Overlanding; it’s not a road trip, you’re not bouncing from tourist destination to tourist destination via plane, it’s better than a tuktuk or daladala … it’s overlanding. As skeptical as I was at first, I fell in love with overlanding. I present to you, the top 7 reasons why you
should need to experience this unique form of travel.
7. No wifi, no air conditioning, no TV, no music. Sounds like a nightmare, right? WRONG! Without all of these distractions you are able to/forced to make friends with your fellow overlanders. Overlanding days be anywhere from 4 hours on the truck to, my personal record, 13 hours. Much like sitting around a campfire in the middle of the bush, overlanding brings out stories in people. There are group tables towards the back of the overlanding trucks which travellers congregate around. Stories of past adventures are shared, good books recommended, card games played, riddles solved, and jokes told. If you’re more of an introvert there are spots to write in your journal, read, take in the passing scenery passing, or even catch a nap. Introvert or Extrovert … you will make lifelong friends overlanding.
6. While overlanding you will develop a form of flexibility you didn’t know you had. I’m talking about flexibility in terms of patience and compassion towards others and also literal physical flexibility. Some days on an overlander are long. It can be hot, the bumpy roads can exhaust your body, and you may not always be in the mood for yet another game of charades. Although these situations bring out the worst in people, they also bring out the best in people. Overlanders are a kind and generous breed and if not feeling well you can depend on someone to take the bumpy back for a few hours or lend you their headphones so you can zone out for a bit. The second type of flexibility you will develop is magician-like contortion that you never knew you had. Napping on seats that don’t recline during a rickety ride with twenty something other people on the truck should be a gymnastic event in the Olympics. Personal space no longer exists and limbs fill every comfortable crevice on the overlander. This sounds awful, but trust me, it’s all part of the fun.
5. While on an overlanding trip you see a progression of scenery that you would never get to see while flying from spot to spot. Tourist destinations are beautiful and fun, but not always the most authentic. While over landing you get to see the real country. The local people going about their work, the landscape flowing from dry deserts and plains to soaring mountains in the sky. You understand the infrastructure of the countries and see the progression as you pass from less developed areas to more developed areas. And did I mention the wildlife!? It is not uncommon to see a giraffe galloping across the field, or an elephant blocking the road, or a Masai man herding his cattle. You simply don’t get the authenticity unless you overland.
4. This next reason is a little more logical; overlanders are safe. Experienced truck drivers who know the routes like the back of their hand will take care of you. Overlanders are elevated which not only makes for a better view of the passing countryside, but it means you never have to worry about anyone being able to reach up through the windows. To board the overlander there is a set of retractable stairs that lead to a locking door. If you are ever feeling uncomfortable or overwhelmed by the locals you can simply stay on the overlander. Your belongings are also guaranteed to be safe because they are locked in compartments underneath the truck until you arrive at your camping destination for the night. Overlanders have a specialized lock box for passports and other valuables for added safety. I never once worried about my personal safety or my belongings.
3. As it turns out, overlanding is a traveling sub-culture. At some of the campgrounds you have the chance to meet and interact with other overlanders. Here you can share stories of the places you’ve visited, compare your precious overlanding trucks and gear, and sometimes even challenge each other to a game of football, flunky ball, or frisbee. Once you’ve overlanded you join a type of elite travellers club that only other overlanders will understand.
2. Overlanders are convenient and glorious inventions! Each overland is equipped with spots to store luggage, compartments for the storage of tents (provided by the company), a mat pile for added comfort when sleeping on the ground, as well as a camping kitchen! The stove is built into one of the compartments and all kitchen dishes needed are in the section beside. It is the job of the overlanders to work as a team to set up an eating area (foldable chairs are found in yet another compartment), prep and cook food, and clean the dishes. This may sound like a lot of responsibility but many hands make light work. After breakfast in the morning travellers are responsible for breaking camp and loading up the supplied gear into the convenient storage spots of the overlander before heading out on the road again!
1. The last and most important reason to overland is spontaneity. Having the flexibility to stop whenever you want to soak in the local culture is a gift unto its own. In Malawi we stopped for a “bush toilet” and ended up spending an hour singing and playing with some local children who appeared from a town nearby. In Tanzania we pulled off on the side of the road to take in the breathtaking view of the Serengeti and learn about ant lions in the sand. Our road was blocked by a stubborn elephant for 15 minutes in Botswana, but we marvelled at it’s majestic demeanour. In Namibia we played football with some kids in a parking lot then smiled inside at the screams of delight they emitted when we gave them our ball. It’s the things that are not in the itinerary that make overlanding the special type of travel that it is.
Although difficult at times, overlanding is a must for the adventurous traveller. Take it from me, I spent 40 days overlanding Eastern and Southern Africa, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.