Category: Battlefields

Britain May June 2021

Tibby and I travelled 3,000 miles around England, Wales and Scotland in 34 days in May and June 2021. We travelled via the Mendip Hills, Brecon Beacons, Snowdonia, Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District up the west coast of Scotland from Dunoon to past Ullapool and then back via Speyside, St Andrews, the Galloway Forest and Sandringham in Norfolk.

The detailed map can be viewed at:

https://www.tripline.net/trip/Britain_May_June_2021-3624671175141017A6CAAA1D60652A76

We hired a six berth, seven-metre-long Fiat Ducato motor home from Just Go.

Covid-19 was a feature of our trip. It was difficult to travel abroad so a trip in the UK made sense. Restaurants, tourist places and camp sites were open but with reduced access or special rules, especially in the first fortnight. Most museums were restricting numbers and required prebooking and then some facilities within some museums were closed. An increased number of people were vacationing domestically in the UK so we had difficulty, at times, getting spaces in caravan parks, and so, we stayed more nights in hotels than we might have planned.

This was a wonderful holiday. Many of the places we visited, we had not visited before or had not seen in the detail that we now did.  The weather was not kind to us. We had a lot of rain which certainly impacted us on some days. We enjoyed travelling in the motorhome and lived very well in it. We stayed with our friend, Ronelle, in York for two nights, stayed ten nights in six hotels and stayed 21 nights in fourteen campsites.

Day 1 – Day 3 London via the Mendip Hills to Brecon, Wales – 194 miles

Tibby and I hired a six-berth motorhome from JustGo, took it home to Hampstead and packed it. We left London on Thursday 6th May 2021, collected our bikes from my store in Guildford and headed down the M4 to Bath in the rain. We wasted 90 minutes trying to find a replacement windscreen wiper, because the cap on ours had disappeared and the rubber of the wiper started to escape from the frame. General car parts dealers did not have the wiper. There seemed to be a real shortage of Fiat dealers and the one we contacted had to order the wiper from Italy! So, we passed the monkey back to JustGo who also discovered that it was difficult to find the wiper in West England, so they agreed to courier a replacement from their stocks, for next day delivery to our campsite. We stayed at Bath Chew Valley Caravan Park which is a great park and had a BBQ on a lovely fresh evening.

They had an onsite woodland walk which I enjoyed in the morning.

We circled the lovely Mendip Hills passing through the pretty Cheddar Village near the Cheddar Gorge. Unfortunately, much of Cheddar Village was closed. We picked up cycle helmets and cycle locks in Bristol, crossed the Severn River into Wales and checked into the Brecon Beacons Caravan Club Site, which is great, except that all the communal facilities were closed. It then rained for 36 hours, keeping us confined to our motorhome. Our replacement wiper did not arrive.

Day 4 – Circular route in the Brecon Beacons and then to Chester – 204 miles

The British Army Infantry does a lot of training in the Brecon Beacons Mountain range. Our son, David, has spent months training in these hills and is very fond of them. He suggested a 73-mile circular route Brecon – Sennybridge (site of the main Army camp) – Llandovery – Llangadog – Ystradgynlais – Sennybridge – Brecon. This was a beautiful route with magnificent mountain views. We had a sandwich for lunch in Brecon and then headed to Chester. Much of the route was along the Wye River which was full and flowing strongly. The countryside was green. Plenty of lambs were frolicking. The cows were very fat. Life was exceptionally good.

We checked into the Netherwood Touring Site which is an acre of grass behind someone’s house. Basic but close to Chester.

Day 5 – Chester

We were last in Chester 34 years ago. We were looking forward to our return and were not disappointed. We walked from our campsite for three miles along the beautiful and interesting Shropshire Union Canal Main Line to the centre of town.

There our guide, Lyn, told us that the city was established as a fort with walls by the Romans in AD79 and occupied by them until about AD400. Somewhat later the Saxons strengthened the fort against raiding Danes. Following the Norman Conquest in 1066, Chester became a centre of the defence against Welsh raiders and a launch point for raids on Ireland. The first Chester Cathedral was begun in 1075 and a Benedictine monastery was dedicated in 1092. For many years Chester was the second busiest port (after Bristol) on the west coast, but over time the harbour silted up and in the early 1800s could not accommodate the larger ships then being built. In the Georgian era, Chester became again a centre of affluence, a town with elegant terraces where the landed aristocracy lived. This trend continued into the Industrial Revolution, when the city was populated with the upper classes fleeing to a safe distance from the industrial sprawls of Manchester and Liverpool. We circled the cathedral which is a mix of additions and replacements over a thousand years. We walked on the city wall and wandered along streets that were laid out by the Romans. On several streets there are walkways at first floor level, called Rows, with additional shops, which, 200 years ago, permitted shoppers in fancy clothes to avoid the sewage and horse manure at street level. These days it is a delight to walk at both levels.

Late afternoon we received a call from the courier trying to deliver our windscreen wiper to us in Brecon!

Day 6 – Snowdonia – 160 miles

We had a slow start and then headed west to the Bodnant Welsh Food Centre near Conwy Town, where we bought ingredients for our lunch which we had in our motorhome (the COVID rules prevent us eating indoors until coming Monday and the rain stopped us from sitting outside). We headed up the valley of the River Conwy into Snowdonia National Park. We followed a small road to Nebo and then climbed over the mountains, on a beautiful road, to Ffestiniog. I love small roads on big mountains with grand views. This route had them all. We continued south to Dolgellau and then reluctantly took the fast road back to Chester.

Day 7 – Bollington – 105 miles

We drove to Bollington to meet up with my cousin, Denise, who was widowed last year. She took us on a tour of her beautiful house which had been a project of love for her and her husband, Terry, for nearly a decade. We had lunch alongside the Macclesfield Canal and later walked along it for a while. It was a joy to spend quality time with her.

We got back to the campsite to find that a windscreen wiper had been delivered. Unfortunately, it was for the passenger side, rather than the driver side, which is four inches longer.

Day 8 – To Leeds – 100 miles

We popped into to see our daughter, Juls, in the flat she has recently moved to in Didsbury, Manchester. She has set herself up beautifully in her flat. She likes being in Manchester because it is so close to many hiking routes. After we left her, we had lunch on the patio at Albert, Didsbury which was a delight. We then crossed the northern part of the Peak District on the highest motorway in the UK, to a campsite eight miles north of Leeds, called Moor Lodge Holiday Park.

There I met Rod Brown, the delightful seventy-year-old owner of the Caravan Park. He explained that in 1986 he was working for his father who owned a chain of cake shops (and a chain of florists, but that is a different story). Rod’s future father-in-law owned the Moor Lodge Holiday Park and wanted to sell it. He persuaded Rod to buy the park for £250,000 plus £60,000 for an adjacent house. Rod’s bank manager advised that he should not give up his day job as the outlook for the caravan park did not warrant the expense. Rod’s wife-to-be was hugely disappointed at the purchase because she had grown up on the park and expected to escape to Rod’s pleasant house in the village. They married but fifteen years later she left him for more attractive pastures. Rod’s father-in-law had insisted that the house be part of the deal because he had been trying to sell it, without success. There was a view that buyers were disappointed in the small size of the garden. Within months the farm manager of the adjacent farm died, forcing the owner to sell it. Rod tried to buy eleven acres of the farm directly, but the owner insisted that it go to auction as separate lot. Rod’s bank manager advised that the going price for agricultural land was £2,000 per acres so he should be able to purchase the eleven acres for £22,000. In the event Rod found himself in competition with the next-door golf club. Their agreed limit was £65,000 so Rod was horrified to be successful in buying the land for £66,000. Fortunately, his bank manager provided the necessary loan. Rod was then in a hurry to sell the house. He fixed it up, added five acres from his recent purchase and put it on the market. A woman offered to buy it for £140,000 but needed to sell her own house. Rod agreed to the deal on the understanding that if another buyer materialised who could proceed on the purchase, he was free to do so. The SOLD board went up. A week later a man arrived as the office opened, determined to buy the house, eventually offering £250,000 which he paid that day. Rod and his bank manager were delighted as bank loans could be paid off, with money left to develop the park. A year later he agreed with his father to leave the cake business and go full time on the park.

The buyer of the house sold the house, after the property crash of 1988, for £150,000. It has been sold several times since, recently exchanging hands for £1.1 million. If I recall correctly, we bought a house in Belsize Park, London in 1986 for £286,000, spent £60,000 on renovations, sold it for £400,000 in 1994 and today it is worth £4.5 million!

Rod has retired and the park is now run by his son. It has sixty fixed caravans which vary from basic models at £30,000 to mini homes for £180,000. The owners are principally from Leeds who like a nearby getaway, but some owners live abroad. Rod told me that research has shown that owners of fixed caravans use them most when living within ninety minutes of their location. Owners are obliged to sell, replace and buy through the park, with sellers paying a 15% commission. The five or six sales per year are an important source of income plus the site rental income. They spent £500,000 on a wood pellet fired electricity generating plant, received a government rebate of £150,000, save £18,000 pa of electricity costs and receive a similar amount for electricity fed back into the grid. Rod took me for a tour of the log yard, the shredding and drying plant and the generator.

He diverted from our chat to help his daughter-in-law, who runs a party business, load fifty balloons and other decorations into a van, intended for the first birthday of a first born of a client. It was acknowledged that the child would be indifferent to the decorations, but the parents would be happy.

As an aside he mentioned that in the eighties a South African who visited one of his father’s florists told him that the chinkerinchee bulbs for sale came from his farm in South Africa. The South African invited Rod’s father to visit South Africa. Rod’s father published a message on the UK Interflora system asking if others would like to visit South Africa. He was overwhelmed when sixty people signed up. He solved the organisational burden by offering the opportunity to the holiday company, Kuoni, who organised the trip for the sixty people and gave Rod’s parents a free trip.

Rod said that his divorce was so expensive that he is determined not to marry again. He had an eight-year relationship with a woman and helped raise her sons, but when he was sixty and still refused to marry her, she left him. He now has, what he considers to be the perfect relationship, with a sixty-year-old woman who lives with her aged mother but spends four nights a week with him, leaving him time to socialise with his friends. He is such a likeable person that it is no surprise that he has lots of friends. I loved Rod’s enthusiasm, entrepreneurial approach and happiness with his stage of life.

Days 9 and 10 – To York – 124 miles

We needed to buy meat for a planned BBQ at the home of our friend, Ronelle Smith, in York. We followed Rod’s recommendation to the family butcher, R.P. Setchfield, in the village of East Keswick where we stocked up with Barnsley chops, Cumberland sausages, pork pies and two goose eggs. COVID restrictions still only permitted eating outside restaurants, so we followed Rod’s next suggestion and had a tasty lunch in a tepee at Wood Hall Hotel in Linton.

We parked our motorhome on the lane behind Ronelle’s house (and later received a parking penalty for parking on very faint double yellow lines). The next two days were spent relaxing, chatting, laughing over old photographs and advising (whether he wanted it is not clear) her son, Tom on matters of life. We ate plenty including a BBQ, scrambled goose eggs for breakfast and a lovely meal in a tepee, on a very wet Saturday afternoon, at the Tickled Trout in Bilton in Ainsty.

Day 11 – To Richmond, Yorkshire – 50 miles

The day started with blue skies but as we left Ronelle at 12h30 the heavens opened, and it rained all the way to Richmond. We took the route through Ripon, Masham, Leyburn, Catterick along the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. This was a pretty route despite the rain. We checked into the Brompton on Swale Caravan Park and camped on the banks of the River Swale.

Day 12 – Richmond to Lake Windermere in the Lake District – 76 miles

The town of Richemont, in Normandy was the origin of the place name Richmond. It is the most duplicated UK place name, with at least 56 occurrences worldwide. (There are 30 Richmonds in the USA, 7 in Canada, 6 in Australia, two in each of Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa and the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames). Richmond was founded in 1071 (currently celebrating their 950th anniversary) by Breton Alan Rufus on lands granted to him by William the Conqueror and the Norman style Richmond Castle was completed in 1086. The earldom of Richmond was intermittently held by the Dukes of Brittany until the 14th century and became crown lands from 1485. The prosperity of the medieval town and centre of the Swale Dale wool industry greatly increased in the late 17th and 18th centuries with the burgeoning lead mining industry in nearby Arkengarthdale. It is from this period that the town’s Georgian architecture originates. A permanent military presence was established in the town with the completion of Richmond Barracks in 1877. As a gateway town to the Yorkshire Dales, tourism is important to the local economy, but the single largest influence is the nearby Catterick Garrison army base, which is rapidly becoming the largest population centre in Richmondshire.

The castle was a centre of power and defence against the Scots, in the days when the border with Scotland was closer. It was also a grand home for many centuries. It fell into ruin but was partly brought back to use by the UK military late in the 19th century until after the First World War. Today it is a shadow of its former self but still sits high above the town.

In the afternoon we crossed the Yorkshire Dales National Park with the road between Bainbridge and Ingleton presenting the most amazing views.

Since we left London, we have had intermittent rain every day, with heavy showers for an hour and beautiful blue skies an hour later. When we were at the castle this morning it was sunny. It rained heavily on parts of our drive and the early evening was once again lovely blue skies. We camped near Lake Windermere at the Park Cliffe Caravan Site.

Day 13 – To Keswick – 60 miles

We took the long road to Keswick via Newby Bridge, Torver, Coniston, Ambleside and Grasmere. There were small lanes, trees, lakes, sheep and endless beauty as well as a view of Scafell Pike, the tallest mountain in England. The villages were full of character and hikers.

We met up with our daughter, Juls, and had a late lunch at Brysons in Keswick. Juls is walking the Cumbria Way and had just finished her second of five days. The Cumbria Way is a 70-mile-long hiking trail with the majority of the route inside the boundaries of the Lake District National Park. Linking the two historic Cumbrian towns of Carlisle and Ulverston, it passes Caldbeck, Skiddaw Forest, Derwent Water, Borrowdale, Langdale and Coniston Water. Juls had just completed the 14-mile section from Caldbeck to Keswick and said that walking it alone she had felt it to be very remote.

After lunch we visited Castlerigg Stone Circle, a Neolithic stone circle thought to have been constructed about 3000 BC. Castlerigg is about 30 metres in diameter, and comprises 38 stones, which vary in height between 1 metre and 2.3 metres. It is a dramatic setting overlooking the Thirlmere Valley with the mountains of High Seat and Helvellyn as a backdrop.

We made our way to St John’s in the Vale Church, located in a low pass between High Rigg on the southern side and Low Rigg to the north. The present building dates from 1845, with the earliest reference to a church at the site being 1554. Juls left us here to hike to the barn where she was spending the night.

We checked into Castlerigg Hall Farm Campsite and, on a beautiful sunny evening, had a magnificent view of Derwentwater as we ate our lamb chump chops and Toulouse sausages off our BBQ.

Day 14 – To Glasgow – 138 miles

We had an easy run up to Glasgow but stopped off at Gretna Green, which is the first village in Scotland, over the border from England. The 1754 Marriage Act prevented couples under the age of 21 marrying in England or Wales without their parents’ consent. As it was still legal in Scotland to marry without such consent, couples began crossing the border into Scotland, and marrying at Gretna Green.

Scottish law allowed for “irregular marriages”, meaning that if a declaration was made before two witnesses, almost anybody had the authority to conduct the marriage ceremony. The blacksmiths in Gretna became known as “anvil priests”, culminating with Richard Rennison, who performed 5,147 ceremonies. The local blacksmith and his anvil became lasting symbols of Gretna Green weddings.

Gretna’s two blacksmiths’ shops and countless inns hosted tens of thousands of weddings.

Today there are several wedding venues in and around Gretna Green, from former churches to purpose-built chapels. We stopped off at the Famous Blacksmiths Shop which is now not only a wedding venue but a shopping complex and a restaurant with a large car and coach park. We talked to one of the wedding organisers who told us that they are doing a wedding every half hour for nine hours a day and are fully booked until September.

