Wolfgang - An Expedition Member's perspective.
In his own words
As Ivan asked me to contribute an article to the website, I had no idea what to add to Ivan`s thoroughly researched legends. As an alternative I thought about out lining my personal motivation and a subjective retrospective view about our mutual journey.
After finishing school, together with two classmates, we bought an old VW van and travelled to Morocco, I was 19 years old and I had got my driving licence 6 months ago. Everything went right. Only, because of our a bit “vulnerable” vehicle we did not dare leaving the tarmac roads and so we missed the real desert feeling. But the desire to go further into the desert was planted. Then came the years of study, exam, marriage with 9 weeks honeymoon, travelling crisscross in the U.S. by Greyhound ( 99 days for 99 dollars). Then I had to do my military service. Back then in Germany it was 15 months. As a dentist or physician we were supposed to accomplish the service in our profession as dentist or physician. That was not so bad , we could make our first practical experiences in this function without spoiling our future professional reputation. ( I should apologise to some of my “soldier” patients). The military rank was corresponding to a captain and the salary a major`s. I never held a weapon and most of the time I slept at home. On top I got the chance to acquire the driving licence for lorries What would follow? To found a family, establish a practice and work there for the next 35 years...
There was the dream about a time out, travelling without fixed dates, Sahara, Africa, the first marital crisis (we divorced only 20 years later!), and then a friend told me about an advertisement in a students travel brochure offering a 6 month Africa trip, and then shortly after, there was a presentation by the organising company in Basel, so I learned about EO. I had the time and the money. Well, I would have preferred to organise something by myself, but I had no partner to accompany me, no vehicle and not the mechanical skills to fix a car on the road. So I booked London-Jo`burg with EO.
The attempt for an evaluation:
For me individually these 6 months marked the end of my life as a student without many responsibilities. Back home I started working in my profession as a dentist and my eldest daughter was born in June 1980. I had successfully realised a dream and was ready to become “gentrified”, I didn`t have the feeling to have missed something important.
Another conclusion: on one side it`s a great experience to travel slowly from country to country, not being spit out of an airplane, on the other hand you need some time to digest all the new impressions, what turns out to be really difficult if every day something new comes up, unavoidably you forget a lot. To compare, I think there is a different retrospection between somebody in charge and a client / passenger (as we were, although called EM). Anyway, there was quite a difference between a safari with overnight stays in 5star lodges or a cruise liner with captain's dinner. I don`t remember if it was in the advertisement or somebody said so, but I remember very well the sentence: “it`s not a gourmets tour!” (I never had porridge or kippers afterwards). Well, we were not totally passive, by shopping for food, cooking ,washing up and putting up the tents every night we actually felt like EMs. The overall advantage of being passenger was of course that you could enjoy the ride, didn`t have to organise fuel or border documents, didn`t have to concentrate on the road conditions (we only felt the bumps ant tasted the dust) and it was not our fault if the truck was stuck in a mudhole. Crossing the Sahara, passing through the Serengeti, and climbing the Kilimanjaro, nobody will ever forget. In retrospection I also admire the entrepreneurial courage of the EO responsible to organise this kind of trip with so many imponderables, calculating the finances and risking legal troubles, being sued by discontent clients.
Booking the trip, I didn`t wonder about travelling six months with 10 to 15 people I didn`t know before, although, in retrospective that could be the greatest challenge. Fortunately I cannot remember any big problem with our group Certainly there were the differences in age, some cultural differences between north Americans, continental Europeans and inhabitants of a West European island. But we managed! I was happy to gain my “Africa tentmate” as a friend for the next 40 years (might be longer), Lukas`s hometown Basel and mine are only 60km apart. We met regularly afterwards, hiked in the Alpes, went skiing… , unfortunately Lukas moved to the U.S ( it`s about 30 years now)., but I managed to visit him in his new home in Virginia with my family and we tried to meet whenever he came over to Europe , at least we write each other once a year.
It`s a pity that we don`t know the whereabouts of our travel companions. Would be interesting to know what became of them.