16th Oct 2006 – 29th Nov 2006
Monday 9th oct
I am beginning to panic about being ready for my off next monday 16th. I have 35 items on my list to do/accomplish and as fast as i do one,another gets added at the bottom. I dont seem to be winning. Clive is in Portugal seeing to his interests there before the off.
We have now got our Sudan visa so we are through to Kenya before having to get more visas.
The weather has really been with us as we have had to work hard clearing up our plum orchard before leaving.
I have seen to other farm jobs while Clive has chainsawed and chipped and mown etc.
The last two mornings I have been up early to begin to make piles of things i wish to bring..
15 Oct Sunday
Today is Clive’s departure day. He leaves this afternoon to go via London and see his children. He meets me tomorrow on the way to Portsmouth.
Whilst Clive has packed his bike without too much drama and managed to tie on his spare tyres very satisfactorily, I have had my setbacks. First some little screw hold fell out of my bike and it took ages and much undoing for me to get it back in. Then I have noticed that the bolt for one of my panniers to sit on and lock to has fallen out. I have not had the panniers on for a while and it must have vibrated out. Whilst not a complete disaster it is important so now my trip to Portsmouth is via Vines of Guilford, a BMW agent . Hopefully they will help and even if no spare part they will have one on a bike in the show room. We have been for an experimental ride ( to get petrol ) all fully laden. My bike then said a light bulb had gone !!. My tyres need re organising.
Mon 16th OCT
Wake early,about 6am. Final things and off at 7.30 after saying goodbye to Gina.
Heading for Vines of Guildford where I am going to meet Clive and get my part/missing bolt. Weather amazing for mid october, as it has been all month. Mind full of thoughts of not coping on sandy roads in Sudan. Of wallowing in muddy holes and getting stuck in river crossings. Of getting my camera wet and also all the things I care about getting wet too.
Get to the ferry, very empty. Its a very dull crossing but time to relax and begin to realise that I really am off at last. Have worked hard for along time to get away. Spent time too on this new phone that I am writing this on . Its not as quick as the ipac but will mean that we can upload to the internet.
Formula 1 for the night . Not easy to find and we drove around in circles for a while. Full of itinerant workers.
17th oct tues
Cloudy but dry. Aiming to do 300 miles. Head towards Clermont Ferand. Begin on red roads ( as per Michelin Map ) but finally leave traffic behind as we enjoy yellow roads. Gradually dawning on me that I am setting off on quite a holiday. Worry about where to hide money. Have a certain amount of dollars for money changing. Shouldnt keep it in one place. Where is a sensible place to hide it? On bike? In belongings.?
Carrying spare/change of tyres. These do not help the balance of the bike. I packed better this morning. The intention is to change tyres in Cairo. My current front tyre has not far to go !
This afternoon practice with my camera mounted on the handle bars. All gadgets need battery charging and this we do on the bikes as well as over night.
Get to Boussac. Its near Montlucon. Hotel full and have to back track to a B and B.
18th oct wed
Its dark at 8.30am and there is a hint of rain in the air. We don our wetgear and set off.We wend our way through the Massif Central on “yellow roads” ( Michelin Map secondary roads) going through Limousin and the Auverne. Finally hit motorway and go over the new Millau bridge and then on to a little place called Gignac , just short of Montpellier. Found a quiet hotel to dry off and unload bikes before the heavens opened.
Bad point today was the high wind and rain on the motorway just after we joined it, I ended up on the wrong side of the road after one gust and we rode in 5th gear for the next hour. Weather a bit on the wild side and still blowing even here. Temp been quite cool …10c to 20c.
19th oct thurs
Clive keen to be off…ferry to catch! We leave at 8.30am. Rain threatens but it is not raining. The electricity went off while we ate last night; a wild night. Windy still as we make an early arrival in Marseilles. However not the boring wait as I had thought and loading had already begun. Whilst tying up the bikes Ian Baker came to say hello. He is a stranger who we have ‘met’ on the internet. He is doing the same trip as us and we are teaming up to cross Libya together as it reduces the cost for us all. No doubt we will be seeing him some more beyond Libya.
Do I feel I am on holiday? No. Its an adventure but too arduous to be a holiday! We get up about the same time as at home and the first thing we do is pack the bike, lugging panniers and helmets etc between room and bike. Then at the end of the day its the same thing all over again!
Ferry starts late..
20th Oct Friday
Ferries can be dull. This one took about 22 hours. Ramadan meant that there was no food around in between the arab supper and breakfast ….virtually anyway. To keep us occupied we had to go through the immigration formalities on board. Obviously, hopefully, it will save time when we dock. We had to queue in 3 different queues in order to get various bits of paper for both ourselves and our bikes.It took a good hour. By the time we had written our names down on at least 5 different bits of paper and our passport number countless times, we were ready for bed. This all happened in a small space along with a throng of people on this large and well appointed ferry. By the time we got to eat after the hungry hoardes of fasting muslims, there was not much choice of food.
Never thought I would be back to Tunisia within a year. We set off from the port and head for Sousse. Messy,brown countryside. Sheep,prickly pears and olive trees. We pass a ruined but enormous old roman aquaduct. We are now riding with Ian. He has a KTM motorcycle and is also loaded with tyres.
Reach Kairouan. The third hotel suits us; its in our price range! Tomorrow we head for the libyan border.
We had a good breakfast at our hotel and set off at 9am. Main road but not bad and enjoy seeing chillies drying in the sun; olive trees everywhere; donkeys still being used as important transport;houses like small concrete squares with probably one room and ofcourse flocks of sheep tended by colourful old ladies, old men or the young. Prickly pear hedges everywhere.
We make fair progress but our happiness is thwarted by Ramadan for all cafes are closed and it is not easy to just stop. In Gabes we head for a tourist hotel where we know we will be okay. But it is all through town and very full of traffic and now getting very hot, 34c in motorcycle gear is — hot.! .
More than well fed we head on towards the border. We cannot cross tonight for we have to meet with our “tour guide” at 09.30 tomorrow am on the libyan side. We head on towards the border but can find no hotel. Plenty of Police checks but no hotels. Clive has been a star all day with his arabic but cannot persuade anyone to give us a bed for the night. Having ridden all the way to the border we had to turn back and camp as best we can, which meant to sleep by our bikes near the border town. Clive had not brought his mattress, so lay his sleeping bag on the stones, whilst Ian and I at least had a basic matress each to rest our sleeping bags on. So we had the wonderful stars to look at and a melody of dogs barking and Donkeys braying! Man who owned the land saw us, came said hello, Clive spoke to him in Arabic and he offered us use of his outside toilet in a nearby house he was building, so he was fine. We were on some hill top. We picnicked on what we had !
22nd oct sat
We were near the edge of town, and had gone along a dirt road to find what we thought was a secluded place to spend the night. Daylight revealed a somewhat less secluded area had been found but at least we had avoided the curiosity of the local children for a few hours… Clive had slept for about an hour and spent the rest of the night night teasing the local dogs or pacing about like a guard on duty whilst I slept like a baby…!. Ian hardly slept any better so eventually I,who had managed much better, was forced to get up at 7am. Cup of tea was brought and to the border.
We got through the Tunisian side and then waited till 9.45am when our driver turned up. Two hours later we were off. The guide and driver had done the hard work! Our bit was to come. We rode 566kms (353miles)between 12 noon and 7.15pm. First Clive and then Ian lost their new number plates. Clive”s I rode over and found but Ian”s was lost. The last day of Ramadan meant no food to be had easily. So we rode after a bad nights sleep with little food or drink. It was very hot for a while in the desert, about 95f or 36c. As dusk approached the driving got absolutely frenetic. its known as the ‘soup race’ everyone racing home to have soup and ‘ break fast’.. Last day of fasting was nearly over.
Eventually we reach Miserati. Fine hotel and passable meal of mixed grill with some small bird, size of a partridge.
Libya is coming on. Changes since last time only a year ago. More foregn cars. More tourists and more foreign investment. Our youngish guide excited about libyas future. I went to change money after dinner but think I changed too much. Petrol still 7p per litre, much cheaper than water…. Costs £2.00 to fill up the bike, wheras 30 pounds in Burnham Market… Clive exhausted after his sleepless night goes to bed whilst I go and change money..
23rd oct mon.
