This was a holiday I really looked forward to. For the first time in my 8 years working life I had a 4 weeks continuous holiday. I had a whole week for myself before leaving and it gave me time to sort out the packing and to give Gifappel a bit of TLC. It included testing the LRT.
This was my first trip where we needed to cater for the family for five full days for food and water and a good time to test how the setup would work for long trips once the children are bigger.
16 Des - Bloemfontein to Cradock
With everything packed the previous day, I went to bed early, but something with the LRT mod bugged me. I got up at 2:30 to make another minor change and went back to bed. We all got up at 5:30 and hit the road at 6:45. With the speed cruise set on 100 km/h, everything went well, though there were a couple of road works to Reddersburg. Just before Rouxville, Gifappel suddenly lost power and choked and gagged as if she had some Gifappel, with anything more than feather throttle. I stopped at an overcrowded Total garage and replaced the fuel filter. The old one seemed to be blocked, but as I could not see through the tin filter, I could not yet determine the reson. After that, Gifappel ran as sweet as ever, although a little hot to my liking, but nothing too serious.
We stopped at the Aliwal North Spa hoping to entertain the kids in the pools, but was surprised to see very little going on there. The reception did not want to allow us to enter with the vehicle and offered no explanation why. We later found out that the Spa is actually renovated with money from the municipality and that it should soon be a place worth visiting again. Hopefully this is good and true news. (From the grapevine of 2012, the place is apparently still under renovation, but now in the hand of a private owner.)
With what we had to take in to cater for the kids, we decided to give it a miss and went to my most unfavoured restaurant - the Spuke, I mean the Spur. We ordered and both meals for me and SWAMBO were delivered wrong. After sending the young waitress politely back twice, the manager turned up and offered SWAMBO a new steak.
As we were on holiday, we decided not to get too stresses up and left in good spirit. Burgersdorp went by and I noticed a gravel road turning out left. Shortly after, we were stopped at a road block and I asked the officer where that road goes and the answer was Hofmeyr, so we made a u-turn the tarred road was almost 30km longer and as we were cruising slowly, decided to rather drive the shorter, but more scenic route in the same time. This was worth it. The road ran next to a river and the Akasia trees looked wonderful in the dry area.Just outside Hofmeyr Gifppel threw a proper vloermoer again and I turned back, struggling to reach 40 km/h. The motor cut out a few times. I think a harvester would have given me a run for his money by times! I tried to find a fuel filter, but of course this was a hopeless call on a Saturday afternoon on this dorpie. I had no other option but to blow the filter with my mouth in reverse direction (completely forgetting about the compressor under the bonnet) and hoped for the best to reach Cradock. It worked and although the going was a slow 60 km/h at some of the hills, I managed a 100 km/h on level road and the problem did not get worse again - so I reckoned most of the dirt had been filtered out.
On Cradock, I tried my luck with the after hour numbers of both spares shops, but with no response there, we started driving to all the filling stations for the needed item. At the third one, I struck the jackpot and bought the entire stock of three plastic inline filters to the amazement of the owner.
By this time the kids got grumpy and we made our way to Mountain Zebra National Park to set up camp. The camp was erected in a respectable 40 minutes. I started with pap, wors and sous on the gas stove while SWAMBO washed the kids. In the mean time, I installed a new fuel filter and switched the ignition on so that the twin fuel pumps could circulate the fuel and filter the remaining grime out. After an hour, I pulled the pipe at the carb and it was still pumping strong - hopefully a good sign...
Just to make sure, I arranged with Dad in PE to get me some more filters the next day and that we will pick it up before going to Baviaans. Gifappel uses a particularly expensive metal filter costing over R 100 each and from what I have learned later, it seems not to work very well - nothing better than the cheapies in any case.
17 Desember, Cradock to Baviaans
After a fair nights sleep, I woke up the family at 6:30 to have breakfast and break down the camp. I did most of the work alone while SWAMBO did the dishes and took care of the kids. It went slow and we left at 9:20. My intention was to leave for PE immediately, but SWAMBO insisted that we should do a game drive through the park. I have a lot more tolerance for a long day and expected that the day may end with a couple of moaners, but did not chirp. The drive was nice and I could take a great shot or two of the Mountain Zebras from short distance. They look quite different from the Zebra I know. IMO, the black stripes are a lot thicker and it has brown hair round the nose. This trip took another two hours, but this was for only one of the circle routes.
Finally after filling up and replacing a fuel filter once more on Cradock, we left for PE at 12:00. Gifappel ran well for a while, but once again her knees buckled and and by this time my ideas were almost up. Look I don't mind attending to a recurring problem as long as I can figure out what it is. So I pulled off and decided that I need to spend that time right here to get to the bottom of it. To make a long story short, I finally figured out that the fuel filters were not the problem any more, but that the pickup in the tank became blocked. I opened the fuel cap blew it in reverse with the air compressor. It needed a surprising build up of pressure to make the plug pop and since then Gifappel was as strong as a horse until just before we reached my Dad in PE before going to Baviaans. At least now I knew what the problem was but to get out the gemors, I would have to remove the tank. That would have to wait until much later.
The road through Loerie and Patensie is really very beautiful. The farms are decorated with plates of Bogainvillas and Agapanthis and the citrus plantations looks good. Just before Komdomo, the road becomes gravel. This is where one is supposed to buy permits if one wants to enter places like Geelhoutbos and Rooikraal. There were a couple of campers there but is was too late to have a look at the facilities.
We reached our Camping site called Bruintjieskraal and SWAMBO was immediately impressed with this setup. We were pleased to find that we were the only people in the camp and that we had the most private stand of the lot - thanks to the fact that I already booked in June. The donkie for our private bathroom was already smoking and we decided to make camp before going to the reception 2.5 km away, as a light rain was in the air.
SWAMBO made a quick pasta dish while the kids and I read through my brand new snake book. By this time the rain was falling soft but steady and we went to bed and cuddled up. The raised bed works very nice for SWAMBO with lower back problems, but we soon found that it is important to inflate is as hard as possible for the most comfortable sleep. We also fond that we sleep much more comfortable when not zipping the sleeping bags together. A bit of a pity as I like skin contact with SWAMBO.
We woke up after a splendid night's sleep and I was so chuffed for no cell phone reception. Here one can die in piece. We had the left overs of the previous nigh for breakfast instead of the beacon and eggs on the meticulously planned menu and after walking through the camp with my son, we discovered that there was a float on the river and decided that this would be the entertainment for the morning. After rubbing all with sunscreen, we all got on the float with me and SWAMBO rowing! Of course I am not used to this kind of exercise and already felt the blow in the shoulders with our afternoon nap. SWAMBO the waternimf, spend the best part of an hour in the river. I am somehow not as fond of water any more as I was as a kid.
I checked the watch for the first time at 14:45 and by this time the eland-potjie for dinner was well on it's way with about an hour left to finish! This is my definition of being stinking rich - when time does not matter!
Bruintjieskraal is highly recommended. With only 5 stands in the camp and very well maintained, it must rate under my top 5, but is not recommended for people who expects supertubes and jumping castles for kids entertainment. We should have planned for 10 days in Baviaans. 19 December - Bruintjieskraal to Doornkloof
Memories 2012: Bruintjieskraal was cosy in all aspects. Situated in the narrow valley between the towering mountains on each side, it is probably the closest anti-pole of Verneukpan. I am sure if you blindfold me teleport me down there, I will instantly know the the place by the atmosphere and smell.
Again, another splendid nights sleep. Today was our anniversary - married for eight wonderful years. We woke with the sound of many different birds around us and I listened for some time to it, but as no expert could not identify more than one or two. I later went out with the binoculars and was surprised to see a couple of very colourful birds. SWAMBO and I went for a shower and after that, we broke camp. It took another two hours before we could hit the road.
SWAMBO wanted to drive and tackled the so-called difficult part of the route. According to those who travel the road regularly, it has never been in a worse state. We did however pass a couple who travelled in an old VW Kombi, but this road should at least be attempted with a bakkie. Gifappel, heavily loaded as it were, did need low range second to make some of the steep stretches at the slow speed required. We travelled much slower than the travel times as indicated on the internet. Apart from the fact that we were absolutely consumed by the beauty of the area, I don't think it is sensible to try and travel faster with a loaded vehicle and we needed more than 5 hours to reach Doornkloof - something like 70km away.
Gifappel needed another blow of the pickup fuel line after three hours of driving and it was a 5 minute delay. At a stop where we had lunch at a stream, I needed to retention the fan belt for the aircon compressor that slipped because of water, after a slightly too enthusiastic stream crossing. In the proses, I pulled the condenser wire out of the lug and Gifappel failed to start. Lugs and crimper fixed it and we were on the go 5 minutes later. The position and way I packed my toolbox was absolutely ideal. I find it extremely entertaining to deal with these sort of niggles and my lovely SWAMBO dodn't get depressed about it either.
