Told by my good friend, Marion Coxall, who, although she will deny it, I think is actually a closet camper…..
When Marion initially sent me her 11 page story, I thought it was really too long, even for a series but, after reading it and then reading it again, I decided that there were just too many people who have always dreamed of doing this very trip, they want to hear all the details and most importantly, where they stayed, what the circumstances were like and who could help them to fulfil their dream.
I have therefore broken the story down into 12 posts and will send out a new post every other day. I hope that soon, you will be looking forward to the next episode with eager anticipation. ENJOY!
For the last 25 years my husband, John has been talking about his “bucket list”. This, of course, can only be attempted on a grand scale once you have shed the shackles of business responsibilities and hopefully made enough wise financial decisions to keep you in the retirement luxury you have always dreamed about!
Right at the top of his list (and about 249th on mine) was a trip to see the famous wildebeest migration in the Serengeti. He had been threatening to drive from Cape to Cairo for a long time, incorporating the Migration on the way. Once this became a distinct possibility on his retirement I immediately put my foot down and told him that I would only go on an organised tour and only as far as the Serengeti – I felt, to go any further, would be too dangerous.
It was just over a year ago when, visiting the local Getaway Show in Somerset West, we happened upon the stand of a company who organised just such a tour – Eco 4×4 Africa Tours, based in Pretoria – and, having established the cost, sat down to do the sums.
We had to provide our own equipment – yes I’m afraid it was camping all the way – but the up side was that Alex Smit, the tour leader, would provide and cook all the meals. It was perhaps the only way I was going to agree to partake in this “adventure”.
Once we confirmed our interest in the tour, Alex came down from Pretoria and gave us a full overview in our home for three hours on all aspects of the trip – it was mind boggling. Not only did we have to have passports for each country but so did our car – it was called a carnet. We needed special stickers for the vehicle, special insurance both for our car and ourselves, special equipment as there would rarely be electricity, and a multitude of other stuff too numerous to bore you with. Suffice to say, it was obvious we couldn’t have done it without him.
And so it was, nearly a year later, at 6am on Thursday 25 April 2013 that I found myself sitting, or should I say squashed, into the passenger seat of our Toyota Fortuna, leaving the comfort of our little home in Cape Town, for I knew not what lay ahead. There was so much equipment stashed in the back that my seat was almost bolt upright and my leg room was almost non-existent! However, like a dutiful wife, I decided to grin and bear it as my husband’s excitement was electric (I’m afraid mine was still waiting for a kick-start!)
Our first night was spent in Springfontein in an absolutely delightful B & B called Prior Grange, a merino sheep farm situated 870km from Cape Town. We were shown to Willow Cottage by the owner, Blackie de Swardt, who left us with the invitation to join him and the other guests in his pub that evening. What an experience.
We got to meet all the other guests for a delightful pre-dinner drink and it was interesting to swap stories about where we were all off to and what we were doing. Needless to say they were all very impressed when they heard about the Groot Trek.
At 7.30pm we all returned to our cottages and the most delightful Karoo meal of lamb pie and vegies followed by apple pie and cream was delivered to our door.
The cottage, which consisted of 2 bedrooms and a large lounge/dining room/kitchen, also doubled up as the local cricket pavilion as Blackie was also in charge of the Springfontein Cricket Club and the “oval” was situated just outside the front door.
Friday 26 April – After a wonderfully hearty breakfast which was also delivered to our cottage by Blackie, we left the next day on the last leg of our trip to Pretoria.
Fortunately we had a Garmin with us (nicknamed Gerty) who managed to get us through the many horrifying motorway junctions in and around Johannesburg although I wouldn’t have blamed her if she had given up the ghost as John spent most of his time yelling at her when he thought she was taking us the wrong way. It almost felt as if there were “3 people in our marriage” at one point! We spent a very delightful night at Bosau Guest House in Pretoria.
Next up – Leaving civilisation as we know it!