We are purely traversing libya as a quick way of getting to Egypt. Our progress may seem too fast for enjoyment. However with not much more than desert to look at and straight empty road ahead, we might as well press on. The roads are empty because it is Eid al Fitr (the muslim christmas). Going no more than 70mph, we cover 250 miles by lunch time. The only 2 things of real note are all the rubbish and camels. I do not believe that you can stand anywhere in libya without a piece of rubbish in view. Its terrible, especially the roads in to and out of towns which appear to be used as rubbish dumps for herds of goats to scavenge through at will. We see lots of camels in the desert. Also lots dead beside the road having been hit by a vehicle.
The last time we were here we saw some of the amazing archaeology such as Leptus Magna. This time we are keeping costs down by reducing the number of days on our “tour”.
We reach Adjdebayia about 5pm, over 400 miles today so pushing on…. We stay in a new hotel built by oil companies for their clients etc. The weather was not so hot today and stayed below 30c. perfect for riding which we enjoyed, a great ride. Just as we reached the town, Ian realised he had a puncture in his front wheel. He thought he was able to fix it and tried but failed . So we all went in to town in the van to get his tube fixed,and try the internet cafe. That was useless but we got the tube fixed.
Up and off by 8.15am again. Our driver, Mohammed, and the guide, Marwan (think marujana!), are keen that we fill right up with petrol before setting off on a 231 mile stretch of road across desert. No towns and no petrol on this stretch.
It is flat stony desert. Lorry tyres, lorry bits,odd dead camel and various shed lorry loads litter the side of the road. Lorries with trailers tend to go over if the trailer gets a puncture. The loads that never made it seem to be mostly to do with building, bricks, tiles etc.
It is like a sea, the desert flat calm and many mirages, but Clive tells me of what its like when the wind blows and the sad is vicious… just like the sea.. Fine if all going well but a danger when not . 80 miles out we help a pick up truck that had run out of fuel. Our driver syphons some petrol from the van. 3 men,3 women,1 boy and a live sheep are on board. We all take photos of each other. On we go and lo and behold in the middle of nowhere there is a petrol station! We did not feel so remote after that! Later on there was a very overloaded old van full of people and luggage, that had a wheel off.
We reach Tobruk and have lunch. Then on to the border where we say goodbye to our Sukra team. Libya border probably took 1 hour to get through as we have to return our Libyan number plates, whereas the Egypt formalities take over 2.5 hours to get in, bureacracy is a wonderful thing….. although stories abound of people being stuck at the border for anything up to 16 days if their papers are not exactly correct, so we were on the whole remakably quick.
We knew it was going to be bad and that could have been worse.
Egypt went something like this…passport stamped quite easily but then to point A who told us to go to point B..small bike ride. We get some paperwork at B who then says go back to A who says go to C. Then it is C to B and B to C and C to B and all over again. Each time small bike ride and each time with different piece of paper. Clive again a great help with his arabic,especially when Ian could not find his frame number on his bike. (the number has to be pencil rubbed on to a tiny piece of paper to prove that the documents you have are yours and agree with the bike) So eventually off to the gate,more checks and almost sent back as the final guard thought the date stamp placed by his colleague almost three hours ealier said 2004 and not 2006— Clive gets a bit short tempered and we are free to go.
We arrive for the night in Salloum, only 12 KMs from the border at about 8pm. We knew there was a hotel from our trip last year. Not sure though that they had changed the sheets!! Find internet cafe and very slowly check emails! bed about midnight.
25th oct wed
Just walked back to our hotel in Marsa Matrouh watching some very wild car driving. The Egyptians are still celebrating Eid al Fitr the end of Ramadam. Much car tooting,bangers,shouting etc. Girls dressed up but very many so covered. Before abandoning Libya a couple of statistics. Libya petrol 7p per litre, water 14p per litre and legal speed limit 180kph or 110mph! In Egypt the speed limit is 100kph.!
With no driver in front we enjoy our independence. Clive leading the way we go along the Egyptian coast towards Alexandria. Its still desert. We are on a dual carriageway but the locals treat it as 2 parallel roads. Traffic comes towards you in the fast lane whilst donkey carts head towards you on the hard shoulder. The lack of traffic enables you to cope.
We take an easy day as we begin to enjoy the fact that we are really beginning our adventure. Stop at this place about 2ish and the first thing we did was to have a swim in the beautiful turquoise med. Clear water but plenty of plastic bags and other debris in the water. Rubbish is an egyptian problem as well.
Ian is with us still. He met a couple in the internet cafe today who are on horses. They took 16 days to get through the Egyptian border ( she camped at the customs point whilst he had to go to Cairo to get necessay papers for the horses) and 75 days to get out of Tunisia where they began. They plan to ride by horse to Cape town, Clive is not impressed.!
26th oct thurs
Leisurely start on ride to Alexandria. Still fairly dull desert. Road empty and we make good progress. Fig growing, fig selling but not much else . No sheep,some donkey carts, a few police checks and brown countryside. Only 90 octane petrol to be had but it only costs 13p per litre. One garage tries for more but Clive sees through them! We take photos by the tank at El Alamein . Then things begin to change. Along the road between El Alemaine and Alexandria a huge amount of building has been going on and there are large developments all the way to Alex. To the left the developments and to the right massive earth moving to provide the rock/stone for the housing. There is no thought to how that part of the countryside might look. Those on the left will chuck all the rubbish across the road to the right hand side. Are these for tourism? There is a lovely sandy beach all the way.
We arrive in Alexandria about 2.45pm and find an hotel on the eastern harbour. Seems to be about right. Rush off to see catacombs before 4pm(closing time) but find has shut an hour early because of Eid. We soak up the atmoshere instead in a cafe. Alex is buzzing. Horses pull smart looking carriages for hire whilst cars constantly toot their horns. Muslim girls in headscarves look sexy in tight fitting but long clothing. There are some however covered from head to toe in black. Young children are a pest, in particular the girls, who constantly ask your name. The boys are rough.
We eat our dinner in a street nearby, full of locals. It costs £5 for three of us with 3 coca colas. !
27th Oct Friday
Have second attempt at the catacombs as shut yesterday. As we travel in taxi there we notice the driver did not obey any traffic lights! Catacombs were worth it…quite impressive . They were discovered in 1900 when a donkey with cart fell through to the second level underground. Did the donkey survive!? Hope so. Walking down the road we came across some strange looking sheep. I thought they were deformed but Ian says they were “fat tailed sheep”. Got a photo of them.
Then set off for Cairo. Passing Giza on the way in we head for the pyramids. Clive talks the guards into letting us have a photo of bikes plus sphinx . So we ride through the gates and take photo. I then drop my bike getting on it! Bit of a search for the hotel afterwards but got there in the end. Traffic not bad at all as its Friday so a holiday.
Staying in ex british officers club now Hotel Windsor, was used by Michael Palin whilst filming Around the World in 80 days. Is now fairly run down but we have secure parking for the bikes which is vital so we stay. Have a G & T ( or two )in the barrel bar in the evening, very civilised. Going to stay here for 3 nights. Tomorrow we turn our attention to Luxor, Aswan and Sudan….
I am all at sixes and sevens because here I am in Luxor writing these days up from memory since I have had my mobile stolen today here in Luxor. I have been writing my diary on the phone !! I hope the phone is far to complicated for any egyptian to understand !! We hope to be able to continue to write on Clive’s phone whilst I find a replacement or else its pencil and paper and longhand.!!
Sat 28th oct.
Our first day in Cairo. We set off on foot to see to our tickets for the ferry from Aswan. The ticket office had a very long queue . However the usual helper wandered along and then with the aid of a further friend we were soon inside the office and avoided the queue. Not that we intended to do it that way. That is just the way it works. Got the name and number of Mr Saleh who will help us in Aswan. Reserved our spaces and out we went . Pay off one helper to find first helper still hanging around. Wants to taxi us somewhere so we ask him to take us to some street. ! In the afternoon we did the Tutankhamon bit in the egyptian museum. It was very impressive and about all we could take in.
Our hotel is in a back street near a whole lot of cafes and small eating places. The hotel bar is hideously expensive compared with elsewhere so we frequent the not so clean cafe opposite where Clive can practice his arabic and entertain the locals. You can get your boots shined while you sip a rather strange cup of tea. Our bikes are parked across the road and all the locals are very interested in them. They are under 24 hour guard by the hotel. In the evening we catch taxi to go and watch Sufi dancing at the Madrassa al Ghouri; but it has been cancelled. However this is just near one of the street markets. Soon we are in tow behind a man who wants us to just see …We get led into some filthy alley ways and end up in front of a little “shop”that makes inlaid boxes. I buy one! I am glad I have but neverthe less probably paid too much. It was not expensive however. Back to our hotel where we eat very locally but manage to be served a beer, alcoholic one, by the waiter. The beer is bought round the corner somewhere and brought to our table in a plastic bag…all very undercover. Clive took the opportunity and asked the waiter after he had smelt whisky on his breath.
