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10 August 2017 / leggypeggy

Travelling Africa—how and where it began

St Michael's Cave, Gibraltar

Looking up in St Michael’s Cave. It’s one of 150 caves in Gibraltar Rock

Back in 1973, Poor John travelled down the middle of Africa—on the back of an ancient Bedford truck. He remembers bouncing across 2000 kilometres of unsealed, corrugated road surfaces from Algeria to Kenya, which was where he could take a much-needed shower and collect mail before heading on to South Africa.

In 1977, I travelled down the east side of the continent, spending a lot of time traversing The Sudan from the top to the bottom. My travels were by train, ferry, car (Peugeots), camel (just a short stint), airplane and bus (it broke an axle).

After we married in 1980, we agreed it would be good to do an African overland journey again—together.

We never thought it would take 29 years to happen. But there were kids, jobs and much more. For example, Poor John’s Aunt Esther came to live with us early in the year 2000 when she was still 89. Plus, we had exchange students (more than 20) and dogs (not quite so many).

Soon after the internet was widely available (in the mid-1990s), I started researching the prospect of doing a longish overland journey in Africa. By the time we booked, more than 10 years later, there were two companies providing lengthy Trans-Africa trips—African Trails and Oasis Overland.

We signed up for the African Trails option. It would start in Gibraltar (although we camped first in Spain) and take us across the Mediterranean Sea (by ferry) to Africa then down the west side of the continent to South Africa. We’d do a U-turn there and head up the east side, finishing in Istanbul, Turkey. It would be 30 countries in 43 weeks.

It was never going to be easy, but it was always going to be fascinating.

Rock of Gibraltar

Rock of Gibraltar from a distance

Rock of Gibraltar

Rock of Gibraltar up closer

Even today, the Af Trails website says ‘We go through areas where no tourists go, the roads can be bad, food can be limited to what we have stocked on the truck, campsites are few and basic, visas can be hard to get, and communication to the outside world limited or unavailable at times.

‘We guarantee: we’ll break down, that we will have to wait somewhere we don’t really want to be for visas, spare parts or just for someone to open a closed road, and we’ll have to dig the truck out of mud and sand.’ It goes on to recommend not to book flights home until the trip is finished.

The website also reminds prospective travellers that they need to ‘be prepared to work as part of a team and to share with the others on the trip.’ There will be cooking over open fires, collecting firewood, washing in rivers, pitching tents (sometimes in the rain), sleeping under the stars, meeting unforgettable people, and seeing unimaginable and far-flung sights.

Guess what? It was all true.

Just reading the website advice reminds me of cooking a meal in Togo while standing in ankle-deep water in the pouring rain, pushing the truck out of sand again and again, sitting in Cameroon waiting for visas to Gabon, taking way too many cold showers, shopping in amazing markets, and oh-so much more.

It’s time to re-live those memories, so I’ll be writing more about our African adventures. These posts will be mixed up with our other—more recent travels.

Today I’ll start with Gibraltar, which isn’t Africa, but was where the trip began.

Gibraltar Harbour

Overlooking Gibraltar Harbour

Barbary macaques, Gibraltar

Barbary macaques grooming one another

We arrived a few days early and joined some fellow travellers at a campground in La Linea de la Conceptión, Spain (just metres from Gibraltar). That meant we had plenty of time to explore the British territory, and for me to catch up with Jane, who’d been an ‘imaginary’ online friend for many years.

Jane very kindly gave us a tour of her Gibraltar and showed us the wonderful sights. We had the chance to drive up the Rock for the view, meet plenty of the Barbary macaques that swarm over the Rock, and visit St Michael’s Cave, a network of limestone caves nestled within the Rock. 

We also learned how to put up our tent, bought a couple of pillows to sleep on at night and sit on during the day, and discovered that at least two of our fellow travellers would be at one another’s throats about half of the trip,

On the official start day, we picked up the last of our fellow travellers, who had flown in to Gibraltar from London. The landing strip in Gibraltar goes across the main road, so all traffic gets stopped when a plane comes in.

