Tracks For Africa

After the ‘phoney war’ of “yeah we’re planning an Africa trip”, “Oh, when are you going?” – “Uhh, Oh, it depends”…. The hardware is of course now coming together, so we’ve pulled our finger out with regards to logistics planning.

As we’ve mentioned we have a rudimentary schedule of countries and the time of year we’d ideally like to be in each one. So the next step is to put some meat onto those bones. We’ve taken tips from the blogs of others (thanks to due to everyone) and we’ve been poring over the Michelin maps and making lots of “Here there be treasure” type crosses and markings in pencil. Whereas this is essential (to literally get ones bearings) – it is also limited when compared to the benefits offered by GPS technology and the brilliant concept of Tracks for Africa (T4A).

T4A started life as a benevolent project, to use GPS data, recorded by overland travellers, in order to map Africa’s byways. By collating the mass of data submitted over many years and moderating it, to distill out ‘real’ routes and points of interest (POI) – the present offering is very comprehensive indeed. With two updates every year it is pretty current (good as roads and byways can come and go with the weather in Africa). It is a work of genius and its significance in all sorts of applications on the ground cannot be overstated – and like all the best ideas it is a simple one. Check out the link to T4A for more details. Importantly, GPS gives you very accurate handle on distance (and T4A annotate the type and state of roads) – just the detail needed to attribute likely journey times for each leg. Plus you can (relatively) easily explore different options on the computer (let down by Garmin’s limited software functionality). T4A for the whole of (charted) Africa can be downloaded for a very modest ZAR 750 (£68)- a steal when compared to Garmin’s own expensive proprietary maps for Europe.

We already have viable routes for Egypt outlined – and it’s proving to be great fun. certainly putting metaphorical pins in placenames, thinking about times and routes and researching is making things feel very, very real 

We still need to determine the ‘Drive Out-Ship Back vs Ship Out-Drive Back” and the ‘Via’ to/from Cairo/UK (I’m favouring France, Italy <> Greece, Turkey, Syria, Jordan <> Egypt; but my head says that might be too much time for our schedule and something that could be covered in a future trip. IE We might have to be more direct to Egypt – subject to sums and deliberations….) Still, the favourable advice regarding the Carnet means we have little/less need to consider the Ship-in <> Ship-Out option.

Our aim now must be to get a well specified, tangible plan together that could allow for travel as early as next year (prefreable) – and even if we are delayed to have something robust enough to pull of the shelf the year after.

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