Monday, 29 December 2008
Despite the screed from Gus early this morning (long before this sleepy traveller was awake) I thought I would make the most of the free internet access we have here in Karen to keep our loyal and ever-growing band of followers updated. That’s all nine of you! Of course we assume many 100s more eagerly await our next posting. We’ve had a happy couple of days spent mostly eating and repacking it seems, with the wonderful Cecilia cooking and washing for us. Definitely easing our way into this six month epic…We took time to visit some friendly giraffes and then we all nobly sacrificed precious books, smelly socks, useful pieces of string and old bits of chewing gum in the name of ‘rationalisation’ and ‘shaking down’ and now we have MASSES more room. Mands may be able to move her legs in Mahale (the Le Breton car) tomorrow and if he's really lucky Alexander will have a seat inside Jambanja (the Harford/Adams car). And so we’re off again before we get too accustomed to our creature comforts, into the wilds of northern Kenya.
Hey guys, a few snaps off the new camera Santa kindly delivered to Mands, on a remote beach in Tanzania.
Here's the "stockings" (actually a delightful set of matching designer plastic bags) being opened at 6am on the beach on Christmas Day.
Sunday, 28 December 2008
Finally, an opportunity for Mands to contribute to our blog!
Having traversed through Zambia and Tanzania at a fairly relentless pace over our first week on the road, we were rewarded magnificently when we found ourselves at the Tanzanian coast, just south of Tanga, spending Christmas at campsite Peponi. Up to this point, we’ve been so preoccupied by The Trip, that Christmas almost passed us by. And indeed might well have done, were it not for the 3 youngest members of Jangano, who kept the faith that Father Christmas would find us, even there. And guess what? He did not let us down! (It may have had something to do with the largely inscribed message in the sand reminding him that “We Are Here!”). However, other than Santa’s presence and presents (of course!), Christmas Day passed us by blissfully unawares, as we swam in the sea and pool, walked the length of the beach and generally relaxed in this little paradise. Our one Christmassy concession were the crackers Nicky cleverly produced as we exchanged a few gifts. The best Christmas present to ourselves was staying at Peponi for an extra day and not having to pack up camp! We all took a dhow out to sea on Boxing Day for some snorkelling fun on the nearby reef, which was divine, though some of us came back extremely red and burnt!
Our restful treat over, we packed up and headed out yesterday morning, leaving Tanzania (for now) and continuing our trek northwards into Kenya. Our route took us up past the town of Moshi, where we saw the magnificent and awesome Mount Kilimanjaro – a special moment for me, as it not only brought back great memories of my climb earlier this year, but also meant I could show my boys this beautiful part of Africa. Hopefully, Jakers will find himself back there one day too…
Our drive into Nairobi was a surprisingly long and arduous one and we broke our own rule of not driving in the dark, just so we could reach Matthew and Alice’s house in Karen. We had left the coast at 8.30am and arrived pretty shattered last night at 9.15pm – one of our longer days’ drive! Sadly, Matthew and Alice are in UK at the moment, but they have generously left us their house to enjoy for the 2 days we now have in Nairobi. It is glorious to be back in a bed again (already somewhat worryingly feeling the effects of sleeping on the ground?!) and feeling properly clean! Shees! If this is how we feel after just ONE WEEK on the road, what the heck are we going to be like after 6 MONTHS??!
Tuesday, 23 December 2008
23 December 2008
Well, that was a hell of a start to our expedition. Three countries
and 2,227kms in three days. Serious driving. As Max notes, we'll
cover close to ten percent of our six month expedition distance in
the first four days. We're racing to the beach on the Tanzania-Kenya
border, around Tanga, for Christmas. From then on, it will be a
gentler, more measured pace.
Sunday 21st Dec 756 kms/13 hours
05.15 at the junction of Harare Drive and 2nd Street (05.35 in the
case of the Adams/Harford car - sorry Le B's. It won't happen again)
A fast blast across the desolate abandoned farmland of poor, sad
Zimbabwe, down the Zambezi escarpment past wrecked trucks that have
fallen off the road, caught fire, lost brakes, or simply gone to
sleep at the wheel, to the vast Zimbabwean border post at Chirundu,
designed for thousands of visitors but currently dealing with, well,
We have a short delay while the police wait for their office to be
disinfected for cholera by a thin lady in a pink housecoat and a
matching pair of industrial rubber gloves. Then across the new
Chirundu bridge to Zambia, where the customs post is brightly lit,
air conditioned, and extremely efficient. And where the Zambians
politely pity us for coming from Zimbabwe.
Then through torrential rainstorms to Lusaka, where we stop for a
photo on Cairo road, to mark the great dream of the Cape to Cairo
route; to Kapiri Mposhi, onto the Great North road, and finally,
after 13 hours on the road, we roll across the dam wall to Alice and
Hugo Firck's Druadan farm, a thousand hectares of tobacco and maize
in the Makushi farming area.
