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Kenya

Friday, December 5th, 2008
Kenya 

 

 

Thursday 18 November

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is fairly little to say about our drive down to Nairobi.  The first 500km from Moyale to Isiolo is crap dirt road, which we were at least prepared for.  However, the constant rattling and pummelling, resulted in Bob’s power steering pump packing up, which we got a quick fix repair for at the end of our first day of driving and will have to see how long this holds out before the expense of a new one.  Then after day two we spent hours replacing worn bushes on the rear shocks and seals on the two front wheels, leaving only cracked rear shock brackets and an exhaust bracket to weld in Nairobi.

Felicity was also not feeling great and driving on rubbish roads in the heat and then late nights while we worked on the vehicle was not what she needed.  So all in all we were relieved to finally be in the green and almost English countryside suburbs to the north of Nairobi where we met with some of our colleagues today and had a very welcome and delicious steak dinner to finish the day off.

Friday 19 November

We spent the day visiting a local hospital and orphanages.  The backgrounds of some of the kids who are supported and cared for here are truly horrific and unimaginable!  The kids themselves are generally very friendly and happy; their big smiles covering up deep scars.

At the end of the day we made the short drive to Lake Nakuru National Park.

Saturday 20 November

An early start to the day for a morning game drive.  Nakuru is quite a small park set around the lake, but its combination of open areas, fever tree forests and rocky ridges make it attractive. In addition to the thousands of pelicans and flamingos that Nakuru is well-known for, we had seen plenty of buffalo and rhino, some spotted hyena, hippos and a large number and good diversity of general game animals by lunch time.

We then went up to Baboon Cliffs picnic site, which has a great view over the lake, for a braai (BBQ) and with the intention of relaxing for a few hours.  Lunch was great, but our cooking and Bob drew the attention of a number of the other visitors who had come to take photos from the lookout.  Bob (and to a lesser extent us) now has his photo with a number of random people from various countries.

The food also drew the attention of a large troop of very persistent and quite aggressive baboons.  They managed, through a series of raids, to steal lunches and picnics off a number of people’s tables, tore bags from a couple of people’s hands and raided a couple of cars.  However, Marc sat with his knobkiri (club) and the occasional swing, or movement, when they looked like they were going to mount an attack seemed to be enough to convince them that he may use it and that beefburger and sausage for today’s lunch may not be worth the risk.

 

 

After a bit of searching in the afternoon we found an adult male lion and lioness mating near the lake.  A great sighting and for quite a while with no other vehicles there.

Sunday 23 November

Today’s game drive took us into a herd of Buffalo, who didn’t look too pleased that we were there as they gradually inched closer to the vehicle looking like they were about to charge!

We headed for West Kenya in the afternoon and to a rural village called Kimili where we visited a community outreach project.  This is a great project and both of us were very impressed with the work that they are doing and how sustainable it is.  Felicity had to fight back tears when we visited one house (mud hut), where 8 young boys live whose parents had died of AIDS and they were left to fend for themselves. The house they lived in was tiny and had next to nothing in it.  The project was helping to fund their schooling, had given them a guardian who would help to look after them and provided them with the basics that they needed to survive.  Other great work that they did involved putting in water springs, so that the villages could access clean water, building homes and also running a vocational centre to teach skills, so that they could earn an income and provide for their families. Marc had visited the project a few years ago, so it was nice to return and see the difference that the project had made in the local community.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ethiopia

Monday, November 24th, 2008

 

Monday 3 November

Once the customs guy was up we were first in the queue, due to the fact that Bob was parked directly outside his office door and we got all our necessary bits of paper stamped in record time and unusually with no entry fees to pay!  Thousands of people were now crossing between the border towns again to cut deals; many with donkeys, some with wheelbarrows and many with a bag of all their belongings trying to find work.

The road to Gonder was very rough, apart from a couple of short sections, and Bob once again got everything shaken to pieces.  It was a really beautiful drive as we climbed through the hills; incredibly green and lush after the rains and a striking contrast to the dryness of Sudan.  The animals also got fatter and healthier looking too, which we were both pleased about, obviously from an animal welfare perspective, but also as we were craving a steak!

We arrived in Gonder around lunch time and driving through town, many young boys run at the car shouting ‘I have a message from your friends’ and try and take you to a hotel, so that they can get a small commission from the owners for taking you there.  One guy jumped on the side of the car and took us to Belegez Pension where we could camp for the night.  It was a very clean and friendly place and in a good central location.  We wandered into town surrounded by our new found ‘friends’.  Obviously, they are all keen to make a little commission on whatever they may be able to assist you with, but knowing this we quickly found them to be a great bunch of guys, who would look out for you and were very helpful.

We headed to the office to meet our new project partners in Ethiopia and begin the ‘work’ part of our trip.

Tuesday 4 November

We took the road north today to the Simien Mountains National Park a couple of hours from Gonder.  It is compulsory to be accompanied by an armed scout in the park, who has a good knowledge of the mountains and to offer protection from hyenas or any other dangers!  Ours spoke no English (which is usual), seemingly had had even fewer showers than we had in the last few months, but turned out to be a very dedicated and kind guy!  We also took a guide called Yirga with us, despite our reservations after Libya. 

