As a theatre maker I came up
with a plan for a journey.
A journey of a little girl on a
tractor. A journey to the end of
the world, and back. But what
is the end of the world?
If I was a child, I would say: the South Pole! As an adult
I said: the worst war-country
I can imagine. Both voices,
The one of the child and the one
of the adult, said: We want to go!
Then I thought: All right,
we'll just dó that.
Many people talk about it,
but few actually do.
Fear holds people back,
Held-back people have regrets.
Fear and regret are damaging
to people's lives, are damaging
this world. Governed by fear
and regret, there's no room for
Southpole challenges those fears.
It tries to encourage.
Southpole is about the will to face
the world with an open-minded
attitude. The will to face world's
Southpole does not want to be
afraid. Southpole asks:
What is it you fear?
What is it that makes you happy?
What gives you courage?
As a child I mount a tractor
and head for the South Pole.
As an adult I'll make sure I
make it home safely.
A tropical baptism
Hi guys. You can congratulate me now, I had my tropical baptism. My very first malaria. Cause of death #1 in Africa, unless you can afford medical treatment…
On day one, I was rather glad that I had a fever, suddenly everything made sense. For a week now, my back had been killing me and in the end I couldn’t even sit up straight. Thinking: how am I supposed to drive a tractor like this?
When the joints in my hands were aching I thought: who is going to believe the girl that got RSI from driving a tractor through Africa? But then fever came, shooting up to 40.2 degrees (C).
Currently, it’s day four, I’ve run out of medication, I use antibiotics and paracetamol, but I’m still at 39 degrees. I pretty much am a derilict version of my former self. I could cry about absolutely anything, but I won’t. It’s just lack of physical stamina. Last night: I’m in my bed, like a little girl. Can’t sleep, already slept too much and my body is too uncomfortable. I’m staring at the moonlight illuminating my mosquito net and the walls rising above me. All I see is scary faces where the black shadows are. I’m trying to make it look more friendly, and it works, for an instant. I’d better close my eyes…
That enough for the day. I’m sweating, shivering. Lay down again. Have a good time, whereever you are. I’ll be fine, because I still feel all this love (err, is this a dead man rambling?). Nope, it’s the new chinese medication for malaria, apparently capable of even killing the most resistent strains and derived from natural resources. There are no known side-effects and every African could just grow the tree in the backyard… Very nice, such a natural counterweight to a severe disease like that. Why it’s not available in Europe? The chinese have been using it for thousands of years. No company can patent it, so there’s no profit to be gained. Not interested. But fortunately for Africa, it’s allowed here…
Pfff, I’m raving. Gotta lie down again…
original post: 16-02-07
Daily life in Africa
Kosovo is being really quiet lately, what’s wrong?
Hans, who is a doctor and owner of nine dogs, told me to take Kos’s temperature immediately. 40.3 degrees (C)! I hope he gets well soon, he just had a Amoxicline-pill. Perhaps it’s Tick-fever, maybe Dengefever. It’s very useful, Hans explaining all these things, knowledge you might need in the bush, far from any vet. I don’t want to think about not having my dog. Kos is asleep beside me on the couch.
One night, after four days of impersonating a narcoleptic pudding on the sofa and under the tractor, he spontaneously pops out, running alongside me in the dark. Hopping up my legs.
What energy. “you’re back!” Good. We still have a long way to go…
My journey is growing it’s own feet… I’ve always known it would take a long time and I’ve left some space for changes of plan. Now I realize what it’s to be… There will be added layers to this trip. Not just a rush for the finishing line. I won’t just be following African roads, but also the path to the African soul and its stories.
That takes time, rule number one for (immersion into) African life is: Pole pole (easy, easy). Number two: Hakuna matata (don’t worry). Of course I do worry. Even driving the slowest tractor, I’m still European. Gotta run, gotta go faster, compete! perform! The tractor and the Africans are teaching me a lesson: ‘don’t worry, you don’t need to hurry to get somewhere. all you need is perseverance’. (*sigh)
Laws in Africa:
If you’re rushing to meet a person in the village, and you forget to greet the people you encounter along the way, you may run into a problem when you find the person not at home. Tracing back your steps into the village, inquiering after that person’s whereabouts could very well be useless. A few moments back, you couldn’t be bothered to greet them, now they can’t be bothered to give you their time…
Since I’m really enjoying the simple things in African daily life, they’ll let me join the staff kitchen table in the afternoons.
