And so the ‘fun’ begins. Bloody bureaucracy…

Sam Sunderland competing in the Emirates Desert Championship

Well I always knew this venture would teach me patience. Having taken the day off today, and expecting the truck to be available for me at the registration centre by around mid-day, instead, absolutely nothing happened. It seems that the computer system at Dubai Customs has been down for not one, but two days, and still isn’t operational as I write this in the late afternoon. So you can imagine the backlog of clearance requests which is building up at one of the world’s busiest trading ports……! Now I can imagine this sort of thing happening in Dar Es Salaam, or Mombasa, but Jebel Ali, Dubai – an incredibly modern port? C’mon guys, “CTRL+Alt+Del” and give it a kick…

Since, even if I were to be able to obtain the vehicle at this late stage in the day, I couldn’t get it to the test and registration centre much before it closed , I’ve ‘pulled the plug’ on today’s efforts and will start again tomorrow.

However, there is some good news, which I will be able to tell you about in more detail later. In summary, I’m in discussions with several companies involved in vehicle tracking, emergency medical training and support, and rescue equipment (for lifting bags) and each has offered me some very special deals on their products and services. Lots of very public thanks will be offered when the time is right.

So at least that’s put a smile on my face today, even if the inevitable bureaucracy delays are driving me up the wall….

And if you are wondering about this post’s photo? Well Sam Sunderland is the first British rider to ever win the daunting Dakar rally, which he did just yesterday. Better still, Sam lives, rides and trains in Dubai and is a regular competitor at the Emirates Desert Championship, for which I am the official photographer, so I couldn’t let the day go past without celebrating his success, “Well Done Sam” doesn’t begin to cover it, but it’ll have to do until I see him (I hope) this weekend in Dubai at the next round of the EDC.

Thank you Captain, I’ll take her from here…..

My vehicle's new registration plate.

It’s now more than five and a half years since I had the idea to buy an overland truck and travel around Africa. For the next four and half years that’s all it was – an idea, albeit one I was determined to realise. Finally, in late 2015 everything fell into place and my finances permitted me to take that leap of faith. Now, a year and a couple of weeks after I placed the order for the chassis and cabin, the NYK Castor Leader RoRo vessel is steaming around the Strait of Hormuz as I write this, and will tomorrow dock at Jebel Ali port – just a few hundred yards from where I first started working in Dubai 25 years ago, when there were only 300 companies in Jebel Ali. Now there’s more like 30,000; how times have changed!

The NYK Castor Leader's position at 20.30 Dubai time
My truck is aboard the NYK Castor Leader, just 8 hours away from home. At last!!

Last week I spent a few hours at the Road Traffic Authority offices in Dubai trying to meet the right people, ask the right questions, and gather the right information, which would allow me to tackle the issue of registering the vehicle for private ownership in Dubai – not a straightforward task when the chassis builder is almost unknown to them, the cabin is not something they normally deal with, it’s truck sized but not, by their definition, a truck because they classify Sprinters as vans, and it’s six wheel drive but the only records they have of Sprinters here are two wheel drive. So next week should be ‘interesting’ to say the least.

While I was at the RTA I was delighted to hear that just a week earlier they had started issuing the “T” suffix number-plates, which was perfect timing and I decided was too good an opportunity to pass up, so I treated myself to a personal number plate.

T  Tim’s Travel Truck

1  Life

2  Eyes

5  Oceans

6  Continents

3  Axles

Yes I know you can argue there are 7 (or 5, or even 4) continents but that number has other, personal significance for me, so feast your eyes on the plate that will adorn my truck from next week and for the next few years. “Truck” still doesn’t have a name yet, but I’m giving it a lot of thought. Tomorrow I hope to drive down to the port and sneak a quick look at my vehicle on U.A.E. soil for the first time. I should actually get to drive it (him? her?) on Sunday next week, for the first time in Dubai. Woohoo!!

Sorry, we were all at sea for a while…..

My truck on the weighbridge


Sorry about the absence of posts for the last few weeks but when I updated my version of this WordPress theme, I ran into a problem which took me quite a while to resolve. So I must thank my friend and colleague Rick Carless, who helped me to set this site up initially, for stepping in and spending many hours trying to fix it, then several more migrating the old site data to the new hosting site.  “Thanks Rick”. Once I’m over ‘dry January’, the drinks are on me.

Anyway, the good news is that my truck is just 10 days away from Jebel Ali, the sea port in Dubai to where it will be delivered. And to prove it, here’s a screen shot from an awesome website called of the NYK Lines Castor Leader, shortly after she passed through the Suez Canal.

The Castor Leader went through the Suez Canal on New Year's Day 2017, en route to Dubai.
The Castor Leader went through the Suez Canal on New Year’s Day 2017, en route to Dubai.

Not long now!!