©Pablo Rey. Published on Overland Journal Magazine, Winter 2014.
After 15 years overlanding the world, Pablo Rey shares some important tips on how to not end up walking in your underwear on a faraway road in the middle of nowhere.
Of all the items we’ve used to prevent theft, the most original, without question, was a small sea snake we found mummified on the shore of the Red Sea in Egypt. In the beginning it was just a pet, another weird element to carry on the dashboard. But when we entered Sub-Saharan Africa we realized that the traditional religion includes animism, which gives a great significance to the magic of certain objects like bones, skulls, and the recognizable remains of certain animals. We learned this in Uganda when we stayed for a couple of days at a campsite run by two Dutch travelers. They were fed up with regular nightly burglaries: their hi-fi system, tools, and loads of spirits from the bar had all disappeared. Following the advice of a man from the local village, they got several monkey skulls and placed them strategically at the bar and around their land—where their hollow eyes could see all that occurred on the property. They had no more problems.
When in Pemba, Mozambique, we were surrounded by a bunch of curious people and opportunists looking for the right moment to take any unattended object from our house on wheels. Remembering the monkey skull lesson, we showed them our powerful sea snake. Actually, it was a common little snake, unnamed, useless even for a broth in the event we ran out of food. When we placed it with care and respect in a revered place on the dashboard, one of the prowlers came closer and asked, “Is it a magic cobra?” “Of course,” I answered. Everyone moved a few steps back.
Since then I’ve started playing with superstitions, particularly with one surreal idea: If you want that no one, absolutely no one, to approach your vehicle, go overland in a hearse and a coffin-shaped roof rack. I’m sure you’ll find that nobody will try to break into your vehicle.