Monthly Archives: February 2016

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.

Bagamoyo

Eine deutschsprachige Version dieses Eintrages gibt es hier

 
 

Out from the Indian Ocean a goose-bump-breeze blows the old sorrowful secrets of this town into the ears of the sparse travelers. Life-rags of a time long long gone, a time when world-history paid a short visit to this town, breathing in a bit of colonial life

... only to decay into a laming lethargy all of a sudden again soon after.

 

Sometimes nature has a firm grip on what humans once built!

 
 

The old German customs building right at the coast.

 

Today the rotting vapours of putrefaction waver through the ruined houses

of this morbid beauty of a town.

 
 
 
 

Past the stinking fish-market, through the frames of the wooden ship's hulls

constructed in the same way as centuries ago, also past the gallows-memorial.

 

The German Boma, originally planned to be the government building for German East Africa before the capital was changed from Bagamoyo to Dar es Salaam.

 

The deep orange light of the cheaky setting sun twinkles

through the fleshless carcass of the old "German Boma".

 
 
 
 
 
 

Town houses of the Arabic, German and English aliens have gone to racks, long since the bewitchingly rich blossoming trees have conquered rooms in which once glamourous feasts were celebrated, where people loved, mourned ...

only the beautifully carved wooden doors hanging crooked in the hinges bring back memories of an old era, of a different life.

 

Beautifully carved door - the DHL office.

 

Arabic blackbirders traded their "black African gold" who "laid their hearts down" here with no hope of ever returning to their home lands.

But everybody else was here as well: German and English colonialists romantically-gone astray, adventurers, Burton, Speke, Stanley ... even Livingstone - but dead as a dodo just before his heartless corpse was shipped to his non-home England.

 

Gretchen died after only six days ... what made her parents come to Africa sometime before 1900? How did their story continue afterwards?

 

Even Gretchen, "Our beloved child" who saw life for only six days

... back then in February 1900 ...

 

Gretchen was born on this very day 116 years ago.

 

Mischa

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.

 

Travel School

 

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!