Due to technical reasons, we decided to publish posts about our travel through America on FaceBook only. If you are interested in, just click “f” in the upper right corner of the screen or type BeCuriousAboutTheWorld on FB. Be invited!
Where exactly are you going? What are you going to visit? Will you be in Rio? Will you be in Buenos? Cape Horn? East or west coast? These are the questions we have ever heard, after sharing information about the planned journey, and for which we sometimes could not answer fully. And still we can not because we do not have (for the first time in our life!) a rigid plan and a tight schedule. This journey is dedicated to ourselves and we do not have to impose or prove anything.
However, it is impossible to hide that there is a certain framework plan, and between Patagonia and Alaska there are many specific places and countries that we want to visit. We have about 1.5 years to spend on the implementation of the plan, adjusting the visit of particular regions to the seasons there. Maybe in some cases the order will change becouse of weather, road conditions or the human factor, but more or less it should look like this:
- We start the journey in Santiago de Chile and then in the port of Valparaiso we collect our car.
- We drive south crossing the Chile-Argentina border several times to visit a lot of beautiful Andean passes
- We reach Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego and the city of Ushuaia.
- Generally we are going to stick to the west coast of America but for two places we make an exception: the Valdez Peninsula in Argentina and the Iguazu Waterfalls on the border between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.
- We return to Argentina and North Chile from Paraguay, from where we enter Bolivia.
- We enter Peru near Lake Titicaca.
- Then we visit Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.
- We go through Colombia where we will send our car by boat to Panama (this part, so-called Darien Gap is impassable)
- This is where Central America begins and we are going to cross the Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Belize borders to finally reach Mexico. If we have enough time, we will also catch El Salvador.
- Visiting Mexico we start from Yucatan to go through some more interesting states end on the visit California Peninsula.
- Then US: firstly southern states like Texas or New Mexico, followed by western states like Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana or Washington.
- Canada: mainly the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, and then Yukon.
How it all looks on the map can be seen here:
We want to combine all the trekking, diving and sightseeing in more interesting natural and cultural places, but avoiding large cities. We will see how it will be possible to accomplish these goals …
Choosing the right car for the companion of this trip was really demanding task for us. It was even harder to make decisions about its appropriate modifications and choosing the right equipment. In the end, it is going to be the basic mean of transport and our home in one 🙂 We consulted a lot among the smarter and more experienced ones. However, there are no ready-made solutions and traditionally everything turns out to be a matter of well-defined needs, and then going for a series of compromises. Either a large size or a low total weight, either conveniently and spatially or more off-road, either cheap or well. Either, or …
Fortunately, at the moment we are at the end of this process and although I have no ambition to prove the rightness of my choices (time and the way will verify them), I just want to share our thoughts and freshly acquired experience about configuring an overlanding car.
Type of car
The brand probably matters but I do not want to write about it. Each has its own reputation, history, supporters and opponents. Blogs and forums where the arguments of Jeep, Toyota and Land Rover fans clash are in abundance.
The first thing is to decide what type of vehicle would be the most appropriate. In addition to the obvious issues related to budget constraints, our ideal overlanding car is to meet the following assumptions:
- be as economical as possible in terms of fuel consumption
- have a simple, rough design with a minimum of electronics
- be reliable or at least easy to repair
- be able to drive on off-road terrain and in moderately difficult terrain
- offer the possibility of comfortable transport and organization of equipment, personal items, food and water
- offer the possibility of comfortable rest,
- have dimensions allowing for loading into a cargo container
- be popular enough in the regions we are going to be serviced there
Due to the size and cost of attractive MAN type trucks with 4×4 and camper construction, we did not take under consideration at all. Our thoughts were long occupied by VW california which with its German practicality and camping facilities long ago won our hearts, but its lack of off-road abilities and a large amount of electronics meant that in the end we were not tempted. We analyzed 4×4 cars with cabins large enough to be able to sleep in, but this always limits the comfort of sleep and the convenience of luggage organization. In the end, we considered the pickup to be the best for us, which, while offering good off-road driving characteristics, at the same time gives the possibility to build and organize its rear space in any way.
We did not expect that the possibilities of upgrading a pickup truck are so wide. The offer of camping canopies or even complete car rebuilds is virtually unlimited. However, this offer is only available on the internet. In practice, only a few companies that implement such projects operate on the Polish market. The best ones have so many orders from across the western border that the implementation of a tailor-made project means at least a six-month horizon. We had significant time limitation, and what’s more we are not very patient people, so in the end it turned out that after analyzing all the possibilities we returned to the beginning: the classic hardtop for cargo and roof tent. We had this system tested in Africa, so we knew what to expect from it and we felt sufficiently experienced in its use to be able to design the most convenient solutions for us. At the same time, we owe the car where the dismantling of the roof tent turns it back into a regular utility vehicle.
Overlanding car modifications and retrofitting
Epic theme. In addition, modifications often give rise to further modifications. Reinforced bumpers, winch, chassis covers, all increase the car weight significantly. The result is usually the need to strengthen the suspension, and sometimes it is also reasonable to raise it. A suspension lift is not only more clearance but in effect a higher car and a recurring problem of entry into the interior of the cargo container. The greater clearance is in turn the necessity of using a lift other than the standard one, so you have to think about hi-lift points or reinforced side bars integrated into the frame of the car.
The second important point is the transport of water and additional fuel. It is an element that significantly influences the mass and center of gravity of the car. Additional or enlarged tank, canisters and the place of their fixing and the method of draining – all this must be taken into account.
Loading spaces on the car trunk and on the roof. Choosing the right roof rack that will resist the hardships of off-road driving and properly transfer the load to the roof of the car or the roof of the building is another question to be answered. It is important to be able to properly assemble a roof tent, side awning, or transport a second spare wheel. The hardtop itself should also be properly reinforced. Composite ones coming from dealer offers are unlikely to pass an exam here.
The last range of issues I want to mention is an electricity. The power supply for the fridge while exploring hot regions is a very important matter. It is also useful to have additional external lighting, which will facilitate the organization of the campground or acting in an emergency situation. It is also worth considering the possibility of charging any electronics we take with us. That is why the number and placement of cigarette lighter sockets, usb ports and a suitable 220V inverter are topics that in the era of electronic gadgets are for some more important than personal hygiene 🙂 It should all be powered by a independent battery, separated from the main battery and with a special charging system, so that our discotheque shines and play without detriment to the car’s electric system.
All these installations should be complemented by a well equipped tool box, because in theory nothing breaks down but …
Here, too, browsing the offer of producers from South Africa, Australia or the USA presented on the Internet makes you dizzy. Nevertheless, obtaining some goods on the Polish market is quite cumbersome or at least time-consuming.
If we have decided on a roof tent, we are facing the choice again. Canvas or laminate, which manufacturer and what shape? Will it survive the winds in Patagonia and equatorial torrential rains? Moreover, we decided to use a side awning protecting from rain and sun, and a side tent attached to it that can be turned into a mosquito net if necessary. Further a shock-resistant fridge – best compressor one, simple camping shower, cooking cuttlery, table and chairs, and thoughtful containers to transport our things (especially those more fragile and sensitive to dust or shocks). Others would consider a parking heating system like WEBASTO just for drying their clothes or installing a shower attached to the car cooling system, which guarantee a hot bath even at the end of the world, as long as they have enough water 🙂
Configuring the overlanding car is an adventure for itself. I’ve only briefly indicated topics that each one turns into an epic of choices, decisions and rising expenses. We will continue to write about the rightness of our choices and about how specific solutions work on our way.
So, it is going to be a kind of a coming out. The partial coming out because certainly not all our twisted thoughts and plans will see the light of day. However, at least one of them is slowly becoming a fact. What has been a youthful dream that has been activating stronger after the second bottle of wine, in a sort of moment of crazy fantasy we have decided to put into practice.
By our own car and carrying exiguous belongings we set out on a journey through America. Beginning a trip in Patagonia we want to reach Alaska. Original? Not really, because Tony Halik did it 60 years ago, and nowadays plenty of overlanders and moto-travellers do that. So perhaps it is for beating time record in incredible style, repeating special stages of Dakar Race and cutting our way through the dense selva? Also not necessarily, because we prefer to look for roadless tracks and move unhurriedly to be able to enjoy what we decided to do, or to be able to convince enough that it was a stupid choice. Time will tell, but one thing is certain: the worst would be not to try it…
So, our entire life has been closed in boxes and binders. We are starting a new stage of life. The stage of adventures and challenges. Surely, also the stage of discomfort and sacrifices, freedom and lack of embarrassment, charms and disappointments, ups and downs. How it is nicely called today: we are leaving the comfort zone.
Why we do that? So that we can feel the taste of life again. So that a comfortable bourgeois existence would not obscure the rest of the world. So that new wrinkles on our faces become the result of sun and smile and not only a sign of passing years …. To cut a spider’s network of worries, life complications and social dependence which is distracting us from what we love the most….
What is the price? The price is our current life or actually the way it is run. Life in general quite average but for many a purpose as such: a decent job, a comfortable accommodation, well-shaped social and family patterns. The price will also be longing for loved ones and friends. Expensive? Undoubtedly, but we have decided to pay.
To all these matters this blog is dedicated for.
Great Zimbabwe is a mystery equally intriguing as Incas Machu Picchu. The atmosphere of the place and its unknown genesis in connection with our imagination excited by Wilbur Smith’s books made a great impression on us. The ruins of Great Zimbabwe are the second of the oldest and largest structures located in Africa just after Egyptian pyramids. It provides the clear evidence of ancient developed civilisations existence in these lands.
What is mystery?
We must admit that almost everything is a mystery there. None of the following questions has the 100% confirmed answer:
- Who settled the city and who occupied it?
- What for it was built?
- From where the building material was acquired and what for particular objects were dedicated?
- When and why it collapsed/was abandoned?
Who settled Great Zimbabwe?
Because of important trading routes which led along The Indian Ocean’s seashore, scientists initially advanced thesis that the city constructors weren’t native Africans but rather Phoenicians, Egyptians, Arabs or even Chinese, and they completely neglected the possibility of building the city by local tribes Shona or Karanga. Nowadays, among archaeologists dominates the opposite opinion. Basing on items found in the place they are keen on to attribute the authorship of ruins to African civilization. What is interesting, at the area and its surroundings they haven’t found any human remains which could possibly bring new evidences and strengthen one of aforementioned hypothesis.
What for Great Zimbabwe was built?
When it comes to this issue, points of view are divided as well. Because of important trading routes nearby, we can assume with high probability that the city arose from favourable trading opportunities. To support this option, the local richness of resources like gold or ivory should be mentioned as well as the transport of valuable goods shipped from Persia, India and China.
However, the theses which feed imagination much more are those pointing Great Zimbabwe as The Old Testament’s Ofir, where the famous King Salomon’s mines were placed or mysterious Puntu – the goal of ancient Egyptians expeditions. One of circumstantial evidences supporting this direction of thinking is a blacking which was found in the burial chamber of a certain Egyptian princess. The mineral it was made from was unknown in northern Africa that times, but quite popular in Zambezi Basin. What is more, some tribes from Shona group living in Great Zimbabwe area (and only they) wear headscarfs tied the same way like ancient Egyptians formerly used to do…
The other part of the puzzle is Monomatopa kingdom. Danger and undiscovered lands which later had a bad fame among white explorers. According to some scientists The Great Zimbabwe has served as a royal palace for the local monarch and his wives, and as such, it would have been used as the seat of political power.
Architecture and building material
Similarly to some Incas constructions, the origin of a building material used is unknown, as well as the techniques of its processing. It is incredible that all these structures have been made of carefully processed rock pieces without using any mortar for connection. What is more, gates were built and some ornamentations (i.e. chevron pattern) were introduced. The thickness of walls close to their base is up to 5m and they are up to 10m high. It is noticeable that in some places of the complex the amazingly good acoustics is present.
The purpose of remained objects is uncertain as well. Massive walls suggest defensive fortifications but there is no unanimity among scientists. Intriguing is The Concial Tower which is supposed to have been a granary or even a treasury, but treasure-seekers have found nothing there.
Furthermore, statues of mysterious birds with human hands instead of claws can’t be omitted (those Wilbur Smith’s books again!) Indeed, there is no certainty about their symbolic meaning and which species of bird they represent. The most popular belief states that we have to do with falcons which connect the temporal existence with ghosts of ancestors. Today, the Zimbabwe Bird is a symbol of the country depicted on the flag, and the word “Zimbabwe” became the name of the country replacing colonial Rhodesia.
Reason of Great Zimbabwe fall
The next enigma. It is estimated that the city was abounded about the year 1450. It probably became the victim of its own success because of overpopulation, extensive agriculture, hunting and wasteful exploitation.
Discovery of ruins
Empty ruins were known to Portuguese in XVI century, but for contemporary science it was discovered by German geologist Karl Mauch in the end of 19th century. Later these terrains were controlled by Cecil Rhodes company which was looking for diamonds and gold. The scientific and archaeological research in the ruins were conducted unregularly, and not all the outcomes were published. In colonial, Rhodesian times, thesis about African origin of the complex were muted and not spread among the public.
The complex is situated in Masvingo province – about 100km from Harare. It is easily accessible by car. Next to the entrance the local community runs simple stalls and sells souvenirs. Except money they partly accepts a barter trade exchanging their products for colourful European or American clothes. In their offer dominate stone sculptures and statues corresponding with Zimbabwe history and other African motives and patterns.
We visited the campsite located just next to the complex. The standard of the place is typical for Zimbabwe: braai place, simple bathroom, electricity (but blackouts happens regularly). Guidebooks recommend booking your visit in advance, but judging from the quantity of campsite occupants during our stay it doesn’t look to be essential.
Definitely it is worth to use the offer of a guided tour. Guides possess wide knowledge and tell stories with vitality and engagement. A guided visit lasts about 2 hour. Be advised to choose afternoon or morning hours to avoid high temperature and to have a nice soft light for photographing.
Great Zimbabwe is a magnet for curious about the world travellers of different nationalities. It is necessary to hurry up and visit it untill it resists commercialism (in opposition to overcrowded Machu Picchu or Anghor Wat). The fact that still more questions than answer are present is so exciting… We strongly recommend it!
