorilla Tour

Answer an easy question and win a Masai Mara & Gorilla trekking adventure with Safari Interactive Magazine and Nomad Africa Adventure Tours

Win a Masai Mara and Gorillas Trekking Tour

Click on the competition page to win a Masai Mara and Gorilla Trekking tour with Nomad Africa Adventure Tours, read the article on page 15

 

We are also running a special at the moment: **FREE GORILLA PERMITS** on the following departures;

 

Tour

Code

NMG

1237 – 23 May 2012          

NMG

1253 – 18 July 2012          

NMG

1265 – 29 August 2012     

NMG

1269 – 12 September 2012 

NMG

  1273 – 26 September 2012 

 

There is no catch, book any of the above listed tours and receive a free gorilla permit (one permit per guest).  This is for all bookings made between today and the end of May 2012.


Nomad’s 8 day Lesotho, Addo and Drakensberg tour – Part Three

We pass the town of Alice, seeing the University of Fort Hare where Nelson Mandela and other well-known politicians studied.  We then made our way on to Grahamstown, well known for it’s annual Arts Festival in July, but this time we just stopped for groceries for the next few days.

Nomad truck in Grahamstown

Nomad truck in Grahamstown

Time flies so quickly and my last stop on this tour is the Addo Elephant National Park.  Heading to the park we see Private Reserves along the highway and spot giraffes sitting on the ground (as there was clearly no threat to them).  We wait for a train to cross in front of us before we enter the park.  The keys for our chalets are collected and we make our way with Ella to our accommodation.  We were handed the keys and I had chalet 41, luggage off-loaded and I made my way to my own chalet.  WOW!!  I just smiled.  It was just so beautiful.  The double bed looked out onto a balcony overlooking the other chalets and the parks forests ahead.

My room in the park at Addo Elephant Park

My room in the park at Addo Elephant Park

The view from my balcony at Addo Elephant Park

The view from my balcony at Addo Elephant Park

After I took in the comforts of my room I quickly freshened up as we were to meet at the camping site to have lunch.  En route to lunch, I stopped over at the bird hide looking for interesting birds; walked over to the waterhole when a Kudu made its way down to the hole and I discovered that there was even an underground hide.  It was a lovely stroll to the camping site where Rimson was setting the lunch table.  Sven asked me if I would like to see a snake and I said yes!  Yes!!  I took my camera as we headed behind the truck…and there was the snake …a rubber snake!  There were independent travellers from South Africa and being regulars to Addo, they were aware of the Vervet monkeys that roamed the area in search of the food.  Apparently they stay away when they see the snakes ‘strategically’ placed around the couple’s cool kitchen camp setup.

Having lunch in the camp site at Addo Elephant Park

Having lunch in the camp site at Addo Elephant Park

Preparing the lunch at Addo National Park

Preparing the lunch at Addo National Park

Having fun in the kitchen at Addo Elephant National Park

Having fun in the kitchen at Addo Elephant National Park

Having a short briefing about our time in Addo

Having a short briefing about our time in Addo

Addo National Park is in the malaria-free Eastern Cape province of South Africa which is great for travellers who are pregnant or travelling with children.  There are elephants, lions, black rhinos, buffalos, leopards, zebra, and a variety of antelope and bird species in Addo.  I was very excited for my game drive.  After lunch, we collected our water bottles and jackets (as it started getting chilly).  All eagerly waiting with our camera’s and binoculars, we had to be back in camp as the gates closed at 18h30.

Kudu browsing in the veld in Addo National Park

Kudu browsing in the veld in Addo National Park

A zebra and her foal run alongside the truck in Addo

A zebra and her foal run alongside the truck in Addo

In distance we could see a herd of about 50 elephants crossing the road and heading to a waterhole.  Johannes slowly made his way and parked so that we could all get a view of the herd and admire these graceful creatures.  Elephants are my favourite animals so I was over the moon to see so many of them drinking water and watching the mothers look after the little ones.  The interaction of the herd was fascinating from bulls playing with each other to the little ones watching their mom’s every move and being camera shy.  Catching a glimpse or a snap of them was so difficult as they were almost always hidden behind their Mom.

A happy little Addo elephant family!

