Cape Town – South Africa’s Katchie Nzama has travelled to so many countries across the African continent. News24’s Africa editor Betha Madhomu speaks to her about her experiences and future plans.
When and how did the idea of travelling around Africa and blogging about it come about?
Katchie: I had always travelled around the continent, but the blog came to life in May 2014. It just couldn’t be an ordinary travel blog like all the others. This one had to stand out from the rest. It had to make a difference. A difference more than just providing affordable travel options… it had to make a difference in educating and sharing more about our continent. It was a way to live out my curiosity about our continent and share it with the world.
What exactly do you blog about and why?
Katchie: My blog www.travelwithkatchie.com is a travel blog that focuses on African destinations, cultures and heritage and also African beers. If there will ever be a change in Africa on any issue regarding uniting the people of this continent, that change will start through education. Not formal education, but the education in just knowing who is in the country next to yours?, what are they like?, what language do they speak?, what does their country look like?, is it ok for you visit?, how would they treat you if you were to visit?, Travel with Katchie takes you on a journey through my experiences as introduced to the world by locals.
I believe change in Africa will come through Africans sharing and telling their own stories.
How many countries have you visited so far? And how many do you intend to visit?
Katchie: Thirty-four African countries this far. It should’ve have been 38 but this is Africa and nothing ever goes as planned.
I had planned to achieve 50 African countries before I am 30 years old. I have six months before i turn 30 and I am content with this goal never happening. The last six months that I travelled through 21 African countries proved to me that my goal was possible but it would come at a high cost.
With local Kids working on the rice farms in Makeni, Sierra Leone. They got excited when they saw me taking pictures and asked me to snap them and put them on Facebook. (Picture: Supplied)
A very high psychological and mental cost – that is. A cost I am not ready to pay. So I’ll remain content with the 34 countries and try visit as many more as I can when it’s safe to do so.
Who finances your tours and who do you travel with?
Katchie: I am @thesolowandera. I travel with a whole lot of people. I leave South Africa alone. I have always believed that my travel partners are always waiting for me in my next destination. I don’t know their names and have never met them, but the moment we meet, those are my travel partners. Also my twitter followers are the best virtual travel partners. They have held my hand through emotional breakdowns when I have had to get an emergency flight out of Sierra Leone due to mudslides, when I’m bed ridden in Nigeria because of malaria, with literally no one to take care of me…, even when I have had complete melt downs about ordering a beef shwarma in Yamoussoukro and the beef has three different colours, my twitter family was there laughing, crying and sending me hugs and kisses. I do appreciate them, most of the time.
I have different ways that I travel. I usually travel for clients who need content created for their digital platforms and my own platforms. These would pay me and pay for my travels. The last trip which I called #BreakingBorders was through 21 African countries and it was sponsored by Simeka Capital Holdings.
I also pay for my own travels when I go to places I consider my secret hideaways that I would never tell people about because I too often need a holiday.
At the African renaissance monument in Dakar, Senegal.
What are some of the challenges you face in trying to get to every corner of the continent?
Katchie: In all honesty, it would be quicker for me to list the challenges that I am not faced with as an African passport holder trying to travel the continent. From visas, to security issues, to law enforcement brutality, lack of infrastructure – such as roads, running water, electricity etc. I mean I could go on forever.
So what exactly do you get up to when you are in those countries?
Katchie: I have never gone into a country for the first time with a plan. Actually that’s not true… I always have a plan – find the nearest shebeen or hostel and make friends and everything will fall into place as your newly found friends try to show you around.
I never have a plan for any country I go to. I may read up a bit just to understand the basics such as the language, currency and religion. I don’t even attempt to learn a language before I arrive. The person who stamps my passport is always my first teacher. They have to teach me how to say “thank you”. The rest, I will wing as I go along. I figure it more fun this way. I can’t imagine any other way to travel. I live for the unpredictability and uncertainty of each day and thrive on knowing that no day will ever be the same as the last.
The local fishermen boats in Nouakchott, Mauritania. (Picture: Supplied)
What are some of the major lessons you have learnt from these tours?
Katchie: Somebody needs to start listening to African women. Visas are not necessary and they are honestly the best way to scam us Africans. I have spent more money on visas than traveling on public transport. It’s easier for anyone from any other continent to travel this continent than it is for us who are from here.
Language barriers are excuses people too lazy to get out of their comfort zone use to avoid going out and discover a new place.
From what you’ve seen and experienced in the different countries that you’ve been to, what can you say about Africa and its people?. What are some of the things you’ve noticed that are somewhat different from South Africa?
Katchie: I imagine Africa the continent as an African outdoor market. There are loads of Ankara material on sale. Different colours, patterns and sizes, but they all come from the same manufacturer. I like to think of Africans like that, we are all “Ankara”. We speak different languages, we may look different, sound different but we all the same. We laugh the same, love the same and face the same challenges everyday. We are all one people. The only difference with us is the passports we hold and our colonisers.
The things different to South Africa have to be how spoiled and mostly ungrateful we are as South Africans. Not to say we should not be holding our leaders responsible, but I feel like we need to stop more often just to appreciate what we have.
Sitting under the African Map – Cap Angela monument in Bizerte, Tunisia. Africas Northernmost point. (Picture: Supplied)
What is it about African people that makes them similar?
Katchie: I remember being in the Congo Republic and the people spoke to me in French. I had been traveling through enough francophone countries so I knew and understood enough French to get by. But for the parts where I struggled I needed google translate. The worst thing for me was when the locals spoke in Lingala, I was understanding them. I was picking up enough words to understand. As this is a bantu language, my knowledge of South African languages, a bit of Chichewa and Swahili would just bring Lingala to be another language I would not struggle with. But the locals could not believe I could possibly understand Lingala as that’s their language. The simple fact that our languages are so intertwined and so similar, is something that out own people do not know. This is heart breaking.
Our music. The Funana music in Cabo Verde sounds exactly like Tsonga music. Imagine dancing at a music festival on the black beaches of Cabo Verde and on stage sounds like Thomas Chauke just got on. A creole speaking Thomas Chauke.
Our food is the same, except when we get too creative and add spices – but you know tripe is tripe and so is hard body chicken and nobody cooks that better than the eldest aunt in the family.
What are some of the changes you would like to see in Africa?…I mean things that you want to see being done differently?
Katchie: A girl child no longer being held back by traditional or religious shackles. A continent where religion doesn’t replace medical help. A continent where talking about different regions of the continent does not offend because it was never a competition between those countries. A continent where we are telling our stories, and not busy fighting over whose colonisers’ language is better.
I don’t know if this will ever be in my life time, but I will continue to work harder each day for an Africa where donkeys don’t have to deliver water to a community, or where 7-year-old girls have to go to the water well. I envisage an Africa where electricity is not a luxury and where a 2 euro school fees for the year is not something a child’s parents need to debate whether they can afford.