At first it seems like a storm cloud on the horizon. On a hilltop, maybe 500 metres away, mud is erupting within the yellow hues of daybreak, shafts of early morning gentle taking pictures by, a few of them interrupted by an enormous, darkish nebula. Because the bull elephant comes in direction of us, silhouetted by the dawn, his intent is obvious. In our rear-view mirrors, we see a jeep with a Kruger Park safari information make a hasty three-point flip. We out of the blue really feel trapped in our bloated white campervan.
S Africa map
“Simply inform me what to do,” says Patch Walker, my good friend and co-driver.
This isn’t my first time on safari, however I’ve by no means been with out a certified information earlier than, and I’ve watched sufficient Attenborough to know that the black ooze leaking from the elephant’s face means he’s in musth – and we’re in severe hassle.
I mutter one thing about placing the van on the other facet of the highway to no less than give our assailant room to cross. The elephant approaches, and the whole lot appears to sluggish … however because it sweeps its head to the best, we hit the accelerator and are away, hearts racing because the mud storm swirls downhill from us.

Bull elephant, silhouetted by the dawn. {Photograph}: Jamie Lafferty
Earlier than we got here to South Africa for a campervan jaunt across the Japanese Cape, family and friends expressed considerations about our security. Sexy elephants weren’t fairly what they’d in thoughts. Why not go road-tripping in America or Canada? As a result of, we stated, that might be boring – and since South Africa, in addition to neighbouring Eswatini (previously often called Swaziland) and Lesotho, provide possibilities to discover the unknown.
Our plan, over 10 days, is to move north from Johannesburg to Kruger nationwide park, then south to Eswatini, and again west to South Africa’s Golden Gate Highlands nationwide park and the Drakensberg, taking in Lesotho on the way in which. A close to 2,000-mile circuit on a less-trodden itinerary than the Backyard Route, it guarantees distinction and freedom, although we’ll drive lower than 4 hours a day. House is an Iveco Discoverer-4, a type of cell Ikea showroom, with an array of crafty space-saving methods. Although there are simply two of us, you would conceivably squeeze 4 adults into its two beds.

One other elephant sidles by the creator. {Photograph}: Jamie Lafferty
It doesn’t take us too lengthy to get the dangle of the Discoverer – and shortly we now have left the chaos of Jo’burg behind as we head alongside the Lengthy Tom Go to Sabie (web site of battles between the British and the Boers), and soak up some huge hitters, from Blyde River Canyon to the Graskop waterfalls.
The weak point of the currencies right here – the rand, lilangeni and loti – matches the emaciated pound, so the whole lot feels fairly inexpensive, together with the gas, which is at all times served for us. At the very least after we arrive at pre-booked campsites we’re those accountable for hooking up the facility, topping up our water, and cooking meals from native supermarkets. A lot of the campsites have eating places, however each pitch additionally has a small, alfresco grill, so we barbecue most nights.

Jamie Lafferty’s campervan. {Photograph}: Jamie Lafferty
No, not barbecue: braai. Of all of the South African phrases we’re launched to, that is an important. We rapidly be taught a fundamental glossary of driving phrases, too: indicators are “sparkles”, the horn is a “hooter”, roundabouts are “circles”, visitors lights change into “robots”.
We spend nearly three days in Kruger, masking a few of the vastness of its 7,500 sq. miles, discussing the collective nouns for the assorted fauna we see: a cackle of hyena, a stubbornness of rhino, an implausibility of wildebeest. At sundown every evening we watch tens of 1000’s of red-billed queleas shimmer erratically throughout the dusky sky, their tiny wings gilded by the dying daylight. A “palpitation” isn’t their collective noun (there isn’t one particularly), however it simply may very well be.

Stork, impala, blue wildebeest and plains zebra, Kruger nationwide park. {Photograph}: Bjorn Grotting/Alamy
Not having a information means we will return to the Kruger’s fundamental campsite, Skukuza Relaxation Camp, after we select. Because the animals are most energetic at daybreak and nightfall, we take the van out no less than twice a day.
Past the nationwide parks, enormous elements of the Japanese Cape are flat, dry and golden, with roads rolling infinitely in direction of the horizon. We cross these hours singing alongside to music on our telephones and chewing biltong purchased from roadside distributors. It’s July, one of many colder, drier elements of the 12 months, and the powder blue of the large sky is simply sometimes smudged by smoke from fires lit by farmers hoping to enhance the fertility of their land. Whereas the evenings and mornings are chilly, the times heat as much as roughly what they’d be in a British summer time. However there’s a bonus to travelling right here within the low season – little rain and fewer vacationers.

Parked up in Eswatini (previously Swaziland). {Photograph}: Jamie Lafferty
The parched highways are at all times adopted by astonishing mountain ranges and canyons, waterfalls and pine forests. In these landscapes, we go trekking each time we will. In whole we hike for greater than 20 hours alongside 5 routes, encountering few individuals.
On a trek again up from the underside of Blyde Canyon, having visited the rocky, multi-tiered Dientje Falls, we as a substitute meet a small troop (or congress) of baboons, which descends from the bushes with a hideous alarm name. However 15 years of residing in Glasgow has given us a strong grounding for such confrontations, so we decide up a rock and a stick and swear lots, and finally climb out above the cover unmolested.

Lodging in Golden Gate nationwide park. {Photograph}: Grobler du Preez/Alamy
The mountainous kingdoms of Eswatini and Lesotho really feel very totally different from South Africa, like islands poking above the republic that surrounds them. Having used the campervan as a cell house, restaurant, disco and safari jeep, in Eswatini we now take it off-road to the beginning of one other waterfall trek, this time within the Malolotja nature reserve. The van copes amazingly nicely over bumps and potholes to our campsite contained in the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary. I stretch, then stand near the braai to maintain heat. Alas, we arrive too late to see any of the animals inside Mlilwane. Was there a journey of giraffe? Or a dazzle of zebra? We don’t get to seek out out.

The creator hikes in Golden Gate nationwide park. {Photograph}: Jamie Lafferty
At daybreak we cross out of Eswatini and again into South Africa, racing throughout the nation to succeed in the Golden Gate nationwide park. The border crossings right here (and later into Lesotho) may hardly be extra relaxed: our van is inspected a few occasions, however largely in order that curious cops can see the way it’s laid out inside, whether or not the bathe is practical, and so forth. Leaving Lesotho, we’d like to inform the guard concerning the dramatic day we had getting misplaced on a trek from the Maliba Lodge within the Ts’ehlanyane nationwide park, however he waves us by with out wanting up from his recreation of Sweet Crush.
A part of the Drakensberg mountain vary that runs alongside the northern and jap borders of Lesotho, Golden Gate has a shocking mixture of geological and meteorological phenomena. After a number of hours on the highway, I’m content material to only open some wine, however Patch insists we squeeze in one other trek earlier than sundown: the Wodehouse Peak path’s serpentine path meanders alongside ridges whereas the sundown dyes the valley panorama an ever extra burnished gold.

‘The sundown dyes the valley panorama an ever extra burnished gold’ {Photograph}: Jamie Lafferty
The next day we’ll head again to Johannesburg. Quickly we’ll be worrying about parking locations and visitors jams and locking the doorways – and the journey of being out on the highway and within the bush will fade away like an elephant down a dusty hill. So I put my dusty boots again on, and head exterior.
• The journey was offered by Worldwide Motorhoming Holidays, whose 14-day Kruger and the Battlefields tour prices from £1,215pp, primarily based on 4 sharing a Bobo Campers campervan, together with campsites and flights with Qatar Airways