Category Archives: Travel

Original Touring Africa Diary – Burkina Faso

After leaving Koro fairly early we headed out to the border where we met the most realistic African so far. It happened to be the border official on the Mali side of the border. He quickly went through our papers but spent a little more time scrutinizing Erik’s passports particularly when he thought he found an expired visa. He yelled “Brown, come here”, I was happy to point out that he was looking at a Mauritanian visa and not the Malian one he was after. He was also very confused over the name in Ellen’s passport and yellow fever card being different. Since we were making very good progress we thought we would sit down and have a drink at the shop next to the border officials. The border official came and sat down with us and starting talking to me in French, the first words he muttered were: “you know what the problem with Africa is? All the people here think that money falls from the sky and they don’t have to work for it, Allah will provide for them what they do not have.” Having met many locals so far it seems that this statement was not far off the truth for most of the countries we have been to. They are generally a lazy bunch and would prefer to lie under a tree all day than do any work. You can’t really blame them for this attitude it’s so damn hot that even the shortest of walks breaks into such a sweat that you feel like you have run a marathon. This generally happens about 20 times a day in the heat. This is what led to our very short visit of Burkina Faso. After leaving the border official we quickly passed through the Burkina authorities with no hassles and drove to Ouagadougou, definitely a cool name.

The heat didn’t disappear and we stayed south of town at the Ok-Inn, camping was free as long as you ate in the restaurant. Good deal. That night was my worst. I couldn’t fall asleep and at about midnight I got up cursing and abusing the mosquitoes that were happily biting me most of the night. I grabbed the mozzie spray and a bottle of citronella oil, poured half of it on the small openings of the tent where mozzies could get in and used the spray to cover my entire body. Now happily protected from the little buggers I thought I would be able to sleep. Nope I was wrong, the humidity was so high that once I started to doze off I was quickly awoken by my sweat soaked pillow, that felt like it had been chucked into a swimming pool and then handed to me to be used for its intended purpose.

Once up the next morning we headed off to the Ghanaian embassy to get the visa. We got a multiple entry 6 month visa for 36000 CFA per person; it had to be activated within 6 months, not a problem since we were hoping to cross the border the next day. Unluckily we were only able to pick it up the following day after 2:00PM. That meant we would have to suffer an extra night of the high temperature and humidity before getting to the Ghanaian coast. We decided to walk into town from the embassy and were followed for quite a while by a strange character who wouldn’t say a thing to us and spent way too much time staring at Louise’s handbag. If he had grabbed it he would have been highly disappointed as there were no valuables in it whatsoever. I eventually got fed up and asked a couple of local African art sellers to find out why he was following us as we ducked into their art compound which included a restaurant where we got some breakfast. The local art dealers came to us a few minutes later and told us he was “a bandit” and was going to try and steal something from us.

We drove to the embassy to pick up the visa the next day, after making a quick stop at a supermarket so Ellen could get her fix on Europeanises, then we headed out of town and bush camped just before the Ghanaian border in a national park. Just after we had all climbed into our tents a loud explosion went off and it seems Erik and I had the same thought that it could be poachers or something like that. No one got out of the tents all night long but we heard voices and other noises coming from the road for a long while. It turned out to be a broken down truck that had blown something, it was still there in the morning. A quick drive took us the last few KMs to the border where we were met by the usual friendly officials thus ending our very short 3 night stay in Burkina Faso.

Due to our quick visit we have very few photos of Burkina, none that really warrant the effort of putting them online.

Also posted in Africa, Original Touring Africa Diary | Leave a comment

Original Touring Africa Diary – Mali

Welcome to beautiful Mali! This is where our 3 days of bad car luck began. First the wheel carrier on the back of the car broke so we had to put the second spare wheel on the roof of the car, (Milan’s shoe broke as he was trying to climb on the roof), our roof shower got torn off by some trees somewhere, and a part of the chassis joined with the suspension disappeared as well. We were lucky to have bush camped close to a dam by Manantali and by the time Milan figured out what was wrong with the car, after having Louise drive up and down corrugations for about twenty minutes with Milan running on all fours trying to see where the noise was coming from. We slowly drove back to Manantali and asked for a mechanic. Luckily the dam has a garage (Eskom) and they were more than happy to help us fix the car which took a quick 3 hours. We carried on very carefully this time and found a bush camp a little up the road.

