Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Health and fitness by Nicky

It seems to be customary for travel bloggers to give their readers a blow by blow account of every minor ache, pain and bowel movement. And that's second only in popularity to rambling accounts of the bureaucracy and inefficiencies encountered en route. I am delighted to report that our expedition has been almost entirely free of both types of obstacle and despite starting with a bad case of mumps and meandering through several cut toes and head colds we are all fighting fit. Our yoga practice has suffered somewhat although this week Amanda and I have made the most of the cool green garden of our friends Shaun and Amy Hughes in Khartoum to get back into a routine. The boys have swum whenever possible - at the German Club here, the British Embassy pool in Addis, and in flouride-full brown Lake Langano (actually very pleasant). They occasionally do a bout of crunches and press ups and even a run or two. We have walked in Samburuland, northern Kenya, and walked and pony trekked at Wenchit Lake where we visited hot springs. Robert and Gus appear to get most of their exercise doing car repairs or by flexing their right arm whilst holding a dumbbell shaped remarkably like a beer can. Not in Sudan of course, where sharia law prohibits consumption of alcohol. (thats the official version anyway). And of course for the most part our diet has been extremely healthy - lots of fruit and veg, very little dairy and meat or sugar. All this has resulted in the team collectively shedding about 12 or 15 kg - a welcome development for the adults but we have been trying to fatten up Xander again as all his trousers keep falling down. Not surprisingly our comprehensive First Aid kit which takes up an entire ammo box has barely been touched: at the end of the trip we plan to donate unused items to a small organisation in Zimbabwe that runs a couple of clinics, and is also called Jangano.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Into Khartoum...

Serene Amy, surrounded by the detritus of the Jangano team...

Myna and Shaun, looking as if the year's haven't passed.

John and adoring fans. Maybe some years HAVE in fact passed.....

Graveyard for Antonov biplanes, on the roadside in Sudan. We counted 18 of them sitting out in the sun.
Robert and our first puncture. His obvious glee stems from the fact that it wasn't on his car!

Three boys wandering down a street in Gonder, Ethiopia.

Latest snaps from the gang...

Hi all

As Max says, we've made it to Khartoum, which in itself is quite an achievement. A few landmarks passed:

1. 8,000 kms done in the first month
2. 5 weeks gone today(already!)
3. First puncture (on a shockingly bad road in Ethiopia)
4. First broken shock absorber (ditto)
5. First week of boarding school completed by Jake. (Not a peep out of him yet, as predicted!)

Now staying with friends Shaun and Amy in Khartoum, which has been wonderful. Also a chance to catch up with John and Myna (ex HIS in Harare). Still as weird as ever!

More photos to follow....


Saturday, 24 January 2009

Sudan and O levels

We arrived in Khartoum yesterday, most of us with almost no idea of what to expect. I personally had no idea. Its first impression is of wealth but rigidness. We drove on the better roads than we'd seen in two weeks but were stopped every hour by police to check our passports.
However the rubbish is everwhere. Plastic bag trees are by far the most common form of vegetation in this dry, flat and rather boring landscape. Another aspect that catches the eye is road kill. Heaps of decaying camel, cow and goat carcasses litter the side of the road.
The people are extraodinarily friendly though and that comes as a bit of a relief. Ethiopian people just do not hold the same amount of genuine joy to see you. You are somewhat seen as a source of material goods there.
Our first night in Sudan we camped wild just outside a town called Gedaref. We wriggled our cars through a tiny village who's people were delightful. They gave us time to set up camp in the hills beyond and then sent a small delegation to check that we were ok. Just lovely. I was also invited to play football with a couple of Arabic boys called Hassan and Salim. We had no common language except the football, but got on really well.

Four days ago I recieved my O level results from Zim. They was something that I had put to the back of my head since the 21st of November last year when my last one had finished. However in five incredibly short and tense minutes I had got through to a great friend and teacher in Zim. It was a bad line but that wasnt the only reason I had to ask for several results twice. I will try to remain modest but must confess that I was overjoyed by some of them. 4 A*s, 2A's and 2 B's. For once in my life I am not desperate to find out the individual marks for each paper, just the symbols are enough.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

More photos from the Le Bs

Hi folks, a few more to entertain you. These are, respectively,
1. Boys playing astride a tank on the roadside.
2. Ben with genuine Orthodox priest at one of the churches
3. An amazing 12th century church in a cave in Tigray. The kids LOVED this one!

Boarding school!

