Africa Got Me Crazy

I think I am starting to loose my mind. How do I know this? Well, every time a new curveball is thrown our way in terms of our route through Africa, I just laugh. It is almost like I expect something to go wrong. After dealing with getting ourselves and our trucks through China, I though we had seen the worst of it, but I am beginning to get a sense of déjà vu, Sahara-style.

When we originally planned the route, we tailored it after Who Needs a Road? trip back in the 60’s. We would take the ferry from Spain into Morocco and then head east though the Sahara along the Mediterranean highways in Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and finally into Egypt. At the time, this seemed plausible enough, but after a few hours of research, it was clear that Algeria was going to be a problem. Morocco had already closed its border with Algeria and not long after, both Tunisia and Libya followed suit. Theoretically, you could still get in an out of Algeria if you were determined enough, but given that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi had reason enough to close his border, I am not necessarily sure we would even want to go to Algeria even if there was a way through. This was the state of affairs in Algeria when we first started planning the trip and two years later, nothing has changed… Algeria is still a no go for multiple reasons.

It was time to start thinking of Plan B. We still wanted to see Morocco and the enchanting cities of Tangiers, Fez and Casablanca but doing so would be quite a feat. It was possible to enter Africa via Morocco but a route that is ripe with a whole new Pandora’s Box of potential problems. In order to go south from Morocco, we would essentially follow the course of the Paris-Dakar rally through to Senegal. The next obstacle we would face, however, would be the Southwest coast of Africa encompassing Sierra Leone, Liberia, and the Ivory Coast. This region of Africa is still extremely volatile and having the images from Blood Diamond fresh in our minds, we decided that it would be best to find a way around these countries. A route around the “danger zone” is possible through Mali, Nigeria, Cameroon, etc. but then you are faced with getting through either the Central African Republic, The Democratic Republic of the Congo or the Congo itself. Unfortunately, you have no choice geographically but to pass through one of these countries and blanket US State Department travel advisories warning of adoption schemes are replaced with warnings of serious and credible threats to your personal health in this region of Africa. So much for plan B.


Hey Bouey, Algeria still won’t let you guys in…

The next seemingly feasible option was to catch a ferry from Italy across the Mediterranean to Tunis, Tunisia. With this option, we unfortunately be skipping Morocco, but more importantly be on the “good” side of Algeria. At the time of our research, Libya was somewhat difficult to get into, but people had done it. In fact, Long Way Down took this route on his most recent motorcycle jaunt. Even though he is Obee-Wan Kanobee, if Ewan can get into Africa, I figured so can we. Fast forward to a few weeks ago when Libya started tightening up the restrictions they had eased in 2004 for foreign tourists. I did not think it was a big deal as I have gotten quite used to jumping through hoops over the course of the last 10 months, but it quickly became apparent that no matter how good of a jumper you are, there have to be hoops to jump through in the first place. Although Libya has not officially stopped issuing visas to Americans per se, it appears as if all of the travel agencies that issue the required invitation letters have. I, along with several individuals helping us out, have not had any luck in finding an agency who can help us poor Yanks out… U.K. resident… no problemo. We are now down to our final few options and I have to admit, I am not feeling too good about our chances.


You look like a reasonable guy, please Mr. Gaddafi, let us in

(Image courtesy of

Plan D was short lived and entailed trying to find a ferry service or RORO vessel to get us from Europe to Egypt. It quickly became apparent that most of the trans-Mediterranean services to Egypt have either A) been canceled altogether, B) have ceased operations for the winter season, C) only go through Israel – if we have an Israeli stamp or visa in our passports, Sudan will not let us in the door, or D) are too expensive to even consider.

So here we are researching Plan E. This entails backtracking to a certain extent though Italy, Greece and the land of $10 a gallon gas in Turkey. From Turkey, we can head south through Syria and Jordan (avoiding Israel) and enter Egypt at the Sinai Peninsula. From all indications, it does not look like it will be too difficult to get in or out of these Middle Eastern countries, although there may be some heightened security concerns and a few places to avoid. But in the end, who really knows, things in this part of the world change on an almost daily basis. Our pal Col. Gaddafi has just kicked off a trip to France to negotiate some trade deals. Maybe our friends in France can put in a good word for us and Libya will once again ease restrictions on foreign visitors within the next few weeks. Like Leonardo said: “TIA – This is Africa.” In the meantime, let the laughter roll.

Africa Political Large

Starting to run out of options