Category Archives: General Info

Our Transafrican Adventure in numbers: four nomads, one Land Rover …. aaaand …

37,521

kilometres alltogether

This might sound a lot ... Actually the distance northern Germany - Cape Town as the crow flies is way shorter than those 37.521 kilometres. But as we zig-zagged through the Balkans and Africa according to our daily feelings and never followed a fixed route, it was of course way longer.

A bridge in the Okavango Delta in Botswana.

At Cape Agulhas in South Africa.

"There are no roads in Sudan", somebody said to us ... they were actually quite good in most places!

Above Fish River Canyon in Namibia.

34,600

kilometres in the Land Rover

And we still love driving in the Landy. From our point of view it was quite comfortable and we enjoyed driving quite a lot as we spent most of the time talking, singing, listening to audiobooks together and at the same time interesting people and landscapes passed by our windows. Sometimes the road traffic was challenging - before we started the trip we had imagined the road conditions being more challenging.

Driving a Land Rover is great fun!

And there's a lot to see next to the roads!

 
 

2,921

kilometres in rental cars

It was strange to drive a "small" rental car after having driven so many kilometres in the Land Rover. It felt like our bums were scratching on the tar actually! Still, if you ship home your Landy, you will definitely  either have to wait without a car or use a rental.

Is it a CAR?

Really!?

905

likes for our Facebook site during the trip

We have never been too much after "Likes" on Facebook but still they were a way people could tell us that they were interested in what we wrote and pictured. This made us happy, we have to admit!

384

days on the road

... and we could have gone on!

290

days spent in Africa

... were definitely NOT enough! Africa is absolutely gripping! It is like a virus you cannot be cured from!

160    

nights spent on campsites

Campsites in Africa vary a lot. You can get everything from being in the absolute wilderness (Okavango Delta) and having a private ablution block, barbeque et cetera in Namibia or South Africa. You will almost never have a German-style campsite (GOOD!). Sometimes we also camped next to restaurants, lodges, in the courtyard of hotels.

Our camp on a farm-campsite in Namibia ("Mesosaurus Camp"). A bit like in the wilderness.

But you do have campsites with your own "house" with all kinds of personal facilities ...

... like a kitchen ...

... and a veranda with a view.

 

Our camp in the Okavango Delta ... no fences and loads of animals. So, elephants, hippos, gazelle, lions and whatever else pass through the camp, mostly at night! Never go to the toilet at night! At least we didn't!

 

127

nights spent in private households (in 21 different households ranging from a 1500 year-old mountain-village-farmhouse in Ethiopia to a big house directly below Table Mountain in South Africa or a Beach House directly at the Indian Ocean)

This we had not imagined. Completely unknown people contacted us before and during the trip to invite us into their homes, just because they found our blog on the internet and somehow must have liked us or at least found us interesting enough to invite us. This actually shows the immense support, blogs and Facebook can provide for any traveller. We also feel that it was a good decision to blog in English, as that way we could reach more and international people. The friendliness and hospitality we were approached with was unimaginably touching. We wish that Europeans and Germans especially were as nice to strangers as Africans and people on the Balkans were to us.

In most cases we felt like being family members from abroad.

Especially with the van der Merwes in Namibia on their small farm "Eisgaubib".

In the Tigrinyan mountain village Zik'allay - Anouk's favorite place in Ethiopia.

In here - the kitchen - people from the same family have lived for the last 1500 years. For now, it is our bedroom.

106,36

Euros spent per day

This sounds a lot and probably it is. We had saved up for years for the trip and had 125€ per day. Still, we did not wild camp too often (as we could probably have done) ... and we have to admit that we did give us treats with good food and restaurants quite often. For sure, this sum could be way cheaper. Also, from what we have heard and read, East Africa is not the cheapest overland destination. So, also the area of the world you travel in definitely affects the daily budget a lot.

Yes, we do spend quite a lot money on good food. Here it is fresh Barracuda for Christmas in Kenya.

Lobster in Tanzania ... 8€ for 1,5 kilograms!

97,71

kilometres per day on average

Nearly one hundred kilometres per day might sound a lot on average, but it actually is not. This includes all the autobahn-kilometres and those on very good roads we easily put behind us in Europe and southern Africa ... It also includes the stretches, we just drove through non-stop (like from the Ethiopian-Kenyan border to Nairobi). We had many lazy days during our trip where we did not move a wheel at all!

94

days spent in Europe

Europe is wonderful and there is so much to discover. Period!

The old monks' rooms and monasteries in the cliffs at Meteora in Greece - an absolutely magical place!

Lake Koman ferry in Albania.

71

nights in hotels, B&Bs, hostels and holiday flats

As I said, this could easily be reduced. We just needed that every now and then to relax, recover and enjoy.

A family room at a lodge in Namibia.

And a hostel room (yes, this is no mistake ... this really is a room in a hostel) in Girokastër in Albania. The kids thought the house was haunted!

18

foreign countries visited

The original plan was to visit more countries on the way, but we did not want to "tick" countries but wanted to travel. This is where our route(s) took us.

16

nights spent wild camping

We love wild camping and we were surprised how easy and wonderful wild camping can be. Absolute highlights in this sense were Greece and Sudan. Still, there are countries, where camping in the wilderness for us was not an option, such as Ethiopia, where nearly every square meter is inhabited and we didn't like the feeling of being openly watched by tens of persons all the time.

A wildcamp in the Sahara desert in Sudan ... absolutely safe but (nice) people (and camels) will find you in the morning and try to trade with you.

Our wild camp at the (nudist) beach in Lefkhada in Greece. A wonderful place!

15,15

€ per night on average

Prices for accomodation vary considerably from country to country and region to region. The Balkans were cheap and good, whereas East Africa was quite expensive. Some campsites in southern Africa were completely for free for people driving a car licensed from overseas.

12,8

average fuel consumption in liters

Not much different compared to the consumtion we have recorded during other overland trips in Europe.

7

nights spent at family member's houses

... at the beginning and end of the trip.

6

things that broke (both water pumps, front prop shaft, central locking right rear passenger door, double shocker keep, Foxwing awning)

We had expected more things to break. And due to heat, dust and road conditions, we constantly expected more to happen. Maybe the small number of things that broke was due to using a relatively new, well maintenanced car and constant maintenance on the road (i.e. service every 5000 to 10000 km and directly before the trip). We think it is worth buying quality products intead of going for cheap options.

When the front propshaft started making funny noises, we used it for educational purposes immediately. We got it fixed within 48 hrs! In Africa!

On the way to Ol Doinyo Lengai in Kenya, the keep of the double shock absorbers broke. The village blacksmith easily fixed it at a very considerably price.

6

malaria tests

Malaria felt like a constant threat, especially thinking of the kids. We now think that we might have overrated Malaria, but are also 100% sure that being on the safe side healthwise never is a bad thing to do. Malaria tests and medication in Africa is relatively cheap (for us Europeans with hard currency at least) and doctors know more how to treat Malaria than our doctors sometimes as they are constantly exposed to the problem.

3

uncomfortable situations

Actually, two of these happened in northern Africa. Juliane had two situations where she felt uncomfortably approached by men, in Egypt and Sudan. But there is a big difference between cities like Cairo and Khartoum and small villages. We felt absolutely safe and extremely politely treated in the villages. Mischa would have had no problem of leaving Juliane and the two girls behind there for a while. The third incident was a misunderstanding with customs officials at a checkpoint in Ethiopia about 200km away from the Ethiopian-Kenyan border. We drove on without being allowed to (which we could not figure out because of unclear signs), people stopped us, came running at us in uniforms waving weapons and made us go back behind a piece of rope across the street . While reversing, Mischa bumped into a concrete pillar on the road and went mad.

 

This barber stole a kiss from Juliane while Mischa and the girls were in the same room. Juliane didn't want to tell Mischa right away as she feared he would go wild ...

 

3

times servicing the Land Rover

As we said before, service is the key to everything staying in good shape car-wise!

 

First service at "JBK" in Athens - the Greek Land Rover "horse whisperers".

 

2

speeding tickets

Mischa got his first two speeding tickets in Africa. His first two EVER! ... on two successive days. And he was speeding!

Quite beautiful actually! BUT I DON'T drive a LANDCRUISER!

1

car breakdown

Only one time our car broke down completely ... on a major crossroads in Arusha, Tanzania, when the president was visiting the city. ... 2 km away from a Land Rover garage ... It took 45 minutes from the time the Landy broke down to have the car towed to the garage. ... And the manager of the garage took us home with him for the night. The next day everything was fixed again.

1

visitor from Germany

Mischa's mother visited us in Ethiopia, which was absolutely great. It was a brave thing to do for a lady of 67 who had never been to Africa before!

