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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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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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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Lifelines

Lifelines

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

I never used to think about lifelines, about safety. I used to wander off into the mountains to trail run, paraglide and ride, on my own, sometimes without people knowing where I was going. I cruised South America with a friend on a motorbike for nearly 15,000km over two months with poor Spanish and no satellite phone, many times nearly running out of fuel deep in remote deserts. I used to listen with detachment to people going on and on about safety and backup plans. I went on adventures to get away from the world, not to stay in contact with it. Call me arrogant but I was just ignorant, and it felt free.

The land of the free, away from the world and technology, near Lumangwe Falls, Zambia.Even here we have our lifelines with us.

Today things are different. The school of hard rocks made sure of that two years back when without warning a dust devil dropped me and my paraglider out the sky, breaking my back and obliterating both my ankles. I was lucky to be alive.

I had two golden personal rules which I tried as often as possible to follow when paragliding: One, “never paraglide alone and if you do, tell someone where you are going,” and two “always make sure you have private medical aid that will cover your activity.”

My obliterated ankles after smashing into the mountain.

It wasn’t being stuck in hospital for many weeks or in a wheelchair for three months which changed my mind. It was the hour I spent lying alone on the side of a remote mountain with a missing phone, a malfunctioning radio and the most discomforting feeling in the world radiating from my broken back.

The pins put into my back after the accident fused three of my vertebrae.

Following these rules that fateful day possibly saved me from death due to exposure as the mates I was flying with saw me crash, managed to find me and get me emergency care. They also definitely saved me an extended, lonely, painful stay on a mountain and from either being in debt the rest of my life or having to brave South Africa’s infamous public hospital system for serious surgery as I had decent medical aid. I didn’t know it at the time but these rules I flew by were my lifelines; the things that kept me safe when the brown stuff started scattering.

With the gift of hindsight, Tarryn and I realised while planning Suzuki Africa Sky High, building and implementing lifelines was one of the most important things we had to do. With this mind-set, we have done our best to follow the saying “plan for the worst, expect the best.”

The fateful day, a photo taken of me about 1.5 hours after crashing just before I got carried off for months of treatment.

I had two personal golden rules which I tried as often as possible to follow when paragliding: One, “never paraglide alone and if you do, tell someone where you are going,” and two “always make sure you have private medical aid that will cover your activity.”…I didn’t know it at the time but these rules I flew by were my lifelines; the things that kept me safe when the brown stuff started scattering.

Shane Quinnell

Team Tane

Our plan relies on a number of key components. Each are integral to the success of us being able to get assistance if the worst happens during Suzuki Africa Sky High. These components are:

  1. Knowledge and Training: The old adage about it being better to avoid problems than fix them, is very true for remote emergencies. Before we left we did training in First Aid, chatted to paramedic friends and did lots of research. We found the information provided by International SOS particularly useful for both medical and security purposes. In addition to the information they provided before we left, we check their website and usually contact them before entering new areas and always get useful advice.
  2. Communication: The first part of resolving any emergency is being able to communicate to the outside world that you need help. Our infrastructure is:
    • Tracks4Africa Spot Satellite Tracker – The spot unit sends GPS pins for people to track us about every 5 minutes. Both Tracks4Africa and our parents monitor this data and alert our emergency responders if too much time elapses without contact. The tracker also has functions which can be programmed. The functions we have are; “We OK,” “Mechanical Emergency,” “Medical Emergency,” and “SOS,” each of which when activated, send messages to preprogramed contacts for assistance.
    • SmartGrid Satellite Modem – Very important to communicate the details of problems to get proper assistance. We are using a satellite modem which can be used for emergency calls from SmartGrid with data from Globecomm.

      Our SPOT GPS tracker from Track4Africa keeps people in touch with where we are. Help is just a button away.

  3. Emergency Response: Having put out the call you need someone who can come and get you, however remote you are. Our first line of defence is having International SOS who can, talk us through the problem or organise evacuations, at our back to. We have their number on speed dial in our SmartGrid modem and linked to the SOS and medical functions of our Tracks4Africa tracker. Once our signals get to them they help organise assistance or evacuation. We have evacuation insurance with them under a travel plan to cover any costs.
  4. Treatment: This includes any assistance you require post stabilisation. This is generally not covered by evacuation companies like International SOS and will likely require private health insurance. Make sure your insurer covers the region you are travelling to and the activities you are doing.

International SOS looking after us on our trip, in this case keeping us dry under the Lumangwe Falls.

It can be boring and tedious but thinking about lifelines is something, with the benefit of hindsight, we STRONGLY suggest. I personally have been involved with enough rescues to inherently know their importance. Trust me, you don’t want to be on the side of a mountain, broken, wondering if someone will find you. Learn my lesson; enjoy the wilderness responsibly.

You can find out more about International SOS and check out the options for renting a SPOT tracker from Tracks4Africa or chat to SmartGrid using the contacts in the following links:

International SOS: https://www.internationalsos.com/, ISOS South Africa: https://www.internationalsos.com/locations/africa/south-africa
Tracks4Africa: https://tracks4africa.co.za/, you can buy the SD cards and maps at most outdoor stores;
SmartGrid Technologies: http://www.igrid.co.za/