Shopping for an offroad trip

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Packing our trailer is like a tetris game sometimes.  Writing lists of what is in each box and sticking it on the top of the ammo box lid really helps

So I was chatting to friends of mine who are heading off to Namibia for their first time doing something slightly wild and untamed.  Going to these wild and rural places is amazing but so often when we don’t know where to start or what to bring it can turn into an overwhelming experience.  So here are some of the things that I would recommend especially when travelling with kids.

You need to have a rough idea of distances and times to be covered each day.  The one thing which has made a HUGE difference is that on the days that you are having to cover quite a large distance is to have a meal already made.  This worked so well for us because as we arrived at camp my husband would setup and I would prep supper for the kids and it would be ready within 10-15 mins.  You then weren’t having to set up camp and then start to prep meals on fires etc and have children who were moaning and unhappy.  We took along a bolognese so only had to cook the pasta, a chicken curry so just cooked rice and just froze them before hand.  Always have a few backup ‘easy meals’.  I take a few pesto’s that can be put on pasta or soups that only need to be opened and heated.  Again, problems can arise like wheel issues or engine problems so that you can be delayed getting to your destination.  In places like Namibia and Botswana there aren’t exactly restaurants you can just pull up to en route.

It’s also good to be prepared to make some bread.  If you don’t have time to knead and leave then try my Beer Bread on the Fire as it is quick and easy to make.  Irish Soda bread in a pan is also a winner.  This can be used for lunches and breakfasts and doesn’t need a lot of prep time.

Don’t forget to zip loc or wrap anything in paper bags or cardboard.  We opened our trailer once to find flour everywhere when the bag exploded due to driving on rough roads.  An oil lid also popped off once and a Jimmy’s Braai sauce also exploded….cleaning those was no funding the residue and smell lingered for ages!  We also bought milk in cardboard cartons and they started to leak due to rubbing along the bottom of the crates.  The next time we put a layer of bubble wrap and paper and it was much better. Also labeling your crates with a basic list of what is inside can be a huge timesaver.

When kids have to be in the car for lengths of time they seem to snack  incessantly.  I would make a ‘lunch box’ each morning before setting off.  Bars, biltong, a sandwich and fruit.  You can’t always stop when they expect lunch so this holds them off for a while but takes a bit of planning as you have to make sure you have enough for the whole trip.

So below are some essentials I take along.  It is a pretty basic list but its a good start to then build from.  Let me know if there is anything you would think is an ‘essential’ that I should add as well 🙂

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Before we modified our trailer all the food had to go into crates.  It was a permanent game of shuffle

BASIC SHOPPING LIST

Condiments: salt, pepper, olive oil, cooking oil, fresh garlic, liquid stock sachets, dried rosemary, basil and thyme, mayo, tomato sauce and butter if possible, jam, peanut butter, nutella (can be used for smores), bovril/marmite, honey, mustard, pesto.  We forgot all spices our first trip and food was pretty bland! Nothing like a pooitjie with no spices. I like to take along some smoked paprika, chilli, curry powders so that we have the option of a curry or a tagine on the fire.

Lunch aids (when you can’t get bread): pre-packed wraps – we use the Woolworths ones as they last long, they can also be used for bacon and egg breakfast mornings when bread may be finished.  Dry biscuits like provitas and rice cakes are good backups and snack fillers if necessary.

General Food Goods: Rice, flour (either decant into a tupperware or double wrap), couscous (can be used for salads or supper base), baking powder, baking soda, oats, marshmallows, teas & coffee, sugar, bottled beetroot, olives, sundried tomatoes, vinaigrette, tuna, tinned tomatoes, baked beans, corn, tomato paste, longlife cream, longlife milk, coconut milk, custard, marshmallows, marie biscuits (for smores), tinned apples (Desserts in the Desert), jelly (a winner with the kids but have a tupperware with an airtight lid)

General Items: Rubber gloves, leather gloves (for collecting wood), dishwashing liquid, handy andy, hand washing powder, dish sponges, wire pot scrubber, kitchen cloth, dish towel (they get so dirty so pack a few extra) double thick black bags (often you have to take your rubbish along and you don’t need them breaking), smaller bags for rubbish, extra thick tinfoil, plastic wrap, kitchen towel/serviettes, wet wipes, zip loc bags various sizes (great for leftovers as they then fit in spaces in the fridge as containers can be restricting), a few tupperwares

I am a firm believer in not skimping on the good things because when you have those added ‘luxuries’ a hard day just becomes that much more palatable and good food should never be compromised on!

