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One day less and you can expect more or less daily updates from this point forward. The madness of waiting has started to make my fingers dance in an increasingly manic fashion, faster with each passing day until departure. I’ve never quite experienced anticipation like this. It’s difficult to concentrate on the things that need to be done in the short time left. What were once butterflies in my stomach have now been compressed to the point that they have become a sweeping sense of nausea that comes and goes. If I could leave tomorrow, I would.

But there are things to be done – a train to be booked, stuff to be moved and affairs to be ordered. Almost done, but not quite – it’s the emotional equivalent of a car with its wheels spinning, just waiting for the handbrake to be released. In my mind, the journey has for all intents and purposes begun. It’s just a wait for reality to catch up.

At the request of a friend, it’s time to explain, in one concise map,  my intended route. Which is actually three possible routes, based on the likely scenarios that will play out near the end of the trip. Regular readers will know that I have still not been able to obtain my Sudanese visa – and that Sudan lies as a non-negotiable gatekeeper to reaching Cairo by land only.

The intended route (green), plan B (yellow), plan C (red). Interesting stops on the way are shown by little stars. Not that the rest will be dull, mind you.

The intended route (green), plan B (yellow), plan C (red). Interesting stops on the way are shown by little stars. Not that the rest will be dull, mind you.

Plans. Such big plans.

Unable to get the visa here, I shall try again in Addis Ababa, where other travelers have had considerably more luck. If I am able to get the visa there, then it will be onward to Khartoum and then north to Cairo. The chance that this may not come to pass has forced me to make alternative plans though. As the map so eloquently expresses, if I am unable to traverse Sudan, then I will head northeast from Addis Ababa towards Djibouti, from where I will take a stab at getting to Cairo by sea on whatever ships ply the route past Djibouti and on to Cairo.

Plan B has its own variables though. Whether there will be traffic that stops in Djibouti, whether any ship would be willing to take me and how long the journey would last are all factors that may not make completing the original journey by sea possible. So there is a plan C just in case.

Plan C is to end the trip in Asmara, Eritrea, instead if no other route to Cairo is possible.

Plan C is to end the trip in Asmara (Eritrea) instead if no other route to Cairo is possible. One of Africa’s less visited (even by African standards) countries, it would by no means be a terrible place to finish the adventure. The only caveat, even here, is that the overland borders to Eritrea from Ethiopia and Djibouti are apparently closed at present. Which would mean trying to get to Asmara via ship from Djibouti. In which case I might as well try to get all the way on to Cairo, barring any special circumstances.

In any event, plans B and C will only be polished up close to Christmas, at which point I will know for sure whether I will be able to travel through Sudan on this trip at all, or whether I will need to get creative with my route

Highlights to watch out for

The little stars on this map are some of the spots on the route which will be of particular interest or significance. Not that the rest will remain unwritten-on or unexciting by any means. I think that would be impossible.

Tales of 40+ hour rides on escorted cargo trucks through bandit country make it likely to be one of the first particularly difficult legs of the journey.

From the bottom to the top, my journey begins in Cape Town, on a combination of bus and train towards Lusaka.  just before Lusaka, however, I intend to get off the bus at a town called Chisekesi, close to a Jesuit mission where an old friend from debating days, Matthew, is stationed. Visiting for a day and bit, it’s then on to Lusaka, Kapiri Mposhi and the Tanzam rail to Dar es Salaam, where I will stay with Jonathan‘s parents for a few days and stop in at Zanzibar to do some sightseeing and rest up for a bit.

Then it’s on to Nairobi and Moyale via Isiolo.  Tales of 40+ hour rides on escorted cargo trucks through bandit country make it likely to be one of the first particularly difficult legs of the journey. After that, it’s relatively plain sailing to Addis Ababa and two-and-a-bit weeks of meeting up with Jonathan in Addis Ababa and slowing down to do some proper sightseeing on the route between Addis and the island monasteries on Lake Tana. Jonathan will be returning home on the 22nd of December, after which it will be time to make choices for onward travel and proceed either to Asmara in plan C, or Cairo in plans A & B.

And so that, in one concise tale, is the story of the routes I have planned and the choices that will lie along it.  Fingers crossed for plan A.