All posts by Stephan

The Duro

British efficiency
British efficiency

Expedition vehicle Mowag Bucher Duro 6×6 Well, it’s done. After detailed market research we have decided to go for a Mowag Bucher Duro. This Swiss guy has spent the last years of his life in the UK and has now returned to mainland Europe. Built in 2005 and just over 6,500 kilometers on the odo, it has not even really retracted …. Our idea is to convert the Bucher into a motorhome. After the Roo and the Lion this will be our 3rd all-wheel drive motorhome. We found this gem at a British auction house, bought it and loaded this beau

Der Duro
The Duro

ty onto a Polish 40 tonner. A truly European project :). In the following months I will post our plans, progress and setbacks and later on the first tours we are doing. The Bucher Duro / MOWAG 6×6 is a military vehicle, which was originally developed by Bucher-Guyer AG in Niederwenigen, Switzerland. Since January 2003, production has been relocated to MOWAG in Kreuzlingen. Since this car is a rather individual series, the community is also quite small. All the more, I underline the excellent Duro website maintained by Alexander, where the small community  can lively exchange. Thanks for this great work.

To start with some technical data:

  • 6 cylinder Cummins 5.9l ISB Turbo Diesel,
  • Permanenter all wheel drive

    Ankunft
    Arrival
  • 5-speed Allison Automatic Gearbox S 1000,  choice Hi/ Low & „Automatic Traction Control“
  • Automatic Thorson-differential locks
  • Bosch Elektronic fuel injection
  • Wabco pressure break and engine break
  • torsion resistent Frame with fully mobile De-Dion axes
  • ventilated disc brakes with ABS
  • Aluminium driver’s cab
  • Veeder-Root digitaler Tachograph

Dimension:

  • Lengh: 6.70m
  • Width: 2.16m
  • Hight: 2.65m
  • Empty weight: 5,700kg
  • Gross total wight: 8,600 kg
  • possible attached load: 12,100 kg
  • Wheelbase: 3.53 m (1. /2. Achse), 1.20 m (2. / 3. Achse)
  • Ground clearance: 40 cm,
  • Fording 80 cm
  • Hight speed: ca. 100 km/h
  • Tank: 180 Liter
  • Range: 600 km

Let’s kick off! After the communication booth is now increased by 60 centimeters, the Duro has reached standing height. I will now bring the car to shine (and much is not to do at just 5000 miles mileage) and start with the overhaul of the subfloor. So up to the stage and once ground from below. At the same time I have such a nice view of the ingenious construction of the DeDion axles and the brakes. After sweaty 10 hours I sanded the entire subfloor and prepared for the primer. Next week, I’ll take a look at the art of professional painting … let’s see what I look like;).
It is finished. The Duro got a new “leggings”. Abraded, primed and finalized with 2K paint. A bone work but the result can be seen … I think;). After the first structural descriptions, I want to make a short digression at this point, why it “because this time necessarily had to be a Duro”. Vehicle considerations, criticism, praise and so on are there about the various possibilities of action sufficient …. And as you can read here, we have also enjoyed a IFA W50 and Iveco already driven, are thus not a complete novice.

Innenleben

The decisive criterion was finally the moderate curb weight of 5 1/2 tons and thus the possibility to remain even after removal and with loading under 7.5 tons. So Michaela may operate this device. In addition, she can do it, because the Duro is easy to use. Was it at Iveco only possible to operate the clutch while standing still only using a telescopic arm to operate the “men’s circuit”, the Duro offers tidy, clear and with automatic transmission as light as a feather. Furthermore, with the Cormoran cab it is a self-contained system, which does not need an intermediate frame with the DeDion axles and remains narrow, flat, light and compact. Frame distortions and bellows considerations are now a thing of the past. Of course we pay for this compactness with some space. The interior is 1.80 meters wide and 4.50 meters long, a whole 4m2 smaller than in the Iveco, so 1/3 less space. Since we do not belong to the group of self-confessed purists, this requires a clever interior design for compensation and also explains why carrier vehicles such as a 1300 Unimog or an 8.135 MAN were possible but not optimal for us.
What disadvantages do we accept for this? In addition to the just mentioned housing size, first of all a vehicle of the newer generation. This means that the slogan “Euro 0 and elektronikfrei” no longer applies. But from experience I know that in the meantime also enough workshops around the globe have clever boys, who always help further, where the own capabilities end.

Furthermore, the lack of intermediate frame has the disadvantage that attachments to the frame are hardly possible due to the small space. In particular, the tank volume of 120 liters falls rather under the category “thimble”. Urgent reworking is necessary here and thus creativity is required. The same applies to a wastewater tank outside the cabin. For this I will put the exhaust in order to get additional space for a second tank and replace the standard tank with a larger one.

Not to the disadvantages is definitely the variant 6 × 6. The fuel consumption to a 2-axle is manageable but this one can continue with low preparations even with a highly-bonded axle plates. That should have been it.

Slowly it progresses. Somehow, there is always something to do, and as often happens once you start, it always takes much longer than planned. A big step is that we have agreed on the interior design. This now makes it possible to make the window openings and then to paint the case.

As you can see on the top drawing, we have chosen a more or less classic layout. At the rear we will place the 80 centimeter wide bunk beds across, so we regain some space and compensate for the shorter length of the container. We have also achieved a breakthrough in color and have agreed on the color gray aluminum – RAL 9007. To get a first impression, once the cab is tuned. I have already painted the bumper and side panel black. At the same time I have installed both LED reversing lights and auxiliary lights. Bright and visually appealing;).

Water tanks

The middle aisle will be overplanked by screen printing plates. Thus creates an 80-centimeter wide and 4-meter-long storage space in the interior of the vehicle in which we will positionthe 2 110 liters fresh water tanks. The additional space should be used for supplies and additional on-board equipment. But more on that later. In addition, I start by sawing the passage to the drivers cab into the wall. Although not very comfortable at 55 x 55 centimeters, we can fully exploit the structural features of the Duro and use the space under the roll bar as a spacious technical room. Now it can go to the exciting part – sawing the window openings…

Left side with spare tire mount

The real glass windows I purchased from the Hungary company Metall99, great products at an unbeatable price. This are casement windows in the size of 100 x 50 centimeters. As ventilation for the beds, I have planned small sash windows and in the roof, I will install boat hatches from the company Vetus. They have already proven themselves in the Lion. I want to build the spare tire to the rear. For this I use the old tire holder, which was previously fixed the wheel under the roll bar. Some slight modifications and so I have a stable mount with little effort. I sawn, sanded, filed and measured a weekend … and almost finished the car for the final paint job. Also, the sand plates fit well. All I have to do now is think about which storage boxes I still want to bring to the outer skin. In any case, an aluminum box will come under the spare wheel. Here there are sufficiently stable mounting options, as the army had attached a power generator at this point. It’s getting slowly…

New robe

New robe 28.12.2017: It’s done! After over a week’s work, I finally have a newly painted car, the windows of Metall99 and the skylights of Vetus are installed, the spare wheel holder with the spare wheel is attached and the first storage box at the rear is in place. The headlamp grids are back from galvanizing and adapt well. 

As always, it was a big tinkering , because especially around windows it needed some … adjustment. But rather additional  work than following the  motto: 3 times cut but still too short :). Now the Duro completely lost its military outfit and presents itself in a new shiny dress  in beautiful gray aluminum. Still the rims need to be painted  and then the NATO green will disappear.

I also found a GFK box for the roll bar which will then be home to the 11 kg gas cylinders for our kitchen in the future. In addition to the already primed Zarges box on the roll bar is now room for another box. So I can compensate for the lack of space for storage boxes on the intermediate frame (since the Duro has no such …). Lack of outside only the waste water tank, the displacement of the exhaust and the larger tanks on both sides. But I will certainly have to invest a lot of thought before the implementation follows.

Oh, and also about the name of our new vehicle, there seems to be agreement: Fuchur. The friendly luck dragon from Michael Ende’s “Neverending Story”. In my opinion, a good choice of Michaela

Fluch der Karibik

Inseln unter  dem  Winde
Inseln über dem Winde

 

Was liegt näher dem eisigen Winter Virginia zu entfliehen und einen Abstecher  in die Karibik zu machen?!  Schließlich ist es im Vergleich zu einer Anreise aus Europa ein Katzensprung ohne nennenswerte  Zeitverschiebung und füllt den weißen Fleck  auf unser Reisekarte. Gesagt, getan – und damit geht die Herausforderung auch schon los. Schnell wird klar, dass sich Stephans Idee “mal schnell die Inseln abzuklappern”, nicht so einfach umsetzen lässt. Da gibt es die Jungferninseln, die französischen Departements, die Windward und Leeward Inseln und so weiter. Manchmal nur wenige Kilometer voneinander entfernt aber doch Lichtjahre  auseinander und nur  per Flugzeug  zu erreichen…..

Celebrity Summit
Celebrity Summit

Schnell ist darum unser Entschluss gefasst, zum Einstieg und zum Gewinn eines Überblickes mit einer Kreuzfahrt einzusteigen. So können wir uns 5 verschiedene Inseln in einer Woche ansehen und dann  unsere Rucksacktour starten. Wir entscheiden uns für die Inseln über dem Winde von Puerto Rico bis Trinidad und Tobago. Bermudas, Bahamas, Niederländische Antillen sowie Jamaika müssen  dann eben  noch warten. Die Inseln über dem Winde ist der Name des nördlichen Teils der Kleinen Antillen. In der Karibik erstrecken sie sich in einem Bogen von Puerto Rico in Richtung Südosten und sind überwiegend vulkanischen Ursprungs. Weiter südwestlich liegen die Inseln unter dem Winde. Sie besitzen insgesamt eine Fläche von etwa 12.000 km² und haben etwa drei Millionen Einwohner. Politisch gehören einige Inseln zu Frankreich, zum Vereinigten Königreich, zu den Vereinigten Staaten und zu den Niederlanden, die anderen bilden acht unabhängige Staaten. Der Name „Inseln über dem Winde“ ist abgeleitet von der in diesen Breiten vorherrschenden Windrichtung des Nordost-Passatwindes, der für ein feuchtes Klima mit jährlichen Niederschlägen über 2000 mm sorgt. Im Englischen ist die Namensgebung für die einzelnen Gebiete der kleinen Antillen völlig anders: Die Kette von Martinique bis Trinidad heißt „Windward Islands“, der nördliche Teil der kleinen Antillen (Jungferninseln bis Dominica) „Leeward Islands“. Beide zusammen entsprechen den deutsch „Inseln über dem Winde“ genannten. Wir fliegen  also nach  Puerto  Rico, verbringen  dort einige  Tage um von hier aus  den ersten  Teil der Reise – die Kreuzfahrt  – zu beginnen.

tmp_1877-2015-01-11_14.08.56511547148
Old San Juan

tmp_1877-2015-01-11_12.56.44-1766984003Der Freistaat Puerto Rico ist eines der US-amerikanischen Außengebiete. Er umfasst auch die Spanischen Jungferninseln. Puerto Rico bedeutet „reicher Hafen“ und ist die östlichste und kleinste Insel der Großen Antillen. Ungefähr 150 km im Westen liegt die Insel Hispaniola, 100 km östlich liegen die Jungferninseln und 800 km südlich, jenseits der Karibik, befindet sich Südamerika. Dank seiner Lage im Nordosten der Karibik war Puerto Rico in den frühen Jahren der Entdeckungsreisen, Eroberungen und Kolonisation der Neuen Welt eine Schlüsselstelle für das spanische Imperium.

