"The European Tour" has begun and a surprise party! (Portugal/Spain)

Since October 10th 2013: 131 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country.
 
It's good to be back in Europe, but...
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Let's do this in chronological order. In last weeks blog I was with my fiancée and we had been to Alhambra near Granada (in Spain). We then headed to Madrid because she would be flying home from there. My fiancée had arranged for our accommodation somewhere in downtown Madrid. It's a great city by the way! She originally had a restaurant booking for us at a fancy place. So fancy that I couldn't wear my own clothes and needed shoes, shirt and pants. We abandoned that reservation - because frankly I wasn't too keen on it...
 
She told me she had another idea but it would be a surprise?! Okay then, let's go with that. The night we reached Madrid I was feeling rather average. I had some nausea and a beginning headache so I wasn't up for much. However my fiancée insisted that we headed out for the surprise and I manned up, swallowed a few painkillers and had a long warm shower. Then we headed out. I wasn't in control. I hadn't been in control since we reached Madrid. She was in control. She knew where our accommodation was, she knew where the surprise was and what it was...I was just zombie'ing around. We walked for about 20 minutes before we reached the Plaza de España and walked across it. Towards the center there was a huge monument which is known as the 'Monumento a Cervantes' and for whatever reason my fiancée insisted that we would head towards the statue which I found a little odd? She had been rushing me as we clearly had an appointment which we were late for. I may not have been in control but I could certainly see that the path leading left of the monument was much more efficient than crossing in front of the monument which even had some construction work at its base and the path near the monument might be cut off for passage! This was not optimal but I followed her anyway and as I turned around a big granite block MY SISTER SUDDENLY APPEARED!! SURPRISE!!! My mother was standing behind her: SURPRISE!!! My fiancées sister, Pil, was there too...and two of my mates from back home, Lars and Jesper, Jesper's girlfriend Marianne was there too and so was my fiancées longtime friend Käthe!! THAT WAS CERTAINLY A SURPRISE!!
 
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The greatest gift of all! :)
 
Also it was a weird combination of people? Appear from my sister, who visited a year ago when I was in Tanzania, I hadn't seen any of these people since 2013! And I had never seen this particular constellation of friends and family together before?! Weird and wonderful all at once :) We headed out for tapas together as it slowly dawned on me that I wasn't dreaming. Then we had a fair amount of alcohol because we were all Vikings from the north! Later on we had more drinks and then that night ended. Crazy??
 
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My mom and my youngest sister :)
 
The next morning I met up with Lars as my fiancée headed out with the girls. My 69 year old mother did a solo speed tour of Madrid. Jesper and Marianne were on their own and had a more relaxing approach to enjoying Madrid in the 46 degrees Celsius heat (114.8 Fahrenheit)! In the evening we met up again and had more tapas and alcohol. Because we were still all Vikings from the north!
 
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My friend for 20 years: Lars! :)
 
The next day Pil, Käthe and my sister left early so I saw them off the night before. The rest of us met for lunch and a last conversation in Danish. I tell you; I could see the streets back home, I could feel the red brick walls, I could smell the freshly cut grass and taste the salt of the Danish waves crashing in on the green flat wonder which is Denmark. That's The Kingdom of Denmark in the high north of Europe! After lunch we called a taxi and Lars, Jesper, Marianne and my beautiful fiancée left for the airport. I was left alone once again while the busy city life of Madrid continued uninterrupted.
 
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It was behind this monument the surprise party began!
 
That night I boarded a bus to Lisbon in Portugal and set out to start "The European Tour", where we will revisit 8 European countries. That was by the way a horrible bus ride with no legroom for a real man and do to that you could hardly lean the seat back. I hardly slept that night and the guy beside me was loud and moved around a lot. However I must stress that there were no checkpoints, there was no passport control and absolutely no visa requirements! I didn't even notice when we crossed the border that night. Back in beautiful Europe! My sweet lady Europe! :)
 
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Attention to detail! Thank you very much :)
 
We rolled into Lisbon around 05:00am. Pretty tired but that's really not news during the Saga. I found wifi and had a look at my messages: no invites to stay with anyone. I then booked a dorm room bed for two night at a $14/night hostel. I left my bag there and proceeded straight to the Danish embassy as I have filled up yet another passport. They were friendly but asked me to return the following day. We agreed I would mail them the letter which explains why I need an extra passport.
 
