RV.Net Open Roads Forum: Truck Campers: Trip report: Southern Africa

RV Blog

  |  

RV Sales

  |  

Campgrounds

  |  

RV Parks

  |  

RV Club

  |  

RV Buyers Guide

  |  

Roadside Assistance

  |  

Extended Service Plan

  |  

RV Travel Assistance

  |  

RV Credit Card

  |  

RV Loans

Open Roads Forum Already a member? Login here.   If not, Register Today!  |  Help

Newest  |  Active  |  Popular  |  RVing FAQ Forum Rules  |  Forum Posting Help and Support  |  Contact  

Search:   Advanced Search

Search only in Truck Campers

Open Roads Forum  >  Truck Campers

 > Trip report: Southern Africa

Reply to Topic  |  Subscribe  |  Print Topic  |  Post New Topic  | 
Page of 7  
Next
Sponsored By:
sabconsulting

High Wycombe, UK

Senior Member

Joined: 10/10/2010

View Profile


Offline
Posted: 03/04/15 01:30pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

OK, so I've had my takeaway and a bottle of Belgian beer. The cats have stopped attention-seeking and the house is quiet because Sally is 20 miles away with an IV antibiotic drip in her arm failing to enjoy hospital food and repeatedly checking the small hole in her hand left by some anonymous African insect. So I might as well make a start on a trip report.

As you will have learned from earlier trip reports, we love taking our little Shadow Cruiser around the UK, Europe and North Africa. Further away though is difficult as there is only so much time I can get off work, so as with Expo 2013, we have to rely on flying in and renting. This trip would be no different.

Also as with Expo, my attempts to locate a truck camper to hire were fruitless. However, this was probably a good thing in the end because it gave us a chance to try another form of camper and compare and learn. I will endeavour to describe the differences we found in what is quite a different method of camping to what we are used to.

Damn, I spoke too soon, the cats are back and all over me.

Day 0: Friday

I worked from home, starting at 05:00; did a full day's work then a taxi arrived to take us to Heathrow's Terminal 5.

I pre-ordered a pile of South African Rand for collection at the airport. There is a huge difference in the rate you get if you pre-order compared to if you turn up and buy directly in the departure lounge. I ordered enough cash to avoid using ATMs since my bank card charges a lot of commission / fees for withdrawing cash abroad. The 'ZAR' came in a lucky Chinese gift envelope:

[image]

A meal and champagne in the BA lounge and we were soon in our seats ready for the overnight flight.

[image]

Stay tuned for our arrival in South Africa...


'07 Ford Ranger XLT Supercab diesel + '91 Shadow Cruiser - Sky Cruiser 1
'98 Jeep TJ 4.0
'15 Ford Fiesta ST
'09 Fiat Panda 1.2


DiploStrat

Arlington VA

Senior Member

Joined: 09/01/2008

View Profile



Good Sam RV Club Member


Posted: 03/04/15 01:33pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

My old neighborhood! Subscribed!

And I'll go get the cat.



DiploStrat

===========================

1990 Mercedes Benz 917/XPCamper

Website: https://diplostrat.net/



sabconsulting

High Wycombe, UK

Senior Member

Joined: 10/10/2010

View Profile


Offline
Posted: 03/04/15 02:17pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Day 1: Saturday - Johannesburg and Free Stage

Our flight landed around 07:00. Being near the front of the plane we we were near the front of the queue at immigration, and our baggage didn't take too long arriving either.

Baggage - there is something we aren't used to with the truck camper. We can just throw everything we want in before we leave. For this trip we were severely limited. Not so much by airline baggage policies - I have an offensively high checked baggage limit with British Airways, but by the fact that 1) everything in those bags needed to be stored in a small camper and 2) the bags themselves needed to go somewhere in the camper.

On exiting customs we quickly found the guy who was to take us to the rental depot and who would show us around our vehicle. The rental depot in Midrand (between Jo'burg and Pretoria) was a hive of exciting vehicles, and ours looked brand new it was so shiny. It was in fact 2 years old with over 100,000 km on the clock. We were given a thorough hand-over and signed the relevant paperwork.

Things to note when renting vehicles - obviously check for any damage and missing items before leaving the depot, but also consider whether you have unlimited mileage or not - paying in 500km packs can add up quickly. Also consider insurance and the excess (deductible). You don't want to find that the smallest scratch you think is insured results in a $1000 charge on your credit card because of a $1000 insurance excess in the small print. Often excesses for 4x4s are much higher than regular rental cars. Thankfully this vehicle, from a specialist overland vehicle renter - Bushlore - came with their super insurance, a very low excess and unlimited included miles. However, still watch for items not included in insurance, these are commonly windscreen, roof underbody and tyres / wheels. In a 4x4 camper driving dirt roads these are quite a risk.

OK, I've done enough talking about the vehicle - let's see what we rented. Here is Sally being shown the awning that we never used (generally too windy to use it):

[image]

It is a Toyota Land Cruiser 78 series. It has been converted into a camper by Alucab of Cape Town with a pop-up roof. Interior space is very limited unlike a truck camper, because it is already a narrow vehicle and there is no overcab area or wings extending the camper body out beyond the side of the truck.

Cooking is done outside on a single gas ring that slides out of the side. A table folds out of the side for food preparation. A 40 litre Engel fridge sits inside and a long drawer is fitted for storage. There is a small sink inside with water from an internal tank - this is not a very useful feature since you are doing all your cooking outside. You can sit inside if you are really desperate, but it is a long way from having a nice U-shaped dinette we are used to.

We hit the road in good time, and stopped after a short while at a major shopping mall to pick up groceries. Again, unlike with our camper, we had to be very careful not to over-buy things since we didn't have the storage space. We also had to consider that anything left over after the journey would have to be discarded. Being a rental we also had to consider everyday foodstuffs you would automatically keep in your truck camper - salt, sugar, BBQ sauce, matches, fire lighters, etc. I had prepared a list before arrival and it was worth doing that, or you could waste a lot of time stopping to buy bits and pieces as you found you were missing them.

The 78 series Land Cruiser is also called the Troop Carrier or "Troopy" due to its intended military / police role. This means it makes a very good overlanding base vehicle - since it is very simple and rugged. The diesel engine was a straight 6 4.2 litre naturally aspirated. It was incredibly underpowered, but also has legendary reliability and a look under the hood confirmed that unlike my own truck, this could like be fixed by mechanics in developing countries. It also came with plastic carpets and seats. Thankfully it did come with air conditioning, and I liked the fact that it had not just a fan control, but a separate control to adjust the temperature of the aircon.

The Troopy was fitted with a 9500lb winch, with tangled steel winch cable. It did include a tow / tree strap, but I couldn't see any gloves for handling the steel cable, shackles or instruction book - though my advice would be that if you need an instruction book to use a winch, you probably aren't experienced enough to be using one on a rental vehicle like this. If I was the rental company I would have considered removing the winches rather than have holiday-makers with no winching experience or training injure themselves attempting to use a powerful piece of equipment like this.

[image]

Finally out of the Johannesburg traffic it was nice to be on two-lane roads in the dry countryside:

[image]

We stopped for a cup of tea - a first chance for us to try the gas stove. It was pretty warm and a bit windy up here on the plains:

[image]

The Troopy is looking incredibly clean - it won't stay that way.

After a couple more hours we start seeing signs of the mountains in the distance. We are heading for the Drakensberg moutains that encircle the eastern end of the mountain kingdom of Lesotho:

[image]

I had originally intended to camp the first night, but after the vehicle pick-up, shopping and a long drive that seemed like a bad idea - turning up late and finding the campground full, struggling to work out how to use the camping equipment in the dark - it would have caused a stressful start to the trip. So instead I had searched for a lodge / B&B in the lovely little village of Clarens on the edge of the mountains.

I have had great experiences with lodges in South Africa and Namibia in the past - great hospitality, and this was no different. I like the little details (the owner has a pair of massive Great Danes):

[image]

We could park outside and have the French windows open:

[image]

[image]

[image]

This gave me a chance to sort out the vehicle before our first night's camping the following day, while Sally enjoyed a shower - she had to be careful though, solar water heating in the African summer doesn't stop heating the water when it gets to the temperature you are used to.

We walked up the dirt road into the village centre and found a nice restaurant where we could sit outside in the warm evening air. This was especially nice because it was February - and as most of you know, February up in the northern hemisphere wasn't quite suitable for outdoor dining.

[image]

Stay tuned for the Drakensberg Mountains...

sabconsulting

High Wycombe, UK

Senior Member

Joined: 10/10/2010

View Profile


Offline
Posted: 03/04/15 03:40pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Day 2: Sunday - Drakensberg

While waiting for breakfast I checked the camper again. It comes fitted with a 40 litre Engel fridge. This is a chest-style fridge and is legendary amongst overland travellers. It is a compressor fridge and has a thermostat that I left on 1.5 yesterday (it goes to something like 6). But overnight I was worried it was too warm, so set it to 3. That turned out to be a mistake as the thermometer showed this morning:

[image]

Checking the battery monitor showed it had nearly flattened the camper battery. Subsequently, leaving it on 1.5 over night turned out about right and only gently sipped from the camper battery. This camper doesn't have solar, but driving every day and running a very efficient fridge like this I was never again worried about battery use (the only other thing that uses battery power being the few LED lights and anything I plug into the cigarette lighter socket).

We have a traditional upright fridge freezer in our Shadow Cruiser. It is 140 litres capacity - so huge in comparison to this (and a much thirstier consumer of battery power, and nowhere near as powerful at cooling). I initially worried about this small 40 litre capacity. I needn't have - gravity came to my help. On my upright compressor fridge I cannot really fill it anywhere near capacity, or stuff will fall out when you open the fridge door. In this chest fridge you can keep cramming things in the gaps and of course nothing will fall out - as long as you can secure the lid. If I had a small pop-up truck camper which didn't have a fridge - I would now buy one of these (and the 40 litre one) instead of a regular camper fridge. The 40 litres was easily enough capacity for the two of us.

Heading out onto the roads it became evident it was Sunday:

[image]

People were walking miles in their smartest dresses or suit & tie to attend church. Children were in their smart school uniform. These people live in small single-room buildings, often circular with a straw or corrugated tin roof. People who didn't have much but took a pride in their appearance. Children waved at Sally, Sally waved at everyone, everyone waved back.

This is the other end of Africa in every way from Morocco. In South Africa locals with modest means were tremendously friendly and didn't just see you as a potential source of cash. Morocco was the opposite where everyone would see you as a source of money and be very pushy in their attempts to get that money out of you. In South Africa children waved, in Morocco they put their hands out begging for money or sweats or just threw stones.

Of course, the fact that South Africa has had a wealthy white section of population for a very long time may have an affect: to a bystander we looked like regular white South Africans, used to the country, where-as in Morocco we were clearly European tourists and fair game for exploitation.

This is Golden Gate Highlands National Park:

[image]

[image]

On a scenic loop road Sally had her first go driving the Land Cruiser. Of course she found it very easy compared to the truck camper because it is a lot narrower. Though she had a shock when she attempted to change into 3rd gear on the slightest of hills - where is the turbo? Our fully laden truck camper would not have noticed the hill with its 2.5 turbo engine, but the 4.2 non-turbo really didn't like hills, and not at 2000m+ altitude where the lack of a turbo really hurt it:

[image]

[image]

Driving into the town of Phuthaditjhaba on our way to the mountains. As with most South African towns every street corner is a magnet for minibuses driven like racing cars, competing for the next passenger. Thankfully the government has brought in a load of regulation of these minibuses since I first visited South Africa. Only a few years ago they were a ragged bunch of very dangerous looking vehicles. Now they are all shiny nearly-new Toyotas in standard livery.

[image]

This was why we were driving through that town - to get to a road leading to the mountains. Notice the expensive block paving, like you would have on your house drive? This toll road was owned and maintained by the luxury lodge at its end:

[image]

However, you can see the road diverges ahead. Left is nicely paved and heads for the lodge, right becomes a dirt road and the initial bit is in very poor condition - this is probably deliberate since the lodge clearly make extra pocket money by providing 4x4 trips to the trail head at the end of this road.

