Tuesday, November 25

The Beast has been spotted!

Spotted the Beast today. We reluctantly sold the Beast a year ago because it makes more sense as a trip car than a city car. Since then it has done 3 Southern Africa trips and 50,000km - just been sold for another trip. Still looking strong and keeps going back to Allan Venter at AEW Auto for servicing - had the same tires until recently. It was good to see an old friend. If you spot the Beast, let us know.

Sunday, August 11


This final blog update has been a long time coming. Somehow, this year slipped past us and we’ve just caught up with it. We will be uploading final stats, West Coast waypoints, and other finishing details in the next few weeks.

Mary: We headed back to Johannesburg with an unexpectedly strong  sense of sadness that the trip was over – I had expected to be tired of it all and ready for civilisation but after we had caught up on sleep and hot showers, it felt like we were missing some part of ourselves not being on the road. We didn’t have too much time to dwell on it though as we headed down to Cape Town for Simon & Jen’s wedding, followed by a hop skip and jump over to Iceland for Karen & Patrick’s wedding two weeks later, and did a loop around the island to explore.

Blue Lagoon


Borin' old geyser :)

Wedding season buoyed us up, it was a busy and happy time. Following Karen’s wedding, we headed back to the UK to try to replenish the coffers a little. We were both lucky enough to get our old jobs back on a contract basis for a short stint. It was great to get back to a real routine, seeing lots of friends in between peaceful days at the office. I had definitely missed the stimulation of the office and loved my 3 month contract back with the old team. Despite worries that we would find it hard to fit back into the regular routines and schedules of working, we both found it really easy. We stayed with Lindsay in Clapham for those 3 months to be closer in to London, and it was absolutely brilliant – the flat was pretty much constantly filled with high volume laughter & skinnering.

That old familiar Canary Wharf...

London friends

Christmas carols at Westminister Abbey
In December we went through that old familiar routine of packing up all our posessions (how did we accumulate that much stuff in just a few months??), organising shipping, and left London for Jo’burg in time for Christmas. We spent an amazing Christmas day with my folks, cuzzies, aunt & uncle in Parkview, delighted to be back to warm Christmases celebrated with braais.

Christmas with family

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Shortly after Christmas, we began loading up some of our stuff into the beast for the great trek south to Cape Town. We had decided to take the scenic route down the coast, via the Drakensberg, where we met up with Mike & Emma for a few days of reminiscing, hiking and having fun. Our trip took ten days, down the Garden Route, and we finally got to Cape Town on Sunday 6 January.
Just like old times


Brett: On our first day in Cape Town, we checked in at Hotel Martin and headed out on foot to a concert in De Waal Park, where we met loads of new people. The first month was dominated by the search for a flat, which had started online while we were in Joburg and continued with some difficulty online while driving down to Cape Town. Flats in the city bowl go quickly at this time of year – literally within a matter of hours, and it was not long before we got to a point where we said to ourselves that we would just take the next flat that came up in our desired area, if it was reasonably affordable.
Summer Concerts in De Waal park
That decision brought us to a beautiful tiny flat on the side of Signal Hill overlooking city bowl and with a panoramic view of the whole of Table Mountain. On the last weekend of January, I started my MBA at the UCT Graduate School of Business with a day of team building activities, followed by a braai for all the partners & families. The next few months were a blur of studying, presentations, projects and exams.

Mary: I had been looking for a job from the start of the year, but decided to capitalise on the very slow Cape Town job market and write The Book of our trip – my memoir of the previous 14 months of travel. I also took up ceramics and painting, and am still, frustratingly, looking for a job. At the moment there are a few promising options on the horizon, but we have yet to see if they will actually materialise. I am 100,000 words into the first draft of the book and starting to realise what a huge undertaking this is. Brett will continue studying until the end of the year, when he will have the option of doing a three month exchange somewhere in the world.

