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ABOUT THIS BLOG

In the summer of 2009, Nicolas Rapp decided to take a break from his Art Director job at The Associated Press to attempt a one-year overland travel around the world in a 1996 Toyota Land Cruiser. He was back in New York in February 2011 after traveling 15 months and 37,000 miles.

Visited countries

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MONTHLY ARCHIVES

THE ROUTE

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  • Halfway through, questions and answers

    Posted on July 21st, 2010 Nicolas 56 comments
    Arriving in Muscat.

    Arriving in Muscat.

    - daysAre you still on schedule?
    I think I am. I am planning to be back in the U.S. sometimes in March or April 2011. It means that the trip would have taken a year-and-an-half. If I would have cross Europe as I originally planned, I would be way behind.

    - Just wondering if you are well protected – what kind of gun do you carry?
    I keep pepper spray in my door, and plan to run if something bad happen. Seriously, once I pass Pakistan, I should be OK.

    - You do tell us interesting things about the trip, but truly, are you having fun, or has it become tiring and tedious? The other night when you slept in the desert, were you frightened at all? Do you just go through the day enjoying it, or do you worry and get aggravated with the delays… fill us in a little on “Nick”
    I am still having fun. But it is true that the trip took its toll on me. I feel more tired that I was at the beginning, thanks to sleeping conditions not optimal everywhere. Some days I have low energy. The food requires adaptation, I pass on meals pretty often when I need to be somewhere at night, and finding vegetables can be difficult if you want to stay healthy. Because my fridge is down, I can’t really stock up, and have to eat more street food.
    It has been tedious sometimes, especially the bureaucracy involved in the visas quest. But it makes me feel great as well when I finally succeed getting into a new country. I also now have a lot of equipment letting me down. The heat and vibration damaged many items, the latest being my laptop. I plan on buying a new one, along with a new battery for my fridge, in Dubai. So basically, everyday there’s something breaking.
    I don’t worry much anymore about anything, finding that everything eventually turns out to be OK. I also learned to not take “no” for an answer. The most recent annoying news is the refusal from the Pakistani embassy in Muscat to give me a visa. I hope to be able to get it in Dubai, or Iran. Because I am on schedule, I have some freedom of movement and ready to adapt.
    Being alone can be difficult on a trip of this scale. You really have to take care of everything. Driving, cooking, washing clothes by hand, trying to get information on the next leg of the trip, finding ways of communicating. There is really not one minute of down time. When finally I can crash somewhere for few days, I sleep a lot and usually have annoying paperwork to take care of.
    But again, it is very satisfying to be able to overcome the obstacle, and keep pushing through. So yes, I am happy, and proud to be still on the road.

    - I don’t know if you have calculated your half-way point since you changed your Africa route, but it looks to me like you must have passed it by now!  Keep on going!

    Cumulative miles for trans world expedition

    I am not sure exactly of the route I will take, but I agree, I think it’s pretty safe to say I am half-way home. But something can happen anytime.

    What will I do if I can’t get the Pakistan visa? Cross Afghanistan? Ship my truck to India? Since the beginning of the trip, I drove 23,000 miles (36,800 km).

    - I take it you have to go to Tehran for touristy stuff or just strictly getting more visas (because it’s quite a detour from Pakistan)?
    I was actually planning to go north through Iran to visit some sites of historical interest and turn east toward the border without going through Tehran, but I may have to go there to get the Pakistan visa. It would be interesting to visit the city, but the traffic is supposed to be very bad.

    - Just curious why your route has you traveling north in Iran before swinging east?
    There are interesting places to see going north, especially up until Esfahan.

    - You’re so matter-of-fact and objective in your reports. Are you having fun? You’re really into your trip now, is it everything you imagined it would be? What have you learned about humankind? Do you read the responses to your journal entries? Are you lonely?
    Yes, I am still having fun. I met some great people while travelling, and learned a lot about how people live in the countries I crossed. It was also interesting to spend a bit of time with expats from many countries and see how they adapted in their new life.
    Before the trip, I imagined I will have more time to enjoy my visit in all these different places. I reckon staying on the road takes a lot of work. I always think about Asia as the place where I will be able to relax and have more of quality time, as travel there should be easier. Africa has not been easy, and yes, I am lonely sometimes.
    People everywhere I wet have been amazing, and I mean it. I think this year has, hand will be, a great lesson for me, and will teach me to be a better person. That was one of the goal of the trip.
    And of course, even if I don’t reply immediately, due to limited internet connection time, I read every comment on the blog.

