Thursday, 3 April 2008

So, where to next?

Since Catkin posted her last entry we’ve been busy with a bit of visiting relatives, a little bit of sight-seeing and a whole lot of deliberating. So what have we decided and where are we off to next, I hear you all ask. Patience, young Skywalker.

For the first few nights of the Easter holiday we headed back to the Zandvlei Caravan Park in Muizenburg. The previous time we stayed there it had been very quiet, with a couple of permanent residents and a few others staying. This time, however, it was packed with partying South Africans. The permanent residents obviously knew what happens, and had left for the weekend. Party Central. The first two nights were very rowdy, and Catkin spent the whole night storming around the campground asking people to turn their music down, by which she actually meant off. Most of them were fairly cooperative. I slept like a baby, until one incident on the second night, when I woke up and had to politely tell a guy to take a running jump. Things changed on the third night, though, and a security guard spent the night driving around telling people on his PA system to turn off the music or there would be Trouble.

For the remainder of the Easter weekend, we caught up with Catkin’s Uncle and Aunt, Deric and Val, at their place in Hout Bay. Her cousin Clare, Clare’s husband Chris and their daughter Sophie were also out from England, so it was good to see them all. The house has a spectacular view over the bay. We spent our time there relaxing, watching telly and eating delicious food. It was great.

On the 25th of March it was finally time to get back on the road and head out of Dodge. It was nine months to the day since we had left the UK, and after a very scenic drive along the coast, by the end of the day we had finally made it to Cape Agulhas, the southern-most tip of Africa, where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. It was a symbolic point in our journey, not least because even though we had zig-zagged our way all over Europe, around the Mediterranean, though the Middle East and all the way down Africa, we had generally been heading in a southerly direction. Now we could go no further south.

The following day we made our way eastward, to George, and then slightly further, to Wilderness (what a great name for a town). Here we made our way to the home of another of Catkin’s relatives, Graham and Yvonne and family. In Wilderness we have had a chance to attend to a few more jobs on the Land Rover, as well as further contemplate and research our next move.

In anticipation that we would be going to Australia we have been going over the car trying to eliminate oil leaks. For those who don’t know, Land Rovers are notorious for dropping oil (that’s how you know there’s still oil in it), but the regulations for importation into Australia state the there must be NO oil leaks. The work on the gearboxes sorted out a couple, but we still had another couple from the engine and one from the rear diff to resolve. We had bought a pinion seal for the rear diff in Cape Town, but I’m not convinced that I’ve been sold the correct one, so have yet to tackle that job. We have, however, successfully tackled the engine leaks, replacing an ‘O’ ring on the oil filter adapter and removing and re-sealing the sump (as well as taking out the mystery dent in the bottom of the sump pan!?!).

So that only leaves our deliberations. Do we ship the vehicle to Australia, or do we just ship it straight to New Zealand? We’ve already had an amazing trip so far, and spent slightly more than we thought we would, so could save cash by missing out Australia. But it’s quite a large part of the trip we initially planned, and we had both been looking forward to it. We got some prices for shipping and agents – the South African agent fees were reasonable, freight was about what we expected, but the Australian agent fees nearly doubled the cost of the whole exercise. When we queried the cost and possible ways we could reduce it, we were told “we cannot reduce the price for this service.” Thanks for your help. We started to think that maybe it would just be too expensive, especially if we were going to have the same problem again getting the vehicle out of Australia. Maybe we should spend another four to six weeks in South Africa and then just send it straight to Auckland. It would be a shame though, to miss out on the Great Southern Land. Perhaps we could travel across Australia by other means. Maybe we could buy bikes and cycle across the Nullarbor (Catkin got really excited about this idea – I regretted mentioning it…). We also looked at buying a motorbike and going across two-up, but a suitable bike would be quite expensive. Perhaps we could leave the bike in Australia for a year or two and go back for holidays, or maybe import it into New Zealand. We ended up with all sorts of ideas, almost too many to choose from. It was looking very likely, though, that the Land Rover would not be getting to see Australia, whether we did or not. We have even considered throwing dice, or better still, asking for votes via comments on the blog.

In the meantime, I had emailed my cousin in Perth, and my Uncle near Brisbane to see if they could find out any information from the Australian side of things. Luckily, their outstanding efforts have brought back some very useful information, with a much more reasonable agent’s fee at the Perth end, and a couple of respectable looking quotes for shipping from Brisbane to Auckland. So much better, in fact, that shipping to Australia has become feasible after all.

So now we are back to full steam ahead preparing the vehicle for Australian shores. It needs to be spotlessly clean, no dust, soil, water, insects, bugs, fruit, vegetables, anything that pests could arrive in. Oh, and no oil leaks.

From Wilderness, we will probably go slightly further east to Plettenberg Bay, then make our way back to Cape Town for the final departure arrangements.

So Riggsy, it looks like Giles owes you a pint of London Pride at Motspur Park.