Going on a tour into the wild

Going on a tour into the wild, there are a couple of admin challenges that need to be overcome before you start.

Your passport, check if it is still valid for at least 6 months or more. It will be very embarrassing and a huge blow to your excitement when the border officials inform you that your papers will not let you pass through this port. Or any other ports.

Provide a rough tour plan to the people that stay behind so that they can also know where Mum and Dad or my wandering child/brother/sister find themselves. It is also good for them to know when they will still have contact by phone. Unfortunately, the work and telemarketers can still also phone you, at your cost, at international rates. That is if your cell phone was switched to roaming beforehand. There are wide open spaces where there is no coverage. Bliss! Or you can bring a satellite phone if you really want to stay in contact.

Do not surprise your medical aid by telling them, “Oi! I am bleeding! Come get me behind the bush 7, dune 6!”. Politely let them know beforehand. They will send you fancy paperwork that no one understands that needs to be filled in when you will be admitted to an unknown hospital.

If you still owe the bank for the vehicle you are driving or you rent it from a friend or a rental company, do get an approval letter or document from them that you may take their liability across the border. Some border officials will insist on a within 6 months valid police clearance vehicle document. Do get it before you go from the local police vehicle clearance department. Basically, it is to curb stolen vehicles crossing the border. Some border crossings can be quite cash-heavy. You may have to pay a lot of taxes. It may be one or more of the following: vehicle cross-border fees, immigration tax, customs tax, vehicle insurance, third-party insurance (even if you do have insurance), road tax, carbon tax, and/or council tax.

Advise your insurance entity that you will be taking their risk, your assets (or loss), across the border.

Remember to ‘open up’ your credit card with your bank. You will be highly agitated when you cannot draw money or worse, you have just finished refuelling your steed and yourself with half a pie. The cold drink is also half empty. And then the credit card machine declines your card.

How much cash does one need to take along? How long is a piece of string? Never long enough, or it is too long. Think of how much cash would you have forked out if you would have splashed it a bit in your hometown. Buying drinks, going out for dinner, buying snacks at the local café. You may also want to buy some dust-attracting ornaments for the guys at home. Also, some fuel stations demand cash only or their card machine is not cooperative. Happens quite often. 

Talking about fuel, do you know your vehicle’s fuel consumption? You will be surprised at how much heavier your beloved steed is on drinking the go-juice. Especially on the thick sand roads, they are thirsty! Pre-plan ahead for, say, 600km at least between fuel stops. You also may stop at a fuel station and the attendant advise you the fuel will be here Tuesday. And today is Saturday. Take extra cans along to prevent you from staring at the empty fuel light in the middle of nowhere. You are all alone. Where it is very quiet. A lion is roaring nearby…

Going to the bush, water is sometimes a challenge and a rare commodity in the bush. You have to pre-plan on how much water you want to carry along for drinking, washing up and ablutions. Sometimes you have to go sparingly on the water and you wash only the dark places of your body. 

Most campsites do have some sort of ablution, be it a modern building, a long drop or those types of rocket ships (plastic structures like a small rocket ship that use the bucket system). Some places have nothing and you have to make do with a portable toilet or dig a hole in the ground. When you do your thing in the bush, please cover your finished business in the said hole completely. It is not cool for the next person to stumble upon your finished business waving a half-white “I surrender” toilet paper on top.

Never ever let your guard down when you are camping in the wild. Predators will surprise you when you least expect it, believe me. Jackals, hyenas, lions and sometimes leopards will come and sniff the adobe you are residing in or your table with all the yummy stuff, no matter how high your fire is burning you are sitting around or already sleeping. Pack away everything that you do not want to be carried away, for example, that black-sooted kettle next to the fireplace, the braai grid, the pot with last night’s burnt dinner, that dish towels hanging out to dry, the dustbin or your smelly shoes outside the tent. We have had all of the above in our campsite many a time, some when you are really not expecting it. You quickly want to go for a pee at night, be very alert if you cannot do it otherwise. Not very conducive for your heart condition when you are standing there peeing, at night with a beautiful half-moon, listening to the stunning night sounds, and then you hear a rustling sound in your close vicinity. There in the dark, you see a shadow moving, sniffing. When the sun goes down your place in nature’s hierarchy is dropping down very drastically as you are now fair game.

You are not allowed to gather wood in the parks. So don’t be that dork. I have seen guys pulling big logs of wood behind their vehicles to the campsite. What you are actually doing is taking away habitat of insects, reptiles and rodents, destroying the natural environment. If you really have to, you may gather wood outside of the park but rather be a responsible tourist and buy your own before you enter a park and use it wisely. Before you go to dreamland, please put out the fire. You never know when the wind will come up at night and burn your tent, caravan and car down. Or the whole countryside for that matter.

You don’t have to load your vehicle to the brim with provisions like the ox-wagons of old. There are modern shops, convenience stores and diners in all the big towns. There are also grand hotels with all the modern amenities where you can sit, sipping a gin and tonic while looking at the young and not-so-young people swimming. 

Some countries are very serious about animal diseases, especially foot and mouth and rabies. They may or may not allow you to transport red meat across the border. They also have veterinary fences inside the country. For example, in Botswana, you are allowed to take red meat north and east of the country but not south or west. Namibia also has the same ruling. Going the other way south or west, either pre-cooked red meat, white meat or tinned meat. Expect then that the inspectors will want to look into your fridges and/or freezers. They also may stop you from taking any dairy products, be it milk, butter, cheese or yoghurt. Sometimes fruit is not allowed, for example, because there are fruit flies or any other fruit diseases. Taking fruit like apples and oranges where elephants roam is just plain looking for trouble. They have an acute smell and will ruin your sleeping quarters by searching out the fruit. Monkeys and baboons are very adept and sly. At some campsites, they know how to open a tent or rip it apart. And they are not only after the fruit. Everything goes, bread, cheese, chips, your make-up kit…. At these vet gates, you will have to disembark your vehicle and dance on a square wet carpet filled with anti-foot and mouth disease liquid, very yucky! We once made just ahead of a bus with one passenger that had a bag full of shoes she had bought for her shop somewhere south. They all had to wait until she had pressed all of them in that yucky stuff. They will also spray your car’s tyres or you will have to drive through a waterhole filled with the magic stuff. Or you just may be waved through. But, always stop at that stop sign even if you are being waved through as you will be stopped by a stern-looking policeman.

To save on my clothing, I bought 2 overalls to wear when I am in the bush. You can wear them for a long time until they are so dirty that they stand upright by themselves. Not really, but you get the picture. When I go to civilization, I wear my besties. Underwear and socks you wash whenever you can in the bush. Some towns do have laundromats. Plan a day extra if you want to use these facilities.

If you think I have left something out, please let me know.

Happy travelling

Peter Rau