Bajaj outing with Oma Babs.

And she brought Swiss cheese - a rare thing in southern Egypt, Sudan, Kenya and Ethiopia ... worth its weight in gold almost!

0

bribes

We never pay bribes as the next travellers have to pay even higher prices. Also, we never give "gifts" for services that are not special. Whenever people really do things for us, we pay a fair price, though! We don't want to support a "bribe and beg" mentality, but want to make people start their own initiatives to make a living and support their families. When people are ill and sick, we sometimes go and buy food for them or give some medication.

0

punctures

... good tyres pay off! BF Goodrich Mud Terrain KM2! Never change a winning team!

 
 

0

robberies

... even though people could have robbed us easily. Was it luck? We don't know! We nearly always felt safe!

0

abductions

... see above!

0

days in prison

... see above! Although we were absolutely happy to be out of Ethiopia, as the traffic there is an absolute mess (Mischa would love to drive again in Cairo and Khartoum, but NOT in Ethiopia) and pedestrians don't know how to cope with modern road traffic. There are hundreds of people on the road, cattle, sheep and goats everywhere ... at night, people even sleep on the road. If you injure or kill somebody in an accident, you have to expect being lynched by the mob or will be put into prison for seven years. Even the embassies advise people to leave the country immediately after a fatal accident with a local person.

...

countless

new friends, experiences, things we learned

That's why we love traveling so much! There is nothing more to say!

Our kids make friends easily everywhere. Here in Namibia with Max and Irmgard.

The Calders in South Africa.

At the friday prayer in Omdurman in Sudan.

In "Anouk's mountain village" Zik'allay in Ethiopia.

Games in Kenya ...

... and in Ethiopia.

Farm friends in Namibia.

... with their wonderful parents.

Juliane and Zeinab in Cairo.

With Sam Watson in Cairo.

With Mohammed ("Mo") of "Adam Home Overland Camp" in Aswan.

... more friends in Khartoum, Sudan.

With Tyseer on a boat trip in Khartoum.

And with Sheikh Mohammad Mubarak and Tyseer in Khartoum.

With Chief Mkwawa and his family in Iringa, Tanzania.

With Ian, the manager of the Land Rover garage in Arusha.

With our travel friends "Six en Piste" from France who are now travelling in South America.

Lars - a wonderful family father, friend and Land Rover mechanic with a most wonderful family - in Nairobi.

... and so many many more! We miss you guys! Dearly!

Back Home Again …

Until recently we still enjoyed wonderful South Africa ... having traversed Europe and Africa from North to South ... and just as if it was only a short holiday, we are suddenly back in our every day life at home. Time and space have definitely proven to be very relative during the last couple of months. The complete distance of 37.521 kilometres which we have at most times wonderfully dawdled away within 384 days, but which still was at times hard-earned, we have on our way back just flown by airplane ... from East London in South Africa via Johannesburg and Dubai to Frankfurt in only 22 hours! Unbelievable how we today are able to just "tunnel" vast distances like that and also the wonderfully colorful life down on the Earth's surface. We can literally "beam" us from A to B and thereby skip countless and wonderfully exciting parallel worlds.

Coming home after a year full of experiences, adventures and personal and deeply touching encounters with other people, after a year with a wonderful distance to our "normal" every day life at home emotionally to us seemed like a whole mountain-massif.

"How will we be able to cope with the system-constraints of our every day life after this vivid freedom which every day allowed us to do whatever we actually wanted to?"

"Will friends turn their backs on us because of envy and jealousy?"

"Will the constellations in the circle of friends of our daughters have become re-arranged completely without them with the result that they will have become outsiders and social loners?"

"Will we - after all the intense cordiality of the people we have experienced on the Balkans and in Africa - be able to cope with the German mentality again (which we actually have never really been able to cope with even before!)?"

These and other questions ran through our heads, especially so during the last two weeks in (South) Africa.

It was perfect that we had decided on a "gentle return" which enabled us as a family to relax from traveling, to talk and reflect and dream of further plans.

We spent 14 wonderful days in the beachhouse of our dear travel friends Stan and Anne Weakley (their absolutely great African travel blog is www.slowdonkey.com) who we met by chance on the road between the Simien Mountains and Axum in Ethiopia (here is our blog post from Ethiopia).

 

Juliane had just recovered from eight days of diarrhea then ...

 

We met them again by chance at Kilifi in Kenya (here is the Kilifi blogpost) and because of the intensive time we spent together they have become very close friends, for our daughters even something like "elected grandparents".

"Granddad elect" Stan ...

Baking ...

... enjoying Anne's Bobotie ...

... campfire cuisine ...

... and Braai ...

 

... and Potjie of course!

 
 

And Pete's gorgeous farewell dinner.

 

With freshly shackled Cefani rock oysters,

mussels

 

... and Stan's crayfish. Delicious! Fattening time!

 

So, we felt very much at home with them, went to the beach, went shopping, cooked and feasted extensively (thanks to Anne & Stan, Pete & Christel and Mischa), talked, talked and talked and enjoyed the time as an "African" extended family. ... Until the day came when Stan and Anne took us to the airport.

It was like saying goodbye to dear family members ... affectionate, sad ... "When will we meet again?" ...

On the flights back, the European fear of terrorism draws level with us. Because of what we had heard and watched in the news during the last twelve months we already had an uneasy feeling to fly back home to Germany, to Frankfurt, one of the hubs of air traffic in Europe which thus could be a highly endangered location for terror. And - as if we had foreseen it - somebody scribbles a security comment on our boarding passes. Somewhere a thorough security check would be waiting for us. Not for the first time, as Mischa had been suspected to be a terrorist already in 2006/07 at JFK airport when we came back from our honeymoon trip to New York and Costa Rica. This time it might be because we have been to Sudan and fly back to Germany with Emirates Airways via Dubai. America has a firm grip on worldwide air traffic and all passenger information!

What we did not know at that moment was the fact that at the same time when we left South Africa, several people were shot at a shopping centre in Munich by a man who at that time was suspected to be an ISIS-terrorist. Because of this a warning had been issued by German and international intelligence to thoroughly check all people traveling to Germany. Lucky enough, the flights were long enough so that by and by people found out more about what was really happening in Munich and the assassin turned out to be a mentally ill person. "Welcome back!" from "dangerous Africa" to "safe Europe"!

We arrived back in Europe one week earlier than originally planned due to the fact that on the trip our daughter Anouk dearly missed her 96-year-old great grandmother.

 

Good old gran with her four great-grandchildren. May she rest in peace!

 

So, we wanted to surprise both and secretly booked the flights one week earlier so that Anouk would have a full week with her great-grandmother. However, because of this plan, we found out what we were not supposed to find out: Anouk's great grandmother and "chief" of the whole family was on her deathbed. Just days before we came back to Germany she closed her wise eyes for ever. Together, we had cried and talked "at home" in Stan and Anne's beachhouse. Now, back in Germany, Mischa's complete family was waiting for us in great-grandmother's house. We spent moving days together and said farewell to a wonderfully strong woman who had seen so very much during her long life.

...

As a challenge for the new stage of life after our overland adventure and after many interesting encounters, we had decided to get an addition to the family.

 

Something had happened ... our daughters who feared dogs suddenly loved dogs!

Look at THAT!

 

At Cape Agulhas (here is the blog post), we had decided to buy a Border Collie puppie after we had discovered that our two daughters after some warming up just love dogs.

 

Border Collies are cool!

 

So, we informed ourselves about good dog breeders in northern Germany and on the way to pick up our Land Rover in Rotterdam, we managed to check one. As soon as you see those bubbly-fluffy puppies, all doubts vanish instantly. As the puppies at that time were still too young for us to directly take them with us, we had to leave "our" dog behind ... We left full of thrills of anticipation about the new family member and drove on to meet Marit and Jan, travel friends from the Netherlands, who would help us get our Landy "Nyati" out of customs in Rotterdam.

 

With Marit and Jan in the Okavango Delta

 

Well, imagine us sitting with Marit and Jan, whom we had last met in the Okavango Delta (here is the blog post) and Kruger National Park (here is the Kruger post), in a typically Dutch restaurant somewhere near Amsterdam when an email reaches us from the freight forwarders ... telling us that we can't collect our beloved Land Rover as the container it is in seems to be inhabited by a multitude of spiders.

 

At least Nyati is not alone in that container ... but SPIDERS!?

 

Thus, the whole container has to be gased to kill the animals. We can only get back our Landy after it has been gased and thoroughly aired. We react with a mixture of amusement and disappointment, but Africa has made us considerably more relaxed and what else can we do than proceed to the harbour of Neuharlingersiel in our rental car to sail back to our little North Sea sandbank called "Spiekeroog".