Not too far ago the finishing of Huayhuash Circuit and the logistics in that region were quite esoteric subject. Alleged dangers (some cases of robbery on tourists), “Shining Path” guerillas activity and competitive Alpamayo Circuit caused that few tourists have been exploring this area. Not many people have paid attention that touching story of Joe Simpson from popular movie “Touching a void” happened exactly there.
Going to Peru in 2015 we didn’t take this localisation under consideration too. Picturesque Alpamayo tempted much stronger but its popularity and crowds on the trail got us to reconsider our plans. That is how we started to think about Huayhuash Circuit.
This trekking leads through altitudes between 3000-5000 and makes a kind of loop around a gorgeous mountain chain. These mountains are situated in tropical climate so despite the fact of high altitude the trekking is free of snowfields and glaciers. Slender shaped peaks (i.e. Yerupaja, Siula, Jirishanca), emerald lakes and juicy-green pampa make constant jaw-dropping views for your eyes.
Is Huayhuash Circuit wild?
After collecting information from The Internet, it has appeared that it is not as wild and remote as we supposed before. A lot of commercial agencies provides services in the region and they offer guides, mules and horses, tents, cook service and so on. Even transporting a living hen in a cartoon box for preparing a soup for tired gringo is nothing extraordinary. Groups of loudly breathing hikers carrying quite light backpacks follow ruthlessly fast locals :p We don’t remember the exact cost of that circus but it was ridiculously high.
Traditionally we chose self-dependence. Carrying big bags and being ready to spent up to 10 days in the mountain we appeared in a tiny village Llamac. The first part of the trip – the way to lake Jahuacocha is popular among 1-2 days visitors and it is hard to find some solitude there. Campsite is often occupied by plenty of tents, and hosts of the place offer a grilled trout and beer.
Along the way we met an Argentinian guide with his client. After unsuccessful guessing our nationality and info that we are from Poland he hit his forehead and told: “I should have guessed. Only Polish people are tough enough to do the whole circuit independently and carry everything on their back! I’m sure you have a bottle of vodka too. I knew your famous Himalayan mountaineer Wanda Rutkiewicz and she always had a bottle with her :)” Damn it, we hadn’t…
We were well acclimatized so the night’s rest brought enough regeneration to smoothly continue our trip. Later we met less and less tourists who mostly were members of organised groups. Navigation and sense of direction didn’t make any problems and the only doubts aroused rather because of surplus of tracks (often made by cattle) than their lack. We can’t call these mountains teeming but it is not a wilderness comparable with some places in the USA or Canada.
We finished the full circuit in 8,5 days. The nonstrenuous but stable pace and morning discipline let us reach camp places 2-3 hours before a dusk.
- day 1: Llamac – Jahuacocha (there is more than one option to choose; quite comfortable is traverse along the aqueduct))
- day 2: Jahuacocha – Sambuya Punta – Rondoy Punta – Quartelhuain
- day 3: Quartelhuain – Mitucocha – Janca (caution: on the traverse from Cacananpunta to Mitucocha the path is hard to find)
- day 4: Janca – Carhuac (Yanapunta) – Carhuacocha – Gangrajanca
- day 5: Gangrajanca – Siula – Quesillococha – Huayhuash (the most beautiful part of the trip!)
- day 6: Huayhuash – Portachuelo de Huayhuash – Viconga – Punta Cuyoc
- day 7: Punta Cuyoc – Huayllapa – Huatiaq
- day 8: Huatiaq – Tapush Punta – Q. Ocshapata – Jahuacocha (we intended to go directly to Llamac but we couldn’t find a path shown on our map and finally, out of necessity, we went to Jahuacocha)
- day 9: Jahuacocha – Llamac (yes, cold beer is available there!)
Transport to Llamac: early morning bus from Huaraz via Chiquian. The operator: Turismo Nazario. Ensure about hours of return transport. It is relatively early and going back from mountains it is nice to be sure you are going to be on time.
Maps: sheet 0/3C Alpenvereinskarte – Huayhuash – in our case bought in Poland. In Peru we have seen some maps in guides’ offices but we wouldn’t assume their availability all the time.
Guidebooks: superficial description in Lonely Planet. Noteworthy is guidebook Trekking in Peru published by Bradt.
Food: in our case we carry 100% of it with us. In some places there is possibility of buying beer, cola, potatoes or trout, however, you should treat this option only as a kind of prize for effort not as a base of your catering. When it comes to trout, their presence in adjacent lakes may be up to your temperance.
Water: easily accessible in valleys. Because of big quantities of grazing cattle and sheep use a filter, purification tabs or boil the water long.
Fuel/gas: definitely we recommend to be independent.
Camping and accommodation: your own tent is essential, because there are no other possibilities. Campsites are limited to the place for setting the tent and alternatively a pit latrine.
Equipment: winter climbing and belaying equipment is redundant. We finished the trip using low trekking shoes (June). Trekking poles are very useful.
Retraction possibilities: because of transport possibilities limitation the only sensible options are Quartelhuain, and farther Cajatambo from Huayllapa.
Security: according to our feelings all the threats are myth. The local community is friendly under the condition of paying entry fees. However, sometimes they mention that entry fees are due to and for ‘seguridad‘ 🙂 The real danger can be aggressive pastoral dogs…
Fees: the total cost of entry permits for 2 persons was about 200PEN. Take some change!
Preparing this post over two years after finishing the trek I discovered that nice description was published by Bogna and Radek at their blog bognairadek.pl. We recommend their post and if you think that something is still missing here, please let us know.
Why Okavango Delta?
The Okavango Delta is a really unique place. Let me ensure you, that it’s not the next clichéd slogan promoted by travel agencies which encourage you to spent huge sum of money for your ‘lifetime adventure’.
Except of that what is the most obvious – rich biodiversity, the thing really fascinating is mighty Okavango River as such. It’s one of the greatest rivers of Africa. About its uniqueness states the fact that it doesn’t flow into any sea or ocean but creates an inland delta. In the result of it, great amounts of water flow into Kalahari Desert and somehow ‘disappears’. In this way, in the close neighbourhood of the rough desert, on the area over fifteen thousand square km exists a huge ecosystem consisting of islands, marshes, muds, swamps, channels etc. The Delta is so vast that the process of water spreading lasts about four months. It causes that the highest water level is present about the beginning of a dry season. Thanks to this vast and unique ecosystem the richness of plant and animal life is stunning. Except of African Big Five, many kinds of antelopes, smaller cats, hippos and big crocs you can observe there countless birds and rare plants.
Lions from Okavango Delta
Local lions are unique ones. They break their inborn aversion against water and ford or even swim tirelessly following herds of migrating buffalos and wildebeests. Delta Okavango is where lives and works the pair of movie makers famous for their love towards wild cats: Dereck and Beverly Joubert. Theirs incredible productions like Eye of the Leopard or The Last Lions are the best recommendations for visiting the Delta.
Gate to Okavango Delta
The gate to Okavango Delta is Maun. In this small town you can effortlessly and without any elaborated logistics organise all that the average traveller needs: find an accommodation, do good shopping, withdraw money from ATM, buy fuel, repair car, fix tyre puncture, wash clothes etc. If you are not fully independent traveller you can also find there wide guides’ offer including mokoro trips.
When to go?
Basically any season has its own charm and there is always something to see: spectacular spring storms, red coloured sunsets, richness of bird life in wet season, animal migrations in midseason – we would enlist long… However, the most natural and friendly looks to be dry season with moderate water levels (the second part of dry season). Most of the roads are passable, and less fords and slushy puddles are to cross over. What’s more animals numerously concentrate close to the water and are likely to be spotted behind trees deprived of leaves.
Where, and how?
A plane – the flight over the Delta must be an unforgettable memory. Great camera shots, migrating herds of animals, uncommon perspective. However, with our budget we didn’t dare to even ask about the price…
Mokoro boat – a classical and unstable dugout, which local guides use to make rides around rushes nearby. Staying overnight in a ground tent is a worth-to-choose option. Ensure that your guide speaks communicative English – it is the guarantee that his experience, knowledge, and observation will not remain unspoken.
Guided car trip – it is usually Toyota LandCruiser equipped with 6-8 seats plus a guide/driver. If you don’t have a car it is a great option. Guides’ observation is worthy of admiration, the same as their devotion and engagement in following the pride of lions just to give you a chance for a good photo.
Do it on-your-own – possibilities of an independent visit in Okavango Delta come down to visiting Moremi Game Reserve. It is just the fragment of the vast delta, but believe us: it is big and attractive enough to be lost and found several times a day, having jaw-dropping encounters with African wildlife in the meantime. Some more pieces of information about roads, campsites and navigation in Delta we’ll write in another post. Be invited!
Kaokoveld is a wild and wide spread part of Namibia known as a destination of 4×4 expeditions and as a place where Himba and Herero people live.
The Himba are a pastoral nomadic people living in really demanding conditions. They are recognisable because of beautiful women wearing only skirt-like clothing made from goatskins. They cover themselves with a cosmetic mixture of butterfat and ochre pigment, to keep clean their skin over long periods (due to water scarcity) and protect themselves from the extremely hot and dry climate as well as against mosquito insect bites. They use an incense as a antimicrobial body cleansing agent, deodorant and fragrant, prepared by burning aromatic herbs and resins.
The others- Herero – are a proud tribe of farmers and pastoralists. They are identifiable also because of the clothes wear by women, but they are completely different from the Himba’s. The traditional dress is derived from a Victorian woman’s dress, and consists of an enormous crinoline worn over a several petticoats, and a horn shaped hat (said to represent the horns of a cow).
This kind of colourful mixture can be found on the roadless tracks of Kaokoweld.
Short history of Himba and Herero
The interesting fact is that The Himba derive from Herero tribe. About 150 years ago, Herero were gradually driven out by Nama people. Many of them got across The Kunene River and sought help from the bushmen tribe Ngambwe in Angola. Finally, in 1870, the tribe split and these people started to be called ovaHimba, that is: beggars. In XIX century European people invaded Namibia and in 1883 a trader Franz Adolf Eduard Lüderitz entered into an agreement with the natives. In the end a German colony was set up, called German South-West Africa. Soon afterwards there was a conflict between the Herero and colonizers. In the early twentieth century, the Himba and Herero became victims of extermination policy of the German colonial army. It was genocide on a massive scale. It is estimated that more than 100 thousand inhabitants of Namibia were killed that time.
They still remember about this tragedy, but anyway Herero women wear clothes which imitate clothes of German women from the past.
Himba people and their hairstyles
In our culture a particular hairstyle is not so meaningful. In case of Himba people things look completely different. Hairstyles are important and indicate age and social status there.
A young girl typically has two plaits (ozondato) of braided hair.
At puberty, the girl wears dreadlock-styled braids that cover her face, letting males know that she isn’t ready to marry (see the picture above). But when a young woman is ready to marry, those same locks will be braided toward the back of the head, allowing potential suitors to see her face.
A married woman wears an erembe headdress (see the picture below). A widow takes the erembe off.
Himba males also wear different hairstyles according to their social status. The single plait, the ondato, is worn by young boys down the back of the head. Being married it is covered with the ombwiya headdress.
Unfortunately our civilization pushes and shoves everywhere. In case of Himba and Herero women it is still easy to meet them in the traditional clothes, while men are mostly unrecognisable wearing common t-shirts and shorts. What a pity….
Transport in Peru
If we had to choose one mean of transport we like the most it would be a car. It is not so important: our own or rented. It simply gives us feeling of freedom and independence. It is not imaginable to us how to visit New Zealand, United States or countries of southern Africa without it. But in Peru we decided not to rent a car because of:
- opinions about drivers, their style of driving and road conditions
- long hikings and trekkings planned – it is waste of money paying for a car when we do not use it
- our plan to visit Iquitos – next couple of days when car would be left
- well developed bus and air transport, online information and easy way of buying tickets
Peru is a really mountainous country, so in many cases the most effective way of travelling is a plane. Planes run regularly between all of bigger cities. Taking them can save a lot of time. It is not about laziness or comfort-loving. It is hard to compare 21 hours in the bus on the way from Cuzco to Lima with the flight lasting 45 minutes. Of course, flights are more expensive, but prices are still affordable. The other reason to choose plane is visiting Iquitos. There in no way to get there with bus. You can take a boat or just a plane.
Reliable service, low fares and a comprehensive network of routes make bus transport the preferred way to get around Peru. You can find luxury coaches run the long-range trips, often offering onboard entertainment and meals. But cheaper options are present as well. It only depends on your needs and budget. Every solution has its pros and cons.
On longer routes better quality buses have almost no stops. And it is not so important because of time of the travel, but rather because of safety of our baggage left in a luggage compartment. Nobody open it and nobody take something out of it on a way. Otherwise, we were looking fitfully through the window whether our ugly black bags are safe. In case of a few bus companies we were given a luggage receipt and the check-in procedures looked almost like these in the airport. There is one more earmark of the luxury buses in Peru – gimcrack movies shown on-board, for all the travellers, even if not interested in.
One more remark about practical use of the bus network in Peru, depots can be found in the centre of almost any town, but a bus company’s ticket office and its departure point aren’t always the same place. What is more, some of bus companies have their own private terminals away from the congestion in the city’s centre. Sometimes there are more than one. Make sure you have checked where your bus leaves from. It should be on the ticket but ask the vendor just in case. Planning your itinerary be aware of it, because transport between terminals means time consumption and also additional cost of a taxi or a tuk-tuk.
Seeking for bus connections take a look here:
- Flores – www.floreshnos.pe
- Civa – www.civa.com.pe
- Cruz del Sur – www.com.pe
- 4M Express – www.4m-express.com
- Tepsa – www.tepsa.com.pe
There is no well developed trains network. The only lines are Puno-Cuzco and Cuzco – Machu Picchu. Both rides are said to be beautiful. We didn’t decide on this kind of attraction because of its price. The cost of a train ticket on a way Puno-Cuzco is over 300 USD when a bus ticket costs 32-45 USD depending on chosen standard. Time of this journey by a train is about 10 hours, whereas a bus needs 6-7 hours to get there. Anyway, there are a lot of takers for train ride.
