Thursday 31 July 2008

29th July 08

Date: 29th July 08
Location: Cape Town, South Africa
Weather: Clear blue skies and still, very warm in the day, 30°c
Status: Feeling good after lots of exercise!

Yesterday got up before sunrise and went for a long run along the beach at Bloubergstrand, it was really stunning and the only other people about were the groups of old ladies speed walking along the beach. I love seeing them and often wonder what the point is in walking quickly rather than running!?! Another thing which amuses me, and it is the little things, is when a run past a try and make them feel 20 years younger by saying “Good morning girls”. Cheeky I know!!

Folded the tent away and left Saltycrax backpackers to head back to the shopping malls to get my VAT receipts issued from the shops I’d been to the day before so I can at least claim back some of the money I’ve had to spend whilst here.

Drove into the city and headed straight to Ashanti Backpackers where Bre and I had decided to go halves on a gorgeous African-style room for one of our last nights together….how big do showers need to be, you could get at least 4 people in it!?!?

Drove up to Table Mountain to see about getting the cable car to the summit but guess what….its only damn well closed for the 7 days we’re in the city! So drove to Signal Hill and the Lion’s Head instead to watch the sun go down and as we were on the approach road to it Kees and Savannah pulled alongside us on the motorbike, so they joined us to take photos and watch the spectacle of the sun lowering itself into the Atlantic Ocean. Simply beautiful…..

Headed to Nelson’s Eye on the recommendation of Ana who stayed here at Ashanti a few weeks previously and were treated to one of the best meals I’ve ever had here, superb service, awesome steak and all for a darn good price….we had so much that Bre couldn’t finish hers and brought the remainder home in a doggy bag.


Today we got up bright and early cleared out of the room and as the weather was beautiful we decided to climb Table Mountain instead, damn the cable car….its better for the training anyway!

Drove to the cablecar station and left the Colonel there under the watchful eye of the car guard, walked the 2kms to the base of the route up the mountain via the Pletteklip path and together with Bre marched up the side of the famous landmark in record time dashing between the sunshine and the shade. As we neared the summit the wind increased and the temperature dropped so we did a quick lap of the viewing areas and made for the top of the descent.

One of the many reasons which Bre and I get on so well is her love of a challenge, she turned to me at the top before our return lag and said “lets run down!” so off we went….

She stripped down to her shorts and headed off leaping down the steep incline jumping from rock to rock.

It had taken us only 1.5hrs to get to the top, not the listed 2.5hrs and we managed to race all the way to the bottom in just 25mins, truly awesome.

Went down to the Waterfront for sundowners and then back to the backpackers for dinner and a beer.


End of day location: Cape Town, South Africa
Distance covered: 40kms

Sunday 27 July 2008

27th July 08

Date: 27th July 08
Location: Cape Town, South Africa
Weather: Heavy rain overnight, clear blue skies and a great view of Table Mountain! 22°c
Status: Raring to get moving again…I hate sitting still I’ve decided!

Left Kommetjie and headed south in the morning to the Cape of Good Hope another landmark on the expedition. Lots of people think this is the most southerly point on the African continent but Agulhas is and this is really the famous Cape for another reason…the point where centuries ago the explorers and mariners on the Silk and Spice routes would turn and head due east towards India and the Far East.

If they were lucky they’d clear the point with no problems but many didn’t and perished on the submerged rocks and reefs which lie close to the shore; this being the site of many shipwrecks and unfortunate deaths.

We walked from the ‘under construction’ car park up the slopes and steps, avoiding the costly funicular railway, to the old lighthouse at the top of the cliff path and took the usual tourist photo of me pointing to the sign which reads London. Bre and I then walked the narrow path down to the new lighthouse which in 1911 replaced the old one as its position was more visible during heavy sea mists.

Back in the Colonel and took a scenic drive through Hout Bay, Clifton and Camps Bay before turning the corner at Lion’s Head and seeing the familiar sight of Table Mountain protecting the city below. Its been ten years since I was here last when working for Mumm Champagne at the Round the World Race and its good to see in that time that the authorities still haven’t finished the road between two suspended flyover sections…something that’s stuck in my mind ever since! Africa, hehe.

Our location for the next few days was just north of the city at Saltycrax Backpackers and we fitted, just onto their forecourt and have spent the last two days here. The group will split up again for the next 6 weeks or so from here, Kees has his boy arriving for a months holiday, the Watkins family will move back east along the coast towards Durban and Mozambique and Alex and I head north in a weeks time to meet up with Rachel and Jo, two friends from the UK.

We’ll all join up again in around 6 weeks and hope to move up the east coast together offering each other security, a damn good time and reunited friendships which we’ve built over the past 3 months together.

End of day location: Cape Town, South Africa
Distance covered: 162kms

24th July 08

Date: 24th July 08
Location: Betty’s Bay, South Africa
Weather: Clear blue skies and sunshine, 24°c
Status: Tent secure, Land Rover topped up, Bre happier but ill, Ben just plain ill…well man flu!

Tent had dried out well with the offshore wind overnight so packed up early, scoffed some breakfast down and hit the road towards Cape Town.

