Egypt - preparing for the African finale

Egypt is more than Pyramids 
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If you want to experience stress for some strange reason, I suggest working as a taxi driver in Cairo! The traffic here? Wow!! However intense traffic is what you can expect from a mega city with 20 million people, who all need to go, wherever they need to be.
 
Crossing the road in Sudan's capital Khartoum can be a daring adventure. Crossing the road in Egypt's capital Cairo is always a daring adventure! You get used to it pretty quickly though and even the fastest of cars appear to slow down for pedestrians if only you're bold enough to step out right in front of them. It's a bit of a gamble though. Nada is a journalist at SpiralMag (www.spiralmag.net/?p=8849) who wrote a piece about the Saga back in September 2016. That already feels like a thousand years ago to me and it was great to finally meet her face to face in Egypt. After walking about in Cairo's streets for a while on a quiet Friday morning, Nada and I met up with two more "SpiralMag'ers" near the by now world famous Tahrir Square. Sara and  Mado joined us inside the Egyptian Museum and took great care of me.
 
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If you ever found yourself wondering if there ever has been at time when there wasn't a great divide between the poor and the rich...? then the answer is probably: never! Tutankhamen is by the way not famous for his achievements. He became famous as his tomb was discovered completely untouched! The Egyptian Museum is remarkable.
 
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Egyptian hospitality as I have discovered does not bow its head to other countries. Egyptian hospitality is at the worlds very finest. However, as Egypt is famously known for spectacular tourism it's also a great place to exploit tourists. And tourist are exploited every day until they grow wiser. Nonetheless mixed between those who wish to exploit there are all of those kind and good hearted Egyptians who want to be kind and fair to you. It's nearly impossible to tell who is who, but the good hearted ones are the majority. If you're hanging around tourist sites, they might become the minority though. "Hey there, do you have a moment" and "special price for you" are however strong indicators of who's not interested in you as a visitor ;)
 
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Hatem, whom I met in Sudan, set me up with his friend Aly in Cairo (picture). 
 
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When you walk about in the streets you pass thousands of people and they are just like you and I. You don't pay attention to them. They are just there like the people you cue behind at a metro station or sit next to on a bus. Those are people with deep concerns, wonderful children, daytime jobs, upcoming exams, broken hearts, Facebook profiles, great ambitions, love in their eyes, 40 years of marriage, dental problems, perfect health, vacation plans and all of that stuff...people are just people and Egypt has 100 million of them. 
 
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Headquarters for the Egyptian Red Crescent.
 
Eventually I made it out to the Egyptian Red Crescent which by the way are doing a spectacular job. Specifically I noticed they have managed to integrate large populations into new surroundings, which is something my dear own country mismanaged years ago. I'm not getting into details about that today but suffice to say: the RC is always present.
 
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As much as I love Egypt I'm not ready to give these people any credit for managing time according to a 24 hour day. 10am certainly does not mean 10am, and 2 hours is not at all 2 hours in most cases. It's not a matter of right and wrong. It's a matter of difference and things find their own way to get done. Time however merely appears to be a guideline and I do find that it's a little worse for an "anal" North European like me here in Egypt, than it has been in most other countries throughout Africa. Perhaps that's just because I expect more from Egypt? I mean...Egyptian society has been developing for thousands of years and it's as modern as any western country you can think of in certain regards. Egyptians appear well educated and worldly, which might be due to the high influx of foreign investors and visitors. That surely sounds plausible to me. Perhaps it's all about assuming; I heard from several french travelers in Western Africa, that although they speak French as a common language there is much to be misinterpreted in conversation. The general way of thinking is simply different while the common language lures you into a belief that "we are all the same". Returning to the topic of time I can say with confidence that very few countries around the world give time the same importance as North Europeans. The vast majority of our planet is quite easygoing with regards to time. I'm not. However I do always have a good sense of where I am and which culture I'm embedded in so that I can maneuver with efficiency in respect to my own time. A final word in time would be that I feel like I'm running out of it. I would really like to see the light of the end of the tunnel for the Saga. There's still great use for a torch...
 
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This is is my 4th visit to Egypt. I don't think I'll go to the pyramids this time.
 
My stress is also derived from being so close to the end of visiting all of Africa. So close and yet so far. The high of having completed the "Cape Town to Cairo" portion wore off in a matter of days. I guess that wasn't as important to me as I thought.
 
