Another blog from Africa
Since October 10th 2013: 142 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country.
54 countries here - I’m in Egypt
It’s cold now. Winter is coming...winter came...and so did the Egyptian rain...
I haven’t seen the latest season of Game of Thrones. So many people have. I’ve been scavenging episodes here and there from the popular HBO show which I got hooked on back in 2011. Back then I was hard at work in Bangladesh. I was the logistics manager for a year during a project where we constructed a water treatment plant in order of providing millions with clean drinking water. Not a Red Cross project. It was for the Danish government. It feels like long ago already.
I've returned to Cairo for logistics sake. The Nile runs through the city.
Africa is a giant continent with 54 countries. I know that first hand. I’ve been to all of them and all without flying. Furthermore I managed to visit them all without going home, without bribing any authorities, by spending more than 24 hours in each of them...I’m almost sure it has never been done before. It’s something I’m very proud of. It never made a splash on the media. I wonder why? Isn’t that newsworthy in this world which we live in? I think it is. I think I need better PR for the Saga. Sergey whom I met in Cyprus certainly thinks so and I’ve taken his advice. I’m now on the look out for a PR agency. I just can’t pay them right now. However if a PR agency would work to raise money through the Saga then I could offer a percentage. Do you know a good one?
I’ve been visiting the Red Cross or Red Crescent over and over again. The Saga has been alive for more than 4 years now. It’s more than 4 years ago my girlfriend back then, my fiancée today, went to Copenhagen’s train station with me. I was walking behind her and she was carrying some of my stuff. We were heading to the train trying to make our way past hundreds of unsuspecting people. Hundreds who were all going to where they needed to be. I had accomplished nothing back then and hardly knew what I was going to experience over the next 4 years. Heck! I thought that all of this could have been accomplished by now! I still think so but the Saga has seen its challenges and so have I. We have overcome it all somehow? I’m a big part of it but so are thousands of people who have helped and supported. A stranger is a friend you’ve never met before. That much I know is true.
Egypt was a Christian country for a few centuries before Islam. I visited the Hanging Church which dates back to the 3rd century AD. It's located near a Synagogue, a Catholic Church, a Coptic Church and a Mosque.
Catholics literally believe that they drink the blood of Christ during mass (transubstantiation).
The crowdfunding campaign has been running for 40 days now. There is only 18 days left and we have so far collected 26% of the $50,000 which is needed. 26% is already a lot of money. Thank you for your support. 26% is however simply not enough. I figure I’m doing something wrong? I must be? Before the campaign I looked at the social media which combines over 35,000 people from all over the world. If 25,000 people would have offered $2 each then the $50,000 would have been there. Boom! Just like that. To my great surprise the 26% comes from less than 250 very generous people. Some are family, some are friends and some are complete strangers. Well done in terms of generosity! Thank you!! In effect that means that 25,000 people would now only need to support with $1.5 to reach the goal. How do I reach those people? How do I motivate them? I have no clue? If I could find 750 people that were as generous as the first contributors then the Saga would likewise be home free. I just don’t know how to do it? Alas, the 26% will keep the Saga going for a long while. Indiegogo will take its share though. If you want to receive a postcard from me, sponsor a meal, reserve an unwritten book or have your company or name on the webpage then those are all options in the campaign. If you want to keep enjoying the Saga and you don’t want to support it financially, then that is also an option.
I left Denmark with a financial sponsorship from a strong Norwegian company called Ross Offshore. The plan for both them and I was to have the sponsorship throughout the Saga. Albeit oil prices stayed low for far to long and Ross Offshore had to pull out. That was a hard blow to me but I was more than occupied with far more pressing issues at the time. That was thousands of kilometers away from here and yet still within Africa. This continent is massive. To go once around the coastline of this continent would be equal to making a trip around the equator. How many times have I told you that already? Think about Africa for a while. 54 countries is more than 25% of the worlds countries all within one continent. Every 4th country in the world is an African country. The diversity on this continent is as grand as the difference between Japan, Nepal, Switzerland, Canada and Finland. How nuts would someone be to think that Africa is all the same?
Ross Offshore is doing much better again. It’s a forward thinking company which is heavily invested in sustainable energy. Geothermal drilling is the practice where you drill into the earths core until you reach boiling hot water. In Denmark that’s manageable at around 2,700 meters (8,858 ft) and in Iceland you barely need to scratch the surface. A geothermal plant can generate clean energy for 30 years without much maintenance and you may only only loose 1 degree in all that time. It just keeps going. Ross Offshore for deeper understanding. Now that’s a slogan! Maersk Line has been helpful over and over again within the Saga. Maersk Line is a part of Maersk Group which also encompasses an oil and energy division. Rumors in the news have it that Maersk may be in the market to sell off the oil and energy sector and that is forward thinking at its best. Fossil fuels belong to the past. It’s a finite source of energy which has brought us this far but it really has to go. Imagine an alien fly by looking at earth. They would wonder why we are digging and pumping stuff out of the ground while we are orbiting a star? They might also wonder why all our weapons are aimed at ourself? People are strange. People are just people. I’ve only owned one car in my entire life. It was for a few months during my youth as a ski instructor in Austria. It was an old run down Toyota Starlet. I wonder if my next car will be fully electrical? Will it be fully autonomous and drive itself? Will I be able to have a conversation with it? It might just be so.
