‘This is not a holiday. This is an expedition.’ That was one of the first things we were told by our tour leader. After meeting up at the airport in Gibraltar we had made our way to a campground in Tarifa, a couple of km down the coast. Here we were to camp out for 3 days to get accustomed to the truck, each other and camp life.
The group is – so far – made up of 12 people: 4 women, 8 men. It’s about the ratio I had expected. However, as we learnt from our tour leaders it’s usually the other way round. But I guess I had to get an unusual group… Want more examples? 2 of the guys are 2m and taller, there’s one passenger whose left side is paralyzed, and more than one who’s seen 55. Other than that there are 2 married couples, a lot of accountants, mostly seasoned travelers, cancer survivors, no veggies, lots of Australians and Brits, one more German, a lovely bloke from New Zealand, and – so far I’ve never traveled without – the obligatory Irish.
Usually we’d have one tour leader and driver. But since Kevin is married to Hayley, who happens to know a lot about overlanding as well we are special again and get 2 for the price of one…
Even at the airport everybody seemed to immediately take a liking in the others. Of course, there have to be problems along the way but so far there’s no ‘odd one out’.
At the campground I think Kevin thought it might be a good idea to start by scaring the s*** out of us: it’s an expedition, and a budget one. He’ll make sure we ‘get watered and a place to sleep’ but he’ll not pamper us. He’ll drive us and make sure we see all the beauties along the way but we have to organize daily life, food, visas and almost everything else. And when on top of that many of the others started telling stories of their past overlanding or backpacking experiences I felt slightly more than just underprepared…
What do I leave in the truck? What in the backpack underneath? What stays in the tent? How the h*** do I prepare dinner for 14 and more people? Do I really have enough money for this? Why didn’t I bring my gloves? Should I have gotten enough Malarone for Malaria prophylaxis (I currently have a couple of boxes on stand-by…)? Can I really get over my dislike for camping?
As it turns out: nothing is ever as bad as it seems. And that should be true in this case as well.
Kev and Hayley so far have been more than happy to share their knowledge and experience. We’re organized in tent groups of 2 (me and the only other single woman…), cook groups of 2 (me and the Irishman…), and each have jobs assigned (I’m on the water team…). It took me one day’s worth of thinking but already on day 5 I have a fairly good system in place for what goes under the truck, what to grab for the tent and what to keep in the truck. Yes, I might in the end really have to go home after Cape Town because all the money in the bank is spent. But I will get there at least. Yes, I might get malaria after all. But so far Kev and Hayley had only one case in combined 25 years of traveling. I did some more shopping and bought gloves and a fleece jacket. I had my first really cold shower, and learnt to always have a roll of toilet paper with me.
So now that I am sitting in a campground in Morocco I am looking forward to 22 weeks of exploring Africa’s West coast. I look forward to see Africa once again differently. I look forward to the food, the sights, the people. I look forward to finding out more about what brought my travel companions on this truck. And last not least I look forward to challenging myself and growing every day a little more.