So now we were 28 people in a truck built to hold 30. Ages ranged from 18 to 61 (Poor John was the oldest). Half the group was Australian or New Zealander, and the rest were a mix of Americans, British, South Africans and a Norwegian. There would be nationality changes along the way, but that’s enough of an intro for now.

The next African instalment will be to introduce the truck—which remained unnamed—and detail what we stocked up on at the beginning. The radiator got a name—George—but mostly because it was an ongoing problem.

St Michael's Cave, Gibraltar

More of St Michael’s Cave

Gibraltar airport

Can you see how the runway goes across the main road?


Leave a Comment
  1. Osyth / Aug 10 2017 9:42 pm

    Oh I am settled in a front row seat waiting for this adventure to start! I can’t wait … it really really sounds incroyable! I have been to Gib. I have a friend who is Girbraltarian – I fancied myself in love with him for a split second many moons ago but fortunately we decided that friends we are and nothing more. Anyway – of course the apes but mostly I recall the flight out … hurling towards that rock and climbing seemingly in the nick of time. I took a while to recover. Let the feast commence .. I’m ready!

    Liked by 7 people

    • leggypeggy / Aug 10 2017 9:57 pm

      Isn’t ‘love’ grand? I was in love with a Palestinian for many years, but his mum objected to him marrying an American (I grew up in the USA). We would have stayed friends, but his new wife of many years later wasn’t all that impressed. Clearly there’s a post in that saga. Maybe someday.
      But I’ll deliver on the African journey along with our other travels.

      Liked by 4 people

      • Osyth / Aug 10 2017 10:01 pm

        Oh those pesky new wives!! I’m certain there’s a post in the story and someday I’ll be please to read it. But for now … let the African feast commence (when you are so moved, that is … I’m notoriously fickle in my posting cadence!!)

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Aug 10 2017 10:03 pm

        Oh yeah, I’m fickle too, but just you wait until I tell the story of looking after the mother-in-law who never was.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. beetleypete / Aug 10 2017 9:43 pm

    What an adventure. Worth a whole book, surely? I look forward to more, and salute you both for your courage and endurance.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Aug 10 2017 9:53 pm

      I’m not disciplined enough to do a book. Lucky if I get the blog done. But I appreciate the vote of confidence.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Catnip Blog / Aug 19 2017 8:53 am

        Leggy P.
        There are sites which will turn your posts into a book. Haven’t any idea what the cost but it’s worth a look – you are a great writer with a tale to tell and pictures to prove it.


      • leggypeggy / Aug 19 2017 6:33 pm

        I’m aware of those books. Who knows? Maybe I can be tempted. 🙂


  3. Newton Fróes / Aug 10 2017 10:01 pm


    Liked by 3 people

  4. Expatorama / Aug 10 2017 10:37 pm

    Wow. I can’t wait to read more. 43 weeks road tripping though Africa cannot be for the fainthearted.

    Liked by 5 people

    • leggypeggy / Aug 10 2017 10:41 pm

      It was good to travel together. At least we could vent to one another.


  5. Vicki / Aug 10 2017 10:56 pm

    How exciting it sounds. Can’t wait to hear more. 30 countries sounds monumental.

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Aug 11 2017 11:03 am

      It was a big trip with many wonderful memories (and awful ones too).


  6. priscillapolicar / Aug 10 2017 10:58 pm


    Liked by 3 people

  7. spearfruit / Aug 10 2017 11:03 pm

    Very excited about this adventure – I look forward to reading more. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Robert Parker Teel / Aug 11 2017 12:00 am

    Off to a great start!

    Liked by 4 people

  9. ralietravels / Aug 11 2017 12:16 am

    I’m impressed that having read the website information about the hardships you even started — Looking forward to the rest of the story.

    Liked by 4 people

    • leggypeggy / Aug 11 2017 11:05 am

      We definitely knew what we were getting into, although some of our fellow travellers weren’t well prepared.


