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William Lewis

The Four Corners Challenge

Fundraising for Plan International UK

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£2,714.60
raised of £25,000 target
by 28 supporters
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  • Event: The Four Corners Challenge

Plan International UK

We work with the world’s poorest children to help them build a better future.

Charity Registration No. 276035

Story

Thank you for visiting our fundraising page. Please dig deep and sponsor us online.

We are setting out to drive around the Four Corners of the World, something never before attempted in one journey, and we're doing it to help raise the funds for the restoration of the primary school in Guatemala.  They need three new class rooms, a new roof, a library and educational materials for the children. 

We're both in our 60s and we're setting off from the UK heading north to the top of Norway, going East into North Russia dropping down into Siberia and East to the Pacific via a dip down into Mongolia.  The car will then be shipped to Anchorage and we'll drive from top to bottom of the Americas.  Ship again to Australia, across the island continent, ship again to Cape Town and back up Africa and home.  Help us on our way by making a donation.  

Donating through this site is simple, fast and totally secure. It is also the most efficient way to sponsor me: Plan UK will receive your money faster and, if you are a UK taxpayer, an extra 28% in tax will be added to your gift at no cost to you.

UPDATE 17 MAY:

We are in Southern Norway, 11 days into our journey.  The weather has been fairly kind until this morning when we woke to find it snowing heavily.  We have now had to pause for two hours because of work in a tunnel ahead and are waiting to join a convoy to go through it.   The snow continues to fall and we wonder how many miles we will achieve today with an almost total white out and slow moving everything.
 
Nearly a thousand kilometres to go around lakes and fjords to Trondheim and then another 1400 to Alta where we will be staying with friends for a few days.  Hopefully the weather will improve and we will speed up again.
 
UPDATE 25 MAY:
On a computer at the telecom office in Nizhny Novgorod.  This is our fifth day in Russia.  We left Norway last Monday morning having turned our first corner.   The journey through Norway was quite superb.  All the tales of the country's amazing landscape were true.   Precipitous mountains descending straight into the fjords.  I had always imagined these were narrow stretches of water, but in fact they are wide and very deep.  We were excited by the first waterfall we saw tumbling by the road but after four days were barely stopping to look at them.  The winter snows were melting so there were torrents of water rushing everywhere. We were mightly impressed by the efficiency of the ferries crossing the fjords wherever needed, roll on roll off.  We must have used a 12 or so.  

Our visit happened to coincide with Norway's National Day, 17th May, and it was also the day we arrived at the home of our friends the Karlstroms in Finnmark.  We spent a couple of precious days with them, enjoyed their stunning hospitalily and then headed for our first corner, the Northern tip of Norway, at Nord Kapp.  It is the most northerly part of mainland Europe, very windy and never to be forgotten.

We spent a couple of hours there before turning back inland and then East to Kirkenes close to the Russian border.  We spent last Sunday night there and first thing on Monday morning we crossed the border.  It took 2 and a half hours to get through the formalities but were treated with great courteous and kindness.  Even when they asked William to unpack the roof rack they provided a ladder and a pair of helping hands.   And so we were in Russia and embarking on our way across the largest country in the world.

We have been travelling in Russia for four days now and have reached Nizhny Novgorod on the banks of the mighy Volga River.  We have taken a day off to day to re-group and plan the next few days.  The next 48 hours will bring us into Siberia.   Will check in again as soon as the opportunity arises.

Many thanks to all of you who have made contributionsto our Guatemalan project through this site, particularly Colin Sturge, Pam Vicks, Robin Wood and David Todd.  I will try to send personal thanks to everyone as soon as I can.   We anticipate increasing problems with communications as we travel East, but so far so good.
UPDATE 29 MAY:
 
We are at the end of our third week and three days into week four.   We are 6000 miles into are journey and taking a 'day off' in Yekatinerburg in the Russian Urals.   This is the city where the Czar and his family were murdered by the Bolsheviks in July 1918.  Today it is a bustling place in the throes of massive building and infrastructure improvements.  Lots of modern buildings, side by side with beautiful Czarist relics and the classic, small wooden houses of the local inhabitants which we have seen all the way through this massive country.

It is very difficult to take in the size of Russia.  We still have another 4500 miles approximately to go before we reach the East coast. So far we have been pleasantly surprised by the roads which have varied from rutted and potholed to smooth highways.  But we have made very good time, sometimes driving up to 400 miles in a day.  William has been able to endorse his longheld believe that Russian women are very beautiful. 

We have been stopped by the police on numerous occasions and fined twice for minor infringements, these contacts have varied between threatened arrest and huge friendliness.  Nothing a little money couldn't sort out.  Our overnight accommodation has varied between sleeping one night in the truck (having arrived much too late into Vologda) and a Soviet style hotel in Nyzhny Novgorod with a stunning view over the Volga River, to an overnight in a simple room over a roadside cafe.  William delighted with a price at 12 pounds for the two of us, although for me the loo and shower left quite a bit to be desired.

We head into Siberia tomorrow and both feel that the hardest part is yet to come.

UPDATE 6th JUNE:
It is Wednesday 6th June and we are parked on the beach on the shores of Lake Baikal, well East of Irkutsk.  Since our last update we have driven we have driven from Yekatinerburg between 3000 and 4000 miles.  We have done some huge days, 12 hours and more, in the car.  We have stayed at some diverse overnight spots, from a shared room behind a bar to a very nice hotel in the University town of Tomsk, where we actually treated ourselves to a day off.
 
It has taken three long days drive to reach the shores of Lake Baikal, the world's deepest lake said to contain 20% of all the fresh water on the planet.
 
After a rest day camping beside the great lake we will head to Ulan Ude for a night before tackling the Mongolian Border the following day and making our way South to Ulan Batur.
 
Last night we spent at a wonderful homestay, typical Siberian wooden house and had the fantastic experience of bathing in a banya, a sort of combination sauna and shower.  Very much love and good wishes to all our friends and family.
 
UPDATE 14th JUNE
 
Since we were last in touch we have have had to say goodbye to our roof rack, it just had enough and didn't way to go to Mongolia.  Some how we managed to pack its contents into the back of the car.

We made the crossing from Siberia into Mongolia a week ago.  Despite fears of difficulties at the border we had another uneventful crossing with lots of helpful Russian and Mongolian officials.

Once into Mongolia there was immediately a different feel to the landscape - rounded hills and sweeping plains and dotted amongst them white gers (yurts) the traditional home of the Mongolian nomad.  It is basically an eight sided tent made from felted wool, although most of those we have seen appear to have a waterproof outer layer.  We saw one of them under construction and there's a wooden frame underneath the felt.  Although 50% of Mongolians now live in an urban setting the other 50% still live in gers although only 25% follow the nomadic way of life.  They are herders - of sheep, goats, horses and camels.  It is said that there are 13 times more horses in Mongolia than people and we've certainly seen huge herds, in fine condition.  We suspect we may have eaten a bit of horse meat too.

