Tag Archives: Africa Expedition Support

Africa Expedition Support off-roading into making a real difference

Chief Mapengo comes to meet the Adventures Cross Country group at Napenda Solar Community HQ in Kajiado, Kenya

Chief Mapengo comes to meet the Adventures Cross Country group at Napenda Solar Community HQ in Kajiado, Kenya

Lee Erickson is one of the leaders of Adventures Cross Country Gap group currently in Kenya working with Napenda Solar Community.

Here is a blog entry from Lee

“The Adventures Cross-Country (ARCC) Africa Gap crew is currently 30 miles outside of Nairobi, in Kajiado County, Kenya, where we are working with the Napenda Solar Community assembling and installing solar power systems to the local communities to provide electricity and light in their homes for the first time!

I know you guys are probably thinking that that’s some pretty amazing stuff… and you are right! It has been one of the most rewarding service projects that I have ever been a part of, and is definitely a highlight for our group during our three month journey across East Africa.

Napenda Solar Community is a non-profit project that began in November 2013 in hope of improving the lives of many East African families by providing affordable, reliable and clean solar energy to their homes. Napenda is Swahili for “I love,” and in just two short years, Napenda Solar Community has installed solar power systems in 27 homes and have stolen the hearts of the communities that they have reached across East Africa thus far.

So who is behind Napenda Solar Community? Their names are Thiemo and Deborah. Thiemo grew up in Germany and is a master mechanic, car enthusiast and driver by trade. Deborah is originally from Australia and is a nurse, dog lover, and a crafty cook. They met in Africa while working with an overland company several years ago, and eventually started their own overland and guided Land Rover self-drive business called Africa Expedition Support (AES).

They started AES at a campsite near Nairobi with one overland truck and a couple Land Rover 4x4s. They quickly grew in popularity due to their work ethic, knowledge, and passion to create memorable and outstanding experiences for their customers. With currently four overland trucks and 12 Land Rover 4x4s in their fleet, they stay very busy running and organizing overland and self-drive guided trips for school groups and adventurous travelers that want to experience East Africa in a truly unique way. Coincidentally enough, our ARCC Africa Gap group is overlanding with AES for the majority of our journey!

As AES expanded, Debs and Thiemo moved further away from the capital city and built their dream home called The Castle in Kajiado. With no affordable way to acquire essential resources like electricity and water, Debs and Thiemo had to design their home in a way that they would be completely self-sustainable. By reading books and searching the internet, Thiemo taught himself how to make a proper solar power system and a wind turbine that powers all of their lights, washing machine, oven, stereo system, water heater, and many more amenities in their beautiful home. By making their dream home a reality, Debs and Thiemo have proven that solar energy is affordable, reliable, sustainable, and makes sense for any home where the sun shines.

It wasn’t long before a light bulb went off in their heads to design a smaller solar power system for the homes in their local community, which sparked the duo to launch the Napenda Solar Community project in order to make a positive impact for those families. ARCC has been an in-country partner with Debs and Thiemo for many years and we feel very fortunate to be able to volunteer on their Napenda Solar project for 10 days, and experience first-hand, how beneficial this project is to the many families it is directly impacting.

The reality here is that 50% of people living in Kenya do not have access to mains electricity in their homes. Most people use kerosene lanterns for lighting which is expensive and has adverse health effects. In Kenya, mains electricity costs $500 to get connected to the grid (plus monthly electricity bills) is simply inconceivable for the majority of the population that lives on less than $2 per day.

“The challenge was finding a good project that individuals can learn something from, is sustainable, accomplishes something big, and has a positive impact on people’s lives. We believe Napenda Solar Community does all of those things, and more” says Debs and Thiemo as we talk over a hot cup of tea. “This project provides poor rural households with efficient, clean and cost effective solar power as a positive step to eradicating poverty,” they state.

After installing three solar power systems in three nearby homes, the impact we made thanks to Napenda Solar Community could not be more evident for our group during our short time here. Each family has invested $50 of their money (which often times means selling a cow or goat) and with their new-found electricity, they understand how valuable this resource is to open opportunities to access information, education, and communication offering a tremendous platform for individual, community and nationwide development.

Debs and Thiemo’s goal for Napenda Solar Community is to install as many solar panel systems across East Africa as possible. “We believe it is our social responsibility to give back to our community to make people’s lives easier here,” Debs concludes. Napenda Solar Project largely relies on groups and travelers such as ARCC to fund the cost of the solar power systems and we couldn’t be more thankful to the two of them for allowing us to be a part of their inspiring and life-changing project.

Follow Napenda Solar Community on facebook, twitter , linkedin, and google+ or peruse Africa Expedition Support website for more information.

 

Changing lives through Solar Power

Sam Cary, a student from the USA on an Adventures Cross Country Gap trip to East Africa talks about his experience working with Napenda Solar Community in Kenya.

Before going into these homes and seeing the situations that these families were in, my anticipation and excitement for installing the panels was almost unbearable. Knowing that I would be able to have an immediate impact on these families’ lives was the reason why I came to Kenya. Rafting on the Nile, a safari in the Masai Mara were both unbelievable adventures, however being able to improve the lives of people who live in the middle of such poverty, is what makes experiences like this as rewarding as they are.

When we arrived at the first house, I was shocked to see the conditions these families lived in. A family of 9, all cramped in to what seemed like no more than a 30 square foot structure with two beds, seemed impossible. Compared to the living situations of these families, extreme poverty in the western world seems luxurious. This house was crawling with all sorts of insects. They had chickens, stray cats and dogs, all running in and out of their home, bringing in all sorts of bacteria into their house.

The kitchen was unlike anything i have ever seen, I am amazed that anyone could think it would be okay to be in a kitchen like this for any amount of time. The second i walked in, I was hit with a blast of dense smoke and kerosene lamp fumes. My eyes felt like they were on fire, and I went to take a breath but my body didn’t let me, knowing that it would fill my lungs with toxic smoke. I was shocked to see that pushed up against the walls of this kitchen, were two beds where the younger kids slept. Even with all of the smoke and fumes, there were two infants sitting on the beds next to their mother who was cooking us a meal of chapati and vegetables, using no more than the light from a kerosene lamp to light her dark and smoke filled kitchen.

Before Sam and the rest of the gang installed solar power to this home kerosene lanterns were the only option for this family.

Before Sam and the rest of the gang installed solar power to this home kerosene lanterns were the only option for this family.

Once the panel was installed, and the lights and battery were all connected, we flicked the switch and pulled the light cords, lighting up what was once a dark house with an even darker kitchen. What I saw was unbelievable. In the darkness of the kitchen without the light, I couldn’t see the amount of flies that were swarming the food, and the babies’ faces.

Shortly after the light was flicked on, all of the flies started to swarm the light, getting them all close enough to the makeshift door for them to be wafted out, away from the food and the kids.

This one solar panel really did create a remarkable difference in the quality of this family’s life. Solar electricity removes the need for kerosene lamps and wood fires for light, giving the kids a chance to work on schoolwork, and for the parents to continue their crafts and professions at night. In turn, this would improve the kids performance at school, and increase the amount of money these parents will make, which will allow them to provide even more for their family.

Sam testing his handy work after installing a solar power system to a poor rural home in Kenya

Sam testing his handy work after installing a solar power system to a poor rural home in Kenya

Napenda Solar Community brings solar power to poor rural families in East Africa. An initiative that is supported by the local community, visiting tour and student groups and Africa Expedition Support.

On safari: Driving a 4×4 through the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Imagine driving a 4×4 through the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania on safari with Africa Expedition Support. Weaving your way through narrow tracks in search of African wildlife; without warning there is something moving through the grass in the distance. Thinking back to the wildlife documentaries about the Serengeti National Park you have watched over the years and remember the exhilaration as David Attenborough narrated in his deep calm voice “and ….in the distance ….… there she is …… oh how magnificent ……. Standing so tall and proud …..a lone lioness.” On safari in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania is living up to all expectations.

Turning off the 4×4 engine you sit and wait, watching as she comes closer; this is nothing like a documentary. The Serengeti can only be truly experienced live, being there, being in the thick of animal activity. The lioness comes closer, she is totally undisturbed by your presence. After all, this is her territory, she is Queen. She wanders by, no less than 15m from the vehicle, crosses over the track and continues off into the distance. In the meantime you are trying to decide whether to sit and watch her or take hundreds of photos of this incredible human wildlife encounter. Deciding to watch her and take a few pictures as it is only early in the day and hopefully there will be more wildlife encounters to come.

A lone lioness

A lone lioness

 

Turning the 4×4 engine back on and driving slowly along the track through the Serengeti NP, alert and excited you immediately start looking for more wildlife. Around a corner you come across a watering hole complete with date palms reaching high into the clear bright blue sky. In the water there are a few hippos lazing in the cool water, a troop of Vervet monkeys play in the nearby trees and a herd of zebra nervously approach for a drink. With so much activity you don’t know where to look first. You sit and watch for 30 minutes or more, there is no hurry; in the meantime tourist vehicles arrive and leave allowing just enough time to take a picture. Realising you have made the right decision in booking a guided self drive safari and not opting for an organised tour being driven.

Eventually deciding to continue, it is not long before stumbling across a herd of elephants meandering across the plains with several newly born babies huddled in the middle of the herd, closely protected. A family of warthog run by, their little legs taking them at lightning speed as if they have an important mission to accomplish. Surrounded by herds of wildebeest, gazelle and zebra grazing peacefully complete the picture. A little later something flashes across the track and make its way up a tall tree. A leopard? Slowly making your way forward, hopes become a reality and there is a male leopard perched on a branch looking out across the plains. What a magnificent animal.

79-protecting-young

Feeling like the luckiest person in the World with so many animals and so much activity from unique birds, large and small, to countless plain animals, a lion and a leopard. On the lookout for more lions the decision is made to take a narrow 4×4 track toward a large rocky outcrop, as luck would have it you stumble upon several lions with cubs. The cubs play joyfully in the grass as mum and the other lionesses watch over them; noticing a bush move not far away and a large male lion rises from his well hidden spot. His mane is golden brown, flowing in the slight breeze, he moves a few metres and lies back down again; the cubs spot him and make a dash jumping on his mane and playfully trying to chew his paw. He is unperturbed and tries to sleep through the minor distraction. The cubs don’t give up, they desperately want daddy to play and continue trying to get his attention. Out of luck, the cubs bounce back to mum where she gently grooms them as they try to cheekily bite her leg and neck. You sit in awe of this family encounter and giggle as the cubs try desperately to get the adults to play with them, uncoordinated they fall off their mothers back and tumble to the ground only to bounce back up again. Before long 2 hours have past.

Lion cubs playing with mum

Lion cubs playing with mum

As it is getting late you decide to head back to camp to meet the rest of the group and share the day’s game driving experiences and stories. A couple of kilometres down the road there is a cheetah perched high on a rock overlooking the plains. By the looks of it he is looking for dinner! Gracefully he glides down from the rock and starts striding through the tall grass; not before taking several photos. He is not alone as he is joined by 2 more cheetahs and what looks like a cheetah cub. The four glide through the grass and then 3 drop to the ground out of sight. All that is visible is the little head of the cheetah cub. In the distance there are gazelles grazing and you soon realise the cheetahs are hunting. One of the cheetahs sits up and strikes the cheetah cub with her powerful paw and immediately the cheetah cub drops out of sight; mother is teaching the cub hunting techniques. The cheetahs are out of sight, all of a sudden the gazelle let out a cry and run in the opposite direction – they are aware of the cheetahs and that they are hungry. The cheetahs rise and continue on their way. Feeling a little disappointed for the cheetah but happy the gazelle got away!

This leopard looks rather comfortable from his position high in the tree.

This leopard looks rather comfortable from his position high in the tree.

Continuing back to the camp you spot impala, bushbuck, serval cat, dik dik and more.

Back at camp the crew greet with a cheese and fruit platter in hand and ask how the day was. Where to begin you ponder …… by now everyone in the group has returned to camp. Grazing away at the cheese and fruit platter the stories start to flow, everyone had an incredible day. The stories continue over a scrumptious dinner until it is time for bed. The crew smile ….. just another day in the Serengeti National Park.

For more information about Africa Expedition Support and this tour check out http://www.africaexpeditionsupport.com/africa-overland-adventure/ or email Debs at info@africaexpeditionsupport.com

Grey Nomad, Silver Nomad …. Where travel goes beyond a cruise to Tahiti

Whether you describe yourself as a Grey Nomad or Silver Nomad is not important.  What is important, is now is the time to pack the bags and take off on that holiday adventure you have dreamt about for years. The kids have flown the coop (well, mostly), the mortgage is paid off and for the first time you can invest in yourself.

These days there are so many options for Grey and Silver nomad travel, gone are the days when you went to the travel agent and all they could recommend was a cruise to Tahiti or a “grey” bus around Europe. The travel industry has recognised that Grey and Silver Nomads are not the dotty oldies hanging off a Zimmer frame but are young at heart, fit, healthy, and adventurous and want some excitement beyond a 14 day cruise playing croquet on the deck!

Our guided self drive Africa adventures are very popular with retired or semi retired Grey and Silver nomads who love the great outdoors, are adventurous, and are, in short, living their dream! These types of trips appeal to people of all ages, but the retired or semi retired Grey and Silver Nomads have time on their hands, and figure it is best to spend several weeks really taking in a Continent rather than coming back several times.

Meeting the vehicles and crew and other members of the group in Cape Town, South Africa.  Photo courtesy of Judith Africa Discovered 2015

Meeting the vehicles and crew and other members of the group in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo courtesy of Judith Africa Discovered 2015

Having had several conversations with clients who have expressed a number of reasons why they book a guided self drive expedition with us rather than a package holiday. I think this one sums it up nicely “We may be retired but we are not old, this is something we have always dreamt of but the thought of shipping our own vehicle [to Africa], or rather the hassle of getting it back into Australia was just too much to bear; planning a trip like this to do on our own just seems so daunting, sure we could spend weeks trawling though blogs to get ideas from other travellers but at our age we love the idea that we book a trip and everything is taken care of, including the vehicle, meals, accommodation, paperwork and activities. At our age it is not about the money, or time, we have plenty of that; but the convenience”

Another client expressed “travelling in a small group gives us safety and security but without being overwhelmed by too many people on the same tour. My thing was that I did not have to cook, while I love camping I do find the shopping and cooking simply takes up too much of my holiday time, to have someone who carries that stress for me is well worth it! My husband’s big thing was he would never do this kind of trip with a driver, he loves driving and would not travel any other way. Every overseas holiday we have taken we hire a vehicle and do our own thing, this works well in Europe or America but Africa is another story; this was a good compromise, we get to drive one of your vehicles, still maintain some independence and flexibility; and everything is taken care of. We always wanted to travel Africa but never found a good fit. This was a great fit!”

Having the flexibility to game drive in a national park by yourself is an added bonus to a guided self drive expedition.     Photo courtesy of Judith Africa Discovered 2015

Having the flexibility to game drive in a national park by yourself is an added bonus to a guided self drive expedition. Photo courtesy of Judith Africa Discovered 2015

It does not matter if you describe yourself as a grey nomad or a silver nomad it is great to know that your travel needs are being recognised and there are a variety of options out there. Our guided self drive expeditions offer you a different kind of adventure holiday; sure they may not be for everyone but at least you have choices. Africa Expedition Support offer a number of guided self drive expeditions and safaris throughout East and Southern Africa ranging from 7 days to 10 weeks.

For more information http://www.africaexpeditionsupport.com/4x4guided or email Debs info@africaexpeditionsupport.com

For those who prefer a little more luxury and don’t want to 4WD across Africa then maybe a flying safari is more your cup of tea http://www.africaexpeditionsupport.com/multi-country-flying-safaris

Anzac Day a day for rememberance.

Today is the 100th anniversary of Galipoli, it is a day when Aussies and Kiwis at home and abroad stop to remember those who died on the shores of Galipoli in Turkey during WW1. Debs and I were lucky enough to lead an overland trip to Galipoli for the 90th Anniversary; it was a pilgrimage that every Aussie and Kiwi have to do at least once in their life.

Although this little story has nothing to do with Galipoli as such, it is part of WWI and the war effort to defeat the axis powers namely Russia, the Ottoman Empire and Germany. Little is known about the war efforts in East Africa so on this day we would like to share this story based in Kenya.

We have come across this typical African story at various times from totally different sources. So there must be some truth to it.

In East Africa the British Empire enrolled hundreds of thousands of locals into the Kings African Rifles and the Carrier Corps. To this day there is a suburb in Nairobi called Kariakor which used to be their base.

Germany was in possession of German East Africa, now called Tanzania.

Since there were only a handful of German troops and settlers in German East Africa they also had to rely heavily on local recruits.

Germany had neither intentions nor resources to occupy the British Colony of Kenya but orders were given to keep the Brits busy by running small incursions across the border to sabotage the Uganda Railway by blowing up bridges and loosening tracks. The idea was to weaken the British on the main battle fields in Europe as they had to send reinforcements to Kenya and Uganda to protect their Colonies.

In the 1950s the British Government decided to compensate their now very old African soldiers who fought against the Germans in WWI and WWIΙ with a one off payment for their services.

Word was sent out that a British delegation would travel around Kenya visiting various locations for one day only to pay compensation in cash. Any claimant was required to present himself in his original uniform as proof he served during the war.

The turnout was bigger than expected. The paymaster was quite busy keeping up with his books, taking records and handing out the money one by one to a long queue of people.

On one occasion he looked up at the soldier he was just about to hand over the money and immediately burst out laughing.

The soldier in front of him was wearing a German uniform! “Oh well” he thought, “he still fought in the war, he probably had no idea who he was fighting for” ….. and handed over the compensation courtesy of the British Government.

So on this day, 25th April 2015, let us respectively remember everyone who fought ………..

Thiemo Ebersberger, a German is married to Debs, an Aussie, and together they run Africa Expedition Support based in Kenya.  Check out http://www.africaexpeditionsupport.com for safaris and expeditions.

The Good Old Days

I was recently asked by 4WD Touring Australia to write a short article about how I left Australia and ending up living and running a tourism business in Kenya. While I was trying to put fingers to the keyboard I spent more time reminiscing over the past then I did writing about it. Over the years, Thiemo and I,  have had some incredible experiences both together and separately. Our most memorable experience was being bogged in the Sahara desert for 3 days in thick wet clay in 2013.

I still remember the sinking feeling (literally) I felt as I watched Tim, who was driving Medusa the MAN, break the crust of the salt pan and start to slow down. He thought he had a blocked fuel filter, until he looked in the side mirrors and saw the rear sinking.

What started out as a “oh well this is overlanding, this is what it is all about” soon turned into a mission. The more we dug, the more we sank. Medusa was heavy. So we needed to lose weight, off came the beer (that made a considerable difference!), the luggage, spare tyres, kitchen and everything that could be removed. Still sinking …..

sand driving tips

my greatest memory and achievement in overlanding

 

Sand mats simply had no grip and although we had 28 people to push and me trying to pull Medusa out with Betty, our support truck, it was not enough to get us out of the clay. We were still sinking ….

On day 2 we stopped digging and as Tim wrapped steel cables around the tyres the rest of us walked off into the distance to collect soft volcanic rocks from about 700m away. We filled the tracks with rocks and tried to get them under the tyres as much as possible. Finally by the middle of the 3rd day we were ready to try again.

I hooked Medusa to the back of Betty, Tim climbed into the cab of Medusa and 28 people were at the back ready to push.   I gave a shunt and effortlessly Medusa drove out of her hole much to our relief.

Thinking back now it was one of the most stressful times of my overlanding career. As road crew our number 1 responsibility is for the safety and well-being of our clients. While we knew we had more than enough food and water to last us days (and we had passed a fresh water hole only a few kilometres before being bogged), we still had to ensure we kept level headed and confident.

We always knew we would get out …….. Eventually

Although we still drive overland trucks, the routes we take through East Africa are a little less isolated.  Sure there may be a random dirt road somewhere along the way where we may slide to the side and get bogged but nothing like our Trans Africa days (UK to Cape overland). And with our land rovers on our guided self drive expeditions …. well …. They are pretty hard to get bogged!

Livingstonia – Off the beaten track

No I have not made a spelling mistake – Livingstonia is not the town of Livingstone where Victoria Falls are located in Zambia but a little town hidden in the highlands of Malawi overlooking Lake Malawi.

This is just one the little gems off the beaten track we travel to on our guided self drive expeditions. Most people have never heard of Livingstonia, which is a pity as it is an incredibly beautiful place with a rich history. High up on the escarpment overlooking Lake Malawi it is not an easy location to get to but it is worth the effort. The road is a narrow dirt track winding its way up to the little town; although passable all year round (in the right vehicle) it can be a little tricky in the rain.

The road to Livingstonia is every 4x4ers dream, dirt road, switchbacks, and steep ascents

The road to Livingstonia is every 4x4ers dream, dirt road, switchbacks, and steep ascents

Known as “little Scotland”; originally a Mission built in 1894 by the Scottish doctor, clergyman, academic and explorer Dr Robert Laws. However this is not the original Mission. The Free Church of Scotland originally built the Mission near Cape Maclear in 1875. However it was found the area was too malarial so it was moved to Bandawe; after which it was decided to move it to its now location.
The Mission is named after Dr Livingstone as a tribute to his work throughout Central Africa. Most people only know of Dr Livingstone the explorer, but his true passion was the Church and Missions. Dr Livingstone opened up Central Africa to missionaries and initiated education and health care to local communities. He was instrumental in the abolishment of the slave trade and at times a thorn in the side of the British government. Dr Livingstone was very respected and held in high esteem by many African chiefs. It is understandable this place was named in his honour.

Dr Robert Laws

Dr Robert Laws

Dr Robert Laws shared many of Dr Livingstone’s passions. His dream was to establish not only a Mission but to introduce Malawians to university education, high standard of health care and technical training. He believed university education was essential to develop a self-sufficient Malawian population with well-educated ethical leaders. Although he led the Mission for 52 years and established one of the best schools and colleges in all of Central Africa he was unable to see through his dream for a university. It was not until 2003 that Dr Laws dream became a reality with the establishment of Livingstonia University.

However during Dr Laws time he transformed the Mission into a small town, overseeing the establishment of schools, hospitals, houses, post office and workshops. The David Gordon Memorial Hospital opened in 1911, at the time it was the biggest and most well equipped hospital in Central Africa, today it still serves a catchment of 60,000 people.

David Gordon Memorial Hospital

David Gordon Memorial Hospital

While Livingstonia is still today an education hub of Central Africa it is also a living museum and worth at least half a day exploring the little town. The Museum is an obvious first stop, the exhibit tells the story of early European exploration and missionary work in Malawi. There are still original artefacts belonging to Dr Livingstone on display. Near the Museum is the church dating back to 1894, with a stunning stained glass window of Dr Livingstone and his two companions Guze and Juma; nearby is the very English looking secondary school, the post office (now a small bookshop), clock tower, the Khondowe Craft Shop selling carvings and clothing made locally and David Gordon Memorial Hospital.

A full day can be spent wandering around the town and exploring the little shops and historic sites, there is also Manchewe Falls approximately 4kms away which is well worth the walk, a spectacular waterfall 50m high with a cave behind it where local people used to hide from slave traders.

For some locally grown and brewed coffee, light refreshments or hearty lunch head to the Mushroom Farm or Lukwe organic restaurant.

Jan, one of our drivers, standing next to the Livingstonia Synod

Jan, one of our drivers, standing next to the Livingstonia Synod

We visit Livingstonia on our Dr Livingstone 4 week and Africa Discovered 8 week guided self drive expeditions. For more information contact Debs info@africaexpeditionsupport.com or peruse our website http://www.africaexpeditionsupport.com