The final border crossing in Africa, like many before it, was fast and simple. Despite the last border faux pas of the trip, overstaying our Namibian stamps (you can’t really blame us) we were told simply not to do it again and made our way into South Africa. At this point, no matter what, we had driven from Scotland to South Africa, home and dry. At least this is what we thought. The final leg of the trip and alas the final few days of the trip, our mechanical fortune was wearing thin.
It hadn’t taken us long to notice that the process of changing the coil and shock on the back left had somehow caused the front left coil to snap. Yes, this actually happened. Quite bewildering how one can drive into a garage with one broken spring and drive out with a different broken spring, but of course we managed it. Our spirits were dampened but we reassured each other that you can’t drive down the world without breaking one or two things. As luck would have it we met a chap at a petrol station in Namibia who owned a Land Rover garage in Cape Town; the aptly named RoverLand. He saw us coming a mile off and presented us with his business card. Never mind, we shall drive slowly and in as straight a line as possible whilst avoiding any surfaces not covered in a healthy coat of tarmac.
Our first night in South Africa was spent at a caravan site, the kind of place the Gents really try to avoid. After getting this far though we decided not to try to wild camp only to wind up robbed and carless at the tip of the continent. This combined with the lack of wild camping opportunities that motorways tend to present, led us to this spot near Vanrhynsdorp for the evening. The following morning we set off in search of what we had been told is the best biltong in South Africa. On the main road south to Cape Town, impossible to miss, at a truck stop sits this purveyor of delicious dried meats. Biltong can be bought everywhere; supermarkets, malls, grocery shops, but what we had been looking for since we first sampled the stuff in Namibia was a wee hut at the side of the road where the meat was dried and hung out in the shop and sold to you in a brown paper bag without a corporate logo on it. We found this and more. We made sure to sample everything on display and when we had five or six different bags Duncan was pulled away and put into the car to finish the long road to Cape Town, to RoverLand and our great big chequered flag.
Like all Scotsmen abroad we couldn’t help but constantly point out how any rolling hills or grassy field highly resembles Scotland. This seemed to happen a lot more on the drive to Cape Town; may this have had something to do with the rain? Perhaps. Despite the weather, our arrival in Cape Town was a magnificent feeling. We had been comfortable for a couple of weeks and to have finally made it after two years of planning was a remarkable sense of achievement. Our first port of call was of course the garage where we had the suspension at the front left replaced. Poor Teedie then sat at a jaunty angle as one side of her suspension was new and stiff and the other side is old and tired. If you find yourself in the area with a broken Land Rover (and many people do) then RoverLand must be recommended. From here we headed to the Lions Head and the home of the Du Plessises who very kindly had offered to put us up for a couple nights. Stubbornly and despite having wi-fi for the duration of the time spent at the garage, Duncan decided that he knew where his friend’s house was having stayed there the previous summer so an attempt was made to find the house based on memory which was in the end successful. On arrival we were greeted with a well-stocked fridge and a kind note requesting we make ourselves at home. Those of you who follow us on facebook will be aware that this is exactly what we did. From a comfortable spot on the balcony, we poured ourselves a drink, lit up a cigar and announced to the world that The Gentlemen’s Adventure Club had arrived.
The next couple of days were spent in much the same way, the comfort of a real bed and the luxury of proper food. Trying all the while not to get too comfortable as the Land Rover still had to be delivered to our shipping agent in order to be put on the slow boat back to Blighty. The trouble is the chosen shipping agent is located in Durban, a 1,700km drive from Cape Town. What’s another 1,700km on a trip like this? Well the less said about those 1,700km the better.
