Tag Archives: Greece

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!

Why many people don’t go on extended travel

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

Fundamentalists? ...

Terrorists? ...

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

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

When in Rome do as the Romans do!

Deep in conversation without a shared language!

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

 

Travel school can look quite "traditional"

 

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

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

There are many opportunities for social interactions when traveling!

Everybody loves playing games!

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Time with their parents is what young kids really need!

Child labor or sharing responsibilities?!

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

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

...

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

...

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

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

Natural learning: hatching turtles (science)

... zoology ...

... geology, mineralogy ...

... and gardening.

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

 
 

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

Mechanics and car maintenance ...

... help is always needed!

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

 

Even "old school letters" reach us sometimes!

 

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

 
 

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

...

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

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

 
 

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

Let's winch the kids back home, darling!

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!

Our first photo of the "new team".

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.

 

Meeting Dominik Schenke who is doing "our" route by bicycle

 

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!

 

In search of Paradise Beach

 

Gjirocastër - we loved it, for the kids it was exhausting and haunted

 

As impressive as the Albanian city Gjirokastër was for us, the two girls become grumblier the longer we stay here. The streets are far too steep for them and every walk becomes a hard hike for them. Startled they hide behind our legs whenever a seemingly speeding car approaches pestering itself along the steep cobbled streets we are walking on. The exciting traits of former inhabitation witnessed by the buildings we see are far too abstract for them. Anouk and Sóley only see old, crumbling and therefore not really beautiful houses in them. The restaurant-food for them is reduced to pizza and French fries, which after some days is nothing they want to have again. Normally, we cook far more diverse. And in addition to that, there is the haunted hostel which frightenes them at night. Babameto house is so wonderfully ancient that you can glimpse through the creaky floor boards down on the people living one floor below us. Then, there is the wind constantly blowing through the windows and laut squealing doors ... and there are small doors everywhere with unused hide-holes and secret passageways. This is far too much for Anouk's vivid phantasy. Without us in the same room, she doesn't get a wink of sleep. This is quite exhausting after a while and so the kids rather want to go back to the beach as soon as possible. As much as I had been looking forward to Istanbul, this wonderful city now recedes into the far distance. And also, the question darises whether it is possible at all to travel to big cities with island-children like ours.

On Mischa's birthday we enrich the hostel-breakfast with the local speciality sheep-cheese burek. Mischa's birthday wish is to find "Paradise Beach", so we "set sails" to the Albanian coast.

 

Old Ottoman bridge.

 

On our way, we want to ask farmers to be allowed to camp on their property, but we only meet shepherds herding their flocks of sheep.

 

Before we set up camp, we help an Albanian couple to pull out their VW Golf out of the deep sand.

 

Thus, we reach a relatively undeveloped and un-parasoled beach without any beach bars on Mischa's great day. That this beach is supposed to be "Paradise Beach" we are not really convinced of, but at least this is a first step in the search for it. Probably, it's quite difficult to find such a beach especially for us, as we live on an island with kilometres of white, sandy beaches, which for most people would be more or less the prototype of the personal "Paradise Beach". But, alas, our family getaways to the beach home on the island of Spiekeroog can be counted on the fingers of one hand because our everyday work, respectively the his standards we set ourselves do not permit that too often.

Just having arrived at the beach, we spontaneously pull out the VW Golf of an Albanian couple out of the deep sand, take over their idyllic spot and even get chilled drinks in return - welcome to Paradise Beach! The first thing that our daughter Sóley builds at the beach is a mosque with a minaret; words and concepts she before visiting Gjirokastër she did not know anything about. She remarks yearningly that she so very much wants to see a mosque from the inside - something we would never have dared to do because of her stubborn moodiness when we were visiting the city, but it seems that more impressions rest on her than we had expected. While skyping, an enthusiastic Anouk tells her friend Lasse about the collection of canons she saw inside Gjirokastër castle even though she felt very uncomfortable in exactly this part of the castle due to the fact that she connects those gigantic weapons with death and destruction.

