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There is something magical about travel, about an adventure becoming real. With each passing stage as departure draws nearer, the excitement grows and daily life fades into a muted irrelevance next to the anticipation of the unanticipatable. So it was with every progressively more interesting journey I have ever awaited and so again the rumblings are making themselves felt ahead of November’s departure.

given our largely inland travels and time spent in Pattaya, opting for ladyboys over beaches would probably have been a more accurate assessment of some of the scenery we were to encounter.

To illustrate the point more accurately, the days before departing to Thailand saw me setting up a mailer (in my ADD state of excitement) to send a picture of Thai culture or scenery to all of us who would be travelling together. Every day. Starting almost three months before we left. It was my way of finding something to do with myself in order to let off some of the anticipatorial (is that a word?) steam that pending travel was creating. Jonathan’s outlet was to hack the mailer and add occasional pictures of ladyboys in place of beaches and temples. Yet so distracted was I that I never realised until he confessed the fact much later. Although, given our largely inland travels and time spent in Pattaya, opting for ladyboys over beaches would probably have been a more accurate assessment of some of the scenery we were to encounter.

I was able then to distract myself with minutiae such as the distribution of endless scenery-propaganda because when traveling as a backpacker/tourist/general-english-speaking-visitor to Thailand and surrounds, it is quite straightforward to find detailed information, making planning a rather simple affair. Ask the Internet and it will tell you all.

“Get a Yellow Fever vaccination”, the Internet said.

“You won’t need a visa as a South African”, it assured me.

“Buy a copy of Lonely Planet’s Southeast Asia Guide”, it urged.

And by and large, the Internet was right. Except for the Yellow Fever thing. Apparently you do need the vaccinations, but nobody on arrival seemed to care. Maybe I just looked really healthy.

Trying to find travel details for Cape to Cairo has proven to be somewhat more entertaining -and difficult – than Southeast Asia ever was.

“You should take a leisurely game drive. Perhaps shoot some game.”, the Internet says.

“I have absolutely no clue how you would get from the Ethiopia/Sudan border to Khartoum”, it whines – looking at me as though I were demented.

As a matter of record, opinion in fact seems to be that the people of the Sudan are as friendly as the national food of Ethiopia (injera) is inedible.

Don’t get me wrong, the information is indeed there – as my overzealous searching now begins to pay dividends at last, but its not been anywhere near as easy as planning a trip to the tourist Meccas of Bangkok and Angkor Wat. Africa, buried under a virtual ton of online news glorifying bandits and rebel groups with wholly unpronounceable names has made it harder to discern useful backpacker-appropriate facts from a sea of safety warnings and information on the sorts of trips that involve carting you from an airport to a luxury resort in an air conditioned bus so that you can don your pith helmet and begin shooting things as quickly as possible before it is time to retire with your gin and tonic. None of this information is particularly helpful. Except possibly, maybe, perhaps for the warnings. Even then, however, it is advisable to take them with a large grain of salt. Yes, Darfur is dangerous, as is Somalia – but I have no more intention of wandering around either district than I do of accidentally ending up in Madagascar.

So what, in the course of my most thorough research, have I so far managed to learn?

  • The Sudanese visa form wants to know my religion and blood type.
  • There really doesn’t appear to be any obvious answer to the question of “how do I get from the Ethiopian/Sudan border to Khartoum”, other than a general appreciation that it should be possible. Paul Theroux flew instead in Dark Star Safari, but Sihle Khumalo in Dark Continent, my black arse managed to hitch a ride (of sorts). Most everyone else had their own car.
  • Blogs and books (see above) are a surprisingly useful tool for learning about the more off-the-radar places. There is this couple, who kept a detailed record of expenses and this man, just finished his own journey on a motorbike.
  • Finally, that in general (and provided that you stay out of obvious warzones) the dangers (of violence, at any rate) are overstated. There are many ordinary people living out there who have absolutely no interest in killing, kidnapping or otherwise harming even the most incapacitatingly naive travelers. So provided that you are not outright foolish, you should hopefully experience no inevitable upsets. As a matter of record, opinion in fact seems to be that the people of the Sudan are as friendly as the national food of Ethiopia (injera) is inedible.

And so the research goes on. The other night saw me finally book the ticket to Cape Town to start the journey on the morning of 13 November. So the ball is most definitely now rolling. With just over three months until it is time to pack and head out, we will still have to see if I can resist the worst temptations to cease dealing properly with the real world in favour of perpetual fantisising. Jonathan, however, will need to come up with a new, ladyboy-free method of passing the time he has left.