The Simien Mountains was breathtaking, not only because of the amazing views, but also due to the altitude.  It is one of those places that cannot really be captured on photos, or video, but which you need to see for yourself.  We parked up at Sankaber and our guide took us on a 3 hour walk to a waterfall and to see the Gelada baboons.  It was a fantastic hike and very welcome after so many days sat in the car driving with little exercise.  On the hike we came across several troops of baboons.  These were good looking baboons compared with the better known red sore-bottomed varieties.  Their long flowing hair and relaxed and non-aggressive temperaments meant you could sit in the middle of a group, totally surrounded, as they just carried on feeding on the grass.  Our guide was brilliant and shared Marc’s enthusiasm for bird watching!

During the day in the mountains the weather is beautiful.  However, particularly at this time of year, as soon as the sun goes in, the temperature suddenly drops to just above freezing.  We had a nice evening with a beautiful view, but retired to the warmer shelter of our tent nice and early.  There was a shelter where the guides and scouts could sleep, but ours, ever loyal, decided that he would sleep in the most uncomfortable looking bush that he could find near to our car.  We tried to tell him he should sleep with the others, but he seemed set on the bush he had found!

Wednesday 5 November

We were up early and drove about an hour further up the mountains to Chenek campsite.   We think the rough roads may have taken their toll on Bob, as he was having trouble getting up the hills and kept losing power when we started out.  We made it to Chenek and began our 6 hour hike to the second highest point in the park (4430m).  The altitude was really telling and every step you took you were out of breath, heart pounding to get the little oxygen around your body.  As we climbed up we saw more baboons and Ibex too.  It was well worth it when we finally got to the top and rewarding, as it was challenging to keep going in the altitude, as we neared the peak.  However, Felicity’s turned a bit white, due to the lack of oxygen, and her desire to be sick meant we headed back down fairly quickly to get some oxygen back in her! 

Back close to the car we sat again with a group of baboons and watched the young ones playing and jumping up on a ridge and pulling each other off by their tails.  We returned to the camp and wrapped up warm for another chilly evening.  Our scout indicated to us he was a bit cold and wanted something to wrap himself in.  We gave him our groundsheet and once again instead of going to the warmer area where the others were, he crawled into his favourite uncomfortable bush.  About an hour later and after much rustling of the tarpaulin he had made himself quite a cosy little den, tying the groundsheet up with vines and was settled for the night.

Thursday 6 November

We set off early, as today and Friday we were visiting many schools and community projects around Gonder. 

We sat in on a secondary school lesson with 60-80 kids in one class and bizarrely enough a huge plasma screen at the front of the classroom began to the play the lesson.  We were really shocked by this method of teaching.  All the lessons for secondary school kids in Ethiopia have been recorded by South African teachers and are then broadcast from Addis Ababa to large satellite dishes installed at each school and played on Japanese plasma screens at set times.  It was such an awful way to teach – firstly the transmission was down initially, so we missed the start of the lesson, then the remote control for the screen had been lost, so the volume could not be adjusted and we could not hear; there is not stop, rewind, or fastforward!  The timing of the voice and the speakers lips were about a minute out of synch, so making it even more difficult to follow.  Every now and then the plasma teacher would tell the actual teacher to ensure the students discuss certain things, or give answers, and a clock would appear in the corner of the screen and start to count down, 60, 59, 58, 57…..  The human teacher appeared not to really understand the plasma teacher either and so this resulted in the kids just watching the screen and the clock counting down.  Apparently this system was put in place to ensure that all pupils received the same standard of teaching, but it certainly seemed to have a few short fallings to us!

Friday evening, after a long day, we heard our biker friends, who we had travelled with a bit in Egypt and Sudan were in town, so we headed out for dinner and a few drinks to catch up on everyone’s stories and events in Sudan.

Monday 10 November

We drove to Bahir Dar on Saturday and spent the weekend camped at Hotel Ghion on the edge of Lake Tana.  On Sunday we took a half-day boat tour, mainly for the boat tour itself and the possibility of seeing hippos, which we did see.  However, there was the additional attraction of visiting five of the monasteries on the lake’s islands and shores.  We paid the additional fee to enter one of these, which was enough for us to get the gist.  It was apparently the most famous and best example of a mud rondavel, with a corrugated tin roof dating back to the fourteenth century and complete with ancient chandeliers.  To be fair the paintings on the walls on the inside were quite impressive, but when we got to the last monastery it looked a little more like a school project.

Today we spent visiting some local schools, which had a striking and slightly sad contrast in standard, numbers and funding.

Wednesday 12 November

The scenery as you drive across Ethiopia changes considerably, although always surprisingly green, and we enjoyed this on our drive to Addis yesterday, but the Blue Nile Gorge was by far the most dramatic part of the journey.  This was not so much due to the scenery, as we wound our way down the long snaking road to the base of the gorge, but more our brakes failing about half way down, as Marc’s foot suddenly went flat to the floor with no response.  Pumping frantically on the brakes, throwing it into first and Felicity jamming on the hand brake resulted in a wildly veering recovery, not far from the cliff edge.