Having just arrived at the harbour in the "beeeautiful" rental car ...

... we are on board a sailing ship ...

 

... crazy Sóley loves it ...

 
 

... even though the weather turns bad in no time - "traditions"!

 

There, we are being picked up by Mischa's mother and her partner with their sailing boat. After a sunny cup of tea during the passage to our island, the weather veers, dark clouds appear and the sea is getting rougher and rougher ... just like on the very day when we had left home more than a year earlier.

 

That's how we had started one year earlier ... slightly younger ... but more relaxed!????

 

Christina, Sóley's beloved kindergarten teacher, gives us a surprise-welcome.

More unexpected friends ... thanks Lasse, Merle and Swaantje! Did you see the tears of happiness in our eyes?

But in spite of this "typical North Sea weather", friends who had found out about our "secret" homecoming, were waiting at the island's harbour to take over the ropes and take us in their arms again.

 

If good friends take on the ropes it might not be a bad sign at all!

 

What a warm and wonderful welcome! Just as we like it! Maybe, coming home will not be too bad after all!?

The few days we have to wait until we can move back in into our old house on the campus of our boarding school, we spend in the house of Mischa's mother to celebrate her birthday.

Our home is so unexpectedly beautiful!

Lazy Sóley!

On my first bicycle trip from the island's village to the boarding school, I amazedly observe how wonderfully colourful the blooming meadows next to the road are, the horses and birds and the evening mood. "How sad that I don't have the camera with me!", I think even though in our every day lives, we speed this way without realising its beauty focussed on the hamster wheel of work and lose the eye for this beauty.

The two weeks we have for "nest-building" go by so very quick and we take the chance to re-furnish our house even more snugly than it was before, not least because of all the "treasures" we brought home from this overland trip. Us adults finally again enjoy to have our own bath, bedroom, sofa and laundry machine and our two daughters are extremely happy to have their rooms back. Still, Sóley feels lonesome at night when she is supposed to sleep alone in her room. She says that these nights are more creepy than any night spent in Nyati's "belly" in the middle of the wilderness with lions roaring in the distance. At daytime, she is impressed by the multitude of books and toys she seems to have forgotten about. The room we had "on board" of our Land Rover for toys and everything else of course was very limited and it had become normal for the girls to play with sticks, stones, plant seeds, sea shells et cetera in the sand. Most other children they had met on the road didn't have more than that and it was a real highlight whenever Anouk pulled her "Double Dutch" out of her pocket.

Yes, very different worlds collided for us during our trip and when coming home and constantly challenge(d) us in our cultural adaptability. Really "classic" social rituals at home suddenly feel "strange".

After we had arrived just in time to witness our older daughter Anouk being officially "thrown out of kindergarten", we could now experience the school enrollment of our first child.

In my family the first day at school is a big family celebration and Anouk had sent invitations already from Africa. As it is usual for this occasion, Anouk got a multitude of large school cones full of sweets, toys and useful things for her time at school. After a relaxed weekend with the family, the first-graders were, as it is the custom here on Spiekeroog, blessed by the priest of the Protestant old island church and the school's headmistress during a powerful church service. Strangely, the religious background of the families present did not play any role in that. Here, everybody "has to be a Christian", obviously ... And maybe not a world citizen!

Our party with the "Bundu Rovers" in Kenya ... still one of our absolute highlight ...

... and extremely open and respectful regardless of different skin color, ethnic background and religion.

We remember our campfire night with the Bundu Rovers in Nairobi in the Ngong hills (remember "Once I had a farm in Africa!"), where all religions present were treated with a natural respect and everything from food to alcohol to the complete celebration was planned and put through not to offend anybody present. Is Europe as open, democratic and culturally considerate as it pretends to be?

 
 

The fire brigade gives the kids a lift and finally, after a staged odyssey, drops them off at the island school.

You ring that bell on your very first and very last day at school.

Proud parents!

After a "birthday marathon" now, our first steps into our boarding school life are there. What wears us out the most actually is the bio rhythm of our bodies ... not only have we exchanged South African winter with European summer with long days and short nights, but also on the road our complete life was more adapted to the natural cause of time, natural requirements like hunger, tiredness and safety. My watch, which broke right at the beginning of the trip, I never really missed. Here back home, it was one of the very first things I bought to be able to survive the neatly clocked everyday (work) life which is not following any natural and individual logic by a systemic order only.

 

Sailing with Stefanus.

 

A few weeks after the revival of our old work-routine, Stefanus, a friend, more like a new family member, from Namibia visits us. He traveled through Africa from England to his home in Windhoek in his brand-new Land Rover Defender together with a friend.

 

Jep, the same man! Would you have recognized him??

 

We met the mysteriously-unkempt Land Rover brother together with his so-called "sister" at "Jungle Junction" in Nairobi and later at his parents' place in Windhoek, on their family farm South West of Windhoek (here is the blog post) and later in Cape Town. Having a beer in the school's discotheque, the "Beathaus", we philosophy about our time in Africa and about the fact that sometimes the whole trip now feels like "a movie", something that tore us out of "normal life", has deeply moved and enriched, but suddenly is over and one is back in normality. But we completely agree that such a break with all its encounters, experiences, adventures and challenges, leaves deep and sustainable traces in peoples' characters. What impact these will have on the long run only time will tell!

Stefanus has brought a Zebra hide from their home-farm ... yes, all paperwork done!

And a Nguni hide as well - we will exchange that with a hide of one of our Galloway cattle.

After a wonderful late summer, the rough autumn winds not only sweep the leaves from the trees. It also takes the soothing joy of the reunion with it and leaves countless shades of grey with many people who only want to think in black and white. And there it is, "Bang!", we are again confronted with the cold, German mentality, which after having experienced the multitude of warm and welcoming encounters, cordiality and helpfulness, feels icy cold and bitter. But we already know this, have experienced that before and have expected this to happen, so that we can comment it with relaxed but maybe still sad smiles. But balancing costs an awful lot of energy!

Agulhas!

Deeply in love already!

Very helpful in that are our two daughters Sóley and Anouk who seem to take everything way easier than we do ... and of course our new Border Collie puppie "Agulhas", named after one of our favourite places in Africa, Cape Agulhas.

Yes, even though it is bad manners for Germans to say such a thing, we can be very proud of our family and of what we have managed to successfully do together! A new travel dream, idea, plan saves us from falling into a sort of limbo and motivates us to work for a wonderfully colorful future against all odds! And it is fascinating to wait what will evolve from that!

Oh, yes, and - of course - after some time and getting rid of the spider-pest, our beloved Land Rover Nyati finally arrives back home as well.

 

Yes, they tried to keep Nyati! But we stole him back from those crazy Dutch! Thanks Marit and Jan for your help and friendship!

 

Nyati is ...

... back home! Re-united!

Many thanks to everybody who have followed and supported us during the last year! All our love we send to you!

Of course, on this blog there is more to come, so "stay tuned"! Also, we look forward to launching our second blog www.Ocean-Gypsies.de . The "Ocean Gypsies" Facebook page can already be found here.

Farewell to Africa …

It is just one more night in Africa, only a couple of hours, and we will board a plane and be homeward bound. This time, it will take us only a few hours to cover the distance between South Africa and Germany ... something that on-road in our Land Rover took us a complete year.

At the Gizeh pyramids in Egypt, October 2015

All alone at the Abu Simbel temples, Egypt October 2015

The Pyramids at Gebel Barkal, Sudan November 2015

Gondar, the ancient capital of Ethiopia, November 2015

The holy city of Axum in Ethiopia, December 2015 ... is the Ark of the Covenant really stored here in this very church?

The famous rock-hewn churches in Lalibela, Ethiopia December 2015

The Ol Doinyo Lengai, the holy mountain of the Massai, Tanzania January 2016

The Dead Vlei in Namibia, March 2016

Camping in the Okavango Delta in Botswana ... no fences! May 2016

Cape Agulhas, Africa's southernmost tip, South Africa June 2016

 

The Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, June 2016

 

A retrospect: it was sometime in the autumn of 1992 when Mischa's English teacher taught the topic "South Africa" in Mischa's English major course. Those were interesting times back then: the fall of the Berlin Wall had just happened, in 1990 Nelson Mandela was set free in South Africa after 27 years of imprisonment, and in April 1994, finally, while Mischa was still sweating over his A-Level exams, the first free elections in South Africa took place. For politically active college students the topic "South Africa" was extremely interesting and important at that time. During the lessons the movie "Cry Freedom" by Richard Attenborough, focusing on the South African "Black Consciousness" activist "Bantu Steven Biko" and his death in police custody in 1977 caused by the South African Police was being watched and interpreted.

