Monthly Archives: January 2016

Bugs, Bot Flies and Back with Friends

Back in Nairobi, we first of all clean the beach out of the car and do some maintenance work (the prop shaft has been haggarded by the bad road from Mariakani to Nairobi and some other bits and pieces have become loose, nothing really bad actually!).

We have to take out and check the front prop shaft because it made funny noises. Lars is a proper bush mechanic!

Three Land Rovers at Flora and Lars' farm.

A great support in this is fellow Land Rover owner Lars Svensson who lives in Nairobi with his wonderful Kenyan wife Flora and his two kids Chantal and Erik ... We stay for some days at their place and really enjoy their company.

We pay a visit to the Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi.

An ostrich sneeked in ... just wants to show off apparently!

Giraffes like showing off, too! Do you see the big monkey on the thin twig in the background?

Moving on to Lake Naivasha, we meet the French "KUMP" family again. We stay at Carnelley's Campsite directly on the shore of Lake Naivasha where at night, we can hear the hippos enjoying the lake (and maybe also each other!).

Still, we want to go on further up north, because our plan is to go to Mount Elgon and then to Uganda. The campsite Kembu Farm in Njoro near Nakuru is really wonderful, just like a park on a farm. The Kumps have come with us and we enjoy another night together bbqing and exchanging experiences and stories.

Unfortunately, the next morning, we discover that one of Sóley's moscitoe bites has become infected. At a closer look, we see that the white thing in the middle of this small skin-volcanoe actually MOVES! Midwife Mischa presses and finally manages to help giving birth to a MAGGOT under loud screams from Sóley while Juliane is holding her! Aaargh, that is really scary! Closely inspecting both girls, we discover another one in Anouk's backside, so we finally decide to go back to Nairobi to have the two girls properly checked by experts in a hospital. For Anouk at this moment the trip is over. She feels totally dirty, homesick and wants to go home.

At "Gertrude's Children Hospital" it turns out that both girls have/had "bot flies", a nasty fly that lies its eggs directly on people's skin or on laundry hanging outside to dry. As soon as the eggs "feel" that they are in the right environment, they hatch and the maggot digs itself into the host's skin leaving open a small wound as its "breathing hole". There it stays until it is matured to become an adult insect. This normally is not dangerous, but pulling another living being out of your daughter's skin surely is not a really nice experience ... for both! Anouk's "subtenant" actually is about 2,5 by 0,3 cm!

Taking Anouk's situation and feelings seriously, we discuss with the kids what they expect from the next few months. They want to go to the beach. What they don't like about the trip is that they meet so many nice people, but have to leave them again, because both them and us have to go on traveling. So, we change our plans and do not go to Uganda and Rwanda, but to the beach in Tanzania via Arusha istead.

Finally, we manage the maggots (the girls don't even have nightmares) and experience high quality modern hospitals here in Kenya, in some ways even more modern than many hospitals in Germany are. Africa is not so bad after all, but Kenya and especially Nairobi certainly are very modern and have a very high standard in so many ways.

After having again stayed for some days with our Swedish-Kenyan friends Flora, Lars, Chantal and Erik, we go back to Jungle Junction to meet up with our friends the French "Dacaluf" family.

But, after having dealt with the maggots, the next medical situation is just lurking in a dark corner waiting to cause problems: Juliane's cough develops into what the doctors call an initial pneumonia, which makes us go to a hospital again. After the second antibiotic, Juliane's condition has improved and after having waited for the doctors to allow us to continue on our travel, we drive down to Arusha in Tanzania.

In this context, we have to thank our close friends and "international expedition medic team", Stan Weakley (South Africa) and Susanne & Mathias Löhnert (Germany) for their friendship and continuous support on our trip so far.

Carribbean Lifestyle in Kenya?

As many international overlanding families are connected via facebook (especially through the Facebook group "International Overland Families"), for a long time we had planned to meet the "Dacaluf" and "KUMP" families from France. We finally meet in Kilifi north of Mombasa at the "Distant Relatives Ecolodge and Backpackers". This place really is special: you enter the place walking through djungle-like vegetation and suddenly find yourself in the middle of a Caribbean Rasta bar ... Carribbean???

