Overland Adventure Packing

Overland Adventure Packing

 

Words and Photos by Shane Quinnell, Videos by Tarryn Quinnell, Team Tane

In order to help get you out on your own adventure, we are proud to present our versatile Packing special. Most useful of all we have spent hours compiling a checklist of all the items we brought with us on Suzuki Africa Sky High as a template that you can use for your own weekend getaway or overland adventure. It is in Excel format so you can edit it to your own gear. To get the list, simply sign up to our emailer below and we will send it within a few days. In addition we have compiled some useful tips to get you started.

Like anything else, overland packing comes in all shapes and sizes. From the modest ‘just chuck a few things in the car,’ to far more sophisticated Tetras tactics where every single item has its place depending on size and shape. Driving a petite Suzuki Jimny with loads of gear, overland and mountaineering, on a long seven-month trip, and wanting easy travel deep in the bowels of Africa where it is impossible to find anything, we set the Tetras packing game’s difficulty level to Jedi.

Even so, we managed without a problem and therefore so can you. Our biggest tactic was implementing the Mont Bell philosophy ‘Light is Fast,’ check out the blog here. We also used other strategies to get our gear in our Jimny with less hassle, our top seven top tips are explained here;

Illustrating our packing infrastructure; draws, a fridge mounted on rails with table beneath, space on sides and on top with plastic containers used on shelf for organisation.

  1. Pack Necessities and few Niceties – Most people take mounds of things they never use. Think hard before you pack that luxurious hair dryer or make-up set. Here are examples of necessities:
    • Vehicle tools and spares;
    • Emergency equipment; communications, first aid;
    • Basic living supplies; camping, kitchen and cooking;
    • Food and water;
    • Maps and navigation;
    • Toilet paper!
  2. Pack Early – It is much easier to cut things down with time to think. Put what you think you need aside a week before you leave. Come back to it with a few days left and cut as much as you can when you have had time to think;
  3. Packing Infrastructure – It is MUCH easier to pack with some form of infrastructure. In our case this means draws, pockets (including seat, dash and back door), external jerry can mounts and fridge rails built by Wizerd. You save loads of space finding things is easier. If you don’t have drawers and even if you do, use plastic boxes or ammo crates to compartmentalise;
  4. Think Light – Pack like a hiker or biker not a trucker. Aim to get small foldable or lightweight equipment to save space and weight. Every kilo you can save will help limit the stress on your suspension which in a small vehicle is a major consideration. Opposite Lock, Front Runner and Sea to Summit have lots of great gadgets for the road;
  5. Be Sneaky – Use all the space you have. Under and behind the seats, beside your drawer system, roof racks, all of it. Most people think their cars are full long before they are. If a Jimny driver says they full, there is likely not a centimetre unused.
  6. Play – It’s very unlikely you won the game the first time you played Tetras. Packing your car is the same, it will take a few turns and you’ll get better at it the more times you try.
  7. Plan – Put some thought in to what will be used most to least, this determines how accessible things need to be. Pack the big stuff first then add the smaller items to the remaining space being careful to make sure you can get it out again.

Inside the bowels of our boy Badger. You can see all the space is taken with gear. Bottom left is the Opposite Lock Battery Box, middle the SmartGrid Sat Modem, behind the Wizerd draw system, top are the plastic boxes and centre the fridge. Stuff is packed in every space.

A few things which you might not think of which in our case have been invaluable are; a spray skirt on our Front Runner rooftop tent which give covered living space and privacy when stopped, legless potjie and foldup tripod legs, large flexible Front Runner water sack and LifeStraw expedition water filter which can fit around other objects, external racks for gas and jerry cans designed and built for us by Wizerd, moving your rooftop tent to add space in front and open backwards and then using the space in front for a duffel bag or other goods.

Ready for the road! Check the duffel bag on the roof and side racks for the jerries and gas.

Most importantly, enjoy your packing experience. It can be stressful trying to find pack and fit everything around work and life commitments but we are sure these tips and our packing list will help. Try them out and let us know how it goes. Most importantly think of the end goal and the amazing things you are bound to experience once you’re packed and put a smile on your dial. There is a big world to explore!

