Sunday, November 11, 2007

Back from beyond

- Imke Maeyer -

On the 20th of May, our family set off on a 3 and a half month road trip to Kenya. It was something we had dreamed of for some time, and we felt an incredible sense of liberation when we finally drove out of Prince Albert on that icy cold Sunday morning.

What does one expect when embarking on a trip into the relative unknown with 3 children? Well, supposedly one should expect danger around every corner, thieves behind every bush and a huge amount of corrupt officials of all descriptions.

We had no route planned, only knew that we wanted to visit Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi and Mozambique. Unlike most other travellers we had no GPS, laptops, or fancy gadgets but we got around just fine, by asking for directions and enquiring about the state of the roads (locals are not entirely reliable in this department as only few have cars, and pedestrians and cyclists don’t seem to notice the potholes).

People ask if we had any adventures, well to us the whole journey was an adventure; only one stretch in Kenya required an armed escort due to the close proximity to Somalia and therefore bandits. The roads were somewhat adventurous, but our car just carried on, no matter how thick the mud, steep the mountain or potholed the road. We only had a few breakdowns, nothing to get excited about.

African people love children, so every time we came to a roadblock (and we came to many) the policemen would see our kids, have a chat and wish us a lovely journey. I think it helped also that we have a very old car, which was fully loaded, rather than a fancy 4x4.

We often had more than one extra person in the car, plus some on the top holding on for dear life, but never a word of complaint. Our children were subsequently squashed along with everyone else and realised how lucky they are to have parents with a car! We had the privilege of camping in a kind family’s backyard, and as we unpacked, realised to our great embarrassment that we had more stuff in our car than they had in their entire house!
Africa is full of bicycles, either used as taxis or beasts of burden, carrying anything from firewood to charcoal to cassava. Zambia’s population is small and we ended up in some remote areas on narrow tracks, upon which the locals were so surprised to see a car that they promptly fell off their bicycles, smiling and waving madly.

Everywhere we went people were physically busy, making things to sell, farming or carrying water or firewood, never portraying a sense of bitterness. I thought a lot about the productivity and friendliness we encountered, and realised that there is an abundance of natural resources to make things from, there is very little alcohol consumption and most importantly, the pride which people have in themselves, their culture, and their work. Even if they only earn R 10 per day, people do their job proudly.

There is so much more I would like to share, but in conclusion to these few words I will say that 97% of human beings are good, that I feel humbled by our great continent and its people, and that it is possible for one’s dreams to become a reality.

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