Winches for when wenches won’t work

As the car isn’t heavy enough for this trip we invested in some recovery gear.

Things we’ve got include a strop for towing and a hi-lift off-road kit which allows us to turn the jack into a winch if necessary.

We also have a KERR rope.  This is a magic piece of kit that effectively bungy-jumps your car out of a tough spot if there is another car around to help.

We went for a T-MAXX air compressor. This model is significantly cheaper than the ARB and VIAIR compressors, but has quite a good name, so hopefully it will be up to the task.

Jules wasn’t too chuffed when I showed her that she has a pair of workman’s gloves to push the car when we’re stuck.  Fortunately she enjoys alliteration as much as the next person, so the heading for this post was allowed.

Maps and Compass

Electronic equipment has a habit of breaking or changing hands and for this reason we will also be taking paper maps and a compass with us.

We will be using Michelin maps 745 (North East) and 746 (Central and South). Although not as detailed as Tracks4Africa, they have comprehensive coverage of all major roads.

For the European leg of our journey and as a backup for Africa we have a Garmin Nuvi 2595, which came with maps for the whole of Western Europe. First impressions are that it is a really good product with loads of features ranging from Bluetooth with various apps such as weather when connecting to an android phone to voice commands that can even understand our lekker kiff Sarf Efrikkin eccents.

Kelly Kettle

Warning – this is a post about a kettle.

When a normal kettle is a only a couple of quid, the expense of a Kelly Kettle seems hard to justify until you take the cost of fuel into account.  Boiling water daily in a normal kettle will use up loads of gas, and considering we might not be able to get refills in some countries, this could be a bit of an issue.

The Kelly Kettle uses naturally occurring solid fuels, so after the initial investment, you never have to pay for fuel again.  It takes about 7 minutes to boil a full kettle (about 1.5 litres) and you don’t need much wood for this.  At night it’s easy to get carried away and use all the sticks you can find because flames shoot up the chimney and it looks like a jet engine.  We got the stainless steel version, and unless I do something stupid like reverse over it, we’ll probably have it forever.  We bought the cooking set as well, but unfortunately this is quite flimsy and had I known this when we got the kettle I wouldn’t have bothered with the pots.

The chimney part will get covered in soot and is a bugger to clean, but keeping it black will help it absorb the heat better making it more efficient (or at least that’s what I’ve told Jules because dishes are generally my job).

Roof Tent

We’ve owned our roof tent for a while now, but as we didn’t have a roof rack until recently, it has been a rather fetching artwork taking up a great deal of space in our one bedroom flat.

Besides being quite expensive, I now also owe a couple of friends a lot of beer for initially helping carry it up to our 3rd floor flat, and then bursting several foo-foo valves carrying it back down again to install on the car a couple of months later.  (A foo-foo valve is the organ a weightlifter is trying to protect when he wears a large belt.  It is connected to various other organs in the body and when strained causes the weightlifter to release his / her bladder and in extreme cases his /her bowels.)

Having installed the tent we headed out to a camp site 20 minutes away to try it out for a weekend.  Pitching it and putting it away again was simple and painless, and at some stage I’m sure there will be a time trial.  It was quite comfortable to sleep in, and I’m really looking forward to the excitement of waking up to animals below us.

We were also the talk of the camp site and having parked in the middle of a herd of camper vans  we had more pensioners than you can shake a walking stick at coming along to have a chat about the tent.

In a campsite full of OAPs my bladder felt like it wasn’t working hard enough and pleasant dreams soon turned into nightmares about spending a penny at 2 in the morning.  With scary things like shongololos (millipedes) and spiders down below, late night bathroom breaks are an issue we will have to resolve somehow and unfortunately I don’t think there is an elegant solution.  Any ideas are welcome!

For the roof tent spotters among you it’s an Eezi-Awn.  We’ve done loads of research, and if you’re in the market for a roof tent, our advice would be to stay away from cheaper tents and stick to more established brands, even if you go for a second hand one like we did.  Hannibal and Howling Moon appear to be other really good alternatives.

Hi-Lift Jack


Our jack was sent to Jules’ office but for some reason she was too lazy to bring it home on the tube so we had to drive in to pick it up.

As it was second hand, I lovingly pulled it apart, cleaned the grime and oiled the bits that needed oil and following that a miracle occurred – I managed to put it back together.