Regaining some composure, the decision was taken to try to make a very slow descent to the bridge at the bottom, with Felicity holding the stick in first and ready with the hand brake (as Bob likes to jump out of first gear on hills) and Marc constantly pumping the brakes to some effect.  Those who have seen Marc play Olympics on games consoles will appreciate the kind of effort and sweat that went into this!

We made the bottom though and after a couple of calls on the sat phone and vague communication with the armed guards we had located a mechanic for the company that was working on construction of a new bridge, who did enough to get us on our way to Addis.

Realising that 12,000km and the bad roads in Ethiopia was starting to take its toll on Bob we spent today getting a full service done and replacing the km clock cable, as we now had no counter, or speedometer.

Thursday 13 November

We had hoped to leave Addis today and head for the Bale Mountains, but Bob was still sick and struggled to get up the fairly gentle slope out of the hotel carpark, coughing up huge clouds of black smoke.  The whole day was spent trying to get the injectors cleaned; the only positive being that the work only cost about £3.50!

Friday 15 November

We knew that it would be a long day’s drive from Addis to Bale Mountains NP, but we hadn’t accounted for the last 150km being by far the worst road we had yet driven.  After Sheshemene, Rasta capital of Ethiopia, where the local touts have adopted Jamaican accents and try to sell you gange man, we turned off the tar and took a further 5 hours on this relatively short stretch!  Oh, if we’d only bought some of that gange man, things may have been so sweet!

The state of the road is probably not what will stay with us longest though.  As we passed through one of the quite pretty little villages we approached a man with his donkey, stood on an open grassy area, close to the road and not that far from a small group of children. As we got closer he did seem extremely close to his donkey and then we realised, in total disbelief, that he was actually trousers down and quite literally WITH his donkey!! We would like to draw some of you a more vivid picture, so you are left with a similarly disturbing mental image as we have, but it is probably not appropriate for some of the younger readers.  However, as he watched us pass there was absolutely no change in his work, or stroke, rate!

Sunday 16 November

We spent the first night in Bale camping behind the park headquarters in Dinsho, as we arrived after dark.  On Saturday we headed up to the Senetti Plateau in the mountains to do some hiking and look for the Ethiopian Wolf; Africa’s most endangered predator.

We enjoyed some slightly more relaxed hiking than in the Simiens, although overall the Bale Mountains are set at a little higher altitude and you can still feel it when you are walking.  Over the two days we had a few really good wolf sightings, saw other game and also some of the endemic birds, which Felicity was particularly thrilled about!

It was extremely cold in the mountains and we woke today to find everything covered in a thick white blanket of frost, which felt very unlike we were in Ethiopia.

Monday 17 November

We set off early from Dinsho with the intention of making it to the border town of Moyale, but after a quick lunch stop at the edge of the lake in Awasa and the usual slow progress on the better tarred road, due to the constant breaking or swerving for people, donkeys, goats, or potholes, we gave up the idea, stopping 200 km short at the Labello Motel.

Ethiopia is a very different country to that which most people would imagine and even if you are prepared for this, whatever your expectations, you are still likely to be at least a little surprised.  Yes, it can be hard work at times, but we found the effort it takes to explore Ethiopia very worthwhile. 

 

 

Sudan

Sunday, November 9th, 2008

Tuesday 28 October

We woke in our two bunk cabin shortly after sunrise and went up on to the deck to watch as we passed the Temple of Abu Simbel, which was raised stone by stone from the bed of the vast Lake Nasser, which flooded the entire area on which it stood when the Aswan Dam was constructed. Shortly after we crossed the border into Sudan.

At about 12.00, after 17 hours on the ferry, which passed quite quickly, we arrived at Wadi Halfa. We were met by Mazar Mahir (a fairly well-known ‘fixer’) on the ferry and he talked us through the entry procedure for Sudan. This all went pretty smoothly and our group of 11 were quickly ushered through customs. Outside was a line of Land Rovers, many elaborately decorated, but which made Bob look very young. After a short debate it was decided that all 11 of us and our luggage could be bundled into one and we were bounced off to what was described as one of the better hotels in town, which was romantically named the Deffintoad!

Basically there are no better hotels in Wadi Halfa - the rooms looked like a cell with very uncomfortable single beds in and nothing else. The toilets were also pretty rank and holding your breath well advised before entering. However, this was not unexpected, there was a light and roof fan that worked and for about £4.50 per room you can’t really complain.

Wednesday 29 October

With stiff backs we woke and at around 11:00 we heard the news that the barge was in, which was actually a little earlier than expected!  We hurried to the port and were pleased to see Bob still sat on top of the barge, although the captain joked a bit that he had been worried, as Bob was rolling backward and forward, because his hand brake doesn’t work too well. 

Again we had to wait, as the cars could not be driven off the barge until enough of the cargo had been unloaded that it sat high enough in the water to be level with the quay. Onions, sinks, fridges, onions… off they all came again in no real rush, and as alongside onions were loaded back onto another ship. Four hours later it was time to drive off, but, as we had already begun to realise during our wait, the deck was still well below the quay.  We were all particularly concerned about the height difference where Bob was to be driven off, due to his position on the barge, but the large bundles of sacks were stacked on the deck to try to bridge the gap, we put the diff lock on and Bob powered off the ferry with the locals cheering.

After some more formalities and paperwork largely dealt with by the ‘fixer’ (each stage of which always takes “5 minutes” in Egypt) we were on the road again and very ready to head into the desert to camp.  The group had decided to stick together as no one was going to get far that evening, so we nipped to the market to buy firewood and vegetables.  After some negotiation in what Arabic Marc could remember from when he was 7 and a little joking we had potatoes, onions and tomatoes to feed 11 for £4 and were off.  We found a lovely spot in the desert hidden behind a dune and set up camp for the night.  We had baked potatoes and onions in the fire and all that was really missing was some wine, as we sat under an amzing blanket of stars.

Thursday 30 October

We said our goodbyes early and headed off in the direction of Dongola, a little unsure how far we would get, due to the roads.  We had been told that the road was good and tar most of the way.  However, this quickly turned out not to be the case, as we were regularly diverted off for incomplete sections.  In fact, as we followed the Nile route through the villages we spent barely any time on hard surfaced roads, finding only sandy, bumpy tracks, which were slow going.  The contrasting lush green and dry desert scenery and little villages we passed through, as we navigated along the course of the Nile, more than made up for this.  The locals smiled and waved as we drove through villages, leaving a cloud of dust behind us. 

En route we picked up a local man who wanted to go to Dongola, which we later regretted.  As the road was not yet built there were a lot of detours and many different tracks through the villages to choose from.  Our hitch hiker kept trying to direct us, but we soon started to realise he didn’t know the way.  In one village though he insisted in tuts and grunts that we take a track, which on this occasion resulted in Bob getting completely stuck in the sand.  The talcum-powder fine dust came billowing up through the floor into the cab and totally covered us in a thick cloud, so that we couldn’t see.  When it settled we hopped out and set about our recovery with spade and sand ladders, eagerly assisted by some excited local children. Arse wipe, as we shall now refer to him, just watched and tutted! 

We had little success, as we were firmly wedged on the central ridge in the road and the wheels and sand ladders couldn’t get enough purchase in the fine dust.  It was time to step up a gear and we decided to break out the winching gear to the even greater approval of the kids.  The plan was to winch from a palm tree, but just in time a lorry came along the adjacent track, so we clipped on to the back and were easily pulled out.

Felicity tried to offer the kids some money for their help, having just left Egypt, where it would be expected, but they flatly refused, as is usual here in Sudan.  Arse wipe, however, did try to take it.

 Anyway, we decided to ditch AW ASAP and when we were quite lost trying to find Kerma, where a friendly local had suggested we could leave him, he finally got out.  Relieved we got back on track and pressed on, but unfortunately it was getting dark and we were not in a suitable place to bush camp. Eventually we had to concede that the road was too crap and we pulled off towards a line of lights to try to find a hospitable villager, as we had felt very safe and welcome in Sudan so far.  We quickly found a small group of men and through actions and poor Arabic they welcomed us to camp at an open area directly in front of their home.

They tried to invite us in to a courtyard area inside where there were some beds to sleep on, but we insisted we were happy in the tent.  We were then offered a shower, unsurprisingly, as we looked like sand monsters.  We were then offered tea and soon a gathering of local men of various ages had formed by the vehicle where we had put our chairs. Tea was brought in the finest china teapot with two cups and Marc sat on his chair, with them sat on the floor in front of him, as if waiting for some great wisdom, which never really came, as Felicity cooked tinned spaghetti for tea.

The evening turned out to be a very good one and the Sudanese hospitality very warm and friendly.

Friday 31 October

The finest tea pot was brought out again for us in the morning and again several villagers gathered near us to watch us like we were a show.  Unfortunately, the tea did not pour out of the pot easily initially, so one of the locals decided spitting and blowing down the spout would do the trick.  To be fair it did work and did add a little extra flavour to our tea! After travelling through the previous countries money was always expected and so after spending a little time with the lady of the family we offered her a small amount of money for their hospitality.  This was flatly refused, and as with all Sudanese people we met they see you as their guests and are very welcoming.  This was a pleasant change from the constant chant of  ‘baksheesh’ in Egypt.  We spent a little longer playing with her children and gave them some balloons and colouring pencils we had as a gesture.

We headed back to the road, which was now thankfully tar to Karima.  We drove past the pyramids there and then headed away from the Nile, through the desert, to Khartoum.  So far in the places we had travelled through in Sudan there had been little sign of conflict, or crisis, but we were soon reminded by the numerous UN vehicles in Khartoum.  We stayed the night at the Blue Nile sailing club, a nice place right on the river for a couple of nights.

Sunday 2 November

Saturday was a catch up day, including a much needed wash for us, our clothes and Bob.  We popped into see our ‘fixer’ at Wadi Halfa’s brother, who again was lovely and gave us food and drink as his guest, refusing to take any money.

Today we had a long drive of around 500 kms to the border.  We passed through several police check points on the way, which were always a little confusing as at each checkpoint there would usually be one official waving you on and smiling and the other frantically trying to stop you.  This generally resulted in the one who was trying to stop us getting told off by the others and us soon being allowed to continue.  We drove through Wad Medini where Marc’s granddad and mum used to live when she was about 3.  Today was probably the hottest day we have had so far and that on top of the engine heat that blows under your seat made for some very sweaty pants!

We had been warned that as you get closer to the Ethiopian border ‘shiftas’ (bandits) can be a problem and as we got nearer and the light started to fade we saw more and more military hiding in small groups in the bushes.  There were also more obvious armed points with jeeps carrying guns mounted on them that seemed to get bigger and bigger a bit like the ones you would expect to see the baddies in the A-team chasing around in!

The scenery gradually started to change as well as we approached Ethiopia making the drive more interesting and the desert that we had been so used to being in since Tunisia began to give way to rocky outcrops, hills and trees. 

The villages also became more typical east-African mud, wood and thatch huts.  We stopped to take a photo as we passed one large waterhole with a huge herd of camels resting at its far side watched by a small group of herdsmen. One of them with thick black dreads leapt up and started sprinting so quickly around the water he could have given Usain Bolt a run for his money and actually made us briefly shit ourselves that he was going to attack us.  About 5 meters from the vehicle he ground to a halt, stood bolt upright and grinned broadly for a photo.  He and one other less athletic runner then approached and looked with wonder at everything on and in the vehicle. ‘Linford’ gestured for a little water and when we gave him a half-full bottle he couldn’t believe it was all for him.  Maybe not surprising that this was so prized, as south Sudan is painfully dry and hot and we quite regularly passed dead livestock at the edge of the road.

It was getting late and dark as we approached the border town of Gallabat on the Sudan side and fairly quickly crossed the bridge to Metema on the Ethiopian side.  This was a strange border post, as there was nothing really to stop you driving through, or indicate where the appropriate immigration and customs buildings were.  Thousands of people were milling around and freely crossing back and forth, in what was essentially a bit of a no-man’s land where any type of ‘dodgy deal’ (trade) was allowed. 

In the dark on the Ethiopian side a woman shouted immigration to us and pointed vaguely where we should go.  We parked on an open patch and looked at her in confusion as we could not see any buildings.  After more pointing from her we walked along a lightly trodden path, through a gap in a corrugated fence and found a small mosquito filled hut, otherwise known as the immigration office.  By this time the customs guy had decided that he would stop working, so we would have to do customs the next morning.  We needed somewhere safe to camp and had been told we could do so behind customs.  After a little discussion with a few guys it was decided that actually right outside the customs office was the best place for us.  We were quickly met by the “hotel” owner who immediately offered us a welcome beer after the alcohol drought in Sudan and gave us a bit of background on Ethiopian life.

Four border guards, carrying automatic weapons, also appeared by our car as we set up camp for the night.  One of the guys who was sat on a chair beside Felicity had his gun resting pointing in her direction and another opposite enjoyed flicking his safety catch on and off repeatedly.  This was interesting, if not a little unnerving company, as we cooked and sat down to eat our spaghetti!   

We offered them some crackers and a couple of boiled sweets to keep on their good side and once we felt they were suitably buttered up asked if they wouldn’t mind posing for a photo with our hippo, Hilda.

Egypt

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

Thursday 16 October

In total it took us 3 hours to cross between Libya and Egypt.  With most of the 3 hours spent walking backward and forward between various buildings, huts and apparent bedrooms, handing scraps of paper from one person to the next.  Laughing about the also pretty pricey (E£1162 for customs, insurance and number plates) experience we were relieved to be back on the road again for the long drive to Alexandria.

We stayed at our first hotel, Union, as camping has been banned in and around Alexandria and while we felt a bit bad leaving Bob in the street it was nice to have a hot shower and sea-view balcony room. Felicity was also pleased it didn’t take half an hour unpack everything and find her pants!

We ended the evening on the balcony and watched a dramatic argument break out between a mature lady and guy. This went on for quite a while until it was brought to a definite conclusion when the guy, precariously sat on the edge of the sea-wall, was shoved over the edge by the woman and had to be hauled back up again with his leg shattered and bundled into a taxi.

Friday 17 October

Today we had sun, sand and sea all in one place and we spent much of the day chilling out on the beach.  We then had a wander around town and a hot chocolate and very rich gateaux, which Alexandria is well known for. 

Saturday 18 October

We drove to Cairo with Felicity opting for the easier first leg of the journey driving out of Alexandria and leaving Marc to negotiate the crazy unpredictable driving in Cairo.  Had our first glimpse of the pyramids as we drove in and then began the search for the campsite we had read about.  However, every time we found the right road we were quickly taken off it again by road works but eventually found the lovely Camping Salma. Great campsite and peaceful away from the hustle and bustle of it all.

In the evening we went to a brilliant restaurant above the AA stables where Marc used to ride when he lived in Cairo 22 years ago.  It was perfectly located, as it was right next to the pyramids, so a great place to sit and watch the sound and light show.  Had a fantastic evening and great to be so close to the pyramids!

Sunday 19 October

Today we got a taxi to the Egyptian museum in the morning and then Zamalek Bazaar (a big market) where we haggled our way to a few vital bargains, including Felicity’s new favourite T-shirt with a camel on, which she pretends is just for rough.  We then headed back to the campsite for a chilled evening with the mosquitoes!

