Africa Truck Diary

2014-05-17 Update: I found this photocopy of our 1999 Kumuka (unfortunately they went bust in 2012) Overland Truck communal diary and decide to type it up as I was reading. All very nostalgic but not sure that we collectively captured how spectacular some of the scenery was or how memorable some of the trip was. 15 years later the animals at the watering hole in Etosha are still the highlight. The low rumble of the elephants ‘speaking’ to each other, co-ordinating their dominance of the other animals was a revelation (I think recent elephant communication research has show that my theory that they really were speaking to each other at very low frequencies wasn’t entirely mad).

Day 3 - Kevin Hogan aged 24 1/4

We had a little lay in before having breakfast, which was cooked by Priscilla and brilliantly assisted by Brett, Catherine and Kevin. The rest of the morning was spent sorting odds and sods around Vic Falls before we left Inyati Camp site at about 11am. We then had to find Hamish who kept us waiting whilst he polished off his E-mails. We arrived at Chobe Safari Lodge in Botswana and quickly sat down to a beautifully presented lunch, prepared by Priscilla, Brett and Catherine & Kevin. At 3pm we set off on a sunset cruise on the Chobe River with our guide Bart. we saw elephants, hippos, crocs, elephants, hippos, buffalo, elephants, Impala, and some more elephants. And lots of birds.

We sat down to eat a delicious meal and then sat around the camp fire for fund and laughter before turning in.

Quote of the day “When someone asked who knew what happened in the cricket between England and New Zealand, Raj replied ‘Yes, I know EVERYTHING’” When asked who batted first he replied - “Oh, I don’t know about that!”

1999-07-07 Day 4 - Steve Williams

Early morning start - 6am for 6:30am game drive through Chobe National Park. Highlight seeing the lions. Returned to camp for breakfast, then break camp for next destination. Departed at 10:40am for long truck journey, leaving Botswana entering Namibia, some of the crew deciding to get their head down, mostly the younger ones amongst us, not used to getting up early no doubt.

Arrived at Ngepi Camp site at 7:45pm, long trip, pitched tents yet again, had evening meal - very nice too - complements to the chef and staff. Highlight of the evening - the washer uppers took forever, have to change that crew tomorrow.

Quote of the Day - From Lesley - “Can’t take two big ones at once”

1999-07-08 Day 5 - olleen Roberts

Up at 6 with no water for showers but spirits high in anticipation of the Okavango Delta. Left camp wrapped up in sleeping bags on the open truck. Anything from trousers to sleeping bags worked as head gear. The sun was out by the time we crossed the border from Namibia back into Botswana. Had our fist boat trip of the day on a barge that we drove the truck onto. Arrive at the put-in point for the mekoros and had lunch. Loaded the mekoros and much to our relief none were name Titanic. Then set off in convoy down the river. Gareth and Dixie looked instantly comfortable and Matt found time to read his book. Stopped for a break and discovered that Hamish had advised Priscilla he’d like to try some heroics and would save her if she jumped in, except if there were hippos around. Reeds and water lilies, birds, small frogs, spiders were all beautiful. Heard hippos and elephants but didn’t see them. Eventually came to our beautiful camp site where the fire and toilet were quickly set up for us. Great mince stew for dinner then darkness set in to add adventure to visits to the toilet. Steve and Stuart proved that we have been eating too well by sitting on a log which promptly broke.

Quote of the day - Steve - “AND it’s his day off” (in relation to Donald going to bed early)

1999-07-09 Day 6 - ???

Up at 6:30am for a game walk. Kev informed us that he definitely hear a warthog by the fire during the night - but it turned out the only thing by the fire last night was Priscilla! A quick cup of tea and then onto our mekoro trip to another island for the game walk. Hamish decided he needed his beauty sleep so we went back to bed. On the mekoro trip we encountered two hippos - luckily they didn’t encounter us. We then bamboo lashed our way to the island. The first game we spotted on the walk was the Botswanian Edward Monkey. With 16 clumsy mugungo’s (?) and guides we headed our way through the bush. Saw a hyena den and ant eater hole, about 10 elephant, warthogs and sausage trees. The it was back to campsite for a porridge and pancake brunch. On the mekoro trip back to Seronga Gareth and Dixie were lucky to make it alive when the “great muzingo (gringos?) munching red spider” landed on them. Edward the speed boat drive took Col and Brett through some unchartered waters and reeds - not always short cuts. Most laid back and enjoyed the sunshine and caught some Zzzs. When back at Seronga some of us tried the poling while the “polers” laughed at us. After our lovely meal of tuna wall paper paste we sat around the fire in silence until the topic of “the stupidest item bought on the trip” came up. Leslie’s took the cake - a stuffed rhino to sleep with (surely dick of the day along with Gareth and Dixie). Martin’s most useless items (so far) were condoms.

