A Travellerspoint blog

January 2018

Chapter 35 - Cape to Cape - The Final Blog

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Introduction

As I start writing this on the plane back to Australia, I still find it hard to believe that we’ve done it!

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On 26th December 2016 we left Adelaide airport in South Australia. On 29th December 2016 we reached Cape Horn, at the bottom of South America, the official start of our trip. On 4th January 2018 we finally reached the Cape of Good Hope at the bottom of South Africa, the end of this amazing trip!

And this is what the whole thing looked like on a map….

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The map of our little trip!

The statistics

The statistics are just a little bit of fun:

The trip was 378 days.

We travelled on 212 of these days, which means that we were on the road 56% of the time, in other words more than every second day!

We travelled a total of 151,591 kilometres (8,411 km by boat, 15,048 km by train, 44,501 km by road (car, truck, bus), 81,231 km by plane, and we’ve walked 2,400 km (3,852,600 steps)!) – Oh, In case you are wondering, the circumference of the earth is 38,400 km, so we’ve travelled the equivalent of 3.95 times around the earth!!

We went to 49 countries (New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, French Guiana, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Belize, Mexico, Cuba, USA, Canada, China, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, France, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, UAE, Kenya, Cameroon, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa!).

We stopped in 32 capital cities.

Some of the countries we entered and left more than once, so we’ve had 69 border crossings.

We stopped in 19 different time zones.

We slept in 157 different beds.

We travelled in 29 planes, 16 boats, 52 buses, 12 cars, 25 trains and 3 trucks (although we spent a collective 57 days on these 3 trucks!)

We went to 61 UNESCO world heritage areas (Valparaiso, Iguazu National Park, Colonia de Sacramento, Olinda, Salvador de Bahia, Central Amazon, Rio de Janeiro, Cartagena, Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia, Old Habana, Trinidad, Leon Cathedral, Antigua, Tikal National Park, Chichen Itza, Uxmal, Mexico City and Xochimilco, Oaxaca, Palenque, Redwood Parks, Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing Dynasties in Beijing, The Great Wall, St. Petersburg, Kremlin and Red Square, White Monuments of Vladimir and Suzdal, Laike Baikal, Volcanoes of Kamchatka, Riga, Vilnius, Warsaw, Berlin, Bordeaux, Vienna, Prague, Krakow, Auschwitz Birkenau, Wielicska and Bothnia Royal Salt Mines, Budapest, Sighisoara, Thessaloniki, Acropolis in Athens, Mystras, Meteora, Delphi, Delos, Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Land of the Vines and Olives in Palestine, Hebron, Old City of Jerusalem and Walls, Wadi Rum Protected Areas, Baptism Site, Petra, Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley, Ngorongoro Conservation Park, Serengeti National Park, Stone Town of Zanzibar, Victoria Falls, Okavango Delta, Namib Sand Sea, Robben Island and the Cape Floral Region).

We read over 90 books (Neil 32 and Nikki 60)

We each only had to take stomach antibiotics once (Neil in Cuba, Nik in Guatemala)

We only had 1 visit to a doctor (Nik for Bronchitis in Greece)

And we met more amazing people than we can possibly count!

The most common questions we’ve had about the trip

378 Days! How come you haven’t killed each other?

Prior to the Big Trip, we read quite a few travel books and, if it was a couple who were travelling together, they would without fail split up in Chapter 3! So, why didn’t we kill each other?

Neil:

“I reckon you can’t be doing the same things. Sounds ridiculous when you’re travelling together for a year BUT! What I mean is we had different jobs during the year; mine was to write and research the blogs and get it ready for review by Nik. You thought the blogs that got published went off on tangents!? You should have read them before Nikki reviewed them! Each blog took about 40 hours to research, write, and, once reviewed, upload it to the Travellers Point web portal.

Nikki was, surprise surprise, the organiser, the researcher into accommodation, the person with the aps on the phone (we’ll get to that later), and generally made stuff happen. I joke that, if it wasn’t for Nikki, I’d still be in Chile!”

Nikki:

“The first three months were by far the hardest! Suddenly in each other’s company 24/7, always in unfamiliar places, sometimes in stressful circumstances. I can honestly see why the chapter 3 breakup is such a common occurrence! It certainly took some patience and some very honest conversations. But what we learnt was a new way to respond when the other one of us wasn’t coping. Instead of taking it personally and escalating the situation, we learnt to tell each other (sometimes through hand gestures and monosyllables) that we weren’t coping and for the other person to step in and to help. This honesty and compassion made us closer and better able to respond when things were going pear shaped. All the difficulties of the first three months and learnings of the second three months, really paid off in the second half of the year, which was so much easier.

Not to say we didn’t occasionally loose our sh*t, but we were better at dealing with it when we did and at least we never seemed to do it at the same time!”

How much of the trip did we organise before we left?

We only booked the parts of the trip that needed pre-booking or may have booked out before we left, such as tours and cruises. So, before we left we booked:

- Our flights from Australia to Ushuaia, Argentina, where we started the trip (we didn’t book our flights home from South Africa until about half way through the trip)
- The 4-day cruise that took us from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas, Chile via Cape Horn.
- The two-week cruise on the expedition ship in the Russian Far East that left from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.
- The two overland truck trips in Africa; one from Nairobi to Rwanda and Uganda (16 days) and the other from Nairobi to Cape Town (41 days).
- The house in Franschhoek, South Africa, where we stayed for a week at the end of the trip.

