Bright and early Luke’s mate Dave dropped me at the bus station for the bus to Yemen, but there was trouble in paradise. Al-Qaeda has a large presence in the rather unstable Gulf State of Yemen and the local banditos have a penchant for kidnapping foreigners.
But by all accounts if you take care and avoid certain areas you’ll be okay, I guess it’s similar to Iraq and Afghanistan in that regard. However, when I reached the border I learnt that the border had just been closed to all Europeans in response to the increase of kidnappings in resent weeks. I couldn’t pass through Yemen even if I wanted to, and this blew my back-up plan for getting to Eritrea out of the water.
After a conversation with the incredibly friendly Omani border guards (who, for just about the first time out of over 150 border crosses I explained my mad plan to) they agreed to let me through to ‘ask’ when the border will be reopening. I know you’re probably imagining a dusty desert outpost here, after all I am in Arabia, but just to offer you a little bit of a surprise the border is up in cool green mountains, shrouded in fog and mystery. As the large ‘Welcome To Yemen’ sign loomed up before me through the mist, I had to give this the most atmospheric border crossing award.
On the Yemeni side, the guy didn’t speak much English, but he understood what I was after – a cool look of ‘stamp collector eh?’ flashed across his face. He asked for fifty quid off me, which was a bit steep but I wasn’t really in any position to turn him down, on my own in the fog on the border with the most wobbly country in the region. I handed over the greenbacks and he took my passport and stamped me in and out in quick succession. I could now tick Yemen off the list.
Walking back over the border I conjured up the image in my head of the world map of all the places I’ve been coloured in. I had travelled extensively before I embarked on the Odyssey, and while Yemen was my 160th country of this expedition, it was my 175th nation whose soil I had set foot on, meaning that there are only 25 countries in the world that I still haven’t visited, and 12 of them are tiny islands in the South Pacific…
But in my mind there were two gaping gaps on my map – Eritrea and The Seychelles. Both of which I missed out on when I passed them earlier in the journey, intending to come back to them later. The ride back from the border was pretty spectacular (if a little foggy), a heady mixture of mountains, beaches, cliffs and desert.
That night I eagerly awaited the reply from the owners of the DAL Mauritius. It finally arrived at around 11pm. It was a no.