Today is Midsummer’s eve but we’re not celebrating much this year, just chilling at home over the weekend. Will maybe go for a boat ride on the lake, fix up my bike that’s got flat tyres, do some research and do some work on the cruiser at the garage.
One of the biggest things on Midsummer’s is to eat pickled herring, smoked salmon and other nice things from the waters. But as I told you in a blog post just the other day, a certain person in this household wouldn’t go near those things for money and I just couldn’t be bothered buying it only for myself and us having to cook different dishes.
So today we spoiled ourselves with a nice brunch with something else very traditional on Midsummer’s instead: strawberries. I made American pancakes with strawberries and maple syrup. Yummy!!
Already earlier this spring we reached an agreement with Tierra, that they were going to provide us with a set of outdoor clothing for the trip, it’s just taken a while to sort it all out. But last Sunday we could make a visit to a shop in the city center that has a wide selection of Tierra clothes and we spent more than 2,5 hours in there, trying everything on and getting familiar with the clothes. It was great fun and we’re very excited to be dressed in Tierra gear during the trip. We’re talking super high quality outdoor clothing that also looks and feels awesome. And they make what they can out of organic cotton or recycled nylon/polyester! The stuff that isn’t Gore-Tex or other advanced materials for outdoor activities, that is.
I just got an email this week from my contact at Tierra saying the clothes have been ordered and will be sent to us, arriving shortly. I can’t wait! As soon as the clothes get here I will take pictures and show you! We’re looking at a good set of clothing for both Brian and myself, from shorts & t-shirts (a sporty dress in my case) for the hotter days to durable pants and comfy fleece jackets for cooler nights and shell jacket and pants that will keep us dry if the weather gets really nasty on us. Weather gods – bring it on!
Us outside the shop last weekend, ready to go in and start trying on some Tierra gear!
When your boyfriend doesn’t eat fish or seafood, I guess it’s a little ironic to be working at the fish section of a grocery store. But, that’s the case. Brian, for some reason, doesn’t eat fish or seafood. And I mainly work at the fish section at the grocery store where I work extra. And believe me, it can be torture being at work, admiring this gorgeous counter filled to the rim with fresh seafood of all kinds, knowing we’re not having seafood for dinner this evening either. Once in a while I will buy something from there and whenever I eat out I tend to order fish, so I do get some, but it would have been very nice if we could enjoy it together. Poor thing, I’ve force fed him grilled salmon a couple of times. He obediently tried it and ate it, but didn’t enjoy it.
Anyhow, Normark has provided us with knives from Rapala and torches from Princeton Tech. As we were checking out their selection of knives I said to Brian “There’s no way I’m just going to watch you fish in every country, but not enjoy a single one of the ones you catch. Not now that I’ve actually learnt how to filé fish!” So here we go, I’m now equipped with a great filé knife and will enjoy freshly caught fish, cooked to perfection on a fire under the evening sky at camp. I’m going to eat it straight out of the pan with some butter and lemon and I’m gonna go mmmmmm. And he can just sit there with his steak.
A few weeks ago we had a weekend which was a four day holiday – the last long weekend before Christmas they said, so we took the chance to both enjoy the time off and get some work done in the garage. While Brian was working on ten different things as usual I was focusing on the back arms of the cruiser. The whole back section has gone through some modifications since we got the car.
The hatches had worn down a bit and didn’t keep it closed properly so Brian decided to make completely new locks for the back arms to hold all the gear in place steadily. Since there’s going to be a gas bottle, a jerry can and one or two spare wheels, they will carry some weight and can’t be rattling. So after he had welded some new mounts and locks on there it looked like this (the grey is primer to prevent it from rusting):
But that was in December so it’s been grey like that for a while. Now I finally got around to paint it the other weekend. It was rusty, oily, scraped, dusty and full of old cable ties before:
All I did was to sand down the rough patches, wipe it clean and spray paint it but it sure made a big difference! Looks like new!
My friend Eva commented the other day “My goodness, you guys just keep working on that car… But it’s sure looking great!” And I told her what I had just been thinking a few days earlier. Here we are, with this massive trip ahead of us, not knowing if we can leave as planned because we’re lacking money for it, but with this awesome beast of a vehicle that we’ve invested so much time, work and money into. We could have gone about it differently. We could have kept all our savings in the bank for the trip, just bought a crappy old car and fixed it up just enough for it to do its job, not worrying about any advanced maintenance or functions or the way it looked or anything. (Just be ready to bring a whole lot of spares for the numerous breakdowns we’d be facing.) Then, maybe, we could have now been confidently saying we ARE leaving in August. But we didn’t do it that way. We chose to get a good car and fix it up nicely for two reasons. First of all, the car is the trip. It’s what will get us through, it’s what we’re relying on to get anywhere at all – and frankly, if I can avoid the unnecessary breakdowns and discomforts I will, because on a trip like this you face difficulties even with the best vehicle. Second of all, it’s an investment for the future. When we arrive in Vilanculos, Moçambique, the cruiser will stay there. We’re going to import it and keep it as our car when we settle down to live in southern Africa for the next few years.
In fact, the cruiser might have an even more important task when we come back to Africa. It will most likely continue to be our home for some time after the trip. It’s kitted out in a way that we can be self-sufficient for quite some time, provided we can use solar cell power or get electricity from somewhere once in a while. There’s everything we need, a bedroom and a kitchen – the only thing we’d make a plan for would probably be a toilet.
This is how Brian and his family started their life in Moçambique, when moving there from Zimbabwe. They bought a plot of land and lived in a caravan while preparing to build a house. They extended the caravan space with another room and a toilet and bit by bit their home in Moçambique began to take shape – until they could one day move the caravan to back of the garden and admire they’re new built house.
One of the absolute best things about planning for a trip is to do the packing, don’t you agree? I know it may sound silly but it’s such an exciting stage of the planning, getting to think about what you will need during your journey. I can start planning on what to bring weeks in advance, preferably writing lists so I don’t forget anything. And when planning a long trip like this one, what to bring has obviously been on our minds from the start and we finally got around to put it all into one long list – check out the equipment page that I just updated!
Our trip is obviously the more outdoorsy kind since we’re going to be camping almost every night and live with basic facilities. But it’s still very different from the outdoor trips I’ve been on before. I have done my fair share of travelling light, doing quite a few hiking trips into the woods and mountains when I was younger. Then you know that you have to limit the equipment list to the absolute necessary things, because you are going to carry whatever you bring on your back. Your tent, your sleeping bag, your clothes, your kitchen, your fuel, your food, everything. The first few days are always so hard when hiking. I usually end up with a slightly too heavy backpack no matter how hard I try and your body isn’t used to carry the load for hours a day. Plus you usually have the steep climbing onto the mountains the first couple of days, making it even harder.
Compared to that, travelling by car is luxury. You can bring loads of gear AND heavy stuff! I’m so looking forward to being able to bring pretty much everything I need, although keeping it to a minimum of course. I don’t have to cut the shaft off my toothbrush just to save a few grams!
However, I have a feeling we will be standing there with all our gear, about to the pack up the cruiser – and we will only be able to fit half of it in there… But we’ll see! Making a proper packing list was the first step, getting all our gear together and actually test packing the cruiser will be the next, very exciting, thing to do!
So now, let us know, did we forget anything on the list? Is there something you wouldn’t bring? What do you always travel with? What do you always bring but never use?
Here’s more or less what we’ve planned so far around the cruiser’s different storage areas – but it will probably change a few times when we actually start packing it…
Today is Sweden’s National Day. Brian spent the day out fishing with his colleagues (whether they caught anything I don’t know, because he was fast asleep on the couch when I came home – that’s what fresh air does to you!) and I went to the movies with my friend Linnea (watching the Hunger games). Simply a good day off!
As in many European countries, xenophobia is growing here, even gaining political ground these days. Throughout the years the racists have been using the Swedish flag as their symbol, almost taking it over so profoundly that Swedes in general have felt awkward about their national flag. I couldn’t watch any of the country wide celebrations today but I have a strong feeling we’re slowly taking it back and it makes me happy. I was also happy to see many tributes, nice words and reflections about our beautiful country on Facebook and Twitter today. As one of our most famous comedians wrote; “My family is Swedish-Norwegian-Finnish-American-Colombian-christian-jewish-muslim-hetero-homo – and we’re all Swedes! Happy National Day, everyone!” which 22 715 people have liked on Facebook so far. Another comedian tweeted “Thank you Sweden, I love you! A lot can get better, but more importantly, a lot could get much worse. I promise to fight for it not to.” But my favourite tribute was written by a friend on Facebook; “Shake that booty, Sweden, because you have such a goodlooking butt!”
Someone else pointed out that maybe it’s the Swedes of foreign origin who celebrate the most today. Because they’ve experienced the contrasts. We were advised to put a Swedish flag on the car for the trip. So that we’re not assumed to come from countries with other foreign policy agendas, such as – uhm – war. “And also, everyone you meet has a relative in Sweden.”
We don’t do everything right, but the way the world is these days I like the fact that we open up to people in need. I’m proud of that.
I just updated the route page. For a long time it’s been telling you guys that we’re driving through Syria and that’s something we’ve known for months we won’t be able to to, so it was definitely about time I updated it a bit. As you can see on the new map, we had to leave out several countries when changing the route. So it’s not without sorrow I’m drawing little lines across the Mediterranean sea. That ship ride will probably be an adventure as everything else, but we’re a little sad we’re missing out on so much of southeastern Europe. But it will still be there when we get back! Maybe we can go visit that region sometime in the future instead! Who wants to come along? Balkan Road Trip in a couple of years from now!