1999-07-10 Day 7 - Dixie

Last day at the Delta. Awoke early for a change! Nice journey back to Ngepi Camp, not so cold on the truck this time.

On arrival back at camp we boarded Doris and went to see the magnificent Dopa Falls (?) - what a spectacle! Anyway nice showers at the falls, especially after 2 days without one. After the falls we set off for Rundu. Stayed at a nice lodge, where we played pool, darts and a few games of table tennis. Before our meal we sat and watched some traditional African Dancers. All of our group were encouraged to participate - good dancing by all.

After the dancing we had a meal - pokjie (a maize meal) prepared expertly by Matt our driver - great meal. Once the meal was completed, we began celebrating Brett’s 30th birthday (old timer). We had a few drinks in the bar and waited until midnight to say Happy Birthday. Fun and games on the way back to our tents. Good evening all in all.

No ‘quote of the day’ but ‘moment of the day’ had to be Steve Mad Dog Williams suffering a major loss on the pool table to the Canadian pool shark Lesley - well played Lesley!

1999-07-11 Day 8 - Martyn

24:00 we, Stuart, Colleen, Gareth, Kevin, Dixie, Matt, Steve and my person celebrated the 30th birthday of the Kiwi Brett. After the springbok shots went to turn in but at 1:30am woke up again because some funny persons tried to put my tent down, which didn’t work. We finally found out that not Dixie but Steve is the big “snorer”. After the child game we finally went to bed. At 07:00 Stuart and Brett wake up in a collapsed tent, done by the people who went to bed early (again).

Packed up Doris and had a champagne breakfast. After a quick visit to the hospital, Hamish our tough Aussie was not feeling well - diagnosis: homesick - treatment: phone call to mother. After this we could finally set off for Etosha National Park.

According to Priscilla the trip should take a couple of hours, we will be there at lunch time, but we arrived at 56pm. During the trip most persons were reading or sleeping. I think I lost my second nickname Tsetse fly to Don because he goes early to bed and sleeps almost all day in the truck and when he wakes up he can’t take his hands off his fiancee - real love birds. For some of us not a good scenery after a difficult weeks. After sunset at our first campsite in Etosha we get boereward (?) from the braai (?) and potatoes and… (I don’t know yet). What happens in the night I don’t know and I am not going to write it down - I’ll leave that for the person who write tomorrow.

1999-07-12 Day 9 - Stuart

At the first campsite in Etosha National park some of the group awoke earlier than most to weird sounds never heard before on this trip, “STOP IT, STOP IT”. No-one could recollect any animal which had gained the sense of speech, must be a human. Eventually it came to light at breakfast that Kevin had a major nightmare where Matt had found Kevin attempting to exit the tent at the wrong end! A few explanations came but the mystery continued.

We jumped onto Doris in search of game across the salt (and what seemed soulless) pans of Etosha. A variety of animals were seen but the Rhino and the big cats eluded us throughout the day.

We arrived at camp number 2 in Etosha (another German fortification) and where we attempted to erect our tents into a slab of granite. I don’t think there remained a straight peg in anyone’s tent.

Just before the evening meal we wandered over to the watering hole to see what thirsty animals were present. Couldn’t believe it! Rhinos, not just one but three, black ones as well, my set was now complete!

Most of us returned after spag bog to the watering hole to find Rhino, elephant, giraffe, all sparring for a place. Fantastico! Etosha gave us more than we expected in the end and for half the troop more sightings of the great white elephant than really required.

1999-07-13 Day 10 - DM (?)

Nestled in the dusty environs of the Damaraland, on the North-east edge of the Namib desert lies the sleepy utopian vision of The Otjitotongwe Lodge and Cheetah Guest Farm.

This rural ranch boasts resident mammals of such dexterity they broached their genetic limitations and defy anthropomorphism. Th sumo wrestling meerkats are overshadowed by the manifestations of the cricket playing Kudu.

A superb display of rural Namibian machismo as a group of restless cheetahs salivate at the prospect of consuming flesh. Karl led in front as a prize, the alleged wild cheetahs perform for the paparazzi.

An evening meal of succulent spit roasted lamb accompanied by assorted veggies and gathers round out an experienced content (?) in paradox and reflection.

