When I came back from my 19-day Desert Tracker tour with Acacia Africa, the question I began hearing from my friends and family was: “What is overlanding really like?”
It’s a question anyone who’s ever considered an overland trip has probably wondered.
So here’s a look at a typical day overlanding through Southern Africa in the winter months:
6 a.m. – Wake up. Even if you’re not leaving early, chances are you were in bed by 10 last night and your body (or at least your bladder) will be getting you up around 6. Depending on which country/time zone you’re in, the sun may or may not be up yet.
7: a.m. – Tents down and breakfast. As you and your tent buddy are packing away your tent and sleeping mats, your guide will be laying out the breakfast spread. If you’re not in a hurry, you may have the chance to cook some eggs to go along with your toast and cereal.
7:30 a.m. – Packing up and hitting the road. Most people will pitch in to put away the camp chairs, tables, and any leftover breakfast supplies. Everyone will settle into their seats on the truck, and you’ll hit the road.
10 a.m. – A few hours after leaving, you’ll make a stop. Probably at a gas station so you can use the toilets, grab some snacks, and stretch a bit. The good news about Southern Africa is that there are enough towns to where you don’t have to take many “bushy-bushy” bathroom breaks along the side of the road. The toilets you’ll encounter are mostly paid, but they’re clean.
1 p.m. – Lunch. If you’ve made it to your destination for the day, you’ll have lunch before setting up camp. If you haven’t quite made it, it’ll be a quick sandwich or pasta stop on the side of the road..
2/3 p.m. – Afternoon activity. On most days, you’ll arrive at your final destination before it gets dark. Which means if there’s an optional activity like a game drive or canoeing or going for a short hike, you’ll do it before dinner. If there’s no activity on tap, you’ll have the afternoon to relax, take a shower, and/or do some laundry. Many of the campsites you’ll stay at have bars and swimming pools, which are perfect for free afternoons.
6:30/7 p.m. – Dinner. It will be dark by now during the winter months, so dinner will be eaten by headlamp, often around a fire. You’ll be bundled up in an extra layer by now, as it gets chilly in this part of Africa once the sun goes down. Dinner will be simple but delicious.
8 p.m. – Games or drinks. If there’s a bar, that’s probably where everyone will go after dinner. If there’s not, everyone will gather around the camp fire to have a beer or maybe a hot tea.
9/10 p.m. – Bedtime. Even if you spent most of the day on the truck, the early onset of darkness tricks your body into getting tired much early than it would at home. By 10 p.m., everyone is usually tucked away in their sleeping bags, or perhaps grabbing one more glance up at the stars, which are brilliant in this part of the world on a clear night.