Bantu Steven Biko

At Steve Biko's grave in Ginsberg, King Williams Town together with Stan Weakley

... This movie is still one of our absolute favourites.

Where would Steve Biko be now had he not been killed by the apartheit policemen?

For us now at the end of this long overland journey through Africa, it is very exciting and touching at the same time that we end this adventure here in the very region where Steve Biko spent many years and which later also became his "banning area".

 

Steve Biko's house in the township of Ginsberg, King Williams Town

 

...

We have come to yet another full circle here ... and we are extremely thankful that we were - 24 years after the end of Apartheit - able to make this dream of Transafrica with children come true. A dream that might got it's initial spark sometime when Mischa was still at school. ... Life is so incredibly fascinating!

...

 

Thanks, Jessica "Ess" Calder for creating this piece of art for 4-wheel-nomads

 

We want to finish here with yet another big "Thank You!" to all Africans, all new travel friends, our "old" friends from all over the world, family members and supporters. All of you have been and still are part of this successful overland adventure! Especially, we want to thank our sponsors, "Reise Know-How", "Offroad Manufaktur Hamburg", "Petromax/Feuerhand", "Ebeling Logistics", "Fanello" and "Druckerei Söker" for their support!

...

We hope that with our travel, our reports and photos on our blog and on Facebook, we not only have let our friends and family participate in this trip but have also helped shaping the picture of the continent of Africa and her people from the perspective of the "Western World" to a more realistic one. This would yet be another great success!

Also, we hope to have shown that traveling overland with young children is not only "possible", but extremely enriching.

...

Our last salute from Africa shall ring with "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika", the doubtlessly most beautiful and magic African anthem, the very song that - in the past having been the hymn of the resistance against apartheit and colonialism - now has become the national anthem of the new South Africa ... We have heard this song - translated in many different African languages - again and again on this trip, sometimes blown with the winds from far away in situations that would have been great to witness ...

 
 

Bye bye, Africa, for now! You will always be very precious to us!

Juliane, Mischa, Anouk and Sóley Stahl

 
 

Ocean Gypsies: Finding a boat #1

 
 

Dreaming into the sea in Lüderitz in Namibia indulging in old seafaring memories, we met the former diamond diver Heiko who sailed around the world for eleven years together with his family. Our old dreams of sailing and circumnavigating the world resurfaced and we yarned, informed ourselves and sketched sailing boats which we thought might be ideal for worldwide voyages for a traveling family ... traditional boats, spacious, convenient and ocean-going ... just like a "Colin Archer" maybe. But it would also have to be suitable for more or less single-handed sailing! A new dream, a new project called "Ocean Gypsies" came into existence!

 
 

The next similar touching view of the ocean we indulge in is at "Cape Agulhas", the southernmost tip of Africa (here is the blog entry on this wonderful place).

... And promptly but by chance we meet Malan Conradie, a local boat builder, at "Cape Agulhas Backpackers". He and his wife Erin own the "Backpackers".

 

Malan was very convincing!

 

Malan is a great inspiration for our "romantic-sailing thought-cloud-castle" which during a long and gregarious evening he converts into a "sporty-sailing dream-beachhouse". He invites us to visit him in the manufacture of "Scapeyachts", a boat-builder's yard who build catamarans near Cape Town. According to him these guys have exactly what we need!

After two and a half wonderful weeks in Cape Town we again "set sails" for "Cape Agulhas" and stopover in Somerset West, where "Scapeyachts" construct and produce their catamarans.

Because Malan is rather an expert for highspeed "Hydrofoil" speedboats, his colleague and friend Kevin Knight, more specialized on sailing boats, shows us the catamarans in the factory hall and in the nearby harbour.

 

The catamaran looks quite big when out of the water!

 
 
 

We actually arrived having many reservations, because we feel that catamarans in comparison to more traditional boats are rather ugly, far too modern and somehow unproportional (too wide and short). Simply "floating caravans". A seafaring romanticism which we know from the time we spent on traditional sailing boats and tallships, we rather can't imagine experiencing on such a "yoghurt pot".

But by and by, safety, convenience and sailing qualities indeed change our minds.

For our purposes Kevin recommends the "Scape 40' Adventurer Racer Cruiser" (draft 0,8m, l.o.a 11.90m, beam 6.42m).

Because of its two hulls the catamaran is distinctly more stabile in the water, which makes everyday life on board considerably less demanding. Seasickness for example is not really a problem any more. The plastics of the hulls (vinylester resin and multi axial stitched E-glass fabrics, PVC/Nidacore sandwich vacuum bonded construction) has a multitude of tiny air pockets and because of that the hulls rise high above the waterline and thus bring about far less resistance movement than a monohull would, because that would most commonly float through the water on one complete side of the boat. Because of this difference, the cat can easily sail at speeds up to 27 knots (!). This is more than double the speed traditional sailing boats can reach.

 
 

"Quite dangerous!" one now could think! But the cat is more stabile, more rarely capsizes (if at all) and if by any chance one of the hulls should become leaky, due to the air pockets in the plastic material the boat is constructed of, everything will still continue to float even though the hull is full of water. Quite fascinating: just in case the boat hits a floating container, both bows break and take in the impact energy without the boat itself becoming disabled and adrift or in danger of sinking. Because both hulls have an engine, it would even be possible to self-salvage the boat into the next harbour. - Absolutely amazing!

The double "normal" speed thus allows worry-free fun and at the same time doubles the travel-radius, which bearing in mind the many dream-destinations we have in the backs of our heads leads to absolute excitement in us.

Another asset is the gregariousness that can be lived in everyday life on this boat. With two double cabins and two smaller "1,5" person-cabins in each hull and another two to four beds in the salon, we could invite many friends and family members to come sailing with us.

 
 

What also perfectly fits to us is the fact that one part of the salon, the centre of life on this boat with a mindblowing 360° panoramic view, consists of a perfectly equipped galley ... Absolutely great: sailing, chatting and cooking - everything side by side and together.

A proper kitchen!

Can you imagine a boat being built in South Africa without a braai!?

And just in case anybody needs some time on their own, they can just retract to one of the four cabins in the two hulls.

Our two daughters of course like the two "trampolins" on the foreship the most ... and of course the diving platform and the two transom steps at the end of both hulls. Very family friendly and just made for long term travel!

 
 
 
 

How impressively active and relaxing at the same time voyages on this boat could be, no matter if they are short or longer trips!

Due to the fact that the boat has a large fresh water tank of 400l, a water maker (reverse osmosis) plus the equipment to collect rain water, in addition to highly effective solar panels on the deckhouse, this boat is more or less self sufficient. Only Diesel for the two 29hp motors and gas for the braai, stove and oven has to be bunkered every now and then.

 
 

With this boat, we could reach remote places we would not even be able to reach with our beloved Land Rover "Nyati".

 
 

Sure, to be able to really feel comfortable on such a modern plastic-sailing boat, quite a few things would have to be designed differently, but real-wood veneer, metallic varnish and brass bits and pieces can easily add a "personal and comfy touch" to this boat.

...

So, only the price, which at the moment is rather inaffordable for us, is an obstacle in making our next dream come true.

But this also challenges us to make it possible, plan, work and save, because the quality of life one would get back with this boat would be worth all the exertions!

Why many people don’t go on extended travel

Why actually do so few people from the "western World" travel the world overland long term?

During a long "kitchen party" together with another German overland-family we discussed this question.

 

We love long kitchen parties ... not just before a long day of traveling!

 

Especially in industrial nations many people are extremely focused on consumerism and competition. Long term travel is nearly always connected to a long-term withdrawal from the competition with colleagues at work, which can even lead to a jobwise "powerloss". The jobwise position can most surely not be kept during a long term travel. Earning money in the "normal" way most of the times also doesn't work, so people can't consume the products advertisements make us believe we need as life-essentials.

Fearing these two aspects deeply combined with a general and all-embracing angst concerning the "dangerous world out there" is the basic reason why so many of the citizens of the so-called "Western World" do not go out to take a personal look at the rest of our globe.

But it is also the simple fear of "being singled out because of being different" that stops people from going on a long term travel, as everybody knows that every single bit of "differentness" from the "norms" can lead to social isolation - in spite of the fact that we base our governments, cultures, job-culture and circle of friends on democratic systems stating that everybody is appreciated, approved and recognized in their otherness.

By many members of the so-called "upper classes" and the "educated classes", for example, the overland traveller is being looked down upon from the safari-cars as being somewhat inferior and being some kind of "left-wing-progressive camper rucksack tourist" who is not able to afford "proper travel".

 

This is real luxury: a warm night, a blazing fire, good food and drink, nice company ... and all "homemade".

 

From the perspective of the so-called "lower classes" long term travelers are viewed as "posh tourists who can afford constant vacation" ... We have met members of all occupational groups on our travels: from bus driver to university professor and from nurse to medical doctor or teacher.

People who do long term travel have to accept that for the "system", they have now thoroughly become "strange" and even "suspicious" persons.

Fundamentalists? ...

Terrorists? ...

... or just culturally interested, aware and respectful?!

To just give one example here from entering the USA, please read the following conversation between a traveler and US-customs: "Why did you travel to the Middle East?" ... "I didn't!" ... "Your passport states that you have recently been to Egypt!" ... "Ah, but that is Africa, isn't it!?" ... For government bodies and system followers it is unimaginable that people travel to Egypt or Sudan out of pure personal cultural interest, so everybody suggests terrorist motives these days.

When in Rome do as the Romans do!

Deep in conversation without a shared language!

For families with young children the situation with long-term travel is even more difficult, because everybody assumes that because their kids have been out of the school system, they will miss out on subject matters and thus will have less good starting positions on the jobwise competition-sprint.

 

Travel school can look quite "traditional"

 

Because schools have been "invented" by countries to recruit young talents for industry and economy, caring parents assume that their offspring will become disadvantaged because of long-term travel. Educational failure as the result of long-term travel! We are clear that schools have always been and today especially are very intensively controlled by the industry and do not focus on education from and for the child - why else still subjects such as music, arts and P.E. are the "Cinderellas" of school subjects at ALL schools from state to private!? In this context it by the way is quite enthralling that the internationally famous "PISA-study", which compares different school systems in different countries, is being financed and controlled by the international industry and economy.

Alongside the educational aspect quite a few people assume that "travel-children" might become "asocial monsters" because they allegedly lack contact to peers.

There are many opportunities for social interactions when traveling!

Everybody loves playing games!

One of our former colleagues postulated before we left home that all travel-children she had met until then had social adaptive difficulties and were eventually unhappy because of that.

Additionally, parents fear illnesses and diseases and because of that don't travel. Africa in itself is life-endangering! But with the help of good means of communication when traveling, vaccinations, medication, intensive planning, good travel-insurance and consulting specialist medical doctors it is possible to reduce those risks considerably. The long-term-traveler from industrial nations is anyway privileged, as he can always "pull out the trump-card" of a hard currency in the case of any medical problem and immediately be treated in a good private hospital ... even in Africa ... and in opposition to the local population which is not able to afford any good medical care of this kind!

When hearing of our travel plans, people accused us of being egoistic because we decided on traveling long-term instead of asking our kids (which, by the way we did and thus they were the major force to change the continent we planned to travel to).

 

Our kids just love Africa ... and decided to come back here because in Germany they missed the warmth of the people!

 

Everybody reading this might be ask themselves who exactly is the most egoistic, the parent who goes to work nine to five seven days a week to earn enough money for consumerism and then when they are traveling stay at a club for two weeks and send their children to the club's child care for most of the day to be able to play tennis, go running et cetera ... or the parents who invest time in family and children and "even" do without earning a wage for a long period of time.

Time with their parents is what young kids really need!

Child labor or sharing responsibilities?!

One thing that includes all the aspects described above for parents and their children alike are the media, the true "opium of the people", which are used to create a fear that makes people seek refuge in investing and saving money, over-insurance, travel-reluctance and at the same time is soothing, tranquilizing and satisfying addictions. The media-reports are the "modern sea monsters" that once used to be painted on maps at Columbus' times to instil fear in the too adventurous and restrict trade and navigatory knowledge to a small circle of insiders. People are not supposed to go out and explore on their own because they then would start to question the reports, prejudices and news and would realize that the all-encompassing fear homespun by bestseller-negative-news, half-truths and lies is completely made-up and unnecessary. People would maybe then discover that Muslims can be quite nice or African policemen not always corrupt ... the power to control and navigate people using fear would be gone then! Fairly dangerous!

It is intended and piloted by economy, politics and media that the Germans, Europeans, "Westerners" do not travel to far away lands because of this fear and in case they travel abroad in spite of that, then at a max they should travel to "safe trade partners". The "precious Euros or Dollars" are please to be spent in the domestic economy zone and rather not travel as a form of private foreign aid to Africa! And if Africa is the destination, please only book via overpriced European travel agencies so that a substantial part of that money can be skimmed at home instead of traveling individually without any pree-bookings!

...

But what is the real situation like during a long term travel concerning the aspects and concepts above?

Traveling definitely is an absolute "eye opener"! Apart from many learning experiences on the more intellectual side the most essential new experience caused by travel is to learn how to get rid of your fears. These fears eliminate themselves in any case when people realize that the "world outside" is not as bad as the media make us think it is.

For us it was for example quite scary at the beginning to wild-camp somewhere in the Sudanese desert because due to one-sided media cover, Sudan is considered an "absolutely dangerous country".

 

A wild camp in the Sudanese Sahara ... very relaxing and deeply touching instead of being dangerous!

 

We have finally camped wild regularly in Sudan and have felt very very safe, safer actually than in other places in Africa or even Europe!

An intensive openness concerning new situations is something that "just happens anyway" when you are traveling outside of your comfort zone and cultural sphere.

At the same time one learns to restrain oneself on the bare essentials.

 

Everything has to fit into the "small" Land Rover ... bare necessities of life!

 

With that, you automatically leave the consumerist-competition and instead of consuming "things" one indulges in deep, intensive human encounters ... traveling definitely also is making a move to a more social being. Once people asked us whether it is not boring not to build, create, construct something for one complete year ... our answer was and still is, "We do exactly that: we establish new ties and relations and stabilize those within the family, with the partner and with our children.

...

But what about the problem areas concerning children and education as stated above?

While traveling we have witnessed how our children "naturally" learned a foreign language, English, without any teacher in the traditional sense and without any learning material.

Natural learning: hatching turtles (science)

... zoology ...

... geology, mineralogy ...

... and gardening.

Furthermore, our two daughters were allowed to find out about their limits, could test themselves and by that find a different "inner ease of mind". Definitely, our children have become more culturally aware and also more cosmopolitan and open minded.

 
 

Life in the open in combination with more attention by the parents (who don't have to go to work) and simply more time gives the chance to include the children in many ways in travel planning, navigation, cooking, car-maintenance et cetera.

Mechanics and car maintenance ...

... help is always needed!

The great majority of contacts kids establish to other traveling children, adults and Africans of all ages are not rational but highly flexible and creative, especially when it comes to language(s)! At the same time even very young children learn a natural media competence by communicating with family and friends at home using emails, Facebook, Skype and the such.

 

Even "old school letters" reach us sometimes!

 

Believe it or not: our kids so far have not become "asocial monsters" - quite the contrary is true!

 
 

Ill or sick our kids were probaly not more than they would have been had we stayed at home. It is only more inconvenient when you are traveling! Our two daughters had gastro-intestinal problems (Anouk once and Sóley twice), tonsillitis (Anouk once and Sóley twice) and an ear infection (Anouk once). That was "it"! Still, we nearly always had the fear for malaria at the back of our necks even though all of us were on antimalarials.

...

Still, extended travel is not a "universal remedy" just as any "prenatal musical character coining" of all children using Mozart without taking into account the mother's favourite music is! Certainly, we don't want to persuade anybody and we also don't want to be fundamentalist in this direction! Those who love traveling will love long term travel and will profit from that and will experience great benefits in their children. Even the people you meet on the road will benefit from these encounters! On the long run travel will establish more mutual understanding! In addition to that long-term travel enables you to spend relaxed and intensive, sometimes challenging time together as a family and escape the competition about power and consumerism for a while! Certainly, after such a travel one has changed many points of view in many different fields!

For sure, we don't want to give the impression here that everybody HAS TO TRAVEL! There are many ways of living and what we do is just one of them! With this blog post we try to discuss why the majority of people in "our world" might fear long term travel! ... and we want to provide "food for thought"!

 
 

How to extend a Carnet de Passages in South Africa

When we found out that our booked RoRo shipping from Port Elizabeth was cancelled due to a strange decision of the South African government, we had to find a new way to ship our car. Another difficulty that we now had was that our carnet would expire on the 5th August, less than two months later ... our time to organise a new shipping was very limited, especially so as one populat shipping method was impossible.

Obviously, one of the very first things we had to try to do was to extend the period of time in which our Land Rover could still legally be here in South Africa.

...

