This Week in Africa…Eastern/Western Capes, Garden Route and Beyond, South Africa (April/May 2019)

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At the southernmost point of Africa (Agulhas National Park)

After nearly two weeks in the beautiful Drakensberg region of South Africa (see previous post), Mathieu and I headed to the coast. Over the next nearly 3 weeks, we meandered through the Eastern and Western Cape provinces, including the Garden Route, visiting friends and stunning places along the way.   Continue reading

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This Week in Africa…The Drakensberg, South Africa (April 2019)

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Sunrise from Sentinel Peak Trail.

The Drakensberg is the name given to the eastern portion of the Great Escarpment, a geologic formation located in South Africa and Lesotho. The Drakensberg or “Mountains of Dragons” stretch for over 600 mi (1,000 km) and reach their greatest height at 11,424 ft (3,482 m) [1]. Needless to say, Mathieu and I did some hiking during the 12 days we spent in the mountains!  

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This Week in Africa…Kingdom of Eswatini (April 2019)

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At Emlembe Peak.

After our amazing visit to Kruger National Park (see previous post), Mathieu and I headed south. Since we were already so close, we decided on a whim to cross the border into the Kingdom of Eswatini (aka Swaziland). We spent 6 days exploring the western portion of this small, mountainous country from north to south.

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This Week in Africa…Kruger National Park, South Africa (April 2019)

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As soon as we got the paperwork for our new bakkie, Mathieu and I said farewell to our crew in Joburg. It was a bit hard to leave after we’d called this intriguing city home for a month (see previous post) but it was time to move on. So, away we went to Kruger National Park. Let the safari begin!!

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This Week in Africa…the bakkie formerly known as Becky (April 2019)

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Introducing the bakkie formerly known as Becky.

Say hello to our new 4×4, the bakkie formerly known as Becky. Cool right!

This bakkie (South African for pick-up) is exactly what we’d hoped to buy: a fully equipped Toyota 4×4 with a fridge, camping gear, including a rooftop tent, recovery gear (in case we get stuck in the mud or sand), and many extras. We’d been feeling a bit unlucky with our TRN situation (see previous post) but buying this 2000 Toyota Hilux made us feel as tho our luck had changed. But that feeling was short lived……

The day after we brought the bakkie home (Day 1), we took it to Andrew, a neighborhood mechanic, for basic maintenance (oil change, general check of the engine, brakes, etc…). Everything checked out fine. However, that night, as we drove the bakkie to the parking garage down the street, the battery and ABS (anti-lock braking system) indicator lights came on. Crap.

On Day 2, Andrew replaced the front brake pads, cleaned the rear brakes, and adjusted the hand brake in hopes it’d address the ABS light issue. It didn’t. Maybe the computer needed to be reset? Then, at the end of the day, after a short drive to test the brakes, I got this message from Mathieu: “something broken, probably the shaft.” Crap. “The shaft” turned out to be the right rear axle shaft. WTF!?! Thankfully, it’d happened on Andrew’s street, and with help from the neighbors, they’d pushed the bakkie back into Andrew’s yard. That night, we drank some wine and took deep breaths, reminding ourselves that while this turn of events felt very unlucky, especially just days after we’d bought the bakkie, we were lucky the axle broke here and not out in the bush somewhere.

Day 3 was Human Rights Day, a national day commemorating the sacrifices made in the struggle for democracy in South Africa. So the repairs would have to wait.

On Day 4, Mathieu went with Andrew to buy a new axle, bearings, seals, etc…, then to another shop to have the bearings installed, then to another shop to have the wheel dust cover welded. They then returned home and Andrew spent the rest of the day on the repair.  

At the end of Day 5, the axle repairs were complete. Yeah! However, the ABS light was still on. Maybe the computer needed to be reset?

On Day 6, Andrew took us to a battery shop nearby to deal with the battery indicator light. It turned out the regulator for the alternator needed to be replaced. Easy. And the battery light went off. Yeah!

On Day 7, we returned to Andrew to address some remaining issues. The hand brake was still a bit weak, the front brakes were making a strange noise, and the darn ABS light was still on. Andrew first dismantled the rear wheels and he and Mathieu went to a shop to have the wheels turned (aka skimmed). He then dismantled the front wheels and back they went to the shop to now turn the front wheels. By the end of the day, the brakes felt good and the ABS light went off and stayed off. Yeah! We were done!     

It’d been a stressful week of dealing with mechanical issues nearly everyday but now the bakkie formerly known as Becky is ready for a new African adventure, and a new name. After we’ve lived with our new truck for awhile and gotten a feel for it, we’ll give it a new name, one that is significant to us.

And, as of just last night, we finally have all our paperwork for the bakkie: the TRN that took weeks vs. days to get, the roadworthy inspection, the license and registration, and the new number plates. And to add to the good news, Becky’s previous owner, a fellow traveler, deducted some of the cost of the repairs from the selling price, which is such a righteous thing to do. And through all of this, Andrew, who has been a trustworthy mechanic, has now become a friend.       

So, we’re basking in the glow of our lucky stars and now ready to hit the road.

Stay tuned!

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With our mechanic/friend Andrew. 

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Ready to hit the road! 

This Week in Africa…Johannesburg, South Africa (March 2019)

Welcome to “This Week in Africa”! In this and upcoming episodes I’ll share our experiences in Africa in regular posts (weekly, every few weeks, or as time and wifi allow). Mathieu and I are starting in South Africa where we’ll buy a fully-equipped road-ready 4×4 and hit the road. After exploring South Africa, we’ll continue our road trip through southern and eastern Africa (and beyond?). For how long? Maybe 6 months, maybe more, maybe less. However long the journey, it promises to be an adventure. So please join us in Africa!

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The Joburg Crew.

This Week in Africa…Joburg.

We’ve now been in Johannesburg (“Joburg”) for one month. We planned to be here for about a week but it’s taken much longer than expected (weeks vs. days) to get our Traffic Registration Number, the document that allows foreigners to register a South African vehicle in their name. Apparently bureaucracy is bureaucracy no matter where you go. And, as we’ve been told repeatedly, “this is Africa.” So, while we may not have visited Joburg otherwise, we’re glad we did.

Click HERE to go directly to the slideshow or click “Continue reading” to read more abut our time in Joburg. Continue reading

Ma vie en France (My life in France)

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Breakfast with Mathieu at La Borie (aka home) in the Drôme Valley.

By now, I’ve lived in France for a total of just over one year (excluding my months-long visits to the US), and I recently realized that I’ve never written a post about my life here!

Click HERE to go directly to the slideshow [NEW FEATURE!] or click “Continue reading” for a brief summary of my life in this lovely country.  Continue reading

France: Les Alpes (July 25 to 31, 2018)

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Taking a “step into the void” Whoa.

A few months after motorcycling around Corsica (see previous post), it was time for another road trip. This time, Mathieu and I decided to escape the summer heat in the Drôme Valley and explore the Alps!! – the highest and most extensive mountain range in Europe, stretching approximately 750 mi (1,200 km) across eight countries: France, Switzerland, Italy, Monaco, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, and Slovenia [1]. 

Click HERE to go directly to the full photo album or click “Continue reading” to find out more about our 7-day adventure!

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France: Corsica – l’Ile de Beauté (Island of Beauty; May 12 to 20, 2018)

Last May, with the return of Spring to the Drome Valley (our home in France), it was time to enjoy the warmer weather and take a road trip. Mathieu and I packed the side and top boxes of his Triumph Tiger motorcycle with basic camping gear and some clothes, and drove about 3.5 hours to the coastal city of Nice. There, we loaded the motorcycle and ourselves onto the Moby Zaza, a overnight ferry adorned, oddly, with Looney Tunes characters (e.g., Tweety Bird, Wile E. Coyote) that took us to the island of Corsica (Corse in French).

Click HERE to go directly to the full photo album or click “Continue reading” to find out more about our 9-day moto adventure!

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USA: Back in the “Range of Light”; Trekking the Robinson Creek Trail (Sept 22 to 28, 2018)

During my 2017 visit to California, my friend Carrie and I hiked the John Muir Trail, spending 23 days backpacking through the Sierra Nevada mountains (see previous post). Being my favorite mountain range in the US, I was excited when my friend Samantha suggested we do a backpacking trip in the Sierras during my 2018 visit. This time, my trek in the “Range of Light” was in the Hoover Wilderness (north of Yosemite National Park in the Inyo and Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forests), an area of the Sierras I had not yet explored. 

Click HERE to go directly to the full photo album or click “Continue reading” to find out more about our 7-day hiking adventure!

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