French pair attempt rare feat on foot.
Dubai Sleeping rough and surviving on the kindness of strangers in far and foreign lands has brought two French walkers to the UAE as part of a 20,000km trek that started in Cape Town two years ago.
They have walked across the African continent relying on the hospitality of dozens of good souls interested in their somewhat peculiar pilgrimage, and been met with blank stares from others.
Guillaume Combot, 33, and Enora Nedelec, 22, started walking in 2009 with the aim of discovering new places and people.
Since setting off in 2009, they have walked about 13,000km and used nine pairs of shoes between them, wearing the tread thin every 3,500km on the average.
But in three weeks it will all be over for Nedelec, who took a break from her midwifery studies to undertake this life-changing challenge. She will fly on to Canada.
Combot plans to stay in the UAE for a few weeks before continuing the 7,000km trek to Paris, looking for work along the way to sustain his meagre lifestyle.
"When people see us walking with our packs, dressed for the outdoors with trekking poles they can't believe it," said Nedelec. "In Africa people were interested and curious, sometimes wary. In Dubai, they take our photo," she said.
The childhood friends have been living on a strict budget of less than Dh10 a day. They drink from local water sources not bothering to buy overly priced bottled mineral water and eat local food stocking up on fat as much as possible. On occasion they force themselves to eat margarine mixed with sugar to beef up, but still lost 6-8kg each.
"Enora has managed to put on weight quicker than me, it's so frustrating!" said Combot. They sleep on the road or where hospitality is offered, and keep moving every day.
From Cape Town they crossed South Africa and walked to Mozambique, across Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and southern Sudan. After permission to cross Egypt was denied, the pair decided to make up for lost kilometres in Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.
In Dubai they have bunked down on mats in Jebel Ali Port, outside Ibn Battuta Mall and a covered car park in Sharjah among other places, washing in malls when possible.
"Walking from Abu Dhabi to Dubai was actually one of the nicest stretches of road," said Nedelec. "Walking along a highway sounds quite boring but we met so many people who stopped to talk to us. And we ate so many dates," she said.
They set off for Sur in Oman early last week and plan to return to Dubai by the end of January.
"We've noticed that our walking is slowing down. We started out with a strong pace covering about 1,000kms in one month and now we've been on the road for two years and haven't reached our destination," said Combot.
"I've wanted to do this for a while. Just to get out and meet people. I'm a bit of a loner but I was inspired by a French couple who crossed Africa a few years back and wrote a book," he said.
"It's been amazing, almost like on TV with people welcoming us and being so kind. We have had some people very afraid of us as well as thinking we are pretending to be poor," said Combot, who dedicated his savings to the journey -- about Dh30,000.
Top: French duo Guillaume Combot, 33, and Enora Nedelec, 22, in Dubai during Christmas. They have been on the road with the mission of covering 20,000km on foot.
Braving the ?elements
Left: Guillaume and Enora wrap up against the cold in Iran. They have covered 13,000km so far.
To learn more and follow Guillaume and Enora visit ?www.merakiste.fr/en
on the web
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