Our Round-the-World adventure

Hegear

Active member
Excellent posts, I’ve been getting my wife to read. Hopefully it will inspire our own trip one day.

Im curious if you have estimated an average budget for your travels. I know some places are more expensive than others but wondering about how much you spend on a monthly budget.
 

tacototheworld

Well-known member
View attachment 803505Excellent posts, I’ve been getting my wife to read. Hopefully it will inspire our own trip one day.

Im curious if you have estimated an average budget for your travels. I know some places are more expensive than others but wondering about how much you spend on a monthly budget.

Sure thing. Europe was done in 2021 and 2022 in 12 months. We covered pretty much every country. Including very expensive Iceland and Norway, the cheaper Balkans and everyone in between. Here’s spreadsheet of Europe below:


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Africa covered the entire West Coast from Morocco down to Capetown, South Africa and then north up to Tanzania in 2023


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Not only are different countries have different levels of cost but some countries we had to camp in formal campgrounds as it was no wild camping allowed. Other countries such as Nigeria had tremendously expensive visas.

Finally, some people may want to spend more time in hotels or do expensive safaris than us.

Good luck!
 

tacototheworld

Well-known member
Malawi

Malawi is nicknamed the “warm heart of Africa” for good reason. A small densely populated country, the people are some of the kindest and most welcoming we have encountered on our travels. Even though the country was suffering from economic and fuel crises, people went out of their way to greet us and give a friendly welcome.

Similar to most of the African countrys we had visited (now 26!) in Malawi, interactions between people are based in courtesy, caring and a strong sense of humor. When you greet someone, you ask how they are, and you wait for an answer. Then they will ask you back and also wait to hear. And then the real reason for the conversation can take place. People smile and look each other in the eye.

We have learned to slow down our typically American “straight to the point” styles and take the time to connect before asking for information or diving into business. But the first night in Malawi, we were late over the border, roads took longer than usual (a common story) and we were trying to find our camp after dark which is always stressful for us. We were driving along a dirt road thinking it would take us to where we were going to camp when we arrived at a private security barricade. Dawn rolled down the window and jumped in with “do you know where Zua Safari Camp is?” The guard approached, smiled kindly and said, well first, “how are you tonight?” Schooled in courtesy. Dawn was mortified but it was a great reminder.

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Our two week route through Malawi, mostly heading north along the lake

Our primary challenge in Malawi was managing the fuel situation. We came fully loaded, including two full Rotopax, but our truck is a thirsty beast, averaging 14 miles per gallon. Heading to the southern tip to visit Majete Reserve, we passed scores of empty gas stations. Finally we asked a police officer at a barricade check point if he knew where we could find fuel. He pointed us down a road heading to Mozambique. We thought, hm, maybe we could cross the border and fuel up?

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The road we were driving was the border between Malawi and Mozambique

So we pulled up to the border and asked a border guard if it was possible to cross to get fuel. In what we quickly learned was typical Malawian helpfulness, he called over a young man on a motorbike. Andy hopped on with borrowed jerry cans and headed to Mozambique with all our spare kwachas while Dawn stayed with the truck.

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Off they go
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Success!
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A grateful thank you photo to our helpers

Andy had read about the Majete Wildlife Reserve, an up and coming success story similar to Gorongosa in Mozambique. With investment and careful development, the park was being restored and re-populated after decades of poaching.

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Camped at a bush site at Zua Safari

Andy’s birthday was approaching so we decided so live it up at a private camp with a pool.
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Beautiful pool with a view of the Shire river

But all was not idyllic. Never really one to rest, on his birthday, Andy decided it was time to change the oil and in the middle of the process, a critical part broke. With the assistance of the kind campground host, Lucky, he made calls to the closest Toyota dealer to find out about a replacement. We were told it would take four weeks. (!) So, plan B. Lucky called her friend a local mechanic. He came with his co-worker, they dismantled the part, said “no problem, one hour” and took it off to their shop. An hour later they returned with the part welded together perfectly. More Malawian helpfulness and classic African ability to be able to fix anything.

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Our ingenious mechanics from the local electric company

The next night we had had made a reservation to spend the night at a hide in Majete Wildlife reserve - another birthday splurge.

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Shire River in Majete Wildlife Reserve

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Our private hide at a watering hole - Nakabi Hide

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Lunch with a view!

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Breakfast with a view! A wild dog came to join us

Although the water hole at the hide was not teaming with wildlife while we were there, it was a magical experience just to know we were the only ones there overnight. The anticipation of the unknown made it exciting - we accompanied each other to the separate toilet building in the evening.