 

The bar at "Distant Relatives"

 

Restaurant, living room, office ... and definitely nice!

The small shop.

 

Our beautiful camp on the nearly deserted campsite.

 

Well, I am sure that what we call "Carribbean" feeling or lifestyle originally is African. Very African and definitely touching the heart! What a place!

The Creek

The "Musafir" and the "Burning Woman" for New Years'.

A spontaneous sundowner party with life music ...

... what a wonderful event. Definitely makes you want to stay longer!

The campsite is spacy, the food is fresh from the sea and really great, there is a pool and down in the creek you can go swimming or spend some time on the "Musafir", a traditionally built dhow established by a group of volunteers who plan to do a project on it, sailing the waters of the Indian Ocean and following the idea that the connecting forces of the oceans have always been more important than the dividing ones ...

Meeting other overland families is really great ... they experience the same things, positive and negative and it simply is wonderful to be able to exchange ideas, material, experiences et cetera ...

 
 

Our Christmas we spend with the two French overland families and we also invite people we meet at Kilifi, a Dutch family living in Nairobi and a Canadian who is married to a Kenyan with their daughter. Later on, we are joined by an English/Ugandan father Christmas. Some days earlier, also Stan and Anne from "Slowdonkey" showed up and stayed for two nights, but they wanted to spend Christmas ON the beach and went to Tiwi down south.

 

Our English/Ugandan Father Christmas.

 

Happy Sóley!

What exactly does he tell her??!

 
 

We home cook 6 lobsters, 4kg of fresh prawns and 11,5 kg of fresh Baracuda, all bought freshly directly from the local fishermen ... what a feast!

Fresh fish from the local fishermen.

A spontaneous science lesson ...

The setting might be a bit "rustic" but who cares ... company and food are simply gorgeous!

... and everybody is extremely happy around here!

First, "fun and games" ...

... and then great food for everybody!

Here is the video the "Dacaluf" family made of this great evening.

On the second day of Christmas, we go on celebrating: it is our daughter Anouk's 6th birthday, the second she now has spent in Africa.

 

Anouk ... time goes by so very fast!

 

Pancake Gateau á la Findus & Petterson.

Friends

With her new friends from France, Kenya and the Netherlands she enjoys the pool and in the evening she has "open end" and we go to an "African Jazz" concert at "Distant Relatives". The children dance until late in the night.

 
 
 

Very tired for sure, but also very relaxed and happy - a great birthday party!

 

A few days later, we direct ourselves from the Kilifi Creek to the beach north of Malindi. The beach directly in front of the tented camp "Barefoot" simply is gorgeous: we camp directly behind the beach in the bushes and enjoy campfires at the beach and bbqing but also the great food cooked in the restaurant by Eddie and Selma, the owners of Barefoot.

Beach camp

Now, we are even three families!

With campfires nearly every night.

International Barefoot beach combers.

For New Years' we go to the Barefoot Restaurant and indulge in Eddie's 8 course (!) dinner. The kids have their own table and are allowed to occupy the kitchen and make their own pizzas.

Eddie and the kids make pizza.

The children' table.

 

... Oh my God, they look so mature ... did I miss something?!

 

Beach life

Great Fun!

 

I am a lucky man to have found a partner who enjoys traveling just as much as I do! It is great to know where you belong!

 

While we are at the beach we first hand hear the story of a public bus in northern Kenya, which is stopped by a group of fundamentalist Muslim terrorists who want to execute all Christians in the bus. But all Muslim passengers guard the Christians in the bus and the terrorists finally let them go. Still, two people die in this incident. We try to find out what the European media report and find ... only small notes: from what we know, both major German TV-channels only report of the incident either on radio or with a short notice on their website only! Why don't our media put incidents like this into the main news? They happen just as often as terrorist attacks, maybe even more often! The problem is that good news don't sell well and bad news are bestsellers! But this one-sided media coverage about Egypt, Sudan and Kenya has such a very bad impact on tourism here ... which is down to maybe 20% of what it was a few years before ... So very many families have to suffer and are struggling to feed their children ... this can and most surely will be a new breeding ground for even more terrorism and crime!

