Into The World - 2Up around Africa, 2 bikes along the Silk Road

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by mrwwwhite, Jul 27, 2011.

  1. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

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    You're too kind, cheers mate. That is the Nigerian Afrobeat legend and activist Fela Kuti, with the song Eko Ile, from the 1973 album 'Aphrodisiac'. We were lucky to have our senses shattered during a live concert of Femi Kuti, his eldest son, while in Lagos last autumn. The concert electrified The Shrine, a sensational performing arts hub in Lagos where artists from from all wakes of life gather to feed and share creative ideas. The music was superb, and the dancers were impossibly beautiful and fluid. It was an awesome night.
  2. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

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    Ola bonita, bom dia! muito obrigado! We miss portugese, the 'muddy' photo is from where we last used this luscious language, Mozambique! Thanks a lot for the kind words, glad to inspire you to travel, as we have been inspired by others. We were lucky to experience almost nothing but humbling generosity and hospitality from the locals, no burglars, no problems, really. Any journey is easy only in retrospective, when you are in the middle of a river crossing or on the road it's not always that glamorous, but the hardships make the journey better and the journeyer stronger. Ours has taken 55000 km to complete the round-Africa itinerary, not the longest, not the toughest out there, but it's not over yet. To be honest, the food has been a highlight of this journey, I think the riders across places like the 'stans and Mongolia and the likes have it much rougher. Food in Africa is quite flavorful if you're open to try new stuff. Your best bet are the fruits and veg, always stunning, but we found also the rooty veg and meats to be delicious. Except for a cow skin stew that was not well cooked, the rest has been yummy. Ana is the crazier one, she is the kind who comes into your kitchen and starts exploring your pots :) Now that you mention the pastries, we aren't fans, but the delicate bite-sized cakes from Mozambique were very good!
    On my b-day we were in Tchikapa, staying at the catholic mission in town, we had a rubbish night, with loads of rain, but that meant that the nest day we had water to do our laundry and shower. Ana slipped to the market with the eldest of the two French girls and found those diminutive gauffre de liege. She bought sugar and raw groundnuts which she roasted, then dipped in melted sugar (caramel), then glazed the cakes. Delphine, the French woman, had some candles and there you go! Of course, the dinner was plain boiled rice, but we had beer and those cakes. Like Jacques said; "un moment de douceur dans un monde brutale" (a sweet moment in a brutal world). Thanks a lot for your comment, you're a;ways welcome in Romania, we have a couch and friendly garage, please email us your address and will send you the storm pic: we[at]intotheworld[dot]eu
  3. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

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    Thanks!
  4. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

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    Thanks, while in Romania we were invited to speak at TEDxBucharest and that pretty much sums up what we wanted to share. So yeah, this journey taught us to open our mind, learn from mistakes and never give up. Cannot be grateful enough for this journey!
  5. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

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    [/QUOTE]

    Thanks David! Who knows...maybe...the skills of an architect are less and less relevant today, while information becomes essential to better our life. We kinda discovered we like to do this kinds of journeys, and we modestly think we are getting better with time. We started traveling 10 years ago as youngsters on a shoestring, on public transport, and we are inspired by far away and forgotten places, like the Congo, which just stuck to our heart so much! Since he North Kivu crisis has escalated, we have been discussing what can we do to help reporting this story... It's a difficult thing to tackle of course, I'm not sure we would have the stamina for such a tough job as a photojournalist has, but I guess we got two things right: we are good with logistics and people and our heart is in the right place.

    Speaking of Congo, we have more footage from that crossing, we need to gather our thoughts and edit this into something coherent. I have never looked back on our report to see if the emotion was right, sometimes we wrote on pieces of paper, sometimes Ana just took some notes, or nothing at all, so we were trying to remember some minor detail that had ruined a day filled with spectacular crashes and landscapes. Usually at the end of the day we were drained, but we almost always woke up with a clear mind and a light heart, which is not was I could say about the pampered life in the city. Our French friends did last month a pilgrimage with a couple who had walked from CT to Cairo in two years, they too have been deeply changed by the month in Congo. Thank you for following, we will deliver more action soon enough, I hope. Cheers to all for commenting, we have been offline for a while, so good to see people still lurking around our bit of adv.
  6. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

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    Our first one lasted about 5K before this happened. we were just about to climb Sani Pass, we we went back and got a replacement
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    Tyre pressure should make a whole lot of difference. Anyway, we couldn't find another K60 to test this, so we put on an Anakee on the back. The second Scout was given to us for free by Chris@Nairobi's Jungle Junction, but I only mounted it after the Marsabit Moyale stretch where we rolled on the Anakee. This guy lasted over 5K, from Ethiopia (where we switched back to Heidenau) to Romania, which is not bad for a second hand tyre (I estimate it had over 2K already on the clock when we got it from Chris). That's what it looked like in Turkey.


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  7. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

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    by Ana, Romania pics courtesy to Ana's mum.