You’ll see that that is about 83 of the 378 days of the trip, so a little less than one quarter of the trip.

So what about the rest? How did you decide where to go? How did you book it?

We did a lot of reading beforehand. The rough route was drawn on a paper placemat in 2009. But really we’d only got as far as, for example in Chile, of deciding that the Atacama Desert looked cool, and maybe Valparaiso, before we left. The rest we worked out as we went by researching online, reading the Lonely Planet and chatting with fellow travellers and locals.

The Lonely Planet guides were very useful. We had a paper copy for South America, but then moved onto electronic copies for the rest of the trip. The Lonely Planets gave us some history of the country, the top 10 or 20 ‘must-dos’ and some useful details about what to expect on arrival (especially useful for those late-night arrivals into seedy bus stations!).

Nikki booked most of the hotels, buses, etc. We booked nearly everything online (a booking criterion for accommodation on the trip was free wifi, and we had it at nearly every place we stayed on the trip), and mostly used ‘Booking.com’, ‘Hostelworld’ and ‘Airbnb’. Most buses were booked online, although we found that sometimes it was easier to just pick the tickets up at the station. Interestingly, all of the Eurail train tickets had to be purchased in person. We got to know how to ask for tickets in many different languages – including sign language!

We normally booked about 3 to 7 days ahead of our arrival, depending upon how locked in our future engagements were.

All of the flights were booked on the road (including the flight home!). We normally booked these between 2 and 6 months before we flew, but some were last minute decisions like northern Brazil and Colombia where we chose to fly instead of bus. Sometimes it was cheaper to book a flight the week before travelling than a bus ticket!

How did you afford it?!

Nikki set up a Big Trip savings account about 5 years ago and saved the entirety of the money she needed for the trip. I was fortunate enough to have some long service leave (and other benefits) up my sleeve from work and so was on half pay for most of the year. This, along with some savings and rent from our house in Melbourne (which we let out for the year), got me through the trip.

We set the budget based on previous holidays that we’d done. It was a careful budget, but not the budget we were on when we travelled in our twenties. We always booked private rooms and, wherever possible, ensuite bathrooms. We made allowances for eating decent food, and occasionally splashing out on a special meal. It was all very civilised!

The wonders of the regular debit card with the MasterCard logo and letting our bank know where we were meant we were able to withdraw money from ATM’s in every country we went to. If we had too much when we left, we simply exchanged it at the border. We didn’t take travellers cards or cheques, nor rely on credit cards. It was amazing how well it worked! We each had US$1,000 in the money belt as “Oh, Shit” money, but barely used it. We took out money in lumps of AU$200 to AU$400 so we could pay cash for almost everything, thereby minimising the establishments where we put our card through their EFTPOS machines.

Our cards were a safe effective way of travelling and at no time were we scammed or hacked.

And yes, at the end of the trip, we were on budget. Yes, it was a healthy budget.

How did you pack for the trip?

Strangely enough, Nik and I are both seasoned travellers and therefore packers. However, with travelling for a year, we thought really carefully about reducing the amount of stuff we took. The first step in this was to buy smaller backpacks. Nik’s was 55 litres and mine was 40 litres. Then we were in the great position of, if it didn’t fit, it didn’t go!

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Us with our backpacks, frontpacks and my guitar on a street corner in Lamia, Greece.

We needed winter stuff for Cape Horn but, by the time we got to St Pedro de Atacama in the north of Chile it was hot. So we packed it up and posted it to Nik’s aunt who lives north of San Francisco.

There were laundries everywhere and about once every 6 days we’d put a load in. Clothes and shoes, by the way, last about 7 months. When they wore out, we replaced them. The rule was, throw one out, buy one. The size of our backpacks didn’t increase – in fact over time as we found we had surplus gear, it decreased!

We met up with Nik’s parents in Bordeaux and they took home the winter clothes we had picked up in San Fransisco. So by the end of the trip, we both had 2 or 3 pairs of shorts, 6 or 7 t-shirts and some underwear! It’s amazing how little you actually need to survive.

Even though we thought we travelled light, we sent home a couple of items along the way that we realised we just weren’t going to use, such as portable speakers and some clothes.

The most useful item that we bought before we left? The UV water steriliser. Put it in a bottle of water for 45 seconds and Bob’s your Uncle! Sterilised water. This amazing tool helped keep us healthy the world over (we used it every country) and helped save the environment (just imagine how many plastic bottles we didn’t buy in that year!)

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UV water steriliser that saved the environment and our health during our travels. Just don’t carry it in your hand luggage. It gets some interesting looks from the security officers!

What devices did you take?

Nik loves the iPad. I prefer the Microsoft Surface. We took one of each. My phone is a work phone and got left in my locker at work for the year. Nik took hers but it was on airplane mode for the entire trip. We used free wifi for all of our online activities and communicated using Skype, email, WhatsApp, Messenger and Facebook. It worked really well.

There were some really useful apps that we used throughout the entire trip and that we often recommended to other travellers. The most important factor was the app working offline as very often we would not have wifi precisely when we needed it, whether it was to find our accommodation, negotiation an exchange rate or amuse ourselves during a long trip!

Halfway through the trip we moved from Google Maps to Maps.me. Both had offline capability, but maps.me was more flexible and allowed us to pin our trip in greater detail. And now we have a great memento of the trip!

