Half way


21 June 2009 - Johannesburg - added by Steve

Ah, glorious South Africa! I cannot believe we have made it this far, and relatively unscathed! All things considered, I think we have been really lucky, we've had no big security concerns, nor show stoppers in terms of red-tape or mechanical failure. There have certainly been obstacles, oft hard to overcome, but all-in-all, we've reached a real milestone in our trip... the half-way point. South Africa was always seen as a turning-point for our trip, not only literally where we change direction and start heading north again, but as the end of the first stage, the west coast, which we always considered to be the harder leg, the road less travelled. After South Africa we will head up the east coast, a route which should take us through countries for the most part more set up for tourism, and easier in many respects. South Africa is also home to both our intrepid explorers, and will offer a much needed break from the hardships of the road. A time to take stock of what we've experienced, to unwind from our travels (and travails!), catch up with friends and family, and to give poor Songololo some much needed TLC.

Looking back on the last 6 months I find it hard to believe we've both come so far, and yet it's over so soon! We met incredible people in all the countries we went to, their friendliness and helpfulness a shining beacon of hope when all around corrupt leadership and crumbling infrastructure brings their countries grinding to a halt. We encountered unbelievable beauty, a particular favourite area being the central-African jungles in Cameroon, Gabon and Congo. Roads were often barely existent, some just tracks through the jungle, knee-deep in cloying red mud; others tarred in some distant past, long since disintegrated into pot-holed, jarring encounters. Fuel was frequently hard to come by, often we would have to convince the only local in town with a generator to siphon fuel out to keep us on the move. Bureaucracy was the hardest pill to swallow, expensive visas, long delays and red-tape, seemingly with little logic to it difficult to fathom. Struggles with our Angolan visas almost stopped the trip dead in its tracks, but with persistence we were able to continue. All-in-all, we spent 5 weeks at Angolan consulates; our reward: A 5-day transit visa! C'est la vie, no-one said this trip would be easy! Food was interesting, offers of local bush-meat abundant, but most-often turned down... our taste for monkey flesh not yet developed! Beasts such as porcupine and hedgehog were sampled, but I doubt will ever become favourite fares! In places only tinned-sardines and tomatoes were available, and they become a bit monotonous after a while! Perhaps most frustrating was at the hands of those supposed to protect you: The military and police. Roadblocks were frequent, extortion a foregone conclusion. Only after lengthy discussions and negotiations were we able to continue. Our personal goal of not paying a single bribe was unfortunately not to be, yet we were able to get away with only paying two, which under the circumstances was not too bad.

And then, over 20 000kms later, we found ourselves limping into Cape Town, travel-weary and somewhat shell-shocked. It had been harder than we ever imagined! It didn't take long to recover, and memories of what will surely be one of the most exhilarating and incredible experiences of our lives flooded back; suddenly we were anxious to get onto the next leg of the trip! Our tyres were worn through, neither our alternator nor batteries worked, we had a ghost in our fuel system and our shocks had disappeared. It would take a small miracle to get our truck ready for the return journey. Did we even want to continue, surely one way is enough? You bet we did, travelling in Africa is certainly fraught with difficulty, but when the deed is done and hardships overcome, it is certainly one of the most amazing experiences you will ever encounter, you will grow as a person and learn things about others and yourself, life lessons that will help you forever.

Our departure was somewhat delayed as Songololo was in desperate need of some serious work, but eventually we were ready to depart, 3 months after we arrived in South Africa. It wasn't all work and no play though; having been gone so long we were tourists in our own country, taking full advantage of South Africa's incredible beauty and tourist hot spots.



We attended the weddings of some close friends, toured around and even managed to dive with sharks and do the highest bungi jump in the world!



Nonetheless, soon we were dreaming of areas north, and were anxious to get going. Next stop, Mozambique and it's legendary beaches!



Comments:

1 .
Please determine the friendliness of Moz sharks before diving with them! Good luck - we really admire your tenacity! love from the fossils. xxx
Lorimer - 5 Jul 2009, 4:04
2 .
You gotta love that photo with the sharks!! That dive was loads of fun. And of course it was great to catch up with you back in SA. Good luck on the 2nd half.
Daz - 6 Jul 2009, 17:29

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