Our next stop was Bamako which would serve as our base while waiting for our Burkina Faso visa. We stayed at Le Cactus which is run by a very cute old Canadian man, with basic facilities but excellent food which is all we needed after our bad luck the previous days. After a few days of rest we headed towards Djenne which was quite spectacular to see in real life. It’s much smaller than what we expected but Phillip the magnificent, our guide, took us around the very dirty village for a few hours which was well worth it. We carried on towards Bandiagara which would give us a good start the next morning to explore the Dogon Country. We camped at Hotel Toguna which was very nice and clean, although the food didn’t quite agree with Louise’s stomach that night.

Since we were unsure what to expect from the Dogon Country, do you need a guide or not, how many days should we spend there etc, we went to the tourist office where about ten ‘guides’ wanted to sell us tours for ridiculous amounts of money. Everyone is a guide here and in the end we decided to go up to Sangha ourselves and then decide if we needed a guide or not. We found a great lunch spot overlooking villages dug out in the cliffs and decided to carry on ourselves, but to get a guide in a village if we decide to stop. We drove past a few villages and to be honest didn’t understand what all the hype was about. Yes it is beautiful and it is amazing how they have lived and still live on the edge of the escarpment. Maybe we would have seen more or got more of an insight if we had gotten a guide. It was too hot for us anyway so we decided to take a shortcut after a few villages towards the main road at Kaporokenie-Na. This turned out to be more impressive than the previous villages we had passed through, as the locals react to you like they have not seem white people before! It was a fun drive back to the main road and we found a place to camp in Koro (Hotel Campement Koro – no fascilities, very small) which is the border town before Burkina Faso.

Also posted in Africa, Original Touring Africa Diary | Leave a comment

Original Touring Africa Diary – Senegal Part II

We entered Senegal again happy to be rid of the rude attitude of some locals in Gambia. We found the beautiful resort of Wassadou were we had a great view of the river and saw hippos and monkeys. We were allowed to camp there which was great news as we all desperately needed a good shower. The next morning we headed to Parc National Niokolo-Koba, where we were told that we had to take a guide with us. He was adamant to sit in the front seat of the car so he could see the animals better, which made Louise pretty angry and the view from the back seat is not that great. We saw lots of warthogs and other types of antelopes and baboons in the park, maybe not as spectacular as south or east Africa wildlife but it was a good park. Our guide convinced us that he would give us the next morning for free if we would drive him to another village outside the park. As we were going that way anyway we thought that was an ok deal. We spent the night in Camp du Lion, a camp site which had good reviews to our great surprise. If you want a shower you get a bucket of water, and don’t even go into the toilets – so forget any facilities here, it was more of a bush camp that we had to pay for. But Eric cut Ellens hair that evening which was quite amusing. The heat and humidity had gotten too much for Louise and without any dinner went to bed early only to keep on sweating and feeling very very hot.

The next morning we left before 6am and headed for the border town of Kedougou to cross into beautiful Mali at Kenieba.

Also posted in Africa, Original Touring Africa Diary | Leave a comment

Original Touring Africa Diary – The Gambia

We stayed in Serekunda for the first few days just relaxing after our adventurous ferry ride into Banjul. We quickly learned that Gambia is a country where everyone wants to be your friend, buy your car, sell you anything and everything, and where the men are dressed like wannabe rap stars. There is at least one charity organisation in everything village that we passed and we were constantly demanded by the kids to give them something or to sponsor them. We were starting to think that perhaps the charities had gone a little overboard with their generosity or at least had done it in the wrong way.

