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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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  • The hard way north through Mozambique

    Posted on May 16th, 2010 Nicolas No comments
    Sunrise at Inhassoro

    Sunrise at Inhassoro

    Not much to report about these long days going up Mozambique. The 1,600 miles (2,500 km) coastline takes a lot of time and endurance to go through. Basically, I have been following the coast along the main road, and every night, I get to the beach where there are campgrounds.

    Passing the Tropic of Capricorn line.

    Passing the Tropic of Capricorn line.

    The landscape sometimes reminds me of Nicaragua, with its always present palm trees. The roads are getting harder the deeper in the country I enter. After stopping in Xai-Xai, I spend one night in Zavora, then two nights in Tofo. 280-miles later (450 km), I am in Inhassoro, after a difficult day.

    Roads are so bad people rather drive on the side of it.

    Roads are so bad people rather drive on the side of it.

    After a 100-km stretch of very bad road with huge potholes and seeing a lot of people on the side with diverse problems, I myself stop to check if the truck is still in one piece. Sure enough, I have a puncture on the front right tire.

    Fixing a tire.

    Fixing a tire.

    That would not be a big deal usually, and after plugging the hole, I am getting ready to continue my drive. But the badly shook car now has another problem. For some reason, the alarm system got damaged. With the siren blasting and the truck refusing to start, I have no choice but unplug the battery and un-mount the dashboard to hot-wire the truck. It takes me an hour and an half to find a fix to the problem, after which I am on my way.

    Every night, I reach the beach via dirt roads to camp.

    Every night, I reach the beach via dirt roads to find a campsite.

    I make it to Inhassoro around 5 p.m. and un-mount again the dashboard to fix properly the system, which takes me two more hours. Exhausted, and after a shower I am lucky enough to find a very nice restaurant in the dilapidated resort where I camp

    The tourism infrastructure has hard time getting back to normal after what the country went through.

    The tourism infrastructure has hard time getting back to normal after what the country went through.

    There, I am happy to have grilled fish and well-deserved Heinekens, listening to the sound of the waves crashing on the beach. It definitely gives you a good feeling when the day was full of problem and you were able to overcome them and put some miles behind.

    Sunrise on the Indian Ocean.

    Sunrise on the Indian Ocean.

    I wake up early the following day, knowing I have again a very long stretch to come. I get a full tank of gas in the beach town as by now it became extremely difficult to know what will be the next fuel stops.

    Not much details on the type of fuel you fill up with.

    Not much details on the type of fuel you fill up with.

    There are no other choices in stations than one type of petrol and diesel, and no one knows what the octane of the petrol. Station attendants operate pumps with generators, as electricity is not available, or can’t be depended on.

    The landscape becomes greener, and palm trees less dense as I progress toward the north.

    The landscape becomes greener, and palm trees less dense as I progress toward the north.

    The same night, I reach the Gorongosa National Park. I was very curious about this stop. Before the war, it was known as one of the best parks in Africa. The wildlife was decimated in the fighting and it will take a while for the park to recover its former glory. I was looking forward to see a park that would be less touristy than Kruger, even if it meant fewer animals. Unfortunately, as I get there, I learn that there has been too much rain, and the government closed the roads of the park… Just my luck after such a long drive.

    Rio Pungue

    Rio Pungue

    Rain already prevented me to visit the Machu Picchu, got in my way on the Bolivian salt pan, and now I can’t see my friends the monkeys because of it.
    Regardless, I can use the campground there, so I am just happy to crash for the night. Today, I am still there, as I have to take care of such prosaic tasks as laundry. I am also recovering from a bad blister on the neck caused by the blazing sun, and some insect bites in a place that makes it hard for me to walk. The following days will be even harder, as I am just half done with the country, and still have the north part ahead of me, the harder one to cross. Up there, there will be long days of driving, and less accommodations and fuel stop to be found. I am afraid also of the internet availability, so don’t be worry if there are no postings for longer than usual. Wish me good luck.