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This exchange on twitter with the world famous astronaut made my day! :)
 
Completing the African chapter is very important to me and I have been battling with strategy, information and plausible solutions. The three countries we have left are: Libya, Tunisia and Algeria. Libya is a spectacular country which is currently torn and marked by internal armed conflict. So for Libya I have concerns for my safety along with bureaucratic concerns for a visa. Tunisia is probably going to be a "holiday" in terms of the atmosphere and visas are given upon arrival. Algeria is definitely going to lay some pressure on my skills in a mere bureaucratic sense. I already visited their embassy in Cairo and was told that visas are only for Egyptian residents of 6 months or more. I've got a few plans already to solve that but it won't be from Egypt. The Libyan consulate was very forthcoming but confused about why I wanted to go? They would help me with the visa as soon as I could provide an "invitation number". 
 
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The Algerian embassy.
 
In terms of entering and exiting Libya safely I have come to the conclusion that it will be from the Tunisian side, which is also much closer to Libyas capital Tripoli. Also I have been advised to do so by several sources. This means that I will not be able to cross Libya in order to reach Tunisia and therefore I will need a boat/ship. But how does one go ahead and secure that? I've done it many times for the Saga and I have a solid plan for this as well. All to be revealed in good time. There's a funny thing about traveling to every country in the world: if you leave one country out, then you didn't do it.
 
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Somewhere along all of this I also managed to get my vaccination for Typhoid. I went to a clinic which Nada had recommended and that was a good get! The vaccine cost less than $5 all included (LE 83). I checked the price to see how much it would have been in Denmark and that would have been DKK 358 (51.60). So I certainly saved a lot! The clinic was nice, clean, calm and professional and the vaccine it self had been produced in France. That's one less thing to worry about as I'm now covered for the next 3 years.
 
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A few from the Egyptian Maersk team in Cairo. www.maersk.com
 
I have a friend from my time in Libya many years ago. I was employed as the logistics manager under the construction of a cement factory. Moneim was the administration manager and lives in Luxor, Egypt. I recently managed to get back in touch with him and he recently came out of surgery from a benign tumor on the pituitary gland. The pope of the Catholic Church is coming to Cairo today and this is expected to have some sort of visible effect on Cairo. In other words it's a good time to leave the city for a few days...so I have decided to get on the train and backtrack down to Luxor for a few days. It will be great to see Moneim again. The train ticket for a sleeper coming up from Aswan to Cairo last week, cost me $80 which I could not pay with local LE. I had to pay in USD. Luxor is somewhere in between Aswan and Cairo and the train ride is supposed to take about 12 hours. So I figured that I could just get a seat and it would be a lot cheaper. I figured wrong! I had to pay for another $80 sleeper? The clerk behind the desk clearly understood my frustration with the logic. But what can he do about it. Well one thing he could have done was tell me that if you go online and create a free profile at www.enr.gov.eg then you can book a seat for just $11.20 (LE 202). So that's what I did. I left Cairo for now and by Friday morning I should be in Luxor to see Moneim. I'm however coming back to Cairo after just a few days as David (www.world-adventurer.com) is coming to Cairo and I haven't seen him since...oh well...I actually quite recently met with David in Sudan...but he is still a good friend and a spirited traveler. All the work I need to do I can manage online and through the phone...so Luxor here I come...
 
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Egypt is so much more than pyramids.
 

Best regards
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - tired
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
 
Once Upon A Saga 
 
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Khartoum to Cairo - Egypt at last! (Milestone)

Don't listen to people who say things are impossible - unless it motivates you ;)
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When you meet as fine people as I have been fortunate to cross paths with, leaving any place becomes so much harder. But I left Khartoum.
 
For years I've had this idea that a great deal of people probably have set out to pay a visit to every country. But then they get tired. Or perhaps they get comfortable somewhere? Or perhaps they lose track of what the point was to begin with. Less than 200 people in history have reached every country within their lifetime. In comparison more than 5,000 have summited Mt. Everest. So what do you think is the hardest? I know the two cannot be compared... But I promise you this is not easy ;)
 
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Marwan made Sudan for me as a souvenir to remember my time there. 
 
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Some of my Sudanese family :)
 
I got a little sidetracked. But back to my point. If you fall in love with a country, a town or someone's heart then that might anchor you forever and you'll never reach every country. Personally parts of my heart has now been spread across more than half the world. Let's hope it recovers. Never before has one man owed so much to so many.
 
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More Sudanese family :)
 
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Fortunate to meet up with some Great Danes before leaving :)
 
I left Khartoum on a bus much against my will. I wanted the train but couldn't wait around for the next one which would leave a week later. The scenery was splendid though. Sudan is beautiful!
 
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Near the Egyptian border while still in Sudan you will find Wadi Halfa. A quiet but interesting border town neatly on the eastern side of the Nile. I spent a night at an average hotel and wondered if everything would go well the following day. I had a ticket for the steamboat but was told that I needed to confirm it as early as possible. Also I was told that the boat would leave at 5pm. Great because I would then get the sunset across the Nile and as a unique bonus I would get to see the spectacular temple at Abu Simbel. What more could a traveler dream of?
 
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The next day I was told that my ticket was fine and that I didn't need to confirm anything. I've had my share of bad information but trusted this anyway. Then I was told that there was no need to be at the boat before 6pm? Was everything going to be alright? Just before 6pm I got a ride to the terminal. They took my ticket and registered me. No problem. Then I waited as I saw the sun set through the terminal window. No boat sunset then...and it got dark...no temple then. And it got late...
 
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The fellow who wanted exit tax. Sure...take my money...
 
With a lot of chaos all passengers needed to clear immigration and I had to pay an extra departure fee of SDG 80? Not a fortune but come on Sudan? USD 100 visa, USD 50 for registration and now a departure fee? Most expensive country so far. From many countries I have experience with non legitimate fees and assessed that this one was legit. It wasn't just another authoritarian figure trying to pocket some money so I paid. Then with more chaos than necessary we all went through a luggage control. Why didn't we do this while waiting for all this time? Oh well...
 
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All of these people wanted their luggage checked before everyone else...
 
I got to walk out to the boat around 9pm. I boarded and walked down the stairs to second class because the first class sleeping cabins were sold out days in advance. Second class wasn't to rough but they had air conditioning which was set at penguin! Can someone explain to me why warm countries on various continents always set it at penguin? I managed to secure myself a bench and fell asleep. I guess we were about 100 passengers onboard and it was a mix of various Sudanese people. Quite a few were sick and heading for a hospital in Egypt. Some were businessmen dreaming about securing a great deal and bring merchandise back home to Sudan. Yet again some were just family or friends looking to visit.
 
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Second class before it filled up.
 
When I woke up the next morning I was in more pain than I had been in for a while. All my muscles were sore, my nose was clogged and I remember thinking: "what if every morning the rest of my life would be like this?" Could I stand living like that? I went up on deck and let the sun warm my body. An hour later I was back to my normal self and enjoying the beautiful scenery along the Nile.
 
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The White Nile sees its beginning in Uganda and I remember seeing it in all its glory sparkling under the Sun in South Sudan. The Blue Nile comes down from Ethiopia's mountains and they join each other in Khartoum from were they make their way as the Nile to Egypt - and I was on it! What an entry! The boat made its way to Aswan Dam and at times the Nile was so wide that you could hardly see from one side to the other. I had a look at Google Maps and the Nile looked so tiny on this huge continent. I zoomed all the way out on my map and concluded that I was officially in Egypt: country no. 127. Only with 3 more African countries to go, however Libya is one of them and that may really complicate the finale. 
 
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People onboard were nice. Disembarking was more chaotic than what was required. I had handed over my passport when I embarked and immigration was now onboard. I waited my turn and after what seemed a million years it was my turn. "From Denmark?" Yes I am. A proud Danish Dane from the Kingdom of Denmark in the high north of Europe! "Welcome to Egypt! You will get your passport in the immigration building". Getting into the immigration building was easier said than done with 100 eager Sudanese all wanting to enter Egypt. The Egyptian immigration police were clearly frustrated with the lack of order: "I SAID FIVE OF YOU COULD GO AHEAD!!! NOT SIX!!" Immigration shouted in Arabic to a woman. You didn't need to know Arabic to understand that :). When I entered as one of the last they picked my luggage for a security check. As I was opening my black Northface basecamp duffel-bag another policeman waived me on giving me a smile and an okay signal. Further on another immigration officer (the one from the boat) waived me over to the side: "come with me".
 
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I haven't cut my hair since I reached Africa. I won't cut it until I leave.
 
Everyone was so super sweet. The guy explained that they didn't have any visas but that they stamped my passport anyway. I was told to go to any bank in Aswan and buy the visa sticker for USD 25 and stick it next to the stamp. If I didn't, it would cause problems when I would exit Egypt. Finally I was shown a backdoor exit to the street which was quite convenient. Now that was a lot easier than I had ever dreamed of! :)
 
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A minibus got me to Aswan for USD 1. Aswan is beautiful and exotic. Temperatures were somewhat lower than they had been in Khartoum, and people were friendly and helpful. Egyptians have this nasty reputation of being schemish and always looking for an angle to spin a dime or two off you. And that's actually how I remembered Egyptians from prior visits to Cairo and Luxor before the Saga. And of course they are when you're in touristic areas. However, the normal everyday people walk in between those types and in Egypt, like everywhere else, people are just people. I found my home for the night which was the Nubian Oasis Hotel. A place that offers more than you need without much luxury. Great location and friendly staff. I bargained the price with its owner Mezo. He gave in a promised that he had never before given a price so low ;).
 
