Tag Archives: Meeting Overlanders

Back in Ethiopia at last!

It is only ten months ago that we left Ethiopia: On the 15th January 2015 we flew back to Germany after volunteering in the kindergarten in Adigrat. The hospitality of all the people we met in Adigrat and the deep friendships that evolved from these contacts after four weeks were the initial sparks that directed our overland-travel plans for our sabbatical year more and more back to the original idea of Transafrica on the "eastern route". Both us and our daughters were so very sad that we had to go back home to Germany and leave our new friends and this beautiful country behind.
At the beginning of February, we went with Anouk's kindergarten boyfriend Lasse and his family to the "Klimahaus" in Bremerhaven. There, people can go on an imaginary journey along the 8th degree of longitude. All the four of us independently from each other felt like being back in Ethiopia in the "desert of Mali-room": the air was full of dust, it was hot and even smelled like Ethiopia. At this point in time latest, it was "decided" that we would try to do Transafrica. Still, it took a while until we had really realized this decision and so, finally, there were only less than six months for preparing and planning anew ... because before, we had actually planned to go to South America, started to learn Spanish and established first contacts in South America.
...

Now it is November 2015 and we are back here in Ethiopia and Transafrica is no dream anymore, but our every day life.
Our first experiences while crossing the border between Sudan and Ethiopia, we already described in our last post. This Impression indeed did not match with what we had experienced while working in the kindergarten of Adigrat Vision e.V. last winter.
After our drive through the night because we did not want to stay in the border village, we spent our first few nights in Ethiopia in "Tim and Kim Village" near Gorgora south of Gondar.

Drying the laundry

Traditional fishing boats

What a romantic place!

The Schlumpfs, Swiss overlanders whose Land Rover we spotted in Khartoum.

The "village" is a wonderful place overlooking magical Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile, and our camp directly under a giant fig tree was just like being taken directly out of a fairy tale. But the hot showers as promised on the internet do not exist here. Showering is icy-cold, which is really annoying after having spent days driving on dirt roads through the desert. Also, in other aspects, the "village" seems to be following a policy of cutbacks. Saving energy, for example, means that if you don't pay attention, the fuses for the lights in the showers get switched off. In the restaurant, you can order high priced European dishes made with cheap local ingredieces. Which projects resemble the "fair" and "social" background of the "village", we could not find out! Falling asleep was not easy during three of the four nights we spent here as the owner partied with her new Ethiopian husband and male employers. In spite of this criticism, this place really has great potential which still is not fully used.

We go on to Gondar, Ethiopia's "Camelot" and former imperial city, and are really impressed by the romantic castles in the "royal enclosure", which especially impress Anouk who is deeply in her fairytale world of princesses, princes, kings and queens.

 

Our two little princesses

 

Most Ethiopian churches are decorated in the national colours.

The three men symbolize the "Holy Trinity" ... Doesn't the Bible say we should not make a picture of God?

Beautiful ceiling

In the evening we indulge in the wonderful food served in the famous "Four Sisters Restaurant".

Unfortunately, a nasty gastro-intestinal virus invades us in Gondar, which is going to affect all of us on the next following ten days.

The Simien Mountains ...

... South America or Ethiopia?

 

Gelada Baboons - endemic to the Simien Mountains.

 

Driving on to Axum, we reach the Simien Mountains. The good tarmac road changes to a rough stony piste and suddenly, we imagine being in the South-American mountain rainforests. We are in the middle of an impressively beautiful landscape and deeply enjoy the gorgeous view into the magical mountain world around us. Suddenly, a group of the endemic Gelada Baboons appears - directly next to the road. Awesome! Especially the children are extremely enthusiastic.