We checked into the Glasgow Marriott for three nights. We were expecting a smart hotel and were disappointed to find a rundown hotel made more dispiriting by the fact that current COVID rules permit indoor eating in restaurants, but no alcohol may be served, and the last food serving must be before 20h00.

Day 15 – Glasgow

We walked the length of Argyle Road in the rain, dropped off laundry at Majestic Laundrette and then visited the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. We learnt about Glasgow Style in the museum which is more fully described on the website www.theglasgowstyle.co.uk  as follows: ‘The design style known as the Glasgow Style ran from the early 1890s to around 1914. While largely local to the city of Glasgow, it had an extensive and far-reaching impact in its time and today continues to enjoy world-wide interest and appeal. 

The Glasgow Style was not a formal movement as such. Its designers did not have a shared ideology.  Their common ground was Glasgow and the Glasgow School of Art, with little known or documented on their beliefs or motivations. Influences and design characteristics were largely shared with other prominent design styles of the time – the Aesthetic and the Arts and Crafts Movements and European Art Nouveau. Mediums most common to the Glasgow Style are metal, wood, ceramics, glass, stained glass, illustration, textiles, and interiors. There were over 70 other designers operating in the Style.’ Most of the designers were female.

The website says further ‘Charles Rennie Mackintosh is the designer most associated with the Glasgow Style. Born in Glasgow, the son of a police superintendent, he studied part-time at the Glasgow School of Art from 1883 until 1894. As an apprentice architect, he befriended Herbert McNair with whom he worked and studied and fell under the radar of Fra’ Newberry who introduced the two friends to the Macdonald sisters, recognising similarities in their work.

Mackintosh completed numerous commissions in the city, including interior schemes for Miss Cranston’s Tea Rooms and designed the Glasgow School of Art in Renfrew Street, a controversial building at the time.  He married Margaret Macdonald and in 1914, they left Glasgow, from then on living in various places in England and in France. As tastes and styles changed, Mackintosh was unable or unwilling to adapt. He struggled to earn a living and gained few commissions, eventually electing only to paint. He died in 1928 in London aged 60, his funeral attended by six people. Margaret passed away five years later. In a period of ten years from the peak of his success, he had disappeared into relative obscurity, where he was to remain until around the 1970s.’

Mackintosh’s designs gained in popularity in the last fifty years. His House for an Art Lover was built in Glasgow’s Bellahouston Park in 1996, and the University of Glasgow (which owns most of his watercolour work) rebuilt the interior of a terraced house Mackintosh had designed and furnished it with his and Margaret’s work (it is part of the university’s Hunterian Museum). The Glasgow School of Art building (now “The Mackintosh Building”) is cited by architectural critics as among the finest buildings in the UK. It suffered fires in 2014 and 2018 with the latter resulting in the complete destruction of the building. The Glasgow School of Art has committed to rebuild the building in the identical style. The revival of public interest has led to the refurbishment and opening of more buildings to the public, such as the Willow Tea Rooms in Glasgow and 78 Derngate in Northampton. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City held a major retrospective exhibition of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s works in 1996.

We had an early dinner reservation at 17h45 (to beat the curfew) at Ubiquitous Chip. The restaurant has been a landmark in Glasgow since 1971 and is in a building that used to be stables. We sat next to a fishpond and ate wonderful Scottish sourced food.

Day 16 – Glasgow

We did a ninety-minute walk in Central Glasgow with our guide, Katarina, telling us about the city. We started in George Square, walked along George Street and High Street to the Cathedral and the gates of the Necropolis and then returned down High Street and Ingram Street to the junction of Queen Street. We saw interesting old buildings, lots of street art and heard about history, folklore and the experiences of Katarina growing up in Glasgow. Glasgow City Council has adopted St Mungo and images of his four miracles related to a tree, bird, bell and fish as emblems which are on the City Crest and on other council buildings including bus stops.

At 17h15 we had another early dinner, this time at Bo & Birdy at The Blythswood. I was delighted with my Keralan Prawn Curry.

Day 17 – To Lochgilphead – 112 miles

We tried to get into King George V Dock to take a photo of the three ships of the Azamara Fleet which have been docked there for the last fourteen months during the COVID pandemic. They are our favourite cruise line. We have done four cruises with them, had two cancelled because of COVID and have two more booked. We were refused entry to the docks so had to live with a glimpse through the trees. This photo was provided by one of the crew.

We like the Azamara ships because their passenger numbers are a maximum of 700 on each ship. They normally each carry a crew of 400. The three ships of the line have been in the King George V Dock since the beginning of the COVID crisis in March 2020. There are currently 193 staff on one ship in the dock providing a minimum support to all three ships. They are working their normal contracts of three or six months but must stay on the ship all the time and may not leave the dock. Replacement crew members quarantine in cabins for two weeks. Crew numbers are being increased over the next month to allow all three ships to go to dry dock in Cadiz for hull repaints before commencing cruising in September. We are looking forward to cruising on Azamara Quest in January from Miami, through the Panama Canal to Lima.

We headed west past Greenock and caught the twenty-minute ferry from Gourock to Dunoon. A few miles north we turned on to the B836 which was a lovely road to Craigendive. We turned off the A886 near Ballochandrain on an unnumbered, single car width tar road over the mountain to Otter Ferry. What an absolute delight of a road! Very wild with magnificent views. We then followed the coastal road all the way up, round and down the other side of Loch Fyne.

We walked around the delightful village of Inveraray and were enticed, by the BBQ aroma, to have an early dinner in the pub garden of the George Hotel.

The weather was the driest and bluest that we had seen for weeks and after dinner we continued south and found a pitch at the Lochgilphead Caravan Park. Today’s driving was a delight with lovely weather and huge views.

Day 18 – To Creagan Station – 56 miles

During the night the wind howled, and rain poured. We woke to a forecast of rain all day. May is traditionally a drier month than April but this year April was relatively balmy and dry, and May has had record rains and lower than normal temperatures. We are cosy in our motorhome as we have a good amount of space for two people and have heating when stationary. Driving through lovely scenery is also relatively comfortable but exploring towns and villages on foot when it is raining is unattractive. The drive up the coast to Oban was delightful. However, we did not do justice to the delights of Oban. We arrived just before midday in the rain and took shelter in the EE-USK (Gaelic for fish) Restaurant on the pier. One member of our party had three Kir Royale Champagne Cocktails and modest food. The driver had Lobster Thermidor which was fully appreciated. We watched the harbour traffic which were mainly ferries and realised why Oban is known as the gateway to the isles. A Google search reveals that ferries run from Oban to nine destinations including Castlebay, Coll, Colonsay, Craignure, Kennacraig, Lismore, Lochboisdale, Port Askaig and Tiree.

The rain had not diminished after lunch, so we skipped a city tour, drove just a few miles north, checked into the Creagan Station Caravan Park and allowed the drinker of three champagne cocktails to have an afternoon nap. We were camped on the shore of Loch Creran but did not fully appreciate the beauty of our location.

Day 19 – To Mallaig – 95 miles

We woke to steady rain and the forecast showed rain all day. We had a slow start and then drove up to Ballachulish. Tibby’s maternal ancestors moved from Ballachulish, probably in the mid eighteenth century to the Edinburgh/Glasgow area. This link has resulted in a strong Scottish theme in the family. Tibby’s grandfather was a pipe major in the Transvaal Highlanders and as a teenager I became used to him playing the pipes at all birthdays and on New Year’s Eve. This created a love of bagpipe music which has caused us to attend many Edinburgh Tattoos. Tibby’s great grandfather had the surname of Martin which made him part of the Cameron Clan.

Slate from the quarries in the Ballachulish area was used to provide the roofing slate for much of Edinburgh and Glasgow’s skyline. In 1955 the quarries closed. We hoped to do more research on the ground, but both the museum and the Scottish National Trust information centre were closed.

We passed through Fort William in the rain and passed the Caledonian Canal. In about 1996 we hired a river boat and sailed from Inverness to Fort William on the Caledonian Canal with our children.

We stopped at the Glenfinnan Viaduct which is a railway viaduct on the West Highland Line located at the top of Loch Shiel. It appeared in four of the Harry Potter films which causes huge numbers of visitors today. The real achievement is to see a steam train pass over the viaduct. During the summer there are two Jacobite steam trains on that route each day. One passed over the viaduct while we were there. Everyone else was fully informed and in position. I had to photograph the train from a less advantageous position.

Long before Harry Potter there has been a memorial to Bonnie Prince Charlie. In 1745, eight months before the Battle of Culloden, 1,200 Highlanders gathered in Glenfinnan to pledge their allegiance to Prince Charles Edward Stuart. After raising the royal standard and sharing a brandy, they set off on a campaign to regain the British throne for a Stuart king. Their campaign failed. The monument commemorates that event.

We followed the spectacular road to Mallaig.

In Mallaig we tried to get a ferry to Skye. The normal ferry is being repaired so a smaller ferry is plying the route. The ferry company is not taking bookings until the normal ferry is back. We could not get on the 18h10 ferry to Skye but were told that that we should be able to get on to the 07h40 ferry in the morning. We found three caravan parks that were full and settled on a farmer’s field for the night.

Day 20 – To Glenbrittle on Skye – 88 miles

We were up early to ensure that we got a place on the 07h40 ferry to Armadale on Skye. The crossing took forty minutes and we saw nothing because we were confined to our vehicles.

There then started a magical experience. Skye is an absolute delight. We took the road from Broadford to Elgol around Loch Slapin. It is a single-track tarmac road with frequent passing places. Each twist in the road opened a new vista of mountains, rivers, lochs and other islands. There was light rain initially with later patches of blue sky. One travelled slowly, partly to be safe, partly to appreciate the surroundings and partly because one had to stop in a passing place every two minutes to allow oncoming traffic to pass. The mountains are quite magnificent. In the words of The Rough Guide to Scotland ‘As the Inuit have dozens of words for snow, so a hill is rarely just a hill in Scotland. Depending on where you are, what it is shaped like and how high it is, a hill might be a ben, a mount, a law, a pen, a brae or even a pap (and that is without talking about the Gaelic beinn, cnoc, creag, meal, sgurr or stob). Even more confusing are ‘Munros’. These are Scottish hills over 3,000 feet high, defined by a list first drawn up by one Sir Hugh Munro in 1891. You ‘bag’ a Munro walking to the top of it, and once you have bagged all 284 you can call yourself a Munroist. If you meet Sir Hugh’s challenge, you can then start on the ‘Corbetts’ (hills 2,500ft – 2,999ft) and ‘Donalds’ (hills 2,000ft – 2,499ft).’ There are 12 Munros on Skye all of which are in the Cuillin Range, and which are acknowledged as the hardest Munros to climb. Even the smaller mountains are still impressive. The main road down the spine of Skye through Broadford and Portree is a normal two-lane road but when we turned off to Carbost it became a single track again. At Carbost I had a disappointing visit to Talisker Distillery. All tours were fully booked and the only way to have a tasting was to go on a tour. Their single malts were priced at £42, and I had earlier seen them in a Co-op supermarket for £26. I wanted a positive experience and left deflated. My mood picked up as we took the road to Glenbrittle and once again were surrounded by beautiful mountains and lochs.

The campsite at Glenbrittle is huge with 120 pitches and positioned between the Munros of Sgurr nan Eag and Sgurr Alasdair in the Cuillin Mountains and the sea. There were over 100 occupied pitches on the site with a combination of tents, small vans, caravans and motorhomes. We have been struck by how very many motorhomes are on the roads in Skye. We were not able to get an electrical supply but felt that would be fine because the second battery would provide power for lights, the fridge and the water pump and the gas bottle would provide gas for cooking and heating. We quickly discovered how reliant we are for power to charge phones, iPads, Apple Watch and earphones.

Day 21 – To Kyle of Lochalsh – 120 miles

We picked up freshly baked bread and croissants from the campsite shop and then did a tour of the north of the island passing through Dunvegan and then on to the Trotternish Peninsula, passing through Flasader, Uig, Staffin and Portree. Skye has curious names for areas which include Trotternish, Waternish, Duirinish, Uiginish and Minginish. The drive presented yet more beautiful mountains, lochs and fields as well as the spectacular rock formations on the cliffs of Quiraing. There are lots of hiking opportunities and we saw many cars parked at the base of mountains as people did day hikes. We visited the pretty harbour of Portree and further down the road saw the ferry returning from the nearby Isle of Raasay. Skye is one of the one hundred islands making up the Hebrides Archipelago off the west coast of Scotland of which 36 are inhabited. The inhabited islands (albeit with low numbers) near Skye include Raasay, Canna, Rum, Eigg, Muck, Soay and Scalpay. We bought single malt Talisker from the Co-op for £26.

We crossed the 700 metre Skye Bridge which has connected the island to the mainland since 1995.

During the day we called all campsites on Skye and nearby on the mainland and found that they were all fully booked, some well into June. With a long weekend ahead, we booked the next five nights at hotels with the first night at the Kyle Hotel in Kyle of Lochalsh which is on the mainland immediately after the Skye Bridge.

Day 22 – To Ullapool – 143 miles

We woke to a blue sky and had the best weather during the day that we have had so far on the trip. We headed north on a beautiful road and turned off the A896 at Tornapress to drive the eleven miles over the Applecross Pass to the village of Applecross.  There are very explicit warnings not to travel this route with a motorhome. Tibby was not impressed that I ignored the warnings. I had been driven over the pass eighteen months before when Juls and I had been hiking with a group in the area. I was right to prevail. This must be one of the most spectacular roads in the UK. It was originally a droveway, a track used to move livestock from one place to another. Its Gaelic name is Bealach na Bà, (pronounced byee-alluch nuh bah), which means “pass of the cattle”. It was the only access in and out of Applecross until 1975. It has the steepest ascent of any road in the United Kingdom, starting from sea level and rising to 2,054 feet (626 meters). It is a single-track road with passing places. There are a few hairpin bends, but they could accommodate our 8-metre-long motorhome. The challenge would have been if a motorhome came from the other direction in a place where it would have been difficult to reverse to a passing place. About six motorhomes came from the other direction but fortunately we met in places where we could pass each other.

This road is on the North Coast 500 which is a 516-mile scenic route around the north coast of Scotland, starting and ending at Inverness Castle. The route is also known as the NC500 and was launched in 2015, linking many features in the north Highlands of Scotland in one touring route. The marketing of this route has brought a lot of tourists to this part of Scotland, including to this pass, which was busy with cars, motorbikes and motorhomes.

From Applecross there is a spectacular coastal scenery on the 25-mile road to Shieldaig and then spectacular mountain scenery on the route along and past Loch Torridon.

We arrived in Ullapool to find a lot of people quaffing drinks on the sea wall in the glorious sunshine. We booked into the Ferry Boat Inn for two nights. It was a delight to later join the drinkers and then wander around this lovely town. Ullapool has a latitude of 57⁰N and three weeks before the longest day of the year, sunset was at 22h03 and sunrise was at 04h30. We saw the ferry depart on its’ 2h30 crossing to Stornaway on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides and agreed that on a future trip we should go there.

Day 23 – North of Ullapool – 102 miles

We did a day trip from Ullapool hugging the coast through Achiltibuie, Lochinver, Drumbeg and Kylesku. Almost all the coastal route was on a single-track road, close to the sea, around headlands, over mountains with new amazing views opening up every few minutes. This route was an absolute delight especially on a beautiful blue day like today.

Day 24 – To Aberlour, Speyside – 124 miles

We took the A835 to Inverness and went directly to the battlefield site at Culloden Moor.