Ali and Hugo were kicked off their farm in Mvurwi, in Zimbabwe,
during the first wave of the land invasions in 2001. After a few
years on the eastern Cape, they are back doing what they do best, and
love most - farming in Africa. They've just built a huge new semi-
mechanised curing barn, which Hugo showed us round - a claustrophobic
crouching run under the drying tobacco leaves into the 78 degree
Celsius heat, a thick, sweet smell, and you can feel the moisture
leaching from the leaves all around.
Max and Jake chill on the trampoline with Hugo and Alice's daughter
Zoe, and twin boys Dima and Ivan. Xander, Ben and mump-ridden Max Le
B run like puppies on the lawn in the dark, then we all sleep like
we've been coshed.
Monday 22nd Dec 854 kms/ 13.5 hours
Up at five, to find Ali making pots of coffee and ham sandwiches for
the road. Check the cars - I don't think I'll ever not be excited
checking out a vehicle at first light before a long journey - and
rolling just before six, Hugo leading us through the manicured
farmland of the Makushi block. Then hours and hours of rolling,
wooded land through Zambia, north and east to the Tanzanian border.
Zambia must have one of the lowest population densities in southern
Africa; apart from charcoal burners along the roadside, we hardly see
a single person all the way to the border.
Tunduma, the border town, is a maelstrom of touts and trucks. We
negotiate customs and immigration as a massive storm breaks across
the land, thunder and lightning and torrential rain, weave out
through the chaos, refuel, then drive a miserable, brutal hundred
kilometers to Mbeya, where we fall into the grotty Green view hotel,
eat bacon and pasta, drink a couple of beers, and sleep in mosquito-
Tuesday 23rd Dec 617kms/ 10 hours.
Tanzania is such a beautiful country, We roll today across lines of
hills, drop down through a valley full of baobabs, and come into
Morogoro under the mountains on a hot clear afternoon. We pitch camp
at the Morogoro hotel, where the children swim while we set up camp
for the first time on this trip, new tents and bedrolls and sleeping
bags unpacked... Now we sit over a cold Tusker, writing our diaries,
a gentle breeze off the mountains, stars overhead.
Tomorrow we have 400kms to go to the beach at Pangani, where we will
stay for Christmas and boxing day.
It's really begun now.
Saturday, 20 December 2008
Learning My Way Around
This post is a little late but I thought I'd share a little mechanics with our blog. On Thursday morning dad and I drove our maroon and silver Land Cruiser down to Alex "Mr Cruiser" Hawkins to give her a last service. It was also a chance for me to learn the ropes so that we could perform campsite services when necessary.
We arrived at about 8 o'clock and it was very slick. A mechanic named Adrik was detailed to assist us and we got going. Dad had already done a service so did most of it himself with Adrik only lending a helping hand when needed.
First the car was driven over a pit and we clambered in. Then we let all the oil out of the sump into a tray. The oil filter was changed and the sump refilled, after replacing the plug though. Not replacing the plug can have drastic consequences. All the oil drains out and the engine blows up, literally!
Replacing the fuel filter is a job that guarantees spilling diesel on the engine. Anyway it had to be done and surprisingly was done with minimal fuss. We changed the o-ring that stops our fuel from leaking and remembered to seal it with a bit of diesel. Then we put the whole component back in place. Then we had to pump the fuel back through by hand.
We had noticed a leak coming from the front differential so took off the protective plate to have a look. It turned out that the o-ring was hard and brittle and hadn't been replaced for ages. It also looked as though someone had bodged it with silicon at some point so all of that had to be removed. The o-ring was replaced though and the leak ceased. Then after some debate we managed to refit the plate correctly.
The next job was to check the levels of oil in the front and back differentials and the transmission box. It is a very simple test that involves a very large spanner and nothing else. It sounds like a brutal test but in fact you merely have to loosen a few bolts. Each hole from which a bolt is loosened should leak a bit of clear liquid to prove that the oil levels are high. Re-tightening the bolts I quite important as well!
The last job was to fill the radiator and hand over some $$ to Alex for the use of his workshop, tools and mechanic.
Friday, 19 December 2008
wishing us good luck and happy travels.
It's been like Christmas...
This came from a friend and colleague in Karachi, a graphic designer
and all-round excellent travelling companion, Tahir Ali. He took the
photo we sent out to all our friends, and worked some magic on it.
Thanks, Ali bhai!
1. Jake's performing in the musical version of a Christmas Carol. He plays several parts in the chorus and is on stage every night till 9pm. This will continue until the night before we leave (which, in fact, would be tomorrow night!). It's a very professional production and Jake performs his multiple roles with considerable aplomb and enthusiasm. If the stage ends up being his chosen career path, he'll do well. No doubt about that.
2. Max has mumps. With impeccable timing, the swelling in his glands (blithely dismissed by his father as toothache) has mutated into full-blown mumps. Given that he has had sleepovers with half of Harare in the last two weeks, we're about to become very unpopular indeed. Perhaps making this a good time to depart!
3. None of the rest of us have mumps yet. But we're on tenterhooks. When I phoned the clinic to ask if I could take any preventative medicine, the nurse laughed and asked why I should be worried, given that I already have three children. I didn't exactly follow her logic, but found it distinctly worrying all the same.
