”The North to South Challenge”. Update Day 7
”Mr. Kalmar, this is a call from the Danish Embassy in Cairo, we have looked at your route and we can not support you if you choose this route over Sinai due to the safety situation, please get to Cairo or Port Said” this phone call I got about 4 weeks ago … later same day I got a call from the Egyptian Embassy in Denmark saying “ Jan, we can not recommend you to go via Sinai its not entirely safe.. so please choose another point of entry than Taba, and in addition we will not be able to obtain a permission for you to enter with a 4X4 car …”
After years of planning this was very bad news to get and the easy solution would have been to stay home of find a different route… But we decided differently..
So why do I tell this now? Well its because we now finally can inform where we have been and how we got there… This also explains why our tracker was “down” for a parts of the route..
There is no doubt we would have preferred to drive all the way, but in our opinion its currently not possible. Syria is closed as we all know. There is a route via Iran, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and with a ferry into Port Sudan, but the schedule is very “floating” so impossible to plan after.. The Eastern Route is maybe drivable but with the Ebola issues in the region, our team decided to go the less safe route through Israel and Egypt with all the problems this caused.. But since we are currently in Ethiopia it shows it was possible.
Here is what we did:
We went into a scheduled cargo plane ( not the one originally planned as DC Schenker made a mistake ) in Istanbul Airport. From here we flew to Tel Aviv as this is the shortest possible route to fly around Syria. The road distance is 1722 Km.( but not possible to drive). With our average speed which at that time was 93 km/h this would take 18 hour and 30 min. Therefore we left the car untouched for this time even though the flight was way quicker. We didn’t do this to gain any time from flying and trust me the amount of stress this gave us almost made me prefer to have driven though Syria.
After leaving Tel Aviv and the time penalty was over we went to the Taba border post between Israel and Egypt where we ran into the problem that the car is 4X4, despite it was all pre-accepted locally. During the Customs check the one officer dropped the spare tire on the rear fender and made a big dent.. Nice.. On the Border they found out that we need Egypt number plates which took just 1 hour.. whereas it all took 4 hours to cross the border in total.
Sinai is currently having a very unsafe time and like I started with, you should not have go there… but we had to. Here our local fixer Anis did a perfect job and escorted us with armed guys over the whole 1800 km drive. Here we did not show our real time position simply not to make anyone able to predict when we are where.
As we all know there is a lot of tension in the Middle East, so getting into some north African countries after having been in Israel is not possible, and to make things worse the day before we got to Tel Aviv Israel did a secret operation in Sudan to stop some possible weapon supply from Sudan to Hamas. Lovely.. this was the reason why we had to stop the tracker completely and all signs of us having been in Israel had to be removed.
So I hope you understand and respect the way we have calculated the flying time, and understand why we have not been 100 % open about our route and timing.
I can see there are followers who think its too easy with 3 drivers.. trust me we have the outmost respect for the previous teams who have done it with 2 drivers, but we decided for 3 drivers. When it comes to the car choice then todays drive would not have been possible with a normal passenger car due to road conditions.
When it comes to driving speed then we always say we follow local speed limits, this I have to say we have not done in Africa, and I don’t believe any teams has ever kept all speedlimits.. today we saw super nice roads with 30km/h speedlimits.. and yes there we did went faster.. still no speeding tickets.
Currently sitting trying to sleep in the car on the border between Ethiopia and Kenya after a day where we lost 16 hours … Bad roads and on top a closed border so we have to sit and wait for 6 hours min.
We had time now to give the car a big service, as we have problems with our lights on the roof and we repaired the puncture. Spirit is still good despite 800 km of horrible roads.. It’s all OK now we are in real Africa… and we still have our minds set for 2 records but its getting tight. 12000 km behind us .. 6000 km to go ..