After five months of travel spent almost exclusively on buses…school buses, overnight fully reclining buses, long distance buses that lacked working bathrooms, buses that were nearly empty, buses where we had people practically sitting on our laps…we’ve traded the buses in for our own wheels. That’s right we’re now traveling by car, a rented orange Kia Picanto to be exact.
Southern Africa has so much to see: the second and third largest canyons in the world; massive reserves full of lions, elephants, giraffes, zebras, and other amazing animals; the world’s oldest sand dunes; beautiful beaches; amazing waterways; and so much more. Unfortunately, much of it is rather hard to get to. The bus system is limited, often leaving you hundreds of kilometers from where you actually want to be. Then you’re left taking minibuses, collectivos, or hitching, none of which are especially safe (or all that cheap for that matter). And you have to factor in all the time you’ll lose making the many connections. The other option is the “backpacker buses,” such as the well-known Baz Bus, which travel a set circuit that hits most of the highlights. It’s not cheap though; a hop-on, hop-off ticket between Johannesburg and Cape Town costs over $200 per person, and it still wouldn’t get us to all the sites we want to see. Plus there’s the little factor of being 24/7 in the company of other backpackers. Could be good. Could be bad.
So craving the freedom of the open road, the right to stop when and where and for however long we want, and the adventure of exploring part of the world completely on our own, we went for the car. It’s really a pretty good deal, averaging out to about $25 per day (plus fuel), and lets us get to all the places we want to go. There’s only one slight hitch: the car’s a manual, and we both have always had automatics. Jeff had, however, given a manual a go once many, many years ago, and luckily, he was game for a challenge. There were a few rough starts, a few killed engines, but by the end of the first day, we were cruising along just fine. In six weeks, as we point the wheels back to Johannesburg from Botswana (after heading clockwise around South Africa, up through Namibia, into Botswana, and with a quick hop to Victoria Falls), we’ll be old pros. Well, at least Jeff will. I’m not even particularly fond of driving an automatic while sitting on the left side of the car and driving on the right side of the road; I’m not even going to think of touching a manual with the driver’s seat on the right side and the traffic driving on the left side of the road. I’ll just stick to navigating. Wish us luck!
Editors Note: Theresa and Jeff are experiencing “technical difficulties” as their adventures in Africa begin. As they work through these difficulties they are still going to try to post as often as possible. So please continue to check back often and leave your comments, and I’ll continue to be the “invisible hand” that makes sure their stories make it to Lives of Wander.