A beautiful drive along the coast on roads which had been hewn out of the steep mountain sides and towered above the crashing Atlantic Ocean all the way along to Gordon’s Bay. What a collection of architects dreams with designer houses all along the shoreline which must have set the owners back a pretty penny, perfect material for Grand Designs.

Drove through the municipalities of Muzinberg and Kommetjie and found our little backpackers ‘Chill and Surf’ after asking some of the locals for directions. Settled in and decided to head out to Long Beach as I’d visited it previously and remembered it was a great location.

Took the kite out of the Colonel for the first time since I’d collected it from Nigeria where my sister Becky had very kindly arranged through her contacts at BG Group to have it delivered to, and finally after 2 months of sitting there I collected it from!!

Ahh that makes me think lots about my nephews Fin and Jacob who I haven’t seen for so long and miss terribly. Love to you both….

Made our way to the beach, had a chat with some of the locals in the car park about the mission and the buffalo, and then walked down to the long long sandy beach.

Awesome onshore wind which was superb for the 5m kite and it was a real effort to keep me on the ground as it applied enormous force to the taut strings, Bre and Alex both had a go which was so amusing as they both were dragged on their faces across the sand eating it as they went!

Stopped for an ice cream on the way home, cooked dinner and then to bed

End of day location: Kommetjie, South Africa
Distance covered: 160kms

23rd July 08

Date: 23rd July 08
Location: Hermanus, South Africa
Weather: Clear blue skies and sunshine, 25°c
Status: All well and good

Up early and cleaned out the entire vehicle ready as there was a vacuum cleaner nearby and it was about time it was done!

Alex had cleverly left her jacket at the shark dive offices yesterday so we had to retrace our steps and cover the 40kms back to Gaansbai to collect it, stopped on the route back at a little pizzeria for lunch and then drove the 80kms through to Betty’s Bay to meet up with Kees and the others who’d gone ahead of us.

Arrived back at Bayside Beach House and checked in for the night, had a good filling dinner, watched a dvd and settled down on the couch for the night.

When we went outside to bed at 23:00hrs a Berg wind was blowing and instead of the temperature being a chilly 12°c ish the thermometer in the Colonel read 22°c….a really warm wind, and with it the wind speed increased and eventually a howling gale blew through the camp. Around 01:00hrs the rain started and increased in intensity until trapped in the tent in a downpour with the poles creaking outside!

Woke at around 03:30hrs as both Bre and I were coughing our little hearts out, went into the house and watched ‘A Bug’s Life’ and then went back to bed.

End of day location: Betty’s Bay, South Africa
Distance covered: 145kms

22nd July 08

Date: 22nd July 08
Location: Hermanus, South Africa
Weather: Clear blue skies and sunshine, wind increasing throughout the day, 22°c
Status: Can’t wait to get in the water!!

Felt like crap overnight and was coughing and spluttering all the way through to the alarm as it woke me at 6.30am…..up immediately as there’s a big day ahead….SHARKS!!!

Kees drove us all the 45kms through to Gaansbai, the worldwide centre for Great Whit shark diving and the location which 90% of the films featuring breaching sharks are shot. Pulled into the car park of Shark Diving Unlimited just in the nick of time as we were due to depart at 9.30am.

Proved to be not too much of a concern as we were presented with an awesome breakfast to fill our stomachs…before probably emptying them later on that day in the wetsuits they supplied us with! After a 10 minute briefing during which time the day’s activities were explained to us, we all made our way down to the harbour to find our boat ‘The Barracuda’ waiting at dockside for us. It was a gorgeous day with blue skies and a light offshore wind not even breaking the surface of the ocean, a total contrast from yesterday’s howling winds!

Once on board the 400hp outboards fired up and before long we were cruising out of the small harbour and out onto the rolling Atlantic Ocean the swell sending the boat up and down gradually adding to the excitement of the morning. Bre hated the idea of going to dive with the sharks and has always done so since she was younger so struggled to come to terms with exactly what we were about to do, full of trepidation she still went ahead.

Once we’d been moving for 30mins we pulled into the sheltered water between Dyas Island and the rocks which make up the 50,000 strong Cape Seal colony, known as Shark Alley. I’ve watched numerous docu’s and films about the Great White and almost all feature this infamous stretch of water as its one of the only places on the planet where they breach the water to attack seals.

The cage which holds 6 divers at a time was lowered into the water as we all kitted ourselves out with wetsuits, booties, masks and weight belts, the fish head chump was thrown in the water to attract our underwater buddies and we climbed to the upper deck to wait….and not for too long!

In the distance the Southern Right whales were passing and flipping tails in the air, but the foreground was where most of out attention was drawn to and the light grey shadows which occasionally passed under and around the boats hull. The first group of 6 climbed into the cage and as the sharks passed dived underneath to experience for themselves close up the reality of one of the most revered killers on the planet and boy did it get close, at times almost brushing against the bars of the cage!

Once they’d spent 15mins down there the first group climbed to the surface and it was my turn to jump into the great unknown. Compare this to the bungy jump which I did 10 days ago and I loved it, not a fart of anticipation of fear throughout the entire experience, I loved it!

