On the 27th of January I jumped on a plane to a continent I knew nothing about. I was alone, I had the first six weeks planned due to a voluntary internship and work for my previous employer, and the rest was to be confirmed. It’s been five months now and Africa has continued to surprise me on a daily basis. It’s like nothing you could ever imagine.
The past five months have been incredible. I spent all of February in Malawi, two months in South Africa, three weeks traveling from Cape Town to Vic Falls on an overland group tour, finishing on the Zambia side and traveling by bus to Lusaka to fly to Zanzibar. I spent a week in Zanzibar and came back to the mainland to hop on a safari through the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater and have spent the last three weeks in Arusha, followed by two days in Moshi (Tanzania). I find it difficult to pinpoint favourite moments due to the fact that I’ve been traveling by myself, so my experiences can change based on the friends I make or the lack thereof. I loved my whole time in Malawi, because living in a house with 30 friends who become family is the ideal situation for a social extrovert like myself. I loved my time on the garden route because I got to meet Emily, travel the whole 3 weeks with her and now we’ve made further plans to travel together. I loved the Cape Town to Vic Falls group tour – which is a surprise for me considering my feelings I’ve gained against group tours – but we had a great group of people which made all the things we did that much better, despite the ridiculous heat in Namibia and my constant complaints. A highlight has to be the helicopter ride over Victoria Falls as well. A helicopter ride in general is something I may never do again, and to have done it over a natural wonder like the Falls is something I still can’t believe and a memory I won’t ever forget. I’ve loved all my times on safari and have been lucky enough to see the Big 5 multiple times, including the up close and personal experience with the lion at my car door. Zanzibar was exactly what I needed to relax after some intense traveling around and was a beautiful beach getaway while keeping the African culture. And my last three weeks here have been very different but also great, I’ve learned a small amount of Swahili, lived with two different local families who invited me into their home and fed me in exchange for my work duties. It has been what I’ve needed to stop and restart, knowing that I’ll be back to moving every few days when I get to South America.
Africa is a happy place. There’s not a quiet moment while everyone talks, sings or dances. I’m greeted by everyone, and treated like royalty by the kids who come running to hug me. I’m used to turning at the word Mzungu (white person) and agreeing that yes, Australia is the place with all the kangaroos. Africa is beautiful. I think everyone I’ve met can agree that it’s greener than we expected, with the landscapes providing too much beauty for our cameras to handle. I keep trying to relive all the scenery I’ve experienced, scared of the memories fading or the possibility of them all melting together. Malawi and its endless mountains, providing the perfect backdrop to our long road trips. Cape Town showing off the ocean next to the mountains, with my drive along Chapman’s Peak one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever experienced. Namibia’s desert and the sunrise I watched from the top of one of their sand dunes, Dune 45, looking out and seeing nothing but more dunes and more desert. Botswana’s Chobe National Park, providing me with my favourite safari drive due to the beauty of the place, looking past the lush, green trees and bushes through to the beautiful blue river lined with elephants, zebras, giraffes and hippos. Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world with no question as to why it is so. Zanzibar, with Paje in the east providing me with beautiful sunrises, turquoise water and soft white sand. In Tanzania; the Serengeti allowing me to relive The Lion King and stand atop the viewpoint that showed me the vast expanse of land, with who knows how many animals living among it and; the Ngorongoro Crater, an amazing sight from the top and filled with more animals than I’ve seen in one place grazing on the bottom.
I can say that in Australia we don’t know much about Africa. Not many have traveled here and I think people have become scared because it is so unknown. The fear of my traveling here, especially by myself and with no agenda, was overwhelmingly present in my friends and family and I was unsure how safe I felt about the whole thing either. Everyone has a story of that one friend of a friend of a friend who traveled to Africa and got their money stolen, had a knife pulled to them, had a gun pulled up through their car window while they were stopped at a traffic light – yes, I was told all these stories after telling people of my plans, somehow they thought this would make me feel confident – but there are more stories like mine where the people remain safe. I’m a 22 year old female, have traveled at least half the trip completely solo, and have been absolutely fine. Nothing has happened that has scared me from ever coming back, and I urge everyone to push Africa further up their bucket list.
They say you find yourself when you go traveling, particularly on a solo adventure. I probably wouldn’t go that far, however I have learned a lot about myself, about what I want, what I value and what’s worth valuing. I have become more confident in myself and in my abilities and I’ve also realised how brave I have been to embark on this adventure in the first place, something I didn’t give myself enough credit for in the beginning.
I’ve also learned a lot about the people I want to spend my time with, the friends that are worth keeping around and those that aren’t. It became quite easy for me to determine if I would remain friends with people I met along the way, and whether I would want to. Thankfully it takes a special type of person to come to Africa and the majority of those I’ve met, particularly those traveling on their own rather than on the one week safari tours I went on, have been amazing. They have stories to tell of places I dream of going to next, and they hold the same values as I do, believing in more than the latest digital and fashion trend. These people I’ll keep in contact with and will eventually visit, provided they have a couch I can sleep on.
For now, my time in Africa is over, but there is no doubt I’ll be coming back. Back to re-discover the places I’ve seen and to explore even more, having only touched the surface of Southern and Eastern Africa and the rest unseen.