July 25, 2017
Told in the collective first person, jointly from Stu and Janell Clarke's perspective.
Narrated Audio Blog
We spent two fantastic months in South Africa. But it almost didn't happen, sorting out paperwork problems for the dogs took us three attempts to cross from Namibia into South Africa. Tensions were high for two very important reasons. Firstly, we'd sent Janell's motorbike ahead to Pretoria after its breakdown in northern Namibia. And secondly, Janell's mother (Pauline) was flying into Cape Town on 11 June to spend 5 weeks travelling with us. So we needed to cross into South Africa one way or another.
The most direct route to Janell's motorbike in Pretoria was via the Ariamsvlei Border Crossing. We arrived at the border and started processing our checkout of Namibia and then into South Africa. We were almost through when the customs official asked us for the Animal Movement Permits for the girls. We didn't know what they were and simply showed the EU PETS Passports. The official explained that we should have obtained the permit in Namibia before attempting to cross the border, we begged and pleaded, again showing that the PETS Passport had all the required information and proof of vaccinations. It nearly worked but in the end the official said it was an easy process and needed to be followed.
Had we returned immediately we would have had time to get the permit and return to the border that day. But the time spent trying to argue our case meant we'd not return before the border closed. The ride back to Karasburg was 130km, it was a good sealed road with nothing in between and so it only took us a little over an hour. The next day we located the State Vet Department at the local Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry Office. The vet was not in during the morning but returned just after lunch. He took a look at our PETS Passports and produced the permits on the spot. We were now ready for South Africa, or were we?
We arrived at the Ariamsvlei Border Crossing with plenty of time. Off we went again exiting from Namibia and then entering South Africa. We presented to the same customs official as we had done the day before, but this time he said that we needed to speak to his manager. His manager told us that we had entered Namibia illegally and that we should have entered 21 days of quarantine at that time. Having not followed the procedures at that time meant that we would not be allowed to enter South Africa until our dogs had spent 6 months in Namibia, at which point they would be considered Namibian dogs. This made no sense, we'd been in Namibia for over 21 days, so why could that not be the quarantine they required? We argued and argued but it was futile, she simply became more and more apoplectic.
It was getting late in the day and we now needed to check back in to Namibia, luckily their border was opened an hour longer due to the time zone difference. We again rode the 130km back to Karasburg where we would check in to the hotel we'd stayed the night before and work out our next move.
We were convinced that the manager would have anticipated us trying another border and called ahead, but with little other option we thought it best to at least try entering via another border. This time we wouldn't mention anything about coming from Angola, we had the required permits and there was no evidence that our dogs were not simply from Namibia, apart from the 3 years of social media posts.
The Noordoewer/Vioolsdrif Border Crossing was far busier and was open 24 hours. We took a deep breath, looked confident, and moved from desk to desk stamping out and then in. We presented the Animal Movement Permit to the Customs Office, hearts in throats, and it was approved with no questions asked. We were in but we were terrified they'd change their mind. We were tired and hungry and running on adrenaline but we didn't want to risk staying near the border so we floored it to Springbok where we found a nice little hotel happy to house all four weary bodies for the night.
Everything seemed so much brighter the next morning after a good sleep and a big English breakfast. Now we could concentrate on the next challenge, getting Janell's motorbike fixed. We got incredibly lucky on this account. When her motorbike broke down in Namibia we initially thought it made sense to truck it to Cape Town but we contacted Martin and Daleen, a couple we had never met but you had been following our journey through Africa and lived in Pretoria. We explained the situation to them and they suggested getting the parts and work done would be much easier in Pretoria. They also offered to have the motorbike delivered to their house and look after it until we arrived. What we didn't know until much later was that Martin was a BMW Motorbike Mechanic. He and his wife Daleen had owned a shop of their own for a number of years but now they mostly worked from home and were transitioning to retirement. Once we were in South Africa we let them know. They cleared their week to work on Janell's motorbike and invited us to stay with them.
We had a fun week with Martin and Daleen and their three cats. They had a beautiful house with a big garden and they loved to cook. We discovered homemade rusks at their house, a sort of slightly sweet, hard biscuit that you dip in a hot cup of Rooibos tea. For us now, this is the taste of South Africa. Janell appointed herself OIC tea rounds, periodically bringing out tea and rusks to everyone. We were both eager to help with the motorbikes but first everything had to be cleaned. Martin was an absolute professional, everything was calm, clean and methodical in his workshop. It was a pleasure to watch and we picked up some good habits from him. Stu spent the week assisting Martin who not only rebuilt the engine, he addressed a number of other issues with both our motorbikes and did some preventative maintenance. Janell was also assisting until she was diverted to preparing a presentation to give at the Bavarian Motorcycles monthly meeting on Friday night. Martin and Daleen were members of the group and had organised some excellent discounts for parts we needed through them. Our presentation in their monthly meeting was a last minute inclusion, in a very small way we wanted to thank everyone for their help with a little entertainment. So Janell was busy pulling photos, text and video footage into a 45 minute slideshow which the audience seemed to enjoy. And both motorbikes were up and running, we parked them inside the dealership and brought the girls along for people to have a look and ask questions after the meeting.
It wasn't a proper goodbye when we left Pretoria, we knew we'd be back and definitely wanted to see Martin and Daleen again. So with only a few days until Pauline arrived it was time to move. We broke the trip into three legs. We did a bit of camping, experienced our worst night in the tent ever when a snow storm hit us, then stayed with a family in Langebaan. Ronel had made contact with us right at the start of our journey and told us that if we came through South Africa that she would have a bed for us. Ronel and her family had what we could best describe as a small farm on the outskirts of Langebaan where they lived with dogs and horses (there may have been other animals). It was a lively home and Weeti and Shadow integrated with the other dogs quite well. There were big dogs and little dogs, the little dogs were their preferred company. With so many animals around and three very friendly children we felt welcome instantly. We played board games, watched movies and went to the beach. We even got a game of soccer happening on the sand, geez it's tough running after the ball on sand!
We booked a lovely Airbnb in Cape Town to start our adventure with Pauline. First on the list was the wine regions Stellenboch and Franschhoek. The towns are very pretty with art shops and cafes so we allocated at least a day to each town. We indulged in wine pairings at three different wineries:
We spent a day wandering round the Victoria and Albert Dock and timed our cable car ride to the top of Table Mountain for sunset. From the top of the mountain we could see the coastal road that would take us to the tip of Africa where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic Ocean, Cape Agulhas. An incredible milestone for The Pack Track and a wonderful memory to have with Pauline.
After a week of indulgence in Cape Town we commenced our road trip along the south coast. Pauline was in for a bit of a shock at times. While we did our best to be organised and have nice (but affordable) Airbnb's pre booked along route we did get caught a few times improvising like the night we spent at Billy Bongo's Backpackers.
We surprised Pauline with a shot of tequila at Ronnie's Sex Shop on Route 62. She was a good sport and downed it, promptly admitting cough medicine tasted much nicer. Ronnie's Sex Shop was actually just a bar and farm shop, more or less in the middle of nowhere. The store had Ronnie's Shop painted on the side of the building which was easily visible from the road but did not attract much clientele. On the verge of going out of business, Ronnie simply added the word "sex" to his simple sign and before he knew it he had more business then he knew what to do with. It has since become famous for ladies leaving their bras hanging from the roof, but don't bother trying to find Janell or Pauline's bras.
There were some good surprises for Pauline as well. We did a safari at Inkwenkwezi Private Game Reserve where we saw 4 of the Big 5. But Richards Bay was a highlight for the road trip and completely unexpected. Sean and Leanne had seen we were travelling South Africa and invited us to visit them if we made it to Richards Bay. Sean really sold the place to us as worth a visit, guaranteed hippo sightings. We stayed a few days with them and had a ball. They organised a bike night for us to meet some local riders and give a bit of a talk about our travels and we did a boat trip/safari to see lots and lots of hippo's. Sean had promised that it was warmer in Richards Bay and he wasn't joking, we all wore shorts and shirts for the first time in South Africa.
Pauline's adventure was quickly coming to an end. With only a few days remaining to return to Johannesburg for her flight back to Sydney we decided to split up. Stu and the girls stayed with Sean and Leanne in Richards Bay while Pauline and Janell took the little hire car and headed through Swaziland to Kruger. It was Pauline's only request on the trip but we couldn't take the dogs so this was a good solution. Janell and Pauline stayed in a fancy tent just outside the park and were up at the crack of dawn to drive in and go searching for Elephants. It was a successful trip.
With Janell's Mum on her way home, we returned to Richards Bay for a few more days with Sean and Leanne. Sean had started his own business making panniers and we had a look in his workshop to see how they're put together. It's a very successful business and he has customers all over the world buying his X Strong Adventure Boxes.
Well aware of the time and money we'd spent in South Africa we decided we needed to start the journey North to Cairo but firstly there was one little detour we wanted to make. We stayed with a lovely family in Newcastle who had 12 rescue dogs of all sizes. Yunus and Xela were amazing people, Yunus was a keen biker and asked us to give a talk to his local club which we were more than happy to do. It was an informal and short talk with no presentation, just us, the girls and the bikes as props. Yunus also organised an interview with the local newspaper who printed an article a few days later.
Xela told us that we needed to meet Gianna, the founder of Animally Haven Sanctuary and so this became our next stop after Newcastle. We had never visited an animal rescue centre outside Australia before and wanted to learn about the work Gianna was doing. She let us stay in a house on the sanctuary site for a couple of nights and visit the dogs. We'd never seen so many dogs in our life, beautiful happy dogs. She created this peaceful place for animals who would otherwise face death (her words). There were pigs as well that had been rescued. One dog in particular got our attention, her name was North. She could jump the fences and move between the yards. We've met a few people like Gianna on our travels, incredible people with such big hearts to give up so much of their time and resources for so many injured and abandoned animals, to give them a happy and safe life.
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