Epilogue

550 days, 42154 km

This is the last blog entry. We are back at home. And although ‘home’ is still our house in the truck, wherever it is parked, many things are very different. Instead of flip-flops we wear shoes again every day, with socks. This is weird and it’s not the only weird thing we experience on returning in Europe. We will attempt to write a short conclusion of all the things we’ve seen and experienced, but it still doesn’t get close to the real thing. Seriously, we could write a book and still miss out on many things.

First of all Africa is very different from the picture which is painted in the western media. On a hand we found an extraordinary beautiful and diverse continent, and on the other a grimy world full of inequality. The cultural differences with Europe are huge and this reflects in a complete other way of life. We should point out that the below reflects mainly to the countries south of the Sahara desert. Families still live together on the same piece of land, often under one roof, and everyone within the family looks after each other. The women are usually the key figure in daily life, taking care of most of the task in and around the house including the care for children, cattle and (agricultural) land. Men are head of the family and in most countries they herd the cattle. Religion, Christianity, is the guidance for pretty much everything. The use of contraceptives is still uncommon and women often give birth to more than five children, ten is not unheard of. Many people are hoping and waiting and praying for a miracle to happen. Besides Christianity the ancient or bush religions are still practiced too, though people seem to get more and more distant from their roots. There were a lot of football shirts, and even though all women still wear long skirts they don’t mind matching it with any shirt from the English Premier League. There are some places where the women still dress in beautiful traditional batik dresses and headpieces. The men all wear oversized trousers held up on the waste with a very tight belt and on the top some sort of shirt, also too large. Many things we do automatic or electric in Europe are still done manually in Africa. Mowing the lawn for example; this is done with a machete.  In every country we heard the annoying (Samsung) whistle announcing a text or whatsapp message arrived. Even in places where electricity was pretty much absent the smart phone was present, creating a business for phone recharging points. The dream of a life in Europe is widely spread, though the ideas people have of this life are as incorrect as the picture we have of Africa. The high cost of life and the cold temperatures (that make outdoor living impossible) are something they don’t take into consideration. They believe every white person is super rich and life is simply fantastic with all this money. Perhaps the influence of the NGO’s is apparent here. The question whether all the aid from western NGO’s is doing the continent well is way over our head. Clearly when a country is not looking after its people it can’t be bad if somebody else does. But, perhaps, we should have a closer look at who actually benefits the most from all the money that is pumped into Africa for so long now. We should become more aware of the consequences it has in the communities and question whether this is right or wrong. Having said that, we do have great respect for all the people who help, feed, educate and love the many Africans in need. It takes a lot of courage and determination to continue this much needed daily task. Corruption assures the small minority with all the money remains incredibly rich and the rest, basically all Africans except former group, stay uneducated and poor. With the example set by their leaders one can’t expect different behavior from its subjects. Corruption therefore exists in all layers of the communities. There is hope though. Many people try to help and do good, but the road is long and there are many obstacles on the way.

Another big topic is safety. We never felt unsafe during our trip, which is quite remarkable if you listen to the media. Isn’t it dangerous over there? A question we have been asked many many times, both by tourist and locals. The few times we were picked up by the police, for our own safety of course, they completely failed to explain where exactly the danger lay. The major cities can be dangerous, but outside the city there isn’t much to fear. We have always been treated with great respect, and were without exception welcomed with a smile. The times we have been invited to people’s homes they shared what they had with us. In rural villages people always took care of us and made sure we would sleep safe and sound. While driving people always waved and kids often ran along with the truck. There are many places crowded with people, but there still is a lot of true wilderness left. The kind you do not find anywhere else in the world. Seeing Africa on National Geographic is one thing, but actually standing right in the middle of it is something else. The perfect harmony of it really blew us away. Our (fantastic) truck really took us to the heart of the wild were we realized that humankind (in the western world) is so distant from nature. The wild life is really fantastic and it is so important that we protect the fragile environment so it can still exist in the future. Nothing beats the moment when an elephant walks past your truck on merely two meters distance. Or when two lions reproduce right next to you. Or seeing two hippos battle in the river. Or, well you get the picture.

We have made an incredible journey and are very thankful for that! It hasn’t been easy all the time; the many highlights stand opposite a few really difficult moments. However, there is no doubt that we will return to Africa at some point to travel to some of the places we missed out on this time and to visit those we loved the most once more.

We want to say thank you to all people who helped us before, during and after the trip. To all the filmmakers who contributed their film we say many thanks on behalf of us and many children across the continent. It was a real success and we have made many kids very happy with our cinema on wheels. And, finally, we hope you’ve enjoyed reading our reports as much as we enjoyed writing down and sharing our adventures with all of you.

Yours truly,

Anthony and Marije

Ps. Our truck is now for sale. Use the contact from for more information.

 

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Off road party time -

469 days, 36177km

Morocco is great! It was a good decision to spend a few months in the south of the country to escape the European winter. The nights are cold and the days pleasantly warm. Warm enough at least to maintain our African tan for a few more months. We indulge ourselves in the delicacies that Morocco offers and enjoy the often beautiful landscapes and friendly people.

When we updated last time we were in Laayoune, the capital of Western Sahara. Officially this is already Morocco, there is no obvious border between the two countries, but the two don’t really compare. The long stretch of land that we drove from the Mauritanian border to Tan Tan, 300km north of Laayoune, was mostly boring; the road was straight, the land flat and the only thing to see was an occasional fisherman’s village. Once we passed Tan Tan things changed. Mountains appeared on the horizon and not much later we drove through the hills. Our first destination was Plage Blanche, a forty kilometer stretch of beach south of Sidi Ifni, this was the location for the New Year’s party we were going to attend. We had the option of getting there via a smooth tar road or off-road somewhat following the coast. Since we had seen so much tar already the last weeks the decision was easy and we left the tar some 100km south of Sidi Ifni. The track took us through a few oueds, the Moroccan name for a river, most of them were dry like a months old cookie which made it a piece of cake to cross them. The last oued was the biggest and this one had water in it. The descend into Oued Boussafine was steep on a rocky slope. In the gorge we saw green agricultural fields and streams with water. A path snaked its way through the gorge, subsiding all the puddles and most of the streams. We made it safe and sound across and when we peeped over the edge we saw something that Morocco in the winter is famous for; the plastic fantastic.

Since many years Europeans find their way to Morocco in the winter to escape the cold in the north. More and more pensioners who used to hibernate in Southern Spain now take a ferry across and they all come in a plastic fantastic. For those who don’t know; a plastic fantastic is a (fairly) new camper complete with everything you find in a house. They are easily recognized when parked by the satellite dish on the roof. The color is usually white though sometimes a silver grey one appears too. Here in Morocco many of them have a painting on the side of an oasis with some camels and palm trees, hand painted by a local artist. Some places are known to be overwhelmed with them and obviously it was our intention to avoid those places as much as possible, at least for the next 30 years. However, the first sight of them made us realize that we were getting back into civilization, and somehow this felt quite pleasant. We continued a bit further and found the place where the party was going to take place. We parked and watched more and more people arrive. Most of them in vans (the 508 was well represented) and trucks, all homemade campers. It was quite a cool collection of vehicles altogether. On the last day of the year some hundred vehicles had arrived and amongst them was one(!) that we knew. A girl from Utrecht arrived in her truck with her boyfriend and their two dogs. So nice to see a familiar face. Nathalie and Hilke were as surprised to see us as we were to see them. We spent the party together and later in the night a few more people we knew showed up. After the New Year’s celebration we went to the Tigmert Oasis, east of Guelmim, together with a few other trucks and stayed there for a day. This oasis had water flowing in it, and the small gorge was a wild forest of palm trees. A beautiful sight. We heard about a hot spring ten kilometer further down the track and the next day we headed in the direction of it together with Hilke and Nathalie. The landscape was dry and sandy with bushes and argane trees dotted around, mountains edged the horizon. We found a nice bush camp at the foot of a hill where we stayed for two nights. The second day we drove our truck with the four of us in it to the hot spring. It turned out to be a vertical pipe serving as a fountain in a small shallow pool in an open landscape. Not a tropical oasis with palm trees and chirping birds, but nevertheless we enjoyed the hot bath. After another quiet night we drove twenty kilometers north to Fask. This small village is nothing special, but just north of it is a gorge and in the gorge are a few cataract. The four of us plus two dogs went on a hike up the gorge, through and up the falls, under the palm trees following the small flow of water. We unwillingly picked up a young boy as guide; he pretty much gave himself the task of guiding us up and down the gorge. He couldn’t speak French so communicating was difficult. We couldn’t send him off nor could we ask him things about the surroundings. Despite this we enjoyed the walk a lot. It is quite cool how a gorge just appears in sight. Walking or driving on flat dry tiresome brown and grey surface and all of a sudden there is a cliff and when you look down the cliff you discover a whole new world. Palm trees with dates growing in them, small rivers and falls, but the color is what stands out the most; green in all shades imaginable. Such a difference from the rest above it. The next day we took another hike, this time across the gorge to an abandoned village. Many houses were in decay, but one of them looked as if it was still in use sometimes and we peeked inside. Surrounding an open courtyard lay many rooms of which the kitchen was easily recognized; all the walls were black with soot.

After a few days we moved on and took a small road north to Tafraoute. Tafraoute lies on an altitude of 1100m and the climb into the Anti Atlas mountain chain was scenic. Luckily the road was freshly surfaced and widened at the most winding part; many tar roads here a too narrow for two vehicles to cross each other. One, but even better both, must give way to the other by hugging the ditch. We arrived at dusk and got just a little glimpse of the strange big boulders in the landscape. We bush camped a few kilometers before the town and when we woke up the next morning we felt as if we woke up on a movie set. (Few films have actually been shot here) Big loose boulders and mountains of boulders, sometimes with a gigantic boulder, slightly threatening, balanced on the summit, made up the landscape and of course palm trees were everywhere giving the whole scene a tropical hint. The whole scenery had a cartoonish feel to it and a Belgium artist must have seen the same thing back in the eighties because he got permission from the town council to paint some of the giant rocks blue. Nowadays the rocks are still colored though the paint has worn off on many of them. Many people find it a pity that the rocks are painted, the magical landscape doesn’t need it they rightfully say. However, it is a funny sight. The town itself is quite small. Every winter a large group of alternative people arrive here and stay around for a few months. It was funny to notice that close to town in the palmary the plastic fantastic campsite sprung and on the other side of the mountain, close to the painted rocks, the gypsy campsite arose. We stayed at the latter for two weeks; time flies in a place like Tafraoute. At the campsite were a few other travelers that we liked quite well; it was nice to be in the company of similar minded people again. The super friendly people of Tafraoute village are very used to the invasion in the winter and are therefore not treating you like a tourist. No pushy demands or endless begging. We visited the hammam a few times, it’s the Moroccan spa. The hammam exists of three rooms, the first one lukewarm and the last one hot. This is the place where people come to clean themselves. With two buckets of water, one hot one cold, one sits down on a small plastic carpet and by scooping water over yourself you wash and scrub yourself clean. Quite a nice experience although the hammam in Tafraoute can’t be called pretty; plain tiles and low ceilings, none of the pretty Moroccan decor in here. We also treated ourselves a few times by going out for a nice meal. Usually a tajine; a traditional Moroccan dish. The food is served in the same earthenware plate that it’s cooked in and is covered by a conical lid. Once the dish is served they remove the “hat” and you can enjoy the lovely taste of steamed vegetables and meat. The food here is so good! Besides the tajine we eat a lot of couscous, olives, dates, nuts and bread. Also, the many bakeries sell the most delicious pastries and cookies. It is very hard to resist the urge of trying yet another one of them every time we visit a shop to buy some bread. After two weeks we decided it was time to continue our trip and see what else Morocco has to offer, first destination Ait Mansour.

The oasis of Ait Mansour is very pretty, like any other gorge. We didn’t stay for the night, but instead drove through the gorge and exited on the other side. The road through the oasis was narrow and many palms were hanging low over the road. The roof of the truck had a good brush so we didn’t need to get up there to clean the solar panels that day. The twisting path continued for half an hour and we enjoyed the ride; the shady palms, the tall straight walls of the canyon on either side with special kind of cubical rocks we hadn’t seen before and the houses with their people. The style of the Moroccan houses is quite beautiful; square shaped, bricks covered with plaster, often pinkish, and often a battlement around a roof terrace. The woodworks are decorated with carvings and colored glass is used as a finishing touch. There are still many old houses standing, and luckily the newer ones are build in similar style, making sure it all fits together well. After the gorge the landscape flattened out and we drove on a gravel road towards Tata. We didn’t stay in Tata either, but headed further east and just after Tissint we drove off the tar road onto a track going south towards the Algerian border. Obviously we weren’t going to Algeria. No, we were on the way to M’Hamid partly following a track often used in the Dakar rally. Some people drive the 200km stretch in a day, but we were in no rush at all and did it in four days. Sometimes the track was easy to find and easy to drive, but with our urge for adventure we challenged ourselves a bit. A big part of the route went through Lake Iriki. This is mostly a dry saltpan and rarely a real lake. Many tracks go right through the middle of the various parts of giant flat stretch. Navigating on a flat white surface is a funny thing to do; it’s easy to pick up quite some speed and all you do is drive into the big nothing, following yourself and your direction on the gps. Once we got to the main area of the lake, southeast of Foum Zguid we had to choose were to pass the lake and neighboring Erg Chegaga. Erg Chegaga is a huge sea of sand dunes which we wanted to enjoy and drive in, but not straight through the middle. Passing on the north side is most common, but south was more directly towards M’Hamid. We choose the south route and got some adventure. After following a track for a while it started to bend more south than we wished to go, so we turned east. We still saw some other vehicle tracks and felt ok to follow. The scary thing on a saltpan is that the ground is unstable; it could drop underneath you any moment because it is impossible to say how long it has been dry. We have seen many scary photos of trucks and cars stuck in a saltpan. After our muddy episode in Tanzania we know what it’s like to be stuck and this is not something we fancy again. So, we kept on following the tracks as good as we possibly could, but after a while sand dunes started to block the way. And when there weren’t dunes in the way the surface of the pan was anything but flat. For two hours we drove an average of five km/h until we were surrounded by dunes. We looked at each other and realized that this was not good. We stopped for a small bite and a cup of tea, and after that explored the direct surroundings by foot and by climbing on the roof of the truck. To our surprise and relieve we were not too far from a dry riverbed which seemed to be headed in the right direction, somewhat at least. In one hour the riverbed took us back to track that was on our map and in use; fresh tracks were clearly visible. Exhausted we parked the truck and bush camped close to it. The next day we made it near to M’Hamid when all of a sudden we saw a lot of cars everywhere. We stopped and talked with some of the people and found out that we were on the tracks of a rally, the Mhamid express. It didn’t took long until the first motorbikes showed up, racing through the sand leaving big dust clouds behind, followed by numerous cars, buggy’s and quads. Quite a cool sight and we decided to stay where we were for the day.

