Buya Ikhaya (Come Home)

Charlie and Rensche are coming home by riding motorbikes from London to Cape Town.

We hope that our stories from the road will motivate you to give a donation to our chosen charity Beautifulgate who are a Christian organisation helping Aids orphans in Southern Africa. Please follow the link in the column on the right.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Congrats to Heino and Alessandra!!!

Congratulations to Heino, Alessandra and Orphea for making it all the way from London to Cape Town and then up to Windhoek. An awesome effort on your part Heino for getting you three safely all the way down. They say doing an overland trip on your own is tough, now add another person on the back...that is seriously impressive. Obviously also to Ale for being such a trusting passenger.
And congrats to Orphea for effectively circum-navigating Africa.
Please have a look at their blog which is very impressive and informative:

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Desert Egypt

26/11/07 - Aswan - Aswan ferry
We left at about 8am for the ferry and after a few mad U-turns in the town looking for petrol headed onto the small little road to the ferry port. There we bumped into the 1954 Triumph we've been keeping an eye out for since meeting the Spanish bikers in Luxor who told us they met two on a Triumph at the Lybian/Egypt border. After paying LE744 for the two bikes for the ferry and LE50 per bike for exit duty the long wait began. (Passport stamp duty was LE2 per person). We joined Stu and Natty (Scottish couple in a Land Rover), Jean and Jeanette (SA/Namibia couple in Landcruiser), Peter and Jill (English couple in bakkie-truck and with mobile home on the back) and Clive and Denise (on Triumph) on the deck of the ferry watching the bizarre loading of the barge below. Boxes of all shapes and sizes, fridges, TV's etc were just thrown on top and being piled higher and higher. Also the ferry became more and more congested with people throwing their mats and sleeping bags all over the deck to reserve a space. apparently the ferry was so full because the Sudanese people were being chased out of Lybia. We all had a cabin reserved except Jean and Jeanette and Clive and Denise and we asked the 'captain' if they could camp next to the captain's cabin. He said no problem and we settled in with them to watch the proceedings below. At last the ferry left at 18h00 and us Saffas went down below for quite a good supper!! But when we returned we were told to move to where the other people were already cramped in. We begged and grovelled until the 'other captain' said its OK as long as they (Jean, Jeanette, Denise, Clive) stay behind the 'line'. We frequently got yelled at to move back behind the line! We met Hasim, a Sundanese guy, who has spent many years in Russia and travelled South Africa extensively. It was really nice in our little space on the deck and stars and moon were brilliant. Before retiring to our cabin we all had to fill in a form and hand our passports over. We gave our thermarests to the SA couple so they could have an easier night on the deck floor and settled into our great cabin with air con. (cabin nr 14 - far away from stinking toilets...).

25/11/07 - Aswan - loading of the 4X4's
Today the 4X4's had to be loaded on the barge so we spent the day by ourselves at Adam's Home washing and trying to prepare for THE FERRY CROSSING!!!! Aida painted Rensche's hands and feet with henna.The bikes only go on the Monday morning before departure. Jean and Jeanette came back at last after stealing a shower at Jill and Peter's hotel (only cold showers at Adams Home) and we spent the evening with Mr Yahya trying to out do our SA braai from the previous evening with Kofte and kebabs. Nora also took Rensche and Jeanette for a spin on dance floor for old time's sake.

