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OT should have bought a G wagen
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Posted 11/11/2010 5:22 PM
dentsmithy
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OT should have bought a G wagen

Just kidding

Trip report of a TLC through Congo

 

Nothing to do with G wagens but an amazing adventure worth sharing and they are out there doing what we all dream of.

#180000
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Posted 11/15/2010 1:16 AM
kmaser
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Re: OT should have bought a G wagen

Fantatsic trip report!
#180125 - in reply to #180000
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Posted 11/15/2010 4:16 AM
bram_r
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Re: OT should have bought a G wagen

Indeed beautiful trip and pictures, although scary moments sometimes with locals.
If I were planning such a trip, I'd plan for a less 'hostile' part of Africa...

Bram
#180131 - in reply to #180000
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Posted 11/15/2010 10:32 AM
hipine



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RE: OT should have bought a G wagen

I'm not sure if the version posted on Expedition Portal is more complete, or just has a greater number of moronic comments from the peanut gallery dispersed within it, but it seemed longer. It was an interesting read for me. I mostly enjoyed how they sort of let you into their heads. The emotions and feelings were the dominant content. Not a single word about GPS coordinates, fuel consumption, how the tires were holding up, etc etc. Everyone on EP was commenting how this was the best trip report they'd ever read, and it should be in Overland Journal, etc. I only shook my head a little that they were saying all those things without knowing much about why or helping to change the normal trip report drivel.

I was a little bit torn, thinking maybe a little less of the "babes in the woods" approach, and a little more realistic preparation might have been good, but then it certainly would have changed their experience. For the better? Maybe. But in the end, it seemed their only somewhat good experience with a few locals was dependent on them becoming utterly and hopelessly marooned first. Without the broken axles bringing the vehicle to a near and eventually complete stop, they wouldn't have gotten that one redeeming experience with the locals.

It is certainly an interesting read and has made me think a little about a lot of things. Which is more than I can say for most of the magazine articles I've read in the last few years. At the end of the day, kudos to them for doing what they want, and thanks for taking the time to share it with us so we can think a little bit. I'll be very intersted to see thier reflections on the trip at the end of their write-up when it eventually comes.

It's also interesting to see it posted in different places. It'll be fun to compare the reactions from the populations of the different lists where it's appearing.

-Dave G.
#180137 - in reply to #180000
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Posted 11/15/2010 11:38 AM
dentsmithy
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RE: OT should have bought a G wagen

hipine - 11/14/2010 3:32 PM I'm not sure if the version posted on Expedition Portal is more complete, or just has a greater number of moronic comments from the peanut gallery dispersed within it, but it seemed longer. It was an interesting read for me. I mostly enjoyed how they sort of let you into their heads. The emotions and feelings were the dominant content. Not a single word about GPS coordinates, fuel consumption, how the tires were holding up, etc etc. Everyone on EP was commenting how this was the best trip report they'd ever read, and it should be in Overland Journal, etc. I only shook my head a little that they were saying all those things without knowing much about why or helping to change the normal trip report drivel. I was a little bit torn, thinking maybe a little less of the "babes in the woods" approach, and a little more realistic preparation might have been good, but then it certainly would have changed their experience. For the better? Maybe. But in the end, it seemed their only somewhat good experience with a few locals was dependent on them becoming utterly and hopelessly marooned first. Without the broken axles bringing the vehicle to a near and eventually complete stop, they wouldn't have gotten that one redeeming experience with the locals. It is certainly an interesting read and has made me think a little about a lot of things. Which is more than I can say for most of the magazine articles I've read in the last few years. At the end of the day, kudos to them for doing what they want, and thanks for taking the time to share it with us so we can think a little bit. I'll be very intersted to see thier reflections on the trip at the end of their write-up when it eventually comes. It's also interesting to see it posted in different places. It'll be fun to compare the reactions from the populations of the different lists where it's appearing. -Dave G.

 

That's interesting Dave (that you read the report on EP too). What I found refreshing on horizons was that it was about the experiences and the car was just a 'vehicle', a means to travel. They had however done quite a lot of preparation before hand and it seemed most of the tech stuff they mentioned was about things they could have/would have done better - and maybe the lesson is all the prep in the world won't start a ferry engine easily and unless we all had a Pur30 we couldn't have done that at all. A bit like my clutch working in reverse a few weeks back - in other words 'a new one on me'.

