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Packing for an Overland Trip

Packing for an Overland Trip

H. Bradford

12/7/16


This post is probably somewhat boring to anyone who is not planning on travelling in the near future.  However, if you ARE considering doing an overland trip, I compiled a list of items that I thought were useful for the trip, including some things that I didn’t pack but should have. dscf3584


Useful Items:

Headlamp:  If you are traveling to southern Africa in the winter, a headlamp is essential.  Our days began between 5am and 6pm and ended around 6pm.  This resulted in packing and unpacking tents and supplies in darkness.  Because the days were just as short at a Minnesota winter, there was a lot of time spent in darkness.  The days are very short.  Thus, the headlamp is essential for walking around at night, using the bathroom, showering, packing, setting up the tent, etc.  Also, be sure to bring batteries!

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Gloves:  I did not pack gloves, but would have really liked work gloves or garden gloves.  Pulling mattresses and supplies off of the truck dries out the hands and gets them dirty.  Wrestling with a stubborn tent mangled the skin of my hands.  By the end of the trip, my hand were dry, cracked, and permanently caked with dirt.  They looked like the hands of an old sailor or mechanic.  A pair of work or garden gloves will keep your hands clean and protect them from scratches and the enormous amount of dirt on everything.  I would definitely pack gloves if I did it again!


Lotion:  I never really care that much about dry skin.  It is something I hardly notice.  I never wear lotion on my hands or body.  During the trip, my skin became disgustingly dry.  Skin peeled off like snowflakes, but far less gentle and pretty.  My skin took on the texture of a crocodile.  I eventually bought some lotion, but it was a losing battle against the arid climate.  Namibia, Northern South Africa, and parts of Botswana are pretty much deserts or desert-like Karoo climate.  I have never lived in a desert or spent time in one, so I was not at all prepared for the extreme dryness of my skin. fscn1343

This is me sans lotion.

 


Warm Clothes and a warm sleeping bag: I was also unprepared for how cold it was.  While planning the trip, I had checked out the temperatures of each place.  These temps seemed warm enough.  However, I learned a few important lessons.  1. A high in the 70s doesn’t matter if it is only at that high for an hour or two and the rest of the day is closer to the daily “low” temperature.  2. It feels colder at night when you are sleeping (and not moving around). 3. Wind and dry air make everything feel colder.  4. Deserts are cold at night.  5. Don’t underestimate African winter.  6. Everything feels colder when you can’t retreat indoors for warmth (in other words, a cool day here might be punctuated with time inside.  There, because the truck is not heated or air-conditioned, a person is always exposed to the ambient temperature conditions).  I eked by, using the clothes I had to layer. However, there were a few very cold nights.

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This didn’t feel very tropical.

A Cheap Rain Poncho:  I packed a cheap rain poncho.  It only rained once (on the first night…though it was a significant and terrible rain).  I used the poncho again at Victoria Falls (then threw it away to save space in my bag…yes, this was wasteful, but I needed to shed some items..).   The poncho saved me from packing an umbrella or actual raincoat.  Since most of the trip was through dry areas, the cheap poncho was all I needed.

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Wetter than it looks.

A Clothesline and Clothespins:  I packed a Bungee cord, but an actual clothes line would have been much more useful for hanging hand washed clothes.


Bar Shampoo:  To save space in my bag and avoid travelling with bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and detergent, I purchased an all-in-one camping bar soap which boasted that it could be used for shampoo, soap, and detergent.  It was called “All Natural Trail Soap” by Trascentuals.  The soap dried out my hair, making it feel like straw.  This added to my overall feeling of dryness.  However, I liked the scent, that I didn’t have to worry about packing numerous soap items, and that it came with its own plastic container. shopping   Fast Drying Microfiber Towel:  Since we never stayed in one place very long, a regular towel would have became moist and smelly. The microfiber towel that I brought dried very quickly, stayed fresh, folded compactly, and was unusually warm for how thin it was.  The towel was about $15, so not too spendy and worth it! shopping


Powerbank:  The truck is available for charging phones, mp3 players, cameras, etc.  However, it is only available when it has stopped for the night.  This means that everyone scrambles to charge their devices.  Sometimes the outlets might be full.  Further, once the truck is shut off for the night, there is no ability to charge things.  Thus, I found it useful to bring a power bank.  This allowed me to charge my items more frequently.


