Hurtigruten

Lilli Allgemein, Europe 0 Comments

It’s been quite a while now since we’ve been aboard the Kong Harald, one of the Hurtigrouten-ships. So, how exactly did we get the chance to spend a week travelling along Norway’s beautiful coastline? Lilli’s mother invited us to join her on this trip (thank you so much ♡).
The whole trip was a very spontaneous thing as there was a special offer on the Hurtigruten website. Only a few hours after Lillis mom asked us if we wanted to come, we had everything set in stone and were excited to go and see the land of endless fjords and trolls only a couple of weeks later.

But what are the Hurtigruten you might ask. Well, originally the Hurtigruten are the traditional Norwegian post and ferry ships that have been connecting the small towns and villages along the coast since 1893 – often times the only way to get to remote towns and villages in winter. From the beginning, the ships were used for daily mail and cargo as well as a way of transportation for the Norwegians and for tourists. During the last decades they built newer and bigger ships, renovated the old ones and focused more and more on providing a tourist service along the way. It’s not like a regular cruise ship, but the ships have got the comforts and services regular ferries probably wouldn’t have.

The original route takes you along the coast from Bergen to Kirkenes (or vice versa) in 6 days and lets you explore the beauty of the fjords, the stony shores and the small towns along the way. Keep your eyes open, there might be a troll hidden somewhere along the way..

We boarded the ship at the end of August, just after the hotter summer months but before the onset of winter along the route. The cheapest and most convenient connection for us from Hamburg to Bergen was via Copenhagen. After we arrived in Bergen we took a bus (about a 40 minute ride) into town and walked a short distance from the bus stop to the Hurtigruten terminal.

The ship wasn’t ready for boarding yet so we handed in our luggage and went for a stroll through town. We had about 3 hours left and got the chance to explore the market by the harbor where we grabbed some fresh smoked salmon buns and went on to search for the most essential thing : coffee. Norway is one of the countries driving the third wave coffee movement with superbly talented coffee roasters so you’ll find specialty coffee shops in even the smaller towns. Bergen’s kaffemisjonen is one of these café’s and we got to enjoy one of Tim Wendelboe’s creations from Oslo.
We spent the remaining time in Bryggen, probably the most touristy place in the city, but definitely worth a visit.
Having had dinner with a couple of friends that live in Bergen, we left the harbor as the sun set, excited what the next days on our way to Kirkenes in the north would bring.

During the six days en route we passed many tiny harbor towns where we spent between 15 minutes and a couple of hours.
In most of the harbors the ship stops for about 30 minutes, which is usually enough time to step outside and have a quick look around.
In bigger towns you get more time to explore, usually between two and four hours. The time you spend at the destinations also depends on the current weather situation. In Trondheim we had a meeting set up with relatives but the wind was so strong that day that the ship couldn’t dock at the regular pier and we had to wait outside until the sea calmed down a bit. When we were finally able to dock we only had about 30 minutes left so we only grabbed a quick coffee at Dromedar Kaffebar and were off again.

You can also book guided trips from almost every harbor along the way but I think that most of the trips are crazily overpriced and we aren’t the biggest fans of guided tours to begin with as it is way more fun to go and explore something by yourself. We only went on one trip where we got to see a husky farm. I guess that that trip is way more fun in winter when you can actually go on a little ride with the dog sleds but in the summertime you can basically only pet the dogs – but hey – cute little baby dogs are there as well! That’s never a bad thing!
Our highlight of the trip was the stretch through the Lofoten and we three were a bit sad that we couldn’t spend more time there. I’m sure that we will be back at some point in the future to hike and explore the stunning mountains.
After six days on board of the Kong Harald we reached our final destination, Kirkenes. We didn’t have any time here to explore the town as we had to rush to the Airport to catch our flight. If you travel to Kirkenes in winter I would definitely suggest to spend a few nights at the Snowhotel Kirkenes which is made completely out of snow and ice. How cool is that?

But what about the ship you might ask. We stayed aboard the ship Kong Harald which was recently renovated. The upper decks are now newly furnished, although they left the lower cabins the same it seems.
The upper decks though are very cozy and it’s great to sit in the lounge, read a book and look at the beautiful scenery slowly passing by outside. You can choose between different meal options depending on the duration of your trip. We booked an all inclusive package because its comes out cheaper than eating at the a la carte restaurant every day and better than the light foods available in the café up top. Included in the package is a buffet for breakfast and lunch and a fixed dinner-menu in the evening. The food is amazing – including lots of salmon – and I feel like each of us gained 10 kg during the trip. Oopsi.

There are many different cabins on the ship.
There are some that are already renovated and some that still have the old designs. You can book them with either a window or ‘inside’ the ship, with your own or shared bathroom. We booked cabins with a window (because I thought that I would get claustrophobic in there if there wasn’t anywhere to look outside) but I can now say that I think that you can easily take a room without a window. First of all you don’t really spend time in there anyways and when you do its mostly dark anyways, so a tiny porthole is pretty much negligible. We had our own little bathroom but you have to make sure to shower when its not too wavy, otherwise the water ends up everywhere.