I think I'm right in saying that they were in DRC a couple of years ago so they are not inexperienced though they perhaps bit off a bit more than their safety zone could chew.

 looks like I might have to read expedition portal this evening (purely to be scientific ofcourse)

 

edit: just checked and they had already been on the road for 600 days



Edited by dentsmithy 11/15/2010 11:59 AM
#180138 - in reply to #180137
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Posted 11/15/2010 11:44 AM
dentsmithy
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RE: OT should have bought a G wagen

hipine - 11/14/2010 3:32 PM  how the tires were holding up, etc etc. -Dave G.

 

did you notice the tyres were held up with ratchet straps from the roof rack, untill the carriers fell off, then they had a porter

#180139 - in reply to #180137
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Posted 11/15/2010 12:05 PM
zimm
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RE: OT should have bought a G wagen

ive been keeping up with this. i really dont want to second guess them, and wouldnt dare do so in their thread... its a great read of something i wouldnt consider doing myself, in a place i know nothing about. but.... im gonna second guess them :). if my opinion is just way off base here, feel free to post up and let me know why.

that having been said, i think their view of corruption is a bit hard. only legal officials of the "state" can be corrupt. beggers are not corrupt... they are just living in desolation. they werent extorted either, as no one put a gun to their head or threatened to kill them when they got stuck. no, they were just asked to pay for help when they screwed up. when someone wants paid before pulling you out? well, i know when ive gotten myself stuck and not known anyone around, ive had to pay the tow truck. in my view, they decided to take a jaunt thru someone elses country. help from the locals is nice, but to constantly get stuck and expect others to get all dirty, work hard, and, being that they didnt bring any extraction equipment, risk bodily injury for charities sake, is a bit extreme. a guy breaks his hand helping you, there is no medical help and he cant make a dime. there is no welfare state. what if the load shifts and he breaks his leg? or worse? why expect that some bystanders would want to involve themselves in your problems? i mean, you didnt ask their opinion before you started it why expect them to bail you out at their risk? pay the man! (well they did ask some and the opinion was "dont do it")

they complain about how bad the state of the economy is due to "corruption", but at every opportunity to contribute to the local economy by paying for some assistance, they balk. they expect all services for free. now, im not suggesting you dont negotiate hard. anyone thats been outside the clean retail world of the west knows you do. but to expect what they expected for free everywhere they went was a bit absurd in my opinion. think about it. everything they wanted they wanted for free, so they contributed nothing to the local economy, but yet when the ferry boat captain, who would get paid from taxes levied in the country, asks for money because hes not getting paid otherwise, they complain about having to contribute at all. (yes initial proposed costs were crazy, but the final $$ was cheap by western standards, and they complained still)

they are as bad as everyone else in that place. and it wasnt the congo that did it, it was their myopic view of the world. and frankly, i was shocked as i read this how hard they were, considering the traveling they had done. does he realize the truck wouldnt have broken if he didnt repeatedly slam the drivetrain getting unstuck? that 5 bucks to locals here and there would have made his experience much more pleasant physically, socially, and considering the condition of the truck, economically?

p.s.

i have to ask myself. if they had taken every mud bogged field across western europe, would they have expected the locals there to manually climb in the mud and risk harm to extract them for free? it wouldnt happen of course, they would have to pay for a machine, but all things being equal in a dream world, it seems theres a bit of a disjuncture in what rich white peoples expectations are when they go thru ridiculously poor nations. at home they would never look at a neighbor and say, "hey, you dont have anything better to do, so quit watching and risk your health for free!" but while in the congo, its apparently rude of the locals to not really want to be a part of their fun.

is my opinion really off here? id like to hear others input.



#180141 - in reply to #180000
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Posted 11/15/2010 12:20 PM
dentsmithy
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RE: OT should have bought a G wagen

Zimm, I don't think your opinion is too far off but I think we have to remember that this is a 'live report' and a bit raw with the emotions - they are very experienced travelers but i think well outside their comfort zone and come accross as a bit colonial. I haven't been anywhere like so extreme but the constant haggling is, I find a constant wind up - I have to make myself enjoy the process (sometimes like this ) and make it part of the travelling process, and yes, I give what i think is fair but that is always a lot less than asked.