Races Brunnen
Raices Brunnen

Die kleinste der Großen Antillen war ein bedeutender Militärstützpunkt bei vielen Kriegen zwischen Spanien und anderen europäischen Mächten um die Herrschaft in der Region während des 16., 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts. Die Insel war ein Zwischenschritt auf dem Weg von Europa nach Kuba, Mexiko, Mittelamerika und den nördlichen Territorien Südamerikas. Während des 19. Jahrhunderts und bis zum Ende des Spanisch-Amerikanischen Krieges waren Puerto Rico und Kuba die letzten beiden spanischen Kolonien in der Neuen Welt und dienten als letzte Außenposten bei den spanischen Strategien zur Rückeroberung des amerikanischen Kontinents.

Blick entlang der Festung
Festung  San Christobal
Festung San Christobal

1898 besetzten die Vereinigten Staaten Puerto Rico im Zuge des Spanisch-Amerikanischen Krieges und beanspruchten die Insel für sich. Die erste Hälfte des 20. Jahrhunderts war geprägt von Kämpfen um mehr demokratische Rechte von den Vereinigten Staaten. Der Foraker Act von 1900, der eine zivile Regierung etablierte und der Jones-Shafroth Act von 1917, der den Puerto-Ricanern die Bürgerrechte der Vereinigten Staaten gewährte, ebneten den Weg zur Verfassung Puerto Ricos und den ersten demokratischen Wahlen im Jahr 1952. Jedoch bleibt der politische Status Puerto Ricos auch mehr als 500 Jahre nach der ersten Besiedlung durch die Europäer umstritten. Puerto Rico ist ein nicht inkorporiertes Gebiet der Vereinigten Staaten. Dies bedeutet, dass Puerto Rico weder einen eigenen US-Bundesstaat darstellt noch einem anderen Bundesstaat zugehörig ist. Als Teil der Vereinigten Staaten hat Puerto Rico keine eigene Außenpolitik; sämtliche außenpolitischen Angelegenheiten werden von den Vereinigten Staaten wahrgenommen. Währung ist der  US-Dollar. Seit 1917 besitzen alle Puerto-Ricaner als Konsequenz des Jones-Shafroth-Erlasses per se die  US-amerikanische Staatsbürgerschaft Da Puerto Rico kein bzw. kein Teil eines Bundesstaates ist, haben Puerto-Ricaner nicht sämtliche Rechte, die in der US-amerikanischen Verfassung festgeschrieben sind, sondern lediglich die Grundrechte. So sind sie zum Besipiel bei den US-Präsidentenwahlen ohne eigenes Stimmrecht, sofern sie nicht ihren Wohnsitz in einem der 50 Bundesstaaten der Vereinigten Staaten haben. Wir beginnen  unsere Tour in San Juan, der 1521 von Spaniern gegründeten Hauptstadt im Nordosten der Insel. Sie hat 395.326 Einwohner uns steht seit 1983 mit der Altstadt in der Liste des UNESCO-Welterbe. Die um 1630 errichtete Stadtmauer folgt den Konturen der Halbinsel und bietet eine wunderbare Aussicht. In Old San Juan sind wie auch in anderen frühen kolonialzeitlichen Stadtgründungen die meisten Straßen rechtwinklig angeordnet. Die engen Straßen sind von bunten Häusern gesäumt.

Friedhof Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis
Friedhof Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis
Old San Juan
Old San Juan

Einen Stadtrundgang in Old San Juan beginnen wir an der Festung San Cristobal. Sie ist eine  der größten spanischen Militärinstallationen in diesem Teil der Welt. Der Bau begann 1634 als  Reaktion auf holländische Angriffe. Mit ihren 50 Meter hohen  Mauern, den Tunneln und Zugbrücken  ist sie  ein beeindruckenden Zeitzeuge der sich über die Stadt erhebt.  Zusammen mit La Fortaleza, der offiziellen Residenz des Gouverneurs und dem Fort San Felipe del Morro war sie die erste Verteidigungsanlage in San Juan und gehörte mit  zu einer Reihe von militärischen Strukturen. Die Konstruktion wurde von Karl V. als Schutz gegen die Angriffe der europäischen Mächte und der Kariben autorisiert.

Kathedrale San Juan Bautista.
Kathedrale San Juan Bautista.

Wir gehen den Boulevard del Valle am Meer entlang und schauen uns die Barrio La Perla an – das Viertel, welches ursprünglich für die Truppen der Stadt San Juan gebaut wurde. Es grenzt unmittelbar an den 1883 angelegten Friedhof Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis. Die koloniale spanische Regierung jener Zeit betrachtet den Tod als ein Geheimnis, vor dem man Angst hatte. Sie entschieden sie deshalb, den Friedhof mit Blick über den Atlantischen Ozean anzulegen um die Reise der Seele ins Jenseits zu zu symbolisieren. Wir schlendern weiter durch die verdienter Massen “schönste Altstadt der Karibik”. Alte Häuser mit Innenhöfen, antike Fassaden mit Balkonen, Stadtpaläste und Kirchen, schmale Straßen mit Kopfsteinpflaster zeugen noch vom historischen spanischen Erbe der Kolonialzeit. San Juan repräsentiert die Geschichte der Neuen Welt. Wir schauen uns die Kathedrale San Juan Bautista mit dem Grab von Ponce de León,  dem Gründer der Stadt an sowie das  Hotel El Convento: Der Name des Gebäudes deutet darauf hin, dass es sich um ein ehemaliges Kloster handelt. Weiter geht es zum Parque de las Palomas. Die Terrasse liegt auf einem Felsvorsprung und bietet einen Blick auf die im Hafen liegenden Kreuzfahrtschiffe und über einen Teil der Bucht von San Juan.

Kathedrale von Ponce
Kathedrale von Ponce
Das alte Feuerwehrhaus
Das alte Feuerwehrhaus

Am nächsten Tag erkunden wir die Insel mit dem Auto. Wir folgen der Autostrade nach Süden und durchqueren die Insel. Unser erstes Ziel: Ponce. Es  ist die viertgrößte Stadt mit rund 166.000 Einwohnern und befindet sich wenige Kilometer von der Karibischen Küste entfernt. Der Beiname Ponces ist Ciudad de los Leones, La Perla del Sur (Stadt der Löwen, Perle des Südens). Sie wurde nach Juan Ponce de León y Loayza, einem Urenkel des spanischen Konquistador Juan Ponce de León, benannt. Im Jahr 1883 wurde Ponce von einem Großfeuer erfasst, außer dem Südteil wurde sehr viel zerstört. 1937 ereignete sich hier das Massaker von Ponce, bei dem unbewaffnete Nationalisten während einer Feier zum 64. Jahrestag der Abschaffung der Sklaverei von der Polizei erschossen wurden.  Ponce ist Unternehmenssitz der Serralles-Distillerie (Marken Don Q und Captain Morgan). Wir schlendern durch die überschaubare Innenstadt, machen einige Fotos und weiter geht es immer der Küstenstrasse folgend. Unser nächstes Ziel ist Rincon, im Nordwesten gelegenes Surferparadies Puerto Ricos. Beliebt ist die Gemeinde bei zumeist US-amerikanischen Urlaubern vor allem wegen fast leerer Strände und der Wassersportmöglichkeiten. Internationale Bekanntheit erlangte Rincón als Austragungsort der Surf-Weltmeisterschaft 1968. Wir fahren nun wieder Richtung Osten und gelangen über die Landstraße Nr. 2 zurück nach San Juan. Damit haben wir unsere erste Etappe geschafft und begeben und am nächsten Tag voller Spanung auf das Kreuzfahrtschiff der Celebrity Reederei.

Schatten am Pier
Schatten am Pier
Hauptaufgang im Schiff
Hauptaufgang im Schiff

Celebrity Cruises wurde 1989 als eine selbständige Kreuzfahrtgesellschaft von der griechischen Reederei Chandris gegründet. Im Jahre 1997 wurde Celebrity Cruises durch Royal Caribbean Cruise Line übernommen, zusammen firmieren sie seitdem als Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Zur aktuellen Flotte gehören elf Schiffe. Unsere Reise soll soll auf  der  Celebrity Summit erfolgen, einem GasturbinenPanamaxKreuzfahrtschiff  der Millennium-Klasse auf der französischen Werft Chantiers de l’Atlantique gebaut und 2001 in Dienst gestellt. Wir brechen von unserer Unterkunft in aller Herrgottsfrühe auf und sind um 7 AM am Pier. Dort liegt sie eindrucksvoll vor uns. Wir wundern uns lediglich, dass so keine Bewegung auf und um das Schiff herum festzustellen ist …obwohl es eigentlich um 9 Uhr losgehen soll. Am Check in angekommen stellen wir fest, das dieser noch geschlossen ist und wir in der Reihe lediglich ein Paar aus New York vor uns haben. Diese klären uns dann auf — es geht um 9 Uhr PM, also am Abend los. Und einchecken können wir ab Mittag. Wir haben folglich AM und PM übersehen und stehen somit erst einmal ein paar Stunden herum, bis es sich da ab 10 Uhr (AM) füllt und ab 12 Uhr auch endlich gebordet wird :-D. 2 Buchstaben, die doch so wesentlich sein können. Aber lieber so, als umgekehrt.  Na ja, wir sehen uns erst einmal auf dem Schiff um, ein Kasten der von innen noch weesentlich größer erscheint als von aussen. Unsere Kabine ist  zweckmässig und erstaunlich groß mit einem sehr angenehmen Badezimmer. und absolut ausreichend. Fenster und Balkon haben – und brauchen – wir nicht, da wir sowiso die meiste Zeit an Deck oder auf Erkundung an Land sein werden.

US Jungferninseln
US Jungferninseln

Pünktlich geht es los und wir verlassen langsam ung gemächlich einen der eindrucksvollsten Häfen in der Karibik.  Damit hat die Reise begonnen. Nächstes Ziel: Die Amerikanischen Jungferninseln die wir zu Beginn der Kreuzfahrt und auch zum Ende anlaufen. Wir erreichen auf die Minute am nächsten morgen St. Croix, die südlichste, mit 213 km² die größte und mit einer Einwohnerzahl von über 51.000 gleichzeitig die bevölkerungsreichste Inseln dieser Gruppe. Politisch unterteilen sich die Jungferninseln zwischen den Britischen Jungferninseln, den  amerikanischen sowie den dem US-amerikanischen Außengebiet Puerto Rico administrativ angegliederten Spanischen Jungferninseln. Die  Amerikanischen Jungferninsel besteht aus den drei Hauptinseln Saint Croix, Saint John und Saint Thomas. Daneben gibt es noch zahlreiche kleinere Inseln. Die Inseln sind ein nicht inkorporiertes Außengebiet der Vereinigten Staaten. Die Landschaft ist größtenteils steinig, hügelig bis gebirgig mit nur wenig ebener Fläche. Der höchste Punkt ist der Crown Mountain mit 474 m. Das Klima auf den Inseln ist tropisch. Es wird gemäßigt durch östliche Winde mit einer niedrigen Luftfeuchtigkeit und nur geringen Temperaturunterschieden über das Jahr. Die Regenzeit ist von Mai bis November. Aber auch hier sind Abweichungen möglich.

Blick zurück
Blick zurück

Die von Taíno bewohnten Inseln wurden 1493 von Christoph Kolumbus entdeckt. Am 14. November 1493 betrat er zunächst eine Insel, der er den Namen Santa Cruz gab (Saint Croix). Dann segelte er 70 km nach Norden zu den Inseln Saint Thomas und Saint John. Aufgrund der großen Zahl an kleineren Inseln und ihrer Schönheit nannte er sie die „Jungfraueninseln“  nach der Legende von der Heiligen Ursula und ihren 11.000 Gefährtinnen, die bei Köln ihr Martyrium erlitten haben sollen. Saint Croix wurde erst später zu den Jungferninseln gezählt.

Dänische Geschichte
Dänische Geschichte

Auch wir betreten zuerst St. Croix. Ich hatte fuer den Vormittag bereits 2 Tauchgänge organisiert, so dass wir unsere Erkundung zum frühen Nachmittag beginnen und uns auf Frederiksted beschränken. Das kleine verschlafene Dorf  läd zu einem Bummel ein und an den verschiedenen Fassaden der Häuser ist die bewegte Geschichte abzulesen. Die Insel wurde ursprünglich von den Kariben und den Arawak besiedelt. Christoph Kolumbus landete am 14. November 1493 auf der Insel und gab ihr den Namen Santa Cruz. Bei einer Auseinandersetzung mit den Bewohnern der Insel kam ein Spanier und eine Karibe ums Leben. Dieser Vorfall führte zu einem Krieg, der erst beendet war, als die Spanier ihre Kolonie auf der Insel aufgaben. Im 17. Jahrhundert wurde Saint Croix von Engländern und Holländern besiedelt. Die beiden Kolonien gerieten jedoch bald in Konflikt miteinander. Wahrscheinlich gaben daher die Holländer ihre Siedlung auf. 1650 kam eine Spanische Flotte von 5 Schiffen und 1200 Soldaten von Puerto Rico.

Uhrenturm
St. Croix Uhrenturm
Protestantische Kirche
Protestantische Kirche

Diese besetzten die Insel und töteten alle Engländer. Die Spanier wurden jedoch wiederum kurz darauf von den Franzosen vertrieben. In der Folge verkaufte De Poincy, französischer Gouverneur in St. Kitts, 1660 die Insel dem Malteserorden. Dieser verkaufte die Insel fünf Jahre später an die Französische Westindien-Kompanie weiter. Unter Gouverneur Dubois wurde die Insel wirtschaftlich bedeutend, da er dort über 90 Plantagen für Tabak, Zuckerrohr und Indigo anlegen ließ. Am 13. Juni 1733 wurde Saint Croix an die Dänische Westindien-Kompanie verkauft. Die Kompanie legte keinen Wert auf die Nationalität der Siedler, daher ließen sich hier spanische Juden, französische Hugenotten und englische Siedler nieder. Die Wirtschaft wurde von der Zuckerproduktion dominiert. Peter von Scholten, der dänische Gouverneur, schaffte die Sklaverei auf Saint Croix 1848 ab. Bei einem Aufstand ehemaliger Sklaven dreißig Jahre später wurde die frühere Hauptstadt Frederiksted völlig zerstört. 1917 wurden die Jungferninseln von Dänemark für 25 Millionen $ an die USA verkauft. Auf Saint Thomas , der zweiten Insel der die wir auf dem Rückweg nach Puerto Rico besuchen, befindet sich auch die Hauptstadt des Gebietes, Charlotte Amalie. Von 1672 bis 1917 war Saint Thomas die wichtigste der drei Insel-Kolonien im ehemaligen Dänisch-Westindien. 1493 entdeckte Christoph Kolumbus auf seiner zweiten Reise in die Neue Welt die Insel für Europa. In der Folgezeit wurden die indigene Bevölkerung von den Europäern ausgerottet. Die Insel blieb jedoch jahrhundertelang unkolonisiert, bis die Dänen die Insel im Jahre 1666 besetzten. Ab 1672 wuchs die Einwohnerzahl und besonders die Stadt Christiansfort entwickelte sich schnell. 1691 wurde sie  durch den Piraten Nicolaj Esmit  nach Königin Charlotte Amalie (1650–1714), Gemahlin des Königs Christian V. von Dänemark benannt. Auf der Insel wurden ZuckerrohrPlantagen errichtet. Schon 1688 befanden sich 47 Plantagen auf Saint Thomas.

Coki Beach
Coki Beach

Die Plantagen erforderten eine steigende Anzahl an Arbeitskräften, die man als Sklaven aus Afrika verschleppte. Schon 1690 waren zehn Mal mehr Afrikaner als Europäer auf der Insel. Den folgenden Aufschwung verdankte die Insel dem Handel mit Rum und dem Sklavenhandel. 1685–1693 befand sich auf der Insel die von Dänemark gepachtete kurbrandenburgische Kolonie St. Thomas. Sankt Thomas zog viele Piraten an, die in den vielen Buchten Unterschlupf fanden und von dort aus Schiffe in der Karibik plünderten. Die bekanntesten Seeräuber, die Saint Thomas besuchten, waren Blackbeard und Bluebeard. Noch 1822 beklagte sich die spanische Regierung darüber, dass Seeräuber ihren Aufenthalt auf Sankt Thomas hatten, wurde aber vom dänisch-westindischen Gouverneur abgewiesen.

Hafen Charlotte Amelie
Hafen Charlotte Amelie

Erst 1829 endete die Zeit der Piraten. Wir besichtigen die Hauptstadt und nehmen einen Bus um zum Coki Beach zu fahren. Zuerst muessen wir uns aber gegen die Taximafia durchsetzen, die sich wie überall auf den Inseln faul aber gierig breit gemacht hat und hauptsächlich bei den immer ängstlichen amerikanischen Touristen mit viel Erfolg ihr Geld vermehrt. Am Coki Beach einem kleinen Strand mir flachem Wasser, – deeeeem Geheimtip –   habe ich mit  dem Coki Dive Center  2 klasse Shore Dives in kistallklarem Wasser und fast alleine gemacht. Michaela hatte derweil nicht soviel Glück, da die anderen 3000 Touristen der Kreuzfahrtschiffe auch von diesem Geheimtip gehört hatten und sich nach und nach von der Taximafia ankarren ließen. Wir haben also die Segel – oder besser Flossen –  gestrichen und sind zurück in die Stadt.

Vereinigte Staaten von Amerika

Als Einstieg in die Materie ein wenig Landeskunde. Für die Masse der Leser natürlich Binsen… das Eine oder Andere aber trotzdem noch mal ganz interessant, um das vergrabene Schulwissen wieder aufzufrischen. Also viel Spass beim ehrlichen Überprüfen des “ist doch klar… :)”

usa-flaggeDie Vereinigte Staaten von Amerika sind ein 50 Bundesstaaten umfassender nordamerikanischer Staat, wobei Hawaii und kleinere Außengebiete in Ozeanien liegen. Die Hauptstadt ist Washington, D.C., die größte Stadt New York. Es ist der viertgrößte Staat der Erde gemessen an der Fläche von 9,83 Millionen Quadratkilometern (nach Russland und Kanada und Volksrepublik China) und der drittgrößte gemessen an der Bevölkerung von etwa 314 Millionen Einwohnern (China und Indien). Bedingt durch die Einwanderung von Menschen aus einer Vielzahl von Ländern sind die Vereinigten Staaten eines der ethnisch diversesten und multikulturellsten Länder der Erde. Die Vereinigten Staaten weisen auch eine sehr hohe geografische und klimatische Diversität auf – mit Lebensräumen wie Bergen und Ebenen, Wäldern und Wüsten, die eine große Vielfalt an Tier- und Pflanzenarten beherbergen.

Thomas_Jefferson_by_Rembrandt_Peale,_1800
Thomas Jefferson_

Vorab etwas Geschichte: 1507 fertigte der deutsche  Kartograf Martin Waldseemüller eine Weltkarte, auf der er die Landmasse der westlichen Hemisphäre als Amerika nach dem italienischen Entdecker und Kartografen Amerigo Vespucci benannte. Der erste dokumentierte Hinweis auf die Bezeichnung United States of America liegt in einem anonym verfassten Essay, das am 6. April 1776 in der Zeitung The Virginia Gazette in Williamsburg, Virginia veröffentlicht wurde. Im Juni 1776 fügte  Thomas Jefferson die Bezeichnung „UNITED STATES OF AMERICA“ in Großbuchstaben in den Titel seines ursprünglichen Entwurfs der Unabhängigkeitserklärung ein. In der fertigen Version wurde der Titel in The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America („Die einstimmige Deklaration der dreizehn vereinigten Staaten von Amerika“) geändert. In den 1777 veröffentlichten Konföderationsartikeln wird verkündet: The Stile of this Confederacy shall be ’The United States of America’ („Die Bezeichnung dieser Konföderation soll ‚The United States of America‘ sein“). Die Kurzform United States ist auch ein Standard. Andere häufig benutzte Formen sind ‚U.S.‘, die ‚USA‘, und ‚Amerika‘. Andere umgangssprachliche Namen sind ‚U.S. of A.‘ und, international, die ‚Staaten‘. ‚Columbia‘, ein populärer Name in der Dichtung und Liedern des späten 17. Jahrhunderts, leitet sich vom Namen Christoph Kolumbus ab. Es ist Teil der Bezeichnung District of Columbia.

Sitting Bull
Sitting Bull

Die ursprünglichen Bewohner des Landes, die Indianer („Native Americans“ oder „American Indians“), stellen heute nur noch rund ein Prozent der Bevölkerung. Einzig in Alaska erreichen sie einen zweistelligen Prozentanteil an der Bevölkerung. Weitere Schwerpunkte bilden Oklahoma, Kalifornien, Arizona, New Mexico und South Dakota. Sie bilden keine Einheit; Kultur, Sprache und Religion unterscheiden sich von Volk zu Volk. Insgesamt gibt es 562 anerkannte Stämme (tribes), hinzu kommen 245 Gruppen, die derzeit nicht als Stamm anerkannt sind.

Die ersten kolonialen Einwanderer auf dem von Indianern besiedelten Kontinent waren Europäer, zunächst vorrangig spanischer, französischer und englischer Herkunft. Zu ihnen kamen ab dem 17. Jahrhundert Einwanderer aus Westafrika, fast ausschließlich unfreiwillig als Sklaven. Ab Mitte des 18. und verstärkt zur Mitte des 19. Jahrhunderts folgten Europäer deutschsprachiger und irischer Herkunft. Später kamen Einwanderer aus anderen Regionen Europas dazu, vor allem Italiener, Skandinavier und Osteuropäer, einschließlich osteuropäischer Juden. In der zweiten Hälfte des 19. Jahrhunderts kam es zur Einwanderung aus Ostasien und dem Nahen Osten. Neben wirtschaftlichen Motiven spielte für viele auch religiöse oder politische Verfolgung eine Rolle. Die Amerikaner mit europäischen Vorfahren bilden heute 72 Prozent der Gesamtbevölkerung. Afroamerikaner stellen etwas mehr als 13 Prozent. Sie leben vor allem im Süden und in den großen Industriestädten des Nordens. Asiatische Einwanderer, zu großen Teilen aus China, Japan, Korea, Indien und den Philippinen, stellen rund fünf Prozent. Während der letzten Volkszählung gaben über 50 Millionen Personen eine deutsche Herkunft an. Damit sind die Deutschamerikaner die größte Bevölkerungsgruppe der Vereinigten Staaten. Vor allem im Südwesten der Vereinigten Staaten und in Florida gibt es einen hohen Bevölkerungsanteil lateinamerikanischer Herkunft, die dort pauschal als „Hispanics“ oder „Latinos“ bezeichnet werden. Ihr Anteil wuchs in den letzten Jahrzehnten stetig (bis 2004 auf knapp 13 Prozent), da viele Lateinamerikaner vor wirtschaftlicher Not in den Norden fliehen. Sie leben oft als illegale Einwanderer und halten stark an ihrer Kultur und Sprache fest. Es bestehen große Unterschiede in der Sozialstruktur zwischen weißer und schwarzer Bevölkerung. Schwarze haben im Durchschnitt ein geringeres Einkommen, eine kürzere Lebenserwartung und eine schlechtere Ausbildung. Sie sind sowohl häufiger Opfer als auch Täter in einem Tötungsdelikt und werden häufiger zum Tode verurteilt. Die Ursachen dafür und mögliche Wege der Problembehebung sind umstritten. Nicht nur in den Südstaaten sind Wohngegenden und nicht-öffentliche Einrichtungen – wie Kirchen oder private Organisationen – oft faktisch nach Ethnien getrennt, wenn auch die formale Trennung inzwischen ungesetzlich und verpönt ist.

Und etwas Staatskunde: Die heutige Verfassung der Vereinigten Staaten wurde am 17. September 1787 verabschiedet. Bisher wurden 27 Zusatzartikel ergänzt. Die ersten zehn Zusatzartikel, die gemeinsam als Bill of Rights bezeichnet werden, wurden 1791 ratifiziert und garantieren eine Vielzahl von unveräußerlichen Rechten.

Bill of Rights
Bill of Rights

Stärkstes Staatsorgan auf Bundesebene ist laut Verfassung der Kongress, der die Legislative ausübt. Er setzt sich aus gewählten Repräsentanten aus allen 50 Bundesstaaten zusammen. Der aus zwei Kammern bestehende Kongress hat die Budgethoheit sowie das Recht zur Gesetzesinitiative. Der Kongress hat unter anderem infolge des ihm zustehenden Budgetrechts wesentlichen Einfluss auf die amerikanische Politik. Allein dem Kongress kommt das Recht zu, Bundesgesetze zu erlassen und Kriegserklärungen auszusprechen. Verträge mit fremden Ländern werden vom Präsidenten unterzeichnet, bedürfen jedoch der Ratifizierung durch die zweite Kammer des Kongresses, den Senat. Bei wichtigen Ernennungen (zum Beispiel zu Kabinettsposten oder Richterämtern des Bundes, insbesondere am Obersten Gericht) hat der Senat nach Anhörungen der Kandidaten das Recht, den Vorschlag des Präsidenten zu bestätigen oder zurückzuweisen. Die Mitglieder des Repräsentantenhauses, der ersten Kammer des Kongresses, werden für zwei Jahre gewählt. Jeder Repräsentant vertritt einen Wahlbezirk seines Bundesstaates. Die Anzahl der Wahlbezirke wird durch eine alle zehn Jahre vorgenommene Volkszählung festgelegt. Senatoren werden für sechs Jahre gewählt. Deren Wahl findet gestaffelt statt, das heißt, alle zwei Jahre wird ein Drittel des Senats neu gewählt. Die Verfassung sieht vor, dass der Vizepräsident dem Senat vorsteht. Er hat dabei kein Stimmrecht, außer bei Stimmengleichheit. Bevor eine Gesetzesvorlage zum Bundesgesetz wird, muss sie sowohl das Repräsentantenhaus als auch den Senat durchlaufen haben. Die Vorlage wird zunächst in einer der beiden Kammern vorgestellt, von einem oder mehreren Ausschüssen geprüft, abgeändert, im Ausschuss abgelehnt oder angenommen und danach in einer der beiden Kammern diskutiert. Sobald sie in dieser Kammer angenommen ist, wird sie an die andere Kammer weitergeleitet. Erst wenn beide Kammern die gleiche Version der Gesetzesvorlage angenommen haben, wird sie dem Präsidenten zur Zustimmung vorgelegt. Der Präsident hat danach die Möglichkeit, das Inkrafttreten des Gesetzes aufzuschieben. Der Kongress kann nach einem solchen Veto eine neue Gesetzesvorlage beschließen oder den Präsidenten mit zwei Dritteln Zustimmung endgültig überstimmen.

Great_Seal_of_the_United_States_(obverse).svgStaats- und Regierungschef in Personalunion ist der Präsident, der an der Spitze der Exekutive steht. Er ist ferner Oberbefehlshaber der Streitkräfte der Vereinigten Staaten und bildet gemeinsam mit dem Verteidigungsminister die National Command Authority (NCA), der es alleine obliegt, die Entscheidung über einen Angriff der Vereinigten Staaten mit Nuklearwaffen zu fällen. Dazu müssen beide Personen unabhängig voneinander dem Nuklearschlag zustimmen. 44. Amtsinhaber ist seit dem 20. Januar 2009 der am 4. November 2008 gewählte Demokrat Barack Obama. Vertreten wird der Präsident durch den mit ihm gewählten Vizepräsidenten. Dieser tritt bei einer vorzeitigen Amtserledigung des Präsidenten bis zum Ablauf der Regierungsperiode vollständig an dessen Stelle, ebenfalls sitzt er dem Senat vor. Derzeitiger Vizepräsident ist der Demokrat Joe Biden.Für den Fall der Verhinderung oder der Abwesenheit des Vizepräsidenten benennt der Senat einen „Pro-Tempore-Vorsitzenden“, einen Vorsitzenden auf Zeit. Die Mitglieder der ersten Kammer, des Repräsentantenhauses wählen ihren eigenen Vorsitzenden, den „Sprecher des Repräsentantenhauses (Speaker)“. Speaker und Pro-Tempore-Vorsitzender sind Mitglieder der jeweils stärksten Partei ihrer Kammer.

Djibouti 2013 / 2014

This will be the place, where the “Djibouti report” will develop time after time. After almost four months, the first impressions have consolidated and some pictures accumulated…

Djibouti (jee-BOO-tee; Arabic: جيبوتيJībūtī, French: Djibouti, Somali: Jabuuti, Afar: Gabuuti), officially the Republic of Djibouti, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Eritrea in the north, Ethiopia in the west and south, and Somalia in the southeast. The remainder of the border is formed by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden at the east. Djibouti occupies a total area of just 23,200 km2 (8,958 sq mi). In antiquity, the territory was part of the Land of Punt. The Djibouti area, along with other localities in the Horn region, was later the seat of the medieval Adal and Ifat Sultanates. In the late 19th century, the colony of French Somaliland was established following treaties signed by the ruling Somali and Afar Sultans with the French. It was subsequently renamed to the French Territory of the Afars and the Issas in 1967. A decade later, the Djiboutian people voted for independence. This officially marked the establishment of the Republic of Djibouti, named after its capital city. In the early 1990s, tensions over government representation led to armed conflict, which ended in a power sharing agreement in 2000 between the ruling party and the opposition.Djibouti is a multi-ethnic nation with a population of over 790,000 inhabitants. The Somali and Afar make up the two largest ethnic groups. Both speak Afro-Asiatic languages, which serve as recognized national languages. Arabic and French constitute the country’s two official languages. About 94% of residents adhere to Islam, a religion that has been predominant in the region for more than 1,000 years.

Ready for Sharks
Ready for Sharks
Inhaling plankton
Inhaling plankton

As a brief introduction some pictures of our little snorkeling tour into the Gulf of Tadjoura  where since November, the teenagersof whale sharks romp. Michibrave as always- started with a quick jump into the water and liaised immediately. But as experienced observers state, this is  only the small specimens to be seen – the by ones may arrive in February and then up to 30 feet long!

The whale shark (Rhincodon typus) is a slow-moving filter feeding shark and the largest known extant fish species. It feeds on macro-algae, plankton, krill, Christmas Island red crab larvae and small nektonic life such as small squid or vertebratesThe largest confirmed individual had a length of 12.65 metres (41.50 ft) and a weight of more than 21.5 metric tons (47,000 lb), and there are unconfirmed reports of considerably larger whale sharks. Claims of individuals over 14 metres (46 ft) long and weighing at least 30 metric tons (66,000 lb) are not uncommon. The whale shark holds many records for sheer size in the animal kingdom, most notably being by far the largest living non-mammalian vertebrate, rivalling many of the largest dinosaurs in weight.

Huge mouth .... but  harmless
Huge mouth …. but harmless
20''  Whale shark
20” Whale shark

It is the sole member of the genus Rhincodon and the family, Rhincodontidae (called Rhiniodon and Rhinodontidae before 1984), which belongs to the subclass Elasmobranchii in the class Chondrichthyes. The species originated approximately 60 million years ago. The whale shark is found in tropical and warm oceans and lives in the open sea with a lifespan of about 70 years. Although whale sharks have very large mouths, as filter feeders they feed mainly, though not exclusively, on plankton, which are microscopic plants and animals. The whale shark is the largest non-cetacean animal in the world. The average size of adult whale sharks is estimated at 9.7 metres (31.82 ft) and 9 tonnes (20,000 lb).

The Holy Land 1990 and 2012

untitled_pregamma_2.03_mantiuk06_contrast_mapping_0.31_saturation_factor_1.05_detail_factor_38It took 22 years until I made it again into the Holy Land. Some things have changed; much remains impressively the same and left this time again a lasting impression.

I will try to touch this change wherever it deems to be useful, without writing the article around this fact. The photographic view will change from my first visit during an university exchange in 1990 and our visit on Pentecost 2012 The political situation in the country and in the area is still more or less difficult, even this should not be the basis of this travelogue. The country and the people but of course especially the unparalleled cultural heritageare the reason to get involved in the situation and to be inspired by this part of the world.

Going South 2012

Mission completed. 4 weeks Morocco brought us in the corners of the country, we haven’ t seen last year and gave us the opportunity to spend again some time at our most famous spots at Plage Blanche (White Beach) and Erg Chebbi. The following trip report spiced with current impressions of the journey and adds up to the report “Marokko 2011″. All trails and roads were easily managed by the “Big Lion” , the dust has been settled and waits to be swirled up again. So enjoy reading and have fun in completing your overall picture.

Next to the wood pile

31.08.2012, Brussels, Belgium: Done! The Lion does not only shine in an new outfit but is also stuffed and packed with whatever needed for the next weeks. Tomorrow we will take off and via France and Spain again going to explore Marocco and further south into the Western Sahara. Whenever possible we will post the newest pictures and give an overview about our efforts. Comments welcome!

04.09.2012, Benahavis, Spain: 2200 Kilometers later! Intermediate target taken! We arrived in Southern Spain and met our friends who pampered us with “Steinburg Classic” beer ….typical German name but brewed in Valencia (and cold as drinkable as american beer….).

What happened so far? The usual traffic jam around Paris took us almost 2 hours, wild Woodworkers threw us out of our bed at 05.45 in the morning and the Spanish mountains (actually whole Spain is a tedious up and down – especially with 10 tons and only 168 hp) have made me almost mad. Little else. The Lion is purring again like a kitten, nothing more to add. Tomorrow the first day off before continuing towards Africa. Ma salama.

Medina in Rabat

06.09, Tanger Med; Marocco: The purchase of the ferry ticket to Africa (on the road to Algeciras near exit 177) has worked again with ease and for € 245 we bought an “open” return ticket. To the fact that we were too high for the 11 am ferry and thus could only take the 02 pm one, no problem. Even the customs in Tanger-Med where much faster this time (and even accepted – oh wonder – the online customs form for the Lion). Insurance policy (as always the expensive part, 4 weeks 250 €) bought and away we went. We took the much faster highway to the south (since we dawdled along the Route Nationale the previous year) and spend our first night beside the road south of Larache.

Mausoleum in Rabat

07.09, Rabat: Next morning we drive quite relaxed on the highway to Rabat (Arabic for: fortified town ‘), since 1956 the capital of Morocco and seat of government and the residence of the king. Rabat is next to Fes, Meknes and Marrakech one of the four Sultan cities of the country. The name derives from an Islamic frontier fort (Ribat) builed by the Zanata-Berber in the 10th Century on the estuary. In 1146, the Almohad ruler Abd al-Mu’min turned Rabat’s ribat into a full scale fortress to use as a launching point for attacks on Spain. In 1170, due to its military importance, Rabat acquired the title Ribatu l-Fath, meaning “stronghold of victory”. Rabat and neighboring Salé united to form the Republic of Bou Regreg in 1627. The republic was run by Barbary pirates who used the two cities as base ports for launching attacks on shipping. The pirates did not have to contend with any central authority until the Alaouite Dynasty united Morocco in 1666. The French invaded Morocco in 1912 and established a protectorate. The French administrator of Morocco, General Hubert Lyautey, decided to relocate the country’s capital from Fes to Rabat.

Horse Guards

The medina is surrounded on three sides by the 1197 completed Almohad city wall. Only east of the Kasbah of the Udayas a small piece at the edge of the cliff above the river bank is missing. Generously planned, a 5250 meters long wall crosses the medina as also a large part of the New Town to the west and south, where it encloses the garden grounds of the Royal Palace. The much smaller area of the medieval medina is demarcated against the French New Town by the Andalusian-wall of the 17th Century. The former Mellah lay on the river bank within the Andalusian wall.

The sightseeing tour is worthwhile and a nice introduction to traveling in Marocco.

08. – 11.09.: We continue south, pass Casablanca and reach El Jadida, where the motorway ends and turns into a beautiful coastal road to Safi and Essaouira. In Safi, after Casablanca the most important industrial and trade center of the country, we spend the night. Safi, under the name Safim (Zaffim or Asfi), is one of the oldest cities in Morocco and closely affiliated with pottery. Throughout the market vases, plates and other items are all made from clay.

Besides decorative and functional Ceramics, the green glazed tiles made from longitudinally split, slightly conical tubes, are produced here. They cover mosques, mausoleums and the royal palaces all over the country. We meet a nice moroccan fellow who explains the art of pottering – without asking for bakshis and with no intention to sell something…! Amazing. By the way: Safi gives its name also to the famous “Safi leather”, which is since the Baroque period one of Europe’s very popular leather from goat and sheep skins.

Fishing harbour Essaouira

Next stop Essaouira. The Medina of Essaouira (formerly “Mogador”) is a UNESCO World Heritage Listed city, as an example of a late 18th century fortified town, as transferred to North Africa. A collection of guns (bronze and iron) from the 17th and 18 Century stands on the sea-facing Scala de la Kasbah. During this time, the city built out its position as an important hub in the caravan trade and reached considerable prosperity. After the French occupation of Timbuktu in

Clock tower

1893, the city lost during the 20th Century its importance since the main trading links were broken. We stroll through the beautiful old town and enjoy the unique atmosphere of the city. After 1967 it was the target of many hippies (also Jimi Hendrix spend a few days in the area). The journey takes us past Agadir and back on a track we knew from last year already. We decide to spend a night at Wassay Beach in the Souss-Massa National Park and then follow the route along the coast down via Sidi Ifni to Foum Assaka and further on to the Plange Blanche. According to our map, there seems to be a dirt road that could make this idea possible…

Beach Foum Assaka

12.09.: Foum Assaka: Mission failed. The trail (see here) would probably being possible to drive with an ordenary 4×4 (partly ascent more than 45% and stone steps over 50 cm) but because of the extremly narrow turns with our Lion only after heavy manouvering at the edge. We were not in the mood to do so … We tried the track along the beach to find another way up the ridge and got stuck at the beach (in the truest sense of the word). Once again we had to dug free the truck, but felt in love with the scenery and the people and decided to stay the night.

Couscous

We enjoy the solitude, relax and have an amazing evening and as “welcome present” some home made Couscous.

Tan – Tan

13./14.09.: Back leads on another trail through eternal expanses of prickly pears always direction Guelmim and south to the Western Sahara. Often nicknamed Gateway to the Desert, Guelmim is a regional trade center and garrison town. Since the 11th Century the site was a trading center and the destination of large caravans moved through the Sahara from Mauritania and Senegal. They traded in slaves, gold, salt, and animal substances. Particular importance of the market gained for trade in camels. 20,000 to 40,000 camels were brought here by nomads which made Guelmin the largest camel market in Africa. Today its not really worth to stop…

After tedious drive we arrive in Tan-Tan appr. 20 miles inland and head back to the coast and drive along the Atlantic Ocean down to the south. Here we overnight near the spectacular coastline before we start the next morning to Tarfaya and therefore reach the old “Spanish Morocco“. Supraregional importance had Tarfaya, as in November 1975 near the town 350,000 people of the “Green March ” lived in a tent camp. The camp consisted of an area of 70 km² and 22.000 tents.

Dedicated to de Saint Exupéry
Baracks Tan-Tan plage

On the beach there is a Monument dedicated to Antoine de Saint Exupéry, the French aristocrat, writer and poet who was stationed here in the 20s of the last Century. Some miles further south we finally reach one of our aims, the Western Sahara. The line is actually only detectable because suddenly – out of the nowhere – a few gas stations appear … and offer tax-free fuel for 0.47 € / liter diesel. After the departure of former colonial power Spain in 1975, the territory was claimed by Morocco and mostly annexed. At the same time, Morocco and Mauritania, which had historical claims of sovereignty over the territory based on competing traditional claims, argued that the territory was artificially separated from their territories by the European colonial powers. Algeria, which also bordered the territory, viewed these demands with suspicion, influenced also by its long-running rivalry with Morocco. After arguing for a process of decolonization guided by the United Nations, the Algerian government under Houari Boumédiènne committed itself in 1975 to assisting the Polisario Front, which opposed both Moroccan and Mauritanian claims and demanded full independence.

Southward

In 1971, already during spanish colonisation, a group of young Sahrawi students in the universities of Morocco began organizing what came to be known as The Embryonic Movement for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro– the core of the Polisario Front, which is working for the independence of Western Sahara from Morocco and the foundation of a Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic

This led to the Western Sahara conflict. Since the ceasefire in 1991, the Polisario Front controls a strip to the east of the Western Sahara. A little further we reach Laayoune and shortly thereafter Layoune Beach or better Foum El-Qued, the “Riviera of the Sahara”. As always, we are the only ones on a huge camping area and also realize – as always – that there has to be done a lot to achive the proclaimed “Riviera status”.

Ghosttown

El Aaiún was founded in 1938 on the Spanish colonial region and became its capital in1958 . It grew rapidly in the 1970s by the economically lucrative phosphate mining at Bou Craa. “El Aaiún” is the Spanish transliteration of the Arabic name “Layoun” which means “the water sources”. near Saguia el-Hamra, an intermittent river and wadi which rises in the northeast of Western Sahara, some 30 kilometres southeast of El Farcya.

The oldest part of the former garrison climbs over several levels on the slopes of the southern riverbank. Here in the side streets and alleys, the average three-storey blocks are from the Spanish period. West of the central square of this district (Place Hassan II), which is bordered by the stucco facade of the hospital, lies the church from 1954 with its barrel roof of a concrete shell. It is consecrated to St. Francis of Assisi and was in 1950 – on General Franco‘s wish – designed together with the Church of Ad Dakhla by the same architect, who is also responsible for the Valle de los Caídos near Madrid.

