Signing up for 5000km on an overland camping truck was a bit of a shot in the dark. These overlanders have been working the same routes for years so is logistically quite a well-oiled machine.
I expected the camping to be very basic with few facilities but we stayed mostly in campsites with hot showers, wifi, bar area, etc. with a few nights out in the bush and in hostels in the big towns. The only downside of the camping sites is that quite a few of them were a fair walk out of town so while trips into town were possible it was a bit disconnected.
The tents themselves are study South African made ones for two persons. Setting up and taking down was something of a novelty to begin with but after three weeks the novelty wears off somewhat, especially taking it down at 5am in the cold.
The tent and a rollable mattress is provided while you bring your own sleeping bag which I only managed to conjure up in a mad dash in Dar es Salaam at a Game hypermarket outside town. Amazingly I could find no camping shop still open in Vic Falls even with all the trucks passing through there. One of the group brought just sheets which really didn’t pass muster in the cold desert nights in Namibia.
Food-wise almost all the days we had breakfast, lunch and dinner included with a few exceptions. Breakfasts were typically cereal and toast with occasionally eggs or fruit thrown in. There was tea and instant coffee – which I found out is exceptionally difficult to drink without scalding oneself and other when driving down an African mud road! Lunch was salad, pasta or sandwiches while dinner would vary with stews and curries.
Water and any other drinks were self-supplied and stored with ice in a communal cooler box with a limit on 2 drinks per person which quickly went out the window. The box was an Aladdin’s cave of beer, cider, amarula, gin, tonics and wine in a box which in Australia has the wonderful name of a ‘goon-bag’.
The overland truck itself was a big beast with space for 25. We were only 15 and then 13 so half capacity which was a perfect size, had it been full I think it would have felt very ‘in-each-others-pockets’ the whole time. Under each seat had a safe for passports and valuables or just snacks and booze. There were also two table, handy for cards or laptops etc.
Air-conditioning was provided by the windows and while most trucks had sound system ours was broken. Apparently one of the biggest areas of falling out is over who plays what music on the truck so we sidestepped that one completely!
A typical day would start around 0530 for breakfast at 0600 and leave at 0630. The campsites had showers but occasionally you would have to share them with the wildlife. This critter didn’t budge at all when pushed!
For the Vic Falls to Cape Town route there were only a handful of long driving days of around 8-9 hours and this was a relief for those on previous trucks where bad roads and mudslides contrived to have full days on the move.
We would do a road stop lunch or campsite lunch between 12-2 and then activities before dinner around 7.30. Sunset was roughly around 7pm each day so we’d be eating in the dark before an early night!
Each company will have an upfront payment taken by the office and then a local payment which is taken on the first day which the group leader uses along the trip to pay for park entry, food, etc.
I brought some excess USD and there were ample opportunities to withdraw money from ATM except when we first hit Botswana and had to do a manual cash advance from the bank.
Spending money-wise the main draw on funds will be optional excursions such as flights, skydiving and other adventure activities. There are various points along the way to buy souvenirs with more choice (and expense) in places such as Swakopmund and Cape Town.
Other daily costs was simply snacks and drinks both alcoholic and non-alcoholic and occasionally wifi.
If possible it’s best to load up on South African Rand as this will be good in both Namibia and South Africa – this avoids having to dump Namibian dollars as you head toward South Africa.
Some other tips:
- Don’t wait until Vic Falls to get camping gear
- Bring a headlight torch – handsfree light early morning when taking down tent is so much better than phone in a shirt pocket
- Load up on booze and US Dollars in Zimbabwe – drink is much cheaper there and a supply of small note USD is handy throughout the trip
- Zimbabwe has a shortage of USD notes so don’t get caught out at month and weekends where ATMs run dry
- Get your anti-malarials in Africa – they are much cheaper generic versions although different countries have different regs. (e.g. in Namibia doxycycline is on prescription for non-malarial but I managed to get it for malarial purposes)
- Zip up your tent. Monkeys will be there in an instant and rifle through everything!