To mark the occasion, we pump up our sound system at the beach and sing and dance together with Xavier Rudd and the United Nations' new cd "Nanna". Anouk, who has overheard more and more Englisch-chunks, demands a simultaneous translation and so we philosophy about the turbulent history of human societies, the injustices of the world and about religion and spirituality.

Romantic camp

Enver Hoxha was a bunker-maniac - these things are everywhere in Albania!

 

Sóley falls asleep in Mischa's arms for the first time in her life - a wonderful moment. That's what family time is all about!

 

During the following few days at the beach, our kids relax and Sóley evel falls asleep in Mischa's lap for the first time in her life, which for him is a very special moment because she still has a fixation on me. I rediscover the sea for myself. Swimming and water gymnastics encourages the metabolism and awakens new vitality in this heat which can be lived out together with the kids in acrobatics at the beach and in the surf.

We want to save fuel, so we cook on the open fire using our Petromax Feuertopf (dutch oven) and the Petromax Feuerbox

Wonderful food - it smells as good as it looks!

Beach neighbours from Aurich in homely East Frisia got bogged down with their old VW LT and, naturally, we also pull them out of the sand. The evening before, we had helped them to cope with their stomach upset with Caj Mali, the magic tea from the Albanian mountains.

 

Pulling out another car - we should make a job out of this!

 

Somewhere in the mountain wilderness looking for a nice place to wild-camp ... do you see the weird puppets in the background?

... magic protection against the "evil eye" - if somebody does too many good things in life and others speak positively about that person, he is in danger to be affected by the "evil eye".

 

On our way through the mountains ... not knowing that we are going to end up at out last beach camp.

 

In between, we go on on our search for our personal "Paradise Beach" and wriggle ourselves through countles serpentines alongside the picturesque coast heading north again, which makes the Land Rover roll like a tall ship and also makes Anouk throw up like being seasick. No wonder, I think, as I met her father being seasick on board the tall ship "Thor Heyerdahl". Rough mountain tracks however are no problem for the girls. Now we need a quick look into the guidebook to find a campsite with a laundry machine. In the next bay there are some, but we rely on "Reise Know-How" which results in the fact that nearly exclusively German-speaking campers have set up their camps here (while the campsite "next doors" is frequented by a majority of French and Italians). Becaue our Land Rover is decorated with eye-catching stickers of this publishing company we are asked more than once about what connection there exists. "Are you in any way connected with this company? ... 'Cos we also use this guidebook!". It seems as if there are only few other guidebooks on Albania even though tourism seems to be booming here. We don't want to stay longer than needed for our laundry and WiFi service, because "Paradise Beach" means something else for us. From Vlorë we discover a remote mountain valley in search of a farm, guesthouse or hidden pub - in vain! At the end we end up at the same bay with our first "Paradise Beach"-attempt.

 

We are greeted by a wonderful sunset - it's actually quite good to be back here!

 
 

New friends!

 

But it could have been worse than ending up here for another night! Just shortly after we have arrived, an iconic Mercedes "Rundhauber"-LKW (an old Mercedes 911 truck) pushes itself along the road behind the beach and a multitude of sympathetic faces appear being the windows. They answer my waves and I invite them to set up their camp right next to us. They do so and out of the wonderfully neat and affectionately converted oldtimer-truck bearing the name "Rosie" climbs a wonderful and charming 6-headed family from Munich including their dog. Both parents are artisans from Schwabing and their four kids enjoying Waldorf education which has a long tradition in their family. They seem to be very relaxed, are extremely creative, courteous and cool "in spite of that". Our kids play with them as if they had known each other for years even though concerning their age they are years apart from each other, which actually convinces us the next morning to stay for another two nights enjoying this wonderful company. Us adults have tons to catch up on, too. We cook vegetarian, gluten-free and yummy food together and finish off the feast with baked chocolate bananas from the campfire (we use our last German chocolate for that).

Beach life: fresh food directly brought to us.

Beach camp ... it's good to have company ... only that their "car" looks like a castle!

 

Acrobatics teachers Stella and Lydia

 

Acrobatics teachers ... our girls are impressed!

