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Question for BillH - Africa trip/Rooftop tent security

spudboy

Accelerating Away
BillH - I've just visited your 'hereandthereinafrica' website and see that you used a rooftop tent on your trip through Africa.

We've just had some French people stay with us who are doing an around the world trip (we live in Adelaide, Australia BTW) and they thought it was too dangerous to be up on top of their Landy in a tent, so they've made a hinged "lift top" and sleep inside. They can get from their bed into the drivers seat and drive off in an emergency situation.

I'm just starting to prepare my 130 TD5 for a trip similar to yours, and had planned a rooftop tent, but after talking to the French was wondering if it might be safer to have some form of 'secure' sleeping inside the vehicle.

What are your thoughts on safety up in your tent? Did you have any worries being so 'exposed/defenceless' up there?

Also, were there times when it was too windy/wet to comfortably sleep in the rooftop tent, or do you just get used to it? Did you spend a fortune on hotels/etc in bad weather?

Thanks
David

ps- opinions from anyone else who has done a similar trip welcome as well
 
What are your thoughts on safety up in your tent? Did you have any worries being so 'exposed/defenceless' up there?

I built a platform inside the car so we could sleep in it if needs be, but we never had to use it. The theory is that, to animals, a vehicle and rooftent looks like a large man-type object so they tend to steer clear rather than getting in to try and eat you. We tended to find another vehicle to camp near if we were concerned (ie saw lions in the camp) but on one occasion we spent the night on our own in a camp in the Kalahari. We lit a big fire, ate and went to bed to listen to the lions and hyenas around camp. When we got up there were lion prints near the car but we had no bother.

If you're getting bother from people then, depending on how well armed they are you're stuffed either way.

Also, were there times when it was too windy/wet to comfortably sleep in the rooftop tent, or do you just get used to it? Did you spend a fortune on hotels/etc in bad weather?

We went in the dry season so we had hardly any rain apart from a bad couple of weeks in Malawi. The rooftent (Howling Moon - the best we saw) withstood severe wind and rain there that would have given my mountain tent a beating with only minor leakage, but after 5 days of not quite being able to dry it out we had to resort to a hotel. Generally the rain is hard but doesn't last long so you can dry the tent out properly each day, unlike the UK where it'll drizzle for days at a time.

HTH.:)
 
If you're getting bother from people then, depending on how well armed they are you're stuffed either way.

That's exactly my feeling, but I wanted billh to answer first. If you do get attacked, you're pretty much screwed, so try to minimise the chances of an attack by camoping in designated areas, not too far from others etc.

We have never had any problems from animals inside the rooftop tent, and in fact, that's the very reason we have the tent in the first place.

We have an Easi Awn which is very similar to the Howling Moon. They're both far more comfortable than a tent on the ground.

As far as wind goes, the only time we have had any real problems was at Shark Island in Luderitz, Namibia. The wind was incredible and it shook the tent and Landy around like a ragdoll all night. It was noisy and difficult to sleep, but the tent survived without any damage.

As billh said as well, you can stay pretty dry in your tent unless it rains constantly for several days. However this is unlikely.

More often than not, you'll appreciate a bit of wind to keep the temperatures down, and the mozzies away.

The only disadvantage of using a rooftop tent is when you want to explore the same area for a few days. Having to pack the tent every morning, and then erect it again is a bit of a pain. We often use a small ground tent in thois situations, but only in secure campsites. You can usually hire an "askari" or guard to look after your stuff while you're away.

Regards,
Marc
 
Thanks for all that. I was mainly worried about bother from people in the night, not animals. I guess if they are out to get you and/or your vehicle then there's not a lot you can do especially if they have firearms.

I spent 3 years living in Nairobi, so I have seen a bit of gang action. We got attacked in (ground) tents in the Masai Mara at 2:00AM. Very frightening. Had to call the Flying Doctors for broken jaw, fractured skull, deep cuts etc to members of our party.

One of the risks of African travel, but you don't hear of too many incidents on overlanders websites. It's mainly robbery.

BillH/Marc - did you have any close calls?

Also - is there any value in carrying your own firearm, or is that inviting more trouble? Border crossings might be more complicated too I suppose.

Cheers
David
 
BillH/Marc - did you have any close calls?

Also - is there any value in carrying your own firearm, or is that inviting more trouble? Border crossings might be more complicated too I suppose.

Cheers
David

The only "close call" we've ever had in 12 years of regular travel was a robbery from our vehicle while we were asleep in the rooftent. It was inside the campsite in Windhoek, Namibia around 1996. Brigid woke up an yelled at the guys who'd slipped open the side window.

