- A few weeks’ glampacking around South East Asia: “The Easy Option”.
- Drive to Cape Town from home in London: “The Hard Option”.
Hardly a cliffhanger at this point, eh?
There were so many unknowns (of both the known and unknown varieties), so little time, and still two weddings to arrange. Yes, two: a family celebration at Islington in London and a friends and close family number in Spain later in the same week.
It seemed the only way to square this particular circle was with the meticulous application of alcohol, followed by some of the least random chat I’ve ever produced. As the drinks flowed and my chat was back to its usual randomness, Patricia announced that she was game for Africa, albeit scared. At that point, even I didn’t know we would be sleeping in a tent the whole way, so my natural proclivity to spill the beans before even a hint of pressure arose didn’t even become an issue.
Wedding planning was instantly thrown to the wayside – which was unfortunate for me, as the wayside was exactly where I had been hiding from said wedding planning. I wriggled free quickly, my well-worn Teflon shoulders playing a blinder, and launched headlong into figuring out how we could pull off this stunt. First in line was to watch The Long Way Down for the 7th time, and introduce Patricia to Charley and Ewan’s constant whinging. Unfortunately, my ‘current’ affairs and world politics weren’t quite up to scratch, so my initial route was dismissed quickly, efficiently, and with some mirth by some helpful punters in a Facebook group called Overlanding Africa. Libya sounds a little spicy these days, eh?!
Oh yeah, “Overlanding”. What this refers to is, well, when one travels “over”, erm, “land”. And if you whack an “ing” on the end you get Overlanding. Clever, eh?
So back to the flaws in my plan. The first of which being that there was, of course, no plan. Just flaws. Much like over a decade ago, when a couple of us decided to cycle the length of South America, the complete lack of a suitable means of transport shone through as an obvious hole to fill. I’d always wanted a huge 4×4, but until now hadn’t managed to hatch an idea ridiculous enough to warrant buying one. Thankfully my twin brother, Paul, is a man who knows a bit about this overlanding malarkey. Through the gift of the internet, we had communicated sufficiently to ensure we were clear on a couple of fundamentals: a) that this was a stupid idea I’d had, and b) I’d need to spend some cash on a good 4×4, which I would understand little about until it was much too late.
I set my heart on a Toyota Land Cruiser. Not because they are practically part of the ISIS brand these days, but not wholly unrelated to this, either. Quite simply, they are renowned as being one of the most reliable vehicles ever made, and when they do break down, Africa is about as good a place to get it back on the road again as anywhere. An 80 Series was suggested, so I started looking and found next to nothing. Apart from one seemingly perfect truck which cost a similar amount to the GDP of some of the great nations we would be travelling through. After days of hard-nosed, intelligent negotiating, we drove to Peterborough the weekend before our wedding and paid the man the full asking price. Time wasn’t on our side, so buying a standard vehicle and preparing it for serious overland travel was out of the question. It would also have cost even more, especially given my somewhat limited skills in building anything more than software (although I’m sure most of my colleagues would argue that point, even). The truck had already done a trip through Africa and came with all the gear we would need. However, we still had a dedicated Amazon pipeline installed, which consisted of a very long line of underpaid shift workers handing items from left to right down the chain, all the way from the warehouse in Doncaster to our flat in North West London.
So the truck was bought, and our route had loosely materialised on the back of a packet of Kellogg’s Frosties. The detail of that route is, still, as follows: our place to Javi’s in Switzerland; Italy, ship the truck to Egypt and fly ourselves over; down through the east African nations until we end up in Cape Town. Simples.
Hmm, the dog: Bambam. What’s the largest number of days for one of those automated feeding machines? Thankfully, Patricia’s parents came to the rescue here, as they so often have when it comes to Bam. Foregoing a trip to Hong Kong themselves, they have taken in our little bundle of ginger joy for the entire time we are away, and we are incredibly appreciative of it. Bambam, if you’re reading, please no crop circles (“arse dragging”?) on Peter and Jenny’s nice new carpet, okay? You must find a more surreptitious way of dealing with an itchy bum, like we all do.The list of issues to deal with before leaving was huge. They included: work, renting our flat out, Bambam, necessary work on the vehicle, understanding the vehicle, actually putting some miles on the vehicle to flush out issues, figuring out the important things to take and those to leave behind, etc. Oh, and the two weddings with no planner. We now know of couples who have spent three years planning a similar trip. We had about 10 weeks, and had two weddings to arrange.
Weirdly, our first leg was to drive in the opposite direction, to Newport: Jeni’s 40th birthday, a mini festival in a field, was the perfect way to test our new camping rig. If something went wrong or didn’t work, we could get it fixed in the morning, before we reached the continent…