Category Archives: General Info

So how was … East Africa?

Eine deutschsprachige Version dieses Eintrages gibt es hier

In the meantime, we have left East Africa, drove through Zambia and have reached Namibia ... time to reflect on and describe the differences between the two large African regions, Northern Africa and East Africa ...

After we had spent several months in Northern Africa, East Africa - beginning with Kenya - was very relaxing right from the border.

As beautiful as we think Northern Africa is and as intensive our encounters with its people in Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia were, as beautiful and impressive it was to again drive through an isolated and green landscape and being allowed to meet the open, relaxed and cheerful people along the roads.

 

What a relief! And not every square meter is inhabited!

 

That Kenya and Tanzania are somewhat different, we instantly realized when we saw so many "mixed" couples and families. Without wanting to accuse the people in Northern Africa as being racists, one can say that the more conservative orientation of the people in these countries rather leads to a situation that culture, religion, but also the colour of a person's skin often lead to segregation instead of supporting contacts.

Impressive for us were the big shopping malls in Kenya which reminded us rather on the US than on Africa. The security guards with their automatic guns searching us for hidden weapons at the entrances and exits did in no way disturb, upset or frighten us. After in Northern Africa - even though we are quite open when it comes to different food - we had really missed especially cheese, sausages and good meat, but also chocolate and good wine, suddenly we were back in a culinary paradise. In spite of the high level of prices we indulged in French and Swiss cheese again ...

 

Our only cheese in Ethiopia ... brought from home by Mischa's mother.

 

But, in Tanzania - apart from the very few exceptions in the (very few) supermarkets in Arusha, Tanga and Dar es Salaam - the supply situation with familiar European groceries was a thing of the past again. And even in the supermarkets in these cities, what was offered was rather poor ... and expensive (i.e. a piece of the cheapest Gouda cheese sometimes was over 10€!)! At the same time, it is possible to get fresh fruit and vegetables at nearly every corner and also basic foodstuffs such as pasta and rice.

In addition to the high level of prices, also the national park fees have really surprised and startled us: if you want to enter the world famous Ngorongoro Crater with your own car and two children (in our case one of the cildren being below five years of age and thus free of charge), you have to pay a solid US$530 to US$580 PER DAY for entry (including entry to the crater itself), the car and camping. Absolutely ridiculous!

 

The Ol Doinyo Lengai ... near the Ngorongoro but less crowded and less expensive!

 

Tourists should try to inform themselves about other national parks and maybe decide on visiting these smaller and less touristy parks such as the Ruaha National Park, where you maybe see less animals at the same time, but don't have to share your experiences with a dozen of other safari vehicles full of other tourists taking photos of the same pack of lions at the waterhole. In East Africa tourism seems to be concentrating nearly completely on the high-priced segment of Safari-tourism and thereby completely neglecting the individual tourists. But exactly in the individual segment of tourim intercultural encounters and connected with that cultural exchange and understanding are more "normal" than in the rather "posh" segment, where you nearly rarely have an eye-level communication between guest and employee. A rather high percentage of the money spent for these holidays will end up in the hands of the owners of big international hotel and safari businesses. Individual tourists on the contrary buy most of what they need at the smaller markets, in small shops and thus spend their money where it should go to and where it is needed: with the "ordinary people" ...

Encounters ... How to make Swahili Crayfish

Encounters ... Meeting Adam Mkwawa, the Chief of the Hehe.

But especially because of this difference, individual tourists will quite often get preferred treatment by the "locals" and there are uncountable chances of intensive personal encounters. There are always at least two sides to each story!

One aspect everybody warned us against before traveling to Africa and especially to East Africa was the supposed corruption of policemen and military in Kenya and Tanzania. But - was it luck? - we didn't experience even one awkward encounter with members of these groups of persons. On the contrary, we were always treated corteously and friendly, sometimes even amicably. In Tanzania this might be because John Magufuli, the new president, has taken the cause of fighting the corruption in his country and the wealth grab of certain groups of persons connected with that..

 

John Magufuli, President of The Republic of Tanzania (source: www.bloomberg.com).

 

But he has made several other right decisions: He has, for example, reduced the costs for the celebration of the country's independence from a planned US$ 100,000 to only US$ 7,000. Politicians cannot travel abroad with a large entourage at government expense anymore, but have to use economy tickets and all international travel of civil servants has to be authorized personally by the president himself. Those who do not follow this doctrine are fired! Due to this policy, slowly but steadily the government coffers are filling and the money can be invested in hospitals, schools and in an improvement of the infrastructure. Every Saturday all civil servants have to collect garbage on the streets and in the countryside to make their mother country more beautiful. ... Corruption or personal enrichment of civil servants also lead to a prompt dismissal. Everywhere in Tanzania we have met people who felt encouraged by their president and there is a great spirit of optimism. The new president's popularity especially with the ordinary people is immense! In some way the policy of the new president has a rather unifying effect on Tanzania's inhabitants. Does this development in Tanzania lead to a respective media coverage in Europe? We don't know but fear that the majority of news are still negative, simply because they sell better.

...

Looking back on East Africa, we can say that Kenya and Tanzania have impressed us so deeply and were so wonderful to travel in that we can more than imagine coming back and discovering these two countries in more detail at some other point in time.

 

Of loving borders … and rain in Africa!

In one of the songs our children love, it says "In Africa it is so hot ...!". Is it!? Really?!

No, it is NOT! Since Ethiopia it has been raining almost all the time - at least that is how we feel! Why is it that whenever us nomads go to whatever place that people tell us that this week, month, year et cetera the rains and thunderstorms are somewhat different than "normally"! We had exactly that in the Pyrenees, in the Carpathians and now ... in Africa! ...

 

Traveling with Swiss friends we built this Land Rover Castle on our way to the Carpathian Mountains in Summer 2014.

 

Yes, we know that there is a thing called "rainy season", but this doesn't mean rain all day ... more or less for days on end! Well, that is the way it is, but we wanted to escape the rains ... "In the south, there is a draught!", somebody said!

 
 

Mischa wanted to go south fast, so he got his first speeding ticket in Tanzania on the way from Mbeya to the border ... No problem with the police though - all very nice, receit and everything, no bribe! IT WAS HIS FIRST SPEEDING TICKET EVER! Can you believe it!? ... When at that morning Nici at "Kisolanza" Farm, where we stayed two nights (a great place to stay, by the way!), had warned us that especially on this route, there would be myriads of policemen just waiting for issuing speeding tickets, Mischa had proudly stated that he never ever got a speeding ticket so far! Haha, he lost clean slate!

 

Our nicest border until we reached Namibia!

 

Borders! Everybody says that the borders are getting better the more to the south in Africa you come, and actually this is right ... generally! At the border between Tanzania and Zambia, the rains had just stopped (briefly!) and Mischa went out to follow his usual procedure: first immigration to get the exit stamps and then customs to get the carnet stamped out. No need to use the fixers which stick to you like flies do with sh**!

 

 
 

Oh, I forgot the Massai ladies in Tanzania ...

Kamal, our customs broker on the Egyptian side of the Egyptian/Sudanese border.

Magdi, our customs broker for the Sudanese side ... we had a wonderful time with him and his family!

Apart from Alexandria and the border between Egypt and Sudan, where we used the help of customs brokers who were respectable people and did a great job for us, at all other borders the fixers and the money changers really were extremely annoying even though we know that for them this is a way of earning money and they all are registered and have a permit for what they are doing. They follow you, you tell them that you don't need their services, still they follow you, do nothing for you because you don't let them and at the end they expect money for their "services"! Why use (and pay!) somebody you don't need!?

Anyway, in spite of the "flies" buzzing around us, at this special border everything seemed to go really smooth: passport stamps, then the carnet and off we went to the Zambian side.

For what comes now, I have to first explain that in Germany children's passports only have a very limited number of pages. So, we got new passports in advance in Germany to be used when the old ones are full. This is completely legal (even though your local city council might not know it and downright tell you that you are wrong ... don't let them win!)! As when we entered Tanzania, the border officials told us that our children's passports were full now. Now, in Zambia, we used the new ones AND also showed the old ones. As they are biometric there is no way of saying that they are fakes (so at least they could not suspect our kids of being spies for, say the Americans ... or the Absurdistanians!). Guess what came now! The Zambian immigration officers did not want to stamp an entry stamp into a new passport which doesn't have an exit stamp from the previously visited country. "Go back to Tanzania to have the exit stamp transferred to the new passports!", they said.

Seeing everything from a bird's perspective it would have been a wonderful picture: you could see Mischa running from the Zambian side to the Tanzanian ... only to be told that they would not do it ... then back to the Zambian ... who again said that they would not do it, so did their superior ... "Ah, no, our boss might do it, but today is a Sunday, so you will have to come back tomorrow!" ... "But we can't re-enter Tanzania, because we would need an exit stamp of Zambia!" ... so back to Tanzania, begging, asking for the superior ... "On a Sunday?" ... "No way!" ... so, back to Zambia, where the immigration officers suddenly didn't think the old kids passports were full and stamped their entry stamp on a page which legally was not reserved for visa. ... Problem NOT solved! Especially as we know that Namibia and South Africa are extremely strict with immigration, passports and children.

Different thoughts were going around and around in our heads: "Does this mean that our Transafrican adventure is over???" "What will "they" do with us if the country which we have just exited would not let us in again (because we do not have an exit stamp of the next country which we could not enter because of a full passport)?" "They"!?, Who will be responsible for us then, the officials of the country we have just left or the ones we intend to enter but can't?" "Us"?! No, only the kids! Does that mean that one of us will have to fly home with the kids and the other will have to continue to somwhere where we can meet again after having used the new passports for flying there?" "Shall we just cross the Zambian-Namibian border and wait and see what happens?" "Shall we go to the German Embassy in Lusaka and ask for assistance there?"

So, before getting stuck in "no man's land" between Zambia and Namibia, maybe in the rain, we contacted the German Embassy in Lusaka, Zambia. "No problem!", they said, "Just go to the headquarters of the immigration department in Lusaka and have the entry stamps officially transferred to the new passports!" Lusaka was on the way we wanted to take, but actually, we did not really want to into town! Especially not in that rain!

 

The most beautiful speeding ticket ... we will frame it! ... But just read what the police woman wrote on top!!! LAND CRUISER!!!!!

 

Mischa wanted to make haste ... and guess, what happened: he got his second speeding ticket, this time in Zambia (and what a beautiful one, too!) ... two speeding tickets within 48 hours!

Anyway, we did exactly what the embassy told us - in the rain - and, three hours later after writing a (typed!) explanation of our situation, we had the stamps transferred into the kids' new passports without a problem. Later, when crossing the Zambian-Namibian border, it was no problem at all for the officials in Namibia, the new passports were fine and we didn't even have to show the old ones!

...

Here is the text of the letter we wrote, just in case you want (or have) to do the same ...

...

Names of parents                                                                Date

Residential address: ...

Email: ...

Currently traveling in ...

 

 

To whom it may concern,

 

we hereby kindly request the entry stamps for Zambia (as stamped on the ... (date) at the Tanzanian/Zambian border post of Nakonde) in our two daughters' old passports

name daughter one, dob, pob (old passport: passport number, date of issue, place of issue, expiry date)

name daughter two, dob, pob (old passport: passport number, date of issue, place of issue, expiry date)

to be transferred to their new passports

name daughter one (new passport: passport number, date of issue, place of issue, expiry date)

and

name daughter two (new passport: passport number, date of issue, place of issue, expiry date).

The old passports (numbers as stated above) are full due to the fact that since the 10th July 2015 we as a family have been traveling overland by car (make of car, rego) through countries visited so far. In Germany children's passports do not have enough pages for the visa needed for a Transafrican journey, so the German passport authorities issued new passports for our two children to be used when the old ones are full. The old passports thus become invalid but will have to be forwarded at request to any customs ifficial to accompany the new passports and prove the route of the travel. Also, for the next following countries to bevisited (namely, countries to be visited on the onward journey) the passports need two blank pages each for the visa. to make sure that we are not stuck in "no mans' land" between the borders of Zambia and Namibia after having exited Zambia, we contacted the German Embassy in Lusaka who kindly informed us to request this transfer of the Zambian entry stamps in person at the Headquarters of the Department of Immigration of the Republic of Zambia which we hereby do.

We thank you for your help and support,

Yours sincerely,

(names, dob, pob, passport numbers)

Overland Cuisine

Cooking on the beach in Albania. Before ...

... and after. Yummy!

Who said that camping or overlanding and great food don't "fit"?! This was (part of) our Christmas Dinner in Kilifi, Kenya in 2015!

Gateau de Pancake á la Pettersson & Findus ... Anouk's birthday cake for her sixth birthday.

People who know us personally know that the things we really love are creative cooking, enjoying good food and experiencing new recipies and ingredients. Some now might ask themselves whether this passion can go along with overland travel or whether we have to live on canned food on the road just like "backpack tourists".

 

Our "kitchen".

 

Of course for our travels we have chosen a really good equipment to be able to cook tasty and varied food everywhere we go.

The "Kitchen Box" - and somebody seems to be waiting for something!

We would never leave home without a box full of good spices!

This equipment we store in our Zarges-Kitchen-Box (a Zarges Universalkiste K470) and in three Rako-Boxes (two with crockery and cutlery and one full of spices - only that the spice-box is overfull already).

 

Everything packed out ... this really is a lot of stuff - call us over equipped Germans if you want!

 

Our valued Coleman Stove with the Coleman Oven and the Toaster ... would not want to leave home without it as well!

- A two flame Coleman Stove - running on petrol, because you can get it everywhere, it is cheap and effective and will also provide enough heat even in moist or cold climate or in great heights ... The handling, though, might be something you have to get used to. For the Coleman, we also have the Coleman Oven and a Toaster.

Our Dutch Oven and Pan ... heavy but good to have it!

- A Petromax Dutch Oven (also called "Potje"), which can be put directly into the fire to cook a vast number of great dishes, ranging from pizza to rolls (here you can find a recipy for rolls we made traveling to the Carpathian Mountains) and to veggie casserole or roast venison.

- A Petromax Pan, which can be used on the stove or directly over a fire.

- A Petromax Firebox, which provides a hearth fuelled by small branches of wood.

- A Petromax Hobo, which is so small that you can take it with you on hikes to make a tea, coffee or a soup.

Our small BBQ-grill ... for fanning the fire we use an Ethiopian fan.

Apart from these things, we also have a small fold-out barbecue grill manufactured by Esbit and a set of good German knives made by Zwilling in Solingen.

We love tea ... being nostalgic, we always use our enamel mugs from our home-island Spiekeroog.

We love a tea in the morning (and in our midday break, and ...), so we always have our East-Frisian teapot with us whereever we go (it actually was a wedding present) and also take along our beloved East-Frisian tea (Thiele Broken Silver of course!). Water we boil either in the Primus Kettle on the Coleman or using the Petromax Firekettle powered by small pieces of wood, leaves, bark et cetera (here is our review of the Petromax Firekettle).

It took us quite a while to find the right set of pots and pans ...

Trying to find a good set of pots and pans was a long and tiring process. Finally, after a lot of trial and error (and costs!), we decided on a Pot & Pan Set by the Italian company Brunner - being inspired by Swiss friends who used the same set. In these pots it is no problem at all to cook rice pudding, make wonderful breakfast pancakes and so on.

...

In the following weeks we every now and then plan to publish reviews on some of our cooking gear and also maybe share some recipies we cook with this gear.

