Between the continents

Hard leaving the African continent. My last day was a blast, driving Gertie around in Cairo. Waiting in the workshop for all the men watching them praying in the streets. Getting diesel at the black market as it is still rare in Egypt. I just love Africa with all its noise, dirt and people.
Airport Cairo: First time real world again. 50g of chips costs five dollars. I kind of freak out at the cashier, tell the guy I am not paying this price, I´d rather donate him my money then buying chips for such a ridiculous price.

Dragoland: Hiding for a little while from the real world under trucks again. Seeing friends and enjoying this little village in springtime with lambs and rabbits everywhere.

Flight from London to Nuremberg: Why is nobody asking me where I am coming from or where I am going? I am used to lots of attention – a big truck always wants to be asked what the hell it is doing. And I have to admit I quite like it – why is nobody interested in me anymore;)?? Except the lady asking me some questions for a survey about Stansted Airport: Well, not sure if I am an appropriate person to ask about cleanness of the airport: I rate everything with excellent – haven’t seen so clean and fresh smelling toilets since long time.

Nuremberg: The main station is incredible clean and quiet even there are lots of people. I am walking on the streets instead of sidewalks, far too many things to spend money on and nevertheless running around not finding long trousers with enough pockets in – not the fashion of spring 2012 – you can’t get it. (Well in the end you can – you can buy anything in the internet with one click…urgh…)
I want to transfer some money. The system is just not working. I am spending too much time in front of my computer dropping out of internet all time as the UMTS stick is shit and the “thingy” I had to get for doing bank transactions is not working – I am holding it like an idiot in front of my screen but nothing happens, obviously laptops with their reflective screens are not quite made for it…

What’s the lesson for today?: The real world isn’t working either! In the end of the day there is sometimes not too much of a difference between Africa and Europe;) It’s always what you make out of it!
South America I am ready for you!

*the term real world is as incorrect as the term first world but driving a truck around feels sometimes like the real world is far away so I like to use it as a synonym for the “world I am from/Europe/first world”

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A woman truck driver and the usual TIA (This is Africa)…

Usually it is good fun to get all the attention… guys staring at you while you are driving giving you thumbs up, waving, calling others, pointing at you…but it can get too much…

…in Addis Ababa in the workshop: I want to undo wheel nuts together with a local workshop guy. Another guy comes: no no, this is too dangerous for you! But then they both try to get the drum off without releasing the brakes… no comment…

…I have installed the new fridge for the truck. I have one question to a local guy who deals with fridges. He doesn’t understand how I was able to install the fridge without loosing all the gas. I start talking about valves… he stares at me, asks me if I am happy with what I have done and just runs away. Later I find out that he couldn’t believe that I even know about the existence of valves…

…The truck doesn’t start. I need a truck with two batteries to jumpstart me. I try to explain that to some locals. The language barrier in Ethiopia is a massive problem. I repeat over and over again that I don’t need a normal car, I need 24 Volt to start the truck. The guy looks at me and says: I love you! I F* DON’T LOVE YOU! GET ME F* 24 VOLT BATTERIES TO START MY TRUCK, I AM RUNNING OUT OF TIME!!!

…two hours later, I am stopping for some shopping in another town. Waiting in the driver’s seat. 25 guys round the truck asking for my name, where I am from and declaring their love to me… my name is Gertie, I am from Timbuktu and my email address is written on the truck:
They all try to remember the address and assure me that they all want to move to Mali (after I have told them that Timbuktu is in Mali as they just don’t have a clue)

I am dreaming during night about unwinding hand brakes, it is a miracle that I have not overrun a kid or a donkey yet as it seems that people and animals are equally resistant staying on the road even if you horn at them, whenever you stop kids are climbing up the truck asking you for pens, bottles, T-Shirts and money, there is either no power or no water or whatever and when you ask questions to locals they usually answer with “yes” even they don’t understand.

Why do I love this job?
…for the guy who brought me an extra blanket. He must have been waiting exactly until I went to bed yesterday and he suddenly appeared with the blanket. I didn’t ask for it but without it I would have been freezing the whole night.
…for thousands of smiling faces who welcome you happily to the country and invite you for a coffee.
…for my happy passengers who just follow us whatever we do and are patient and helpful and good fun!
…no day is like the other day. I AM NEVER EVER BORED!!!
…because it’s a great CHALLENGE!! I never needed so many different skills at the same time in any other job.
…because I know these kids are begging just because we Westerns made them to do so.
…and there are many many more reasons… I JUST LOVE IT!


