So here’s what happened and how we wound up here: after eight months of fairly intense South American travels – mostly moving every 2 to 3 days, never having slept in the same bed for more than 5 consecutive nights – we were feeling pretty lucky (e.g. less than 10 days of rain or other bad weather in the entire stretch) and fulfilled (as was our hard drive with tens of thousands of unsorted pictures) but also quite tired. So we sat down to reflect on our trip and what we wanted out of it.
We thought back to the inspiration for the journey – our 2007 summer vacation in east Africa and the long-term travelers we met there. Ever since, our plan was to do extended travel in Africa. But we started with South America because it was a continent we had never been to together and because we were afraid that if we started in Africa we would just get seduced by the continent and get stuck there as other explorers, adventurers and travelers have for centuries. Our plan for South America was always for a more or less 8-month trip. Our good fortune to add Colombia and Ecuador to our itinerary and our amazing and longer-than-expected stay in Patagonia meant that we still had plenty more to see in Argentina and we hadn’t even touched Uruguay or Brazil within that time frame. So yes, there were many more beautiful roads to drive, sights to see and interesting people to meet in South America. But the time ran quick and the budget was draining even faster. So if we wanted anything more than a Latin American trip, now was the time to make a move.
Africa immediately came to mind. May was around the corner, which meant that the World Cup in South Africa was just over a month away. We always thought of the event as a reason not to go to the country at the time. Then we looked into what it would take to get TianMa shipped from South America to Africa – not easy and quite expensive despite the geographic proximity. Then there were doubts about how much of the continent a 17-year old 2-wheel drive van with no readily available spare parts could realistically cover before keeling over somewhere in the Kalahari. Our stomachs were also voting against Africa – the only blight on our previous African visit was the awful local cooking and although there were some great exceptions, South America had been much the same.
So for convenience, culinary satisfaction, and budgetary reasons we seriously considered going to Asia instead (much cheaper, tastier and easier). We also toyed with the idea of driving all the way up to California, taking our sweet time through wonderful Mexico. Yet our hearts and dreams kept going back to Africa. So we looked for reasons to justify the decision. First, once we looked into the World Cup, it turned out the event likely would not be as hectic or expensive as expected and, in fact, plenty of tickets were still available (thank you global recession yet again). We also met several South Africans in Chile who assured us that TianMa was ideally suited for the roads on the other side of the Atlantic (but no guarantees for the other countries). Finally, flying one-way into southern Africa was cheaper and faster from Buenos Aires than just about anywhere else in the world. If we were to go to Europe, North America or Asia it would be a long time before we’d have a chance to explore Africa again. And the food? Well, the South Africans sold us with their stories of the south fusing European and Asian influences into something uniquely delicious. Whether true or not, it was enough to convince us to book a one-way flight to Cape Town.
Of course, we were still tired and not really prepared for more of the intense pace we were traveling at, especially between mid-December and mid-April. So we decided to take it easy and even rented a flat in Buenos Aires for a month. Proved to be a great decision as we really got to know the city, made good friends, and even welcomed a couple of visitors from back home. But the time flew by and before we knew it, we were boarding a plane to Cape Town less than 24 hours after the over-the-top celebrations for Argentina’s 200th anniversary wrapped up.
So here we are in Africa… can’t wait to see what happens.