As I sit here writing this latest installment of the trip in Nairobi I am amazed that I even managed to get here at all. It's been the toughest riding of my life for both me and the bike as you will find out.....
We arrived at Wadi Halfa after 24 hours on the ferry wanting a clean up to be greeted by what has to be the most unpleasant of hotels. There is only a choice of two and they get very busy when the ferry arrives from Egypt and also departs which is a total of three days in the week. Otherwise the place is deserted. The Nile Hotel, not to be recommended. First we were to share a room which was already occupied by two riders traveling north. They were not in at the time of our arrival however we did met them in town later to inform them of their new guests, it is has to be said that they had done an admirable job of exterminating all manner of cretins from the room. A shower was offered which comprised a bucket of cold dirty water from a 45 gallon drum, pass. You knew your luck was in when not receiving an electric shock on turning on the light. The toilets did not get any better; barley a hole in the ground with many indescribable occupants such as cockroaches and the stench was unbearable. On waiting for long enough the following morning to touch cloth a hole in one was achieved in a significant short space of time. This is to go down as one of lifeís great achievements! A very quick decision was made to ride out of town as soon as the bikes arrived on the barge that afternoon, the desert can only reward us with better accommodation options, a tent.
There are two options to get to Khartoum following the Nile or the rail line through the desert, as my German friend had some photos from a previous trip to deliver the Nile route was chosen. I had my reservation as I had previously been told how bad this road (term to be used in the loosest possible way) was. It took four and a half days, two punctures, three falls, a bent and broken bike and dehydration to ride to Khartoum. We rode for plus 10 hours a day only to have traveled just over 100 miles, hard, hard, hard. However on route we did encounter the most friendly and hospitable people you are ever likely to meet. On delivering the photos to the families living on the Nile we were offered food, drink and somewhere to sleep from people who have nearly nothing at all in comparison to ourselves. It was surprising to find that what at first appears to be a very quite village with scarcely any population from the outside are in fact a hive of activity behind the walls. There is no formal post here so once word got out that a delivery had been made people came from who knows where to be a part of the action.
Got to watch my first Arsenal football match of the trip while in Khartoum. It took some convincing the locals that the game against PSV would be better than watching Real Madrid. Arsenal lost and consequently got knocked out of the Champions League, didnít make many friends that night.
Having been re-energized we left for Ethiopia the following morning in positive mood for the ride ahead. We were met at the border by a significant number increase in the population, more dirt and gravel roads and a noticeable hike in the temperature. Riding with the visor up it was comparable to standing in front of a hair dryer set on maximum, quite unpleasant, this soon dropped away as we gained in altitude.
First lesson in Ethiopia, donít order meat during the fasting, result chronic bout of diarrhoea that lasted for two days and dehydration again. On recovering it was off on the bikes again on one of Ethiopiaís only asphalt roads which you soon realise is used in the main by the locals to walk from one village to the next. We are talking hundreds of people along with their cattle walking significant distances to trade at market. It makes riding more dangerous than with other vehicles on the road and they are not the best drivers.
When in Ethiopia it would be a disappointment not to visit Lallibella and the rock-hewn churches although it is even more riding on gravel and not being at all religious. It is a specially place and does give you a better understanding of the country.
The good thing with Ethiopia is that they are Arsenal mad so in Addis I got to watch my second game in the pub along with many locals; only European in the place. Everton beat us, this is not going well.
While riding south to the Kenya border we meet a group of five South African bikers also heading the same way so we grouped up to ride the notorious road from Moyale to Isiolo together. Having been raining heavily and the road being in places mud we all agreed that we would help each other as and when required. Additionally there is believed to be bandits operating in the area and what with stories of a recent robbing on this stretch of road. This road would be the last of desert riding for the trip so I was determined to get through it without a falling off no matter what. Having been in the situation in Ethiopia where the bike and myself were sliding down an extremely muddy section of road completely out of control and managing to stay upright. I did not think that it could get any worse so I was confident.
What I underestimated was how bad the road would be in places where we were riding over larva rocks the size of footballs. The bike gets thrown all over the place and the vibration is shocking, the bike gets a hammering. The result of all of this was realised early on in the second day having left Marsibit leading the ride at a steady pace there was an almighty noise from between my legs and the seat dropped down. The rear subframe broke in half. On removing the seat and fuel tank one of the bolts was found to have vibrated out and consequently the remaining metal was not enough to support the load. Bolloxs, in the middle of nowhere. And the pannier frame was broken resulting in an extremely loose pannier box. Got to work in 40deg ambient temperature sweating my arse off strapping the subframe back to the main frame and set of again now having to ride stood up for the remaining 150km of gravel road. Two punctures in the front tyre later I finally nursed the bike to Nairobi for welding and there is even a KTM dealer for any necessary spare parts. So bike and myself have crossed over into the Southern Hemisphere.
I am finding the best thing with being in Kenya is that you donít get woken up at an unsociable hour by a mosque or church blaring incoherent noises out of load speakers all of which with the sound quality a railway announcer would find unclear.
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