13 Things You Should Take on an Overland Truck Adventure in Africa

I returned in June from spending 40 days in 7 countries of Africa and camped 26 nights.  Before my trip, other travelers gave me tips on things to take that would come in handy and I did some research…so here is a list of some items that you should definitely take on an Overland Truck adventure!

1.  Peaceful Sleep Mosquito Repellent.  It doesn’t have the toxic “deet” chemical in it, is less expensive and works great!

2.  Duct Tape.  If you wrap some around a pen or pencil, you don’t have an entire bulky roll with you.  I used it a number of times and let others use it also for a variety of purposes.

3.  Audiobooks on I-Pod.  Many of the roads in Africa are bumpy and even if you have a cast iron stomach like me…reading from your Kindle or book does become a bit aggravating!

4.  Items to barter with, for playing with children, or to give away.  I took a couple of old t-shirts, 3 pairs of flip-flops from the dollar store, bubbles to blow for the children, and beach balls to play with on the overland truck and then give away to children.  If you’re worried about taking up precious suitcase room, you’ll then free up some space to bring home some African crafts…like their beautiful wood carvings.

5.  Headlamp (hands-free).  This should be number 1!  You’re arriving to your campsite, sometimes after dark, and putting up your tent is so much easier with a headlamp!

6.  Large plastic bag for clothes.  Many of the showers are very small and your clean clothes will get wet if you don’t have them in a plastic bag.  Actually, I had quite a few different size plastic bags…they come in handy!

7.  Rolling duffel bag with compartments.  Most of the people had a backpack and they would have to pull everything out of it to gain access to anything.  This rolling duffel that converts into a backpack worked great and I used my regular backpack for all of my electronic gear and other items.  I was able to roll it just about everywhere, rather than carrying!  If you’d like to know exactly what I packed, see this post.

8.  Sewing kit with needle.  A fellow passenger and I both used the needle for a splinter.

9.  Extra camera.  The camera of one of the guys on our trip malfunctioned because he used it at Victoria Falls!  When you’re traveling and camping through all types of terrain… sand, water, dirt, and having to keep track of all of your possessions, anything can happen!

10. Laundry soap & plug.  You can have someone do your laundry for you, but some places are rather expensive, so I do my own also.

11. Wet wipe sanitizer.  I also had regular liquid sanitizer, but the wet wipes were nice because it’s very dusty/dirty in the desert and just camping in general!

12. More $ than you thought you’d need.  I continually took money out of the ATM, even though I took $400 with me.  At one point I was a millionaire.  In Zambia, the Kwacha is 5,300 to $1 US dollar.  So, when I took out 1,000,000.00 it equaled $189.00.

13. Your sense of adventure and patience.  Being cooped up on a bumpy vehicle for 140 hours over the course of 20 driving days out of the 35 total tour days, with people of different age groups, nationalities and personalities, can be taxing.  I think our group did a great job of getting along together!  The rewards are definitely worth it!

On my trip, I broke my Kindle on one of the flights over to Africa, lost my expensive yoga towel (used as my super absorbent all-purpose towel), my Swiss army knife was confiscated at the Amsterdam airport on my way back (I forgot to pack it in my checked bag), I broke the wireless mouse for my laptop and forgot to take my camcorder charger.  I’m the type person that doesn’t let things like this bother me…because once its done…its done!

I hope this helped and have a great time on your Overland Truck Adventure in Africa!!

Corruption in Tanzania

My 35 day African Overland Truck Adventure was nearing the end.  Day 29 was an 11 hour driving day (not including an hour time change and an hour crossing the border from Malawi into Tanzania).  We left our campsite at Lake Malawi by 6am and arrived to the border of Tanzania at 8am.  One hour later and we were on the road again (that was a big theme of the trip…on the road again…ha ha!  A few of the other travelers weren’t prepared for the challenges of all the driving and camping.  I added up how many hours of driving there were before I booked the trip and knew what I was getting myself into.)

We arrived at the Kisolanza Restcamp, nicknamed the “Old Farmhouse” at 5:30pm.    Because we were leaving in the morning by 5am, I decided to upgrade one last time to a room.  It was in an old horse stall (that had been renovated) and cost $30.  That’s one of the downsides of traveling solo – you don’t have someone to split the cost with (but there are plenty of upsides).  There was a down comforter on the bed..oouu…ahh!  And fresh flowers!  Here’s the room…

The next morning we didn’t even eat breakfast until we had been traveling for three hours.  We stopped at 8am – had our quick breakfast and made a sandwich to eat on the truck.  I rode up front with the driver, James, for a while and played music from my I-Pod.  He would take the intercom walkie-talkie and have it next to the speaker so the passengers in the back could hear the music.  I played everything from 50’s to current music.   I’m sure some of the 20 somethings loved my older music!