Packing Cubes: Overlanding involves a lot of packing and unpacking, often in the darkness.  Packing cubes makes it easier to find certain items.  For instance, I put all of my leggings and bottoms in one cube.  In another cube, I kept shirts.  In a smaller cube, I kept socks and underwear.  This made packing and unpacking far easier.  Though, even with the cubes, I seemed to always be losing things.  I bought really cheap packing cubes, so a few of them broke (zipper busted).  Don’t buy the brand “HiDay.”

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Padlock:  This is useful for the lockers on the truck.  Every passenger was assigned a locker for their items.


Handkerchief: Handkerchiefs are often worn by cowboys, farmers, gangsters, anarchists, and bank robbers.  I am not really badass enough to pull off the handkerchief look, but I wear them anyway.   I found mine incredibly useful for a variety of reasons.  1. While in Namibia, the truck filled with choking dust.  I was wearing a handkerchief, which I pulled up over my nose and mouth to protect myself from the dust.  2. Bad Smells: it is always useful to have something to protect against a bad smell.  3. Cold Wind: a handkerchief can offer some protection against cold wind (which occurred in open vehicles while looking for wildlife). 4. Bad hair: You can cover up bad hair with a handkerchief. 5. It is an easy to pack accessory that pulls an outfit together! dscf3967 Diva Cup:  Periods are never really fun when travelling…or really, ever.  They are especially not very fun when you are in a vehicle for many hours and are unsure what the bathroom conditions will be at each stop.  I found that a diva cup is useful, since it can be used for longer without leaking and does not require special disposal, such as pads and tampons.  The downside is that it is harder to sanitize it while travelling.


She-Wee: I packed a female urinal, but never used it.  I never used it because the places with the worst bathroom conditions were also the places without running water.  I didn’t want to haul a urine soaked female urinal around all day, waiting to rinse it off.  Still, it is kind of fun to have…if nothing else, it entertains the imaginations of fellow travelers.  Maybe some hardcore camper out there would find it useful.  Someday I will whip mine out….and use it proudly….peeing as freely as any man.  Until then…

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The Wildlife of Southern Africa by Vincent Carruthers:  This book offers a good overview of the most common birds, mammals, reptiles, plants, and fish of Southern Africa.  It helped me construct my list of species I had spotted and gain quick knowledge of the natural environment.


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A Stargazing Guide:  I deeply regretted that I did not pack a southern hemisphere stargazing guide.  In fact, the very first thing I did when I arrived in Windhoek was download a starmap and some astronomy books to my tablet.  Namibia is a great place to stargaze, since there is endless sky that is uninterrupted by light pollution, buildings, or trees.  Furthermore, people in the northern hemisphere do not get to enjoy many of the unique constellations of the southern hemisphere.  Once I downloaded a guide, I did my best to familiarize myself with the southern hemisphere’s sky.  Don’t miss out on the Southern cross, constellations named after scientific instruments, the center of the Milky Way galaxy, and Magellan cloud!


Ginger candies:

Unfamiliar foods, bumpy boat rides, long days on the truck, long periods between meals, etc. can upset a person’s stomach.  So, when I travel, I always bring ginger chews with me.  I find that they settle an upset stomach and ease motion sickness.  I didn’t get sick on this trip, but I did chew on ginger candies when I had mild stomach upset.


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My African List

My African List

H. Bradford

This past summer I went on an overland tour of Southern Africa.  This involved traveling on bumpy, dusty roads for hours on end and camping.  It also involved travel with two dozen strangers from around the world.  The social part of travel is always very challenging.  I don’t make friends very easily.  If everyone is an ice cream flavor, perhaps I am avocado, cardamom, or red bean ice cream.  SOME people may like these ice cream flavors, but few crave them.  Time and time again, I have been stuck with groups of strangers.  I have watched from the sidelines as strangers become friends.  I have seen people who hardly knew each other, part in tears.  There are hugs and sorrowful farewells.  All the while, I am empty and alone off to the side.  The My Little Ponies were right: friendship is magic.  I have seen the magic do its mysterious work all around me, but so rarely on me.  That is how I feel when I travel with groups.  I feel that everyone will become friends and that I will leave alone, just as I arrived.  Ireland, Russia, Korea, Eastern Europe, the Baltics…for the most part, this is the most common outcome.  I certainly have friendships that I cherish, but struggle to make friends when I am plopped together with strangers.  Most of my friends are fellow socialists, atheists, feminists and activists.  However, I don’t find too many of these folks when I travel (unless traveling for a specifically political purpose).  So, like many times before, I found myself with a group of strangers.