Halftime at the Ol Doinyo Lengai, the holy mountain of the Massai

Eine deutschsprachige Version dieses Eintrages gibt es hier

From Arusha we drive via Mto Wa Mbu to the Ol Doinyo Lengai. This tip we got from our "Huddle"-hosts Elisabeth and Augustin (more about "Huddle" see the infobox below). Just before reaching the famous Ngorongoro crater, we turn right and drive through an impressive landscape - Africa as pictured in children's books - and incidentally in the open grassland see hundreds of zebras, but also many giraffes, gazelles, ostriches and wildebeest.

 
 

It's a dream! ... Wouldn't there be this strange noise coming from the rear left part of the Land Rover which seems to be getting louder and louder. Mischa tries to find out where that noise comes from several times but can't detect the problem. But as driving is not really different to what it was before, we just continue ... a Land Rover is never really broken but also never really completely in order!

 

The Ol Doinyo Lengai, the holy mountain of the Massai

 

The Ol Doinyo Lengai, the holy mountain of the Massai, is majestically towering up from the surrounding landscape. In its crater according to Massai-tradition, "Engai", the god of the Massai, lives.

Approaching the volcano, we discover that its slopes are rutted by lava streams. Apart from grass and shrubbery, there is no other vegetation on the mountain due to its ongoing activity. The Ol Doinyo Lengai is the only remaining active volcanoe in the east-African rift valley and last erupted in 2008.

Near Engare Sero we find a good campsite. While Juliane is checking us in, Mischa again checks the underside of the Land Rover again ... and discovers that the upper keep of the double shockers is broken, one of the three bolts is loose and one missing completely. Finally, we have discovered the source of the strange sounds. "Why didn't I see this before!?"

Roads?

The "road" is impassable, so we drive through the riverbed!

All this must have happened during the last 100km which were rather an adventurous track, especially when we had to cross lava streams and rivers. The rather uncommon rainfalls during the last few days and weeks have caused washouts which, too, contributed to this adventure-oiste.

Well, so fitting the "halftime" - half of our (planned) Transafrican adventure is over exactly today - we have the first "problem" on our Land Rover on this trip which stops the immediate progress of our travel. But even this is no real problem, because the local people use this piste as well and for sure we are not special with our car issue. By the way, here people use considerably more Land Rovers than Landcruisers ... quite uncommon for Africa! We ask the locals and get a clear reply, "Landcruisers break down constantly and both the suspension and the engine don't stand the bad road conditions here!" We also see many new Land Rovers just like ours powered by the "PUMA"-engine (Td4/TDCi) which in Europe are viewed as not being fit for overlanding or Africa.

 

The helpful Rasta-Village-Fundi

 

The manager of the campsite calls the local car mechanic ("fundi") right after checking us in. Within 45 minutes, the "fundi" is in our camp, takes out the broken part including the shock absorbers, drives home, welds, comes back and in the dusk, adjusts and again attaches the shock absorber keep. As by now it is far too dark, Mischa persuades him to stop working and come back the next morning to finish his work. Next morning our "Nyati" is ready to go back on the road again. For US$ 30 the "fundi" drove the route village-campsite three times, welded, took out and re-fitted the shock absorbers and checked all three other wheels incl. the suspension ... and has earned good money for a village-fundi! But this is no problem at all! Win-win is what we would call it!

...

Halftime! Half of our sabbatical is "already" over, or "only"!? This depends a lot on the perspective! ...

Definitely, we think that this is a good point in time to make up an interim balance. What are our thoughts on over half a year traveling facing the half-full glass of our onward journey?

For years we had planned this trip. It was our most favourite hobby, maybe even the only one our everyday working life (and our way of dealing with it) has permitted. But plans are only rough guidelines and should not be taken too earnest to still be able to enjoy freedom to the limit. So, we tried to be as flexible as possible and half a year before setting off, even changed the continent to be travelled from South America to Africa.

Many detours on the route to Africa we had planned. We wanted to go via Turkey (Oh, how much Juliane had looked forward to visiting Istanbul!), Georgia and Iran, but then, we changed plans while traveling, because of the political situation, but more so because at the beginning of our trip, we needed less challenges and more relaxed time spent together as a family. The kids had to understand that this would not be a short summer holiday ... more exciting countries would come in Africa anyway!

 

Nighttime at the beach, somewhere in Albania with great company and a campfire ... what more does one need!?

 
 

Our beach camp in Lefkhada, Greece ... what a wonderful and relaxed place!

 

So we were content not spending too many kilometres on the road and staying at the beach or in the mountains instead. Signals that this was needed were quite common: e.g. at the beginning of the trip the girls threw up in the car several times which we did not know from our previous travels. Of course, this always led to a lot of work cleaning up the car afterwards and also to bad mood with children and parents. "This way we can't go through Africa for a complete year!" ... So we had to change to even lower gears to make ourselves ready for crossing the Sahara desert and everything else that would be waiting for us after that ... inside and outside!

Looking back, this was very important because the leg Cairo-Nairobi was very exhausting for all of us: even though it was exciting and enriching from a cultural and personal perspective, there was absolutely no room for relaxation!

Africa! So many things people had criticized before we set off. Traveling to Africa with children!? "Politically immature!", "You will travel through failed states only!", "Irresponsible!" ... For us, Africa so far is far better than her reputation! Only very rarely - maybe even less than in Europe - we experienced uncomfortable encounters. Never have we been threatened by anybody so far and nowhere did we have to pay a bribe. Ok, every now and then there is a policeman asking, "Do you have something that makes an officer happy?" ... We always offer our broadest smiles, they reply in the same way and off we go! Especially the Muslims in Egypt and Sudan (the words of people from our home-village, "Don't go to the Mussulmen, they are all fanatics and criminaly!" still ring in our ears) and their hospitality were simply impressive!

 

Our good friends Tyseer and Sheikh Mohammed ... we can't wait to see them again!

 

In contrast to that great hospitality, in Sudan catholic Europeans twice sent us away when arriving at their "tented camps" in the darkness of a late evening when we asked to be allowed to set up our camp in their fenced compound. They sent us off into the dunes ... in the middle of the night ... traveling with young children! A thing Muslims would never have done and never did do so during our trip!

 

Beautiful Tigray in Ethiopia

 
 

Approaching Lalibela in Ethiopia from the North

 
 

The beach at Pangani, Tanzania (Peponi Beach Resort)

 

Apart from really impressive landscapes and exciting cultures, it is especially the people of Africa that fascinate us, because in spite of ineffable everyday difficulties ranging from corruption to malaria, unemployment and lack of money they are nearly consistently friendly, happy with a positive attitude towards life and an immense ingenuity to find solutions out of nothing. But also, we notice the negative influence some NGOs and tourism have on the people.

On our route we initially wanted to go from Nairobi to Uganda and then on to Rwanda before continuing to Tanzania. Health issues made us turn around and recover in Nairobi with the help of modern medicine.

Also the topic "health" was something that kept us, friends and relatives busy before we set off to Africa. Finally, everything that affected us on this trip so far apart from "Botflies" were illnesses quite common in Europe: Sóley had tonsilitis in Egypt, all of us a gastro-intestinal virus (Juliane for eight days, Sóley two times, once in Greece and once in Ethiopia) and a common cold which in Juliane's case developed into a beginning pneumonia!

The hospitals we went to were all in all quite OK, in Nairobi even above the central-European standard, in Ethiopia and Greece rather ill-equipped.

The anti-malarials we take as a prophylaxis daily seem to be without side effects, maybe they lead to a slight proclivity to diorrhea and in Juliane's case might cause slight problems with the immune system. Maybe!

For Anouk after the Botflies the trip was "over", she wanted to go home! We called in the family powow and together decided to set sails for the beach, to Tanzania, and to spend more time together with other families with children of the same age as ours. This flexibility has paid off after only very few days and Anouk enjoys traveling again.

 

A sad Anouk missing old friends from home and new friends who traveled up north ...

 

Only that she would love to be able to take all new friends with her on our onward journey. This travel is a hard training for her concerning saying farewell from unexpectedly cordial people.

All of us learn a lot anyway, especially Sóley and Anouk; maybe not all the things we had planned beforehand, but not less precious concepts and skills.

The amounts of English our two daughters now have are really remarkable. While Sóley freely peppers German sentences with English words and chatters on everybody around her, Anouk by now speaks a relatively fluent English. For a long time she had quietly listened to the adults and obviously recognized words from her bilingual audiobooks. Since Ethiopia she actively speaks English with her friends and during the last few weeks even developed a slight French accent because we spent a lot of great time with three French families. Especially for Mischa as a teacher this incidental acquisition of a foreign language really is impressive. In the right setting, teachers in the commonly perceived sense are completely unnecessary! "Learning by doing" in real life situations and real contexts with people around whom one can ask for advice and help when needed are so much more effective than traditional classroom lessons without any connection to the children's experience realm. Grammar is intuitively perceived, autonomy is encouraged and success comes completely on its own when people understand in communication situations.

 

No words - some moments are pure magic!

 

Sóley has become more relaxed and open and has come closer to Mischa whom before traveling she did not really accept. Also, both kids have grown together and the whole family-coherence has become more and more intensive. ... Never ever have we experienced family and family bonds as strongly as during this trip.

New friends: the Leiste family from Munich ...

... Team "Slowdonkey.com", Stan and Anne ...

Silvia and Christoph from "Mankei Travel"

International Barefoot Beach Camp with the Dacaluf family.

All the people we met on this trip so far have also positively supported the development of our children. You don't meet many other "overland-families", but with the few that are traveling in Africa at the moment, it is quite easy to arrange to meet up with the help of modern media to arrange a meeting (e.g. with the help of a Facebook group for Overland Families co-founded by us ), to travel together for a while ... sometimes this works out well, e.g. with "the French". But sometimes one has to realise that it doesn't "fit" and that it is better to go separate ways. Still, we don't meet as many other overlanders as we had expected.

With Sam, our host in Maadi, Cairo ... and his beloved Land Rover "Stella"

Samuel and Genet with their new-born son ...

 

... and Hagos - together with their extended families very close friends in Ethiopia.

 

Lars ...

... and Flora who hosted us in Nairobi.

 

The Douillets from Arusha, our "Huddle" friends.

 

Infobox: "Huddle"

Huddle is a non-profit and free of charge international network to exchange tips, info, houses for a trip, weekend or expatriation ... with trustful expatriates & travelers. If you want to become a member, you will have to be invited by a "Huddle" member (contact us if you are interested).

 

 

A great help in discovering and feeling at home in a new country, a new culture are the many wonderful people that invite you to their homes, native inhabitants or expats alike.

Some meetings and visits had been planned for a long time, some come about quite spontaneously, just because you meet by chance, such as our meeting with Ian, the manager of the Land Rover garage in Arusha, where we had to have our Land Rover repaired.

 

With Ian, the CMC manager who took us home to his place

 

In this sense, by the way, our Land Rover is a good way of meeting new people as Land Rover owners are just like one large family. We for example had a great time with Konstantinos and Erato in Athens or the "Bundu Rovers" in Kenya.

Fellow Land Rover owner Konstantinos ...

... and his wife Erato who helped us immensely in planning the shipping of our Land Rover from Greece to Egypt

 

Our BBQ with the "Bundu Rovers" in Kenya ... one of the greatest evenings around a campfire in Africa so far!

 

Still, in spite of modern media and communication methods, you can't plan everything even though Facebook and our travel blog are a great way of inforcing that. It is so very exiting whom you meet on the road just by chance, even though not all those encounters are positive! One negative experience were a group of older German overlanders who were downright racist and loudly discussed about and judged "mixed couples" ("When exactly does a white man take a "Bimbo-woman" and when is it the other way round?" or "Don't invite her to Germany, we already have enough of "them" at home!") ... still these people have traveled through Africa for years and years. Strange, very strange! And a shame, as all of us are ambassadors for our countries, cultures and the idea of overlanding!

While traveling and experiencing all the positive and enriching encounters, it becomes more and more clear to us that it is exactly the inter-personal exchange which is the most important part of traveling for us, more important than sightseeing, ticking certain touristy hotspots, wild animals, national parks et cetera.

But the many exciting encounters can also distray you from relaxing: quite often we sit around a campfire or table and talk with new friends burning the midnight oil while not reserving enough attention on the kids ... or on ourselves! For the kids this is no problem when there are other children around to play with. But still it is quite alarming that Juliane did not manage to set up the slackline or even read a book which is not a guidebook or children's book so far. Yes, even while traveling, one has to make sure not to go back in unhealthy everyday structures similar to those of the everyday work day back at home! The daily life on the road, especially with young children, can keep in top of you just as the daily working-life at home if you don't take care. So, we decide for the second part of our Transafrican adventure to reserve some more time for us as a couple and for each other, of course without neglecting our children at the same time. Generally, they should profit from that as well when the parents are more relaxed. This might be a model for the time when we are back home again

Home ... This inevitably leads to the question on what is going to be "after" the trip. Will we be able to go back to our "normal" lives? Into a life governed by clocks and watches and demands from the workplace? How will we be able to keep the joy of living, which we have in spite of all challenges this travel has included so far ... and make the transfer to our every day lives? What would it be like to drop out completely? How would we be able to make enough money on the road? How would we educate our daughters for their future, a future that could be just like our way of living, but still could follow completely different ideas? Continuously traveling could also become "normal" after a while ... a new "job"!

Would emigrating be a solution and start a new life in Africa or somewhere else? So far - apart from Australia - we can only imagine doing that in Kenya, maybe also in Tanzamia ... In this context, we are really excited about traveling to Namibia, Botswana, Swasiland and South Africa ...

Money. Another one of the more uncomfortable topics! A good and relaxed way of dealing with money matters we had to learn while saving up for our sabbatical during the last few years anyway.

 
 

Even though countries like Ethiopia have turned out to be more expensive than expected because free camping simply is impossible there, we are quite surprised that we have managed to live on a daily budget of roundabout 100€ just as planned beforehand (daily average: 100,72€ incl. shipping the car to Africa) in spite of many paid accomodations. Really an eye-opener was that we only spent 8,71€ per day on diesel.

 

"Life" includes all food, entry fees et cetera
"Traffic" are road tolls, bridge fees et cetera
"Other" are mainly pocket money for the kids

 

Roundabout half of the daily budget we spent on "life", meaning food, entry fees et cetera, which reconciles us with the basic idea that this travel should mainly be high-quality time spent together as a family. Yes, this plan seems to be proving to be successful! Also, in this context, it is good to know that a large portion of the money we have spent ends up with the "normal" people on the road in the countries visited as we buy most of our food et cetera in small shops, street stalls and on the market.

After these reflections - but also complete without them - would we do it again? The answer is a clear and definite "Yes!". And to go further: we will do it again!

...

On our way from the "holy mountain of the Massai" back to Arusha, the engine of our Land Rover suddenly stops several times when we wait at gates or at police checkpoints and when we try to overtake the engine doesn't seem to have enough power. Finally, about 2 km before reaching the Land Rover garage in Arusha in the middle of the evening rush hour the engine stops completely.

Our poor Nyati on a towing truck.

... being pushed by other peoples' hands ...