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Motorcycle line at the fuel station

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Lines would sometimes go on for a mile, especially in big cities

The fuel situation continued to be a challenge - it was affecting people’s livelihood and ability to access basic resources. We learned to look for the long line of motorcycles (they also used petrol, diesel was not such an issue), then check to see if they were actually pumping gas (people would line up sometimes a day or two in advance of an expected delivery) then get in line and hunker down to wait.

At one of the two gas stations we waited at during our time in Malawi, we had one of our most painful experiences in Africa. It was common practice for gas stations to jump foreign tourists to the front of the line as a courtesy. Although we appreciated the kindness and the savings of many hours in a hot line, it was also somewhat embarrassing and awkward for us. We never took this for granted, always taking our place in line with everyone else initially.

This day, police officers were onsite for crowd control. The officer in charge walked back to us and waved us forward to the front of the line. As he was clearing a path, a young man on a motorbike with headphones on didn’t hear the officer ask him to get out of the way. The officer became angry and started shouting at the young man and eventually grabbed the headphones and broke them. The young man reacted emotionally pushing the officer and a fight ensued, with the young man being beaten by multiple officers and carried off, the rest of us in the crowd watching in silence.

It was a moment when we really didn’t know what to do and in retrospect there are so many things we would have and could have done differently. We look back on that day with pain and shame and still remember the look of horror on the young man’s face as he saw his headphones shattered by the officer. We wish we had known how to effectively intervene or make things better. We would rather have waited for hours than had that outcome. Some of the realities of our travel are not happy or pretty and have consequences for others that we regret.

Feeling a little shaken, we decided to head up to the mountains for some high cool breezes and hiking on the Zomba plateau.
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Waterfall hike

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Cool forest hike - Andy’s happy place

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Beautiful cool campsite at the Trout Farm

And then more of the realities of traveling in Malawi as obvious tourists. We felt the economic need from people for money and food more than in almost any other country. It was clear people were struggling to eat. We woke up at the campsite to these young women hoping to sell us some fruit they had picked. Of course we bought some. Best blackberry type fruit we had ever had.

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Young women outside our camper waiting to sell us fruit

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So good!

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Lines of women were walking down from the mountain to the village far below, carrying firewood.
 

tacototheworld

Well-known member
Malawi - part 2

Continuing with our desire to limit our national park visits to bring our budget back in line, we headed to Liwonde National Park but camped at Liwonde Safari Lodge on the edge of the park where we could view animals from their beautiful hides but not have to pay the park fees.

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Bush camp at the Liwonde Safari Lodge

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Pumba (Swahili for “silly”) in the water hole

In each country we visit, we are fascinated by the local architecture and building materials. In Malawi, almost all of the village houses were built of red brick. Kilns and brick molding sites dotted the roads at regular intervals.

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Typical red building bricks, stacked up and ready to be built with

Then finally, time to visit Lake Malawi - the third deepest fresh water lake in the world and home to the most fish species.

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Pulling into camp at Monkey Bay- Mufasa Rustic Backpackers camp

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With our own spot on Lake Malawi

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More bicycles than anywhere else in Africa (which makes sense with the gas situation)

Next, we made our way to Rafiki Safari Lodge, on the edge of the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve. Unlike the Liwonde Safari Lodge, it did not give us the experience of being at the edge of a national park - it was more of a standard hotel with bush camping but fenced. We realize that our strategy of trying to save money by always staying outside the national park was not going to give us the richest experience. But in Malawi, we felt that our priority was not wildlife viewing.

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Walking along the Bua river (no hippos)

Then, because we always have to be planning ahead for travel logistics, we met up with our future shipping container buddies from Germany. With the war in Sudan and Ethiopia effectively banning foreign car entry, overland travelers are mostly following a route from Kenya to the Arabian peninsula which involves complicated shipping logistics. We are glad to share a 40’ container not only to share costs but to figure out the complex requirements. What better place to plan than another beautiful lakeside campground (Ngala Beach).

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Our final big stopover in Malawi was Chelinda Camp, high in the Nyika National Park plateau. Another up and coming national park the endless grassland highland vistas once again provided welcome relief from the lowland heat. At the time Malawi was experiencing major heat waves at the lake.

Despite the lake being home to so many fascinating endemic fish species, we did not swim in it. A recent recurrence of Bilharzia in the lake made us squeamish. Many people swore it was safe, a group of German medical students doing internships said they swam and then took the antidote afterwards to be sure, but the whole scenario made us nervous. The idea of worms growing in our urinary tracts and intestines was horrifying. Plus the treatment is only effective once the worms have started growing so you wait and then kill them. We admit it, we were chicken hearted. This meant that our heat coping mechanism shifted from swimming in cool water to afternoon showers. Andy has been known to take a cold shower fully clothed, then just sit in the heat slowly drying. Then repeat.

