Day 23 – Umhlanga to Port St John’s 406 km

We are leaving the magical Oyster Box hotel for our last week of rallying in this beautiful  country.

The first part of our route takes us past the very busy city of Durban. Fortunately we do not have to cross this city as it is not known to be the safest places for visiting foreigners.

A nice and wide highway takes us around the outskirts of the city where we see many poor townships scattered on the hills surrounding Durban.  The highway winds back to the coast for another 147 km and then we arrive for our first official test for the day at the Dezzi Raceway. 

A neat little circuit overlooking the ocean. 
We are to do two laps each with a start stop at a marshal post at each lap. Our little Merc likes this sort of track and we do well and at the end of the day move a place in the overall standings. There is coffee and some lunch at a country club overlooking the circuit so we have time to see how our other friends are doing.

Then back on the road for another 205 km to our destination for the night near port St Johns. We are driving away from the coast and the landscape becomes less interesting. Many small town ships scattered around the hills and the towns’ we have to cross are a bit intimidating with many black people milling around. Again in this area there are thousands of kids along the road in the ages from one to ten. The numbers are worrying because you wonder what they are going to do when they grow up. There are schools everywhere but what happened if they leave school?
But more of that later.

 The weather has become very hot and humid again. Its in the thirties and rising.
Near Port St John we gradually are coming back to the coast  and then we turn off the main road and take a small almost gravel road for 10 km to end up at the Umngazi river bungalows. It’s a small inlet on the beach where the Umngazi river flows into the ocean. We all have small bungalows near the beach and another unforgettable view of nature and the ocean.

This night is Haloween night and as you probably know the Brits love dressing up for such occasions. So this evening saw some amazing outfits. Some people were dressed up so differently that it took a while to know whom they were.
Even our Swiss friends made a big effort and they are not known for dressing up regularly.
It was fun for everybody and this whole group is one of the best groups I have ever rallied with. There is not one team that does not fit in and every night we mix with different people in the rally.
The competition element is still a bit there but most teams are happy with the route, the hotels and the company and leave the competition as it is. We participate with the trials and the circuits but all at 70% of our capabilities. Its good like this.

Day 24 Umngazi to Craddock

A fairly early start for a 450 km drive inland. Its hot and humid early in the morning and the first 100 km plus is full of road works. It takes us almost two hours to do the 100 km. Then the road improves and the next 200 km are tough because of the heat and humidity. Again driving inland the landscape changes and the area is full of poor townships, many small kids along the road. The small towns we have to cross are a bit intimidating and we are fortunate we left this morning with a full tank so we do not have to stop in one of these towns for fuel.

After 200 km we reach a fairly big town called Queens Town where we have a time control at a large shell petrol station. It was a perfect moment for us to refuel because just before the town the car started to stutter a bit. I think it was the fuel getting too hot. A refuel and a short stop to cool the engine was just in time.

At this stop there was a whole group of white Afrikaans from a local classic car club. They brought their own classics and we had some nice conversations about our rally and their hobby. Our conversations were in a mix of Africaans( Dutch) and English. Some were post war Dutch immigrants and still spoke quite good Dutch.
However in-between the talk about cars we heard several times about the fears of the white south Africans for their safety. The last few weeks apparently there had been quite a bit of violence in the area against white South Africans.. The next elections in South Africa seem to be very important for the future of the country.

After this nice break we had another 144km to go. This included a time trial on a gravel track. The weather had changed a bit with threatening thunderstorms. At least we did not have the sun beating down on us again…I will re-read this sentence next week when we are back in cold Holland and will try and remember how hot it has been here.

The time trial was actually quite okay. It was a wide gravel road up and down a small pass and in fairly good condition There was a start and stop at a manned marshall post in the middle. We went through it at 70% of our capabilities and came out with only a small time penalty. The final run to Craddock was good and we are now in this small town that has an old colonial style hotel on the corner and  adjacent a  street with small workmen’s cottages renovated as guest houses. Each team has his own small house and the hotel serves as reception, restaurant and bar. 
When we arrived there were again quite a few white Africans that travelled to Craddock to see our cars. We had nice conversations about our trip and classic cars and again we heard about the fears for the future of South Africa.

After dinner tonight the ‘ sweeps’ or mechanic teams invited us outside the hotel for a drink by their service trucks.
This is a tradition from other rallies and always great fun.

Tomorrow another early start for a long and I believe hot day. 

Almost there but not quite.

Good night,

Mick and Grace