Driving across southern Africa

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness and many of our people need it sorely on those accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

-Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad (1902)


Amy and I get stir crazy. We can’t go a couple weeks without thinking of some exotic place to go and explore. Such was the case when we thought of renting a desert modified Land Rover and driving it across southern Africa. This was the kind of trip we knew would be hard work. No piña coladas on the beach with this trip. This was going to be rough roads, sketchy boarder crossings and lots of language barriers. This is the type if travel we dream of.

Within a period of a month we had bought maps, plane tickets and booked the reservation for the Land Rover. We were on our way.

After a long layover at Heathrow (we went into London and explored for several hours) we were picked up in Johannesburg, South Africa by the rental car company and given an extensive tour of the Land Rover that would be our home for the next two and a half weeks.

Initially, our plan had been to head up into Zimbabwe to see Victoria Falls, but the folks at the rental car agency had mentioned that tourists had been getting stopped by crooked cops asking for bribes. So we decided to drive Northwest towards Botswana instead. Ironically, my lead foot resulted in us being pulled over by the police in Botswana (you have to pay the ticket on the spot in cash) where we confirmed with the cops that things were not good in Zimbabwe.

This is what I love about our particular style of travel. We plan for things to go wrong. We could have planned each day out until the end of our trip, but Amy and I prefer to keep things open ended. We decided to head west into Namibia instead of east to Zimbabwe. For the rest of the trip - almost three weeks - we woke up in the morning not entirely knowing where we would be sleeping that night. A couple of really good maps were all we needed. I would also recommend a satellite phone. This proved to be invaluable on two occasions, when my credit card identity was stolen and when we forded some water and the engine on our Land Rover ate its own air filter. All part of the territory, and it all added to the flavor of the trip.

A very amateur film of the trip.

The Land Rover. This thing was a tank, completely unstoppable off road.

The final part of the trip brought us back to South Africa and Kruger National Park to see all the wildlife.