Facts and Figures
April 8th - 26th 2009
Ghana Cont. & South Africa
Start Mileage - 10,454
Miles - 8
Tema (Blue Sky Hotel) - Container
Loading Day. We had to be in the agents office by 08:00. Knowing what the traffic is like, we planned to leave at 07:00. Marc, Lorraine and I met downstairs in the hotel for breakfast at 06:45. Breakfast never appeared, so we had to leave without. Traffic was not too bad, and we arrived at the agents office at 07:30, and waited…….till 09:30 before any movement was made. The plan was to take the bike to the container yard first, leave Lorraine in charge, then return in Marc’s car to drive Ian’s car to the yard. Lorraine was also in charge of the cameras while the vehicles were being loaded. The agents wanted the cars in the yard first. So Marc drove his, I drove Ian’s with Lorraine and left the bike at the office. We arrived at the yard and …..waited. The staff then took me back to collect the bike. Now all three vehicles were in the yard and we ……...waited for customs. Customs eventually arrived, took some details from the carnets, poked and prodded all the vehicles, took the seal number for the container which one of the staff from the agents had ready, then they left. Marc’s vehicle went in the container first, then we …….waited for the guy with the chocks and straps. While we waited we had a rehearsal pack and decided we had enough height and length in the container for all three, phew! Marc’s car was eventually strapped in, now for Ian’s. We had a huge fan club, workmen from the yard, but they spent all day with us asking questions about the trip and the vehicles. It was by now lunchtime and most of the fan club disappeared. Typical, we were hoping they would stick around to help lift the bike in! They had asked me to ride the bike in, but it does not have a side gear! It was to be parked in widthways, and there was not enough room to ride in and manoeuvre it into position. It took around eight of us to lift it and eventually it was secured too. All in and sealed by 13:30. Now the agents were collecting us to take us back to the office to sign and collect the carnets. They were on their way, so we ……...waited! They eventually arrived at 15:00. Apparently “on their way” does not mean the same in English in Ghana! More waiting around at the office. They then told us that the ships schedule had changed and would not be leaving Ghana until the 18th, arriving in South Africa on the 30th. This meant more time without the vehicles obviously, but it also meant we could not collect the paperwork or pay the shipping company as this is normally collected after the ship sails and we fly out on the 16th. Arrangements had to be made for us to do this in advance with the shipping company, which were by now closing for the day, so we would go tomorrow. We were not allowed to go directly to the shipping company, we had to be taken by the agents.
When we got back to the hotel, we discovered that breakfast had arrived, but an hour after we left! Time keeping is not priority in Ghana. So having nothing to eat all day, we were by now, starving. We found a good taxi driver - Frank, who we employed for the rest of the week. He chose the restaurant and off we went, squashed in again. The restaurant he chose had a huge open air TV screen, and the place was packed as Liverpool vs Chelsea was half way through. The crowd were going crazy as one of the Chelsea players is from Ghana, they were very well behaved though.
Tema (BlueSky Hotel)
After yesterday’s experience, there was no point of arriving at the agents office too early. So we had breakfast at the hotel and reached the office about 10:00. They eventually took us to the offices of the shipping company. Marc was taken to the boss’s office. It turned out that the agents had booked us on a later ship without informing us, not that the schedule had changed. So the shipping company changed us back to the original one, and sent the agents off to arrange for the container to be moved in the yard. We were not long here, and were supposed to wait for the agents to collect us again. We did wait……. Then gave up and got a taxi. Marc spoke to the boss at the agents office complaining that our ship had been changed without our knowledge. There was a lot of shoulder shrugging and ‘that’s Africa!’ We could now collect the paperwork before flying and arranged to do this on the 15th.
We stopped at an internet café on the way back.
We all decided to eat a Chinese meal tonight, so Frank was booked to take us there. While standing outside waiting for the taxi, I suddenly felt bad and returned to the room, deciding to stay there and sleep it off, missing what was by all accounts, a very nice Chinese.
Tema (Blue Sky Hotel)
Now we wait ……. Without the vehicles ……. till we fly out on the 16th. Caught up with some website stuff in the morning. The others were heading to lunch and came to see if we were joining them. Lorraine said no, but forgot I hadn’t eaten the previous night, so we ran after them.
Frank, now knowing we liked Chinese, took us to another Chinese restaurant tonight.
Tema (Blue Sky Hotel)
We planned our day over breakfast, the less you do, the less you want to do. It is very hard doing nothing much all day. We were tempted to join the kids for their school work. Lorraine went off for a walk round all the road side shacks. She was successful and managed to find several of the items she wanted, except a book to read. Looks like they only read bibles in Ghana. She returned with her shopping and could not get into the room. I had gone out for a liquid lunch with the others - with the key. She found us though, and joined us.
