At the crossroads between Africa and the Arab world

Getting my new shocks on in Djibouti. Ready for more dirt roads!
Getting my new shocks on in Djibouti. Ready for more dirt roads!

It took me eight days to get the paperwork I needed. Nervous about taking the risk of seeing myself turned back again at the Djibouti border, I didn’t want to leave Addis without a letter signed from the Ambassador of Djibouti in Ethiopia. This would just be a letter of recommendation, giving me the authorization to drive in the country. The problem I had back at the border was primarily my visa, but I could tell they didn’t like the customs documents I had in my possession.

Eight days of work to get my leeter and visa from the Djibouti embassy.
Eight days of work to get my letter and visa from the Djibouti embassy.

So after going every day to the Djibouti embassy for more than a week and writing two letters to the ambassador, I assume they got tired of me, and wanted to get rid of the guy always in the waiting room or in front of the outside gate. So I got my letter as well as my visa (US$40).
In the meantime, I got the AC of the truck fixed, bought two new tires and a new battery. When Jim Jackson, the president of ARB USA learned that my shock absorbers did let me down, he decided to send me four new Old Man Emu shocks for free. I asked him to send it to the address of an American friend, David, who works for the military in Djibouti. This way my shocks would be here in no time, transported by military plane from Washington D.C. to Africa.
Every night in Addis, I spent time with new friends I met there. Riaan, Stephanie and Joel who are from South Africa, Belgium and Canada are going south from Sudan, and stopped at the Holland House to spend time working on their trucks (Here’s where you can follow their adventures). They ended up spending the week there as well, and soon, I moved in the room they rent on the premises. I am not cooking much now anyway, and it is raining every day. I may as well stay dry.
So we meet every night after every one of us try to get things done during the day, and we watch the soccer games, get some food, drink beer and listen to the rain.

Back on the desert road.
Back on the desert road.

We leave the camp at the same time. Previously, I did copious provision of water and Ethiopian cheese, and I am ready to go. They continue their drive south, and I am going east. Too bad, it was nice to meet them, and I would have like if we could spend more time together…

Last night in Ethiopia. Kind of happy about it...
Last night in Ethiopia. Kind of happy about it...

It takes me two days to be back at the Djibouti border. Now I know the road. This time, it is less hot in the desert. I even got some rain, and there was an electrical storm. Sometimes I had to stop because there was so much sand in the air I could not see anything.

The infamous Djibouti border crossing.
The infamous Djibouti border crossing.

I sleep at the same place than last time, behind the Oasis Restaurant. Late morning, I pass the border with no problem.

The road to Djibouti.
The road to Djibouti.

It is hot in Djibouti. Around 110F again. But this time, I decide I suffered enough, and I do use the AC. I never did that since the beginning of the trip, and I feel like a fake adventurer using it, but at the end of the day, I am in better shape.

The desert in Djibouti. Hot!
The desert in Djibouti. Hot!

In Djibouti City, I stay at the house of my friend Dave and his roommates. They all work as contractors for the U.S. military base nearby. For the first time in years, I am in a French speaking country, which made things easier when it comes to find Dave’s house.

Arriving in the city of Djibouti.
Arriving in the city of Djibouti.

I just rest on Sunday. Anyhow, the temperature is too high to do anything. On Monday, I work on the truck and install the new shocks. I can’t work for a long time outside because it is so warm and humid. As planned, the shocks arrived fast, on Friday.
This week, I have to get a visa for Yemen. Then, I will try to find a cattle boat to load the truck and sail to the Yemenite coast, 150 miles away. All of that, of course, if everything works well. What I project to do next is to cross Yemen, get to Oman, Dubai, and find a boat to Iran.
So as you can see, this last week has been better, and I have been luckier. I want to thank you all for the support and all the encouraging comments on my last post. It really helped a lot when the future looked grim.

Made it!
Made it!

47 Replies to “At the crossroads between Africa and the Arab world”

  1. So glad to read your latest post. I was very anxious for you (safety & health) after the last post – so things appear much better now.

  2. Yeah! Congratulations. Glad to see you are on the road again. Things always have a way of working out the way they are supposed to. It was great to see you got the rest and relaxation you needed to continue on. We’ll all be watching and reading along with you.

  3. from the old folks in cali.
    we definetly were anticipating your next blog, so glad your back on track, we noticed you have changed your route again. we are all captivated by your story, they listen to me read your posts weekly, when you haven’t posted we read your expenses, they love it! and for many of them with memory impairment they do remember the past and thier travels. some of them who did travel to south americas, but none of them have been to africa or the middle eastern countries. curious…. we noticed you enjoy your beer, in the middle eastern countries, I thought I heard that it was illegal to drink alcohol, is this true? if so please be careful, may god travel with you.

  4. Your adventure is fabulous! I check every few days and am always excited to read your current posts. Very inspirational!

  5. Always a big ‘phew’ from my mouth, when I see a new post! Glad to see you’re still truckin’ along. Thanks for bringing us along on your adventure. 🙂

  6. With Yemen being the hotbed for terrorist activities, are you planning on taking any precautions while you are there?

  7. So glad to see you made it and are getting everything together for the next leg of your journey. Hope all goes well. Am loving the pictures! Be careful!!

  8. I have been following your post since day 1 of your trip. Great to see you going against all odds. I have learnt quite a bit about the countries you visited by looking into your posts. Also really liked the pictures you post. Let me know if you need any help during your trip in India as I can arrange for a hotel stay etc. 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.

  9. You are very resorceful so glade this worked out on visa. Great way to get things done- the truck parts- very smart way to get them to ya.

  10. Have loved living vicariously through you for the past several months. I love checking in Monday morning to see what you’ve accomplished and see the world you are seeing. Thanks for the taking the time to share. Good luck!

  11. Glad to see you finally made it! Since you will be going through the hot desert for a while, I advise you to keep an eye on the new battery also. The heat will cause the electrolyte to “boil off” faster than you would see in temperate climates. If possible, devise an air cooling duct to the battery… some cars built for the Middle East are configured to have this part to increase battery life. Otherwise, when the electrolyte levels go low, top it off with distilled water or rain water, that way it won’t run dry and die! Check out (not my site) if you have more questions and want to learn everything you want to know about car batteries. 🙂

    Good luck and be safe through Yemen!

  12. I am relieved. I was super concerned for you last week and offered prayer in your behalf. I anxiously awaited the Twitter that would tell me you had made progress, and was so happy to hear that you did! I, like so many others, have gobbled up your posts & descriptions & pictures. I will never have the kind of adventure you are having, so I find it so stimulating & interesting to hear of yours. God speed as you make you way toward the Middle East. I wish you peace, health, & above all, safety!

  13. How come you changed your route? Is it safer to go the Saudi Arabia-Jordan-Syria route? Is it because of the difficulty in getting the Saudi Arabian visa?

    From your previous blogs, you mentioned going through Yemen might encounter terrorist issues. If this is your route, please remove anything ‘USA’ on your truck. I noticed you have a USA sticker on the back part of your truck.

    Maybe you already checked out for travel warnings. Just in case here is the link to the travel warnings to Yemen.

    Good Luck and be careful.

  14. In more than one way, I say, Viva Africa. Good to know you are back on track. Love the new photos. You look so well and quite ready. It is nice to read that you enjoyed good company along the way as I can imagine that such came in handy for your spirit. It must be overwhelming to know that so many people from around the world are watching your every move and praying for you. Yet another experience most of us have not had, but are learning about and living vicariously through you. You are blessed indeed! Travel safely and continue to love the world.

  15. I don’t think anyone would criticize you for using the a/c. Your well being is vital to the success of the journey. I know not using the a/c has its benefits for the LC but they are not as important as your health.

    God Speed

  16. Big props to ARB for stepping up and contributing to the trip!

    Glad to see you made it and got the shocks on, good luck crossing the middle east.

  17. Go Nicolas go! Go Nicolas go! 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! It appears that you have gotten your second wind judging from your posts. Your photos are great and your posts are well written. Hey, using the AC is the right thing to do in brutal heat!

  18. Sent a note of thanks to Mr. Jackson at ARB for helping out, got a reply saying they were glad to help. I can’t believe you’re using the A/C, you big faker!!! JK, I’m amazed you haven’t used it at all up to this point – you’re a better man than me! As an earlier poster said, your well-being is most important – I’d hate to hear of you having heat-related medical issues when it could be easily avoided. Take care, so glad to hear things are back on track for you!

  19. I too, look forward to all your updates and I am especially glad you turned on your A/C.!! I’m concerned about you going to Yemen and Iran and will pray for your safety. I can see being adventurous, and you certainly are, but I don’t think anyone can be “too careful”. God bless your friend David, in the Military, and if you’re still able to see him, please tell him a grateful American says “Thank you” to him. Okay you, have fun, will be watching for updates.

  20. Hey Nick! Your NOT a fake traveler using the AC. Your a tough nut and don’t feel guily about any pleasure you take out there!! Cut yourself some slack. Glad you had a great time with your new friends, you sure needed the encouragement of a real person to talk and visit with. Also, getting past that border, did you flip them off as you drove thru! LOL I would have even if it was discreetly just a a simple pleasure of “Ha Ha, you didn’t rain on my parade and pull me down”.

    BTW I did send a note to ARB USA thanking him for helping you out! How very very generous of him and how lucky that you got the shocks sooo fast. Enjoy your visit with Dave and tell him we said thanks for being the go-between for you in getting the parts promptly.

    Ms. Marti

  21. I love what you’re doing, my husband and I are faithful readers! I’m glad your visa have worked out, and be safe in the rest of the middle east.

  22. Great going there Nick,
    How long did the OME shocks hold? My front ones are still good after 2 years, but the rear got weaker. I hear that they can’t cope with the altitude? And we have been at 4.000 meters over 6 months now!
    Wishing you a bon route!

    Adventurous greetings,

  23. Congratulation Nick :-). I’m glad you made it!!!

    I am look forward to read more of your next advanture 🙂

    Best Wishes,

  24. Congrats on your recent successes! And I agree with the above posters, no need to feel guilty about using the AC…it’s what it’s there for!

    Been following since I saw an article in the Boston Metro before you started and have been enjoying the updates thoroughly. Do you think you will try the quat in Yemen? Seems like the thing to do there.

    Safe travels!


  25. Glad to see you back on the road. Did you get your new passpaort with empty pages to get more visa stampings?

  26. Please be careful if you go to Yemen. That route does NOT seem like the best way to go.

    Can you take a boat directly to Oman and skip over Yemen? Just an idea for your safety.

  27. I just wanted to write and tell everyone it is a pleasure to have Nicholas here safe and sound. I’m more than happy to let him stay at my place for a few days. Unfortunately I will be putting him to work on Thursday as I have to change houses. At least he will have a nice A/C unit in the new place as the one here does not work very well. As promised though the beer is cold and its fun chatting about his travels.

  28. Whoot Whoot for Nicolas!!! We are so happy you have AC and got your papers.
    Like the above have said, your health is the most important without it the trip hits a pothole. Keep yourself healthy and happy!!
    We are very nervous for your travels into Iran and such. Your insticts have served you well so far, but PLEASE be careful.
    Until the next post, safe travels,
    Dan, Lisa & Bryce

  29. For those of you concerned about Nicolas traveling through the Middle East, I predict that not only will he be fine, but he will love it! Especially Iran! I spent two weeks there last October, and have never been treated with more hospitality in any other country. His biggest obstacle will be getting down the street without being stopped to practice English, pose for photos, or be invited home for tea.

    I haven’t been to Yemen, but I have US friends that have, and they say it is much the same way.

    Life is typically a mirror….

  30. Just wanted to say a quick THANK YOU to Nick for going on this crazy adventure. As well as to Nick’s buddy Dave and everyone else who has hosted him during his “year of living dangerously.” So many of us have enjoyed the beautiful photos and interesting stories. I believe your travels have us spell-bound. Please make sure you stay safe Nick. I’m going to send a little contribution thru PayPal to help you celebrate your up-coming birthday. Make sure you are somewhere that you can get a cold beer and have one on me.

    Safe travels!

  31. Nick,
    I like many have been following you since the begining, and check daily to see if you have put up new post. What an inspiration to follow. I wish you luck on the remainder of your journey, and will deff buy your book when you get back.

  32. Thrilled to hear that you persevered! Even though there has been discouragement, you are accomplishing such a great adventure.

  33. Bloggers:

    Now that Kara has announced Nick’s upcoming birthday, how about it if followers not delay sending our birthday wishes. After all, Nick could be out in the desert and far away from the internet access on July 10th. Thanks for the reminder Kara. HAPPY BIRTHDAY NICK !! MAY YOU ENJOY A COLD BEER AND DARK CHOCOLATE WHEREVER YOU HAPPEN TO BE!
    -joyMaria and Paul

  34. @Lester: the Mercer list for “most expensive cities” bases/assumes a Western/American lifestyle in whatever city it is. The results changes dramatically when you adapt and adopt to more local (if not fully) customs/lifestyles (cuisine included). Case in point: I was in Hong Kong last year and found myself spending more money on daily living expenses (food, transportation, etc) than when I was in Tokyo last year also. Both of which I exercised frugality and ate what locals ate, got to my destinations using what locals used, etc.

  35. I have been following your adventure since Argentina. Although you have had some truck and visa problems, I am surprised at how smooth your trip has has gone. Like many people I would never dream of driving alone in Africa…well parts of South America too. My perception was that it was very dangerous with crime and kidnappings etc. Also that food, insects, and beggars would be trouble too. Your experience is making me possible consider a trip to Africa in the near future. Thanks for all the information and continued good luck as you push further around the world.

  36. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Nick!! I can’t think of a better birthday present to yourself than a trip around the world. Am anxiously awaiting your next post, hoping travels are going better. Stay safe and again HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

  37. I just stumbled upon your blog from a USA Today article back in October. Congrats and what you’ve accomplished so far! I hope to do the same trip myself one way. I appreciate, as well as I’m sure many people do, all your posts. They’re very interesting to read. Thanks again and keep safe!


  38. Hello Nick! Way to go! Perseverance, determination and commitment is one of the most wonderful characteristics any human being can possess! I continue to look forward to your adventure and the experiences you share with all of us! Thanks and Good Luck!

  39. Hi Nick,

    Thanks for the nice e-mail You sent thanking me for the donation (more to come). I, unfortunately, deleted your e-mail address to return a letter to you so I’m using the “comments” section here.
    Happy Birthday! and as you explained about the “no internet” situation through Yemen.. I wanted to say please be very careful and keep your head high. I will be anxiously awaiting your next entry to know that you are OK and to see what new amazing places you have experienced.



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