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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.

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THE ROUTE

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  • The crew run run run

    Posted on July 17th, 2010 Nicolas No comments
    I get a military escort to cross eastern Yemen.

    I get a military escort to cross eastern Yemen.

    It was like crossing the desert as a storm. On the morning of July 12th, I left Aden to go East, in the direction of Oman. The road between Aden and Mukalla is closed to foreigners, but I decide to take my chance and drive it. Shortly after leaving the city, I am stopped at a military checkpoint, and sent back to the city. There, I find the military headquarter and by chance, I am given a “laissez-passer” that authorizes me to drive the 600 km (375 mi.) stretch of road to Mukalla.
    (NOTE TO TRAVELLER: You can try to get the authorization from the “Security” building, opposite to the Aden Hotel.)

    The city of Aden, set inside of a crater of an extinct volcano.

    The city of Aden, set inside of a crater of an extinct volcano.

    The paper is written in Arabic, and I am not sure what it says, but an hour later, when I am back at the military checkpoint, I am given a military escort of three people with machine guns in a vehicle.

    The port of Aden.

    The port of Aden.

    There will be many other checkpoints, and each time, I pick up a new escort, as the previous one goes back home. They drive fast, and I have to follow. It is unclear if they roll at high speed because of danger or just because they want to go back home fast. It is a stressful situation also, since each time I got a new escort they try to get some money from me. And each time, I say the same story. I gave all my money to the previous escort and don’t have a penny left.

    High-speed tourism across the Yemeni desert.

    High-speed tourism across the Yemeni desert.

    After twenty minutes of discussion, they are furious and we go back on the road.
    At the beginning of the afternoon, we stop for lunch in a police station where I am invited to share the meal, a pile of bones a dozen of person fight for on the soil of the yard. I will pass on this one.

    The desert in Yemen.

    The desert in Yemen.

    We cross some villages where I am happy to not be alone. Most problems happen in the remote smaller towns. There were recent cases of kidnapping by locals in an attempt to get money or jobs from the government, or worst kidnapping by extremists, usually finishing in bloodbath.

    Getting closer to Mukalla.

    Getting closer to Mukalla.

    By 6 p.m., the escort let me at the gates of Mukalla, a charming town on the Arabian Sea.
    I can finally relax, and take a room at the Half Moon Hotel, on the river that divides the city. I can tell the police always know where I am, since I overhear the hotel manager speaking on the phone about me.

    Yemen could be a great tourist destination, but seems to become the next Afghanistan…

    Yemen could be a great tourist destination, but seems to become the next Afghanistan…

    Later in the evening, I go to the police station to try to get another authorization to go to the border, another 600 km (375 mi.) from the city.
    I thought I saw the best office setup while I was in the Moka port, where in a small office, customs officers were just sitting on the ground, chewing qat, in front of their desks. No chairs whatsoever. But at the police station in Mukalla, the inspector decided to just bring a bed to work, and set it up in front of his desk. And it is here that he receives me, and assures me that a fresh escort will come pick me up at my hotel at 7:30 a.m. the following morning. Given the setup, I have my doubt anything remotely close to that will happen. And of course, the day after, at 9 a.m., I am still waiting for the Yemeni Starsky and Hutch to show up.

    Mukalla city.

    Mukalla city.

    Leaving Mukalla.

    Leaving Mukalla.

    The hotel manager speaks all the time with the police, and asks me to go back to the headquarters. It looks like they have trouble putting an escort together this morning. And there, they finally decide that I don’t need an escort to go east, which I am happy with, given the burden of the high-speed pursuit through the desert. And not having the police on my back with money request will be nice as well.

    Fishermen village.

    Fishermen village.

    The last stretch of road is truly amazing, one of the best road I saw so far. By some kind of miracle, after I pass Al Ghaydah, the temperature drops. The road is now kind of small, and after following the coast, I enter the mountains. The sun disappears, and a heavy fog rises, forcing me to do the last 30 kilometers to the border at 15 km/h (10 mph).

    Fog appears as I am driving the amazing road leading to the border.

    Fog appears as I am driving the amazing road leading to the border.

    On the Yemeni side of the border, I get some paperwork done with an officer who adopted as well the bed-desk configuration. After that, still in the fog, I go on the Omani side, where I spend a very long time trying to get my visa.

    Close to the Oman border.

    Close to the Oman border.

    For some reasons, they think my passport is counterfeit, and the verifications will take three hours. They also go through my luggage in what turns out to be the most meticulous search I went through. As a matter of fact, nobody really looked at my stuff since I left the U.S. Customs officers usually realize quickly I am just a tourist-bum leaving in my car and let me go. But this time, it is a big deal. When it is done, they also ask me to go pay the required car insurance, which cost US$83 for 15 days. It will be my first time driving with insurance since Argentina. I also have to pay US$ 20 for the visa.
    It is now midnight, and with the fog and darkness, I decide to camp on a parking lot right after the border crossing.

    Still foggy in the morning, and camels are looking for trouble.

    Still foggy in the morning, and camels are looking for trouble.

    In the morning, it’s raining and still foggy, and I start to go down the mountain toward Salalah. I arrive at destination few hours later, and run some errands in the city. I am back in civilization here in Oman, and see signs that there is a lot of petrol money around. Shopping centers are well stocked, and I wish I could buy more food, but my secondary battery, the one that runs the fridge, went dead as well. Too much heat, too many bad roads made it leak, and the expensive deep-cell battery bought before my departure is now useless. I plan to get a new one in Muscat or Dubai.

    One of Salalah many mosques.

    One of Salalah many mosques.

    I find a spot on the beach, and set up camp at the end of the afternoon. It is great to enjoy the tempered climate.

    The beach in Salalah.

    The beach in Salalah.

    In the next days, I have 1,100 km (690 mi.) of desert crossing to Muscat, so I am trying to cool down here. I didn’t camp in a while too, so it is nice to be back in the tent. The sea is cold and dangerous at this period of the year, so no baths are possible.

    Camping on the Arabian Sea.

    Camping on the Arabian Sea.

    In the morning, I go back to buy food for the day, and go northeast toward Muscat. The roads are very good, and gas cheap, so I plan to be in Muscat in 48 hours, and drive 100 km/h (65 mph) toward destination.

    Driving toward Muscat.

    Driving toward Muscat.

    The road goes close to the Saudia Arabia border and its “Empty Quarter”, one of the biggest desert in the world, where summer temperatures can reach 55 deg. Celcius (131 deg. Farenheit). It is also a very oil rich area.

    Close to the Saudi “Empty Quarter”.

    Close to the Saudi “Empty Quarter”.

    Oil well in the desert means gas at US$ 1.14 a gallon.

    Oil well in the desert means gas at US$ 1.14 a gallon.

    I camp in the desert during the night. The temperature doesn’t go down much. I plan to be the following day in Muscat, where I will spend few days visiting the city and doing the necessary paperwork for the next steps of my trip. The plan now will be to go to Dubai, where I would catch a ferry boat to Iran. From there, I will cross Pakistan and reach India. A lot of visas to get, which will be my homework while in Oman.

    Upcoming countries include U.A.E, Iran, Pakistan and India. (google map)

    Upcoming countries include U.A.E, Iran, Pakistan and India. (google map)

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32 Responses to “The crew run run run”

  1. 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…?

    Again, safe travels. Cheers!

    Randy
    Wanderism.com

  2. Nick,
    I will NEVER get to Yeman or Oman so I continue to travel with you via your website and am in awe of the adventures you experience.
    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 your learned about humankind? Do you read the responses to your journal entries? Are you lonely?
    I always wish you well and pray for your safety as you travel through the next leg of your trip.
    Suzanne

  3. Happy to hear your safe! Have fun in Dubai, it looks beautiful there!

  4. Nick,

    The pictures of Yemen and Oman are amazing. Do they even realize the potential for tourism? Keep up the good work!

    Dave

  5. I really like visiting Yemen – here is a picnic we took a few months ago http://ynotoman.wordpress.com/2009/10/27/picnic-in-yemen/ – and if you want to see what its like inland – here is an article I did on Wadi Hadramout http://www.arabesque.travel/TheMudBrickValleybyTonyWalshforOmanToday.pdf

  6. I’ve been following you since the beginning and have grown quite attached to you and your world adventure. Although I am a bit apprehensive for the next leg of your journey. : / I’m very happy to see that you look quite well and your various pics along the way have been absolutely beautiful.

    Stay safe,Nik.

    Sincerely,
    Rhiannon

  7. HI Nick, I have been following you on your web site since the begining of your trip! I Haven’t missed an entry, Reminds me of my trips. I drove overland from Europe to Australia then USA a few years ago. Iran, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh will be a big change from the quiet desert roads. Regarding shipping from Balgladesh or India. It will probably be best to ship to Port Klang Malaysia. They understand the Carnet and the entry is easy and cheap and straight forward. Thailand is more complicated and the officials more used to bribes for work. The roads are easy in Malaysia Thailand Laos and Cambodia. I am taking a break from traveling and living in Phuket, So if you need a few days R&R or just a hot shower please do stop by and exchange stories over a few beers!
    Best of luck! Keep up the Dream!
    Cheers,
    David

  8. Hi Nic!

    I’ve been following you since the beginning, and I just thought it was time I said that you are very very brave for doing this, especially by yourself and especially in the Arab countries. Happy to hear your safe, and I hope you stay that way. Best of luck on the rest of your journey!

  9. Beth-Kirkland WA

    Wow. Love the pictures, the descriptions, the adventure, all of it. Hey, they have that indoor ski mountain in Dubai if you want to cool down with some snow covered mountains. 😉

    Be blessed and stay safe and enjoy the Journey!

    Beth 🙂

  10. Just curious why your route has you traveling north in Iran before swinging east?

    Those seaside pictures are wonderful. I can’t imagine how they must be in person.

    Mary

  11. Wow, Yemen looks like Mars! Such a beautiful place going to waste… Thanks for showing the pics to a country I doubt I will ever visit in my lifetime! I don’t doubt my travels will bring me to SA or UAE sometime in the future, but more than likely not Yemen or Oman (which looks more flat and typically “Arabian”)

    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)?
    Good luck and can’t wait for you to get to Dubai!

  12. Wow! Nick! I just checked out your route and it looks like you are very close to your final destination! Once you get back to the states it should be free sailing. Hope you have a moment to answer some of Suzanne’s questions as these are things I would like to know as well. Especially are you having fun, are you lonely? Travel safe!

  13. That’s awesome that you made it to Oman. Hope you’re able to salvage your travel fridge to stock on some refreshing beverages! 🙂

  14. Nicolas, I’m so glad you are safe. I want to thank you for your blog. I have also followed it from the very beginning and i can’t wait to hear more and see more pics. I also wish i had the guts to do what you are doing. I think your very brave please stay safe and i will keep you in my prayers

  15. This was a wild post- Bed in the office, police escorts. Hope these visa’s are not a pain to get.

  16. This last leg of the trip sounded alittle terrifying, armed escort and all. My idea of adventure is driving through the good old USA. I do look forward to reading your blog and sometimes wonder “Are you Crazy?” LOL God Bless and be careful.
    Linda

  17. It’s great to see your sojourn into Oman. I have always liked your pictures. I first scroll all the way down to look into all the photos before start reading into your new posts. I guess this is for the first time I am (may be for every one)looking at some inside pictures of Yemen. I feel bad to see another country descend into chaos like Afghanistan.

    Enjoy your stay in Muscat and Dubai.

    Vijay

  18. Donna - Ft Lauderdale

    Suzanne’s comment had some good questions. You do tell us interesting things about the trip, but truly, are you having fun, or has it become tiring & tedious? The other night when you slept in the desert, were you frightened at all? Do you just go thru the day enjoying it, or do you worry and get aggrivated with the delays… fill us in a little on “Nick”…, but also, don’t stop with the great updates that you give us.
    I am real curious how you’ll like Dubai and what you learn about the cost of things there. I hope you take alot!! of pictures that we’ll all be able to see at some point.
    God bless you and keep you safe.
    Hugs from home, the grand ole US OF A, Donna

  19. Just keep the posts coming… this is awesome!

  20. Gary Fitzgerald

    Just Wondering if you are well protected – what kind of gun do you carry? Your trip is of interest = have been following you quite often. Safe travels ! Gary and Rosemary

  21. Glad to see you are fairing well!
    Keep the MAPS coming……….love maps………….all the best,
    Lynda in No. Calif.

  22. Nick,

    I’ve been following your journey since day 1. I just showed my 28 year old daughter your website. She commented that when you are back in the states driving home that if you drive via I-80 through Ottawa, IL, she would treat you to a meal. She found you very handsome.

    Jacqueline

  23. Hi Nick,

    What a wonderful adventure. I have followed your journey from New York and am in awe of all the places you have visited.
    As always, be safe and enjoy your journey. Will anxiously await your next post.

    Judy
    Park Ridge, Illinois

  24. good luck in ur travels. i have always wanted to go Yemen, but $$ does not permit at the moment.

    can’t wait for u to reach Delhi so i can re-live my trip, haha. i was in delhi last dec.

    take care! 🙂

  25. Starsky and Hutch, Nick? LOL!!! Coincidentally, while we are on television shows, the bed & desk set up remind me of an episode in Barney Miller. Thanks for the pics, the narrative and the laugh Nick. Looking forward to your next post. I will be going on vacation to one of your past destinations, Guayaquil, in four days. I’ll be following you from there bro. Take care.

  26. Amazing Nick! So glad you made it through Africa! My prayers will continue in hopes that God sees you safely through your adventures. Best of luck and I look forward to the next update. Ciao!
    -Sirena

  27. Marlon Trivino (Corona, CA)

    It’s great to see your incredible pictures from Yemen and Oman.

    You said, “we stop for lunch in a police station where I am invited to share the meal, a pile of bones a dozen of person fight for on the soil of the yard. I will pass on this one.”
    They were eating a pile of bones? And they were fighting for it on the soil on the yard? Weird!
    By the way, what have you been eating while you were there?

    It’s also weird having a bed instead of a chair in an office. Hehehe!

    Anyways, I am looking forward to seeing you travel in Dubai. There are a lot of tourist spots there. Amazing sites like the tallest building in the world “Burj Khalifa”. I heard even if you place the Eiffel Tower on top of the Empire State Building, this building is still taller. Also, please visit the Palm Jumeira, the man-made palm island. That would be cool to see.

  28. Hey Nick,
    I was poking around your desk looking for cigarettes but couldn’t find any.
    Can you think of where you might have left some?

    sorry to bother you on your vacation, but I could really use a smoke and don’t feel like dealing with the whole elevator hassle.
    thanks!
    Sean

  29. Ms. Marti-Nashville

    Hey Friend!
    Couldnt wait to get to work today to see if you had a new post. Amazing landscapes and story. Also, how are you able to communicate with all these folks? Do they speak any english or french or do you use sign language? LOL

    Sean, those smokes would be way stale by now. Must be an inside joke??

    forge on!!!

    Ms. Marti~Nasvhille, TN

  30. Hi nick

    Just a repeat of my message earlier.

    If you are interested in a safe place to stay in Quetta, karachi,
    lahore and Islamabad, please let me know.

    I follow your blog from day one, I love it and would not mind helping
    you connect with good honest people in those cities.

    Thanks and Regards

    Imran

  31. I have been wanting to see photos of the car damage from the boat.
    From what I can tell is there cosmetic damage near the passenger side rear section?

    The car sounds like its holding up! Good luck getting all the visas, etc.

  32. So ummm, looks like the Yemeni police is using the terrorism excuse to make an extra buck, eh? I bet if they could have just taken your $$ and let you go on the road on your own, that would have been their preference…
    Well, I guess they’ve got to get the money where they can…
    Anyway, good luck with the rest of your journey and I bid you patience and zen with all the bribe seekers…