The border crossing in the connecting National Park Limpopo/Kruger of the two countries Mozambique/South Africa was very pleasant because the clearance was done in two little isolated huts. Luckily Kruger National Park compensated for the missing animals of Limpopo National Park within a couple of hours. We were surprised by getting to see the whole range of wild animals even from a very close distance. The negative part was just that we had to share the pleasure with a lot of other visitors. Also a bit shocking for us were the campsites. They almost offered the infrastructure of a small town and were made for masses of tourists. For example there were gas stations, ATM’s, a well-stocked shop, medical treatment, etc. No wonder that every campsite space was occupied and we had to park somewhere in the middle. However this spot offered the best view for camper watching. The first thing our temporary South African neighbors did at their arrival was cleaning their car because there was a bit of dust on it. Afterwards they swept the floor in order to build up their fully equipped kitchen for hours. This reminded us very much of the weekly cleaning service in Stuttgart and was far away from being in nature. What a difference to other African countries. Not to forget to mention that the whole campsite resembled a high-security wing. A high electrical fence with a well prepared security service protected the camper from “wild animals” around the clock.
After two days Kruger National Park we visited our friends Sabine and Joe with their kids in Johannesbourg. Also in Johannesbourg people live behind electrical fences with highest security standards. The “white” people from Johannesbourg only move around in these fenced areas. Additionally they never stop at red traffic lights at night. We did not drive at all at night then. On one of the main roads close to Johannesbourg a traffic sign warned us about violent attacks in this area and we should not stop under any circumstances. However we did not notice anything unusual. The fenced “gated communities” offer every single convenience e.g. secure luxurious accommodation with lakes, hills, tennis courts, walking and jogging trails, etc. as well as a shopping paradise just around the corner. What a difference to the corrugated iron huts in the townships that do not allow only one additional breath. It was a pleasant change for us to live in a house again even though we really enjoy travelling with our car. We were especially spoilt from Sabine with the best cuisine ever. Thanks again to our friends.
After this nice break we drove to Kalahari Gemsbockpark. This is a trans-frontier park of the countries South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. We drove through wonderful landscapes on the South African site and arrived at one of the most adventurous campsite at the Botswana site which was exclusively reserved for us alone. Only a little sign in the middle of the most beautiful nature stated that we were at the right place. There were neither toilets nor showers or running water and luckily no fences. We did not mind at all because our Toyota is fully equipped even with a bush shower. We just needed to watch out for Lions or Leopards. The return trip over the northern track was compulsory for to two cars because of security reasons in the event of a car break down. Hardly anyone drives on that isolated deep sand road and there would be no help for weeks. However we convinced the responsible guy on the Botswana side to let us go alone. After all we drove through all the African countries without any difficulty and the 100 km off-road was an easy game. One more time we camped in the middle of the wilderness with a marvelous view over a pan. We saw herds of wildebeest, buffalos and Oryx’s grazing peacefully. That was pure nature.
Unfortunately the Nossob (GPS coordinates S25 25.320 E20 35.770) campsite on the South African site was again far away from being in the wilderness. Similar to the Kruger campsite Nossob offered a well-equipped infrastructure. What a difference in one single national park but different countries. Of course the popular electrical fences were not missing either. Apparently South Africans only feel comfortable in electrical gated areas.
The next morning we drove to Mata Mata in order to enter Namibia and to leave the Kalahari Gemsbock National Park. Our Carnet was already stamped out at our arrival at Two Rivers Entrance Gate on the South African Site.
Marvelous animal watching at Kruger National park
The adventurous Kalahari Gemsbok Park on the Botswana Site
Mozambique, a popular travel destination with snow white beaches and turquoise water. Contrary to that a poor population that has to survive with extremely high prices.
The border crossing from Zimbabwe to Mozambique was done again quickly and without any troubles. Unfortunately we had to pay 80 USD per Person for a visa. We drove from Mutare to Inhassaro at the Indian ocean in one goal. One reason was that we wanted to warm up again quickly after the cold temperatures in Zimbabwe. The other reason was that we heard from various travelers, that Gorongoza Park (which is situated in between) had poaching problems and only few wild animals are left. It seems like not only Zimbabwe is suffering heavily from poaching but also Mozambique. On one hand the poor population should not be blamed. On the other hand however, poaching is generally not done to feed the people. It is done by greedy people that want to make easy money. The damages can never be made up for or it will at least take decades.
Inhassaro is not worthwhile to travel. We did neither like the village nor the beaches. Therefore we continued driving to Pomene the next day and luckily we found a little paradise. The journey itself was already beautiful because we drove through the Pomene National Reserve and the last view kilometers to the campsite (GPS coordinates S22.92276 E35.58506) went along an isolated beach. Yet a 4 x 4 is obligatory because of the challenging deep sandy roads. Our Campsite was located at the end of a promontory and because of low season we were almost the only guests. Like on all beaches in Mozambique local woman sold fresh bread, fruits and vegetables every morning and in the evening their husbands delivered fresh fish from the ocean. It felt like heaven. Looking back we should have stayed at Pomene beach because we liked it the most of all other beaches. But after five days we were ready for some more challenges. Before leaving the area we stopped on the other side of the bay to have a look at a hotel ruin at a fantastic location. The hotel was closed in 1975 and has never found a new buyer since. That was not understandable for us and we suspected that it might be either incredibly expensive or there must be property difficulties.
Following a recommendation we drove to Morrungulo. However as already mentioned the beach and the campsite (GPS coordinates S23 13.941 E35 29.506were far away from Pomene’s standard. Therefore we left the next day and went to Tofu and Barra. We selected again a wild deep sandy road passing by isolated little villages. However we suspected that this road must be very frequented by tourists during main season because the children’s behavior reminded us a bit of Ethiopia. Children were standing at the road begging and we got also hit by a stone (we just hoped that this happened unintentional). When our car was cruising slowly through deep sand, some brave kids were trying to hold onto our car and to do car surfing. Their special fun looked really dangerous to us and we did not appreciate that at all. Tofu is known for its turquoise water and their spectacular diving and snorkeling possibilities. But we did not like the tourist hot-spot and continued driving to Barra to the Bayview Lodge (GPS coordinates S23 47.092 E35 29.915).
Our next destination was Bilene in order to visit Anton, the brother of Viktoria’s friend. Anton and his wife Lee build up the very nice Bilene Lodge (GPS coordinates S25 15.258 E33 20.578) which is beautifully located directly at a lagoon. We really enjoyed staying there and discovered the area by food and by Kayak. As we had seen enough beaches after two weeks we did not drive further south. Luckily we got the very good hint from Anton to cross the border of the two countries Mozambique and South Africa in the connecting National Park Limpopo/Kruger. Thanks to that, it worked very well. However we were wondering why Limpopo Park is called “National Park” because the only animals we discovered were cows. And cows have nothing to do in a National Park. We suspected that all impalas (which are usually in every single park) were eaten up by the poor and hungry population. As we arrived too late at the Limpopo entrance gate a border crossing was not possible anymore on that day and therefore we had to stay one night at a campsite with a nice view at a lake.
We noticed everywhere in Mozambique that the people were not as warmhearted and open minded as in other African countries. It always took a little while until we managed to get a smile. However we really appreciated that the locals were very discreet and not pushy at all. We suspected that this might either be still the consequences of the previous civil war or because of the masses of tourists they have to deal with – and some of them are not that friendly to locals. We could not believe how expensive the groceries were in the streets and supermarkets and we are still curious how the population can afford this. Several travelers were telling us that they got robbed in Mozambique. Luckily we did not have any troubles. But we were also were extremely careful and did not leave our car unprotected for one second. We enjoyed the two weeks in Mozambique, however the main attractions of the country are the beaches and the ocean.
