The trip I’ve planned traversing the African continent should contain just enough adventure to be considered an appropriate remedy to an extraordinarily long summer break. I’m not complaining, you understand, I just want it to be clear that I’m not skiving off normal life. On the contrary, I’m trying to live it to the fullest! In case you’re still undecided on what to do this summer and in need of some inspiration, here’s how I prepared my summer adventure.
What I hope to do:
It’s always best I find to start the adventure with a daydream. What do you think would be a single awesome thing to be able to say at the end? Before my epic adventure is complete I’ll have dipped my toes from North to South Africa and from East to West. I’ll have gotten a little acquainted with some incredible capital cities, taken in awesome landscapes to set my heart a flutter, and then at peace all over again. I’ll have sampled unimaginable amounts of scrumptious African cuisine, decimated (okay dented, I still have to eat when I get home) my savings in AfroChic, and caught up with some beautiful people I have the honour to call friends. I’ll also get to see the hometowns they recalled so vividly and lovingly when we were young people in the UK together.
Where in the world excites your imagination and why? Is there someplace that you’ve always wanted to go for a really random reason? Or because of a book you read once? A scene in a film? Act on that impulse!
I’m grinning like a Cheshire cat just thinking about the marvels in store for me. My senses are on high alert in anticipation. I’m re-reading my favourite African bloggers and writers and reflecting like there’s no tomorrow. I am anxious, stressed, excited, hyperactive and Curious. Finally, I get to sit back, relax, and be in Africa. Up close and personal. A million ideas swirl around my head and I dwell on them all contentedly.
For those of us who tick the Afro-Caribbean box in ethnicity surveys, the symbolism of the African continent, and West Africa in particular, is immense if measurable. This is the place my enslaved ancestors believed their souls would go or return to when death brought the liberty they were denied in life. Given the worries which people have expressed about the safety – and wisdom – of this particular voyage, that strikes me as rather ironic. With my Haiti experience so fresh however, I’d be lying if I said I was worried about instability or insecurity. We’ll see how well being blasé works out for me soon enough!
How to imagine an African road trip before you’ve done one:
Me and my African map have become very closely acquainted of late, as I’ve been dreaming about where I want to go and how to get there. Then consulting it. Can I soak up culture in Johannesburg’s Sophiatown? Head down to Cape Town? Train up to Maputo for a long weekend with my mate in Mozambique? Across to visit my sister girl in Zambia? Down to Tanzania from Nairobi? Check out the country Walter Rodney called home for a while? Across to Libreville on the way to Accra? Pencil in time with beloved artist friends in Gabon?…Or skip over and try and make it across to Côte d’Ivoire instead? For the wannabe overland adventurer, Africa is one gigantic wonderland; so many different countries, so little time!
With so many possibilities, a fixed amount of time and an indecisive disposition, this trip has been an absolute nightmare to plan. I’ve been literally spoilt for choice! Trying to see the various parts of the continent from the point of view of its habitants is no easy feat either. Trying to work in everyone’s schedules and holidays and put together a feasible and fun as opposed to an exhausting itinerary, took the best part of two months. Literally.
How I planned my African adventure
Then came the logistics…Shout out to the man in Seat 61 for the public transport tips and Nikki from the Flight Centre who finally made it happen when I was just about to give up. Who managed to knock a few hundred quid off the ticket to boot! I also utilised all the usual tools for prospective trip planning; peeps in the know, then Thorn Tree Travel Forum for up to date independent travel itinerary advice (ie for people who have an idea but don’t know if it’ll work), a whizz around Kayak and Skyscanner for an idea of flight prices, MASTA for jabs info, FCO for visa info (UK citzs only).
The paperwork end of an adventure comprising multiple destinations is simultaneously exciting and discouraging. There were moments when Bahia for the world cup appealed as an alternative summer adventure for logistical reasons alone; a direct flight from Martinique to Cayenne and a bus would probably take 12-16 hours versus the 80 or so I have calculated from my front door to my first stop. But now we’re here. Everyone on board. Itinerary confirmed. Tickets are booked. Visas, travel insurance, accomodation sorted.
I am going to Africa. Eastern Africa, South Africa, West Africa. One Summer, four countries, one continent.