As our Carnet was issued by the German automobile association "ADAC", they were the first people we contacted. We were absolutely surprised when we got a reply from Germany within 18 minutes (absolutely impressive for German circumstances!). The lady from the ADAC who replied to my mail (contact details: Anna.Zinitch@adac.de, Hansastraße 19, 80686 München, phone: +49 (0)89/ 7676 3149, mail: 
anna.zinitch@adac.de , web: 
www.adac.de) told me that via the South African automobile association "AASA", it is possible to ask for a "Letter of Grace" from the South African Customs to extend the validity of the Carnet by up to three months. To get that "Letter of Grace", one has to send an informal email to the AASA which explains why the Carnet has to be extended and why exactly one will not be able to leave South Africa before the Carnet expires including all relevant personal details. Attached to the email has to be a copy of the Carnet (we sent the first page and the page that was stamped in when we entered Botswana and thus the customs and revenue union of Southern Africa and included) a scan of the Carnet holders' passport.

Here are the contact details of the people at AASA that can help with this procedure:
Odette Pombo: opombo@aasa.co.za
Cleodene Sauls cleodenes@aasa.co.za
Tel.: 0027 – 11 – 799 1042; Fax: -1040

After the AASA had informed us that the "Letter of Grace" had been approved by customs (within less than 24 hours), the AASA asked us to pay a fee of 650,00ZAR (at the moment around 38 €) via credit card.

After the AASA had received the payment we were then forwarded the "Letter of Grace" via email.

The complete procedure from contacting the ADAC in Germany until receiving the "Letter of Grace" via mail took less than 24 hours - for both European and African circumstances a very fast period of time!

If the "Letter of Grace" has to be used, a copy has to be forwarded to the issuing organisation of the Carnet de Passages (in our case the ADAC).

Overlanding in a Land Rover!? Would you do it again?

On this overland adventure, we drove 34.126 km through Europe and Africa in a relatively new Land Rover Defender 110.

Albania, July 2015

Albania, August 2015

Greece, September 2015

Sudan, November 2015

 

Egypt, October 2015

 

Would we do it again in a Land Rover? This question we have been asked by quite a few overlanders-to-be who contacted us during the last few weeks ...

Land Rovers are unreliable, right?

Well, ours definitely is NOT! We didn't have one "real" Land Rover issue AT ALL! The only Land Rover thing that broke was the central locking of the right passenger door ... That's it! Quite unreliable, right?! But we have to admit that we invested a lot of time in maintenance (i.e. checking bolts weekly and after rought tracks) and serviced the Landy every six to eight thousand kilometres ... just to "repair" things before they break!

 

Tanzania, January 2016 ... rough tracks around Ol Doinyo Lengai

 

Everything that really "broke" on the trip was of aftermarket origin, such as the keep of the double shockers (due to a really bad track we took and maybe a loose bolt that I had not discovered early enough) and the front prop-shaft (which still worked but made funny noises, so I took it out and had it repaired in Namibia). The other thing that happened was too few fuel in the Diesel (actually 50% of it was water) ... I guess any engine would have ceased to continue working then - even a Mercedes G Wagen! The funny thing is that the chip that everybody "demonizes" when it comes to overlanding vehicles, most probably saved the engine and thus prevented us from any real damage. So, we "only" had to drain the fuel system and clean the tanks.

The EGR valve we exchanged in Greece when it started making different noises ... before anything broke actually! At the moment the engine sounds a bit more like a "tractor ", but we will give the Landy a good service once we are back home.

Then to the "performance" of the car ... the Landy with a weight of more than 3 tons actually did very well on all kinds of terrain and in all kinds of situations, be it in the sandy desert, the mountains of Ethiopia, on rough tracks and the good tar roads in Namibia or South Africa.

 

"Bridge" in the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana

 

Even though people consider the td4 engine (2.4l) as not strong enough, we think everything is absolutely OK with that engine. The fuel consumption was 12,8l on average, which also is not too bad. Actually on rough tracks and in sand the fuel consumption even dropped considerably!

 
 

The most important thing with the Land Rover actually is that everybody, really EVERYBODY likes Land Rovers (including our two daughters who consider the car to be a "family member" called "Nyati", (water) buffalo)!

 

After Mischa handed over the Land Rover to Duncan from "African Overlanders" for the shipping, Anouk was desperate because she couldn't even say "Goodbye" to the Landy ... only Landy books helped in that situation!

 

Also, we experienced the "Land Rover brotherhood" (and "sisterhood") as some kind of "second insurance" and also as a great opportunity to meet new people. With what other brand would a manager of a garage take you home with him to stay for the night because your car broke down?

The Landy broke down about two kilometers away from the Land Rover garage in Arusha

... and Ian, the manager, took us home with him.

We have been invited by so many Land Rover people and the Land Rover groups on Facebook or in Forums have always been a great help whenever we needed it.

Land Rover friends Erato and Konstantinos in Greece

... Sam in Cairo ...

... Lars in Nairobi ...

... the "Bundu Rovers" in Nairobi ...

 

... Elisabeth and Augustine with their children in Arusha ...

 

... Hugo from Denmark in Rundu ...

... Nyati and Hugo and Marguerite's Landy in Windhoek ...

... the van der Merwes on the farm "Eisgaubib" south of Windhoek ...

... and with Kathy and Ross at Cape Point.

It is really great to be members of this international "tribe" and we are happy to help any other Land Rover owner just as we have experienced it since we bought this car in 2011.

 

A Land Rover collection ... why not!?

 

In some of the following blog entries, we will go through our Land Rover's conversion again in more detail and share experiences, what was good or bad and what we plan to have changed when we are back in Germany.

...

So, going back to the intitial question: Yes, we would definitely go again in a Land Rover and we will do so in overland trips for many years to come hopefully! This being said, we are not fundamentalist in any way on our choice of car, as there are definitely other cars on the market which are also great for overlanding! It is only that the Land Rover suits and fits us best ... maybe its edgy-shape goes along well with our characters!

 

A "lonesome Landy" at "African Overlanders" near Cape Town ... waiting for being shipped.

 

Meeting the “San” and “Himba” in Namibia

A "San" ...

... and a "Himba"

Yes, we actually are a really sociable family! We have experienced this since the very beginning of our trip. Meeting and getting to know interesting people who live different lives has been an important and extremely enriching part of our long travel to the south. It was actually in Albania where we discovered the first real differences compared to "our culture".

Most of the time these personal encounters have just "happened" by chance on the road, other meetings with "locals", but also with other travelers we have arranged via the internet beforehand, sometimes just like a "blind date", and other people we visited were either friends or friends' friends. Everywhere on this long journey through the Balkans and Africa, we have been recieved and invited with an immense cordiality, have been invited to peoples' homes ... actually with a warmth and openness we think has become rare in Europe unfortunately. An immense wealth of exciting stories and concepts we have been allowed to learn that way and this also was an important way of delving into and thus appreciating the countries and cultures visited in even more depth. We were really lucky to meet so many interesting people and be able to establish so very many intense relationships, even deep friendships during our travels. What a great gift!

Of course, one cannot "expect" that this happens "by chance" in every single culture visited! It is not "normal" that you meet somebody who is living so interestingly different just by chance while traveling through and it is also not a normal thing that that person directly invites you to his or her home, is able to tell and explain everything to you in English and at the same time takes care of you in a for the country characteristical way in all imaginable kinds of ways. Sometimes, one has to "use" pre-organised touristic offers, but this can affect personal encounters fundamentally.

...

Of course, we were also very interested e.g. in the way the Mursi live (you know, the people where the ladies use wooden dishes in their lower lips for body decoration) in southern Ethiopia. But what we heard from many other travelers who really "bought" these encounters was just outrageous. Unenthusiastically the ladies pose topless in always the same manner and position (you can actually compare photos on the internet ... and most of them look the same!) ... just to seize US$5 per photo directly. How damn unromantic! And how damn artificial and maybe even top-down instead of encountering people on eye level this is! This "touristic prostitution" we definitely did not want to support and thus even consciously left out the region Omo-Valley in Ethiopia. We did this also because we had experienced the difference between regions ruined by tourism and other rather "spared" regions during the two times we visited and worked in Ethiopia.

...

Long before we had reached Namibia and had even planned our Transafrican overland travel Anouk had a dream, a wish going far beyond any normal interest in a different culture: she would so very much like to "be" a "Himba"!

This dream developed quite early during the frequent reading of one of her favourite childrens' books, "Tippi from Africa", a book full of wonderful photos and stories seen through the eyes of a small French girl growing up in Namibia in a setting that provides many encounters with "Himba", "San" and wild animals (here is the trailer of a film made about Tippi). Anouk identifies with Tippi and would love to be as near to the people and animals in Africa as Tippi is. The great respect she has for wild animals doesn't make her expect (in contrast to the Tippi in the book) that she can really cuddle with them, but with other people she establishes contacts in absolutely no time at all! While we are planning to find out where we could meet "Himba" in a good setting we discover that Anouk mixes up the "San" and "Himba". So, we decide to try to meet members of both cultures.

