Howdy all. Well, before I head off, and that’s in ONE DAY from now, I thought I would do a pre-departure post and talk a little bit about my preparations which have been both exhausting and exhaustive! I mean did start dreaming and planning back in mid-2020.
The route is the main thing that I had to decide upon before I could really book anything, and that has been in a state of flux from the very beginning. Getting from Dhaka to Dakar is not straight forward, there were a lot of challenges and adjustments to be made over time. And one of the main reasons for that was because there were so many possibilities and choices to make.
I was always going to start in Dhaka and cross to India. At one point I was heading through Nepal too. A lot of the original plans were dependent on things going back to the way they were in the world in 2019 as when I started planning much of the world was locked down and borders firmly shut.
The first compromise I have had to make was sadly to travel from Dhaka to Kolkata by air. India are still not accepting foreign arrivals via land borders, and I have waited and waited and WAITED since they opened up 15 months ago now but that restriction is still sadly in place. It may have been possible to enter India, then head to Dhaka and re-enter India under the current regime, but the time lost made this not worthwhile. I have around 90 days to make the journey, which is not again what I would like but even saving my leave as I have is the full extent of the time I can possibly take off work. Earlier plans for the trip had up to 120 days, which actually would have made a real difference.
Thankfully I can LEAVE India via land, and so into Pakistan I plan to go from there. I have visas for all countries mentioned, not all smooth sailing getting said visas it must be said. On January 26th I’ll be publishing my pre-trip video where you’ll see the chaos of trying to get a visa for Bangladesh!
China, out of the blue, have just opened their borders. I had planned to go north through Pakistan and across Central Asia, then ferry to Baku and Caucasus and then Georgia into Turkey. However, China’s borders being shut for such a long time meant I couldn’t even consider that. Also It would have required a different departure date and probably to reverse the route (in fact for quite a while I was planning this to be Dakar to Dhaka!) and eventually I had to rule that out.
I did loads of research on Pakistan and crossing the Balochistan desert into Iran, which is the route I took in 2004. However the information I was receiving wasn’t very positive. You need a ‘NOC’ to cross Balochistan in Pakistan, a ‘No Objection Certificate’ which apparently has become harder and harder to get. And it can take weeks or months, and probably I would have to sort it out in Pakistan. Last time I crossed at my own pace, I didn’t really care how long I was in a place. This time I can’t afford that luxury. So I had to look for an alternative, and there is a ferry from Dubai or Sharjah in the UAE into Iran, and I could take a shortish flight Karachi (where I haven’t been) to Oman, so this seemed like a good alternative.
Iran’s visa process is pretty fiddly these days, needing a code from a tour agency for starters and then there is no guarantee you will get it. Then of course we had the death in custody which sparked protests country wide, and look I have a deep love for the country of Iran, but I thought it just wasn’t the best time to visit and so I turned my attention to the UAE’s other neighbour, Saudi Arabia. In a welcome surprise this was the EASIEST visa I have gotten for the trip (also the most expensive because they make you buy health insurance to issue the visa even though I already had travel insurance) and the chance to see inside this country, which for so long has been really hard to enter, was too good to pass up. I’ll make my way to Amman. I had thoughts of trying Syria, but in the end I can’t crossed the border into Turkey (although the Jordan and Lebanon borders are open) and so I decided again it wasn’t quite the time for it.
From there I’ll cross Europe in quickish time, not 100% settled on the itinerary but I will be having 5 nights in Florence as a sort of mid-trip pit stop. Then down through Spain to Morocco and northern Africa, and from there I will be heading south through Mauritania to Senegal and Dakar. Hopefully I haven’t given EVERYTHING away!
Flights are all booked. Two flights I booked with airlines – Inidgo and Oman Air, which will be my first time flying both of them. They are economy flights. I’m pretty excited though that I have so many frequent flyer points for both Qantas and Velocity, which has enable me to book a few Business Class flights which I can’t wait to take and review. Velocity has really come up a winner here, Australia to Singapore Business Class (on Singapore Airlines) is about the amount of points I can earn in a little over 6 months. And I still have a lot of Qantas points up my sleeve for future travel!
I’ve managed to book online a coupe of Indian Rail tickets which is great, and I’ve booked a number of hotels for the first half of the trip. It’s going to be very different to my previous attempts at this – when I would turn up in a place and then seek out accommodation.
Bag packing started a good month before departure. I have so many gizmos and gadgets that didn’t even exist in 2004 now! Hopefully I’m all ready to vlog my way along this route! Uploading them with hotel wifi is a bit of a concern – hopefully it’s doable! I think vlogs will generally be around a week after I’ve been somewhere. I need to have a bit of a buffer because I am sure there will be places I just can’t upload!
Well, fingers crossed for things to go as smoothly as possible! Hopefully you will continue to follow me as I finally get going to what I have been waiting for for 2.5 years! Thanks and May the Journey Never End! And May the Journey Now Begin….