Monday, 14 April 2008

The Road to Hell

We had a relaxing time with Graham and Yvonne, although much more relaxing for me because I was not in the “Stopping oil leaks brigade”. Yvonne even took me to her hairdresser and I had a very much needed hair cut. My efforts at hacking off the end of my plats periodically was not really the best plan despite Patsy’s valiant attempt to tidy it all up in Paarl. It was also exciting to receive some mail which a few people had sent to Graham and Yvonne’s. Bank statements have never been so interesting.

The Garden Route of South Africa is really rather lovely and aptly named. It is such a verdant and lush area. Yvonne took us to their local farmers market and the produce really is amongst the best in the world I think, such delicious food. There is so much to do in the area and we did manage a short hike but as we had finally made up our minds to ship to Australia we were keen to get to it back in Cape Town.

With our tummies full of the results of Yvonne’s lovely cooking we carried on to Knysna before heading back to Cape Town via The Klein Karoo. We spent a few days exploring the dirt tracks and steep mountain passes. The road to Die Hell took us over the Swartberg pass, a very scenic road, through arid vegetation for ages and then suddenly we dropped down into a green valley dotted all over with Aloe Vera. This place is in the middle of nowhere and the road, tortuously clinging to the side of the mountain, was built to serve a very small farming community many years ago. WHY? Surely there are easier places to get to find for farming.

The next day we arrived back in civilisation and stopped in some very pretty towns, although they are looking to be very much in need of upkeep and maintenance. After a fresh chip butty in Calitzdorp we headed in to the wine and fruit area. No doubt about it, it is harvest time. Many times we got stuck behind lorries heavily laden with fruit crates on the windy roads. We also passed many large areas of fruit drying in the sun.

We had been recommended a mechanic in Strand and Gavin was a bit concerned about leak from the steering box so we made a bit of a detour to ask Schaulk’s opinion. Apparently the steering box is a particularly fiddly device and Schaulk could not fit us in for another ten days or so. This meant that shipping would be delayed by another week. Schaulk suggested a couple of other workshops we could try. One gave us a rather large quote and the other reckoned that Gavin should be able to change the seals himself- it would be quite difficult though.

We spent two nights in Strand at a rather strange campsite. It seems that many years ago part of the campsite was retained as a campsite and the rest became a sort of “white” squatter camp. The living conditions inside were certainly much better than the other squatter camp we visited in Cape Town, but it was rather bizarre.

We have been camped in Bellville, Cape Town for quite a few nights now. It is convenient for the shops, and more importantly- the industrial areas, which yet again I am getting to know very well. I am even getting to know the street hawkers now, they cannot understand why I am walking everywhere rather than driving. Gavin has repaired the leaking steering box and had such trouble with it that even my assistance was required- yes I was actually allowed under the car.

So we have scrubbed, hosed, power washed, scrubbed, hosed, washed, polished and even painted some parts of the car in preparation for the very fussy Australian officials. We started doing this before Easter and I think we are just about there. I now defy an Australian to find any Saharan sand, Nile silt, Ethiopian road dust, red African dust, Botswana bog or Etosha lime in any nook or cranny. As for the oil leaks I am sure Gavin will give a detailed account in the vehicle blog for anyone who is interested.

We are provisionally waving goodbye to the old car on Thursday or Friday and then all we have to sort out is……. how we are going to get to Australia. We are reluctant to book anything too soon in case anything should change with the shipping.