They instantly ran off with a small bag of clothing. The manager of the campsite said that they'd been having trouble with petty theft from a nearby squatter camp, but that they were working on securing the campsite.

The only other theft we've had was in 1989 at Sodwana Bay. We were pretty silly to leave the vehicle unlocked while we were in the showers, and our wallets got nicked.

In 12 years of working all over Africa, I've not had so much as a screwdriver stolen, but I am very carefull with my stuff. The odd windscreen wiper or headlight might get nicked, but it's not common.

As a South African, carrying a firearm in South Africa is a possibility. I sometimes carry mine, but I very, very seldom carry it if I'm going to be in the bush. If I'm carrying a large amount of cash or doing an expensive delivery then I might carry it. Also, if I'm alone at work after dark I'll usually have it with me.

Carrying a firearm across borders is a nightmare, and not recommended. Even as a South African it is difficult enough to take hunting weapons into other countries. It is virtually impossible to take small arms into any country. As a British citizen and resident, I doubt if you would get a firearm license in SA, and in many countries the posession of a side arm is strictly illegal.

You could, I guess, carry a .44 Magnum, and claim it is for defense against dangerous game, but your chances of getting local permission is virtually nil.

In my case where we were robbed by some homeless people, would a firearm have improved the situation? I doubt it. In situations where a small group of campers have been attacked by a gang of guys with AK-47's, would a firearm have improved the situation? I seriously doubt it.

I wouldn't even think about carrying a firearm while travelling.

Cheers,
Marc
 
From another point of view we always use a ground tent mainly because I am not comfortable using a ladder at any time.
The first trip we made to Namibia we took with us a UK made cotton tent to sleep the 2 of us and it lasted precisely 7 days before it cried enough in the heat and the dust. In that short time we had seen and liked the Greensport canvas dome tents as used by the overland cos and at the first opportunity bought one, much more cheaply we later found than buying the same product here in England. That tent has now seen a further trip to Africa as well as numerous camping trips here and will later this year be shipped back to Walvis Bay for the start of another 6 month trip.
As far as safety is concerned I honestly feel that you pay your money and take your choice but unless you are moving on each day then I consider the ground tent to be the better option. I must add that we camp in designated places only whether they be in the game parks (not often) middle of the CKGR or near towns. In the two 3 month trips we have already made we have not had any problems from either humans or animals although the later have been in the near vicinity!!!!!

Margaret (using Mike's log in)
 
The only "close call" we've ever had in 12 years

Oh, before I forget... We did have a "close call" when an elephant walked past us in the wee hours of the morning while we were camped in the campsite at Victoria Falls.

He came wandering down towards us, and stood about 10 feet away from us, eating from the shade tree we camped under. That was probably the most dangerous camping experience we've had.

What prompted us to get the rooftop tent was atrip through Makgadigadi Pans in Botswana. We set up our ground tent in a small clearing for the night after we got bogged in the mud late afternoon. It was a nice moonless night, and we made a small fire, cooked a nice meal, and opened a good bottle of red wine, looked at the canopy of stars, and listened to the sounds of the bush.

Sometime that evening, as a joke, I said to Brigid "I wonder how many animals are watching us right now" and I absent mindedly shone the Magllite into the scrub around us.

SHOCK. HORROR. FEAR. There were three or four sets of eyes not twenty feet from us. I grabbed Brigid and we climbed onto the roof of the Landy. With the torch we could clearly see a small troop of hyaenas circling us.

Hyaenas are actually far more dangerous to humans than lions or leopards because they're fearless scavengers with enormously powerful jaws. They are well known to probe campsites for food, and occasionally take a bite out of a person or two.

Anyway, we scrapped the idea of sleeping in the ground tent, and quickly loaded everything on top of the Landy, and slept in the back that night.
 
We had no significant bother at all, although there were times when we met armed tribesmen in the middle of nowhere who could have caused all sorts of trouble. I am quite paranoid though which might help.

The worst we had was hassle from villagers in Ethiopia after we had visited a church.

From our website:
When we got back to the car each and every one of our "helpers" wanted payment for their part in our visit. I had made the mistake of parking in a fairly tight gap, and facing away from the road. So when we got into the car everyone crowded round us, stopping us closing the doors and leaving. They were pushing and poking us, shouting their demands in Tigrayan. Eventually I managed to use sign and body language to make it clear that no one would get anything until we got the doors shut. One man took control and cleared first my door and then Claire's
As soon as we could I backed the car out and turned her round, pausing briefly to give some money to the one boy who had actually helped before setting off after Loek. The villagers gave chase, shouting and waving and trying to grab the car. When I saw this I slammed on the brakes and (admittedly slightly shamefully) giggled as I watched one of the least helpful yet most insistent teenagers sprawl in the dirt, as he bounced off a now stationary Landrover.