 
 

Anyway, we don't feel unsafe at all in Kenya and are really relaxed here. Kenya is a great place to be and all Kenyans we meet are most welcoming and warm people.

Unfortunately, after a few days Juliane develops a really bad cough which makes us go out of the beach wind and back to colder Nairobi to later proceed to Uganda and Rwanda from there. Sadly, we leave our new French friends, which especially for Anouk is really hard.

 
 

Kenya … first impressions of another wonderful country

 

The Kenyan border post at Moyale ... so very friendly and welcoming!

 

Reaching Kenya after having driven through Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia really is a wonderful moment. Before crossing the border, there is nearly every square metre inhabited and wherever you stop (even if you want to go "behind the bush"!), you will not have even a minute of solitude. In addition to that, the road conditions on the road between Awassa and Yabello were quite "different" (it actually remembered us on the essay on the "African Pothole" written by Kingsley Holgate). Actually, we leave Ethiopia quite stressed and are more than looking forward to new adventures in Kenya and further down south in Africa.

Directly on the Kenyan side of the border a completely different lifestyle begins: people are extremely relaxed, friendly and also very helpful (i.e. the lady at the immigration office who fills in immigration forms for me just to speed up the process - there is nobody else there, so she just does it for me!) ...

Then, you for the first time after Sudan, drive through a more or less isolated, wild and impressive landscape, people wave at you instead of begging for "Money money money!" and for the first time you feel you are in the "Africa" you know from movies and books. "Australian Outback" was our first impression of the green and red landscape under a blue blue sky. Where have all the people gone so suddenly???

The road between Moyale and Isiolo, once one of the overlander's nightmares, now is tarred to a high percentage and traveling on it really is not problem at all anymore (here is our blog post on this road). There is a high army presence in the area to make sure that Al Shabaab and other Muslim fundamentalists are not able to continue terrorising both locals and travellers. As after Marsabit, we experience unexpected heavy rainfalls and 30 km of thick fog around Mount Kenya, we decide to move on to "Jungle Junction" in Nairobi, maybe the first overlander's hubb after northern Africa. Alltogether it takes us 11 hours of nearly non-stop driving. It is really impressive how relaxed our kids are when we have to drive for such a very long time. We listen to music together or to audiobooks, sometimes they are allowed to watch a children's movie on the i-pad or they simply dream into the landscape. Great kids we have!

Jungle Junction, which we reach at 11 o'clock at night, is a very convenient place, as this is a "real" campsite with restaurant, laundry service, a really fast internet connection, lots of toys for kids, cold beer, hot showers, a proper workshop where you can service your car (or have it serviced) et cetera ... something every overlander looks forward to after long days of driving through northern Africa. Only maybe the pool is missing here!

And then when you go to one of the shopping malls in Nairobi, culture shock strikes! Juliane, coming from the eastern part of Germany, feels like it was when the Berlin Wall came down and she was in a west German supermarket for the first time. I feel more reminded of the USA. Here, behind the well-guarded gates, you can get everything, French cheese, South African red wine, even German Nutella or Kinderschokolade (Sóley's favourite). Fasting season is over now for the 4-wheel-nomads ...

As our friend Sam Watson from (then) Cairo had established some contact with the Kenyan Land Rover club "Bundu Rovers" for us, we meet this funny group of great people and go camping in the Ngong Hills with them.

 
 

No, the "Bundus" are not all Rastas ...

... it is just the motto of the party!

 

What a wonderful campfire-night we had with the "Bundus"!

 

The party sitting around the campfire is as colorful as Kenya is: some people are of Arab family background, some are deeply rooted in Africa since time began, there is the Australian volunteer who fell in love with Kenya and decided to stay, there are Christians and Muslims, old and young, well off and "middle class" Kenyans ... even people who don't own a Land Rover at all. What a wonderful and relaxed mixture! A dj plays reggae music and hip hop ... As everybody has brought their families, the children play outside and are with us until the very end of the party. We feel so very much at home here and really enjoy our time with the "Bundus". It is great to meet the locals and we make a lot of new friends this evening. Africa definitely has taken over and we are deeply infected by it's virus!

Giraffe for breakfast ...

... quite a normal thing here in the Ngong Hills!

“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.

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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!