Have kids, will travel
Pete Sinclair, his wife Celia and their three children – Freddie aged ten, Poppy aged eight and Stanley aged seven - spent five months driving the length of Africa. Their favourite place, without a doubt, was Namibia.


ImageWhat I remember about Namibia is the sheer beauty of the desert. What the kids remember is the fabulous seal colony on the Skeleton Coast and, of course, its smell!

“They also loved the dinosaur footprints at Kalkfield,” Pete laughs, “although, for some reason, they always mention that the German farmer who owned the land had taken a paint brush and ringed each fossil with white paint, just in case you missed it!”

After travelling the length of Africa in a Land Rover with his young family, Pete Sinclair isn’t surprised that the memories that endure for each of them are so different.

“In so many ways that’s the beauty of Africa, and of Namibia in particular. It is so varied that there really is something for everyone.”

The family had a few rules for success on the road. First, they would try to stop at least every couple of hours. Also, after a particularly long day on the road, they wouldn’t drive at all the next day.

“Sometimes there was a lot for the kids to see out the window but on other occasions there wasn’t. When they got bored we got them to look at the guidebook and choose where we were going to stay next and what we were going to do. They also learned their times-tables, singing them as we went along.” When all that failed, the children had Gameboys to entertain them.

 The Sinclair family spent two weeks in Namibia and is now keen to return. For Pete it was the perfect place to travel with children.

“Namibia is raw, it’s remote and you feel like you are having an adventure, yet, despite that, there is a safety net. If things go pear-shaped in Namibia then you know that help is close at hand. I think there is nowhere else in Africa that has that combination,” he says.

And Pete always recommends self-drive holidays. “I believe you get a much better feel for a country if you are driving yourself. Guided holidays always stop at the same places and the people there see tourists on a very regular basis. If you choose where to stop yourself you will have a very different experience.”

A self-drive holiday also means you have the freedom to choose when you switch locations. Families with young children are often up early and can take advantage of that by travelling in the morning when it’s cool.

Most of the time the Sinclairs camped, but they also tried farm stays, lodges and hotels. In Etosha they were lucky enough to get a rondavel with a view of one of the floodlit waterholes. From their kitchen window they watched as a jackal arrived, then some elephant, a lion, giraffe, kudu, zebra, springbok and a white rhino.

However, one of Pete’s favourite memories is of a campsite at a guest farm. “When we got to the farm, it was completed surrounded by a seemingly endless electric fence. We found the entrance and had to buzz for attention. A woman answered and told us to ‘come on up the drive’. The track to her house turned out to be eleven miles long. For me it summed up the pioneering spirit and remoteness that still exists in Namibia.”

The idea for the Sinclair’s epic trip came when Pete realised he was missing seeing his children grow up.

“I had been working for a US software company and had been away from home a lot and I wanted to get to know my kids.”

Their route took them from their home in Northumberland through Europe, the Middle East and into Egypt from where they drove south through Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and finally South Africa. The Sinclair family trip was even more remarkable given that their youngest daughter Poppy has diabetes.

“It was another reason to go,” says Pete. “I wanted to show Poppy that having diabetes was not going to stop her doing things.”

Their Land Rover had two solar-powered fridges for insulin and other medication. Poppy also has to have carbohydrates every couple of hours. “The only places we had problems finding snacks were in Sudan and Ethiopia,” remembers Pete, who had packed lots of dried pasta and sauces for emergencies.

Pete admits their trip involved more risks than if they had stayed at home in Northumberland but he wanted his children to meet people from different cultures and religions and also to learn about weighing up risks and making balanced decisions for themselves.

Whether Poppy, Freddie and Stanley realised they were gaining such valuable life skills is doubtful – they were having far too much fun. They were mock charged by an elephant in Etosha, surfed down the dunes at Sossusvlei, and spent all of Poppy’s ninth birthday in a very posh hotel’s swimming pool in Rundu, in the Caprivi Strip.

You can read more about the Sinclair’s trip at www.a2b.uk.net/index.php

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