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Africa Ends

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999 Days Around Africa: The Road Chose Me

The following morning the story plays out much the same, and again I find myself standing at the law courts, clutching a small piece of paper that is my number to wait in line. It’s 9:20am, and I’m holding number 192.

How long could that possibly take?

Over the day we drink coffee, talk strategy, and wait in a room with many hundreds of other people trying to deal with the government. It staggers me that regular Egyptians have to deal with this every day of their lives, and Ayman explains everyone has just learned to live with it, though they are obviously not happy about it. Occasionally someone blows up at the workers behind the counters, though everyone else just waits glassy-eyed. I join the latter.

At 2:50pm our number is slowly approaching when we learn I need a stamp in my passport indicating I’m “legal” in the country before we can do this business with the Power of Attorney. We almost run for ten minutes to get to the other building, where the guards at the entrance won’t even let us in. The boss went home at 3pm (it’s now 3:15pm) and nobody can stamp my passport. Ayman tries to plead in Arabic, but they’re having none of it.

We walk dejectedly back to the law courts and wait our turn anyway, though very quickly we’re told nothing can be done without the all-important stamp.

It has been an entire day on our feet and waiting in a crowded building to achieve literally nothing. Talk about disappointment.

At 5:30am the next morning when my alarm sounds, groundhog day has become very real.
After battling the same old traffic, I go directly to the law courts alone, hoping to get a number to again wait for the day. I arrive before the office opens at 8am, and so my name is taken and put on an informal list, and I’m told I am number 79. Over the next hour hundreds and hundreds of people arrive and push to the front, yelling, shoving and smoking. When the doors do open some people are allowed to shove through, while the rest of us wait. Eventually a man starts calling out names off the list, though everyone is yelling so loudly we can’t hear anyway. It seems people from the list are going in, but then the guy on the gate just lets in a wave of ten other people randomly, which causes everyone to push and yell more. This continues for 45 minutes before it becomes obvious waiting is a waste of time, and I will never get in.
I don’t like to, but I play the foreigner card on the insistence of other people I have been waiting with. I push to the front and when the guard sees my passport he immediately lets me inside. Without a word of Arabic I have to insist repeatedly I need a number from a particular section, and I’m finally handed number 123, much to my relief.

The yelling and screaming involved up until this point have been insane, and I can’t fathom why people behave this way. I’m tired and over-caffeinated (and sick of all the cigarette smoke) and can’t understand how anyone thinks this is an intelligent way to get things done.
Nevertheless I have my number, and so I walk across the city to get the stamp in my passport that caused failure yesterday.

In that building I find my way to the right place, and the girl behind the counter stamps my passport without a single question in less than five minutes. The stamp is in Arabic, and I hope I’ve done the right thing.

Later back at the law courts a translator arrives just before our number is called, and hilariously he speaks very bad English – much worse than Ayman. At the desk copies are made, stamps are stamped and fees are paid before we move to another window to duplicate it all into a computer, another window to duplicate it all for I don’t know why, another window to duplicate some of it, and then, finally, to the window of the boss lady.
Every single piece of paper in the entire building must pass her desk, and I stare blankly for thirty minutes as she hovers her big stamp above every single document in the building, either giving the stamp, or waiving disappointed people away.
I have to wonder what happens when she is away sick.

By some miracle we get what we need, pay the translator (he translated nothing), and feel we have finally achieved what we needed to in the law courts, after almost three full days of trying.
I secretly hope I will never set foot in the building ever again.

Again I’m moving before dawn, and again I’m battling traffic for longer than makes sense. I think I’ve gotten used to the driving already. That, or I just don’t care anymore and use the Jeep to push in more than I usually do. Most cars are smaller than me anyway, and clearly the law of the road applies – the biggest vehicle has the right of way, no matter what. I also don’t try to swerve around pot holes like I normally would. The Jeep can take it.