We really enjoyed our time aboard and hope to come back at some point. Thanks again to B. who made this trip possible for us and we hope that we inspired you guys to put Norway on your list of places to visit.

Conscious Living

Lilli Conscious Living, Minimalism, Responsible Tourism, Sustainability 0 Comments

A (late) happy new year to all of you. As the new year has already begun and with us being in the process of taking apart our life in Germany – we (or especially I) are thinking a lot about the way we live. What we all have, need and want. What makes us happy and what brings us closer to a joyful and simple life? How are we contributing to the lives of others and to a better world in general?
I have a few thoughts that are circling around in my head and that are some kind of a new year resolution for us and here I would like to share them with you.

MINIMALISM

A few days ago I went to a flea market with 4 big bags filled with stuff. Mostly clothes, shoes, and purses. A lot of the pieces were not even worn more than 2-3 times. They were not all mine as I got things to sell from Lukas and my mom as well but still. I estimate that I had at least 200 pieces with me, sold maybe around 90 of them and made 120 Euros. If every piece on my table once cost 10 Euro (and almost everything was definitely more expensive than that) it once had a total value of 2000 Euro. Or maybe even more. And now I can only sell it for almost nothing and nobody is willing to pay more than 3 Euro per piece? That’s crazy and makes me sad! Not because I don’t get a lot of money for my stuff but because I think its depressing how everything loses its value. Think cars are a bad investment, think again.

Okay, so I had my enormous pile of items waiting to be sold and back home there are at least 10 more bags of stuff that I don’t really need or ever use. Over the last three weeks we spent a lot of time going through almost every cabinet and box in our apartment and attic and sorted out stuff that we can throw away or sell. This experience taught me that I never ever want to own as much stuff as we do now. And by modern standards we don’t even own much really. Why would I need and keep things that I never use? Now everything that we use regularly or that has an emotional value for us stays – everything else has to leave. In the next year I want to learn and write more about minimalism. Moving to another continent with just one or two checked bags might be the perfect opportunity for that!

Buy sustainable and fair

Buying sustainable and fair produced products is the logical thing that comes next. I’m of the opinion that you should think twice about everything you buy. Do you really need another shirt if you already own 20? Or a new pair of shoes, a bag or a new phone? And if you decide that you really need it, please consider where the products come from. Most of them are produced in third world countries under horribly unfair and degrading conditions. But today, choosing to work against this is easier than ever. A while ago I started to buy mostly fair and sustainable produced clothes for example. There are of course exceptions (I don’t buy socks for 20 Euros per pair, sorry!) but I try to buy only what I really need or what I’ve been wanting for a long time and, wherever possible, fair produced only. A few brands that I really like are Patagonia, Armedangels and Hessnatur. There’s so much more about that topic and you will definitely find more about fairfashion, greenwashing etc. on the blog in the future. Stay tuned!

(ALMOST) ZERO WASTE

Are you ever thinking about how much waste you produce? The sheer amount is just insane. It shocks me that it is almost impossible to buy ingredients for a proper meal without simultaneously producing a huge amount of waste. I am currently informing myself about ways to avoid that and how to make stuff myself that help me produce less waste. Shampoo or alternative cosmetics are only two examples. But that’s also going to be a whole new topic so for the time being I just want you to maybe stop and think about the amount of waste you produce day in day out, in which ways this plastic waste affects you and your health and if there are ways to avoid this overuse and over-consumption. And if anyone here knows if there is a store where you can buy food in bulk in Cape Town – please let me know.

What does this mean for the blog?

Okay, I am happy now that I shared a few thoughts here. I’m thinking about these topics a lot lately and I think if everyone would just concern themselves a little bit more with them the world would be a tiny bit better. What are you guys thinking about conscious living? Is it something that is on your mind at all? I am curious!

I think that all of the previously mentioned points are very important and that everybody should at least try to live in a more sustainable way. That being said we will focus the blog a bit more into this direction in the future. Don’t think that we both are perfectly handling all of these things, but we are trying our best and we want to improve.

We also have two articles where you find some information about Responsible Tourism and about the dark side of animal-basted tourist attractions already. Go have a look if you haven’t yet.

We are moving to Cape Town

Lilli Africa, Everything Else, Moving, South Africa 0 Comments

Sweet Baby Jesus! We are moving to Cape Town. It’s been quite hard to keep it a secret and not telling everybody what we are up to but now it is more or less official and we can finally tell you.

Let me start at the beginning and explain why we decided to pack up our things and move to the other side of the world.
We came back from our african adventure 9 months ago with our heads and hearts full of wanderlust and not even the tiniest bit cured from the fernweh that tickles our feed since ages. We made plans of what we could do next and where we wanted to go but the authorities (hi Mom ♡) didn’t really agree with us so, after a lot of talking and discussing, we said that we would finish our studies first but with the compromise to combine both – travelling and studying.

It was pretty clear to us that we both of us would love to live in Cape Town for a while so we had a look at the universities down there and found an Honours Degree that suits us both. At the end of summer we applied at two universities and a scholarship and have been waiting for an answer ever since .

So after making us wait for about two months we finally got the confirmation that we’re both accepted. Confirmation came only last Wednesday, while we were visiting our friends in Bavaria – and after seven plus two months of complete uncertainty about our future, that acceptance letter was the most relieving email in a long time.

Now we’re back home, trying to sort out how we’re going to manage our move on such short notice. One last big thing on our To-Do List now is applying for our Visa at the embassy in Berlin where we’ll be this Friday. Then it’s on to packing our stuff, selling what we don’t need anymore, finding somebody that wants to live in our flat in Hamburg, booking our flights and finding a new flat as well as a trustworthy car in South Africa.

So that’s it – That’s been our big secret for the last couple of months and the reason why I said that a lot on this website will change in the future. We would like to take all of you with us on our journey into a new life, our (daily) South African adventures and share everything else with you that we stumble into along the way. We hope you join us – there are exiting times ahead!

thank you very much philip for our new logo ♡

Top 5+ Campsites in Southern & Eastern Africa

Lilli Africa, Camping, Everything Else, On the road, Places, Responsible Tourism 2 Comments

Before we set off to our trip the thought of living in a car for almost 9 months scared me a bit, to be honest. Probably because the one and only time that I’ve been camping before was a three week camping trip through New Zealand in winter. But after the first couple of nights in our cozy car I realized how much I love camping and now, back in Hamburg, i miss the beautiful campsites, wild nature around us and being outside 24/7.

I thought this post might be a great opportunity to take a stroll down memory lane and give you some ideas, tipps and inspiration if you are planning your next trip through Africa or if you are already there, looking for a great place to stay. So here they are – our Top 5 Campsites in Southern and Eastern Africa plus an additional list of campsites that we can recommend.

Wildlife Camp – Zambia

Only separated from the National Park through a riverbed lies this little gem. We’ve stayed here during the dry season which means that the riverbed was the only source of water for the wildlife. Therefore we had elephants, hippos, giraffes and even a pack of lions walking only a few steps away from us looking for water and yummy fresh grass. What I enjoyed the most was fleeing from the crazy heat into the pool which is overlooking the riverbed and parts of the national park, watching the wildlife stroll past us. If you are planning on visiting this beautiful place, here are two tips for you: First, there’s a dirt road which goes from the little town ‘Petauke’ almost directly to the South Luangwa National Park. It’s a great route and if you’ve got the time and the nerves for some rough roads you should give it a try. Tip numero two is: stock up on food before you go there. There is a small town nearby (20 minutes by car) where you can buy fresh fruits and veggies but you should take everything else that you might need with you. If you are too lazy to drive all the way to town, there’s a guy visiting the camp site almost every day that sells his home grown veggies to you – a winwin!

We already wrote a whole article about this place which you can find here.

Old Bridge Backpackers – Botswana

Out of all the places we stayed we spent the most nights at the Old Bridge Backpackers. Its located in Maun, the city which is known as the gate to the famous Okavango Delta.
We stayed here more than 3 weeks in total, reading in the sun, going on different tours and drinking beers at night at the bar, meeting locals and travellers alike. The campsite itself is not really spectacular or fancy but it’s the general vibe that makes this place so awesome. The food (especially the burgers) are delicious, drinks aren’t really expensive and at night tourists and locals are meeting up around the pooltable, sharing stories and having fun.

Coffee Shack – South Africa

It’s not too difficult to find a beautiful campsite in South Africa as there is probably no other country that has a camping culture that huge and developed. Amongst all the campsites and backpackers that we visited in our three months in South Africa one that really stood out to us was the Coffee Shack at the Wild Coast. Mostly the beautiful location, the vibe and the cheap rates are what made it so great.
Especially awesome is that they care a lot about ‘Responsible Tourism‘. They hire mostly local people, collect money for social projects, offer tours where you can visit the private households of the locals (in a responsible way) and they recycle trash and water – whoop!
The property is separated into two areas by a small river, one with the main building, dorms, the campsite (for tents), a kitchen and the restaurant. The second area holds a few little huts, another kitchen and a ablution block as well as an area where you can park if you sleep in an overland-vehicle.
Like I already said are the prices for accommodation, daytrips and meals great for every traveller with a tight budged. If you stay for 4 nights you’ll get the 5th night for free and there’s a free potjie (stew) night once every week.

The last thing that made this place so unique is that due to the fact that they include the community into the business and that therefore everyone makes a profit, it is really safe to walk around, even at night (which is a thing that I wouldn’t recommend doing anywhere else in africa!).

Casa Rossa – Malawi

We love this place. We already wrote a whole article about it here and you can read more about the beautiful Zomba Plateau here or visit Mark and Silvia’s website here.

