. . . 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.



#5 - African Sketches
Jeff Willner - 21 July 2001

(Bulawayo, ZIMBABWE) - Low on Zimbabwe dollars and the gas gauge on empty, we circled the streets in the Land Rover looking for money changers. With a bank rate of 57Z/$1 versus a street rate of 160Z per $1, Jody and I were highly motivated to make a black market deal, but there were no money changers in sight. Finally pulling up to the curb of the city park, I gestured to some local youths. “Change money?” I asked.
“Yes! Yes!” They crowded around the truck windows. “We give good rate, 100Z/$1”
“That’s a terrible rate.”
“Good rate! Everyone happy.”
“You happy – I not happy.”

The exchanges continued, both sides making little progress. Finally one of the guys looked at us with a sheepish smile and asked if we wanted some advice. Of course. “Don’t go to guys on the street like us, they are scam artists! You must find the women with white hats.” Find the women with white hats?

We drove off around the corner, searching for these mysterious women. I almost stopped a woman walking down the street in a white dress but thought better of it. There, on the corner. Two women were standing casually, chatting to each other – and wearing white turbans. Their eyes scanned the traffic, like waitresses checking for orders. We waved and they became animated suddenly, motioning us to drive around the corner and park. Haggling for the rate occurred normally, but once we’d agreed, they made a strange request – we must drive them to a particular spot in the city. Concerned about being led into some kind of a trap, we tentatively drove them a few blocks into the market area, turned a final corner and gasped. Like the core of an ant hill, we’d found the queen’s lair – hundreds of white turbaned women flocked around the intersection, some arriving with clients, some leaving, many just sitting on store-front steps and watching.

Our money changers told us to wait and ran off into the middle of the confusion. We waited, uncomfortably aware that several policemen stood on the corner eying us. From the cluster of turbans, a large black woman waddled forth carrying a massive purse and climbed laboriously into the rear of the truck. “Drive!” she commanded, gasping a bit from the exertion of the climb.
“Where to?”
“Anywhere, away from the police.”

We rounded a few corners, counted the vast pile of 100Z notes (they really do need a 1,000Z bill) and handed over our US greenbacks. I was delighted with the novelty of the white turban system, I’d never seen it before and haven’t seen it since. “Thank you very much” we said as she eased herself back onto the street. She answered with the plumby English accent only found in former colonies, "Pleh-shaah."


(Livingstone, ZAMBIA) – The crowd pressed together straining to see, captivated by the sight. Blood covered an area the size of a swimming pool, viscous in the hot dirt, a nightmarish wading pool surrounding its grisly source. Beside a battered pickup a pile of flesh gleamed wetly. White bone and gristle, tendons. It was almost three feet high. Up on the road stood a minivan, windshield smashed. In front of it a small tree.

It must have been a blind pass. The van overtaking around the corner, surprising the oncoming pickup with its human cargo. Both dodging off the road. The minivan smashing into the tree. Wide-eyed, the pickup driver yanking the steering wheel further to the left, airborne off the steep shoulder, crashing into the baked clay. Passengers thrown from the truck in flight, impacting like scatter shot, exploding open.

I eased past the minivan. Its windscreen a mad, stained-glass cacophony of flesh, grease, and glass. People pressed in and then moved on. Today's entertainment - death in the afternoon.


(Close to the border, MALAWI) – Something was loose on the roof. As we crashed through some of the most severe pothole clusters yet, there was a metallic clanking sound coming from the roof. We pulled over and searched the vehicle, Jody spotted the offender, “Is that propane tank supposed to be upside down?” As Mike and I strapped it back in place, a cluster of kids gathered around the truck.

Some areas in Africa are so empty that you can drive for hours and not see a soul. But in most areas if you stop for any length of time the kids will find you – eager to check out anything new. A row of mud huts was barely visible in the dark, the kids’ village no doubt. Sally and Gulin tried talking to them. Something you notice quickly about most Africans is how quickly they smile and laugh – and Malawi is know as the “warm heart of Africa”, renowned for the friendliness of its people.

I'm not sure who started it, maybe Gulin, but someone took a flash photo with their digital camera. OOOOHH yelled the kids. "What is that?!" asked one young man, "It makes daylight at night!" We all grabbed the cameras and started taking photos. With every shot there would be an enormous cheer, and then everyone would cluster around to see themselves in the digital photo display. It was really tremendous, like scoring the game wining goal with every photo. Almost too much fun to stop. We handed out some cookies and shook a lot of hands. Gulin very reluctantly hopped into her seat as the truck started rolling forward. Africa is like that - visceral. Pragmatic, tragic, unexpectedly welcoming. 'Civilization' hasn't buffed away the edges, there are no spectator seats. Life is real.


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