The entries were made on these days. Use your browser "BACK" button if you want to return to the top of this page after reading each entry.     

26th November 1998 All the car modifications were done. You can see them on the list on this page. The roof rack is HUGE and makes the car sound like it is in a gale force wind when driving along the highway. With our garage being only 2.1m high, and the car nearly that on it's own, we had to park in the street to take it off. Anyone who has been to Madrid will know that parking in the street is no easy matter where double parking is the rule with cars whizzing past. Anyway we got it off and we had to carry it a block and down two floors to get into our parking bay. This is now our "official" workshop. When we are not working on it we have everything stacked against the back wall. The joys of living in a city center. (Though to be honest it's great fun - Visit Madrid, you won't want to leave. ;-) ) Muchas gracias a la gente de Desert Track por su ayuda. Vicente y Alberto. 15th January 1999 Finally finished modifying the roof rack to suit our needs. We added marine ply wood to some parts of the top and added fixing points for the 10 jerry cans and two water containers. Also we added another cross bar from side to side at the center so the rear jerry cans and water containers could be locked to something. 9th February 1999 Tonight we go to South Africa for a while. Scott to do some work and then to learn how to fix the car and Renee to learn how to fix people. 13th February 1999 Mechanics course for Scott. I spent a day with the Senior Mechanic at a Land Rover dealer in Alberton, Guateng - South Africa. It was very very useful. I advise that whoever plans an "overlander" to get to your local dealer for tips, hints, and loads of good info. They are the guys who see ALL the problems and know ALL the fixes. I now have more confidence in the ability of the truck and myself to keep it going. The guys at the dealer really helped me a lot and if you are from that part of the world then contact them too. A nicer bunch of people you will never meet. (A serious bunch of off roaders too!) Alberante Land Rover

William Scott - Sales Executive
Bruce Proudfoot - Senior Mechanic I must also thank Barry and Hilda for allowing me to "play around" under the bonnet and the chassis of their Discovery's as ours was tucked away safely in it's garage in Madrid. Without it the course would have been useless. Thanks guys. 1st March 1999 Well, here we both are back in Spain after a busy couple of weeks in South Africa.Life in a flat means no work space. First Aid Course for Renèe. While I hope that none of the first aid training I did will be required, at least some basic knowledge helps to give us confidence about how we will handle emergency situations. I went through all the standard stuff - CPR, bleeding, broken bones, treating shock, snake bites etc. While in South Africa, we also arranged travel insurance (emergency repatriation if required), a complete set of vaccinations and malaria prophylactics as well as extensive amounts of insect repellent! After some discussions with our doctor, we were recommended to take along some broad spectrum antibiotics which we now have as well - after taking advice from a number of people our first aid kit looks pretty comprehensive! In addition to the items listed on our Equipment Page, we did buy some basic sterile equipment - needles, syringes, drip sets and sutures. We are not planning to use this equipment ourselves but rather to hand it over to medical personnel if we should need that level of medical attention. Also we found a malaria test kit (of the do it yourself variety) which we will be taking along as well as some treatment from our doctor (quinine and antibiotics) if we do come down with malaria. This is only intended to tide us over until we get to professional medical help. So, as far as first aid and preventative medicine goes, I think that is it. Generally we have now reached the stage where if anyone asks if we have considered something we can say ‘Yes’ but I guess there will always be something one hasn't thought of! 12th March 1999 If you have not recently visited the "route" page, do so. The maps were updated today and they give loads more details on both an overview and a detailed country by country level. Thanks to Rick for doing this who will also be keeping them up to date as we go. Frustration on the paper work is showing. We need a holiday to get over planning for this holiday! We will add the information of the paper work required with the next update. Some words of advice on papers - photo copy ALL papers, even application forms (even if it means leaving the place of application and doing it) - check ALL numbers required, i.e passport numbers on all documents relating to the particular application and check that the issuing authority has them right too. Errors occur with long numbers such as those found identifying vehicles , chassis and engine numbers. We now plan to leave our home in Madrid on the 28th of April, this gives us 3 full days to get to Marseilles for the ferry. Plenty of time as it is about 1000 km of highways. 