Belgium - Tanzania 2006

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by wreckah, Dec 12, 2007.

  1. wreckah

    wreckah Been here awhile

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    Hi guys,

    i made a big motorcycle trip from Belgium to Tanzania in 2006, and i have finally translated the diary into english. I will post it in this thread below.

    enjoy!
    cheers, Jan

    ps I'm the one with hair ;-)

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    #1
  2. wreckah

    wreckah Been here awhile

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    Belgium - Tanzania 2006


    Let me start by introducing myself: my name is Jan De Man ('Manneke'), i am a civil-engineer architect from Ghent, Belgium, and i run a little company which does mostly CAD drawing and websites etc...Business is going fine, but it's about time for a change...Anyway, I am a biker with a passion, and i owned all sorts of bikes in the last couple of years: they were never the fastest nor the best looking bikes, but they all had one thing in common: character! ( in other words: there was always something wrong with them ;) here's the list: Kawi GPZ500S, Suzi SV650S, Suzi TL1000S (x3), husky SM610, V-raptor 1000)

    I commute daily on my bike, and once or twice a year i go on a big biking holiday. After having travelled throughout Europe a couple of times, i felt confident enough to take on a real adventure. Since a few years i learned to wrench on my bikes myself, and this experience will prove to be very important in this story.

    Between 3 January 2006 and 10 March 2006 i rode from Belgium to Tanzania (Africa) together with my dear friend Jan Gevaert ('Koko'), who is going to live there permanently. He owned a restaurant and bar in Ghent for 13 years, and he was fed up with the hard life of being in that business, and decided to part with Belgium alltogether, and live the good life in Tanzania.

    Together, we wrote a diary of our experiences on this awesome trip, which we hope will be fun to read.

    Enjoy!
    Manneke
    #2
  3. wreckah

    wreckah Been here awhile

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    I got to know Koko some 5 years ago, when i went out to lunch with a couple of friends for the first time in his restaurant 'De Kokodril' in Ghent. I immediately noticed the chef Koko, and was a bit intimidated by his 'wide frame' and his freshly shaven head, perfectly accompanied with a huge goatie ;-) Some say he looks like Stone Cold Steve Austin, and frankly, i think he does too!

    Over the years, i got to know Koko very well, and learned that behind the tough looks, there was actually an utterly sweet guy to be found. His restaurant became a second home to me...almost every day i went out to lunch there, and chat away with the boss. (Boy do i miss these lunches now...)

    One day in 2005, i went to Koko's place once again, but there was something in the air: Koko seemed a little bit more nervous than usual, and it wasn't long before i heard why. Koko was fed up with the business in Belgium, and had decided to close the books, and leave Belgium for good. Being an experienced traveller, he had been around the world a few times already, and he had chosen Arusha, Tanzania to be his new hometown.

    I was shocked to hear this! I would loose one of my best buddies, and my favourite hangout in Ghent. This sucked! But then Koko told me the rest of the story. His plan was to ride two bikes to his new home, and he needed a good friend and fellow biker to accompany him. Because we got along so well, and seeing that i have some technical expertise (he doesn't), he asked me to tag along! I didn't have to think too long and said i loved to go on this adventure with him. There was one condition though: i needed the green light from my girlfriend (at that time) too!

    The next day, i entered the restaurant again, with a big grin on my face, and told my buddy: "the lady of the house has agreed, when are we leaving?" ;-)
    #3
  4. GB

    GB . Administrator Super Moderator Super Supporter

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    Thanks for sharing your adventure with us :thumb

    Koko has the right idea!! Let's see lots of pics too ...

    :lurk
    #4
  5. hludwit

    hludwit Been here awhile

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    I am looking forward to this adventure. Hope you include those pictures (we) city folks crave for. Best of Luck
    #5
  6. wreckah

    wreckah Been here awhile

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    hi guys, i'm sorry my internet connection went down last night, hopefully, here's the complete rest of the story :)


    We prepared ourselves for this trip throughout the year 2005.
    We chose to ride on Honda's adventure bike: The Africa twin. It's an older design, but rocksolid, comfy, reliable and would be most certainly up for this trip. The 750 twin is a bit on the heavy side which limits the offroading capabilities, but then again it will be much more comfortable on the long stretches of smooth tarmac which lay before us.

    I looked out for nice second hand africa twins, while Koko did some research about the countries we would be passing through. We bought the first AT from a friendly farmer's boy somewhere in east-Flanders. Koko took off proudly on his new steed. His own oldtimer Goldwing had been off the road for a few years, but his riding skills were still there. After the spirited ride, Koko parked the bike in front of his bar, took off his helmet and couldn't hide the biggest grin ever.

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    We put the bike in my shed, and started giving it a little tender love and care (which it needed). I revised the complete brake system, changed oil and filters, spark plugs, and put in a fresh K&N airfilter. I adjusted the tappet clearance, which was just a tad out of spec, and synchronised the carburettors. While performing this service i got to know the bike a bit better, and found out that this bike wasn't exactly built with easy repairs in mind!

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    The bike became Koko's workhorse for his last couple of months in Belgium. That way we could testride it often, and check for problems or little quirks. We bought the second bike quite some time later, in November, about one month before our departure.

    Of course there was a lot more to do on the bike apart from the regular servicing: in order to ride this bike for 15.000kms through some of the worst roads on earth, we needed to modify it to some extent. We mounted headlight protectors from Touratech, meaty bar protectors from Acerbis, crash bars and finally some nice aluminium panniers. The bike was beginning to look like a real adventure bike now.

    Koko decided to change the awful eighties colour pattern, and paint the whole bike in a light sand colour. That way we would never find it if it got dropped in the desert! ;-) Koko spent days sanding the plastics and the tank, and i rattle canned the pieces in the sand colour. It looked a bit ghetto, but it was cool anyway.

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    In the meanwhile Koko had done some research rgarding our travel route: the initial plan was to ride through Italy, and cross the Mediterranean to Tunesia or Libya, and ride from there overland to Tanzania. We had to change this plan when we found out that Libya had become very hard to travel through, and very expensive too. ( it is almost impossible to get visa, and if you do, there's a daily fee to be paid for a convoy which has to follow you around the country...) We decided to do the trip completely overland, and incorporated Ex-Yugoslavia, Turkey, Syria and Jordan into our trip.

    This route promised to be 'the big one': we would encounter harsh cold from Belgium all the way to Turkey, before we would enter a somewhat more moderate climate. There were also a couple of 'difficult' countries on the list: it's hard to get ahold of visa for Syria and Sudan, and Egypt is known for its notorious bureaucracy...we would aslo have to travel through some 1000's of miles of desert, both on- and offroad.

    The administrative preparation went alot smoother than expected: the visa for Ethiopia and Syria came through within the week, and the visa for Sudan was to be picked up in Cairo, Egypt. We ordered an international driver's licence, and a fresh travelling passport with room for lots and lots of stamps. To get the bikes in and out of all these countries, we had to get a 'bike passport' too, the 'carnet de passage'. We ordered this carnet with the German ADAC: it costed 250 EUR, and on top of that there was a deposit of 3000 EUR to be made per bike. This deposit is a guarantee that the bikes won't be sold somewhere illegally, but nicely imported and registered. The deposit is then returned. The friendly lady Karina from ADAC helped us with all the paperwork, and got the documents ready in time. We were to pick them up in Münich, which was on our trip anyway.

    We both got our shots from the doctor (Tetanus, Hepatitis, etc...) and were now almost ready for departure.

    The second Africa twin was bought sometime in November 2005, and got the same treatment as the first bike. We needed to call on Geert though, to help us change the headstock bearings on this bike. Geert is an experienced mechanic, and a good buddy from Jan, and was glad to help us out. I went to the local Tireshop to get us some offroad rubber (Michelin Deserts), which we would take along on the bikes, and mount on the bikes somewhere in Egypt. We got some heavy duty inner tubes as well. Finally i made up some stickers to put on the paniers, and put together a box of tools to take along.

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    One week before the start of the adventure, we decided to put on some bar-heaters just in case it gor really cold. It would become quite clear quite soon that these heaters were a god's gift in the first couple of weeks!

    We were finally ready for takeoff!
    #6
  7. wreckah

    wreckah Been here awhile

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    3 Jan 2006: after months of preparing and longing for the big day it was finally there. It was a bitter cold morning, but our dearest friends warmed it up with their enthousiasm. Packing the bikes - for the first time, yup real smart! - took a hell of a long time because we didn't know where to begin, and because those same dearest friends were inspecting us closely: every new bungee cord was followed with a salvo of laughter. After about one hour we were ready to go. I kissed my girlfriend goodbye, - it would be the last kiss i would ever give her, but i didn't know that at the time - jumped on the heavyweight motorcycle, and took off without making any arrangements with Koko about what and where and when...

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    Drama! Where is Koko? It seemed i had lost my buddy in the congested traffic after about 10 yards! Boy now i really wanted to get the hell out of this busy town. I didn't know then that i would see Koko again only after 300kms!

    Koko: What the hell are you thinking doing this kind of trip? i asked myself when i was drinking a cup of coffee in a gasoline station in Arlon. I didn't know if Manneke was ahead or behind and i was hoping to see him again soon.

    I waited some 10 minutes on the highway ramp in Ghent, but i didn't see any Koko. Two of my friends passed by, wandering what i was doing there without my travelling partner. I decided to head on, thinking that Koko would have probably already have left Ghent, and would be waiting in one of the following gasoline stations...or so i thought. Just imagine: two overloaded Africa Twins speeding on the Belgian highways, trying to catch one or the other!

    Koko: I was riding almost 100mph, in sub-zero temepratures, passing Brussels and Namur, trying to find Manneke."