Monday 20 October

We drove to the pyramids first thing to have a wander round and also to go inside the Great Pyramid. It was really impressive getting up close to them and we got some good pics with Bob after sweet talking the police captain to allow him into a good spot.  Inside the pyramid you climb up through a series of tunnels made from huge perfectly carved stone blocks to the tomb inside. The different angles of the stairs and blocks made it quite disorientating and hard to tell which way was which.

Once it had cooled down a little we headed to the AA stables to horse ride through the desert past the pyramids. Great fun and holding on for dear life Felicity got into her first gallop (despite some debate about the difference between canter and gallop) on a horse!

Tuesday 21 October 

We enjoyed Cairo, but were quite relieved to be escaping the smog (Bob probably could have run off the contents of our lungs for a few hundred kms) to head to the Red Sea. En-route a policeman stopped us and told us we had been speeding doing 115 Kms. We couldn’t help but laugh, as Bob struggles to do more than 100 and the policeman quickly realised he was  unlikely to get his bribe, and after a bit of joking he let us on our way. 

Well unimpressed with Hurghada, as we drove through, we were pleased to find a lovely place to camp called Sun Beach in Safaga, the next town and much less developed and spent the rest of the evening in the beach side bar.

Thursday 23 October

We have been very much getting used to life on the beach the last couple of days, just going from the sea to the sun lounger and back again.  Today, we also went out on a boat to snorkel around a few reefs and top up our tan further! Great snorkelling in beautiful crystal clear waters. 

Bob needed a bit of attention, as an exhaust bracket had sheared off, but luckily the mechanic came out to us to fix it, so it didn’t interrupt with our beach time!

Friday 24 October

Reluctantly we left our good spot on the Red Sea and headed further south to Luxor.  You must travel in police convoys to Upper Egypt, so we joined one, which quickly turned into everyone else deciding it was a race to the front and cut us up frequently during the trip.

We arrived at Rezieky Camp and set up home for the night.  After a wander around town, then the obligatory afternoon siesta we headed for the sound and light show at Karnak temple. This could have been quite interesting, but with the overly poetic/dull commentary that dragged on for a very long time, the most interesting part was the scabby dog that followed us around, howling occasionally! We headed back to the camp and had good dinner that they had put on, as a couple of overland trucks were also staying there.

Saturday 25 October

Joined the next convoy to Aswan today, driving alongside the Nile. This was a much smaller convoy, which took off at the usual pace, leaving us way behind and then not in the convoy at all.  This resulted in us getting stopped at each police checkpoint (of which there are many in Egypt) on the way down.

Once in Aswan we found Mr Sallah to sort out our tickets for the ferry to Sudan.  You would think that getting a ferry ticket is easy, however in Egypt they like to make any procedure such as this very difficult and time consuming! We were first directed to the Traffic Court about 3kms away where we would get a piece of paper declaring we had not been in any accidents in Egypt. After eventually finding this unmarked building, a scruffy looking bloke sitting on a broken chair in the street beckoned us over, and it turned out this was the official guy to arrange this bit of paper. As with everything in Africa, waiting and having a lot of patience is essential! Eventually after getting conned out of a bit of money we were on our way to the next office (this time the Traffic police) another 3k drive where we had to hand over our scrap of paper and give back our Egyptian number plates and in exchange get a piece of paper giving us permission to leave the country.

It is a strange system here, so many police, but with apparently absolutely nothing to do. We sat laughing as we watched for about half an hour as some guy, who looked pretty important, just moved his papers from one side of the desk to the next, then his post-it notes, then his computer mouse, then having a fag, then biting his lip while contemplating what to move next, all while we sat patiently right in front of him. He then disappeared and sent someone else to tell us to go downstairs where we could get the necessary paperwork done. We emerged with the necessary paper work, but not our money back for the number plates - for foreigners they make this an impossible task!

 

 

We camped up for the night on the Nile at ‘Adams home’. A great place and were joined by some Polish bikers who we met in Luxor, a South African biker and then 14 campervans of Italians who were touring round Egypt.

 Monday 27 October

After another night camping at Adam’s home, which included a quick visit to the police station to ask if he could have permission to let all of us stay, we headed for the port for 09.30 to start the immigration and customs procedures for departure from Egypt.

We paid the customary baksheesh and confirmed we had no chemical weapons to avoid our vehicles being searched, and paid the considerable sum of money for our vehicle to be loaded on to the ferry. This was all completed by 11.00 and then we sat and watched and waited as bags of onions, then barber’s chairs, then onions, then fridges, then 3 piece suites, then tubs of pickles, then onions, then cookers, then onions, and finally sinks and toilets were chucked into the hold of the ferry on top of each other. Occasionally a little man, bent double under the weight of a fridge freezer, or washing machine, would collapse and we would watch as a few others would rush over to help by shouting at him to get up off the floor! At about 16.00 the last few things were being loaded up and it looked like it was time to load Bob, Elsie (another English couple’s Toyota) and the 5 bikes – not before a last-minute lorry load of pickles and of course one of onions.

Finally we drove Bob and the other vehicles on to the very limited deck space. Once he was secure we reluctantly waved him goodbye and at 19.00, ferry and barge set off and we quickly left Bob behind in the night.

