The trip I have been dreaming about since I started traveling over ten years ago is about to become reality. It is the kind of trip you cannot prepare for, because on a great African road trip too much is unknown and so much is out of your control. However, the marriage of these two constraints incubates adventure, spawns the understanding of new perspectives, and spurs personal growth.
I feel a new, warm excitement inside me, which sometimes overwhelms me with images of my smoking car engine, masked bandits with Kalashnikovs, lions slashing through my tent, malarial fevers, and greedy intransigent police (Afri-tripping). In the end I just have to be prepared to be unprepared for what may come, practice patience, and derive joy from the creativity that will be needed to move the journey forth.
The road trip will take most of 2016, traversing 16 different countries in Eastern and Southern Africa. It will involve crossing every different type of ecosystem I can think of, and I estimate it will cover about 20,700 kilometers (12,860 miles), which is the equivalent of driving from San Francisco to New York about 4.5 times. I have broken the trip into to six more manageable sections and mapped them out on Travellerspoint.
The first trip called Rafting Jungle Lava, starts by searching for rhinos in Kenya’s Lake Nakuru, and then continues to raft class five rapids at the source of the Nile, before venturing into the crater lakes of Fort Portal. From here the trail will ascend through forests of giant groundsel and lobelia on a six day trek into the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains (Africa’s highest mountain range). It then turns south to Queen Elizabeth National Park for camping with the tree climbing lions, and then into DR Congo to search for gorillas and in the deep forested mountains, and sleep atop the lava pits of the Nyiragongo volcano.
The second trip is set in the middle of the Indian Ocean and called Seychelles Sea Breezes. It will simply be about exploring the beaches as the breezes blows. The third trip will likely be the most challenging. Coined Desert Dust and Ancient Wisdom, it will pass through the nomadic deserts of Kenya’s lawless north, seeking refugee by the fabled Jade Sea (Lake Turkana), and up through the southern hinterlands of Ethiopia. The trip will focus on the north of Ethiopia including the stone castles of Gondar, the rock hewn churches of Lalibela, the jagged peaks of the Simien Mountains, and the rainbow colored lakes around the Danakil Depression.
The fourth part of the trip is about the Wild Savannahs and Sapphire Coasts of Tanzania and Kenya. Starting in Amboseli and Tsavo National Parks where big tusker elephants and fiercest lions in the world live, the trip continues south along the coastline and then West to Ngorongoro crater, the heart of the Serengeti plains and the summit of Kilimanjaro. From there the journey will touch the islands in the southern tip of Lake Victoria, before heading south to Gombe National Park to see the Chimpanzees, and following Lake Tanganyika south to the border of Malawi.
The fifth part of the journey is deemed Leopards, Cichlids and Whale Sharks. It will follow Lake Malawi south, full of the candy colored Cichlid fish, and then venture west into the dark jungles of Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park in search of big cats. It will return to Lake Malawi to explore the islands of the south and then beach hop down Mozambique’s coast alongside whale sharks to the southern end.
The final leg of the trip called Great Migrations, Desert Blooms and Vineyards. It starts in the East of South Africa, crossing Swaziland into the famous Kruger National Park, it then heads north to the salt pans of Botswana, before wadding through the swamps of the north where great herds of elephants migrate during the dry season. The trip will continue north into Namibia’s Caprivi Strip and then West to the Skeleton Coast, only to venture south to the great dunes of the Namib Desert, hopefully as the first rains hit Namaqualand and cause the great desert bloom. With a little luck this leg should end in luxury around the hip vineyards and garden coast of Cape Town.
The roads will be long, and the challenges will be real, but what really gets me excited is the battalion of adventurous friends I have met along the road of life who are coming along for different parts of the ride. Between finishing my last job, and rushing back to Hawaii, San Francisco and Bolivia to see friends and family I have thought about what I hope to learn and what it is I think I can offer along the way. I have pondered what greater purpose an epic trip like this could have, however, for better or worse, I have reached no epiphanies thus far.
I am left unsure if trying to put parameters on such a wild journey is a good idea, or if something like this should always be left to organically evolve. I am left wondering if it makes sense to set expectations when so much is still unknown and will always be out of my control. I do believe that while some direction is good for a journey, too much will hinder the ability of the journey to reveal new paths along the way.
So I will start the journey in search of a suitable balance, and the suspicion that the purpose of the journey maybe hidden somewhere along the way. I will aspire to be observant and thoughtful, expect to be challenged and humbled, and will strive to need little and leave what I can along the way. So follow along on Nomadic by Nature as I brush off the dust of daily life and set out on the great African road trip of my dreams.