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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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  • Arabian Sea’s troubled port delays expedition.

    Posted on September 19th, 2010 Nicolas No comments
    Annual festival honouring Ganesh in Mumbai.

    Annual festival honouring Ganesh in Mumbai.

    This week update will be a short one, due to the lack of news to report. I have been waiting for the vessel transporting my truck to arrive in Mumbai’s neighboring port of Nhava Sheva. Unfortunately, the large Indian port went through a series of accidents delaying significantly the incoming traffic.

    An accident at the harbor's entrance created a huge backlog. Have I arrived few weeks earlier, it could have been my boat. - Photo Danish Siddiqui via Maritime Bulletin.

    An accident at the harbor's entrance created a huge backlog. Have I arrived few weeks earlier, it could have been my boat. - Photo Danish Siddiqui via Maritime Bulletin.

    A month ago, two container ships collided just outside the port, and one of the vessels dumped a large number of containers in the shallow waters, creating an obstacle for other carriers.
    They had to clean up the mess, but another unlucky event – or should we begin to suspect some unprofessionalism – increased the backlog of boats waiting for their turn to enter the harbor. While unloading a vessel, a crane operator dumped a container on the ship’s top and ruptured its fuel oil tank. The boat was then stranded for more than a week, making impossible the unloading of my truck.

    The imposing gothic Victoria train station.

    The imposing gothic Victoria train station.

    Eventually, at the end of this week, the Express Annapurna carrying my container was authorized into the port. Unloading should have take place this weekend, and at the beginning of next week, I hope to be driving my truck.
    Traveling the world really makes you appreciate the level of organization we reached in Europe or the United States. In the places I traveled in recent months, you don’t get much answers or information when you try to get things done. It has little importance for me as a traveler, but if you add the lack of information to the sickening amount of paperwork and corruption, you can’t help but think that it will take decades for countries to be able to challenge the western world. Even if these countries feature cheaper price for the inefficient service they deliver.

    The prince of Wales Museum. The miniature painting gallery is worth a visit.

    The prince of Wales Museum. The miniature painting gallery is worth a visit.

    Anyhow, little by little I will keep moving east, and every mile will bring me closer to New York City.
    In the meantime, when I am not trying to get some papers from tumbling office buildings in downtown Mumbai, I visit museums, or work on my upcoming route through south-east Asia. You can find a draft of it here.

    The Taj Mahal hotel.

    The Taj Mahal hotel.

    Every day, I also go for a two hours walk in diverse parts of the city. It is the festival period in India, and one of the most widespread celebrations is Ganesha Chaturthi. Ganesha, the elephant-head famous god is worshipped as the Remover of Obstacles. Idols representing him are transported and immersed in the sea all over Mumbai. The population density, noise and crazed vehicle traffic doesn’t make it very enjoyable, but it is interesting to explore one of the most populous city in the world.

    Gandhi statue in a city park.

    Gandhi statue in a city park.

    There is an estimated 14 million peoples living here, far above New York City’s 8 millions inhabitants. No wonder why I get lost each time I go out. The city population density is exploding and features widespread poverty and unemployment as well as poor hygiene standards. I am looking forward to be out on southern India’s roads where there will be more space to breath.
    Upcoming posts should be more entertaining as we should be on the move, so stay tuned!

    Architecture detail.

    Architecture detail.

  • When our traveler barely makes it back to its port of origin

    Posted on August 22nd, 2010 Nicolas No comments
    Ruins in Yazd, the 7,000 years old city.

    Ruins in Yazd, the 7,000 years old city.

    In Tehran, I meet with people at shipping companies in an effort to get a deal sending my truck to India. At first, it seems like a good deal when I learn that the ocean freight amounts to only US$100 from Bandar Abbas to Mumbai. Unfortunately, Iran is a complicated country, and there are a lot of stamps and papers involved in every step when it comes to import or export. At the end of the day, it will cost me at least US$700 to be out of the port, plus a substantial sum to pay in India as well.

    The Tehran bazaar. Probably the biggest market I see since Mexico.

    The Tehran bazaar. Probably the biggest market I see since Mexico.

    Nice carpets. Too bad I don’t have the cash.

    Nice carpets. Too bad I don’t have the cash.

