The Route

These days, there are really only two feasible routes down the African continent if arriving from Europe: the East and the West.

The West route enters Africa at Morocco via the Straits of Gibraltar. From Morocco you can cross into Western Sahara, Mauritania and then Mali before pointing yourself towards Nigeria and the run due South to Cape Town. It is possible to drive through the Congo, the DRC and Angola but the timing of the visas can be somewhat problematic: you need an Angolan visa before applying for your DRC visa, which has to be applied for in your home country, and the Angolan one is only valid for 60 days from the date of issue. Depending on how fast the DRC one gets processed then, you have a very short space of time in order to actually reach Angola. One way round this is to sit tight in some place for a while, DHLing your passport back and forth to the UK until you get all your ducks in a row. There’s also a ferry running from Cabinda to Luanda which would allow you to by-pass the DRC entirely but it doesn’t take cars, only bikes.

In days gone by there was a central route too, where you would cross the Mediterranean to reach Tunisia, drive through Libya into Egypt and then head South from there. Alas, the bureaucrats have put a stop to this with the suspension of Libyan visas earlier in 2012. Similarly, the route around the Med via Syria is also off the table.

Last but not least is East. Our route. We chose it based on the places we wanted to visit and the terrain we’d get to encounter and thankfully it was still a possibility!

Leaving Edinburgh in June 2013, we crossed into France and made a beeline for Turkey. From there, we took a roll-on-roll-off (RORO) ferry to Egypt and began our African (mis)adventures.

The ferries were our saving grace, without them our proposed route would not have been possible (unless we skirted Syria and entered via Iraq and the treacherous road from Baghdad to Amman). In fact, the whole reason these ferries started up was to solve the backlog of lorry driven goods that used to pass through Syria. For those looking to find out more about this passage, there are two ferries: one operated by Alcor, going from Mersin to Port Said and the other operated by Sisa, going from Iskenderun to Damietta.

On the continent, one of the main things we want to see was the world’s biggest sand-box, the Sahara desert. There was plenty of time to soak it up as we followed the Nile South through Egypt, crossing into Sudan by the land border crossing (apparently the first ever tourists to do so) before hitting the greener pastures of Ethiopia and Kenya.

After that, we ran the gauntlet through bandit-country in Western Tanzania. We then headed West for a while from Malawi, crossing the breadth of the continent via Zambia and Namibia until we hit the aptly named Skeleton Coast. There was more playing in sand-boxes as we cut through the Namib Desert and the breathtaking dunes of Sossusvlei before finally reaching our destination, South Africa.

Since she was still rolling, the landy was then loaded onto a ship for her journey home so that we can keep the possibility of a sequel alive. Next up, RTW!

11 thoughts on “The Route

  1. Robert from Mombasa says:

    Hi,
    Try the ro/ro ship from Sheerness to Walvis Bay, NAM; fast, reliable, safe and cheaper than anywhere else. Forget the hassle in north african countries. This is my best UK to Kenya route.
    rgds Robert

  2. Matthew Barry says:

    It’s a pity you gents can’t get a Libyan visa. I know that the ferry from Palermo to Tunis costs around €300, which is much less than the £1000 you are going to be paying in Turkey. My friend and I are considering a reverse trip (north bound) in the new year and this would be our route.

    • Couldn’t agree more. The cost would be less but even more frustrating is the idea of what we’re missing out on. Driving along the North coast of the African continent through Tunisia and Libya, visiting the desert pistes etc, would be the dog’s danglies.

  3. mal says:

    Hi Guys,
    Hope you’re well and still on track.
    I drove from Manchester to Mongolia last year with a friend, we took a 10 year old skoda which, engine-wise, made the trip with no problems. The body on the other hand, well let’s just say the desert is full of bits! If I can help you in any way let me know and I will do my best. What we did to make money was do it for a charity and charge businesses for advertising on the car. My email is gas.maintenance@ntlworld.com

  4. Really excited about following your trip guys!

  5. Rakesh says:

    Just when I thought it was safe to settle back into the mundanes of reality (having just finished cross India adventure in an autorickshaw (you know who I am now!), I bump into your facebook page and then all hell breaks loose in the wee ole head!

    I am so flipping jealous of your adventure and trip. Originally from Tanzania, settled for a while in UK and now in USA, your trip goes too close to home for me not to be interested.

    Great stuff. And that Malawi youth hostel? Be sure to share the details please. I won’t tell any one!

    Wishing you all the very best. I will be commenting and adding my two penny bits along the way. Fair warning!

    Rakesh

  6. We plan to take a ferry from Ancona, Italy to Patras Greece in September and from Turkey to Egypt by the end of April, maybe we meet on the road.

    • Let’s hope so. Look out for the three chaps standing next to a broken down land rover and looking confused! We are actually taking a ferry from Venice to Igoumenista and onward to Turkey for the voyage into Egypt.

  7. Venice to Igoumenista looks like a good alternative. They offer Caming on board to.

  8. nick says:

    Hi Gents ,
    Hope you have great trip. When you make it to Zambia , if you need any help , please drop me a line and I’ll see if I can help.
    cheers
    Nick

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