Trip Preparation

 

A 6 month overland 4wd trip through Africa obviously takes some different planning to a months holiday somewhere. From working out our transport, planning a route, and determing what gear we need to gathering as much information as we can on what to see, where to go and what situations we should be prepared for. We still have quite a number of things to organise before we leave, and the list seems to grow every day!  As we decide what we are doing we’ll update this page.

 

Research

If you are on this page you are probably planning a long overland trip like this yourself. If there is one tip I can suggest it is to read, read and read some more. There are heaps of websites you can refer to, some are simple blogs of people who have done similar trips, some are webpages with planning info, routes and diaries and some are 4wd forums. Websites like these will help you plan your route, decide what to see and where to stay. They will also help you determine what equipment you might need and what preparation is required. Some of the ones we have found useful so far are listed below.

http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/

http://www.pictureafrica.org/

http://www.bigsky-adventures.com/

http://discoeverywhere.com/

http://ons4.reproroom.com/

http://seeyouwhenwegetthere.com

http://www.africa-overland.net/Africa

http://tracks4africa.co.za/

http://bushlore.com/

 

Driver Training

If we are going to get around Africa on our own we need to make sure we can handle a 4wd confidently, both driving it and recovering it when necessary. We have joined the Toyota Landcruiser Club of Australia as they offer members a number of different courses, from driving and recovery skills, to first aid, GPS and mechanics.

We have completed the driver and recovery training as well as sand driving with the TLCC. It has given us a heap more confidence in ourselves and in how capable modern cars are. We have also been on a couple of weekend trips with the club to put it into practice. We have done the vehicle maintenance course and have a few bush mechanic tips to try if (when) things break! We are planning to do more of their courses before we leave, as well as a few more trips.

If you are going to be travelling through Africa by 4wd on your own then it is really important you know how to handle a 4wd in difficult conditions. Just search on uTube for 4wd videos and you will find heaps of them where drivers, or the people guiding them, have made some simple, but silly mistakes that have led to disastrous results. I have seen vehicles tumble down hills and axles being ripped from the chassis. That is not to say we are now 4wd experts, far from it, but I think we have a much better idea of how to tackle things which should hopefully help to keep us safe.

 

Route Planning

We are planning on using a combination of things to help us find our way around Africa.

Michelin Maps – great for a general overview of how you plan to get from A to B

Map Studio Southern and East Africa Road Atlas – more detailed view of things and gives you a bigger picture than the GPS

Tracks4Africa – the ultimate GPS routing software for 4wd travel in Africa. We are currently using it to roughly plan our itinerary to get an idea of how fast (or slow) we need to travel to cover what we want to see in the time we have available. Combined with Map Source, you can use your laptop to plan the route.

Lonely Planet Guidebooks – everyone knows Lonely Planet. So far we have the following books: South Africa, Botswana & Namibia, Zambia & Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, Watching Wildlife East Africa, Watching Wildlife Southern Africa and the Africa Phrasebook (just in case we need to converse in Swahili!).

General Books – the books that got us started on this adventure were the Bradt Africa Overland and the Getaway Guide Cape to Cairo. We actually bought these books at Johannesburg airport on our way home from our last visit to Africa!

 

GPS

Tracks4Africa works on Garmin GPS units, so that helped narrow down the selection. Originally we were looking at a unit with a larger screen, however when we saw the Nuvi 3760 we were sold. It looks very much like an iPhone with a glass touchscreen and is very slim. The display is crystal clear, the touchscreen is very repsonsive and the unit seems to work quite well. A couple of small issues though:

1. Whilst it says it can have 100 routes, you can’t actually upload any routes from your pc to the unit. Garmin say they should have a software update to fix this first quarter 2011, I just hope they have it sorted before we leave. It uploads the waypoints but then I will have to manually recreate all our routes which is pretty annoying!

2. Apparently this unit displays maps slightly differently and as a result T4A doesn’t cope when 2country’s maps overlap each other. In the area where the 2 maps overlap all the detail is missing. T4A have been very good at working with me on this and in the end voluntarily refunded the cost of the maps, but I still have the maps to use. In the end it isn’t that big a deal, it just means I have to load each country individually or accept that the detail will be missing in the overlapped area (but the routing still works ok).

We are tossing up whether to actually by another GPS, the Garmin 1490T, which was our original choice. We know this unit will load routes from Mapsource, will display more than one country’s map at a time without issue and the screen is larger. We will wait and see if Garmin resolve the routing issue before we leave and decide at the last minute what we will do.

 

Satellite Phone

As we are travelling on our own we will be taking a satellite phone as a bit of a backup plan in case we get stuck. We have decided on an Iridium 9505a Satellite Phone. From everything I have read, it seems that a phone on the Iridium network is really the only option for Africa if you want good coverage. The phone itself is larger than a regular mobile phone, but it isn’t that bad. We bought it from ebay in the UK as it is a lot cheaper than buying from here in Australia. It came with a storage bag, international charging adapters, car charger, manual. Now we just have to work out which is the most cost effective satellite plan for us whilst we are away.

 


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