A happy little Addo elephant family!

The other end of the elephants

The other end of the elephants

It starting drizzling as we made our way to the other waterholes where we saw more elephants and more…we must have seen at least 150 elephants so far. The park was originally established to protect the remaining African elephants in Addo and it is doing a good job by conserving these majestic mammals.

More cute baby elephants!

More cute baby elephants!

A big thirsty elephant, imagine how much this one drinks in a day!

A big thirsty elephant, imagine how much this one drinks in a day!

We make our way to the gates to find Rimson to see if he has managed to fight off the monkeys near the kitchen camp, everything looks well protected from their cheeky little hands.  Dinner is ready and is smelling great!  We all sat under the canvas awning, drawn from the side of the Nomad truck and talked about the game drive.  It was a beautiful calm night and sadly, my last dinner with the group.  I was truly going to miss the African road.  It is something so special that every South African or lover of the wild should experience.

The last supper, with my new friends and family on the last night of my tour

The last supper, with my new friends and family on the last night of my tour

An early morning as we get ready for our game drive at 6am.  We saw zebra with their young, black backed jackals, kudu, ostriches, a buffalo, Red Hartebeest, warthogs, Leopard Tortoises and a scrub hare.  No luck with lions or leopards today but hey, I got to see my elephants.

Up close and personal with my favourite animal, the African Elephant

Up close and personal with my favourite animal, the African Elephant

We stopped for breakfast at Jack’s picnic site to fill our stomachs.  We were now making our way to the exit of the park driving to the Southern Gate to reach the N2.  Goodbye Addo see you again, soon I hope!

I reached Nomad’s post tour accommodation, the Eltham Lodge in Port Elizabeth at about 12h00.  A well located guest house about 5 minutes away from the airport and walking distance to the beachfront.

Port Elizabeth is known as the friendly city and it is where I had to say goodbye to my family as they headed  to Tsitsikamma National Park to end their tour in Cape Town.  I truly wished I was going to see more of my own beautiful country.

My tour family with truck Ella and guides Johannes, Rimson and Sven

My tour family with truck Ella and guides Johannes, Rimson and Sven

I met great people, had good fun, learnt more than I could have imagined and can’t wait for my next Nomad Adventure Tour…. see you on the road fellow nomads!

Me with my fellow Nomad crew, what an epic team!

Me with my fellow Nomad crew, what an epic team!


An overland adventure full of hiking activity and beautiful scenery

Nomad’s 8 day Lesotho, Addo and Drakensberg tour, Day 1 – 3, by Reshma Deva

Sawubona. We landed at King Shaka International Airport, Durban.  Green volunteers were everywhere welcoming delegates to the much talked about COP17/ CMP7.  Durban hosted this international conference from the 28 Nov to the 9 Dec 2011.  What is COP17?  The United Nations Climate Change Conference is meant to bring together representatives of the world’s governments, international organisations and civil society to basically discuss how to deal with the threat posed by climate change.

On entering the city of Durban with the taxi arranged for me, I could feel and see the tight security around the event as at almost every corner were police vehicles; mostly surrounding hotels and beachfront areas.

The King Shaka Airport is located about 30 minutes away from the Nomad pre-accommodation, the Garden Court South Beach.  The hotel is situated along the Marine Parade so within walking distance to soak up the sun at the beach and to sample the local cuisine at the many city restaurants.

The Durban Beachfront and Marine Parade

The Durban Beachfront and Marine Parade

It is a lovely cool drizzly afternoon which is unusual for Durban known for its humid, subtropical weather which is why COP17 is so important so that we can understand the climate and look after our environment to preserve it.  Responsible travel is an essential factor in Nomad’s African Trust initiative thus Nomad Adventure Tours allows travellers to purchase green seats.  This allows travellers to offset their CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) emissions generated from their trip.

In Durban, you can experience attractions such as uShaka Marine World, the 2010 FIFA World Cup stadium and religious places of worship to name but a few.  Durban is truly a city which can showcase its cultural diversity of African, Eastern and Western influences.