The next day we picked up a few breads in M’Hamid and bush camped in the dunes on the other side of the town. The day after we made a short stop in Tagounite before heading onto the tracks again in the direction of Merzouga this time. This stretch can be done in a day if you really want it, but once again time was on our hands and we took three days for it. The track was easy to find this time though the driving was quite hard at times. If anything it should be marked as bumpy and therefore fairly uncomfortable. By the time Merzouga came into sight we were quite fed up with the skippy ball tracks. East of Merzouga lays Erg Chebbi, Morocco’s most famous sea of sand. Here the dunes are quite high and they make an impressive sight. Instead of going to the town we looped eastwards into the sandy dunes. The driving in the sand was great and we found a beautiful camp spot at the foot of a dune. The next day we drove further around the Erg and managed to get bogged in deep sand. Luckily when stuck in sand one can just dig a bit, put sand plates under the wheels and drive one free again. Whole operation was done in half an hour. Afterwards a short visit to the town was planned. Not much was happening there and after a mint tea on a terrace and a small food stock up we left the village again. In the short period of time we spent there we have been asked to go on a camel tour five times. Funny detail; so far we haven’t seen a single camel in Morocco or any other African country whilst camel tours and camel meat and various dishes are served everywhere. Dromedary, however, are found everywhere. Whether we are too lazy to pronounce the two extra syllables or a big mix up has taken place we don’t know.

The next few days we drove once again off road back towards M’Hamid, but on different tracks. We looped around a little more north then when we headed out this way. The track was in general more smooth which made it more pleasant to drive. Perhaps you wonder why we drive so much off road when it seems that it is not very enjoyable. The reason is quite simple; the bush camping along the quiet tracks is amazing. If we have to point out one highlight of our trip it must be the many nights camping in the middle of nowhere. Sorry if we repeat ourselves, but nothing beats sleeping away from everyone and everything. Just you and nature. After sunset when all life retreats, a silence follows, and the silence in combination with darkness is quite something. On nights when the moon is absent you can see stars like a dome over you. Is the moon there you all of a sudden have a shadow in the dark. Things like these we will miss greatly once we are back in Europe. Many times during the last two weeks we noticed great similarity between Morocco and Namibia. It brought back some very good memories. The tracks here in southern Morocco are much like the riverbeds in the north of Namibia, except of course for the wildlife. Though here we’ve seen many dromedary, who are, after all, family of giraffe. In total we drove just over 700km off road in ten days time.

This weekend we will be back in M’Hamid for the very last fun in the sand and here we will meet up again with Nathalie and Hilke, as well as some others we met in Tafraoute. And after that the trip is going to the inevitable north; a drive through the stunning Draa Valley up to Ouarzazate and from there we’re not quite sure, but we will have to cross the Atlas Mountains somewhere. The weather will get colder and wetter as we get closer to home, and it is not going to be easy to say goodbye to the never ending sunshine that has been our companion for so long now, but it’s what will happen soon, unfortunately. Only a few weeks in Morocco, and Africa, are left. We will make the best of them!

Besides the usual photos we’ve also uploaded two new videos and a few panoramas, enjoy.

Till the next one!

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Smelly Business -

428 days 34353km

While we spent six months in South Africa and Namibia we thought we were still in Africa. People were already telling us differently, and sure we did realized that it was a lot more European than all the other countries we visited, but somehow, probably due to smooth transition, we forgot how big the gap really was again. When we got out off the airplane in Dakar, Senegal there was no smooth transition; overnight we were back in Africa, real Africa that is.

Flying is not a hobby of either of us; it’s boring, potentially dangerous and generally just a hassle. It does take you very quick from one place to another, which, in times, can be very handy. We flew from Jo’Burg to Addis Ababa in six hours, a trip that took us nine months to drive. In Addis the Ethiopian people were just as friendly as we remembered, although this time we haven’t been asked for a pen or money. After a five hour layover we took the next plane to Dakar. On the way we made a stop in Bamako in Mali. Can’t say we have really been there, but it was cool to see the city (a lot of sand and no tall buildings) from the sky. We arrived in Dakar end of the afternoon, and after fairly simple customs procedures we got into the city.

After some serious bargaining a taxi took us from the airport to the university area where we would spend our first few nights. The first impression of the city and its inhabitants was quite ok except for the littering that is beyond believe. Although we haven’t mentioned it much lately litter, and especially plastic litter, is everywhere in Africa. Many countries simply don’t have any facilities that deal with waste which results in rubbish dumps anywhere there’s not a house standing, a lot of plastic flying around, hanging in trees and bushes and polluting streams. In the rare case that rubbish is actually collected it is often dumped at the edge of the town or city, and as soon the wind picks up most of it flies straight back to where it came from. Dakar is a city with three million residents and a very limited rubbish system and the result is quite shocking. Because cities are never our favorite place to be and we avoid them as often as we can it would be out of order to say that Dakar is the dirtiest city in Africa. We can, however, say that it is the filthiest place that we have seen on our trip and actually also in our whole life. Open sewers, without significant flow, completely covered in shit and rubbish. Everywhere you’d look a piece of plastic was lying on the floor. In the middle of it all life was happening; goats and other life stock where still finding food in pieces of cardboard and other materials. Around them women would be selling food and the market seemed to be everywhere too. The ocean around the city is polluted as well and many parts are unsuitable for swimming due to the sewer that flows into it. The places where you can swim are not clean either; finding a litter free spot on the beach is impossible and even in the water you’ll be in between rubbish.

The traffic in the city is also quite overwhelming; besides that it is very busy this, too, is very dirty. The majority of the traffic is made up by public transport and taxis. The taxis are mostly old crappy Renaults and Peugeots, all painted in yellow and black and full of dents. The busses are either very colorful and painted in special patterns or plain white Mercedes 508 and the majority of them look like shit. This is definitely the place where all those cars and vans from Europe went after they weren’t allowed on our roads anymore. It is unbelievable that most of them still drive; it says something about the mechanical skills in the African workshops. Whether mother earth agrees is highly doubtable; all those vans and cars are causing very serious pollution. Clouds of black smoke are seen all the time, and we both got throat and nose irritation after we stayed in the city a few days. Nowadays only vehicles of five years and younger may be imported into the country, fortunately. Funny thing is though, the men are all very concerned with keeping their vehicle clean, whilst most men themselves walk around in very dirty clothes, and car washes are found everywhere. These car washes are obviously not like the ones at home; here they consist of a bucket with dirty water and soap and a hard working young man with a sponge. Another part of the traffic is made up of trucks. Mostly brothers and sisters of our truck; the Renault Midliner is king of the road here, though most of them are in some state of decompose. Our shiny orange monster really stood out! Other means of transport are horse and carriage, bicycle, motorbike, scooter and of course just walking.

No doubt that after reading all of this crap you would get out of the city as fast as you could, but no not us. We had to wait for our truck to arrive, remember? So instead we walked hours through the city making our way towards the harbor where we had to find an agent to help us with the clearing on this side. First stop was made was at the office of the shipping line and here we spoke with a friendly man who referred us to a transit office around the corner. At the transit office we sat down with the manager and explained him our case. It became evident that this man was not in the mood for anything out of the ordinary and a lot of sighing is what followed. The man was unfamiliar with the carnet de passage and wanted to send us away after he saw that our truck is from ’96. “No vehicle older than five years enters” he said and wanted to turn away. We objected and he decided to call in for help. A young man showed up who was familiar with the carnet and the procedure and he told his boss that it should be no problem. Still the boss wasn’t convinced, so next step we had to go to the main admin building to get an approval from the head administration. Ok, so we did that and this man guided us back to the boss who then had to agree on taking the job.

The next day we decided that is was time to escape from the city for a bit and we took a ferry to Île de Gorée. This island is a haven of peace; there are no cars and all buildings are still colonial. It’s a bit like a time warp coming from the city, a very pleasant experience. But, Gorée hasn’t always been peaceful like that; back in the day it was a very important place for the slave trade. Especially the Dutch have a very dark piece of history here. We visited a house where slaves used to be kept until ready for transport. A big colonial building with big bright rooms, but underneath all this were small, dark damp rooms where too many people were kept in too small spaces. There was also a display of some of the ‘tools’ used in those days; heavy iron chains and shackles for feet, wrists and neck. Awful to see, but good to be reminded that we are capable of doing the most horrible things to our fellow human beings. Nowadays the island is full of artists, many of whom make the similar art, but some are more original. Nice to see that they actually make use of rubbish for their art; old mobile phones are turned into the body of a puppet amongst other things. The island in general was very clean and people weren’t hustling us all the time.

By the time we had only two days left until the boat arrived we thought it was about time to get in contact with the shipping agent. We could have called, but usually a visit in real life is much more affective so we walked to the harbor once again. At the office the boss was still sighing, but when we told him the boat was coming the day after tomorrow he did seem to wake up a little. The young man was called in once again and we made sure we got his phone number and email address before we left. The next two days we stayed in contact with him and this worked fine.

We stayed in the city for almost two weeks. Luckily we found a relaxed place to stay at via Airbnb. A private room with a shared courtyard and kitchen. This place was quiet and relaxed and had a very fast internet connection which made waiting a little less hard. The city simply doesn’t have that much to offer and being dirty as it is a nice stroll is also out of the question. We killed some time on a few markets in the city. Markets are always quite intense, but quite amazing too. Narrow lanes that seem to go on and on forever filled with the most exotic merchandise. A lot food usually, but also other product like jewelry, household and beauty products and many tailors (mostly men) waiting behind their sewing machines. We bought some beautiful batik, typical fabric with exotic prints and multi color, and enjoyed the eye candy all around us.

On Friday morning the boat arrived! We tried to get the truck back that day, but it was Friday and it didn’t work out. Islam is the main religion in Senegal, 90% of the people are Muslim, and on Friday afternoon is the most important prayer of the week resulting in a lunch break until 3 o’clock. We tried to get the papers sorted after lunch, but by the time we got the office to pay the harbor it was closed. Big pity, because they don’t work in the weekend and we’d come back on Monday morning. Monday morning 8 o’clock we were present at the office of our agent and by nine we were in the harbor. After a few offices and a lot of waiting all paperwork was sorted and just after midday we drove out of the harbor in our truck. Nobody inspected the truck, not even the chassis number was checked before we left. Everything went well with the shipping; no damage to the truck was done, no signs of attempted burglary and the solar panels were still on the roof. We were ready to go.

Close to Dakar is Lac Rose. This lake is about ten times saltier than the ocean and because of this the water often looks pink, hence the name of the place. There’s a lot salt mining happening in the lake and its shores are dotted with heaps of salt where we saw men working hard, filling up big bags in the burning sun, we were told most of it is used on European winter roads. We decided to hang out there for a few days just to unwind from the crazy dirty city life. Lac Rose used to be the finish line for the Dakar rally back when the race still took place in Africa. One day we went for a float on the lake which was a strange experience. Neither of us has been to the Dead Sea, but it is similar to it. After a short swim, you can’t stay in the water long; it damages your skin, we dried up completely white covered in salt crystals. We stayed three nights and then headed north to Saint Louis, the countries supposed to be relaxed colonial city.

Saint Louis is made up of a city on the mainland and two islands along the coast. The main island is reached by a 500 meter long bridge; Pont Faidherbe designed by Gustav Eiffel in the 19th century. Five years ago the bridge has been completely renewed, so we weren’t scared to drive our baby across. This first island is the main attraction because it is still in colonial style and quite well maintained. Walking around here is fairly relaxed; not too much hassling and it is not too busy or dirty. The second island is not quite like that though. Here pollution seemed the key word; everywhere you’d look there was rubbish, it seemed even worse than Dakar. On the south end of this island is a national reserve and this is also where most hotels and campsites are. To get there you have to cross the fish market where all the pirogues, traditional Senegalese boats, come back from sea. The place was crowded with pirogues discharging and trucks packing all the fish, there were numerous people working around and all of this in the middle of piles of rubbish, this time topped with a lot of rotting fish. The smell was… We really hoped that things would be better at the most southern tip of the island since this is a reserve, but it hardly made a difference. It might have been cleaner in the past, but due to the Ebola outbreak two years ago in neighboring countries tourists aren’t coming anymore and most of the hotels seemed in neglect, so perhaps nobody really cares anymore. We had seen enough after two days and headed towards the border with Mauritania.

The border crossing with Mauritania is possibly the most notorious one in the whole of Africa; corruption and chaos are terms often used in relation to the Rosso border. We got there on a Friday and as described before this is not a good day to achieve things in a Muslim country. Mauritania is 99% Muslim, so we intended to cross the next morning, but the officials on Senegalese side seemed very eager and said we should cross now. We got our exit stamps for Senegal, emptied our bottle of alcohol into the river, alcohol is strictly prohibited in Mauritania, and got ready to cross the Senegal River with the barge waiting in front of us. This sounds pretty fast and simple, but while doing all this we had to fight off a group of ‘helpers’ all the time. These ‘helpers’ are actually not very helpful at all; besides the unwanted escort to any of the offices they try to rip you off. And when this doesn’t work out they can get quite intimidating and very annoying above all. It took us an hour and a half before we could get to the other side. By now it was after six o’clock and we expected to find closed offices all over, but this was not the case, though everything needed to be done in a hurry and we got the carnet stamped straight away. Only then the visa appeared closed and we saw ourselves forced to sleep a night at the border. This night, full of noise from people and pirogues and the mosque, we didn’t sleep so very good, but at least we would be first in line next morning. Already at eight in the morning everything seemed to be alive except, of course, the visa office. The officer was supposed to start at ten, but had a little sleep in en showed up half an hour late. Once he was installed things were pretty much done in no time and by eleven we drove out into the sand pit that is called Mauritania. One official inspected the inside the box; a procedure that took no more than one minute in total.

What can we write about Mauritania other than that there is a lot sand? It was very cool to see sand dunes straight away after the border. The beautiful red ones that have the most elegant shapes and take you straight into a 1001 night’s story, with a little bit of imagination that is of course. From the border to Nouakchott, the capital, the landscape is pretty much the same; dry patches of bush land in between a lot of sand with many tiny villages all along the road. Those villages often didn’t consist of more than 20 houses and a mosque. Those houses are like none we saw before; rectangle shaped brick wall up to half a meter high, the walls are made of fencing and covered with fabric that dances in the wind all the way up to the pointy roof which is made out of tinplates. We noticed that the animal shelters were exactly the same except for the fabric around it. Also quite some people still seemed to live in tents, which makes sense since many of them still go by a nomadic existence. We found good places to bush camp and enjoyed the quietness of the desert once again.