We spent our second night in the capital Ulaan Baatar, a huge, bustling city, which has grown in size and population dramatically in the last few years.  There is construction everywhere and there is said to be a property boom here mainly driven by the Chinese.

Our plan was to drive East from UB to Ondorhaan and Choybalsan and this we did.  From Choybalsan we planned to head North and cross back into Russia at Ereenstav, however, we had not taken into account the state of the roads outside the capital, that is, there aren't any really. Well there are but they are just a track across the plain and when one becomes rutted someone just simply starts another one next to it and so on and so on.  Some 'main roads' we travelled on had up to 10 possible tracks to choose, and then of course, some of them dive off left or right to goodness knows where, possibly just a ger that was camped there a few weeks before.   Tempers became a bit frayed as we struggled to find the right path - our progress came to an abrupt halt on Wednesday when one of the tracks we were following ended at a Chinese border post.  Fortunately we were still on the Mongolian side.  The soldiers were not all that friendly and appeared sceptical of our story that we were heading North to go back into Russia.  They took our passports into some inner sanctum and kept us out in the mid day sun under guard in our car.

After nearly two hours and some insistance from us the passports were returned by we were told it would not be possible to cross into Russia as planned, we would have to return the way we had come.  It's the first time (apart from a brief bit if mis-navigation in Norway) that we have not been travelling in the right direction and not a good feeling.  We have wasted over 1000 miles and had to drastical change our schedule.  We had checked this border crossing with everyone we could ask, but the British Embassy in Mongolia confirmed as we tracked back that we couldn't take our own vehicle into Russia in the North East.  So we are back in Ulaan Baatar for a couple of nights and will be back in Russia, all being well, tomorrow and, hopefully, back on track for Vladivostok.  However, we have seen some wonderful images including the amazing statue of Gengis Kaan on horseback.'
 
 UPDATE Friday 21st JUNE

Greetings from Vladivostok !   We have made it to the end of our Russian/Mongolian adventure.  We safely returned to Russia from Mongolia last Saturday.  It was our longest bordercrossing so far at 6.5 hours, the latter part of which was in the pouring rain.  We struggled back to Ulan Ude (250 kms) and arrived in time for a late supper at a Mongolian restaurant - strange choice really as we had both had enough of Mongolia by that time.

We set off bright and early on Sunday morning for the long trek East.  Our target that night was Chita and it was an uneventful day in the car, the 'machine' as it is in Russian.  It was just as well the day was easy because the coming week was to challenge us both (and the car) more than anything so far.  We knew that it was going to be tough - the road conditions could not be confirmed in advance and as it turned out it was over 2,000 kilometres of 'dirt'.  We calculate that there might have been 80 or 90 kms of tarred road.

It took us three days, four punctures, a broken windscreen and the entirely unwanted mistake of me locking our only remaining set of keys in the car after a particularly gruelling day.   It came as a surprise to me that a car can lock itself - I did nothing except put the keys on the front seat and close the door whilst I made a trek to one of the many isolated pit toilets which abound in Russia.  Not somewhere you would want to take your car keys frankly.  Anyway there were lots of helping hands from a group of delightful young guys on contracts to drive new cars from Vladivostok to points East.  Smashing the rear quarter light was the only solution and we were off again, although destined to sleep in the 'machine' that night.

We made it into Khabarovsk, feeling euphoric, for a late supper on Wednesday.   William who had driven all of the 2,000 kms was too buzzy to sleep and stayed up 'til 3am in the hotel nightclub.  Too much for me, I need my 8 hours.

The final run down to Vladivostok yesterday was a bit anticlimatic - well there was tar on the roads for one thing.  We did meet up with a group of fellow travellers (our first of the trip so far) at a service station.  Two cars on their way from Australia to France and one English car on its way to Australia.  Good fun to swap stories and advice.

We've had a lovely day today sipping beers overlooking the Russian Pacific fleet in Vladivostok harbour, hard to believe this city was closed to all foreigners until the mid 1990s - it's a fun bustling place now.

We are now booked on a ferry tomorrow for Korea with ET (the machine) - we had various options for the next part of the journey and we are still not sure what awaits us in Korea and whether ET will be going on from there by air or sea.  The outcome of this will determine what we do next. 
 
UPDATE 5th JULY
 
We left Russia by ferry the Saturday before last from the port of Zarubina, 224 kms south of Vladivostok (or rather we had to drive back up the peninsula and round).  We had been tipped off by some Aussie travellers we met on the road going in the opposite direction (different itinerary), that it was much less complicated and easier to ship out of Zarubina than Vlad itself.  We heard horror tales of people waiting to get out of Vlad for two weeks because of red tape and volume of shipping movements.  It proved good advice.  We arrived at 1.30pm and were on board and sipping beers by 5pm having done all the customs stuff.  ET (our car's regio is ET06BHP - we believe this is a good vibes id) was the only one on the car deck, looked quite strange sitting there on his own.
 
We landed at the Korean port of Sokcho on the Sunday, which was fine except they wouldn't let us take the car from the port until third party insurance was arranged and as this couldn't be done until the Monday morning we had to languish there for a day.  It's an active fishing port and the area where we landed was full of fish shops, although not fresh fish, dried fish elaborately wrapped and displayed.  The fresh fish market was a different arrangement - live fish in oxygenated tanks - choose your fish and have it cooked or eat it raw on a stool at the stall.  There were things in those tanks that should never have been taken out of the sea - the weirdest looking creatures, not remotely appetising for us.

The Monday morning brought more surprises when we discovered that we had to pay a US$5,500 bond for the car whilst it was in Korea.  This would be returned we were assured once the car left the country.  Eventually on our way to Seoul on the Monday and two days of frustrations and eventual success in finding a shipping agent for ET for the journey to the States.  We looked at air freight first but it was hugely expensive, so settled for a sea freight option.   Their was an evening of anxiety when our Freight Forwarding Agent told us that he did not believe a Korean car would be allowed into the States (ET being a Hyundai).   This was resolved by next morning and we drove down from Seoul to Busan last Wednesday.  We had ET at the container port first thing on Thursday morning.  He was loaded into the container by 11am and we both felt quite emotional to see him go (he had been our home pretty much for the last 8/9 weeks).   The shipping company treated us with the utmost kindness and courtesy - providing cool drinks in the steamy heat, perhaps a little surprised that these two English people seemed so reluctant and anxious to let go of their car.  

With ET on his way to Seattle, we took a ferry to Japan for a week's break - although we can't quite keep William from getting behind the wheel again.  We are now driving round Japan in a hire car.   There's a sense of marking time, but we're both glad to have been here.  The Japanese countryside has delivered all the things we expected.   We are heading for Hiroshima tonight after a couple of days exploring the Inland Sea.  We're booked to fly out of Fukuoka via Seoul to San Francisco on Saturday morning.
 
UPDATE 30th July
 
We arrived safely in San Francisco on Saturday 7th July, collected an Avis car and drove up to Lake Tahoe.  We had friends to stay with there and spent a really great few days exploring the area.  A day's drive to Virginia City and Carson City plus Reno Nevada on the way back to Tahoe was a marvellous glimpse of what life might have been like to in the wild west.  Virgina City particularly has been retained very much as it would have been in the 19th century.

