Preparing for Africa in the Netherlands

It looked like we returned too early: for the whole month of April and deep into May the weather in Holland remained frigid. Springtime seemed an impossible wish. In addition to the disappointing weather, we were told that our boat, our summer home, which had been in winter storage with a work order to have the hull treated for rust, and repainted, had not been worked on because of lousy winter weather conditions. We will be homeless until the boat is back in the water. To make things worse, our old Volvo needed to get some bodywork done to pass inspection, and the garage could only do that job three weeks later.

The good news was that we could make ourselves useful watching our three-year-old grandson at his house, and we could use the family car when needed. It is good to be with our family again. We celebrated King’s Day, Easter and Mother’s day together. Our grandson now thinks I am Wonder Woman, who can do anything. I wish I was, but it is a great compliment to get.

King’s Day celebration with Vrijmarkt in Vondelpark, Amsterdam
During the Vrijmarkt, everyone is allowed to make a few bucks selling their wares without having to pay sales fees. Children sell their surplus toys or show off their talents for tips.
Waiting for an order of poffertjes (tiny puff pancakes, served with butter and powdered sugar)

With continuous rain and cold, it did not look like progress could be made on the boat, so Thijs decided we’ll lower her back in the water and live with the primer spots decorating our hull for a while. Maybe in June, when we will be away for a family reunion, the work can be done (…fingers crossed…) We moved into the boat, but remained docked at the wharf, waiting for good weather. When, finally, there were a few beautiful days in a row, we set off towards our marina closer to Amsterdam…but within 10 minutes the engine alarm started screaming: it overheated with a failing cooling system…so back to the wharf we went. Now Sander, the main man was out sick. A long holiday weekend followed, delaying the arrival of necessary parts. And we still wait for the repair to be done.

But we did not sit still: we scoured the World Wide Web and joined some African Overlanding groups to get some better ideas about travel conditions, searched and found a (somewhat) appropriate vehicle (not comparable -and longingly looking back to- what we had in the Americas). Soon we will take possession of a Nissan Navara with Bimobil camper… We know, we’d rather have found a Toyota Hilux, but they don’t come up for sale with a decent camper in this neck of the woods, so we will make improvements on this one to turn it a trustworthy overland travel home.

That’s our future Nissan Bimobil travel home behind our good old Volvo in the front

So you wonder why we didn’t just ship our MB Sprinter? 

Our Sprinter was registered in the USA. As Dutch nationals/residents we are not allowed to drive in Europe with a foreign registration – we’d have to import it, even when we plan to take it to Africa after the summer. To import the truck, a lot of the specs are different and would have to be altered – which may not make the vehicle better. We found the high cost of shipping, in addition to the needed alterations and importation prohibitively expensive.

Our Sprinter was also a heavy weight 7T truck (which in Europe requires the driver to have a truck license). Even when staying on the main drag, the road conditions in Africa are different and a bit more difficult than in the Americas, where, unless you chose to drive the Amazonas or Central American jungle roads during the rainy season, the average road may be rough, but not impassable. Africa has more soft roads where, when stuck, you have to dig and push your car through. We’ve done that on our first Trans- African trip. This time we know that weight can hold you back, especially with increasing age and the chance of traveling alone (in 1978 the few people that traversed the continent stuck together to help each other along the trickier sections). This is the first time we’ll drive a 3.5T,  4X4. We’ll see if it makes a difference.

Memories of our 1976/77 African roadtrip through Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo). We know the roads there only got worse. Though we don’t plan to take the same route, we prepare for roads like this.
We look forward to experiencing the African continent again. Such good memories!
…and friendly people.