  10. susan@onesmallwalk / Aug 11 2017 12:55 am

    What a great beginning. Love the touring company’s advertisement – they know their audience well – and you were at least forewarned 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  11. sidilbradipo1 / Aug 11 2017 1:18 am

    WOW… Great adventure: Africa! I am curious and will wait for yr reports 😀

    Liked by 4 people

  12. christie jones / Aug 11 2017 3:21 am

    I can’t wait to hear all your adventures, I bet there were plenty.. As for the overland trips, I know you have been to many.. which company do you think was better?

    Liked by 4 people

  13. Paula / Aug 11 2017 3:22 am

    This is going to be a great series, really looking forward to it. And I have to add that I’m in complete awe of your adventurous spirit!

    Liked by 4 people

  14. theunassuminghiker / Aug 11 2017 3:56 am

    What a fascinating journey. Look forward to reading about it. My daughter was in Gibraltar and was terrorized by an aggressive male monkey (or so she says). She managed to get around him and he was gone by the time they went back down.

    Liked by 4 people

    • leggypeggy / Aug 11 2017 11:15 am

      She’s lucky she got around him. The monkeys in Gibraltar can be really obnoxious. I’ve had run-ins with ones in India and Indonesia. Oh and the baboons of Africa are the worst.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Phil Huston / Aug 11 2017 7:01 am

    The thing about the runway and the road is that they had to build some man made flat surface long enough for a runway. That whole part of Southern Spain is like Northern California. ten feet, if you’re lucky, of beach and cliffs going straight up! The best part is the radiator named George. I had a Jeep Cherokee where I named the radiators and made them tombstones. And that was just Texas. This is going to be a great ride. How you found the stamina to endure 43 weeks of masochism disguised as organic tourism is part of the story you must share as well! Thanks for letting those of us who think crossing the western state line of Texas is a vagabond’s journey ride shotgun with you.

    Liked by 4 people

    • leggypeggy / Aug 11 2017 11:19 am

      Flat land is precious in those parts. Nevertheless, it’s odd to see the barriers come down on either side of the runway like they do at railway crossings. And yes, the trip was a touch on the masochistic side with a most dysfunctional set of travellers. I’ll try not to omit the juiciest bits.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Chris Riley / Aug 11 2017 9:10 am

    This sounds like it’s going to be one of those adventures that, whilst in the making, you would likely to have often be thinking, ‘why the hell are we doing this’. Then after the fact you realise it was all absolutely worth it. An adventure I’m looking forward to sharing with you as you re-travel past roads.

    Liked by 4 people

    • leggypeggy / Aug 11 2017 11:20 am

      Yes, we had plenty of ‘why the hell are we doing this’ moments. The trick is to travel with someone you love and trust.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Norbert Haupt / Aug 11 2017 1:56 pm

    Can’t wait to read more.

    Liked by 3 people

  18. gerard oosterman / Aug 11 2017 4:13 pm

    I am curious about the first picture of the ‘Rock from a distance’. The palm trees are all sans palm leaves. Did a storm blew them away?
    I remember after arrival in Australia 1956, I was mesmerized by the name of the Sydney suburb of ‘Palm Beach’.

    I wanted so badly to see my first waving palm, not surprising coming from windy bleak Holland. After a long bus trip I arrived at Palm Beach. Not a single palm in sight anywhere.

    I thought it odd, very odd.

    Liked by 4 people

    • leggypeggy / Aug 11 2017 7:57 pm

      I’ll have to look more closely at the photo of the rock in the distance. It’s on another computer (50 kilometres away from where I am tonight). But it looks like the tree trunks are wrapped, so maybe the wind there is relentless. And I’ve never been to Palm Beach.


  19. Green Global Trek / Aug 11 2017 6:47 pm

    Peggy I am glad you are going to do this retrospective and I look forward to it. Reason being, I was born in South Africa and have not been back for almost twenty years. IN 2018 we are going to go back and do an initial probably first hopefully of many trips to Africa. When I grew up in South Africa, South Africans were not allowed to travel to other parts of Africa and having a passport from South Africa was a hindrance, or at least I saw it that way. So it will definitely be fun for me to see it through your eyes before we go.