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Road into Nyika National Park

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Campfire at the valley’s edge

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Daytime view - and a shockingly welcome 75’ as opposed to the 95’ we had been battling

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Requisite selfie with our camp host, Mateo, most hospitable host we have ever encountered

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The “I can walk without sweating” smile

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Chelinda Camp - the only camping in Nyika National Park, not cheap at $25 pp per night, but beautifuil

Despite hearing lions at night, the insects and antelope were the extent of our wildlife encounters in the park.We spent a morning walking with naturalist Blessing to learn about the flora and fauna.

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Chosi Viewpoint in Nyika National Park

With our time in Malawi coming to an end we made one last detour to check out the iconic “Mushroom Farm” outside of Livingstonia. A restaurant, lodge and overland camp the Mushroom Farm has been making a name for itself for excellent food, uniquely built facilities along a cliff’s edge and a variety of curated cultural experiences and outdoor activities. In the past the only access had been a steep switchbacked hairpin curved road up the mountain, but a new access road coming up the west side of LIvingstonia has made it easier for visitors.

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Thatch home - unusual for Malawi
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View from the composting toilet - best toilet view so far

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Camping at cliff’s edge

Well, that is it for Malawi, we will continue our journey into the more touristed Tanzania, where gas is plentiful and we are sure adventures await. Thank you for reading!
 
I've really enjoyed following your adventures, they have been a great inspiration for my future plans. Do you mind sharing where you got your steps from? I'm looking for something similar for my flatbed tray.
 

tacototheworld

Well-known member
I've really enjoyed following your adventures, they have been a great inspiration for my future plans. Do you mind sharing where you got your steps from? I'm looking for something similar for my flatbed tray.
Thank you! We had them custom made at a fabrication shop in Klamath Falls, Oregon. We paid $500 and they have been great. If it helps I’m happy to send photos and dimensions
 

tacototheworld

Well-known member
Tanzania

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Mount Kilimanjaro popping out of the clouds.

We think Tanzania is scenically the most beautiful African country we have been to. It has everything - the gorgeous sandy beaches of Zanzibar, the magic of Ngorongoro Crater, the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro, the endless vistas of the Serengeti with wildlife galore, and the bustling modern city of Dar es Salaam which manages to be both contemporary and capture ancient traditions and culture.

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Our one month route through Tanzania

Then, of course there are the people. The kind smiles, the gentle teaching of Swahili words, sharing of culture and knowledge, and the rightful pride in being a peaceful nation. Tanzanians we spoke with delighted in pointing out that in their country people of diverse religions, economic backgrounds and cultures live in harmony side by side. We wish it were so everywhere in the world. The only downside to traveling in Tanzania is that the extraordinary experiences and places come at some of the highest cost we have seen in Africa.

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Our 27th African border crossing! Soon there will be a beautiful one stop facility, now still a bit of a work in progress.

We entered Tanzania filled with anticipation, ready once again for some African animal encounters and excited to visit the island of Zanzibar. As is often the case with border crossings, our optimistic guess of 90 mins was wrong by half so we were late and a little at a loss for where to spend the night. We ended up in our least favorite scenario, a budget guest house parking lot, but it was safe and the owner kind and welcoming.

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Overlanding is not always camping at scenic wilderness sites, delays at the border meant it was getting dark so we pulled into this guesthouse where the owner kindly made room for us.
Throughout Africa there are a few private overland camps that rise to the top in reputation because of the location, facilities, overlanding owners or uniqueness. (Zebra Bar in Senegal, The Mushroom Farm in Malawi, The Farmhouse in Matobo in Zimbabwe, Kakuako Lodge in Angola, Jungle Junction in Kenya come to mind.) The Old Kisolanza Farmhouse in Iringa is one of those. Right along the main route from the border to Dar es Salaam, The Farmhouse provides lovely separated camping spots, spotless ablutions with warm showers, a historic farm building which serves as the restaurant and bar, excellent wifi and fresh bread baked daily.

And then as a bonus, two guys came by our campsite offering hair cuts and pedicures (we must have looked like we needed it, which we did).

From the Farmhouse it was an easy drive to visit the Isimila Stone Pillars, an intriguing place with stone age relics and a valley of crazy rock towers.

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Beautiful old traditional home

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Isimila Natural Stone Pillars

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We were careful not to hit a giraffe

Because Tanzania is expensive, we were very selective about which national parks we went to. Similar to Zambia, we camped at the edge of a few to get the sense of the area. For our truck, fees to bring it into a park are at least $200, sometimes more. And then there are the person fees, the conservancy fees and the national park camping fees. The least inexpensive parks would cost us close to $400 for the night. But basic campgrounds outside of the national parks averaged $10 a person.

