Do you Overland?
I arrived in Johannesburg the afternoon before our departure on the overland trip which would take us to five countries in Southern Africa over the course of 21 days. The summer had been a wet one for South Africa so far so everything was lush and bright green, quite a technicolor world after leaving the monochrome of New York City. The birds were singing in the trees - songs I was unfamiliar with coming from the North Hemisphere - I just knew their songs would become the theme music to my sojourn here in Africa.
I was greeted by the welcoming Drifters staff to their Johannesburg lodge and told that dinner would be served at 7pm. A meeting with our overland group would occur just after dinner. With a little time to spare, I went up to my room and greedily crawled into the bed for a delicious post travel nap.
Awaking to the cooler air of dusk - I went down stairs to have a cocktail and meet other fellow travelers. This lodge was the beginning and end of some of the Drifters trips so I found a few young people skyping home regaling blurry images on the computer screen about their exploits - then there was the rest of us, nervously excited for the start. Wondering what was in store. I had never been on a group trip before and I had most certainly never been to Africa - excited for both more than I had been for any other trip but still nervous about the style I had picked. Would I like camping out night after night? Would I like my tent mate. What would the travel in a truck really be like? Would I like the people I was traveling with? Would I be way older than my fellow companions? All questions that would get answered in one form or another as the next 21 days unfolded.
Our guide Buks, was a born and bred South African and a no-nonsense kind of a guy. His real name wasn't Buks, but a nickname because, as he told it, he was short and ugly and that is what this nickname meant in Africaans. Self deprecating and with a wry sense of humor, seemed like good traits for a guide. As it turned out, for this tour we would be just four; 3 different generations of women with me being the oldest and Buks. Indeed, he was going to need a sense of humor!
Our initial meeting was brief. More of an opportunity to meet and greet. Buks went over the itinerary and told us about the importance of being safe and observant and that it was his job to make sure we got back in one piece. And most importantly he demanded from us that there be "no indirect speech". Huh? As a man, he explained, women had a way of not saying things clearly, that men were meant to figure things out based on what we women weren't saying. Ok! So, if we had to go to the loo, we were to tell him, "Hey, I need the loo." Point taken.
Then it was off to bed so we would be chipper for our early departure.
They don't call it Overland for nothin!
Wheels up at 6am.
Our first day out we traveled nearly 900 kilometers to get to our first camp in Nata, Botswana. The day was an example of what many days would be to come. Settling in and watching the scenery pass by as we traveled along lonesome roads that sometimes yielded small townships, dramatic scenery and locals plying their goods, it was a great way to begin to take in the vastness of Africa.
We arrived near to dusk and pitched our tents on a sandy spot near the very clean bathrooms. We were the only ones at the Drifters campground. Buks showed us how to set up our tents - it was clear this was a job that I would struggle with the entire trip...thankfully Tina and Eliane helped me (or actually just put it up while I stood by helplessly).
Dinner was at the restaurant situated on the larger part of the camp. We enjoyed a delicious meal and then walked back to the camp in the dark with only our torches and the stars to light the way. After the terrible cold of winter in New York, I relished the fact that the evening was balmy, that I was in flip flops walking on the sandy path and that the bush was alive with the sounds of small nocturnal animals and maybe not so small - which was an even more thrilling thought.
I hunkered down in my tent, tried to sleep but frankly, was just to excited! I was truly in Africa. I was truly on my solo journey. And life was beautiful!