Itinerary – Cape Town to Mabuasehube, Kgalagadi

Distance: 3500km Duration: 15 days Countries: 3

IMG_6738I have decided to do a series on some of our itineraries.  When you start planning your trips, it can be a little overwhelming knowing where to start.  Where do you overnight?  What is a good distance to travel with kids? What is a realistic travel time vs what the Garmin says? (FYI -it always takes longer) 

IMG_6461Simon and I tend to be a bit chilled when it comes to planning (read VERY), but we have very organized friends.  We like to ‘wing it’, but when travelling into Africa that is not always the best option, especially with little kids.  So it is really helpful to have friends who like to plot and plan.  One of these useful sort of friends to have is our neighbour, Mike.  He loves to spend hours researching various routes, alternative and less travelled options etc.  We have been to some incredible places because he saw something on google Earth and then traced it and plotted and planned.

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To Drive is the Holiday

Before our Kgalagadi trip, Simon and I had done the Okavango and various others, but always without kids.  The drives to the beginning of our adventure destination were generally loooooong, and the thought of being in the car for that duration with our young children was frankly terrifying.  But we have come to realise that this is because the drive for us was a means of getting to a destination.  Mike and his wife Georgie have taught us differently.  They took us on our first family overlanding trip when Jesse was 5 and Olivia was 3 , showing us that these long journeys are possible with kids. They changed our mindset; the drive is the holiday.   The distances they suggested were shorter, which meant that you could stop along the way and if the kids needed time, you had it.

IMG_6838Back to the Useful Friends

Back to the reason these organised friends are so useful, they are very detailed.  And with being so detailed comes very detailed trip itineraries with time lines etc.  I thought it was overkill to start, but it really helps with planning your days, lunch stops and so on.  Where Mike and I differ is that he can’t stay in one spot for too long.  I would recommend a 2 night stay more often and subsequently we have compromised on trips since this first one.So here is the first overlanding trip we did as a family to the Kgalagadi.  You can then get an idea of the distances we travelled, where we stopped and then use it as a guide to start your own adventure planning.

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Itinerary Notes

A special thanks to Mike Borgstrom whose itinerary this is.

Vryburg – DO NOT use the community campsite (unless it has had a revamp) That experience now goes down as one of the ‘remember when’s’, which is great story telling now but not so much fun to experience at the time

Route – If going into the Botswana side of Kgalagadi, I would do the trip the other way round. So enter Kgalagadi either at TweeRivieren or Namibia and then head through to Botswana and out McCarthy’s. Reason being is that the Botswana side is so wild, so when you get to the SA side it is much tamer and feels a bit of a let down.

Booking – The SA side books up so quickly and that is why we had to do our trip a bit higgledy piggledy. We had to take the bookings we could for Nossob and Mata-Mata and then work the trip around that.

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I hope that it helps with your planning and if you need any advice or have a question, please feel free to send it our way.

Lots of love

Simon and Tammy

Budgeting for Ireland – food and travel

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Cliffs of Moher

Our 3 1/2 weeks in Irelands are coming to an end as we fly out to Munich tomorrow.  I don’t think that there has been a day that we haven’t loved.  This country and its people have blown our minds.  From its incredible beauty and history that is everywhere to the kindness that has been shown to us from every person that we have come into contact with.  In our 23 days here, travelling 3000 km, we don’t feel like we even touched sides with what there is to see but here are some of our tips and suggestions to travelling as a family on a very tight budget in Ireland and things we found were unexpected costs.

Car Hire

Get a bigger car than you think you will need

As a family, it is preferable to have your own transport to get around especially if you want to be outside of the main cities.  We underestimated our luggage to boot (trunk) space.  I had booked a petrol polo and we had to upgrade to a Golf 1.6.  Being 4 in the family and travelling for 4 months, we have packed extremely lightly.  We have 3 medium suitcases for all 4 of us and each of us have a day backpack.  In these bags are 1 terms worth of school work as well as 3 sleeping bags and then our clothes….I think that is pretty darn impressive!  We only JUST fitted our bags in and when we did the food shop it was extremely tight.  Make sure to use the wheel well as there is an amazing amount of space there.  We stored most of our groceries in that area.

Go for Diesel

I had booked a petrol car and when we upgraded the agent suggested we change to diesel.  Diesel is cheaper in Ireland and you also get more kilometres to your tank.  We managed to get just under 1000ks per 50 liter tank.  We used 3 tanks for our entire trip so our fuel cost was around 195 Euros for 3 weeks.

Travel time and Distances

We had grossly underestimated the time it takes to travel anywhere compared to the distances you are travelling.  Everything takes MUCH longer than you would expect.  We weren’t on the highways much as we were doing as much of the coastal and village areas as we could.  This means that you are on tiny lanes a lot of the time and they take a lot longer.  Therefore a general rule of thumb is that it will take an hour to do roughly 50km.  Also, there is so much to see wherever you go and being on holiday, you will stop to take a pic and appreciate, which adds even more time to the above.  So we spent a lot more time getting places than we expected and were really grateful for having over 3 weeks here.

So if you have less time, rather stick to a smaller area as it is really stressful suddenly trying to cover ground in order to tic off the big attractions.

