April 14, 2008 GMT
philippines, sabah, brunei, sarawak 16.02.08 - 14.04.08
well, well, well... after 5 years philippines and 1 year preparations we eventually are starting our RTW trip on february 16th 2008.
It is February 16th, 2008, 5AM and we’re already up and hustling around the small house we’ve been renting for the last few years. Very soon our landlord will pass by and take over his property and we’ll be homeless for the time to come.
Also Jane’s parents are coming to say good bye with tears in their eyes.
By 8AM everything is done and our trip begins, from now on we’re transferring into modern time gypsies with all our possessions fixed on our 16 years old Africa Twin.
take off in davao city
As we’re leaving our home my thoughts circling around our idea of travelling around the world on a motorbike, time will show if this was the right choice.
The first big problems are encountered sooner than expected. We’re travelling from Davao City through the mountains north to Cagayan de Oro and from there along the Northcoast to Dapitan City. From Dapitan City we’re planning to hit the road early next day and reach Zamboanga before nightfall, the route suggested by our biker friends in Davao (the only safe way to Zamboanga…). But it doesn’t work out. I wake up in the middle of the night shivering. Even using all the blankets and cloths doesn’t help – my fever creeps up to 40۫C. In the morning its clear that we can’t continue riding, I have to see a doctor.
only 3 days on the road and already in the hospital with dengue fever...
I stay 2 days in Dapitans public hospital where the doctors are trying to find out the reason for my fever without results… first guess is UTI followed by dengue fever, at the end nobody really knows. I am being given high doses of paracetamol every 4 hours without any changes, later additionally broadband antibiotikum (can’t go wrong with that apparently..). After 2 days I start feeling slightly better and leave the hospital on my own risk. Few more days relaxing in the hotel are by far not that depressing than staying in the public hospital in the provincial Philippines.
As soon the fever settled down to normal, we continue south to Zamboanga without any troubles.
In Zamboanga there is a direct connection to Sandakan in Sabah twice a week. After processing many different papers for the customs we can book the ticket for us and the bike.
It’s raining and we’re several hours too early in Zamboanga’s harbour. After few hours of waiting I am told to ride my bike on a wooden platform, which is going to be lifted 3 meters up into a loading “hole”, 3 meters wide and 2 meters high. Together with 3 boat crew members I am trying to keep the bike on the platform while we’re being forklifted and passed through the small opening to a second forklift inside the ship. I’m more than glad to see us and the bike safe inside the ship’s hull…
loading in zamboanga for our first shipping...
24 hours on board Danica Joy without any incidents.
We’re reaching Sandakan’s port before lunch but I have to wait for a forklift outside to take over the bike for more than 3 hours. Apparently no one cares about the Filipino ship. The Filipinos travelling to Sabah aren’t going there for fun, most of them looking for work or having already work in Sabah. Malaysian customs are going through their belongings and getting their share as it seems. Generally the Filipinos are treated like second class people.
upload map actual trip mindanao
My bike must be the first big bike arriving to Sandakan by ship because no one knows what to do with it. The customs asking for a Carnet but never seen one in actual… so, another few hours passing, the frame and engine numbers are checked and double checked and I have to explain the use of the Carnet to the head of the customs.
At last our small backpack is checked by the customs but nobody wants to have a look inside the aluminium boxes….
6 hours after arriving in Sandakan we’re leaving the port and heading for Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.
Welcome to Sabah, our first country on this trip!!!
upload map actual trip mindanao
The first few days in Sabah we need for digesting the culture shock. Sabah is, comparing to the Philippines, very modern, clean and well regulated...
Incredibly good roads, not much traffic and everybody follows the traffic laws!!
We pay a visit to the Oragutan Center in Sepilok and regret it badly. Some poor primates are coming to the feeding platform where 200-300 tourists are awaiting them with their cameras.
We feel like in a zoo...
orangutan in the sepilok centre
Much better is the diving in Sipadan!!! Since 2003 there is no possibility to stay overnight on Sipadan, only daytrips are being offered for big bucks.
Still, the 3 dives were a great expirience, plenty sharks, turtles, barracudas!!!
Passing the curvy mountain road close to Mt. Kinabalu National Park we decide to climb the mountain.
There is lot of diiferent payments: park entrance, accomodation, guide, climb pemit, luggage storage, insurance etc. It turns out to be my most expensive trek...
Sadly enough, I can't make it to the summit. At 3400m got hit by altitude sickness, heavy headache and bad stomach. Jane continues with the guide and succeeds on her first mountain ever - Mt. Kinabalu 4100m!!!!
jane did it!!! her first mountain ever is the mt. kinabalu with its 4095m
mt. kinabalu summit
After some days in Kota Kinabalu, we proceed to Brunei.
mosque in kota kinabalu
It is possible to ride all the way from Sabah through Brunei to Sarawak but be prepared for 4!!!! border crossings between Sabah and Brunei. Its because of the small piece of land called Temburong, which belongs to Brunei and pierces Sabah.
The Capitol Brunei's can be discovered in 1-2 days, nothing really special. Even the beautiful mosque is undergoing renovation.
mosque in BSB
I'm using the time in BSB for minor repairs on the bike and change the front wheel bearings.
From BSB we're riding straight to Sarawak on highways similar to the "Autobahn" in my home country. Shortly before the border we fill up the tank, petrol costs only around 25 euro cents per liter!!!
spicy stuff in miri
chinese temple in miri
Our first real stop in Sarawak is the Batu Niah National Park. Great caves, nice walks and chilled out atmosphere keep us for several days in Niah town.
in the batu niah NP
lizard in batu niah NP
From here we'd like to get to a place with some Longhouse communities. Belaga seems the right spot for us but one could either get there by boat from Sibu or by 4WD from Bintulu. Lonely Planet is describing the track to belaga as muddy set of logging roads but me being optimistic decide to try our luck.
First along the highway to the turn off, then another 50km asphalt, then logging road in surprisingly good condition... Riding 60-80km/h we start thinking that the information in our guidebook is not correct, well, only until we reach the logging camp and we find out that we took the wrong track!
Back on the "right" road to Belaga we quickly find out what means "set of muddy logging tracks".
logging treks to belaga
trip to belaga
Its 80km bad track to Belaga but it seems like an endless trip. Hitting the first pothole Jane jumps forward and forces my camel bag to explode. Now, we're having only 2ltrs of water left but having another 2ltrs spilled over our pants.
All in all we're getting stuck in 50cm deep mud 3 times and fall 2 times. Our tankbag comes off and the left box cracks open.
After 80km of mud, sand, stones and gravel and 4hrs we eventually reach Belaga town, our Africa Twin is the first ever big bike in this town!!!!
Well, first we need to get the camouflage dirt-paint of the bike to be able to recognize it as a motorbike.
upload map actual trip borneo
real dirty bike!
kayan wedding in uma kahei longhouse
bride and groom at their traditional wedding in the UMA KAHEI longhouse
jane in kayan costume
jane and kayan lolas
jane with longhouse kids
During the next 5 days we’re fortunate to join in the Kayan wedding celebrations in the Uma Kahei longhouse community and meet several people in the busy town Belaga. Andreas Bato, our guide and friend is very helpful and well informed whats going on and where.
For the trip back to the highway we’re planning to put the bike on the express boat but the captain refuses – the bike is too big… Also the option, to load it on a pickup, doesn’t work out – the bed of the pickup is too short…
Well, then we have no other option but to ride back the same track we came from!
It seems that we’re luckier this time, most of the mud holes dried out in the passed few days and the ones still wet ain’t that bad anymore.
We manage to get back to the highway without any major problems!
Similajau National Park is the perfect place for us after the busy days in Belaga, we’re enjoying the trekking and doing nothing.
Kuching is the last stop for us before leaving Sarawak. From here we’re visiting the Semengoh Orangutan Center and make an excursion to the beautiful Bako National Park.
Semengoh proves to be much more interesting than the Rehabilitation Center in Sandakan, by far less visitors and by far more primates around.
Bako National Park is definitely our favourite! Close up encounters with Proboscis monkeys, silver leaf monkeys, macaques, wild boar and some vipers.
This park is rocking!!! Not only all the animals are worth the trip, there is several trekking options to secluded beaches and brilliant views.
Back to Kuching we’re invited to join a ride to Samantan with the local biker club the VABB (Victoria Arms Big Bikers). We’re having a great day joining the riders, a truly unforgettable experience!
Coming back to the hostel we gotta pack up, the next day we’re leaving for Indonesia.
A bit nervous and full of expectations we’re enjoying the last well paved road south to Tebedu and dive into the chaos of Indonesian traffic.
sunset in the similajau NP
praying mantis in the similajau NP
laksa sarawak yumm yumm!!
proboscis monkey in bako NP
short nosed proboscis... hehehe
pitcher plant in bako NP
viper in the bako NP
trekking in bako NP
with the Victoria Arms Big Biker Club in kuching
jane tries an africa twin, hehehe
kuching - the cat city
todays special in kuching
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 06:51 AM
May 27, 2008 GMT
indonesia 14.04.08 - 27.05.08
The last 6 weeks in Sabah, Brunei and Sarawak passed so quickly that we almost forgot about the validity of our visa for Indonesia… Now, we have to leave the lovely Kuching and head for the border.
Thanks to our friends from Victoria Arms Big Biker Club and their connections we don’t have any kind of problems at the Tebedu/Entikong border. Quick check on the engine and chassis numbers instead of the usual “creating” of problems. Everything goes in Indonesia with the right connections!!
at the border in entikong no problems at all due to help from our friends from Victoria Arms Big Biker Club!
Straight behind the border we’re entering a different world. Where Malaysia spoiled us with nice roads and relaxed atmosphere, Indonesia gets us back in to the 3rd World.
The roads are beyond western imagination and the super crazy traffic is still topping it up.
Our average speed moves down to 50km/h and this is still too fast. Trucks and Busses would cut your way anytime and overtake each other despite oncoming traffic.
It takes time to get used to that chaotic situation.
crossing the equator in pontianak
fisherman in pontianak
We’re more than happy to be guests of Mr. Mahendra in Pontianak, who shows us the city and organizes our ferry to Jakarta.
equator monument in pontianak
jane with maria in pontianak
In Jakarta’s Tanjung Priok harbour we’re picked up by our friends and brought to their house. Jakarta must be the worst place to ride bike in the world, the traffic is terrible and all the traffic jams… it takes us 2 hours to reach Aseps house 30 kilometres from the harbour.
We’re leaving the bike behind in Jakarta and taking a train to Surabaya instead to visit Manuel and his wife Bertha, some old friends of mine. Again, great moments together.
We visit Mt. Bromo and have a great weekend together.
On Monday Manuel has to teach English again and we take a train to Yogyakarta. On a rented 110cc scooter we discover the surroundings of the ancient place.
We ride up to Mt. Merapi view point but the clouds are covering the magnificent view.
But Borobodur Temple makes it all up again – what a great place!!!
From Yogya by train back to Jakarta and our bike, which we missed a lot!
Even we’re choosing Sunday as the day for leaving Jakarta, the traffic is still more than terrible.
From Merak we take a ferry to Sumatra without any troubles or whatsoever. Here things change again. Where Java is developed and crowded, Sumatra is the opposite. The time seem to have stopped ages ago.
Instead of following the truck-clogged Transsumatran Highway, we’re choosing the by far less frequented coastal road from Krui up to Padang.
Again and again we have to stop and enjoy the picturesque scenery. That must be every biker’s dream road!
Additional to this joy of biking we’re visiting some lakes like Ranau Lake, Kerinci Lake, Maninjau Lake all of supernatural beauty. In Bukittinggi we’re having a rare chance to see worlds largest flower – the Rafflesia!!!
The last leg of our journey through Indonesia isn’t very exciting. The road follows mainly a straight course towards dumai, its in a very bad shape and framed by ugly pipelines instead beautiful landscape.
We arrange the bike transport on an onion vessel to melaka and get tickets for us on the express boat.
7 weeks Indonesia behind us, time seems to have passed even faster than in Borneo.
We have to say Good Bye to this great country with its fascinating landscape and strong culture but we’ll come back one time, that’s for sure!!
gunung bromo in java
vespa in yogyakarta
cool guys on ancient bikes
riding back to bandung
monas tower in jakarta
small repairs in jakarta
jane with padang costume
art @ bukittinggi
buddhas at borobodur
carabao in indonesia
dream road west sumatras
hammerheads at the market in bengkulu
jane and rafflesia
jane with bertha
kids in bengkulu
market in bukittinggi
martabak yumm yumm
perception of germany on indonesian t-shirt
sorting coffee beans
tea plantations @ kerinci
traditional house in padang
view over maninjau lake
loading procedure in dumai
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 06:08 AM
June 22, 2008 GMT
malaysia 27.05.08 - 22.06.08
Loosing 1 hour through the time difference between Indonesia and Malaysia plus loosing another half our due to belated arrival of our express boat gives us a tight schedule for picking up the motorbike.
The bike was brought to Kuala Linggi cargo pier, some 65km north of Melaka.
It’s 3PM and we’re having a 1,5 hrs taxi ride ahead of us, we only can hope that the Customs are still going to entertain us…
christ church in melaka
The taxi driver is doing his best to meet the schedule and races with us up to Kuala Linggi in a record time of 55 Minutes! I’m so happy to see the bike on the pier and even more happy 10 Minutes later after finishing all the paperwork at the Malaysian Customs. Wow, that was another record so far!!
During the next few days we explore the historical Melaka and enjoying the relaxed feeling in Malaysia. We even get to watch a full blown firework show!
fireworks in melaka
From Melaka we cross to the eastern coast and spend few days in Cherating before we head to Taman Negara National Park.
It might be the oldest jungle in the world but we are not that impressed… following the track along the river up to kuala terengganu, we are followed by the permanent noise of boats and some construction going on across the river.
Nonetheless we’re enjoying the canopy walk and learn to hate the plentiful leeches.
On best motorbike roads we’re travelling from the park to the Cameron Highlands, the fruit and vegetable centre Malaysia’s. The wide, newly paved road is winding up to 1600m, unfolding spectacular mountain scenery and speeding up every rider’s pulse.
We can’t help but try the delicious strawberries in the highlands while visiting the farms.
Here in Brinchang we meet the first motorbike traveller on our trip, Derek is British and travelling with his Africa Twin for more than a year already. We’re enjoying the evening with Derek, having few beers and lots of talks.
From 1600m we ride down to sea level in Ipoh and towards Georgetown on Penang, where we get stuck for a while. Trying all the different kinds of food and sightseeing in the old part of the city keeps us busy for a while. Additional to that, its time for servicing the bike.
Georgetown is the last stop for us in Malaysia before heading off for Thailand, the land of gold.
budget hotel in melaka
jane in taman negara national park
at the canopy walk in taman negara national park
NOT A REAL BAVARIAN BEER...
jane in brinchang, cameron highlands
butterflies in the cameron highlands
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 05:28 AM
July 21, 2008 GMT
thailand 22.06.08 - 01.09.08
All is done quickly at the Malaysian site of the border, Immigration and Customs, all in all maybe 15 Minutes.
Quite a different story it is on the Thai side.
We’re entering Thailand on a 2 months tourist visa but our motorbike should get only 1 month permit… well, Thailand doesn’t apparently accept the Carnet. It takes us 4 hours at the border in Betong to get the 6 months permit. First we’re discussing the problem with several officials at the border post and we succeed BUT the power goes off and after an hour or so of waiting we’re been brought to the head office in Betong.
1 of the 1000 wats....
Here we are facing some more problems as the customs officer isn’t able to read our English motorcycle Certification papers and us unable to read the Thai forms…
It’s already 3 PM, we didn’t eat yet today and another 200kms riding stretching ahead of us to be able to leave the tense region. Everybody is advising us not to stay overnight in the border provinces Yala and Pattani. It doesn’t help to see the Police and Army road blocks every 2-5kms, mostly equipped with machine guns and some even with tanks.
We stop only for refilling and short lunch and reach the coast north of Pattani before dark.
Thais don’t make it easy for us in this part of the country, there is NO English signs for anything, not for hotels, not even on the menu plus NOBODY seems to speak even a word English! We’re guessing (and sniffing) when it comes to refilling the tank, we’re trying to figure out the Thai signs for hotel and we end up ordering food without knowing what we’ll get…
Its getting easier with every kilometer we travel north, people seem to know some English and the road blocks gradually disappear – great!
pretty girl in sichon
After a few days break in Sichon we eventually end up on Koh Phangan, a place of serious beachcombing and laziness for us, with all the advantages of a fully developed tourist place. Here we can have European food, WiFi internet connection, cable TV and English speaking Thais.
beach life on ko phangan
We spent more than a week on Ko Phangan doing nothing. Eventually we decided to leave and force ourselves to wake up “early” at 7am and try to catch the 9am ferry to Don Sak. The weather has been fantastic all the time but it seems like a storm is hitting the island as we’re waking up. Heavy rain and strong winds forcing the water into our cottage and within minutes all stuff on the floor is floating… The news aren’t that good either at the breakfast. Apparently the 9am ferry broke down due to bad weather and there will be another ship coming at 11am. That gives us some time drying our stuff and enjoying our food.
The rain stops as quick as it started and we’re leaving the lovely place at 10am. The sandy road leading to the main road is soaked with rain and we’re sinking in deeply with our heavy loaded bike.
There is already a long line of pick ups and trucks by the time we’re reaching the harbour in Thong Sala, all waiting for the delayed ship.
Instead of the big ferry, only a small version arrives 2 hours late. Very soon we know why its so delayed… Our ship seems not be seaworthy at all. Its not only slow with its 12km/h but its rocking and bouncing with every wave and causes us to look for life jackets… well, we can’t find any! They supposed to be under the seats, so far the German instructions stated on the signboards, but there is no jackets to be seen anywhere!!
The passenger’s faces steadily change colour to a kind of green and there are cues at the comfort rooms.
My concern is mainly with our bike, which I have to secure from tumbling around with some straps in between a truck and a wall.
More than happy to be on solid ground again, we reach Don Sak harbour 4,5 hrs later!
footprints in the sand
ao khanom beach
in prachuap khiri khan
reclining budha in petburi
With Ao Khanom we find Thailands best beach so far, kilometre wide white sand, gentle slope into the crystal clear water, framed by palms and almost exclusively for us alone!
From Khanom to Bangkok we only stop for a nights rest and refilling and some more Wats.
On a Sunday we’re entering Bangkok as advised by our friend Frank and reaching his place with no problems.
police officer in bangkok
Frank has been leaving in the suburbs of Bangkok for the last 12 years or so and therefore he is a great source of information to us. Together we’re visiting a huge wet market close to Pathum Thanni, shopping downtown for motorbike tyres and emptying some glasses of Sang Some (Thai whiskey).
Next stop after 1 week in Bangkok is Kanchanaburi. Here we’re visiting the Tiger Temple. As soon as I’m reading about the possibility of actually petting a tiger, I know I have to get there…
Well, its not quite like I expected it. By the time we reach the entrance, the parking area is clogged with cars, busses and sawngthaews. Still, I want to touch the tiger!
Even the 300 Baht entrance can’t turn me off; Jane is already discouraged by the amount of people and the high entrance price.
With a bit more than half an hour left before closing we’re rushing towards the little canyon. Somewhere behind the 300-500 people cueing must be the tigers but I can’t spot them. Its very clear to me that not everybody will be able to pet the huge cats and carry home the pictures for evidence.
Thanks to Jane who “found” another line for cueing (or lets say “she simply ignored the existing line”) we’re still able to get our tiger shots but many people are being turned away with the hope of repeating it the next day. For today my lesson is that one can’t count on luck alone, hehehe.
It is simply to say now, with the tiger shots in the cam that we want to avoid such tourist traps in the future but it just had to be done!
darius and tiger
jane and tiger
From Kanchanaburi we’re following the no. 323 to Sangkhlaburi, a border town with a large variety of ethnic groups. We hear different stories about the existence of the road connection between Sangkhlaburi and Um Phang, some 150km north.
At the end we don’t want to push our luck to hard because the political situation in the border region isn’t stable at all (the trek supposed to cut into Burma several times) and the rainy season doesn’t help us either.
pass to pilok
So, we got to ride a big detour to actually be able to reach Um Phang. No problems, after some map-studies I discover that a little, winding road no. 1117 is connecting Khlong Lam with our target. Too bad that there are 20km of road “missing” and the only way to reach Um Phang would be to walk through the mountains. It seems like the only way to reach the little town is from Mae Sot. So, we end up riding to Mae Sot first, bugger.
Mae Sot isn’t quite bad though. The town is inhabited mostly by Burmese immigrants, roughly 60%, and there is a big number of volunteers helping the people in one way or another. It has a vibrant market and flourishing gem and gold trading along the streets, which leaves me with some opportunities for good pictures.
river kwae bridge
jane and boy in thong pha poom
jane on the ATV
buddha in mae sot
deals with gems
gem trading in mae sot
improving the africa twin
mon girl in traditional costume
During the 1 week in Mae Sot we’re visiting a Gibbon farm, Jane is taking up Burmese cooking and I have time for servicing the bike. Here in Mae Sot we meet Peter on his Suzuki DR650 and spend some time chatting and exchanging information. Peter has been travelling on his bike for about 2 years and is involved in some kind of volunteering while waiting for the end of the rainy season in Mae Sot.
From Mae Sot our ride continues along the famous Mae Hong Son Loop, passing Mae Seriang, Mae Hong Son, Pai and arriving in Chiang Mai after 1000 hairpin curves and several passes. What a great motorbike trip!!!
On the way we’re paying a visit to one of the last “Longneck” tribes – the Kayans and taking a bath with the elephants.
longneck women in mae hong son
earfashion in the Kayu tribe of northern thailand
off the bike on the elefant!
pai elefant camp
pass close to pai
Chiang Mai gives us the opportunity to check our bike and get the spares sorted out. For quite a while now our bike consumes more than me… 7,5ltrs of gasoline every 100km is definitely too much. I’m trying to fabricate a new air filter using available commercial parts but the bike wouldn’t work properly and the consumption wouldn’t go back to the original 6ltrs. Finally I can make out a shop selling K&N filters surprisingly having stocks for my old twin!
Now, I can only hope that the problem is solved.
Besides the air filter the bike is getting a brand new front tyre. Sadly I can’t find any fuel pump which would replace our weak original part. The Mitsubishi fuel pumps sold in Chiang Mai are all too big to fit on the bike. Now, the only solution is to take the pump out and connect the fuel hoses, in case it stops working completely.
Before leaving Chiang Mai for Mae Sai and Burma, Jane is joining another cooking class, this time Thai Cookery! I can’t help, I’m looking forward to see Jane using her new skills and feeding me the delicious specialities.
at the northernmost point of thailand
another misconception of germany...
buddha in mae sai
There is not much to do in Mae Sai, people are coming up here to the northernmost point of Thailand mainly for the Visa run. So do us.
Its not allowed for us to take the bike over to Burma, so we got to walk in. On the Burmese side we have to pay 10US$ each for the entry permit up to 14 days. Our passports staying at the border and we’re handed out some kind of temporary Burmese travel documents. All this precautions are making sure that we’re not going to sneak around the locked up country and not going to exit through another border checkpoint to china for example.
We’re not having any intentions to backpack around Burma and leaving our bike behind, for us its just a visa run, like for so many others.
The short trip to Burma doesn’t reveal its secrets of course but my first impression is that this country is much poorer than its neighbouring Thailand. The state of the main road reminds me on the Philippines, plenty potholes, missing tarmac in places and, it seems, no rules on the road.
Otherwise the market is almost the same like on Thai side with the exception of selling porn DVD’s, tax free cigarettes and Viagra in Burma.
The seller would approach me stating loudly the price for his fake Marlborough’s and then coming closer offering me Viagra for cheap. It’s so ridiculous it’s almost funny!
trip to burma
burmese passports for us
crossing burmese border without passport
concrete believers in tachilek
burmese kids in tachilek
at the golden triangle
buddha at the golden triangle
chinese buddha close to chiang khong
on the road again
buddha in chiang mai
We spend another week in Chiang Mai enjoying a comfortable hotel room, good food and WiFi while waiting for the big rain to stop.
buddha impressions in chiang mai
deteriorating driveshaft on our africa twin...
Since weeks the driveshaft of our bike is giving me headaches - another weak point on this otherwise very robust built motorbike.
The removal of the sprocket is revealing the deteriorating shaft. It looks like the third is already gone and we can only hope that the remaining material on the shaft is going to last till europe, where I could replace it... lets hope for the best!
Leaving the mainstream tourist route, we’re making a detour to Nan province and from there up to Chiang Khong. We’re enjoying every Meter of that beautiful, winding mountain road!
great roads in the Nan province
thailand actual trip
birthday on the mekong
On Jane’s Birthday, 1st of September, we finally are leaving Thailand! There is lots of confusion about how to cross the Mekong and where to get the papers done.
First some people send us to the Custom office in town, where we’re being sent to another Custom office at the passenger pier and again being sent away to the cargo Custom office… Our passports have to be stamped at the passenger pier also, so eventually we left Thailand officially while still cruising around Chiang Khong!
The guys at the passenger pier would love to put our bike on one of these little longboats, which are cheap and “safe” of course. I can resist…
We’re crossing the Mekong on a barge, which is transporting 1 truck at the time. There is 5 trucks to be shipped over to Laos, so the drivers start to stress, start their engines and move the trucks forward and backward. As soon as the barge comes about 5 meters close to the ramp, the first truck ploughs through the half a meter deep Mekong, just to be the first!
On the second go I’m not going to be the looser and copy the first truck, behind me another truck straight on and, following the truck, Jane wading through the knee-deep, brown Mekong. This time Jane’s waterproof boots aren’t of any help, hehehehehe!!!
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 03:37 AM
August 25, 2008 GMT
Laos 01.09.08 - 26.09.08
We land on the Lao side after half hour of terrific barge ride. Here the unloading procedure is the same as on the Thai side. That means for me to ride few meters through the Mekong and for Jane to wade through once again.
I have no idea why the barge can’t come any closer to shore. Is the area around the pier to shallow or is it just the typical rush?!
Anyway, we’re happy to reach the Lao side safely…
arriving in Laos
After decades of ploughing through mud and gravel, the route ¹3 is finally rebuild and sealed by the Chinese. Now, the 200km to Luang Namtha can be done in 3 hrs instead of the former 10 hrs at least! The construction on this stretch of road just finished yet its deteriorating again. Landslides taking its toll, covering the new string of asphalt with mud or, even worse, sending it down the slope. No question, Laos has severe deforestation problems. Logging, wrong planning and budgeting during the construction will be the reason for the quick damage. The road is likely to “regain” its former state pretty soon…
good day Laos
From the first day on in Laos we’re in love with this beautiful and so unspoilt country. During the stretch to Luang Namtha we encounter no more than 10 vehicles; we’re passing through villages with bamboo houses on stilts, the children are screaming and waving at us and all kind of animals walking in herds along the new asphalt band.
As soon as we stop, we’re surrounded by curious kids, their parents observing us rather from a distance. With no electricity, no running water and no means of personal transportation, there must be a different definition of happiness in the mountains of northern Laos… and we’ve seldom seen so many happy faces!
Spoiled by the first 200km of great asphalt we’re not really looking forward to encounter the worst stretch of “highway” in Laos, the No. 13 connecting Luang Namtha with Pak Mong. Right at the intersection to Boten the road conditions change dramatically. How I would love to follow the smooth road north to China instead. No, China isn’t on our schedule yet. So, turning my head to the right I can see what appears to be the road – few hundred meters of black mud! At this time I only can hope that these aren’t going to be the general road conditions in Laos.
The permanent mud disappears pretty soon and now we actually can make out some pieces and bits of asphalt in between the gravel, mud, potholes and stagnant water. There is some big mud holes where most of the cars instantly getting bogged. These places are “guarded” by village men, who are very willing to push the car through for several thousand Kip. To me it looks like the guys are helping themselves and watering the hole every now and then because it’s always just one special wet hole around and the boys are just waiting for the next victim.
For the trucks it is a bit harder. Manpower alone doesn’t help and the truck is stuck for hours if not days.
210km today and 7 hours, that makes it to 30km/h in average, not too bad!
Pak Mong is a special kind of destination. Forced by the darkness and the oncoming rain we have to stay overnight in this place.
Well, out of the 3 guesthouses in town only 1 is operating, not much of a choice. Not much of a choice for dinner as well. We could possibly try to eat some of the local delicacies like filled frog, lizard, bugs, snake but my stomach isn’t ready for it yet. Taking some shots of the menu is quite enough. For dinner we’re having yummy oreo biscuits and beer instead.
From here on, the road condition is improving with every kilometre. That’s very good because we can’t wait to reach Luang Prabang, the World Heritage-listed former capital with its 32 magnificent temples and easygoing traveller scene.
wat in huay xai
landslide on route 3
village encounters in northern Laos
roads in northern Laos
our menue in Pak Mong
yummy bugs for lunch....
fun in the dirt
luang prabang impressions
jane in the plain of jars
We’re visiting some of the temples, strolling around the beautiful city and enjoying the outstanding menus in several restaurants.
The next on our itinerary is Phonsavan and its Plain of Jars.
The jars are quite impressive and shouldn’t be missed out but so is the MAG centre in Phonsavan, where we’re confronted with recent history. During the Secret War (1966 – 1973) Laos became (and remains) the most heavily bombed country per head of population in the history of warfare. Unexploded ordnance (UXO) still remains a problem along the old Ho Chi Minh Trail, and people, especially children, are still being killed and injured. MAG (Mines Advisory Group), a British organisation, is involved in clearing UXO in the provinces and is a good source of information about the bombings.
From Phonsavan to Vang Vieng we’re encountering hundreds of hairpin curves, several passes, beautiful asphalt and excellent views – a biker’s wet dream!
Then, in Vang Vieng, we’re back on the backpackers mainstream… it seems to us, that the stunningly beautiful limestone karst terrain does play only a secondary role on a visit to this little town. The main reason to come to Vang Vieng must be, for most of the backpackers, the Tubing and the drugs! The short tubing experience is more about drinking than tubing anyway and one can see the stoned and drunk tourists walking up and down the main street in bikinis hardly knowing where is their guesthouse…
remains of the secret war
bomb boats in tha bak
little brother is watching you
Vientiane, the capitol of Laos, has a surprise for us. It must be one of the quietest capitol cities in the world, almost no traffic, big streets and clean air! Just gorgeous!
Less inspiring is the Thai Consulate, where we need to apply for new visas. Already at 8AM there is a long cue waiting just for the submission of the visa applications, 2 hours for that one. The applications are collected together with the passports, pictures and photocopies of the passports. Then another line, this time we’re waiting for our name to be whispered by the lady-officer. There is no rush or whatsoever behind the glass, most of the time there would be only one lady working and this pretty slow. Another 3 hours for that one. Eventually, I hardly can believe it, it’s our turn. For 1000 Baht I receive a receipt and I’m told to come back the next day to collect the passport. Same story for Jane. The “only” disturbance is that the visa for Jane, as for a member of the ASEAN countries, should be free of charge. Knowing this, Jane refuses to pay the fee and, on the other side of the glass, the incredible unfriendly clerk, is refusing to talk to us anymore.
Well, eventually we’re told to wait, not knowing for what and for how long. Several attempts later, the clerk spits it out that we have to wait for the boss, who is currently busy, doing who knows what…
Back in the Consulate after the lunch break Jane gets her passport back without talking to the “boss” but also without a visa. The Thai Consulate in Vientiane must be the worst organized and the most unfriendly consulate I’ve ever encountered.
Me, I have to come back the next day and spend another few hours watching the useless office clerk searching for the passports of every applicant. I just can’t stop swearing.
us on the road again
Leaving Vientiane I almost fall asleep. Only the large amount of cows, goats and dogs keeps me awake. Flat landscape, no view and straight road no. 13 is surely not the pick of the crop for us bikers. But turning off towards Khun Kham let us forget the boring stretch of road pretty quick.
The reason for our visit to Khun Kham is the nearby Tham Kong Lo, a river disappearing at the edge of a monolithic limestone mountain and running 7km through pitch-black, winding cave. Our motorised canoe needs about 1 hour to pass through the cave and we need the same amount of time to relax in the absolute darkness.
tham kong lo cave
loaded with energy
gravel at its best
tat fan waterfalls
crossing the mekong....
jane at the wat phu champasak
impressions at the wat phu temple
some interesting guest house rules
On the way South, we’re visiting some waterfalls close to Pakse and the Wat Phu in Champasak. To reach Champasak we have to cross the Mekong. Nothing wrong with this we think, well, until we see the actual “ferry”.
The “ferry” consists of 2 wooden canoes which are connected by a 2m*2m wooden platform and driven by a little Honda pump boat engine. The boatman is kind of sure what he is doing (me not really) and directs me on the platform. I have to cross another 3 similar boats first before finally reaching our ferry, which is not an easy task either. As soon as the front wheel reaches the joint section of the 2 catamarans, it tries to push both boats down and apart… my adrenalin level shoots up.
Somehow it works and we reach dry land safely!!!!
Our plan is to stay over night in the border town but there is no border town… so, we find ourselves crossing the Cambodian border unintentionally today.
Good bye Laos!
laos actual trip
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 04:47 AM
September 23, 2008 GMT
Cambodia 26.09.08 - 12.10.08
To be able to cross the border to Cambodia we have to wake up the customs officer first, who is sleeping deeply in his hammock attached to wooden shack called “Customs”.
Against all my prejudices the guy obviously has an idea about a Carnet de Passage and quickly gets his job done before disappearing in his hammock again.
At the Immigration on both sides we need to pay 1$ each for the stamp, a great increase to the officer’s salary, considering the numbers of tourist crossing the border daily.
who said we are packed ???
The horror of the roads in Cambodia is gone since the new National Highway was completed in 2008. Nowadays one can travel all the way from the Lao border down to the capital on brand new asphalt! I mean, the minor roads are still in desolate condition and there is no way we could divert from the highway during the present rainy season.
Lots of things changed in Cambodia since my last visit in 2003, the road conditions greatly improved, therefore the passenger boats to the South disappeared, many new guesthouses and hotels are established but the rubbish situation remains the same…
We’re experiencing the same situation in most of the cities. Stung Treng, Kratie or Kampong Cham, the Cambodians don’t seem to care where they throw the trash. The best option would be to dispose rubbish in the Mekong but, if too far away, they just drop it anywhere. We’re observing a bus driver sweeping a pile of garbage from his bus right onto the main street and driving off…
No wonder though the pigs are feasting on the trash during daylight and the rats during the night shift.
Lacking the possibilities of riding to the country side and visiting Ratanakiri or Mondulkiri we’re bored pretty quickly and can’t wait to reach Phnom Penh.
tow bar ala' cambodia
But before Phnom Penh we have to pass a village named Skuon. Sometimes its also named Spiderville for its inhabitants developed a taste for a strange delicacy – a hairy, 8 legged spiders. Apparently they’re consuming the spiders with each meal and Jane can’t wait to give it a try as well. At first I’m more into taking pictures of Jane eating the 10cm big spider but eventually I give by and try some of its legs…
Jane, on the other hand, does as the Romans do and bites through the fleshy body.
None of us knows how to describe the taste but it definitely does not taste like chicken!