    I
    t may not shelter us from the humming storm and it may break sometimes in the middle of a swamp, but when we're keen to go off the beaten track, the bike is our tool of choice. It sure did the job when we wanted to spend more time in the African villages that we love so much. Eversince we rolled onto African soil, the similarities to where we had come from kept creeping up. We've touched the topic before, and this time is about the countryside and its countrymen. This journey takes us to the basics and it revolves around what Romania, like many of its sister nations of Africa, is in the process of losing.
    Firstly, the shelter. The need for one is hardwired into every sentient creature. Pretty much everywhere in the world vernacular architecture is rooted in impermanent resources. Yet, the humbler the building material, the craftier the outcome. Some of the most ingenious structures dot subsaharan Africa: the intricately huts of the pygmy peoples, weaved from leaves and twigs, the patchwork of everything designed into thick walled igloos by the the semi-nomadic Borana people of northern Kenya
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    ..the thatched roofed adobe buildings with humble but lovely examples throughout the Sahel, like the symbolic Dogon architecture in northern Mali (for this house the adobe is mixed with stones, a variation encountered on the Bandiagara falaise)
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    … the decorated homes of the Gourounsi people in Burkina
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    -the high ceiling mud'n dung houses in central Ethiopia, built on eucalyptus poles and left unplastered
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    … the red clay huts typical to all central Africa, from coast to coast, like this one from Mozambique
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    … all the way to glorious monuments in neo-sudanese style like the iconic Djenne mosque (a replica of the XIII century original and still the largest mud-brick structure in the world)
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    … or the one in Bobo Dioulasso, where the volume is determined by structure and spatial segmentation. The poles sticking out of the walls have both a structural function and help climb up the mosque when it's in need of repairs, which in Djenne for example become an annual regional event, with thousands of people gathering to hand-plaster the mosque after the rains stop.
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    In this perishable and fragile world a few notable sturdier exceptions stand out: the Zanzibari houses built in coral blocks, not so sustainable if you ask…
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    The mono-cellular tukul, looking like hobbit houses elevated on a foundation of boulders, to be found in the Ethiopian highlands (arguably the only example of vernacular architecture developed on several floors)
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    And the very functional and sombre, albeit picturesque circular hut of the Basotho people, called mokhoro. Even in this case though, the stones used to construct the walls are held together with a mortar of sand and soil mixed with dung.
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    Africa though is rapidly changing: even in the remotest deserts where elusive tribes like the Himba have been struggling to hold onto their old lifestyle, modern comfort is replacing tradition:
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    No wonder there is little anthropological evidence left and little hope to find more. I will not go into debate about what's best for the people, I will refrain to recording my findings and my concern of the need to understand what we are soon to lose.
    Now, let's go back to Romania, to my father's village, Varlezi. This hilly, Eastern semi-arid region is geographically isolated from the main urban settlements in the district. When I was kid, we had to walk for 10 kilometres from the nearest train station to reach the tarmac, then there was another few Ks to knock on my grandmother's door. Nothing stands out: there are no interesting landmarks, no major course of water, no elaborate tradition to observe. The kind of place where the city dweller like myself can't find their place, bored to death. The kind of place that has nor the charm of Maramures, nor the dynamics of central Transylvania. A typical, slow-life village where people seem to have just stayed, their powers spent after marching aimlessly on their way to a merrier land. But give it a moment, let the magic unfold, and you'll see why they did.
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    Not too long ago, all the buildings in the village were made of mud and dung, much like in many places of Africa. The shelter was still man's connection to the land, hand-built with what the forest and the animals gave for free. After the earthquake of 1990, I remember all the family rushing to the countryside to help with hand-plastering the cracks in the walls of my grandmother's house. Nowadays only some of those structures are still standing in the compound, visibly weathered under a layer of fresh paint and a heavy roof.
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    When I was little, I was begging my parents for stories every night, which made them struggle for fresh material. My dad is particularly good at making up stories, and some of my fav series featured him wandering the hills as a lad, cuddling next to a lamb in a horse-pulled cart or rabbits dancing on his chest while he was napping in the forest. Seeing this area coming alive from spring to autumn, with the field smelling of wild thyme and bugs glistening from the grasses, I can almost believe these stories.
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    My dad and his friend over-landing without a GPS towards some place
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    Where they engage in their favourite activity
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    Most day is spent here in the open air: working on the corn plantation
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    and in the veg garden
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    As everywhere in the temperate climate, fall is the most rewarding season. This year's autumn was stunning: wheat and corn have been harvested and milled
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    Sufficient grains have been stored for winter, for animal feed
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    Chicks have been reared
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    Fresh herbs have been cut and slowly dried on paper in the attic, to flavour the stews and soups of the cold season to come
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    Leaving nothing to waste, not even dill stems, that were finely chopped and mixed with sorrel and parsley
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    Wild plants have been hand picked for the many herbal tea blends my dad brews yearlong to soothe a flu or just to enjoy in the afternoon
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    Nuts, fruits and berries have been processed to stand the test of the long months to come
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    But the most awaited moment of the fall is grape harvesting. When the summer's sun finally coagulates in precious drops of sweetness, people start roaming, the field starts vibrating and limbs start rock'n rolling.
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    It's a sprint to the finish line, where the bags of aromatic fruit are carefully readied for the next step.
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    Some will be dried and cured
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    Most will be crushed
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    And fermented into dark, strong wine
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    Something links food and shelter: you eat how you live, and it all comes down to choice. Are all these produce delicious and wholesome? You bet. Is it hard-work and uncomfortable to grow and harvest them? Sure it is. Is is cheaper and more efficient to mass produce and mass distribute them? Seems like it. But should we be so hasty and dismiss such traditional ways of doing things as obsolete? Most of the urban Kenyans we talked to were confident we should, saying that the Maasai, for instance, aren't relevant in today's world, that Africa cannot develop fast enough in a race to catch up with the pace of other emerging regions. We cannot argue it isn't so. Since it become a free market economy, Romania too, hasn't stopped changing. It has a unique blend of oriental and Latin heritage, plenty of wild tracks to off-road and reasonably unspoilt landscapes in the countryside. Being away from the country for quite a bit of time allowed us to notice even the subtler changes. Things move fast. There is a lot to applaud, and a lot to debate. But one thing is sure, it would be good if both Romania and its distant fellow developing countries incorporate in their renewed identities not only regurgitated models, but also their rich heritage. We need to learn from our elders, so we know better what to teach our young.
  8. vtwin

    vtwin Air cooled runnin' mon

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    Old world tradition captured forever! Thanks. When I can I get a bottle of that strong wine?:freaky Before I forget. “La multi ani Romania” (from another Ride Report)
  9. DakarBlues

    DakarBlues One-everythinged man

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    Very beautiful write-up. Indeed, with such a gorgeous upbringing, you were ready to take on the world, without any prejudice whatsoever.
    You are really a world citizen, I am proud of you.
  10. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

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    Cheers! The only place is in that village, it's a very limited family affair, but I can arrange a sampling. This year's yield came out round and strong, somehow reminiscent of a Merlot, even if it's not. Ana's dad says there were many sunny days, even less rain than in previous years, so go figure. Where do you live?
  11. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

