They’re your trusty guide when technology fails. Not to mention your window to the macro view of the landscape you’re travelling through. Tracks4Africa’s paper maps are essential reading for every overlander. By Arnold Ras and Magriet Kruger
Could there be a more thrilling sight than a map spread out over a dining room table? It speaks of embarking on new adventures and discovering unknown places. A paper map lets you see the big picture and how different destinations on your trip relate to one another. No wonder many travellers prefer paper in hand when planning that once-in-a-lifetime self-drive trip through Africa.
And when the battery on your smartphone runs out, or your GPS goes on the blink, you’ll thank your lucky stars if you’ve packed a hard-copy map. Tracks4Africa’s paper maps offer you all the expertise of the electronic products plus the beauty of scale. Here are 10 reasons why T4A’s paper maps deserve a spot in your cubbyhole.
#1: Tear and water resistant
Maps can take a beating on a road trip. They get folded and refolded, are thrown around the cabin and come uncomfortably close to snacks and drinks. Sometimes they’re even the subjects of disputes (“Let me see that!”). Good to know then that all T4A paper maps are printed on tear proof and water resistant PolyArt paper. This type of paper is film-coated with a special clay coating that ensures clear and colourful printing, so your map can better handle the African sun.
#2: Travel times
Your T4A paper map is an invaluable planning tool because it not only displays distance between points, but also travel time. This information is derived from GPS data recorded on actual trips taken by other T4A members. You get the benefit of their hard-won experience.
Good to know: Due to seasonal road conditions and floods, travel times may vary. It’s always best to consult local travel forums for an update before you set out.
#3: Useful icons
A proper road trip is all about experiencing the new and unfamiliar, like points of interest you never otherwise get to see for yourself. Once you’ve carefully planned your preferred route, include time to take a break from driving. During these downtimes, why not explore natural landmarks or historic sites? Or plan to stop for a picnic at a scenic spot, stretch your legs at a park or overnight at a camping spot. You’ll find all these points of interest indicated on the map with handy icons.
Did you know? T4A paper maps even include icons for fuel stops, ATMs, shops (including pharmacies, butchers and GPS dealers), police and public toilets.
#4: An off-roaders dream
If you enjoy the challenge of technical 4×4 driving, look no further. The T4A maps also indicate 4×4 routes. A quick look at the Botswana paper map will fill your heart with joy – it features an abundance of off-road routes. And when travelling through a rich and diverse country such as Botswana, wandering off the beaten track is a must. But off-road driving demands skill and knowledge. With T4A, you will be prepared as the map even has a section with driving tips for gravel roads, thick sand, mud, pans, water crossings and rough terrain.
Good to know: Sand roads are easier to travel during rainy seasons, while marsh roads will prove less daunting during dry seasons.
#5: Border crossings and times
Crossing a border in Africa can be a tricky and time-consuming affair. One thing is certain: the more you know before you get to the border, the better. Few maps on the market offer such detailed and comprehensive border-crossing information as T4A’s paper maps. Open your map and read everything there is to know about border post red tape – from required documents and custom allowances to the opening and closing time of border posts. It’s a wealth of information that will save you a lot of sweat and tears.
All four T4A paper maps are scaled at 1:1,000,000, meaning one centimetre on the map represents 10 kilometres. For both Namibia and Botswana, these are the largest paper maps for their respective countries, truly offering you the big picture.
#7: Topography and elevation
Colour coding makes it easy to pick out lakes, pans, rivers, swamps, canyons and plateaus. The same is true for elevation, with individual peaks indicated alongside their heights. Love expansive views? Then look for the mountain pass icon and get those panoramic shots. Protected areas, which are popular destinations for many overlanders, are indicated in shades of green.
Did you know? 38% of Botswana’s total land area is devoted to national parks, reserves, and wildlife management areas.
#8: Map index
One of the handiest features is a map index to the main towns and attractions. These are indicated with a reference grid letter and number so you can find your destination on the map even if you have no idea where it’s located.
#9: Road types
It might be your thing to travel mainly on dirt, but perhaps your passenger wants a break from the bumping and shaking. Or maybe you just need to get somewhere more quickly. The maps clearly show what road type to expect, whether paved or unpaved, major or minor – even mountain-bike tracks and riverboat trails. Heading to Mozambique but not travelling in an off-road vehicle with good ground clearance and 4WD? Simply study the Mozambique paper map to choose the optimal route.
Judging from the Namibia paper map, many a ship came to its final resting place on this stretch of the Atlantic coast. All the way from Alexander Bay to the Skeleton Coast National Park, you’ll find some 37 shipwrecks. Some of these date back as far as 1880 (Portuguese Gunboat at Sandwich Harbour) while the latest is as recent as 2001 (South West Kittyhawk – 103km past Lüderitz). A Namibian shipwreck tour might just be the most novel travel idea for 2018! Of course, it doesn’t have to be shipwrecks. It could be mountain passes or sand dunes, war graves or fossil sites. Why not pore over the map and see what tickles your fancy?
Get your map
Did you spot incorrect or missing information on one of T4A’s paper maps? We would love to hear from you. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get in touch.
Need advice on how to navigate with a paper map? Check out T4A co-founder Johann Groenewald’s tips.