The paradise beach Pomene
Tofu‘s turquoise water and the diving and snorkeling paradise.
Bilene’s beautiful nature
Zimbabwe, once the economic African paradise that is now almost run down. A dream land of natural resources, fertile grounds, diverse beautiful national parks as well as service orientated and creative people. Zimbabwe, a political disaster without any future prospects for the population.
As expected the border crossing to Zimbabwe was done quickly and we drove to Victoria Falls village in order to see the 400 meter spray from a distance. Apparently the best spot offers Victoria Falls Hotel and we also agree with it. The view from the hotel terrace was spectacular. We enjoyed the spray shimmering in rainbow colors over the connection bridge of the two countries Zambia and Zimbabwe. Unfortunately one night in the traditional colonial hotel would have been way too expensive for us therefore we were happy with “high tea” in the afternoon. The village Victoria Falls has craft shops or markets at every corner with art collections from the entire country. The Zimbabwe people are big art masters in African stone and wood sculptures and they produce something creative out of every material or fabric.
The next day we drove to Hwenge National Park and stayed at Sinamatella Camp (GPS coordinates S18 35.139 E26 19.101) on top of a hill with a fantastic view over the untouched wilderness. As the campsite was not surrounded with fences we had to be prepared again for some visitors at night. However we only heard the lions and elephants roaring from a distance. Hwenge National Park is known for its huge herds of elephants and we were lucky. When we woke up we saw already a big herd grazing further down the hill. And when we were cruising around many more Elephants were walking in front or next to our car every couple of meters. It must have been the elephant’s special walking day. The next day we were sitting on top of our Toyota for a “sundowner” watching lots of hippos and big crocodiles in a dam. We could not believe that locals were fishing in this dam the next morning, standing until their hips in deep water without any protection. They must have been either very desperate or totally crazy to risk their life. We stayed one more night at the Jambili Private Campsite (GPS coordinates S18 55.382 E26 53.221) and had a lovely evening with a couple from Dortmund. Their Toyota is parked in Namibia and they travel in Africa every year for three months.
After four safari days we took a driving break at the campsite Worlds View Campsite (GPS coordinates S20 30.146 E28 25.575) at a Farm close to Bulawanyo. The view from there to Matobo National park was indeed stunning especially now during the cooler season. The colors were amazing because of the changing of the leaves (it felt almost like autumn at home). We were very surprised to be welcomed by a white farmer and asked him immediately how he managed to still keep his farm. Sadly, he is one of the very few white farmers left in Zimbabwe. Apparently one advantage is that his farm is located closely to the tourist spot Matobo National Park and the other one is that he does not grow anything. However he spoke secretly and he really hopes that he will not attract any attention. Approximately 200 farms have been expropriated only few years ago and in the meantime their land is almost deserted. The farm ground is dried out and nothing grows anymore. We suspected that President Mugabe must have given these farms to friends or relatives that did not have any clue about agriculture. As Zimbabwe is now producing very little basic food, everything has to be imported expensively from South Africa. The prices are incredibly high and not many people can afford this. A lot of people are unemployed and maybe this is one of the reason why poaching in National Parks is increasing enormously and the wild animals are getting less and less. The world view farm also has serious problems with poaches about once a month.
After two cold nights at the world view campsite we visited Matobo National Park. Matabo is known for their well-kept cave paintings which are approx. 60 000 years old. In addition Matobo is a very spiritual place, the old Bushmen visited regularly in the old days. Furthermore the park offers a lot of beautiful walking trails (but also with a lot of snakes). Only few tourists visit the park and it felt like we were the only visitors until we met surprisingly a German couple from Freiburg at a cave. Their Landcruiser is also based in South Africa and they travel with it several times a year through Africa. We could not stop exchanging stories and experiences and therefore decided to camp together at a lake with a spectacular view to the balancing rocks.
Our next destination point was the Great Zimbabwe Ruins from the 13th century because they were conveniently on our way to Mozambique. We were impressed by the well-kept stone walls and we enjoyed especially the view from the king’s balcony on top of the mountains. Surprisingly at the attached Great Zimbabwe campsite (GPS coordinates S20 16.290 E30 55.843) we met the Swiss family we had exchanged several emails before our Africa departure in October. The Swiss family had left in July and drove almost the same tour as we did (however they could still drive through Syria). They have two lovely kids with the age of four and six years and the entire family looked so relaxed and happy. They enjoyed like us every single day of their trip. This also confirms that a journey like that can easily be done also with children. Of course their small converted travel lorry offers much more comfort than our Toyota.
We continued our way to the (at this time of the year) very cold Zimbabwe mountain area Vumba Botanical Reserve (very cold means for African countries 25 degrees during the day and 2 degrees at night – at least always sunny. However we slept in our roof tent and were freezing!). We drove through beautiful landscapes that almost looked like a jungle with huge African trees and wonderful flowery plants. This area must have been a posh tourist area for rich people during Zimbabwe’s former economic heights. We could only guess how wealthy the country was by looking at these incredible luxurious villas and hotels. As we were craving for warmer temperatures we only stayed for one night at the Ndundu Lodge und Camping (GPS coordinates S19 07.089 E32 46.548) and were heading off to the Mozambique border the next day.
In the entire country the campsites and accommodations looked a bit run down. Because of the unstable political situation there was no tourism at all for years. In the meantime the number of tourists is increasing however it is still very low. This might be because in some countries there are still travel warnings for Zimbabwe. Additionally we heard from many people that successful enterprises will be immediately expropriated and therefore everyone is trying to keep their property on low standard. Furthermore some nations do really have difficulties travelling through Zimbabwe. For example South Africans were telling us that they had to stop at each police check point in order to get checked at every single part in their car and afterwards they had to pay a lot of bribe money. We did not even have to stop once at the check points. Another thing we also noticed immediately was that how well trained, clever and quick the people were. Zimbabwe was not only economically the most successful country but it had also one of the best education systems in Africa. We had many conversations with locals and we could tell how desperate and helpless the people are. Hopefully the political situation will change soon that the population will be able to get some future prospects.
The fantastic spray view from Victoria Falls Hotel
„Hunting“ for elephants at Hwenge Nationalpark
The marvelous view from World View campsite
The relaxing Matobo National park
The great Zimbabwe mountain ruins
The spectacular mountain area at Vumba Botanical Reserve
Zambia, a huge country with warm hearted people. An untouched African spot on the way to find access to international markets. A country in the dilemma between traditions and free market interests.
When we crossed the border to Zambia we also noticed here how friendly the people are. No helpers, no money change shouters, only efficient handling. We were immediately out of customs after we got a visa, the required stamps and paid the carbon emission tax for our Toyota. Firstly we went to the ATM and then to the filling station. How relaxing life can be if diesel is available again at all filling stations!
From Chipata we drove north-west to the South Luangwa National Park. There are no campsites in the park therefore we stayed directly at the National Park at the Luangwa River in the Croc Valley Camp (GPS coordinates S13 06.010 E31 47.644). At our arrival the campsite manager warned us immediately not to leave any fruits like mango’s, oranges etc. in the car. It happens very often that some elephant’s walk into the campsite and smash everything into pieces in order to get the delicious fruits. Luckily we put everything immediately into our fridge because at sunset one elephant swam across the river and came to our campsite.
Early next morning we entered the National Park. Unfortunately after the first hundred meters it started to rain and with that the probability dropped a lot to see wild animals. Apparently also during rainy season the park is known for a spectacular fauna. But we realized that all animals are hiding away during rainy days (of course apart from crocodiles and hippos). Nevertheless we did not want to give up and continued our way to the north on the well prepared main roads that were covered with red stones. The side roads were impassable because the black soil transformed the track into incredibly slippery mud only with few drops of rain. Apparently the street workers must have run out of red stones because without any warning the well prepared street turned suddenly into the feared slippery black mud soil. It felt like ice rain back home! Our Toyota skidded and ended up in an over flooded mud ditch. And here again; we were standing totally alone in the pouring rain. However this time the conditions were a bit more challenging than in Rwanda: there were no Rwandan helpers and there was a slight probability that a wild animal might get close to us. It is actually not permitted to get off the car in the National Park but we did not have any other choice. The car would not move anymore and there was no help from someone else to be expected for the next couple of days. We could not help but rolling up our sleeves again and started digging. Nasty biting ants and disgusting worms were crawling up our legs, but no matter what we had to continue. And in fact it was worthwhile: after almost two hours of working heavily we were ready to go and managed to get the Toyota out with a lot of power. What a relief! As we still did not want to give up we drove towards south searching for some animals. However the street conditions were really bad. The roads were either flooded or covered with the feared black mud soil. Fortunately we made it without getting stuck again but that was only with big luck and some skills. At least at the end we saw some animals.
After one day break and cleaning we continued our journey. We wanted to take the road directly along South Luangwa National Park however a British guy stopped us after 15 km. He said that even though the landscape is very beautiful, we can only take this road during dry season in July or August and ideally with two cars. Only few cars can make it alone in dry season but the road is impassable during rainy season as the rivers are flooded. The British guy and his wife live in the middle of the forest at South Luangwa National Park and founded a small NGO some years ago. The project is mainly about preservation of flora and fauna in the South Luangwa area. Poachers are harming the National Park sensitively and tree chopping for fire wood or charcoal outside the park makes the surrounded forests and its old trees more and more shrink. The British couple is creating awareness among the population and they educate young children already in school. The project is solidly sustainable and was awarded with the World Prize for Sustainable Energy of the European Parliament Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) Panel. Please have a look at their website for more information http://chipembele.org/.
As we did not want to run the risk to get stuck on this road until July (in spite of the beautiful landscape), we turned and used the main road to Lusaka. In Lusaka we had to run some errands and noticed immediately that we were getting closer to South Africa because the variety of goods was almost like at home – however the prices were incredibly high. We haven’t found out yet how the locals can afford these products because their average income is really low. We drove 15 km outside of Lusaka to stay one night at the Pioneer Camp (GPS coordinates S15 23.732 E28 27.045) in the middle of the forest. It was really worthwhile to drive out of the city to this idyllic place.
Our next stop was the farm Moorings Campsite (GPS coordinates S16 11.624 E27 32.600), which is conveniently located between Lusaka and Livingstone (Victoria Falls). The core product of the farm is maize in addition to their pigs and cows. We met the Swiss couple Tatjana and Michael. They started travelling through Africa six years ago and settled down on the farm about three years ago. We heard interesting and exciting stories of their experiences. The campsite is one part of the farm and is usually quiet and peaceful. However when we arrived there on Good Friday we were surrounded by drumming and happy singing. The local farm workers with families and relatives celebrated the Easter holidays with singing, dancing and drumming almost continuously from Good Friday to Easter Monday. We walked on the farm several times and as we were curious we participated on a service at their farm church on Easter Sunday and took a video of their activities. The locals were happy to see us and integrated us immediately into their community. Luckily we did not need to sing.
After the Easter holidays we drove to Victoria Falls in Livingstone. Sambesi River has grown to a huge raging torrent during rainy season and we were very impressed to see the masses of water plunging 110 meters down the rocks over a width of 1708 meter. However we were not able to see to the ground because of the up to 400 meters high spay that looks like fog. The Spray is visible even from approx. 30 km distance. We were drenched immediately by the spray and it felt like a tropical rain shower. It was great fun to wander along the falls and to cross the bridge on top with the best view point. After we were dry again we drove immediately to the Zimbabwean border, which is right behind Victoria Falls. As the entire area around Vic Falls is very touristy we did not want to stay one night longer on the camp site. Besides the fact that we were fed up with the helicopters, that were continuously cruising around and making terrible noises. The helicopters offer tourists a beautiful Vic Falls view for 15 minutes.
We enjoyed Zambia a lot in spite of rainy season. The country has everything to compete with the international market. It has many mineral resources, a variety of great national parks in every part of the country and a beautiful landscape. Additionally the people are warmhearted and friendly. Nevertheless we very often felt like we were still in an untouched African country. We can only recommend Zambia as a travel destination.
Greetings from the smiling country in Africa. Even though Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, the people seem to be quite happy. This might be because of the beautiful Lake Malawi, the wild untouched mountains or the fertile grounds. Or is there another reason?
We crossed the border from Tanzania to Malawi at Songwe and were done with the customs quickly. After 15 minutes we were already driving on Malawian roads. The streets in Malawi were totally deserted – everyone walked or drove on bicycles. The reason for that was that there is no diesel at all and petrol only occasionally available at the filling stations. This disaster has been going on for six months because the president has misused development money. As a consequence the donating countries have cancelled the support for Malawi. Like anywhere else in many third world countries the population is suffering most and the president did not care. (Remark: The president died as soon as we reached Zambia. BBC reported that he passed away because of a heart attack. We would like to highlight that we were not involved in this incident!)
People can only buy diesel on the black market for about 3 Euro per liter (the average salary per month is 80 US$). And as soon as the rumor is going on that a filling station will be delivered with some petrol the locals queue for hours in order to get some of the precious liquid. We very often saw petrol lorries standing at the road side and selling some liters to the locals unofficially. Petrol lorry driver in Malawi is probably the most popular and the most dangerous job right now. Luckily we entered Malawi with 240 liters of diesel as we knew about the problem beforehand.
Our first place to go after the border was Chitimba Camp at the northern part of Lake Malawi. The campsite is viewing the lake and is quite nice. We stayed there for two days and walked along the lake and to the villages. The locals waved at us happily. They were sitting at the lake chatting and laughing and their children were playing loudly. At night Julian worked at the computers in order to rescue our website. Some hacker misused our website and our server was blocked. The internet in Africa is very slow and only partly usable at night.
The next place we drove to was Lukwe EcoCamp & Organic Gardens and we discovered a little paradise in the middle of the mountains. The lodge and the view over the untouched mountains as well as Lake Malawi are just spectacular. The Loge has been run by a Belgian for about twelve years. During that time he has built up a wonderful organic garden with vegies and fruits from all over the world. These ingredients taste so delicious in his restaurant. It was such a pleasure for us to enjoy these wonderful salads and vegies in his restaurant together with the most delicious filet steaks we had so far on this trip. Even the coffee grows in his organic garden. The owner also has a second hobby and this is furniture design. All furniture’s on his lodge and campsite are hand made by him from the wood of this property. Everything is kept very natural and the power comes from solar energy. As we loved the place so much Julian offered to renew his website. Here is the link to the website www.lukwe.com . We also wanted to help Lukwe because the owner told us that Mushroom farm which was established later and is only two kilometers away has copied all his ideas and is using them strongly for their marketing strategy. Mushroom farm does neither have organic food nor coffee in their gardens. So hopefully it works to get some of the customers back to Lukwe. We stayed five nights at Lukwe and walked up the mountains, to Livingstonia and to the waterfalls apart from working hardly on the website. We did not bother to go to Nyika National Park close by because it was rainy season and all animals are hidden and spread out.
On the way to our next destination we bought some of the delicious filet at peoples in Mazuzu. Thanks to Auke from Lukwe for the fantastic recommendation.
We continued our trip to Makuzi Lodge, a bit further South of Lake Malawi. The campsite is peacefully placed at a beautiful sandy bay. Lake Malawi is about 500 km long with deep blue water and fantastic sandy beaches. However in the South of the lake breed these frightening bilharzias worms. Human beings can get them by swimming in the lake or washing with lake water. We were rest assured that Makuzi lodge is bilharzias free because it is located in the northern part of the lake and the whole campsite is anyway using lake water for their showers and tabs. So we enjoyed swimming several times per day and will do a worm test as soon as we reach home again. We also used relaxing Makuzi Lodge to fix everything on our car. After four days we drove firstly towards south along the lake and later towards west via Lilongwe in order to cross the border to Zambia.
As mentioned at the beginning, we enjoyed the beautiful landscape, Lake Malawi and especially the smiling and pleasant people in Malawi. Everyone we were talking to seemed to be happy and greeted us friendly. We were wondering very often why that is, because the whole country is suffering heavily from of their political situation. As the president is dead now, everyone is hoping that the next political leadership will finally support the population and not their own pocket. The education system is terrible in Malawi and so is the education level. Not to mention the economy and the tourism. We heard that the tourism budge for the entire country per year is something like 2000 USD. No wonder that Malawi is only known as a country to drive through as quickly as possible. We liked Malawi very much and found the most beautiful place. Therefore we can only recommend Malawi for enjoyable vacation.
Grüße aus dem afrikanischen Land des Lächelns. Obwohl Malawi zu einem der ärmsten Länder der Welt gehört, strahlen die Menschen eine begeisternde Fröhlichkeit aus. Das mag vielleicht an dem traumhaften Malawi See, der wilden unberührten Bergwelt oder an dem fruchtbaren Boden liegen. Oder hat das noch einen anderen Grund?
Von Tansania sind wir bei Songwe über die Grenze nach Malawi gefahren. Wie nicht anders erwartet, wurde unsere Zollabfertigung auch hier in kürzester Zeit erledigt und wir fuhren bereits nach fünfzehn Minuten auf malawischen Straßen. Diese waren komplett leergefegt. Alle gingen zu Fuß oder fuhren mit dem Fahrrad, da es seit vielen Monaten in ganz Malawi keinen Diesel und nur vereinzelt Benzin an den Tankstellen zu kaufen gibt. Der Grund dafür ist, dass der Präsident Förder- und Entwicklungsgelder veruntreut hat und die Geberländer sämtliche Kredite für den Staat Malawi gestrichen haben. Natürlich hat mal wieder die Bevölkerung am meisten darunter zu leiden, den Präsidenten schien das wenig zu kümmern. (Anmerkung: Kaum waren wir in Sambia, war der Malawische Präsident tot! Aus Quellen der BBC haben wir vernommen, dass er mit 78 Jahren einem Herzanfall erlag. Wir möchten an dieser Stelle noch einmal darauf hinweisen, dass wir mit diesem Vorfall nichts zu tun haben!).
Somit gibt es in dem ganzen Land nur auf dem Schwarzmarkt für ca. 3 Euro den Liter Diesel zu kaufen. Und sobald eine Tankstelle wieder mit Benzin beliefert wird, stehen die Menschen in Dreierreihen über Stunden in der Schlange, um etwas von dem kostbaren Gut abzubekommen. Wir sahen häufiger Tanklastzüge am Straßenrand stehen, die den Einheimischen ein paar Liter unter der Hand verkauft haben. Wahrscheinlich ist Tanklastfahrer momentan der gefährlichste Job in Malawi. Gut, dass wir uns in Tansania bereits mit 240 Litern reichlich eingedeckt haben, da wir vorher schon von dem Desaster wussten.
Unser erstes Ziel nach der Grenze war das Chitimba Camp direkt am nördlichen Teil des Malawi Sees. Die herzliche Begrüßung des holländischen Besitzers, gab uns sofort ein Gefühl des Willkommenseins. Die Campsite ist schön gelegen, am Sandstrand mit Blick auf den See. Wir sind dort zwei Tage geblieben und haben die Gegend und den See zu Fuß erkundet. Viele Einheimische saßen am Sandstrand, sich fröhlich unterhalten und die Kinder wild umherjagend. Julian hatte in mehreren Nachtaktionen unsere Webseite gerettet, die irgendwelche Hacker missbraucht haben und unser Server geblockt wurde. Das Internet in Afrika ist sehr langsam und nur nachts einigermaßen zum Arbeiten zu benutzen.
Anschließend sind wir zu dem nur 14 km entfernten Lukwe EcoCamp mitten in den Bergen gefahren und fanden ein kleines Paradies vor. Alleine der Blick über die unberührte Bergwelt und den Malawisee war spektakulär. Der Besitzer ist ein Belgier und betreibt die Lodge, bzw. Campsite seit 12 Jahren. In der Zeit hat er einen traumhaften rein biologischen Garten mit den verschiedensten Salaten, Gemüse- und Früchtearten aus allen Herren Ländern angebaut und bietet diese in seinem Restaurant an. Wir stürzten uns abends regelrecht auf die Salatschüsseln und vor allem auf die Filetsteaks, die von besonders guter Qualität waren. Sogar der Kaffee wird im Garten selbst angebaut. Das zweite Hobby des Besitzers ist Möbeldesign. Er hat alle Möbel auf seinem Eco-Camp aus dem Holz seines Anwesens selbst gebaut. Alles ist natürlich gehalten und das ganze Anwesen wird nur mit Solarenergie betrieben. Da wir so begeistert waren von dem Eco-Camp und uns der Besitzer erzählt hat, dass die nur 2 km vor ihm liegende Mushroomfarm alle Ideen von ihm kopiert hat und ihm die Gäste regelrecht vor der Nase wegschnappt, hat sich Julian drangemacht und die Webseite neu gestaltet. Hier der Link zu der Webseite www.lukwe.com. Wir blieben ganze fünf Nächte in dem Eco Camp und haben mehrere Bergwanderungen, u. a. nach Livingstonia und den Wasserfällen unternommen. Auch hier sahen wir überall fröhliche Familien zusammensitzen, die uns freudestrahlend zuwinkten. Zu dem nahegelegenen Nyika Nationalpark sind wir wegen der Regenzeit nicht hingefahren, da alle Tiere verstreut waren.
Auf dem Weg zu unserem nächsten Ziel haben wir uns bei Peoples in Mazuzu mit dem grandiosen Filet eingedeckt, das wir bei Lukwe EcoCamp gegessen haben. Wirklich ein toller Tipp von dem belgischen Besitzer, den wir nur weitergeben können.
Weiter ging es dann zu der Makuzi Lodge, etwas südlicher des Malawi Sees. Die Campsite ist einsam gelegen in einer herrlichen Bucht mit schönem Sandstrand. Der Malawi See ist ca. 500 km lang und ein Traum von einem Gewässer mit tiefblauem Wasser und herrlichen Sandstränden. Allerdings gibt es im südlichen Teil des Sees die gefürchteten Bilharziose Würmer, die (bzw. die Larven) beim Schwimmen auf Menschen übertragen werden können. Wir hatten uns darauf verlassen, dass das Wasser bei der Makuzi Lodge, an der nördlichen Hälfte des Sees, noch davon befreit ist und ließen uns nicht davon abhalten mehrere Male am Tag zu schwimmen. Des Weiteren haben wir den Aufenthalt genutzt um mal wieder zu waschen und alles auf Vordermann zu bringen. Nach vier Tagen sind wir Richtung Süden entlang des Sees gefahren um danach Richtung Westen über Lilongwe nach Sambia einzureisen.