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Aswan was an absolute delight. I had long ago forgotten how easy life can be! I arranged for a simcard and 3G internet which was fast enough to Skype with a few VoIP appointments which had been waiting. I then had a delicious street meal, a fresh juice, bought my train ticket for Cairo, had more street food, a shower, texted those I needed to tell I had arrived and went to bed. The next day I went hunting for a bank to secure my visa. The first bank looked at my as if I was asking for a visa at McDonalds?!? "Do you mean a Visa card like a master card?" Neither, I need an entry visa.
 
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Didn't ask McD for my entry visa. Perhaps I should have?
 
I pretty much had the same experience at the second bank at which point I asked if they were a private bank or a government bank? They were a private bank. Perhaps that was the problem? I went to a government bank and had the same experience?? The fourth bank pretty much gave me the same reaction at which point I asked the man at the desk to ask around a bit. He complied and after a while he told me to come back at 3pm at which point they would have the visa for me.
 
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Aswan has a lot of charm.
 
At 3pm I was standing at the bank which was closed? But the man from the desk waived me over from a backdoor and I followed him inside the bank (Masr Bank) through the staff entrance. How did I reach a point in my life were this stuff feels normal to me? Inside the bank there were other customers and I was told to wait. 20 minutes later I was handed the sticker and paid USD 25. Done! :)
 
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(That's 99 trains since the Saga began) 
 
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The train left at 7pm and it left on time. I was there early and got my sleeper compartment which had cost me USD 80. That's 4 days in the budget but I wanted to be in the train. Quite peculiar I couldn't pay for the ticket with Egyptian pounds. I had to pay in US Dollar. I did a quick online check and saw that the price online was USD 125. So I didn't complain...however I also noticed that the local prices were much lower. I guess it would have been both cheaper and faster to go from Khartoum to Cairo by various buses. But I wanted this experience - and I got it! :) The cabin was luxurious and had room for two, but it was mine alone. The steward was chewing gum and was friendly. To my surprise the fair included dinner and breakfast.
 
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Tasted a lot better than what it looks ;)
 
I sat there alone and enjoyed my dinner and 3G internet while the landscape outside went by under the cover of the night. Just to socialize a bit I went looking for the dining wagon as I like to call it. It was quite a precious sight! No women and only what appeared to be local men sitting and enjoying beverages in relative silence.
 
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No socializing but it felt nice to sit among other people. I enjoyed a cup of tea before heading back to my compartment. The gum chewing steward made my bed and I ended the day closing my eyes to the sound of the train against the tracks...ka-dunk, ka-dunk, ka-dunk, ka-zzzz...
 
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223 days after the Saga set out from Cape Town in South Africa...we rolled into Cairo!!! I am now a member of the "Cape Town to Cairo" club for overlanders. We did it extra hardcore though as we also included the African nations in the Indian Ocean along with a very rare land entry to Eritrea. Mission accomplished! We reached that landmark and it feels soooo good! Cairo has been on my mind as a distant dream a great many times during these 223 days. At times it felt completely impossible. But look at us today! You, me...we did it!
 
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Ramses Station, Cairo. Beautiful!! :) 
 
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Dabbing like a boss :)
 
As a proud Dane I might just tell you that we are 5.6 million crazy Danes. Egypt boast around 100 million crazy Egyptians and somewhere around 20 million of them are found in Cairo alone!! So when I walk about in Cairo I keep thinking that about 4 times as many as my Danish population lives here!! There have recently been three tragic and very pointless terror attacks in Egypt. Two in Alexandria and one in Cairo. That shouldn't frighten anyone as it's terror and terror has no effect if it doesn't terrify you. But it should make us all a little sad. In cold and cynical mathematical terms a single terror attack in Cairo is equal to a quarter of a terror attack in all of Denmark. Life goes on even in hard times. People are just people and we always find a way.
Cairo is everything in one place! Think about it? 20 million lives are being lived in this city all at once. That is a serious amount of Facebook updates!? Life here is far cheaper than in Sudan. Living on a USD 20/day budget shouldn't break a sweat. I figure I could get by for less than USD 10...and I'm in a capital! The pyramids are here not far from where I sit and write all of this. I haven't seen them yet but I went to see them back in 2009. While the pyramids in Sudan are big as houses the three pyramids of Giza are like mountains! Egypt also has the smaller ones, as Nubian history and culture is shared by both nations.
 
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The street food in Cairo is incredible!
 
Thanks to my friends in Sudan I have friends in Egypt and my calendar looks fully booked already. I'm fond of how well the metro works in Cairo. Uber is nearly a necessity and Egypt has its own called "Misr Cab" as well. Just like Sudan has its "Mishwar". Uber is not alone in this world and I see it as a groundbreaking foundation to what is to come with driverless automated minibuses, which we will some day pick us up by the command of our phones and drop us off by the command of our voice. That reminds me that I have been wondering why Google hasn't introduced driverless farm equipment for the fields yet? I seems like a good place to start?
 
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What a joy it is for me to be in Egypt. For those of you that read last weeks blog entry you will know that the Saga isn't all dance and laughter. But this my friends- this is the good stuff! 
 
WELCOME TO EGYPT!! :)
 
 

Best regards

Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - made it so far!
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
 
Once Upon A Saga 
 
 
 
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Traveling the world isn't always fun

I've had my fair share of frustrations - haven't you?
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There's this common misconception that it must be "so much fun" to spend your life traveling. I guess most people think of their 1-2 week vacations from normal life, where they spend up to usd 200/day and have a great time. 
 
Now money isn't everything. We all know that and I'm sure Trump will work that out too sooner or later ;) You can have a ball without money and money isn't what this entry is about. Although I'd just quickly remind you that we will "soon" be launching a YUGE crowdfunding campaign and it's going to be THE BIGGEST and BEST you've ever seen!! Just kidding...but we are going to launch it and I hope you'll help keep the Saga going when the time comes. I'm not traveling for free as a lot of people seem to think? :)
 
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The Sudanese Airforce showing off above Khartoum.
 
Why would traveling the world full time be anything else than normal on the emotional roller coaster? Sure, I've got some spectacular and unparalleled memories to look back on. But it also comes with everything else: Sadness, fatigue, doubt, disgust, surprise, failure, fear...on the other side I have joy, enlightenment, victory, success, love, friendship, laughter and so much more. Don't you? I imagine you do? I certainly had before leaving home 3 years and 5 months ago. Within the Saga I simply can't stay upbeat constantly with my eyes full of wonder. Anything can become ordinary here in life if you're exposed to it long enough. You can sleep next to a busy road or an airport and not even be bothered by the sound after some time. I've done both in my early youth back home in Denmark. As a student I had a cheap student apartment right next to a noisy road. After 3 days I was so tired that I just slept through it and it never bothered me again.
 
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If Sudan ever ran out of tea (and sugar) then I recon it would be considered a national crisis ;)
 
I don't think I'll ever get used to looking into my fiancées eyes. And sunsets and rainbows haven't grown old yet. Some things stay delightful. But pushing myself everyday trying to deliver and complete the Saga does become old. A part of the problem is that I might be trying to deliver too much. If the Saga was for me alone then it wouldn't be "The Saga". Why would I even name it? I would cut out the Red Cross Red Crescent, I'd get rid of all social media and I would not have a target or a timeline. I'd just go wherever I wanted to go and leave whenever I wanted to leave. Then it would be for me. Some day I will get back home and then it will largely be for me. I'll look back at fond memories and I might even spin a dollar or two on all of this. But who's to say I'll get home? Who's to say I have what it takes to complete this insanely large project? Who's to say I won't get into my fatal last bus somewhere? Now please don't worry about any of that. I don not consider myself normal in the meaning of the word. I do believe I've got what it takes and that I'll cross the finish line some day. And meanwhile it's the journey and not the destination - right? ;) But man oh man...what a lonely journey this can be. In a mental sense...because I'm nearly always around people. But who on this planet can relate to what I feel considering having traveled 163,000 km (100,000 mi) across 4 continents and 126 countries on a flightless journey on a $20/day budget...without returning home? I can't explain it. But just as it has its unique rewards it also has its price.
 