One thing with different  countries is one needs to learn the standards - how much for watching the car, how much to tip, how much to get through borders smoothly, how much to give the policeman not to issue a ticket (40 - 70% of face value in Morocco btw), how much to bribe the head of customs to tipex out a zero on the import value declaration thereby only paying 10% of the duty and how much to give the beggar on the street so they can feed their family but not  too much that they expect every passing foreigner to support them - the same call you make on the subway in London or New york.

That said, how you make those assesments in a country like the Congo goodness only knows when people are living off $10 a month.

 

A few weeks back i was driving through a reasonably afluent town, plenty of work, nice cars etc and came to a halt by the market, people everywhere, nice and friendly. I had my window down and two women, well dressed in smart clothes with clean children were talking next to me. after a few seconds one noticed me (european) then the car (mercedes) and she looked me straight in the eye and held out her hand to beg - I was speechless because she probably has more money than me. 



Edited by dentsmithy 11/15/2010 12:55 PM
#180143 - in reply to #180000
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Posted 11/15/2010 5:40 PM
hipine



Date registered: Jul 2006
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RE: OT should have bought a G wagen

dentsmithy - 11/15/2010 10:20 AM

"....I think we have to remember that this is a 'live report' ...


Just to be clear, its not quite live, as I think your single quotes are meant to imply. This part of the trip was over a couple years ago. He's writing from diaries, pictures, and memories. Personally I think he's doing a great job of bringing us into the moment with them, considering that. But I think that you're right, there's some emotional toll being taken here and we're lucky that we're allowed into that part of his world, IMHO. My favorite part of the whole bit was the part where he's reflecting a little that DRC is extracting a price by changing his attitudes, making him quicker to anger and maybe more caloused. That was powerful stuff.

Personally the experience as related is way beyond what I'd consider fun, enjoyable, or even enriching and little things like whether they should have brought a winch, or how much they paid for what, wouldn't have made any difference to me. I think the experience is a lot deeper than that. I'm just grateful that they've shared it to give me food for thought. And I have to say they've been pretty resourceful in getting through it all, so far at least.

There are a lot of things about this account that remind me of Ted Simon's book, "Jupiter's Travels" about his 'round the world motorcycle trip in the '70s. In that one I was a lot more interested in the ebb and flow of his mental state over the course of the trip than I was about particualrs of managing motorcycle travel, or even the specific events that happened. Mr. Simon's writing style (and the way it changed in different parts of the book) did a lot to tell the story and I think the same is true of this account.

Just my thoughts. Worth what you paid for them.

-Dave G.
#180153 - in reply to #180143
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Posted 11/15/2010 5:45 PM
Bhos
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RE: OT should have bought a G wagen

I have been reading this on Overland Journal, as well, and it is a great report. They had been on the road for well over a year, coming straight from Asia, into Africa and were then in the Congo, while still having to journey back to Belgium.

I have not been to Africa, but after reading many reports (motorcycle and vehicular) it is clear they are fed up with the locals, because they seem a lot different than many other regions of Africa. When Congolese are setting up roadblocks and destroying roads to force you to pay for their help...well I'd be pissed at them too! In many parts of Africa, the locals are very glad to help people in need and a reward is a bonus. Not so there, where they expect you to simply give them money because a person is white. That is a rather corrupted view of the world. I mean, when the first words out of someone's mouth when you meet them is "give me money," I'd tell them to bugger off. As for "fees," whether for the ferry or "officials," to tell me $600 dollars for fuel?!? No way. If they want Western prices, they better have Western infrastructure. Nothing wrong with going to a country and contributing to the economy, but to be expected to supplement the whole economy because their government is too corrupt and inept??? Not the couple's problem.

Plus, I have helped many a person without expectation of pay or reward. If I got it, well thanks, but not necessary. At times, you do have to pay, which the couple has done. But once again, don't try and charge me an outrageous fee because I am new or a foreigner.
#180154 - in reply to #180000
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Posted 11/16/2010 1:02 AM
dentsmithy
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RE: OT should have bought a G wagen

hipine - 11/14/2010 10:40 PM
dentsmithy - 11/15/2010 10:20 AM "....I think we have to remember that this is a 'live report' ...
Just to be clear, its not quite live, as I think your single quotes are meant to imply. This part of the trip was over a couple years ago. He's writing from diaries, pictures, and memories. Personally I think he's doing a great job of bringing us into the moment with them, considering that. -Dave G.

 

sorry folks, my mistake, I was reading as though it was 'live' - which ,I supose shows just how good the account is.

....and how I can miss a great big clue right under my nose

#180169 - in reply to #180153
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Posted 11/16/2010 2:35 AM
folidol
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Read the whole recount and found it fascinating even if...

in general I agree with Zimm's point of view.

I have never been to Africa, but even so, I know there are zones that combine harsh conditions with levels of human hostility, poverty and violence unthinkable to any educated Westerner and many a not-so-educated one.

In light of this, I found the writer as a combination between a generally mis-prepared and imprudent European (no winch?? no rescue pulleys/chains?? no diff locks??? ONLY ONE CAR??? ONLY ONE WHITE MAN AND -GASP- ONE WHITE WOMAN???? COME ON!!!!!) and an overly cocky Colonialist, expecting free help from all "natives", getting mad at them if they sought retribution, and being really quick on the "corrupt" labeling.

It might come across as harsh, but... hello??? the guy was riding with Belgian plates through the former Belgian Congo (which ranks No.2 or No.3 in the "FAILED STATES" ranking), seemingly unawares of the fact that said territory owes its f**ked-up-ness -as many an historian will tell you- largely to f**ked-up Belgian stewardship in the not-so-distant-past... and genuinelly surprised he did not get a warm reception everywhere he went.

The continuous comments about "corrupt" people everywhere (even children, in a poorer-than-poor country), contrasted sharply with the fact that he thought it was a "smart" measure to carry forged permits and papers, speed past several roadblocks, shortchange or act aggressive with people who identified -sometimes correctly- as officials, and most of the time treat the locals with utter lack of respect toward their destitute status. Now, I'm sure corruption is probably rampant, but there's certainly some contradiction there. Maybe I just don't know what the heck I am talking about.

My other beef with the story is the way this guy -apparently- was able to consistently "outsmart" people that clearly outnumbered him, out-powered him and out-knew the territory... It.somehow.doesn't.make.complete.sense. I can believe Africans in those areas can be simpler, more primitive than Westerners... but to assume they are dumb as rocks is at least an imprudent stance. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the material has been manipulated for literary impact.

The story in general seemed candid and was definitely entertaining, but my impression is that this apparently under-prepared, under-4x4-skilled, under-socially-skilled, over-cocky-European-attitude-d couple was that they were either incredibly crazy, incredibly lucky or both... the other possibility is that doing the route they did is not as unreasonably difficult as they claim it was.




Edited by folidol 11/16/2010 11:29 AM
#180171 - in reply to #180000
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Posted 11/16/2010 12:05 PM
Warren T
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RE: Read the whole recount and found it fascinating even if...

Folidol makes a good point.
The Congolese could have had better colonisers than the Belgians, they were lucky to get out alive....

Warren
#180185 - in reply to #180171
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Posted 11/16/2010 1:59 PM
4x4abc



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RE: OT should have bought a G wagen

Mark and Alfonso,

thank you for finding the words I could not get together in my anger about theses dimwits
maybe Darwin was wrong
#180188 - in reply to #180141
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Posted 11/16/2010 3:50 PM
dentsmithy
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RE: OT should have bought a G wagen

4x4abc - 11/15/2010 6:59 PM Mark and Alfonso, thank you for finding the words I could not get together in my anger about theses dimwits maybe Darwin was wrong

 

Come on Harald, hardly dimwits - You may not agree with their methods, attitudes or politics but are you saying they should have stayed at home?

Hardly in the spirit of Mr Darwin

Btw did that whale grow legs to walk that far from the sea?

