How would you react if you saw a Zebra-painted RV cruising down the street? Dayana and Tresor left on this incredible journey through Mamma Africa with their 2-year-old daughter. To travel across African countries you need to be well prepared and street smart enough to make your way out of every unexpected challenges you’ll find on the road. Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu.
Can you introduce yourselves? And what is your journey all about?
We are a young Afro-pean family realizing our dream of traveling through Africa in our own 26-year old Fiat Ducato motorhome. I (Dayana Dreke) see myself as a world citizen born in Berlin/Germany with an African heart, and I am a passionate peace-builder and networker with focus on child & youth empowerment. My husband, Tresor Ilunga Mukuna is a social activist film maker & humanist, originally from Kinshasa, DR Congo, and together we are having our beautiful 2-year-old daughter Benisha, born in Cape Town, South Africa, where we lived, studied and worked for the last 8-10 years.
We originally planned to start our trip in Berlin where we organized and prepared our motorhome and equipment, and leave via Southern Europe for North Africa to travel through the whole continent to Cape Town. Due to various reasons incl. visa challenges, tough travel conditions – especially with a toddler! – sadly including also terrorism warnings for North & West Africa, we decided to turn our trip upside-down. So we shipped our camper to Namibia to officially start in our beloved Cape Town, and it was great to surprise family and friends who only expected us a year later.
Tell us more about the Zebra camper ?
We were doing quite some research while still in Cape Town to find an appropriate old 4×4 family-friendly diesel camper in Germany which one could also easily repair in various African countries and found a 25-year old Fiat Ducato in good conditions. After we left South Africa last year, and spending 3-4 months in Berlin to prepare our journey logisitics, we did a big clean up of the camper and some renovations inside to ‘africanize’ it and make it more child-friendly for our toddler girl.
We were then looking for graffiti artists in Berlin who could put the name for the motorhome and theme of our trip “Ubuntu Makasi” on the camper. A friend connected us to two cool graffiti friends of his who shared the crazy idea of transforming our whole outside camper into a wild African animal for our journey. And they did a fantastic job as we have now our unique zebra camper, which especially our little daughter loves a lot and which makes a lot of people smile while traveling on Africa’s roads.
What does Ubuntu Makasi means ?
The name of our motorhome Ubuntu Makasi is also the theme of our Africa journey and means “Strength through Human Connections & Kindness”. ‘Ubuntu’ is the Southern African philosophy of humanity based on the Bantu saying “umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu”, which means “a person is a person through other people” or “I am because of you”. ‘Makasi’ is from the Lingala language meaning power, strength and energy, mostly spoken throughout the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As we are documenting our adventurous family journey through film, photography and social media, our mission is to challenge negative Africa stereotypes in mainstream media and promote this African philosophy of Ubuntu. We therefore also collect powerful success stories of inspiring local artists, social entrepreneurs, and community activists that we meet along the way to create more hope for Africa as a promising continent with much hidden potentials.
Tell us more about your itinerary?
The countries and travel route we selected are based on our personal networks of friends and connections to local activists and organizations. As mentioned before, we had to turn our original route from Berlin to Cape Town upside-down, and since we shipped our camper to Namibia last September, we had to change and shorten our route again several times due to unforeseen major engine breakdowns, so that the current travel route has become a much safer round trip through Southern & East Africa including visiting my husband’s family in Kinshasa, DR Congo (Namibia – South Africa – Mozambique- Malawi – Tanzania- Zambia – DR Congo – Zambia – Zimbabwe- South Africa).
The most difficult part our our journey is to generally manage unexpected challenges such as expensive engine breakdowns and frustrating visa issues – which we had already in South Africa at the beginning of our trip – and now again here in Tanzania, after a petrol station attendant in a village after the border filled up our camper with petrol instead of diesel. We discovered this only 130km later in Mbeya, where with assistance of local mechanics we exchanged the whole petrol with diesel – and even managed to drive then afterwards 350km to Iringa, but then our engine gave up the following day after driving ca. 25km as a valve had collapsed into the piston and damaged it totally.
We are now already 2 weeks in Dar es Salaam at a friend, while our camper was safely towed away to a Catholic mission in Ilula, and my husband, who luckily speaks Swahili, has been out each day to organize the necessary spare parts on Dar’s huge overcrowded markets, and found a great engineer who meanwhile reconstructed the cylinderhead. So let’s see how the engine will perform after being put together again by local mechanics in Ilula, as we still plan to do the rest of our trip to family in Congo and back to South Africa.
Africa seems a dangerous continent to travel, how do you manage to stay out of trouble?
Realizing such a 1-year trip through unpredictable and ever-changing Africa requires first of all lots of research, following local African news and logistical planning – especially finding a safe driving route as a family in our 25-year-old motorhome was, and still is, another on-going challenge, as we are traveling during Southern Africa’s 3-4 months long rain season! Secondly, one needs to ensure all requested vaccinations, malaria prophylaxes, having all the basic medicines on board (especially when traveling with a toddler!) and take necessary precautions daily to stay healthy during the trip. Managing all the other challenges as eg. crazy road conditions, crossing bureaucratic borders, passing bribe-hungry traffic police and military blocks, is for me only possible by traveling together with my awesome multi-skilled husband from DR Congo, who speaks various African languages, is experienced with tough African road conditions and street-smart enough to deal with police, military, touts etc. (we believe in not supporting bribes/corruption!).
Which are the items you should always carry with you when traveling across Africa?
Well, you definitely will need your valid passport with the requested visas (often necessary to pre-arrange at embassies) and vaccination card, a Carnet de Passage when traveling in your own vehicle, proper uptodate travel maps with navi/app, a phone and tracker (so your family knows where you are, especially for emergency), solar panel and water tanks to be more independent, sufficient food storage, banking cards cards and enough cash to at least get to the next town with a working (!) ATM, spare diesel/petrol canister, own first aid & medical kit, malaria prophylaxe, generator, towing rope, black tape & silicon, boots & spade when stucked in sand & rain, spare tyre etc. – and my hubby has his machete which -if necessary- can also help to scare away unwanted strangers… And for me very important: a camera to document your African adventure for yourself, family, friends & followers (including enough external storage devices for the crucial back-ups of your beloved memories).
Well, the most important tip for road-tripping on this continent we can give is: Africa is just really unpredictable! So always expect the unexpected & be flexible and open to constant changes of plans!
Can you tell us about 3 must-see places you’ve visited so far and that we should add on our bucket list?
We can definitely name 3 of our favorite places so far:
– The traditional fisher village Vilankulos as Mozambique’s famous gateway to the tropical Bazaruto Archipel – amazing to do a day boat trip out to the white sand islands in the turquoise Indian ocean.
– The picturesque village Chembe at Cape Maclear in the Lake Malawi National Park, which is a peaceful place to enjoy the serenity of the lake and snorkel with colorful tropical fishes
– Zanzibar, Tanzania, where we explored Stonetown, rich in Arab-African culture and history (World Heritage site) and were excited to be able to swim with dolphins near Kizimkazi in the south of the island.
Follow Dayana, Tresor and Benisha here:
Official Website: ubuntumakasi.com
Facebook: Ubuntu Makasi – Our African Adventure
If you’d like to support their journey to collect inspiring African stories, check out their Gofundme Campaign.