Archive for the Bribery & Corruption Category

The Last 10 Great Adventures

Posted in 10 Great Adventures, Africa, Bribery & Corruption, Travel with tags on July 30, 2010 by Mackeral Mark

Ever wanted a real adventure?

A journey that tested you to the limit, got your heart racing, made you feel alive?

A great adventure is all about risk, danger and excitement. Alas, in a world where “off the beaten track” is somewhere with two hotels and guided tours, where is the action really at?

I’m not talking about backpacking around Eastern Europe, or driving around Australia. I’m talking about REAL adventure, overlanding across entire continents and the world’s most hostile environments. Here are my last great adventures, journeys prescribed for only the ballsiest, suicidal nut jobs there is.



1. Cross Papua New Guinea (by foot)

Papua New Guinea

Danger Rating : 3.5/5

Your mission: With no road connecting one side of PNG to the other, you have two choices: Fly or Walk. Do a survival course, choose you route and take a chance. PNG one of the least westernised and explored countries in the world. With over 600 languages, hostile tribes and rumors of cannibalism, a trek in the jungle here is no picnic. I plan to walk from Port Moresby to Lae some day.

Highlights: Incredible scenery, party in the cities, bragging rights.

WARNINGS: Malaria, starvation, cannibals and hostile tribes.


2. The Deep Amazon

The Amazon Rainforest

Danger Rating : 4/5

Your mission: Get from Peru to Manuas in Brazil. That’s where the action is – the border area boasts unexplored jungle, isolated tribes and treacherous river journeys. You’ll be entering Brazil illegally -but who cares? Build yourself a raft just go with the flow. It will be awhile until you reach civilization so bring provisions and take a survival course. Good luck!

Highlights: The sounds and sights of the Amazon.

WARNINGS: Piranhas, Jaguars,  starvation & poison darts/ arrows by angry natives.


3. Navigating the Congo River

The Congo

Danger Rating : 5/5

Your mission: Come back alive. The Congo is a shit storm of violence, rape and tribal wars. Unknown species, constant payouts and more danger than you can handle awaits. Enter from Uganda, avoid getting shot in Kivu and join the river all the way to the capital. Our trip to Kivu was the biggest rush of my life.

Highlights: Stories to last a life time, blood diamonds, horny Congo chicks.

WARNINGS: LOTS! Kivu is a red zone. Travel “permits” are needed for certain areas. Being killed, robbed or arrested are real possibilities. Bring a lot of cash for bribes.



4. Panamericana

Alaska to Argentina

Danger Rating : 2 /5

Your mission: Cross North and South America from top to Bottom. This is the ultimate road trip.

Highlights: Latin women, diverse terrain and bragging rights.

WARNINGS: Panama to Colombia requires you take a ferry.


5. Cairo to Cape Town

Cairo 2 Cape (recommended)

Danger Rating : 3.5 /5 (4.5 with a nip into Somalia and Congo)

Your mission: Travel the entire African continent overland from top to bottom. I’ve tried this one – strongly recommended.

Highlights: Too many to name. The Nubian pyramids in Sudan, Ethiopian women and bungee jumping over Vic falls are serious highlights! Finish with a dive with great whites in Cape Town.

WARNINGS: Hot spots – Darfur, Congo, Somalia and the Kenya-Ethiopia border.


6. Casablanca to Cape Town

You get the idea..

Danger Rating : 3.5 /5

Your mission: Top to Bottom. Like Cairo to Cape town but from the other side.

Highlights: Sex with Voodoo chicks, plenty of danger and hardcore travel.

WARNINGS: Bribery, robbery and AIDS.


7. Senegal to Somalia (Trans-Sahara)

Trans-African roads

Danger Rating : 4.5 /5

Your mission: Get from the Atlantic to the Indian ocean via Central Africa. It can be done, but avoiding conflict is not an option. Start off in Senegal and head into Mali, Niger & Chad. Bureaucracy will be nightmare for Sudan, but the south may be accessible via the Central African Republic. You will need to bribe the North Sudanese as you have no “travel permit”. We had none when travelling to some areas, but avoided jail. Finish in Somaliland for good measure.

Highlights: You get to visit some of the least visited places in the world. The Sahara awaits…

WARNINGS: You will be in bandit country and active war zones.


8. The Southern Silk Road

Danger Rating : 4.5 /5

Your mission: Get from Istanbul, Turkey to Xian, China. Take the Southern silk route, this route features Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Throw in northern Iraq for extra thrills.

Note: The Khyber pass is currently closed. Get out of Afghanistan via Tajikistan and gain entry to China that way.

Highlights: Smoking Opium in an Afghan poppy field, growing a beard.

WARNINGS: Terrorism, kidnapping, warzones and no beer.



9. The Poles

North and South Poles

Danger Rating : na

Your mission: Save up a shit load of money.

The north pole won’t be around for long so I’d hurry. The Pole can only be reached on expeditions specifically mounted for the purpose. Make your way Svalbard, Norway. It can be reached by a combination of air/water transport and then skiing the rest of the way.  Your looking at €10,000 -€13,000 😦

Regarding the South Pole: Covering the full 1170km from coast to Pole involves an estimated 65 days of skiing, for about 7-9 hours a day, hauling a sled weighing 110-130 lbs (50-60 kg), and the price for the privilege is US$59,000. Alternatively, you can cheat and fly halfway there with the “Ski the Last Degree” package, in which case you’ll ski for only about two weeks and pay a mere US$38,500.

