. . . 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.

Around the World: Home
57 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.

Countries Visited: Zambia, 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 and Turkey

Trip Summary


The Start

Arrived 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! 


South Africa

After the 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 special.


The Baltics

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 2.



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.



Ankor 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.



China 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.



  The 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. Really disappointing.
The end

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.




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