Alexandria

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They say the English invented bureaucracy, and Egyptians perfected it. Luckily, the latter are also extremely helpful, as the meander of government buildings and bureaus, translators and happy stampings are as complex as their ancient hieroglyphics… Thank Allah for fixers who literally hold your hand through the whole process, as us mere Westerners would never be able to climb that pyramid alone…

                ‘What’s South of the border of Egypt?’ The first of many great Emma quotes.

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                Alexandria is a very impressive concrete jungle if I have ever seen one. Standing on the water front, the whole bay seems to be held back by tower blocks. No one hassles you, or the few chancers who do at least take ‘no thank you’ for an answer. Taxi drivers try and get dollars out of you rather than Egyptian pounds, and will have no remorse about charging five times the price. Thus you know that you know nothing.

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Few beggars and bikes, many cars and needles in gutters. Few tourists, cheap and delicious street food, generous smiles but no haggling prices, Egyptians are a proud nation. Our fixer Fathy studied political science before being conscripted to the special forces for three years. His analysis of Syria is a bloody stalemate fed by Russia and Libyans are simply dismissed as warring tribes; he says there will never be more than relatively non-violent uprisings in Egypt as most people would rather go about their every day lives than pick up arms.

We have four days to decipher this city, before learning how to drive by ear as Egyptians use their horns to greet each other, courteously let you cross the road or angrily try and move a donkey off the road. Four days before going down the Nile to Aswan, where a very enthusiastic overlanding community seems to think the road into the Sudan is now open, we may be among the first few to ever drive into the Sudan instead of taking the infamous ferry down Lake Nasser!

TFD

From the Bibliotheca Alexandrina

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Nuance Communications, Inc.

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The first of many delays

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   So we are still in France, until Saturday. This is the culmination of many frustrations largely to do with a VERY challenging shipping agent called SeaKargo. Note to any future crazy Africa Drivers, DO NOT use them! The car was driven down to Southampton for the second time on bank holiday Monday (another not so great idea), thankfully with 2 wonderfully distracting co-pilots I hardly even noticed it took 13 hours…

Tuesday involved waiting and ringing (in the wrong ship agents office) and waiting and ringing (in a coffee shop) for 3 hours until finally I was given the all clear to bring it down to the docks. Here I bumbled into wonderful Grimaldi Shipping agency who surprisedly told me the ship I was putting the car on to didn’t in fact, exist. GREAT. Not sure which planet SeaKargo come from but most of the information they gave to us turned out to be not quite true. So the lovely ladies at Grimaldi pulled a few stings and rushed me onto the already full ship that night.

I gave a hurried goodbye to my trusty car and waved it off! PHHHEEWWWWW, what a relief. The previous weeks have been filled with multiple trips back to the garage to change the last few things that weren’t quite right such as a faulty leaking fuel tank, broken fuel gage (this caused a large excitement of empty fuel-ness when it says it’s got lots of fuel-ness…), heated conversations of ‘can we make this ferry’, ‘no we can not’ sort of thing!

So it’s off, we will meet it on Sunday morning with open arms and begin our trip… I think that we may move from a challenging situation in the UK to an even more challenging one in Egypt, we can but dream though that it will be straight out of customs and we will be off… I’ll let you know how that dream pans out.

Speak in Egypt

XXX

p.s. Thank you Alice and Liv for being my co-pilots and Aunt Jens for driving me backwards and forwards as my support car!

ESS

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Nuance Communications, Inc.

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The Ultimate Travel Company

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So our trip is now fully funded and ready and raring to go! This is largely thanks to a few very special people and companies who have agreed to sponsor us. This means we really can go and see all the exciting projects you are donating money to and bring you photos and stories from the places themselves. We would like to introduce you to these companies individually in case you don’t know about them and because we really are so happy they are working with us to help raise awareness for Tusk and Corner of Hope!

To begin the first of the introductions meet…. The Ultimate Travel Company!

 

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The Ultimate Travel Company are ‘tailor-made tour operators’ with a team of 40 travel specialists. They are able to bring together your ideas and give you exactly the trip you had dreamed of, be it an adventure, relaxing, exploration, family or intellectual ‘holiday’. I hope you have already heard of them, (I am pretty sure most of you will have considering they won The Times ‘Best Luxury Holiday Tour Operator 2013’) if you have not however, now is the time to go and look at their beautiful website and browse through all the options. Sadly I think our little trip, planned by us and not them, is definitely not the luxury they would have provided … next time!! They are one to share with all your friends and family who may need some advice on where to go next and what to do when they are there!

Even better is that they are a thoughtful travel company. This means that they feel it is important to give money back to the local communities they travel through. Education, health care and conservation projects have all had input from them in many continents around the world! So what more could you want!?

Have a look at their website:

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http://www.theultimatetravelcompany.co.uk/

So where does that leave us now??

ALL MONEY NOW GOES DIRECTLY TO OUR CHARITIES

(this means we need you to all donate…)

So a big thank you again to The Ultimate Travel Company for supporting us, which in turn means we can now focus on Tusk and Corner of Hope! Whooppee for them (and us)!

XXX

 

ESS

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Tusk-red

Nuance Communications, Inc.

