. . . 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.




#2 - The Great Zimbabwe
Jody Finver - 11 July 01

(Harare, ZIMBABWE) There’s so much that I wanted to write about but right now I am stunned by the scenery before me. I am in the back seat of the Rover and from the time I started typing this, the mountain-filled sky transformed from a sherbet rainbow of dark yellows and tangerine to merlot, burnt orange and indigo. The road has turned, so Zimbabwe’s box of Crayolas is to my left, blending clockwise, growing darker into the violet that is ahead of me. To the right, midnight blue and then blackness.

In a few minutes the sky will be dark, illuminated by the constellations, the white brightness of this ThinkPad, our low beam headlights (brights don’t work) and the red light that is permanently on in the dash (is it the oil? the fuel? Commissioner Gordon trying to reach Batman?….who the heck knows.)

We’ve been driving all day, nothing unusual about that. Tonight, Rob, Jeff, Devy and I are headed to the Great Zimbabwe ruins (Sally is in Jo’burg with her boyfriend.) The Great Zim….It’s perhaps the greatest archaeological find of the sub Saharan continent. Yeah I know.. YAWN. Seriously though, it’s a relatively small area of mostly stone enclosures, yet, 10,000 to 20,000 people lived here in medieval times. The city flourished from the 11th to the 15th century. And here I was on my way to it….waaaaaay after the park closed. Devy thought it might be too late when we got there and suggested we head straight to Harare. Jeff’s reply was classic.... "No, we’re going to the Great Zim. We’ll break in. I’ll show you the site under starlight and then we’ll sneak back out and head to Harare."

Breaking into a National Monument, a World Heritage site, on our first day back in Zimbabwe. Sweeeet.

If the country weren’t under such strains from a failing economy and corrupt government I am sure more people would have been there and our attempts at mischief would be thwarted. But the country is like a ghost town, so we figured odds were in our favor that the place wouldn’t be so tightly guarded.

We pulled into the Lodge, parked and as a night watchman approached, Jeff broke out in his over- enunciated ‘let me speak like you my friend’ dialect. It works like a charm with the locals, gets us through borders, past checkpoints unscathed, and out of hefty tickets, but the guy sounds like Babu on Seinfeld. This time around, he told her we were waiting for friends in Rondavel 3..(a Rondavel is a hut and we’d be back in an hour. The Jedi mind melt worked again.

We grabbed flashlights and water and headed out casually into the darkness. Jeff sauntered up to main entrance, a chained gate. Our fearless leader gave it a tug and began to climb. There he was hoisting his body over this gate, looking cool, straddling the top when with perfect comedic timing, the chain opened up and the gate swung open with him still holding on. Devy, Rob and are were trying our hardest not to laugh too loud as Jeff climbed down and we walked into the site.

Jeff whispered out the commands as we walked. "Lights out. Stealth mode. Radio silence. " I’d say to start humming the theme to Mission Impossible, but it was more like a scene out of Three Stooges. Rob with a headlamp on ready to go to work in the Kimberly mines. Jeff meandering along, water bottle held behind his back with both hands, as if this was the MET on a rainy day and he were in the impressionist wing. Devy worrying about snakes as she shwwwsh, shwsssssh, shwsssshed along in her track pants and me waiting for my eyes to adjust to the darkness knowing full well they never would and that I would continue to stumble not knowing if I saw rocks or holes or small animals in front of me.

Past the lights of the guard posts and museum, Fred, Barney, Wilma and Betty tippy-toed to the Great Enclosure where the Queen lived. We walked along in the cool of the night, but once inside the enclosure the temperature increased. Heat from the midday sun was stored in the massive elliptical wall, and radiated back out during the night - a medieval heat pump. The mortarless walls stand 11 meters high and are 5 meters thick. 5 meters! It’s nearly 100 meters across, 255 meters in circumference. Wandering through its passageways, over stone steps listening to Jeff describe what we would be seeing if there were any light was amazing. And then outside the enclosure he said, "OK, now we have to head over there (and he pointed off to a hill far away). If we can get past any guards, sneak behind the curio shop and then make our way up the hill we can see the king’s quarters and a view of the whole place. 1 kilometre. In pitch darkness." The Hill Complex. Piece o’ cake.

Once known as the Acropolis, it’s steps began, wide and long, then what the $%#%^? They shrank midway to steps that were four inches long and unstable. We hit a flat landing and the next ascent was through narrow stairwells where you had to squeeze through single file. If anyone tried to attack the Hill Complex they had to march up one at a time.

Through these passageways we shined our flashlights through our shirts to keep the light dim. Just enough to see the stone steps and know we were going. We came to a flat place that seemed to be the top. Rob looked up at a bunch of boulders next to us and said, " We aren’t at the top. That’s the top." Didn’t think twice about it. Plotting a way up in the darkness, we climbed the boulders. It was a thirty foot drop to one side, rocks below. The top of the boulder we were standing on crept up against the bottom of the one we needed to climb. It was about 20 feet high, round and relatively smooth with no hand holds. In between them was a slice of granite, sticking up. A wedge between a crevice and a perfect foot hold. A hoist, a shimmy, a bit of crawling and there we were. I stood on the highest point near the edge, stared off into darkness so far below and imagined this place teeming with tourists during the day. At that very moment, it was all ours. We sat on this boulder, the size of my apartment in San Fran cisco, stared off, each of us absorbing the moment. We talked. We laughed. We said nothing. The four of us looking down on this ancient city, no one knowing that we were even there. The silence of night. Shooting stars. You could hear your blood pumping it was such a high. And yet it was so peaceful.

We waited as long as we could for the moon to come out but it was already 9:30pm and we needed to get on the road to head to Harare.. Down the rocks.. past the lit museum…here a guard…. there a guard… crunching the twigs and dried leaves below our feet. Snap, crackle.. shhhhhhh!. Pop… shhhhhh!.. swssssh swssshh...D’oh. Giggle. Swssssh… Swssshhhh….

By the time we got to the truck the moon came out..The watchman, who thought we were waiting for friends, now had a companion with her. Jeff told them we found our friends and they are not staying there so we were leaving. A tip to both of them for ‘good luck’ -- nudge, nudge, wink, wink, -- and we were off grinning from ear to ear. The restaurant which was closing stayed open for us and after we finished eating we got back in the truck and drove to Harare.

Much to my own doubts that I pragmatically verbalized every few minutes in a 40 minute search….we amazingly found a backpackers to stay at near the airport.. Down a long,dirt road. Out in the middle of nowhere. Empty. Quiet. Cheap. So we checked in.. at 3:15 in the morning.

Devy and Rob are on a flight to Nairobi. So now it’s just Jeff and me and we are driving to Vic Falls. Like many of the drives thus far, it is much longer than we thought. You quickly get used to driving long hours, searching for accommodation long after people have gone to bed, making a crazed dashed through border crossings as they close. As I conclude this entry, I wonder what lies ahead that could possibly top the last 24 hours. Then I remember….. I’m driving the truck today. That’s a start I suppose.

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