Packing for A Month in Africa

OAT’s (Overseas Adventure Travel’s) wonderfully helpful website is loaded with lots of hints from those that have gone before.  Thanks to them, I have a good idea of what to pack, and equally important, what NOT to pack.

I need to be prepared for cold mornings and evenings, high mid-day temperatures,  and a school visit.  Then after the tour ends, Mike and I are on our own in Cape Town for several days.

Suggestions for what to bring for the school visit included uninflated soccer balls and flip-flops plus the usual books, crayons, paper, pens and pencils.  I also like to bring along a few frivolous things, like small stuffed animals.

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The camps do our laundry every night, so 3 changes of clothes will do the trick, but I also needed a warm jacket, a hat, gloves, plus shorts and tee shirts and a bathing suit.  Dressing in layers is key.  I also need to plan for our time in Cape Town when we will be without daily laundry service.

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I found jumbo zip lock bags at the supermarket and am using them to organize my wardrobe.  But will all this, plus toiletries, fit into the duffel bag?

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to.  One traveler suggested putting the duffel inside a much bigger bag, then packing everything into that one large suitcase.  I tried that, but I easily exceeded the 50 pound weight limit.  THEN I decided to check out South African Air’s luggage rules and was very excited to learn that in addition to my carry on, I can have TWO checked bags!!!  I’m so used to the United Airlines restrictions, it didn’t occur to me that another airline’s checked baggage policy could be more liberal.

Being able to bring that second bag meant another trip to the Dollar Store for toothbrushes, combs and LOTS more school supplies, plus any odds and ends that I thought might be useful.  I packed it all in an old suitcase that I plan to leave in Africa.

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So, now my duffel will only contain MY stuff–plus another small duffel that I will use to bring back any purchases I make–good news for sisters, hermana preferida, cousins and other loved ones!

Anticipating Africa

OAT, like Road Scholar, provides an excellent package of preparatory materials.  These include everything you need to know about visa requirements,  immunizations, climate, what to pack, how much money to bring, plus a reading list for people like me.

I haven’t read ALL of the books on the list, but I have made my way through almost half.  Many were available from my local library, others I ordered from Amazon.   Here’s a visual of the ones that haven’t been returned to the library yet.  (Okay, I’ll admit it.  I’m a bit obsessive, but I figure if I am lucky enough to be able to spend time in another country, I should at least expend the effort to learn about it before I go.)

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Much too much for one post, so I’ll start with the book that is a bit dense, but is crammed with fascinating information–much of it news to me.

Africa, A Biography of the Continent by John Reader
In its 800 pages, this weighty tome covers a little bit of just about everything: genetics, linguistics, anthropology, history, archaeology, geology, geography, economics, agriculture–from the beginning of time right up to the 1990’s.  And if THAT isn’t enough, you can delve into footnotes and bibliography for more on the various subjects.   The best part?  Each of its 55 chapters starts with a short summary of what will follow, which makes it easy to decide whether or not you want to read further.

Here are just a few of the interesting tidbits I picked up from skimming through:

  • I knew Africa is big, but didn’t know HOW big.  China, the USA, India, Europe, Argentina and New Zealand could all fit into its 18.9 million square miles!  Hard to believe, but take a look.

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Pretty cool, huh?  Here’s another one–showing Pangaea before the continents drifted.

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Although I knew about plate tectonics from my days of hanging out with geology professors while selling them college textbooks,   I couldn’t tell you the difference between Pangaea and Gondwana.  But now I can.   And I had never heard of Laurasia, from which North America was eventually formed.

But wait, there’s more…

  • The earliest evidence of life on earth was found in Africa.  Fossilized microscopic organisms from 3.6 billion years ago were discovered in the Barberton Mountain region of South Africa.
  • Geneticists, analyzing DNA mutations, have concluded that our entire modern population descended from a relatively small group of people who left Africa about 100,000 years ago (roughly 10,000 generations ).
  • The DNA  of chimpanzees and humans is 99% identical.  Here’s a little visual courtesy of the Auckland Zoo.  What a difference 1% can make!genetics

 

  • Linguists have shown that the most ancient languages originated in Africa.

I could go on and on, but I won’t.  For anyone anticipating a trip to Africa, this book is definitely worth a trip to your local library.   Remember, you don’t have to read it ALL–just the chapters that interest you.  And there is something for just about everyone!

 

 

Geography Lesson

 

Geography was never a favorite subject of mine.  Memorizing capitals and products was excruciatingly mind numbing.  At the time, knowing where to plop countries on a mimeographed map didn’t appear to be knowledge I’d ever find useful.  Back when I considered a one hour trip to Boston a thrilling excursion, it was hard to imagine that I would ever be lucky enough to set foot any place outside of the continental USA.

I’ll admit that I wasn’t disappointed when Sister Pauline explained that there was no point in studying the geography of Africa, because everything was changing.  How sad that statement is one of the few things I remember from my geography studies!

Fast forward a half a century.  I will soon be filling that gaping hole in my knowledge of the world with a trip to that continent I didn’t have to learn about in elementary school.  Well, only the southern part of Africa.  But you gotta start somewhere.

This will be the first trip that Mike and I take with Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT).   Although we have had wonderful experiences with Road Scholar, and RS has a similar trip, we decided to go with OAT for the following reasons:

  • If you pay the full amount in cash a year in advance, you get a 10% discount (and I SO love a bargain)!
  • If you take another trip with them within the next 12 months, you get a 5% credit.
  • They have an amazing website, with very informative reviews and an incredibly helpful forum in which travelers share information and helpful hints.
  • They offer options:  you can do only the trip, or you can add pre and/or post trip excursions.
  • There is a maximum of 16 participants

Mike and I figured if we were going to shell out the money for airfare,  and subject our bodies to a total of 30 hours (round trip) in the air, we might as well stay a while, so we are doing the pre and then visiting Cape Town on our own.  Who knows if we will ever be able to get back to this part of the globe?

We start in Johannesburg,  then fly to Karongwe Game Reserve for the pre-trip.  Four days later, we return to  Johannesburg for the main trip, going first to two camps in Botswana, then one in Zambia, one in Zimbabwe, ending with a few days in Victoria Falls, before we fly back to  Johannesburg.   At that point, Mike and I will leave the tour and fly to Cape Town for a few days on our own, before returning to Johannesburg for a flight home.  All told, we will be gone for 26 days.

Oat created this very helpful map,  with the trip extensions in the insert.

 

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While on safari, we will be staying in tents in the national parks.  WiFi will therefore be limited to the few times we are in cities.  (So, sisters and cousins, when you don’t see a post, it will not be because I have met with foul play…it will just mean I am still off the grid).

We will be flying in very small planes, which limits both the weight and the type of luggage allowed.  One duffel bag each, without an internal frame, weighing no more than 44 pounds, plus one carry on. Here’s a visual of my duffel bag,  supplied by OAT, and my new (larger) back pack.   Previous travelers had experienced problems with the duffel splitting open (I told you the forum was helpful), but fortunately that appears to be old news.  Nevertheless, I’m packing some duct tape…just in case.luggage

Years of business travel trained me to travel light, but we will be visiting a school, so once I assemble the minimum amount of clothing and supplies needed, I’ll be cramming books, pencils, crayons and other odds and ends into the remaining space up to the weight limit.

Next post will be about pre-trip readings.