“Go West”, they sing! Following fellow travelers Kirk and Dale’s trip in 2010 (SawubonAfrica), I had decided that they were getting to see much of “real Africa” – taking in both the West and Eastern sides before heading down South. Super plan! I would follow a very similar route and drive from London, through Spain to the Straight of Gibraltar before cruising through Morocco, Senegal, Mali, down Western Africa and into Angola before traversing through Zambia to Eastern Africa and making my way down the East from there. After many months of meticulous planning and thought, I realised that traveling through Nigeria and such countries didn’t really compare to Ethiopia, and those I’d miss on the other side. I decided I needed to go East…
My initial thoughts, getting to East Africa from London via Egypt, involved driving down through France and Spain, cross at the Strait of Gibraltar, drive along the coast of North Africa to Egypt and then down the East side – seemed simple enough. Planning for this route was researched over many months and I had the route mapped, almost to the day, on Google Maps. Distances, sights and sounds – I had it waxed. Then someone decided to play silly buggers with the powers of the universe, and sent the Arabic world and it’s dictators into crazy mode….
On the 14th February 2011, following the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak 3 days earlier, Libya descends into chaos and dictator Muammar Gaddafi hunkers down for a fight. No way through – unless I intend on joining the protests or volunteer as a moving target for the pro-Gaddafi supporters.
NO ROUTE THROUGH NORTH AFRICA.
Following the turmoil in North Africa, I thought I might use the Summer to explore some of Europe’s finest countries, Belgium, Austria, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania and Greece before touching African soil. Now I wasn’t too keen on getting a ferry over the Mediterranean as it seemed far more exciting to try to drive as much of the route as possible. Crossing water on a ferry, without the wheels turning, somehow seemed like I might be cheating… and, as there’s land between Europe and Africa, I could drive round the Mediterranean, through Turkey, into Syria, down to Jordan and catch a short ferry across to the Egyptian peninsula near Dahab. Bit of a waste though as I have traveled through Jordan and dived Dahab previously, but it was a plan none-the-less.
With riots in Egypt, I looked into driving from Jordan down through Saudi Arabia and catching a short ferry from Jeddah to Port Sudan. This route was fraught from the start with two problems. Firstly, all visas for the next few countries could only be obtained in Cairo, and secondly, as a female in Saudi Arabia, I would only be allowed in the vehicle with a male relative and wouldn’t be allowed to drive…
Right, so the decision was to brave Cairo. According to our friends Gav and Nadia who were living there at the time, it was fine – so this seemed like the best solution.
There had been a bit of trouble in Syria, but overlanders were still making their way through safely by avoiding the hot spots. Didn’t last long… cue Syria unrest. It becomes too dangerous to travel through Syria and all non-essential travel is discouraged from March 2011.
Let’s check the map to see if we can drive around Syria and avoid it? Uh, perhaps not, Iraq sits to the East, so out of the question…
NO ROUTE ROUND THE MEDITERRANEAN
I’ll skip the drive and take a ferry from Greece to Alexandria (which actually docks in Syria on the way). Sorted, found a ferry company, shipping wasn’t too expensive and would take around 4 days. Hectic planning ensued, mostly to do with the Wadi Halfa crossing from Egypt into Sudan which seemed to be a real talking point on the overlanding forums.
Shortly thereafter, the ferry company stopped running it’s route due to the Syrian and, to an extent, Egyptian unrest.
NO ROUTE VIA FERRY TO EAST AFRICA
I’m back to where I started and with no option into East Africa, we’re back to Plan A… WESTERN AFRICA
Europe, Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania, Senegal, The Gambia, Mali, Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo, DRC, Angola, Zambia, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa
UPDATE: Since the above plan was re-hatched, the ferry routes started to open up and crossing the Med was now a possibility again! Europe to Turkey and then Egypt and down – SORTED! But things are never as straight forward as we’d like them to be… read about the drama that unfolded here…
Taking all risks into account (as a single female), I decided to ship the Beast to Mombasa and drive from there onward. After over 2 years of planning, it’s finally come together!