Then we got to Nouakchott. It was a Sunday afternoon and we had no intention to stop in the city at all. With the limited maps that we have of the city we thought it was best to stay on the outskirts and get in and out fast and simple. This almost worked out except for the part where there was a market on the way. On both sides of the street stalls were busy selling their goods, many buyers there too, and since it was still the continuing road there was plenty of traffic too, some of it driving and some of it parking in the middle of the road. So quite chaotic but very funny to see. We were happy though once we passed it and found our way out of the city. On the long stretch of road north of Nouakchott there are almost no villages and the landscape gets more boring the more north you get; no dunes, no hills, just flat dry emptiness. Needless to say that Anthony’s birthday passed here without big celebration. The fun parts of Mauritania, further east, are currently not the safest place on earth so we didn’t go there, but instead we headed straight to the border. It took us four days to cross the country and we bush camped every night.

The border with Western Sahara is the last African border crossing on our trip. Here we officially cross into Morocco, who controls the area, and after Morocco we are back in Europe. Getting out of Mauritania was easy and straight forward and took no more than half an hour. To get to WS you have to cross a stretch of land that is referred to as no man’s land, which it isn’t. In fact, the place is quite busy with people either crossing or pick nicking. There is no road and the short crazy bumpy drive reminded us very much of a stretch of land we crossed at Lake Turkana in Kenya. Main difference is that this no man’s land is also a scrap yard full of abandoned cars, some still complete but the majority stripped to the bone.

The formalities at the Moroccan border were very strict and serious, but the officials were very friendly and helpful, not intimidating at all. First off there was a police check where they searched us and checked our passports. Then we had to drive our truck to the side and get our passports stamped, plus we had to collect the needed custom papers. Once all this was done a team of officials wanted to search the truck. We always tell officials that our steps are broken and that they have to jump into the box. We are quite trained in this by now and for us the action takes little effort, however, when you are not used this it is quite a climb; the door is at 1.50. Often it resulted in only one, if any, official entering the box and this time was no exception. The young men did a proper but superficial inspection and we were asked many times if we had any fire arms or other weapons with us, which we didn’t. Once the check was done we needed another stamp before we could take the truck to the scanner. All vehicles going north had to go through a scanner, or x-ray machine, before you are allowed to enter the country. Obviously we didn’t have any weapons hidden anywhere so we were allowed to enter Morocco, the whole operation took two hours.

Once the gate opened we almost couldn’t leave. The queue to get into the border was four lanes thick and completely blocking the way. We managed to squeeze through by entering a petrol station and wait for the traffic to clear. So, here we stood in our final African country. The landscape in Western Sahara is very boring, mostly very flat with nothing to see on it. Sometimes a sand dune appears out of nowhere, the dunes here are white and not red like in Mauritania, but that’s it. Often we drive close to ocean, but after a while the waves don’t offer any distraction either. Christmas came and went like that. The only Christmas tree we’ve seen was in an office in Senegal, other than that we haven’t noticed it all. We have been camping in the wild somewhere on the coast all the way to Laayoune, the capital of WS, where we are right now.

Some 400 km north of here a free festival takes place for New Years Eve. Many people from Europe join this party and we too are going to be part of it. The next few days we will make our way up there and after the party we wish to explore Morocco for a while. In that way we make the best of last month’s travelling while winter passes in Europe.

We have added a view extra photos to the South Africa map containing pics from our last weekend there. We went on a trip to the Oribi Gorge with Ryno, a South African guy we met in Durban which was great fun. And of course we have added photos of the above. (Don’t worry there is no smell with it!)

Happy New Year everyone, see you next year!

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Turning point -

401 Days 32409km

From sticky Durban we report back to you for the last time in South(ern) Africa. We have been driving in Africa for almost a year now and soon we will catch a plane to Senegal. This is the final chapter of our adventure in the southern hemisphere, and we will miss it!

Last time we wrote about our stay at the Walker family; ten days off the road enjoying the peacefulness of family life. When we left them we first set of to pick up the spare tires on the other side of Pretoria. We were meeting a guy called Ronald, originally Dutch but in SA for 30+ years, who lived somewhere in the wild not too far from the city. He has a thing with overlanders and many of them stop at his place to recuperate or relax for a few days. We came to pick up two spare tires and stayed only for one night, unfortunately we couldn’t stay any longer. When we left the next the day we set off to Kruger National Park, with two tires on the back of the truck which felt very good.

The drive to Kruger was pretty boring over a tar road, we didn’t take the motorway because it is a toll road, but instead we took the parallel road that at least took us through villages and little cities. We slept in the wild one night before we got to the park. On the way we almost got caught speeding; apparently we missed a sign saying max speed 60 because the officer showed the recording of us driving 75 down the hill. It took a lot of convincing power, but in the end they let us go with a warning. It is unbelievable how relatively easy it still is in SA to talk your way out of a fine. So we proceeded to the NP and entered Kruger at the Punda Maria gate. Our plan was to drive from the north to the south and somewhat halfway we would exit for a few days to pick up our friend who was coming to visit.

The first few days in the park we saw mainly elephants and buffalos, loads of them. Big troops everywhere, it was quite an impressive sight. At night at the campsites hyena would circle the fences looking for food. So far we only saw hyena from far, but this time they were less than a meter away with only a wire fence in between. We stayed six nights in the park and camped on big and small campsites. We were getting up quite early, around five, to go on early game drives. It paid off; we saw a family of lion on the road one morning, it was drowsy weather and the lions were very dirty, getting ready to hunt. We also saw two cheetahs’s a little further away from the road. And finally another big family of lion also quite far from the road. And of course we saw loads of other animals as well; they are all there!

Once we got half way down the park we headed in the direction of Hoedspruit. Here we were picking up Angela, but we had another reason to go there as well. Via via we were in contact with Shirley-Anne who does really good work with local communities in the Hoedspruit area. She is the SA director of SAME a non-profit organization run entirely by volunteers. They do many good things for children who’ve lost their parents to HIV/AIDS. A few of the great things they do is provide a daily meal to over 60 children, handing out food parcels once a month to 47 families, and last but certainly not least make them feel loved again. All the projects are run by local volunteers; people who want to improve things in their own community, and not by (white) people from overseas. We believe that this is a very constructive way to help; empowering people instead of doing the work for them. Shirley-Anne is a very passionate woman and it has been a great pleasure to spent time with her and her husband Frank. We did two cinema projections, one at a kindergarten and one at the open air kitchen where they prepare the meals for the children every day. In between the two we picked up Angela in Hoedspruit, and it was great to see a familiar face after such a long time.

We stayed with Shirley-Anne for four days and one day she took the time to take us up to the Blyde River Canyon. Normally as a tourist you will only visit the west bank of the canyon, but she took us up onto the east side where steep cliffs add a bit of extra drama to already breath taking view. There was only one little problem; the top of the cliff was covered with a thick layer of clouds! We hung around for a while and eventually the clouds did break up a bit giving us a view on the only green canyon in the world. After four days we said goodbye and the three of us headed back into Kruger.

Beginners luck is always useful and we hoped that it would turn out for the best on Angela’s first game drive ever. It turned out that indeed she is lucky, because we saw many animals including several predators. The cherry on the pie came in the shape of a leopard in a tree. Quite well hidden, but due to a large collection of cars on the road trying to get a glimpse of the beauty in the tree we managed to spot it. The cat just ate and kept a bit of his prey for later on the branch next to him while he was resting; quite a sight! In the very southern part of the park we spotted many rhinos; these animals are amongst the most endangered species at the moment. Apparently the demand for the horn of the rhino is bigger than ever, with trade reaching peak levels in Asia, especially in Vietnam. The most endangered predator we unfortunately didn’t see, despite our great effort the wild dog remains on our “to spot list”. With his social group behavior and extraordinary hunting tactics this is a one of a kind predator. Unfortunately the animal is nearly extinct; estimates say that there are only about 6600 wild dogs left in the world! In Kruger there are 350 wild dogs living, too bad we didn’t get to see some of them.

We exited the park in the south at the Malelane gate where we proceeded to the village Malelane. Here we were meeting up with Louis and Monja, friends of Stephan and Anna from Somerset West. Angela had her first braai this night, an important cultural event, and we enjoyed a delicious diner all together. When we continued our way we headed into Swaziland, a small country landlocked by SA and Mozambique. In the north part of the country the logging industry seemed to be the main industry; acres full of eucalyptus trees, and all states of logging going on. We bush camped a night close to one of the logging camps. The next day we went to the Hlane Royal National Park.

The whole stretch in the east of east of SA has been dry, very dry even; people and animals are desperate for rain. It seemed that the further south we were getting the dryer it was becoming. After some enquiries we learned that it hadn’t rain in Hlane for two years now. They’ve had the occasional drizzle, but the last serious down pour was two years in the past! No wonder that the park was dry as a bone; not a single green leave on the bushes. The few animals we saw wandered around the campsite were a small waterhole provided the very much needed daily drink. They were very skinny without exception showing bones and many of them had problems with their skin/coat. We did do a game drive, but after a zillion scratches on the truck and the next branch too low for the truck to pass, we aborted the mission and returned to the campsite. This was without a doubt the most serious account of drought we had seen so far and it was bad. Hopefully rain will come, but we heard that the signs aren’t good and people are preparing for the biggest drought in twenty years. In the southern part of the country we drove through endless fields of sugarcane; this is the country’s biggest export product. Before we realized it we reached the SA border again; after an easy crossing we thought it was about time for some fun on the beach.

Shirley-Anne tipped us about a wonderful place on the coast called Mabibi, part of the St. Lucia Wetlands sanctuary. To get there we drove through another eucalyptus plantation before reaching the kilometers long dunes that we had to cross on sandy tracks. The last stretch was quite a challenge; we only just fit under the branches. When we reached the campsite however we couldn’t enter; low hanging branches blocked the way and we had to cut them before we could enter. The camp existed of narrow sand tracks through thick woodland, we were bordering the coastal forest, and after a walk around we concluded that there was only one site that we could fit in, and to get there we would probably only have to cut two or three branches. Well, that’s what we thought, in reality we ended up sawing ranches for over two hours! Luckily it was only 35° and sunny, man what a job, but it was all worth the effort; once we were on the campsite peace came over us. It was so beautiful there and since we were the only campers on the whole campsite it felt like we were alone in the world. The beach was a short walk and a 158 steps stairs away and we enjoyed the warm and clear water of the Indian Ocean a lot. On our last night we were supposed to go and see the turtles lay eggs on the beach. Unfortunately our guide never showed up and without apology we got our money back the next day. Such a pity that we missed this unique opportunity. We spent four days in paradise. On the way back to reality something happened; we messed up another tire; again a small sharp cut branch hidden in the grass just on the side of the track. This time it was the left rear tire, but the cut was similar to the previous two. We absolutely didn’t expect to need our new 2nd hand spares that fast, but what luck we picked them up! For now we left the tire on; only when it explodes we would change it.

Our next stop was supposed to be the Hluhluwe–Imfolozi National Park, but a striking community changed our plans. It happens quite often that a community goes on strike and by doing so they put up road blocks and no traffic can pass. We saw ourselves forced to either take a massive detour or spent some days somewhere else on the beach. We decided on the second option; Sodwana Bay, also part of the St Lucia Wetlands, was close by and we headed there. This is supposed to be the best snorkel spot on the coast so we took our chance and booked a snorkel tour. The sea was quite rough and the weather overcastted, but nevertheless we would be able to snorkel. It turned out to be a fiasco; the gear wasn’t functioning well, the sea was too rough and dark to see anything. We ended up spending most time on the boat with the result of both of us puking overboard. Only Angela managed to keep her breakfast inside. Our guide was embarrassed about the whole situation, but already warned us that getting a refund was going to be complicated. And indeed, they didn’t want to refund “a bad experience”, company policy they said. In the end we managed to get money back for one of us because Anthony’s mask broke pretty much the second he hit the water. Well, that was the worst snorkel experience ever; we tried to forget about it as soon as we could.

After two days we heard the road was open again and we drove to Hluhluwe–Imfolozi National Park, the only park in the world where the rhino is not under threat. We saw rhino a lot, as expected, but no matter how hard we searched again no sight of the wild dog. After the first day of driving we headed towards the exit when the tire exploded. We were still in the park, not far from a waterhole, but really couldn’t drive any further. So, on the side of the road we got to work. This time we had to set a record for safety reasons! We left Angela in the cabin with the music on loud; she was our alarm system in case a predator would show up. A few cars passed asking questions like; “aren’t you scared?” which was really helpful. But we did what we had to do and within an hour we changed the tire, definitely a record! We then exited the park and slept on the parking after asking permission from the gate manager. Just after sunset a lion appeared; this was quite exciting for us as there was no fence in between us, but she had no interest in us at all. All she wanted was something to drink, because here too the drought was beginning to have some serious consequences for the animals. We watched her for a bit and then withdraw ourselves for the night. The next day we had a very special moment when we spotted two cheetahs; a mother and her cub resting under a tree not too far from the road. Again no dogs, and so we have to accept that we will not see any wild dogs on this visit to Africa. It does give us an extra reason to come to Africa again, in case we still didn’t have enough excuses to return.

Our before last stop was in St Lucia, a small touristic village on the coast, also part of the St Lucia Wetlands Sanctuary. Here we saw hippos for the very last time on this trip, after so many sightings of them they are still a favorite to see and hear. St Lucia is very green and the environment is very lush; a very welcome chance after all the super dry areas we visited before. Still, even here they were desperate for rain, and luckily they had some while we were there. Not the best for us, but we do care more about nature than about an hour sunbathing on the beach. After two nights we left and drove in one go to Durban.

We stayed once again at Smith’s Cottage where we could park on the side of their premises. We had three days in the city before Angela returned home. One of them we spent walking around the centre and the beach. In the morning the weather was really bad, but in the afternoon it cleared up and we enjoyed lunch on the boulevard. Luckily for Angela the sun did show his face again before she left and the last hours were spent on the edge of the swimming pool. After we said goodbye to her it was strangely quiet in the truck; we will miss her and her humor a lot.

We visited a shipping agent and the shipping company. Due to Anthony’s preparation everything was clear and after meeting Naresh of Viking Shipping we decided to work with him. It turned out to be a good decision; he was very clear in his communication and kept things as simple as possible. The ship that we would sail with, the Hoegh Trooper, arrived two days ahead of schedule in the harbor which meant that we didn’t have time to wait around and get nervous too much. On the day we had to deliver the truck in the harbor Naresh stayed with us the whole time and made sure that everything was okay. On the 25th the ship sailed and it should arrive in Dakar, Senegal on the 11th of December.