We received news by email on Monday 9th July that the car would be in Seattle by the 12th so we headed North.  It was a stunning trip through the Redwood Forests National Park, wow, what amazing trees, but as usual with us it was a flying visit.  We headed on up the Oregon Coast and into Washington State.  The next few days were full of frustrations - we discovered that although ET's container had arrived in the port there was still a huge process to go through.  It wasn't until the following Wednesday, 18th, that we finally received the word that Customs and the US Department of Agriculture were happy and we could collect the car.   It was a really emotional moment when we saw him being driven out of the bonded warehouse - extraordinary that one can feel this way about a vehicle but then he is much more than that to us now.

We were both so happy to be back on the road, we headed straight to Bellingham near the Canadian border and two days later bordered the MV Columbia for a three days voyage on the Alaska Marine Highway.   Known as the Inside Passage, it's a sea route.  The ferries call at small towns only accessible by water, hence it is regarded as a Highway.

It was an amazing experience from all sorts of viewpoints.  For a start we did not have a cabin, because our reservation was made so late there were none availabe and so we slept on the deck in our sleeping bags.   We were probably the oldest people on board doing this by about 25 years.   The days were a treat of watching hump backed whales at play, bald eagles in profusion and wonderful scenery. 

We left the ferry at Haines in Alaska and began our drive North to pick up our real mission.  It had been almost exactly three weeks since we had been going in what we regarded as the right direction.   Fairbanks in Alaska was to be our most Northerly point on this part of the journey and to get there we went on the Alaska and Richardson Highways and the Denalli Highway.  The latter on local advice that on a clear day it would deliver the best views of Mt McKinley, one of the highest mountains in the World.  And it certainly did.  But then Alaska also delivered:   a close encounter with a grizzly bear and her cub, several moose at close quarters, two black bears happily grazing by the road side, a baldheaded eagle,who just a few feet from us, simply stared us out, until he finally took off when he saw me leap out of the car to get a closer shot.   And the scenery - we have actually run out of superlatives.

We are now on our way across Canada and en route to St John's in Newfoundland where we will reach the second of the four corners and make our turn to the South, arriving ultimately (we hope) in Tierra del Fuego.

Thank you to all who have become our sponsors since we last checked inWe arrived safely in San Francisco on Saturday 7th July, collected an Avis car and drove up to Lake Tahoe.  We had friends to stay with there and spent a really great few days exploring the area.  A day's drive to Virginia City and Carson City plus Reno Nevada on the way back to Tahoe was a marvellous glimpse of what life might have been like to in the wild west.  Virgina City particularly has been retained very much as it would have been in the 19th century.

We received news by email on Monday 9th July that the car would be in Seattle by the 12th so we headed North.  It was a stunning trip through the Redwood Forests National Park, wow, what amazing trees, but as usual with us it was a flying visit.  We headed on up the Oregon Coast and into Washington State.  The next few days were full of frustrations - we discovered that although ET's container had arrived in the port there was still a huge process to go through.  It wasn't until the following Wednesday, 18th, that we finally received the word that Customs and the US Department of Agriculture were happy and we could collect the car.   It was a really emotional moment when we saw him being driven out of the bonded warehouse - extraordinary that one can feel this way about a vehicle but then he is much more than that to us now.

We were both so happy to be back on the road, we headed straight to Bellingham near the Canadian border and two days later bordered the MV Columbia for a three days voyage on the Alaska Marine Highway.   Known as the Inside Passage, it's a sea route.  The ferries call at small towns only accessible by water, hence it is regarded as a Highway.

It was an amazing experience from all sorts of viewpoints.  For a start we did not have a cabin, because our reservation was made so late there were none availabe and so we slept on the deck in our sleeping bags.   We were probably the oldest people on board doing this by about 25 years.   The days were a treat of watching hump backed whales at play, bald eagles in profusion and wonderful scenery. 

We left the ferry at Haines in Alaska and began our drive North to pick up our real mission.  It had been almost exactly three weeks since we had been going in what we regarded as the right direction.   Fairbanks in Alaska was to be our most Northerly point on this part of the journey and to get there we went on the Alaska and Richardson Highways and the Denalli Highway.  The latter on local advice that on a clear day it would deliver the best views of Mt McKinley, one of the highest mountains in the World.  And it certainly did.  But then Alaska also delivered:   a close encounter with a grizzly bear and her cub, several moose at close quarters, two black bears happily grazing by the road side, a baldheaded eagle,who just a few feet from us, simply stared us out, until he finally took off when he saw me leap out of the car to get a closer shot.   And the scenery - we have actually run out of superlatives.

We are now on our way across Canada and en route to St John's in Newfoundland where we will reach the second of the four corners and make our turn to the South, arriving ultimately (we hope) in Tierra del Fuego.

Thank you to all who have become our sponsors since we last checked in
 
Until the next time from us both
 
UPDATE AUGUST
 
Since we last checked in we have spent almost a month crossing and re-crossing North America.   From Alaska we crossed the border into the Yukon Territory of Canada just after Tok (as in Tokyo) striking East to tackle The Top of the World road.
 
We had heard many tales of the beauty of the scenery on this isolated road and we weren’t disappointed.  Travelling along the high ridges, with mountain ranges stretching away as far as the eye could see it certainly lived up to its name.  There was little traffic on the Top of the World except for a few other intrepid souls with their Recreational Vehicles.  RVs are enormous ‘caravans’ with a driving cabin built in and they are luxuriously fitted out inside, but they are unwieldy things to drive around.  Some of them are as large as a single-decker bus. Most owners seemed to be towing a normal car behind so that when they do ‘park up’ for the night they have something more sensible to drive around in.  They are a very popular way of going on holiday in Canada.
 
The Top of the World road took us to Dawson City at the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon Rivers.  It’s a marvellous old gold rush town, full of atmosphere and we had a great night there listening to readings of the poetry of Robert W Service and going to watch the can can girls at Diamond Tooth Gertie’s saloon.  We were sad to leave but pressed on to the South through the Yukon and into Northern British Columbia there to begin the long run across the Canadian prairies.  It was everything the geography textbooks described – flat for miles and miles, the flatness punctuated only by the occasional towering grain silo and associated low roofed buildings.  There were probably small settlements somewhere, but winging our way across the Trans Canada Highway there was not very much to see – Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario – all names to conjure with, but for us part of a fast moving parade of territory.
 
The countryside changed dramatically when we reached the top of Lake Superior, the flat prairie lands giving way to forested hills and lakes.   We drove around the great Lake and dropped down to Saulte Ste Marie, then West around Lake Huron.  We had decided to give ourselves a treat and take a slight diversion to Niagara Falls, so we traversed Lake Huron by ferry and made our way to the famous landmark.  It was a dramatic and delightful encounter with the forces of ‘nature’, we made the effort to get up before dawn and go to watch the sunrise there.  We were totally surprised to find ourselves completely alone, a great way to miss the crowds if ever you have the chance to go.
 