…and some pictures…

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Ethiopian restaurants…

We are stopping for lunch just beside the road in a small village. Nice little restaurant. Wow, exciting, they do have a big fancy menu with all kinds of burgers, salads and traditional meals. Even a salad with mozarella! We havent seen any cheese since three weeks! So I ask: “Do you have everything on the menu”. Everybody in this restaurants assures: “Yes, yes, of course”. Well, I doubt it and ask again as slowly as possible: “Do you also have mozarella?” “Yes, yes”…
Me: “Do you really have the salad with mozarella?”
“Yes, we do have everything on the menu”
I still do not want to get excited about the cheese so I am asking our local guide to ask in amheric (the main language in Ethiopia) about the cheese. And even he assures me that they do have everything on the menu including the mozarella. Alright guys, time to get slightly excited.
Me: “Can I have the salad with mozarella then (still not really believing in it)?”
And what is the surprising answer: “No, sorry, we dont have, no mozarella available!”
Ahhh…..well back to injera (typical ethiopian bread) with sauce then….

But to be fair: They have great coffee here and sometimes you end up getting nice Pizza in bigger towns… the Italian influence….

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Trucks, trucks, trucks…

Spending my three weeks layover in Nairobi sorting trucks out. Lots of fun with paint, red oxide, grinding, taking tyres on and off, bargaining with electricians and trying to get the best price for new tyres, special bolts and roof tarps… At the same time preparing and getting ready for another kind of adventure: Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt!
Some pictures from the last months…



South and East Africa – all countries I have been with Drago so far…

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Conversation with a police officer

Officer: Good Morning, how are you?
Me: Very well, thank you, how are you doing?
Officer: Good, thank you. How is your journey?
Me: Going very well, thanks.
Officer: Woman Driver in charge, he? (reading the sticker on my window)
Me: Yes, exactly:)))
Officer: Madam, you have been speeding. 59 km/h in a 50 km/h zone.
Me: Sir, as soon as I saw the sign I was slowing down. But I am driving a truck, it takes a while to slow a big vehicle down.
Officer (opens door): Madam, you are not supposed to wear flip flops when you are driving.
Me (have just put on my flip flops during the conversation): Sir, these are proper shoes, I can drive very well in them (thinking that I cant tell him that I actually was driving barefoot).
Officer: You must pay a fine over 60.000 Tanzanian Shilling (35 US).
Me: Sir, let me speak to your boss, please.
(going over to the big fat man sitting in his jeep the whole day collecting a lot of money)
Me: Hello Sir, how are you?
Officer Nr2: Good, how are you?
Me: Very well, thanks.
Officer Nr2: Can I see your driving licence?
Me: Of course, Sir. Here you are. Do you like my photo?
Officer Nr2: Yes, you are very pretty.
Me: Thanks, Sir!
Officer Nr2: You have to pay a fine of 60.000 TsH.
Me: Sir, there is no way I am going to pay that. I was braking as soon as I saw the 50 km/h sign.
Officer Nr2: Bring your man!
Me: My friend, I am not going to call my colleague, I was driving, so you can talk to me!
Officer Nr2: Ok, this time I warn you, but next time I am going to punish you!
Me: Yes, Sir, next time you can punish me:) Have a good day!

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Namibia Pictures

Sossous Vlei



Breakfast at Dune 45 with Mash and Dodge


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A typical day on the truck…

A typical day on the truck

5 am: Mash, our finest Kenyan cook is waking up and filling the cattle with water. A full tea pot for 18 passengers takes almost an hour to boil, especially when it is windy…

5.05 am: Mash goes back to sleep for another ten minutes.

5.30 am: The guys who are on cook group are unzipping their tents, crawling out in the dark with their head lamps on, trying to find their way to the toilets and showers.

5.45 am: The cook group and Mash are preparing breakfast while everybody else is packing up, yarning and taking down their tents.

5.58 am: Already awake from all that noise finally I stick my head down the truck (still wrapped in my sleeping bag on the roof) and watch breakfast preparations, finally get out of my sleeping liner and my sleeping bag and climb down from the truck roof…

6.00 am: Breakfast time. Sometimes only toast, cereals and tea. Lots of times eggs in all variations and if there is time and the budget is not to tight even bacon or sausages!

6.30 am: Packing away tents, mattresses go on top of the truck, kitchen equipment in the side lockers and everybody’s bags in the back locker (or the primary storage facility).

6.45 am: I am checking oil, water and clutch fluid, conditions of tyres and springs…

7.00 am: Cranking the engine, hoping that our Helena starts and off we go on the road again.

9.00 am: After two hours sleeping on the truck (except the driver) first bush pee stop.

