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Monday, 30 January 2012

Cape Town

If we thought that our last day would be a quiet run of 330km into Cape Town then we are on the wrong rally! After 7km we were into the first competitive section but obviously the time allowed to drive it had been shortened to make it harder and we were over time. But the country was beautiful, following the Clanwilliam Dam through olive groves and vineyards on rough stoney tracks and then up and over high passes for about 100km and two more World Cup Sections until we were back onto tarmac.
Table Mountain came into view and we were silenced, we had crossed Africa and felt exhausted, so much effort for 29 days and the huge variety of people and landscapes and weather conditions. South Africa is a country of such amazing contrasts from the rough shanties and the disenfranchised rural poor to the impossibly modern and swanky first world  takes just an hour or two.
It was not like our arrival into Paris, there were no crowds lining the streets and cheering as we quietly arrived at the Table Bay Hotel. David was there though, our sole supporter and he happily took photos and joined in with the relief of our arrival. We feel slightly confused and disorientated, our brains have had so much to deal with in such a short length of time that we havn't absorbed it all yet.
The hotel is extremely comfortable and we had a wonderful Prize Giving dinner and slide show to finish off. It was quite a relief to wear a dress again and we had a few raised eyebrows from the other competitors..yes we are just a couple of girls who seem to like a bit of a challenge!

Clanwilliam


Into South Africa
Had to climb out of our rocky bowl and over the top to drive to the border through the most extraordinary moonscape of huge boulders piled high on each side of the road and then another massive flat plateau. Had a very fast World Cup Section on this which felt like we could drive forever, the sort of place that a land speed record could be set! (but perhaps not by us). As we were approaching the Orange River which is the border between Namibia and South Africa, we came upon the most amazing feat of irrigation. Suddenly in this barren and inhospitable desert there was about 1000 acres of vines and peach trees, beautifully tended, green and perfect. All investment from South Africa, we presumed in the middle of this dreadful desert. The border was the most organised that we have been through but the temperature was unbearable, up to 45C someone said.
Then we climbed into the hills for more timed sections. The last section of the day was the first in which Ben Dawson hasn’t overtaken us since he broke his stub axle in Ethiopia and has had to travel behind us in the running order. More dry rocky desert and then we followed the Oliphant river which was lush and green into the charming town of Clanwilliam where we had our last supper together magically put on for us by the ladies of the Bowls Club.

Ai Ais

For a rather ordinary hotel in what could be an Australian country town, we had surprisingly delicious food. Last night they cooked what we liked in the way of stir fry, fish, pasta and more while we watched. Made smoked salmon sandwiches from breakfast for our lunch and left from the multi storey car park.
We did three trials, all on gravel, with gravel in between. They were so tight that we had to drive all day as though we were on a trial. Luckily they do have excellent gravel roads here and getting up to 90mph not too much of a problem, except for the nerves! On the last trial we came over the hill and the control wasn’t there. Confused, we pressed the yellow brick and carried on, not at full pace and finally found them a couple of miles on. Everyone had the same problem, obviously, and reacted differently, so they cancelled that trial which we think is a pretty poor outcome.
We think someone hit a calf.


We drove through stunning country. It is dry and deserty with fantastic flat topped hills which we wove our way through then climbed up onto a plateau. Ai Ais is by Fish River Canyon which is dark volcanic rock which we seem to have driven down into a bowl and it is sweltering with hot springs so we swam in the hot pool. Our first swim of the rally which we really needed after a very long and dusty day

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Windhoek


Amazing roads and off road sections today, very hard to keep to the times but we tried our hardest and still sit at 29th, what more can we do? Sadly the Reddingtons who are just above us need to lose 1 hour for us to change which is unlikely at this stage of the event. Climbed up and down hills and there were fantastic views over the country, dry hills with trees, looked quite like Italy but no farming and no people, very strange after Zambia. Slightly shocked by the shanty towns on the outskirts of Windhoek, mere corrugated shacks and the town itself isn't that great.

Into Namibia

Just after we left the hotel this morning there was a road block with just one man in a visi jacket, no police,no uniforms and he was demanding $5 do we pay or do we go? We decided to pay up and get out of there and presume it was going straight into his pocket. A long drive today, 1000km down the Caprivi Strip along a very straight road. There were signs warning us of elephants but sadly we didn’t see any, although quite a few others on the rally did. Crossed the border into Namibia with the usual endless queuing for carnet and passports and we had to write everything down longhand in  ledgers in the passport offices while the officers looked on. Passed through a number of veterinary road blocks where we had our wheels sprayed and we had to get out of the car and stand on a disinfectant soaked mat. One soldier had a good look around the car and Rachel asked him what he was looking for. Open boot he said, yes but what are you looking for? Open boot, so Suzy opened the boot and he looked in, didn't open any bags, nodded and said we could go. Arrived in Tsuneb, a rather charming town and enjoyed a glass of  beer with the others feeling guilty that we should be doing something to the car. Finally after supper Owen said lets change those wheels so we put our spares on the front and he realigned them for us, ready to go in the morning.

Vic Falls

A sort of day off today well, drive for 484km and then have the afternoon to see the falls which are amazing, no matter what pictures you have seen nothing prepares you for the noise and huge scale of them, 1 mile wide and 250m deep. We walked down to them from the hotel and got absolutely soaked through, just like being in the pouring rain, went across the bridge and saw the rainbows produced by them, fantastic. Unfortunately, Gerard the rally photographer caught us on the way back so look out for pictures on the website. This evening we thought we had gone mad as there were zebras grazing on the hotel lawns just beside the bar quite surreal

Monday, 23 January 2012

Lusaka

Another night of torrential rain, and we thought that Central Africa would be hot and dry. Quite the opposite, a long drive today through green jungle , lots of trees but separated by grassy areas, it feels very fertile,amazing orangey red soil, and you can imagine the original white settlers getting very excited about the farming potential here. We only saw subsistence farming though for the first 300km mostly collections of round mud thatched huts with mealie growing in a small patch and a few chickens scratching around- we forgot to say that yesterday at the border there was a woman walking around with two live chickens in her arms and one on her head!-and lots of stalls on the side of the road selling mangoes, tomatoes, charcoal and honey. Then gradually the farming became more organised, larger plots and we think soya and coffee. Stopped to have some lunch and Owen looked at our car with a worried face, the front left corner again, a long term injury from our crash, is moving back every time we hit the sump guard. He thinks we need some welding done. Oh well we had a World Cup Section to do first, a lovely off road drive through long grass and trees but quite a few hidden gulleys which take you by surprise. Then into Lusaka and the Intercontinental tonight, slightly different to last night! Found Philip in the Lobby who was talking to the local Rally Association and were here to help so dispatched to a local work shop for some welding. The main problem is the radiator which has come loose and is floating around a bit.