Olympus were very kind to me at the start of this trip and supplied me with a 790SW which is shock and waterproof, perfect for this sort of situation and with it strapped to my hand I lowered myself into the cage with Bre beside me…..still looking like she was about to face a firing squad!

The fish head line was thrown into the distance and dragged back towards the boat, I’d carefully picked my place on the right hand side of the cage as this was where the rope was being pulled from, and watching the first group of divers, and knew this was the location where the sharks repeatedly passed the cage at its closet point!

The first couple of passes were so impressive, 3-4m long sharks passed within a couple of metres of the bars of the cage, almost close enough to touch…if you were stupid enough to wangle an arm out at it!

A new shark appeared on the scene with a long scar along its LHS from a previous encounter, and this mighty specimen seemed more active and persistent than the others who’d visited taking bites at the head time and time again. Then all of a sudden it surged towards the surface, metres from where we were and lunged at the bait knocking it clean out of the water as it grabbed it in its huge jaws and turned violently away with the bait and rope still in its mouth.

For the next minute or so it fought to free the bait, breaking the surface on a number of occasions, writhing and turning just on front of the cage providing the most awesome display of power and agility all recorded on my camera of course! I don’t think I’ve held my breath for quite as long before and spent the entire time underwater filming every move until finally gasping to the surface in amazement, truly an incredible experience!

Once we’d watched another couple of passes we climbed out of the cage and retook our positions on the upper deck as the cage was hauled in and the boat was turned towards the breaking waves which protected Shark Alley and the seal colony. We cruised past the stinking creatures and watched at they twisted and turned close to the bow of the boat with perfect moves all the time sweeping through the kelp, avoiding the crashing waves as they continually hunted for food.

We turned and headed for the safety of the harbour as by now the wind was again howling and had turned the ocean into a mass of white horses and rolling Atlantic swell, pulling into the harbour before changing, heading back to the offices for soup, to review the videos of the day and patting each other on the backs for an excellent day out…Bre well done!

End of day location:
Distance covered:

21st July 08

Date: 21st July 08
Location: Betty’s Bay, South Africa
Weather: Clear blue skies, really really windy, 25°c
Status: Much better now, loving the Southern Africa experience

Bre woke me early and reminded me that we’d decided late last night to climb the steep mountain behind the backpackers and at 7am she very kindly dragged me from my warm pit, wrapped me up in my climbing gear, filled the water bottle and pushed me through the house to the back garden.

What an awesome sight….pink and orange rocky escarpments towered in front of us with the early morning sunrise tickling the outcrops offering us a stunning location for the next hour or so’s activity!

We made our way up the lower slopes with no problem with the heavy bush and rocks offering an easy climb, as these disappeared the slope became steeper and steeper until we were scrabbling between rocky outposts. Once we’d climbed around 85% of the way to the top we decided the pull of breakfast down below was too much and that the remainder of the climb would be too steep so we turned and headed back down. A good early morning activity!

Breakfast out of the way Bre, Alex and I took the Colonel east into Hermanus, the base for the whale watching and shark dives in the area and investigated the possibilities for the next day.

Once we’d spent a few hours watching Southern Right Whales playing in the bay below the view point we checked into Hermanus Backpackers, booked our shark dive for tomorrow and caught up with some important shopping….especially some joke eyes for the buffalo skull which adorns my roof rack!

Headed along the coast for a walk and then had a gorgeous meal out with Bre, bed in preparation for the BIG day ahead tomorrow which commences at 7.30am and involves a short drive to the harbour to get on our boat!

End of day location: Hermanus, South Africa
Distance covered: 50kms

20th July 08

Date: 20th July 08
Location: Betty’s Bay, South Africa
Weather: Clear blue skies and sunshine, cold at night. 18°c
Status: Everybody seems just fine, strange emotions on this part of the trip, can’t really explain them but feel in a bit of a lull and almost empty…but that’s today and tomorrows a different day! Hmmmm…

Left the comforts and the superb hospitality of the Cape Agulhas backpackers and made our way west further along the coast towards Cape Town, stopping some 160kms later at the beach side town of Betty’s Bay on the now Atlantic Coast.

It’s a really stunning place with the blue Atlantic ocean on one side and a high mountain range erupting from the sea bed only a km inland, the town nestles in between the two gripping onto the only piece of habitable land tucked in between rocks and boulders which seem to have been thrown down by the gods centuries ago.

A recent bushfire has left the shells of some of the more unfortunate homes as a reminder of the dangers of this part of the world in the dry, hot summers which are regularly fanned by the strong winds blowing in from the wild ocean which is so close.

The Bayside Beach House is where we’re staying and its another wicked location. Based on three levels, all having a view of the ocean and surrounding coastline, there’s a 9 hole putting course, an outside bar; a summer attraction obviously, and a south-facing driveway where I’m camped giving wicked views as the sun rises in the morning.

A day for washing, watching Lewis Hamilton win another Grand Prix….get in there my son, and cooking a chicken roast dinner for everyone.

We it a fire and watched the clouds cover the starry night, leaving me wondering about the merits of getting up before sunrise to climb one of the rocky climbs up the mountain with Bre…..see what happens.

Watched the Incredibles, them bed.