As we don’t have jacking points on the car yet, I was unable to try it out – kind of like being good enough to get a present from Father Christmas, but not quite good enough to get batteries, knowing that the shops are also closed on Boxing day.  While Jules was lying in bed reading, I jacked up the bed, but after that bollocking I was relegated to the lounge to jack up the couch.

It is an amazing piece of kit, with a load capacity of over 2 tons.  It has a number of uses, from changing tyres, to vehicle recovery and even as a jaws of life.  One thing you quickly learn is that it is not a toy and can cause serious injury if not used correctly – something I can testify to, having painfully stubbed my toe.

This link was very useful in pulling the jack apart to clean it and put it back together again.

Bigma (Sigma 50 – 500mm)

I like to think that the reason I was able to get this lens is because I’ve got the gift of the gab and can sell ice to a Bedouin (or something like that), but ultimately it was my constant nagging that finally drove Jules to allow me to buy the lens and before she could change her mind eBay had another happy customer. First impressions were that it was bloody heavy, and in the constant penis-measuring contest that is photography, I thought I had won.

It takes some getting used to, and the minute you start moving towards 500mm you need all the help you can get to keep it stable – hand-held isn’t really an option. It also needs a lot of light, and I often find myself setting the ISO to 400 to take a photo that isn’t blurry without being too dark. Fortunately my mom was kind enough to make me a beanbag for it and this has made a huge difference.

It’s by no means anywhere near as sharp as the white jobs that Canon make, but then no amount of nagging would allow me to even look at one lest I get tempted.

Heading back to SA for a friend’s wedding in March I had the opportunity to try it out in the Pilanesburg. That’s when you realise that you can’t always win the contest – some are showers and some are growers and nobody can compete with an 800mm prime lens – bastard!

Here are a few pics taken with it

Cameras – all the gear, no idea

Neither of us has a very good track record when it comes to cameras.  We originally bought a cheap Polaroid digital for when we went to Egypt to do our diving course. I dropped this in Dahab and something bad happened causing the camera to become too hot to hold. Fortunately we managed to save the memory card and all our photo’s of the pyramids.

I then saved up and got a Canon EOS 350d. This was superb until my folks visited us in London and my mom thought it would be a good idea to leave the camera on a train at Waterloo and age 20 years in the process. Fortunately somebody handed the camera in at the station and we got it back. Disaster averted until a couple of weeks later when I decided to climb onto a rubbish bin to get the perfect shot in Devon only to wipe out and turn my lens into an artist’s impression. Several weeks and a new lens later our flat in London was burgled and ownership of the SLR and Jules’ point and click was transferred to somebody else. This was where we learned the difference between the British and South African police. Somebody arrived the next day to take fingerprints and we received a call offering us counselling to help us get over the “trauma of our loss”. We’re still waiting for the SAP to come to take fingerprints from when my family was burgled in South Africa when I was 12.

The camera saga wasn’t over because a couple of weeks ago Jules went to a concert in Hyde Park and decided to get skwank and leave her camera there.

So as of today our camera gear is:
Canon 450d
Canon 18 – 55mm efs lens
Canon 90 – 300mm ef zoom lens (cheap lens but absolutely pathetic)
Canon 50mm prime lens
Canon 430 EX ii speedlite
Velbron tripod
Homemade wire remote (not worth making your own because you can get a wireless remote for the same price off Amazon)
Canon IXUS 117 HS

Apart from hoping to fluke a cheap 5D on ebay, my lens wishlist would bankrupt most countries.

My birthday is coming up and I would be happy with any of the following (I’m not fussed if it’s a combined birthday/Christmas present if anybody is feeling generous)

  • Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM
  • Sigma 50 – 500mm (Bigma)
  • Sigma 150 – 500mm

Thanks to a groupon deal we’re doing a photography course next weekend, so hopefully when the time comes to capture a pride of lions playing tiddlywinks with a leopard in the Masai Mara we’ll be prepared and deliver award-winning pics.


After hours on Google we’ve decided to go for the Garmin 60 csx. Thanks to ebay we managed to win (you don’t buy stuff on ebay) a second-hand one for a reasonable price.

One of the nice things about the Garmin is that we can set it up to constantly save our coordinates which we’ll then be able to upload to Google Earth. We’ll also be able to sync these coordinates with our photos.

Other useful features include a compass and altimeter, and the ability to plan routes on Google Earth beforehand and upload them to the gps. The Garmin is also waterproof and quite rugged so should be able to survive me not being able to hold something for longer than about 5 minutes without dropping it.


We will be using maps from Tracks for Africa.

A comprehensive review of the Garmin 60 csx can be found here.