Saturday, February 4

UK (Half Way)

Brett: We arrived in UK and knocked on the front door to surprise my Dad on his birthday – we had been scheming with Claire but even Steph & Jess didn’t know we were coming. We celebrated my Dad’s birthday on our first day back and the next day we had a late Christmas – the Farleys had kept their Christmas tree, decorations and neon lights up outside and we pulled crackers, opened presents and overate in true Christmas style. Hotel Wheato is fantastic and we were completely spoiled for the few weeks we were in UK.

Karen, my sister, timed it well and came to visit for a week from China. It was great having family time and hearing about all the plans for her Iceland wedding. I also got to take Dad and Steph off to a 4x4 track called Devils Pit (Barton-Le-Clay) in the Beast. It was extremely muddy, so we stuck to the easy track, but we all had a go at driving. The Beast was very popular and plenty of people came up to chat and ask questions about the trip – we even met some other South Africans who recognised the GP number plates and shouted to us “het jy netnou vanaf Suid Africa hiernatoe gery?” (did you just drive here from South Africa)? – they were doing the 4x4 course as part of the preparation for a trip they are starting soon.

Mary: We spent most of our time in Wheathampstead doing family stuff but also got to catch up with some friends while we were in UK, seeing all the new houses, babies and bumps, and catching up on all the news that we have missed out on while we have been away. It was really awesome to see everyone and we were very well looked after - having said we were hardened from our trip and happy to sleep on the floor, all we got was comfy beds and delicious meals Smile. Brett even managed to get in some mountain biking in Surrey which was great. We drove past the Earlsfield house the house to go see it – quite a strange experience, knowing that we had just driven there. All was well except for a few very minor DIY things to fix, and we got to have a good catch up with our lovely neighbours over dinner. Pretty much just as Karen landed I got flu which turned into bad sinusitis, so it was a few days of bed rest and antibiotics for me.

Brett: There were a few things I wanted to get checked out on the car while we are in UK, but things are generally much more difficult than in SA (and it is illegal to work on your vehicle in the street). There are a couple of recommended overlanding specialists, but they are all pretty far from London – I went to a few local garages who wanted to charge £80ph and take 3 times longer than I know the job would take - in the end, I decided that the sagging rear suspension and slightly underpowered alternator aren’t actually broken, so better not to mess with them. I did work with Reco Prop to replace a universal joint (the noise started in Bulgaria and turned into a vibration by UK). I bought some filters and plugs from Toyota to cover us for the whole West Coast (saves time rather than running around to find them) and finally after 5 months found the hand brake parts I needed – Toyota in Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda etc didn’t have the part – in UK, they flew parts in from Belgium for no charge.

Shopping: Brett: we needed a few things for the second part of the trip - extra hard disks and a stash of USB cables (somehow the corrugated roads kill the connectors and we have gone through 5). I sent my broken Rugged hard disk in to LaCie and they sent out a free replacement – excellent service and easy to deal with.  We also got a couple new head torches as these seem to disappear quite quickly.

We have a MSR Whisperlite which is our backup and hiking stove – it is fantastic, but the fuel has been tricky to buy outside of UK and SA – the white spirits we have been running it on leaves a thick layer of oily black soot all over the pots which is not ideal, so we bought a little Colemans Unleaded petrol stove. Neither of these are intended to be our main cooking stove, as we’ve got a Cadac gas cooker as well, but haven’t been able to fill the bottles in UK & we are bound to run out of gas soon.

We were going to buy a second laptop as one thing we really struggled with was sharing my laptop (laptop and internet has been one of the most useful tools on the trip so far) – fortunately Mary’s mom came to the rescue, sending us her little Asus netbook to use on the West Coast.

Mary: I am official photographer for my brother Simon’s wedding in August so I desperately needed to upgrade some of my equipment. I took a lot of advice from Hassan, who is a brilliant wedding photographer, and got a used Canon EOS 40D, a Tamron f2.8 17-50mm lens, a Lowepro camera bag and a new Manfrotto carbon fibre tripod (my brilliant old one rattled itself to pieces on the corrugated roads – r.i.p.). I also stocked up on a couple of UV filters, very fast 16gb memory cards, and an unexpectedly large stash of spare batteries (the ones I bought on Amazon turned out to be packs of 2). I’m keeping my old 400D as a backup but it’s great to have new toys!

West Coast Planning: Brett: We did a lot of West Coast research while in the UK and the Ghana embassies recently changed their rules so that you can only apply for a visa in your home country. A few people have managed to get around this, but we decided to get the visas in UK before we leave to save some hassle. The embassy in Highgate (London), took a few days to process our application and cost $110ish each – pretty straightforward process and gives us 3 months to enter, which fits with our plans. We are mostly planning to travel on our UK passports, except for Gabon, Benin, Togo, Namibia and Botswana (free visas for SA passport holders). We’ll decide at the time which to use for Senegal the Gambia (free for SA & UK passport holders) and we’ll unfortunately need to send our SA passports home in advance to hopefully get the extremely difficult 28-day Angola visa (not free by any stretch but seems to be easier to get on the SA passport). 

We were up to date on most of our jabs but just needed to have our Hep A boosters, which are now done. There are a couple of things expiring in the next few months that we will need to renew: eg Carnet, car registration, medical insurance, tenancy agreement, and postal redirection. Overall we would have liked more time to plan for the west coast, as the visas particularly seem trickier, see some friends we missed, and spent more time with family – although it has been a bit rushed we were really glad for the 3 week break and the chance to see everyone again. We are both really excited about setting off again – West Coast seems really different and it definitely feels like a proper adventure!

No comments:

Post a Comment