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Rob en Dafne de Jong

Ride-on Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Turkey

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Date: September 1999

Endemna Deresh (Amharic-Ethiopian),

We are out of Africa and in Istanbul right now. Last Monday we were witnesses of a small earthquake (5.8 on R's scale). The people we stayed with immediately walked out of their house to be on the safe side.

Uganda

After Uganda (see last newsletter), where Lonhro motors helped us to replace the broken CDI unit of our motorcycle, we travelled through Kenya to see Lake Bogoria where about 3 million Flamingos have their residence. It is a hot soda lake with some geysers in it, which sets the pink presence of so many flamingos in a fantastic atmosphere.

Kenya

Northern Kenya is a stony desert, where the 'road' is more like a dry riverbed. Trucks have left behind two ruts leading north and that's what you follow. It's really the middle of nowhere, stones as far as the eye can reach. The heat is scorching and every hour we had to stop to drink.

It's quite tricky to drive the sidecar, as the ruts are too wide for our wheelbase and we had to ride with the sidecar wheel up on top of the crest between the two ruts. The stones are flat and we didn't have any grip. The sidecar wheel tried to push us off all the time and we felt like floating.

It's over here that the local people, that are related to the Masai, warned us not to go to Ethiopia. "They will kill you, it is very dangerous," we were warned. We had actually been happy and relieved that we were able to ride through the dessert on our own, for chiefta's have long made this a dangerous place. The Chiefta's are mainly groups of rebelling Somalians that cross the border into Kenya in order to hijack passing by vehicles. Cars and trucks are now going through in convoy with armed guards to protect them. But, since nothing has happened for a long time we were allowed to travel alone and we chose to leave early in the morning, about half an hour before the convoy would start moving.

The dessert was mind-blowing as we drove on from Marsabit to Moyale. Suddenly there were two Turkana warriors that asked for water and a bit later we passed a camel caravan slowly moving on.

It's tough too, to ride with you sidecar wheel up on top of the crest between the two ruts. Started feeling every muscle and every bone in my body, hearing my heart beating and feeling my breathe going, but most of all: Feeling great and so much alive!

Ethiopia

Arriving in Ethiopia means plunging into a totally different world. One thing was the same: "You come from Kenya," we were asked. "Ohh, how lucky you are to have survived. Those people are very dangerous, they could have easily killed you!" Like the Kenyans, the Ethiopians never had been to the other side. They all knew it was dangerous and would never go there.

Ethiopia really stole our hearts. It's quite different from any other place we've seen in Africa and has a very interesting culture and history. We met so many nice people and plenty of Youyou's, which are children that start shouting youyouyouyou... etc. as soon as they see you. 'Me' and 'you' are the first words they learn in school and they seem to love to practice that.

Sudan

We were stuck for five days at the Ethiopian/Sudanese border together with some other travellers and our trip was delayed for 3 weeks (cost us almost 500 dollars), but we made it after all and have some great adventurous stories to tell of course. Actually, we almost got stuck for over three months because of the rainy season, but when we finally were allowed to drive through that river and cross that border there was a Land Rover with 6 soldiers.

They accompanied us through the 60 km of black cotton soil that turns into an impassable mudhole when wet. We had bought 14 metres of rope to tie two donkeys in front of our sidecar if necessary, but were lucky because the night before we passed it stayed dry. We got terribly stuck three times though and we used the rope, but it were soldiers pulling us out instead of donkeys (thanks guys!). We covered the 60 km in 4 hours instead of in four days and arrived in Ghedaref the nexr day.

Sudan is a country we would like to go back to. Unspoiled by mass tourism it has a character of its own and the food is fantastic. The people in Sudan were good for us. If only that terrible war in the South would stop.

To go to Egypt we had to take the ferry from Wadi Halfa to Aswan because border crossings overland are closed and the routes are mined too. This was another adventure of its own for we had to take the sidecar off the bike to fit through the door of the ferry. But with the help of the ever-helpful Sudanese people (as well as a lot of sweat) everything worked out in the end.