But, in Africa just like in Europe it is possible to get a towing truck within 45 minutes, have your car towed to a garage and have the problem diagnosed: bad fuel, "bad" in the sense of "too much water in the fuel "! It turns out that when we had fuelled up in Arusha before setting of for Ol Doinyo Lengai, we fuelled up with about 50 % water and 50% diesel (i.e. 40 litres of water! ... one third of our tank!), because obviously the tank of the gas station had rain water leaking into it (and we had a lot of rain in Arusha!). So, we have to take out both fuel tanks and drain and clean them completely. Luckily, there doesn't seem to be further damage to the engine ... also, because the computer chip stopped the engine before (it is not so bad after all to have a chipped engine!). Within only one day we are helped by professionals and even privately, we are "rescued" by our French internet friends and by the manager of the garage, who without further ado invites us to stay at his place until our car is ready to go back on the road again and thus provides an interesting insight into the "expat-world" of Arusha!

Still, our "halftime" was a bit complicated car-wise!

“So, how was Ethiopia?”

Since we arrived in Kenya and especially during our three stays at Jungle Junction, the well-known overlanders campsite in Nairobi, people again and again have asked us for an account of the experiences we made in Ethiopia. Most overlanders at the moment seem to start in South Africa and don't plan to go further north than Kenya but still some are planning to go through Ethiopia soon and are mainly interested in road conditions and rumours about begging and stone throwing children. Had they asked us these questions a year ago after our first four weeks of Ethiopia, we would have been a bit more positive about these topics.

The four godchildren of our school ... It was great to meet them again after 10 months!

 
 

Last time we took a plane to get there, stayed at the non-touristic town of Adigrat, most of the time volunteering for a German NGO in a kindergarden. This way we were integrated, drove around with locals in local cars and bajaj and were being appreciated for bringing knowledge to the country. Because of these positive experiences and deep personal relationships we were able to establish, we actually decided to go to Africa instead of going to South America as initially planned.

This time while overlanding in Ethiopia, our experiences are different. This might be due to many causes. Certainly the quite exhausting travel to Ethiopia through the desert instead of boarding a plane makes a huge difference and can be one point in the list concerning this aspect. Another one is that for the people next to the road, we travel in our own car with a foreign license plate and thus obviously are rich tourists. We don't work at one place but go sightseeing and have a completely different "status" now. As one of the participants of Mischa's free English lessons at Agoro Lodge in Adigrat quite openly stated, before she had worked in the tourist business, "Ferengi" (foreigner) were only "dollarnotes on two legs" for her. Now, overlanding here, we have to endure continuously begging children at all the sights we visit and even whereever we stop along the road. In Adigrat we really enjoyed the liveliness, but this time we really have to endure the negative sides of Ethiopia's overpopulation. Juliane, suffering from diorrhea, has to cope with a group of more than six children watching her while she has to find a place to relieve herself (the rest you can imagine!).

Still, also on this trip, with nearly all adults we meet we experience the sudden and non-expecting help from locals, such as Dr. Hayelum (who has 16 family members living on what he earns and who don't feel they have to go to work to bring in their share), who treats Juliane without accepting any payment ("You will do the same for me when I visit your country!" was what he replied). Also, well-educated locals were a great help in bridging the language barrier gap due to poor English skills of most Ethiopians. They translated and explained a lot.

A major negative aspect definitely are the the road conditions on some main roads which are really bad if you compare them to those in the southern part of Africa. Many roads have been cheaply "Made by China", and thus, roads are sometimes full of potholes, deep wheel ruts and sometimes whole parts of the roads have gone down the hillside. Generally, we feel that Europe and the "western world" in general still doesn't have a correct picture of Africa in their heads ... which leads to the Chinese (and Indian) governments and businessmen freely and rather successfully following their neo-colonialist policies. We hear that the African Development Bank has given all countries in East Africa money to improve the road conditions on the road between Cape Town and Cairo so that in the future the complete road will be tarmac. This at the moment actually leads to hundreds of kilometres of completely unstructured chaotic roadworks, also because the foreign contractors (China and India again!) building the roads simply don't care about the locals who have to use these road-wrecks in their everyday lives.

In addition to the road conditions there are constantly a lot of animals and people on the roads who are not following any rules, simply because they don't have private cars and just don't understand how to deal with traffic. If in this traffic-chaos somebody by accident kills a pedestrian, he will immediately be sent to prison (if guilty for at least seven years). Policemen at checkpoints usually are not at all interested in us. But at one incident, the rope (i.e. the barrier across the road) is lowered, we go through ... and all of a sudden people come running, yell at us and push us back behind the barrier waving their guns at us. We respond too quickly and bang the Land Rover into a concrete pillar next to the road, which did not really lead to a more relaxed atmosphere!

We would definitely recommend a proper 4wd car for anybody who is intending to visit Ethiopia! Don't ever drive at night and during daytime, be extra careful and never speed! An on-board toilet might be a good thing to add to the list of equipment!

...

"But, after these many negative aspects stated, is it really worth traveling to Ethiopia at all?" We can give a definite "Yes!" as an answer!

According to legend, in this church the "Ark of the Covenant" is kept.

St Giorgis, one of the famous rock hewn churches in Lalibela.

"Yes" because the cultures in Ethiopia are so unique in Africa and in so many respects so very near to "us" in Europe and closely related (i.e. the story of the "ark of the covenant" which is kept in Axum, the churches in Lalibela and the century-old connections between Ethiopia and the Jewish, Christian and Muslim world) and at the same time other cultures in the country are so extremely different that it seems really unimaginable that we live at the same time on the same planet with them. Another "Yes" is closely related to the cultures, because there is one thing nearly all Ethiopians have in common: if you get to know people and make friends with them, you are treated as a family member and they will give everything for you even though they sometimes have so very few material wealth to share. We can learn so much from their humble and even-temperes manners!

There is no "Yes" if you want to go to Ethiopia for game drives watching impressive African wildlife, but a definite "Yes" if you are interested in impressively beautiful and magic landscape á la Grand Canyon, Monument Valley et cetera. The only "thing" Ethiopia is missing actually is the sea.

Next time (and there definitely will be a "next time"!), we will have to see the Danakil depression and the Erta Ale lava lake. At the moment our two daughters simply are to young for this adventure!

...

What are our hopes and visions for Ethiopia's future?

Ethiopia has an impressively high touristic potential which so far has not been used to its full potential at all. Instead the rather "colonial" tourism mentality simply has spoiled the Ethiopian society by many tourists throwing candies out of their windows as if traveling Ethiopia was a visit at the carnival in Cologne. Tourists are freely giving away pencils and even footballs and by that downright instigate the kids to go on begging for more whenever they meet tourists. What has worked once so fast becomes a habit, especially with young children! This does not help at all but causes dependency which in Omo Valley leads to the situation that if you want to take photographs, you have to pay some dollars per photo you take (we heard of US$5 per photo). As the "models" know exactly how to position themselves, all photos look the same, just compare them on the internet and you know what we mean. Most of them even have the same people portrayed. The photographer does not capture a special moment but here we simply speak of a mass product! This is why we did not want to go there. We wanted to avoid the "Disneyworld-atmosphere" because for us, cultural experiences have to be reciprocal and taken seriously which includes respect from both sides.

Then, "help for Ethiopia" should and can not be achieved by anonymous money or donated items and dependency resulting from this, but by personal commitment by PEOPLE like you and me transfering education, knowledge and personal encounters in all imaginable fields (hygiene, education without the use of violence, effective teaching at schools, economy et cetera). In this, the local traditions and customs should definitely not be ignored. A new approach to foreign aid can not mean creating "German" schools, kindergartens, farms or factories in Ethiopia. The traditions are so very much deeply rooted here, deeper than in many other cultures, that this aspect has to be taken care of intensively! But especially these deep roots and this deep connection to history and land is what gives Ethiopia this unique charme, which is the base of the immense tourist potential and which makes every visit extremely interesting and also rewarding for the traveler in spite of all challenges and obstacles that may appear.

...

What tips for other travelers would we pass on here?

 

Take your time, stay a while at places and get to know the locals.

Get into personal contact with the locals and please don't worry eating with them from one commonly shared plate using your hands - only this way you can really experience the traditional ways of living and begin to understand this wonderful country and it's peoples even rudimentarily.

Do not expect to be able to have a life like it is at home in Europe and reduce all expectations concerning hygiene, electricity or water supply, proper milk products (no butter, cheese and milk to be found normally!) et cetera and instead of insulting employees at restaurants, hotels and lodges or being annoyed, just prepare and have bottled water with you, use solar torches and buy local sim cards for telephoning or internet (you will be surprised how good the coverage in general is!).

Try to prepare from a medical point of view as well. Train your body in advance, vaccinate, bring with you desinfectives, medication and use probiotics to reduce the chance or duration of diorrhea (it worked wonders with us!).

...

And: Please, whatever people tell you, go to Ethiopia, be open and make your own experiences. You will not regret it!

Not Strange but Different!

Being parents traveling with young children and educational scientists at the same time, we publish our thoughts on education, children and world travel every now and then.

Our first two pieces on that subject we published on Expedition Portal, "Overlanding With Kids - Going beyond "normal" education" and "Age is just a number!"

This is our newest piece ...

Everybody knows the situation: one is traveling in a different country or spends time with people from a different cultural background and suddenly is confronted with absolutely "strange" behavioural patterns in everyday situations, which give rise to a feeling of being amused or sometimes even of being disgusted. A lot of people fear "the strange", they fear behavioural patterns which seem inexplicable at first. Many even fear the very people acting that "strangely". Why does this stereotypical thinking exist and in what way does it affect traveling families?

Actually it is exactly this pigeonholing which has been so very important in the human evolution. The prehistoric man had to differentiate and inescapably decide very often between concepts such as "This is dangerous!" and "This is not dangerous!" or between escape and attack. If and when these experiences were repeatedly observed they became concepts, "stereotypical concepts".

No place to sit on the toilet - dirty or rather cleaner than at home?!

Children need exactly these concepts in their first few years to become socialized in their home culture, both when it comes to everyday life in their native family (i.e. the family sub-culture) or when it comes to communally agreed on concepts in a wider range. For children, these concepts provide orientation in their culture and also security. Both aspects are immensely important for the children's first five or six years after birth and they provide time and ease to enable them to find themselves in this field of socialization and for them to be able to develop their identity and self-consciousness.

Long-term-travel-with-kids-critics might now use their chance and argue that exactly the arguments just stated speak pretty much against long term travel with (young) kids from a sociological and developmental psychological perspective.

We, however, experienced exactly that differently during traveling with our children.

After having experienced the eating habits in Africa, eating with the right hand from one commonly shared plate, Anouk on the flight back from Ethiopia last winter used her right hand to eat her pancake with apple sauce.

Of course, our kids discover cultural differences, be it the toilet without a proper seat and without toilet paper in southern France, on the Balkans or in northern Africa, be it using hands eating from one commonly shared plate in Africa, different hair-do styles in Ethiopia, different styles in clothing and many other aspects.

For us these perceptions of parallel worlds and different ways of seeing "reality" have always been food for thought and inducements of communication, because children, naturally born explorers, ask frank and freely as soon as they discover things and patterns of behaviour strange to them. These questions are constant challenges for parents to inform themselves on the background of their children's discoveries and create chances for conversations in which on the one hand the meaningfulness of different behavioural patterns can be discussed (and so very often be discovered), but in which on the other hand we become aware that and why we do things differently at home in the children's native culture.

A typical punk hairdo? ...

In Ethiopia the hairdo is part of the cultural identity showing which part of the country you are from!

When in Rome (or in this case Egypt) do as the Romans do - that's part of the experience!

This shows that traveling is not causing "cultural loss" in children (as some of our relatives had assumed before we set off for our recent Transafrica trip), but a matter of learning about different concepts, a matter of self-reflection and questioning what is behind ones' own culture. In this process children (and adults!) discover and most surely also understand also their own cultural identity.

Infobox: East African Time

In East Africa such as Ethiopia and Kenya, the hours of the day are measured differently: at sunrise (six o' clock), it is 0 o'clock, at midday it is "6 o'clock" and when the sun sets, it is "12 o'clock". After six o'clock p.m. (European time), it starts again and midnight, it is six o' clock.

Parallel to that, we hope that through this experiencing of different realities and different approaches to common concepts our "travel children" will develop an understanding that there nearly never is just one "right", one certain approach to something, but that manifold and indeed comprehensible different cultural norms and behavioural patterns co-exist next to each other.

Infobox: Men holding hands in public

In many countries, where homosexuality is strictly forbidden and even punished with a prison sentence, men who are good friends hold hands in public - something that might be seen totally different in many western countries which are relatively open when it comes to homosexuality.

This openness is at the same time an important "weapon" against any kind of racism and xenophobia which will support the idea of a meaningful "world citizenship", because the "pigeonholing" learned in the important phase of socialization is constantly used by politicians from any kind of political side and in all countries on this planet to divide and rule people by creating fear and influence them to act accordingly.

INFOBOX: WEEKENDS

In Muslim countries, the weekend is not Saturday and Sunday, but Friday and Saturday. Even European schools in Muslim countries follow this pattern and so Sunday is a regular schoolday!

Parallel to an openness for other humans, cultures and concepts the children learn that there always are various different approaches to a solution, which will most certainly lead to a higher flexibility and creativity in the processes of finding solutions to problems, which then can positively affect success both privately and jobwise for the coming generations.

 

Finally, it is also the discovery of the many things people everywhere on this planet have in common which is so very impressive but also reassuring at the same time: the children discover that in all cultures, in all countries, the concepts of humanity, love, need of family and friends, of shelter et cetera exist. The predominance of these basic similarities in comparison to the rather superficial differences clearly states how similar people from different cultures and with different skin-colours are and how abstruse in contrast to that wars and conflicts between cultures and countries are, bearing in mind the substantial common grounds.

In addition to all these aspects stated so far, we will have to question our "western way of living" in these important conversations with our children. They also discover how "Coca-Colonized" people have become worldwide, how many western products are accessible globally for western prices and how modern "mobile-mania" using smartphones and the yearning for western products and TV-culture changes cultures and reduce our common wealth of worldwide cultures year by year, day by day. This helps creating a political awareness in the coming generations which hopefully will later on lead to trade and communication on an eye-level base.

Still, it is clear that traveling with children simply is difficult and challenging sometimes. All those new experiences can cause fear every now and then and it is the parents' job to react fastly and confidently to the children's emotions and experiences and provide support again and again. We experience this day by day when our kids try to get our attention - not always the way we want it! At the same time, completely unexpected problems arise, such as eating and drinking habits, because of course our children expect to be able to eat exactly the food they know from home, instead of always adapting to new types of food, spices and drink or always having to eat pizza, French fries and pasta. ... Here as well, parents have to deal with challenges and provide a safe harbour for their children.

Shipping Cars from Greece to Egypt – Part Two

For everybody who did not read Pt. One, here ist the link!

 

Thanks for doing a great job, Nermien (not in the photo), Salah, Fatih and all the other people at CFS in Alexandria!

Our new Egyptian license plates.

 

For everybody who did not read Part One, here is the link ...

As it is not possible to go on the same ship the car is on as a passenger, the only way to get to Egypt is by plane. Flying to Egypt (Cairo) is not that expensive ... we paid 179€ per adult and 168€ per child (i.e. 694€ for the family alltogether; 20kg luggage + hand luggage). This is the travel agency in Athens we did the booking with:

Joy Tours (Mairi Stathopoulou, stathopoulou@joytours.gr)
162 Patission Str.
11257 Athens
Tel.: (+30)2108620103, 2130002250
Fax: (+30)2108628717
Mail: info@joytours.gr
Web: www.joytours.gr

After having arrived in Egypt, we now had to start the procedures in Alexandria with our customs broker and, thus, had to go there in person.

The trip from Cairo to Alexandria can easily be done by train (also very cheap). Morning trains leave at 6:00 and 8:00 in Cairo and take about three hours (as there are more trains, it is even possible to go back and forth within one day to save extra hotel costs). The cost is about 45EL (back only 30 EL). Even the 2nd class is quite convenient. We were the only tourists on the train. It is always important to be in Alexandria as early in the morning as possible as offices open at 9 o'clock in the morning and close at one!

Finally in Alexandria, we took a taxi from the main station to the customs broker's ("fixer") office (Consolidated Freight Service (CFS), Nermien Mamish, nermien_mamish@cfsegypt.com,125, Hurreya Ave., El Radwan Bldg., Bab-Sherk, Alexandria - Egypt., Tel : 002 03 3914671 /2 / 4, Fax : 002 03 3914679 , Mobile : 002 0122 240 4884, Web: www.cfsegypt.com, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cfsegypt).

We went off with Fathi El Said, one of Nermien's colleagues (mail: import1@cfsegypt.com, tel.: 0100 3919333) and first

went to the Immigration Department in Alexandria. There our passports were stamped and signed by an official stating that we were really within Egypt as all private persons shipping cars to Egypt have to be present when the car is freed out of customs.

... and second, we had to go to the Document Verification Department to sign a statement to give the customs brokers power of attourney to be allowed to act on our behalf.

The following documents we had to leave with the customs brokers:
- passport
- Carnet de Passages
- national car registration
- bill of loading

All the rest of the clearance procedures after that is done by the customs brokers who contact you via mail or mobile phone to keep you updated or if they need you to be present in Alexandria. We went back to Cairo.

In our case, the ship did not arrive as expected (it took six days to reach Alexandria, the shipping agency stated three to six days). As the name of the ship is on the bill of loading, you can use "AIS" to track the ship (see http://www.marinetraffic.com/en/ ).

Finally, we had to come back to Alexandria on the second working day after the ship had docked in Alexandria and had to present ourselves to customs. The team at CFS then started the customs procedures on that very day so that we could get the Land Rover back the following day, within three working days after docking as promised by Nermien Mamish. A bit problematic was the fact that we had to leave so much gear in the cars, because they have to officially be empty. One should definitely not leave any money, food or medication in the car. Money and medication can easily be taken on the plane. We blocked the rear door to make stealing more difficult ... and only one petrol lamp was stolen.

On the day we got out the car, the VIN and engine numbers were checked, we got the Egyptian registration and license plates, got two 6kg fire extinguishers (mandatory even if you have some already), had to pay for port storage (paid for by CFS), show up at customs and - after about three hours of going here and there, sitting and drinking tea - I was able to drive out of the port, fuel up (at 0,22€ per litre!) and do the first 200 and something kilometres of our Transafrica trip.

The English family were not as lucky as we are because all Landcruisers have to be checked not only by police, customs and traffic department, but also by the military who have the power to decide and even reject cars which then could even mean that they would have to be shipped back to where they came from. This is due to the fact that recently a lot of Landcruisers have been car-jacked and used for terrorist purposes. In the best case, this means a delay of another three to ten days.

For the complete process it is absolutely necessary to have a mobile phone with an Egyptian number. We got local Sim cards at a vodafone shop for 41EL (500 min without data; 141EL for 500 min with 7,5GB data). Make sure that your phone is not Sim-locked before traveling to Egypt!

For going to all customs, police and other offices, I would advise everybody to dress properly (i.e. long trousers, proper shoes and shirt) and be able to greet and say thank you et cetera in Arabic. Mutual respect can speed up the process as well, I am sure!

We would highly recommend taking a "fixer" (i.e. customs broker or freight forwarder) unless you speak fluent Arabic and exactly know all the procedures. Nermien Mamish, Fathi El Said and their team did a great job and their speed (three working days) impressed even expats who have been living here in Egypt for decades! We highly recommend them!

Of course, the team at CSF can also arrange shipping cars in the opposite direction!

 

Costs:

customs broker Greece 30,00 €  
port storage Pireias 6,47 € i.e. 3,24 € per day
costs Minoan 116,85 €  
shipping costs 309,00 €  
customs broker Egypt 870,00 €  
port costs Alexandria (storage et cetera) 79,03 € 658,00 EL
costs shipping 1.411,35 €  
flights 694,00 €  
train tickets 12,61 € 105,00 EL
costs including flights and trains 2.117,96 €  

 

Just a few days away from the “big step” to Africa …

After having taken a holiday-break from traveling between visiting the island of Lefkhada and the Peloponnes during the last two to three weeks, more and more preparation work for the onward journey and the big step to Africa sneeks in. Of course, ahead of traveling to Greece we had gathered all information on the route, visa matters et cetera. Still, now the shipping of our cars to Egypt and the visa for Sudan and Ethiopia have to be concretized and organised. The really great thing about overlanding is that you are supported in that process by many people who before were completely unknown to you.

One of them, Konstantinos, member of the international "Land Rover Family", helps us very energetically to make sure that shipping our cars from Pireias in Greece to Alexandria in Egypt will really work. At the other shore of the Mediterranean, Bas and Herman Zapp do all they can for us with the help of their experiences, personal contacts and local communication. We feel in good hands in this network of overland travelers (and especially in those of other overlanding families)!

 

Our invitation letter for Sudan has arrived!

 

In spite of this help we have to update all pieces of information on the visa for Sudan and Ethiopia and at the same time many emails are going back and forth to get invitation letters for Sudan and Ethiopia which are maybe not absolutely necessary to get the visa, but still can speed up the process immensely.

 

First German-English camp

 

Parallel to this extensive organisational work which actually is real fun for Mischa, we meet an English family in Delphi whom we had before only met on the internet but have planned to travel together through Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia and northern Kenia.

 

Delphi, another magic place in Greece!

 

Living and working together in the camp with the Mittons instantly works like a charm and it seems that from the professional and personal background, but also concerning gear and travel preparation we supplement each other greatly. At the same time, we discover many private similarities.

Back in Athens, we spend our last few days on the European continent in a hostel situated directly in the historic district of "Plaka". The touristy bustle on the streets certainly needs getting used to after so many weeks in the countryside, but we can do all the transactions, shopping et cetera that are on our lists and also indulge in wonderful Greek food.

We meet Anna again and go on a tour through the Turtle Rescue Station.

Aphrodite's Temple

On the 4th October we celebrate Sóley's 3rd birthday ... the programme consists of a visit to the Akropolis and spending time on a playground ... it is impressive for adults and kids alike!

 

At the custom's warehouse in the port of Pireias

 

On monday we drop our cars at the port of Pireias from where they will be shipped to Alexandria in Egypt on Thursday. This day, which has been expected with a lot of excitement, unexpectedly turns out to be rather relaxed one and even reasonable concerning the costs (here are the details concerning the shipping).

Well, and on Wednesday, tomorrow, we will fly to Cairo and will stay at Bas' place, also a new internet-friend who also loves overland travel and plans to do Cairo - Capetown soon as well and who has massively supported us during the last weeks in preparing for te shipping of our cars to Egypt.

Sometime in roundabout one week, we will hopefully be comfortably sitting in our cars traveling along the River Nile to Ethiopia.

Shipping Cars from Greece to Egypt – Part One

 

The other cars do look cool ... but still I'd always go for the Land Rover!

 

Today, we have handed over our car(s) at Pireias port ... this is how we made it:

Long before even the beginning of our trip in July, I had tried several times to reach several Grimaldi offices in Italy, Greece and Turkey. It was always the same procedure: whenever I sent an email, there was no answer, when I phoned them, they told me to send an email ... and then there again was no answer. Finally, after a lot of unnecessary fuss, a friend from Cairo called the Grimaldi office in Egypt (contact details: "Rasha" (export department), phone:+20 3 4863647, email: export@smarina.com), and suddenly, there were answers. Sometimes, Africa is not so bad after all!

Here in Greece, it was again the same situation: we sent emails and nobody replied. Luckily a Greek friend helped us immensely and continuously contacted Grimaldi via email and phone, and suddenly, everything worked. So, I would highly recommend everybody who wants to ship their car to Egypt with Grimaldi, to find persons local to where the Grimaldi office is to help with the communication. 

Handing over the cars ...

The procedure: We had to first go to the customs office at the G2 car terminal in Keratsini. The address (G2 car terminal, Ichtioskala, Keratsini), though, could not be found on our Garmin GPS (if you type it in in Greek letters in Google maps, though, you will find it). Finally arriving there, the customs officials told us that we needed a customs broker and contacted one for us. We had hoped that we would not need one, as we expected an expensive rip-off here, but this recommendation really was a good one: the customs broker that helped us, actually only wanted 30€ per car for his services (we had another offer for 150€ per car, so it is really good to compare prices!).

Here are the contact details: Georgios Kapelas, Akti Ionias 36, Keratsini 18755 (Garmin has this address!), phone: 210 4314886, mail: kapelas@ektelonismoi.gr

They were extremely helpful and all we had to do was sign some papers and wait for about two hours.

The documents needed here were:
- car registration
- passports of the car's owner
- Carnet de Passages (they did not ask for us to bring it in advance but we brought it and it was really important to have it there)

In addition to the 30€ per car for the customs broker, we paid another 6,47€ per car for the port storage of our cars for two days. So, that was 36,47€ instead of over 150€!

After that we brought the cars into the customs warehouse-part of the harbour which is just next doors to the custom's broker's office. There, only the VIN-numbers were checked and we could drop them there and hand over the keys.

We, then could proceed and go to the office of Minoan Lines SA in Pireus who act as Grimaldi agents in Pireus.

This is the address and the name of the lady who helped us there:
Mrs. Xanthi Nannou
Grimaldi Car Carriers &  RoRo Piraeus Agency
MINOAN LINES SA,  As Agents only
Thermopylos 6-10
18545 Piraeus
Τel.     0030 – 210 – 4145720
grimaldi.ccrr.pir@minoan.gr

Everybody there was very helpful and after another hour, we were free to leave. The total costs  were 116,85€ for the service at Minoan Lines and another 309,00€ for the shipping (sea freight: 307,00 € per van; stamp b/l : 2,00€ per shipment; free in: 95,00€ + VAT per van under 3to (over 3to the cost of driving the car up the ship is 235 + VAT))

We did not need any other documents than stated above, but were asked to give our VAT number (i.e. our German/English tax numbers) ... as I did not have it they simply did not add it on the document.

The only other thing that is important is that during all procedures the owners of the car (i.e. us) had to be present.

Fixer in Alexandria:
We don't know what we will have to expect in Alexandria ...
We thought that it might be important to find a customs broker ("fixer") for Alexandria as well. As the prices here vary immensely from fixer to fixer (we even had a ridiculous offer of US$ 5500 per car!) it is good to compare the prices. The customs broker we chose is Nermien Mamish who was recommended to us by Herman Zapp and is highly recommended on the HUBB ("Horizons Unlimited"). We will have to pay 870€ for her services (including all port & traffic charges, plates & receipts; excluding only Carrier DTHC (discharging cost)).
The expected duration of the clearance for the two cars will be 2-3 working days.

These are her contact details:
Nermien Mamish
Managing Partner - MBA,
nermien_mamish@cfsegypt.com
Consolidated Freight Service (CFS).
125, Hurreya Ave.
El Radwan Bldg.
Bab-Sherk
Alexandria - Egypt.
Tel : 002 03 3914671 /2 / 4
Fax : 002 03 3914679 
Mobile : 002 0122 240 4884
Website : www.cfsegypt.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cfsegypt 

Needed documents for entry procedures in Alexandria (we sent them in in advance as scans):
- passport
- Carnet de Passages
- car license (i.e. the car registration documents)
- shipping line BL ("Bill of Loading")

Other documents that might be needed
- visas
- national and international driver's licenses
- vaccinations certificates (yellow fever)
- a list with all spares and tools on board
- a list with all electronic equipment on board (cameras, GPS, sat. phones...etc.) with serial numbers.

...

We have extremely "itchy feet" now and are so much looking forward to finally make the "big step" to Africa, going to Egypt and proceeding down south through Sudan and Ethiopia ...

We just hope that our cars will reach Alexandria unpilfered and undamaged ... Anouk, after me telling her that now the car is going to be shipped to Egypt ALONE, told me that the Land Rover is a family member not to be left alone! ...

Wild Peloponnes

 
 

It is great to travel Greece after the season is over ... Campsites are empty and almost everybody is extremely relaxed.

The following photos are from the wonderful "middle finger" of the Peloponnes, which is a really wild and beautiful. Also, this region is said to be very unique because the inhabitants are so very stubborn and able to defend themselves that it is said they were never conquered by neither the Turks, the Italians or the Germans (am thinking of a certain Gaul village inhabited by a tribe just like that 😉 ...). This maybe also is due to the fortified houses they live in. Here, people still - unofficially, of course - carry weapons which is witnessed by the many roadsigns with bullet holes (no photos, unfortunately, as Sóley was really motion-sick during our last few drives) and it has become a natural thing in the morning for us to be woken up by gunshots.

One of many beautiful village churches on the way.

Barren mountains and white beaches ... a warmer Scotland!

 

Fortified city Vathia ... we can imagine that it was really difficult for any intruders to conquer this region.

 

... and another beautiful and deserted beach! Only the wind gives your body a proper sandblast!

The southern tip of the "middle finger" called Mani

 

Porto Kagio from afar

 

Stopover at a small restaurant. We are the only guests ...

... like it was taken from a South Sea travel catalogue ... are we still in Europe??

Wreck near Githio

 

Sóley on the lookout for sea turtles!

 

During a really gregarious evening at the campsite-bar, we meet Anna, an environmental activist working for an NGO (Archelon) who tells us about her work for the protection of sea turtles.

Our two daughters are really excited about that topic, because they know about our sea turtle experiences from our honeymoon trip to Costa Rica years ago ... The following day, we go with Anna, a volunteer from England who assists her, the owner of the campsite and two other campsite-guests from Austria on an excursion to a nearby turtle beach. The sea turtle species Caretta caretta, one of seven different sea turtle species nests here even though human activity and predators such as foxes and stray dogs are endangering the survival of the Greek part of the sea turtle population. But also unexpected aspects disturb the sea turtles. When they hatch from the eggs, they naturally follow the moonlight that is reflected by the sea. As there are so many beachside restaurants, at night their lights lead the turtles astray and they don't find their way into the water.

It is important not to touch them as their first "walk" down into the surf is the most important one in their lives - they take in everything their senses detect to be able to come back when they are grown ups to build their nests exactly here.

During an "excavation" of a nest where the scientists know that all turtles have hatched, suddenly another five turtles approach from the remains of the nest. We start a race between the five of them and Anouk is totally engrossed in the match when after an immense struggle on her way across the sandy beach her turtle wins, first reaches the sea and swims off into the unknown ... somewhere in the oceans there now is a small turtle growing up bearing the name "Anouk".

 
 

Anna excavates the fully (?) hatched nest ...

A hatched egg ...

 

A latecomer from the nest the scientists thought was fully hatched.

 
 

Spectators and fans applauding the sea turtle on its way into the sea.

 
 

This is what "travel school" is all about: intensive real life experiences that will never be forgotten! Just see the looks on their faces!

 
 

This is what Anouk draws the next day ... !

 
 

Backstroke dry training!

 

102 eggs, 101 have hatched and one is still intact.

Why is this egg still intact?

 

... no fetus inside!

 
 

Good luck and safe travels!