Max and Irmgard Beyer from Grootfontein ... we were so very lucky to have "bumped into them".

The Beyer's Self Catering flat ... a great place to stay in Grootfontein if overlanders want to stop for a "holiday from traveling"!

Max and Irmgard Beyer in Grootfontein ("Beyer Self Catering", actually a great place to stay; email: maxbeyer@iway.na) are an immense help in organising how we can meet the "San" and "Himba" in a small group and personal setting. Of course, we know that this will be "staged" in some way, but we will try it and be open.

...

First, we meet the "San" who call themselves both "Bushmen" and "San".

 

"San" is beautiful!

 

INFOBOX: The "San"

Both the term "San" and also "Bushmen" could be interpreted negatively; especially the term "San" which is percieved as "politically correct" these days means "bandit", "alien" or "good-for-nothing" in the language of the "Nama", who together with the "Himba"/"Herero" and "Damara" eventually in the cause of the last two to three centuries have displaced the San from their original homes in southern Africa.

In comparison with us Europeans the "San" are rather small and have a rather light-brownish skin colour which differentiates them distinctly from fair-skinned people, but also from the rather dark skinned Africans living in the region of southern Africa. Probably the "San" are the descendants of an early population of the Homo Sapiens, but maybe they are the descendants of a group which migrated from Europe back to Africa a couple of thousand years ago. From a scientific point of view it seems to be proven that the "San" have been genetically isolated from other humans for tens of thousands of years.

In the more recent past the "San" were consistently persecuted, enslaved, actually really "hunted down" in the very sense of the word by European colonialists and have become nearly extinct.

Today still the "San"-culture and people are in great danger to be wiped from our planet completely, through supersession by other peoples, but also due to the negative impact of tourism and modern diseases of civilization, but especially so due to tuberculosis. At the time of writing there seem to be around 100.000 "San" living in Namibia, Bostwana and Südafrika; 2000 years ago there were approximately 300.000 to 400.000!

As everywhere in the modern world, indigenous peoples get certain areas as "reservations" ... only to be taken away from them as soon as people discover any natural resources. This also happened to the "San" in the central Kalahari.

The "San" are widely recognized as tremendously peaceful, friendly and "gentle". They have an immensely ample knowledge on the plants and animals of the southern African bushland, but also on astronomy. In addition to that they have a large variety of different games, myths and stories. They definitely are far more than just "simple people living in the bush"!

Together with the Australian aboriginals the "San" are representatives of the two oldest continuously maintained cultures on this planet (... at least until us Europeans came as "boat people" to their shores and founded colonies on their land!). As such they still only have none or only a minor role in our so-alled "western" history curricula at school. Instead the allegedly "noble" Greek, Romans and Egyptians are being taught! The travel writer Bill Bryson once called the Australian Aborigines "The World's Invisible People" ... the "San" seem to belong into the same cathegory! Completely unjustly!

sources: oral sources, Wikipedia, Reise Know How "Namibia" (Schetar and Köthe)

The Fiume Bush Camp

The reception area

 

The "Dining Room" ... just wonderful!

 

Our excursion takes us into the "Fiume Bush Camp" situated about 60km east of Grootfontein and run by Jörn Gressmann, a blond Namibian who grew up on his parents' farm together with "Bushmen" and even speaks their language (yes, that's the one with the many "clicks") fluently since his childhood days.

Jörn Gressmann, owner of the "Fiume Bush Camp"

INFOBOX Jörn Gressmann 

Jörn, born in 1980 in Windhoek, moved to his parents' farm with his mother when he was three months old. The original family farm, "Klein Huis", was bought by Jörn's grandfather in 1932; he is 3rd generation Namibian.

The farm of 10.000 hectares is a large property meaning that the closest neighbours live at least 10-15km away. So, Jörn grew up with the staff kids that lived on the farm. The staff belonged partially to the "San" people. Jörn calls them "tame Bushmen" because they partly lost their culture and maybe would not really be able to live in and from the Bush anymore. They left the bush because they wanted to change their lives for the better working on commercial farms and earning an income. Jörn's father forbade all the staff to speak Afrikaans or English with Jörn. Instead they spoke the local "San"-language with him.

Those where the people Jörn grew up with and as a result at an age of 7 years he could almost speak better "San" than German, his mothertongue. His toys as a young boy were a slingshot, scorpions and snakes.

That is why Jörn has a close contact with the "San" and his connection with them from his childhood days is a gateway to their trust and the basis for mutual respect.

 

The "San" couple Erna and Morris - the managers of the Fiume Bush Camp

 

For the management of the camp Jörn has found the very warm and welcoming "San"-couple Erna and Morris who really affectionately take care of their guests, spend time with them around the campfire and answer all their questions.

 
 

Very luxurious for a tent!

A tent with a view!

Our complete family just loves the great food served (warthog and oryx) and we sleep in luxurious tents with bathroom en-suite and a great view into the surrounding bushland. By the way: there is no WiFi here - deliberately because the visitors are here for personal encounters and not for losing themselves in the digital nirvana!

The following day is completely structured and shows us all facettes of the original life of the bushmen, -women and -children.

First, we go on a loong bush walk ...

... only that walking in clothes is far too hot for this environment!

Setting a trap for small birds ...

... an ingenious part of engineership!

And the "bird" ...

... is caught ...

 

... and dies!

 

Young boys and one of the fathers go hunting ...

... impressive at how far distances the "San" can actually hit their targets ... a long learning process for us still!

 

The bush is full of good food like this edible root.

 
 

Making fire the old way ...

 

... only is a matter of one or two minutes ...

We learn about different medicine plants, fruits and berries, bulbs and hunting methods, how they make fire ...

How to make a new bow.

Creating beautiful jewelry from ostrich egg and plant seeds.

... but also the versatile jewellery they make from natural materials and of course how to make bow and arrow.

 

Sometimes we are really impressed by Anouk's social skills - traveling definitely is very good for her!

 

Anouk doesn't have any fear of contact and feels as right as rain with the "San".

Anouk (6) and her new friend Kuna (12)

The kids playing chasey.

Her new friend Kuna (with two clicks in her name) just takes her with her to collect berries and play chasey.

The "San" love to play dancing games ...

...

 
 

We witness that in the "San" culture the whole family love playing together having great fun.

 

A campfire and dance evening with the "San" ... actually SHARING stories, because both sides are interested in each other!

 

Even though this is just a demonstration, the medicine man and dancers are absolutely "into it"!

Vibrations!

 

Another "natural" thing: the children are also around the campfire ... fast asleep!

 

In the evening we are shown a short part of the "healing dance" (which actually goes on all day and night long if somebody in the village is ill!).

 

Another great dinner - while we listen to the sounds of the "San" already dancing, chattering and having fun a couple of hundred meters away from us.

 

By the way, the "San" obviously dance a long time before we visit their camp because their laughter and loud chattering resonates through the bush while we are still in the camp enjoying yet another great dinner. Not everything here seems to be (only) staged! After dancing and sports we now are not surprised anymore why the small and delicate "San" look so sporty-wiry. In addition to that their friendly, happy and gentle ways are just very very touching to us.

Apart from us there are only two other (German) tourists present at this organised encounter - a group-size enabling very personal experiences for all of us (later on we find out that the group size here will never exceed eight persons).

...

Unexpectedly positively tempered after this great experience

we head off into the Kaokoveld to meet the "Himbas"

... after an impressive self drive safari through the Etosha National Park.

Our room at the "Toko Lodge"

As Max and Irmgard Beyer had suggested, we stay at the beautiful "Toko-Lodge". On the farm a group of "Himba" have established a more or less permanent settlement, mainly for tourist purposes just like on "Fiume".

INFOBOX "Himba"

The name "Himba" in the language of the "Nama" means "beggar". The ancestors of the "Himba", a people which from an ethnical perspective and from that of a linguist are the same people as the "Herero", migrated to northern Namibia and southern Angola from Betschuanaland (modern Botswana) about 400 to 500 years ago.

This maybe last half-nomadic people of Namibia and Angola today only has about 7.000 to 16.000 members. Being livestock owners the culture of the "Himba" today is endangered by sedentary farming following the European example, but also because of the legal protection of predators. In the past the "Himba" were - among others - suppressed and raided by the "Nama". The term "Himba", "beggar", might be connected with that because after the raids the "Himba" had to beg from their neighbors to be able to survive.

The "Himba", a really favoured and famous photo motif with tourists in Namibia, today still like wearing scarce attire if seen from a western perspective, made mainly from leather and animal hides. They are also famous for their artificial hairdos which are decorated with ocre just as the rest of their bodies are.