As far as weapons go, we had a catapult for the baboons as I figured that most situations would escalate if we had a gun. We were never properly searched however so we could easily have taken one if we had wanted.

As far as the roof vs ground tent debate goes, we found the roof tent more comfortable, quicker to put up, cooler and further from the snakes and bugs.
 
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As far as weapons go, we had a catapult for the baboons

Excellent idea for travellers in Africa. :D Baboons are a REAL pain, and they can pose a significant threat if provoked or hungry.

When you think about it, there are dozens of items that you find on every Landy that could be used as a weapon: Spade, machette, high lift jack handle, wheel spanner etc. Not much good against a horde of locals trying to get money from you though ;)

I've never had a situation where I've been surrounded by hostile people, but I've had very little experience in NE Africa where I guess it's more likely to happen. I've been surrounded by curious people many, many times and it sometimes gets a bit worrying. Usually there's just a lot of noise, touching and grabbing, (many rural Africans have never seen arm hair, and many of the kids have never seen caucasian skin. Brigid's blue eyes always cause a stir, and lately, my crazy wild hair has caused much excitement), and general excitement and buzz, especially in marketplaces and local restaurants.
 
I tried to attach these photos, but pressedthe wrong button...


The first is of my friend, Bruce, taking photographs at a mosquito net distribution.

The second is of two of the HUNDREDS of kids who turned up to watch a bunch of Mzungus (whites) having a beer at a local bar in rural Mozambique

The third is a shot of my older setup with the 200Tdi and rooftop tent. The ground tent was for another friend, who was not welcome to share our tent with us. :D

Marc
 

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I've never had a situation where I've been surrounded by hostile people, but I've had very little experience in NE Africa where I guess it's more likely to happen.

Ethiopia is quite bad for curious people who expect handouts. (Thank you Sir Bob (Geldof)). It's even tricky to get rid of spare stuff that you don't need, as as soon as you hand it over a mob appears looking for more. We developed the "random act of kindness" where we would stop beside someone who wasn't begging and hand them the item before driving off. The problem we saw with this was that the person might still be encouraged to beg, so we then developed the "random lottery of kindness" where we simply left it by the side of the road for someone to find.:D

Well, it helped us pass the time:)
 
BillH - I've just visited your 'hereandthereinafrica' website and see that you used a rooftop tent on your trip through Africa.

We've just had some French people stay with us who are doing an around the world trip (we live in Adelaide, Australia BTW) and they thought it was too dangerous to be up on top of their Landy in a tent, so they've made a hinged "lift top" and sleep inside. They can get from their bed into the drivers seat and drive off in an emergency situation.

I'm just starting to prepare my 130 TD5 for a trip similar to yours, and had planned a rooftop tent, but after talking to the French was wondering if it might be safer to have some form of 'secure' sleeping inside the vehicle.

What are your thoughts on safety up in your tent? Did you have any worries being so 'exposed/defenceless' up there?

Also, were there times when it was too windy/wet to comfortably sleep in the rooftop tent, or do you just get used to it? Did you spend a fortune on hotels/etc in bad weather?

Thanks
David

ps- opinions from anyone else who has done a similar trip welcome as well

SpudB.
I presume it was Robert and Martine dropped by whilst on their Australian leg of the world tour.
I had a good look around at their 110 when they passed through Dubai. They have some very good ideas in the fitting out of the truck and the theory of being able to scarper in the vehicle without having to take off ones slippers could be a good one.
Personally I think that an extreme situation like the one they describe would be very rare but at least they'd have a chance of making a runner without even getting their feet dirty.

I'm doing three weeks around Northern India in March in my Discovery. The roof tent is a normal type...hence the trusted baseball bat will be coming to bed each night.

One time in Saudi we were turned away from a wadi trail by locals waving rifles.....they weren't the problem though....they were telling us to go because another group of local further down the wadi also had rifles with ammunition to go with the guns!
When faced with guns...just do as you are told. My friend Ken knew an American guy who was executed in Thailand by river boat Pirates over a stupid camera robbing!
 
Hello Streaky, yes it was indeed Robert and Martine. We had them to stay on our farm over Xmas and enjoyed meeting them a lot. They are heading up to the top of Queensland now (Cape York).

I worked in Saudi with the UN for a brief time 10 years ago in Riyadh, so I saw quite a bit of sand out your way when I was there. Interesting place for sure but way different to Austalian or African living that I was used to.

Thanks for the info. I'd like to travel through India/Pakistan one day but firstly it will be Africa. Mostly people who go on expeditions say that you get by without any serious problems or violence if you are sensible.
Cheers
David
 
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