I’m sitting on the beach, kneading a lump of ugali (cornflower dough) with my left hand, and a plastic orange plate of beans in the right, being in the Africa that i like most. Eating with your hands like a little girl, surrounded by nature, laughing and joking people around you…
I’m really happy to be here. for all kinds of reasons.
original post: 07-02-07
Mwazaro Beach… the African life…
Mangroves in the water, Fish in the sea, Nine Dogs on the beach, Everything and Everybody is puzzled, wondering why Tractor Girl can’t spare them any of her time and attention…
But the Girl is writing. I’m writing, typing, scribbling away and writing as if my life is depending on it… I’m doing at least twelve hours a day and last night I skipped sleep altogether. All this to finish the book, to tell you about all of the special on-the-road adventures. Sometimes I glance away from my laptop screen, but mostly my head is wrapped up in the events of the past year. And, since the world here is so beautiful, the people so nice, I guess you’ll have to enjoy the beauty in my place!
Hehheh, how’s that for a good deal? Let me tell you some bits about this special place…
_Every night, after dinner, I return from the bar (to the right), using the sandy trail along the beach and the little Makuti houses to my own little place and verandah… (beyond the pic frame to the left)_
I am a guest to the most tranquil beach of Southern Kenia. It’s the holy beach of the Digo tribe. Hence, it’s captioned ‘where God makes Holidays..’
Around the bend of the beach stands a giant baobab. It must be hundreds of years old. At first glance, you’ll appreciate immediately why the tribe elders go there to commune with their ancestors. The witch doctors, or Shaman of Africa, contact these ancestors about matters of importance, like which crops to plant in the coming season, like how to deal with lean times.
Hans, the proprietor of this place, knows a lot about this place and it’s stories. He arrived here, a burned-out businessman, thinking he had about 6 months to live. Set out to find a rocking chair, a white beach and a bunch of Hula girls, hoping to spend his last months enjoying a glass of scotch…
None of that really worked out that way. Found his beach, okay.
But the the beach came with a holy place and living here demanded strict approval by the tribe elders. So now he lives and works in close relationship to the native inhabitants. This is the first time on my journey that I meet a European who is merging into African mentality. This place is peaceful, quiet, roaring laughter sounds from the kitchen and rooms.
No longer are the mangrove forests nearby razed, the barren plots are being restored to their former glory by the locals and guests. Keeping beautiful Africa beautiful is often a matter of small gestures. Work together, ask people to plant some seeds after they cut down some wood, so they’ll have something to cut down next year…and it works!
I’d love to go on about Hans and his magic tales of Mwazaro beach. No time, no time!
Though I really need to divulge some gossip about this dog that’s been following me around for over a year. Kosovo has fallen in love! Haha, from our first moment here, this young rottweiler lass, Robbi, has been ogling Kos, alternating that with inquisitive looks directed at me. Kosovo was smitten instantly, but he was also too much of a chicken to act upon his amorous impulses when faced with the other eight dogs. So now they play around together every day, on the beach and under the trees, harrassing me to join in with them! … But i’ll be a spoilsport for a while longer, I need to tell you all this.
_I’m being properly guarded by happy Masai warriors ‘Abari Mama Tinga tinga, Abari a Leo?’ (hello tractor lady, how’s things today?), who on occasion provide me with a beer at night! _
Last night I returned to my place, following the sandy trail under a full moon. I was preceded by two Masai warriors pushing their wheelbarrows, Kosovo and Robbi criss-crossing their path playfully. Meanwhile, Snoopy the semi-blind dog, tried to bite the calves of the second ‘watchman’. The guard would then halt his wheelbarrow, exclaim ‘hey’, and continue the walk. This had to go on and on, if it was up to the loopy-bouncy Snoopy. ‘aww come on guys, let’s play here…’
Mwazaro Beach ‘where God makes Holidays’, on the holy beach of the Digo tribe, situated between the touristic and crowded Diani and the small village of Shimoni… The most tranquil and magical beach in Kenia…
(original post: 30-01-07)
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.
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)
Life is a tempest, and it’s raining outside…
_Working on the book in ‘Talis man’ restaurant…coolest place in Nairobi!!_
Days fly by, it’s raining cats and dogs, even here in Kenya…
I’ve locked myself inside to write my book, the deadline closing in.
I still haven’t been able to make contact with Wangari Maathai, she’s a busy woman. I tried everything, I drove to her office on the tractor. The women working there totally loved the green tractor, touching their cheeks and shaking their heads, laughing.