Spicy Durban, the culmination of East meets West

Spicy Durban, the culmination of East meets West

Me visiting Ushaka Marine World on the Durban Beachfront

Me visiting Ushaka Marine World on the Durban Beachfront

Ride a Ricksha in Durban, is a must do – Rickshas were brought from the East in the early 1990s as a tourist attraction and as a way of getting around the city.  Nowadays they operate on the beachfront – so hitch a ride with a Ricksha!

Hitch a ride with a Riksha in Durban!

Hitch a ride with a Riksha in Durban!

The Moses Mabhida Stadium, is a beautiful designed stadium which has a cable car that takes you to the viewing platform on top of the 350m arch. The stadium has also the worlds only and largest stadium swing.

Moses Mabhide Stadium in Durban

Moses Mabhide Stadium in Durban

The Hare Krishna Temple of Understanding – a spiritual Hindu temple and Jummah Masjid Mosque – the largest mosque in the southern hemisphere.

Hare Krishna Temple, the largest in the Southern Hemisphere

Hare Krishna Temple, the largest in the Southern Hemisphere

 

Jummah Masjid Mosque

Jummah Masjid Mosque

After a comfortable night at the hotel, a yummy buffet breakfast was ready the following morning from fresh fruits, croissants to omelettes. It was time to meet the Nomad crew and group at 07h45 at reception.

View from Garden Court South Beach Hotel in Durban, pre-departure

View from Garden Court South Beach Hotel in Durban, pre-departure

Warm smiles from the Nomad crew, documents were completed and I was on my way to meet ‘Ella’ – named after Ella Fitzgerald. She was also known as the “First Lady of Song” and “Lady Ella,” an American jazz and song vocalis. Ella was beautiful – my ride for the next 8 days.

Inside our truck Ella with wonderful travel friends

Inside our truck Ella with wonderful travel friends

My luggage was loaded onto Ella into the locker compartments built in the truck. It is handy to bring a padlock to lock your items for safe keeping.  Johannes – our Nomad guide welcomed me to the Nomad family as most of the travellers started the tour from Johannesburg and were heading down to the fairest Cape.  There were friendly faces who introduced themselves to those starting the tour from Durban.  The rest of the crew was Rimson – the Nomad cook and Svenn the German translator were on board Ella.

On specific tour dates Nomad offers German translators on board the English speaking tours for those German travellers struggling to fully understand what is being said by the Nomad guide.

Johannes briefed us on the days ahead.  There was a quick shopping stop for the next few days to settle any cravings we might have on the journey… like chocolate… mmm more importantly a 5 litre water bottle and an emergency rain jacket as the weather looked unpredictable.

It started raining as we were leaving Durban.  We drove through Winterton and Bergville – small towns known for commercial farming. We reached our first accommodation of the night being the Drakensville Berg Resort located near the Royal Natal National Park.  A cosy accommodation place with an animal farm and amazing views of the Drakensberg escarpment in the distance.  Lunch was prepared quickly as we were all starving so we helped with grating cheese, cutting tomatoes and dicing the onions and setting the table. It is great when the group gets involved in preparing meals with the guides as you get to interact and have fun.  That is why Nomad’s tours are all self-participation tours which is key to making the tour enjoyable.

Drakensville Accommodation, beautiful!

Drakensville Accommodation, beautiful!

After lunch we were free to roam the resort or go for a swim in the indoor pool (to cool down for the outdoor pool), I decided to explore the animal farm.  There were donkeys, geese and cute little ducklings waddling down the hill to a beautiful posing peacock trying to ignore the playful goats and kids . This is certainly a child friendly vacation spot.

Mom takes the ducklings down the hill to find the peacock and the naughty goats

Mom takes the ducklings down the hill to find the peacock and the naughty goats

In the evening, dinner was served from one of the rooms as it was too cold to sit outside.  We dived into our lovely meals, thanked chef Rimson and were briefed about the next day’s activities and history of the region.

Awakening to the sounds of the ‘flying vuvuzelas’, the loud Hadeda Ibis birds, it was time to wake up and get ready for the days activities of hiking in the berg.  Quick breakfast and we were out of there, getting ready as we drove for about 30km to the Royal Natal National Park.  The landscapes are stunning and reminded me of the Sound of Music hills.  Out of the windows of the truck we saw the Zulu people carrying on with their daily routine with women carrying water on their heads from the village tap to their huts.