  • Escaping the American health care system

    Posted on October 13th, 2009 Nicolas No comments
    A commercial medical kit and the lantern I plan to use to do surgery on myself at night

    A commercial medical kit and the lantern I plan to use to do surgery on myself at night

    I can’t tell that I like needles and doctors, and even going to buy glasses make me sick, but one thing I hate more is to get sick. And getting sick when you are bush camping is definitely not the most relaxing experience.

    Since few weeks now, I have been visiting doctors and made sure I will take my last chance to enjoy medical coverage before I leave the America’s health care paradise.

    Medical check-up

    Having it done is a must before leaving for a long trip. In the ideal, it should be done at least two months in advance, so they can try to fix you up if they see something wrong. If you have to leave for such a trip, pay a visit to your doctor, get a blood analysis, and take it from there. What is great now is that they can tell you your level of immunization, which can help you decide what shot you should get.

    The travel shots

    In addition to the classic ones, there are few more that are one should definitely get:

    – Yellow fever. Required for South America and Africa. You need to have a proof of the shot to go through many borders

    The yellow fever areas

    The yellow fever areas

    – Hepatitis A and B. A is done with two shots, B with three. So you need to start early. Good for ten years. Sometimes Hep A and B are bundled together with typhoid.

    – Typhoid fever. Now available as pills.

    – Tetanus. Everyone usually gets it as a child, but needs a new one every ten years.

    – Japanese Encephalitis. Carried by mosquitoes in rural areas. Three shots.

    – Cholera is also mandatory in some African’s country if coming from a area or country with a cholera outbreak.

    The Japanese Encephalitis areas

    The Japanese Encephalitis areas

    Ask your doctor which one you can get for free. Here in the U.S., probably nothing, except if your insurance is generous. Getting all these shots will cost you more than $500.

    Plan B, for cheap people like me, involves going south, pass the border, and get the shots in Mexico where it cost half the price. It would even have cost less than that anywhere in Europe.

    Also, it is important to go see the dentist before leaving and do whatever he think you should do because you don’t want to get you mouth fixed in Bolivia – even if it would cost you less. Dr Schnall in NY gave me a full round of X-ray, and provided me with enough toothbrushes for the year.

    Your doc should also prescribe you a lung x-ray, and you can try to ask him for prescriptions of a strong antibiotic to take with you (Cipro). You can also ask him a letter authorizing you to carry a syringe in case you need a blodd test or other in a place you find shady.

    Malaria
    There are two choices. Taking pills with heavy side effects for many months, or take a heavier dose of the drug if affected. As many other travelers, I will choose the second option, and take measures to avoid mosquito bites whenever I can.

    The Malaria areas

    The Malaria areas

    Staying Healthy on the road
    A good list here, from the HUBB, and another one here, from the CDC. The goal is to build a kit that will be in the car at all time.

    Medical Insurance
    There are many choices for medial insurance. And if you come from Europe, you can just for with Mondial Assistance or Worldnomads.com, which should be around 600 euros.

    In my case, French expatriate in the U.S., with no more insurance at the end of November, I’m not eligible for healthcare in any country. So it would not be helpful to survive an accident only to have a heart attack when I receive a crazy bill after being evacuated and treated in my home country. If you are in a more trickier situation, like me, you should call or email William Cole from insurancetogo.com, he can be more creative and help you out. Other world travelers used him and were happy about it. He will provide you with choice between a lot of different premiums and deductibles. A good coverage for me should run at around $1,000 for the year, not including legal assistance that are usually part of such package.

    In general, I hope if I get sick in these countries I can get overall good care by local doctors, and not pay much. The insurance is really for the super bad events requiring – for example – an evacuation.

    UPDATE: I chose to take a coverage with $500 deductible for an annual premium of only $548. Basically, that means i will pay out of pocket my medical expenses, and use the insurance only if my head fall from my shoulders.