“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”
It is a fact that unfulfilled or unrealistic expectations are the mother of all disillusionment.
We meticulously planned and saved up for our bucket list overland trip through East Africa. I can still remember the nights beside a crackling fire with wine in hand when we naively contemplated our expectations.
Some expectations were met and actually exceeded, but quite a few got smashed to smithereens. For that reason, we compiled this list to assist our fellow travellers who dream about an overland trip through Africa.
10 things an overland trip through Africa is NOT.
- It is not cheap.
One may expect that travelling through rural areas in developing countries may be cheap, but you will soon find basic necessities and camping becomes rather expensive. Especially if you have emotional ties to your “home brands”.
We found shopping at local markets way more affordable with the added benefit of making acquaintance with local people. A basic camping spot tends to go for USD 10 pppn and destinations like Tanzania has no respect for your hard earned dollars.
- It is not done in a lap of luxury.
I tried! I bought white cushions for us to sleep on. Epic fail! White turns into different shades of brown and grey very soon. And the bone-jarring roads will destroy your fine bone china and crystal goblets, so rather stick to stainless steel or melamine/plastic.
- It is not restful.
Much of your anticipated relaxation and leisure time will be spent on basic chores such as cleaning, cooking, and peeling, dusting, mending, fetching water and looking for firewood.
- It is not fast paced.
Almost nothing in Africa is done by western precision or haste. Every time I travel north, I am reminded of wise words I once read.
“The Swiss may have invented the watch, but it is Africa who owns time.”
It is as if your need to do something quickly, is supernaturally sensed and sabotaged. Border crossings ranged from 1 to 3.5 hours which dramatically wreaks havoc with the ever-optimistic ETA.
- It is not for people with preconceived ideas about how life is supposed to be.
Your precisely structured agenda will be tested and challenged as Africa calls for agility and living in the now where pedantic future planning remains a novel idea at best of times.
- It is not comfortable.
Average speeds are always slower than your most optimistic worst-case scenario, leading to long hours in the vehicle. With heavily loaded vehicles, space is a battle and one can easily find yourself in a cattle class situation for the better part of 4 weeks. Maybe this is what they refer to as cabin fever?
Night time is not necessarily better. You may have an expensive and comfortable mattress, but the shoves and thumps and kicks of the bodies alongside you do not necessarily lend to a peaceful night.
- It is not predictable.
In fact, it is the one kind of holiday where thing rarely works out according to your plans.
- It is not for people with OCD.
Or for those who are particular about what they eat, how they sleep and where they shower. Africa is most certainly not for someone who enjoys regular, hot and hygienic showers. Neither for those who are squeamish, has food issues or cling to fears and phobias.
- It is not romantic.
Ok, maybe if sand between the sheets or slapping Tsetse flies while kissing, does it for you!
- It is not for dysfunctional families or for couples seeking therapy.
You spend hour upon hour in close proximity to one another. Inside the four doors of a motor vehicle, “give me some space” becomes a laughable matter. And at night, it is advisable to choose the dragon on the inside of the tent rather than the unknown lurking on the other side of the canvas.
That being said, an overland trip through Africa is well worth the effort and discomfort. In fact, we compiled a list of 20 things travelling through Africa most certainly is.
- Africa is spectacular.
- Africa will take your breath away.
- Africa is totally unique.
- Africa is truly colourful.
- Africa will amaze, astound and at the same time startle you.
- Africa will test your values and build your character.
- Africa will teach you to be patient.
- Africa will break your borders and without caution, enlarge your innermost being.
- Africa has the best sunsets and sunrises in the world.
- Africa is poor by western standards but rich with simplicity and friendly people.
- Africa will teach you that bad roads can ultimately lead to a beautiful destination.
- Travelling the dusty roads of Africa is hard work that repays you with magnificent wildlife and glorious landscapes.
- Travelling in Africa is not a mere holiday, it is an epic adventure that will give you enough stories to last a lifetime.
- Africa will make you appreciate small things like wet wipes, hand sanitizer, insect repellent and hot water.
- Africa’s diverse cultures will inspire you to celebrate diversity.
- Travelling through Africa is for resilient, tough children who can entertain themselves for hours with nothing.
- Africa is exclusively for people with a good sense of humor.
- Travelling through Africa is for those who can adapt to change, make plans and loves surprizes.
- Africa will challenge your definition of time and how you spend it.
- Last, but not by any chance least: The people of Africa is what makes this continent so awe-inspiring. There is no shortage of honesty, generosity, respect, and kindness wherever you go.
But how do you begin to describe the magic of Africa to someone who never felt it?
How can you explain the fascination of this vast, dusty continent, whose oldest roads are elephant paths?”
It was Brain Jackman who said that Africa changes you forever, like nowhere on earth. Once you have been there, you will never be the same.
I agree! Africa is where all the magic happens. So, blow the dust from your bucket list, save up some money and start planning your overland trip through Africa. You will remember it forever.