30th March 1999 Another month has come and gone. The next one brings us finally to our trip. We can safely say that right now there is nothing on our minds except this trip, it is even being dreamt of. Tomorrow we go to Switzerland for two things. The first one is a big step in our trip preparation and that is to get the visa and permissions to travel through Sudan. There is no embassy in Spain so we have to go elsewhere for it. It is possible to get in Cairo but that's like leaving it to the last minute and as always that just adds stress. Anyway the journey to Geneva is not purely for the trip. The second reason being that some good friends of ours, Robert and Regina, are getting married this week so it's like killing two birds with one stone - congratulations (they run some of the best photo and trekking expeditions in East Africa known to mankind). We will do some skiing too so hopefully we will have something else to think about instead of all the things that can go wrong on our adventure. But to add to the pain all European flights are suffering severe delays due to the crises in Yugoslavia - NATO is restricting air travel. So tomorrow will be another test of nerves for us. Good practice I hear some of you overlanders saying. Some information then on Visas. Remember we have South African passports. Africa is quite favorable to these now so check for your own countries details. Prices are in Euros which is about 1.1 US Dollars today. Egypt we received in one day and without charge. It is valid for three months from date of issue or date specified. Visa extensions in Egypt apparently cost very little and can add months to the visas. No problems there. The car needs a Carnet De Passage which we are still working on. For Tunisia we had to send an application and proof of our residency in Spain via the embassy here to Tunis for approval. This took one week. You are supposed to supply a letter from a hotel or something to validate your visit but as we were going to be traveling all the time it was not required. Scott's was approved today but Renee's not yet. Renee's full name is Renee St John Pattle and the authorities in Tunis wanted to know what the "St" stood for. So the embassy had to send a fax back today saying it stood for "Saint" but is never written "Saint" just "St" - Odd to say the least. Renee's will be approved next week and then both of us will go to the embassy to get them put in the passport. The good thing is that they do not want to keep your passport while waiting for approval. Price is 6 Euro's each. Libya requires an Arabic translation of your passport. In our case it was written in the back and duly authenticated in less than 30 minutes at a price of 18 Euro's each. Not bad. We will apply for them when we return from Switzerland but have been told it takes a week and is no problem. More information on that in the next update. Sudan we start tomorrow but here's what you need to do, hopefully it works. There are two forms, one for you and another for your car. For your tourist visa you need a letter stating what you are doing and where you are going. You also need yellow fever vaccinations and a letter from a contact there. When I spoke to the embassy in Geneva they said that as I was "traveling" all the time a letter may not be required. For the car you need to deposit 1000 Swiss Francs per person in a bank, to be held by that bank for the Sudanese government until you leave Sudan. A letter of proof is required. This is to cover any "mishaps" you have along the way. Besides this you need third party insurance (Try buying that in Europe and I'll give you a T-Shirt) for Sudan. We have Green Card that does not cover Sudan but we will give it a go. Our aim is to buy insurance in Egypt or at Wadi Halfa. Anyone know if we can? Nobody says a Carnet De Passage is needed but that's not clear yet, we'll let you know in the next update. That's it so far, we will also need visas for Ethiopia and Uganda but should be able to get them on the road. We aim to get Ethiopia in Cairo and Uganda in Addis Ababa, both are possible and fairly simple, Robert - the one getting married this week - had done this many times. The rest of the way we, apparently, do not need visas. Some notes on our alternative route visa ferry to Djibouti. So far it's not as easy as it looks, Messina lines, famous for this type of thing, does it's south bound journeys from Genoa in Italy and does not stop at Suez on the way down. So to take this option you have to place your vehicle on the boat in Suez and wait two weeks as it first goes back to Europe and then down to Djibouti. I have news of this costing 1500 US Dollars, not to mention your own transport to Djibouti and staying in one of the most expensive countries in Africa. Well it's an option if we can't get the pontoon at Aswan. The news on the ferry from Aswan to Wadi Halfa is that the passenger boat is running regularly but this is not for any vehicles. The vehicles have to go on a pontoon which is run by the Sudanese - not as an official service - and has no regular sailing. This takes eight vehicles which is the good part. The bad part is we could wait for two weeks or more for the thing to turn up. So we are holding thumbs for that. Our car is packed, believe it or not, and ready to go. Well not quite, the roof rack is still on the garage floor. We packed