Posted: August 18 2019
Cairo to Cape Town, the ultimate overland journey.
19,000+ Km of hard worn, dusty trail from North Africa to South Africa down the East coast.
Whether you are a biker, a cyclist or a backpacker, surely it's the most iconic trip ever.
Here's a look back at my trip from 2015/16.
Late 2015 and I spontaneously flew from Tbilisi to Cairo via Baku and Abu Dhabi. For most, such a trip would be the trip of a lifetime, 6 months spent on preparation, a few thousand dollars worth of quick-drying adventure clothing and both arms full of red dots where the vaccinations had gone in.
I made no special preparations: no visas in advance, no fitness routine.
I acquired no special equipment, I just went with what I had. Jeans, worn-out running shoes, a few T-shirts and of course my mosquito net.
Hell, even all my vaccinations, bar the yellow fever one, had long since expired. No antimalarials - they are for those who think that popping pills will stop you getting malaria.
By the time I arrived in Cairo, I'd already been on the road for nearly 2 years but was still eager for adventure.
This is going to be my last repost. This adventure and many others like it, first appeared on my other, now sadly defunct blog which I was forced to take offline after all the coding and inexperience at running a blog just got out of hand.
I arrived in Cairo, November 1st 2015. I took lodgings at the Dahab Hostel not far from Talaat Harb, the epicentre of downtown Cairo. It had been 5 years since I was last in this city. I walked the streets to re-familiarise myself with this city of dreams and then spent a day in my room, coming up with a plan for Egypt.
I wanted to see the Suez Canal, I wanted to see Alexandria and I wanted to go to Siwa. On a previous trip, I had visited Luxor. No need for a revisit. And I needed to go to Aswan. Aswan is where I stood the best chance of getting a Sudanese visa and of course take the boat to Wadi Halfa.
I secured my Sudanese visa, booked my passage on the weekly ferry and hung around Aswan, reading up about Sudan.
This was how I planned my Cairo to Cape Town overland journey. I've always got a bit of a plan but en route, you learn of new things and places and adapt accordingly. Once on the ground, part of the fun or the journey is sorting out the logistics. But this just involves a trip to the bus station to see when the bus to the intended destination will depart. This is Africa. There was never a need to book in advance, save the Aswan | Wadi Halfa ferry.
This was an overland journey. Flights are not part of the equation. I am disgusted by travellers who say they completed Cairo to Cape Town, overland and glaze over the fact that they were forced to fly into Khartoum or even skip Sudan entirely. Americans are very often refused visas!
And nearly everyone goes Cairo to Cape Town as the logistics of acquiring visas is easier. An Ethiopian visa is only possible, in countries south of Ethiopia, for locals. Tourists are thus forced to fly into Addis where they are granted a 30-day visa or secure in their home country.
Visas are an essential part of the journey. One must secure visas for Sudan, Ethiopia and then Kenya. There is no plan B. Thankfully the visa headache dissipates, as from Kenya, you have a choice of countries. Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia and finally South Africa.
I travelled through 10 countries. Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, South Africa.
3 visas obtained in advance: Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya (could have got a the border)
5 visas on arrival: Egypt, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe
2 no visa required: Lesotho and South Africa
There is no getting away from the fact that Africa is tough.
Road conditions: though a breeze from conditions in West Africa, but still with the dust, corrugations, potholes, roadblocks, crazy drivers, overloaded trucks and buses.
Egypt: pushy touts, pushy homosexuals
Ethiopia: constant You-You s, corrupt police, bed bugs, crap food
Kenya: theft possibility.
Tanzania: the heat.
Malawi: demand of handouts. "hey Muzungu, buy me lunch!"
Mozambique: toughest roads in east Africa.
South Africa: I was attacked in Cape Town.
You'll notice, nothing from Sudan, probably the best country in Africa. Tough - very hot, dusty, ultrabasic conditions, but the people are incredibly kind.
Of course it's not all doom and gloom: Infectious smiles.
This is in Cobue. Mozambique. I'd just arrived in this small village after crossing Lake Malawi from Likoma. There was a funeral happening and all the shops were closed. My guesthouse had no running water. You showered with rainwater stored in a drum and this delightful young mum helped me to fill my water bottles at the well. Probably the widest smile I saw in Africa.
Food: I love the foul and rice in Egypt. In Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and Zimbabwe they eat Ugali/Sima and when travelling in the developing world, there is never a shortage of snacks available:
And then there are the lighlights:
Wish you were here:
The overland journey lasted 7 months. I didn't get to the Black and White deserts in Western Egypt. Too many problems there. I didn't get to Somaliland as I could not get a double entry visa for Ethiopia. They said I'd need to fly back.
I favoured the Swahili coast instead of Lake Turkana, Uganda and Rwanda and Mozambique instead of Lake Tanganyika. There is always next time.
From Cape Town, I flew back to Central Asia. Further travels saw me return to Southeast Asia via UAE and Sri Lanka. And then onto the Philippines and back west again. It was almost 18 months after the completion of Cairo to Cape Town before I returned to England. My money was spent. I was mentally exhausted. I had seen enough, too much even. I needed to earn some cash and have some life away from the travel scene. Any why not back in England. As boring as it is, I hate my life there. I never accomplish much. But I don't need to worry about visas or permits and of course, the wages are good.
Which is where I am now. The passion to get back on the road has finally returned. The bank account is a lot healthier. 4 1/2 months more and I'll be off again. After all, going away is what I do.
Escape The Rat Race
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Travelling the world solo, since 1992, as a low budget backpacker.