A house in Africa

Een huis in AfrikaWanted: someone who watches our campsite during our vacation.” In short, that was the advert we saw when we were still in Uganda. The message was placed on the website Horizons Unlimited by Duncan and Elli, owners of a campsite in South Africa. They were looking for someone who wanted to look after their campsite ‘African Overlanders’ for a few weeks, in exchange for staying in their home, a place to carry out maintenance and a good internet connection. Just want we needed; an alternation to travelling, an opportunity to experience managing a campsite and three weeks in a house instead of our tent. And, after eight months it seems to be a good time for maintenance on the bikes and the website as well.

From the Cape of Good Hope we get on the bike for the last 100 km. The campsite is in Stellenbosch, a town just east of Cape Town in the middle of the wine region of South Africa. We leave the nature reserve and enter the urban area. Just outside Stellenbosch we drive onto a dirt road that runs along meadows and a vineyard. At the end of the road is a sign with ‘African Overlanders’ painted on it, this is the place! We are welcomed by Elli and are given the key to a beautiful guest house in the garden. It is a round hut with a thatched roof and a nice orange colour on the wall. Een huis in Afrika From the “Rondavel”, as Elli calls the hut, we can see Table Mountain! On the other side of the property, we have a beautiful view over a vineyard and the Hottentot Holland Mountains in the back. A nice place to spend a few weeks.

After we have taken all our belongings into the Rondavel and have changed our riding gear for ordinary clothes, we are introduced to Duncan who has just returned from the city. Together with their three year old daughter Chloe we get in the car and drive to a nearby cafe for steak and fries. Although we had already been in contact via e-mail for some months, this is the first time we see each other. Duncan is originally from England and travelled on his motorbike through Africa for some time. During one of his earlier wanderings through Europe he had met the Spanish Elli. After his motorcycle trip through Africa was completed they settled down in South Africa and started ‘African Overlanders’.

Een huis in AfrikaWith their company they assist overlanders to ship their vehicles via container ships to and from South Africa. The campsite turns out to be a ’business on the side’. Most camping guests are travellers who have their vehicle shipped by Duncan and Elli. During their vacation, we will not take over the shipping-part of their business. We will only need to welcome guests, if they would arrive at the campsite during our stay. All in all it is not what we had expected based on the advert. Too bad, because we had quite looked forward to experience what it would be like to manage a campsite for some weeks. On the other hand, this also has its advantages. Now we have more time for ourselves and to attend to the bikes and the website. An unexpected short holiday from travelling. How strange the latter may sound, we have to admit that ’travelling’ is quite tiring and certainly not the same as a ‘holiday’. After eight months, we can use some good nights of sleep.

The next day, Duncan gives us a tour around the ‘Farm’. It is a large piece of land with two houses and several smaller buildings, including the Rondavel. Duncan and Elli live in one of the houses with their daughter Chloe. In the building next to theirs lives the cheerful neighbour Jo. Een huis in AfrikaShe has converted the largest barn on the property into a beautiful house. I would trade in our little apartment in Amsterdam for her house any time.

Although we will not have a lot of work on the campsite, there still is plenty to do, so it appears during the tour. The water that is supplied by the water company has to be filtered before it is clean drinking water. The water is purified through a complex system with different barrels, pumps and filters, that has to be started everyday. Furthermore, there is a high electric fence around the property that should be checked daily. In addition there are 101 smaller things that Duncan shows us about the campsite, the dogs, the old Toyota, the washing machine, and much more.

While Duncan and Elli are preparing their departure, we start working on our own tasks. Een huis in AfrikaPeter looks on the Internet for shops where he can buy the parts he needs for the maintenance of the bikes, while I started catching up with writing stories for the website.

The next morning we stay in the Rondavel most of the morning to give Duncan and Elli some time to quietly pack. Once we join them for a cup of coffee at the end of the morning, they are still very busy. Elli is packing, Duncan is working and Cloë runs around playing with her toys. But something is not right, as Elli is just packing clothes for herself and for Cloë. Duncan cannot not join them because of a delayed visa application. They had hoped that everything would be settled before their vacation, but unfortunately that is not the case. In the afternoon Duncan takes the ladies to the airport, after which he returns home disappointed. He will try to complete his visa application after the weekend.

