Mar­ried to travel

In 2017, Hugo (26) and Caro (28) Min­naar trav­elled through Africa for eight months. They had just fin­ished their stud­ies and as web de­sign­ers they could work any­where with an In­ter­net con­nec­tion. The travel bug bit hard: They don’t even have a per­ma­nent a

go! - - Travel | East Africa -

How was the idea born? One of our mar­riage vows was to travel the world to­gether. In 2015 and 2016, we vis­ited Viet­nam and Turkey, and our plans for global travel be­came more se­ri­ous. We wanted to travel from Aus­tralia to South­east Asia, but Hugo bought a 4x4 on im­pulse and we de­cided to start with Africa. It was our first over­land­ing trip and Hugo’s first 4x4. How did you do it? We saved for a year and worked on­line as we trav­elled. We earned enough for the most part to avoid dip­ping into our sav­ings. Be­sides ve­hi­cle in­sur­ance, we didn’t have any monthly ex­penses like car re­pay­ments or cell­phone con­tracts back home. The money we spent on food, ac­com­mo­da­tion and en­ter­tain­ment was about the same as what we would have spent at home. Our av­er­age daily liv­ing ex­pense was about R400 per per­son (ex­clud­ing the moun­tain go­rilla ex­cur­sion in Uganda). We some­times trav­elled with friends, which also helped to keep the costs down. ( See their web­site for a com­plete cal­cu­la­tion of their ex­penses. – Ed.) What did you drive? Hugo ini­tially wanted to do the trip on a mo­tor­bike, but he saw a 2003 Toy­ota Hilux KZTE on Gumtree that cost the same as a BMW GS1200. We bought the Hilux, with ac­ces­sories like a Sa­fari snorkel, a long-dis­tance diesel tank, an alu­minium canopy, and a drawer sys­tem. All we had to buy was a roof tent. The bakkie did an ex­cel­lent job. In Zam­bia we had to re­place a rear wheel bear­ing. We only had three flat tyres. We had two spares and never even took down the one un­der the bakkie. How did you plan your trip? We of­ten only started re­search­ing a coun­try’s at­trac­tions once we’d crossed the border. The only set dates on our itinerary were to be in Nairobi by June so Caro could write her Unisa ex­ams, and to be back in South Africa by Oc­to­ber so she could write her fi­nal ex­ams. That gave us the free­dom to stay longer in places that we liked. At first we used blogs for in­for­ma­tion about camp­sites, but later we switched to the iOver­lan­der app (free in the Google Play store) to find places to stay. Doc­u­men­ta­tion? We bought a Car­net de Pas­sage en Douane (CPD) from the AA. Our bakkie was worth about R75 000 so the CPD only cost us R10 000. It’s re­ally just a de­posit and we got it back when we re­turned (mi­nus the R4 000 AA fee). The CPD also in­cludes a po­lice clear­ance cer­tifi­cate, which proves you own your ve­hi­cle and didn’t steal it. If you don’t have a CPD, it’s wise to get a po­lice clear­ance cer­tifi­cate. Third-party in­sur­ance is com­pul­sory and we could usu­ally buy it at the border or in the near­est big town if we crossed at a smaller border post. We also had our ve­hi­cle’s reg­is­tra­tion pa­pers and copies of them (and our pass­ports) on hand. Take the pa­per that you cut your li­cence disc from – your car’s reg­is­tra­tion num­ber is on it and of­fi­cials some­times re­quest to see it. ( The li­cence num­ber is not on the reg­is­tra­tion doc­u­ments.) We printed the bakkie’s VIN, en­gine and reg­is­tra­tion num­bers in a big font and pasted them onto the front of the file we used to store our doc­u­ments. This made it eas­ier to show to an of­fi­cial who had to write those num­bers down. We also com­piled a list of se­rial num­bers for our elec­tronic gear like lap­tops and cam­eras to show at border

cross­ings, but were never asked for these num­bers. Hugo had an in­ter­na­tional driv­ing li­cence, but he was like­wise never asked to show it. Visas? We only needed visas for Rwanda, Uganda and Ethiopia. You can buy a visa for Uganda and Rwanda at the border. We got our visa for Ethiopia at the air­port be­cause we flew there from Nairobi. Had we driven over the border, we prob­a­bly would have had to courier our pass­ports to South Africa to ap­ply for visas. What did you eat? Most of the food sup­plies we bought in South Africa barely lasted a week. We even had to buy more spices. In East Africa, fruit and veg­eta­bles are sold next to the road. In Tan­za­nia, only the cities have big su­per­mar­kets. In Nairobi, Kenya, we man­aged to find fa­mil­iar prod­ucts like chut­ney, Corn Flakes and Tabasco. One of the malls in Nairobi has a Spur, an Ocean Bas­ket and a KFC. Rwanda also has good su­per­mar­kets. There are Sho­prite stores in Uganda, Zam­bia, Malawi and Mozam­bique. Af­ter a while we started to miss Ka­roo mutton chops – and choco­late. We strug­gled to find choco­late in Tan­za­nia. ( Maybe it melts too quickly – Ed.) We also craved cheese. We didn’t have a cook­ing rou­tine. Break­fast was any­thing from leftovers to rusks or ce­real. We of­ten made French toast or scram­bled eggs. An In­done­sian stu­dent who toured with us for a while taught us how to make egg fried rice. For lunch, we usu­ally had sand­wiches with peanut but­ter and syrup, or we nib­bled on bis­cuits, nuts and fruit. In Malawi we bought chipsi (potato slices fried in oil). Din­ner was pasta or rice with veg­gies or tinned beans. Af­ter our visit to Zanz­ibar, Caro made de­li­cious cur­ries us­ing lo­cal spices. We rarely had a braai – we didn’t want to buy meat on the side of the road be­cause you never know how long it has been hang­ing out­side. Things you should have left at home? The four jerry cans were a waste of space. The bakkie’s 130-litre fuel tank al­lowed us to drive 1 000 km stretches and it was more than suf­fi­cient. We left two jerry cans in Nairobi and kept the other two empty for the rest of the tour. The only thing we never used was the air jack, but things could have turned out dif­fer­ently.

