One gorgeous morning on the deck at Caprivi Houseboat Safari Lodge (and camping) I set out to interview the Viking himself. We are overlooking the Zambezi River, with Zambia visible on the banks on the other side. The sun is shining, the birds are singing. What better place for an interview!
African GirlChild (AGC): So, here we sit on the banks of the mighty Zambezi – your last stop before crossing into Zambia. Can you give me some stats about your trip so far?
Viking Explorer (VE): Of course – can I have the computer please <he laughs – we are sharing one little netbook>. We have driven 23,810km so far, through 16 countries and 5 African border crossings. We’ve travelled a total of 245 days. So far since we arrived in Cape Town, we have driven 9,277km.
AGC: What have been some of the highlights of the trip for you?
VE: Um – it is difficult to single out just a few, because it is such a nice part of the world.
AGC: OK – what about some highlights from West Africa first?
VE: After we left Podor in Senegal, we drove a track that ended in a village and we managed to find the local ferry. After thinking I had negotiated a reasonable price, we boarded and I went up to the ferry man on the ferry to pay. He said “No thank you, you don’t have to pay me. Using my ferry and saying thank-you is enough.” That was very special.
We’d left Agadir (Morocco) to continue our journey south, and we went into the mountains. We stopped a man by the side of the road in the afternoon. The first thing he did was give us oranges! Then we asked if there was a place we could camp. He took out his phone and called someone else, and this guy ended up running in front of us for a kilometer before taking us through a local souk where everybody had to move their wares to let us through. We ended up on top of a little hillock in the middle of the village, where we had a spectacular sunset and sunrise the next morning. It was a very nice quiet secluded ‘campsite’. <he smiles>
AGC: Does anything from southern African so far stick in your mind?
VE: Um … <he pauses for thought>. I really enjoyed the rhino tracking experience at Khama Rhino Sanctuary (in Botswana). It was nice to be able to interact with the tracker and learning how to interpret the signs, so using spoor, using grass, using dung to look for the rhino.
I also had a super experience at the Halali waterhole in Etosha National Park (in Namibia) in the evening. Here I witnessed 6 black rhino bully their way in between about 20 elephant to be able to drink at the waterhole. It is not often you see that.
As we sit on the deck overlooking the Zambezi, the lizards are running up and down the poles. There is a giant kingfisher perched on the tree above the water, watching intently as the fish circle below him. The sun glistens on the water. It really is magic.
AGC: When we travelled with Global Adventures in Botswana, Scott asked if there is anything you would do differently?
VE: The short answer is no. Amazingly, all our preparation has been spot on. We haven’t had to make any major changes to anything. That said, we have taken a lot of “stuff” out of the vehicle (when we reached South Africa), and created a bit more space for ourselves.
AGC: What about any changes to the route, or your decision to ship the vehicle?
VE: No, I really don’t regret choosing the west Coast as our route. We had fantastic weeks in Morocco, and the few weeks we drove around Senegal were also very enjoyable. Mauritania was a special experience. And, world political circumstances are not something you as a traveller can influence, you can only react to it. For us at that point, we decided to ship. It isn’t a decision I regret either. Even though shipping from Senegal made us miss out seeing central west Africa, it has given us an opportunity to see more of southern and east Africa – areas we may not have seen on this trip.
AGC: Ralph asked whether you had ever been afraid at any point on the trip so far?
VE: No, not afraid. Uncomfortable a couple of times yes, but not afraid. When you have a Mauritanian mummy standing in your open door in the vehicle at 8:30pm and it is pitch black outside and he is blatantly asking for his bribe so he can let you go – it isn’t the most comfortable situation to be in! There was one other uncomfortable situation, and that was the wild camping outside Rabat. Drunk men arriving at your tent at 10pm is not conducive to a good night’s sleep! Other than that, most situations were either stressful or annoying. So, the customs process at Dakar port, all the police stops down western Sahara.
A slight halt in interview proceedings – a pair of African Fish Eagles has flown in and perched in a tree top about 50m away. They are calling – one of the most beautiful sounds of Africa. We grab our binoculars and watch them for a little while.
AGC: Frank commented that you always see on people’s blogs what spare parts they are taking for their car, but you never seem to get a run down on what clothes they are packing. Can you share with us your essential items list?
VE: When we lef the UK, we had a 70 litre bag of clothes each, plus the thick fleeces and gortex jackets necessary for winter in Europe. As we progressed Europe and arrived into north west Africa, we realised that we only used about 1/3 of the clothing that we had packed. So obviously we had too much at that stage. When we set out from Johannesburg we had reduced the size of the bag to a 40 litre bag plus a big fleece each, but I still use only about half of what is in the bag!!
Currently, I use 3 different day2day shirts / T-shirts, 2 pairs of shorts, 2 pairs of socks for the evenings, fleece jersey and thick fleece jacket and a pair of long trousers. I also have a full set of hiking clothes – shorts, shirst, thick socks, hat, boots. A pair of sandals, a pair of sneakers and shower flip flops complete the footwear. A gortex jacket helps with biting wind more than rain. Something warm to sleep in: although the day temperature regularly reach into the 30s, the night temperatures easily dip into single digits. A thermal base layer, beanie and gloves are always useful to have. Because we have access to water it is relatively easy to do a little bit of laundry every now and then to keep on top of dirty clothes.
AGC: How has your health been on the trip so far?
VE: Very good! I can only remember 2 days where I have felt less than ‘normal’ (AGC laughts … “normal”) One I suspect was due to bad water in Naukluft Mountain Park (in Namibia). The other was a hint of food poisoning while in the Caprivi (in Namibia). The fact that AGC wasn’t poisoned … not sure how much I should read into that! Maybe she wanted to extend our stay in Namibia <he laughs> Other than that no problems … well, actually, the only other incident that can think of is from end of Morocco, every Monday after taking Larium (antimalarial) I’d be grumpy. I suspect that was a reaction to Larium, because I haven’t had the grumps on Mondays after that. But that could be because I don’t know what day of the week it is anymore <he grins>!!!
AGC: So aside from my dodgy cooking, how has the food been while you have been travelling?
VE: We have eaten very well! We have always been able to find meat. AGC has come up with a recipe for a mean chicken curry. Southern Africa – especially in Namibia – has introduced us to an even larger variety of meat – eland, kudu and other game. We can now make the braais we have always wanted to do! Markets in Morocco were brilliant for fresh fruit and vegetables. Although the selection in Senegal was a bit narrower, it was still possible to find fresh vegetables and seasonal fresh fruit – oranges, watermelons and pawpaws. Southern Africa has been very easy – Shoprite is like Tesco or Carrefour in that you can get almost everything you want. We have even had magnum icecream in Etosha!
AGC: Do you miss your bed at home?
VE: We don’t really have a home at the moment – so I don’t miss my bed at home. But, I do miss a duvet, because the sleeping bag is slightly restrictive. But our tent is very comfortable.
Another break – Viking Explorer has spotted hippos on the sandbanks across the river in Zambia. I am constantly amazed at how sharp his eyes are. We have heard hippos grunting at night, but this is the first time we have seen them. Only their eyes and ears are visible with binoculars.
AGC: So, where to from here?
VE: We are going into Zambia. Our original plan was to do a 3-4 week trip, visitng Livingstone and Victoria Falls, Lake Kariba and Lower Zambezi then the parks in South Luangwa and North Luangwa. Then travel up the escarpment and travel on the east site of the Bengwela wetlands through to the border with Tanzania near Lake Tangayika. We have now altered our plans so from South Lunagwa we’ll head into Malawi and do a loop in Malawi incorporating Cape Maclear in the south – another Cape for our list – and Nyika Vwaza national parks in the north.
And so ends the interview. The sun is becoming quiet toasty, and we have a last few chores to do while in Namibia. Then onwards into Zambia.