8 MONTH ON THE ROAD
By PHILIP | 20 September 2018
“You have traveled half way around the world”, 20.000km says Thomas the “true” Massai watching over us every step we take at Migombani Camp in the Mto Wa Mbo village at the access road towards the Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti Conservation Area in northern Tanzania.
We are overlooking the Lake Manyara and the breathtaking views put things into a wider perspective for us as life seems to change constantly. It was only 3 weeks ago when a tractor pulled us up the steep slope to the magnificent camp where our Land Cruiser was tested to the bones and was unable to pull our caravan and all our belongings uphill.
It will be the furthest north that we will reach on our now – for us – truly epic journey through southern Africa. As we set camp the 67th time on our trip in the most recommended campsite of all along our route so far – we feel emotional on almost all levels of our current existence.
We have just returned from a 3 week family reunion that took us quite across the entire country when my brother Patrick, his wife Kathrin and their children Wilma and Wim and my dear mother came to visit us to give us company, hope and a lot of joy plus the feeling of togetherness in a greater family perspective that was needed by all of us.
We spend a meaningful and memorable time on the east coast of Tanzania – in Pangani near Tanga, after having a week of safari in a rooftop tent for them to experience the true wild of Tanzania. The Lakes Manyara and Eyasi and the Tarangire National Park showed itself from the best side and we saw it all, including the small migration that takes place there, a little brother of the mega Wildebeest migration further north in the Serengeti but I want to believe not much less imposing and beautiful.
And suddenly we find ourselves 8 month into our travels, embedded in the walls of the Rift Valley and our physical irrelevance in this setting, mirrors our human insignificance in an almost romantic way, while the full moon lights the way and our shadows are dancing in the dark.
A Buddhist proverb quotes: “ Whatever we do will be totally insignificant, which makes it even more important that you still do it.”
The constant moving of time and space while we travel goes with a permanent change of perception and emotion. (e.g. while typing this message we are already 3 weeks further south west in Zambia in an idyllic setting by the Kapishya Hot Springs and our time in Migombani and Tanzania is already way past us.)
It is the 8th full moon cycle now and again like strangely composed by a higher force we are looking forward to a new era in Zambia, Botswana and Namibia before we return home to South Africa. We leave behind fantastic, most influential experiences in Tanzania. It is here where we learned that we need togetherness more than anything else in order to feel ourselves and be the reflection towards others what constitutes the essence of humankind.
We have visited the most rural tribes of the Hadzabe hunters and the Barabaig warrior tribes which left us speechless as to how people can actually survive in the steaming heat and wilderness of the African bush. We learned how they hunt, carve their own arrows and bows from local bush and master it brilliantly even shooting small birds flying of the high branches of the ever present huge and wise baobab trees.
Chief Marco, an over 70 year old leader of thousands of the remaining Barabaig tribe invited us for a visit to his homestead, close to Mountain Hanang, showing us around and it left us in awe as to how close the inner circle connection of the families living in the most rural environment is to keep their traditions alive and close together.
He called me his 44th child as both of us felt a special connection and he didn’t stop asking when we will see each other again as his tribe needs support to survive in an ever changing land capture related conflict that doesn’t even stop in the vast wilderness of western Tanzania. Obviously their medical system even lacks the very basics and once again we felt the imbalance and unfairness of life straight towards us as we felt so privileged to witness this rural tribal experience.
We came to live for 2 days close with the family of our guide Deo who got beyond what we ever could expect in order to make us feel comfortable in his home with 5 children. Our orange glowing caravan parked in his driveway was somehow special in an rural village setting and we got a great deal of very humble recognition and attention that gave us the power and ambition needed for the travels ahead of us in order to go south towards the Zambian border, a long , very long way to go.
By now we are far away from the comforts of our western lifestyle and funny enough we miss nothing but a good piece of cheese or bread or a night on the couch with a good Netflix series. (Yes, I do feel embarrassed for writing this, but it is the truth!)
While writing I am picking the seeds of a real Baobab fruit and chewing the lime like coating and it tastes so delicious and became our everyday snack that I cannot imagine how it could have ever been different, imagining the devils highway (the aisle before the cashier at Woolworth back in Cape Town, packed with tons of modified sweets that makes our children go bizerca.)
Not much has changed in terms of how we spend our daily routine. We have a pretty established routine on all levels now, from regular home schooling and sporting activities to the everyday cooking and daily planning for the days ahead of us. Rudy and Una have adapted so brilliantly, taking on each new experience almost like adults, the complaining and missing aspects have ceased and they have found their own way of acceptance that this is the way it is. We find ourselves driving almost always for more than 8 hours per day, never managing more than say 250 km but the nature of these African roads and our train like set up doesn’t allow for anything more, especially on these very bad Zambian roads.
By now we are very comfortable eating the local food and stop over often to have lunch on the road. It’s the same food everywhere you go in those 8 countries we have traveled so far but the maize/mzima/ungali/papp/porridge fills your stomach and yes there is an addictive component to it.
But our perception of those things has changed dramatically. We came to realize the importance of staying and being in the now, to take the most of the even seemingly unimportant events that constitutes daily life as it is. This is what makes us significant in this one.
There’s a lot of worry amongst fellow travelers and locals alike about the ongoing deforestation, the Chinese invasion-like involvement in depleting the natural resources of these nature rich countries and the overpopulation that comes with its expected problems of poverty and no improvement in education levels.
A dear friend has send us a message to not worry to much about the interpretation of our experiences right now, as this should still be the time where we just take on all there is for us, to put into perspective at a later stage, maybe after our travels.
One of the biggest lessons for us these days is our prejudiced opinion of people we meet along the way. It seems even for us as open-minded individuals that we have preconceived perceptions all the time.
For example Karl at the Amani Forest Reserve (Emau Hill) who came across like a depressed person who didn’t get tired of telling us how awful life can be in the high rain forests of the eastern Usambara Mountains who gave us the most significant travel tips for our journey further south. Initially his energy was so depleted and misguided and while we were asking for his help and input where to go next he suddenly came alive and was very entertaining in a way we haven’t witnessed before. He linked us to Mr. Deo, the guide who led us to the Barabaig tribe about 800km away from him and it turned out for us to be a real African experience that will nourish our value system for a long time to be.
We will never forget Garry Wingate our real wild-ling who we miss so dearly every day who taught us the most valuable lessons of real Wildlife experiences when spending our precious time in Kufunda village near Harare, Zimbabwe.
Or Anne and Alex who we met several times at different campsites in the South of Zambia, a Swiss couple in their early /mid 70s in an 1995 converted Land Cruiser who have traveled the world, being Swiss farmers and drove all the way through to Siberia and uncountable Africa travels in their 45 years of overlanding.
As you know “we all have 2 life’s – the second one starts when we realize that we only have one.” (Confucius).
We are really grateful for this fulfilling experiences. All this experiences still have to sink in deeper in order for us to realize their significance in our future lives.
But we are aware and that more than ever before that life can be so different for so many of us and that mutual respect, love, joy and a feeling of togetherness are such important aspects of a meaningful life and we are determined to carry this message home.