Saturday, December 22, 2007
Hurrah, we found a fast broadband Internet cafe so all you check out our photo albums: Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia have all been updated. Blogger is giving problems so we have typed up the last 2 weeks on Notepad hoping to cut and paste when Blogger becomes available.21/12/07 - Awassa
A relaxing day reading, swapping books, doing some washing with good old Omo, fiddling with the bikes. Clive took Rensche's bike for a spin to see what the problem is with the the surging and the knocking. He agreed the engine was erratic and would probably be sorted out with a bit of a fiddle of the carb. He feels the knocking is not terminal and is most probably a loose gear behind the clutch basket that has developed some play which we will have a look at in Nairobi. Something is afoot in the camp. The owners had to go to the Supreme Court today due to an ongoing battle they have had with their noisy AK47 touting religious sect neighbours but the courts have decided in the camp owners and the local community's favour and now time will tell. We also spotted a old photo on display in the campsite of our mate Mark who came through these parts back in 2005 (link on the left 2k5) where he looks a lot more hairy.
20/12/07 - Addis Ababa - Lake Awassa - 250km
We had a chat with Hugh exchanging some GPS points and set off at 11ish in search of an insurance company to buy comesa yellow card insurance for the rest of Africa. We had the time to do it yesterday but it was a public holiday. Directed by the GPS we stopped at Africa Insurance Company but they couldn't help us. So we plan to get it in Nairobi. Getting out of Addis was a mission with trucks coughing up the most toxic fumes in our faces and very heavy traffic. The scene slowly changed from green and hilly to African bush veld plains with thorn trees and termite mounds and a few jacaranda trees. Still live stock everywhere with the odd suicidal donkey and very skinny sick horse standing in the middle of the road not moving. Although the traffic thinned out those trucks and taxis that were left drove like idiots with their crazy overtaking. Occasionally we had two trucks overtaking from ahead forcing us off the road. At last we got to the campsite in Awassa, Adenium Camping, run by a German lady (Jana) and her Ethiopian husband (Kurati). What a haven it is. We intend to stay here a few days to do some washing, bike maintenance and hopefully update our blog. We had a wonderful 3 course meal cooked by our hostess.
19/12/07 - Debre Libanos - Addis Ababa - 100km
This morning after our omelet we set off to Addis Ababa. The road is absolutely stunning again with long twisties up and down green mountains. The kids were lovely too clapping and waving as we came pass with just the odd "You you" which we preferred to ignore. There were about 5 year old children herding about 10 huge cows and bulls with just a small stick, women carrying HUGE bundles of wood, men walking with their long sticks hanging across their shoulders with their arms looped over it. The golden fields of grain, bundles of wheat, farmers using cattle to thresh the wheat. Once again why is this country so poor? When we got closer to Addis an assortment of bill boards for aid this and aid that lined the street. We went to Signal Hill but the city was completely shrouded in dust and smoke and we couldn't see much. The owner offered us camping but as we needed a few vital bits (ie wet wipes!) we declined and went down the hill again and found ourselves at the Baro Hotel. Nice with a court yard. There is much more Westerners here and a few a bit odd we thought. As our rooms were only available at 20h30 we spent the another few agonizing hours at the Internet cafe trying to check emails. The lady was very helpful but it seems hotmail is a problem here. Sorry if we haven't answered any emails. When we returned to the Baro Hotel we spent a few hours over beer watching the comings and goings at the hotel. And we noticed that to our horror there were more comings and goings that we thought normal for such an establishment! Then one of the guests (a German) mentioned that he has to vacate his room during the day to accommodate customers that require the room on an hourly basis. So that's why we can't have our rooms before 20h30! Fine if they have a regular room but to make us wait while they finish! Full of disgust we opened the lonely planet and our eyes fell on the Wanza Hotel which we recalled Rene recommended. We set off at 19h00 to go and find it. Now we were riding at night with the lights on full blast and wonder above wonder Rensche's bike did not die. (we can only assume it was the heated grips causing the electric fault all along) . They were fully booked but allowed us to set up camp in the court yard. There we met Hugh, a Irishman, circumnavigating Africa and on his way up to Sudan on his F650. www.lapofafrica.com He gave us some good tips about the Moyale road where he seriously damaged his engine when his cooling system failed. He has been in Addis for a month now rebuilding his engine.
18/12/07 - Debre Libanos
We had omelet for breakfast overlooking the gorge and spotted a large number of birds flying around including a large imperial eagle sitting on the cliffs edge close by. The owner said it was waiting for a bone. Just then a little girl popped out of the kitchen carrying a huge cow leg joint and walked to about 100m from the cliffs edge placing the bone in the clearing. Even before she reached there the eagle was circling. But the eagle was too slow and the ravens got in first. Thick bill crows and a mongoose also had a go. During the morning an Egyptian Vulture also took a nibble. Later that afternoon we sat outside the restaurant and spotted a Dik-Dik, Dassies, Franklin, Baboons and more eagles. WE had spaghetti bolognaise for supper which seem to be as common in all restaurants as Tepsi. This is a really wonderful place and we would recommend it to everybody.
17/12/07 - Debre Markos - Debre Libanos - 203km
We left 7ish this morning as the road through the Blue Nile Gorge was closed after 12noon for road works. the Japanese are busy completing the horrific gravel road down to the Gorge and up again. On the way we had the usual friendly waves from the kids with the occasional "you you money money". Who taught them these words??? The tar road started deteriorating and we got stretches of gravel here and there. As we got closer to the Gorge the gravel road deteriorated further to uncomfortable corrugations and very rocky road up the steep hill. Poor Clive and Denise had a fall and then Denise had to get off the bike and walk some f the way. Charles and Rensche were OK as long as they kept going. All the way trucks, lorries, buses and minibuses passed leaving us in a cloud of dust. The scenery was absolutely spectacular all the way. Beautiful valley. Green fields, villages and full of livestock. Rensche neatly missed donkey, lamb and suicidal dog. When we at last got some fuel we were in Fiche. A few kilometers later we saw the sign for the Portuguese Bridge Rene told us about. We turned in at the Ethio-German Park Hotel about 100km from Adis Ababa. The Hotel is right on the mountains overlooking the spectacular Jeam valley. Beautiful. Its is owned by an Ethiopian returning from Germany and has been opened for 10 months. Its more a lodge than a hotel. We decided to stay the night in the beautiful decorated spacious rooms with clean en suite bathroom and SUPER HOT showers. Charlie and Rensche took a walk to Portuguese Bridge which is 400 years old and very beautiful. The view is indescribable and a bit further down there is a waterfall into a deep pool and down into the valley below. Troops of baboons were everywhere scrambling up the rocky cliffs. The owner told us he is planning hiking trips and horse riding. We had tepsi for supper overlooking the deep valley and sat around the fire inside. We decided to stay another day! (Today we went above 3000m above sea level and the bikes spluttered up the passes)
16/12/07 - Bahir Dar - Debre Markos - 263km
After sitting around chatting and seeing Rene off (off to Simien Mountains) we head south to Addis with the aim of reaching Debra Markos where the road is closed from 12noon to 5pm due to road works on the Blue Nile Gorge. We rode through more very beautiful country side. At one point Charlie stopped to take a picture from a burnt out tank and as we slowed down a stone hit Rensche on the arm as a horde of children came running towards us shouting :"you you you". As we refused them money one tried to steal a bottle of oil of Clive's bike. We took off quickly leaving them in dust. The further south we went the more aggressive the pedestrians and kids became. The villages also had less "rondawels' and more huts built with wooden post walls limed with mud and grass and with tin roofs. We had noticed that it is just the very young that blatantly beg and shout at the ferengi's (whities) for money. The teenagers make the occasional half-hearted attempt putting their hand out. Most of the adults here don't seem to beg. We went through the most beautiful fields - like a tapestry, almost like Europe - and past a few large open plains abundant with livestock. Like the Prairies! Arriving in Debra Markos we booked into the Vulet Hotel with a court yard. After failing to understand the menu or the waiter fellow patrons recommended the Shebelle Hotel next door for supper. This was clearly an expat hang out with Manchester United playing on the telly.
15/12/07 - Bahir Dar
We woke up early this morning to the sound of bush pigeons, other birds, "monkeys" to a beautiful sunrise over the lake. Charles and Rene went to look for the road to the monasteries which they couldn't find but ended up having a "mixer" at a juice bar. Rensche wanted to finish her book" Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday. A very good read. Charlie came back to do the oil change. Rensche's bike started well on the button, still rocking and shaking like a lawn mower. And now also surges now and again in first gear. (maybe altitude sickness!). Jan and Jo got back after also trying to find the monasteries on their push bikes but ended up getting 15 punctures, harassed by children and arriving back found one of their tent poles broken from a native falling over the guide rope earlier on. What a day for them!
14/12/07 - Bahir Dar
We realised today that the mimicking bird we've been hearing is REALLY a Fish Eagle! Its really wonderful to see and hear this beautiful bird again. The Mimicking Bird also mimics monkeys and other birds. There are lots of birds here in the lake including a large flock of pelicans. The town though is not much to look at (a bit scruffy). At lunch time Jan and Jo arrived on their fold up push bikes. WE met them in Salma's camping in Cairo. They got a lift with the overland mission trucks from Wadi Halfa to Khartoum. Again very very small world! And they also knew the Spanish bikers and informed us that one of them have headed off south by himself. Also later Rene arrived on his F650GS. He is a Canadian travelling around the world and spent quite a while in Africa and is now on his way up to the Middle East via Djoubuti. (its website is on the right). He's been travelling for 2 years now across the Americas and up the East coast of Africa. We spent a nice evening around the fire chatting. Something just have to be said about the Ghion Hotel's cooking. Its truely disgusting. The only safe option is the spaghetti with tomato meat sauce. Avoid the chips at all cost. The fasting menu is OK-ish.
13/12/07 - Gondor - Bahir Dar - 180 km
Wonder on wonder this morning Rensche's bike started. We're on power save mode with her bike now. No more using the car horn of which she is so fond, or the front light, of the indicators. Its hand signals from now on. If that doesn't save the battery then the bulbs will have to be removed. The road was really pleasant with smooth tarmac and twisties up and down green mountains. And a local gathering where ever you dared to stop. The little villages on the way grew more busy with pedestrians and the kids a little bit more aggresive but not hit by a stone yet! Still most of them gave friendly waves. Its astonishing and concerning how many young children are running about. Most of them are herding goats or cattle or just walking in the middle of nowhere by themselves. This country clearly has a very young population. Ethiopia also, like the rest of Africa, has a very big AIDS orphan problem. Rensche's bike did fine with only a few splutterings at 2000m above sea level. But on the way she got stung by a wasp on her back, had a frantic emergency stop and let the culprit out. It stung like hell but after an hour vanished. At last we reached Bahir Dar and aimed for the Ghion Hotel where we could camp on the lake Tana. There we spotted Peter and Gill's "Ice-cream Van". So were reunited again. The Ghion Hotel is right on Lake Tana with beautiful gardens. Charlie spent the afternoon giving HIS bike some attention for a change, greasing the cables. We spent a few very sloooowwwwwww hours at the local Internet cafe trying to check our emails and went to supper. An Austrian couple: Michael, Stefani and Marie (their 2 year old) were also in the camp site. They were on the same ferry to Sudan as the Overland Missions (the two trucks we met in Luxor) and started along the rail way line route out of Wadi Halfa but had to return on the rail way tracks as their Mercedes Van kept getting bogged down in the sand. They also knew about the Spanish guys we met in Luxor. Small world! Peter and Gill are leaving us again tomorrow but we're sure we'll bumped into them somewhere.
12/12/07 - Aykel - Gondor - 64km
Naturally this morning Rensche's bike was flat flat flat. In the cool morning it didn't even want to be kick started and in the end we swapped batteries with Charlie's bike. We plugged everything out of the bike that could possibly have drained the battery and hoped for the best. WE tackled the remaining 60km of gravel road on an empty stomach as we could not find bread anywhere. But the gravel was nice and we made good progress even though at some point some vibration caused Charlie's horn mounting bracket to snap and leave the horn dangling by it's wires on the exhaust. We were going through small village after small village and children were far and wide yelling "you-you-you" or "give money". We braced ourselves for the "stone throwing children" of Ethiopia everyone warned us about but they never came. Maybe we just looked too haggard and dirty to waste a stone on! The scenery was spectacular with green hills and fields. We were diverted here and there for road works. At one point we stopped for a break...next to a SCHOOL, and in not time we were surrounded by about 20 kids. 2 could speak english very well and were very interested in the Africa map on our top boxes. We had a really nice chat to all the kids and to tell the truth they knew more about African Geography than we did! There is about 70 million people in Ethiopia in a country half the size of Sudan so we were seldom anywhere not within eye shot of a local! At last after 60km we hit tar road. The road was pretty busy with the usual Africa traffic: donkeys, cattle, people, mini busses, cars, bikes, tuc tucs! At last we reached Gondor and went straight Belegez pension. With spotless ensuite bathrooms! although showers are cold. A haven!! We had a delicious cheese burger each and then Charlie and Clive started on Rensche's "trouble maker". No fault could be found - the alternator was working fine. So we guess we'll see tomorrow. At least today was a kick start-free-day! After faffing with the bikes we went to change money and then to the Royal Enclosure. Built by Emperor Fasilidas around 1640. Its a massive complex with lots of castles and buildings. Our guide was very eager to point out to us that its in these castles that the Italians made their strong hold in their efforts to try and colonize Ethiopia during the 2nd World War. Ethiopia, along with Liberia, are the only African countries never to be colonized. Gondor is known as Africa's Camelot. By request of Ethiopia the English bombed the palaces, occupied by the Italians. The last Ethiopian king kidnapped all the British subjects in the country to force England to stop their influence. The British sent an armed force to free the subjects at which the kings supporters abondened him so he committed suicide. The British took his son captive back to England where he died 4 years later at 19 years. Walking back through the back streets we got a taste of local city life. Back at Belegez we met a British lady, Suzie, who had been travelling Africa with tour groups since the 80's. She gave us some good tips on where to stay etc.
11/12/07 - Metema - Aykel - 137km
The morning started badly with Rensche's battery being flat again and had to be kick started. To recap so far we've changed the spark plug, rectifier, fuses and swapped batteries with Charles's bike. What's wrong with this bike??? The only thing thats left is the alternator or a loose wire or a short circuit somewhere. We headed off on bad gravel raod (rocky) to Shehedi where customs were done by a very friendly official. The customs were free and when we enquired about insurance they said it was not neccessary....just don't have an accident.... At about 11ish we headed out in the heat of the day. It is a very beautiful road with dense vegetation and boabab trees scattered around. The road is very rocky, to the point that Charlie's mirror just fell off from the vibrations, but is in the process of being upgraded to tar with expected completion in 2-3 years. We followed the long deep valley and on the way we stopped for a water break. And noticed that Clive's back tyre has gone flat. Once the wheel was off we saw that Clive has picked up a nail. By this time we had a small crowd of people watching us. There are people everywhere on the roads and the children run for miles across the fields to catch you on the road as you come past to wave. Or shout for money. After fixing the tyre we carried on and headed up and up the mountain pass to Aykel. The land is green green green but still most people and animals look strangely starved and all beg for money. In Sudan people were sowing in the desert and wind and never begged. Is this what happens to a country with too much foreign aid? We booked into the Virut Hotel which has a secure court yard. Rensche was in a bad mood having her bike being kick started twice during the day with a flat battery. We had tepsi for supper and had our first taste of injera. (not to everybody's taste, a bit sour). It is made from 3 day fermented grain and then cooked to a huge spongy pancake which look like stomach ofal. We had cold showers just before the power cut and were entertained by Rensche's nausea at the sight of the overflowing long drop.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
This morning we woke up early in our rubbish dump camp site, had a quick breakfast and were off. The landscape started slowly to get more bushy. At the Ethiopian turn off at Geradef, the trucks that have been following us since Khartoum left us thank fully and we took the new tar road all the way to the Ethiopian border. The landscape changed to green bush veld and we saw our first baobab trees and thorn bushes! At last we got to the border.
The exit out of Sudan was relatively quick and painless and free! We registered at alien immigration office then had our carnets stamped at customs and then we got stamped out at immigration. We got swamped with money changers but said we would change on the other side as they were really pushy. We got on our bikes and drove over the narrow bridge trying to avoid the hundreds of people and livestock moving between the two countries. Gallabat and Metema might as well be just one big town. Just across the bridge and on the right two gentlemen were sitting under a tree to whom we were directed. We had to present them with our Yellow Fever certificates and once they were happy that they were genuine we were sent to the immigration office shack and were processed for free. Customs is done in Shehedi so we will do that tomorrow. We got permission to set up tent within the customs compound to the left of the bridge for free and even witnessed a Sudanese being "roughened up" for refusing to open his doctors bag for inspection at immigration. When we went to go and exchange some money we found all the same characters from the Sudanese side on the Ethiopian side eager for us to exchange with them! One of the guys who seemed most trustworthy led us of to a shop where we exchanged at 9Birr per US$ which is very close to the bank rate. He also organized some beers for us (our first since leaving Aswan) and introduced us to Tepsi (fried beef goulash). Ethiopia has a totally different language (Amharic), alphabet and calender to the rest of the world. Today in Ethiopia it is 5th April 2000 as they use the Orthodox Calender. There are millennium celebration banners all over the place.
09/12/07 - Khartoum - Geri (Gerdaref Check Point) - 316km
Today is our first wedding anniversary!! We had another long chat with the bicycle travellers and then headed off at 08h30. Just as we headed down the same stretch of road (Africa rd) Rensche's bike died again. We removed the seat and found that the rectifier was very hot so Charlie decided there and then that it needed replacing. He headed off down the road and got directed to a "motorbike souq", a street lined with bike chop shops and spares kiosks. Charlie handed the rectifier to the first guy he found and said "same same". 5 minutes later Charlie drove off with the exact original part... and that for 5 Sudanese Pounds! We fitted the rectifier and headed off into the traffic out of town. We rode past a stretch of sand full of planes but were not really allowed to take any photo's.Nobody ever comments on their websites about the road south from Khartoum to the Ethiopian border. Well now that we have ridden half of it we understand why. Its flat and boring with the occasional bush, goat, donkey, person here and there. In the evening we stopped off at Geri Check Point and camped for free behind the immigration building which was very dirty... littered with plastic bags and discarded photocopies of passports and personal details of visitors... (the 32year old Texan architect: your secret is safe with us and the Geri community ...). 08/12/07 -Khartoum
We spend our day today uploading some photo's and just loafing about. We went around town (which is quite impressive) to do some shopping and caught a lift back to the campsite with a Belgium-New Zealand couple who are working in logistics in Darfur. They say its getting worse!!Back at the campsite two South Africans ,Ernest and Leanna, arrived on their push bikes from Cape Town and on their way to the far east. That evening we met a SA expat visiting the sailing club who has been working in the dairy industry for 5 years and warned us that there is Rift Valley Fever around all the way to Kenya and that we shouldn't drink the local milk. Bob from Mombassa came by again and we spent a few hours just chatting. WE were surprised at the large number of UN trucks and other NGO's and their activity in the capital and on the roads out of town. Landcruisers everywhere with one occupant in heading off into the distance to do what? We also understand that the British Embassy opens their bar to local expats every Friday evening by invitation. We were not invited.
7/12/07 - Khartoum - Sailing and Whirling
This morning was the sailing club's race day and we were roped into being crew. Rensche was assigned to the club champion who also happens to be a member of the National rowing team as well, so being the highly competitive character he was, Rensche was being barked hundreds of commands all the way round the race course and they came first. Charlie crewed for a slightly more relaxed retired part time Telecommunications Engineer lecturer and they managed to pull in 2nd last (8th). Clive's pairing came in a close second behind Rensche. The metal hulled club boats were designed in the 1930's when the club was founded and are unique to the club. The last boat was built in 1975 and the remainder of the fleet are slowly deteriorating. We hope the club will invest in a new fleet before the Sailing Club is left high and dry. During the afternoon a gentlemen from Mombasa got chatting to us and he mentioned that he had worked in Khartoum many years ago and that a friend of his was responsible for saving Lord Kitchener's Gunship from toppling into the Nile and him and a couple of mates moved it up to higher ground where it is still today. Lord Kitchener sailed his Gunships up the Nile armed with cannons and repeater fire guns and decimated the Mahdi in revenge for the killing of General Gordon, the then governor of the Sudan Colony round about 1860. In the afternoon we took a taxi to the Ahmed AL-Nil Tomb to see the Whirling Dervishers, a Islamic sect who sniff incense and spin themselves into a frenzied trance in the aim for spiritual enlightenment.
6/12/07 - Khartoum - fixing the water pipe
Poor Peter realised last night that he has a water leak from his reservoir. It looks like a water pipe expanded from the heat and burst. The manufactures had installed a short length of clear low pressure hose on the high pressure side of the water pump... Rensche continued with the washing as Charles helped Peter fixing his camper. Its a bit windy today and much much cooler thank goodness and we seem to be able to relax for the first time in a couple of weeks. Snotty noses still all round.5/12/07 - Khartoum - fixing the bike
Rensche has resolved herself to the fact that its either back on the bike or on a plane to Cape Town if the bike does not get going. As it is now it will take a million years to reach South Africa being kick started all over the place. Clive and Denise went to sort out their Ethiopian visas and Peter and Gill went to service their Nissan Narvarra. We started on the BIKE. When we wanted to turn the engine over to check the valves we noticed that the engine bolt has been rounded by the use of a hammer when the engine was put together again... Clive showed us how to turn the engine over by using the kick start which worked well. Rensche busied herself with the washing. She was too traumatised to watch the outcome of her bike. The valves just needed a little bit of adjusting and Charles spent about 15minutes just staring at the bike. Then again checking all the currents with the volt meter and undoing the tape around the rectifier wires. There the problem was. One of the wires was exposed and melted. This probably (hopefully) caused the bike to short every time it got hot and expanded to touch the other wires. We were so relieved.Clive had a listen to the engine knock and said we shouldn't worry about it - just carry on as our mechanics in the UK told us - and he doesn't think its fatal. Who knows why Rensche's bike eats up engines. We also managed to get the pannier strap fixed which Rensche tore off in one of her spectacular falls. So all in all a very good day which we celebrated by having a Debonairns pizza!!
