Penryn pensioner's 'Bumpy Road' trip through Africa tackles Egypt's red tape

Tony Clarke holds his (expensive) Egyptian registration plate

Tony Clarke holds his (expensive) Egyptian registration plate

First published in Cornwall

HD23/7/14 with pic Penryn adventurer Tony Clarke, 68, is back on his travels, travelling south to Africa and is keeping Packet readers up to date with his exploits in a series of articles. This is his third instalment.

In the unlikely event that you are thinking of over-landing to Egypt in your own vehicle, my advice would be – don’t! Not unless you are, like me, wilful, obstinate and most of all stupid. In this case, there are three things to bring with you, which cannot be bought or packed: a sense of humour, enormous patience, and tenacity.

I waited at the port of Iskenderun, Turkey, for exactly 31 days, for the only ferry running to Egypt from Europe – in fact, the only way to get into Egypt with my Land Rover. All overland borders in North Africa are closed, mostly due to civil conflict, religious tensions, and power struggles.

The sea crossing on Sailing Ship UN RoRo was supposed to take 20 hours. It took 3 days.

I was told to be at the ferry terminal at 6am. I counted 170 lorries being loaded, and it was after midnight when I finally boarded the ferry. On the second day, 16 hours after sailing, we were waiting for a pilot to take the ship into Haifa Port in Israel. I counted 130 lorries off before boredom sent me to bed, only to be dragged out of my bunk at 2am by Israeli immigration, who insisted on seeing the one transit passenger.

The temperature was still over 40 degrees as I trudged down six flights of steel stairs to the lower cargo deck, and there I waited. One hour later the officers arrived.

The night passed by and so did the following day, until 4pm when we arrived at the port of Damietta, Egypt. I was one of the last off the ship and because of a mistake on my Carnet the Land Rover was locked up in a shed and I had a few minutes to pack a bag, leave the port and find a hotel.

My only option was to get on a bus, a very old bus, and take the Bumpy Road to Cairo to find a hotel before going to the Touring Club of Egypt to sort out the documents. The club is located in one of the oldest, most densely populated parts of Cairo.

The club was very helpful, at a price – everything here has a price, not just one price but several. On payment of the final price, registration numbers were changed, stamps were stamped, letters were written, and a complete dog’s dinner made of the Carnet. It will be acceptable in Egypt but will undoubtedly cause problems when I cross into any other country in Africa. Switzerland is sending me a new one.

I had to pay $625 for a new registration plate (negotiated down from $700) to get the Land Rover released.

It is true to say that at this particular time it was tough being on my own. I could easily have felt dejected, troubled and concerned about my journey.

My intention now is the obtain visas for Sudan and two or three others countries to the south. I walked for more than five hours looking for the Sudanese Embassy – the army has road blocks all over this part of the city and it is difficult to find anywhere.

But I will find it, and my journey will continue. As I said: “Humour, patience and tenacity. And a deep pocket.”

Comments (1)

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3:21pm Sun 10 Aug 14

Gill Z Martin says...

I think Mr Clarke should have done this all for charity, he probably could have raised a lot of money. He could write a book of his travels and donate profits to charity.
I think Mr Clarke should have done this all for charity, he probably could have raised a lot of money. He could write a book of his travels and donate profits to charity. Gill Z Martin
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