Money spent on transport

R2,750 = 175 Euro – 3 tanks and we covered nearly 3,000kms

R6,150 = 390 Euro – 3 weeks car hire through dollar

Car insurance is an extra cost.  You will have to choose what is best.  We went for full comprehensive which added a whack on over and above our rental, but the lanes are very small and we had quite a few close calls.  It was a once off charge when we fetched the vehicle.  The other option is that they hold 1,800Euro deposit on your credit card that you get refunded but if you have an accident, scratch or dent you don’t get that back….which freaked us out.  So insurance is really your own personal call.

Food Budgeting

Money Spent on Food in 23 days

R6,400.00 = 405 Euro – Groceries bought over 22 days at supermarkets for a family of 4.

R1,660.00 = 105 Euro – Eating out twice for lunch, 1 breakfast, 1 afternoon tea and cake

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The pretty town of Kinsale

Eating out is expensive.  Due to travelling on the South African Rand, our exchange rate is terrible(Rand16 to Euro1), and also because we are travelling for so long we really have to be careful and watch our budget.  We had booked self-catering places through AirBnB, so we rather cooked at home in the evenings.  Yes, I would have loved to not have to cook, but when you are looking at a minimum of 10Euro per person for the cheapest meal option, eating out it is not viable as a family of 4 for this length of time.  So we shopped and cooked and this kept the cost down hugely!  And we ate well too and had treats etc.  Groceries and especially meat are cheaper than back home in South Africa.

So when we picked up our car we went to the supermarket on our way out of Dublin, we bought all the basics (and put them in the wheel well ;).  Also, due to not being very hot, when we moved from place to place food didn’t ever spoil and we didn’t have a cooler bag for our milk, yogurt and cheese etc.

Supermarkets for the win

img_7643We found the larger supermarkets were really great, especially Lidl and Supervalu.  If we had a choice, we would go to a Lidl as the prices were better and they had amazing specials.  Also, if you drink wine, it is very expensive in Ireland as they have a very high alcohol tax.  Lidl had the best prices for wine by far!!!!  It was nearly half the price of anywhere else.  We found that supermarkets were very accessible and we could pop past one at least somewhere along our daily route.  Thank goodness for google maps 🙂

Picnic lunches

Out of our 23 days on the road we have picnicked for for roughly 20 of them.  Simon and I were just discussing that doing this took us to some amazing places.  Being out and about, instead of staying in the town to eat, we would drive to the local park, find a stunning forest or go to a pretty beach or eat at the walls of a ruin.  This made us see things that we probably would have missed staying to eat in town.

Every day we would just grab our picnic bag (a cheap shopping bag) and pop in our cheese, salami, mayo, tomatoes and then go past a supermarket or petrol station (a lot of them have good bakeries) and buy yummy baguettes.  This also meant that whenever the kids suddenly lost the will to live due to hunger we could literally eat before we got hangry.

If you are going to picnic, a few things we bought which makes it easier

Utensils – we went to the cheap Dollarz store and bought a set of plastic Knives and Forks set and a little sharp Knife

  • Pencil case – we used this to keep all the utensils in and the kids got them on Emirates
  • Tupperware – bought a cheap Tupperware to put boiled eggs in or cheese etc
  • Kikoi/lightweight towel – made it easier to setup/sit on and we kept one in our backpack

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I will post a few more of our experiences in Ireland.  We are in the middle of our 4 month trip around Europe, so writing is secondary to doing school with Jesse and Livi, keeping in touch with our business at home and being present in the day.

Lots of love

#familyonamissiontoseeireland

Off to Europe – Italy

Helping with Camps in Italy

For the last 5 weeks, our little South African family of 4 have been in Italy at my aunts farm just outside of Rome helping her with her summer camps.  For the last 19 years my aunt Sara has run camps for kids between 8-11 years old, giving them 6 days of amazing farm fun.  They camp in tents, walk rivers, ride tractors, learn to ride horses, spend a night at an Etruscan Antiquities Center, and in general have good clean outdoors fun.  She has 16 kids at a time and do 3 camps in a row between the months of June and July

The grounds that the camps are held on are amazing.  The castello has been in my uncles family for over 200 years and if I remember correctly was built between the 11th-15th century and is situated just 60km from Rome.  On their amazing property Etruscan tombs have been found which date back over 2500 years along with an old Roman road.  I spent a wonderful summer there when I was 11 and have been back many times over the years and it never fails to amaze and is the most magical place, especially as a child.

How does this tie in with us?

15 years ago Simon and I came and  helped with the camps, and this year my aunt didn’t have anyone to assist her.  So we got chatting and decided to take the opportunity to come over and help her and give our kids a different experience and a chance to learn and immerse themselves in a different culture and interact with kids from another country.  We have then further taken the opportunity to stay longer and travel Europe and Ireland for the next three months.  So we have traded in our 4×4 and overland trailer for aeroplanes and suitcases and some new and amazing family adventures.  We have rented out our house for 6 months to help fund this amazing trip, friends have kindly taken our beloved animals (thanks Elaine and Winks) and Simons fabulous cousin is helping to look after our business back home (thanks Bev).

The last 5 weeks in Italy

I think we are still recovering! We arrived early June and had 10 days to see family, go into Rome for a few days and play tourist, and then setup the camp and get ready for the kids.

Looking after 16 kids plus your own 2 is hard work.  Throw in the fact that Italian kids go to bed late……very late, and you have exceptionally long days!!!  We would start getting the kids into their tents around 10pm (which they thought was way too early), and they then woke up just after 7am.  I don’t know how they function!  It must be years of training.