We headed towards Kiang West National Park which sounded good in all the travel books and we were expecting to see Gambia’s wildlife at its best. We had planned to stay in a nice river camp in the park but once we arrived, we found that the prices had doubled since last year to a ridiculous price. After trying to argue with the manager to lower the price since its low season and there really are no other guests, we left to explore the park and find a nice camp ourselves. This national park turned out to be our first bad experience in Gambia.

Park Ranger number 1 was a boy dressed in jeans and a football t-shirt, with no official park ranger card and no official prices or tickets. We were very sceptical of his authenticity and argued with him for about half an hour, then deciding he was probably working there we entered the park. We found a great spot overlooking a watering hole full of baboons and enjoyed our evening there. The next morning we are ready to leave the park early, concluding that there is not much there except for baboons and birds, which we had seen and heard plenty of. This is when we see Park Ranger number 1 cycling after us in his fluorescent green shirt – hard to miss really. He claims that since we spent the night in the park, we have to pay more money. He shows us a notepad with names and amounts and claims that all these other tourists paid the additional fee. Of course he had not mentioned this to us when we asked him the day before, so this is where the big argument started, in the middle of the village. Louise stayed in the car not having the energy to argue with the guy anymore. She’s surrounded by ten children all calling her a wicked woman and a liar. This really got her fuming since they did not know the story and still had the nerve to call her names. Louise joins the others arguing with the Park Rangers 1 and 2 and another ten people from the village that all gather around to see what all the commotion was about. In the end we left in bad moods without paying.

The next idea was to head to a hotel in Georgetown, maybe even see the Wassu Stone Circles since they were on the north side of the river. This is where our second bad experience happens. We get to the ferry to take us to Georgetown, and we find out that since we have foreign licence plates on our cars we have to pay in foreign currency. This was fine, we had a bit of foreign currency on us. But oh no, Mr. Captain only wants CFA, and 3’000 of them as well! Considering that the ferry from Barra to Banjul cost a little under CFA 6’000 for about 45min boat ride, this seemed absolutely ridiculous as it was a ferry ride over 15m of river. The local rapper boys with Chanel sunglasses and D&G jeans and t-shirts were very nice and served us numerous cold drinks while we thought out a good strategy for the ferry man to let us pass. It was extremely hot and humid and we were in bad moods anyway since the morning’s ‘issue’ didn’t make things any better. We tried to argue with the ferry man and offered him CHF, EUR, USD etc but he only wanted CFA. Deciding this was the most ridiculous government law in the whole world we left and found a spot to bushcamp a bit further down the road. It was getting too humid to do anything but sit in our chairs and sweat, Ellen cooked up some soup for us and we went to bed sweating. The winds came and we had a bit of rain which cooled us down for the night, ready for the border crossing into Senegal the next morning.

It’s worth to note that Gambian roads are the worst we have yet to see in Africa.

Also posted in Africa, Original Touring Africa Diary | Leave a comment

Original Touring Africa Diary – Senegal Part I

We decided we needed some R&R for a few days so we stayed at the Zebrabar and just relaxed on the beach until the 15th. We took a taxi up to St. Louis which is a World Heritage Site full of colonial buildings and caught up on some emailing and walked the streets for the day. The next day we drove to Dakar in order to get our visas for Cameroon which cost us CFA 50’000 each but were able to pick them up in the afternoon. We stayed at the only camp site in Dakar, it seems, Su Nu Gal by the beach which is owned by a French Godfather figure who we suspect only lies in his sun chair all day bossing people around. Dakar was quite a nice city although very large and people trying to sell you anything and everything. Having a chat with them is a lot more fun as they are genuinely very nice people . We drove about 20 km’s south of Dakar to the stunning fishing town of Toubab Dialo where we found a basic but lovely hotel to stay in and just enjoyed the beach and the views that evening.

Next day we ventured further south to Parc National Du Delta Du Saloum where we wanted to do a pirogue boat trip through the mangroves and see the monkeys and birds. After a night of a fantastic bush camp, in the park we think, we were up early so we could be the first ones in the park. It took us almost all morning to find the entrance to the park and once we did we were sent to another entrance as only one of them organises the boat trips. We managed to find a guide to take us through the mangroves for 2.5 hours for CFA 30’000 in total which we thought was too much for what it actually was – although it was nice to go for a little boat ride rather than just drive around in the car. Mid afternoon we decided we still had ample time to get through the border crossing into The Gambia and then take the ferry from Barra to Banjul – oh how mistaken we were!

The border crossing was no problem and we were done just after 18:00 with the paperwork (Milan’s job) while Louise was chatting to the 15 or so children that came up to her for a very long a fun chat in all sorts of languages! Once in The Gambia we bought our ferry tickets (CFA 5’500) and headed for the queue to the ferry in Barra. We thought it would take maybe an hour or two maximum, but the whole wait took more than 5 hours! The ferry’s are regular but they are quite small and don’t go very fast either. After chatting to the locals for the odd 5 hours or so we finally managed to get on the ferry around 22:30 and then arrived at the Sukuta Camp in Serekunda just after midnight. What a day. You can apparently bribe the guys to get on the ferry quicker but we decided to wait after speaking to Jimmy the fixer, a kid that could organise everything apart from snickers bars. We also had a long chat with Jingle Bells who is going to move to Europe to run the drug markets and he won’t be caught by the police because his Marabou (witch doctor) says he can’t be killed or caught. He even asked us to get a knife out of the car so he could show us.

Also posted in Africa, Original Touring Africa Diary | Leave a comment

Original Touring Africa Diary – Western Sahara & Mauritania

Since the recent attack on French tourists in Mauritania, we decided it was best to drive straight through the country and come back another time to explore it properly.

We left Agadir heading down south along the coast with 1.5 hour driving sessions each so that we could cover as much road as possible each day without becoming too tired or bored as there is nothing but sand, dromedares and lorries. We stopped just after Tan-Tan Plage and bush camped somewhere hidden between the cliffs by the beach. Next day we drove down to Boujdour and the following day to a motel 60 km’s before the border to Mauritania. It’s quite a strange place for a motel as its in the middle of nowhere with a gas station, restaurant and a little shop. Anyway we got some rest and headed early the next morning for the Moroccan/Mauritanian border crossing. On the Moroccan side we waited for about 3 hours until they had stamped our passports and called out our names to pick them up. So off we went to the Mauritanian side which is about 3km of unsealed track where there are landmines around so you’ve got to follow the track which is actually very clear and no problems to follow, though it is in shocking condition with burnt out vehicles scattered about.

Once we got into Mauritania Erik had the bright idea of heading towards the Parc National Du Banc D’Arguin and camp in Arkeiss. That sounded like a good idea as it was heading south down the coast where we had to go anyway, plus lots of migrating birds (not that we saw any). We left the main road and headed towards the coast driving through sand dunes. Of course we got stuck a few times but got help from a French man travelling alone with his dog which was very nice! We found the camp site on the beach as it was getting dark only to notice that the wind had picked up which made it impossible to put the tent up, so we had quite a gloomy night eating our dinner and trying to sleep in the car – not a great success. Deciding we had had enough of sand and wind we headed back to the main road the next morning to Nouakchott, Mauritania’s capital, and found a good camp site to stay in.

The next morning we headed to Diama, which is the recommended border crossing into Senegal as Rosso is terrible and takes forever. The last 100 km’s of piste to the border was not as bad as we had expected and arrived at the border mid afternoon, only to be turned away at the Senegalese side because Milan did not have a visa (contrary to what we had read in books and what previous travellers had written). So we sped back to Nouakchott avoiding the random donkeys and goats on the road and arrived just as it was getting dark. Thankfully we managed to get a visa the next morning and drove down to Diama again. This time it was no problem to get through and we arrived at the Zebrabar just after St. Louis in Senegal late afternoon and were welcomed with some cold beers!

Also posted in Africa, Original Touring Africa Diary | Leave a comment

Original Touring Africa Diary – Morocco

We arrived at Ceuta (Spanish enclave in Morocco) in the morning and took advantage of the tax free diesel and filled up our 3 tanks. The border crossing into Morocco took about 45 minutes after the official wanted to check what we had in all our boxes on one side of the car, which is pretty quick for an African border crossing Milan reckons. Possibly the cold and the rain had something to do with the speediness… First stop was Chefchouan where most overlanders stop in search of other travellers. We were lucky and met a lovely Dutch couple, Ellen and Erik, which are also doing the same Africa route as us and decided to travel through Morocco to Senegal together. Our next escapade was driving to Fes and seeing the famous medina. We decided to try and walk the ‘tourist route’ ourselves in the medina with Erik leading the way following the marked coloured routes, soon that idea was scrapped when an unofficial guide was by our side and decided to walk us around for 4 hours. A lovely medina with no hassle from the locals at all. We saw the tanneries which we had read in books you could smell before you saw it. Luckily for us it didn’t smell that bad and it was very interesting to see how the leather is prepared. Walking through the meat market was also a test for the girls, but Ellen (being a vegetarian) was the first one with her camera snapping away at the bloody goat heads (see photos). Once our tour was finished, Mustapha claimed a 150 Dirham fee (approximately EUR 15 for all of us) and we argued with him for about 20 minutes that this was a ridiculous price. Suddenly 2 of his ‘larger’ friends showed up and decided it was best to pay the price he demanded. This was our first lesson in Africa: always decide and bargain the price before you get a guide. We then headed to Rabat to get our visas for Mali (N33°58.778, W006°49.965) and Mauritania (N33°58.821, W006°49.870)and stayed in Salè which is a small cute village next to Rabat. Rabat itself is full of embassies and a very international city. Once we had picked up our visas the next morning we drove a very hot drive to Marrakech. In the evening after it had cooled down a little we headed to the famous square, Djenna el Fna for dinner. We enjoyed lovely brochettes (grilled meat and vegetables on a skewer) after picking one of the hundreds of stalls there are. After hearing so many magical things about Marrakech we were a little disappointed as it seems to only cater to tourists nowadays, which makes you miss out the original, traditional flair of the city. Nonetheless it was a nice experience although we preferred Fes medina over Marrakech. We felt we had seen what we wanted to see and headed off to the south east early in the morning towards Ait-Bennhaddou, following a piste (gravel, off road) which turned out to be the most beautiful area we have seen in Morocco, but also the most horrible route for the driver as it was so rough. While Milan fixed all his concentration on the road, Louise was quite content looking out the window at the beautiful bare rocky hills surrounding us with an explosion of greenery in the deep valley where the small river runs through. Louise did a bit of filming here too although it’s much like a rollercoaster ride so we might skip putting that link on our website… The next day we headed for breakfast in Ait Bennhaddou, where Moroccos largest and most beautiful Kasbah sits. This is also where films like Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator were filmed. Another beautiful location which just stuns you and the only reason you want to leave is that it’s too hot even at 9am.

Together with Ellen and Erik we decided we all wanted to drive the desert piste route from Tagounite to Merzouga (239km) but since we hadn’t tested our cars (and ourselves) on tough road and desert yet we decided doing this early in Morocco would be a good idea. This proved to be a wise decision in order to help each other out when the car got stuck in sand. We left M’Hamid headed north to Tagounite where our piste began. Louise was in charge of navigating all of us by use of Chris Scott’s ‘Sahara Overland – a Route and Planning Guide’, where you have to look for landmarks like wells and cone shaped mountains to find the correct route. Luckily we also have a GPS so Louise did cheat a little just by making sure we were on the right track, since the piste is also marked on the Tracks4Africa GPS map. The piste turned out to be very beautiful with only a few very small villages scattered here and there, and children running towards your car window shouting ‘cadeau cadeau’ or a new word they seemed to have learned ‘bisquit svp, madame’ appearing from nowhere! Once we began to see the dunes coming closer we decided to make our first bush camp hidden behind some dunes. Since both of our fridges had temporarily broken by this time (from the first piste a few days earlier) we had to drink all the beer Erik had stocked up. Louise and Erik decided they were in charge of cutting the firewood we had collected on the way and the axe and the saw were brought out. We made a lovely dinner on the barbeque and whilst the other 3 where ok with the darkness and silence, Louise was a little frightened and kept on shining the bright flashlight out towards the nothingness looking for ‘locals’. We went to bed looking at the stars and thinking nothing could be as peaceful as this. Up early the next morning before it got too hot, we continued our route to Merzouga. Erik was the first one to get stuck in sand just a few metres away from camp, but was easy to get out with the help of the girls pushing the car and putting some rocks under the back wheels. Then we got stuck in the sand as well, but a bit further along the route next to some very lovely and huggable dromedares. Out comes the shovel and Milan digs the wheels out, the other 3 push the car and off we go again. Once we got to Merzouga we found a beautiful Auberge, Chez TonTon where we eagerly showered off all the sand and dirt. Next day we drove a few km’s next to the sand dunes of Erg Chebbi, although the hazy weather didn’t display them in their fullest beauty, towards Todra Gorge. Todra Gorge is now sealed road all the way and has much more tourism than its neighbour Dades Gorge. After seeing both we actually prefer the Dades Gorge with its magnificent rock formations and lush greenery. After a day of gorge sightings we headed towards Agadir, and on route stayed in Auberge Toubkal near Taliouine.

Currently we are in Agadir which seems to be a hotspot for beach sports with many fancy hotels. We have stayed here 3 nights which has given the boys time to fix the cars and the girls time to clean and Louise time to write this summary and paint Steph’s elephant on the car door – which if I may say so myself turned out pretty good :o )

Tomorrow morning (5 May) we will drive through Western Sahara and then continue to Mauritania and you will hear more from us after that!

Also posted in Africa, Original Touring Africa Diary | Leave a comment

Original Touring Africa Diary – Europe

After a day of tearful goodbyes we finally took off in Edmund, our Land rover named honourably after New Zealand’s admirable explorer Edmund Hillary. Our first stop was Lausanne where Audrey and Olivier kindly let us stay for 2 nights. We also managed to have dinner and share a bottle of wine with Anne and Lea before we ‘really’ left Switzerland which was very nice.

We pretty much drove nonstop to Granada with hotel and camping stops in between in Avignon, Perpignan and Tarragona. As we had spent a long day driving, we thought we would stop in Murcia to find a hotel, a typical Spanish town that seems like the entire city was built in the last 2 weeks, which leads to it being named a shithole. Much to Milan’s distress, there was no hotel that had sufficient parking space for Edmund so we continued driving hoping to find a hotel in Cartagena. Luckily enough for the Spaniards the hotels in Cartagena only provide parking for small cars so we continued to the coast to find the blue triangle on the map indicating a camp site. ‘This one looks great’ said Louise, ‘it even has a viewpoint! It must be a good campsite’. Once arriving at the entrance of the camp site, Milan quickly turns the car around after seeing an old naked man walking around and only then noticing that on the camp sign it says it’s “camping naturalista”. Who would have thought they ever existed??! We drove on to the next camp site which turned out to be very nice, although noticeably under German invasion as people walking past said Guten Abend to us. Could it be the Swiss license plates I wonder? On the 16th we finally did our first touristy thing and queued up to see the magnificent La Alhambra. Although, to our slight disappointment we were not aware that there are only a limited amount of tickets in the morning and the afternoon to see La Alhambra so we got tickets to see the gardens instead which were just as beautiful, we think.

After Granada we continued off to the port town of Algeciras – what a dump. We found a lovely campsite on the beach along the coast just past Tarifa which rightly so has been named Costa del Windsurfing due to the constant wind and surf, which is full of windsurfers and kite surfers. We spent the last couple of days sorting out bits for the car, shopping for food and I had the migraine from hell which left me bed ridden for a day. Milan seemed content to sort the car out by himself in the wind and rain.

We crossed from Algeciras to Ceuta on the 19th (it’s only a 35 minute boat ride) apparently a lot easier than crossing to Tangier as there are a bunch of Moroccan thieves waiting for you there. Now it’s time for the hustle and bustle of Morocco.

Also posted in Original Touring Africa Diary | Leave a comment

Original Touring Africa Diary – The Car

As everyone has been asking; here is the story of our car Edmund. He’s a bit fat at the moment and get’s very close to three and a half tons, hopefully as time goes by we can lighten the load.

We got Edmund in about October 2006, and he sat idle in the garage for nearly an entire year, only being taken out once a month for a brief drive. This led to the lack of use syndrome, which then led to a small group of mechanics being left clueless not knowing what was wrong with it for the better part of two months. Eventually it turned out to be a dud ECU. This was only replaced once practically every other sensor on the vehicle was swapped which ended with an exorbitantly high repair bill. And at the same time they found a small hole in the head near the entry of one of the injectors. We also had a new roof tent put on, some extra safes under the backseats and the location of the old roof tent turned into an extra large storage draw for lightweight gear.

The suspension was also completely redone as it leaned like hell around even the slightest corners. After having test driven another overweight 130 that had dual shocks all round I thought it would be best to do the same. Oops I misunderstood the mechanic and it cost 3 times as much as I thought. Oh well shit happens.

Back to the small hole in the head. The mechanics were nice enough to give me a photo of the questionable hole, I went about finding out more info on what could be done to fix it. So I posted the picture on a landrover forum, within minutes someone responded with replace the head ASAP. He had a friend with the same thing and it destroyed the entire motor. I went on getting more and more info and eventually got the same sort of answer from pretty much everyone, Including Turner engineering in the UK. I finally decided to replace the head after I spoke to a French mechanic and he put it in plain “French”; if it was his car this is what he would do. If he was driving around Europe, he would pay the extra 150 franc a year insurance that will tow your car back to your garage of choice if it doesn’t work anymore. But if he was going to Africa he would replace the head immediately, it’s hard to get a TD5 head out there and if you get one it’s going to cost an arm and a leg. So that was that I was on the phone to turner to find out the cost of a new head. 1000 pounds just for the head then you need, this part and that part etc etc… Chris and Dani agreed to replace it for me while I was in NZ so that we wouldn’t have to delay the trip, I originally wanted to do it myself to save on the labour costs but based upon the amount of time we had before we wanted to leave with everything else to do it just wouldn’t have been possible.

Beyond that Edmund is one of the most unusual looking landrovers you will see, the back is brilliantly designed. He will have plenty of opportunities to prove himself over the next year.

Here is some of the main kit fitted to Edmund.

  • 3 Battery split charge system with solar panel.
  • Two undersill long range fuel tanks totalling approximately 220 Litres with the main tank.
  • 2 60 litre water tanks, with pump and filter built into the car.
  • Centre tuffy cubby box.
  • Lockable steel boxes under the backseats, backseats are now front bucket seats out of a wrecked landrover.
  • 40L Waeco fridge bolted in between the two backseats.
  • Eezi Awn 160 Roof tent.
  • Hannibal awning with all the side attachments.
  • Second awning for the other side.
  • Custom made shower by me – it may work.
  • Heavy duty dobinsons springs and Shocks with two shocks in each corner.
  • Bf Goodrich All terrain tyres.
  • Superwinch on the front.
  • A-Frame with hella driving lights fitted.
  • Underbody steering, front diff and track rod protection.

We also have all the other usual accessories like a GPS, Laptop, Cameras, tow straps, compressor, ropes, hi lift jack, tent, cooking gear, the list is very long.

Also posted in Africa, Original Touring Africa Diary | Leave a comment

Original Touring Africa Diary – First Entry

As I sit here doing the few final bits of swiss officialdom, I look back upon the last two months as a couple of the busiest I have had in recent years. I finished work on the 22nd of February, had a great send off from everyone at work, and got the necessary knife as a leaving gift, I suspect this is so I felt more like a “bushman”. The evening ended with lighting an excessively large firecracker that has been sitting under my desk in the office for the past 6 months. The next day it was off to NZ for a quick visit with family and friends for 2 weeks. I also managed to get a few bits and pieces for the trip that I was having a hard time finding in Switzerland. At the same time I realised that camping gear is more expensive in NZ than Switzerland – very disturbing. While I was over in NZ Dani and Chris from the B5 Group were replacing the head on the car and taking it in for its final Swiss “Warrant of Fitness”.

After the long haul flight all the way back to Switzerland it was time to get my a** into gear and start getting the car ready and the apartment empty. With Louise still at work I was left to my own devices and it took a few days to get going. One of the first things was to head down to Lausanne to get some bits for the car. As my kraut skills still aren’t the best, I chose a French garage to get most of my spares and to my luck they were very helpful and had enough second hand parts to build about 10 landies. So they just handed me things for free. I looked at half of the stuff they handed me and just asked them what it was. I know I was a mechanic for the whole of about 6 months but they left me clueless about 80% of the time.

With Easter and Louise’s last day fast approaching, it was time to really start packing and getting the car sorted before we were homeless. Trevor and Nick volunteered their services to help with the car but it took nearly the entire 4 day Easter weekend to get all the small final bits attached or swapped. This left Louise to pack a 5 room apartment on her own, which lead to the grumpy girlfriend syndrome. Along with that we also got grumpy neighbour syndrome as we occupied the cleaning bay of the communal garage for the greater part of the weekend, I really don’t understand some people in this country they are either born to complain or to do the same monotous crap on the same schedule and if they don’t get to do it on that exact schedule they flip out. The grumpy neighbour drives a Twingo, it’s a piece of crap, no matter how much you wash it, it will still be crap. The day after easter it was time to move, we were shifting our stuff to 3 different locations; my aunt Sonia’s, Louise’s parents and a small storage place that we had organised. Oh and the last location was the tip with 1.2 Tonnes of rubbish. As we did all of that in a day and a half with excellent help from the cousins, we seem to have misplaced all of our files which contain all of our official papers. Luckily only the past ones, but the cousins suspect they are in the “surprise” box they packed that went to the storage location. Guess we’ll find out when we get back.

So now that we are “homeless”, we still had a few bits to do this included cleaners coming into the place to clean before the official handover. You would think paying a large sum of money to a professional cleaning company would deliver good results. Well you’d be wrong; they put a huge scratch in the bathroom door and destroyed one of the taps in the same bathroom. Luckily enough we didn’t pay the bill, so guess who ain’t getting paid.

Louise is staying with her parents while I stay with Sonia, where we have managed to get the second bout of grumpy neighbour syndrome, seems they don’t like the car either, then again Sonia just thinks they are spineless creeps, as they complain to another neighbour who then passes on the message, it’s a pity they don’t live on the ground floor, otherwise I would run over their flower pots as a leaving gift.

We hope our departure date will be Wednesday the 9th of April. As long as we get the carnet de passage and a piece from the U.K..

I would really like to say thanks to everyone that has helped out over the last few months with everything that we needed. In particular Trevor and Nick for the car, my cousins for the help with the move, Sonia for letting us turn her place into a bomb site, Dave my brother in law in NZ for helping me find everything I was looking for. A huge thanks to Lars and Eva, Louise’s parents for looking after the cats for our time away. And to everyone else of course for the support and we’ll see you soon!

Also posted in Africa, Original Touring Africa Diary | Leave a comment