4 facts about travelling in Africa (that aren’t true)
[I suppose I should disclaim at the beginning that what I'm saying may not be representative of all African trips. My point is that not all African trips conform to the stereotypes. We weren't adventurers, we were plain and simple independent tourists]
We sat on the banks of the Zambezi river. There were cucumber sandwiches and Pimms. The hotel is an old colonial farm where the farmer murdered his wife in the dining room because he thought she was having an affair with the local priest.
They sound an ‘all clear’ in the morning when the hippos have left the grounds, and we’re warned to stay away from the river’s edge because of the crocodiles.
It was lovely to stay at, but quite the throwback.
We drove 2550km to get here across 4 countries. We camped wild in Botswana, and stayed at various campsites along the way.
Some fun facts that aren’t true about travelling in Africa:
- The roads are full of potholes. Nonsense: you can drive from Cape Town to Victoria Falls, 2918km, :
without hitting a single pothole. (We did the Cape Town to Windhoek leg last year – this year we did Windhoek to Victoria Falls)
The roads look like this…
(there’s an elephant in that last pic!)
- The other drivers are dangerous. No, not really. Mostly the roads were totally empty (see above), but we found the drivers in Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia to be fine. (the same is NOT true in Cape Town, Nairobi, or Lagos)
- The police are corrupt and will ask you for bribes. There are police roadblocks outside most major towns, but they efficiently checked our driving licences and destination, and were, without fail, courteous and friendly. No-one asked us for a bribe, intimidated or otherwise acted strangely with us. One policeman in Kasane went well out of his way to help us and make sure we were ok, and I wish I could remember his name and thank him here.
- Border crossings take forever and are corrupt. Not our experience. There’s certainly a tendency for bureacracy that is unusual for a European (or at least one from a Schengen country), but if your papers are in order and you have the right fees for importing the vehicle, you’re fine. The border officials we met (at big crossings and obscure ones), were, like the police, courteous, friendly and honest. Here’s the paperwork generated by the 3 border crossings:
I wish that I was treated as well by the hostile, rude, officious bastards at Heathrow as I was by their equivalents at Kasanguna or Victoria Falls.
Over the years, Kay and I have driven the length and breadth of Europe, across Patagonia in Argentina/Chile, and also big chunks of the western US. I can’t say that I found driving across 5 African countries any more difficult than any of those. The biggest shock for me was how few other tourists there were on the roads, and how empty the amazing campsites and lodges we stayed at were.
I think other people try and play up the african adventurer side of it. Let’s be honest, we’re not. We’re just tourists, but that’s fine.
It was one of the best holidays we’ve ever had, and I recommend you come on down and try it.