We had previously visited Tunisia, The Gambia and Kenya as “tourist” but when a work colleague and friend took up a post in Botswana it was too good an opportunity to miss visiting southern Africa. Peter and Jackie hosted us three times in Botswana, once in Lesotho when he took up another post and then once in South Africa. They had similar interests to us, camping and wildlife, particularly bird watching.
We thoroughly enjoyed our trips and visits all over parts of southern Africa and saw some amazing sights but both felt we had rushed things as you have to in two or three weeks. We always said we would love return and do things slowly.
The seeds for our big trip were sown when we were staying in Lesotho, in a rondavel, when we got chatting round the campfire to a young couple. I had spotted a Danish registered Land Rover earlier on – he was English and she was Danish. They had shipped to Cape Town and were taking a year to drive home … now there’s an idea!
A week later near the top of the famous Sani Pass that plunges from 2876 metres down into South Africa making it one of the great 4x4 challenges, we came across the couple again. Their tales of wild-camping hooked us and seed began to flourish.
Over the following months a large map of southern Africa collected red dots that signified wild places where we fancied visiting. We planned to take a year slowly travelling through the accessible countries of southern Africa with the whole ethos being that if we liked a place we would stay: if we didn’t, we would move on.
Apart from a few visitors we had no schedule to stick to. We met many people who were driving the whole way to or from the UK but we wanted time in each country rather than rush.
We needed boundaries and decided the top of Tanzania would be the northern extreme as Kenya was having election violence when we left; Angola was difficult to get into and we though Zimbabwe was off-limits – as it turned out we did visit and were glad we did.
With vehicle prepared over a couple of years and ourselves mechanically and medically prepared we were ready to go. We had imagined that we would stay a few days in the roof tent followed by several days in proper accommodation to recover; as it happened we so enjoyed camping and the bed was so comfortable we actually spent most of the year camping, only using rooms when we had to.