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Ride Tales Post your ride reports for a weekend ride or around the world. Please make the first words of the title WHERE the ride is. Please do NOT just post a link to your site. For a link, see Get a Link.
Photo by Josephine Flohr, Elephant at Camp, Namibia

I haven't been everywhere...
but it's on my list!


Photo by Josephine Flohr,
Elephant at Camp, Namibia



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  #1  
Old 24 Dec 2017
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London to Cape Town - an Austrialians journey

I will continue to post here - in parallel with my blog at jordanwandersaround.com
There you can find the posts about other typically non bike related travels that I've done and the map of the route Ive completed on this trip thus far.

The first month of my trip has gone a little differently than originally planned. Crossing Europe was supposed to be the easy part. A few thousand kilometers carving up the continents autobahns as I bounced my way through all of my friends and family throughout Europe. Seeing them all was as much of a reason as any for starting in London and crossing Europe again rather than just committing to Cairo to Cape Town. Yet now a month has passed, and I've managed just 2000km.

Things went awry from the very beginning. My hopes and dreams of a straight forward opening to the trip where promptly scuppered as I walked through the 'I have something to declare', big red customs sign for the first time in my life. A rather kind Customs agent, intrigued and perhaps a little bemused by the idea of the trip promptly informed me that he could be no help. Through into the arrivals hall I plonked myself down in Costa's, pulled out my laptop and got to work tracking down the agent that had been mentioned in emails with my freighter back in Australia.

A short phone call later and I started a 4 mile walk around the airport to another bunch of amused agents. It was promptly pointed out that my FIA Carnet de Passage en Douane, an exceptionally expensive document which is effectively a passport for my bike doesn't apply in England and Europe. So I settled in for an afternoon of waiting.

Suddenly everything was on the move again. Although the Carnet wasn't applicable, a c110 temporary import was sufficient to allow me to bring my bike into Europe for up to 6 months. No ID documents were ever witnessed, I'd only provided the Master Freighting bill from the Australian end and yet shortly after I was agreeing to have it delivered to my Nans house for a price 200 pounds less than my first quote. Thank you to Elliot at Martintrux for the prompt response to a request he didn't see coming.

I sat by the window like an over enthusiastic child waiting for Christmas. Funny how the arrival of my motorbike has me more excited than actual Christmas that was just under a month away. An emailed confirmed a delivery time of being in a window of between 10 and 11am. Then the minutes ticked by. The clock crept passed 11 and 12. Despondent I turned to a dozen games of scrabble with my Nan before returning to my window seat. As the hours passed and darkness fell it was 4pm and still no bike. Returning for more games of scrabble I all but gave up on the bike arriving that day when the doorbell rang out. Nan was nodding off on the couch and woke thoroughly startled as I jumped out of my chair and sprinted to the door.

Unloaded and tucked away behind some rubbish bins I waited for light to give me the opportunity to reassemble and get to riding. While this was happening it occurred that I had not received any tracking details for the new helmet I'd ordered the week before. Confused I sent a late email to the London based helmet shop wondering what the issue was.



By midday the bike was mostly back together. Using just about every scrap of paving stone, timber and steel I managed to get the bike resting at a height where I could slot the front wheel back into place. Reassembled she got lifted by my trusty ratchet strap and the scraps removed. My noble and trusty, yet to be nicknamed steed was at last resting on her own two wheels half way around the world from where she had started.

Then came the news that the bike shop had 'misplaced' my helmet and that they'd issue a refund promptly if I wasnt happy with the other colour they had in stock. A very snappy email back had them posting the helmet the next morning as their tardiness in responding on the Tuesday had seen them miss the deadline for same day postage. So passed the remainder of the day, and Wednesday and much of Thursday until at long last as darkness fell the last necessary piece to get me on the road arrived.

Last minute plans had arranged a catch up on Friday with my cousin so I endeavored to set off Saturday morning for a 500km shakedown run to see friends in Birmingham before coming back to Nans, loading up and heading for the continent. As with all shakedowns, I quickly discovered my grip heaters weren't working. Riding along in weather just above freezing, through occasional flurries of snow in summer riding gloves wasn't the most enjoyable experience of my life. Added to that my speedometer froze and the display read like a broken alarm clock.

The next issue to arise was noticed in Birmingham, my number plates disappeared. They are now most likely a prized decoration in a pub or university dorm room. However, without legitimate plates riding on the road risked issues with police and likely would make border crossings impossible. Committed I resolved to ship the replacements to my friend in Vienna and see how I go making it there with a very legitimate looking replacement.



Onwards across the continent I proceeded without too many issues. No police questioned by plates, the DR purred down the Autobahn at 140. Taking the rapid route through Europe by following the autobahns is clearly quickest but a long way from the most entertaining. My fingers survived thanks to the grip heaters that suddenly sprung to life one cold morning. Nevertheless the Christmas present coming for myself are some winter riding gloves.



My next drama saw my little cousin almost flatten himself under my bike, luckily there were no injuries. Not to him at least, but my windscreen lay beside my bike in many pieces. With another begrudgingly ordered from the USA I set about attempting to reconstruct*it. Superglue and a dozen cable ties and the windscreen stood proud once again. For how long itll last is, however, anyones guess.

Following a brief sojourn to the slightly milder climes of Madrid, I resolved to a 750km push to Vienna. The miles ticked away, occasionally blinded by snow, fingers increasingly numb after my handwarmers once again died. I had momentary hallucinations dreaming of the warmth of riding in Vietnam just 6 months ago. Regardless the day seemed to be going successfully, and then suddenly all forward progress stopped.

vs.


A thunk, a brief lockup and a hasty grab for the clutch had me coasting to a stop on the side of the autobahn just 71km from Vienna. How cruel this world did feel. My mind started pondering what had let go. My immediate thought was what had I stuffed up when building the bike. Has my clutch let go, had the knock id felt through the whole bike destroyed my gearbox or had the neutral sensor fallen out despite my efforts to secure it and jammed in the clutch or something? Jumping off the bike something was obviously amiss. My chain hung limp, the chain cover looked melted and my sprocket sat askew. A quick closer inspection revealed a clear issue. My immediate though was a collapsed bearing or that I'd shattered the hub on my wheel.

A friend undertaking a similar adventure through Africa made an observation during his own mechanical nightmares. Such woes see you walk through the five stages of grief. As I reflected on my own dramas he continually pointed out how I went from phase to phase. Stuart does a far more amusing job of explaining mechanical issues than I do and his reflection of the stages of grief can be found
here

As it turns out my bearing failure caused a great deal of damage. Had I caught it on its way out and replaced it nothing worse would have happened. Having inspected in 2000km ago I had hoped to not need to check it until my next tire change in a few thousand more. Needless to say, this is a pointed lesson towards needing to ensure the maintenance of my dear bike.

Indeed, it was the bearing. The mission is to now find parts for a bike that was hardly sold in europe as they didn't meet the emissions requirements after the early 2000's. Never the less the volume of help and assistance offered by fellow riders here in Vienna has me humbled. Lucky to have somewhere to stay with friends in Vienna it took just hours of posting a call to help before the creation of a WhatsApp Group called Jordans breakdown help addressing what parts I'd need and where I can find them. My bike and I have been collected, housed, fed and watered just outside Vienna. Now I have even more than the one bed that I can choose from. Meeting people while traveling is one of the best parts and I cannot say thank you enough to those who have given me a warm place to sleep and helped me in whatever way I've needed.



If I was the type to believe the world tries to send a message that this trip was a bad idea, the series of unfortunate events that have befallen me might make the think that I should not proceed. Yet I am much to stubborn for that and will push on regardless. Although, I have begun to wonder if I should change the name of my blog to hurry up and wait.





Hope everyone at home is well, warm and enjoying a Merry Christmas.
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Old 1 Apr 2018
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Almost in Africa

Among a long line of criticisms, I’ve often been told that I am perhaps one of the least patient people in the world. Hopefully that will be one of the positives to come of this trip. I am becoming far more practiced at the skill of waiting, sighing and resigning myself to some more waiting.

It has been far too long since my last post. I left off stranded in Vienna. Motorbike in pieces but in good spirits. I was surrounded by friends whilst my bike and I were being looked after by the local riders. Thank you to Thomas for his help collecting, housing, feeding me and repairing the bike. Also thanks for the gloves which saved my fingers from further damage as I undertook the next few thousand kilometers through a bitterly cold European winter.

I received an excellent birthday and Christmas present in the form of a rebuilt motorbike and an invitation to stay in Graz with Andreas and his lovely family. Warmly welcomed, my bike fettled some more I passed a lovely day celebrating the season, whilst also reading a book about an avid Saharan motorbike adventurer. I was quite amused to learn just how unprepared some people are as they struck out on such adventures. A willingness to go and try, aware that if unsuccessful they would limp home as quickly as possible with their tails firmly between their legs. This last month has taught me that planning for such an escapade is an almost pointless exercise. That which I had planned has never gone to plan and I dare say this trend will continue in the future.

The next day I committed to a long stint on the bike into southern Hungary. In a way it was a bid for independence, the trip was finally becoming a novel experience. I was headed for uncharted territories and not aiming for some friend or another to shelter and care for me. I intended to camp but as my speedometer froze after the temperatures dropped well below 0 I accepted the inevitable and found a small motel. The next few hours involved the better part of a bottle of home-made peach schnapps and a litany of mistranslations pumped out by google translate as the owner and I attempted to communicate.


Ice plus sub-zero temperatures equals cold
The next day did little to alleviate the sub-zero temperatures which had been joined by some of the densest fog I have ever experienced. The moisture clung to me as I rode visor up, lest I be blinded by fog inside my helmet as well. That very moisture rapidly turned to ice as I crossed Romania towards Brasov.

Interestingly there were a few new stretches opened for use in the 6 months since I was there last. I recognised towns, the beginning of the road up to the Transfăgărășan and pushed on through bends I remembered with amusing clarity.
My original route across Europe had been waylaid by the prospect of new friends and yet more parts for the bike. My wayward rear sprocket had eaten through my swingarm and I had been offered a replacement by a charming chap here in central Romania. Thank you, Attila, for the help and the company. Having found my way to the workshop of his friend, motorbiking mentor and mechanic I set to swapping over the swing arm. I gathered a little crowd as I did so. Hope you’re well Buga! Regardless, my presence was somewhat mystifying as those gathered marvelled at the ridiculousness of my trip across Europe in the middle of winter. Indeed, I was informed that it is apparently it's actually illegal for motorbikes to be on the road when it’s snowing in Romania. How lucky I was that there was not the usual several feet of snow.

As early in this whole adventure as Romania I was already wishing I had more time on my hands, I instead reached the compromise of promising to come back to Romania in a not too distant summer to properly explore the countries great roads. I will be taking you up on that offer soon Attila! Desperate to rid myself of the cold I aimed south. Another big push into slightly warmer temperatures. With the looming deadline of the expiry of my insurance I wanted out, though I was dreading the impending expense of Turkish border insurance costing up to several hundred euros for some.


The MotoCamp is an eastern European haven for motorbike riders and hosts annual events I hope I'll one day be able to attend.
Having spent a lovely night at the Bulgarian Motocamp I was back on the move towards my first major border crossing. Somehow, I managed to get my insurance for a mere 38 euro and a few moments of paperwork I was into a country that I’d been to but briefly before. The lunacy of Turkey made me smile, the idea of going back again will always make me giddy. Istanbul is a brilliant city of 20 million people sitting at the meeting place of continents. Vibrant with history, crazy markets and brilliant food.

Having said that, this time I aspired to see some more of Turkey. My first stop was the border town of Erdine. Bike stored I took to the streets and I wandered about, devouring several 50 cent ekmeks. Such delicious morsels were rapidly followed by the first Ayrans of the trip. Yoghurt, water and salt. Just try it before you criticise it.

I awoke to the steady humdrum of rain the next morning. Obviously delighted, I sat during breakfast and reconsidered my plans. The direct route to the capital was just 250km, the detour via Gallipoli was nearly 600. The prospect of New Year’s eve in Istanbul and a commitment to paying my respects at Gallipoli got me on the road early. By the time I made it to Anzac Cove I felt the water trickle into my boots. I was rendered mute as I walked around a landscape that bares names I’ve known since primary school. Cemeteries, statues of great leaders and monuments to fallen men. All the while feeling ever more water pool in my boots and run down my neck. I spent a long few hours paused at Chunuk Bair, initially shrouded in such thick fog I couldn’t see the New Zealand memorial from Ataturk’s statue before briefly clearing for a view over the surrounding area.