Ian is still with us as he is staying at this hotel but he is doing other things during the day. We gather together to eat in the evening .
Sunday 29th Oct
Notice when we go out in the morning that Clive’s back tyre on his motorbike has a puncture. Not quite sure how, as it has sat in the same place this last 48 hours. However we have a more important thing to do first; we are off to the Kenyan embassy to see about a visa for Kenya. We take taxi to the address in the Lonely planet guide. Takes a bit of finding and then we are told it has moved…to where? Eventually we get there ( they had luckily kept their phone number). We are told the visa will take 3 days. Little persuasion from Clive and the lady says come back tomorrow at noon. She won’t budge from that! Back to hotel and we take wheel off bike and carry it along the street to a tyre place. They find three holes , one made by a screw. Bit mysterious. Anyway , all mended and we put it back on. We then head back to the Al Ghoura market and have another wander. Find the more touristy area. Wander, mostly looking. Some tourists here. All egyptian sellers always amazed at Clive’s arabic. It is of great help and interest !
Eat at our same cafe with the beer which again arrives almost under the table. All egyptian men are out in the streets watching a football match on cafe tellies. They are seated in rows in the streets.
Monday 30th oct
We pack bikes and leave, to head first for the Kenyan embassy and then out of Cairo and on our way to Luxor. We are leaving Ian behind but may see him in Luxor and hopefully Aswan. Her has to get his Sudanese visa.
Clive gets very ratty in the Cairo traffic. It is not bad but I am blamed for going the wrong way. They have many one way systems so when you go wrong you are swept the wrong way for several streets ! We get to the embassy with plenty of time to spare. Collect visa before noon and are off. We are aiming for the most westerly road that heads south. This is in order to try and avoid the prospect of being put in a convoy by the Nile Police. We get on the right road and do well. It is desert and we are missing all the action of the nile valley. However we can get along much quicker and with out too much bother.We have plenty of nile valley to see yet. There are police checks but we are allowed onwards without problem. We aim for El Minya where we have booked a hotel. Leaving the main road we wander along a lovely side road to El Minya . It is nearly dusk and all the locals are on their way home from the fields. Camels, donkeys, sheep, goats, water buffalo etc . Overloaded donkey carts, overloaded humans too. Many wave to us and we to them. Towns back streets are mayhem: filthy, dirt streets with all sorts of traffic, tooting of horns etc. Close to indian streets but without all the animals. Gradually work our way to the hotel. Very friendly and a good place overlooking the Nile.
Tuesday 31st Oct
Long day ahead as we are trying to reach Luxor which is about 280 miles. Now in the Nile valley on the west bank we stay on this main road thinking it is not worth heading across to the desert road. Slow going as many villages and much traffic. fascinating nonetheles and I take photos from the bike as we go along. Donkeys everywhere carrying all sorts of loads. Tut tuts appear with smart roofs. Horses with very grand looking carriages. each village has a very busy intersection. We make slow progress and the police are not helping. finally at one check they say we have to be escorted. Why? So we have to follow a pick up with police hanging on to the back. However it is only round that particular town..Dariut. Then we are left alone again. At Asyut we decide to head for the desert road again. It is closer. Much better progress and this desert is quite interesting . Has lovely lunar shapes and different colour of rocks. Not a thing is out there..no vegetation, no people except for the few vehicles on our road and no camels etc. Very odd to think that just a few miles to the east is the Nile valley out of sight,teeming with people and life of all sorts.
The road has been extended since my map and we go further than we had hoped. It runs out at Girsa? Back in the valley we are constantly having to go through police checks and eventually the police before Nag Hamm??? stop us and say we have to be escorted. We are still on the west bank which is where we want to stay but the police lead us to a bridge over the nile and tell us we must go over. They do not come. So over we go but head back over the Nile on the next bridge down ! Police check there has no problem with us and we head on ; now into the gathering dusk, but back on our west side. We have no further problems except for the gathering darkness. We have to do about 30 kms in darkness. The egyptians like to drive around at night with their headlights either off or on sidelights. They then flash full beam at you when you get near. Donkeys are still scurrying home as are some tractors. These do not have lights.
Arrive at or hotel. Seems very nice and we celebrate our arrival with a well deserved bottle of very good egyptian wine in the garden. We have arrived on the west bank of Luxor. It is called El Gizera and is the same side as the Valley of the Kings.
Wed 1st Nov
I get my mobile stolen!
Nov 1st Wednesday
The day did not begin that well. Had discovered last night that my camera battery charger would not charge. Currently blaming lead ( couldn’t possibly be charger could it ? ). Absolutely done for without camera battery! I do have two but if I can’t charge either??
Catch ferry across to east bank and Luxor itself. We are off to see Temple of Karnak and get battery charger a new lead. I take public ferry, Clive takes private boat at 3 times the price. We are only talking about 10p versus 30p ! Much hassling the other side but we finally take a horse and carriage of which there are masses. Our driver helps find shop for new lead but charger still does not work. Any way off to the temple. Its a hot day 28/9c. How do people sight see in July /August ??? Our horse is pitifully thin but seems perky enough. Driver stops to buy it food and we encourage him to buy more. Outside the Temple is a camera place and lo and behold they have a fancy universal charger. Leave my spare battery charging while we trip round the Temple. The Hypostyle hall was very impressive with 134 columns. All on a giant scale. Back to camera shop. Charger seems to have worked so buy it after protacted negotiations over how much it should cost. ( they knew I needed it!). Horse and carriage were waiting ( no escape) and he takes us on a circuitous route back to the Luxor Temple. Negotiate price to say goodbye to the driver and then look at Luxor Temple very briefly from the outside! Clive wants to go into the smartest hotel in town so we walk in to the Winter Palace Hotel and pretend to be honoured guests. Very grand! Not my style though. Fending off various sellers we head back over the river.
I had discovered by now that my mobile had disappeared. Not sure how but from out of my bag. It could be worse..like passport or money, or camera. We will replace somehow. Luckily there are two of us and Clive has his mobile which right now is quite precious !
Sightseeing for the day done I spend hours at the internet cafe rewriting diary days lost on the phone’s memory ! Then we research place for our tyre changing which we will do tomorrow.
Catch up with Ian’s news in the evening. He had a very long trip down from Cairo doing Cairo to Luxor in one day. He had had a much worse time with the police who had led him along strange roads. He was in a convoy for some of the way; something we had somehow avoided. Perhaps it was Clive’s language skills again.
Luxor… 1st Nov Clive writes
After a tough ride yesterday we got up late and had a good breakfast in the hotel gardens. Then ventured out for the boat trip across the Nile from our hotel to Luxor town and the Temple of Karnak. Ninas camera battery would not charge so first priority to get a new charger. Arrive at quayside to be met by usual scrum for the ferry. Clive decides to spend extra 20p and hire a motorboat for tne crossing, Nina prefers the local atmosphere and waits for the ferry.
Once across we hire a horse and cart to go round various shops in the dusty streets to find elusive battery charger. After 6 shops we give up and head for the temples of Karnak. Not far out of town, about half a mile are the impressive temples. Spend an hour doing the tourist bit, photos etc and leave. On our exit notice a camera shop… yes it had a battery charger. So return to town happy, and head for old colonial hotel, The Winter Palace. Wander round the hotel, very upmarket, very colonial with manicured gardens, lots of polished wood and brass. Decide against lunch there but go next door to the modern sister hotel and have a buffet lunch. Sit down to lunch and notice Ninas mobile phone is missing… last seen at breakfast and work out must have gone before or whilst on the ferry. So frantic calls on Clives phone to block calls etc.
Nov 2nd Thursday
Slowly sorting out loss of mobile and have got camera battery charged. Weather cooler and it is off to the valley of the Kings. We decide to go on my bike. Its about 10kms. Costs 7 pounds for 2 to get in. Egypt is not expensive. Though the endless back handers probably mount up. We give them a one egyptian pound. No coins here and one egyptian is worth 10p. Think a tenth of the cost back home.