Mushroom Farm – Malawi

I’d say the Mushroom Farm is definitely under the Top 3 accommodations of out trip, maybe even number one.
During the time we visited Malawi it was extremely hot and every night in the car was exhausting. Many people recommended the Mushroom Farm to us and it was clear to us that we would stop there on our way to Tanzania. Driving up the serpentine road which is in a really, really bad condition you reach the Mushroom Farm after an hour. The first thing you’ll notice is that the temperature dropped to a pleasant level due to the higher altitude – a real treat!
The parking area is quite unspectacular but as soon as you get closer to the main area you see why so many people talk about this place – it is where the magic happens. Everywhere are little works of art, pennant chains and fairy lights. Between the trees are hammocks and cozy seating areas are almost everywhere.
But the view (!!) that you have from there is just stunning. You can see the lake and even parts of Mozambique/Tanzania from up there. At night the fisherman light up little lights on their boats underneath you and the african night sky towers above.
Like at the Coffee Shack, Responsible Tourism is a big thing here and the Mushroom Farm considers itself as an Eco-Lodge. They are completely solar powered, recycle water and serve mostly homegrown organic (vegan/vegetarian) food. Superyummy – try the burgers!.

Other Campsites that we really liked:

While sitting in the car for hours and hours, leaving kilometer after kilometer behind us I spend a lot of time searching for campsites along our route that are not only cheap but as pretty as possible as well. I really missed a website with a list of good places that I could trust. Often times the only reviews I could find online where a few years old and, in the end, never really accurate. I always tried to find places that are not too far from each other to avoid driving for too long, that are cheap, clean and safe.

South Africa:
SanParks are found in every South African National Park and we never came across one that we didn’t like.
– Vredendal: there’s a campsite right behind Deons Superspar and Slaghuis (Butchery) just outside of town – opposite of Ruanda Guest House (just ask in the shop).
Fiddlers Creek is close to the border crossing in {Vioolsdrift} and directly at the Orange River.
Amphitheater Backpackers: perfect if you want to spend some time in the { northern Drakensberg mountains}.
The Pumpkin House: No camping but run by the lovely Hanli! If you need a place to stay in {Langebaan} to go Kiting – look no further!
– The Buccaneers Backpacker in {Chintsa} has a HUGE and beautiful camp ground & they offer yummy dinner and a good breakfast.
– The Keurbooms Lagoon Caravan Park in {Plettenberg Bay} is the perfect old-people campsite but is still great. Very clean, right next to the lagoon, kitchen and even washing machines are to be found here.

Namiba:
Klein Aus Vista, Gondwana Collection in {Aus}. So so so pretty – as is every campsite Gondwana runs.
Namibian Wildlife Resorts. Sometimes the facilities are a bit old but always clean.
Tirool. Great for a stop-over. They sell braai-wood & the campsites do have a sink. Stunning surroundings and is somewhere situated in {Tirol/Karas/District Lüderitz}
– Campsite in {Betta}. Right next to the gas station. Uses donkey-boiler. Clean. Good for a stopover.
NamibRand Family Hideout in the {NamibRand Nature Reserve}. You can either rent a whole house or camp at two of their campsites. Make sure to book in advance! Be aware of the fees for the Conservation Area. Beautiful location!
Lagoon Chalets in {Walvis Bay}.
Desert Sky Backpackers in {Swakopmund}.
Porcupine Lodge near {Kamanjab}. Clean and interesting ‘outdoor’ facilities. Porcupines running around at night. Listen to them shuffling about.

Botswana:
Pelican Lodge 5 km south of {Nata}. Was always empty but has a good campsite. Free Wifi in the buildings & a big pool.
Old Bridge Backpackers in {Maun}.
Chobe Safari Lodge in {Kasane}. Huge campsite, clean & fancy facilities and a big pool at the Lodge!

Zimbabwe:
– we only stayed at the Shoestrings Backpacker. It was really one of the worst backpacker we had on our trip but it’s one of the cheapest around the {Victoria Falls}. Dirty, expensive, unfriendly staff and to top it all off rundown as well.

Zambia:
Jollyboys BP is situated in {Livingstone} on the zambian side of the Victoria Falls. Great backpacker. Has a good kitchen, free wifi, good food, a pool and a book exchange. They have a separate campsite as well but we prefered to stay at the BP to mingle with the crowds as the campsite is quite far away
Moorings Campsite {Between Lake Kariba and Lusaka}. Great stopover & pretty campsite. Clean.
Eureka Campsite Great when you don’t want to stay directly in {Lusaka}. It’s quiet and you have giraffes and Zebras strolling around. Pool & Bar.
Wanderers belongs to the LusakaBackpackers and is their campsite as they don’t offer camping at the Backpacker. Has a kitchen, wifi and is close to a mall. Not pretty but well situated in {Lusaka}, safe and clean.
Kiambi Lodge lies in the {Lower Zambezi National Park} and offers rooms as well as campsites. Has a pool and a restaurant and you can book safari tours there. Great views!
Bridge Camp {230 km’s east from Lusaka on the Great East Road} and therefore perfect for a stop over. Clean facilities & a pool but expensive food and drink.
Mama Rulas is also a overnight stop for a lot of organised overland tours and therefor crowded with annoying people (tent packing, getting ready and loud buses leaving early in the morning) but other than that its probably the best place in {Chipata} and its safe and clean.

Malawi:
Cool Runnings – Great. The owner Sam does a lot of social work & projects in the town. Located right at the lake in {Senga Bay}. (little minus for charging overlanders extra for electricity – meh)
Chembe Eagles Nest is in {Cape Maclear} which we didn’t really enjoy but the campsite was clean and you can park right at the beach.
{Nkhotakhota} Pottery its wonderful. Hot showers, clean, HUGE mango trees and you can visit and shop at the pottery.
Makuzi Beach Lodge in {Chintheche}. Neither really friendly nor clean (when we’ve been there – that might have changed meanwhile) but a beautilful beach. Expensive as well.
Sunga Moyo also in {Chintheche} Absolutely rude owner but the campsite is really great and the beach is fantastic. Clean facilities, a restaurant, laundry area and it also has mango trees, yay!
Macondo Camp in {Mzuzu}. Very friendly and yummy food! Manager is a funny, knowledgeable guy.


Tanzania

Karibuni Center in {Mbeya}. The city is horrible but if you’re overlanding and drive from Malawi you probably have to spend a night here. At the center it wasn’t clean at all and we left as soon as we woke up the next morning but it’s okay for the night.
Old Farmhouse Kisolanza near {Ifunda} south of Iringa. It’s great for a stopover or for 2-3 nights if you need some rest. They have a bar/restaurant and you can buy fresh veggies and meat. A few campsites have little huts and electricity. Also the probably cleanest longdrop toilets ever and wonderfull hot showers!
Beach Crab in {Tanga} at the coast of Tanzania. Campsite is right at the beach and you can book snorkling tours. Good breakfast. Be aware of falling coconuts! Salty winds will make your car rust in front of your eyes.

Home Is Where You Park It – Camping On A Long Term Roadtrip

Lilli Everything Else, On the road 1 Comment

As soon as you start to plan a long term (or even short term) roadtrip the question of where you are going to sleep comes to mind. If you don’t want to stay in hotels or apartments and want to save a little money, camping might be an option for you. So lets talk about about the pro’s and con’s of different options that you have.

Ground Tent

Setting off with a normal ground tent is usually the cheapest and easiest way if you already own one. They are fairly light and, if you want to spend the night away from your car, you can take it with you and pitch it wherever you want. The downside is that you also have to take an air mattress and a sleeping bag with you which takes a lot of space and the whole process of setting up every night and packing it back up in the morning costs a lot time and can quickly become a nuisance. We consider us to be lazy which was one of the main reasons for us to simply use our ample space and build a bed into our car.

Sleeping Inside The Car

So instead of setting up a ground tent time and time again you’ve got the comfy option of sleeping inside your car (given that you own a car which is big enough to fit a comfortable bed). When we bought Harry he was almost empty in the back so we had a lot of free room when it came to planning out storage and bedding. Having a comfortable bed and a lot of storage was a priority for us – especially considering the length of our adventure. In order to maximise storage space we decided to have a big cupboard on the right side which lead to our bed being very narrow at only 1 meter wide. Sleeeping on 1x2m is very snug. I don’t know if every couple wants to sleep THAT close every night for almost nine months but it never really bothered us much (only in the really hot and humid, mozzie ridden nights). You can get all sorts of custom camping mattresses and have everything specially fitted for your vehicle, but as we were on a budget and wanted to build everything ourselves, we bought a standard 14cm thick 140x200cm IKEA mattress and repurposed it ourselves. We didn’t want to use sleeping bags on a daily basis so we simply brought our blanket from home with us which was absolutely worth it.
Another point that speaks for sleeping in your car is safety. Especially if you cruize around third world countries with a high crime rate or a lot of dangerous animals around it just feels good to know that you can always just slip behind the wheel, start the engine and drive off.
We never felt unsafe during our trip (!) but if it comes to elephants, lions and other animals sneaking around you at night, we’d rather lie in a car than in a tent. We guess you’d agree with us on that point (not that it’s necessarily dangerous to sleep in a tent).
The downside of sleeping in the car (in Africa) is that it can get hot – really hot. You’ll have to spend nights in a tin can that radiates heat from the engine and gearbox for hours after you parked it (at least an old land rover will do that). So without a lot of ventilation and mozzies ruining your plans to open every window you’ll sweat. If thats okay alright with you – go for it! If not, then be advised to preplan ventilation and mozzieproofing.

For an easy fix: We made Harry semi-mozzie-proof with some mosquito net from a market and used tape, a stapler and velcro to attach it to the windows that we wanted to open.

Additionally Lukas bought a couple of old pc-fans that coincidentally run off 12V and connected them to the car battery so we got some air flow. The first draft was truly ugly (as you can see in the picture above) and a little inefficient (buy bigger diameter to lower rpm and noise while keeping airflow high) but it worked just fine and has since been replaced by an optimized version, yippie!

Rooftop Tent

If you don’t want the hassle of building your own bed inside the car, a rooftop tent is the luxury camping version for every road trip. We had our eye on one the minute we planned the trip but we didn’t buy one right away because we simply didn’t have enough money. There are basically two different kinds of rooftop tents. There are the flip tents that look like a normal tent when pitched up and the hardshell tents that look like big boxes. I guess it’s a matter of taste which one you should get but I think the flip tents look a lot cooler and more adventurous but the hardshell tents are easier and faster to set up and usually more comfy.