The port of Durban is 2 days drive from Cape Town and it was our intention to cover distance and then immediately drop the car with the shipping agents and jump on a bus to Johannesburg. Day one of this delivery drive was uneventful, long stints in the car and short stints in Wimpys. We spent the evening camped outside a petrol station. The tent was thrown up to keep the pounding rain and howling gale at bay and we went to sleep for the night. The friendly chaps pumping gas all night made sure to wake us up in the morning to tell us that their shift was over and they were going home. Unsure of why we were being given this information, we packed up and hit the road for the last day of the trip. Starting like any other day and continuing in this fashion until around 5pm the car began to lose power. The road was hilly and Teddie was having trouble climbing. Power was dropping rapidly and an uneducated debate was taking place in the cab. It became apparent the car was overheating so we pulled in, let her cool down, tried to avoid wondering why the car would choose now to overheat and waited. The coolant had completely evaporated so we filled it up and confident that there had been a problem and a solution, we could move on. Driving was better for a short time before the temperature gauge shot up and we were on the side of the road again, out of the car looking quite puzzled. To pour salt in the wound, a truck hit a goat a few meters in front of us and we were forced to stand idley next to our broken down vehicle watching as a severely injured goat tried to stand and get off the road, unsuccessfully. The driver of the truck stopped only to check damage to his vehicle and then moved swiftly on. After letting her cool down we drove on but did not get very far before we came grinding to a halt and she was out for the count. The engine wouldn’t start and we were good and stuck, on the last day of the trip with a bus to catch the next morning. Things could not get much worse for us. For ten or fifteen minutes we stood at the side of the road waving to passers by, trying to get them to stop and help before someone finally did. We will never drive past a stranded car again without feeling sympathetic… we probably won’t stop but we will be very sympathetic. Towed into the nearest town, not a pleasant place to be, come nightfall we were eager to get out of there. It wasn’t too far to Durban and eventually a tow truck arrived belonging to a friend of the man who stopped for us. He was willing to take us to Durban where we could camp outside a Land Rover garage in an attempt to get her fixed first thing. After some negotiation a measly little truck lifted the Land Rover in a somewhat precarious fashion and we were off. We had a lot on our mind, it was a stressful time and the morning presented many challenges. The driver of the tow truck too was concerned. He had only two pies but there were four of us in the truck, including his friend who served no obvious purpose to the operation. We both decided that the time would be best spent asleep, in a state that prevented us consciously worrying about the situation. Using the sat-nav we arrived at a Land Rover dealership that would have to do as our two truckers were not willing to drag us around Durban looking for something more suitable. Not the worst place we have slept on the trip, there was a security guard and even a loo. In the morning however whilst they did indeed have a service department it would likely be all day before we were seen,. There was an unlicensed Land Rover garage around the corner, much more our style. As it happened the good people of the unlicensed Land Rover garage in Durban had that engine running just like a song within the hour. Excuse that lack of technical detail, but; it turned out that a filter in the cylinder was completely bunged up which is the reason the fuel pump had be whining for so long, because it was struggling so hard to push fuel through. This was most likely caused by the black market fuel we had been using, not being the cleanest diesel on the market. With the piece the size of a wall plug replaced, all was well and the fuel pump even stopped her moaning. We had an hour until our bus and if we could sort shipping in time we would be laughing. Mark from Logan Freight had his driver meet us at the garage and as we waited we packed our bags and arranged the car for her voyage. We followed the driver to the yard and met Mark, signed the paperwork which was all very straight forward, sorted out the finer details and then got in his driver’s car to be taken to the bus station. From here we made our bus and for eight ours we were driven to Johannsberg, all the while discussing how eight hours on the road was fairly tame stuff.
We spent the next day relaxing at the home of a family friend, completely over the panic and frustration of the previous couple of days. This sadly, is where the story comes to an end. Three months on the road from Edinburgh, Scotland to Cape Town, South Africa, almost two years in the planning. Now the three of us are all back in the UK. Whilst Richard and Duncan sit in London doing what people in London do, Callum is preparing for a three month voyage at sea, across the Atlantic in time for Christmas. Though this is not the final word from us you can be sure. When it all sinks in and we are reunited in a short while, we will be sure to share our final thoughts on this great trip and discuss what the future holds for The Gentlemen’s Adventure Club.
We must take this opportunity now to briefly thank everyone that read this blog, everyone that put us up along the way and everyone that supported us both in planning and on the road. The entire experience was made ever more valuable by having the opportunity to share it with friends, family, other travellers and complete strangers. Thank You.