Steve and Sally Blackman's South African 4x4 safari [Traveller story]

I had the privilege of chatting to Steve Blackman who is a well-traveled man when it comes to 4x4 safaris. As her husband is an avid lover of 4x4 trips, Sally, his wife, saw pictures from some of his trips to South Africa (on business) and got inspired enough to persuade him to take a trip together on a 4x4 safari through South Africa. In this day-by-day breakdown of their 17-day 4x4 adventure, we get to hear all about Steve and Sally’s South African 4x4 safari that they took in January 2015 in a Toyota Landcruiser 78 4x4 Bushcamper.

Steve and Sally went on this 4x4 safari because…

Steve, from the UK, has travelled to South Africa many times on business, but his wife Sally has never been before although she has seen all his pictures. In 2007 they toured Namibia in a 4x4 camper and Steve says they loved it. Sally was then keen to experience South Africa and because they are people who love mountains, they made sure exploring the Drakensberg and a bit of Lesotho would be part of their South African safari.

All the books and gadgets Steve and Sally used to get around and make sure they don’t get lost during their South African road trip

How to prepare for a 4x4 safari like this one?

Steve says to prepare for a trip like this they focused mainly on navigation – working out where they wanted to visit, plotting those locations on the map and working out a route, then researching campsites on the route (which he says can take quite a lot of time). They worked out a route that was not “fixed in stone, so we were able to adjust the routes as desired while travelling.” Their basic route was from Johannesburg through the Drakensberg Mountains, then up the Sani Pass passing through Lesotho, then down to the old-Transkei and along the Garden Route and into Cape Town.

Sally setting up the kitchen apparatus attached to their Toyota Landcruiser to make lunch

Day-by-day breakdown of Steve and Sally’s 4x4 safari roadtrip

  • Day 1: After arriving in Johannesburg from the UK, they collected their Toyota Landcruiser 78 4x4 Bushcamper from the OR Tambo International Airport and then started down to Clarens and stayed in a lodge for the first night.
  • Day 2: On their second day they hiked around the Sentinel in the Drakensberg, but didn’t make it as far as the chain ladders and therefore stayed at the Mahai Campsite in the Royal Natal National Park in KwaZulu-Natal.
  • Day 3: To prove that Steve and Sally were on a mission to have fun and enjoy each and every moment while doing so, they spent a large amount of time exploring the Drankensberg. On day three they hiked below Cathedral Peak and stayed in the campsite there while spotting some baboons.
  • Day 4 and Day 5: On day four they continued south-west around the Drakensberg taking the dirt road route to Underberg and ascended the Sani Pass through the rough dirt roads to Thaba-Tseka (Lesotho) where they found a hotel on the night of the fifth day.
  • Day 6 – Day 8: On day six they drove west to the Lesotho-Free State border through Wepener and found a campsite in Matlakeng. Lady Grey, Jouberts Pass and Barkly East are just some of the places they passed on day seven while driving south to camp just at the bottom of the plateau. On the eighth day they further drove south through Elliot and back onto the dirt roads through Kentani and down to the Kei River and took a ferry across to Kei Mouth to camp by the river 8km down a 4x4 track.

Spotting some baboons while hiking Cathedral Peak bordering Maloti-Drakensberg Park

Kei River crossing with the locals on a ferry in the Eastern Cape

Hello Eastern Cape…

  • Day 9 and Day 10: Onto the N2 they passed East London to the top-end of Addo Elephant Park in Port Elizabeth where they camped in a private campsite as Addo’s camping site was full. On day nine and day ten they toured through the park to exit at the south end at Colchester and camped by the sand dunes at Sundays River. They left Port Elizabeth to Jeffreys Bay and then Storms River to camp on the coast.