1999-07-14 Day 11 - Fishy ?

Happy Birthday Hamish! Most of today was spent with Doris on the road. It was the kind of thing which puts “the middle of nowhere” into proper perspective.

We stopped at Cape Cross to see the seal observatory - turns out I was mistaken bringing my zoom lens out for that photo session!

That evening we pulled into Swakopmund I believe we were all quite glad to return to civilization for a while. Shops, beds, hot water - wohoo! After enjoying a few of these luxuries we went to the pub to celebrate Hamish’s quarter of a century.

There wasn’t a quote of the day but I thought I’d leave you with a thought. As you know, Cape Cross was once believed to be the Southern tip of Africa and had been claimed as such by explorers. It kind of makes our blunders look down right intelligent doesn’t it?

1999-07-14 Day 12 - ???

There were perfect blue skies over Swakopmund and its surrounding sand dunes ready for the many activities that lay ahead.

Lying on a piece of plywood and sliding down a sand dune may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it is all the rage in Swakopmund. Speeds of up to 70km/h are obtainable and if you are lucky you can get sand up every orifice in your body. Gareth and Kevin tried dual boarding. Gareth somehow managed to snap the front of the board and found himself lying under Kevin for his troubles. Dixie and Matt were equally unsuccessful breaking their board at breakneck speed. The most spectacular though was the sole effort of Jennie wither her 60km/h spill.

After lunch it was time for Catherine and Graham and Jennie and Dan to take the plunge! A tandem skydive from 10.5 thousand feet seemed an ideal way to see the Namibian desert and Swakopmund. First Graham followed by Jennie, Catherine and finally Dan - each had 35 seconds of free-fall in the ultimate adrenaline rush. We were all witness to their feat at Fagin’s put that evening.

Raj, Steve, Gareth, Kevin, Matt, Sandy and Leslie got back to Earth as they went quad biking over the many gigantic sand dunes outside Swakopmund. Forty-five kilometres of sand dunes and river beds made for a great day out. There was general consensus that Leslie struggled in this activity despite being the slowest rider by far she was the only rider who managed to flip. Stick to riding moose, Leslie.

Things got a bit raunchy in the laundromat afterwards with Raj giving a fashion exhibition of his y-fronts. The boys went berserk cheering his exploits on in a most raucous manner. Sandy was so impressed he rushed outside to find some locals to come and join th show. Unfortunately by the time he came back Raj had his trousers back on and the show was over.

After our day of strenuous activities we were all extremely hungry. So Priscilla took us to Kukies Restaurant. Matt (driver) even put jeans on for this special occasion. I was convinced everyone had enjoyed their meal until Matt and Dixie rushed off to the dunnies and hurled their meals straight back up.

Behind all these happenings their was a major crisis. Martyn had gone missing. We looked everywhere until finally we found him skipping down Kaiser Wilhelm Strasse in full Bavarian costume slapping his thighs and ankles and singing German folk songs with all the locals. Later that night he got stuck into a few too many steins and big bowl of goulash. We finally rescued Martyn from his Tsetse Fly coma when we strapped him out of the gutter on Bismark Strasse and put him to bed. Guten nacht Martyn!

1999-07-17 Day 13 - “Day off” Dan - Age 21, Australia

Well, I’ve managed to find 5 minutes to drag myself away from Jenni to write about yesterday’s activities. I’m sorry that my entry will not be as long as Hamish’s, but too bad.

Another chance for a sleep in was well used by many members of this trip. A couple of people decided to rise a bit earlier in order to get some much needed washing done. On arriving back to the camp we were greeted by Martyn looking for Dr Raw. Apparently Hamish was a bit out of control and some sanity drugs were needed to sedate him.

After everything was done it was time to go our separate ways and wander aimlessly around Swakopmund. At about 1:30pm it was time to leave so we all boarded Doris and headed out of town.

About an hour into the trip Doris pulled over and Priscilla told us that we all had to get out and say “Wow!” at what it was she was going to show us. It was hard but many of us managed to force out a sarcastic “wow”. Many of us had not seen anything so exciting in our lives. A 2,000 year old Welwitschia plant. After somehow dragging ourselves away from this plant we made our way to our final destination for the night, Bloedkoppie - a bush camp set up at the bottom of some mountains. Most of us wandered up the rock to take a in the view.

After Matt’s beautifully prepared Chile con carne it was time for bed, nice and early. After all, it was my day off. Most excited person of the day: Leslie upon receiving her new bubble blowing kit. Kept her quiet for at least an hour.