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David, Country Manager of GSS, has along with his staff been a tremendous support: www.gss-contracting.com
 
If you're familiar with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (Maslow's pyramid) then we should be able to establish that I was quite high on that one when I decided to leave home. If I was to worried about shelter and food then I wouldn't do this to begin with. But just consider this; while I'm often told that "I chose this upon myself" I do find that I'm delivering quite the service to people all around the world. And if I wasn't doing this then you and everyone else wouldn't have the Saga. "So what's so important about this self righteous mission you have Thor?!? Aren't you just a little full of yourself?" I hear a voice ask...let's break it down:
 
There is (in my opinion) a large gap between how most people perceive the world and the world we actually live in. This is what I call "perception versus reality". I GUARANTEE you that the world is a far better and downright normal place than you could possibly imagine. Most people have no way of knowing that given the way the world is portrayed in the media. By definition the most sensational material makes it in "the news". And by definition most of the world is not sensational. So there you have it. Most people are just people trying to get by in life. Even in the most disappointing parts of the world you find friendship, schools, markets, workplaces, football, families, smiles, weather, food and all that makes up life. Try to picture a scale with hell at the bottom and heaven at the top. Life as we know it is somewhere in between. We all know that we're not living in the biblical portrayal of hell with fire and torture for ever. Likewise we are not free of decease, fear, hate, death, loss, hunger and we definitely don't have wings.
 
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Curious kids near mosque. They wanted a selfie with me :)
 
So let's get back to the scale I was talking about. As I wrote we are somewhere in between and you can make up your own mind where to place us. What I argue is that you are placing us too low. Maybe not by much...but too low compared to reality. In other words your perception is rated below actual reality - and that's the gap I'm trying to close. If you're not ready to believe a man who has spent more than 3 years across more than half the world then I'm not your guy :)
 
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My favorite street in Khartoum - I don't really know why? Just like being there.
 
Then there's the whole "every single country, in a single unbroken journey, completely without flight" thing. It has never been completed before although it has been attempted at least once. Is it significant? What the world get as Amundsen reached the South Pole for the first time in humanity? What did we win when they scaled Mount Everest, planet earths highest mountain, in 1953? If nothing else then we won a great deal of inspiration. These were people who did not give up even if it would cost them everything. They did the impossible until it was no longer impossible. While that might not hold great value to everyone it certainly does hold value for me. Great people and the likes of them. Don't you just sometimes feel like we live in a world where everything of significance has already been done by someone somewhere? Doesn't it somehow feel like everything has been said and done? 
 
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My friend Dafaalla on the left and our friend Abdalwahid (singer) on the right. At the recording studio.
 
Well, today "awesome" is an everyday word which can be used about a hamburger (thank you Eddie Izzard). Everyday you can see someone do something spectacular on YouTube, in the news or somewhere else. You can't "just" run a marathon anymore. You need to do it within an acceptable time or else some couch potato will say: "only 4 hours?" Honestly, how many people will ever have the determination to complete a 42.195 m (26.219 mi) run? Anyone who can should at least have some respect for their momentous achievement? But we're not like that anymore. It's all about the time. Or "when will you do an iron man?" On the flip side all of that naturally also comes down to your relationship with Maslow. But I think my point is valid; we are becoming numb to achievements.
 
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That brings me to the Red Cross Red Crescent. It was founded in 1863 and spans across 190 countries today!! We are talking about 17 MILLION volunteers reaching 150 MILLION vulnerable people EVERY DAY!! It's like trying to comprehend infinity...or simply the distance to the sun. It's pretty hard to understand the momentous achievement which lies within the humanitarian work. The Red Cross Red Crescent is the worlds largest humanitarian organization in an ocean of humanitarian organizations. And to borrow something I recently heard, then the Red Cross Red Crescent are the ones with one eye open in the land of the blind. I can support that having visited and written about the movement in 124 countries by now. My heart bleeds for the work which is carried out and simultaneously I'm deeply frustrated with the lack of engagement regarding the Saga. I'm doing this for free! Not a penny of the Sagas budget comes from the movement. And I've walked through the doors of more than half the the countries where it's found. And yet I can say with certainty that almost no one knows that. I've visited the movement in 50 of Africa's 54 countries. And the last 4 do not know. How is that even possible? Why would the world not spread? It keeps my mind occupied and adds to the workload of singlehandedly spending time on communicating my arrival in advance, which is a lot harder than you might think. For one I need to combat the language barrier of people receiving an email who might not understand English. But also the Red Cross or Red Crescent does receive a fair bit of spam from people saying that they are in need or that they are Red Cross...when they are not. So who would believe an outrageous claim as mine: I have been to 126 countries without flying and your office is next. Trust me, I spend a fair amount of time explaining to the Red Cross Red Crescent in each country who I am and how this can benefit them. And just for the record I'm creating awareness, I'm inspiring and inviting volunteers and I'm inviting donations as well. Through the Saga we have collected €464 (usd 493) so far:
 
 
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The 3G here is way slower than the 4G. I'll never get it all used (wanted to save money).
 