End of day location: Betty’s Bay, South Africa
Distance covered: 190kms

Friday 18 July 2008

18th July 08

Date: 18th July 08
Location: Cape Agulhas, South Africa
Weather: Clear blue skies, no wind a.m.then increasing through the afternoon, 18°c
Status: Everybody is in good spirits 

Up at a reasonable hour as the wind had died down and the sun was shining, then scoffed some brekky down before realising that my very special Comrades marathon towel was missing………AHHHHHH!!

Packed the tent up as quick as I could and made my way back to the most southern point where I’d spent the previous evening hoping that I’d dropped it out of the Colonel by mistake….but there was nothing there. Balls.

Made our way back to the backpackers and tidied up the truck hoping to find it, but to no avail! The wind gradually increased throughout the day and after some lunch Bre and I made our way north up the coast to try and find a beach site which we could find to fly the kite at….

A cute little tortoise ran across the road in front of the Colonel so we stopped and helped it across the road just in time as a coach came racing round the corner. Got to the entrance of De Mond nature reserve, paid the R25 entry fee and had a gorgeous afternoon walking along the beach and dunes trying to find a site to fly the kite but as the tide was in there was nothing…so we just enjoyed the sunset!

Braai in the evening, then movies in the tent before bed…

End of day location: Cape Agulhas, South Africa
Distance covered: 55kms

Wednesday 16 July 2008

16th July 08

Date: 16th July 08
Location: Mossel Bay, South Africa
Weather: After the storm of last night surprisingly calm and clear skies! 18°c
Status: Got man flu…..say no more

Up early to inspect the damage to the tents from the night before and surprisingly only Ammon’s had suffered any real damage, on set of poles was snapped and needed replacing but the rest of us had got away with nothing more than a rain drop in the face in the morning!

Showered, snacked for breakfast and hit the road again. Pulled into the mall to try and find some replacement poles with no luck and made for the main road south and west towards the most southerly point of Africa; Cape Aghulas.

It’s a bit of a emotional part of the trip for me as this means I now can only go north and back towards home, in a geographical sense this is the halfway point of the trip.

The 292km drive to the coast was made in perfect sunshine but the wind was still up and buffeted the Colonel as the road rose and fell over the stunning Western Cape countryside.

We pulled into the coastal village of Struis Bay and made for Cape Agulhas Backpackers, our home for the next couple of days. Tomorrow we fly my kite finally on the 18kmlong white sandy beach and hopefully horse ride too.


End of day location: Cape Agulhas, South Africa.
Distance covered: 292kms

15th July 08

Date: 15th July 08
Location: Oudtshoorn, South Africa
Weather: Rough night with huge storms, rain and wind!
Status: Starting to feel the effects of a cold, damn it!

Up early and got the tents packed away quickly as we had a full day ahead, left the comfortable Karoo Soul Backpackers and drove north to the Cango Caves to explore this underground attraction.

Talk about a worthwhile visit, the 18kms of under ground cave networks are superbly preserved and feature stalactites, stalagmites, dripstone caverns and some of the tightest spaces I’ve ever had to squeeze through. The Adventure Tour took us through the grand opening caves and deep into the hillside but to get there we had to squirm, crawl and wiggle our way through some damn tight openings in the rocks….luckily I’ve lost weight on this trip and managed without too many difficulties!

After a hour of the tour we broke out back into the daylight and decided amongst ourselves the coast would be the next destination….shame we didn’t see the weather forecast!

The 150kms drive was easy enough to Mossel Bay, a rather unattractive town which promised a lot more in my mind, we found a beach side campsite overlooking the surf break and as we set the tents up the wind started pumping to nearly gale force, the rain joined in for good measure and 2 of our 4 tents we flattened. Luckily I’d turned the Colonel into the wind to minimise damage and came out unscathed.

We headed out for a decent seafood dinner the Kingfisher and Bre and I shared a platter of calamari, prawns, mussels and salmon….double yummy!


End of day location: Mossel Bay, South Africa
Distance covered: 154kms

14th July 08

Date: 15th July 08
Location: Knysna, South Africa
Weather: Clear blue skies and sunshine, 19°c
Status: Stiffening up by the hour but happy again!

Woke up at 4.20am and was lucky enough to see the nearly full moon setting into the ocean, it was awesome a big orange ball disappearing and leaving a very dark night behind it.

Headed off from Buffalo Bay at 10am and filled the Colonel up with increasingly expensive South African diesel, I’m aware that its going up by a huge amount across the planet but its really starting to hit my budget in an enormous way, add to that the fact its only me that’s paying for the fuel in Owen’s absence and the expedition’s budget is taking a hammering; could be interesting in the latter stages of the trip.

Drove west along the coast to George where, horror of all horrors…..I pulled into a McDonalds at Bre’s request for the first time in nearly a year and we had a round of McFlurry’s….or something equally as stupidly named. Then turned north through the Outeniekwaberge mountain range climbing from sea level up to nearly 1000m winding along mountain passes.

Our destination was Oudtshoorn 50kms north and the Karoo Soul Backpackers where the others had travelled to the day before, we arrived there in an hour and found the others relaxing in the sunshine.