    - Are you still on budget?

    budget for trans world expedition
    I didn’t compile all the numbers, but I believe that I still am on budget. Yet, I just tallied numbers on fuel, food and accommodations costs. It shows that I am right on target. But surprises can be found later when I will compile all the numbers.

    - Even with the issues you’ve encountered (and endured) yourself personally, the Toyota seems to have worn well too. With all the vehicle options available to a world ‘asphalt’ traveler, I’m guessing you approve of your choice. All these months on, are you still happy with the Toyota…?
    Yes, I am very happy with the truck. It has done well with very little maintenance. I am just dreading the day where something very bad will happen. Hopefully I will be in a place where I can get parts. But maybe nothing bad will happen?

    - I’ve been wondering, has your stomach rebelled at all against the local foods and drinks you have been experiencing?
    I pay attention to the food I eat, and even if my stomach is never the same than back home, I never have been sick to the point where I had to stay in bed for one day. I avoid meat outside of supermarkets, and wash vegetables with water and bleach. But I always keep toilet paper handy! I sometimes experience low energy because of this strange diet and the heat.

    - What about gas prices in the upcoming countries?

    map_fuel_cost
    Gas will be pretty cheap until India, which is good. Unfortunately, I will probably have to pay for places to camp or sleep while in Iran and Pakistan. Asia should be pretty cheap for food and accommodation.

    - I haven’t seen Nadia post anything on here. How’s she doing any Hoot?
    She is good. She is now working in Paris, trying to make some money. She is still not married.

    - Did you get your new passport with empty pages to get more visa stampings?
    I got one back in Tanzania. It is an emergency passport with only ten pages, and next week, I will only have three pages left, thanks to those countries taking full pages for each visa. I will have to make a new one, maybe in India.

    - I guess you have asked some help getting Indian visa. Did you get that? Where do you plan to get that? I live in US and I am not sure if I can be of any help regarding that.
    My passport is at the Indian embassy right now, and I should have my visa next week. The Iranian visa, which I thought would be impossible to obtain, turned out to be easy to get. But now the Pakistan visa is an issue since the country decided to restrict foreigner travels.

    - I heard that it was illegal to drink alcohol in the middle-east, is this true?
    Indeed it has been pretty dry lately. In Djibouti you can drink, but beer is pretty expensive. In Yemen you can’t buy any alcohol anywhere. In Oman, you need an authorization to buy alcohol. Dubai should be more relaxed, but then it will be dry through Iran and Pakistan. I guess it’s good for me, right?

    - Is your route in the United States written in stone?
    No, it is not. My point of arrival will depend of boats schedule and shipping prices. Maybe San Francisco, L.A., or I would also consider a port on the west coast of Mexico. But I definitely want to cross the U.S. from west to east. Often while I am driving, I am thinking of the kind of party I will do when I am back.

  • Crossing Argentina, en route to Buenos Aires

    Posted on March 19th, 2010 Nicolas 70 comments
    Here's what I needed – Diner in Mendoza

    Here's what I needed – Diner in Mendoza

    Argentina was very different compared to the countries we have been crossing in the last months. Suddenly, we found ourselves back in a place that measures more with Europe or the United States than with its close neighbors.

    After some interesting landscapes in the north, the desert will soon unroll its monotonous background

    After some interesting landscapes in the north, the desert will soon unroll its monotonous background

    There, in rural area, bush camping is never a problem, roads are straight and in good shape, we were back in flat ground, close to see level, and food was abundant, diversified, and close to European standards.

    Flat land in the north

    Flat land in the north

    Prices are higher than we are used too, notably gas, at US$3.6 a gallon. Most of the nights, we are opening our tent in gas station parkings, where it is always allowed to camp, and where you get showers (with hot water! I forgot it existed) and most of the time Internet access.

    Yes we can – sleep anywhere

    Yes we can – sleep anywhere

    After we passed the border, we continued to drive south. We would first visit San Juan and Mendoza, the heart of the wine country, a thousand kilometers south of the Bolivian border. From there, we would go full east, and drive another thousand kilometers to Buenos Aires.

    Buying fruits in San Juan

    Buying fruits in San Juan

    The roads are easy, the landscape around dry as a desert. One can drive there and not have to turn for 200 kilometers. The long drive was monotonous and we were counting miles between towns. For the first time since we left New York, I tried one of the recorded books I had on my iPod.

    Driving across the vines, close to Mendoza, Argentina

    Driving across the vines, close to Mendoza, Argentina

    In few words, the adventure – for now – was on hold. Nothing to worry about on the road. What a change after all these the last months. But I was doing my best to enjoy this quiet time before my next destination. Africa.