Our tomb ticket says we can go to 3 tombs out of the total. We follow lonely planet advice and go to the three best recommended. Tutankhamun is extra. Each tomb has a keeper who will, with a bit of monetry encouragement, not stamp your ticket ( so you can visit more than your alloted 3) and even allow non flash photos. We are impressed by the art work on the walls, the hieroglyphics ( thanks Bev glad someone is reading this rubbish) Must have been stunning 3000 years ago. They are predominately in blue, yellow, red and done on gypsum plaster.
In the afternoon we are seeing to the bikes…to be continued.
Off we went to the tyre shop We had the tyres and we took off the wheels while the man did the tyre levering. No machine. We attracted a small crowd. Next door ,on the street( everything happens on the street), were men playing dominoes. We were brought pepsi’s. Two hours and £5 later all was done. Off to get petrol….£5 filled both our bikes up and we are ready for tomorrow.
Every time we leave or enter the hotel we are walking down a back street. Ladies in black are sitting in their doorways and children play (or beg!). I spied a donkey inside one doorway but all seems mostly organised inside.I wonder what they think of us?
We are wondering what to do about replacing my mobile phone. We are thinking of sending a packet to Khartuom. We tried to ring a hotel there. International calls are only possible from a phone shop or with a phone card. We ask for a £5 card. Highest denomination they have is £3. We try with that but something wrong with the code or number. It is impossible to find out. This is not England!.
Clive is practising writing on his phone so please excuse any duplication… here goes
Spent the morning touring the Valley of the Kings. Went up on Ninas bike and parked next the police point who were very friendly and as always the first question asked was ‘ how much’ followed by ‘ are you muslim’. Went into four tombs and was impressed by the size and detail that was in each. Despite these tombs being over 3,000 years old some of the walls and ceilings had detailed hieroglyphics in .colour. The valley itself is compact, each tomb entrance only yards from the next but each disappears maybe a hundred yards deep into the hillside, a real feat of engineering when you think these were dug out so long ago.
We then returned for lunch and spent a couple of hours sorting out e mails and the web site.
Finally returned to our friendly tyre man and fitted the off road tyres which we had carried the 3,600 miles from Burnham Market.We are now set for the gravel and sand roads of the Sudan although they feel very skittish on the tarmac and neither of us enjoy the ride so lets hope they prove to be worth it and save my backside….!
Friday 3rd Nov
We found out last night that there are 3 convoys per day, 7am,11am and 1.30pm to Aswan. Opted for 11am as it is only about 150 miles to Aswan. No new tyres to carry, though are keeping one old one each. Clive is carrying an old back tyre and I carry a front tyre. This is in case of trouble with the new tyres ie that they cannot be repaired, our size tyres are not available here.
Find the start point of convoy. Only 7 vehicles, one bus,2 landcruisers, 2 minivans and us. Start promptly at 11am and off we go straight through all the checkpoints with no stopping, sirens blaring, guns hanging out the police vans etc. It was the only advantage.Our new tyres are rather wobbly. They are knobbly and ready for the dirt roads and feel strange on tarmac.
All stop for a break and we talk to a english couple in one landcruiser and a single dutchman in the landcruiser. He is well travelled. The english cruiser was the first british foreign vehicle we have seen in Africa. Couple are taking 10 months to drive to Cape town. (www.footloose.com). So far they have taken 2 months, as against our three weeks.
After the stop the convoy seems to disintegrate! No police behind and if they were in front we never saw them again. What the perceived danger was is also mystifying.
Sugar cane production has given away to maize and bananas. Vegetables as well. Donkeys carrying greenery not sure if its sugar cane,maize,papyrus or bamboo! Donkeys everywhere! Egrets in the fields just like we have seagulls.
We get good views of the Nile. Its still big and wide swiftly flowing. See an increasing number of feluccas saling along. Probably with tourists aboard.
Reach Aswan and find hotel opposite Elephantine island. Views of feluccas trying to sail in no wind aginst yhe current and going backwards, just like in Overy Staithe. They do have oars!
Sat 4th Nov.
Lovely view from our hotel window to greet us. Breakfast of boiled egg and jam !! Off to the Nile Navigation company for our 10am appointment with Mr fix it ala Mr Salah. We bump into the english couple of yesterday and a swiss couple in a vehicle. We are all after tickets. Mr Salah , the magic fixer is not here, ( surprise surprise) his cousin has died which means he drops his work entirely. However there is a nice man there and we do get our passenger tickets for our 1st class cabin and hopefully reservation but no ticket yet for the motorcycles. We have been advised to get 1st class cabin as the alternative is on deck with all the rest plus livestock etc. The motorbike tickets cannot be issued till we have been to the traffic police and taken in our egyptian number plates and drivers card and swapped them for a piece of thin paper! Then you give the port people this little piece of paper and then we will get the tickets…in theory!
One little hang up still to sort out. Something that Mr Salah was going to do…and that is the little matter of a yellow fever certificate. We were told in England this was not needed. However entry to Sudan requires it. We are hoping that we can buy a certificate at the port. Bit of bacsheesh required. We had been hoping to do it further in advance but this is not possible so it seems, we are assured it can be obtained at the port.
We need to buy a cheap mobile and some empty plastic cans for extra petrol. Clive starts negotiating. He seems to love it. He will go up to some likely individual ( like a coffee seller) and ask where can we get these things. The seller will of course welcome over a friend and very rapidly more people gather as they hear this english man speaking arabic. This time we are soon in a taxi, the taxi driver having been invited over. His taxi is a very old ( 1970s?) peugeot 504. He starts it by touching 2 wires together ( no ignition), key is probably still in France. He grates it into gear ( gear change on the steering column) and slowly we creep off. He drives quite often on the wrong side of the road but we are going so slowly it is not a real problem. I am in the back and Clive in the front. The taxi driver looks as rough as his taxi. In the back there are no window handles and no door handle on one side. On the dash board there is some filthy furry piece of cloth and none of his dials appear to work. However he is being very friendly and kind and we stop at various places/shops looking for secondhand/cheap mobiles and plastic cans. We loop round all the filthy dirt back streets of town and end up back where we started having not quite succeeded. We pay off the driver, who wants a double of course, and watch him try and start his car again. The starter and battery appear to be dying together !! We walk off and more negotiating /chatting by Clive in the petrol station rewards us with 2 empty 4 litre old oil cans and one 20 litre empty oil can. Buy 10p of petrol to swill around them and the residue is chucked into an open 40 gallon oil drum! The garage forecourt is covered with diesel so walking is a careful affair, and requires very close attention when entering on a motorcycle; yesterday on one bend from Luxor the road was awash with diesel apart from a metre wide track on the far right which fortunately we were near to.
We really had wanted two 10 litre cans but these will do. Back to hotel and then off to the Traffic police by bike. I forget my plastic Egyptian I.D card and have to repeat the journey. Back at the traffic police Clive has been keeping the entire police force happy with his banter in arabic, Clive and the Captain exchange salutes, we get our piece of paper which we are assured is all that is required by the port authorities to allow us out, and depart .. so lets see if they are right on Monday…..
We then find an internet cafe. It’s in the back streets and upstairs but everything works.
In the evening we meet with Ian and have a meal together on the edge of the river. We exchange news on how we are managing with our tickets etc.
Sunday 5th Nov.
Decide some sightseeing is called for as well as getting some washing done and the internet. Bought a new Nokia phone from a one of the hotel guys last night so that problem is out of the way for the moment. took a while puzzling how to get the english language on it!
Catch ferry to Elephantine island , walk through authentic Nubian village to the other side, walk along the shore line via various bits of local rubbish., sheep, water, burnt palms etc till we reach where we think there should be another ferry. Men in rowing boat offer their services and after Clive has negotiated we are rowed across to Kitcheners island. Was quite a hard row as against a good fresh wind. Kitcheners tropical paradise is a bit of a disappointment to me as not as lush and wonderful as I had been led to believe by the usually accurate lonely planet guide book. Then we have to negotiate a ride back!! Finally catch rowing boat back to Elephantine in order to sail onwards in a Felucha. We walk along the island again till we reach the small Felucca that we are going to sail in towards the first cataract that Clive particularly wants to see. The wind is good and we have a good sail with our Nubian boatman. We go up to Seheyl island. There the current is really swirling. I would not like to swim there. We head back to Aswan.