We left mid-afternoon to visit the Highgate Ostrich Farm for an afternoon’s entertainment…and so it proved to be! We arrived in time for a tour of the egg incubation process, the feather plucking and the hatchery, and then a short drive later the fields where the beasts roam!

We arrived at the rodeo site and several of our party were allowed to climb onboard a masked ostrich to see exactly how big and strong they were….and then the offer came to actually ride one around the arena. I of course stupidly stuck my arm in the air and was chosen to mount my steed in front of the group…..hmmmm.

I scaled the three steps which brought me level with the feathery back of my beast and swung my leg over before lowering myself onto the boney seta, I nestled into place to find the perfect riding position, grabbed firmly hold of one wing in each hand as the ‘stable boy’ removed the bank bag from its head and all hell broke loose!

My ride took off towards the other ostriches, swung dangerously close to the arena wall and accelerated alarmingly as the stable hands chased ‘Hannah the Ostrich’ around and around, with me hanging precariously onto her back! After 5 minutes of riding I graciously dismounted my ride by opening my legs and easing backwards until I popped onto the floor….to applause from the crowd!! What a laugh 

Headed back to the shop, bought a feather and made our way into town to the supermarket, bought some ostrich steaks and returned to the backpackers to braai them.

A very amusing a rewarding day. Bed.

End of day location: Oudtshoorn, South Africa
Distance covered: 141kms

Sunday 13 July 2008

13th July 08

Date: 12th & 13th July 08
Location: Knysna, South Africa
Weather: Windy and rain overnight, clear blue skies but cold. 16°c
Status: Ready for the next one!

Talk about a windy night!! Camping right on the beach is awesome if you want to wake up with a stunning view but if the weather’s not in your favour then you bear the brunt of it, last night was a prime example of this the wind gradually picked up over the night until it was howling, the rain came down almost horizontally and the Colonel rocked accordingly!

I’m writing this to you on the Sunday night feeling shattered after another successfully completed marathon and the fifth of the challenges out of the way. I still suffered with some of the hangover from the Comrades, my heel and one toe were sore from the halfway point and my knees felt tired for the last few kms of the race but I’m just overjoyed to be through another testing part of the expedition.

The forest course itself was a whole load more challenging than I initially thought it would be and I’d hoped before I set off to try and set a personal best…the first 5kms destroyed this idea as it was all uphill without any respite! It’s not advisable on any level to try and take on another marathon so soon after a challenge quite as large as the Comrades and my time of 4hrs 45mins reflected this…my slowest ever for a standard marathon, still its job done and another challenge ticked off the list!

Sorry there’s no photos of this race on the site at all, I stupidly forgot to charge my camera up the night before and even though there was a tickle of power left thought it silly to carry the extra weight for the sake of a couple of photos!

In the evening we had the Heinekin closing party at the finish site which was superb fun, live bands, DJ’s and cheap beer to celebrate the weekend.

Made our way back to Buffalo Bay for the Sunday night and went to bed feeling very sore….tomorrow’s walking and driving will not be fun!

End of day location: Buffalo Bay, Knysna,South Africa
Distance covered: 42kms + 20kms drive

11th July 08

Date: 11th July 08
Location: Knysna, South Africa
Weather: Rain overnight, then clear blue skies and warm all day….perfect! 27°
Status: Ready for Challenge no. 5!

Up early and left the tent standing to allow the rain and moisture to burn off it from the night. Had a bite to eat and then Bre, Alex and I headed the 20kms west into the gorgeous town of Knysna. Surrounded by the ocean, mountains and overlooking the tidal lagoons and heads which it is famous for its one of the most attractive coastal resorts in South Africa.

Made our way to the marathon registration to be told they only opened at 4pm, so made for the Laundromat instead and dropped off two weeks worth of washing. Damn hard to wash and dry anything when you don’t sit still for more than a day at a time!

The waterfront developments at Knysna are plentiful with commercial, residential and nautical-based industry all side by side in a clean, well laid out fashion. One of the more shop based areas is currently holding qualifications for the Land Rover G4 Challenge South Africa so we sat in the sunshine watching the entrants’ canoe swim and climb against the clock. Wish I could have had a go but it’s for the Saffers only.

Walked the streets for a while before heading back to collect my washing and made our way back to the registration. Had a good chat with the race director about the chances of accommodation on the site which has been set up to house the Heinekin music festival, marathon finish area and Oyster festival as there is nothing available in the near vicinity and he remembered the email I’d sent him a few weeks earlier.

Damn fine chap only went and gave me his access all areas pass which allows me to park and camp the Colonel in the festival site for the three days of the festival! Superb  registered collected the usual freebies and headed out for a late lunch.

Grabbed a chicken and some rolls and drove down to Knysna heads where the views are amazing, the houses enormous and designer and a perfect site for our lunch!

Headed down the coast 15kms to Buffalo Bay and camped right on the beach at he backpackers. Wrote emails in the truck as the rain started and then headed to bed.

End of day location: Knysna, South Africa
Distance covered: 50kms

10th July 08

Date: 10th July 08
Location: Stormsriver, South Africa
Weather: Wet overnight, clearing throughout the day, cold though…only 18°c
Status: Fearing the day ahead, well slightly anyway!