We’re into some sightseeing in Phnom Penh, visiting the Kings Palace and the Silver Pagoda, walking through the markets and having few beers at the riverside. Jane finally gets her Thai-visa, without any stress and for free!!! Now, we’re totally convinced that the Thai Embassy in Vientiane illegally charges 1000 Baht for the visa for the Tourists from ASAEN countries, the question is only WHY????
eating spiders in spiderville
at the royal palace in phnom penh
enjoying wiener schnitzel at the edelweiss restaurant in phnom penh, 42nd birthday
Riding in Phnom Penh is not one of the easiest I’d say… it seems like the only rule is never to stop but somehow it works!
Using back roads we reach Cambodia’s coast, spend few days on the beach in Silhanouk and eat crabs in Kep before we’re heading back to Thailand along the coast.
The highway number 48 is brand new and so are all the bridges. Now there are no more ferries across the plentiful rivers and the travel time is drastically reduced.
On the border all goes smooth; my Carnet is stamped out in Cambodia after waking up the customs officer and stamped in on the Thai side!!!!! Who would ever imagine that?? Only few months ago the Thai Customs didn’t accept the Carnet…
Anyway, the motorbike permit problem is solved by now and we can enjoy the coming months in Thailand, the land of the 1000 wats.
water cooled bike
cambodia actual trip
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 07:25 AM
October 11, 2008 GMT
thailand 12.10.08 - 10.12.08
Entering Thailand without any problems, then riding up to Koh Chang, where we find ourselves working within 2 days.
It's great, found a nice place to stay, good place to work and made some friends on the island.
Our bike gets its rest for now, anyway it definitely needs a serious service after 20000km of asian roads.
dolphin divers crew
Bus-art in Thailand
buddha at wat pho
eating out with trent in bangkok
with our friends at a all you can eat in bangkok
hotel reminders in bangkok
electrical job in bangkok
fancy any degree at the khao san road?
at the wat arun in bangkok
the floating market is a very touristic place...
Relatively little happened during our last 2 months on Koh Chang. All started well as we had plenty work but things changed after the problems in Bangkok’s airports.
By now, the season supposed to reach its climax with people coming to Thailand for Christmas and New Years Eve… well, its not exactly this way now. Only few tourists find their way to Koh Chang leaving us unemployed for most of the time.
Darius parents visited us for 3 weeks, the bike got its big service and we made our visa run to Phnom Penh in a meanwhile.
Ah, yeah, Jane is now Assistant Instructor!!!!! Cheers Jane!!!!
For now, we’re observing the situation in Thailand and will decide in January when we’re going to continue our trip to Nepal.
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 12:21 PM
November 05, 2008 GMT
Follow our trip
progress and planned route
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 04:25 AM
December 20, 2008 GMT
cambodia 10.12.08 - 13.12.08
This time we're not riding for fun to Phnom Penh (well, also enjoying this one) but for a cause: a new visa for Thailand, which we're applying for at the Thai Embassy.
Besides the visa reason, we also checking the bike after its been through a grand service with Darius, who took the bike apart several times and replaced kilograms of parts.
The border crossing at Hat Lek is pretty easy in both directions, although the Thai customs asking us for an insurance for the first time ever... well, after some talking we can leave without anyway.
riding for a cause - new thai visa, hehehehe
the only elephants on cambodias roads
Phnom Penh is a mess as usual, crazy trafic, heat, dust and filfh. We really don't want to stay longer than necessary. So, Thursday visa application, Friday afternoon pick up and Saturday 6AM we're leaving Cambodia's Capitol City.
We're hoping for less trafic at this time of the day but it seems its even worse.
There is people everywhere, on trucks, on motorbikes, bicycles but most of them walking. The scenery reminds me of Pol Pots evacuation of Phnom Penh 1975...
phnom pehn's kids grilling frogs
plenty riels at the moneychanger in phnom penh
jane on a banana bike
german banner in phnom penh
at the russian market in phnom penh
rubbish is cambodias big problem
barber shop in cambodia
rubbish and cows in cambodia
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 09:49 AM
thailand 13.12.08 - 25.02.09
jane at work, hehehe...
Fortunately we could score some work over Christmas and New Year but, all in all, there was only work for about 2 weeks. Now, several weeks later and still jobless, we decided to leave Thailand by the end of February. That means we have to do one more visa run. This time we won’t need 2 months tourist visa again, so we just do the border run… Thailand implemented a new rule regarding visas on arrival at the land borders, so we will have 15 days to get to Bangkok and ship the bike, sufficient anyway.
In the meanwhile we had some visitors passing by. Trent visited us twice on his Yamaha XJR1300 (I’m sure everybody on Koh Chang will remember the sound of its Yoshimura exhaust pipe…). Peter and Sue (on the way from Europe to NZ) came and stayed with us for almost 3 weeks. So, even no work, we’re hardly getting bored on Koh Chang.
First I taught diving to Peter and Sue, then Peter shown me that the clutch on my Africa Twin isn’t really too hard to operate… the cable was just stuck… what a relief!!!
Now, it is time for packing and deciding which things to bring to Nepal and which to leave behind. We can’t wait to be on the road again!!!
darius teaching diving on koh yuak
pool at AMARI hotel, koh chang
darius with magaly and sacha, our bosses
trent is visiting us on koh chang: "are we there yet??"
jane in koh rang
peter and sue are visiting us on koh chang
Finally we left Koh Chang on the 12th of February. Entering Bangkok was a nightmare as expected. The cops stopping us 3 times in 2 days... You could possibly imagine the cops grinning face as he sees my Philippine driving license. With a permanent smile he’d ask me for an international license and, of course, hoping that I haven’t one. Bad luck this time for the authorities, 2 times I have to produce the expired international permit and 2 times they let us go. The third time the cops found another “violation”, apparently I was riding in a car-lane instead of the motorbike/bus-lane. It’s hard to understand the cop with his English so bad and his facemask not being helpful either. He wants me to pay 200 Baht but lets us go after some talks… lucky again.
We booked the first 2 nights at Bangkok’s 5 stars Amari Watergate Hotel. Well, we’re not exactly on a splashing trip now but we got this treat as a tip from Darius’ customer on Koh Chang. We turn up in our dusty motorbike gear, carrying plastic bags to our room in the 15th floor. To be honest, we feel a bit strange.
The room is fantastic, 40 square meters of luxury, view over Bangkok and all for free!
Just right for our “1 YEAR ON THE ROAD” celebration!!!
Impressions from the AMARI WATERGATE HOTEL
We enjoyed the luxury the last 2 days, especially the buffet breakfast! Now, fully bellied, we are ready for our last ride in Thailand – from Amari Hotel to Trans Air Cargo. This time surprisingly not too much traffic.
Not expecting any problems at the cargo office, we’re happy to hand over our carnet and Darius’ passport but life isn’t always easy…
Miss Kittima (TAC officer) wants to have a “simplified customs declaration form”!!!!
Yes, we got this form from the customs in Betong when we first arrived to Thailand. Later we had to leave it with the customs at the Thai/Lao border. Since then we never received that form again, the customs only wanted to stamp our carnet! But now, it seems, we’re in trouble. Miss Kittima’s solution is simple: she wants us to ride back to the border at Hat Lek (Thai/Cambodia), leave Thailand and, on renewed entry to get the paper she needs for the freight process. It doesn’t come to her mind that we just came from there and its about 500km away from Bangkok. Now, that’s not going to happen.
I insist for another option, possibly phone, fax or even internet – you’d think we’re living in the 21st century…
Still not convinced, Miss Kittima sends us to Bangkok Custom Office on the other side of the city. We should try our “luck” over there. I prefer to take a taxi and Miss Kittima sends one of the office guys with us, for whom she charges us later 10 Euros. The first customs officer we talk to has the same brilliant idea like Kittima: just ride to the border and get the right papers!! I don’t know if I should laugh or cry.
Slowly we’re climbing up the competence ladder until someone has the idea to actually call to Hat Lek and organize that “very important” paper by phone. After all, it’s the fault of the customs not to give us the proper paperwork.
Ok, now that the treadmill of bureaucracy started to roll, we only need to wait for progress.
The Twin has to be made smaller to save costs and the visas for Nepal and India have to be arranged. Very soon the bike is crated and ready to go. Every day we’re receiving a call from Miss Kittima and have to hand over some more papers or photocopy some of our papers. We’re not getting bored in Bangkok!
Eventually, the mysterious customs declaration form arrives. Juhuhhu!!
We’re handing over 1000 Euros in Thai Currency and receiving a copy of a freight form with someone’s else name on it. I can only imagine the problems we could face in Kathmandu and let Miss Kittima change the name on my cargo papers, even she ensures me that we’ll have no problems.
With that photocopy we’re leaving Thailand 1 day before the departure of the bike, not really sure if it arrives to Nepal. Fingers crossed…
preparing the twin for the air cargo to Kathmandu
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 10:21 AM
February 23, 2009 GMT
nepal 25.02.09 - 13.04.09
Unable to cross Burma or China with our bike we are forced to take a plane from Bangkok to Kathmandu. Instead of flying with Thai Airways, we’re challenging our luck and hitch a ride with the cheap Royal Nepal Airlines. The plane definitely saw better times already but the service is excellent and, hey, we land in Kathmandu without any incidents!
At first I don’t like the idea of arriving 1 day before the bike but it is actually by far better. This way we’re getting picked up by the staff of the hotel we booked in for the first 2 nights and can have a brief look around the area we’re staying before heading off for the airport again.
at the thorung la 5416m
The procedure to clear the bike from the customs seems easy at the beginning. Without any help we find the correct office, which is handing over the original freight papers and are send to the customs/warehouse 1,5km south. At the gate await us several “fixers”, who want to help us with the paperwork for additional costs.
At this time we’re sure we can fix everything on our own and we’re ignoring their pleads.
Very soon we learn that it is a common practise to use fixers for the procedures at the customs, it is even encouraged by the officers in charge. All the paperwork is in Nepali Sanskrit and the custom officers would rather drink another cup of tea than to tell us what to fill in…
It is difficult to describe the situation in the combined customs/warehouse. The brick walled building is extremely dark inside; it is hard to read something in the offices and even harder to find your way in the gangway… Even the Airport compound is suffering from continues brown outs!
In the toilet there is a lone candle stuck to one of the sinks, upon entry you’d need to get your eyes used to the darkness first before stepping any further.
The fixer and me are running through the offices and collecting signatures and stamps, 3 hours later we must have about 30 of them on the declaration form. In some of the offices the corners are being abused as “spitting corners”. Close to the entry/exit door the wall would be stained red with spit and the remains of betel nut or whatsoever. It seems to be normal practise to cough up your phlegm upon exit and leave it on the wall. This mucus would then follow the gravity and move slowly towards the carpeted floor, leaving a shiny stain…
Only after the declaration form is completely full of stamps, signatures and markings I’m asked for the Carnet de Passage. The officer in charge wants to know where the bike is but so do I!!!! I haven’t seen a hint of it yet.
Together we’re able to find my box, which is now being pushed out onto the street by several workers. The engine and chassis numbers are checked and from now on I’m allowed to work on my bike.
It takes some concentration to be able to assemble the bike being under permanent supervision of at least 30 people.
Eventually the bikebox is beeing pushed out of the customs
What a beauty!!!!
The assembly of the bike is beeing watched over by some bystanders
Leaving the Airport compound my first move is to find a petrol station. Petrol stations in Kathmandu are not very easy to find. They are not colourful or distinct from the surroundings but, at least there is petrol available!!
Nepal hasn’t got any oil itself and is importing all oil products from the neighbouring India. This situation makes it very vulnerable to strikes, which happen quite often in this country. So, most of the time there is no petrol available and you just got to wait…
I’m getting the first feeling for the traffic in Kathmandu riding to our hotel, bikes, people, cars, trucks and cows everywhere, moving in all imaginable directions, completely ignoring the road rules (is there any rules anyway??).
Impressions from the first walk in Kathmandu
A wandering holy man - Sadhu
Kathmandu is a strange place and we are more than eager to explore it. And there is almost too much to see for us.
We start with a walk to Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, where once the city’s kings were crowned and legitimised. If it were no cars or motorbikes in here you’d think you’re transferred into the 15th century. There are small shops with windows hardly rising above the street level, all unlit or lit by candlelight. Meat is simply put out on a table in the baking sun only centimetres away from passing traffic. Further on we spot some Yogis, with their painted faces and coloured clothes a great photo opportunity. Also great are the ceremonies. It seems that wherever we walk, there would be some kind of celebrations.
There are girls sitting together with their parents and performing some kind of Hindu rituals, a skinhead boy with a swastika painted to his head is being a centre of a parade through the city accompanied by an immense noise originating from the following music band.
Then again, a monkey stole a plastic bag with something edible from a young boy and enjoys now its contents, while the boy has to watch in a safe distance.
The first few days in Kathmandu are immense. No matter where I look, there would be something happening. Besides the Durbar Square, we’re visiting some temples.
holy cow at the durbar square
A 6 months old child ready for the rice feeding ceremony
A butchery by day...
... and by night
Jane at the Durbar Squere in Kathmandu
The Pashupatinath temple is the most important site for Hindus in Nepal. As non Hindus we’re not allowed inside any of the actual temples but we are allowed to be witnesses to some cremations… (Not a very pleasant experience though).
From here we walk on and pass an obviously very important vagina temple. It’s a shame we again can’t go inside, I’m more than interested what is accommodated inside!
Walking through some construction places we reach Bodnath, home to one of the world’s largest stupas.
cremations at the pashupatinath temple
sadhu at the pashupatinath temple
buddhas eyes at the bodnath temple
For us, Bodnath isn’t very special, a huge concrete dome with lots of prayer flags and prayer wheels. But the surrounding atmosphere is very spiritual. Wherever we walk, there would be the “om mani padme um” sound following us and Buddha’s eyes would follow us too…
Having all things sorted out in the capital we’re ready for Pokhara and the Annapurna Circuit. We leave our bike and most of our gear at the guesthouse in Pokhara and take off with only the minimum on equipment for the long trek.
During 14 days we walk from Besishar anti clockwise the Annapurna Circuit, passing stunning scenery every single day of the trek. It’s a great experience for both of us. We walk approximately 150 kilometres through the Himalayas, try some delicacies like yak cheese, yak curry or just dried yak meat and the famous Tibetan butter tea, and cross the hazardous Thorung La Pass with its 5416m in a snow storm. We get lost after the pass in a heavy snowfall and find our way later on, just as we’re thinking of our possibilities to sleep in the open at an altitude of 4000m… Jane’s enthusiasm for the snow is declining rapidly now!
While resting in Muktinath we decide not to complete the circuit and try to fly from Jomsom to Pokhara. The rest of the circuit isn’t just the same like the eastern part. With the road to Muktinath finished there are suddenly so many people and so much traffic on the trek that it is not enjoyable for us any more. Still, we need to make it to Jomsom and fight the strong wind all the way in the Kali Gandaki Valley.
The last part of our Annapurna experience is the beautiful but short flight back to Pokhara. The little Cesna is following the valleys and we’re getting incredible mountain views all the way, almost touching Poonhill and getting very close to Macchapucchare, the “Fishtail-Mountain”.
annapurna 4 in first sun rays
annapurna 4 again
annapurna 3 and gangapurna
chorten at bhraga
faces of the himalaya
view of annapurnas in gunsang
janes first snow
too much snow for jane now
view of jharkot
We don’t really like the idea of back tracing but this time we need to ride back to Kathmandu and apply for the Pakistani visa. The process is more of a job application than applying for a visa. We need to fill in 5 pages with some strange questions in strange English… There would be questions about education, specialties, work experience, and this for the applicant and for his complete family. Besides asking for my address 3 times in the forms, there is another question about my “domicile”. But, still the progress isn’t too bad and after an interview and 2 days of waiting we’re getting our visas handed out for 36$ each.
Now, we finally can leave Kathmandu, its terrible traffic and shocking air pollution.
We’re choosing the Rajpath Highway, the direct and oldest connection Kathmandus with the rest of the World. Endless hairpin bends, mostly one lane of tarmac and not too much traffic – exactly what we want! On the way we quickly find out the reason for the lack of traffic. Another transportation strike is on and literally all tankers are parking beside the road. Nice, although we might have problems to refill our tank again…
since 1992 and still kicking
Spending few days in the Chitwan National Park we’re able to explore the park per pedes.
Although we spot some crocodiles, deer, wild buffalo, different species of birds, the main attraction of the park – the Rhinoceros doesn’t appear until the last half hour of our whole day walk. 200 meters away and then only for 10 seconds we can see the huge mammal.
canoe in chitwan NP
paintings on a elephant
village boy in chitwan NP
who is pulling whom?
supermarket in tansen
Much luckier we are in the Bardia National Park. Here the young male Rhino comes almost too close, hehehe.
going to bardia NP
jane nepali style
rhino encounter in bardia NP
chapati and vegetables
On the day we’re leaving Bardia NP there is another strike on and road blocks being installed. Some tourists are stranded as they can’t get a public transport anywhere…
remains of a recent road block
road scene from nepal
Nepal is a beautiful country but it has many problems, which affect the tourism industry directly. People trying to extort money from passing traffic by blocking the highway deliberately, the permanent lack of gasoline due to strikes and the constant power cuts make travelling difficult if not unpleasant.
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 10:15 AM
April 14, 2009 GMT
India 13.04.09 - 17.06.09
at the TAJ MAHAL
Having a very early start we arrive at the border in Banbassa by 6AM. 50 meters behind Nepali Immigration office the tarmac ends giving way to rough gravel which reminds me of a riverbed… Mostly locals are using horse driven carts moving their personal belongings from one side the border to another. It seems like there is no need for visa or passport for Indian or Nepal nationals.
