I promised you a new continent. I didn’t think it would be Africa?
Since October 10th 2013: 142 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country.
All roads lead to Africa
It’s downright hard to predict the future sometimes. Well, nearly always if you want an exact prediction :)
I really didn’t see this coming? I’m back in Africa!! I actually don’t mind as I had torn a pair of trousers and needed some sewing done on my jacket as well. If you’re not willing to sew yourself then it’s quite costly in Europe and my scouting tells me that Lebanon might not be cheap either. In most of the western world we have developed this use and throw away culture and getting cheap items fixed isn’t something we do anymore. I remember a man in Cuba telling me: “garbage in the USA is gold to us”. There’s more to that sentence that meets the eye. I’ve thrown away a perfectly good television set because it was hopelessly old fashioned in these flatscreen ages. I myself have never owned my own flatscreen tv as the last 10 years of my life I have constantly been on the move for jobs in Europe, Africa, Asia and North America. You know about my past 4 years which have included 142 countries so far and it would be ridiculous to travel with a flatscreen tv :) So I’ve always figured I’ll return home someday and buy a good tv and enjoy some nature and history programs...some day... I’ve got a good reason to settle down now that I’m engaged to a beautiful woman and wish to start a family. It’s already a year ago that my fiancée and I got engaged. Time flies. I don’t ;)
At Point Lenana, Mt. Kenya, Mt. Kenya National Park, thanks to Kenya Wildlife Services. November 16th 2016.
I’m writing you from Alexandria in Egypt. I’ll get back to how I ended up here. Alexandria was named after Alexander the Great who conquered the entire known world. I’m trying to in my own way. My spirits are high again after getting almost everything on my massive “to do list” done. It feels good not having all those things hanging over my head. I’ve replied to emails, written Red Cross and Red Crescent stories, planned out the Middle East, updated the webpage, developed tactics for the crowdfunding campaign, organized photos and most of all rested up and eaten well. I’m very grateful to Sergey and Natalie for hosting me in Cyprus and I obviously miss them. I ended up spending 31 days in Cyprus which is way too long for my heart as I get attached. Not only to Sergey, Natalie, Natalie’s dog Mo, Sergey’s dog Jason, Mila, Bruno, Pambos and a lot more. By the way...both dogs come from shelters in Cyprus. Sergey has done well for himself and financially supports a couple of shelters.
Alexandria, Egypt, where I sat and wrote this blog.
Anyway, I’m in Alexandria now and the city is famous for an ancient library and an ancient lighthouse. I’ve once seen a precious mosaic in Libya depicting the lighthouse. It would have been quite a thing if it still existed. Likewise the loss of the library is sad. It was perhaps the largest collection of writings and they have now gone lost for ever. Do you wonder what people wrote thousands of years ago? I do.
The New Alixandria Library.
MSC (Mediterranean Shipping Company) is the second largest shipping company in terms of containerized cargo. Nita and Captain Sinha quickly became friends and offered me to join the good ship “MSS Augusta” on its voyage from Cyprus to Lebanon. It’s a short journey which lasts less than a day. We had squared out everything with immigration in advance which shouldn’t even matter much since I’m a Danish dane from Denmark and I can get my Lebanese visa on arrival at any entry point. I’ve been on 11 container carriers since the Saga began but I think Cyprus was the first send-off where I was accompanied to the ship by anyone else than an agent? Nita and Captain Sinha joined me on the vessel to say their final farewells and give me a great sendoff. Onboard I met Captain Pavlo who was the Master and Commander onboard. Everything went as scheduled and I was treated like royalty!! I was shown to the owner's cabin which is located just below the bridge and next to the Captain's cabin. Great luxury on a 31 year old ship. These old ships were built well. I’m not saying that the new ships are not quality but there is a distinct difference between Chinese or South Korean ships compared to German or Danish built ships. The “MSC Augusta” was built in Germany back in 1986. You can feel her age and if you listen carefully then she will whisper her stories to you. I feel well traveled but I’ve got nothing on a 31 year old ship. She has probably seen every one of the seven seas, called thousands of ports and carried seamen of all sorts. Naturally an old ship operating in modern times has been upgraded in several ways. However the charm remains and I’ve spoken to several Captains who prefer the old ships to the new ones. Times change and we must change with them or get lost behind.
Breakfast from 07:30-08:00. Lunch from 11:30-12:30. Dinner from 18:00-19:00.
Safety first. The routine onboard is mostly: work, eat, sleep, repeat.
The MSC Augusta is 187.7 meters (616 ft) from bow to stern. She weighs 8.000 metric tons without any cargo, which is around the same as 1.467 African bush elephants. The entire crew was Ukrainian. The food was unbelievably good and plenty. The crew was kind and helpful. MSC Augusta is equipped with a sauna, indoor pool, game consoles, a gym, recreational areas and 90 minutes of satellite wifi per day per seaman. Look how small she becomes even at a close distance.
We left Limassol in Cyprus in the morning and reached Beirut in Lebanon before the sun had set. We came along side during the evening and cargo operations began. Being along side is the busiest time for the seamen. Hardly anyone ventures into new adventures and disembarks the ships these days. Having a sweetheart in every port and getting a buzz on belongs to old songs. It’s work, work, work today as it costs a lot to be along side and the space needs to be freed up for the next vessel which is probably already waiting just outside the port. Immigration did not come onboard that evening. The ship's agent came onboard as soon as he could to take care of formalities and he informed that immigration had denied me my visa! Immigration had provided no reason as to why they did so? They might have had their reasons but they were very hard to grasp since Beirut was hosting an international marathon the following day and more than 3,000 runners had flown in to participate. All those people got their visas but I, as a Danish dane from Denmark, could not disembark. It perplexes me even more as I know how welcoming the Lebanese are but I wasn’t unaware of the political situation in the country, where the Lebanese Prime Minister has traveled to Saudi Arabia and gone missing for a few days. There’s much more to be said about that situation and you can search the internet if you're curious.