Don’t forget to sign up to our emailer at the top or below to get the FREE gear list. If you missed it, send us an email or Facebook message and we will flick it on.

Don’t Believe You Can Fit Your Life into a Jimny? Watch This!

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Helping Hands

Helping Hands

Words and Photos by Shane Quinnell, Videos by Tarryn Quinnell, Team Tane

At some stage or another, we all need a helping hand. Moments when we are incapable of helping ourselves without the aid of others. Times like, while lying with a broken back on a mountainside, hanging unconscious on a cliff while a rope strangles you or running out of fuel in a place even Tracks4Africa has not yet mapped. In my personal experience, long expeditions like Suzuki Africa Sky High, situated in exotic lands, on remote, poor quality roads and aimed at adventure, severely concentrate the frequency of these moments. While we feel a lot more confident with our SmartGrid sat phone and International SOS just a phone call away, sometimes you just need a helping hand.

Though we haven’t talked much about it, the last month and a half of Suzuki Africa Sky High has presented Tarryn and I with more helpless moments than the four expedition months before put together. Fortunately, these sh*tuations have also introduced us to more good Samaritans and helping hands than we could ever have hoped for.

Like most true problems, our month of misadventures started with a “BANG!” It followed with a “clunk, clunk, scrape and stop.” We were in the middle of the Serengeti and justifiably, based on the saturation of dangerous animals, not overly keen on getting out of our Suzuki Jimny, Badger. However, we had no choice.

The problem smacked me in the face. The shock mounting bracket had snapped off the axel causing our Tough Dog shock to hit ground then the stabiliser, bending both. We were not surprised. We had covered over 12,000km crazy African roads, the worst of which was the last 300 kilometres of Serengeti car-eating corrugations. Moreover with our whole life and adventure cupboard in Badger, we were SERIOUSLY overloaded. After removing the shock We managed to keep going, but within 20km the compromised bar gave way rendering us stranded.

Into this moment of need stepped first saviours, new friends, couple Wessel and Judy, Martin from Explore Africa Adventures and Sagit, the manager of local balloon safari operation, Aloft, a complete stranger. As if a mirage, Sagit arrived in a cloud of dust while I was still under the car and offered his workshop free of charge to weld the damaged bar.

Before we knew it, we stood alone with two proffered cold Castle Lagers, cold water and snacks while everyone else took off save us. Wessel and Judy headed one way to weld the stabiliser at the offered workshop, Martin drove to camp to organise a backup lift and Sagit left in the opposite direction promising to return in an hour to check in.

Tarryn under the acacia tree, completely unphased of the potential lions.

We sat, back to back under a leafless acacia tree, with pepper spray and Masai machete for lion protection and International SOS umbrella for sun protection, making a pot of coffee in the middle of the Serengeti. Tarryn was absorbed in her book apparently completely unconcerned for her safety.  ‘Not worried about Lions?’ I asked.  “The grass is too long for us to see them so there is no point worring,” she replied matter of factly.

Thankfully, within no time our friends arrived with our repaired stabiliser and two very enthusiastic welders who insisted on finishing repairing Badger. Ten dusty minutes later, after Sagit returned to inspect his welders work, we astoundingly were back on the road.

It may be hard to believe but our miracles were only just beginning. A day and a half later, after crawling over 250km back down the same corrugated roads that caused the calamity, we reached Karatu and emailed our sponsors Suzuki SA, Opposite Lock and Wizerd asking for support.

We are not just helping you because of the sponsorship, we would do the same for any of our clients.

Charl Grobler

Marketing Manager, Suzuki Auto South Africa

Within an hour all parties involved had responded with a game plan. Suzuki would send a new stabiliser and some additional maintenance spares to get us home safely, Opposite Lock would send a new shock and Wizerd would provide the necessary instructions on how to fit the shock. We were blown away by the eagerness of everyone to help. ‘Sure they were our sponsors but this was above and beyond,’ we thought. In response to our repeated thanks, Suzuki said simply “we are not just helping you because of the sponsorship, we would do the same for any of our clients.”