Wie am Anfang schon erwähnt, waren wir nicht alleine nur von der wunderschönen Landschaft Malawi’s begeistert sondern besonders von den Menschen. Die Einheimischen strahlten eine große Freude aus und wir wurden immer herzlichst begrüßt. Wir fühlten uns immer sehr willkommen. Bei der Armut der Menschen und den politischen Problemen ist das schon sehr verwunderlich. Durch den Tot des malawischen Präsidenten bleibt nun nur zu hoffen, dass sich die nächste Führung mehr für die Bevölkerung einsetzt und nicht wie alle anderen vorher in die eigene Tasche wirtschaften. Wie nicht anders zu erwarten ist das Bildungssystem (somit auch das Bildungsniveau) der Bevölkerung eine reine Katastrophe. Von der Wirtschaft und dem Tourismus ganz zu schweigen. Uns wurde erzählt, dass das Tourismus Marketing Budget des ganzen Landes gerade mal 2000 USD pro Jahr beträgt. Da ist es kein Wunder dass Malawi unter Reisenden entweder gar nicht oder nur als Durchreiseland bekannt ist. Uns hat Malawi ausgesprochen gut gefallen und wir können es nur empfehlen.
Tanzania, is the country of snow covered mountain tops, snow-white beaches, turquoise oceans, wild animals, fertile grounds, blooming sisal plantations and the highest entrance fees.
We crossed the border from Ruanda to Tanzania at Rusumo. And again, we were done within a very short period of time. It was very funny to see that there was the same big confusion on which side of the road to drive between the two countries, because there is again left wheel drive in Tanzania.
When we drove to our first destination to Biharamulo at Lake Victoria, we noticed immediately that compared to Rwanda less people live in Tanzania. We only saw few huts here and there in between a never ending savanna of bushes and little trees. In Biharamulo we stayed at a former German Fort that was built during the German Emperor Wilhelm aera (GPS coordinates S2 37.907 E31 18.291). The previous German colonial masters must have built this far outside station in good old German quality because the buildings are still in a relatively good shape and have been functioning as a guest house for a long time. From Biharamulo we drove towards East along Lake Victoria to Mwanza. Mwanza is not really worth to see and we cannot recommend at all the campsite Yacht Club Mwanza directly at the Lake Victoria (GPS coordinates S2 31.745 E32 53.652).
On the following day we drove to Serengeti. We realized that Serengeti has become a total rip off and can almost be considered as a tourist-nap. The campsites in the national park are 30 USD per person and the standard of those is very basic – there is only parking, toilet and cold shower. Even the campsite outside of Serengeti cost still 15 USD per person and these are as well very basic. In order to give an idea of what to pay at Serengeti we listed the following:
You have to pay: For one day Serengeti and one day Ngorongore Crater (including drive to the crater) for two people with a vehicle and foreign number plate: 820 USD
Really bad roads. On some parts even that bad that you can hardly drive on them in rain. Basic campsites with cold showers. However many exotic tourist from all over the world and they all come together at the special highlights.
Of course we will not hide at this point that we saw rich and diverse animal life and we drove through beautiful landscapes. Our special highlights were the huge herds of wildebeests and buffalos and they were all accompanied by a large number of zebras and antelopes. We even saw our first lions. However they were surrounded by about ten safari vehicles all packed with tourists and we had to queue with our car in order to get closer to the honey moon couple. Looking back we both agree that it was good to visit Serengeti National Park however we do not need to come again. Luckily we will visit many more parks further south of Africa with more wild animals as well as less tourists and they will only cost a fraction of Serengeti.
After Serengeti we continued driving to Arusha and stayed at a recommended campsite directly at a small idyllic lake. However we cannot recommend this campsite at all because it was very basic. We had to stay there for one night because we arrived late but we left really early in the morning.
As we were really fed up with the cold and rainy weather we decided spontaneously to drive all the way to the Indian Ocean in one goal. There was also heavy rain in the mountain area around Kilimanjaro and we would not have been able to hike there. Kilimanjaro was only sticking out of the clouds for a second when we passed by. We did not climb up Kilimanjaro either because it would have cost us between 1200 USD and 1800 USD per Person! Luckily at the Indian Ocean we were rewarded with warm and sunny weather and the beautiful campsite Peponi (GPS coordinates S5 17.230 E39 03.936). Peponi is at the upper east coast of Tanzania and is a very pleasant location. It offered shady trees, the Indian Ocean at our feet and W-lan usage for free. We got the W-lan from the far more expensive however very beautiful neighbor resort (small hint: campsite K at Peponi has the best W-lan reception and is also the best spot). We enjoyed staying at Peponi especially because we met a very nice couple from Austria, Vesela and Wolfgang. We laughed a lot and had very good conversations.
Our next destination to go was Zanzibar, the Island with the longest, widest, and whitest beaches – at least of Tanzania. As we had to leave our Toyota on the mainland we stayed for one night at Mikadi Campsite (GPS coordinates S6 49.142 E39 19.252) and left our car there for four days. Early in the morning we went to the Zanzibar ferry terminal with a Tuck Tuck. However firstly we had to take the car and passenger ferry to get to Dar Eh Salaam city area as the day before. The city Dar Eh Salaam is divided because the ocean bay is ending in a wide river and there is no bridge only a shuttle ferry. The journey takes maximum five minutes but everyone needs to queue for about one hour. Before getting to the Zanzibar ferry terminal we had to pass by the very smelly fish market. No wonder, the temperatures are very high (approx. 40 degrees) and humid and the fish market is without aircon and ice cubes. The journey to Zanzibar on the ferry was very pleasant because the ship was brand new. At the arrival in Zanzibar we noticed immediately the Arabic and Indian influence. Historically Zanzibar was one of the main trading centers as well as the connection between Middle East and India. The mixture of people and the architecture are very unique and until today many exotic spices are growing on the island. For a price of 50 USD per person, guided tours introduce the spice gardens.
We followed a recommendation and stayed at the Paradise Beach bungalows at Paje Beach, east of Zanzibar. The owner is a Japanese woman, who has been there for twenty years. She serves home cooked traditional Japanese food in the restaurant. We found it totally crazy to enjoy fantastic Japanese dishes like Sushi, Sashimi, Teriyaki, Tempura, etc. in the middle of Africa. The Japanese women even collected every morning as a special ingredient seaweed from the ocean. The local people grow seaweed professionally in front of the resort as the beach offers perfect conditions. The beach is very flat and at low tide the ocean retrieves far out that the beach transforms to a wide white sandy area of a couple of hundred meters. We spent four relaxing days with reading and some work at the computer. We planned to stay longer however the adventure called us again and we wanted to go back to our car.
Luckily we found our car exactly in the same position as we left it behind. We camped one more night at the lovely Mikadi campsite and spent the next days with grocery shopping as we were going to Malawi soon. As we wanted to check out another campsite at the beach of Dar Eh Salaam, we drove to Kipepeo (GPS Koordinaten S6 51.102 E39 21.697). This place was suggested by several people so we thought it must be special. However we did not like it that much and we definitely prefer Mikadi campsite that is only five km away. The only advantage was that we met the very nice couple from Austria again at Kipepeo. We were very happy and therefore we stayed there for two days before we drove slowly south west towards Malawi.
We drove south-west through beautiful landscapes on the main road. We liked the Baobab-Tree valley the most. These very impressive trees can reach a diameter up to 10 meters. Another highlight on this road was the crossing through the Mikumi National Park. We were lucky because we saw wild animals just by passing by. Usually people cruise through the park for hours and pay high entrance fees to see what we saw. Directly next to the main road there was a huge herd of elephants, zebras, several giraffes and many impalas. Fantastic! Right outside the Mikumi National Park we camped at the Tan-Swiss Guesthouse (GPS coordinates S7 23.786 E37 00.111). The owner is Swiss and he welcomed us former country neighbors happily. His daily challenges are not easy to manage however he would never go back to Switzerland.