We live in the "age of selfies". Sphinx translates into "The Terrifying One" or literally "Father of Dread".
When I lost the financial sponsorship with Ross Offshore I began to dig into my savings. They are long gone now. I took a loan and spent it all. I took another loan and I’m halfway through it. I really hope that people will come through in the crowdfunding campaign. Alternatively we can always run another campaign later on. There’s more than 18 months left of the Saga so there’s plenty of time for that. Another solution would be to generate money though publicity and sponsorships. A solid PR agency should be able to create that opportunity. Some believe this project is worth hundreds of thousands in untapped resources. I wonder? Often I’m suggested to find a job somewhere or work while on the move. Imagine that? I’m already working somewhere between 40 and 80 hours per week trying to pull the Saga off. Should I add more work to that? I don’t think so. I have reached my breaking point a few times already and learned a lot about my personal limits. And yet I do not know my actual limits as I haven’t broken down and gone home yet. Not yet. Not ever! The Saga will be completed as originally intended: no flights, no less than 24 hours in each country and no return home until the end. That’s the way forward in my opinion for anyone who wants to say they went to every country completely without flying. Is there another way? I don’t think so. The rules of the Saga are well defined for such an accomplishment. The Saga in its current form inspires many to persist in their daily challenges. They haven’t given up on me and I will not let them down. Around here we keep on keeping on. Returning to Africa was just a slight miss calculation. MSC had me onboard their ship to the port of Beirut in Lebanon. Immigration didn’t come onboard and had denied my disembarkation without providing any reasons for doing so. I’m a Danish citizen and should be provided with a visa on arrival at any entry point. MSC was surprised, the crew onboard was surprised, I was surprised. The ship carried me to its next port of calling which was Alexandria in Egypt. A historical city! The Lebanese Consulate supplied me with a multiple entry visa within a couple of days of approaching them. It’s valid for 3 months. That should definitely take care of immigration.
This is my "juice guy" in Cairo.
I wasn’t prepared to return to Egypt. I was pumped up and ready for the Middle East. I’m so ready to prove people wrong about the Middle East. Through the Saga we’ve been proving people wrong all around the first 4 continents. Most people only know what the media tells them and the media doesn’t spend much energy promoting countries positively. The Saga spends energy doing so and it’s in my opinion a far more accurate projection of the world we live in. It’s no secret that many people are facing some hard problems all around us. The well kept secret is that most things are getting better and that the majority of everyone on earth are simply good well meaning people, who strive to make the best of things. Hardly anyone educated would dispute that the state of humanity is better today than what it has ever been throughout recorded history. That certainly doesn’t mean that our job is done! It just means that we have been in the right path for a long time.
This is my shisha cafe in Cairo.
There have been a lot of changes to the Saga lately. I changed the uniform thanks to Berghaus in Norway, I have restructured my engagement with the Red Cross Red Crescent globally, the webpage has been updated, Friluftsland (Danish outdoor shop) provided me with a new NorthFace base camp duffel bag, Salomon and Amer Sports in Denmark have supplied new footwear, I’ve recently completed the Sagas 4th continent and I have restructured my behavior on social media. The last part has freed up a lot of time. I’ve known for long that I needed to restructured how I deal with the social media. 35,000 people across Facebook, Instagram, blog comments and Twitter generate a lot of activity. You’re an active bunch out there! ;) just keep it up! Now I access the Sagas social media for 30 minutes during the morning and 90 minutes in the evening. That’s far better and more efficient than accessing the social media several times throughout the day. I believe it adds a much better flow. You wouldn’t believe it (or perhaps you would?) but I work somewhere between 50-80 hours per week during the Saga, although sometimes slightly more or less. It’s demanding as heck trying to move forward, manage all social media, meet and promote the Red Cross and Red Crescent and make presentations all within the same project. Thankfully lots of people try to make it easier for me. There’s Debbie in the USA who assists a bit where she can. There’s my sister, my father and my fiancée who all put in a little time now and then. Jenny in Canada has helped editing text now and again. René in Denmark and his brother Dennis in Rwanda got the video done for the crowdfunding campaign. Mufti and Dennis girlfriend Jeannetta, also in Rwanda, were likewise instrumental in getting that video online. Have you seen it? I feel like I’m at the Oscars here and I’m leaving someone out?! Anyway, I’ve recently received the support of an anonymous volunteer, who has read every blogpost (217) during the past week or so! Wow! This volunteer has offered to proofread EVERY BLOG from the beginning!! That means that the quality will now improve, which is a good thing :)
The Pyramid of Khufu to the left and smaller Pyramid of Khafre to the right. Giza/Cairo in the back between them.
Alright people, enough about that now. I’m somewhat reluctantly in Cairo which is really not the worst place I could be. However keeping in mind that every delay is a delay to when I can see Denmark once more. Returning home is currently some 1.5-2 years down the road. I missed my opportunity to board a ship last weekend and dearly hope that it will work out this upcoming weekend so that we can reach Lebanon soon. Meanwhile I’ve been meeting up with old friends such as Doctor Nehal from the Egyptian Red Crescent. We first met when I was in Egypt back in April and went out for dinner earlier this week. I’m staying at the same hostel as in April so that’s familiar. I get my street-food from the same parlors as in April and a few of them remember me. I get my daily fresh orange and carrot juice at the same street parlor as in April and I smoke my shisha at the same café as back then. I should say that shisha (water-pipe) is at least as bad as cigarettes for your health so don’t get inspired by that. I had the chance to meet Youssef who’s a journalist at Qahwet Masr and he typed out this interview: http://qahwetmasr.com/article/Through_Malaria_and_Military_Checkpoints,_Danish_Man_Doesn’t_Give_Up_on_Travelling_the_World_Without_Flying/ We met up again a few days later to drink tea and talk about standup comedy, religion, artificial intelligence, music, movies and a whole lot more.
Khufu Pyramid. Look at the people at its foot for reference.
The view from Khufu Pyramid towards Giza.
Back in April I was reluctant to visit the pyramids as I already had enough on my plate but also because you need to have “thick skin” to head out there. I visited the pyramids more than 10 years ago and you really get your patience tested! I’d say that for me at least 99% of all those people working near the pyramids are “sticky”, annoying, impolite and pushy while less that 1% are nice, decent people. It’s exactly the opposite inside Cairo or across most of Egypt. The Khufu Pyramid (Cheops) is however beyond spectacular and I happened to have the time to go and “play tourist” for a day. A lot of Egyptians are going through a rough patch these years and tourism isn’t what it used to be. So a small amount can make a big difference to a lot of them. However many of these “tourist vultures” know exactly how to play the game and won’t take a “I'm not interested, thank you” for an answer. It’s not just all the souvenirs...it’s all the guided tours, the horse rides, the camel rides, the fake police/inspectors, the beggars, the tricksters, the photo shoots and what have you?!? If you can stand alone for 2 minutes within sight of the pyramids, without anybody approaching you or calling your name, then you deserve a medal of some sort! It’s unbelievable and somehow the Great Pyramids of Giza make up for it. That’s how amazing they are!!
Sudan actually has far more pyramids than Egypt. But they are no match in size to the Great Pyramids of Giza.
The Khufu Pyramid is the largest of them and was built in less that 20 years. All the pyramids were built between 2589 and 2504 BC. The Khufu Pyramid rises 146 meters (486 ft) into the sky which made it the worlds tallest structure for about 3,800 years. It’s more precise than most modern buildings and some say it’s the most precise structure in the world today. It’s estimated to have 2.3 million stone blocks which weigh from 2 to 30 tons each and some weigh over 50 ton! The largest granite blocks weighing up to 80 tonnes, were transported to Giza from Aswan which is more than 800 km (500 mi) away! It’s perfectly aligned with geographical and interstellar objects and has purposely been constructed to withstand earthquakes and heat expansion. That it was built by slaves has long ago been debunked and it’s believed that roughly 200,000 skillful and paid laborers constructed this mind boggling structure. The construction is much less of a mystery today although nobody really knows how it was constructed? There are a great deal of theories where some are a lot more plausible than others. One thing is for sure though: if you think aliens built it then you are seriously underestimating the capabilities of man. I can rant on about the Khufu Pyramid but I’ll end this by saying that the mortar used is of an unknown origin. The chemical composition is known but cannot be recreated. The mortar is stronger than the blocks the pyramid was built out of. Simply mind boggling!! Or dare I say: awesome! It’s a world I use scarcely, however it is immensely fitting in this situation.
Sabri (to the right) approached me wanting to make a sale. However we started talking and soon I was back at his place enjoying dinner with Sabri, his wife and his parents ;)
I caught the Sound and Light show which was established in the early 1960s. You may remember James Bond sitting in for it during 'The Spy Who Loved Me'. The show takes place in front of the Great Pyramids of Giza but James somehow ended up 700 km (434 mi) away at Karnak in Luxor when he ran into the scene? ;)
Oh well, I’ve watched a few movies, I’ve read a lot about pyramids, I have updated social media and now I’m getting to the end of this blog. I’ll end it by saying that I recently asked people on social media how to define a few things: how many countries are there in the world?, what constitutes a visit to a country? - and can there be exceptions to the no flying policy if you want to claim you went to every country without flying? People came back with a lot of interesting answers and generally it’s hard to define how many countries there are or how long you should stay in them. However if you fly at any point for any reason then that counts as flying! And if you flew at any point then I cannot see how you could argue that it doesn’t count? Whichever reason you had to get onboard a flight (danger, health, family, difficulty, visas etc.) it was a decision and it was flight. You’d never be able to prove if that flight interacted with your ability to reach every country and therefore you didn’t do it. That’s why the truth must be that until this day: nobody in history has ever been to every country in the world completely without flying. Let’s change that ;)
The magnificent and awe inspiring Grand Gallery, inside the Pyramid of Khufu, leads up to the Kings Chamber, where it's surprisingly warm. It must be seen with your own eyes! ;)
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - ready to leave Egypt :)
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga