Mark Bland turned his dream of an extended overlanding trip to Botswana, Namibia and Zambia into an unforgettable journey. He shares how he approached the preparations and what he learnt along the way.
Counting up the experiences
46 campsites / lodges / chalets
9 border crossings (2 somewhat illegal and momentarily!)
5 Covid tests
3 months of planning
1 shredded tyre
2 car services
1 written-off vehicle
3 traffic fines
440 beers (give or take!)
Countless plasters, cable ties, imaginary animal sightings, potholes and dust
A lifetime of dreams all coming together into one epic journey of a lifetime
The verdict after three months on the road?
Now is the best time to explore Africa and at the same time share valuable data through Tracks4Africa for fellow overlanders to follow in your tracks…
Preparing for the trip
To safely and happily navigate an overlanding expedition of this magnitude there were a couple of key things to get organised before departure day. We had decided to depart on the 4th of July – Independence Day in the United States as well as for us!
Preparations included but were not limited to:
● A rough plan on the where, when and how long (a big benefit of overlanding during Covid times was not needing to prebook any accommodation even in peak season!)
● What paperwork was required for both us and the car. Along with this was arming ourselves with information in terms of the various countries’ border crossing protocols, Covid regulations as well as testing stations and turnaround times
● Compiling a list of equipment and gear which we did not have and would need for any and all eventualities, including a thorough medical aid kit (which was needed a few times, but mostly due to my own stupidity!)
● A base level of mechanical and medical training
● Doing research on all locations in order to compile a budget for the trip. This included pre-gathering information on park fees and various levies, accommodation costs, mileage between destinations and fuel costs in each country and a daily food and sundry allowance. It also factored in any emergency costs such as services, a new tyre or two and other parts susceptible to some wear and tear, not forgetting a small kitty for some spoils along the way.
Mapping our route
A large part of the information needed was gleaned from Tracks4Africa. This included scouring the blogs, reading the Tracks4Africa books from cover to cover (and to which we constantly referred), and using the very detailed maps. This meant we always knew where we were going (when we wanted to at least!) and what to expect. It would prove especially useful in some rather far-flung and remote places in Zambia.
T4A travel tip: It’s best to have two ways to navigate should something happen to one. Tracks4Africa maps are available for Garmin (downloadable GPS maps or on SD card) as well as in hard copy (paper maps and guide books). The T4A Guide App for smartphone functions offline, so you see where you are even when there’s no cell service.
On our trip we had the benefit of other travellers’ first-hand experience via our trusty Garmin, so we wanted to do the same for future overlanders. We shared our tracks with Tracks4Africa to verify roads, distances and travel times. As a complete technophobe who much prefers being in the bush this was the part I was avoiding the most. As always, however, the TracksAfrica team was on standby to take us through the entire process. We just had to plug the GPS in and they did the rest!
Also read: How to submit data to Tracks4Africa
Stay tuned to the Tracks4Africa blog for photographic reports of our trip, plus travel tips on where to stay and what to see. Join this journey of a lifetime and realise that your own adventure is waiting for you.
Video: Essence of Overlanding
What motivated Mark to finally embark on his dream trip? Watch the video for his thoughts on this game-changing expedition.