Monthly Archives: January 2017

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

37,521

kilometres alltogether

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

A bridge in the Okavango Delta in Botswana.

At Cape Agulhas in South Africa.

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

Above Fish River Canyon in Namibia.

34,600

kilometres in the Land Rover

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

Driving a Land Rover is great fun!

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

 
 

2,921

kilometres in rental cars

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

Is it a CAR?

Really!?

905

likes for our Facebook site during the trip

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

384

days on the road

... and we could have gone on!

290

days spent in Africa

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

160    

nights spent on campsites

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

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

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

... like a kitchen ...

... and a veranda with a view.

 

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

 

127

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

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

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

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

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

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

106,36

Euros spent per day

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

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

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

97,71

kilometres per day on average

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

94

days spent in Europe

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

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

Lake Koman ferry in Albania.

71

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

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

A family room at a lodge in Namibia.

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

18

foreign countries visited

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

16

nights spent wild camping

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

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

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

15,15

€ per night on average

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

12,8

average fuel consumption in liters

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

7

nights spent at family member's houses

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

6

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

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

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

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

6

malaria tests

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

3

uncomfortable situations

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

 

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

 

3

times servicing the Land Rover

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

 

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

 

2

speeding tickets

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

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

1

car breakdown

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

1

visitor from Germany

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

Bajaj outing with Oma Babs.

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

0

bribes

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

0

punctures

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

 
 

0

robberies

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

0

abductions

... see above!

0

days in prison

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

...

countless

new friends, experiences, things we learned

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

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

The Calders in South Africa.

At the friday prayer in Omdurman in Sudan.

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

Games in Kenya ...

... and in Ethiopia.

Farm friends in Namibia.

... with their wonderful parents.

Juliane and Zeinab in Cairo.

With Sam Watson in Cairo.

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

... more friends in Khartoum, Sudan.

With Tyseer on a boat trip in Khartoum.

And with Sheikh Mohammad Mubarak and Tyseer in Khartoum.

With Chief Mkwawa and his family in Iringa, Tanzania.

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

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

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

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

Back Home Again …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

"Granddad elect" Stan ...

Baking ...

... enjoying Anne's Bobotie ...

... campfire cuisine ...

... and Braai ...

 

... and Potjie of course!

 
 

And Pete's gorgeous farewell dinner.

 

With freshly shackled Cefani rock oysters,

mussels

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

...

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

 

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

Look at THAT!

 

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

 

Border Collies are cool!

 

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

 

With Marit and Jan in the Okavango Delta

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

... crazy Sóley loves it ...

 
 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

Our home is so unexpectedly beautiful!

Lazy Sóley!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
 

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

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

Proud parents!

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

 

Sailing with Stefanus.

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Agulhas!

Deeply in love already!

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

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

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

 

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

 

Nyati is ...

... back home! Re-united!

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

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