Around the world – by car

Thulani Gqirana

A COUPLE who set out on a six-month adventure from Argentina to Alaska loved it so much that they are still on the road – 13 years later.

The couple, Candelaria and Herman Zapp, who arrived in Port Elizabeth yesterday, left their family and friends in 2000, with enough money to last six months, to fulfil a lifelong dream of travelling. They set out in a 1928 Graham Paige car they bought from a friend in Argentina.

When they ran out of funds six months later, they decided to raise money to continue with the trip instead of going back home.

And 13 years later, Herman, 44, and Candelaria, 42, who got married in 1996, are still going strong, travelling around the world in their antique car, with four children who were born in different countries.

Pampa, 10, was born in the US, Tehue, 8, in Argentina, Paloma, 5, the only girl, in Canada, and Wallaby, 4, in Australia.

“When we first started out and ran out of money, I learned to paint watercolours, and Herman learned to frame, and we used those skills to sell paintings and raised enough to keep going. Later, we wrote a book and used the funds from the sales to finance the trip,” Candelaria said.

“When you don’t have a house you don’t need much to survive, you don’t have to pay for electricity, water or taxes, so we live on very little.”

Candelaria does most of the family’s laundry in rivers and streams and gets excited when she gets to a city and there is a laundromat.

The family, who arrived in Port Elizabeth at about 11am yesterday, said they planned to stay in the city for three or four days.

“We came in from Addo and the people here are amazing. They’re people who understand when you go after your dream and help you in any way they can,” she said.

The spunky mother, who home schools her children in English and Spanish, said even though it was hard packing up her life into a backpack, she loved adventure.

“I love it. Our lifestyle is a dream for us and people in South Africa understand that.

“We arrived in South Africa on March 12 and have been hosted by so many homes, it’s heartwarming. In some places, people always think about how they will fit our family of six in their homes, but in South Africa, some of our hosts told us that ”n boer maak ‘n plan’ and invited us in. The logistics are sorted out after. People here are just so spontaneous.”

It might not be possible to have a structure around bedtime but study time is non-negotiable in the Zapp family home, wherever that might be.

In the past 13 years, the adventurous family have stayed in both the humblest one-room homes and in mansions.

“When we left, this trip was about the scenery. But what we have really seen is people and how amazing they are. We have stayed in more than 12000 family homes on our trip. Some people feel like even though they are not living their dream, they are part of someone else’s dream,” Candelaria said.

She said the most adventurous part of their trip was when they navigated the Amazon River in two months.

“We put the car on a raft and sailed across. It was exhilarating.”

Candelaria, who cannot remember the last time she put on heels, said the best part of growing their family on the road was both got to enjoy the pregnancy.

“We are together 24/7, so Herman doesn’t miss anything. Every bump, every kick, he’s there for it.”

Former IT specialist Herman said he did most of the driving while his wife did most of the talking.

“We have no radio or CD player and we sleep in a tent, so she gets to do all the talking that she wants and I just have to do a lot of listening,” he joked.

The family go to Cape Town next and later to Namibia.

For more on the Zapp family’s trip visit

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