    In Wetteren, the first rest station on the highway, about 13kms from Ghent, i decided to have a look around for my buddy. My front wheel locked up while braking because it was freezing cold, and the roads were covered with frozen mist. Nobody here.
    In Affligem, about 50kms from Ghent, i made another stop, but still no sign of my friend. I was getting depressed and took off again, but then the unthinkeable happened! I crashed the bike in the parking lot, going through a very easy turn at about 30mph. The front wheel let go very suddenly on a big patch of ice, and there i went: i saw the bike skidding away from me, while i was skiing on my rainsuit. It was so slippery that my rainsuit survived the slide without any trace or tear. Before i even got time to get up, a friendly car driver came up to me and helped me lift up the bike. The damage was not too bad: the left pannier was a bit deformed, and i had some scratches on the crashbars and the acerbis protectors, but that was it really. I continued the hellish ride through traffic jams, ice and heavy northern winds, and finally found Koko in the restplace in Arlon.

    Koko: I was wandering if i should go back home, and find a job in a restaurant at the beach, when i heard the other Africa Twin arriving. The menacing roar of the bike didn't compare to the menacing look on Manneke's face when he took off his helmet: 'Fallen off the bike on an icy parking lot, looking for you'. We couldn't have wished for a better start!

    We didn't encounter any other problems that day, and when the early fog disappeared we actually had quite some nice weather.
    #7
  8. wreckah

    wreckah Been here awhile

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    Koko: We entered Luxemburg, and crossed the Mosel River into Germany. We also passed the Hockenheim-Ring: the Formula One racers could learn a thing or two from us: we never went slower than 100 mph! :-) It is allowed on the German Autobahn, so no worries.

    We crossed the Donau River on the way to Münich and there was a heavy winter bataljon waiting for us. When we passed Karlsruhe, the scenery changed to a completely white landscape with matching temperatures. Luckily our last-minute mounted bar heaters managed to keep our hands warm!

    We arrived in good spirits in Geisenfeld (close to Münich) around 7. The mediocre Portuguese pizza and the expensive greek hotel (P)Athos couldn't bother us in the least: we were on holiday now!

    Our breakfast consisted of some creative bike maintenance in a light snowy breeze: Koko's twin consumed a bit of oil, and mine acted strangely at low speeds: something was wrong with the steering but the problem didn't occur at higher speeds, so we decided to do the manly thing, and ignore the problem for now.

    The Allianz Arena - a brilliant soccer stadium by architects Herzog & De Meuron - lay on our right side when entering Münich. Our job here was to find the ADAC to get the carnets de passage, but things didn't go too smooth: we fruitlessly searched for the ADAC office for over 2 hours - thanks to some drunk germans giving wrong instructions - but we managed to find it in the end. We got our carnets from Karina, and around noon, we were back on our way south.

    We rode through Austria in the afternoon, and although it was freezing cold it was a real pleasure touring through the beautiful snowcapped mountains.

    The Plitvica lakes in Kroatia were included in our schedule, but we decided it would be better to continue riding untill we reached the Mediterranean where the temperatures would be way higher. It was already dark though when we rode through the unlit roads of Slovenia. It was only 50kms to Rijeka, but these 50kms had to be done in the pitch dark, on a very small curvy road in the middle of nowhere. We needed to open our visors because they were getting foggy from the cold, and it wasn't long before the both of us were crying our eyes out! I was leading a long line of cars who were all much faster than us, so after a while i decided to let them all through, and follow the rear lights. That would be much easier! All these cars took the very next exit of course, so we were back on our own...i heard Koko laughing in his helmet, the bastard! :-)

    We arrived in Rijeka late at night, and found a great little hotel with the help of a kind nightwatcher in another (way more expensive) hotel. When we parked in front of the hotel Koko came suddenly running to me, crying "my gears are gone! I have no gears anymore!" Luckily i saw pretty soon that he'd jumped the chain off the rear sprocket. No drama thus, but the chain was clearly worn. We had a lovely mixed grill supper, and flushed it with a gigantic bottle of red wine so We slept like babies.
    After a huge breakfast we did a little bit of maintenance once again: we managed to adjust the headstock bearings on my bike which steered a lot better afterwards. It wasn't perfect though, but that was due to the heavy load in the back of the bike. Koko's chain was adjusted one last time, and once again we topped up his engine oil. Later we would find out that this oil consumption only occurs at high speeds (high revs) on the Autobahn.

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    After two days of hard riding, we decided to take it easy in Kroatia, and for the first time on this trip we enjoyed a lovely mediterranean climate: nice 'n' sunny, and at least 5°C! The first 150kms were magnificent: a real biker's road, with lots of long, open curves with perfect visibility...not only on what's lying around the corner, but also on the spectacular Adriatic Sea! Hundreds of little islands ly peacefully in the vast deepblue waters. The heavy offshore wind (Bura) was taking it's toll though, and we were getting tired of all the turning, braking and accelerating. Luckily we were able to finish the day's trip with a short dash on the highway. We reached Sibenik (Kroatia) quite early, and had some time to wander around in the pittoresk streets before supper. That night, Pizza Toni sold 3 pizze to two starved wolves.

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    Koko: This town Sibenik is not as well known as Dubrovnik or Split, but it definately deserves the attention of every Kroatia-traveller. We got lost in the beautiful paved streets, went up and down stairs and through small passageways and finally ended up in a pizza place again. During the meal - and that's what's fun about riding bikes - we told eachother the anecdotes of the day's riding. We ride the same roads, almost at the same time, but there's still a different story in each biker's head. We did both see the policeman who woke up in his patrol car when he heard two big twins roaring by. We were only doing 90km/h in a 40 zone, so he went back to sleep instantly. Nothing to see here! Manneke saw some Kroatian nutters in an old car while i was paying attention to all the signs saying that there is a strong wind in these parts of the country (the Bura once again). We completed this magnificent day with a walk back up the hill to our B&B with garage for the bikes. Our helmets were lying on the wine barrels of the landlord. The morning after we left for Dubrovnik with a fantastic 'winey' scent in our helmets, while the lady of the house lovingly waved us kisses goodbye.
    #8
  9. wreckah

    wreckah Been here awhile

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    The Sibenik-Dubrovnik leg of our adventure was definately the most spectacular part untill now: we really felt like it, and we were on our way very early in the morning. The sun was rising and uncovering the best roads in the world, completely deserted ( don't try these roads in summer, you will be dying in the heat behind a massive parade of ultra-slow RV's...). We did encounter our very first shower though, but that was nothing compared to the cold we had to endure the previous days. A lovely Kroatian girl served us hot coffee and chocolats around noon...we were probably the only customers that day. We entered Dubrovnik around 13.00: a beautiful historic town, shot to pieces during the civil war some ten years ago, but now partially rebuilt in the old style.

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    Koko: We found an appartment right next to the old city walls, and explored the town. We needed to find a map of Serbia-Montenegro because we would be travelling there the next couple of days, but in the first store it was obvious that we wouldn't find any maps: the shopkeeper looked angrily at us, and almost spat out the words 'serbia' and 'montenegro' in our faces. We were lucky we didn't understand the next couple of lines she said. The civil war might be over, but the hatred is still here...We concluded our day in a fisherman's bar where we heard loud singing in the afternoon, but when we entered the bar at night, it was as good as empty. Early to bed then.

    Without any maps of Serbia, we left the shoreline, and went inland, with matching continental climate. We were only 10kms from the shore when the temperatures dropped below zero again.

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    Koko: we were rewarded with the most beautiful panorama ever When we left Dubrovnik, and climbed the mountain southward: behind us lay the old city, bathing in the morning sun, and surrounded by a sea full of diamonds. We crossed the Montenegro border, and it costed 10 EUR to get insured in this ex-yugoslavian state. Manneke waved his insurance papers at me with a big grin, apparently his insurance covered more countries than mine. This looked promising...

    We rode through a glorious canyon, carved out by an icecold mountain river, on the way to Podgorica. (This canyon is comparable to the Gorges de Verdon in France, only more beautiful) We took a little break in what must be the most deserted coffee-place in the world. Our ignorance of the local coffee brewing skills had us drinking the grit too...yuk!

    Koko: The ground coffee beans are cooked in the water Turkish style, so the grit stays in the coffee. It's better to leave the coffee for a few minutes before drinking!

    We continued our way, and it seemed like we rode further and further from civilisation, over ever increasing mountain tops and through snowy landscapes. I found a shortcut on the map (like all men do at one point) over a steep mountain pass. I reckoned we could win some time this way. Yeah right!

    Koko: my travelling partner had this brilliant idea to shortcut the route by going over a mountain of some 1500 metres high. The U-turns made for hard work on the twins, and almost on top of the pass, Manneke got a puncture on the sharp gravel roads.

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    It started snowing ever so lightly when we took out the rear wheel (we were lucky the puncture happened on the bike with the centerstand). We used the sidestand of the other bike to break the seal, to be able to remove the tire from the rim. Within half an hour, a new inner tube was mounted, and we could try to get the outter tire back on the rim. Of course, it was me who was a little bit careless, and punctured the brand new heavy duty inner tube with the tire irons. I bet Manneke was screaming inside, but he looked quite peacefully...anyway, we lost another hour but got the tire back on the bike. Our first real bush-repairs! :-)

    We changed the rear tire (twice) with a fantastic view on the surrounding valley. This was a day of motorriding which i'll never forget and those don't come too often: we did loose some time though, and when the darkness set in, i made the wronng decision to keep riding untill the next little village. We went through 50kms of hell because of me...
    #9
  10. wreckah

    wreckah Been here awhile

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    Koko: we didn't find any hotels and so we had to continue riding in the dark, over slippery roads covered in snow and ice! The bikes slid from left to right, but we managed to keep the bikes upright. Totally knackered after hours of sliding, we finally arrived in Rozaje. While we were searching for a place to sleep, i saw behind me a man jumping into his top-of-the-range audi quattro. He had mistaken our numberplates for dutch ones, and because he visisted holland many times, he found it was his duty to give them dutch guys a place to stay for the night. Jero was his name, and he arranged a great room and a restaurant for us. We got the luxury chambre in the restaurant, and we got our very own private waiter!
    Late at night, we were invited by Jero to have a few drinks in his sparkling new bar. It didn't take us long to become completely hammered on local beer, while Jero kept drinking coffees and energy drinks (he was a muslim).

