Having read the Trip Notes together with the reviews of previous travellers, we knew what to expect on this trip. Consequently, those long days on the road came as no surprise—there simply isn’t any other way of seeing such a broad slice of South Africa and adjacent countries in a period of time that is manageable. If you were to take internal flights, as some have suggested, you would leave the Karoo and other landscapes 30,000 feet below and miss some gems along the way, if not the point completely. To cut a long story short, this trip exceeded our expectations, which is not to say there aren’t things for Exodus and Mask to consider.
Starting in Cape Town had its advantages and disadvantages. There are so many possibilities, that extra time would have been nice. Had we not done the reverse trip, we would have stayed longer in Cape Town. With hindsight, we should have gone out earlier! Our excellent ‘crew’, Rob and Sifiso, suggested that the group dine together for the evenings in Cape Town. This worked really well, helping the group to gel early on. There is an exciting range of restaurants from which to choose. On our free day, we opted to hike up Table Mountain and back. The views are stunning, but the terrain is not great for those under 2 metres in height—there are some rather large steps hewn out of the rock. It took us longer coming down than going up, which meant, unfortunately, that we missed the township tour. That will have to wait for another day.
We really enjoyed Lesotho, owing to the warmth of the Sotho people . Do take the tour of the village and see the local museum. The Malealea Development Trust welcomes donations of a variety of things, such as stationery for schools and sewing equipment and material. Before going, check with them at: http://www.malealeadevtrust.org/index.html to see what you might take. And don’t miss the wonderful evening concerts from the choir and band (there are two of each, so successive nights are different).
Swaziland, clearly wealthier than Lesotho, was also enjoyable. The people are no less warm than the Sotho. It is in Swaziland, however, that you really begin to encounter the game. Do not expect to see very much south of Swaziland on the trip, although if you are a birder, there’s much to see all the way. The game drives (and/or walks) are a must.
In both Lesotho and Swaziland, the local currencies are pegged to the Rand, which is accepted everywhere. In Mozambique, however, the exchange rate can vary markedly, and not all vendors know how to convert (or they do, but it is greatly to their advantage). We would advocate changing a small amount of money to Meticals.
Maputo came as something of a shock. The aftermath of the war and the subsequent devastating cyclone are clear to see. The streets are littered with rubbish, the pavements in disrepair, but the people are not downbeat. It is outside the capital itself that you see the colourful and plentiful stalls that line the roads that make you want to stop. On our trip, the ferry across the bay to Catembe could not take our vehicle, owing to an incident earlier in the week. As a result, we had to drive—a journey that took some four hours, largely on dirt roads. That journey had to be repeated the following day, as we headed back through Maputo up the coast to Bilene. We would suggest that there be a Plan B should the ferry not be available. The two nights in Bilene were restful, however. Watching thousands of bats leave their roost on the camp site at dusk was one of those David Attenborough moments—don’t miss it!
Kruger National Park was a little disappointing. The lions were clearly on strike—it was nearly 40 Celsius, so we don’t blame them. (The previous trip had seen almost 30, so don’t take our experience as the norm.) We did see one leopard and all the other usual suspects in good numbers.
Finally, there are a few things that you might find useful. First, we return to the long days on the road. The earlier you start out, the better. On our trip, everyone was ready on our before the appointed hour, which helps everyone. Also, if there are things you can do to help (not hinder) the crew, do so—that also helps the trip keep to time and takes some of the load off the crew. Also, if the group is well behaved, there may be some surprises en route. Comfort breaks are taken every two hours are so, mostly at gas stations with Wimpy cafeterias where you can get your caffeine fix. Lunch is usually taken in a lay-by, which gives the opportunity to stretch your legs and take in the landscape.
Our group felt that the Trip Notes could have given a more complete list of the costs of the optional activities, a cost which was not insignificant. More frequent trips to the ubiquitous ATM than had been anticipated were necessary for most. For those wondering about laundry facilities, there is a Laundromat at Tsitsikamma, and (cheap) laundry services at Lesotho and Bilene.
All the accommodation worked well, whether the hotels, lodges or the tents. We were never far away from a hot shower. Mosquitos, a potential problem in Swaziland, Mozambique and Kruger, were not troublesome, but don’t forget the Deet and Malarone!
We hope you enjoy the trip as much as we did.
Christine and Paul Luker