When we were almost done with your trip we found a company called BUNDUTEC. They are a small south african company and they develop their own systems that differ from the regular tents in being easier faster and more convenient – perfect for us. We decided to buy the BUNDUTOP after admiring one that was fitted to a south african couple’s Hilux. If you find yourself planning to start your trip in SA and you still need a tent, don’t buy it in your home country. The prices abroad are just ridiculous because its considered special camping equipment and the market is just not there. In South Africa almost every camper has got one which improves the products and drives down the prices. The one that we’ve got is even attached to the battery and goes up and down by the press of a button in only 12 seconds – lazy peoples heaven and something that is not even available with european products. Go have a look at their website if you want everyones jaw to drop once you rock up at a campsite and simply erect your tent by the press of a button while everyone else has to go through the hassle of setting up. A true looker!

Keeping The Wildlife Wild – Blood Lions and Canned Hunting

Lilli Everything Else, Responsible Tourism 0 Comments

The topic I want to adress today are the tourist attractions and activities where animals are involved, for example riding on an elephants back, walking and taking pictures with big cats, cage diving with sharks and many more. It’s a topic that we’ve encountered many times in the past few years and one that makes me sad, angry and often quite disappointed at the same time because it’s so easy to avoid.

I always wonder how so many people actually visit those places where animal cruelty is the norm without looking behind the scenes or questioning anything at all. I guess that is because most of them don’t know or don’t want to know what is going on or maybe it’s just more important to get your awesome shot with a wild animal to show friends back home than to think twice about what you are supporting at that moment.

To make you understand what i’m talking about, I want to explain the whole business using the sad tale of the so called ‘blood lions’ as an example.

It all starts when the newborn lion cubs are only a few days old. They are taken away from their mothers – that often live in captivity to start with – to be either sold to volunteer programs, or to petting zoos, where tourists can interact with the cubs, take pictures and cuddle with them. The volunteer programs are the most perverted though. Heaps of young people come over to africa with the intention of ‘protecting the wildlife’, spending – their parents – fortunes to ‘help’, thinking that they play a productive part in efforts to reintegrate these estranged lions back into the wild at some point. Or they just straight up arrive in one of the petting zoos where tourists can interact with the cubs, take pictures and cuddle with them paying up to 1500€ a week!

Almost every operator will claim that the animals that they’ve got are wild animals that where saved from some dangerous situation. They are now being taken care off and they’ll be released back into the wild at some point of the program.
Well, i think that it is at this point where everyone should become a bit suspicious about the whole operation. Often, sadly, the reality doesn’t work that way. And to be fair, it’s pretty straight forward that you can’t reintegrate a lion into the wild that has had such close encounters with humans and is used to be petted and fed.
But let’s leave the cubs be cubs for a minute. Let’s look at what happens to many of the lion cubs when they get older and aren’t that sweet anymore.
That’s when they advance to the next stage of the business model. They are being sold to an array of different companies where tourists can go on walks with the animals, taking them on a leash and basically taking them around like a dog.
These lions will have to walk with dozens of tourists every day, or endure hours on end of tourist groups taking pictures petting them/feeding them or similar things. And the worst part is that they are usually drugged to be a smaller risk for the visitors.
When they finally reach maturity and get too dangerous to be near the precious tourists they advance to stage three of the business model. The lions are then sold to shooting farms where big game hunters – or just everyone with sufficient funds really – from around the world can boost their ego by shooting these poor animals.
In addition to them being used to people/cars and seeking out humans out of habit, they are often drugged to oblivion and contained in small enclosures to limit the hunters chance of missing his crucial shot. What an achievement it must be to kill a lion that way…
So there you have it, the ‘king of the jungle’, so full of strength and beauty in the wild, now being tortured and abused. The whole process is nothing more than a huge money making industry, profiting at every stage of a lions life from cub to adulthood. The whole business has nothing to do with nature conservation, nontheless many people believe that they do good when they leave their money at one of the many ‘conservation projects’.

All of this is just a short summary of the whole business and, of course, a generalization. There are companies that are actually trying to make a difference and some people are involved and raise their voices for the conservation of the lions. Sadly though, there are not a lot of them out there and many of the tour operators are black sheep. I just hope that you guys will remember this little story during your next travels and maybe you’ll twice about joining an activity which includes wild animals, or look into the company beforehand. Please share this story with your travelling friends as well.
Let’s try to help keeping wildlife wild and free.

If you want to read more about the canned lions / canned hunting, you can find more informations here or here.

If you want to get involved in positive projects, check out Kevin Richardsons conservation efforts over at his website as he’s probably the most prominent figure of lion-conservation worldwide

Going Down South

Lilli Africa, Allgemein, Everything Else 0 Comments

Imagine one of the weirdest places on earth. Around nothing but empty vastness and a silence that is so absolute that you can almost hear your own heartbeat. It’s a beautiful night and the milky way in it’s full glory stretches from horizon to horizon with a cosmic shower marking clear cut lines across the sky. We are the only humans for miles, that amount of free space gives you time to contemplate. How exactly did we, two city bred europeans, both barely finished with uni, end up here?

Well… that story goes back a bit…

We had the pleasure of being featured in Proven Overlands first magazin issue. So if you want to read the rest of our story, klick here.

Still alive.

Lukas Africa, Botswana, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia 0 Comments

Hi there beloved reader,

we are back. Well, back is probably the wrong word for it because we’ve never really been gone but still. This Blog has been inactive for far too long so let’s start this post with a quick overview of what happened in the interim.

During the last 2 1/2 months we spanned a whopping 8000 kilometers going up to Tanzania and back down through Malawi, Zambia, Botswana and finally into South Africa again. We are not really sure on the exact figure, because our speedometer broke in Tanzania and I just got around to fixing it in Zambia so we and you guys will have to live with a rough estimate. We must be over the 20.000km mark on our trip now… yehaa!

In the meantime we’ve been travelling with 3 and finally even 4 people in a car that has only 2 seats, is filled to the edge with our stuff and is by no means set up to accommodate that number of people, although it worked out fine in the end. But more on that later.

Right now, after a couple of busy weeks, we’ve stopped in the Drakensberg Mountains for a while to enjoy the views and to a certain extent the cold as well! When we left the Pretoria/Johannesburg area 2 days ago a heat wave was coming down on the highveld with temperatures over 40°C so we thought we’d get out of the heat until we go back to Kruger where we’ll most likely face the same temperatures this time of the year. Whoever is reading this and damning us in his/her mind whilst shivering from the coldfront that hit Europe a couple of days ago, try driving around in a car without aircon and insulation from the engine in that heat. Wooo you would enjoy a few cold days, too once in a while 🙂

So it is the new year. Time for new years resolutions that will most likely end up getting scrapped in a few weeks but it’s always good to try again. We both have our resolutions and we’ve got some new things in the pipeline as well. So stay tuned!

On a different note though: We’ve finally got a telephoto-lens with us that will come in handy in almost every situation. Flying out without one was a proper mistake but we’ll hopefully redeem ourselves over the next few months.

We’ve also pushed back our return to europe for two weeks. The original Plan was to fly out of south africa at the end of february. That flight has now been rescheduled to mid march. We’re just not ready to get back home just now.

That brings me to the topic of the next few days: Right now we are about 50km away from the Kruger National Park where we’ll hopefully spend some time viewing game in the next two or three weeks. We’ve also got an appointment at Motswari Private Game Reserve, where Lukas spent 2 1/2 months doing an internship around this time last year. We’ll be joined over there by Lilli’s mother and are going to enjoy a few days of full safari experience before going back into the Kruger again. This is going to be the first time that Lukas won’t have to drive a car for a couple of hours each day in a long time, wooo!

After making our way through Kruger we’ll most likely skim through Swaziland in order to get through to the coast to enjoy some surf and time in the ocean, then slowly making our way along the coast towards glorious Cape Town – hopefully meeting up with one of the austrians that we travelled with in Namibia and Botswana a couple of months ago and a dutchie that we’ve just met about a week and a half ago but spent new years with in Kruger. Other than that? Who knows where we’ll be. We will most likely crash in Coffee Bay or Port St. Johns at some point and we want to check out the 4×4 section in Addo Elephant National Park, but other than that we will just continue the way we’ve travelled for the past what is it now, 6 1/2 months? How time flies…

Alright, so you guys are finally up to speed on what’s happening right now and in the next few weeks. Feels good to get this off of our chests. We’ll go into detail about the past 2 Months as well, but that will be in a series of different posts over the next few days/weeks.

Hope you guys had a good new years and a wonderful christmas, we sure did!

Cheers
Lukas and Lilli

Hiking around Mount Mulanje

Lilli Africa, Malawi 1 Comment

Finally some physical activity after a long time of leaving most of the work to Harry, our beloved Land Rover. The last time we really worked our muscles was in Botswana, when we did our Kayak-trip about two months ago. What a bummer… So who exactly came up with this idea? Not sure exactly. First of all, Lukas wanted to hike Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. What a great plan that would be, but due to the extreme increase of Park-Fee’s in Tanzania in the last few years this effort is very costly. Between 700 US$ and 5400 US$ per person to hike the highest peak in africa? Wow… ehm, thanks but we’ll sadly pass on that opportunity. So when we came to Malawi, we heard about the Mulanje Massif in the south of the country towards the border of Mozambique and were intrigued.

So the Mulanje Massif, or commonly known as Mount Mulanje, it’s definitely not as high as the Kilimanjaro or Mount Meru. For a fact, with it’s highest peak at 3002 Meters its just about half the size of it’s big brother. Formed about 130 Million years ago when an intrusion of magma cooled off in the earths crust. Millennia after millennia eroded the surrounding rock and left only the very erosion resistent igneous rock of the massif that can be seen today.
Officially first reported by David Livingstone in the mid 1900s there is evidence of human remains from the stone age onwards. And according to rumors the Massif was the inspiration for the Lonely Mountain in Tolkiens ‘The Hobbit’.

About a week ago, while we were still working on the initial design of this website we met a couple working for the GIZ, the “Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit” in Malawi, a german state owned company focussing on international development. We went for a hike around the Zomba Plateau with them and because they had plans of going to Mulanje the weekend after, we just opted to tag along wanting to go there anyways.