Een huis in AfrikaAlthough Duncan is still in South Africa, we do move from the Rondavel to the house. Duncan will stay with a friend in Cape Town the next few days and will try to sort out his visa from there. If it does not work out with the visa, he will take a short holiday in South-Africa.

And so we suddenly have an actual house in Africa and that is a great luxury. No air beds and sleeping bags, but a double bed with a large duvet. No toilet building 100 meters from your tent, but a bathroom right next door. Not squatted next to our stove, but standing in front of a real stove with an oven. Seemingly obvious things, which we now appreciate even more than at home. The greatest joy of all may very well be the refrigerator. Een huis in AfrikaWhen we return from the supermarket that afternoon, we fill it with: yoghurt, cheese, meat and even frozen pizzas. Things we do not eat when we are on the road, because we can not keep them without a refrigerator.

After a few days we feel completely at home on the ‘Farm’. Each day starts with a walk around the property with the dogs to check the electric fence, turn on the water pump and especially to enjoy the beautiful views. After a hearty breakfast with yoghurt, muesli and fruit we start our own work.

Peter goes to the city a few times to buy parts for the bikes. He can find everything he needs in Cape Town. Een huis in AfrikaAfter the bikes have been cleaned, he starts to work on them. He changes the oil and the oil filters, replaces the chain and the sprockets, adjusts the valves, cleans the air filters and places new handlebars on both bikes. The bikes also get new tires. We expected that we would have had to change those half way through Africa, but the tires we left home with could stay on all the way to Cape Town for more than 26.000km!

Meanwhile I select photos, make backups and update the website. And I spent quite some time behind the laptop to catch up with the blog. Meanwhile, the washing machine is running non-stop and even the tent, the bags, the mats and sleeping bags are cleaned. After eight months, a number of things really need replacing. My flip-flops have broken and Peter has holes is his shorts and T-shirts. We go out to buy some new clothes in a massive shopping mall in Cape Town.

Een huis in AfrikaDuncan appears to have no luck with his visa application. He is be forced to stay in South Africa and wait for the application to be completed. After having cycled through the area a few days, he comes home again. Once we prepare to move back to the Rondavel, he assures us that will not be necessary. He will move into the guest room (which has a single bed), so we can stay in the master bedroom. Altogether a particular situation, but ’being a guest’ and living in someone else’s house are also skills you learn quickly when you are travelling.

During our time on the Farm only a few guests arrive at the campsite. Apart from the work that we ourselves wanted to get done in Stellenbosch, we actually have a short holiday. We watch movies and use the kitchen to cook everything except for rice and pasta dishes (which we ate most of the time we were on the road). Een huis in AfrikaWe go to the pub with Duncan to play some pool, help him unload beautiful old cars and enjoy a delicious South African braai with Jo and her friend Andre.

We love being at the Farm but time flies. Before we know it Duncan already gets into his car to pick up Elli and Chloe from the airport. We move back to the Rondavel and start packing. On our last day in Stellenbosch we go wine tasting with Duncan, Elli and Jo at some of the nearby vineyards. An activity that we cannot skip now we are in Stellenbosch. It is very interesting and the more wine we taste, the more fun we have (because spitting is really necessary;)) We end the evening and our stay in Stellenbosch with a good piece of meat and even more wine.

Een huis in AfrikaAfter three weeks, we start to get itchy feet and we secretly look forward to get on the bikes again for a continuation of our trip. We even look forward to sleeping in our tent again, our own little home in Africa!

Distance travelled  to African Overlanders: 26.181km (16.268 miles)

Click here to view the photos.

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| Leonie | AFRICA, South Africa

3 Reacties (Comments) - A house in Africa

  1. Jan en Mariët

    Fijn om weer een stukje reis te lezen! Liefs

  2. Celine en Leon

    Lekker hoor, zo’n vakantie en groot onderhoud aan de motoren, net voordat e weer uit elkaar moeten, ik wil wedden dat Peter ze bijna met ogen dicht in en uit elkaar kan halen :) Prachtige foto’s ook weer: wat voor vogeltje zit er in de zonsondergang?


  3. Frederike

    Ik ben gepast onder de indruk van de kleur van het waswater van de pakken :-)).
    Klein leesfeestje in de trein; kan haast niet wachten op de volgende xxx