Let's move on to the social media. I'm unsure how many online followers we have now, but it must be around 30,000. Can you imagine the amount of questions coming from that many people? Not to ignore the constant flow of entertainment I need to upload on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and last but not least the blog. If nothing else then I have certainly proven than internet is available worldwide. 126 countries so far and probably the rest as well. I find myself fighting algorithms and staring into my smartphone more than I'd like to admit. What should I post? At what time? How much? How often? You might not know this, but there are certain times during the day that the average user is more active on various social media. And according to expert advise you need to upload "something" to Facebook every day in order to keep the algorithms happy. Just think about it? The Facebook account is approaching 20,000 followers and the best of the best content I can provide might get 400 likes while an average post gets between 50-100 likes. Does that sound right out of 20,000 people? It's the algorithms which dictate that you only get to see anywhere between 3-6% of the posts until it receives likes, shares and comments. That's why hardly anyone knows that you posted "my friend is looking for an apartment ". So please add a curtesy "like" one in a while so it will reach more people ;) I receive a lot of online love...but it's also a lot of work.
 
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If you work for your goal - you'll reach it!
 
Finally we need to keep on keeping on. Africa is a wonderful full-sized continent with a lot of very different countries. I love this continent as much as any other. But please let me go now!!! I entered in April 2015 thinking that the 54 countries would take us 1 year and 2 weeks. Laughable today :) Especially the region known as Central Africa (which in a map is the armpit area on the west coast) drained me in anyway you can imagine. It literally broke me and I continued as a zombie for a while. I maintain that you won't know what I'm talking about even if you go there. Because it's incredibly beautiful, it's historically and culturally interesting, people are enormously sweet and I loved the food. But just try going overland between ALL of them without a break. Just try it ;) The bureaucracy is overwhelming and there's a fair amount of racism and power play from most authorities. And there are a lot of authorities there. However as a tourist your bound to have a wonderful time at paid resorts with your visas already settled from home. So don't stay away from there :)
 
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Goal accomplished!! PS2 connected: gaming time ;)
 
It's visas, visas, visas for me on this continent. And a fair bit of travel permits in some regions. Your tour guide will handle all that nonsense for you. But I don't have a tour guide. What I do have is a "push on" attitude, a smile for most strangers and proof that A Stranger Is A Friend You've Never Met Before! ;) It's still hard enough though which brings us up to today. In Eritrea I got a transit visa for Sudan surprisingly easy. It only took a few hours in comparison with the 2 weeks it took while I was sick in Djibouti. Noticed what I just did there? ;) I do get sick from time to time, but in the big picture it's not that often. It's however never fun to be sick alone away from home. Now, from Eritrea I was trying to confirm when the train leaves from Khartoum (Sudan) to Wadi Halfa near the border of Egypt (north). There's only one train in Sudan and it leaves every second Saturday. How hard can it be to find out which date? You would be surprised. I texted a friend in Sudan and asked him to find out. "No problem" he said but the days went on. In Arabic you call that kind of people "Al Masura". You know, the people who are always late and and constantly underachieve. So after 3 4-5 days I grew impatient and asked someone I knew I could trust. I suspected that the train would be leaving on Saturday April 8th (and I was right), but my accountable friend corrected me and said it would leave on April 15th (which was wrong). But I trusted the information and after all where would we be in this world without trust? We simply can't do everything ourselves and as stated: How hard could it possibly be to confirm? I mean 1 train every 14 days? Oh well. So saddened by the news I still left Eritrea early enough to make the train on the 8th and possibly wait a week. You see I've got this dream of riding the train across Sudan up to Wadi Halfa, then board the overnight steamboat to Aswan in Egypt and continue with another train to Cairo. But you need to get it right: every 14 days. By the way, my Sudanese transit visa is only good for 14 days in Sudan so I don't have unlimited time. Besides I want to get a move on things so I was considering a bus to safe days...but I really wanted the train-ferry-train experience. You must be able to understand that?
 
