The AIF motley crew!

Posted: 13/09/2011 in Africa

Let me tell you a little about my traveling companions. It’s been 4 weeks on the road living in each others pockets and pretty much doing everything together. At the same time theres little opportunity to get your own space given that in many towns its not safe to walk around on your own and campsites are not that big. Despite that we’re doing ok and are still getting along (although first thing in the morning is another issue for me…). We’re pretty lucky actually that it’s such a small group because we basically get an entire row of four seats to ourselves so our “me time” is often on the road. Initially I was a little in need of some girl company given that I’m traveling with 5 blokes but I’ve actually gotten used to it. Its nice not to have to worry about all the bitchiness, gossip, preening and carry on that can sometimes happen with a lot of girls traveling together. From time to time we come across other overland trucks and some are filled with girls. Whenever you go to the loo they are all in there slapping on the makeup and perfume (which malaria filled mosquitos love!!) because thats what you want to do before a safari drive. Yep those lions love makeup, gotta impress them somehow! Mind you on our last night we went on a sunset cruise and I did a little bit of preening but it had been 4 weeks of no makeup so why not? Anyway the boys have been great and I’ll miss them when they go tomorrow but shh don’t tell them that. So the boys…

Will is our 31-year-old South African driver extraordinare, which you have to be on a truck that towers above everything else, sharing a road with crazy drivers and wildlife on a surface that can often be described as tooth extracting, spine breaking, neck jolting and downright dangerous. I reckon there is something wrong with him because I have never seen him flustered or worried. He’s like a giant chill pill. Even after driving for 12 hours and being stuck in horrendous traffic or having to change a massive tyre, we’ll arrive at our campsite and he’ll be as happy as he was in the morning. And the morning is a whole other thing, he’s annoyingly happy which does not mix well with a morning grump like me. Work wise he’s professional and gets the job done and even in stressful situations I feel relaxed because his attitude puts me at ease. Nothing is too hard for him and he is happy to accommodate in whatever way to make our trip more enjoyable. Will is one of the most easy going and relaxed guides I’ve come across and he surprises me too; he’s a little whacky but in a fun, not-quite-grown-up-yet kind of way and yet at the same time he’ll suddenly come out with some intriguing and poignant statement. He’s a mixed bag with a lot of layers and I reckon it would take a while to get to know him well.

James is the Africa-in-focus photography guide, 32 and South African as well. He is a professional wildlife photographer with an enviable talent and an amazing portfolio. James is passionate about wildlife and the environment and his knowledge is phenomenal to the extent that I’ll hear an animal or bird noise and look to see where it’s coming from and it’s James! Or we’ll be driving somewhere and he points to a bird at least 5km away (seems like) and say “oh wow theres a purple crested blah blah bird” and I’m there trying to find the bird only to see some random dot on the the horizon and wonder how on earth he can see it let alone identify it. He must have some kind of telescopic eyes! Of course he also goes by the call the bird makes but at 5km away (again, seems like) he must have sonic ears too! Anyway James is really easy to get along, he’s a bit like a brother, he calls me names, I punch him, he leaves bags behind and I pick them up and take them to him. His nemesis is food; we’re not long on the truck before I hear “I’m hungry” and there’s James hunting for fruit or biscuits. As a photographer sometimes his brain thinks a little differently to the normal person. We see a hippo and keep a safe distance, he sees one a follows it to get that great shot. We see a difficult to get to tiny grassy knoll jutting out from the cliff of victoria falls with an 125 metre drop and stay safely behind the fence, he sees a great photo opportunity of him standing on the tiny knoll! Besides all that he’s been a good photography teacher and a patient one at that. I suppose one has to be when constantly having to remind people of the same things again and again (use your flash melinda)!

Ebron is 39, born in South Africa and raised in Zimbabwe with a Zulu mother and a Sutu father, and yes he speaks Zulu – I’m trying to learn click click! He is a qualified chef who specialises in pastries…mmmm pastries. I thought I might loose a little weight in Africa eating camp food but unfortunately Ebron can turn the blandest ingredients into a grand meal. He’s up before the rest of us preparing breakfast before we head out for the day and his dinner routine will vary from 2-4 hours depending on whether we have charchole, gas or wood and what he’s cooking. Sometimes we have a cooked brunch after a game drive and we’re full for a week! We have not gone hungry. At first he seems like a quiet guy until you get to know him, then its hard to shut him up. He knows a lot about a lot and will give his opinion on anything you ask for. And he won’t put up with crap from anyone, I don’t think I’d want to get on his bad side. He seems to know people in every country and town we visit and even if he doesn’t know them he soon will. Plus he can speak a little of all the local languages. Ebron is annoyingly sneaky with his camera getting candid shots of us that he threatens to put on Facebook. His nemesis is definitely his mobile phones. We were out for the night in the Okavango delta and he forgot his phones, well you may as well have amputated a limb!

Keith is a 50ish guy, born in wales, raised in Kenya and now living in Dubai. Although a little type A (and I can say that because I am too….he’s just more than A than me), he is easy enough to get along with has a vast knowledge about EVERYTHING! And he has done it all, seen it all and been everywhere. You’ll be talking about some random thing and he’ll know all there is to know about it. He has been on many safaris and has a vast knowledge of bird life so it has been a real educational experience for me. I think he’s in love with Dubai because he is always talking about how dubai has the best of this, the most dangerous of that, the longest of something else and so on. I kind of feel like I need to move there. And he looooooooves his beer, I don’t think there was a night that went by where he was beerless. He, Will and Chris spent many an evening solving the problems of the world (or of Will’s love life). Actually I think they spent a lot of time bird watching and I don’t mean of the winged kind!

Chris is the youngest of the group, our 25-year-old love lorn dutchy. He has a psychology degree and has also done a lot of travelling, his latest venture being 5 months in Ghana doing project director work. He has some amazing and funny stories to tell about his experiences there. His girlfriend of 5 years is studying tropical medicine but it’s been 6 months since he’s seen her and consequently he talks about her a lot. Actually it’s a competition between how much he talks about Ghana and how much he talks about his girlfriend. We were in doubt for a while that she existed because it was always “my girlfriend this” and “my girlfriend that”. We finally found out she actually has a name, Anne. Easy going guy with a love of life and more travelling still to do. We got along well and somehow ended up with a collection of crazy Chris and Melinda photos. It wasn’t planned but towards the end of the trip when we were going through all the photo we noticed a whole lot of weird ones of us. I’ve been teaching him Aussie slang too. He can’t wait for the opportunity to say “not happy Jan”!


Lou joined us for the second half of the trip, yay a girl! She’s a 34 year old lawyer from Slovakia. In the getting to know you kind of way we were talking about our jobs. It sounded like the start of a joke … an ED nurse, a psychologist, a lawyer, a photographer and a chef went on a trip… She’s at the start of a 6 month around the world trip (I’m so jealous!!!).
I’ve only been travelling with Lou for a week so I don’t know her well but we get along great and she’s got an appealing dry sense of humour. I think we’ll be just fine.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Love your stories. Miss you heaps. Just got your blogs. The kids can’t wait to see you again. Enjoy the rest of your trip. Love Mish

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s