Steve and Sally’s Toyota Landcruiser 78 4x4 Bushcamper at their campsite next to Sundays River (also known as Nukakamma by the locals), one of Sally’s favorite stops

  • Day 12 – 14: Once Steve and Sally left the Eastern Cape, they headed to the Western Cape along the Garden Route through George and up the old dirt road of Montagu Pass. They stayed at a BnB and Spa near the famous Ronnie’s Sex Shop after driving through Oudtshoorn and onto the R62 route. On day 13 they continued through Montagu and Robertson to Franschhoek and visited the Huguenot memorial, Boschendal and the Nelson Mandela statue at Victor Verster prison and camped at a site nearby for the night. The following morning they headed to Somerset West and Strandfontein through to Fish Hoek to visit the penguins at Simon’s Town then to camp near the lighthouse at Kommetjie.
  • Day 15: On day 15 they passed through Hout Bay and over Kloof Nek to hike up Platteklip Gorge along Table Mountain where they had dinner in Camps Bay and for the night rested at a hotel in Bantry Bay.
  • Day 16: This day was filled with sightseeing where they visited Hout Bay harbour, Kirstenbosch Gardens and the Rhodes Memorial and finished the day with dinner watching the sunset at Woodbridge Island.
  • Day 17: They spend their last day at the V&A Waterfront before driving to the airport and returning their camper.

What a 4x4 adventure with Sally feels like…

We have a long list of places we would love to visit in future. This trip is fairly typical in that most of our holidays are touring ones, usually by camper, but we have also rented cars and used motels too. We have got used to living in the confines of a tiny camper for several weeks at a time, and spend many weekends a year camping too. This means that we are very used to the routines and compromises necessary when living together in something the size of the average bathroom. The Toyota Landcruiser 78 4x4 Bushcamper ascending Sani Pass 

One of Steve and Sally’s favourite moments was when they stopped atop the Sani Pass, west of KwaZulu-Natal, to admire some local creations

Our most memorable moments during this 4x4 safari was…

The campsite 8km down a 4x4 track next to the Kei River. The couple running it invited us to a braai and we were joined by two couples who were clearing land 2km up the river to live on. Great hospitality, and it was lovely to spend an evening hearing their views on the region, the state of the country and their lives. Asked what their favourite spot was, for me Steve it was the Sani Pass. Although he was disappointed that some of it was a bit washed away, the extra challenge made it more interesting. Sally’s favourite was camping near the sand dunes of Sundays River. Joubert’s pass comes second for both of them as they found it by accident during some rain which made it very slippery. The low cloud added to the atmosphere. Topping the list of their most scenic routes are the dirt roads around the Drakensberg because of the beautiful greenery at the time of year they travelled and the spectacular mountains above. “These roads were also very quiet,” cites Steve.

Sally about to read a book, enjoying the comforts of the interior of the 4x4 Bushcamper

The comfort of our 4x4 Bushcamper vehicle

The Land Cruiser was great. It was well equipped, comfortable to drive and excellent off road. The 4.2 litre naturally aspirated diesel was very underpowered, but if you were taking this vehicle through developing countries the simplicity of this engine could be a real benefit. The roof tent worked well, but if you are heavily built or not very subtle you would struggle climbing in and out.

Things to take with you on a 4x4 trip like this…

My GPS comes high on the list. But don’t forget the sun cream for hiking in the Drakensberg – the sun is very strong.

Our 4x4 safari journey in three words…

  • Dirt road heaven

    Passing a village in the Lesotho highlands

    Elsewhere around the world where Steve and Sally have been…

Besides Namibia, Steve and Sally have driven from the UK down to Morocco in their own camper and driven through part of the Sahara. Sally has been to Gambia too. Outside the UK they have toured France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Austria and the Czech Republic in their own camper and toured New Zealand and the US in rented campers. Steve has also enjoyed off-road driving in Greece, the United Arab Emirates and Australia. He has also visited Canada, Malta, Ireland, Holland, Portugal, Hungary, Israel, Oman, The Maldives, Thailand, Fiji, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau.

Steve took this picture of Sally at Woodbridge Island in Cape Town when they were just about to go for dinner at Maestros restaurant

Next stop on our destination list

We are touring part of Canada and New England in the USA with friends in September. Next year we will probably do the south of France, but Sally keeps pointing to Iceland on the map.

Please choose one favourite image and add a caption to it for us

Although I love the picture of the two of us at the Cape, I think it would need to be the picture of the Land Cruiser ascending the Sani Pass.

The Sani Pass – still a fantastic dirt road despite warnings it was being tarred

It is clear that Steve and Sally love adventure and they know what they want to get each time they embark on a 4x4 safari. For more of their fun, here’s a YouTube video that captures more of what went on on this trip.

Planning a 4x4 trip and need to hire a 4x4 vehicle locally, you might want to consider 4x4 hire South Africa to find the perfect vehicle for your travel needs. You might want to have a look at various other 4x4 hire options.

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