    It’s expensive, but there are no other options. And I have the money. Exactly the right amount in fact, in U.S. dollars. But the problem is that I don’t have a lot more than that, and I have to cross the entire country again.
    One would think I just have to go to the bank to get a bit more and make it out of the country OK. Well, things are not that simple in Iran. As everyone knows, the country is under international sanctions because of its nuclear program. That means that countries like the United States or France cannot do any trade with Iran. That also means bank accounts from these countries can’t be accessed once you are in the forbidden land.

    Nighttime in Tehran, when you can go out and eat during Ramadan.

    Nighttime in Tehran, when you can go out and eat during Ramadan.

    Knowing that, I got a lot of cash in Dubai, but I didn’t think it would cost me that much to get out of Iran. I felt that the US$1,000 I was taking with me was a comfortable amount, given that the country was pretty cheap. But now I will have a difficult time to make it out.

    Yazd alleys, easy to get lost in.

    Yazd alleys, easy to get lost in.

    I had to leave Tehran – an expensive city on Iranian standards – right now, and go south to ship the truck as soon as possible. A boat was set to leave port on Aug. 25 and I had to have my container on it.
    I left the city on Monday, and slept in a gas station 200 miles south of Tehran. It was quite noisy there, and difficult to find sleep. Few hours after, the police woke me up to check who I was, and more important, who I was sleeping with (nobody…). I left early morning and later arrived in Yazd, one of the oldest living cities on earth, inhabited since at least 7,000 years.

    The Tomb of the Twelve Imams, Yazd

    The Tomb of the Twelve Imams, Yazd

    Water reservoir with cooling towers.

    Water reservoir with cooling towers.

    A passage in the city made of mud.

    A passage in the city made of mud.

    There, I found a place I could stay at for cheap. The Silk Road Hotel (highly recommended) lets its guests sleep on the roof or on beds in the courtyard for few dollars. At this point I am surviving eating the canned food I have in my truck, kept for emergencies like this one. For the first time in Iran, I meet some tourists – mostly Europeans – in Yazd. I stay there two days, relaxing and visiting the old city. Everything here is built with sun-dried mud bricks, and the city is brown, as the desert surrounding it.

    Old traditional building, Yazd. Notice the “badgir” on the roof.

    Old traditional building, Yazd. Notice the “badgir” on the roof.

    One striking detail is the presence of “badgirs” on the roof of many buildings. “Badgirs” are some kind of wind-catchers, ancient A/C designed to catch the slightest breeze, separate the hot and cold air, and send the latest in the house, or water reservoir.

    Going back to Bandar Abbas.

    Going back to Bandar Abbas.

    Two days later, I continued my trip south. I slept at the same gas station where I stopped when I was coming up, and people there recognize me. It is my luck to be short of cash in a country where people are so welcoming. As soon as I stop somewhere, people bring you food and drinks. They are happy to see tourists, and they show it. Once, on the highway out of Tehran, the workers even refused my money to pay the toll.

    Another night in a gas station.

    Another night in a gas station.

    When I arrive in Bandar Abbas, I am back at sea level and the heat is intense. It is Friday, and everything is closed at the port, but I drive around to figure out the places I have to go the following day. I ask the police if there is a location where I could camp, but they can’t think of anywhere. Eventually, they speak to the owner of a hotel who agrees to bring the price of the room down 75% for me. When the receptionist sees me counting my money, she even gives me US$ 5 to have diner at the hotel this night.

    Collecting stamps on the port...

    Collecting stamps on the port...

    I think it was good that I was at the hotel, because I could not have survived the heat of the following days. I was supposed to be in and out of the city, stuffing my container on the Saturday. As of Sunday night, I am still not finished with it. I had to take an agent to help me out with the paperwork, and that will cost me some money as well. With the shipping agency, I was able to negotiate a partial payment here, and the rest in India, which freed some cash for lodging and food. The boat departure has been pushed back to the 27th (and probably later…). I hope to be in a flight from Shiraz, Iran to New Delhi, India – which I can pay online through a UAE company – on Tuesday.
    I would like to visit Delhi and travel by train to Mumbai, where I should be able to get my car in something like ten days. But we will see. For now I am in survival mode, trying to escape from Iran.