Anyone who has been camping or travelling - or both - will understand the importance of good preparation. To organise a trip of this nature has been one of the most complex endeavours we've ever undertaken, which just elevates this importance.
We started off with a budget, if only to figure out whether it is affordable. Preparing a budget led us to various places, the most useful of which has been parts of the internet devoted to overland travel. It seems to be part of overland lore to post endless lists on the internet, which may be useful to others with similar ambitions.
So one of the first ports of call was the internet. We thought it would be useful to learn from those that had done a similar trip in the past and those who are into "overlanding". Probably the most useful site has been the Overland Forum. Murray joined the Overland Forum email list, the members of which are very knowledgeable in 4x4 and overland matters. It was through this forum that we learned of what became our Vehicle, for sale. The Overland Forum site also contains links to other Trans Africa tours and links, as well as tips on spares, first aid, preparations, etc. Thanks guys.
Part of the planning and the budget is, of course, looking at the cost of petrol and visas, for which see the Excel Spreadsheet we put together, though it is based on a less favourable Dollar exchange rate, slightly out of date country information and fuel consumption that will improve with a service - not to mention problems with calculating averages, where distances are very different depending on the country one is in ...
Other facets of preparation - in no particular order of preferance - included a valuable and interesting course in vehicle maintenance taken at Stevenson College in Edinburgh, although this initial learning was built upon substantially when finally preparing the Landy out at Broxburn.
We also had to sort out the rental of the flat, visas, health / immunisations, banking and building the web site. Among the numberous lists of things to pack is a first aid kit. While this has yet to be compiled, several have been listed at overland.co.za from which the attached Excel spreadsheet of First Aid Kits has been drawn.
To be away for a year, we needed to rent out the flat and engage an agent. We chose Alba Residential on the ground of cost and proximity to the flat.
Ordinarily resident in the flat are our two cats. This was one of the more personal preparations and among the bigger boxes to tick. We needed to find a home for a year for these two. They are called Ziggy (the black one) & Leisha. The idea was to try and find a retired person - although not necessarily - who may want feline company, but without the hassle of having it for several years after acquisition, and without the costs involved (we'll meet those). We put up notices in several vet surgeries around Edinburgh and soon Ian Read responded. He was at the time fostering two cats while their owners were abroad, and he came round to meet Ziggy and Leisha. The following Sunday, we went round to "where the cats will be living" and it all kind of fell into place from there - even although it was a strange interaction leading to the temporary adoption of the cats. And as I write this (late June 2004) it is not all done and dusted yet, but I have every confidence it will be. Thanks Ian.
You need them, several of them, particularly Yellow Fever, without a certificate of having had which, you will not be permitted entry into most African countries. Others include Hepatitis B (a course of 3), Typhoid Fever, Mengicoccal meningitis, Diptheria / Tetanus, Polio (a foul-tasting drops in the mouth - without sugar if you're a grown up!) and Rabies (another course of 3). In addition, we need to take anti-malaria meds daily for most of the trip, so took Doxycyclene for a week to see if we reacted well to it, which we did.
The total cost of the vaccines came to around £350 and the malaria medication to £140. This included the cost of the consultation, which was at the Edinburgh Travel Health Clininc at the Newington Surgery.
Having taken advice form those who have done it before, the answer appears to be "cash dollars", in small denominations on the ground of exchange rates and the need to pay "informal taxation" (i.e. bribes) along the way. This led to my bank manager telephoning to confirm that I wanted a large sum in ones and 5s and was it for attendance at strip clubs ... While cash is risky (and a trans-Africa trip isn't?!), credit cards are accepted in some places, but not many. ATMs are available in major cities and capitals, but cash in hand is often more eloquent.
Camping, right? Not so fast. We inherited with the Landy a paraffin burner, which was used on the basis of the availability of that fuel. We also have the option of gas, but wonder about refilling the bottle. Some cooking and the boiling water for cups of tea and possibly for a shower, will be done using a Thermette, which is a remarkable and environmentally friendly burn-anything device. As soon as we test these out and come to a decision, this page will change, but suffice to say the thermette is on board. Other kitchen kit will be set out on a spreadsheet in due course.
Again, you need them, and again advice has been to get them at consulates in capitals of countries we visit before the country for which we seek a VISA. Approximate costs are detailed in the spreadsheet attached.
We will be taking the precaution of scanning all documents such as the essential carnet de passage (the very expensive passport for the vehice, issued by the RAC, that guarantees to each country that you are not going to illegally import the vehicle), passports, health certificates, etc. We intend to keep a CD ROM of these scans, carry colour printouts, and leave CDs with relatives in Edinburgh and Cape Town.
We have used the following:
Brandt Africa by Road, which is a good basic introduction.
The National Geographic Adventure Atlas, which is a fantastic soft cover atlas of the whole of Africa that also includes details of adventure activities along the way.
Lonely Planet Africa on a Shoestring which is a fantastic all-inclusive guide to the countries of Africa, that includes information on where to get visas and where to enter and leave countries, as well as other formalities and things to do and see.
Haynes Manual for the Land Rover Series IIa, which is an indispensable guide to our vehicle and home for a year.
Peter Steel's Backcountry Medical Guide, which is a step by step guide to what to do in the instance of injury and illness.
Books we have yet to buy, will tell us about the wildlife we will encounter on the way. Suggestions from the Overland Forum include:
Chris & Tilde Stuart's Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of Africa, which has the advantage of covering the whole continent, although only in respect of said larger mammals.
Ian Sinclair & Peter Ryan Birds of Africa South of the Sahara, which is a relatively complete bird book that still fits into a cubby hole