We were stopped twice within one hour by the police for allegedly speeding and James had to give them money…that they just pocketed.  Another time he was stopped and the officer said he was hungry!  James told him, “Sorry man, I don’t have anything”!

We passed a pineapple field…

As we entered the outskirts of Dar Es Salaam, there were lots of people, shacks, and markets for miles and miles…

Thirteen hours later, we arrived at Makadi Beach Resort (campground) at 6pm.   After setting up my tent, having a drink, dinner and a quick swim in the pool…it was time to prepare for bed.  We were told not to swim in the ocean there because it was polluted from sewage, etc.  Even though you don’t do much while you’re in the Overland Truck, you still seem to be tired.

Before coming to Africa, I didn’t know what to expect.  I was in the middle of reading some books about Africa while driving through it, so I was learning more.  I wasn’t aware that there was so much corruption within the government and military in Tanzania and some of the other countries!

Malawi or Bust

My G Adventures Overland Truck group left our campsite in Zambia at 7am (for a 10 hour drive) and thirty minutes later we arrived to the border of Malawi.  I was told that all five of the border crossings that our group went through were relatively quick and easy as far as border crossings go (usually 20-45 minutes).  Sometimes the Tour Director would gather all of our passports and our filled out forms and handle it and other times we had to do it on our own.  Tourists are usually given some type of preferential treatment because we represent money.

Once in Malawi, we stopped first at a stand selling coal and firewood and loaded up.  Here are the people selling it…

Next stop was a local market and as I was wandering around taking a few photos, a man approached me and seemed a little angry.  He said, “You need to ask before you take a photo”.  (Most people I encountered throughout six countries in Africa could speak English)  At that moment I was going to take a photo of some rice and sugar or something like that and said to him, “Even of this rice”?  He said “Yes.  People want money for the photos”.  I encountered this quite a bit on the trip and would not give money for photos.  Some people were very nice about it when I would ask to take their photo.

I wondered what these leather strips were used for…

This woman was so cute…she agreed to have the photo taken and every time she would move her baby away from her for the photo, he would cry.  That’s why she was laughing.  She has a stalk of cane sugar in her hand.  I tried it somewhere else on the trip.  After chewing on it, you spit it out.  It’s a nice little sweet treat.

These boys were fighting each other to get in the photo…

One boy rode up to me on his bicycle and said “Give me money”.  I said “No, you give me money.”

The landscape was becoming more tropical the farther East we went.  We stopped in the capital of Malawi, Lilongwe (population 1M) for snacks, ATM, etc.  I cut my toe on a wire that was hidden in the grass.  We finally arrived at Kande Beach on Lake Malawi around 5:30pm.  We set up our tents, took photographs (wait until you see the Lake), had dinner and were in bed by 9pm.

Rural Zambia

With a 12 hour drive (including breaks) looming over us, our G Adventures African Overland Truck group left at 6am from Victoria Falls in Zambia.  We stopped for lunch at an abandoned school yard.  There were some children playing and they came over to check us out.

I had some crackers, so I doled some out to each of them.  The older ones tried to trick me and returned for more, but I didn’t fall for that.  Jess, our Tour Director said we should try not to give things to the children, because it perpetuated a begging problem.  I started reading another book about Africa on the trip, “Dark Star Safari“, by Paul Theroux, and he mentions how many people feel that all of the charity and aid for the past 40 years may have made things worse in Africa.  Anyway, Jess said she would give them our left over bread from lunch.  Unfortunately, she didn’t dole it out and the oldest one took it and ran off.

One of the guys in our group got a soccer ball out of the truck and started playing with the children…

Driving through the Zambian countryside with tree covered rolling hills reminded me at times of the Smoky Mountains or parts of Kentucky.   There weren’t many cars on the road, but a lot of people walking or bicycling alongside the road.  I wondered where they could be walking to…at times we were out in the middle of nowhere.  The roads were mainly paved and there were both cement block homes and simple huts along the road.  I noticed there were high walls around many of the houses.  Whenever there was a small village (even a few huts), there would be speed bumps.  We couldn’t see out the front of the Overland Truck, so it felt like we were in a capsule being propelled along the road, shaken up like a martini!

We stopped at a local market…

I love the bright colors the women wear!

That evening we camped at a place called Mama Rula’s Campsite.  The lights don’t switch on in the shower area until after dark, so I took a cold shower in the dark (well…almost dark)!  Jess made Spaghetti Bolognese and garlic bread for dinner…yum yum!


Broke down in Africa

As I mentioned in my last post about Victoria Falls, that you can read about here, we switched Overland Trucks and Tour Directors on my 35 day G Adventures Overland Truck African Adventure.  I was relieved about the truck switch because we had broken down five times driving through Namibia and Botswana!

Originally, we were supposed to have a different truck, but the first morning of the trip, as they were beginning to load the truck with luggage, someone drove by and ripped the doors off of the truck!  I took a photo of the road and truck for most of them.


This first breakdown was the longest…over an hour…so the Danish girls decided to get some sun…

Road – breakdown #1

Road – breakdown #2

Road – breakdown #3

The next two days of my 35 day G Adventures African Overland Truck adventure were spent doing a variety of things…organizing my luggage, doing laundry (I only paid to have someone do my laundry twice on the trip), had another massage and a pedicure, internet time (usually I had to pay for wireless), napping, and dinner out with the new group,

The following morning we got on the road by 6:45am and drove 7 hours to Lusaka, Zambia and set up camp at the Eureka Restcamp.  There were some zebra roaming around the campsite…pretty cool!

Okavango Delta – Beautiful Africa

On day 16 of my 35 day G Adventures African Overland Truck adventure my group went for a three-hour walk in the Okavango Delta in Botswana.  We were surprised to see so much wildlife!  We saw Giraffe, wildebeest, warthog, elephant, antelope, zebra, and hippo.  Here is a buffalo skull on the trail…

We didn’t eat breakfast before the hike, so we had brunch upon our return.  Usually, our breakfasts consisted of instant coffee, cold cereals, bananas, sometimes yogurt, and granola or oatmeal were offered.  If we had a long driving day in the overland truck, we would pack a sandwich and eat on the truck.  Sometimes, when we were able to stop, we would have a pasta salad or something more substantial.

Here are a couple of photos of the women.  I loved this girl’s shoes…

After a short nap and swim, I read some in my book, “The Last Rhinos”.   We went for a mokoro boat ride to find wildlife and saw hippos.  As the sun set, I knew it was a magical time…

Once we were gathered around the blazing campfire that evening, our Mokoro drivers (or polers…I’m not sure what they’re called), who also camped with us, sang native songs!  One of the songs was “Beautiful Africa” and with each stanza, it changed to “Beautiful Hippos”, or “Beautiful Giraffe”, etc.  They clapped their hands loudly to the beat!  We decided to sing songs from our countries to them.  There were three Americans and we sang…”Take me out to the Ballgame”!

The Okavango Delta is an area that is still pure and peaceful!

Journey by Mokoro to an Island in the Okavango Delta

After picking up a bushman in the Kalahari Desert of Botswana, that you can read about here, my G Adventures Overland Truck group left and drove 7 hours to the Island Safari Lodge in Maun.  It was basically a stop-over before we loaded our supplies and camping gear for a two-day trip to camp in the bush on an island in the Okavango Delta.  First, we loaded speedboats and traveled 45 minutes to an area with the Mokoros (dug-out canoes).  The supplies were then loaded onto the Mokoros and off we went.

It was like an African version of being on a Gondola in Venice!

An hour later we arrived to our camping spot, unloaded and set up our tents.  Bush camping is very basic – this was our toilet…

After working up a sweat, we went for a swim in the Delta.  The water is very clean and cold…the locals scoop it up and drink straight from the Delta!   The water lilies were gorgeous!

I took a short nap and then we went for an hour walk with the group and saw some hippos in the water!  The Okavango Delta was one of the highlights for most of our group!

Day Six of my 35 Day G Adventures African Overland Truck Experience

After arriving in the beautiful town of Swakopmund in Namibia at 11am on day 6 of my 35 day G Adventures African Overland Truck experience, I took a taxi about 4 blocks to a separate hotel from the rest of the group.  Our accommodation for two evenings was to be in a dormitory style co-ed room with 7 of us (including some loud snorers), and there were no other single rooms available, so for $50 a night, I thought it was a great deal.  My room had a skylight and three beds.

After checking in, I went for a walk around the town.

I was surprised at how clean, upscale and new everything looked.  It was not overly crowded, but the few tourists I saw seemed to be mostly European.  Most of the shops had bars on the doors/windows and there was some barbed wire here and there.

I found a salon and had my artificial nails removed for the first time in years.  They weren’t holding up well with all of the camping.  That evening, I met the group for dinner at a restaurant called Napoletans and feasted on Greek pizza!

One of the positives of traveling in Africa by Overland Truck is the ability to see so many different places along the way!  This isn’t the Africa most Americans envision!

Typical Day on an African Overland Truck Adventure

My G Adventures Overland Truck group woke early (5:30am) on day 3. We had 45 minutes to go to the bathroom, wash up, dress, pack and take our tents down, before breakfast. So being organized is really important. We would typically be on the road by 7am. Many days we would make a sandwich at breakfast to take on the truck if we had a long driving day.

We drove 9 hours to the Namib desert. Every two hours we would stop for a bathroom break and sometimes, if we were in a town, we could pick up water, snacks and go the ATM. Bathroom breaks were usually on the side of the road…girls to the left, boys to the right…behind bushes, trees, tall grass, etc.

Later in the afternoon, before arriving to the desert, we stopped at Sescriem Canyon.

We camped here…

After setting up my tent and retrieving my suitcase, I would set out what I wanted to wear the next day, put my headlamp on, spray myself with Peaceful Sleep (mosquito repellant that works great and is half as expensive as deet), and place my medications, toiletries, etc. next to my sleeping bag.  We were split into groups for chores–cooking/washing dishes/stock coolbox/packing/clean-up campsite.  If I was on the cooking team, usually around 5:30pm it was time to help by chopping things up. The washing team duty was my least favorite job.

We would help each other remember to take our Malaria medication. Most people were taking Malarone.  The only common side effect that most people are having is odd dreams. Some of my dreams were that a man approached me and another girl on the trip and he was a bad man, so I bit his arm and tore some flesh off.  Another dream had me throwing spaghetti at my husband.  In one of my dreams, I had a baby and it could talk and told me I needed to take him to the hospital because he was going blind.

We would have a campfire every night. Some of us would have a drink or two, talk and then it was time to get ready for bed.  If you don’t mind taking a cold shower in the dark occasionally, bugs, and camping, then an African Overland Truck experience is the perfect way to see Africa!

Africa Overland Truck Experience with G Adventures

Driving from Cape Town through S. AfricaNamibia — Botswana — Zambia — Malawi — Tanzania is A LOT of driving.  G Adventures‘ 35 day Overland Truck trip has you in the truck for more than 140 hours…which is more than three full work weeks.

On the road in Namibia

So…to pass the time we came up with lots of games to play.  I brought three beach balls to give to children, so we had a blast hitting it around the truck.  Here’s Noreen (from Ireland).  We played “Bee Bee, Bumble Bee, I see something you don’t see”.  I made funny faces!  We played rock, paper, scissors.  I’d place a coin in my hand and have people guess which hand it was in.  Or I’d think of a number and see who came closest.  We played the telephone game once, but Michael (from Ohio) purposely twisted it so it was completely different!  Here’s Michael…

We played Charades, card games, toss the coin and guess heads or tails, name as many countries as you can remember on each continent, stand up and try not to fall while traveling over bumpy roads, see what weird tricks we can do…like move one eye and keep the other one straight, double jointed tricks, etc.  After running out of things, I came up with the game of placing an object on the table in the back of the truck and we’d guess how long it would take to bounce/fall off the table.

We did silhouette animals…

I finished an audio book on my I-Pod.  I also bought a book called “The Last Rhinos” that was newly released and finished that.  I just bought a book by Paul Theroux (sp?) called “Dark Star Safari”.  It’s fun reading stories about the continent you’re on!  Sometimes the roads are too bumpy to read a book though.  We sleep, talk, eat, or do nothing!

 We traveled by some amazing landscapes in Namibia…

Most of Namibia is desert land.  Some of it reminded me of New Mexico!

It’s amazing to me how much variety you find even in the desert…with colors, textures, etc.

Namibia is a beautiful country and although taking an overland truck through Africa is at times difficult…it is worth it!