September 14th 2005, we left Canada feeling ready to tackle the road from Cape to Cairo. Our grand adventure had begun once we picked up our fully kitted out modified expedition Land Cruiser 80 series in Johannesburg.
Where are we going to put everything?
A LABOUR OF LOVE
Several kilometres south of Johannesburg, we visited an unofficial orphanage. Matshabalala, an exuberant woman with a wide friendly smile greeted us. Surrounding her were 38 children, excited by our arrival
The earth was dusty, a large tree providing shade to sleeping dogs and wandering chickens. It was desolate except for several shacks. There was no running water or electricity. It was a squatter camp, home to one amazing woman and the 38 orphans in her care. To the children, orphaned by AIDS, violence or simply abandoned, this was their home and their mom. It was also an illegal squatter camp.
With unemployment high, high rates of AIDS and limited resources, many resorted to opening illegal and unlicensed orphanages. Matshabalala could not apply for funding but was compassionate, caring, and determined not to have her “children removed.
The time spent with Matshabalala and the children was very special and very humbling. All the children wanted their photos taken; “Shoot, shoot” they cried and then with shouts of delight, gathered around the LCD of the camera to see pictures themselves.
The children and Matshabalala are a testament to the spirit of survival and human strength
Both Tom and I were born in South Africa but immigrated to Canada as we did not support Apartheid. Apartheid is now history and it’s finally where it belongs, in a museum. The apartheid museum tells the story of a brutal racist regime. We stepped back into history through the segregated entrances.
Serious freedom in Africa called for serious 4X4 driving and vehicle recovery skills, and we set off for our day of training. After viewing our teaching video, I was not sure I was ready for this. After the classroom instructions, we were off for our first drive.
Tom had spent years in the African bush working as an exploration geologist and as a result was very comfortable driving off road. I on the other hand had done very little and I needed off road driver training to become competent enough to handle the roads we anticipated having to negotiate on our trip north.
WE ARE FINALLY READY TO BEGIN OUR GRAND ADVENTURE CAPE TO CAIRO
“Perhaps it was history that ordained that it be here, at the Cape of Good Hope that we should lay the foundation stone of our new nation. For it was here at this Cape, over three centuries ago, that there began the fateful convergence of the peoples of Africa, Europe and Asia on these shores.“NELSON MANDELA
A ROAD LESS TRAVELLED, RICHTERSVELD NATIONAL PARK.
The west coast of South Africa is lashed by Antarctic Ocean currents and cold winds blowing from the sea. The shore, which is sparely populated, has only a few small fishing villages along the coastland. Travelling north, we reached the area known as Namaqualand. This expansive land is arid and barren with merciless heat and scarce rainfalls. The landscape was unlike anything we had either seen or experienced before. The intense heat of the day casts mirages of red in the distance. The wind whipped up the dust creating an eerily moon like vista, at times even obscuring our view. The distances are enormous between stopovers and we felt truly alone.
It is however famous for its spring flowers, which carpet the land, sometime each September after the brief spring rains
We settle into our campsite on the Gariep River in the Richtersveld National park and test out all the equipment we will be relying on as we move north.
We become part of the landscape. It is quiet, awe-inspiring and very peaceful. Our confidence grows daily as we become comfortable in our new home and rediscover the wonder of Africa.