Also notice the car in front - the pick-up truck or "Bakkie" is extremely popular in South Africa, often seen with 6 guys in the back, either being driven to a job, or who have hitched a lift. The difference in South Africa is that you can buy micro-pickup trucks based on sub-compacts like the Ford Fiesta, together with the usual sized pickups sold throughout the world (a bit bigger than the old US compact pickups) - the pick-up that carries my camper is sold in South Africa (and most countries of the world in fact). I saw maybe 4 or 5 US trucks of the 'full size' class - a class which just doesn't really exist outside the Americas.

[image]

Look at all that graffiti - and the culprits are clearly so arrogant they are sitting around at the scene of their crimes:

[image]

Pulling onto the dirt road and switching into low ratio 4x4 I am impressed by the comfort and axle articulation of the Land Cruiser. Also, not having a large mass of truck camper sat high up swaying around really helps when on bad dirt roads. Typically you hit a really bad bit you have to crawl over at 10 km/h, then you are back onto a lovely bit of gravel road again:

[image]

From the car park at the end of the road we sign in with the guard and pay the hiking fee. This is 2500m altitude and we climb up to just under 3000m. Luckily we are pretty fit so don't really feel the altitude, but we also fail to feel the affect that thinning atmosphere has on the powerful African summer sun. We both end up with bad sun burn despite thinking we have taken sufficient precautions. Plus I have a bleeding head from hitting it on the catch that protrudes from the camper roof where the two rear doors latch.

[image]

Interestingly, maybe 2 km down the valley to Sally's left is where we will be camping tonight. So close as the crow flies, but several hours drive by road.

A few other people were also hiking. A couple of young women from the South African army were making a half-hearted attempt at hiking up the trail - they were better protected from the sun:

[image]

[image]

[image]

[image]

[image]

[image]

[image]

[image]

We would have liked to spend more time on the trail to follow it at least to the chain ladders and then ascend onto the plateau which becomes Lesotho. But we still had a lot of miles to do to get to our campground.

Despite being out of season this campground was fairly busy:

[image]

A couple of overland trucks were present - a local South African one and the one on the right an Austrian built Steyr owned by a Swiss couple. They had wanted to drive down, but the conflicts in northern Africa mean that is no longer feasible. So they shipped the truck and flew. They had been touring southern Africa for months.

We set up the camper for our first night of camping, including our first night of cooking outside:

[image]

Usefully it came with a spare propane cylinder with either a gas lamp attachment or a second burner attachment. The latter was invaluable because it meant we could heat two things at once. You can see the blue cylinder in the above photo.

The upper hatch above Sally's head is a cupboard containing cooking equipment, cutlery and cups - well sited for when cooking outside. As mentioned before the sink is not well sited, being inside the vehicle. We ended up using large bottles of water, and refilling them when we found a campground where the drinking water looked good (not this one - Sally reported the water was a "funny colour" so used it for tea only) - easier than keep going inside and running the tap - plus on a rental camper you don't know what quality of water someone has put in the camper tank before you.

The camper came with no electric hook-up, although most campgrounds in South Africa are wired for hook-up on every site. The camper had nothing that would take advantage of that.

The roof on the camper is raised on gas struts. You undo a couple of catches on the back and give it a gentle push. It hinges from the front unlike a pop-up truck camper.

Inside there is a second roof - this is the floor to the sleeping compartment. Initially this stays down, so you push it up, also on gas struts to give you standing headroom inside. A shorter flap is hinged from the back and you push that up as well. Once raised the interior looks like this:

[image]

You can see the smaller flap pushed upwards.

Also notice the location of the fridge on the right - against the smaller of the two rear doors. That smaller door is the one you open first and close last - it has the door handle and lock on it. But as we discovered the next morning, if you pull it closed from the inside when you go to bed - you have effectively locked yourself in the vehicle because the fridge blocks the door handle. Actually there is enough room to insert your hand, but the ratchet strap holding the fridge down prevents the door handle from being operated - after this night we were very careful to gently pull the door closed without it latching - I didn't feel we needed the security of locking the door given where we were camping.

When it is bed time you do not have the luxury of climbing up onto the over cab bed like a truck camper, where one person can go to bed while the other site in the dinette reading. Getting into bed means pulling the inner roof down (you can see the rail it rests on about level with Sally's eye height).

Once you have pulled that down, but left the small flap visible above up, you can crawl up through the gap the latter leaves into the bed space. And as you can see from the size of that flap, it is a pretty small gap.

Here is the area you are climbing into - big enough for 2 people to sleep in, but getting in and reversing yourself down into the bed would be very disruptive if one person went to bed and sleep before the second tried to get in:

[image]

Looking in the other direction you can see the open hatch I climbed through:

[image]

You can also see the 'windows'. These have an unzippable opaque cover, behind which is an unzippable fly-screen. They provide a lot of good ventilation. However, they provide next to no sound insulation, and in the African bush in the evening trying to get to sleep can be difficult - for some reason animals choose the evening to shout at each other, and I don't even think alcohol is involved.

Stay tuned for more Drakensberg (I'll add the next day tomorrow, because it is getting late here, so please check back tomorrow for more of the story).

bka0721

Republic of Colorado

Senior Member

Joined: 03/19/2008

View Profile



Posted: 03/04/15 04:01pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

It does not get any more fun that traveling along with you two and the terrain, villages and landscapes you discover along the way. Plus, I like flowers. Keep them coming, Steve!

b

Oldtymeflyr

Arapahoe Hills, CO

Senior Member

Joined: 04/18/2004

View Profile



Posted: 03/04/15 07:15pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Interesting. Thank you for the report.

Rick

Wheelholder

jacksonville, fl

Senior Member

Joined: 06/09/2008

View Profile



Good Sam RV Club Member

Offline
Posted: 03/04/15 09:34pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

As always the trip and narrative is interesting. I am looking forward to the rest of the story.


2008 Silverado crew cab Duramax/Allison
2008 Lance 830

Camper_Jeff_&_Kelli

Seattle

Senior Member

Joined: 04/04/2008

View Profile


Offline
Posted: 03/05/15 02:38am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Your away from home trip reports are always very interesting Steve. Looking forward to more. Hope Sally gets well soon.


Camper Jeff and Kelli's Blog!
CITAP1 Jeff's YouTube Channel
A CLOSED MOUTH GATHERS NO FEET!


silversand

Montreal

Senior Member

Joined: 09/12/2004

View Profile



Posted: 03/05/15 05:53am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Steve & Sally:

What an exciting trip, and spectacular scenery! Anxiously awaiting the news that Sally is home from treatment!

Glued to this thread,

Sand & Dunes

*Sally is a Kathy Reichs fan? Kathy lives in Montreal (and, in North Carolina), and works at Laboratoire des Sciences Judiciaires et de Médecine Légale; Dunes is a huge fan, too, and has read everything she's written (and has all her works in our home library)


Silver
2004 Chevy Silverado 2500HD 4x4 6.0L Ext/LB Tow Package 4L80E Michelin AT2s| Outfitter Caribou

Clarryhill

Midcoast Maine

Senior Member

Joined: 08/24/2009

View Profile



Good Sam RV Club Member


Posted: 03/05/15 06:58am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Great pics as always, Steve. Many thanks for inviting us along. Loved the comment re critters choosing to shout at each other in the African bush evening. Hope Sally's condition is not serious. Not good being on IV's and enduring hospital quisine. Our best to her.


2014 Ford F450 PSD
2017 Lance 1172

Reply to Topic  |  Subscribe  |  Print Topic  |  Post New Topic  | 
Page of 7  
Next

Open Roads Forum  >  Truck Campers

 > Trip report: Southern Africa
Search:   Advanced Search

Search only in Truck Campers


New posts No new posts
Closed, new posts Closed, no new posts
Moved, new posts Moved, no new posts

Adjust text size:




© 2021 CWI, Inc. © 2021 Good Sam Enterprises, LLC. All Rights Reserved.