Haaaaaappy Neeeeeeew Yeeeeaaaarrrr!!!

And here I was thinking I’m a bit slow, on my tractor. hehheh, I beat you to the new year by two hours…!

Instead of partying with a happy crowd of people I don’t know, I chose to celebrate New Year’s Eve on the beach, together with Kosovo. At midnight exactly, we were standing by the luminescent surf, under moon, stars and some modest fireworks to the left and right. I sat down, hugged Kosovo: ‘Happy new year, Kossie, glad you’re here!’ The coming year will be our year, spent traveling Africa. And tell you what, I couldn’t have wished for better company. Kos is a hero, a cocky little bastard who never fails to make me laugh. Never grumpy, always playful and curious. It’s pretty much impossible to nod off while driving with that dog sitting next to you. ‘BARK!’ in my left ear ‘Wake up, time to play!’

A guy from the House Party buys me a beer. I expected to end up dancing here, together with people I know. But Kos goes totally bonkers, distracted, wants to explore everything at the same time and is definitely not interested in dancing with just me. So we decide to take a walk on the beach, beer in hand.
Which was about the best choice I’ve ever made…
Dark beach, moonlight, white sand crunching under my feet, walking for hours. Sometimes we sneaked through peoples back yards stretching up to the sea. Party people did notice, but I’m hardly threathening. A girl walking her dog. ‘Kos, come here’, I called, and he followed obediently as we exited the garden…
Centered on the beach grew a lone, leafless tree. It’s roots were sticking out above the ground, it looked weirdly like it was balancing on its toes. One of its roots was shaped like a doorway, so I passed through it. Entering the new year, symbolically…

I hope to walk just like that next year, trodding through Antarctic snow, at the end of this mission… Kos will stay behind on the Cape of Hood Hope, playing with the penguins there. But because of today, he’ll be with me in spirit. Walking through snow, sniffing for adventures and funny critters to hunt down. And so I walk on, on the white sand…

‘Next year, you will no longer travel African roads, you will follow the path of the African soul…’

The man who made me this prediction, also invited me to come with him to a famous ‘witch doctor’, who lives close to here. I suspect that I’m interested. In any case, he’s a respected man, the former Tanzanian presidents’ physician.

(original post: 03 01 07)

Pulling rope, tearing roof, pushing off

_Departure party, Two little girls pretending their heading to the south pole on a tractor, one of them playing Kosovo.._

The students at Hillcrest College in Nairobi have beaten me. The tractor, Kosovo and I had been challenged to a game of Tug-of-war, to raise funds for the charities and projects I’ve been visiting on my way. Kosovo on the hood, barking at the hundred and fifty plus students, me behind the wheel and the tractor with the rope clenched between its teeth. We floored the gas pedal, annihilated the school’s lawn, covered everything in mud, but… help!… nooo!… we were outmatched. Metre by metre we slid backwards, heading for certain doom. The kids cheered in unison, them being the roughest, toughest lot on the east-african continent. After all, my tractor and me had a solid record of towing many trucks and busses from mudholes and desert!
For dessert, I went by the school on friday, to make a speech and to collect dreams, standing on the stage with Kosovo on a leash. …More dreams to take with me to the South Pole!
Naturally, Kosovo was the feature hero in the story.

Time for me to leave Nairobi, I should have left at least a month ago! But being busy working on the book, I conveniently forgot to take off. A few days before departing I made friends with Kate from Australia and Julia from Holland. They have both been living and working in Nairobi for one and a half years now.
My final weekend in Nairobi we went for a night on the town.
A girls’ night out. (see pic above). Boys were left standing, except for the gay ones. We danced till dawn!

..Dinner time in the industrial district.

I left Nairobi. Saint Nicholas had left me a present, a stalker called Pete, who fortunately stayed behind in Nairobi. I also picked up a fellow traveler, Morten, a guy who takes pictures for a big travel magazine, taking him with me to Mombasa.
We might meet again on the Antarctic next year, him being an adventurer for a living, living in Greenland, and planning an Antarctic group-expedition himself. I’m not sure if I’ll enjoy the company on this trip, but we’re in high spirits when we drive down Ngong Road nonetheless.

A few kilometres along I hear an unfamiliar noise, turn my head and notice how the back supports of my roof are strained to their limits. Nairobi appears to have a magic ability to keep me from leaving, but this time, I’m not falling for it.
At a 3km/h snail pace I head for the tractor workshop. Half way, it turns out that the roof has come loose in its entirity, which I
counter by duct-taping the supports to the back brace. In the end we just barely make it!
Frank, the workshop overseeer can’t guarantee that the roof will survive the coming year. ‘It’ll make it to Mombasa, but you shouldn’t be taking too many off-road trails.’
‘I’m ALWAYS taking off-road trails!”

‘Oh, just take that roof off’, Morten the photographer says. ‘It’s hideous’. I don’t like that roof either, especially the concept of it, I protested against it when I got it in Italy. But my more reasonable team members and the tractor sponsor had convinced me I’d end up being a fried egg when traveling the desert, which, supposedly, was not my ambition?

I had travelled Europe impersonating Jasser Arafat, all wrapped up in cloth, a big sunburned nose peeking out. That’s why I had agreed to the sun roof. But now all my original misgivings were surfacing again, absurd as I felt, though.
So I told the guy: ‘Easy for you to say, you’re only along for the ride for a week. I have another year of African sun ahead of me.’ But a tiny inner voice whispered: ‘would you build a sun roof on your bicycle? come ON, think sporty here. All it does is shade your face. It squeaks. It creaks. It doesn’t protect you against the rain, you get soaked every time it pours down.
And on top of that, it’s hideous! Just go buy yourself a hat against the sun.’

