Sunday, 28 October 2018


By the peculiarities of rally awards we were given second place in our class. The prize was two Zebras. 

Makes it all worthwhile. 

The End

Colnago, Bianci, Scott, Specialized and many others are the brand names of the top end road bikes climbing up Chapman's Peak Drive, the terrifying toll road cut into the mountain of the Cape Peninsula. If we lose control of the car on the twisty bends here it's a 200 ft drop straight into the Atlantic. 

But as we approach Cape Town the road flattens out and smart bars and cafes start to appear, until at Lui Bay the scene is more like California than Africa. The broad white-sand beach is crowded with colourful umbrellas, and teenagers are playing multiple games of barefoot soccer. 

At Camps Bay there are spectacular modern apartments built clinging to the cliffside. Clearly this is where the very rich like to live. We seem somehow to have completly left Africa behind and are now in another place, monied and privileged. Beautiful hotels, chic bars and restaurants, art galleries, manicured public spaces,  and all the trappings of modern city living. The appalling shanty town we saw on the beach not 20km back is from a different world. 

But Camps Bay is where our journey ends. We crossed the finish line and were sprayed with Graham Beck Blanc de Blanc  - Alex's new favourite fizz. There was whooping, horn blowing, high fives, hugs, photos, many swigs of the Blanc de Blanc. Tracy and Jamie are there to congratulate us and take a ride on the footplate of Rhubarb and Custard. 

The cars were lined up for a concourse photo and the party was in full swing when one of the Alfa's started to smoke and the engine burst into flame. There was a scramble for fire extinguishers and two were used to put the fire out whilst everyone went in close for a look (not me - I moved as far away as possible). It was a sad moment for Philip and Eva, the Alfa's owners, and the car had to be towed to the hotel. But it kind of summed up the spirit of the rally. You never know what's going to happen next, but you can be sure there are plenty of friends who will be there with you - through the bad moments and the good. 

Keep Chooching. 

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Last Day for the Beard

The Western Cape

At a certain point as you travel west across the Karoo  God throws a switch and suddenly the brutal semi- desert landscape becomes green and lush, with vineyards and cornfields and rich countryside. 

At first I thought this landscape was like England but on a giant scale - Duplo compared to Lego bricks perhaps.  But then the monstrous mountain ranges appeared, one after another, and I realised this was something ekse, a unique landscape - as if the Rocky Mountains had been plonked down across rural France. 

There are even French names on some of the vineyards, but I think this is a pretention as the only accents we have heard are Afrikaan. We did however get to talk the language of wine at a delightful tasting. I was driving but the Skall did a full and thorough review of the offer. His recommendation ("Bloody good stuff this") is Graham Beck Blanc de Blanc 2013 Vintage fizz available from Bibendum in Primrose Hill. 

We did great work in today's test sections but I think we are still lying third in our class. We busted a wheel today but it was bashed back into shape with a large hammer. 

Cape Town tomorrow.  

The Karoo

In December 1895 Leander Starr Jameson took an armed force from British territory into the independent Boer state of Transvaal, with the intention of a surprise raid on Johannesburg. The objective was control of the Transvaal's enormous gold fields, which Cecil Rhodes wanted to add to his De Beers diamond empire. 

To suprise the Boers, Jameson's men cut the telegraph wires to Cape Town. As a result they failed to get the British Government's urgent message to stand down. At the same time they mistook a fence for the telegraph line to Johannesburg so that the Boers were able to be warned in advance of Jameson's plans. 

Jameson was easily captured by the Boers, and his botched raid was the immediate cause of the terrible Second Boer War. The British relatively quickly won the battlefield but the Boers retreated into the Karoo - a huge semi desert area with terrifying mountain ranges - and fought a guerilla war. 20,000 Boers -  including many women and children - died in British concentration camps before a peace treaty was signed. 

It's almost impossible to believe that anyone can live in the Karoo. Temperatures rise to 45 degrees (only 42 on our visit) and the area is utterly hostile to life, with almost no surface water. Even today with modern roads the mountain passes (know as Drifts by the Boers) are hard work and slow driving. 

Before the Boers, the area was filled with game, but when underground water was discovered the land was turned over to sheep and ostrich farming - the feathers were incredibly valuable in European fashion salons. Diamonds were discovered in Kimberly and a railway line was built across the desert. 

The curious result of all this money flowing into the Karoo is that the little towns that sit on the insufferable plain are surprisingly cultured and elegant. Colonies of artists and writers sprung up, and even today the smart streets of Victorian properties support arts and crafts and delightful coffee houses. The homemade cooking is terrific everywhere.  It's as if the terrain is so harsh that the locals desperately need something soft and soulful in their lives. 

This is a brutal place with a brutal history. It's a landscape that made me shudder slightly, but this is also the kindest and warmest welcome we have had along the road. I like the Karoo very much. 

The Wild Coast

The Thembo family are the chiefly tribe in the village of Mvezo in South Africa's Wild Coast region. This is an area where several large rivers make their way to the Indian Ocean and as a result the land is deeply scored with valleys and steep sided hills. Even today the roads are tortuous and difficult. One we travelled had a sign for the local Spar supermarket announcing, 'Only 133 bends to go'. These are not roads you want brake failure on. 

It's perhaps strange then that such an isolated village as Mvezo should produce a chief of the Thembos who won the Order of Lenin and the Nobel Peace Prize and who became South Africa's first black President - Nelson Mandela. But maybe growing up in such wild country was good preparation for becoming a guerilla fighter. 

If you can bear the tortuous journey into and out of this region you are well rewarded. The amazing coastline means that today the area has a booming tourist industry. Along the coast there are long beaches disturbed only by the surf of the ocean. The rivers flowing down to the sea support abundant fish and fish eagles. It's a good spot to be an angler. 

Nelson Mandela left his home town for the big city. In his case Johannesburg. In our case we press on for Cape Town and the finish line. 

Friday, 26 October 2018


We are often singing as we travel the road and our favourite tune has become 'POSH', Caracticus Potts travelling song from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. 

Here are the lyrics:
This is livin', this is style, this is elegance by the mile
Oh the posh posh traveling life, the traveling life for me
First cabin and captain's table regal company
Whenever I'm bored I travel abroad but ever so properly
Port out, starboard home, posh with a capital P-O-S-H, posh
The hands that hold the scepters, every head that holds a crown
They'll always give their all for me they'll never let me down
I'm on my way to far away tah tah and toodle-oo
And fare thee well, and Bon Voyage arrivederci too
O the posh posh traveling life, the traveling life for me
First cabin and captain's table regal company
Pardon the dust of the upper crust--fetch us a cup of tea
Port out, starboard home, posh with a capital P-O-S-H, posh
In every foreign strand I land the royal trumpets toot me
The royal welcome mat is out
They 21 gun salute me
But monarchies are constantly commanding me to call
Last month I miffed the Mufti but you can't oblige them all
Oh the posh posh traveling life, the traveling life for me
Oh rumpetly tumpety didy didy dee dee dee dee dee
Oh the posh posh traveling life, the traveling life for me
First cabin and captain's table regal company
When I'm at the helm the world's my realm and I do it stylishly
Port out, starboard home, posh with a capital P-O-S-H
P-O-S-H, P-O-S-H...