Africa Overland
​Dateline: February to October 2007
The dream of many is to drive their own vehicle across Africa. Ron and Viv live the dream. Here's a brief overview!
The big copper, skin as black and as shiny as silky smooth ebony, was smiling .... the sort of smile that a cat has when it has drunk all the milk.

'You', stabbing his finger at me, 'have broken the laws of this land and if you do not pay the fine, you will go to jail!'

He was much, much too big to make angry, but I wasn't going to lie down and get screwed for something I hadn't done. 'What law's that mate?' I said, a forced smile creasing my face ... or at least I hoped it was a smile.

'You were speeding and now you will pay,' he sneered, big black hands resting on his hips.

Bulldust! I replied, trying to keep the profanities to a minimum and Mr Plod on the happy side of sanity.

His eyes narrowed just a touch, sizing up this muzungu or 'rich white man' (as he .... and most native Africans ... would describe us), 'You pay 20,000 shillings (about $200) to me or you will go to jail!'

Now we had cut to the chase ... a bloody bribe ... and I was on familiar ground. He was still smiling .... so was I ... and 20 minutes later after asking him to take us to his superior, offering to go to court and generally just going around in circles with the argument, we were beginning to win the battle of wits and patience.

Ten minutes later we drove away, leaving the mountain of a man looking a little non plus with a few kitsch Aussie souvineers in his hand as his 'payment' and a wry smile on his face for his hard work and for letting us continue on our travels.

We were on the outskirts of Nairobi, the sprawling capital of Kenya and known to most overland travellers and ex-pats living there are 'Nairobbery'. Our brush with the law, or lawlessness, however you want to call it, wasn't the first time it had happened on our overland travels across Africa and it wasn't the last, but it was pretty typical.
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Cape Agulhas lighthouse.
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A Kruger leopard strolls by our vehicle.
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'The Duke' - the biggest tusker in Kruger at the time, made us back-up for over a kilometre.

We had left Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of the African continent, four months previously and wound our way north. First we had taken the road around the coast to the Cape of Good Hope and then, on surely what must be one of the most dramatic coastal drives in the world, around Chapman's Peak to Cape Town.
 
Over the next two months we switched and twitched our way, this way and that, as we took in the many delights and adventures which South Africa can provide; a bossy elephant that forced its right of way and had us backing up for over a kilometre in southern Kruger; an amazing 4WD ascent up Sani Pass from the lowlands of Kwa-Zulu Natal to the independent kingdom of Lesotho; and, as much as you could eat of the freshest, finest fish and seafood from the 'mouse house', a sandy floor beach-side kraal-like eating establishment at Lambert's Bay.
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Sani Pass is one of the great drives in Africa.
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Ron's Patrol in Sani Pass.
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Ron (L) and Rob enjoy a beer in the highest pub in Africa at the top of the Sani Pass, in Lesotho.
A few weeks later we were crossing the mighty Zambezi River on the Kazungula ferry (soon to be bridged in 2017). The maelstrom that hit us as we drove off the crowded boat was man-made as seemingly a hundred sly-of-hand helpers, conmen, petty crooks, beggars and downright thieves swooped on us.
 
This is one of the most intimidating border crossings, we've found, in all of Africa. Not only do you get shunted from pillar to post in an effort to get passports stamped, temporary import for your vehicle organised, local insurance sorted, carbon tax on your vehicle paid (they were way in front of Australia with the rort of carbon tax!), council road fee extracted from you and finally a police permit, you have to do all that while surrounded by people pulling, tugging, pleading, begging, swearing and telling you what to do.
 
There is, most people find, in most of us at times like these, an overwhelming urge to punch somebody or something. I slammed the door of the Patrol, yelling ... snarling ... a very forceful 'GO AWAY!' 
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Another police man and other fine, this time in Botswana, but I got a receipt so I think it wasn't a bribe!
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Desert camp in Botswana.
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The big ford crossing a flooding stream in the Okavango swamp.
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Zebras quench their thirst at a waterhole in Etosha National Park, Namibia.
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Ron, a little apprehensive with a couple of big pussy cats.
Luckily, not all of Zambia is like that and we cruised quietly down the road to Livingstone, gateway to the adrenalin junkies' African capital of the mighty Victoria Falls. You can visit this incredible place from the Zimbabwe side (which is fabulous), but ever since Mugabe has been exerting his senility driven crackdown on anything or anybody white, Zambia is better.

Here you can raft the raging river below the falls (many say this is the greatest Grade 5 river in the world), jet boat up to almost right under the plummeting power curtain of water, bunji jump from the bridge that spans the gorge, take a flying fox from one lip of the huge canyon to the other, or fly up the gorge and over the falls in a light aircraft, helicopter or ultra-light.

What you wont find in the glossy brochures or on the backpackers' notice board is yet another adventure meant for those with a sense of adventure, instinctive balance and a complete disregard for their travel insurance. We only heard about it on the sly, as a young African sidled up to us offering to take us, 'above the falls and to the very lip'.
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A family of elephants cross the Zambezi in Chobe National Park, Botswana.
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Our guide and son Trent on the lip of Victoria Falls near Devil's Pool.

Over the last 32 years that we've been going to Africa we've done most things at Victoria Falls (apart from the bunji jump) so this sounded pretty good to my son, Trent, and I. Once we had set on a price we set off, our guide leading us along hidden natural pathways across the rock hewn channels that led to the main stream of the Zambezi. Just a few weeks before a South African guide who had declined any local advice or leadership had slipped and plummeted over the big drop while elephants are often swept over as they try to swim from island to island.

