Embassy may hold key to keeping vehicle safe

My husband wants to drive around Africa. We have some contacts in southern and eastern Africa where we can leave the vehicles (four-wheel-drive and camper trailer exported from Australia) as his plan is that we should do, say, three months at a time. However, I'm worried about where we leave the vehicle in countries where we know no one. Any tips? My husband is prepared to bypass Somalia — are there any other countries you would recommend not driving through? Besides a carnet, US dollars and a positive attitude, is there anything else to facilitate border crossings?

- V. Fleming, Darwin

Off the top of my head, the places where I would confidently leave a vehicle and trailer in Africa without a 24/7 guard of drooling rottweilers and men with Kalashnikovs and death-stare eyes would be precisely nowhere. However, let's not let my pessimism scupper a bold idea.

In places where you don't have contacts, first preference would be to approach the Australian or British Embassy. With luck, they might offer a secure park in their own compound.

Next best option would be to go to the local police station and ask if they would be prepared to keep it safe. You could expect to pay a fee for this service and perhaps half upfront and half when you collect your vehicle would ensure that wheels, gearbox and other useful bits remain in place.

Do not hand over the keys lest they be tempted to do mischief. Perhaps removing some vital engine component might be prudent.

As far as crossing borders goes, all your documentation will need to be in order and, as you hint, a few samples of Uncle Sam's finest currency handed over at a judicious moment will probably open doors. A route along the eastern part of the continent might be the way to go.

South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya are all exciting countries where the odds of emerging unscathed are on the high side. North of Kenya all choices present unique challenges. Ethiopia is probably the best of a bad lot. I guarantee you'll have some great stories to tell around the barbecue.