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It all started on a whim, as most road trips or epic adventures do. I was going to go home for Christmas. My mom lives in Harare, Zimbabwe (we are originally a tobacco farming family from Darwendale) and a visit was long overdue.  Then I decided that while I was there I would go to the Vic Falls Carnival for a New Year celebration next to none. Word got out in the family and the next minute I was invited to stay with my cousins “just across the border from Vic Falls” at their lodge in Kasane, Botswana. Suddenly there was a lot more to this trip than taking Christmas puddings and presents to Harare.

Working out the logistics of such a trip with flights and car hire became a nightmare and was becoming costly. So a crazy idea was born. I would just drive it.  I have a fairly new car, a smashing little red Hyundai Getz, and there was absolutely no reason why I couldn’t do it. After all, I am a firm believer that girls can road trip just as well as men (see A girl’s guide to road tripping) so it seemed only right that I dare take on the ultimate drive.

Next was planning the route. The N1 is not only deemed a dangerous stretch of road with trucks carrying heavy loads and holidaymakers hell bent on getting to their destination in the shortest amount of time, it is also fairly boring. Apparently the Beitbridge border post is not so much fun either and they teargased the restless queues the other day too. I want to explore new places and take my time getting there (it’s the journey, not the destination). So I am going to go along the N12 into Botswana, out through Plumtree and on to Harare. On the way back I will take on the Beitbridge border post and then head down the N14 through the Northern Cape and then along the N7 to Cape Town. Everything was organised at the last minute and here I am, about to embark on a 5 0000 kilometre journey through three African countries. On my own…

I will be staying in Victoria West, Mafikeng, Francistown, Bulawayo, Harare, Victoria Falls, Kasane, Beitbridge, Johannesburg, Kuruman and Springbok.  I will make stops at any interesting padstals or towns along the way and take photos of anything that catches my interest.  I will be discovering parts of South Africa I never knew about and rediscover the country grew up in.

I haven’t travelled along the N12 or N14, was last in Zimbabwe about 10 years ago and certainly haven’t driven a distance of that magnitude. I am excited and I am also a little nervous. Mostly of the border posts and the pot-holed roads. I hope they are kind to me at the impromptu roadblocks in Zimbabwe and I really hope my car is kind to me too.  I have no idea what to expect, but what I do know is that it will be an adventure of a lifetime and no matter what happens, I will return after three weeks with many a story to tell.

I also miss my home country in many ways, so it will be an emotional journey too.  As my friend put it, this is not about a 5 0000 kilometre drive and it’s not about a girl road tripping on her own through parts of southern Africa. It’s about a Zimbabwean going home for Christmas and seeing her country after 10 years. It’s become a pilgrimage.

I will be keeping an online “road trip diary” and will let you know how it goes on an almost daily basis. From interesting sights and pitstops, to the people I meet and the place I rest for the night. Follow my progress, give me any ideas of great places you’ve visited on those routes, or simply cheer me on. After all, on most days you will be my only company.

Follow me on Twitter, @Rachel_CapeTown (#ZimPilgrim), email me at [email protected],  or keep an eye on my blogs.

I leave for Victoria West on Thursday morning. Catch you there!


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  • Meg

    Looks so exciting – a trip to remember for a lifetime, I’m sure! You’d better say bye to me before you go!

  • Avril

    So excited for you! I look forward to reading about all your experiences, and hope to stay in touch with you regularly.
    Come and say good bye before you leave!

    Safe travels sista!!

  • Wendy

    I’ll be following your every move – virtually 😉 with bucket loads of envy!

  • J-nie

    Whoohoo and she’s offfffff…..
    So, by ‘my car’ I’m guessing you didn’t get a car via CAR, Getaway or one of the manufacturers???

  • Feeling envious of you right now! Looking forward to your diary updates. My family and I (we’re from Zambia) made a similarish journey in 1999/2000.

    We drove into Zimbabwe (crossed the border at Chirundu in Zambia and drove to Harare then all the way down to Beitbridge). Once in South Africa, we drove down to Pretoria/Jo’burg and then Kimberley. On our return journey, we drove north from Kimberley through Vryburg, Mafeking, Zeerust and into Botswana at Lobatse. We then drove through Botswana and crossed into Zimbabwe at Plum Tree through Bulawayo, Gweru, Kwekwe and back to Harare. We then drove through Chinhoyi and Karoi and back into Zambia.

    An epic epic journey that made me fall in love with Southern Africa over again!

    Safe travel 🙂