Prince Charles Edward Stuart had landed in Scotland in July 1845 at Glenfinnan to recover control of Scotland for his father, James Francis Edward Stuart. Charles and his army of Jacobites had quick successes as he gained control of Edinburgh and Carlisle. The Government (principally but not entirely English) army was focused on the war with France and recalled 12,000 troops from France to deal with the Jacobite uprising. The armies met at Culloden Moor on 16 April 1746. The Jacobites had tried to surprise the Government Army by moving overnight but the going was difficult, and they were well short of the Government Army at daybreak. Charles’ advisors tried to persuade him to withdraw to a better battlefield where they would have the advantage but, with a string of success under his belt, Charles elected to meet the opponents at Culloden. His troops were exhausted by the overnight hike. The Government troops were the best fighting force that Charles had encountered and were very disciplined in their attack. The battle was over in under an hour with 1,500 killed and wounded on the Jacobite side and 300 on the Government side. The commander of the Government Army, the Duke of Cumberland, was determined to rout the Jacobites so there followed a ruthless pursuit of Jacobites with many Highlanders killed in subsequent weeks, even if they had not been at Culloden. Charles’s flight is commemorated in “The Skye Boat Song”. He hid in the moors of Scotland, always barely ahead of the government forces and left the country aboard the French frigate L’Heureux, arriving in France in September. The museum and battlefield are very well organised, and the story of the battle is well illustrated. Both Tibby’s paternal and maternal ancestors were either at, or represented at, Culloden but on opposing sides. About 50% of Scots still yearn to escape the United Kingdom and their dreams for an independent Scotland may still come true.

On the Culloden Battlefield I met a woman from Bath, England. She told me that though she had Scottish ancestry this was her first visit to this museum. She told me further that this trip to Scotland was a pilgrimage to Loch Torridon (which we had passed two day’s previously). Her son had died two years before and Loch Torridon was his favourite place in the world. This lady had not been to Loch Torridon and was going to stay there with family and friends. I hope that she found peace.

We then travelled to Aberlour on the River Spey and checked into The Dowans Hotel for three nights.

Day 25 – Balmoral – 100 miles

On another sunny day we took the A939 and the B9008 up to an elevation of 2,090ft past the Lecht Ski Centre over bare, rounded mountains of the Cairngorm Range, with spectacular views.

The road dropped down to the Dee River and brought us to Balmoral Castle. The 50,000-acre estate is open to the public between April and July, before the Royal Family arrive in August. The leasehold of the property was bought by the Royal Family in 1848 and the freehold was acquired four years later. Having paid an entrance fee, the public has free access to the grounds including some walks to a high elevation. An audio guide led us on a route past the deer larder, vegetable gardens, conservatory, the garden cottage and the sunken garden which also allowed us to see the castle from all angles. Although it is described as a castle, it is really a large house with decorative turrets. We then visited the ballroom, the largest room in the house which has a display of items from elsewhere in the house. The audio guide also invites one to listen to pieces explaining other aspects of the property including the original purchase, extension, maintenance, gardens and deer maintenance. On the latter subject it was explained that the carrying capacity of the estate is 2,000 deer and that hunting of deer happens to keep the numbers below that figure.  This is an estate which is maintained to a high standard with an outlook that extends to future generations. I saw some of the largest trees that I have seen in the UK with some of them planted more than a hundred years ago. This is a special property which was a joy to visit. I understand why the Royal Family is so happy to spend several months each year on the estate. I note from the website that it is possible to rent holiday cottages on the estate which must be very pleasant.

We took the longer route back via Glenkindle, Elrick and Dufftown which took us on small roads through fertile farmlands back to The Dowans Hotel.

After dinner we had a whisky tasting. We were in the middle of the whisky area called Speyside which extends on both sides of the last fifty miles of the Spey River before it joins the sea at the Moray Firth. About 50 percent of Scotland’s whisky is made here in the approximately 50 distilleries located in this region. The distilleries use the water that runs continually from the mountains in streams and springs that feed the Spey. Our hotel has a whisky room (as do most good hotels in the area) which displays 600 bottles of whisky. We asked to taste Speyside whiskies that we did not know and thus tasted the six set out below, which we tasted in the order set out. I have recorded after each, the distance from our hotel to the distillery and the cost (per 70cl bottle) at the online site, MasterOfMalt:

Aultmore 12-year-old (16 miles) (£46)

Craigellachie 17-year-old (3 miles) (£95)

Glen Allachie 15-year-old (1 mile) (£57)

Glenfarclas 15-year-old (5 miles) (£49)

Aberlour A’Bunadh 68th batch (1 mile) (£80)

Ben Riach 21-year-old (12 miles) (£107)

They all had 46% alcohol content except Aberlour A’Bunadh which is at 61.5%.

We like our single malt whisky but are not experts and have difficulty discerning buttery tastes from vanilla, honey, citrus and other tastes. We liked Aultmore, were less keen on Craigellachie, and then increasingly liked each one thereafter with the best being Ben Riach. If we tasted them in inverse order would our preferences have been the same or did, we enjoy them the more we had?

We slept well.

Day 26 – Speyside – 64 miles

We did admin in the hotel in the morning and after lunch I went exploring Speyside. I decided that a good way to get a feel for the area would be to visit some of the distilleries of the whiskies we had tasted last night. It did not take me long to stop off at Glen Allachie, Aberlour and Craigellachie as they are all close to the Dowans Hotel in Aberlour. As I had expected all the distilleries were closed to visitors. Many never open on Mondays. The others were closed either because they had not yet reopened after the latest COVID lockdown or because it was a bank holiday. I stopped off at the Speyside Cooperage, but they are only opening to visitors, after COVID, on 28th June 2021. Whisky distilleries use barrels that have previously contained bourbon, sherry or port. The Speyside Cooperage repairs 150,000 barrels used by the distilleries each year. Their website has interesting footage and can be found at https://www.speysidecooperage.co.uk/visitor-attraction.php .

I drove up to Benriach Distillery and then on to Elgin. The scenery was pleasant rolling hills with fertile farming land, getting flatter closer to the sea. I went to Garmouth, in search of the mouth of the Spey River, but was told that a better view was available at Spey Bay on the other side of the river, so I went there.

At Spey Bay the wide river compressed to a small mouth at the sea. I was distracted by a couple who were waiting for an Osprey to return to the mouth of the river, having been there a few minutes earlier. With binoculars we could see the bird out at sea, but it seemed to be in no hurry to come closer to land, so I left them and continued my explorations.

I found Aultmore Distillery in the village of the same name, near Keith, and then took a gentle drive back to the hotel. I did not get to Glenfarclas Distillery so the photo below is from their website.

We had a disappointing dinner at the Copper Dog at Craigellachie Hotel.

Day 27 – To St Andrews – 140 miles

There was a report in the newspaper that this May was the wettest May in Wales since records began 160 years ago. When we were there, we knew it was bad!

We drove to Aberdeen, found a carwash for the motorhome and shopped for provisions. We parked on a street close to the centre and my mood darkened as it took me fifteen minutes to download and register for the required parking app. We then found Debenhams, John Lewis, BHS and lots of smaller shops shut down. After a slightly miserable lunch we fled Aberdeen, not having explored it properly. An easy ride on good roads brought us to St Andrews where we checked into Cairnsmill Caravan Park. It was a pleasant evening, so dinner was cooked on the BBQ.

Day 28 – To Tranent – 92 miles

Our guide to St Andrews, Ella, a student at the university, started her tour at the Martyr’s’ Monument, which remembers four aspiring protestants who were burnt at the stake during the Scottish Reformation in the sixteenth century. Golf has been played in St Andrews for 600 years. St Andrews Links has seven public courses with the oldest, The Old Course, teeing off near the Martyr’s’ Monument. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club House is located here as well. We also learnt about the university which was established 700 years ago. There are 18 academic schools organised into four faculties. The university occupies historic and modern buildings located throughout the town. In term time, over one-third of the town’s population are either staff members or students at the university. Over 145 nationalities are represented with 45% of its intake from countries outside the UK. We wandered through courtyards of university buildings. Ella told us about the 950 year checkered history of the castle, which has been in ruins since 1656. We also explored the spectacular ruins of the cathedral. It was the largest church to have been built in Scotland, was in use for four hundred years but fell into disuse and ruin after Catholic mass was outlawed during the 16th-century Scottish Reformation. This is an ancient city, with huge ruins near the centre but is thriving with the university, golf and tourism. It is a delightful place to spend time.

After lunch we drove along the coast to Crail which is a quaint seaside village.

We then crossed the Queensferry Crossing Bridge over the Firth of Forth, avoided Edinburgh on the bypass road and checked into the Drummohr Camping & Glamping Site in Musselburgh, about ten miles east of Edinburgh.

Day 29 – To Ballantrae, west coast, south of Glasgow – 160 miles

We made our way to the nearby village of Tranent to see the statue, in the town square, of Jackie Crookston. In Tranent, in August 1797, she led the opposition to conscription of local young men into the British Army. On 29 August 1797 the militia who had been sent to collect the conscripts, turned their guns on the protestors and killed eleven, including Crookston, then aged 31.

Her daughter, Alison Ross, who was five when her mother died, is an ancestor of Tibby, with four further generations separating them. As an adult Alison married William Martin. Martin is the maiden surname of Tibby’s mother.

We made our way to the nearby village of Gladsmuir, where Alison was born, and searched the church graveyard for the surnames of Crookston, Ross and Martin and found a headstone of Ann Boyd, who died in 1871 and was the wife of Samuel Martin. We have no way of knowing if William Martin and Samuel Martin were related, although Gladsmuir is such a small community that it must be likely.

Our journey continued to the town of Dalry, 25 miles southwest of Glasgow, where Alison died in 1863, where our search of the church graveyard failed to find her grave.

We think, but are not certain, that the family were miners for many generations. Alison’s parish death record identifies her father, husband of Jackie Crookston, as having been a miner. Ballachulish, Tranent, Gladsmuir and Dalry were all centres of mining. Tibby’s great grandfather, Gavin Martin, was born in 1869 in Glasgow. The Witwatersrand Gold Rush began in 1886 when gold was discovered and the high number of foreigners in the area was a major factor in the start of the Second Boer War in 1899. It is quite conceivable that Gavin went to Johannesburg to participate in the gold rush. Tibby’s grandfather, Robin, was a metallurgical chemist on mines for most of his working life.

We continued south, along the coast to Ballantrae and checked into Glenapp Castle for a night of luxury.

Day 30 – To Glentrool, on the edge of the Galloway Forest – 70 miles

Before we left Glenapp Castle we learnt about Ailsa Craig, a 240-acre island, ten miles off the coast and visible from the hotel. The island was a haven for Catholics during the Scottish Reformation in the 16th century, but is today a bird sanctuary, providing a home for 73,000 gannets and puffins.

In the sport of Curling the 19kg item thrown across the ice is called a curling stone. Most curling stones in use in the world were made from Blue Hone granite from Ailsa Craig Island and it is one of only two sources for all stones in the sport, the other being the Trefor Granite Quarry in Wales. Kays of Scotland has been making curling stones since 1851 and has the exclusive rights to the Ailsa Craig granite. Harvesting of the granite may only take place in October and November when the birds are not breeding.

We followed the coastal road, past Stranraer, and on to Portpartick, which is a pretty seaside fishing village. We then drove between the greenest fields filled with healthy looking cows and sheep to Wigtown, which has the title of “Scotland’s National Book Town” with a high concentration of second-hand book shops and an annual book festival. We wandered between shops and had lunch in a bookstore. We were directed to McIntyre’s which has a signboard advertising ‘Butcher-Baker-Candlestick maker’. Our needs were met by the butcher who provided us with meat for the next few nights.

A mile from Wigtown is to be found the village of Bladnoch on the Bladnoch River. There we investigated the 204-year-old Bladnoch Distillery which is the furthest south of all Scottish distilleries. We tasted three whiskies which had been matured in different barrels. We liked the Bladnoch Samsara whisky the best, which had been matured in red wine and bourbon casks. A bottle was added to our whisky collection.

Sixteen miles north, on the edge of the Galloway Forest, we checked into the Glentrool Camping and Caravan Site.

We had heard about midges in Scottish summers but tonight was the first time we encountered them sufficiently to make us uncomfortable. Midges are just big enough to be seen by the naked eye. Female midges need an abdomen full of blood to lay their eggs and perpetuate the species. They lay eggs in the summer so that is when they plague humans. While midges get human blood when they can, most of the blood they feed on comes from cattle, sheep and deer, so they can often be found in largest number close to locations where such creatures can be found. Without the midge, Scotland would not be the same. Midges are one of the reasons for the relatively low population of the Scottish Highlands and help keep the wildernesses wild. They help to keep large areas freer of human interference than they may otherwise have been. The Forestry Authority have estimated that of the 65 working days each summer, as much as 20% can be lost due to midge attacks preventing workers from doing their jobs. They are, however, a food source for several important wild creatures, such as bats. Sheltered locations with high rainfall and high humidity tend to be where you will find the highest concentrations of biting midges. The camp manager told us that this night was the first serious invasion of midges this summer and that he had sold out his stock of midge spray. Some campers were prepared and were wearing face nets. I nipped in and out of our motorhome, overseeing our BBQ. However, every time I opened the door a few midges got in and bothered us inside.

Day 31 – Galloway Forest

The 300 square mile Galloway Forest Park is the largest forest in the UK. The Park has Dark Sky Park status because the lack of light pollution permits views of good night skies. We did the three-mile return walk from the campsite, via Glentrool village, to the Glentrool Visitor Centre. Walkers and cyclists were leaving and returning to the centre after long distance forays further into the forest. We were happy with a very fresh sandwich lunch next to the Water of Minnoch and an easy walk back along the forest park. Some hardworking person had decorated hundreds of stones with attractive small characters and sayings which were positioned on the path edges.

We were not bothered by midges on our walk, possibly because there was a breeze. They were back in the evening.

We have now stayed in a large cross section of caravan parks. They vary in size from as small as ten pitches to up to 140 pitches. Some prefer motorhomes and caravans with their own facilities while others are open to tents as well. They typically charge between £20 and £30 per night for two adults and a motorhome. Most include an electrical supply whereas others charge between £5 and £10 extra per night for electricity. Some provide WIFI, sometimes free. There is facility at all of them to discharge shower water and toilet contents and fill up with water. Dish washing facilities are normally included and some have washing machines and tumble dryers available for a fee. Travelling in times of COVID has resulted in different responses from caravan parks with most closing off every alternate wash basin but some using it as an excuse to completely close their ablution facilities and require campers to use the facilities in their motorhomes.

Day 32 – To Leeds – 221 miles

Tibby woke to find a hundred midges on the ceiling above her and on the pillow next to her. They had clearly got into the van when I had gone out to the BBQ in the evening. Both of us scratched all day.

The day was beautifully blue and mild so for the first time this trip I donned shorts and a polo shirt.

We did an easy five hour run via the A66 through the Pennine Mountain Range to Leeds, where we returned to Moor Lodge Holiday Park, where we had camped 24 nights before.

Day 33 – To Sandringham – 142 miles

We had planned to visit the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Wakefield, but it was raining so we skipped it. We then had an easy drive down to Sandringham where we checked into the Sandringham Estate Camping and Motorhome Park.

On arrival at the caravan park, we noticed a sign saying that the Flying Fryer would be on site at 18h30 serving fish, chips and related food. At 18h30 there was a queue of twenty, so I returned an hour later to find that I was the 31st and last person served. Mr Fryer told me that he sold at this park three nights a week and at the other nearby caravan park three nights a week. In non-COVID times he also sold at retirement homes, sporting and outside events. He said that his overheads were a lot lower than a shop and he liked the flexibility of a mobile shop. By my rough calculation he had turnover of about £500 for just over an hour’s frying which seemed to be a good income. He cautioned me that for every hour he fried he needed to spend 90 minutes cleaning the van. I can confirm that his fish and chips were very tasty.

We ate outside. While we have had several BBQs the only nights that have been warm enough and not raining, to permit eating outside, were the first night of the trip and this, the last night.

Day 34 – To home in London – 213 miles

We visited Sandringham House and Gardens. The Royal Family bought 8,000 acres in 1862 and later increased the estate to 20,000 acres. The estate today includes seven villages (containing 300 properties), the 600-acre Sandringham Royal Park (open all year to the public at no cost) and the 60-acre House and Gardens (open to the public, for a fee, from March to October). The house was principally intended for use by the then Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria only visited twice. The house was demolished, rebuilt and extended. Today the Royal Family stay for about two months from mid-December, celebrating Christmas here every year. The Queen stays on past the anniversary of the death of her father, King George VI, (and her accession to the crown) in the house, on 6 February 1952. This is a private home of the Queen, and no Royal events occur here. The estate also includes Anmer Hall, the country house of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge; Park House, the birthplace of Diana, Princess of Wales and Wood Farm, where the Duke of Edinburgh lived much of his time, following his retirement from official duties. An informative audio guide highlighted the important elements of the main rooms on the ground floor including the saloon, drawing room, dining room and ballroom. The decorations are essentially Edwardian with collections of gifts to the Royals from earlier years. There was no bling! The total accommodation is modest by Royal standards. The dining table can seat a maximum of twenty-two which is just about the size of close family. No photos are permitted inside and so, the photos of the interior below are from public records. The gardens are beautifully landscaped and maintained with lovely views around each corner.

We also visited St Mary Magdalene Church, which is just outside the gate of the Gardens. Although anyone can attend services at the church, it is very much a church of the Royal Family with many Royal memorials. The Royal Family attends the Christmas Day service each year. An obligatory photo in UK newspapers on the day after Christmas is of the Royal Family leaving the church after the Christmas Service. The church can seat about 150. I asked if anyone could attend the Christmas Day service and was told that the public must apply to attend, and only regular attendees will get a seat.

And so, our trip came to an end on Tuesday 8th June 2021. We drove via Peterborough to fill up with LPG, then dropped our unused cycles in my Guildford store and arrived home in Hampstead to find that we could not park near our home because broadband cable was being laid.

Conclusion

This was a wonderful trip. We saw many parts of Britain that he had not seen before or not in the same detail. We saw spectacular scenery, especially on the west coast of Scotland, had some interesting city tours and enjoyed the taste of whisky. We had a lot of rain which undoubtedly limited how much we walked, cycled or ate outdoors. The motorhome gave us lots of flexibility and was very comfortable. Tibby and I travelled well together.

Motorhome

Our home and means of transport, as we did our road trip through Britain, was a motorhome that we hired from Just Go. It was a six-berth vehicle which was 7m (23ft) long, 2.35m (7.7ft) wide and 3.2m (10.5ft) high. It had a fixed bed over the cab, another at the back and potentially a third when the dining table was converted. It had separate toilet and shower compartments and had a three-plate gas hob, oven and grill, small fridge and a kitchen sink. It had a 100-litre water tank and a 10-litre hot water tank. It was a 2021 model so everything was new with conventional wall electrical sockets, USB sockets and blue tooth connection to the dashboard entertainment system. We also had a small TV and DVD player. We had a ‘leisure’ battery which was topped up when we drove, when we connected to an electrical hook up and from a solar panel on the roof. We also had a large gas bottle for the hob and gas boiler. The vehicle was well insulated and had heating. The underlying vehicle was a diesel Fiat Ducato with automatic transmission. We had a cycle carrier on the back holding our two bicycles. There was a relatively large storage compartment where we stored our tables, chairs, portable Weber BBQ and stocks of wine.

It was neither as big nor as luxurious as American RVs that we have hired. We lived very well in it with just the two of us. It might work as a six berth with small children but would be impossible with six adults.

All campsites we have used have electrical hook ups at each pitch and places to fill up with water, dispose of the toilet tank contents and dispose of the shower and sink water. Most campsites have ablution blocks, dishwashing sinks and washing machines. Covid-19 restrictions have meant that in some campsites alternate facilities in the ablution blocks have been closed off and washing machines have not been available. We did our laundry by using service washes at city laundrettes.

We could park up overnight in public places that are not campsites and saw others do it. We did not do it. One eventually needs to return, after a few days, to a campsite for water and disposal of the toilet tank contents.

The vehicle was big to drive especially on narrow country roads with overhanging branches. One must approach all blind bends on such roads with extreme caution. The biggest challenge was to find parking. Many town centre parking areas have height restrictions and even when we can enter, we use up two thirds of the space of four conventional parking spaces. A few times we have parked and been fearful that we would return to find damage from a passing car or a ticket for not parking within the parking space. If we could not find a convenient parking space, we parked further away and then walked.

Unlike all our other trips we decided not to plan every day of our holiday before we left. That had given us the freedom to stay longer or move on more quickly. However, it had meant, travelling in a busy season, when many people were on holiday in the UK rather than abroad, that many campsites and some tourist sites had been booked up.

We have a history of using similar vehicles. Our first was a VW Combi panel van with only a bed in the back which we used mainly in Namibia in 1975. In 1978 we toured Europe for four months in an old VW Combi that had been converted well. My first company car was a fully equipped VW camper van with pop top roof, which we did not use as much as we would have liked but did a three-week trip in Ireland. We did two trips in RVs with our children: one in the Rockies from Calgary to Jasper and back and one from San Francisco to LA via Yosemite and Kings Canyon. And of course, we travelled in a Bedford truck, with twenty others, in 1979, from London to Kathmandu.

This vehicle was the biggest expense of the trip with a hire cost including a second driver and cycle rack of £5,522.

Cape Town to Tanzania Feb Mar 2020

In February and March 2020, I drove 8,800km from Cape Town to the Kruger Park, through Zimbabwe and Zambia to Tanzania.


When I quote prices, I use the original currency. At the beginning of my trip the exchange rates to the GB pound were: South African Rand 19.50, Zimbabwe $ 470, Zambian Kwacha 19, Tanzanian Shilling 3,000, and US$ 1.29. I have used these rates throughout this report, irrespective if rates changed or the actual conversion rates differed.
I was travelling alone in my Toyota Fortuner with my trailer (more details at end of article). It is important to note that if I say a road was good, I mean that it was good for a 4×4 high clearance vehicle and may not be good for a sedan car.

This trip took place against an escalation of the Coronavirus outbreak. When I left Cape Town on 19th February 2020 there were 74,000 confirmed cases of the virus, in the world, all in China. By the end of the trip, on 20th March 2020, there were 234,000 confirmed cases in 176 countries. I was in Tanzania for the last eight days of my trip. When I left Tanzania on 20th March there were six confirmed cases. So, the actual incidence of the virus, in the countries that I travelled through, was low at the time I was there. Life for the local people in Tanzania appeared to be relatively unchanged as I left, except that people were no longer shaking hands. However, borders were being closed, flights were being cancelled and tourists were scrambling to get home. My trip was not really affected by the virus, except at the end, I did not go through Serengeti as planned, but rather went directly to Arusha in a failed attempt to get home early. As I write this on 21st March 2020, I fear for the continent of Africa, because they will be far more vulnerable to the virus than western countries with better health facilities and less crowded living.

Day 1 – Cape Town to Beaufort West 418kms
On 19th February 2020 I left Cape Town at 14h00 with my Aunt Rose as a passenger for the next two days. The scenery on the N1 from Worcester to the Hex River Valley was lovely. From there to Beaufort West it rained most of the time producing beautiful rainbows. Over 80% of the traffic were trucks. We had a lamb curry dinner at 4 Sheep.

Day 2 – Beaufort West to Funnystone Farm on the Lesotho Border near Tiffindell Ski Resort 708km
This was a long but relatively easy drive on good roads through the Karoo via Aberdeen, Graaf Reinet, Cradock and Queenstown. The route is mountainous and that combined with green grass made this a very attractive day. This whole area has received a lot of rain and there was a lot of standing water and all farmers’ dams, visible from the road, were full. My Aunt Rose was going to spend the following two weeks at Funnystone Farm with her lifelong friend, Jessamy, and her husband, Robert.

In a discussion with Robert he said that his farm of 3,400ha carried 2,000 sheep and 110 cattle. The farm is half at an high altitude in the mountains, often covered with snow in the winter, with the remainder in the valley. His livestock use the high pastures during the summer and the low pastures during the winter. His sheep are Merino, and he farms them for their wool. A sheep gives wool for about ten years. His 800 ewes produce about 500 lambs each year. He maintains the herd size at about 2,000 as he believes that he needs one hectare for each sheep. (Farmers in the Karoo need between two and five hectares per sheep.) About eighty calves are born to cows at the beginning of summer and at the end of summer are sold to feed lots that feed them up and increase their weight before slaughter for meat. By selling them at the end of summer he saved having to feed them through the winter.

Day 3 – Funnystone Farm to Ladysmith, KwaZulu Nata 685km
Another day of fast driving on good roads as I skirted around the western side of Lesotho. It struck me that the days of mud huts in rural South Africa was generally past. Almost all houses that I saw were built of brick with tin roofs. Many were houses which had several rooms. I realised that the worst housing in the country was now on the outskirts of the major cities.

Day 4 – Tour of Spioenkop 102km
In the morning I drove from Ladysmith about 40km to Three Tree Lodge where the military guide, Ron Gold, had arranged for me to join that lodge’s tour of the Battle of Spioenkop.
The story of the battle is interesting. After several political upheavals, the Boers declared war on the British on 11th October 1899. Aware that 10,000 British troops had been despatched from India, the Boers moved quickly and laid siege to three towns in the British colonies of the Cape and Natal. The three towns and the length of the sieges were:
Mafeking 13th October 1899 to 17th May 1900
Kimberley 14th October 1899 to 15th February 1900
Ladysmith 2nd November 1899 to 28th February 1900
As intended by the Boers, this action caused the British to split their forces into three, thus diluting their strength. Five battles were fought to relieve Ladysmith, of which Spioenkop was one. The approach to Ladysmith, from the south west, over the Tugela River, twenty miles from the town, was blocked by six linked hills of which Spioenkop was marginally the highest.

The Boers were well aware of the advance of the British but were caught by surprise, on the night of 23rd January 1899, by a night-time silent ascent, along a spur, of Spioenkop, by 700 British soldiers, causing the dozen Boers on the summit to flee. Although the British had captured their objective, they were demoralised by the light rain and mist which soaked their woollen khaki uniforms, could not dig trenches deep enough because of the rocky ground, could not build the trenches higher with sand bags because the empty bags had been left behind, oriented their trenches in the wrong direction because the high iron content of the rocks caused their compasses to misread and were thus exposed when the mist rose on the morning. Spioenkop has a relatively large flat top and the British chose to dig in, in the middle and this resulted in them not being able to see Boers climbing the hill. The British were surprised by the fact that the Boers, contrary to their practice to date, counterattacked during the day, resulting in close contact fighting where the British used bayonets, causing terrible injuries. The Boers had seven modern artillery guns which pounded the exposed British position all day. The artillery fire and covering fire from Boers on the adjacent Aloe Knoll allowed other Boers to creep around the flank of the British and fire on them from behind. British battlefield communications were poor, first because of the mist and secondly because of poor lines of sight. This resulted in messages taking hours to get to their intended recipient and being wrong by the time they were received. Several of the British commanders on the hill were killed causing confusion as to who was in command as the day progressed. The British soldiers weakened from lack of hydration in the summer sun, because their water supplies had been left at base. By the end of the day other British units had secured the summits of three adjacent hills. The British had effectively won the battle when a confusion in communications resulted in the order being given to withdraw from the newly conquered hills. When the troops on Spioenkop saw their comrades withdrawing they followed suit. The Boers were amazed in the morning, to find the hills abandoned and quickly reoccupied them. Victory was theirs.

Besides the errors of leaving the empty sand bags and water behind and suffering from poor battlefield communications and a high incidence of death of their battlefield leaders the British were also at a disadvantage because they (a) Overestimated the Boer strength by a factor of ten, thinking that they were facing a large army and (b) Had no detailed maps of the area and believed that Spioenkop was the edge of an escarpment rather than the reality of being a mountain on all sides. The latter fact meant that they established their trenches on the summit about thirty metres from edge of the mountain that they had ascended fearful that the Boers would come charging at them on horses. If they had known that the back edge of the mountain was a further fifty metres away, they would have probably set up their trenches on the edge of the mountain, being able to see the Boers climbing up. The battle had high casualty figures of 243 British and 68 Boers killed with five times as many wounded. The men were buried where they fell with the British concentrated in a small area on the peak and the Boers spread around. Memorials to both armies have been erected.

The British went on to achieve their objective of relieving Ladysmith four weeks later. Contrary to the initial expectation on both sides, the war dragged on, through great hardship, until 31st May 1902.
Winston Churchill, acting as a war correspondent was captured by the Boers, three weeks after war was declared, on 15th November 1899 and escaped a month later, on 12th December 1899. Having made his way to Delagoa Bay (today Maputo) he joined the British Army as a lieutenant and at Spioenkop, principally carried messages between the battlefield and the British commanders. Mohandas Gandhi lived in South Africa for 21 years from 1893 and was at Spioenkop as a volunteer stretcher bearer on the British side. The Boers were commanded by Louis Botha who went on to become the first prime minister of the Union of South Africa from its creation on 31st May 1910.
The Lancashire Fusiliers and the Royal Lancasters suffered many casualties at Spioenkop. They were later remembered in 1906 by the naming of an open terrace at Anfield Football Stadium, as Spion Kop. Other football stands also use the name. The name has also been affixed to villages, hills, holes on golf courses and a ship in many countries of the world.
At my B&B in Ladysmith Dominic, a newly qualified UK trained equine vet, told me that he was working for two years, caring for horses, midway between Durban and Pietermaritzburg. I was fascinated when he told me that a difference between practicing in the UK and South Africa, in the areas he practiced, is that when horses must be put down, they are injected in the UK, but shot in South Africa. Apparently, the dead horses in South Africa are fed to lions at the Lion Park and cannot contain the chemicals that kill the horses with injections.

Day 5 Ladysmith to Mbombela (previously called Nelspruit) 611km
A day of easy driving on good roads with intermittent rain. Two things that were notable during the day (a) for a lot of the journey the mountains forming the Highveld Escarpment were visible on my left (west) and (b) the landscape was dotted with coal mines for the 210km from Newcastle to Carolina. Despite it being a Sunday, trucks carrying coal were on the move.
In the evening I drove an hour to Malelane to meet Ina and Erik Kuhn. I had ‘met’ them online on Facebook Overlanding groups. They travelled up to Tanzania last year and are planning to go to Angola this year. I had been in Angola last year and was now on my way to Tanzania, so we could both advise the other. They are retired accountants and their house is on the banks of the Crocodile River, with the Kruger Park over the river. The view from their deck is amazing. As dusk fell the hippos left the river and headed into the Park for dinner. We talked for five hours. Their blog is at:
https://2wrinkledtravellers.wordpress.com/ .

Day 6 Mbombela to Senalala 182km
I chatted with Andrew, the host at Torburnlea Guesthouse for almost an hour over breakfast. Besides running the marvellous guesthouse with his wife, Kim, he also guides people in the Kruger Park and neighbouring game farms. He is an interesting person.
I spent an hour running around town buying items that I had forgotten and then left in the direction of Hoedspruit. There have been a spate of demonstrations and tyre burning that has often closed the R40, so I had wondered if I needed to take the longer route through Graskop. Andrew called various contacts who advised that the road was safe today, and so it proved.
Senalala is a game farm in the Klaserie Conservancy near Hoedspruit. The Klaserie is a collection of a hundred game farms who have dropped their fences with each other and with the Kruger and have communally provided services to the community including gate control, main roads and anti-poaching. Senalala is managed by James Steyn and his wife Corlia. James is an incredibly well experienced game guide. I had visited Senalala three times previously. The owner of Senalala, Hilton Sessel, is a South African who has lived most of his adult life in the USA. I had met him in November, and he had invited me to stay a night at Senalala on my way to Tanzania. I was delighted to be back.
Late afternoon we went out on a game drive and as the light was falling, we were led, by radio messages from other guides, to a pack of thirteen wild dogs (or painted wolves). There were parents and eleven juveniles. They had finished off a kill and were gnawing on bones. They went to the water to drink but held back because a crocodile was waiting in the water. Three hyenas arrived and started foraging among the bones. The wild dogs attacked them, but the hyenas fought back. The wild dogs then decided that the bones were not worth fighting, and possibly getting injured, for. One of the most amazing sightings of my fifty-year period of game viewing.