We are now enjoying our last week in South Africa. We have really enjoyed our time here (to prove it; we leave by plane one hour before our three month visa expires!). We drove a bit more than 7000km in this massive country and still haven’t seen enough of it. We met some really special people here and have been time and time again surprised by the welcoming open minded nature of many people. The country still has a lot challenges to face; we heard so many different opinions about the past, present and future of this country that is very hard to say something real about it. Many people were happy and hopeful, even amidst the big struggle that some of them were facing every day. Respect!

Till the next time!

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All the way down -

352 days 29091km

It seems a bit unreal; writing from South Africa. We drove here! Of course this was the plan and we always believed we would make it, but still, to be here feels like a massive achievement. This giant of a country of rooibos tea, droë wors and biltong is a very relaxed place to be and we are enjoying all the beauty of it every day again.

We crossed the border at Vioolsdrif in the northwest; this is the main border crossing with Namibia. As expected it was a, for Africa, very serious border crossing; an official even wanted to have a look inside the box, something that hadn’t happened since we crossed into Ethiopia. But serious or not, it was a fast crossing and we were granted three months time in SA.

The northwest is called Namaqualand and it is known for its emptiness and for its wildflowers. In spring, which is now, the empty hills and fields fill up with color as the wildflowers blossom. A beautiful sight; fields full with purple, white, yellow and orange flowers, sometimes as far as the eye can see. We were there at the beginning of this all. After the months in dry Namibia it was amazing to see so many green hills and so many colors all along the way. The drive down to Cape Town went fast with such pretty scenery.

Cities are not our favorite place to be and arriving in a metropolis like CT can cause some stress. On our last day at Ngepi we met two journalists from a South African travel magazine (Go/Weg) they told us to come and see them in CT when we would be there so we contacted them before we got there and this was our first destination. Their office is in the middle of the centre so we had to park somewhere else. Looking on the map we decided that the touristic Victoria and Alfred Waterfront would probably be our best bet. It is always good to have a destination rather than driving around trying to find a place, and it was for this reason that the stress levels stayed at a minimum. We followed directions from the gps, took only one wrong turn, and drove straight up to the tour bus parking lot next to the waterfront. This turned out to be a very lucky shot; we stayed here for two nights. From here we walked into the centre and met with the guys, Toast and François. They gave us some good tips about what to do in CT and we had a nice chat over coffee. Toast wrote a little piece on us on the website of the magazine. After a stroll down Longstreet, the city’s famous backpacker’s street we went to the French embassy to pick up a parcel; our carnet de passage (sort of the passport of the truck) had expired and we ordered a new one from France. The embassy is located next to the Companies Garden, a beautiful garden that dates back to the time of the Dutch East Indian Company. History is everywhere in CT; from historic and colonial buildings to the people and their neighborhoods, everything tells a story and one could spend many weeks wandering around discovering it all. We didn’t have that much time, but a visit to Table Mountain couldn’t be skipped.

Table Mountain; a flat gigantic rock that rises a 1000m out above the greater CT area. Not always visible; often a ‘table cloth’ of clouds hangs over the top of the mountain, but on our second day in CT the mountain was clearly visible and we took the cable cart up. The mountain is one of the main attractions of the city and sometimes the queue can be hours long, but we were just at the right time and needn’t to wait. On the top of the mountain the view is astonishing; you can see for miles in all directions and the many bays the surround the city are a pretty sight from the top. We hiked down the mountain on the east side into the Kirstenbosch botanical gardens. This was quite a hike (four hours) with some difficult passages and the last leg we actually had to decent in a waterfall. There wasn’t much water, but still.

The peninsula south of CT is quite a special place; little villages dotted amongst white sandy beaches and green cliffs. We exited CT and drove on the Atlantic coastline down Chapman’s Peak where the cliff reaches a height of almost 600m. We slept many nights on parking’s close to the beach and one morning a lovely woman, Gervaise, came to see us on her morning walk with her child and dogs. She welcomed us in the quiet village of Scarborough and asked if we needed anything before inviting us into her home. Through her we got in contact with a woman, Josefien, who lived in the township Red Hill, five kilometers further on where we went to do a cinema that night. We were a bit nervous for this screening because many people in Red Hill have a big flat screen TV and satellite television; would we be able to compete with that? Yes! We could, the kids were dancing to the music and watching with open mouth, great again.

We also went to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. This park covers the whole south end of the peninsula. Cape of Good Hope, often referred to as the southernmost part of Africa, but this is not true; Cape Algulhas, 150km east, is a little more south. However, to get to Cape Point felt quite mighty; we actually drove all the way there! It felt a bit unrealistic, but the super strong wind woke us up and placed us right back on earth so we could enjoy the magic of this site. Officially this is not where the two oceans meet (once again this is at Cape Algulhas), but it does feel like it; the Atlantic to your right and the Indian to your left. We walked from Cape Point to Cape of Good Hope and sucked in all the history of this place. We didn’t see the Flying Dutchman; perhaps the weather was too good for him to show up.

The next few days we stopped in Kalk’s Bay, a little town on the waterfront. Once a haven for hippies, now merely a touristic hang out. Gervaise offered us a free stay in her holiday apartment here and we accepted with much pleasure. It was a little weird to sleep somewhere but the truck, but we enjoyed the home feeling for a few days. The next stop on our way was Somerset West. Here we were meeting the Durand Family. The mother of the family, Anna, is the sister of the wife of Volker (the photographer form Walvis Bay) and before we left Namibia we had to promise to go and see them, so we did. The father, Stephan, welcomed us and straight away we felt very welcome. The three kids are lovely too and we spent a beautiful three days with them. On our first day there we met up with another journalist from Cape Town. This time it was for the Wegsleep magazine, from the same publisher as the Go/Weg only this one is a travel magazine specialized in campers and caravans. They wanted to do an article about us so we sat down with them and had an interview. The magazine is published at the end of October, so we’ll be around to buy it. It’s written in Afrikaans though, so reading it will be a little tricky, but we’ll see how far we get.

We visited a wine farm in Somerset West, after all we were in the heart of South Africa’s wine production region, and did a little tasting; wine and chocolate, and the only conclusion can be that they go very well together. We had a nice time with Stephan and Anna and we would have loved to stay longer, but our plan to be in Durban by the end of the month already got a week delayed. We headed for Hermanus next. Here we were meeting with the mother and brother of a good friend from home.

Hermanus is known for the whales who come to breed in the springtime. Right now it is spring here and we were lucky to see quite a few whales. The ocean is very deep in Hermanus and because of this is a perfect place to see whales from the shore. We sat down on the cliff a few hours and watched many giants swim and jump by. Very special to see up close, though we have to admit that they aren’t the prettiest animals we’ve seen. We stayed four days enjoying the nature; we did some hiking on the hills covered with fijnbos, a typical growth which blossoms year round and whale watching of course. And the company of Marianne (the mom of our friend) was very pleasant; she made us feel at home and went the extra mile to make our stay extra special. Once again it was difficult to leave.

Our next stop was Cape Agulhas, the real most southern point of Africa, there where the oceans meet. To be fair, Cape Point is far more impressive, but stand there next to the sign was quite something. Since there really wasn’t much to see or do there we continued towards Suurbraak, a small village on the foot of the Langeberg Range. After spending quite some time following the coast we found ourselves in the forest which was a pleasant change. After Suurbraak we crossed the mountains and made our way to the famous route 62. This route is touristic; the longest wine route in the world with many different landscapes along the way, it was a very scenic route to drive. We saw loads of ostrich on the way and many farms even invite you to come and ride on one; it was tempting, but no… we didn’t do it. We did stop at a wine farm, the Grundheim wine farm to be exact. Here we were welcomed with homemade champagne by Dani and Susan who are good friends of Stephan from Somerset West. As it was National Braaiday we had a braai; officially this is heritage day, but for a lot of people it better known as Braaiday. We haven’t really mentioned many of them, but the number of braai we had on the way is hard to count by now. The next day Dani took us on a tour into the cellar where barrels full of wine and brandy are stored. It was our first visit to a wine cellar ever and it was quite interesting to see. We said goodbye to both of them and continued our way into the garden route, another very touristic, but beautiful route.

We drove a long day, passing stunning landscapes and small villages before reconnecting with the N2; we had to drive a little bit on the main road. We planned to stop around Knysna, but couldn’t find a quiet spot so we decided to drive on and make it to Stormriver that same day. Just before the town we passed the Bloukransbridge, and this bridge is the place where you can do a bungee jump. Not just any jump, no, the highest bridge bungee jump in the world; the bridge is 216m high. Already back home we decided to do the jump, but the closer we got to actual point the more scared one of us was becoming (we’ll leave it up to you to guess who, but it’s pretty obvious). In order to assure that both of us would do it we pre-booked the jump so there was no way back. We slept a night on the parking and the next morning at nine o’clock we signed up. After putting on a harness we joined a group of 13 others towards the bridge. Under the bridge a walkway has been created, the walk is a few minutes and the floor exists of gauze, making it already exciting just to get to the point. We joined the group last and therefore we had to wait until 12 others jumped before us. Some people jumped off with great pleasure while others more or less had to force themselves over the edge. Quite nerve wrecking, but we were both there to jump, so that’s how it happened. Marije got to go first and after her another girl jumped giving her enough time to get back up and wish Anthony good luck. The moment that you are on the edge and ready to jump lasts forever. The freefall lasts only four seconds and it’s another three before the bungee pulls you back up. The first few seconds of freefall are crazy, but really it’s over before you realize you’ve jumped; all in all it takes less than a minute. We both felt it was exhilarating, though way to short! So at just after ten in the morning, high on adrenaline, we were on the road again.

We drove to Jeffrey’s Bay, or JBay, one of the most popular surf towns of South Africa. Instead of surfing we did a little shopping spree; all surf brands have a factory outlet shop here, and since not many of our clothes have survived our trip down Africa we thought it a good idea to stock up a little.

So at least when we come home we’ll represent able; here nobody really cares whether your clothes are dirty or ripped, but in Europe it is slightly different, right? We enjoyed watching surfers later that day, people of all ages seemed to join in, pretty cool.

We left the coast, continued our trip inlands and made it to Addo Elephant National Park. We have bought a wildcard and with this wildcard we have free access to almost all parks in SA. Addo was quite nice; we took two days to see the park and enjoyed it very much. We saw loads of animals and the weather was really good too. The highlights were a rhino that came quite close to us, a few elephants that were drinking close by, a buffalo taking a mud bath and we spotted one of only eight lions in the park; a very big and lazy male lion. On entry we were given a map with on the reverse a list of animals with a box to check if spotted; we checked half of them, not a bad score. From Addo we drove north, on the way we stopped two times at a farm for the night, and every time the people welcomed us very friendly. The farmer’s wife at the second farm send us somewhere in the village nearby. We had no idea where we were going, nor what we would find, but we were given a bottle of fresh milk to deliver and so we did. A woman, Ruth, awaited us and she greeted us with open arms. The reason we were send there was because she makes clothes from very colorful fabrics. These fabrics originate in Germany, but are now exclusively made in SA, Blaudruck they are called, and they remind a bit of the traditional batik prints that we saw all over East Africa. Ruth makes clothes for men, women and children (click here for her website) and we were both given a beautiful piece from her collection. We hope to see her again someday.

So far SA has been feeling very much like Europe again; the way the country is organized, the infrastructure, the people (many whites) and even the climate; they all feel like (southern) Europe. We didn’t felt like we were in Africa anymore. In a way this was pleasant, but we did miss Africa; the people on the streets everywhere, cattle all around, food stalls along the way. As you all know until recently SA had the apartheid regime. We don’t think it needs any explanation. In the beginning of the nineties things changed and the release of Nelson Mandela was an act that brought hope to the people of SA. During the apartheid years the black people were forced to live in townships around the cities and in remote areas that seemed of no use to the whites. So it happened that the more than 80% of the population ended up living in an area that consisted of less than 15% of the countries surface. You can understand that certain areas got very crowded whilst others stayed open and remote. So far we had been in white men land, but now we were entering Transkei, or Wildcoast as it is officially named nowadays. Transkei is where the majority of the black population was forced to go live, and where they still live nowadays.

We crossed the Kei River and straight away we were back in Africa. Unfortunately the weather was very bad, but still we saw people and cattle on the road, huts instead of houses and minibuses instead of big four wheel drives. We passed the towns where Nelson Mandela was born and grew up before getting into Mthatha, the biggest city in Transkei. This city was crazy busy with not a single spot unused. Anywhere you’d look something was happening. We didn’t stop, but drove through and headed back to the coast, to Port St John to be precise. We stayed for three days at second beach, a quiet beach a few km out of town. For a change we stayed at a backpacker’s hostel. Durban was only two days away and it was time to sort out the shipping. We headed for the city on Monday.

We found a place to stay without difficulties. The shipping agent was only half hour walking away from there which was very convenient. We met straight away that Monday afternoon and after half an hour talking we made a reservation on a RORO vessel somewhere half November. And that was it; all the paperwork and payments need to be done about a week before departure so our predicted stay of four days in Durban changes into a one night visit. It seemed silly to hang around the city longer than necessary, so we left again the next morning.

We debated a long time whether or not to go to Lesotho. We wanted it badly, but we weren’t sure if it was a smart idea to take the infamous Sani Pass without a spare tire. We knew that the pass is notorious for its steep slopes; you climb 800m over a stretch of 7km, but this didn’t scare us. The rocks, and in particular the sharp rocks, on the sides worried us. People who don’t drive a truck can’t estimate if a road is too small for us; they try, but often they are wrong. We have met some other truck travelers who made it through and we decided to go for it. After all, if we would need a spare tire they were only a day driving away. We approached the Sani Pass from the south side. At the SA side the road is really insane; hairpin bends, gravel and rocks, and amazing views of course. The drive was slow; it took us two hours to climb 1200m over a distance of 27km. The start of the pass is already at a height of 1600m and the first 15km you climb, but nothing serious, until you get to the SA border post. From there on it starts to climb fast. Once at the top the Lesotho border post awaits. It’s almost as if you have to earn your way in, because as soon you are in the Kingdom in the Sky, the road is brand new Chinese tar, and easy going. We drove through Lesotho in three days and bush camped on the way. Lesotho is quiet and relaxed, the people are friendly and technology has not made a full entry yet here. The people live in traditional round stone huts with thatched roofs as well as more modern stone houses. We’ve seen agriculture in most villages and there wasn’t too much begging going on. The mountain slopes are green, the summits high and the little water that remains in the rivers is crystal clear. Life didn’t seem too bad at all in Lesotho.

