Living in a box 4, a year on…….

A Year On ……..

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 It’s been a while since I’ve given you The Female Perspective of travelling & “Living In a box”. We have now been away for 443 days and in fact it has become quite like home, which is a good thing I guess, and we haven’t killed each other yet!!!!!. We did actually fly home for a few weeks over Easter staying with family and having the luxuries of living in a house and chocolate. We were kindly given a Lindt Easter Bunny each (thanks Emily & Pete) and savoured every mouthful , and yes we felt sick ! We haven’t really had the luxury of eating chocolate ………..and as you know Chocolate is a girls best friend. We were lured into buying a box of Quality Street in Ghana, which had been reduced in price, and we couldn’t wait for our treat that evening in the hotel in Tema, (whilst waiting for Col K to be shipped to Namibia) to devour the whole box. We set ourselves up, TV on, and tipped the box out on the bed, divided them up into equal shares & then unwrapped them………………in the dim light…. the chocolate was moving…… this a new Fad in chocolate?………No they were full of little Bugs….like chocolate weevils. You have never seen us move so fast and be so disappointed. We had to shake the bed linen out in the hotel corridor. The heat out here is also not conducive for keeping chocolate either. We occasionally buy a little bar of cadburys from a supermarket and keep it in the fridge for a treat. Yes I do have to share it with Vinnie! I guess at least its been a good thing for the waist & hips though !

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Cooking outside is still great and what we actually cook ON really does vary. In Africa all manner of things are recycled and at one camp “Split Rims” have been used as Braai’s (BBQ) purched on top of a post. In most countries you can buy wood either along the road or at campsites.

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In Zambia there is a lot of charcoal produced by local people and you see these tall tube like parcels being transported on bicycles to sell at the local market. We are still mainly cooking our “one pot” concoctions as its much easier and we make one big pot and it lasts for 2 days. We mainly buy steak & mince and then add any fresh veg that we are able to buy, and of course a tin of tomatoes and onions, garlic and spices or make a curry. We try and buy local veg from stalls along our route, as it seems to be much fresher than the supermarkets and its usually a welcome stop to have a laugh and a chat with locals. Since getting into Zambia we have seen bananas for sale again along the road, very tiny ones to huge ones, so when we can, we stop and buy fresh fruit, something we have missed since the mango’s of Senegal ! We actually brought some great carrots in Zimbabwe , the best we have ever eaten. Some carrots can be quite bitter and one man told us that its because they don’t get enough water.

Moving countries and shopping can get very strange. Opening times vary, in Namibia nearly all shops close half day Saturday and all day Sunday and we were shopping one morning in Zambia and filled our trolley with a few bottles of wine, only to be told at the check-out that we couldn’t buy them as it was before 10am, it was not even a Sunday! The price of food has got more expensive,  Botswana and Zimbabwe have been the most expensive so far. Our diet is not terribly adventurous , but we actually look forward to our plastic bowl of stew. The Denby pot, (a present from Vinces Sister) is still going strong, the South Africans use potjie in a similar way, which is a pot that looks like a witches cauldron and translated means small pot food.

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It still amazes us the different modes of local transport that are used in different countries, you don’t really realise until you cross a border, that the mopeds or donkeys or bicycles have disappeared. In Zimbabwe it seems most local people walk everywhere, here in Zambia there seem to be a lot of bicycles and in Burkina Faso & Mali there was an abundance of mopeds.

We still miss having a dog and take every opportunity to get some “Pet Love” from the camp dogs and cats. They seem to know we are a soft touch and we have even taken to buying the odd sachet of cat and dog food. Once having their fill, they seem to know when we are leaving and move onto the next pet loving camper. At one camp there was a 3 legged jack Russel and the next day he returned again with 4 legs. Vince was convinced it was the same dog, so he got nick named 3 plus 1. A black dog, nick named Blackie by the camp staff was so cute, she very nearly became the 3rd addition to our trip ! The dogs and cats here seem to learn that just by sitting and laying close, looking cute, can get them their next meal. They never seem to scrounge or whine, maybe they learn very quickly that they are likely to get a swift kick if they become a pest.

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Bugs………Yep there are plenty. Ants have been our worse enemy inside the truck and we have had a massive second infestation to deal with. We have learnt now that the problem seems to arise after we have parked closely underneath a tree (actually touching it), so we try to avoid this if we can, but the height of Col K is sometimes an issue. With diligence and armed with cans of “Doom” or a rather unsavoury can of Anti-Bug spray we purchased in Morocco, which I’m sure probably did US more harm (although it was lavender scented), we eventually got rid of the little Blighters!

Mosquitoes, although present have not really caused us a major problem. They were worse in Senegal. We are very good at covering legs and arms in the evening, using various varieties of anti-mosquito spray or cream and the mossie net over our bed has been a god send. We are still taking our daily doxycycline tablets to help us against contracting malaria. So far we haven’t really experienced any major side effects. The increased sun sensitivity seems to be managed by sitting in the shade and using factor 30 sun cream. I did lose a toe nail a few months back, which may have been due to a side effect of the doxycycline and was waiting for more to fall off, but so far so good, all other 9 intact. We have both been in good health, apart from a couple days in Swakopmund, when I think I had a touch of food poisoning the day after eating sushi and bringing back a cold from our trip to UK. We also have to make sure we drink enough water, as there was one day in Maun, in Botswana, when we stopped after a long drive to carry out some food shopping. Vince became very sweaty and pale and almost passed out at the check out……………………that was before paying…………….I had to sit him down on a pallet and ask a cashier to keep an eye on him, whilst I paid and packed ! Anything to get out of shopping eh ! I am now, not only a passenger, but also a hydration monitor, making sure he drinks enough water and that we stop for some lunch if we have a long drive. Stopping for lunch or anything in Zambia along the main roads has actually been very difficult. As they have put in miles of new tarmac, but not put in any picnic spots or lay-by’s and the road has been built up to such a level that its not easy to stop in any of the villages on-route either and a little more difficult to “water the plants”! In Namibia, SA, Botswana and Zimbabwe there has generally been quite a few picnic spots or lay-by’s to use or “Lay-Bye” as they were called in Zimbabwe !!!!

Daily chores have become a little easier now we have got rid of the carpet tiles and have our new plastic wood effect floor covering. So much easier to sweep and keep clean from all the sand, grass and dirt that gets taken inside.We are still washing clothes by hand and try and wait until there is hot water available to do this, but sometimes we have to just use cold water. We are a slick team, one washing , one rinsing and Vince usually gets to ringing out, or we both hold one end, especially sheets and towels to turn in opposite directions to squeeze all the water out. Not that drying anything is usually a problem as most days are “a good drying day”!

Ablutions…………thats what a bathroom is called when camping, have become a bit of a lottery. They all vary in design, in most the water is heated by a wood fired dolly, some by solar, some only cold water. So you need to choose when you have a shower, morning , afternoon or evening. Solar powered is defiantly an early evening shower, hot water dolly will depend on when its been lit and is best to ask or try before you go in and strip off, otherwise you will get a shock.Oh and how many people are using the water. One evening I decided to shower in Col K, as the facilities were not very nice and I was fed up with showering with various spiders and creatures that were left lurking. Vince decided he would use them and he had soaped and had shampoo in his hair, when the water disappeared completely, and there were screams heard from the ladies ablution block! So many showers had been taken, that the water ran out ! I thought after Ghana that I would be used to a cold water shower, but guess what……….Nope. I reckon its a ploy by the campsites to save water, as you certainly don’t use much !!!!! Some  Ablutions can be made from a variety of materials , brick, some thatch or bamboo, some have roofs of tin or thatch. Enclosed ablutions tend to attract mosquitoes, especially when the lights are left on. So I like the open air ones personally, as they are less likely to have spiders making webs above your head and you can also look at the stars at night.

Currently we have squirrels eating sausages from a sausage tree above the ablutions and making a right mess. I think the guy cleaning, has had enough and he came yesterday with a long bamboo stick with a cutter tied on the end to lob the offending overhanging sausages off the tree. These “sausages” however, apparently have many uses, not only as a food for many of the animals (baboons, elephants etc), but as medicine for anaemia as they are full of iron, and a topical application for skin complaints and healing ulcerated skin, a nutritious drink and a local beer in Tanzania, so no wonder the squirrels love them.

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Whilst on the topic of grooming, when we were at home we both had the opportunity to get our hair cut and the magic ingredient to cover over grey hair. Now its back to manually plucking my eyebrows……… eye brow threading here! Vinnie still has his beard and his hair is getting very long again as he won’t let me near him with the hair clippers. Personally I think he fancies himself as a Real Madrid football player, like Gareth Bale with a top knot ! Our feet get very dirty from wearing flip-flops/thongs all the time, so a nail brush is a must. Ive given up on using nail polish and its just easier to keep all nails short.

Oh and here is where all of your cotton T-shirts start. Here in Zambia we have seen loads of cotton growing in small allotments, individual families growing cotton to sell instead of, or as well as crops to eat.

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Ergonomics (my Occupational Health friends will understand) has been quite interesting and frustrating. Design of day to day items such as sinks and showers. These are made in Africa I’m sure to give you back ache whilst doing your washing or washing up. Either too low, too wide or the taps do not reach over the sink. One pet hate of ours is that most of the showers have NOT been designed to take the flow of water to the drain. A simple thing, but about 80% of campsite showers we have used you have been left with pools of water at your feet and/or water all over your shoes and clothes as there is no upstand, curtain or a very small changing area. When they get it right, we definitely remember.

Something that has intrigued me is how most African women and children carry almost every item on their head. They make a ring of cloth and put it on their head and then put the stacks of wood, bowls full of clothes, fruit or buckets of water on top. We saw this a lot in Ghana and again since leaving Namibia. Such huge weights are carried with ease, and day to day activities are still being able to be carried out. It would be interesting to find out the incidence of back or neck problems with this mode of manual handling. It certainly seems to help with deportment and a good posture and may be we need to re think some of our “western ways”. It seems that at the age of a child being able to walk they learn to carry things in this way. I remember in Ghana, Vinnie helping “the banana lady “with her big bowl of fruit back onto her head and he could not believe the weight of it ,he did struggle . We did also try and carry a bowl of fruit, much to the amusement of the local Ghana children. Women also strap  babies and toddlers  on their backs all day cradled and tied on by a length of cloth. This enables the women to carry out their daily chores and carry other items and the children seem very content and happy with very few crying or whinging, maybe its the closeness to their mothers all day ?

Ah and then there is “Elf & Safety”. I have cringed watching mechanics work on Col K sucking diesel out of a hose with their mouths, getting soaked in diesel knowing that they will stay like that all day. I was so worried after one mechanic got diesel in his eyes and he was bemused by me insisting he wash it out and giving him a clean towel to use. Most work activities are still carried out by hand, for instance there are no verge grass cutting machines, its all done with a scythe manually in a rhythmic manner in long grass with possibilities of snakes lurking, we often say if it was us, we would have cut our arms and legs to shreds. Work is carried out at height with no harness or rail, bricks are still made by hand in many villages for a source of income. Safety shoes are likely to be a pair of wellies, if they are lucky. Our split rim tyres were changed with no cage over them and people standing on them as they are inflated.The list is endless. In Africa however the children seem to have more freedom to explore, play & get dirty & probably  learn very quickly to make their own risk assessments. The kids here are not dropped off or picked up from school, but have to walk miles sometimes to get an education, even the little 5 year olds carrying a bag with their books in, that is if they are lucky.  It is also quite refreshing as a traveller not to be restricted by so many Western rules, as we would not be able to experience the rawness of the bush if it was in the UK, you are allowed to make your own “risk assessment” and take your own risks. Take for instance having a gin & tonic sundowner, adding lemon or lime will depend upon wether there are any elephants around…………….as they apparently love citrus fruit and have been known to break into vehicles after these delicataces.

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Ah well time to go as the fresh coffee (luxury item) is ready, the sun is shining, hippos in the river and the vegetable man has turned up on his bike, so time for shopping !

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Oh yes, the first photo of this blog……………….well you do see a lot of this sort of stuff in Africa, and you parents out there can explain the meaning of life to your children when they see this.

thanks for reading


3 Comments on “Living in a box 4, a year on…….

  1. Loving reading your blogs, glad you are having a fantastic time, can’t say I would be so brave but am enjoying your trip from the safety of my sofa. Look for reward to your next instalment, take care & carry on camping !!


  2. Nice blog Jac.
    I agree… The personal freedom of choice people have here, compared to the UK & Europe, is startling. The “big brother” syndrome hasn’t taken hold, we’re still able to make our own mistakes.
    Love your writings.
    Paul (Nyati)


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