We made our way slowly towards Dar es Salaam, enjoying some beautiful campgrounds along the way.

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It was definitely possible to hit wildlife . . . transit road through Mikumi National Park

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Camping with a mountainous backdrop - easy to do in Tanzania

Then - the big city! Our first skyscrapers in a long time, it was a bit unnerving to be speeding along a multi lane highway with a city skyline ahead.

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It was time to take care of some basic housekeeping so we found an Airbnb with a washer/dryer and got to work.
As we have said many times, cities are not usually our happy place but we surprisingly liked Dar es Salaam. It was very walkable (it actually has sidewalks!), an appealing coastline and a variety of neighborhoods to explore. We also had one major errand to take care of. After a couple of years of international travel and many visas, our passports were full. We had booked an appointment at the US Embassy in Dar es Salaam to get new ones. The whole process was amazingly easy, we filled out a form online in advance, made an appointment a month out and learned that we would receive our passports two weeks after our in person appointment. Time to explore the city.

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Local fish market, one of the largest in Africa

And, we had a truck issue that we had been saving for a big city. The aftermath of our experience with the inept off road shop in Cape Town continued. Andy had discovered that when they rebuilt the worn out bushings in the upper control arms, they actually installed them upside down and on the wrong side. So a visit to a (also highly recommended but much more professional) shop in Dar es Salaam got them re-installed the right way round.

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For Dawn, no city exploration is complete with a visit to local artists so we made sure to go to the Tinga Tinga Arts Cooperative Society to learn more about this unique Tanzanian art style.

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Dawn with artist Shibumi displaying the painting we could not live without
With two weeks to fill before we could pick up our passports at the embassy, we headed south for some beach time combined with a visit to a Unesco ruins site.

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The sun goes down at Kilwa Beach Lodge, one of our favorite spots

Using Kilwa beach as our base, we arranged for a day trip out to the Kilwa Kisiwani ruins, remnants of a 13th-16th century East African trading center. The trip involved hiring a guide and a boat which our campground hosts were kind to set up for us.

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First view of Kilwa Kisiwani ruins from our boat

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Ancient mosque

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And among the ruins on the island, a traditional village with people living in beautifully designed stone homes with thatch roofs

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Brilliant sunny day at Kilwa Beach lodge. Camping does not get any better than this. (Well, when you flushed the toilet the pipe providing the water would pop off the wall and flood the room, but other than that . . )

As we continued our journey our days of brilliant sunshine slowly faded away as we entered the realities of wet season. We got used to the sight of stormy skies and spontaneous thunder and lightening accompanied by torrential downpours.

Feeling like we had well explored the area, we headed north to camp outside Nyerere National Park along the Selous River.

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Storm clouds approaching, becoming a familiar sight

Continuing to watch the budget, we enjoyed camping on the outskirts of the national park then headed back to the Dar es Salaam to catch the ferry out to Zanzibar.
We opted not to take the truck to Zanzibar so found our way to Kipepeo Beach Village outside Dar es Salaam which provided both beach side camping and $5 a day storage for vehicles.

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View from the camper one morning at Kipepeo Beach. We were admiring beach life and the gorgeous fabrics worn by the Masai people.
 

tacototheworld

Well-known member
Tanzania - Part 2

Zanzibar is one of those place names which evoked mystery, history and a sense of adventure for us. We booked our ferry, hopped in a taxi from the campground and set off.

Arriving at the ferry terminal was one of our more hectic experiences in a while, reminiscent of a border where lots of people want to “help” for a fee. We braved the scrum, declining assistance and found our way to the waiting room, eventually boarding the right ferry.

Stone Town was a wonderful place to wander. It reminded us of a smaller, newer Fez in Morocco. Similar to Morocco, the old doors were incredible (and Andy’s favorite).

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Door to one of the few (stealth) alcohol stores in Stone Town. We arrived at the location Google sent us to a little perplexed. When we approached the guard across the street with the question of where the store was, he smiled and banged on the door. They opened up and there was a cavern filled with beer, wine and liquor.

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One of Andy’s favorite doors

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Stone Town, Zanzibar fish market, we are endlessly fascinated by fish markets in Africa, so much variety. The smell not our favorite though.


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Fruits much more pleasantly aromatic

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Watching life go by at the central market while we sit at an MTN umbrella to add more data to our sim cards. Throughout Tanzania we saw traditionally dressed Masai (wrapped in colorful plaid blankets, machete at the hip, recycled tire sandals) selling intricately beaded sandals.

Three days in Stone Town and we felt like we knew our neighbors in the small street, smiling greetings every day and sharing stories. Time to leave and head to the beach, weather not a deterrent.

