Catching up with friends

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Our trip south to Capetown also allowed us to catch up with lots of friends including meeting Charlene & Steven’s new bub, opening night at the Beach House with Gideon & Mandie, Waldu’s family friends in the sleepy quaint town of Kleinmond, and his aunty and cousins in Worcestor.

Fortunately Clarissa was stopping over in Capetown so we managed to squeeze in a trip to the wineries in Stellenbosch and Franshoek, and a little shopping (of course).

 

 

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Elephants playground

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Recalling the crazy, huge, angry elephants of Chobe (Botswana), Nic was a bit hesitant when Waldu suggested a visit to the Addo Elephant Park.  “Not again,” said Nic. “Do we have to camp with them this time or can we stay in a lodge?  Maybe we should drain the water tank.”

 

Much to Nic’s surprise the elephants were nothing like their angry cousins up north.  These ones were placid and didn’t even mind when we over took them on the dirt road.  They posed for the cameras and went about their daily routine with no concern over us.

From the national park’s under ground hide we were able to also watch the elephants playing at night, and catch a rhino drinking from the water hole.  So we can now tick off the big 5!  Plus there was the usual (for us) other creatures to be seen – warthog, zebra, lots of boks, pofadder snake, hyenna…

We left Addo and headed down to the Atlantic Ocean to make our crawl around the coastline to Capetown.

PS.  We did camp, and the elephants came nowhere near us.  No lions either.  We could only hear the cry of the jackals through the night.

The owl lady’s house

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This weird, intriguing stop required a blog post all of its own as nowhere on our travels have we seen anything quite like the owl lady’s house, as it is affectionately known.

In the sleepy little village of Nieu Bethesda is the home of (now deceased) Helen Martin.  This little lady made a major impression on the area, and the art world, with her garden of cement sculptures of owls, pyramids and angels, which she sculptured for her own pleasure more than that of the fans and critics.  The eyes, made of bottle ends, grab you as soon as you step foot in this maze of a garden.  Much of the work was completely by Helen and her helps, who later succeeded her when she sadly died, having lost her eye sight and the ability to see her artwork.

 

Holding back the hands of time

Some say she was a genius and others say she was just plan mad, but either way you are drawn into her garden and a visit leaves you talking about the owl lady and her house long afterwards.   Thanks to Waldu’s Mum recommending a visit, we too can know comment on Helen’s world too.

Off again

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After a 10 day stop over in J’burg to catch up with family, refuel and fix a broken cam shaft (something major in the engine) in the car, we were off again. Instead of continuing our journey via the west coast, we decided to do the last leg of our trip, through South Africa, backwards and head east first.

This gave Nic the perfect excuse to revisit her favourite town, Graff Reinett in the Klein Karoo.

Not surprising, and much to Nic’s delight, nothing had changed much since the visit in December. But, this time the new Camdeboo National Park was open and because it was so new, the baboons and monkeys didn’t know about it. Thankfully this meant a peaceful night’s sleep. We did get to meet some meerkats on the way…at least they don’t steal your food.

 

 

The great canyon

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One last change of scenery on our travels through Namibia, this time it was to see the semi arid dessert fade away and the ground open up to one of the largest canyons in the world.  Not as big as the Grand Canyon but certainly impressive.  For those hungry for stats: 160km in length, 27km in width, 550m in depth in the inner canyon…and at 7am in the morning we were the only people to be seen anywhere from the main view point. 

 

Looking for diamonds in the ghost town

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Turning back to the coast again, we headed back to the sand dunes but this time not looking to climb them and sand board down them, but in search of diamonds in the desert.  We spent a couple of hours looking around the deserted town of Kolmanskop which is right next to a diamond mine. They seriously tell you not to try and look for diamonds, not to take anything from the site, and not to try to fool security by pretending to tie your shoe laces while picking up some sparkling jewels from the sand.

Anyone for a sandy bath

This deserted town was, in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, a fully functioning diamond town where people came in search of their fortune.  It was the first place on the coast where diamonds were discovered, and many mines still operate today. 

It is hard to believe that in the middle of the desert, in complete isolation, there was a hospital, school, bakery, butchery, shop, dining & entertainment hall and even a bowling alley!  

 

 

 

And to Waldu’s delight, the engineer got his own big house!  Each building still stands, with only minor restoration works done to some of the interiors, but slowly the town is getting gobbled up by the sand.

 
 

The ghost town is just outside Aus

From Solitaire to Sossusvlei

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We turned inland again, back to the desert plains.  After a stop off in Solitaire (one hotel, one petrol station and one bakery) to eat some of Moose’s world famous apple strudel (it was delicious), we turned south and headed to the eastern side of the Namib Naukluft National Park. 

It isn’t a green tree, lions roaring kind of park but rather, it is endless hills of sand dunes including one of the biggest in the world – dune 45.  Like along the coastal boundary of the park, the inland boundary is also home to jackals, ostriches, hyenas, and even leopards.  Hard to believe that any animal can survive out there but remarkably they have learnt to adapt.

After a morning stroll up Sossusvlei dune, we wandered through thick red sand to Deadvlei where dead trees stand as an eerie reminder of how remote and wild this area is. 

Definitely no walking off the between track here! 

While there were other tourists around us, this place certainly felt more like ‘solitaire’ then the tiny town we visited earlier in the day. 

A few hours later we found ourselves pitching our tent on an open plain amongst the Tiras Mountains with not a sole in site. After witnessing a striking sunset darkness soon sunk in, and it was so black that we struggled to even see our hands in front of our face.  Scared?  Us?  No, not at all.  Nic?  Well, just a bit. 

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