The strangers around me were certainly interesting.  They were nice people.  I could converse from time to time.  However, I didn’t really connect, as it often happens.  While the others began to have more fun with each other, becoming more comfortable…I could feel myself drift further away.  So, I began reading and just looking out the window of Ottis, the behemoth of an overland vehicle.  Everything outside of the window was fascinating and unfamiliar.  There were scrubby deserts of giant aloes, mountainous orange dunes, cruel spiked plants, and brightly colored birds.  Everything was strange to me.  As strange as a Dr. Seuss book.  All of the trees.  Every bird.  All of the stars in the sky.  I decided that I wanted to know everything.  I craved knowledge.  I hungered to know the names of all the unknown things that surrounded me.  Thankfully, I brought a guidebook of southern African animals, plants, and birds with me.  I began to make a list.


It wasn’t long before the list became an obsession.  By the time we arrived in Etosha National Park, I used our lunch breaks to wander around the campsite trying to painstakingly identify all of the trees and birds I could find.  I walked alone, baked in the midday heat, looking at leaves and bark, trying to compare what I saw to the guidebook.  Of course, this made everything very exciting.  While the others became excited when they saw lions or zebras, I started to become elated each time I could add anything to the list.  Even a new mouse or weasel was exciting.  I actually was more enamored by the ensemble of three species of vultures I saw in a tree, than the lionesses eating a giraffe below them.  Three more birds to add to the list!  Some animals, reptiles, or birds moved too quickly to be identified, which was met with immediate disappointment at the lost opportunity.  In the Okavango delta, I found almost a dozen species of butterflies in one area.  I spent a few hours chasing butterflies, waiting for them to land and spread their wings so I could quickly eye their markings.  As a result of all of this classification work, I quickly became more competent in the natural world around me.  I could identify birds or trees that I had seen earlier in the trip.


Socially, the list didn’t win me any friends.  However, it made me stand out.  It suddenly became a trope in the group.  Each time a new species was seen, it was pointed out to me so I could add it to the list.  Or, from time to time, I pointed out species to others.  I was the weird girl with the list and a “junior naturalist.”  The list opened up some conversations and questions.  Did the list connect me to them?  More likely it set me more apart, as I was in my own little African scavenger hunt.  I am sure the list was an emblem of my supreme nerdiness.  At the same time, the list made each moment more meaningful.  It gave me a goal.  I obsessively searched for more creatures to add to it.  I decided that I wanted to document 200 species.


The list was also a ritual and distraction.  Sometimes things were a little challenging.  We often awoke early each day.  I was usually the first person awake, as I wanted first dibs on the shower or bathroom.  This meant that most days began in the wintery darkness of 5:30 am.  Sometimes it was earlier.  Each day involved setting up and taking down a tent.  Again, this was usually in chilly darkness, as the winter sun rose late and set early.  The day’s weak heat disappeared very quickly in the dry, cloudless sky.  There was also some cleaning and food preparation that needed to be done.  Rolling up sleeping bags.  Packing and unpacking.  Jostling for long hours on extremely bumpy roads, sometimes through choking clouds of dust.  There was no heat or air conditioning.  Everyone had a pretty good attitude.  But, I think that the other group members obsession with wine and daily drinking was a way to cope with some of these hardships.  Because I don’t drink, I had no similar comfort.  My list was my best distraction.


With that said, here is the list, with a few notes on some of the species.

