BootsnAll Travel Network

Overland in Africa

It’s now been 14 days since I joined the overland trip to Capetown. The tour is operated by a UK company called Bukima, and they do trips of varying lengths all through Africa. Some are as short as four days, others as long as 30 weeks. My trip is called African Contrasts, and it is a 7 week tour from Nairobi to Capetown (I actually skipped Nairobi, and met the group in
Arusha on their first night instead). On the way to Capetown we travel through Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa, seeing such sights as Zanzibar, Lake Malawi, Lake Kariba, Victoris Falls, and Fish River Canyon. Some of the people on this trip are on for just four weeks, others for seven weeks, and a couple for ten weeks, having been on an adjoining three week trip to Uganda just prior.

I met the group at the Meserani Snake Park in Arusha after riding the local bus and dalla dalla from Moshi. There were 11 others on the trip when I joined, plus the two drivers/guides, Cas and Shane. Most of the group is from either New Zealand or the UK, a fun bunch of people who love their beer and their rugby and have names like Solly and Brogan.

We travel in a large overland vehicle that seats 24 people. It’s a sort of large double decker, with roll up canvas sides, an on-board kitchen, and plenty of storage space for all of our gear and supplies. It’s a bit of a rough ride, but quite comfortable considering. The tour is designed as a camping tour, so we stay at campgrounds the majority of the time, sleep in tents, and cook our own meals on the truck. It’s quite a change from the last five months of staying in hostels and guesthouses and eating at the local markets and restaurants. Most of the campgrounds are designed for car campers, with showers and toilets, bars, and plenty of electricity to recharge your ipods and cellphones. My first night, at the Meserani Snake Park, was a little weird. Almost everyone in the campground was white, the bar was jammed pack, and I hadn’t seen that many wazungu in one place in probably three months or more. There was a dartboard on one wall, and the satellite radio was playing Coldplay (a very popular English band). It was a little bit of a culture shock, and it took me a while to adjust. For a while I missed being in Moshi.

The trip has a set itinerary of stops and activities, and first up was a three day safari, something I’s already done once. However, this time we were going to the famous Serengeti, and also to Ngorogoro Crater, where I’d been already but was looking forward to seeing again. This safari was also to be a little more basic than the one I did with MEM, as we were camping in the Serengeti bush the first night, and up on the rim of Ngorogoro the second night. The Serengeti was much different than Tarangire, flatter and drier, and mostly grassland. We saw a lot of the same wildlife though, with the added bonus of a Leopard sighting and a couple of Cheetahs. The Leopard sighting rounded out the Big Five, and I’m now able to say I’ve seen them all.

Camping in the Serengeti and Ngorogoro was an interesting experience. Both campgrounds were still more developed than most I’ve been in in Oregon, with a cooking area and outhouses, and a cook who prepared all of our meals for us. However, the one major differencce was that when camping in Oregon I don’t have to worry about lions or elephants coming into the camp at night. On the crater rim we saw two elephants right outside the camp entrance, and the following morning there was a buffalo grazing just 20-30 meters from where we slept. During the night, the wind was blowing so hard that the side of the tent kept bumping into my arm. In my half-awake state it took me a while to figure out what it was, but I wasn’t about to go outside and look.

After the safari, we returned to Arusha for the night, then set of early the next morning for Dar Es Salaam. Dar was our jumping off point to Zanzibar, a beautiful island just off the coast in the Indian Ocean. For many years Zanzibar was the slave capital of Africa, but now is a popular tourist destination. We spent two nights in Stone Town, a fascinating maze of old buildings and alleyways. In Stown Town, there is a definite Indian and Arab influence in the architecture, and one of the most interesting themes in the town is the intricately decorated doors that most of the old buildings have.

After exploring Stone Town for a couple of days, we headed up north to Nungwi Beach, stopping along the way to take in a spice tour. Zanzibar grows an amazing variety of spices, and was once the world’s largest exporter of certain spices. We saw cardamon, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, vanilla, coffee, and much more being grown. Nungwi Beach was a crowded, yet beautiful beach, loaded with tourists basking in the sun. We had our choice of activities, with volleyball, swimming, diving, snorkeling, and fishing all being offered. We had two good days of sun and sand before we had to head back to Dar Es Salaam.

Once back in Dar Es Salaam, we camped for the night and set off early the next day for the drive south to Malawi. We stopped for the night at the Old Farmhouse, an old farm that had been converted to camping grounds. Although it was a very basic camp with no electricity, the camp did have a very cozy bar and an amazing restaurant. The camp host put on a wonderful dinner complete with linens and candlelight. The next day we travelled for another half day until we arrived at the Kande Beach Camp on the western border of Lake Malawi. Lake Malawi is a huge lake with beautiful sandy beaches, and if you were’nt familiar with the lake you’d swear you were at the ocean. Only the freshwater gives it away. We’re camping here for four nights, and it’s from the camp bar that I’m sitting and typing this now. Man, life is rough, isn’t it? We’ll set off from here on Tuesday of next week (Aug 29th), staying one night in Malwi’s capital city of Lilongwe before heading into Zambia. We’ll spend eight days in Zambia, enjoying three days on a houseboat in Lake Kariba, and then heading to Victoria Falls.

It’s hard to believe it’s already been two weeks since I joined the truck, and I can’t wait to see how the next five weeks will go. Internet access is a little harder to come by while traveling this way, but I’ll do my best to keep things as up to date as possible. But now it’s time to go enjoy that beach…

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