Shop, be adventurous and enjoy

 

 

 

 

 

Richtersveld – Tierhoek Campsite Review

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A panoramic view from above the Tierhoek campsite

In my previous blog I touched on the Richtersveld in general (click here to see).  Again, I am no aficionado, this was my second time going but it truly is a special place.  When looking into going to the Richtersveld, obviously the SANPARK’s area is well documented and you can pick up a phone and ask questions about the campsites etc.  But there are lots of areas outside the park which are run by communities and are still a part of the Richtersveld.  Tierhoek is one of these and like many community run sites in Namibia and Northern Cape, they seem to have been started out as a community initiative that over time has been neglected.  Regardless, Tierhoek is a must if you are happy to ‘rough it’ for a night or two as this is a stunning and photogenic spot with its soaring orange boulders, panoramic vista from the campsite, the leaning toilet (which the kids found hysterical) and an old sunken car or two.

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Jesse loved this car!  It seemed to capture his imagination completely

The sight is on a slight rise at the base of a kloof and from the campsite you look down over the plane.  The silence and the stars at night are incredible.  The first time there we got to watch a thunderstorm in the distance with lightening brightening the sky and stars lighting up the foreground it was an epic show of nature.

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The first time we camped at Tierhoek we watched this incredible lightening show

There are a few various places to camp up the little valley, but both times we have camped at the top where there are big boulders and two unused reservoirs.  The first time  there was not a breath of wind when we setup camp but maybe the thunderstorm in the distance should have tipped us off.  During the night it slowly started to pick up and our winner of a campsite became hell.  People had chucked their plastic bottles and cans into the empty reservoirs.  This means that at night the bottles and cans get blown around the reservoir forming the noisiest orchestra possible! We lay there for an hour hoping that the wind would soon stop…to no avail!  Pillows were put over heads and my husband huffed and puffed while tossing and turning – the kids typically slept on obliviously.  Simon finally climbed into the reservoir in the early hours of the morning and took the biggest culprits out, but it was a very long night!  This time we sent the kids in with leather gloves and a black bag as soon as we set up camp.  They found it hysterical chucking out the cans like missiles!

 

In the morning a fog bank rolled in over the plane and watching the big boulders turn orange around you as the sun rises is magic.  After packing up camp, we took a hike to the top of the koppie and the view is breathtaking.  There is no specific path and you can boulder hop your way up.  It is a very easy one to do with the kids and they loved the feeling of being on top of the world.

 

Another hit with the kids is that the campsite also has a network of boulder caves that they had a ball climbing through.  They start right behind the braai area and come out around 10m behind the campsite.  Send a dad in first just to check that there are no ‘critters’.  They were also seriously chuffed to find a huge scorpion when they did the required scorpion hunt with the UV light but otherwise there were no other encounters.

Seriously, if you are en route to the Richtersveld National Park, you won’t regret stopping here for a night en route.

 

Tammy’s Top Tips for Tierhoek 😉

  • Take cash, the community running the site do come past every so often.  I think it is around R20 pp p/night
  • Arrive being willing to share the campsite, there are no bookings so anyone can be there
  • No water or ablutions.  There is apparently a water source in the next valley over if needed.  We took shower bags and rigged them between to rocks.  The kids got filthy climbing through the caves and ontop of the rocks and into the reservoirs so it is pleasant for parents being able to wash them down before bed.
  • Leather gloves – always useful for picking up rocks, collecting rubbish or wood etc
  • Sturdy shoes for the kids.  Takkies for the hike and gumboots for when they go looking for creatures.
  • Definitely do the walk to the top of the koppie.  It is truly a magical view!
  • If camping at the reservoirs, check to make sure there aren’t any large plastic bottles or tins in.
  • As always, good wine and good company!

Who needs Mars – go to the Richtersveld?!

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The van Nierop’s – Simon, Tammy, Jesse (8yrs) and Olivia (6 yrs)                                                              The van Lierop’s – Deon, Nena, Noah (10yrs), twins Zoe & Liam (turned 8yrs on the holiday)

My mum always says that if you want to jump off a building then maybe you should go bungy jumping first!!! She always wonders how many people have thought half way down, “flip, now this is a bad idea”.  Yes, my mum is a little unconventional.  So, for all those people who volunteered to go to Mars, then I think they should go to the Richtersveld first.  Well, that is if we are to apply my mothers wonderful logic.

This last Easter School holidays, South African schools had nearly three weeks instead of the usual one week.  So we spontaneously decided to go camping with our friends, the van Lierops. (Yes, I know! We were the van Nierop’s and van Lierop’s)  Everything in and around Cape Town was pretty booked so we suggested the Richtersveld.  Many people do the Orange River, but going into the Richtersveld is largely overlooked by families.  Well, most of the families I know have never been.

Below the kids saw their first Petroglyphs.  So sad that people have felt the need to draw on the rocks.  Maybe in a thousand years time they will be seen as ancient Petroglyphs too 🙂

From black pyramid like hills jutting out of yellow ground to huge boulder like mountains to a green river valley with the Orange River running through, it is a truly amazing place.  We built cairns, hunted for scorpions, fished, put fluospar rocks in the fire to see how they burnt green, drove to a spring up a barren river valley, saw petroglyphs, went for early morning runs, climbed up some amazing mountains and windmills, and spent quality time as a family.

We took five children between two families ranging in ages from 6-10 years and it was magical.  As a family going into wild places, this is one of pretty low stress.  We didn’t have to worry about the kids too much as there are no lurking predators.  So, if you want to go somewhere that is remote and dramatic and slightly otherworldly and isn’t going to be a one way ticket in 40years time, then we would recommend this dramatic beauty.

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I will post soon on the various places we camped and what was loved and what was seen as torment and suffering by some very vocal children.  Until then, dream big and dream different, anything is possible!

 

It’s the Little Things that count

Just because you’re in the middle of nowhere doesn’t mean you have to suffer.  I have come to realize that when you are out in these remote amazing places it is the little things which just ‘make it’.

 

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Finding a small shop in the middle of nowhere and getting some ‘luxuries’.  Below is a picture of the shop….we nearly missed it

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So here are some of my non negotiables to making all things good while camping:

  • Good coffee – thank God for aeropress
  • Good wine – pack more red than white so don’t have to worry about chilling
  • Good food – you can do more than just braai on a fire
  • Clover full cream or low fat long life milk tastes the best (it doesn’t kill the taste of your Rooibos tea)
  • A comfy pillow – I will sacrifice clothes for my pillow
  • A sheet or kikoi to sleep on – it really makes a difference
  • My Paez shoes – they pack flat, light and are closed! Socks and takkies can get very hot but slip slops aren’t always practical and your feet get dirty
  • Facial wipes – means I can wear some make up 🙂
  • The solar shower bag – nothing better than a shower after a dusty day
  • My kindle
  • Good music
  • A good comfortable camping chair (a lot of time is spent sitting round the fire)

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Bees and Desert Camping – not a match made in Heaven

I thought the puff adder was bad but the bees were something else!