Hi all
Our news - Mands just took Jake down to SA to start his boarding school, and there he now is! Very sad for all of us to lose him, and a sobering moment realising your first-born has grown up that much. We don't yet have an e-mail address for him, but we'll pass it on as soon as we get it. Jake was perfectly calm and sanguine about the whole thing, of course!
More photos to come, but check out the attached. His mum doesn't look half bad, either!

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Goodbye Jakers, by Mands

As the glorious first month On The Road is almost completed, we can definitely look back and celebrate no major mishaps, no major squabbles and no major breakdowns.
Yet my heart is sore. For today, I drove Jakers to Woodridge to begin a new life at boarding school. Jangano is no longer a 9-strong team; we are now down to 8. At least for the next 2 and a half months, at least...
We have been so lucky to have had Jake on The Trip for this first month. But now it's time for him to start another new adventure. Without us this time. Instead, with lots of other 13-year olds, all at the same time, all in the same boat: all with the same sense of newness and not-knowing, nerves and trepidation. A new school career. Thankfully, Woodridge is the sort of school that warmly welcomes and embraces their new students, particularly those from without South African borders. Even better, the Head's understanding of Jake's predicament with regard to The Trip, has led to a free ticket to complete our Epic Journey once he rejoins us in the Easter holiday. This will mean missing the first half of the second term. But that's OK, because it's the first term that is so important.
Which reminds me why my heart is so sore. For today, I drove Jakers to Woodridge to begin a new life at boarding school.
Actually, though the day was peppered with intense moments of emotion and spontaneous tear-pricking of the eyes (my eyes, that is), the two of us have had a really special time together. We have talked in a way that has long been part of our normal form of communication: sharing secrets, amusements, jokes and fears. The constant hopping from nervousness to excitement has left me exhausted. And weepy. But also with a deep sense of contentment, knowing deep down that I left Jake in a good place. He's going to be just fine. I know it and that helps enormously. And yet, my heart is still sore...

Letter from Ethiopia

Axum, Northern Ethiopia, January 18th 2009.

Blog entry by RA.

Tomorrow is Timkut, the Ethiopian festival of the Ascension - second
only to Easter in the Ethiopian Orthodox calendar. And Axum, home to
the oldest church in Ethiopia and reputedly the home of the Ark of
the Covenant, is a good place to be spending Timkut.

Yesterday, as we rolled west down the setting sun into Axum, we
passed the seven thousand kilometer mark since leaving Harare exactly
four weeks ago. With satisfying (if meaningless) coincidence, at the
same moment Jambanja's odometer clicked over to 222,222 kms since she
left the factory in Japan in December 1996.

Ehiopia. What an extraordinary place. I get echoes of communist-era
Afghanistan in the cities; of central Asia in the landscapes; of the
fourteenth century in the countryside; of Tibet in the ancient rock
churches and monasteries of Lalibela and the mountain highlands; of
Nepal in the hardy, olive-skinned, skinny, shorts-and-shawl-wearing
Amhara shepherds by the roadside; of the Grand Canyon in the
startling eroded volcanic and sedimentary land between Sekota and

Hardly at all do I sense Africa, though. Despite all the echoes, this
is a very different country.

An independent Christian Kingdom since AD 340, Ethiopia was the only
state on the continent to enter the 20th century without being
colonised. Subsequently she suffered invasion and temporary
occupation by the Italians in the 1930's, but was liberated, with
help from the British, in the 1940's. Emperor Haili Sellassie, Ras
Tafari, last of the 3,000 year old line of Solomonic king-emperors,
was overthrown by a Communist-inspired coup in 1975.

The ghastly Derg communist dictatorship brought with it all the usual
consequence of close alliance with the Soviet Union and East Germany
- concrete architectural monstrosities in the cities, a preponderance
of red flags, stars and hammers-and-sickles on public buildings, and
a countryside littered with wrecked and rusting armoured vehicles,
testament to the . Not to mention tens of thousands killed for
opposing the regime, hundreds of thousands killed in the wars fought
to get rid of the regime, and millions killed in famines exacerbated
by the regime.

This is a complicated country - moving, generally, in the right
direction, but not entirely sure of itself. The government has just
enacted legislation which will make life much more difficult for
NGO's working with human rights, for instance. As the economy has
grown impressively over the past decade, political freedoms have been
constrained, and some of the hundred or so ethnic groups that make up
Ethiopia's demographic patchwork are grumbling.

And there is an underlying religious tension, too - despite
Ethiopia's ancient Christian status, there is a sizeable Muslim
minority, and many of her neighbours are Muslim. At the ethnographic
museum in Addis we noted that the official description of the "Muslim
minority, making up 35% of the population", had been scribbled out
and the number "35" replaced by "55%". In many towns there seems to
be an old church and a new mosque.