10.30 am: We arrive at a little town and stop for shopping. Mash gets food for the next two days, I am running around to find an ATM to get money and then hopefully also hit a hardware store and see what’s in stock. Duct tape or any type of fluid, oil or grease is always needed. And then of course something cold to drink…

12.30: Already on the road again for an hour we stop somewhere in the countryside under a tree for our lunch. Chairs are coming out, tables, kitchen equipment, water for washing up. After a few days everybody knows what to do and joins in.

13:30: After salad, sandwiches and water melon, packing up again, on the road to go and see the Bushmen. The last six kilometres are a very sandy track. With a non four wheel drive 16 t truck this is a challenge… Several times loosing momentum, almost bogged, but in the end we have made it. Everybody goes for a walk with the Bushmen and see how they live in their villages while Dragoman crew is either doing accounts or sleeping…

17:00: We rock up at our today’s campsite. All our bags, tents and equipment are coming out again. Setting up tents, time for a beer or a cold (if you are lucky warm) shower. Mash and the cook group are preparing dinner. Today it will be Lasagne made on the camp fire!!

19.00: Dinner time, talking about the day and what’s on the schedule for tomorrow.

20.30: African desert (hot chocolate) or another beer around the camp fire or at the bar…

22.00: Tired… I am already up on the truck roof, cuddled into my two layers of sleeping bags and gazing at the stars before I fall asleep.

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And here some pictures from the last three weeks in Botswana and Namibia:

Okavango Delta

Okavango Delta

Etosha National Park

Etosha National Park

Sandboarding with Mash, my finest Kenyan cook

Sandboarding in the Namib desert…

…and sky diving… over sceleton coast

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How to fix a truck

Usually you will only need 13, 17 and 19 mm spanners, a star and flat headed screw driver and most important gaffa tape and cable ties (Americans like to call it duct tape or zip ties which leads on my side to non understandings in stressful situations, which means American freaking out… but this just by the way…;)
Back to the topic. So let´s say, your fuel system is playing up, engine is cutting off every time you want to crank the engine. Just put the fuel pipe into the filling opening of your tank, blow and suck the diesel to be sure the pipe is free of any dirt and duct tape the pipe to the tank, close the rest of the opening with tape as well (we don´t want any diesel spilling out on bumpy roads…)
Cable ties hold all these pipes in place. But also you can secure your new created switch for the invertor (which is absolutely necessary as the invertor was sucking too much energy over night) so that it is now convenient to switch on and off…
If your sound system is playing up and starting to smoke, just tap the smoking, hot, almost exploding part of the amplifier gently with the other end of your screw driver… it will work again…
We still have no solution for our broken drivers window…. We have run out of duct tape!!! But at least we are not leaking clutch fluid anymore…due to my brilliant diagnosing skills we changed the slave cylinder and hey, no more clutch fluid topping up needed!

PS: You ask yourself why you need spanners? Well, to change the slave cylinder and to bleed the fuel system million times to get rid of all the air you may need them…

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The big differences

Driving in Namibia is totally different from East Africa. Long straight roads in perfect conditions. No traffic. Stunning landscape. Freedom driving these roads but also very boring and tiring…
…and it´s not only about driving: In the smallest town you will find a perfectly clean, perfectly equipped supermarket with free wireless. Never found this in Europe before… and at the same time you have kids begging in front of the supermarket for food! There is something very wrong… Other parts of Africa are poor. Bad enough that the western world is forgetting about this or let´s better say keeping Africa poor deliberately – not wanting to develop Africa. But coming to Namibia and South Africa, seeing only white people in cars, fantastic lodges in the National Parks, the best shopping malls I have ever come across, feels even worse. I could hardly live in these countries; having all the conveniences and knowing that the township 20 km next to me hasn’t even running clean water. I have seen all that before but after travelling quite a long time in West and East Africa I have forgotten about all that and find it now quite shocking… I even had a dream about wanting to go back to “real” Africa again… with its colourful markets, smelling towns, chaotic cities, most of the time happy, laughing friendly people, waving kids on the side of the road, power cuts and cold and just dripping showers… I told Mash, our Kenyan cook, about this dream. That’s why he told me his dream of that night: One of his family members was badly hit by someone with a machete. He tried to find help in a hospital but they refused to give first aid as in Kenya you need a police report first before you are treated in a hospital after a crime…
…Me wishing to go back to “real” Africa hearing horrible stories from there… made me very quiet. But at the same time: this is what I am travelling for: to see and feel how the world is with all its beautiful and horrible parts…
I love my job….and I hate the society or system I am living in…

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