Our way across Peru
Our itinerary looked like this: Lima – Arequipa – Puno – Cuzco – Lima – Huaraz – Lima – Iquitos – Lima – Paracas – Nazca – Lima. We visisted Lima a few times not because we like it so much (quite the reverse). However, cities in Peru are connected in this way: almost all buses route are going through Lima. So you have to take one bus to Lima and then next one to your destination. The same is when it comes to planes. We used a plane twice: on the way to Iquitos and back and on the way from Cuzco to Lima. Besides, we took buses. Mostly, we travelled by night buses, which let us save time and money (we didn’t spend it on the hotels). Others means of transport we used in Peru were:
- tuk-tuk – yes, you can see them not only in Asia
- all kind of motor boats including peque-peque (type of motorized Amazonian long-boat named after the sound made by its air-cooled motor)
- different kinds of small buses. We remember sharply one of them. How to forget the journey in a fully packed small bus with people, hundreds of bread rolls, eggs and a complete funeral equipment as well: crucifix, some paintings and candle holders. There was also a coffin on the roof. It was said to be empty… 🙂
Common opinions, Internet forums and press articles warn, that at any crossroads waits a corrupt policeman, who is going to rip you off on any excuse. There is something in and many times we were cautioned against it, in particular when it comes to Zimbabwe. This kind of advice were given us even by Afrikaners living in SA. And what? NOTHING. After thousands of driven kilometres and tens of police checkpoints crossed in countries of southern Africa we paid only one fine in amount of 10USD. So, where is the truth? Hereunder, we will try to describe our feelings and experience.
We obviously haven’t been everywhere and weren’t driving with the same intensity in different places. However, according to our experience we can indicate same regularities. The biggest number of controls we faced in Zimbabwe indeed. In this country police barriers are extremaly frequent and can be hit on in any bigger town. It is similar in Mozambique where The Police concentrate their forces near towns and where controls are really common. In this point it is worth to mention about army bariers described in another post. In Botswana and South Africa things are much more similar like they are in Europe. I mean that controls are more rare but still they are present even in national parks (i.e. we had one in Kruger NP). In Namibia we hadn’t any contact with The Police but we saw some patrols in cities.
Reasons of control
As everywhere there are two main reasons of control: a routine control and a control provoked by driver’s offence. In ZIM the routine type of control dominates. We passed over tens of them and we didn’t notice any radar speed detectors or other professional devices in officers’ hands. It is common thing that officers simply need a lift to the place of their living and that is why they stop your car. This way of hitchhiking gave us many opportunities for conversations with local people and having them onboard made next checkpoints crossings smoother and quicker. In Mozambique things look a little bit different: routine controls are often but equally often you can be stopped for speeding because The Police are equipped with speed radars. In other countries we would expect being stopped mostly because of breaking rules of the road.
What do they check?
The very first issue is your car’s condition. They don’t control it deeply – just in organoleptic way. A broken windscreen or headlight looks to be a good reason to fine you. The way of fixing of your external baggage looks to be important too. The fact that there are plenty of drivers carrying a wardrobe on the roof, with their mother-in-law and two goats sitting in the opened trunk isn’t any argument (we were fined exactly for ‘inappropriate’ carrying of fire wood). The next thing are documents and their completeness. Showing copies was accepted in most cases. Obviously your sobriety is under control too. We had this opportunity to blow into the breathanalyser in Mozambican Inhambane.
Principles of conduct
It is incredible how much can be accomplished by having a nice small talk. We hardly tried to avoid offences but at least a few times it looked like the fine is inevitable. However, showing respect and remorse to The Police, as well as being smiled and nice worked surprisingly effective. Two words in local language, something positive said about visited country, gifting a bottle of cold water to the roasted in the sun policeman helped as well. We have never bribed and for the fine we paid we were given a receipt. In case of being accosted: “What have you brought for us?” we answer jokingly that we brought smile and kindness and good will because we haven’t too much money. It worked!
The main reason for our visiting Mozambique was diving. We really hoped for extraordinary underwater encounters. That is why we stayed for a moment in Vilanculos and then jumped in Tofo for a few days. Our next point of interest was Kruger National Park. It is far away and bearing in mind our previous driving experiences we decided not to go there in one day. It would be ridiculous to hurry up and miss beautful places along the ocean’s coast. Finally we stayed in very calm place near Xai-Xai. It was a camping in Praia do Chongoene run by nice couple from SA. They gave us the idea of visiting an abandoned hotel. They compared it to Titanic, and described as one of the most luxurious in its epoque. So being Curious About The World we went there without hesitation. After a few kilometres of nice walk along the beach we arrived.
The building made an impression on us. Especially its location between ocean and sand dunes. Moreover, there is an empty Olympic sized swimming pool with the old diving platform still in place. Removing loosen and rotten boards covering the door we entered inside and found ouerselves surrounded by spaces including over 100 rooms, huge ballrooms, dining rooms and so on. Of course there was nobody else.
It is not easy to find any info about this hotel, that is why we partly rely on our camp-hosts knowledge. The object was built during the time when the Portuguese ruled in Mozambique and a person named D’Olivera was its owner. It was abandoned when the independence war ended in 1975 after infamous 20/24 decree in which the Portuguese were forced to leave Mozambique with 20kgs of luggage within 24 hours.
Up till now Mozambican people refuse to live in houses occupied by Portuguese before, and therefore this hotel hasn’t been occupied by squatters. There have been some rumours about a South African company wanting to invest and restore this building but so far nothing has happened.
However, closing eyes we could easily imagine elegant people dancing and waiters discreetly going around with trays full of champagne glasses.
History of this place is not so fortunate however. It is said that after this decree mentioned above some of the Portuguese civilians failed to leave the country before the deadline that had been set by the government. They hid in the vast property of the Chongoene Hotel. They were tracked by soldiers and finally executed. We don’t know how many people were there and how long they were held hostage there. Now, it is believed they are wandering along empty corridors. So, having a vivid imagination probably you may fear a bit 🙂
It doesn’t matter if you believe in ghosts or not. Being in this area it is worth to visit this abandoned and maybe even haunted place.
Where is the borderline?
In spite of the fact that Mozambique is one homogenic country, it is often divided into two parts: the north and the south. The southern one is perceived as more civilized, richer and safer. The poorer north is less popular among tourists and there are different points of view when it comes to its safety and political stability (RENAMO guerilla). It is also said that north part starts from Beira city – at least it is defined like that by car rental companies, which diversify insurance costs depending on where you are going to. So, is Mozambique safe for visitors?
ZIM/MOZ border crossing
Crossing the ZIM/MOZ border we thought that all possible difficulties had been finished out and just civilisation, sandy beaches and great dive sites were ahead. On the border gates nothing extraordinary happened. The fact that we were the only whites in a queue of tens people waiting rather helped (in contrary to our expectations). We were noticed and taken out of the crowd, led to the back office where our photos were taken and we were given visas. After having completed the chain of windows, officers’ desks and payments we entered to Mozambique. The way to Manica appeared to be quite good quality. In the town we easily got some cash from ATM and drank pretty good coffee. The morning started in a promising way…
Because we wanted to get Vilanculos that day, we jumped into our car and quickly continued. Unfortunately, the main road leading east to Beira occurred to be a nightmare. In the clouds of dust we manoeuvred between huge trucks trying to ram us, chinese workers rebuilding the road and giant potholes. Tired and dust-covered we reached Inchope where with the hope for better times we turned south. Thankfully, the surface become to be smoother and the traffic disappeared almost completely. We continued driving and during next hour we met almost nobody except some locals with donkeys. We didn’t analyse it too much and kept driving south trying to make up for the lost time. At one moment I noticed a running person in the rear mirror. The man was apparently waving to us, but I took him for one more hitchhiker and ignored because of being in a hurry.
