The Blogitects’ Excellent (Mis)adventures in KwaZulu-Natal, Part 3

by | Jun 7, 2022 | Food and Drink, KwaZulu-Natal, Lodging, Roadtripping, The Blogitects | 24 comments

Before reading this post, read Part 1 and Part 2 of the Blogitects’ Excellent (Mis)adventures.

After our double-tire-puncture fiasco, Thorsten and I were stranded at the entrance to the Tembe Elephant Park (about an hour from our accommodation in Kosi Bay.) We had escaped death by elephant trampling but we were still in a bit of a bind.

Paster with his carved dung beetle blox
The highlight of our visit to Tembe Elephant Park was buying this beautiful wooden box with a carved dung beetle on top, made by a local artisan named Paster. Paster was holding the box upside down in this picture (my mistake), so you can only see the dung beetle’s bum.
Dung beetle basket
Here’s what the dung beetle looks like right-side up — it’s a really unique design. If you ever make it to Tembe Elephant Park, be sure to check out the dung beetle carvings in the curio tent.

Fortunately, Tony at Amangwane Camp organized a lift for us to Kosi Bay, and we arrived back around sunset. (Thank goodness for Tony.)

We had planned to leave the next morning on the three-hour drive south to St. Lucia, which I was super excited about. But fixing an SUV with two shredded tires (which also happened to be rare, expensive tires) in a rural area like Kosi Bay — over a weekend, no less — was impossible. We never made it to St. Lucia.

I’ll spare you the boring details of the next two days. But we spent Sunday and Monday hanging around Amangwane — mostly in the pouring rain — making a million phone calls to tire repair shops (shout-out to Negeshni of Tiger Wheel & Tyre, one of the unsung heroes of this story), AA roadside assistance, and a plethora of others, trying to figure out what to do with the broken car.

Thorsten sketching the fish traps
We did manage one more evening walk to the Kosi Bay fish traps, when the weather cleared momentarily.
Tony and L
One last shot of the Amangwane family: Lize, Tony, Katie the cat, and Frida the dog. We were sad to leave after practically becoming part of the family ourselves.

We eventually learned that the car had to be hauled to Richards Bay, about four hours from Kosi Bay, in a flatbed truck. Thorsten and I had no choice but to ride to Richards Bay along with it.


For those needing a refresher, here’s the map of our route.

Tony drove us to Manguzi, the closest town to Kosi Bay, first thing on Tuesday morning to meet the tow truck. But due to a series of frustrating mix-ups, the tow truck didn’t arrive in Manguzi and Tony had to drive us all the way to Tembe Elephant Park. Then the tow truck got two flat tires of its own (I kid you not) and we had to call a new truck.

In the end, we didn’t get on the road to Richards Bay until 2:00 p.m. We reached the Road Lodge in Richards Bay well after dark, but all in one piece thanks to excellent driving by Zama from Kosi Bay Breakdown Service (another unsung hero). Zama offloaded the car into the Road Lodge parking lot, and we checked into the hotel that would become our home for the next two days.

Road Trip Destination #4: Richards Bay

We hadn’t planned to visit Richards Bay. It’s more of an industrial hub than a tourist destination. But we tried to make the most of things, at least during the moments when we weren’t freaking out and wondering how, or if, we would ever make it back to Joburg.

Room in Road Lodge
This is the only photo I took at the Road Lodge in Richard’s Bay. We were happy just to have a roof over our heads at this point, and we received good service at the hotel. But there’s no sugar-coating it: The Road Lodge is kind of a dump.

We spent all of Wednesday in Richards Bay, waiting for a diagnosis on the car. But luckily my friend Gilda tipped us off to KNK Curries, an Indian restaurant in Richards Bay’s harbor. KNK made our visit to Richards Bay worthwhile.

Richards Bay harbor
Approaching KNK.

We were surprised to find KNK already bustling at high noon on a Wednesday. But we soon learned why. Thorsten and I both had mutton curry — his in a bunny chow and mine over rice — and loved it. The curry was bursting with flavor and just spicy enough to make things interesting. KNK also has great atmosphere, friendly staff, and a refreshingly diverse clientele.

Mutton curry from KNK
My curry with Thorsten’s bunny chow in the background.
KNK Curries staff
Wednesday lunch vibes at KNK Curries.
KNK Curries sketch
Thorsten‘s rendition of KNK.