For us it’s different obviously. The 2 officers at the Immigration let me sit down and wait till they’re finished with the newspaper and then starting asking me questions I’ve been asked thousands of times already: where you from (having my passport), how much is the motorbike, is this your wife, what is your job…
Not many tourists passing this way I reckon and the job at this border is more than boring.
It proves again that only the “best” officers are being deployed in Banbassa when the Customs officer is trying to show me that my passport expires in about 6 months. In fact he is looking at the Indian visa and its expiry date.
Some more soft gravel and more horse carts, then through a narrow dam-bridge and one more gate before we can enter India.
Mid April is too early for any excursions to Ladakh as most of the high altitude passes are still covered with snow. Instead we’re deciding on a loop around Uttar Pradesh and Rajastan.
Our first target is the magnificent Taj Mahal in Agra. As soon as I see the sun coming up behind the monument I know that it was worth every effort to come and see it – what a view!!!
sunrise at the TAJ MAHAL
The roads and the traffic in India are surprisingly easy. Riding within the city limits is still a nightmare but out on the open highway it is by far not as shocking as we heard of… Yes, there will be still vehicles coming head on towards you on a dual carriage way and there will be trucks and busses overtaking each other, leaving no other option for the bike but escaping on to the sandy road shoulder, but this is happening all over Asia so far.
There is lots of road construction going on in India and the congested one lane tracks vanishing in a fast pace. From Agra to Ajmer and Pushkar we’re riding the brand new dual carriage way with average speed of 100km/h. Who’d ever think we would be able to reach 100 in this country?!
at the 54m high gate in fatehpur sikri
As we’re moving westwards the cows pulling carts are increasingly replaced by camels, the vast wheat fields are giving place to brick businesses and later to sand, sand and more sand. That’s the great Thar Desert.
The countless piles of cow dung along the roads in Uttar Pradesh are vanishing too as we ride to Rajastan. We can still observe people collecting the fresh excrements, forming it into perfect circles and drying it on the roofs but in Uttar Pradesh this is more of an art than necessity. Over there, the fresh fallen paste would be collected and formed by hands (right before making the chapattis…) into forms reminding us of bakery products, dried and then piled up to multi storey cones. The cone would be covered by a thin layer of dung protecting it from heat and erosion, I guess, but leaving an opening to the passing traffic. Some people might be seduced by the great looks and buy some.
Pushkar is well known for its holy lake and for its holy or not so holy men. There are with no doubt some real Sadhus in Pushkar surviving only on meditation, ganja and offerings but we can also observe some Westerners copying the holy men and enjoying the smoke for the time being.
The lake itself is almost dry and what is left of it is not very appealing. Still, the Pilgrims are bathing in it – holy water even!
bathing ghats in pushkar
The remains of numerous cremations are landing in the same water and we can observe some kids digging through the mud in the hope of finding some jewellery or even a gold tooth, whatever would not turn into ashes…
Being warned upfront by other travellers, we can withstand the temptations of getting a blessing and a “pushkar passport” from one of the pushy “priests”. The questionable practise involves tossing flowers into the lake, getting a red string around the wrist (pushkar passport) and paying few Hundreds Rupiahs to the “priest” – and this all is to show respect, as we’re being said.
jane is getting a henna tattoo
After a few days in Pushkar with its “no booze, meat, eggs or kissing” policy we’re heading slowly north to Bikaner and then Amritsar.
in the great thar desert
two desert ships
indias endangered species...
this cow didnt make it!!
We just can’t not to stop at the extraordinary Karni Mata Temple in Deshnok. Here the rats are holy and the pilgrims are trying to become blessed by feeding the rodents and kissing the places the rats are sitting on – bizarre!
As with any other temple in India we’re asked to take off our shoes… only here the floor is seriously stained with rat excrement.
the main actors in the karni mata temple
border closing celebrations at the pakistani border
sikhs at the golden temple in amritsar
Skipping the idea of a camel safari due to glowing heat we’re having a quick look around Bikaner and its beautiful old houses and heading for Amritsar.
Coming closer to Amritsar the traffic is getting increasingly dense until we’re hopelessly stuck in an endless pilgrimage close to the holiest Sikh temple.
Nothing helps extended use of bikes horn or even pushing with the front wheel is completely ignored. Sweat is running down my body and I suddenly realize that my waterproof motorbike jacket isn’t sweat proof… it appears as stain first and soaks my jacket eventually. We’re close to heat exhaustion as suddenly the human mass parts.
We’re having a quick look around the golden temple and watching the Sikhs dipping their bodies in the holy lake, constantly listening to the transmitted prayers.
athmosphere at the golden temple
Then we’re taking off for the ultimate spectacle close to Amritsar – the border ceremony in Attari. There are already Thousands of Indians as we arrive at the border. All of them ready to push us through the security checks and towards the arena. It’s a very big deal for Indians to scream and shout patriotic slogans during the border closing ceremony. They arrive from all over India especially for this show.
Its funny to one point but also the whole program has some negative vibe due to the hatred we can see in many of the faces. The politics made these two nations enemies – sad story it is!
market in Mc leod ganj
The heat is driving us north to Dharamsala and Mc Leod Ganj. It is the end of April and there is almost no tourist here, great place for relaxing before riding to Kashmir and Ladakh.
The road from Manali up to Leh is still closed and we’re deciding to ride up to Srinagar first, then to Leh and to Manali eventually. All the way to Kashmir heavy traffic. Mostly it is cargo trucks but the closer we come to Srinagar the more military trucks are on the road. Also the road signs change as soon as we cross from Himal Pradesh to Jammu and then to Kashmir. Instead of Hindi all the signs appear suddenly in Arabic.
The drivers are becoming increasingly aggressive and overtaking on any blind corner. In one day we see 4 serious accidents and aren’t surprised at all!
teabreak in the mountains
Coming closer to Srinagar the military presence is getting really overwhelming. Every 100 meters there would be few soldiers in the fields, every 500 meters a serious check post and every 2 kilometres a military base… Later, we hear from locals that there are 5 soldiers to every local Kashmiri based in this troubled province. We don’t know if this number is correct but we observe that every single soldier is a proud owner of a moustache. There must be a rule in the Indian Army, which prescribes the necessity of this moustache and defines its style. And the rule must be at least 35 years old because the style is somehow stuck in the seventies…
The last obstacle before reaching Srinagar is the Jawahar tunnel. This tunnel is made by the Germans in the 1920’s and they gave a 40 years guarantee for their job. Now, this guarantee expired about 50 years ago and one can see it… The tunnel is in a desolate state, no lights, no ventilation, no exit points, no emergency lane but bumpy and greasy asphalt all the 2,5 kilometres. You just don’t want to have a problem in here, especially not if a Indian Tata driver is half a meter behind you, blasting his horn and flashing his lights, ready to run over anything in his way!
shikaras in the dal lake
a different definition of beauty in india
life is a journey - complete it
We are reaching Srinagar safe and sound and spending few beautiful days in this heavily guarded fortress while waiting for the road to Ladakh to be open.
On May 8th the pass is officially open and we’re the first to cross it. The Zoji La will stay in our memory forever for it was the hardest of all 12 passes we’ve ridden in Ladakh. We have to cross meter deep ice water due to lack of bridges, ride in the snow storm and cross fresh snow fields. The conditions of this mountain track are just awful at this time of the year!
jane on a pony in sonamarg
zoji la pass is not the easiest to cross
slow climb up the zoji la
Our Ladakh loop includes all the passes along the way and some side trips over the supposing highest motor able pass in the world – the Khardung La to Nubra valley and over the 3rd highest – the Chang La to the Pangong Lake. According to our GPS the Khardung La isn’t exactly as high as the Indians want it to be. They claim its elevation is 5602m but it is “only” 5375m in fact… still high though. The 2nd highest pass follows on the way to Manali.
The Buddhist Ladakh keeps us for 1 month, partly because there is so much to see and partly because the road to Manali isn’t open till the beginning of June.
If we’re just not visiting some Buddhist monasteries or riding around and enjoying the stunning scenery, we’re strolling around Leh and enjoying its peaceful mood.
Somehow we’re not really looking forward to get to Manali.
jane with our new friends in drass
foto break in mulbekh
breakfast with a view in mulbekh
posing at the namika la pass
riding the namika la pass
at the namika la pass
sofar the highest pass - the fotu la
view from the monastery in lamayuru
young novices observing the village life in lamayuru
roads in ladakh
on the way to leh
the magnificent indus river
with wayne in the sandplains of ladakh
And we’re exactly right about this bustling hill town. Well, not completely correct. The traffic jam starts already on the last pass the Rotang La. After escaping the Indian way of life for several weeks in Ladakh the “real” India caught up with us again. There must be Thousands of Indian tourists up on the pass. In rented Mickey Mouse snow overalls they are trying themselves on skies, quads, horses or snow mobiles or just enjoying the dirty snow while being pushed around in wooden carts. There is enough food and drink stalls to keep the people up here all day and if you’re fancy to buy some saffron, there will be a seller on spot…
It takes some time to pass this busy place and we’re more than eager to pass it quick. But Rotang La is just the preview of Manali. Here again, traffic jam everywhere, and everywhere the ignorant and disrespectful Indian drivers. Only full brakes and swerving to the side prevents us from having two accidents within shortest time.
We’ve had enough of India and for now we want to reach our next country – Pakistan, as soon as possible.
riding the khardung la
khardung la in may
riding to nubra valley
the supposingly highest motorable pass in the world
camping out in the nubra valley
on the way to the pangong lake
the 3rd highest pass in the world
lots of snow and ice on the pass
the scenery on the way to pangong
the road is not always a pleasure
our camp at the pangong lake at 4300m
that must be the most beautiful lake for me sofar
us chilling at the lake
back at the chang la pass
riding back to leh
ladakhi plains close to pang
jane with our hosts in pang
johns oilfield loosing its carrier
and this is how to repair it
ways through the snow
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 12:06 PM
June 20, 2009 GMT
Pakistan 17.06.09 - 13.08.09
welcome to pakistan
We have to face a final Indian obstacle before leaving – the incompetent Indian Customs.
It takes several hours for the lady officer in charge to study our carnet de passage. She is trying to read and memorize every single letter, I think, and doesn’t even realize that all the 25 pages in the carnet are identical…
Later we have to learn that she obviously forgot to inform the Customs about our exit and we’re due to proof that we actually left India.
On the Pakistani side we’re welcomed with tea and asked to seat and relax. But the first thing in our mind is FOOD!!! After the mostly vegetarian India we can’t get enough of meat. During the 2 days in the PTDC motel in Wagah we’re doing some maintenance on the bike and eat, eat and eat.
high kicking action at the wahga border
high security at the marriot hotel in islamabad
There are about 350 not very exciting kilometres to Islamabad, our next stop in Pakistan. Here we have to apply for some visas. Especially the visa for Iran supposed to be hard to get. There is several “overlanders” on the tourist camp in Islamabad, who are either waiting for long time or being refused by the Iranian government… we’re more than worried now. Anyway, the procedure will take at least 3 weeks and we’re escaping the ridiculous heat by riding up north along the Karakoram Highway.
Riding the first 600km from Islamabad to Gilgit is more of a pain than pleasure. The KKH is in a desolate state making us swerve between the potholes all the way. There is no view of any importance and the traffic is just as bad as it could get. We’re not experiencing any kids throwing stones at us or trying to hit us with sticks but the conservative region of Indus Kohistan isn’t really a pleasant place for tourists to stop over.
You can’t see any women in the street as they usually marry very early (mostly with their first period) and from then on their world is minimized to husbands house. No wonder there when we’re being observed permanently during our walks through the filthy streets…
finally on the KKH
beautiful decorated truck in hunza
chapali kebab in gilgit
bridges in northern pakistan
on the 2 bridges walk
hunza valley view
From Gilgit on the view is becoming more and more stunning, although I can’t enjoy it fully due to the state of the KKH. Jane is recording the view and I can watch it in the evening then! Nice!
Additional to thousands of deep potholes the Chinese are working on the complete string from Chilas to the Khunjerab pass at once. That means diversions every few hundred meters, waiting every now and then, blockage of the highway for days and even more potholes. This highway will be enjoyable again in 2-3 years. By then the Chinese will be finished with the construction work and will be shipping all their goodies to Pakistan.
We only make it to Passu and that is more than enough.
the cathedral ridge in passu
first sunrays strike the rakaposhi peak
with daniel and our new friend
with daniel in ultar meadow 3270m
art on trucks in pakistan
boys in baltistan
By far nicer is our side trip to Skardu. Smooth asphalt, gorgeous scenery and almost no traffic. On the way back to Gilgit we’re not so lucky though: 3 problems on the bike in just 1 day, isn’t that too much?! First the rear wheel bearing quits the job (still easy), then puncture on the rear (still easy) and finally the battery crashes… Now, we’re 3km away from the nearest place with a hotel (luckily not 30km!). Together we’re pushing the bike towards the hotel, the sun is burning down and the incline of the road doesn’t help either.
repairs happen to be always in the middle of nowhere
the remains of the wheel bearing
The bike is left behind at the hotel and we’re on the way to Gilgit, 5 horrible hours in a Hiace van. This van reminds us why we prefer to travel by bike and don’t do backpacking! 20 passengers inside the van and some on the roof, beside the 1,5m tower of cargo. Every time we hit a pothole, the roof dangerously bends towards passenger compartment. The women sit in the first row behind the driver, the men elsewhere. The ones close to windows spitting permanently out, the inner seat passengers spitting in some plastic bags, but spitting is definitely a must on this bus rides.
buddha carvings in skardu
women must be covered in pakistan
rakaposhi view over the indus river
In Gilgit I’m reassured that the battery is gone but also that I won’t be able to buy a new one in this town. Apparently the connection between the cells 1 and 2 broke and the only thing I can do is to repair that connection. Now I’m sure not many of you guys saw this type of battery repair. First the specialist cuts a piece of the top part of the battery and then inserts some pieces of lead and melts them with a soldering gun till the 2 cells are properly connected. I’m a bit sceptical about this type of repair but what other choice do I have?? At first I tried to get a new battery send by courier from Germany but apparently a battery belongs to dangerous goods and not one courier would put his hands on. I’m just wondering how they ship the batteries to their customers.
Anyway, back at the bike the battery seems to work properly and we make it back to Gilgit without any problems.
one of the victims of a landslide on KKH
By now, we’re waiting for more than 1 month for our Iranian visas, calling the embassy every day and slowly we’re beginning to doubt if we ever get this permits to enter Iran. Several other travellers been refused on their visa applications and we have the feeling that the same will happen to us, bugger.
But we don’t want to give up so easily! Instead of waiting in Gilgit and calling the Embassy daily, we decide to ride to Islamabad and try to talk to the Consul personally.
Only 1 hour south of Gilgit the road is blocked by a massive landslide and we’re forced to wait for 5 hours till the 4 excavators and bulldozers are moving the debris. Another hour or so further south we’re facing a landslide again… this time no machines visible and the truckers are prepared for long hours of waiting. Instead of spending half a night beside the road we decide to take an invitation from a Pakistani guy and detour to Astor.
Saefudin brings us with his jeep to Tarashing and to Deosai Plains within the next 2 days. After all, the landslide delay was all but worth it!!!
at the nanga parbat
beautiful deosai lake
at the famous deosai bridge
Back in the Capitol we arrange a meeting with the Consul, who speaks a better German than me (Darius), and we regain some confidence in getting our visas some time.
In fact, few days later, after 47 days of waiting, we’re holding our 30 days tourist visas!!!
food stalls in islamabad
There is no more reason to stay any longer in the hot and humid Islamabad.
Our Pakistan visas are almost expired and the border is about 2200km away. No escorts during the first half to Sukkur but from now on it seems like there is no escape.
impressions at the market in bahawalpur
Well, the police are picking us up from the hotel in the morning but the worn Toyota Hilux can’t keep up with us for long and most of the time we’re on our own. Usually we’d see the escort only while having a longer break or refilling the bike. Also we can’t be bothered to fill up the forms every 20km or so at the check posts. Jane wrote down our information on small pieces of paper, which we’re handing over every now and then.
our vip escort can't keep up with us
After a few days “beer-break” in Quetta, we’re ready for the final leg in Pakistan, the so called “kidnap highway”.
This time we’re travelling with Guido and Esther, a Swiss couple on 2 bikes, and are far more reluctant to having escorts along the way.
During the 2 days to the border we’d see some police escorting us from time to time but most of time we’d be on our own.
guido and esther
empty "kidnap highway"
long way to europe
beluchi man in dalbandin
heavy guarded hotel in dalbandin
sand dunes are taking over the road
one down at a dune in balochistan
with guido and esther on the kidnap highway
baba guido is giving lessons in photography
Reaching Taftan we quickly decide not to stay overnight. What a mess! The whole place must exist only due to smuggling petrol from Iran and exchanging money to very poor conditions…
Although the officials on the Pakistani side are friendly and helpful it is pretty hard to find the Customs and the Immigration in none-descript buildings along the border.
2 months passed since we entered Pakistan and we leave it behind with lots of good memories, experiences and positive encounters.
good bye pakistan
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 08:43 AM
August 15, 2009 GMT
IRAN 13.08.09 - 30.08.09
The start of our Iran experience isn’t really as good as we’d expect it. After finishing our paperwork at the Pakistani side and saying good bye to our 10th country on this trip, we have to wait at the iron gate to Iran. Apparently the border guards are having a tea break and this just 1 hour before they close the border anyway…
time to pull the africa twin
The friendliness of the people disappears as soon we’re rolling through the gate! From now on we’re being treated differently from all the other countries we travelled so far.
There is not much of English spoken in Iran and the officers at the Immigration or at the Customs are not an exemption. Right away we have to show our passports for “registration” at the guard, then some officer wants to get my carnet and disappears with it, then again passport, carnet, passport, carnet, passport, carnet… all at different buildings. Finally we make it to the Customs just before they close the office.
Very soon we find out that the police want to keep our passports for “security” reasons and give us an escort to the city of Bam, almost 500km away from the border. They don’t get our passports and their harassment starts immediately. I mean, what kind of a protection is a single unarmed police officer sitting on Guido’s bike?
We almost succeed shaking off the police but then the battery of my bike quits the job again and we have to push the Africa Twin into Iran. Luckily Guido is offering to pull my bike to Mirjave, about 15km away, using several luggage straps tied together.
the first stretch in iran is being towed
iran actual trip
With a smallish battery mounted we still make to Zahedan this day, without any escorts and without stopping at any of the check posts.
Staying in Zahedan is like being in prison, we’re not allowed even to make one step outside the hotel on our own. In theory there’d be a police officer for our escort in the hotel but they can’t be bothered obviously and so we have to stay inside!
Usually the police would get the passports of the tourists and so you’d have to follow whatever they say or do. That means, stopping every few kilometres and waiting for another escort, endless paperwork and, finally riding in the darkness. In our case we keep our documents on us, which makes the police even more aggressive.
The chase is on! During a filling stop one very angry police officer is screaming at Guido and even takes away Esther’s keys… well, all of this is for our “security” only…
Possibly it is also only for our “safety” not to sell any petrol to us, isn’t it? We actually have to buy the gasoline on the black market as the filling stations wouldn’t give us any.
Having filled up our tanks we ignore the unfriendly police completely and ride off to Bam. We can’t see any escort for an hour or so but then they catch up with us eventually, overtake us and try to stop us at the first check post. Not even slowing down, we pass them waving friendly. This situation repeats many times; anyway we’re not going to be shot for our safety, aren’t we?
Only in Bam the nightmare is over, no more escorts, no more screaming police and even easy access to gasoline at the petrol stations! We can relax again.
Bam was hit by a 17 seconds lasting earthquake in 2003, which destroyed the entire city and buried 40 Thousand of its inhabitants. The famous Arg-e-Bam was flattened during the quake and is being now slowly restored but it will take another 20 years or so till the Unesco World Heritage site is rebuild completely.
Obviously there was lot of financial help flowing to Bam after the catastrophe. Instead of the former mud brick houses all the new buildings are made earthquake proof using modern materials. The city lost its appeal and its number one sight the Arg-e-Bam and won’t see any tourists for quite a while, what a pity!
the distroyed arg-e-bam
at the jameh mosque in yazd
view at the jameh mosque in yazd from our hotel restaurant
jameh mosque yazd at night
amir chaghmaq complex in yazd
which one is for which gender?
Iran is a difficult country to travel in but now even more; as soon as we reach Yazd, the holy month for the Muslims begins… It means for us either to fast with the Iranians (which we really don’t want to do) or shop for groceries in the evening and quietly eat in the hotel room the next day. What a pain!
Some hotels would serve food to “non-believers” like us during the day but this is not only expensive, we’re missing out on local bazaars, eating street food and experiencing the daily life. Well, a combination of the Ramadan, extra boring landscape and mostly unfriendly and not helpful Iranians makes us to cross this country quicker than estimated.
Possibly we just heard too many good stories about Iran and its great inhabitants. For me the only time we were facing a friendly and smiling Iranian was at the Imam Square in Esfahan and it turned out that he only wanted to sell us a carpet.
The teashops inside Esfahan’s bridges are closed down and even the fabulous located teashop in the Imam Square won’t open for long time – I guess these teashops are just too much joy for the Iranians. Young people could possibly meet up there and do something illegal – like looking at each other!
Walking around in Esfahan we find out quickly that we’re being assigned a soldier as an “escort”. Many times we heard that the government is paranoid about us being potential spies and now we’re experiencing the big brother reality ourselves. This is another reason for long hours of riding and passing through this unfriendly and not welcoming country.
Our daily distances double and triples in Iran, it’s not uncommon that we’re riding 600 – 700km in one day!
at the jameh mosque in esfahan
si o sei bridge in esfahan
bridge in esfahan
iranis waiting for the sun to set (ramadan)
the imam mosque in esfahan
manequins in esfahans bazaar
one of the shops in esfahans bazaar
Every day during the Ramadan the TV is broadcasting the exact time of the sunset. Let’s say the sun is setting at 8.28pm this day. You can hardly find any space in the restaurants from 8pm on. Every one is sitting on an empty table and waiting patiently for the minutes to pass. At exact 8.28pm the waiter is trying to deliver the food to every body simultaneously and the big eating begins.
The plan was to stay at least 30 days in Iran and maybe even get the visas extended but we’re more than happy to leave after only 2 weeks…
Iran is getting on our nerves right from the beginning until the very last minute. Upon leaving the country the Custom officers refuse to stamp our carnet and want to see our Iranian number plates. It takes me several hours of persuasion until they finally stamp the papers and allow us to leave. But first they want to check our luggage!! I really can’t believe to hear right when the dumb officer is asking us if we’re having any liquor on us! Right, we’re about to smuggle liquor from Iran into Armenia!!!!
Few more times we have to produce our passports for checking before we finally can leave. I scream joyfully in my helmet upon crossing the bridge to Armenia.
landscape in northern iran
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 01:30 PM
August 31, 2009 GMT
ARMENIA 30.08.09 - 06.09.09
We’re welcomed to Armenia by big bellied Russian soldiers in camo outfits. Later we’ll find out that, even independent, Armenia’s borders are heavily guarded by Russian Army.
No one wants to know if we’re having any liquor on us this time but the immigration officer has his doubts with Jane’s passport. He simply can’t believe that the handwritten, not machine readable passport is not faked. Again, few hours of persuasion and arguing is needed until Jane gets her entry visa to Armenia.
After Iran, Armenia seems to us like heaven! There is people smiling at us, couples walking together holding hands or even kissing, mini skirts and high heels for women, music playing in the streets and lots of food everywhere!
welcome to armenia
In Armenia we’re choosing to stay in private homes and enjoying the delightful local food and drinks. The latter proves to be especially dangerous. 60% strong home made plum vodka seems not to affect the Armenians as they drink it at any occasion. For us it is definitely too strong and we rather stick to Armenian beer…
there is no lack of choice
armenia actual trip
still lots of russian inheritance in armenia
what else do you need??
Armenia is a mountainous country with lots of history hidden everywhere. The motorbike proves to be the ultimate type of transportation. We’re swerving up and down the forested hills and visiting some beautiful churches along the way. Taking advantage of the clear weather, we’re camping out in some gorgeous spots and even sleep in a cave once before we make it to Yerevan and stay there in a private house again.
Yerevan, the capitol of Armenia, is a very stylish city. People seem to care a lot about their looks and their cars. Strangely enough no one seems to work in Yerevan. More likely you’d see the local women shopping in designer boutiques and the men driving around town in their black, mostly German made cars. The car has to be black and shiny, tinted glass and big engine are a must. Black is also in when it comes to men’s fashion.
For the women the rule is “the sexier the better”. In Yerevan you could spot the shortest mini skirts and the highest heels possible!
Armenia is also a small country and you only want to visit so many churches. After 1 week it’s time to move on and we, once again, crossing few passes to reach Georgian border.
at the noravank monastery
approaching mt ararat
jane at the cinema in yerevan
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 09:09 AM
September 06, 2009 GMT
GEORGIA 06.09.09 - 02.10.09
No problems at the Georgian border. I don’t need any visa and Jane is getting it for 20 Euro without any troubles. We’re heading straight for the capitol Tbilisi.
Here we must endure much more bureaucracy and apply for the Turkish and European visas. The 15 days Turkish visa proves to be easy to get but the Schengen visa for EU requires many extra documents, the process takes up to 2-3 weeks and the possibility of being rejected is quite high. The European Union is very afraid of “tourists” who turn into immigrants and never leave…
Tbilisi is trying hard to be as stylish as Yerevan but it will take few more years until it reaches the same standards. It is a beautiful city though with its old town and its pleasant cafes.
welcome to georgia
Instead of waiting for the decision on Jane’s visa in Tbilisi, we’re exploring Georgia. Many more churches and monasteries in beautiful settings, mountains and towns are to visit. In Kazbegi we meet a lone Polish biker, Daniel on his Honda Transalp and decide to travel together for a while. We stay for few days in Gori, Stalin’s birthplace, and camping right in front of the Vardzia monastery. From here on Daniel is riding to Azerbaijan and we’re returning to Tbilisi with hopes and fears about the visa situation…
gori - stalin's birthplace
at the jvari pass
at the sameba monastery in kazbegi
with daniel at the ananuri monastery
georgia actual trip
at the vardzia monastery
bridge in southern georgia
anti russian graffiti in tbilisi
art in tbilisi
fountain in tbilisi
kschmeruli - yummy georgian dish
fresh georgian bread in the make
market in tbilisi
We’re even more nervous when the Embassy tries to call us on our mobile phone. We are riding to another great sight in Georgia – the David Gereja Monastery and pick up the call too late. Trying to call back I have to realize that we’re not having enough load on our card to make a call… bugger!
Luckily for us, Mrs. Miranda calls again and gets the information the Embassy needs. Now, we only need to wait for few more days, which we’re spending in Georgia’s wine region: Telavi. Here, wine is served free with a room reservation – not too bad!
The 23rd of September will always stay in our memory. We’re due to show up at 4pm and receive Jane’s passport, with or without visa. It’s hard to imagine how nervous we are!
We just don’t want to think about the consequences of Jane not getting the visa to EU but this thought is always in our minds. Having the Turkish visa already, Turkey would be the last country on this trip for Jane so far. Then back to the Philippines where Jane would apply for the EU visa again, this time at the German Embassy in Manila. Dealing with the German Embassy in Manila is not a great pleasure and the visa application can take up to 1 year!!!!
The last 2 hours of waiting become almost unbearable, several coffees don’t help either.
4pm on the second the security guard at the Polish Embassy signals us to go in. We hardly can walk by now. We can’t see Mrs. Miranda, but it is good so, because hearing the news of the approval of the EU visa, Jane would love to embrace and squeeze her on the spot! Out of reach of the surveillance cameras, we’re jumping high. The trip around the World continues for both of us!!
Having the EU visa secured, we’re moving slowly towards the Turkish border. We are experiencing terrible weather in Georgia, 4 days of non stop raining and temperatures around 10 degrees Celsius. With this type of weather it’s best to stay in the room and to enjoy Georgian hospitality.
Batumi becomes our last stop in Georgia before entering Turkey. While looking for accommodation we spot 2 travel bikes beside the road. The owners of the 2 dirt bikes spot us at the same time, and invite us to join them for lunch. Rick and Stephen, both Americans, started their trip in Kabul, Afghanistan, and made it through the Stans, mostly Off-road, to Georgia. Due to pouring rain we’re forced to extend our stay in Batumi but enjoying the company of the 2 Americans.
As soon as the sky turns blue and the clouds disappear over night we’re ready for our next country: Turkey!
For now, we’re leaving Georgia, but we’ll come back for more – definitely!
david kereja monastery
mens talk in georgia, hehehe
riding in georgia is a pleasure
the famous telavi grapes
at the sea again
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 05:32 PM
September 23, 2009 GMT
23.09.09 BREAKING NEWS
YUUUUHHHUUHUUHHU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! today jane got her visa for EU !!!!!
we'll be staying 1 more week in georgia, then 2 weeks in turkey and enter EU on the 15th of october!!!
we're celebrating right now!!
darius and jane
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 02:40 PM
October 01, 2009 GMT
TURKEY 02.10.09 - 15.10.09
welcome to turkey
Leaving Georgia is as easy as coming in. On the Turkish side the situation is rather different. Darius, as the driver, has to ride through the check post; Jane has to join the queue for passengers. With Hundreds of Georgians crossing the border, Jane has to be patient… Big Georgian Mamas are pushing severely and even more patience has to be applied as the Immigration officer hasn’t got a clue about Jane’s Passport and the Turkish visa. Same confusion awaits me when I’m finally arriving at the Immigration desk for drivers. Luckily, I’m shown where the back door is… That’s the place you want to slide the passport in one of the officers hands (I pretended that I didn’t know the drill and didn’t fold in some Euros…) and get it back within minutes.
Few more checking of our passports and some questions about our green card insurance followed by some more checking of our passports before we’re finally free to go.
Tight visa regulations for Jane (only 15 days) are forcing us to speed up through turkey and to visit only a few places.
frescoes in the sumela monastery
phantastic landscape in northern turkey
colors in the turkish mountains
jane posing in the turkish mountains
us in kappadokia
the legendary cave bar in goereme
long shadows in kappadokia
goereme at night
the local speciality: kappadokian "testý kebab"
back to zero again
no turkey without efes
the library of celsus in ephesus
everyone wants to take the better picture...
pitstop at the ancient public toilet, hehehe
good bye turkey
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 07:56 AM
November 01, 2009 GMT
Europe 15.10.09 - 02.12.10
Greece welcomes us with 2 degrees Celsius at night and only 6 degrees during the day. Within few kilometres my fingers are frozen and turning blue. Luckily we’re able to buy some ugly but warm camo gloves. This gloves and my camo raincoat let me rather look more like a warrior than a traveller…
As soon as the Greek customs find out that the bike isn’t registered in Germany, they start to be suspicious about our bike papers, especially our green card. Additionally Jane’s Schengen Visa is being inspected under UV light with a magnifying glass.
Finally I can convince an Austrian border guard to let us pass through our last border so far.
WE’RE ENTERING EUROPE!!!!!!!!
Our plan was to explore Greece for about 2 weeks but the cold and rainy weather quickly changes our decision. In only 3 days we’re crossing Greece and arranging the ferry tickets to Venice. Not willing to spend 40-50 Euros for a room, we’re looking for Igoumenitsa’s camp ground, which is closed already. Well, eventually we end up camping close to the campsite, just below a “NO CAMPING” sign.
It is raining; it is cold, we’re very happy to board the ferry and rest in our Pullman chairs.
24 hrs later we’re entering the magnificent Venice harbour. It is very cold but no sign of clouds. Amazing clear sky allows a view of hundred kilometres or more.
just a glimpse of venice
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 04:04 PM
November 22, 2009 GMT
GERMANY 20.11.09 - 05.08.10 and 02.10.10 -
20 months passed, 40000km later we're finally reaching germany!!!! now we'll have time for the necessary repairs and many liters of GLUEHWEIN, hehehe.
the remains of our AT
No time wasting, I start to strip the bike. Very soon there are parts all over the place and the frame remains standing solitary in the garage. For the next weeks, if not months, I’ll be busy working on the bike and make it fit for the next part of our RTW adventure.
waiting for the repairs
jane cleaning the parts
full box of parts
Burghausen at night
X-mas castle trip in Burghausen
also in germany the women are responsible for their husbands... this sign was taken at the BAYWA homemart in burghausen.
the job is done, the bike is ready for new adventures!!!! many thanks to all of you who supported us and made the "rebuilding of the africa twin" possible!!!
sadly, we are forced to give up the beautiful number plate and use the German one instead... we wouldn't be given any insurance in the EU otherwise...
A trip to Hessen's "Kloster Kreuzberg"
Which way to go???
here we go!, found the odd austrian village...
the education standards in germany are really high... even the dogs are meant to be able to read and write, hehehhhe.
jane adds up one more dress to her collection: " Bayrische Tracht!"
burghausen bridge festival
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 09:45 AM
December 21, 2009 GMT
WHITE X-MAS 2009
we wish you merry X-mas and happy new year 2010. for the first time in many years (for darius) and for the first time ever (for jane) we'll celebrate WHITE X-MAS in bloody cold europe.
we had - 15 degrees just yesterday, its snowing permanently and jane is thinking of using cramp-ons for walking in the streets...
well, for now we're busy decorating our christmas tree and shopping for presents, which fit underneath the tree, hehehe.
right after X-mas we'll finish working on our bike and hopefully make a test ride... it depends on the weather though...
many thanks to all of you for supporting us or following up with our progress!!!
darius and jane
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 09:17 AM
May 17, 2010 GMT
VENICE MAY 2010
Ever since we approached Venice by ferry last year in November we knew that we have to come back and take a closer look. November was just too cold and we were far too weary of travelling as we would have enjoyed the magnificent place.
May sounded much better. Luckily we’ve got the key to a beautiful apartment from our generous friend Gerhard and could enjoy Venice without using up all our savings for accommodation…
Venice welcomed us with blue sky and T-shirt temperatures!!!
infront of the appartment building
even the weather was great, what a trip!
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 08:21 AM
June 08, 2010 GMT
AFRICA TWIN MEETING 2010 at BURG LISSBERG
first blue spots "upstairs" giving us hope for a great weekend
AT's in different colours and variations
africa twins everywhere
McGyver at work... even a vice is something you should equip you bike with!
having fun at the games
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 09:37 AM
July 10, 2010 GMT
GROSSGLOCKNER HOCHALPENSTRASSE JUNE 2010
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 01:44 PM
August 08, 2010 GMT
SLOVENIA 05.08.10 - 10.08.10
kozjak falls in kobarid
napoleon bridge in kobarid
our "luxurious" life at the 5 star camping in slovenia...
at the lake BLED
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 06:56 PM
August 15, 2010 GMT
HUNGARY 10.08.10 - 12.08.10 and 09.09.10 - 15.09.10
gulasz and beer in hungary
and I thought german language is difficult to spell...
impressions from the hungarian puszta in BUGAC
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 02:18 PM
VIENNA 12.08.10 - 16.08.10
Thanks to our friends Irene and Stefan we were able to see Vienna at its best. Here at the HAWELKA CAFE.
das hundertwasser haus
jane at the prater
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 02:19 PM
August 22, 2010 GMT
SLOVAKIA 16.08.10 - 20.08.10
at the spissky hrad castle
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 07:39 PM
POLAND 20.08.10 - 07.09.10
Despite all warnings we decided to visit Poland. I've been told by various people (who possibly never been to Poland) that I'd be robbed, my wife would be raped and, for sure, I'd have to leave Poland by public transport...