 
 

Sometime after the mountain gravel-piste we realise that we are driving behind other overlanders. We soon discover that they are "Slow Donkey", a South African couple who have an immensely detailed and helpful blog which we have been following for a long time now. So, we overtake the donkey-Landcruiser and signal them to find a place to stop and chat. Stopping and talking, we realise that they also know us from the internet and have been reading our blog as well. It is a matter of seconds and "nomads" and "Slow Donkey-Team" decide to continue together for the next few days. So, our route leads us to Axum where we set up camp in the courtyard of the "Africa Hotel".
Unfortunately, we are not able to visit the famous sights witnessing the ancient Tigrinian civilization here in Axum because our gastro-intestinal problems have got hold of Juliane completely and with full force.

After two nights in Axum, we dare pushing on to Adigrat, where we plan to stay longer and where Mischa's mother is planning to visit us from Germany.

But on our way through the beautiful "Roof of Africa", we are harrassed whenever we stop by children screaming "Moneymoneymoneymoney!", "Youyouyouyouyou!" oder "Pencilpencilpencil!", trying to squeeze whatever possible out of the tourists they see. This behaviour definitely is the result of years of senseless "foreign aid" by western countries and China and especially is a result of really stupid tourists giving away "presents" like pencils, sweets and even money to children wherever they can. Why do people from "developed countries" so often hurl around with money and material things instead of investing in capacity building!? The motives are highly egoistical because they only want to make themselves happy and want to feel that they "do good"! But, on the contrary, this behaviour causes dependency and introduces new behavioural traditions which do not motivate people to commit themselves for a better future, but will make them into lazy beggars. It is especially sad, we think, that a proud nation as Ethiopia, the only country in Africa not being colonized by any other state, being deeply rooted in history both concerning Ethiopia as a nation and Ethiopia being at least one of the birthplaces of mankind, is represented to many travelers by these children. During this stage of our trip, we also have to experience the first stone thrown at our car by children along the roadside which are so very much infamous with overland travellers. Suddenly, there is a big "Bang!" on the passengers' sinde directly underneath the window causing a centimetre sized paint damage. Unfortunately, we can't see and get hold of the delinquent to be able to drag him to his parents, who surely will not approve of their offspring's behaviour. We are angry and also quite confused because of this behaviour ...
In spite of our stomach problems and the stone throw we savely and relatively relaxed reach Adigrat. All of us are immensely happy to be here again and be able to take our friends into our arms again. We stay at the "Agoro Lodge" just one or two kilometres south of Adigrat, a lodge being cempletely in Ethiopian hands situated in the quiet countryside looking down on Adigrat and being surrounded by a beautiful mountain scenery.

The Agoro Lodge

 

The view on Adigrat from the Agoro Lodge.

 
 

Mischa is giving English classes for the team at Agoro Lodge.

 

This lodge is professionally run by a most friendly team making you feel welcome and at home. All profit of the lodge is used to help supporting the social life in Adigrat, helping single mothers, HIV patients, unemployed youth et cetera.
Unfortunately, our first six days here are dominated by Juliane not being able to cope with the gastro-intestinal infection. Finally, after eight days of diorrhea and vomiting, we decide to consult a local doctor ... who downright refuses any payment only stating, "If I come to your country, you will do the same for me!". It is really sad that in case he will come and visit Germany, most people would not help him the way he does for us. Strangely, directly after visiting the local doctor, Juliane is feeling better again without taking any medicine apart from the ones we already took for the last eight days. Maybe, the positive change is due to the probiotic bacteria treatment she had just begon.

Farewell to Cairo

 

A cruise with a Falukha on the Nile is an absolute "must"! It is impressive how fast the city noises vanish and then there is only wind and water.

 

Having the car back, this obviously means that our "itchy feet" need a cure and we have to be back on the road again!

So, we tried to make as much of the last few days in this "terrible beauty" of a city. Here are some impressions ...

Public transport - Nile or Amazon?

 

Our captain ...

 
 

It was a wonderful sunset cruise ... oh how we do love to travel!

 

The Pyramids of Gizeh is something that everybody "knows" from their history books at school. Standing right in front of them is so very dwarfing and certainly puts the impressive technological and scientifical development and knowledge of the old Egyptians in its right position! ... all this was constructed at a time when Europe still was full of savages clad in animal skins. What a magical place!

