African Safari (Prague to Cape Town)

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Xpat, Jul 4, 2015.

  1. Xpat

    Xpat Been here awhile

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    Introduction

    I was asked at work to prepare a small presentation about bike trip I did in 2005/2006 that took me from Prague to Cape Town. While I was going through the pictures I thought there may be people here who may find the trip interesting. So here goes - it’s not going to be standard ride report with detailed description of the trip as it’s been long time ago (and it would take months of hard work which I’m not prone to), but rather a photo-report of highlights of each country with short commentaries and snippets I still remember to hopefully put things into a bit of context.

    Little background: Over the years I’ve done quite a bit of backpacking around the world until 2000, when on my mates urging I’ve made driving licence, bought Africa Twin and went for a 3 months overland trip to India and back to Prague. Five years of rat race later, I felt in dire need of another proper R&R - another overland trip. Ever since the India trip I had Africa at the back of my mind. After Asia, Africa seemed as the most logical overland destination as there is no need to ship the bike, or only worst case only one way. Plus, quite frankly, Africa must be the top destination (bar none) for any self-respecting seasoned adventure biker.

    Which I was not. Yes, I have ridden 25 000 km to India and back a month after I got drivers licence, but since then I’ve just ridden occasional summer weekend and eventually almost stopped biking completely. So when the time came for this trip I decided to substitute missing substance with form. I went full in and purchased the best the money could buy: almost new GSA1150, Touratech panniers, full BMW Rally twatsuit, tank bag and lots of other crap. Oh my, as I’m writing this I feel sympathy for the younger and slimmer naive idiot, but the truth is, if I could reach back in time I would have given my little self a proper klap over the back of the head to get some sense.

    Here is the young slim idiot somewhere on Lake Nasser:

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    To my credit, I came up with all this on my own - I have never seen or heard about the two British lads (is that short of ladies?) prior to the trip and used to react very grudgingly when asked by random tourists if I ride the GS because of Evan. And to be fair, while I did end up sending quite a lot of stuff like rally jacket back home, the GS did quite well - out of total of 40 000 km, I have ridden about 15 000 km off tar and few thousands I would even qualify as offroad (e.g. deep sandy double tracks in Sinai, Sudan or rocky Kaokoland) The only issue I had by the time I’ve made it to Cape Town was slight leak in the rear shaft. And the only time I had to turn back was on the Kunene river track between Swartbortsdrift and Epupa Falls, and that was mainly because I hit it in the late afternoon and didn’t have a clue where it is going.

    But the trip would have been much more fun on 640 Adv, XT600 or DR650, to mention bikes available at the time (sadly, those are still probably the only options available now - maybe with exception of Tenere or possibly Terra) and of course using soft luggage.

    In terms of route, I wanted to go overland down the east coast, via Syria and Jordan. I’m not big on planning and usually figure things out once on the way, so I have just secured upfront visa for Sudan and Ethiopia which were supposed to be very unpredictable (and maybe Syria, don’t remember now), bought maps, Lonely Planet and was ready to go. This is the rough route I ended up doing (total of 40 000 km):

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    I did not have hard deadline (I quit my job), but I expected to take about 6 months to get down to Cape Town, ship bike and fly refreshed back to rat cage called Europe. I ended up taking one year to get to CT (September 2005 - September 2006), in the process got bitten by the African bug, managed to score a job in South Africa and stayed here since.

    I’m not going to cover the Europe and Turkey portion as I have just rushed through those and they are not that interesting anyway (except for Turkey). To get to Syria I have ridden through Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey.
    #1
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  2. Wdwrkr

    Wdwrkr Long timer

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    in :lurk
    #2
  3. GB

    GB . Administrator

    Joined:
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    With the middle east in turmoil, these trips are much harder to accomplish, too many no go zones...

    Thanks for sharing a trip from the good ol' days of the status quo :lurk
    #3
  4. Xpat

    Xpat Been here awhile

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    Location:
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    Syria

    I find what is happening in Syria now really tragic, as it is one of my favourite muslim countries. As other muslim countries there was palpable sense of community which was a nice contrast to the strong western individualism. People I’ve encountered were very welcoming and hospitable and despite the strict community/religious rules, life there seemed to keep the level of vibrancy I have not seen in other muslim countries (except Turkey) - I especially liked very lively souks (markets). This was quite a contrast to let’s say Iran, where people are also extremely nice, but somewhat subdued probably due to the constant persecutions from the vice police.

