Penryn pensioner Tony Clarke, 68, is back on his travels, this time travelling south down through Africa in his trusty Land Rover. If he can find a way through Egyptian red tape.
On May 26 I arrived at the port of Iskenderun, on the coast of Turkey, adjacent to the Syrian border. With three days to go before the UN RoRo ferry which would take me and the Land Rover to Egypt for the start of our journey around the coast of Africa, I found the only campsite in the area, and made myself comfortable.
I have now been waiting for four weeks, and there is no end in sight. The ferry was cancelled two days prior to my arrival due to “operational problems.” More likely problems with Egyptian generals and politicians. The Arab Spring is a nightmare for overlanding and getting permissions to travel in northern Africa.
On a journey such as this, setbacks will inevitably be frequent, and I am well used to them after so many years of road travel. But there is no indication of how long I will have to wait for the RoRo.
I could have tried crossing into Syria, but the war zone border is closed. I considered driving to Ankara, 400 miles north of here, and across Saudi Arabia to the Red Sea and Duba Port, from where there is a ferry to Egypt, but the Saudi authorities refused to issue me a visa: no reason was given.
So I contacted K-Line a shipping company, here in Turkey. The ship owner granted me permission to load the Land Rover in a 20-foot container (having first removed all the items from the roof-rack as well has emptying the fuel tank) and ship it to Egypt, a sea crossing of only 20 hours. However, I would have to travel separately, flying first to Istanbul, then on to Cairo, and from there take a bus to Alexandria Port. The minimum cost for shipping and travel at the Turkey end is some $2,500.
The expense would not stop there. In Egypt I would have to pay not only an Egyptian clearance agent’s fee and a customs clearance fee, but also a backhander known as Dash: a normal business transaction in Africa. These sums would all be determined on the spot, the Dash being paid before the container could possibly be located and the doors opened. To keep it sitting there would cost $100 a day. Compare this with the cost of the RoRo ferry at just under $800, and my lack of enthusiasm for this plan is understandable.
Another option would be to travel to Morocco and the west coast of Africa via ferry from Barcelona. This would be backtracking some 4,000 miles, but there would be no rush, as I would have to wait for the dry season in Senegal – late October or early November – before travelling any further west.
In the meantime, I have moved from the campsite. I am now encamped outside the Land Rover workshops at Marsin. I can use the time to do some maintenance on the vehicle and to socialise with the locals.
So I’m craving for a ferry, but being careful what I wish for with Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia to come – I may wish I was back in good old friendly Turkey.