The Nomad truck has a very different setup from the Oasis one, and this changes the dynamic of the trip. The Oasis truck had open sides, two rows of facing seats, and the social "beach" at the front. This layout encouraged conversation and road games, and we often had music blasting out of the truck's speakers. Oasis also has a generally more participatory nature. Two truck guards had to stay behind every time we had a shopping or lunch break in a town, and truck keys were safeguarded by two passengers at a time. The biggest difference was that rotating cook groups were responsible for food shopping, cooking group meals, and cleaning the truck in the evening.
Nomad, on the other hand, requires almost nothing of its passengers, and it is a much more luxurious trip, at least to my lowered standards of luxury. As our guide and cook, Chad prepares three meals a day for us, and the food is delicious. We have cereal and real milk – both were too expensive elsewhere in Africa to have as options on Oasis. We also have a fridge on the Nomad truck that allows us to keep milk and other perishables. Chad and our driver both keep truck keys, and it is always easy to find them if I need to get into the truck. The truck itself is designed more like a bus, with forward-facing seats, glass windows, and no special feature like the "beach". We store our luggage in open racks above the seats, which are easier to access than the under-seat lockers on Oasis, but probably less secure. Most journeys on the Nomad truck are pretty quiet, as the forward-facing seats make it difficult to talk to everyone, and we generally don't play music. Wind does not blow through the truck like it did through the open sides in the Oasis truck, so the trip is much calmer. Luckily, this being winter in South Africa, the truck doesn't get hot with its closed sides. As nice as a lot of these features are on the Nomad trip, I miss the Oasis truck – after all, it was home for two and a half months.
The first part of the Nomad tour would take us on the Garden Route, a scenic stretch of the coastline to the east of Cape Town. Our first stop after departing Cape Town was Stellenbosch, where I had been a week ago with Oasis. This time we had only a short stop – one wine tasting session. We also viewed the cheetahs at a nearby animal sanctuary. After that, it was on to our first campsite in the beautiful countryside around Swellendam. we had a leisurely evening as we waited for Chad to prepare dinner, and I organized some of my photos, something I have not had time to do in recent weeks. We also learned how to set up our tents. They are similar to the Oasis tents, but a bit larger and slightly more awkward to set up. The poles are not strung together, so it is easier to drop one while setting up the tent frame. The zippers stick, and the rain covers don't fit well. But to make up for some of these shortcomings, Nomad provides cushy mattress pads, and there are so few passengers that we can each use two if the ground is rough. As with Oasis, we share a tent with one other person, and my tent buddy is a medical student from Amsterdam named Wesley.
We camped in Oudtshoorn last night and left this morning to drive to Knysna on the coast. Along the way, we stopped at the picturesque Outeniqua Pass to admire the wrinkled landscape tumbling down towards the Indian Ocean.
We returned to our campsite after dark, ate one of Chad's scrumptious meals, and avoided the damp cold by warming ourselves by the campfire. As we were eating, Chad noticed a spider near the fire – it was a venomous black button spider, known in the rest of the world as a black widow. After dinner, I retired to my tent and tried to keep out the cold and any spiders by bundling up tight in my warm sleeping bag.