We moved on from Niagara moving flat out to reach the second of our Four Corners at Cape Spear, Newfoundland.  We arrived there on Friday 10th August, via a ferry ride from Nova Scotia – it was quite an emotional moment, in a dramatic setting.  It was time to take a deep breath and consider what we had done.  It was 14 weeks since we had left home, we had travelled  21,769 miles,  571.5 hours in the car – and we were still speaking to each other.   There are only two more corners and around 55,000 miles to go.
 
We left Cape Spear to make the long journey across the States to New Mexico.  More of this next time.
 
All good wishes and love from two weary travellers.
UPDATE NOVEMBER
It´s a long time since our last update.  For those of you still interested we are alive and kicking - from Cape Spear we had a fairly unspectactular (comparatively) drive through New England and 26 states of the Union to New Mexico where a lot of you may be aware, we took and break and went home for (among other things) the Rugby World Cup and had the satisfaction of seeing England beat Australia and France.

We are now back on the road and approximately 3000 miles on, throughTexas, Mexico, Belize and now in Guatemala, where we have just had the most amazing day.  I would just like to remind everyone who has not yet sponsored the 4 Corners Challenge that this is a truly worthwhile cause.   We have spent the day with William´s sponsored child, in the rural community where she lives.  We have visited the school for which we are trying to raise the funds to add a new roof, classroom materials and a library.  Despite the fact that it is school holidays 30-40 parents and children turned up to meets us.  They extended the warmest possible greeting and hospitality to us - everything we are trying to do is obviously deeply appreciated and, we now know, very much needed.

We met Yoselin Garcia and her family and were able to arrive with some essential stable commodities and the gift of a bicycle for her (the main means of transport in the region).  We met the school student council - a group of four 10 year olds who spoke brilliantly and with great self confidence.  William gave a brief description of what we were doing, capivating the audience with a geography lesson that was probably beyond anything they had heard before.   We met many of the Plan personnel who were impressive to say the least - the work they are doing is tremendous and it is all focussed on the ´right of the child` to education, health, food, housing and self esteem.

We will add some photographs with our next report, but for now we are heading off again tomorrow to El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.   In touch again soon.

William and Christine

20th December 2007
Happy Christmas from Buenos Aires It has been a busy five weeks since we last checked in. After the memorable experience of meeting Yoselin and visiting the school in Guatemala we headed for the El Salvador border. There we were greeted with the rather surprising news that they do not allow right hand drive cars into El Salvador. Greasing of palms was offered but declined! We left the border post scratching our heads. We had hoped to avoid going into Honduras but we were now faced with an inevitable border crossing into the country we had been told was the most violent in Central America. We debated long and hard about this but could see an altnerative crossing into El Salvador just 135 miles from the Honduras-Guatemalan border, so took a chance that a different border official would take a different view about our right hand drive car. Happily we made the right decision, although that day we spent 7/8 hours at borders with endless paperwork and waiting around. It was a nightmare but we were through Honduras and into El Salvador. The next four days were a passing parade of a country a day just about, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama – it was almost too quick to leave a lasting impression, but suffice to say – bananas and volancoes sums it up. The race to Panama was brought about by our schedule for shipping to Ecuador. The car had to be in its container by 23rd November – we made it with a couple of hours to spare and with the help of a delightful Panamian driver called Arturo who literally took over and got us through all the formalities of police, customs and port authorities. Bless you Arturo! With ET safely on his way we re-grouped - William to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands and Christine to the UK for a surprise appearance at her godaughter´s wedding. The first week of December saw us re-united and back in the ´saddle´ as t´were to tackle the long run down South America – from Ecuador to Peru, Chile, across the Andes into Argentina (a wonderful two days at the Iguacu Falls) then into Uraguay and across the river into Buenos Aires. And this is where we are – but there are problems. ET developed an overheating problem going over the Andes and we had to be recovered on the Argentinian side. We spent most of one night sitting in the vehicle on top of a low loader to arrive at the city of Salta where we had been told there was a Hyundai dealership. Repairs were undertaken and we were off again but a problem persisted. William nursed ET into Buenos Aires and here we wait to see if the required parts can be found before everything stops for Christmas. So dear family, friends and colleagues it could be Buenos Aires for Christmas! With which we send our love to you all and good wishes for the very best of Christmases.
Thursday 10th January 2008

Happy New Year to everyone logging in to the website.   Since spending a delightful if totally ´different´Christmas in Buenos Aires - cruising the delta of the Rio Plata and eating huge steaks the the famous Estancia Restaurant (no turkey or Christmas pud in sight) - we were finally on the road again on 27th December and wending our way South to Tierra del Fuego to turn the third of our four corners.

We both had great expectations of travelling through Patagonia, but the Eastern part of it was long, dry and to be honest a bit boring.  We arrived to spend New Year´s Eve in the town of Rio Gallegos to find it, what can only be described as, ´closed´.  We did eventually find one hotel that was open and one Chinese restaurant willing to serve the starving of the town including us with a buffet meal.   Things livened up at midnight though when, I would say, 90% per cent of the inhabitants appeared in their gardens to set off fireworks! 

On again on 1st January to cross into Chile and back into Argentina for Tierra del Fuego - known locally as Fin del Mundo - end of the World!   Nothing between us and the South Pole but some ocean and the Antarctic continent.  We reached the World´s Southern most city, Ushuaia, and trekked out to the T del F National Park for the actual Southern most point to celebrate reaching Corner Number Three!!!  The landscape in Tierra del Fuego was magnificent - lakes, snow capped mountains and forests.  The city of Ushuaia is ringed with them increasing the sense of islolation, although the harbour was busy with a veritable flotilla of Antarctic cruise ships.

We turned our backs on Antarctica and began the three and a half thousand kilometre run up to Santiago.  We crossed briefly into Chile for Punto Arenas and the Torres del Paine national park and then back into Argentina for the breathtaking Perito Moreno glacier.  We spent a night at an Estancia, this one was a huge sheep ranch with a wonderful old house and welcoming 4th generation Scottish immigrant family to tend to our every need (including supper at 1030pm which is when we arrived).  Next morning we went to watch the sheep shearing, memories for William of days in New Zealand working in a shearing shed.

Some moments of comfort before the going became really tough - if anyone ever suggests you take a run up Argentinia´s Route 40 think very hard and do the research.  Four punctures, wheels changed in 100mph winds and dust storms and a cracked windscreen; miles and miles between service stations - it took both of us, and certainly all my strength, to help William put 30 litres of emergency fuel in the tank in a howling wind, when we couldn´t even haul the passenger side door open.  And I was only holding the funnel and filter.

We have struggled with the Patagonian desert winds for several days now and were grateful when today we reached Mendoza and the Argentine wine country.   After a couple of days to recover we´re heading back into Chile to prepare the car for shipping to Australia and ourselves for the flight to Sydney, where we will wait for ET to catch up with us and we´ll be on the road again.