Finally this run of luck ended. The road was blocked by soldiers. Guys were quite unceremonious, but obviously surprised by our presence there. In a flow of portuguese words which we did not understand one was more frequent than others: ‘colona’. Feeling problems coming we decided to pretend idiots and with innocent faces we were waiting for what it was going to happen. Gesticulating and using simple latin words we started a primitive conversation. It was clear that we shouldn’t have been there and we were not allowed to continue our trip. That silhouette chasing our car was probably someone who was obliged to stop any car coming but he didn’t manage.
‘Uno caro no’ – that was the very first thing we understood. OK, so single car can not enter and we need someone else to join us. We continued our investigation trying hardly to find any sense. “No – colona’ sounded the answer. ‘So maybe we can go with you?’ we gesticulated pointing soldiers. ‘No – colona’ we heard again. It dawned on us that this transit is possible only being a part of special column but we were not able to find how to join it. All in all after further ‘discussion’ we knew it! But news was rather bad. ‘Colona’ was going in the opposite direction that time, and all we were expected to do, was to stay aside, and join it next day when it comes back.
Guys with Kalashnikovs are always right, so we decided to wait. In the meantime we tried to negotiate a free run for us just after ‘colona’ passes. Soldiers hesitated but admitted that it was an option. Finally it arrived! It started from the armoured heavy car with the machine gun on it. Column’s commander jumped out, and after being saluted by his subordinates he attacked us. We didn’t understand all he said but he definitely wanted money and ordered us to join his column. Because we were in despair to take the opposite direction we continued to pretend idiots again 🙂 At last the commander went somewhere and the column started. They were passing half an hour: hundreds of heavy cars, buses and different smaller vehicles. All of them were guarded by jeeps with armoured soldiers sitting in. They went out and we ensured that we could continue our way. It was really late but we did.
‘Save’ has nothing to do with safety and security:) It is a name of the river. After a couple of minutes of relief that we left soldiers behind and we still had a small chance to get our destination before dusk, we ascertained that if there was a control point on the one end of column’s route we should expect the control at the opposite end as well. Looking at the map things became obvious: The Save River bridge. We named it and we got it. After dozen of kilometres again: soldiers, inquisitive looks and ‘colona’. Guys were rather unfriendly and despite being given small gifts made us waiting long. Finally someone took his decision and the gate was opened. A moment later one more control and demand of a bribe. Highly irritated we refused and were waiting patiently in the car. Exactly at dusk a frontier barrier was opened for us…..
At long last we could go, but where to? It was late and we were seriously tired. Continuation of driving was completely irresponsible. We made the decision to enter the word ‘camp’ in GPS and choose the closest destination. Rough ways, complete darkness, but we continued with trust in finding any place to stay in. We found but it looked strange at least. High fence, barracks, barking dog… I came closer to the gate and a guard with the gun welcomed me. We couldn’t stay there – that was the army camp! 🙂 I don’t even remember the rest of our route. Somehow we reached Inhassoro camp. Exhausted we ate fried shrimps, drunk ‘dosh M” and fell into our sleeping bags. The next morning welcomed us with a fresh ocean breeze, a beach and full civilisation.
This adventure as such means nothing about safety in Mozambique. Today it is easy to speak about and joke but we were seriously upset that time. The information about all this procedure and travelling between Muxungue and Save River was possible to find in one of the Internet forums but guidebooks said nothing about it. We missed it and that is why we are writing these words. Was there really dangerous in that area, and was it the real border line between north and south part of Mozambique – we do not know. Nevertheless everything became clear: the column is organised twice a day and all you need is to be there on time. On September 2016 it was like: south direction 6:00 and 12:00 from Muxungue, and north direction 9:00 and 15:00 from Save. You are expected to be half an hour earlier.
In our opinion it is safe to travel across Mozambique but you need to be prepared! 🙂
Are wild african animals dangerous? Does overnight staying in unfenced campsites bring any risk? How close can we approach the elephant? Should we close car windows when hyenas or lions are around? What if we got stuck or had a puncture? Can we get out? These and many other questions appeared when we visited Africa very first time. We are not going to pretend we weren’t scared at all but we felt really excited… 🙂
Obey the rules
Obey the rules and the regulations – this piece of advice is such obvious that I feel confused writing it. However, to respect the rules you simply need to know them. In most national parks at the entrance gates you can find information. There is also a great opportunity to speak with guides who usually have the first-hand info.
Unfortunately, the significant part of tourists ignore it completely. The Internet is full of stories about cars rolled over by elephants or movies presenting tourists getting out their cars and taking photos of lion lying in the middle of the road. There was famous accident somewhere in Zimbabwe when a couple decided to have sex in bush and their behaviour provoked a lion to attack. There was no happy end: the girl was mauled to death and her partner somehow managed to escape naked and he was only wearing a condom.
So, do what common sense suggests you and remember at least about following:
- remain in your car unless it is designated area
- no part of the body may protrude from a window or sunroof or any other part of the vehicle. Animals can recognise a shape of vehicles but people standing on the roof can appear to be disturbing or, what is even worse, interesting for them
- stick to the speed limits. You risk a crash and surely you are going to miss something interesting
- have eyes in the back of your head all the time
- do not leave any food in your campsite – it may attract unwanted visitors
- at evening stay close to your tent and remain in circle of light
- avoid visiting ablution blocks during a night time
Obviously most of rules are universal, but of course some exceptions work. Examples? Here you are:
- Gorongosa NP in Mozambique: elephants are known to be more aggressive towards cars (post-war trauma). That is why selfdrive safari there is limited or even prohibited.
- Hwange NP in Zimbabwe: in 2016 they warned against two lion males, that arrived from remote unpopulated areas, and appeared to be nervous and aggressive. They charged tourists cars leaving some scratches on car bodies 🙂
- Mana Pools in Zimbabwe: one of a few national parks where walking freely is allowed.
Choose campsites comfortable for you
We can’t mix up all the campsites and lodges. Depends on your expectations, approach and experience choose something appropriate for you. In our humble opinion places like Kruger NP or Etosha NP are fully civilized. Camps are fully fenced, waterholes artificially maintained and floodlit, and comfortable tribunes for visitors prepared. It is hard to talk about any danger there and you can take your children there without hesitation. But there are also remote and wild places offering direct contact with wild nature, where campgrounds are not fenced, facilities are really primitive and visitors of any sort and size are common – i.e. overnight visits of lions in Chobe NP or in Tuskers Campsite next to the entrance to Hwange NP.
What to care about
Peaceful giants usually completely ignore people if only we keep comfortable distance and don’t split up their herd. Therefore do not approach too close, give them way when they are crossing the road and be sure that every single herd member passed over. Separated elephant baby makes its mother and grandmother stressed and aggressive. Young males with buzzing testosterone are even more unpredictable. Staying close to elephants avoid revving your engine up, do not use a horn, and withdraw yourself slowly if they become nervous. At the campsite avoid setting up the bivouac on elephant tracks and do not keep your food (particular fruits) in the tent.