I bring the Jeep to a gas station and over the next three hours it is meticulously cleaned from top to bottom, inside and out. I don’t think it has ever been so clean, and finally I’m satisfied. Hopefully Canadian customs will be satisfied too.

Ayman and I head back to the port where we complete the process for me to enter, then drive around to the main entrance where I’m allowed to drive the Jeep in. Even with my new entry permit the guard still wants some “backsheesh” (a bribe) to let me in. We take the Jeep over to the traffic police to be inspected and for some of the paperwork to be checked and cancelled. Again they have a hard time finding a VIN on the Jeep, and eventually settle for the one on the base on the windshield. Next I drive over to the Customs inspection building where more paperwork is shuffled and more inspections are completed.

It’s now late in the day and Customs are going home, so we leave the Jeep inside the customs building deep inside the port, and head home for the night. I feel extremely strange leaving the Jeep behind, and don’t enjoy the ride home on a public bus without my trusty companion.

….

I’m back in the city at 8:30am, the frantic pace no different on a public bus. I notice the driver pushes in a lot more than I do in the Jeep. Soon we’re back at the port entrance, and this time a guard makes a big deal of not letting me in, even though I have my permit – again he wants backsheesh, and again I feel like telling him to stick it. My patience is wearing out, but I’m too exhausted to do anything.

At Customs we set about waiting, and waiting, and waiting until sometime after 3pm when we’re given the all clear. Ayman and I now drive deeper into the port, to an area where containers are stacked high on all sides and trucks are frantically slinging them around while men on forklifts load and unload goods from them. Sitting on it’s own is a shiny 20 foot container, which I’m told is all mine.

jeep in port 720x407

Surrounded by faceless containers

The Jeep has new suspension, taller solar panels and slightly different size tires than the last time it was in a container, so I measure everything four times before I’m satisfied it will fit through the door by about three inches.
There is no need to air down the tires.

dan ayman in port 640x480

With Ayman moments before driving into the container

Again the waiting begins, and the shadows are growing long before Ayman’s man comes back with the all important papers we need. I’m given the all-clear and reverse the Jeep into the container, the final time I will drive it on African soil. I manage to just squeeze out the drivers side door, and while I’m disconnecting the battery a couple of guys chock the wheels and lash the Jeep to the floor of the container using massive ratchet straps. This is to prevent is sliding around inside the container during the long voyage home. Hopefully it’s sturdy enough.
They’re in such a rush they already have the door half closed before I squeeze out, snap a quick cell-phone photo and the door is slammed shut.

jeep in container all done 720x407

Immediately before closing the door

Suddenly, my Jeep is gone.
I have spent virtually every day of the last three years within sight of it, and I feel like a limb has been cut off. I’ve spent thousands of hours driving it, sleeping in it, cooking in it and feeling safe inside my house on wheels.

Now I can’t even see it. All I can see is a huge steel box, among millions of other steel boxes.

Another thirty minutes later we’re issue an official customs seal, which we put onto the container door latch, and our work is done.
I keep my fingers crossed the container won’t get lost, or dropped, or fall off the ship as it crosses the Atlantic.
But there is nothing I can do about that, I just have to trust the gods. Inshalla as they say here. (God willing).
I bid farewell to my new friend Ayman, and feel triumphant on the bus ride home.

….

In the morning I sleep late before wandering the streets on foot. I sit to enjoy a coffee, and order another as the sun starts to warm me. It’s winter in Egypt, and the nights are surprisingly cold. For the first time in a long time, I can actually step back and see the forest for the trees. In fact it dawns on me there actually is a forest, and in fact maybe even other forests. I’ve been the trenches for so long it’s a very strange sensation to take a peek outside.
I feel immensely calm, and I can’t help smiling at what I’ve done, and the new adventures in the months to come.

At 6pm I catch a taxi to the airport, and watch my final breathtaking African sunset.

From the time I first dreamed of Africa until now, tt has taken almost a full decade to fulfill my dream.