Acrobatics: flying Sóley

Anouk

Our "rumble ballerina" Sóley

... or rather a troll?

Our travel guitar finally is called into action and wonderfully harmonises with the ukeleles from Munich. At the evening of the second day, another "Rundhauber" from Munich joins us, but when Rosie leaves us with her crew we get itchy feet as well.

 

Beach life - new friends!

 
 

The first hot shower in days - get that look in her face!

 

Croozing further down south, we find a nice beach right after the Albanian-Greek border where two beautifully converted Unimog fire-engines have already set up their camps. Again, we meet Bavarian families waiting for their ferry to Italy because their summer break soon will be over. At night, even more trucks join us and for us, it's getting a bit too crowded here for us to stay longer and so the next day, we leave after some nice breakfast-chats still in search of our own "Paradise Beach".

Our friends Konstantinos and Erato from Athens, Dutch friends and also Coen and Karin-Marijke from "Landcruising Adventure" had recommended a certain beach on the island of Lefkadha to us which will be where we head today. Actually, this was a wonderful tip which is pretty much what we had imagined when talking of "Paradise Beach".

 

The first beach which more or less is fitting our dream of "Paradise Beach" - Athani beach, Lefkadha.

Our camp in the setting sun. Again, this is a place we don't want to leave too soon!

 

We meander down to a large bay with a long sandy beach with turqoise waters. Right at the end of the sandy track we set up our camp and figure out that here nobody cares what you wear (if you want to wear anything at all!). Everything here seems to be wonderfully uncomplicated and roomy! We plan to stay here until our provisions run out. Because, again, we can help others stuck in the sand - this time it's an Austrian couple - we can stock up on fresh water in return which enables us to even have hot fresh water showers here. And thus, we stay here for four enchanting days, taking each day as it comes. Anouk complains that the days go by so very fast here even though we don't provide some kind of kids-programme here. But it is exactly this family time which all of us simply enjoy to the fullest.

 

Old beach bar used as a camp by some young surfers.

 
 

The three girls dreaming into the sunset.

 

This indeed is the return for skipping Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaidjan and Iran, countries I had been looking forward to visiting for a very long time. But it's OK, as this serves a more important purpose, "relaxed, harmonic, easy going and still intensive family-time". All of us sense our backlog demand and sponging up each other as if we were dried up. Even rationally viewed, it was a good decision even though all these countries are so very interesting, exciting and culturally impressive as there is still so much waiting for us on our route down through Africa. But we can only manage and enjoy this if we grow into a relaxed but gut well-practiced team.

During the last 8 weeks we have not managed to do a lot of things we had planned in advance, but - and this is far more important than anything else! - we have re-started to live and not just "behaving". The rest will come automatically!

text by Juliane

photo comments by Mischa

 

Paradise Beach ... Made in China???

 

Just an ordinary day on the road

 
 

The previous night we had spent next to an ancient bridge ... only the next morning a passer-by informed us that this site is "famous" for dangerous falling rocks from the nearby cliff. Well, we survived!

 
 
 
 

We set off after a brief brekkie ... the tourist information in the next village is no real help for our "problems" ("Is there a campsite nearby?" - Sóley had thrown up and we need a laundry machine ... "Where is the bear rescue station Greek friends had told us about?"). On the contrary, it is rather difficult to find the tourist information at all as in the building bearing that sign we only find an office responsible for issuing dog tags - which takes a while for us to find out. Only after long asking around and finding our way through the authority djungle, we find somebody who is responsible for tourists - only that he doesn't know about that it seems, and also he cannot communicate with us in English or German (and we don't speak Greek, unfortunately!). ... Somehow, we are still able to find out that there is neither a campsite nor a bear rescue station anywhere nearby. The Greek government had apparently prohibited the establishment of any campsites due to the increasing number of bear attacks. Only a story? A fairytale?

However, we go on to find out where the roads will take us today!

On the way to the next city we find no signs for campsites and also in the city there only seems to be room for hotel-tourists. So, we cross the border to Albania knowing that there it is normal that any guesthouse, restaurant or hotel in the countryside provide free camping opportunities in their backyard or parking lot if you stay at their restaurant for dinner and breakfast (the food is about the same price of a Greek campsite).

At the border we immediately sense the difference between Greek and Albanian border police: while the Greek police are nearly Germanic-correct, polite but a bit reserved, we again experience their Albanian counterparts as being extremely relaxed and friendly if a bit cheeky. It's really nice to be back in this country!

 
 

The road to the mountain village our guidebook recommends is in unexpectedly good condition. I hear myself saying "These roads are even better than in Greece!" ... until, well, until it was bound to happen: in the middle of some nameless village on our way, asphalt turns into gravel. Still unsuspecting we continue on our way. We ask a farmer guiding his horse drawn carriage using hands, feet and our map for the way and figure out from his reactions that we still are on the right way and will have to turn right where the roads part (!). So, on we go! ... our travel speed has been reduced by the "road" to roundabout 15 km/h and the "road" - a yellow one in the map and no 4wd-only track - turns out to be the worst agricultural road we had experienced for the last few years. We find the fork in the path which doesn't reveal its identity by roadsigns and our Land Rover ploughs on in the truest sense of the word. ... About 70 minutes later - we are still on this piste turning from mud to gravel to stones to rocks and back to mud - we see the first few houses of the mountain village we are looking for in the distance about 3 km away from us. Frolickingly, we gasp with relief ... not knowing still that the ascend to the village is bettering everything we had before experienced. Apparently, we are on a bad hiking route now and nearly all propulsion is done in first gear with a lot of support from the handbrake. Due to that, we finally change gears to cross-country reduction and activate the diff lock (courageously, I had abstained from that before) ... More than once we nearly topple but still courageously plough on. Really strange is that both kids, who don't like asphalt serpentines and have to throw up every now and then, are rather swinging-cheery and bawl kindergarten songs! Offroad-travel-children! Finally, we are there - only to discover that from the other direction a proper road connects this village with civilization, because this village is supposed to be the most important winter sports village of Albania.

 

In the background you see the track - looks quite romantic from this perspective!

 
 

That's where we plan to camp ...

 
 

Partisan memorial

 

Exhausted and still a bit confused because of the shaky dirt track, we ask the first people we meet on the road where we could stay for the night and which restaurant is good ... We get no directions but Juliane is guided by the man and I follow through the slopy village, in turns I stick to walls (just in case I topple - so I still have at least something to hold on to) until we finally end up at a half level lilliput parking lot where we are supposed to park and setup camp. The pub is only 15 m away. There we get an immense dinner which we are not able to finish for only about 23 € (local sausage, a giant portion of snails which regarding taste are not being camouflaged with the help of sauce or cheese-gratination, fava beans, a mountain of french fries, the local Tzaziki, bread, a giant salad, two ice cream, two mulberry-Raki, one coffee, a tea, a beer, a red wine, four lemonades!). The locals slap us on our shoulders that we managed to come here using the bad road (nobody else takes any more ... "strong car!"). Later that evening, the children are sleeping in the car, we sit together with a professor for Albanian language, who is a local and has also taught in Germany. At the table next to us, a famous TV-host (of the Albanian version of X-Factor), the son of one of the most important recent Albanian writers, who is also here, plays the guitar for a large round of villagers who join in into his singing. Believe it or not, but this is just a normal day on the road in Albania ... it fades away with the chants from the pub which resound into the deep night (cold it was, too!). In the morning, we are allowed to use the showers and toilet of one of the holiday flats - for free because the guy that brought us here is a friend of the landlord.

Where are we?

Date:              22.08.2015

Location:        Gjirokastër, Albania

Further Information

Weather:       some clouds, light wind

Day:                44

 

This would have been the perfect wild camping spot ... but, alas, the thunderstorm chased us away!

 

From our new friends' beach house in Agkali (Greece) we went on back to Kalivia Varikou still being unsure on whereabout to head next. Turkey and especially Istanbul was one idea, but also we wanted have enough time to go back to Albania to later discover the Greek west coast and the Peleponnes penninsula. The "Turkey solution" would have meant an insight into another different culture and the "Albania/Greece solution" would allow us to travel slowly and delve deeper into the culture. It was a hard decision but as so many interesting countries, cities and cultures lie on our way down to Cape Town, we opted for the slow travel version. Turkey still is "on the list" and we will go there as soon as possible - then including Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaidjan, Iran and whatever country we also have time to visit!

From Varikou we headed for Meteora, which simply was impressive (see our post on Meteora), especially because we discovered it from its less touristy side walking through beautiful nature.

Old and new in Korcë, Albania.

Old fortress (?) on the way ...

After that we went further north and spent a night at the beautiful bridge of Konitsa, a World Heritage Site.

From there, we went on back to Albania to discover the beautiful village of Dardhë, continuing to Germenj. From there, we drove on to Gjirokastër. Both the vegetation/countryside and the road conditions on the way reminded me on Norway or Sweden about 35 years ago. One thing that annoyed us, though, was the fact that almost everybody seems to be throwing their waste into the nature wherever they want to. This is really sad, as especially the countryside and nature of this wonderful country is so very special and precious and will most certainly attract tourists from all over the world which would give this poor country a chance to make its way into a more prosperous future.

Restaurant, farm ... and we can camp here.

Butchering

In the communist times this was a holiday camp.

... that's what freshly cooked means!

 

Our camp

 
 

The girls simply love horseback riding!

 
 
 

Another bridge ... we planned to wild camp here, but it's a bit too touristy!

 

Spa for free ... it smells a bit sulphuric, though!

 

Anyway, we are in Gjirokastër now, and enjoying hostel (Babameto Hostel) and city life ... just as the Albanian president who is visiting this city just at this weekend.

 

Spotted on the way!

 

Magical Mysterious Meteora

 
 

Actually, we don't quite like too touristy sights, but we thought that we could not go to Greece and leave out Meteora.

To be honest: we are totally impressed and this place surely is worth visiting even though it is touristy.

Just like Kata Tjuta (the "Olgas") in Australia, these sandstone rocks suddenly appear to the approaching traveler that it is quite obvious that generations of humans have interpreted this place as somewhat out of earth. The very name "Meteora" which reads "middle of the sky" supports this. Meteora is a very important site for the Greek Orthodox church and I am sure that the monks who started building the monasteries glued to the rock walls before the 11th century were not the first here to worship nature and creation (actually, a cave nearby has been inhabited for the last 50.000 years!).

We went for a four hours walk with the kids and took paths less traveled by omitting the major tourist sights.

In many ways, we feel remembered to Ethiopia and its rock hewn churches and mountain villages situated isolated on the top of the mountains. The sandstone rocks remember Juliane of her home, Saxon Switzerland.

cave dweller

A Room with a View!

... still inhabited!

 
 
 

The "new" monastery, inhabited by one (!) monk!

 

Greece or Saxon Switzerland?

 
 
 
 
 
 

... one day later, we found out that we only saw the remote area of Meteora ... it does, however, have another side with hundreds of tourists and large coaches parking at the roadsides. Our suggestion: go for a walk through the mountains around Meteora and just pick one or two touristy monasteries - then the spirit of Meteora will not be destroyed by the masses!

 

A pool with a view!

 

Our First “Blind Date”

 
 

