We already have our ‘loft apartment’ (aka our Landcruiser with a roof top tent, small fridge and simple kitchen), now we are set to take delivery of our luxurious split level home. The Landcruiser alone is fine for short trips but for extended trips, particularly for those where we will be away from shops and urban areas for longer periods, we need a larger fridge with a freezer, room for more fresh and dry food, lots more water, and lots more power to run the fridges, computers, hard drives, and recharge batteries etc. We managed to fit all we needed into the slide-on camper in Australia so while we ended up with a heavy load we didn’t need to tow. Unfortunately we can’t find anything comparable in South Africa. After considering the options we have decided an off road camper trailer should meet our needs and will provide the added bonus of allowing us to set up a base camp and take short trips with just the Landcruiser and roof top tent whenever we want or if the tracks are unsuitable for towing.
We looked at lots of different trailer models and we’ve decided the Conqueror brand has the best reputation for off-road capability. A local dealer has a second hand model with plenty of space for working, sleeping and storage and it also has quite a few of the extras such as the awnings and mats we will need. They are also able to complete the electrical work we need on the car and the trailer to including supply and installation of solar panels, additional battery storage, inverters and the controllers and a pair of spotlights so we arrange for the work to be completed as soon as possible.
The following Tuesday is the date everything is due to be completed and the afternoon is taken up with a handover including a demonstration of how everything works. The following morning we assemble all of the gear and food we have been busy buying and pack it all in. We’ve planned food for six to seven weeks and we have clothing for all weather types, we have masses of camera and computer gear and there’s still space available when it is all fitted in, what a delight. Things will need reorganising to make them easy to find and use while we are travelling, and of course to make sure they will travel safely but we can do that once we get on the road and find out what works best for us when we are out camping.
We’re keen to try it all out so we’re spending the first night at Sue’s before heading out of town in the morning. We have more chores in the afternoon including a return visit to Conqueror for a couple of final jobs including picking up registration papers and spare parts. By the time we make it to bed we are more than ready for a good rest so we are very pleased to find it as comfortable as we hoped. The set up was easy and I’m sure we’ll get quicker and more efficient at both the set up and pack up.
We make an early start in the morning in an effort to beat the rush hour and get a pretty easy exit from town. We’ve decided to avoid toll roads and freeways so we can see more of the country on our way and the first part of the trip takes us right through the edge of Pretoria, my first visit to this city. It is the administrative capital of South Africa and, although it is so close to Johannesburg that they are virtually joined by the suburban sprawl, it has a totally different feel. There is definitely less poverty and unemployment and as we are passing through we see numerous workers on their way to their offices and other employment. Trees line many of the roads and public buildings are set on large properties.
Once out of the city we are quickly in sparsely populated country areas and although the avoidance of the freeways adds time to our trip we thoroughly enjoy the slower pace and scenery along the way. Most of the trip is through the highveld, or the high central plateau, where the drought shows its full impact in the parched country around us . Eventually we reach the pass down to the middleveld and while rainfall has been low here there has been more than on the highveld and green trees cover the steep hills. Part way down between the highveld and middleveld we reach the historic gold mining village of Pilgrims Rest. Today we have time for afternoon tea and a short browse around but the old buildings and intriguing shops would provide plenty of interest for a longer stay if we can find time for a return visit.
A little further down we arrive at the village of Graskop which is on the edge of the escarpment and a steep drop down to the lowveld. The caravan park we are staying at is perched right on the edge of the escarpment and the views are fantastic. We are spending three nights here, partly to wait for the end of the school holidays but also to give us time to recharge ourselves, do a few odd jobs and work out just how we want things organised.
We manage to complete most of our chores the next day including a drive into the village to the hardware and small supermarket and a wander around the town and into a fascinating gallery and curio shop. The rest of the chores can wait for another time and we are very close to the Blyde River Canyon area so a day sight seeing is is a far better way to spend our final day here. Our first stop is at a lookout called God’s Window. A number of vantage points provide great views over the precipitous drop and the land below and a walk up the hill leads us to a beautiful rain forest with fascinating plants and more great views.
We continue along the road with stops at waterfalls and view points and stop for a picnic lunch at Bourke’s Luck Potholes. This is where the Treur (Sorrow) River joins the Blyde (Hope) River. Through millions of years the swirling whirlpools at the junction of the rivers have caused water born sand and rocks to grind deep cylindrical potholes in the bedrock of the rivers. In Australia we call them ‘warri holes’. Along with hundreds of other tourists we take the walk down to the river and across bridges to complete a circuit of the area. Paul has been here before, the geology and natural aspects of the area haven’t changed but the gate with an admission fee, the increased infrastructure and the hordes of visitors are certainly different.
The light is too strong and shadows too much of a contrast for Paul to focus much on photography at Bourke’s Potholes but with filters on the camera the views further up the road at the Three Rondavels offer more possibilities and warrant a longer stop.
This is our final stop for the day and it is late afternoon by the time we are back at camp after a lovely day. This has been a good chance to try out our new home, we are pleased with how we easy the set up and pack up are, the amount of space is great, and it is all very comfortable. We still need to get used to towing and particularly backing, we are both very out of practice in backing trailers, and we will have to see how it handles rough off road tracks and tricky situations. I’m sure they will come in due time but for now we are off to the Kruger National Park for three weeks.