    The highlights for me were the town of Aleppo with its citadel and lively souk, and the Roman and medieval ruins scattered in surprising numbers throughout Syria - not surprising probably to someone with proper education, but to this idiot the heavy European influence came as quite a surprise.

    My route through Syria:

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    On the way from turkish border to Aleppo I came across first set of Roman ruins - can't remember the name:

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    And a picture of my trusty steed - I have to say that it looks really weird on slicks, kind of like naked guy in tank top and socks. I have started on slicks to cover the boring tar and save the knobblies (which were waiting for me poste-restante in Amman in Jordan) for dirt, which I expected to start in earnest in Sinai. From Amman it was TKCs all the way to Cape Town.


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    Aleppo is the biggest Syrian city in the north-west - first major town I encountered in Syria and my favourite as it is centred around impressive citadel on the hill with adjacent lively souk (market). Entrance to the citadel:

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    Aleppo Citadel:

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    Aleppo:

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    Souk - market:

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    While I kind of expected some Roman ruins as those predated muslims in the area, medieval fortress Krak des Chevaliers in the mountains to the north of Lebanon was total surprise as it clearly must have been built by Europeans long after the area was controlled by muslims. The fortress *was built and used by crusaders during their infamous exploits:

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    Next I moved to Palmyra - an oasis north east of Damascus, famous for the Roman ruins - quite impressive I have to say:

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    If I remember correctly Damaskus is one of the oldest if not the oldest inhabited city in the world, and of course the capital of Syria. It's main attraction is the Umayyad Mosque:

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    Damaskus streets and souks:

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    Next - Jordan
    #4
  5. JoeBiker25

    JoeBiker25 Been here awhile

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    AMAZING Pics! So in for the rest of the story!
    P.S. not to be greedy but I would love to read the India RR as well :D
    #5
  6. Xpat

    Xpat Been here awhile

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    Thank you.

    India is not going to happen - I did it in 2000 and remember it very sketchily. On top of it at the time I was still using film camera and hence do not have any digital photos available.

    There are though two other african rides among elephants, lions and stuff linked in my signature if you are interested.
    #6
  7. Xpat

    Xpat Been here awhile

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    Jordan

    I did not fell for Jordan the same way as I did for Syria - actually it left me quite cold. I think it finds itself in the odd position of the only Arab country allied (or at least genuinely non-threatening) to Israel. It is basically Israel’s buffer zone against its enemies further east. My take on this history *- probably completely wrong - is that Jordan together with other arab countries attacked Israel (not sure if it was Jom Kipur or Six Day war) and got beaten badly. On top of it (but probably unrelated) the Palestinian refugees flooded across the border from Israel and created bases for the Palestinian resistance against Israel. They eventually threatened to overtake the Jordanian government if it does not give them free hand to do as they wish. At which point Jordanian king said enough, sent troops into the refugee camps and made pact with Israel to combat this common threat. As I said - I may be completely wrong on this one, but I cannot be bothered to do the research now.

    As far as I’m concerned it's great that Jordan coexists *peacefully with Israel but it seemed to my untrained eye that Jordan may have payed with a bit of its soul for this pact. The contrast against Syria was quite stark. The people seemed colder and less hospitable. The difference was also visible in things like cars or military hardware - while Syrian military used mostly Russian weapons (tanks, BVPs, AKs), and surprising number of cars were Lada’s, or at best older frenchie motors, Jordanians used american military hardware (for example Humvees, M16s) and surprising number of cars on the road were american pick-up trucks and SUVs.

    But maybe I’m just seeing ghosts and this all was just result of the fact that there is much more westerners in Jordan and therefore they are used to them and do not treat them any special.

    Main highlights for me were quite obvious - Petra (yep the Indiana Jones film set) and Wadi Ram. Also, I’m not religious, but despite my extremely thin grasp of the biblical story (we somehow didn’t cover that subject in the communist schools), I could not help but notice lots places with biblical references. Which was interesting as I kind of considered bible as more or less fairy tale (not trying to offend anybody here - just showing the depth of my ignorance) and to see that some of the places it refers to really exist (even though I kind of knew it, but also didn’t) was a bit of an eye opener.