A week later everything we needed, including some spare zips from Front Runner, arrived in Dar es Salaam with Stew Brogden, the local importer of Opposite Lock and Front Runner equipment. Along with his wife Marion, Stew proved to be the biggest helping hand received from anyone not involved directly in our expedition to date.

After climbing Kilimanjaro (check out ‘King of Africa,’ story) our plan was to head to Dar to refit the shock and stabiliser in a day or so before checking out Zanzibar. Fate had other ideas.

The crew from Aloft Serengeti, some of who helped weld our stabiliser

In our absence Badger had mysteriously developed a croaky misfire which was very unlike his usually bullet proof constitution. Hardly phased I figured the most likely cause was dirty spark plugs, thanks to countless tanks of dubious quality African petrol, however, sparkly new Suzuki genuine plugs didn’t help. We phoned the Wizerd, Monty for advice. The prediction was dire. The old plugs looked corroded, coolant was disappearing and there was a misfire, “it sounds like a blown head gasket,” Monty replied. “Oh bugger.”

The crazy thing is that despite the apparently pessimistic situation, as always, things worked out. Stew, who we had never met, kindly arranged a truck to transport us and Badger to Dar and offered us a place to stay for as long as required. As with all experiences in Africa, the promised truck became its own adventure. Another story for another time.

A night’s sleep on dusty couches behind a hotel and a 14 hour drive spent sitting on the trucker’s bed later, we arrived in Dar. With a home cooked meal, warm shower and comfortable bed waiting for us, we could not have been more grateful to anyone than we were to Stew and Marion in that moment.

Loading Badger into the smugglers truck in Moshi

While we checked Badger at Stews workshop and fitted the new Tough Dog shock Opposite Lock provided, Suzuki SA arranged for us to drop Badger at Suzuki Tanzania for the necessary repair. Needing to thaw out after the time on Africa’s Big High Five Mountains, we headed to the tropical paradise of Zanzibar.

Monty had been right, the head gasket was blown. However, strangely enough the mysterious misfire was a symptom of a loose electrical connection and an independent problem. This knowledge almost certainly confirmed my suspicion that the gasket had actually blown way back in Botswana in the first week of our trip when we crossed the flooded Makgadikgadi pans. Not only had Badger never overheated since, but the coolant had been disappearing since that day. Crazily enough this had meant that we had driven probably around 11,000km with a blown gasket, hence providing yet more evidence of the hidden toughness of our petite Suzuki Jimny.

Saying goodbye to our main man Stew after our stay.

Thanks to excellent support from Suzuki SA, Badger was fixed a couple of weeks later and we were back on the road. Stew and Marion welcomed us in their house for over two weeks, treating us like family. We left Dar es Salaam in a daze with a knowledge that miracles really can come true.

The truth is that no matter how hardcore you think you or your car are, if you tackle Africa for long enough, something will happen. Life here might be tough, but the driving conditions are far tougher. There is only so many knocks, dodgy litres of fuel and dusty kilometres any car can handle. More than 90% of the overlanders we have met on extended trips here in Africa have been in the workshop once, most of them far more. Only when these situations occur do you find out the true nature of the people and companies you have associated with and you better hope you picked well. Thankfully, we could not be happier with our choices.

Above: A large part of the incredible team behind us with Suzuki Africa Sky High. Left to Right: Ryno (Suzuki Bryanston), Monty (The Wizerd), Megan and Charl (Suzuki SA), Jaco (Front Runner), Darrell (Opposite Lock)

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Twelve Black-Magic African Border Tips

Twelve Black-Magic African Border Tips

Words and Photos by Shane Quinnell, Videos by Tarryn Quinnell, Team Tane – Make sure you check out the SUPER useful table below!

Crossing African land borders is a notoriously infamous undertaking. Unfortunately, the truth is the reputation exists for a very good reason; it’s a HUGE pain in the ass. Its time consuming, hot, intense and exceptionally confusing. There are people in your face pushing semi-aggressively to try and ‘help,’ you, intimidating officials who occasionally want bribes and rules and prices which change depending on the colour of your skin.

