Wake up at Olifants (KNP), full of vim. 2 Hours to the border at Giriyondo, a wonderful 10 year old border addition to enable people from Kruger to cross into Mozambique.
African borders always cause an increase in blood pressure, and if you don’t get that, then you haven’t done many of them. They manufacture requirements on the spot.
Where are your traffic triangles?? Your 2 inch by 1 inch reflective tape, front, side, rear??? Your license for your false teeth?? -you don’t have it?, aaaah, we have a problem…..
Normally all solved by a crispy set of notes – but we are local, and won’t pay.
This time, surprisingly easy, we are through, and the only bribe was a smile.
So now the road turns hostile.
4 hours to your camp, the gate guard says with white flash of teeth, we buy it, after all it is 150 km.
7 hours later, the cars and us weigh another 20 kg, and it is all dust.
We pull-up next to Mary whose hair emerges horizontally from her head, stiffened into position, Marika laughs, Mary scowls. Trevor who eschews sunglasses, has donned a pair of 1939 Japanese aviator goggles I gave him prior to leaving as a bit of a wheeze. He pronounces them fit for purpose.
The camp, we have paid R150 rand each plus 225 for each vehicle, was sold to us as having hot and cold showers, so we didn’t mind arriving after sunset.
Nobody in camp – a deserted staff hut, a broken water tank, no water…..Africa.
We feverishly pitch camp. We are trying not to shout at our partners for putting tent pegs in the wrong way around, we build a fire, prepare food, no one has a minute to spare.
We all wonder why we are not at home.
Awake in our no water, no wood nothing campsite Mamba. Break camp – rusk and dust for breakfast.
It’s a great drive, slow and laborious, but fun , and the Landrovers are purring, for now.
15 km later – a great campsite at the exit of the Transfrontier park, hot and cold water , beautiful tall Mopani trees, if only we had pushed on, but these trips test man,machine and marriages to the limit.
Crossing the Limpopo river at Mapai – the villagers have erected a boom. He who passes here must pay, a peeling hand written note proclaims. Entrepreneurship Africa style . No sign of any other attempts at industry or commerce. Cry the beloved Continent.
We cross the Limpopo, thrilling, and the old Landrovers so photogenic.
Not so photogenic 2 hours later, we are on a wide but very corrugated road to Massangena, only other road users goats and cyclists who get covered in a lingering blanket of dust as we pass.
Trevor is stopped up ahead, head under bonnet. Mary nonchalantly sipping her 4th litre of water, bulletproof after years of marriage to a Landrover nut.
This is potentially serious. Trevor’s generator cooling fins are scraping against the casing,emitting a screech of tortured metal. Close insepection roadside reveals a worn bush or bearing , if it collapses,catastrophic for the engine.
We resolve to return to South Africa, big decision , bigger regrets , but we need spares and facilities.
It is a very long haul back to border post Pafuri – during which time my Landrover eclipses Trevor’s, as if wanting to be left out of the breaking down stakes…..
It starts emitting a green frothy spew all over the bonnet – cylinder pressure is leaking into into the water jacket,ad blowing coolant out of the radiator. I have to stop every 20 km to top up.
Our disappointment is palpable – but as we know – old things do give in . We make Punda Maria Camp on a wing and a prayer, set up camp and hold a top level meeting.