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
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 ellies.co.za. 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.
MAA TRUST CONSERVANCY, KENYA TANZANIA PANGANI, ROADTO