African Overland Tour: Lake Malawi

African Overland Tour: Lake Malawi

After saying goodbye to beautiful Zanzibar Island, we were reminded immediately of what life on the truck was like with a hellaciously long drive day. When I say hellaciously long, again, I'm talking about getting up before dawn and arriving after sunset. This drive was (as most in Africa are) absolutely beautiful, with the first stretch taking us from the coast into the mountains of the Southern Rift Valley (you may remember the Rift Valley from one of our very first drive days in Kenya, it actually stretches from Ethiopia to Tanzania) and into the Valley of the Baobabs, which are centuries-old trees which were described as looking "upside down", but looked more to me like they had been pulled directly from a Salvador Dali painting. Most native legends describe some sort of a scenario where an ancient God became angry with the Baobabs (who gets angry at a tree?) and uprooting them and throwing them into the ground upside down, which is why they grow with their roots upward. Either way, there were THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS of them in the valley, stretching their God-Angering roots craggily towards the sky, always begging for forgiveness.

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African Overland Tour: Zanzibar AKA Paradise Island

African Overland Tour: Zanzibar AKA Paradise Island

We spent the night in a beautiful beach campground on the outskirts of the Tanzanian capital city of Dar Es Salaam before leaving early the next morning in a fleet of Tuk Tuks (the cheapest and smallest taxis you've ever seen) for the ferry to Zanzibar, for an optional additional four nights in paradise. While the campground was beautiful and the staff was very nice, most of the group agreed that the bar couches were infested with fleas. GREAT START TO THE WEEKEND!

It seems crazy that anyone doing an overland trip through Africa would skip this trip, but for an extra $460, the two of us were able to book roundtrip ferry tickets, a night in Stone Town, and three nights in an absolutely spectacular beach resort on the north side of the island. 

Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania, which means you may or may not get a Zanzibar stamp in your passport (we both got an entrance stamp but not an exit), and they have their own government and laws. Interestingly enough, Zanzibar was it's own entity before merging in 1964 with Tanganyika, and they changed the name to The United Republic of Tanzania that we know it as today. Basically it's like if when Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie got married, they changed both of their last names to Brad and Angelina Jolpittie.

 

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African Overland Tour: Safari-ing The Serengeti & Ngorongoro Crater

African Overland Tour: Safari-ing The Serengeti & Ngorongoro Crater

After leaving Kigali, we crossed the border into Tanzania, and after a couple of extremely long driving days (when I say long driving days, I mean leaving at 6 AM and arriving at 6 PM for two straight days), we reached a beautiful camp on the shores of Lake Victoria in a town called Mwanza and had a spectacular dinner. These days were some of our least favorite on the entire trip, as we were literally leaving camp in the dark and arriving in the dark. They were long days filled with naps, podcasts, and conversations about what constitutes the difference between a sweeping brush and a broom. These were the days when you really cemented friendships (or rivalries) with others on the truck, and the reality is that when you want to do the amount of things we were able to do for the cost that we’d paid, the long travel days and early wakeup calls are the price you have to pay.  

Being on a truck for twelve-thirteen hours for a few days and paying thousands of dollars less whilst having some of the best experiences of your lives that many people will never get to do and forging lifelong friendships > Paying thousands more and always being air conditioned and entertained all the god damn time. Free wifi on your truck is not worth double the price. Shots fired, GAdventures.

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African Overland Tour: Rwanda

African Overland Tour: Rwanda

Rwanda was a truly surprising place. Beautiful scenery, welcoming friendly faces, clean landscapes and modern infrastructure are not what you expect to find in a place that was torn apart by genocide less than twenty five years ago, but that is exactly what we found as soon as we crossed the border. The easiest metaphor is the border crossing itself. While past crossings had been filthy, crowded affairs (exactly what you picture when you think of an African border) with lines of trucks and people surrounded by clouds of dust and litter, the spot where Rwanda and Uganda meet is a clean office with a bank to change money, comfortable chairs, and a relatively (TIA, still) quick passport procedure. At first I believed it to be an aberration, but as soon as we crossed in, the roads became well maintained and clean, and what had previously been dusty shelters selling phone cards and bottled sodas became, well, nice buildings selling phone cards and bottled sodas.

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African Overland Tour: Trekking With The African Mountain Gorillas

African Overland Tour: Trekking With The African Mountain Gorillas

After leaving Jinja, we headed towards the Kalinzu forest on the western side of Uganda to chase some primates around the trees, as the area near here is famous for primate activity. To get here, we had a challenging drive day through Kampala, the capital city. There is so much traffic in even the secondary cities, when you take a drive through the middle of the capital, it is so congested it can take hours to go miles. Picture Los Angeles traffic with less rules, more breakdowns in the middle of the road, and more trash on the side. That’s what the traffic in Kampala is like. 

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African Overland Tour: White Water Rafting The Nile In Jinja

African Overland Tour: White Water Rafting The Nile In Jinja

Welcome to our ongoing review of our Absolute Africa African Overland Tour, if you’ve missed the previous installments, you can get some links down at the bottom of the page, or if you’ve been following along the whole time, welcome back! I’ve just finished eating four delicious beef samosas procured on the side of the road for the equivalent of less than a US Dollar, so I am full of energy; if I have to pause writing this to vomit, I’ll be sure to let you know with a five hundred word tangent about the best places to throw up in Africa (That’s the kind of blog entry that goes viral! THAT IS SOME GREAT WORDPLAY I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU THINK)

After a quick and easy border crossing between Kenya and Uganda (we left before 6AM in order to get there early, and even once we arrived, there was at least a mile’s worth of trucks and trailers lined up to be inspected. Luckily, we blew right by those and were across the border in about an hour. PRO TIP: Do not use the toilets at a border crossing. They are real gross. Just hold it), we had a fairly long drive into Jinja, which is considered the adrenaline capital of Uganda. It’s a must for adventure-seekers traveling through East Africa, and we stayed in a sweet campsite on the shores of the Nile River run by the Nile River Explorers. 

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African Overland Tour: Naivasha And Nakuru

African Overland Tour: Naivasha And Nakuru

Our third stop was the Marina Camp on Lake Naivasha in the Nakuru National Park area, which is actually closer to Nairobi than Ma’asai Mara….why didn’t we do this first and then swing around to the Mara afterwards? Just so we could get used to long days on the truck, maybe? We had a couple of options in the morning while the hippoes grazed on the grass beside us, we could either go for a 12KM cycling trip into Hell’s Gate National Park, which sounded awesome except for the fact that 12KM round trip is actually 24KM, and I can ride a bike about as well as I can write a poem (that is to say, not well). The reviews of that trip from our truckmates were quite good, and the pictures looked unbelievable, similar to Antelope Canyon in the States and there was apparently a rock that looked similar to Pride Rock from The Lion King which led to some nice photo opportunities. Fortunately for us, we were in for some pretty spectacular photo opportunities ourselves when we went on a guided game walk through Crater Lake National Park, where we were able to see giraffes, zebras, impalas, warthogs, and other animals on foot. 

Do you ever wake up early, take a few steps out of your back door with a fresh cup of coffee, ready to face the day, and there is a deer or other wild animal in your backyard? That was kind of like what we were doing, except THEY WERE FUCKING GIRAFFES AND ZEBRAS. We spent three hours walking around the National Park, being led by a knowledgable guide who continually spent time pointing out beautiful trees and flowers, not the animals, because they were right there. We were literally within 30 feet of these majestic (and yes, I realize I keep using the word majestic, and I’ll probably use it at least twice more before we’re done with this post, but there is really no other way to describe them) creatures as they went about their daily activities, grooming each other, eating, and fighting (yes, we actually saw two impalas fighting). 

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African Overland Tour: The Ma'asai Mara

African Overland Tour: The Ma'asai Mara

We were up bright and early (no lion attacks) for the long and bumpy drive to Ma’asai Mara National Reserve. When I say bright and early, I mean we were up at 5 AM pulling down our tents and sipping instant coffee before departing our Nairobi campground before 6 AM. The first four hours were on paved roads, but the last 100km or so were on a dusty and pockmarked road. We remarked that a long drive like that reminds you just how far from civilization you were traveling, many (rich) tourists take the short flight from Nairobi direct to the small airstrip on the National Reserve, which makes the entire park seem like a zoo instead of a 200 hectare grassland in the middle of the African bush. As I mentioned earlier, the animals are everywhere, they aren’t restricted to the national park, and many visitors to Africa (usually the tourists who’ve paid a lot of money for a private Jeep and are dressed in all khaki as if they’ll be out of the air conditioning even once during the day) will forget that these are truly wild animals. They don’t respect the fact that these lions will eat you in a heartbeat, the buffalo will charge if you annoy them, and the monkeys will grab your stupid safari hat right off your stupid head.

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African Overland Tour: Day 1

African Overland Tour: Day 1

Welcome to Day 1 of our African Overland Tour. More than likely you won’t be reading this unless you’re either considering taking an overland tour through Africa, or you know Josh or Renee personally. If you’re a member of either camp, you’ll want a lot of details. And, baby, you’re going to get ‘em in spades! We’ll be going day-by-day through our 52 day journey (most posts will be more than one day, but I wanted to answer the clamors for some details ASAP), and if you want to check out why we chose to take an Overland Tour in the first place, check it out here! If you want to read about Absolute Africa, check them out here. And if you want to read an extended review of the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards, check that out here. And now, on with the show…..

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Why An African Overland Tour?

Why An African Overland Tour?

When I was in kindergarten, my teacher sent us home with a homework assignment to “draw your perfect vacation”, and I was able to finish faster than any assignment we’d been given in the past. I ran to my room as soon as my parents unstrapped my car seat, and grabbed the crayons. For almost an hour I worked, scribbling furiously until I revealed to my Mom the masterpiece I had created. On the page sat a brown and green landscape with a crudely drawn lion and giraffe on one side, a bright yellow sun and a hauntingly accurate self-portrait of myself, holding a pair of binoculars with a huge smile on my face. I was flanked by what appears to be a small dog, but probably was a monkey. At the top, written across the cloudless sky was one word:

Safari.

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