Voetspore 10 was a visit to the island of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. Getting there poses an immediate problem for people in an expedition – how do you get your cars there?
Over the past 15 years we have travelled to all corners of Africa. More often than not, this has involved shipping the vehicles either to or from the destination.
Our first experience in the shipment of three expedition vehicles was in 2004, and involved getting our cars back to SA from Egypt. This problem had an additional challenge – we did not have the correct Carnet de Passage.
To enter Egypt one has to pay 200% of the value of your vehicle as a deposit in order to obtain a temporary import/export permit. That was not within our budget, so we came to an agreement with the Egyptian authorities. We “shipped” the vehicles from Aswan by putting them in containers and taking them overland to Alexandria before shipping them back to SA. This was an interesting and expensive exercise that introduced us to the complexities of shipping vehicles.
Our second shipment exercise was from Gabon to SA after Voetspore 5 in 2005. This one posed yet another challenge. Gabon’s major port at Port Gentil is located on an island off shore. First you had to get the vehicles to the island, using a ferry from Libreville, before sealing them in containers, ready for shipment.
Next was the Casablanca to the Cape expedition. This time I decided to start in Morocco and drive home. This involved shipping the vehicles to Casablanca. The problem with container ships is that they do not run like a bus or a train on a certain schedule. The ship departs once it is fully loaded. The container shipment also has its own rhythm. Containers are taken to certain depots, such as Singapore or the Canary Island. There the containers are offloaded and reloaded on ships for various new destinations. All this implies a loss of time.
In Casablanca we eventually received our vehicles more than two weeks after the initial estimated time of arrival. This involved many long days of waiting and waiting.
Voetspore 7 was the least complicated of all. We drove from Cape Agulhas to Alexandria, sealed the three vehicles in two containers in the Egyptian port city and six weeks later received them back in Cape Town.
With the equator journey we tried something different. This time we air-freighted the vehicles to our departure destination. Kenya Airways had a “special” on the transport of vehicles from Johannesburg to Nairobi, and we gladly accepted.
One day we dropped the vehicles off at OR Tambo Airport. We flew to Nairobi the next day, collected our vehicles and started our journey. Simple.
With the Rift Valley expedition, things were not as straightforward. We arrived in Djibouti at the end of the journey. For the first time, we made use of the RoRo option. This involves a “roll on, roll off” ship. Vehicles are not put in containers. They are merely driven onto the ship and, at the point of disembarkation, driven off. It is a much easier system than the container option. RoRo ships travel from port to port, loading and offloading vehicles.
The RoRo system is often the cheaper option, but there are complications. The shipping company has access to your vehicles. They need the keys. When we received our vehicles in Durban, a number of items, including all our action cameras, had been stolen at a loss of about R100 000.
When we planned the Madagascar trip, I decided to again make use of the RoRo option, but this time to keep everything locked in the canopies and retain the keys. But there were other obstacles, the most significant being that in Madagascar they drive on the right-hand side of the road.
Using right-hand drive vehicles in countries where you drive on “the other side of the road” is not foreign to us. In East Africa north of Kenya, as well as in Burundi and Rwanda, you drive on the right. In West Africa, all the way from Morocco to Angola, you drive on the right-hand side. These countries make provision for right-hand drive vehicles because they can simply be driven across the border.
Things are different in the island republic of Madagascar, where a law was passed that prohibited the use of right-hand drive vehicles. This was to prevent the importing of second-hand right-hand drive vehicles into the country.
We were a special case. We wanted to visit the island with our own, Voetspore-equipped Toyota Land Cruisers. Normally such vehicles would be illegal in Madagascar, and we had to get special permission at the highest level to use them.
In setting up our visit, I had the advantage of the assistance of the SA embassy and our ambassador, Gert Grobler. SA has, in recent times, played an important role in bringing political stability to Madagascar, and Ambassador Grobler’s standing with the Malagasy government gave us access to officials at the highest level.
I was introduced to Minister of Transport and Tourism Ulrich J Andriantiana. He knew that a Voetspore series could assist in promoting his country as a new and popular tourist attraction. To enable us to visit his country with our Cruisers for three months, he had to issue a special permit for our right-hand drive vehicles, and so he did.
We took the three Cruisers to Durban, where the shipping company accepted them. We got on the plane and six days after dropping off the Cruisers with SDV Bollore, we accepted them at Tamatave on the east coast of Madagascar. In my hand I had a letter of permission, signed by the minister, stating that we were allowed to bring the vehicles into the country. Over the next three months there were countless police stops where the letter had to be presented.
When we finished our journey of 9000km, including 32 ferry crossings, we took the Cruisers back to Tamatave. Once more we used the RoRo option, and a week later we received them in Durban.
Getting the vehicles there and back is often the biggest logistical challenge on a Voetspore expedition. It is also an expensive exercise. Yet it is the only way. In the process we have become shipping experts as well, being aware of all the options.