    Nadia at a cafe in San Juan. Soon to go to Brazil

    Nadia at a cafe in San Juan. Soon to go to Brazil

    Nadia will spend few days in Buenos Aires with me, and will then take a flight to Brazil to spend a little bit of time there. Then she will go back to Paris where some work awaits her. It will be though to see her go, as she was a great travel companion in the four months it took us to go from New York City to Buenos Aires. But she is dreaming of the Brazilian beaches, and needs to make some cash for future adventures.
    So good-bye Nadia, and don’t forget about the Trans World!

    Park in Mendoza

    Park in Mendoza

    These long roads let you a lot of time to think, so I take advantage of it to lay down what’s coming up for me (and you guys).
    In few days, I will be in Buenos Aires. There, I will find an apartment to stay during the three weeks my truck will be sailing to South Africa. My parents will come visit me during this time, as I didn’t see them in a while. I will try to expedite first the shipping details for the vehicle, and I am still trying to lower the cost of this necessary step. So far, I received quotes of around US$2,500 not including port fees in Africa. The most likely destination is Durban.

    The oldest market in Mendoza

    The oldest market in Mendoza

    Then, there will be an important change in my plans. The route I am following always have been changing, little by little, and – for example – I decided recently to skip Chile because of the problems the country is facing (February 27 earthquake). But this time, it will be a bigger change. I initially planned to follow the west coast of Africa, go north to Europe, and then east through the middle-east. I am now decided to try the eastern African route.

    A new route

    A new route (Google map)

    Start from South Africa, and up through Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan. From there, the plan is to ship the truck to Saudi Arabia, continue through Jordan, Syria and finally arrive in Turkey.
    A break there should allow me to get a visa for Iran and India after which I will be back on the road. But this is far away, and there can, and probably will, be additional changes.
    It is sad to skip Europe of course, especially for me, as there will not be a stop in France, my home country. But there are many difficulties on the west coast of Africa, and getting visas could become a headache. I would also save some precious money since gas prices are so high in Europe, and the shortcut I will be taking would probably save me a month of road. As always, you have to make some choices, and I will give this route a try.

    Spending time in outside cafes is a must in Argentina

    Spending time in outside cafes is a must in Argentina

    But back on our quiet adventures in Argentina. Eventually we made it first in San Juan, where we took care of laundry and spent time in outside cafes observing the population and walking in the small city, similar to a provincial town in France. People here take at least three-hours break in the middle of the day, and shops reopen around 4:30 p.m., so you have to plan your day according to this schedule.

    The famous Argentinean grape

    The famous Argentinean grape

    250 kilometers later, we were in Mendoza and walked across the city before trying a meat restaurant, called a “Parilla”. A Parilla is basically a barbecue, and is an essential part of the life in Argentina. Meat is served with no sides, except if you especially request it. Not a paradise for vegetarians to say the least.
    If you happen to be around there, try Arturito, you will not regret it. (not in guidebooks, cheap, intersection Las Heras and Chile)

    The Mendoza central –and oldest – market

    The Mendoza central –and oldest – market

    12_jams_squareThe following day, we continued our exploration of the city after a noisy night in front of a gas station. We visited the central market, the oldest of the city. There we got meat and cheese for the days to come. Argentineans don’t have a great markets culture, and those are rather small, even in big cities. We walked around the town, and visited some of the many parks peppering the charming town.

    The Familia Cecchin tasting room

    The Familia Cecchin tasting room

    Then we were off to visit a winery, and of course do some wine tasting. We chose to begin our visits by a medium-sized bodega, the Familia Cecchin. We tried to get them to let us sleep there, but with no success. This is always the problem with touristic area. People don’t understand why you want to sleep at their place for free when there is a camping not far from there!

    Trying to find a nice place to sleep, as always

    Trying to find a nice place to sleep, as always

    And at the end, we had to do like everybody in a civilized country, go to a camping. And down there, it was almost American prices at US$10.

    A bigger and more industrial bodega, the Familia Zuccardi

    A bigger and more industrial bodega, the Familia Zuccardi

    But it was quieter than in the gas stations we slept at in the few last days. In the morning, we were well rested, and drove to one of the biggest winery around, the bodega Zuccardi, famous for their Santa Rosa wines.

    Tasting wine, bodega Zuccard

    Tasting wine, bodega Zuccard

    We were back on the road. And this time, I drove east. From New York, I have been going south all the time. It is now time to go around the globe, if I want to be done with this trip before my fifties. Next stop, Buenos Aires!

    En route to Buenos Aires

    En route to Buenos Aires