Self-driving in Africa through Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe
We landed in Windhoek, Namibia’s capital, prepared for everything knowing that we would have 5000 km in front of us and we would cross 3 countries in Southern Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.
We rented a 4X4 with rooftop tents for our journey and despite all the trouble we get into with the car, I don’t regret the option, because gives you enormous independence, it’s very versatile, and allows you to travel independently and discover with time these magnificent countries.
Visit these countries is not cheap but you can save the money for the room by camping. There are many campsites and some lodges also have campsites. The price of a 4×4 with rooftop tents depends on the time of the year you travel, and which borders you are going to cross.
Self-driving throughout the wilderness in Africa was one of the most exciting, adventurous and rewarding things I did so far – you just disconnect entirely and emerge yourself into one of the most beautiful natural sceneries on earth.
4×4 self drive adventures
Now you are asking about what kind of troubles I got into.. some are obvious and you are probably guessing it right.. but just to give some excuses first .. 🙂 we did some challenging routes and drove miles and miles through isolated areas 🙂
So here it comes.. during our journey our 4×4 broke down and got stuck a couple of times (sand, mud, water), we got a window broke and some values stolen… and there is more.. one of the tents broke… we got fined and towed twice.. so I can say it it was an eventful journey.
To do a trip like this you need to have a sense of adventure, and be prepared to have busy days and to change your plans constantly.
Angola, land of contrasts, music, dance, earth smells, nice people and colorful landscape. Angola is still a difficult country to visit and lacks in touristic infrastructures. The differences between the capital city Luanda and the rest of the country are abysmal in all aspects, so food is no exception. Angola is in south-central Africa, from its past Portuguese cuisine has significantly influenced Angolan cuisine.
Luanda is one of the most expensive cities in the world and has some imported vegan and vegetarian products in some supermarket at a very prohibited price and some restaurants with vegan/vegetarian options available.
But if you are visiting or traveling to another place in the country the story is completely different. You might struggle to eat, because there is not enough options if any available.
The big markets are busy places and you will need help to find them, they are located in the middle of a shanty town, where you can find seasonal fruits, vegetables, roots, some cereals (rice, flour, corn, etc..) and beans, but they don’t have much variety. In town you will find women’s selling fruits and vegetables in the street.
Outside Luanda will be quit difficult to find a supermarket with vegan options due to the lack of supply and demand, or even a restaurant that has a vegetarian or vegan option available.
If you are staying in a hotel you can make a special request, for a vegan meal, but don’t expect anything too fancy. If there is a possibility just cook your own meal, that will be the best solution!
Typical dishes/sides/snacks/deserts that are vegan:
Funge: Plain carbohydrate made from cassava with a texture like mash potato, generally served with a full-flavored spicy sauce.
Farofa: Toasted cassava flour with a salty and smoky flavor.
Feijão de óleo de palma: Stewed beans in a palm oil sauce.
Mukua: Dried fruit from the baobab tree, often used for ice cream.
Kussangua: Traditional non-alcoholic drink made from cornflour.
Chikuanga: a bread made from manioc flour, served in a wrap of banana leaves (from northeast Angola).
Cocada amarela, yellow coconut pudding made with sugar, grated coconut, egg yolks, and ground cinnamon. (vegetarian)
Angola was my home for 2 years of my life, and I have great memories about that somehow magic and not yet well known county.
Here are few photographs from places I have been so many times, where I spent my days, went shopping, for a walk or to the beach… despite so different from my european reality after leaving there this place is part of my deepest being.
Maningue Nice is a popular local expression that I heard many times mostly outside the capital city Maputo, “maningue” meaning very, and no doubt that Mozambique is a “very nice” place to visit, but not as pleasant to leave, although all it’s natural resources the majority of the population leaves in poverty with less than $1.25 per day.
I travel through Mozambique for nearly a mouth, I flew to Maputo and then to Pemba (north of the country) where I started my trip.
I traveled from north to south always by local buses and small vans called chappas, what is part of the authentic Mozambique experience, and remember that here the journey is more important than the destination.
Even if you are doing a long journey, the bus will be chaotic packed with people, bags, animals, and everything else that you can imagine, and not enough sits for everybody, If a chappa carry 15 people, they somehow manage to fill them with at least 25 people and a few chickens 🙂
You can’t use a chap to travel if you are in a rush, there is no timetables, and they leave when they are full.. and forget everything you’ve learned about road safety ….. and pray…. it is frequente to see drivers drinking and smoking while driving, there is no speed limit, the state of the vehicles is horrendous, and what does the word “seat belts” means, right?!
When you are traveling by bus, at least will never get hungry, because the driver will stop many many times in the middle of nowhere, and a dozen of people will appear with all sort of things to sell through the bus windows. Basically they do a 2 in 1, travel and shopping. So don’t push for me about the smell 🙂
If you asked me for 3 words to describe my journeys, I would say: slow, smelly and chaotic. Patience and tolerance is much needed for this long and sweaty journeys.