    As you now, we too love traveling, but these days I sure am enjoying have hot water in showers and a comfy bed to sleep in as priorities. I couldn’t figure out exactly when you took this trip… But great that you did. Sounds like you earned it after all those years of exchange students (SO many!) and so on…


    Liked by 4 people

    • leggypeggy / Aug 11 2017 8:00 pm

      Peta, I’m going to have a wonderful time reliving this trip that took place for most of 2009 and a bit of 2010. We’ve done a lot more overlanding since then and I’m rather too familiar with cold showers. Ugh!


  20. simpletravelourway / Aug 11 2017 8:07 pm

    Oh, we are looking forward to this adventure!

    Liked by 5 people

  21. The Year I Touched My Toes / Aug 11 2017 10:30 pm

    Looking forward to these posts. Take it as slow as you want. I’m lapping it up.

    Liked by 5 people

  22. lexklein / Aug 11 2017 10:49 pm

    I guarantee I will be a reader of this series! My husband would not do this in a a million years and even though I often leave him for weeks at time to take my own (weirder) adventures, I think leaving for 43 weeks might be a death knell for the marriage!

    Liked by 4 people

  23. Murray Foote / Aug 11 2017 11:00 pm

    Wow! What a trip!

    Liked by 3 people

  24. jeanleesworld / Aug 11 2017 11:33 pm

    The runway intersects with land traffic? Oh yowza, I’d be….no. Have all the nopes! And any time I see the Rock of Gibraltar, I think of the James Bond movie Living Daylights and kickin’ 80s action music. 🙂 But I look forward to hearing more of your journeys together. I can’t fathom traveling so far alone; the closest to that was my student abroad experience in Ireland, but Ireland and Africa aren’t exactly the same thing. And to experience it then together! A wealth of adventure I can’t wait to tap through your words! 🙂 xxxxxxxxxx

    Liked by 5 people

  25. forwardtogloryquartet / Aug 12 2017 2:11 am

    The grandeur of such an epic trek is staggering! I remember, in my tiny tiptoe over to Tangier, observing a valley on the outskirts of the city and thinking, there’s a whole continent, yonder! Western Sahara, and on down… Dr. Livingston’s out there somewhere. Magnificent!

    Liked by 4 people

    • leggypeggy / Aug 12 2017 9:15 am

      When I think back, I know it was a staggering trip. But at the time, it was just day by day.


  26. Dave Ply / Aug 12 2017 3:29 am

    Wow! 43 weeks crossing Africa. An epic journey, with likely epic stories – I’m looking forward to it.

    Liked by 5 people

  27. Rhonda / Aug 12 2017 7:33 am

    Fabulous! I’m ready. You can start the storytelling any time you like now! 😁

    Liked by 3 people

  28. adventuredawgs / Aug 12 2017 8:25 am

    Can’t wait to read more.

    Liked by 4 people

  29. Alison and Don / Aug 12 2017 12:12 pm

    What a journey. I look forward to more posts. Your pre trip instructions reminded me of those we were given for the 16 week overland trip (in a truck, camping) I did with 11 other people – from Johannesburg to London in 1980. We too had people who were at each other’s throats. I can’t even imagine 43 weeks!

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Aug 12 2017 3:27 pm

      A total of 36 people passed through the truck, but only 11 of us did the entire trip. Two people—bullies—were asked to leave in the nicest possible way, but that blew up too. Talk about fireworks.

      Liked by 2 people

  30. Gilda Baxter / Aug 12 2017 5:37 pm

    Peggy, I have never heard much about this type of overland trips, so I will look forward to learning more. Africa must have been fascinating, but challenging at the same time? You are a great storyteller, I am so looking forward to the next instalment 😄

    Liked by 4 people

    • leggypeggy / Aug 12 2017 9:39 pm

      Thanks Gilda. Africa is/was fascinating. I could do the whole trip again. We’ve done eight overland trips in one form or another, but Africa will always be top of the list.