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The Portuguese Red Cross HQ is inside an elegant 18th century palace (since 1924).
 
Later on I had a breakfast sandwich and a cold chocolate milk in a beautiful park. Lisbon is known as the "city of the 7 hills" and that's no joke. The weather was much cooler but I got a good workout from walking around town. Basically I could have used the tram or the metro, however I was trying to save money. After my sandwich I found my way to the Portuguese Red Cross just to say hello and see if they were ready for me. They are a lovely bunch of people and their activities cover broad and deep within the humanitarian field. The Portuguese Red Cross has one of this planets most elegant buildings. It was donated to the Red Cross long ago and will take your breath away. We agreed to meet up again 2 days later. That kind of concluded that day.
 
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New meets old in Lisbon.
 
I don't know if I have changed or if Lisbon has changed? Probably both. I was quite taken by the city and its magical charm. What an incredible city? The more I saw the more taken I got. Perhaps it's the time of the year? When I visited Portugal in October 2013 it originally became country no 13. I had a look at my short entry from the less developed blog back then. It was by no means a great reference of the city nor country. Back then I was asked a thousand times if I wanted any drugs. There was none of that this time. Maybe I have begun to look like someone who can't afford them? ;) Also I spotted many cranes and construction work this time. No, I wasn't the only one who had changed since 2013. Lisbon had changed too and become more dynamic.
 
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The wonderful Maersk Team of Lisbon :)
 
The following day I headed out to Maersk's Portuguese headquarters. I was asked to do two talks which each ran about an hour. I cannot tell you how much I enjoy these Maersk visits. There is a great atmosphere almost every time and a real authentic team spirit. If you've been following the media lately then you might already know that Maersk was amongst the companies that suffered a cyber attack. That's no joke as it can freeze and paralyze a company in seconds. A great strength at Maersk is that they are the largest player on the global market when it comes to containerized cargo. I believe that Maersk alone covers 25% of the world trade! Cyber attacks are probably going to be more common in the future. What will suffer next? Police, military, healthcare? I can hardly remember a single phone number today. Not since I got my first mobile phone. It makes you think. Maersk is more than capable to get back on top and personally I believe that an "exercise" as this one builds the team even stronger: "remember that time we got attacked?" That's how it will be some day. Especially after having worked long nights together, weekends and innovating new ways of delivering service to clients without having a tool as simple as an address book. That's the stuff that builds character.
 
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My first fidget spinner :)
 
In the afternoon I met up with Diogo. Diogo is a great ambassador for Portuguese hospitality. He's been following the Saga since the Caribbean and knows all about the "African adventures". He picked me up and showed me all sorts of interesting places I would never have seen without him. Then we ended up in a park full of students with 3 beers each. They quickly disappeared and that called for a fat 200g hamburger at a fancy cafe. Diogo then dropped me off at my hostel and I was well done. Those Maersk talks really drain me for energy. I'm not sure that I always succeed but at least I try to be funny, interesting and inspirational. I usually wing my talks although they contain a certain amount of structure.
 
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I went to bed that night knowing that the Danish police had denied me my new passport for some strange reason which no one really understood? The Danish embassy was great and did all the could to help. Even the Danish Red Cross assisted which provided some hope that in not completely forgotten. Yeah, I sometimes write these small provocations towards the Danish Red Cross but in reality they do a phenomenal job on the humanitarian front. Denmark is a small country and taken that into consideration the Danish Red Cross really has a powerful impact. I simply just never hear from them.
 
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Padrão dos Descobrimentos (monument of the discoveries).
 
I woke up the following day hoping to generate some interest with the press in Portugal. After all Portugal is the country which gave the world such adventurers as Vasco da Gama, Ferdinand Magellan, Bartholomew Diaz and Álavares Cabral. You should at least know one of them and hopefully two? I was keeping NS of laughed at by a journalist in Portugal when I said I was a "modern day adventurer". Needless to say there was no media attention in Portugal and the revisit of 8 European countries was on that front off to a bad start. The Portuguese Red Cross was however lovely although really busy. My exit from Africa and reentry to Europe clashes with the industrial holidays and the offices are not fully manned. Throw in the launch of a new webpage and some ravaging forest fires and then my arrival becomes quite untimely. They were great though and we had a good talk before I continued back to the Danish Embassy. The Danish Embassy was really nice about the mystery denial of my new passport by the Danish police. The denial comically arrived along with a well written article in Danish national news about the completion of Africa: 
 
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These wonderful (and hardworking) women made my visit to the Portuguese Red Cross special.
 