Memories 2012: Although that fuel line problem was the one that made me stop the most times ever on a trip and even though I had to go through the ritual over and over again of open the bonnet, connect the compressor, open the fuel cap, get on my back, loosen the filter, duck for the petrol, blow the pipe clean, refit the fuel line, get out, pack up and get in only to smell the petrol for the next 10 minutes, it faded down to the matter of facts. I don't associate that trip with this frustrations.
SWAMBO is of the opinion that it is the most beautiful piece of road she ever travelled and I tend to agree. The variety of vegetation and rock formations in this 70 km stretch of road is simply breathtaking and in this regard it is most probably the best bang for the buck anywhere in the country.
When we passed Geelhoutbos, we were tired of driving and wished the day could end there, but with the exceptionally poor service from the Cape Nature Conservation Branch in East London, I decided not to book there.
We arrived at Doornkloof at 15:00. We found that guests who did not book were accidentally referred to our site, but were moved in no time by a very efficient old man who even picked up their fire on the back of his bakkie and moved it to another site.
The camp was made in 40 minutes again and I made a Chicken stirfry with Basmati rice for dinner. Basmati is the answer here as it takes only 10 minutes to cook and it is tasty. It was wonderful to be in a fully booked campsite where none of the campers felt compelled to entertain the others with their music. The kids made friends in minutes and for the next two days we saw very little of them.
We had little ambition to do anything today, but finally SWAMBO decided that we should go back to a nice swimming spot that we passed before Geelhoutbos. This was in the end a 25 km drive to there, but gave us a glimpse of this beautiful place again. I was glad for the LRT - in spite of the teething troubles it gave me. We could make it safely through the kloof on the fuel. At this conditions, I would barely make 400km on the standard tank - giving little range for additional trips or an emergency in the kloof.
I bought a bag of wood in the camp and we had roosterkoek and Eland steaks for dinner. The six-day Coleman cooler box worked excellent up to now - with 10 boxes of frozen long life milk and 6 litres of frozen fruit juices that were used as ice bricks, the steaks were still frozen at day 5. We simply took out the milk for the next day the previous evening and a box of juice in the morning for the day. This setup will comfortably get one through 7 days with plenty of cold drinks and meat. In fact, there was still space for another 2 kg of meat.
The big tent worked better than expected. It is easy to erect and break up and has plenty of space. I never once felt that I needed more space in the tent. The layout works well for our family. The crate system is also very practical. We used 12 of 25 litre crates as sold by Pick-n-Pay for R 27 each and everything was packed into it. It was allocated as follows:
- 5 x Clothing - one for each family member and two for SWAMBO.
- 2 x for dried and tin foods
- 1 x for pottery
- 1 x for cutlery
- 1 x for first aid
- 1 x for baby diapers and baby food
- 1 x for towels and toiletries
The crates are stackable and fits perfectly in Gifappel. When the camp is made, they are easily moved to the tent or left in Gifappel as needed - for example if we want to go for a picnic, the pottery and cutlery crates are loaded.
All meals accept one, were prepared on gas as there is simply no more space efficient fuel for this purpose. I took only one No.9 Cylinder and we probably used a third of it at the most.
21 December - Doornkloof to Uitspan
Today was a very short trip indeed! I was under the impression that Uitspan was about 100 km from Doornkloof, but after 45 km SWAMBO spotted the sign and to her delight, the driving was over. If I knew it was that close, I would definitely have tackled one of the six 4x4 routes on Doornkloof. But, that was water under the bridge and just confirmed my feelings that we should have spend much more time there.
The owners of Uitspan can be complimented for their hospitality and we decided to order breakfast for the next morning. This is also the dry side of the Kloof and the day was hot! Far too hot to take an afternoon nap in the tent.
We spend the night in the bar and had a couple of drinks while talking with some of the other campers.
I missed all of the historic places to visit in Baviaans, but it was not really a priority for me and we concentrated to get things done as relaxed as possible. Baviaans was a splendid trip, but we could easily spend double the time in there.