After 999 days and 53,400 miles around Africa, I step onto a plane and bid farewell to the continent that has forever changed me.

-Dan

 

P.S. New adventures are not far away – check back for more updates very soon!

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62 Responses

  1. Sham says:

    This was awesome.
    Been following you for a good while now, I’m glad you made it OK. Damn, this experience with the Egyptian administration felt more excruciating than anything else you’ve encountered during your trip!
    Can’t wait for your next adventure, hope you’ll get the Jeep back OK. Cheers!

    • Dan Grec says:

      Thanks Sham,

      I think also I’m exhausted to the bone, and so my patience and tolerance are not what they once were, making the whole Egyptian bureaucracy bit much harder to take. I got it done in the end, which is all that matters!

      -Dan

  2. Johnny says:

    Congrats on a successful voyage. I’ve been following your journey from day one and can’t tell how impressed I am with your tenacity and good will. At times I felt like I was along with you. You’ve done things most people would only dream about ! When I first started reading about your travels through Africa I thought you would be rolled and killed at any moment. You have singlehandedly restored my faith in people ! Great luck in your future endeavors. I can’t wait to follow along

    • Dan Grec says:

      Thanks Johnny,

      I’m happy to hear my stories and photos have shown you there is a lot more to Africa than what we “think” we know!

      -Dan

  3. Chris says:

    Good story man. Glad you’re safely on the way home.

  4. Paul Smith says:

    Wish we’d got to meet here in Port Elizabeth but things conspired to have us back home from Canada when you’d already headed up north. After 11 years in N America we’re back home with no plans to ever leave again. Good luck for your future travels Dan, was great to follow you some of the way.

  5. DON LUSK says:

    Dan thank so much. I think I read every one of your posts these last few years.
    Good luck with your next adventure.

    Don Lusk

  6. Eric Bostrom says:

    Glad you made it safe to the end of this adventure. Look forward to sharing the book with my kids!

  7. Kris says:

    Congratulations Dan!! That was an epic read over the last 3 years. From your home page “The circumnavigation of the continent will take about two years, through roughly 30 countries, and cover +/- 80,000 miles.” Then your stats “AFRICA MILES DRIVEN: 52,580, EXPEDITION DAYS: 985″ way under on miles and over on days but im guessing the experience was 10 fold of these numbers. I’ll miss my weekly reads and look forward to following your next adventure wherever/whenever that will be.

    • Dan Grec says:

      Thanks Kris!

      Yep – the lesson we can learn from this is that I’m useless at estimating time limits and distances – And I don’t care at all! hahaha

      All the best!
      -Dan

  8. Ryan says:

    And for over three years I’ve eagerly checked for new posts each evening. Glad to hear it won’t end for long! Good work, my friend, and safe travels!

  9. Wow. You accomplished an amazing thing. I’ve followed your story from day one. Congratulations.

  10. Adam says:

    I’ve followed your whole journey. Congrats on making it to the end! Hopefully your Jeep makes it back to Canada safely. What’s next for you?

  11. Ramie says:

    Hi Dan

    Well done. I have been following you and taking notes for my trip. Im planning to go through the east coast and will write to you once start.
    Wish you a safe trip back home.

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hi Ramie,

      That’s awesome! Absolutely please fire away with any questions you have, I’d be very happy to help in any way I can!

      -Dan

  12. Mike Webb says:

    Well done Dan, enjoyed following your adventures.
    A long road from Mildura to Africa
    Mike

    • Dan Grec says:

      Thanks Mike! It’s been a pleasure sharing it with everyone, and it’s going to take a long time to realize it’s over for now.

      ….. what next? I’ll think about it! haha
      Thanks for your stories and inspiration too! Lots and lots of good ideas for the future.