It has been strange and wonderful and difficult and eye-opening to be back in South Africa. Next year’s plans are far from certain. The thread we have been following for the last few years has started to unravel and there are a number of strands leading out from us in different directions, like those narrow tracks diverging in the jungle in Guinea. As before, we’re sitting on the side of the road under the trees, watching the dust motes falling through the shards of sunlight and trying to work out which way is best. It’s impossible to tell. There is a different adventure down each one.

Saturday, July 28

Honnets at Chobe

Brett: We met Marys folks at Nata Lodge ($12pppn) - it was really great to see them after 1y, 1m and 1w. We had a big steak in the restaurant while we caught up on a few stories and then drove to Kasane in the morning. We had lunch at the Chobe Safari Lodge with its great setting overlooking the river and then headed into the park (a nice treat from the Honnets). The new one way system and the time slots for guided vs private is in place, but most people still seem to ignore it. It is busy and the tracks are one car wide, so it does make some sense. It was really amazing the number of ellies we saw on the river front - we kept getting road blocked by them. There were tons of zebra and buffalo too.

We camped at the brilliant Ihaha Camp Site, which is spread out along the water front. There was as much activity in the camp site as there was on the game drives. On the first night, a large heard of elephants walked through the campsite to our right of us. Chobe is definitely the best place for spotting Elephants. A large heard of buffalo walked through our campsite on day two before sunrise, between and around our cars. The baboons were a bit of a pest in the day and very cunning, watching as you walk away from your car. There were some fish eagles in the trees around the camp. On the second night, a leopard killed a buck in campsite six (a few along from us). On the third night,we heard lions close by and when we woke up, there were lion prints going past our tent, towards the bathroom. On the fourth night, we were chased back into the tent on a loo break by a hyena and then we were woken up by a buck running through our campsite, probably trying to escape from something.

On our last day in the park, we started coming across some soft sand heading up a hill and away from the river and came across a nice Dutch couple stuck in a rental 4x4 (why do they come with such rubbish tyres?). They had been digging for about 2 hours, but we managed to free them in a few minutes with a strong tug.We really enjoyed our five nights of luxury camping in Chobe - they were really relaxing and just what we needed to wind down. We took a boat ride along the Chobe river and saw elephants swimming across the river (amazing!), lots of hippos and crocs. We also ate really well, with the Honnets make up for lost time with great home cooking and lots of braais.

We left Chobe and headed for Woodlands Stopover ($10pppn) in Francistown. The day wasn't too eventful, except that I had to throw my fruit away at the Health Checkpoints - you can't carry raw meat (foot and mouth) or fruit (fruit flies) across the country, even if it was bought inside the country. You also have to drive through a dip and dip the soles of all your shoes. The campsite was nice, but not great to see warning signs on the turnoff from the main road warning guests not to stop due to hijacking risks. The campsite was full of people returning from school holidays - all carrying everything they could imagine.

We left before sunrise the next morning to get a head start (10 minutes to wake up and leave - we are getting good at this). We had 720km ahead of us and we were much slower than the Honnets as we were taking it easy on the car and needed to stop every 2 hours to check radiator water levels. The tar roads in Botswana are good (off-road tends to be hectic sand) and we made good time, although we were in no danger of getting caught in the famous speed traps. The Martins Drift / Groblersbrug border was easy, but took 1h30 because it was so busy. It is weird to have your passport scanned rather than the details be written into a log book. It was good to be back in South Africa. The traffic in Mokopane was hectic, taking about an hour to get through - parts of town also had a pretty seedy feel. The rest of the route along the N1 to Pretoria was easy, although we never really moved from the slow lane. We were driving extra carefully to not strain the engine up all the really steep hills through Pretoria. We stopped at a Shell Ultra city in Midrand, next to a taxi with its music up loud and all the passengers dancing to celebrate a football win and then just as we reached Joburg, the Honnets caught up with us. We drove back to their house together, hooting as we entered their street, just as we did when we left. Getting back was really surreal - Mark and Dom were standing in the driveway, just as they had done when we left - the only proof that we had been away a while was baby Murray in their arms. Even more surreal was the welcome back party the next day, which was pretty much exactly the same as the one we had when we were leaving.