4/12/07 - Khartoum - camp site trip-20km
We woke up to the sound of a helicopter gunship overhead flying very low. We suspected that there are some politicians in town as there is a lot of police presence and sirens. We spent the morning with Clive and Denise and at 11h30 decided to head across town to the National Camping site which apparently have good facilities and warm water. We headed off with Charlie in the lead, then Rensche and Clive following. 3km from leaving on a busy road Rensche's bike died again. We let it cool down, kick started it, and set off again when it died again after 3km. At last we got to the camp site - hot and bothered- to find the campsite very dirty, lots of people just living there and no hot water and in the middle of nowhere. We decided to swap batteries (Rensche and Charlies) to start diagnosing the problem. We then headed back to the Blue Nile Sailing club where we at least had a view of the Nile and in town even though the toilets are also dire. We arrived at about 17h30 (6 hours to do 20km in total...) Just after we arrived Jill and Peter arrive and reported that the road to Meroe is NOT tarred all the way as advertised and that the last 40km of the road still needed to be tarred and they ended up driving it in mud. Glad we didn't take that road! On our way back to the Blue Nile Charlie spotted a STEERS South African burger joint so headed back to get us all a burger and chips and it went down very well. We have no clue what is wrong with Rensche's bike and don't know what we are going to do if the problem is fatal. We got word from home that a teacher has been put in jail for having alcohol with him. Alcohol is illegal in Sudan even though only 70% of the country is Muslim. Peter found a UK newspaper and splashed across the front page was a picture of a mob of Sudanese with machetes begging for the head of a English teacher and her teddy. We had been in the country for more than a week and knew nothing of this world incident.
3/12/07 - Dongola - Khartoum - 510km - TAR
Up at 7am and had a grapefruit for breakfast and gave a spare to the check point soldiers. Peter and Jill left us bikers to try another tar road around to Meroe and Atbara. We got onto the tar road and 10km later Rensche's bike died again. kick started. Clive and Denise travelled with us until their chain broke and told us to leave them to try and get to Khartoum as we expected that Renshe's bike would be giving us trouble all the way thinking they will catch up with us. We got to Abu Dom after 160km and no problems and were pleased to see that the road to Khartoum was 303km and not 380km as per latest Michelin map. We stopped every 100km for a water and it was really really hot! It was interesting to see the landscape slowly changing from desert gravel plains to grass lands with bush similar to Namibia's South. We played dumb and rode straight through the traffic cones across the roads at all the check points and did not stop, with not much reaction from the police. Approaching Khartoum we slowed down for a checkpoint and Rensche's bike died again. We waited a bit for it to cool down but no luck. Charlie changed the spark plug next to the road and it fired up. (engine cooled enough or is it the wrong spark plug??). Entering town we slowly made our way through market streets with cars, buses,minibuses, people,donkeys, etc and Rensche's bike died every 50m. We were getting slightly stressed to say the least because it was getting dark and a crowd gathered every time it had to be kicked. It took us about 2 hours to do 12km. At last we made our way to the Blue Nile Sailing club where we just wanted to throw her bike in the river. We pitched our tent and had a cold shower and wash after a week of just wet wipes. Just as we were about to start supper Clive and Denise arrived. With all the problems we at least noticed that there are a lot of Chinese people about. We think China has bought up Sudan as the rest of the world won't have it. There are many Chinese projects about. The South of Sudan is much more prosperous than the north. New cars, tar roads. Khartoum is a modern African city with many new attractive skyscrapers.
2/12/07 - Desert - Dongola - 92km - Sand and wind
So this morning we got up 7ish and thought we were going to be in Dongola for lunch. Wrong again. the 'road' was powder fine dust and the wind was blowing it everywhere. Rensche went through the sand at about 1km/h walking the bike. She was adamant not to add to any of her bruises. Today her bike would also just switch off every 200m of so. Then to be kick started again. And just as sudden it would start on the button again. Charles was leading the party with his GPS trying to find the best track (least sand or corrugations) with poor Peter and Gill behind us helping to kick start or pick a bike up or push a bike through the sand. And wait for Rensche's bike to cool down as compression was lost when it overheated from all the kick starting. At some point it took us 3 hours to do 20km in the heat. For lunch time we stopped under a tree and tried to get out of the wind. And then just as sudden 17.5km before Dongola we managed to hit TAR road. Unfortunately this didn't stop Rensche's bike spluttering and we took a dusty air filter out. At Dongola we took the ferry across the Nile, bought some provisions and headed out into the desert to set up camp next to a check point. There we spent some time trying to check Rensche's electrics and dream about a shower. Clive offered to have a look at her bike once we're in 'civilisation' as he is a mechanic of 'older' bikes. Its unfortunate the bike problems distracted us from seeing the beautiful villages in the desert and colourful robes the people were wearing. We hope to find the problem with Rensche's baja and enjoy the trip a bit more. She's just relieved to have survived the desert!Accoding to the Michelin map Wadi-halfa to Dongola is about 600km and will take about 4-5 days on a bike.
Injury list:Charles: sore bum and nappy rash. Snotty nose from all the dust.Rensche: blister on hands- corrugations, blister on leg - fall in sand-exhaust pipe, bruises on calves-from footpegs walking the bike, bruise on thigh - blasting through sand, nosebleeds-dry air, wonky shoulder-fall in gravel, burnt nose and cheeks - 37C and antimalarial combination, snot nose. But still smiling!
1/12/07 - Desert - Desert - 100km - Sand AND Corrugations
The next morning Rensche had a spectacular whopper just as we started off. In the early hours of the morning she didn't see the soft sand and hit it really fast. She fish tailed a few times before coming crashing down, shattering her windscreen and tearing her Andy Sacks Bag right off one of the straps!. But only a bruised thigh and bruised ego! A few kilometers later Clive had a puncture in his rear tyre from deflating it to cope with the sand. (snake-bite) The sand was just awful and Rensche spent most of the time tip-toeing her bike through the powdery stuff. (I think Sandi called it Bull dust!) Clive and Denise suffered too and Denise had to get off the Triumph a few times. Also Rensche's electrical problem we once suffered at Giza seemed to be back and every time the bike overheated (ie every 1km or so) it cut out and Peter or Clive or Charlie had to stop and kick start it. Her knocking sound in the engine (fixed in Cairo ) also returned and everyone had theories as to why this happend from a restricted oil hose to an oval big end. Again we were grateful to have the kick start because to push a bike in the sand could not be any fun. At lunch time we were at a set of rapids on the Nile (Third Hill Cataract) and had to say a teary fare-well to Jean and Jeanette who have to finish their trip within 3 months. We are just to slow for them. So now its us, Clive and Denise and Peter and Gill left of the 10. Today was really hot and Rensche and Charles were a bit depressed that our Afrikaans friends have left. We also all developed a snotty nose and cough from all the dust. Sudan is the largest country in Africa and about 70% of people are still living in rural areas. We were amazed to see people sowing in the sand.There are small villages all dotted along the Nile. Denise had to get off the Triumph and spent the remainder of the ride in the back of Peter's camper as Clive's Triumph's luggage rack which had bent after their last fall was digging into the rear tyre every time the suspension bottomed out. Approaching Kerma the dust track intersected a beautifully graded road which we followed for a small distance before setting up camp in the desert. We stripped Clive's bike and luggage rack and bent the mudguard back. Everybody had some falls today and even Charles with his big feet had a near miss.
30/11/07 - Desert - Desert - 150km - Corrugations
We left at about 8am and after some sandy bits got to the most awful corrugations. Stuart dissapeared on the horizon in his landy but the landcruiser and bakkie stayed with us bikers struggling over the bumps. Charles and Rensche managed at about 30km/h (20miles/h) but Clive and Denise on the Triumph with its heavier load and negligable suspensions was struggling at 15km/h. At lunch time we all caught up with each other at Abri. We took our spare wheels (the ones we did not expect to last past Jordan) off Peter's roof as the "mobile home" had banged against the roof of the cab when going over a nasty speed hump he had a dent in it and gave the tyres to Jean and Jeanette to deliver to Jungle Junction in Nairobi for us where we might need new tyres after our knobblies have been chewed to bits by the Wadi-Dongola and the Moyal-Marsabit roads. After lunch Stewart dissapeared and the rest of us stuck to 30km/h all in convoy till sunset. When we set up camp in the desert we noticed Stewarts' landy not far off. They are on a very tight schedule as they have booked a Gorilla watching trip in Uganda for the 10th of Dec. They won't make it by landrover in that time so have booked a flight from Addis to Uganda on the 9th Dec. We are holding them back so we said our good-byes. Rensche had no falls today but blisters on her hands holding onto the handlebars during the corrugations. We also saw some jackal spoor and eyes during the night. Jeanette treated us with some really nice bullybeef and Jill made some pasta and tuna bake. Where would we be without our support team!