Don’t despair though, there is good news! Firstly, in general, it’s not as bad as the stories would suggest, and secondly, we can help. While solutions to the root causes of the issues remain utterly elusive, there are remedies which like modern western medicine, can help alleviate the painful tooth-pulling symptoms experienced in attempting to the line. They won’t magically get you from Botswana into Zambia instantaneously but they may help you reduce frustration, limit how often you get swindled and lighten the awaiting agony. Alike all things African, they are inexact and change depending on the situation. They require a touch of finesse and bucket load patience to work, but like black-magic, they work if only you believe.

Some African borders, like the one above where nothing but a tree marks the border between Tanzania’s Serengeti and Kenya’s Masai Mara National Parks, require nothing but a decent 4x4. Lucky we had our baby Suzuki Jimny, Badger!

I have to thank my university engineering education for the first tip. While I recall almost nothing from the time I served there ten years ago, the words of my Project Management lecturer fortunately stuck; “The first rule of Project Management; proper planning prevents piss poor performance.”  As it turns out, the first rule of Project Management is also the first remedy. The day before going to any border we quickly research and write down key information for the coming crossing, it’s the best thing we have done. Knowing what to expect before you reach the border WILL save you time, money and having to listen to the lies peddled by the sharks at the borders. Here’s what you need to find out, make sure you check out the summary table below;

Resupplying and checking up on the regulations before we cruise to yet another African nation.

  1. Visas: Do you need a visa, if so, how much does it cost and how long does it last? Often officials will give you however many days you ask for up to the limit for that country, usually 1 or 3 months. Ideally ask for more days than you need to give yourself flexibility. Make sure you have enough pages in your passport;
  2. Carnet de Passage: Does your car need a carnet de passage, effectively a car passport, to enter the country? You can check if you need this on the table we have prepared for you below, if required you will need to organise before leaving SA. Carnets are not mandatory for most Southern and Eastern African countries though they can be very helpful for reducing waiting times and other costs. We opted to get one and are thankful for it, our humble suggestion is you should get one for any extended overland trip in Africa;
  3. Third Party Insurance: Is this mandatory in the country you visiting and roughly how much should it cost? As a rule almost all countries will require this insurance. Cost varies depending on country and how well you bargain, be sure to do so as the vendors will almost definitely try swindle. In most places the smallest period you can buy is a quarter (3 months) but if you are in the country only a couple weeks, you can negotiate the price on this basis. A very useful tip is that in COMESA countries (http://ycmis.comesa.int/) you can buy one 3rd party policy to cover all in the union. Doing this will save you a lot of money and effort in having to get a new policy in each country you visit;
  4. Other Documents: What other documents or permits do you or your car need to get in to where you are going? Common examples of things you might need include; carbon tax, road user tax and temporary importation permits for your car and yellow fever certificates for yourself;
  5. Money Matters: What is the real exchange rate in the country you are visiting and how does it relate to your home currency, what currency are the various fees due in? Try to find this out before entering any new country. A tip is to carry USD with you as you can convert it almost anywhere in Africa for the local currency. Banks will often give you better rates than guys on the street. If you can get some currency for the country you are entering before hitting the border.

IMPORTANT TABLE NOTES: Visas specific for ZA Citizens, Rec. = Recommended, TIP = Temporary Import Permit, IDP = International Driving Permit, ZA sticker, registration papers and affidavit from owner if vehicle financed assumed compulsory for all countries. Source: https://www.aa.co.za/insights/preparing-for-the-holiday-cross-border-carnet-de-passage.

Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet to deliver you across African land borders completely hassle-free. However, while these tips may seem superfluous, they are far from it… In general, remember that ‘attitude is everything,’ so bring your smile and enjoy the ride.

Shane and Tarryn Quinnell

Team Tane

Planning aside, there are many other things you should and should not do to increase your chances in having a peaceful crossing. Here are seven which we considered the most important.