      Liked by 2 people

  31. Stephanie Jaeckel / Aug 12 2017 6:32 pm

    To re-live the memories. Yes. I did a tour to California this spring. I loved it. And the first time ever I realized how to do it. To re-live a travel. Thanks for giving me the right word. And thanks for the beautiful fotos (and your text). The road crossing the runway: WOW!

    Liked by 4 people

    • leggypeggy / Aug 12 2017 9:41 pm

      Thank so much for your comment. Yes, I think re-live is the right way to recall a trip. Always good to re-live happy memories rather than sad. And yes, the runway was most disarming.


  32. chattykerry / Aug 13 2017 5:16 am

    Fantastic shots!

    Liked by 3 people

  33. rhythminlife / Aug 13 2017 1:51 pm

    Wow!!!!!!. Your adventure story is amazing!!!.

    Liked by 4 people

  34. Brenda / Aug 13 2017 11:49 pm

    I’m curious–were you between dogs for this trip or did you have someone you trusted enough to care for a pooch for a year? I would much rather enjoy this trip vicariously through you than to do it myself. Cold showers, pushing trucks out of sand and muck, gathering firewood, bad food–I could take those. But being in close quarters with people I don’t like would do me in. I can’t stand being around bickerers, bullies, or whiners. You must have an ability to turn them off and a huge supply of patience. I’m looking forward to hearing all about it!

    Liked by 4 people

    • leggypeggy / Aug 14 2017 7:35 am

      Our daughters and one of their friends moved home for the year and minded the house, garden and two dogs. We couldn’t convince them to do it again 18 months later when we set out for seven months. As for our companions, we made some life-long friends and could chum around with those folks and ignore the others.

      Liked by 2 people

  35. daisymae2017 / Aug 14 2017 7:03 am

    Nice pictures of Africa.

    Liked by 4 people

  36. Sharon Bonin-Pratt / Aug 15 2017 4:03 am

    You have adventure and courage in your bones – I admire that and love your posts. Thanks for your history – very informative and exciting. Can’t wait to read more.

    Liked by 4 people

    • leggypeggy / Aug 15 2017 7:05 pm

      Thanks Sharon. I hope to post another instalment later tonight—after book club.

      Liked by 1 person

  37. Sheryl / Aug 15 2017 8:19 am

    I enjoyed the photos of Gibraltar. I’ve heard so much about it, but don’t remember ever seeing photos of it before – and I definitely had no idea there were caves in Gibraltar Rock. I’m looking forward to future posts about your journey through Africa.

    Liked by 4 people

    • leggypeggy / Aug 15 2017 7:06 pm

      I’m so pleased to provide your first glimpses of Gibraltar. Like you, I had no idea about the caves.


  38. jerseydreaming / Aug 15 2017 12:02 pm

    Wow, those are some amazing images.

    Liked by 4 people

  39. kkessler833 / Aug 16 2017 10:31 am

    Wow! Great post!

    Liked by 4 people

  40. Anita / Aug 16 2017 5:39 pm

    Wow! What an adventure story
    Thnak you so much for good sharing
    Have a very nice day

    Liked by 3 people

  41. sipofwellness / Aug 17 2017 7:11 am

    Good article .. keep writing

    Liked by 2 people

  42. amindfultravellerblog / Aug 17 2017 7:54 pm

    I have never seen Gibraltar before and it looks amazing Peggy….and what’s with that runway….is that for real?? Lorelle 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  43. Madraasi / Aug 18 2017 1:17 pm

    Africa is in my must to visit places at least once in lifetime, I like the food, dense forest and the mother nature 🙂 Been a great visual treat to me 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  44. pvcann / Aug 18 2017 9:34 pm

    I saw Gibraltar as a child in 1965, I remember the Rock and the Barbary Macacques. I also had a Bedford truck on the farm, top speed was 90 kms without a load and on bitumen. Love the story Peggy.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Aug 18 2017 10:47 pm

      Thanks. Good to know you remember Gibraltar too. In Nigeria we met a family travelling in an old Bedford. I promise to write about that too.

