This article is not meant as a how-to guide to overland expeditions. Nor will it offer 15 simple steps to planning a transcontinental journey. Those type of articles are overrated, and in my opinion, not very helpful. All of the ones I have come across are very simple, and the information contained in them can generally be gleaned purely through the use of common sense. Sure, one occasionally finds a useful tip in these guides, and these tips shouldn’t be ignored, but the crucial ingredient in a successful overland expedition is inspiration. If you want to organise a successful trip, you need to be inspired.
Where did our Voetspore journeys start? And where did most great Cape to Cairo journeys start? They started where most great South African ideas star, of course – in the bush around the campfire. It’s funny how starry skies and bushveld surroundings, aided by a glass of Beyerskloof or Klippies, can spark great ideas!
Next time you find yourself sitting around a fire with your friends, or even watching the rugby at someone’s house, just say the follow: “Hey, guys. Why don’t we drive up to the Serengeti to see the wildebeest migration, or, what about tackling the Doodsakker in Angola? If others can do it, we can too.”
Just watch their reaction. Chances are, they won’t need much convincing.
What is the first step in planning such a journey? Get hold of a good map. Few documents are as inspirational as a map when it comes to planning an expedition. Let’s use the Doodsakker as an example. Once you’ve established where you are and where your destination is, you start drawing a line. That line could possibly go through the Okavango panhandle with the best campsite in southern Africa (Drotsky’s Cabins), pass Etosha with its abundance of wildlife, cross the border at Ruacana with its dramatic waterfall, go through the Kaokoland north of the Kunene (with the photogenic Himbas), cross the Welwischia Plains before entering the Namib, all the way to Foz do Cunene, then the Doodsakker and eventually Flamingo with its abundance of fish. After that, opportunities arise to drive the incredible Leba Pass, visit the homes of the Dorslandtrekkers at Humpata, see the statue of Christ at Lubango – the list is endless. Does this sound inspirational? If not, very little would.
Our next Voetspore adventure will take place from September to December, and will stretch from Agulhas to Alexandria. We’ve done the Cape to Cairo before. It was done in two stages – Cape to Kilimanjaro and then Kilimanjaro to Cairo. This time it has to be transcontinental – all the way from the southernmost point of the continent to the harbour city at the Nile Delta.
The plan is to start at the lighthouse of Cape Agulhas. From there we will follow the escarpment to Lesotho. We hope the snow will allow us to go to Sethabathebe and to Sani. From there, we head north-east to the Kruger. The plan is to enter Mozambique at Pafuri, cross the Limpopo and travel to Inhambane, and then along the coast to Beira. We will turn inland along the Zambezi, past Cahora Bassa to Manna Pools in Zimbabwe. In Zambia the plan is to visit the spot where Livingstone died near Lake Bangweulu, and to see the shoebill storks. Then it will be north along, or even on, Lake Tanganyika.
Once we get to the north of the lake, we may visit Rwanda. Thereafter, we will visit Uganda with its Queen Elizabeth National Park and Murchison Falls. The journey will take us to the east, past Nairobi. We would like to attempt Mount Kenya before going north to Ethiopia and the Omo Valley. To the east of Ethiopia we will travel in the direction of Afar. We hope to visit Somaliland, Djibouti and Eritrea, before travelling along the Red Sea in Sudan in the direction of Egypt.
I’ve been told that the only way to cross the border between Sudan and Egypt is via the Aswan Dam. But we’ve done it before, so why do it again? This time we hope to cross at Bir Shalatein. Will it be possible? I don’t know, but we will go there and find out.
In Egypt the plan is to drive through the Sahara – to go to the oasis of the Libyan Desert before ending the expedition at Alexandria.
The map is the inspiration. The vehicles, the camping equipment, the navigational equipment and other gadgets are all just extras. The Carnet de Passage and visas are formalities. The map, however, is the crucial item.
There is nothing as soothing for the soul as travelling, especially on the African continent. Get a few friends around a fire, mention a destination or two, and then go fetch a map. Not before long you will have the 4x4s packed, heading north, to some destination on a journey that will bring fulfilment to your life!