Birds:

  1. Blue waxbill
  2. Southern ground hornbill
  3. Black collared barbet
  4. Hammerkop
  5. Gray lorie (Goaway bird)
  6. Egyptian goose
  7. Secretary bird
  8. Red billed hornbill
  9. Black Winged lapwing
  10. Crimson breasted shrike
  11. Cardinal woodpecker
  12. Pied kingfisherfscn0934
  13. Bank cormorant
  14. Spur winged goose: This goose is not actually a goose, but in its own family.  It is also poisonous to humans because of its diet of blister beetles.
  15. Little bee eater
  16. Fish eagle: An iconic bird of the Okavango Delta.
  17. African jacana
  18. Malachite kingfisher: One of several kingfishers seen in the Okavango Delta.fscn0867
  19. Red Collared widowbird
  20. Ostrich
  21. Greater flamingo: I saw a flock of flamingos by Walvis Bay.
  22. Cape gannet
  23. Reed cormorant
  24. African darter: This bird has a neck that is slender and crooked like a snake.
  25. Sacred ibis
  26. Helmeted guinea fowl fscn1064
  27. Cape sparrow
  28. Sociable weaver
  29. Cape white eye
  30. Karoo korhaan
  31. Great white pelicandscn0360
  32. Great white egret
  33. Yellow billed hornbillfscn0514
  34. African pied wagtail
  35. Red eyed bulbul
  36. Dark canting goshawk
  37. Cape glossy starling
  38. Pied crow
  39. Kori Bustard:  Everyone called this a Kori “Bastard”  I corrected them on the spelling for popularity points.
  40. Green wood hoopoe
  41. Dark capped bulbul
  42. Spoonbillfscn0993
  43. Lilac Breasted roller: Probably the prettiest bird that I saw!
  44. Marabou stork: This was on my must see list.  It is bald headed, scavenger stork.fscn1055
  45. Red billed oxpecker
  46. Squacco heron: One of several herons spotted in the Hwange National Park area.
  47. Gray heron
  48. Cattle egret
  49. Purple heron
  50. White faced duck
  51. Gray headed gull: I was excited by this one, though everyone else had negative opinions of gulls.
  52. African Skimmer
  53. Yellow billed stork
  54. Caspian tern
  55. Laughing dove
  56. Magpie shrike
  57. African crowned eagle
  58. Trumpeter hornbill: A magnificent large hornbill spotted near Victoria fallsdscn1202
  59. Black kite
  60. Hooded vulture
  61. Fork tailed drongo
  62. Black crake
  63. Red winged starling

Mammals:

  1. Hyrax: It’s closest relative in the elephant!dscn0188
  2. Gemsbok: Survives on water from their food, thus surviving extreme dry conditions.fscn0491
  3. Springbok
  4. Kudufscn1348
  5. Cape fur seal: I saw hundreds of seals in a colony!
  6. Hippopotamus: These were first viewed from a canoe!fscn1283
  7. Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra
  8. Southern Right Whale
  9. Bottlenose dolphin
  10. Impala
  11. Elephantfscn0584
  12. Giraffe
  13. Plains Zebra
  14. Cape ground squirrelfscn0513
  15. Meercat
  16. Chacma baboon
  17. Red hartebeest
  18. Blue wildebeestfscn1322
  19. Black backed jackal
  20. Steenbok
  21. Black rhinofscn0600
  22. Honey badger:  There was a honey badger or ratel at the watering hole with a rhino.  Proof that the honey badger don’t care.
  23. Leopardfscn0712
  24. Slender mongoosefscn0774
  25. White tailed mongoose
  26. Banded mongoosedscf4007
  27. Aardwolf
  28. Spotted hyena
  29. Warthog
  30. Striped mouse: not the most exciting find.
  31. Vervet monkey
  32. Cape buffalo: The last of the big five that I saw. fscn1114
  33. Waterbuck
  34. Sable antelope: the largest of the antelopes fscn1019
  35. Lechwe
  36. Tree squirrel
  37. Elephant shrew
  38. White rhinoceros
  39. Cape hare
  40. Vesper bat

Invertebrates:

1.White lady spider: A large, terrifying white spider that lives in a tunnel.fscn0308

2.Broad banded yellow butterfly

  1. African monarch

4.Green veined chiraxes butterfly

  1. Painted lady butterfly

6.Orange tip butterfly

  1. Purple tip butterfly
  2. Red tip butterfly
  3. Scarlet tip butterfly (so, I basically saw several species of “tipped” butterflies in one area)
  4. Autumn leaf vagrant butterfly

11.Meadow white butterfly

  1. Gaudy commodore butterfly
  2. Guineafowl butterfly (a great name for a great butterfly spotted near Victoria Falls)
  3. Lion ant (one of the small five!)
  4. Common garden snail

Reptiles/Amphibians:

