It’s no secret that taking on Africa in the form of an Overland Safari is a once-in-a-life-time experience. The rewards are rich and varied; endless horizons, unspoilt bushveld, truly wild places and truly wild animals. Overlanding is about making memories that you will talk about for the rest of your life. However, all things being equal, it’s almost as well known that the great price to pay is hours and hours of open road between destinations.
When signing up for an African overland adventure it is important to be aware of the long, tedious strips of road between destinations. These, often dirt tracks, can seem to stretch to infinity. The 10 to 12 hours between Dar es Salaam and Arusha, 9 hours from Maun to Kasane or the paltry 6 hours between Sesriem and Swartkop are hours that need to be lived to be believed.
There are some pretty crazy road trip stories and some pretty crazy people out there but while not every trip is Fear & Loathing it need not be driving Miss Daisy.
We spoke to our team of well-seasoned over landers about the best way to pass these long hours and found a few more to boot.
Touch and Swipe
The biggest difference between the modern traveller and those of bygone years is technology. Everyone these days travels with a smart phone, a touch pad or kindle. In fact, with satellite hook-up you could probably even watch your overland journey in real-time while downloading the latest episode of Game of Thrones.
Music to my Ears
Every travel correspondent will sing the praises of headphones and a good collection of music. These allow you to literally create the soundtrack to your own personal movie. But why not get creative with it? Make a playlist before you go and then add to it as you go. Trade with your travel companions and see what other overlanders are listening to. The name of the game here is variety and lots!
Top Tip #1: It's all in your Head.
Music is a great way to connect with people BUT not everyone has the same taste and not everyone likes it out loud on the bus. So, why not pack a dual headphone jack that will allow your bus buddy to tap in to your tunes without bothering those around you.
Star in your Own Movie
In the past couple of decades digital cameras have revolutionised how the world is seen. I watched a movie a few days ago called Tangerine and discovered afterwards that the entire feature length movie was filmed on two iphone 5s! My niece and nephew constantly make amazing little cameos on the ipad using only imovie. The point is that the quality is SO good and the process is so user friendly that anyone can do it.
Film on the bus. Script a different scene for each leg of the journey and assign a role to everyone who wants to get involved. This is great fun and has the added benefit of creating a fantastic memento which may even be the next YouTube sensation. You could even use the time to edit all your footage and then provide your loved ones with tasty snippets of your adventure. A few years ago, somewhere in Africa on an overland truck, a bunch of travellers put together this video.
The caption on Vimeo reads “A bit of fun on a truck in the middle of Africa. This is what happens when you have 800km to drive in one day. Love you all guys. If this gets me in to sh*t I hope you will all help with the legal fees”. The video embodies the ‘let’s do it’ spirit of travel and the open road. Everyone plays a part and all in all it’s a great advertisement for what can happen.
Whatever you decide to do, be prepared and check out all the cool and nifty apps that can let you film and edit like a pro and so turn your trip into a movie making extravaganza.
Top Tip #2: Running out of Juice…
With all this movie making and music listening, even writing if you are that way inclined, there is a fair to good chance that you are going to run out of power. Instead of dealing with the queue for the cigarette lighter charger, take a spare battery pack to charge your device. They are small, hardy and allow you just a little bit more time with the device of your choice.
I spy with my little eye something beginning with ‘O’…
Most of our memories of road trips are rooted in family holidays where ‘I Spy’ was the order of the day. “PLAY GAMES!” say all of our sales reps. Now by games we don’t mean chicken to see who can stand on the roof of the over land bus the longest or strip poker where your clothes are left blowing in trees on the African roadside.
Murder on the Bus
One popular game is “murder mystery” where everyone on the bus can get involved. Basically one person gets to be the murderer and during the trip knocks off as many of their fellow travellers as possible. Everyone else has to try and figure out who the murderer is. When everyone is dead the murderer wins, if they’re found out the points go to the catcher. When I played before the weapon of choice was a wink of the eye but there are variations, a nod or a tap on the shoulder will be just as good.
While you were Sleeping…
Another great one is while you were sleeping. This game is a little sneaky-er and requires some patience and a little bit of conspiracy. You wait for someone to fall asleep and then begin to weave the most believable or improbable story possible. It’s a bit like “I went to the market and bought…” but you get points for staying in character and successfully fooling the sleeper or the coup de grâce, the sleeper successfully joins the telling of the tale…
ABC of General Knowledge
Our travel consultants recommend a spiced up version of generalknowledge. The troops are divided into teams. Different categories are decided apon and then a letter of the alphabet is chosen. Answers all have to begin with that letter… Movie stars with names beginning with ‘D’ for example …
Who am I?
There is a variation of 20 questions where everybody gets a famous person; real, fictional or cartoon character stuck to their forehead. Everyone can see the name except you. But in this case you are playing against the length of the road. You get to ask questions to figure out who you are before you reach your over land destination. If you haven’t figured it out before you arrive or if you are the last man standing, you get to buy the group a drink.
Variety is the Spice of Life
The great thing about these games is that the variations are endless! There are loads of games to be played from number plates to alphabet words, word association, human jukebox and even the good old trusty 20 questions. Everyone on the bus will have some ideas so there will be a good pool to choose from. Games are a great way to pass the time.
Top Tip #3: Game of Cards
Games are great for over landing. And, there are a lot of games that you can play with just a bit of imagination. However, never underestimate the power of a pack of cards. EVERYONE knows at least one card game and the chances are that someone knows some fantastic games that will bring out everyone’s competitive streak. You could even spice it up with a set of “cards against humanity”.
A Long Walk to Freedom
There is still no substitute for reading. I can remember traipsing around Mozambique with a back pack full of books, struggling under the weight of A Long Walk to Freedom and Middlemarch. It really is worth while to invest in a reading app or a kindle. To have 50 books at your disposal is a gift that only those who know the true weight of books can appreciate!
Why not read to the region? Southern Africa is home to Nobel Prize laureates J.M Coetzee (2003) and Nadine Gordimer (1991) while Africa boasts Wole Soyinka (Nigeria, 1986), Albert Camus (Algeria, 1957) and Wangari Maathai (Kenya, 2004). But you need not limit yourself to the Nobel Prize winners. Tsitsi Dangaremba, Chinua Achebe, Mongane Wally Serote, Lauren Beukes, Andre Brink, Deon Meyer, Zakes Mda and Sol Plaatje to mention only a few but the list goes on and on and on… and that is just local authors never mind the veritable plethora of books based in Africa. Load up your kindle and read all the way down the east coast of Africa!
Top Tip #4: Take Some Books
But where better to read than cosy in bed? On those long winter hauls where it can get pretty nippy especially in the mornings and evenings, take your sleeping bag onto the bus with you and snuggle down to catch up on your reading.
Menu Creators … Yum yum yum.
We all love to think about food. If you can get a list of what’s available for dinner that night, everyone can have a crack at designing a meal for the menu. The winner gets to try their hand at making the meal that night. Amazing creations have included everything from pizza and twice fried chips to roast chicken, milktart and chocolate cake. ALL MADE ON THE FIRE.
Top Tip #5: No matter what you do, sleep, dream out of the window, read, partake in some games (card or otherwise), surf on the roof or just listen to music, make sure you have enough water to go the distance! But don’t drink too fast or your long trip will get longer with all the pit stops at the back of beyond.
As you drive the long stretches between destinations on your over land adventure, something remarkable is happening outside your window. Your landscape is changing slowly but surely. From cities and suburbs to outlying rural districts or from coastal scrub to savannah or bushveld. With the changes in climate come changes in birds and beasts and plants and trees.
This is the back drop to your adventure. Travelling 800 kilometres in a day might seem a bit monotonous inside your truck but it is also an incredible opportunity to watch the landscape change before your eyes. Keep a check list of animals and trees and be sure to quiz your guides about what is happening outside the window. This is also your opportunity to watch the world go by.