Africa by Overland Truck
Most recently, I developed a serious attachment to MuRasta. MuRasta was the affectionate name of our overland truck that ferried us across Africa on my Cape Town to Zanzibar tour with Intrepid Travel.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I stepped foot on the truck on day one. I had searched for info about what these trucks were like, but I didn’t find anything concrete. So, here it is! Here’s what you need to know:
Capacity – The overland truck holds a maximum of 24 passengers, including guides and the cook. Some seats are better than others and so it is expected that everyone should rotate every time they get on the truck for the day. Sit somewhere different, sit with someone new and try out all the seats. Four of the seats face backwards and share tables with the four seats facing forward. These are located in the middle of the truck and are really good for playing card games or doing some writing. Our guide told us that we won the prize for the most mingling, and being that Intrepid travellers are 99.99% amazeballs, it’s worth it to mingle.
Lockers – There are also 24 lockers that line the back wall of the truck. Each person gets one and you can pick any one that is empty. There are two doors at the back of the truck that open on either side. The best locker to have is the low right corner, because you can stand outside to access your gear, instead of having to stack up on top over everyone trying to get their stuff out of the middle lockers.
Securing your gear — Bring your own lock. It would be cool if the lock used a key instead of a combination. Combination locks are a plus because you don’t have to keep track of a key, but all of your fellow travellers will be waiting for you to spin the dials. Hint: if you have a key lock, safety pin the spare key somewhere in your day pack. The driver will lock the truck at night, so everything will be safe. Once the truck is locked, you can’t get in until the morning, unless you dare wake the driver up (sorry Ben).
Gear – The best ‘luggage’ to bring on an overland trip is a backpack. The lockers are not huge. They are 26” deep, 10” high and 18” wide, so soft-sided bags are best. Your sleeping bag needs to fit in the locker also. Sleeping mats are provided and are in a bunk above the lockers. There is a storage area above the seats that can hold your day packs. This will look organized and pristine on day 1, but by day 40 will be full of snacks, empty bottles, snacks, laundry, souvenirs, more snacks and shoes.
Tents – Outside the truck and running along both sides are huge storage lockers that haul all the food, water, tents, camp chairs, cook tables, stove, and dishes for the trip. Each couple is assigned a numbered tent at the beginning of the trip. It is the camper’s responsibility to unload the tents and erect them on arrival, and take them down and heft them on the truck in the morning. The tents are heavy and have to be lifted up to chest level to get them on the truck. Day one of setting up your tent, you will look like a toddler that is trying to assemble a Mensa-level physics problem; day 40, you will have the tent up in under 3 minutes.
Food – All the food needed for meals is bought by the cooked and hauled on board. There is a freezer on the truck behind the back seat that is for the cook. However, there is a cooler behind the back seat on the other side that can be used by the group. It is the responsibility of the group to keep it clean (eg: don’t forget about that cheese you bought in Swakopmund 2 weeks ago) and provide the ice to keep things cool. This is best used for drinks. Ice can be purchased at super markets or some gas stations. There’s nothing better than a cold drink when it’s 9000 degrees outside (10000 degrees in Malawi)
Windows – The overland trucks have huge windows that allow for maximum views of the landscape. They lower from the top down and are not tightly sealed, which means that dust will make its way into the truck. The roads are very rough in many parts and so the windows will rattle. Because it is so hot, the windows need to be open for air circulation. Opening the two in the front and the two in the rear is the best scenario. If any of the middle ones are also open, the wind will whip through the truck and everyone’s hair will look like a thoroughly dusted tossed salad.
Charging Stations – there are plug-in’s along the lower wall of the truck. There are two per seat so everyone can charge up their devices. Adaptors are needed, depending on where you are coming from. Because the roads are rough and bumpy, the adaptors can bounce their way out, so we would kick our day packs underneath of them to try and keep them snug.
Bathroom – The bathroom at the back of the truck comes complete with shower. HAHAHA – okay, no, there’s no bathroom on board. But the bushy-bushy ‘bathrooms’ that you experience along the way are very palatial with amazing views. There is toilet paper and hand-sanitizer in the back pocket of the last seat. If you take toilet paper with you, you should bring it back and throw it in the garbage. This all becomes way less awkward than you would think.
When we started out from Cape Town on the first day of the trip, everyone was so shiny and shampooed. The truck was spotless, we were sitting straight up in our seats, and there was a lot of boisterous conversation. Everyone was busy introducing themselves and sharing the excitement and expectations of the trip.
By the end of the trip, the truck had become part of the group. There was a familiarity with the feel of the seats, the bounce and weave of the roads, the hums and rattles. The truck became a second home. Everything, including us, was covered with a layer of dust. We had pretty much given up on combing our hair and we allowed our bodies to stretch across seats and across people. We became quieter and more comfortable with each other; content to snooze, or watch the movie that passed before us as we gazed out the window.
Saying good bye to the truck on our last day was harder than I thought it would be. I had grown attached to it. This truck kept me safe, over rough roads, through cities and villages, in all weather conditions. It took me over 6000 km across the continent and was a passive bystander for all my African adventures.
That’s my truck. It was full of my favourite people.
It goes where the Intrepid ones go.