Hitching my way through sub-Saharan Africa

After graduating from Millsaps College, I (Elise) figured I needed to find something to do to avoid my school loans for a while.  I was not ready for grad school, nor did I have any promising career options that would allow me to pay for that college education.

I chose the grandest outdoor adventure of all – two years as a volunteer development worker in sub-Saharan Africa, teaching English in the bush.  I lived on a Catholic Mission in Katima Mulilo, – a town in Namibia on the Zambezi River.

My housing accommodations were simple but not as primitive as other Peace Corps volunteers who lived in mud huts.  I did not have hot water, TV, or a telephone.  We had electricity most of the time, and a small refrigerator.  Our “flat” was a rectangular cinder block dwelling, with a metal roof.  Mesh on the inside and outside where the walls met the roof kept most of the bugs out.  We slept on small cots under a mosquito net.  Our water came directly out of the river.  We had hippos and crocs; deaths by the river and chronic malaria were everyday occurrences.  Elephants often knocked down telephone poles, and the roars from lions and hippos echoed across the river at night.

victoria-falls-605911_960_720On weekends we would hitch-hike the short distance to Victoria Falls, where there was a real Subway sandwich shop, a big grocery store, and a significant expat and tourist presence.  Those who had a little extra money bungee jumped off the bridge over Vic Falls or took safari tours through Etosha.

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I didn’t have any extra money, I lived off of about $100 American dollars per month.  During one holiday break, I did hitchhike to a Safari resort in the bush, but I bartended, cooked breakfast, and helped the guides.  Helping the guides was the best part; we took tourists into the bush and tracked lions, or fished for Tigerfish (a cousin to the piranha) while using evasive boating maneuvers to avoid hippo attacks.

This post is an excerpt from an article about the Roaming Parkers that first ran in Ernest Herndon’s Adventure Section of the McComb Enterprise-Journal in 2017.


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