the truck with all the boxes full of everything we are going to take today and went out into the mountains to do some testing. Besides the fact that it's good fun, we did learn a few things. Our stuff is packed in 6 metal boxes (see here for details) and weighs 280 kilograms. These are well fixed into the back and do not move, though we will add some more tie downs to make sure. Every hole is filled with something like oil bottles or tow ropes etc. The tool box and first aid kit can be got to and opened with ease from the rear passanger seat (one is removed) and the two most used boxes with food / cooking materials and sleeping equipment are on top and can be pulled out in seconds. The roof rack has been fitted with everything listed in our equipment lists and without the ten jerry cans being full or the fifty litres of water the whole thing weights 130 kilograms. All in all we are carrying 410 kilograms without the extra fuel. Phew that's a lot - anyway the trucks limit is 750 kilograms. I am glad we are fitting double shock absorbers and stronger springs to each wheel We bolted a safe behind the drivers seat for keeping of things like money and passports when we are in the car or in the tent. Those are thing that we do not want to go missing. Our first night on the road is booked. We have over the years been using the Parador hotels in Spain. These are a great chain of hotels which are governement run and are really unique. Each one is built in an old historic building, some dating from the 17th century and even before, for example one is in an old Moorish castle. Anyway they are very luxurious and as we have some "points" for these we decided to spend them and we are staying in an old palace on the Andora border. Last of the clean sheets and warm showers? 11April 1999 Well, here is the long awaited Visa update. First the good news - both Tunisian visas are now in hand.

Now for the not-so-good-news….

We arrived in Geneva with ALL the requirements listed in the last update plus even some official translations from Spanish to English added in for good measure just in case. The friendly lady at the front desk seemed to think all was OK and when we asked her how long it would take to process, she went around to office in the back only to return and tell us that the responsible person had told her, as we were resident in Spain which has no Sudanese embassy, we have to go to Rome, Italy which is accredited to Spain for our visas!

To say we were stunned would be an understatement. After THREE phone conversations with the embassy in Geneva and them sending the applications to us in Madrid only to find out that they refuse to issue the visas. Well, we begged and pleaded and did what we could but had absolutely no luck with them. We did receive some ‘unofficial’ information telling us that they had for the last 8 weeks or so issued no visas and were extremely reluctant to do so at all but that did not help us out of our predicament in any way. We then proceeded to call the embassy in Rome. They told us that all visa applications had to be dealt with through a travel agent and that they could recommend one. Are alarm bells ringing? Anyway, the agent proved to be very friendly until he realised we did not want to book a tour through him At that point the message was that he could try to get us a visa but that there would be no assurances. We took this as a polite ‘No way’ and decided to pursue some other avenues. The first of these is to try our luck with the Middle East overland route. It seems to be pretty tricky but also we have heard that it is possible - it requires visas for Jordan and Yemen at which time Saudi Arabia MAY grant you a transit visa to pass through their country. From Yemen it is apparently fairly easy to find a pontoon to take you through to Djibouti. We have no idea how feasible this really is but decided to start the process anyway, especially when we realised that the Jordanian Embassy in Madrid grants visas the same day at no charge to South Africans. What a bonus - opportunity taken and now another visa is in hand. We also visited the Libyan embassy in Madrid. They were very friendly and there seems to be no problem with the actual issuing of the visa but the validity rules are fairly strict, the visa permits entry into Libya for a period of 30 days after the date of issue and then it is valid for a stay of up to 30 days in Libya. This means that applying too early is a waste of time. We have completed our application forms which are lodged at the embassy but we were recommended to return on the 19 April to apply for the visas which we will be doing. Remember to check requirements in your country - some citizens require a letter of invitation which Libyan travel agents will willing issue at a pretty steep cost of 100USD! We are still exploring further avenues for Sudan as well but will have to give you more information on that in the next update - hopefully within the next week. At the moment, our car is at the garage getting double shocks and stronger springs fitted. Also, during this next week our application for a Carnet de Passage will be done. We have already got the background work done - money deposited in the bank a bank guarantee to hold the money until they receive