 

 

 

Libya

Monday, October 20th, 2008

Sunday 12 October

We reached the Libyan border at 07.50 and unexpectedly an hour and a half later were through into Libya. A representative from Arkno, the company we had booked through was waiting for us beween the Libya and Tunisia border posts (currently you have to have a guide accompany you in Libya) and he rushed us efficiently through the Libya side of things.  Bob donned his new Libyan number plates too! 

We then headed into Tripoli to meet our guide, ‘Milud’.  We had a quick tour around Tripoli and then hit the road for Leptis Magna. Driving in Libya is crazy freestyle; very erratic, fast and a lot of beeping horns! Diesel very very cheap though and we could finally afford to fill Bob up (for less than £7.50)! Camped up for the night at a small campsite opposite the ruins.

Tuesday 14 October

First thing Monday morning we had to go the police station to register ourselves in Libya, which took a while for one passport stamp to say the least. We then walked around Leptis Magna, old Roman ruins, which were impressive. Early afternoon we headed off and drove till dusk, arriving at what our guide termed ‘a lovely place to stay’ - at the back of a petrol station!

An early start this morning and we opted to drive a shorter route through the desert, rather than the normal tourist route along the coast, to try to get some peace and quiet and bush camp.  We stopped in a small town to pick up supplies (a whole chicken, as breasts alone are not possible) and then hit the desert road.  After finding a suitably big mound of sand to hide behind for the night, we parked up away from the road, snoozed in the shade for a while and enjoyed a lazy afternoon surrounded by just desert!

Thursday 15 October

After a fairly uneventful, but relaxed day yesterday we crossed over the border early in the morning to Egypt, having bush camped again last night.

The Libya side went smoothly and we said our farewells to Milud.  We found Arkno to be efficient and would recommend them and without a guide it would be a real challenge negotiating the many police check points and reading the Arabic only signs! However, nice to be on our own again!

 

Tunisia

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

Wednesday 8 October

We arrived in Tunisia at about 21.00 yesterday. Not wanting to spend ages searching for a campsite we parked up at the port with the help of a guy posing as a customs official who directed us to a safe place to park for the night. Initially he felt 40 Euros for him and 40 Euros for the chief! was reasonable for his services. We disagreed, but still gave him something, so he didn’t come back! Basically we parked on the pavement directly opposite the Douaine (customs) office.

We set off early with the initial plan of getting to Djerba Island, but en route we changed our minds and drove to Tozeur to spend the night in the desert. Feeling a bit grubby we first stopped off at one of the many 4 Star Hotels to wash some of the dirt off in their pool and have a cold beer!

Thursday 9 October

Today we drove through the salt lake, Chott el-Jerid, which was a fantastic drive and then on to Djerba. We ended up driving a wicked desert track, which we think Bob enjoyed as much as us. It was a bit accidental, as the tar just ended and the lack of signs in the desert then meant we went a bit off track, ending up driving through a military exercise. Was quite fun looking at all of the tanks, jeeps and canons, but Felicity got a little nervous when the guy popped his green smoke grenade beside Bob as we drove up!

We caught the ferry over to Djerba and after too long looking for a good site to camp and picking up a random guy who thought he would actually stay with us and party all night we camped (without the guy) on the beach at the end of the long strip of hotels.   

Friday 10 October

After a slightly sleepless night, due to the strong winds on the beach and the tent flapping we woke to another not so great for beach day, so headed into town to catch up on a few bits.  Bob had developed a slight clunking noise as well, so we took him for a quick check-up – couldn’t find anything wrong, but gave us the chance to tighten his nuts and grease his nipples! Dirty and oily we went to a ‘Relax’ spa and had a Hamman (a traditional Tunisian sauna), just so that we could use their shower and it was cheap!

Camped on beach again this time between two posh hotels as one of the hotel security guards we met said he would watch over us there and it would be more sheltered from the wind.

Saturday 11 October

After a better night’s sleep we were up early for a morning run along the beach followed by a dip in the sea and Bob started to draw a lot of attention from the hotel guests.  We gave Bob a much needed clean to get rid of the sand and salt before setting off towards the Libyan border.  After the last town before the border we pulled off on a little track and hid behind some trees so we were out of sight to bush camp for the night.

 

 

 

Italy

Friday, October 10th, 2008

Italy

Monday 29 September

When we came out in the mountains on the Italian side of Mont Blanc it seemed noticeably different to France. We really enjoyed the scenery as we drove down through Italy to the coast, via Genova (Genoa) and on to Levanto a pretty little beach town.

It felt a bit strange to have woken up in the snowy mountains in France and be having an ice-cream on the beach in the afternoon, but no complaints! We enjoyed a couple of cold beers and BBQ and a warmer evening.

Tuesday 30 September

Today our goal was Rome with a stop-off in Pisa to see the Tower of Pizzas to break up the driving.

The Tower was indeed leaning!

We made Rome and with fairly little trouble drove around the equivalent of the M25 with no lane markings to find our campsite (Tiber Camping).

 

Wednesday 1 October

We decided driving through Rome would not be the easiest, so got the train into the centre and spent the day exploring the city. The highlight was probably Fabio, our slightly eccentric, brown corduroy wearing guide of the Colloseum. A brief stop at the Vatican, a pizza and a wander around the expensive streets and we then headed back to the campsite.

