It is with some regret that I write this post. Why? Over the past week, I have found that Zhou and I are not the two coolest people in the world. (Shocking, isn’t it?) In alphabetical order, let me explain.
(Note that since I haven’t actually asked for permission to write about any of these people, I will keep to the very basics of why they’re cooler than us.)
Ben and Kate: While rafting the Nile we met these two 20-somethings from Tasmania. They are currently in the middle of a seven month trip mostly through Africa. What makes their adventure unique is that they decided to buy a car in Nairobi and drive it down through South Africa, where they will resell it.
The amount of planning that must go into that boggles my mind. There are so many corrupt cops and small nuances to getting safely from country to country with a car. (See story below with Trevor and Jan). Then there are the lack of road signs, the lack of roads, the lack of safe places to stop – I couldn’t imagine Zhou and me trying to do this…
Nick: A member of our overland tour, Nick has, as he likes to say, “chucked it all in” and is traveling for at least a year. He’s doing it a little differently than us though, as he’s stopping back home between each location. Perhaps he can do so because he lives in Barbados (after short stints in about eight other countries through his life). Nick is the type of guy who could make friends with an armadillo if he wanted to.
Ryan and Laura: Another young couple we met, they are traveling to South Africa on a motorcycle. That in itself is impressive enough, but the amazing thing is that they started in their home country of England. Ryan’s been on the road for 11 weeks so far, and Laura joined him in Nairobi. The only reason we met them though is because their bike broke down and they were stopped at a camp in Kampala for a week. One story: when Ryan was biking through Ethiopia (I believe, but could be wrong on the country), the kids there would throw things at his bike trying to lodge them under his tire making him crash.
Tom and Francis: An older English couple on our tour, they have already done one seven month round-the-world trip, among many other shorter tours. Tom recently retired, allowing them more time to travel and see the places they’ve missed.
Trevor and Jan: Like Ben and Kate, they are driving through Africa by Jeep. Like Ryan and Laura, they started in Europe and are finishing in South Africa. Like Tom and Francis, they are an older English couple. They’ve hand-designed a sweet tent that pops out of their jeep, making a kitchen area, changing area, and above-car sleeping area. This alone has inspired me to want to road trip through Europe after customizing my Rav4.
We met Trevor and Jan before rafting the Nile (they showed us their video and convinced us to do it), and bumped into them again at our campsite in Kampala. [Epilogue? We have again run into them at our campsite at Lake Bunyonyi… small world.] One of my favorite travel stories thus far has come from these two.
There is a river one must traverse when crossing the border from Malawi to Mozambique. At one particular road, a crew will negotiate a price with you, then place your car on four dug out canoes to ford it across the river. What Trevor and Jan learned though, is that in the middle of the river they will double the previously negotiated price or threaten to drop the car in the water. Of course most drivers have to accept the new terms. However, urban legend has it that one driver, a little bigger and stronger than most, upon hearing the new terms lifted the negotiator by the neck, held him over the river and said something to the effect of “I think the price just went way down.”
So what’s the one thing that Zhou and I have that all these people lack? Americanness! We have yet to meet any long-term travelers from the States. In fact, that’s the only reason that I swallowed my pride and wrote this post. In England and Australia, gap years and world travel are as common as brushing one’s teeth in the morning (that’s not a knock on their hygiene). Everyone and their mother does it. But here in the good ol’ U.S.A., it is much rarer to travel like Zhou and I. Therefore despite our traveling shortcomings, we still believe we are the best thing that’s happened to American travel since sliced bread.
PS – if you’d like to follow either Ben and Kate or Trevor and Jan on their time in Africa, their websites have been added to our list of travel blogs and are copied here:
Pictures of the Day: Every campsite we’ve been to thus far has a dog or two, but this one in Kampala is fatter than most and enjoys long hot showers in the moonlight.