Itinerary – Cape Town to Mabuasehube, Kgalagadi

Distance: 3500km Duration: 15 days Countries: 3

IMG_6738I have decided to do a series on some of our itineraries.  When you start planning your trips, it can be a little overwhelming knowing where to start.  Where do you overnight?  What is a good distance to travel with kids? What is a realistic travel time vs what the Garmin says? (FYI -it always takes longer) 

IMG_6461Simon and I tend to be a bit chilled when it comes to planning (read VERY), but we have very organized friends.  We like to ‘wing it’, but when travelling into Africa that is not always the best option, especially with little kids.  So it is really helpful to have friends who like to plot and plan.  One of these useful sort of friends to have is our neighbour, Mike.  He loves to spend hours researching various routes, alternative and less travelled options etc.  We have been to some incredible places because he saw something on google Earth and then traced it and plotted and planned.

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To Drive is the Holiday

Before our Kgalagadi trip, Simon and I had done the Okavango and various others, but always without kids.  The drives to the beginning of our adventure destination were generally loooooong, and the thought of being in the car for that duration with our young children was frankly terrifying.  But we have come to realise that this is because the drive for us was a means of getting to a destination.  Mike and his wife Georgie have taught us differently.  They took us on our first family overlanding trip when Jesse was 5 and Olivia was 3 , showing us that these long journeys are possible with kids. They changed our mindset; the drive is the holiday.   The distances they suggested were shorter, which meant that you could stop along the way and if the kids needed time, you had it.

IMG_6838Back to the Useful Friends

Back to the reason these organised friends are so useful, they are very detailed.  And with being so detailed comes very detailed trip itineraries with time lines etc.  I thought it was overkill to start, but it really helps with planning your days, lunch stops and so on.  Where Mike and I differ is that he can’t stay in one spot for too long.  I would recommend a 2 night stay more often and subsequently we have compromised on trips since this first one.So here is the first overlanding trip we did as a family to the Kgalagadi.  You can then get an idea of the distances we travelled, where we stopped and then use it as a guide to start your own adventure planning.

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Itinerary Notes

A special thanks to Mike Borgstrom whose itinerary this is.

Vryburg – DO NOT use the community campsite (unless it has had a revamp) That experience now goes down as one of the ‘remember when’s’, which is great story telling now but not so much fun to experience at the time

Route – If going into the Botswana side of Kgalagadi, I would do the trip the other way round. So enter Kgalagadi either at TweeRivieren or Namibia and then head through to Botswana and out McCarthy’s. Reason being is that the Botswana side is so wild, so when you get to the SA side it is much tamer and feels a bit of a let down.

Booking – The SA side books up so quickly and that is why we had to do our trip a bit higgledy piggledy. We had to take the bookings we could for Nossob and Mata-Mata and then work the trip around that.

KGALAGADI_BOTSWANA 2013 ITINERARY

I hope that it helps with your planning and if you need any advice or have a question, please feel free to send it our way.

Lots of love

Simon and Tammy

Off to Europe – Italy

Helping with Camps in Italy

For the last 5 weeks, our little South African family of 4 have been in Italy at my aunts farm just outside of Rome helping her with her summer camps.  For the last 19 years my aunt Sara has run camps for kids between 8-11 years old, giving them 6 days of amazing farm fun.  They camp in tents, walk rivers, ride tractors, learn to ride horses, spend a night at an Etruscan Antiquities Center, and in general have good clean outdoors fun.  She has 16 kids at a time and do 3 camps in a row between the months of June and July

The grounds that the camps are held on are amazing.  The castello has been in my uncles family for over 200 years and if I remember correctly was built between the 11th-15th century and is situated just 60km from Rome.  On their amazing property Etruscan tombs have been found which date back over 2500 years along with an old Roman road.  I spent a wonderful summer there when I was 11 and have been back many times over the years and it never fails to amaze and is the most magical place, especially as a child.

How does this tie in with us?

15 years ago Simon and I came and  helped with the camps, and this year my aunt didn’t have anyone to assist her.  So we got chatting and decided to take the opportunity to come over and help her and give our kids a different experience and a chance to learn and immerse themselves in a different culture and interact with kids from another country.  We have then further taken the opportunity to stay longer and travel Europe and Ireland for the next three months.  So we have traded in our 4×4 and overland trailer for aeroplanes and suitcases and some new and amazing family adventures.  We have rented out our house for 6 months to help fund this amazing trip, friends have kindly taken our beloved animals (thanks Elaine and Winks) and Simons fabulous cousin is helping to look after our business back home (thanks Bev).

The last 5 weeks in Italy

I think we are still recovering! We arrived early June and had 10 days to see family, go into Rome for a few days and play tourist, and then setup the camp and get ready for the kids.

Looking after 16 kids plus your own 2 is hard work.  Throw in the fact that Italian kids go to bed late……very late, and you have exceptionally long days!!!  We would start getting the kids into their tents around 10pm (which they thought was way too early), and they then woke up just after 7am.  I don’t know how they function!  It must be years of training.

