Things you have always wanted to know about travelling overland..........
How do we do our washing?
At the start of our trip Pen did all our washing by hand. This was very time consuming and exhausting so Nev came up with a cunning plan (The idea may have originally come from Richard Maspero!). We bought a bucket with a tight sealing lid and strapped it on to the roof. Every morning we put in the previous day’s dirty laundry with some water and soap powder and as we drive along the laundry swishes around in the bucket on top of the Land Rover. When we get to the campsite in the evening we hang out the laundry to dry. Some of the roads have been so bad that our washing has come out sparkling on the other side! When we find ourselves in a town, however, we do try to find a laundromat to have our washing done.
What do we cook on?
Nev found an old gas stove at an army surplus store (Thanks for the idea Nic!). He fixed up the stove and gave it new tubing and burners and voila! It works like a charm. It has two plates and we connect it to one of our gas bottles. We also have a black pot which we use to make potjiekos and when we feel very energetic we braai.
How do we keep things cold?
We have a Minus 40 fridge in the back of our Land Rover, which is connected to a spare battery which we use to keep everything cold. At the start of our trip we used the fridge in conjunction with a Coleman cooler. We found however that the Coleman took up too much space and was difficult to keep cool so we have abandoned it and will use the fridge only for the remainder of the trip.
How do we communicate with the outside world?
When we were planning our trip we investigated various communication options. The ideal system would be to have a satellite phone which can be used virtually everywhere. Unfortunately the cost of satellite technology is absolutely exorbitant. At the moment the cheapest phone on the market costs approximately US$2700-00 and calls cost about US$3-00 per minute. We just could not afford it.
Instead we opted for a cell phone with international roaming. Although this option is also expensive, the costs are manageable. We can therefore make and receive calls internationally in those countries that have a roaming partnership arrangement with our service provider, MTN. We also have a lap top computer, which we use in conjunction with our cell phone to send and receive e-mail messages. Unfortunately, MTN only has a roaming partnership arrangement with countries as far north in Africa as Tanzania. MTN has however unblocked our phone so that we will be able to use local “pay as you go” cards in those African countries that do not have a partnership arrangement with MTN. Aside from this, we will have to rely on the availability of internet cafes to send and receive e-mails.
How do we get news?
We have a small short wave radio that we use to pick up BBC World and BBC Africa. These two programs seem to have the most up to date news about Africa. We are also able to tune into local stations to obtain local news. Most of our news of South Africa has come in the form of emails from friends. We were blissfully unaware of the Hansie Cronje saga until we received a flood of emails about it! We have found local newspapers to be completely useless as they contain very little international or African news and seem only to report on very local issues. They are also often 2 or 3 weeks old and still being sold at cafes and shops.
Where do we sleep?
We have a roof top tent on top of our Land Rover. It is perfect. It has a hard wood base and a mattress and is very comfortable. The tent also has built in mosquito nets and is high enough off the ground to be safe from creepy crawleys and animals. Nev has managed to rig up a light in the tent so that we are able to read in bed before going to sleep.
Nev is the primary tent-putter-upper! Our tent was made by Christies in Cape Town and we got it with our Land Rover when we bought it. A roof top tent is really the perfect option for overlanding. It is compact and easy to put up and also means that you are away from all the creepy crawleys and animals on the ground.
What about showers, toilets and ablutions etc?
Most of the campsites that we have visited in Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe have had fully equipped ablution facilities with hot and cold running water and flush toilets. We suspect however that things will not be that organised further north. Before we left Cape Town we bought a hot water paraffin shower. These, it would seem, can only be bought from the person who makes them and he seems to sell them only at the flea market in Hermanus. The shower was one of our best purchases and although it cost about R500-00 it has proved its worth and, I suspect, will continue to do so. The shower works on very simple basic principles – we put a tank of water on the roof of the Landi, mount the shower on the side of the vehicle, connect a hose pipe from the tank to the shower and light the paraffin at the bottom. The paraffin heats an internal pipe in the main shower component which in turn heats the water. The shower also has both hot and cold water taps to ensure that the temperature of the water is perfect.