60 minutes later, I leave the Sametract, roofless. The Workshop guys wave goodbye. If my rooflessness really doesn’t work out, I’ll have to find someone prepared to spend christmas in Mombasa, bringing my roof along. I’ve met enough happy nutters in town, so that shouldn’t be much of a problem. Till then, this ‘ll be a good test run without it…

cheerfully, the bosses of Sametract wave goodbye. They kind of like me, my feisty little personality…

Three days on, I resemble Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, but that doesn’t get me down. ‘I CAN SEE THE SKY!!!’
Kosovo enjoys it as much as me, at night he’s the tallest of us all:

* More about tractor + rooflessness later on. It isn’t entirily easy, the tent is off-kilter etc. But I wouldn’t be able to go on with a roof that flies off at the first bump anyway. And furthermore: YES. It’s ugly. Except for not raising practical issues like having to find the exact right sun hat, it won’t be missed!

In Voi, I visit the “Red Elephant”. There’s a guy there who is a musician, and who reminds me of one of my girlfriends, Severine in France. He has the same sort of talent, and he makes me laugh. I’d love to put those two together, and see what the outcome would be…
I’m certain that I will use his music when I start editing my documentary. I’ve recorded it already. In traditional Taita tribal music, they quietly sing about Kosovo, yes hehheh, the same.. my dog!
Sammy, as he calls himself, takes me for a brief bushwalk the next day. He has questioned the elders of his tribe about ancient knowledge, about music, medicine. For days and nights he harrassed them, brewing beer for them to coax out their secrets.
which, in the end, they shared with him. So here we are, walking the bushes, and he cuts a leaf off off a cactus-like plant. It’s Aloe Vera, he says. I could’ve known that, I think to myself. He cuts the green skin off the leaves, and a transparent gellish matter appears from underneath. wow.
He shows me edible plants, to be found in every open plane.
one of them tastes like green cabbage and needs to be cooked,
another tastes like spinach, the baobab tree leaves taste bittersweet.
Just to be sure, I ask him if there are poisonous variations for each of them. Thinking of the proverb: ‘Don’t try this at home’
But he assures me there aren’t. These tips are great, for I will be camping out in the bush a lot during the coming year, and bringing fresh vegetables is kind of hard.

He’s also pointing out medicinal plants. You need to brew tea from these roots when you’re suffering from a bladder infection. Tea made from those leaves will help cure stomach upsets.

_A short tutorial experience concerning edible and medicinal vegetation that might come in handy further down the road. And there’s a little plant growing on my tractor!_

‘So, how about those big thorny bushes? Those are a total disaster to my tires, I already know that, but is there anything good about them?’
‘If you tear off the bark from this white trunk and boil it with a meat stew, it’s like using Viagra..’ He laughs.
The Red Acacia’s bark remedies bowel troubles. And this one, with its little leaves, we call the lotion tree. Using his knife, he carves little holes in its bark. Immediately a yellow-whitish emulsion comes trickling down. Rub it on your hands, feel its softness, the oilyness. The women in my tribe come to this tree after having washed, and use it on their hair and bodies. It makes the skin soft and shiny..’
yee-haw! I just discovered body lotion that will last me the whole trip. This plant grows everywhere. woo-hoo, me lady, me llike..
heehee, funny how the little things around me can make me such a happy little girl. Girly thingies… a nice counterweight to all the tough driving.

Sammy would like to have the Taita tribes’ knowledge preserved. He is looking for people with whom he can share that knowledge, and record it. And he thinks the knowledge, practically applied, will enable his people to sell their products.
Any takers?
I also told him to take matters in his own hands, instead of waiting for someone to come forward. But, like I noticed with others, he’s waiting while he works his butt off for money. he’s hoping that telling his story often enough, playing his beautiful music often enough, will bring him in contact with someone who can help him…

So, now I’m on my way again. Rob from ‘Wildlife Works’ handed me an alternative route, which Morten and I are taking, through the bush, heading for the coast.
We’ve been driving for days on end, spotting foot prints of elephants, lions, wildebeasts, impalas and many different kinds of shit along the road. But those hundred and ten elephants Rob had spotted in his backyard only yesterday, are nowhere to be found. Sometimes we take a break and drink coffee from the thermos flask (where would I be without coffee?). And off we go again, over narrow sand trails.

They are so narrow actually, that Kos and Morten get whipped around the head by thorny branches. I’m very happy with my new GPS tracker, without which I’d have lost my way through this jumble of wildlife trails for certain. It takes us 10 days to get to the coast, during which we see savage nature, and the small friendly villages that usually don’t get visitors. Morten gets to witness the roughness of driving a tractor. We get soaked, we get sunburnt. His thin, goretex jacket gets ripped to bits on the tractor metal, and his feather sleeping bag doesn’t exactly get dry again after a night in my leaky tent.
Still, the mood is good, he’s a positive soul. Which is exceptional, I’m very aware of the degree of agression being generated in people riding a tractor without any suspension…
We arrive at the coast.

So that’s where I am, Morten has gone, he had to go climb Kilimanjaro and join his family for christmas in Denmark after that. By the way, I never knew Greenland is a Danish colony…

Right now, I’m on the beach, shaded by palm trees, writing my book. Yes, I know, sounds impossibly idyllic. Kos is playing wildly on the beach. Looking chique, black shiny hair on the bright white sand. He’s trying to catch crabs, while I’m chewing words. ‘At the moment I’m stuck in Belgium because the police impounded my tractor on the Antwerp bypass.’
Better get back to my puter and get that sorted, then.

happy holidays to everyone!!!
May all beautiful dreams come true next year!

(original post at 17 12 06)