Day 7 and 8 Senalala to Phalaborwa 313km
During the morning drive at Senalala we got very close to two white rhino which was special.

I then entered the Kruger Park at Orpen, took a back road to Letaba Camp and exited at Phalaborwa. I saw lots of elephants, impala and zebra and saw two ground hornbills and a few water buck.
The next day I had my car serviced, bought food, gas and wood and prepared for four days in the wilderness.

Day 9- 12 Letaba Ranch and Makuya Nature Reserve
Letaba Ranch for two days 84km
Relocation through Kruger NP 351km
Makuya Nature Reserve 42km
I had booked a tour with Johan du Plooy of Bonsai Tours for a four-day trip through Letaba Ranch and non-public areas of the Kruger National Park. Because rain had closed the relevant roads in Kruger, Johan recommended and I agreed, that we would go to Makuya Nature Reserve instead. Johan had not been successful in finding other participants, so this was a one-man trip. Johan has recently retired as a logistics engineer, with special expertise in the procedures to use and maintain military equipment. He has been a 4×4 trainer for many years and is increasing his involvement in off-road tours.


Letaba Ranch is just north of Phalaborwa and is a 42,000-hectare reserve, which has dropped its fences with Kruger Park, and is owned by Limpopo Province. Makuya Nature Reserve is a 25,000-hectare reserve, located adjacent to Kruger, between Punda Maria and Pafuri. It is owned by the local community and managed for them by Limpopo Province. Transfrontier Parks Destinations (TFPD) have concessions in both reserves to run camps on behalf of the community and run 4×4 tours. Johan uses their concession to run his tours.

In the big picture this tour was disappointing. The change of venue resulted in us spending one of our four days relocating from the one reserve to the other. I had not appreciated how few animals are in these reserves, even though they are adjacent to Kruger and have dropped their fences with Kruger. Johan is an excellent 4×4 trainer and we went through a few interesting 4×4 challenges. The scenery in Letaba was pleasant but not that special. The scenery in Makuya was more striking. Johan runs a five-day 4×4 tour along the Luvuhu River in Makuya which will probably suit me better.


We camped in Letaba for the first two nights and stayed at Mutale Camp in Makuya. The coordinates are:
Oosthuizen’s Camp, Letaba Ranch S23.45.2095 E031.08.4858
Letaba Bend, Letaba Ranch S23.40.1435 E031.05.3682
Mutale Camp, Makuya Nature Reserve S22.25.6013 E031.03.2328

Day 13 Makuya Reserve to Musina, South Africa 160km
It was an hour to the gate and another two hours to Musina on good roads. I had forgotten my phone at Senalala, and it was now waiting for me at PostNet. I bought cable for my solar panel and did some other maintenance items and then admin at the guesthouse.

Day 14 Musina through Beit Bridge Border to Chilo Gorge Lodge, Gonerezhou, Zimbabwe 403km
I was dreading the border crossing and arranged with Solomon of the Facebook page ‘Crossing Beitbridge’ to help me through the Zimbabwe border for a fee of R200. I exited South Africa in ten minutes and then met Solomon on the bridge and drove into the Zimbabwe border area. He had prefilled my immigration form and my customs form. The process was as follows:
1. Pay the R125 bridge toll and collect a gate pass
2. Present your passport and immigration form at the immigration counter and get your passport and gate pass stamped
3. Go to the Customs hut in the middle of the canopy outside and get a custom official to verify what you have declared on your customs form is correct as well as the correct engine size of your car for carbon tax. He will then sign or stamp the document. The officials checked nothing and signed the form and stamped the gate pass.
4. Go back inside and queue at the Tax and Customs pay point to pay the carbon tax of US$10 and road access fee of US$10. Normally one would also pay for the issue of a Temporary Import Permit (TIP) for the vehicle. I had paid for the AA of SA to issue a Carnet de Passage where they will pay the import tax if I do not remove the car and trailer from a country within the one-year validity of the document. I had done this to allow me to leave the vehicle in Tanzania while I return to the UK for several months. It also means that I do not need a TIP and normally means a quicker processing at the border. The official made the required entries in my carnets (one for the Fortuner and one for the trailer) and removed the tear off slip (which is later matched with the second slip when I leave the country). Then confusingly he created a TIP for me. I am sure this is the wrong procedure, but I wasn’t going to argue. He then stamped the gate pass.
5. Exit the building and cross the road and climb the bank on the other side and go to the police station which is a small building. Do not go to the front counter but go to the back of the building and enter the door and knock on the first door on the left. This is where your vehicle papers are verified. Give them your passport, vehicle papers and get them to stamp your gate pass. I was also asked for my driving licence
6. Go back to your vehicle and move into the search area. Take your TIP and gate pass to the customs hut and request that they search your vehicle. They did not search my vehicle and stamped the gate pass.
7. Show your completed gate pass to the official near your car and he will move the barrier allowing you to move forward.
8. There is a stop halfway to the exit gate. Look out for it as it is just a sign on the side of the road. Stop and give them the gate pass. They will tear off the pass and return the stub to you.
9. Hand in the stub at the boom at the border exit and you are now in Zimbabwe
To my amazement the process took only 45 minutes. There are horror stories of people taking hours to get through the process. There is no doubt that Solomon’s knowledge of the process meant that I moved quickly from one step to the next. He was selective as to which counters, he accompanied me. He accompanied me to the bridge toll, TIP and customs desks. I do not know if it was his presence that caused the officials to skip the inspection of my vehicle. As advised by Solomon I started the process at 08h45 which meant that there were almost no queues. By the time I left there were queues at all the counters. The queue that takes the longest is the TIP queue because the official takes ten minutes for each vehicle, to enter the details into his computer. Solomon told me that one can complete the form online which means that you are processed more quickly but does not impact the speed of the queue in front of you.


I then had a relatively easy drive to Chilo Gorge Lodge except that over a period of four hours I was stopped at seven police check points. At three of them I was asked for my TIP and my driving licence, while at the others I was asked my destination and wished good travelling. This is a dramatic improvement on 2015 when I was also stopped seven times, but I was fined for minor issues at two. These police checks are one of the curses of Africa. From my perspective they tie up huge amounts of police for little real value.
The last 100km of tar was, from time to time, very badly potholed with some potholes being two metres across. I would be travelling at speed and suddenly be faced with potholes. A few too many jolts from hitting potholes at speed resulted in my driver side bonnet hinge breaking. This is my personal curse since I overloaded my Fortuner in 2017 with a huge roof box that somehow stressed the bonnet area. Toyota service managers tell me that they have never seen a broken Fortuner bonnet hinge. I often break three a trip. I now carry a greater stock of hinges than any Toyota dealer. The lodge maintenance man replaced the hinge the next day.
I passed through the town of Triangle. When I was an accountancy articled clerk in Durban, I audited many sugar mills and, in my final year, led the audit of the sugar company, Huletts. That was the first time I heard about Triangle. As I approached the town, familiar sugar cane fields appeared and then a big sugar mill. There was a suburb of staff houses with street names drawn from the Natal sugar aristocracy like Guy Hulett Road and Vernon Crookes Drive. There was also a sign pointing to the country club. This could have been Mount Edgecombe, near Umhlanga, Natal in the 1970s (before they were replaced by a shopping centre).
Chilo Lodge is a luxury safari lodge across the Save River (pronounced ‘saavay’) from Gonerezhou National Park. I have previously stayed in the self-catering units at the lodge which come at a lower rate. I had booked a self-catering unit but on my arrival I was told that (a) The lodge had only opened two days previously after their wet season break (b) I was the sole guest for the two nights that I was there (c) they were doing maintenance work on the self-catering units (d) I could stay in the normal lodge rooms at no extra cost. That was a delight.
As I relaxed on a cliff overlooking the Save River seven elephants came down to the river on the far bank. After drinking for a while, they started swimming across the river. A few got out on my side, but the others stayed in the water. Over the next hour, four more elephants joined them. And then for yet another hour they played in the water. Submerging themselves. Rolling about. Ducking each other. Blowing water. They were in heaven. And I was in heaven watching them.


Day 15 Gonerezhou National Park, Zimbabwe
In 1973 I first visited Gonerezhou (The Place of the Elephants) with my father when it was a wild place with masses of elephants. I visited again in 2015 and again today. It is still a wild place with masses of elephants. The Park has been devastated by poaching but has recovered since the Frankfurt Zoological Society got involved in 2007. Today the FGS jointly manages the park with Zimbabwe Wildlife. The Park is only accessible by 4×4 vehicles with most roads little more than tracks. The Runde River bisects the north of the Park and visiting that area is best done by criss crossing the river. That is a challenge because there are no bridges so one must enter the water with your vehicle to get across. To exit the Park in the north east requires one to cross the Save River, in the same way. At this time of the year, the end of the wet season, the rivers are too high to cross with vehicles. The lodge transported me across the Save River in a boat to their game drive vehicle which they had parked on that side of the river. We spent six hours in the Park and saw masses of elephants, five wild dogs, nyala, lots of birds and dwarf mongooses.


The head ranger at the Lodge told me that Park was planning to introduce rhinos so that they could be described as a Big 5 park. I was surprised that they thought it worthwhile, given the additional anti-poaching needs that come with rhinos. The response was that poaching is no longer a problem in the area as anyone found carrying a gun in a reserve in the area is immediately shot dead by the rangers!



Day 16 Eastern Highlands to Juliasdale 424km
Soon after turning back onto the tar I stopped at a small filling station with all its pumps covered up. Zimbabwe is suffering a huge shortage of fuel and most filling stations only receive a supply every fortnight, which is then bought within four hours. However, I asked for Johnson and told him that Thomas from Chilo Lodge had sent me to buy diesel for dollars. The cover was lifted from one of the pumps and my tank was filled at US$1 per litre, which proved to be the cheapest price of the trip.
A short while later I passed a fuel tanker parked beside the road next to a pickup truck. I could not be sure, but it looked like fuel was being offloaded. I wonder if the fuel owner knew this was happening?


For the next six hours I travelled along most of the 300km length of the Eastern Highlands in Zimbabwe. They are a range of mountains that form the border with Mozambique. Forming a link in the off-centre spine of Africa, the Eastern Highlands Mountain Range effectively begins all the way down in the Western Cape of South Africa, continues up along the Drakensburg Mountains and onwards along the Great Rift to the Ethiopian Highlands. They comprise the Chimanimani Mountains in the south, the Bvumba Mountains in the centre and the Nyanga Highlands in the north. They are very different from the rest of the country as they are forested, very green and far cooler than elsewhere. I deviated off the main road to go deeper into the mountains.



Day 17 Nyanga Highlands 146km
Today I explored the 33,000-hectare Nyanga National Park which was once the private estate of Cecil Rhodes. Its main feature is Mount Nyangani, the highest peak in the country, which has a height of 2,600 metres and is about 15km into the park on a 4×4 track. I drove to the parking area but did not hike up the final 400 metres. The Park rules require summit hikers to leave the Park Office before midday if they plan to hike to the summit.

Having enjoyed the mountains, I then visited the surrounding villages. Troutbeck and Juliasdale are very small villages, each containing a poor-quality large hotel. Nyanga Town is more substantial but of little interest for a tourist.
I saw queues start forming at the Total filling station in Nyanga in anticipation of a fuel delivery. Four hours later the fuel had not arrived, but the queue had multiplied. Thirty minutes later I saw two Total tankers pass me on the road. The filling station attendant at Juliasdale directed me to a filling station in Sanyatwe, 15km away, where my tank was filled with diesel at $1.20 per litre.

Day 18 Juliasdale to Harare 250km
I had an easy and pleasant drive descending from the mountains, listening to my podcasts, arriving in Harare at 13h00. Harare is a big sprawl of an African low-rise city. I needed my last top up of diesel so asked the Total attendant where I could find diesel for dollars. To my amazement he directed me to Abraham at another Total filling station. I negotiated the asking price down from $1.15 to $1.10 and was then filled up from one of their pumps. The auditor in me wondered if the owners of the filling station are complicit in this trade?
I then checked into York Lodge, one of my more expensive nights, but a wonderful, comfortable guesthouse. I needed to do work on our property portfolio so spent nine hours catching up on admin.
I interrupted my work to spend two hours over dinner with the only other guest, Malcolm. He is the CFO of J&J, a haulage company based in Beira in Mozambique. I was fascinated to hear that they were big enough to be owned by the private equity firm, Carlisle, had 1,700 trucks operating principally in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and south-eastern DRC, transporting principally mining and agricultural products. He told me that the difficulties of operating in the region, particularly crossing borders, was worked into the prices they charged. Drivers carry huge amounts of US dollars to pay for duties, fuel and tolls and have pick up points on regular routes to collect more cash. Despite the very real fuel shortages in Zimbabwe they have organised supplies wherever needed. He emphasised that with a US owner they were conscious of their responsibilities to the working conditions of drivers and ensured that driving hours were monitored and controlled. He said that the vehicles never drove at night because the risks were too high. The vehicles are all fitted with trackers. I could have spent hours more asking questions about this fascinating business operating in a difficult environment.

Day 19 Harare to Lusaka 500km
I had an early departure from a quiet Harare on a Sunday morning. The 350km drive to the Chirundu border post with Zambia was uneventful. I was concerned about how this border crossing was going to be. My concerns deepened when I passed three kilometres of trucks queuing to cross the border. I then discovered that trucks are processed separately from cars and pedestrians. The Zimbabweans and Zambians have created one stop buildings at this border with all traffic from Zambia being processed in one building on the Zimbabwean side of the Zambezi and all traffic from Zimbabwe being processed in one building on the Zambian side. I crossed the bridge, parked and told the clamouring touts that I did not need them. The process then was as follows:
1. Zambian port health authorities required me to complete a health questionnaire and checked my temperature with a type of heat seeking camera. This was clearly because of concerns about Coronavirus.
2. Zimbabwean immigration stamped my passport
3. Zimbabwean customs stamped my carnets
4. Zambian immigration stamped my passport
5. At the Zambian Customs General Office (in a corridor behind the Carbon Tax office) they stamped my carnets. I think this is the place where one would, without a carnet, get a TIP. I did not get a TIP which caused some confusion at the Carbon Tax counter and at the final exit gate.
6. I exited the main building and went to the adjacent building to Zimbabwean Interpol who wanted to see my Zimbabwean TIP and was confused by my carnet. He took me to the next-door office of the Zambian Interpol who told his colleague to stamp the back of the Zimbabwean page in my carnet, which he did.
7. The Zambian Interpol then stamped the back of the Zambian page in my carnet. I think that this is the office where they normally want to see a police clearance certificate from the South African police, confirming that the vehicle is not stolen. I think, but am not certain, that they consider the carnet confirms the same thing.
8. I returned to the main building. The customs official who had stamped my carnet told the Carbon Tax official that because I had a carnet, I did not have to pay Carbon Tax. He was surprised and I was concerned that a policeman on the road would also be surprised, so I insisted on paying the ZKW 480 (£25) carbon tax. (As it happened no one asked for my carbon tax receipt while I was in Zambia.)
9. I returned to the adjacent building and at a desk near the Road Tax office, paid ZKW50 (£3) Community Levy Tax.
10. In the same office, at a counter, I advised the official that I was travelling across the country to Mbala and presented my carnet and passport and paid US$20 Road Tax. The official told me that the Road Tax certificate that he gave me exempted me from paying tolls. At the six tolls that I encountered I presented the certificate, which was stamped by the toll man and saved me ZKW20 each time. This was the only document which police checks asked to see.
11. Somewhat to my surprise I was not asked for proof of third-party insurance. I had purchased the insurance online, in advance, from Phoenix of Zambia Assurance at https://www.phoenixassurancegroup.com/zambia/online-payments/foreign-3rd-party-motor-insurance/ at a cost of ZKW138 (£7) for a month. I understand that there is a place to buy the insurance at the border (but did not see it) and that the cost is higher.
12. I presented myself at the exit gate with my vehicle. The attendant was confused that I did not have a TIP and took me to the Zambian Customs General Office, who confirmed that I could exit, which I was allowed to do once I had completed and signed their exit register.
The whole process took about eighty minutes. The border post was very quiet with a few pedestrians. It may have helped that I was there early afternoon on a Sunday. I was faced with no queues at any of the vehicle processing counters. All the officials were very helpful in explaining what was happening and telling me where to go next. It also helped that I had a guide that I had downloaded from the Files section of the DriveZam Facebook page.
The road then climbed out of the Zambezi Valley with an easy 150km run to Lusaka. As I entered the city it was very clear that this was a more prosperous place then Harare with shopping centres and several South African store chains. The Wild Dogs Lodge, that I had booked at, was out of town, with a rural address not on my Satnav. I also did not have a Zambian sim card, so I wasted an hour finding the place.

