Monday, 25 June 2012

Our Journey through Limpopo Province, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe June 2012. Manchester to Polokwane

After months of planning, dreaming, research and saving it was time to visit Southern Africa. I have put a lot of detail into the information to assist anyone planning an independent self drive holiday to the Southern African here goes!

6th June 2012, Air Emirates flight EK 18 left a very grey, dull and wet Manchester at British Summer Time 14.40. This was 30 minutes late as its scheduled time was 14.10. On the lower, economy deck, the A380 was almost full. The seats we had been allocated; row 81, seat A and 81C were a disappointment. The window seat was Ok’ish.......the leg room was good, as there is not a seat in front of you, but the seat back TV is stored at the side of the seat and in this case it did not work. Seat C, the aisle seat, has very little leg room, and is very close to the busy galley. The journey was made bearable by the fact that the B seat was free, but when booking an Economy class ticket on Emirates A380, my advice would be to avoid these seats if you can.
On landing in Dubai, the airport was extremely busy for the first hour of our arrival, then the crowds slowly dissipated as the various long haul flights departed. We found some of the lounger style seats in the departure lounge to be vacant and managed to have a sleep during our 3 ½ hour wait.
Soon it was time to take on the second leg of our journey, this time from Dubai to Johannesburg. Flight EK761 was scheduled to be an A380 when I booked the flights, but due to the ongoing ‘cracks in the wings’ saga,;postID=5945445597879539696 the aircraft had been changed to a Boeing 777-300 and I have to say I am pleased about this change as I prefer the 777 to the A380. On this leg I was in seat 40 A. The flight was only ½ full in Economy and I had the row to myself...Bliss. We took off just prior to dawn at 04.50. The aircraft flew out over the artificial island representing ‘The World’, then turned back over Dubai, I had a good view of the Sheik Zayed Road and The Burj Khalifa – The tallest building in the world- before we reached cruising level. I asked for some eye shades, stuck my ‘Do Not Disturb’ sticker on my seat, stretched out across the row and slept. I awoke when we were over Lake Malawi, and what a magnificent sight that was.
A very tasty breakfast menu of Arabic Cold Breakfast; Edam cheese, minted labneh balls, olive and crudités. Fresh Fruit Salad. A choice of either Plain Omelette with lamb sausage, sautéed potatoes with onions and herbs, mushrooms and tomato or Scrambled egg, turkey bacon, hash brown potatoes and mushrooms. Croissant and Tea or Coffee was served. As soon as this service was cleared it was time to commence the decent into the City of Gold, Johannesburg.
7 June 2012 @ 10,55. Clearing customs and baggage was very fast at Johannesburg airport and we made our way into the airport arrivals hall, searching the line of meter and greeters for our name from the many pieces of paper held up as you exited into the large circular arrivals hall at Oliver Tambo Airport.
We were expecting a pick up from the company we had hired a 4X4 from, ‘Bushlore Africa’. Bushlore specialise in 4 x 4 vehicle hire, fully equipped vehicles come with Rooftents, fridges and full camping equipment. As we were not camping on this holiday we had opted for an unequipped vehicle. Bushlore have offices in JoBurg and Cape Town, and depots in Botswana, Namibia and Zambia. On arrival at the airport the rep was not in attendance, so we went and changed some money, still no Bushlore? I asked the very helpful man at the information desk if he would phone the company for me, and he tried for a long time on his own mobile, but did not get through. I asked why he did not use the desk phone and it was because the telephone provided by his employers was for internal calls only! He did not have the credit on his own phone to place the call for me, but was too shy to say so! I thanked him for his efforts and went to the telephone box in the airport, very soon after contacting the Bushlore office the rep appeared at the Information desk looking for me.
The Bushlore Africa HQ in Johannesburg.
The New Toyota

With Rooftent

Bushlore Africa Office
We left Bushlore at around 14.00 and our goal was the town of Polokwane, a distance of 320 Km. Polokwane is the capital town of the Limpopo Province and was once known as Pietersburg. It took a long time to negotiate ourselves out of the metropolitan area of Pretoria as we got lost! Somehow ending up on the R101? But once back on the N1 Toll road the kilometres started to flash past. The landscape was flat and orange, interrupted but the occasional Kopije and lots of Toll Booths! The Tolls were small amounts such as 31.00 Rand, but so frequent that the final sum was 102 Rand, the AA of South Africa has good information about Toll fees on its web site. The road was also FULL of speeding traps..............

The sun was setting very quickly and it was getting dark when 4 hours later we drove into Polokwane so we did not have a lot of time to find accommodation. The choice of the Pietersburg Lodge turned out to be a good one, located just off the N 1 as you enter the town, for Rand 65.00 we had a room with 2 double beds, fridge, tea making facilities, TV, ensuite bathroom. The decor was a tad dated, but it was very clean and comfortable. The facilities included a bar and restaurant but we chose to go out to eat. In Polokwane town centre there was a plethora of fast food outlets, from fish & chips, pizza, chicken to a take away steak house called Steers. But we wanted at sit down meal, after asking a local man to recommend us a restaurant, he directed us to Savannah Mall, a shopping Mall located on the outskirts of the town and here we enjoyed a meal prior to a much needed night’s sleep.
Rooms at Pietersburg Lodge in Polokwane
Pietersburg Lodge as seen from the road.
When I had booked the Car hire, it was an additional 60 Rand to have the airport transfer included, now as we settled back to be chauffeured the 45 minutes it took to get to the main office I felt this was very good value for money and essential if you are going to use this company.
On arrival at Bushlores depot, in a suburb on Johannesburg called Randburgh, we filled in all the relevant paper work. Receiving the documents we needed to take the vehicle out of South African and into Botswana and Zimbabwe. We then were shown round a Bran spanking new, out the box, Toyota Hilux.