Day 266. Thursday 14th September. Blood River Camp Site to Babananago. Kwazulu Natal. Start mileage 214467

Well, what a momentous day it’s been!

At one point during the night I thought an elephant was trying to turn us over. It was just violent wind gusts and we survived.

It took us longer to get packed and on the road this morning and it was back to a 10am start.

Our objective today is to visit the battle sites of Rorkes Drift and Isandlwana. These are historic sights from the British occupation of South Africa in the mid 1800’s.

The former site was visted first as it was closest, but in time, it happened after Isandlwana.

Most of you will know the history but for those that don’t, a mission outpost established by Jim Rorke was being used as a hospital for injured and sick British soldiers from other skirmishes.

Monument to the Zulu fallen at Rorkes Drift. A Leopard on a stack of shields.

A major British force was camped several miles away at Isandlwana and on the 22nd of January 1879 they were attacked by a large force of Zulu warriors, estimated at over 20,000. In the ensuing battle 1378 British soldiers and officers were killed and it’s estimated 471 Zulu’s, though it is thought that over a 1000 perished due to wounds. It was an inglorious military situation that has been ‘massaged” for British consumption. The gallant wrestling of the Queens Colours from the natives.

White painted stone cairns dotted over the landscape, where soldiers had fallen. at Isandlawna.

A smaller action was also happening at Rorkes Drift where 150 British soldiers garrisoned there and reinforced from Isandlwana, held out against approximately 3000 Zulu warriors, of which 351 died at the site. A number of Victoria Crosses were issued following the battle. One of which later pawned his V.C. for £5 and another recipient took his own life.

After having lunch under a tree at the Isandlwana Mission station we headed for Sani Pass about 250k’s away. We were unsure of which road to take as Jen had spoken to a SA tour guide who gave her a shortcut route to the main road. However the Sat-Nav was showing the k’s were increasing by over 20 and I decided to turn around using the flat ground beside the dirt road.

The next second we were in freefall and Poki was on her side. Fortunately I had my seatbelt on and I was suspended above Jen. I had not seen a deep concrete culvert and the left front wheel had gone into it, tipping us over. There was stuff everywhere including tools, spices, money, pots n pans. I managed to unbuckle and climb out through the open door window. It took a little longer to get Jen out but apart from a couple of minor scratches and bruises, we were OK. Poki though, was looking dreadful and we both wondered privately how we were ever going to get her upright and mobile again.

Soon there were people coming from everywhere. Some wanting to help others just gawping. First impressions of damage was the front left guard had taken the brunt. The windscreen was broken in the lower right corner, obviously from distortion of the cabin. Other than that, there seemed little damage. Later we found that the fitted internal cupboards screws had been sprung and it will take some time to strip out and rebuild. Oil was seeping from the engine and rear differential. The Aluminium box I had made on the roof rack had broken it’s hinges and recovery gear was spilling out.

Fortunately our internal water tank was emptied this morning. I decided we would refill it from the external tank, tonight. Otherwise we would have had water through our personal effects

The offending culvert.

Help is on it’s way

After about 20minutes following phone calls by the locals, a tractor putted down the road.

Tying a recovery rope to each upper axle and the heavy kenetic rope to an outrigger on the chassis, we hooked it up to the tractor. After a couple of attempts she righted herself, to huge relief.

However, one wheel was still in the deep culvert and to drag it back could cause serious damage to steering rods and under chassis. The exhaust jack was the solution. After positioning the bladder of the exhaust jack under the front wheel, started the engine and pumped the bladder up, raising the wheel to top of culvert height and with a sand track, a chain to the tractor, Poki engaged in low ratio and diff locks on, out she came.
A teenage schoolboy, one of a group, was starting to say “I’m hungry” suggesting that everyone there should be paid. We quickly added oil to the engine, cleaned up the cockpit and beat a track out of there. The tractor driver had suggested R1000 but we did not have that in cash. He settled quite happily for the R600 we did have. A bargain for us too.

By this time it was after 4pm and we had no idea where we were we would camp or where the nearest campsite was. Going through a small village I flagged down a police car and the driver suggests we follow him. He took us about 2k’s and stopped outside a building. He said it was a hotel, though no indication it was other than an accommodation block. The woman inside the gate asked how much we would pay? We agreed on R200 and camped on a patch of dried grass in front of the building but importantly, behind a wall.