If the Zambezi has dropped a little from its flood height there's a rock pool - the Devil's Pool - right on the edge of the drop where you can enjoy a cooling swim, or if you are game and sure footed enough, there's a rock ledge you can edge out on. I put it down to my son's coaxing and a rush of adrenalin that somehow got me to the lip ... and the view was not only different but worth it as well.
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The mighty Victoria Falls.
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Viv and one exciting way to see Victoria Falls.
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Our armed guards in northern Kenya.
After travelling through pretty but crowded Malawi and then war ravaged Mozambique, which is now being plundered by Chinese logging companies, we crossed into Tanzania. This country not only offers some of the greatest wildlife extravaganzas on earth, it also has exotic, fantastic Zanzibar, the original 'Spice Island'. Freddie Mercury was also born here and you can now enjoy a beer at a waterside bar named in his honour, while nearby the nightly fish and seafood markets and food stalls are not to be missed, the food cooked on coal fired hot plates or ovens, as you wait.

That night as we walked back to our lodgings in a not-so-safe part of town (right beside the fishing boat harbour), the bloody power went out. Two girls joined us from outside the bar they were drinking at - presumably thinking they'd be safer with us than on their own - and we wandered back down the narrow alleys and dark eave-shaded streets. It was times like these I was glad Viv had procured some 'bear spray' (think capsicum spray with a 10 metre range) and a hand held taser. Thankfully we have never had to use them in anger, the only person ever getting sprayed being Viv .... but that is another story, best saved for another day.

After blood pulsing encounters with lions in the Serengeti - 'Wind the bloody window up, close the f^*#ing door you idiot!', we rolled into Kenya and our encounter with our policeman.

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Ferry across upper Zambezi River, Zambia.
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Tradies roof work gets disrupted by curious elephant!
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Major highway in southern Tanzania.
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Crushing rocks into pebble size pieces with a hammer is a tough way to earn a buck.
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This bridge needs some work done by a tradie or two.
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The Himba people of northern Namibia live a traditional life and the women paint themselves with red ochre.
North from Nairobi, Kenya, any overland trip across Africa really gets interesting. Tourist numbers plummet as do the number of overland trucks (most run from Kenya to South Africa) and tourist facilities became scarce or non-existent.

At Archer's Post in the North-east Frontier District of Kenya we picked up our two armed guards for our stay in the nearby national park, but luckily the only guns we saw were the ones they were totting. Then, as we headed further north again, we had to sign an indemnity form at the last police post stating we had refused 'police protection' for the final run north to the Ethiopian border. Our decision was not totally foolhardy as the only real trouble we had previously was at police checkpoints.
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This boat builder in Mozambique only used a hammer, chisel, saw and a bow drill to build this dhow.
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Rafting the Nile in Uganda is a great adventure.
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Bike repair workshop.
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Warriors in the Omo Valley of Ethiopia always carried AK-47 rifles - the scars on his chest denote how many kills he has had in battle!

Ethiopia, the country I most wanted to visit on this overland journey was an enigma. We had been told by travellers heading south that, 'You'll love the history and the monuments and the scenery is fabulous ... but you'll hate the people!'

And so it was. I don't know what it is but they take begging to a new, much higher level than the rest of Africa. Maybe we've given them so much aid that as soon as they see a whitey, they beg ... no ... demand ... some money. Stepping out of the vehicle was like getting set to go to war. You'd take a deep breath and steel yourself for the confrontation you knew was about to happen.
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This beautiful women in the Omo Valley, was on her way to market to sell her milk and honey.
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Dirt road in the Omo Valley, Ethiopia.
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Ethiopian chicken seller.
Sudan couldn't come quick enough and what a country it proved to be. We would've liked to stay longer but we could only get a 14 day transit visa so we hurried on through a desert that was being scorched by 55°C days to the scum bucket hole that is Wadi Halfa. Here we caught a rusty, worn out barge that went under the name of a 'ferry', north into Egypt. There for three days we ran the gauntlet of police and other government officials in Egypt to get our vehicle into the country, which in the end made the endless cries for 'baksheesh' from the local merchants seem just a petty annoyance.

For us this was our third visit to Egypt and it was more a series of police posts and police escorted high-speed convoys through the desert than a guided tour of the incredible monuments that this country has. Be aware though, that after a while even these great ruins, apart from the greatest temples and pyramids, become just an 'ABC' (Another Bloody Crumbly).
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Sudan farmer tends his camels.
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Riding to work - Sudan bus crossing the desert. Most do their long runs at night to escape the sledge hammer heat.
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WE crossed the Sudan desert for much of the way on the railway tracks - it was the easiest option in 55°C heat.
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Egypt's monuments take all forms and are impressive.
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You gotta have your photo taken with the pyramids - Ron (R), his wife Viv (L) and travelling companions Neil & Helen.
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Libya's impressive Roman & Greek ruins are well off the beaten tourist track.






Four weeks later we crossed the border from Libya (not the best country to go to right now but wait - it is incredible) into Tunisia.
Ras ben Sekka, the northernmost point of the African continent is a little overshadowed by the high bluff of nearby Cape Blanc, but it was our final destination before boarding a ferry and heading for Europe. Still, that wasn't before a police raid on our lonely beach camp one night and a stroppy border guard who, for a few hours, made it seem we weren't going to leave the country just at that moment in time.
 
But, such is overlanding ... you play it as safe as you can and try and be flexible ... and take everything in your stride. It is worth it!

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Spices add colour to Tunisian market place.
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Desert Track in southern Tunisia.
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Northern most lighthouse at Ras ben Sekka
​Copyright Ron & Viv Moon