The last trip I took to Africa was in 1993. My parents took me to Zimbabwe to see elephants in the wild. That trip changed me, giving me a yearning to see the world which has never dimmed. I can still conjure the sights, sounds and smells of Africa from the dust, to the beaming smiles to those blood orange sunsets.
Here I am, returning 17 years and many worldwide trips later. Excited to be back on red African soil but worried whether my romanticised vision of Africa would hold true. Even whether I wanted it to.
Much and not very much have changed in Africa since 1993. For one the Zimbabwe I remember is no more – the country of hope and opportunity torn apart to be replaced with hunger, unemployment and fear. The continent as a whole seemed to have fared much better . Eyes all over the world were watching as South Africa hosted the football World Cup in June 2010 and the tournament was a resounding success. This was a chance to show the progress Africa has made over the last decade, and the world liked what it saw. Interest in the region has grown with the resources boom and foreign investment has been rapid, not least from China. I wondered how all this would be reflected on the ground.
My destination this time is South Africa and Mozambique with Africa veteran Toni. A two week trip taking in a day in Johannesburg, 10 days in Mozambique stopping in Vilaculos, Tofo and Maputo and finishing up in Kruger for safari. Those elephants have not lost their appeal over time either.
Having made such an impression on me the first time around I was determined to give something back to Africa. A few of us had started this after the Galapagos 2009 trip and it was a feature I wanted to continue. Having read about Stuff your Rucksack (www.stuffyourrucksack.com) in Wanderlust (www.wanderlust.com) – thanks guys! we decided to give it a go and take supplies for Happy Africa (www.happyafricafoundation.org). We collected children’s books, colouring pens, paint, magazines and even a pair of spacehoppers from friends all over and packed them alongside our luggage. We were set.