    Map of my route through Jordan:

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    Northern Jordan - Roman ruins on Jordanian side, Golan heights and Sea of Galilee held by Israel across the valley:

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    Roman ruins in Jarash - there is something very special about them, but cannot remember what:

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    From the north I headed to Madaba about two dozen km south of Ammanfor sleepover (I wasn't keen to stay in the capital)- an important Christian town in Jordan. Don't remember why, but this mosaic considered for some reason very important:

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    Next day, after I managed to extract my TKC tyres that I've sent upfront from the post office in Amman I headed in an a westward arch including Dead Sea towards Petra in the south. Some pictures along the way:

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    Petra is one of those annoying must see places. Don't take me wrong, it is very impressive, but lots of it's charm is stolen by the hordes of tourists, especially the unsocialised ones like Russians. So if you are going, I recommend to start very early in the morning so you get some lead over the organised hordes - plus the light is much better for pictures:

    The canyon leading to the valley (the one Harrison Ford rushes through on the horse back - you can do it too, for a fee). You all familiar with this - play the music in your head:

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    At the southern tip of Jordan lies jewel called Wadi Ram - set of beautiful wadis (valleys) and hiding place of Lawrence of Arabia. For me it was the first chance to pop my cherry in deep sand on GS. I've done the BMW off road training (equivalent of the Country Trax thingy but done directly by BMW in Germany), but my sand exposure there was limited to two tries to go throughout about 20 meters of sand - both unsuccessful.

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    After Wadi Ram it was short hop to Aqaba at the Red Sea, where I was to catch the boat to Nuweiba on Sinai peninsula in Egypt 70 km away - my first African country (is Sinai part of Africa or Asia??). There is slow boat in the evening used mostly by locals, and fast boat used by foreigners in the morning. I arrived in the afternoon and could have waited till morning, but I was kind of done with Jordan (somebody annoyed me that day at petrol station), so took the slow boat with locals. Locals were mostly Egyptian pilgrims (all in white) returning from haj to Mecca. The atmosphere on the boat was very relaxed and friendly - like one big family, including the adopted BMW branded idiot, and I've spent warm night on the upper deck surrounded by feasting families (it was Ramadan). But the boat was slow - it took whole night from 8:00 pm to 6:00 am to cross 70 km of calm water, partially because of all the praying that had to be done.
    #7
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  8. Xpat

    Xpat Been here awhile

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    Egypt

    Egypt of course was seat of one of the world’s first civilizations, remains of which are today still one of its main revenue sources. That civilization was probably the most advanced society of its time. However the current is not and the Egyptians are probably painfully aware of that.

    My general impression of Egyptian population was one of suppressed anger simmering right under the surface and kept at bay only by then dictator Mubarak’s huge security services (I’ve heard somewhere that there were 5 million secret police busy keeping tabs on the population). I think the main reason was huge rift between the outwardly western orientated secular government, and the instincts of the predominantly conservative muslim population. Nowhere was this contrast better illustrated than in the Red Sea resorts of Hurghada, or Sharm el Sheikh where western woman (or rather northern woman, as these include huge numbers of Russians) sunbath in skimpy bikini or topless while being served by young Egyptians for whom that kind of sight is normally preceded by some serious long term commitment (to be fair to the northern woman, some of them charitably helped the young Egyptians to release the tension).

    How this came about is anybody’s guess, mine is this: after the high hopes of the independence, the Egyptians got crushed badly in the Six Day war with Israel - they even lost for long period control of the Sinai peninsula. Somewhere in this mess *Mubarak took over in military coup and switched alliances from until then the main ally Soviet Union to USA/West. As an ally of US his regime gradually alienated the predominantly conservative Arab population with its policies (e.g. keeping peace with Israel, suppressing Muslim Brotherhood movement). To keep the general frustration in check he build extensive repressive force - and there is no mechanism in place to ventilate this accumulated frustration. *

    While I could understand their frustration I found it difficult to root for the suppressed population - I have to say I did not find them easily likeable. The atmosphere to me was permeated by sulking macho pushy big gut attitude and lacked the courteousness and sophistication of Syrians or Iranians.