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The offline exchange app by XE was also a lifesaver at those border crossing exchange posts, as well as just getting our head around the new currency in each country (and there were a few….).

One of the best internet apps for the trip was called ‘Pocket’. Pocket allows you to download pages from the internet for reading offline, for example on a bus, truck, boat, etc. The blogs involved lots of research and if was great to be able to be able to work on the road, with a little bit of forethought.

Wasn’t it dangerous?

It was something that many people said. “Aren’t you worried about your safety?”

No, not really. We did a lot of research as to how careful we should be. Hands down, the most dangerous place on the trip we stayed was Brazil. We didn’t wear watches, didn’t carry a phone, and Nik carried our money in her bra. Left the money belt in the safe in the hotel room. Didn’t stay out late. But really, it was all about being sensible.

And no, we didn’t have anything stolen. Didn’t lose anything significant. Nor break anything important. We were not threatened during the trip and didn’t have any unsafe encounters. Any illness was commonplace and we didn’t catch anything from poor water and only once from food (those dodgy Cuban prawns)!

It really was quite amazing!

What did we learn about each other?

Neil:

“Nik’s attention to detail on organising the trip was amazing. We stayed in better accommodation, with better facilities, in better locations than if I’d have booked it.

We saw more of the interesting sites because Nikki did the organising.

The views that Nikki had on Human Rights, Refugees, and the United Nations were spot on and after we’d done the volunteering in Columbia and Greece, and visited the United Nation Office in Geneva, we now have two soap boxes to stand on; one for me and one for Nik.
Everybody loves Nik. Her ability to get on with everyone in a non-judgemental, always respectful way is fantastic.

Nikki really, really, REALLY doesn’t like spiders…..”

Nikki:

“In the same way that I put my time and effort into booking our travels, Neil dedicated all of his spare time researching and writing the permanent record of our trip. Neil has always been very ‘in’ to everything he does, whether it be his exercise regime or work, but his dedication to the blog was amazing. Buses, trains, planes, hotel rooms – he worked on it everywhere and did such a fabulous job on it. It was really inspiring to watch, as well listen to all of the incredible facts he was digging up!

I’m like everyone else, I cant wait to see the book!”

What did we learn about ourselves and have we changed?

Neil:

“I learnt that I really like learning; learning about the places that we travel, the history, the politics, and the people in the places we travel to. I learnt that I love to write, love to research. I love getting feedback on the writing.

I learnt Spanish, plus a bit of Russian, and a little Greek on the trip.

I learnt that I want to focus on putting more back into society through more mentoring, more time with refugees, and more lobbying of Australian politicians about Human Rights and the plight of Refugees.

I learnt that I really don’t like the way that Israel is treating Palestinians and I want to see what I can do peacefully to improve the situation."

“I think I must have changed. I’m more motivated to put back into society and do what I can to help. "

Nikki:

“I learnt to stop ‘doing’. Just to stop, be where I was, and enjoy it. It took me about 2 months to stop thinking I needed to be doing something all the time. It’s a skill I hope not to loose!

I also learnt to respond better to unusual or unexpected situations. Constant challenges meant constant practice and I have just found I am more relaxed about what is happening around me, I make less assumptions and I am better at listening to others.

I feel that I am a better person for having been on the trip...”

What was the best thing that happened on the trip?

There are many, many fabulous things that happened on the trip. So many beautiful people. Such a lot of fantastic times. However, to pick the best thing that happened on the trip? It has to be volunteering in Greece and in Colombia. Berenice in Colombia and Alaa in Greece are people whose goodness is, well, it fills me with awe.

What was the worst thing that happened on the trip?

You know what? If I have to pick something, maybe it would be getting food poisoning in Cuba? But nothing bad did happen. Lots of experiences that were not a bowl of cherries (just ask Nik about the 12 hour day on a truck after we’d been on a truck for 40 days..), but really bad? No.

Well maybe leaving the refugee kids in Greece. We cried….

How do you feel about coming home?

Neil:

“I missed my sons. I missed my friends. I missed Apollo Bay. It’s nice sleeping in the same bed!

One of the other questions has been “How on earth do you feel coming back to work?”. To that my response has been the one said by my friend and esteemed work colleague, Bruce Bennett. His pearl of wisdom was “you can’t take a holiday from a holiday”, i.e. how can a holiday be fun if it’s not balanced out by something else, i.e. work. I’m really lucky. I love my job. The people I work with are great. It’s been a pleasure coming back to work. I loved the year away, but it’s nice to be home.”

Nikki:

“Its still early days for me coming back. Its been a real adjustment. The house seems huge and we have so much stuff. I packed everything from my backpack into one draw and am still wearing those clothes! And it feels like nothing has changed. The same house, the same furniture, the same city. Sometimes I pinch myself to make sure we really did it!

But the upside, which balances out any adjustment, has definitely been seeing all our amazing family and friends again. We missed everyone a lot. We have been so loved by everyone and already had a dinner party for some of our nearest and dearest! There are many more of those to come – cooking is our favourite way of telling people we love them!”

The Top 12

Here it is. The Top 12 countries, places or experiences that we had on the trip – in chronological order, as it was hard enough to chose 12, let alone rank them in order of preference!

1. Cape Horn

This is where it all started. 29 December 2016. It was hit and miss as to whether we would actually get to set foot on the Cape. But come rain and hail, we still managed to kick off the trip by setting foot on this historic and treacherous isle!

