As of this post, I have spent 52 consecutive days in Africa, covering eight countries and nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Since my travels began in November, I have used many types of transportation and vehicles, including but not limited to: cars, trucks, bicycle, buses, trams, ferries, a 104-foot-yacht, motorboat, mokoro, camel, sandboard, Yamaha WaveRunner, microlite aircraft, plane, safari vehicles, etc. I have had $2200 in cash stolen. I have lost about $400 worth of random personal items. I have given a total of $0.43, a sleeve of Oreo cookies, and a fresh pack of Marlboro cigarettes to several homeless people, all of whom gratefully received the goods.
Unfortunately, due to huge stretches of no or useless Internet coverage, I will not be able to make up for the writing and stories that have occurred in recent weeks. All I can say is that the Africa portion of my trip has been breathtaking and more adventurous than even the European start to my travels, which seems quite long ago.
The itinerary that I have completed is not one I would recommend to most people I know because of the lack of comfort. I traveled nearly 10,000 kilometers on African roads. I’m not even certain if I have covered 10,000 kilometers of American highways. For the most part, the roads in Africa are terrible. I have had days where I awoke at 3:30 am only to ride a bus until 6 pm. Bear in mind that these vehicles are not air-conditioned. It is around a 100 Fahrenheit with humidity. The windows would sometimes be open but the dust would fly in, covering all my property in a grainy sand. I got used to it.
I have taken more cold showers than I would ever have imagined. I have been ravaged by mosquitoes. I have made many land border crossings when I had only previously entered countries by air or water. I have spent more days in a tent than I had in my cumulative life-to-date. I slept on top of a bus for two nights, laying a sleeping pad on the roof, watching the stars at night. I have seen countless animals and birds. I even saw an insanely dangerous spitting cobra aggressively move toward the bus I was riding in. Imagine a snake with the nerve to think it could take down a truck!
I went many days without a shower. I washed my hair twice in more than seven weeks. I hardly shaved. I have had my hair cut in three African places: Marrakech, Zanzibar, and Cape Town. Try not using the Internet for a full week. I did that. It’s harder than you think.
At a border crossing into Zambia, I solicited alcohol from a 7-year-old boy in a Chelsea Eden Hazard t-shirt. I drank my cold beer while waiting to clear immigration, although I was later told my actions were illegal. I bought and smoked marijuana in Cape Town, although the prices have risen recently due to the burning of several farms in Swaziland.
One of the most awesome experiences was in the Okavango Delta in Botswana. We take this mokoro, which is basically a canoe in extremely shallow brackish water. It is driven by local people who effectively have never known any other place. They helped us go to this camp deep into the reeds where we camped in the bush, as it is known. No facilities at all. No running water. No nothing. While I sat in a folding chair that was brought, I saw one of the guys take a piece of elephant bone on the ground and recline in it as if it were a luxurious sofa.
It was criminally hot, breaking 100 Fahrenheit with little cover. I drank from the river unfiltered even though the water was brown. It was fine. I felt alive. The first day, I ate a can of Pringles and left the bright green canister to be discarded. The following day, I saw one of the guys scooping river water in the Pringles canister and drinking it. It made me happy that it was being used, a clear example of how one person’s trash could be valuable to another man.