Our next destination was the well-known OLD Farm in Kisolanza ( GPS coordinates S8 08.747 E35 24.737). It is a beautiful place that offery everything to stay for a while. However the rain caught up with us again and therefore we left the next day. For generation the Old Farm has been owned by an English family. The female owner has established wonderful guest houses and a beautify campsite in addition to the farm. Mainly Tabaco and various vegies grow on the farm. We enjoyed buying really fresh vegies and some herbs directly from the ground.
The border to Malawi was still 300 km away from the old farm. As we did not want to enter Malawi in the afternoon we stayed one night at a locally run community campsite about 30 before the border. And the next morning we were crossing the Malawian border.
Even though Tanzania has many things to offer, we did not like the country too much. The wildlife, snowy white beaches, beautiful landscapes and the fascinating mountain area are simply too expensive and some people from Tanzania can even be considered as greedy. However not only the entrance fees alone put us off, it was more the bad standard as well as the crap service. Nevertheless we had a good time and were looking forward to Malawi.
Jambo means „hello“ in Kiswahili and everyone greeted us with „Jambo“. Kiswahili is spoken in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and party in Rwanda and Malawi.
Welcome to the wild East Africa! Breathtaking Landscapes, stunning sunsets and our first elephants. From the rough North along lake Turkana, the Samburu National Park and Mount Kenya to Nairobi. Continuing to Lake Naivasha, Lake Bogoria National Reserve all the way to Uganda.
At the beginning of the New Year we entered Kenya driving from Tumi, Omo Valley to the east side of Lake Turkana. We drove on small sandy roads, deep washed-out river beds, passed by little villages and crossed the border from Ethiopia to Kenya at lunch time. As expected there were no customs, not even a police station – just nothing, except beautiful landscapes. Few kilometers before Ileret we set up our camp right next to the road. Locals walked peacefully along the street und greeted friendly. No one stared at us or begged for something. Wonderful! Shortly before going to bed some local guys stopped by and chatted nicely with us. What a difference to Ethiopia!
The next morning James and Dee as well as Igor and Johannes met us again. They only camped 500 meters away from our car without noticing. For the biker guys the tour was very exhausting as the roads consisted of deep sand alternately to rough lava rocks. The two of them fell off their bikes several times and even hurt themselves. But they were tough and went through. In Ileret we got registered at the Police Post and went further towards Sibiloi National Park. As we did not want to visit the Sibiloi National Park nor paying the fees we just drove on the roads outside the park. Right before Derate we bush camped once more. And this time there was not only one single person, just us and some foxes stoped by at night. In Derate we filled up our water tanks at a well (GPS coordinates: N3 51.118 E36 31.147). Unfortunately there were no signs and we drove straight to the main gate of Sibiloi National Park. What a shame. The rangers at the main gate wanted to charge us 45 USD even though we only drove the last 6 km through the park. As we were still not willing to pay and we did not want to drive all the way back with a big detour we decided to go off-road for about 10 km to get out of the park. And this was the wildest off-road we have done so far. Our track went right through the bushes, through a hilly rocky forest and then (that was the most challenging adventure) through an out-washed riverbed that consisted of deep sand alternately to awfully big steep rocks. We must say, our Landcruiser did very well without any complaints. On that evening we rewarded ourselves with a fantastic bush shower under a beautiful acacia and a delicious dinner. From there we drove along lake Turkana to Liyongalani. We bush camped once more directly at the lake. This time, some local tribe people stopped and chatted with us friendly. The lake Turkana route had a stunning scenery however the rough roads (if we can talk about roads) made it really difficult to drive. We could mainly go in walking speed on the sandy tracks that took turns with rocks and deep potholes. In addition it was incredibly hot. The temperatures reached up to 44 degrees during the day however 28 degrees during the night. At least it was the perfect temperature to sleep. In order to avoid biggest heat we started at 06:30 h in the morning and were totally exhausted in bed latest by 20:00 h.
In Liyongalani we went straight to the Palm Shade campsite (with beautiful grass on the ground, clean toilets and cold beer!) (GPS coordinates: N2 45.385 E36 43.258) We really enjoyed some kind of civilization after for four days of wilderness. In the Palm Shade we met the photographer Neil Thomas and his girlfriend (www.neilthomas.com). He is currently working on a photo collection book of the lake Turkana tribes and he did many photo shootings. He was kind enough to take us with on the second day and we really enjoyed ourselves directly at the shore of lake Turkana. We also got some beautiful pictures. Thanks again Neil!
After a two days break we continued our journey to Maralal. We visited the children’s home “Springs of Hope” on our second day and reported about it. Please find the detailed story as well as pictures and video attached. Taking this project as an example, we realized that development aid should preferably be initiated locally in order to guarantee efficiency and sustainability. At least it increases the success of the project. We placed the project on „betterplace.org“. It is about to take on more kids from the street. Ten children are already on waiting list and many more need a home. At this stage we would like to ask you to have a look at „betterplace.org“. You can become a supporter by writing a positive message (that does not cost anything) or better, you could donate some money. If everyone donates just a bit we can really make an effort for the kids. www.betterplace.org/de/projects/8641
On the following day we continued our journey from Maralal through beautiful mountain sceneries to Samburo National Park. We visited the park the next day and were quite shocked about the entrance fees (they charged 70 USD per day and Person + 15 USD for the car). As least we saw a lot of giraffes, antelopes, zebras and wild pigs. However watching several big herds of elephants taking a bath and cooling themselves down during lunchtime was our highlight for the day. Unfortunately the lions were hiding successfully the entire day.
We spent the following two days at Mount Kenya with fantastic food and we had a lot of time for reading and writing at cool temperatures. We saw the snow covered Mont Kenya only from far away because a guided tour would have been 250 USD per person and that was definitely too expensive for us. The following four days we were handing out in Nairobi. Nairobi was packed with updating of the blogs, shopping (Nairobi has beautiful shopping malls, they are all packed with European food we are used to), stamping our passports and beautiful food. We stayed at Jungle Junction Campsite (GPS coordinates: S1 17.327 E36 45.636) and as a nice surprise we met Susi, Mark und Tom, as well as Igor und Johannes again. Even though we liked Nairobi very much we had to go on tour again after four days.
After Nairobi we were heading directly to Fisherman’s camp (GPS coordinates: S0 49.548 E36 20.095) at lake Naivasha. A beautiful campsite under big trees directly at the lake welcomed us. In the afternoon we discovered the lake by boat together with three South Africans (we had already met them at Jungle Junction). Only few meters from our campsite we saw the first hippos and right next to them were some water buffalos grazing on a little island. The next morning we drove to Hells Gate at 06:30 h in the morning this time on mountain bikes together with the South Africans. It was a special experience watching wild animals (there were only zebras, giraffes, buffalos, wild pigs and antelopes) from very close and racing against each other. We especially enjoyed the bike ride after so many kilometers just sitting in the car. When we woke up the next morning our tent was surrounded by a lot of marabous all looking for food. The big birds have a wingspan of approx. two meters.
After lake Naivasha we drove to Lake Bogoria National Reserve and (what a surprise!) we had to pay again 50 USD entrance fees. Kenya got incredibly expensive the last years. Even the smallest lake or mountain was turned into a National Park or National Reserve in order to sell the ticket expensively to international tourists. Lokals only have to pay a fractional amount. As we will be able to see many more wild animals on our journey we decided to cut down on the minimum in Kenya.
Nevertheless lake Bogoria was an amazing natural spectacle. We stayed at the Fig Campsite (GPS coordinates: N0 11.545 E36 07.371) which consisted only of big fig trees (directly at the lake), many monkeys and a fireplace. We were totally alone again. The next morning we did a nice walk through the bushes along the lake to the hot springs. It was bubbling and steaming everywhere. On the west side of the lake there were thousands of flamingos. They felt a bit disturbed when we got closer, but luckily through that we got some great shots from colorful flying birds.