21/11/07 - 24/11/07 - Aswan
On the Wednesday we got up early and caught a taxi to Aswan city to give back our Egyptian plates and buy our ferry tickets. We first stopped at Mr Salah who was really really friendly and helpful.
He advised us to do the plates the following day and handed us David's battery charger. At this time it was about 12ish. We decided to walk to the traffic department anyway to get the process started. BIG MISTAKE. We were harassed all the way by kids, taxi drivers etc and even survived a Pick pocket attempt by 4 little school girls still in their uniforms. They surrounded us asking for Baksheesh (begging) and when we said LA (No) one girl slipped her hand around Charlie's GPS in his pocket. He GROWLED at them and they ran screaming down the street. If it wasn't so serious it could have been very funny. So when we arrived at the traffic department all our good intentions of being humble and polite went out the window when we were told that we must come back tomorrow. Charles hoped that they won't recognise him tomorrow after he expressed his dissatisfaction with their service after what we've been through getting there. Then on the way back to the Nubian Village (where Adam's House is) on the West bank it took us ages to get the ferry for all the feluca touts would not help us find the ferry station and kept on hassling us. It seems Aswan has become the hassle capital of Egypt as we have not had it this bad anywhere else. Back at Adams House we told Mr Yaha about the pick pocketing and he was very shocked. We had some tea with him and the 3 Nubian ladies working there taught Rensche some dance moves to Nubian music. He then invited us to join him at a Nubian wedding that evening. We couldn't believe it! The ladies dressed Rensche up in Nubian clothes with a bead head dress. We then went into the heart of the village to join the groom for supper at the mosque. Rensche felt a bit strange being the only woman there but everyone was kind and friendly. After supper we went back to Adams House to wait for the wedding party. They arrived later that evening with music: drums playing, people dancing - it was electric. Rensche was coaxed by Nora (Nubian lady) to join in the dancing. We greeted the Bride and Groom (who both looked very smart) before they moved on to the next house. It was such an amazing experience and we are very grateful to Mr Yahya that he included us in the festivities. So the next morning we got up earlier to start the Traffic department process again. We took the ferry from the West bank to Le Corniche and took a taxi this time for 10Gippos to the traffic department. There he asked if he should wait for us and we agreed on 50Gippos for about 2 hours. Before we knew it the taxi driver was in the Traffic department with us helping us to get to the right window. There they told us to go to the court and Kaleb (traffic driver) took us right there. We took our GPS along and tracked it on TracksForAfrica. We would never have found it and we were grateful we weren't on the bikes. It's in a rundown apartment block with a guy sitting on the pavement with a up turned crate as his desk - he is "reception". After making a few photocopies he took us upstairs into a dusty room with some people waiting where we sat for about half an hour clearly waiting for someone. The room became fuller and fuller. After a while everyone was ushered to one side to make space for a neat young man in a suit who waltzed in straight for his office without giving any of us mortals any attention. Charles was told to go in. "The Man" sat behind a huge desk with leather chairs and peered at our papers above his glasses. After giving it to another man he told Charles to "please wait". Charles didn't move and after a pause he dismisingly repeated himself: "Please wait outside" to which Charles scurried outside again. A few minutes later we were given another 2 pieces of paper hopefully declaring that we have not been guilty of any traffic offences and were told to return to the Traffic Department. Outside at the "reception desk" we were asked for 10Gippos per bike which we thought could only be baksheesh as we did not get a receipt. After a tea with Kaleb we returned to the Traffic Department and with a bit of elbowing from Kaleb we managed to give our Egyptian plates back no hassle along with pieces of paper from "The Man". We only had to pay 1.75gippos stamp duty per bike. We also got another 2 pieces of paper giving us permission to ride in Aswan with the bikes without Egyptian number plates. Then back to Mr Salah for the ferry tickets. There we said good bye to Kaleb and gave him 100Gippos for helping us at all the departments. We also took his number to give to Mr Yahya to contact him if he needs a taxi to the traffic department for a overlander coming through. At Mr Salah's we had tea again and paid our LE425 pp for a first class cabin for the ferry on Monday. We have to pay for the bikes at the port on the Monday morning. Mr Salah also explained the whole procedure and it was very straight forward compared to the rumours. Everything took about 2 hours to do. We took the ferry and taxi back to Adams Home where we decided to do our chores. Rensche got on with the washing and Charles decided to put our knobbly tyres on for the sand in Sudan. After Charlie had fitted the new tyre to Rensche's back wheel he plugged in the 12V compressor into his bike and it made a quick buzz and then stopped. We checked his electrics and thank goodness it was OK. It seems two plugs have been swapped and a fuse had blown. Charlie popped the compressor back into Rensche's bike and suddenly something gave and it stopped working. And then we noticed the tyre gone flat - must have punctured the tube. All this at once!! After super -glueing the pump back together Charles took the tyre off again to look for a puncture. In the meantime a boy on a donkey has joined Charles watching his antics and started to help him. There was no puncture and Charles used the hand pump this time to pump it up. The boy helped him with the other bike as well and they finished putting the new tyres on in no time. After another nice supper we spent the evening chatting to Mr Yahya and showing him some of our photo's. The Friday we relaxed and waited for the British couple to arrive from Luxor. They were bringing our papyrus order with them. They arrived at about lunch time with our papyrus... Not at all what we ordered and not at all the quality on the display table. Never the less it was our little momentum of Egypt and we decided to keep it as a joke.
On Saturday we went with Peter and Jill to Aswan to help them return their plates, do some shopping and do some last minute Internet before heading into Sudan. Back at Adam's House we found another Overlander: Jean (Namibia) and Jeanette (South Africa) Coetzee travelling from London to Namibia in their landcrusier. They have to be back in England within 3 months due to work permit restrictions so its unlikely that we will be travelling together all the way but at least we will be travelling together in Sudan for some of the way. They are Afrikaans as well and we spent the rest of the evening having a lovely braai (BBQ) with chicken, boerewors (South African beef sausage), brought from the UK in their freezer..., and roosterkoek (homemade bread rolls on coles) that Jeanette made from scratch.