4. Mands and I had a frantic day's shopping in Joburg on Tuesday. We specially organised this, as a last chance to get the goodies we'd earlier imagined picking up on our way through (when we still thought we could ship our cars through Durban, ho ho!). Imagine our surprise to find that we'd carefully and cleverly chosen a public holiday for our one day of shopping! As it turned out (10 days till Christmas), shops were open and we managed to get most of what we needed, but it was a worrying moment.
5. Meanwhile we've now perfected the art of going to bed after midnight and waking up at 4am, with lists of things To Do running through our head at breakneck speed. Yesterday morning's early awakening was made more special by the arrival of our new baby zebra. Mum's been growing rounder and rounder by the day, and the inevitable finally happened and out popped a baby. No name yet, but Jangano strikes me as appropriate.
6. And finally, I've just about finished at work. Time to lock up the office and hand over the keys to Jonny (the lucky man) and head for the door. I perhaps won't mention the mumps.....
In 48 hours we'll be on the road!
Thursday, 18 December 2008
Wednesday, 17 December 2008
This morning I had a final last yoga session with one of my wonderful teachers, Philippa, so actually I feel pretty centred and calm, which bodes well. She and my other amazing yoga teacher, Jenny, have been really enthusiastic and supportive about this trip and have made lots of useful suggestions for how we can keep supple and stay positive. I am looking forward to practice sessions on the beach in Tanzania next week with Mands and Max (who has been quite a regular at classes recently). And perhaps some if not all the other boys in the party will be tempted by the bright orange and blue yoga mats or the prospect of being able to touch their toes.
Tuesday, 16 December 2008
After five weeks of rumbling and growling, grey clouds and dry skies,
the rains have finally come to our part of Harare. When I woke this
morning the garden sparkled.
Yesterday evening Nicky and I spent a couple of hours starting the
process of packing. Our guest cottage is now littered with boxes,
tents, coffee mugs, inverters.. it's all about lists.
When I was a child we used to go on family camping holidays, mostly
in the Celtic fringe of the UK. I learned then from my Mother that
without a decent packing list the first time you realise what you
have left behind is when it is too late to do anything about it. Our
list at the moment is something of a work in progress - but it should
finalise in the next couple of days. At the moment it takes up eight
pages of A4. Yikes!
Five more days to go. There's a lot to do.
Sunday, 14 December 2008
Our Leavers Party up Ngomokarira
Max Adams wrote...
I woke up slightly earlier than usual on Saturday to prepare for our trip up Ngomokarira. After a bit of predictable Adams/Harford arguing we set off.
Our rendezvous was Helensvale shops and we were very surprised to discover that half of Harare had turned up to say goodbye, or to make sure that we were in fact leaving! About twenty cars and sixty people pitched up. Fifteen minutes later we left at the head of a large convoy. Less than an hour later we arrived at the base of the mountain and the walkers and drivers split up. My friend Alex and I took the less popular option of trekking. It took us an hour to reach the top but it was the quicker choice. The cars took a difficult route to the top on the wet rocks and provided an amazing scene of nearly 20 cars snaking their way over the ridge and onto the plateau.
At the top the party really began. Beers were cracked, skottel braais set up and bacon thrown on. Members of the 4x4 club displayed their vehicles' ability by 'kissing the beacon' ie touching the concrete pillar at the very top of the 'mountain of drums'.
The festivities continued with everyone growing merrier by the drink. New friendships were made and old ones renewed. The christening of the cars commenced at about 1 o'clock. A small speech by dad (it could only have been him) and that small necessity that is a bottle of champagne! Our car was named Jambanja, the shona word for riot but we are hoping that it would not provide us with such. The le Bretons' car was christened Mahali, a Swahili word meaning place, as it is to be their home for the next 6 months.
In ones and twos the cars crawled down the side of the mountain. By 2 there were only a few people left and we said our goodbyes before driving down. Nobody walked! It was a sleepy drive home but everyone arrived safely.
Friday, 12 December 2008
It's a little after 7, on an overcast morning in Harare. I'm sitting on our balcony, looking down over a valley full of msasa trees and birds. It's hard to imagine that just a few kilometers away, beyond the hills on the other side of the valley, the vast majority of the population of this country are living in stress and penury.
It can be hard for people who live in the more egalitarian north-west corner of the planet, in Europe and North America, to grasp the inequalities in most of the rest of the world. There's always a "bubble existence", even in the very worst places (Kabul, Goma, Baghdad), where those with the resources and the opportunities live comfortably while the majority struggle from day to day. I think the morally important thing is not to allow the bubble to become armoured. There's a very fine line between living well and living parasitically.
I suppose I am acutely conscious that as our adopted homeland sinks into the mire, with hunger and cholera and inexcusable selfishness by our political leaders, we are about to embark on what must, to some, seem like an absurd extravagance. I have been quietly haunted, the past few months, by the contradiction between Zimbabwe's decline and our expedition.
Anyway, enough of this: we are off in ten days; and in truth, there is little happening here in Zimbabwe that isn't happening everywhere else in Africa, if not today, then in the past decade and probably in the decade to come. I'm sure there'll be more musings on this theme over the coming months.