By Dave Costello
Last September Australian Tom Smitheringale, 41, set off to cross the Sahara Desert, east to west, roughly 4,660 miles, from its boundaries on the Nile in Egypt to the Atlantic Ocean in Morocco; all to raise money for the Starlight Children's Foundation, which helps sick children recover from devastating illnesses. Now 90 days into his planned seven-month epic, Tom has just completed the first two legs of his African odyssey: kayaking 745 miles along the Nile River from Lake Nasser to Cairo, and taking a camel ride 808 miles into the shifting sand dunes of the Western Desert along an ancient caravan route to the border of Libya.
According to Tom, he's been spat on, stoned, bit by dogs, shot at, and otherwise generally mauled while traveling through Egypt. "But that was all part of the fun," he claims. "I always felt like I was having more fun than I was supposed too."
He'll need to keep that borderline psychotic-optimism in high gear as he embarks on the second, and arguably more dangerous half of the trip: traveling overland on camels into the remotest corners of the Libyan Desert, crossing into northern Niger and the neighboring sub-Saharan belt region of Mali and Mauritania. After that, he'll cross over into Morocco, where he'll be swapping his camels for hiking boots and trekking the snow-covered peaks of the High Atlas Mountains down into the coastal lowlands to the Atlantic Ocean. From there he will get back into his kayak and finish the trip by paddling the Moroccan coastline to the port of Casablanca.
Keep checking CanoeKayak.com for more updates, but for now, visit Tom's blog at onemanepic.com to read more about his adventures, and check out the video above, which Tom's friend and photographer/videographer for the expedition, Dave Brosha, compiled to chronicle the journey so far.