20/11/07 - Luxor - Aswan - 207km
In the morning the papyrus hasn't arrived yet even though we missed the 7am convoy. Had breakfast and chatted with Peter and Jill ( a British couple who arrived last night). At 10h30 we reported to the convoy assembly point around the corner from Rezeiky where we directed to the front of the queue which departed at 11am sharp. The convoy moved calmly through town and joined the convoy from Hurghada. Immediately outside town the convoy started speeding up and it became a free for all with buses and minibuses and cars flying pass us. Just past Esna we were stopped at the check point where a new convoy was formed to go to Aswan. This convoy comprised of us and a minibus. A policeman climbed into the minibus and a police van followed behind us. Soon after departure the minibus sped off leaving us with the police van which escorted us all the way to Aswan at 80km/h. At Aswan we waived good bye to the police, crossed the bridge and found Adam's Home for camping. Mr Yahya, the camp owner, was just fantastic sitting and chatting with us and we looked through the guest book over the years. He also mentioned that David (from Overlandmission at Rezeiky) contacted Mr Salah asking if we could take a charger he left behind for him to Khartoum. (Mr Salah is the main man at the Nile Navigation company.) Mr Yahya also mentioned that the 3 Spanish bikers did make it on the ferry the previous Monday to Sudan.

17/11/07 - 19/11/07 - Luxor leisure
During the night 2 overland trucks arrived and we said hello in the morning. They were empty and their crew of 3 people per truck were delivering the trucks from Holland to Livingstone for Overland Missions. ( On Saturday we visited the mummification museum which was brilliant and Luxor Temple which really impressed us. On the way there we walked along the Nile and were amazed by the number of river cruise ships most of which seemed to have been left to rot. It is difficult to imagine that Luxor was just a village before Napoleon rediscovered its hidden treasures which had been left to the desert.The highlights for us in the Luxor Temple was Isle of Sphinxes which originally ran all the way to Karnak Temple 3km away. Also the huge statues of Ramses II and the massive columns were very impressive. Getting back to the camp another overland truck had arrived and we were pleased to see it was Collin with "Big Fella" from Kumuka who we had met in Aqaba but this time he at least had some passengers to accompany him. Later that afternoon 3 Spanish bikers arrived (XT600, BMW F650GS, BMW F650 Dakar). They entered Egypt via Lybia and got stuck at the border for 3 days as they didn't have a carnet but were eventually allowed in with a temporary import permit. (They seem to have managed the impossible). They are also heading south to Cape Town but are catching the ferry this monday as their 14 day permit will expire. We had a lovely afternoon and evening pondering over maps and sharing information. In the evening there was a PIG spit braai at the camp site arranged for the overlanders. This was a real suprise as it is forbidden to have pigs in Egypt (against Islamic law) except on special licence. As the camp manager is a Coptic Christian he has no qualms about eating pork and we all had a taster. We also ordered a special custom made papyrus scroll to celebrate our first (paper) wedding aniversary next month.
On Sunday we could not build up the courage to haggle with taxis and touts to get to the Valley of the Kings so spent the day doing internet and bike maintenance within the safety of Rezeiky camp! Hopefully some new overlanders will pitch up and we can take on the touts together tomorrow. Strength in numbers! Rumour has it there is a couple on a 1954 Triumph right behind us as they entered Egypt with the Spaniards.... On Sunday evening Jan Joubert, a fellow Saffa, popped by to our camp to say hello and was heading back to SA at the end of the week.
On Monday morning we decided to drop our plans of going to the West Bank (Valley of Kings, Queens, Nobles, Temples etc etc etc) as the place is rather spread out and you need a taxis, which is a haggle hassle every single time, and the entrance fees are very steep (There we were saying in Cairo how we weren't being hassled at all). We've already now been in a number of tombs and temples and to the laymen there is not a lot of difference between the Old, Middle and New Kingdoms. For 3000 years the Egyptians built magnificent temples and tombs and pyramids all to ensure their safe passage to the after-life, but they seemed to have done very little else!!! We recall from our school days that they also invented the Shadoof to lift water from the Nile but we have not seen any in practice now; only many old Lyster water pumps. We spent the morning at Karnak temple which was magnificent in it's size and it must have been a spectacle to see in it's original state with all the images painted. The scale is quite overwhelming. It was used as the main centre of worship for about 1300 years for all the Theban gods, of which there were many variants. Charlie found the structure more impressive than the Pyramids in terms of buildability. The haggling isn't in your face, but no matter what you buy from any shop getting the sensible price from any seller is a constant struggle and after a while you just couldn't be bothered with trying and simply don't even enter a shop/site/taxi. The odd pushy street seller is swiftly shrugged off by simply ignoring them and walking past or respond in anything but English; especially Spanish for some reason; and they leave you alone. In the afternoon we changed the engine oil ready for Sudan and repacked our STUFF in the order more appropriate for the "rough" roads ahead; puncture and 1st aid kit on top.

