Welcome to my world
Since October 10th 2013: 142 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country.
Logistics, logistics, Logistics...
At this point I have no idea where my strength comes from? Military checkpoints, risk of imprisonment, malaria, racism, conflict zones, being told that things are impossible, failure, loneliness, absence of friends, absence of family, the list goes on...let’s keep on keeping on...
I want to show you the best of the world. After all that’s really what surrounds us on a day to day basis. It’s simply not in the spotlight most of the time which in my opinion makes us scared and pushes us to abandon hope. I have hope. I believe I can pull this off. Every single country in a single unbroken journey completely without flying. Does it sound easy to you? Every country? I certainly thought it would be easier than this when I left home. I knew there would be challenges. I’m not an idiot. I simply didn’t think it would be this exhausting?
Follow me down, down, deeper, deeper...
Most people are helpful. A few are not. By far the majority of every person on earth doesn’t care at all. Am I doing this for me or for you? I will return home some day: victorious. That will really be something! I’ve even made plans for once I get home. If I’m not married by then it will be on top of my list. I have a wonderful woman in my life and we have now been together for more than five years. We got engaged on top of Mount Kenya little more that a year ago. Who on earth gets engaged on top of Mount Kenya?!? We did, and it’s a fond memory of mine. She knew something was coming but did she know I would pop the question? She was wearing red nail polish while hiking up Africa’s 2nd highest mountain. Women know stuff... I’d like to write a book or two about the Saga. I’ve never written a book before although a few of my words have now been featured in other people’s books. I have an appointment in Copenhagen. My apartment is rented out to a couple I’ve never met. When I left Denmark I rented my apartment out to a very nice British couple. I lose a bit of money on renting it out but my apartment is also an investment so overall I’m not really losing money if you think long term. The British couple had to leave Denmark long before they expected so only one year into the Saga I had to find new tenants. That cost me money as well but the new couple have been amazing and they are still there. Unfortunately the new couple recently sent me an email regarding their wish to move out and into something of their own. So now I need to find new tenants again - from out here abroad!? Fortunately I’ve got a good friend in Denmark who can do that for me. Rasmus Brohl is his name and he did it twice before. His company is called http://homeconnector.dk. I had a small sailboat when I left home. Nothing special. A tiny old sailboat which I cared dearly for. I sold it with the help of some friends last year in order to raise money for the Saga. I want to hang out with my friends. I want to see my family. I want to walk the streets of Copenhagen. I want to wake up in my apartment next to my fiancée. I want, I want, I want...
Perspective: it's the one on the left which is the largest.
Recently I went to visit the great Pyramids at Giza. It is said that man fears time but time fears the pyramids. Do the pyramids know what life has in store for me? How could they? They are just made of stones. 2.3 million stones stacked on top of each other in perfect harmony. My respect for the pyramids of Giza has been renewed. What a sight they must have been thousands of years ago. What a sight they are today. I don’t spend much time focusing on religion within my blogs. If you ask me then people can believe in exactly what they want as long as it doesn’t harm others. In many cases religion strengthens people and gives them both order and hope. Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhist...I’m friends with them all. Last week there was a horrible attack on a mosque here in Egypt. Horrendous!! Why would anyone do such a thing?! Hundreds died in a very well executed plan. The Egyptian Red Crescent responded swiftly. You can always count on the Red Cross and Red Crescent to respond to the needs of humanity. You can also count on me being out here until we reach the very last country. I was a royal guard in my youth and guarded the Queen's palaces across the great kingdom of Denmark. The guards duty is ancient and while you read this you can be assured that the royal guard is pacing back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. They do that day and night year after year while people play football, listen to music, get married, do the dishes, attend school, go to work, buy new shoes, feed the dog, sleep, balance their economy, pray to God, read the news, update Facebook, smoke a cigarette, practice yoga, laugh, cry, dream, hope, plan and everything in between. You can always count on people being people. Day and night people are just people. I find strength in knowing that some guard is right now pacing back and forth in front of a palace.
Port Said is stockpiled with charming colonial architecture.
I should long ago have reached Lebanon as the first country in the Middle East. Lebanon was supposed to be easy. Isn’t that just life for you? Expect and plan for the unexpected. I’ve had more than a few surprises come my way since I left my home in 2013. Time flies - I don’t ;) MSC (Mediterranean Shipping Company) supported the Saga as I boarded their ship in Cyprus on November 11th. The plan was to reach Lebanon 12 hours later which we did. To everyone’s surprise immigration did not allow me to disembark? Why? Nobody knows! Well of course somebody in Lebanon knows but I’m in the dark and have still received no explanation. MSC (www.msc.com/cyp) was kind enough not to let me walk the plank. I could have stayed onboard with their wonderful Ukrainian crew all the way back to Europe. It was my choice to disembark in Africa and at the time it seemed like the right thing to do. I would not have done anything differently today. Albeit if I knew what I know now I would never have boarded that ship in Cyprus. MSC was and is great. They did everything they possibly could and even went beyond. The reason why I wouldn’t have boarded the ship is found in this quote from the Danish thinker Soren Kierkegaard: “life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards”. In Egypt’s great city Alexandria, I managed to obtain my Lebanese visa in record time! My plan was to race to Port Said (also Egypt) and board a ship from there back to Beirut in Lebanon. I should have received my visa on arrival but I now had a visa in advance so what could go wrong? Plan for the unexpected...
The story of Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta - and why I’m still in Egypt:
Let’s imagine that there’s a long wall with a locked door which can only be opened once a week but you’ll need a specific key.
Luckily my friend Alpha usually has the key so I called him. Unfortunately Alpha didn’t have the key for this particular door but asked Bravo to help out. Bravo wasn’t really in a hurry to help because Bravo has no clue who I am. However Bravo respects Alpha so I did get help to open the door. Unfortunately we just missed the time slot for opening the door so I had to wait a week at the wall.
The day before it was time to open the door again, Bravo introduced me to Charlie. Charlie has to be involved. Charlie is a great guy but he needs at least 3 days to arrange for all the formalities. That was no good as I’d loose another time slot and everything quickly got a little hectic! Fortunately the time-lock for the door was delayed and furthermore Charlie was well connected so everything got ready in just 2 days. As Charlie and I walked towards the door Delta suddenly arrived and claimed that the key was really his!
Since Delta had never had the chance to check if the other side of the wall was safe, there was no way I was getting to walk through that door. After all...the key did belong to Delta. I had no idea Delta existed so I called Alpha and Bravo who took immediate action. As a result Delta eventually invited me to walk though the door with him but I narrowly missed the time slot and got stuck on the wrong side of the wall.
While that doesn’t sound like a big deal: IT WAS! Because Charlie had prepared all my documents and I was no longer legally on his side of the wall! That meant that I was in risk of going to prison...yes! Real actual prison out of no fault of my own! However Charlie worked day and night helping me out so after 14 hours I was once again legally on his side of the wall. However on THIS side of the wall...
My friend Mohamed.
As it turns out the door is pretty much permanently locked now. At least for me. Fortunately there’s another door which opens up soon. There’s a great Mediterranean company called MCL Feeder (www.mclfeeders.com) who have offered to help out. Their agent here in Port Said is a group of hardworking people. The agent is called Fair Trans (http://www.fairtrans.com) and Yasser, Haitham, Mohamed and Omar have all become friends in the past few days. They have gone over and beyond to help me and we didn’t even know each other just a week ago. Yasser, Haitham, Mohamed and Omar are just some of the people I’m always going on about. Most people are kind and generous and are willing to help you if it’s within their reach. Do you ever wonder about who you’re standing in line with or sitting next to in a train, bus or waiting room? They may have no idea what you have accomplished in life before you got there. You probably have no idea where they came from or where they are heading. It’s the world we live in. It’s the real world and not the world which the media pulls down over our faces. We all have an abundance of information stored inside of us. Can you tell much about those people by looking at their shoes, their hair or a tattoo?