Tonight we will meet with Ian again and then tomorrow its ferry day. Aswan to Wadi Haifa… next update from will be from Sudan…
We have made it to Khartoum after 4 hard days covering 1000 kms . The worst aspect was probably the sand…
Nov 6th Monday
Ferry day! Ian comes to our hotel to join us and the three of us head off to Aswan port Clive in the lead. The road takes us from the east bank of the Nile to the west bank over the original dam built by the British about 1900 and then finally back to the east side over the new High dam. We begin border negotiations. Backwards and forwards but we are relieved when we are able to buy the motorbike tickets. Still no carnet man though and we wait for about an hour watching the goings on.Eventually the senior man arrives, greets Clive like a long lost friend and then searches every file and every drawer in the office looking for the stamp. Fortunately he finds it in an envelope and sits. The Sudanese do not travel lightly. Everything including the kitchen sink! They seem to be all into the export business.Finally our man turns up and we are sorted with out further ado. Clive in the meantime has been enrolling the services of a quiet Sudanese who is hopefully going to facilitate our lack of yellow fever certificate. His father will be in W H..
We then get our bikes and head towards the boat. It is moored such that there are two barges in between. Lorries are parked end on to the barges and their loads are being unloaded by hand. The scene is one of frenetic activity. Porters are carrying loads everywhere on their backs and shoulders: into the boat and into the hold of the nearest barge.Chaos! However we are led aboard and our cabins pointed out. Seem okay but no locks on the door. And where are the bikes going? Not into the hold of a barge along with all the sacks and cardboard boxes, surely? No, we are lucky: we are told they are destined for the passage way of our passenger boat. They are going to be with us. This is good news. For the moment we must sit and wait while the barges are loaded. They then get out of the way and then our bikes will be loaded. But what of the landcruisers? We know the Swiss arrived in the port but we can see no sign of them now. Nor can we see where any vehicle is going to fit on these small barges. Three might but no more.
Bad news later. Bikes have to go on barge. We watch the barge fill up all afternoon. We are getting very anxious about where our bikes will go. There are 3 obvious spots for 3 vehicles but only gangway on a lean for our bikes. Clive pesters away and has a spot in mind. Finally he gets his bike and forces it on board. Then mine next near Clives. Both have to be manhandled into position. Ian hangs back and finally makes it on. We think the barge is fully loaded but people and lorries with endless loads keep turning up and the porters work hard carrying it on to the barge or the boat.The hold of the barge fills and boxes, bags, sacks, washing machines, TVs keep being piled onto the top until we have two precarious mounds. Any swell and they will go overboard. We fear our bikes will be buried but can only watch, worried in the gathering dark as more and more is piled on top of the pile that began in the bottom of the hold. Finally the barge casts off after the 3 landcruisers are squeezed on sideways.5 vehicles had booked with tickets. 2 have been told they have to wait tilll next week… bet they’re pleased….
On board we are thankful for our cabin, 1st class, but more like 3rd in comfort! It is a sanctuary from the huge number of people on board. There are people and bodies everywhere. Top deck is infested, perhaps 100 people lying down up to the next person. Loos already stink and we havent set sail yet, and we hope the food did not poison us. Dark by 5.15pm it will be an early night. We still have not left by 7pm. Clive has found out that 4 bus loads of late arrivals on board have been deported from Libya….with all their belongings! There are sofas on the top deck that are travelling with someone! They got hauled up over the outside of the railings, up the side of the ship! Some cabins are piled high with luggage whilst owners sleep on the deck.All this on a boat far,far smaller than a cross channel ferry boat, Clive discovers it is supposed to carry 200 passengers, but we have over 500 on board… must call Health and Safety….
We depart just after 7.15pm, into the darkness of Lake Nasser, a beautiful evening with a full moon. Where’s the bar….Don”t worry about that…just hope the captain can see all the islands and rocks in the dark.
Tuesday 7th nov
We went to sleep early there being nothing else to do on this crowded boat. I slept ok but Clive not.
Discovered 1st class had its own dining area. Don”t think grand! We had some breakfast. Brown beans,flat bread,one boiled egg,salad. Sounds good but not really. This was after visiting the loo. Many,many more men on board so male loo not good according to Clive. Mine okay but squat was squalid to begin with.
Every nook and cranny of this boat is full of belongings even the passport office, where we have to hand in our passport, is full of televisions . The “passport office” is a cabin!
We pass Abu Simbel at a distance and then the boat stops and toots. We are on the official border.A small immigration vessel draws alongside and 3 men leave us, perhaps with our passports, all passengers have surrendered their passports to be collected on the quayside in Wadi Halfa….
Clive met the Captain, a wiry Sudanese man dressed in traditional Sudanese clothes, no cap or uniform you wouldnt think him anything more than a passenger but all on the bridge stood in awe of him. When he wanted the viewing area by the entrance to the bridge cleared, it was done in an instant, without the usual nonsense.
We arrived about lpm. We had to first get a piece of paper fom the man holding our passport in order to be allowed off the boat. There were 521 passengers on this small boat so this took at least an hour before all were done. We were some of the first ashore but probably some of the last out of the immigration area. It took ages to be reunited with our passports. Lots of beaurocracy and backwards and forwards. By this time all the foreigners/europeans were in a heap together. 5 from the landcruisers,1 french cyclist,1 Newzealand backpacker (older guy), 1pretty young female japanese girl who had travelled overland from Japan to here, and us 3 motorcyclists.
There were also 4 austrians and 2 italians who were hiring cars from Wadi. Their tour company rep was very helpful to us all.The sudanese appear very friendly and helpful.
Eventually we all loaded,11 of us,into a landrover. Gina need have no fears. Her landrover is a hundred times better than these landrover taxis. The doors dont shut,a window fell out, no dials work etc!
Our “hotel” is a collection of mud huts inside a compound. The eleven of us share 3 rooms. 4 females go together!. There is sand on the floor and 4 truckle beds. The loo is a shed with a hole the size of a drain pipe in the earth floor. No water except in a fetch yourself bucket from nearby.The shower is a shed with a door where you can privately tip a bucket of cold water over your head.
We eat together with the dust blowing all around. My hair is probably thick with dust. It is not cheap. 3 times the price of Egypt we think. Electricity will go off at midnight and begin again at 10am.
We really hope the barge arrives tomorrow. Two nights here will be quite enough!
Wed 8th Nov
I am writing this as Clive and Ian try and wash out some empty plastic cans they have bought by a water tank in our hotel compound. I have just swilled out a loo before using it! This morning I must have been lucky.
Last night our meal was presented without cutlery. There is none. Its bread and fingers. Breakfast was in the cafe . It was omelette inside bread in our fingers. That was okay.
Clmbed a small hill to get the view and the the of the land. There is a christian bit and a nubian bit who do not talk to each other and are about half a mile apart.We have to register with the police. This is done with the aid of our helper. We hang around. Its windy and sunny. Not too hot which is good.
Good news…the barge has arrived We get a ride in a pick up to the port. The bikes are okay and manpower lifts them, one by one ,down from the barge which is floating 1 to 2 ft higher than the quay.
Off to customs. Only carnet to do but it takes for ever. Finally done. It has taken about 55 dollars to get the bikes in! Then to hotel where we re pack and work out how to carry extra fuel ,water etc.We are apprehensive about the road. We have ridden slowly from the airport on a sandy road but we made it!
The landcruisers took much longer as they could not be lifted down. They had to wait for the barge to move up the quay.They only just got them before dark.
We all eat together in the dark at the cafe.The electricity has failed for the whole town. The dust blows! We have to go off and get some torches. Enterprising sudanese come round selling windup torches which we all buy. We eat with our fingers in darkness. Stars look good.! Once all the torches have been sold ,the electicity comes back on. Chance or what
Thurs 9th Nov
We were up at 6am, eager to be ready with the first light. Off at 7am. We have 200kms (120m) to do on sandy and corrugated roads.Up in the sky are 4 large birds of prey/vultures. We begin by not quite choosing the right track. Bit of wasted time but after that it was not a problem to find the road. Ian soon prooved himself on his KTM. He could go faster than we wanted or could go. I was the slowest! I dropped my bike once in the sand and Ian had a little problem too. I have been on much rockier roads but never on such horrible corrugations. That lasted for about 150kms.!
We carried extra fuel and water. It was desert:hardly any people or animals. No houses, very empty. Hot. Not as I had expected from the map which shows us following the Nile. I had thought I would at least see some greenery!
After 80miles we did finally find the Nile and then a few villages. Smart mud walled compounds. Really quite well looked after. Very straggly villages and nice waving people. I get tired hands and wrists: Clive gets an aching back but Ian has whizzed ahead of us!.