The language barrier is also quite difficult and exhausting.  Our Italian is pretty broken and majority of their English isn’t great, but there was always one little translator who was an angel.  So you have hard work and looooong days and it is exceptionally hot too.  All that aside, the experience was great though but I think I will be happy not to be sleeping in a tent for the next while.

We had nightly joys of the most ginormous toads waking kids, a cat that would come into camp around 2am and then ‘hunt’ our tent straps, the rooster that thought 3am was a good time to crow, Antsy the donkey hee-hawed at around 5am, kids that had sweets in their tents (when they weren’t allowed) and then climbing into bed and finding ants had invaded, the nightly hunting sessions for grasshoppers, caterpillars an any other insect that freaked them out due to the fact that they hadn’t zipped their tents shut, even though we had told them a million times and the list goes on and on…..but hey, it makes for great memories.

How did the kids handle?

Jesse and Olivia participated in the first camp completely as part of the group of kids as we only had 12 the first week.  The second two weeks they assisted us as well as participated where possible as there were 16 kids each week, so the camp was full.   It wasn’t always easy for them and nor for us, as they got the dregs of our patience and our time due to the fact that we were working and looking after the other kids was our priority.  But they were troopers and learnt to be a bit more self sufficient.

  And now…

Our family journey begins in earnest!  We packed up a few days ago and caught our first flight en route to Dublin.  We will be spending the next 3 1/2 weeks exploring the green isle.  We have rented a car, booked airbnb’s and have no plans further than that.  We will also have to start our term of homeschooling this week, which will be something new.  The kids school has been incredibly supportive.  We are missing the whole of the 3rd term, but will do our best to keep up with Maths and English, after that this journey is the most incredible education they can receive.

After Ireland, we are heading to Germany to cycle the Rheine and then renting a camper van where our no plans journey continues.  We will be heading back to South Africa at the end of September.

So come along for our journey.  I will endeavour to post whenever possible, but follow Instagram an our Facebook as that is more of the day to day

lots of love

the van Nierop family – Simon, Tammy, Jesse and Olivia

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Dreaming Big – is it reality?

I was given a gift bag and on it had the wording, “Dream big, live the life you have always imagined!”  Simon and I have had a dream for our family for a while, and that is to take our kids sailing for a few years.

But the birth of the dream to the actuality of it sometimes seem insurmountable. They say that the ideal time to do this is before kids reach ‘teen’ years.  Obviously this is not the rule, but it seems to be the average guideline.  Jesse is turning 10 in June, so this ‘ideal’ deadline is creeping up.  Then there is the very real monetary factor.  We aren’t rolling in it.  We work for ourselves with our event flooring company, and at the moment the industry is not doing well.  That means that all that we have saved has been thrown back into the pot to keep going.  So 2 steps forward and 3 backwards!  Simon has his coastal skippers, only to find out that it is only valid in the UK and not recognized in South Africa.  So if he wants to get his Yacht Master off shore, he has to start from scratch again.  And this is only a few of the ‘hurdles’ in getting from here to there.

This isn’t including trying to buy the boat.  We don’t want a complete fixer upper, as this takes time which as stated above, is limited.  But obviously the nicer the boat the ‘nicer’ the price which brings us full circle and back round to the hurdles.  How do we go about buying a boat that is roughly going to cost us over a million Rand?  Selling a kidney and half a lung seem to be the easiest options at the moment!  Just joking….I think.

So how do we go about accomplishing the life we have imagined?  What do we give up?  Do we sell our house and buy a smaller apartment that is then paid off so that there is no debt?  But if we sell our house we move out of an amazing community we are knitted into.  Do we rather rent it out hoping that our tenants pay on time etc?  Do we keep our business and try run it from abroad?  This then gives us a monthly income.  But at the moment we need to sell the business in order to use the capital to fund the dream.  If we keep the business this then means you are constantly trying to keep in touch with clients and overseeing things.  Do you rather sell it and thereby not have anything you are constantly having to watch?  If we sell it, what are our alternatives?  Do I look at doing online freelance work?  Does Simon go back to doing yacht deliveries?  (which he did before we were married)   This can then be done when we are in various ports and also from home in Cape Town when we come back, keeping a possible option of income.  Which homeschool system will be best and easiest?  At this moment our kids are beyond on board with the dream, but when time comes will they truly be happy to uproot and say goodbye to friends and family?

So at the moment we have more questions than answers.  We have more what ifs than we wills and definitely more against us than for us.  But we will continue to dream and work towards this goal and I will keep you posted on what we decide to give up, trade in and sell.

But this I do know, even if we don’t accomplish this exact dream – we have not failed.  For it is far better to dream and maybe fly than to never try  for fear of falling and failing.  We will always have each other, and for that we are rich!IMG_2508