From Robert­son to Uganda

Ben and Iza Kriel (both 60) have been ex­plor­ing Africa since 1995. In June and July 2017, they drove all the way to Uganda.

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Why this tour? We’ve been to all of South Africa’s neigh­bour­ing coun­tries and also to An­gola and Tan­za­nia (Serengeti and Ngoron­goro). This time we wanted to see moun­tain go­ril­las in Uganda and also fish for Nile perch at Murchi­son Falls. June is a quiet month on the farm – our son Kobus of­fered to keep an eye on things. When we travel long dis­tance, we like to go in a con­voy of three ve­hi­cles. It’s a nice num­ber be­cause you can move fast and many camp­sites can ac­com­mo­date three ve­hi­cles per stand. Our braai grid also has enough space for meat for six peo­ple! Ben’s brother Jac­ques and his wife Jo­hanna – also from Robert­son – and our friends Fran­cois and Is­abel Marais from Worces­ter de­cided to join us. We’ve done many trips to­gether and we un­der­stand each other. How do you plan such a trip? We plan long in ad­vance. We never use a travel guide and tend to rely on Google. In 2010, our el­dest son Pi­eter-Ben and four of his friends drove from Lon­don to Cape Town in a beat-up old Land Cruiser. He gave us lots of help­ful in­for­ma­tion. We used Google Maps to de­ter­mine driv­ing dis­tances and to es­ti­mate travel times. It’s slow-go­ing in Tan­za­nia be­cause you drive through built-up ar­eas where the speed limit is 50 – 80 km/h and there are traf­fic of­fi­cials around ev­ery cor­ner. (Set aside some money for traf­fic fines.) Although we plan our route care­fully, we don’t usu­ally book ac­com­mo­da­tion be­fore­hand. We did have to ar­range per­mits for the moun­tain go­rilla ex­cur­sion, how­ever, and book in ad­vance for the fish­ing out­ing at Murchi­son Falls. We bought the per­mits on­line via Uganda Wildlife Au­thor­ity ( ugan­daw­ and had to col­lect them at their of­fices in Kampala. Be­cause the dates were fixed, we had to stick to a rough itinerary. Your route? We fol­lowed the Great North­ern Road – the most di­rect route through Botswana and Zam­bia – to Kapishya Hot Springs north of Mpika in Zam­bia. Then we took the main road through Tan­za­nia to Iringa, where we turned north to­wards Dodoma and then fur­ther north to Arusha. It took only nine days to drive from Robert­son to Arusha! From there, we were in un­known ter­ri­tory. We went a bit slower, but the driv­ing was still stren­u­ous. We went to Nairobi in Kenya and on to the Maa­sai Mara for the wilde­beest mi­gra­tion. Next up was Uganda, where we flew over Queen El­iz­a­beth Na­tional Park in a hot air bal­loon to cel­e­brate turn­ing 60! Then it was time to see the moun­tain go­ril­las. Our per­mits were for Rushaga in the south­ern sec­tion of Bwindi Na­tional Park. Since we were the most se­nior hik­ers, we were placed in the group that vis­ited the clos­est go­rilla fam­ily. We reached them within two hours. Those first sounds we heard… Mak­ing eye con­tact with the go­ril­las… Those are mo­ments that we’ll re­mem­ber for­ever. Rwanda was the big­gest sur­prise on the tour. There’s no lit­ter any­where. In Kigali we vis­ited the Geno­cide Memo­rial and mar­velled at how a coun­try can be re­built. From Kigali, we crossed the border at Rusumo and trav­elled back to Tan­za­nia where we drove south along Lake Tan­ganyika and en­tered Zam­bia at the small Kas­esya border post. Ex­actly a month later we were back at Kapishya Hot Springs. North of Lusaka, we turned west to Ka­fue Na­tional Park. Af­ter­wards, we en­tered Namibia at Ka­tima Mulilo and trav­elled south to South Africa. What did you drive? A 2005 Toy­ota Land Cruiser 2.4 diesel pick-up. The other ve­hi­cles in our con­voy were a 1996 Land Cruiser 80-se­ries sta­tion wagon and a 2017 Ford Ranger dou­ble cab. JW Swart from In­fanta Trail­ers ( in­fan­ta­trail­ers. built a canopy for our Cruiser. It has a kitchen, a cup­board for our clothes and a Honi­ball roof tent, among other things. The ben­e­fit of a cus­tomised canopy is that you don’t have to un­pack any­thing ex­cept your camp­ing chairs when you ar­rive in a

