“The more that you read, the more things you will know.
The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
I know they say never to give advice when not asked for. Well, the fact that you are reading this, suggests that are were searching for guidance.
Reflecting on a month-long trip through Southern Africa, we jotted down some of our worthwhile learnings. Trusting that you may find value in this whilst planning your first/next big overlanding adventure.
• Prepare and freeze as much ready-made meals as you can.
We switched our refrigerator to freeze mode an stocked it up with Mexican and Italian mince, Thai yellow and green curry, butternut soup with lentils, lamb stew, cooked chicken breasts, few bags of frozen veg, Suzelle’s Braai Pie, guacamole, cheese and some more Indian curry. (Can you guess we love curry?)
• To braai: Steak, wors, hamburger patties and bacon. We found that the kebab sticks, and chop bones tend to pierce the plastic.
• We tried to eat the way we eat at home. All the driving and sitting tend to put a heavy strain on the digestive track.
• Best options for breakfast: oatmeal, yogurt, shakes, cereal, bacon and eggs. If you have a rest day, flapjack mix comes in handy for a quick and delicious treat.
• Best boiled eggs: Start off with cold water and set the timer for 14 minutes. This makes for delicious medium/well done eggs. You can make this the night before if you are off to an early start.
• Best options for lunch: Wraps with some defrosted mince, sandwiches, Pro-vitas (takes up least space), tuna and whatever you can prepare on your lap if need be.
• A hot water flask is your best friend. Pour any unused boiled water into it. By doing this, you save gas and always have water for some coffee or tea. We found the cappuccino sticks works very well. Advisable to pack enough as it is not available in other countries.
• We loved exploring local markets and supermarkets.
• Be sure to wash and peel fruits and vegetables.
• We found that shopping in smaller villages saved more time and energy than shopping in big cities.
• Try out local brands. It is much cheaper and at time much nicer than the ones from home.
• Don’t be afraid to sample some street food. We loved the Tanzanian omelette made from potato fries and egg. Yum!
• We bought authentic Chitenge fabric from the local PEP in Zambia and beautiful Masai Shukas at the local market.
Clothes and washing
• We had limited space available, so we took enough clothes for 5 days.
• A marine capsize bottle / dry vessel is handy to do your laundry in, if you have space. Fill it ¾ with water, add some handwash detergent and let the bumpy road do the washing.
• We handwashed our clothes and if we could, contributed to the local economy by paying for washing to be done.
• It is advisable to pack quick drying clothes and towels.
• Kikoi’s or local cloth makes for excellent skirts. Use belt to secure it and wear it with a matching T-shirt.
• A lightweight puffer jacket is the best option for saving space and keeping warm.
Water and gas
• Again, the hot water flask is a lifesaver when it comes to saving gas. Refilling your gas cylinder is a challenge in Malawi and Tanzania, less so in Zambia but still difficult.
• Bottled water. Always check if the seal has been broken. We never used our water purifying tablets. We either boiled the water or used bottled water.
• Always try to maintain 25 litre of water per day for 4 people.
• Fire lighters is a must and with that a braai tong, grid, triangle stand, brass brush and welding gloves.
• The best headlamps and rechargeable lights you can afford
• Our foldable picnic table is a definite winner. It’s compact, light and relatively sturdy.
• We had a higher table (900mm) as well to prepare food on. This is integral if you want to save your back.
• A 12/220 V invertor was a life saver when it came to charging batteries,phones and cameras. It works way better than the usual cigarette lighter.
• OMO liquid bottles makes a good urinal for the tent when you can’t leave due to potentially dangerous animals lurking in the dark.
• Foldable silicone basin/bucket is a must. For washing up, doing laundry and the unthinkable late-night barfing in the tent. (We used it for 4 nights and it definitely saved our sanity.)
• Fire extinguishers has a dual purpose. In case of a fire or to fend off wild animals. (In our 19 years of camping we never had to use it, but you never know. Be prepared.)
• Various bolts and nuts.
• Rivets and rivet gun.
• Ratchet straps.
• Steel wire.
• Cable ties.
• Duct tape.
• Diesel filter.
• Tyre plugs.
• Tyre foam bombs.
• Fan / water pump / alternator belt
In conclusion. Never underestimate the value of a well-maintained vehicle, tried and tested camping equipment, pre-prepared meals, quick dry clothing and trying local grocery brands.
Always remember a friendly smile, enquiring and curious mind and refrain from prejudice, judgement and holding oneself as the saviour to what seemingly challenges Africa may battle. She was there before us and will also outlive us.
Respect her and immerse yourself in her splendour, diversity and kind heart.