By Louis Kleynhans
As a photo journalist I get to travel a lot. Unfortunately, I don’t always have the luxury to travel in my own vehicle. I have to fly to a lot of my destinations and although it sounds like fun, it’s a real nightmare for me. I’m not scared of flying – the amount of equipment that I have to take with me on a trip is the scary bit. My camera bag alone weights 34kg. Then I still add my laptop and my tripod to that. As you can imagine there is no way I’m checking my cameras in as normal luggage, it all has to go on board as hand luggage. It is always a delicate balance when I check in. I keep my camera bag on my person to make sure they don’t check it in. My luggage is always overweight and this is where the fun and games begin.
I always travel with what is essentially a big, portable studio. It includes a portable studio light, two soft boxes, an Octa box of 90cm, and the most important – the “Beauty Dish” with its87cm diameter grid. Remote triggers for my lights, rechargeable batteries with all their chargers and various other small things that I will need for my shoot are also packed in. You’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned clothing yet – that I pack what I can get in. My gear is more important. I can always buy clothes from a vendor under a tree in the middle of nowhere.
You won’t believe how many times I get called to explain what I have in my bag. Most of the time, they think it’s a bomb and they are always worried about my triggers wires! Usually we just open the bag and go through the stuff until the officials are happy.
When it’s finally time for boarding, I have to be careful getting onto the plane. If I’m first onboard, the overeager hostesses always want to help me with my camera bags, which weigh more than they do. I try to be in the middle of the group, and I know exactly how to fit my camera bag into the overhead compartment pretending it weighs nothing. Now only can I to start and enjoy my flight.
I always have a booking for the first night just to help with the chaos at airports and the safety aspect. From the second day I’m on my own. I can hire a car, but where I usually go there are either ,no roads or the roads are so bad that you don’t want to drive there. I use local transport for most of my traveling, and you will be amazed at where you can get with most local transport systems. Mini buses are usually my first choice, as they will get me to a town. All over the world, mini busses have systems similar to ours. You have to go to a bus rank, from where they set off in all directions. It can be tricky sometimes to get on the rights bus. When I get to the minibus, I ask the driver what the ticket costs. Then, I pay for three seats so that I can have all my equipment with me on the seat. It gets difficult sometimes when people want to move my bags to have a seat. These trips vary in danger from county to country – East Africa is probably the worst in Africa, whereas most west-African countries you will have an enjoyable trip.
In the next town I have to start looking for my next ride to my destination. Usually, there is a pick up that goes to where I want to go, but it’s never guaranteed. I have been on the back of bicycles, motorbikes, horses, donkeys, ox cart, canoe, rafts – you can keep on naming them. I’ve been on boats that leak so much water that two people can’t bail it out fast enough. Some days you wonder if you’re ever going to survive the trip, then you just have to remind yourself that the local people do this every day of their lives.
All of that, and we’ve not started on what one ends up eating, or where one ends up sleeping – that’s a whole story on it’s own! The one thing I will say is that you’ll always find food at a taxi rank. It may not be what you’re used to, but you’ll survive.