Overlanding includes unfamiliar aspects any overland-traveler has to adapt to I suppose. One, and maybe the most important one indeed is "accepting somebody's help "! Due to whatever cause, we are used to help always having to be reciprocal ... And also, when people approach us with a help offer, we expect some negative intention to be behind that. When traveling but also even during the preparation phase one realizes that this can be totally different. In this context, the positive side of Facebook and blogging becomes clear as well: during the last months quite a few overlanders. Land Rover owners and others who were simply interested in us and our planned trip contacted us via the internet providing insider tipps for Transafrica or even invite us to their homes which would lie along the planned route. Several nice people did, for example, work from their homes in Cairo on finding out how we could ship our Land Rover to Africa or what other possibilities do exist reaching Africa overland at the moment. Now in Greece, while traveling, our first travel-"blind date" waited for us. Sometime at the end of June, Konstantinos (also a Land Rover owner planning a long overland trip with his family) had found our blog and - apart from giving interesting tips on where to go in Greece - without heasitation invited us to his home in Athens. After we had discovered strange sounds coming from the engine in Albania (sounding a bit like a tortured chicken) and neither other overlanders nor a proper Albanian bush mechanic could help us, we decided to accept Konstantinos' invitation earlier than we had actually planned and directly go to Athens from southern Albania to have the Land Rover checked at JBK Land Rover Specialists, THE Landrover-smithy in Greece (an absolute workshop recommendation, by the way, for any Land Rover Owner passing Athens ... they are "Land Rover Horsewhisperers"!). We reach Athens in the early afternoon only to realize that everything (and I really mean everything) had been organised in advance: we reach Konstantinos' house, who is just waiting for us to go to the workshop together while Juliane and his wife Errato are taking care of our four children.

JBK - The Greek Land Rover "Horsewhisperers"

Ready for Takeoff again!

In the workshop the "chicken"-problem (not electric, but mechanical by the way!) is quickly identified and solved, so that in the evening we can feast on Greek "Souflaki" getting to know each other while the Land Rover is relaxing outside the house in the shade. During the next few days we chill out together at the beach house of the family enjoying famous Greek hospitality. Apart from the common interest in overland travel, here the international comradeship of Land Rover owners is part of the story! Land Rover owners not only wave at, but also help each other! Do people actually consider this when choosing their overland-vehicle from a different car brand? The Land Rover team spirit is a door opener for other cultures and nearly some kind of "secret insurance"!

But also in other situations the weary traveler is helped fast and unselfish:

... the car mechanic in Albania senses our scouring eyes, approaches, asks ... just to leave his own work for a while to lead us to the bush mechanic recommended by our campsite owner (who actually is a competitor) riding along with us on our side stepps.

New Friends

... the camp site owners in Peshkopi know that our kids had thrown up on the way due to the road conditions and cook homemade pasta cooked in chicken stock for us ...

... the Greek permanent camper puts an ice-cold beer into the hand of the stressed father while he is setting up the camp ...

... water melons, figs, and other fruits who "by chance" drop out of the sky just to land on our camp table ...

... We could go on telling a bunch of other stories here even though we have only been traveling for four weeks now!

Of course, at home in Germany, there are also warm hearted and helpful people, but this intensive openness and warm-heartedness we experience here we are not accustomed to.

Where are we?

Date:              09.08.2015

Position:         N 38°51.58', E 023°26.29'

Location:        Agkali, Euboea, Greece

Further Information

Weather:       41,1°C (midday), some clouds, light wind

Day:                31

 

Our Camp at Valbone at Night

 

From beautiful, nearly enchanted Valbone in Albania, we go on our way down south planning to find a place to camp between Kukes and Peshkopi. A few kilometres before reaching Kukes both kids throw up just like searching fire and create a big mess on the rear bench seats so that we have to stop to clean up the car (on a hilltop while a thunderstorm is approaching) ... now, even more pressure is on us finding a good campsite. Unexpectedly, this task turns out to be quite a difficult one. Finally, while entering the city of Peshkopi, we discover a handmade sign reading "Camping", scouringly wind ourselves through the chaotic lanes of this rather oriental seeming city, repeatedly think that we have lost our way, but finally reach the small and simple but very neat campsite in the orchard of a detached house which is not in any guidebook, I suppose (for more see our Accommodation Page). As described, the landlady cooks for us and we enjoy the company of friendly and interested people. After the Muezzin calls the believers to prayer, this wonderful evening fades away with the nearly Arabic seeming sounds of a wedding in the near neighborhood. Shortly after having left central Europe, we feel like being inside "The Arabian Nights".

