Travelling into deepest, darkest Africa is not for the faint hearted … but, given the right preparation and attitude, even a sissie can do it.
Back in 2002, I had the rare privilege of travelling from Cape Town to Cairo with five friends in two Land Rovers. The expedition was preceded by eight months of intensive research, planning and preparation which included: itinerary finalisation, costing, organisation of visas, vehicle permits, inoculations, medical supplies, travel insurance, expedition equipment, and importantly – a mutually agreed contract signed by each of us.
Having these essentials sorted out prior to our departure minimised both risk and uncertainty. This gave us the peace of mind to just sit back and enjoy the journey. We were stopped at countless road blocks and passed through 14 border posts, and not once were we asked to pay a bribe. In fact, the officials often complimented our paperwork, with one Malawian policeman going so far as to invite us to have a cup of tea with him.
Needless to say, a respectful attitude goes a long way in any situation. At times, one is pushed to maintain a calm and friendly demeanour, but it almost always pays off. We were fortunate to be travelling during the 2002 Soccer World Cup, so there was never a shortage of jovial discussion with whomever we had to deal with. And to be honest, nothing breaks tension better at an African border post … than an impromptu game of soccer!
If I’m ever asked for advice on trans-African expeditions, I give the following: Always travel in convoy; choose fun but responsible people to travel with; good preparation and attitude are paramount; respect the laws and environment of each country; and be prepared to immerse yourself in the stunning cultural/natural diversity each country has to offer.
Our route included some lesser-known attractions which I highly recommend: the spectacular rainforest-surrounded Ngozi Crater Lake in Southern Tanzania; a tranquil town named Kibuye situated on the eastern shore of Lake Kivu in Rwanda; the harsh Lake Turkana with its infamous Nile Perch in Northern Kenya; the Nubian Desert’s mesmerising Pyramids of Meroe east of the Nile River in Sudan; and the pristine Sanganeb Atoll in the Red Sea fifteen nautical miles off the coast of Port Sudan.
So, be sure not to leave the exploration of Africa just to the likes of legends Kingsley Holgate and Dave van Graan. It’s an incredible continent with rainforests, savannahs, deserts, atolls, historical wonders, abundant wildlife, and outstanding people – all waiting to be discovered by you … even if you are just a sissie!
To end off on an appropriate note, one of our expedition members had his prescription spectacles ripped from his face by a gust of wind on the ferry trip from Zanzibar to Dar es Salaam. We all watched in horror as they flew out the back of the catamaran and into the frothing white water behind. His advice … be sure to pack a spare pair of spectacles!
Robert J. Traydon is a part-time author and BSc graduate of Mechanical Engineering. He’s had the rare privilege of travelling to over forty countries across six continents, and working in a diverse array of business spheres. His writing seeks to raise awareness across various controversial fields including climate change and environmental sustainability.
Date Published: 08 August 2017