As Egypt is suffering under a 75% decrease of tourists at the moment, this enables you to be more or less on your own discovering this only remaining of the ancient seven wonders of the world.

 
 
 
 

If you are doing Transafrica, you've got to take some pictures with the car in front of the pyramids ...

Great: no tourists and no roads ...

 

The Sphinx ... as equally great as the pyramids but slightly smaller than expected!

 
 

A ship aged over 4000 years old ... what a beautiful vessel!

 
 

An impressed Sóley in the minaret of the El Ghawri Mosque.

 

We don't know what's wrong here, but usually it's the parents who try to "make" their kids go to museums, churches et cetera ... Sóley makes us go to mosque after mosque and apparently is deeply touched ...

A view on Cairo from the minaret.

A beautiful ceiling.

Ancient ivory inlay work ... Anouk loves it and hates that animals had to die for this at the same time.

 

The minaret from below.

 
 

Indulging in Lebanese food with fellow Land Rover owner Sam Watson.

 

Before coming to Cairo, Sam was one of the great people who had helped us in planning our Transafrican adventure. We were invited to stay at his home, our kids loved the atmosphere of a flat with a multitude of interesting things to discover in every corner and on every shelf ... and impressively, nothing has been damaged by them.

After having spent about a week together, we feel like we leave a friend behind. It's great that we have at least two travel plans together, Sam!

 

The good ol' times!

 

Distant relatives.

 

Haha! Don't eat raw fish in Egypt!!! Thanks for the Sushi-Farewell, Sam!

 
 

Bye bye Mr. Sam Sandrover ... we will miss you ... but meet again so soon!

 

The roads that took us down south to the Red Sea coast were in unexpectedly good condition. Still, I had to drive in darkness for about 1,5 hours ("Don't do it!", says the German Foreign Ministry in its travel advice).

The countryside is rocky, dusty and smells of petrol.

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.

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???

 

Ready for Takeoff?, Forest Fires … and other Stories

Anouk hates goodbyes!

 

During the last few days and weeks at home on the island of Spiekeroog, many people around us kept asking us whether we were becoming more and more excited. We were not, actually! Instead – in addition to our very engaging jobs – we were in absolute and continuous “packing-mania” and had to empty and clean up our flat. There was absolutely no time for dreaming or thinking about what lies ahead of us and certainly no time for excitement of travel nerves! In that context, we want to apologize to all dear friends, family members and colleagues whom we did not give our farewells to … there simply was no time at all!

Just like that our departure day on which we were waiting for for so very long turned out to be. The evening before we had been working until it was very, actually far too late packing the last few bags and putting away things into the attic. After a very short night of not more that three hours of sleep, we had to get up at 4 in the morning, because we wanted to catch the 7:25 ferry from Spiekeroog – the same ferry our students would take to leave for their long summer break. In spite of being still very tired everything worked out fine! Family members, friends and colleagues gave us their farewell hugs … our children were even given an “official” farewell by their kindergarten teachers. Well, and then we boarded the ferry … for the last time for over one year!

On the mainland we first of all had to say goodbye to our students before we had to pack our car with all the bags and boxes we had brought from home. The Land Rover was stuffed like a turkey at Thanksgiving! Finally, we could leave!

Like a stuffed turkey!

 

Despite all the mad rush and stress on the first few kilometres we at last realized that we now really were on our way, on our way on our long trip down to South Africa. The feeling of not having to comply with any appointments made by others is definitely unbelievably good. Time is not our master anymore!

On the way, we were invited to friends to stoppover for a bruch …

Further on, one of our sponsors surprised us with a very generous donation to fill up our Diesel-tanks. Another appointment he had made in Magdeburg where we wanted to meet with the people of the “Petromax” company, who have been supporting us with their exciting product range. Now we wanted to find our about the personalities behind those products.

