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March 26, 2007

Africa Leg Prep

LOCATION: Djibouti
Longitude: N:11deg.36.112'
Latitude: E: 043deg.09.196'

Starting this coming Friday morning (30th) the next leg, the 15th out of a total of 16, takes the expedition through Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Turkey. The final leg through Europe will end around the middle of October at the Greenwich Meridian Line in east London where the whole thing started over 13 years ago.


The main concern of course is the Sudan, and in particular crossing the border between Sudan and Egypt across Lake Nasser. This will most likely involve using a kayak to paddle the 180 miles between border checkpoints. The big unknown at this point is whether it will even be possible to either acquire a permit to do so or just wing it on the day by sweet talking local border officials. If unsuccessful there are, to the best of my research, few if any alternative route options, and the possibility exists of backtracking as far as Mumbai in India to negotiate an overland route across Pakistan and Iran to reach the end goal of Europe. But as with the border crossings between East Timor and Indonesia and crossing Tibet without permits, there may well be key people lying in wait up the road in the future to help facilitate what seems at the present time to be a very slim chance of success. So the main thing is to forge ahead regardless.

A few days ago we visited the Decan Cheetah conservation area just outside Djibouti town. Currently home to six cheetahs, the refuge was set up by Dr. Bertrand Lafrance to protect the animals from being killed by poachers.


At one point we were offered the unique experience of entering the same enclosure as 'Tesai', a seven year old cheetah who appeared quite tame and tolerant of being handled by Bruno, our local guide/come guardian angel here in Djibouti*.


In July 2006 she gave birth to three cubs in captivity, a highly unusual occurrence for an animal that normally requires enormous distances to roam around in for the dating game to actually yield results. But all three died due to the extreme heat. Tesai will never leave her enclosure as her skin will quickly sign her death warrant for its value on the black market. But plans are in place for any progeny to be released into larger fenced areas that hopefully ensure both protection from poachers and offer a little more freedom of movement.


* Bruno owns a local travel/guide service - Doplhin Excursions - for the Djibouti/Ethiopia/Somalia region. If you're interested in knowing more about what they have on offer send emai to dophinexcursions@hotmail.com

Posted on March 26, 2007 8:27 PM