We drove passed Johannesburg, better known as Jo’burg, but didn’t visit the city eventhough the city has a few interesting sites and museums; we will keep this for another visit. We headed towards Pretoria where we were meeting up with sister number three; Louisa. After the great times with Maria and Anna we assumed she would be a great woman too and it turned out that we were right. We arrived at their house on Saturday and expected to stay for one maybe two nights. We met the Walker family; Johnie Walker (really!) Louisa Walker, their two kids and three dogs, and as a bonus we got to meet the grandmother, Louisa or Ouma, as well. When we arrived we had a small problem with the clutch that we wanted to fix while we were there. We had to wait to get information about the shipping anyways, it seemed smart to make best use of the time. While fixing the clutch we learned that the shipping company we wanted to use wasn’t sailing in November, but luckily there were more options. We have made a booking on a RORO (roll on-roll off) vessel for the end of November. We expected to ship half November, so all of a sudden we had two more weeks time. Meanwhile Anthony and Johnie were taking half the truck apart; since there was some extra time they fixed a lot things that needed to be done, but weren’t urgent. This will save us a lot of time and money when we come home again. They started off with the brakes; new brake pads for all four wheels. When this was sorted they decided that instead of fixing the exhaust with yet another tin can it was best to welt the whole thing. So after a few hours of scratching and welding they installed an as good as new exhaust. Last but not least; a final attempt to fix the everlasting oil leak in the front right hub. After our last repair it still leaked a little bit of oil, which is strange cause we did the same fix on the other side and it is working perfect now. Hopefully the new sleeve and seal will keep all the oil inside; we don’t want to mess up our new break pad immediately and we also believe that by now we tried hard enough to get it sorted. In the mean time Marij was keeping busy with cooking and talking with Ouma over many cups of tea. She lives in her own apartment attached to the family house and is a massive help in keeping the daily routine going. It was lovely to spent time with her. The whole setup works out so good for everyone, and it was a true delight to be part of this harmonious family for a week and half, because that is in the end how long we stayed; eleven days! We have done a bit of sightseeing in the city, we went to a rugby game, unfortunately the Blue Bulls lost. In the weekend we made a trip with the family and did a canopy tour; zip lines in beautiful nature!; We also visited the Cradle of Humankind; a world heritage site where human remains as old as 2.3 million years were found. We had a very wonderful time with the Walker family and saying goodbye was very very hard. We will definitely miss the Johnnie Walker nightcaps with Johnie Walker that we had many nights to protect us from the mosquitoes.

We have spent seven weeks in SA now and still have five weeks to go, but we already know that it is by far not enough to see all that we want to see. Next destination is close by; picking up the new second hand spare tires east of Pretoria, before we continue north to Kruger National Park where we will spent about a week. From there we go back south, through Swaziland and then follow the coast back to Durban. As a massive surprise we have our friend Angela coming over from the Netherlands. She will join us for three weeks from Kruger to Durban. Our Adventure in the south is not finished yet, but sadly enough it’s getting nearer. We will enjoy our final weeks as much as we can and will report back to you when the truck is on the way to Senegal.

Till next time!

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Planet Solo -

305 days, 25288 km

Namibia is a great country; great not only in surface, but also in nature and space. Just over two million people live in this country, and its size is about one and a half time France. We found lush green riverside swamps, sand dunes, mountains, plains and everything/nothing in between. People are hardly seen anywhere. You can (or not) imagine the remoteness, the calm and peace that we have experienced here and honestly, it has been greater than great.

The first six weeks we spent at Ngepi camp in the Caprivi Strip. The landscape here is green; there is loads of water, the Okavango River with all its side streams provides life to a lush landscape and to many animals that habitat in the area. There are two national parks just around the corner from Ngepi Camp, and we definitely made use of their close proximity. Mahango NP was the nearest and we’ve been there a few times, each time was good for close up elephants, bathing hippos and giraffes. On the other side of the river lays Bwabwata NP, from the dining area at Ngepi we had view on this park; it turned every meal we had at the camp into a game viewing opportunity. One day we drove the truck to the other side and made a first stop at the Popa Falls, they are a few kilometers upstream from Ngepi, where the water of the Okavango River drops two meters down. Later we proceeded into the Bwabwata NP and had a lovely drive, we saw quite some buffalo and at one moment a herd of sable antelope crossed the road running in front of us. We had a lovely time at Ngepi Camp; the work we did was relaxed, the environment was beautiful and we had nice colleagues to share all this with. It could have been difficult to leave, but the next destination on our route was Etosha National Park and this was a place we couldn’t wait to see. We left Ngepi at the end of July, being sent off by Bianca, Blythe and Susie, and hit the road for a two days drive to Etosha National Park.

When we left the Caprivi Strip the landscape changed straight away. From green and lush we went to arid bush land. Dust was once again everywhere and all plants and trees along the road looked extremely thirsty. It had been a while since it rained here, for us too, the last downpour was more than four months ago. It assures good game viewing though; the animals are very visible since there aren’t many green leaves to shelter them or bushes to hide behind. We booked three nights on two different campsites in the park and stayed four days driving around. It is hard to start explaining how fantastic it was, but we have to try it somehow. So, here are some of the animals we saw; lion, ostrich, hyena, giraffe, elephant, rhino, warthog, jackal, eagle, springbok, kudu, gemsbok, wildebeest, zebra, hartebeest, impala and honey badger. Highlight of all was when we were driving and all of a sudden a lioness crossed the road. Soon after a lion followed and the couple decided to lay themselves down just a few meters from the road in the shade of a small tree. We stopped right in front of them and stared at them for about twenty minutes when they started to mate. Mating is quite intense for lions; they do it every twenty minutes for four days in a row, and indeed as we stayed and watched for longer they did it again. Another special event occurred the last day we were in the park. Etosha NP has many waterholes where the animals come to drink, especially in the dry season this is where you see all of them passing by. Until recently tourist could only visit the eastern side of the park and would find the western half closed off as a research area. However, since the beginning of this year the whole park is accessible, but not many people drive to the western gate yet as it is quite far and off the common touristic route. We did visit the western side and at one of the waterholes we saw lions eating a baby elephant. Unfortunately we didn’t witness the kill, but we saw two lions feasting and after the lions were done seventeen jackals finished the job. This was such a perfect finish to an already amazing three night stay in the park. High on animal sightings we left the park.

West of Etosha Kaokoland begins. This is the most remote part of Namibia. The Himba people live here, they are known for their use of ochre on their bodies and hair. You find a few kind of animal that have adapted to desert lifestyle, but mostly it is dry desert terrain without much going on at all. We drove the Khowarib 4×4 Trail in the direction of Sesfontein. This trail is not easy to drive, but if you make it, it could be an absolute highlight. And this is what is was for us too; the majority of the trail followed the riverbed that was mostly dry and consisted of deep loose sand. Throughout the years the river has created a deep canyon and many times we had to stop and awe at the beauty that was 360 degrees around us. We didn’t encounter any other vehicles on the trail, but we did see some giraffe and oryx. One night we slept in the riverbed and it was extremely peaceful; not a single sound in the night sky. Towards the end of the trail you exit the river and drive over big boulders, but at a certain point you need to decent one final time to cross the river again. The decent is steep, very steep, and it is for many a reason not to take this trail. We had to fill up some holes in the slope and take it really slow, but made it without too much trouble. On the other end of the trail waits the little town Khowarib where we didn’t stay because we were meeting some other travelers at the Ongongo Hot Spring.

Our visits to hot springs have ended in deep disappointment throughout the trip, so without much hope for something good this time we arrived at the Ongongo Community Campsite. Here we were meeting a French family (www.dacaluf.com) who are traveling in a similar truck. They have been in South America for two years and will travel this year from Cape Town back to France through East Africa and the Middle East. We knew they were somewhere in the area and contacted them. After all, how many Renault Midliner trucks travel the world? Before departure many people said we were completely mad/stupid to take a French truck to Africa, but we believe that after 25000km we may say it has proven to be a good decision. It seemed like a cool idea to meet this other truck and take a few nice pictures together. We arrived at the campsite first; it was hot so we went looking for the hot spring. This time it was not a disappointment; crystal clear water was plunging down a waterfall into a natural pool. We dove in and enjoyed the water for a while, a fresh beer accompanied us; life was treating us very good. The family showed up and after they had their swim we all sat down for drinks and travel talk. Their truck is the older brother of ours; the first model of the Midliner series build in 1981, we have the last model of this series build in 1996. They have been on quite an adventurous tour so far and it was nice to talk about travel and truck stuff with people who know. It was a late night and the next morning we easily dismissed the plan to continue our way that day. We didn’t want to stay another night at the campsite though, so we drove with the two trucks up some hills in the close surrounding and enjoyed each other’s company for another day and night. We shared travel tips and then headed in different directions; we were traveling in exact opposite direction, so joined travel was not in it for us.

From Ongongo we drove to Sesfontein. We tried to stock up some food before heading into the wilderness, but they didn’t sell any vegetables at all; no potatoes, tomatoes or even onions. A bag of cornflower and some bottles of coke had to do. Well, before Etosha we stocked up on tin food, we were going to need it. The trip continued towards Purros, the trail leading here was good. Sometimes nothing more than tire tracks in the sand, but no obstacles or difficult passages. Just before we reached Purros we encountered the first big dunes. By now we were in the Namib Desert, the oldest desert in the world. Arid landscapes, red dunes, mountains and canyons; this was our world for the next week. Seeing only a handful of vehicles a day we found ourselves in paradise. The silence that surrounded us cannot be described. We saw desert elephants, these big boys are quite special. Where the ‘normal’ elephant drinks up to 200 liters of water a day, the desert elephant easily goes three days without a single drop; they have adapted there lifestyle to the dry circumstances here. Other animals we would regularly come across were the ostrich, giraffe and oryx. In the mornings we would find fresh lion tracks in the proximity of the truck, but we never saw one walking, unfortunately. There weren’t many birds around, this contributed to the silence. We never slept as well as we were doing here; without any disturbance eight hours of total peace, it was so lovely.

There was one thing bursting our perfect bubble though; a crack on the side of one of the tires. The Michelin XZL tires we use are super strong, but when driving off road a weakness appears. In order to make it through loose sand we deflate the tires to almost half of normal pressure (2.5 bar instead of 4.5 bar). We gain surface and the chance of getting stuck is a lot smaller. Downside is that the side of the tire also bulbs out more and this is a weak spot; the rubber is not very thick here and a shallow cut can cause big trouble. We must have touched a sharp stone somewhere with our right rear tire as we noticed a cut. For a few days we were keeping an eye on it; initially it was getting bigger, but later seemed to stabilize. Still, we had a shallow cut of 6 cm on the side of the tire. With only one spare tire left we found ourselves facing a difficult question; were we going to continue our trip through no-man’s land or should be play safe and return to the main road? If the tire burst we would use our last spare one, if something else would occur we would be in big trouble; besides that our type of tire simply isn’t available it would be a big financial drain. Ordering one at €1200 new and get it delivered in the middle of nowhere, it seemed like a big chance we were taking. So, a little sad about it, we returned to Sesfontein and continued our trip south on the main road. Still, the main is a gravel road with almost no traffic on it; we could still enjoy empty landscapes and silent nights.

The new route had one positive side to it; we would now visit the Skeleton Coast National Park. The early 15th and 16th century sailors referred to this stretch of land as the Sands of Hell; many ships washed ashore here and the coast is still scattered with the skeletons of ships, animals and even humans. When we approached the coast we came from the north. On the road we saw a grey layer of clouds in the distance and as we got closer the temperature dropped; in a stretch of fifty kilometer the temperature went from almost 30° to 17°, pretty fresh after the hot inland. Along the road we saw some dead looking plants, later we found out that this is the very famous endemic Welwitschia plant, a fossil plant and apparently indestructible as it was looking rather dead when we saw it. We also noticed strange circles in the grass, and found out later that these are called fairy circles. For more than 40 years researchers are trying to find out about the what and why of these mysterious bold spots. Eleven theories are still standing covering everything between bacteria and aliens, you choose! The closer we got to the Atlantic Coast the colder it got and the thicker the clouds were getting. We hadn’t seen clouds for two months, but now it seemed we were getting it all at once; grey, foggy weather accompanied by a firm cold wind joined us. Because Skeleton Coast is a national park we drove through it rather fast, we don’t like to bush camp in a NP; the chance that rangers will chase you away is big and so is the chance of getting a fine. So, we exited the park at the Ugabmund gate and continued a bit when the tire with the cut blew up and we had to change it. The wet salty coast road had smudged the complete base of the truck with a thick muddy layer which made the job quite a messy experience. However, with all the experience we have by now it didn’t take too long before we were back on the road. From now on we don’t have a spare tire anymore until we reach Pretoria in South Africa. Here we can pick up two second hand spares, left there by a Dutch couple we met briefly on the way. This is still 3000km away, and all this time we can’t really take any risks by driving off road, and that is a true pity. We drove a bit before taking a side road to the beach where we parked the truck and went for a walk to see some shipwrecks. On the way we saw many skeletons from mostly seals, but we also found a few whale bones and a hyena skull. At night we kept a close eye at the water, as we had no idea whether it was high or low tide, but luckily the water didn’t come close. In the morning the rest of the world did not seem to exist; thick fog all around us, we couldn’t even see the big waves of the Atlantic roll ashore. The next night we slept in an abandoned quartz mine, not too far from the coast, but far enough to be in the sun again as the clouds and mist don’t reach far inland; few meters after the coast they disappear.

By now we were getting back in the land of the living. Beginning with seals, loads of seals, at Cape Cross. This is the largest and most famous colony of Cap Fur Seals that breed along the Namibian and South African Coast. It is infamous for its smell, but to be honest; it wasn’t so bad. There were about 100.000 seals present when we visited, from October to December the numbers are bigger; all the bulls come home to mate with the cows. After all the silence the sound was quite intense though; a nonstop howling, bit like the bleating of goats, this is the way that family members find each other.

Next stop was Swakopmund. Namibia was one of the last countries in Africa to be colonized; nobody really wanted the inhabitable hot and dry country with its unfortunate coast. The only interest lay in the harbour of Walvis Bay, but this area was already in the hands of the British. Germany picked Namibia eventually, or stole one could say as the Portuguese sailors did claim these lands 400 years previously, but they never did anything with it. The Germans did need a harbour for themselves and so it happened that in 1892 they founded the harbour town Swakopmund, 30km north of Walvis Bay. Nowadays the town serves as the country’s main seaside town and it attracts many tourist, most of them German. The town looks like Germany with quite some colonial buildings still intact, many (street)names are German, apfelstrüdel can be bought on almost every corner, and of course the German language is heard everywhere. For us the only real attraction lay in the dunes that stretch between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. Quite exceptional, but here you are allowed to drive in the sand dunes. We picked up our free permit, left little Germany behind and headed to the designated area.

