Every single morning Oscar Curry gets a WhatsApp message from the same person on the other side of the world.
A friend in Togo, West Africa.
"Good morning my sweet brother, how are you!?"
It's a daily reminder of the kind of adventure you read about in books.
But for about 300 days of this year, Curry and his girlfriend Kristin Hall lived that adventure, warthogs and all.
The couple, both 28, have just got back and are living in Pāpāmoa Beach after having travelled more than 40,000km through 20 countries (one a disputed territory), from Ireland to the bottom of Africa.
They ate rat stew in Congo and a full boiled sheep's head in Benin, were stopped by an armed rebel army convoy in the Western Sahara, and slept a couple of eerie nights looking out over a ship graveyard on the coast of Angola.
They made many friends, camped in the bush among wildlife, cooked their meals over open fires, and broke down in the middle of a desert – again and again, and again.
The epic overland trip has given this Bay of Plenty pair perspective, and of course plenty of stories to tell. They have discovered just how far you can stretch a dollar.
Hall grew up in Rotorua and went to Western Heights High School; she's a journalist by trade.
Curry grew up in Ōpōtiki and Tauranga and went to Tauranga Boys' College. He's a heavy diesel mechanic.
They caught the overlanding bug a few years ago while travelling in Europe and started to dream, plan and save.
It was after a year of working and living in the Irish countryside last year, in a district called Connemara (Hall as a deckhand on a boat, Curry as a guide at an outdoor adventure centre), that they made the first big step.
They bought Pumbaa, who was to be their noble steed – a 1996 Land Rover Discovery 1, which had already done about 250,000km.
Curry spent a month, working day and night, getting Pumbaa ready. He had been parked up for 10 years and was covered in moss. He needed to be stripped back and rebuilt.
There were still to be many breakdowns over the course of the journey – in the Namib desert alone they had five blown tyres and a severely bent steering rod to deal with.
Other obstacles along the way included Pumbaa being broken into in Senegal (with all valuables left inside stolen), and several run-ins with authority – at checkpoints, borders and in one case, in the middle of nowhere in the Western Sahara, a disputed territory.
"That was a terrifying moment," Curry said.
He said they were about five days' drive into the desert, in search of Pelican 16, an old crashed aeroplane.
A rebel army convoy stopped them and demanded paperwork they didn't have. There were machine guns mounted on the vehicles.
Curry said he kept trying to shake their hands and apologise, but at one point guns and voices were raised.
Eventually, after much talking and gesturing, Hall and Curry slowly drove away in first gear, anxiously waiting to hear the first warning shot. But it didn't come. And so onwards they went.
"We only got to see the plane for about five seconds," Hall said with a laugh.
Remarkably, they said they only ever had to pay one bribe (they refused others several times). It was in Congo, also known as Republic of the Congo, the police were threatening to put Curry in a prison cell.
That part of the journey was hair-raising, to say the least. Nearby countries had closed their borders because of an Ebola outbreak, and Hall and Curry had to get through the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
They high-tailed it through as fast as they could, but it took them 24 hours to do about 80km.
"The drive through the DRC was scary because we had to do it at night … they called it a road, but it was basically a walking track. It was pretty hard-core," Hall said.
"I put my driver's wheel on the track and then Kristin's side of the car was just pushing through the jungle," Curry added.
All of those moments and experiences, the blips and bumps in the road, although unforgettable, were not what Hall and Curry wanted to talk about most of the time.
They kept coming back to the people they met. The hospitality, the patience and the kindness of the locals. Those things far outweighed the occasional negative experience, they said.
For example, travelling through Angola, they got a flat tyre and all their spares were already flat. Curry started walking down the road when a man pulled over and stopped.
He took Curry to the nearest supplier, helped him barter a good price, insisted on paying for the tyre, and then took him back to Pumbaa and helped him fit it.
That kind of generosity was commonplace.
"We'd be changing a tyre on the side of the road and everybody comes out to offer you food or drink or invite you back into their house," Curry said.
"Lucky we didn't get diabetes from the tea – they love their sugar tea – and your teeth are just like aching because you've had so much sugar."
Hall said: "And it's impolite to have any less than three cups."
Curry: "If they offer you one, they don't like you, if they offer you three, they like you."
They never had any guides or fixers but the people in the areas they travelled to were always willing to help.
"So friendly, so stoked to see tourists in their part of the world, really welcoming, generous, kind," Hall said.
Curry said it is a part of the world where you have to keep your wits about you, and if you're going to save money and eat like the locals, as he and Hall did, "you need an iron gut".
"This is what's going, so you eat it," he said.
Curry lost 25kg during the trip.
Altogether, they think they spent between $20,000 and $30,000, including the cost of the Land Rover.
Now they have to find jobs and start saving up, so they can go back. They want to do Africa 2.0.
Pumbaa is waiting for them, parked up at a pineapple farm in South Africa, and so are some of the friends they made along the way.
Like Koffi, the WhatsApp message sender from Togo, who owns a little art shop and has a pet monkey named Angel.
As Hall and Curry return to reality – to work, to sleeping in a house, using a flush toilet, a washing machine, hot water – Koffi's daily message will continue to land.
And so every morning this Kiwi couple will be reminded of their epic African adventure, and why they need to go back.
Places visited (in order)
•Western Sahara (a disputed territory)
•Congo (also known as Republic of the Congo)
•Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)