A few months ago I saw this beautiful photo on Facebook, posted by The SanWild Rhino Sanctuary. I asked them the story behind the photo, and if I could share it with my readers. I knew the next time we went on holiday this would be my mid-week post.
I haven’t met the family who created today’s guest post, but I follow their blog and enjoy their many engaging photos on their website, de Wets Wild. I wanted to share this striking post from their wildlife photography, and I hope you’ll take a moment to enjoy it and then check out their website for more amazing photos.
The Big-5 in Black-and-White
The “Big Five” is probably Africa’s most sought-after animals – the term was coined by colonial-era trophy hunters to describe the group of animals considered the most dangerous to hunt: Black Rhino, Buffalo, Elephant, Leopard and Lion. Today, these animals are a major reason for the popularity of South Africa’s wildlife reserves among locals and tourists from all over the world.
About de Wets Wild
We, Dries, Marilize and our son Joubert de Wet, have always had a great affinity for the wild outdoors and we’ve built our careers and family life around protecting, enjoying and showcasing the diverse natural heritage of the beautiful country we were blessed to be born in.
We’re pleased to meet you and hope we’ll see you around here often, to share our love for, and experiences in, South Africa’s spectacular wild places, from the smallest nature reserves to the biggest national parks, with us.
Please enjoy this week’s variety of guest posts I’ve arranged for you while Kurt and I take our first trip to Cape Town.
I’m really excited for today’s post. I’ve been planning to post this ever since I met a remarkable man at the gym, Wernher Hartzenberg. I didn’t know his name yet. I only knew him as the first guy to be cool to me during my workout time in the testosterone-loaded free weights area. He will even take turns on bench and spot me if we’re working on upper body days at the same time. He was the one I mentioned (not by name) in a previous post, I Can Bench Press Your Mama.
When I finally had a chance to exchange more than hello, he had an astonishing story to tell about driving an old VW van from South Africa…to NORWAY! I’m sure you’ll find it as interesting as I do.
Be sure to check out his website, Aircooled Wonders, and read more adventures, check out their restorations or maybe just go rent one of their cool classic cars.
Conquering Africa: the ’59 way
To tell the story of an extraordinary 1959 Volkswagen Kombi named Mabel, I’ll need to jump 40 years forward and start the telling with a newborn friendship between two young men, Wernher Hartzenberg and Espen Svensen. Both of us had one thing in common: the desire for adventure. We did not know at the time what impact this meeting would have on the rest of our lives and how we would both find respect for a vehicle that was once upon a time advertised as the people’s car.
It was 1999 and the first ever African Beetle Marathon was just the event to dip our toes into the river of adventure. Boy, would this little stream soon flow like a fearsome river through our veins.
Espen was born in Oslo, Norway. With his forefather’s Viking blood running strong, he decided it was time to see the world. He was so sure about his fate that he purchased a round trip ticket that would take him pretty much, well, around the world. Being an adventurer there would be no better place to kick it all off than in South Africa.
On the other side of the world, a young student, Wernher, was just getting ready to start his adult life. I was like most other South Africans, brought up with the mindset that once you finish your studies, it is time to face the real world, and that meant getting a 9-to-5 job. Luckily, I was young and also knew how to use my free time. That year’s summer break was going to be different; I was going to go BIG one last time.
On Sunday January 10th 1999, six teams set off on a journey that would take them through 5 counties and more than 7500km. Some of the teams showed up to race, but to my mind there was no point in rushing it. The first reason was that if I race through it all that would mean an early arrival, which in turn would mean that I would have to face the real world sooner. What 23 year old in his right mind would do such a silly thing? The second and main reason was that a lot of precious experiences would be lost. So 20 days it was going to be, which happened to be the cut off time and let’s face it, how fast could I really go in my grandfather’s 1959 beetle. Soon the racers were separated from the pacers and friendships started forming among the tail runners. This is how I met Espen and this is how a lifelong friendship started. Our two teams stuck together, especially on the second leg of this journey. We had started together, travelled together and finally finished together.
Espen enjoyed Africa so much that he substituted his ticket to see the world for a 1959 VW Kombi named Mabel. After soaking up the Southern African sun for 18 months, Espen decided it was time to visit home again. What better way to get to Norway than by taking an epic journey up the East Coast of Africa, then cross over to Europe and finally knock on Mom’s door in Scandinavia for a cup of hot chocolate? After a bit of preparation and a lot of butterflies, we left the southernmost point in Africa in May 2000.
We all know that life is what you make of it and this trip was no different. The first thing we realized was that “Africa Time” does exist. The only way to make this clock tick is by doing what you can, where you are, with what you have. So with that in mind we soon learnt how to obtain the optimal results out of people, nature, and Mabel of course.
An example of how this worked in our favour was when Mabel started coughing and crawling near the Ethiopian border. We had started that day by creating a path through a washed out section of road between Marsabit and Moyale (Northern Kenya). No one had passed through this section in 2 weeks. It took us 2 hours and a considerable amount of physical labour to clear a 50 meter stretch of road. It wasn’t only physical stress on our bodies that day, but a little emotional stress as well. While digging, moving rocks and pushing Mabel through the muddy water, we noticed a hand full of bandits, armed with AK 47’s, approaching in the distance. Naturally our work pace picked up and by the time they could even think of reaching us, we were gone. This, however, did not do Mabel any favours. Soon she started letting us know that something was wrong with her. We spent that night on the Moyale border. Early the next morning, we made an attempt to push on, trying to eventually reach Addis Ababa, 900 km away. This did not happen as planned and soon we found ourselves being towed by a Minister of Transport and his tractor-trailer and passengers. The first town after the border was Mega, which became our new home and workshop for the next few days. After taking the engine out and fixing what looked like valves that were starting to burn, we were on the road again, but without the result that we were hoping for. It turned out that, with our limited knowledge on these iconic cars, we had forgotten to check the petrol filter, which obviously got blocked while driving through the dust and mud.
We could only laugh at ourselves and, after some high fives, we were on the road again, a lesson well learnt.
Mabel did a superb job, taking us through 17 countries in just under 4 months. Sure, we got stuck in the soft Nubian Desert sand and also blew 3 tyres, while trying to keep up with the convoy on the rocky Kenyan roads. But that is why we did it, for the indescribable experiences. It was in this very same Nubian Desert that we saw the most beautiful sunsets, followed by nights under the pristine starry skies….. living the dream.
Mabel currently resides on a farm deep in the mountains of Norway. Espen is now happily married in Chile. As for me: South Africa is once again my home after 10 years of travel, where I still dream of one day seeing Mabel back in her rightful birthplace.
Two of my other favorite pieces by Wernher are his Kombi story and Beetle story:
About Wernher Hartzenberg
I was pretty much born with cars in my blood. My grandfather bought his first new car ( Beetle) in 1959. It was passed onto my dad as his first car and then became my first car when I turned 18. My dad has also owned Porsche’s all his life and he is a huge influence on my passion for cars. I love to travel and in 1999 I did the first ever African Beetle Marathon in my 1959 Beetle. The marathon took us 7500 km around Southern Africa and through 5 Countries. Here I met my Norwegian friend Espen Svensen and in 2000 we traveled from South Africa to Norway in a 1959 Kombi named Mabel. After Norway I ended up in Atlanta, GA and soon after Spartanburg, SC where I coached tennis for 9 years. In 2009 I moved back to South Africa and started collecting cars with my dad. I opened a workshop in 2010 where I restore classic Beetles and Porsche’s. I also started a website called Aircooledwonders where I try and capture the amazing history behind South Africa’s air cooled cars. I am also involved in a event called Kalahari Desert Speedweek, held at Hakskeenpan. It is the South African ” Bonneville”. I race a 356 Porsche.
by Mary Vanhooser
Hello Traveling Marla readers! Marla went out on a limb this week and let me write a guest blog for you guys. I’m Mary, an American expat who has been living in South Africa for about 18 months. I moved here with my husband (Aaron) and 3 children (Parker, 8; Nathaniel, 6 and Taylor, 4) and began the greatest adventure our family has ever undertaken. We were able to experience some amazing outings recently and Marla asked if I would share them with you.
By Kayla (Keyla? Keila? Teila? Kebar?) Washko
Identity seems to become more fluid when you live abroad. The exact moment that you begin to change is hard to pinpoint—perhaps it’s when you learn to barter at the local market, or finally decide to face your fear and go bungee jumping or white water rafting for the first time. Or perhaps it isn’t so tough to pinpoint after all. Maybe it happens the first time (or many times) someone says or spells your name incorrectly. Continue reading The Moment You Become a Different Person Abroad
Hello everyone. My name is Jeff, Marla’s older, and only, brother. I wanted to help out with my sister’s dilemma of not having enough hours in her days to get all of the things ready for her move to R.S.A. and still fill some blog spots for those of us who “need to get a life” because we grow too impatient waiting on her next post!
While I don’t presume to be able to fill the need for all, I will at least give her something to post so that all her readers have even more reason to desire her return to the podium!
I really could not think of anything interesting to write about, I’ve always been the type of guy quick with the “snappy comebacks” and the sarcastic remarks, quite a lot of fun in the short term, but irritating to be around for any length of time. My sisters can both attest to this, as I was definitely not one of those “big brother” types. As I remember it, I spent most of my youth making life Hell for both of my younger sisters; probably more so for my sister Wendy than I did Marla, but I did have five more years with Wendy to figure out all of her “buttons”. Continue reading Only “A Few Years”: A Goodbye Post
The blog name is Traveling Marla right?
Hello, Traveling Marla readers! Marla asked her guest posters to take over her blog and make it ours. But truthfully, if I had control over Marla’s blog, I wouldn’t change a thing. Let’s be honest here: really only Marla can write her blog, because it is such a lovely reflection of the unique person she is. Also, I am just not brave enough to go work out on Muscle Beach, though I love reading about it when Marla does.
So instead I picked the most Marla-ish post from my own blog to share, which is still really not very Marla-ish at all. Most notably, there are no pictures of me with very interesting expressions on my face. But it is a post about writing. And obsession. That might be as close as I can come. Hope you enjoy, poor substitute for Marla that it is!
The joys of the unpublished writer: figuring it all out
In the last month or so, I’ve written at least two and a half short stories that center around the same, basic situation. I finish one story and then get that feeling. You know that feeling? The feeling that your story is like deeply uncomfortable clothes and it just doesn’t feel right? I imagine that with a little more time, I will have a book-length collection of short stories, all dealing with the same basic theme. Am I stuck? No. I’m figuring things out.
The characters you know
Writers are often asked, “So which character is really you?” Continue reading The Joys of the Unpublished Writer: Figuring it All Out
By Ned Hickson/Ned’s Blog/Siuslaw News
Traditionally, this takes place during the busy Memorial Day Weekend so that as many people as possible can witness a 46-year-old man being attacked by his own tent.
In my defense, I have to say our tent is very large; especially when it is laying flat on the ground.
If I hadn’t lost the step-by-step instructions that came with it, I’m sure the assembly process would be a lot easier because, as a man, I could use them to, step-by-step, blame everything on having lousy instructions.
What this means is that over the Memorial Day Weekend my handiwork will again be mistaken for a hot air balloon that has crash-landed into our family’s camp site. Continue reading If a man is attacked by his tent in the forest, should he make a sound?
The Fourth of July. 2010.
It was mid-afternoon, so the streets weren’t super jammed yet, but they would be soon.
I was doing a couple things around my apartment, just cleaning up, and I grabbed the full bag of garbage in my hands to take it out to the back alley. I slipped on my shoes and walked down the front steps to walk through the narrow walkway between my house and the house next to mine. As I’m heading back to the alley, I look down to realize that I was almost about to step on a turtle. A gross, ugly, foreign turtle. I screamed like a little girl, and I turned around and retreated back inside, garbage still in my hand.