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2. French Guiana

I reckon I was about 14 years old when I first read Papillon by Henri Charriere. A magnificent story of imprisonment and escape from the French penal colony on the Isle de Salut (The Salvation Islands) French Guiana, north of Brazil in South America. I just had to go! Excitingly enough, it also happened to be the launch site for the European Space Agency!

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3. Volunteering in Columbia with Manos Amigas

It is really easy to get focussed on our work, ourselves, our travel, our friends and families. Volunteering made us focus on others and their needs, and it gave us so much. Berenice Prieto, who runs Manos Amigas is an inspiration. The objective of this grassroots organisation is to keep local kids in school and off the streets. It provides them with support in their education, a safe and loving environment to come to when not in school and a good meal. Berenice and her team of teachers, volunteers and administrator really make a difference to these children’s’ lives every single day and it was an honour to be part of this amazing place.

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4. Guatemala

Semana Santa (Easter Week) in Antigua, the absolutely stunning Lake Atitlan, spectacular Mayan ruins in Tikal and, of course, the fabulous fabrics. Not to mention the amazing people, art and food. Guatemala was a highlight for so many reasons and a country that we both agree we would go back to in a heartbeat.

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5. British Columbia, Canada

Crikey, it seems really unfair to not include Mexico, the Frida Kahlo museums, hanging out with friends and family in the USA, but…..
British Columbia. It is, quite simply, stunning. Another country we saw way too little of and would love to go back and spend some time. We hiked, sailed, drove and flew up British Colombia but still didn’t see anywhere near what it had to offer.

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6. The Russian Far East – The Kamchatka Peninsula and Chukotka.

It started with an erupting volcano, and then it just got better from there. Our two weeks on the expedition ship in the Russian Far East was filled with one after another sightings of brilliant plants, birds, and animals, including a hunt for the critically endangered spoon-billed sandpiper. Nik even got to have a personal encounter with an arctic fox! The Far East is a photographers delight and we also met a great group of people on the ship to share a few warming whiskeys with, and a sea shanty or two.

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7. Going to the United Nations in Geneva and the Headquarters of the International Red Cross/ Red Crescent Society.

Ok, Nik might have had a bit of a girly swot (her phrase!) moment finally going to the UN headquarters and Red Cross Museum in Geneva. Studying humanitarian aid and working with refugees means that these two organisations have a lot of special meaning to her. However, what surprised me was how much I got out of visiting these sites as well. You would have taken away from my blogs how I feel about addressing the human rights abuses that are happening all over the world. These two places really bought home for me the amazing work being done to try and achieve this.

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8. Volunteering in Greece

There is no question that for both Nikki and me the volunteering, both in Colombia and in Greece was the highlight of our entire year. The purpose of the Big Trip was to get us out of our comfort zones, to meet fantastic people, experience amazing things, and also to put back into this wonderful, and sometimes not so wonderful, world in which we live.

The founder of the Happy Caravan charity that we volunteered with, is Alaa Jnaid. He set up Happy Caravan to provide much needed English, Maths, art and dance lessons to the children in one of the refugee camps that have been set up in central Greece. Alaa himself is a refugee from Syria and is a truly inspirational person. What he’s been through, what he’s done, is brilliant! The Happy Caravan charity started with nothing and there is now a classroom, volunteers, and it is having a really important beneficial effect on the kids.

The effect it had on us was, is, and will continue to be massive.

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9. Visiting Israel and Palestine.

I wanted to go back to Israel, but it was Nikki who insisted spend equal time in Palestine as well and it was one of the most gut-wrenching parts of the trip. It was enlightening and yet immeasurably sad. The blog was one of the hardest to write of the entire trip. If you read only two of the blogs of the trip I’d suggest the one on Israel and Palestine (Chapter 28), and the one on Volunteering in Greece (Chapter 26).

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10. Visiting Jacob and Anne in Cameroon

I’ve known Jacob since 1991, from when I was working in Cameroon for Guinness. Back then, Jacob took my mate Dave and I to his village (Ngyen Muwah) and His Royal Highness, Fon Teche made us nobles of the village. Going back there again 26 years later to introduce Nikki to Jacob and Anne, as well as Cameroon, was so cool.

Jacob and Anne took us back to the village and we were again invited to meet His Royal Highness, Fon Teche at his palace. We went to a church service, visited with Jacob and Anne’s family and also spent time on the coast enjoying this vastly underrated but beautiful country. It was a wonderful, joyful time in Cameroon. We experienced some real Cameroonian hospitality and it was special to share the sense of community, caring, and fun that is life in Jacob and Anne’s family!

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11. Getting to the Cape of Good Hope

My Lord. I still can’t believe it. We made it! 4 January 2018, 371 days after we stood at Cape Horn, we finally made it to the Cape of Good Hope. The journey of a life time completed!

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12. The people and friends

Yes, you can count. There is one more experience of the trip that makes the top 12, and indeed made the trip itself the most amazing experience of our lives.

The people. How many friends we met and made was amazing. And we hope to see many of them again, whether in Oz or when we travel next overseas.

You know who you are. And we hope you know what you mean to us. From the strangers that fed us on the train, to the families that opened their homes to us. From the crew that made carnival the best party we have ever been to, to those that joined us for some hire car fun. From the mutual experience of volunteering, to old friends that hold a special place in our hearts. We don’t have photos of most of you, but we have the most amazing memories and want you to know that it is you that made this trip so special.

