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!