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Nadeem, Country Manager at Maersk Line, has likewise been a tremendous support! Here we are seen with the Pakistani Ambassador Zahid Ali after lunch at the Rotana luxury hotel: www.maerskline.com
 
Then there was some doubt if I could even get the visa for Egypt at the border? Tensions have lately been growing between the two countries (Sudan and Egypt). Some said I could and some said I couldn't? Who should I believe? Was online information updated? What did the embassy say? The Egyptian embassy in Eritrea had a really hard time giving me a response. And as I mentioned in last weeks entry: if the embassy can't tell you then who can? Eventually they came up with the answer that I could. But I've had false information from embassies before. The Egyptian consulate in Khartoum also said I could. Meanwhile they needed 3-4 weeks to give me a visa I had received in 4-5 HOURS just a month earlier. So something had changed? The interior ministry in Cairo first said I couldn't get the visa on the land border...but then days later said I could at a post called "Kastel" or "Qastal"? In either case I couldn't locate that border post online, but perhaps think it could be in Aswan having done a lot of research? What should I believe? Some said no problem while others said no way! And I do have prior experience turning up at a border and having to return to the capital I came from to get a visa. And sometimes that takes days! You won't believe how hard it can be to come by good trustworthy information sometimes? It's probably easier for you to relate to how quickly things can change in some countries. I was once working in Libya and left the country for a few weeks. After that I suddenly couldn't return without an Arabic translation of the first page? It's that kind of stuff. Oh yeah...spoiler alert: I've been to Libya before - but soon we're going back ;)
 
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My Sudanese friends keep me sane...and sometimes drive me insane :)
 
I've reached a point where I'm going to the Egyptian border and we'll just see what happens. Hopefully its be fine and I'll pay usd 25, get my passport stamped and cross the border into country number 127. I've already made my bus reservation and ferry reservation. A bus because yesterday I was at the train station early in the morning hoping to get a ticket. And that's when I learned that the train left LAST SATURDAY!
 
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Lunch or dinner? Can't remember. There's always enough and it's always good!
 
If you're wondering why it's taking so long for the crowdfunding campaign to come online then it's down to just two things now. Firstly my own bank doesn't want to create an account for it, because "we don't know where the money will be coming from". My bank was so unlucky to be involved in some media scandal with deposits of illicit money. Money laundering or something like that. Probably not my banks fault, but you know how the media can be. From personal media experience I can read that I'm traveling to every country in the world FOR FREE? And I'm only traveling with container ships - even to the landlocked countries? The Saga has been featured in media across more than 80 countries now so it's hard to keep up. The second issue delaying us is that I want a smashing video to go along with the campaign and I have a friend who's asked a friend to do a cool little cartoon. It will be great! But something went sour out of nobody's fault and that's causing some delay. I think we'll get the video, but it's not that important as long as we are trying to create an account. I've got friends helping with all of this in 3 countries on 3 continents: Canada, Rwanda and Denmark. I'm in Sudan :)
 
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Do you remember Abdallah who got married? (I was at the wedding). He could hardly lift my bags :)
 
Besides the sun warming this part of Sudan up to 44 degrees C (112 F) in the daytime and 28 C (82 F) at night, the above are a few of the things that are frustrating me these days. Oh you know, the same old finance-work-world promotion-Red Cross Red Crescent promotion- logistics-foreign culture-away from home for 3.5 years-social media-kind of thing.
 
But here's the good stuff!! Sudan is such a pearl!! I've had the pleasure of speaking at schools, businesses and universities and relating directly to hundreds of Sudanese. I've spoken with media several times to the degree where I was recently recognized on the street. I've boated on the Nile. I've drunken water from the Nile. I've seen the pyramids and snorkeled in the Red Sea. I've been to a wedding and a graduation. I've been to the top of the NTC tower and I've been cared for by so many people. I've made so many new friend and some that I hope to keep for ever. And to top it off I'm living together with a Sudanese family who keeps saying that I'm family too. I sleep in a room with whoever is home and wants one of the 3 beds in that room. I share all meals with the family and we usually eat out of the same bowl with our hands. I risk getting deported anytime I suggest I should pay for something. And I'm so incredibly safe with them and feel loved by all of them. My Sudanese mother sometimes brings me a freshly squeezed lemonade and a smile - just because :)
 
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My good friend Dafaalla was DESTROYED on the tennis court. Don't believe if he says otherwise ;)
 
On Sunday at 5am my bus leaves from Bahari (Khartoum) to Wadi Halfa. Sunday evening I arrive. Monday I board the ferry. Tuesday it arrives to Aswan in Egypt. Hopefully Wednesday I'll board a train to Cairo. It has now been 217 days since we set out from Cape Town in South Africa on our way to Cairo in Egypt. We've meanwhile covered the African island nations in the Indian Ocean. Now what can go wrong? Just a bus, a boat, a visa and a train :)

 

 

Best regards

Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - 4 countries left in Africa 
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
 
Once Upon A Saga 
 
 
 
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