29/11/07 - Wadi Halfa - Desert - 100km - Introduction
Mr Mazar had heated words with mr Haider the next day but still we only have one blue paper. We were at the port at 8am and spent another hour standing around waiting for something to happen. Mr Mazar told us to get our operator to help us to move the barge but he was so useless that tempers flared again. Us bikers just got our own bikes off on a wooden plank but the 4X4's had to wait for a lage metal ramp that seemed to have been misplaced and equired the hiring o a truck to go and collect; odd considering they do this exeise every single wek of the year... The 4X4's got very angry and with a bit of yelling and swearing at last a ramp was found. Our engine and chassis numbers were checked and then we were detained at the port gate to wait for the rest. As a group we were treated.... At about 12noon we got back to the Nile Hotel and everyone was rushing to leave to get as far away from Wadi as possible. There is no 'road' between Wadi Halfa and Dongola. Just 100's of sandy tracks where people tried to make their own way around corrugations, loose sand, gravel etc. the sand is fine like powder and very slippery. The first hour or so out of town was bad gravel with a few meters of tar here and there. They are obvioulsy constructing a road and the "Man for Roads and Bridges Co" seems to have picked up all the contracts in Sudan as his sign is spotted all the way through the country. But not for a long time. At the end of the day Rensche had 3 falls in the sand - probably tired- and we called it a day. The Triumph struggled a bit as well. But the 4X4's were cruising. We camped in the desert with the most beautiful stars and had a delicious potjie. (South African stew made on the fire).28/11/07 - Wadi Halfa
Charlie and Rensche climbed a hill the next morning to watch the sunrise and to see the town wake up. We felt so happy and blessed to have met Jean and Jeanette who are also Christians. At last we met Mr Mazar as well and he gave us his details: House: N21.47.293 E31.22.801 tel: 00249122380740. He told us the correct fees and customs for a motorbike is as follows: customs: S£16. Departure tax: S£21, 'clerent' S£20. We got our passports back from Mr Operator with the famous 'blue sticker' at least which will give us permission to exit Sudan. We also had to hand our carnets back to him because he didn't fill it in. Not a very good operator! We also suspected that he is charging us as a group too much. We heard from Mr Mazar that Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman also stayed in the Nile Hotel so maybe it's not that bad then! Jean went to find some wood for our desert fire when we leave Wadi once we got our vehicles and we spent the day lazing around waiting for the barge to arrive. Mr Mazar said we should not pay again in Khartoum for the blue sticker in the passports as some officials make you believe so we'll see what happens! At about 16h00 we still haven't heard much of the barge and resolved ourselves that we will have to stay another night in the stinking Nile Hotel. But at 17h00 Mr Operator phoned to let us know that the barge was in and we should all come right now! At the port it was all a bit confusing and crazy. Mr Operator wanted to charge us US$10 extra for the bikes and we also learnt that the barge has been in the port since 12noon already!!! We spent a confusing 30minutes trying to sort out the last paperwork to get the vehicles released with MrHaider (operator) actually forgetting to charge Jean and Clive! We (Charles and Rensche) paid US$75 per bike but we didn't mind because we thought it would oil the wheels. How wrong we were again. We spent another hour fighting and trying to get the barge moved to the dock so we could get the vehicles off. No luck. While faffing around with Mr Haider trying to sort the paperwork the chief of the port has gone home and he is the only one who can give permission for the barge to be moved. We called Mr Mazar to complain and he told us to stand our ground. But in the end we left empty handed. We walked back to the Nile (about 2km from the port) to cool off in the desert sand! We spent a depressing evening with tempers flaring. Mr Haider has also only given us one blue paper (whatever that is) instead of 6 seperate receipts. ie he charged us as a group. This might be a potential problem when asked to give the blue paper on exiting the country. We hope we will be able to sort it out the next day.
27/11/07 - Wadi Halfa ferry
The next morning the SA couple reported that they were asked to move (and not very nicely) at 04h00 to make space for the prayer mats for sunrise prayers. We decided to make some breakfast in our air-con cabin and waited to go past Abu Simbel. Its strange to think that Egypt and Sudan were once one country ruled by the Egyptians. Just before the Sudan border we saw it on the right hand side of the ferry - very impressive statues. We arrived in Sudan at Wadi Halfa at about 15h00 but then we were all cornered in our cabin by an 'operator'. He took all our carnets, tore the correct pieces out and ignored all our requests for Mr Mazar. Before we could get off the ferry we had to have interviews in the restaurant and we were almost conned into paying $10 per permit for visiting some of the sights. We were only thinking of visiting the Pyramids of Meroe but you don't need a permit for it. When we finally got off the ferry we only saw sand.... So onto a truck at 5S£ each which took us straight to the Nile Hotel where our 'operator' booked 10 beds for us. The rumours are true - its pretty grim. The rooms are dorm style rooms with sand floors and a few communial long drop squat toilets. The showers are cold but bearable. Our 'operator' Mr Haider, joined us to take our passports again for immigration. He wanted US$40 each and 2 foto's. We Saffas booked in a 4-bed room while the Brits took a 7-bed room. Still we were asking for Mr Mazar. We spent the evening with a Sudanse lady Jeanette met on the ferry for supper and it was really nice to hear her point of view of Sudan and its problems. Afterwards Hasim and the men of the group chatted to a local about the road conditions. He said mostly sand and warned us to be careful when we camp because there are hyenas about. For this reason bikes are not allowed after 16h00 out of Wadi Halfa because a German biker was eaten by a Hyena a few months ago. Wadi Halfa is a one donkey town! The town only gets alive when the ferry comes or departs once a week. There are only sand tracks and little restuarants serving local dishes.