I managed to get to Antarctica pretty cheap. Head to Ushuaia in Argentina.

Highlights: Life time achievement, iceberg safari.

WARNINGS: Froze-bite, waking up 3,000 in the future being ruled by an alien race.


10. Mt. Everest

Let’s get high

Danger Rating : 4.5 /5

Your mission: Climb the highest mountain in the world – no biggy. You need about three years to train with no experience. Most trips start in Kathmandu, Nepal. Go in May. A low-budget attempt at the summit will still set up back $25,000 ($10,000 for the permit).

Highlights: You came, you saw, you conquered. With that incredible view comes the title of “Legend”. You will the talk of every party, men will admire you and women will desire you.

WARNINGS: Over 200 people have died trying this, you could be one of  them! At least you went out in style.


Got any other ones?

Leave a comment!

How to Escape Sudan

Posted in Africa, Bribery & Corruption, Ethiopia, Sudan, The Handcuff Dairies, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 17, 2010 by Mackeral Mark


Most people register upon entry.

We didn’t.

Making our way from Cairo to Cape Town, Danny and I refused to pay an inflated premium to entertain the bureaucrats at the border of Wadi Halfa. We insisted we would make arrangements in the capital Khartoum.

We didn’t .

Three days elapsed and the window closed. We remained apathetic. 8 Epic Arabian Nights passed. On the 9th day, we awoke in a merchant’s shed in Gallabat, the border town before Ethiopia.

Painting of Gallabat/Metemba (1940)

A narrow bridge occupied by heavily armed Sudanese soldiers separated us from the next realm of Africa.

Sudanese Soldier

6AM: We attempted to cross, but a quick glance at our passports landed us in trouble.

Inevitability, we found ourselves in the custody of  some rather uncouth army officals.

“You did not regisister! This is unacceptable”

“But we, we thought…” Our excuses fell on deaf hears.

“You must pay $70 each.” He demanded.

“But we don’t have that kind of money and the only ATM is in Khartoum.” I protested.

“We then enjoy Sudan.”

7AM: We were released and told to return with the money. Things looked grim. Khartoum was at least a day’s travel and $70 felt like a fortune on our budget. Fuck that.

“What do we do now?” Danny asked.

“Follow me” I said.

The border bridge hung over a deep trench where a small stream meandered. I followed the stream as far out of sight from the bridge as possible. A small Sudanese kid followed us.

“Hey kid, where’s the nearest town in Ethiopia?” I asked.

The boy picked up a stone and threw it across the stream to the other side. Ethiopia was only a few metres away.

The Border

I scanned the trench; it looked an easy obstacle. But that wasn’t my concern. The bridge was being patrolled by a lone sentry who’s shadow stalked the land in the dusty dawn light. A watchman, armed with a shimmering ambassador of death; an AK-47. His back was turned.  I had a momentary lapse in reason. Seizing the opportunity,  I began descending into the trench.  It was a reckless decision…

“What the fuck are you doing?” Danny whispered.

“Come on, it’ll be grand”

With barely a moment’s hesitation he followed. I wasn’t the only one with looking for an adrenaline rush; Danny was no stranger to danger. Time was of the essence.

We reached the bottom, crossed the stream and started scrambling up the other side, becoming alarmingly visible. If any of the guards saw us, there was a good chance we could be shot in the back.

We stayed silent, kept our bodies low and moved in a stealthy manner.

My heart was pounding so heart I thought the noise would give us away.

We made a last dash to take cover in the shrubbery across the border.

In the safety of an African bush, I savoured the moment of relief. We had evaded capture.

Navigating our way through the bushes we eventually stepped out to Metema, the Ethiopian border town!

But alas, our troubles were anything from over…

Metema outpost

7.10 AM: We enter the border office to validate our Ethiopian visas, a small hut with no electricity. The border official, a stoutly gentleman, sporting a large moustache greeted us. He asked us to sit down and took our passports. Investigating the pages, he  looked increasingly puzzled.

“OH! You did not leave Sudan. You must GO BACK. You must GO BACK NOW!

Our faces dropped and our stomachs tightened. I panicked. Not only did we deify the authorities with registration, we also just jumped the border illegally. That meant prison. Prison in one of the most oppressive countries in the world. A country that stones adulterers to death; where Sharia law reigns supreme. Weeks before, the Sudanese authorities had even jailed a women for calling a teddy bear Muhammed. Our lives were over.

The future looks bleak...

“WE CAN’T GO BACK! THEY WILL ARREST US!” I pleaded, explaining how the Sudanese  authorities had stopped us crossing. I broke down and told a tale of woe; a tale of extortion; a tale of two young infidels being exploited by corrupt officials…

We were on trial. Our prison: Sudan. We had made our defence but the odds were against us – we had blatantly broken the law.  We sat in despair awaiting the verdict.

Our judge held a stern deposition.

The tension was soul destroying.

“Ehh.. Sudanese!” He laughed, stamping our passports.



My Sudanese Visa