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    Comments highly appreciated. As everybody I struggled as a teenager to deal with some of the package that comes with the family, but growing up and travelling made me more proud, and aware of the value of those lessons. My dad was born in a village, which is something few people can relate to in our confused country. His links to his homeland run deep and he has a lot of respect for every living thing, be that animal or plant. Naturally, wholesome food and respect for the produce are much valued at home. Not a lot of medicine and sickness on our side, we use to treat most of the minor issues with meditation, some outdoor exercise, herbal teas and other natural remedies. So far, so good, I can swallow the pills and take my shots if I have to, but I'd rather not, thank you very much. So it goes that I have a strong stomach and a curious mind, and John is quite the same. Ever since we've started travelling we've enjoyed eating our way up and down, and honestly some of the best meals have been enjoyed in quite peculiar surroundings. Food cooked with love, plants harvested with love, animals reared with love, that happens a lot in the countryside no matter what country that is; that's how we ended up spending a lot of time in rural areas in Africa, I guess. Simple is not necessarily simplistic, there's a lot to learn from the villagers, as much as they still have to learn from us as well. Thanks a lot :)
    A.
  12. BELSTAFF

    BELSTAFF ADV NOMAD

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    Yes, the meaning of life, the search for the here & now is so deeply rooted in the past that we tend to forget how we got here.
    Only to find that the wisdom of our elders brought to this point, the elders passed on to us what they were taught,what works ,what does not, whats right & wrong. why things are the way they are.And their wishes of us that we will have an easier way than they.
    It's what all parents,grand parents and great grandparents wish for their offspring, its the same you will wish for yours.

    Cherish the stories of your father, pass them on to those who will come after you & know that they are the true meaning of life.
    Cherish the old ways of wine making,storing foods & preparing for the next season for it is the way we exist from year to year.

    Try,if you will, to imagine you present existence in a world without an I-pad, cell phone,or motorcar what would you do ?
    Well that's where you are one up on the world, you have been there done that even though you had a GPS, cell phone you were forced to make life or death decisions that would effect the out come of your adventure, you were tested through adversity & came out stronger and I'm sure that was because of what you were taught by your elders. You will take what you were taught from the past & what you have learned in the present & will pass it on to the future

    You see now that the whole world is a circle, all things in their place & in their time
    Live & love in peace & tranquility,children of the universe, for it is you time
  13. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

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    Thank you! Heartfelt words that went straight to our soul :) We've changed in many ways we are still completely unaware of, but one thing is that while we are grateful about our - dare I say- 'privileged' life, the fact that we could afford to chose to leave it behind and search for another, we came out more willing to go back to basics. I don't know if only to search for that elusive ... essential, but also to recharge our batteries to simpler, stronger beats. We have a lot of work to do :), don't we?
  14. naza

    naza n00b

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    just send to you by PM, thanks!

    ''Like Jacques said; "un moment de douceur dans un monde brutale" (a sweet moment in a brutal world)'' - couldnt agree more!

    Loved to hear from you, and glad on your plans for the next adventure!
    Your dads farm is amaizing, makes me go back to my childhood, it´s a hard life, but very rewarding too...

    see u mate!:thumb
  15. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

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    Envelope posted! Just let us know when you receive it, thanks :)
    Countryside, nature and the open road are always your best bet to recharge. Will update about our next move soon. Keep tuning in :)
    J + A
  16. naza

    naza n00b

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    Hi, fellows! :wave

    we' ve got the envelope last week, and it came in one piece! :lol3
    now i'm thinking were to put it...it goes on the wall for shore...
    soon as i get a frame, its done!
    tkank you guys for the gesture!

    greets from A&M
  17. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

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    great news, cheers for letting us know :)
  18. Witold

    Witold Been here awhile

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    Hi there, great ride report. It reminds me of some of the places I've crossed.

    I have two questions for you;
    1. It looks like you stayed at a lot of religious missions in places like DRC. Are these places easy to find? Did you just come across them, or did you do tons of research before hand to know where they are?
    2. How important was your French in places like DRC and West Africa?


    As for development, it's a double edged sword.

    Tourists are definitely hurt by it. We are 'too late' to see the X tribe doing Y traditional activity, as you mentioned earlier.

    For the locals, it depends how much exposure they get to the outside world. Ignorance is usually bliss, but it is a one-way street. Once they realize what is possible and what is out there, they have very similar desires to the rest of us. They don't want to plow the fields and die at 40 once they realize that something else is possible and they have a choice in life. It's a lousy life once you realize that it is not the only life.

    Once they are exposed to what is possible, they want to explore the world too. They want a nice house and a car just as we do. They want motorbikes they can ride to Europe just as we do. They want to carry a $5000 dSLR to photograph people just as we do. All of this requires money - desire is not enough. How do you think they feel when a constant stream of tourists comes by their village with $5000 cameras to take their photos? They're not stupid. They know why the tourists are there. They know they are a relic of the past, to be photographed and gawked at. aka: "the human zoo phenomena".

    This is the reason why the old-world villages in E Europe, tribal villages in Africa, and nomadic areas in Asia are often left with just the old and the very young as the kids get city education and the adults earn city wages. Very few people plan to continue that sort of traditional life. People want an easier life for their kids. They don't want their kids to grow up as nomads living in harsh conditions and dying early and doing nothing all day except herding cows. There is nothing great about that, despite it's poetic beauty to our traveling eyes peeking in and experiencing it for a few days or weeks just for fun.

    I highly recommend watching Summer Pasture. It profiles some of the last remaining Tibetan nomads and how they are living their life and the development that is around the corner... and it looks like even their life won't continue this way for more than a few more years and there will be almost no nomads left. Everyone is moving to the cities. Kids get an education. Adults get easier jobs. They have access to medical care, etc. Tribal and nomad life sucks. Lets not mince words here... if it was that great, there would be movement both ways but there isn't. It's great for tourists and travelers, but it sucks for the locals.
  19. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

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    hi Witold,
    let me start by saying that i'm thankful for your comment, even if I partly disagree. You see, when we left we had some experience traveling and living in third world countries; our own country is barely out of the woods, and some argue that we are simply fooling ourselves and Romania will never be more than a consumer's market and a breeding ground for emigrants. Only a few generations ago my folks were semi-nomadic herders in Transylvania, who at some point had to abandon their way of life and settle into the city (because the communists took their sheep): my grandfather kept this restlessness all his life. Don't' want to go there for now. I am not well equipped to :D

    So when we left, I was saying, we thought we can pull the trip off, but we had no idea what we'll encounter. I still don't think that we get it, Africa that is. I still think our time there was too brief to grasp what lies under the fabric of things, so both I and Ana might be wrong to judge African way of life and what is happening there. On the other hand it's hard not to. I have the feeling that you have read our article in Overland Magazine, which revolves a bit around nomadism. In no way we are trying to glamorize poverty or nomadic life in that article, or on our blog posts and ride reports. Nor are we trying to say that we know what's better for these people because we've been there and taken their photographs with our expensive camera. Sure, even our journey, which has not been the most difficult of its kind, sounds more fun when put into perspective than what it was really like in the field. I just hope that with all the romance of our adventure the lessons haven't gotten lost.
    But I just don't think that the same rules apply to all people. While it looks like we have a natural tendency as species to seek comfort and pleasure, even if that means over complicating our life and stripping the very nature that feeds us to the bare, for some, I humbly suspect, pleasure resides in other things. Some have colonized places so improbably harsh that we sob in pity, some insist to live under conditions that make us want to save them (the Tibetans in this movie, the Himbas, or the people on the North Sentinel Island for that matter...). I am sure that most, if faced with the choice, would pick the easier life. Does this mean that the other way is obsolete? With all our good and sincere intentions to help, us, who come from financially wealthier countries, usually fail to understand what life is really like for those we visit. The key is here "visit". For us this whole experience is not about activism, is about learning. We hope that it will enable us to become better people in whatever place we'll end up settling. If we will settle.
    Our last months in Europe have been an adaptation process, the reverse of what we had to deal with while traveling in Africa. I don't have a car anymore and we don't have our own place anymore. We sold those to afford vagabonding. And it's fine. I haven't bought a pair a jeans since 2010 and we have almost committed social suicide. We don't have a TV since 2005. And that is fine too. Of course we have things, we surf the Internet, we read books etc ... we are urban creatures after all. We are not like our host Antonio from Mozambique who had three Tshirts, a hut of reed and a bunch of cows to his life. But I doubt that I'm better off than Antonio, it's just my 2 cents. And frankly I am still confused by the amount of stuff I own and how in Romania I feel not even middle class and in other countries I could buy entire villages of with this junk. Dude, it's a tough subject to ponder. Let me get back to you in a couple of years, perhaps I'll be wiser :)