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    Koko: We weren't allowed to bring out our wallets, everything was 'on the house'! After a couple of hours, both Manneke and i returned to our hotel, giggling like two 16yr old cheerleaders, and stumbling all over the place.

    I wasn't wasted, but i did have a bad hangover the following morning. ;-)

    Koko: Jero's hospitality was heartwarming, but we were a bit disappointed in one thing though: the kind man told us that there was only about 20kms of snowy roads ahead of us, but in reality it was more like 60kms or so! We both got a huge adrenaline rush when we exited a pitch dark tunnel: a big pile of snow had come down the mountain and lay right in front of us! There was no time to brake, so we both flew over the obstacle and started sliding. Our muscles cramped up and our hearts stopped beating, but our guardian angel hadn't left us, and held the bikes upright. A little bit further down the road, we found the border crossing to Kosovo. Kosovo is actually part of Serbia-Montenegro, but they have declared their own independance.

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    It was obvious we were riding through a warzone: most of the houses were shot to pieces, the roads were nothing more than a collection of potholes, and the people had harsh, meaningless expression on their faces. There was no hope in their eyes...

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    Having never done a border crossing of this type in my life, i was immediately baptised in the world of corrupt border police. We were halted by a heavily armed, though friendly looking copper.

    Koko: The guard showed us the 'stop' sign, some 10 metres behind us, and promptly set the mood: 'didn't see the sign eh, lads? That's gonna cost you! Let's say 30 EUR' Manneke - still overly naïve and insecure about this sort of business - reached for his wallet without thinking, but i gave the guard my most bad-ass face, and shaked my head 'no'. You're not going to pull this stunt on us, fella!
    Suddenly, the look on the guard's face changed to a most sympathetic smile, and almost as suddenly they all started sweettalking us, and giving us pads on the back. There was no mention of any fine anymore. The bunch of bored lads waved us through, and while we rode to the other side of the border, 4 angry dogs ran along trying to take bites out of the tires. A few kms down the road, Manneke almost hit a cat. Suicide attacks are apparently pretty common around here.


    For the first time on this trip, i made a navigation error: Around Kosovska Mitrovica we got lost, and ended up on some totally unrideable roads: we stumbled through the gigantic water-filled potholes at a walking pace, and i was getting a bit demotivated (maybe i was hung over after all?). Luckily Koko was in a top mood, and pulled me through. We quickly found the main road, back on track heading for the macedonian border. We had decided to try and find some better weather, and so we headed straight south from Kosovska Mitrovica, through Macedonia, into Greece, directly to the Mediterranean!

    Koko: we were releived to find the macedonian border! The border police asked for the insurance documents again, but with the help of some impolite and impatient Kosovar people i could swap my insurance papers with those of Manneke, which saved me a hefty 15 EUR! I was pretty proud with my connery, but it almost backfired at the Greek border a bit later that day!
    In Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, a homeless boy cleaned our windscreens at the traffic lights while his little brother screamed at us with freaked-out eyes: these boys were high on some toxic glue, probably their only hope... Anyway, the snow melted and we got a fantastic smooth highway instead. It was a glorious peaceful cruise through Macedonia, apart from a few obstacels in the middle of the highway: a couple of stray dogs, a family doing a cosy walk, a bicyclist, and a macedonian driver who drove in the wrong direction! A life doesn't mean much around here, that's for sure...the emergency lane was the perfect overtaking lane by the way! We made real good progress though, and by 4 in the afternoon we entered the European Union again. Greece was the 9th country on our trip, temperature was rising, the roads were perfectly smooth, and things were looking good again.

    The road from the Greek-Macedonian border to Thessaloniki was one straight downhill dragstrip of tarmac. We rushed down and we saw the Mediterranean Sea appear as a dark blanket on top of the brightly lit harbour of Thessaloniki. We chose not to enter the big city, and rode a bit further along the shore untill we reached a small fisherman's town where we found a decent hotel. That evening, we treated ourselves to a feast of moussaka and lots of ouzo.
    #10
  11. wreckah

    wreckah Been here awhile

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    Koko: We slept like babies in our hotel in Stavros! We also found out that there was a tire-shop around town, which we visited the following morning. We were lucky: they had a brand new rear tire for Manneke's bike, and after a little discussion about the price the chief mechanic and his Albanese helper began working on the bikes. While the lads were replacing the rear tire, we went ahead and mounted new chains and sprockets on our bikes. (we brought those from belgium too!) There was always somebody helping us, or serving us coffee, or simply commenting on the bikes. Both bikes were finished around noon, and Manneke was lucky to find a perfect stretch of curvy highway to ride in the new rear tire.

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    Working together on the bikes with a total stranger from Albania was a blessing: there was no need for speaking, as we didn't understand one word from eachother anyway. Simply two guys working together trying to solve one mechanical problem...it worked like a dream! The new chain and sprockets made the bike feel great, and i was really hammering the AT down a twisty stretch of highway! It was one of those moments where everything just feels right, and you can do whatever you want with the bike: flicking it from left to right on the edge of the new rear tire, i was flying through the wideopen corners. On the straight bits, i let Koko catch up some ground.

    Koko: my bike also felt 100% better. The new chain transformed the AT from a sluggish monster into a tight package! We made great miles on the highway, where only the continental winds somewhat spoiled the fun: both bikes leaned into the strong wind the whole time, which was exhausting. The condition of the road changed dramtically after the last exit in Greece, right to the border with Turkey. Turks and Greeks are not best of friends, and it was obvious that the Hellas government didn't want to spend any money for a road leading to 'the enemy'. Getting into Turkey was a struggle too: filling out the piles of paperwork costed us one hour. When we were finished with everything, we geared up, and headed for the last guard. The angry looking man summoned us to his little booth, and we were both getting ready to take off all of our gear again. To our surprise, we didn't need no more stamps, but we got a little gift instead! The guard gave us some candy and said: "Welcome to Turkey"!


    Koko: The difference with Greece was astonishing: we slalommed for 200kms between huge potholes, and when Istanbul finally came in sight all hell broke loose. A heavy thunderstorm bursted out above us, and threw an incredible amount of rain and hale down on us.

    Because we lost a lot of time at the Greek-Turkisch border crossing, once again we had to do the most difficult kilometers in the pitchdark. We stopped at a gasstation some 50kms before Istanbul, and got a bit of a nasty surprise: it seems that gas-prices over here are the most expensive in the whole world. More than 2 dollars for a litre...which is about 4 to 5 times more expensive than in the USA e.g. We were invited into the little coffee-room, and watched some soccermatch on the telly while we were warming up from the freezing cold outside. We said goodbye to the most welcome workmen at the gasstation, and entered the monster of a city that is called Istanbul.
    10.000.000 inhabitants, 7-lane highways filled with crazy agitated drivers, pitchdark, rain, hale, freezing temps, lots of dirty spray from big lorries, slippery white lines...once again we tempted fate on our trusty Africa Twins. The tolbooths were a hassle as well: we had to get almost fully undressed to find our wallets, and dig out the foreign currency with our frozen hands. We took a random exit to the centre, and thought about our plans for that night. Koko gladly took charge, summoned a taxi, which led the way to our hotel.

    Koko: a cab driver led us through the maze of highways and small streets to a hotel which costed 250 EUR/night. When i said that was a bit over our budget, the price immediately came down to 100 EUR/night.
    That was still too much for us, so we looked a bit further, and found a classy hotel for 100 EUR for three nights! The bikes were parked in front of the hotel, where one guy would guard them for the next three days and nights without any extra charge. We put the petrol tanks and the toolbox in his tiny booth, because the guard wanted it like that. He would have to stay outside for the time of our stay, but that didn't seem to bother him in the least.
    We decided we had earned something nice that day, and went to a neat little turkish restaurant just around the corner to treat ourselves to a few raki's and a nice late night dinner. The owner of the restaurant apparently wanted to do something special for us, and invited some local star to come and sing for us. Bad idea. The tunes of the eighthies syntheziser didn't work all that well with the little fella's high-pitched out-of-tone voice...hellish!


    Three days without a bike! Who would have thought we would like such an idea? Well it was a joy to be honest. Finally we were in Turkey, where we would indulge ourselves in the local culture, food and drinks! We had built up a hefty reputation in our hometown Ghent, where every week, we had a ball in the local Turkish Pizza-place. Our stay in Istanbul was one big eating and drinking frenzy: We enjoyed ordering small dirt-cheap dishes from the stalls outside, while drinking liters and liters of our favourite strong licquor: Raki. We felt completely at home in this country. This was great living.

    Koko: We woke up at 5 a.m. that night, hearing a strange cassette-recording shouting through the whole city. We were clearly in 100% muslim territory, and 5 a.m. is apparently the time for the first of the 5 prayers. Istanbul has hundreds of mosques, and it seemed that every Muzzein wanted to give praise to Allah a bit louder than his neighbour. We stayed in bed till sunrise though, a bit hungover from the booze yesterday.

    We walked to the fameous 'Blue Mosque' and the 'Aya Sophia', which is one of the seven wonders of the world, together with the Gizeh Piramides in Cairo, which we were going to visit later on this trip. I took some typical holiday-shots for our mums: 'ugly man in front of historical building'. Great.

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    Koko: inside the building, We were overwhelmed by the imposing arhitecture, and the smell of sweaty feet. We strolled through town in the afternoon, looking for some sign of action in a town which normally never sleeps. Apparently it was October-feast for Muslims, which meant everything was closed.

    We found one internet-cafe which was open, and we were welcomed in with liters of coffee and tea. Being hospitable is one of the turks' greatest virtues: it is fantastic travelling through a country where you can be invited for dinner at a complete strangers' home just by looking at that person. People come and walk along to make sure you find what you're looking for. People go out of their ways just to make YOU feel more comfortable. It's really inspiring to feel this culture, surely when you come from a country where everybody looks only at themselves, and helping people is simply not done anymore. This helpful and hospitable attitude is not learnt in schools, nor is it stated in the Koran; it is a virtue with which every Muslim grows up...fantastic. Western cultures could learn a great deal from this.

    Our next day in Istanbul was going to be a relaxation day. We walked to the Grand Bazaar (the huge souks), but we stranded before the closed gates again, because of the national holiday. It had it's advantages too, mind you: it's pretty exhilarating to speed through empty tolbooths at 80km/h for example!

    Koko: We decided to visit a hamam: this is a turkish bathing and washing place. Manneke was pretty nervous at the thought of being naked next to all these big turks, and being washed by a big hairy man. I had told manneke a lot about my visit to a hamam some 6 years ago, and of course i did nothing to take away his nervosity, quite on the contrary. Once in the building, everything went on pretty discretely, so manneke could enjoy it without too much fear.
    We wrapped a towel around us, and poored water onto a huge marble rock, which is heated from below. We glided like pinguins onto the rock and started heating up as well. If it got too hot, then you could find refreshment in one of the beautiful marble bassins on the side, where fresh cold water flowed continuously, and where you could take a traditional cold shower. All was well, untill the monster and his little helper entered the hamam. The giant came in my direction, while the little wussy went over to manneke. We were scrubbed and washed untill our skin was smooth as silk, and then we got a massage. The big dude almost broke every bone in my body while 'massaging' me! He put me in all kinds of uncomfortable positions, and pushed untill i screamed from the pain.

    I heard koko yelling and moaning while i was getting my massage: the little fella was apparently a little bit more gentle, and it wasn't long before i fell asleep...even with a pair of faggy manhands on me. Unthinkeable! :-)

    Smooth as a baby's butt, We left the hamam, and ate our experiences away in a cosy little restaurant. We talked about our plans for the coming days in Turkey. We would have loved to enjoy the warm mediterranean climate, and follow the coastline all the way through Turkey, but as the gasprices were so high, we couldn't afford this. So we decided to head straight through the mainland of Turkey, which would be cold as ice, but would save 1200kms and subsequently a whole lot of money. We watched the weather channel on our hotel-tv, and it didn't promise to be a joyfull ride: temps were continuously a fair amount below zero, but at least it wasn't snowing.
    #11
  12. wreckah

    wreckah Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2005
    Oddometer:
    112
    Location:
    Mayo Country (Belgium)
    Our bikes were packed up and ready to go very early in the morning, and so we started this big riding day. We got out of Istanbul pretty easily and rode to Ankara, the capital of Turkey. We were amazed to see a jogger at 6 a.m. on the 7-lane Istanbul ringroad! The ride to Ankara was very straightforward highway stuff, except for one little mountain pass near Bolu. Our barheaters were switched on, but that didn't stop the extreme cold getting into our bodies. We were already frozen after 15 minutes, so you can imagine what we felt like after 750 kms, and a good 8 hours in the saddle.

    In Ankara, i took a left on this highway crossing, and when i looked into my mirrors, i saw a very angry Koko making all kinds of moves with his arms, legs and general body-language. He was pissed because he thought we were going the wrong way. I had studied the map very well, and knew that i was doing fine, so i continued my way. After a while the roadsigns concurred with me, and immediately i saw the body-language of Koko changing. It's funny that you can tell so many things from your little rearview mirror pointing to a guy on a bike some 30 metres behind you...

    Koko: we had made the right decision. At 3 p.m. we had covered 750kms, and arrived in Uchisar, Capadocia.
    We went looking for Eric, owner of the Buket pension, where i was a couple of years back. The man had left Turkey apparently, so we found a room in Kilim pension. The warm welcome, the big breakfast and charming room were great, but the fact that we were shivering in the cold in our sleeping bags at night was somewhat less than great. The room was carved out of a big rock, so they couldn't heat it up properly.

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    The following day, we climbed the citadel of Uchisar and from the top we drooled over the gorgeous surroundings. Capadocia is a large area of soft rock, which hardens up in contact with air. The inhabitants used this phenomenon to carve out their homes, and this has formed an amazing scenery over the years. We took the bikes, and visited the open-air museum of Zelve: three little valleys were turned into three beautiful villages, where people still lived in rocks some 20 years ago. Manneke was deeply impressed with this beautiful setting.

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    Afterwards, we went for a healthy 4km walk through 'the pink valley', and we were astonished by the unbelieveably gorgeous rock formations. We got a bit lost in the end, but we found a little bookshop-stall somewhere in one of the rocks, and the employee told us how to get back to our bikes. We wandered what the guy was doing there all the time, completely alone, in the middle of nowhere...

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    Koko: We arrived at the bikes, totally knackered, and found our way to Urgup through a fantastic little offroad passage. It was here where i first set foot in a hamam, so we tried to revive the good old days, and went in. The hamam was in a state of despair though, and we came out filthier than we came in. A bit disseapointed we took off to Nevsehir, where we found an internet cafe, which was completely occupied. Not to worry though: the owner scared away some little kids, and so we got our internet fix anyway. We went back to the hotel, played some Rummicub, ate a delightful meal of white beans, and went to sleep. I didn't manage to fall asleep right away because of the combination of a fart-enhancing meal and a fart-sensitive roommate. It was a windy night.

    The morning of our departure, there hung a giant icepick from our water-filled jerrycan. It still was extremely cold in Turkey. We headed for Derinkuje, which boasts an underground town of more than 18 stories deep, to protect the inhabitants against rivaling tribes. Our travel guide spoke in lyrical terms about this amazing artefact, but half an hour later and 15 EUR lighter we were back on the bikes with backache and busted knees. This underground labyrinth must have been inhabited by silly midgets!

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    #12
  13. wreckah

    wreckah Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2005
    Oddometer:
    112
    Location:
    Mayo Country (Belgium)
    We continued our way through vast plains: the roads were pretty deteriorated, and snow was still everywhere. We didn't want to breakdown here. The tarmac was scraped off, and the bikes were thrown from one groove into the other. Manneke nearly lost his front end in the gravel on the side of a roundabout, but managed to save it. We saw dirtbags along the road, and a few kilometers beyond those, we saw a bunch of guys burning up the rest of the litter...lost anything guys?

    After a couple of hours another huge formation of mountains doomed up in front of us. Our courage was slowly seeping away (mountain passes in the snow are difficult to say the least), but luckily for us, the highway rolled nicely through the snow capped mountaintops. Suddenly we saw the light: on a stretch of maybe 5kms, the atmosphere totally changed from an icecold continental climate to a warm 'n' cosy day in the spring! We couldn't thank the Mediterranean more! We headed straight past Adana (an uninteresting harbour city), and rode to Antakya. We got some sporty curves on our way there, and that was a perfect excuse to go and overtake cars on the outside, in the opposite lane. Fun! Antakya was a cosy little town, compareable to a southern French town, with palm trees, wide straight roads, and busy people.

    Koko: we found a hotel with sattelite TV, but unfortunately we stumbled upon a rerun of a stupid Belgian show. On to the fairytale souks then, where we ate a few smallish turkish pizzas before we went to sleep. Tomorrow we were going to enter the middle east!

    Our spirits were high when we arrived at the Turkish-Syrian border, and we started the formalities right away. Koko had done the exit-formalities on the Turkish side in less than half an hour, which was pretty good compared to my first steps into border-crossing. Koko had told me too much about corrupt border police, bribes, and untrustworthy people, so I didn't trust anyone. On top of that, we were entering a brand new (for us) country, with unknown currency, etc...The Syrian 'tourist guide' who helped me through the whole procedure was getting a bit frustrated with me, because i didn't trust him at all. I am sorry in hindsight, i should have trusted him, he was a very friendly man who was only trying to help.

    Koko: Manneke dragged along the complete staff of the Syrian Tourist Board, and finally managed to clear all our documents. We had to pay 45 EUR each for roadtax and insurance. I'm sure that there's 5 EUR sticking to every booth we passed. We had covered 1/4th of the trip, and at least 1/2 of our budget was gone. Luckily we come into the cheaper countries now, where petrol, meals and hotels are very affordeable. We took off, and rode to Aleppo, which was apparently a bustling metropole, and also the second largest city in Syria. We manouvred in between slalomming yellow taxi's, heavily overloaded trucks and annoying 2-stroke mopeds, all honking their horns of course. After one hour, we still hadn't found a hotel, but that didn't matter, because we loved to ride through this noisy mess! This was big fun! We were crying from laughter everytime one of us joined the honking crew...In the end, we summoned a cab driver to lead us to a hotel in the centre. He stepped on it, and threw his little car in every little hole, and we followed him in the pursuit of our lifetime!

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    We discovered Aleppo on foot that evening, and went to the great citadel first. We strolled through the Armenian part of town, and via very small alleys, we found a large indoor souk. We bought food from every stall we passed: 2 pizzas, one coke, a giant falafel-filled breadroll, and half a litre of freshly squeezed fruitdrink with appels, carrots, bananas and oranges. Our bill for that feast was less than 2 dollars. This was living like Allah between Tigris and Euphrate. Back in our room, the only heating was done with a strange red lightbulb-type heater, and the following morning, we woke up freshly toasted with a little crust.

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    By this time, i had completely lost the fear of our travel through the middle east. Don't believe everything you hear and see, and discover it for yourself. Our day in Aleppo was simply fantastic: every person we met was extremely friendly, we felt welcome all the time, people spoiled us whenever they had the chance, people laughed with us, they gave us superb food, etc etc...i found it inspiring and i felt for the first time truly like a traveller.

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    Koko: The clock in our room seemed to run one hour early, so when we left early in the morning we got a bit of a strange look from the clerk. He was probably just fallen asleep again after the morning prayer. This was going to be a fine day, but some young kids had been playing with the controls on our bikes that night, and left the barheaters on! Manneke's bike was dead. After three pushing attempts we got the engine running. This is quite a chore on the AT, so we were breathing heavily while watching the engine purr contently...untill it died again! Aaaargl! Now it was a fuel problem: the tank had just gone empty, and we didn't turn the tap to 'reserve' fast enough. Another 3 pushes and we were finally on our way.
    It was a short and steady ride over the one and only Syrian highway, but we had to keep awake: mopeds used the fast lane at 25km/h, and there were lots of strange 'items' to be found on the tarmac: cattle, carparts, etc...The navigation was simple that day, but still i managed to get lost on the main street in Hama. Whenever we stopped to ask directions, a whole bunch of little kids grouped around us and sent us in all directions, except the good one of course. ( In Muslim countries, it is considered impolite to not help people. So even when these people didn't know the answer, or worse, even if they didn't even understand one word of what we were saying, still they would give an answer. "Where can we find a hotel?" - "Yes. Yes. Yes.")

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    Syria was also the first country where gasoline was almost for free, and we noticed why: the quality isn't very good, and Koko's bike blew thick clouds of dark smoke everytime he twisted the throttle.
    After a couple of local laps, we found the centre of Hama, a quiet little town at the side of the Orentes river.

    Koko: A couple of youngsters raced their mopeds in front of us, and showed us the way to the bank, while another guy walked through half the city with me to show me a nice little hotel. The friendliness wasn't quite over yet! We visited the noria's: giant, 20-metre-tall wooden wheels which provided the town with water from the Orontes river. We walked to the remnants of the old citadel as well, but the vast majority of stones was used by the locals to build their own houses. We were getting bored by then, and that didn't change with all the 'Welcome!'s we got from the locals. We missed Aleppo, so we decided to fight this feeling with food. Once again, we ate numerous little snacks, and a huge fresh fruit-coctail for desert. We never lost the feeling of boredom though, and late at night we were thinking what in god's name we were doing out here. It was dark at 5 p.m., it was still pretty cold, and everything seemed old and worn out. I guess it was only a little dip after the hectic days we got behind us.

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    #13
  14. wreckah

    wreckah Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2005
    Oddometer:
    112
    Location:
    Mayo Country (Belgium)
    Koko: On the fifteenth day of our trip we rode to the 'Crac des Chevaliers', an impressive crusader's fort strategically placed in the hills between Syria and Lebanon.
    The climb to the fort was very steep with a few very tight hairpins, and on this terrain, i had to let Koko go. He is surely better at muscling these heavy bikes around the tight twisties. He's got way more power and dares a lot more than me. I tried to follow him, but i could read from the grin on his face that this was his playground, and not mine. :-) I preferred the faster bits, where my track-experience shines through more. We left our gear at the local (empty) restaurant, and went into the fort.

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    Koko: the fort housed 4000 soldiers in it's days, and we were mighty impressed by its gigantic proportions , its perfectly preserved buildings, and its position on top of the rolling hills. You could easily imagine the knights on their horses, the guards on the edges, and the workmen in the courtyard.

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    Our batteries were recharged, and we were fit to go into the desert. We rode off in the direction of Bagdad, and it felt awkward to know that a mere 300kms further there was a dirty war going on.

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    On the way, we passed numerous bedouin tents, which nowadays sport luxury cars and sattelite dishes (with 24-7 porn on it of course). We talked about this double morale with a modern Syrian guy a bit later on. You have to do 5 prayers a day, and look down on anybody who doesn't, but what goes on inside the walls of the homes goes against the Koran in many cases. Muslim men may enjoy a nicely dressed up western girl, but their own sisters have to wear a veil. Homosexuality exists, but never in their own family...

    We rode for 300kms through a desolate landscape, and we kept eachother alive by performing a few tricks on the bikes. I saw koko overtake me, standing straight on the saddle, with his arms spread open in the air. "Look Manneke! Without hands!"

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    Koko: We arrived in Palmyra, unloaded our luggage, and rode with our now light maouvreable bikes to the top of the arabic citadel, which looked down on the vast oasis. We were welcomed as usual by some 'businessmen' who tried to sell their Arafat-scarfs adn mini-citadels to us. We don't care for such selling techniques nor for such products, and entered quickly into the safe fort. Koko was getting a bit mad when the ticket-salesman wanted to give us a complete tour 'for free'. There was no way out of this situation, this man was on a mission! In every other room of the castle, the guy told us that there were many many many rooms like this, and that we should follow him...aaargl! We decided to split up to loose the guy. Luckily for me (but unlucky for koko) the guard decided to follow koko. Koko arrived at the top of the castle with a head red of anger. I laughed my pants off!

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    Koko: Afterwards, we visited the imposant Roman ruins, and there we met Hani, a 12-year-old intelligent little guy who could switch back from English to French in a split second. We had a great time in the amphitheatre, with the little lad telling us one anecdote after the other.

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    When we left the site, his 16-year old buddy came around the corner on his small 125cc stinker. We were in a good mood, so we decided to swap bikes. I did a little lap on the old 125, and knew that there was no way back now. I had to let the little guy take a spin on my bike...

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    He hopped on the heavy bike like it was all natural for him, and diseappeared around the corner while i was thinking if i would ever get to Tanzania on foot...

    15 minutes passed by, and by now we were starting to worry: he must have gone down with the big heavy and powerfull bike somewhere! I jumped on my bike, and started looking for him, but i had to come back empty handed after another 15 minutes.

    Koko: After what seemed an eternity i saw the little lad returning the bike, unharmed. He simply had to show the bike to all of his family, and that took a while. The ear-to-ear smile i got from him was the most beautiful present anyone could have given me.

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    We were invited into his house for tea, and with Hani on the back, we rode off. The little lad showed us how they would hunt in the desert, with the bike and a rifle! He took out a picture, and it showed one dead hyena. Suddenly we weren't too keen on a night in the desert anymore ;-)
    We dropped Hani off at his 4 sisters, and lights went out at 7.30 p.m. after a busy and heavy day.

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    It was once again a great traveling day, one to remember surely. We had had great encounters and spontaneous plot changes in the middle of beautful historic scenery and gorgeous nature...and i ate a whole chicken with my bare hands that night. :-)
    #14
  15. wreckah

    wreckah Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2005
    Oddometer:
    112
    Location:
    Mayo Country (Belgium)
    Koko: We left the Syrian desert, and headed towards Bosra. Our travel guide told us that once in 3 or 4 years it rains in this part of the desert. Well, Allah had its way with us i guess: we rode the whole way through a thick fog and rain, and of course it was slippery as hell. The big lorries treated us to a nice spray of mud as well. In Damascus we searched for a tire-shop to replace my worn out rear tire, but couldn't find anything in the huge hectic labyrinth. Every driver put the pedal to the metal while slalomming through roadworks en fellow road(ab)users. It is a miracle that there aren't more accidents around here.

    The traffic in these countries doesn't happen in an orderly fashion. It just regulates itself, well, most of the time anyway. There's no such thing as traffic lights. Everybody enters the crossing the same time, and everybody crawls through the traffic to the other side. This is actually pretty effective! Untill a certain point, when there are simply too many roadusers; then it can happen that the whole crossing completely locks up. There is a solution for this though: HONKING like mad men!!!

    Koko: Once we were past crazy Damascus, we stopped at a roadside diner, and ate 4 pizza's each. It costed us around 3 dollars in total. We arrived - still in rainy weather by the way - in Bosra, where there was only one hotel, which expectingly charged 140 EUR for one night! We asked around in the tourist office, and they sent us to Obeida, a disgusting little man who likes to brag about his conquests.
    After a discussion that seemed to go on forever, he let us sleep in a large carpetted room, next to the bikes. We got dinner and breakfast in the deal as well.
    We had the usual mix of humus, yoghurt, turkish bread and raw vegetables, and Koko was the first to use the bathroom facilities. He 'jumped over the wall' first, and went to toilet with only one little water recipient to save the day...I decided to postpone this big decision untill a later date.
    After dinner, Ahmed entered the room. He was guiding some 30-odd old Italian tourists in RV's. They were cooking pasta most likely, while Ahmed had an interesting discussion with us about religion and state, and the contradiction between Islam and the western world. (Ahmed is a Muslim, but a modern one)
    It had been a sad, rainy day but luckily we had this pleasant conversation to end the day.

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    Koko: In Bosra we visited the beautiful remnants of the Roman Amphitheatre, and the ruins of the old town, and the next day, we headed for the Jordan border.

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    We had to pay an extra 20 bucks to leave Syria. Another absurd little rule to fill the pockets of the border police. We discussed a little about the value of the EUR compared to the dollar, and we ended up paying 20 EUR, and got 20 dollar in return. That was some good negociating ;-)

    We got ripped off once again entering Jordan, but what the heck, a couple of minutes later we were on our way to Jerash. We missed an exit on the highway, and following local traditions, we made a U-turn and went back in the wrong lane, sporting our high beams...nobody seemed to care!

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    The landscape changed from dusty plains into fertile rolling hills, which reminded us strongly of The Vosgues in France. Along came a bit of nice weather and a couple of great biking roads, and away went the down feeling of yesterday.

    Koko: In Jerash lay some of the best preserved Roman sites, which we enjoyed thoroughly on foot.

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    Afterwards, we went to Ajloen, the nearest city with a hotel. The reception clerk promised us a room with sattelite TV, and he wasn't lying! We got 30-odd Arabic channels so we watched Al Jazeerah for an hour or so: it impressed us a little, though we didn't understand one word of what they were saying.
    We took it easy the next morning, and rode on a curving little mountain road to the Jordan valley. There were fruit and food selling stalls every 100 yards, and a hummer of the Jordan Army every mile or so. Everything and everyone was inspected thoroughly. We strongly felt the presence of the isrealites a few 100 yards further, waiting to take control of the whole middle east. We passed 'Baptism Point', apparently the place where John christened his followers, and a little bit further we saw the only - heavily guarded - bridge connecting Irael and Jordan. The Jordan valley turned into the Dead Sea, a gigantic salty lake some some 300 metres below sea-level.

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    We took a dip into this saltlake, but couldn't do anything more than float around. The upward force of the saltwater made swimming impossible. It felt pretty toxic as well, so we washed up in a hot-water spring nearby. We put on our gear again, amidst the pile of rubbish the locals left behind, and took off to Karak, a mountain village only to be reached through a motorcycle-heaven-road.

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    #15
  16. wreckah

    wreckah Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2005
    Oddometer:
    112
    Location:
    Mayo Country (Belgium)
    We followed the beaches of the Dead Sea for a few more miles, and then took a left onto the Eastern Plateau which lay 1300 metres higher! These vast plains are dry and dusty, carved into pieces by gorgeous wadi's (canyons). Our travelguide warned us for extreme windgusts on top of this plateau, and god that was true: we were thrown from lane to lane, and we needed to keep the pace down to keep it safe. A mere two hours later, We arrived in Karak which turned out to be a cosy little village, which hung from a huge cliff, and was dominated by its very own castle on top of the mountain.
    Koko: In restaurant 'Turkey', owned oddly enough by an Egyptian fellow, we ordered one kilo of lamb, on the chef's recommendation. We got a fantastic dish of cold and hot vegetables, rice, beans, bread, aubergine-paste, and a huge pile of deliciously roasted meat! We payed 5 bucks each...
    There was no hotel to be found, and as it was only 70km to Petra (according to my map), we decided to move on. Just outside Karak a roadsign told us the real truth: another 125kms of twisty roads!

    So on we went, through the fantasic river bed of the Wadi Al-Hasa and through speed-bump-infested villages. Manneke nearly killed two dogs in two minutes. The curvy mountain road turned into a highspeed curvy autobahn - to get the masses to the very popular Petra-site - and against all odds, we arrived there before dark.

    Koko: We found a dirtcheap hotel and we could park our bikes on the terrace. Manneke didn't feel like trashing his bike, and because i just filled out my hotel application as 'professional stuntrider', i was given the honour to ride both bikes up the slippery stairs to the terrace while the complete hotel staff was watching, waiting to see the bragger bite the dust.
    We had great expectations of our next day, and quickly fell asleep with some old James Bond movie in the background.

    I descended the stairs myself the next morning, and we rode through the innumerable tourist resorts to the Petra Valley. We payed 23 EUR for one day, but in hindsight it was very much worth it. A pleasant morning sun escorted us into the valley.

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    Koko: Petra is guarded by an impressive 1200 metre-long canyon, and because of the early hour, we were the only souls to walk through this magnificent red-pink mass of rocks. At the end of the tunnel, one of the most impressive and dramatic views of this world unfolded before our eyes: A huge temple carved out of solid rock, well known for its presence in one of the Indiana Jones' movies.

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    I saw myself entering the temple, avoiding all boobytraps, together with my prescious, beautiful, but totally useless female assistant; i woke up from that dream when i saw that the temple was just a facade, and some camel let one drop before my nose.

    Koko: The valley unfolded before our eyes, with its numerous carved tombs and scattered villages. We climbed one side of the valley, to arrive at a gigantic monastery, also carved completely from the solid rock. This building measured at least 50x50 metres and these dimensions can only really be grasped in real life. We walked around the site for the rest of the day, and totally knackered we arrived back in our hotel. Without any doubt, this had been one of the greatest experiences of this trip.

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    On the twentieth day, we descended to the Red Sea, with huge lorries overtaking us at more than 120kph...crazy fools. We made a left, going straight into the desert to look for Wadi Rum, where the allmighty 'Lawrence of Arabia' was filmed. It was a pitty to see that the mass-tourist-industry had infested this area as well, and prohibited us from entering the beautiful canyon on our bikes. Apparently only 4x4's could enter, but a little later on, we heard that this was just a trick to get you to hire one...too late though, as we were already in Sudan by then. ;-)

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    Koko: We took a little detour through the desert to at least digest the trip to Wadi Rum a bit better, and then we moved on to Aqaba, the Jordan equivalent of Eilat in Israel, and Sharm El Sheik in Egypt. We took our passports to the Egyptian consul to have 'em stamped, and went looking for the ferry terminal, to get some tickets to make the crossing to the land of the farao's. This was the only - expensive - way out for us, because of the tension between Israel and the muslim countries. An israelian stamp in our passport would mean we wouldn't be allowed to enter the 100% muslim Sudan.
    During our evening walk - we were finally travelling through some warmer countries to allow for evening walks - we met Ian, a Palestine refugee; he invited us for tea, and explained us the whole situation. In the end, he tried to convert us to the Muslim Religion, but that didn't matter, we had a great night out with him.

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    We got up that next morning, totally relaxed, nut in a rush at all, untill we arrived at the Egyptian consulate: our visa weren't stamped because we didn't pay right away the day before! The clerk didn't find it logical that we would pay anyhow as we had to get our passports back! The tension was rising in that little room - Koko was almost boiling over at that point - but the consuls' little helper didn't feel like hurrying for us. 'It's your problem, not mine' he told us, and went back to the coffee-room, where he chatted away with his lazy little friends.
    After half an hour, the nitwit came out again, with a proposterous proposition: we could have our stamped passports at 1 p.m., but our ferry was leaving at noon! Koko exploded and went outside to cool down. When he went back inside, we both took position at the desk so noone could be served untill we were. The long waiting built up a bit of tension inside me as well, and i let it all out in the form of a real loud 'n' stinky fart. We were both rolling on the floor laughing while the green cloud entered the clerk's booth. We were in trouble now!
    After an hour and a half, finally somebody came out, and was willing to help us, while the other staff did nothing but laugh at us. We raced off to the ferry terminal, crowded by incompetent staff: we were sent from numerous Ahmeds to Hassans and back, wrong details were filled out, the payments were mistaken, but in the end we made it.
    #16
  17. wreckah

    wreckah Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2005
    Oddometer:
    112
    Location:
    Mayo Country (Belgium)
    Koko: We descended from the boat, and immediately stumbled upon another paper hell: Egyptian customs. There was one officer helping us though: we were queuing up for 10 minutes to get a little stupid white paper, which needed to be stamped 100 metres further, and then returned again to be swapped with a pink slip. We were charged 7 EUR for 4 copies of this important document, and the handling of carnets de passage - which should allow cheap and fast border crossings - costed us each 38 EUR.
    After an eternity, we got the piece the resistance: Egyptian numberplates. Not one, but two. We tie-rapped the plates to our bikes, and were getting ready to enter Egypt. Not before we were checked two more times though, and we were fully documented in very very important books.
    We cheered up at the thought of no border crossings for 3 weeks, and a few leisure days in the hippie-paradise Dahab. We left Nuweiba, and rode through a beautiful canyon to Dahab.

    Koko: Instantly we forgot all about the missed opportunity in Wadi Rum, because this canyon was amazing. We arrived in Dahab at dawn, but discovered that there wasn't much left from the leisurely laid-back surfers' paradise that was once this little village. The relaxed atmosphere, the cosy bedouin-pillowed terraces, ...all gone and turned into cheap commercial tourist stuff.
    We checked in 'Alaska Camp' - what's in a name - and attacked the restaurant just across the street, on the seaside. After the ordeal at the Egyptian border we were easily seduced by the western menu. We both drank 2 large jugs of beer, but it didn't go down all that well, so we decided to live like proper Muslims the next couple of days.

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    We spent 3 days filled with emptyness in Dahab. Cleaning the bikes, writing updates, smoking shisha and snorkling were the highlights of this laid-back time in our trip. Mind you, that wasn't a bad thing. We both needed to calm down after the nerve-wrecking first leg of our trip, and we both spent some time alone as well, though i missed Koko more than i felt the need to be by myself. We are so unlike eachother, but still there is this great chemistry between the two of us. I enjoyed snorkling in the all natural aquarium that is the Red Sea, but i would have preferred if my buddy would have been there as well.

    We are real men, and typically real men don't fix things if they aren't broke, so we spent all of our meals at the same restaurant, because we simply enjoyed it very much the first time. Hamburgers, fruit juices, ice cream and shisha formed the base of a great meal, morning, noon and evening. :-)

    Koko: The pace had dropped significantly and we enjoyed not riding for a couple of days. Still, being underway is more exciting than doing absolutely nothing, so we found ourselves on the road to Cairo. We made a quick fuelstop (at 25cents/litre) and took off for a long stint through the Sinai-desert. We were stopped every 5 minutes for passportcontrol though. It was clear that whoever owned the Sinai also owned the Suez Canal, one of the most important traffic-routes in the world, and those 2 dangerous bikers needed to be watched closely! We paused for a while at the Saint-Catherine Monastery, but didn't enter this tourist-trap.

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    The perfectly smooth patch of asphalt curled through the stupendously beautiful Sinai, surely one of the scenic highlights on this trip. Sharp rocks, sandy dunes and dusty plains turned into lushes oasises, and vice versa. Fantastic.

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    Koko: After a 560kms ride, we arrived in Cairo. Twenty million inhabitants, and there's no way in denying this: extremely busy, noisy, filthy, smoggy, etc...

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    For a moment, i thought i could find my way through this maze, but we found ourselves completely lost after maybe 5 minutes. Once again we asked a cab driver for help, and once again a superfun pursuit led us to our hotel for the following 2 nights: The Ramses Hilton Cairo!!

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    Koko: We ignored the no-parking sign, and put our filthy bikes in the vallet-parking-spot and walked into the hotel. An anonymous friend had made this luxurious stay possible for us, but there seemed to be some problems at the desk. The friend had registered in his name, and the clerk wouldn't give the room to us... After a whole lot of discussing and some emotional blackmailing, we finally were cleared, and checked in to our first ever topclass hotel.

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    We slept on real beds for a change, under real blankets, and watched through double-glazed windows at the phenomenal panaorama of the Nile. Breakfast was included, and that meant we could stock up for the rest of day. We left our stinky boots on the terrace outside, watched english broadcasting and washed up in a real bath and shower. If only Paris could come over, and kiss us goodnight...

    Koko: Manneke got acquainted with some motorcycle-buddies in Dahab, and their collegues would come over and pick up the bikes for maintenance. The lads took off with the two AT's, suspiciously quickly, but what's life without a little bit of trust now and then.
    Our first touristic activity was to visit the citadel, but there were hundreds of Egyptians waiting at the entrance. White men get full priority over here apparantely, because without asking, a policeman guided us through the masses. Once inside we couldn't quite figure out why so many people wanted to visit this place: the museum housed a boring display of military props, which didn't interest us one bit. We decided to go to Khan Al Khalili instead, the biggest souk in Cairo. It was also the busiest souk in cairo, and after an hour of pushing, shoving and pulling, we summoned a cabdriver to take us to the Pyramids of Gizeh. The driver didn't understand one word of English, and had quite a hard time comprehending where we wanted to go to: com'on, what's big, triangular, and in Cairo???

    When he finally understood us, he drove all the way through town with us, and tried to rip us off by broad daylight. Koko is not an easy person to rip off though, so he got the driver to drop us off at the pyramids for next to nothing. The cab drove off in a raging fury looking for easier targets, while we dragged our smiling faces up the hill.

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    Koko: You have to see the pyramids in real life to grasp the vast scale of them. They're simply monumental and overwhelming, but everything around it seemed like a wastedump. We had noticed this before when visiting historic sites in Syria, Jordan: there just isn't as much respect for their heritage as we have in our own country.

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    #17
  18. wreckah

    wreckah Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2005
    Oddometer:
    112
    Location:
    Mayo Country (Belgium)
    Anyway, back to our hotel, this time with a bus: the driver really showed us another side to public transport: he slalommed through the chaotic traffic like a mad man, he overtook just about everything, left and right, and used the horn almost continuously (which made him faster still, of course ;-) ).
    Our second night at the Hilton, and we enjoyed the room to the fullest: we slept for 12 hours, and attacked the breakfast like hungry wolves.

    We stayed another 2 days in the capital of Egypt because our bikes weren't ready yet, and the embassy of Sudan was closed. We moved our gear from the exquisite Hilton to a shabby hotel across the street, and went out to visit the Egyptian Museum.
    What a disseappointment that was! The museum was nothing more than a dusty old closet full of tombstones, bracelets and statues from a long and forgotten past. The only thing worth visiting was the mask of Tutanchamon, so we left the museum and observed some tourists instead...our favourite pass-time.

    Koko: We went to the old district of Cairo to have a taste of the real city-life, and so we soon found ourselves walking among donkeys, grocery stalls and loitering egyptians. Afterwards, we endured another hefty walk to Coptic Cairo, the old Christian part of this amazing city. In the evening we met up with a few locals, and supportered for the Egyptian soccer team in a little tea-shaq. Egypt-Ivory Coast apparently was the topper of the African LEague.
    The next morning we tried another time to visit the Sudanese Embassy, and we were lucky. Within 2 hours we got our passports stamped, but there was a downside: We had to pay 100$ each to get into Sudan, which is one of the poorest countries in the world.

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    We spent the rest of the day hanging around, getting bored. We felt like riding again. We dragged ourselves to a 'classy' restaurant, and ordered the most expensive meal on the menu: Cow-knees with rice. We would have killed for a MacD right then!
    We picked up our bikes the next morning, and even though they had a few extra unwanted miles on the clock, they were in good nick.

    Koko: Yasser and his friend not only did an oil change, and a repadding of the brake pads, but also changed the worn street tires with our brand new Michelin Deserts, which are pure offroad tires. It was the first time on knobbies for the both of us, and combined with the greasy tarmac in Cairo, this meant that we were riding like two old grannies. Every turn was a scary experience...you could feel the tires slide, even with the slightest leanangle or a simple change of lanes on the highway. Luckily this feeling was quite progressive, and we could tell when enough was enough. We made one last stop at the pyramids before setting off to Marsah Matrouh.

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    It was some 500kms northbound, back to the Mediterranean, along the most boring highways, littered with resorts and industrial complexes. We arrived before sundown, had a nice stroll along the deepblue sea, and found a cosy little restaurant to finish the day in style.

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    Koko: In the morning, we were served breakfast in bed, but there was little romantic about it: brown beans in some dark sauce, and coffee that tasted like paint-thinner. On to Siwa then!

    It was a 300km stint to this oasis, dead in the middle of the Egyptian Sahara desert. We would have made great time if only the mechanic on duty didn't have such a bad day: i struggled for almost 2 hours with a broken clutch cable...We fought the straight tarmac road, and the full-on headwind all the way to Siwa.

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    Koko: I was here 6 years ago, and then there were lots of signs on the side of the road, warning us for minefields. Libya isn't that far away, and they don't trust Kadhafi over here...Anyway, everything seemed nice and clear now, but that's not what they told us in Siwa: apparently all the signs were gone, but the mines weren't! That could've been a nasty pee-break a couple of hours ago then. We struggled so hard with the headwind that our mileage went down big time. We were out of petrol about 10kms before Siwa. Luckily we decided to fill the jerrycans before our departure in Marsah!

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    We soon found the 'Palm Tree Hotel', but it was in such an state of despair, that we refused to sleep in our room, and decided to sleep under the stars in the bedouin-tent outside. The Egyptian youth was on holiday there though, so we didn't sleep at all, but that didn't really matter anymore. We had a wonderful day ahead!

    We promised ourselves a day of real offroad testing around Siwa before we would take the plunge and ride through the desert for real. The Egyptian authorities had other ideas though: they decided that we needed a permit to ride to the next oasis tomorrow, and so once again they dragged us from office to office, spread out all over town. This administrative work costed us almost the whole day, but luckily we were in good company: a couple of friendly German RV-tourists were doing the same route tomorrow.

    Koko: For starters, we had to pay 10$ at the bank. We only had Egyptian pounds and Euros though, but thought that changing money wouldn't be an issue in a bank. Errr, i guess it was an issue after all. For some strange reason, the clerk could change euros into pounds, but not into dollars. When we asked if we could change the pounds into dollars afterwards, he said no. In the end we had to change the money with our new German friends to fullfill the absurd demand. Then we were sent to the other part of town, where we had to get a stamp from the tourist police. Then we had to make 9 copies from that little document. On to the grocery shop, which hosted the only copier in town, and back to the tourist police. After an hour or so, the officer found out he'd written the wrong date on the little paper, so we had to do the whole thing once more...bureaucracy can drive people mad!

    It was late in the afternoon when we finally took our bikes to the Sea of Sand to do some real offroading. We wanted to be trained for the next day, so we were quite excited!

    6 minutes later, both the Africa twins were burried axle-deep into the soft sand and we had both already taken off all our riding gear because digging is a sweaty job. :-)

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    I managed to clear my bike from the driftsand, and pinned the throttle to get to a harder part of the Sea of Sand. Koko wanted to do the same thing, but right at that time, his bike shut off and wouldn't start again. I headed back into town, and brought back a cable to pull koko out. I towed him to the hotel, and together we started dismantling the bike to search for the fault. We didn't find it, and after a while we asked for help at the local bush-mechanic. This probably was the only man in the whole of Egypt with a fantastic logical mind. In about 15 minutes time, he had diagnosed the problem, and already taken out the culprit: a broken fuelpump. Another 5 minutes later he had already fixed the damn thing, using nothing more than his bare hands, his teeth and a small piece of sanding paper...unbelievable! We awarded him with a double salary: about 4 EUR! :-)

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    Koko: we were ready for the big challenge now.
    #18
  19. wreckah

    wreckah Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2005
    Oddometer:
    112
    Location:
    Mayo Country (Belgium)
    We left Siwa at 7.30 in the morning, together with the four German Campers. We needed to cover about 440kms, of which some 250kms would be very difficult. I went down nearly 5 times in the first 20 kms: deep sand and overloaded bikes don't work that well together. I lost courage for a moment, thinking i would never make it, but then the roads cleared up a bit, and we could make some progress. The patches of really deep sand did stay very treacherous though, and i did finally drop the bike. It wouldn't have been be the last time on the trip!

    Koko: Manneke lost it very slowly in some really deep sand, and i helped him get the bike back upright. A couple of minutes later, it was my turn: the bike skidded away from me, but i managed to set my foot, barely keeping the bike from touching the ground. There i stood then: couldn't lift the bike back up, couldn't move my leg, couldn't do anything really! Luckily Manneke jumped off his bike and came to the rescue. The hardest part was yet to come...

    After about 200kms, the road diseappeared completely, and turned into a real offroad track, and right away a gigantic washboard doomed up in front of us: every 0,5 metre, there was a 'wave' in the surface of maybe 20cms high, and this continued for 100's of metres...unrideable.

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    Koko: These ridges in the road not only shook the riders into a pulp, but loosened all the bolts on the bikes as well. Why o why didn't we go tu Aruba and have a coctail at the beach?

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    The first washing boards were done at 5km/h, but Koko convinced me to try the 'other method'. He flew past me, nailing the throttle, and after a couple of try-outs, we managed to 'hover' over the rippling surface at nearly 100kph! This was really an amazing experience for the both of us. We're so used to having solid ground under our sticky road-rubber, that it really feels alienesque to hover and skid over these roads at such high speeds. It feels supersmooth, as the wheels don't have the time to sink into the 'valleys' between the ridges. It must be better for the bikes as well. Mind you, riding at these speeds over unknown territory is quite dangerous: you never know how deep the next pothole, or how big that rock in the middle of the road is. We had some strong windgusts from the side too, and that made for a lively rear-end of the bike. Woo-hoow, we're drifting!

    Just before sundown, we arrived at the final control booth (with a 1.5hrs lead over the Germans) where the friendly guards served us tea. While we were sipping away at the warm sugarwater, the guards were showing off their ballet-techniques (some would call it karate-moves) on eachother. We wandered what these guys were doing when there was noone passing by in 10 days... In Baharija, we found a hotel called 'Ahmed Safari Park': there wasn't much safari nor park to this place, but we didn't care, we had had a brilliant day!

    The next day, we rode to a special part of the Sahara, named 'The White Desert', and pitched our tents for the first time on this trip. It was a gorgeous campsite, between the beautiful rockformations of white chalk, eroded by the wind.

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    Koko: We went for a walk in the deserted moonlike landscape, and afterwards we took off the front wheel of Manneke's bike to check the speedo pickup. Manneke had lost his speedometer and odometer readings a while ago. The plastic gear was completely worn out, so we concentrated on something else: preparing our delicious dinner of greasy tuna in motoroil, spungy bread, plastic goatcheese, and a drop of water...yummy! Hundreds of flies circled around us and our heavenly food.

    It was a cold night of camping, but the millions of stars and the moon-landscape made everything worthwhile. We slept from dusk till dawn...some 13-odd hours! Our next destination was Dhachla, the third oasis on our little desert adventure.

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    Koko: The road was monotonous and boring, and so we amused ourselves by unauthorized riding away from police-checkpoints, looking at the stunned faces behind us :-) In Dhachla, we found a deserted campsite with cabins, where Hani passed the time waiting for accidental passers-by. He made a bonfire, boiled litres of tea, and prepared a shitload of shisha for us, while we tried to build a conversation both in English and Arabic.
    During the night, we were attacked by millions of mosquitoes. At around 3.30, Manneke had to get up for a pee, but saw the door falling into the lock behind him, with the key still inside. No more mosquitoes going inside, but the same was true for Manneke. He had to wake up Hani, who had to break the lock after half an hour of trying to open it. Manneke stumbled back into the room, shivering, and pale from the freezing temps outside.

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    This was all very much forgotten, when Hani took us to the hotwatersprings nearby the next morning. We walked through Hani's irrigated fields amidst the sandy dunes, and arrived at our steaming hot sulferous morning bath. The diesel-powered generator - used to pump out the water - took away a bit of the romantic atmosphere though. ;-) We washed off the smell of rotten egs, and set off to El Kharga. We left the friendly housekeeper behind in all loneliness...We rode for 200kms that day, but when we sat down at night, to write in our daily diaries, none of us could remember anything apart from the vast monotony of the desert. We both loved it.
    #19
  20. wreckah

    wreckah Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2005
    Oddometer:
    112
    Location:
    Mayo Country (Belgium)
    We rode at a constant pace of 70km/h to preserve our knobby tires on the hot tarmac, and at that speed, in the middle of the desert, without any curves or bends, there was nothing more to do than slowly dream away - of our girlfriends for example, we both had it bad that day. Then i woke up:

    Koko: At the last checkpoint before El Kharga, we received an escort of no less than 4 police officers in an old Peugeot patrol car. Tourist safety is a very delicate issue in Egypt.

    Koko pinned it, and spat away from the checkpoint because he didn't like the idea of 4 chaperones for the rest of our stay. I remembered some of the encounters i had with our friends in blue in Belgium, so i took it easier. It was clear that we couldn't shake off our followers, and decided to put them to good use:

    Koko: We asked the coppers to lead us to a good hotel to save us some time, and so they did. The clerk from the hotel had to write down our complete agenda for that day so that the boys in blue knew where and when we would be. We asked for permission to use the bathroom at 5 p.m. but the clerk didn't really get the joke.
    We went into town, with our unsuspicious escort behind us, almost surreal! We spent 3 hours in the local internet-cafe while our babysitters were outside, baking in the sun. Part of job apparently, because they weren't complaining. We grabbed a bite to eat in the local restaurant, and when we got outside to offer the boys a coke, we saw them eating dry rice out of a big tub in the trunk! They shared the only spoon they had, and left the piece of soupmeat untouched.

    The last leg of the desertrally started off with a ride through the 60km-long oasis, followed by a 300km stint through deserted plains. Then we saw the landscape changing before our eyes: we descended into a Wadi, and after a couple of corners, we saw the fertile stretch of the Nile before us.

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    It lay in between two walls of dry yellow rock, the contrast couldn't be greater. We rode untill we reached the western bank, and asked for directions to Luxor. We had better asked for a 2nd and third opinion, because we were sent in the complete opposite direction of the tourist-capital of the world. We made a U-turn, and found a large bridge crossing the Nile, leading us right into the heart of Luxor.

    Koko: Immediately, we went looking for information about the obligatory convoy to the south. We walked all over town, took one little bus after the other, tried to explain our quest in more than one police-office, but all that didn't seem necessary in the end. We only needed to be in the right place at the right time to be in the convoy.

    We found our way to this little hotel where koko stayed a couple of years ago, and went searching for his favourite restaurant: 'Pub 2000'. During the whole trip, Koko had convinced me that they served the most succulent steak in the world, so my expectations were high. We found the place, and both of us ordered the biggest steak available, with fries of course. It tasted deliciously, more so because we could wash it down with big beers!

    Koko: Our second day in Luxor brought us back to the West Bank. We rode there in our T-shirts, and without helmets...squiddy we know, but who cares, you only live once. We visited the 'Valley Of Kings', but it was winterseason, and thus most of the large tombs were closed. We climbed one of the steep hills of the Valley, and when we made it to the top, we saw the majestuous Temple Of Hatseptut laying on the opposite side, looking down on the Nile. It was here that 50 people were killed in a terrorsit attack in the nineties.

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    This temple is one of the few architectural realisations which blend in perfectly in their surrounding. The tight straight lines of the building melt together sublimely with the 1000 metre high wall of rocks behind it. From its multiple plateaus and terraces you look down on the fertile Nile-delta. You couldn't dream of a prettier setting.

    Koko: We were in awe of this building, but at the same disgusted by the nearly naked tourists which came off the cruiseships, and were brought over here like cattle. Those are the exact same kind of people who say that immigrants should adapt to their culture at home, but fail to do so when they invade a country with completely different habits and values.
    We noticed that we left our bikes at the other side of the hill, so once again we set off for a couple of sweaty hours of climbing. Still catching our breath, we returned to Luxor, where we found the Great Temple.

    It was spoiled somewhat with the presence of a MacDonalds right in front of it, but we couldn't resist temptation. The burgers tasted heavenly. It wasn't the only time we visited the MacD in Luxor...it was simply too easy and too nice to stay away from it; we would encounter a lot of hungry days in the future, so we didn't feel too guilty about the whole thing.

    Koko: At night, we watched the semi-finals of the Africa Soccer Cup, together with a couple hundred Egyptians. The faraos won, and the little square in front of our hotel turned into a feasting crowd. If Egypt wins the final the day after tomorrow, then we would probably get out of this country unscaved because they would have forgotten then what was really on their minds: the Mohammed-cartoon-scandal had just exploded, and we felt a bit uneasy walking past the demonstrations the last couple of days...

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    The next day, we visited the Temple of Karnak, but we weren't too impressed by it: we had seen too many great buildings and temples by then. We did what we always did when bored: examine the tourists and comment on them. The Russians seemed to be the new bread of tasteless rich people... In the afternoon, we booked a felucca. (This is a little sailing boat which goes up and down the Nile.) This proved to be harder than we thought: the pushy sellers smelled the money, and a simple 'La, Shokran' ('No, Thank You') didn't work anymore. Koko almost had a fight with one of the impolite punks, but luckily he decided to be the better man, and shake hands. One intelligent shipsman stood and watched the whole show from the side, and of course it was him that took us for a little cruise down the Nile.

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    Koko: The traditional boat, with one large sail took us to Banana Island, where our captain tried to convince us that Al Quaida was doing the right thing. We were shocked and disgusted, and asked the man to take us back to Luxor. He tried to laugh it away, as it was a joke or something, but the tense atmosphere stayed for the rest of the boatrip.

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    Back to Luxor then, where we were starting to be fed up with all the 'baksheesh' (begging for money). We still had 4 days to go in this tourist trap before our ferry to Sudan would leave.
    #20