I mean, if the man who visits every country in the world can't have a new passport...then who can? It's never really straight forward with the Saga. There's always something stealing my time. However as I already mentioned, the Danish embassy in Portugal was really understanding about it all and processed all my paperwork anyway so I wouldn't have to do it anywhere else. Then we waited for the Danish police to confirm that everything was okay so I could proceed with the payment of €128
 
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I'm really trying to stay humble with the African achievement. Meanwhile I strongly believe it is a big thing. We didn't "just complete" a visit to every African nation. We did it without flying at any point. We did it without having me return home at at any point. Well heck...let's make it more interesting: it was done without bribing anyone at any point and it was even done without having any travel insurance. Oh yeah, that's right: I visited 131 countries without flying (including all of Africa) without having any travel insurance. Meanwhile the Saga went slightly viral (as clickbait earlier on) because someone found out I had been traveling on containerships during this project. Sometimes I feel like giving up on the media? I'm quite confident that I am the first person in history to have done it and meanwhile Guinness World Records is arrogantly stating that it isn't interesting because it can be done faster with an airplane? Oh well...
 
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The Belém Tower was constructed between 1515-1519.
 
I have a new Interrail pass which is valid for a month. It's out of my pocket even though I had high hopes to have it sponsored by Interrail. On their webpage they wrote: "We are happy to consider requests from journalists and travel bloggers who want to experience rail travel with a complimentary pass, and who will share those experiences with their audience. We prefer to sponsor journalists who have a passion for travel and write stories about their travel experiences that are relevant for our target audience." I thought that would be a perfect match with the Saga? But I never heard from them. Never mind. I still believe the Interrail pass is the best and most economical option for getting around a lot of Europe. The timing is a little worse than last though: July and August is high season for backpackers and there is a lot of competition for seats along with dorm room beds. I bet completion will be a lot less as soon as we reach the Middle East ;)
 
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Oriente trainstation, Lisbon.
 
It was a comfortable train ride from Lisbon's beautiful train terminal to Madrid's beautiful train terminal. These countries know something about architecture and environment.
 
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Atocha trainstation, Madrid.
 
The train was a little late so Maersk sent a driver to fetch me from the train station and bring me straight to their office a little outside Madrid. The Madrid office is huge and perhaps the largest I have visited so far? I did 2 talks which each lasted about an hour and then we had lunch. I really enjoy the cooperation with Maersk as they make it all so seamless and professional. Furthermore I really feel the appreciation before, during and after a visit.
 
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From Maersk I headed straight out to the train station again together with Tatiana from Maersk. The aim was to secure a reservation for my seat on the train to Paris. Usually reservations are not required for Interrail pass holders. The exception is however traveling through Portugal, Spain and France. The queue to get the confirmation took TWO HOURS to get through!! Tatiana kept me company for more than and hour but eventually had to leave. We did try to do it online first but apart from being far more expensive we couldn't do the french side of the booking without waiting 7 days for the confirmation to arrive by post? Yes I know...it doesn't seem right but we tried several times and finally quit. Oh well, I got the confirmation done and raced off to check into my $14 hostel in Madrid. 14 dollars will buy you a bed in a 12 person dorm room, a wifi connection and a simple breakfast. It also comes with a lot of door slamming and some hard core snoring. I'm getting to old for this s...
 
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Dinner with Yudith and her parents :)
 
As soon as I had dropped by luggage off I was out the door again and back in Madrid's superb metro system. This time heading out to have dinner with Yudith (also Maersk) and her lovely parents. Yudith was crazy enough to marry a Danish man although she is from Venezuela. Her husband wasn't home though so there was an extra seat at the table for me. While I feel quite unfortunate about the development of some countries prior to me visiting them I find that my timing was good for Venezuela. My blog about visiting Venezuela back in 2014 might be a bit of a "Disney story" but it was like that for me at the time. I had a chance to dive into the genuine hospitality of the people which was still so prevailing back then. People are just people and life goes on. However visiting Venezuela today sounds like something completely different. It's trying times for them and quite selfishly I'm happy that it's not ahead of me. We talked about what's going on in Venezuela while enjoying some arepas and Danish Lurpak butter. That's the good stuff. 
 