Driving in sand is not easy; you get stuck easily. Climbing up sand dunes with a 9 ton truck is even more difficult unless you have a 1000 horse power engine, but since we only have 180 horse power it seemed quite a challenge. After trying at the first section close to Long Beach without satisfaction we decided to try our luck elsewhere. We drove to Walvis Bay and headed for Dune 7. This is the area where off road dune driving is allowed and besides you can bush camp at the picnic area. Officially it is not allowed, but nobody seems to mind it, so we stayed there for two nights and had good fun in the dunes. The result you can see in a video in the gallery.

We had a few missions to accomplish in Walvis Bay, the most important one being the refill of our gas bottle. Everywhere in the world the system is different, but so far we didn’t have any problems getting it filled. This time it proved to be quite a mission; the official gas supplier didn’t want to help us. They did not want to fill a foreign cylinder, because, they said, they worked with the German standard; this was not Africa anymore! Ok, so we tried another zillion addresses and nobody seemed to be able to help us. During our stay at Ngepi we met Bianca’s dad, Volker, who lives in Walvis Bay. He invited us to come and see him when we would be around so we gave him a call. It was a Friday and Friday nights are pizza nights and we were invited. He has a little pizza oven that works on an open fire. We already knew this oven as he had brought it with him to Ngepi where we had two lovely nights around a fire with homemade pizza coming fresh from the oven. When we arrived at his house we were introduced to something new; the binne braai. The binne braai is a barbeque area inside your house. Like we are used to a fireplace for heat, here they have one elevated so it is easy to do a barbeque, or better braai, on it. We had a lovely pizza night with Volker and the next day he took us on a tour around the Walvis Bay Lagoon. In the lagoon we saw many kind of birds, but the most common was the Flamingo. The drove went passed the salt works where big baths in colours ranging from blue to pink lay along the road. We saw the lighthouse and came close to another seal colony. A beautiful drive with a very good guide. That night we stayed, and two friends, of Volker, Kalli and Lily, came for a braai. With the five of us we had a lovely night, and by the time we made it to bed the clock was passed one am; it was very very long ago that we went to bed that late.

The next morning we had to get up early; Volker had booked a trip on a catamaran for us. So after a short night we reported in the harbour and boarded the catamaran. Soon after departure pelicans joined the tour, and we had the opportunity to see these huge birds up close, which was very cool. We also saw two kinds of dolphin and more seals. One seal even came aboard the catamaran to eat some fish. The trip was great and in order to keep warm, after all we were still at the Atlantic Coast, they gave us Namibian coffee to drink which turned out to be sherry served in a coffee cup, cheers! We ended up staying the week in Walvis Bay enjoying the company of Volker. He is a great man and also great photographer (www.photovolker.com) who owns a business in town. Besides all photo activities he has two galleries where his photos, mostly panoramas of Namibian landscapes, are on display. With all his warmth he made it very difficult for us to leave, but we did managed in the end, our intended one night stay had lasted more than a week. With the help of him and his friends we also managed to fill up the gas bottle, so when we left we accomplished all our tasks and were ready for some nights in the wild again.

South from here most land is either national park or privately owned and thus fenced, bush camping becomes more difficult, but still not impossible. We have been sent off once again; a not very friendly man told us we were trespassing and had to pack up fast and leave. Luckily this was after we already spent one night on his beautiful land. Before we reached Sesriem and Sossusvlei we passed through the town of Solitaire. Many years ago a Scottish man landed here and started selling apple pie. It became a mandatory pit stop for travelers, which it still is. We skipped the apple pie and only picked up a bread, which was nice, and headed towards the great red dunes of Sossusvlei. After Etosha NP this is the most visited site in Namibia and indeed there were plenty of tourists around. In order to avoid seeing too many of them we did the program reversed. Were the guidebooks told us to visit deadvlei at sunrise we went in the afternoon. Result; nobody was there and when we climbed Big Daddy, a 350m high sand dune, we were the only ones on it. The most famous picture of Namibia is undoubtedly taken at Deadvlei; a dead tree standing on a dry salt pan with a red dune behind and a perfect blue sky on top of it. We took the picture too, so you can see and enjoy it.

The road south lead us to Lüderitz, another town that takes you back into colonial Germany. This is the diamond area, and a big stretch south of the city is still restricted for visitors. On the way to Lüderitz we passed Kolmanskop, a ghost town. In 1908 the first diamond was found here and soon Kolmanskop became a bustling centre full with diamond kings and others in search of a bit of luck. With the discovery of bigger and better diamond fields further away the decline of the town came fast, and it didn’t take long for it to be abandoned and for the sand to take over once again. We planned to visit it on the way back from Lüderitz, but couldn’t because it only opens in the morning. This was mentioned nowhere except at the gate. What a disappointment! we decided to eat lunch next to the gate to make up for it. After all it is an open air attraction and the buildings are visible from outside the gates too. While we were there enjoying our lunch many other people got the same disappointment.

We drove back to Aus, saw some wild horses on the way, and from there we drove towards the Orange River which is the border with South Africa. Until Rosh Pinah the road was tar and straight and boring, but after the town we followed the river and it was really beautiful. We had one last detour to make; to Fish River Canyon. This canyon is the second largest canyon in the world and definitely worth a visit. When we arrived the sky was cloudy, so we played a game, drank few cups of tea and by noon all clouds were gone and the view of the canyon was magnificent.

As for our plans; major changes have been made. We have arrived in South Africa and this will be our last country in Southern Africa. We have decided not to drive all the way up, but instead we will ship the truck from Durban to Senegal in November. It will give us two months to discover South Africa which we are looking forward too. Next time we will try to update sooner, so you don’t need to plough through so much adventure all at once.

Till the next one!

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Into the Wild -

246 days, 20771km

Crossing the border into Zambia was a very easy and relaxed event. For the first time there was no persistent hassling; a few guys wanted to change money with us, but when it was clear that the atm on Zambian side was actually working they greeted us goodbye with the words; “ok, no work for us today, bye.” It was a quiet and straightforward crossing that took less than an hour in total, very pleasant.

Once in Zambia we drove on a good road to the first big city after the border; Chipata. Here we were welcomed by a colorful vegetable market were we stopped and stocked up. It was a true delight to have so much variety; it made us feel a bit like children in a sweet shop, but since the prices were low we didn’t need to choose, we granted ourselves the luxury to take a little bit of everything.

Our first destination was South Luangwa National Park where we were very ready to see some big and wild cats. An hour after arriving at the campsite a staff member excited us; there was a leopard across the river. With the binoculars we spotted the animal and followed him on his course along the river for a bit until he disappeared into the bushes. A good start, so hungry for more we booked two game drives through our campsite; one early morning and one evening drive. it was not easy to get up at six o’clock in the morning; the alarm ringing was very confusing after such a long time without, but we made it. The previous day we asked how many people would join us on the tour and were told that two others would be there, you can imagine the surprise when we arrived at the vehicle and it was packed with people.

By half past six we entered the park and not long after we spotted a lion. A female walked close by and she led us to her troop of fellow lions, in total about six, who were lying in the grass unfortunately quite far from the track. It didn’t take long before more vehicles showed up, and after five minutes the place was clotted with safari cars so we quickly got out of there. During the drive we saw quite some animals, but no more cats. Poaching no longer takes place in the South Luangwa area and because of this the animals are very relaxed; they don’t run away when a car approaches so you get the chance to take some close-up photos. Sometimes we would find ourselves in the middle of a group of impala, all of them looking back at you with a wondering gaze. In all it was pretty cool, but still we were hungry for more.

The night drive actually starts at four in the afternoon. You drive for two hours in daylight until the sun sets and then there is another two in the dark. We came very close to a family of elephants; so close that they trumpeted to warn us off. And… we saw three leopards; one of them was even hunting an impala when we spotted him. Unfortunately we left our super good viewpoint to get closer and by doing so we scared both animals a bit, resulting in us seeing not much at all and the animals disappearing into nowhere. We did see one of the leopards quite close by and, yes, it is a very beautiful and impressive cat. Elegant in its movement, the long slender tail that sort of floats after it, and of course the cool print on its coat, very cool to see it in real life. Further on we saw a hyena, it was following a leopard probably to clean up after the latter had finished its meal. We saw a couple of nocturnal animals that we hadn’t spot yet, among them the genet, civet and porcupine. Although the number of animals was quite good we hope that in the future we will be able to drive ourselves rather than joining a game drive like these two; it is just not the same when someone else decides where and when you go.

The entrance of the park lies in the village of Mfuwe, from here there is the main road leading to Chipata and further on to Lusaka. There is also the old road to Lusaka. This road, called the Old Petauke Road runs alongside the South Luangwa river and is basically exactly the same as the National Park. This road sounded like a lot more fun than the highway so we decided to go for it, and it was a very very good choice.

We drove about forty km on the old road when a picnic spot appeared on our gps. However, when we got to the turn off there was nothing to see except thick bushes and trees. We parked the truck and explored the area a bit. We found that there was a perfect bush camp on the waterfront, only there didn’t seem to be a straight road there. After walking around a bit we found a little loop around the bushes big enough for a car, or truck, to pass. Few minutes later we were parked on perhaps the prettiest bush camp of our trip so far. Bathing in the river in front of us were different groups of hippos, baboons passed on the other side as well as antilope, giraffes and elephants would come to drink and the sound of many kind of birds filled the air. It wasn’t only the sound of birds that we heard though; the hippos made a lot of noise too. Loud roars and a sort of laughing sometimes, well it is pretty much impossible to describe, but we have it on video. One evening Anthony was making some shots of the sunset when two hippos started to fight in the water. The sound they make is dinosaur like and very impressive, you can see the video in our gallery, make sure you put the sound loud and enjoy! The remoteness of this place was just amazing; apart from the animal sounds it was completely silent and peaceful. We stayed for four nights at this amazing place, and even after those days we didn’t really want to go, but food was starting to run low and we were still a few days away from the nearest town, so we had to move on. We followed the road as far as we could, but not long after bending away from the river we were forced to turn around; the road was so overgrown and many thick low branches blocked our way. Luckily we didn’t have to drive all the way back; the electricity company had recently installed a new high voltage line and a road was running alongside it. This road was sometimes in the middle of the lines and sometimes to the far side of them in the surrounding woods, not a bad road to drive at all. It took us another two days to get to the main road and once there we drove in two days to Lusaka, the capital of Zambia.

Zambia is thin populated and the drive to the capital was mostly surrounded by hills covered in thick woodland; very green with big trees everywhere. Of course when we got close to Lusaka the world changed completely. This city is like a modern western city; well maintained roads with flower perks on the pavement, big shopping malls with even larger parking in front of them and what really surprised us was that there was almost no litter laying around. The atmosphere was so different from the rest of the country and also very far apart from the African cities we’d visited so far. We stayed for a couple of days, enjoyed the luxury of big city life and continued further towards the Victoria Falls.

The Victoria Falls are impressive! We spent an afternoon walking around them. There are a few different paths one can walk taking you from the top via the front to the bottom of the falls. In the daytime the view is mostly blocked by a thick haze caused by water flying back up from the force of the falls. At some points the water rains heavily down and often a rainbow can be seen. The falls are almost two kilometers wide, but from the Zambian side you can only see a small part of it. Still the sight is huge and impressive; so much water plunges down, it never stops and it noisy too. Close to the falls is the town Livingstone, named after Dr. David Livingstone who was the first European ever to see the falls in 1855. He actually encountered the falls from the top; arriving in a canoe. Imagine what a feeling he must have had there and then; it must have blown his mind. The town, however, didn’t impress us much, but we did enjoy a good Italian style pizza there which made up for the town. The next day we continued our way heading west.

In our original plan we would be heading into Botswana next, but once again we decided on doing it a little different. Because life on the road can be quite challenging and exhausting at moments we started to look for an opportunity to stay somewhere a little longer. A good way to this is by working as a volunteer in exchange for food and accommodation. In Lusaka we signed up to a site that mediates between hosts and volunteers and we were very lucky; the first host we emailed invited us over.

We drove further west until we got to Katima where we crossed the Zambezi River to get into Namibia. This border crossing was one like in Europe; a well maintained building with a queue of people in front of the immigration counter. After getting our passports stamped we proceeded to customs to get the carnet stamped and the last thing to do was to pay road tax. This is pretty much the same every single border crossing. We had to pay in Namibian Dollar or South African Rand, neither currency we carried, because all was so well arranged there were no money hustlers to be seen and nor was there an atm. According to the counter clerk the truck wasn’t allowed to leave the border post before paying the tax. Well, obviously we weren’t gonna walk three km back and forth to an atm so we decided to take our change and just try to get out. At the barrier Anthony had to get out and sign something in a small office and when someone asked us for the receipt we played dumb and were told to carry on. After getting some money we discovered that Anthony’s passport and a file with passport photo’s were missing. It gave us a little scare and we rushed back to the border. We had to go back there anyway to pay the road tax, but with the passport missing we pushed the throttle a little harder than we probably should have. We arrived back at the post and walked towards the small office at the barrier and a lady approached us. When Anthony got to her she asked:”why are you in such a hurry sir?” it turned out Anthony left both items in her office and she ran after him when she discovered it, but by then we were already on the move. She guided us back into the immigration office where Anthony got his passport back. After paying the road tax we left the border, all receipts, passports and photo’s in our pockets, we were now ready for a relaxed drive into Namibia.

This brings us to where we are now; Ngepi Camp in the north of Namibia on the Caprivi Strip. This strip is only 50km wide and 400km long sandwiched in between Angola and Botswana. The campsite lays on the banks of the Okavango River and it is very peaceful here. Our job is to maintain the vegetable garden and to run the tree project (you can find information about it on the Ngepi website). We try to do our job as good as we can, which is not always easy as things work in a different way here from what we are used to at home. We will stay here for about two months before we continue our trip to discover the rest of Namibia.

See u next time!

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Holidays -

213 days, 18718km

In Malawi we have enjoyed the presence of water; Lake Malawi is running along the whole east coast of the country making it hard to miss. We spent most nights on campsites at the lake shore where at times the sound from the waves rolling ashore was so noisy it kept us awake at night. Never did we see such big waves in a lake, but of course this lake is huge and it was easy to pretend we were at the oceanic coast.

Through Africa we have followed the Rift Valley pretty much all the way down south. The Rift Valley is 6000km long starting in the north of Ethiopia and ending in Mozambique when it reaches the Zambezi River. There are many volcanoes and crater lakes along the valley and many of the big lakes we visited are part of it as well. From the north of Kenya the valley consist of two branches; one going straight south passed Nairobi down through the middle of Tanzania and then reaching Lake Malawi. The western branch runs passed Lake Albert and Edward in Uganda, both we’ve seen, down to Kivu in Rwanda which we haven’t seen and then to Tanganyika where we did spent some lovely days. At Lake Malawi the two arms join up and together again they form the lake here. It has been a great route and we have seen many beautiful landscapes and enjoyed the many lakes with much pleasure. Because life in Africa is more expensive than we anticipated we’ve decided that we can’t visit Mozambique, but instead continue west into Zambia which means that we have to say goodbye to the Rift Valley here.

