Casting aside the fortnight in Barbados as a mere apperitif, the journey begins here in Africa, a continent so vast that I shall only see a small part of it in the next 70+ days.
Arriving in Cape Town, I was uncertain as to who my travelling companions would be. Old or more likely young; couples, groups, or singles; and most likely British. The composition of the group was the first surprise; one couple, one mother and daughter combo, and singles; aged from late twenties to early sixties; and well, what can I say about nationalities: a veritable United Nations. Two Canadians, an American, two Ausssies, two French (though neither living in their native land), a Dane, an Irish working in Oz, and me. When you add to the mix a Finnish tour leader and the driver and cook, both hailing from Kenya and I’m sure we could start a coup d’état along the route.
Most will break their trip at Victoria Falls or Zanzibar, but four of us will travel on through to Rwanda and Uganda before finishing the journey in Nairobi in late June. Our home for this time will be Imani, our Mercedes truck. At this point I should stress that to refer to Imani as a ‘bus’ requires the blasphemer to do press-ups, an indignation that fell upon me during, yes during, the formalities of crossing from South Africa to Namibia. David will drive us across the continent supported by Tanja, our tour lead. Mash (not his real name) is charged with cooking up three meals a day; and boy does he. Supported by the rabble in the back who all have allotted chores including a three day rota as cook hands, he rustles up food that is quite amazing.
Introductions done, we set off from Cape Town; well sort of. Free time allowed the group to split up on day one! Five of us ventured off to Penguin Bay and the Cape of Good Hope, the southernmost point in Africa. Train travel is an entertainment in its own right; buskers of varying qualities mixing with the non-predictable nature of SA railways led to much bonding.
From Cape Town, Imani carried her cargo from Cape Town up to the Namibian border, stopping overnight for a camp that came with wine tasting. This was possibly the last late night (11pm) that I will have for some time. Early nights come with early mornings, and whilst spending most sleeps in organised camp sites, others are in more remote areas. I have retrieved tents blown away by strong winds, and camped at a one truck site with a shallow cave doubling as a cook area. Alone (with 12 others and Imani) we sat under the stars and around the camp fire listening to Tanya, Mash and David recount tales of previous tours which, with hindsight, only sent us to bed very worried. Oh, bed that night was 10pm!
Along the route we’ve encounter sunrises and sets, and a modest number of animals to date. But this is early in our travels.