Frank’s choice of menu again tonight, fortunately not Chinese.
Tema (Blue Sky Hotel)
Breakfast menu had changed this morning, thank goodness, it was beginning to get a bit monotonous. Plans for the day, Hmmph…. We went off for lunch, but unfortunately there is no local cafes open on a Sunday. The poor kids had peanut butter cookies. We were told there was an internet café locally, so off we went in search of it. We kept asking people and they kept telling us ‘that way’ and pointing with no clue of distance. Eventually we gave up walking and took a taxi. We got in the taxi about 300 metres from a set of traffic lights. We tried to agree a price, but he would not give us one. So he was told, that we would tell him the price once we arrived, and there was to be no arguments. He hit another taxi as he drove off, then took us all round the houses and actually ended up about 300 metres on the other side of the traffic lights we started from. He did not fool us though, and we offered only 1 Cedi. He was not happy with this and threw it back telling us to get out - which we did. He then decided that the 1 Cedi would be better than nothing and chased after us.
Frank’s choice was another Chinese tonight, beginning to feel my eyes slanting!!
Tema (Blue Sky Hotel)
Lorraine hoped to phone her Mum today as we now have a Skype account to landlines. So we planned to do some more work on the website, then head to the internet café. It was cooler and duller today as we headed out to lunch. As we walked along the road, the black clouds behind us were approaching rapidly. We decided to find a café with cover, just in case! We found one just in time. The wind got up, and all the dust swirled around. Then the skies opened. A huge advertising board ripped apart and pot holes in the road filled quickly. Traffic stopped for a time. It stopped enough for Lorraine and I to walk ’that way’ in search of cigarettes. We came back to the café and played cards for a while. It did not stop till 15:30 when we headed back to the hotel. Mum never got her phone call today.
Both Hugo and Clo were not feeling to well tonight, so plenty of room in the taxi tonight. Pizza tonight, so a nice change from Chinese.
We tried the pub next door when we got back. They didn’t kick us out, but patiently waited till we had finished. Everything was stored away and the place was in darkness by the time we got upstairs.
Tema (Blue Sky Hotel)
Marc had booked Frank for 09:30 this morning as he was heading into the post office to post the kids school work, then go to another internet café with a much quicker connection than the local one. I went along too. As this was a much busier internet café, Lorraine would not be able to ring home again, maybe tomorrow! Frank did not turn up to take us, his car was off the road. He was hoping to have it fixed by dinner time, but again no-show. The hotel found another taxi for us and we headed for the restaurant with the huge TV screen again. As none of us are football fans, we did not realise that it was the second leg for Liverpool and Chelsea. Another very busy night at the restaurant! Watching the reaction of the crowd much more entertaining than watching the match.
Stopped in at the pub next door on the way back again. It must have been a little later, as when we returned to the hotel, we were locked out of the main door. It wasn’t easy, but we eventually got someone to let us in.
Tema (Blue Sky Hotel)
Called the shipping agent to see if the paperwork was ready for collection. They said it would be by late afternoon. So we went off to lunch. Often whatever it says on the menu, there is only chicken available. Today there was no chicken!
The agents called at 16:30 for us to collect the paperwork. Frank’s taxi was back on the road again, so off we went to collect the paperwork. Three copies were ready, one for each vehicle and they were on the correct ship.
As this was our last night in Ghana, Frank wanted to take us to one of his local restaurants (miles away) and try the guinea fowl. He also wanted us to meet his wife, so the route to the restaurant was via her place of work. The guinea fowl was very nice - tastes like chicken!
Again visited the pub next door on our return and again got locked out.
Tema (Blue Sky Hotel)
Almighty storm again this morning, but it had cleared up by mid morning. As we had been at the hotel all week, they agreed to let us use the rooms till 17:30 when Frank would collect us and take us to the airport.
Packed everything into the new rucksack, fortunately it all fitted, but a strap broke. So off we went to the airport. Traffic was not too heavy and we arrived at the airport by 18:30. Lorraine managed to find quite a selection of books other than bibles and stocked up for the week in South Africa waiting to get the bike back. No Lonely Planet books for SA though. As usual at airports, there is a lot of hanging around. Every time I moved the rucksack, another part broke off. Hopefully it will keep together long enough to find a replacement in SA! Our visa for Ghana was only for 30 days. Depending on how they actually counted these days, we could have been 4 hours overdue and in trouble. We held our breath as we went through customs, but had no trouble. There was tobacco on sale in the Duty Free shop, something I have not seen for some time. So thinking, it would be readily available in SA, I only bought one packet. Onto the plane just a few minutes later than the planned take off time. We still had Ghana money left and could find nowhere to change it. SA would not change it either, lesson learned - get rid of all local money before leaving the country. Anyone going to Ghana soon, want to buy some Cedi?? The food on the plane was rubbish, the movies were rubbish, and the seats were very uncomfortable, so no sleep was had by all!
Well we made it, not the way we had hoped but we are now in South Africa.
We arrived on time, but had no accommodation booked. We asked for cheap places to stay or backpacker places at the information desk. They only had details for one. Being too shattered to do much investigating, we rang the one place they had and booked in. They collected us free of charge, but would take an hour or so to reach us as it was rush hour. So we tried to get Rand from the banks at the airport as we waited - no ATMs=no local cash. The journey to Ghandi Backpackers Lodge was a bit of a culture shock. Civilisation - proper buildings, shopping centres etc. The backpackers place was beautiful. It had hot and cold running water, a help-yourself-kitchen with all sorts of appliances like kettles, coffee machines, toasters and …….a washing machine! Heaven. Most of us tried for a nap in the morning and were planning to go shopping in the afternoon. We had no money yet, so the taxi driver would have to wait when he dropped us off at the mall till we visited an ATM. Heinz, who worked at the backpackers, said the taxi driver would probably not think much of this plan and loaned us our taxi fair. What a nice man! We bought rucksack number 2 and ensured it was much more substantial before we parted with the pennies. We also bought a guide book, but still could not get a copy of Lonely Planet. The only restaurant near the backpackers was a Portuguese one. It had everything it said it had on the menu, and we did not have to wait long for it. I think I am going to like SA. We all retired fairly early as we had missed a nights sleep last night.
Helped ourselves to breakfast using all the appliances available! We investigated transport to Durban and accommodation. Booked on to the Baz Bus leaving at 08:00 tomorrow, and booked into the Happy Hippo. Baz busses are mini buses that take you door to door, but it would be a 7 hour drive. Happy Hippo was another backpacker place but conveniently located near to the shipping agents in Durban. We dined at the Portuguese again, then packed everything into the new rucksack ready for an 07:30-08:00 pick-up in the morning..
Jo’burg (Ghandi Backpackers) - Durban (Happy Hippo Backpackers)
The bus was picking us up any time after 07:30. Lorraine was up early, started breakfast and fed the dog. The bus eventually turned up at 08:30. I set up the I-Got-U in the cup holder to record the trip. We had plenty of pick up and drop off points, so time to fit in some nicotine during the 7 hour drive. We also stopped for lunch. Very nice scenery around the Drakensburg area, which we will have a look at more when we get the bike back. Arrived at the Happy Hippo around 18:00. It certainly was not the Ghandi! Quite disappointing. We realised when we settled that we had left the I-Got-U in the cup holder. As we were last off the bus, and only 20 minutes had passed, we had hoped to get it back. But it had mysteriously disappeared during that time. Another lesson learned! The Happy Hippo had all the rooms around a huge communal area and a very high tin roof. This meant the noise echoed all round! We decided very quickly that once the shipping agents were booked, we would look for something else. There were plenty restaurants and ATMs within walking distance though.
Durban (Happy Hippo)
Called Baz Bus several times today with the slim hope that the I-Got-U may have been found, but the conclusion was that it had been stolen by their staff and the office were happy to agree with this, but could do nothing about it. Jurg and Erika, the Swiss couple in the second container, had been in Durban since they loaded their vehicle, and came to meet us at 10:30 today to agree a plan of action. They were staying in a hotel and were not too happy with it either. Marc and Kev agreed to knock on doors of shipping agents to get quotes, while Jurg and Erika located some alternate accommodation for before and after the vehicles were collected. They were also going to investigate car/bike insurance. Marie and Henri, the French couple in the second container, were due to arrive in Durban today. We only had e-mail contact for them, so would have to wait till they logged on to get in touch. Ian was not due to fly back from England till the 23rd, so we were authorised to make decisions on his behalf and had all his paperwork. We called Jurg in the evening to update. He had found two campsites. One was really only for small tents, but had reasonably priced rooms. The second was better for the vehicles, but rooms were very expensive. They were not too far apart, so maybe one pre collection of vehicles and the other after collection. Marc and Kev had one quote from the shipping agents and two due to arrive by e-mail in the morning. They also discovered that due to all the public holidays coming up, a booking had to be made the following day. Neither group had heard from Marie and Henri.