Our first nights we slept in Karonga, a small city not far from the border. Here we visited the local museum where an exhibition runs about the local excavated Malawisaurus and the history of northern Malawi. After a few days we started to drive again. Remember how we said that everyone leaves Tanzania with at least one speeding ticket in the pocket? Well, we didn’t and were happy about that, but on our first driving day in Malawi.. we weren’t even out of the city and got flashed by a police camera. In the company of 5 officers a twenty Euro (8000 Kwacha) fine awaited us, to pay on the spot, with receipt. Lesson learned; in Malawi you drive 50, and only when it is really clear that 80 is permitted you go faster. It the end we drove 50 almost the whole time, simply because the signs were either vague or absent.

We started our Malawian adventure with a Dutch tour; we first camped at the FloJa foundation, then moved to Chitimba Camp and finally stayed at Matunkha eco lodge. At each of those places we did a cinema projection. The latter has a daycare for children, located next to the lake in a pretty designed garden. The projection here was one of the quietest we have done, but still it was good fun. A bit further south in Chitimba we stayed at the Dutch run Chitimba Camp, a very beautiful campsite on the beach. The relaxed owners help the locals out in a responsible way, and the atmosphere in general was very good. We did a projection at the local school grounds; it turned out to be our busiest one so far; we think more than 250 people showed up.

We have traveled with two folding bikes and after more than half a year of travel we have never ever used them both at the same time. They take up a lot of space and therefore we wanted to keep only one instead of two. In Chitimba we swapped a bicycle for a tall standing giraffe and a leopard mask carved out of wood. We are very happy with the two animals in our truck, though the giraffe is huge and, like the bicycle, takes up a lot of space. She travels in our bed when we drive and stays mostly in the shower when we are parked. Sometimes she stands in the doorway to look outside, but she already plunged down the stairs once and now misses an ear, so we are a bit unease to let her out.

Our third Dutch camp was in Rumphi where we stayed at the Matunkha eco lodge. This place has been founded almost twenty years ago by a Dutch Canadian collaboration. It is a huge terrain with day care facilities for children from the nearby villages. There is primary school on the premises and half of the pupils are made up of orphans. These kids don’t live on the lodge premises, but are taken in by the locals and spent their days here. There is a range of community based projects they account for and it was very pleasant to see a project running so well and harvesting positive results after twenty years of investment. The school buildings are very well maintained which contributes to a positive learning environment and we were very happy to project the films in the schools communal hall; a large round shaped building with conical thatched roof designed and build by students of a Dutch technical university. Some 200 kids were present and we did a little presentation about our trip plus the animal quiz before showing the films. The kids loved it and also the teachers were very positive.

We drove south along the lake stopping at campsites every night because bush camping is not possible here. Until a few years ago Malawi was one of the cheapest countries in Africa, but now things have changed and prices have sky rocketed. (now it is the poorest and one of the most expensive countries in Africa) We didn’t know this and it was quite a disappointment because instead of mostly relaxing on campsites we were struggling to stay within our budget. The roads are in general good condition winding through the green landscape and soon we would see our first baobab trees. These trees can be recognized by their plumb trunks. We had to stay alert on the road though; we’ve seen many serious accidents with big trucks, not a very safe feeling. Faster than we planned we drove to Cape Maclear 200km east of Lilongwe. Here we stayed on the beach enjoying the most beautiful sunset every night. Because it is low season we were a bit overwhelmed by the local salesmen trying to sell us their paintings, carvings happy/hippy pants and even their homemade chocolate flavored space cake, but after a few days they realized we were not interested and they left us alone. We went in a traditional canoe, dug out from the trunk of a mahogany tree, on a snorkeling trip to West Thumbi Island where the local fish, the Cichlid, is abundant. After a few days of doing not much at all we set off towards the capital city of Lilongwe, on the way we stopped at Chongoni Rock Art area were we visited the Mphunzi site. Here are seven rock panels with drawings on them, some date back 2000 years; the white ones, and some are as old as 10000 years; the red ones, drawn by pygmies.

In Lilongwe we are staying at Mabuya Camp. This campsite run by an English couple is very popular by backpackers. Our friends who’ve traveled Africa before us all told us about this place so it was a mandatory stop for us. We have done some maintenance on the truck, a few things had to be fixed after our mud adventure and we did the 10000km oil service as well. Now we are preparing to go to Zambia, where we will visit South Luangwa National Park. Many people have told us great things about this park, especially about their cat family inhabitants. We know it is not good to have great expectations, but after all those stories it is hard to stay moderate. So hopefully we will report back to you next time with stories of lion and leopard sightings!

Till the next one!

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Deep in Africa -

199 days, 17865Km

We thought we would spend a maximum of two weeks in Tanzania; after all how long can it take to drive more or less straight down to the southern border with Malawi? We were wrong; West Tanzania is very pretty, the roads were good and we bush camped most of the time. We found our mud, finally, only not in the place we thought we’d find it.

From other travelers we’ve heard stories about the Tanzanian roadblocks. How they stop you and always manage to find something to charge you with. Also, they have a laser speed gun, and most drivers get at least one speeding ticket while on the Tanzanian roads. Not long after the border we had to weigh the truck. This is mandatory for heavy vehicles, though we heard conflicting stories about whether to stop or not. Since this was the first one it seemed a good idea to stop. They weighed us, printed a paper and that was it. A little further on the road was the first roadblock. A policeman came to our window; he had a gun with 58km on it. The officer was quite straight forward; “Why are you driving so fast?” We said we drove 50 and nothing more than that. He then replied; “What is the speed limit?” Us; “50 km/h sir.” Ok he said and he wanted to see Anthony’s license. After a quick check he handed it back and we were free to go. What a welcome we thought; so far our contact with the authorities of Tanzania had been annoying, expensive (at the border) and very frequent. We hoped it would get better.

The first stop was in Bukoba on Lake Victoria, about 80km after the border. The road to get there was beautiful. The difference with Uganda was huge; a lot of open space and not many people on the road, either driving or walking. We arrived in Bukoba at the end of the afternoon and ended up at the (rather dirty) Lake Hotel (it could have been called fawlty towers). In the garden was a wedding party setup, but nobody mentioned anything to us about a party that night. However, at seven the sound system arrived; a couple meters wide and tall; we knew it was going to be noisy. The hotel staff was rather unfriendly with us, and when we tried to find out what time the party would finish nobody seemed to speak any English at all, the lady who checked us in had disappeared off the premises. With earplugs in we tried to ignore the super loud noise coming from the couple of kilowatts speakers five meters from our truck, which of course we couldn’t. But, just before midnight it stopped, we slept a semi quiet night, and were woken up by staff screaming around our truck at 6:30 in the morning. They were cleaning up after the wedding party and needed a lot of noise with it. We moved to the parking of another hotel a couple doors down where a quiet time waited for us, with clean facilities, free internet and no noise. Bukoba wasn’t a great place to be, but we drove a couple of long days in the previous week and really needed to be off the road for a bit.

We did some more internet research on the road south, the B8, and read in other people’s blog that they’d seen a lot of mud and difficult passages. It sounded like an adventure and we set off in the direction of Kigoma, a small city on the banks of Lake Tanganyika. The first stretch of the route is on tar, good tar; no potholes at all. The road passed through the Biharamulo Game Reserve. The area was very lush and green, with big trees and thick bushes. We stopped down a dirt road somewhere halfway down the reserve and spent a lovely quiet afternoon. At night, just before we wanted to go to sleep the rangers showed up, and of course we had to leave the place. We drove in the dark to Biharmulo, the town, and headed for the only campsite there. Unfortunately the place seemed abandoned. We shouted for a night guard, but nobody answered, so we decided to camp on the small patch of grass opposite the gate. The next morning there was plenty of life around and soon a lady came around demanding money for the night we spent on the lodge premises, because, she said, the ground around also belonged to them. Of course we weren’t going to pay for a night out on the street so we left soon after. The turn off towards Kigoma wasn’t far; the smooth tar road continued east to Mwanza, whilst our path was looking rather scruffy. It took us three days to get to Kigoma. The first day was horrible; potholes, humps and bumps for a few hours, but not much other traffic luckily. We came across a lorry in the ditch and were asked to help, but after a quick inspection we decided this was a problem too big for us. Later, we found a hidden place somewhere in a gravel pit just off the road where we spent a good night. The next day the road improved quite a lot and we actually had some time to enjoy the surroundings. The relatively flat landscape was covered in greens, sometimes opening up for cultivated patches and their accompanying villages. There weren’t many pedestrians on the road and traffic was made up of the lonely motorbike or transport truck. The second night we found a gravel pit again. This time a bigger one with a more hidden second pit behind it, so we were parked further away from the road and had an even quieter night than the previous. We didn’t expect to bush camp so easily at all; in the blogs we read people were going from town to town, driving long days in order to find accommodation for the night. We were seeing perfect bush camp options every 20km along the road and felt very happy about that. Nothing beats the feeling of spending a night free in the wild. On the third day we came close to Kigoma, but decided to camp before the city so we could arrive the next day early. We stopped at a place on the side of the road for lunch and discovered a field behind it. To get there we had to cross very tall grass and zigzag around some trees, but it seemed possible. And so it happened, but then as we drove onto the field the back wheels dropped a little further then we were comfortable with and we stopped to examine the situation. The soil wasn’t as firm as it had seemed before and the slippery clay underneath made it impossible to reverse out of there. We had to dig a little, place the sand ladders under the back wheels and slowly reverse into the tall grass. The whole operation took one hour, nothing serious, but we were given a warning about the unstable muddy soil of Tanzania.

About twenty km before Kigoma a perfect tar road emerged before us. That was a very pleasant surprise as the day before had been a dreadful drive once again. Halfway to the city there was another weighbridge for trucks where we stopped but didn’t drive onto the scale. Showing the men (four! in total in a small cubicle) our previous results and explaining we are a private camper, not a transport truck, and thus the weight never changes, they said there was no need for us to weigh the truck, so we proceeded. We ended up staying at the Aqua lodge where we could park the truck on the beach. Kigoma is situated on the lakeshore of Lake Tanganyika. This lake is 1435m deep, and is the second deepest fresh water lake in the world. On the opposite shore awaited once again the blue mountains of The Congo. The water is crystal clear and looked very attractive for a swim. The lake is supposed to be Bilharzia (a nasty worm you can pick up in most lakes and rivers in Africa) free, so we took our change and swam every day we were there, and it was lovely. We drank a couple of beers while enjoying the sunset on a nearby beach, and when we arrived back at the campsite another overland vehicle had arrived. The German/Austrian couple that owned the vehicle where there so we went over for a chat. Like us, they also had to do a couple of things in the city, and were planning to stay for a day or two before heading south. We stayed in Kigoma for three nights; sorted out some internet things, did some shopping on the lovely market in town, washed all the laundry in the lake and enjoyed the beach. On the third night we drank a couple of beers with Tom and Regina, the overland couple, in the same beach bar as before and it was very relaxed. We decided there that perhaps it would be pleasant to drive a bit together since we were heading down the same road, for safety and for pleasure.

We set off on good tarmac towards Uvinza and after this city we were on gravel again. Just gravel, no crazy mud baths or potholes, no, just gravel. We stopped in an old gravel pit, like most other days. These gravel pits are often huge; sometimes existing of two or more holes with plenty of places to stop and not be seen from the road. The pit itself is usually bold red gravel, but to the sides of it the nature is lush and beautiful. Not at all a bad place to stop, and for sure a lot better than driving ridiculous long days to get from hotel parking to hotel parking, cause campsites are nonexistent. The next couple of days went in the same kind of way; drive in the morning for three hours, find a nice pit to camp, cook some lovely food, relax, eat dinner with Tom and Regina and we even made a bonfire a couple of nights. On the way we passed through Katavi National park. This park is known for its hippos that can usually be seen in hundreds together at the bridge in the middle of the park. When we approached the road to it there was a sign blocking the way noting; temporary road closure. After some inquiries we learned that the bridge was not accessible, but the road itself was fine. We decided to drive the road and see for ourselves, if we had to come back the same way it wouldn’t be too bad; we had found a very nice gravel pit the night before and wouldn’t mind sleeping another night there. When we arrived at the bridge it turned out to be not so bad; a part in the middle had dropped into the river, but the majority of the concrete bridge was still there. Tom and Regina in their Land cruiser went first and made it across without any problems, we were next and again no problems. Unfortunately we only saw a handful of hippos at the bridge; perhaps the water level was too high and were the hippos underwater. We did see some other wildlife on the side of the road; a giraffe, some elephants and quite a few antelopes. While driving through the park we had been under attack, not by a predator, but by the tse tse fly. This particular fly transmits the horrible sleeping disease in some parts of Africa, but luckily here it is hardly found. The bite of the fly is, however, quite nasty. A short sting that develops overnight in a bump the size of a quarter, and the itch is worse than a mosquito bite. Of course we realized too late that we were under attack, and by the time the windows were closed and all the flies exterminated we both suffered several bites.

We drove with Tom and Regina, and their puppy chin, all the way till Sumbawanga. On the way we saw two muddy stretches, but none were very deep or difficult to pass. To be honest, we were a little disappointed. Getting seriously bogged in the middle of nowhere was for sure not what we wanted, but with two vehicles the risk is lower and we’d both hoped and expected something more spectacular. The company of our fellow overlanders was very pleasant, and we decided to camp a night in the hills overlooking Sumbawanga. We found a beautiful spot high up on a hill, surrounded by fields and the occasional hut. Also it was Regina’s birthday that day. We bought the local version of gin&tonic in town to accompany us that night and it turned into a quite a good birthday party; playing a short game where the loser awaited a black tooth. Needless to say we were looking stunning by the end of the night. We camped here two more nights. During one of the days we went on a drive to Lake Rukwa. First we ended up on a track leading us into a petit village were the road ended. On the second attempt we made it almost to the lake, but the road turned for the worst, and the weather did too, so we decided to turn around and return to our nice spot on the hill. The fourth day we had to leave; Tom and Regina’s visa ran out; they had to make it to the Zambian border, and we were getting ready for Malawi. We made a last round in town together, sat down for a last drink and in the beginning of the afternoon we said goodbye to each other. We drove about two hours south, again on very good and new tarmac, and turned off the road onto a dirt road towards a small lake.

We didn’t drive all the way to the lake, but turned into a field somewhat halfway down the road. The continuing path to the lake got so narrow that we agreed that camping halfway was good too. On the path here we saw some puddles, and because of our previous experience with the Tanzanian muddy soil we got out of the truck and made a round to see if it was suitable campground for us. It seemed ok, and a lot dryer and thus better than the field were we got stuck before, so we agreed on the spot and drove off the track.