Farewell for now from two fairly battle weary travellers although a glass of Argentine red is on the menu for this evening and no doubt spirits will soon be revived.

28th March 2008
 
Greetings from Australia!!   Both we and ET arrived safely in Sydney, the two of us a few weeks ahead of the car, which gave us time to catch up with family and friends.   There had been dire warnings from many sources that Australian Quarantine and Customs would make it very difficult and long winded for us to bring the car in, but we were back on the road in record time.   ET arrived on the 27th February and we were driving it out of the container depot five days later.   Quarantine is tight here because Australia has been protected from many animal diseases and pests, common in other countries, by its sheer geographical isolation and the powers that be want to keep it that way.
 
ET was driven straight to the workshop for a thorough check up and service before we packed up again and set off to drive across the island continent, waved off by two of Christine's sons and one of William's five daughters.   It was an 8 day run from East to West coasts through some truly wonderful landscapes.   We saw koalas and kangaroos in the wild; explored the dramatic limestone coast of Victoria with its 12 Apostle rocks; we learned the history of one of Australia's most renowned bushrangers, Ned Kelly, at Glen Rowan;  we climbed to 40 metres on a treetop walkway in the tingle and karri forests of the Southern region of Western Australian and learned to become proficient at the classic Aussie salute - a hand waved across the face to disperse the flies and mozzies.  We stopped in to visit Christine's son, Sandy, a winemaker in South Australia and had a fast lesson in winemaking with plenty of sampling from the tanks.   A large slice of the journey was spent crossing the Nullarbor Plain, 1500 kilometres of flat, at times featureless, country, but the achievement is in having done it all and we felt huge respect for those attempting the crossing on bicycles.

In a way it seemed too quick for such a huge open land, but we reached Perth in plenty of time to connect with ET's waiting container and the car is once again at sea, this time en route to Cape Town, the fourth corner and we will join it there on the 17th April for the final leg of our great adventure, all the way up Africa and home.  Watch this space!

Thank you dear friends, family and colleagues for your support!

7 May 2008

Greetings from Africa!  After unwelcome delays ET arrived in Cape Town on 27th April.   We were plagued by a week of three Public Holidays in South Africa but our efficient freight forwarding company, Schenker, had the Customs inspection booked for Wednesday 30th April and by mid-day we were driving out of the container depot.  As always we both felt emotional at seeing the car and its contents again and busied ourselves getting ready to be on the road once more.

We left Cape Town on Friday 2nd May, a year and a day since we left home, and first drove South East to Cape Agulhas.  The reason for this was that it is the Southern most point of the African continent and, for us, the incredible moment of turning THE FOURTH CORNER!!   Great though the feelings were, we both knew that there was a long hard road ahead.  And, for the second time, we turned our backs on the ocean that leads to Antarctica and looked North towards the 10,000 mile run that will lead us from Cape Agulhas to home in England.  

We have now covered the first fifteen hundred miles (only 8,500 to go) and are taking a ‘lay’ day in Maputo, Mozambique.   The journey up the Eastern coast of South Africa was fascinating.  We touched parts of the famed Garden Route and drove the entire length of the Transkei, into Kwazulu Natal and, yesterday, on across the border into Mozambique.  

Yesterday was a day to remember in this year of many days to remember.  We had found a delightful riverside lodge in Northern Zululand on Monday night and sat out until late with a roaring fire under, what William assured me, was a wonderful African sky.   He has much more experience of Africa than I have but my eyes are wide open to take it all in.    We left the lodge early yesterday morning planning to visit the Tembe Elephant Park and this proved to be a wonderful experience.  We were almost the only humans there, but there were plenty of animal inhabitants.  On our way out I just happened to mention to William that I would like to see just one more elephant, when we turned a corner to be confronted by the largest bull elephant you can imagine right in the middle of the track.   As he seemed inclined to approach us William put the car in reverse and starting backing up the road as fast as seemed prudent.   The video camera was rolling at the time and the conversation in the car will undoubtedly raise a few smiles amongst those who know us.

We left the park in one piece shortly afterwards and made our way to the Mozambique border.  As border crossings go it was a breeze and the day seemed destined to be one of our best until we took a close look at the ‘secondary road’ that we were to take to Maputo.    A sandy track is probably the best description and a mile and a half from the border we became impossibly stuck in the sand.  The car was up to its chassis in sand and despite William’s valiant efforts to dig us out the task was impossible.   Just as I set out to walk back to the border a minibus full of Africans came from the opposite direction and we were able to hail them for help.  It took 10 of them and a tow from the minibus to pull us out of the sand.  That was probably the worst moment of the day but it then took three hours to cover 104 kilometres to the Maputo ferry on the worst roads we have ever encountered, even in Russia.

We just about fell into the first decent hotel we found.  

Our planned journey through Africa is:  Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt.   Keep checking in to see our things evolve.

21 May 2008

The African Adventure continues

We are in Nairobi.  We arrived here last Sunday afternoon and thanks to our friend, Don Ayton, we are enjoying a few days staying at the Nairobi Club. 

This time has been taken out of the journey in order to obtain Visas for Ethiopia and Sudan, the next two countries on our itinerary.  We were told Sudan Visas could be difficult but William has just returned from the Embassy with two validated passports so we’ll be on our way North again tomorrow.

Since last checking in we have driven through Mozambique and Malawi.  We chose a route that took us just about the length of Lake Malawi.  Thankfully there were no major hitches through either country – both of which were beautiful with friendly people and great places to stay.  In particular at Senga Bay on the shores of Lake Malawi at a very cool place called Cool Runnings.  Here we met an amazing woman called Sam.  She’s an expat Zimbabwean, who, apart from running her small hotel also uses her nursing training to bring medical help to the villagers among whom she lives.  She was an inspiration and we spent long hours talking with her into the evening in an attempt to understand a little more about the people amongst whom we were travelling.

From Malawi we crossed into Tanzania, said to be one of the friendliest countries in Africa – we, however, immediately ran foul of the local police who threatened to arrest William because we didn’t have third party insurance for the car.  This, we had been told a few moments earlier by the Customs officials at the border, was not required.  So back we went to find one of the throng of insurance touts who had been trying to collar us earlier.

Things improved after that, although we had a major decision to make about which route we would take through Tanzania.  We wanted to visit the Ngorongoro Crater, famed for its game. We could either go the long way round (1300kms) on a tar road or the direct route on 600 kms of unsealed road.  After much debate we opted for the direct route – not our best decision.  It took two days of bone jarring, difficult driving to reach the Ngorongoro turn off.  Considering what lies ahead in Ethiopia and Sudan we could well have done without it! 

Ngorongoro itself however, made up for almost everything.  We spent four hours driving ourselves around the floor of the crater and saw, buffalo, zebra, elephant, monkeys, lion, flamingoes, impala. Wilderbeest – not the mention huge Masai herds of cows, goats and donkeys just grazing in amongst the others.

After Saturday night in Arusha, which was buzzing with preparations for the East African Summit, we had a leisurely drive up to Nairobi.  We both feel that the toughest part of our entire journey is still ahead of us, but we’re in good spirits and looking forward to the challenge.

Love and good wishes from us both.

MONDAY 9TH JUNE – KHARTOUM, SUDAN

Well, it’s a good job we were in good spirits when we last checked in as we left Nairobi.  The last two and a half weeks have tested our spirits beyond anything we might have anticipated.

It all began two days after we left Nairobi.  The tar road gave way to the ‘dirt’ or more accurately the ‘stones’ after the Northern Kenyan town of Isiolo. Our next stop was further North at Marsabit and we set out from there on Saturday 24th May.   The road was horrendous, deeply rutted, with sharp stones.  Eighty kilometres out we had double front punctures – bad enough on an isolated road but we then discovered that the special tool that releases safety nuts on the wheels had been broken when new tyres had been put on in Australia.  We couldn’t get the wheels off to change the tyres.   We waited for five hours on the road until we could hail a passing lorry and hitch a ride back to Marsabit leaving ET on the roadside.
 
William worked out whilst we were waiting that if he could find a welder he could overcome the problem of the broken tool.  Back in Marsabit he found a welder and hired a lorry to go back and retrieve ET – we’d left Marsabit at seven that morning, William eventually returned (with ET) at two a.m. the next day.    First thing on Sunday 25th the welder was at work on our front wheels, in fact all four wheels were taken off and the safety wheel nuts replaced with ordinary ones.  These had been stashed in William’s kit of spares for the last 13 months.  By 1130 we were leaving Marsabit again..  

We took it very slowly the second time out and reached Turbi, 120 kms from the Ethiopian border without incident.  We had heard, in talking with people in Northern Kenya, that there had been serious troubles in the North, with massacres between warring tribes as recently at 2006.  So I guess we should not have been surprised when at the police road block at Turbi the officer in charge informed us that from there we had to carry an armed policeman in the car with us and travel in convoy.  Bandits on the road to the border had held up travellers only two days earlier.

We re-arranged the back of the car and were joined by a friendly, heavily armed policeman, called John.   Leading the convoy (us and a lorry, heavily laden with people and cargo, also carrying an armed policeman) we spent the afternoon waiting for it to catch up with us.  It was dark when we approached the last 30 kilometres of the journey.  Completely without warning ET lost all power. The convoy of two came to a halt and everyone gathered round the car. It seemed the engine was boiling although the temperature gauge had not moved from ‘normal’ – we needed a tow.  Having spent the afternoon waiting for the lorry to catch up with us to keep the convoy together we thought our request for help was not unreasonable.   The lorry driver, however, proved to be the only bandit we met that day, demanding US$200 before he would help us.  William was furious and basically told him F……. off, which he did, leaving us on a desolate, bandit ridden road in the dark.  

Both the armed policemen, to their eternal credit, elected to stay with us.  We waited in the dark for the engine to cool down enough to top up the water, with only the light of our two torches, and my trusty head torch (a brilliant gift to us from a dear friend before we left home, providing light with both hands free).  Eventually, the car started again and we limped in to Moyale, with our two armed guards, in the dark.  We have never been so grateful to see the lights of a town.  The two guys took us to the guesthouse where they were staying and a room was found for us – we were both exhausted and the tin of cold baked beans we shared for supper on the verandah of the Sesso Guest House tasted better than anything we’d eaten in weeks.

Looking back, now to that weekend it was just a preparation for the trials ahead.  The problem of the car overheating plagued us all the way through Ethiopia and into Sudan.  Our impressions of Ethiopia, a truly beautiful country, have been coloured by our car problems.  We spent two days in Addis Ababa, and much of this was focussed on the Hyundai workshop, where they attempted to track down the overheating problem.   We had a false start from there too, when we set off and had to turn back after 80 kilometres with the engine once more overheating..   We had little inclination to admire our surroundings, and passed World Heritage sites with barely a glance, so concerned were we with the need to reach the next big centre where we hoped to find help.   Dealing with nursing our ‘sick’ car was further ‘enhanced’ when we developed a problem with the propshaft.  A violent ‘clunking’ noise accompanied us through one entire afternoon and evening, travelling at 14 mph, again in the dark, until we could reach help in the town of Bahir Dar on Lake Tana.

So, now we are in Khartoum and we’ve been here for over a week.  It’s 49 degrees centrigrade and there is no shade.  The car is in the workshop and we await parts from England before we can even think of moving on.   The people here are sheer delight but the conditions are ‘difficult’ – it’s a cash only society, and whilst we had provided for that, we had not expected to be here more than 10 days or have to pay for substantial work on the car. So the pennies are being seriously counted. The highlight has been to learn a little about this desert land and to meet some wonderful Sudanese, particularly, Waleed Arfafat, who has been looking after us like a son, when all he was supposed to be doing was making our bookings for the Wadi Halfa/Aswan ferry.

We have fingers crossed that we will be on board that ferry next week, two weeks later than planned and look forward to bringing you an up date from Egypt with better news.  On a personal note, the lives of our families have moved on a pace in the year and a bit we’ve been away.   William has become a grandfather for the 6th time with the birth of Stefan to Mercedes in New Mexico and more recently news from daughter, Haydee, that grandchild number 7 is due in December.  Christine received the wonderful news in Nairobi of the birth of her 2nd grandchild, a granddaughter, Poppy to her son Tom and fiancée, Angelique, in Australia just three weeks ago.  So our ‘glass’ is definitely half full not half empty – although now we come to think about it the actual glass contains mainly water as Sudan is totally ‘dry’!