In the workshop (actually a tent in a large warehouse) we could witness where the famous HK 500 power lamp is manufactured. It looked as if the brownies just left for their homes!

 

Unexpectedly, we were given more cool gadgets which we will test during the next few months: we are really excited about the Feuerbox and the Hobo Stove . It must have been spontaneous affection on both sides as we nattered on with Jonas and Laura for so long that we ended up reaching Julianes parents in Dresden only at around 10 in the evening instead of the estimated time of arrival at seven o ‘clock … still we barbecued!

During the following few days in Dresden we used the for us quite uncommon situation with the Land Rover directly in front of our house and checked the complete equipment to get rid of all the things not really important. It was all about reducing space and weight, abour reducing, reducing and even more reducing! We were not really ready for takeoff, it seemed! Three large cardborad boxes we finally left in Dresden! Being islanders, we always have worse starting line conditions than other travelers because we never have our car in front of our house. Instead, we have to bring everything to the harbour on Spiekeroog by bike or electric car (thanks Stefan, for taking our things!), put it on the ferry, have it shipped over to the mainland and than pack it into the car as fast as possible in all kind of weather.

In the background the “Festung Königstein”.

History: family rock “Pfaffenstein” and Trabant car

After family parties in Dresden and Saxon Switzerland, Juliane’s old home, an Alpaca-trip around the “Lilienstein” (one of the famous sandstone cliffs south of Dresden) near Königstein/Sachsen and an overnight stay at a friend’s place near Passau, we left good old Germany on the 15th July at roudabout midday. Near Passau we crossed the border with Austria. Germany will only have us back in more than one year’s time!

In the evening of that day, we went out for dinner at “Bio-Alpengasthof Koralpenblick” and feasted on wonderfull steaks made from local Styra-cattle enjoying the company of the Smolana family and our friend Andras Nemeth from Hungary. Last year, we had “discovered” this eco-farm on our way back home from Romania and it is one of our absolute recommendations for any traveller (for more information, here is more). All dishes on the menu are based on home (i.e. on-site) grown products, products from other eco-farms nearby or collected and hunted in the surrounding forests. Water and electricity are also “produced” on the farm. Really impressive! We will definitely come back! Overlanders like us are always welcome with their vehicles (4×4 recommended, though to be able to use the greenlanes) and are allowed to set up their camps next to the cow shed for free (of course, everybody goes out for dinner at the farm’s restaurant!).

Nicole, Ilja and Mia … we last met in the Pyrenees in 2013

On the following day, we went on to Croatia to meet with travel friends Ilja, Nicole and Mia whom we had met in the Pyrenees two years ago. Initially, we thought that crossing Slovenia on country roads would be easy and fast as we would have to cross only about 100 km. Afterwards, we knew it better: it took us more than two and a half hours! The 15 Euro road toll for the motorways would have been a better deal for us, it seemed! After that, we had to cross Croatia as well to reach the Adriatic coast and the island of Pag where our travel friends were waiting at a campsite. Again, we reached them only at ten in the evening! Definitely, we were not relaxed, but kept the stress-level from work and carried it over to traveling. Again, not really ready for takeoff! We have to go down to lower gears as soon as possible or we will be reaching Cape Town in two months!

But: here in the camp in the 38°C baking oven (!) we don’t have any other chance anyway than to relax and adapt to temperature and climate! We learn to drink!

  

“wild” animals

“wild” animals II

what’s that?

considering Sóley’s point of view one of the most dangerous animals existing

Definitely, by now we can state that it was a good decision to start our overland journey back home in Germany and not ship the Land Rover and fly to some remote destination. Especially with young kids this seems to be the most uncomplicated and healthy way to start a long overland trip.