Outside of Lake Bogoria National Reserve we camped at a Bogoria Spa Hotel with swimming pool (GPS coordinates: N0 21.268 E36 03.114). Also on this campsite there were many Marabous, Ostriches and monkeys. It was a pleasure watching them during breakfast. However the monkeys were a pain in the as! Firstly a monkey stole a banana from a box in our car (but that was just funny). Secondly a group of monkeys took apart the garbage and distributed the smelly stuff on and next to our car. However the absolute highlight was, that we woke up at 05:00 in the morning from a splashing noise on our roof tent. In the first moment we thought that it started raining. But no way: A monkey was sitting comfortably on a tree and was peeing and then shitting right on our tent. How lucky we were that we just put up the rain protection one day earlier. Not imaginable what otherwise would have happened. Since then we are not friends with monkeys anymore and we keep them far away.
After we cleaned up we continued our journey over beautiful mountains towards the border to Uganda. We had to stay one more night at a backyard of a guest house. There were no campsites around and bush camping was not possible because there were too many people living in this area.
Altogether we can say that Kenya has beautiful landscapes and additionally we also liked the Kenyan’s very much. The people were very friendly, funny and respectful and everyone spoke very well English. The school system in Kenya is well developed. It is for free for all the kids until the ninth grade. Only books, school uniforms and exercise books need to be financed individually. We saw a lot of school signs all over Kenya and we were deeply impressed.
The rough but beautiful Lake Turkana route
The photo shooting at Lake Turkana
The Flora and Faua of Samburu National Park
The shopping paradise Nirobi
The wild beauty of Lake Naivasha
Mountainbiking at Hells Gate National Park
The natural spectacle at Lake Bogoria National Reserve
All the way through Ethiopia. From the beautiful hilly North, over Addis Ababa to the Kenyan border. Over high mountains, fascinating monasteries as well as magnificent landscapes. And the question: Is begging in Ethiopia a national sport?
After the last night in Sudan the Ethiopian border welcomed us like a slap in our face. Everyone without any exception was holding out their hands. The customs officers only wanted to do their job for additional money. The helpers, the kids and all the others were asking for money, pens, food, cloths, exercise books, etc. Only few kilometers from the border some kids were throwing the first stones at our car. Just a general explanation: Throwing stones at each other seems to be part of the Ethiopian culture in some areas and is not only meant for tourists who don’t want to donate something. We saw locals throwing stones at each other when they were angry. Even their animals got the stone punishment when they did something wrong. We were accompanied with the stone throwing almost on all roads until the Omo Valley in the South of Ethiopia. We in our car were pretty safe compared to motor bikers and especially cyclists.
Initially we were planning to drive all the way through to Lake Tana. However the procedure at the customs took quite long and we decided spontaneously to bush camp together with our biker friends Igor and Johannes in a beautiful hilly area about 30 km before Lake Tana. As soon as we parked our Toyota and the motorbikes more and more children eyes were staring at us silently and curiously. Even though it got darker and darker the children wouldn’t leave. However the later it got the more begging went on. At one point we were so desperate that we gave them bread, fruits and pens. We knew that this was the worst mistake tourists can make in a developing country. Successful begging will educate them to ask even harder next time. In our case it only rescued the evening because we got rid of them one by one. However the next morning at sunrise at 5:00 am the kids were back and asked more of the gifts we gave them the night before. In addition their hands were everywhere. We could not help but pack our stuff and leave without even having a cup of coffee. For the goodbye we got again stones thrown on our car. This was the first and last time we did bush camping in Ethiopia. We must add that the people in this area do not starve. There is efficient farming and enough to eat. Apparently begging became a habit.
Via Gonder we drove to the Simien Montains on that day. We reached our camp at 2800 m altitude after a very wild off-road tour. At the ticket office we had to hire a scout, because this is the national park rule. We were quite disappointed when we found out that the scout did not speak one word of English. He did not even react to our question “what’s your name”. Additionally he has not seen a shower for a long long time. In spite of freezing temperatures we were only able to continue our way with open windows. Nonetheless he was fully armed in order to protect us from wild animals or gangsters (we have seen neither the one nor the other). We also could not convince him to go inside a hut instead of sitting next to our car for the entire night at minus temperatures. The Simien Mountains were very beautiful with a magnificent landscape. We spent the next day’s surrounded by a wild, exotic, natural mountain beauty. Between capricorn’s, baboon’s, fern forests and palm trees we climbed up to 4430 meters.
Via Debark at the bottom of the Simien Mountains, we continued our way to Axum. We drove over adventurous but breathtaking passes, however terribly bad roads. In Ethiopia all streets are packed with people who are walking (everybody seems to be always on their feed and walking all the time). In addition little children were playing adventurously at the streets and waving wildly and excitedly at us while shouting “youyouyouyou” or “birr birr birr birr” (local currency) or “hello money”, etc. We were not even able to stop for one minute without being hassled by them. Little by little the streets in the North will be constructed (mainly by Chinese). We saw many women and kids working on the construction sites.
We managed to reach Axum in one day. Axum was the original capital of the eponymous Aksum Kingdom. Axum was a naval and trading power and ruled the region from 400 BC to the 10th century. Axum is up until today one of the most important and holiest places of the Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia. However we both did not find the city and the sights very exciting. After one day sightseeing of the up to 33 meters high stelae’s (their weight is more than 500 tons), the museum, few churches and the bath of the queen of Shaba’s we drove to the monastery Debre Damo. This monastery is situated on a rock plateau and can only be reached by climbing up the 30 meter upright rock wall. Only a leather rope holds the visitors. Unfortunately only men have access to this monastery and Viktoria had to wait at the bottom. Up there the time seems to stand still. It seems that not much has changed since the 6th century. Die small huts and the monastery however are nor very spectacular. However the view over the mountains all the way to Eritrea is breathtaking.
One day later we reached Lalibela. The rough drive went again on bad roads, over beautiful passes and magnificent landscapes (200 km took us 8 hours). Lalibela (also called New-Jerusalem) is known for their rock churches and is one of the holiest cities in Ethiopia as well as the center of pilgrimage for much of the country. The massive churches are very impressive. The few story high churches were built in the 12th and 13th century and were literally carved out of the rocks. Today the churches belong to the UNESCO world heritage sites. Lalibela was the first place in Ethiopia where we could relax a bit. A tourist development and education program thought the locals how to treat tourists – hence not to hassle them and not beg for money etc. That was a pleasure for us.
We drove from Lalibela to Bahir Dar at Laka Tana after two days. Bahir Dar is a very green, nice and exotic village situated at the South of the lake. Lake Tana is known for the island monasteries of the Christian Orthodox Church from the 14th Century. We visited three of these beautiful monasteries. The colorful pictures demonstrate the religious story. According to our tour guide the majority population was illiterate in the 14th century and the picture facilitated the communication of the religious story. Apart from the monasteries we especially enjoyed the soft boat ride. We even saw a hippopotamus on the way.
We were able to drive in one day from Bahir Dar to Addis Ababa on a relatively well kept tarmac road. At Wims New Holland House in Addis (GPS coordinates N9 00.589 E38 45.318) we were very happy to meet our friends from England, Dee and James and our biker friends Igor and Johannes again and celebrated Christmas together. Wims the owner is Dutch and has a solution or answer for any problem or question. In addition Wims New Holland House is an overlander camp were all people meet who are on the way to North or South. We also met further interesting people, on their way to South Africa.