1.Painted reed frog

2.Tinker reed frog

3.Nile crocodile: It was pretty exhilarating seeing my first crocodile sluggishly flop into the cold, early morning water of the Okavango delta.fscn1343

4.Web footed gecko

5.Bushveldt lizard

  1. Bouton’s skink
  2. Common flat lizard
  3. Water monitordscn1106

Fish:

  1. Catfish (not sure what kind)

Plants:

  1. Wild sage
  2. Large fever berry
  3. Marula
  4. Night lily
  5. Day water lily
  6. Quivertree
  7. Camelthorn
  8. King protea
  9. Peach protea
  10. Tree aloe
  11. “Ostrich Lettuce”
  12. Mopane tree
  13. Bread leaf camphor
  14. Pencil Bush Euphorbia
  15. Paper tree
  16. Red thorn acacia
  17. Namaqua fig
  18. Broom karee
  19. Shepherd’s tree
  20. Strangler fig
  21. Crane flower
  22. Red grass aloe
  23. Red ivory
  24. Natal bottlebrush tree
  25. Papyrus
  26. Sausage tree:  (This was one of my must see trees!)
  27. Poison apple
  28. Lowveld clusterleaf
  29. Jackalberry tree
  30. Cape reed
  31. Rush- juncus krausii
  32. Sedge- cyperus dives
  33. Sedge- cyperus obtusi florus  (I was trying REEEEAL hard to get to 200)
  34. Wild hibiscus
  35. Tree fuchsia
  36. Boabab (Another iconic African tree)
  37. Leadwood
  38. Wild basil
  39. Khaki plant
  40. Khat
  41. Tree Euphorbia
  42. Candelabra tree
  43. Red milkwood tree
  44. Natal wild banana
  45. Tree wistaria
  46. Broad leaf ficus
  47. Zimbabwe teak
  48. Lavender tree
  49. Coral tree
  50. Ana tree
  51. Umbrella thorn
  52. Boer bean
  53. Transvaal Sesame
  54. Buffalo thorn
  55. Bead bean
  56. Nyala tree
  57. Small green thorn
  58. Giant raisin
  59. Greenstem corkwood
  60. Knob thorn
  61. Paperback thorn
  62. Morning glory (of some kind)
  63. River bushwillow
  64. Wild date palm

An Overview of Overland Travel

An Overview of Overland Travel

H. Bradford


This past summer I went on an overland trip through South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe through Nomad Overland Adventure Tours.  I chose Nomad because they included The Great Zimbabwe complex on their itinerary, they were reasonably priced compared to other companies, they had good reviews, and their website looked appealing.  The tour that I chose was “Four Country Trek” which involved 25 Days of camping…in southern Africa.  I had never actually gone camping in my life!  So, this is the review of a novice camper.  Because it was my first time camping, I did have some misgivings.  I feared that I was not be up for the adventure.  My brother tried to talk me out of it, or at least talk some sense into me.  However, there are plenty of people who go to Africa on overland camping trips.  I am sure I am not the weakest or least adventurous of this lot.  Am I?  Well, maybe I am.  Who knows. dscf3967


The Flight:  I flew from Duluth, Mn to Cape Town, South Africa.  This in itself was an adventure, since it involved a flight to Amsterdam followed by a flight to Cape Town.  This resulted in over 20 hours of flying time.  It was pretty amazing to fly over ALL of Africa.  I arrived in Cape Town at 11 pm and was glad that I purchased a transfer to my hotel, or for that matter, a hotel.  While I try to be a frugal person when I travel, I have found that it is nice to stay in a hotel when I first arrive somewhere, rather than a hostel.  This allows my body and mind time to adjust to my new environment rather than being immediately thrust into the discomfort of hostels.  I was happy to have a hotel for my first two nights.


