Classic Safari Lodge, Namibia

Arriving in Kongola mid-afternoon I saw several signs for lodges but for some reason wasn’t particularly drawn to them. Just as I was about to turn around and retrace my steps through the town I spied another sign for a lodge some two kilometres further on. I drove along and turned off onto a dirt road following the lodge signs. A further two kilometres down the dirt road and I came to a collection of crude buildings, a sign stating ‘Car Park’ and what looked like a gateway. I was just about to squeeze past the gateway when someone called out. I asked which way the lodge was and he said to take my bags out of the car and put them by realised how fortunate it was that I hadn’t squeezed past the gateway, for there was the river. Being so low down I wasn’t able to see the water from inside the car!

This was the entrance to the Mazambala Island Lodge and as the name implies it is located on an island. A boat was summoned and I was transported to the lodge where I was met on the landing stage by the Assistant General Manager. He explained the safety rules regarding walking around at night and showed me to my cabin. At dinner, in the evening, were a party of guests that had seen Bridget in the garage and chatted to me about travel adventures. The lodge is a film-set piece of Africa with the classic veranda, safari bar, viewing platform and accommodation cabins. I was expecting Rod Hunter or Deborah Kerr to appear at any moment.

My plan for the next day was for a relatively short drive to Rundu, and so I decided to take a boat safari in the morning, before breakfast, and explore the marsh. During the dry season elephants come to the banks to drink and only three weeks earlier there was a leopard nearby. They explained that with the start of the wet season the elephants were unlikely to return as their waterholes would be full, but other wildlife would be about.

As it transpired there were some small Nile crocs, about although I didn’t manage to catch any on film. I did catch hippo, antelope and many great bird species. I had breakfast on my return and left the lodge later than planned, but very happy.

Bridget and I travelled on to Rundu, Namibia, a distance of two hundred and thirty miles. Bridget was still travelling well despite her ordeals, but on stopping at a hotel in Rundu I decided to check under the bonnet because she appeared to be suffering some engine vibration. I found that the nearside front engine mounting was breaking up. I also checked the front tyres and discovered that they were wearing badly, probably due to the track rod ends being damaged. I changed the front wheels with the back ones and hoped that they would last to Cape Town.

Leaving early the following day we set off for Windhoek, capital city of Namibia. It rained heavily for the first hour then remained cloudy for much of the day. Bridget’s damaged under side seemed to scoop up much of the rain and through it into the boot soaking everything, but at least the temperature remained bearable for the rest of the day. Windhoek was a drive of some four hundred and fifty miles which we completed in eight hours.

Windhoek is a small city by most capital city standards, but with a couple of reasonable international hotels and lots of parking meters!

In the morning we set off for Grunau, four hundred miles south of Windhoek. The plan was that, if we made it, we would meet up with the enthusiasts from South Africa. We arrived by 15:00 having stopped at a café for a piece of carrot cake and coffee, and we were still ahead of our friends who started arriving around 16:00. Having covered the best part of one thousand miles in the past three days, Bridget was working well.

The South Africans started to drift in from around 16:00, but had not had a particularly good journey. There were two Midgets, two MGB V8’s, one MGB GT and one MG TF, only the TF had problems with a ‘T’ piece hose that had fractured. They eventually arrived some six hours after the lead car, but were very philosophical about their misfortune. They gave me a terrific welcome and a somewhat needed lift in spirits.

I was considerably more relaxed the next day when we took a leisurely drive down to the border with South Africa and to a town called Noordoewer on The Orange River. Here we booked into an excellent lodge to spend a restful day watching nature and drinking the odd beer or two.

The crossing into South Africa was the easiest and quickest border crossing of the entire journey, discounting Europe of course. Once through the border we drove to Clanwilliam, some two hundred and eighty miles away, in temperatures reaching fifty degrees Celsius. That evening the day’s temperatures were the topic of much of the conversation including how well the cars had coped, although Bridget had been overheating climbing many of the hills. Nobody foresaw the problems that were to occur the next day on route to Cape Town. The day started with Ricky’s midget misfiring which eventually turned out to be down to a broken head gasket. Bridget ended up towing him to a service station where a breakdown truck was able to take over.

Then Bruce’s midget ran dry of water and needed to be towed by one of the V8’s until the engine cooled enough to be restarted, after we refilled the radiator. The problem turned out to be a small leak that only happened when under pressure if Bruce exceeded fifty miles per hour.

In spite of the incidents we made it to Cape Town, stopping on route for the obligatory photographs at Bloubergrant, taken by Bruce’s son, Ian.

Once again, against the odds, Bridget had delivered me safely to my destination. I have very mixed emotions about the whole odyssey, which is normal at this stage. There is elation at having arrived, sorrow at it being over and relief that I don’t have to consider the next day’s route. I have previously found that it takes a couple of weeks before being able to rationally sum up the whole thing, but I will post a closing journal shortly.

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