#180205 - in reply to #180188
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Posted 11/17/2010 5:44 AM
Loki Laufeyjarson



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RE: OT should have bought a G wagen

Im not going to participate in the political or "correctness" dialogue (I would have started with Belgian scum bag king that "owned" Congo)

The LC75 is a sturdy car, but it always amazes me to see people tackling hard trails with severely overloaded cars, with rear axle holding 75" of the load, high center of gravity and skinny tires that create extremely high ground pressure..
Both diffs fail almost simultaneously -well both diffs were tackling the same bad road with lot of spinning. -I guess that frequently getting stuck in deep mud and car sitting in the deep mud for hours, -has contaminated the diff oil. Contaminated oil and a lot of wheel spin is a recipe for disaster.
Carrying two spares, -far behind the rear axle is wrong use of rubber, The rubber should be on the road, in the form of decent tires and decent ground pressure. Im not refering to something extremely low, but those skinny tires must be very hard pumped to support this brick.
I guess half of all LC 75 here in Iceland have rear axle moved 15 -35 cm back, to spread the weight more evenly between front and back. Winch and diff locks are fine, but weight distribution, ground pressure and decent maintenance is a priority.
He was carrying spare batteries but it seamed that he could not mount them instead of the failed batteries?

Crossing Congo is obviously a major task. LC75 is the right car but the load/tire setup was wrong. Very wrong.

Edited by Loki Laufeyjarson 11/17/2010 6:42 AM
#180234 - in reply to #180205
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Posted 11/17/2010 1:04 PM
Boy G
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Re: OT should have bought a G wagen

There is a sarcastic saying here that the difference between a tourist and a rascist is about 24 hours.

The sheer assault on ones first world sensibilities and senses (if you have those) is simply overwhelming for the uninitiated. The persistence of so many people coming at you wherever you go to either steal, beg, extort or sell to you, day after day wears you out. Or just to sit and stare at you for as long as you will stay there to be stared at.

Remember there is very little true wilderness left here - ie places that have few people in them, and whatever sin I and my forefathers committed here, in whichever form you would like to blame us for, one uncomfortable truth remains, those fellahs described in that story have not built a single edifice more than a mud hut in that country, a country which could power and feed the whole of Africa, and to this day when you go there the UNESCO lorry is offloading maize with "Gift of the US government" stencilled on the sack. Oppurtunism rules - industry is for fools.

Couple that to a hostile and aggressive attitude on both sides, and you have a recipe for a holiday from hell. There will be enough comments about how they should have fastened their wheels and why their axles broke but i do not believe too many people have truly experienced what they did in terms of a "local African" experience. They were lucky not to lose their lives IMO.

And then brethren there is Swaziland, Malawi, Botswana and Namibia and a lot of SA too. Friendly. Safe. Easy. Lots of noise vibe and colour with beautiful people - maybe not as active as you might like them but beautiful people nontheless.



Edited by Boy G 11/17/2010 3:03 PM
#180248 - in reply to #180000
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Posted 11/17/2010 3:52 PM
hipine



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Re: OT should have bought a G wagen

We need to share a campfire one day, bro. Your mountains or mine?

Thanks for sharing your perspective. It means a great deal to me.

-Dave G.
#180256 - in reply to #180248
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Posted 11/17/2010 4:47 PM
4x4abc



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Re: OT should have bought a G wagen

Andrew,

you are spot on!
Been 10 years in Kenya - same story with some local color added
#180261 - in reply to #180248
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Posted 11/21/2010 2:52 PM
Boy G
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RE: Read the whole recount and found it fascinating even if...

Warren T - 11/15/2010 6:05 PM

Folidol makes a good point.
The Congolese could have had better colonisers than the Belgians, they were lucky to get out alive....

Warren


Also the reference to Belgian scum bag king::


You have perhaps forgotten that the one chance post colonial Zaire (DRC) had at any semblance of success under Patrice Lumumba (Popular altruistic charismatic elected leader of Zaire in 1960) was killed by an orchestration of the USA. The then CIA Director Allen Dulles ordered Lumumba's assassination apparently on the direct instruction of Eisenhower and so ensure the position to Mobutu sesi Seko.


Edited by Boy G 11/21/2010 2:55 PM
#180441 - in reply to #180185
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