Cape Town: I spent the next day exploring Cape Town, which was the most beautiful city that I have ever seen.  It is hemmed by cloudy mountains, strange forests, and the meeting point of two oceans.  My solo adventures in the city involved visiting Robben Island, going on a Hop on-Hop off Bus Tour, a visit to the top of the table mountain, and wandering around the waterfront.  It also involved a 45 minute frantic jog back to my hotel through darkened streets after a man grabbed me by the arm.  That is another story for another blog post.  I will only say that Cape Town was wonderful.  I particularly enjoyed seeing a hyrax (a rodent like mountain animal which is related to the elephant) and a variety of unique plants (the Cape is one of several plant regions, which families of plants found nowhere in the world).   Oh, our tour guide at Robben Island was once a prisoner on the island and was once part of the Black Consciousness movement. dscn0186 dscn0110


Registration and the Truck:

The next morning, I went to Nomad’s office to sign in for the trip.  This is where I first met the people who would be traveling with me, the guides, and the truck.  Our overland truck was named Ottis.  Ottis could fit 24 passengers.  We were each allowed a soft duffel bag or soft backpack with a daypack and assigned our own locker on Ottis.  Ottis contained all of our tents, cooking equipment, a freezer, electrical outlets, food supplies, a water tank, and basically everything we would need for our camping journey through southern Africa.  Ottis was a sturdy truck with the capacity to take on the worst bumpy and dirt roads on our trek.

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The People:

There were about 24 people on our trip, so Ottis was packed!  We were squeezed onto the truck pretty tightly.  The passengers came from all over the world, including Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Germany, Belgium, Canada, France, United States, Netherlands, Denmark, South Korea, Switzerland, and Japan!  I was one of three Americans on the trip.  As a whole, it seemed that Netherlands and Dutch speaking Belgians made up the majority of those on the trip.  This is perhaps owing to the fact that South Africa was originally settled by the Dutch and Afrikaans is closely related to Dutch.  Just as there was a wide spread of nationalities, there was a wide range of ages.  Most of the people on the trip were in their 20s, but there were a few people in their 30s, as well as some adults who were in their 50s and 60s.  It can generally be said that everyone was well traveled and had a spirit of adventure.  It can also be said that everyone was at least somewhat athletic, with several individuals who had trekked up mountains or hiked extensively.  Many of the travelers enjoyed pursuits such as scuba diving, mountain climbing, skiing, biking, hiking, skydiving, etc.  Compared to the others, I was definitely on the lower end of fitness and propensity for adventure.


The Guides: Both of our guides were from Zimbabwe, which was great since I was most excited for my time in Zimbabwe.  The driver, Dingi, was a little older and generally had a good sense of humor.  Dingi was patient and never lost his cool as we faced long, arduous days on dusty roads.  Prince was younger and had spent some time working and living in the United States.  Prince did more of the cooking than Dingi and was a fabulous cook!  We all helped to prepare meals by washing and chopping vegetables, cleaning dishes, or otherwise helping as needed.  Prince worked his magic over the rudimentary burners and campfire to create flavorful southern Africa meals.  Both of them worked from before 5am to after 10 pm each night.  They did not get breaks between tours, so they worked non-stop from early spring to December.   They both tried to have a good attitude about it, as even the hyper-exploitative conditions paid better than jobs that they might find or not find in Zimbabwe.  Their low wage is bolstered by the tips they receive at the end of the trip.  So, as a note to fellow travelers: be sure to budget tip money.


The Camping:

My introduction to camping was my first night in the Cederberg region of South Africa.  We stayed at a campsite that was adjacent to a farm/vineyard.  A burly Boer regaled us with tales of leopards that pass through the farm.  I went to bed feeling giddy with my new adventure.  However, that night it rained very hard and became chilly.  My tent got wet inside.  I got wet.  I was miserable as I had to take apart my tent in the rain, pack it up, becoming covered in mud.  This was not the best introduction to camping.  This was one of the worst nights.  I will note that camping was much colder than I had prepared for.  I thought that it would be warmer…after all, it was Africa.  I come from Minnesota, where winter can involve 110 inches of snow and weeks of below zero temperatures.  I could not believe that winter in Africa could possibly be cold.  I was wrong.  There were nights that were near freezing, especially in desert areas.  I did not prepare myself well enough.  My sleeping bag was not up to the task.  So, there were some miserable, shivering nights.  However, there was also a sense of accomplishment and adventure.  Each day we had to get up early and take apart the tents.  Each day we had to put them back up.  It ended up being more work than it sounds like.  Also, because it was winter, the sun set early.  We were always putting up and taking down tents in the darkness of winter.  We chopped vegetables and did dishes in the dark, coldness of desert night.  It was fun, challenging, and beautiful all at once.  I never felt demoralized, but I also counted the days to my next warm shower and bed.  Thankfully, our longest stretch of camping was about five days.  Then, we had a reprieve in a city, where we stayed in a hotel.  This would be followed by another stretch of camping, with the eventual reward of a stay in a city.

