Europe

Back to Africa Fever

africa

Posted from Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa.

The Africa bug is hard to shake. It’s been 10 months since we completed our trip around Africa, and we’re both back on the continent. In the meantime, Jeffrey has moved to South Africa permanently to start his new business and be closer to his girlfriend, Zelmarie. Twan has gone back to studying for his Master’s in the Netherlands, but decided to take a short break and visit South Africa once more. So, tomorrow the Africa Expedition team is back in Africa!

Land Rover Defender 110 Stationwagon 300TDi Overland Vehicle For Sale

desert

Posted from Eindhoven, North Brabant, The Netherlands.

Our expedition has come to an end so it is time to sell our beloved ‘Landy’. Our 1996 Land Rover Defender 110, station wagon model (5 doors) with a 300 TDi engine, carried us around Africa for about 58,000 kilometres. It has a cleverly designed interior that is suitable for two people, is equipped to deal with the roughest terrain imaginable and is altogether a very suitable vehicle for even the most serious overland expedition. We will sell the car with all of the expensive sponsored upgrades, expedition equipment, rooftent and a whole lot of advice on maintenance, overlanding and caring for our ‘Landy’. This Land Rover is ready for its next adventure – one life, live it! Lees meer »

Welcoming back the Africa Expedition

Posted from Sint Odiliënberg, Limburg, The Netherlands.

Suddenly we were home. After slowly driving through Europe for a week, we arrived back right into a welcome-home party complete with flags, banners, loud music and lots of people. A storm of emotional reunions, congratulations, handshaking, gifts, family, friends, more congratulations and questions met us. It’s somewhat unreal to be home after spending over a year on the road. After our departure I wrote: “you don’t immediately take it in that our departure has become a reality, instead of the dream we had planned over the past few months; something that carries such weight and with so many implications takes several days to sink in.” It was the same here, accompanied by mixed feelings of our adventurous lifestyle ending (for a little while) and sheer happiness to have made it and be home. An abundance of food and drink was waiting for us and our guests.

We would like to thank everyone who played a part in our expedition in any way. Whether it was a friendly email from time to time or as a sponsor or fellow traveller keeping us sane, without your support what we have achieved would not have been possible. Thank you.

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Shoestring travel makes for better stories

wildcamping

Every overlander has his own unique style of travelling; some travel in air conditioned luxury from lodge to lodge and eat steak in a restaurant every night; some ride their bicycle around the world, sleep wherever they can and eat whatever is cheap. We are probably closer to the latter. In general, we sleep in the rooftent, because frankly it’s usually the most comfortable option. In fact, even when we are invited to someone’s house, we often just set up the rooftent in the yard. We have on average €5 a day to sleep and €5 to eat, for the both of us, which is generally enough. It’s a shoestring budget for almost all African countries though. That means we usually cook ourselves and buy most of our food roadside. Sleeping is often a bit more tricky; one night on a campsite may blow our budget for two or three days, particularly in touristy areas. That means we wild camp about 17 percent of the time, and spend the night at people’s homes about 36 percent of the time. Staying in someone’s house varies from an expat’s luxury villa in a capital city, next to a decrepit hut in the desert or even in a farmer’s freshly plowed field. That means that more than half the time we stay for free, which has become our guideline on the trip. The rest of the time, we have spent on campsites, in hotels, on hotel parking lots and on boats. Twan keeps track of our overnight stays, which he set out in the graph below.

Graph

Financial issues aside, shoestring travel forces you to be bold and adventurous. Many people listen to our adventures in strange people’s homes, in the desert with bedouin or just out in the bush, with awe. Our advice to any overlander would be to spend more money on preparing your vehicle and fun activities, and less on accommodation and food. After all, shoestring travel just makes for better stories…

Highlights of the long way down part 1 – Europe to Egypt

desert

It took us five months and 25,000 kilometres to reach South-Africa. We travelled through some rough terrain, had our share of setbacks and met some very interesting people. In this three-part series we will take you back to some highlights of this journey, while we prepare for ‘the long way up’ along Africa’s west coast.

‘The start of our journey’

After preparing for about a year and a half, we finally left on Sunday 22nd April. Expecting only a small, family departure, we were surprised by the large number of people who had shown up for the occasion. Not only were our families there, including some rarely seen distant cousins, but we were also pleased to see that friends and the ‘dispute’ we both belong to had made their way south to Twan’s home town of Sint Odiliënberg. Twan’s mother, Gerry, had arranged a buffet that provided a wonderful brunch for everyone in attendance. After singing the dispute song, twice, to please our audience, and saying goodbye to our parents and brothers, we drove off, heading south. Of course, you don’t immediately take it in that our departure had become a reality, instead of the dream we had planned for over the past few months; something that carries such weight and with so many implications takes several days to sink in.

‘Africa in Sight’

On our last day in Europe, we made our way to the western tip of the island of Sicily to Trapani, to catch the ferry to Tunisia. However, while we were looking for the right dock, Twan got a call that the ship was delayed for a few hours. Perhaps more importantly, the friendly woman on the phone informed us that we were in the wrong city; our ferry was to depart from Palermo rather than Trapani! So we drove the 100km or so to Palermo, checked in with the friendly and interested officials, spent some time in the city centre and watched the second part of The Godfather on the docks until the ship pulled into port and we could get on. The ship itself was soon filled with countless bodies lying on the cold floor, most of them wrapped in blankets on sleeping mats or anything else remotely comfortable. We decided, although formally forbidden in both Italian and Arabic (neither language I speak or read), to sleep in our car on the lower deck. An undisturbed night was the result. In fact, the only thing making the experience less than comfortable was the deep penetrating sound of the ship’s engines.

The next morning, we went up to the top deck only to be nearly blown off it by the strong winds. However, even through the horrid, almost painful, wind, we got our first glimpse of Africa: the mountains of Tunisia on the horizon, perhaps some 50 kilometres away.

‘Post-war syndrome hospitable Libya’

The next day we got up early and headed down the road towards the Libyan border. Along the way, we passed an enormous UN refugee camp, which gave us a harsh reminder of the situation we were driving into. […] The militia guarding the border all shook hands with us, asked us where we were from and why we were here (“transit to Egypt” sufficed everywhere despite the business visas).

Immediately after entering Libya, the waving, welcoming and honking started. Everybody was delighted to see us. We were in turn delighted to see the first gas station with diesel (commonly called “NAFTA” here), not only because we were were running low, but also to confirm the incredibly low price of around €0.10 per litre! The hospitality was un-ending; if you ask the way to a hotel, you aren’t simply pointed in the right direction, or even given directions for that matter; no, you are driven under escort to the hotel, even if it is on the other side of the city. We were also offered “help” at nearly every checkpoint, and there are many (although you can usually drive through and there is never a line). I am sure they would have been happy to provide us with a city-to-city escort if we had asked. Perhaps they would have used one of the many tanks we saw. Twan could fill entire photo-albums with them, blown up or fully operational, a trophy or a reminder of sacrifice, and Joris was even invited to sit in one. The artillery, as seen on the news (on the back of pick-ups), can be seen at every checkpoint and seems to be ready to shoot down anything that threatens the new, free Libya.
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‘He without a plan sleeps in the desert’

Typical for travelling without a plan, an opportunity lay around the corner. We were overtaken by a man who was traditionally dressed in a white gown and driving the most common car in this part of Africa: the Toyota pick-up. […] The car suddenly turned into the desert and, at tremendous speed, we drove down what was barely a track. A moment of doubt was followed by a feeling of adventure. Soon we spotted another truck on the horizon. What followed was a welcome with Egyptian tea (strong tea with as much sugar as water) from six local men from Salloum, none of whom spoke English, who seemed to gather here regularly to get away from their wives at the end of the day. A campfire was made, music played, singing started, photos were shown and videos too (sometimes gruesome images of slaughtered sheep and fights in neighbouring Libya). They immediately seemed to like us, and after an hour or so they offered to let us  stay for dinner. A fantastic night ensued in the desert with large insects, an ever growing campfire and exchanges of culture. We looked at the stars and I was able to see more of them than I had ever seen before. Close to midnight, we opened our tents and went to sleep. A night to remember.

‘German Military Cemetary in El Alamein’

We drove into El Alamein and spotted a German World War 2 cemetery on our route. Aware of the historic significance of El Alamein (being the second place the Gemans & Italians lost a battle, the first of which was the Battle of England), we decided to stop and have a look. When we drove up, we were greated by Moniem, who almost immediately invited us to stay on his family’s land, upon which the cemetery is located. Soon afterwards, we decided to make the most of this hospitality and stay for two days.
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‘A piece of paradise in Cairo’

When you drive up to the hill approaching the pyramids you are stopped by the “tourist police” (the sort who want to sell you a camel ride). Even if you don’t want to stop, you have to, because they jump the car and you’d have to kill someone to get through. Anyway, after working our way up the hill and using our windscreen wipers to get the fake-police off the Landy, we got to the checkpoint where we were checked and paid the 3 pounds (about €0.45) extra to go onto the terrain with the Land Rover. It would be an understatement to say I would have easily paid double, since we got some fantastic photos as a result. The visit itself was a bit disappointing, since the area is obviously crawling with tourists and people offering crap to them.
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‘Waiting for the boat to Sudan’

We are waiting in Aswan [Egypt] for the ferry to Sudan. The road that leads to Sudan was closed years ago by the Egyptians, effectively marking the end to the first trans-African highway, often referred to as the Cairo-Cape Town Highway. The barge upon which vehicles are transported had left some days before we arrived, so we have had to wait for it to return and for more overlanders with vehicles to arrive so that we can split the enormous cost of chartering the ferry. The wait was relaxing in the shade of the enormous Nubian family house of the Adam family. We parked our car in the front yard, set up our tent and within days the place felt like home.
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Africa in sight

tunisia

Posted from Sfax, Tunisia.

We have now been on the road for about a week and a half. Things are going well: the car is performing outstandingly and we are making good progress on our journey through Europe to North-Africa. Since my last post, we reached the south of Italy from where we were to take a ferry from Villa San Giovanni, on the tip of Italy’s mainland, to Messina in Sicily. The ferry goes roughly every hour, so its rather like catching a train. We were pushed onto the ferry with rapid hand-waving and then walked to the top deck. On the stairs, the first Italian stereotype was confirmed: Italians, and in particular Sicilians, are, on average, old. This confirmation comes from the two dozen or so eldely women, many hunched over and walking in slippers, making their way up the stairs. Italy seems to be divided between rural parts, where this picture of an ageing population is very true, and the cities, which are dominated by black Audis and young businessmen in tightly cut suits. Lees meer »

The start of our journey

monaco

Posted from Trapani, Sicilia, Italy.

After preparing for about a year and a half, we finally left on Sunday 22nd of April. Expecting only a small, family departure, we were surprised by the large number of people who had shown up for the occasion. Not only were our families there, including some rarely seen distant cousins, but we were also pleased to see that friends and the dispute we both belong to had made their way south to Twan’s hometown of Sint Odiliënberg. Twan’s mother, Gerry, had arranged a buffet that provided a wonderful brunch for everyone in attendance. After singing the dispute song, twice, to please our audience, and saying goodbye to our parents and brothers, we drove off, heading south. Of course, you don’t immediately take it in that our departure had become a reality, instead of the dream we had planned for over the past few months; something that carries such weight and with so many implications takes several days to sink in. Lees meer »