 
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de Jong's Home

Travel Stories, English:

January 2002,
Ride on 2002...
October 2001,
Ride on Home
July 2001,
Russia and
Siberia
April 2001,
Japan
Jan 2001,
Arizona
Dec 2000,
California
Oct 2000, L.A
to Fresno via
Inuvik
Sep 2000,
New Zealand
July 2000,
Australia part 2
April 2000 India
and Australia,
part 1
Dec 1999,
Istanbul
to Kathmandu
Nov 1999,
Shoeshine boy
of Gondar

Sept 1999,
Uganda to
Turkey
May 1999,
Zimbabwe to
Uganda
Dec 1998,
South Africa
and Namibia
Sept 1998,
Swaziland &
Lesotho

June 1998,
S. Africa 1
April 1998,
W.Africa 2
March 1998,
W. Africa 1

Travel Stories, In het Nederlands:

July 2001,
Rusland en
Siberie
April 2001,
Japan
Jan 2001,
Arizona

Thanks

First of all we'd like to thank the following people for their support: Lonrho Motors Uganda and specially Ian Walker;
Mark Sang of Lake Bogoria Hotel;
Susan Oloo-Oruya of Express Travel Nairobi;
Ali Mahdi, from Khartoum in Sudan;
The people of Syria;
The people of Beldeyama Turky and specially Osman Lav;
Hakan Küçükçetin and his father Tunica Küçükçetin in Denizli.
Dionisos and Theologus from Alexandroupolis in Greece

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Egypt

Egyptian customs was very easy but took long. We drank litres of tea and had a great time with the officers, who told us that we were the first motorcyclists coming over the border from Sudan after the border re-opened. Next day somebody accompanied us to the police, where we had to register and get an Egyptian numberplate, which of course was the number: "Aswan 1".

The rest of Egypt was a bit of a disappointment. Maybe we'd expected too much of this country with its rich history. It's like the people and the history doesn't fit together, which in a way is true, for it was not the Arabs that built the pyramids.

Or maybe it were the racing convoys along the Nile that made it a bad place, or the unco-operative officers that are there for your safety but left us all alone when the racing on hot tar resulted in a flat tyre and the whole convoy passed and left us on the roadside near hotspot Qena for over two hours, until we had repaired the tyre.

Maybe it was because we had to do everything considering civil servants three times to make it work once, even small things like mailing a postcard.

Anyway, we had to go through there and started feeling better once in the Sinai dessert, where we took the ferry towards Jordan. To get into Jordan from Egypt there are two ways. You can drive through Israel and cross the border between Eilat in Israel and Aqaba in Jordan or you take the ferry from Nuweba to Aqaba. We did the latter, to avoid problems when applying for visas for countries like Syria and Iran.

Jordan

Jordan is also one of those countries we would like to go back to. We slept in the Wadi Rum dessert (the same dessert Lawrence of Arabia loved so much) under the starry night with nothing more than a blanket and a sleeping bag. Friendly people and great places to camp. Jordan is also the place to visit the Dead Sea and float in the salty water without sinking problems (try to get you feet down). Man, did I miss a cold beer.

Syria

Syria is even better than Jordan (cheaper, friendlier) and we fell in love with Damascus. What a great place to be. We were so many times invited for tea and food that we almost forgot how to cook a meal ourselves. We were guests of a general of the Syrian Army (with a rebel son who plays heavy metal music), were shown around in a weavery where the material for the Bedouin tents is woven, had arak with one of the nicest idiots we ever met (Yassin Mahmud) and loved all of it!

Turkey

Turkey was good for us too. Lovely tomatoes, bread, vegetables and drinks were given to us by so many peoples. You can camp anywhere and everyone likes to meet you. Dafne was given a brand new pair of jeans (I want one too) and in Istanbul Beldeyama (Yamaha) supported servicing our sidecar in a way that is just fantastic.

The World on a Children's Drawing

This latest part of our tour (Uganda till Turkey), we visited many children with our project "The World on a Children's Drawing". In the North of Uganda we visited the children of war, who were abducted by the LRA rebels and made into soldiers but managed to escape. We also visited a street-childrens project in Kampala, where the children decided it to be very important to tell the world about their lives.

In Ethiopia we visited an SOS-Children's village and a children's circus and in Egypt, Jordan and Syria we visited some schools and SOS-Children's villages, where orphaned and abandoned children are given a permanent home and a new future. In Turkey we went to the tented camps where the survivors of the terrible earthquake lived and drove our sidecar loaded with kids around the tents. We wrote many articles about these kids for our Dutch National Newspaper (NRC) and hope at least to have made a little difference for some of them. The Dutch National War and Resistance Museum got in touch with us, wanting to organise an exhibition about Children at War. We gave them our contacts and hope more people will know now what is going on in Northern Uganda.

Greetings and a smile,
Rob and Dafne

Story and photos copyright © Rob and Dafne de Jong 1998-2002.
All Rights Reserved.

 

Editors note: We accept no responsibility for any of the above information in any way whatsoever. You are reminded to do your own research. Any commentary is strictly a personal opinion of the person supplying the information and is not to be construed as an endorsement of any kind.

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