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Showers and Bathrooms: The shower and bathroom situation was better than expected.  To be fair, I expected that I would probably be digging a hole and burying my pooh.  I also expected no showers or only cold showers.  In actuality, the bathroom situation was pretty good in South Africa and Namibia, which public restrooms at gas stations (which could be accessed for a fee).  The camp grounds featured flush toilets.  Showers tended to be either extremely cold or burning hot, with no way to moderate the heat.  This made showering a challenge, but since I was always extremely dirty it was worth the challenge.  Showers often did not have any lights, which meant showering with a flashlight or headlamp.  We did “bush camp” in Namibia for one night, which meant there were no showers and only an outhouse.  Really, I don’t mind outhouses.  In Botswana, the toilet situation took a turn for the worst.  The gas stations no longer had public toilets or running water.  I remember at one point, I had to use the toilet, but there was no toilet.  So, I had to trek away from Ottis, our bus, to find a secluded area to do my business.  However, ALL of the trees were variations of acacias.  Each tree was covered in terrible sharp spikes!   I squatted by this not very concealing, thorn covered tree…which jabbed by butt with a nasty thorn.  I pulled up my pants in disgust!  I was so angry that I couldn’t even answer nature’s call.  I felt angry at nature…angry at these mean trees that were neither concealing nor kind.  There was also a public restroom in Zimbabwe which was basically a tennis ball sized hole in a cement floor.  Despite some minor challenges along the way, I had access to flush toilets for most of the trip and a temperature controlled shower at least once a week. dscf3896


The Food:

The food was far better than I expected.  Each day that we camped, we started the day with a modest breakfast.  The breakfast consisted of cereal, tea, instant coffee, toast made over the campfire, fruit, and granola.  Sometimes the guides would make us bacon or eggs, but I never had these since I don’t eat meat and I prefer a light breakfast.  Each morning, I basically ate toast, fruit, and tea.  Our lunch was usually taken very quickly at a rest stop.  So, this usually consisted of cold sandwiches.  I ate a lot of cucumber, cheese, and tomato sandwiches on the road.  Since we made bathroom stops every few hours, there were opportunities to buy snacks and drinks.  Dinner was more of a production.  Once the tents were set up, we helped prepare dinner by cutting vegetables, setting the table, washing, or whatever else was needed.  Prince tried to make traditional foods, but also catered to my vegetarian diet.  I was the only vegetarian and didn’t ask for any special treatment.  Despite my protests, he always made me something special.  Our evening meals consisted of cooked squash, sweet potatoes, mealie pap, chakalaka stew, game meats, fish, pasta, curry vegetables, etc.  The food always tasted fresh and delicious.  There were always plenty of vegetable dishes and I never felt hungry.  Also, I usually get sick when I travel.  However, I did not become ill the whole time!  So, my digestive system handled the food very well. dscf3691

 

 

Health:

Before I went on the trip, I visited a travel health clinic.  Actually, it was my first time doing this, as usually I have not been too worried about my health while traveling.  I was given a variety of vaccinations, including yellow fever, meningitis, Hepatitis A/B, and typhoid.  I was also given malarial pills and anti-diarrhea pills.  I was told to take the malarial pills before beginning the trip.  Really, I was the only person on Ottis who was taking malaria pills (until Botswana).  Oh well, at least I gave my body a long time to get used to the malaria pills. I had no symptoms from the malarial pills other than vivid dreams.  I took them at night with my dinner, rather than at breakfast, since I did notice they gave me a little diarrhea and it was easier to deal with diarrhea at night rather than during the day while on a truck.  Otherwise, I had no major health issues during the trip.  Because it was winter during the trip, I really didn’t see any mosquitoes.  I had a few bites on my hands (since the spray was washed off), but mosquitoes were not very active.  Winter was also useful because snakes, scorpions, and insects in general were dormant during the trip.