Well, the fact is that a complete stranger paid our lunch on the very first day in Poland, as soon as he realised that I haven't got any Zloty on me (no Euro in Poland sofar). People are absolutely friendly and helpful and nobody is really interested in our old bike!
All in all great time in Poland! The absolute highlight ofcourse was to meet my family, which I didn't see for more than 20 years. There was a cousin of mine, 23yrs old, whom I've never seen before...
meet family's cats
BIESZCZADY NATIONAL PARK
We spend a great week in the Bieszczady National Park, went trekking and saw that amazing stag in the wild!
just couldn't believe the size of this stag
impressions from cracow
Cracow will be staying in our memories for a long time. During the annual Africa Twin meeting at the Lissburg castle we were invited to Cracow by Sambor and Izi of Polish Africa Twin Club. Sadly enough, Izi lost his young life while riding his bike in Tajikistan...
R.I.P Izi, we'll never forget you!
Sambor and Darius finally had some time to talk about the incident during our stay in Sambors house.
Sambor, many thanks for hosting us, even in this difficult time!
Well, at the end we're leaving Poland with a big wish to come back for more and our newly repaired motorbike pannier frame (free); but still on the bike, not raped, robbed or conned.
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 07:39 PM
September 16, 2010 GMT
CROATIA 15.09.10 - 02.10.10
It should have been Serbia in the first place... well, after receiving an email from serbian ministry of foreign affairs stating that Jane doesn't need a visa for serbia, we were refused at the border. Apparently this people don't know their own rules!
Luckily enough Jane really is allowed to enter Croatia without a visa.
KRAPJE, UNESCO protected village in northern croatia
jane with local woman in krapje
loo for chicks, what else?
and here for the boys!
at the plitvice lakes
coffee break in the mountains
beer in croatia
cooking at the beach
sunset at the adriatic coast
eventually: in dubrovnik!
pretty windy in dubrovnik...
after receiving the news of our refusal at the serbian border, sasha is riding 600 kilometres on his harley through bosnian mountains down to dubrovnik, just to see us again!!
croatian food, yumm yumm
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 06:29 PM
October 30, 2010 GMT
View of Innsbruck, 27th of october 2010
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 06:11 PM
October 31, 2010 GMT
ITALY 27.10.10 - 03.11.10
Only a few days through Italy on the way South. We managed to have a good look around Cinque Terre before the rain has got us again... Pouring rain for 4 days forced us to rent a container at a campground about 100 k's South of Genua.
Luckily enough the container was equipped with a heater and a small kitchenette.
Leaving the container behind at the first sun shine, we're making it across the French border.
Impressions from the stunning CINQUE TERRE
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 02:27 PM
November 05, 2010 GMT
FRANCE 03.11.10 - 08.11.10
According to the French, every decent person should speak their language... well, our french contains of: citroen, renault, baguette and sante...
Sorry, completely forgot about PEUGEOT...
Again, not many days "wasted" in France. We liked the Cote Azure as it was deserted this time of the year, stayed few days in Argeles, the former Pope city and got wet again at the Spanish border in Argeles.
Impressions from the POPE-CITY AVIGNON
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 03:05 PM
November 09, 2010 GMT
SPAIN 08.11.10 - 02.12.10
It's sunny but cold and windy as we're hitting spanish border South of Argeles. The road is twisted and strong winds almost blow us of the bike. Still, it's fun!
With every Kilometre its getting warmer though...
Not really interested in big cities we still manage to take a few pics at the Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona before we continue our ride south.
Most of the Campgrounds along the coast are closed and the hotel prices are just above our budget... The search for accomodation is starting to become hard work.
The open Camps are mostly filled with retired Germans or British, who'd spend 3-6 Months a year in a caravan or mobile home down here.
The funny thing is though, that the camps are divided in German and English parts by an invisible line. We're being drawn to the German side almost immediately...
scrambled eggs for breakfast today
a night out in Calpe
Just on time we make it to Alicante where we meet our good friend Jonathan. Almost 2 Years ago we travelled together in Ladakh and now, he'd fly over from London just to see us again!
During our visit to Alicante we mostly revive the times in India and chill for the next leg of our trip. Jon and his Father are great hosts and we're enjoying every minute of our stay in their house.
From Alicante we're heading through the cold and wet Sierra Nevada mountains to Tarifa, where we'd need to wait for the tyres to be sent before heading off to morocco.
Most of the people coming to Tarifa do it for the winds... one could see the boards on every camper or car in here. For us the wind isn't that pleasant though...
As soon as the wind picks up (mostly at lunch), the sea is filling up with surfers, windsurfers and kiteboarders.
As its the end of November, the weather is getting more and more unpredictable
and the temperature is falling almost daily. 15 degrees Celsius combined with strong winds and rain let us hope for a quick delivery of the tyres!
Dick's AT is a beauty
the sun is setting in Tarifa
The tyres finally arrived but there is no way we could cross over to morocco these days... thunderstorms, rain, strong winds and even HAIL today morning.
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 08:05 PM
December 03, 2010 GMT
MOROCCO 02.12.10 - 06.01.11
We've choosen the fast ferry from Tarifa to Tangier City against all odds. Apparently the Customs in the Tangier City port would try to extort some money on the arrival and we were told that the procedure would take anything from 2 to 4 hours, deppending on the "bakschich" given.
Strong winds let the waves rise up to 2 Metres in the Street of Gibraltar and, both of us, didn't like the idea much of travelling 3 hours on a slow boat to morocco considering the weather conditions.
Great surprise, Tangier port is a clean place and the procedures are very straight forward! No payments whatsoever and 30 minutes later we're able to ride through the Customs gate. Very easy border crossing in fact!
Jane with our hosts at the Aicha Hotel in the Todra Gorge
our first steps in morocco leading us to the market
As there is no visa for Mauretania at the border, we need to ride to the Capital Rabat first. It only takes 1 day to obtain the visa at the Mauretanian Embassy. The stupid thing is that the validity of the visa begins with the application date. That gives us no option but to get a 50 Euro 2 Months visa to be able to travel through Morocco without a rush.
yummy snails at the market in Rabat
even better: mutton heads...
in the mighty Sahara
Dades Gorge at its best!
its really hard to concentrate on the riding with THIS views over the High Atlas mountains
Marrakesh and its Jemna el Fna is becoming quite a tourist trap for us... wherever you look, only aggressive and unfriendly locals... what a pitty
Leaving Morocco isn't pleasant and very time consuming. Even we were able to move to the first car in the long cue, still it took us 3 hours to clear the Customs and stamp our passports on the Moroccan side.
Then comes the nomansland. Well, having the coordinates of the Mauretanian Immigration, I felt safe enough to find my way through the 5km dirt. Instead of following the track to the East, I decided to take the direct route to the waypoint... and got stuck in deep sand not very much later. Luckily we could make it to the Mauretanian side without any help!!!! yuhuhhuuuu!!!
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 06:19 PM
January 10, 2011 GMT
MAURETANIA 06.01.11 - 18.01.11
Taking the direct route through the Nomansland gives us the advantage of being the First at the Mauretanian side for Passport control and Customs. Half an hour later we're ready to go!
welcome to mauretania
and here are the results of sand riding...
Its about 50 Kilometres to Noadhibou, all of it along the railway tracks for the Worlds heaviest Train bring the Iron ore from Atar to the coast.
Then its about 500km of Nothing to Noakchott, Mauretanias Capitol.
lots of action at noakchott's fish landing
welding machine made in mauretania
at the camel market in kiffa
showing the kids their pics is big fun
you may or may not want to try some dishes in this restaurant...
mauri man in kiffa
We're bushcamping 20 Kilometres South of Ayoun and approaching the border already in the morning, prepared for the worst.
But, again, very easy and fast border procedures! There is only a hint of a question for a 10 Euro "stamp fee" by the Mauretanian Customs Officer but offering him nothing but my loveliest smile and a clear NO, he stamps the carnet anyway.
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 08:59 PM
January 20, 2011 GMT
MALI 18.01.11 - 10.02.11
We arrive early at the very quiet border in Gogui, get the passports stamped and proceed for the Customs to Nioro. It only takes few minutes to stamp our carnet and we're free to go. No one is asking for "presents" or any fees.
As we're crossing the border everything seems to be more easy than in Mauretania. There is petrol in every small town, one can buy vegetables in the market and even beer is freely available.
at the fetish market in bamako
Nioro du Sahel is actually a nice place, a bit noisy and lively but so much better than some of the Mauretanian towns. Lots of colours in the market and also lots of smiling faces.
market women in nioro du sahel
quick chat at the market
From Nioro we're making it to the Capitol, Bamako, where we need to apply for visas. Niger visa is taking 5 days to get and costs 50eu a head. Nigerian visa is 60eu for Darius and a hefty 200eu for Jane (philippino passport)! After a call to the Nigerian Embassy in Niamey we decide to apply for Janes visa over there. Its 100eu for the Nigerian visa for Jane in Niamey. Still bloody expensive but only half the price compared to Bamako!
african menue in Segou
sunset at the Niger river in Segou
the famous mudwalled mosque in Djenne
kids in Djenne
"gods" filling station in Djenne
with "mama africa" at the ferry crossing to Djenne
our trip to Dogon country
Nomads on the way to the market
Mopti's lively harbour
once again on a kidnap highway... this time in eastern Mali, entering the RED ZONE towards Gao
our native cabin in Hombori
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 07:30 PM
February 12, 2011 GMT
NIGER 10.02.11 - 19.02.11
Arriving at a border in the dark is never a pleasure but arriving at the Niger border after sunset seems like a nightmare. Well, we had no choice but to cross the border. The security situation in this part of Mali is more than questionable after the disastrous rescue attempt of the 2 french hostages and the police wouldn't like us to camp anywhere near them... At least the procedures on Mali side don't take long - go with god but GO to Niger!
Its a 30km ride to the Niger Immigration. Here, even its dark and the border closes anytime soon, they want to play some games with us.
We need to produce almost all papers I can think of; and this 3 times! I guess the officers really want to find a problem. As it appears that all our papers are OK, I'm asked to pay 15EU stamp fee! Smile on my side is the only thing the question produces... surely no payment!
hippo in the niger river close to Ayorou
hippo family in the niger
cows swimming to the market in ayorou
on the river niger
local africa twin owner in niger disembling the engine beside the road...
tube repair in niger
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 05:01 PM
February 22, 2011 GMT
NIGERIA 19.02.11 - 28.02.11
Our heads are full of horror stories about Nigeria as we’re riding towards the border, corrupt policemen, nail boards, dash, uncountable check posts, violence outbreaks etc.
From the first day on in Nigeria all this stories prove not to be true for us!
At the border all the procedures are correct, the police officers friendly with no one asking us for money. Instead they’re wishing us a good trip through Nigeria!
at the sheraton CAMP in abuja
We’re being stopped 2 times on the way to Kano but, in both cases, the officers only want to know where we’re heading and where we’re from. At the first check post in Nigeria we are asked if we’re hungry; they would slaughter a goat for us if desired…
Arriving to Kano is a bit of a nightmare at first, terrible traffic and no road signs whatsoever. Our old city map doesn’t show most of the roundabouts, which makes it even harder to find our hotel. It all doesn’t matter. The first guy we’re asking for directions jumps on his motorbike and bring us right to the entrance of the Kano Tourist Camp. Instead of asking us for a tip, he only wishes us a pleasant stay and rides of.
The rooms in the Tourist Camp are dirty and overpriced, the staff is not willing to change the sheets or replace a bulb… not exactly a place for relaxing after a long ride!
Kano is a city of about 5 million people and it suffers from lack of electricity. Only 2 hours a day there would be light, otherwise, the ones who can effort, run their own generators, adding to the incredible air pollution.
But still, there is always something making us happy after all: 3 weddings on the day of our arrival in the Tourist Camp. Jane is diving into the colorful events making new friends while I’m servicing the bike.
Nigeria has excellent roads but a lot of insane drivers. Riding 110km/h is considered to be slow; even trucks are overtaking us occasionally. Why to ride 110 when the speedometer shows 180??? Nobody even considers slowing down in the city limits or at the speed limit sings. One can see the results of it pretty soon. All along the highway there are car wrecks lined up. For us, the greatest danger in Nigeria is definitely the crazy traffic, not anything else.
As soon as we stop at the roadside for a coffee, we’re surrounded by curious people. Nobody would touch the bike or do us any harm; they’re all polite and friendly people.
Abuja is still under construction it seems. The road system isn’t finished yet but the traffic already arrived. It takes forever to squeeze through the endless cars and minivans and to find our destination: the Sheraton Hotel. Yes, that’s right; we’ll be staying at the Sheraton this time… not at the Hotel itself though but camping within the hotel grounds.
It’s kind of strange to ride straight up to a 5 star hotel gate and ask for a place to camp, isn’t it?! We were asking ourselves ever since who got the idea to ask for a place to pitch a tent in this hotel for the first time.
The staff kindly shows us the grounds for the tourists (they call us tourists and not campers…), the toilettes near the swimming pool and the showers in the squash court.
From our tent entrance we can see the bright Sheraton sign and the beautiful lit National Mosque. Things can’t get any better.
national mosque in abuja
tourism in nigeria isnt that great at the moment...
hairstyle in nigeria
the kids just love to pose
We’re having the first contact with Angola at their embassy Monday morning. Despite all the widespread unfriendliness and their special requirements (copies of driving license, vaccination card, carnet de passage, international registration, payable only in US$) for the visa application, we’re hoping to get our transit visa 2 days later.
But 2 days later there is no visa for us due to computer problems in their systems… we should come back 5 days later on Monday. Unfortunately we can’t wait another 5 days due to the expiry of Jane’s Nigeria visa. Bad luck and somehow a bitter taste of our first Angola encounter. Things are much easier in the Cameroon embassy, 2 days later we’re having our tourist visas and ready to leave Abuja and our fellow campers (sorry, TOURISTS) Steffen and Lilly.
We’re trying to make it as far as possible towards the border this day. Due to our “shortcut” to Ogoja, which isn’t a short cut after all, we’re forced to camp along the dirt track. We simply knock on the first house we see and ask for a permission to camp. Not only we get the permission to stay overnight, we’re being offered a room, shower and food! Tina is a great host and proves to us once again that Nigeria isn’t bad at all!
In fact, during our 10 days stay, we only had good experiences in Nigeria!
Next day we make it to Ikom, and after 1 day rest we’re challenging the famous Ekok – Mamfe road. No issues at the Nigerian border side besides one female officer who couldn’t count up to 10. She’d simply insist that Jane overstayed her visa…
offroad in nigeria
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 03:46 PM
March 02, 2011 GMT
CAMEROUN 28.02.11 - 25.03.11
at the cameroun border
From the first moment on in Cameroon it is apparent to us that the Cameroonians like to drink… well; this is after our data have been recorded into 4 different books by 4 different immigration officers. We can see the first bar just across the Customs office, followed by many more.
It’s true that, directly at the gate to Cameroon, the road literally disappears. For about 2 Kilometers it is gravel road, and then it turns to a 1 lane jungle track. Consisting of nothing else but red soil, the conditions of this track greatly depend on the weather situation. We’ve been warned many times about this Ekok-Mamfe road and even advised to consider shipping the bike from Calabar to Douala instead.
We’ve been terrified. All the worries for no reason as it turned out. The track was dry and relatively easy to ride. Again, the biggest danger is the traffic on this route.
Almost exclusively there are Peugeot cars from the 70ties. Totally overloaded, with the jerry cans sticking out sideward, they are shooting around blind curves without any ability to stop or even to slow down. Several times these jerry cans just miss our mirror and handle bar…
the ekok - mamfe road
more of ekok mamfe road
trying some specialties in cameroun`s mountains
can you see the tale? its a rat...
mamfe bamenda road
jane with one of the queens from the bafut fon palace
In Mamfe there must be more bars than any other shops it seems. It is definitely easier to find beer than food! Women, Men, old and young, one can see them in the bars in the morning already. Selling beer must be THE business in Cameroon.
Have you guys been guided through a palace by a Queen already? Well, the Fon in Bafut has about 20 of them. First, the First Lady is guiding us through the museum, and then she walks us through the grounds.
at the fons palace in bafut
There are lots of interesting pictures taken obviously by the intruding Germans around 1900. The Germans lost few battles against the Bafut people but finally took over the power and introduced several crucial laws.
From 1914 on for example it was prohibited to sacrifice humans or cut the arms of a thief. We only can imagine how the life was for the Germans in this place more than 100 years ago!
From Bamenda we make it in 1 day to Yaounde, where we need to get some visas again.
It takes 4 days alone to get the Gabon visa, another day for the Congo stamp. Eventually we turn up at the DRC (former Zaire) embassy and get the shocking quote of 150 Euros for the visa per person! The normal price would be 50 Euros but they simply add processing fees to the processing fees… For that kind of a price we’d rather try our luck in Libreville and skip the fees and other fees.
After sticking around in Yaounde for almost a week we can’t wait to hit the road. Perfect asphalt and heavy logging traffic all the way to Limbe, our next stop.
The logging trucks are terribly overloaded and much too fast. We can spot several of them turned over just beside the road. Again, traffic is definitely the greatest danger in here.
topcase ala cameroun
flat tyre again... the second this day!
this embassy in bamenda wouldnt give us troubles
limbe oil platform view
boats in idenao
Limbe gives us the opportunity of relaxing after the quick ride through Nigeria. We’re visiting the local primate sanctuary, the poor maintained botanical garden and riding along the coast with beautiful views of the Mt. Cameroon till the roads end.