The language barrier is also quite difficult and exhausting.  Our Italian is pretty broken and majority of their English isn’t great, but there was always one little translator who was an angel.  So you have hard work and looooong days and it is exceptionally hot too.  All that aside, the experience was great though but I think I will be happy not to be sleeping in a tent for the next while.

We had nightly joys of the most ginormous toads waking kids, a cat that would come into camp around 2am and then ‘hunt’ our tent straps, the rooster that thought 3am was a good time to crow, Antsy the donkey hee-hawed at around 5am, kids that had sweets in their tents (when they weren’t allowed) and then climbing into bed and finding ants had invaded, the nightly hunting sessions for grasshoppers, caterpillars an any other insect that freaked them out due to the fact that they hadn’t zipped their tents shut, even though we had told them a million times and the list goes on and on…..but hey, it makes for great memories.

How did the kids handle?

Jesse and Olivia participated in the first camp completely as part of the group of kids as we only had 12 the first week.  The second two weeks they assisted us as well as participated where possible as there were 16 kids each week, so the camp was full.   It wasn’t always easy for them and nor for us, as they got the dregs of our patience and our time due to the fact that we were working and looking after the other kids was our priority.  But they were troopers and learnt to be a bit more self sufficient.

  And now…

Our family journey begins in earnest!  We packed up a few days ago and caught our first flight en route to Dublin.  We will be spending the next 3 1/2 weeks exploring the green isle.  We have rented a car, booked airbnb’s and have no plans further than that.  We will also have to start our term of homeschooling this week, which will be something new.  The kids school has been incredibly supportive.  We are missing the whole of the 3rd term, but will do our best to keep up with Maths and English, after that this journey is the most incredible education they can receive.

After Ireland, we are heading to Germany to cycle the Rheine and then renting a camper van where our no plans journey continues.  We will be heading back to South Africa at the end of September.

So come along for our journey.  I will endeavour to post whenever possible, but follow Instagram an our Facebook as that is more of the day to day

lots of love

the van Nierop family – Simon, Tammy, Jesse and Olivia

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Desserts on the fire – Malva Pudding

We left Cape Town late so couldn’t make it to the Karoo and found this beautiful spot in Ceres called Petervale farm.  A magical spot for kids!

Who says that all you can have while camping in remote beautiful places is chocolate or toasted marshmallows? Both are a winner, but sometimes there is nothing better than a yummy hot pudding.  I am by no means a chef or cook extraordinaire but the reason I do these cooking posts, and pretty much all our camping posts, is to hopefully inspire.  There is so much more that can be done than what we may have experienced that one really bad camping trip.  So with all my blogs, I hope to show you that the average family, like us, can do some amazing things.  And that camping doesn’t mean limitations to what we eat either.  That you don’t have to be a whiz, but you can do some delicious simple meals and puddings.  So this brings me to this post.

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En route to the Tankwa we found Bushman painting just off the road

One of my favorites is malva pudding. It is a true South African winner of all things yummy, gooey and tasty. Think hot sticky toffee pudding but creamier. So I got to thinking after baking bread (beer bread recipe) and apple crumble on the fire (crumble recipe), why not other puddings? It’s creature comforts like these that can just make your trip feel a little bit like home and bring you that comfort.

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So on our last trip to the Tankwa Karoo, I roped in my friend Wendy to assist with my first attempt at Malva Pudding on the fire. She is a cook extraordinaire, so always good to have someone like that as your sidekick. It was pretty chaotic with trying to braai dinner and keep hungry kids at bay. It is not a great pudding to do if you are setting up camp due to having quite a few elements to oversee.  It would work better if you have time, so a spot where you are in camp for a few hours before dinner would be ideal and also when someone else will be overseeing the dinner.

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At the top of the Ganaga Pass in the Tankwa Karoo National Park

What you will need:

A fire with lots of coals

This is because it will need 45-60mins on the fire and you need to rotate coals. Also helpful to heat some rocks in the fire that you can put them around the side of the pot furthest from the fire to heat up the sides of the pot.  Also have a few smaller stones so that the pot is slightly off the coals which helps to prevent ‘hotspots’ and burning.

You will need a few slightly higher stones to rest your pot on.  Be careful to only put a few coals underneath – you will need less than you think.

A dish that can go on the fire

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When cooking on the fire a flat bottomed cast iron pot is pretty ideal.  They are very heavy, so not always the most ideal things to take along.  We always take our cast iron bread pot as it isn’t too big and our flat bottomed aluminium pot which works as my larger dish for rice, pasta etc.  So far I have found that cast iron is definitely the best way to go on the fire.

For this attempt the cast iron bread pot was too small, so I used our aluminium flat based pot.  It gets hot a lot quicker, so you have to watch the coals and keep rotating it regularly.  It is also a lot thinner, so can tend to burn very easily.

Your favorite Malva Pudding Recipe

I use one a friend of mine suggested but I wasn’t going to type it all out, so here is one I found if you need one (recipe link)


INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup castor sugar
  • 2 eggs (room temp)
  • 1 tablespoon smooth apricot jam
  • 1 ¼ cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon bicarb of soda (5ml)
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter (30ml)
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar (15ml)
  • 125ml milk

The Sauce

  • 250ml cream
  • 125ml butter
  • 125ml sugar
  • 125ml water

INSTRUCTIONS

Set oven to 190°C

  1. Beat castor sugar and eggs until fluffy then beat in the jam until a creamy consistency
  2. Sift dry ingredients into separate bowl.
  3. Melt butter in a small pot on a medium heat and add the vinegar and milk
  4. Now add the above mixture (butter, milk, eggs) to the sifted ingredients and mix well. Now add the eggs mixture and combine well.
  5. Pour into an ovenproof casserole dish that takes about 2 liters.
  6. Bake at 190°C for 45 mins until the top is nicely browned.
  7. Melt all the sauce ingredients together in a small pot over a medium heat and pour over the pudding before serving, preferably while it’s still hot.
  8. Serve it with ice-cream or custard or both.

Making and Mixing

Camping brings its limitations on what you can take along.  So a large mixing bowl and whisks and various measuring cups aren’t exactly top priorities. img_1322

I generally keep a 125ml measuring cup and a rubber whisk in my camping kit.  Ironically somehow my whisk had grown wings and disappeared, which was almost an epic fail as I hadn’t checked till we started prepping.  Nothing worse than lumpy mixture…eugh!  And it is not like shops are right around the corner either. For your mixing bowl, you can use your general cooking pot to mix if you don’t have space for a plastic one.  Wendy was a she-Gyver (a better version of McGuyver) though and we used her shake mixer which worked a charm. This trip was only a week away, so we had more space in the trailer which enabled me to bring along my little scale to make my life easier.

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Another staple I now take along is baking paper.  There will invariable be a spot or two that gets a bit burned, whether it be with bread, potato bake or your pudding.  And cleaning these pots can be a pain, especially if you have limited water.  So lining with baking paper make a messy job so much easier to deal with.

Side note: if you crunch the baking paper up into a ball before using it to line whatever dish, it is then so much easier to manage.  You can then fit it in to the edges etc and it doesn’t keep curling out of the dish  🙂

Ready, set and cook

Your batter is prepared, your coals are ready and your dish is lined.   Pour your batter into your pot and pop it on your small stones over some coals near the fire.  If you have some larger warm rocks, put those on the outside and then pop some coals on the lid.  You will need to monitor and change out the coals underneath and on top and rotate the pot so that alternating sides are near the fire.  Again, you need far fewer coals underneath than you think.  You can always add more heat as you go rather than starting too hot.  It will take roughly an hour…well mine did.  Don’t forget to prep the sauce so you don’t have to scramble when it comes off the fire.

A great time to put it on is just before you start braaing.  It will then be ready after supper so that when you finish eating dinner you can take it off the fire and pour on the sauce, put the lid back on and eat when ready.

Eat and Enjoy!!!!

I hope you are in a beautiful place with an amazing view and fabulous company and that this brings a little bit of home with you.

Good luck and let me know if there are any other amazing recipes that are easy and yummy that can be done on the fire.

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The kids were just SLIGHTLY stoked to have pudding while camping

This recipe and the Breakfast in the Bush were cooked on our trip to the Tankwa National Park.  A truly incredible place with limited to no cell reception, beautiful vistas and stars that feel like they are right within reach.  I can’t recommend it enough.  We bush camped for a night and felt humbled by the beauty that surrounded us.

I hope you experience God’s beauty and majesty this year while adventuring and exploring this amazing place we get to call home.

Some pics from the Tankwa xxx

 

 

 

Breakfast in the Bush – yummy eggs

Bullets and Beans

Last month at the amazing Desert Knights Mountain Bike adventure I got to meet the wonderful Marion Sieberts. IMG_0755

If you have done the Mapangubwe Wildrun (now that is one for the bucket list) or many other amazing wild sporting adventures, then you would have eaten her delicious food.

Anyway, on the morning at the Orange River, she opens up the Pooitjie pot on the fire and this aroma comes out that has us all salivating.

It didn’t look like much but oh my word it was so yummy.  After getting this simple but delicious recipe that she dubbed Bullets and Beans, I had to try it out the next week when we were camping in the Tankwa Karoo National Park.

I had a very hard to please crowd, my kids and their friends.  The joy of dealing with kids is that they are ruthless with their critique and opinion and are very bad at faking it if they don’t like the taste of something.  So to say I presented a breakfast with baked beans and boiled eggs in it with slight fear and trembling would be putting it mildly.  My mum is from the UK, so I grew up with baked beans on toast as a staple Sunday night dinner but my kids are not such huge fans.

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Our beautiful bush camp in the Tankwa Karoo National Park

Anyway, as we were in the middle of the Karoo bushcamping in this exquisite valley and it was Simon’s birthday, I got up early and quickly put Bullets and Beans together.  It had to be quick and easy as the temperature was about to rise over 40degrees celsius and we still had to pack up camp.

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I had boiled the eggs the night before, so that made the process quicker and easier.  At Desert Knights, Marion had served boiled eggs for breakfast the day before and then used the leftover eggs for the Bullets and Beans the following morning.  So when camping remotely or moving camp daily, its little things like these that makes your life easier.

If you have a bit more time, making fresh Irish soda bread in the pan would be an absolutely delicious accompaniment (recipe here).  Otherwise, wraps would also work well as they travel brilliantly for those really remote trips. (overland shopping list guide).

We just did it with normal toast as I didn’t have a lot of time.  Well, the kids absolutely loved it!  The leftovers were even eaten for lunch the next day!  So Bullets and Beans will be added to my quick yummy breakfast camping list along with flapjacks, vanilla oats and the usual bacon and eggs.

So here is the recipe for a really easy yummy breakfast!

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Marion’s Bullets and Beans

Ingredients

1 onion

celery (I forgot mine and still was delicious)

1 tin tomatoes

1 tin bakes beans

eggs (depends how many you want)

Onion flakes (I used from Woolies)

Method

Chop up onion into small pieces and fry until lightly golden and translucent and add your celery  (you can add garlic too, but I forgot…yes this as well)

Add tin of tomatoes and let simmer while you peel the eggs, giving the occasional stir.

Once peeled add baked beans and eggs to the tomato mixture.  As needed to taste, add salt and pepper and some fresh herbs if you have and like.  I had some leftover bacon bits, so we added this to the mixture which was delicious.  You can pretty much do anything!

Serve on toast and adding the crispy onion once dished is the not to be missed final ingredient.

I doubled the above quantity for 7 and we had some leftovers which the kids gobbled for lunch the next day.

So, it doesn’t look or sound like much but it is yummy, wholesome and easy.  Give it a try next time you are camping and want something a little different.

Happy travels!

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Desert Knights – a Namibian mountain bike adventure

 

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Photo courtesy of Desert Knights Gallery

Being spontaneous has its rewards.  I got offered the amazing once in a lifetime opportunity to go and partake in the Desert Knights mountain bike adventure in Namibia!  Frankly, when I got the message I thought it was spam, but I had nothing to lose by responding and hey, presto, it was genuine!!!!  It’s an event I had looked at previously and thought looked like a bucket list must.  Who doesn’t want to cycle through the desert during full moon and canoe down the Orange River?

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Photo courtesy of https://tfcaportal.org/desert-knights-2

 

The event takes place in the Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park and combines 5 days of cycling and 1 day canoeing down the Orange river.  I have been lucky to spend a few holidays in this region and absolutely love it (read here). So we start on the Namibian side  of the park in Hobas and end on the South African side in Sendlingsdrift.  What is so unique is that the event takes place during full moon and most of the cycling is done from late afternoon and into the night.  How incredible to cycle to the Fish River Canyon and watch the moon rise over this iconic and beautiful place?  Or to camp in the dry river bed of the Gamkab Canyon?  As you can tell, I am beyond excited!

Our route area map

Having only gotten my entry a week ago, one week before departure, means that I haven’t had months to prep and train.  But here is another bonus, this is a tour, not a race.  You are supposed to enjoy the scenery, stop and take pictures and generally just appreciate the area that is truly a magical place on earth.  Luckily I ride regularly and am pretty fit….well here’s hoping.

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Photo courtesy of Desert Knights gallery

So I am off tomorrow and we start on Friday.  It has been a bit of a scramble getting my bike together as I was waiting on a part from the UK, but all is sorted in the nick of time as well as having to have the clutch replaced on our Toyota Fortuner.  But all was packed this evening and I am ready to get going early tomorrow morning.  Hopefully the sun will be shining and I will get to see some of the flowers through the Namaqualand en route which will be a treat.

This will be a solo mission, Simon and the kids will sadly remain at home holding the fort.  But a solo adventure isn’t always bad, it is good for the soul to have time to think, meditate, appreciate and rest and this is something that the silence of the desert does bountifully.

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Photo courtesy of Jacques Marais Media

If you would like to follow my adventure on this event I will be posting to my personal Instagram page and to our Family On a Mission page.

Here is to a Bucket List Must!

Epupa Falls – Namibia

Jesse and Olivia could not say the name without laughing hysterically!  For them this was up there with toilet talk.  But they were also beyond excited to see the waterfalls featured in the animated movie, Zambezia.

Epupa Falls is one of the most incredible places to visit.  Situated in the northern most region of Namibia in the Koakaland on the Angolan border.  It is fed by the Kunene River and is 0,5km wide and drops down in a series of waterfalls that spread over 1.5 km.

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Epupa Falls taken close to the town

Getting there

The road to Epupa is pretty amazing.  Like most roads in Namibia it is gravel, but it is well maintained and a 4×4 is not necessary.  It is possible to get there without having to do a whole overlanding long trip, like we did.  You can fly into Windhoek and rent a standard car and drive up.  It is far more accessible than I expected.

Taking the trip from Windhoek, you will need to look at overnighting en route.  It is never worth pushing distances in Africa just in case something goes wrong.  A great place to overnight is around Etosha.  There is a new camp on the northwest side called Olifantsrus that has camping and chalets that friends stayed at and raved about.  We spent three days on our way up in a Game Reserve called Erindi and then overnighted in the town of Opuwo before getting to Epupa.  If you decide to rather push the distance and stay in Opuwo, we stayed at the Opuwo Country Lodge.  I would forgo staying in Opuwo unless necessity requires it as it is not a great town.  They have a good campsite, though you definitely need to book during school holidays.  We stayed the night on the weekend, so there was lots of music and partying going on in the surrounding area.  The road up to the lodge was a bit tricky and the area you go through not great.  The lodge area is well fenced and there is security.  The hotel itself has an amazing view.