  1. Be Nice and patient: No matter how rude or slow people are being, don’t lose your cool or drop your manners. Our approach to officials is to make jokes and tell them about “how amazing the police and officials in their country are.” Call it what you like but it works, instead of being aggressive people laugh and smile. With unwanted salesmen, be polite but firm. You are in Africa on African time, expect to wait. Take a book and relax, enjoy it;
  2. Learn the Lingo: Language is the key to breaking barriers and cultural stereotypes. Just today while bargaining with a guy in Zanzibar for Kiting lessons in Kiswhaili the instructor turned to his boss and said in Swahili “he is not a Mzungu, he speaks our language, give him the local rate.” You don’t need to know sentences but at least try learn the basics, it shows respect and in turn breeds respect;
  3. Bribery? Sadly its true, bribery and corruption can get you through Africa quicker. However, and this is a big BUT, there are serious drawbacks. Tarryn and I have a strict ‘no bribe,’ policy as we inherently disagree with the practice. We have seen what corruption has and is doing to our own country and hate it. Even if the morals don’t bother you, be aware many countries are trying to clamp down on this and serious fines and even jail time are possible if you try bribe the many honest officials;
  4. Don’t repack at the border! If you need to repack anything, i.e. meat or fruit, so it doesn’t get taken, make sure you do it well before the border. As we found out when moving things in our Wizerd draw system before entering Rwanda, there are many undercover plain clothed cops around and if you try do anything at the border they will get very suspicious;
  5. Shop around and Bargain; If you want to save money don’t just accept what the first guy offers. We have saved thousands of rand by walking the extra meters to ask others. When you find a trustworthy vendor, bargain like your life depends on it. Your wallet certainly does;
  6. Know the Rules; What is and is not allowed in the country you are entering, what is the speed limit? Certain countries have specific rules for vehicles. For example, lightbars are problematic in some countries, fortunately, Opposite Lock knew of this and provided us Lightforce Spotlights, a great alternative. Zambia and Zimbabwe each require reflective strips of certain dimensions and colours front and back, you can get pre made strips at Outdoor Warehouse. Mozambique and many other countries have rules on reflective vests, fire extinguishers and triangles. You need to know what you need because when you don’t have them you will have issues. Fortunately there is a full list of the requirements on our table and the AA website provided;
  7. Follow the Rules: You know the rules… make sure you follow them. Deviations will make your life tougher than desired. The extra 10kph is not worth dealing with slippery police.

The infamous Kazungula Ferry crossing from Botswana to Zambia. You can see the hundreds of vendors about to launch onto me from behind. Photo; Debbie Stevenson

Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet to deliver you across African land borders completely hassle-free. However, while these tips may seem superfluous, they are far from it. They are tried and tested by yours truly over many hours of time spent waiting at African land borders and dealing with local police, and they do work. In general remember that ‘attitude is everything,’ so bring your smile and enjoy the ride!

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On the Move – The Unwritten Rules of the African Road

On the Move – The Unwritten Rules of the African Road

  

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

 As a broad generalisation people seem to have the impression that Africa is a lazy continent. The belief is that, like the Spanish, the midday siesta is a common part of the African agenda, the only difference is the African “Lala,” lasts all day. In our experience, like many generalisations, this one is not entirely correct. In this regard, our experience is that our continent is actually an oxymoron. Africa is a large, vast and generally densely populated place. While it is true that many people, men particularly, can be seen day and night simply sitting under mango trees waiting for the fruit to fall, the opposite is also true. It is also a place where people, again men in particular, frequently work far from their homes and families in order to earn a living to provide for those they love. It is often a tough place, where despite the generalisations, many people have to work and fight hard to survive.

For most Africans, like most people in the third world, owning cars is a pipe dream. The financial barriers to entry are simply too high. Alike most places where this is true, organic solutions to the transportation conundrum have manifested into a chaotic looking yet highly functional system.

The omnipresent piki pikis of Africa. Look closely and you can clearly see these ones are Rwandan; they have helmets.

Because of the higher cost of bigger vehicles, they are far rarer than in wealthier countries and continents. Particularly in the rural areas, bicycles and motorbikes, called Piki Pikis, Bora Boras, Motos and any number of other names depending where you are, outnumber cars like ants to antelope. People use them for absolutely everything from transporting their entire family to moving half their village banana plantation and charcoal supplies the 20km to the main road to sell.