permission to release it, hopefully back to us or other wise to RACE (Spanish version of the AA). This apparently takes 5 working days to do. So, that’s it for now, still great uncertainty on the route through or around Sudan but we are trying to keep as many options as possible open. 18th April Champagne was opened yesterday - our passports WITH Sudanese visas in them arrived safely back to Madrid last Thursday. From what we are hearing on various Internet message boards (like the Thorn Tree from Lonely Planet) is that Egypt and Ethiopia are not issuing these, and as we know from experience, nor are Geneva or Rome. To us they are worth their weight in gold. As mentioned in previous updates this has not been easy and even the Bonn application had it’s problems, though not at all with the embassy. UPS, who delivered our passports to Bonn, would not collect them again because the United States has an embargo against Sudan and UPS, being American, just refused. DHL were only too pleased to help and collected and delivered them in one day. So we opened the champagne. It seems as if our route through Sudan is becoming clearer, we will now have to see what happens when we get there. Two options are to go to Aswan and wait (who knows how long) for the pontoon to Wadi Halfa, this is the first choice, or to get a ferry from Suez to Port Sudan. Anyway the passports did not stay in our possession for very long. On Friday morning we were at the Libyan embassy to get their visa. That we can pick up on Monday - another really pleasant surprise because they normally take 7 to 10 days. After that no more visa applications until we get going. We will need Ethiopia and Uganda - Ethiopia we will get in Cairo and Uganda when we knock on the door at the border post. Phew - we always knew the paper chase would be long and hard but who knew just how hard. Still outstanding papers are the Carnet De Passage which we collect next week and the third party insurance for Eastern Africa which will arrive, from Uganda, next week too. We are also waiting for our ferry tickets for the crossing from France to Tunisia. After that it’s too late, we hit the road. Now we've taken over the cars space too! The weekend was spent working on the car. It was collected from the garage last week and we are already impressed by the way the double shocks are working. It doesn’t move at all when you get in it and is as solid as a rock. One draw back (though very very minor) is that the turning circle has been increased. Still, we will only be able to see if this "investment" has paid off once we get to the rough stuff. Our friend Robert broke three springs on his last trip in Ethiopia and other friends of ours damaged suspension in Kenya this year too. We aim to get through with no problems and this set up certainly promises to work. (We will send details to anyone interested in how the suspension was done but you will have to be patient because we will only do it after the trip now, which should be September.) We invaded a friend or our’s garden on Saturday. We needed space to work and a basement garage is not ideal. We added six fixing points for the trunks in the back and slightly changed the layout from the photo posted above. Everything is now firmly tied down. Today we went to the car wash and gave the truck a good scrub. This is the last one it will get for a long time but we decided to start off with it clean. We also went to the park to do a repack and add the small last minute purchases we had made. Our friend Robert made us an audio tape, which we have been listening to while working on the car, of what he did in Ethiopia with tons and tons of information on it. This included hotels, road condition, where to get fuel, even down to the guides names and how good they were, how much to pay for things, etc. If anyone is going to Ethiopia I suggest you mail Robert at PhotoAfrica because he is the present expert on that country. Some more information on Libya - We are looking at taking a guide and tackling the great sand seas to the South. We have heard that this is really wonderful and plan to take 4 or 5 days in the deep South of Libya. Guides are about $70 per day, which is expensive for East Africa terms but not too bad for Libya which charges European prices for everything. Regardless of the price it is not possible or wise to venture into that area without one. One Sahara handbook we read says quite simply that if you break down in these parts and cannot get going you will die. No rescue, no water, no nothing. So there!! Though what the guide can do to prevent that I am not sure. We will give some more details on this when we get it. The travel agent will also meet you on the Tunisian side of the border to help with the formalities, mostly they are in Arabic so help is definitely required. This costs nothing if you take the guide from the same travel agent. It seems like our next update will be the last from Madrid and the last for the Pre Trip Diary pages. From Wednesday 28th April we will have finally moved onto the Diary pages of this site. In our next update we will list in one table all the documents we have managed to obtain before leaving. That will make it easier to find the information than having to read through all of these notes.