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The view from the hotel

Fuel and Food

We did our major food shop in Windhoek, as you can get pretty much everything.  Fuel is something you have to plan for as you always want to have a bit more that needed just in case a petrol station doesn’t have, which is possible.  You are pretty much guaranteed to get good diesel at Kamanjab.  We filled our jerry cans at this point.  When we got to Opuwo we just topped up the main tank.  This is due to not always being able to get 50pp diesel there.  At the main garage in Opuwo there is also a decent Shoprite if you need to get some basics you have forgotten.  I had forgotten flour to make bread, so could get a local brand there.  Click here for my yummy beer bread recipe.  There was also cash machines and banks if you need access.

Culturally

Just before reaching Opuwo, you will start to see Himba people.  If you have children, it is a good idea just to show and discuss with them what to expect.  The women are completely topless at all ages.  When we got to the garage to fill up diesel, our car was inundated with Himba women trying to sell their wares and then also young kids from different tribes begging for sweets and money.

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Olivia watching the children

My son found it very overwhelming and our friends son, who was 12, didn’t know where to look.  So discussing their culture is a good way to prep so that the children know what to expect and can be respectful.  I love showing them such diverse cultural differences.  It shows that diversity is beautiful and that respect is a human right regardless of how different we are!

Himba Women

Himba women riding to get water

If you do stop to take a picture, you will have to ‘pay’.  They want sweets or medicine, which you don’t want to give as they are both addictive.  Supplying fruit or food is better.  Also paper and pencils or pens are great, especially for kids.  Be mindful of giving things in plastic, as the packets/bags/wrapper will most likely just be thrown onto the ground and not disposed of properly.

They are also a nomadic people, so you will see shells of villages and camps.

Himba hut

Outside an abandoned Himba hut

Epupa itself

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Our first Baobab just before reaching Epupa

Epupa is like a little green oasis.  The campsites and lodges are all along the river right above the start of the waterfall.  We stayed at one of the most furthest along campsites called Epupa Camp.  Don’t get confused by Epupa Falls Lodge, we went there and then panicked as they were full and didn’t have our booking.  We then worked out we were in the wrong place.  It is a quieter campsite a bit higher up the river.  They have both camping and little chalets.  The main area has a bar and a swimming pool and wifi.  You can sit and have a drink and a dip in the pool or walk across the bridge to a little island.  You can’t swim in the river because of crocs and must just be wary when walking along the river bank.

The campsite was treed with date palms.  There was a shower and loo ablution stand per two camps with a donkey boiler.  The staff would light the donkey boiler morning and night, though the mornings tended to be a bit tepid as needed more time.   The showers don’t have a roof, so you shower at night looking at all the stars.

 

Just beware of monkeys, don’t leave any food out unattended.  They are so quick and if you turn your back for a second, they grab and run.

If you need any washing done, there will be local ladies at the gate to the campsite in the mornings.  You give them your washing and your powder, though I would supply the powder per wash as they pretty much used most of what we had budgeted for the whole holiday.  The rate charged depends on how many garments there are.  You also buy firewood at the gate from the locals.  Make sure that you have lots of change as you have to pay exact amounts.  This goes for pretty much all remote places throughout Namibia.  So often we wanted to buy wood etc but only had large notes and the local didn’t have any change.

With regards to safety, always beware of petty theft.  So don’t leave things unnecessarily out and unattended.  Walking through the town to the falls was very safe and we didn’t feel worried at all.

Activities

IMG_8110The falls itself is free to access.  We walked from our campsite and you can stand right on top of them.  There is even a walk down to the bottom of the valley.  If you want to go to the view point, you will have to pay money.  It wasn’t a lot and the best time of day is definitely later towards sunset.

Epupa Falls

Above Epupa Falls

There is a village tour and also a river rafting trip.  Both are organized through your place of accommodation.  We did the river trip with the kids, which was such fun.  You get driven roughly 8ks up the river and then you paddle back down.  The rapids were very mild, so very safe with the kids.  We saw crocodiles and birds and had our snack and cooldrink on the Angolan side of the river.

We spent 3 nights at Epupa, but I could have happily spent more.  It is tranquil and beautiful and so culturally rich!

Dreaming Big – is it reality?

I was given a gift bag and on it had the wording, “Dream big, live the life you have always imagined!”  Simon and I have had a dream for our family for a while, and that is to take our kids sailing for a few years.

But the birth of the dream to the actuality of it sometimes seem insurmountable. They say that the ideal time to do this is before kids reach ‘teen’ years.  Obviously this is not the rule, but it seems to be the average guideline.  Jesse is turning 10 in June, so this ‘ideal’ deadline is creeping up.  Then there is the very real monetary factor.  We aren’t rolling in it.  We work for ourselves with our event flooring company, and at the moment the industry is not doing well.  That means that all that we have saved has been thrown back into the pot to keep going.  So 2 steps forward and 3 backwards!  Simon has his coastal skippers, only to find out that it is only valid in the UK and not recognized in South Africa.  So if he wants to get his Yacht Master off shore, he has to start from scratch again.  And this is only a few of the ‘hurdles’ in getting from here to there.

This isn’t including trying to buy the boat.  We don’t want a complete fixer upper, as this takes time which as stated above, is limited.  But obviously the nicer the boat the ‘nicer’ the price which brings us full circle and back round to the hurdles.  How do we go about buying a boat that is roughly going to cost us over a million Rand?  Selling a kidney and half a lung seem to be the easiest options at the moment!  Just joking….I think.

