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.
Day three of the tour was a long driving day as we made our way to Lesotho. We crossed from the KwaZulu Natal Province to the Free State Province in South Africa. We drove through one of South Africa’s untouched and I think most beautiful national parks – the Golden Gate National Park – it’s name came about from the sunsets and sunrises in the area, when the sun shone on the rocks it reflected a golden colour.
Stunning mountain cliff formations and the various layers of the rock could be seen as the colours changed from layer to layer. There is a pass in the park where we reached the height of 2041m. It was a quick drive through the park before lunch was served, we still had to get through the border. Rimson, our guide, found a comfortable grassy space and we all got out and started helping with the lunch preparations. The camping chairs were stored underneath the truck and the Nomad family helped with setting them out and taking the table out – which is stored in the back of the truck where we clean, wash and cut the fruits and vegetables. It is actually quite amazing how much Ella, the truck, could hold and store within her.
The border crossing process lasted about 45minutes. On the Lesotho side there was a man and this huge book where he wrote all of the foreign nationalities details from their full name, passport number, date of birth, expiry and necessary information. On the South African side a simple scan of the passport was efficient with high tech (relative to Lesotho only) scanners. One of the travellers on tour had quite a long name, Gerarda Williamena Maria Cloudmans so the gentleman was in a troubled spot as he tried to fit her entire name into a small block and still needed to fill in her other information – this was quite amusing for us. For South African travellers, there was just a simple stamp and I moved on, back to the truck. Benefits of having a South African passport – moving faster in queues when travelling in Africa.
Dumelo – greetings in Basotho. The Kingdom of Lesotho, land of Basotho culture, a landlocked country in the centre of South Africa. I found the people to be very caring, friendly and proud of their nation. When you see photos of Lesotho, a common picture are the men wearing colourful woollen blankets and grass hats in the fields. Before entering Malealea we stopped for a photo stop on the rim of the valley which was called Gates of Paradise (2001m high). It is the gateway to the Malealea valley which is in the remote part of western Lesotho.
On arrival at the Malealea lodge, we were informed that there was a generator for electricity from 5pm to 10pm so torches or headlamps are a must to bring along to find your way through the night. Our cook headed straight into the kitchen to prepare dinner. After dinner, we played Uno and headed to our rooms for an early start of more adventure.
Today Ella rested again. We could choose from a selection of hikes according to our fitness and a group of us headed to the Botsoela Waterfall Hike. This is about a four hour hike down into the base of the valley along a river bed. It was raining for a few days so the rocks were wet and slippery so I slid around in the mud quite a lot which was all part of the adventure. A hat, raincoat, sunscreen, water and snacks again were important on this route. Depending on the number of hours hiked the fee is paid to the local Basotho guide. Pony trekking is another activity that is well known and can be done in the valley.
Luckily, the weather held up for us but as we headed up the valley it starting drizzling. After lunch a visit to the Malealea village was organised. Three Basotho’s took us into their village and showed us their local store, shops, craft centre, school and museum which was housed in a traditional Basotho hut.
Heading back to the lodge, in the games centre, the Malealea City Choir (MCC) sang a few songs and then a local music band called Sotho Sounds entertained us, using their home constructed instruments. It was a great way to interact with the locals by dancing to the rythyms of the Malealea. Great fun was had by all as we joined in with dancing to the African beats.
I awoke to the sounds of peacocks calling each other so it was a great African wake up call. At breakfast, the sun rose above the valley and the two male peacocks were actually doing a face-off against each other showing off to the female who was not interested as she was nowhere to be seen. Typical men haha!
After our 6am breakfast, we drove out of the valley passing Basotho children going to school waving and shouting hello to us. This day was another long distance driving day as we needed to make our way to Hogsback. Passing van Rooyens border post, the town of Wepener and road works you could expect to have delays of up to 30 minutes. We passed through Aliwal North, stopped at Queenstown for a break and on to the town of KathKath where we took a gravel road – like our guide said – Ella was going for an African massage – as the truck usually experiences big bumps on the gravel roads.
As we proceeded, we could see mist hovering over the hills in front of us. As we popped over the top of the hill, we could see a valley filled with mist and trees – it was a forest of the unknown ahead – a tranquil chill hung in the air. We entered deeper into the magical forest to our lodge. I can see where Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings author, found his inspiration. We continued to meander through the green lush forests, eventually reaching the quaint town of Hogsback. A mysterious town with a restaurant called ‘Enchanting Eatery’; hair studio called ‘Hair on the Hogs’; a hostel called ‘Away with the fairies’; chalets called ‘Never Daunted’ and a whole lot more! Well, at least the place where we were staying sounded a little more realistic, Kings Lodge, it definitely lived up to its name! A warm and extra comfortable bed, what more could I ask for more!
At Kings lodge, there is a fireplace in the reading room combined with a pool table and an outside deck to enjoy the sunshine. Some of us played card games and others became amateur to intermediate pool players. Dinner was served inside and again, Rimson’s food was delicious! After dinner, we were briefed on the activities we could do the following day.
After breakfast, we walked through the town, only realising then that the town of Hogsback sleeps on a Tuesday as it is their day of break from being open throughout the weekend. Reaching Hogsback Arboretum we strolled through the Garden of Trees from all over the world including 5 Californian Redwoods over 100 years old. It was a gentle walk to the beautiful 39 Steps Waterfall.
Hogsback is nestled on the slopes of the Amatola Mountains with centuries old forests around you – magical forests making it a place I will return to very soon.
Next, we move further into the Eastern Cape, stay tuned for my next update!
- An overland adventure full of hiking activity and beautiful scenery (nomadafricaadventuretours.wordpress.com)
I am sitting at home, unpacked, washing machine going merrily (with possible clogged pipes tomorrow, full of desert dunes), the dogs have now licked every available piece of skin they could find on my feet and legs, and the blurry photos have been deleted.
I know, I know, you’re thinking, what happened to Darling? Little known fact, I actually lived in Darling for years, and have a house there, where my mom lives. So I went to Darling, I just did not visit Evita. I forced my poor mom to sit through 1784 photos, which took me an hour to setup on the laptop as a slide show (and don’t be shaking your head now, we have all put poor unsuspecting souls through this same torture of a pictorial review of our just completed holiday!). Mom is 81. Ten photos later, she was yawning, and recalling when my Dad could not buy cool drink at the Lamberts Bay Hotel, because he was not wearing a tie. This was in 1950. And by photo 1531 she was actually nodding away.
She snapped right out of that again when I mentioned that my writing has been put on the internet. “How did you get it there?” she asked. Well, I have this dongle thing, it is like calling on a cell phone, but instead of using my voice, it sends text. “Yes, but how did you get it to land on the internet?” I emailed it to the office, and they pasted it on there. “No, that’s not possible, there’s no cable or aerial. So, how did you get it on there?” Ok, Mom, focus. My stuff was on the internet, don’t worry how I got it there. And people I don’t know read it. “How did they know to read it? Did somebody call them?”. Laugh all you want, you try and explain the internet, and wireless, and Facebook to somebody who worked in DOS years ago for two months! And now she wants to buy a laptop, so she can find recipes and needle point patterns on there. She can barely send an sms yet! I am keeping myself out of that little debacle!
Luckily, my brother is one of the people who actually read this, so there was no need to explain this to him. But he is actually a Mr Twitcher. He has 14.5 bird books and promptly downloaded all my photos, and is most probably sitting as we are speaking, identifying all the shots I took of avian life in the Kalahari! And he faithfully read my story every day: Hey Boet!
The recap done with the family I now sit and reflect on my absolutely Epic adventure.
I met some amazing, and odd people! The game spotters in the Kalahari, some from close, some from far, all were there with one purpose, to see wildlife. In each other or in the bush there are questions not fully answered yet, but still.
The two drunk Frenchmen, who took their lives in their own hands by getting out of their car next to lions, and to offer me drinkies, after I sat in the sun for three hours next to said Lions.
The people of Kenhard, who stepped into the 21st century, and had their first interracial wedding the evening I was there and let me tell you, it was a big makietie! I actually also met a true wildlife photographer, Hannes Lochner, from the back seat of a land cruiser, but still, I met the man, I saw his photos, and let me tell you, he actually lives permanently in the Kgalagadi. One can see that. Ok, I did not actually meet him per se, more like waved at him. He would not know me from a bar of soap!
Then the crazy kayak people from Khamkirri, who really fell with their career bums in the butter, seeing as they live right next to the river where they can practice and enjoy their passion! Kayaking you sickos!
One can say I nearly met Lord Milner’s wife. Thank goodness I did not! And one can say I nearly met the Polish space people as well, but seeing as they do it all remotely from Poland, also not.
I am very sure I met an Alien, but they wiped my memory after they did the tests and stuff, and concluded that there is intelligent life down here!
The seafood man from Lamberts Bay, the laughing locals in Brandvlei, farmer Jnr and his dog, the perpetually late gate keeper at Kgalagadi, the old man with the road phobias at Hyundai in Upington, and all in all, most of the road workers between Keimoes and Kakamas!
The places were a revelation, and yet strangely familiar! Perhaps because I have been to most of the places before but every time, is a new time with new sights and smells. I am still looking for the broken bottle of shampoo in my car, but the smell is apparently the Katbos and Kambroo bushes from the Karoo, and not shampoo! The Bullet and I traveled from Cape fold mountains, to flat stretches with bicycle warning signs, to deep red sand dunes, and flat salt pans, all with its own appeal and enough space to actually have a thought or two. We also had very nice acoustics, hence missing the V8 engine sounds for half a day! And I swear, the higher up in altitude one goes, the higher one can sing as well. I could reach that one spectacular note with Alphaville! A couple of times. And I am technically classified as a tenor, more like James Earl Jones after the ciggies and the vodka drinking from my youth. Like Rebroff in his hey day! But I hit that high note (also nearly popped a vein in the process)!
Animals. More Animals. The strange, the furry, the bald, the evil, the lazy and the funny! My personal heroes, officially, the fantastically brave suricates! They surpassed the wild dog, cheetah, and hyena in my affection now. No other animal poses as well for photos, pulls the weirdest faces, and just generally are soo busy, they don’t have time to just sit back and hide in bushes. Oh, and the Mice. Man, the smallest little things, but Braveheart is nothing compared to them. They should really paint their faces blue as well.
And the animals were not contained to the Kgalagadi. No, baboons at du Toits Kloof, rock hyraxes next to Tankwa Karoo, raptors on telephone lines all over, seagulls, and attacking Kelp Gulls on the coast, and I even saw a klipspringer close to Citrusdal. And not to mention the one gazillion locusts who bravely died, in full battalions, on a 100km stretch in the karoo.
I do hope the two frogs from Sutherland got the feeling back in their legs, after sleeping under me for a night.
Not to forget the livestock. Chicken, geese, donkeys, peacocks, sheep (different types as well) goats, dogs, cats, cattle, emus and some horses.
And then there was Damien. My friend, the narcissist, mirror crashing bat straight out of a Meatloaf song!
I think of doing a list of what I did see, I should perhaps note what I did not see!
My final thoughts after all this excitement: One should never go on holiday with big expectations. No place, person or event would ever be able to live up to that which one built up in the head. Expect to see a nice tree, that way, the crocodile hanging from the elephants tail, while singing karaoke, will be more visible under the tree!
One should always pack medicine, that way you won’t get sick while on holiday. It is when Murphy comes calling because you have no stomach remedies, or flu medicine that things become a little on the uncomfortable side.
Prepare for the coldest ever, and think summer holiday. It takes double the space in the car, but, you won’t be caught wrapped up in your beach sarong, beach towel, oil rag and three pairs of jeans, with dishtowels around the feet, and having to shove your hands into live coals to get some heat going!
Don’t look for the big things. Keep the eyes open, the imagination running, and make up stuff in your head!
And watch out for Aliens, ghosts, and all things that can make an appearance in a Spielberg film.
(And note to self, I watch way too many movies!)
Things I have learnt:
I need to take more leave.
Unusually, after a stint like this, I do not regret not going to work for San Parks. If I did, I would still be there, and not be able to tell anybody any off this, as it would be every day. This way, I could tell everybody about my Epic Adventure, ad nauseum (the Latin rears its ugly head again).
Bullet is not a 4×4.
My tops become shorter, the more I eat! I am practically wearing a boob tube today!
And I have the coolest job of all times! I can go do stuff like this, write about it, have people go oe and aah, and still have a job when I come back!
I am back at work, broke and heart sore. But in my dreams I am running with the cheetah, lying on sand dunes, and driving a rally car on a deserted stretch of a two lane dirt track through the Karoo. With not a care in the world. In my dreams I am strapped to the roof of a Landrower, and some khaki clad Marlboro man is calling me Ms Slovakia!
In my dreams…..
( Hene, all dramatic ne!)
Please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org for any information on the 9 Day, Cape Town to Cape Town, Karoo, Kalahari and West Coast Tour, we would love to have you on board with us!
Nomad’s Operations Manager, Tosca Korver, has dangerously been let out of the office to get a closer look at our new tour route, the 9 Day, Karoo, Kalahari and West Coast Tour (Cape Town to Cape Town). Don’t miss out on her epic adventures right here!
From the Road…. Day 1
It was a Massacre!! I left a blood trail from Cape Town to Sutherland! I am so depressed at the moment, drinking a plastic cup of Beyerskloof red, and hope that tomorrow the small animal life will please STAY OUT OF MY WAY!! It started with a Cisticola (little bird) that went Kamikaze on me, and flew into the side of my car! Then, of course it is apparently locust migration season in the Northern Cape, so, yes, quite a few colonies were wiped out by my 2×2 wheels. And then, the Leopard Tortoise, that, not at the speed of light, in fact, at no speed at all, crawled across the road on some unnamed pass. That one I missed, but nearly rolled my car in the attempt, seeing as the Leopard tortoise is on the endangered species list. I think. And then, of course, the snake! Seriously, it should not be on a 45km per hour road. Where I drove 30km per hour, as I was trying to capture the spectacular view from the Observatory Mountain! Not sure if I hit that one, but I think the tail might be something of the past now.
And this was NOT due to reckless driving, or lack of attention! They all just seemed to brim over with a lust for death!
Anyhow, that being said, what a fantastic day. My first vacation leave in yonks (and when I say Yonks, I mean, since the advent of electricity type of Yonks), so the first three hours was of course taken up with thoughts of work, and what did I forget. Then I ran into the Bikers club from Cape Town. At the wimpy about 5km outside of Cape Town(I was hungry, OK), and they seemed to be in such a high spirit for their bike trip (possibly to the Tygerberg Zoo and back) that I also promptly got into the spirit of the Epic adventure!
Du Toit Kloof tunnel, as always, gave me a moment of hesitation. I am not the type to be driving blithely underneath a couple of tons of mountain, and not be worried. But that 4km went past without a ton of bricks coming down on my head ( SA Engineers, ne!). I was very tempted to stop at every farm stall, and trout fishing stop, but managed to contain myself, until I saw the sign post for the Ostrich farm just past Touws River!
Ag cute man! Did a lovely 40 min tour there, with Bob, the Ranger, from Zimbabwe nogal. And low and behold, Bob knows Nomad very well, as he recalls our trucks pulling into Vic Falls when he was still living there.
That bonding session later, I fell back on the road again, looking for Matjiesfontein. Now, it must be said that I have been there before! A couple of times, but strangely, I couldn’t find it this time. Possibly because it has a population of like 3. And is more like a thought of a town, than a metropolis. I eventually pulled off at a truck rest stop, to check my map, to see if perhaps I did not drive past, and was speedily on my way to the Lebombo border to Mozambique (but I do carry my passport, so it would not have been a train smash, except for the 2000km round trip part). 15km later, I stumbled into Matjiesfontein. Originally founded by some Scott, and his wife, the whole town has been declared a national monument. And one can see why. Strangely, it reminds me a lot of Pilgrims rest in its hay day, with clapboard houses, and staff in colonial dress. The Museum was closed, temporarily, as the caretaker had to go to the bathroom, just as I arrived. So I meandered over to the bar, and met the Character of Matjies! He grabbed me by the scruff of the neck, pulled me inside and gave me an impromptu tour of Lord Milner’s home. Or lord somebody. (Sorry, I was not really listening that well, as I was too busy looking at the amazing range of weird and wonderful old time furniture!
It seems that my casual tour guide, is actually a jack of all trades, who can play piano ( which he did, bowler hat and all), and a standup comic! He showcased the performance he did on a SA standup comic television show, and if I must say so, he was rather good with his Madiba impression. If it was not for the beer gut, I would have thought I was in the presence of the big man himself!