If I bring you back to the pyramids for a moment then it should be no surprise that the area is stockpiled with opportunistic people who want to offer tourists either this or that. It quickly becomes overwhelming and after leaving the sight I found myself in a low key café where I sat down to enjoy some tea and a moment of solitude. It didn’t last for long as an obnoxious perfume salesman approached me and interrupted my train of thought. After a while of typical tourism chat our conversation turned deeper and I decided to tell him who I was and why I was there. He listened as I spoke of countries and grit. He was no longer obnoxious. I showed him a video interview from Sudan, which I have stored on my phone. He listened to the Arabic narration until the interview was over and looked at me: “you are a good man” he said. Now I don’t know about that, but I do know that I try hard. One thing lead to the next and moments later I was in his home enjoying dinner with his wife, mother and father. It was delicious and afterwards we enjoyed tea. Someone else might have screamed: “GO AWAY!!” at this man and would have lost a moment of true Egyptian hospitality. I have pushed thousands of salesmen away over the course of the Saga. We simply cannot let everyone in. However if we do then sometimes we become richer in every way.
My friends Haitham on the left and Omar on the right. Omar has 20,000 followers on Instagram? Superstar and office employee ;)
Traveling onboard containerships is not common. I must have told you this several times already. It’s a true privilege which is not bestowed on everyone. And it’s very hard work to gain access. VERY HARD! ;) At times I should think that swimming across the ocean is far easier. I’ve made some solid contacts over the years and I’m frightened that they may perish if I somehow misstep. These connections can be brittle and at times I fear that I’m no better than my last actions. Cyprus is a small country but a great shipping nation. Columbia Shipmanagement is based in Cyprus and manage hundreds of ships. They helped the Saga reach the Seychelles from Madagascar long ago. The Cyprus Shipping Chamber (CSC) is a very competent and powerful entity which strives to enlarge Cyprus as an even stronger shipping nation.
My meeting with CSC a few months ago. Alex and Chrysostomos on the right and Mila and Bruno from www.beflexi.com on the left.
I recently reached out to my friend Alex who is the Director Deputy Manager and Marine Manager of CSC (http://csc-cy.org). He was pleased to hear from me and as always very helpful. There is so much which goes on behind the curtains of the Saga. Too many emails have been written, received and replied to - I can’t remember half of them. Phone calls, meetings, text messages, WhatsApp, messenger and everything short of smoke signals have accompanied my daily work and routines. CSC was instrumental in getting me onboard MSC’s vessel from Cyprus to Lebanon. They are once again supporting me in getting back to Cyprus. Can you believe this: I was actually onboard a ship just a few days ago here in Port Said ready to head back to Lebanon for our 2nd attempt!! I reached the ship in pure James Bond style, in the middle of the night, onboard a wooden boat. I reached the ship from the seaside and climbed up the gangway with my bag on my back. At 02:00am I had to leave the ship again after having spoken to a devastated Captain. He was really hoping it would work out but immigration in Lebanon had for the second time denied my entry to the country. Therefore there was no point in bringing me onboard to Beirut only to bring me back again. Expect the unexpected. If you have any idea regarding the backflips I need to make in order to get onboard a ship?! The paperwork alone encompasses a clean criminal record, proof of vaccinations, seafarers medical certificate, passport copies, letter of intent etc. Then the shipowners, charters and shipbrokers need to accept your presence onboard. Obviously immigration needs to accept your embarkation and then there’s the physical logistics in order to actually reach the ship: port security, guards, military, police... I was onboard the ship and had to return to shore. That’s like winning the lottery and having your ticket swept away with the wind! If only I knew why the Lebanese immigration is denying me entrance? Nobody knows. Somebody knows. I’m in the dark.
Heading up just before midnight. Heading down two hours later.
Egypt’s a good country to be “stuck” in. Everything appears to costs a dollar or two. Unfortunately living costs are higher in Port Said. In Alexandria and Cairo I can easily find accommodation for $6 but in Port Said I’ve found nothing for less than $20. The 4 hour bus ride back to Cairo costs $3 so I thought about going back there just to save some money. Two nights in Port Said would buy me 6 nights in Cairo including transport to and from. However my usual place in Cairo was fully booked when I checked and I couldn’t muster the strength to head into the unknown so I opted for 4 nights in Port Said at the high rate. Here’s a story for you which I heard from someone I trust: if a foreigner rents a room for e.g. LE 100/night ($6) then the owner must register the foreigners passport with the authorities. However prices have gone up in Egypt in recent years while salaries have remained low. In effect this means that you quite often need to pay as much as Le 400 in order to register a foreign passport. Now if you’re charging LE 100 but need to pay LE 400 for the registration then you need your guest to stay for at least 5 nights before you make any money at all. In this case the guesthouse costs the owner LE 5,000/month. Business is tough so the temptation is there not to register the passport and hope that the authorities do not notice. Now the guest might be unaware that the host didn’t register the passport and the guest might think that everything is okay having paid the host LE 100. If the authorities make a surprise visit and discover that your passport is unregistered then you risk prison along with the host. Perhaps just a night but that would be more than enough I imagine. And you were of no fault as you were unaware. Times are tough for many people and they simply do the best they can with whatever they have. As it turns out I have lately been at risk of imprisonment twice within 3 days. Well, that’s twice that I’m now aware of. I’ve never been to prison in my life and I don’t know if that is something I wish to check off my to do list. Especially if it was of no fault of my own.
Anyway, here’s the plan now for reaching Lebanon. I will board another containership and return back to Cyprus from Egypt. Then I intend on crossing into occupied Cyprus and catching the ferry to Turkey. From Turkey I will catch another ferry which will take me to Tripoli in Lebanon. From Tripoli I will travel overland to Beirut and meet with the Lebanese Red Cross which has been expecting me for some time now. I’m also scheduled to make a presentation at LWIS City International School, which I’m looking forward to. For those of you looking at the map I cannot cross the border between Israel and Lebanon due to political reasons. Furthermore the border between Syria and Jordan is closed to the best of my knowledge. Generally it is ill advised to visit Israel before a number of Middle Eastern countries for political reasons which would complicate the Saga further. I appreciate all your advice but keep in mind that I’m a public person and that I do not have the luxury of flight. What’s otherwise simple becomes a lot more complicated if your aim is to reach every single country in the world in a single single unbroken journey completely without flying ;)
With a little paint and some tender care Port Said could be unbelievable.
On a final note: the crowdfunding campaign has picked up a bit since the last blog I wrote. I’m grateful for your contributions and it will take us a long way. I’m not confident that the followers of the Saga are motivated to help us reach the target of $50,000 and I might initiate my final plan to reach that goal. It’s not a plan that everyone will like but it’s a plan nonetheless :) I used to be a guy without a backup plan. I remember clearly when that changed about 20 years ago. Back then I ended my 12 months duty as a royal guard and I was standing in civilian clothing together with all the other soldiers. Families were there to welcome everyone back to “the real world”. Everyone had a plan: start a job, back to school, travel or something else. I stood there dumbfounded with no idea about what was coming next? 12 months of pushups and being told what to do had derailed me. My mind drew a blank while I stood there on the lawn. An officer approached me asking if he could see my papers? He looked at them and responded that I had done vey well. I was then invited into his office where we could speak about international duty. 45 minutes later I had signed the documents which would set me on a different course. It was a Friday. The following Monday I returned and was issued a new uniform along with a blue beret. Since then I vowed never to be caught off guard again. Since then I have always had a plan B no matter what ;)
Port Said has got beaches too. They remind me of Libya.
If you can’t spare a few bucks to support the Saga then don’t worry - I’ll reach the last country one way or the other. However if you feel promoting the world in a positive way is a worthwhile cause then please follow this link: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/once-upon-a-saga-never-give-up-people#/
Have a great day wherever you are :)
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - wiser today than yesterday.
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga