12th of March 2016:
Today is day one of 41 days of travelling on an overland truck across Africa, camping under the stars. I had no idea what to come of the tour, but all I knew was I was going to have to keep an open mind. After last nights talk it left me with a sour taste in my mouth and I was now concerned. I awoke nice and early as we had been told that the chances of getting wifi on the trip were small and the connection would be slow and cut out if it did exist. So I woke up at 6:30am to try and FaceTime my parents for the last time in over a month. However unfortunately the wifi at the hostel was cutting in and out and it connected once for a mere 5 seconds and all I saw was my parents waving with excited expressions. At least the messenger part worked and we could talk for 10 minutes before I had to get ready. Bella our tour leader wanted everyone to start putting our bags in the truck by 7am. As I didn’t want to be that person who everyone’s waiting on I did what she asked. However this now lead to waiting outside till 8:30am when we were actually going to leave. Instead of beginning our journey on the truck where we will be spending a lot of time travelling across Africa we jumped on a luxurious coach which took us to a township. However, our guide stopped us in the coach in a random street. We spoke for 15 minutes about the history of the street. It sounded very interesting but I wish I wasn’t trying to fight the battle of falling asleep. I felt so rude, but when your eyes close uncontrollably your battle begins. Africa as many people are aware was divided between black and white people. What I didn’t know was the white and black people had districts they had to live in. Obviously each district held either black Africans or white people. The black Africans living conditions were horrible. They had to wear their I.D. Information as it was the white people stating they were dumb. If they did not have their I.D. When they were asked they would go to jail. The men were sent off to a different district to their wives and children and were only allowed to see them a few days a year, or if a permit was confirmed for the wife and children to see their father for a few days.
We then drove to a current township where 100’s of children, wives and husbands live in shacks with other families. The government is currently building homes for these people however as there are millions of families living in shacks across Africa this will take time, at least this is one of the governments excuses as it is currently a corrupt system who have become greedy over the civilians of Africa. They are overcrowded, have poor income and live in tin shacks with temperatures reaching in the 40’s. And yet, the children run around with smiles on their faces, playing the trumpet with the end of a broomstick and the families have come together to support one another financially and morally.
Our coach then took us to the waterfront where we were allowed to buy snacks and alcohol for the roads ahead.
Now our adventures begin! Our first leg of the journey was to a stunning winery only 4 hours away from Cape Town. We set our tent up on the gorgeous lush grass with vineyards and the sun setting as our background. For only $120 Rhan we had a wine tasting. This is the tour I signed up for, tasting 5 different types of wine. Due to our wine tasting, us arriving late and it being the first night we were spoilt and the winery cooked us steaks with potato and a gorgeous broccoli salad. I felt like we were in a 5 star resort it was just bliss. This was a much better way to get to know everyone. However only four people chose not to do the wine tasting and I felt sorry for them because they weren’t allowed to sit with us whilst we were drinking the wine. I continued on till midnight chatting away getting to know everyone.
13th of March 2016:
Day two, and once again we awoke nice and early. 6:30am we were up and ready to pack down the tent and get going. At 8am we were on the road again. To reach our next destination we were going to have to cross into Namibia. I hate border crossing it always seems a hassle. Today however was an absolute breeze, if only there was a a breeze in the wind. The sun was beaming down on us, as you can feel your skin instantly start to sizzle as you run from one building to another. Today’s temperature was only 35 degrees however, the u.v. rating was 9. We were officially in Namibia after an hour getting everyone’s passports stamped. We stopped 2 minutes down the road to fill up and get ice-cream. They surprisingly had wifi however, Kiki seemed to not want to give us the password because she wanted to speak to her boyfriend. Eventually we found out and only had 5 minutes to send a message to my parents saying, “I’m in Namibia.”
Orange river was gorgeous. Our campsite had lush grass overlooking the river. As it was so hot and such a long day on the road we were all pretty quick to get into our bathers and have a swim in the pool with some beer (or in my case cider). We had been given groups much like you would expect on school camp and I was in the Zebra team. Unfortunately that meant cooking tonight and to say the least my cooking skills aren’t Jamie Oliver style. I would more relate to a monkey trying to cook, just throwing anything and chopping anything but with no skill and no understanding of what I am doing. Tonight we were cooking lasagna, garlic bread and salad. I was in charge of the salad so you would expect this to be simple, but it’s harder when Bella doesn’t tell you what to put in the salad, as you don’t want to use vegetables for the following nights. We started cooking at 5:40pm and can you believe we finished at 8:00pm. We are probably the slowest cooking team to cook lasagna for 26 people in the world. By this time we were all longing to feel that satisfaction of food. Tonight I was very tired. By 9:30pm I excused myself and went to sleep. Tonight though was magical, Nick and I put our mattresses outside on the grass and slept under the stars. The stars glowed and twinkled around the Milky Way that was directly above us. We watched the stars for an hour before we finally drifted off into a longing peaceful sleep.
14th of March 2016:
The days seemed to be flashing before my eyes, by the time I blink we will be in Kenya… Maybe. This morning as I awoke my eyes were filled with satisfaction and wonder. It’s a beautiful moment when you wake up outside in a sleeping bag looking at the sky. We had organised a 3 hour canoe trip down the orange river starting at 8am. We jumped on a tram like bus for 10 minutes down the road. The mountains blocking the glass like river from the wind was something you see out of a gallery. The river reflected all its surroundings leaving a beautiful reflection on the still water. The canoes however were not as graceful. They were huge tubs with two buckets to keep your valuables dry and to keep the canoe afloat. As soon as the guide pushes you in he splashes water on you, this was not the last time I got wet. For 45 minutes we were having a water fight in the middle of hills down a gorgeous river in Africa. Eventually we were allowed to jump in and go for a swim. I still have no idea what was in the water but I think it was best I didn’t know. For some reason everyone struggled to get back into the kayak. Using techniques that would only make their lives harder and work their muscles a lot more. One person had to swim next to the canoe to the bank where they then could get back in. From coaching rowing and teaching people to get back into the single by them self I’ve discovered that people somehow do similar techniques such as straddling it from underneath and yet to this day I haven’t ever seen it work. The river was very placid with hardly any current apart from the couple of “Rapids” or small little bumps in the river. This meant we were going to actually paddle and not just sail down the river. With 30 minutes to go I was done. I was hungry and over the whole experience. Nick and I picked up our pace and reached a couple of metres before the campsite. We could see it, it was in arms reach but Bridgette and Thomas were lagging behind so we had to wait 10 minutes staring at the campsite before we were allowed to go in. It was fun and I don’t regret it, but it did not need to be 3 hours. As soon as we got back I took all my wet gear and put it on the clothes line and ran to the bathroom to get changed. The only time I’m quick at getting ready is when food is awaiting me. By the time I was heading for my lunch, Nick was still putting his clothes on the line. We didn’t have long till we left again to head to another campsite. Our campsite was near the fish canyon, the second largest canyon in the world. We arrived at 3pm and dear god it was hot. The bus ride had turned into a sweating fest and we all ran out to get fresh air, but unfortunately it was worse now the sun was back frying my skin. We decided to not set up the tent as it was unlikely it was going to rain and it was so magical last night… If only we could have predicted the future. We all walked the 500m in the blistering sun to swim in the pool, all but Nick who decided to climb the hill to get a good photo. The pool was freezing so putting my feet in was enough. After an hour we all had to climb back onto the truck to drive 30 minutes to the canyons for sunset.
It was absolutely magical walking along the edge of cliff face as the sun glistened the rock face as it faded behind the mountains. On the other side the sky was angry, with dark clouds, thunder and lighting across the sky. So much for it not going to rain. As we arrived at the main lookout our tour leader had wine (goon) and cheese and biscuits. It was one of those moments where you look around and realise how amazing your life is right now.
The night didn’t end there though it only took some people one or a couple of glasses to get the night going. Our truck turned into a party, music was blaring through the speakers, people were dancing in the isle whilst the other people were drinking the last bit of goon from the bag. The funny part of it was everyone went crazy when Scottish bagpipe rock band song came on. When we arrived at the campsite we made a dance floor with the music still blaring from the truck in the middle of the desert. As it neared 11pm we all headed to the pool, some more reasonable than others. After an hour there was only four of us, the Scottish couple and myself and Nick. Tonight was absolutely amazing and I wish it could of ended at this point and I could have gone to bed and had a peaceful sleep. Remember when I said we didn’t set up the tent… This was one of the worst decision we have ever made! It was an absolutely boiling night with no wind. Therefore this means mosquitos heaven. It would rain every now and again so we slept under the shelter where the kitchen was. There were so many bugs, a beetle as big as my hand crawled past as we were going to sleep. Sorry to that beetle but I killed it so I knew I wasn’t going to sleep with it. As I sat up to close my sleeping bag a cricket hit me in the face and I thought it went in my sleeping bag, after feeling around a bit in the dark I couldn’t feel it so went to sleep. An hour later I felt this thing jumping and hitting the top of the sleeping bag between my feet. So thankfully I quickly undid the bottom part and let out the cricket. Now I was awake, this was horrible. I could hear mosquitos everywhere, my insect repellant was in the truck that was locked and it was so hot that if you were in your sleeping bag covering your body you would actually drip in sweat. By 3am and hardly any sleep I decided to give up. I tried to look for a tent that I could set up by myself in the dark. I couldn’t handle it anymore. Nick and I however moved out from the shelter and an hour later a light breeze came across my head. It was until 4am that I feel asleep.
15th of March 2016:
I only had 2.5 hours of sleep last night. I felt sluggish as if my body was completing all the necessary steps in the morning but my mind was still asleep. I was not the only person who felt this way. I only heard one person have a good sleep as apparently sleeping in the tent was just as unbearable. Lucky we had an 8 hour drive today. By 7:45am we were all back on the truck ready for a long day ahead on the road. I fell into a deep(ish) sleep, as deep as you can get sitting up. As Nick put a mattress at the back in front of the lockers and slept properly. At our first stop, the tour leader opens up the door and non of us moved, some slept through whilst others just blankly stared at her trying to comprehend if they want to just keep sleeping or get food. It wasn’t until lunch time that we all started becoming more alive. Today didn’t feel as hot, thank god! I love the heat, but not on an non air conditioned truck. We stopped in the middle of absolutely no where, where there were a few bushes with 10cm thorns coming off. This was our toilet stop. Myself and four other girls ran off but unfortunately there was literally no where to hide. The thorn bushes came up to my knees. As I was running a thorn went straight through my thongs (flip flops) luckily my quick reactions and yelling skills stopped it from piercing my toe. As we were walking back big rain drops started. I started running for the truck as I took one step onto the truck it poured. I couldn’t have been closer to getting soaked if I tried. One day we were burning to death and now today we were getting wet as our truck leaked through the windows. Well today I think we should put the tent up. My team and myself swiftly unpacked the truck as soon as we arrived. It had stopped raining by now and our team doesn’t enjoy losing hours doing “chores”. By the time I had finished Nick had just finished setting up the tent.
Now we had 2 hours till dinner and dear god I was already hungry. This is never a good sign. I literally did a lap of the truck because I was bored and trying to waste time. This was where our tour leader tells us for only $100 Rhan ($8 Aus) we could see the cheetahs and a leopard. I’ve never been more excited, one it’s cheap and two it will waste 45 minutes so dinner will be sooner. I was there with my $100 Rhan and camera waiting. The leopard was gorgeous and came straight up to the fence and started posing. Sadly, the leopard use to be a house cat so they can’t put it out in the wild as it wouldn’t have any skills to survive. As I followed everyone through a gate I noticed the guide lock it. We were now in the enclosure of two cheetahs. This was frightening. They were fairly big, lounging in the sun. Some people got photos with it but when I walked to it, it got a bit aggravated so I was happier to not risk my life for a photo. As we walked back to the campsite we were all buzzing having been only metres from cheetahs. Unfortunately it was still an hour till dinner. So I went to have a shower to waste more time. By the time I got back Cara and myself were sitting waiting getting very hangry. I feel if we had to wait another 30 minutes we would of eaten the chairs. Dinner was pork and as its not my favourite I had vegetarian. It was the best vegetarian meal I’ve ever had. The tofu tasted like KFC chicken nuggets, but sorry to the vegetarians meat is still better. 3 people from our group was also bored so they made us desert. It was vanilla custard with random fruit and biscuits. It was interesting to say the least but tasted a lot better than you may ever imagine. As we have to leave our campsite by 5:15am everyone had a fairly early night.
16th of March 2016:
I woke up bright and early at 4:45am ready for a packed day of sand dunes. We woke up, stuffed my sleeping bag back in its bag and packed down the tent in 15 minutes. I honestly thought this was amazing. By 5:10am we were in the truck driving again. It took us an hour to arrive at the national park. The sun had just began rising as we were waiting in line for the gates to open. All of a sudden we heard a gate open, so our tour leader yelled out to all get back in the truck. Then two cars drive out whilst a African man is yelling out; “stop the people… Stop the people.” I had no idea what was going on but the man jumps out in front of the car yelling at the people. Saying that he’s going to call the police and where’s their permit. Apparently he is the “gate keeper” and he did not give authority for them to open the gate. The only weird part of this scenario was they were leaving the national park, they had already stayed a night in a campsite there with a permit and were trying to leave. He clearly just wanted to be domineering with no reasoning behind what he was saying. After another 10 minutes we were ready to go through. The sand dune was beautiful and Nick and I quickly walked up it to spend more time and before it became too hot.
We were fortunate in the way that it was a cooler day than normal. The sand glowed under the sun whilst the other side stayed in the shade until the beaming sun would turn it into a glistening red. As crazy people we are, we ran down the side of the sand dune. It was so dense that it was impossible to go fast as your feet would instantly sink into the sand. I also didn’t realise how high 75 metres is when your running down, at about half way I felt like having a rest for a picnic. As we reached the bottom we walked the 100m to our truck where bacon, scrambled eggs and toast were waiting for us. This was where I felt like I was back at rowing camp, waking up at 4:45am off doing an activity and then coming back with hot breakfast all ready for you. It was crazy how my body seemed to love waking up early, it was if i went instantly went into rowing mode. I felt more active and awake on the sand dune than I had during the other days. We jumped back on the truck to only drive 10 minutes down the road where we waited for 4×4 trucks to take us to …. . It honestly felt as if we were in the middle of the desert, stranded, walking for hours. The only truth was we were literally in the middle of the desert surrounded by sand to the eye could see. By 11am it was starting to get hot, but another walk for 20 minutes up and down smaller dunes to reach what looks like a dried lake with dead trees, protected by huge sand dunes.
It was mind blowing how it was clay a size of a football field with a few black dead trees and then the sand starts again. After only 15 minutes and feeling like I had been left in the desert for days I was ready to turn around and go back to the truck. There were absolutely no shade that could cover your entire body. As we arrived back to where the truck dropped us off 50 people were waiting under the one tree hiding from the blistering sun. 55 minutes goes by and Nick takes my water and starts walking back with Rhett. Only 5 minutes later finally a truck comes to pick us up. We bolted for the truck to beat the old people from Germany, there was no way we were being considerate about them now. We had also been waiting a lot longer than they had. Nick and Rhett had only walked a few hundred metres down the road so thankfully we picked them up on the way. I was so excited to get back to the truck. We drove 40 minutes to exit the National park and where we were told ice-cream would be. The shop had 6 ice-creams left that had clearly melted and then semi froze again, with yellow puss looking ice-cream escaping the top and sides. At this point I figured as much as I am dying for something to cool me down I don’t need it quite this bad. By this point it was 2pm and we still had an hour to drive to our new campsite before we could make our lunch. Luckily we went to the next petrol station to get ice where everyone ran out like little children wanting all the ice-cream. As it was so late our tour leader bought us all sandwiches and my mood had been lifted and I didn’t feel so exhausted and hot. As we arrived at the campsite we went straight to the “dam”. I don’t know if one would call it a dam but if that’s what makes them feel better we will stick to it. The so called dam was a tank with no lid and algae. I sun baked (in the shade) on the side for two hours while we listened to music and chatted just wasting time before dinner. We were on truck clean duty, and was possibly one of the worst days to clean the truck. I don’t think people know you have to walk on your toes in the sand or at least walk lightly because we had an entire sand dune in the truck. Sand is absolutely the worst to sweep out, it seems to just keep coming. I was fairly tired and wasn’t in the mood to drink so I had a nice long shower, brushed my hair and rearranged my locker. Sometimes it’s nice to have some of your own time every now and again. We had a big chain of us sleeping under the stars, as they twinkled and glistened in the black sky.