    My route:

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    As said in the prior installment I got to Egypt - Nuweiba on Sinai - by boat from Aqaba in Jordan. I would have prefered to come overland, but that would have required crossing Israel which could potentially prevent me from getting to Sudan (Sudanese used to check passports not only for Israeli stamps - you can agree with Israelis not to stamp your passport, but also for the stamps of the crossings on the Jordanian and Egyptian side).

    With a help of a young Egyptian police captain I got through the border formalities (which included getting Egyptian number plate for the bike) in Nuweiba within an hour - e.g. at about 7:00 am. I was knackered - I spend prior day riding, including sand in Wadi Ram and stayed up whole night on the boat. But there was nowhere to stay in Nuweiba, so I rode few dozen km on the empty tar road to the small seaside village of Dahab.

    I have planned to stay 2 days in Dahab - I’m not a beach guy and one day is more than enough to get me bored out of my mind. But Dahab turned up to be very charming village with quite a few dive shops, traditional seaside restaurants furnished with ground mattresses and shishas, few bars and very laid back atmosphere. I ended up staying for two weeks (and came back later for one more week to wait for some parts I lost on the bike) - I got somehow hooked into a diverse constantly changing group of travellers, which included German couple who came from Thailand on Tuk-Tuk (via Japan, Russia and all those Stans in between as they wouldn’t let them go through Burma), German and Australian oaks who came up from Cape Town (German on XT600, Aussie on 640 Adventure). They even managed to bully me to take open sea and advanced diving courses - I did not care about diving then and still don’t today. Somehow I’ve lost all the pictures from Dahab, sorry.

    While in Dahab I’ve found out that there is a KTM shop run by French guy in Sharm el Sheikh, which also runs bike trips through Sinai. Despite my dubious choice of bike I was very keen to do as much offroad as possible in Africa - but Wadi Ram showed me that I need some serious practice before I dive further into Africa. So I headed there to find out what I can learn.

    Sharm el Sheik is this repulsive (to me) artificial tourist resort overrun by Russians, where locals feel like foreigners in their own country. I did not like it one bit, but then I had a purpose so just found quickly a hotel at the outskirts before I headed out into the desert where the KTM shop was located. In front of the hotel I found this sorry sight - it belonged to a Croatian guy who wanted to go to CT, but when he made it to Sharm he decided that his calling was to be a Divemaster (in frigging Sharm!!!) and promptly decided to stay indefinitely. These seemed to be quite frequent occurrence on Sinai:

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    KTM shop was not a dealership (pity - I was harbouring a secret hope for possible bike swap), but rather an offroad park in desert providing mostly for quad rides in the park and surrounds. I agreed with that to give me one day training in sand on their KTM 640 Enduro. My instructor was Abdul - he did not speak a word of English, but we managed just fine. Brm-brm in high pitched voice for higher revs, in low pitched for lower revs. The only misunderstanding - but pretty important one - was when I asked him to lower my GS tyre pressures (they had compressor with meter, I left mine in hotel) and he refused which was strange. I insisted and he eventually concurred. I’ve found only 4 days and 100s of km of deep sand riding later that instead of lowering the pressure he actually increased pressure from 2 to 3 bar.

    They had a field about 100m long of really deep sand with crisscrossing tracks and within an hour I was riding through the sand like champ. But then I had to do the same on GS and I experienced viscerally the idiocy of my bike choice. But there was nothing to it so I persevered and eventually was able to get across without falling over. I also realised limitations of the BMW jacket in hot desert and bought for the overpriced (no choice china) second hand ballistic jacket (stitched with cable ties) and motocross shirt. That proved to be a winner - I ended up sending the Rally jacket back home from Khartoum.

    To expand my skills the following two days Abdul took me each day on trips of about 120 km through the valleys of SInai - him on 640 me on GS (yes still on 3 bars). It was hot and hard work, but paid off million times back. The funny thing I did not realize at time was that it was Ramadan and Abdul was not allowed to drink anything during day - so he basically have ridder in scorching sun through lots of deep sand without a drop of water. Haven’t complained once - respect.

    Abdul:

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    Once done with the training I headed back to Dahab, but this time solo offroad with full luggage through the wadis Abdul took me through (I traced the tracks on GPS). It was a bit struggle but I was not falling much - I still had to dig-out and lift the bike many times when my rear wheel dug in.

    Selfie:

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    I had to dig the bitch out 10 - 15 times a day:

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    From Dahab I headed to St. Catherine monastery sitting at the bottom of Mt. Sinai - yep, the place where Moses received the Ten Commandments, or Ark of Covenant. There is perfectly fine tar road going there, but I’ve found on a map (unfortunately on my GPS I had only Garmin world map, which is completely useless even for tar - I found out about T4A only much later in Etiopia) a line that indicated that there should be offroad route of about 90 km that could take me there. I found it and in two tries (once I had to return to Dahab and get new rear wheel screws when I found out that I lost two of them) made it eventually to the St. Catherine. I became quite good in sand, but still ended up picking the fully loaded bike at least 10 - 15 times a day, mostly because my rear wheel dug in and I had to throw the bike on its side to get it unstuck.

    Wadis up to St. Catherine (I think ChrisL may enjoy these):

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    When I eventually made it to St.Catherine in the afternoon of the second try, I went immediately for hike with sleepover on the top of Mount Sinai. It’s quite a hike - especially once you’ve just ridden 90 km in deep sand - and I’ve made it there just after sunset. It was very tranquil (there were just few other people sleeping over plus few local vendors), mystical and cold (I was sleeping on my blow up mattress and sleeping bag) and I was looking forward to the sunrise in the morning, hoping not to oversleep.

    St.Catherine monastery:

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    Track to Mt.Sinai:

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    No need to worry - at about 5am I was woken up by a Russian herd stampeding all over me elbowing each other for best position for the sunrise shot. Apparently travel agencies herd them into the buses in Sharm el Sheikh at about 2:00 am drive them up 150 km and then run them up the hill to get that sunrise shot. Once the sun was above horizon, within 10 minutes they were all gone - quite bizarre, I wasn’t sure that it really happened.

    Sunrise:

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    There is even a loo:

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    Next I headed to Cairo. Not my favourite - it is huge, bustling and dirty city, but obviously a must visit to see the pyramids in Giza. Oh yeah, and the Egyptian museum - I liked best the mummies, including the one of 7 meter long Nile crocodile (yep, I’m that simple).

    On the way to Cairo:

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    Giza:

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    Russian woman demonstrating legendary Russian sensitivity for the host country (and the belly fat):

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    I tried to extend my visa in Cairo - I was quickly running out of allocated 1 month due to my exploits in Sinai. I was worried that me overstaying in a police state may have unpleasant repercussions, but it proved to be so much hassle that I eventually gave up and decided to wing it on the exit.

    From Cairo I headed south-west to the Western Desert to visit the famous White Desert - an area where wind and water eroded the surface into surreal shapes, which for some to me unknown reason took on a white colour.

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    Overland truck and 4x4 overnighting below my spot:

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    Morning, including my secluded spot:

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    From the White Desert I headed south-east back to Nile and it's main tourist attraction - Luxor and it's Valley of Kings

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    To be continued
    #8
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  9. Xpat

    Xpat Been here awhile

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    Egypt - part 2

    Luxor is situated on the upper Nile (e.g. in the south of Egypt) and is the site of the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes. According to Wikipedia it has been frequently called ‘the world’s greatest open air museum’, with the main highlights being ruins of the Karnak and Luxor temples situated in the city on the east side of Nile and Valley of Kings - a burial ground of some of the most prominent Egyptian pharaohs - across the river on the west side.

    In other words - tourist trap. I’m probably starting to sound like a spoiled brat, but Luxor - like Petra in Jordan - is one of those places that you must see while passing by, even though you know that they cannot possibly live up to the hype. Don’t take me wrong - the sights there are very impressive event to history numbnut like me. But as a result of the hype they are swarmed by groups of packaged tourist who cannot even pee without guide showing them where and how (surprising number of them Czechs), and inevitably leave you feeling a bit underwhelmed (due to your own exaggerated expectations). So the visit turns out rather like an obligatory chore, than a journey of wonder and enjoyment that you can experience at some other much less known sites (for example Lalibela in Ethiopia). Yes, I am a snob - though very unsophisticated one.

    Valley of Kings - its full of tombs of famous pharaohs dug into the mountain, but pictures are not allowed inside so this is all I have:

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    Luxor on the other side of Nile - you can see clearly delineated green zone along Nile flanked on both sides by desert:

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    Guards of the road to the Valley of Kings:

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    Valley of Kings is on the other side of this hill:

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    Karnak temple (including public erection in muslim country):

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    Luxor:

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    Cool machinery - most of it probably better in sand than my pony:

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    Luxor temple:

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    I have stayed in a hotel recommended through the travellers grapevine as the place where overlanders gather before they move on to Assuan (in group in obligatory police convoy - more about that below) and further into Sudan. And sure enough they were gathering in some numbers: in the courtyard I’ve met Bill & Claire from UK in Defender, the Dutch couple Eric and Daniela in one of those veteran Land Rovers with whooping 56 HP (the ones you have seen in the Elsa movies - you’ll see pictures later) and 66 year old Belgian Loek in Landcruiser. Dutches and Brits were on the obligatory trip to Cape Town, Loek on his second trip to Ethiopia (for the only reason that really matters - love). Later arrivals were 4 Swedes from a Christian charity in Landcruiser trying to get from Sweden to Mozambique in 2 months - one of them and car had some charity gig there and the rest were in just for the ride.

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    As mentioned, we - foreigners - were allowed to travel from Luxor to Asuan (the southernmost Egyptian city on the north end of Lake Nasser and set-off point for Sudan) only in organized police convoys once a day. This turned out to be a comedy of note (which sometimes turns deadly - there was an accident about half a year ago when one of the convoy minibuses with tourists crashed into another at police check-point killing 4 Belgians). When we arrived to the staging area in the morning, the place was swarmed with heavily armed black clad police (one of the ninjas had no less than three different submachine guns hanging off him) leisurely swaggering among the minibuses trying to impress packaged tourists heading for Asuan. We had to register but got no further instructions. For a long time the atmosphere was very relaxed, jovial almost festive.

    Then, without any warning, all hell broke lose. The police started running around chaotically and shouting, minibuses were started and revved to max and started moving while the police were jumping in. Once in they floored it and joined the main street more or less sideways and off they were. We watched in amazement until some leftover police shouting forced us to start moving as well. By the time we set-off the convoy opened huge gap on us that the Landies and Cruisers driven by sensible europeans through heavily populated area didn’t have a chance to close. So they settled to leisurely tempo sightseeing through the the Nile green zone few dozen kms behind the convoy waving at the supposedly hostile population.

    I, lacking the scrupules of my more mature co-travellers, caught up with the convoy in no time and for a while watched in amazement the lunacy in front of me - where can you race with police 120 kmh through heavily populated areas with kids and donkeys everywhere. Once my curiosity got satisfied, I decided to be adult as well and did the sensible thing - opened up, took over the convy and fucked-off. I had to pin it for a while to open up few km distance between me and them before I could start again act more responsibly and slow down in the places where there were people/animals milling around. Couldn’t do it while still visible to the convoy as they would see this as clear sign of weakness and speed-up to catch me regardless of potential collateral damage. I’ve managed to stay away from them, while not killing anybody, but they didn’t play clean - they radioed to the police blocks ahead of me to stop me. To be fair it was only the last one before Asuan, where we also had to wait for the slow overlanders to recoup into one group before we entered Asuan - it seemed to me that they didn’t give a shit about people traveling solo between Luxor and Asuan, but for appearances sake we had to come to the destination as one group. I still don’t know what we were needed to be protected from - judging by the absurdity of the whole circus probably grizzly bears.

    Happy travel: sure, we survived the Egyptian police convoy

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    Asuan on the northern shore of the Lake Nasser is natural choking point for overlanders heading south to Sudan: The only way to get overland from Egypt to Sudan is actually by water - i.e. taking ferry along the length of Lake Nasser from Asuan to Wadi Haifa - there is no other border crossing (probably because of missing roads). And the ferry travels only once a week. Hence a week-worth number of overlanders gather every week to catch the ferry and then disperse eventually further south - some of them inter-meeting all the way to Cape Town.
    When we arrived there it took us two days of negotiations to secure ferry tickets and some even managed to get Sudanese visa in 2 hours (huge feat considering in Europe it took about 3 months and in Cairo about 1 week). We all settled in to hotels/camps waiting for the day of departure and in the meantime explored Asuan.

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    Boat restaurant - common sight in tourist spots on Nile:

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    Dhow on Nile:

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    Next instalment - Sudan
    #9
    jmcg, MATT0404 and goodcat like this.
  10. Mcgee

    Mcgee Been here awhile

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    Wow! great write up and the pic’s are wonderful! Looking forward to the rest of the ride. Thank you!
    #10
  11. Noneking

    Noneking Been here awhile

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    Read this RR on www.wilddog.za.net a year or so ago. Enjoyed it so much that I will read it again on here as you post!:wink:
    #11
  12. thirsty 1

    thirsty 1 Rider

    Joined:
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    You sir are on a epic adventure ! Beautiful!:lurk

    Totally and completely jealous!!!!
    #12
  13. Xpat

    Xpat Been here awhile

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    Thank you - good to know that people are following.
    #13
  14. Gobby

    Gobby Trust Me!

    Joined:
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    Perth, Western Australia
    Hey Xpat,

    I am still blown away by your sand riding skills :thumb

    Enjoying the pics and the write up - enjoy your take on things :D
    #14
  15. Xpat

    Xpat Been here awhile

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    Thank you for continuous support Gobby!

    My sand riding skills before this trip were non-existent. However combine strong determination to enjoy Africa off beaten track as much as possible with wrong choice of bike and you will either not make it (I almost didn't at one point as you will see) or learn to ride the bloody thing. To be fair, GSA1150 - given what it is - did admirable job and for the whole of Africa I had to turn tail only on one remote track, but I did wonder constantly what this trip would be like on something much more suitable. And if you can make it on GSA, you will make it on anything :D.
    #15
  16. Xpat

    Xpat Been here awhile

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    Sudan

    It’s ironic that people from countries considered bad in the west are usually among the most pleasant to deal with - people like Syrians and Iranians. And Sudanese - at least the ones from the north I’ve encountered.

    Sudan had become pariah mainly because of the wars in Darfur and South Sudan - at the time still part of the original british denominated Sudan concoction. Now I do not want to diminish in any way atrocities and suffering caused by these wars, and I’m all for the international pressure to end them, regardless of how ineffectual it may sometimes seem. *

    I just have a difficulty to reconcile the stories of horror from Darfur with how nice the ordinary Sudanese were - especially compared to the pissed-off Egyptians. The people (up north mostly Nubians, successors of the people that build the pyramids) were generous, courteous, polite and with strong sense of community. It felt like return back in time to the era, when time flowed much slower and people unhurriedly focused on the basics without stressing about cramming as much crap as possible into their life-time. This is one of the main reasons why I love traveling in the third world - it’s basically travel back in time and I get to glimpse quickly disappearing world.

    As with everything, there is a downside - at least for this seasoned rat racer. The vibe in Sudan was very subdued and static. People living contently more or less the same way as generations of their ancestors are not conductive to a vibrant entrepreneurial society (being muslim country,there is not even alcohol available to get their blood pumping). Apart from great Nubian desert riding up north and very charming dervish dance gathering in Omdurman (part of Khartoum) I do not recollect much more from week and a half I’ve spent in Sudan and eventually was really looking forward to Ethiopia. Now things would probably get much more kinetic if I would try to check-out Darfur, but I didn’t as they wouldn’t let me anyway - I saved the war zone tourism for later.

    Route through Sudan:

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    On the day of ferry departure - still in Egypt - all overlanders heading for Sudan gathered in the port about 10 km south of Aswan to clear Egyptian customs and immigration and board the ships. There are actually two ships for each run - one is a passenger ferry with cabins ( if you pay extra) and restaurant for people, and the other pontoon attached to a barge for vehicles (with one john for a toilet).

    In addition to the people I’ve met on the convoy from Luxor, there were few new faces & vehicles getting on ferry: John & Helen - british couple in Defender doing CT run, Ali from Turkey in Defender also driving to CT, Nando - spanish guy cycling to CT (on Czech - OK Czech branded bicycle), Chris - british guy doing public transport run to CT and Rupert.

    Rupert - an austrian - was should I say a nonconformist: he was driving almost 40 year old VW Bus from Austria to Tanzania, so it was a good thing that he had strong family support on board - 3 years old Olivia, 5 years old Fabio and 7 years old Yannick (their mother sadly passed away). For three months the kids were eating exclusively spaghetti bolognaise, listening to Lion King tape every night before sleep, dirty and happy as kittens. They proved to be a great asset for the group. In these strongly family centered cultures even the most hardened officials melted like a cheese *when faced with the three little rogues and we used to send them ahead of us to distract and soften the officialdom before we swooped through whatever procedure we were supposed to go through. They were just no match to the kids. That’s right - us bunch of hard core travelers were using three little kids as a human shield against the state oppression!

    And it wasn’t just officials - I remember in Khartoum in the only shopping mall (as we know it) in whole Sudan Rupert gave them money to go buy sweets to the supermarket (equivalent of Pick & Pay or such). They came back with lots of sweets and all the money - the cashiers refused to take money from them. Try that in your favourite supermarket!

    Apart from us white eyes there were lots of locals - mostly Sudanese, who were going through the border and getting ready for the ferry. It felt like I’m about to hit the ‘real’ Africa - Egypt with the predominantly arab population felt more like appendix of Middle East. Plus there were tons of western tourists all over which for me somehow devalued the whole travelling experience - it just did not feel that special (did I mention that I’m travelling snob?). I knew that between where I was now and the southern border of Zambia, the only whites will be overlanders, NGO workers and few local farmers - only very few packages diluting the experience and those will be mostly concentrated in small areas like national parks..

    The Egyptian customs and immigration was the standard oriental affair, but nothing extreme. We westerners made it through as a group, by following whatever the locals were doing - which on one occasion involved us trying to squeeze into a throng of locals around two guys seated at two tables. It turned out that they were scribes, filling the necessary forms for the mostly illiterate local passengers.

    At the time the rule for boarding the ships was that there had to be one (and only one) person/owner travelling with each vehicle on the barge - everybody else had to go on the ferry. In my case it was easy - as the sole rider I had to go with the bike on the barge, but Rupert strictly speaking should have taken the barge while sending the kids on the ferry - not an option. The further consideration was that the passenger ferry takes about 1,5 day nonstop to cover about *420 km to Wadi Haifa, while the barge with the pontoon was supposed to take 1 day more as it was slower and for some reason it couldn’t run through the night and had to anchor (our barge eventually took 4 days - not sure why). The couples naturally weren’t keen to split. So we worked out the system when 8 people (for 8 vehicles) will go on barge without splitting any couples or Rupert’s family. It was 4 Swedes, Bill & Claire, Loek and myself on the barge and the rest on the ferry.

    Once all formalities were sorted and ships boarded we were off - ferry first, us pontoon people second.

    Overlanding crowd gathering for ferry - Eric & Daniela's Landy & Swedish Cruiser with one of them on the lookout:

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    Rupert's wheels & kindergarten watched by one of the Swedes:

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    Spanish biker Nando and his Czech bike (or at least Czech branded):

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    Locals waiting for boarding:

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    Boarding the pontoon:

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    On the way (check out how thoroughly is the first land secured against movement):

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    My little self on the boat:

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    Anchored for the overnight sleep-over:

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    On the way we passed Abu Simbel - another set of ancient Egypt treasures and an UNESCO site. The thing is - these statues and temples were relocated in 60s from what is now bottom of the lake Nasser to this new site - the hills they are located in are actually artificial hills:

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    Pushed through the days...

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    and through the night (not true - we were anchored):

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    Boat people:

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    Cosy evening on board (left to right: Swede (sorry I do not remember the names), myself squeezing food into my cheek pouches to be ready for Africa, Claire, Loek):

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    The crew:

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    [​IMG] * *[​IMG]

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    To be continued
    #16
    jmcg, bunicrides, chR80STian and 3 others like this.
  17. 1Man2Wheels

    1Man2Wheels Been here awhile

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    Great write-up on a side of the world we don't see too often on here:clap
    #17
  18. Xpat

    Xpat Been here awhile

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    Thank you for following.
    #18
  19. VA78airhead

    VA78airhead Adventurer

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    This is fantastic and an inspiration, thank you for sharing! I cannot wait to see the rest!!
    #19
  20. davesupreme

    davesupreme grand poobah

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    Great stuff.... more please?.....
    #20
    jesionowski likes this.