Driving at Night in Zulu Land

May 12:001 Don’t watch the movie Zulu if you might be driving alone at night in Swaziland. We were warned and we didn’t intend for it to happen. It is to be a long day, 342 miles. Our rally organizers warned us to get to the hotel in Mbabane, the capitol of Swaziland before dark because ‘lighting is very bad in Swaziland.” Meaning what?

Fate conspired against us from the beginning. The rally cars were lined up at the first fuel stop. We were the third car in and the last car out. I am polite. Then our hood latch wouldn’t latch and, not wanting it to blow open and over the top of our car, I had to tie it down. More delay.

023We had started the day in South Africa and it was election day, which increased the number of  children, adults, cows and sheep to be in the middle of the road. The border crossing into Swaziland went as expected. Lines on both sides of the border, but no real problems, just delays.

Some relevant stats on my driving at night here: My eyes are 79 years old, my car 48, horsepower 50, mountains up to 6000 feet and the car loaded heavily with repair parts and luggage.

002So, now we are in Swaziland, slowly climbing mountains in the setting sun. Thinking we were the last car, we see friends Jenny and Greg from Australia beside the road in their broken Jag. (which they found on the internet and purchased in South Africa for the rally, pretty gutsy!) They wave us past meaning they can fix their problem. Now it is dark. Very dark. The Jag pulls in behind us. They do not pass so I think they are trying to help the old folks out. We stop at a fuel station and they pull in behind us. Jenny runs over, rally book in hand. “Where the hell are we?” she asks. Their rally computer has quit and the rally instructions totally depend on it. So they follow us. The blind leading the halt.

They finally get their smart phone to substitute for their computer and kindly take the lead. We are entering the large capital city and I am totally worn out and the headlights of the oncoming cars are blinding me and make it difficult to see the pedestrians in the road025.

The Jag and the VW make it in very late. Dinner has been postponed since so many cars were late. We don’t wait to eat but order room service and go straight to bed.

For me, this was the most exhausting day and I am very glad to have help from our good friends. This is what rallying is about, just like sailing. Stewball continues to be more reliable than I am. But it’s not fast climbing mountains. All of the rally cars are taking a beating from the rough roads and high speeds.  022

There are many repairs to be done at night. Our VW is earning the reputation for reliability. One tire puncture, one hood latch to tighten. For an engine that has been around the world, crossed the US four times and driven from NY to the Arctic Circle, I don’t think I could ask for better.

Keep your fingers crossed, I shouldn’t brag quite yet.


About ejhowle23

Authors and adventurers, participated in the World Race 2011, an automobile rally from New York to Paris, crossing three continents and 14,000 land miles. Following much the same route as the setting for our debut novel, The Long Road to Paris. This blog describes our own adventures and challenges. And now you can follow our Bahamas sailing adventure that provides the setting for our second novel, Night Watch. Our rally, the African Safari Challenge, crossed five countries in South Africa in May 2014 and in 2015 we participated in the second Trans-American rally this time from Nova Scotia to San Francisco. Spring of 2016 we travelled 28 days around Australia with friends from previous rallies and in the fall participated in our most exhausting rally through Argentina, Chili and Peru- the Rally of the Incas. We were awarded the Against All Odds award. We're still not sure if this was for us or our car. Stewball never broke down and we hardly did. We will soon take on Iceland as a self-drive tour and in the fall of 2017 we will participate in the Odyssey Italia and then back to Africa for a do-over (almost) of the Africa Safari Challenge.
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9 Responses to Driving at Night in Zulu Land

  1. IreneC says:

    Sending you good luck wishes that your repairs continue to be minor.

  2. Driving in the dark in Africa means really driving in the dark, but you made it! Your adventurous spirit is way younger than 79, if only your tired eyes would understand that 😉 Nice to read about your journey and travel through your eyes. I’m keeping my fingers for the two of you and Stewball. Enjoy every minute and take in the beautiful colors, sounds and scents of Africa!

  3. One thing I wonder about, since we are planning a trip to Africa in the fall. How do you get internet every day to update your blog? Wifi in hotels? Or did you arrange to have internet on your phone for the duration of this trip? No hurries, if you’re too busy spotting elephants, no answer necessary 🙂

    • ejhowle23 says:

      Lets talk when we get back. We can make some suggetions. Wifi is available at most hotels, but if you travel to into the bush to camps to go on Safari drives to photo animals, you may not have any. Again, depends on where you are.

  4. Lindile at Cape Grace hotel says:

    Keep it up. Guys and just enjoy I am crossing my fingers for you

  5. TBC says:

    If it were Botswana, I’d almost expect you to run into Mma Precious Ramotswe with your descriptions of the people and way of life in Africa. Keep Stewball and yourselves safe!

  6. Milford says:

    Enjoying your updates, makes me feel as if I’m riding in the back seat with the spare parts.

  7. FOREST HUNTER says:

    Keep on Truckin’! Thanks for the vicarious adventure.

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