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While Venezuelas population is being severely tested I personally believe it's important to ton loose touch about reality. People are still falling in love, getting married, listening to music and living life. Because life goes on even while it's hard. People remain people and that's why we should help when we get the chance. After all they are not much different than us and they once treated me with a lot of love.
 
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That night ended quite late and I didn't get much sleep before my morning appointment with the Spanish Red Cross. Now believe me when I say that I've seen a lot of Red Cross! And although the Red Cross Red Crescent has the same fundamental background all around the world it's easy to observe differences across various countries. The Spanish Red Cross are among my favorites if I get to have favorites at all? While the Red Cross might be a background accessory in some countries I find that the Red Cross is a fundamental building block of Spanish society. I couldn't imagine Spain with the Red Cross in it. 
 
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Ferran Cobertera (red/white shirt) was my personal guide all day. An amazing spirit exists within the Spanish Red Cross!
 
It was a full day with the Spanish Red Cross but it was really inspirational to see how professionally and how efficiently they operate. I couldn't help think that if the Red Cross all around the world would be like it is in Spain then the would might just run out of problems some day. At the very least I would have it a lot easier within the Saga.
 
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Not just one...but a bag of Spanish Red Cross pins!! I guess they liked me :)
 
That's it for this one. Well nearly...because it's Friday and I'm still far from getting the blog online. I fear that my schedule is either to tight or that I'm trying to do to much these days. An email came through stating that the Danish police approved the new passport. So that's one less thing ;)
 
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Tonight I'm meeting up with a Danish member of the Danish Travelers Club. We've never met each other before but he just landed in Madrid and I can't say no to that? So this blog will get online sometime tonight while these teenage backpackers are out dancing and being innocent on a Friday night in Europe's 3 largest city.
 
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Right...by the time you read this I might be in Paris, on my way or beyond :)

Best regards

Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - moving fast
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
 
Once Upon A Saga 
 
 
 
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Out of Africa - Into Europe / what is next?

 
173,704 km later (107,935 mi)
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Hey there people, I'm sort of on holiday now. At least I'm together with my fiancée and that is kind of like a holiday for me. We met up in Alicante. Spain then interestingly became both the last and the first country for me regarding Africa. I entered Morocco from Spain on April 6th 2015. I left Algeria and reentered Spain on July 8th 2017. Another interesting fact is that the border between Morocco and Algeria is still closed (and has been since 1994). Good thing I didn't wait for it to open :)
 
As you know I went the long way round. The really long way round! 85,427 km (53,081 mi) within the African continent. And that's kind of behind me now. At least I'm trying to look forward now. We have some European countries left before the Middle East and Asia...
 
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Our 12th meet up since I left home in 2013.
 
I will be revisiting some European countries where I will visit Red Cross offices and Maersk Offices. Hopefully it will also generate some European media attention and attract more support to the Saga. You should also be able to benefit by seeing some more European countries. This is what the "near" future looks like if all goes well.
 
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We've been to the ones colored orange.
 
Tentative dates for Europe tour:
 
July:
17-19: Portugal (revisit)
20-22: Spain (revisit)
23-25: France (revisit)
26-28: Belgium  (revisit)
29-01: Netherlands  (revisit)
 
August:
2-4: Germany (revisit)
5-8: Switzerland (revisit)
9-11: Italy (revisit)
11-15: Vatican (visit?)
16-19: Albania 
20-24: Greece
25-28: Macedonia
29-31: Kosovo
 
September:
1-4: Montenegro
5-8: Romania
9-12: Moldova
13-16: Bulgaria
16-21: Turkey
21-28: Cyprus
 
It will mostly be capitals and if anyone is offering accommodation then let me know :)
 
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Alhambra - add it to your bucket list! It's in Granada.
 
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Alhambra fortification.
 
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From inside "the Partal". (Alhambra)
 
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The Alhambra audio tour comes with a smartphone and it is all brilliant.
 
 
Today I'll leave you on a few words regarding Africa:
 
A VERY conservative calculation of the distance I traveled within Africa amounts to: 85,427 km (53,082 mi) or twice the circumference of Earth 
 
- no flights were taken.
- I didn't return home.
- I spent more than 24 hours in each country.
- All visas were obtained within Africa.
- I never bribed anyone.
 