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Classic white sand beaches of Zanzibar

Then back to the mainland and what has become our “real” life. We got on the road to Arusha. We debated back and forth about whether or not to invest in visiting the Serengeti and Ngorongoro. It would cost us $200 for the truck, $70 each and $30-$50 each for camping in the Serengeti. Total over $400 a day. For Ngorongoro, there is no camping in the crater but camping nearby was similar rates and the vehicle fee was $300, plus you have to hire a licensed guide and pay all the conservancy fees (we guessed a total of about $700 for a day visit in our own truck). We had great memories of fantastic wildlife encounters at Etosha, Chobe, Kruger, and Mana Pools and wondered if we really needed more. In the end we decided to see what it would cost to go with a tour.

Dawn went on safaribookings.com and requested three quotes for a four day budget tour of the two parks. The lowest cost was $700 each to join a group of four in a safari vehicle, four days, three nights all inclusive. We would even be visiting an addional park, Tarangire. We went for it. Best decision! Our professional guide, Bakari knew were all the big wild cats hung out and bumping along with him in his safari vehicle on the corrugated access roads to the Serengeti did not create the same mental stress of imagining what the shaking was doing to our own truck. We even had a personal chef along who cooked us three hot meals a day. It felt luxurious to us. Except for the return to sleeping in a ground tent which was a bit of a let down after our camper, but all in a good cause.

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Camping with a peekaboo view of Mount Kilimanjaro. We spent the night at Tulivu Retreat, a lovely garden campsite with the best outside kitchen and most beautiful showers that we have seen in a campsite.

Then we left our truck at the hostel owned by our safari tour operator (Nelson of Focus in Africa) and jumped in a safari jeep - feeling like real tourists for the first time in a while. Our roundtrip itinerary out of Arusha was an afternoon in Tarangire National Park, two days in Serengeti National Park, and a final day in Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area.

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First view from above of the mystical Ngorongoro Crater

We stopped by the view point of the crater on our way to Serengeti National Park. Masai for “endless plain” the Serengeti became one of our favorite national parks in Africa. The views were stunning and the wildlife incredibly plentiful. Instead of a few wildebeests, we would see 100’s at a time, huge packs of hyenas, towers of giraffes, lion prides eating carcasses or sleeping off a night of hunting. It was all so impressive and quintessentially African. Previously we had only really seen a cheetah at a distance through binoculars, now we had the thrill of seeing a mom with cubs walking through the plain.

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Lions in the Serengeti

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Evening leopard spotting

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More hippos than we have ever seen in one place

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Animals on the plain for as far as the eye can see

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We find the yellow eyes of the lions to be mesmerizing

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Biggest tower of giraffes we have ever seen (Dawn loves that animal group word and has been waiting to use it, seems really appropriate)

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Cheetah with her cubs
On our last day when we drove down into the crater we weren’t sure what else we could see, but our guide Bakari brought even more action.

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Lionesses feasting while a jackal waits standing by hopefully

Throughout our time in the this area of Tanzania we would see the Masai people in the bush, shepherding goats and cows, carrying wood, living traditional lives in beautiful round homes surrounded by bomas of thorny branches. We were curious to learn more about their culture so arranged to visit a village that welcomed tourists. It was way too little time to develop any real understanding, but still a fascinating experience to walk and talk with the chief’s son and visit his home.

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Young Masai men doing a traditional dance

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Beautiful homes, narrow tunneled entrances for safety

Then we were back on the road again. Despite being full of wild animal experiences, there was one more we were looking forward to. We made our way to Jane Goodall’s research center, now Gombe National Park, in the hopes of a chimpanzee encounter.
We took an early morning boat ride (2 hours) arrived at the park and set off with our excellent guide, Paolo to find the chimps. Having been accustomed to people in the area (Jane Goodall and her researchers), although wild, the chimpanzees in Gombe National Park do not typically run away from humans. But, sadly they did run from us. Despite 5 hours of (very) steep trekking we never caught up to them so left unfulfilled. We understood, it is nature, not a zoo, but still disappointing (also fee for the day trip was $300pp).

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Wild camping spot along the way

And that ended our time in Tanzania. We left satiated with animal encounters (despite missing the chimps) and with an appreciation for the varied geography and lovely people of the country. It is a country we would return to someday. Thank you for reading!
 

tacototheworld

Well-known member
Rwanda

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Mountain gorilla in Uganda

We feel like we did Rwanda and Uganda a disservice by not staying longer but at this point we were speeding up to meet family flying into Kenya to meet us for Christmas. (We have been rightfully accused of “always working to a deadline,” we like to pretend it is not our fault, but somehow we always have one so we must be doing it to ourselves.) We also broke a leaf spring on a rugged road to a Ugandan national park so ended up turning around early to head to Kenya to get it fixed. Rwanda and Uganda are two very different countries, but we are combining them here because our time in each was short.