A Dream Trip

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Africa wakes up early. The sun is fast climbing above the Great Rift Valley, the sounds of the African night have been chased away by the Drongo loudly announcing the new day. Our DYI rooftop tent has proved to be a sturdy piece of engineering and the view gives a whole new dimension to breakfast in bed.

Words will never give fair credit to the beauty of the high plateaus of Kenya. We pack up the car a little sad to have to move on, but we have an appointment that afternoon. Kukuyu and his brother attended Alan Savory Institute courses and have decided to come back to their home village and start their own project. Their local Nguni cattle have taken extremely well to the managed grazing they put in place and Kukuyu shows us the plans for their next step. A community funded and run rhino conservancy.

Hope never dies in Africa, and the continent’s dynamism gives Emma and I plenty to discuss around the campfire in the evening. The Drongo has gone to bed, and the bush soundtrack is on full volume. Our dream trip is living up to expectations.

I wake up at home however, and Africa is still far away. There are still some final preparations before we go, but having finished with my degree and completed my internship, Africa is getting closer and closer everyday…

TFD

 

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Nuance Communications, Inc.

Video for Crowd Funding Support

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To help us with the more immediate and heavily felt cost of a Carnet de Passage en Douane for Mulungu, we have decided to ask for the crowd’s support… Our Indiegogo campaign will help us directly with the costs of this adventure, in order to raise awareness on work of Tusk and Corner of Hope, so please share it to the world!

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/lindikhaya-cairo-to-cape-for-tusk-and-mmi/x/7613587

This happened to be the perfect excuse to finally get round to making a video to share our trip more easily!

 

TFD

 

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Tusk-red

Nuance Communications, Inc.

Preparation And Shakedown

logoThank you so much to UBITRAC for the amazing mobile tracker device they have provided us for you lovely lot to be able to follow our day to day progress as we drive firstly from Scotland to Dorset, and then from Cairo to Cape Town!

With just an app on our phone and phone signal, we can upload photos and videos for you to see exactly where they were taken! Follow the link below and sign up to see our live progress as we leave Scotland for the South to ship Mulungu to Egypt!

http://www.gaptrac.co.uk/map/9732/39lanium12p8583u4rtt

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Track us on our way down South thanks to Ubitrac!

 

And Here are some of the photos taken this week as we finally completed the final preparations for the big adventure!

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Yes Sandy, 3 people can fit in the front.

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Shopping done, now to sort it out…

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This will definitely do as an awning!

And the organising begins...

And the organising begins…

... and goes on for a while!

… and goes on for a while!

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Will we fit a tent on here? Yeaaaaaah it'll fit.

Will we fit a tent on here? Yeaaaaaah it’ll fit.

TFD

 

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Nuance Communications, Inc.

Pick Your Challenge

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This week has presented me with many problems. What to write for you lovely lot being high up there on the list. So as a change, you have got a bit of a brain empty of a post, here it is.

I wrote my first attempt on Monday, listing a complicated pile of problems. I then didn’t post it and by Wednesday the problems had resolved themselves. It has been a bit of a momentous week, so far. Let me explain a little more.

I came back to the UK with a bit of an issue. The law was changed 3 days before I left South Africa, stating that any person who leaves the country with a non-valid visa was not allowed back in for 1 or 5 years depending on the amount of days ‘over-stayed’. I had ‘over-stayed’ my welcome by 56 days which grants you a whopping 5 years in exile. This was luckily not my fault; I had applied for my visa extension which was not returned due to a back log of applications during election time. This whole shebang meant that I had to speed on down to the embassy in London, TWICE. Having appealed I sat nervously twiddling my thumbs, with the result arriving this week.

“Dear Sir (interesting…) The request for the waiving of your undesirable status has been considered and was successful.

THANK GOD. I can finish the drive in the right place and not have to wave goodbye at the border in Zimbabwe.

On other notes … the Land Rover is about to return from visiting Alan (the mechanic) who has spent many expensive hours making it look beautiful, on the inside. Hopefully it will now have lights, a fuel tank that doesn’t leak and new brakes. Trying to look like I know what I’m talking about in specialist garage is a little challenging. I’m sure I give them enough to talk about for a few days after I have left. This time I left them with this little snippet:

‘What’s this?’ – pointing at 4 very shiny silver disc shaped things under the car

‘Brake discs…’

‘What do they do?’

‘Make you stop….’ – oh yes of course why didn’t I think of that, which caused much giggling from the mechanics…

 

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Mulungu’s makeover

 

I have also read a lot of other blogs in a bid to find out about visas; this gives you a mixture of feelings. Wow this is exciting, look at all the incredible things they are doing. Oh dear, this could be hard. Why are we doing it in a car, if people are doing it on a bicycle which seems a lot more challenging? We are definitely taking the easy option.

Pick your challenge… I think is what I have decided, and a bicycle is not it for me right now. Instead I’ll take the South African Home Affairs department, endless conversations with potential (they don’t feel it’s so likely) sponsors and ever increasingly worried friends and family. That is enough challenge for right now. Well done to those who do decide that is their challenge, I am massively impressed. Maybe next time…

What is your challenge this summer?

