More and more travellers are opting to kit out their trusty 4x4, dust off their hiking boots and two-toned shirts and arm themselves with a healthy dose of mosquito repellent before heading off the beaten track to experience a more enriching side of life.
If you’re planning on venturing off the beaten track on your next holiday, here are five things you need to know before you hit the road:
1. Decide on your route
You’ve organised time off from work, the kids are literally bouncing off the walls and the sense of excitement in the air is palpable. Make a list of places you’ve always wanted to visit and group them together. Since you’ll be on the road a lot, choose a route that encompasses as many attractions as possible to help cut costs and make your trip as enriching as possible but avoid travelling every day to be able to see the destinations properly and not tire yourself out.
2. Assess your vehicle
When you’ve decided on your route, find out about the condition of the roads as you may require a proper 4x4 vehicle (or high clearance at the very least). Rocky, mountain passes with steep inclines and jagged rocks round every turn are no place for your low-slung convertible Mercedes SLK, but most SUVs these days are equipped with 4-wheel drive and have high clearance which may be suitable for your route, provided you have researched the condition of the roads. In sandy or particularly muddy conditions a 4x4 vehicle with diff-lock is preferable so look into renting one for your travels rather than risking your family car in the great outdoors.
It’s no secret that the price of petrol has sky-rocketed in recent months, so take this into account when drawing up your budget. Supporting local businesses will help you to keep your costs down as will stocking up on supplies in bulk before you depart. Always carry plenty of water in your car, if not for your parched throat and dehydration in the hot African sun then for your vehicle should the radiator give you any problems. Keep a few rolls of toilet paper handy in the car – you never know when you may hear the call of nature!
If your insurance company does not offer roadside assistance, becoming a member of roadside services such as the AA is a good idea so that regardless of what car troubles you may encounter help will always be just a phone call away.
4. Support local enterprises
When heading off the beaten track, travellers should not be expecting 5-star luxury, all you can eat breakfast buffets or towel art and mints on their pillows at night. Staying in local homestays, B&Bs and campsites adds an authentic and enriching flavour to your travels. Mingling with the locals and sampling traditional cuisine is part of ride, should be approached with great gusto and is recommended to all travellers. After all, it’s all about the journey not the destination and supporting developing enterprises will help sustain livelihoods as well as encourage tourism to the area.
5. Only leave your footprint
When travelling into rural and undeveloped areas where natural flora and fauna are at their most pristine, don’t drop your Coke bottle and cigarette butts out the window and ruin it for everyone else. Always keep separate packets for glass, plastic and paper and throw them away when you are in the next town. Never leave anything other than your footprint behind.
For a list of self-drive travel routes in your province in South Africa, check out Open Africa www.openafrica.org for more information.