‘Tell me more, where do you sleep? Ã?n there?’. I told them that i’m very impressed with the efforts of the ‘Green Belt Movement’, and it’s true*!
They urged me to keep calling, keep writing, keep emailing.
They gave me the email-adress of Wangari’s daughter, but up till now, both women appear to have vanished from Earth.
Right here, right now, something weird is going on. The taxi I just used, driven by a guy I gradually befriended and whose father works for Wangari Maathai, ‘coincidentally’, was just summoned by the daughter, Wanjira Maathai.
I told him, she’s one of your regular fares, so I’ll wait in this bar, need to do some writing anyway. So here I am, typing a daft story, while my cab driver is speeding away ‘the daughter of’…
(shushh, at least i have her number now)
Oooh, there he comes again, I’ll continue later
(Tomorrow there’ll be a tug-of-war contest featuring the tractor versus all the students of a school!!! for charity…)
Over the past week, the ‘East African Canvas Company’ built me a new tent!
The old tent was falling apart, weathered to bits by sun and rain. Furthermore, it was hardly ‘wildlife-proof’. That has now been fixed by Rob’s company, Rob being Lindsey’s (the fashion show woman) husband.
Normally, the company fabricates safari tents, very nice, shique items, straight from the past century, making use of wooden poles and beautiful interiors. My hope is that they’ll start exports to Europe, as most tents used there for parties and weddings are ugly, white, plastic monstrosities.(sorry, catering experiences taking over)
They made me a new tent, so now I’ll be advertising for them.
HA, this tent is SUPER!
There’s only one tiny issue (which will be solved next week):
I requested ‘windows’ which would open from the inside, so I’ll be able to see anything approaching when camping in the bush.
But I kinda didn’t think of the fact that with all this rain, water is pouring in through the mesh windows. My new plastic tent flooring has been made with the edges going up, so recently I’ve been waking up in a swimming puddle. The campsite where I’m camping now, serves coffee in the morning, so last the three days I’ve been sitting under their roof, sleepy-headed, admiring my swimming pool. That’s not the way it should be, so adjustments will be made. Heehee, Ã?fter I throw a swimming pool party this weekend. And the sun is coming out again, finally.
At my tractor sponsor’s, Sametract (the last tractor maintenance sponsor I’ll encounter before I reach South Africa, in a year…), the vehicle has been serviced for the last time. They also helped me out designing/constructing a system with which I can film people on my way, without me having to hold the camera. And with which I can film myself, while I’m bouncing through the wastelands either smiling or weeping.
Nairobi seems intent on keeping me here. This morning I discovered that my front left tire has a puncture! How did you manage to do that, in the big city?
_designed a system to keep filming whilst driving_
_The team of eight that worked on my tractor_
*In the past 25 years, the ‘Green Belt Movement’ has been planting over three million trees throughout Kenya and it’s neighbours. This way, they’re fighting the ever insistent march of erosion and desert, create employment for women in rural areas, fertolize the soil and create firewood in a responsible manner.
My book will be published in may, by the publisher “De Geus”.
So many things have happened, in one and a half years, that the decision was made to publish it in two parts. I’m totally occupied writing it, using the diary notes I made during the whole period.
My aim is to finish part one before january the 1st, so I can start the next leg of the journey on a clean slate. It’s tons of fun, looking back at all the struggles before setting off and the journey that followed. I’m only halfway, and yet so many things have happened!
_Just popping outside to feed a giraffe._
originally published November 23, 2006
Made for Africa
Yesterday, I spent four hours in Nairobi’s Karen Hospital. I didn’t feel well, and it seemed like a bright idea to get myself checked out before taking off again…
Well, the final result of the tests and hours of waiting was that I appear not to have typhoid, no malaria, no bilharzia nor amoeabas. ‘I must have been made for africa’, I stated. ‘Nonetheless, I’m dead tired’. They did find some bacteria down my stomach. I remember thinking:’Aren’t those supposed to be there?’. But maybe they are the cause, of me feeling bloated and touchy. So they gave me antibiotics.
Today I collected the tractor at the workshop, it has been hauled over by 6 mechanics. I feel like Samson, after having had his hair restored in some unlikely miraculous fashion. Though it might be exhausting, all the smiling and waving all day, it’s also an increeeeeeeeeedibly lot of fun, having all this contact.
Wangari Maathai has returned from the USA to attend a conference. Now I’m faced with the apparently impossible task of fetching her away for a cup of coffee. Fortunately, at least I bow have all her telphone numbers and all I have to do is get myself to do it…
_What is she up to?_
originally published November 7, 2006
I’m back in Nairobi, on my own again.
Destitute too, the tractor is at Sametract (sponsor tractor company). It’s being revised for the coming year. Until I reach South Africa, a whole year of driving away, there are no tractor companies to help me out. It took 3 days to get the roof reinforced, and I feel like I’ll never be able to get going.
Tragically, I can’t stay put, unless that serves a purpose.
Must sound weird, coming from someone who drags along through africa at 20 kilometers/hour.
My arrival in Nairobi did not go unnoticed. It’s independance day and the streets are packed with people. Families walking holding hands, fathers with kids on the shoulders. They’ve just attended a speech of president Kibaki at the national stadium.
TN Travel News magazine
From Kenya tot South Africa..October 2006
The woman who organized ‘Fashion and Woman against Violence’ has written a wonderful piece on me for the magazine ‘Travel News’. Now I’m regularly being phoned for short radio interviews, reaching up to South Africa.
Holland is very quiet, and before I go to sleep, I whisper ‘I miss you’… Being on the road for a whole year longer, on your own, that’s really something.
FORD ‘Super Model of the World’ Kenya search.
I’ve been asked to collect dreams during this show. The girl that wins becomes top model of Kenya and is a contestant for the ‘FORD Super model of the World’ show in New York.
Honourable MP Njoke Ndungu, the woman that pushed through the government bill against sexual abuse (yeehaa! she’s done it!), is guest of honour.
And just like she did on the fashion show last April, she introduces me to the public, and this time I take over from her and start collecting dreams from the people, written on tiny pieces of paper.
When I collect the dreams in a big blue glass bowl, it’s totally quiet, except for the song of a marvelous opera singer behind me. Every time I pick up one of the dreams, I grow silent inside… how splendid it is to carry away such personal, fragile items… I will not read them, just carry them on the back of the tractor, and Kosovo, my dog, will guard them. All the way to antarctica, where I will build a snowman, with the ‘dreams of the world’ in its belly. Hopefully, frozen forever. As a witness to this era.
A full page in the biggest newspaper of Kenya
Nairobi knows I’m here allright. Soon after my arrival I’m being interviewed for the biggest paper in the country. KTN, the national television broadcast company, pops by to do a shoot.
‘The Queen of Adventure’, wooohooo I’ve never been called that before! (giggle) And they even mention my ‘modest’ clothing, the long decent skirt and the blouse, made by Paulien’s mum.
So now I’m on my own again, and that’s quite a thing to get used to. The Kenyan Women MP’s are moving the ‘tea’ forward every week, but I’m not gonna sit around here forever. Tractor needs to be upgraded, the Tent is going to be upgraded and after that… after that I’m out of here. On my way to the coming year.
Back on the road
Have started travelling again so swiftly, need to get my stuff back in order ‘in the bush’.
Arrived in Nairobi on thursday, and on friday I got my tractor again. On saturday the dog returned, and on sunday I wrote about Paris. On monday Joost and I took off for Mombasa, and we still hadn’t got there on thursday. On friday I felt this strange sensation that on our arrival (the next monday), we might have only one day before getting back. So we decided to turn back
Joost (one of the designers of this website and other stuff) will travel with me for a few weeks. To take pictures and shoot video, which is pretty darn hard when you’re on your own.
I would have liked to offer him some holiday time off, along with all the hours of sitting on the tractor, hence the scheme to find a beach. Alas…
But sometimes making a choice that feels right, even though it’s weird to turn back, is the best option
An unexpected encounter
On our arrival in Voi, we discovered a campsite called ‘East Gate Royal Resort’. We were allowed to camp in the garden, between lots of flowers. Since we were the only guests, they were quite pleased to see us.
At night a guy in the bar tried to pick me up. I had introduced myself because I presumed him to be the manager of the resort. Not so. He introduced himself as the driver of one of the Women MP’s of Kenya. ‘That’s the one I got to get hold of’ I said, thereby ending the flirt.
Next morning I was totally utterly nervous. It was a sunday and I had wanted to sleep late. But the tought of this minister, the honourable MP Naomi Shaban, having breakfast just around the corner, made me get up at eight and made me dash for the ladies’ room.
One hour later, we conversed. A sturdy lady in overwhelming bright pink african garments. A big pink cloth wrapped around her head to complete the picture. She had been wondering what that young lady was doing in the garden, with a tractor…
After having heard my story, she suggested organizing a ‘tea’ with all women MP’s of Kenya. ‘we’re all strong women with a story’. I replied: ‘I heard about that, and now I can see it’s true!’
It looks as if, not only will I be drinking a cup of coffee with Wangari Maathai (the first African woman to receive the Nobel peace prize), I’ll also have tea with all female ministers! wow.
Joost: Everything moves so fast, except us
Joost is having a tough time on the tractor, his arms are getting sunburnt, his muscles stiffen, but he’s holding out bravely.
The people that lighten our day are mostly those by the side of the road in little villages. And the truck drivers on their way to mombasa, of course, getting more enthousiastic every time they pass us. When going uphill, we pass a lot of them, and a contest is born. Whenever I pass them, I make gestures like ‘I’m cool-I’m cool’ or, ‘I can do this!-I can do this!-I can do this!’. And when they overtake me, five minutes later, going downhill: ‘nooooooooooooo’. These games are very entertaining. Later in the day they signal us: ‘will you be having lunch in the next village, like us?’ ‘yup!’
Delicious, I was starting to miss the beans, the ugalu and the cabbage!
On one of the campsites we encounter the night guard. It’s a Masai boy from the village down the road. We did a great photo shoot. On my arrival in Nairobi, I’ll send him the pics. As a thank you-gesture for the fun day Leanne, as he’s called, offers me a necklace. ‘We’re friends now’. It’s a necklace of black beads and a zebra-striped leaf.
Two days later, we’re camping amongst monkeys. Kosovo goes apeshit on his leash, for this is definitely the place to play around. Unfortunately, it’s also a wildlife reserve, and dogs aren’t allowed off the leash. Since my return to Kenya, Kosovo has become a really sweet dog. Where he was obstinate and obnoxious in the year before, he now walks beside me, whereever it is that I’m going. Only the lavatory is off limits to him (if there ARE any, of course).
The days spent with Joost are filled with creative brainstorms about video, pictures and the book I’m writing. Often, we halt by the side of the road to capture some video. These weeks may not be very interesting for outsiders, but I’m very happy to be
able to recharge my creativity for the coming year. I now also have a lot more film footage for the documentary I plan to make after I finished the journey. I can picture it again, it’s going to be one great story i’d like to share with you all!
Thanks to: Paulien’s mother, dad and de wereldomroep! Left: the bag for my cooker with handy pocket for lighters Right: the bag for my pans and the thermo-mug the Wereldomroep gave me.
After a year of gathering experience and some practical thinking, I’ll be hitting the road again in slightly better comfort:
The wereldomroep donated a thermo-mug! Which makes it possible to have coffee in the morning, on the tractor, without losing it after encountering the first pothole of the day, and spilling it all over myself.
Paulien’s mother made me a skirt and an apron out of orange canvas. (Orange being the colour of the wild waters in which I wash my clothes, due to all the red sand) And since almost every woman here wears skirts (except in the cities), I don’t want to go without one. But because I get dirty all the time, there’s also the apron. The bush has taught me appreciation for ancient clothing traditions, including braided hair, because of the wind. If I get invited into peoples homes now, I won’t look as outrageously filthy: I’ll just take off the apron!
It totally puzzles me how they manage to keep their clothes clean, in these rural parts. Torn or worn they may be, but everybody looks so clean!
Paulien’s mum also made me some very practical bags, with a string, so I can manage my stuff in a more orderly, safe and hygienic way.
And my dad gave me a set of travel pans. Those are going to be the luxury items of the year. I’ll save liters of water not having to scrub the crusts off every day!
A date in Paris
I’m in the cabin of a truck. Sitting next to Bob, a cargo truck driver. We’ve been acquainted by way of the ‘Wereldomroep’ (dutch worldwide radio service), of which he’s been a regular guest, and the presentors of the show (Bob and Peter) ‘granted me permission to go on this trip’. We’re off to Paris, where I’ve got a special appointment underneath the Eiffel Tower. It’s dark outside, in the cabin of the vehicle there’s a dim light glowing. Bob has put on the latest cd by the band ‘Blof’, which I would very much like to have when I’m back on the tractor in Africa.
