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Making a difference

   Besides all the strategies followed in my previous trip, during “mad about Africa” we had a few more humanitarian projects.

 

You’ve got mail!

   Having focused on the human factor, one of our actions was the building of a communication bridge connecting families in the countries we were visiting, whose members live and work in Greece. Under the auspice of the organization “Equal Society“, which stands up for equal opportunities between everyone, we personally contacted immigrants and refugees living in Greece. We got to know them, we learned about their life story and they sent us to their family in their homeland, in the Balkans, Africa or Middle East. We symbolically carried there their letters and photographs.

The goal of this project was to publish the stories of refugees and immigrants and let people know about their neighbours. We all share the same world after all… We were also publishing the stories of the immigrants’ families, the families that stayed back in their homeland. We wanted to raise awareness about the conditions in those countries too. We wanted people to realize how somebody takes that difficult decision to leave behind his family and migrate to an unknown place, putting his life in danger. This way, the most important goal of our trip was accomplished, which is no other than our interaction with the locals and the abolition of borders and frontiers, literally and metaphorically speaking. Our goal is always to build bridges between people, not walls. We believe that this is an important requirement to make our world peaceful.

 

The missions that we accomplished were:

  1. You’ve got mail, in Albania!
  2. You’ve got mail, in Morroco!
  3. You’ve got mail, in Burkina Faso!
  4. You’ve got mail, in South Africa!
  5. You’ve got mail, in Zimbabwe!
  6. You’ve got mail, in Palestine!

 

Wild Camping

   Since the time that I could not even walk until today, I have spent hundreds of nights wild camping in the nature. Some of these days and nights have been marked in my memory… Even though my family was large, we would usually spend our summer vacations around a tent (or two, when the family became really big!). I remember us having one of those big, old-fashioned, tents made out of cotton, with this folding cradle inside, where the baby of the family would sleep.

On the right you can see the family tent, my so-called pouch house, and on the left the newer one.

On the right you can see the family tent, my so-called pouch house, and on the left the newer one.

   Inside our little van we would pack all our cutlery, a gas stove, food supplies, our bicycles, life buoys, goggles, flippers and beach toys. We had everything we needed and we enjoyed nature without any worries… During the whole year I was looking forward to go on vacation and sleep inside our pouch house, as I named it! Naturally, I keep the sweetest memories from that time of my childhood. These were some of the most beautiful moments I have spent with the family that raised me. It’s such a pity that some people label them as illegal…

We were carrying everything we needed for a continental breakfast... We were even carrying a folding table!

We were carrying everything we needed for a continental breakfast… We were even carrying a folding table!

   As you would expect, when I became an adult and I started to travel without my parents, the tent became my second home. Having it always packed with my stuff, I enjoyed every remote corner of Greece. Later, during my trip in Asia, I spent 176 nights wild camping. Of course, in Africa, I anticipate to overtop this number!

Cavemen on an isolated beach in Limnos Island, Greece.

Cavemen on an isolated beach in Limnos Island, Greece.

   I rarely stay in organized encampments. That’s not only for financial reasons but also because, as far as it concerns me, this spoils the whole magic of wild camping. By my personal criteria, the biggest advantage of wild camping is this feeling of freedom that you get! I love to set off in the morning without having a clue of where I will end up spending the night. I camp wherever dusk reaches me. When somebody wants to spend the night in some hotel or encampment, then he has to plan his trip accordingly, so that he ends up in such a facility. That’s not always easy, especially in areas with poor tourist infrastructure. But even when such facilities exist, the traveler is committed to follow a certain schedule.

The cave offered us its precious coolness!

The cave offered us its precious coolness!

   Besides, I love the serenity that wild camping offers me, far away from people and indiscreet attention. The sceneries and experiences that nature has given me so abundantly can not be of any match to a hotel or an encampment. I am not trying to diminish these facilities. They are also necessary as they serve the needs of others. It is just that they do not serve my needs and those of many other people too.

In Naxos Island, Greece, having just bought my first motorcycle, an Africa Twin 750!

In Naxos Island, Greece, having just bought my first motorcycle, an Africa Twin 750!

   I would be really happy to see a law that would allow us to choose the way of covering these needs of ours, but regrettably I am aware that in many countries, including Greece, wild camping has been banned as illegal. In many of the developed countries in Northern Europe, wild camping is allowed under certain conditions, according to the area, the duration of camping and, of course, the traces that a camper leaves behind him. This is what I call rational and fair.

