Kenya to South Africa…and back!

Jaden Somen (Xt, 2022)

During my final weeks of Upper Sixth I wondered what I would be doing for my gap year, until a friend from back home in Kenya mentioned the possibility of a road trip from Nairobi to Cape Town and back.

After months of planning and stress (and high-speed mechanics courses) six of us finally left Nairobi on 15 January, heading for the Tanzanian border. Our route consisted of going through Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and eventually South Africa. We had two 15+ year old Land Cruisers that were expected to cover 20,000 kms in three months. The cars were packed to the brim, meaning each car could only carry three people.

In Tanzania, we visited the Serengeti and surrounding areas, Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika. We had an eventful time in Tanzania, experiencing two scorpion bites and many traffic speed cops along the way and, against our better judgements, tackling Africa’s hardest one day climb, Ol Doinyo Lengai (the Mountain of the Maasai Gods).

We crossed the Songwe River and entered Malawi. The border took us four hours to navigate. We travelled along Lake Malawi, meeting the friendliest people on our route, and visiting Nkhata Bay, Livingstonia and Cape Maclear whilst doing many boat trips around the lake. The shortest time was in Zambia where we visited South Luangwa National Park and Lusaka, both providing entertainment!

Travelling south towards Zimbabwe, we camped at Lake Kariba with elephants walking through camp and experienced the famous Zambezi. After some tiger fishing (with me catching an 11kg monster), we left for Harare for a service on the cars. Our final days in Zimbabwe were spent at Victoria Falls, bungee jumping off the famous bridge connecting Zambia and Zimbabwe and spending time on the river.

(Image above caption: 1,000 year old trees at Sossusvlei salt flats)

Next was Botswana. We stamped our own passports out of Zimbabwe due to the interesting border post and made it to the country with elephants roaming the main roads and real-life cowboys. Our time was cut short due to mechanical issues but we visited the Okavango Delta and the Makgadikgadi flats.

Namibia consisted of empty roads where no other cars were seen for 100s of miles and time spent on the huge dunes within the Namib Desert. We had to visit the dystopian feeling town of Swakopmund and of course Sossusvlei, with the 1,000-year-old trees.

(Image above caption: Driving in the muddy Serengeti)

Our final country, South Africa. We spent time in the wine region of Stellenbosch, Cape Town, Table Mountain, Robben Island, the garden route in Knysna and Cape Agulhas (Africa’s most southern point). Then our long journey back home began.

It was an amazing trip that I would recommend to anyone.

Jaden has also undertaken some fundraising to support Rhino Ark in Kenya, a partner in conservation initiatives that tangibly support local communities.