Friday, June 29, 2007

A Real African Safari

- André Jaquet –

Prince Albert’s Rudi and Imke Maeyer and their children Emma (11) Oscar (10), and Jacob (3), left on 20 May 2007 on an adventure: a three-month trip through Africa, in a second hand Land Cruiser. I spoke to them shortly before their departure.

The first thing that struck me when I sat down to speak to the couple is how calm and relaxed they were about the whole enterprise. “Why Africa?”, I ask, to get the conversation going.

Imke thinks. “We see this as a family bonding experience. It will be tough at times but we’ll also have many new experiences, lots of fun and in years to come, fond memories. It will draw us closer together and teach us not to take each other for granted. We think it will open our minds and help us develop more ideas of what we in Prince Albert can do. You know, when you travel abroad you learn a lot about your own country and where it fits into the world.”

“We’ve travelled quite a bit and enjoy it. We know our own country and want to get to know Africa now that we are welcome,” explains Rudi. “Many of us in South Africa lead incredibly privileged lives and I want my children to understand that. Also it’s a fun thing to do.”

Imke adds: “It’s a trip I have wanted to make for a long time and it’s now or never, before our children get into the difficult school years. Sure they may not remember everything, but even if they get a vague sense of what happened and what they saw, they will certainly benefit.”

I ask how the children feel about the trip. “They are looking forward to it. Jacob doesn’t really know much about it at all and initially thought that it would be like going for a picnic on the mountain! Emma and Oscar love camping. They will be keeping a journal and drawing what they see”. Imke will also be home schooling the two older children.

Rudi explains with the help of a map, that they will stick to safe countries and not drive the entire way to Europe as they had originally planned. “That would have meant going through unstable places like the Sudan and Somalia and that would not be a good idea”. Rudi points to Namibia on the map and his chiselled finger glides across main roads though the Okavango in Botswana, where they will stay for a while to look up friends from the days they lived in that magical setting.

The finger then moves on across the map to Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya, where they plan to stop at the Island of Lamu, the most northern point of their trip. After that it will be down through Mozambique and back home. “We would love to visit Zimbabwe, which is such a beautiful country, and Uganda to see Lake Victoria,” sighs Imke, “but that will depend on time and the conditions when we make a final decision”.

What about communications, I ask. “Well, we want to do it the simple way. We’re taking along a satellite phone to let our families know we’re okay. We’ll camp most of the time and stay in hotels when we feel we want to spoil ourselves a little. We will avoid like the plague the luxury lodges that are built for the rich and famous and don’t really capture Africa as it really is.”

In answering my last question, both Rudi and Imke display the essence of their approach: Imke muses, “We all have dreams and this has been mine for a long time. If you don’t work at them, you won’t achieve them.” Down-to-earth Rudi chuckles: “And that is not as difficult to organise as you think.”

I for one can’t wait to hear their stories when they get back. I am sure we all wish them a safe trip, rich in fun and experiences which they will relive with us.

No comments: