. . . AROUND THE WORLD 2001/02
Africa 1999
Around-the-World 2001/02

The Team

Jeff Willner
1. Start: Recipe for Adventure
2. Zimbabwe: Hyperinflation
3. Namibia: Southern Circuit
4. South Africa: Circuit 2
5. Zambia/Malawi: Sketches
7. Kenya: Bandit Country
8. Ethiopia: Diary
9. Ethiopia: Border Run
10. Sudan: Across the Sahara
11. Egypt: Cape to Cairo
12. Jordan/Syria: Sept. 11th
13. Turkey: Hospitality
14. Bulgaria/Romania/ Hungary
15. Slovakia/Austria/Poland
16. The Baltics & Russia
17. Scandinavia
18. Western Europe
19. Brazil: Clearning Customs
20. Argentina: Revolution
21. Argentina: To Ushuaia
22. Patagonia Disaster
23. Buenos Aires Beautiful
24. Uruguay: Beaches
25. Chile: Expedition Life
26. Bolivia: Atacama
27. Peru: Transit
28. Galapagos: Gorgeous
29. Ecuador: Jungle Run
30. Knifepoint
31. Dubai: Lay over
32. Singapore/Malaysia
33. Thailand: Hospitality
34. Cambodia: Ankor Wat
35. Vietnam: Hanoi & Halong
36. Laos: Back to Basics
37. China: Beijing Tour
38. China: Shanxi
39. China: Western Province
40. China: Tibet
41: Nepal: Mountains
42. India: Driving Struggle
43. Pakistan: Dodging War
44. Iran: Overcharging
45. End: One Last Laugh

Sally DeFina
1. Cape Town: Robben Island
2. Zanzibar: Mike & I
3. Kenya: African Driving School
4. Sudan: Mud Crossing
5. Patagonia: Goodbye Max
6. Malaysia: Mike Update
7. Thailand: Ko Phangan
8. Cambodia: Phnom Penh
9. Vietnam: By Train
10. Laos: Vang Vieng
11. China: Meet Mr. Chen

Jody Finver
1. Start: Surreal Solipse
2. Great Zimbabwe
3. Brokedown in Kenyan Desert
4. Egypt: So Should I Hyphenate
5. Poland: Home is Where the Truck Is

Gulin Akoz
1. Start: Bits and Pieces
2. Zambia: Diaries
3. Egypt: Africa Memories
4. Turkey: For Your Information
5. The Team and The Bean
6. Somebody Else's Child
7. On My Own
8. Long Lost Memories of Childhood
9. The Tree and the Boy
10. Jealous
11. The Aftermath


Panamerican 2003
Various Trips
Planning an Expedition


Kensington Tours can help you plan your own expedition anywhere in the world.

#3 - Africa
Gulin Akoz, Sept. '01

On the road, when everything and everybody around you changes so rapidly, I sometimes wonder who is going to stay? What is permanent?

The answer: NOTHING!

Nothing stays but memories...
I live for the 'moments', to collect 'memories'

Below is a list of things I remember about Africa on first thought. Then there are those I think I had forgotten… but all of a sudden, just out of the blue they come. Here we go:

- seeing Victoria falls from both Zambia and Zimbabwe... three rainbows at the same time, one almost a complete circle

- eating sadza with my hands

- women talking about how they got married

- getting into Malawi legally and going out illegally

We found out at the border that I needed a visa ahead of time and I didn't have it. What to do? I had to get in somehow. After pleading for about 10-15 minutes the man gave me a paper and told me to go to some station. The funny thing is you had to go in the country first to get a visa! And what if you didn't get it? The man made me read the paper carefully and sign it. It said that I was to be deported in two days otherwise. Well.. we were going to leave the country in two days anyway... so Jeff didn't bother to drive all that way and they smuggled me out of the country as matter of factly.

- going into a Chinese restaurant in Tanzania and listening to French music...

- the bus ride from Arusha to Nairobi

Thought we were the only white people on the bus with Jody. I unfortunately lack the talent to describe the bus, the 45 degree inclined red satin seats, the ramshackle radio, the lively music radiating from it which filled the sweaty air, and of course the people, all of whom can be the subject of a story by themselves. Take my word for it and experience for yourself! It’s going to be one of the most remarkable days in your life.

- the cheetah kill in Masia Mara

I somehow knew that we were going to see something good that day. See, I'm lucky :) Actually I would have thought I would feel bad... seeing the poor gazelle struggle. But I guess that’s nature! Sally and Mike saw a lion mate, I was jealous at first but they said it was rare to see a kill and the mating had lasted only five seconds!

- being stuck in mud

How many times I don't remember. But I cannot forget the one... being stuck after only and only 5 seconds Jeff had said "Let's see what will happen." :)

- breaking down, being stuck in mud, being stuck in sand, having to get the sandladders down, being splattered with mud, being soaked in water from head to foot...

All these things that would make me feel frustrated if I were at home are fun here. Maybe that's what travelling is all about. The art of being able to laugh at life's difficulties... yes, i like this... here's my definition of travel... the art of turning trouble into a comedy!

- quote from Jeff:
"We could have killed two people today if we had tried harder."

That was our first day in Ethiopia. And that was my first time driving a Land Rover. I wouldn’t have thought it would be any different than driving a normal car. I mean there’s the gas pedal, the brakes and the clutch, then there’s the gear-shift, and that’s all there is to driving, right? Well, right… but this particular Land Rover is a bit shaky :)

But I guess what happened that day has nothing to do with our truck! The funny thing I was thinking what great story it would be for the newspaper I was writing to if I got into an accident, they would like it ‘cause it would be sensation. But then how were they to know if I didn’t tell them. We were in a far away land after all.

As these thoughts were running through my mind, this man who probably meant to cross the street just froze in the middle of the road with a bewildered look on his face! He had not realized that I was approaching since he had not cared to look first. Now trying to decide whether he should go forward or back... moved in the direction I steered the wheel! I spun around the wheel and he turned the way I was headed. I was sure I would hit him... or the hay pile. Luckily I succeeded in missing both :) I felt bad and relieved at the same time. Bad because of the graveness of the incident, relieved nothing happened.

A couple hours later on… Jeff is at the driver's seat… almost the same scenario goes flashing by... this time the hero being an old woman! Guess it’s not us but rather the Ethiopian’s belief that the roads are built to be pedestrian walkways :)

- spice tour in Zanzibar, the baskets the children wove us in five minutes, the Zanzibar coke (coconut juice)

- the famous Kenyan soldier!

In Kenya a soldier had asked for a 50 $ bribe. Jeff said "What if I give you 3 pens?" I was sitting in awe at the back thinking what Jeff was doing??! I mean 50 dollars versus 3 pens??!! Was Jeff kidding?! But guess what??! The soldier said "Okay"!!! And before he went away he said "She looks young," pointing at me. Didn't understand why.

I accounted this story to the newspaper I was writing to. And they translated it as "The Kenyan soldier set eyes on me." A friend who read this news wrote "That Kenyan soldier must be either blind or cross-eyed."

Yeah, right :) I still smile when I remember this.

- sitting on a tree in Lake Tana; remembering the childhood I never got to live

- august 16th... candle, fire, lightning

Viktor's birthday candle, all five us sitting around a fire, and lightning striking over the lake

- playing ball with children who took me into their game as I was passing by

The ball, pieces of ragged clothing wrapped around a plastic bag...

- sharing the pastry I bought with three little boys in the lobby of the hotel

I don't know why but people in Gonder had the habit of walking you to your hotel and it is so much more fulfilling when you have someone to share your food with.

- playing table tennis on the street in Gondar

- laughing with the women at the hair-dresser as I made funny hair.

It is sort of fun when you cannot speak the language... and you don’t need a translation for a smile in any language

- being asked to go to the police station for the first time in my life

There is fighting in South of Sudan and you aren't allowed to go there anyway. You have to register in every city and have to have a travel permit. I could never understand why people fight but they do! Anyway, Sudanese people are mostly so nice and friendly. There are always exceptions to the rule though. One day, I was stopped by this man on the street because I had taken a picture of a mosque! He wanted to take my film, but since my camera was digital he couldn’t. I showed him the picture and asked what was wrong with it. He didn’t speak English, was just trying to snatch the camera out of my hand and I was hanging onto it. He then found a soldier, but the soldier didn’t speak English either. So then they found someone who spoke English and he said to me “He suspects you, I suspect you.” I wonder what he suspected? That I was a spy? “What’s wrong with taking a picture of a mosque?” I asked again. Couldn’t get any answer. They said I had to go to the police station. Of course I wasn’t going to go! Why should I?! Finally I deleted the pictures and walked away. I couldn’t argue with stupid people! We had a small problem the last day, too. I guess there are officials who have a complex, who would like to feel themselves important. Well, as they say in Africa.. Hakuna Matata!

- sleeping under a date tree in the Sudan

- missing Meroe and being stuck in Wadi Halfa, Sudan for about a week waiting for the cargo ferry

Even though there was nothing to do, those 6 days are probably going to be the most memorable days of this trip.

- going out for a walk with the hyeanas

I had read a book called "The Impossible Journey" A book about a man and a woman crossing the Sahara from west to east on camelback in 13 months. After reading such a book, I wanted to feel the endlessness of the desert, the vastness of the sky and grandness of the rocks which looked invincible... Soooo I went out for a walk at night.

I was lying and night-dreaming when in the distance I saw about 25-30 men walking slowly in front of a car. I wondered if this was some kind of strange tradition or something like Klu-Klux-Klan? Life has a certain routine in Wadi Halfa. You get up 7ish, have tea with milk and some biscuits, at 11 you have breakfast, 4 o’clock lunch, 6 pm tea (normal), weddings are at 9 and they end 11 pm which means time for dinner! And at midnight the lights go out! So I thought this might be one of the rituals that I did not know of yet.

Sudan is safe but I didn't want men to see me alone in the middle of the night. I got up and started walking back home. Going into a different street each time to avoid the crowd, but turn a corner and there they were! In the end, I found out that they were men of the village trying to trace me! The whole town had gotten out to search for me because there were hyeanas in the area! Thought that was funny in a way... because here they were looking for me and I was trying to avoid them. It never occurred to me that they would be looking for me!

- have you ever been afraid of your hand?

We had henna done on our hands in Sudan. Married women can get henna on their feet too, singles are supposed to have them on their hands only. They told us that red henna meant that you wanted to get married. Of course, they told this after it was too late! That night, at dinner, I suddenly jerked my hand away.. thinking there was a dark, ugly bug on my hand :)

- washing with a bucket of water

- thinking to myself "it's good to know you won't be cold when you go out"

- Nile, Abu Simbel, sunset, warm breeze

- Nile on the horizon, houses made of bricks, desert flowing as the truck makes it's way in the midday sun

- my first sweetheart Egypt

was a bit of disappointment. I went to see the sound and light show at Karnak with the rest of the team. I had been so impressed by it 10 years ago. The huge crowd, the mystifying atmosphere of the temple… plus, it was my first trip and I was young. They lit-up this huge statue and the man started speaking in this profound voice “I, Ramses the 2nd, You can imagine the vastness of my empire: I had 600 sons, 500 daughters…” I had thought to myself “A man can have that many children, but a woman can’t. That’s unfair!” Well, I found out that it actually was not the case. The numbers were rather 60 and 50 and the man had married four of his daughters!!

Got to admit, 600 and 500 sound so much more striking :) And now I know the truth I won’t be able to tell it like that :)

You should not run into your first-love after years, see him bald and fat.

- Jeff wiggling his feet like a child

- lying on a beach in Gouna, moonlight, Arab music in the distance

- and of course above all: Viktor, Awad, Mithat in Wadi Halfa, Grace in Ethiopia, the Greek-Sudanese boy Ducas who said "I'm just a dot in a sentence", Mefaret at Hotel Shady, Abdullah in Syria and friends with no names... all the smiles on faces I won't remember...


I believe Africa is a great continent. And the thing I like most about Africa is the black people. I like seeing people who are completely different than me. And what I’ve realized in this trip is that before I was more interested in countries, places to see, history, nature and stuff like that, now I’m more interested in people. I mean, even if I hadn’t seen any sights in Ethiopia, it would have been worth the trip to play ball with children on the street...

And you just learn the true meaning of "Hakuna Matata" through experience in Africa. You get used to hearing it everywhere. I remember that from somewhere else. Oh yes, it was the "Lion King" No problem! Nothing in life is so serious as long is it's not a matter of life and death or no permanent injuries are done.

Haraka haraka haina baraka.
Life has a slow pace here. No hurries no worries in Africa. This continent has a lot to teach.

Copyright January 1999-2011
All rights reserved - Jeff Willner
Contact: jeffwillner@yahoo.com