      Liked by 1 person

  45. eths / Aug 19 2017 10:09 am

    Fantastic photos!

    Liked by 3 people

  46. klmalcolm2014 / Aug 28 2017 8:54 am

    Oh wow. This is amazing. I am thinking….

    Liked by 2 people

  47. milliethom / Aug 28 2017 8:29 pm

    You certainly have the knack for spinning a great story, Peggy. I’m now dying to hear how this amazing trip panned out. The closest I’ve been to Gibraltar is glimpsing it in the distance from a tour bus in Andalucia. Those caves look fantastic and I’d love to see the Barbary macaques. The whole trip sounds wonderful, although I’m thinking I’m far too old for all that now. 😦 I’ll head on to the next instalment now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 28 2017 9:58 pm

      Thanks Millie. It will take me quite a while to cover the whole trip, but it’s great fun for me to go back through the pics. Hope you get to Gibraltar sometime. Well worth a visit.


  48. marple25mary / Sep 3 2017 9:19 am

    Wow! What a journey. I love your photos. And i adore the macaques.

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Sep 3 2017 12:57 pm

      Macaques can be quite aggressive, but we were lucky to encounter placid ones.


  49. African Paradise World / Sep 13 2017 9:40 am

    Good for sharing such an impressive experience.:-)

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Sep 13 2017 12:02 pm

      Thanks so much. It’s wonderful to remember it.


  50. Tiff / Sep 13 2017 5:02 pm

    Africa looks amazing! I definitely need to go. I can’t wait to see where you’ll be going to next! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  51. The Thrifty Campers / Sep 18 2017 11:27 am

    Wow thats quite an adventure you went on. Wow, 28 people in a truck, talk about being crammed lol it probably looked like one big group hug to passersby.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Sep 18 2017 8:20 pm

      Oh my gosh, you made me laugh. It was never a group hug. More like a group strangle. But we all survived.


  52. Travel Assistant India / Sep 28 2017 4:32 pm

    Awesome! What are the sources you get your information from? Keep up the good work.

    Liked by 1 person

  53. Markcque / Oct 10 2017 1:36 pm

    Very nice … Africa is sometimes underrated as a travel destination.Thanks for sharing your wonderful experiences.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 10 2017 1:55 pm

      We loved Africa. Could easily do the whole trip again. Thanks for joining in on the journey.

      Liked by 1 person

  54. Markcque / Oct 11 2017 2:01 am

    Yes…. I really hope so too…. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  55. thesleepydriver / Nov 8 2017 4:48 pm

    This sounds like an extraordinary adventure, that I hope to emulate with Wifeness 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Nov 9 2017 10:08 pm

      Hope you can manage to convince her. Feel free to bombard me with questions.


  56. vitaminseasblog / Nov 16 2017 3:09 am

    I’ve been wanting to go to Africa for years — you have given me some great ideas! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Nov 16 2017 7:17 am

      I plan to write lots more about our travels in Africa, so I hope the posts will give you even more ideas. 🙂


  57. carafromafrica / Nov 22 2017 8:49 am

    Please share more of your travels to Africa 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Nov 22 2017 12:10 pm

      Yes, I will. Where in Africa are you?


      • carafromafrica / Nov 23 2017 10:36 am

        I’m from KwaZulu-Natal South Africa but have been living in Germany for many many years 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Nov 23 2017 11:21 am

        That would have been quite a change. I’m from Nebraska but have lived in Australia for many years.

        Liked by 1 person

  58. vagabondurges / Nov 30 2017 1:39 pm

    I’m madly in love (and jealousy) with so much of this. Keep writing these posts, and I’ll keep reading them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Nov 30 2017 10:44 pm

      I’ll try to accommodate. Thanks for your interest.



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