Nothing beats a good road trip with great friends. In my opinion anyway.
A cool car (at least comfortable), with banging music, look, this isn’t even debatable. A fantastic destination and good people to go with. This is the perfect recipe for a road trip. Now, a road trip with photography friends has a totally different set of rules and expectations. I have my own set of expectations when taking a road trip with photographers as opposed to normal people.
Enroute to Lake Jipe
People are so picky with their music. I totally understand, I am too. Best case scenario, send your fave music to one person (car owner maybe) so they put it all on a flash drive for the trip. This is assuming the car stereo has a usb option. If it doesn’t, get another stereo. If not, get on Spotify and each person can have a chance to select a playlist to listen to. Or give everyone a chance to deejay. Even for an hour before it rotates. Please make it fire.
Look, as photographers, the destination is important but not more important than the journey. I have many friends (my wife included) who get so bored that we keep stopping to shoot because we do stop, a LOT. We can’t pass by something interesting and not stop to shoot. I think that next time, we’ll put all the people in a hurry in one car and have them just go ahead. We can find them at the destination.
This is so serious that we’ve gotten to campsites as late as 2am. First time this happened we were heading to Lake Chala, on the Tanzanian side. We got delayed at the border at Namanga and ended up leaving at 8pm. As we were driving toward Moshi, we saw the moon rising with a huge Baobab tree in the fore ground. We decided to do a “quick” shoot. We were there till midnight. We didn’t even know the location to this campsite but after circling around Moshi for a bit, we found the road heading there and made it at 2am. This was my first time camping. Learning to set up the tent and successfully do so took an hour and by 3am most of us were asleep. We were up at 5.30 to shoot the sunrise.
Somewhere near Taita (honestly not sure where exactly). Same in the photo below.
Everybody has to bring something to eat in the car. Don’t be the cheapo. The job of the backbenchers however, is to distribute these at the appropriate moments and sense with their intuition when the people are having the munchies and pass on the supplies. This is if they are even awake (backbench people are always asleep on road trips). No more needs to be said.
Take all routes and detours possible. Especially as a photographer. The hardest and unexpected routes often bring with them the best views. Also remember this, if it’s easy to get somewhere, every other photographer will have that photo. To get the shots no one else has, go further and do the stuff no other photographer does. Get there earlier, hike further, jump fences, stay there longer.
Samburu. We saw a rough & rocky road and decided to follow it (despite better judgement) and it brought us to the top of this hill for this view at sunrise. Superb.
I try to camp as much as possible. Camping gets you right where the action is. You can camp right next to a lake, in a park, on the beach, where the views are. Camping is a billion star accommodation and with the right friends, it can be even cooler. Set up camp as early as possible then chill. Always have an air mattress. I’m not even kidding with this. It makes the difference between loving camping and absolutely hating it. Also, if the ground is really cold, an air mattress separates you from the cold ground making a big warm difference.
Carry a cooler box with some good food that’s easy to cook. I’m a meat lover so I always buy frozen chicken or fish and keep in my cooler box. Remember to arrange the food in order of how you’re gonna eat it. This way, if you’re camping for more than a day, you can quickly pick the food from the top and leave the bottom still cool. This way food stays really cold for over 24hrs. Bbq is easy because it just takes a fire and you get the meat on the heat and eat. A dutch oven is also really cool if you wanna make something more elaborate like a stew or soup. Good thing is you can have food slow cook in there while you get on with chilling or doing something else. Everybody has to help cooking or prep. It’s fun when all are involved. Or if you don’t cook, you clear and wash up. I always carry pineapples to make a caramelized cinnamon roasted pineapple for dessert. It’s amazing.
Sunrise at Hells Gate
Breakfast by the banks of River Ewaso Ngiro in Shompole
Breakfast at Hells Gate campsite
Beach camping at Borabora beach in Bujumbura, Burundi
Fire side chilling at Hells Gate
Rosemary chicken grilling by the banks of River Ewaso Nyiro in Samburu
Swim, Always swim.
When you come by a body of water, don’t think about it, swim. Except if there are crocs or hippos. Or if the water is murky. Most waters are great to swim in in Kenya so go on a road trip to find lakes to swim in. This is one of the most freeing things I have ever done. Swimming in lakes. I even wrote about the lakes I have swam in in East Africa and how to get to them. Pack a picnic lunch and go hang by the lake all afternoon. Swim, eat, chill, repeat if necessary.
Lake Bunyonyi in Uganda makes for a brilliant cool swim on a hot day.
Borabora beach in Bujumbura, Uganda. In the background is Lake Tanganyika, so far the best lake swim I ever had.
That’s all I have. I love taking road trips to discover this country and ultimately this continent. I feel like traveling by road gets you connected to the place you visit and the way to get there. You see a lot more and connect more with the people (if you like that sort of thing). You stop for lunch and hang out with people there, you buy some supplies like groceries and hang with people there. You come back with a fulfilled experience and a sense of the culture of the place.
Of course, no one expects the worst to happen, but road trips can sometimes result in car accidents. Just in case you would like to get yourself prepared for nonstandard situation, you might want to learn about some law firms, as lawyer in an accident guarantees you can seek compensation.
I think this is a great point to end this long post. I encourage you to grab a few friends and drive somewhere if you haven’t done this sort of thing before. It’s fun and fulfilling and there’s the benefit of knowing that you’re safe with your friends if something happens to the cars or some disaster. Friends make it better and it makes for great stories the next time you’re out there. Also, I realize this blog should be called Luanda (the Landie) appreciation blog post now that we can’t take him on Unscrambling Africa.
Also, here are the links to the different road trips I have mentioned here (they all have some funny stories);
Do you have any more tips for road tripping with friends? Please share in the comments. I’d love to hear your views.