Kribi is definitely worth a visit. Kilometers of awesome beach without people, just a few mini eateries set up by the locals’ right at the beach serving seafood and beers. We’re spending easily 1 week in here, camping right at the beach. Here we catch up with Stefen and Lilly and meet some more overlanders in 4WD’s. This gives us a seldom opportunity for an update on road conditions or visa regulations and several beers.
The last leg in Cameroon is the dirt track from Kribi to Ebolowa. We make these 180kms in about 4hrs. Terrific ride through the dense jungle!
Having our passports checked for the forth time we must be through the border by now but no, we’re still in Cameroon we’re told… It just takes some time to copy the data from our passports to all different notebooks! Out of curiosity I want to know what happens to the notebooks when full; apparently they will be sent to the PRESIDENT! Hehehhehe.
our camp in kribi
the only way to see gorillas for free in cameroun
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 06:04 PM
March 28, 2011 GMT
GABON 25.03.11 - 11.04.11
one more time at the equator
Across the bridge, on the Gabon side, everything seems more modern at first. Well, there is a Laptop in that wooden shack but no electricity within 500km’s. No Customs at the border either, we need to ride some 30 k’s to get the carnet stamped.
The road conditions are truly impressive; it’s like being transformed back to Spain! Perfect tar, gorgeous curves and fantastic scenery! Dense jungle, awesome villages and lots of bush meat along the road. There are crocs, gazelles, rats and monkeys; all of them ready to take away and cook!
Shortly after the Equator the gorgeous asphalt disappears and I need all the senses for the potholes. Sad enough as the track follows the Ogoue River and the bamboo forms beautiful tunnels. Jane will show me the pics later…
road distances in gabon
bushmeat along the road
its meat man
bamboo tunnel close to ndjole
camp at the cementery in the catholic mission ndjole
with "le allemagne" in libreville
jane making friends in gabon
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 02:00 PM
April 14, 2011 GMT
CONGO 11.04.11 - 21.04.11
the fun begins right after the border
We’re parking the bike right in front of the wooden barrier, which is apparently the border of Congo. No signs, no banners, no sign. Nobody is around. We have to have a look around the village in order to find the officials. We find the immigration guy chewing on a piece of chicken and flushing it down with a bottle of beer among other villagers. Slowly he gives up the piece of meat, wipes his hands on his jogging pants and shows us to follow him to his office. During the inspection of our passports he develops great interest in our money bags. Partly pretending to check up on our visas he’d squint in the direction of the neck pouch asking what is in there. I quickly get the point and try to avoid showing my purse. Well, we have a camera and here are the batteries. Oh yeah, a ball pen! Not getting any further with us stupid tourists he now needs to be more precise: “You need to give me some money” he’d demand! As I’m offering him my nicest smile asking him why we would have to pay a stamp fee, he just passes the passports to us wishing us a safe ride…
After three more stations at the border including Police, Customs and Gendarmerie we’re free to go.
sticky mud as far as one can see
The first 25km are hell! Mud, water, deep ruts, sand and some more mud. After 1 hour we’ve moved 12km and fell for the first time. Jane comes off quite unlucky hurting her back bone badly. For the next few days she hardly can get on the bike again.
Sometimes we can find a walking path beside the Route Nationale and so are able to avoid plowing through the mud but mostly the paths are just too narrow for our bike.
It takes all day to reach Nyanga, only 95km from the border! By now our passports show 4 Congo stamps, some of them seriously big. At every road block the guys are eager to stamp more. There are another 600km to go to Brazzaville and we’re seriously worried about our empty pages in the passports.
even without the front fender the wheel is still blocking
The young priest at the Catholic Mission offers us a room for the night but then quickly disappears. Together with some 3 girls they’d drink cheap mass wine till late.
Through the priests description the track ahead of us appears to us like a highway, even though the rains just stopped in the morning. We should have known better. Within few hundred meters the bike’s front fender plugs up with sticky mud forcing me to remove it completely. From now on all the mud somehow finds its way through the fairings straight onto my face. Not a very pleasant experience.
It takes 7 hours for us to ride the 90km between Nyanga and Kibangou – an average of 13km per hour! Completely exhausted, starving and covered in mud we finally reach Kibangou and its Catholic Mission. The priest is not around but some other guy is showing us the place. Quickly dropping our muddy riding gear we head for the one and only eatery in town. There is no such thing as a menu here but we can grab the last 3 pieces of chicken of the dirty wooden board. The shack is about 3 by 3 meters in size; its walls are only 1 meter high, the upper part is fashionable made of see through curtains. The chicken and goats are fighting for the leftovers as we’re chewing on the bony pieces with such a satisfaction. Someone points out the priest for us sitting in the neighboring bar killing his massive thirst with local men. We’re about to find out that there is never lack of beer in the Congo!
jane with a group of kids close to nkayi
Next day we’re reaching Dolisie at the breathtaking average speed of 20km per hour, means 5 hours for 100km. The track is not much different from the former but, at least, it wasn’t raining for 1 night and the upper layer dried out in places.
The track is following a valley. To both sides bare, deforested hills as far as one can see.
Congo is selling its rain forest to the Malaysians, Indonesians and Chinese. Foreign registered trucks with the precious load are heading for Pointe Noire all day and night. Very soon there will be no more rain forest in the Congo and all due to the steady demand for hardwood in the western countries.
gazelle for dinner
bike in the living room in loutete
many trucks are stuck for days
this truck wont come out on its own
We must be the only ones who still didn’t manage to get the Angolan visa. Others had enough time to wait for it in Abuja or sent their passports to their respective home countries. The plan is to try it in Pointe Noire and hope that the lack of applicants makes it easier for us to receive it. Some 90% of all overlanders are taking another route due to their worries about the long gone “ninjas”, contra government rebels.
It turns out that there is no need for us to ride to Pointe Noire. At the breakfast we’re about to find out that even here in Dolisie there is an Angolan Consulate! Angolan visa is very difficult to get and you just don’t turn up at the Consulate and fill up the application forms. No, you’d need to be well prepared! After several rehearsals we’re ready for the Lady Consul. My line is not to ask for the visa directly but get them rather interested in our RTW trip first. Slowly I unfold the battered world map showing the thin marker line of the past 3 years of riding around the globe. Some details follow as up how many countries we traveled through and how many miles we’ve done. My index finger is following the blue line down to Dolisie while I’m explaining our aim to reach Cape Town by road. Its kind of strikes the Consul and the Officer in charge that we’d need the Angolan visa to be able to reach our goal!!!
The Lady Consul stands back and asks “how many days would you need in Angola, are 10 OK?” Wow, this exceeds my expectations. Still, the visa would be valid from the issuing date on and we’d waste precious time crossing the DRC. This is something she understands and agrees on 15 days. I’d rather get a double entry visa, so we could skip the Route Nationale to Brazzaville and ride the brand new blacktop towards Pointe Noire and then straight to Matadi but “double entry = double price” according to the Consul.
Let’s ride the Route Nationale then, after all it can’t be too bad!
not the best road conditions
should have checked the deep of that one
me with the little "bandits"
must be the 6th time this day
jane after 12hrs and 80kms
no fear to beer
the last 25km before asphalt in kinkala
loading the bike in brazzaville
on the boat to kinshasa
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 12:53 PM
April 22, 2011 GMT
DRC (former ZAIRE) 21.04.11 - 28.04.11
no space for the passenger
liboke: fish stewed in maniok leaves
our camp at the protestant mission in kinshasa
planning the trip
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 04:37 PM
May 05, 2011 GMT
ANGOLA 28.04.11 - 07.05.11
you'd almost need a boat
At the Angolan side of the Matadi border post there are some more books to fill our data in. While the sweat is slowly soaking my clothes I’m asking myself why can’t they just copy all this data themselves? As soon as I’m ready with one there will be another one waiting for me! Leaving the work for me the immigration officers are bored off their heads. I’m definitely not in the mood to answer them all the personal questions they’d shoot at me, any kind of small talk would only extend our time at the border…
The Customs are happy to fill in the Carnet even though Angola isn’t listed on its back side. To us it seems like they know what they’re doing.
Nobody wants to have a look in our panniers and we’re happily off.
track through northern angola
sticky mud again
The tarmac stops right at the barrier and it doesn’t reappear for days and days. Later we’d find out that we actually choose the wrong route but at the moment we’re just trying to stay on the bike. It is raining season still and therefore it is raining every night. The soil track is soaking up all the water and turns into mud. Wherever there is a ditch in the track, it is filled up with red colored water. In the beginning we’d try to measure the depth while walking the mud pools or using a stick but soon we’re giving up. There are just too many water holes. The new idea is to ride slowly through the mud/water and hope for the best! Quite a few times the red water reaches almost the seat level and we’re afraid that the engine is going to suck it in but somehow it doesn’t. In the Congo there were sometimes motorbike trails through the bush helping us to avoid the worst stretches of mud or water but in here there is only this narrow track cutting through the jungle with no possibility to divert.
lunch in the middle of nowhere
the boxes are just too low for the deep mud
Quite positive we were thinking to reach Nzeto within 1 day but it turns out that we’d only achieve 70km this day. The few villages along the way have no electricity, no running water, no toilets, no shops or places to stay. As we’re passing this places there’d be people standing beside the road clenching their stomachs and asking us for food. They hardly can imagine that we’re just as hungry and are desperately looking for a place to stay…
We’re reaching Mepala 5pm, the first drops just start to hit the red soil. By the time we find out that there is no place for us to stay, the heavens opened up and there is no way we could ride any further. All villagers are hiding in their little huts, the water is forming rivers and pools everywhere and we’re just getting soaked. At a little health centre we see some soldiers drinking and asking them for help as they’re the only ones who could speak English a bit. It seems like there are no patients in the 3 room health centre tonight and we’re lucky enough to get one of the rooms for the night. The room is about 2 meters wide and 2 meters long, it has a soil floor, a curtain door and a wooden window opening. The bamboo bed is occupying half of the room. The most important though is: it has a roof and we’re safe for the night.
the window view from our hospital room
leaving the hospital
As mentioned above, the “clinic” has 3 rooms. One of them is occupied by the 2 male nurses, 1 is used for storage and the 3rd is ours. We quickly find out that the nurses diet consists mainly of crackers which they regularly get from the soldiers. There will be crackers for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
The 2 nurses, the 4 soldiers and many door spectators are watching unbelievably while we’re about to start up our coleman stove and cook our “emergency” quick noodles.
Sharing 2 packs of noodles with all the people leaves us hungry and we decide to use the rest of our food and share it. Needless to say, I’m a lousy chef, but the guys seem to be very happy and hardly can get enough of it.
its still so far to luanda...
with the nuns in nzeto
Next day the sun is up again but it would take days to dry out the track and only 10 hours to the next downpour.
It seems like the track condition has gotten even worse during the night. Now, the mud pools are even deeper and the trail is only 2 meters wide with a center raised about half a meter. Not many vehicles are using this track and the jungle is slowly taking it back. I need to decide on which side we’ll be riding as it is not possible to switch the sides. The heavy overgrowth is hitting the mirrors and my helmet forcing me to sit somehow sideward on the bike. The steep ascents are probably the worst. Loose gravel and deep run offs; not exactly my xmas wish list…
Sound and safe we’re reaching Tomboco by 3pm and deciding to enjoy the newly tarred road to Nzeto today.
Despite having 3 petrol pumps in town there is NO petrol!
Ever since we arrived to Angola we can hear local people talking about how wealthy Angola really is. So far we can’t see the wealth of this country and we’re only guessing that it must be hidden somewhere beneath the mud we’ve been through. It is shocking to arrive to a lousy place like Nzeto and to find out that the cheapest room in town would cost us 60$, offering nothing but bare walls and a metal frame bed. Still, the locals ensure us that 60$ is a good price for this kind of room!
Beside a Catholic Church we’re trying our luck and knocking on missions’ door. To our surprise the Nunn in charge is a Filipina. She can’t offer any room for us but we can stay overnight in her living room. During dinner she is talking about the hardship of living and working in this part of Angola, the neglected Zaire province.
Apparently there is no Electricity in town for the last 6 months since the generator broke down. Petrol and diesel only arrive sporadically and are refilled to jerry cans of some smart business people, who sell then the precious liquids double the price.
We have no choice but support the black market and acquire 20ltrs petrol of dubious quality. It should be enough to reach Luanda where, everyone ensures us, there is petrol.
We’d like to stay one more day in Nzeto and relax from the horrendous trip but there was no rain during last night and we’re better keep going.
road side restaurant
street view in caxito
one of many accidents on the road
It is hard to describe the composition of the track leading south… It is mainly fine sand or dust mixed with soil and clay. The track is hard ride even though there was no rain for one night but we can imagine how the situation is after a short rain. Soft, powdery surface, countless potholes and deep ruts created by overweighed trucks – just as bad as it sounds! Only 60 kilometers before the Capitol the roads are worth to be called roads. Quickly we start to realize where Angolas hidden money is. Chinese have got the contract to rebuild Angola! There must be Millions of Chinese around Luanda alone. To the left and right along the new constructed diversion highway all we can see is Chinese. Chinese people, Chinese trucks, machinery, signs, shops, hotels, motorbikes; we’re actually doubting having arrived to Angolas Capitol! Somehow it feels like being transferred to the Far East.
breakfast in lobito
the bike couldn't be safer
the wheel bearings are due again
sierra leba... what a road!
and this is how we found it: on a 5 kwanzas banknote...
christo rei in lubango
lots of reminders of the war in angola
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 05:26 PM
May 10, 2011 GMT
NAMIBIA 07.05.11 - 11.06.11
The luxury of a developed world strikes us as soon as we're hitting the border!
There are roads in perfect condition, ATM's, shopping malls, internet and many effordable places to stay overnight. From one day to another everything isn't a problem anymore. Suddenly we're able to get money on the first ATM machine, buy nice food in a supermarket and have a good night sleep in clean sheets...
No wonder we just want to enjoy the luxury and relax for 1 week in Tsumeb before deciding what to do in Namibia.
a tour through the Etosha National Park
Following a relaxing week in Tsumeb we're deciding to join a tour through the Etosha NP. Apparently thats the only way for us to see the park as there are no cars for rent in Tsumeb and bikes are banned from the park.
with the seals at cape cross
at the tropic of capricorn
empty roads in namibia
a trip to the sussusvlei national park
jane in the dunes
someone obviously loves my hometown!!
our first cat in keetmanshoop
and then the BIGGER CATS!
fish river canyon, main view point
just look at the size of this meat...
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 10:58 AM
June 16, 2011 GMT
SOUTH AFRICA 11.06.11 - 02.08.11
half of the tour "around africa" is done, we made it to cape point after 25000km through the black continent
The first question we’re confronted with while at the South African border is „What do you have?“ Having no clue what to answer we just say: “nothing”. Apparently that’s the right answer. We can pass and nobody is interested in our (not paid) road tax.
Its 10th of June, bright blue sky and no signs of the rain which was bothering us the last few days. Despite the sun shining down on us it is mid winter in this part of the World and we’re freezing badly. Our cloth bags are almost empty as we’re wearing several layers of shirts and jumpers. At the few petrol stations along the way we’d try to stop shivering while having a hot mug of coffee.
The cold obviously doesn’t bother the countless flowers as they’re blooming in various colors along the super straight highway.
It only takes us 2 days to reach Cape Town. WE’VE MADE IT!!!!
25000km through the African Continent are behind us. The battered bike urgently needs some maintenance and several parts being replaced.
the good old africa twin in AFRICA!
few days in cape town
Following an invitation of Michael we’re riding straight to his house and are warmly welcomed. Not only we can stay with Michael in his cute house, he also helps us to find spares for the bike and adjusts the carbs and valves for us. Michael becomes a friend during our stay and it is really hard for us to leave… Michael we’ll miss the time with you and Pretzel!
Newly adjusted and maintained the bike runs like new, its hard to imagine that its 20yrs old and has about 240T kilometers on the clock, hehehe.
We’re having some spectacular rides around the Cape, down to Cape Point and, of course few times along the Chapman’s Peak Drive! Within 3 days in Cape Town proper we’re visiting quite a few sights, many more bars and the jaw dropping Table Mountain.
Our next stop is Somerset West. Here we catch up with fellow travelers Siggi and Gerty and enjoying the luxury of their friends B&B. Long nights and many beers only interrupted by an awesome wine tasting in Stellenbosch.
with our friends gerty & siggy on the table mountain
waterfront cape town
kalkbay, western cape
the bike is being "refurbished" in micha's garage
darwin's theory seems to be true...
at the southernmost point of the African Continent
Again it is raining cats and dogs with temperatures around 10 degrees. As soon as the first sun rays strike through the clouds, we’re up on the bike heading for the southern most point of Africa – The Cape Agulhas.
Here we need to take our compulsory pics with the bike! According to our GPS there are 9220km’s straight line to my home town Burghausen and from here on we’ll be getting closer to home with every day of riding.
visiting Ronnies SEX SHOP
in outshorn... not only for the ostrich!
BUT... mainly for the ostrich!
We’re spending a freezing night at a caravan park in Swellendam and enjoy the Route 62 despite the cold air. In Outshorn finally we can challenge ourselves riding the Worlds largest bird – the Ostrich. There is a limit on the participant’s body weight of 75kg but they still let me ride. Jane rides first and just by the sight of her taking off I’m about to cancel the ride. The guys are planting a bag on the birds head so it would keep still while the rider is positioning himself on its back. As soon as the rider confirms to be OK, the guys are ripping off the bag and screaming as loud as they can. The bird takes off immediately and extremely fast, wanting to kick me off his back. Jesus, the ride only takes 12 seconds but it is definitely worth it!
Jane is riding the beast first
and then ME...
in the train-hostel in mossel bai
In Mosselbai we’re given a room in an original train carriage, which is parked directly at the beach. From the window of our small compartment we see the sun rising, slowly turning the oceans colors from violet to blue.
meeting buggy in knysna
bridge in port alfred
we are in Grahamstown just right for the ART FESTIVAL
Due to a bad weather front we skip most of the Southern coast with just a few overnight stops. Accidentally we find out about the International Art Festival in Grahamstown and stay for several days. The Artists are extremely creative. It is amazing how garbage can be transformed into earrings, radios, sculptures or furniture!
Crossing into Transkei (or nowadays Wild Coast) is like being transformed from South Africa straight into the Centre of this Continent. Suddenly there are animals on the potholed roads, busy markets on the pavement and little BBQ stalls in every village. There is no lack of Tsssssssssssssstt, whistling and screaming while we’re passing people – had it all before!
To get a sausage served on a piece of oily paper we first need to buy it at the butcher and bring it to the attached BBQ place. All very tasty and cheap, just like in the Congo!
In Port St. Johns we find a cozy place to stay at the second beach. The both owners of the “Ikaya” definitely joined the Woodstock Festival decades ago and keep on smoking anything growing in their garden while listening to the Trance beat. Nice and helpful dudes they are though. The laid back atmosphere and great possibilities for walking are keeping us in the little place for a while.
"beachlife" in port st.johns
the German built soccer stadium in durban
hippos in St.lucia
Big cities aren’t really what we’d look for and after only 2 nights in Durban and visiting its Sea World, we find ourselves quickly in lovely St. Lucia.
It doesn’t take long for us to find out about the Hippos in town. Apparently they’re strolling through town occasionally! Well, they’re not during our stay and we decide to find them instead. We can get as close as 20 meters before receiving warnings from the biggest bull. I try to get just a bit closer still but need to retire quickly as the bull lifts his body accompanied by heavy grunting. Unbelievable but these fat animals can outrun any human being…
in a roadside cafe
We see Merlinda only for a few minutes on the road in Cameroun. She is traveling through Africa on her own in a Landcruiser. Tough one we think! We exchange email addresses and are invited to Pretoria to Merlindas home.
Few months later we pay Merlinda a visit and are warmly welcomed by Merlinda and her lovely family.
During couple of days we are warming up the remembrances of our trips and become friends. Sadly our visa shopping turns out to be rather a disaster… the Zimbabwe and Malawi Embassies moved their offices to Jo’burg and there is no way we could get the Ethiopian visas in Pretoria. At first it seems possible to apply here. We are asked to produce some paperwork like hotel bookings, travel itenary, several photocopies but, having it all ready, we’re told that we can’t apply for the Ethiopian visa as we’re not SA residents… All for nothing again! Our last chance is to talk to the Consul himself. He arrives 1,5 hours late and really doesn’t want to waste his time talking to me! “Be quick, I have not much time!” You can’t expect a guy like this to be reasonable.
We’ll need to try it somewhere else and hope that Ethiopia is welcoming us a bit friendlier.
at Merlinda's private game reserve
Merlinda and her husband Johnny are giving us the opportunity to visit their private game farm and stay for a few days. Apparently there are no predators on the farm and it is ok to get there by motorbike or even walk around the 2000 hectares farm.
We’re being given the Family Cottage on a hill over viewing a waterhole. We can watch the sunrise right from our bed and follow the action at the waterhole while having breakfast. During the day we would sit at the waters edge, and wait for the animals to come, or walk around the farm. There are Zebras, Giraffes, Warthogs, Springboks, Eland Antelopes, Kudus and many more in the farm.
In the evening Chris, the farm Manager, would invite us for a real South African Braai.
It can’t get any better! Merlinda, many thanks again for this one and only experience you gave us!
hiding in hope for good shots...
at shannon's bikers bar in Graskop
It doesn’t take long for us to experience another example of South African hospitality. We discover a local biker’s bar in Graskop with an Africa Twin parked right outside it. Few beers later we learn to know the owner of the AT, Mannie. He likes our story and offers us his bakkie, a SA expression for a pick up truck, for a trip to the Krüger National Park.
It is just unbelievable. We only know Mannie for half an hour at most and are offered his beloved truck! Come here South Africans, we’ll hug you all!!!
Next morning we say good bye to our bike leaving it behind in Mannie’s garage. Bakkie is a 32 years old Toyota Hilux single cab. He is actually a really cool looking one. Mannie resprayed the beast recently and fitted big wheels on it. Bakkie doesn’t show his age… We make it to Hazyview still and want to enter the park at its opening at 6am the next morning.
view from the "gods window"
at the "potholes"
in the Krueger National Park
Mannies Bakkie proved to be perfect for the park!
5am next morning we’re ready to go. It is raining, it is dark and cold. Normally no problem if only Bakkies wipers would work. His lights are pretty dim and the windows are permanently open. We make use of our motorcycle raining gear and stop every now and then for clearing the view. Luckily no cops around and we can make it to the gate by 6am. From now on we’d wake up early and drive all day through the Krüger National Park and get to our tent as soon as the sun goes down.
We spend 5 days in the park, drive about 700km, see many animals up close (sometimes a bit too close) BUT NO LIONS!!! Bugger! Happy but not fully happy we’re leaving the park and pick up our beloved bike.
The next country is Mozambique and we’re looking forward to explore it.
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 09:00 PM
August 02, 2011 GMT
MOZAMBIQUE 02.08.11 - 26.08.11
welcome to mozambique
the only flag with AK47 on it
at the historic railway station in maputo
art made from weapons
german demo in maputo
german headquaters in maputo
mosque in maputo
iron house in maputo
wildlife in maputo centre
happy jane at the bilene beach
sunset in tofo
animal friendly goat transport
beach signs in vilanculos
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 04:25 PM
August 27, 2011 GMT
ZIMBABWE 26.08.11 - 05.09.11
us at the victoria falls
zimbabwes balancing rocks
the way to the falls
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 09:25 AM
September 06, 2011 GMT
ZAMBIA 05.09.11 - 23.09.11
We’re crossing into Zambia on the famous Zambezi Bridge. There are several counters to pass. The procedures are somehow confusing but one thing is clear: on every counter I’d be asked for $$$. Visa fees, carbon tax, insurance, road toll…
There is nothing about Livingstone town to keep us for few days but we do enjoy the cozy Faulty Towers Camp and relax. It’s a long ride from Livingstone to Siavonga, our next stop.
chicken as fresh as it could be
meet jamie an OZ biker
Told by other travelers about a very nice camp run by a German named Herrmann, we keep on searching for it; even nobody seems to know this place. 2 hours later, we give up and are ready to pitch the tent in the overpriced Eagles Rest Camp but, incidentally, one man seems to know Herrmann and the Sandy Beach. It is located about 20km west of Siavonga along a sandy track and directly on the shores of the lake Kariba.
Awesome place and awesome people, definitely worth the searching.
Herrmann’s roots are in Munich and even 35 Years away from home, he still speaks with a strong Bavarian accent. Pretty soon we have the feeling we’re belonging to the family!
Besides us there is only 1 more guest at the camp, a 69yrs old German lady. She is traveling with her Mercedes Unimog truck alone through Africa for almost a Year now. Respect! We should meet Ellen later again.
at the cobra restaurant
For decades the track leading from Chipata to the South Luangwa NP was in a desolate state and a test for any shock absorbing system. Luckily Zambian Government decided to upgrade it. At the moment of writing the first 30km from chipata are all tarred, so are the last 20km before reaching the park. That leaves approx. 70km which are still gravel but the new road is being constructed in a fast paste. Where it took at least half a day to drive this 130km, we were able to reach South Luangwa NP in 2.5 hrs easily.
elephants crossing the luangwa river
We’re not allowed into the park on our bike for a very good reason. Apparently there are lots of lions in the park (and how we hope to see them!). The Elephants are not less dangerous as we quickly find out. They roam around the Crock Valley Camp at night, missing our tent only by centimeters. I wake up in the middle of the night due to the grazing sound close to my head accompanied by vibrations. The lamps throwing a silhouette of the huge animal on our tents wall, making our experience even more tense. Jane loves it! A couple of minutes later the elephants are moving on, leaving us both scared and excited, behind. Next morning we should find out that there were 5 elephants close to our tent, some of them only inches away… Some of our neighbors followed the spectacle from a safe distance of their roof tent.
Not much time left for us for sleeping as we have booked an early morning safari.
We’re following a bumpy track along the Luangwa River spotting some Elephants as our guide receives a call. Apparently some of the guides found LIONS and we are about to see them soon. Wow, we both hope that the Pride has not left by now.
lionesse in the south luangwa NP
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 01:20 PM
September 23, 2011 GMT
MALAWI 23.09.11 - 02.10.11
everyone wants a photo
wire trucks in malawi
happy kids in cape mc clear
fish on sale
sunset in cape mc clear
scenery along malawi lake
busy fisherman in senga bay
kids helping with the laundry in senga bay
nelson painting the twin
the nets and boats waiting for the sunset
waiting for the jeans
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 12:31 PM
October 08, 2011 GMT
TANZANIA 02.10.11 - 25.10.11
jane with mama tukuyu
market scene in the highlands
butcher shop in tukuyu
our bbq sticks being prepared
view over the kili from our room
long cues at the gate zum tarangire NP
view over ngorongoro crater
young male lion in ngorongoro
our truck is broken once again
thirsty elephant at the simba camp
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 10:27 AM
October 28, 2011 GMT
KENYA 25.10.11 - 05.12.11
jane bargaining for an ostrich egg
This time there is no excuses for not paying the road tax. Kenyan border officials know very well what they’re doing. They confront us with printed law. It’s 20$ for the bike for 1 month and 50$ for 3 months… 20 bucks are just enough we decide, even though we’re planning on staying longer than a month. Other than this no discussions and pretty quick progress at the border.
Perfect tarmac all the way to Nairobi with increasing number of vehicles. In Nairobi then a total chaos. Traffic jam all the way through the city limits. Luckily we can reach Jungle Junction before dark and find a spot for our tent in Chris’ garden.
Jungle Junction has been travelers meeting spot for years and it is offering weary overlanders the comforts they’ve been longing for; cozy living room to hang around while surfing via fast wireless internet, dining area and a well equipped kitchen. What else do we need? Yeah, there is cheap beer too, hehehe.
Right, nice and sunny weather would do! Few hours following our arrival the rain arrives to Nairobi. For the predicted “light rains” it actually rains quite heavily. We watch the lawn turning into a lake, our tent becoming somehow an island…
There is no way we could sleep “on the island” tonight as the water is about ankle deep around the tent. Jane secures our sleeping bags and we stay on dry land in the living room tonight.
darius with the masaai
at the embassy of the philippines
In the morning still our tent is not accessible. Jane urgently needs a new passport and we have to visit the Embassy of the Philippines. Unlike in most of the German Embassies, we’re being warm welcomed here. The Embassy staff even disregards the lunch break in order to help their countryman. 24 hours later we’re sitting together with the Filipino Vice Consul on her couch, exchanging email addresses and taking pictures while Jane’s passport is being issued. Thinking of my experiences at some German Embassies abroad (long cues, grumpy faces, not helpful at all, very impersonal) I’m glad that it’s not me who is in need of a new passport!
coast pride hotel
We just make it to the Sudanese Embassy 15 Minutes to Twelve and are still able to apply for the last visa on the African Continent. As soon as the visas are issued we’re leaving the “lakeside accommodation” at JJ’s and heading for the coast. The traffic is terrible all the way. Countless trucks and busses are trying to break the records along the narrow tar road, overtaking each other and completely disregarding the oncoming motorbikes i.e. us. Several times we’re forced to leave the road and hit the dusty ditch. Damned truckers!
our lens taken to pieces
the rooster as a pet?
or chicken for dinner!!
at the sagala lodge
with our visitors from Teisendorf
We camp the first few days in the beautifully isolated Twiga lodge and moving to Diani Beach only shortly before the arrival of Darius’ family and friends.
Diani Beach is somewhat a package tour destination very comparable to some resort towns in southern Europe. Luckily for us, due to some unrests in the North, there are hardly any tourists present…
the front brakes on our twin are due to overhaul...
at the equator... again!
Jane is about to try another means of transport for the moyale route
"only" 526km to Moyale
the trip to Moyale begins with a brand new tarmac road
but the road becomes a track pretty soon
and deteriorates completely as soon as it starts to rain
our friend Guido was right: pulling is better than pushing Jane!!!
we need to stop overnight in a small place Loglogo
the place is managed by friendly Rendeli people
somehow we make it to beautiful Marsabit, with a damaged panier and removed front fender...
the rains stop for a while but the track to Moyale is still no joke
our evening in turbi, with our friends Klaus and Luise
still dry but not much better the track leads us from Turbi to Moyale
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 04:15 PM
November 21, 2011 GMT
OUR WORST NIGHTMARES
This chapter we'll dedicate to the experiences we do want to forget as they truly were not pleasant. At the same time it should act as a warning to fellow travellers. Ofcourse everyone is making his own experiences so dont blame us if you've seen it differently.
1. Arranging a safari through MATATA TOURS in Moshi, Tanzania
2. Changing money at the border Malawi/Tanzania
3. Beach boys at Diani beach, Kenya
4. jambolulu GH @ Diani Beach, Kenya for stealing our money while cleaning!!
5. Terrible riding conditions through the whole of Congo Brazzaville
6. jam-el-fna, Marrakesh for the general annoyance
7. Dengue fever in the Philippines
8. Typhoid fever in Khartoum, Sudan
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 07:29 AM
December 05, 2011 GMT
ETHIOPIA 05.12.11 - 24.12.11
from now on Injeera will be our only meal for the entire stay in Ethiopa
boys in Moyale
Petrol is not always available at the stations, often we need to buy it at the black market... at a high price and dubious quality
Ethiopia proves to be the place for us coffee adicts
bleeding heart baboons in the Ethiopian Highlands
at the lake Hayk
our well guarded place at the Hayk lake
on the way to Lallibela, the holy city
no lack of beer in the holy city!
finally at Lallibela's monolith churches
butcher in lallibela
Injeera in the making
Jane at the Blue Nile Falls
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 06:13 PM
December 29, 2011 GMT
SUDAN 24.12.11 - 18.01.12
entering Sudan on Christmas Day!
our X-Mas bonfire with Klaus and Luise
planning our route with Klaus and Luise
our first city in Sudan: Gedaref
hello to our family in Teisendorf
with our friend Sami in Port Sudan ( no lack of anything...)
Tarik is preparing the traditional BBQ
heading back to Khartoum
ancient pyramids in Meroe
Jane is trying the Camel riding
Jane at the pyramids in Meroe
leaving Khartoums National Camp eventually after having Typhoid fever for 7 days...
its not always easy to find a nice camp spot in the desert
but we manage this time again!
once again we're enjoying the hospitality of the sudanese people, this time in Yasir's home in Dongola
sheesha in the evenings
riding the last piece of road in Sudan towards Wadi Halfa
In Wadi Halfa we meet the Swiss travellers Kuno, Fred and Myriam
together with the Swiss guys we went through the most demanding loading, unloading and customs procedures during the Wadi Halfa - Aswan shipping
but at least we found ourselves a nice spot for the night!
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 06:18 PM
January 25, 2012 GMT
EGYPT 18.01.12 - 16.02.12
fixing the 3rd number plate on our journey. after 2 years of riding with filipino plate and 2 years with german plate we're forced to switch to egyptian one.
after waiting for 3 hours on the ship, now another 4 hours of waiting for the customs and entry procedures...
Aswan view from the roof of our hotel
at luxor's Karnak temple
visiting luxor's west bank
at the dakhla oasis
our trip to the white desert
camping out in the white desert is an unforgetable experience
jane at the market in the oasis
trying out egypt's mens game
bloody cold wind in the desert is forcing us to start a fire and warm up...
arriving in Giza
been there, done that pic!
waiting for the sun to rise at the sinai mountain
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 12:38 PM
February 17, 2012 GMT
JORDAN 17.02.12 - 24.03.12
Wadi Musa by night
The Treasury, the jewel of Petra
great colours of petra rock formations
at the Al-Deir Monastery
this pic is for Darius cousin Agnes!
the snow is catching up on us in Karak
but after a few cold days in the hotel the sun finally comes out
and we're enjoying a bouyant day at the dead sea
even with this 8kg boulder we'd not sink!
last weeks snow and rain combined with todays bright sunshine is a great mixture for jordans wildflowers
Madaba becomes fast a home for us as we're staying over 2 weeks...
its mosaics are phantastic but also its proximity to the dead see and to amman makes it a good base for us
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 12:14 PM
March 26, 2012 GMT
ISRAEL 24.03.12 - 02.04.12
the first and only sign "Israel" in Jordan is located right at the border...
Following the steps of Jesus, we camp a few days at the sea of Galilee and proceed to Nazareth
ofcourse we have to walk along the Via Dolorosa
and see where Jesus supposingly died
also we spend some time at the Western Wall and watch the Jews pray
Israel is a crazy place. You could be amongs the Ultra Orthodox Jews in the morning and find yourself in between religious Moslems within 15 Minutes.
and be assured that you'll step upon plenty Christians too!
the ancient port Akko
finally we find a possibility to reach Europe by cargo ship and we're enjoying the 3 days passage!
HELLO EUROPE; WE'RE BACK!!!
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 12:07 PM
April 05, 2012 GMT
GREECE 05.04.12 - 14.04.12
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 02:47 PM
April 16, 2012 GMT
ITALY 15.04.12 - 23.04.12
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 09:55 AM
June 30, 2012 GMT
15. Africa Twin Meeting Lissburg 07-10.06.12
Posted by Darius Skrzypiec at 03:00 PM