As childhood sweethearts, at the young age of 10 and 8, Herman and Candelaria Zapp had been dreaming of travelling from Argentina to Alaska.
First the adventure and then the children – that was the plan. But over twelve years as the adventure has grown so has the family. Pampa (8) was born in USA, Tehue (5) in Argentina, Paloma (3) in Canada and Wallaby (1) Australia.
I ask Herman about schooling, “The two eldest presently study 4 hours a day whilst travelling. Their studies, based on the Argentinean curriculum, are sent to the Argentinian embassies for collection. The children write their tests and exams at the embassies under supervision of the embassy staff.”
“Our travels have taught the kids a lot more about life and the world. Practical matters of living and appreciating what you have. They have learnt to respect others their cultures and religion. The power of trust and understanding.” Adds Candelaria.
Herman asks me, “Do you remember how to measure an isosceles triangle?”
To my amused look he replies, “you don’t remember anything from your years at school. My children have seen kangaroos in Australia. They have learnt different languages, and about different cultures. They are getting their education from the ‘World Learning School’, never to be forgotten. And my wife teaches them to read and write.”
Then bringing his hands up to his head, and forming a box around his head he adds, “you are like this ... boxed... you must not box yourself into this structure. You only live life once. You must not worry too much. If God says he will take care of me, why should I worry?”
Whilst driving the Zapps entertain themselves and the children by singing, playing games and listening to music.
In the beginning the big question of the children was, “Are we there yet?” As the travels continued and the enjoyment of seeing new places and meeting new people grew, that question has changed to, “Where are we going next?”
Inspiration and commitment to their journey has been enriched by so many people around the world.
“We never look up any information on a country. Too much information would remove the surprise of the discoveries in store. Neither have we used travel agents – otherwise we would not meet the people or experience the heart-warming generosity we have.”
“We have been hosted by over 2,500 families. In the Amazon, we met people who had never seen a car. We stayed in their grass huts. In Alaska, we lived in ice igloos and, our car has been towed by husky dogs. In Manhattan, we stayed in posh apartments. We have eaten crocodile, snakes, tilapia and ants.”
“Yes our children have a small house - but a big back garden.”
“We are surprised at how people want to help us complete our journey. Some people wanted to sponsor the trip totally – but we wanted to spark our dream ourselves. En route we have had air tickets paid by well wishers and the car has been shipped on so many occasions.”
Home is a six cylinder, wooden wheeled 1928 Graham-Paige Model 610 sedan. Built in the year before the stock market crashed and the start of the great depression. The Zapps purchased the car three months before the adventure start date; and as Herman is not a mechanic the car was bought, “as it was a simple car”. They have covered over 150,000 miles at an average speed of 40 miles per hour. “We have no dead bugs on our windscreen.” Says Herman.
In Texas, a Model T collector gave the Zapps a water box to put under the bonnet. “We can put our eggs and hot dogs in the water. In 25 miles we have soft-boiled eggs, and in 35 miles we have hard-boiled eggs.”
The car has been part tent, part kitchen, part nursery, part schoolroom but always a rolling home. Standing with them, I got the feeling that the car is the seventh member of the family.
Candelaria says the car, “has a very, very patient disposition with masculine and Bohemian tendencies.”
“We call the car Macondo Cambalache,” explains Herman, “Macondo refers to the fictional town which Colombian Nobel Prize winning novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez described in his book – One hundred years of solitude. Cambalache is the name of a Tango song in Argentina. Between us, when we salute the car and ask him to start or to keep going even with that funny noise, we call him Grandpa.”
A large tarpaulin, sewn by Candelaria, forms a tent over the car at night. Herman and Candelaria sleep on mattresses on the roof and the back seat folds down into a bed for the children.
Adventures have included being denied visas, narrow escapes with robbers, having permanent guards allocated to them in China and having to build their own raft to cross a river in South America. In Pueblo when their car broke down they were directed to the museum, where the broken parts were replaced with similar pieces from the display cars.
The last piece of advice passed to me by Candelaria was, “If you let your heart lead you, you will never go the wrong way. Listen to it always. Better than anyone it knows about dreams, of love. The cold mind thinks – your warm hearts feels...’’
Herman’s advice to would-be travellers ... “Begin!”
The Zapps web-page address is www.sparkyourdream.net