Southern Africa Encompassed – South Africa to Botswana

{Click here to read all my blog reviews on G Adventures Southern Africa Encompassed tour}
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I’ve done quite a few crazy things in my life, but probably nothing as crazy as flying solo to Africa and going on a two week camping adventure over Christmas and New Years through South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. I hadn’t even been camping since high school (and this trip involved a night of basic bush camping; no toilet or shower) so I wasn’t sure what in the world came over me, but I had a hunger for adventure and craved to travel outside my comfort zone. You only live once, right?

My mum thought I was insane and begged me several times to change my mind; she was convinced I was going to either get mauled to death by a lion or stepped on by an elephant. My grandma (bless her old-school heart), was terrified that I’d be attacked by bush men wearing leaves and carrying spears. And me, well, I was just sad to be away from those I cared about during the Christmas holiday and wondered how much I’d miss Gary while gone.

After weeks of researching available guided tours through Africa, I decided to go withe G Adventures Southern Africa Encompassed 15- day tour. There were many similar tours available with different tour operators, however this one ticked all the boxes:

– Left on the exact date I needed it to – Small group size (max 22, average 18) – 14 breakfasts, 12 lunches and 10 dinners included in the cost – Camping gear provided: tent and sleeping mattress – Gave the option of sharing a tent to keep costs down or paying a small additional fee for your own tent (which I did).

Over the next 15 days, long hours would be dedicated to covering a lot of ground by means of foot, overland truck, mokoro and open-safari trucks. The itinerary looked something like this…

Southern Africa Encompassed

The morning of Friday December 20 I felt different to how I normally feel pre-trip. I was excited and eager, but also nervous and somewhat anxious. Gary was taking me to the airport. I told myself I wouldn’t cry but I obviously screwed that up royally. I kissed him good bye and then sobbed like a small child at my departure gate. I was going to miss him. A lot.

My journey consisted of two legs; Orlando to Atlanta and then Atlanta direct to Johannesburg with Delta Airlines. The second portion of this flight ranks as one of the longest non-stop flights in the world coming in at 8,439 miles and a whopping 16 hours and 55 minutes! I wasn’t all about that so I popped two sleepers and enjoyed a 12 hour nap 😆 .

I flew into Johannesburg, South Africa on the evening of Saturday December 21. A small hotel (Airport Game Lodge – Kempton Park) just outside of the city would be home for the night. I was welcomed by the emu outside my hotel suite door. This was where the adventure began…

..Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 12.21.26 PM.Airport Game Lodge Johannesburg.South Africa

BOTSWANA

Our first full day was spent driving from Johannesburg to Maun, Botswana. Maun, although officially still a village, is the fifth largest town in Botswana. It is an eclectic mix of modern buildings and native huts. Maun posses as the “tourism capital” of Botswana however it still retains a rural atmosphere.

What was meant to be a simple border crossing from South Africa into Botswana ended up being close to five hours of hell in 100 degree heat. People were pushing and shoving, there was no clear line or order system, people were passing out due to the intense heat and the police/security weren’t doing anything to help; it was a catastrophic mess. We ended up having to jump over a brick wall to escape it and take a back entrance in to get our passports stamped. The brick wall was quite high. I landed pretty heavily on my right leg when I came down. A surge of immense pain shot through my leg and the left side of my knee began to throb. Within seconds, I was walking with a limp. With every few steps, my knee would spasm and shoot this unexplainable pain throughout. Just what I needed.

It was already dark out when we arrived in Maun. This proved problematic for two reasons:

1. Our group leader had to demonstrate how to pitch a tent with nothing more than a flash light. 2. I quickly learned that it was extremely hard to pitch a tent alone (especially with a bung leg). Luckily the nice couple in the tent over helped out!

I tried to get comfortable and fall asleep. By this stage, I could barely move my right leg without wanting to scream. At one point, the pain was so bad that I actually ended up crying to myself. I went to bed that night wondering if I had made the right decision in coming here. I felt further away from home and lonelier than I had ever felt before.

Tomorrow would be a new day though, and I needed to (wo)man up and embrace it…

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