We also bought a toilet seat which we have not really had occasion to use yet. We will probably be forced to use our toilet seat along with a spade as we hit the more undeveloped areas.
Our bush shower
What about food?
We carry quite a bit of food with us – mostly canned and dry goods. We have however found that fresh meat and vegetables are readily available (at least they have been in the three countries that we have visited – this may change further north). We did struggle in Namibia to find fresh fruit, vegetables and bread in the outlying areas although consumer goods like canned goods and sugar were available everywhere. We fear that we may not find much in the way of fresh dairy products further north – to solve this problem we have taken one of those Glomail, Dairy Wiz yoghurt makers so that we can make fresh yoghurt and buttermilk. We have also made fresh bread in our black potjiekos pot.
What about beer and other alcoholic beverages?
We have found virtually no wine along our travels through Namibia and Botswana – which has been pretty depressing for ex-Stellenbosch students like ourselves. The wine we have found has in most cases been imported from South Africa and has been very expensive. We have however found plenty of local beer which has been relatively inexpensive.
What about fresh water?
We have a British Birkfield water filter which we use to filter all our drinking and cooking water. The British Birkfield is a two tiered water filtration system that is made of stainless steel. The filters are ceramic candles that can filter out virtually everything. We have also taken along some water purification tablets to use in an emergency.
Things that really work
· Head torches – these are torches that attach to one’s head with a strap. This means that you can have light without having to hold a torch – so you can have both hands free!
· Rechargeable Batteries – It would be impossible to have enough batteries to power torches etc for the whole trip. Rechargeable batteries are the perfect solution as they can be recharged every evening.
· A 12 Volt / 220 Volt power inverter - max 120 Watts
· Cups with lids – this proves very useful to prevent spillages when drinking coffee and tea on the run
· A stainless steel flask
· An army surplus gas stove with built in wind protection barriers. This works so much better than cooking on a single gas burner as it means that you can cook anywhere – irrespective of the wind and weather conditions.
· A paraffin, hot water shower
· A 12 volt kettle that runs off the cigarette lighter – so that you do not have to take out the gas every time you want a cuppa and you can make tea and coffee while you are driving
· A long extension cord – often there are electricity boxes in the camps that can be used to power lights, battery rechargers etc
· A roof top tent
· An air conditioned vehicle – an absolute must! It is virtually impossible to cool down otherwise.
· A gas firelighter – made by Cadac – a gas firelighter is a contraption that can be screwed into a gas bottle and used to start fires. We have used ours almost every night. Often ordinary fire lighters are not available and in any event gas provides a cheap alternative.
· A hidden safe – so that you can hide cash, traveller’s cheques and passports out of sight
· A bath plug – a must have! Most ablution blocks do not have plugs.
· Washing pegs – useful for all sorts of things other than hanging up laundry!
· A measuring jug – very useful for measuring everything from milk powder to paraffin
· Slip slops – very necessary when showering in ablution blocks that look dodgy.
· Diesel Injector Additive – can be added to diesel to clean it. This means that you don’t have to worry too much about the quality and cleanliness of the diesel you are filling up with as the additive sorts out all the problems.
· A fishing rod holder – we constructed one out of a piece of 110mm plastic drain pipe with screw in stop ends on both sides mounted on the roof rack. The rod holder is not only great for fishing rods but also for those pesky gas pipes etc that don’t seem to have a home in the Landi.
· Plastic “wolf pack” ammo cases – ammo cases can be stacked easily and neatly on the back seat. Remember to take along additional ammo case clips as they tend to break.
· Wet Wipes – great for cleaning sticky fingers in the car
· Dettol Soap – you will be amazed at how dirty your hands get – clean hands go a long way to avoiding gastro intestinal problems.
· A GPS – essential for navigation where there are no road signs!