THREE PIAGGIO APE CITY PASSENGER VANS, 11 YOUNGSTERS IN THREE CREWS, 18 DAYS AND 2,500 KM ACROSS AFRICA. THE VIDEO OF THE EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURE
“The Taurinorum Team is chewing up the miles again... An 11-strong team, 18 days, 2,500 kilometres, all on 3 wheels!” Piaggio Veicoli Commerciali was the promoter of the project to cross Ethiopia in an Ape, introducing the famous three-wheeler to the southern part of the country and raising people’s awareness about road safety. The initiative is much more than a promotional road-show: its goal (achieved in full) was to raise the profile of the Piaggio brand, and the Ape in particular, by promoting a business that is socially and ethically integrated with the territory and local communities. It was organised jointly with TAGROW, the Piaggio importer in Ethiopia, and with the support of the Italian embassy.
THE PROJECT. ApeWay Ethopia 2015 (6-22 November, leaving and finishing in Addis Ababa, ed.) was the first trip in a format devised by the Taurinorum Team, with a name that is highly revealing: ‘The World in Slow Motion’. “The idea is simple: to make an on-the-road trip paying attention to everything going on above, below and around us,” say the team. “This means you have to travel at a slow, steady pace, which we achieved with the three Ape vans we used for our first adventure.”
Another objective of the ApeWay project is to promote greater awareness of road safety among the local population. Ethiopia has a high number of road accidents, which are particularly frequent between pedestrians and vehicles, especially at night. The question is closely followed by national bodies (through the National Road Safety Action Plan) and international bodies, through the World Health Organisation and the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile, which promote the Action for Road Safety campaign. The three Taurinorum Team crews distributed more than 5,000 yellow reflective bracelets and hundreds of high-visibility t-shirts to local communities.
THE INCREDIBLE APE. “The Ape is perhaps the means of transport that has adapted most easily to geographical and functional variations since it first appeared (in 1948). The project also promoted the Ape in connection with socially and ethically responsible growth, in cooperation with local NGOs, optimising and facilitating the work they already perform for local development. Thanks to its ability to adapt to virtually any terrain – and we guarantee that we put our Ape vans to the test during the Ethiopian trip, on asphalt, dirt tracks, mud, and even when there were no roads at all – the Ape is beginning to be used as a taxi and as a goods vehicle, to transport water, wood and agricultural produce from town to town, instead of the carts pulled by animals which often occupy the road side, even at night, the most hazardous time.”
DOCUMENTING THE TERRITORY: WATER SOURCES AND ROADS. “With 11 people in the team, we were able to divide up the field work: in addition to producing videos and photos with graphics, and editing a travel diary, we could give our attention to other socially important issues besides road safety.TRAILER-APEWAY ETHIOPIA TAURINORUM TEAM
One of the goals we achieved was GPS mapping of all the water sources we encountered on the route, to create a virtual map of wells, sources and drinking water. This is now available online in open source. In addition, a series of 360° photos taken at specific points along the way will be used to develop an itinerary in streetview, so people can immerse themselves in the places we visited.”
COOPERATION WITH THE NGOs: CVM AND CIAI. “ApeWay 2015 was an opportunity to work with two Italian NGOs, who carry out vitally important work for local development: The CVM (Comunità Volontari per il Mondo) and the CIAI (Centro Italiano Aiuti all’Infanzia) have been in Ethiopia for a number of years and know the country well.
The CVM has been working for more than 30 years to bring drinking water to the world's southern regions and educate people about hygiene; it also protects women's rights and looks after street orphans, who are given the opportunity to study and learn a craft. They helped us map a well (in Gurmoladissa) used by more than 7,400 inhabitants, including 2,000 schoolchildren... who greeted us with great excitement as soon as we got out of our Ape vans! The CIAI was formed in 1968 and works for the recognition of children’s rights, to give them access to education and professional training.
After more than two hours hiking up a mountain, we reached a school in Hello, a remote village that teaches children from many isolated surrounding valleys. We also watched a performance by the children from the circus school in Arba Minch, one of Ethiopia's largest cities. Were it not for the CIAI, these kids would face a much more difficult future, and risk exploitation.”
ROADS, LORRIES AND PEDESTRIANS. “Men, women and children walk along the grass verges, flanked by cattle, goats, donkeys, stray dogs. Then we come along, with our three Ape vans: sometimes we weave in and out of the flow of people and animals, sometimes we act as their shields against the large SUVs speeding by on our left, driven by tourists, or by workers hurrying to get home before dark. Even faster are the huge lorries transporting earth, wood and sand, couriers of progress, speeding to the new construction sites, where multi-storey buildings are springing up; they are rapidly building the world at the end of the road and they have to get there before anyone else... We are different worlds travelling on the road.
The traditional rural world waves to us and runs alongside as we pass by; we give out reflective bracelets and t-shirts, we know it will soon be dark, and these men, women and children still have to walk for hours. We are ‘The World in Slow Motion’, and although you certainly can't get to know Ethiopia in just three weeks, these 2,500 km of sand, tarmac and rain, these bridges and roads and meadows and trees and faces and hands that touch you in wonder, these smiles and smells, we've collected them yard by yard, bouncing along in our three-wheelers or climbing up on foot to see what was at the top of a hill, to see still more of this African country.”
THE ITINERARY: GOING SOUTH. “We set off in our Ape vans from the capital, Addis Ababa, hoping to return there about three weeks later; if everything went according to plan... if the Ape vans withstood the boiling tarmac, the dirt tracks, the fords and, above all, us; in short, there were almost as many ‘ifs’ as there were miles... We decided to travel to the banks of the river Omo, in the Omo Valley, and head back north, in a circular route that would take us through Turmi, Jinka, Key Afer, Konso, Arba Minch, Hossana, Ziway, Debre Zeyt and Ethiopia’s cities back to the capital.
Eleven of us left and returned, covering 2,500 km in three weeks, each one of us with his or her own reasons, at the slow pace of the World in Slow Motion, reflecting on what we were seeing, and when you travel in an Ape you have the time to do so.
We met people described by the guides as ‘the closest to the cradle of life and civilisation’ but we went beyond the two lines describing their customs and traditions: we had the opportunity and the time to get to know them, to camp in their villages, to learn the names of their children, to drink coffee and eat maize in a hut, to play and sing in front of the fire under a silent starry sky. We had the chance to take photos, to shoot videos, to write reports and travel diaries, we even had time to wash, to hide backpacks and passports, to run off with other people's shoes. Someone woke up one morning and there in their tent in the middle of the savannah was a hen watching them; someone else driving an Ape at night had a close encounter with a rock, and had to set to with a pickaxe (and the van proudly reached destination without any problems). We covered a lot of road, we all came back, and now we have to decide when to start off again.”
The mission of the Taurinorum Team (formed by three young men from Turin, Ludovico de Maistre, Carlo Alberto Biscaretti and Paolo Rignon) is to organise adventure trips that combine the production of advertising and documentaries with socially responsible projects.
Video’s English translation: “Right! My name’s Paolo, I’m 29, I’m an accountant but I have a passion for unusual journeys and in a minute you’ll find out what I mean. I’m Ludovico, I’ve worked in the travel industry for years and I’m a keen photographer; my next adventure will be the top for a photographer. I’m Carlo Alberto, I’m very thoughtful, careful … Stop mucking about! I love outdoor sports and travel, so I can’t wait to start out on my next trip.”
Second episode; the previous episode was published in Wide Piaggio Magazine 6-2015; you can read it here: