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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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THE ROUTE

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  • In between modern and old world

    Posted on July 26th, 2010 Nicolas 35 comments
    The Muscat souk at night.

    The Muscat souk.

    In Muscat, I make myself at home at Antonio’s flat. It is the second time I take advantage of his hospitality. The first time was back in Honduras (see here what happened in Honduras), when I stayed at his home for two weeks, while trying to locate a part for the truck. As I was driving through South America and Africa, he decided to take a job in Dubai, and moved there four months ago. It took him one day to fly there, while I had to drive for 7 months to get to the same point. I share the apartment with him and three other expatriates, all working at the newspaper “The Times of Muscat”.

    Antonio in old Muscat.

    Antonio in old Muscat.

    The Sultan.

    The Sultan.

    The country is ruled by the Sultan Qaboos who seized power in a coup against his father in 1970. He is the prime minister and heads the foreign, finance and defense ministries of Oman. He decides everything in the country and is very popular despite the fact that there is no election.
    The temperature is still very high here, and you can’t go out much during the day. But I have to take care of my visas, which I do as soon as I arrive in the city. I am able to obtain easily the Iran visa in three days. It has been more easy than I thought. A month ago, I used a travel agency (recommended, US$42) as a sponsor to get the authorization number from the government. Then I just had to drop my passport here and get it back few days later (US$60).
    The India embassy asked for a week for the visa processing. So I just let my passport down there and begin to think that everything is going well.

    Observation tower or spaceship?

    Observation tower or spaceship?

    While it is in the work, I stop by the Pakistan embassy to enquire about the visa process. Here, I am surprised to learn that they would not grant me any visa, and that I am supposed to apply in my home country.
    I really can’t fly to France to get my visa, so I keep going every day to the embassy hoping to meet with the consul. After few days, they are tired to see me, and ask me to stop coming.
    This new story seems to confirm a theory or more precisely a new physic law I started to identify in Africa. It is very simple and I chose to call it “The theory of global stickiness”. Basically the mathematic formula behind this great discovery is:
    More you advance around the world, more the countries become sticky.
    Sticky in the sense that it is harder and harder to go to the next country as I progress in my trip.

    At the port.

    At the port.

    While I research a solution to this new problem, I see on internet discussion boards that people are having similar problems in the region. No way of getting the visa in Istanbul, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Tehran, New Delhi. Great.

    Regardless, I send emails to people in New York, Pakistan, Canada, Mexico, Iran, India and France, and as you are reading this post, many people are working on the issue and trying to push on different fronts in an effort to get me the visa.

    Small fishing harbor close to the old city.

    Small fishing harbor close to the old city.

    It is a very annoying problem, because Pakistan is the only way to Asia. Afghanistan, just north, is not easy right now, and even if I could go through, I would still have to cross a part of China to access India. And crossing China is very costly and a paperwork nightmare. I could try to ship from Iran to India, but it would be costly as well and I am not sure of the frequency of travels. In addition I will have to ship again from India to Asia, and I want to drive around the world, not SAIL…
    I even looked into crossing Azerbaijan, Georgia and Russia to Vladivostok from where I could ship the truck to Korea. But that would mean bypassing India and part of Asia, which would be sad.

    Oman Finance Ministry. Ruled by the Sultan.

    Oman Finance Ministry. Ruled by the Sultan.

    Anyway, it is too soon right now to know what direction I will be going, but I seriously hope I will get this damn visa.
    When I am not working on this particular matter, I go out, mostly at night to enjoy more moderate temperatures, and visit the city. We go to the souk and the old Muscat, visit the beach, and even follow the example of locals and go to the mall.

    Official visit to the Muscat mall.

    Official visit to the Muscat mall.

    Monday afternoon I picked up my India visa (US$48), and I will drive on Tuesday to Abu Dhabi or Dubai. This will be an intriguing visit, and I am excited about it. In parallel to the city visits, I will have to get ready to cross the Persian Gulf, this time by ferry boat. And of course, pay a courtesy visit to the Pakistan consulate.

    The souk at night.

    The souk at night.

  • 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.