16/11/07 - Kharga - Luxor - 346km
Well last night we were quoted 95Gippos per night but after 5 different taxes added and supper it rose to 174Gippos for the one night!!! The desert road to Luxor was a long long long lonely road.
The scenery did not change much and the wavey road markings and the wavey bitumen (tar) spray on the road mesmarized us as we sped on. We saw many random tracks heading off everywhere and there were many heaps of sand scattered along side of the road (this all the way from Cairo actually) left behind from the road builders. The least they could do is level it off as it really scars the landscape. As we got closer to Luxor the traffic increased and we could see smog on the horizon. Arriving on the outskirts of Luxor both sides of the road was lined with burning rubbish - this is clearly Luxor's rubbish tip - right on the main entrance/exit to the desert route! As it was Friday the roads were relatively quiet not counting the suicidal minibus drivers. At the checkpoint entering Luxor Charlie had a rant with the police because they accused him of lying when he said that we were South African (from Genub Afrikia). And for the first time we had to present our passports at a checkpoint. To this they had to radio a superior to confirm how South Africans were to be handled and it seems they don't really seem to be too concerned about us fellow Africans. At last we were allowed to leave and headed straight for Rezeiky Camp. After settling into the camp we checked the bikes over. We also sampled some local Luxor beer and had the most delicious Egyptian cuisine prepared by the camp kitchen.

15/11/07 - Dahkla Checkpoint - Kharga Oasis - 304km
We were back on the desert road at 07h30 after a quiet but cold night sleep with the occasional truck blasting through the check point. About 20km later we came across a German couple on a Tandem bicycle who are on a 2 week holiday cycling the Western Desert Oasis route. They had already cycled South America. We said our hello's and good byes and headed off stopping for petrol and bread in Dahkla. We were started noticing the worse the quality of the petrol the more it stinks! The petrol in these outbacks really stinks and the bikes are battling against the wind. We followed the edge of the escarpment all the way east and passed a huge mining town with thousands of newly and partially built houses but which looked abondoned. At one point our road took a sharp detour around the edge of a dune field and we could see two previous roads that had been gobbled up by the dunes. Arriving in Kharga we headed straight for Kharga Oasis hotel which is the only camping option in town although we did end up going for the room option. We have noticed that the further south or the closest to the Nile we get the more concerned the police checkpoints are for our safety; or they are just more bored as they seem to ask us more and more questions. Being South African seem to confuse them a bit as well.

14/11/07 - Bahariya - Dahkla Checkpoint - 372km
Last night when Charlie checked his mobile we got a text from Lukas (Swiss family) and after a few more text exchanges we agreed to meet in the middle of the desert 300km from us and 400km from them. After the standard ME (Middle East) breakfast we headed off and into the Black Desert where the now normal boring yellow-brown sand is covered by a layer of black Basalt rock. Shortly after that we entered the White Desert which is the limestone layer directly below the eroded Black desert layer. Concerned about the amount of tracks left behind in the desert by other travellers over the decades and not wanting to add our own we decided not to enter the White Desert via off road and only stopped for a few photo's at a official point along the main tar road. Further along we stopped at Crystal Mountain which at first sight looks very unimpressive but is in fact one large solid quartz crystal. We went through Farafra Oasis where we filled up for petrol and headed on into the desert. Approaching Bir Abu Mingar our meeting point, we dropped off the escarpment overlooking the edge of the Great Sand Sea which stretches off into the horizon. At this point we finally got mobile reception and got a message from Lucas saying that they had to abandon our plans and head straight up to Cairo as there was problems with their Lybian escort and visa. This was at 15h30. As there was absolutely no accomodation in Mingar we decided to push on through to Dakhla 220km away knowing that part of this will be in the dark as the sun sets at 17h30. 120km later with the sun on the horizon we arrived at Dakhla check point which is one small building right in the middle of the desert in the middle of nowhere. As we were both finished with sore backsides and our minds playing tricks on us we decided to stop and camp right there. We had our tent up just in time to watch the sunset and make bullybeef bolognaise. The yellow desert dog also came to say hello and thankfully was a female as although she showed a lot of interest in our scented tent she had no plans on leaving her mark. She spent the rest of the night circling our tent from a safe distance and occasionally growling. (anyone out there know how to remove pee from a tent?...washing with soap and water don't work.).