As you all know by now, we’re struggling to reach our budget and are wondering if we will be able to leave as planned in August. You could pretty much say that’s all we think about right now. Not only is it tough to face a change of plans once you’ve set your mind on doing something and planned and prepared for it for a long time, we also have “real” reasons to want to leave this autumn. If we don’t leave in August or September or possibly beginning of October we’re going to have to wait until March, April sometime, simply because 1) the cruiser’s offroad tyres might be great in snow but Bambi-like on ice apparently and 2) it will be too cold camping outside during winter and too expensive paying for proper accommodation in several countries even if we could drive.
Also, staying here this autumn would mean the cruiser would be due for another inspection. You should see Brian’s face from just thinking about that. That would mean removing everything again. Rock sliders, bull bar, back arms, spare tyre, fridge, back seats, recovery gear and anything else adding weight to the car. And putting the load bars back in. Most of these things are a lot of hard work and since he put them back in not thinking he’d ever have to remove them for another inspection he’s not too keen on doing it all over again. The option would be to ignore the inspection but that would mean driving the car illegally and that would obviously affect the insurance so that’s not really going to work.
With summer coming up and most companies closing for several weeks towards July, August we’re swiftly running out of time. We have decided to give it one last big push up until Midsummer’s holidays (end of June). After that we might have to steer over to some sort of plan B. So lately we started going through our options to really find out what plan B might look like. There are ways of saving money but it’s all a sacrifice of some kind. We just have to weigh it towards actually getting to leave as planned. Maybe it would be worth some sacrifices?
This all also involves new research on what route to take. Since Syria is out of the question we’ve mainly looked at how recent travellers have made their way to Africa – and it’s not easy. Take the two Swedish groups for example, one leaving earlier this year and being in eastern Africa now, the other starting their journey just the other day. The first group drove to Turkey and shipped their car across and flew over to Egypt themselves. They paid quite a lot to do that, being in the hands of the local officials. The second group shipped their car all the way from the west coast of Sweden to Egypt and flew down. We’ve started looking into doing something similar but we know two things; we’d like to drive down through Europe and ship from the northern Mediterranean somewhere (even if we have to sacrifice most of the European part of the trip by cutting down on the number of countries and driving through much quicker than planned, we would like to see some of it!) and we don’t want to leave the car on a ferry if we can avoid it. The guy I spoke to the other day, with Grimaldi lines, warned us about having anything loose in the car since the rules are that all cars are left unlocked onboard the ships. I said that we had thought of that and were going to pack everything into the big storage system in the back and lock the back door – but then he told me the back door can’t be locked either! Maybe we could make a fairly secure locking system for the storage system, but we concluded the best thing would be to be on the same boat as the cruiser.
Grimaldi first told me we could ship it from Italy to Alexandria and that we might be able to go as passengers on the boat. Great! We thought we had our solution, but were still a bit nervous to find out how much it would cost. But then that illusion was crushed by another guy, informing us that passengers can’t disembark in Alexandria. He pointed out another option though, something we had considered before but discarded long ago thinking it would be too much of a hassle: Going to Israel.
If you travel between Israel and the muslim countries in the region you will most likely encounter big difficulties getting into the muslim countries with Israeli stamps in your passport. People get around this simply by having double passports! So we were told that this could actually be an option, we could embark (us and the cruiser happily together) in Italy and disembark in Israel and then drive into Egypt. At a total cost of about 10 000 SEK – much cheaper than the option we had heard of before. And as I told Brian all of this he lit up and said “Hey, that also means we could go to Jordan and the Dead sea!”
So now we’re continuing the research – would the Israel option work for us? Are passenger ferries at all an option and how much would they be? I know how to solve the double passport situation for me, but we still need to figure out what Brian must do. (We both needed new passports anyway since mine expires later this year and Brian’s won’t have enough empty pages in it for this trip.)
So the two main ways we’re looking at to save money right now – and increase our chances of being able to leave this year – are:
– sacrificing the European stretch of the trip. Instead of spending about three weeks getting to know southern and southeastern Europe we will pretty much go straight down to Italy. Europe is expensive compared to most African countries, the diesel is more expensive than in Africa. Spending five days to a week there instead of three weeks would definitely save us some money. We had really looked forward to seeing more of the Balkan area and many other places but it’s a sacrifice we might have to make.
– shipping the car across from Italy to Israel and arranging it all from Sweden if possible, rather than driving to Turkey and trying to arrange a trip across to Egypt on site with local offices, risking bribes and problems and delays on both sides.