So how do we go about accomplishing the life we have imagined?  What do we give up?  Do we sell our house and buy a smaller apartment that is then paid off so that there is no debt?  But if we sell our house we move out of an amazing community we are knitted into.  Do we rather rent it out hoping that our tenants pay on time etc?  Do we keep our business and try run it from abroad?  This then gives us a monthly income.  But at the moment we need to sell the business in order to use the capital to fund the dream.  If we keep the business this then means you are constantly trying to keep in touch with clients and overseeing things.  Do you rather sell it and thereby not have anything you are constantly having to watch?  If we sell it, what are our alternatives?  Do I look at doing online freelance work?  Does Simon go back to doing yacht deliveries?  (which he did before we were married)   This can then be done when we are in various ports and also from home in Cape Town when we come back, keeping a possible option of income.  Which homeschool system will be best and easiest?  At this moment our kids are beyond on board with the dream, but when time comes will they truly be happy to uproot and say goodbye to friends and family?

So at the moment we have more questions than answers.  We have more what ifs than we wills and definitely more against us than for us.  But we will continue to dream and work towards this goal and I will keep you posted on what we decide to give up, trade in and sell.

But this I do know, even if we don’t accomplish this exact dream – we have not failed.  For it is far better to dream and maybe fly than to never try  for fear of falling and failing.  We will always have each other, and for that we are rich!IMG_2508

Clothing guideline for an Overland Trip

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I am not a khaki and strops and socks kinda girl, no sirree!!!!!  Neither do I need to blowdry my hair and wear full make up but don’t deny me my mascara and nail polish and cute tops.  Just because you have to be practical doesn’t mean you can’t do pretty.  My husband does not subscribe to the same.  As long as he is comfortable he couldn’t care less, neither could our son.  My daughter on the other hand as been spotted in a leotard and tutu in the desert with leather gloves and takkies!

Like any holiday or weekend away, we always tend to take way too much.  The one trip I took my knee high Timberland leather boots!  Yes, they are comfy but flip packing those things was a pain in my b-hind.  So over the years I’m starting to get better at packing for both myself and the kids.  (I do check my husbands packing and tend to shove a few extras in without his knowing.  Once he went with two t-shirts and some board shorts and hardly anything else! He froze his ass off)

When you don’t have the luxury of wheelie bags and a 32kg limit but rather an ammo box measuring 235(h) x 395(w) x 505(l) for 20 plus days of travel with both hot and cold weather, you get clever.  Thank God for the micro down jackets which have come out in the last few years that pack away into tiny bags.  They have made my life soooo much easier.  So we each have one crate for clothes and then there is a shared crate for shoes and toiletries and another for the families towels etc.  So for a family of 4 there are 6 crates that are allocated for personal and then the rest are food etc.

This is all my clothes on my list below in one crate – it can be done!!!!

So here is my do or die live by list for roughly 15 days.  You will need to hand wash whenever you have available water.  If you want a food packing guideline, click here

Clothes for The Pink Puff (Olivia)

  • 3 shorts – no cuff turnups as sand gets in them and usually comes out in the car.  Half of the Namib desert seemed to end up in our car due to cuffs and pockets.  Try to keep to darker colors as they don’t show the dirt so much.
  • 3-4 leggings – I tend to pack more as they back up as extra PJ bottoms. Track pants are bulky to pack.
  • 6-8 tshirts and vests
  • 3-4 light long sleeve tops
  • at least one skirt or dress for the pink puff is essential
  • 2 warm hoodies – no zips because if they need to sleep in them if it is cold, zips are uncomfy.
  • 1 wind breaker –  we use the lightweight ones from Kway
  • 2 pj’s – one short and one long.  I am very strict that they are not allowed out of the tent till they have changed as they then get played in and filthy.
  • enough panties and socks so that if you are not in campsites you have enough to get by till you can hand wash again
  • 1 swimming costume
  • 1 buff/head band that can be used as a scarf or head band
  • Hairbands & clips – if your daughter has long hair, plait it!  This keeps it so much more manageable.  They will stick their heads out the windows of the car and if you can’t necessarily wash it that often it becomes a nightmare to deal with.

Clothes for Jesse (Boys)

  • 4-6 shorts (he gets so much dirtier)  Board shorts are best as they wash and dry quickly and sand doesn’t get into them like normal fabrics
  • 2  tracksuit pants – can double as spare pj’s
  • 6-8 tshirts
  • 3-4 long sleeve light weight tops
  • 2 warm hoodies – again try for no zips
  • 2 pj’s – one short and one long.  Again, they have to change before leaving the tent.  I set their clothes out the night before.
  • 1 windbreaker
  • enough undies and socks so that if you are not in campsites you have enough to get by till you can hand wash again
  • 1 buff/head band that can be used as a scarf or head band
  • 1 broad brimmed sunhat
  • when Jesse was little I would take waterproof lightweight rain trousers, as they kept him clean when playing (you can get them from Cape Union Mart)

Shoes for kids

  • Crocs or strops: You want something a little more covered than a slip slop but easy to put on getting in and out of the cars and that they can also shower in
  • Wellingtons/gumboots or hiking boots: shoes that cover the ankle if they are mucking about in rocks and bush where scorpions and snakes may be, so it covers the ankles.  My kids don’t have hiking boots so we take gumboots and takkies (trainers) but space could be minimized by just having hiking boots

Examples of some essentials for the Kids

Splash Pants from Kway               Jesse lives in his Keen strops       Lightweight Kway Jacket

If you need a basic guideline on kids and their toys/entertainment when overlanding, then please click here.