1999-07-18 Day 14 - Jennie

Nine people rose early to climb the mountain in the darkness in the hope of catching a glimpse of the sunrise. Upon reaching the top it was realised that clouds on the horizon were going to prevent this being a picture perfect sunrise. After a short stay at the top we climbed back down for a cooked breakfast. We packed up camp and jumped into Doris to begin our trip to Sesrien. We arrived in time for lunch and after a small mix up with the camp site, settled in for the night. The afternoon was free and after a short game of cricket most took the opportunity to explore the desert and relax. A few drinks before dinner of veggie stir fry then for most it was back to the bar, while others decided to get an early night in preparation for the early start in the morning.

1999-07-19 Day 15 - Graham

After a relatively extended night at the bar, the night’s slumber was notable for its high winds and frequent zip and hammering sounds. The end came rather suddenly at 5am and eventually everyone, some more reluctantly that others, made it into Doris. A brief and blustery journey ended with our arrival at DUNE 45, Soussusvlei since “THE BIG MAMMA” was lost in the sand storm. After shoe removal, many scampered up the dune rather optimistically. This initial vigour was short lived, however, and the dune soon seemed endless. Many faltered at the first rest stop but Hamish and I battled to the top, stopping only occasionally to remove the equivalent of several years of phlegm from our lungs. Yuk.

Once at the summit we were shortly joined by Brett, Steve, Leslie, Sandy, Stuart, “Donjenni”, Kevin ans some Dutch strangers. The exhausting climb was well worth while and as the sun peeked above the distant hills, some magnificent photo opportunities arose (I’m waffling because nothing happened for the rest of the afternoon). With the wind speed rising and the collective foot temperature falling, all began to bound down the side of the slope. Sandy was seen “pronking” in a manner not dissimilar to a demented Impala, but a short word from Leslie brought this to a premature halt.

A final photo opportunity or two later (Steve’s Vogue Cover-shot in the old tree etc) we headed back to the truck for ‘Ginger Nuts’ and the return journey to the campsite for an abortive breakfast in the sand storm. The rest of the day was spent cold and dusty in the truck and we eventually arrived at our campsite for the night at Konkiep Lapa.

1999-07-19 Day 16 - Catherine

After a decadent (if somewhat chilly) lie in, we packed up and left camp at the late hour of 8:30am, on route for Fish River Canyon. First stop was the town of Keetmanshoop, where we instantly attracted some interest from the locals. One guy tried to sell us the local Spar’s offers page while another man told us how he had built every city in the world (while remaining in Namibia the whole time apparently). Once we had loaded up with goodies, we got on with the serious task of travelling to our destination. The back of the truck consisted of the usual assortment of readers / snoozers / somewhere-in-betweeners. We arrived earlier than expected at F.R.C., and thanks to Priscilla’s charms (we’ve still not quite sure how she managed it…) we ended up staying at the more relevant for hiking end of the canyon, which was good!

This afternoon saw the highly competitive Kumuka hopscotch Olympics take place. The crowd sat enthralled on the edge of their seats (well… stools) as Hamish, Stuart & Graham battled on the sand. Stuart, being a jammy Welshman romped -or should that be hopped? - home to a stunning victory; Graham did a v. good impression of a stiletto-wearing giraffe; Hamish - well let’s say that his talents must lie outside the hopscotch sphere…

After the adrenaline & testosterone-packed sporting event, we climbed onto Doris once more for sunset & beers at the Canyon. Nice ending to a dusty day.

Today’s “self-improving” fact: we all now know the technical term for a man with a goatee (v. useful).

Song of the day: erm not quite sure of that one…

1999-07-20 Day 17 - Matt

We left the campsite at just after 8am, almost 30 minutes early. It appeared that after the enthralling hopscotch competition the evening before, everyone was keen to do some real activity. At the top of the hiker’s trail Doctor Raw decided that his skills would be required when everyone returned from the hike so elected to stay at the top & set up an A&E Dept ready to treat anyone with exhaustion. On the way down the Canyon Catherine decided (quite wisely in hindsight) not to go to the bottom, but perhaps she knew what Hamish had in store for us all at the bottom.

We reached the bottom after about 30 minutes. The temperature was hot, but it was soon to get hotter. Tough Aussie Hamish decided that after 6 weeks of not washing it was time to get clean, so off came every bit of clothing and with Jenny, Coleen, Lesley & Prescilla not knowing where to look (allegedly), he dived into the lovely clear water. Within seconds the water had filled with grime from Hamish & turned disgusting green colour, putting of any other people had intentions of going for a swim (or wash). Kevin then decided it was joke time and moved all of Hamish’s clothes. On his return to land, and with the aid of a chunky size 10 shoe, he was able to reach his clothes and get dressed without losing too much dignity.

The trek back up the canyon was somewhat more tiring than the descent, but only took between 30 & 45 minutes for everyone to return safely to the top. Luckily Dr Raw was not called into action.

We then had a two hour journey to our new home for two nights at a campsite on the Orange River. We duly arrived about 3 hours later, where we had lunch, showeered, then partook in a few relaxing games of touch rugby, frisbee & football with a hackisack.

After the evening meal, more fun & games were had by all in the bar. If anybody did anything but breathe they were punished by having to drink a shooter. By the end of the evening everbody was basically pretty god darn pissed. The worst punishment was dished out to Dan & Jenny, as all couples were not allowed to touch each other for at least an hour. They both found it an immense struggle and were heard pining for each other after only 10 minutes apart.

Quote of the day came from Lesley yet again, but she was quoting something that Hamish had said to her on the 1st day of the trip. He told her that as she was the only single girl on the trip he was under immense pressure to score with her. Time is running out Hamish!

1999-07-21 Day 18 - Gareth

For most people today’s lay in was very much required. After a heavy night in the bar for most people an 08:30 start seemed pretty “cool”.

Whem most people woke this morning Tracey already had cooked sausages and was frying eggs, these were soon polished off by most people.

After a shjt, shave and brush of the teeth, we were all ready to set off for our day’s activity - canoeing. Martin after washing the statement he wasn’t going, finally decided perhaps he shouldn’t be a Dutch pussy and join in with the fun.

After a chilling drive through the back lanes we arrived 15 kilometers down from the campsite. After a brief lesson from Stavros on how to paddle our canoes we set off down river. After about 50 metres Dr RAw had steered his canoe straight into the bank to the disgust of his pilot Steve Mad Dog Williams. Tracy thought it would be a good idea to split the two up and so Hamish and Priscilla were the lucky two to take the over the steering.

I am afraid to admit it but the only canoe to tip was mine and Dixie’s and yes, I did come flying out. The water was bloody cold and I could sympathise with Hmish and his skinny dipping exploits.

Sandy had finally flipped and decided that buring Leslie on a rock in the middle of the Orange River was the only way he could have a few minutes peace. After much barricking he finally let her get back in the canoe.

For Dinner we had roast lamb, which was lovely and everyone tucked in. Raj was cooking and each time the fat caught on fire he did his Houdini impression and went missing. After a few games of cards most peopel went to bed knackered, a few braved the bar but after a round of drinks soon left for their tents.

1999-07-22 Day 19 - Raj alias Dr Raw

An early morning wake up for a long journey into our final country. Everybody was ready and into Doris for 8:30, having filled in our border crossing forma (again!) only for Carlos to keep us waiting - then suddenly he appeared with a B’day cake for Matt (Driver) and then we were off for the South African border. The rest of the journey passed uneventfully and once we were through the border we headed for Springbok and our first SA stop for shopping and stretching of limbs. Once everybody had brought their junk food, we were off again and our next stop was a windy roadside lunch where Hamish seemed quite popular with the locals as they all beeped when they went past, word of his skinny dipping exploits had obviously spread far and wide. Back on Doris everybody was getting restless and the (rarely heard) My Sherona / Neil Diamond tape made a reappearance followed by a few games of “Chase the Ace”. A smaller group then decide dto play a different game of which the main objective seemed to be to hurl abuse at Martin, which they all did extremely well. As we headed South, the weather took a turn for the worse and as we approached the Cederburgs (apparently somewhere in the distance through the fog). Priscilla gave us an ultimatum - either we drove recklessly into the fog for a cold we night under canvass, with wet food and an early morning wt hike or we headed straight for Stellenbosch and a nice warm bed and a proper kitchen. After much soul searching, deliberation we decided to head to Sellenbosch. The rest of the journey passed with little event other than some local colour from the radio and repeated calls of “are we nearly there?”. We finally arrived at our backpacker lodge and split into dorms - couples and singles. After dinner Matt’s Birthday was celebrated and everybody (except Matt) enjoyed his cake - thank you Carlos (Stavros) and then retired to the bar two doors down.

Quote of the day - Jerry to Dan - “Go away”.

Thought of the day - “As the trip rears its conclusion it was noted that the only bloke to have any success with the opposite was Mad Dog Williams who managed to get a woman to get their trousers off - maybe there is life after thirty?

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