In the Western Sahara

15.09., Western Sahara: We continue early in the morning to “dive” deeper into the Western Sahara. First destination is Smara to find out whether the trip further east toward the Algerian border is possible at all. The police in Laayoune was quite helpful but equally desultorily and has referred us to the Gendarmerie Royale in Smara. We enter the desert and arrive in Smara almost 3 hours later. The largest city in its province, Smara was founded in the Saguia el-Hamra as an oasis for travellers in 1869. It was made a capital and religious center in 1902 by shaykh Ma al-‘Aynayn, in what was then Spanish Sahara. The location of the city was intended to ensure its becoming a caravan trade hub in the sparsely populated Sahara desert. The enlargement of Smara was carried out by local Sahrawis as well as craftsmen sent by the Sultan Hassan I. Smara is the only major city in Western Sahara that was not founded by the Spanish. In the center of the city the remains of a stone fortress can be found, the Zawiy Maalainin, which enclosed a mosque. All in all, the city is very “quiet” meaning also the Gendarmerie seems to sleep. Only the UN Mission is present in the streets. After consulting Mohammed, a Sahrawi and UNHCR staff, we have rejected our plan to travel further east. Situation still unclear, the Polisario is still active and with a lot of refugee camps in the area also from this point of view not safe. Whether it’s true? We have not tried it and took the loop north, back to Tan – Tan. The road turns slightly uphill and through barren desert landscape. Suddenly out of the nowhere a dilapidated city of mud huts appears on the horizon – described in no guidebook – our space for the night.

Chameleon in shell collection
Welcome present

16.09. – 20.09., Plage Blanche: Back in Tan – Tan we decided to spend some days at the Atlantic ocean and went on poor roads (17 km – 2.5 hours, Movie here) down to our favorite spot at the mouth of the Qued Draa.

Sunset at Plage Blanche

Here we spend 3 full days, sunbathed, collected shells and unpacked the surfboard. By the way (almost) alone, only a few fishermen who from time to time appeared in the distance and provided us with fish. Once again, the Moroccan kindness has overwhelmed us, because “money for fish” did not fit in their attitute as hosts …amazing!

The Scout

21. / 22.09.2012, Tafraoute, Anti – Atlas: In order not to completely forget the time we have forced us back on the track after a few days and drove eastward passing Guelmim and Bouizakarne. We visited Morocco’s best preserved fortified granary (Agadir) in Amtoudi. The Agadir Id Aissa is a typical agadir with courtyard, whose age is estimated at about 800 years . The access site is secured castle-like, the valley side is wide and open with two towers in the corners.

Map studies with locals

In a Wall Ring of larger and smaller stone slabs, fixed together without mortar, various storage compartments of various sizes are set. It includes the peak and a rocky area of about 2500 square meters. In case of an attack of other tribes or wandering nomads, the villagers with their cattle were able to find protection for a few days. Food was sufficient, because in the storage chambers various foods (barley, almond, oil, dates, dried figs, etc.) were deposited, rainwater was collected in cistern and stored.

A composite of small stone slabs cell structure used to hold beehive.

From here we drive on an adventurous track (only a few centimeters along the abyss), then it leads through the mountains of the Anti Atlas to the north east to Tafraout. Tafraout is located in the middle of a magnificent granite landscape at around 3000 feet altitude. The most striking feature is the many polished rock formations formed by natural forces (wind and rain) , which ultimately refer to a volcanic origin of this part of the Anti-Atlas.

Pink Rock Tafraoute
Blue stones

We visit the “Blue Stones” by the Belgian artist Jean Verame who painted huge, granite blocks round from erosion with brightly colored paints. Even larger and also controversial art of the same artist you cand find in the Sinai, known as the “Blue Desert “.

23./24.09.: We continue our way. At the beginning the landscape is quiet interesting, then turns into a monotonous plateau at Taliouine and Tazenakht. We hit again the Wadi Draa, which accompanied us since the Atlantic and will show us the way to Merzouga, our next destination. On the plateau, the first rain arrives, which will follow us the whole way east to the desert.

Dune trekking
Sunrise at Erg Chebbi

25.09. – 27.09., Merzouga, Desert Hotel: Although only drops arrived the soil, but still one of the rare days of rain in the desert. After a decent breakfast this morning we went out for a desert stroll through the dunes – one of Michi’s favorites… Here’s a short movie from the foothills of the Moroccan Sahara. We use the day to relax a little bit, to lie by the pool and to update the site. The chaps in the Desert hotel are super friendly and we are, as always, the only campers. Since we have been exploring the area already last year hence driving the desert tracks via Taouz to the west, we take it seriously with the relaxation time …

Kasbah Meski

28.09., Meski: We follow the Ziz– valley oases to the north and camp at the “Blue Source” of Meski. The campsite is situated among palm trees at the source which has been expanded by the French Foreign Legion to a swimming pool. I explore the impressive but crumbling Kasbah high on the steep bank of the Ziz Qued and stroll through the beautiful oasis gardens. We meet Stefan and Angelika from Vorarlberg in Austria with their boys and a MAN. They assure us, even with our Lion the Todra Gorge and further north would be no problems (with his 3, 60 meters hight and some contradictory information in guide books, we were not quite sure).

Entrance to the gorge
In the Todra gorge

29.09. Todra gorge: We are slightly deviate from our plan and did a 300 km detour through the famous Todra gorge. It is at the narrowest point only 10 meters wide and 300 meters high and limited by bizarre towering cliffs. Here we finally also found the tourist stream, which we were previously “missing so much” . The way forward through the valley is almost as impressive as the canyon itself, except that the people are hardly not used to tourists . On single-lane road, it now gos into the morning sun to the very eastward corner of Morocco, Figuig. We spend the night next to a camel watering place in the “bush” near Gourrama and continue our journey the next day.

Oasis Figuig
The mosque

30.09., Figuig: We have reached “Land’s end” and are bordered by 3 sides from Algeria. This is also the staring point of the “Desert Highway”. For us more or less the final of our trip, since we now will start the tour north and to the ferry to Spain. The town is built around an oasis of date palms, called Tazdayt, meaning “palm tree” in the Berber language, surrounded by rugged, mountainous wilderness. Figuig is about 850 to 900 meters above sea level. The nearest major city is 372 kilometers away in Oujda (our next destination). We take a long walk through the huge oasis gardens, the wealth of the city and then relax for the trip north.

Nowhere!

01.09., Saidia: If we thought until now, to drive through the “nothing”, then the route from Bouarfa to Oujda has disabused us…. We follow the old railway line and complete this tedious passage with stoic calm. “First life” we meet in Oujda, the capital in the north-eastern Morocco.

Kirche Saidia

After a short break and some shopping we drive further on to Saïdia and its resort, Mediterrania-Saïdia. Here too, the season is over and we seem to be the only tourists. A lot of touristical infrastructure is going to be build in this area but in contrast to the other side of the Mediterranean, the Costa del Sol in Spain, a concept and construction with “brain” can be seen….

02. – 04.09., along the Mediterranean : We conclude our tour by following the Mediterranean Sea along the foothills of the Rif– Mountains. It is part of the Cordillera Bética that also includes the mountains of Southern Spain. The Rif mountains are not part of the Atlas Mountains but belong to the Gibraltar Arc or Alborán Sea geological region. The new and impressive road in a constant uphill and downhill along the cliffs. The little bays offer continious possibilities to rest and swim. With its 168 hp, it is for the Lion quite a callenging and for us a tedious affair. Even here we are again impressed by the hospitality of the people who not only offer us “Kif” (we reject thankfully) but also prickly pears (we accept).

The Mediterranean road
Sunset in the Rif – Mountains

The last night we stay at the campsite near the Hercules cave in Tangier before we leave to the ferry. With this, we used the last 2 holidays not only to cross Morocco but also surrounded it. A nice conclusion.

Always worth a trip!
Cheers!


South East Asia 1994 – From volcano to volcano

After climbing the highest mountains in Africa the years before it’s time to tackle something else. After intensely traveling in East Africa the last two years, what lies closer than “Going Asia”? With Bangkok as hub in the area, an ideal starting point is available. I wanted to hold on to the good tradition and look at the track where ever possible from above, meaning climbing the regions abundant volcanos – some active , which makes things even more exciting …..

From Thailand to Malaysia further on to Sumatra and then to the indonesian island of Lombok. Return to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur and finally jump back to Bangkok. The only thing missing is to book a flight at “Auf und Davon”, my favorite travel agency … is this a plan?!

Sri Lanka und Oman 1998

Here we go! The trip to Sri Lanka with a Stop – Over in Oman which we already planned at the beginning of the year  has turned into our honeymoon. After we have given ourselves one week before Christmas with perfect – and therefore unusual – weather in Lübeck the consent, we fly one day later via Frankfurt to Colombo and start our unusual honeymoon. The organisation of the trip followed the motto “The journey is the reward” – hence up to the flight nothing was committed … vice versa nothing stood in the way to an adaptable and event-oriented ad hoc travel planning. But despite every objection: Michaela returned home was happy,wept out and with a collection of yellow sapphires.  But  more details later on.

Zimbabwe 1994

On the track

Not again! Can you not go for sometimes normal? Like that or almost like that my mothers commented to my decision, to explore Zimbabwe on my MTB.
Where did my decision come from? After my attempt to circle round Lake Victoria in 1993 (report to follow) and the complete breakdown of the bicycle after already 1000 kilometres, the “disgrace had to be ironed” out. This time with a little bit more of investment in the bicycle – which I already took from Germany – and a more or less strait plan. Since Zimbabwe does not stand very far on top of most  holiday agendas  but on the other hand some great stories were told about the country, an ideal choice. With my Mongoose MTB and durable parts attached, I have certainly placed a number this time. The rest of the equipment has already proved itself during the years before. With this done,  there’s no further obstacle to the adventure.

Tripbook

Some kilometres test drive in the Bavarian Alps near Oberstorf proof, that I took the right decision. In addition, I get the bicycle box as add on. After the usual bitching at the British airways check inn counter, I relax on the plane and touchdown 10 hours later at Harare International Airport. Its runway with a length of 4725 metres is by the way, one of the longest in Africa. Immigration and custom procedures are fast and without any problems thus I receive my bicycle as bulky luggage and start with its assembly in the main hall. Straight away I have a friendly folk of the “cleansing brigade” on my side who offers his help.