After KNK we stopped in at Home Ice Cream, also in the harbor, for some tasty soft-serve.

Home ice cream Richards Bay
I don’t know if ice cream solves EVERYTHING. But it did help significantly.

Just as we finished our ice cream, we received the news that we couldn’t drive our car back to Joburg. (The shredded tires had caused additional damage to the car’s undercarriage and the dealership had to wait for parts.) So back to the Road Lodge we went, for another night.

Richards BayRoad Lodge room drawing
Thorsten’s architectural sketch of our second Road Lodge room; it was a mirror image of our original room, as it was on the opposite side of the hotel. Most of Thorsten’s notations won’t make sense to anyone except us but I had to include it anyway.

Wednesday night at the Richards Bay Road Lodge, where we spent the evening eating stale hotel pizza and watching Girls on my laptop, was a real low point in the Blogitects’ KZN Misadventures.

But on Thursday morning, at long last, we received jubilant news: We were receiving a rental car to drive back to Joburg. The car was delivered to us at the Road Lodge and finally, finally, we were on the road toward home.

We were so excited to get out of Richards Bay that we hardly paid attention to where we were going. But we wound up taking a beautiful drive up the R68, over the Lebombo Mountains, past Melmouth and Babanango and the infamous town of Nkandla, until we reached Dundee.

Scenery on the R68
Scenery along the R68.
Cow in KZN
A beautiful cow that we saw, not far from Nkandla. Maybe it’s Jacob Zuma‘s cow.

Road Trip Destination #5: Dundee

Dundee is known for its proximity to historic Anglo-Boer War battlefields and has a small tourism industry around that. But we were just looking for a comfortable place to sleep, where we could end this trip on a high(ish) note. The Sneezewood Bed & Breakfast, which I found and booked online as we drove, was exactly what we needed.

Sneezewood driveway
Peaceful Sneezewood Farm, named for the sneezewood tree (apparently there are a few of them planted on the farm).
On the stoep ar Sneezewood Farm
Coffee on the stoep at Sneezewood.

Sneezewood is a working farm just outside Dundee. We arrived late in the afternoon and wandered the cornfields, reveling in the silence and the late autumn light. We ate a delicious dinner prepared by Paul, the owner, and slept in a luxurious king-sized bed.

Cornfields at Sneezewood
Wandering the cornfields.
Sunset at Sneezewood
A deliciously peaceful sunset.

On Friday, we drove home. The end (almost).

I could have included a lot more drama in this series, but for various reasons I decided to omit information about the car we were driving and the logistics that ultimately led us on this maddening journey. But there is one essential tip that I have to share:

When road-tripping through South Africa in an SUV — especially in rural areas, where potholes and impala skulls are abundant — make sure the SUV you’re driving has high-profile tires. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty about low-profile vs. high-profile tires, a topic I knew nothing about before this journey. But the car we took with us to northern KZN had low-profile tires (many high-end SUVs do, for some silly reason), and those tires were at the root of our problems. We’ve since learned, from countless “car people” we encountered along the way, that low-profile tires are not a good fit for South African road conditions. Read more here.

I’m really sad we never made it to St. Lucia and had a generally bad time for a big portion of this trip. But the good news is we learned a lot. Here’s hoping the next Blogitect Road Trip (which we will definitely undertake with high-profile tires) goes more smoothly.

24 Comments

  1. Nancy McDaniel

    The only good part of this is that you and Thorsten were safe and together. If you are going to have problems as you did, best to have a GREAT partner (travel and otherwise!)

    Reply
      • Albert

        Sheesh, what a trip. It’s absolutely classic that the first tow truck got 2 x punctures of its own. Lol. Just shows you the calamitous state of our roads. I think the best part is that lovely drive close to Nkandla – it looks so beautiful and peaceful.

        Reply
        • 2summers

          It really was. Although I left out the part right before that, when the whole road was suddenly diverted through a muddy sugarcane plantation and all the taxis and trucks were driving in all directions through huge holes in the road, and there was an armored truck with a bunch of armed security guards who all jumped out with their machine guns and I momentarily thought we might die again ????

          Reply
          • Albert

            Hahaha. Oh my word!!! This would have made a wonderful video blog with plenty of bleeping to edit out.

          • 2summers

            I commented more than once during the trip that it would have been a good reality show.

  2. Carol Brown

    Wow! What a trip. Sounds like you need a holiday to recover.

    Reply
  3. dizzylexa

    You just need to remember the good people you met, the great curry and ice cream amongst other good stuff and of course all those awesome photo’s and sketches.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Totally. Despite the periodic misery, I would definitely do it again rather than not go at all 🙂

      Reply
  4. Stephanie

    I have so much to comment on. I do hope you can return to the area. St Lucia is special and so is iSimangaliso. Where else can you snorkel, whale watch and see a leopard and honey badger?

    Flat tires aren’t fun. You earned a TIA Africa badge for sure in numerous categories. I really do hope you shared your experience with the car company as that whole tire situation on that kind of car needs to change!

    Hopefully in a week when we are traveling through the Maputo Special Reserve we don’t experience the same fate. On another note, the 4×4 version of the Renault Duster is amazing. It’s our second car and has seen us through some great tracks.

    Maybe the universe just wanted you to slow down and remind you that “this is Africa”. Thanks for the trilogy, it was entertaining. May your next road trip be smooth sailing.

    My next road trip is NC – NYC on July 4 with regular rest stops. I’m a little concerned it’s going to be very very dull compared to road trippin through southern Africa.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Haha, thanks Stephanie. I-95 and the NJ Turnpike will definitely be a BIG change from Mozambique. But the destination will be worth it 🙂

      Reply
  5. davidjbristow

    Rules for road trips 101: never, ever buy or otherwise use low profile tyres/tires (you know this now); always, without exception, carry a mobile coffee maker. The Aeropress has saved many souls in the bundu. 🙂

    Reply
  6. Maarten

    Oh My Word….Heather. After reading all 3 parts of the story I only can say…What an adventure the 2 of you had to go through. Getting stuck with tyres; getting new ones…. We can share the same kind of story but the area was different and even more remote……Zimbabwe on our way to see the Great Zimbabwen Ruïns. We made it but it was some kind of adventure. Best thing we where safe and luckily together to support each other during stressful moments. So did you and Thorsten…Looking forward to the next tory ????

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Ahhh, I would love to go to Great Zimbabwe someday! I’ll make sure we have two spare tires though. Haha. Thanks Maarten.

      Reply
  7. Cynthis

    Hi Heather, I must say I enjoyed your misadventures—sitting safely on my couch. Can you tell me the surname of Paul at Sneezewood? I knew a Paul Theunissen who left Greytown and went farming near Dundee.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Hi Cynthia, haha I’m glad you were entertained. I actually never got Paul’s surname but he did mention he is from Greytown. So I’m sure it’s the same guy 🙂

      Reply
  8. AutumnAshbough

    The perils of impala skulls and low profile tires! I stand warned. But your drive home did look beautiful. And it’s a bonding experience to give you perspective on all future trips? (Sorry, that’s the best silver lining I can some up with.)

    Reply
    • 2summers

      It’s definitely a good story to look back and laugh at! Thorsten can tell his grandchildren.

      Reply
  9. TonyL

    Thank you. Your travails certainly brought back memories: My father, a Melmoth resident at the time, and I followed a similar track circa 1980 in a Toyota “bakkie”, several spare tyres, a tent and essential foodstuffs. In those days repairing your vehicle while on the road was the norm in the back country of Southern Africa, so we survived somehow. I still remember the natural beauty and desolation well. Around 1984 cyclone Domoina destroyed most of northeastern Zululand. I had a strong sense of deja vu 3 years ago touring through Namibia. I highly recommend it for a future Blogitect trip! Nowadays I live the quiet life in Savannah, Georgia, no crocodiles, just the occasional alligator!

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Hi Tony, thank you so much for the comment and for sharing your memories. We definitely need to do a Namibia trip sometime soon — Thorsten is originally from Luderitz.

      My mother lives in Hilton Head and we visit Savannah together about once a year! Great town.

      Reply
  10. Lani

    Heather, I’m so glad you and T had the ADVENTURE, so I didn’t have to. 😛 Glad all is well and good now. There’s nothing like a rousing venture with lots of mishaps to bring a couple together. xoxo Awwwwww.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Hahaha. You’re right about that. And we learned a lot!

      Reply

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