Overland from Shanghai to Cape Town

Sunset on a Southeast Asian riverOur second journey comes after three years in Shanghai, where we learned to speak Mandarin well enough to conduct an interview, muddle through a business meeting and reveal the mysteries of a Chinese menu. It starts with a detour, back to India. After three months on the subcontinent, we fly from Calcutta to Bangkok, beginning a loop* through Southeast Asia back to China, which we’ll enter through Vietnam.

A zig through southern China and a zag through the north will put us on the Silk Road, which we’ll follow to Syria’s Mediterranean shore. Our route then stretches due south, continuing through the Middle East to Africa’s east coast, which we’ll travel down as as far as Dar es Salaam. We’ll ride the Tazara Railway into Zambia, cross into Zimbabwe at the Victoria Falls and eventually enter South Africa across the grey-green and greasy water of the Limpopo River. We aren’t yet sure what route we’ll follow through South Africa, but by the last day of 2011 2012 2014 we’d like to be in Cape Town, preferably at Iain’s mother’s cottage near the beach, just a few kilometres from Africa’s southern tip, where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet.

*We ended up crisscrossing through Southeast Asia for over a year.


16 January 2011 – India

4 April 2011 – Southeast Asia




  • Chiang Saen
  • Mae Salong
  • Chiang Mai
  • Bangkok
  • Koh Mak



  • Chau Doc
  • Ho Chi Minh City
  • Hue
  • Hanoi
  • Lao Cai

29 August 2011


  • Hekou, Yunnan
  • Yuanyang, Yunnan
  • Kunming, Yunnan
  • Dali, Yunnan
  • Shangri-la, Yunnan
  • The Sichuan-Tibet Highway: Xiangcheng, Litang, Tagong, Danba
  • Chengdu, Sichuan
  • Chongqing
  • Hong Kong

12 November 2011


  • Hanoi
  • Vinh

11 December 2011


9 March 2012


5 June 2012


2 September 2012


  • Kunming, Yunnan
  • Guangzhou, Guangdong
  • Xiamen, Fujian
  • Quanzhou, Fujian
  • Shanghai
  • Suzhou, Jiangsu
  • Beijing

1 October 2012


  • Ulaanbaatar
  • Karakorum

23 October 2012


  • Beijing
  • Shanhaiguan, Hebei
  • Datong, Hebei
  • Shuozhou, Shanxi
  • Pingyao, Shanxi
  • Luoyang, Henan
  • Kaifeng, Henan
  • Xi’an, Shaanxi
  • Lanzhou, Gansu
  • Xining, Qinghai
  • Zhangye, Gansu
  • Jiayuguan, Gansu
  • Urumqi, Xinjiang
  • Kashgar, Xinjiang

22 November  2012 – Central Asia

  • Kyrgyzstan 
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Uzbekistan
  • Turkmenistan
  • Iran


Middle East and North Africa: Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Egypt

East and Southern Africa: Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa

2 Responses to “Overland from Shanghai to Cape Town”

  1. Sounds like an awesome trip guys, It is good to see more South Africans with wanderlust around the world.

    My wife and I drove from Joburg to Rwanda and back down in 2008, and are currently driving from Seattle to Argentina. Next stop, India or Mongolia!

    How long did it take to learn Mandarin? Did you take classes? I just got Spanish under the belt, Mandarin is on my to-do list.

    • Iain Manley says:

      Thanks Kobus. We spent roughly two years studying Chinese part time, while we were working in Shanghai. It didn't take us long to pick up the basics, and we now speak quite fluently, but to read well – and dare I say write! – we'd need to put in a lot more effort.

      Taking a look at Life Remotely now.

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