I only realised how ridiculous this actually was when a local girl dropped the bike she was riding while trying to let us pass on the narrow rutted back road we were driving on. Seeing she was struggling to lift the bike, I stopped and jumped out of our little Suzuki, Badger, to help her lift it. It took every ounce of my strength to lift the bike and what turned out to be three GIANT bags of charcoal. The whole ensemble likely weighed about 60 kilograms! Having felt the weight of the bike I have no idea how riding it was possible… andhers was far from the heaviest bike we saw.

An example of the hundred kilo bicycle. The huge white bags are all filled to the brim with charcoal. This guy is probably riding 20km minimum.

After the smaller vehicles comes the three wheel motos, which you don’t see often but when you do are EVERYWHERE, horse carts, cars, minibuses and small trucks. Most of these vehicles except the small trucks are used for transporting people and they follow but one rule; fit as many people as possible before you go anywhere. Motos are also a very common local taxi and tourist vehicle. Other than in Rwanda where a hard maximum of two helmet wearing people is permitted per moto, as many people as possible with no helmet are usually jammed on board.

Life on three wheels, packed into a three wheel moto on the way back from seeing the Livingstone mango tree in Kigoma, Tanzania.

The last group is the one to be wary of. They work on the “dog eat dog,” principle that big trumps small, ALWAYS! They drive where they want, when they want, in spite of road conditions, speed signs or other commuters. If you want to survive the African Transportation system you better learn to move out their way. QUICKLY! They are the big fish in the African pond. They are the trucks and buses.

Like most systems, African Transportation works by a set of rules. Alike most things truly African, these rules have likely never been clearly defined and are unwritten, yet understood by all involved. Enjoy the ride… its likely to the be the most exciting and chaotic one of your life :).

Team Tane

Vehicles aside, there are many other things that characterise the unique nature of time on the African roads.  For a start, there are the roads themselves which vary from sections of surprisingly decent tar to tracks which animals like cattle would struggle to move on. There are corrugations so deep and persistent that only aftermarket suspensions like Tough Dog can handle them. There are no street signs and speed limits which change according to the local policeman’s whim on the day.

One of the many big fish in the African pond. A local truck packed TO THE BRIM with everything you can imagine.

Finally an unmissable fact in Africa is that the roads and tracks which Africa uses for transportation are not just for vehicles. Far from it. Being the paths of least resistance in places where thorns as thick as fingers await shoeless feet and hooves, the roads are used by every manner of creature imaginable to move. People are often walking everywhere, weaving between traffic. Tiny children traipse to school playing with balls and each other often abruptly running into the roads. Domestic animals like pigs, chickens, goats, cows with horns like lances, dogs and cats play chicken with moving vehicles at every turn. Think that sounds crazy? Well wait until you nearly plough into a herd of elephant, a hippo or a pack of wild dogs. Trust us all of these things are very possible.

 

The roads of Africa are a busy place. They are capable of frazzling the toughest inexperienced African explorer into being more nervous

Sick of riding uphill? Follow these guys, grab a lift.

than a teenager on a first date and making them drive slower than their Grandmothers.

 

Aside from the specifics which categorise the African Transportation system there are overarching truths. Firstly it can be said ‘If it moves it grooves,’ in other words ‘it does not matter what the condition of the vehicle is if it can go it will be taking someone somewhere.’ Secondly and most importantly ‘only the strong survive:’ if you want to get anywhere you better grow a thicker skin quickly. Niceties mean nothing here other than that you are prey ready for the taking.

Like most systems, African Transportation works by a set of rules. Alike most things truly African, these rules have likely never been clearly defined and are unwritten, yet understood by all involved. So long as you learn these cardinal rules; big beats small, assume no other vehicle on the road has working breaks and make sure you look and act like you know who’s boss, and watch for the million things that are likely to run into the ‘road,’ you’ll get through it just fine. Enjoy the ride… its likely to the be the most exciting and chaotic one of your life ;).

Check out the additional photos of what can be found on the African roads below. 

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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.

 

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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!

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