Where we are

Date:               22.07.2015

Position:         N 42°54.232′, E 017°32.047′

Location:        Brijesta, Peljesac peninsuly, Croatia

Further Information

Weather:       37,3°C (midday), cloudless sky (apart from the smoke of forest fires), no             rainfall since the 15th, nearly no wind

day 13

 

Before driving further south to the mountains of Albania, we want to enjoy more of the beach life. That’s why we left the last campsite at the beach only to go for a next beach-camp 350 km down to the south. The first campsite we found was far too crowded and touristy, so we went on for another 20 km and have found a nearly African-style campground directly at the beach now (Auto Camp Zakono/Vrela).

Helicopters filling up the water tanks to extinguish the forest fires

what is she thinking?

The girls waved and the pilot opened his window and waved back … then came the wind!

 

On the way to get here, we passed a large forest fire. We felt a bit uncomfortable driving to the tip of a peninsula on whose connection to the mainland forest fires were raging. But the locals told us that the fires are under control. Still, it continuously “rains” ashes which is admittedly a bit scary and the constant humming of the engines of the fire fighting planes sounds like the deep drone of the bombers one knows from the documentaries about the second world war. Directly in front of our camp helicopters “fuel up” on sea water to extinguish the fires in the mountains behind the campsite.

Our guide book (“Kroatien” – Küste und Inseln, Werner Lips, Reise Know How Verlag) has done a great job in choosing this campsite! We are on a rather quiet and not really crowded campsite here and have a spacy and secluded camp with the sea right under our very noses with perfectly clean facilities. Even the temperature is pleasant … maybe we have adapted by now!

Our further plan? We will go to Albania sometime in the next few days to discover the remote mountain regions laying in the far north-east of the country. We are really excited to discover Albania, which has not become a famous tourist destination so far but is supposed to be very beautiful and the people have a very hospitable reputation. We will check that and let you know!

What’s new?

Expedition Portal published another article written by us on traveling with young children. For more see …

Meeting Overlanders: An Interview with Karin-Marijke Vis and Coen Wubbels from “Landcruising Adventure”

Eine deutschsprachige Version des Interviews findet Ihr hier ...

Karin-Marijke and Coen, Atacama Desert Chile

We got to know Karin-Marijke Vis and Coen Wubbels about one and a half year ago. For a long time their website Landcruising Adventure had been sparking our dreams to go overlanding. It was really great to meet them in person during the Overland Reunion 2014 and 2015.

This interview was conducted in June 2015.

4-wheel-nomads "What was the deciding reason to leave your former life behind and start traveling in this manner?"

 
 

Karin-Marijke and Coen "When we were in our early thirties, we both were at a crossroad in our lives. Our lives had taken twists and turns we hadn't expected (in terms of relationships, work, health) and it was time to make a drastic change. When we knew each other about eight months, seeing each other only in the weekends as we lived 200 kms apart, Coen decided to follow a dream he had carried with him for many years: to travel around the world. He asked me if I wanted to join him. The decision was easy and I said yes. It was a relief to sell our belongings, giving up everything we had, and start a new phase in our lives."

 

the Landcruiser BJ45 - Peninsula Valdes, Argentina

 

4-wheel-nomads "Since when or whereby did you decide to go on traveling for an indefinite period of time, or was that the plan right from the beginning?"

 
 

Karin-Marijke and Coen "We never gave the matter a thought and still we wouldn't say our journey is for an indefinite period of time. Time will tell. Our initial mention of two years was just to give the people around us something to hold on to. It was based on nothing. We had no plans other than to drive to Asia. We left with a map of Europe and guidebook of Greece and we were clueless as to what would country would be next."

"When after about three years we reached Thailand we concluded that we liked this way of life and wanted to continue it. That asked for some contemplation because thus far we had lived low-budget using our savings, and in order to continue traveling, we needed a source of income. We worked hard on our writing and photography to get that financial obstacle out of the way, in which we have succeeded."

1.000.000 stars hotel and a thunderstorm

1.000.000 stars hotel - Landcruising Adventure's camp at night

4-wheel-nomads "By now, you have traveled in Europe, Asia and South America. In South America you have been traveling for eight years now ... because of that you have become famous for being the slowest overlanders ever. Are you planning to stay in South America or do you plan to ship the Landcruiser to a different continent?"

 
 

Karin-Marijke and Coen "We'll be on this continent for another couple of months, focusing on areas in Venezuela and Colombia that we haven't seen yet. We do know that we will ship our vehicle to a new place after that, but where? We don't know yet. There are many options and we're currently looking in the pros and cons of them. We have learned that in general things work out somehow. If you're open to that kind of lifestyle, you'll find that you meet people for a reason. This may play a big part in deciding our next destination."

to Venezuela through the back door

4-wheel-nomads "For the last 12 years, you have been living your dream ... does traveling and thus this dream become a routine like any other "job" ... how do you manage to make sure it is not becoming just a different type of "job"?"

 
 

Karin-Marijke and Coen "Yes and no. There is no doubt that during the initial stage – which may stretch a couple of years – everything is new, exciting (and/or scary). I remember lots of thrills. There are many 'firsts' in that first period of traveling. Of course, that can't continue forever and I think that's why many people either return home after a year or two, or find a balance in traveling for a couple of months and going home for a couple of months. It makes perfect sense."

"In that respect, I'm happy that we need to work. Our work helps us, or sort of forces us out of our comfort zone. Instead of skipping that umpteenth historical church or gold museum, or eating rice and beans in Colombia after we've eaten them in Peru and Ecuador as well, wanting to write about these subjects helps us reflect on where we are. "He, wait. We think we know what this is about, but do we really?" In order to write about it, we need to dig deeper. In many cases that reignites the interest, and thus the joy in traveling and exploring."

"For that same reason our writing and photography has evolved. Whereas initially we focused on writing about our journey in 4WD magazines, we now also write for travel and food magazines. Just like in 'ordinary' life we have to be alert in not falling asleep and to just go with the flow. For life to be interesting and fulfilling you regularly need to ask yourself, "do I still want to do this." When the answer is 'no', it's time to change."

4-wheel-nomads "After all the distance you have created between you and what other people might call "normal society" or "normal life" - will returning be possible at all for you? Or do you plan not to come back anyway?"

 
 

relaxing in the camp and big scenery

 
 

Karin-Marijke and Coen "We lived in Suriname for a year (2011-2012) because we needed a break. It was a good year in which especially having a regular social life (being part of a running group, participating in local off-road events, spending evenings with new-made friends) played an important role. After that year, we were ready to hit the road again. It could very well be we will do something like that again. I don't know where or when as for now we enjoy the road too much."

"Returning to the Netherlands for an indefinite period of time is not an issue right now. And since we find it's useless to talk about the future we leave the subject alone."

4-wheel-nomads "Did you find a "place" where you could imagine settling down again during your travels so far?"

 
 

Karin-Marijke and Coen "There have been a few places that particularly appealed to us: Hanoi in Vietnam, south Brazil, and central Argentina. When we were there we felt we could live there but weren't ready to settle down. If we will ever return, stay on the road forever, or maybe settle down somewhere else - who knows. Time will tell."

 

Karin-Marijke, Scott Brady (owner and editor of Overland Journal), Coen and Mischa

 

all photos used in this blog-post © by Landcruising Adventure

Overland Reunion 2015 – Meeting up with other Overlanders in the Twente woods …

Eine deutschsprachige Version dieses Posts findet Ihr hier ...

All Overlanders know the situation: you are excited to go on your next overland trip to Whateverstan and so many people do not understand why you like this very basic way of traveling to places wild and remote instead of doing an "all inclusive trip" to a fashionable place everybody else just rhapsodizes on! ... Having to endure those situations makes it triple great and important to meet other overlanders.

Since a couple of years, Karin-Marijke and Coen from "Landcruising Adventure" (12 years on the road with no end in sight) have been organising their "Overland Reunion" in the Netherlands. Last year we were invited to join and, of course, this year that weekend was a fixed date in our calendar.