22 December, Uitspan to Mosselbay via Avontuur
According to the literature, the Prins Albert Pass was built by Sir Thomas Bain and it is one of my main life objectives to drive all the passes built by him, in my trips. I already did a couple of them. From Uitspan, most of the road to Uniondale is still gravel. We turned away to Avontuur. Soon after Avontuur the road was gravel again and we entered the pass. Once again, the scenery is magnificent and the stone walls made by Sir Thomas Bain is truly fascinating for my engineering eye. He used a method to pack the stones in a way that no binding material was needed and the weight of the stones alone creates enough locking mechanism for the job. If you have driven more than one of his passes, it is like viewing a painting from an artist you know well. The work can be instantly identified as his without looking at the signature.
To my complete disgust, this experience was scarred a couple of times by Gauteng Province Drivers overtaking us from behind in the most dangerous places imaginable. Why on earth do one drive on such a piece of road like a maniac? In spite of their piggly driving, we caught up with some of them a little later while stuck behind other slow vehicles.
Soon after the pass, one drives through the Diepwalle Forest and it was here where I almost had Gifappel on the roof. While driving on the gravel road at about 50 km/h, I was coming around a corner and in front of me was a long Boomslang crossing the road from left to right. I moved over to the left and slowed down, but for some reason the snake suddenly turned around (and it was damn fast mind you) to go back where it came from. Unable to take affirmative action so quick, I stepped on it with the left front wheel. Eish, that was not what I wanted to and in a bit of shock I looked in the mirror at the poor snake coiling on the spot where I hit it.
With my attention diverted, I ran straight in to the next right hander. Then I realised it and made the turn. The rear end broke loose and Gifappel went into a slide. Luckily my speed was low and I caught it soon enough - pretty hair raising thing in a fully laden off roader. I was thankful for the power steering with the quick ratio as I can just imagine what sort of exercise this would be with a manual steering box!! While the kids were impressed with this move and shrieked in the back seat, SWAMBO was a little more pale and did not share their enthusiasm.
From there, it went hinkepink to Mosselbay with the fuel line blocked once again. The uphills needed a very light foot and the motor was pinking early from the lean mixture so I kept going with care. We went fast enough for a holiday.
23 -28 December: Mosselbay
Noting too interesting here. We spend a lekker time with the family and most importantly, I took the tank out to clean it. What happened, is that the carbon from the welding joints started to chip off from the flexing of the metal and I removed an eye popping amount of it from the tank. I am not sure how to remove the carbon from my next LRT and will experiment with flushing the tank with acetone. Unfortunately because of this incident, my time was a bit too short to try one of the trails in the area - good reason to get back there.
Memory 2012: I never had to build another long range tank yet. Never is a long time, but I hope I won't need to do it that soon, again.
29 December to 3 January: Cape Town
The trip to Cape Town went a lot better and I did not need to stop once to blow the pick up line of the tank. On Saturday, I joined the people for Atlantis Dunes. It was a great morning and I had lots of fun, but the power delivery of the Van der Linde tuned motor was not up to my taste. After 4000 rpm, the hotter cam made it hit 7000 rpm in a flash in the low range gears and keeps it well while going up the dunes, but the moment the revs drops below 3500 rpm, the power disappears so rapidly that the dune experts asked me why I took my foot of the pedal.
I also did Matroosberg and on the steep climbs this was more a problem than ever before. I never needed to make such long steep climbs on an uneven surface and I needed to keep Gifappel at 3000 rpm in 1st low to get up - way to fast for my liking, but at 2000 rpm it simply lost revs and stalled. Time to go back to the standard cam.
4 - 9 January
We decided to cut our CT trip short for a couple of reasons and visited an old friend of SWAMBO in Wolesly for two days. On the second day, I decided to go up Matroosberg. This was nice, but unfortunately we had to skip the more difficult part to "Die Geut" due to time constraints and to spare the kids for the driving of the next day.
We slept over in Richmond in a guest house. It was clean, neat and affordable, but this little town is bloody noisy on a Friday night with cars screeming down the few tarred roads until long after midnight. With our room almost on the street (as the houses were build those days) we had no sleep.
For the last three days, we had an absolutely splendid time at Tussen-die-Riviere, most definitely my favourite destination if one needs a really relaxed and affordable break for a few days.
All in all, we had a great time most of the time. The problems Gifappel had was none because of her and once again, I cannot fault the reliability of the vehicle. As explained in detail, the wilder cam was replaced with a standard cam two days after we arrived in Bloem. Now we just need a couple of trips to test it thoroughly!
Oh, and overall fuel consumption for the entire trip was 5.8 km/l.