Farewell for now from Khartoum.
Greetings from Africa!  After unwelcome delays ET arrived in Cape Town on 27th April.   We were plagued by a week of three Public Holidays in South Africa but our efficient freight forwarding company, Schenker, had the Customs inspection booked for Wednesday 30th April and by mid-day we were driving out of the container depot.  As always we both felt emotional at seeing the car and its contents again and busied ourselves getting ready to be on the road once more.We left Cape Town on Friday 2nd May, a year and a day since we left home, and first drove South East to Cape Agulhas.  The reason for this was that it is the Southern most point of the African continent and, for us, the incredible moment of turning THE FOURTH CORNER!!   Great though the feelings were, we both knew that there was a long hard road ahead.  And, for the second time, we turned our backs on the ocean that leads to Antarctica and looked North towards the 10,000 mile run that will lead us from Cape Agulhas to home in England.  We have now covered the first fifteen hundred miles (only 8,500 to go) and are taking a ‘lay’ day in Maputo, Mozambique.   The journey up the Eastern coast of South Africa was fascinating.  We touched parts of the famed Garden Route and drove the entire length of the Transkei, into Kwazulu Natal and, yesterday, on across the border into Mozambique.  Yesterday was a day to remember in this year of many days to remember.  We had found a delightful riverside lodge in Northern Zululand on Monday night and sat out until late with a roaring fire under, what William assured me, was a wonderful African sky.   He has much more experience of Africa than I have but my eyes are wide open to take it all in.    We left the lodge early yesterday morning planning to visit the Tembe Elephant Park and this proved to be a wonderful experience.  We were almost the only humans there, but there were plenty of animal inhabitants.  On our way out I just happened to mention to William that I would like to see just one more elephant, when we turned a corner to be confronted by the largest bull elephant you can imagine right in the middle of the track.   As he seemed inclined to approach us William put the car in reverse and starting backing up the road as fast as seemed prudent.   The video camera was rolling at the time and the conversation in the car will undoubtedly raise a few smiles amongst those who know us.We left the park in one piece shortly afterwards and made our way to the Mozambique border.  As border crossings go it was a breeze and the day seemed destined to be one of our best until we took a close look at the ‘secondary road’ that we were to take to Maputo.    A sandy track is probably the best description and a mile and a half from the border we became impossibly stuck in the sand.  The car was up to its chassis in sand and despite William’s valiant efforts to dig us out the task was impossible.   Just as I set out to walk back to the border a minibus full of Africans came from the opposite direction and we were able to hail them for help.  It took 10 of them and a tow from the minibus to pull us out of the sand.  That was probably the worst moment of the day but it then took three hours to cover 104 kilometres to the Maputo ferry on the worst roads we have ever encountered, even in Russia.We just about fell into the first decent hotel we found.  Our planned journey through Africa is:  Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt.   Keep checking in to see our things evolve.The African Adventure continuesWe are in Nairobi.  We arrived here last Sunday afternoon and thanks to our friend, Don Ayton, we are enjoying a few days staying at the Nairobi Club.  This time has been taken out of the journey in order to obtain Visas for Ethiopia and Sudan, the next two countries on our itinerary.  We were told Sudan Visas could be difficult but William has just returned from the Embassy with two validated passports so we’ll be on our way North again tomorrow.Since last checking in we have driven through Mozambique and Malawi.  We chose a route that took us just about the length of Lake Malawi.  Thankfully there were no major hitches through either country – both of which were beautiful with friendly people and great places to stay.  In particular at Senga Bay on the shores of Lake Malawi at a very cool place called Cool Runnings.  Here we met an amazing woman called Sam.  She’s an expat Zimbabwean, who, apart from running her small hotel also uses her nursing training to bring medical help to the villagers among whom she lives.  She was an inspiration and we spent long hours talking with her into the evening in an attempt to understand a little more about the people amongst whom we were travelling.From Malawi we crossed into Tanzania, said to be one of the friendliest countries in Africa – we, however, immediately ran foul of the local police who threatened to arrest William because we didn’t have third party insurance for the car.  This, we had been told a few moments earlier by the Customs officials at the border, was not required.  So back we went to find one of the throng of insurance touts who had been trying to collar us earlier. Things improved after that, although we had a major decision to make about which route we would take through Tanzania.  We wanted to visit the Ngorongoro Crater, famed for its game. We could either go the long way round (1300kms) on a tar road or the direct route on 600 kms of unsealed road.  After much debate we opted for the direct route – not our best decision.  It took two days of bone jarring, difficult driving to reach the Ngorongoro turn off.  Considering what lies ahead in Ethiopia and Sudan we could well have done without it!  Ngorongoro itself however, made up for almost everything.  We spent four hours driving ourselves around the floor of the crater and saw, buffalo, zebra, elephant, monkeys, lion, flamingoes, impala. Wilderbeest – not the mention huge Masai herds of cows, goats and donkeys just grazing in amongst the others.After Saturday night in Arusha, which was buzzing with preparations for the East African Summit, we had a leisurely drive up to Nairobi.  We both feel that the toughest part of our entire journey is still ahead of us, but we’re in good spirits and looking forward to the challenge.Love and good wishes from us both.MONDAY 9TH JUNE – KHARTOUM, SUDANWell, it’s a good job we were in good spirits when we last checked in as we left Nairobi.  The last two and a half weeks have tested our spirits beyond anything we might have anticipated. It all began two days after we left Nairobi.  The tar road gave way to the ‘dirt’ or more accurately the ‘stones’ after the Northern Kenyan town of Isiolo. Our next stop was further North at Marsabit and we set out from there on Saturday 24th May.   The road was horrendous, deeply rutted, with sharp stones.  Eighty kilometres out we had double front punctures – bad enough on an isolated road but we then discovered that the special tool that releases safety nuts on the wheels had been broken when new tyres had been put on in Australia.  We couldn’t get the wheels off to change the tyres.   We waited for five hours on the road until we could hail a passing lorry and hitch a ride back to Marsabit leaving ET on the roadside. William worked out whilst we were waiting that if he could find a welder he could overcome the problem of the broken tool.  Back in Marsabit he found a welder and hired a lorry to go back and retrieve ET – we’d left Marsabit at seven that morning, William eventually returned (with ET) at two a.m. the next day.    First thing on Sunday 25th the welder was at work on our front wheels, in fact all four wheels were taken off and the safety wheel nuts replaced with ordinary ones.  These had been stashed in William’s kit of spares for the last 13 months.  By 1130 we were leaving Marsabit again..   We took it very slowly the second time out and reached Turbi, 120 kms from the Ethiopian border without incident.  We had heard, in talking with people in Northern Kenya, that there had been serious troubles in the North, with massacres between warring tribes as recently at 2006.  So I guess we should not have been surprised when at the police road block at Turbi the officer in charge informed us that from there we had to carry an armed policeman in the car with us and travel in convoy.  Bandits on the road to the border had held up travellers only two days earlier.We re-arranged the back of the car and were joined by a friendly, heavily armed policeman, called John.   Leading the convoy (us and a lorry, heavily laden with people and cargo, also carrying an armed policeman) we spent the afternoon waiting for it to catch up with us.  It was dark when we approached the last 30 kilometres of the journey.  Completely without warning ET lost all power. The convoy of two came to a halt and everyone gathered round the car. It seemed the engine was boiling although the temperature gauge had not moved from ‘normal’ – we needed a tow.  Having spent the afternoon waiting for the lorry to catch up with us to keep the convoy together we thought our request for help was not unreasonable.   The lorry driver, however, proved to be the only bandit we met that day, demanding US$200 before he would help us.  William was furious and basically told him F……. off, which he did, leaving us on a desolate, bandit ridden road in the dark.   Both the armed policemen, to their eternal credit, elected to stay with us.  We waited in the dark for the engine to cool down enough to top up the water, with only the light of our two torches, and my trusty head torch (a brilliant gift to us from a dear friend before we left home, providing light with both hands free).  Eventually, the car started again and we limped in to Moyale, with our two armed guards, in the dark.  We have never been so grateful to see the lights of a town.  The two guys took us to the guesthouse where they were staying and a room was found for us – we were both exhausted and the tin of cold baked beans we shared for supper on the verandah of the Sesso Guest House tasted better than anything we’d eaten in weeks.Looking back, now to that weekend it was just a preparation for the trials ahead.  The problem of the car overheating plagued us all the way through Ethiopia and into Sudan.  Our impressions of Ethiopia, a truly beautiful country, have been coloured by our car problems.  We spent two days in Addis Ababa, and much of this was focussed on the Hyundai workshop, where they attempted to track down the overheating problem.   We had a false start from there too, when we set off and had to turn back after 80 kilometres with the engine once more overheating..   We had little inclination to admire our surroundings, and passed World Heritage sites with barely a glance, so concerned were we with the need to reach the next big centre where we hoped to find help.   Dealing with nursing our ‘sick’ car was further ‘enhanced’ when we developed a problem with the propshaft.  A violent ‘clunking’ noise accompanied us through one entire afternoon and evening, travelling at 14 mph, again in the dark, until we could reach help in the town of Bahir Dar on Lake Tana.So, now we are in Khartoum and we’ve been here for over a week.  It’s 49 degrees centrigrade and there is no shade.  The car is in the workshop and we await parts from England before we can even think of moving on.   The people here are sheer delight but the conditions are ‘difficult’ – it’s a cash only society, and whilst we had provided for that, we had not expected to be here more than 10 days or have to pay for substantial work on the car. So the pennies are being seriously counted. The highlight has been to learn a little about this desert land and to meet some wonderful Sudanese, particularly, Waleed Arfafat, who has been looking after us like a son, when all he was supposed to be doing was making our bookings for the Wadi Halfa/Aswan ferry.We have fingers crossed that we will be on board that ferry next week, two weeks later than planned and look forward to bringing you an up date from Egypt with better news.  On a personal note, the lives of our families have moved on a pace in the year and a bit we’ve been away.   William has become a grandfather for the 6th time with the birth of Stefan to Mercedes in New Mexico and more recently news from daughter, Haydee, that grandchild number 7 is due in December.  Christine received the wonderful news in Nairobi of the birth of her 2nd grandchild, a granddaughter, Poppy to her son Tom and fiancée, Angelique, in Australia just three weeks ago.  So our ‘glass’ is definitely half full not half empty – although now we come to think about it the actual glass contains mainly water as Sudan is totally ‘dry’!Farewell for now from Khartoum.
 
