Two M’sian women prove “have wheels will travel” in Africa

Image courtesy of Iyra Azhari’s FB

by Mohd Afiq Zulkifli

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 17: Two Malaysian women embraced their passion for travelling by challenging themselves to drive around the African continent, the second largest in the world, in a four-wheel drive (4WD) vehicle.

Zuraina Ismail, 56, and Iyra Azhari, 47, who are currently in Caprivi Strip, Namibia, began their expedition by land from Cape Town, South Africa on Aug 17 in a Toyota Landcruiser Troopy that was sent by sea cargo from Port Klang.

The duo, who set out on their “Out of Africa” adventure covering 14 countries in the south and east of the African continent, have so far traversed over 15,000 km over six countries, namely South Africa, Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland), Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Namibia.

Their journey is expected to end in Kenya early next April before they continue their expedition to the continents of Europe and Asia to return to Malaysia by land.

Zuraina, more fondly called Nana, said that they did not set a specific schedule for their expedition but planned it based on certain aspects, such as interesting locations, current weather situation, journey distance and camping sites to spend the night.

Image courtesy of Iyra Azhari’s FB

“We are slow travellers, not necessary for us to be on the road every day. We try to limit our travelling time to no more than 300 km or not more than five hours of driving.

“This is because our 4WD is 28 years old. Once in a while we break the rule and drive for up to 500 to 600 km,” she said, adding that the cost is set at no more than RM10,000 per month for both of them, which covers accommodation, meals, fuel, vehicle maintenance and entrance fees to tourist attractions.

Nana, a former senior manager at a company, said one of the main challenges they’ve had to face was having to acclimatise themselves to the changing weather conditions as each country had a different weather condition.

For example, when they were in Zimbabwe, the temperature was 35 degrees Celcius (°C), in South Africa it dropped to 16°C and in Namibia, it spiked to over 40°C when we were in the desert area.

“In addition, driving on land, for example in Namibia, where 80 per cent of the roads are dirt roads, causes dust and dirt to get into the 4WD. So, it becomes a routine for us to clean it first before going to bed,” she said.

Image courtesy of Iyra Azhari’s FB

Meanwhile, Iyra said one of the most remarkable memories was when they had the chance to drive through the safari, enabling them to see up close the wild animals roaming freely like how it is shown on animal documentaries like National Geographic or Animal Planet.

According to her, among the safaris they have visited are the Milwane Wildlife Sanctuary and Hlane Royal National Park in Eswatini; Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe; and Etosha National Park in Namibia.

She said the safaris in these countries allowed tourists to drive their own vehicles with certain conditions, including following the stipulated route, not getting out of the vehicle, not getting too close to the animals and spending the night only at designated camping sites that have been gazetted.

“In zoos, the wild animals are caged but the challenge is different in safaris because it’s not easy for us to locate or bump into the animals… have to depend on your luck, patience and knowing about the animals that are there.

“So, there are many incidents that we can classify as ‘National Geographic’ moments during our self-drive through the safaris as we got to see the animals up close, such as elephants, rhinoceros, lions, giraffes, zebras, hyenas, African buffaloes and various other species of animals in their natural habitat,” she said.

Those interested in following the unique story of the duo’s expedition can do so through Facebook, Instagram and kelanadunia_7667 which they will update periodically.