Tag Archives: Land Rover Friends

Kenya … first impressions of another wonderful country

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
 

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

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

 

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

 

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

Giraffe for breakfast ...

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

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

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

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

 

Our invitation letter for Sudan has arrived!

 

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

 

First German-English camp

 

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

 

Delphi, another magic place in Greece!

 

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

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

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

Aphrodite's Temple

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

 

At the custom's warehouse in the port of Pireias

 

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

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

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

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.