The hills are alive, with the Sound of Music, spectacular Drakensberg scenery

The hills are alive, with the Sound of Music, spectacular Drakensberg scenery

We reach the park and are introduced to a friendly Zulu tour guide who takes us up a hill (1400m high) to view Bushman San paintings. The San people were hunter-gatherers who lived here about 4000 years ago.  The guide is very informative explaining how the San people painted their daily life on the rocks to tell their story.  I found it very interesting as we were shown how they used to rest their elbow onto a stick which was held in a slit in a rock.  It is so fascinating to see the clever techniques used many moons ago.  We are then shown the Tugela river which separates the village from the national park.

Slit in the Rock where the Bushmen would lean their arm to do their rock art

Slit in the Rock where the Bushmen would lean their arm to do their rock art

Ella takes us to the starting point of the big walk for the day.  Along the way we see Grey Rhebok; the largest population of antelope species is found in the Drakensberg region.  We also meet the Nomad camping crew who started from Cape Town.

Grey Rhebuck love the grassy slopes of the Drakensberg

Grey Rhebuck love the grassy slopes of the Drakensberg

Royal Natal and Rugged Glen Hiking trail starts from the parking lot and heads up through the Gorge to a view where you can see the world famous Amphitheatre at close range.  The weather was cool but cloudy so this did hide the full spectacular view of the Amphitheatre.  The UKhahlamba Drakensberg Park is a World Heritage Site.  This is an amazing hike through fauna, flora and birdlife. The route follows the Thukela River and there is only one path so you really can’t get lost.

Me on a trail on the way to the Amphitheatre

Me on a trail on the way to the Amphitheatre

We had our packed lunches and water bottles with us in our backpacks. It is a 3 hour walk from gradual to steep paths that I definitely recommend.  Beautiful waterfalls can be seen flowing down the mountain in the distance – it is like from those fairy tale landscapes – just simply too stunning for words.  We had our packed lunches and water bottles with us in our backpacks. After the energetic hike, we head back to the resort to freshen up while dinner was prepared.

Hiking is the good way to enjoy Drakensberg so pack comfortable hiking shoes, your water bottle, energy snacks and a light rain jacket should the weather change all of a sudden.  The Nomad crew walk with you and according to your pace so you do not need to feel rushed and you can take in the beauty of your surroundings.

Sven translating for the group on the hike

Sven translating for the group on the hike

On route back to the resort, sheep where being herded around our truck which was quite amusing – only in Africa! (And Wales)

Sheep getting herded around our truck Ella

Sheep getting herded around our truck Ella

Day 3 sees us heading off to Lesotho, I’ll catch up with you soon to tell you the rest of the story!

 


Tosca’s Epic Kalaroo Adventure …. Binneboud Pink Days and Ghostly Quiet Nights

Grab a pen and paper, or your iSheet, tablet?  If nothing else close at hand, a coal from last nights braai.  I am about to give you very sound, thorough advice.  If you are going to come and experience the Kalaroo adventure, pack a beanie, and a scarf, and gloves, and mittens, and polar socks.  Also, pack your minus 200 degrees parka.  Did I mention a beanie?  Scrap that, pack a balaklawa!  It Is Cold! Enough said.

Saying Goodbye to Khamkirri Waterfront, thank you for your warm hospitality!

Saying Goodbye to Khamkirri Waterfront, thank you for your warm hospitality!

My morning started with the sound of a softly flowing Orange River behind my tent, and little birds cheeping… and the absence of my fingers.  I first thought I forgot them somewhere again, but it is just the cold.  Numbingly cold, cold.  With Visions of Sutherland, I pack up the paper tent, which actually stayed quiet last night.  It can also be that the Farmers Association party drowned out the sound of the Encyclopedia Britannica being crumpled up.  Oh, yes, write this down as well.  Do not, under any circumstances, pitch your tent a metre from the main reception/dance hall.  You might have some problems with drunk farmers tumbling over your tent on the way to their carefully pitched, 1 km away, tents.  And if you should have a party the previous evening, then rather pitch your tent close to a light source, and close to where you are having your party.  I think I saw one farmer on the opposite side of the Orange River, sleeping on the banks, hugging a reed.  I of course, slept the sleep of the dead, and, thanks to my careful wake up training from the Kalahari, woke up at 5h30 AM, with a vague desire to have some coffee.

