You did what?!

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And so at 5.30am we dutifully began eating our cinnamon breadsticks with creamed feta as our hosts grinned at us waiting for our response. Put on the goat pastrami they gesture next… YUM, that I can tell you, is JUST what I felt like after 1 hour of sleep.

What was going on?! WELL. Having picked up the car at 4pm on Saturday we quickly realised something was very wrong. Thankfully we happened to be in the mechanic district of Alexandria. It only took us 5 minutes to find someone to help us, he became my new best friend. Mohammed. Mohammed the Mechanic. This is where our 12 hour game of charades began.

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Mulungu clearly had had an accident between getting off the ship and being delivered to Fathy the Fixer’s office. What actually happened we won’t know, and probably don’t really want to either! However what we saw was this; the wheel was pushed 30cm out of alignment, there was a totally bent and squashed brand new shock absorber, a bent wheel rim and a broken tyre wall.

We were told Land Rovers are like a mechano set, you can just take it apart and put it back together. Well this is exactly what Mohammed and his team did over the next 7 hours. They welded, replaced and put back together the bits, under the watchful eyes of helpful neighbours. Whilst I kept a watchful eye on the Land Rover, Tristan went on a wild goose chase with another Mohammed to find a replacement tyre (difficult as ours are huge!) and get the rim sorted. When he returned 2 hours later everything was sorted. All for the HUGE cost of 80 Pounds. Although we initially felt a little nervous, many people throughout the night assured us Mohamed was the best man for the job. How lucky we were to find ourselves in his hands! With our car fixed we just needed a bed to get some sleep before driving on to Cairo.

 

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Mohammed insisted that we must stay with him. This all seemed like a great idea until the moment when we were sitting, still playing small talk charades as no one speaks English, at 4.30am. Did you know people in Egypt don’t sleep? Like ever. Tristan stopped being polite at the moment we were invited to go to the beach in the dark, at 4.35am, with the whole family, to buy an ice cream. Queue lots of sleep motions. Eventually we were allowed to sleep for an hour, this we did on the children’s bed with everyone practically staring at us. We drifted in and out of sleep between the call to prayer and the strong smell of Mohammed smoking something that was definitely not a cigarette… They woke us at 5.30 and then promptly decided it was time to eat. We managed a few mouthfuls and said our thank yous and goodbyes. It was time to go before the traffic got too busy.

 

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3 hours to Cairo, through the desert. After taking the ring road the wrong way (have a look on the GAPTRAC, which is now working), we arrived at Heliopolis War Cemetry where my Great Grandfather is buried. What a beautiful, beautiful place. A manicured spot in what felt like a very stressful city. Run by the most lovely men, it is kept in pristine condition, a place we would all love to be buried! Excitingly we were invited in to go to the loo, have some cold water and stand in the air conditioning, which having not slept, washed or eaten and driven through 3 hours of dust in 40 degrees was exciting! It’s the little things that count. Having grabbed an extra 20 minutes sleep under the trees and then cooked some pasta quickly on the street (yep on the street, it’s amazing what you will do when you are starving) we were ready to drive again.

 

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We got lost, we went round and round, up and down, coming to the decision that Cairo is not easy to drive around. Finally getting on the right road we began the longest drive in the history of ever. 18 hours to Beni Suef. Those last few hours of driving in the dark consist of lots of horn hooting, light flashing, trucks on the wrong side of the road, vehicles with no lights, pot holes and speed bumps. Having arrived, we slept for 5 hours in a dirty truckers’ hotel…. delightful. Up at 6 we began to drive to Aswan, we were told would take 12 hours. The first police check point we came to at 8am, we were stopped and given an escort. We didn’t know why, so we just bumbled on with sirens blaring in front of us. At the next check point the same thing happened, we were stopped, asked where we were going and following the gestures we realised they wanted us to go in convoy behind a 6 gun wielding, police pick-up truck. Well that was the first 2 of a following 16 escorts over 12 hours.

We went through towns, and like when Moses parted the Red Sea, the police parted the crowds. Unlucky for you if you got in the way, lots of Arabic shouting would come your way, much to our embarrassment. Tristan charged through one city feeling like he was in a car chase, being shouted at because they said he was too slow. Next we screamed our way through another town following a group of boys setting off fireworks on top of their moving tuk-tuk. Other towns we would pass old men on donkeys arms and legs flapping rushing off somewhere important.

Apart from the check points, we were not allowed to stop. So we ate what we had in the car – 6 bananas, 2 packets of Egyptian Oreo’s, originally named Borrio’s, and a packet of Percy Pigs and tried not to need the loo. I did work out that they thought it was quite a privilege for me to go to the loo in their check points so luckily there was plenty of those of which I took advantage!

We drove further and further down the impressive Nile, boggled by its size, and how quickly it turned from lush, date laden palm trees to arid, harsh, high sided valleys. It is incredibly over populated in the north, slowly becoming less so as you get further south, there isn’t less rubbish though. The banks of the river are literally like a rubbish tip and the smell of burning is horrendous. The sun began to set and it was clear that we were definitely not going to take 12 hours to get to Aswan with all the stopping at check points we were doing.

By the time it got dark they got fed up of coming with us instead they held us a little longer at each check point. Amazingly not once were we asked for a bribe of any kind, just lots of hand shaking and smiling instead! Having now arrived we have asked opinions on why the police journeyed with us, and the answer seems to be that since the Revolution they are wary of foreigners travelling on some roads on their own. Who knows?!

In the last 48 hours we have had 6 hours sleep, driven 36 hours, 1 meal, 16 escorts, 45 check points, 24 litres of water and this, we are hoping is Purgatory before we head on into Sudanese Heaven.

Touch base next in Khartoum.

XXX

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The might Nile, Aswan

ESS

 

 

 

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Tusk-red

Nuance Communications, Inc.

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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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Tusk-red

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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Tusk-red

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.