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So, from both of us here at Cape to Cape 2017, a fond and fabulous ‘til next time’. Please look us up on our personal Facebook pages or feel free to contact us by any our Cape to Cape details. We will use the page again for future travels don’t fear, but we would love to stay in touch!

Stay well and keep travelling!

Love Neil and Nikki

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Posted by capetocape2017 00:54 Archived in Australia Tagged capehorn capeofgoodhope traveltheworld Comments (1)

Chapter 34 - Namibia, South Africa, and The Finale

By Neil and Nikki

sunny 25 °C
View Cape to Cape on capetocape2017's travel map.

Introduction

What an amazing trip! There’s a desire to start talking about the trip in the past tense, but we’re still on it and we’re building up to the end! The next blog will talk about the trip in its entirety but, just to refresh, we’re on an overland truck trip from Nairobi, Kenya to Cape Town, South Africa.

Of course, the highlight of our final leg is the Finishing Line! The Cape of Good Hope!

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Hoorahhh!!!!

However, before getting to the Cape of Good Hope, we had to get to Cape Town. Here is the map showing the overland route from Nairobi to Cape Town:

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This chapter of our blog takes you from Spitzkoppe, Namibia (just below the Etosha National Park) to Cape Town, and then onto our time in Cape Town, our stay in Franschhoek, our visit to our end point (the Cape of Good Hope), and our return to Melbourne.

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Southern Namibia – Spitzkoppe and the Himba

Spitzkoppe (meaning ‘pointed dome’) is a granite outcrop in the middle of the Namib desert.

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The Namib Desert stretches 2,000 kilometres from Angola to South Africa. The Namib Desert is one of the oldest deserts in the world, at about 55 to 80 million years old. Its rainfall is between 2 mm and 200 mm per year, which makes it about as dry as the Atacama desert in Chile, which we visited earlier on in the Big Trip.

The weather is interesting. Why is it so dry? On the west coast of South America there is a cold-water current that flows up from Antarctica called the Humboldt Current. On the west coast of Southern Africa there is a cold-water current that flows up from Antarctica called the Benguela Current. This, and the descent of dry air from 10 to 15 km up in the atmosphere (called the Hadley Cell), results in very arid conditions.

Spitzkoppe has some great San (the ‘Bushman’ referred to in the last blog) cave paintings that are between 2,000 and 4,000 years old. These paintings were like a notice board to other San people. Telling them how many people had been at the cave, what animals had been sighted and what to be wary of.

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Rhino cave painting by the San people, indicating a rhino had been seen nearby recently.

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The area was used for the filming of ‘2001, A Space Odyssey’. In the far distance near the rounded hill you can see our truck!

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It was so nice to be off the truck and going for a walk. It was a little hot that day though and we underestimated the water! It is a desert after all!

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Fortunately, we met up with Mark and Benny on the trip who allowed us to use some of Mark’s excellent photos with his posh camera…. (courtesy of Mark Small).

The Himba

The Himba are an indigenous people living in southern Namibia. They are trying to maintain their way of life and, whilst most of the tribe do not welcome the visit of tourists, they have set up one village to educate tourists.

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Himba village.

It is always a difficult concept to visit these villages. As with the Masai village in Tanzania, it can feel like one is imposing or interfering with their lifestyle, or that the visit is being done to get money. On the other hand, one comes out with more knowledge at the end of the visit than at the beginning. It was incredibly interesting to visit this village but upon further questioning we found that it was set up by volunteers from a number of villages, each willing to move here in order to access the tourist market. Not exactly a bonefide experience. To visit, or not to visit? It’s up to you.

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Mark Small did take this fantastic photo in the village though….

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A Milestone! – The Atlantic Ocean!

Well, this was a bit of a “Bloody Hell!” moment. On 17th December 2017 we arrived at the Atlantic Ocean. Yeah, Yeah, I hear you say, BUT, as we looked out at the Atlantic Ocean, we were in fact looking back towards where we were on the 13 February 2017, Rio de Janeiro!

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So, we were in Namibia (the orangey-red country towards to the bottom left hand side of Southern Africa), looking out towards Rio de Janeiro (which is at the same latitude as where we stood on the beach in the photo below. We were looking out at the same ocean as we’d looked out at from Rio, just on the other side. However, to get to Namibia, we’ve travelled all the up South, Central, and North America, through Russia, Eastern Europe, and Arabia, and down through Africa. Plus, we’d travelled from eastern side of Africa (the Indian Ocean) to the western side of Africa (the Atlantic) – By Land……

I also like this world map because it shows the difference in Latitude between Cape Horn (at 56 degrees south) and the Cape of Good Hope (at 34 degrees South).

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Our first view of the Atlantic Ocean after 50 days on an overland truck….. Yes, that is a shipwreck on the coast…

The coast, by the way, is called the Skeleton Coast because if you were shipwrecked, the land was so dry that, well, your future did not look too good.

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Swakopmund

Swakopmund. It has a population of 25,000 and is the 3rd biggest metropolis in Namibia.

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It’s, er, on the edge of the desert. We hung out, had lunch, and said goodbye to some of our fantastic truck travellers, and said hello a fabulous new addition from South Africa, who joined us on the way to Cape Town. It was a welcome relief from being on the truck constantly and had amazing thing like supermarkets, restaurants and traffic lights!

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The Namib Naukluft National Park

From Swakopmund it was time to enter the biggest game park in Africa, the 49,768 km2 Namib Naukluft National Park.