Port of Beirut: as close as the Saga got to Lebanon in round 1.
I spent another night onboard while MSC along with several friends of the Saga in Lebanon tried to find a solution. When the cargo operations finished the following day there was still no solution in place to allow me to disembark. 2 immigration officers came onboard however couldn’t explain why the “higher ups” had denied me entry to Lebanon? When I asked them they said “ask the agent”. That makes no sense as I was face to face with immigration. If immigration doesn’t know then who does? The next port of call was Alexandria in Egypt and after that the ship would continue back to Italy in Europe. It would be another 3 weeks before the ship would once again return to Beirut. Now what? Captain Sinha at MSC in Cyprus could confirm that he had in writing that immigration had approved my disembarkation in advance. Something had changed and we couldn’t get any answers. So close to country no 143 but no cigar. Captain Pavlo was really easy in this regard. I was more than welcome to stay onboard and he simply said: “ it will give us the pleasure of having you onboard a little longer”. I sensed that I could probably stay onboard for as long as I pleased and the “MSC Augusta” left Beirut with me onboard.
It took less than an hour for me to form a new plan and I requested to disembark in Egypt. This was no issue whatsoever and 24 hours later we had reached Alexandria. I was back in Africa! In my experience some people with limited power sometimes do their outmost to exercise it in various power demonstrations. I can give you funny example from Cyprus: the day I embarked the ship Nita and Captain Sinha joined me as I mentioned before. As our car approached the gates of the port security we were informed that we had to enter at another gate. Fair enough. The security guard allowed us to enter the gate just to circle around the guards house and exit immediately. So within the same minute we needed to leave the port at the exit (just next to the entry). The exit gate had another guard who wouldn’t let us exit without the proper paperwork. That is as surreal as bureaucracy gets!! We couldn’t get in and we couldn’t get out - stuck at the gate for eternity in a catch 22 kind of scenario :) Naturally all we need to do was call over the first guard who quickly informed the second guard that we simply made a U-turn and then the gates opened so that we could leave...and enter another gate. Mind you; the port of Limassol is not exactly the largest in the world so I don’t know why we couldn’t enter the first gate. Don’t ask...just smile and wave...
The tugboat pulling us along side in Alexandria, Egypt.
The Saga has a great deal of friends. The crowdfunding campaign has reached 26% ($12,865) from just little more than 200 contributions. The Saga has friends in well over 100 countries in the world and it has certainly got friends in Egypt! You may remember Hatem from when I first visited Sudan nearly 9 months ago. Hatem works in Sudan but is from Alexandria. He set me up with Mahmoud who swiftly organized a $7 hotel for me located downtown Alexandria on the seafront.
It’s good to be back in Egypt. Meals go for less than $2, people are easy to speak to and I got my trousers and jacket sewn within an hour for just $1.50. I got a long overdue haircut for $1.50 as well. Hatem suggested I should try the Lebanese Consulate in Alexandria as it would surely be less busy than the Embassy in Cairo. I showed up as soon as I could and was told that I could get my visa on arrival to Lebanon ;) I requested to have a visa done in Alexandria anyway and was informed that they would need my bank records proving an income, a hotel booking or written letter from my host and that it would take 10 days. I smiled and after a few minutes we waved all those requirements, they got a photocopy of my credit card and I picked up my Lebanese visa 2 days letter. It’s a multiple entry visa valid for 3 months. This is stage 1 in my plan to return. Maersk Line is the worlds largest shipping company in terms of containerized cargo and have a feeder vessel which calls Egypt, Cyprus and Lebanon. It goes round and round and it takes about 7 days. So if I can get Maersk’s approval to come onboard then it should take about a day to return to Cyprus and less than a day to return to Lebanon for round 2. Now I cannot expect Maersk Line to assist as it is quite uncommon for such ships to carry passengers. However Maersk has been a good friend to the Saga for several years so let’s see what gives. It’s an extravagant plan when you think about it. However the Saga isn’t just your ordinary project.
I've also missed my Egyptian koshery :)
No one in history has reached every country in the world without flying. I’m not the first person to try but I may become the first to succeed some day. I’m certainly aiming for it and we have so far covered beyond 187,000 km (116,000 mi), 4 years, 142 countries and more than a handful of “impossible” challenges. At least they were thought to be impossible until we proved those nay sayers wrong. What is truly impossible in this world? Imagine if I had given up just a single time along the past 4 years...then you wouldn’t be reading this now ;)
Thank you to Captain Mamenko Pavlo, his crew and MSC! Fair winds and following seas to all.
Okay, I’ll promise you another continent (again). Let’s make it Asia this time :)
And finally; if you feel like supporting the crowdfunding campaign with a coin or two then please do. It is much appreciated and the campaign includes features where you can get a postcard from me, preorder the great Saga book and many other things: check it out: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/once-upon-a-saga-never-give-up-people#/
Thank you once again for being there for me! :)
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - bring it on!! ;)
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga