Light is Fast!

Light is Fast!

 

Words and photos by Shane Quinnell and Videos by Tarryn Quinnell unless otherwise credited.

“Light is Fast,” the motto of our apparel partner Mont Bell, is an idea which is close to our hearts and one of the key themes of Suzuki Africa Sky High. To us, in three words the apparently simple pun manages to sum up a very important philosophy; ‘minimalism.’

To most people, the idea of minimalism involves being overly stingy and having less than what you actually need. In our minds, however, it is about having exactly what you need and no more. For example instead of carrying a huge amount of cutlery and crockery on our expedition with us, we have two plates, two bowls, two spoons, two of everything. We don’t need or have space for spares, “just in case.”

A “light,” lunch on the road side is our most common type of midday meal…

On a mountaineering expedition, you can only carry what you need to survive. Food and water is hard to decrease in size but having light Sea to Summit titanium cutlery and fold up bowls, 350g down jackets and other lightweight multi-purpose clothing from MontBell, a small Jetboil stove and hiking equipment from Black Diamond rather than bulkier equipment significantly helps curb space requirements.

Anyone wanting to overland in a Suzuki Jimny needs embrace the concepts of mountaineering and hiking. They need to understand minimalism is not just a hippie concept; it is biblical law. The Jimny being the Jimny, there simply is not space for overindulgence or carrying excess useless cr@p. This is part of the beauty and draw of the Jimny; it forces simplicity.

Our philosophy for Suzuki Africa Sky High came from our other world’s of hiking and climbing. Pack light is the idea as you have to carry everything. Taken from the top of a climb up the Twelve Apostles in Cape Town.

Anyone wanting to overland in a Suzuki Jimny needs embrace the concepts of mountaineering and hiking… This is part of the beauty and draw of the Jimny; it forces simplicity… For this reason a large amount of our gear is from hiking and adventure brands like Black Diamond and Sea to Summit, who live by the minimalist ideal and specialise in lightweight equipment.

Team Tane

However, minimalism is not just a concept bred for small car aficionados. It is something we can all benefit from on overland trips, while travelling and in general life. There is a large amount of tangible research which correlates an increase in happiness and reduction in anxiety levels from having less stuff cluttered around us. Thinking about it, it’s really a simple concept. The less we have, the less we have to worry about, the easier things are to find. For us on Suzuki Africa Sky High, less stuff means we can actually move our chairs back as there is space under the seat. If you are interested a book called “Stuffacation,” covers this topic in far more detail.

Hanging out in comfort with nothing other than what we have in Badger… And in a Suzuki Jimny, its not that much.

With all of this in mind we have some ideas we would like to suggest trying to help reduce clutter particularly when packing for a trip:

1.Think Up Not Down: When we were packing for Suzuki Africa Sky High we constantly found people saying “you will NEVER fit what you need in that Jimny.” Undoubtedly the people were owners of large 4x4s comparing our little pocket rocket to their monster trucks. Our response was always “it is bigger than a motorbike or our Osprey hiking packs.” This was our secret, we compared Badger to things smaller than him. We were thinking like motorbikers or hikers not Overlanders;

This is our playground and the birthplace of our mentality, we think up from what we can carry in our Osprey Packs as we climb with our Black Diamond gear to what we can fit into our Suzuki Jimny.

2. Pack Light: It is important to understand that like all tools, outdoor equipment is made fit for purpose. For this reason a large amount of our gear is from hiking and adventure brands like Black Diamond and Sea to Summit, who live by the minimalist ideal and specialise in lightweight equipment. Clothing also takes up lots of space so try pack versatile, lightweight and easy to clean clothes. It is for these reasons we partnered with Mont Bell. Opposite Lock also stocks some great camping equipment which packs down well. Just remember think light; instead of buying the giant cast iron #3 potjie, buy an Aluminum #1. Also, the less clothing you pack, the less items you need to clean!

3. Compartmentalise: There is NOTHING more frustrating than spending hours trying to find stuff in your car or backpack while in the bush. You need to be pedantic about where stuff goes and always put it back in the right place. It really helps if things have a specific place rather than just leaving them to roll around. Draw systems, dash covers and bags like those supplied to us by Wizerd and plastic boxes which you can buy from any plastic shop are great for this purpose.

Tarryn showing off our awesome draw system and bags which compartmentalise and organise our life on the road. The big plastic boxes sit on top.

4. Cut the Cr@p: As I eluded to earlier part of being lightweight is simply having less stuff. A contact called Coenie from Cederberg 4x4 once said to me “when packing for your first overland trip lay all your stuff on the ground, cut it in half, then half again. Keep the remainder.” Take only what you need and need only what you take. You will learn “what ifs,” are generally not necessary;

5. Use the Space: All of it. We pack under the seats, behind the seats, on the roof, next to the draws, everywhere we can. See space for what it is. If you need it use it.

Following this principle of minimalism and embracing the ideal of living simply has been a big part of our success up till now. Not only did it allow us to fit our lives and entire adventure cupboard into our Suzuki Jimny Badger, it has also kept us sane over the first 1.5 months of our trip. Trust us, whether you live from a car, backpack or house; light is fast.

Hanging out in the bush can be comfortable with little other than what we have on our back.

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Big City Life

Big City Life

 

Words and photos by Shane Quinnell and Videos by Tarryn Quinnell unless otherwise credited.

The road in front of you moves with the speed, volume and apparent randomness of an ant’s nest. Motos (bikes) laden with anything from one person carrying what looks like sixty kilograms of something to an entire family, appear from every direction. Some pass right, some pass left, some head straight for you. Trucks and cars jostle with each other and their smaller rivals including the aforementioned motos and the bicycle taxis which are complete with retrofitted, rainbow coloured backseats. People are everywhere. Winding through the madness and darting through the traffic like hares. It’s a dog eat dog world where the big dogs drive straight. If you are the smaller dog, and you want to survive, you weave your way around and out of the way.

Looking out from Badger into the the jaws of Kigali traffic. Photo: Tarryn Quinnell

There is a heavy scent of diesel fumes from the trucks and buses, mixed with the scent of dust which seems to permeate every major third world city. It is LOUD! Cars are revving and hooting, music is playing and the countless people are talking. Invariably as we pass, people start yelling, cheering and then shouting. Sometimes they yell “MZUNGUU! (White),” sometimes “GIVE ME MONEY!,” and often they shout things in their own language which are completely alien to us while  giving a giant thumbs up to show they think Badger is awesome. Heavily armed cops and security guards stand on corners in their suits, rifle in hand or drive through the city keeping the peace.

This was the first impression we had of Kigali. We drove in on a Monday afternoon after having first had to swap to the right side of the road. Oncoming traffic was now on the left; it was daunting. As with most large African cities, it is large, busy and hectic. Upon arriving, driving through town and even simply being there seems to require a level of bravado similar to what Tarryn possesses. As they say “dynamite comes in small packages.” She took on the adventurous challenge with a slightly crazed delight saying, “It’s like learning to drive for the first time, again.”

Welcome to the carwash. Actually the basement of an uncompleted building it is now a hive of activity with over 30 people washing cars of all variety’s, mostly expensive.

As with most experiences though, “things are not exactly as they first appear.” Scratch a little deeper, spend a few more days there and try to relax and the “Big City Life,” in Kigali starts to make sense. The sharp edges begin to smooth.

Shane Quinnell

Team Tane

As with most experiences though, “things are not exactly as they first appear.” Scratch a little deeper, spend a few more days there and try to relax and the “Big City Life,” in Kigali starts to make sense. The sharp edges begin to smooth.

Our guardian angel and friend. Fabrice welcomed us with open arms to his house, country and culture.

We were fortunate to be given not only time but the real local experience by our new friend and host Fabrice, whom we found on Couchsurfing. With Fabrice we hit the local markets and spots, got Badger washed and repaired at locals workshops and even went to a party with his family and friends. We soon learnt to anticipate a large crowd around our little Jimny, Badger, each time we stopped. Sometimes, the crowds were so large we could see nothing through all the faces gathered around.

Shane shows photos of Badger in action to one of the minor crowds we have become accustomed to. This time at an Engen service station.

With the gift of time and understanding we realised that life in Kigali is really not that different to life in any other major city in the world. People are moving and shaking. Going to work, making deals, earning money and trying to stay afloat. Stepping into the party we went to with Fabrice, which celebrating the 19th birthday of Fabrice’s soon to be Brother-In-Law, was like stepping back in time. It was almost an exact replica of the parties we used to have at university; people singing, dancing, drinking beer and hurling hilarious abuse and just enough recognition at the birthday boy in impromptu speeches.

Frabrice’s soon to be Brother-In-Law’s 19th Birthday party, Kigali style.

Some things are different. The water at Fabrice’s often intermittently turns off for a day or two meaning that you have to use a bucket to wash and flush the toilet. Fabrice also hides his smart flat screen TV in his bedroom every night while he sleeps as apparently sometimes people dig through house’s concrete walls to steal them. Go figure. Finally houses have an indoor and outdoor kitchen and appliances like washing machines are very rare; most clothes washing still being done by hand.

The elements which at first intimidated us remained but as we came to understand and more importantly accept them, they lost their edge and we lost our apprehension.  Yes, the roads are a bit nuts and it is loud but this is just the energy of Africa talking, singing. It is a reminder that Africa is unlike most other continents in the world, it is more alive.

Badger being repaired. Note in true African style no welding goggles are used. At least this guy is wearing sunglasses… Sigh. A typical crowd can be seen behind.

Without the fog of apprehension, you soon realise Kigali is clean, free of waste and generally highly functioning. Even the plastic packets which plague most third world cities are missing thanks to laws against them. Some of its ways may be different to what we are used to but they work. They are no worse and no better, simply unalike. The truth is, in many ways Big City Life in Kigali is like life most other major cities in the world city, Joburg, Sydney and Vancouver included. It has the same energy the same vibe. It simply shines these through a different cultural light.

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Love Don’t Need

Love Don’t Need

 

Words and photos by Shane Quinnell and Videos by Tarryn Quinnell unless otherwise credited.

One of the most gratifying things when doing an expedition in the style of Suzuki Africa Sky High, i.e. sharing it with the world, is actually getting responses from that world. Since starting our trip we have had some amazing interactions with our friends and followers, including inspirational messages and notes on our how adventure has inspired. In addition to these we have had some great questions, many of which had caused us to stop and think to find the answers.

Lekhubu island with some of our loves; our Flexopower panel from Opposite Lock, Power Traveller panel on left and shower skirt on the Front Runner tent can all be seen,.

This blog is inspired by our friend and follower Vic Rundle who recently asked “Now that you have been on the road for a while can you tell us what you didn’t take that you needed, what you took which you didn’t need and what you took which you love.” Here is our go at a response:

Need – What we forgot but have needed – Fortunately the list is pretty short but has some key items:

  • Mont Bell Soft Shell jackets or a similar mid-layer: we only have thermals then puffy jackets and waterproof layers;
  • More canisters for our Jetboil cooker: they are hard to find North of SA;
  • Goggles, Snorkels and Pillows: Wish we had these but simply did not have space;
  • Tracks4Africa SD Card: As explaining in Dawn Part 1, forgetting this was a big balls up but thankfully we have since replaced.

Life’s a beach. Chilling out making coffee on the edge of Lake Tanganyika, Kigoma. Shown are our Sea to Summit fold up pot and cups, our Jetboil and the peculator and flask give to us by my Brother and Sis-In-Law.

Don’t – The things we took but haven’t used: Even shorter than the last list… its hard to overpack useless cr@p in a Suzuki Jimny:

  • Solar Shower: It’s a nice to have that we haven’t used. Call us grubs but we don’t shower often when facilities are scarce. In the interest of hygiene we tend to have “wet wipe baths,” and only shower every 2-3 days or swim in a river;
  • Mountains of Medicine: With the best of intentions, Tarryn packed enough medicine to look after an army; around 5 bags full. Seriously considering dropping half of it at the nearest clinic so we can properly move our seats back.

One of the many views we have seen out Badger’s front window throughout the thousands of kms travelled. You can see Wizerd’s dash protector.

Love – The bits and bobs which put smiles on our faces:

  • The mini perculator and flask from Shane’s brother Dylan and our Sister in Law Siobhan, thanks guys!
  • Two laptop batteries: very useful for doing blogs and videos on the road;
  • Solar Panels (Fold up panel from Opposite Lock (OL) and Power Monkey Extreme: The OL panel keeps our battery charged and fridge cold while we are stopped for numerous days and Power Monkey keeps our devices and camera charged;
  • Fold-up Pot from Sea to Summit: Tarryn begged for this for months until I eventually conceded, have now realised it is EPIC for space saving;
  • Spray skirt attachment for our Front Runner tent: I begged for this for months until Tarryn eventually she conceded. She now acknowledges it is great in SO many ways; it is our changing room, shade, shelter and private storage unit among many other things;
  • Our Hammock: Don’t need to explain this one;
  • Wizerd Dash and Door Pockets: They give us so much more space than we would usually have and are absolutely amazing for storing small items which would usually get in the way.

All in all we are pretty happy with our packing and can live with our decisions, what we packed and did not… The only thing we are still mourning is the fact we forgot to download the second and third audio books for the “Discovery of Witches,” series. There is NOTHING quite like being left hanging deep in Africa.

Hanging out in arguably the coolest hammock spot in Africa, on the edge of the Lumangwe Falls, Zambia.

 

Other AWESOME Articles…

Overland Adventure Packing

Like anything else, overland packing comes in all shapes and sizes. This blog intends to help you decide what to take and where to fit it on your own Overland adventure. In addition, it tells you how to get our FREE overland packing list! You don’t need to pack like this to fit!

read more