Overlanding consists of many things, but one thing is for sure. There are going to be days when you spent more time on the truck, than off. And in our case, early in our trip, we would have two very long drive days. Driving about 30 hours in just 48 in order to reach our next destination, Malawi lake.
Driving for that amount of time is, in many ways, as awful as it sounds. It’s waking up at 03:30 after a torturously hot night, getting on a bus that will drive over roads of varying degrees of bumpiness. It’s being hot in the non-air-conditioned truck, or being blown about by the wind that enters through the wide open windows. It’s staring out the window, trying to occupy your brain, because reading and watching movies would just make you sick (for me that is). It is trying to find a comfortable position and resorting to ever more unlikely postures just to get some sleep. It is arriving in the dark, pitching your tent and doing it all again the next morning. It is getting to the border and hoping your visa will be okay. It’s the anxiety of seeing your passport be taken away for inspection in a small building where only two of the five fans are working. It’s driving again until after dark and knowing that the next morning may be a free morning, but you will still have to get on that truck again. And again, and again and again in the coming weeks.
But in many other ways, more important ways, it is also amazing. Part of the magic of the trip. It’s residing in that dreamlike state between waking and sleeping as you watch the 04:00 world pass by. A lone bird waking up and its song entering your mood. Passing by a mosque where the call to morning prayer has started and a bar where the party is still going strong. Yesterday and today colliding in the beauty of a sunrise on the truck.
It is driving through a national park at top speed, not expecting to see anything and promising some warm juice and a little cake to anyone who is the first to spot a giraffe or zebra. It’s Erik and Tom winning these coveted prices and then being treated to a sighting of our first animal of the big five: elephants! It’s elephants and giraffes and zebras just along the road a mere stone’s throw away.
It’s having lunch at this park and driving up into lush and green hills. It’s a big and beautiful intensely red African sunset, arriving in the last bit of light in the cooler mountain air. It’s a massive dome filled with more stars than I have ever seen and being mesmerized. It’s eating under the stars and then drinking a cup of hot chocolate with Amarulo, all the while feeling so incredibly lucky to be able to watch this spectacle.
It is sleeping well again because the air is so much more pleasant and waking up to get on the bus. Unable to sleep I gaze at the night sky. It’s lure like a Siren’s song made visible and lulling me into a state of bliss I didn’t think I would encounter on these driving days.
It’s listening to your favourite music while you overlook the clouds shadows adorning the plain below. The landscape not yet the vast dry nothingness we hope to encounter later on, but certainly more arid than we have see before. The browns and greens mingling with the red earth and the blue sky. There is a tree punctuating the earthy colours with a delicate red flower, not unlike an orchid. I have no idea how it can survive in these conditions, but it is wonderful to look at.
Driving days are yet more beautiful sunsets enjoyed from the window of the truck. This time the sky a bright pink on one side and a deep almost purple blue on the other. Both sides of the world joined by the last blue of the day. It is setting up camp at lake Malawi where we will wake up to more adventures that are just waiting to become beautiful memories.