But we make our destination,Abri. It is an untidy place beside a very brown coloured,fast flowing Nile. Our hotel is interesting!. We are the only guests. We are expected to share a room. I find that strange. One woman,one older man, and a young man. The loo is a wee bit better than our last one . Our room has a sand floor. We cannot find a place to eat so with our 2 stoves we make some kind of meal on a table in the sandy courtyard outside our room, from food bought in the town. Very limited choice. We feel like 3 dirty cowboys walking up the dirt street.
The one light in our room does not have a switch. It came on as it got dark. When will it go off? Locals play dominoes and Clive is chatted to by a Sudanese man who speaks very good english. Ian and I write our diaries. We have had a hard day and we have a similar day ahead of us tomorrow.
Friday Nov 10th
Up early and off at 7am. Another long bumpy day ahead. Trouble finding right road again and Ian gets stuck trying to cross some cultivated desert land as we correct ourselves. We push him out.
We have sandy patches, corrugations,villages with smiling people,glimpses of the Nile, rocks,sand and more sand, mountains with sand against them looking like snow. At first we got along well and even got into 3rd gear but then we hit some patches of sand and sandier surfaces.Ian rides through the sand more easily than us as his bike is over 100 KG lighter than Clives and 50KG lighter than mine but we are growing in confidence a bit! Too much could be dangerous! The people want us to wave. I have to take care,look at road first…”can I lift my hand” if so wave and look at them or wave and keep eyes on road or if conditions do not allow a wave then shout “hello”
So far we have ridden about 250miles in two days or 16 hours riding all of it in 1st 2nd or 3rd gear. The bikes are absolutely covered in sand but appear to be coping well despite the temperature guage often disappearing into the Red zone.
We see ahead our landcruiser friends! We are trying to make Dongola for the night but progress has been slower than we hoped and but it seems too far and we are persuaded to camp with the landcruisers. There are no hotels! We end up by the 3rd cataract of the Nile. All the children from the village come. Clive is lent a mattress to sleep on by one of the landcruisers which is squeezed into our tiny tent. We have hardly any food. There are hardly any shops! The brits give us some couscous and I make tuna and tomato mixture! We do have stove and saucepan and a teaspoon each. So we are advancing from the eat with hands situation.
We are all dirty. Not many washing facilities around. We also need power to charge things. My phone which was stolen could charge on my bike but Clive has no car charger for his. My camera battery needs a plug too.! However we have a good night camping
Saturday Nov 11th
Break camp and off towards Dongola. It has hotels and things! We are searching now for a ferry to cross the river. Have to constantly ask ” where are we, where is the ferry?” We thought it was at Kerma as per the map but when we arrive the locals say not here better at Argo. On to Argo then on this sandy side. The other side is more stony apparently, and therefore better for us. Clive and I are not fond of this sand! We are improving a bit. When the sand is not too deep its a bit like off piste skiing…easier if you can make your own track. Otherwise its a bit like ice skating…bit of a miracle that you are standing. The theory is to accelerate if your front wheel begins to wobble. “put on some power” and the bike will straighten up. It does! But it takes some confidence. Sand is soft though and in deep sand your handlebars have no effect on your steering whatsoever, so better get your line right to start with … or prepare to pick it up….
We find the ferry in the end and go down an earth bank on to a muddy ramp to board a tiny boat. It takes 3 pick ups and us plus people. Nile is muddy looking and very fast flowing. On the other side the road is better and we get along faster. As I work my way out of a sandy patch I look up and find Clive parked and waving. He is standing on tarmac! Fantastic and soon in Dongola where we find a hotel. We thought we could get the use of a shower but hotel wouldnt. So we ate instead and washed in the loos there which were the most reasonable we had seen for days.
We then headed on. Prospects were some tarmac, 60 kms of sand, then tarmac again. At the end of the tarmac the landcruisers found us. Luke the dutchman was then some help and led us across stony desert on the right handside of the new road being constructed. To the left was the sandy road. Good for a while then down to new road under construction. We were allowed to go on it and vehicles not. We then spent the rest of the day bobbing on and off this road. It was the best place for us. Every now and then we had to go on the sandy road or we had to negotiate piles of gravel placed across to stop cars. These were sometimes quite fun and a challenge. Ian was always out in front. Clive got stuck once trying to sqeeze round and so did I. I also during the afternoon dropped my bike twice, once in sand and once negotiating on and over one of these piles of gravel.
We made it to Abu Dom. Actually we by passed it because we found tarmac again. We have ended up in a roadside cafe where we have made our own meal on our stoves, and rented some outdoor beds. There is a cold water tap used for the nearby Mosque and some disgusting loos. But we are fine and our bikes are beside us. People helpful and friendly.We have ridden about 180 miles today mostly through soft sand so feel pleased with our efforts and looking forward to tomorrow where we are promised about 320 kms of tarmac and only 50 kms of sand… lets see and then Khartoum and a hot shower and a loo with a flush… bliss.
Nov 12th Sunday
Bliss, oh heavenly bliss I have at last been able to wash my hair after a whole week. My curly hair was tangled and thick with dust!. We are in the Al Firdous hotel in Khartoum, supposedly 4 star, but divide that by 4 to get an accurate picture, the price however is 4 star.
We began bright and early again…the three of us…to try and reach Khartoum. Should be tarmac all the way though there were rumours of a gap. We have 250 miles about 400 KMs to do. Going faster its colder, 15c when we set off, and it is also windy which is making the sand swirl across the road. We have left the Nile and are heading south across more desert. Not much out here.
There are gaps in the tarmac, many! The road is under construction in parts and we are all expected to take to the desert. But we three bikes are allowed to travel on the construction surfaces over and round their piles of gravel like yesterday. Now and then we have to go off as well onto the sandy track but we keep our eyes on the road and the moment we can get back on it , we do. Across deep sand sometimes. Clive also got embedded in deep sand and had to remove all panniers to pull the bike out with the beginning of the tarmac in sight.
As we near Khartoum the desert becomes greener and there are camels,donkeys,large termite mounds and goats. Colourful people wander on either side. The Sudanese have all come across as friendly and helpful so far. Many can speak English, some of them quite well.
We come to Omdurman. It is seething…traffic,souk. goats. donkeys. cats you name it but we plough through with horns blaring and arms gesticulating to move over. Really it is the beginning of Khartoum, so nearly there. Head for planned hotel. the Gobaa as recommended by lonely planet. Traffic very bad. more like London in the rush hour but without any order. Clives bike gets so hot the temperature guage disappears off the Red so he eventually stops to let it cool a bit. I try and go through what looks like a puddle but realise that it is very deep too late and over I go bike and me, like a horse and rider at a water jump. Absolutely filthy water. No real problem apart from embarrassment, wet clothing, wet boot (it was deeper than the top of my boot) and a broken indicator. People helped to pick it up and luckily I managed to ride it out. Clive had disappeared into the traffic looking for the hotel. So sopping wet I waited and waited for him to find me. The intercom system worked for a while but then didnt. It doesant like buildings. Eventually we found each other and even later a hotel with hot water. The hotel claims to be 4 star but has a comfortable bed and working bathroom so we are relieved and colapse into the bath.I was very relieved to get out of my wet and dirty clothes. We have made it across our first real hurdle..Wadi Halfa to Khartoum.
monday nov 13th
Having got ourselves and belongings clean last night, we have plodded and taxied the filthy, dusty streets of Khartoum for the better part of the day. I write this sitting in the Humanitarian Aid Commission. We are waiting .for one more stamp on a travel permit. One man upstairs could stamp it we feel…now. We have gone from building to building in various dirty parts of Khartoum to get this far. We have had to go back out to get 4 copies of 3 different pages of our passport and 3 copies of the form.
Walking along to get the photocopies we step over various hazards on the dirt pavement: round a car being mended with the mechanic underneath in the dirt: round people sitting on plastic chairs eating or drinking out of filthy containers: past an old combi van, now not moving and side door gone, but with a deepfreeze inside and trays of eggs for sale at the back: past a lady selling cups of tea from a doorstep and through piles of rubbish. Traffic is busy in the streets and cross road discipline is not heard of.
We sat for nearly 2 hours and nearly got it but another person in another building has to stamp something so its a question of back tomorrow. Plan now is to leave tomorrow when we are done.
We got back to hotel and organised an oil change for the bikes a few yards down the road. So on the pavement of a main street our oil was changed with attendant oil spillages etc. All waste oil hygienically disposed of a few yards away on the edge of the road in some container sitting inside a pile of tyres. The container was overflowing before our oil was added. We added the cardboard boxes of the filters to this oily pile!