Especially impressive is the relaxed and amicable, nearly familistic togetherness at this overlander's meeting. It is the first real summer weekend after a very long, cold and windy winter - also in a literal sense. Last year we had made friends with many of the participants and this year our circle of friends is growing as well. And just like last year, we enjoy staying out boozing in Michelle's and Pieter's "rolling café" in their old Citroen and just like last year they again are our "neighbors" on the campsite.

 

Do you sell ice-cream?

 

We have the feeling to be right in the middle of the group without having been members for a long time. True cordiality!

In snuggly round cooking, feasting and drinking together, at the barbecue, having breakfast or just enjoying a coffee in between, travel tips and other important bits and pieces of information, routes and even contact persons in remote lands are shared between travelers of different experience. Scott and Robert provide us with handy tips concerning photography and travel writing.

Michelle and Pieter's "rolling café"

 

Karin-Marijke, Scott, Coen and Mischa (© Landcruising Adventure)

 

Apart from the cosy get-together people compare and discuss gear and vehicle-conversions and give "tours" of their eyecatcher overland vehicles.

Pinz Charming I - Pinzgauer

Hendrik and Ali's G-Wagen (http://thebelgianandtheaussie.blogspot.de)

Bremach T-Rex

Pinz Charming II - Pinzgauer

Michelle and Pieter's Citroen - the "rolling café"

Zuidkaper - Landcruiser

VW T 3 Syncro

Landcruiser BJ 45

 

Abuu the fifth nomad - our Land Rover

 

travelchair twins?

Kermit Chair tutorial by Coen

 

Kermit Chairs absolutely rock!

 

As usual, our children only need a short period to thaw and soon are somewhere on the wild and romantic campground frolicing, playing and socializing - without needing a common mother tongue.

hiding behind the curtains

a really large sandbox

friends

Oz-Tent children's room

Anouk with Kim & Tycho of "www.4amigosonadventure.com"

 

Already sharing overland adventures (© Jos Kemme)

 

For us, it simply is great and important to know that other people are as "crazy" as we are enjoying the overlander's lifestyle and supporting each other unselfishly. We are not alone with our ideas and dreams which at home are referred to by others as being insane and irresponsible. Especially if you are at the starting point of overlanding, it is so very important to meet other people who share the same dreams and live them, have been doing so for years even. That's what dreams are there for, right!? To be realized and lived! Again the "Overland Reunion" creates a lot of positive energy in us! Our dream job is clear as mud: traveler!

Overlanders are an international community in which nationality, origin, age, job history et cetera simply don't count ... in addition to that, it even doesn't count how long and far somebody has been traveling up to now ... there is no "higher, faster, further" showing off! Many participants have met Coen and Karin-Marijke on the road and are old travel companions, but even without that background, we never feel like outsiders.

For us, the "Overland Reunion" is an annual highlight and it is a bit sad that we can't be here next year!

the yoghurt monster

packing and breakfasting

 

nearly ready to leave

 

This year's Overland Reunion is also important because we want to check our gear, find out what's still missing, do some maintenance work, reduce, reduce and reduce ... to pack the Land Rover ready to leave for Africa, since our final countdown has already started: it's only one month and we will be on the road as well ... going down south to North-East-Africa, which we will hopefully reach in late September or October ... We are so very excited!

When saying "Goodbye" to Coen and Karin-Marijke and thanking them for organising this very special event, Coen replies humbly, "Why? I didn't do that much for it!" But that's exactly "it", the reason behind the very relaxed atmosphere here. I thought to myself, "I have great respect for this easygoingness ... I probably would have plan B, C and D in the back of my head in case it should rain ... way too organised! ... which would have stressed me! Would I have been able to chat as relaxed and easygoing with everybody here just like Karin-Marijke and Coen did it?" Traveling obviously also means traveling to one's "self" ... Thanks a lot for organising!

 

traveling makes happy (© Scott Brady)

 

sun helmet

old Feuerhand lantern