In 2015 I really didn't know what I was getting into with that gigantic continent? Honestly I didn't even know how large it was? Maps misrepresent the size of Africa all the time.
 
More than every 4th country in the world is an African country! To go once around Africa is equal to a journey around planet earth!
 
I've got so many stories now. I'm scarred for some of it but I'm the richest man on earth for others.
 
I wasn't completely clueless going in. I had done a lot of research in advance. And yet I learned more than I could ever tell you.
 
And I'm not clueless now. I have truly gained much experience, many friendships and an abundance of new knowledge.
 
I let my hair grow from I entered Africa until I left. I never thought it would take 2 years, 2 months and 27 days?!?
 
But it did. It wasn't easy and I wanted to quit more than once. I never did quit and together we came out victorious. Thank you for the immense support people.
 
Within Africa I have traveled more than the distance of going twice around the equator! I've said it before but only because I can hardly believe it myself?
 
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Africas 54 countries are as diverse as North and South Americas countries combined. Some are flat and dry, some are mountainous, some are lush, most are peaceful (while a few are not), so many languages that my mind could explode, wealth and poverty and all which is found in between, oceans, rivers, forests, lakes, snow, ice, lava, cities, towns, villages, cinemas, fidget spinners, Pokémon Go, Game of Thrones, The Simpsons, Premiere League football, love, hate, families, children, teenagers, devils, saints, birds, cats, dogs, cows, goats, sheep, lions, snakes, apes, monkeys, traffic, pizza, shawarma, beer, wine and lots and lots of dancing!!!
 
Africa has got everything which our world contains. EVERYTHING! Some of the countries have less and others more. Often the difference is great within the country. That continent has got it all and please never forget that - because the media will tell you otherwise...
 
The Saga has got a really long way to go before I return home. 72 more countries spread out on 3 continents. Nothing has changed in one regard:
 
WE WILL KEEP ON KEEPING ON! ;)
 
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Sushi has become a tradition when we meet. This was sponsored by my good friend Kuno for completing Africa :)

Best regards

Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - on the move
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
 
Once Upon A Saga 
 
 
 
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Algeria! Le grand finale - The Saga out of Africa

 
"Welcome! Are you going to the Sahara?"
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I was on my last days of Tunisia. I already had my visa for Algeria which was beyond unique for how I thought it would go? The Algerian visa can for many travelers be a hard one to get. That is especially true if you do not apply from the country where you reside.
 
I had been doing a lot of online research and non of it was looking very promising. Many travelers before me had been turned away at the Algerian embassy in Tunisia. There where some faint references indicating that it was possible for someone in the past but that now it's completely impossible. Everyone I spoke to confirmed that point of view. The general gist was that if you first get a "no" from the Algerian embassy then it will be near impossible to change that to a "yes" further down the line. With all of this in mind it felt like an impossible difficult finale for the African Continent. However what is "impossible" for the Saga? We've been chewing up impossible and spitting it out for a long while now! I'd truly like to see anyone try to do what has been done to get the Saga this far?!? It really hasn't been easy and to watch someone else would be fun :)
 
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"Ben's" parents. The lovely Salem (who put on polo for the photo) and Hamida (who put on a scarf) Love them :)

My friend Mohammed "Ben" Ben-Braham came to the rescue. He's Tunisian and works as a country manager for Maersk in Djibouti and Somalia. He just happened to be on vacation in Tunisia. I contacted Leila who is the Danish honorary consul in Tunisia. Great woman who works as a doctor from her clinic in Tunis. Leila created a french letter stating that while I'm a Danish citizen I'm not a Danish resident. I still have my "letter of intent" from the Danish Red Cross stating that I'm a Goodwill Ambassador so we added that too. Finally Hedia and Slim from the Tunisian Maersk office created a support letter and with all of that "Ben" and I headed to the Algerian diplomatic mission in Tunisia. We went straight to see the consul. After a little while of explaining who I am and what I'm doing the consul told us that he liked the project and would help with the visa. "Ben" had been doing most of the talking. The ambassador let us know that he had to run it through a security check and that we could come back the following day. That's how it went and the following day I received a visa valid for ten days starting on July 2nd 2017. Boom!! :)

 
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Pretty much everyone was surprised. A few people in the Danish foreign ministry were surprised as well thinking that it was impossible. One of the perhaps toughest visas had turned out to be one of the easiest. Well, sort of easy but you know what I mean. Now - we did mention that Algeria was the last unvisited country within Africa. Also Denmark is planned to open up an embassy in Algeria in September 2017. Many things could have played a role here. Preparation was definitely one of them.
 
