I wrote about a blog called This Fab Trek about a year ago. I came across this blog whilst looking at awesome 4x4 vehicles. Now, I don't mean monster mudder trucks but real 4wd vehicles made for real four wheeling in the deepest darkest corners of the world. In Manfred's case, he has a 6wd Land Rover, and if you read some of the posts about his crossing the Sahara (I know this desert has many, many names but to simply I'll simply refer to it as The Sahara) with a friend in a Uni-Mog, you'll be amazed at the pictures and video of these folks driving across huge sand dunes, basically crossing the desert on a "track" or path.
I had mixed feelings about the author of the blog initially, or moreover, about some of his opinions. I'm no stranger to the mindset of Europeans of various ilks, and count many various European friends among my family's friends and friends from work groups. I attended college with many European, Middle Eastern and African nationals who were not only here for an education but to figure out how to become an American. I know that it's fashionable now to be down on Americans in certain Euro liberal social groups, and I guess my response to them would be that they need to walk a mile in my shoes *before they accuse me, they need to look at themselves*, as Big Eric once said.
Manfred took off in 2004 for some adventure. Now so far, I'm all along for the ride. He was some sort of banker, and apparently made some cash, because he quit his white collar job and bought a SERIOUS Land Rover and had some custom work done to it by a really cool UK company that customizes off road vehicles for SERIOUS off-roading.
It's a fantasy that many I know have entertained. My friend and college roommate Australian Paul and his sidekick, John Juan, often tried to talk me into planning a post college roadtrip through Africa and Europe in the mid-80's. The trip never happened with or without me, but Billy Ray and I did discuss the subject in a "what if" format on numerous occasions with Paul and John Juan.
So Manfred was single and ultimately meets a highly likeable character named Hasna from Morrocco. They hook up and travel together and after some time as a couple, she becomes pregnant with twins. At this point, they've been living a pretty spartan lifestyle living out of the Land Rover. To say they are roughing it, at least as far as I'm concerned, is an understatement.
They decide to marry, and settle in her country. All seems grand, although there is not much writing going on, and then as their children are still babies they take off for a continuation of their adventure. There is not a lot of writing on this, but basically they don't make it far down the road until Hasna decides that the vagabond almost panhandling African travel plan is not for the kiddos. I applauded her choice.
So they divorce and he chooses Africa for more aimless traveling.
Again, as time progresses in this travelogue, Manfred's denunciations of Americans tone down and he becomes a much more dimensional character. The brightness and light that was there when Hasna was in the picture never fully returns after she departs, but the general tone improves after the passage of some time. His descriptions of music and indeed, of the topography and the so-called roads are quite inspired, as is his photography. The photography is excellent, and not only makes me want to visit Africa, but makes me feel like I've touched a piece of it through his photos.
And I'll say this, although Manfred comes off often as a terse dude, he does have his moments of insight. Again, insight in my humble opinion.
So Manfred can do things as an Austrian national that I could never do as a US citizen in the same travels. As it is, it's amazing he doesn't get shaken down more by the cops and security forces or various organized crime efforts among government forces.
Manfred can go places I could never go in many parts of Africa, or at least just not be angering everyone with their mere presence. I give him this, he's a man to make the journey he made without some kind of firearm. I realize it would be highly difficult, if not impossible and highly illegal to bring say a shotgun or even a backwards homemade "country" rifle with him.
But God bless him, he runs through some pretty isolated territory during some of his travels, with hazards both in form of beast and man. Later in his blog, he reveals he's carried a SAT phone for emergencies, as well as least one knife that can pass as a tool in a toolbox. but of course the problem is getting to it.
Manfred took the road less traveled, and he's turned into quite a good storyteller, or maybe it's just that he has much better stories to tell. But as his blog and life progresses, as he travels with his children on vacation or with his later friend Christina, he really grows as a writer.
This Fab Trek is in my blogroll to the right of the screen, so feel free to jump over there and read his story. It provides some good reading for several days time, working through the blog from start to current times.