 

ESS

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Nuance Communications, Inc.

Logistics of Mulungu

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With Emma back in the UK, preparations for our trip have just gone up a gear. We have spent a fruitful three days brainstorming, and ticked a lot of boxes off our interminable “to do” list.

Last week, Emma wanted to check what the mileage on Mulungu – the Defender – was and decided to fill up the tank… Little did she know that it has a leak near the brim! The resourcefulness we will need to show during our 4 months journey down Africa shone through, as she siphoned out half of the diesel:

Africa Overland?

Luckily, Mulungu – “White Boy” in Zulu – is booked in for his makeover at the local Land Rover garage this week. We are lucky to have found a vehicle in very good condition, and with the help of the wise team at Strathearn Engineering, we will be ready for a “shakedown” test trip by mid-June.

Mulling over Lindikhaya

Mulling over Lindikhaya

The next step is to buy the camping equipment and find clever ways of making a Land Rover habitable for 4 months… The list of “must haves” gets longer everyday: king-size mattress, oven to bake cakes, a dishwasher, a wardrobe…

TFD

 

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Nuance Communications, Inc.

Why Trust in Tusk Trust

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Our UK readers may have seen in the papers recently that a SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies) study has recently become a large thorn in the flank of the Fair Trade brand. Also in that of us well intentioned gentrified folk wandering through Waitrose trying to buying ‘ethically’. How convenient it was to pay a few pennies more for coffee and educate Ethiopians!

As convenient as it is to trust these so called ‘ethical’ brands, it is always good to go and check for yourself every now and then. We’re young enough to go and do just that! Fortunately Tusk is doing a great job, and we will only be reminding you of how important their work is.

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An incredibly human-sized team has reached out to so many people over their 24 years of existence that they have raised 20 MILLION POUNDS.

That’s not even the best of it, Tusk has a foot in 17 African countries, through 52 different projects, that’s a lot of feet… It was one of the few charities whose work we could follow throughout most of our drive, offering the best kind of stopover you could hope for on our 15,000km journey.

Yet, that wasn’t the crucial factor for me. Western aid has had a controversial impact in Africa for far too long, for the simple reason that no one thought Africans could help themselves.

“Only Africans [are] capable of making a difference in Africa. All the others, donors and volunteers and bankers, however idealistic, [are] simply agents of subversion.”―Paul Theroux, Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town

Well Tusk did. With its holistic approach to conservation, it has been promoting environmental education, sustainable development and a balance between communities and wildlife in Africa for longer than I’ve been alive.

In the short run, it is irresistibly tempting to focus on saving rhinos and elies. Tusk pushed their horizon further and further though, forever diagnosing the ills of African ecology to find the root of the problem, not just to put a plaster on a broken leg. Through workshops and courses for young and old, Tusk endorsed projects seek to open African eyes to the riches on their doorstep, and how they can benefit from them.

Don’t tell the hungry man he can’t poach to feed his family, but show him how to make a chilli bomb (literally) to keep the elephants off his crops and he might not have to!

TFD

 

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Tusk-red

Nuance Communications, Inc.

What is Montessori?

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Where to begin?

I usually begin to answer this question by saying ‘it is an alternative form of education.’ How I wish it was not ‘alternative’ but simply just the norm.

Maria Montessori – an Italian scientist – began constructing her philosophy based on what she observed within a group of less privileged children from San Lorenzo.

A little over a hundred years later, there is an ever growing Montessori community with legs in huge amounts of countries around the world.

The philosophy has however become confusing, as there are many strains and versions. In its purest form, it is education for peace, education for humanity, education as an aid to life, which boils down to a few simple points:

 

• creating independence for the child

• giving the child ‘keys’ with which to explore the world around him

• helping to nurture the children’s self-respect, respect for the environment and respect for others.

 

HOW do you do that?!

With a classroom – or ‘environment’ – that is a mini representation of life. Everything is child sized and enables the child to work through concepts created in the concrete (more on this in my next post!). Groups of around 35 children with as few adults as possible (2 or 3) allow the children to function as an interconnected mini society.

As adults, we are purely facilitators. We follow each individual child’s developmental needs. This therefore means supporting and furthering their learning emotionally, physically and academically. We look at education and children in a holistic manner. As we are role models ourselves, we need to take away any preconceived ideas of what WE think the children should learn, then turning to the children themselves and following their interests, using this important factor to bring on the concepts they find challenging.

So how do the children turn out?

They become little people who can adapt to change and enjoy learning. They are happy and care about others; on top of it, each child is confident, can make choices and then, self evaluate. AND have strong morals.

And what part does this play in your drive?

One of the charities we are supporting is Corner of Hope: a Montessori community set up in an IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camp in Kenya. Here, not only are the children offered schooling, the women are given training which they can then take back to set up their own schools. Fingers crossed this pilot project will inspire and enable many more people to go on and create similar models. I will develop on this in a future post!

If you didn’t know anything about Montessori maybe you now know a little more, or you at least would like to find out more!

Here is a short video clip to watch offering a different way of explaining it! Happy watching!

ESS

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Nuance Communications, Inc.