13/11/07 - Giza - Bahariya - 375km
We didn't sleep a wink as the camp dog supposedly there to guard us insisted on barking at our tent the whole night from a safe distance (could it be the mixture of scents: cat, dog, jackal, goat, yeti). Just before the mosques got going we lay awake waiting for the alarm to go off. It was still dark when we packed the tent away and had our coffee and marmite (at 40 Gippos per pot...) sarnies. At spending 30minutes trying to wake the gate keeper to let us out we got on our way at 06h30 thinking there will be no traffic. HOW WRONG WE WERE. The morning traffic was in full swing and after making 2 U-turns and various wrong routes we finally found the correct road out of Giza. Going around Giza square (that's what they call roundabout here) a Taxi pushed inbetween us and Charlie lost sight of Rensche and pulled over. After no sign of Rensche Charlie rode back against the flow of traffic to find Rensche standing with the bike on the side of the crazy round about. Rensche reported that just as the taxi cut infront of her the bike's electrics just cut out. She couldn't get her side stand down as the suspension had been lowered a tad more so had to paddle through the thick traffic to the side of the road. With many men just staring at her efforts and cars blowing their horns. The bike was still dead so Charlie just kick started it. (get a kick start if you want to do this trip). We finally got onto the Oasis road but then spent miles looking for a petrol station and eventually at 6th of October city we found one and filled up. With that we finally exited Greater Cairo metropolis some 30km away from the Giza and headed into the open desert. The desert scenery was magnificent which reminded Charlie of Swakopmund in Namibia and the Namib desert. We were surprised that the wind was icy cold and we had to close all our vents in our jackets. Arriving in Bahariya we fought off a few touts and found Ahmed's Safari camping which is very nice at 20Gippos per person for camping on the velvet soft green grass.

12/11/07 - Cairo - Giza - 30km
So this morning we packed and hung around the hotel doing final emails and fighting with British Gas about a phantom outstanding amount from our London flat. At about 12ish we caught a taxi to Anwar's to collect the bikes and got there just in time for lunch. Mohammed was also there so we could say our proper good byes - not knowing that we will see each other later again...Anwar handed us the bag of replaced parts with instructions to hand it to our "london mechanic" . We packed our "new" bikes and were on the road in the murderous traffic at about 15h00. At one point we had to jump on a pavement to get to the correct road to the Sahara- Ma campsite (Cairo's city planners have a lot to answer for) and Charlie's bike just didn't want to start after that. So onto the phone to Mohammed who dropped everything and phoned Anwar. Charlie started to strip the bike next to the road in a parking area. The noise and smoke from the traffic was terrible. We were right in the thick of things! In no time Mohammed was there with his car just as Charlie pulled the main fuse in and out. Just then Anwar arrived on his CBR and Arai helmet and thoroughly started to check all the wiring. Happy and relieved that it was just a loose fuse from the pavement jump we said our good byes again and we headed off around the corner to Sahara-Ma. Arriving we were told that it is not a camp site anymore and seeing that there was a large flock of goats grazing inside we agreed! The previous owner directed us across the road where somebody started up a new campsite. There is grass, lights and very small trees but the toilets again can do with a weekly clean or so. The guy who let us in said it was LE40 per night so we set up camp. 3 hours later the owner arrived and hearing that we want to leave at 6am said we must "pay now LE80"!! We objected making the point that Salma was only LE25 per person so the owner reluctantly agreed for 40Gippos (20 Gippos pp). And with that we went to bed.

Something just have to be said about the poor donkeys in this part of the world. A sadder animal you won't find anywhere else. They really got the short end of the stick and it breaks your heart to see them beaten and covered in sores and flies.