In spite of the great hospitality and of being the only guests on the campsite, we are on the road again the following day. The famous lake "Ohrid", one of the world's oldest lakes, tempts ... especially our beach-hungry kids. Unfortunately, this lake on the Albanian side turns out to be widely and chaotically built up and on the Macedonian side the few beaches are overcrowded with other tourists. What we don't know at that moment is - we are actually traveling without a guidebook here in Macedonia - that during this weekend it is the national holiday where everybody celebrates the "10-Day-Revolution". The result: we stand for one hour (!) in a traffic jam waiting to be able to enter the campsite and "enjoy" millions of drunken youths listening to loudest disco music who are celebrating their revolutionary fathers and mothers. The campsite is so very full that we have to set up our camp on the parking lot - and still pay 15 € for that ... Well, obviously, we don't want to stay here another day!

 

Lake Prespa is quiet and romantic in opposition to Lake Ohrid but due to overgrown shores, there is not really a possibility to go for a swim

 

Our family pow-wow which we summon decides that we are all ready for a proper beach and the children accept that this means driving for the complete day. This is also good, as we do really want to have the strange sounds coming from the engine checked so that no further damage is caused. From Macedonia, we drive to south-eastern Albania and then on to Greece. On our way, Albanian and Macedonian soldiers frantically wave at us from their Land Rovers ... "Landymania" seems to be including people who have to drive a Land Rover jobwise. I am sure other car manufacturers would give a lot for this identification with the brand and this loyalty.

We finally land at a very clean and relaxed campsite directly at the sea in Varikou south of Thessaloniki. This campsite is to a large extent populated by many permanent campers but they are extremely warm-hearted and our family soon is included into the community here by big Greek hearts. Even though the engine still sounds weird, we stay a bit longer. We do have time!

But sometime we do have to go on traveling because our Land Rover friend Konstantinos has arranged a date for us at Greece's best and most famous Land Rover workshop, JBK.

After the day at the workshop, we have to decide to either visit Athens and the Akropolis or spend some days at the beach house of the family. This is no easy decision, but actually, we are not really ready to share a big city with innumerable tourists in the summer heat and thus, we decide to go for the beach house. Athens, in addition to Dubrovnik, is put down on our imaginary list of cities we plan to visit on shorter "city trips" later on.

 
 

At the moment we are really enjoying the life between beach and beach house which is peppered by adventurous offroad trips into the mountain range right behind this village and culinary-trips to small beach-retaurants and local shops. Apart from that, we sit over out map of Greece and jot down all the customized tips we get from our hosts.

 

The further plan:

Tomorrow, we plan to be on the road again, heading for central Greece with the overall idea to go back to central South-Albania and Macedonia. After that we might go to the Albanian south coast and then down the west coast of Greece as far down as the Peloponnes. Slow Travel definitively is exactly what we need at the moment. Both us and the kids relax, the kids play more together and seem to be enjoying the time spent together as a family but also the encounters with other people. The kids seem to realise that this is not a holiday anymore where you have to take in attention from the parents like a sponge, but that we will enjoy many months of traveling together as a family. Anouk is improving her sign language skills to be able to communicate with other children without having a common language.

Again and again people as us why we don't ship the Land Rover to Egypt right now, but stay in "boring" Greece. Apart from the fact that Greece has many more sides which have not been destryoed by mass tourism, we also do not want to go to northern Africa right now because fellow travelers who are there right now inform us that the temperatures in Sudan are somewhere around 50°C ... in the shade ... without shade! Also, we plan to team up with a British family (who also have two young kids) here in Greece at the end of September to ship our cars to Egypt together. At the moment it seems that we will be shipping from Pireus to Alexandria, but this would mean that we would have to fly because we can't be passengers on the same ship the cars will be on. There might be another possibility shipping the vehicles from Salerno in Italy where we could go along with the cars as passengers enjoying a three-day cruise through the Mediterranean.

One question is troubling us a bit right now: shall we go to Turkey or do the current political circumstances and our desire to "slow travel" indicate that we have to put Turkey on the long list of countries to be visited at a later point in time.