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1. To Spin through Africa

Community Highlights Road Trips 1. To Spin through Africa

Nine weeks in Africa, 40 days behind the steering wheel of a 1998 land rover, through seven African countries, into eight different national parks, tenting in basic camping grounds in the company of two other land rovers and their occupants. What a brilliant way to go travelling for two Kiwis, closer to their 70s than they liked to admit.

Whether you are an armchair traveller or whether you aspire to roam yourself, I invite you to join us on our spin through southern and east Africa. My first blog telling of our overland journey from Hong Kong to Europe via Central Asia was termed Silkspin and our Canadian blog became Moosespin. We settled on Rhinospin for our expedition through Africa. Two Kiwis in Africa, in a land rover, on a rhinospin.

If you have read our Canadian travel blog you may remember some references to Africa. I wrote that while I dreamed of and planned towards the Trans-Canada journey from west to east, Martin explored Africa on the internet and hung on the words of people he met who had self-driven there. Later in the Ontario section, I said “this year the Niagara Falls, perhaps next, the Victoria Falls between Zambia and Zimbabwe”.

It was more that wishful thinking. For by the time we arrived in Vancouver, we had paid the deposit towards our next adventure: driving from Cape Town to Nairobi with Africa Expedition Support. Lynda and Peter, a couple from Auckland, were the ones who got us into it. We met them in the summer on the Kauri Coast 4 wheel drive club safari around Northland.

Martin noticed their unusual vehicle, a large 4 WD Toyota with a purpose-built sleeping canopy on top, and he put them under his characteristic interrogation. “Had they built it themselves; where had they travelled in it; what was it like to drive?” He discovered they had modified the vehicle in NZ and driven it from Singapore to Europe in 2006 completely on their own. They were people after his own heart, for in 2011 we had shipped our Nissan Terrano in a container to Hong Kong and driven it to Europe via China and Central Asia; not on our own, mind you, but with friends Maurice and Anne and their Nissan, who had instigated the trip.

In 2008, Lynda and Peter told him, they had joined Africa Expedition Support and had driven all the way from Jordan to Cape Town over a 16 week period in one of the company’s land rovers. Martin was all ears with interest and anticipation. Here was a chance for another adventure. I was lukewarm. Home was comfortable and we were off to Canada later in the year. Driving in Africa sounded risky and uncertain.

We returned home from the Northland trip, Martin armed with the travel company web site, which he studied with enthusiasm. He decided eight weeks was long enough, both for the pocket and for our travel capacity, and so we would go from Cape Town to Nairobi. Besides, the political situation in both Egypt and the Sudan put them out of our consideration for self-drive travel for the moment. For me, it became a case of “where he goes, I go too”; in time, I embraced the concept enthusiastically.

My image of Africa was no different from that of many other Westerners - exotic wild creatures roaming the endless savannah in protected national parks, but politically unstable countries governed by volatile rulers; continent of the mighty Victoria Falls but also lawless shanty towns and machete wielding terrorists; beautiful, vast landscapes alongside devastating famines and pot-bellied starving children, a mix of drought and human mismanagement. When a friend back home asked me if our guides were armed, I realised we all had misconceptions, based largely on reports from the news media. Elements of truth, skewed by the macabre and the news media headlines.

I have found one way to unravel the strands of truth and also to provide a sense of atmosphere is to arm yourself with reading matter relating to the locality to be visited. For example years ago when we island-hopped through the Greek Islands, I did so in the company of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, by Louis de Bernières; it added both to my understanding and my enjoyment of the area. Time limited my African reading but it did include the following:

  1. Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela, an excellent and moving account by the author of his boyhood, his emergence into a freedom fighter and his prison life.
  2. Out of Africa by Karen Blixen, the story of her colonial life in Kenya from 1913 to 1931, with beautifully written portrayals of the land and the peoples.
  3. The Sunbird by Wilbur Smith (by way of contrast), set in Botswana, giving some African context, against a fanciful story of archaeology and Phoenicians in Central Africa.
  4. The No1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith, set in Botswana, the first of a series of books about Mma Precious Ramotswe, providing numerous delightful details about life in Africa.
  5. The Sheltering Desert by Henno Martin, the true story of two young German geologists who fled to the Namib Desert to escape interment at the start of World War 2. The descriptions of the expansive desert landscape make for excellent reading.
  6. Under African Skies by Jo and Gareth Morgan, recounting their group’s travel by motor bike from Cape Town to London.
  7. Long Way Down by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman, another motorcycle adventure through Africa.

A rather diverse collection. Of course, I hardly scratched the surface of the books available with an African context, but it was a beginning and they helped set the scene for the trip.

Like the Morgans, we began in Cape Town, South Africa.

This featured blog entry was written by rhinospin from the blog Two Kiwis in Africa.
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By rhinospin

Posted Sun, Jun 29, 2014 | South Africa | Comments