I took my leave of Mr. Piano man, after he issued an invite to any Nomad group arriving, that he will take them on a 5 minute drive through tour of the town in the old London bus, and found the Museum caretaker back from her bathroom break. And not a tooth in her mouth, but mouthy is a good way to describe her! Fantastic! So, she showed me around, and then she had another urgent call from nature (I know, I also started worrying about the state of the food there). And there I found myself, abandoned in the cellar/basement, dungeon of the museum. Now, as my mom would say in Afrikaans “Ek is nie met die Helmet gebore nie, maar hier kan ek voel spook dit vanaand” ( Translated, I was not born with Du Bois ESP Ghost detection built in, but even I can say that here the ghosts are running free). I felt a cold chill running down my spine, and absolute deathly hollow quiet! Not to throw away my name as a fearless type, I exited the basement at a brisk pace. I did not run.
I suspect that lady caretaker might actually not exist on this astral plain? Maybe she is a manifestation of the slave of the Scott? Halihaaaaa!!!
And just before I jumped in my car, to make haste out of Ghost town, my tour guide from the bar shows up, and shows me a photo taken just the previous week, of him, with a ghostly apparition in the back ground!
Matjiesfontein. A town for all souls, lost or not!
Then, the next 110km to Sutherland. This is where I truly felt I was in theKaroo! Tectonic plate moment that shifted mountains clear out of the sockets, flat ground in between, the occasional raptor ( this route is known as the raptor route, by the way, for those avid bird watchers), and pretty much nothing else. Breathtaking, abandoned piece of land that just shows the magnificence that is South Africa. Ok, enough waxing lyrical! I drove on a deserted tar road and saw some pretty amazing Karoo flowers, birds, and the occasional swarm of locusts. Biblical I tell you!
Sutherland has a population of 2000. I know this because it said so on the sign board at the beginning of town where I realized that I just drove past my camp site for the evening!! But, with a population of 2000, one can make a U-turn, with no traffic in either direction.
I popped in at the SAAO ( the South African Astrological organization?) or some such. And, managed to procure a star gazing tour for the Saturday evening, using SALT! No, no tequila drinking. It is the largest telescope in the Southern Hemisphere. So, one thing set at least, I am going back in the morning for a proper tour, and info session with the powers that be. But, meanwhile the friendly owner of Southerland Caravan Park will give a star gazing tour tonight, through the telescope here at the camp site! Pretty neat!
So, in order to kill some time, I made a fire. Well attempted to make a fire. I cannot see now, through the snot and tears, and also have to restock on Paper plates in the morning. Used them all to keep the wood burning. But it is finally crackling away, the sheep went home to bed (yes, sheep, next to the camp site. Very pastoral, Breughal kind of scene), and my toes are freezing!
All in all a very good day. Except now for all the deaths and dead people. I saw some spectacular scenery, visited two lovely towns, saw an Ostrich and an Emu, O, and a sheep, and managed to start a fire with paper plates and wet wood!
Epic I tell you!
To pre-empt Tosca’s next day on the road and see where she’s going – have a look at the Karoo, Kalahari and West Coast Tour itinerary!
How do you feel about going on a 7 Day Camping Tour from Cape Town to Swakopmund? For FREE!! And a 25% discount for your travel partner.
To make this dream a reality, all you need to do this November is grow the most creatively NoMADic moustache we’ve seen!
Send us your pictures of your Movembers! Frovembers and Logomos will be accepted too. Girls, no mo? Mow your hair in any creative fashion and your entries will be accepted too. Don’t be cruel to your pets but if they look like they have a cool potential Mopportunity for a photo, get them involved! Creative hair is what it’s about and the more Nomad’esque it is, the better!
Enter your photos by:
- Post them on twitter using #MoMad @NomadTours
- Post them to our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/NomadTours
- Email them to email@example.com
- All entries must reach us by the 30th November 2011
- “like” our facebook page www.facebook.com/NomadTours
- Follow our blog: https://nomadafricaadventuretours.wordpress.com/
- Follow us on twitter @NomadTours
- Follow us on LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/company/nomad-tours
- For every photo that is entered into the competition and qualifies as above, Nomad will donate R2 to a charity selected by the owner of the winning picture.
- Movember: When Men Grow Mustaches For a Good Cause (bellasugar.com)
- Moustache Madness: Movember Emphasizes Fun, Not Guilt, To Raise Millions For Cancer Programs (fastcompany.com)
- Movember & The Facial Growth Starts (sparkthedebate.blogspot.com)