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My ride from Tunisia to Algeria.
 
Then I went to Libya and returned to Tunisia. I wanted to ride the train from Tunis to the border, cross the border and ride the train in Algeria to Algiers. However the train to the border on the Tunisian side was out of order. I found out that there's a street in Tunis with vehicles leaving for Constantina in Algeria every day. It is a 7 hour drive from Tunis to Constantina.
 
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On the road again.
 
On July 2nd I got up at 06:00am to catch one of those cars at 07:00am. I was the first passenger out of 4. The hours went by and the sun reached the top of the sky. I think we left around midday. It went smooth to the border although I wasn't feeling well. At the border I was feeling really nauseous and had a headache! I was trying to work out what it could be: not enough sleep? Bad food? Bad water? Overworked? Who knows... I wasn't easy looking fine at immigration but I acted my best in order to keep everything as normal as possible. Everyone had to wait for me at the Algerian side as the Algerian immigration police insisted that I should have a police escort for security. It used to be necessary but that's a while ago. These days it's more like old procedures still being enforced. My driver was clearly annoyed with this but not with me. After 30-45 minutes of looking for a policeman who could escort me (I presume) they just waived us through. No police escort anyway. A final checkpoint ensured that non of us had anything illicit in our bags and we were in Algeria!!! Finally!! 
 
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Isn't that landscape just a dream?
 
It had taken me 2 years, 2 months and 27 days to reach every country in Africa since I set foot in Morocco. I'm fairly sure that this is the first time in history that anyone has traveled to every single country in Africa, in a single unbroken journey completely without flying! Furthermore spending minimum 24 hours in each nation and doing all the visas within the continent. And I promise you it was nowhere near easy and is unlikely to be repeated anytime soon. However it's "just" one continent within the Saga. But what a continent!!
 
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The Atlas Mountains run from one side of Algeria and across to the other.
 
Algeria is unbelievably beautiful! So was the west of Tunisia and naturally the nature doesn't care which side of the border it is on. The hours went on and we weren't exactly going fast anymore. We stopped several times to cool the engine and add water. Finally it got dark, we were on a 3 lane highway and the vehicle broke down. That was it. Another vehicle turned up behind us and slowed down. The driver came out to ask something which looked like directions. My driver was quick and within a minute I was sitting in this new car which had just shown up! I understood what was going on. My driver was paid to get me to Constantina but knew I was continuing to Algiers (the capital of Algeria). This random driver was heading to Bordj Bou Arreridj which is closer to Algiers than Constantina is. That's how that worked. I've forgotten the name of the random driver but he was nice. He didn't speak any English and only spoke a little French. We communicated as much as we could in Arabic and whatever french we could. He wanted to know where I wanted to go and suggested taking me beyond Constantina. I accepted that which was a great cultural loss for me! I should have had at least half a day in Constantina!! Algeria is so rich on culture and history. As we continued the traffic suddenly came to a complete stop on the highway. There had been an accident and no one could pass. We waited for 3 hours before the traffic began moving again. It was about 01:00am. The random driver and I pulled off the highway to find me a hotel in Setif which is before Bordj Bou Arreridj. However the driver wasn't happy with the prices offered in the middle of the night and we drove off again. We reached Bordj Bou Arreridj around 02:00am and checked about 5 hotels before the driver was happy. Algerian hospitality already appeared to be high on the list of countries visited.
 
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We finally found a hotel which was okay but since it was after midnight I had to go and register at the police station before I could have my room? I've never heard of that before but went with the flow. The random driver took me there and helped me out. The police was nice but not in a hurry. Besides it all looked mysterious to them: bearded European stranger in the middle of the night? Visas from Sudan, Egypt and Libya in the passport? Just a tourist? I decided to tell them who I was and the whole "every country in the world" thing. This fascinated them and my random driver friend asked if he could leave and I could make my way back to the hotel? The police offered to drive me. Having gone through a series of questions about the Saga and a number of pictures on my phone the police finally stamped my papers and drove me to the hotel...with blue flashes and sirens on...just for fun :) I went to bed past 03:00am so tired, so tired, so zzzzz....
 
