• Petra Vandecasteele

Topsy Turvy Road Tripping

I recently got back from a trip to Europe and it made me realise just how much of an adventure the mere thought of a self-drive tour can be. I’m not talking about renting a car in Belgium where most things run smoothly and everyone speaks English. No, no, no. We didn’t particularly head for the wilderness either, but sure as hell it was roller coaster wild.

Having lived and travelled in South Africa for the last 20 years somehow made me forget that what is obvious to me, may not be that obvious to travellers arriving in Cape Town for the first time. And now I experienced this exciting, albeit unsettling feeling first-hand in Italy, in its animated south, that is.

Driving along the scenic Amalfi Coast is not for the faint-hearted. In fact, the adventure already started at the car rental office where I was determined to practise my Italian skills. It was hot (no airconditioned office as we have in Cape Town), I was tired and all I could think of was frolicking in the Mediterranean Sea and savouring Italian ice-cream. Needless to say, I walked out with only half the advertised discount and the keys of a minuscule Fiat 500 that was hardly large enough to fit all 3 of us PLUS luggage. Nonetheless, the car was brand-new and the top interior design finishings made up for its microscopic size and so we hit the road in style.

In South Africa we drive on the left side of the road, in Europe on the right. Sharing the road with impatient Italian drivers who hoot and swear and lament at my every wrong move was stressful, to say the least. But the real pressure was on when scooters entered the game from front, side and back, zig-zagging between cars and overtaking trucks in hairpin bends, cheerfully taking selfies at the same time.

The Amalfi Coast is breathtakingly beautiful with its countless views of secluded beaches below and antique villages above the ever narrow, dwindling road. Or so I was told. As for me, all I saw of it was the tarmac and the traffic on it. The cherry on top was that there was absolutely no space to stop or park anywhere and slowing down is not an option in this part of the world. But, the truth be said, however nerve-wrecking the experience, I loved the thrill of adventure in the unknown!

The other day, my Cape Town based colleague, Amber, welcomed a Belgian family at Cape Town International Airport, the start of their self-drive adventure through South Africa. We like to accompany our clients on their way to Cape Town, especially when they land late at night, and it was quite entertaining to catch their first impressions of “the driving on the other side of the road.” The conversation was filled with “WOW”, “This is hectic!” and lots of (nervous?) laughter. But they soon got the hang of it and enjoyed venturing out in the wild on their own. Sounds familiar… ;)

A road trip truly is an adventure in its own right and, in my opinion, not only one of the best ways to explore South Africa and Namibia, but definitely one of the best ways to bond as a team, be it family or friends. At Kids of Nature, we are always just a call away every single moment of our clients' journeys for impromptu questions or in case there is an emergency. And what’s really cool is that our clients mostly use our communication channels to share photos, videos and impressions of their exciting adventures with us. Because here in Africa, you can still take things slowly, stop and park wherever you want to, and take in all the beauty first hand.

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