16 November 2017 Richards Bay, South Africa
We piled the bed with every blanket that we could find, but my ears and nose were cold when I woke at 05:00. It was just light and the fire had obviously gone out, so I quickly dressed and dashed outside in the howling wind and lashing rain to get some more wood. After getting the fire going, I jumped back in bed and was firmly told off because of my cold hands – some people just don’t appreciate hardship.
We were on our way by 08:30. It was still raining with sleet settling on the nearby hills, so we took it easy. The long 5 hour drive was tedious, but at least the weather improved as we came out of the mountains and down to the coast. By the time that we arrived at Richards Bay, the sun was shining, although there was still a strong, cold wind from the south west.
We checked in at the boat yard and all is well on the boat. The boat yard have fitted the new cutlass bearing into the housing, but the rudder shoe isn’t finished - it’s out at a machine shop having a larger bore machined, so that a bush can be fitted.
The World ARC Rally has arrived while we’ve been away. This rally sails around the world (28,000 miles) in 15 months, which IMHO is a ridiculous pace. They spend most of their time on passage or repairing stuff that breaks because they don’t have time to do maintenance - they have very little time to explore the few countries that they visit. To add to this dismal picture, the rally costs about $35,000 US – they’d be better off spending a year exploring the Caribbean rather than trying to get a “round-the-world” ticket.
There are only 14 boats, but they’ve caused chaos at the marina by block booking a whole pontoon of berths. Their tight schedule means that they have fixed dates to leave on each passage and some had a rough passage from Reunion to Richards Bay. Despite most of them only arriving two days ago, they are planning to leave in two days’ time. It’s madness…
We checked into the Treetops Self-catering Apartments, which is just a couple of kilometres from the marina. It’s a nice place, but chilly in this weather.
17 November 2017 Richards Bay, South Africa
We went to boat yard fairly early. Glenys wanted to get into her laundry done and was worried that the ARC locusts would be dominating the washing machines. The weather was much better so we were back to shorts and t-shirts.
While we were away on holiday, winchservicing.com, based in the UK, had sent me some useful drawings of our steering system. This shows that there should be a small 8mm long * 8mm diameter plug inside the shaft to operate the locking mechanism. I made one from an 8mm shoulder bolt, but the locking mechanism still doesn’t work. I’ve obviously damaged it when I was trying to pull it to pieces.
The steering mechanism still works fine and we only lock the wheel when we’re at anchor (or occasionally hove-to), so I’m going to leave the repair of the brake mechanism until we get to the Caribbean. I can lash the wheel with a bit of rope or bungee when we’re at anchor. I’m starting to build up a list of “tricky” jobs to do when we get to the Caribbean. I don’t want to be stuck in South Africa for a long time because I’ve broken an essential part.
Graham on “Red Herring” pointed out that our propeller shaft is not lying central in the stern tube, but is pressed down and to port - this indicates that the engine is out of alignment, so I spent most of the day re-aligning it. I removed the stern gland, so that I could see the alignment at the inboard end of the stern tube.
Of course the job didn’t go as smoothly as it should because the aft port mounting was slightly corroded and the adjustment nut is in a tight space, but I gradually raised the engine a few millimetres and now have the shaft central at the inboard end and much better at the outboard end.
Unfortunately, when I rotate the shaft, it’s “wobbling” at the outboard end - either the prop shaft is slightly bent or the flanges on the coupling are not quite aligned. I’m going to have to remove the coupling from the end of the prop shaft and check that there are no burrs on the coupling. It’s a job for when we get back from our next holiday.
There was a briefing held by the World ARC rally which we attended. One of the local delivery skippers went through the various ports that are between Richards Bay and Cape Town, which gave me a bit more information on places to stop. Other than that, there was a lot of talk about the marina berths that they have block-booked in Capetown. It looks like we’ll find it hard to get a berth until they bugger off on the 6th January. We’re now thinking of spending Christmas at Simonstown, which is only an hour’s drive from Cape town.
We attended a dinner put on by the Yacht Club for the World Arc. It cost us £6 each for the tickets, but there was a display of Zulu dancing and a good meal. The Zulu dancing was done by very energetic young men and involved chanting and drums. The downside to the event was that the ARC had a prize-giving to congratulate themselves for sailing from Reunion to South Africa. The speeches were interminable. We left after the main meal.
18 November 2017 Shakas Rock, South Africa
We packed our bags for another holiday, this time with our son, Craig and his girlfriend, Kristen. After dropping off our small rental car, we upgraded to a standard SUV – a Renault Duster, which was a four wheel drive vehicle and big enough to take four people comfortably.
Craig didn’t arrive until 17:00, so we first went to the small apartment that we’d rented in Shaka’s Rock, unloaded our stuff and Glenys cooked Chicken Mole for dinner. The aeroplane arrived on time and we were soon back in the apartment catching up on each other’s news from the past few months.
19 November 2017 Imfolozi Game Park, South Africa
It was a three hour drive to the Imfolozi Nature Reserve, where we’d booked two nights in a Safari Tent at the Mpila Camp. While we were driving there from the main gate, we spotted lots of animals including Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Impala and Village Weavers - it was a good start for Craig and Kristen.
Our accommodation was two huge tents complete with on-suite bathrooms, real beds and a separate kitchen each - very luxurious camping. Unfortunately, the tents were blisteringly hot in the midday sun, so we went out for a three hour self-drive in the comfort of the car’s air conditioning.
As it was the middle of the day, most animals were hiding, but we saw the usual Warthogs, Giraffe and White Rhinoceros, which was enough to keep us interested. We visited a few water holes and the Mphafa Hide, but there was nothing happening in most places.
In evening, we went on a guided game drive, which was very good. We had a great viewing of a couple of White Rhino next to the road and then later two Elephants only 10 metres from us. After dark, the guide shone his search light around as he drove along and found a Large Spotted Genet - it looks like a cross between a cat and a mongoose.
For dinner, we had chicken kebabs cooked on the braai. We’d been warned about cheeky Monkeys and Hyena, which come into the camp to steal food. Apparently, the Hyena are very brazen and will try to scare you away from the BBQ, so that they can steal your meat. We were told to throw rocks at them to drive them away. Unfortunately, (or fortunately?) we didn’t see any Hyena, but we did have a pair of Nyala wandering about.
20 November 2017 Imfolozi Game Park, South Africa
The alarm went off at 04:30 and we groaned out of bed to meet our guide at 04:50 for a morning game drive. It was a good trip and the lady guide pointed out lots of small thing as well as finding us Buffalo and White Rhino. She was very excited to see a Secretarybird – a raptor that hunts on the ground - very odd, but very colourful. We found a Dung Beetle rolling its ball of dung along the road - interestingly the female was clinging onto the dung ball getting a ride while the male laboured to find a suitable site to bury the ball and its eggs.
We were back at the tent by 07:30 and Glenys arranged for us to upgrade to a Chalet because the tents are far too hot in the middle of the day. It only cost us £20 to upgrade from two tents to a seven person chalet, which was a real bargain.
We weren’t able to move to the chalet until 12:00, so after breakfast, we crashed out for an hour in the tents and, when it became too hot, we went off for a drive by ourselves. Being the middle of the day, we thought that we’d visit the Bhejane Hide, but nothing was happening there. We went to a viewpoint on the river and saw a flock of Vultures, but couldn’t get close enough to get any decent photos.
Back at the Mpila Camp, we moved into our chalet, which was very nice and chilled out for the afternoon, catching up on lost sleep.
In the late afternoon, we went out for a drive by ourselves, but we discovered a fault with the fuel gauge on our hire car - it was showing ¾ of a tank at midday and suddenly dropped to ¼ tank, so I have no idea how much fuel there’s left. We decided to abort our drive because none of us wanted to be running out of fuel and spending the night lost out in the park.