About 20 meters from the path the truck suddenly came to a halt and Anthony said we were in big trouble. A bit scared we got out and found the left rear wheel had plunged down into a hole. The wheel was half in the ground while the other three were still in normal position. Because of this we tried to reverse our way out, but it only made things worse. Now the back wheel was in three quarters and the front wheel about half. The truck was on a considerable angle, and the back axle was touching the floor. Well, this was looking serious. Anxious we started to dig around the wheels and soon realized that this time we weren’t going to dig ourselves out. The soil underneath the top layer consisted of mud; water mixed with sand. It was wet, slushy and impossible to dig up. We needed help from a big vehicle to pull us out of our muddy situation. We had seen a road construction camp down the road about 30km back towards Sumbawanga, and this would be the perfect place to go and ask for help. A young man showed up and in his poor English he explained we could go the next village and call for help. Anthony left with him at four in the afternoon. In the meantime marij would try to dig the back axle free. Around five o’clock it started to rain, a little at first, but soon it was pouring down and the holes we dug rapidly filled up with water. It rained for more than two hours saturating the soil and turning the path into a swimming pool. Anthony returned at 8 o’clock; exhausted and worried from the wetness around the truck. He cycled all the way to the construction camp and back, almost 60 km, on a folding bike. He came back with good news though; they would help us the next day. Luckily we brought a tent with us, especially for this kind of situations, and did manage to sleep a somewhat ok night.

The next morning Anthony took a motorbike taxi to the construction place and returned an hour later with one of the chefs of the place. He came along to judge the situation and decided which machine would be best for the rescue operation. Thanks to these guys we were out of the mud before midday. We can never thank them enough. We’ve made a video of the rescue operation which you can find in the video section of our gallery. So, conclusion; mud can be fun, but getting stuck like we did here is really scary. We were extremely lucky that help was only 30km away, and we will be even more careful from now on. The next few bush camps were once again in safe gravel pits.

Earlier we talked already about the weigh stations. These are mandatory for every vehicle over 3500kg. We stopped at all of them and apart from the first not a single one wanted to weigh us. Whether this was because we are a camper or mzungu’s we don’t know. When we approached the border town Tunduma we passed a weigh station and again they told us to move on. Just after the city another weigh station awaited us. This one had a bit of a queue, and it made us decide to drive passed it instead of stopping. Wrong wrong wrong decision. About 10km later we were overtaken by three guys on a motorbike, who demanded us to stop. They asked us why we didn’t stop at the weigh station, so we explained our previous experience. They asked us to turn around and weigh ourselves before we continued. Not happy at all we did what was asked, drove back, weighed the truck and wanted to resume our trip, but then we were asked to park at the parking behind the office and step in for a moment. Here a very unreasonable guy showed us a paper with the road regulations explaining that we broke the law and were now being fined for this. The fine was the not misunderstandable amount of $2000. We thought it was a joke, it was not, and then we thought we would faint right there and then. The guy was not listening to our arguments at all; he just kept pointing out the written rule to us. Luckily he left for a moment, and in this time we managed to make a deal with the other guy present. We had 50000 Shilling (25euro) in a sock in marij’s purse and we told him this was our last money since we were about to leave the country. It took a little time, but in the end they accepted it and we got out of there as fast as we could. It was an anxious and threatening situation and we are not at all proud that we had to bribe our way out of it, but it seemed our only option.

In the meantime Anthony was starting to get sick; whether it was due to the stressful past days or some dodgy street food we don’t know, but he ran to the toilet ten times a day. So we decided that after all this adrenaline we had to stop to regain travel strength, and we found Matema beach at the most northern tip of Lake Nyasa (in Malawi known as Lake Malawi) a suitable place for it. The beach is beautiful, the lake rough and wavy; it was a good place to recuperate. Anthony was still not getting better and we visited the local hospital to see if we wanted to seek help there. To our surprise a German doctor welcomed us and after a negative malaria test he left the place with a week of antibiotics to fight off the nasty bacteria. By now the medics have done their work well.

Looking back at our adventure in Tanzania we can say it has been great, and very different from what we expected. The western route is remote and beautiful; we bush camped most of our nights, something we did not expect at all, and felt total freedom on many parts of the route. We do not regret our decision to skip the coast at all.

We have been in Malawi for a week now and it has been pleasant so far. We’ve made it about 200km after the border, so travel is slow again, but this time it is not due to bad roads. The cinema is full on again; we projected for a very small audience at the FloJa foundation, yesterday we projected for a huge audience, close to 300 people, in the village of Chitimba and tomorrow we project at a school located on the Matunkha eco lodge ground in Rumphi. In between all this we do find plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful Lake Malawi.

Till the next one

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Beautiful Uganda-

171 Days 15836Km

Before we left Uganda was one of the countries on the top of our list to visit. The green mountains had such an attraction, it is hard to explain. Sometimes one can get very disappointed when there are high expectations, but Uganda has definitely not let us down. The friendly people, the stunning nature and the tasty food, we love it all.

After spending our first week in a very touristic area we both wanted to see the real country, so we headed northwest on a dirt road in the direction of an orphanage somewhere in the middle of nowhere. It took us a couple of hours driving to find something; a school that was once an orphanage. Not entirely what we were looking for, but it had a football field where we could park, and also plenty of kids to come and watch the show that night.

We continued our way further north towards Lake Albert. On the way we stopped at a forest eco camp in the Budongo Forest. This place was quite cool; small and with no facilities other than a toilet, but in the middle of the forest. Soon after our arrival it started to rain and it kept raining for a couple of hours. The man who guarded the site had left the premises to seek shelter elsewhere, so when the rain finally stopped we found ourselves alone in the woods. We decided to go for a walk. It is not permitted to walk in the forest without a guide because, they say, we will get lost. Obviously that is not going to stop us, so we headed into dark green trees, meanwhile safely marking our route on the floor. Of course we didn’t get lost; it was a nice walk, unfortunately without the sight of any animals. That night when went to bed we heard a strange noise; like someone screaming in a panic, it was very disturbing. The sound came and went several times which made us draw the conclusion it must be an animal of some sort. The next day we asked the guard and he confirmed that it was indeed an animal, the tree hyrax. This animal looks like a guinea pig, and at night it climbs to the top of a tree while shrieking harder and the harder the higher he gets.

We drove further and got to Lake Albert. On the other side of the lake lays Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo) with its blue mountains. A pretty sight, but it smelled rather fishy on the shore, so we drove a bit away from the banks. At the north end of the lake lays Murchison Falls NP, another one of those pretty parks we can’t afford, but like always the area around it is very beautiful as well. Attached to the park on the south side lays the Bugungu wildlife reserve, just south of it we found a road leading nowhere on our gps and decided to check it out. Straight away we saw loads of antelope, Ugandan Kob, warthog and baboon. The road was deserted; we drove ten kilometers and the parked just off the road for the night. It was amazing, quiet, and peaceful. So many animals, a lovely sunset and no people, the two days we stayed we didn’t see or hear any human life other than each other.

More south we ended up in Fort Portal, or better said, close to it at the Amabere Caves, ten kilometers from the city in the lush green hills, where a very pleasant place to camp awaited us for a few days. Again no other campers, though here a lot of people came for a tour around the crater lake and the waterfall that are also on the premises. We still had a couple of crater lakes on the program a couple days later so we skipped these ones, but we did sneak in to see the waterfall; a short two minute walk from our campsite.

After two days of absolutely nothing it was time to move on. We stopped in Fort Portal for some shopping, ate a pizza (our favorite home feel food), and filled up the truck with diesel. When we were at the petrol station we had an interesting encounter; we met Mr. Morence Mpora, a happy man who happened to have found an orphanage. We told him about the cinema and he said that the children would love it, and so he invited us over. We hesitated for a moment, the place was exactly in the opposite direction we were headed, but soon decided to do it; you don’t meet people like that every day, so better take the opportunity we thought. It turned out to be an amazing experience. The orphanage, called The Mpora Rural Family, is located in the village Kichwamba at the foot of the Rwenzori Mountains. On the premises there are several buildings; a house for Mr. Mpora and his wife, dorms for the children, a library, a living room and some bandas. The latter are to generate some income; they are huts for two, three or four people that they rent out to tourist. We first sat down with Mr. Mpora, Morence, to talk about the place. He explained to us that he started this home 27 years ago. Initially it was just a home for children (they never used the term orphan), but with the years it grew and now they have a primary (300 pupils) and secondary (600 pupils) school especially for local children who don’t have the possibility to go to the government schools further away. The Family is a home to 40 children, aged 2 to 18. After talking to Morence we were introduced to Linda, a young woman who once lived at the home herself, and now comes home in weekends and during holidays. She hosted us, fed us, and generally made us feel very welcome. The same is for the children; they are very free in their movement. To supply food the grounds around are of agricultural use; cassava, bananas, sweet potatoes and vegetables are grown, and they also have their own fish farm. A group of ten kids took on a tour to see it all. At night we did the cinema, inside this time because it was raining heavily outside. Before the films we showed a couple of animal photos, and with each photo we asked the kids which animal it was. We came up with this idea when we noticed that often people had no clue as to what kind of animal they were looking at; the baboon from Ethiopia was often recognized as a lion. The next day the oldest kid took us on a walk. He wants to be an official guide, and this was good practice he said. We set off with a bunch of kids and another woman, Hope who is a friend of Linda from Kampala, towards the main road. From the main road we had a very beautiful view onto the Rift Valley. We walker further into the valley and climbed out on the other side again, sometimes the path was almost vertical, and with the recent rain it was quite slippery at moments, but no one felt, slipped or hurt himself. At night we did another cinema night and once again it was enjoyed by all. The next day we decided to leave, not because we really wanted to go, but more because we knew the longer we would stay the harder it would become to actually go. This place, especially the kids, they were so warm and welcoming you just wanted to stay there and help out wherever you can.

During our stay it was Linda who cooked for us. Thanks to her we tried some Uganda’s traditional food; matoke which is steamed green banana (plantain) served with groundnut (peanut) sauce. Quite good and it goes together a lot better than you would think. We had millet, ground cassava boiled up into a solid thick mash, the flavor is quite plain, but it is ok as a replacement for potatoes sometimes. Sweet potatoes, rice and spaghetti came to the table as well. In general the people eat starchy food, sometimes accomplished with meat or vegetables flavored with groundnut sauce. One other thing that is very tasty is the chapatti; a sort of pancake. Almost every town has one or more stalls on the side of the road where a guy sells them. Sometimes they are sold rolled up with a filling, and the chapatti then is named a rolex. This has absolutely been our favorite food item in Uganda, we never had enough!

On our way south we passed a couple of crater lakes and stayed a night close to edge of one of them. The place was crowded with cheeky monkeys; they walked on our roof and tried to get into the truck by both the door and the stairs. It was quite amusing to see them try, and it resulted in a few charming close up photos. Later that same day we reached the Queen Elizabeth National Park. Again it wasn’t our plan to enter the park, but there is a road straight through the middle of it which you can take for free. We found a luxurious lodge to stay at, we bargained the price successfully down to affordable for us, and enjoyed the sight of many elephants and buffalo’s who came to drink at the waterhole in the lodges’ garden. We walked down to the waterhole and found ourselves at a distance of five meters from the elephants. Don’t worry, we didn’t jump in front of them; we stayed close to a building and a bit hidden by bushes. The next day we drove a free road in the northern part of the park. Here we saw a lot of hippo’s in the water of Lake Edward. We came very close to them as well; normally hippos don’t leave the water in the daytime, and luckily this was the case. The buffalo we admired from a distance. This animal is dangerous when you get too close; they are known to attack people. On our second night we heard a gunshot not too far from the truck. Not much later the guard came to see us. ‘Did you hear that gun?’ he asked us. We confirmed and then he said they had to chase away a leopard! Such a pity they didn’t call us before firing the gun. When we drove out of the park area the next day we saw more wildlife, but unfortunately not the tree climbing lion that is the main attraction in the southern part of the park.

The next stop was at Lake Bunyoni. The road to get there was stunning; it took us hours of driving on the top of the mountains, zigzagging through banana fields and forest. In the guidebooks the lake sounded like a pretty cool place to be at, but in reality it was a huge disappointment. It was very busy with tourist facilities, guides were offering their service at the bottom of our stairs as soon as we opened the door, camping was expensive, and the weather was not too good either. Thinking we would stay here a couple days to relax we changed our minds and left after just one night.

The last city to cross was Mbarara. The villages and towns were pretty much all the same in the whole country; alongside the road there are vegetable stalls and shops all selling the same mixed goods; soap, cooking oil, drinks, and bananas. These shops are rather small; about 6m2 and as a customer you cannot get in; you order what you want through a hole in the wall. In the bigger towns and cities there are a lot of phone shops as well; some sell phones, some sell accessories, and some offer battery charging service. Pharmacies also seem to be good business as each village has a couple. At the end of every town, village or city there are the workshops. Garages for cars or the many motorbikes. The motorbike is transport number one here; it is usually a taxi and then called a boda boda. And next to the garages are the metal workshops where skilled welders make beds and fences. One other thing that really stood out was the fact that every village had its own crop; if you’d see cauliflower at one stall, then for sure you would see cauliflower all the others as well, next to bananas, tomatoes, potatoes and onions of course. For a variety of vegetables we would have to stop in a couple different villages.

From Mbarara we took a road that goes in a straight line towards the border. It started off as good tarmac followed by good gravel. The last stretch, however, we could hardly speak of a road at all in whatever state. This last bit was clearly only used by two wheeled traffic and pedestrians, but well, we were there and weren’t going to turn around and make a huge detour. Funnily enough we ended up at the border town exactly behind the police roadblock. They looked at us with big surprise, and laughed even harder when they learned that we took the shortcut. The border formalities went smooth; they took about two and a half hours, time we spent mostly on the Tanzanian side.

In our original plan we wanted to visit Rwanda as well. This wouldn’t have cost any extra money if we were able to obtain an East Africa visa in Ethiopia, which we weren’t unfortunately. Since it is a very small and very busy country we decided to skip it. Another change in our plans is that we are not going to the coast in Tanzania. This too is a pity, but the way there is long, 1200km, and the only place we really wanted to visit was Zanzibar. Now the drive will take us straight down south towards Malawi, another country that is very high on our favorite list. The drive in West Tanzania promises to be adventurous, and, if we may believe our not very reliable guidebooks, impossible at some stretches during the rainy season. Will we finally be able to take those muddy photos we’ve been waiting for? We hope so, so far the roads have been (too) good, no big mud puddles yet, and we are so ready for some crazy driving (a little bit)!

This time we have uploaded a couple of videos as well as the usual photos, enjoy!

Till the next time!

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