Thursday, April 1, 2010

 I'm officially an Overlander. We bounced along 5400 kilometers through southern Africa. The beginning of the trip was like a bad boyfriend. You want to leave him, but then he goes and does something wonderful so you stick around. The first few days were so hot, long and the most exciting activity was putting up our tents, that I wanted to break up with it. Then I saw an African sunset and decided this was a three week relationship that I wanted to in...and what an incredible and fun life experience I got in return.

There is something about Africa. Photos do no justice and experiences do not translate into words. It's really more of a feeling you get. You get it when you're watching the sunrise over giant sand dunes, or while watching mommy and baby elephants frolic in a river. It hits you when you look into the night sky and the stars look so close that you can reach out and grab a handful. Or free-falling backwards in a gorge above the Zambezi river. You feel it when you're playing soccer against local village boys who are so excited to be kicking a real ball. Most of all, you get the feeling while looking into the eyes of the African people - eyes that tell a thousand stories of a life that I could never even begin to imagine. 

In an effort to keep this blog a reasonable length let me summarize: I'm sick of bugs. Flies buzzing in my ears makes me bonkers. A jackal pawing at my tent makes me scream and jump. I pretty much had "pissy ankles" for three weeks and the bottom of my feet may be permanently dirty. I can put up a tent but still prefer someone else to do the hard/dirty part like roll it up and put it in the bag (thank you tentmate Annabel). I had an absolute blast playing underwater Chinese freeze tag in a pool with my fellow Overlanders. Butternut is my new favorite vegetable. Botswana was voted "least corrupt African country" by its peers but I'm not sure I agree; the border
crossing between Botswana and Zambia ranks high in the most bizarre events I've ever experienced. Flipflops are not for rock climbing. Victoria Falls - amazing. Sleeping in an open-air treehouse along a river full of hippos is incredible. Lions are mysterious. Guinea Fowl are stupid. All the animals are fun to watch in their natural habitats. Sunsets in Africa overwhelm me with their magnificence.

One of my favorite experiences was in the largest inland delta in the world - in the Okavango river in Botswana. We went for a sunset ride in a makoro (that's me in the canoe) through the marsh - the pictures say it all. The African Painted Reed Frog we spotted was my favorite animal sighting of the trip!

Am I officially old if I talk about weather? It's just that I'd like to note that whoever says "dry heat" isn't so bad has never gone on a two hour walk through the Namib desert in 112f (45c) heat. The heat doesn't get much dryer than in the middle of sand dune, and there wasn't one piece of clothing on my body dry - I was drenched in sweat.

Vaccinations are really expensive, so I put mine to work. I ate loads of travel-expert forbidden fruits and veg; I'd even eat them unwashed from stands on the roadside. I'm a man(go)niac. Of course eating like this combined with strange meat is not without side effects. But that's okay because a trip like this brings people close together, quickly. I have never discussed "faxing" so publicly in my life. Sometimes it's an urgent fax, other times the fax machine is jammed. Perhaps it's out of paper, or worse you can only send one of three pages. These are the discussions that fused the lifelong intestinal bonds with my new Overland friends.

I was sitting on the dirty floor of the 'airport' in Zimbabwe waiting for my flight to JoBurg and this wave of sadness came over me. The same thing happened when I left Kenya nearly three years ago. Africa is like no place on earth. I want to go back before I even leave.

click here to see my overland adventure photo album


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  2. This is great! I'd love to follow in your footsteps one day...

  3. Will you ever return to TX? As interesting as
    your blog is, I would love to hear the stories in person. We miss you.