Day 20 Lusaka to Kasanka National Park 515km
As I prepared to leave in the morning, I realised that one of the spare wheel holders, at the back of my vehicle, was missing. I had to conclude that the catch had been jolted loose when I hit a pothole at speed and once loose had torn off. I had been completely unaware of it. This was an expensive loss of a necessary spare wheel which also included my rear number plate. There was nothing I could do about it.
I was on the road by 07h00, skirted Lusaka and headed north on a reasonably good road. There were a lot of trucks on the road which was heading to Ndola and the Copper Belt. That traffic reduced significantly when I turned off at Kapir Mposhi. A while later I passed the point where the DRC has a peninsula pushing into Zambia. I crossed under a railway bridge and wondered if this is the railway line, my wife and I will be travelling on next year with Rovos Rail from Lobito in Angola to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.
I had felt exposed the night before without a Zambian sim, so I stopped at a roadside Airtel vendor who registered me with Airtel by scanning my passport with his phone and getting me to sign a contract on his phone. I bought airtime and data.


I arrived at Kasanka National Park. The Park is principally known for the gathering of several million straw-coloured fruit bats every November and December. They also host sitatunga or marsh buck, a swamp-dwelling antelope, which are not seen in the wet season. The park is forested and was very overgrown and green. I was not expecting to see very much, and so it proved when I walked for ninety minutes around the lake with a guide.
I had booked at Luwombwa Lodge but was accommodated at the far more expensive Wasa Lodge, because the road to the former was under water.

The only other guests that night were two authors. Tsitsi Dangarembga (61) from Harare, and Nadine Jassat (32) from Edinburgh, are part of the Outriders project of the Edinburgh International Book Festival which has dispatched ten writers (in pairs) to Africa to return and present a work at the 2020 Festival. They are following the route taken by James Chuma and Abdullah Susi with Livingstone’s body from Ilala, Zambia to Bagamoyo, Tanzania. Their works do not need to focus on that journey but can be drawn from anything they come across while following it. I look forward to reading the works they produce. (The 2020 Edinburgh International Book Festival was later cancelled because of the Coronavirus so they will presumably present in 2021.)

Day 21 Kasanka National Park to Kapiysha Springs 452km
Having been inspired by the authors the previous night I visited the memorial to the Scottish physician, missionary and explorer, David Livingstone, located at the place that he died. Livingstone was a missionary in three locations in Botswana for eleven years from 1840 and was then an explorer for 22 years from 1851. He was the first white man to see the falls we now know as Victoria Falls and he mapped the length of the Zambezi. He was determined to find the source of the Nile but never did. He felt that if he found the source of the Nile, his fame would give him the influence to end the East African Arab-Swahili slave trade. Livingstone died on 1 May 1873 at the age of 60 in Chief Chitambo’s village at Ilala, southeast of Lake Bangweulu, in present-day Zambia, from malaria and internal bleeding due to dysentery. His loyal attendants Chuma and Susi removed his heart and other organs and buried them under a tree near the spot where he died. They then salted the body, embalmed it in his sheets, created a stretcher and carried the body together with his journal, over 1,000 miles, a journey that took 63 days, to the coastal town of Bagamoyo, (in modern day Tanzania) where they were returned by ship to Britain. In London, his body lay in repose at No.1 Savile Row, then the headquarters of the Royal Geographical Society, prior to interment at Westminster Abbey.

Tombstone at Westminster Abbey


The current Chief Chitambo is the great grandchild of the Chief who supported the return of the body to England. He did that by sending villagers to guide Chuma and Susi as far as they knew the route, with instructions that, people of the village that they then reached, should accompany the body further.
On the gravel track on the way to the memorial, a few kilometres from the memorial I stopped to allow an approaching pickup to pass. The vehicle stopped and the driver got out and approached me. She said ‘You are going to the David Livingstone memorial. I am Barbara and I am the guide at the memorial. I will go with you to the site and afterwards you will take me back to the tar road where my friends will wait for me’. I could not refuse such a direct offer. On the way there she told me that she was 33 and a widow with three children. She had married a man 18 years her senior because she felt that he was more responsible than her peer group. He became a magistrate and they lived in a good house near the memorial. He had died two years previously of a stroke. She has no intention of marrying again. Life is understandably difficult for her especially as the Heritage Department of the Government had advised their employees that the payment of their February salaries would be delayed until funds were received from the government. The pickup that she had been driving, had been loaned to her by her cousin, Chief Chitambo, so that she could use it to earn money until her salary was paid. She was transporting goods and their owners when she met me.
The memorial site has a relatively large memorial, with several plaques, and a replica of the hut which Livingstone was living in, as well as models of Livingstone and his attendants. The Heritage Department of the Government had started building, but not finished, a large ticket office and an interpretation centre. This seemed to be a waste of money to me. The number of visitors to the site is very small.
I explained to Barbara that the authors from Edinburgh were currently visiting the Chief and would be arriving at the site soon. She said that she would travel with me on the gravel track until we met the vehicle bringing the authors. That happened and she transferred to their vehicle. I gave her a generous tip.
Before I met Barbara, I came across a piggery, so I stopped and engaged in conversation with Kunda Kazimbaya, the chairman of the co-operative that owns the piggery and the adjacent mill. He explained that his co-operative of 110 members is part of the Zambia Co-operative Federation (ZCF) which provided the solar mini grinding mill, borehole and solar equipment free of charge. The 21 solar panels charge batteries that provide the power for the grinding mill. Members of the co-operative bring dried kernels of corn (also known as maize or mealies) which have been separated from the cob. These are then ground three times to produce mealie meal, which is a type of cereal, eaten as a staple in much of Southern Africa. The users pay a small amount which is used to maintain the equipment. This is a vital and transformative facility for the village. I later saw ten more of these mills as I drove north through Zambia. Research on the internet reveals that ZCF, in 2015, intended to install 2,000 such units. There is no indication how many have been installed.


Kunda’s co-operative then extended the facility by building a piggery funded by The World Bank through the Livestock Development and Animal Health Project, within the Livestock and Fisheries Government Department. The piggery holds one boar, two sows and eleven pigs up to the age of 18 months. (I am no expert on piggeries but the condition which the pigs lived in was incredibly basic, being bare concrete pens.) They are fed entirely from the waste product from the mill. As the pigs approach the age of 18 months, they are sold to a member of the co-operative who then slaughters the pig and, not owning a fridge, immediately sells portions to neighbours.

The installation and use of these two facilities have made a big difference to people living very difficult lives.
The ability of the villagers, or more realistically, their children, to escape their predicament is compounded by the difficulties of schooling. I asked Kunda why the children near us were not at school. He explained that their session at school was at 14h00. The local community Chititima Primary School has seven grades, 293 pupils, two classrooms, two teachers and operates three teaching sessions a day. The headmaster later told me that, the government would fund up to eight teachers at the school, but he could not recruit teachers because they cannot provide housing. He was convinced that if had housing he could recruit teachers. (The guide at the Livingstone Memorial, Barbara, confirmed that the school nearby also had a shortage of teachers, but it was her view that teachers were in short supply and would not want to live in such a remote place, even if housing was available.) The pupils at the school were in a simple uniform. Their parents at Chititima pay an annual school fee of the equivalent of £6 per pupil and at the school near the memorial, £24. Many people struggle to pay these fees and the cost of the uniform. A wildlife ranger explained to me that he had limited the number of children he had because of the cost of education. There is no doubt that these children are only receiving a bare minimum of education and that they will have huge difficulty escaping the poverty trap that they are caught in.
In further discussion with Kunda it transpired that he was a retired road worker, was born one month after me and married seven weeks before me. He assured me that his marriage was very happy, particularly as all the children had left home. He has eight children aged between 23 and 40 and twenty-one grandchildren aged between 6 months and 15 years. He explained to me that he was the headman of the village because his father had also been a headman. His brothers are headmen of other villages. They all owe allegiance to Chief Chitambo. I found Kunda to be a man of dignity, resilience and initiative who is working hard to improve the conditions of the people in his village. I made a small contribution to the co-operative and wished them well for their lives.


When I met the vehicle carrying the two Edinburgh Book Festival authors I told them that they did not need to follow the 1,000 mile journey of Livingstone’s body to the coast, to find inspiration for their work, because there is a wonderful story to be told about the lives and history and future of the people living along the road that they were on. I wonder if that will happen.
I had had an inspiring morning and had dallied far longer than I planned. As I left the area, I knew that it was going to be a challenge to get to my overnight destination at Kapiysha Springs. And so, it proved. The Springs are located on a gravel road midway between two main roads, in a Y shape, heading north and about 50km from each road. My satnav took me to the worse of the access routes. I turned on to the gravel road at about 17h30, forty-five minutes before it would be dark. The heavens opened and rain poured down. Visibility was poor, there were pedestrians and animals on the road, the road was in a terrible condition and was getting worse with the rain. I arrived in the pitch dark at Kapiysha Springs in a bad state.
The property at the Springs was acquired and built in 1914 by the grandfather of the current owner. It is apparently well known for its unusual design in the African bush. I could not appreciate it in the dark and the rain, especially as I had no hot water in my chalet. The owner was absent, and the two caretakers welcomed me, charged me for Wi-Fi and served me a horrible dinner. They then moved me to a chalet with hot water. I think they felt that they were upgrading me to a larger chalet, but it felt like a dormitory because it had so many beds. It had dark wood pillars and poor lighting. The bed linen and the towels appeared to me to have been in place since 1914. I was not happy and was delighted to depart early the next morning, with a quick glance at an apparently warm and bubbling spring.

Day 22 Kapiysha Springs to Sumbawanga 456km
I retraced my steps on the bad gravel road which was somewhat better in the light but still slow going. I picked up speed on good tar roads with occasional potholes. At 11h00 I called Lake Shore Lodge to make a booking for that night, and Louise, the host told me that it would take five hours from the border post to the lodge. That was the first inclination that I was trying to achieve too much because I was still a distance from the Zombe Border Post. The road from Mbala to the border is about 30km of the worst public gravel road I have experienced in my life, and I have experienced bad roads. It was made worse by that fact that rain had turned the road to mud with potholes filled with water.

I was driving too fast for the road conditions and bucked and swerved and as I went through a large water filled pothole, I heard that I was dragging something. I had pulled one end of the cover of my fuel tank from its bolts and it was now bent double under my vehicle. I had also torn the connection, from the car to the trailer for lights, from its holder. I looked for a place where I could lift the front of the car so that it would be easier to access the dragging fuel cover. I turned into a group of smarter looking buildings, which had grass running up a bank. The manager appeared and told me that this was a veterinary checkpoint and that he was the vet charged with checking animals brought from Tanzania. He quickly crawled under my vehicle and recovered the fuel tank cover which I strapped to the trailer. We checked and confirmed that I now had no indicator, brake or night lights working on the trailer. He wished me well, I thanked him and drove the short distance to the border post.


Because the road is so bad there are only about 25 vehicle crossings each month. The Zambian officials were having their lunch at 14h15 but started arriving fifteen minutes later. Immigration stamped my passport and customs stamped my carnets and inspected my vehicle to confirm that I was not exporting anything that I should not.
The Tanzanians were waiting for me. I was required to wash my hands and then interrogated by the newly created health unit about where I had been and the state of my health. They took my temperature and, to my surprise, inspected my yellow fever certificate. As far as I was concerned a yellow fever certificate is not required for Tanzania, but they said that I would have been refused entry without it. Immigration stamped my passport.
I moved to Customs for a frustrating hour. I planned to leave my vehicle and trailer in Tanzania for five months, while I returned to the UK. Most African countries have high import taxes on vehicles and are fearful that vehicles will be sold in their country without the payment of import taxes. The presentation of a carnet should, and normally does, provide the authorities with comfort that the vehicle will be removed from the country within the validity of the carnet. The owner of the storage facility in Moshi, where I plan to leave my vehicle, recommended trying to pay for Road Tax for the duration of the vehicle stay in the country and being open with the authorities about the intention to leave the vehicle in the country for a period of less than the remaining period on the carnet (period from issue to expiry is normally a year). Well that was a mistake! The official told me that he believed that he should not allow me to enter the country and quoted an example, at another border post, where the driver had planned to do the same thing and was obliged to proceed by public transport and leave his vehicle at the border, until he returned and took it back to Zambia. After a period of arguing about the issues he called his superior who eventually arrived and decreed that I should be allowed to buy three month’s Road Tax, enter the country and when I fly out of Tanzania I should park my vehicle at a Revenue Office until my return. I paid US$90 for three months, had my carnet stamped and was free to depart. The clocks changed by an hour on crossing the border, so it was now 17h00 with night expected at 19h15.
I called Louise at Lake Shore Lodge (using my UK phone) who advised that I should stay at Holland Hotel in Sumbawanga, 100km away.
As I headed away from the border, on a far better gravel road, the heavens opened, visibility was dramatically reduced, and the road condition deteriorated. The roadside was busy with people and animals and cyclists. I crawled along and eventually arrived at about 20h00 in Sumbawanga. I searched for the hotel in my satnav and chose it as my destination. It was dark, rain was pouring down, I was conscious that my trailer did not have lights and the area I was entering was looking dubious. I had apparently arrived at my destination but could not see any obvious hotel. I asked one of the many people on the pavement and one led me around the corner to a building with the name of Holland Lodge clearly displayed. Everything looked very basic. The room rate was rock bottom at the equivalent of £10. I asked to see the room and it was clean but very basic. The receptionist could see my discomfort and then suggested that I was not looking for Holland Lodge but looking for Holland Hotel! I agreed with him, so he called them and then advised that they were full. I had little choice but to stay where I was. The security guard expressed concern about his ability to properly protect the car. I was issued with a covering sheet, pillowcase and towel and took my bag, water bottle and toilet paper to the room. I was not going out in this neighbourhood for dinner, so I settled in, to sleep. The tap in the basin had snapped off and there was no hot water in the trickle that emerged from the shower. There was constant noise outside all night. At one point there were loud bangs and I accepted that my car was being broken into.



