Since this trip began we have focused very much on the sights that we’ve seen, and the highlights that this extraordinary continent has to offer.
In this edition of our blog we wanted to add a little more of the realities of a self-drive, and what that has meant for us personally, as we have traversed 5 countries and experienced their various challenges.
Our spectacular traveling office and home, satirically named ‘Jalopy’, is a wonderful machine. She is kitted out with creature comforts such as a proper bed with great mattress, a functioning kitchen, bathroom – with hot shower (an absolute must for this writer), water filtration, extra fuel tank etc. Right down to a small washing machine and oven, fridge, and freezer, we are prepped for anything that comes our way in terms of living.
From a mechanical perspective, our ground clearance is high, meaning we can go up or over most things. The 4×4 is extremely powerful and we have front, central and rear diff locks.
The “Original Nomad” (Alex), as well as myself, (Fern), have each travelled extensively in Africa and are about as practical as they come. Independently we have both completed full trans Africa trips, as well as several partials, together, and apart. Our first aid kits, tool kits and spares boxes are loaded, and what we don’t know how to do, we figure out. In terms of overland travel, we are kitted out, geared up, and ready for anything.
Of-course all of that makes us sound absolutely sorted! Nothing could possibly happen! But that is not quite how Mother Africa works, and even paradise is not perfect.
We have been on the road for nearly 6 weeks now, and whilst we have enjoyed stunning national parks, and incredible wildlife and scenery…a lot of it has been experienced from under the vehicle, inside the bonnet, or whilst trying to resolve something or another. For us, this is a part of the adventure, and we actually kind of enjoy it. But for many, it would be a bridge too far.
For the entertainment of those who may be interested, here is a brief outline of our trip so far, from a practical perspective.
When we first began our road trip in Malawi we travelled high up into the Nyika Plateau, some 2600m above sea level. The road up was unpaved, un-graded and head hitting the roof bumpy. During the last 60km we started to see small slivers of sunlight from inside the cab. Not ideal! The seals between the driver’s cab and the mobile home body were separating from each other with each bump. Not a crisis, as they really are very firmly attached at the chassis, but quite a bizarre occurrence. Being the first small problem that we had experienced we were terribly concerned. Little did we know that over the coming weeks this would seem like an insignificant event!
On the way up to the Plateau one of our outside boxes sprung open and my cherished washing machine popped out. Luckily a passing local spotted this and flagged us down. Upon inspection it became evident that the rivets that held the box in place had sheared off during the bumpy ride. No problem! Totally prepared. The tool box came out and a rivet gun and spare were produced. With only mild concern about nearby baboons we were soon fixed up and on our merry way again.
When we arrived at the camp an hour or so later it was to find that the box was once again hanging open, the new rivets also sheared away. Whilst the aforementioned washing machine was, by some miracle, still there, our levelling ramp was gone. Ironic really, given that this particular campsite was located on a rather steep slope and we then had to go ‘old school’ and use rocks under the wheels. The troublesome box was re-drilled, bolted, lock tightened, and just in case, the flap was also tied with string.
That evening we re-drilled holes between the cab and living quarters, re-screwed the panels into their proper place, and we were good to go again.
The following morning we were up early, to enjoy our day in the unique Nyika. We turned the geyser on and waited the ten minutes required for the water to heat enough for a shower. Standing naked, in the shower, at 5:30 in the morning, when the temperatures outside are only just above zero, turning a tap that does not produce water, is not the best kick start to good humour. In a perplexing state, I stood staring at the water gauge, clearly showing that we were full. Upon further investigation it became apparent that the water gauge was no longer working. It is now always ‘full’, and we simply need to fill up the tank whenever and wherever possible. Not a biggy, just a tough method of discovery.
After a couple of lovely days in Nyika we began our long drive back to the lake. To our absolute astonishment, several kilometres down the road we came across a bright yellow ramp, sitting right in the middle of the road. Our missing levelling ramp, was waiting right we had ‘mislaid’ it, as if waiting to flag us down on the return journey. Of course, since the day that we recovered this terribly important item, we have not once been in need of it.