Where to start? Where to start? We learned on our first day of the African overland tour that our guide, Clueless Charles, had not guided this particular tour before. Okay, no problem, we were all game to cut him some slack. Then we found out that our driver, Jeffis, had never done this route before either. No one was impressed that the tour company would put two inexperienced people together on an excursion.
On our first day, we left late because the keys to the passenger section of the truck were lost (and not found until the end of the tour), and we used up two hours doing groceries across the border in Zambia. We spent the rest of the day driving as quickly as possible on rough roads and didn’t stop until it began getting dark.
The unexpected stress of celebrity
After a brutal ride our butts will never forget, we drove into a village where Charles asked if we could camp in exchange for supplies we would donate to the school. This was completely different than what the first overland company we used, Nomad, Â had done. It supported the school we visited by buying breakfast for all of the school children for everyday of the year and the supplies the travellers donated were just extra gifts.
The chief said yes and the village kids, about 50 of them, swarmed all over the place greeting us. This was fun at first as they were very excited, welcoming and curious about us. But we had to hurry to set up as it was getting dark very quickly ““ pitch dark because there was no electricity in the village ““ and the truck lights didn’t illuminate a large area.
We set up our tents, mattresses and our gear ““ not knowing whether it was safer to leave stuff in the unlockable truck or in our unloackable tents. Charles had warned us to keep a close eye on our belongings. And seeing how poorly dressed Â the kids were, you couldn’t blame them for wanting anything we had.
One kid was particularly unnerving with his constant requests for money and ignoring our answers that we were giving to the school rather than to individuals. Of course Charles had no idea how to deal with him. And we realized how paltry our donations were in comparison to the one made by the other tour company we had used.
Big, bad, white tourists
Charles, the clueless guide, could also have learned from the first company by having us camp away from the villages we visited. That way, we would have imposed less on our hosts and caused less stress to ourselves. Dinner time only brought more anxiety as our guide cooked our meal on an open fire while the kids watched. They were obviously very curious ““ and likely, very hungry.
None of us could deal with eating a meal in front of these famished children so Charles had to ask them to leave. I suppose it was unreasonable for us to want him to feed them all. All the more reason our guide and driver ““ and especially the tour company ““ should have planned for a camping site away from a poor village.
Read more about our three-week overland tour in next week’s Baby Boomers Traveling.
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