Had a lie in with Bre and listened to the rain pounding the flysheet for the best part of the morning, then packed all of our things up and waited another 2 hours as Kees and the people in his truck got ready! Things have certainly changed a bit since we were travelling with them last…early morning departures are a thing of the past!

Headed west along the main road to the Bloukrans River and the site of the world’s 3rd highest bridge and bungee jump which drops 216m into the valley below. After spending half an hour looking at the site and the idiots jumping from it, I decided that my fear of heights was too much and I couldn’t do it….but then I kept saying to myself it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and as my best buddy Jay would say “if you don’t go you’ll never know!”

So I paid my money, was strapped into the harness and made my way with Bre, Savannah, Kees, Mo, Emma, Maggie and Brandon down the steps to the side of the bridge. It was here we were offered the chance to take the high wire slide to the centre of the bridge instead of walking along the caged tunnel which is attached to the underside of the roadway above. We all accepted and stood in line waiting for our turn, I was hooked up and loved the side across the valley floor suspended over 200m above the floor of the river below.

There’s around 10 people working on the underside of this bridge every day, with jobs ranging from winch operator to video cameraman and everyday they deal with the vertigo thing, hats off to them, I certainly couldn’t do it!

I had my ankles strapped together and waited in line for my turn, fairly relaxed at this stage, but when it arrived I hopped my way to the edge and felt the fear of god hit me!! Don’t look down Ben just focus on the mountains in the distance!

I dived forwards and swallow dived in freefall for 7 seconds into the valley floor below, bounced a couple of times and was then left for 30 seconds hanging upside down staring in awe at the valley floor below…..the adrenaline was pumping and I was loving it! Once the operator had been lowered down to collect me he turned me the right way up and we chatted quite happily until we reached the drop zone on the bridge again. I was so happy that I’d done it and looked at the drop again realising quite what I’d done…..taken on a fear and beaten it! I love being scared.

That was that out of the way, just the easy walk along the underside of the bridge in the cage tunnel. Now that really was the worst part of the day for me, truly gut wrenching!

Collected our certificates, dvd’s and photos and all headed west along the coast to a horse ranch just short of Knysna for the night.

Scrambled eggs on toast and bed.

End of day location: Knysna, South Africa
Distance covered: 60kms

Wednesday 9 July 2008

9th July 08

Date: 9th July 08
Location: Jeffreys Bay, South Africa
Weather: Windy as hell, clear blue skies and colder. 18°c
Status: Feeling really good and happy!

Woke up to a perfect day with blue skies and a light wind replacing the grey of yesterday.

As the morning went on the wind picked up to gale force and turned offshore, leaving 8-10ft perfect surf for the start of the Billabong Pro so after Alex had had her first surf lesson, her, Bre and I headed down the coast to the comp spot and sat for a while photographing and watching in awe as the top surfers in the world ripped the waves to shreds!

Left Jeffreys Bay around 2pm and headed west along the coast to Storms River, the location of the worlds highest bungy jump….all 210m’s of it! A three hour drive and we were there, decided to stay at Dijembe Backpackers, checked in and headed down the coast for sundown to the location of the bridge where the jump takes place.

Shit I hate heights and this is one hell of a bridge!! Tomorrow when we get back here I’ll do it…..but it’ll take a whole load of balls and determination to pull it off!

Fish for dinner, chats round the fire and bed.

End of day location: Storms River, South Africa
Distance covered: 156kms

8th July 08

Date: 8th July 08
Location: Jeffereys Bay, South Africa
Weather: Grey, overcast and light rain, wind strong offshore. Waves cooking! 18°c
Status: Happy and ready for the next one…..

A gorgeous sunrise from the tent this morning over the Indian Ocean which quickly deteriorated as the clouds gathered and the wind picked up in speed until by mid morning the rain had started for the first time in absolutely ages, darn it.

A lazy day waiting around for Kees and the Watkins family to arrive, they’ve slowly been making their way down the from Pretoria where they’ve been getting passports renewed. The intention is to meet up with them all again for the trip west along the coast to Cape Town and the head north from there.

As the Billabong Pro surfing contest is on for the next ten days we, Alex, Ben and I, walked into town and soaked up the atmosphere of the festival, did some shopping and watched the empty waves for a while, had a beer in a Mexican bar and returned in time for a late lunch.

Bre, the family and Kees & crew turned up as the sun was going down and it was awesome to see them all again, we chatted for hours by the bar and started to try and plan the next few days and weeks of travel together./

Cold night and bed late.

End of day location: Jeffreys Bay, South Africa
Distance covered: 0kms

7th July 08

Date: 7th July 08
Location: Chinsta, South Africa
Weather: Clear blue skies in the morning, cold front moving in – potential rain. 25°c
Status: All good

Spent yesterday enjoying the weather, the sun on the beach and the relaxing environment that Buccanneers offers. Had a good long run before breakfast along the beach in the opposite direction to yesterday and now feel fairly good about the upcoming Knysna marathon – my only slight concern is the amount of time my knees are taking to heal up properly, they’ll get me over the finish line but may give me problems in the latter stages of the race.

