L O G B O O K - by John Philp



WELCOME TO SOUTH AFRICA!


TUE 16th NOV - Rest day. We’re moored at the marina in Richards Bay, on the north east coast of South Africa.

John, the land based support person for the Millennium Rally comes over each day to the Tau to use our HF radio for his daily radio appointment with the fleet under way from Reunion. The Millennium Rally was at Musket Cove and the RSYC, Suva in July this year. We’ve bumped into them in Darwin, Mauritius and now South Africa.

WED 17th NOV - Our Aussie friend Ron sailed into Richards Bay at 6am. He hadn’t slept in 48 hours as he was hit by a 50 knot storm close to Richards Bay (“worst sailing weather in my life!”) and spent a rough sleepless night waiting for daylight to enter the harbour. About an hour after he docked three construction workers turned up at the wharf and started hammering away at the concrete five feet from his boat. He got up and bellowed at them, they wisely stopped!

THUR 18th NOV - In the afternoon the yachts in the marina got hit by another storm. Two Millennium Rally yachts were arriving from Reunion and got hit by 60 knot winds. A local catamaran returning from Mozambique, was dismasted and had to be towed in that evening.

In the evening some crazy local lads took me out to the bars in Richards Bay. In the ‘G.Spot’ I discovered the barman had an electric ‘stun’ gun in lieu of a bouncer. He also had a handy little pack of tear gas. Only in Africa! I’d had a few ales by this time and was so fascinated by the stun gun that I remember asking the bartender to zap me with it for an instant just so I knew what it felt like! Good thing I didn’t - I’d probably still be unconscious now!

FRI 19th NOV - It’s amazing how many people here carry concealed weapons. I didn’t realise until today that my friend Byron had carried a 9mm pistol in his belt last night! Byron travels the Durban - Richards Bay highway regularly for business so the weapon is necessary insurance in case of a car jacking.

There are countries with higher crime rates but South Africa has more than it’s share of violent crime. It’s almost becoming routine. A local Richards Bay policeman was car jacked last week and the local police chief said this in the local paper, “hijackings have become normal, it’s a sign of the times”. Welcome to South Africa!

SAT 20th NOV - Tau is moored in the heart of the Richards Bay marina. We were lucky to get in at all as the marina was full. Shops, restaurants and bars are all so close you could fall off the boat and land in one of them. The locals we’ve met at the small craft harbour have been amazing and can’t do enough for us.

SUN 21st NOV - With Ron in tow we left very early (4am) and drove a couple of hours to the Umfolozi Game park for the day. We arrived just on sunrise - perfect timing. You are far more likely to see the animals at this time, as they tend to disappear in the middle of the day when it’s it’s hottest.

We were rewarded for our efforts by seeing an incredible number of animals - herds of zebra, huge rhino’s, antelope, monkeys, giraffe’s, wildebeest, cheetah and impala. We even saw a cheetah feeding on it's kill (an impala) just 20 yards away from the car. We must have missed seeing it pull down the impala by a couple of minutes. We went by the same spot later, got out of the car, and had a look - all that remained were two neatly incissored hind legs. The rest of the carcass must have been carried off to be devoured later.

Later on we pulled up to a waterhole, got out of the car and thought, “gee this looks like a likely spot for game”. Suddenly Lydia pointed excitedly - there was a huge rhino standing still not fifty yards away in the shade of a tree! We weren’t expecting to see something so large and had to adjust focus just to take it in. Whoooooaaaa look at that thing! Everybody hops out of the car to take a closer look. Michelle starts stalking it to get a close up photo, Ron close behind. Not the wisest thing either of them has done - we learned later that had it been a Black Rhino it would have probably charged them down. They have poor eyesight, but Michelle was standing in the sunlight thirty yards away wearing a white shirt! Hmmnn good thing it was a White Rhino. Had we come across one of the Black variety we would have been climbing trees very quickly instead of taking photo’s!

We went on a walk along a specially marked track and managed to lose the trail. So we say to Ron, “Ron old chap - you’re SAS trained, get us out of here”. Ron goes, “Hey I was in the Australian army not the African”. I could see this turning into another Philp adventuring disaster - after all Ron was with us. Tony was trying to be helpful, “Can someone keep looking behind to make sure Michelle is still with us? We stumbled around for an hour before finding the road and the car again. Later we read the rules of the game park : Do not get out of your car (broke that rule about twenty times); do not leave the specially marked trails because of the lions (oopsiee!). If a lion had popped it’s head out of the bush four Fijians and one Australian would have gotten back to their boats in record time - without the use of a car!

MON 22nd NOV - We spent the day doing odds and ends. We really have to get out of Richards Bay - it’s such a social place, you end up drinking far more alcohol than normal. Walking along the boardwalk everyone is so friendly, it’s too easy to stop and say hi to someone on their yacht then get invited aboard for ‘one beer’ - next thing you know you're stumbling back to the yacht at an odd hour falling over yourself!

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