AFRICA OVERLAND

The concept is simple. Drive from London to Cape Town , and enjoy some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. The execution on the other hand is a little more tricky...

This is one of the last great adventures left for travellers who want to leave the beaten track behind them.

The Vehicle

The Land  Rover is the undisputed master of African travel - capable of coping with all extremes of terrain and temperature, and with desert and flood alike. More importantly, when it does break down it can be mended without resorting to the nearest Japanese dealership a few hundred miles away. Now I'm definitely not a petrol-head (and it's a diesel anyway) but with an undertaking such as this  mechanical issues suddenly become quite important to your well being, and preparing the vehicle has become a project in its own right.

My vehicle is a beautifully kept 1998 300TDi County, (as yet unnamed) with a number of modifications:

  • Suspension: Heavy duty shocks, rear anti roll bar.
  • Steering: Steering rods protected by stainless steel deflector plate.
  • Structural sills: Allow jacking at pretty any point along the chassis
  • Fuel tank: Extended tank takes capacity to over 120 litres. Another 120 litres in jerricans.
  • Soundproofing, fitted from new, for a surprisingly quiet ride.

The old adage is that any fool can be  uncomfortable, and I've taken this philosophy to heart. John and Renee, the previous owners, fitted aircon, to which I've added a bunch of luxuries which will make life much more bearable.

A fridge Freezer means we can enjoy ice with our sundowners, as well as allowing us to keep fresh meat, and even vegetables if we get desperate. On a more serious note it also means that we can add blood substitutes to our medical kit. This beast is also particularly good at holding beer.

 

Brownchurch. who specialise in kitting out vehicles for expeditions supplied a natty electric filtration unit that doubles up as a shower. They also supplied the roof-rack with all the extras for mounting sand ladders and high-level spot lights, as well as fitting the Overlanders roof tent which folds out over the back of the vehicle, and combines with the side awning to provide a nice shaded area for those midday siestas.

Nobody who knows me will be surprised to find out that I'm taking a whole host of gadgets along for the ride, but then how else could I update this page on the road?


The centrepiece is a Toshiba 5100 laptop that variously acts as a:

  • TV (Happauge WinTV USB)
  • DVD Player (Onboard DVD with a fair collection of titles)
  • Music centre (About 500 Albums in MP3 format, and possible a Creative Jukebox 3 when they are available
  • Navigation (Delorme USB GPS system, and MS Autoroute)
  • Digital Camera Backup (Burning photos to CD)
  • Web editing centre (FrontPage 2002, updated via the O2 XDA)

As well as the Tosh I'm taking along the essentials (electric toothbrush and shaver), a 12v kettle for tea breaks without stopping, as well as a bunch of power tools and an inspection light. Most of this gear runs off  240 volts, so I've fitted a dual battery system with a 12-240 volt inverter, seen below with the conveniently mounted extinguisher just in case it all gets too hot.  Most of this kit will live in a safe that will be bolted to the chassis.

Another useful tool is a decent compressor for re-inflating tyres after sand-crossings, and of course for inflating the odd BFG All-Terrain tyre on the unlikely event of a puncture.

Kit lists may follow in due course, but there are loads of resources out there already for other would be overlanders - However  a summary of the rest of the kit would include:
A comprehensive medical pack

  • Shovel
  • Axe,
  • Saw
  • Sand ladders
  • 2 x fire extinguishers
  • Towing and winching lines for use with the Hi-Lift jack
  • Toolkit including 240v soldering iron and drill
  • Two spare wheels
  • 3 x 20 litre water jerricans
  • Assorted spare parts as supplied by Brownchurch
The Route (heavily plagiarised from Cambridge 2 Cape Town)

France, Andorra, Spain, Gibraltar, Morocco, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa,


The journey starts from Tower Bridge in London where, after a brief photo-call we set out for Dover and the Ferry to Calais. A fast run through France, Andorra and Spain will take us to Gibraltar where we will stop off for a day or two seeing the sights, and where I'll introduce you to my friends in the Farringdon Troop (of Monkeys) for some social grooming and photography, before we take the Algeciras ferry to Tangier in Morocco.

Morocco will of course involve more monkey watching in the Atlas mountains, as well as visits to Casablanca (briefly as it's a pit) and Marakesh. Leaving Morocco via Western Sahara will require us to join the armoured convoy that leaves twice a week from Dakala and takes us into Mauritania. Mauritania boasts one of the best bird watching areas in the world. The 200km long Bane d'Arguin is the mating place for hundreds of thousands of sea birds. As well as bird watching; riding camels in rolling sand dunes, crossing lunar-like landscapes characterised by rocky plateaux and deep gorges and looking at prehistoric rock drawings and Saharan architecture should keep us occupied for a week or two.

From Mauritania we cross the boarder to Mali, often described as one of Africa's most colourful countries, where we hope to reach Timbuktu! Whilst in Mali we plan on seeing the great Niger River, nomads on camels crossing the desert, and beautiful mud-brick mosques dating from mediaeval times. We will enter Burkina Faso directly from Mali via the border at Tiou. We will then travel east through Burkina enjoying the relaxed culture and the gradation from the desert to the lush rainforest of the South. From Burkina we will move into Ghana and travel South to the coast. Ghana is known for its friendly people, who like to have fun and we look forward to meeting and enjoying their company as we travel through their country. We will stay on the coastal road and pass through Togo, Benin and Nigeria before entering Cameroon.

Driving through the length of Cameroon will give us a fantastic opportunity to enjoy one of the most geographically and culturally diverse countries in the continent. Our travels will include the climbing of Mt. Cameroon (the highest peak in West Africa), a visit to the beaches at Kribi and then Pare National du Waza, from where we will travel into Chad. We will visit Lake Chad before going East to Sudan and on into Ethiopia, this will be one of the most challenging parts of our trip.

The highlands of Ethiopia are noted for their outstanding beauty and we will get a great chance to see the spectacular scenery around Ethiopia before moving into Kenya. Kenya, known as the cradle of humanity, is home to one of the most diverse and colourful groups of tribal people anywhere in Africa, it also has some of the largest wildlife parks in the world.

The route south to Uganda, and possibly Rwanda  will include a time aside with the Mountain Gorillas of Sigourney Weaver fame (yes I know she isn't a gorilla)

In Tanzania we will move into the Serengeti before climbing Mount Kilimanjiro Africa's highest peak. Malawi will be our next stop, travelling along the coast of Lake Malawi and on to the capital, Blantyre. We will then start heading west on the last leg of the trip, this will take us through Mozambique and over the Angonia and Maravia plateaus and into Zambia. Zambia is known as the 'real Africa', with genuinely wild national parks and some of the finest scenery in the region including Victoria Falls and the Zambezi River. From Zambia The journey comntinues through Zimbabwe and Botswana into Namibia. Namibia offers fine bushwalking and rugged landscapes. We will follow the skeleton coast down into South Africa and on to Cape Town from where we will return to England.

Are you interested in joining me?

I'm looking for two (probably unrelated) adventurers to join me on this trip.

Costs

Costs will be a set amount to cover the kitting out costs, and fuel and ferry charges. This will be in the region of 1500.

On top of this you will need to set aside amounts for a food kitty, park entry, and any other individual costs (450 approx)

As a comparison the Overland Club offer a similar type of trip for 1695 + 450 http://www.overlandclub.com/africa/ukc_gen.htm but you travel in an open sided truck and there definitely won't be any aircon (or ice).

This money will need to be paid up-front, and while I'm not going to run off with it (honest!) there is always a risk (hopefully a very small risk) that we may end up stranded in the middle of nowhere with no vehicle, no money, and maybe not even the clothes we aren't standing up in. That's in the nature of this sort of trip, and if it happens I won't be able to pay out any refunds...

Applying

You can call me on +44 (0)7710 132221, or contact me by email with a description of yourself. If you want to know what I'm like have a snoop around these pages and you'll get a fair idea.

If that doesn't put you off I'll be leaving at the end of October. Visas will be obtained along the way as this works out far cheaper than getting them in London, and apart from that you'll need to get your various shots and malaria prescriptions, as well as health insurance for the trip (Trailfinders seem to offer the best one-trip policy). Before departure I'd like participants to meet (obviously) and run through individual kit requirements as we will  need to keep vehicle weight as low as possible. It would also be a great help if you could bring (or learn) expedition specific skills with you - these might include:

  • First Aid - the real stuff with blood and vomit stains that you learn in a casualty department, not from a HSE course)
  • Off Road Driving - if you're keen you could always learn on the job:)
  • Campfire cooking - Pretty easy to pick up, but all chores get shared around and you can't always find eggs to boil
  • Vehicle mechanics - We'll have tools, spares, and manuals, but somebody who understands them would be useful...

Above all I'm more interested in finding the right people than just filling the seats. Living in close proximity to two other people in the middle of nowhere for months at a time can lead to some pretty spectacular character dynamics, so if you have a short fuse ask yourself if you wouldn't be better off in a larger group where you can vary your company. Sense of humour is not an optional extra.

The itinerary will be as flexible as I can make it to suit everybody, but as expedition leader I will always have the final say, particularly where risk to person or vehicle is an issue. And while I'm not planning on taking any unnecessary risks this will be an arduous journey with an inherent level of danger - you will need to be physically fit and healthy. You must consider wading waist deep in mud while swearing at the driver who got you bogged down to be a fun thing to do.

Your diet will be vegetarian for a lot of the time as meat won't be available, and will be as good as you, I, and one other are at cooking. Preferably you should be able to eat anything that's put in front of you. Hygiene will be related directly to water availability (i.e. sand baths only in the desert). Toilet arrangements will involve a roll of paper and a shovel. In other words, despite the "extras" that the vehicle provides you will still be roughing it, and I probably wouldn't recommend this trip for a first time traveller.