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Around 06:00am I woke up as the hotel was being renovated and drilling and hammering took over. Please!!! I kind of managed to sleep a bit more, got up, made my way to the taxi stands and found a minibus heading to Algiers. A few hours later I had made it there and called Omar. Omar is a contact an online friend named Ric has provided me with. Omar is a great guy! Perhaps a little taller than me a lot more robust. He also sports a massive beard and is as nice as the day is long. Omar was together with David, who's a USA high school teacher and furthermore landed his 116th country by visiting Algeria. All teachers should be like that. Omar runs a travel agency called www.fancyellow.com which caters to your tailor made needs. He operates in and outside of Algeria. Omar made sure I got a full Algerian meal to begin with. Wow that was good!!! I've been told what it is called about 10 times and still can't remember? It's good though :) Afterwards we stored my bags and then headed out for a walking tour of the capital. 
 
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Algiers downtown.
 
Great capital in my opinion! I've heard several Algerians say that the capital is the worst part of the country and that I should definitely see more. A very common remark has been: "Welcome! Are you going to the Sahara?" I've seen plenty of Libyan Sahara but the Algerians swear that theirs is better. It may be true? However I doubt many Algerians went to survey the Libyan Sahara. Algerians appear very proud to me and I think they have the right to be. Algeria has large green forests, lakes, mountains, desert, a Mediterranean coastline, rock formations and it's the largest country in Africa. In fact Algeria is the same size as Greenland which should perplex your mind if you happen to be looking at a standard map. I shouldn't need to remind anyone that to go once around Africa is equal to going once around the planet. And again; Algeria is the largest of the African countries. It is massive! The Saga wasn't made for large countries. A week in every country in the world would have you back home after 4 years. That's equivalent to a university degree in terms of time. But what is a week in Russia? In Canada? In the USA? In Brazil? In China? In India? In Algeria? A month in every country in the world should have you home again after 16 years. 16 years!!! I didn't sign up for that. And after all...how much could you see of Algeria in a month? Maybe you need 3.
 
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The famous Casbah of Algiers is very authentic and I didn't want to change the atmosphere by taking to many photos.
 
In a large country you usually find great diversity within culture, food, music and language. Algeria is no different. I had to visit most of Algeria on the internet because I really won't see a lot during this visit. Algeria is rich in history too. Phoenicians, the Greek, the Romans, the Arabs...don't call them Arabs by the way. Algerians won't like it. They are Amazigh and proud of it. Berbers are the indigenous inhabitants of Algeria. The Algerians had quite a profound struggle with the French. It wasn't easy for the French to colonize Algeria and once the Algerians wanted their country back they took it back! When the Algerians celebrate Independence Day it's not just something which they got through a quiet democratic process. The Algerians gained their independence the hard way. And that alone gives them the right to be very proud. However Algerians are also abnormally friendly and hospitable which adds for an interesting cocktail. I really enjoy Algeria and thirst for more of it. Alas...72 more countries to go...
 
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The metro system in Algiers is superb, clean and highly efficient.
 
David, Omar and I took the metro out to the Botanical Garden without going in. From there we took the gondola lift up to the Maqam Echahid (or Martyrs’ Memorial in English). It is an iconic concrete monument commemorating the Algerian war for independence. The monument was opened in 1982 on the 20th anniversary of Algeria’s independence. The memorial is fashioned in the shape of three standing palm leaves which shelter the “Eternal Flame” beneath. At the edge of each palm leaf stands a statue of a soldier, each representing a stage of Algeria’s struggle.
 
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Maqam Echahid and me.
 
The museum beneath it is absolutely breathtaking! It vividly depicts the cruelty of the past and that independence was not just something Algeria was given: it was something they took back! A big part of the museum consists of large colorful paintings and full size portraits. Photography was not permitted in the museum so you'll just have to go and see for yourself. It's definitely worth it.
 
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The great team at www.maersk.com in Algiers honored me with this precious gift. It is a pin which commemorates the first day of the resistance against France which eventually led to independence. Algeria celebrated 55 years of independence during my visit.
 
 
Omar had found a place for me to sleep. It was a dormitory in which I had a madras on the floor for $11/night. Accommodation is quite expensive in Algeria compared to its neighboring countries. However food, fruit and vegetables all come at reasonably low prices. Transport is also quite cheap as well as tickets to parks and museums.
 
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The dormitory was noisy and every night Algerians would be celebrating something driving their cars about honking honking their horn. Congratulations on the day of independence, and winning the finals, and the wedding...
 
At the dormitory I met Bilal who is a lawyer who found a job within customs clearance. Bilal is looking for a place to rent or buy but that isn't easy to find in Algiers so he's momentarily in the dormitory. From the moment I met Bilal I hardly paid for anything anymore. That kind of hospitality really stands in contrast to general hospitality elsewhere in the world. Sudan, parts of Egypt, Libya and Tunisia all share that mentality with Algeria: "as long as you are in my country you are my guest and I will take care of you". Other parts of the world have that mentality too...like Iran for example. Imagine how disappointed those people must feel visiting the rest of us?
 
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Botanical garden.
 
I tried to fight Bilal several times for the bill and various other costs but it was fruitless. He had to pay and said: "money isn't important". Together Bilal and I headed out to the Le Jardin d'Essai dates back to 1832 (botanical garden) which is a spectacular place to visit! I really like botanical gardens and have seen a few around the world by now. Something less botanical made this one really special for me though. Johnny Weissmuller played Tarzan there in 1932! Apparently, Hollywood producers of the 1932 "Tarzan the man ape" used the Algiers botanical gardens in place of the real West African rainforest to shoot at least one of his adventures. I absolutely love that for whatever odd reason?
 
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Botanical garden. Where is Tarzan?
 
Visitors to this popular tourist attraction soon come to appreciate the diversity of nature as they walk down a pathway lined with enormous date palms, stroll past sago palms from Japan and China, admire the spiky yucca from South America, or sit in the shade of an ancient Norfolk Island pine tree. I spent half the day with Bilal who like Omar is a great ambassador to Algerian hospitality!!
 
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My friend Bilal :)
 
You know it's a strange thing; Guinness Book of World Records will record you for balancing a chair on your head but they are not interested in this Africa record? I was told that "Fastest time to visit every African nation without flying" does not have interest because it can and has been done faster by flying? That really annoys me! Furthermore it is fairly irritating that I haven't received any credit outside of the Sagas wonderful and loyal social media for reaching every country in Africa with or without flying?!? Isn't the world just mad like that? Well, at least I can truthfully answer yes to anyone who ever asks me: "have you ever been to Africa?"
 
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I haven't cut my hair since I entered Africa in April 2015.
 
The Saga continues! I actually had a European tour planed for more than a year now where I wanted to revisit about 30 European countries with focus on the Red Cross, on public speaking and on European media. However it has proven a logistical and bureaucratically hellish nightmare trying to get it organized so it has been restructured to 8 countries instead. And just coordinating those 8 countries has nearly broken my spirit because motivation appears to fall short among those I counted on. But there is some reason in the madness and I figure it will all stand a little clearer later on. So that means that the next 8 countries will be revisits: Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. Afterwards we will get back on track with country number 132.
 
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Finally coloring the last country in.
 
A ferry is bringing me from Mostaganem to Alicante in Spain. The ferries leaving Algeria are ridiculously expensive by most standards. A day ferry from Algiers to Alicante is around €250 for a seat. However by traveling 3 hours west from Algiers to Mostaganem I can get a ticket for about €150 which is a big save but still far to expensive for a 12 hour ferry journey? Oh well, it will be "the Saga out of Africa" and then the European train tickets can start digging into all the money I don't have.
 
Algeria!! I will see you again some day. Perhaps in a future adventure with a Toyota Land Cruiser, my wife and 2 children.
 
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After all this time, and all this distance; I feel a lot like my bag looks.
 
I have reached Mostaganem and have found a nice hotel to spend my last night in Algeria. My last night in Africa! Africa has been my home for the past 2 years and I have seen more of the continent than most people alive today. No matter what you think about the continent I can assure you that you are wrong. I can see the Mediterranean Sea from my hotel window. I've been working towards this for so long but now it feels daunting. I will leave Africa with much relief as I will literally be leaving blood, sweat and tears behind me. However the continent is home to more than every 4th country in the world. I have so many memories, so many stories of where I've been. So many stories of whom I have met. I have learnt more than I could possibly imagine. I find that Shakespeare is more right than ever before this time:
 
"Parting is such sweet sorrow"
 
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Mostaganem, my last African sunset.
 

Best regards
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - done with Africa
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
 
Once Upon A Saga 
 
 
 
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Once Upon a Saga
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