      -Dan

  13. C7 GT1 says:

    Sorry I didn’t catch the suspension changes or tire size change. Did you change to 3.5 inch lift(talked earlier on in the trip that would have been a better choice for the jeeps wieght) and what about the 285/75r17 tire size, if that was the tire size that you changed to how did you get that tire size to fit? Also congrats on completing your journey, thanks for bringing us along for the ride!

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hey there,

      Yes, exactly. I changed to the 3.5 AEV lift to better handle the weight – I should have done it from the start as you said.
      The tires I have now are 285/70r17 because they were available in South Africa – and they are within 1/4″ in every direction the exact same size as the 34×10.5r17s were. So I still don’t need spacers and there is no rubbing.

      Cheers!
      -Dan

  14. bartjeej says:

    I’ve “only” been following your journey since the Congo (and read back the first third of course), but man, it’s been a pleasure. I have and will again backpack around West Africa, but mostly using public transport, the experience is way different. Using public transport, you live the life of the locals a little bit more I suppose, but you also have way less freedom to just take a side road and check out what’s there, especially when most of the traveling is done in shared taxis… My plan was always to backpack all the way around Africa, but your stories have made me consider one day getting a car to complete the journey… yours has been epic stuff. Looking forward to seeing what comes next for you!

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hey man,

      Thanks very much for the support! That’s awesome to hear about your backpacking adventures.
      Absolutely, going in local transport is an entirely different trip – much, much more connected to the locals and not so “separate” as I was at times.
      All the best on your future adventures, it really is a magical continent!

      -Dan

  15. Adam says:

    Thankyou Dan for allowing me (and all of us other readers) to share in your adventures!

  16. Doc Marty says:

    Hi Dan, it was – in all honesty – a true and pleasant experience following your trip while prepping for our own small version of it. Hope you have a safe trip home and that reverse culture shock does not hit too hard.
    Simple question, but one where size does matter: Did you ship the Jeep back in a standard (door height 2.292 m) or high cube container (door height 2.597 m)?
    Happy landings, safe home coming – and always a pocket full of African sand to reach in when back home!

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hi Doc,

      Thanks very much, it’s been great fun sharing the whole experience. I hope your prep goes well, I’m curious to hear about where you are headed?
      I shipped the Jeep in a standard container, I’d say it fit through the door by about 2-3 inches height wise.
      The problem with a high-cube container is they only come in 40 ft. lengths (as far as I know), so you wind up paying double the price….

      All the best!
      -Dan

  17. Russell says:

    Hi Dan.
    Congratulations on making it to the end. What an amazing achievement. As others have said, thank you so much for sharing it with us through your posts, photos and the Youtube vids. You’ve not just had the time of your life but been an inspiration to many.

    Looking forward to hearing about your next adventure.

    Best wishes,

    Russell

  18. Olli says:

    Hey Dan , Finally you made it ! And without a Carnet all the way to the Border of Egypt ! I wonder if you managed to go thru Africa without a Bribe as you have planned it ? Hope to read more from and about your trips ! Cheers

    • Dan Grec says:

      Thanks Olli!

      I did pay one bribe in Ivory Coast, though later I heard that it might be a somewhat official fee, or partially an official fee… Certainly from there until the end of Africa I never paid a bribe – once I had my feet under me and spoke enough French I was confident and sure of what I was doing!

      All the best,
      -Dan

  19. Jamie says:

    An amazing achievement, Dan. Congratulations and commiserations on reaching the end of your journey.

    Can’t wait to hear what you’ve got in store for us next.

    P.S: Hope the Jeep makes it home okay,

  20. Congratulations on an amazing journey and accomplishment! I’ve enjoyed your missives and look forward to following your adventures in the future! Safe travels!

  21. Dylan says:

    I only recently (maybe a month ago) found out about your blogs from Africa and PanAm but I’ve been reading through them all. I love what you’re doing and I hope I someday get to do something similar :)

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hey Dylan,

      I’m happy to hear you found my site and are enjoying my stories and photos!
      Let me know if you have questions about anything!