For the Hubster:

  • 3 pairs boardshorts
  • 1 pair cargo shorts
  • 1 pair long trousers/jeans
  • 5-6 tshirts
  • 1 lightweight long sleeve shirt (great for keeping the sun off)
  • 1 fleece
  • 1 light down jacket
  • 5-6 pairs underpants
  • pj’s – simon takes a long light weight pair of pants that can be layered with socks and the fleece top and then just sleeps in his jocks if hot
  • couple pairs socks – at least one warm pair and preferably dark
  • takkies/boots
  • slip slops/strops – needed for shower and in and out the car
  • beanie
  • cap/sunhat

For Me:

  • 2 pairs black leggings – I take my Nike full length ones.  I can then run in them if I want otherwise they are so comfy for evenings etc.
  • 2-3 pairs shorts – cutoff stretch denim is my go to as they are hardy and don’t get as dirty but they are a pain if you want to wash as take a while to dry.   Stay away from a turnover cuff as sand sits in it.  Short gym leggings are also versatile.
  • 6-8 tops
  • 1 shirt – I find they are great to keep the sun off and cool and an easy extra layer
  • 1 light weight dress – sometimes you just don’t want to wear shorts and t-shirts
  • 1 hoodie/fleece
  • 1 down jacket
  • 1 set light weight PJ’s – I layer with hoodie if cold
  • 8-10 pairs panties – on a hygiene side, panty liners are a must
  • 1 swimming costume
  • 2 sports bras – they are much more comfortable to travel in and dry quickly
  • 1 scarf or light sarong
  • 1 cloth bag to put all your underwear and socks in.  It helps keep the crate tidy.
  • Paez shoes – these I swear by.  Lightweight, they keep your feet clean and easy on and off and they don’t smell.

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    My faithful Paez.  I swear by them!!!!

  • Trainers/takkies/hiking boots – I just take my trail running shoes.  I can walk in them and also try get a run in where possible
  • Slip slops for the shower
  • Buff – I take a couple as they are great to keep your head warm, a scarf and then I also use them to keep my fringe flat when I am drying it 😉
  • cap/sunhat

For the Trailer:

  • 2 sheets – we put them both on the bed at the same time.  You can then swop them round by putting the dirty one at the bottom.  You then don’t need to pack them into a crate.  Also, they are tan color so don’t get as dirty.
  • 1-2 pillowcases – can do same as the sheets or just use one and turn it inside out when needed
  • Micro fibre towels – get the biggest size as they are just nicer to use. They really pack small and dry quickly.  I don’t love them but its functional.K-Way Trek Towel XXL
  • Fleece blanket each – these are used in the car and also to line the sleeping bags for very cold nights.
  • Kikoi/sarong – these are great for a multiple of uses.  If its hot, to sleep under, and as a second towel.  Once when we were in the Okavango, it was stinking hot and there were flies everywhere and we couldn’t sit in the tent as it was stifling.  We would dip the kikois in the water and then just lie under them.

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My aunt and brother hiding under a kikoi from the heat and flies

Richtersveld – Fluospar Valley Review

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Setting up camp in the riverbed next to the mine.

The Fluospar Valley, like Tierhoek, doesn’t have a lot said about it online.  Again, like Tierhoek, it is part of the community initiative but we never saw anyone to pay any camping fees to.  I did find basic fees and info here.

I wasn’t too sure what to expect.  Simon had been before and raved about this old abandoned mine with Fluospar just lying everywhere and crystals that you could find scattered around.  He didn’t exagerrate!  The kids had a ball finding all different gems and rocks and then also throwing the fluospar in the fire that night where it then burns bright green.

The drive in was not too hairy and very accessible in a 4×4 and the trailer had no problem.  We got there a bit late so camped in the riverbed next to the mine as we would have gotten to the ‘official’ camp area in the dark.

We even had a light rain shower en route in, which feels like a little miracle when you are in such a barren area.  Camping next to the mine was perfect.  The kids did the obligatory scorpion hunt, but didn’t find much.

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The kids with the UV lights (and gloves) looking for scorpions

On the GPS, there was noted that there was a spring 30-40mins from the mine.  So the next morning we decided to head up and see it.  Well the drive took us nearly 2hours and the going was rough.  It was sandy, hot and the spring a bit anticlimactic.  So, I wouldn’t recommend the detour unless you are spending two nights at the mine and just want to do a day drive.  To do the drive and then still have to come back and head out of the valley severely limits your time.  If you are going to the spring and have a trailer, we would recommend off hooking it and fetching it on the way back.  But the safety is always an issue as there are herders around, but it should be fine.

We did take a drive down to the old deserted mining village.  There was the obligatory deserted old car, crumbling houses and old windmill.  You can have such fun taking pictures here.

So if you are going to the Richtersveld, I would definitely recommend doing the Fluospar Valley en route to Tierhoek before heading into the official park.

Tammy’s Top Tips 

  • Get to the area early enough that you have enough time to explore and look for stones
  • Avoid these bushes, they are complete bastards to deal with as they look soft but get stuck on everything!

     

  • Don’t go to the oasis unless spending two days there
  • There is no water or ablutions, so come prepared
  • Take time to wander the abandoned mining village
  • Find large pieces of fluospar for the fire as smaller ones dissipate
  • There are no large wild animals except for snakes and scorpions
  • Light a fire, star gaze and drink a nice glass of wine and enjoy the silence