#11 - Cape Town to Cairo
Jeff Willner - 8 September 2001
Cape to Cairo, one of the most fabled overland routes
in the world, evokes a spectrum of exotic images; desert, jungles, massive
rivers, wild animals, and dark tribal faces. For almost two decades it
has been almost impossible to drive the entire route due to political
challenges. But recently, improved relations between Kenya, Ethiopia,
and Sudan, re-opened the path. Stretching over 13,000km, through eleven
countries, it is an unforgettable trip.
We left Cape Town on July 8 and arrived in Cairo on
September 8, exactly two months on the road. An average of four days
each week were devoted to driving. In southern Africa where the roads
are good we were able to cover up to a thousand kilometers a day and
border crossings took about an hour. But north of Nairobi and through
Ethiopia and Sudan the expedition was more challenging. On the worst
sections of road we averaged twenty kilometers per hour, and unexpected
delays slowed us down - we were delayed a week in Ethiopia for our Sudanese
visas to be processed and waited another week in Sudan for the cargo
ferry to depart for Egypt.
Our experience in Egypt didn't start well. It took a full day to clear customs,
pay an unexpected $250 import fee (despite having a Carnet de Passage for
Egypt), and register for Egyptian license plates (required). Despite the
early frustrations, Egypt's amazing historical sites and modern infrastructure
provided a great ending to the trans-Africa run. It sounds cliché, but after
the deprivation of North Africa, when we ate dinner at McDonalds in Luxor
we were giddy with excitement. After seeing Ramses temple in Abu Simbel and
the tombs of the Pharaohs in Luxor, we joined the military convoy to Hurghada
on the Red Sea coast (all tourist traffic and historical sites are carefully
protected by military guards). Ridiculously low off-season rates convinced
us to stay at the Sheraton resort in El Gouna for two days and we lounged
in five-star comfort, soaking away the accumulated stress of the trip (though
the traffic in Cairo has packed some back on again).
To write about all the best and worst of
the trip would take too much space. But we all got together
to compile this list with our own personal highlights…
Sally: "Wildebeest migration in Masai Mara"
Jeff: "After two tries, seeing the top of Kilimanjaro on a clear morning"
Jody: "The Great Zimbabwe site at night, stargazing on the summit of the king's
Gulin: "Three rainbows in the mist of Victoria Falls"
Gulin & Jeff: Blue Nile Sailing Club, "Night of a thousand mosquito bites"
Jody: Municipal Camp, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, "I've seen nicer prisons"
Sally: Hostel, Lalibela, Ethiopia "I had to beg ½ hr for a bucket of hot water"
Jody: "Seafood cooked on the pier" at Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania
Sally: "Indian food at the Sheraton Hotel", Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Jeff: "Half a dozen dinners at Trattoria", Nairobi, Kenya
Gulin: "Red Sea fish at Belgian Café", Hurghada, Egypt
Most Terrifying Moments
Jody: "Driving in downtown Cairo at night."
Sally & Jeff: "Driving through the Sahara in Northern Sudan"
Gulin: "Almost hitting a man that jumped in front of the truck in Ethiopia"
Jody: "Gorge swing in Victoria Falls. Though sandboarding in Namibia was a
Sally: "Sailing with Mike on Lake Malawi"
Jeff: "Off-road driving through the muck in Southern Sudan"
Gulin: "Going for a walk with the hyenas in Wadi Halfa"
Southern Sudan (Gallabat to Gedaref), "Mud washouts so big there were five-ton
trucks sunk four feet deep, abandoned like shipwrecks"
Northern Sudan (Berber to Wadi Halfa), "Absolute desolation, 120 degree heat,
and soft sand - a fearsome drive"
Northern Kenya (Marsabit to Moyale), "One hundred kilometers of rocks pounded
us numb, snapping one shock absorber completely in half"
Jody, Sally, Gulin: "Ethiopia - the entire country"
Sublime Moment of Civilization
Gulin, Sally: "Immaculate tile shower with glass doors at the Sheraton Miramar
Resort" in El Gouna, Egypt
Jody: "Big Mac, chocolate shake, fries, and an apple pie at McDonalds" in Luxor
Jeff: "Three letters - KFC" in Cairo
Sally: 'I am strongly desirous of a kiss' Sudanese man to Sally, Khartou
Jody: Jeff to checkpoint soldier attempting to get a bribe 'I don't have $50
but I can give you threeee pens!" (the soldier took the pens and let us go)
Jeff: 'I think you left the handbrake on' A mechanic in South Africa to Jeff,
diagnosing the smoke that had been pouring from under the truck
More Trip Data…
Countries: South Africa, Namibia, Botswana,
Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia,
Highlights: Cape Town, Stellenbosh, the Garden
Route (South Africa), Sosusvlei Sand Dunes, Etosha Game Park (Namibia), Chobe
Game Park (Botswana), the Great Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe), Victoria Falls (Zambia),
Lake Malawi (Malawi), Zanzibar, Kilimanjaro & Ngorongoro Crater (Tanzania),
Masai Mara Game Park (Kenya), Lalibela, Gondor, Bahar Dar (Ethiopia), Meroe
(Sudan), Abu Simbel, Luxor, Hurghada, Giza (Egypt)
Unexpectedly Crucial Equipment: Iridium satellite
phone (cost $350 and $1.30/min) three times when we broke down in the middle
of nowhere, Foley Land Rover was able to troubleshoot the problem over the
phone and advise on a patch to get us going again
Cost per person: approx. $4,000 for the two
Over the next two weeks we will travel through the Middle
East; Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Turkey, to Istanbul. There are still many
kilometers left to travel before we arrive in Toronto next year, but Africa
was our first major hurdle, and it feels great to have it done.