At night I sleep in the upper bed in the cabin, we’re parked on a big parking lot for truckers on the outskirts of Paris. Bob is standing outside, smoking a cigarette, politely waiting till I’ve installed myself.
Camping with a truck is very similar to camping with the tractor. Difference is, Bob’s got a fridge and a coffee machine, and I don’t.
In the morning I wash at the local petrol station, and hurry back to the truck. Later on, bob drops me at the closest underground station. It’s Disneyland Paris, and I’m getting the strange sensation that I’m still dreaming when walking past the castle towers, looking for the entrance to the subway.
An appointment with your southpole-guide. Yeah right. Under-the-Eiffel-Tower. Tssss.
Which stop do I get off? Why are the Subway maps not littered with little Eiffel Tower Icons? What about all the clueless tourists?
Errr. That one looks quite allright, I definitely must be closing in.
After I get off, and mount the stairs, a huge Arc de Triomphe arises in front of me.
Okay-okay, we’re near. A sudden flashback to 2002, when I was driving here, in circles, on my tractor, intent on ‘drinking a cup of coffee under the Eiffel Tower’. I dash off toward the Tower. “Here, at this traffic light, is where a tiny scooter halted: ‘I’m your photographer, follow me.’” Eiffel Tower, at last!
‘I’ll be wearing a pink hat’, she had joked in her email. Even so, I’m tracking every pink hat under the Eiffel Tower. There!
Nope, just a Japanese beauty with giant sunglasses. A woman, fitting the profile exactly, walks towards me. She’s carrying a professional mountaineering cane and she has a limp. It takes her a lot of effort to sit down on one of the benches. ‘If that’s her, I’m Calling it off’.
I buy myself a cup of coffee and sit myself down on a bench. I look up at the gigantic profile of the Eiffel construction towering over me.
At twelve o’clock exactly, a woman comes pacing toward me. She halts dead center under the tower and puts her hand to her brow. She looks round in a searching manner. ‘So, where can she be?’
Eeeee, should I approach her? Hop-hop, here we go!
We sit under the trees for hours on end, on a bench, configuring our plans. Matty, yes it’s the world famous Matty mcNair, knows exactly what the ice and snow look like on our desired route. She provides me with all the practical information I need to have the tractor prepared.
‘Do we take off from Patriot Hills, or do we start at the spot Sir Edmund Hillary took off with his tractors, 50 years ago? His route is closer to South Africa, so maybe we might still be able to take on that Ice-breaker-boat offer they made you’. We move to a terrace, and continue talking.
It’s fantastic to see her enthousiasm for the project. This woman, of whom everybody says: ‘well if she’s behind you, everything will be fine’. And I share that confidence. And we’re having fun. She tells me a funny fact: The moment you take your time to enjoy yourself, to take pictures or to film, will retrospectively turn out to be the time that you advanced the largest distances. A polar expedition is about mental effort, you keep telling yourself ‘one step at the time’, and that’s the way you reach your goal. Time speeds up when you’re enjoying yourself, and you see a lot more.
Well, I kind of noticed that myself, in Africa.
The only real massive mountain on my horizon, is the sponsoring part.
For heaven’s sake, how can I arrange for mega-sponsors, while toiling through Africa? Maybe anything is possible? In Holland, I’ve been doing a lot of hard work to find help in that department.
‘If every visitor of this website would donate 1 euro, I’d be halfway a polar expedition on foot. If every visitor would donate 2 euro, I’d raise the same amount for my charities as I would for my expedition’.
A visit to the ‘wereldomroep’ with Bob and Peer… Trucker Bob, who’s going to go for Paris-Dakar next winter, in his rig
My weeks spent in Holland were totally chaotic but wonderful!
It was fantastic to step outside my head for a while, to see with my own eyes that every one of you was stil there!! I’m feeling pretty queezy after way too litle sleep, but I’m all charged up for the next stage. the past period was spent reorganising home base (well, yes… now sis has to take care of a baby… -J.K.). I’d like to thank everyone that enabled this journey to happen.
From here on it’s back to Swahili, since I’m departing for Nairobi where I have a tractor and a dog waiting for me…
This time, using a GPS..
The past year, it became increasingly obvious that a tractor can take you anywhere you like, and from now on, I’ll probably be more off road than ever. My mother set out to find me a GPS, starting at the corner shop. On her return, not only did she have one, but it was fuly sponsored too. incredible!
Mum happy, for I can now send actual cordinates of where I am.
Me happy, because everybody was so nice.