In 2014 we were on Khiding pan in the Kgalagadi.  Water is scarce in this area and animals come for miles to the water holes.  We had a beautiful campsite overlooking the pan with not a soul in sight.  We arrived quite late in the day, so by the time we setup camp dusk had fallen. In the morning once the sun had come up we started to hear a bee or two.  Within 30 minutes there was a low din and within two hours the campsite was swarming.  They were trying to climb up the trailer taps, in the kettle or any water bottle left out.  Any moisture left on any surface was infested and they only left at sunset.  They were relentless!  Olivia got stung for the first time and luckily wasn’t allergic.  We ended up just going for drives in the car to get away.  Any other car we stopped to ask had no bees in their campsite, we were just unlucky.

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We had left a small bowl of water out to rinse hands in and soon it was filled with drowned bees 😦

And we thought it was a once off but in 2016 we were in the Hoanib valley in Namibia looking for the desert lion and elephants.  The wind was howling and we spent most of the morning trying to find a valley to camp in that was slightly sheltered.  We finally found a spot at lunch time and again, within an hour of setting up camp, they started to arrive.  But this time it was 50 times worse than Botswana.  The water is so scarce that they were desperate.  We put the kids in the bubble tent to play and watch a movie but they had water bottles and the tent was soon crawling on the outside with bees trying to get in.  The kids were beyond freaked and on top of that boiling hot.  In the end we again ended up having to climb in our cars just to get away as it was too hot to lie in the tents.

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Me trying to see if sitting under the mosquito net would help at all – it didn’t but at least it provided some amusement.

We had planned to spend two days in that valley but as soon as the sun rose the next morning they already started arriving so we had to pack up and go find another campsite.

Being no expert this is what I have learnt from these two experiences:

  • Fruit scented dishwashing liquid makes it muuuuuuuch worse
  • Citronella candles do nothing to keep them away.  We were burning 5 of them to try and get the lunch out but they still were everywhere
  • Anthisan works better than calladrel for the stings
  • The mozzie net helped a bit but ours had a stupid split in the middle to tie closed so a full one would work better
  • Basically, if they start arriving rather pack up camp and move
  • If you can’t move, grab snacks and drinks and rather go for a drive till sunset
  • As soon as the sun goes down they leave

So here’s to hoping that we have a bee free trip up next

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unexpected surprises while Bush Camping

 

In 2013 we did our first trip with Jesse (5) and Olivia (3) taking them up to the Kgalagadi.  Our campsite on the Khiding pan was beautiful with not another person in sight.  We had put very strict rules in place for how far they could move from camp drawing a line in the sand as their boundary.   They also had to be in view of an adult at all times, so no going behind cars.  So Jess gets his spade and starts digging around a tree right next to the braai area.  He played for hours there with Livi and our friends son Sven, with their dinky cars and dinosaurs.  We thought it was great, being under a tree and in the shade but little did we know.

Later that night my husband took a pee against said tree and not five minutes later THE biggest, laziest and fattest puffadder you could imagine came out of the hole where the kids had being playing!!!!!   I still shiver at the thought.  Now the rules include no holes at the base of anything!

So here are a few things we now do with the kids camping in the bush:

  • Take tape or rope to cordon off the boundary area for them.  This is not to keep animals out but to give the kids an end point to the camp area.  We just took that plastic traffic tape and would tie it from the car to a tree and back to the car.  If no tree we stuck a stick in the ground.  When their heads are down and they are involved in play it is amazing how quickly with distraction they can move and unintentionally too.  If you don’t have rope or tape then draw a line where they can’t go beyond.
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    The Matopi Camp on the way to Nossob from Khiding.  The grass was very high around us so we ‘fenced’ off the area for the kids, putting all vehicles in a half circle

     

     

  • Check where the kids are playing and digging.  In the story above we didn’t realize Jesse had started digging where there was already a hole.
  • If you are bush camping with high grass, put all the vehicles in as much of a half circle and then the chairs on the other half of the circle and then the kids to play inside of this space.
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Jesse, Olivia and Sven playing at Matopi.  You had to worry about spraining your ankle with all the holes and trenches they dug

Namibia…it captures my heart

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My husband, Simon, and I suddenly realized that our Easter Holidays in South Africa were much longer than usual (usually around 10 days but this year it is 17).  So we thought we better take advantage and go somewhere and we truly have some gems on our back doorstep from the Cedarberg to the West Coast or up the Garden Route or even up to the Kgalagadi.  We decided to ask the kids where would they like to go (they have been to all these spots) and both emphatically said Namibia!  This partly surprised me as it is hot, the distances to cover are generally pretty vast and you can be in some incredibly remote spots (so no riding bicycles in campsites with other kids).  Yet on the other hand it didn’t surprise me at all!