At the paradise of Elafonisos Island, Greece...

At the paradise of Elafonisos Island, Greece…

   Almost every wild camper that I know, not only does he not leave rubbish, but many times he also collects the ones he finds. When we leave our camping spot nobody can tell that someone spent the night there. We must admit that usually it’s not the regular campers that litter the environment, as they are obviously nature lovers, but the ones that just happened to pass by, having no respect for the nature whatsoever.

New Year's Eve on Mount Olympus, Greece!

New Year’s Eve on Mount Olympus, Greece!

   I would be really pleased to see those countries penalizing and punishing severely those who pollute the environment but instead they use pollution as a lame excuse to penalize one of the most basic human rights! They penalize some of the most beautiful moments I have spent with my family! They penalize my sweetest memories from my travels!

Inside the forest of Elatia, one of my favorite places in Greece!

Inside the forest of Elatia, one of my favorite places in Greece!

   Especially in Greece, beyond any sense of logic and morality, they have banned even the pitching of more than one tents inside your own property! In the last few years, the more the state is being ruled by the police the more we, the criminals, wild campers, are being persecuted severely. Pavlοs Sidiropoulos, a famous Greek composer and singer, was so right… it is hard to be both honest and outlaw at the same time.

Camping

On the Indian Himalayas I found one of the most spectacular spots that I have ever wild camped in!

   In an attempt to express my strong confrontation with such a law but also to encourage ethical wild camping, I publish all the amazing camping spots we find in every country that we visit, in order for others to enjoy them as well. You can find the relevant waypoints, along with advices about wild camping in each country, in the information section of “mad about Africa”. Moreover, I have written some reviews of the camping gear that I have used, hopefully useful to others.

Christmas in the Indian jungle.

Christmas in the Indian jungle.

   Finally, in order not to point out but just to inspire, I give my personal ethics concerning wild camping:

  •    We never trespass private properties. We only camp in public areas.
  •    Even when in public areas, we never arrogate the territory. We always keep in mind that nature belongs to everybody, it is our home and we must all take care of it.
  •    When we leave from a camping spot it must not give away that someone spent the night there. Many say that the place should look exactly as it was before but if there were rubbish all around, it is better to collect them and leave the place even cleaner, if there is such a potentiality.
  •    We never leave rubbish behind, even the biodegradable ones, such as toilet papers, especially in areas that human presence is strong. Littering could be difficult to biodegrade in such a short time, before new rubbish appears. On the other hand, if we are in a remote area, we can leave food leftovers for the animals and plants.
  •    We go to the toilette at least 30 meters (98 ft.) away from lakes and rivers, to prevent water contamination. Wherever we can, we dig a hole to bury the stools.
  •    We avoid setting a fire when there is no need to do so, especially in areas with scarce timber. Not only is a fire dangerous but it also consumes the natural resources that in many places are so valuable. We wear warm clothes instead.
A wrong spot to wild camp... a summer storm led to the formation of a stream, passing right through the cheap tent that I had borrowed.

A wrong spot to wild camp… a summer storm led to the formation of a stream, passing right through the cheap tent that I had borrowed.

Here is also some piece of advice:

  •    The most important parameter for an enjoyable wild camping experience is to camp in a place where we are not visible by others and we do not bother anyone.
  •    After having spent hundreds of nights wild camping, I have never faced any danger neither from criminals nor from animals or the elements of nature. Of course, common sense is always essential…
  •    Trees offer their precious shade but in some areas it is where animals climb on in search of food or shelter.
  •    In countries with wildlife, especially during the dry period, animals gather around water. So, no matter how valuable this element is, we must avoid such places.
  •    We camp quite a few meters away from the river banks, unless we know for sure that there is no dam in the area controlling the water flow. In case there is such a construction, the water level can rise within a few minutes. Even if there is no dam, this could also happen during or after a downpour.
  •    In coastal areas where the tide is strong, we camp a lot higher than the sea level. Many times this means camping hundreds of meters away from the water.
  •    Especially when there is a possibility of rain, we do not pinch our tent in a place that could potentially get flooded. Examining the ground surface, we can spot pits that turn into ponds, as well as ruts that turn into streams.
  •    We keep our food supplies packed in bags sealing firmly. If we have a vehicle it is better to keep them there instead of inside the tent, as food attracts animals and especially ants!

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