The Days:

The days were usually long and involved a lot of driving.  There were places where the roads were extremely bumpy and dusty, resulting in hours of a slow slog through clouds of red dust.  At one point, the vibrations from the bumpy roads caused one of the windows to shatter into thousands of pieces.  We used a mattress to cover the window until it could be repaired.  I usually awoke before 5am, however I rose early to make sure I had enough time to shower and take down my tent.  I never wanted to make people wait for me.  Usually, we were sleeping by around 10 pm.  On days when we were not driving, we usually ended up in a vehicle …as we did wildlife drives to see animals!


The Excursions: Many of the activities were covered in the activity package I purchased.  However, many of the stops had the option for some optional excursions.  Many people did not partake in these optional excursions due to the price or the fact they wanted to relax after spending time on the road.  I went on several optional excursions, which I found to be fun, but not necessary.  For instance, I went canoeing on the Orange River.  I thought this was a good activity because I wanted some exercise after being cooped up in the truck.  While I Swakopmund, I went on a tour of the Cape Seal Colony via a boat ride.  This was also well worth the money, since when are you going to see hundreds of seals on a beach and in the water?  The land was dotted with the swarm of dark bodies.  I also went on a night wildlife drive at Etosha National Park.  Once again this wasn’t necessary, as we had a drive earlier in the day.  However, it offered me the opportunity to see nocturnal animals such as hyenas and an aardwolf.   This tour was freezing cold, as we were in an open jeep.  However, a group of hyenas brushed by our vehicle, a few feet away from us.  I also went on a helicopter ride over Victoria falls.  This was spendy, but worth it, because I had never been in a helicopter before and it offered the full view of Victoria falls.  Nevertheless,  a person could be perfectly satisfied without spending any money on extra excursions- as there was plenty to see and do without these excursions. dscn1225 Money: On a day to day basis, I didn’t spend much money.  I don’t drink alcohol, which was popular with other passengers.  I also tried to limit my snacks, as I didn’t want to gain weight (from the sedentary days on the truck).  Most days did not have optional excursions, as there were included activities such as walks, wildlife drives, or city tours.  My main expenses were water, soft drinks, and supplemental snacks.  This made me feel less guilty when I splurged on a helicopter ride.  I don’t like buying souvenirs, so I waited until the end to pick up a few small items.  In the end, I had money left over in my budget as I had not spent as much as I thought.


Highlights:

  1. Seeing rhinos and elephants acting aggressively towards each other at a watering hole.
  2. The Great Zimbabwe Ruins
  3. Climbing Dune 45
  4. Seeing the Cape Seal Colony
  5. Visiting Robben Island
  6. Taking the cable car up the Table Mountain
  7. Sitting a few feet away from lions eating a giraffe (in an open vehicle)
  8. Squatting in the grass a few feet away from a wild white rhino!
  9. Seeing 200 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and plants
  10. Sitting in a canoe- watching hippos in the Okavango Delta
  11. A helicopter ride over Victoria falls
  12. Star gazing in the Southern Hemisphere
  13. Visiting Cecil Rhodes grave
  14. Spotting a leopard!
  15. Spotting all of the Big Five: Lion, leopard, cape buffalo, rhino, elephant
  16. Seeing my first elephant, first lion…first zebra…first….etc.
  17. Scurrying across the border to Zambia..by myself
  18. Seeing both sides of Victoria Falls
  19. Meeting lion researchers in Okavango delta
  20. Surviving!

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Overall:

Overland camping involves long days in a crowded truck on bumpy roads.  In the winter, it was uncomfortably cold with late sunrises and sunsets.  I was covered in dirt and my skin became extremely dry.  However, it was still less challenging than I thought it would be.  It involved early mornings, effort, and cooperation.  Nevertheless, I think that anyone with a positive attitude, patience, and open mind could enjoy this kind of trip.  The reward for sleeping in a tent, is waking up to fresh, brisk mornings and nights under the expansive and exotic sky of the Southern hemisphere.  The group effort and shared discomforts builds camaraderie.  There is also something nice about sitting in a circle around a campfire with people from around the world.  They all have stories about where they have been and what they have done.  It is inspiring.  The days on the truck are also rewarded with sights of birds and animals that you would otherwise only see in the zoo.  There is something wonderful about seeing these animals in nature, behaving as they would naturally (eating one another, fighting, or showing indifference to each other).  Each day I saw or experienced something completely unique and fascinating.  It enlivened my curiosity and made me feel like a child.  With that said, I highly recommend overland camping!

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