As the dusty roads of Namibia the sounds of cattle lowing, goats bleating, disappeared in my rear-view mirror, we started the second leg of our expedition with scheduled stops in countries such as Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia, travelling through the world-renowned Caprivi Strip.
To feel your Landy’s all-terrain tyres digging into the hot African earth is a magical experience. But traversing the continent is not just about ticking off an ‘African safari’ on your bucket list. Towards the end, you realise that travelling through Africa is, in fact, a journey of self-discovery. Despite towering sand dunes, majestic wildlife and ever-changing landscapes, Africa’s biggest commodity is undoubtedly its people.
These folk are poor, living a life of subsistence, far from roads, electricity or running water. Their possessions are meagre and consist mainly of a few pots and pans, rudimentary beds, mattresses and a few blankets. Cooking is done on open fires with wood collected many kilometres away, while washing and bathing happen at the nearest stream or river.
Spending time with our fellow Africans in various rural areas was a truly humbling experience. Despite the hardships and arduous living conditions (including a lack of access to basic needs such as education and healthcare), most of those living in rural Africa were warm, friendly and are largely grateful for what they have.
News spread quickly of our presence in each village along the way and children ran long distances on well-worn and dusty roads just to follow us, asking for sweets, money and, lately, cell phones (clearly a connection to the modern world). But with each village visit, you can’t help but tap your feet to the sounds of melodic voices singing and laughing in the distance.
The rhythmic pulse of Africa can be heard in the rumble of distant drums and women singing traditional songs as each village went about its daily chores. Nearly 2 000km across the continent and Africa’s beauty was already turning me into a poet. But simultaneously, my health was taking a turn for the worst.
What started out as a mild headache and a couple of nights of restless sleep evolved into excruciating joint pain and symptoms of meningitis. I couldn’t tell if it was malaria or whether that evening of ‘toxic chess’ during a fumigation exercise at the Sossusvlei Lodge in Namibia contributed to the deterioration of my well-being.
I found myself in serious agony and my medication was running dangerously low. But the road ahead was lengthy, meaning a lot of driving ahead. All I could do was put on a brave face and pray that some Zambezi River god would grant me relief. Fortunately, the prospect of visiting Africa’s greatest wonder, the Victoria Falls (only 520km away), gave me plenty of motivation to soldier on.