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Our two week route through Rwanda and Uganda

Rwanda

We had heard from fellow travelers that Rwanda could be a difficult place - people were more inclined to stare at foreigners and were not as warm and welcoming as surrounding countries. We did not find it to be challenging. As introverts, the more reserved culture felt comfortable for us. We were also very aware of the fairly recent history of the 1994 genocide when over 1,000,000 people were brutally killed. Maybe we were projecting, but we felt like we could feel the lingering shadows of sadness from this horrifying history and felt huge empathy for the people and country.

Immediately when we crossed the border from Tanzania we felt the shift into lush green landscapes with intricately terraced agriculture. We found gorgeous lakeside camping and explored the capital city of Kigali, one of the cleanest and most organized cities we had visited in Africa.

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Instagram photo opportunity in downtown Kigali.

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Walked the side streets, looking over the hills of the city.

The visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial Museum was sobering and educational. We had memories of hearing the news in the US when it was happening. We remembered it being portrayed as tribe against tribe violence in Africa, playing out ancient rivalries. Studying more about the background leading up to the violence we learned that the Belgian colonizers set up a class system, identifying people with more than 10 head of cattle and “more European facial features” as Tutsis (about 15% of the population) and the rest of the people at Hutus. Everyone was issued identification cards stating their tribal affiliation and the division began. Tutsis were granted privileges and status by the ruling colonizers. After Rwandan independence, everything came to a head in 1994 when the Hutu organized into militia and turned on their neighbors in a widespread slaughter which also focused on women and children. It is no wonder that the people seem like they are holding pain. Memorials dot the country, many at churches where people fled hoping to find sanctuary and where some of the worst massacres happened.

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Image at the Kigali Genocide Memorial

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Memorial gardens, over 250,000 people are buried in mass graves at this site.

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Kigali skyline

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We met Alex, a driver at our hotel in town. He lost both parents in the genocide and has worked hard against the odds, progressing from being homeless to obtaining his drivers license and employment.

Kigali was a surprise for us. No litter on the streets, people stopped for pedestrians at crosswalks, and all motorcycle drivers (and their passengers) wore helmets. There were extensive sidewalks and street lamps. It was a completely different experience than most of the other African cities we had visited. The contemporary city center was filled with modern cafes and restaurants.

After exploring the city, we left for the countryside and headed to Lake Kivu, a popular vacation spot for Rwandans.

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Typical countryside view in Rwanda - a very lush and fertile country

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Camping on the shores of Lake Kivu (camped in the garden of the Livalana Hotel for a nominal fee)

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Looking back on the truck on a lakeside walk

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Beautiful Lake Kivu

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Keeping up with the sticker wall, Dawn posting the Rwanda sticker (28th African country)

Working our way along the lake, our second camping spot outside of Gisenyi gave us access to the famous Congo-Trail - following the ridge of the two famous river watersheds.

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One of the few trail signs we had seen in Africa

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Bumping our way out of our campsite - many sketchy bridges but none collapsed on us

And that was it for Rwanda! Just under a week, sad to say.

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Border crossing from Rwanda to Uganda
 
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tacototheworld

Well-known member
Uganda

As we were winding up our time in Africa (entering our 29th out of 30 countries on the continent) we were looking back on our time and thinking about all we had experienced and learned. Along the way we had listened to a variety of African literature.

We shorted our route through Uganda a little bit due to safety concerns. There had been a recent terrorist attack in Queen Elizabeth national park in which two tourists and a guide were killed. There had been a huge Ugandan police response and we realized it was probably one of the safest places to travel now, but caution prevailed and we cut it out of the trip. For us, the highlight of our time in Uganda was going to be visiting the mountain gorillas and we were laser focused on making that happen. (You can also visit them in Rwanda but the cost is double, about $1500pp in Rwanda and $700pp in Uganda).

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Curious baboon - a common hiking and roadside site

There are two main options in Uganda for visiting the gorillas - Bwindi National Park and Mgahinga National Park. Although there are more gorillas in Bwindi (also known as the impenetrable forest which sounded forbidding), finding them normally required more rigorous and longer hiking than in Mgahinga. After our experience being foiled in finding chimpanzees in Gombe National Park, Tanzania (no chimp sightings after a 6 hour challenging mountain climb) we opted for the safer, more direct experience. We booked online for our permits a week in advance with Amahoro Tours, who were great to work with. Based out of Ruhengeri, Rwanda, they handle gorilla permitting and tours in both countries.


