Who: L U C I E, L A C H L A N, and B O W W O W.
Their occupations: Gypsy, Slick Suit in Finance, Dog
The trip: Crossing Africa by 4×4, helping communities through trade.
We’ve cut our teeth on over 25,000km of dirt roads across Southern Africa with our dog, Bow Wow, sourcing wonderful, handmade treasures… Think Summer of Love! Here are our highlights so far…
I think it’s safe to say that Bow Wow is loving life in the UK. It’s certainly a far cry from the existence that he could have had as a township stray, surviving amongst the rainbow warrens of shacks in his birthplace, Imizamo Yethu in Cape Town, South Africa.
Our wild African hound is at last here with us in the UK. As I type, his furry head rests on my feet, tired out after an intensive ball throwing and pond dipping session (those poor tadpoles!). It’s the best feeling to be together again.
On 1st January 2012, the rules for bringing dogs into the UK changed! The new pet immigration laws mean that Bow Wow won’t have to be put in quarantine. Instead quarantine is avoided by having a blood test three months in advance. We wonder what he’ll make of London’s stylish mutts!
Leaving Zimbabwe, poor Bow Wow becomes seriously ill with biliary and Lachlan is accused of trying to murder Mugabe.
We’re back in Britain trading with our shop on wheels, Vagabond Van and launching our new project, Band4Hope. Here’s a snap shot of Vagabond Van life.
Even though Bow Wow promised not to lift his leg against the statue of David Livingstone, no dogs are allowed at the Victoria Falls. Not even adventure hounds sponsored by Hill’s pet Nutrition.
The Tonga tribe were forced to move from where they’d lived and fished for centuries so that the power of the Zambezi could be harnessed for electricity and yet 50 years on and they still go without electricity or running water. No wonder they smoke dagga.
We discover why Lake Kariba’s southern shores are less travelled and live to tell the tale.
Bow Wow being mobbed by some ghetto groupies in Windhoek. It’s a dogs life.
The national park near Nyanga is said to have been Cecil Rhodes favourite spot and by all accounts has fabulous hikes through lush green mountains with waterfalls, breath taking views and great trout fishing. We knew that these hikes would be out of bounds for us with a dog but we hoped that as the park is not home to many animals and has no predators, the rangers may turn a blind eye and allow us to stay for one night in their campsite with Bow Wow. However, they were not to be charmed and once again we found ourselves in the stressful situation of having to find alternative accommodation with less than an hour of daylight left. Blaming himself, Bow Wow felt horrendously bad about the whole thing and increasingly worse when we were turned away from a motel in the town of Nyanga which was fully booked and did not allow camping in their grounds. On hearing us discussing our last hope, which was to ask if we might stay at the local police station, the snooty receptionist reluctantly suggested that we try a place just out of town called Angler’s Rest but she definitely did not recommend it. (Includes 3 videos)
Rusape is a real Zimbabwean town not featured in any travel guides. We camped in the grounds of an achingly retro, yet empty, motel with a swimming pool full of frogs and provoked lots of laughter as we wandered through Rusape’s bright and bustling streets. Our taste buds had a real treat when we tucked into mouthwatering sadza with local farmers, sampled some thirst quenching Zimbabwean beers and sunk our teeth into the most flavoursome fruit that we have ever tasted. At Lovely’s Hair Salon we learnt how to braid while her gogo held court and swigged Coca-Cola on the stoop.
With so few tourists for so many years, all of the official campsites in Harare closed long ago. We eventually found a safe place to set up camp at Cleveland Dam and sampled the local “brain kicking” tipple, Chimbuku. At a vibrant market we felt the true hustle of Africa but our search for Vagabond Van products continued.
During our three hour long delay, I took pictures of the chaotic Zimbabwe border crossing but was caught and asked to delete them from my camera. It was a total shambles; Bow Wow’s forms were filled out in a rotting make shift caravan with a missing floor, great chasms in parts of the pavement waited to swallow humans whole and disorderly queues seemed unformed in all directions.
Once through, we were warned by a local to not stop for anything or anyone until we reached Great Zimbabwe. On registering our concerned expressions he added “Don’t worry, it’s not like South Africa; they probably won’t kill you but they will rob you.” Off at last, we chased the setting sun past mountainous boulders muffled in lush vegetation and colourful clusters of roadside pedlars touting pyramids of golden mangoes and baking mielies in their leaves over smouldering embers.
After a break in Cape Town and with only 4 days left on Lucie’s South African visa, it was a case of pedal to the metal, past the boerewors curtain and all the way through Afrikaans country until we reached the Zimbabwe border.
From Maun in Botswana, we successfully navigated the length of the Makgadikgadi Pan, camping half way across, surrounded by nothing but blinding salt for as far as the eye could see. We then travelled cross country to Gabarone in search of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective, Mma Ramwotse and found the next best thing; a policewoman called Precious.
At a foot and mouth control point, we lent a few dollars to a man who had run out of fuel and cash. His name was Eugene and not only did he pay us back when we got to Grootfontein, he also organised for us to camp at Kalkfontein Farm which is owned by an eccentric Swiss fellow who keeps some surprising pets.
We had fun at the Epupa Falls but going there made us realise how vulnerable the Himba culture is and how lucky we had been to access remote areas by 4×4 and experience the customs of those who are still largely unaffected by the modern world.
In Purros we visited Himba women whose fine jewellery made of metal, bone and skin would not look out of place strutting down an Alexander McQueen runway. We listened to the snap of branches and the purr of dessert elephants as they tramped past our tent on their midnight moseys and Bow Wow ate so much of their poo we renamed him Shitlips.
Having fought, picnicked and played at Namibia’s most ancient geological and spiritual sites we leave the beaten track for Koakaland, home to the Himbas.
Camping in the vast emptiness of the Namib Dessert under a camelthorn tree and the great glittering arc of the Milky Way, we saw so many shooting stars that we ran out of wishes. We didn’t realise how easily Bow Wow could have been cheetah, spotted hyena or leopard padkos! Having successfully smuggled our stowaway in to the soaring sand dune sea of Sossusvlei, we then pushed on to Windhoek via the Gemütlichkeit of Swakompmund.
We reach Lüderitz, where the seas of sand meet the glittering Atlantic! Lucie gets radioactive highlights, Bow Wow plays with a jackal and our perception of hyenas is changed forever.
From battle fields to diamond fields, Kimberley and its surrounding area is drenched in history. We stayed with a wildlife vet at Magersfontein Farm where the British suffered their greatest losses during the Boer War and explored Kimberley’s preserved ‘New Rush’ streets. With so many fortunes made and lost in this historic area, Back to Africa’s Sable Project at Mokala National Park is proving to be another success for the history books.
We catch soccer fever and make more furry friends in balmy Durban. I pass my state vet inspection without even a solitary flea. Lachlan is forced to carry me through a throng of amused football supporters but we are rewarded with a view of the staggering Moses Mandhiba stadium. We enter Swaziland to begin the most important phase of our quest.