When out in the dust and sand ,Clive had suggested we all meet at the bar in the Hilton in Khartoum at 6pm. Because our oil change took longer than expected (Clive”s bash plate to blame) we were a bit late. The drinks were Pepsis…no alcohol has been on sale in Sudan since 1983. We said goodbye to Ian who is taking a different route in Ethiopia and to Werner and Claudia our Swiss friends from the desert. We may meet again on the way…who knows.
Tuesday 14th nov
We left Khartoum at 11am after 2 taxi rides to get our travel permits finalised. They cost US$40 each! Hope they look at them ,
The traffic in Khartoum can be heavy but the drivers are quite calm and there is no frantic tooting. They do disobey the traffic lights when they can but all in all its not too bad. Khartoum is not a huge city but it is dirty and dusty…
We take the main road south, which is infact the main road linking Port Sudan with Khartoum. It is busy with large trucks , buses, pick ups ,a few private cars and landcruisers and us!. Wandering animals especially goats and donkeys are a worry.
Things improve when we take the left turn at Wad Mendani. Its us and the large trucks mainly. These large trucks are like double articulated lorries. One unit/engine pulls 2 trailers, each as long as our articulated lorries. The drivers are considerate and we do not have problems with them. The road is a bit bumpy in parts and we remain watchful for animals and potholes.
Today is the hottest day we have had. It reaches 40c ! I am glad that we have been on the move because it helps!
The road is almost straight and we are on a huge plain…fertile if it had more water. Gradually more crops are seen and maize in particular. Herds of cows,goats and flocks of sheep and finally I see my first real african village of round mud houses with peaked straw roofs.
We reach Gedaref before dark which was good going and have to opt for a “bad value for the money” hotel . The next hotel down was a real step down looking like a hostel and had a bucket as a loo. I just did not feel like it. It was filthy and full of men. There were padlocks on the doors.! So back to the expensive one.
Clive noticed and killed a cockroach on the bedroom floor. We then went don to eat. Clive went off to check the food in the kitchen and came back saying lets go and get a schwarma. Off we go and find its quite a town! We eat a good schwarma in a place crawling with cockroaches. There were even 2 climbing around on the sweetmeats inside the glass counter! We find an internet in a rough building and afterwards holding each others hand walk back in the dark. There are street lights but they are not working.
We finally get out of town at 8m after getting petrol and water. The road is not busy. Tarmac,us and herdsmen everywhere. Its a flat savannah like plain. Good looking crops of maize and large herds of cows and flocks of sheep. Herdsmen on donkeys or camels or walking. Hot again, its 30c by 8.30am Traditional round straw roofed houses dot the landscape and many people are walking by the road. Colourful ladies with loads on their heads.
The road becomes one of constuction and then finally a dirt road. We slowly make it to the border. The border is rough. Dirt road full of holes,masses of small lorries,people and goats everywhere. Fomalities though are not long and soon through. Ethiopian side just as chaotic and immigration is in a colourful mud hut. Carnets are dealt with 37kms down the road. We set off on a gravel road in the heat and dust.. A very small building heralds the customs post. We are told “wait till 3pm”. Its 1pm. In fact a sit down is nice but we say (Clive says)” we have to get on”. In the end we do not wait so long and all is done. No extra bits of paper.
Our gravel road is just that. In parts its thicker gravel and in parts “Chinese tar” ie baked mud which makes a good road if dry. We are not so fast in thick gravel. So on we go at speeds between 20mph and 40mph. Traffic coming towards us leaves us enveloped in dust.I am hanging back from Clives dust cloud as well. Overtaking ( seldom luckily) is in a dust cloud till you come out the other side so we are totally blind for a few seconds and thus unable to see the road and any sudden hole. On one occasion as Clive emerged from such a cloud he was met by two donkeys walking up the road…
Every now and then we see the remains of a crashed lorry. One is recent and lots of people are salvaging the load…..sesame seed. The wrecks are the result of losing control somehow….l
We wave and wave. Lots of people walking along the roadside and masses of children in every village. The road climbs to 2200m and it is pretty. We see trees for almost the first time since France. A windy road, a pass and an almost alpine air. We are done with desert! The local housing goes from round straw roofed to square and the walls from mud to upright tree trunks. Later these are then plastered over with mud. Larger tin roofed houses appear looking quite alpine. People very smiling very friendly waving vigorously as we pass by.
We make it to Gondar. Long day. Some local boy climbs on top of Clives luggage and directs us to hotel. Not sure how Clive managed to ride his bike. It looked perilous from behind.
We eat nearby. Various dishes of spicy sauces and some extraordinary bread. It is green and comes all rolled up . It looks like lava with holes. Its soft and flat. Very mysterious.
Thurs nov 16th
Our young friend from last night comes round as we pack the bikes. He is called Dude. He is obviously bright and has picked up languages from tourists. Not at school though.Clive buys him a T shirt. We take picture of the castle before leaving and head south. Beautiful, sweeping tarmac road makes for great motorbiking. Virtually no traffic and lovely scenery. This lasts for about 90 miles we then fill up from the local syphon from a drum and stop for a pepsi. We are swarmed over by hundreds of children and appoint one to stand guard of the bikes. After a brief stop and distribution of small gifts we manage to escape. We then take a gravel road to Lalibela. Lalibela is where there are churches hewn out of the rock. We have both been told we must see them. But its 160 miles of gravel road with no hotels on the way. Clive now thinks its not worth it. I keep my thoughts to myself. I am trying to be optimistic. Maybe the gravel wont be too bad…maybe we will get tarmac after a while…maybe it will be less far…..I would like to see this place since everyone says we should but 160 miles of gravel road with all the dust is very daunting. We set off, full of petrol. Its not great, infact the road is very poor in patches and we hit deep holes and large stones. Its hard work and we get covered with dust when lorries come the other way. The scenery is stunning. We climb to about 3000 metres and stay between 2500 and 3000m. The countryside is different shades of green. A patchwork of small fields. Big eucalyptus often line the road otherwise the ethiopians have denuded their country of trees. They seem to be felling the last 10% right now.
People walking along the road: with donkeys: with cows:with sheep:with an umbrella held up as a sunshade: with warm cloths round their shoulders and men in shorts….we have not seen men in shorts since europe. This country is not totally muslim . We can have alcohol again!
All males seem to carry a walking stick. It is used for herding and for carrying things. It is held across both shoulders , behind the neck.
We actually get along quite well though the bumping and the dust are tiring. Huge concentration needed as our wheels are constantly jumping around. Some places you can touch 40mph,others its below 20mph. Large stones,potholes and animals make us ever watchful. Donkeys are the worst…they can suddenly veer. We take 6.5 hours to cover the 160 miles.We get to Lalibela exhausted and find the Lal hotel where we request a beer before registration We eat early . More of that strange bread stuff…..
Friday 17th nov
Breakfast of omelette and toast and then off to the hewn churches…the sole purpose of being here. On the tourist trail! Our hotel is at the bottom of the hill. We trail up hill to the ticket office. We are not hounded particularly thank goodness. Appoint an official guide and off we go. 11 churches to see. Guide fine but I am not that interested in the religious bit. I like looking at the construction, where they are, the tunnels etc. We have to run the gauntlet of the poor,old,maimed etc as we move from one group of churches to another. ( Clive says : The problem here as with Tunisia, Libya, Sudan and Egypt is one of over population and the burgeoning population growth. No one is addressing this issue for fear of causing offence but unless and until they do the situation of poverty, polution, corruption and ultimately extremism will only get worse.) We do 3 hours which is good going and then collapse with a pepsi. Discovered that Lalibela is also famous for its bees and hence honey and “tej” (mead). We decide to give the Tej a bash tonight and in the meantime head off for the nearest internet cafe.
In the afternoon we decide to change some dollars and look for fresh milk so head up into town on my bike. Clive is riding with me on the back and notices my rear brake is not working at all.
I take out the brake pads and put oil on the pistons and leave over night. Dare not try to pump the pistons in case I can”t push them back in. Cannot totally dismantle as we do not have brake fluid.
Sat 18th nov
Wake up after a not such a good nights sleep. Stomach not quite right! Put brake back together but it did not work. Apart from my back brake I have a broken front indicator cover and I have lost my back mudguard altogether. It sheared one of the three bolts holding it on and the other 2 brackets broke off. Its must be lying somewhere in the gravel.
Today we have for sure 109kms of gravel. It turns out however to be greatly more than that. Not 109 kms to the main road but 107 MILES. However tarmac beckons and we have nice breakfast/lunch at midday.lI
But the tarmac with numerous potholes only lasts for about an hour. We are mortally disappointed and Clive gets very pissed off. He had been looking forward to a days ride on tarmac with sweeping bends and great views like the road we had from Gonder. Instead we had 150 miles of gravel and stones. I must mention birds. Up until this country we had been in desert lands and not many birds around for us to see. But here with the varied vegetation I am beginning to see some very colourful birds. I am using Ginas book to look them up in.
The different hues of green, the patchwork of fields and the varied vegetation on the beautiful peaks and hills, make the country very lovely. We left Lalibela at 2300m, went up to about 3500m ( very cold) down to 1800m and up again etc. Spending night in Kombolcha at 1800m.
People are walking everywhere. With loads on their heads or backs, many barefoot, with animals of all sorts (now including camels), with their babies, with friends. Big cows, indian style, with enormous horns walk sedately, usually with a collection of sheep or goats. Donkeys and camels carry loads, not people. Very smart horses are occasionally seen with rider. Some towns have horses pulling carts made from wood with car tyres and axles.
The road is a very busy place and we have to give it full attention. Potholes, animals, trucks,people and bends! The lack of tarmac means we are constantly in a dust cloud from a truck or bus, particularly on this main road.
We find a hotel fot the night. Its not great but will do.
Sunday 19th nov
We went to bed about 8pm! So up at 6.30am was not a problem! Beautiful morning in the countryside and already everyone is out and about. Our tarmac improves dramatically all paid for by the EU. Smart tarmac with smooth surface and no potholes . This lasts for about 100 miles and ends as we climb up and over a pass. More road construction and I drop my bike trying to navigate some rough and loose stones. Only a short bit and I was annoyed with myself. Poor bike has now got both front indicator glasses broken.
The people are gathering in either peas or beans. Left to dry and then loaded onto a donkey and taken off to be threshed out by hand. Saw cattle being used to thresh corn. They were just being made to stomp around in one spot. Sheaves of corn are also transported by donkey.
Its cold at the top of the pass and people by the road try and sell us nice looking warm hats.Up here I think that Ethiopia must look a bit like Peru. But I have never seen Peru so it is the Peru of books!
We finally stop for lunch in a hotel. It looks like a single storey shack!..I try firrifir…I discover that it is with the ethiopian bread.. Not sure that this ethipian bread agrees with me. Clive has already made his mind up…it looks like tripe…umm. Sometimes it has been offered looking green….I say no more… Ethiopia has a proper cuisine. We have tried “thibbs” and now “firrifir”. They come in various forms.!
We stay at 2800m for the afternoon ,only coming down a bit as we come into Addis Abbaba.(height about 2300m). Clive does his usual “I hate the centre of big towns” routine but we arrive at a good hotel as recommended by Lonely Planet guide. Time for a rest and a day off.
Monday 20th Nov
At rest in Addis to sort Ninas rear brake and catch up with e mails etc
Nov 25th Saturday
We had a good breakfast and leisurely start . Bikes had been cleaned which was nice. It was hot and sunny. We are now very near the equator and will go over it /through it, this morning. Off we go to Nannuki. The hotness soon disappears as the road climbs round Mount Kenya. The locals are busy in their fields and by the roadside where even the verges are cultivated with potatoes. Instead of donkeys the good old bicycle is the preferred form of transport and we see many a bicycle loaded with three bags of potatoes. They must be very sturdy and have a strong frame. They are often being ridden as well. In Nannuki we stop for a while and do internet. Then on to Nyeri. Clive has a certain destination in mind, the Outspan Hotel where he came in his youth. Clive’s father was in the hotel business. Rain threatens and we put waterproofs on…myself completely and Clive only his top. He gets soaking wet as it rains heavily before we reach our destination. Nearing Nyeri we see what I think are Coffee bushes. The green countryside is very pretty and Jacoranda trees are in bloom. The hotel is reached and a price for the night negotiated. This was the home of Baden – Powell for three years and he is buried a short distance from the hotel. A small annexe to the hotel is a museum to him and the scout movement. The garden is very nice. We are on the edge of a national park.
Nov 26th Sunday
More rain in the evening but we wake up to a good view of Mount Kenya from our balcony , across the very lovely garden of this , the Outspan Hotel. Can at last see its peak. It is about 5700m high which puts Mont Blanc to shame. Its also funny to think that we are at 1800m which is higher than Val d’isere ( Gina note!) It means that the weather has been very pleasant usually but sometimes cool as we climb higher.
This we do after breakfast when we head off to see where Clive lived for the first 10 years or so of his life….in Nyahururu ( Thompsons Falls). The falls look good and we take a steep path down to the river. Pictures taken and it was a hard climb back up with much puffing and panting from Clive and myself. Clive showed me all around.
Then off to Nakuru for the night and hopefully internet that does not cost 30p per minute!
Countryside green, hilly, full of valleys; moorland up high is quite cool and it rains again. Villages are dirty looking places with a line of shack shops etc each side. Tarmac road runs through the middle but it is dirt on each side and in side streets. People everywhere…many on bicycles with either a load of veg etc or a person on the back rack. These back racks must be strong..one had 2 people on it. The cyclists must be fit too as this is not flat countryside.
As I write this in an internet cafe it has started to deluge outside…we cannot go anywhere at the moment!!!
Nov 27th Monday
We began the day early by visiting the Nakuru National park. The hopeless bunch that we had picked to guide us turned up in a jeep that did not have the right entrance ticket for the park; so we had to change into an ordinary car ! However in the end we saw a good variety of animals and birds. We did see a lion sleeping ..but only just, and we did see a leopard asleep on a tree branch. White rhino and black etc. No elephants as not in this park. Clive was disappointed but then he has seen some of the best !!
With rain threatening , again, we rode our bikes up hill on a dirt road for 5 miles to see over the edge of the Menengai crater. I was dead worried it would rain and I would never make it back down on slippery red mud.But it did not rain and at the top we found a large signpost with mileages to place round the world. The view down into the crater was good.
Poor Clive was suffering from a head cold today and not feeling tremendous. He lead us steadily down the hill and then off onto the main road to Nairobi. This should have been an easy ride according to the map. About 100 miles on tarmac. But the tarmac was at first so bumpy that it made the road between Fakenham and Burnham Market seem flat as a pancake. Then we had a better bit and then it deteriorated into a muddy construction road with lorries coming up the hill getting stuck. We picked our way gingerly downhill ! Finally approached Nairobi and headed to a westerly suberb called Lavington where there is a place called Jungle Junction run by a german. We had booked a room there. Turned out he had let the room but had found us somewhere else to stay. It was fine…Didi’s .
I was going to see if the german..Chris could do my back brake ,,,which is still not working. He could, but not till the next afternoon. We contacted the Wainwrights at this stage . He is Patsey Seymour’s cousin who has very kindly agreed to look after our bikes while we pop back to Britain for a few days to “ see to things”.
It poured with rain again in the night.
Nov 28th Tuesday
Had decided that first priority was to book flight home so off to a travel agent in a very well guarded shopping centre. I am slightly dumbstruck by all the security. Guards everywhere guarding properties. Whilst sorting ticket we make contact with a mechanic (having gone off Jungle Junction), and head to Karen district and Rick. Very helpful, with a shed full of BMW’s and very willing and able to fix my brake which he did. His tel. number is Kenya (0)722 529 810 . He also saw to Clive’s back brake which also was not operating entirely correctly. No charge ! Whilst waiting for Rick we had bumped into our South African driver guy again. What fate and what was he doing in Karen !! He told us of a Dutch girl who is driving a tractor all the way from the Netherlands to Cape Town.. Guess what, we saw her on the road as we left Rick’s. ! It was a small blue tractor and she has rigged up a camping space over the arms at the back.(www.tractortractor.org).
Back to get tickets with back brake working and then off to Thika which entailed riding straight through the centre of Nairobi. Henry came to meet us at The Blue Post Hotel and led us to his new house on his farm. He and Louise are running Real IPM , a centre where they are breeding natural predators (for red spidermite in particular). Louise has a mission to eliminate the use of chemicals ( at least on roses!)
Wed 29th Nov
Had very nice supper with Henry and Louise and a good nights sleep. Sorted what we were going to bring home ( things we don’t need!), see to bikes and make a list of what we need. Its my bike that has one or two things that are needed. Clive’s has survived very well. They are both filthy, covered in red mud.
Do internet and am now signing off till we pick up the trip again on or around the 13/14th Dec, when we fly back here to pick up our bikes and continue with our journey to Cape Town.