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Making our way to the community camp by the park gate

Despite being the “easier” park to visit, it was still a journey to get to Mgahinga. We were spending the night at one of the gates in at Amajyambere Community Camp and it was two hours of dirt roads and combined OSM and Google misdirection to get there. But we made it, received a warm welcome and had a pleasant time meeting the young people from the local village who ran the camp over an evening campfire.
Then the next morning, we learned the gorillas had moved so we had to drive an hour (more bumpy roads) to the other gate. There were definitely leaps of faith along the way, we did not meet up with the man who was supposed to have our permits at the community camp as expected, but we were told, “no problem” permits would be at the other gate for us. We had no cell connection in the area so just went with it - in the end they had us covered.

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Hike into Mgahinga National Park


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Beautiful community dancers greet us at the park

We met up with our guide, Solomon, our armed guard Junior and our two fellow tourists (from New York!) and set off to find the gorillas.
The visits to the gorillas are highly regulated, one group of up to six people per day, total time with the gorillas limited to one hour. It was a hefty cost for us at $1400 for the two of us for one hour. We skipped other national parks along the way to make up the cost and in the end are so glad we did. It had been a lifetime goal to spend time with these magnificent animals and it was probably the fastest hour of our lives. It is almost impossible to describe the thrill of being in the presence of these gentle giants. At times it was difficult to tell who was more curious about watching who.


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Adolescent male


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This adolescent just joined in our trail walking in between us and the guide

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We kept our distance, but at times the gorillas opted to come closer. We wore masks to protect the gorillas from our germs.

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Andy with our excellent guide, Solomon

We left the park satiated and happy - it was an African highlight for us. Next stop, Lake Victoria, the world’s largest tropical lake then cross country to Kampala.

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Camping lakeside at Lake Victoria

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Huge avocados and tiny bananas!

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Dawn is super happy with her favorite breakfast, avocado toast

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A real zebra crossing


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Crossing the equator again! Last time was heading south in Gabon

The next thing we knew we were in Kampala. Needing some gifts for the upcoming holiday, we headed to a mall. We also took the opportunity to walk the city with a local guide and learn more about the history and culture.


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A crowded hectic city!

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Looking out on the central taxi area - mini vans heading in every direction filled with patrons

From Kampala we headed east to check out the iconic mouth of the Nile River.

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Setting up camp at the mouth of the Nile

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Morning view of the mouth of the Nile from the camper

We had one last planned stop in Uganda, Kidepo Valley National Park up at the northern tip. We liked that it seemed more remote and univisited and set off on a long cross country journey to get there.

And then, a mini disaster. We hit a large pothole, heard a huge clunk and subsequently a weird clanking as we drove. Andy stopped to inspect the damage and realized we had broken a leaf spring.

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These two circled points should be connected


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We had installed Deaver leaf springs that were custom designed to hold our weight, but one side broke where the leaf spring begins to curl (using what’s called a military curl) around the end bracket.

And so began an arduous (and very slow) journey, limping to Nairobi, Kenya where we were hoping for a repair. With the leaf spring holding on simply by being caught on a bolt head, we were hyper aware of every speed bump (there were 100’s). But we made it! More on the repair at Jungle Junction in the next blog.

As always thank you for reading and hears to more adventures in 2024!
 

ITTOG

Well-known member
That sucks. I have never seen that. Hopefully it broke while in a good place with a view.

The experience with the gorilla's must have been amazing. I can't wait to experience that.
 

tacototheworld

Well-known member
That sucks. I have never seen that. Hopefully it broke while in a good place with a view.

The experience with the gorilla's must have been amazing. I can't wait to experience that.

It was indeed stressful! But we limped along. The gorillas were an absolute African highlight. Its a must do.
 

tacototheworld

Well-known member
Kenya - part 1

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Our family group gathered with the Land Cruiser that was our home for a week (while our Toyota Tacoma was on its way to Oman)

Kenya was a terrific experience for us but not a typical overlanding one. As we did in Morocco a year earlier, we were gathering with our family for the holidays. We had planned several months earlier to ship the truck from Mombasa to Oman before the family arrived. First a few sidebars:

New Paperwork - switching to a Carnet de Passage

Kenya was the first time we were going to use our brand new Carnet de Passage. Going into our fourth year on the road, we finally had to bite the bullet and purchase one. Kenya was the first country that we hit that absolutely required a Carnet. It was a hefty investment for us (we went with Boomerang which was a higher cost upfront but a half of the deposit than the Swiss company, TCS that we contacted). Options for North American vehicles are limited, The US does not have the same variety of systems in place for this that the EU countries do. The $1,500 (ouch) we spent on the one year Carnet would hopefully get us all the way through India.

