Rob and Dee Overland in Africa 2014 – 10,000 miles – 4 months – 10 countries

Monthly Archives: June 2014

A whole series of interesting events have transpired lately. Serendipity, luck, coincidence, who knows?

On our way into Serengeti we had briefly met a wonderful So. African couple, Mike and Hester, who we later ran into a second time at a campground in southern Tanzania. We enjoyed each other’s company so much we made a plan to meet a week later in So. Luangwa game Park, but a delay for our broken front wheel caused us to miss them.

When we did arrive in So. Luangwa Game Park we meandered around looking for leopard and lion and passed a number of other vehicles doing the same without bothering to stop and chat. Late in the afternoon, and for no particular reason we did stop to talk to another couple in a Land Cruiser- I have no idea why we stopped to speak with only this one car out of the dozens we passed, but we did. It turned out they were also from So. Africa and were friends of our Mike and Hester whom we had just missed. We later had drinks and a wonderful evening with them, learning about their lives and experiences in unpredictable Africa.

Two days later when we went to leave a campground in Chipata, Zambia the campground owner asked us if we could deliver her daughter’s passport to her in Lusaka where we were headed next.   We agreed of course. Unfortunately the road as so many here was badly potholed and one particular bounce broke a bracket on our roof rack holding our spare diesel jugs and spare tire.   After that I drove very carefully the rest of the day to keep the rack from bouncing against the truck’s roof.

Along the way we passed a westerner on a heavily loaded road bike. I passed him then stopped and got out of the truck waiting for him to come abreast of us. When he stopped we offered him, food water or any tools or help he might need, all of which he turned down. He was from Switzerland riding the length of Africa- a very formidable task. I finally offered him a giant chocolate bar I had and he shrugged but grinned hugely when I shoved it into his hands.   His home, Switzerland is known for some of the best chocolate in the world and, I apologized for handing a Swiss person a bar of Cadbury but he laughed and said it is energy and calories make the bike wheels turn.

We wished each other well and went our separate ways. A few hours later Dee and I rendezvoused with the daughter awaiting her passport. As a thank- you she handed us a giant bar of fine Lindt Swiss chocolate.   Our two minor good deeds had resulted in swapping cheap Cadbury chocolate for fine Swiss chocolate.

After the passport delivery we continued on to the campground where I was hoping I could find a mechanic or welder who might be able to fabricate some kind of bracket to strengthen our roof rack. The piece that had broken was specially made to go into the roof of our Toyota truck and as it was 4 pm on Saturday afternoon finding the correct spare would be impossible.

As I was pondering the broken bracket I remembered an incident that had taken place when we purchased the truck.   Behind the broken roof rack is a separate rack that holds our roof top tent and I had pointed out to the truck outfitters the tent brackets were very rusted. They went in search of brackets and came back with a set of new brackets in a box but upon inspection they were not the tent brackets I needed. The guy helping us just threw the box into the truck and said, “Well, maybe you can use these for something”.

When Dee and I sailed around the world I carried enough spare parts to just about build a second boat, but since I knew we were going to only own the truck for four months I did not want to invest in spares. Dee was quite shocked when the only spares I brought with us were an oil filter and a diesel fuel filter. In addition to the filters literally the only other spare parts were the box of “incorrect” brackets. I did not really remember what the brackets we had were, but I decided now to open the box and see if there was some way we could use them to our advantage.

To my surprise they were the exact “2011 Toyota Hilux truck roof rack brackets” we needed.   In no time at all I had the entire rack repaired with the exact bracket designed for it.

So of all the hundreds or thousands of nuts and bolts and specialized pieces of a truck what are the odds that the one single spare item we carried was the one that broke?