    About your questions;
    1. there's a list of POIs that overlanders use to swap in Africa. We first got one in Morocco and kept updating it as we went along; some missions were on that list. Most places we just stumbled upon; like if we arrived in a place where we wanted to stay inside a compound because it was too late to find a nice spot in the bush, or because we were curious to meet some people, or because we hoped to find a bucket-shower (most times were disappointed)... Africans are naturally very warm and hospitable people, and they have embraced religion as a medium to express themselves, plus they have an amazing sense of performance and a strong desire of togetherness. These catholic missions are interesting places to observe this, some double as schools or orphanages so we got to spend some time with kids, play and dance; most times we were not looking for anything in particular, just to engage and connect with locals, I guess it just happened this way.
    2. French I believe is essential if you are looking for a more nuanced experience. you can be fine without, but you can miss a lot. former colonies are extraordinary in the sense that even in remote villages people are multilingual and well educated (as empirical as this education may be). it's pure joy to be able to communicate with them, and frankly next time we'll try harder with vernacular lingos. for the east coast Swahili does the trick, but for West Africa, man, it's not easy.

    J
  20. Witold

    Witold Been here awhile

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    Thank you for a comprehensive and nuanced response. As you can probably infer, we have somewhat similar backgrounds. I grew up in E. Europe, have lived in the US for a very long time, and have traveled a bit to various developing countries. (Some of the visits were motorcycle rides and some of them have ride reports in my signature.)

    And yet, we are arriving at somewhat different conclusions. I think it comes down to 'living something' and 'visiting something'. As a visitor, camping and hanging out in tribal or nomadic cultures is a ridiculously great experience. In fact, I've often wondered if I could spend a summer with some Himalayan herders to see how it would feel. The scenery, the space, the solitude... there is something to it.

    But actually living a tribal or nomadic life is completely different from visiting. Those people don't have a lifeline at the ready to escape when things become inconvenient. This is why - when given a choice - virtually no one is moving to start their tribal/nomadic lifestyle, and in fact, the overwhelming choice is the other way. The tribal and nomadic cultures are dying very fast once exposed to modern life. It is a very hard life. And it is not only about having possessions. It is not about TV, or having lots of fashionable clothes. (I also have neither.) Many of these tribes have food security issues during winters/dry season, not to mention very poor access to preventative and emergency health care. They are stuck and can't fulfill any of their individual dreams the way that we can. They can't travel to France to observe and participate in French life, the way that we are privileged to travel to them to observe them. These are the real amenities of modern life - not quantity of physical possessions. City life may not be that great, but at least you will not go hungry and you will not watch your kid suffer in pain or die because access to health care is very tough. Once these groups of people get an idea that life doesn't have to be that way, they don't just walk to modernity, they run. It is pretty clear what they prefer. So I do think this sort of life is obsolete, just as starting a fire with 2 stones is obsolete when matches are readily available to you. It is not just a case of 'different but equal.'

    On a side note, this is why I try to travel to developing countries instead of going to Europe/Etc. I think the clock is ticking. In some not so far off future, the world is going to be a very boring place, where everyone mostly lives the same lives, browses the same websites, and has similar interests and hobbies.

    I did not read your article but I will definitely check it out a bit later today... Thank you for the answers on the logistical questions as well.