The premise of these travels is “two women, six continents.” By convention, Europe is considered a continent, although anyone looking at a map can clearly see it shares a land mass with Asia. Before we move on to Asia, though, I feel that I am not yet done with our second continent—Africa.
We visited only a few African countries, and each was very different. So I know we’ve only scratched the surface of this amazing part of the world. I want to return to Tanzania and visit the chimpanzees at Gombe; I want to get the train to Zambia and see the mighty Victoria Falls, on the border with Zimbabwe.
But I also want to see more of all Africa’s regions: Botswana and Namibia, Egypt and Ethiopia, Mali and Mozambique. Some countries are having a hard time right now, but others, of which I’d barely heard, are said to be remarkable places to visit. It’s clear that the Western stereotype of all Africa as a single basket case is a serious distortion.
Just researching the places we visited (and many we didn’t) was fascinating in itself. To think that the Great Pyramid of Giza, one of North Africa’s and the world’s wonders, was the tallest building on earth for nearly four thousand years! It was passed only by—I’d never have guessed this—Lincoln Cathedral, when its spire was completed in 1311.
Here’s another quiz answer that you can have for free. Every modern country in Africa was once the colony of a European power, except one. Ethiopia has always been independent. I knew it was occupied by Fascist Italy, but it still had its long-reigning emperor, Haile Selassie. Maybe that’s why he—Ras Tafari—is so revered by the religion that bears his name?
So I want to go back to these places, because like many people, I grew up knowing Ethiopia only as the place with the Live Aid famine. And I knew of missionaries in various places, but not the awesome churches of the homegrown Christian tradition, or the mosques, or the Hindu temples of Mauritius.
Okay, so maybe I was just reluctant to leave Mauritius. Getting in gear to explore a whole new continent is a lot harder after the beach, where we could buy samosas and rotis from a guy with a glass basket on the back of his bicycle. Though if there’s one thing I expect from southeast Asia, it’s good street food stalls.
Having ditched all that extra trekking gear, we’ve streamlined down to being actual backpackers. Everything that's not in my day pack is now in here.