 

Rob

 

 

 

 


I’m sitting on the bank of the Luangwa river. The sun has just set, painting the sky an ostentatious orange – reminiscent of Doug West’s paintings of an Arizona sunset. In front of me there are at least 50 hippos bellowing and snorting and getting ready to leave the water where they spend their entire day, for the bank where they pass their nights grazing on plants.   I’ve just watched the first star come out after a long day of driving in a remote corner of Africa. Six hours on a 4 wheel drive road, many river crossing and we have not seen any other tourists in 3 or 4 days- in fact only one vehicle in days of driving.

The African sky is an interesting one, often framed by Mopani or flat topped acacia trees near camp. Last night I looked at the Southern Cross hovering over our campfire on a different river and mulled how despite its peacefulness, the southern sky always seems alien to me.

I’m actually mystified by this.

Even though I lived in the Southern Hemisphere for over 4 years and spent hundreds of nights at sea on my boat looking up at the Southern Cross and others in the southern sky I never feel quite right seeing the southern constellations.

I’m not an astronomy buff. Despite the fact that I have spent thousand of nights camped out under the stars in Colorado or Utah, or on my boat in the northern hemisphere, I can still identify only a few constellations or planets- really just the big dipper, the north star and Orion. I admit I’ve done lots of drugs but never quite enough to make the Scorpio scorpion out of a few bright spots in the night sky.

And yet, even though I cannot recognize most of our northern hemisphere constellations somehow by spending so many night in a sleeping bag looking up at them, they have entered my sub conscious. Maybe they are a part of my DNA. I’ve been happy and at home in Australia and Africa but still when lying in a sleeping bag and gazing a the night sky it never feels quite right unless I can place the dipper and follow it’s two leading stars to Polaris- our north star and my guiding light.

In the 1800’s Cowboys herding cattle north from Texas to the railhead at Cheyenne, Wyoming alternated turns on their night watches by watching the big dipper rotate around Polaris.  And much as am loving both Africa and traveling, I won’t be home until I too can watch the Big Dipper do its night dance around the North Star.

Rob


Well the internet died after I typed a page story about this experience. Here are a few photos – I’ll rewrite the post later.

 


When I first started planning this trip I went online and found websites like Africa Overland Network, which had 50 or 60 blogs from people who had done trips like this. Many were from the UK, where it is a “thing” to outfit a land cruiser and go from the UK across a bit of Europe and the Mediterranean to Cairo, Egypt and then from “Cairo to Cape Town” transiting from Africa’s north coast to its southern tip.

I imagined our evenings would be like so many spent while sailing, which is sitting around a campfire with a dozen like-minded adventurers swapping stories. Dee and I, north bound would give the south bounders the skinny on the next leg of their trip, and they would reciprocate telling us all the must visit stops they had come through.

Some of the blogs I read were from over a dozen years ago and I guess if I had done the math I would have figured out that 60 blogs spread over a 12-year period comes out to a whopping 5 vehicles per year. Even if only 1 in 10 have a blog, given the sheer size of the entire African continent, our chances of meeting them are virtually nil.

In fact in two months we have run into exactly 3 overlanders from Europe. One we spoke with for less than 5 minutes. The other two, including a very intrepid motorcyclist, we shared a pleasant evening with.   We have also met a grand total of 5 South African’s up this far north in Tanzania.

I now recall reading a post on the South African 4×4 forum asking if it was even possible to do a self-drive safari in Tanzania. The answer is yes it is possible, but NO YOU DEFIANTLY SHOULD NOT DO IT AS TANZANIA SUCKS. I will certainly vent more about this later.

One of the reasons trans Africa trips have diminished in popularity is the difficulty of finding a route that does not include a war as part of your itinerary. Libya, Syria, Egypt, Mozambique, half the countries in West Africa- take your pick.

A few days ago we reached the northern apogee of our trip and began arcing back to the south, towards our destination of Cape Town by early August. Yesterday we celebrated two mile-stones: we passed the 10,000 kilometer point and we escaped from Tanzania (did I mention the place sucks)?