Day 23 Sumbawanga to Lake Shore Lodge, Kipili 149km
I emerged in the morning to find my car completely intact and to realise that the hotel was inside a large enclosure that was the city bus station with busses arriving and departing all night. I had no Tanzanian shillings so had to persuade the receptionist to accept US dollars instead.


I drew money at an ATM. The main Vodacom shop refused to sell me a sim because I needed to match my fingerprint with a print taken at the border, although he acknowledged that the border I crossed, did not have that facility.
I then headed to Lake Shore Lodge 150km away. The first 90km was on a good tar road but I now discovered that there was a village every few kilometres, where the speed limit reduced to 50kph, for, sometimes, a few kilometres, and the road then had serious rumble strips and large speed bumps. Progress was slow. The gravel road was slow going, but pretty, as it wound down to the valley of Lake Tanganyika. My driver side bonnet hinge gave up the ghost after the jolting of the last few days.
As I drove down this gravel road which had little traffic, I came across a team of fifteen people cutting the grass at the side of the road. In South Africa I had seen teams of fifteen people cutting the grass next to roads with strimmers. I had thought then how inefficient that was. I now saw people cutting the grass with a type of slasher, almost like a golf club with an extended head. I wondered what injuries these people must incur swinging this instrument for eight hours a day, day after day. Over the next few days I saw many more teams like this one. This was even more inefficient than strimmers. I had to accept that labour was cheaper than a mower that could negotiate the uneven road sides, and this was also providing work for many people.
I arrived at Lake Shore Lodge near the village of Kipili on Lake Tanganyika and met the South African owners, Louise and Chris. They have created a paradise. There is a large living, dining building opening on to the beach they created. They have magnificent chalets on the beach (at $185 per night), what they call Bandas ($60), which are semi-detached rooms, with lovely rooms but ablutions shared with four rooms and they have camping sites. Without my wife present I could not justify the price of the chalets so settled on a Banda.


Belgium and Lesotho are about the same size as each other. Both are slightly smaller than the surface area of Lake Tanganyika. Nearby Lake Victoria is 80% bigger in surface area. Lake Tanganyika is the second-largest lake by volume in the world (holding 16% of the fresh water of the world) and the second deepest, in both cases after Lake Baikal in Siberia. It is the world’s longest freshwater lake at 670km. The lake is shared between four countries – Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Burundi, and Zambia, with Tanzania (46%) and DRC (40%) possessing most of the lake. Human activity is concentrated in the north in the largest city in Burundi, Bujumbura (1.5 million urban population) and Kigoma, Tanzania (about 200,000 urban population). There are only five other roads to the lake in Tanzania, to relatively small villages, so the Tanzanian side of the lake has relatively little human activity. That has allowed Mahale Mountains National Park to be maintained as a protected area for chimpanzees. The ferry MV Liemba (built 1913), used to be the life blood of the lake, sailing weekly from Kigoma in the north to Mpulungu, Zambia in the south. It has been in dock for three years and the government is under pressure to repair it. Twenty-six rivers (some quite short) flow into the lake and only one flows out. Given its proximity to the equator (3⁰S – 9⁰S) it has high evaporation with 90% of water loss arising that way. Chris at Lake Shore Lodge says that the lake used to rise about 500mm in the wet season and lose that in the dry season. In the last two wet seasons, however, with increased rainfall, the water has risen 1,500mm, flooding some of their facilities but causing real devastation to other resorts and buildings closer to the water.
I had hoped to do a sunset cruise, but a wind came up making the lake choppy. The same happened the next day so I never got onto the lake.

Day 24 Lake Shore Lodge, Kipili
This was a day of relaxation for me as I sorted out my photos and wrote this record. The people of Lake Shore Lodge worked very hard for me:
1. My laundry was done
2. A staff member bought a sim card in her name with my money which I inserted in my phone.
3. Louise organised with her broker in Arusha for me to buy third party insurance in Tanzania and COMESA third party insurance for Kenya and Malawi.
4. Louise photographed my front number plate and laminated it and Chris enclosed it in a hard plastic with corner holes, which allowed me to fix it to my remaining spare wheel with cable ties. This will not comply with South African number plate regulations but will do until I get there.
5. Chris rewired the connection to the trailer reinstating the lights.
6. Frankie, the maintenance man, did an amazing job of straightening the fuel tank cover, repairing and refitting it.


7. He also replaced my bonnet hinge using a hinge from my onboard stock.
8. Louise called to arrange that Katavi National Park authorities would be available to sell me an entrance ticket when I entered the park from the south.
9. Louise also called Mr Juma at Riverside Camp in Sitalike to book a room the next night, warning me that the accommodation was very basic.

A feature of both Zambia and Tanzania is that the mobile phone network is comprehensive in both countries. As a traveller it makes sense to buy a sim and a data package on entering the country, so that routes and features en route can be checked online.
Two guests had arrived late the previous evening. The American told me, in the morning, that he was a retired economics professor from Lexington, Kentucky. He told me that the city has the third largest group of Congolese in the US and that he and his Congolese professor colleague, own and operate both a retail and wholesale business, selling products to that group. He was looking into the possibility of setting up a business to buy Migebuka fish (like sardines) from local fishermen, freeze them at the lakeside and ship them to the US. I wished him well for his project. Louise later told me that a friend of theirs had built a fish processing plant further south on the lake and had been bankrupted by the failure of the venture. According to her, the volumes of fish catches are declining every year and the local manager for the venture diverted fish to his own operation.

Day 25 Lake Shore Lodge, Kipili to Katavi National Park 231km
I drove up from the lake in the morning on gravel, then tar and then back to gravel, arriving at the New Ikuu Ranger Post in the Katavi National Park at about 11h00. The ranger with his rifle took me to the close by New Ikuu Airstrip where I was met by an official who had driven an hour from the northern gate to meet me. Their normal guide at this entrance was on leave. There are four luxury safari camps in the Park and their guests normally fly into the air strip. I was told that the charge would be US$30 for me, $40 for the vehicle and $12 VAT – a daily cost of $82! (locals pay 10% of that charge). The Tanzanian Government now requires all park fees, traffic fines and some other fees to be paid by credit card. This cuts down on corruption and the handling of cash. The credit card machine could not connect to the network, so I was given a temporary pass and told to pay at the northern gate when I exited.
I ambled along the nearby river seeing about twenty elephant and a similar number of buffalo in singles and pairs, plenty of hippos in and out of the water, beautiful giraffe and water buck.

I crossed the river and took a track on the other side carrying on in an easterly direction. The track deteriorated and it was clear that it had very little traffic. My satnav told me that if I continued on this track I would eventually get to the northern gate. I crossed some soft sand and mounted a ridge about 300mm high with my front tyres, but the rear wheels resisted. My wheels spun in the sand. I reversed a short way, but my trailer started to jack-knife, so I tried again, only to get completely stuck. It was 14h00 so I had plenty of time to get myself out. I deflated my tyres to 0.8 bar and tried to clear the sand in front of the rear tyres. I tried to move again and spun in deeper. My satnav gave me my coordinates and told me that I was twelve kilometres from the main road through the park. I was carrying a satellite phone for this very occurrence, but my sim had expired, and I had not been able to get a replacement in time before I left London. I noticed that I had a signal on my phone so sent messages to the park ranger I had met a few hours previously, to all three numbers of Lake Shore Lodge on the pamphlet they gave me as I left and to my wife, asking her to call the same three numbers, for them to call the park office. The signal was intermittent, so it was a good while before all messages went off but at least I had the comfort that people knew of my predicament. I was wilting in the hot sun. The trees in the vicinity were mainly palms so their branches provided no support. I went further afield looking for logs or stones that I could put under my rear wheel, carrying my spade in case I was attacked by an animal. I found a log, dragged it back to the car and broke it into useful size pieces, to the extent that I could. I carry a saw for these purposes, but I could not get to it in the back of my car because the trailer was standing at an angle to the car. I disengaged the trailer from the car and reminded myself on how to use my high-lift jack. I used the jack to lift the passenger rear side of the car as high as I dared. (high-lift jacks are very efficient, but inherently unstable.) I dug out the area in front of the tyre, placed logs under the tyre and a sand track for the route out and a sand track to spread the weight of the car over the logs. I dug out the route out for the driver side rear wheel.

I kept imagining that I could hear the distant sound of a rescue vehicle. It was now 18h30 so if I did not get out, I would have to pitch my tent and stay overnight. I engaged low range and locked my diff. I had done all I could. The car hesitated and then lifted and moved forward. I was delighted. I packed up my tools lying about, left my trailer and headed 56km to Sitalike, the village at the north end of the park. This was the third time this trip that I was breaking my rule of not driving at night. The gravel road through the park is potholed and slow going. I arrived at 20h00 at Riverside Camp to be greeted by Mr Juma, the owner, who installed me in my basic but clean room. There was no hot water in the shower, but I was desperate to be clean and used cold water. I consoled myself that the lack of dinner was a blessing for my waistline.
I later discovered that my messages to the ranger and Lake Shore Lodge never got through. Louise explained that all their numbers had been cancelled by the mobile phone operator when they did not use them on their recent long trip to South Africa. I should have used the number I had used to speak to her before I arrived at her lodge. My wife was at a matinee theatre performance and was distraught to read my message when she turned on her phone five hours later. But she also would not have got through to Lake Shore Lodge. No rescue vehicles were dispatched to save me!

Day 25 Sitalike to recover my trailer and then to Kigoma 433km
In the morning my waistline improved with a lack of breakfast. I went to the Park office to pay my entry fees which took a long time. By the time I returned to Riverside Camp, Mr Juma had recruited four villagers who squeezed themselves into my car. It took 80 minutes to get back to the trailer, five minutes to turn the trailer 180⁰ and ninety minutes to return to Sitalike.

Somewhere en route, as I hit potholes with speed in a loaded car, both my bonnet hinges broke. Mr Juma negotiated a price with the villagers for their three hours of time, which I gladly paid.
Mr Juma told me that the shorter route (415km) to Tabora, via Inyonga and Ipole, was impassable because floods had taken a bridge down. I needed to go the longer route (540km) via Uvinza and he felt that it was unlikely that I could get to Tabora tonight, leaving as I was at 11h00. How right he was! There was a tar road for the short distance to Mpanda where I filled up with diesel and inflated my tyres but thereafter the road was gravel which quickly deteriorated as the regular afternoon rains descended. I waited while construction trucks, working on a Sunday, dumped sand on the road.

I waited for thirty minutes while two trucks passing each other, both got stuck in mud and struggled to clear themselves.

I travelled slowly for fear of losing control and my trailer jack-knifing. After 230km in five hours I arrived at Uvinza at 16h00. I checked the IOverlander app for accommodation, which offered nothing acceptable. I called Louise at Lake Shore who told me, without hesitation, that I should not consider finding a place in Uvinza but should take the tar road, 107km, to Kigoma. I would find a good hotel on the lake waterfront.
Thirty kilometres towards Kigoma, on a good tar road, my driver side front tyre shredded. I had to assume that the tyre was not damaged on the tar but had been damaged when deflated on the road from my breakdown to Sitalike. I jacked the car up, but it did not go high enough. Twice more I jacked it up on different jacking points, adding what I could underneath the jack. Still no success.

I stopped a minibus and asked if they had a bigger jack, but they didn’t. I then revolted against my 4×4 training, which said that a high lift jack was too unstable to use to change a tyre. The tar road was flat and a firm base for the jack. The car lifted effortlessly to a high height. I was now an expert on using the jack! I gingerly replaced the wheel ensuring that I would not be hurt if the jack fell. The job was done. It had taken two hours. Night was falling.
Where did all these people come from and why did they congregate alongside the road on a Sunday night? The huge number of people was frightening, especially as they did not carry lights and wore dark clothes. My fourth time of night driving this trip. The going was very slow, and I eventually checked into Lake Tanganyika Hotel at 20h30. I luxuriated in a hot shower and tucked into chicken rice and a beer.

Day 26 Kigoma to Tabora 471km
I tried to find to find a replacement tyre without success and refused to take a 15” tyre for my 17” rims. I found a workshop to replace my two bonnet hinges from my stock and do a bit of welding to strengthen failing parts holding the bonnet on the car.


I drove to nearby Ujiji to the memorial of the place where Stanley met Livingstone under the mango tree. In August 1865, Livingstone departed from England on what was supposed to be his last and greatest expedition: a quest to locate the fabled source of the Nile River. The mission was supposed to last two years, yet by 1871, nearly four years had passed with only a few unclear updates on Livingstone’s whereabouts. Many Europeans had given him up for dead.
James Gordon Bennett Jr., the editor of the New York Herald, wished to get a scoop for his newspaper and he ordered Henry Morton Stanley (28), a newcomer to the Herald, to lead an expedition into the African wilderness to find the explorer, or “bring back all possible proofs of his being dead.” Stanley departed from the coastal port of Bagamoyo on 21st March 1871 with a large expedition and reached Tabora in July 1871. Tabora was an Arab enclave with large houses and lavish gardens occupied by wealthy Arab residents. Stanley had heard reports of a white man in Ujiji on the shore of Lake Tanganyika, so he headed in that direction. The caravan travelled hundreds of miles out of its way, through uncharted terrain, to avoid the tribal fighting taking place between Tabora and Ujiji. Over the next three months Stanley suffered from cerebral malaria and smallpox. Eventually, on 10th November 1871, he arrived in Ujiji. A mile from town, Stanley ordered the American colours raised. “The flags are fluttered, the banner of America is in front waving joyfully,” Stanley wrote. The sound of muskets firing and horns blowing filled the air. “Never were the Stars and Stripes so beautiful in my mind.” As Stanley entered Ujiji, thousands of people pressed around the caravan. And so, the two men met with Stanley apparently saying “Dr Livingstone, I presume”


Despite his failing health, Livingstone refused an offer to return home. After being resupplied by Stanley, he parted ways with his rescuers in March 1872 and made his way south to Lake Bangweulu in modern day Zambia. His illnesses later caught up with him, however, and he died from malaria and dysentery on 1st May, 1873.
There was an entry fee of TZS22,000 (£7) to the memorial and museum. I was shown the memorial and told that the adjacent mango tree was a descendant of the original tree. The rudimentary displays in the museum depicted the meeting but also focused on the slave trade.
Slavery was abolished in Portugal in 1761, in France in 1826, in Britain and the British Empire in 1834, in French colonies in 1848, in the USA in 1865 and in African Portuguese colonies in 1869. It is therefore not surprising that Livingstone found the fact that slavery still existed in East Africa in 1870 as abhorrent. The slave trade in that area had existed for a thousand years, with slaves taken to Arabic countries and to the East. The trade accelerated in the 18th and 19th centuries. At the time that Livingstone was in the area, slaves were being transported from the full length of Lake Tanganyika through Tabora and Bagamoyo to Zanzibar. Zanzibar became the main slave trading centre along the east coast of Africa. Increasingly slaves were kept in Zanzibar to work on clove plantations. In 1873, the year that Livingstone died, Sultan Seyyid Barghash of Zanzibar, under pressure from Great Britain, signed a treaty that made the slave trade in his territories illegal. That decree was not enforced effectively. It was not until 1909 that slavery was finally abolished in East Africa.
The descriptions above of the meeting of Livingstone and Stanley and the of the slave trade, bring home that although Livingstone was unusual to be a white man exploring the area, the local people have been there for thousands of years and the slave traders, including many Arabs, had been actively trading in the area for a thousand years.
I left Kigoma at 11h00 heading first to Uvinza. My satnav had not been updated for a new tar road that had been built (and which I had used the previous evening) and so I wasted an hour doing the longer route on a gravel road. After Uvinza the road alternated between tar, gravel and construction with about 100km being not tar. More rain made the gravel worse. I arrived in Tabora, a relatively large city, in the rain and checked into the Orion Tabora Hotel which was a blast from the past.