Restaurants here seem to be themed, ie Steak Houses / Pizza / fish etc. Trying to get one to please all tastes may be difficult. Tonight was a fish restaurant. Oh oh, Lorraine doesn’t eat fish. Will she be polite and starve, or insist on moving to another? She ordered a grilled white fish and scoffed the lot!
Durban (Happy Hippo)
The other two quotes arrived this morning and the decision had to be made. There was still no news from Marie and Henri, so Jurg and Erika were loathe to make the decision without them, but understood the urgency. Jurg and Erika had hired a car, and came to see us. They all went across to see the agent. All carnets for the first container were given to the agent to prepare the paperwork, Jurg did not have his with him and did not have it for the other vehicle. As he dropped off Marc and Kev, he was going back to his hotel to get his before the office closed. Marie and Henri would have to provide theirs by Friday. As he was leaving, he bumped into Marie and Henri coming up the stairs. A shear coincidence that they chose to book this backpacker. They had not received our e-mail yet, so were not aware we were also here. So both missing carnets reached the office before they closed.
With everything now organised, we could move tomorrow. We booked into the first location that Jurg had seen. It is right on the beach, has a pool, a decent kitchen, but no shops or ATMs near. Oh well, you can’t have everything! The ‘family’ had now grown to 8 at the Happy Hippo and we all dined out together at a steak house in the evening.
Durban (Happy Hippo) - Bluff (Anstey’s Beach Backpackers)
Packed again and this time we had to be out of the rooms by 10:00. However, there was a storage room for our kit and we could stay in the communal area and use the facilities. We left Jurg and Erika, who were having their laptop fixed, and Marie and Henri, who were staying another night at Happy Hippo then joining us at Anstey’s, and got in the minibus taxi to the beach around 11:30. After a 45 minute trip, we arrived at our new home. It had a much better feel to it as soon as we arrived. We ventured to a café across the road for lunch. There were no restaurants close by, so the ’family’ now back to six, squeezed into a VW Golf and went out to eat.
Ian has sent a text asking if we wanted him to bring anything. Being unable to find tobacco and small papers, I asked him to bring some.
Bluff (Anstey’s Beach)
There were no shops close to get bread for breakfast, but we had brought some with us, so managed to keep the kids happy. We went across the road for lunch again, but their menu was limited, so this could not continue for too long. We all headed off to where we were advised was the nearest supermarket. It was quite a walk and turned out to be more of a corner shop. However, we found enough supplies to eat tonight.
Marie and Henri had joined us. They said a team of young cricket players had arrived at the Happy Hippo and partied till 06:30 in the morning. So they had been kept awake and were very tired.
The ’family’ was back to 8 for dinner and we expected Ian to arrive by 21:30, so would keep him a plateful. His plane was early and he arrived in time to join us. After dinner, he was Santa Claus with all the bits and pieces we had asked him to bring.
Bluff (Anstey’s Backpackers)
Planned to have the leftover’s with pasta tonight, but needed a bit of padding. Marie and Henri were heading to a different supermarket, so Marc and Ian joined them. They left about 11:15 and by 14:15 still had not returned. Lorraine and I gave up waiting and headed across the road for lunch without them. Ian returned without the others, who had stopped at an internet café. Apparently there is quite a shopping centre where they went. He had bought a SIM card, which we have to do in each country, but it was not working, It turned out to be out of date by two years! He had to exchange it, so Lorraine walked back with him. All the cards in that shop were out of date, so he got his money back, and got another elsewhere.
I called BMW today to investigate tyres once I have the bike back. They don’t stock, but could obtain easy, then put their mark up on them. They gave me a number for where they get them, but I didn’t write it down and forgot it by the time I was off the phone. At least they were honest and it doesn’t sound too difficult to obtain them.
Bluff (Anstey’s Backpackers)
Ian was leaving this morning to stay with friends of his that he knows in Durban. As he was staying in the dorm, he had his bags in our room for safe keeping. Loaded some tracks from various magazines and tourist information that were lying around on to the Garmin for when we are on the road again. It is the start of winter here in SA, but still shorts and T-shirt for us. There were not many guests using the swimming pool, too cold for locals, but Lorraine ventured in. Not for long mind! .
We took a walk up to the shopping centre to get some supplies for tonight’s dinner, nice and hot on the way up, but, as soon as we stepped foot outside the shopping mall the heavens opened again. We would be drenched by the time we walked back, so …...taxi!
Bluff (Anstey’s Backpackers)
The MOL Volta due to arrive in Durban today.
The storm carried on through to today so not much happening. Just keeping up with the website and hanging around.