For the next few hours after erecting the Caranex, we stripped everything out of the inside and assessed the damage. Screws holding the cabinet had pulled out and created a gap which various small items had fallen between. They had to be extracted and slowly we screwed her back together. Jen said, “where is the Bose speaker”? I had taken it out and put it with a pile of recovery equipment back at the site. One of the ‘helpers’ with light fingers had snaffled it!

Oil had leaked from the nearside rear wheel oil seal and covered the wheel. The diff took about 600ml of oil.

Bed at last, exhausted.

We climbed into bed about 9pm exhausted and dejected. At least we were safe and uninjured and Poki was mobile. I must have drifted off to sleep at around midnight and slept fitfully till 4am when the roosters started. One thing I noted when organising the recovery, was a massive thirst and it couldn’t be slaked. It must have been an adrenaline reaction. Jen felt the same.

Fortunately our shippers had decided to delay the sailing a week. This will hopefully give Jeff at TuneServe some time to straighten Poki out again, before we put her in a container for Rotterdam.

Views: 147


  1. Bugger, but on the positive side, you are both ok, if a little thirsty and damage can be repaired. Look on the bright side bro, half the bloody world circumnavigated and this is the worst that has happened, that has to be minor miracle. Anyway, you would be bored if you had nothing to do!

  2. P.S. Don’t suppose you thought of giving it a grease while it was easy to get at?

    • Hi Bro, the thought crossed my mind but only for an instant. Booked in for a new windscreen and some mechanicals checked on Monday & Tues, into a container Wednesday with any luck. On a plane to UK very soon after. Look forward to getting back to Kiwiland to register my vote for change…:)

  3. Hope you are not too bruised and battered! Pleased Poki is not too damaged.

    • Hi Caroline, oh very bruised ego’s and sympathy for Poki but am sure we will have her looking amazing again soon.:)

      Hoping you are finding things to keep you occupied and we look forward to seeing you soon. xx

      Dennis & Jen

  4. Jen et Denis !
    Just read your latest blog , Bloody Hell ! What a nightmare for you both , thankfully you seemed to have not been injured too much ?
    But no doubt a big shock, but as you 2 are a couple of Very Tough OldExplorers
    You just carry on ,Brilliant!
    You must be pleased you within striking distance of Durban , so you can put Poki , in the Land Rover Hospital and both of you can relax and recover with some fine SA Food and Wines ?
    Look Forward to further Travellers Tales !
    Ps spoke to Pam and she looks forward to seeing you both in October!

    • Hi Alex. Bloody hell alright! What would you give to go back and make a different decision!! Hoary old travelers huh!!…:)

      Great, we will really enjoy our next ‘catch-up’. See you both soon.


  5. Wow, that’s very unfortunate and I’m glad it all worked out without serious damage to either of you or Poki! In time the bruised egos and sheet metal will fade and this will only result in a good story.

  6. Well well Phil. So great to hear from you. Are you traveling Stateside?
    Look out for hidden culverts!!…:)

    Very best to you both.

    Dennis & Jen

  7. I have sold the van even though I still have it until they finish paying it off. New truck is fitted with a flatbed and I’m still waiting on the camper. Should get it next month then probably a couple months of installing the systems. My wife and I will head to Baja in February for 2-3 weeks then tour around mainland Mexico for a couple months.

    Any of us could have been bit by a hidden culvert. Glad in the grand scheme of things there is no major damage.

  8. Hi Phil, new truck huh! Sounds interesting. What have you opted for? 4X4?

    You will enjoy Mexico and nice to have your wife with you.

    Dennis & Jen

  9. I bought a 2022 Ford F250 Lariat Tremor and fitted it with a Bowen Customs aluminum flatbed. We originally were going to put a hardside camper on the flatbed, but due to a few circumstances that is now going to be a pop-top camper. Time will tell if it is as 4-wheel drive capable as the van, but the bit I’ve had it off-road it seems to perform very well. Certainly an entire different animal than Poki!

  10. Sounds good Phil. Some pics to my email would be great.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.