. . . AROUND THE WORLD 2001/02
Africa 1999
Around-the-World 2001/02

The Team

Jeff Willner
1. Start: Recipe for Adventure
2. Zimbabwe: Hyperinflation
3. Namibia: Southern Circuit
4. South Africa: Circuit 2
5. Zambia/Malawi: Sketches
7. Kenya: Bandit Country
8. Ethiopia: Diary
9. Ethiopia: Border Run
10. Sudan: Across the Sahara
11. Egypt: Cape to Cairo
12. Jordan/Syria: Sept. 11th
13. Turkey: Hospitality
14. Bulgaria/Romania/ Hungary
15. Slovakia/Austria/Poland
16. The Baltics & Russia
17. Scandinavia
18. Western Europe
19. Brazil: Clearning Customs
20. Argentina: Revolution
21. Argentina: To Ushuaia
22. Patagonia Disaster
23. Buenos Aires Beautiful
24. Uruguay: Beaches
25. Chile: Expedition Life
26. Bolivia: Atacama
27. Peru: Transit
28. Galapagos: Gorgeous
29. Ecuador: Jungle Run
30. Knifepoint
31. Dubai: Lay over
32. Singapore/Malaysia
33. Thailand: Hospitality
34. Cambodia: Ankor Wat
35. Vietnam: Hanoi & Halong
36. Laos: Back to Basics
37. China: Beijing Tour
38. China: Shanxi
39. China: Western Province
40. China: Tibet
41: Nepal: Mountains
42. India: Driving Struggle
43. Pakistan: Dodging War
44. Iran: Overcharging
45. End: One Last Laugh

Sally DeFina
1. Cape Town: Robben Island
2. Zanzibar: Mike & I
3. Kenya: African Driving School
4. Sudan: Mud Crossing
5. Patagonia: Goodbye Max
6. Malaysia: Mike Update
7. Thailand: Ko Phangan
8. Cambodia: Phnom Penh
9. Vietnam: By Train
10. Laos: Vang Vieng
11. China: Meet Mr. Chen

Jody Finver
1. Start: Surreal Solipse
2. Great Zimbabwe
3. Brokedown in Kenyan Desert
4. Egypt: So Should I Hyphenate
5. Poland: Home is Where the Truck Is

Gulin Akoz
1. Start: Bits and Pieces
2. Zambia: Diaries
3. Egypt: Africa Memories
4. Turkey: For Your Information
5. The Team and The Bean
6. Somebody Else's Child
7. On My Own
8. Long Lost Memories of Childhood
9. The Tree and the Boy
10. Jealous
11. The Aftermath


Panamerican 2003
Various Trips
Planning an Expedition


Kensington Tours can help you plan your own expedition anywhere in the world.




# 45 - One Last Laugh
Jeff Willner - 10 June 2002

(Goreme, TURKEY) – Crossing the border into Turkey was like coming home. It really is like Europe Lite. Hotels with toilet seats, restaurants with buffets, and pop and chips at the gas station (though we sorely missed Iran’s two cent per litre diesel). As we neared Cappadocia I got more and more excited. Eight months earlier I had come north from Syria through Cappadocia to Istanbul. We were about to close the loop. An entire westward circuit of the globe! Maybe we would have an accident just 100km away, or the truck would have some catastrophic breakdown. Mad images were spinning in my head and I slowed down just in case. Fifty kilometres away, then twenty. And finally we were there, Kayseri, Turkey – the around the world expedition was complete. Everything else was denouement, just the process of going home.

It had taken thirteen months to drive the Land Rover Defender just over 78,000km through 57 countries.

End of the Road
Shortly after Kayseri we arrived in Goreme. I had visited it with Jody and Gulin in our first pass through Turkey back in September of 2001, but Sally had been back in Australia, so we spent a day in the underground city of Derinkuyu and the Fairy Chimney houses carved in solid rock. It was a bittersweet time. Stacey and I would continue on to the coast of Turkey, Greece, Italy, and up to the UK before flying back to Canada. But that day in Turkey was really the end of the expedition.

We had started in Victoria Falls at the end of May in 2001. Sally deFina and Jody Finver were the two original crew and I still remember meeting little Jody and thinking there was no way she would last more than three months (she did). Gulin Akoz joined up in mid-June on our way north and her first experience was being smuggled in and out of Malawi because she didn’t have a visa. Along the way we were joined by some intrepid friends; Rob Smoot, Devy Santiago, Mike Faulkner, Victor Pomichal, Janet Porter, Kathryn Mertes, and Stacey Madge.

