Around the World: Home
countries - 87,000km - 12 months
June 2001 - June 2002
The collected journals of a guy and three women
who drove around the world by Land Rover. No sponsors, no "mission"
- just a good long drive to see the sights.
The goal of the Around-the-World
trip was to successfully drive through; Africa, Middle East, India,
SE Asia, Australia, South America, Central, and North America
– and during the trip to email weekly journals to our junglerunner
Yahoo Group. We had to completely change our route due to 9/11,
and a catastrophic crash wrecked the Land Rover requiring a complete
re-build, but we managed. We covered over 7,000 km per month, or
1,700 km per week. A typical day would be sightseeing in the morning,
then drive from mid-morning to late afternoon, hunt for a cheap
hostel for an hour, and sightsee/rest/repair. And repeat. A guelling
process that got real old after six months.
I'm often asked how to find sponsors to cover
the cost of an expedition. The short answer is, you don't. I tried
for six months prior to the start of the trip to round up sponsors,
and I did get close with Microsoft. But ultimately with the dot-com
bubble burst there simply weren't many interested takers. So I went
from a personal expedition to a seat sale.
The benefit of a seat sale is that you have a
far better chance of finding takers. I posted a notice on Lonely
Planet and passed the word to friends and quickly found a dozen
interested people. I asked for a travel resume and short essay on
why they wanted to drive around the world, put together a trip contract
(see Planning an Expedition) and sold each seat for about $25,000
in shared and personal expenses. We did hit that budget. The downside
of a seat sale is that you are often driving with strangers and
the experience can be great or sheer hell. We had a bit of both.
Namibia, South Africa, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan,
Sudan, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Bulgari, Romania, Hungary,
Poland, The Baltics, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany,
Holland, France, Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia,
Peru, Ecuador, Galapagos, Dubai, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand,
Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, China, Tibet, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Iran
| Trip Summary
in Vic Falls fresh from leading a group of 36 fellow Wharton
MBA grads through East Africa and up Kilimanjaro. Joined up
with Sally and Jody. Sally was a roommate from school, but it
was the first time meeting Jody in person (she and Gulin joined
the team from a posting on the Lonely Planet website, we didn't
meet till the beginning of the expedition!). Land Rover was
delayed in shipment so finally rented a Discovery from Foley
to get going. Picked up the expedition Land Rover Defender in
Namibia. It promptly broke down!
delayed Land Rover arrival and then repairs needed in Namibia
we were already behind schedule. Did the Swakopmund, Cape Town,
Great Zimbabwe, Vic Falls route in six days. Madness. Drove
one section of 3000km in two days, not bad for African roads.
Picked up Gulin at the airport in Vic Falls, had Foley fix the
Land Rover - which we named "Max", and the expedition
team was ready. We set off northeast into Malawi and Tanzania.
||We limped into Nairobi
with a warped header and overheating engine. The group split
up for a week to do safaris while I got the truck fixed. In
northern Kenya bandit risk meant we had to travel with armed
soldiers, and the roads were ragged. The Land Rover broke down
twice, but Foley (our mechanic) was able to direct repairs long
distance via sat phone. Ethiopia was beautiful and lush - not
what I thought it would be. And the churches of Lalibela and
castles of Gondor were amazing. Sudan was a complete contrast
of arid desert and terrible food... but the people were the
friendliest we would meet on the entire trip.
||The road north of Khartoum
to Lake Nasser is unmarked - we drove across the desert with
only a railway track as a guide. In the 40C heat, the very real
danger of getting permanently stuck in the sand made the drive
terrifying. In Egypt we ordered McDonalds with tears of joy,
and recuperated in a Sheraton resort on the Red Sea. We crossed
into Jordan and Syria on Sept. 12 - the day after the World
Trade disaster. Despite deep misgivings, the people were incredibly
kind to us. Even in Syria we felt very safe. It made the sights
(Unayaad Mosque, Krak des Chevaliers crusader castle) even more
||Turkey was Gulin's native
land and after the press writen about the expedition we thought
we'd be welcomed as heroes, no such luck. We did enjoy great
food and the great hospitality of her family. Took a vacation
from the expedition for a week on a yacht in southern Turkey.
Stellar. Launched into Eastern Europe beneath the frosty gaze
of a Communist era border search. Bulgaria - mountains. Romania
- castles. Hungary - discotech. Slovakia - oops gone. Austria
- American Pie 2. Poland... suprising. Old Krakow, sober reflection
at Auschwitz, castles of the Teutonic knights. The Baltics featured
showcase capitol cities and heavy drinking with an adopted family
in the country. Of course St. Petersburg was impressive, though
dirty weather and a tiny budget made it not quite the experience
I'm sure it could be.
||Scandianvia was a mad
dash, literally one country per day! But worth it to see the
fjords of Norway. We shot south cramming in the cities
as fast as we could. Berlin is like a butterfly, emerging from
a cocoon of construction cranes and worksites. Wrong turns left
us plowing through the drunk and happy masses in Amsterdam's
red light district. Sally and Jody left for their Christmas
break. Gulin and I continued south to Brugge for mussels, Paris
for lunch, and San Sebastian for dinner. Dropped off the Land
Rover in Bilbao for shipment across the pond to Brazil and flew
home - the first stage over.
||Gulin and I sweated it
out in the Customs halls for a week getting the Land Rover out
of port, the worst red tape of the trip (and most expensive).
But Rio is a favorite city and beach time cures all. Jody joined
us and we headed south visiting Curitiba, Iguazu Falls, and
then swung south into Argentina... just in time to witness a
revolution! We were in the streets of Buenos Aires when the
government stepped down. Trying to fit it all in, we sped south
to Ushuaia in two days, saw the town, and promptly turned north
again to meet Sally in Santiago. But in the middle of Patagonia,
Gulin took a corner too hard and crashed the truck. 300km from
the nearest town! There was real doubt about whether the expedition
could go on.
||We stayed in Buenos Aires for three
weeks dealing with the insurance claim and AIG treated us well.
Three weeks in the same spot was an unexpected silver lining
to the accident. With our newly powerful $US we grilled steaks,
drank great Mendoza wine, and wandered the city. A weekend trip
to Uruguay by hydrofoil for some beach time and a wander through
Montevideo and Colonia. Gulin opted to leave the expedition
and ended up staying in BA for another four months. Sally, Jody
and I packed off the Land Rover to be rebuilt by Foley in Zambia,
and grabbed a bus to Santiago, up the coast, across the Atacama
in Bolivia, and into Peru.
||Jody did the Machu Pichu, Sally overnighted
at Colca Canyons, I lazed in Arequipa eating great food and
enjoying the scenery - having already seen much of Peru. We
reassembled in Lima and after a long budget discussion decided
to pony up the $1000 for a week in Galapagos. Good call. It
is an unforgettable experience to see a 200 yr old turtle, or
walk right up to a nesting frigate bird who is supremely unconcerned
- never having experienced the abuse of man. Sal flew home,
Jody did a jungle tour, I rented a motorcycle and tore through
the Amazon at speed. Then chapped my butt on horseback. Columbia
was too dangerous so we ended our circuit in Quito. End of stage
||We sent the wrecked Land
Rover to Africa to be rebuilt (cheapest option) so I flew over
to test it, and drive it to Durban to pack in a container for
China. In Durban I was attacked by two guys with knives - managed
to knock one down and got away. Not a good promo for the city.
Flew through Dubai to Singapore and worked my way up through
Malaysia to Thailand. Sally travelled SE Asia with Mike. Jody
hung out in Thailand. I travelled on my own. After nine months
together we needed some time apart. I loved Thailand! Great
golf, good friends who showed me a great time. Jody was not
so lucky - a diving mishap messed with her spinal nerves and
she had to pull out of the expedition.
Wat rates as one of a dozen places on earth that absolutely,
positively must be seen. Thousand year old ruined temples clutched
by sinuous trees. Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) is plagued by aggressive
touts and con men. But Hanoi is a peaceful oasis of shaded streets,
french restaurants, and water puppet shows. And Halong Bay is
not to be missed. Laos has just barely opened for tourism. If
you want to see a country untouched by western influence, Laos
is one of the few left.
was a surprise. Much more capitalist than I thought, and had
these amazing four lane highways - that were replaced by gravel
tracks. The country isn't messing around - going straight to
world class infrastructure. Great food and sights in eastern
China, but things got drier, dustier, and more bland the further
west we went. Once we got into Western China our guide proved
invaluable - very little English is spoken outside of Beijing
and Shanghai. But even he was uncomfortable in the far west.
Like a Yankee down in Dixieland. Tibet was an eye opener. It
really is the roof of the world, no real mountains in most of
the country - becuase it is one continuous high altitude mountain.
We drove up to Everest base camp pounding dance music and snapped
some pics. The hard core mountaineers likely cursed us as tourist
trash, we thought they were rather mad. Had some noodles. Spent
the night in a sherpa tent. Drove south into Nepal.
most challenging driving of the entire expedition. Driving through
India was almost impossibly tough. We had several fender benders
and ran into one reckless scooter. Amazing sights though. Burning
bodies in Varanasi, the Taj Mahal, and the Golden Temple in
Amritsar. In the middle of the Pakistan-India nuclear war scare,
we decided to transit Pakistan. We had to. We were too close
to give up. It turned out well. The police looked after us,
locals helped us, and the roads were great. Iran was the
last destination I was really looking forward to seeing. Such
a great travel reputation - but it did not go well. The worst
part were the constant attempts to con us, or overcharge us.
The end. Saying
goodbye to Sally in Goreme, Turkey, marked the end of the
trip. We had driven through 57 countries and over 87,000km
in 12 months. Gulin had lasted through South America, Jody
had made it to Thailand, and Sally went the distance. It was
a bittersweet goodbye.