Ana had to head home to Portugal today so after a superb free breakfast we packed the Colonel and headed out south along the coast road back towards East London….where we’d been the day before! Dropped Ana off, a real shame that she has to go back to the reality of the UK but I think she’s leaving with an upbeat mind, a different opinion to that that she came with and a new determination to get on with her life….at least I hope so!

Destination Port Elizabeth, 300kms away and it was a good easy drive which took a little over 5hrs with stops and we finally pulled into the driveway of Lungile Backpackers. This is a different sort of backpackers all together….talk about luxury!!

High ceilings, dark stained wood and a superb location set back from the beach make you feel like you’re in a hotel, not a backpackers so we fitted into it perfectly! Made ourselves at home, sorted some emails and phone calls and headed out to Buffalo Bills (an apt choice with the skull now sitting on my roofrack!) to watch the men’s final of Wimbledon.

Up early the next day for a relaxed drive west to Jeffery’s Bay, the very famous surf break just 70kms from PE. Went shopping on the way there for all number of things; a new pot, some grease for the Colonel, food for dinner and a new climbing jacket (unsuccessful) and pulled into the outskirts of JBay at15:00 to be greeted by the most disappointing surf of the trip….glassy, flat and no swell at all! The best spot with the worst waves!

Pulled into Island Vibe backpackers as it was recommended to us by Lugile Lodge as they also own it. Parked the Colonel in the prime position in the car park overlooking the beach for another superb nights viewing! This awesome TV channel; Tent TV, continues to impress me on a daily basis!

Enjoyed a cold beer watching the sun go down, Alex cooked dinner with a few Long Island Ice Teas and we hit the sack.

Been an excellent last 10 days with Ana on board and a real shame she had to go home but she may join me for the return leg back to the UK so watch this space….go on Ana!!

End of day location: Jeffery’s Bay, South Africa
Distance covered: 395 and 125kms

4th July 08

Date: 4th July 08
Location: Chinsta, South Africa
Weather: Clear blue skies and sunshine, bright and cold. 28°c
Status: A focker of a day really 

It all started off pretty well, I slept with the tent doors open again and was greeted by another stunning sunrise over the Indian Ocean. Finally dragged myself clear of my comfort zone at 8am and decided to head off for a run towards the lighthouse we’d seen flashing in the distance the night before.

Another glorious training session which took me over rivers and all along the coastline pacing along the sand as I went, arrived at the lighthouse after 45mins and turned for home. Arrived back at the camp around 1hr 45mins after setting outso I suppose you could call it a half marathon training session!

Just in time for a full health breakfast which I had seconds of, and then we all gathered our things together and headed off towards East London, our next stop on the coast.

Checked with all three backpackers if they could accommodate the Colonel with his bedroom aloft….and none could! Balls. So decided to spend the afternoon looking for an internet cafĂ© and to also find the music shop which has been holding a new 12v laptop charger for me.

After 3 failed attempts at the internet I have decided that of all the countries I’ve now been through in Africa, SA has the most antiquated, frustrating, paranoia ruled internet system.

Let me divulge….most places will allow me to take my laptop in and connect up to their cable no problem. SA seems to think this is an international conspiracy with most shops refusing point blank as the software they run will not allow them to keep tabs on how long I’ve been online (ahhh try a frikkin clock!), ok so new idea. I put all of my updates for the website onto USB stick and transfer them that way…..oh no sir we don’t allow that….WHAT!!!

I explained in ny own special way quite what I thought of the SA system and left! Found the shop for the new charger no probs and decided with all of the bad luck we’d had that it’d be best if we headed back to Buccaneers backpackers in Chinsta for the night.


End of day location: Back where we started, Chinsta, South Africa
Distance covered: 85kms

Friday 4 July 2008

3rd July 08

Date: 3rd July 08
Location: Bulungula, South Africa
Weather: Clear blue skies and sunshine, cold at night. 12 - 30°c
Status: All very well, Ben – training again and feeling good, Colonel – ticking along just fine, Alex – sobered up, Ana – not looking forward to going home again!

With sunrise happening at 07:10hrs the tent has light flooding into it by 06:00hrs which means early starts; to me are the best thing in the world and the best part of the day too!

As the sun broke the horizon I wandered down to the beach to witness it breaking through the Indian Ocean and waded through the chest deep cold water to cross the river to the white sandy beach beyond! After a chilly short run I’d reached the end of the sand and the rocks and made my way back to the Colonel and the tent to get ready for breakfast.

Had a full on English fry up and feeling happy left the stunning surroundings of Bulungula up the seriously difficult 4WD track and ‘eventually’ onto the tarred road which led us some 248kms later into Chinsta and to the welcoming reception of Buccaneers Backpackers.

Pitched the tent and settled into the veranda to chat to the locals and soak up the last of the evening sun before enjoying a full on Mexican evening meal and then off to bed….

End of day location: Chinsta, South Africa
Distance covered: 248kms

2nd July 08

Date: 2nd July 08
Location: Bulungula , South Africa
Weather: Clear blue skies and sunshine, cold at nights though. 10 - 32°c
Status: Relaxed and recovering

Coffee Bay is well known for being a great place to relax, listen to the ocean and walk along the cliff tops to the hidden little coves and beaches which add to this part of the SA’s aptly named ‘The Wild Coast’.

