Dear family, friends & followers,
we trust you had a great long Easter weekend and enjoyed this well-deserved break with your loved ones! We admit, it has been ages since our last blog posting (ca. 4 months!) and a loooooooot has happened since then!
Being on Africa’s roads, especially with our little, always active explorer toddler girl, managing the daily logistics while traveling with our zebra motorhome, and just digesting all the new places with all our senses leaves us quite exhausted at the end of each day – so social media updates often take then less of a priority…
We are meanwhile in the beautiful heart of Africa, Malawi, and have tried to update you bit by bit over the last weeks via our various social media channels (facebook, twitter & instagram), and I will now try to cover with each new blog posting one of the already travelled countries.
The past Easter weekend gave me time for reflection of our time back in December last year, when we just prepared our long awaited departure from South Africa: A minor oil leak already discovered in Germany with plans to fix it in Cape Town turned into an engine issue after traveling Namibia’s tough gravel roads. The important and expansive repairs in Cape Town delayed us for 5 extra weeks – but filled us with trust and reassurance that we can finally hit Africa’s roads with a ready 4×4 camper.
We made it nearly to Botswana where we had planned to spend Christmas in the famous wildlife-rich Okavango Delta when our beloved Ubuntu Makasi had developed a re-occuring oil leak which turned out to be another serious engine issue due to a job not properly done in Cape Town. We were highly frustrated and worried, not only about the unexpected additional costs that would diminish our precious savings even more – before we even really started our journey -, but also our visas for South Africa, Botswana and Mozambique were running out!
Fortunately, we had found a great, passionate mechanic in Upington, known for taking up new challenges and his sense of humour, who went the extra mile with his team working through the weekend and late nights to finish our engine before the Christmas holidays.
For more than 1.5 weeks, we could stay in our motorhome at the mechanic’s workshop backyard in Upington, South Africa’s hottest town with up to 45 degrees (!), while they worked at the engine – quite a challenge to keep our little girl entertained in this hot, non-child friendly place, but we managed with our toy collection, creativity and thanks to a local artist Chris Basson who would visit several times and always bringing refreshments like cooldrinks & ice cream. On the last day, he even gifted us with one of his unique art work of tata Madiba – what a humbling Ubuntu experience!
￼We were very excited to take our Ubuntu Makasi on the 23rd December for a final test drive and ready to hit the road to Mozambique (as our Botswana visa had expired the previous day) before also our SA visa would expire the next days. However, when Tresor and mechanic Henk came back, I could see already from their disappointed faces that the worst case scenario happened: despite the major engine repair, there was still oil leaking!
As the workshop closed for 2 weeks Christmas holidays, we took immediately the night bus to Cape Town to report next morning to Home Affairs that we had no other chance than to overstay our visa due to being stuck with our motorhome in Upington and asking for an urgent visa extension.
Well, I am not going into the frustrating details dealing with Home Affairs after they had implemented new visa regulations in 2014, which has already eg. separated lots of bi-national families by declaring the non-South African partner as a ‘undesired person’ for a min. 1 year to max. 5 years… In short, after consultation with Home Affairs, we voluntarily asked for an ‘Order to Leave’ South Africa within 2 weeks once the motorhome was fixed in January as we could neither afford the new expensive visa extensions costs nor were we interested in waiting several months to get a visa extension for just 2-3 weeks granted. And we had to swallow the very bitter pill of – after living for 8-10 years in South Africa as our home, getting married here as well as our daughter being born here – becoming declared as ‘undesirable persons’ for a year!
However, we were grateful for being able to spend another 3 weeks in our beautiful Cape Town and celebrating Christmas and New Year’s with family and friends.
We also used the extra delay time constructively by continuing to work on our first short documentary (we started in Upington) about our African journey so far and how we managed the various challenges, which we cut then down to a shorter crowdfunding video for our newly launched Gofundme campaign to try cover at least part of all the unexpected costs for engine repairs, route changes, new visas etc. to be able to continue our Africa trip and capture inspiring stories to promote Africa as an uprising continent of hidden potentials.
We finally took the nightbus back to Upington on the 13th January 2016 and our mechanic finalized the new unique adaptation of our camper’s oil pipe system with a successful test drive on the 15th January. We were then left with 2 days to make the more than 1000km to the Komatipoort border post to Mozambique to avoid our 3rd visa from expiring. Driving passed Johannesburg/Pretoria and through the beautiful province Mpumalanga, we reached Komatipoort around 6pm on the 17th January. After lengthy procedures due to registering our new infamous ‘undesirability status’ with our fingerprints etc. in the national system (despite border personnel feeling very sorry about our special situation), we made it finally after 8pm to the Mozambique border post.
And wow, we immediately felt being in another country, as suddenly a group of determined men without uniforms approached us offering their ‘help’ service with the border procedures which we first tried without until realizing that the border staff seemed to speak Portuguese (& local Mozambican languages) only! And even worse, one older immigration lady tried to make us understand via one of the English-speaking ‘helpers’ that our visa had apparently already expired even though it clearly stated the date 17th January as the last day to enter and even the ‘helper’ tried his best to convince her. She remained stubborn and wanted us all to pay for new visas and us being confused and exhausted with Benisha already over-tired, we just tried to draw money at the only ATM at the border which (luckily) did not work with either of our 2 cards.
In our desperation, Tresor went off in the dark with one of the ‘helpers’, our money card and a walky-talky that I should only use for emergency as the ‘helper’ took Tresor illegally passing by the border personnel to an ATM on the other side of the border. I was just sweating and hoping that the ‘helper’ indeed just wanted to assist us as Tresor was in quite a vulnerable position alone with the money card while the rest of the ‘helpers’ were hanging around our camper trying to sell car insurances, sim cards etc. and me trying to calm Benisha and make her sleep inside. Tresor safely came back and after trying both cards again in vain, we had no other chance than spending the night visa-free in ‘no-man’s land’ between both borders. Luckily, we had a bit peace of mind, as we were in contact with our friend Tina in Maputo, who would try to assist us in the morning with the border personnel and assured us that it was safer to stay where we are than traveling the road to Maputo at night without proper road lights and quite a few bribe-hungry traffic police (also known as ‘transitos’) just waiting for foreign travelers like us.
The next morning, the ATM miraculously worked and we had a friendly immigration person that could even speak a bit of English and who was wondering why we did not enter yesterday as today our visa had expired! Oh boy, were we angry and especially Tresor was close to explode! We explained him the situation and the lady even passed by without a sense of remorse… it turned out that luckily, he was her superior, and between acknowledging her mistake, but also trying to protect her, and our friend Tina trying to speak with them in Portugese on the phone, it still took Tresor half an hour of chatting with him and connecting with him in Swaheli for us being able to finally enter Mozambique with our original visas without having to pay new ones!
What a start of our journey through Mozambique – and even more adventures awaited us… so follow our blog to not miss the next posting!
PS: You can still support us by donating via Paypal, Gofundme or directly into our German or SA account. And, by sharing our campaign with your family, friends & networks.