Day 123 - SA, Golden Gate - On The Road Again

Trip Start Nov 09, 2008
Trip End Jul 02, 2009

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Where I stayed
Glen Reenan Campsite

Flag of South Africa  , Western Cape,
Wednesday, March 11, 2009

You have to ask yourself why in the world you thought it was a good idea to go out drinking the night before the start of a road trip. Unfortunately those questions, somewhere along the line, got confused and resulted in asking for more pints or jagger bombs rather than the all important "shall we go home now?". When we did go home the boys cracked more beers!!

So it was with heavy heads we awoke the next morning, Leon having already shot off to work. Looking around at all our stuff sprawled over the floor you had to wonder what logic had possessed us not to pack before going out.

Eventually we got there, although we were very close to calling it off and just going tomorrow. With the bakki packed and map in hand we drove off to (a) change money (b) buy food (c) buy tent. Three seemingly simple things yet it took us more than 3 bloody hours to achieve them. Changing money taking up 2hrs alone. Seriously how hard can it be to change money - in South Africa, VERY!

We ended up going to about 10 different bloody banks. Standard Bank which advertised currency exchange had apparently only one person for the job and she was on lunch... at 11.30am. Go figure. We were told that the bank ABSA also changed money but every time we went to a branch we were told "Not this branch, the other one". We drove around in what seemed like bloody circles, Oliver dropping me off bank after bank and me climbing back in the car more furious than before.

Ended up going back to Standard Bank where the lunch break lady still wasn't back so I sat and waited for 10 minutes before she arrived. Then I had to fill out about 20 bloody forms, where are you from, what are you doing here, how long will you be here, what address are you staying at, business or pleasure - dude it's none of your effing business just give me my damn money.... I felt like screaming but of course I sat there patiently and after about 45 painfully long minutes walked out with a wad of cash. Thank god for that. Oliver thought I had gone walkabout I had been gone for so long. Seriously, never again. Bring back West Africa and the dodgy street traders.

So cashed up we went and bought our u-bute new tent. A 4 man pop up. How easy is this going to be!! Then hit the road... heading towards Lesotho. Well that was our original destination but as the day wore on we decided to start off at Golden Gate National Park then work our way along to Lesotho. So that's what we did.

Driving down through Orkney, Viljoenskroon (yeah try pronouncing that), Kroonstad (the town of no road signs), Senekal, Bethlehem (of course being the religious person I am, that was a must see) and Kestell.

We eventually arrived at Golden Gate around 5ish. The sun had been hiding behind clouds for most the afternoon so we were thrilled to have it shine, bringing out all the reds, yellows and oranges of the towering cliff formations which form Golden Gate. Unfortunately it chose to disappear seconds before we got to the much photographed Brandwag buttress. It was still pretty impressive though.

Golden Gate was officially proclaimed a national park in 1963 and lies equal distances from Jo'burg, Bloemfontein and Durban at the foothills of the Maluti Mountains. It covers 11,500 sq km, has a highest peak of 2829m and is home to the rare bearded vulture and Bald Ibis. It offers a multitude of activities from hiking to fly-fishing (some of the best in the country apparently), horseriding, quad bikes, 4x4's, archery, kayaking, river cruises and mountain biking to name but a few. It also contains a vast array of dinosaur fossils. Little bit of trivia for ya.

We checked into the Glen Reenen Campsite safely nestled at the base of the Brandwag buttress next to a stream. Beautiful it was, cheap it was not. Ended up getting stung some R270 (US$27) to camp for one night!!! Ouch. So much for camping being cheap. And that's in low season!!

So here's a tip for anyone thinking of going - drive an extra 10 minutes and camp outside the national park so you don't get hit with the conservation fee we did. Not sure how much it was, maybe R140 making the camping 130 but still. If you don't camp and just drive through the park you don't have to pay it. Lesson learnt. Would have been okay if we were actually spending some time there exploring but not when we arrived after 5pm and were planning to leave at 7am the following day.

So after pulling up we enjoyed our first night of camping. Our new tent being a dream to put up. Literally you just throw it out and, as it's name suggests, it pop's up. If you were guaranteed no rain you could just sleep in it like that but with the afternoon thunderstorms we played it safe and threw the fly on - job done in a matter of minutes. If it packed down a little smaller it would be coming with us on the truck but unfortunately it is too big to take so we'll have to leave it in Leon's trusty possession as a thank you present.

As darkness fell so did the temperature. Think we camped at about 2,000m so was very very chilly indeed. Thank goodness for the South African Airlines blanket which just happened to find it's way into my bag.... a parting gift from the airline I believe after making us pay so much for the flight.

So our first night camping together was lovely. We cooked sausages on our new electric hotplate - a slightly harder than expected thing to do when it had no indication of high, low, on or off. Enjoyed a few quiet beers/Savannas then curled up inside the tent to watch a movie on the Archos.

Definitely a gadget that comes highly recommended. All in all, a great start to our solo adventures.
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