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Our newly minted passport for the truck - has to be stamped in and out of each country we visit, starting with Kenya through India

Adventures with the Truck - Broken Leaf Spring

Our job after entering Kenya from Uganda was to get the truck to Mombasa so it could be loaded on a ship, then to get ourselves back to Nairobi to meet the family. Of course, things became a little more complicated at the last moment. We limped into Kenya with a broken leaf spring, a little panicked about our chances of a last minute fix in time to get to Mombasa for our shipping date.

We made it to Jungle Junction (iconic overlanding camp in Nairobi run by the knowledgeable Chris) and he got us squared away quickly.

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Both sides of the leaf springs, broken passenger side on the bottom. The top leaf broke where the second-from-the-top leaf stopped.

Shipping the Truck Mombasa, Kenya to Salalah, Oman

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Finding our shipping office in Mombasa, wedged between grocery and hardware stores. Andy just ran through a thunderstorm, he is not really that sweaty.


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Loading it in! (Pole pole, or slowly, slowly in Swahili) Bit of a tight fit but all OK.

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Except that the only way for Andy to get out was to slide down to the floor and crawl under the truck

And then it was time for our container buddies to load. A brief and huge moment of appreciation for August and Tatjana - we found each other on a Facebook forum for people overlanding - Dawn had done a post about looking for a container partner to share costs. We are so grateful to have had such thoughtful, smart, and interesting travel partners.

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Mercedes Sprinter going in, spotter on top, four of us sitting in
the back to compress, tires fully deflated and it squeaked by.


Despite the last minute stress, the things we worried about in advance were non issues. The customs inspection was cursory, barely even a glance inside, just checking the VIN. Despite having to provide extra paper work and pay an extra $600 for a “haz” container because of our lithium battery, no one inspected that either. No one checked that our propane tanks were indeed empty (they were) or how clean the truck was.

Traveling Kenya

We took a deep sigh of relief, but felt bereft without our home. Needing a moment to de-compress, we shouldered our duffel bags and got on the ferry to Diani Beach where we had used credit card points to book a couple of nights at a resort. It was a welcome break and the ocean breezes offset the extreme heat and humidity of the Mombasa area.

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Very popular ferry from Mombasa island to Diani beach area

Our two beach days flew by and it was time to meet the family in Nairobi. A brief comment on climate and comparing Kenya’s two biggest urban areas. Nairobi is at nearly 6000 feet. Weather is pleasant and refreshing. But Mombasa quickly became one of our least favorite climates - hot and humid to the extreme.

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Our three weeks in Kenya

On the other hand, we enjoyed wandering around Nairobi. It was a great blend of traditional African and contemporary international cultures. We found the village style fruit markets but also trendy cafes. The city felt diverse and alive,

In general, we found Kenya to be a very easy place to travel. English was more widely spoken than in nearby Tanzania, even in remote areas (Our Swahili is still very limited, “asante” for “thank you” and “mambo” or “mambo jambo” for “how is it going.” The world over we love the smiles we get when we even attempt a greeting in the local language - even if we butcher the pronunciation.)

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City center market in Nairobi complete with roof top Marabou storks waiting for food scraps

The first to arrive of our family group was our son Trevor. An avid outdoorsman and photographer he quickly grew weary of wandering city streets so we set off of a morning drive in Nairobi National Park. One of the oddest parks we have been too, it is literally adjacent to Nairobi skyscrapers but is full of wildlife.

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Nairobi National Park: White rhino (Photo credit Trevor Elsbree, as with all the wildlife photos in this blog)

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African crowned crane - now one of our favorite birds

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Our first black rhino sighting! Much more rare than the white rhino.

Next to arrive, our daughter Claire and her boyfriend Nick. We were almost equally excited to receive the 40lb bag of supplies they brought.

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40 lbs of stuff we ordered and had delivered in the US

Our other son Nicholas made it in at 3am and was still up for visiting Sheldrick Wildlife Trust the next day (he had actually sponsored a baby elephant as a gift for a friend in the past). Visiting the orphanage was a lovely experience, clearly the young giants were being well taken care of and prepared for release into the wild.

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Elephants playing at the mudhole at Sheldrick Wildlife Orphanage
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None of us are city people so everyone came alive examining the trees in the arboretum

And we had a lovely dinner out with Trevor’s grade school friend who happened to be living in Nairobi.

Kenya Safari

And then the real fun began - off to the iconic Kenyan national parks. We had set up a whirlwind tour of Tsavo, Amboseli, Lake Nakuru and Masai Mara. Let the games begin!

We signed up with Spirit of Kenya for our trip and they were amazing in setting up a tailored trip. They provided a super experienced guide, Rafael, and he completely took care of us for a week.

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Trevor and Nicholas’s favorite safari positions

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The group’s first elephant in Tsavo West National Park


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Tsavo had more of these miniature antelopes - Dik Diks - than anywhere else we had been

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This baboon had a rough night
 
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