African Birthday Celebration


IMG_3752[1]Oct. 26, 2017: Ed turned 83 today. I had arranged for a cake for the evening meal at Cathedral Peak but how the rest of the day went was not of my making.  We left our hotel in the morning for a coffee break at the Chocolat Coffee house in Poelanie. This is a lovely spot. I took this picture in the garden to mark this special day. IMG_3730[1]  We had a “passage control”, we had to stop to get our time cards stamped.

Without my knowledge, some of our best rally friends, Marco and Claudia found candles somewhere on the route and bought a tiny (wonderful) chocolate cake and surprised Ed. A spontaneous Happy Birthday sung by all the rally teams in attendance, accompanied their  presentation.  Ed was surprised as I was and I began to wonder if the evening cake had turned into a daytime one. IMG_3735[1]

We arrived at Cathedral Peak Hotel and I learned the cake was on order so I had to tell Ed, he had to stay to the end of the dinner. Often we leave before dessert.  As the dinner ended, Fred (our noble leader) stood behind Ed’s chair and announced his birthday. In truth, everyone already knew and many had congratulated him during the day. Then in only a style we had encountered in Africa, the kitchen staff present his cake along with African music and dance. IMG_3749[1]This was not the end. Our entire group stood and sang Happy Birthday to Ed and presented him with an original drawing which will hang in our house along with other memories of Africa. I will have to add a photo of the painting later as it is not in our room at Phinda Game Reserve where we are now.

More from the road,

J

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Okavanga Delta


Oct. 21. We are back from two days in the Okavango Delta. About the only way in to this  unique delta in a land-locked country is by small plane. So, that’s what we did. We stayed at three different camps, luxury tents with great food, wonderful atmosphere, friendly hosts and lots of animals. The only thing missing was air conditioning and with temperatures near 100 degrees F, that was missed.

We enjoyed the silence of the nights with only occasional hippo grunts and unusual bird songs to wake us in the mornings.

Our camp, Xakanaxa, had a resident Hippo named Oskar who visited every evening and early morning. He is a wild animal and not be approached so we had a guard who accompanied us to dinner and back.

We had options for three safari rides, and one boat safari. I chose to participate in two rides and the boat rids. We saw elephants, giraffes, kudo, buffalo, zebras, impala, a leopard (with its recent kill), hippos, rhinos, and even the very rare African wild dogs. I’m only missing a lion, but we have another opportunity to see one later at a game lodge in S. Africa. I won’t post all my photos, but a few to give you the flavor of this unique area.

We are back in Kasane for one night then on to Zimbabwe and Victoria Falls. I am not looking forward to this border crossing. Patience is the word for the day.

J

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Our Last Smile for the Day


031Day 5: Sossusviel to Swakopmund.

You may not want to read this blog, but I have to write it. This day started out to be different, but ended up worse. You may have read that we are driving a rental car because our car was stolen the week before the rally began. So, we have a backseat and agreed to take along Gary and Debbie after their Ferrari broke down. It felt good to make this offer but Gary is an assertive backseat driver. Enough said about that because this was not the real problem.

Our first metal section began at the Tropic of Capricorn sign. In case you don’t know, a metal section involves trying to meet, or surpass the set speed for a given distance. It is usually on a public road and involves quite fast, precise driving. While we taking photos and  waiting to begin, the Ford that left two minutes ahead of us, came roaring back and our doctor, Delle, who was serving as a marshal jumped into the support vehicle. It was clear there had been an accident. Because I have some medical training, I offered to go along. The driver, Jan, in the 1965 Mercedes, 230SL had lost control and the car had flipped over. Strange things happen. There was a Safari van behind the Mercedes and there was a doctor with that group. By the time Delle and I arrived, they had already gotten Dana and Jan out of the car and were performing artificial respiration on Jan. Jan had a severe head injury and needed all our doctor’s attention. I attended Dana, his wife, who had been placed in the back of another vehicle and appeared to be in shock. Her pupils were pinpoint, her extremities cold. Not knowing the extent of her injuries, I did my best to keep her engaged and focused. I didn’t know what I else I could do, but I felt she should not be alone since she knew Jan had been seriously injured and did not know whether he would survive. I was there when Doctor Delle told Dana that Jan died. In my head, I could only imagine my own grief if this had been Ed and me but this was not our time, it was about Dana.

I don’t know how she held herself together but somehow she did. She wanted to see Jan before they took her to the hospital. He was already in a body bag and could not be moved until the police arrived.  Watching Dana impacted on my emotions is so many ways. I don’t know if I could have unzipped that bag and stroked the man I had shared so much of my life with and maintained any kind of composure. Dana is a strong, but heartbroken woman.

We are all in shock. The rally part of the day was cancelled and we all drove to our destination for the night. (We dropped off our passengers at the airport where they had a rental car waiting.) There was no group dinner planned for that night and that was probably a good thing. The mood was sober and I think each couple just needed to be alone that evening. Then there are the practicalities of continuing the rally. The metal sections will be cancelled for the next several days and alternate routes given. We will not drive another metal section. Even when we have driven these sections in the past, we don’t drive competitively; we just drive the route at a speed we are comfortable with. I don’t know what others will do.

A rally group becomes a family and for everyone, it feels like a family member has died. I won’t get over this quickly. It keeps coming back. I am sure everyone feels this too.

I will have happier things to post.

J

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And The Rally Hasn’t Even Begun


table mountainOct. 6, 2017. We are in Cape Town, a vibrant city set against the backdrop of Table Mountain.

The African Safari Challenge rally begins on Monday, Oct. 9, however our adventure began last week while we were (supposedly) relaxing in Paris following the Odyssey Italia rally.  I received an email which began, ” I come bearing some very upsetting news…” It was from the young man, D. who prepared the 1968 Audi 100 that we had purchased in S. Africa for the rally.

He had been carjacked at gun point and the car had been stolen! audi 100

(The car has now been recovered by the police but is impounded until some undisclosed date.) We learned all the scary details over lunch with D yesterday.

To backtrack, it is easy to say that our heads were not in Paris and  we spent the next few days after that email considering-and eliminating options, including the possibility of having our 67 Beetle, Stewball, air-shipped to Cape Town. That one was quickly eliminated when the we were presented with the cost.

After one generous offer to drive a rally friend’s 1957 Bentley, and another offer from D to drive his 1975 Beetle, we decided to rent a car for the rally. The compensation is we will ride in air-conditioned comfort.

IMG_3594I have decided if I ever have to go into witness protection, Cape Town would be right up there with my choice of places to hide out. Except now, I can’t do that since I’ve announced it on WordPress. The waterfront here is always full of music and FullSizeRender (22)entertainment. the only negative is the long overnight flights to get here.

Tomorrow we set off, destination, Clanwilliam.

 

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On to Sardina


IMG_3463Day 4-5: We spent three nights at the hotel in Ajaccio right on the beach. Great accommodations. Our drives in Corsica have been very scenic but as we departed on day 5 we headed by ferry to Sardinia from the Porto Vecchio. IMG_3505

This was a short ferry ride and we finished the day at Le Dune resort. We had a day off here and the best dinner we have had so far. Great food, beautiful presentation. No one was disappointed.

Day 7: 006Back on the road again. We are always glad to be moving. Many competitors need the day off to work on their cars. I use our day to do laundry (in the sink) and catch up on email. Everyday brings more scenic roads and very ancient architecture.

This is 004 Castelsardo. It was founded in the twelfth century but now is an important commercial center with narrow winding streets. I was worried about driving-rather worried about stopping- on the narrow, uphill streets so I made Ed drive. Turns out, out route took us around this steep section.

There was another highlight this day-at least for some. We had the opportunity to drive a race circuit in Mores. We never planned to drive it, but I rode with Marco Halter, a rally friend and race circuit fanatic. When asked if I had fun, I could only say it was exhilarating. He drove 100 mph in a definitely non-stock 1957 VW Beetle! The only mishap was at the end, his fan belt had come off. No damage to the car. IMG_3515

 

 

Day 8: The highlight this day was not getting lost. We did that yesterday afternoon, however we did get in on time. I don’t have a working GPS as backup, so we certainly had some tense time until we finally got back on track. The most interesting stop today was in Loelle at the site of a large Nuraghe. I know, what is that? well these are typical Sardinian stone structures from prehistoric Sardinian cultures. They are huge. I must look up what the significance was, but they look like truncated conical towers resembling a medieval tower. Sort of. IMG_3517

 

 

IMG_3527We arrived at the Colonna Resort Hotel for another day off. When we depart tomorrow, (day 10) we will take another overnight ferry to Tuscany, the part of Italy where we will finish this rally

More from the road,

J

 

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Odyssey Italia


Sept. 16: We are five days into this rally and I have yet to find the time to blog. If I don’t start soon, it will be over before I begin. So, this will be a bit of a summary, hitting the highlights for us. I’m not sure any of this will be important to other competitors.

We flew into Nice a day early to begin the arduous process of getting over jet lag. Our hotel in San Remo, Italy can only be described as Shabby Chic.IMG_3419 I’m convinced it had its hay-day in the 1930s. It’s the kind of place you’d expect to see Woody Allen in the lobby setting up to film his next movie. We had a great corner room overlooking the Mediterranean. Best yet, FullSizeRender (21)Stewball was parked in front waiting for us. The most difficult thing was finding and paying for fuel. We were on empty and needed a fuel stop very close to the hotel.  Found one close by, then had to work out the self-pay system in Italian.

Day 1: From San Remo to MOBY ferry to Corscia: A beautiful drive on winding narrow mountain roads. We had no clue this would be the norm. 008We had a great lunch in a charming restaurant with another beautiful view. I’ll try not to use the word beautiful too often, but this part of the world is spectacular and our weather has cooperated. Then there are the small villages, each with at least one church.

We spent the night on a ferry. Can’t say anyone slept well, at least not anyone we talk to. Dinner was a disappointment, but more so was the sleeping arrangement. We had bunk-beds. I had the top until early in the morning when we decided to both try the bottom bunk. I know we have a repeat with another ferry from Sardinia to the mainland, but we will see if there is an option (upgrade) to a cabin with a double berth. It’s worth the try.

Day 2: 034Now in Corscia, a part of France, and I can read the road signs. I have yet to catch on to Italian road signs, but I am learning some new British English. I now know what a “lay-by” is. Think pull-off or rest area. I’m also learning some Corsican road terms. A Main Road can be defined as usually having two lanes (one each way) and may a center line and guard-rails. But don’t count on it. Roads in general have no shoulders and are shared by bikers, hikers and tourist taking photos. It’s a challenge since so far all the roads wind around and up and down. Hard on the shoulders since Stewball (and most of the other cars) have no power steering.

Day 3: 001We are at the same hotel for three nights right in the Mediterranean. Almost like having a rest day. No packing up luggage each morning. Just grab the road book and time card and go. Just so you don’t think this is a tour, we do have Regularities each day. Three usually. For you non-rally readers, a regularity is a precision driving section. You are given a speed table that tells you how fast you are to drive some unknown distance. Sometimes the speed changes at a given point-say in 2 kms and then again at 5.6 km. You don’t know where the checkpoint will be so the goal is to come as close to the correct average speed as possible at all times, taking into account, turns, bikers, hikers and traffic. Now the speed table is critical. But on this day, I forgot to pick up the speed table. When we got to the start of the regularity, I was driving, and I told Ed we just had to wing-it since I had no idea how fast I was to drive. Well, it hardly gets better than this, I missed the precise time by 1 second! Never on these events have we done this well.

The second thing of note today was driving through the Callanches de Piana. This is a World Heritage Site and has magnificent show of rock peaks, needles and redCallanches de Piana granite cliffs. Unknown to us, it clearly contains the Heart of Corsica. Do you see it?

That’s all for now. See you on the road.

J

 

 

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Snaefellsnes Peninsula


July 3: 002Our last long day on the road. When we started out,  I felt like we were on a road rally, which by the way I think Iceland would be a great place to rally, because we had a discrepancy between our map and the GPS (again). The only obstacle for a rally would be the lack of hotels for a big group.  The first part of the day was really not so interesting to us. We were in farm land with mountains in the background. Much like the western states in the US. However, the setting became more stunning as we drove along. Unfortunately, the weather and roads deteriorated. We drove wet, sometimes muddy gravel much of the way on route 54 with plenty of one lane bridges. (I washed the car twice today!)012

 

 

008We made a stop at Glaumbaer at a site which had been a farm for 900 years and is now a heritage museum. Many of the original sod houses and buildings have 007been restored to their original state.

 

 

We ate lunch in a small village along with the locals. Fish of course. I think it was Arctic Char and very fresh. 011

 

 

 

 

Before reaching our hotel, we drove 015through the Snaefellsjokull National Park with unusual landforms and lava fields. It is the oldest national park in Iceland and named for the 4446 m tall stratovolcano and glacier. It is popular with the paranormal community and in 1993 hundreds of UFO enthusiasts gathered in the  hopes of greeting alien visitors. They were disappointed.  We only made one stop because of weather but are lots of things to see here if you have the time.

Our hotel, Budir is the most elegant one on our trip. It is set on an isolated point on the Snaefrellsnes peninsula. 020023This is the view from the lounge. Dinner was excellent and well presented in a dining room looking over the water. Can’t say enough about this stop.

I must add one thing that in all our travels seems to be unique to Iceland. Each morning the breakfast buffet is complete with a bottle of Icelandic cod liver oil! 008

 

 

 

 

 

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