Vervet monkeys and baboons could be really oppressive at many campsites. They accustomed to humans, do not afraid of them and by fair means or foul they are fighting for a free meal. Their speed, agility, craft and effrontery are boundless. Some of them can open tents’ zips or cars’ doors. Your presence does not solve anything and does not guarantee safety of your food and equipment. Leading baboon males are able to grab your meal directly from your hands. Stolen cameras, sunglasses are common too.
Hippos have bad fame because of mortality rate when it comes to close encounters with them. They are highly territorial and aggressive. Having a bivouac on the river bank be aware of them. From time to time (especially at evenings) they come out of water to greeze. Sometimes they wander quite far from a river or a pool. They treat water as their shelter so never block their access to it.
Never come to close to river banks or pools. Except crocs lying on sand and catching the sun there are surely plenty of them lurking in turbid water. Do not think you can notice them and quickly go out…
Unpredictable and aggressive. In particular old males guarding their herds. If you remain in a vehicle and give them way, you are completely safe.
I can risk the thesis that similar rules like with elephants should be obeyed. However, they are much more nervous and attack with full power.
Active mostly at dusk and during the night. They often penetrate campsites’ rubbish bins. They never misprize your shoe, a water cooler, a rubber stove hose or even a fireplace screen 🙂
It is no use to enumerate everything. All in all, it is going to be an adventure and something must be out of our control. Nevertheless remember about snakes, ants, spiders and scorpions. The interesting one is also a honey bagger – small but highly aggressive and brave animal, which uses to loot and plunder careless tourists’ litter bags by night.
We do hope that we haven’t scared anybody, because all these close encounters are really exciting. We just need to remember that a safari is not a visit in the zoo and we are only guests where the nature rules.
Travelling with music
Music plays for me every day. It often states a background for my memories. Hearing some tracks today I have my eyes half-shut and I am transferring myself to New Zealands Kaikoura, to the rim of Yellowstone Canyon or to roadless tracks of Africa. These are further destinations, but sometimes I can see myself as a teenager coming back from school with the headphones on and with a walkman in the school bag 🙂 I can’t imagine travelling without music!
Not so long ago I was dreaming about a walkman with the function of auto reverse, then it was a discman, then discman with mp3 and finally a small mp3 player. All the elaborately constructed playlists consisted of files arduously copied or downloaded from many different esoteric sources were forgotten by me when I “discovered” Spotify. This application appeared to be an unfathomable source of music and a great searching tool for new inspirations. Legal and cheap or even free if you can bear plenty of commercials. But I’m not going to promote Spotify whereas there are at least a few more good apps in this field. I just would like to emphasise the fact that without this sort of applications I wouldn’t have been able to find so many songs, which created the climate of our journeys in the past and strengthen our memories today.
Direction: Southern Africa
Usually, we create our playlists for different moods, activities and destinations. Many of them evaluate slowly and some tracks replace others. Today we would like to share with you the playlist which was created during our pre-african preparations and enriched during the trips. It is neither clearly categorised nor presenting particular music style. Mainly you can find there catchy local and ethnic songs: folk songs, tribal songs, protest-songs, pop, whatever else…:)
So, be invited to listen to them. We would be grateful for your comments. Maybe you have your own playlist which you would like to share with us?
Veterinary Cordon Fence (VCF) was erected in Namibia in the 1960’s as a culmination of a series of artificial barriers between central and northern Namibia. They were put in place first during German rule and later maintained under South African rules.
Nowadays, the Namibian society is raising objections to this fence. It divides their country into two parts: poor north and rich south which is allowed to sell its meat around The World as coming from the FMD (foot and mouth disease) free area. It is more and more often mentioned that this line should be moved to the Angolan border.
In the 1970’s European Union stipulated that Botswana had to control the movement of wildlife into its beef herds in order to control diseases such as FMD. In that time beef was the country’s largest export, and the government of Botswana embarked on a policy of erecting fences in strategic places across the country.
Most of these fences were erected without researches carried out with the result that the migration routes were cut off. Tens of thousands of animals died because of no access to water and new grazing. The worst disaster occurred during the drought in 1983. The Kuke fence, 250 km long, barred herds of wildebeest heading to the Okavango Delta. In result more than 60.000 (sic!) animals died.
Veterinary fences are set up throughout Namibia and Botswana. Aside of theirs business goals and dramatic consequences for wildlife they have strong impact on travelling in this area. It is generally not allowed to bring things like fresh meat, biltongs, milk, skins, etc. across those fences. Within Namibia it is allowed to bring those products from South to North, but not vice-versa. It is worth to know when you do shopping during your travel through these countries. In a special check points every vehicle (and particularly its freezers) is checked for prohibited goods, and if something is found it is confiscated.
This is especially the case when entering Botswana from Namibia. In theory, with some restrictions you can bring meat and dairy products. However, the regulations on importing meat products change frequently, because they are based on disease outbreaks in different countries. And what is more, the “veterinary control” guys change the rules to suit their personal larder requirements 🙂
You really don’t need to carry meat trespassing vet fences as good quality meat is available all over Namibia and Botswana. In case of doubts, it is worth to carry a spare vegetarian meal or canned meat.
Sometimes we don’t notice things which are obvious. The Moon just exists and “shines” and we aren’t used to think about it unless it is The Full Moon and we can’t sleep.
We also hadn’t been thinking too much about it to the time we spoke with Belgian guy travelling with his family. He came to us because he wasn’t able to answer the question of his child: “Daddy, why here in Botswana we can see a smile-like moon, but in our country it looks like a crescent? Where could we see the moon like a reverse smile?”. Oh yes! We should BE CURIOUS ABOUT THE WORLD like children are…
The Moon in the northern and southern hemisphere
Do you know that in the northern hemisphere a waxing crescent is a right crescent while an waning crescent is a left crescent, whereas in the southern hemisphere a waxing crescent is a left crescent while a waning crescent is a right crescent?
Strange? Let’s distinguish the view of The Moon from both hemispheres. If we take the people in the northern hemisphere as “right-side up”, then those in the southern hemisphere are “upside-down”.
Look at the picture below:
The Moon on the equator
The Moon seen near the equator is orientated differently to the way we see it at more northern or southern latitudes. It sometimes looks like a smile.
In places close to the equator the moon in first quarter has the shape of the letter n (inverted u) when it rises, and the shape of letter u when it sets, while the last quarter looks like the shape of letter u when it rises and the shape of the letter n (inverted u) when it sets.
However, at first quarter, the moon rises at noon and sets at midnight. At 3rd quarter, the moon rises at midnight and sets at noon. That’s why it’s really hard to observe n-shape moon during the night, because it is rather visible during the day. Of course, rising and setting times are approximate, and vary depending on the time of the year and the place where we are.
Do you know more about it? Please, share with us.
4×4 car rental
Having own 4×4 is probably the best way of travelling in Namibia and other countries in Southern Africa. There is no doubts that plenty attractions are available by common 2WD cars, and the tour operators’ offer is quite wide, but if you decide to have so called self-drive safari and to keep all the logistics in your hands you will be given much more taste of freedom and adventure.