I stopped at the main cities, but traveled mostly through the rural areas, where people never had seen many tourists or speak much Portuguese, surprisedly communication was a problem, despite Portuguese be the national oficial language, not many people speak it outside the main cities. Mainly because Mozambique is a poor country where the access to school is very limited.
The Mozambique Island, was a former Portuguese trading-post on the route to India and it’s the only place in the country part of the UNESCO World Heritage.
Maputo it’s different from the rest of the country, it’s a developed city with all the basic infrastructures, some preserved colonial-style architecture, it’s culturally dynamic, and with a rich night life. You can discover Maputo by walking around the Baixa, losing yourself in the streets. The city does have a lot of petty crime, especially once it’s dark, and tourist/foreigners are on the spot. I wouldn’t recommend walking around the city after dark alone.
It’s not uncommon to be harassed by workers, drivers or even the police. A foreigner is likely to be targeted by police trying to extort money, so always carry your passport, and don’t pay if you haven’t done anything wrong,otherwise you are giving them incentive to hassle the next traveller.
Mozambique has a rich culture and much to offer if you like to explore, meet people, do outdoors activities and be in contact with nature. I definitely recommend a visit and hope you enjoy it!
Be kind, patience and enjoy the small things in life…<3
We drove from Benguela to Bié stopping in many remote villages and towns. Hope you enjoy the photos, and get to know more about this beautiful and unspoiled country still far away from the tourist routes. I remember to read somewhere that Angola is one of Africa’s last great travel mysteries 🙂
During our trip people where nice but always suspicious, what is perfectly understandable once the country still remains closed off for travellers. I need to say that being a portuguese speaker helped a lot.
Angola’s up-country, is still very unspoiled and rural, outside the big cities houses are made of natural materials like grasses and mud bricks, there is no electricity or sanitation.
Populations live from what the land gives, they lack in access to school and health care. They have big matriarchal families.
Angola’s up-country has an astonishing natural beauty, strong colour, smells and a great warm weather.
I don’t really want to demotivate anyone, but if you’re a vegan traveling in Mozambique you’re going to have a hard time.
As you know they have a famous cuisine and are one of the best countries in Africa foodwise, but is all about tiger prawns, seafood, fresh fish and, chicken.
I traveled from north to south only by public transports and thought lots of rural areas, where there isn’t any infrastructures, restaurants, cafes, food stall or surprisedly not even many street markets. So you are asking the same question I did, where and what to eat?
If you are in a rural area, you need to rely on the local people and what they can do for you, but communication can be a big problem, because if they don’t speak Portuguese (what is possible and probable) they will speak one of the 43 languages spoken in the country (yes you read well 43..)
If you are in place that has a “restaurant” you will do all your meals there and again, struggling with communication, try to explain what you can eat and understand what they have. Maputo is the exception, has good options, and its easy to find your way around.
Mozambique was colonized by Portugal in 1505, their cuisine has been deeply influenced by the Portuguese. One of the most eaten dishes is ncima a thick porridge made with ground maize and water, in my opinion just serves the propose of giving you energy.. it’s tasteless, but vegan 🙂
Here is a list of some vegan dishes that I came across:
Mucapata– rice with coconut, absolutely delicious, very common in Mozambique island.
Xiguinha – Made with cassava and cacana leaves, common in Inhambane province.
Pão – white bread rolls, you can find it in any market baked in wood-fired ovens in villages.
Matapa – made from stewed cassava leaves, ground peanuts, garlic and coconut milk, more likely to get it if you end up staying with locals.
Collard Greens in Oil – it’s a sauté of onions and collard greens.
Chamusas – triangle shaped pastries, asked for the potato ones.
Cassava with Red Sauce – sauce made with fresh tomatoes, green peppers, onions, garlic and oil
Rice and Beans – its a very common dish.
Mucuane – with boiled cassava leaves, tomatoes, coconut milk, ask if is made with shrimp or Cashews.
Quiabo a Zambiana– Okra
fresh sugarcane juice
pão de sura – it’s a coconut sweet bread more typical in the Inhambane province
Cashews – they have nut trees growing all over the place. You’ll see people selling bags of cashews on the side of the road and on the beach. they sell while plain, roasted piri-piri, roasted salt.
Fruits and vegetables– fruit and veggies are available at markets and on the sides of roads all over the country, depending on the season you can find good papayas, coconuts, mangoes. Avocados okra and collard greens are also seasonal, avocados only in season for a few short weeks. Others, like tomatoes, cassava or beans, are available year-round. Green peppers, onions, and bananas seem to go through recurring phases.