Gulin and grandma
 in Istanbul

Gulin hit her limit in Argentina shortly after the accident (she settled in Buenos Aires for several months to explore at a more sedate pace). She brought her own style to the trip, caring and introspective. She faced danger head on, though sometimes she may not have realized it. We all still chuckle about the time in northern Sudan when she wandered off at night to “walk in the desert” without telling anyone. One of the villagers saw her and raised an alarm, worried that prowling hyenas would kill her. Within minutes thirty Arab men in long white robes were tracking her out into the desert assisted by our spotlights. After an hour of searching, a stuck vehicle, and increasing concern, she wandered back into town surprised at the fuss.


Jody taking charge
 in Kenya

Jody was quite the trooper and surprised us all (and her parents) by sticking with the expedition even in “terrorist nations”, war zones, and other spots where a US passport was a serious detriment. She had a dazzling smile and ability to work her halter tops to get free stuff. “How much did you pay for that? Oh really, mine was free.” We were briefly and unofficially married from Sudan through Syria and I know now the pain of spouse abuse. Ok I joke. It was a lovely unofficial marriage. 

We had some great times together. I had never been away from my family during the holidays and I remember Jody deciding that she would take me out for a nice dinner in Ushuaia on Christmas eve. We had some pretty expensive Argentine bbq and watched the moon come up over the southernmost point of South America. It was a pretty sweet thing to do. So ten months into the trip we were all surprised and deeply disappointed when she had to drop out in SE Asia. She contracted some type of muscle or nerve disease in Thailand that really debilitated her, and after several weeks in hospital realized that her trip was over (she was flown home later to the US for more treatment). I remember her misty eyes in Bangkok when we had to leave to start China. I know it killed her to miss the last part of the trip. She would definitely have wreaked havoc in Asia - little cutie.

Sally the Sudanese supermodel

I met Sally while on exchange at London Business School, and we were roommates at a flat in Covent Garden. As the stock market was bursting, sponsors disappearing, and my net worth plunged like a shot pheasant it looked as through the expedition was not going to happen. We were chatting about the trip one day in the apartment and Sally's eyes lit up, “Hey that sounds like a great trip – I’ll go and pay an equal share!” She was the inspiration for me to advertise and find Jody and Gulin (who also paid equal shares). Her commitment to the trip was solid even when she met a new boyfriend. And as a super experienced traveller she often had insights that shaped our plans. It was always a special pleasure to see Sally take on the bureaucracy, “You want to charge us how much for that? Are you mad?! We’ll pay half and not a cent more.” She was a tenacious bargainer and saved us a ton of cash over the course of the trip. 

I knew when we were on the road that if something needed to get done she would get it done. Often in big cities we had limited time and a list of embassies, travel offices, and vehicle repairs that had to get done. I would often disappear to a Land Rover garage and she would lead the charge to the embassies. Sal was my confidante, voice of reason, and often the kick in the pants I needed to just smarten up. There were times when the strain of keeping the expedition on the road seemed too much, but I would glance over at her knowing she had been through it all with me and was still going strong, and find the energy to keep on keeping on. Fine, I'm getting weepy here, but she's quite a friend. The trip would have been near impossible without her - and she was there from start to finish.

So on that final day of the expedition in Turkey there were some misty eyes and a few hugs. Weird to think that in a few days we would be behind desks, chained to a laptop and churning out Powerpoint slides. We packed up slowly, joked about the number of souvenirs and secretly wished we had bought more. Not much was said as I drove slowly over to the bus terminal. We sat side by side on the bench outside in the chilly air. “How long is the bus?” I asked. “About eight hours to Istanbul” she replied. “That’s good. It’s a good bus.” “Yeah.” “Yeah.”

Ten minutes late but still too soon, the big double decker swept into the parking lot. We lugged the bags over to the side. “How many people going to Istanbul?” asked the porter. “All these bags for you!” He looked at Sally with wide eyes. “Hey be sure to get a porter or a taxi to take your stuff for you when you get there – don’t lug this all by yourself.” “Don’t worry Jeffy,” she tended to call me that sometimes, “I’ll be fine.” As she got on the overnight bus I turned to say something to the ticket agent and before I knew it the bus had pulled out of the parking lot. Running across the lot I dashed onto the road to wave goodbye.

See ya Sal. It was a hell of a trip.





Copyright January 1999-2011
All rights reserved - Jeff Willner
Contact: jeffwillner@yahoo.com