Wild Camping African Adventures. The Final Chapter- Learning about apartheid in South Africa and a final goodbye to Acacia Africa

Welcome back this time to the final chapter of our wild camping overland adventures through Africa. Last week we left Botswana where we had explored the Okavango Delta on foot and via mokoro. We also visited the Khama Rhino sanctuary and learnt about the importance of sustainable travel, ecotourism and supporting conservation projects.

Sarah and I had boarded our truck for our final journey still drunk following the previous nights antics. It was a full day drive through the Kalahari to Johannesburg. We arrived sober, having experienced the hungover during the drive. Definitely not one of the funnest nor classiest journeys of my life. We only had that night and the following day to explore Johannesburg before our flight back to the UK. Johannesburg felt very different to the other locations we had been throughout Africa. There was a sense of danger and anticipation, one we hadn’t experienced in the weeks before, even whilst on safari. This was due to Johannesburg having high levels of poverty and crime. We were told we had to travel everywhere by taxi, giving the driver exact times for collection so as not to be hanging around anywhere for too long on our own. Sarah had to go to the cash point the night we arrived to get some more money out, and had to be escorted by two men and travel the short distance by taxi to ensure her safety. Sarah and I felt this was a bit extreme and if it was for us, we probably would have ventured out alone, however it was not worth the risk and would’ve been foolish to go against advice given by our tour guides and locals who managed the hostel. This however, limited out ability to be spontaneous and put a bit of a dampener on what had been an incredibly liberating experience in Africa.

With our one free day in Johannesburg, Sarah and I decided to visit the Nelson Mandela Museum. There we learnt all about Nelson Mandela’s life and experiences fighting for the equality of black people in South Africa. At the time there was an inherently racist political and social system known as apartheid. Apartheid means “distantiation” in the Afrikaans language. The system was implemented by the white minority National Party who came into power on 1948, to enforce the segregation of people by race. People were divided into four racial groups; ‘African’, ‘coloured’ (mixed race), ‘white’ and ‘Asian’ and each race was forced to live separately from one another. The system was used to deny ‘non-whites’ basic human rights. The government forcibly moved many black Africans off their land to give it to white people and brought in laws whereby ‘non-whites’ were not allowed to own land in white areas or vote. Interracial marriage was outlawed and black people had to carry special passes and have permission to travel outside their designated area, in their own country.

The apartheid system was abolished in South Africa in 1994, when a new constitution was ratified which abolished the previous system of segregation. The last President who held office during the apartheid era was Frederik Willem de Klerk. He held negotiations with  Nelson Mandela, who was a political prisoner at the time, and together they brought an end to apartheid. Nelson Mandela was subsequently elected as President of South Africa after multi-racial elections were held in April 1994, and became the first black person to hold the position. The pair were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for the positive changes they brought to the country.

The museum is described as being a “constantly evolving legacy” of Nelson’s Mandela’s life and experiences and is definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area. It gives you an immersive, cultural experience like no other and Sarah and I spent a good 3 hours roaming around, where we had only thought we would spend 1. On arrival, we were classified by race and given our pass labelling us as “Blankes/Whites” and had access to, or were denied access from certain areas based on our race. It was an incredibly eye-opening experience. Sarah is half Iranian and I am half Spanish. Both of our ‘foreign’ parents have experienced racism of some kind in the UK however as ‘white’ people ourselves, we had not experienced institutional racism before. Having had a taste of what this would’ve been like left us feeling humbled and with a greater sense of empathy to anyone who has had to experience discrimination because of the colour of their skin.

Because we spent so long at the museum we didn’t have time to do the other things we would have liked to do, as we were flying back to the UK that evening. If we’d had more time we would have loved to visit Nelson Mandela’s house, which isn’t too far from the museum. We would have also done the Soweto township tour, to see the impact of apartheid on people’s lived experience to this day. We also missed out on going to a Springboks rugby match which we were gutted about but made up for it by buying loads of Springboks merch at the airport with our leftover money.

So our life changing trip through Africa had come to an end and it was time to go back home to ‘reality’ and see what the real world would hold for us. Having wild camped for most of the past 6 weeks, we had learnt to live life very basically. We had food, water and shelter, showers had become a luxury and beds/toilets non-essential. We had learnt to live in the moment and welcomed every new day with an open heart. We had thrived on experiences and not on things. Our journey had brought us closer to nature, teaching us to appreciate every life and learning that we were as much at the mercy of nature and fate as any other creature.

I would like to say a massive thank you to Acacia Africa for giving us the trip of a lifetime. For looking after us so well. For educating us and sharing all their incredible knowledge and stories. For giving us an immersive cultural experience which also benefitted local people and wildlife by being sustainable and eco-friendly. For making us feel like family. Africa stole a piece of my heart and this trip, was the best way to experience it. I would 100% recommend it to others.

“Africa changes you forever, like nowhere on earth. Once you have been there you will never be the same. But how do you begin to describe its magic to someone who has never felt it? How can you explain the fascination of this vast, dusty continent, whose oldest roads are elephant paths? Could it be because Africa is the place of all our beginnings, the cradle of mankind, where our species first stood upright, on the savannahs of long ago?” Brian Jackman

Sarah has made a Youtube video of our epic journey and adventures through Africa with many more photos than I’ve been able to add to my blogs. If you would like to watch it click here.

To read the previous blogs in this series follow the links below;

Chapter 1– Kenyan safaris and the circle of life.

Chapter 2– Safaris in the Serengeti, the Ngorongoro Crater and reflecting on Zanzibar’s dark history.

Chapter 3– Going wild at Lake Malawi.

Chapter 4– Zambia, the African capital of extreme outdoor activities.

Chapter 5– Exploring the Okavango Delta and the importance of sustainable travel

If you’re interested in booking this or a similar trip with Acacia Africa, check out what they have to offer here.

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