THURSDAY 17TH JULY 2008 - WE'RE HOME

We drove ET up the ramp onto the cross Channel ferry at 1400 today.  We felt rather as if we were in a time warp as the ferry left Calais and made its way through driving rain to the shores of dear old Blighty.   I braved the ‘hurricane’ like conditions on the deck to catch the first glimpse of the white cliffs of Dover, William opting for comfort of a window seat and then it was familiar territory – we were home! (There’s nothing like a typical English Summer day to make you really appreciate it.)  Regardless of the weather we can’t quite believe it.
 
55842 Miles
1499 Hours of driving
174 Physical days in the car
5294 Miles in rental cars
48 Countries
2 crossings of the Equator
4 crossings of the Tropics
 
We last checked in as we waited for repairs to ET in the torpid heat of Khartoum. There was little to do there except for the weekly city tour, the ‘highlight’ of which was visiting the Nile Yacht Club where Lord Kitchener’s gun boat sits sadly neglected high and dry on the banks of the river.  To say we were glad to be on our way North from Khartoum would be an understatement.   We spent 4 days wending our way up the course of the Nile.  We quickly adapted to the sleeping habits of the locals who would not dream of sleeping inside a building, even a hotel.  All beds (light weight metal frame contraptions) are dragged out into courtyards and on to streets for the night.  As we were always on the road very early we’d drive through the Nubian villages on the banks of the Nile passed somnolent bodies at every turn.  It was all so quiet you didn’t notice them at first, but a closer look revealed  occupants of all ages in rows, in their beds, along the streets.  We learned to recognise three quite distinct groups of Sudanese – the Africans, the Arabs and the Nubians.   Everything you’ve ever read about the Nubians is true – they are tall, handsome, very dark skinned – and so absolutely charming.  Our friend, Waleed, had told us how much we’d love the Nubian villages and had recommended ‘home stays’ along the route to Wadi Halfa.  It was a wonderful experience and made up a great deal for the discomfort of our time in Khartoum.
We arrived in Wadi Halfa on Monday 16th June and just over a month later we were home.  That month has brought some of the most wonderful images of the entire journey.  The ferry crossing of Lake Nasser was a beautiful peaceful respite for 24 hours, with the temperatures cooling a little as we travelled further North.  The chaos of embarking and disembarking the ferry is probably best forgotten.  Although, whilst I jetted to Manchester for a wedding, it is not to be mentioned lightly that William spent four days importing ET into Egypt.   Reunited we explored Cairo and drove the short distance to look at the pyramids.
 
We needed to acquire visas for Syria and had hoped to get them at the Embassy in Cairo – we quickly learned that was impossible and although we might be granted them at the border the chances were not good, one should apply in the country of residency.   So I was on a plane back to London to apply for them, an undertaking complicated by the fact that my British passport was full. I managed to get a new one and have the forms and the passports lodged for their visas in 24 hours. 
 
Thanks to our dear friends Annie and Don Ayton for making it happen.  Then it was back on the plane to Cairo for the second time in a week.   The passports with Syrian visas were to be couriered to us in Jordan and for us it was off across the Sinai Peninsular.
 
We took a brief look at the Suez Canal, and an equally brief look at St Katharine’s Monastery and Mount Sinai before bolting for the coast at Nuweiba and the ferry to Aqaba in Jordan.   It took the Egyptian authorities 4 days to process ET into the country and it took 14 hours for them to process us out for the hour and a half journey across the Gulf of Aqaba.  William has pondered at length on why it took the Israelis 6 days to defeat them in the Six Day War, in his view the Egyptians couldn’t organise the proverbial in a brewery and has suggested that a training visit to Dover and Calais should be compulsory for all Egyptian ferry employees and Customs officials.
 
We began our run through the Middle East with the wonders of Petra, wow, how did they carve those cliffs?  We were immensely surprised by the richness of the historical sites in Jordan and loved the country.  Next came Syria and armed with our passports, collected from DHL in Amman, we spent a wonderful evening exploring the old city in Damascus.  We had thought we would take our time through the Middle East but that evening we looked at each other, both a little weary and battle worn and decided it was time to go home.    It took us 11 days from Damascus to Abinger – through Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Slovenia, Austria, Lichenstein, Switzerland and France.   It was sheer joy to arrive in Normandy to meet up with William’s eldest daughter, Zoe, and her family and William’s ex wife June.  We spent two wonderful days with them, grandchildren Jake and Molly keen to hear some stories of grandpa’s travels.  Then it was North to Calais and for me the joy of seeing my French daughter in law, Flo, and little grandson, Alex, and Flo’s parents to wave us off on to the cross Channel Ferry.
 
We’ve done it!  Four Corners – 55,842 Miles; 1495 hours of driving (all done by William); 48 countries;  2 crossings of the Equator; 4 crossings of the Tropics; more  borders than we have time to count; 14 months of our lives – and we’re still speaking to each other.
 
Thank you for supporting us!

William and Christine
 

William and Christine

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