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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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  • Waiting and waiting in Buenos Aires

    Posted on March 30th, 2010 Nicolas 42 comments
    Statue in the Recoleta neighborhood, Buenos Aires

    Statue in the Recoleta neighborhood, Buenos Aires

    As you probably thought in the long time I did not update my blog, I made it to Buenos Aires. The two last weeks have been kind of busy, with days not always filled with the most exciting things to do, and I didn’t get much time to fill you in, so many apologies.
    But let’s start from the beginning. It took Nadia and I two days from Mendoza to arrive to Buenos Aires. Straight lines as always, for a thousand kilometers.

    Classic European architecture in Buenos Aires. Here, an embassy.

    Classic European architecture in Buenos Aires. Here, an embassy.

    As soon as we arrived, we began to search an apartment, to avoid the costly option of having to take a hotel. In less than two hours, we got one. After sending few emails, we spoke to the owner of an internet café, and she knew someone who knew someone…

    Spectacular trees in Recoleta

    Spectacular trees in Recoleta

    So we got ourselves a one bedroom apartment in the Collegiales neighborhood starting the following day. At US$250 a week, it was a little bit more money I wanted to spend, but Argentina had become more and more expensive.

    The shot Diego (top left) took of us

    The shot Diego (top left) took of us

    However, for our first night in the city, we met with Diego, an Argentinean photograph who contacted us after finding the website. He invited us for supper, and offered us to sleep at his apartment. He took a shot with us, and I encourage you to check out his photo feed here.
    The following day, we moved in our new home, and tried to adapt and live again like normal peoples. Difficult task for the gypsies we became. Staying indoor was depressing after spending so much time camping and cooking in the great outdoors. And I am still restless. I just can’t wait to continue this expedition.

    Statue in the Recoleta cemetery

    Statue in the Recoleta cemetery

    The Recoleta cemetery

    The Recoleta cemetery

    I had the hope to get an earlier boat, but in these days of economic slowdown, there is much less traffic on the world oceans.
    For those who are interested in practical detail about the shipping, please find info and some contact information at the end of this post. For the others, just know it will cost me US$2,000 for the shipment, not including the port fees in Durban, South Africa, which I don’t know about yet.

    In the meantime, my parents flew down to see me, and few days later, Nadia left to go to Brazil and my brother arrived in the city as well to join us.
    I spent time with my parents when I was not busy with paperwork and fixing details on the truck.

    Indoor market, San Telmo

    Indoor market, San Telmo

    We spent time in the center of the city, and went out for diner a lot. The meat, as always in Argentina, was great. But I was longing for more, and hoped to find big markets in the city to try a diversity of food.

    Museum

    Museum

    L_street_2

    Could be New York...

    Maybe I spent too long thinking Buenos Aires, my last destination in South America, would be welcoming me with French-like food, as all travelers going north were enthusiastic about it. Regardless, my evenings are synonyms of sausages and steaks.

    San Telmo

    San Telmo

    I also spent much time researching the next leg of my trip. I mentioned last time that I was going to follow the east coast rather than the west coast of Africa. Now, the problem I have to solve is the missing link between Africa and the Middle East. The one problematic country is Egypt. To cross it by car, you need to let a guaranty equivalent to 800% of the value of the vehicle.

    Indoor antiques market, San Telmo

    Indoor antiques market, San Telmo

    My truck, according to AAA is worth US$6,800 which means I would have to hand down $50k just to cross the country. So I have to find another solution, and there are not many.
    - The first one is to go up to Sudan, and try to take a ferry in Port Sudan to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. From there, go up to Jordan. The problem with this route? Getting the Saudi Arabia visa. Valid for three days, the transit visa let you just enough time to go through. If you can get it which seams pretty difficult.
    - The other solution would be to sail from Djibouti or Eritrea to Yemen, and drive to Oman and the United Arab Emirates, where I could sail directly to Iran. The problem here is crossing Yemen, which the U.S. State Department just issued a travel warning for, due to a high level of terrorist activities.
    The important thing is to have some options, and I am confident there will be a way of getting out of Africa…

    La Boca and its colored houses

    La Boca and its colored houses

    Today, I finally went to the port, and loaded the truck in the container. I will miss driving and see new places every day, and still have three weeks before being back on the road. I got a flight ticket to Johannesburg for April 15 and will take the bus to Durban to get the truck.

    Arriving at the port

    Arriving at the port

    The next few weeks may not see much activity on this website, but please stick with me as there will be new adventures here soon, and not the least exciting: Africa!

    Getting ready to close the container

    Getting ready to close the container

    Notes for those of you who are interested in shipping a truck out of Buenos Aires:

    This is pretty straight forward. For my destination, two companies were less expensive. Hamburg Sud, and MOL. Here are the contact info:

    Federico J. Boettner
    Hamburg – Süd / Aliança
    Phone:      ++54 11 5789-9900 – ext 366
    E.mail:      federico.boettner [AT] ar.hamburgsud.com

    and

    Luisina V. Abruzzese
    Agencia Maritima Sudocean c/o MOL
    labruzzese [AT] ocean.com.ar

    A big part of the cost is the port fees. My quote to go to Africa is app. US$2,000 and of that, $1,000 go to the port here in Agentina. Not sure yet about the fees in Africa. The container stuffing cost depends a lot of the terminal. On T4, I paid US$450, but on another terminal, I may have paid US$900. When you have you company nailed down, you need to make a copy of every page of your passport, and go to a notary to certify the copy. You also need a certified copy of your outbound flight ticket. Everything should cost you US$60. Then you go to the custom office located at the port, where the cruise ships leave. There, you should give them a copy of the vehicle title, the copies of passport and ticket, and sometimes they can ask you for a copy of the content of the vehicle. You also need to bring them the paper the Aduana gave you when you entered the country.

    If you go there at 9:30, you should be done by noon.

    Then, you can go the the port. You first need the gate permit to enter. Just bring the Aduana papers in the building at the entrance. They will take care of you there, and dispatch a custom officer to check your vehicle and seal the container. You can be done there in just three hours after several back and forth between the warehouse where you are stuffing and the aduana. Not bad at all.

  • 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