Addis Ababa was packed with running errands. We got the visa at the Kenyan Embassy (GPS coordinates: N9 01.945 E38 46.994), the Commessa Insurance for our car (GPS coordinates N15 35.851 E32 31.624), the stamps for our Carnet de Passage at the Customs and Road Authority (GPS coordinates N9 00.874 E38 47.969. That was the only chance to get the administrational work done as we drove the Turkana Lake route and there are no customs hence no proper border. In addition we filled up our food stock and we could not believe to find Italian specialties in almost all shops we went, e.g. Panetone, pasta, mortadella, parmesan, etc. Good for us, that the Italians left their colonial tracks thoroughly and substantially. We were anyway surprised to get fresh vegies and fruits all over Ethiopia, sometimes also in small villages. We might have been lucky to be in Ethiopia at the right time for fruits and vegies. At an altitude of 3000 meters farmers even sold us their carrots at the window of our car. These were the best carrots we ever had.
One day before our departure we did a short interview with two employees of the Institute for Sustainable Development. The development project has the goal to spread and implement “best practice” technics among farmers. Because of the climate change farmers have to change their methods in order to produce more effectively and in order not to starve. This is especially important as more than 85% of the Ethiopians are working in farming. Farming goods are also one of the most important export goods.
After three days Addis Abeba we were heading off to Omo Valley. We drove via Butajira and Sodo. The streets were very good for a change. In Konso we were very lucky with our accommodation. We stayed at a fantastic lodge close to Konso in the middle of the countryside (GPS coordinates N9 00.874 E38 47.969). The owner is half Swiss and furnished the lodge with an interior design from Yemen and local fabrics and materials. In the evening we had a fantastic dinner at his restaurant.
We continued our way to Tumi the next day because we wanted to celebrate New Year’s Eve with all the overlander’s we have met at Wims in Addis. And it was a good idea because we had a lot of fun with a group of twelve people. Unfortunately Michael and Jeldau from Holland were a bit late because they had two flat tires about 40 km away from Tumi. When we heard about that at about 20:00 h two people of our group organized replacements and “rescued” them immediately.
Omo Valley has not only magnificent landscapes, but there are also some of the most fascinating and colorful ethnic tribes in Africa. However the tribe villages are very touristy and it rather feels like a visit in a zoo. Beside that tourists can only go there with a scout and a tour guide for a hell of a lot of money. They charge additionally to the scout and tour guide fees, entrance- and photo fees. We decided not to go to these villages as we are on the way towards South and we will see many more different ethnic tribes for free. So we only stopped by at one “Hammer-Tribe” village spontaneously and saw some more people of different tribes on the road on our way to Kenia.
The border crossing to Kenia went very smooth and was done within ten minutes as we already did all the formalities in Addis Ababa.
In summary we can say that we really enjoyed the beautiful, fascinating, hilly landscapes of Ethiopia in spite of terribly rough roads. However the Ethiopians were really a hassle. As already mentioned the locals even greeted us with “Hello Money” or with “You have to give me money!” It seems like that the people got really used to help from outside and this might be the reason why they are begging everyone that does not look like an Ethiopian. No doubt the country is very poor. Many people live and conduct their farms like 3000 years ago. We have not even seen one tractor on our way from the North to the South. The farmers were all working with wooden pitchforks and animals like bulls or donkeys. There seems to be something wrong with the development aid in Ethiopia. It seems like that Ethiopia gets more development aid support than all the other African countries. We saw in every single village (even the smallest village’s) minimum one sign of a development aid project. You can definitely find every possible development aid organization in Ethiopia. In Addis Ababa one of the best and most expensive hotels Africa’s is located. We have heard that employees of development aid organizations stay there. In addition these employees cruise around with the latest models and the most expensive four wheel drive vehicles. It is difficult for us to understand why in the east side of the country one of the worst starvation catastrophe is going on right now in spite of successful harvests and a sufficient rainy season. We did not travel to the east side of the country because of the very bad roads as well as we did not want to get too close to the Somalian border for security reasons.
Start of our journey in Stuttgart over the Alps to Venice. Then in Monfalcone on a cargo ship via Cypress to Israel. Or the question, why on earth do we have to go half around the world?
Rudyard Kilping said once: “There are two kinds of men and woman: Those who stay at home. Or the others.” The last couple of days before our departure we have asked ourselves very often: should we just have stayed at home? Is such a journey all the pressure, hard work and travel preparations really worthwhile? However just one week later we can only say, yes it is! We are getting the confirmation every day, every minute and by each new experience.
Looking back: We left Stuttgart to our first destination Italy on the 1st of October as planned. Fully packed we drove over the Alps to South Tirol, Italy. There we spent some wonderful days. We continued our journey to Venice on the 5th of October. In Venice we met the Swiss couple Tanja and Cederic. They are also on their way to Cape Town. www.sanduku.ch (in Germany only).
The two days in Venice could have been some kind of romantic and very beautiful. However the thousands and thousands of American, Asians and other tourists were a little bit disturbing.
On the 7th of October we drove to Monfalcone, which is about 130 km away from Venice, in order to catch our cargo ship. The day started with a freezing rain and the temperature dropped enormously. We drove in convoy with Tanja and Cederic and had to fight with heavy almost tropical rain. Monalfcone is very well known for their large shipyards. That might be the reason why we got frightening easily through the customs and directly on our cargo ship “Spees” (belongs to the Grimaldi Group).
Just a short additional note regarding travelling on cargo ships: Cargo ships should not be mixed up with ferries or cruise ships. In the earlier days it was possible to work on a cargo ship in order to discover the world easily and reasonably cheap. Nowadays this is almost impossible anymore because the crew has been reduced. Because of the satellite navigation and global data communication limited numbers of people are required. And instead of leaving the cabin’s empty, the cargo ships sell them to travellers. But the travellers cannot really be considered as guests, but as additional crew people on the boat without duties.
Apart from our two Toyota Landcruiser’s there are another 3300 brand new cars on the ship as well as other passengers. For example there are Tessa and Giora. She is originally from England and he from Israel and they have been married for 50 years. The couple is not on the boat in order to experience an exciting journey on a cargo ship. No, Tessa has decided when she was 25 years old that she will never enter a plane again. Therefore we got a lot of exciting and funny travel stories far away from airports and jetset. For example Tessa and Giora travelled ones from Hong Kong to San Francisco on a cargo ship for 3 weeks. It would have been a beautiful journey, but the ship was covered in fog all the way. They were not even able to see the railing on the boat. We really enjoyed the lunches and dinners because of the exciting and interesting conversations with them. We learned a lot about Israel, about their time at a Kibbuz, about political difficulties and about the change that continuously takes place.
Another passenger on board was Daniel. He is living in Bern, Switzerland, is Freelancer and a master of the art of living. He is travelling with his Mitsubishi including a trailer packed with motor bike parts. He developed the project “Rider 4 Africa” and is on his way to Kairo where he will put together the motor bikes. The bikes can be booked from Kairo to Swaziland by motorbike drivers and when they have reached Swaziland the bikes will be given to the “Red Cross” as a present.
We were on the boat altogether for six days. We were passing the Cyclades, Greece and were in Limassol, Cypress for a very short time before we went on the last 12 hours tour to Ashdod, Israel.
During our journey we had a lot of time to relax and recover because we were restricted to a radius of 150 m. That is not a lot of space for doing something. Also the ship was swaying us into drowsiness and it was difficult to break out of it.
Luckily we had a lot of Time. Time for thoughts, time for sound ideas as well as for long and interesting conversations. Far away from internet and mobile access you all of a sudden discover again things that usually get lost in a busy daily life. And maybe this is the purpose of such a journey – going into yourself and focus on your inner values. In addition, liberating yourself from daily worries and sorrows and having time again to tell and listen to stories and thoughts.
Tomorrow we have to go through the notorious customs in Israel and will report about it in our next blog.
To travel as a passenger on a cargo ship.
To be swayed into sleep on evenings and afternoons.
To have wonderful meals three times a day.
To have plenty of time for thoughts, sound ideas and good conversations.
To deal easily without any access to mobile and internet.