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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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  • Entering the Arab world by way of sea

    Posted on July 11th, 2010 Nicolas No comments
    An early attempt to load the truck. Only few hours later I will be able to get it done.

    An early attempt to load the truck. Only few hours later I will be able to get it done.

    I waited many days in Djibouti for my boat to depart. Everyday, I go to the port, and they tell me to come back the following day. First they can’t unload because of customs issues, then the captain is marrying is son and needs to buy some present.
    Finally, on Wednesday July 8th, I show up at the port at 9 a.m., in order to load the truck. It’s a mess there, and nobody knows what they are doing. Everything in Djibouti works with bribes, and you can hardly get anything done without giving right and left. My last expense is at 10 p.m. the same day, when I have to give 70 dollars to borrow the right equipment to put the truck on the boat, as all the attempts with the available tools had failed. The guys damaged the truck as well, but it is just cosmetic, and nothing vital is altered. I could not believe the size of the boat when I saw it. It looked pretty small to cross the Red Sea. Dave, who comes at night to the port to say good-bye, is also surprised, and I can see in his eyes he thinks it may be the last time he see me.

    17 hours on a small boat is no fun, especially when temperatures are so high.

    17 hours on a small boat is no fun, especially when temperatures are so high.

    At 11 p.m., we leave the port for a trip that will last for 17 hours. The boat is very slow and the weather hot, as usual. The Yemenite staff on board cooks food once in a while. I sleep in my car and the sea is a little bit agitated.

    The sailors also fix us lunch and breakfast.

    The sailors also fix us lunch and breakfast.

    Night is already here when we arrive in Yemen. It is anyway Friday, day off in Muslim countries, so there’s no hope to get anything done. In the port I meet the chief engineer of a big Syrian boat. He invites me for diner, and I am able to take a shower in his vessel.

    Finally in Yemen, and alive.

    Finally in Yemen, and alive.

    I sleep on the roof of my car, and wake up when the sun rise. It is slightly colder here, in the Mokha port, than in Djibouti. I am invited for breakfast with sailors on the dock, and then, have breakfast on my boat. I spend the morning looking for the right crane attachment to lower my truck on the port, but can’t find it, and finally, my Syrian friend helps me build a bridge from the boat to the wharf, so I can drive out. Scary moment. The wood cries, but I am able to go out without damage. By safety, we also had a cord between my truck and another Land Cruiser, so he could help to drag me out in case of problem. As always, I have to distribute few dollars to the guys all around who helped transport the construction wood.

    It took me a long time to access the Yemeni landscapes.

    It took me a long time to access the Yemeni landscapes.

    Later, I have lunch on the Syrian boat, then lunch at the customs office. Yemen is like that, you are constantly invited to eat, or have tea.
    It takes me many hours to finish the paperwork, and I am finally out of the port by 5 p.m.
    If anyone wants to attempt such crossing, there are some details at the end of this post.

    Typical buildings in the mountains of Yemen.

    Typical buildings in the mountains of Yemen.

    As soon as I am out, I drive to Taizz, in the mountains. There, I hope to get temperatures more suited for humans. It seems that in Yemen camping is not well seen. And since it is my birthday, I decide to go to the hotel. It is clean here, and it cost me US$17 to spend the night. I take an elevator for the first time since South Africa to get to my room. Later I have kidney and eggs, a Yemenite fixture, with a Yemenite guy I met at the hotel. The road is pretty good, and I see beautiful houses that are here since hundred of years, a big difference with Africa.
    In the morning, I begin to drive to Aden, 160 km (100 miles) from Taizz. There I go to the Oman consulate to make sure I will be able to enter by road from Yemen. They are very nice, and warn me of danger on the road going there. I promise I will be careful, and in the afternoon I begin to look for a hotel in the city.
    The next few days, I will be driving the small road following the south coast of the country, until I enter Oman. In front of me, there are few thousand kilometers of very hot travel.

    On the road between Taizz and Aden.

    On the road between Taizz and Aden.

    [NOTE FOR TRAVELERS]
    To ship my vehicle to Mokha, I had to pay:
    – Transport: US$380 (Including one passenger)
    – Crane and operator, plus agent in Djibouti: US$200
    – Bribe to get the right attachment in the middle of the night: US$75
    – Agent in Mokha: US$20
    – Helper in Mokha to build bridge: US$20
    – Permit to exit port: US$14

    Total: US$709

    Phone number of Djibouti agent: 870 274

  • Out of Africa

    Posted on July 3rd, 2010 Nicolas No comments
    Out of Africa
    It is now Saturday, July 3rd. In few hours, hopefully, I should be sailing toward Yemen. It has been easy to find a boat on the Djibouti port. Maybe too easy, so I am still waiting for confirmation of the trip before I can consider this trip a done deal. Around 11 a.m., I will know…
    It has been a week now that I am in Djibouti. I didn’t do much, because of the heat. It is so hot that you can’t move between noon and 4 p.m. Most stores are closed during this period of time. It is the summer here, in one of the hottest city in the world.
    On Monday, I went to the Yemen Embassy to get my visa, and for US$ 35, it was done in one hour. My friends here have a “fixer”, Alex, a local guy who helps getting things done. He drives me around Djibouti and he does make things easier since he speaks Arabic, the country second language with French.
    So we went to the port and found out that a boat, a wooden dhow, would be leaving on Saturday or Sunday. Most of these ships are cattle boat, but I am not sure exactly what mine will carry. Anyhow, no dhow leaves the harbor before it’s completely full, and if we transport cows, we will have to wait for sundown to load them.
    The trip, if you do it alone, cost you US$ 40. With my car, it should cost me US$380. To this price, I will have to add something like US$150 on this side to load the vehicle, and US$100 to unload.
    I will arrive in Al Mukha (Moka) on the Yemenite side, a coastal town right across from Djibouti. Crossing will take 12 to 16 hours, depending on the weather. At this location, the entrance of the Red Sea can’t be more than 150 miles wide, but the sea is sometimes rough. After touching down, I plan on going down to Aden, then east toward Oman.
    Because of the security situation in Yemen, I will need to find out as quickly as possible how to get an authorization to travel from the police. I believe I should be able to procure that in Aden. Some roads across the country and the border crossing with Oman are sometimes closed to foreigners. The situation is changing all the time, so I will have to find out all of that upon arrival.
    This will be the most unstable country I cross since the beginning of the trip, and I am not planning to stay there longer than necessary. I will try to put the few thousand kilometers to the border behind, even so I want to see this beautiful country. Landscapes and cities should be an unforgettable adventure, and I hope to share the pictures with you very soon. Unfortunately, I believe there’s hardly any internet access through the country, so my faithful readers will have to wait a bit to see my report. In any case, you know it will be a while, so please don’t worry and stay tuned.
    Sophie prepares coffee the Ethiopian way.

    Sophie prepares coffee the Ethiopian way.

    It is now Saturday, July 3rd. In few hours, hopefully, I should be sailing toward Yemen. (UPDATE: As of Monday, july 5th, still in Djibouti, and not sure when the boat is leaving) It has been easy to find a boat on the Djibouti port. Maybe too easy, so I am still waiting for confirmation of the trip before I can consider this trip a done deal. Around 11 a.m., I will know…

    It has been a week now that I am in Djibouti. I didn’t do much, because of the heat. It is so hot that you can’t move between noon and 4 p.m. Most stores are closed during this period of time. It is the summer here, in one of the hottest city in the world.

    Relaxing with Dave and Mimi.

    Relaxing with Dave and Mimi.

    On Monday, I went to the Yemen Embassy to get my visa, and for US$ 35, it was done in one hour. My friends here have a “fixer”, Alex, a local guy who helps getting things done. He drives me around Djibouti and he does make things easier since he speaks Arabic, the country second language with French.

    So we went to the port and found out that a boat, a wooden dhow, would be leaving on Saturday or Sunday. Most of these ships are cattle boat, but I am not sure exactly what mine will carry. Anyhow, no dhow leaves the harbor before it’s completely full, and if we transport cows, we will have to wait for sundown to load them.

    The trip, if you do it alone, cost you US$ 40. With my car, it should cost me US$380. To this price, I will have to add something like US$150 on this side to load the vehicle, and US$100 to unload.

    Little celebration for my upcoming birthday.

    Little celebration for my upcoming birthday.

    I will arrive in Al Mukha (Moka) on the Yemenite side, a coastal town right across from Djibouti. Crossing will take 12 to 16 hours, depending on the weather. At this location, the entrance of the Red Sea can’t be more than 150 miles wide, but the sea is sometimes rough. After touching down, I plan on going down to Aden, then east toward Oman.

    Because of the security situation in Yemen, I will need to find out as quickly as possible how to get an authorization to travel from the police. I believe I should be able to procure that in Aden. Some roads across the country and the border crossing with Oman are sometimes closed to foreigners. The situation is changing all the time, so I will have to find out all of that upon arrival.

    Due to security concerns in Yemen, I changed my plates as well as country sticker.

    Due to security concerns in Yemen, I changed my plates as well as country sticker.

    This will be the most unstable country I cross since the beginning of the trip, and I am not planning to stay there longer than necessary. I will try to put the few thousand kilometers to the border behind, even so I want to see this beautiful country. Landscapes and cities should be an unforgettable adventure, and I hope to share the pictures with you very soon. Unfortunately, I believe there’s hardly any internet access through the country, so my faithful readers will have to wait a bit to see my report. In any case, you know it will be a while, so please don’t worry and stay tuned.