In Issue 25 we met JAN-HARM DU PLESSIS and his family as they shared their epic adventure retracing the route of the Dorslandtrekkers of the 1800s through Namibia. This was not a once-off adventure, though, and the four of them love nothing more than to explore the natural wonders of the African continent. They also have a weird fascination with road signs.
My name is Jan-Harm du Plessis and I have been married to my beautiful wife, Elsie, for over 17 years now. We have two amazing kids – our daughter Luciele (14) and our son EW, who recently turned 12. We post and write of our travel adventures on Instagram under the handle JEWEL4travel. This is actually an abbreviation of our names: J = Jan-Harm, EW = EW, E = Elsie, and L = Luciele.
Since 2013 I have been working for an international infrastructure consulting company as a project coordinator. We basically manage and implement various international donor-funded bilateral infrastructure projects across the world. I am currently stationed in Lusaka (Zambia), but before this we were based in Lilongwe (Malawi) for four years on a school construction project. Elsie and the kids move with me, and I can’t see myself doing what I do without them by my side.
Both Elsie and I have been into 4×4’s and camping ever since we were in diapers, so the passion for the outdoors was instilled in us from a very young age. Getting our first overlanding rig soon after we got married in 2006 was a no-brainer and by the grace of God, we are still able to do it today.
We have been through some trying times in recent years, but we always seem to find our solitude in nature. We have obviously done our fair share of lodging – which can become rather expensive – but it is the absolute freedom of travelling into the unknown and setting up camp in remote and secluded spots that really gets us excited. In the words of our Dutch overlanding friends (@haveaniceway): “The plan is not to have a plan!”
The story behind our vehicle’s warthog sign is an interesting one. It is actually a gag that my parents started. When they see someone going on an overlanding trip or camping, they usually jokingly refer to them as “varke” (pigs). We picked that up and adopted the picture of a warthog as our unofficial logo. We were returning from a two-week trip through Botswana and Namibia in 2016 when we noticed the warthog traffic sign just outside Lephalale and, well… the rest is history. We had a spare wheel cover made and it has been with us ever since as we also consider ourselves to be “varke”.
Our interest in animal road signs started then. Back then the warthog sign, together with the elephant and kudu signs, was the only wildlife warning signs we were familiar with. Then, at the end of 2021 we did a 30-day trip from Lilongwe to Pretoria via Zambia and Namibia (the now famous Dorslandtrekkers trip shared in this magazine before). It was during this trip that we came across a couple of very interesting signposts that were completely new to us. This sparked the interest of Elsie and Luciele – our on-board photographers – which ultimately led to some unique Instagram posts. Now we are always on the lookout for unique wildlife related signposts.
In May 2022 we did a 30-day trip through the Western Cape. We came across the signpost while driving through the West Coast National Park. These poor reptiles are often victims since they are unable to get away fast and we spotted plenty of them along the route.
ELEPHANT (Khaudum National Park, Namibia)
Not a very unique sign, but perhaps one of the wildest places we have ever travelled. That sign always gets your blood pumping, especially if you are completely alone in their habitat on some very rough terrain… and we got to see plenty of them in the Khaudum.
WILD DOG (Trans Caprivi, Namibia)
This was a very surprising and unique find. We have a soft spot for the ‘painted dogs’ and although we didn’t get to see them in the Caprivi, it was heartening to know that they are there. We did, however, experience some great leopard sightings in Bwabwata National Park. Perhaps authorities should consider a road sign for them as well.
KUDU (Trans Caprivi, Namibia)
This is probably the most common road sign for wildlife. If you’re like me, it always brings a smile to your face when you see it, as it announces that you are close to the bush. This particular road sign is duly justified as there are plenty of kudus and other antelope to be found in the Trans Caprivi.
HYENA (Cape Cross, Namibia)
This is also a rather unique sign and one that you don’t come across every day. Although we didn’t see any hyenas that day, we know that brown hyenas are frequently spotted in the vicinity as they come from the dunes to feed on the thousands of Cape fur seals in the area.
SQUIRREL (Solitaire, Nambia)
This sign is very much in context and highly appropriate. There are squirrels everywhere and you can easily kill one if you are not careful. The sign is more for their safety than for yours.
LION (Kafue National Park, Nambia)
Most recently, we managed to get a photograph of the lion crossing point signpost, located on the Old Great West corridor road through the Kafue National Park. What is unique about this is that authorities installed two signs about 100m apart… almost as if the lions use that specific stretch to cross the road. The sign does work because you tend to slow down to almost a standstill in the hope of spotting the big cats.