Some years ago a friend made a comment about that he thought travelling by plane was to travel to fast. I heard what he said, but I did not fully understand or really agree with him. I thought flying was pretty amazing and it enabled me to get to exotic places quickly from Norway. Flying home to Norway after traveling overland in Africa for 5 months I now think I understand what he meant.
When you are somewhere for a while you get used to the conditions around you and it kind of becomes normal. After travelling thought Southern and Eastern Africa for 5 months I got used to people live in mud huts, washing their clothes in rivers, carrying water from the local well and home to their houses, bad roads with lots of potholes, and people resting literally on the road as the villages and houses come all the way up to the road. Or people making a living out of selling 20 tomatoes and a few onions that is stacked nicely on a table. I have gotten used to that it is only hot water in the showers at campsites in the afternoon as the water has to be heated over a fire. Doing laundry by hand for three months, as the last time we came across a washing machine was in South Africa. Policemen are no longer your friends, but your “enemies”, as most of them are looking for a bribe. I have gotten used to carrying clean syringes and needles in case we have to see a doctor. We have been informed that there is not enough medical equipment in hospitals in parts of Africa for everyone to get a clean needle if you need an injection. So it might be a quite a gamble seeing a doctor when over 15 % of the population in Southern Africa has HIV.
After parking the Patrol in Arusha we boarded a plane to Norway. Just a few hours after passing a masai mud hut village where the cattle was roaming, we landed in well-organized Norway. I think it must have been one of the biggest cultural shocks we have ever had. The difference from Eastern Africa to Norway regarding everything is incredible. Climate, culture, buildings, roads, health care, technology and…… the list is long. It was then I remembered the comment from our friend about traveling by plane was to travel to fast.
We landed in Norway on a Tuesday afternoon, and on Friday morning we were back at the airport and boarded another plane, this time to Italy. Friends of us were getting married and we were joining their wedding party. Yet again we jumped from one place to new place in a couple of hours. Italy is not very different from Norway, but compared with Africa it was like arriving on a different planet. Suddenly we were joining the Italian way of enjoying life with amazing food and wine.
After a few days in Italy we went back to Norway where we spent a total of one month. Not once in that month did I drive on a public gravel road, have to avoid a single pothole, not being able to spot pedestrians in the dark as they were all wearing high-visibility clothing or retroreflectors (those campaigns in Norway have been very efficient), wash my clothes by hand, argue with a police officer about a bribe, or drive around with clean syringes and needles in case I had to see a doctor. I didn’t even need a health insurance.
With our bags packed with winter clothing we were ready to fly again, this time to get to work. Leaving all the autumn colored threes behind in Norway we arrived to the beginning of summer in Punta Arenas in Southern Chile. After a few days with sun and t-shirt temperature it was time to board another plane taking us to almost 80 degrees south in Antarctica with negative 20 Celsius and 24 hours sunlight. The changes really blow your mind away.
In the end of January we reversed the journey, now from late summer in Antarctica and Punta Arenas to late winter in Norway. More time at home seeing family and friends, and also to prepare for the journey north through Africa. Soon it was time to get on the plane again. We left the white snow behind and found white sand beaches on Zanzibar.
Again we saw people living in mud huts and carrying water from the well and to their houses. After one hour in our rental car and the second police check point, we meet a policeman looking for a bribe. Welcome back to Tanzania and Africa!!
Now it is time to pick up the Patrol and travel a bit more slowly, and perhaps to think of my carbon footprint. As I also had a couple of flights back home to visit my sister in a different town, and to pick up some visas in Stockholm, Espen commented one day that my carbon footprint was probably equal with that of a small country (he’s not that much better, though...).
I am looking forward to travel overland again and trying to see the differences and small changes from one area to another. Some people think that traveling by car is also to travel to fast. In the Canadian Arctic I worked with Alistair Humphreys (www.alastairhumphreys.com) who had spent 4 years on a push bike traveling around the world. He said that he sometimes thought that even using a bike was to travel to fast. He later spent a month walking across Southern India. In South Africa while waiting for the Patrol to arrive from South America we briefly meet Amy and Aaron (http://www.walking4water.org/index.html) in the guesthouse where we stayed, and they are currently walking from Cape Town to Cairo. That is moving as slowly as you can from one place to another, and the experience of traveling must be totally different from ours in a car. Maybe I can agree that travelling by car can sometimes be too fast, but it is kind of in between walking and flying, and I am really happy with the possibilities it gives us.
So let’s get back on the road and hopefully see all the changes from Eastern Africa to Norway as they occur outside our window, and maybe even stop if we see something fascinating.