OFTAT - Some personal thoughts

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November 29th 2007
Published: December 6th 2007
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These last 10 weeks or so have been one of the highlights of my life. I have always wanted to do this journey, ever since I was a teenager, but the timing was never right, or I hadn’t the funds - there was always a reason why I couldn’t. But then this chance came and I have so enjoyed fulfilling the dream.

If anyone thinks you have to be a young man to do this sort of journey they should think again. Even with more than 70 years behind me I never had a day’s unfitness whatsoever. I was up and down the car’s ladder every day putting the roof tent up or down, we managed to change wheels - but never single handedly.

We traveled in very tough and comfortable motorcars for whom my respect grew as the 10,000 miles we covered passed by. Even though I have been a Landrover man all my life I must concede that our Toyotas are wonderful vehicles, so much so that I could easily be persuaded to turn round and drive back home again! Ian was the only one to suffer punctures (3 in all) and I only had to top up my tyres’ air pressure on two occasions. But enough of cars.

Our objective was to explore Ethiopia, and this we did as far as possible within the time available. It is a very big country with some of the world’s most spectacular scenery which we continually admired and enjoyed. The people were kind and friendly, except for the children in the areas frequented by tourists. They were a real pain in the neck and almost spoilt it for us all. I have commented on this earlier and not only I, but the others too, found their behaviour very distressing. My concern is, what sort of adult society will they grow into?

Needless red tape in some countries was a pain, the worst being our arrival into Egypt where it took 7 hours to get through all the formalities - not helped by the fact that it was Ramadan as well. And the hidden expenses - $50 here and another $50 somewhere else as everyone tried to get onto the band wagon of milking the travelers. We met one family who had taken 2 days to get into Egypt, north bound through Aswan. They really were given a hard time, poor things.

But to counter these annoyances we had the delights of the Roman antiquities, the unique attraction of Petra, the wonders of the deserts where we were never bored by the scenery, and so on. We ate good, simple food and after we left Europe, drank hardly any wine whatsoever - the beers we could buy locally were excellent. The one exception, of course, was Sudan. We hardly had any rain at all, only on about 5 or 6 occasions, and at this time of the year we were never too hot - but for this we must give some credit to our cars’ air conditioning. We never slept through a night without some sort of covering.

We lost a few things on the way but never had anything stolen. We were always welcomed and local people were generally kind and friendly. My lasting impressions will be of a full moon over Africa; people, people and more people; terrible roads once we had reached the tropics; and some of the world’s most exciting scenery. Would I do it again? Yes!


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