Harare Unabhängigkeitsdenkmal

The usual story about family and about the country but a warm welcome to me as a guest. At the end of our conversation I ask him to keep my packaging box for me the next 5 weeks, because I could well use it for the return flight. Jeremias nods and promises his support with “no problem, sir”. He would be there every day, I should simply ask for him …. so the box disappears with Jeremias in the nirwana.

Equipment attached, pedals checked and once again a deep breath taken – and of it goes into the real life. The human mass which awaits me outside is wafting between mild smile and stunned amazement. At least the taxi offers keep to a certain extent… After running this short gauntlet I hint the state road # 1 and cycle towards Harare, the largest town ond capital of Zimbabwe. Harare lies in the tropical climate zone, and is therefor hot and semi-arid. Now in December it is still pleasant with 25 degrees to go. After the first kilometres I relax noticeably and start to enjoy the tour. After one hour or so I reach the city centre and find accomodation in a central Guesthouse to as staring point to explore the town.

The city sits on the one of the higher parts of the Highveld plateau of Zimbabwe at an elevation of 1483 metres (4865 feet). The original landscape could be described as a “parkland.” The Pioneer Column, a military volunteer force of settlers organised by Cecil Rhodes, founded the city on 12 September 1890 as a fort. This area is now the site of many of the most important government buildings, including the Senate House and the Office of the Prime Minister.

Anglikanische Kirche

They originally named the city Fort Salisbury after the 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, then British prime minister, and it subsequently became known simply as SalisburySalisbury was the capital of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland from 1953 to 1963. After that point, it was the capital of Southern Rhodesia. The government of Ian Smith declared Rhodesia independent from the United Kingdom on November 11, 1965, and proclaimed the Republic of Rhodesia in 1970. Subsequently, the nation became the short-lived state of Zimbabwe Rhodesia; it was not until April 18, 1980, that the country was internationally recognized as independent as the Republic of Zimbabwe. The capital city retained the name Salisbury until 1982.

Harare Parlament

The name of the city was changed to Harare on April 18, 1982, the second anniversary of Zimbabwean independence, taking its name from the Shona chieftain Neharawa. It is also said the name derived from the European corruption of “Haarari” (“He does not sleep”), the epithet of the chief whose citadel was located in the area known today as the Kopje. It was said that no enemy could ever launch a sneak attack on him. Prior to independence, “Harare” was the name of the Black residential area now known as Mbare. The city centre is very compact, hence I can reach all places of interest and shops by foot. Like in almost all African towns there is beside this few colonial buildings and the town park, not much to seet. I enjoy my first day and take a cold Zambezi to sum the day up.
The next morning, finally, I start the trip. I leave the town direction southwest to Chegutu to turn later to the north direction Chinhoyi and again to the west. My first objective is the city of Kariba at the shores of the Lake Kariba. Altogether 400 kilometres.

Chinhoyi Höhle

In Chinhoyi, the provincial capital of Mashonaland West Province, I decide to have a 2 days rest. The town is named after a headman of Shona, has 56.794 inhabitants (census in 2002) and lies at the western edge of the intensely used farm country to Harare. Chinhoyi has an altitude of 1,200 m, next to the railroad line Harare- Lion’s Den. I visit the Chinhoyi Caves, some limestone caves with a 50-m-deeper lying lake of cobalt blue water – the Sleeping Pool. According to precipitation it can be from 80 to 90 m deep. It is told, that around 1830 the nomadic Angoni tribe should have attacked the original inhabitants and thrown their fallen in the lake. It received afterwards the Shona name Chirorodziva: Lake of the fallen …

Richtung Westen

The lake has a steady temperature of 22 degrees, brings geologists to assume that this lake is only a tiny part of a subterranean water reservoir. These caves served the inhabitants of the area longtime as gigantic storage room. The first findings of clay vessels are date by experts already on 650 A.D. 1The caves were designated a National Park in 1955 and as such are managed by the Zimbwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority.
I ride through an aride, however, fertile area in which wheat, maize, tobacco and soy are grown. The road is easy to ride and although I am on the Harare – Kariba main road, the traffic neglectible. Irritatingly only the constant punctures, because the banquets are lined by bottles thrown from the window and often burst into thousand pieces. Only way out: Keep cool and mend tyre…

Warnung!

After another day on the road I fnally reach the junction, which leads straight ahead to Zambia. Here I turn left direction Kariba and ride directely through the 1,700 km ² large Charara safari area. Hilly country, bush and grass land alternate. The area is known for its rich animal and plant life. Elephants, lions, leopards, buffalos, hippopotami, crocodiles but also the most different antelopes, giraffes, klipspringers, pigs and hyenas can be found here. Not to talk about all different small cats and low game. The warnings ” not to leave the safty of your car” are not quite reassuring … riding a bike. Fortunately the way is steadily downhill, so at least the relative speed provides some reassurance..
Before I reach the town which was built together with the dam in 1955, I catch some fantastic views on the Lake Kariba and the Kariba Dam.

Staumauer

The town is located at the northwestern end of the Lake, near the Zambian border in the Zambezi Valley. The dam has a double curvature concrete arch and was constructed between 1955 and 1959.

Lake Kariba

Lake Kariba is the world’s largest artificial lake and reservoir by volume. It is over 220 kilometers long and up to 40 kilometers in width. It covers an area of 5,580 square kilometers and its storage capacity is an immense 185 cubic kilometers. The mean depth of the lake is 29 meters. Before Lake Kariba was filled, the existing vegetation was burned, creating a thick layer of fertile soil on land that would become the lake bed. As a result the ecology of Lake Kariba is vibrant. A number of fish species have been introduced to the lake, notably the sardine-like kapenta (transported from Lake Tanganyika), which now supports a thriving commercial fishery. The creation of the reservoir forced resettlement of about 57,000 Tonga people living along the Zambezi in both Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Operation “Noah”

During “Operation Noah” , over 6,000 animals were rescued moved from the rising waters and largely relocated to Matusadona National Park and around Lake Kariba. In Kariba I plan to take the Kariba ferry that runs between Kariba and Mlibizi Fishing camp. From there to Victoria Falls, my next destination still 230 kilometres through busveld has to be made. Tickets for me and my bicycle are fast bought, and I can enjoy the sundown with a Sundowner after one week “in the bush” on the patio of “Lake View Inn”. The ferry trip is paradisiac and worth every cent. First we go out on the lake, then we approach again the shore which we follow south. The mood aboard is as usual “African way” and I am invited as the “Muzungu with the bicycle” with pleasure to chats and beer. Perfect. The next morning, the last day of 1995, we arrive on time at the pier of Mlibizi – which holds what was promised: Nothing. But first of all I need to struggle uphill to reach the reach the track which I follow to Vic Falls. Downtown I buy some water and prepare everythink for the bush track as I run into Thomas, a German development aid worker who is with his wife Edith and the small Tatu just on the way to Victoria Falls. “Whether I would like to join them?” Clearly yes, since I had nothing else planned for New Year’s Eve ….

Thoma, Edith und Tatu

So we welcomed the new year 1995 around a cosy campfire in the bush with some beers. Then next morning we are heading some hours to Victoria Falls, which I spend relaxed on the back of the truck. Long before we arrive at the Falls our attention is drawn by the spray cloud which gives us an impression about the natural spectacle we can expect. Victoria Falls lies on the southern bank of the Zambezi River at the western end of the Victoria Falls themselves. The Victoria Falls Bridge crosses the River just below the Falls and is built over the Second Gorge. As the river is the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, the bridge links the two countries and has border posts on the approaches to both ends, at the towns of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and Livingstone, Zambia.
Victoriafälle

 

The town owes its foundation indirectly to the researches of the Scottish missionary David Livingstone after whom the town on the zambian side of the Falls is named. Under the so-called Big Tree, a big Baobab at Princess Victoria Island he should have made rest in 1855. From here one crossed at that time the river. Only with Cecil Rhodes, and his grand and unfulfilled Cape to Cairo railway scheme, the settlement of Victoria Falls developed at the beginning of the 20th century.
I leave Thomas, Edith and Tatu and set my camp someway upstream on a campingsite. From here I can take a bush walk directly to the falls and am out somebit from the bustle which is to be felt here now quite clearly. David Livingstone, the Scottish missionary and explorer, is believed to have been the first European to view the Victoria Falls, on the 16th November 1855. He gave the falls the name ‘Victoria Falls’ in honour of Queen Victoria, but the indigenous name of ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ — literally meaning the ‘Cloud that Thunders’ — is also well known. The World Heritage List recognizes both names.

Sambesibrücke

The spray from the falls typically rises to a height of over 400 metres and sometimes even twice as high, and is visible from up to 48 km away. While it is neither the highest nor the widest waterfall in the world, it is claimed to be the largest. This claim is based on a width of 1,708 metres and height of 108 metres, forming the largest sheet of falling water in the world. After the ideas of Livingstone the Zambezi should become „a God’s way“ for the christianization of internal southern Africa. Nevertheless, the Falls turned to be out an invincible obstacle, because they separate the upper Zambezi running from his lower course.

Rafting auf dem Sambesi

The whole volume of the Zambezi River pours through the First Gorge’s 110-meter-wide exit for a distance of about 150 meters, then enters a zigzagging series of gorges designated by the order in which the river reaches them. Of course I have not missed one of the attractions of the Zambezi, the Rafting. Adrenalin pur and only 1 fractured leg (not mine)!

Büffel im Morgengrauen
Chobe Nationalpark

After two days I leave Victoria Falls and go on an excursion to the Chobe National Park in Botswana. However, after some bickering about the possibility to us a bicycle in the park, the rangers resign and let me go. After some kilometres I reach Kasane. where I camp in the Chobe Safari Lodge and enjoy Africa. Lucky me again, I meet some nice people who take me straight through the park back to Zimbabwe. A route which would not have worked by bicycle.
This park is considered for inclusion in the 5 Nation Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area. However, this will probably take up a few more years. In the Hwange National Park. I jump off the car and explore for one day the area. With its 14.651 km² it is the largest game reserve in Zimbabwe.

Warzenschweine zu Besuch

The park lies in the west close to the edge of the Kalahari desert on the main road to Bulawayo. The Park hosts over 100 mammal and 400 bird species,including 19 large herbivores and eight large carnivores. All Zimbabwe’s specially protected animals are to be found in Hwange and it is the only protected area where gemsbok and brown hyena occur in reasonable numbers. The area served already in the 19th century as a hunting area for the king Mzilikazi. Already in 1928 the area was put as a wild animal reserve under nature conservation by the British colonial management.

Auf der Jagd..

In 1930 it received the status of a national park, which is named according to a local family leader.
I set my tent in the Main camp of the park and find some people who give me a lift for a “Game of drive” the next day. In the park, like in almost all national parks of Africa it is mandatory to use a car. Completely fine for me, since the mating roaring and hunting noises of the lions at night are enough warning.

Gnu-Kadaver

With merely some millimetres of tent material between Inside and Outside this is quite exciting enough. The fresh corpse of a Wildebeest only meters away from the camp, confirm this decision. However, the ranger offer also a “Game Walk”, an absolutely different experience than in acar … and of course also as on the bicycle.

Der Chef ….

After some tours I take off to the main road. In Hwange I hit the tarmac and leave direction east. Not without being attended by a furious elephant bull who was not very happy meeting a Muzungu on the bicycle in this – his – world. Adrenalin as a give-away… . One grows with the challenges.
The tarmac glows, Tsetse flies seize every possibility to satisfy themselves and the logistical infrastructure is like zero. I camp in the bush beside the street and I try to portion my limited amount of water as good as possible. In the review this was the part where I have decided to renounce on the bicycle as means of transportation for future tours in Africa. But is’s another story.

Bulawayo im Regen

After 2 1/2 days I arrive quite “dried up” in Bulawayo and catch first of all a strong rainshower, almost like a flood. A little bit too late, but at least a welcome refreshment. Africa is always good for a surprise. The city was founded by the Ndebele king, Lobengula, who settled in modern day Zimbabwe around 1840s. During the 1893 Matabele War the invasion by British South Africa Company troops led Lobengula to flee from his burning capital and head north. On 4 November 1893, Leander Starr Jameson declared Bulawayo a settlement under the rule BSAC and Cecil John Rhodes ordered that the new settlement be built on the ruins of Lobengula’s royal town, which is where the State House stands today. Already three years later it was

Rathaus Bulawayo

connected to the Trans-African Highway network. Since 1943 the place is a town. The name Bulawayo comes from the Ndebele language and is called “Place of slaughter”. The town lies by the river Matsheumhlope about 1340 m above sea level. Typical for town are the wide streets flanked by trees and many well preserved Victorian houses. A worth visiting town which is beside this of course also important as logistical hub which offers all comfort. The urban camp site is miraculously well maintained, all I need. Close to Bulawayo lie the ruins of Khami, an UNESCO World Heritage Site which I visit. Then cycle 35 km to the south to visit the Matobo National Park.

Matabo Gebirge

Among other, the grave of Cecil Rhodes is situated at the so-called World’s View. It forms the core of the Matopos Hills, since 2003 a UNESCO World Heritage Site, an area of granite kopjes and wooded valleys. The hills were formed over 2 billion years ago with granite being forced to the surface, this has eroded to produce smooth “whaleback dwalas” and broken kopjes, strewn with boulders and interspersed with thickets of vegetation. Mzilikazi, founder of the Ndebele nation, gave the area its name, meaning ‘Bald Heads’. San lived in the hills about 2,000 years ago, leaving a rich heritage in hundreds of rock paintings. The hills were the scene of the famous indaba

Rhodes’ Grab

between white settlers and Ndebele leaders in 1896—the Second Matabele War, known in Zimbabwe as the First Chimurenga—which ended with the assassination of the Mlimo by Frederick Russell Burnham, the American scout, in one of the Matobo caves. Since there are no big cats in the park, I can move around freely by bicycle – which sounds easier than it was, because the extremely sandy tracks were a pain. The flys by quickly, in the meantime it is already the 16th of January, 1995 and just 2 weeks remain before I have to catch my flight. Strolling around is not my business so I have to leave this almost mystic place again, heading west. Cycling is quite easy, even if Matabeleland Southis a mainly semiarides area with rare

World’s View

precipitation. I cross into the Midlands Province and cycle via Zvishavane to Masvingo in the so named Masvingo Province.
It is the oldest colonial settlement in Zimbabwe, and grew up around the encampment established in 1890 by the Pioneer Column en route to their eventual destination, Salisbury. The Old Fort national monument is located in the centre of town, and was erected in 1891 as one of a series of fortifications to guard the route from Salisburyto the south. It is also the hometown of president Robert Mugabe, a tragic figure of the contemporary history.

Übersicht Great Zimbabwe

However, for me interesting are the ruins of Great Zimbabweabout 40 kilometres away. Zimbabwe is the Shona name of the ruins, first recorded in 1531 by Vicente Pegado. The name clearly contains dzimba, the Shona term for “houses”. Apart from this, there are two theories for the etymology of the name. The first proposes that the word is derived from Dzimba-dza-mabwe, translated from the Karanga dialect of Shona as “large houses of stone” A second suggests that Zimbabwe is a contracted form of dzimba-hwe which means “venerated houses” in the Zezuru dialect of Shona, as usually applied to the houses or graves of chiefs. Its growth has been linked to the decline of Mapungubwe from around 1300, due to climatic change or the greater availability of gold in the hinterland of Great Zimbabwe.

Mauergang

At its peak, estimates are that Great Zimbabwe had as many as 18,000 inhabitants. The ruins that survive are built entirely of stone. They span 7.3 km2 and cover a radius of 160 to 320 kilometres. Notable features of the Hill Complex include the Eastern Enclosure, in which it is thought the Zimbabwe Birds stood, a high balcony enclosure overlooking the Eastern Enclosure, and a huge boulder in a shape similar to that of the Zimbabwe Bird. The ruins are some of the oldest and largest structures located in Southern Africa, and are the second oldest after nearby Mapungubwe in South Africa. Its most formidable edifice, commonly referred to as the Great Enclosure, has walls as high as 11 m extending approximately 820 250 m, making it the largest ancient structure south of the Sahara Desert.

Sonnenaufgang Great Zimbabwe

There are different archaeological interpretations of these groupings. It has been suggested that the complexes represent the work of successive kings: some of the new rulers founded a new residence. Since 1986 Great Zimbabwe is listed on the UNESCO list of the World Heritage Sites. I spend the night at the camp site directly located in the arrangement and can enjoy the ruins almost alone. The next morning I hit the road again and circle along the „Scenic drive“ around the Mutirikwe reservoir, also called “Small Lake Kariba”. It covers about 90 km² and was created in 1960 with the construction of the Kyle Dam on the Mutirikwe River. The dam was built to provide irrigation water to the farming estates on the lowveld to the southwest, around the town of Triangle, where the main crop has been sugar cane. The following distance to Birchenough Bridge is again more a diligence work then a sightseeing trip.It is the name for both a bridge across the Save River and a village next to the bridge. Birchenough Bridge is located 62 km from Chipinge in the Manicaland.

Birchenough Bridge

The bridge was funded and planned by the Beit Trust, a foundation chaired at the time by Sir Henry Birchenough. It was completed in 1935. At a length of 329 m it was the third longest single-arch suspension bridge in the world at the time. Ralph Freeman, the bridge’s designer, was also the structural designer on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and consequently the two bridges bear a close resemblanc. In the 1970s a 40-tonne load limit was imposed on the bridge but in 1984 the bridge was widened and strengthened as part of the World Bank‘s Highway Project One. I camp in the garden of the Birchenough bridge hotel and have the bridge directly in front of me. Now I am also near my last destination in Zimbawe, Chimanimani or more exactly the Chimanimani national park (more infos) in the southernmost area of the Eastern Highlands.

Nachtplatz

My plan is to track through the park per pedes and to climb the highest peak in the Chimanimani mountains, the Monte Binga at 2436m the highest point in Mozambique. Overnight possibilities do not exist in the park, except a very simple protective hut in the north of the national park. Hhowever, I have my tent. Additionally there are plenty small caves in the area, which invite to spend the night.

Riesenlobelie
Mountain Hut

 

In former times the Skeleton Pass situated in the north was a trailed used by slave traders. The Chimanimani Mountains form a massive barrier from old and cleft mountain peaks and deep valleys along the border between Zimbabwe and Mosambique. The mountain is composed of very hard pale grey precambrian quartzite, which underlies all of the Chimanimani Plateau, giving it a desolate rocky appearance. The frequent precipitation together with the low temperatures causes a typical tropical mountain climate. I explore all alone in 2 days during changeable weather the scenery, climb Monte Binga (without visa for Mozambique in which a bloody civil war rules) and return to my bicycle that I left with the police in Chimanimani. I remain in the province of Manicaland and reach after a day’s cycling Mutare (Website) in the eastern highlands of Zimbabwe. The word mutare originates from the word ‘Utare’ meaning gold. The name was probably given to the river as a result of gold being discovered in the Penhalonga valley through which the Mutare River runs.

Aufstieg Chimanimani

I use the town to fill up my stocks again and start the trip to the Nyanga National Park, about 105 kilometres to the north of Mutare in the Eastern Highlands. The national park is one of the oldest in Zimbabwe, established as Rhodes Inyanga National Park, a bequest from Cecil Rhodes. Mount Nyangani, the highest point in Zimbabwe, lies in the centre of the park and Mutarazi Falls, Zimbabwe‘s highest waterfall, is in the south of the park. The area is rather alpine as tropical. The vegetation of Nyanga is part of the Eastern Zimbabwe montane forest-grassland mosaic, within the montane grasslands and shrublands ecoregion. The rainforest is found mainly on the eastern (leeward) slopes, as well as in the steeper valleys on west-facing slopes. It is dominated by Syzygium
The weather also joins in, so I climb Mount Nyangani with sunshine and blue sky and sign up in the Summit register (yes, there is one!). With this achieved, I ticked all the boxes of my plan. To Harare there still are still about 200 kilometres to go, from Rusape almost tarmac. I reach Harare after 2 more days and spend the night on the urban campsite. So I came to a full circle. My bicycle is 2000 kilometres older now and does not – exepted some puntures- shown any symptoms of fatigue – and that in spite of heavy terrain and even heavier luggage. Respect.
And for the attentive reader at the end: Jerimias hands proudly over my packaging box which he has paid attention for nearly 5 weeks. Thank you very much! He lines himself up with the many fantastic and great people in this country which always made me feel as a welcome guest.

Birma 2003 – Land of Golden Pagodas

Sagaing_Kaughmudaw Pagode_Michi_EuleWhere a door closes, nothing more comes in … not even the sun!

Burmese – Buddhist wisdom from Rangoon

After we had already heard so many stories about Burma, we decided in 2003 to open the door and visit this not only isolated but largely separated country. Against all assumptions, it took only a short time to receive the visa, giving us enough time to start the comprehensive planing. Via Bangkok we planned to fly into Rangoon and from there into the northern and if possible also north-eastern parts. All other challenges we will going to tackle – and solve –  adhoc during the trip. Bogdan from “Auf & Davon”  in Coblenz has once again made the impossible possible and booked  within a short time a flight with Thai Airways into the Thai capital and then further with Yangon Air to Rangoon to us. After an amusing journey we leave the airport of the capital of Burma– the adventure shall begin.