camp­site. Every­thing stays clean and you can start cook­ing, boil­ing wa­ter or go to bed with­out much has­sle. And when you want to strike camp and hit the road, every­thing folds away in min­utes. The Cruiser has an ex­tra long-dis­tance tank that holds 210 litres of diesel. We also trav­elled with 80 litres of drink­ing wa­ter. We had a winch and a high-lift jack for emer­gen­cies. We also packed ex­tra diesel and air fil­ters and ser­viced the ve­hi­cle as re­quired. Clean diesel isn’t a given in Africa and dusty roads de­ter­mine how of­ten you need to clean or re­place the air fil­ters. Our trip went smoothly – there were a few flat tyres, but we sorted them out our­selves. We al­ways travel with two spare wheels. Doc­u­men­ta­tion? Copies of your ve­hi­cle’s reg­is­tra­tion cer­tifi­cate are es­sen­tial. A Car­net de Pas­sage en Douane (CPD) is a re­quire­ment in Kenya. It cost R3 500 and we got R1 500 back. We al­ways took out third-party in­sur­ance at each border post. At the Tun­duma border post in Tan­za­nia it was eas­ier be­cause we could get in­sur­ance for Tan­za­nia, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. We bought all our visas at the border post, too. We took along Amer­i­can dol­lars be­cause you can use them at a lot of places. Oth­er­wise we ex­changed cur­rency be­fore en­ter­ing a new coun­try, al­ways check­ing the ex­change rate so we wouldn’t be ripped off. What did you eat? We planned care­fully for the 42 days on the road and bought food sup­plies in South Africa. Our main meal was in the evening. We stored pre­serves like beet­root salad, car­rots and quinces in jars or in the freezer, and we pre­pared fresh veg­eta­bles. We packed dry ra­tions in ammo boxes or card­board boxes that we could throw away when empty to make space in the ve­hi­cle. Break­fast was any­thing from ba­con and eggs to fruit, muesli and yo­ghurt. If we were in a rush, we ate Corn Flakes. Lunch was some­thing we could eat on the road like smoked snoek or ham­burger pat­ties on bread rolls. At night we braaied or made a potjie and served it with veg­eta­bles and salad. We ro­tated cook­ing du­ties among the cou­ples so the peo­ple who were not cook­ing could re­lax. On the road we stopped for tea or break­fast at scenic spots and we some­times braaied a quick round of boere­wors while we were there. We took frozen meat in an 80-litre Na­tional Luna freezer and we never had any prob­lems. It’s only when you travel south through Botswana and Namibia that your ve­hi­cle will be searched. By then we’d eaten most of our meat. We bought fresh pro­duce at mar­kets, and yo­ghurt at su­per­mar­kets. We took along our own box wine – we’re wine farm­ers af­ter all.

What to pack? Our pack­ing list is com­pre­hen­sive and in­cludes a freezer, a GPS, a portable shower, a con­verter for the 220 V hairdryer and a ve­hi­cle re­cov­ery kit. Laun­dry? We usu­ally wash our clothes our­selves – laun­dry dries quickly in the heat. When we spend two nights at a place, we some­times make use of the laun­dry ser­vice. How can you cut costs? Fuel is the big­gest ex­pense. Our ac­com­mo­da­tion costs were min­i­mal be­cause we camped ev­ery night – it makes a big dif­fer­ence. We paid an av­er­age of R124 per per­son per night for our 42-night trip. (Some­times we camped wild where there were no fa­cil­i­ties.) It all de­pends on what you want to do and see. En­try to the na­tional parks in East Africa is ex­pen­sive, so de­cide be­fore­hand which parks and at­trac­tions you’d like to see. Border cross­ings? It’s a chal­lenge. Re­mem­ber, you’re in Africa so take it slow. We put aside enough time to cross the border and didn’t stress about it. We usu­ally try to cross with­out as­sis­tance, but some­times we’d pay a run­ner if the border post was very busy. Many bor­ders have one-stop posts (like Rusumo makes the be­tween whole process Rwanda so and much Tan­za­nia), eas­ier. which Road con­di­tions? The main roads were gen­er­ally in a good con­di­tion. Some tar roads had lots of pot­holes – a good gravel road is bet­ter to drive than a bad tar road! Most coun­tries are cur­rently up­grad­ing their roads. A GPS with Track­s4Africa is es­sen­tial. Did you ever feel un­safe? No, we al­ways feel safer when we leave South Africa. In Kim­ber­ley, some­one opened the car door on Is­abel’s side and grabbed her cell­phone. Any med­i­cal emer­gen­cies? We took along all the nec­es­sary medicine and in­jec­tions like adren­a­line. (Ben is al­ler­gic to bee stings.) We use pro­phy­lac­tics like Malanil for malaria and this time we took along a malaria test kit. We’ve never had a se­ri­ous emer­gency and don’t have travel in­sur­ance. How did you stay in con­tact? We’re with MTN and we en­abled roam­ing on our cell­phones – we had re­cep­tion in most places. There was Wi-Fi avail­able at many of the places we camped. What have your trav­els in Africa taught you? It’s a priv­i­lege to be able to travel to­gether – we’ll al­ways savour the mem­o­ries. Africa is home to spec­tac­u­lar scenery and friendly peo­ple. It also has the po­ten­tial to pro­duce enough food to feed the world through agri­cul­ture. Ev­ery time we re­turn home, we re­alise: We live in a beau­ti­ful val­ley, but we’ll al­ways have a soft spot for Africa and its peo­ple and we’ll travel north as long as it’s pos­si­ble. Any other ad­vice? Plan well and just do it!




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