Although perhaps great in cities, experience shows you’d be crazy to use GPS maps in general other than those collated from the real GPS data of travelers, for travllers. We will be using the GPS maps collated under the Tracks for Africa project for other travelers (www.tracks4africa.com) on a Garmin GPS.
There is a cost for the Carnet as well as an indemnity deposit which needs to be posted. The indemnity deposit is to assure the country which issues the Carnet that the vehicle will in fact be returned to that country. The size of the indemnity deposit is affected by a number of factors. For where we may be going, normally you are required to lodge 200% of the value of the car (yes, twice the value of the car, and its much more if you are English). Our carnet is from the Australian Automobile Association (via the RACV) and we were able to obtain a special indemnity insurance policy from the AAA to cover that security deposit. Thus, we have paid a premium based on 2% of the value of the vehicle.
Here is a link to the AAA: www.aaa.asn.au/touring/overseas.htm
Insurance has been a major issue and cost in the pre trip planning. Given that our vehicle is relatively new and valuable, we were not too keen not to have some form of comprehensive (collision and theft cover ) insurance as well as the compulsory 3rd Party insurance that all countries in Southern and East Africa require. Comprehensive cover was hard to get ( no Australian insurance company appears interested ?) but ultimately we found a Netherlands broker www.alessie.com. to be a very good resource. Comprehensive insurance has been quoted via Lloyds of London – but at 5% of the vehicle value.
For travel insurance, we felt we need pretty good cover including unlimited medical cover and medical evacuation cover. Shop around – as we found travel insurance quotes ranged from AUD$3,000 to $1,100 for similar 12 months cover. Also reading policy fine print is a must! Several insurers wouldn’t cover for “remote area travel unless part of an organised tour”. We used Itrek insurance who seem to provide reasonable cover (except for Sudan – which no one seems to want to insure)?
We will be using Cargo On-Line based in Sydney (www.cargoonline.com.au). So far they have been quick to provide advice, but we will let you know how it goes. Shipping costs (Melb/Cape Town) are about AUD$3,600 – plus another 1.5% of the vehicle value for shipping insurance against total loss!
The biggest security problems we seem to face are shiftas (bandits) in Northern Kenya, urban crime in Kenya, and urban crime in South Africa? We have fitted Tin Can out with security mesh over the rear windows and also window tinting so prying eyes can’t see in so well. She has an engine immobilizer also. We have a hidden document safe to store passports and vehicle documents etc. Beyond this, what can you do…?
MATTERS MEDICAL AND MALARIAL
Never mind the fact that most other people in OZ upon hearing of our trip through Africa ask questions about the risks of:
- Wild animals
- Guys with Kalashnikovs
- Car breakdowns etc etc
what worries me most is the little microbes and insects. How to stay healthy will be a challenge. There are no easy answers and talk to your doctor, but what we have decided on is:
Other than proof of vaccination against Yellow Fever, which is mandatory in a few Central African countries (the WHO yellow card) the rest are only “recommended”. But I would say you’re nuts if you don’t follow Mum’s recommendations? Also you can hardly front your friendly doctor the day before you intend to travel -as some vaccinations have to be spread out over a few weeks.
Unfortunately many of our previous vaccinations for Asia and Morocco had expired and we had to submit to pain again. Our arms feel like pincushions and my wallet is USD$1200 lighter after having what I feel is essential:
- Hepatitis A & B (2 shots over 3 weeks)
- Rabies (3 shots over 4 weeks)
- Yellow Fever (1 shot)
- Diphtheria and Tetanus (ADT 1 shot)
- Typhoid (you can take tablets now)!
- Meningococcal C (1 shot – but I was surprised to discover that the vaccine against the strain that lives in Australia is no good if you want to tackle the bug in Egypt. You need something called ACWY vaccine for the Egyptian nasties).
- Cholera (Dukoral – but you drink it). Mostly because it helps against gastro bugs as much as Cholera itself – which you are not likely to catch.
This is the big one! We all know malaria is endemic across most of Africa and there is no vaccine (yet). A short trip (say a month) is easy enough – just take Doxycycline as a preventative. But if you are going to be in malarial areas for 6 – 9 months as we will be, despite a few possible preventatives, your problems are:
- Doxycycline can only be taken for up to 4 months as a preventative before it starts messing up your kidneys. (It also makes you sunlight sensitive).
- Lariam (Mefloquine) does the same after 3 months – besides it can make you paranoid, hallucinatory and anxious. Although we’re not already!
- 3. Malarone is a newer drug, can be taken for up to a year and sounds great. (The US Army uses it). But it costs USD$5 per tablet per person per day – so work that out!
So, not wanting to chance taking nothing at all and on advice, we have decided on alternating one month Doxycycline then one month Lariam for the 9 months. Should give the old kidneys a bit of a break at least alternating hopefully?
Plus we will take all the other usual precautions:
- Long sleeves and pants (Permethrin treated) after dusk.
- Plenty of DEET insect repellent.
- Mosquito nets in the tent at night.
and have a malaria testing kit handy and hope for the best…
Water borne diseases
Water is nasty stuff some of the time! One should decidedly drink beer only! It can carry Bilharzia, Schistosomiasis and E Coli bugs to name a few.
We carry a 1-micron water filter with Silver hydride crystals which is supposed to clean and kill most of the nasties and all our water put into the vehicle tanks will pass through it. But I reckon on boiling even the filtered water before we drink it. And white water rafting in the Nile will be kept to a minimum to avoid Bilharzia!
One rule is never, never, never use chlorine or chlorine based products. The reason is, we as travelers take on water that has a lot more substances in it than the water does at home. If there is colour in the water that is from leaves, tree branches, etc; when this chlorine is added to the coloured/stained water it creates a by-product, which can cause cancer!
Besides a pretty large 1st aid kit and Stan having a Level 11 1st aid certificate, we will carry some antibiotics to treat:
- Stomach bugs (Ciprofloxacin)
- Infected wounds (Cephalexin)
- Ear/eye infections (Sofradex)
- Allergic reactions (Cortisone and antihistamines. Prednisalone)
Some thought has been given to buying a snake bite outfit with polyvalent anti venene in South Africa, but you really need more than just 2 ampoules of the stuff, it has to be kept in the fridge and is real dangerous to use without adrenaline on hand also to treat anaphylactic shock which can occur.
We will see and hope for the best….?
The Web is a source of dreams for wanderers like us! As others have said previously,there is no better starting point and general resource for anyone interested in a trip like this than the Africa Overland Network: www.africa-overland.net. If there is one site you should see, it’s this one!Our site is also linked to a similar new site that has been set up called www.overlandsphere.com – which links blogs from various websites.
And,of course, Ron & Viv Moon – the well known Aussie 4WD travelers and motoring writers, with Australia, Africa, Asia and now South America under their belt(s):
USELESS INFORMATION AND IRREVERENT OBSERVATIONS AND OPINIONS
Having now travelled 14,000+ kilometres in 13 weeks through 6 countries of southern Africa, we thought we might dot point in no particular order a few titbits of information and general observations for other travellers to take/leave, disagree with or accept whatever they choose when planning their trip:
(We will add to this page as time goes on).
• Africa is bigger than you think! Even small countries like Zimbabwe. Distances can be huge and much time is spent driving each day. Allow time to “smell the roses” and don’t try to do/see too much- as we have seen some European self drive tourists try and “do” 3 countries in two weeks. Not possible.
• Whilst most bitumen main roads so far have been acceptable (notwithstanding the regular pothole a metre wide and half a metre deep!), secondary gravel roads can be horrific- with bad corrugations and potholes to swallow a mini if not a Land Rover. Distances are not measured in kilometres but in hours. 40—45 km/h can be a maximum speed and often less. For instance it took us 3 ½ hours today to drive the 100km from South Luangwa NP Zambia to Chipata.