Just like the "San" and many other indigenous peoples worldwide, the "Himba" are extremely endangered through the negative influences of tourism and the influence of the "western" consumerist way of living.

sources: oral sources, Wikipedia, Reise Know How "Namibia" (Schetar and Köthe)

 

Immanuel, our "Himba" guide

 

We book a guided tour with the "Himba" Imanuel who is very fluent in English. Right before we set off he asks us whether we have brought along some presents for the "Himba" and enough money to be able to buy souvenirs. Still being notably irritated by these questions we walk the short footpath with him to the "Himba" village.

At the village entry he makes us stop for some explanative words ... or rather to give the ladies in the camp some time to dress according to what they know the tourists want?

 

Mmh, if they are always as decorated as this they have to construct huts with wider doors!

 

However that may be, Mischa discovers several women who quickly sneek into their huts while we are waiting here. A young "Himba" who has been attending school for years now tries to cover her breasts while the guide loudly tells her not to be so awkwardly shy and coy.

 

 

"Western" education unfortunately brings with it that people look down on their own way of dressing.

 

Our first impression reminds us on touristy places in Ethiopia.

Especially the children seem to be rather desolate! It doesn't take very long and Sóley wants to go back to the lodge. Our daughters have by now developed a distinctive natural sense for people and situations. Something simply "doesn't fit" here! Especially the pushy children simply scare her away. Juliane continues her village-discovery-tour together with Anouk.

 
 
 

Proud ... but also sad in a way!

 
 
 

With regularity another lady poses for another photo, even really pushes Juliane to take even more photos. Men we don't see here! Juliane asks the women to "make Anouk a Himba" to make Anouk's dream come true ... so off they go into one of the straw-thatched clay huts.

One of the characteristics of the "Himba" is that they don't shower or wash themselves because water is very precious here but anoint themselves with a mixture of animal fat and ocre powder and after that "smoke" themselves under a blanket using natural perfumes and tree saps.

 

The "smoking" procedure

 

Anouk courageously participates in everything and the "Himba"-children are extremely excited how a fair-skinned girl becomes one of them.

 

Anouk, our little "Himba"

 

In this situation we first discover some "real" interest in us, some real excitement.

 

The "village souvenir market" ...

 

But when we step out of the small hut, the other village people have made a large circle to put all their handmade souvenirs on display for sale.

 
 

A sudden child's crying distracts us, a mother follows her child hitting it and an emaciated village-elder rebukes her. That guests are witnessing this incident (the guide tries to stop her) doesn't seem to be disturbing her in any way.

With a strange and really sad feeling we stroll across the improvised market place. Nothing really catches our eye but the pleading looks don't let us go. The prices are simply ridiculous and outrageous! Juliane bargains because we don't want to disappoint Anouk. But the feeling that remains is that we are being scammed here - even though we spent considerably more money when we visited the "San". The difference is that the "San" never hassled or pushed us.

The "San" shop ...

... every item is labelled with a price and the name of the artist.

Sóley and Anouk ...

... are so happy with the jewelry they have got!

Of course, the "San" were also prepared for tourists wanting to buy their jewellery and other crafts, but the way they dealt with that was absolutely discreet: a small "open air shop" offered many beautiful pieces of art which were each and every one labelled with handwritten slices of paper displaying the name of the artist and also the price. When we bought items, one of the "San" wrote down each income and - apart from 85% of the money generated which goes directly to the artist - another 15 % go into a communal coffer which then can be used for extra expenses when e.g. one of the villagers is getting ill and has to go to hospital.

Jörn Gressmann has a bilateral educational interest with his "San"project: not only that us foreigners had the chance to really learn a lot about the culture of the "Bushmen", but also for the "San" this form of tourism is a good opportunity and cause why to go on passing on their culture to the next generations.

 

Hunting lesson for the young boys ... and the tourists - but not ONLY for tourists!

 

The kids learn about their own culture and also that their culture is as exciting and important enough so that other people come from far away places just to visit them and experience that culture. Of course, they also learn that they can earn some money with this ancient but still quite vivid culture. In general, we felt that they had real fun showing us everything instead of "doing a job".

But Jörn also wants to enable these children to feel "at home" in the western culture and be able to adjust to the "western" norms of education when necessary. Because of that he has established a small kindergarten for the "San"-children living on his farm so that later on they have better chances at school. For that purpose there also is a donation box in the camp very discreet in one of the corners. This integral approach to combine tourism and education is something we really like and we hope that this social model will catch on because it actually is good for all sides, the "San", the tourists and the farm owners alike.

We can definitely only recommend the "Fiume Bush Camp" to every culturally interested traveler in Namibia!

For our children (and us!) these two visits were great lessons in a wonderful outdoor classroom! We will never forget this! "World schooling" and "travel schooling" with teachers like this can give so much more than learning in a classroom!

 

Let's hope that there will be a place for indigenous people(s) ... if their cultures and knowledge gets lost all humanity will lose!

 
 

What will their lives be like when they have grown up?? - It's time to fully recognize indigenous peoples in their full rights!

 

Dreams are there to become true … The birth of a new project

Our 13-months overland journey through Africa will soon be over! We have to return back to our daily routines back home ... Dream over!

...

Many people rather not go out and travel extendedly because they fear this very situation and many overland travellers don't go back home because of this and go on traveling for an indefinite period of time.

Certainly, we are also in the middle of this discussion and, of course, all have our mixed feelings when talking about coming home. Apart from the fact that long term "homeschooling" is not legal in Germany (not even for the children of teachers!), our two daughters simply want to go back to "their" island, even though they really enjoyed and still enjoy traveling, and we certainly don't want to stand in their way! The tiny German North Sea island called Spiekeroog is the home of our family!

So, how do we plan to deal with the situation of "coming back home"?

...

Our unexpectedly long stay in Lüderitz surprises us with pivotal points which then surprise us with their depth and spontaneous impact.

 

Lüderitz might be far away from the normal tourist routes, but we think this place is really great!

 
 

Scotland? The Faeroe Islands? ...

 

Dreaming into the Lüderitzbucht, the harbour-town atmosphere and surrounding landscape reminds both of us on Scottish harbour towns and how we met and fell in love back in 2003 sailing around the British Isles as crew of the sail training ship "Thor Heyerdahl".

 

The sail training ship "Thor Heyerdahl", the place where Juliane and Mischa met back in 2003 ...

 

Independently of one another we observe that our two kids really enjoy the boat trip to "Halifax Island", the surrounding nature and also the swell.

 

The sea is challenging, but also a "place" where you can dream ... if you have been touched by the sea, it will never ever let you go!

 

But we also realise that both of us have really deeply missed "going out to sea" during the last ten (!) years.

Heiko, the captain on our penguin and dolphin boat trip from Lüderitz and former diamond diver, tells us about his experiences sailing with his family on the oceans for eleven years circumnavigating the world. And there it is! BANG! ... a new dream is born!!! Or maybe it is better to say "reborn"!

Back at "Lüderitz Backpackers" we again begin to collect our ideas, plan and sketch - just like we did it when began to plan our sabbatical overland trip through Africa sometime between 2008 and 2011. A sailing boat which can sail in our native wadden sea and be moored in the small harbour of our home island of Spiekeroog but also is suitable for global crossing finally is the solution for our inner conflict between wanderlust and itchy feet on the one side and homesickness on the other. Sitting over a glass of wine and cider, idea after idea is discussed, we discuss what such a boat should look like, which features it should have for our plans ... and are enormously happy and excited about our new travel project. The project "Ocean Gypsy" is born! Even Anouk begins to plan and draw her dream boat ... both daughters are "as keen as mustard"!

Family history, family plans ... a new project is born!

We know that especially sailing can provide a very substantial learning field and source of great experiences and can only further strengthen our Transafrica-family-team (we will come back to this topic in a later post), not least because of our own experiences with the project "High Seas High School" of our school. For us the oceans have always been rather "bridges" or "transport routes" than insuperable barriers separating people from each other! Sailing is going to provide more freedom to travel for us and we plan to use this extensively for our family in the future!

 

 

Of course, we will continue overlanding with our "Nyati" as well! Maybe with a new offroad trailer!

 

In spite of this new project, us 4-wheel-nomads will go on overlanding in our Land Rover, of course! For summer 2017 we plan to go to Scotland, then at some point in time South America, Asia, West Africa will follow ... we have a long imaginary list of places we want to see during our lifetime! This "list" actually is even extended by the possibility to also travel by water.

...

Suddenly, "going home" is not the "end" of a dream but also the necessity for the beginning of a new one. ... "Home Port Spiekeroog!" ... If we have learned one thing about ourselves during the last few months and years, it is the fact that indeed we are really successfull in realising our dreams!

And suddenly everything "could be worse" and we can fully enjoy the last quarter of our Transafrican adventure without any melancholy.