Thursday 2 October

Bob was a little on the tired side this morning and so needed a bit of a jump start to get him going. We drove to the Amalfi coast – a dramatic coastline with steep cliffs and beautiful beaches. With crazy Italian drivers overtaking us on blind bends, Bob slowly but steadily made it up and down the windy streets to Nettuno campsite in Marina Del Cantone right on the beach.  Had a relaxing evening; a couple of drinks on Bob’s rooftop terrace overlooking the sea before dining out.

Saturday 4 October

After a long drive yesterday along the Amalfi coast we made it to a campsite in Capo Vaticano near Tropea in the evening. It was pretty grey when we woke up today and being out of season Capo was blowing tumble weed, so we decided to move site to one at Tropea where there was something open and beach day became planning day.

We hooked up at the site with two bikers from the UK (Martin and Charlie) who joined us for a BBQ in the evening. Look forward to reading the book guys!

Sunday 5 October

A relaxed start to the day before we departed for Sicily. We caught the ferry from Val de Giovani to Messina (very quick and easy) and about 250km and many tunnels later we reached Sferracavelo on the outskirts of Palermo and camped at Trinacria.

After heading in to town for a pizza and ice-cream we decided to get an early night. However, we were distracted by a wailing cat that sounded like it was trapped and in pain and had been screaming before we went to dinner. I (Marc) was going to investigate, but spotted a small animal running, still wailing, towards me across the deserted campsite. It seemed to have a brief change of plan, but then continued its charge towards the vehicle, darting up under the rear axle of the car.

It was a tiny, terrified and bedraggled looking kitten. Lacking kitten food we tempted it with a bit of  ham and milk and gained a little confidence. When it squeezed itself in the small space on top of our cubby box under the vehicle we left it for the night.

Monday 6 October

Today we had a mass sort-out; doing all vehicle checks and repacking ready for Africa, so we had space for the guide in Libya.

The kitten was still under the vehicle in the morning and after a little more ham and some water changed in character dramatically, nervously playing around and dozing in the sun while we packed. He gained the name ‘Happy’ and we saw a problem coming tomorrow.

Once packed we headed into Palermo on the bus in the hope of collecting a Haynes manual from the Post Office, which had been couriered to us. Disappointingly, but not too surprisingly it hadn’t arrived and after a passionate conversation in Italian about who should be next King of England we gave up.

We arrived back hours later to find Happy now curled up on the front tyre waiting for us and he was very excited by his kitten food we had bought.

After Bob had a wash, and we had chicken curry it was time for bed. Happy had got into the routine by now and while we went for a shower had squeezed himself into his space on top of the cubby box for the night and gone to sleep.

Tuesday 7 October

We made an early start to catch the ferry to Tunisia and woke up to find Happy waiting quietly at the bottom of the ladder, making his final bid to come with us! We left him happily gorging on another tin of kitten food, more confident and much stronger, destined to become a campsite cat.

We got to the port in good time, Felicity adopting the ‘carve your own lane’ style of driving through Palermo well. We picked our tickets up from the Stazione Maritima, cleared customs (once they decided to open) and boarded, departing for Tunis only an hour later than scheduled.

2928km so far

France

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

France

Saturday 27 September

We’d decided to drive quite quickly through France to spend more time along the Italian coast.  On the ferry we chose to drive a route via Dijon and through the Mont Blanc tunnel to Italy.  The alternative suggested by Google Maps and other sites took us via Strasbourg through Switzerland and down, but we’d been told this may be a little windy and up and down through the Alps.

Anyway, a little behind when we got off the ferry, due to our slight Dover delay and missing the 08.00 we made good time on the quiet French toll roads.  We stopped at one of the Aires (service stations just off the main roads) in the Champagne region, which whilst not scenic was alright, not off route and free. Aptly, being in the Champagne region we cracked open a bottle and toasted Bob for a good first day.

536 km

Sunday 28 September

It was bloody cold when we woke up, so we weren’t as quick away as we had planned to be, but again made reasonable time.  However, as we came into the Alps the sun was shining and we took the decision to make the most of it and stopped off in Chamonix.  Sat at a mountain bar, having a drink in the warm sun, surrounded by snow-capped mountains there was little debate that we would wait until tomorrow to drive through the tunnel into Italy.

We had a quick run down the summer luge and then found a really good little campsite (Camping de la Mer de Glace) to spend the night.

950km

Monday 29 September

We thought it was bloody cold the first night, but today we woke up with frost on the tent and the condensation on the inside had also frozen by the time we came to put it down.  With Felicity wrapped up in her Eskimo gear we set off for the Mont Blanc tunnel and Italy.

France - 965km

Chamonix

Chamonix

 

 

England

Friday, September 5th, 2008

Oops!

Saturday 26th September

5:30am on Sat 26th Sept, saw an emotional goodbye in the morning before we set off to Dover.  After a premature high five and joking celebration that we had made it to Dover, we broke down about 50m from the Ferry check in!  With the police helping us move out the way…and a call to the garage we were back on the road and put on the next ferry.

Here is Marc desperately fiddling under the bonnet. Slightly embarrassingly it was something far less technical!

 

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Monday, August 25th, 2008

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