• Plan each day’s trip properly and know where and when you are going to finish the day (and at least have a vague knowledge of what to expect when you get there). Talk to other travellers/locals to find out. Don’t just “drive and hope” as often camping spots can be few and far between and you will end up “bush camping”.
* Decent maps are a must. We STRONGLY recommend the Tracks 4 Africa paper maps we bought in South Africa fro Namibia, Botswana & Malawi/Mozmabique.They are excellent. The “Infomap series you can get for Zimbabwe and Namibia and other areas are also quite good and have GPS co-ordinates for many places, but they are not quite as good as T4A. The Michelin series maps are also OK, but a bit too small scale and one thinks it’s only a small distance on the Michelin map but it takes you days on the ground.Good for overall planning. There has been many a time when we were thankful we had good maps and occasionally had to help out some other people with older maps.
* We also couldn’t recommend strongly enough the Tracks 4 Africa GPS SD card you can buy for a Garmin GPS. It is excellent and provides GPS directions for most even minor tracks in National Parks etc. Tracks 4 Africa also has a lot of information about campsites in the area you are in, fuel points etc and we found it invaluable. We have followed the “purple line” of T4A on our Garmin for 14,000 kms now and would feel lost without it. You can purchase the SD card for R799 (USD$100) in South Africa, but I also noticed you can buy it mail order on the Web ( for a bit more in overseas countries). We would strongly recommend anyone coming down Africa from Europe etc to buy T4A mail order before they start.
• We try to start early and stop by 3.00pm latest to allow time to set up camp, look around and have a beer etc. Otherwise you will be tired and hassled trying to set up as the sun goes down. It gets dark at 6.00pm and there is little twilight in Africa.
• If you drive at night in Africa, you’re nuts!
* Your vehicle takes a hammering. Especially the suspension. Look after it and check underneath and vital things regularly if not daily. Your well-being and sanity depends on the vehicle continuing to roll along. We haven’t been let down once by Tin Can so far. Hope it stays that way!
* Having a compressor to pump your tyres (and tyre guage) is essential. We are forever letting our tyres down to 1.5 bar (front) 2.5 bar (rear) to cope with soft sand and/or bad stones/gravel or corrugations and then having to pump them up again once we hit bitumen and higher speed. Pain in the neck, but letting tyres down helps heaps.
* It is a good idea, particularly in some countries (like Zimbabwe and Malawi) to fill up with fuel wherever you see it, not just when you are getting towards empty. You can never be sure there is fuel where you think you are going to get it. Filling up more regularly also dilutes the possibility of getting a bad load of diesel – at least you are only getting a 1/4 tank or so, not a full load of crap.
* We would also suggest you need tanks or spare jerry cans to give you at least 1,000kms range. We have twice had to go more than 800kms between fuel availablity (Zimbabwe and Malawi).
• It is hard to get enough exercise – with the days spent behind the wheel and often the inability to walk anywhere as you are in a wild area with dangerous wildlife. We like to walk and cycle back home and are finding that muscles are atrophying and weight adding due to lack of exercise and too much sitting around campfires with beer in hand! Do what you can.
• Water is freely available everywhere, but suspect. Boil or filter it or get sick!
• Wash clothes (and yourself) daily no matter where you are and you will avoid most of the parasites, bacteria and nasties. Touch wood, so far, we have not had a single ailment.
• Never forget the malaria carrying mozzie waiting to bite you and the bilharzia in the rivers. Use DEET repellent (especially in the early evening) and remember your anti-malarials if you are taking them. Only yesterday, we were told that 5 of the staff at Wildlife Camp Luangwa where we were staying had been taken to hospital with malaria.
• Don’t get too casual and blasé’ about the wildlife (as we perhaps have after having elephants, hippos and hyenas within metres of our campsite many nights -and needed the wake up call of being told that 4 people have been killed by elephants in South Luangwa this year and one by a crocodile)! It’s all dangerous –but don’t get paranoid and over fearful about it either. If you sit quietly, generally you will be left alone.
* Anti malarial medication, testing kits, treatments etc are much cheaper in most African countries than you pay at home. Might as well buy it here- provided you make sure it is the genuine stuff (by purchasing only in bigger,professional pharmacies in bigger cities).
• Africa can be more expensive than you think- especially some of the National Parks. A more detailed budget will eventually be published, but we are averaging a spend of about USD$100 per day on everything. Sometimes more (when NP fees or a game drive etc have to be paid for), sometimes less. This includes the odd “tourist” thing and meal at a restaurant, but we don’t splash out too often.
• Fuel (diesel) averages USD$1.45 per litre. Zambia USD$1.65/litre. Malawi $1.96/litre (if you can get it)! The most expensive so far! It is a major expense when you are travelling long distances. Tin Can is averaging 11.5 l/100kms and has so far used 1,665 litres of diesel.
• Camping is averaging about USD$25 per day in Botswana/Zimbabwe etc , but is getting cheaper in Zambia/Malawi (USD$15/day).
• Botswana and Zimbabwe are considerably more expensive than Namibia, Zambia or in fact South Africa.
• In Zimbabwe, no ATM’s work nor do banks cash travellers cheques. Western Union money transfer does exist if stuck. So bring enough cash (in USD$’s) to last the trip. Bring plenty of small denominations as NO change seems to exist? Bring at least $100 in single $1’s- you will need them.
• People everywhere are generally friendly and falling over to help with waves and smiles. We may be dumb and blind, but in 3 months and 6 countries and some pretty remote areas, we have not felt unduly threatened once.
• Cities and large towns are the worst- watch yourself and your belongings.
• Touts and hasslers invariably seem to hang out at supermarkets where rich “muzungus” can be found. Just be firm and polite. Your car doesn’t need guarding nor your windscreen cleaned.
• Borders are the worst. Be careful, lock you vehicle when you are away from it. Be patient, friendly and polite and things will eventually proceed the way you want.
• Bear in mind that most people (particularly in the rural areas) have nothing and are often hungry. A cigarette or a biscuit or some bread will go a long way in fostering relations if you are sitting by the roadside having your lunch with hungry eyes watching. But you can’t feed them all.
• Wherever you stop, even if no habitation was seen for the last 50 kilometres, black faces will appear in the bushes within 10 minutes of stopping- Phineas’ Law.
• People are often curious and reticent. Particularly the women will walk by with a solemn, straight face. They often don’t know how to react, but when you break the ice by smiling or waving to them, it’s all smiles.
• Mostly friendly, but can be indifferent. We have traversed, 27 police road blocks so far and have not had too many hassles. Mostly they just wave a foreign vehicle through. But be sure to have the necessary things for each particular country. (Like white reflectors front, red rear in Zimbabwe. Yellow safety vest, two red warning triangles and two fire extinguishers in Zambia. Yellow triangle sticker in Mozambique).
• Borders are the worst (particularly Chirundu Zimbawe/Zambia), but many officials are very polite and friendly and just trying to do their job. Patience is the key.
• We have not paid one bribe so far, nor will we if we can help it. (This meant a threat to wait all day at Chirundu if we had to). Cigarettes don’t count- have a pack or two even if you don’t smoke – they go a long way.
* Coppers smile in friendly fashion at you at the same time they hit you with a speeding fine – just like Australia! They have radar in Zambia and Malawi – be warned! Speed limits are only 50km/h in towns and villages and you are for ever speeding up and slowing down.
Last but not least, if you eventually get to theUK, here is a link to a site which has been useful providing free weather updates (need that in the UK)! and traffic reports on main roads.