      -Dan

  22. Sam Morgan says:

    Congrats Dan! I stumbled upon your YouTube channel back when you were in west Africa and I’ve absolutely loved following your journey ever since, blogs and videos. Any grand plans for a future road trip?

    • Dan Grec says:

      Thanks Sam!

      … I’m sure the future holds plenty of new adventures. I have a few irons in the fire now, and a bunch of ideas and dreams, though nothing is actually locked in. Soon I’m setting out on an extension of sorts to the expedition!
      Stay Tuned.

      -Dan

  23. John says:

    Hi Dan,

    Greetings from Nairobi, Kenya.

    I ‘joined’ your travels while you were in Gabon and I have enjoyed every blog and the videos. I’m glad you accomplished your mission in Africa while at the same time showing the world the good vibe about Africa that most mainstream media tends to miss out on.

    Best wishes on your future adventures.

    John.

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hey John,

      Thanks very much, it’s been a pleasure to show the world what Africa “on the ground” is really like. I will miss the wonderful people for the rest of my life!

      -Dan

  24. Hugo at Tracking Happiness says:

    Just awesome. Bravo. Props. Respect. You have it all.

    I’ve been following you for so long now and it feels like I’ve completed this entire expedition next to you. Amazing content right here, this really deserves more views. I wonder what’s next: is it a trans-Siberian express in a jeep? Can’t wait to find out what’s next.

    Cheers!

    Hugo

  25. Mike says:

    What and epic and inspiring trip, adventure, story! Can’t wait for the book and your next adventure.

    Thanks for taking us along for the ride, Dan!

    Cheers,
    Mike

  26. John says:

    I have followed your journey since the beginning, and I clicked each article for the 3 years. I have now reached the last article, and I have to admit, I’m actually sad to know your journey, and for me, an escape to a place I’ve never been, is over. As a fellow Jeep Rubicon owner, I also enjoyed seeing the Jeep in so many places. I had a couple of questions though,

    What ever happened to your girlfriend? She seemed to disappear and we haven’t heard much, if anything, about her.

    How much do you think you spent for this entire trip?

    Thank you again for sharing your story with us!

    John

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hey John,

      Thanks for following along and for all the interest – it’s always great to hear people enjoy my stories and photos.

      To your questions:

      1. Our relationship did not survive the trip, and we parted ways. Life on the road is not easy.

      2. Most people traveling as two in a 4×4 spend around $1500-$2000 USD per month, for absolutely all expenses. I would say I was on the low end of that, maybe even a fraction lower, being solo and cooking almost my own food helped keep it down.

      All the best!
      Keep checking back, new exciting updates incoming!

      -Dan

  27. Mark says:

    Breathtaking. A perfectly worded ending to Africa. Congratulations on accomplishing what most people only dream of.

  28. Chris says:

    Congrats on completing the expedition! Followed your Alaska->Argentina adventures and now this grand journey. Wow! Recharge your batteries and bank account and dream of what’s next. Asia over to Australia, maybe? 😉

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hey Chris,

      The plan is absolutely what you said – rest, recharge, dream and save for a while.
      Nothing is locked in, but there are plenty of great options ! haha

      -Dan

  29. Dan Yankovich says:

    I stumbled on your web by accident, and a very pleasant one at that. Your tour was absolutely fantastic. I so appreciate the filming and narration. I now feel like I was along with you for a few days. What a wonderful experience . I know how hard it is to enjoy yourself and film ate the same time. I am an avid jeeper in Arizona and enjoy the old trails and railroad tracks. Thanks again for the hard work and enjoy the trails.

  30. Simon says:

    Just a huge THANK YOU Dan for living my dream and sharing it with me

  1. May 8, 2019

    […] and the Jeep is crossing the mighty North Atlantic. You can read about the insanity here: Africa Ends | The Road Chose Me I'm still in disbelief that it's over. More updates to come, including tons of info on costs, […]

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