We are now in Zambia and like most Africa countries the people seem warm and friendly. The next segment of our trip will cross the most remote country we anticipate on this entire trip- going from the Great North Road in Zambia into North Luangwa and then South Luangwa National Park and exiting the park via the normal route. I saw a 4 wheel drive track on the map and have found a few vague references to it online to someone who did it a few years ago, but there were later in the dry season. I hope local knowledge will see us through. We shall see.

Bye for now.
Rob

 

 

 


A few nights ago we camped on the rim of the Ngorongoro crater. As we pitched camp about 5 pm a herd of zebras were grazing about 20 meters away but by nightfall they had moved off into the bush. We went to sleep under the nearly full moon anticipating an O’dark thirty departure to descend into the crater.

This is the first national park camp we had been in with a night watchman and during the night I heard his footsteps crunching in the ground in front of our tent. Then at the same time I heard his footsteps crunching behind our tent and on both sides of us. Listening a bit more closely I realized the sound I was hearing was a herd of animals ripping up the grass as they grazed all around us.

Opening up the tent zipper I looked down on eight African Buffalo. Our tent sits on the roof of the truck and the two closest were directly underneath me. I could have dropped right onto their backs, though I doubt I would have made the 8-second bell if it was a rodeo.

African or Cape Buffalo are one of the “big five” game animals. Hunters actually considered them the most dangerous animal of all because unlike most animals that when wounded take-off running, a wounded buffalo will circle back and hunt the man that shot him.

The next day in the crater we had a guide for the first time on this trip. One bit of animal behavior he passed on to us was about the migration. Each year a herd of over a million wildebeest and zebra migrate between Tanzania and Kenya. The zebra lead the migration and the wildebeest follow along. However when they get to the dangerous river crossing where thousands are drowned, trampled or eaten by the waiting crocs, the wily zebras hang back and let the wildebeest cross first. After the crocs are full and the river banks worn into a smooth track then the zebras cross and return to the front lines continuing to lead the procession.

Our day in Ngorongoro was superb as we saw 15 lion including one lioness who was hunting and we followed her for over half an hour. Eventually the wildebeest scented her and took off- no lunch today.

We knew this trip we were undertaking was a bit unusual and adventurous but surprisingly in all of Serengeti we saw only 4 other private vehicles from So. Africa. In Ngorongoro we were the ONLY private car today- every other vehicle was a guided safari group.

 

Rob

 

 

 


You’re Welcome! The ubiquitous greeting in Tanzania. I first was startled but then realized it was more “We welcome you here” and I respond with Thank you. When I proceed with “How are You?” it breaks their practiced tourist pattern and we may have an actual conversation as I want to focus on them rather than avoid their approach. Ah perspective, intent. We are here to blend in with the scene in Africa. Experience life in their way. Glad to have the time to stop in villages, shop at street stalls, camp at Overlander places. Just coming out of Serengeti National Park and entering Ngoronogo Crater area.

Our entry was a difficult day with roads of corrugated dirt, speeding trucks and buses, a blown tire and though we changed that on the road found another flat tire the next morning. We now know vehicles race down these washboard roads doing at least 60 km/ hr to “smooth” out the bumps and everyone wants the best part of the road no matter what lane it happens to be in. Also found a fuel station at the Park HQ and they had tire repair so we adjusted and got on with focus at hand. We did find the wildebeest migration heading north to Kenya following the rains and good grasses. With effort and perseverance we found a ridge line and valley covered with wildebeest, zebra and some impalas all restless and moving NE. Weather patterns had been mixed and guides were saying animals appear confused and not sure about best pastures. Single large wildebeests would grunt, run at another often near a group lying down. They appeared to be herding the troops: come on guys, time to move! Wonderful to pause and get into the behavior. Many photos, videos and Rob exclaimed “Now we are having fun again”. Tomorrow we go down into Ngoronogo crater, a protected area full of wildlife because pickings are good there and quite barren in surrounding plains in they make the trip up and out. Then we will move on from Tanzania. We have found it more expensive and less friendly than other countries. Focus on individuals and create good experiences. On we go.