So a week later we met up with 8 companions and our guides at a Pizzeria (yeah, real pizza) in Mulanje Town. After an expensive but tasty pizza we discussed our possible routes and made our way to the starting point of the hike. As it was quite late we decided to start hiking early the next day and went to sleep at the Likhubula Forest Lodge (definite suggestion if you want to hike).

After a short night we woke up at around 5 to be on our way at around 6. Well, it didn’t really happen that way and the rumored german punctuality failed completely. As we finally set off it was about quarter to eight and getting hot already. On the first day of the hike the plan was to get from just above 800m to the Chisepo Hut at an altitude of just over 2.200m, a whopping 1400m difference in altitude and according to the guides about 7-8 hours of hiking away. Quite a substantial number, really. So we started out with the trail being quite steep immediately. After about an hour of sweating our way up the mountain and about 300m in height we reached the first waterfall of the day, a very welcome sight for the 10 of us.

After taking an extended dip into the cool water and swimming underneath the waterfall we set off again, the trail increasingly steepening. After a couple of hours of this we started to feel our legs and knees and, still only at about 1600m we had to make a decision. About half of the group was eager to push on towards the higher hut, as that meant ascending to the highest peak the next morning, the other half was very exhausted though and climbing another 600 meters in altitude didn’t sound so promising to them. So instead of splitting up we opted for the closer and lower Chambe Hut. Eager to get to the hut and with the steep trail finally flattening out we rushed towards the hut only to find that they don’t offer a hot stone massage and a gherkin mask. What a HUGE disappointment! NOT… after arrival most of us had a little nap, even the ones that were so eager to continue towards the higher hut, so it probably wasn’t a bad call after all.
The Chambe Hut is beautifully situated with a direct view of one of the Peaks of the Massif. You feel kind of out of place though because this place hardly looks like the stereotypical africa. You feel more like you’ve been somehow dislocated to the alps or the rockies. The hut itself is cozy and the hut-watchmen (there is one at all of the 10 huts, looking after the place. They will provide firewood and a dish-wash service against a tip as well) is a very friendly and helpful guy.
After dinner and a few rounds of werewolf we ended up sleeping outside on the terrace, enjoying the cold air that is getting quite rare at the moment.

The next day we set off in good spirits towards a different hut. Hiking the highest peak was ruled out as an option so we continued on towards a different side of the massif and the biggest hut available, the Lichenya Hut. This time we didn’t have to cover a huge altitude difference and the hiking was easier with new views and vantage points around every corner. After arrival at the hut, we split up the group with one half hiking a surrounding peak and the other half going for a pool and a viewpoint over the tea plantations surrounding Mulanje. Both turned out a bit disappointing because the weather was acting up, with it being all cloudy and windy. Meh. This nonetheless gave us an excuse to return to our cozy hut and chill/play cards for the rest of the evening.

The last day consisted mainly of destroying our knee’s and feet with an ascend of about 200m and a steep descend of 1200m afterwards. Ouch ouch ouch. Mount Mulanje, you are beautiful, but why do you have to be so unmerciful and steep. Someone should try and direct some development aid into the construction of an elevator or escalator… Safe to say that we’ll go up again if we are in the area on another trip, but not for three days only.

By now you will hopefully ask: That sounds and looks awesome, how do I organize a trip?

Well, let us help you with that.
Guide:
First of all you need a guide. You can pre arrange one or just turn up at the forestry office and organize one on short notice with them. They are quite adamant when it comes to you booking a guide with them but you DON’T have to. We got contact details for our guides from someone else and one of them, Alan, has proved to be a very good guide and relentless porter (he carried the backpack with all the food for the group which was quite heavy)
If you want to hike up the Mulanje Massif, give him a call or write him an e-mail in advance. He’s really eloquent and knowledgeable and a good guy in general:

  • allanmwinjiro@yahoo.com
  • 00265 (0) 884623237

Accommodation:
If you want a room you should try and give the Likhubula Forest Lodge a call in advance. They seem to sometimes be booked out, especially on weekends and national holidays. If you just want to camp, I guess you’ll be fine with just popping up and pitching your tent for just under 3000 Kwatcha/night. The guys at Likhubula Forest Lodge will look after your car while you’re gone as well (parking fee while you are gone is 600 Kwatcha a day). Just talk to either Dan or Elejar and they will make sure your car is safe.

Accommodation on top of the mountain are 10 different huts, that will set you back about 1000 Kwatcha/night. They have basic toilets (bring your own TP) and washrooms for your convenience. They provide some mattresses as well, but don’t have a lot of them so better take your own.

Equipment and Food:
You can’t buy food on top of the mountain, so everything you want to eat on your trip will have to be carried by either you or a porter that you can hire. Drinking water (from one of the clean streams) is available at every hut, as are some beers and soft drinks if the watchman has some in stock so you don’t really have to worry about that, just make sure you take bottles to fill up.

Other equipment that you’ll have to take:

– strong hiking boots
– comfortable backpack
– sleeping bag and mattress
– swimming trunks

Optional:
– a GPS with the hiking trails
– snacks
– coffee/tea (really great optional extra though)