Namibia truly captures your soul.  We have only done a few holidays there visiting Sossusvlei, Fish River Canyon, Twyfelfontein, Spitskoppe, Etosha, Hoanib, Epupa and have also done Van Zyls pass….with the infamous trailer!

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Our campsite below in the mountains before entering the Hoanib Valley the next day

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Driving across Knersvlakte after doing van Zyls pass.  It was 40deg Celsius in mid winter

But the way the scenery changes so suddenly from red dunes to black rocky mountains to flat grasslands with jutting rocks is truly magnificent.  You literally can’t help but feel very insignificant and small when standing in the vastness that is Namibia and soak in this incredible creation that God made.

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Jesse and Olivia on the pan at Sossusvlei

So in 10 days we are heading back across the border to visit this magical country and my two cannot wait!  I love how they now appreciate being in places with not a soul for miles around.  That time in the car is not necessarily an evil thing, but time spent chatting and drawing and reading or listening to stories (we try not to limit device us to only when on the national highway do those long long sections).  And no, it is not always harmonious, but that too is okay.

This time we are returning to the Brukkaros Crater, which is a very unknown gem not far from the border.  We were there in 2015 for a single night and I have longed to go back with a bit more time to spend. We will try get up to the upper campsite, but apparently the road is incredibly bad.  It was hairy when we went up previously!  We want to do the hike into the crater and see all the incredible crystals in the rocks.

Simon watching the sunset from the Brukkaros campsite.

Then we are going to Luderitz, which we haven’t been to yet, to visit Kolmanskop.  We will take the kids into the surrounding dunes and then down to the Richtersveld while hopefully seeing the Wild Horses on the way.

Now  the food plan and shopping starts as we have to take pretty much everything along.   I love the prepping and planning and food sorting.  I truly believe that just because you are in a remote spot doesn’t mean that you can’t have truly delicious meals.  I am going to try my friends soda bread that can be cooked in a pan on our gas stove.  Am hoping it works out as that will be so brilliant not having to knead and leave to rise and knead again and then still cook in the fire in the cast iron bread pot.  I will post the results when I try it 🙂

So count down begins to the next awesome adventure!!!!

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Overlanding with kids and their toys

My son Jesse has two passions which come with us everywhere.  First is the infamous DoggyDogg.  He has had it since birth and if you picture Calvin&Hobbes…that is Jesse and DoggyDogg!  We have had near bloodshed in our house when my husband and Jess went for a walk and came back without DoggyDogg (he was found a day later sleeping with a homeless couple)!  And do you think we can find a second one as backup?  The internet has been searched high and low across continents.  Come hell or high water, he will not be left behind either.  This is because he needs to come along on adventures, according to my son, much to the chagrin and trepidation from my husband and I.IMG_8288

Secondly are his dinosaurs.  We have lost many a dinosaur which has been left hunting in a sand dune or digging in a desert.  Last weekend we had to kayak back to shore from our sail boat as Jess had suddenly realized that he had left his prize dinosaur along with 5 others on shore, even though we had told him repeatedly to pack up (or rather not take them at all).

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A dinosaur crosses the Gamkab Canyon in Namibia

I am a big one for taking responsibility for your actions and learning from the consequences, but when your child is literally ugly crying from the loss and you are able to maybe send out a rescue and retrieval then I am sure I am not alone in attempting a harmonious reconciliation.  Obviously only if it is within my capabilities, hoping that he (or rather us) will learn from this and not do it again….till the next time.

So it is all very good and well to go search for the toys down the road from our house or at a friends place, but when you are moving everyday on your holiday covering vast distances the options of going back aren’t really possible.  So we have tried to make our lives easier by doing the following:

Tammy’s Top Tips for Toys:

  • Each child has a small bag that all their toys for the holiday have to fit into.  They have to be able to carry this easily.  Those fancy caricature wheelie bags are all very good and well in airports and hotels but not in sand and bush.  They also aren’t easy to open and close in the car and store at their feet.  Our kids have a small shoulder bag each which is light and soft and zips closed.
  • When playing, the bag goes along to the spot so that everything can be quickly put back into it when done.  No carrying individual toys from A to B!
  • Only take a few items of one sort  Ie: we limit Jesse’s dinosaurs to around 5 as he can count them and keep track.
  • Try to not have toys which have 5million gazillion pieces…..they will get lost.  They also take forever to pack up when tipped out of the bag.
  • Beloved sleep toys remain in the trailer/tent/boat and don’t get moved from car to sleep place and back daily as it will invariably get left somewhere en route
  • Also, nothing that can get sand in it!  This is because the kids will take them out in the car after playing, and it is really hard to valet your car in the middle of nowhere!
  • NO LEGO!!!!!!

Kids do not need to take a lot.  I find it amazing how many times we have taken things along but only a few ever really got played with.  They will make do with what they have where they are and imagination is a wonderful thing when left to bloom.

Logic will get you from A to B.  Imagination will take you Everywhere

—Albert Einstein

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Overlanding as a Family

We are by no means the hardcore full time overlanding family.  We live and work in Cape Town and have our own business.  So our holidays have been windows into this amazing continent we live in.   We decided when the kids were little that overseas holidays were just too costly from South Africa and to rather explore what is literally on our back doorstep.  In order to do so, vast distances have to be covered.  We took some French students to Namibia with us two years ago and they could not get over the huge distances we needed to drive.

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I used to hate car trips!  The quicker we got somewhere the better and heaven forbid we had to stop.  My husband and I used to see how quickly we could do these stops but that had to change when we had kids.  Doesn’t matter how you prepare, a trip always takes a million times longer with children.  The one needs to wee, you stop to do so and then just as you get going typically the next one suddenly needs to wee.  Doesn’t matter that you specifically asked them and they categorically said they didn’t need to!  So when we invested into our overland trailer with these long trips in mind as a family, I had to change my mindset.  The journey had to become part of the holiday.  Stopping for tea alongside the road or a wee break with a 20minute play all became a part of the holiday.   So when heading off on those road journeys with children, give yourself extra time on the trip.  Reduce the distance and if necessary make it in stages instead of pushing it.  Suddenly it won’t be so stressful anymore as you are not chasing such a tight deadline.  When you are relaxed, your kids are relaxed which makes for a much more pleasant time.

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On these trips we go with our Toyota Fortuner D4D 4×4 and our Mission Trailer.  The trailer makes travelling with kids so easy, as we can pull over anywhere for lunch and not have to unpack half the car to access the kettle.  There have been many late campsite arrivals where I have been able to immediately start cooking and am done by the time everyone else has just finished setting up as our kitchen is immediately available off the side of the trailer.  Also, when we are in spot, we can setup and then go off with the car to game watch and not have to pack everything up.  The draw back with the trailer in very remote places on bad roads is that unless you are a champion reverser (like my husband), you can get into some very tight and hairy situations.  It is also heavy and hard work on those very sandy roads, like in Botswana, and travelling with a second vehicle and a snatch strap is a necessity.

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My husband, Simon, has threatened often to sell it but I refuse.  As a mum, it makes my life so easy.  Also, we are invited along on many trips because of our useful kitchen accessibility and the extra storage which means we can carry that extra drink to watch the African sun go down.  Cheers!

#familyonamission #overlanding #overlandingwithatrailer #travellingwithkids #overlandingwithkids #missiontrailer #4x4family #campingwithkids #childreninafrica #africawithchildren #travellingmum #dontrush #makethejourneytheholiday