Phase II (7-8 months before the trip): From idea to an Africa and Silk Road itinerary
Even though BoB’s Epic Adventure is still 6 months away, those who’ve been following me know that I’ve been waiting for this Africa and Silk Road backpacking trip for quite a while now. And, it’s finally getting close!!
So, this is what I’ve been up to in the past two months. A few weeks ago, I bought the ultimate camping must-haves: a lightweight tent, sleeping mat and sleeping bag. Also, I purchased three Lonely Planet e-books: Namibia & Botswana, South Africa and China. Furthermore, -so exciting- I booked my one-way ticket to adventure a.k.a. my first flight from Amsterdam to Johannesburg!! Whoop whoop!
Update 2018: Don’t forget to check out the overview of my Southern Africa backpacking adventure and the overview of my Silk Road backpacking adventure.
AFRICA & SILK ROAD ITINERARY
Of course, after I had decided I’ll visit Southern Africa and Central Asia, my itinerary needed a bit more fine-tuning. Hence, I’ve been busy researching where and when exactly to go during my trip.
I looked into weather conditions in the countries I intend to visit and I discovered that it’s best to start in South Africa, in order to avoid the rainy season in Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe as much as possible. I’ll probably finish my trip in Indonesia or Sri Lanka, since it’s relatively dry in those countries in August.
Recently I also discovered there is a large Korean adoptee meeting (IKAA) to be held in Seoul in August. Since many of my friends will attend this meeting, I hope to incorporate this in my trip.
To find out more about highlights and cool off-the-beaten path places in each country I’ve been checking out itineraries of tour companies and read many articles online and in books. If I came across a cool place or activity I wrote them down in my notebook. For example, I noted down Yangykala canyon in Turkmenistan, the cave houses of Kandovan in Iran and the Panorama Route in Mpumalanga in South Africa.
I also met up with Jonny (BackpackingMan.com) and his friend, who both traveled the Silk Road a few years ago. Although, I originally planned to skipped Tajikistan, they convinced me to incorporate this remote country in my trip again. It’s suppose to be one of the most beautiful, friendly and adventurous places in the world. I especially look forward to explore Wakhan valley.
Now that I had a rough idea of places and things I’d like to see, I estimated how many days I’d need in each country and this led to this tentative itinerary. Of course, I’ll travel ‘backpack-style’. Nothing (except for a few necessary international flights) will be arranged beforehand, giving me the liberty to stay longer or shorter in a place.
Anyway, without further ado, I proudly present the rough itinerary for BoBs’ Epic Adventure:
15 Feb – 22 Apr (10 weeks) SOUTHERN AFRICA ITINERARY
South Africa (26 days)
Namibia (19 days)
Botswana (10 days)
Zimbabwe (10 days)
22 Apr – 17 Aug (15 weeks) reversed ‘SILK ROAD’ ITINERARY
Turkey (23 days)
Iran (21 days)
Turkmenistan (7 days)
Uzbekistan (12 days)
Tajikistan (17 days)
Kyrgyzstan (14 days)
China (Maybe Korea) (23 days)
17 – 31 Aug (2,5 weeks) BALI or SRI LANKA or …*
Chilling, surfing, diving, writing
BACKPACKING COSTS OF SILK ROAD AND SOUTHERN AFRICA
To estimate my travel costs:
- I kept my travel style in mind: I will mainly travel by public transportation, stay in hostels, guesthouses or my own tent.
- I looked into costs of must-do activities in both Southern Africa and the Silk Road (such a rafting the Zambezi river (150 USD), a 3-day Sossusvlei tour (350 USD), ballooning Cappadocia (150 USD) etc.
- I took the costs of Turkmenistan in account. I’d interested in spending about a week in this country and this is only allowed if you travel with a tour organization (100+ USD per day).
- I researched the average costs of camping and hostels in the different countries
- I checked the costs of visa applications and international flights.
Final estimation of the travel costs: 13.000 euro (preferably more though)! Even though I already have some savings, I still need to save-up more money the six coming months! I’m terrible at saving money, but challenge accepted!
As a hospital employee, the first consult at our Travel Clinic is free. Besides the protection I already have, I was advised to take the following vaccinations: typhoid fever, rabies, polio and tick encephalitis. I already had my first tick encephalitis shot (first shot is 6 months in advance) and will get the other shots later. I also checked the recommendations concerning malaria prevention.
The whole Central Asia visa game will be one of the biggest challenges of this trip. Since I’ll be visiting Southern Africa before Central Asia, I’ll have to arrange each Central Asia visa as I go: my Iran visa in Turkey, my Turkmenistan visa in Iran etc. In some cases the embassy can let you wait 10 days (!) and you often need a Letter of Invitation from a tour operator. The Central Asia visa game is definitely going to require a lot of more research and preparation, but more about that later.
Another tricky point are the Central Asia borders. These are often barren ‘No man’s land’ area’s, and if you’re unlucky you may run into a corrupt officer. It will require a bit more research to check which border crossings are safe, easy and open.
Latest additions to BoB’s Epic Adventure collection:
- Ultra lightweight tent, sleeping mat and sleeping bag
- Three Lonely Planet e-books: Botswana & Namibia, South Africa and China
- Ticket from Amsterdam to Johannesburg and from Johannesburg to Istanbul
- Check out my full packing list for independent travelers here
Summary of ‘How to prepare for a RTW-trip 7-8 months before take-off’ tips:
- Research your destinations!
- Get an idea of what you’d like to see: read guidebooks, blogs and itineraries of tour companies
- Read in-depth articles and literature (in my case I read lots about Southern Africa and the Silk Road countries)
- If you come across an interesting place or event on the internet, always write it down
- Check out the weather conditions in the different countries to optimize your itinerary
- Find the tricky points on your trip (border crossing, visa requirements, other regulations etc.)
- Create your itinerary!
- Estimate much money you need for your trip based on your itinerary, activities, average daily costs, travel style etc.
- Start saving up pronto!
- Check your vaccinations (this can also be done later, although the first shot of tick encephalitis is preferably done 6 months before take-off)
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What do you think of this tentative Africa and Silk Road itinerary? Are you as excited as I am ;)?