Driving across Africa can be very exciting, especially when you have never done it before or anything like it. It gives butterflies in the belly thinking of driving across borders, seeing all kinds of different scenerys along the way. Camping under the stars, cooking on a gas stove and of course capturing the standard picture of the open tent door and the beautiful scenery outside.
Of course there is a lot more to a trip like this than just capturing special moments and feet sticking out of the tent. There is a lot of planning behind these kinds of trips, or it should be a lot of planning behind it. That is something we have had to learn the hard way during the road trip my boyfriend and I made in January this year.
So if you ever plan to do a big road trip where you want to camp along the way (because it's an amazing experience and it is a lot cheaper) then there is some things you need to think about beforehand.
Therefore I've written down this "Beginners guide to camping", since we are literally beginners and these are some things we have learnt on our trip from Cape Town, South Africa to Mfuwe, Zambia.
- First of all, make sure you have your driver's license with you. If you don't and you arrive in Cape Town, 760km away from Port Elizabeth were you live and where you conveniently forgot your driver's license. It is a big detour to make. 760km in the wrong direction to be exact. Also if you need to be in Zambia a specific time because you have a booking for a lodge, it means that you might have to drive for 1455km (over 18 hours of driving) the very next day to reach the border of Botswana in order to gain the time you lost for driving several hundred kilometers the wrong direction. So make sure you have everything with you before leaving home!!
When camping with a ground tent make sure:
- Bring a ground sheet. When the ground gets wet the tent gets crazy sandy (read the next point). Also when you end up in places like the northern cape in South Africa where the ground is very course and rocky it might puncture through the tent floor. Or if not it will make you crazy paranoid that it will. Groundsheet is key!!
- Bring a brush for when you forget the ground sheet or when the ground is wet and sandy and you bring half the bush inside your tent. You will need something to sweep with!
- Don't pack last minute. It will put a lot of pressure on you and you will forget important things like a ground sheet and brush.
- Make sure you have a system when packing, otherwise it will be impossible to find anything at all in the car which will lead to you making a bigger mess since you probably been traveling for hours already and it might even be dark outside so you just want to pitch your tent and make food. These situations will really test your relationship.
- Don't order things online last minute. This will cause unnecessary stress that the things won't arrive in time and you will be leaving for your trip without a tent. Tent is important!! So do everything in good time then you don't need to rush through all of Cape Town, or any city, in a rush.
- Bring bed sheets, at least two pairs so your blow up mattress won't stink with sweat because it's in the middle of the summer, over 20 degrees at night and more than one person in a small tent. You will sweat and the matress will stink! To the point where you consider to sleep
outside the tent in the rain! This is not a joke!
- Bring washing powder and a washing line. Can be good to wash your clothes now and then. Also when planning the trip make sure you spend enough time at one spot for you to have time to do the laundry and leave it to dry.
- Plan the trip and every stop of the way to avoid sitting in the middle of nowhere and don't know where to go because your phone don't have signal to Google the nearest camp site.
- Get a sim card for each country you visit to avoid situations like above.
- When traveling across countries like Zambia that is very rural. Make sure to have written down numbers to different mechanics in case you for example hit a small rock on a straight, flat highway that will damage the car in the middle of nowhere. You don't wanna be stuck in the middle of nowhere in a country you don't know.
- Make a list of food to eat along the way. This will make it a lot easier when you get to a store with limited amount of time to shop because you need to be on the road again soon. It won't help running around the store 5 times to try and figure out a meal to cook. It doesn't work like that trust me. You will end up frustrated and throw 2 min noodles and chips in the basket. This meal won't last you very long!!
- Take the rain into consideration. I'm really happy we brought rain jackets but we didn't bring anything to keep over the gas stove when cooking. Not all places have shelter for cooking, sometimes you might camp in the middle of the bush all alone. Which is nice in many ways but not when it storms!
- Take slopes into consideration when pitching your tent. Especially when a storm is coming. Once we had our tent in a really sandy spot which got filled with water in the night as the storm went on. Everything in the tent got damp and wet and we didn't get much sleep at all. Try find shelter from a big tree and don't put the tent on a sandy slope!
- When visiting countries where you need to take tablets for malaria make sure you take the first tablet at a good time (since malaria tablets need to be taken the same time every day) 12 o'clock at night is not considered as a good time. Just because you wanted to get to the camp site first. Rather make a sandwich and take them in the car.
- Also, don't drive at night in Africa! There are many animals on the road. Not only wild but many cattle! And the road might contain a lot of potholes the size of bathtubs! Beware!!
These are some of the most important things that I can come to think about at this moment in time. With this said I will also like to add that I would to 100% do this again. But next time, hopefully a little bit more prepared.
If you also planning to do a similar trip in the future I hope that this guide will come in handy.