The end of the big road trip

After crossing the South African border (twice!), I headed for Rustenberg, about an hour and a half North of Johannesburg. This was not a random stop, but rather a visit to Rainhill Farm, a property owned by relatives of mine until 1978, and now converted into a bed and breakfast. The Magaliesburg mountains are right behind it and the area is a very popular holiday destination.


The Magaliesburg mountains, behind Rainhill Farm.


Rosemary Cottage, where I spent the night. There was a large antique bath facing the rear, with a large window just above it. It felt like having a bath in the forest!



Hartley’s Pub, housed in the old 1940’s milk shed. Look at the signs; I wish we had those prices in Canada. $6 T-bone, $1 Friday night draught special. I made a beginner’s mistake and went for dinner there without my pocket camera. Even though it was a Wednesday, the place was packed. I met a local guy named Lee-Roy and his girlfriend-who-was-too-shy-to-speak-English-despite-the-fact-her-English-was-fine. He explained that due to the mine strikes, many skilled employees, such as engineers and managers, were still getting paid, but were not exactly very busy at work, hence the pub being full on a Wednesday! We also talked about security and the fact I had generally felt safe in South Africa, except for that very afternoon, when I had to go to a downtown bank machine. I told him where I had gone and he was not impressed at all. What can I say; I was young and I needed the money. As a rule, go to ATMs in suburban malls in South Africa, never in inner cities.

The next day, I headed to Johannesburg to sleep at an airport hotel in order to catch an early morning flight. The Kia Picanto was ridiculously dirty and the rental contract threatened a $30 charge for excessive dirt. Since I had opened my door in Lüderitz during a sand storm, “excessive” was the right word. After asking the hotel owner for advice, I had the car detail cleaned for $4! The shop was in an area I never would have stopped in, but he had assured me it was safe. At the time, I didn’t try to reconcile his assertion the place was safe with the barbed wire, electric fence around his own property, but I survived unharmed.

And that was it; 6,525 km in 26 days, Cape Town to Johannesburg through Namibia and Botswana! Overall, a very nice trip. I had hoped to meet some independent travellers along the way and share the car, but that turned out to be quite unlikely. I rented the car because there was no realistic alternative to go to most places I visited. Therefore, everyone I met already had a car. Only once did I have some company, as I picked-up a hitchhiker in Botswana (he was a cop, going to the regional police headquarter in Maun, so it seemed safe enough).

Surprisingly, a distant relative of mine was on the same Johannesburg to Livingstone flight as I was. Amazingly, I couldn’t meet her, because I had to find another person I knew on the very same flight, since we were arranging transportation in Livingstone together! We also created some interesting little lies for the Zambian immigration officials. I had put “Staying with friend/relative” on the immigration form, but I didn’t have the address, as said friend was picking me up. My friend Ollie, who was going to stay at the same place, had just put the name of a random hotel he saw in a magazine, the Victoria Falls Hotel. That’s what I usually do when asked that stupid question on immigration forms, as I rarely make reservation for hotels, unless I am arriving at night. So while waiting in line, I grabbed another immigration form and put the same hotel name on it. At the counter, the following discussion took place:

– “So you are going to Zimbabwe today”

– “Euh… no.”

– “But your hotel is in Zimbabwe.”

– “Ooohhh… I … guess … I am … then …”

I think the agent was more amused than anything else, and in Zambia I went, with an $80 multiple entry visa I ended up not using. Zambian stories tomorrow…


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