We stayed at the Coffee Shack for our three night stay, the girls on one side of the river in the camping and dorm, and I on the other side in a space big enough to get the Landie parked up securely. Being separated by the river meant a drive through on a daily basis and sometimes that meant dipping the tyres just enough to get them wet, and sometimes it meant driving through 2ft of running water – the Colonel had no problems!

I’d spoken to a few friends while in Port Edward and had discussed their week’s holiday was at the same time as we’d be in Coffee Bay, but about 12kms north of where were so one afternoon we hit the dirt road and set out to find them. African directions are usually shocking but Rich and Karen’s were impeccable and we found the place with no problems and were amazed by the beauty of the place they were staying at. A little cottage right on the waters edge as the river takes its final twist into the ocean, it’s a place that’s been in the family for 80 years and is now let out but has also retained its original charm as its totally decked out with fishing related odds n sods!

We settled in as they kindly offered us beds for the next few nights, rigged up some livebait to try and catch some dinner in the river and sat round the fire with a good cold beer. Almost as cold as the outside air temp which had dropped to almost 13°c!!

Rich did eventually have a scream from his reel and jumped to attention grabbing the disappearing line. After a mighty 10min struggle he landed the 60cms long Zambezi shark….not a monster but amusement for the night.

Got up early and headed out for a jog up one of the hills and could still feel the slight after effects of the Comrades, 10 days previous. My knees are still sore round the tendons and order to complete the Knysna marathon on July 12th I’ll have to take it steady on these more demanding hilly practice runs.

On the morning of the 2nd we got up early in time for a stunning sunrise, had a bite of breakfast and made our way to the Colonel who was all packed up and ready to move on again. I will meet up with Rich again on the trip as he wants to spend some time in Livingstone, Zambia and our calendars fall into place beautifully!

Drove 65kms south along the coast on some very small back roads, crossing the occasional river and through some good muddy sections until we came to a steep drop down the side of one of the hills requiring 4WD L/range and nothing else, we crept down the tricky part and eventually were out onto the sandy beach area where our resting spot for the night was located, Bulangulu Backpackers – accessible only by their 4WD taxi or your own. A stunning, on the beach location which was pretty devoid of people too. Very relaxing.

Early to bed

End of day location: Bulungula, South Africa
Distance covered: 65kms

26th June 08

Date: 26th June 08
Location: Port St Johns, South Africa
Weather: Clear blue skies and sunshine, 24°c
Status: New team moving along very well!

We’ve been parked up at Amapondo Backpackers for a couple of days, enjoying the delights of the Wild Coast with its amazing sea food, stunning walks along the coastline visiting waterfalls, blow-holes and sweeping sandy beaches.

The last time I was this far down the coastline was nearly ten years ago and its good to see in that time that the roads have improved, the electricity supply runs to almost all houses now with the only downside being the continued development of the stunning tourist destinations; inevitable I suppose as people are only trying to eek out an existence but some of the places I’ve visited previously have changed from being little hidden oasis’s into managed developed ‘sites’ which attract the world and its brother everyday due to the new roads etc. (Just another Ben observation)

Left PSJ’s and headed down the 4x4 Eco Trail which runs down this coastline, a good quality dirt road with a couple of slight river crossings passing through some of the coastal villages, stretching down to Coffee Bay, a very relaxed backpackers destination and the home of Coffeeshack and Bomvu Backpackers. I’d stayed at the Coffeeshack before and we’d met the new owner in Port St Johns so thought it only fair that we were there guests for our first night in town.

Had the standard boerwors, mash and creamed spinach and headed to the local Italian
pizza house to watch Spain whip Russia 3-0 in the Euro Champs.


End of day location: 27th June 08
Distance covered: 65kms

26th June 08

Date: 26th June 08
Location: Port St Johns, South Africa
Weather: Clear blue skies and sunshine, 24°c
Status: New team moving along very well!

We’ve been parked up at Amapondo Backpackers for a couple of days, enjoying the delights of the Wild Coast with its amazing sea food, stunning walks along the coastline visiting waterfalls, blow-holes and sweeping sandy beaches.

The last time I was this far down the coastline was nearly ten years ago and its good to see in that time that the roads have improved, the electricity supply runs to almost all houses now with the only downside being the continued development of the stunning tourist destinations; inevitable I suppose as people are only trying to eek out an existence but some of the places I’ve visited previously have changed from being little hidden oasis’s into managed developed ‘sites’ which attract the world and its brother everyday due to the new roads etc. (Just another Ben observation)

Left PSJ’s and headed down the 4x4 Eco Trail which runs down this coastline, a good quality dirt road with a couple of slight river crossings passing through some of the coastal villages, stretching down to Coffee Bay, a very relaxed backpackers destination and the home of Coffeeshack and Bomvu Backpackers. I’d stayed at the Coffeeshack before and we’d met the new owner in Port St Johns so thought it only fair that we were there guests for our first night in town.

Had the standard boerwors, mash and creamed spinach and headed to the local Italian
pizza house to watch Spain whip Russia 3-0 in the Euro Champs.


End of day location: 27th June 08
Distance covered: 65kms