21 November 2017 Hluhluwe Game Park, South Africa
After checking out of our chalet, we drove out of the park and 10 kilometres along the road to find a petrol station with diesel - they sell petrol in the Imfolozi Park, but not diesel. We then re-entered the park and slowly drove into Hluhluwe Game Park taking some of the gravel loop roads, but there weren’t many animals about, so went to Hilltops to check in and for lunch.
We weren’t able to get into our room until 14:00, so we went for another drive, this time a bit further away from the main road, looking to go to Thiyeni Hide (the only hide in the Hluhluwe Park), but it was closed. Despite it being 35°-40°C we found a large herd of Zebra and Wildebeest next to a watering hole and further on came across nine Giraffe. It was a worthwhile couple of hours.
The evening guided game drive was a little disappointing, mostly because the guide went too fast and we kept missing things. I think that he was trying to find some Lions, but had no luck. We saw a very large group of Cape Buffalo, which was interesting, a hippo wandering about on land (a long way from the road) and after dark, we found a Spotted Eagle Owl.
For dinner, we treated ourselves to the buffet dinner at the resort restaurant, which was very good.
22 November 2017 St Lucia, South Africa
We had another early start - up at 04:30 for a morning game drive. It was the best drive that we’ve had. We (and the guide) were amazed to see a large pack of African Wild Dogs come bounding up the road towards us. The guide stopped and to our surprise, the dogs stopped next to us, lying down and walking around the truck. We were very lucky to see them as they are difficult to find.
Further on towards the Memorial Gate, we were delighted to see a Female Lion walking along the road towards us. She went past us and was followed by another female and then a male. The three Lions then stopped about 25 metres behind us and then the male mated with one of the females. The Lions were unconcerned about us and were wearing collars, so that they can be tracked. They stayed with us for 15 minutes before wandering off into the bush.
On our way back to Hilltop along gravels roads, we also saw a large heard of Elephants, a herd of Cape Buffalo and I finally managed to get a decent photo of a Greater Blue-eared Starling. They are fairly common here, but they tend to fly off as soon as we stop the car - I started to call them ABBs (Annoying Blue Birds).
After a large breakfast, we checked out of Hilltop and drove down gravel road loop towards the Memorial Gate. It’s very easy to become blasé about White Rhino - they are everywhere and appear to be very placid. While driving down a fairly steep section of the gravel road, we came across a solitary male White Rhino who was stood at the side of the road.
I backed up to about 20 metres away and we waited for him to amble across the road. Half way across the road, he stared at us, stamped one of his feet and snorted loudly, before carrying on to the other side of the narrow track.
We noticed that he had one or two puncture wounds in his back leg and some other injuries on his side. He stopped about 5 metres from the edge of the road and started to graze. I started slowly driving forward thinking that he would edge away from the road, instead he did a quick hop to turn to face us. I backed off again and he returned to grazing.
After waiting for another five minutes, he’d moved 20 metres from the road, so I cautiously rolled forwards. When we were level with the Rhino, he came aggressively forwards about five metres looking like he was going to charge. Gulp! There was a great temptation to put my foot down and roar off down the hill, but I figured that he would be able to catch us and then would be really pissed off.
Instead, I turned off the engine and then very slowly rolled down the hill, stopping every five metres. The rhino kept facing us, but didn’t move any further forwards. At the bottom of the hill, I started the engine and drove away. Phew! I stopped the next guide that we saw and he told us that they knew about the Rhino - he’d been gored by an angry Elephant.
We managed to escaped from the park without any further incidents and drove to St Lucia, where we checked into the Elephant Coast Guest House, which is lovely. After a quick cheese sandwich, we had a quiet afternoon, mostly sleeping - the frenetic pace is getting to all of us.
In the evening, we went on boat trip on St Lucia Lake. We saw a few groups of Hippopotamus in the water and one solitary Crocodile. It was interesting to see Hippos Yawning, which they do as a sign of aggression to show the magnificence of their huge teeth. However, the boat trip that we did at the Pongola Game Reserve was much, much better. Half way through the trip, a squall came through and we got soaked.
We went out for dinner on the high street, where there are lots of restaurants - it’s all very touristy, but I guess that’s what we are…