Day 27 Tabora to Arusha 642km
I was surprised that I had to pay the hotel bill in cash, so running short of cash, I sought out an ATM. Generally, it has not been too difficult to find ATMs. Some did not like my card. Visa has been preferred over Mastercard in Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. I resented the 3% charge to withdraw money. The biggest denomination in ATMs appears to be TZS10,000 ($5) which means that one carries big wads of notes, especially as many filling stations only take cash. Many ATMs are watched over by armed guards. I then filled up with diesel – another cash transaction.
As I drove around town, I noticed that, even in poor neighbourhoods, the women particularly, going to work, were very smartly dressed. That has been a feature throughout the country. Police are impeccably turned out in white uniforms. School children are all in simple but smart uniforms, with Muslim girls wearing head coverings.
The road to Arusha was good tar for most of the way with little traffic. I listened to podcasts and travelled as fast as one can with 50kph village segments. I arrived in Arusha at about 16h00 to find the most modern town yet. There was even a Woolworths! The main road was busy with traffic and it took almost an hour to cross the town. After enquiring at four tyre shops I found my replacement tyre at the fifth at a similar price to South Africa. But I had to pay cash!
In the evening I called Kenyan Airways and changed my flight from Kilimanjaro to Nairobi from Friday 20th March to 18th March. I was promised an email confirmation, which never arrived, which should have been a warning to me. I spent £150 calling British Airways in the UK and later in the US to similarly change my flight to London but was told that it would cost an additional $1,300 to change flights. I decided to fly to Nairobi and if I could not get a flight from there at a reasonable rate, I would stay at an airport hotel until my BA flight on Friday night.

Day 28 Arusha to Moshi and back to Arusha 100km to car storage
I bought pretty stamps from the Post Office for my daughter, Juls, and collected the originals of my third-party insurance and COMESA Insurance from the broker. On the road out of Arusha I found a car wash and sat and watched for ninety minutes while my car and trailer were hand washed for TZS15,000 (£5).

The 100km between Arusha and Moshi takes two hours because of the volume of traffic, people and speed bumps. There must have been 100 police on that route, none of whom stopped me. This must be a huge waste of manpower. I drove past Moshi and turned down a small track and bumped around for a kilometre until I reached Kilimanjaro House surrounded by a high wall. I was expected and shown where I should park my car and trailer for the next few months. (I plan to travel in Tanzania and Kenya in August.) About twenty vehicles were parked there. The German owner had fled to Germany before the virus arrived in Tanzania. His local manager helped me disconnect all three batteries and took payment to purchase tarpaulins to cover my vehicles.

My taxi arrived and an hour later I was at Kilimanjaro Airport. To cut a long and sad story short I was refused boarding because I did not have a booked connecting flight out of Nairobi within twelve hours of arrival. I would also not be allowed to leave the terminal and would be returned to Kilimanjaro on the next flight at the airline’s expense. Another hour-long taxi ride returned me to my Arusha hotel where I spent the next two days sorting through my photos and writing this report.

Day 29 Arusha
I was guided by the hotel to a shoeshine man over the road and waited while my shoes were cleaned for TZS1,000 (33 pence). A man sitting on the bench with me, waiting for his shoes, told me that he was an accountant but ran and owned a private boarding school for seventy pupils. The government had closed all schools two days previously and he had just dropped the last pupils off at the bus station to return home. While we talked, I watched a woman wash and rinse a few flasks and several glasses and cups in two bowls of water on the pavement. I asked my companion what she was doing. He told me that she sold a type of hot gruel which people would buy from her as a type of breakfast. I asked if she was finished for the day and whether she could earn enough this way. He replied that she probably earned about TZS10,000 ($5) a day which would be enough for to provide for a small family! I walked for about two kilometres along the main road and bought more stamps for Juls.



Day 30 Arusha to Kilimanjaro Airport
I started the day by messaging on WhatsApp with our son, David. He is in the British Army and was returning home from Freetown, Sierra Leone to the UK, early because of the Coronavirus. His group could not fly from Freetown to the UK so had flown overnight, via Liberia and Ghana, to Nairobi, from where they flew to the UK, on Kenya Airways, shortly afterwards.
At 14h15, Steven, the taxi driver who had brought me from the airport two days previously, fetched me and delivered me an hour later to the airport. It is no surprise that airports are places of transmission of the virus as trolleys, passports and security trays are handled by multiple people. I had already checked in online with British Airways and produced my boarding pass to prove that I had a connecting flight out of Nairobi within twelve hours. To my surprise my luggage was checked through to London despite me flying on unconnected airlines. The Kenyans really wanted to keep us in transit. The flights to Nairobi and London were comfortable and uneventful and I arrived in London, in lock down status, on the morning of Day 31, 21st March 2020.

My thoughts at the end of the trip
This trip was too long and at the wrong time of the year. There were too many long driving days and not enough time to enjoy what was available. The 8,800km distance that I travelled was the longest of any of my African trips. On the way back I must split the trip and leave the car halfway back to Cape Town.
I experienced rain, sometimes torrential, on 70% of the days. The rain happened normally in the afternoon or night and did not necessarily prevent me from doing anything on the day, but it made the driving difficult, especially on wet gravel roads. My planned trip to non-public roads in the Kruger Park was changed because the roads were impassable. Zambia has a lot of rivers and they flood almost all the national parks in the summer which cause the parks to close, so they were not available to me on my way through. A combination of being out of season and the Coronavirus meant that I was the only guest in the place I stayed, on twelve nights, and otherwise stayed in relatively empty establishments.
The temperatures were milder than I expected, seldom getting above 30⁰C. The nights were generally comfortable to sleep in without air conditioning, when available.
Everywhere I travelled had had good rains and thus the vegetation was very green and overgrown. I was surprised at how forested Tanzania is.
The roads deteriorated as I moved north. The Zimbabwean and Zambian roads were generally good with occasional bad patches. The Tanzanian roads were slow going on the tar because of the frequency of 50kph sections near villages. A lot of the roads between major towns were gravel with many being very poor gravel.
The three border crossings that I did were better than I expected. My expectations were low, and I had read up on each border so knew reasonably what to expect. In general, the officials were polite and helpful. No one on the borders or police on the route asked me for a bribe.
I might be naïve, but I felt safe during the day, wherever I travelled in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania. They certainly all feel safer than South Africa.
In all countries people were welcoming and helpful. In Tanzania many people only speak Swahili, but one could normally find someone nearby, who could speak English.
Looking at my photos I see that I do not have enough of the everyday scenes of people living their lives. I regret that.

Descriptions of Accommodation
I was travelling alone so in some cases have paid a single supplement. Hotels recognise that if a bed has not been sold it is better to get something at the last minute rather than nothing. Some of my last-minute rates were substantial discounts to rack rates. The assumption is that decent Wi-Fi was available in the bedrooms at no cost unless mentioned.
Cape Karoo Guesthouse, Beaufort West, South Africa. R650 (£33) per night per room only. Comfortable stop for a quick stay.
Funnystone Farm, near Barklay East, South Africa. Friends of my Aunt Rose.
Buller’s Rest Lodge, Ladysmith, South Africa. R870 (£45) per night per room including breakfast. Comfortable.
Torburnlea Luxury B&B, Mbombela, South Africa. R1,260 (£65) per night per room including breakfast. This is a favourite of mine and is luxuriously comfortable.
Senalala Safari Lodge, Klaserie Conservancy, near Hoedspruit, South Africa. R7,450 (£380) single occupancy per room including full board and two game drives a day. This is a favourite of mine and this was my fourth visit. I had a complimentary night given to me by the owner.
Bushveld Terrace Hotel, Phalaborwa, South Africa R1,950 (£100) per night per room including breakfast. I had to upgrade my room to get a room close enough to the reception to get Wi-Fi, which was then free. This was poor value for money.
Bonsai 4×4 Tours led by Johan du Plooy for four days. R12,750 (£653) including guide and entrance fees. Participants provide their own vehicle, camping equipment and meals. The fee would have been lower if there had been other participants.
The Old Mine Guesthouse, Musina, South Africa R805 (£41) per night per room only. This is a functional place which I used so that I could get to the border early next day
Chilo Gorge Lodge self-catering, Gonerezhou, Zimbabwe US$110 (£85) per night per room only in a self-catering cottage. A wonderful lodge with beautiful views over the Save River.
Montclair Hotel, Juliasdale, Zimbabwe. US$140 (£109) per night including breakfast. A horrible hotel that has had little maintenance for many years. Poorly trained staff and terrible food. Only good thing was the strong Wi-Fi everywhere. The worst value for money on my whole trip. Avoid.
York Lodge, Harare, Zimbabwe. US$150 (£119) per night including breakfast. This is a magnificent lodge and an absolute delight to be at.
Wild Dogs Lodge, 11km outside Lusaka, Zambia. US$100 (£78) per night including breakfast. Wi-Fi only in communal area. Out of the way. Will not use again.
Wasa Lodge, Kasanka National Park, Zambia. US$60 (£47) green season rate with single premium waived for Luwombwa Lodge, but which was flooded, so accommodated at more the expensive Wasa Lodge at same rate. Great location but rooms basic. They are replacing the rooms. Wi-Fi only at the office.
Kapiysha Springs Lodge, Zambia. US$80 (£62) per night per room only. I arrived in the dark after a hard drive and hated this place. The linen and bed linen felt one hundred years old. Had to pay extra for Wi-Fi, available in communal area only.
Holland House Guesthouse, Sumbawanga, Tanzania. TZS 30,000 (£10). Clean but very basic hotel in the confines of the city bus station. Claimed to offer Wi-Fi but not available. No hot water.
Lake Shore Lodge, Kipili on Lake Tanganyika, Tanzania. US$60 (£47) per night for room with communal ablutions. Meals extra at $20, $20 and $25 respectively for three courses for each of breakfast, lunch and dinner. Wi-Fi weak and only in communal area. My Tanzanian mobile phone signal had a good signal because of a nearby tower so I used that mainly for my internet connection. A wonderful place with amazing hosts, Chris and Louise.
Riverside Camp, Sitalike, Tanzania. TZS 40,000 (£13) per night, room only. Clean but incredibly basic and a dribble of a shower. Definitely no Wi-Fi.
Lake Tanganyika Hotel, Kigoma, Tanzania. US$75 (£58) per night including breakfast. Comfortable.
Orion Tabora Hotel, Tabora, Tanzania. TZS 95,000 (£32) per night including breakfast (but an extra charge for bacon). Had its heyday eighty years ago. Even has a Princess Margaret room. Big room but ancient. Could not get Wi-Fi to work. Woken by caged parakeets singing in the morning.
Four Points by Sheraton, Arusha, Tanzania. US$152 (£118) per night including breakfast. Very modern, comfortable with a central location.

Description of my vehicle and equipment
I drive a three litre, diesel 2010 Toyota Fortuner which I bought in 2014 with 76,000 km on the clock. At the beginning of this trip it had done 175,000 km. I have added the following: ARB front bull bars, Fortuner bash plate, Safari snorkel, enhanced coils, springs and shock absorbers, secondary battery system, 72 litre built in extra diesel tank, Rockshockerz purpose built rear bumper and carriers for two spare wheels (reduced now to one wheel carrier), Front Runner roof rack, a pull out awning fixed to the roof rack, Front Runner stainless steel/aluminium camp table, two diesel jerry cans and a 60 litre Engel Combi fridge/freezer.
For when I get stuck, I carry a box of towing and snatch ropes, a high lift jack, two other jacks, an ARB portable compressor, two Desert escape sand tracks, a 9000-winch fixed to the front bumper, a spade and an Iridium 9575 Satellite Phone. I also have a C-Track tracker on the vehicle with the ability to send a mayday message (although did not know how to do it, when I needed it).

The vehicle carried me comfortably all the way with no breakdowns en route except for one puncture. I serviced the car in Phalaborwa, and it must be serviced again before my next trip. I spent time in Kigoma having the bonnet hinges replaced and searched for tyres in Kigoma and Arusha, but otherwise did not lose time because of the car. Damage to the car included:
• Lost the bracket containing my spare wheel and number plate
• Driver side front tyre punctured and ruptured and replaced
• Replaced three driver side bonnet hinges and one passenger side bonnet hinge
• Had the cover under the fuel tank ripped off which was repaired and refitted
• Had the trailer electrical light cable ripped from the vehicle and need to replace the fitting

The Echo Trailer was bought in 2018 and did a return trip to Livingstone via Botswana in that year. I did not use it in 2019. The reason to use the trailer is so that I can accommodate more than two people on the trip. There is not enough space in the Fortuner to carry four people, all their luggage and all the camping equipment that is needed. The trailer has two cubic metres of general storage, a kitchen compartment containing crockery, food and a two plate gas stove, two gas containers, a 120 litre water tank, two diesel jerry cans and a bed on the roof with a tent that opens up over the bed and extends to the side of the trailer. I took the trailer to Tanzania so that it would be available when I travelled with four people in the area on subsequent trips

Whenever I can, I stay in hotels or self-catering units, but if these are not available, I am ready to camp in relative luxury with an Oztent RV5 tent, camp bed, one sleeping bag for temperatures down to 7⁰C and another for temperatures below that, Oztent Goanna chairs, a selection of pots, pans and cutlery, braai grid and a sixty litre tank of fresh water.

Cost Overview
Accommodation for the 28 nights on the trip and the two nights in Arusha waiting for my flights, including the two nights when I did not pay for accommodation, and the total cost of my guided trip with Bonsai 4×4 Tours£2,150
Diesel. I travelled 8,828km, consuming 1,291 litres, with an average consumption of 6.8 kms per litre. The average cost per litre, in £pence, of diesel, in the countries I travelled in, was: South Africa 84p, Zimbabwe 86p, Zambia 82p and Tanzania 78p£1,064
Carnets de Passage at R4,800 each x 2£657
Fees at borders£135
Fees to enter national parks and museums£143
Total of above£4,149
Excludes: meals not included in hotel cost, tips, vehicle servicing, repairs, insurance and storage
If I had been travelling with my wife, the above costs would have been not much more





Falkland Islands Jan 2020

We arrived in Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands on 25th January 2020 on a cold but sunny day. We were fortunate to have a retired Colonel from the British Army as our guide to the Mountain Battlefields of the war where the United Kingdom recovered the Falklands after the Argentine invasion on 2nd April 1982. We were reminded about the assembly of the UK task force, the attempts to negotiate a peaceful solution, the sinking of the General Belgrano and HMS Sheffield, the landing on 21st May at San Carlos on East Falkland and the battle for Goose Green and the town of Darwin. We were taken to Estancia which overlooks Teal Inlet which was where the landing force established a forward supply base. We saw the wreck of an Argentine helicopter. We were then shown and talked through the battles for the mountains of Mount Harriet, Two Sisters, Longdon, Mount Tumbledown, Mount Williams and finally Wireless Ridge. With the British in control of all the mountains overlooking Port Stanley, the Argentinians surrendered on 14th June. We returned to Port Stanley to the memorial to the 255 British Military dead and the three civilian dead. (649 Argentines died.) Nearby is a statue of Margaret Thatcher.

The resident population of the Falkland Islands is now 3,500 with a mix of those born on the islands, many officials posted from the UK on two year assignments and many who service the tourist industry, some of whom are only resident in the summer. The tourist industry is booming with 65,000 visitors a year, most arriving on cruises, like we did. All three elements of the British Military are represented on the islands with three radar lookouts monitoring a 250km circle. When David was there three years ago there were 2,000 military personnel. The number is apparently down to about 700 now. Port Stanley is a small town of one storey houses with colourful roofs, two churches and a small number of shops providing supplies for the locals and knick knacks for tourists. We came across Alice Clarke a young jewellery artist from Yorkshire, who has a Falklander boyfriend who runs adventure activities for tourists. In the Falkland winter they migrate north to Yorkshire for the British summer. A pretty metal bracelet, made by Alice, is now on my wife’s jewellery collection.