As you have no doubt gathered, Rob and I are inveterate travelers and will pack a suitcase at the drop of a hat. We’ve been privileged to visit many overseas countries (at great expense because of our darned weak currency) and so whilst sipping cool beers on our front patio one evening, we decided it was time to pull in the reigns on all this travel spending and lower our sights a bit. We would take to camping and explore Southern Africa instead. This would have a twofold benefit – we would save a fortune and get to know our own and neighbouring countries much better.
Here’s what our first attempt at camping looked like:
A modest start
After one or two these trips Rob got this faraway glint in his eyes and started dropping hints about how nice it would be to have a 4×4 so that we could visit Namibia. “Not a new car”, he said, “we could perhaps get ourselves a good second-hand one.”
I think Rob must have worked for the CIA at some stage because he then started applying Chinese torture tactics and the hints fell like water dripping on a stone. The clincher for the deal was when he insisted that we drive my little car (featured above) halfway up Sani Pass. Anyone who knows Sani Pass knows that it isn’t a road, it is a rocky track designed to remove the bottom of one’s car and chew up tyres within eight kilometers. After we finally managed to lever my car off a boulder and tie the exhaust back on with a piece of wire, I threw my hands up in despair and said: “Okay, you win, let’s go and find a 4×4!”
And so with great luck we managed to buy an almost new Toyota Hilux in mint condition. The only snag was that it needed a canopy otherwise we couldn’t store any of our gear on the back. Things were definitely looking up though.
Then Rob started buying the Getaway magazine which features all the mod cons that are a must for camping, and guess what! The perfect accessory (according to him) was a rooftop tent. “They don’t cost much,” he said “and make camping so much easier as they can be put up in minutes. We’d have much more space in the car for all our gear and utilities.” This sounded like a plan, but at this stage I had also been paging through the Getaway adverts and saw the ultimate camping accessory – a 40 litre Engel fridge. Now I had some leverage. “You get the rooftop tent if I get a fridge.” We had battled in the heat with cooler boxes and the like, so a fridge, as far as I was concerned was a necessity, not a luxury. I won! Off we went to the Safari Centre to buy these TWO items. What an ignoramus I must have been.
Two hours later we staggered out of the shop with a highlift jack, a compressor, a fridge, two folding chairs, numerous jerry cans, water bottles and an appointment to come back the following week to have the rooftop tent fitted – on roof tracks – next to a roof rack. “What had happened back there”, I wondered. “I thought we were getting ourselves a tent and a fridge.”
And we're off
I must give Rob credit though – once we were kitted out, our camping became a delight. We thought that as campers we had finally arrived! But wait, what did the latest edition of Getaway come up with? A drawer system for the bakkie (in Africa we call a truck a bakkie). These are great because they come with a sliding section for the fridge to come right out of the vehicle and make it more accessible. Yes, we definitely needed one of those. No more utility boxes cluttering up the car – we could put all our food and clothing in the lock up drawers. Perfect.
Anyone who visits Namibia or Botswana knows that there isn’t always a shady tree to camp under and when temperatures soar up in the 30C’s and 40C’s you definitely need some shade. Getaway was advertising some wonderful canopies that attach to the side of your vehicle. They pull out about three meters, giving you loads of shade. Oh yes, we had to have one of those.
The full monty!
The latest acquisition was a GPS as we would be traveling in such remote areas that we could disappear off the planet without knowing which direction we were taking.
So now, let’s get back to those costly overseas trips that we were complaining about. Let’s work out what this camping has saved us over the last five years:
|Toyota Hilux 4×4 & canopy
||Three round the world trips for two
||One week at the Paris Hilton Hotel
|Compressor & highlift jack
||Five nights at Sun City with free casino vouchers each night
||Two week overland trip from Nairobi to Cape Town
||A luxury cruise on the Nile
||Flight to Durban to see the grandchildren
||Elephant safari in Thailand
|Repairs to the Toyota after heavy 4×4 trip
||A tour of 21 European countries in an air-conditioned coach, staying at 3 star hotels, including all meals
|New tyres for the Toyota
||A visit to the gorillas of Rwanda for a party of eight.
When we decided to go through the Central Kalahari, Rob started talking about having a snorkel attached to the car because of the dust and deep sand. Enough is enough. If I have any say in the matter, the only snorkeling we’ll be doing will be in a shallow lagoon in the Seychelles. Who are we kidding – this camping lark isn’t saving us a cent!!! But it will from now on, as we have everything we need – if we stop buying Getaway.
Note to the kids: If you give Rob a subscription to Getaway for Christmas you will be disinherited!