Two hours later, I was skulking around, trying to sniff out anybody with a little caffeine in their tents.  Maybe hidden in the toilet tank. Perhaps the bar has a secret lock, and inside they store the best mocca ever.  Coffeeeee!  Please, just inject it straight into the veins. Finally some of the kitchen staff shows up, and I try and pull my best, “Oh, look at this poor thing, one can clearly see she needs a cup of coffee” look.  To no avail.  They most probably thought I had indigestion.  Then I thought, if I can steal some wood somewhere, and start a fire, then I can boil water and have COFFEE!  Nope, no wood.  I even considered making coffee from warm tap water.  Finally, after the tables were set, and farmers were all in attendance, and Bullet has been packed, and standing ready with bleary eyes, does somebody say, oh, would you like a cup of coffee?  Nah, thanks, I’m ok.  YES demit, can you not see the craving stamped on my forehead!  Now, having to make inane conversation with a red road map eyeball farmer, about the strange weather, meanwhile it is screaming in my head, can you please just get the sugar in your cup, so that I can get to the good stuff!  Finally, I had coffee.  Good stuff too.

Then I heard the bad news that there is no shortcut to Niewoudville, my camp for the night.  It is back to Kakamas, then to Keimoes, then down to Kenhard, Brandvlei, Calvinia, and there, finally a turn to Niewoudville.  And it is about 500km.  In my search for coffee, I was still standing at the Orange River at 9am this morning.  But, with sad goodbyes to Phillipa and Danie, and the three kittens running around, and Sparky my canoeing guide from Mafikeng, I started the 500km journey.

Kakamas first.  After my 3 hours craving, just one cup of Java would just not do it.  So, I decide to turn into Kakamas town.  Two streets really, please do not expect a metropolis.  And there, on the side of the road, I find The Pienk Farmstall.  Yes, you heard me correctly. The Pienk Farmstall.  And not just the name, everything from the name board, to the lady at the till, all pink.  And not just any pink, binneboud pink (inner thigh pink?  Hidden part of bum pink?).  And absolutely nothing of any value, or to do with a farm stall inside.

But a coffee machine!  Besides the coffee machine, there was an old typewriter.  Pink porcelain savings piggies, stuffed and mounted Springbok head, wearing a pink baseball cap.  One spectacular sundress, surprisingly not pink.  Thinking that a biscuit or some kind of baked goodies will go nicely with the machined pure half mast cup of coffee, I only find four empty serving plates.  But wait, dining tables outside under the awning.  So I ask the pink clad ladies, do you serve breakfast?  Nope, they say.  Aaa, I thought to myself, they cater for the lunch crowd.  Lunch?  I ask.  Nope.  Well, then dinner surely, nope.  They don’t serve meals, but then why in all that is logical, do you have a seating area like a restaurant?  Answer:  In case people want to sit down (in my head, this amounts to teasing, people can bloody go sit in their cars if they want to sit).  Anyhow, I walk out with some stale koeksusters, and the last biltong muffin, and I must admit, not bad.  Very salty, but not bad.

Die Pienk Padstal, I'm not kidding!  Binneboud pienk, everything!

Die Pienk Padstal, I'm not kidding! Binneboud pienk, everything!

Seriously, everything is pink inside Die Pienk Padstal!

Seriously, everything is pink inside Die Pienk Padstal!

Ok, rest of the driving.  I swear, I have solid 8 hours sleep.  Solid, despite the farmer doing a Nuck Chorris over my tent, with a double Flick Flack, side split, ending with an overhead roundhouse, so I should have been bushy tailed and very awake.  My personal opinion is, it is the damn roads!  5 min into taking the long road, I feel like I have the Titanic attached to my eyelids.  But I soldier on, get through Kenhard, and then had to stop about 20km’s outside of town.  Not because of sleepy eyes, 20km outside Kenhard there is nothing.  Some large farms, no farm houses, just grass, broken telephone lines, and a fence.  That’s it.  No other signs of civilization, or people living there.  Yet, on the side of the road, a very clear road sign, to please be cautious of the Bicycles.  Where?  What bicycles? Really?  You serious?  I actually had to do a U-turn on the highway, to get a shot of this.  I am sitting here typing, still wondering about that.

Bicycle sign, seriously, who is this for?

Bicycle sign, seriously, who is this for?

Ok, off the 500km I did, it went quiet for about 150 of those.  To Brandvlei.  But by then I could have just as well put Bullet on autopilot, and slept.  Luckily, Brandvlei, with all five of it’s houses, do have a wide open stretch of sand, with some iffy shade trees.  I pull in there, and decide to just close my eyes for a bit.  An hour later, I wake up, (or possibly I snored myself awake) with two locals sitting next to Bullet, against a tree.  A couple of slow blinks later confirms it is not a mirage.  Two locals, and they are giggling away. Looking at the only remaining reg number plate on Bullet, the one asks me, so, you from Somerset West?  My reply was, no, of course not, this is a rental car (yes, I know, I disavowed poor Bullet, but she got it), and off I sped.

Now I have been saying from the start, there is something amok with spirits and ghosts and freaky stuff in the Northern Cape.  I am driving along, full sunshine, thinking to myself that I should maybe exchange the sweat pants for shorts, when it starts raining!  Big drops.  Not a lot, but causing me to look up, and again, I swear, clouds!  And then Arabian days started.  In that area are lots of pans, with no vegetation.  Just sand.  I see a couple of sheep to the side, trying to actually dig a hole, so close to the ground they are lying, and think, strange, why aren’t they hopping along like sheep do?  When to my right, a sand storm the like I have only seen once in the Namib, approaches, and together with the sand storm is a cloud bank, with rain tinted a brown colour due to the sand storm.  I did stop Bullet, who also promptly tried to start digging a hole to hide in, and just looked at this spectacular freaky bit of wind magic going on!

It was sand and dust, and rain altogether!  I was actually expecting Omar Sharif on a camel to come tumbling past at least!  I actually started humming the theme song to Caravans!  Then a Land Cruiser drove into that whole sand water aerial mess!  Bravely going where no other vehicle (except for the Nomad Truck that other time in the Namib) has ever gone!  William was waving from the back seat! Spectacular!  I stopped a little further down, and called farmer Tractor Wagon, to arrange for the meeting re the tractor wagon trail at Niewoudville.  He says, lady, on a Sunday, farmers sleep in the afternoon, so I would have to call him at 6am the next morning.  So, nothing to rush forward to, I meander on to Niewoudville, in pouring rain, glad I have my sweat pants on!

A dust storm so big it made the sheep stop bouncing

A dust storm so big it made the sheep stop bouncing

Then I get another urge for coffee.  Luckily in Calvinia, the local petrol attendant has a kettle.  Working like an Old Model T Ford, but still working.  Thirty minutes after starting it, we had liftoff, and I had a flask full of coffee.  Only to arrive in Niewoudville sooner than I could get a cup poured.  But, 500km, not to be sneezed at, so I am rather tired at this point, and not one soul to be seen on the streets, or rather, street, of Niewoudville.  A little like Tommy Knockers.  I find Olive camp ground, get the gate open, drive around to the back, and am greeted by, wait for it, a chicken! And an aggressive chicken at that!  And following close behind him, two Peacocks! Tommy Knockers!

Calling the number on the gate gets me through to the owner, who it seems, owns most of the town.  He directs me to the Smidswinkel restaurant, where one lady waits.  Shame, I don’t know what she does on weekends there, but definitely not gather with a sociable group or something fun like that.  No other people!  And then comes the good news, I don’t have to stay in the camping ground, they prepared one of the guest houses for me!  Great!  Historical house, restored.  With no other soul in town?  AAAAaaaaaargh, Matjiesfontein all over again!  I start a fire, which cheers me up slightly, make a massive amount of food, which cheers me up even more, and then the sun sets.  And still, no sound.  No wind through the trees, no sound of kids playing, grownups talking.  Only a sad sheep baaaaaa coming from two houses down.  The last ciggie I had, I was huddled in the corner of the stoep.  Trying my best not to give off body heat, or a heartbeat! You know they can find you like that!