Ethiopia has allied herself to the west in the "war on terror", most
notably in a failed attempt, despite the commitment of much blood and
treasure, to prop up the anti-Islamist government in Somalia. But I
fear that the problems she will face in the coming years will be much
closer to home.

Meanwhile, though, this is a fantastic place to visit. Sensible,
sensitive, sustainable tourism can be a tremendous force for good in
a country in transition; and I think that after decades of isolation,
famine, and war, in few places is that more the case than here.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Belated Piece from BEN on Marsabit

We stayed at Marsabit Game Park. Where we stayed was inside the
crater from an old volcano which erupted thousands of years ago. I
found it very exciting; it was really fun there. It was the best
place we've been to so far in my opinion. We were staying by a place
called Paradise Lake. There were buffalo and some elephants and a
couple of times, there seemed like some very angry elephants, because
they were protecting their family.

Max Le B's thoughts on Addis Ababa

Holly is our friend from Zim. She lives in Addis Ababa. Yesterday at lunch time, she found 2 puppies and at night one puppy died. Snowy is a white puppy. This place is a lovely place. I am sleeping in a tent with my brothers in the garden, because we can't sleep in the house, because there's not enough space. Robert and Nicky are at the British Embassy. 
There are many buggies on the road and we play "Punch Buggy", so whenever you see a buggy [Volkswagon beetle], you punch someone not hard and say "Punch buggy!" And some people driving in the cars are so nice because they stop and let us pass.
Back in Zimbabwe, I hope none of our dogs die [?!], or any of our animals. Hello Ms Breanach and Miss Bismark and everyone in 1A and 1B!!

Driving in Ethiopia, by Mands

Driving in Ethiopia, by Mands
A few days ago, I got to drive through rural Ethiopia. This was a remarkable event and not just because it marked only my second stint behind the wheel?! (When your husband is such an experienced driver, why cause the unnecessary high blood pressure?)
I drove a mere 150km from the dusty town of Dila to the welcoming waters of Lake Langano; a modest distance and yet it took us almost 3 hours! And this is the reason why…
Picture a tar road, freckled with continuous potholes that have to be avoided, without careering into the other lane. Then add oncoming traffic (all ludicrously crazy drivers, by the way) which is also avoiding the potholes on the other side of the road, but has no qualms about careering into the other (that would be my) lane.
Added to which, the rural livestock population: namely goats, donkeys, cattle (and the oddly misplaced couple of herds of camels). Such sanguine creatures all of them. So placid (or stupid) in fact, that the threat of a much larger, faster and heavier metal vehicular creature coming toward them poses zero threat whatsoever. No, they simply stay put, either showing off incredible courage, or immense vacancy. (No prizes for that one).
Added to which, the rural human population. So delighted (?) intrigued and curious are they to see two big loaded cars full of  "faranji" that they have to step out into the road to get a closer look. How we didn't see piles of sprawling people on the roadside is beyond me! Then add the screaming children's greetings of "You! You! You! You! You!" playing like a stuck vinyl. Clearly and genuinely happy to see a car full of white people, it is hard to ignore these faces of delight and double-handed waves. I, for one, have never felt more like the Queen in my life, for all the waving I did. Added to which, face-ache from so much smiling.
By the time we reached the volcanic waters of Lake Langano, I was more than ready for a cold beer. Unfortunately, I developed a migraine. No prizes for that one either…

Monday, 12 January 2009

riding out on Lake Wenchit

Xander on Bulo, riding up to the hot springs above Lake Wenchit

11 Jan 09

Gus and Jake at the fort in Mega, Ethiopia

Just north of the Kenya-Ethiopia border we stopped at this ruined
fortress in Mega. In 1940 Gus's grandfather was part of a British
East African column that advanced into Ethiopia and captured this
fort from the Italians.

Ethiopian children

In the Stele forest on the road a couple of hundred kilometers south
of Addis we met these children.

Ethiopian child

Photo by Robert

Jangano on a tank

The Jangano boys (Max, Ben, Xander, Max, and Jake) on a burned-out
T-62 tank by the road in central Ethiopia

Jangano at 11,000 feet

Our altitude record so far - 11,100 feet above sea level, on the road
from Wenchit Lake to Ambo.

Campsite at Lake Wenchit

Dawn at our campsite on the edge of Lake Wenchit, west of Addis
Ababa, Ethiopia. The Lake is formed in a volcanic crater, and there
is a 500 year old monastery on the island beyond our campsite. This
morning we were woken at 4.00AM by the monks and nuns chanting.
Absolutely magical.

View from Jambanja

A passenger's side view of an Ethiopian roadside village, from Jambanja.

Stele in Southern Ethiopia

600 year old phallic stele - probably a grave marker - in Southern

Monday, 5 January 2009

Jangano2009 crosses the Equator - 30 Dec 08


Into Ethiopia

Yabello, Southern Ethiopia, 05 Jan 09

A hard road across the desert of northern Kenya, 300 kms of
corrugated, battered road, blazing heat and nothing for miles but
thorn scrub, camels, and mountains floating on the horizon suspended
by mirage heat. Mahale (the Le Breton Cruiser) broke a cable to the
battery and declined to start. We fixed it by the side of the road
and pushed on. The road north is notorious for Shifta, heavily-armed
Somali bandits who rob passing traffic. But they left us alone.
Thanks guys.

We have seen elegant and skittish Kudu and hundreds of tiny dik-dik
antelope, and jackals and wide-winged eagles that circle above the
road scanning for road-kill.

Last night we camped at the Mission hospital in Sololo, outside the
house of Peter, the administrator; and this morning we rose early,
and came to the Moyale border post, clean, bright, efficient and
easy, though our guide-books had filled us with trepidation.

And now we are staying in the Yabello motel, 550 kms from Addis,
which we hope to make tomorrow night, just in time for the Ethiopian
Orthodox Christmas on Jan 7th.

Gus and the boys are fighting a savage little war with plastic tanks
and beer caps across the courtyard, and our Chinese road-builder
neighbours are on the phone to Nanjing, apparently working on the
principle that if you shout loud enough you won't have to pay for the

Saturday, 3 January 2009

update from Paradise

Paradise Lake, Marsabit, Northern Kenya, 16.00, 03 Jan 09

Robert writes: -

Four astonishing days on the road north from Nairobi to Marsabit,
where we are camped by Paradise lake in the middle of the Marsabit
crater. An oasis of primal rain forest in the midst of arid desert
and semi desert. We have stopped to talk to Samburu warriors, adorned
in bright red cloaks with mountains of beads around their necks, long
polished spears and clubs, and terracotta dye in their hair. We have
spent a happy new year's eve drinking whisky by a stream in the
Nyamuniak conservancy with Robert's cousin Nigel and his partner Sveva.

We've proved that you can, indeed, burn out the electrics on a
Landcruiser (Sveva's, not ours) and get it started with nothing more
than a wire from the fuel pump to the battery and a hefty push. We've
found that the weak point of an overloaded Landcruiser (both Mahali
and Jambanja) is the roof rack mountings - but fixed them with self-
tapping screws and bits of old inner tube, in the best jua kali
tradition of African bush mechanics.

And rather than write a long screed about what I've seen and done,
I'm going to hand over to the Jangano team for a collection of
impressions and thoughts on this past few days.


My favourite part was in Nyamuniak, where we went on a long walk up
to the little river that we swam in. The walk up was was very hot and
I was quite grumpy and tired, but the river was cold and full of
rocks that you could stand on, and we climbed up on one huge rock to
see a view of the mountains and the valley. Also I spent a long time
sitting in a tree above our camp site, thinking about the trip that
we are on, and how fun it will be and what will happen on it.

Jake -

OK. My favourite part has been arriving here at Marsibit - not just
the camp site but the whole area. It's amazing because in a sea of
desert there's a special island covered in rain-forest, with three
big craters from extinct volcanos. There's lots of game - we've seen
elaphants, buffalo, vultures and dik-dik.

Max -

In the dry river bed, or Luggah, where we camped wild last night near
Seralevi, we had a Samburu visitor called James. He was a primary
school teacher and a warrior (two very different occupations). He was
29 and looking for a wife. This meant that he had died his hair red
with ochre and was not allowed to drink anything. All his liquid from
what he ate and in a scrub desert where keeping hydrated is very
important this is a serious challenge. Apparently he was 'on the
trail' of a wife so would be able to drink again soon. He also
carried a really cool spear made from the discarded metal of Chinese
road builders. Apparently he could throw the spear 50 metres and that
he had killed five elephants with it (apparently). Anyway it was
really interesting to meet him and have a conversation.

Ben -

My favourite place that we've been to so far was the Seralevi river
which was all dried up. A Samburu warrior named James was walking
along and came past our camp and we talked to him a bit about how he
lived and how we lived and we took some photos of him. Also, with no
help from the adults Xander and I put up the tent that we are
sleeping in. When we had done that I felt proud of myself and Alexander.