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View from the road of the Namib Naukluft National Park. It’s barren. It’s harsh. It’s between 55 and 80 million years old. And its spectacular.

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It was also quite like Australia.

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Ever had a throwing competition using your ‘non-dominant’ arm? What else are you going to do on a break from a 12-hour overland truck drive.

On the way to the wonderful Hammerstein Lodge we stopped off to see ‘Boesman’ (or Bushman), a bloke who gave talks on the desert. The land is desert but there is life. He taught us a he amount of information we didn’t know, including the damage caused to dune systems by rain (we thought rain would be a good thing!), how some animals survive without ever drinking a drop of liquid water (they get all of their hydration from plants) and that you can survive in the desert just be eating live lizards! If you see one throw your hat in the air, the lizard burrows into the sand, you can then dig it up and eat it (head first evidently)! Then there was the Gemsbok that were all over the place but you gotta watch out for those horns!

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You can eat and drink lots of bits of the Gemsbok, but you’ve got to catch it first!

One of the most disturbing parts of the stories from the ‘Boesman’ concerned the Bushman of the Namib Desert. Until 1953 they were not considered human and hunting them was permitted! Imagine it was not only permitted, but encouraged to hunt and create trophies of these people. They were in fact permitted to live in the Etosha National Park until 1953, but when their ‘status’ changed, they were forced to move as only animals were allowed to live in the park.

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Cactus trees at ‘Boesman’s’ place.

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A view of the desert which has changed significantly since 2011 when it rained more than the 5 years average in one month. It changed the landscape completely and in the months afterwards this landscape was flowing with green grass. This rain has permanently altered the desert system, creating small plants (the black dots you can see on the sand), trapping the sand and making the ground hard, and changing the ecosystem for small animals such as lizards, spiders and scorpions which are now almost impossible to find.

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Cactus in flower in the Namib Desert.

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Namib Naukluft Park - Sossusvlei

The origin of the word ‘Sossusvlei’ is mixed. Vlei means ‘marsh’ in Afrikaans, and ‘sossus’ means ‘dead end’ in Nama. It is a salt and clay pan surrounded by massive dunes. The marsh reference to the water that would flow between the major path between the dunes creating an oasis of greenery and trees at the end.

It is absolutely spectacular.

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The shadow of the overland truck as the sun rose.

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The 325 metre ‘Dune 5’ (courtesy Mark Small)

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The startling colours of the dunes at sunrise (courtesy of Mark Small)

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Yeah. Climbing up soft sand. That’ll make ya puff…

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And coming down!

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And it’s done!

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It is was pretty hard work but we made it – up at sunrise and a hike up the dunes to see the spectacular scenery….

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The Deadvlei

When it rains trees grow in the marshy grounds of Sossosvlei. However, as the dune ecosystem changes and the dunes grow, the water was blocked from the marsh and moves back behind the last dune. This creates a “dead” vlei where the trees slowly die. However as there is no moisture they don’t rot and a white salt pans with the stark skeletons of trees remain. This repeated process produces numerous graveyards of trees and salt.

The effect of the red dunes, the salt pan, the dead trees, and the blue sky is a photographers paradise.

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The trees in Deadvlei are about 900 years old and extraordinarily well preserved!

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Beautiful preserved wood in Deadvlei.

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The sand dunes can grow to over 800m in height, quite something to climb up.

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But even more fun to run down!

And a couple of amazing photos courtesy of Mark Small…

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Courtesy of Mark Small

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Courtesy of Mark Small

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The Post-Apocalyptic World

Ah! The Mad Max franchise! The story of Mad Max is that the nuclear apocalypse has happened and the world in virtually uninhabitable. The first three films were filmed outside of Broken Hill in Australia. When the fourth film in the franchise was due to be filmed, it rained in Broken Hill. The desert bloomed. So, the filming went off to the Namib Naukluft National Park….

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It won lots of praise….

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Charlize Theron with a truck.

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Heading down to Fish Canyon via the Namibian Outback

The characters you get in both the Australian Outback and the Namibian Outback are amazing. These are pictures from a stop we made between Sossusvlei and Fish Canyon.

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An old, very old Austin… (courtesy of Mark Small).

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Need a planter box?

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That’ll be the Namibian Outback.. (courtesy of Mark Small).

We also passed the Tropic of Capricorn, the southern most point where the sun is directly overhead at the summer solstice (23.5 degrees south).

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The last time we passed the Tropic of Capricorn was in Brazil travelling by bus from Barra de Lagoa to Rio de Janeiro!

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Fish River Canyon and the Ai Ais Hot Springs

When is a valley a canyon? When it’s bloody big!

The Fish River Canyon is 160 km’s long up to 27 km’s wide and 550 metres deep. It’s the second biggest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon in the US. It’s rather spectacular.

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View into the Fish River Canyon, Nambia

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That’ll be our cook, J.P. on the edge then…

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And the obligatory shot to prove we were there!

My view is that to fully understand the scale of the canyon, one should do the 5 day walk through the canyon. Maybe at another time.

Then again there is the 100 km ultra-marathon which someone did in under 7 hours in 2016. Yeah, Nah!

The Ai Ais Hot Springs were our last stop in Namibia and it was all very civilised.

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Ai Ais Hot Springs, Namibia.

It was a night of hot Springs, great food and dancing, well at least out guide, cooks and one South African fellow tourist showing us what dancing really looks like. Kind of embarrassing for us actually….