Car rental is rather easy thing in Namibia – at least a few reliable rental companies operate there. The popular solution is choosing car rental companies in SA where this market is much wider. In Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique you can find a few rental companies but their offer and prices make them less attractive. Anyway, the offer is limited and you shouldn’t wait to the last minute. During the high season even booking in two months advance could be not enough. It’s not cheap. 100$ USD per day is a real budget for well equipped 4×4 car with all the camping stuff and so called ‘stress free’ insurance. 2WD cars are much cheaper but you need to calculate accommodation costs or choose a ground tent. Be advised to analyse in full the terms of an insurance policy you are going to choose, because it works far different from European standards.
Well maintained and equipped vehicle is essential. In good rental companies their employee will assist you during pick up procedures, checking all the things together with you and presenting how to use them. The equipment range varies widely and its usefulness depends on the planned route. Below we have described all the important stuff. We use to take the checklist with us not to forget anything in fever of coming adventure.
- on-time maintenances, exchanged fluids etc.
- tyres condition
- differential lock – it is often connected with electronics. Check indicator light and so on…
- compressor – usually powered directly from the battery or from the cigarette lighter socket. Check the hose and the tip as well as correctness of manometer indications
- jack with pad – ensure you know how to use it
- hi-lift jack – not really necessary but it can be useful if you are going to choose more difficult terrain. If you are not experienced with it ask for instructions
- tracks – in case you are stuck in sand or mud
- winch – rarely useful. Can be dangerous for inexperienced. User should be instructed before using
- towing rope, tow straps and hooks/carabineers etc.
- spare wheels (2x) and a repairing kit
- fridge and its charging system. A fridge is not a gadget it this climate. Learn as much as possible: which battery is responsible for it, which device switches charging for this battery and how it works all together. Most of problems we had during our journeys concerned these elements
- spare fuel jerries. Depending on a fuel tank capacity it is recommended to have some
- ropes, bungee cords, ratchet straps, nets etc. for fixing your cargo
- snorkel – unnecessary unless you cross over deep water
- roof tent – great solution, giving you much more feeling of safety than a ground tent. For the first time be instructed how to fold and unfold it.
- mattresses and bedding – usually provided with a tent. If you choose good rental company they will be clean and tidy – you don’t need to take anything from home
- gas cylinder and stove – the nozzle often clogs because of dust. Check if it works, and keep your stove in a clean plastic bag during the trip.
- folded table and chairs
- camping lamps – charged directly from a battery or from a cigarette lighter socket
- pots, cups, cutlery etc.
- braai accessories (BBQ)
- water container
- boxes for keeping food and other cargo
- first aid kit
Boring but important. Read and ask a lot. Ensure twice if you have everything what is necessary to travel inside the country and to cross its borders (if you are going to). Check plate, engine and body numbers. You will feel more self-confident facing The Police control or talking with a border officer. International driving licence is required but nobody asks about it.
If you checked it all probably you are well prepared. Wide road!
Maybe there is something else we forget about? Put your comments and questions, please!
The most obvious way to get Namibia from Europe is taking a flight. In 2014 when we were there, the only one direct flight to Windhoek was operated by Air Namibia. It was the flight from Frankfurt and what is worth to mention the quality of service and a plane were quite nice. As an alternative we might have chosen other operators flying to South Africa and have a transfer in Johannesburg or Cape Town. Travelling overland or by sea are really intriguing options but both are rather ambitious projects.
To cross the Namibian border some of you might need a visa (check the appropriate embassy). If you need one, be aware of their types: single or multi entrance and choose the correct one depending on your travel itinerary. The passport control after landing is usually connected with, to put it cautiously, a long queue and average quality of this process organisation. It is highly recommended to be prepared for providing accurate details about your permanent address in Namibia. If you don’t have any just take sth from booking.com or lonely planet and fill the form fully. We were witnesses of the situation where group of Germans (nation commonly travelling to Namibia) wasn’t allowed to cross the gates because of this reason and explanations about rented campervan did not help. We don’t know how this incident ended but there is no doubts it cost them a lot of stress.
Overland border crossing
Entrance to Namibia through Botswanian or South African border is not too much complicated. Aside from a passport and a visa, all the car papers are carefully checked. Border guards have a penchant for searching engine and body serial numbers and comparing them with those in documents. Having a rented vehicle be sure that you have the car’s owner statement that you are allowed to cross particular border. Pay attention to the cargo you carry – there are plenty limitations about food transport.
Fuel and shopping
As we decided to go to Zimbabwe we knew that visiting Mana Pools National Park is a must. It is a perfect place for nature lovers so surely it is not going to be the only one post about it. We went by rented 4×4 car, equipped with a roof-tent and we were going to camp there for a few days. There is no shop, no restaurant and no petrol station so you have to provide yourselves with water, food and fuel before entering the park. The firewood is the only one thing you can obtain there so being self sufficient is essential. PURE WILDERNESS 🙂
In September 2016 the last petrol station before Mana Pools NP was located in Karoi. To be precise there were two petrol stations: the old one on the right side of the road and the new one on the left (driving north). What to say more, in this part of the glob it is really good habit to buy petrol always when you find a stocked petrol station, so better fill up your canisters 🙂
A few shops can be found in Karoi, but to be honest those in Chinoyi looked to be better stocked in time we were there.
Access and camping
We travelled directly from Hwange National Park and we were advised about two different routes as options. The shorter one – more demanding, close to Kariba Lake and about 600 km long, and the longer one – via Kwekwe and about 780km long. We chose the second option as it was supposed to be better quality and less time consuming.
Getting Mana from Hwange in one day in daylight is rather impossible, so you need to sleep somewhere along the way. When it comes to campsites there is almost nothing to choose in Mashonaland. We had found some information about camping in Karoi (Spring Fever Caravan Park next to the old petrol station), but in some sources it had been described as closed. We went there anyway and it appeared to be open even if its ‘facilities’ were worn out. Obviously, there was nobody else there and the cost of campsite for 2 adults was 10 USD. The next campground is located in Chinoyi about 90km south so it is better not to complain too much. 🙂
One more remark for all of you going to visit Mana Pools. On the way to the park you have to stop in Marongora (17 km north from Makuti) to do first formalities and to be given some permissions.
And what is more, do not take any fruits with you. Why? We will tell you next time….
It is high time to write the very first post in this blog but unfortunately neither inspiration nor flair is present. There is no denying that it is our blog debut and the fact that we have some experience in writing serious documents and complicated reports doesn’t help at all, making our writing even more stiff and official. What is more we are obviously not native English speakers so please forgive us clumsy sentences or some grammar mistakes. Believe us: we do our best and keep on learning 🙂
However, we do hope that some of you will find here something for yourselves and for feeding your curiosity about The World. It would be great if some of the materials presented made you eager to organise your own journey or at least helped you to be prepared wisely.
At the same time we are fully aware of blogs and various travel publications diversity. We highly appreciate lots of them and follow in seeking personal inspiration and remarks of other ‘curious about The World’ people. Facing the richness of the Internet resources and travel guides availability it is really hard not to copy anything or make you surprised. Anyway, we will share with you our best and practical knowledge which, at least in time we were preparing our journeys’ itineraries, was difficult or expensive to gain.
We are looking forward to your comments and opinions.