Driving through Africa
By Hassan Isilow -Last year, I followed a group of friends who were driving from Cape Town to Kampala in Uganda. There were two reasons for this long trip. First, we wanted to explore the continents beauty, which has always attracted tourists from across the globe. Secondly, the journey enabled us to visit some of our family and friends who live in Uganda.
So we started our journey at midnight in Cape Town, driving in a BMW X 5 which belonged to a friend in the group. We were five in number and kept conversing on the way as we exchanged the wheels. The next day at noon we arrived in Johannesburg, where we had lunch at a friend’s home in Mayfair. After the heavy lunch we fell asleep in his living room.
We continued our journey at midnight, this time driving northwards through Mafikeng heading for Botswana. At 5am in the morning, we were queuing at the Botswana border post near Mafikeng, our passports were quickly stamped. One hour later, we arrived in Gaborone, Botswana’s capital city. My friends hadn’t been here before, so they were excited.
There wasn’t much traffic in this city compared to Johannesburg or Cape Town. Most people were just driving into the city probably heading for work, since it was early morning. Gaborone is a rather smaller city compared to Cape Town, Durban, Pretoria or Johannesburg. One of the main differences I noticed is that most people in the city were dressed formally, compared to our jeans, and tackies culture.
Since my friends hadn’t been here before, we decided to spend a night in Gaborone. We booked accommodation at the stylish Gaborone hotel close to the city centre. Later we took a walk through the streets of Gaborone, but it didn’t feel any different from South Africa. It seemed just like another province of the rainbow nation, except for the many immigration officers who were in the streets asking people for identifications.
By 9pm Gaborone had become a ghost city; most people had retired to their homes, street hawkers were packing their merchandise in bags ready to retire for the day. The taxi rank and Bus stations were also deserted. You could clearly see someone coming hundred meters away. We decided to return to our hotel, where a local band was playing.
The next day, we set off our journey at 10am and arrived at Kazungula border post late in the night. We slept in the car, and waited for the borders to open. It was a little bit cold in Kasungula and we kept hearing sounds of wild animals since we were parked close to the river and as you may be aware Botswana also has many wild animals. We were afraid that an elephant could possibly come and attack us.
But one of our friends in the group, a medical doctor, said he wanted to go out of the car and count the shooting stars that were zooming across the pale blue sky. He opened the door and got out. Another friend Christopher a sangoma followed and lit a cigarette. Now we were no longer afraid. I also got out and eased myself.
It was already 5am and we spotted a yellow bus coming from the Botswana direction, so my friends suggested we should run and be the first in the queue at the Botswana –Zambia border post where our passports would be stamped so we could exit. It was a wise decision, because 15 minutes later several passengers from the bus joined us in the line. After queuing for close to an hour, we were cleared and we loaded our vehicle onto the ferry and crossed the river from Botswana into Zambia.
An hour later, we saw a sign post of the famous Victoria Falls, but we didn’t branch off. We just continued driving and in the afternoon we arrived in the Zambian capital. Lusaka is an exciting city, for one to visit; the local people are hospitable compared too many countries. We booked in at a backpackers in an area called madras – a predominantly Muslim area. We drove through the friendly city and made a couple of friends.
One thing I discovered about Zambians – they drink like a fish. Every restaurant we went to we found people with beer bottles. I also discovered Zambians live their life to the fullest. Most Zambians I met told me they enjoy what they have today, because nobody knows what tomorrow holds. The following day, we departed from Lusaka heading to Tanzania and arrived at Tunduma boarder post in Tanzania 40 hour later.
Hawkers dealing in foreign exchange swarmed our car at the border post, enticing us to change our currency with them at favourable rates despite the fact that there was a bank close by. Luckily a customs official working at the Tanzanian border warned us not trust the money changers. He said some of them cheat their clients.
We ignored the money changers and proceed to a small Asian owned restaurant located on the main street of Tunduma. Here we had breakfast and later drove off. At 2am we arrived in Arusha, a historic town in Tanzania, where we spent our night and the following morning drove off to Namanga, a border town between Tanzania and Kenya. This was another exciting moment of our journey.
As we disembarked from the car to proceed to the immigration office, several Masai women selling different types of handmade arts and crafts swarmed around us like wild bees; pusing their wares. One of them was quick to dress my hand with beads made out of colours similar to those of the Kenyan national flag. I was impressed by their entrepreneurial skills. Of course only a hard hearted person would not buy from such people.
After moments of deliberation I decided to buy from each of the five Masai women who had surrounded me. The women were so happy and my friends insisted I take a picture with them for remembrance, which I did. We later left Namanga and in a couple of hours were in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city. We drove through and the next afternoon we had arrived in our lovely city Kampala, the pearl of Africa, a country gifted by nature whose vegetation is ever green.