Couple with world-record road trip stop for a Lowveld sojourn

MBOMBELA – While many people only get to see one or maybe two countries in their lifetime, a couple from Switzerland, who recently made the Lowveld their temporary home, have seen  over 180.
Emil and Liliana Schmid, who had
been married for almost 50 years, currently held the Guinness World Record for the longest driven journey in a single vehicle.
As of the past weekend, they’ve covered over 710 000 kilometres in their Toyota Land Cruiser and used almost 175 000 litres of fuel, with an average consumption of four kilometres per litre. Their average travel time was 2,9 hours per day, meaning that they’ve driven nearly
20 000 hours. These stats were compiled by Emil, who was quite the statistician according to his wife. During their 30-year journey, which started in October 1984, they had not once had a permanent home.
“I am pretty persistent, so when I convinced Liliana to embark on this journey – she was very hesitant,” Emil said. But now she didn’t feel a pang of regret.
“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the places that take your breath away,” said Liliana, was what kept her going. “It’s little things that make it worthwhile – it’s a flower, it’s a bird, it’s a mountain.”
After getting married in 1969, they lived in Zurich for 15 years, where they had saved up enough money to start their journey. “We both had good jobs and so obviously we had the money,” Emil said.
During this time, they had not yet had any children and thought that it would be nice to see the world.
With an interest rate of 10 per cent at the time, they could basically make a living from just that, but as it dropped, so did their capital. However, they left no stone unturned.
When they were in the USA, which also happened to be during 9/11, Emil had to collect tin cans, while Liliana collected washed-out sea shells just to earn an income which kept them going for a while again. On the sad day that Liliana’s mother passed away, she left them some money, enabling them to continue with their journey. When they were in Hong Kong, “the same happened again,” said Emil. They again inherited some money when his mother died and were able to continue even further, shortly before they went on a Swiss retirement pension which still kept them going today.
“The goal is not to reach all the countries, in fact, that is not possible,” he said. “How far I will go, I do not know. If the car maybe reaches one million kilometres that would be nice, but I don’t think it’ll make it.”
At the end of April, they entered the country for the 10th, “and probably the final time,” he said. The first time was in 1991, through what was then known as Bophuthatswana. “We felt a lot safer then, but today we won’t even eat our lunch next to the highway. We read in the media about the killings of black foreigners, and can’t help but wonder how far it will go. We ask ourselves if white foreigners
are next.”
During their most recent visit, entering through Swaziland, they passed the “hopelessly crowded Kruger National Park,” as Emil described it. They searched the area for accommodation and ended up at Little Stonehaven on the Mara/Boulders Road, waiting for the hustle and bustle to die down. “That’s the time we intend to do some exploring before leaving the country on May 15,” Emil concludes. “Next stop, probably Mozambique,” said Liliana.

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Stefan de Villiers

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