As mentioned, I grew up in the countryside and although an educational and services center for the successful surrounding farming areas, Queenstown had very few bright lights to distract those growing up in this area. My exposure to nature and wild areas was nurtured by exploration of this beautiful countryside. The preparation for our current journey in fact dates back about twenty years, with the purchase of my first 4x4 vehicle, a Toyota Prado which I still have. Even before that we had spent quite some time together as a family in the bush.
Initially this involved holidays in the magnificent but relatively tame Kruger National Park and the reserves in Kwazulu-Natal, followed by a first visit to wilder Botswana without the kids. Then followed a really memorable couple of trips with the whole family to Botswana and the Moremi and Chobe National Parks, once we felt the offspring were old enough. Later the family was also taken to the stark semi-desert wilds of the Kgalagadi Trans-frontier Park on a few occasions and also Etosha in Namibia. It was a real privilege to spend some of our holidays together in this way as a family. It has left our children with a lasting love for and appreciation for the African bush.
“On our first trip with the children we were driving on the Chobe riverfront in Botswana and experienced an interesting encounter with a breeding herd of about 50 elephants. Driving along on the track between the water and this herd of elephants, we stopped to allow them an unimpeded passage to drink. Some of them gave us more than a casual glance. Once they were a safe distance away we drew up parallel to them to watch them drink and cavort in the water. I switched my engine off to enjoy the peaceful scene. Having had enough of the water the herd starting heading back towards us and away from the river. Time to start up the engine and move a safe distance away……… ignition stone dead! We had already opened all the electric windows and of course these could not be closed with no electrical supply. My kids were really small then and although I tried to appear as nonchalant as possible, they very soon picked up that we were at risk. We soon had the whole herd around the vehicle and were all terrified as some of the cows were really playing up with flapping ears and kicking up dust in threat displays. After a terrifying couple of minutes that felt like hours, they moved off. Once I felt safe I lifted the car bonnet to discover that one of the battery terminals in a newly replaced battery had worked loose. With the refit I should have checked the tightening myself, lesson learned”.
Closer to home there were also visits to nearby Addo Elephant National Park. Then came trips to Mozambique and southern Namibia. Two further trips with friends and family to Botswana remain memorable and then another trip in a circuit involving Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and finally Zimbabwe. When the children left home there were excursions with our friends to Botswana and Zimbabwe again. Remote Northern Namibia and the Central Kalahari Game Reserve on a couple of occasions were done solo, just Anne and I, which had its own merits. A particularly memorable trip with a group followed, covering much of western and central Zambia and we were steadily picking up more experience as independent travelers. Thus at least twice a year we have spent time experiencing the joys of nature in Southern Africa. What a privilege to live in this continent!
However the time had now finally arrived to venture far further afield to explore more of our native Africa. There is one crucial issue that I will have to handle very, very carefully. Although Anne enjoys this sort of travel as much as I do, she is not quite the fanatic that I am. I am going to have to judge her tolerances with great care and consideration. It is not every woman who is prepared to spend this length of time away from home amidst relative privation and some harsh conditions. The adventure can quickly begin to wane if the boundaries are stretched too far. We do communicate frankly with one another but it has been noticeable on our other trips away on our own, how careful we have become not to allow any misunderstandings, petty squabbles or resentment to creep in. These issues could be a trip-breaker. Man and wife or even the closest of friends could easily run that risk.
From the outset of our planning for this mega-trip, we have accepted that at any stage we can store the vehicle and fly home for a few weeks break. If the need arises Anne can come home on her own for a break and I would continue alone for a few weeks. Although we have made no formal arrangements, perhaps some of the children or even friends could join us for short sections. Zanzibar springs to mind. Being as organized as possible helps matters and the fact that our whole rig has been set up and tested for comfort, durability and convenience will hopefully bear fruit. The other card up our sleeves is the odd luxury of a sojourn in chalets, lodges, hotels or the like to revive any fading enthusiasm. All considered we are entering relatively unchartered waters here and it cannot be assumed that it will necessarily be Anne that wilts under the conditions of such a long and arduous trip.