What was es­sen­tial? So­lar-pow­ered lights – you can buy a set of four at el­ They’re portable and recharge quickly in the sun and they al­lowed us to cre­ate light away from the bakkie. What will you take next time? A stick blender – many camp­sites have elec­tric­ity. You can buy fruit ev­ery­where and we could have made de­li­cious smooth­ies. Our bakkie doesn’t have an awning – we made one with a piece of can­vas. A big­ger awning that’s eas­ier to put up would have given us more pro­tec­tion against the sun and rain. How did you keep your costs low? Park fees are ex­pen­sive. We only vis­ited Mikumi in Tan­za­nia for one day and the Maa­sai Mara in Kenya for two days. We wanted to visit other parks in Tan­za­nia, but we were there dur­ing the rainy sea­son. The parks are even more ex­pen­sive when you take in your own ve­hi­cle and you’ll see more game on a guided sa­fari. In fu­ture (when we’re old and rich) we’ll do a fly-in sa­fari to the Serengeti or travel in our own ve­hi­cle and book guided game drives in the parks. Border cross­ings? These be­came eas­ier as we went along. Our strat­egy was to choose the small­est border post where pos­si­ble, but there were still un­avoid­able de­lays. We once had to wait for the staff to take down their laun­dry from the clothes­line be­cause it had started rain­ing! Smaller border posts are gen­er­ally more re­laxed and there aren’t as many op­por­tunists look­ing to make a quick buck. We tried to stay calm and friendly and acted like we had all the time in the world (which we did). Road con­di­tions? Ex­cept for the road from Sesheke to Liv­ing­stone and sec­tions of the EN1 in Mozam­bique, most of the main tar roads were in a good con­di­tion. There were pot­holes, nar­row roads and road­works, but we could have driven 98 % of our route in a Citi Golf. We were im­pressed by the roads in Malawi – it felt like we could shift to fifth gear for the first time in months! Peo­ple al­ways warn tourists about the reck­less bus driv­ers in Tan­za­nia, but that wasn’t our ex­pe­ri­ence. The Mom­basa-Nairobi Road in Kenya was a chal­lenge, with thou­sands of trucks over­tak­ing each other de­spite ap­proach­ing traf­fic and rut­ted tar. Did you ever feel un­safe? We had very few safety mea­sures. We didn’t have a safe in our ve­hi­cle or any weapons. We locked the bakkie at night and tried to be street­wise. Dur­ing the eight months on the road, not a sin­gle thing was stolen. Iron­i­cally, two months af­ter we re­turned to South Africa, some­one broke into our bakkie and stole more than R80 000 worth of stuff! Any med­i­cal emer­gen­cies? We both fell ill within the first month – Caro in Tsumeb, Namibia, and Hugo on the banks of the Oka­vango River. For­tu­nately for Caro, Tsumeb had doc­tors and phar­ma­cies, but Hugo had to go to a lo­cal clinic where luck­ily he tested neg­a­tive for malaria. Af­ter two days in bed, we con­tin­ued our jour­ney. We took doxy­cy­cline to pre­vent malaria. Some peo­ple reckon it’s bet­ter not to take pro­phy­lac­tics un­til you start to feel ill. If you then test pos­i­tive for malaria, you im­me­di­ately start tak­ing Coartem tablets. (In Kenya, these cost about R20 a packet.) If we do an­other tour, we’ll prob­a­bly go the Coartem route. In Zam­bia, two weeks af­ter his ill­ness, Hugo bumped his head on a piece of iron and he had to get stitches at the hospi­tal. The ex­pense was cov­ered by our travel in­sur­ance and the wound healed well. Later in the trip, in Mozam­bique, we both got food poi­son­ing from food we’d bought at a well­known su­per­mar­ket… How did you stay in con­tact? We bought a SIM card (about R10) in ev­ery coun­try and loaded it with data, which was some­times up to 10 times cheaper than in South Africa. We were avail­able on What­sApp for most of the trip and the data al­lowed us to also reg­u­larly up­date our blog. Nav­i­ga­tion? We bought a Garmin Nuvi for R500 on Gumtree and loaded it with Track­s4Africa and OpenStreetMap. We had ex­tra road maps for Namibia, but not for the other coun­tries. In many cases we fol­lowed roads that weren’t on Track­s4Africa, but we found them on OpenStreetMap or Google Maps. Some­times the GPS chose the short­est route even though the road was bad, so we still had to think on our feet. What was it like to travel to­gether? The trip was like any­thing else in life. There were good and bad times. The only dif­fer­ence was that when we were an­gry with each other, we still had to travel in the same ve­hi­cle and sleep in the same tent. There weren’t any other rooms to cool down in, and no es­cape! Any other ad­vice? Get in your car and go. Don’t plan too much be­cause noth­ing goes ac­cord­ing to plan any­way. And don’t pack every­thing you own – there are shops along the way where you can buy any­thing from camp­ing chairs and gas burn­ers to Nivea cream and Pringles.



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