The following day we headed down to the border between Namibia and South Africa which is demarcated by the Orange River.

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Looking out from Namibia across the Orange River to South Africa.

It was a beautiful spot where we took in some books and blogging while others decided to swim in the river and go canoeing. It was getting progressively hotter as we were heading south though and it harder and harder to spend much time out in the sun. A beer and shade appeared to be the only option!

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Thoughts on Namibia

Namibia was a complete surprise. Before arriving it was just a place we had to travel through to get from Nairobi to Cape Town.

However, having spent 2 weeks in the country it has incredible parks (Etosha), striking deserts, great culture, and Fish River Canyon. All in all, we’d thoroughly recommend it!

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South Africa – Country 49 – The last country!

Wow! Where to start? It has to be with arguably the greatest human being of the last 100 years, Nelson Mandela. Nik picked up from a hostel in Brazil, volume 1 of this book:

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The brilliant, inspirational autobiography of Nelson Mandela.

She read it. I read it. We got to San Diego and Nik bought volume 2. She read it. I read it. Nik has now read over 60 books on the trip and I’ve read over 30, and for both of us, it is our favourite book of the Big Trip. Why?

Apartheid is an abhorrent concept. That it was the law in South Africa from 1948 to 1991 beggars belief. The story of Nelson Mandela’s life, the story told so eloquently in his autobiography, is the story of apartheid, and the battle against apartheid. Nelson Mandela to me embodies all of the best qualities of humankind that we, as a human race, should strive towards:

- Persistence. Mandela started the battle against apartheid in his 20’s. He intelligently worked within the African National Congress against apartheid for the rest of his life including his time in prison, mostly on Robben Island, an island off Cape Town.
- Respect. Mandela wrote “There is a universal respect and even admiration for those who are humble and simple by nature, and who have absolute confidence in all human beings irrespective of their social status”.
- Communication/ Negotiation/ Intelligence. He said “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart”. During his time in prison, he learnt Afrikaans, the language of his jailer and oppressor. When it came time to negotiate with the government, he could speak their language.
- Humble. He said “Lead from the back – and let others believe they are in front”.
- Without bitterness and hate. “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hate behind, I’d still be in prison”.
- And Equality: “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all person live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.”

Mandela is particularly important to me because of the personal connection. He was imprisoned in the year I was born, 1964. On April 16th, 1990 I attended the ‘International Tribute for a Free South Africa’ charity concert at Wembley Stadium that Nelson Mandela attended 2 months after his release from prison after 26 years.

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Nelson Mandela – April 16th, 1990 – 2 months after his release.

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Wembley Stadium, London at the concert to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s freedom after 26 years in prison. At that stage, all of my life….

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South Africa – first impressions
Archbishop Desmond Tutu called South Africa “the Rainbow Nation”. And it is. In Cameroon we saw 3 white faces in 10 days. In South Africa we saw 3 white faces in 10 minutes. South Africa is 1.2 million square km. 56 million people. 9% white. 9% coloured. 3% Asian. 80% black. But! There are 11 official languages, 9 of them from the black population. Everyone in South Africa speaks at least 4 or 5 languages.

Land. Particularly after what happened in Zimbabwe with the farms being taken from the white farmers, land tenure is a hot topic. However, whilst land tenure is an issue, the productivity of the land is extremely high. Large broad acre farms growing wheat, grapes, barley, etc look immaculately looked after. The best data I can find indicates that 67% of the land in South Africa is “white” controlled.

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Opinion on Land

My view is that what happened in Zimbabwe was obviously not the right way to go. It can, however, be viewed as an extreme position – one end of the solutions, if you will.

The other side is the status quo, which can be taken as the other end of the spectrum.

These two positions can be marked as the ‘Black’ and ‘White’ views. My view is that the solutions to complex issues are never ‘Black’ or ‘White’, they are always in the grey area. Complicating factors are that some land has now been in the same white family for over 100 years. On the other side, the farm ownership skills of the black indigenous people needs to be improved (often the actual faming has been done by the black farm managers for decades).

I reckon that, as with most complex situations, there is not one solution that can be implemented immediately, but many solutions that can be implemented over a few decades.
1. Land Tenure Mechanism: Ensure that the land tenure laws and offices are incorrupt and are working. If white people can get (and have) land tenure to land and blacks can’t, then that is wrong. The situation in Cameroon where someone can work but does not have land tenure because the land tenure office doesn’t work or is corrupt, is untenable.
2. Agricultural Skills and Farm ownership skills training: Running a successful business is not solely about how hard one works, or the education one has, or the opportunities one has. It is often about the training one has. Earning money. Steadily building wealth. Managing the risk. Using debt wisely. In the UK, if one considers the movement from massive income inequality in, say, the 1880’s, to now, home ownership, security of land tenure have been extremely important factors.
3. Get state owned land back to the original owners. If there is land owned by the state that was appropriated from the indigenous owners, it should be returned, ie, if it is a national park, an area that is being held by the state and not used.
4. Discuss and implement a process whereby a proportion of productive land can become under black control: Life on the land can be hard. Physically hard. High risk during floods and droughts. The kids of farmers often don’t want to work on the land. Farms get sold. There could be a process of preferential purchase for blacks with the appropriate skills and expertise, maybe at preferential loan interest rates, with perhaps a sharing of the cost of the farm with a State Fund. But this process would need to be agreed with the white farmers and the land would need to remain productive.

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The Rainbow Nation.

We were extremely fortunate that at Swakopmund, Namibia, the Fabulous Connie, a black South African from Johannesburg joined the overland truck. We also had J.P., a white South African bloke from Cape Town as our cook on the truck. The irrelevance of colour within their discussions and laughter, and yet their obvious pride in being South African was striking and heart-warming. But was not unique. Nowhere did we see animosity. We saw a nation pulling in the same direction. Where people were/ are just people.

On the safety side, we did the same as on all of our trip, we were careful, didn’t go to bad areas, didn’t stay out late at night, didn’t drink too much outside of the apartment, didn’t keep our passports/ cards in a knapsack, didn’t wear a bumbag outside of our clothes with everything in it. We were careful. But not as careful as Brazil!

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Cape Town

We’d heard that Cape Town was a great city and it is. It also marked the end of our truck trip with this fantastic group.

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The first view of Cape Town was a little emotional. After 364 days on the road, we’d made it to Cape Town and nearly to the Cape to Good Hope!

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After 364 days we arrived in Cape Town. Looking towards Cape Town and the iconic Table Mountain. We’d made it!

We got an apartment in Bantry Bay, a suburb of Cape Town for 6 days of rest and recuperation.

Christmas was simple and quiet. After 57 days on the overland truck, we didn’t want to move.

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Christmas Lunch….

Boxing Day at the Bungalow Restaurant to celebrate one whole year on the road.

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Looking out towards the Bungalow restaurant.

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365 days on the road….

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And still holding hands….

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Robben Island

Much of Nelson Mandela’s time in prison was spent in the Robben Island prison.

Of course, we wanted to visit and pay our respects.

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The board at the entrance to Robben Island. ‘Freedom cannot be manacled”.

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Nelson Mandela’s cell.

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The Quarry on Robben Island where Mandela and other South African political prisoners had forced labour. The prison stayed open until 1995 when it was closed and there was a meeting of political prisoners following the fall of the Apartheid regime. Whilst only black men were imprisoned on Robben Island – women and white men were imprisoned elsewhere – the reunion in 1995 was for all political prisoners.

On visiting the Quarry, Mandela placed a rock at the entrance to show respect for those people who died during the struggle. Other formal political prisoners followed his example and you can see the pile of rocks in the middle of the entrance to the quarry.

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Looking from Robben Island towards Cape Town and Table Mountain.

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The Last Hurrah!

My mate Dave and I had been discussing that we wanted to be together for the Last Hurrah and Dave had found us a nice shack to rent for a week in Franschhoek, a town in the middle of the wine growing region outside of Cape Town.

Maybe a little geography to start…..

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Cape Town is in the bottom left-hand corner of South Africa and Franschhoek is north-east of Cape Town, adjacent to Stellenbosch.

Nik’s parents, Jan and John made the long haul from Adelaide to Cape Town for the event.

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Celebrating the arrival of mumsi and dadsi with oysters and champagne!

The Shack was quite nice….

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The house Dave and I rented in Franschhoek!

We had a fantastic group of 13 for the week with people coming from near and far, including some intrepid travellers we met along the way on our trip!

New Years Eve went off like a frog in a sock, with a big cook up and of course a swim in the pool.

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New Years Eve preparations

Franschhoek (meaning French Corner) has a selection of fantastic wineries and, with the mountainous backdrop, is very picturesque, and we had a delicious lunch at La Petite Ferme (the little farm) to celebrate our time with all our fabulous friends and family.

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Nikki looking fabulous in a frock!

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Love this photo of John and Jan!

And me and Davey!

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There was also great hiking in the hills around Franschhoek. On one of the days John, Malcolm, Anne and I went for a great walk in the hills!

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And saw a Large Protea

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And more flowers!

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We also explored the local wineries using the fabulous wine tram system! The tram took us to 8 different wineries of which we were able to choose 4 to get off at for tastings, nibbles and general revelry!

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We enjoyed a picnic lunch at Mont Rochelle!

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It was a great day and a wonderful last week to end our journey.

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The End Of The Odyssey!

It all started with a chat on the Eurostar train from London to Paris in September 2009.

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The original 2009 map of the trip. The aim? To travel from Cape Horn to the Cape of Good Hope, By Land. Mostly….

And then over the next 8 yeas it turned into this reality:

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The map of our actual trip!

And now it was time to go the last point of our trip, The Cape of Good Hope!

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The final approach to the Cape of Good Hope in the far distance

And here we are! 376 days. 151,519 km’s in total. The next, and final, blog will have all of the statistics of the trip, but how do we feel? Pretty emotional. Sad to leave the adventure behind, balanced with happy to be going back to Australia to see our friends and family. So pleased to have met so many fantastic people and to have had so many amazing experiences. We have a lot of absorbing to do, and of course the adventure of settling back into Melbourne and our new life there! It will never be quite the same again - it will be better!

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At the end of the Odyssey! Great to celebrate it with friends and family. Notice the hip flasks given to us by our lovely Melbourne neighbours, Trish and Dave. The flasks have made the whole trip. One with whisky in it. One with gin!

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Lovely photo of Nikki, John, and Jan

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And me young mate, Davey!

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The final hoorah!

Thank you everyone for love and support!

It's been a blast!

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Posted by capetocape2017 23:38 Archived in South Africa Tagged town south africa namibia nelson cape mandela spitzkoppe Comments (1)

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