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There are four 'established', more traditional routes for crossing the Sahara North to South. Of these three are almost identical to the three outlined in the Trans-African Highways book. Ironically, the fourth is not listed in that book, is the only one currently 'officially' open and is undoubtedly the least interesting to drive. Three of the routes start on the coast and end in Chad, the fourth ends in Sudan. From West to East the routes are:

Map of Africa with the Planned Route

Route One is the only route officially open, and that should be taken with a grain of salt. It starts in Tanger Morocco, and then follows the West Coast, sometimes along the beach itself, South to Nouakchott in Mauritania or Dakar in Senegal. The border crossing between Morocco and Mauritania is not officially open since these countries are so unfriendly towards each other. You have to join a military convoy and go through an eight mile minefield (yes, land mines) to cross. The route then turns east through Mali, Burkina and Niger to Chad.

Route Two is not currently open. It starts in Tunis, Tunisia and heads West and South through Algeria. It drops into Mali East of Timbuktu and then turns east through Niger to Chad.

Route Three may or may not be open right now, but is the route I would very much like to take. It starts in Tunis and heads South through Algeria crossing through Tamanrasset and going into Niger. It then turns East to Chad.

Route Four is open only when the Egyptian government is being nice. It starts in Alexandria or Port Said and heads South through Egypt to Sudan via the crossing at Wadi Halfa. According to several reports by people who have done it, crossing through Egypt is an absolute nightmare of bureaucracy and paperwork with many bribe requests thrown in. I would only use this route as a last resort.

So, with the elimination of Route Four, we are left in Chad. From Chad we head into Sudan then turn South once more to Uganda. From Uganda on, the political situation eases considerably, and the route decisions move from which country to which road.

Uganda East to Kenya, Kenya South to Tanzania, South to Malawi and West to Zambia.

Southern Africa is a maze of incredible places to visit, so the route cannot be defined so far in advance. Unfortunately with the political troubles in Zimbabwe, that country may well be off limits by the time we get there. Botswana and Namibia are crucial to see and then, of course, South Africa. We plan to have a leisurely time in South Africa heading South to Cape Town. From there we leave and the vehicles get shipped back.

Six months and almost 10,000 miles! It should be an incredible trip.

September 25, 2003 The only constant is change. Since we originally planned our route over a year ago, the political situation in Africa has changed considerably. In February of 2003, 32 European tourists were kidnapped in Algeria. They were released in August, but needless to say we won’t be following their route. That leaves route 1 as our only option. To further complicate matters, according to travelers who have attempted the crossing recently, the Chad-Sudan border is closed due to fighting in Western Sudan. A peace treaty was signed in the middle of September between the warring factions, and we hope that the border will reopen before we arrive. If it does not, we intend to follow in the footsteps of other intrepid travelers who have successfully navigated a route along the west coast of the continent through Cameroon, Gabon, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Angola. See for more on their adventures

Click here to see the Climate Analysis to see how we decided the best time to go to the various countries.

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