When your father builds you an island to save you from being killed by snake and said snake makes it to the island anyways.

Istanbul is full of 'publicly owned' cats and dogs. All fit, healthy, vaccinated and the least bit aggressive.


Sunset over the beautiful city

Who doesnt love a souq.


Mosques and ferrys.

This local guy jumped up to help the poor puppy after she couldnt get out of the pond.

Realising it was 4pm and darkness would soon be upon me I fled. The water level was rising ever closer to the tops of my boots and filling up fast. I expected bedlam upon arriving in Istanbul. Yet I rode into town on a highway smoother than anything in Australia which took me straight into Sultanahmet. As the cultural and touristic hub of the city it seemed appropriate to stay here, also it was one of the few hostels that offered parking.

I arrived, looking as though Id narrowly escaped a drowning. I was immediately labelled as crazy and lead up to my dorm to recompose myself. After a spectacular evening in Istanbul celebrating the arrival of the new year and a much-needed day of recovery I was again anxious to be on the move. As such I pointed the nose of the bike towards Ankara, crossing from Europe into Asia as I went in search of the waiting hospitality of Birol and several other riders. Friends of my Austrian saviour, Birol his had kindly offered to help me service the bike and get my bearings before I was supposed to head to Africa.



Having been on the road for over 6 weeks on this trip that I was calling my chance to explore Africa, I was anxious to get there. In hindsight I should have learnt by now that nothing goes smoothly. I spend a wonderful Raki fuelled few days in Ankara with Birol, Eylem, Ozge and the garage crew. Ankara is an interesting capital. A new city by standards of a country as old as Turkey its an odd unplanned hodgepodge of buildings and residential areas. It's also host to an amusing and bizarre 82 kilometers an hour speed limit. I heard several explanations for this including that a 10% leeway allows drivers to be safe at 90 kph or that it was the result of an increase over the previous speed limit by some bureaucratically chosen percentage in respect of the improvement offered by modern vehicles. Bike up to snuff I headed south down through Cappadocia and the weird landscape there I made it to the port town of Mersin.

As I was learning this trip, people know people everywhere and Ozge had introduced me to Ibrahim another rider who worked in the port and offered to, at the very least, help me translate.My morning started rapidly and went downhill even more quickly. The agent I’d been informed repeatedly over the course of an extensive email correspondence had no Idea how to proceed. Phone calls were made and then a new shipping agent found who this time had a vague inkling of what to do next.

Although it was also around this time that my quote began to dissolve as though it hadn’t exist and other numbers began appearing out of the depths. My original 300 dollar freight quote + some “small and reasonable” costs for the agent had become 1500 USD and there were still additional numbers being thrown around. How an industry can operate with such vaguely construed notions of a quote I will never understand. The worst part is that once the first component is paid you're effectively signing a blank cheque for the port at the other side – to think I was aiming for Alexandria one of the worlds more expensive and laborious. Before anything went further I hid myself away in my hotel room and asked my multitude of Turkish friends to begin calling a list of numbers in a bid to ascertain if there are any other ships or ferry-like services to get me to Egypt or in worst case passed Syria.


Well maybe it wasnt very beachlike.
A few hours had passed and I was informed of one RORO*service – no room for me, but they could fit the bike. For a grand total of 650 USD it would be at Haifa 22 hours later – and I was assured it would be leaving in 5 days time. So here it was, hurry up and wait. I sighed and resigned myself to sitting pretty on the beach and waiting.

I was feeling quite relaxed and pumped for the next phase of my journey. I arrived at the dock slightly late having flattened the battery on the bike the night before resulting in me struggling to have it briefly charged with my few remaining hours in Turkey. But before long I was getting stamps and an*invasive search to confirm that I wasn’t the shady suspicious character that Id been taken for. Bags off the bike – a near 10 minute exercise for a 10 second scan before re-attaching them. Then suddenly my agent was instructing me to follow ‘that’ Renault Symbol. I immediately looked back at him wide-eyed. “Which one is it?” I asked, “the numberplate ends in 52! Go before you lose him”….. I had been well and truly lost already, kicking the bike into life I roared off down the port. Scanning the dozen Renault Symbols in front of me. It seems that Renault had won the fleet deal for this port a long time ago. I see mine take a sudden left doing substantially more than the posted 30kmh signs. Following him I was suddenly dropped into a James Bond villain chasing scenario. Winding though shipping containers stacked 6 high at times hitting 80kph without a helmet or my riding jacket, pants or boots, chasing some elusive vehicle which was surely piloted by someone with a plan to end the world. Suddenly I popped out into an area the size of several football fields, empty and totally devoid of a single Renault Symbol. I began a long loop and suddenly I caught movement in the corner of my eyes. There was a Renault the other side of the empty space, with a guy waving towards me through the gap between some containers. I smiled, on a car Id have had to go back out and try go around, but I was on a bike and seconds later id squeezed myself through the gap.

As suddenly as it had begun it was all over. I was deposited next to a portable cabin and told to wait. A few minutes later another Symbol appeared and divulged my agent who climbed the stairs, peered inside the empty building and wandered off in search of the individual who I presume should be inside. I only had to wait for a short time before I was instructed to park my bike “over there” and hand over the keys. It would be loaded tonight and they would sail tomorrow. I bid my baby farewell and jumped into a waiting Renault and was taken back to the passenger exit. I grinned a sigh of relief, bid my agent farewell and headed to the hotel to collect my bag and get to my waiting flight to Israel.
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Old 30 Sep 2018
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Crossing into Africa

There is one bit of waiting and patience I was always decent at, it is killing time at airports. To save 10 euros Id committed to a 11 hour stopover in Istanbul. Before long I had landed in Tel Aviv and was queued in the insane arrivals area. I don’t know whether the designers didn’t fathom the volume of arrivals but the arrivals hall isn’t the largest the world has ever seen. Entry to which is by three narrow openings from a long downwards ramp. Queued in this ramp you cant see much of what’s going on inside the hall. All signage is in Hebrew. Suddenly an exceptionally disgruntled airport worker appears from the right hand side, in front of the hallway to the right hand of the three openings. “Foreign passport holders this way” he shouted, clearly frustrated that none of us realised we were supposed to go that way. Yet how were we to know? Those of us who thought we were included extricated ourselves from the mob growing on the ramp and ducked down the hallway. The foreign passport queues were a little shorter but I laughed as I passed the frustrated worker. What a welcome to Israel.


Street art for days


Umm that sounds exciting.


Silence during the day is replaced by bedlam at night. Jerusalems night market is a must.


More street art...

For whatever reason, perhaps that this was my second visit, I was allowed into one of the most secure countries on earth without a single question. Having collected my bags, I deposited myself at a table and continued with my attempts to gain internet access. Suddenly I was online, the phone sprung into life, ablaze with messages. One immediately caught my eye and my stomach sank. A message from the shipping agents in turkey simply saying "Sorry Jordan – ship sails next week, have fun in Israel". I put my head in my hands and sobbed. If only I’d have known I could then have stayed in one of the worlds cheapest countries for another week. But now I was in one of the most expensive with barely any of my stuff and my bike in the hands of people in another country.

For a week I became a backpacker and I met people that made me smile and reminded me that there were worse things than being relegated to the usual manners of travel. I wandered the markets of Jerusalem, amused myself at the concept of a Museum of Taxes and ate myself silly.


Chilling out in Aqaba before the craziness of heading to Egypt.
Yet after my week had expired I was itching to get back on the bike. I headed up to Haifa, the port city where my bike was set to*arrive at some point in the first half of the week. Aware, that this would take some time I guarded myself. The first shock came in the form of yet more unexpected costs in Israel. Had I known from the beginning I would have proceeded with the shipping route from Greece. I resolved to get the bike and get out. I enjoy Israel in small dosages, but the bureaucracy had me scared. Get to Egypt I resolved, where costs would be lower, and I could begin the journey in earnest.

Down the dead sea I rode, making good time.*Through the west bank and some of Israel’s best roads into a part of the country that I’d been before.**I headed straight across into Jordan using the free Independent traveller’s manifest system that they’ve developed for the Aqaba region. I spent just half an hour bouncing between the different numbered offices and could have won a lottery if one existed as I went in the correct order the whole way. I headed directly into town, waylaid only for a bizarre photo shoot with some Jordanian soldiers and heading straight to the ferry company to book passage to Egypt. 24 hours later I was at the port having camped on the beach within eyesight and began the next arduous effort of exiting a country and preparing for the trails of entering Egypt.

The ferry journey went smoothly. I was directed through a huge Xray machine, told to park up and head upstairs. We landed at about midnight. 5 foreigners, myself and my bike fully prepared for the numerous issues that would undoubtedly arise. First, we dealt with the matter of my visa. The bike would come after the others were let loose.


Haifa was a port city that has been in the hands of several countries over the years. The shirne and gardens above the German colony are very impressive. Albeit inaccessible during the rain as theyre worried you'll 'slip'.

Graffiti snapped near the Jordanian border.

I stood in this spot a little over 6 months before, but I rather it with the bike.

Egypt was one of the main reasons for which I had acquired a Carnet de Passage en Douane or a triptik as its known in this part of the world. It is effectively a temporary import permit recognised by several dozen countries including Egypt and Australia which seem to detest outside vehicles being brought into the country. Things as I would learn in Egypt move slowly. However, when I was told at 3am that my incredible expensive document wasn’t valid in Egypt I spat the proverbial dummy.

A fellow biker had had similar troubles, and the carnet man recognised his name but following the steps that he had used to resolve the situation proved futile for me. The AAA in Australia were of limited assistance. My only option then was to get a bus for a ‘short’ 12-hour ride into Cairo to get a stamp and return in the hope of getting my bike. Resigned to the expense and the drama I set off. Dozens of checkpoints later we crossed the Suez canal and merged into the perpetual traffic jam present in Cairo. We arrived at the city’s outskirts around 5:30 but it wasn’t until 8 that the bus pulled over and inquired where another passenger and I wanted to get off that we discovered we were at the end of the route. Not willing to deal with a taxi we set of for the closest metro and within the hour were comfortably lodged while I waited for morning to enable me to get my documents stamped.



I was up at the crack of dawn and wandering downtown to the Egyptian Auto Club. The process did not take particularly long, nor was it particularly expensive but these things add up and the prospect of another 12 hour return journey had me antsy. Stamped and certified I aimed for the bus station only to discover that there were no buses to Nuweiba until the following day. I enquired about several other towns in a vague vicinity to discover one to Dahab at 1:30 pm. Just an hour away. How perfect. Messaging my fixer in Nuweiba I planned to arrive and have the bike out in the wee hours of the following morning. No problems I was told – I will wait for you. Having bussed nearly 14 hours we arrived after 3am in a town I would come to love. Following the ordeal, I just wanted to get to Nuweiba and the taxi drivers knew they had me. Getting stiffed for the hour-long cab ride was the last thing I desired to do but I wanted my bike and all my belonging out of the damn port.



Needless to say, this expense went down like a proverbial brick when I arrived only to be directed to a hotel and told to wait until the morning. Accepting my fate, I woke early and sat outside the port until Mahmoud found me and we began the ‘quick’ process of finish up my paperwork. At midday, after more than my fair share of tips and chai we rolled out of the port in what would be the first of many convoys. I attempted to communicate that I would be fine but quickly gave up and resigned myself – again – to the way this part of the world works.

To say I was elated would be an understatement. I made it to the St Catherine turn off and was set free. Set free to run alone to Dahab and make mischief and be joyous. I am not lying when I say I let loose tears of joy in my helmet as I gunned the bike south. After about 30 minutes I jumped off in the hope of snapping a cheeky arrival photo only to have an unmarked car, full of some combin pull up behind me and usher me onwards.

Chastened I continued to Dahab.* Attempting to navigate the cities one-way street system I got lost in my latest middle eastern town. I was rapidly acclimatising to the Egyptian way of life. I pull up to ask for directions and the first comments I hear are that I cannot stop where I have. Asking for directions however confuses them enough that they instead opt to simply force me to get a move on. Arriving at the hostel, depositing my bike I set out on foot to explore this little city which by many accounts was to be one of the highlights of Egypt. Liberal to a level that would not be seen again in northern Africa, Dahab is a glorious little beach town offering some of the world’s best and cheapest diving and a relaxed and sedate way of life. After the drama of my last few days this sounded perfect in a way I cannot describe.

Uncomfortable with the idea of diving after issues I’ve had in the past with my ears I instead opted for a snorkel and fins set hired for 50 cents for the next few days. I took to the water with an enthusiasm I can hardly describe. The first time this trip that the weather was warm enough to offer an opportunity to swim. The Red Sea was something ive been aware of for a long time as a premier diving location due to some family friends who were avid divers themselves. Diving would have offered a unique experience I’m sure however the fun I had snorkelling was just what I wanted.


That cheeky photo before I got tackled by the police and told to move on.

The infamous blue-hole. Bane to many divers, I chose snorkeling instead.

The bizarre entrance to the Ras Mohammed Park.


Trails left by the planes as they passed over Mt Sinai

The small church atop the mountain after the sun rose up.

One of the most spectacular sunrises of my life. Below 0, windy as all hell but spectacular.

Other highlights of Dahab would include the park up at Ras Abu Galum, the coloured canyon further north near Nuweiba and the easy access afforded to head to St Catherine. For me however, my desire to proceed on the bike was repeatedly thwarted by the police and army checkpoints scattered around the Sinai.

A few days passed in this perfect setting. I ran into Josh, another young Aussie who Id met in Istanbul over New Years and then committed to continue towards Cairo in the coming days. Down the coast road I went, aspiring to take a dirt road across to the coast and check out a wrecked ship and mangrove forest before reaching Sharm el Sheik the most popular and touristy of the Red Sea Sinai haunts. For me however it was the definition of the sort of thing I did not want to ever have to experience. Regardless I was yet again I was stopped in my track. This road was open if I was heading north, however for some reason going south was forbidden. I fought the urge to simply skirt around the vicinity of the checkpoint along the myriad of tracks that carved their way across the desert and instead was a good boy and headed back to the main road.

Ras Mohammed is the first and only national park in Egypt. Established to protect this unique coastal landscape I opted for camping as was shocked when I was told that it was 200 pounds to camp in this national park. To this date it is my most expensive ‘accommodation’ in Egypt. The campsites offered up were 3 designated areas on the edge of the inland bay. As a result, the most beautiful parts of the park were hidden from my tent.

The next day I headed north towards El Fayran. This marked the other end of the route across the Sinai which headed to St Catherine. Every bit of advice id had was that heading to St Catherine would be impossible. If the route was restricted near Dahab, this side would be impossible. Again, the men in a mix of uniforms told me that I needed to proceed in a convoy. The next to Cairo would not leave for more than 6 hours, alternatively one to St Catherine would be leaving in less than 1. I was sold, this would give me the opportunity for a night time hike and the chance to experience the beautiful sunrise atop Mt Sinai.

Convoy procedure around Egypt is as mixed and varied as the treatment you get at each checkpoint. Some demand you follow them, these either proceed at 130 or 40 kph while others wave you ahead and you ride off feeling free and alone but hardly so. The convoy to St Catherine was the latter. I was among company this time with two large buses and two mini buses. One of the minibuses and I left the others far behind. Over the course of the 90km to St Catherine I was stopped nearly two dozen times. Several within eye sight of each other. My progress was halting and all the more frustrating because the police at the back of the convoy had my passport and license in their possession. Luckily a friendly minibus driver slotted me in front and would shout Arabic out the window as we proceeded through the checkpoints to address the assorted issues that each gaggle of police officers had.

*** That’s a question I have, what is the name for a group of police officers. Something reminds me of geese when I deal with them, so a gaggle feels appropriate.* ***

By the time we reached St Catherine I imagined I’d be in for a long wait for my documents. True to form the police had rolled along at 50kph, so an hour later they rocked up and handed over my passport and license to the checkpoint who then began their processes. I believe I have been registered and recorded at every point along my journey. A sign of the military dictatorship in which Id found myself.

I’ve never experienced a government authority dictating my movements and demanding a right to go through all my personal effects whenever they will. There were times where I would be searched within eyesight of a previous checkpoint. One such officer became the proud new owner of a yet unreplaced pair of shoes that the dog had reacted too ‘oddly’. These assorted misadventures come with a contrasting freedom as to day to day activities. In the west, the freedom I’m used to is a freedom to do what I wish, when I wish curtailed by the constant pressure as to whether the way you’re behaving is entirely lawful. You have the freedom to decide where you’re going and when but you’re not free to speed, to park where you will, to drink on the streets, to smoke in places, to swear in public or to drive the car you want or the motorbike you like until you meet some vague and ambiguous bureaucratic standard. These things are the price of that freedom. Egypt is the antithesis to that life experience. While there is no freedom to act as I’d like here I never ask myself whether what I’m doing is legal.

I was then told to wait while I was given a convoy into the town, some few kilometres away. As with all of these experiences, I have long since given up attempting to find the logic of the situation. Instead of driving at 50kph I was lead at full steam along the 3km piece of road leading to St Catherine monastery, at 5pm in the afternoon. I was told to head up and then Id be escorted to camp. Wondering up I arrive at the entrance to be told that it shuts at 3pm so I wander back even more bemused only to find my escort has gone AWOL. Without talking to anyone, I jump onto the bike and head to my accommodations for the evening.

Desert Fox camp is a lovely little place offering affordable rooms or an even more affordable secure place for your tent and motorbike. I set up camp and then arranged for a morning hike up Mt Sinai with a young local guy named Mohammed.

Roused at 1am we set up for the long and even more beautiful route up the hill. Prepared for the fitness level of the average tourist in Egypt we expected to get to the top around 5. We strode on up the mountain and I let Mohammed set the pace, stopping when he needed a rest but otherwise harrying him along just a few paces behind. At one point he misjudged the location of a fence line and went sprawling head over heels into the dust. Our night vision had gotten good with the moon up but evidently wasn’t good enough. I struggled to contain giggles as he dusted himself off and picked up the pace to redeem himself. When we arrived at just 700 steps from the peak at 4am he wasn’t quite sure what to do with himself. We tucked our self into a little coffee shop where over the course of the next hour a half dozen people divulged themselves from out under the piles of blankets. I was glad Id chosen a seat by the door instead of giving someone a rude wake up.

From this point we waited until a little before sunrise before racing up the hill in and amongst the crowds from what seemed like a dozen tour buses. I tried to contain my disgust as some tour operator attempted to illicit woofing noises out of his little gathering. I couldn’t think of much worse.

Sunrise from the top was a refreshing experience. Several steps were sneakily hiding some of the worlds slipperiest ice, but I had made it without any severely broken bones. Watching the sun crest the mountains of the southern Sinai was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. I attempted to take photos, but it was just too serene a moment to waste peering through the lens of a camera.

Determined not to be caught in the gaggle of other tourists we descended via the straight path to the rear of the monastery. I hadn’t quite comprehended just how far 3000 steps in a row is. At times almost jogging down, other times having to stop and try to ascertain which of the jumble of stones was the step, our 3-hour ascent was undone in 36 minutes.

Again, my access to St Catherine’s was forbidden and I was told to come back at 11. Napping until 10:30 I woke and just about ran to the monastery determined not to miss my chance, though I was again disappointed as I was told that for whatever reason it was closed. Grumbling I returned, packed and departed St Catherine, bizarrely without any sort of convoy being necessary.

The run to Cairo was long but only interrupted by a few brief passport checks and the dreaded crossing of the Suez Canal. A friend had been allowed to ride through, with a half dozen machine guns pointed at him, but I was promptly informed that orders had come down to put me on the back of a truck. Eight of us lifted the bike up onto the back of a kind trucker who otherwise had no load. I clambered on and sat straddling the bike. Turning it on and revving it as we went through the tunnel in some sort of stubborn, why is the necessary attempt at defiance.

Reaching the other side was even more bizarre as no one had been informed that a foreign motorbike was passing through. As such two of us ended up taking the bike off the truck ourselves with the additional help of a one-armed passer-by. Before I’d even had a moment to thank my trucker he jumped in and vanished.

But here I was, I had finally made it to Africa.

LESSONS ABOUT EGYPT:

First words you’ll hear out of the mouth of an Egyptian male in a position of authority is the word NO.

To quote a seasoned expat id meet before the week was out in Cairo. Everything is forbidden yet anything is possible. In my experience, the anything was never what I wanted though.

Unless you’ve found yourself hanging with the brilliant crowds of motorbike riders (proper bikes not the dinky Chinese bikes) almost anyone that approaches you has an angle. A shop they want you to visit after you learn about all the various relatives they have which live miraculously in each country you care to list. A country that survived off tourism which has all but died off and a lot of people who fight as hard as they can for every penny.
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Egypt

The drive to Cairo from the Suez Canal was one of the most chaotic experiences of my life. The low levels of traffic of the Sinai were replaced by 4 lane highways in which cars sat 5 or 6 abreast. To make matters even more bizarre large vehicles were relegated to a side road that runs the length of the main highway with random, interspersed, unsigned access ramps between the two.

I had been warned about Cairo traffic, and had seen it from the relative safety of a bus a week before but driving it is another experience entirely. Bedlam though it may be there is a weird degree of skill in the driving that you see as you move closer to the city center. I had opted to spend my first night in Cairo at the farm of a Canadian expat who welcomes Overlanders into the security of her little compound. This was located about 35 km south of the city so required me to navigate the regional ring road to get there in one piece.

With darkness falling I still had 100km left to go. My afternoon of delay in crossing the canal had put a serious dent into my plans. Never the less the darkness resulted in headlights and brake lights only being more visible. Roaring through the traffic while attempting to deal with a situation devoid of logic or rules there is little else to do other than making sure you aren’t hit and avoiding colliding with anyone else.

Crossing the Nile in Cairo is always a slow exercise unless you have easy access to the metro system. Traffic over the few bridges is almost always at a standstill. As one would expect this was where I hit the cacophony of a full-blown Cairo rush hour traffic jam. Loaded up with all my luggage, the width of the bike prevented me from being quite as cheeky as I would have liked. I was, never the less, obliged to focus upon cramming myself through as many small gaps as possible. The high 30s temperature combined with the warmth exuded from the multitude of vehicles around me and the sheer volume of fumes had me light-headed and giddy. A dangerous combination that resulted in evermore cock sure confidence than was perhaps justified. A realisation that Cairo drivers and contact between vehicles wasn’t the end of the world had me scrubbing the occasional fender with my canvas bags.

As the sweltering temperature got to me, I began to realise that my simple air-cooled Suzuki was warming up too. Cooled only by movement sitting stationary was doing nothing for the temperatures she was reaching. Desperation put me on the hard shoulder, gritting my teeth and barging forward at any opportunity to let the bike drop a few degrees as the air rushed over it.

I will never forget forging my way down the narrow gap between the vehicles and either a substantial concrete wall or a one-foot high sidewalk. Repeatedly I heard my bags scrub the concrete, occasionally the cars, the size of my bike allowing me past most vehicles.

To give some frame of reference for how close I was running to these cars, I was fitting through gaps where I couldn’t put my feet down the side of the bike while my handlebars ran above or bellow the mirrors of the cars on both sides. Occasionally a slight tilt to the right had my foot pegs dragging on the high sidewalk as I rode skirting as close to the edge as I possibly could.

Yet somehow, I survived. I was involved in no major accidents, there were no injuries to speak of, and my bike hadn’t melted into a molten puddle of aluminium and steel. To top it all off I developed quite a taste for the absurd experience of riding in Cairo.

Reaching the farm was its own little adventure, situated in the outskirts of the city it was a challenge to navigate the maze of buildings and dark roads. I found the rough location and was sitting in the dark attempting to call Maryanne when two guys on a bike stopped next to me. Naturally the sight of Overlander's in this part of the city meant one thing and that was that I was headed to Sorat farm. I was told to follow them and then realised that I’d made it to within 50 meters of the gate. The farm was nice if simple, a patch of grass for my tent and access to a shower and sometimes WIFI. However, when I woke the next morning I wont lie when I say I was shocked that the pleasure of staying there costs 20 dollars. For those in large trucks accessing Cairo central would be an almost impossible challenge and this makes it potentially viable, however with the bike I was sure secure parking could be had and accommodations sought for substantially less.



Determined to make something of my countryside experience I joined in with their weekly vet clinic. In a remarkable display of charity, she provides basic veterinarian care to the animals of the local villages. Each week attending a different location the little team vaccinate, worm, shod and do dental work to a ridiculous variety of animals not limited to donkeys, horses, chickens, camels and the occasional buffalo.

The cart ride was a pleasant divergence from the bike however I was soon making my excuses to escape the expensive clutches of the farm and head into the city. Cairo is a metropolis the likes of which I’ve never seen before. I don’t believe too many places can compare. Housing a similar number to Istanbul it does so in a much smaller area. Unlike the more low-lying sprawl of the latter, Cairo is a concrete jungle that goes upwards and outwards.

It is a mixed mess of sights, sounds and smells. The national museum is one of the worlds most impressive; housing antiquities of an age and quality that can scarcely be matched. It is a maze that goes on and on, covering thousands of years of history and dozens of dynasties. Some of my favourite pieces include the huge sculptures of the Pharaohs, intricate gold work found in King Tuts tomb and the impressive frescoes that have been moved from all over the country.


The wonders of that great museum.
On the streets the people are friendly, the frenetic traffic rushes by, a cacophony of horns and sirens. Most simply say Welcome, a few will attempt to guide you in the direction of their shops. As with most countries where tourism is important it becomes necessary to grow a sort of thick skin to all the hellos that are thrown at you. As jaded as that sounds, I think that’s a reality that one faces sooner or later when traveling.

As I was to learn the hard sell in Cairo is soft by Egyptian standards. I spent a day exploring the museum and the city centre before venturing towards Zamalek and making new friends through Josh after he and the gang returned from Dahab. Dinking Josh around the city on the way to visit the Pyramids at Dashur, Giza and Saqqarah (pronounced Sa’a’rah) got some very amusing looks from the locals but the freedom from the drama of arranging a taxi or getting an Uber was liberating.



At Dashur I was allowed into the complex and raced around the pyramids amid the dunes on the bike. Stopping to pose for a few photos as I went. The Bent Pyramid appears to only be accessible via a tour but the other, a pyramid almost as grand as those at Giza is one of the most intricate internally. Several caverns can be explored, and one section has an opening connecting to the next nearly 10 meters off the ground. A modern staircase enables you to access this last little corner of the labyrinth.


The Bent Pyramid

The sunny side of Dashur


The narrow little path down into the heart of the pyramid isnt for the faint of heart.

The modern staircase to allow access into the final chamber


The not so sunny side of Dashur.
Rather bizarrely, inside this last chamber you can witness the lower foundations of the pyramid, with a few blocks having fallen out of the walls you look around alarmingly as though the rest of it might just come crumbling down on top of you.

Saqqarah has the first of the pyramids, a more stepped example that was built in*several phases over the years and was never clad into the perfect pyramid shape. Lessons learnt from the bent pyramid however were crucial for the construction of the three great pyramids at Giza. Standing before them its difficult to gain a sense of perspective as to which is larger. Josh and I ‘negotiated’ with one of the guards and got into the 3rd Pyramid right on closing. It was less accessible than the pyramid at Dashur requiring a further tour to venture beyond a closed steel grate down in the depths of one of the vaults.

The guard was getting antsy with how long we sat around down in the depths and started flicking the lights on and off leaving us to crawl out in occasional darkness. On the way up the final shaft the lights were turned off and all we had to go on was the light at the end of the tunnel. Crawling out into the light we blinked before setting off around the back of the 3rd pyramid to the ever-popular dunes to take the obligatory photos with the three pyramids in the background.

The sphinx is a lot smaller than one would expect and the crowded viewing area ruins it. It is a challenge to get any sort of scope on it as one thing as the crowds cover it and limit you to seeing it in patches. Never the less there are few things in the world that you know of since you’re a child and yet seeing the pyramids is a whole did not let my expectations down. By contrast, they’re just as awe-inspiring and indescribable as they were when you first saw pictures when you were young. They beggar belief like few other things in the world.

After the pyramids I felt it was necessary to get a few kilometres done. Up to Alexandria I went where I joined a group of riders. A huge thank you to Markos, Yassin, Sami and the crew at the Le Trottoir Café. A pleasant evening of Shisha and pizza was followed by a much-needed sleep and the following day a group ride led me around the main sights.


I find it very frustrating that photos never reveal the size of the hill you have to climb to take them. Or in my case, the size of the hill you have to push a motorbike up.
From there I delved towards Siwa Oasis and a whole lot more drama than I ever bargained for. A pleasant night under the starts at the Mountain camp, swimming in the hot water spring that bubbles forth from the little oasis in the middle of the desert before heading out to Astro Camp and a rare opportunity to ride amongst the dunes in the Great Sand sea. Rules and regulations require complicated and substantial permits to be gained for any sort of particularly extensive riding in the area. As with most things Egyptian that you can experience is excellent but that which you’re prohibited from doing would probably be even better.


Photo shoot just outside Astro Camp with the loveable Fati
Siwa includes the temple of the Oracle where Alexander the Great was crowned Pharaoh over Egypt and is the source of the mythical references to such a figure in one of my favourite book series by Matthew Rielly. The town is also the best access to the Great Sand Sea and offering up a myriad of cooling pools and bathing areas.


When you climb a hill for no other reason than you can and it ends up being far more effort than planned.

One of my favourite photos of the whole trip.

Life changing sunsets


A taste of the Great Sand Sea

The Temple of the Oracle

The lushness of the Oasis and the Necropolis in the background.

The old Siwian fortress was built of mud in the middle of the desert and stood proud until 1926 when three days of heavy rain literally caused it to melt and become completely compromised as a haven for its inhabitants. From here I aspired to head towards Bahariya oasis. A road that I’d been told many times is likely impassable. Exhibiting a fairly cock sure confidence I adopted the mentality from the Sinai. I would go and try the route I wanted and*if they say no I turn back. No harm no foul. How wrong could I have been.

Here I will leave this story for its own post and instead proceed with the rest of my Egyptian experience lest I taint the rest of the country by way of this one situation.

Having been liberated in Marsa Matrouh I passed a solitary night high up in a tower of a beach front hotel, my bike parked front and centre in the lobby. I licked my wounds and then aimed for Alexandria to re-join the safety of the riders there and give my bike a bit of loving.

By the end of my day in Alexandria I was back and fighting fit with my oil changed, brake pads replaced, washed, polished, chain lubricated and a new bracket for my broken exhaust carefully carved by a brilliant craftsman. Watching him work the spectacular and seemingly ancient lathe was a very enjoyable experience.

The popular Spitfire bar provided the evening's entertainment and my name was forever more inscribed upon the wall.

A few hours of fitful sleep saw me commit to an early morning ride to Cairo, desperate to try to get in before the traffic got too bad. Optimism is a wonderful thing, and even though I left at shortly before 4 am the Alexandria Desert Road was packed by my 6:30 am arrival. Wrecked I arrived at a friendly place, unpacked my bags and fell asleep forever.

Quitting Cairo a few days later saw me on the road to Wadi al Hitan. A unique site and one which had merited UNESCO recognition for its importance in demonstrating evolution. Hours of riding into the desert gives rise to a bizarre valley filled with ball-shaped rocks, large and small. Aside from these rocks are the extensive collection of fossils left behind by the ancestors of the modern whale.

These skeletons are one of the only sites in the world which reveal the shift from land to sea-based lives. Functional yet defunct pelvis and rear legs offer insight to how the bodies of these great animals adapted to a shift in climate and environment as their lush landscape was replaced by a more arid and less sustainable climate. Faced with this choice these great beasts headed for the ocean. Today, many whales are without any sort of pelvic structure however some have been found to possess such bones in their bodies without having any use or need for them as they float separately from the spine.


It almost seems like remains are just scattered around.

And a head!

Looks almost snake-like. It would be a gigantic snake though.


I've never seen a landscape like it.

On top of this, the spectacular landscape offered one of my only wild camping experiences in all of Egypt. The next day saw me on the long road to Luxor, as with everything in Egypt the challenges were on their way in full force.

Riding from Fayoum towards Asyut is a relatively straight forward 300km down the Nile road. 12 hours later I’d done just 200. Being stopped every 10 to 15km to pick up yet another police convoy had me tense. When I was told to then ride the next 100 km in the dark I simply walked away from the bike into the desert and screamed.

For all the effort they cost me I forced myself into their care for the night and was promptly given lodgings in the police checkpoint. Whether I was free to leave was anyone’s guess.

I rose early the next morning to be confronted by many bleary-eyed Egyptians not used to being awake for hours. Packed and seated on my bike by sunrise they couldn’t understand why I wanted to get a move on. From there it took me two more days to make it to Luxor. The journey a stop start affair constantly involving police or army. Reference to my adventure in Siwa was never made but I was repeatedly refused permission to head towards Bahariya or any of the other western desert Oasis.



When I arrived in Qena with the intent to see the spectacular Dendera temple complex I was frustrated beyond words that I was to require a convoy through the town. I highly recommend visiting here for anyone going near Luxor.



It was absolutely a highlight and worth the little extra effort to transfer to Qena. The restorations are minimal, the degree of preservation is remarkable and the scale of the temple, like all things Egyptian is spectacular.



Leaving the temple, I was again required to wait before I could be simply lead to the centre of town to eat my lunch. Egypt is genuinely designed for travellers on a set standard itinerary, the government are unable to cope with much else. With a taxi or a tour guide you’re slightly insulated, perhaps those locals are considered sufficient to keep you safe but for those of us who are traveling with a form of transport that enables us to be defiantly independent, the government, army and police are inept to the point of endless frustration.

From there I began running my escorts around the city. Determined to make them feel as inconvenienced as I felt I began demanding that I purchase fruit, clothing, groceries, water, and several other little knickknacks. Each time requiring my escort to guide me around the town and sit around while I ummed and ahhed over every little choice I had to make. From time to time Id ask if they were getting impatient yet, and when I was finally given an affirmative answer I smiled gleefully and told them I was glad they knew how I felt.

Out of bright ideas with which to kill time I finally caved and committed to the last 100 odd km to Luxor and where I would hopefully spend the night. Passing through the outskirts of town my police escort suddenly pulled over, waving me on and shouting have fun as I sailed past. To say I was overjoyed would be an understatement. There were sizeable tears of joy dripping down my cheeks in my helmet as I roared off as free as a bird for the first time in almost 1000 km. I cannot describe my satisfaction, my elation or the calm that settled over me as I settled into a comfortable cruise.


When you go to all that effort and it snaps in two

Temple of Horus anyone?

This Nile road was dotted with speed bumps, requiring a constant 0 to 90 to 0 to 90 accelerate and brake process. Some speed bumps were hidden in shadows or I was distracted waving or otherwise enjoying the serenity that I hit them at 90 with the sole consolation that I missed the next three.

As always, the freedom was short-lived. Some 50km later I was again picked up and escorted rapidly through town to the point where my sedate pace angered the guides, who became even more irritable when I pulled over to have a cup of tea without conferring with them at all. Nonchalant to the end I had given up caring and when they came back to find me I quickly rode past them waving as I continued on my way.

Arriving in Luxor I was then given an escort to my hostel, before being instructed to call them if I wished to leave or ride around. This resulted in me spitting the proverbial dummy yet again right in the middle of the roundabout outside Luxor temple. It was a tirade that stopped traffic and had people watching and was successful as it gained me my freedom after I’d ensured that the soldier was sufficiently mortified.

The history in Luxor is the only reason anyone should ever visit, aside from the Valley of Kings, Tombs of the Nobles, Temple of Luxor and Karnak it is a cesspool of everything wrong with tourism. With the collapse of the tourism industry, the degree of desperation among the street peddlers and guides have risen proportionately. It is admittedly a pretty little patch of the Nile with a few nice places to sit and have a as the sun goes down. However, everyone who tries to talk to you has an angle. Anyone that manages to get some of your business will try to cheat you out of more.

Along with the pyramids, the Temple of Hatshepsut is an image of which we are almost all aware.


The aforementioned Temple and I just moments for I tripped over and landed on my bottom in the dust.
Yet unlike the pyramids it was a tad disappointing. Largely rebuilt with little original remaining it was one of the most crowded and touristy places I saw. By contrast the Ramesseum, Deir el-Medina and what remains of the colossi of Memnon were brilliant.




That'd have given me quite the headache.

Quiet and except for the latter very well preserved these temples offered highlight after highlight. The temples of the Nobles can be entered at student prices if you pay 10 pounds more to the man behind the counter. Although there were a few times some people asked for student ID, most of the time they held my documents upside down anyways.

The Valley of Kings is cool, if a little expensive and even more clichéd. Your standard entry fee will gain you access to three of the tombs with additional tours and the ability to use your camera costing a pretty penny on top. There is plenty going on outside of it that you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for. Not to be missed is the other small temple up the top of the mountain accessible from the car park on the right-hand side. I didn’t go as I was in a rush to escape but I heard great things.

From Luxor I headed south, Aswan offered the Sudanese visa and consequently the ability to escape Egypt. I had such high hopes, so much of why I went down the east coast of Africa was so that I could see and enjoy the history that Egypt offers.

It is a country of amazing highs and low lows. Will I go back? Perhaps, but I imagine Ill be just as disappointed as those who moved back hoping for change after the revolution only to be even more disappointed.

Thank you to those of you who made my time in Egypt enjoyable.

Sadly many of my photos are currently in limbo on a broken hard drive. I'll add some more when they're recovered!
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Old 30 Sep 2018
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Sudan

Foul, falafel and fuel.
My introduction to the Sudan was a smiling Mazar standing behind the big gate separating the country from no-man’s land. The gap from Egypt into Sudan was teeming with trucks waiting for the gate to be opened at the end of prayers and a well needed lunch break.

Mazar waving and joined in with the ribbing I was receiving from all the truck drivers complementing and critiquing my bike and asking how I was surviving, clad as I was in my motorbike gear in the ceaseless heat.

This welcoming was from one of the most effective and well-known fixers I’ve ever come across. The man who helped Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman across the very same border crossing years earlier had me into the county in minutes for an entirely reasonable price.

The dramas of Egypt finally felt behind me as I settled down to a quick coffee and a chat after clearing the final gate. By this point I was hopeful that I’d come across Guy who had crossed at some point in the previous few days. He is another rider who I’d been pestering with questions for weeks as he had dealt with all the border crossings ahead of me.


What words are needed
Rather than waste the fading light I headed off for the 150-odd km to Abri where we had made tentative plans to meet. It amazed me now, as it would for the remainder of the trip, that Africa is developing at a rate of knots. This route down the Nile used to be a stretch of badly corrugated dirt that caused the first issue for the Long Way Down crew as they passed through.

The change could not be starker if it tried. The road I headed along was top notch bitumen and one of the most consistent and smooth roads I’ve ever driven on. Peace and quiet for hundreds of kilometers was a rare treat and I was elated as I wondered whether I’d head off into the dunes to pitch camp for the night or go off in search of Guy. Settling on the pre-agreed plans I reached Abri and headed to the only possible guest-house in the town.

Having set up my tent and headed down to sit beside the river and watched the river taxi’s plying their route. Slightly alarmingly, standing sentry over the doorway for the hostel was a very well preserved and quite substantial open jaws of the proverbial Nile Crocodile. I had asked the host whether it was safe to swim and was assured that it was. But having such evidence of the proximity of the big beasts had me quite unwilling to risk it.

Unbeknown to me Guy had snuck up, his bike as quiet as a whisper and was parked out the front of the hostel attempting to call the phone number listed on the door. The first fellow motorbike traveller I had come across on my trip I was a delighted by the prospect of some company. It felt particularly appropriate as I’d finally arrived at the beginning of real Africa, it was slightly reassuring not hitting it solo.

The modern age has made traveling an entirely different experience than it was for the likes of Ted Simon or Elspeth Beard in the ‘70s and ‘80s. There are few moments when you are really disconnected and to this point I had hardly missed a night where I couldn’t communicate with the friends waiting at home. Part of me is envious of the disconnect, something I would experience for the first real time later in the trip.

Having moved Guy into the lodge courtyard we caught up on the dramas of the past few days and discovered that I had ridden straight passed the man stranded as his bikes fuel pump gave one of its many regular hissy fits. At least this time he knew what the problem was having been stuck in South America due to a similar fault. Never the less he assured me that his trusty BMW was nothing short of reliable. Do you still hold that belief Guy?

Abri offers access to an Island that features several ancient ruins and quite an impressive view off the peak of a mountain in its direct centre. The gate keeper for the guest house assured us that the ferry was just a few kilometres out of town marked by a sign. At the point we were confident was the turn off we headed along a smooth piece of tar which simply and abruptly ended at the start of the fertile lush lands skirting the Nile banks.

Unadjusted to the need to look beyond the road we turned tail and continued along the river in search of the mystical ferry having not come across the sign.

The search for ferry’s was an activity that would begin to consume a great deal of our time in the coming week. Our first attempt was a river taxi who attempted to assure us that we could load the bikes into his 4-foot-wide timber raft to cross. Neither inspired nor full of confidence we called and conferred with the gate keeper who told us that the ferry in question was indeed “kabir”, which means big in Arabic.

We returned to our smooth but dead ended tar road to discover a sign facing away from the direction we had first come which stated simply and eloquently that there was a ferry by the road. Slightly bemused we found the trail leading off perpendicularly from the nice dead end we had found an hour before.

With the ferry started by a sandal clad foot pinning a fraying cable to a battery’s terminals and a resulting shower of sparks throughout the engine bay it was an exceptionally cool and relaxing boat ride across onto Sai island where we took off in search of a few lonely planet recommendations. These included an impressive old fort overlooking the surrounding desert, an ancient old church and some ancient Egyptian ruins. From here we aimed up the rock in the centre of the island and a short while later crested the top under what appeared to be an old military outpost. A 360-degree view out over the Nile and off into the desert beyond. While there I noticed a man, wandering alone across the cauldron of dust and sand below us.


Batting flies from our eyes we took to posing.

We found it eventually.

The breeze coming off the river was one of the coolest moments in the whole time in the Sudan.


Our rickety old ferry.

Top of the big old rock

Old ruins


It was a long way down.....

I adore these old doors.

Off into the distance our ticket man was wandering across the plain.

Turning tail, we headed down the mountain and back towards the ferry to return to the lodgings for the evening only to be intercepted by the fellow we had spotted wandering across the desert. Lonely planet had informed us of a fee for visiting the island which supports the local community, so we paid up without complaint before being flabbergasted as he removed a Bluetooth printer from his briefcase and from his phone printed off a ticket for our visit.

I have never been so utterly amused and it really hit home on me that no matter how far I wander the world really is so much smaller than it used to be. Here in Sudan, several thousand kilometres from Khartoum in the northern desert I rarely had poor cell service while at home some 45km from Melbourne I could barely connect.

****

To start the day we arranged a water taxi for a stint up the river to a little known archaeological site north of Abri. The site is the capital of Kush, the old Nubian capital in the region. Once a thriving walled city it is not consumed by the dunes. Currently, the British Museum is undertaking continual work at the site including the establishment of an information center. While there we ran into the most stereotypical archaeological types. Scarves, hats and glasses as they dragged the parts of the temples across the desert to take it back home with them. To top it off, one of the guys names was Niall......


The British Museum were present - removing sections of the temple to take home.


First time I've ever seen a functioning archaeological dig.

The next morning saw us head south searching for yet another mystical ferry across the Nile and petrol so that we could head to Soleb Temple. Kilometres ticked away as we gradually headed far further south than where the temple stood on the opposite bank. We cut across into towns looking for both and left stumped time and time again.

At one point I saw a donkey sitting atop a rise through the middle of a town and thinking that there might just be a raised road I shot up the side to try and see whether I’d found the route to our ferry. Yet just a moment later I disappeared as I plummeted down a near vertical drop into a drain. Whether it was built for irrigation or the once in a millennium floods I’ve no idea, but I managed to keep the bike upright and stood there shaking my head, looking up at the donkey on the other edge.


Stayed on it and upright on the way down.

Up and out, these bikes amaze me
I’m not a technical trails rider by any means and this was my first real experience learning just how much the humble motorcycle is capable off. With the minimum of fuss, most stress completely unnecessary I popped up and over the lip back into the rest of the world.

Fuel was a persistent problem, having stopped at a petrol station that seemed like it could operate, we were pointed off into the desert and told that there would definitely be petrol out there.... True enough we managed to get our hands on a few litres in the Mad Max, gold rush style mining town near Wawa.


AKs not pictures but I was glad to be here with a friend. Needless to say, we didn't dither for long.
By this point the day was drawing to a close, so just north of Delgo we ducked off the road and tucked ourselves away in the rocky dunes. An attempt to find wood for a fire culminated in the regions only thorned bush being dragged back to camp and then pruned in an effort to crush its straggly branches close enough to burn. Didn't work though did it.


First time I dropped the bike....

We attempted to find enough wood for a fire.

Success!

The next morning we arrived at the Delgo ferry terminus just in time to hear the most amazing call to prayer I've ever experienced. From his road side tent the Imam called the Adhan with his hands cupped around his lips to increase its volume. A short time later we were across the ferry and headed back north in search of Soleb Temple.

Refusing to take the major highway up the east side of the Nile we stuck as close as we could to the river and wound our way up. Through small villages and sandy roads we found petrol, food and dealt with the loose battery terminals on Guys BMW that had him stuttering to a halt on the corrugations.


Are you sure that's 5 liters mate?
Despite aspiring to make it to Soleb that day we settled for a nights camping. The dunes had opened up making being subtle more challenging. Having tried to hide and succeeded only in sinking the Dr up to the bash plate in sand I took the bags off and settled down closer to the opening before dragging the bike out of the sand. Wrecked from the exercise I resolved not to bother with the tent. What a quality nights sleep under the stars.


Who needs a tent?
In need of a little wash the following morning, both of our pots and pans and our bodies we headed to the river for a moments respite. As with everywhere on the trip a short time later we were seated in the house of a local man for a cup of tea while he called a friend of his who was an English teacher to translate. Despite pleas to stay the night we committed to getting to Soleb and headed off a short while later. Up the road we arrived at the ruins of the temple by which point my brain had been melted by the sun and I stumbled around in a dazed shock, loving the place for the shade it offered more than anything else. It was built by a Pharaoh in memory of his wife. God knows what she did to deserve her own Temple in such a remote corner of the empire.


Dishes and then tea

Some bizarre old ruins besides the road.

Made it to Soleb and I was almost too fried to really enjoy it.


Enjoying the shade of one of the restored pillars.
As you can see there isn't much original remaining of the temple with much of it recreated by way of mud brick to support those bits that could be identified and pieced together. I was glad to have made it and the prospect of a shower had us hightailing it down to Dongola. Having heard the place described as a city the town we stumbled across was all the more amusing. This was one of the few times iOverlander failed us as the much recommended hotel was all booked out. For less than 2 dollars a piece we found ourselves a guest house that was definitely the most strung out accommodation I experienced on my whole trip. Having decided to stay the following night we relocated, the beds, dust, questionable parking and awful showers getting to us. The need to fix Guys bike had us stay the extra day and I will admit to having enjoyed the relax.


I helped, I promise.

Cool old characters
From Dongola we headed across the first bridge over the Nile and aimed for the Kawa temple. Fully loaded bikes and a rutted and sandy track between barbed wire fences had us abandon our attempt at making it as every time we dropped the bike we had to try not hang ourselves up on the rusted razor sharp wire.

Full of wisdom we picked the route following the Nile, again on the opposite side of the river from the major route to Khartoum. If we thought we had found a road that ended suddenly near Abri the dead straight road through the desert ended abruptly at the base of a dune. An unsuccessful attempt at riding the dunes resulted in Guy stuck and an extraordinary effort to free him from the grip of the sand. From there we headed back onto the main road you can vaguely see in the background and headed as close to the Nile that we could get in order to pick up the route between the villages.


Just below 40 degrees in full riding kit anyone?
What followed was one of the most lovely nights of the trip as we arrived next to a small settlement where the track we had been following petered into oblivion. This was one of the only times on my whole trip that I wild camped openly near a village. The costs became apparent in dealing with the small children in the area but with the dignity and respect of Islam present we had nothing to worry about beyond some cheeky youths.


Children everywhere

Attentive and curious children

We survived! After the kids left us to our own devices.


The curious but scared children

Coffee and tea after a hard days exploring?

Breakfast - words are unnecessary. The hospitality is amazing.


Having been fed dinner and then breakfast the following day Guy went in search of a guide to lead us through the dunes and hopefully tout the luggage leaving us a little more free to enjoy the dune riding, rather than just struggle. A short while later we had a trusty Hilux loaded up and we began negotiating the dunes. Unencumbered the freedom was delightful. So much so that Guy attempted to mimic Evil Kenievel as he launched his bike off the top of a dune some way off to the right of our guide and I. Having seen him disappear I slowed and eventually the guide stopped wandering where my friend had disappeared too. Thus we headed off in search to find him perusing the damage. Having stuck the landing without any broken bones the bike seemed rather intact. So we committed and headed south to our ferry to the good road in Mulwad. With me tailing at the rear we rode across a spectacular patch of corrugations. With the rear tire hammering up into the wheel arch the BMW unceremoniously dumped a heap of plastic components out the back of the bike, showering me in shards. I stopped to collect the parts and eventually the intrepid adventurers returned to find me clutching pieces that "surely" couldn't have been from his bike. The BMW logo printed on one of the shards was fairly clear as I dont imagine too many BMW's ply this route.


I can only imagine what was being said on that phone call.....
With little more drama we made it to the ferry and bade our guide a good day. Waiting for the ferry under a palm Guy attempted to teach some cheeky local boys how to count to 10 before we were joined by a local police man and his friends for a laugh.


I think I was a little slovenly for the Islamic temperament
From here we had a little jaunt down the main road towards Old Dongola some impressive conical temples and a spectacular camp in the bowl of some rocky dunes. Sadly I appear to have lost some of my pictures from this point but I'd describe the place as being very similar to Tatooine in Star Wars. What the pictures below do not reveal is just how steep nor tall the dune we are sitting a top is. It could barely be climbed.


Not quite the Great Sand Sea, more the Great Slag heap.

Too slow....

What a view.


Its nice having a cameraman.
Rather than head towards Khartoum along the desert shortcut highway route we stuck with the much loved Nile up to Karima and the epic collection of Nubian Pyramids. Having been spoilt by Egyptian ruins the tombs south of the town at El Kurra are still a sight to be seen but a little underwhelming for the price they're charging. The highlight was the archaeologist who let us down into a tomb that was in the process of having some stairs put in to protect the original steps. What didn't fail to impress were the pyramids at the base of Jebel Barkal and the scattered remains across the river at Nuri.


PYRAMIDS

Exercise on a Pyramid anyone?

The temple of Amun at the base of Jebel Barkal


Huge slab of engraved stone so hot I could have fried breakfast on it.

In a bad state of repair the Nuri pyramids are some of the biggest in country.

Jebel Barkal rising behind me


Posing with the temple...
Having camped in the dunes the other side the of the road we went wandering around them before breakfast while local footballer was using one for exercise doing step ups on the bottom tiers of the structure.

Another night in the dunes before Atbara had us closing in on Khartoum. During a lunch stop we made the decision to push on towards the pyramids at Meroe and the temple complex at Naga. Atbara also offered up our first actual, legitimate, real petrol station in the couple of thousand km since Egypt! We stopped before it and discussed whether we would bother to check it and when we pulled up and asked if they had petrol we received the most bemused 'of course' look I've ever been given.


The pyramids were attacked by a crazy Italian who thought they contained treasure


Goats


Beautiful.

I was feeling as frazzled as I looked.

One more without me ruining it.


A pano of the area.
The pyramids at Meroe are one of the largest complexes in the country. Attacked by an Italian in the 1930's who believed they were full of treasure the tops of many of the pyramids removed. You see them from the main road in the background and pull off towards the complex. It was getting dark and we were in search of a camp site for the night. While searching for an ideal spot I saw a tail light disappear around a dune. A motorbike rider! I chased after the rider looking to make friends only to find two. The Barnecut's were riding north from Cape Town aiming for Cairo. I almost felt guilty as I tore off to the camping spot while Katelyn paddled along through the sand behind me being pushed by two camaliers. A lovely couple from the States the company was delightful and the camp site was truly spectacular. Unwilling to pay the entry fee I climbed the mountain behind the Pyramids and took my shots from there.

The next stop we headed off road towards the Naga (Naqa on some maps) temple complex. One of the most substantial and well preserved in the country it was an awesome experience. With Guys bike continually kicking itself into limp mode he was ride, switching it off and restarting repeatedly as we crossed the corrugated and sandy roads. A mechanical pit-stop revealed loose battery terminals again. Always check the simple things!


Pit-stop in the 'shade;


Beautiful.


The view from the ruins of one temple, no wonder they were built here.

Temple of Amun

Beautiful carvings.


Bits of pillars and full pillars.

Even camels need shade.
Tip for the Sudan - offer to pay entry fee's in the local Sudanese Pounds rather than USD.

From here we committed to the final crazy ride into Khartoum. Ridiculous traffic, a ride that went into the night we arrived at the Youth Hostel in Khartoum to discover several other riders there. A nearby pizza and then a much needed nights sleep.

In the end I spent 5 days hanging out with the handful of riders in Khartoum. Servicing the motorbikes, attempting to find ways to repair that which could not be replaced, riding through city for Mango smoothies in the Omdurman souq and joining in for a day with the Sudan Bikers club as we rode out to a fish restaurant en masse.

From Khartoum I was on a mission to get to Ethiopia. The time ticking away on the visa and a lot of kilometers to cover I camped by the side of the Nile some 200 km south of Khartoum and was at the border early in the afternoon of the following day.

Leaving Sudan is a fairly straight forward process. First go to the police station, on the right as you come into town and get your departure recorded by the police. Then proceed to immigration's just down the road towards the border who will have you stamped out in a jiffy. After that, if you're with your own vehicle the customs compound is always busy but head inside and ask for a carnet stamp and someone will appear. No fee's incurred during my departure. One last passport check at the boom gate and you'll be allowed to cross the bridge over the riverbed and then itll be time for Ethiopian border procedures!
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Old 30 Sep 2018
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Ethiopia

Sticks and stones may break my bones, Ethiopia tried to hurt me.
The border procedures entering Ethiopia were refreshing in that I could do them myself. There was no need to waste money hiring someone else to satisfy the countries bureaucratic requirements as for the first time the procedures and requirements were quite simple and transparent. After crossing the bridge from Sudan you find yourself in a small compound. Immigration is on the right and customs up on the left. I has acquired my Ethiopian visa at the embassy in Khartoum. The process was fairly painless, requiring little effort and a bit of time.

I'll include that information on my Ethiopia travel page - just follow the link above to go there for an overview of travel in Ethiopia rather than reading about my adventures below.

The town beyond the boom gate was a stark contrast to the country I'd just stepped from. Barren, rusted shacks and tarp covered huts on the Sudanese side were immediately replaced by a similarly eclectic variety of buildings but the people were completely different. Lighter skin tones, people kissing in the streets and so much skin in comparison to where I'd spent so much time in the preceding months.

Gondar:
I slightly regret not spending a night in Metema as choosing to push on towards Gondar had me riding the last leg in the dark and I prevented me from enjoying my first taste of the country.

The road to Gondar climbs and climbs and climbs into lush cool air after the unrelenting heat of the Sudan. Suddenly I was in a world of green, fertile lands and a myriad of animals all over the road.

Cows: stubborn and slow moving you'll learn to read them from afar and intuitively known when they will start to trundle on the road and when they'll continue munching away at the grass where they are.

Donkeys: one level more annoying than cows as they're slightly more likely to step out on you at the last minute. Completely and blissfully unaware of the terror they place themselves in. They're also the most likely creature to find lying in the middle of the road or anywhere else they so please. Approach cautiously but generally you'll get passed without further problems.

Goats: sitting in the furthest reaches of the frustration spectrum, goats will likely run towards you in an attempt to kill themselves as you approach. Do so with caution. They're erratic and almost never stay anywhere near where they were when you first clocked them.

Aside from adjusting to the teeming number of animals on the road, people walk wherever they please. Little regard is felt for cars and you must be so careful. Particularly if you find yourself driving at night. People will materialise out of the dark meters in front of you.

The road to Gondar was truly beautiful. Stopping for picture opportunities was limited as I rushed to make it before dark.

Johannes's Guesthouse is an ideal spot in town for Overlanders and backpackers alike. Room for camping for a few dollars, nice rooms for a little more plus secure camping make it ideal. Even though it is a little challenging to find. If you're headed down a cobblestone road after a right turn, one more right up a dirt track will place you in front of a big unsigned rolling metal gate. Bang on it a bit and you'll be welcomed inside. The man himself is a character. But in the end, I stayed two nights the first day addressing a few mechanical issues on the bike like a seized pilot screw on my carburetor and a failed attempt at finding some motorbike appropriate oil.

Hard work complete I took to the streets and the bars listening to music and otherwise enjoying myself. I ate my first mouthfuls of Ethiopian injera and shiro. I discovered I was here during the longest period of fasting that the country endures. A whole month without meat that meant the delicious Tibs was off-limit's for the duration of my stay. In the end I did manage to find it and got to partake in the end of the fasting period on my last night in Addis. Fir-fir is another popular one with the injera leftovers stirfriend with popular spices and tomatoes and then, you guessed it, eaten on top of more Injera.

I also ventured out to the castle in the center of the village that demonstrates the history of this great country. It's bizarre to think of European-esque castles in Africa, yet here they are.


Castle in Ethiopia anyone?

Castle in Gondar Ethiopia

Me and Castle in Gondar Ethiopia


Other ruins in Gondar Ethiopia at the site of the old bath.

One of my favourite views of the Castles

One last view anyone?


Ethiopian Kitten
Bahir Dar:
From here I headed south-east around Lake Tana to exploring the town of Bahir Dar and have my first close call with local drivers. Bahir Dar is in the southern end of Lake and despite being the regional capital it has little else to offer. The Blue Nile falls would be particularly impressive but for the dam that has cut off its water supply and turned a kilometer long torrent into a 10m wide trickle.

Getting there is a chore either requiring patients on the slow bumpy road, arranging a driver in Bahir Dar or taking a tour from the town down. The walk around is nice, refreshing and a lovely chance to stretch my legs with a cute like ferry ride that you can take at the beginning or the end to make a complete loop. There is also a campsite above the falls that comes highly recommended but there is no secure parking for your vehicle at the site so you have to leave it by the gate. For backpackers it would likely be the perfect spot to stay in the area.

Back along the same bumpy awful road into Bahir Dar I decided to attempt to circumnavigate the lake. The maps I had didn't indicate a road around it but maps.me had a track go half way and another little tail at the other end. Presuming they must be attached I set off in search of a place to camp with the backup of knowing off a small Overlander's camp on the North side of the lake.


Blue Nile Waterfalls during the dry season

To the east of Lake Tana

An island of fishermen just off from Tim and Kim's Village

At Bahir Dar the lake is a little scummy, not overly pretty. Further around with less people and pollution its much more beautiful. The rough rocky road winds its way through the hills to the lakes east and brings you close only occasionally. Its farming land here, people are everywhere and there is no where I feel comfortable attempting to set up camp.

The ride drags on a little but finally I pick up the beautiful piece of tar that has been recently finished to head to Kim and Tim's Village. A beautiful little eco resort offering cheap as chips camping, lovely dinners and beautifully finished huts for very reasonable prices. I was almost tempted to treat myself. And that doesn't happen often. For two or three days I relaxed by the side of the lake and consumed my weight in literature.

The Bradt guide for the country struck me as the best travel guide I've ever come across. They're detailed in offering solutions from shoestring to flash packing and beyond.

Simien Mountains:
From here I headed north to the town of Debark which provided access to the Simien Mountains. Boasting beautiful scenery and offering up the tallest peaks and highest roads on the continent I wanted to explore. For many, tours will be the only opportunity you'll get to enter. This has the positive of allowing you to only pay a fraction of several fees that cannot be avoided like the obligatory security guard and give you the transportation options that are otherwise impossible to find. I met a few people that hiked from the town all the way in and then back but the first day or two of walking is spent just getting there and not actually in the depths of the park.

I wanted to ride my bike in, so I could summit a 4200 odd meter pass near the peak of the second highest summit in the park. This however came with a price. I was obliged to take my very own Kalashnikov toting security guard into the park. To add insult to injury the government had unilaterally increased the prices they could charge putting my one night adventure into the expensive category. However I have no regrets for the experience was well worth it.

Jokingly I asked the park manager to find me a small security guard which Ill admit I did actually get and left most of my luggage at the Walya Lodge run by Andreas. He is great man who loves his country and has a great passion for its tourist industry. He was some of the best company I had and I hope he is well.

From the town I headed up the mountain road and soon left the tar behind. A quick permit check at the gate had me hauling ass up into the mountains with an assault rifle visible in my mirror.

I camped the night at Chenneck camp having ridden up the pass and climbed the mountain before returning to just a little below 4000m. It was a pretty fresh old evening and was probably one of the coldest nights of the trip. At least I had all my gear. I met a brilliant and crazy Norwegian named Teresie who had cycled north from Cape Town. Desperate to loose weight on her bicycle she had left her sleeping bag behind long ago and survived the night wrapped in a blanket and survival sheet. Taking masochism to a whole never level with that degree of commitment.

I met a motley collection of cyclists during my trip. The vulnerability, hard work and minimalism never appealed to me. Mad respect to those that can manage it though.

Driving the same track back out of the park the following morning had me struggling. The harder direction is definitely going back with challenging rocky uphill sections requiring considerable effort rather than just rolling down in first on the brakes.


Bwahit

Another angle

Chenneck Camp Simien Mountains Ethiopia


Proud and in control

Running Scared

Monkeys or Baboons?


Walia Ibex

Arty enough?

Enjoy


Enjoy some more

The pass up Mount Bwahit

I was knackered - climbing to that altitude with no prep


Top of Bwahit Simien Mountains Ethiopia

Proof that I climbed as high as I said I did

I have proof of the altitude!


Near Chenneck in the Simien Mountains

Top of Africa

Yet another angle


Walya Lodge and a bed....

Gelada Monkeys
Aksum:
One more night at Walya Lodge before I aimed for Axum the historical capital of the Aksumite empire that stretched far north and claimed administrative and trading powers over much of the horn of Africa. Interestingly enough, its also said to be the home of the Ark of the Covenant.

The road to it used to be regarded as one of the most adventurous on the continent. Crazy mountain passes with nothing preventing a long fall off the edge. This remains true for the first 50km from Debark which features a spectacular mountain pass complete with a combination of mist and dust swirling in the air after which you pick up the Chinese built roads that Africa is covered with. A beautifully smooth piece of tar with almost no traffic I had a hoot hammering up and down the roads leaning into some of the corners until I dragged my foot pegs or bags up the road.

Simien Mountains Ethiopia
That brilliant road to Aksum
A few photo opportunities later I made it to the Hotel Africa. Secured parking and a bed for just a few dollars. The shower was hot and I found myself wandering the streets with a group of Overland truck travelers. A motley bunch varying from the amusing driving team through to those just along for a week or two it was my first insight into such a form of travel. Big days in the truck as it lumbers from place to place before setting yourself up wherever you're staying, participating in the obligatory local sights, sounds and smells before crashing and repeating the next days.

I spent the next morning wandering the sights of an empires old capital, the old tombs, the dam and the small museum. I dithered and pondered whether I'd head to some of the rock carved churches in the north but my budget prevented me from heading to Mekele and the Danakil Depression. These two sites are ones I'd go back to Ethiopia for.

Lalibela:
Instead I took the central dirt road towards Lalibela. I knew I wouldn't make it in a day though it became quickly apparent that I wouldn't make it far at all after I got struck by my first puncture.

As far from anyone as I had been in Ethiopia this road had a handful of small towns down its length I thought I might have found one of the better stops for a break down. Never the less kids appeared out of the wood work, staring at me from over rocks up the sides of nearby mountains and wandering around me and my bike.

I've often been asked if I'm scared of having problems, whether I get worried about being stranded. My answer has always been two-fold - why worry until it happens and secondly, I'm ready for when it does. I carry two tire levers, the spanner for the rear wheel nut, a small compressor as well as spare tubes and a tube patch kit.

I set to work and after I little bit of fun getting the pesky bead seated I was back on the road. With the dark setting in and my belief in my remoteness I headed off a little way further before ducking off the road into a riverbed.

Naturally riverbeds are local highways, used by everyone and their dog to get where they're going. Lesson learnt for future nights. As the sun was setting I was spotted by one teen and by morning I was surrounded.

"What are you doing?" their appointed spokesboy asked. "Camping" I responded "I needed to sleep". "Why?" he asked. "Because I was sleepy" I quipped. They looked among themselves with the most incredulous looks. "Why are you here?" he responded. "I'm headed to Lalibela and then to Addis Ababa" I said as a collected round of 'oooohhhhs' went up. "Why don't you go to a hotel?" another asked. "Because I refer camping" I told them all. "Can we have some food?" to which they all went silent as I stood before them reflecting their earlier incredulous look. "I don't have any" I said quietly. "You always have food" was responded by a simple shake of my head.



Wild camping

My first puncture

After this I started asking for names, where they lived, what they did but I'd lost them with my refusal to offer anything that they could hold and enjoy. As with everywhere I was greeted with "You, you, you, yo......", or "money, money, money" or "pen, pen, pen". From time to time I gave a pen thinking at least they were entrepreneurial if they tried to sell them on but after a while most get the message that you're not a typical schmuck. Its one of the most tiring things about Ethiopia though. I thought I'd seen bad in Morocco and Egypt but Ethiopian begging took it too a new level.

Lalibela offered a day's rest and some of the most impressive things I've ever seen. The rock-cut churches of Lalibela were built by the synonymous king. Some of the most impressive I've ever seen they are literally hewn from the Mountain, their roofs following the lines of the mountains topography. It's quite remarkable walking around at ground level and looking down to the singing, chanting masses as they pray.

Waking at 5am and walking up to one of the churches was one of the most serene experiences of the trip. Watching the proceedings, the music and the fervor of belief was quite touching. I sat with Oliver, a fellow rider of a Ural with sidecar as we spoke to some local children. I was invited by one young lady back to her house for tea with her family but fearing a tourist trap I begged off and headed south towards Addis.


Inside just one of them

The laneways and passages carved into the stone

Aweinspiring


St George Church from above

St George Church
Addis Ababa:
A long day in the saddle as I wiggled my way towards Dessie and some petrol. Arriving in the town I found a queue of 100 tuk tuks waiting patiently for petrol so I rolled around the corner and around the next until I sat at the back of the group. Accepting a fair wait I started chatting with the boys and having a laugh comparing the tuk tuk motor to the one on my motorbike.

Suddenly this women come jogging around the corner, puffing away as she grabbed at me and started to drag me to the bowser. "You first". Suspecting some fee for the queue jump I headed to the front of the line and astonished everyone loading up 34l into my tank. "That's more than my car" she said. But I discovered that it was more likely just the perk of having sold so much fuel in one big lump. Not just a liter at a time.

From here the ride to Debre Birhan saw the altitude climb again, up a mountain pass festooned with Baboons and a quick lunch of injera in town. From there I reached Addis late in the afternoon where I arrived at the popular Wims Holland House. I sent myself up in their little compound and took to the bar for a nice relaxing and my first solid internet connection in months. Shortly after I arrived two others motorbike riders turned up, my first introduction to Ferry and Gulcin. Textbook adorable on two 250s riding the world. Having spent two years looping Africa they were on their last stretch home.

It was a delight making friends and relaxing with some mod cons before I coped my first very traffic accident after I got hit by a delightful chap running a red light. Luckily I was riding with friends who looked after the bike so I didn't have to abandon it while I headed to the police station.

With some time the cockiness of the young man who hit me died away as he faced the reality of what had happened. In time he began to nudge me towards accepting going separate ways. My own dubiousness of the official process of a scene inspection determining who was at fault pushed me to agree and run. Straightening out the bike would have to wait I rode back in second and tucked myself away for the night to lick my wounds.

A few days of recuperation and relaxing with friends had me rearing to get going again. I was itching to get some miles under my belt. I didn't like being stationary for long.

Omo Valley
The ride out to Arba Minch was just what I needed, small roads as I took the back route wiggling through the mountainous pot hole riddled road. I've rarely had so much fun. My first stop was at Langano Lake to enjoy the tranquility of the rift valley. The next morning I headed south making my way towards a cliff-side hotel's garden. In my time, the Bekela Mola Hotel offered the cheapest camping in the area. With the Emerald resort offering the best restaurant and bar but the most expensive night possible in a pretty abysmal campground.

Arba Minch Ethiopia
Arba Minch - Escarpment view
In Ethiopia camping was generally up to 200 birr a night. I outright refused to spend more than that anywhere. If in the area the Dorze Lodge before Arba Minch is top quality and has come highly recommended but I only heard of it afterwards.

From Arba Minch I headed through Konso towards Turmi. At Woito I turned off the black-top and took the back route through Arbore. I highly recommend the detour during the dry. The road would frequently be washed out during the wet and one stretch is through a gigantic riverbed that leads out of the highlands and into the low farming lands of the tribesmen. I hit one puddle and expected it to be like all the rest, next minute I was standing in knee deep water just outside Arbore. Soaking with a drowned motorbike. I pulled the cover off the air box to drain the water out and cleared the breather on the carburetor. While doing so one of the local chaps dropped by and had a good laugh with me. The son of one of the chiefs he was checking in to make sure all was okay. I regret not spending the night as I instead pushed on towards Turmi enthusiastic for my desire to attack Turkana and hopeful that I'd miss the rains that were threatening to scupper my attempt.


Road to the middle of nowhere

This would be spectacular in full flow

I love these road into the mist


View as you drop out of the highlands



Turmi:
By mid afternoon I'd found myself a few kilometers from Turmi but blocked by one fairly healthy obstacle. A river flowed before me, churning into the distance apace. Pulling up on my side I waded across, a fairly firm base had me confident I'd be able to make it. One of the guys on the other side pointed out a rough down river route to go with the flow.

Jumping on the bike, tucking my electrics into their waterproof bags and crossing my fingers that I wouldn't come off and ruin everything I rode into the water. Everything went swimmingly until those last few meters before the bank where the sand beneath me disappeared as I waded hard, paddling my feet away. As I popped out the other side the carb spluttered one last cough of water filled petrol and the bike died. At least I was through in that moment I felt victorious.

Luckily the resuscitation didn't take long and after a quick face wash in the river I rode up the bank into the Mango campsite. I was quickly welcomed by a young Brit who had made one of the little huts her home. An expat NGO worker she met and fell in love with a local tribesman. Pregnant, married and now bouncing a baby boy on her hip she is calling Ethiopia her home for now. A life she never imagined before she left and one I could never imagine confronting.

I rode along into town tossing up whether I wanted to stay at one of the lodges there or head back to the campsite. I first found some fuel and a bite to eat as well as arranging myself a guide to the Hamer Bull Jumping ceremony that was going on the following morning.

Hamer Bull Jumping Ethiopia
A taste of the bull jumping
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Hopeful of getting internet to contact some friends to join me for Turkana I stayed at the Kizo lodge having negotiated prices down to $5. As always the power was out but I chose to look on the positive side. I was here in this quintessential African town at the southern end of Ethiopia about to embark upon one of the biggest adventures I'd ever considered.

I was almost out of Ethiopia, a country I had long been curious about. The food and a good friend of mine who had lived there as a kid made it sound like an epic place to explore. It had been fulfilling but also more challenging and exhausting than many places I'd traveled before. The people are one had one of the greatest degrees of distain for foreigners I have ever come across. I regularly had children throwing stones, people attempting to whip me when I went by and just generally treat me with contempt at times. Ethiopia has a reputation as being one of the most brutal countries to cycle across and I didn't feel much better off on a motorcycle.

I sat in Turmi that evening over a with one of the others who was there spectating with me, an old school rider who did what I was doing now, decades ago. I have insane respect and a crazy degree of envy for the experience. I hope that I get to experience more places in the world before they reach their heyday. The adventure is rapidly evaporating from this world.

From here to Omerate was a short ride on the last tar I would see for a while, I stopped to sort out my immigration's and custom's paperwork, top up with fuel and change my remaining Birr into Kenyan shillings. I attempted to get some more information out of the locals as to the weather and the likely levels of the river. I had been warned about one big crossing just before Illeret, the first outpost on the Kenyan side of the border. That small river before Turmi was one of its many tributaries and if that was up I was told I'd be sure that the one before Illeret would be neck deep and impossible.

Provided I left Ethiopia that day it was fine for me to head there and check out the river provided I ran back out the border road to the West of the lake before the day was over if it was necessary. As it turns out that wasn't to be a problem. There was not a lick of water anywhere near that crossing. Committed, I passed through the final Ethiopian passport check and was into Kenya!
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Great story. When do we get the next episode
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Lake Turkana

My route into Kenya was the unconventional route via Lake Turkana. Unorthodox as there is no border post on the Kenyan side of the crossing.* Further, the routes range from extremely remote to a long way from anywhere. It was one of the hardest parts of the trip, but such is the price of adventure and I loved every second.

Lake Turkana is also known as the Jade Sea and is possibly one of the most remote parts of Eastern Africa. The colour of the lake is spectacular, the scenery around it breath-taking and the night skies are untouched by light pollution. From Illeret south, you pass through the Sibiloi National Park one of the most remote and rarely visited parks in the country.

The Eastern route involves backtracking out of Omerate in Ethiopia some 14km and picking up a small sandy track to the south. From there out you’re about two hours from the final border outpost and entry into a new country. Alternatively, you cross the bridge and are off down the Western edge of the lake. This route’s roads are apparently a little better although potentially slightly longer between petrol stops.

Logistics:

I found petrol in Turmi, but I’d recommend stocking up in Omerate if you’re on a bike.*Once you've come into town head past the customs checkpoint and follow the road a few hundred meters further into town. There is a fork in the road and on the right-hand side, there is a petrol man.

I believe the last fuel pump is in Konso if you’re in need of a lot of fuel coming south from Ethiopia. You may be able to get a few litres in Illeret and then later in Lioyangalani but I wouldn’t count on fuel until Baragoi where I found my first Kenyan petrol pump (though Maralal was the first major petrol station and ATM for Kenyan Shillings).

I managed to change a few USD and my remaining BIRR in a little shop next to the petrol man for a few shillings. The rate was okay but I didn’t get myself enough and found it almost impossible to change USD in Kenya.

Distances on the Eastern route:

Konso to Omerate directly is 275km

Konso to Omerate via Arbore is 265km (although you’ll likely use more fuel as its slow, stop-start sandy and sometimes rocky roads).

Omerate to Illeret is 75km

Illeret to Lioyangalani is 275 through Sibiloi or 300+ if you go through North Horr.

Lioyangalani to Baragoi is 130 km.

Baragoi to Maralal is 105 km.

Overall, I did Omerate to Lioyangalani without getting any more fuel. This is the better part of 330 km before I picked up another few litres for the 240 odd km to Maralal (I wasn’t aware of the pump at Baragoi). Overall, you need a reliable 600 km range in the event you cannot find any more fuel along the road.




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The Route:

Having been on the dirt since the Woito turn off for some 190 km the brief stint of tar to Omerate was a welcome relief from the trepidation I felt about the adventure I was about to undertake. From this point forward, however, it’s some of the most challenging riding I’ve ever done. Sand, fist-sized rocks and deep fresh untouched mud for some 330 km before another 300 km of corrugations, mud and roadworks through towards the main highway.

Unsure what the state of the river crossings would be I was told by immigration and customs in Omerate that provided I left the country that day it was okay for me to head south to check the route before deciding whether I double back and head out across the river and down the west side of the lake.

It was a risk but one I had been excited about for a long time. The track was firm sand for the most part. The occasional soft patch requiring constant vigilance. My love for sand riding came back to the fore and I raced along determined to check the height of the river and determined which way I would be forced to head.

I wiggled my way past tribal settlements and at one point was overtaken on the only local motorbike I saw in the area. A young fella raced passed me frustrated by how long it took him to get passed me on my big lane hogging bike. Unwilling to push it and risk damage to myself and the bike my pace was more sedate and I soon dropped out of his dust cloud.

Time and time again I cut across small river beds at most 20 m wide and all as dry as a bone. The soft sand requiring a deft touch and just the right amount of throttle to keep me moving but not enough to kick me off as the front wheel switched path through the ruts. Somehow, I stayed upright and moving forward. Little more than two hours later I rode through a large cluster of huts and was pointed by some locals to a man clad in camouflage trousers with a wire stretching across the most prominent route through the village. It wouldn’t have taken much to skirt around him and if I hadn’t been rolling along so carelessly, I probably would have ridden right past without realising.

I pulled up and he wanted a cursory glance at my passport, stamped out at Omerate he was content, and the wire was raised enough for me to squeeze under it. Ethiopia was official behind me; the lake was to my right a little off in the distance lost in the reeds.

Within two kilometres I stopped in this bizarre open patch that ran perpendicular from the lake and off into the distance along the exact line of the border. I wondered whether it had been cleared or if there was some natural contour here that had prompted the creation of the border or whether it was merely a coincidence.

A quick selfie, a screenshot of Maps.Me with me sitting on the border which I since lost I rolled off into Kenya. Immediately I was struck at how many more people there were. I passed through the fairy sizeable settlement of Il Olo and stopped to ask one young man the road to Ileret. Waving south, down the lake I got the impression there weren’t many ways I could go wrong.

The road continued in much the same manner as before. There were countless meandering tracks cutting back and forth across one another but all vaguely heading in the same direction. The soft sand was the dominant feature now though. High gear, low revs, standing on the pegs, looking a long way ahead and tractor through. Let the bike squirm around between your legs. Don’t fight it and keep the speed sufficient to blast through the ridges that would seek to buck you off and you’ll be just fine.

Sand riding requires a devil may care attitude that makes you question your sanity. Too slow and you'll be falling off endlessly, exhausted from picking the bike up repeatedly and from paddling away with your little legs every time you try to get going. However, if you get up to that sweet spot, somewhere in 3<sup>rd</sup> gear the bike has the momentum to carry you across the ruts and keep blasting along. You know that when you do come off though, it's much more likely to hurt.

The ride into Ileret required the crossing of a huge river and the scramble up the side of a loose hill. The town is constructed on the only hill in the area overlooking the lake. *When I arrived I set about in search of Madame How, a woman I had been told would be running the local shop.

She is also potentially the best source of petrol if you’re passing through however it would only be a few litres for at least $2 per/litre. I had been given a Kenyan sim-card and luckily she had enough credit for me to buy a few 100 MB of data to use. Here, even in the middle of nowhere, miles from anywhere, there was reception.

Connected I was then directed up the mountain to the local police station. While there is no customs or immigration facilities into Kenya on this route it is commonly accepted that you stop and register with the police chief in a large, ancient-looking dusty book. He was a character and I shared a with him before I continued on south. I wanted to get out of town and see if I could find somewhere to camp along the lake for the night. On the road out of town, I was confronted by some fairly impressive corrugations and some beautiful dusty desert scenery. The lake was lost in the scrub to my right, a few kilometres away. My route had me set to turn away from the lake some 25 km south.

When I got to this turn off I discovered the track wound its way across a wide river bed. An unexpected set of signs identified the riverbed as an airfield. *Instead of following the track inland, I headed west hoping to ride the 800 m towards the lake to camp on the shore. I wiggled through the heather hoping to head roughly in the correct direction. Riding through one particularly big clump of grass the bike suddenly dropped out from under me. The bike and I sank straight into a swamp. I went over the handlebars and landed with a thud and a squelch. Of all the places to get stuck! I set around pulling my bags off, trying to lighten the load.

I’d come off and the bike slowly laid itself over. The mud all but glued the bike down. Dumping my jacket, pulling off my shirt I got caked in the mud as I pushed and heaved and dug to get the bike upright. All the while it leaked fuel, I cursed and swore, pushed and heaved before suddenly it came free.

With the bike upright, and fuel no longer the primary concern I set into three mangos I’d picked up the day prior in Turmi. Knowing I had what little water I was carrying I was rationing myself. But still, in that heat, I needed far more than I had.

I relaxed and watched as a local Turkana man went wandering past just a short distance away. He stopped and rested while watching me for a short moment. I watched as he shook his head and continuing on his way. At this point, I went back to the bike and started her up. Kicking it down into first gear, full throttle and dumped the clutch. With the rear wheel digging away slowly while I pushed hard I managed to inch it forwards.

Having cleared the worst of the heather and feeling slightly successful I started to drag the front around, inch by inch until it was pointed in a straight line to get it up onto solid ground again. Repeating the process from earlier I pushed, rode it and ground on to get myself out of the swamp. Once I dragged the bike out and had it sitting there on the hard ground I legitimately had tears of joy. Although I was also kicking myself for my stupidity.

From there, I headed back to the airfield and back onto the track. Heading inland away from the lake I rode my weary bones in the direction of the park and set up camp an hour or so later. Wishing I had more water, and more time, I chose to push on. I set up camp and for the first time absorbed where I was. Miles from anywhere. Just a few tribespeople, one father and son pairing in a truck making their way south. I sat there, on top of an outcrop and watched the world go past.

A farmer walked across the plain shepherding his sheep, meanwhile, some camels climbed around the side of the hill before coming towards me to investigate.




Setting up a little fire and scrounging whatever dry shrubbery I could I set about cooking my pasta. Tipping in some diced-up tomato and onion before settling down to watch the sun drop in the background. Descending over the hills beyond the lake, lighting the whole area in the most beautiful green and gold.





I rose with the sun, absorbed the sunrise and headed south towards the park. I passed through a few small tribal settlements and stopped at one just before the sign marking the start of the park. The better part of a dozen little munchkins came running out and surrounded me. High-fiving several of them I had got off the bike and sat down in the shade with them. Their teacher spoke English and I learnt that he travelled the tribes providing education to the little ones. Suspicious of strangers and curious about this alien descended from god knows where the kids looked at me with big wide eyes. None of them asked for anything by the attention. I am sure I looked like an alien with my helmet and the rest of the gear all covered in mud.




From here the track turned to lose sand and I passed into the national park. From the north, there is no gate, no place to pay the park fees. For this reason, it is possible to tell the guards at the southern gate that you’d only been in the park for a night, regardless of how long you manage to stay there for.



Sand, roads made of fist sized rock and the occasional moment smooth hard packed dirt lead me through some of the most beautiful scenery in the area. Almost no animals and even fewer people I realised that by entering the park I had gotten away from any sort of settlements. I crossed river bed after riverbed, the track changed over and over and suddenly it all but disappeared. I climbed off the bike and went wandering through the scrub. My GPS was showing a track south somewhere nearby, but it was attempting to navigate and when I thought I was close enough it told me I was on the line, even if I wasn’t. I came across the track, a muddy set of ruts through some low lying scrub and I went wandering back in search of the bike.

I wandered and wandered and ended up at the track again. Starting to get concerned I walked back up the track to find the point where Id met it and then tried backtracking my footprints. It’s a unique satisfaction when you find your form of transportation amongst the scrub. Rolling through the shrubbery I landed with a splat just a meter from the track. Lifting the bike back upright I chose to try to walk the bike rather than ride it.

I made it a mere meter before I conceded defeat. The mud clogged my boots and left me feeling like I was standing on an ice rink with blocks of polished concrete for feet. Trying to support 170kg while your feet slide out from under you is no fun. Ominous clouds gathered overhead and I was terrified of the thought of rain in this mud pit. I set about taking the bags off the bike, stacking them by the side of the track in the off chance someone came racing through in a car.



From here started the single hardest 3km walk of my life. Lots of throttles, dump the clutch and push hard. The back tire emptied of all pressure to get the best grip possible, I tried riding when the surface got firmer but without fail it just sank the bike to the base plate and I had to work even harder to dig it out.

At one point I ditched the bike and walked up the track, wondering just how far this was going to drag on for. By this point, I’d maybe done 1 of my 3 km. Knowing that it would come to an end though was all I needed to trudge back to the bike and continuing my process of pushing, riding and lifting the bike through the swamp.



The surface improved only slightly throughout with short sections occasionally covered with a jumble of rock that gave me a little more of a solid basis to push from. Across three small riverbeds, I was finally at the end of that hellish length of the track.



With the bike there at least, I spent the rest of my day hiking the three kilometres back and forth twice over as I could not carry all my luggage at once, slipping all over the place. Loading the bike up at the bottom of the hill, I turned around for a quick sip of water before discovering the bike upside down behind me. Undoing it all, dragging the bike upright all over again, I got it to the top of the slope and trudged back down to get my bags all over again.

From there I rode maybe 4 more km before finding myself overlooking the lake to my right and the south of Sibiloi National Park in front of me. Roasted in the heat of the day, exhausted from my hike and the physical effort of getting the bike through the muddy track I was shattered. I could barely bend over and set up the tent was the slowest effort of my life. I ate dinner and curled up in bed. I slept as soundly as I ever have.








I crawled stiffly from the tent the following morning and once packed headed south towards the gate of the park. A short, almost uneventful ride later apart from a bit of water on a more solid track, I arrived at the guard house and was greeted by two shocked young men. I was a bit of a state, that is to be sure.

I managed to get the student prices for a night’s stay in the park and stupidly paid up with the last of my Kenyan shillings. I should have used my USD and copped the change as natureally they had noone. Bless their cotton socks, but they were so determined to demonstrate it wasn't graft they showed me through the money box and the records of when the money had been collected. I was sure I would be able to change some USD in the towns I would pass through to the south. Jokingly I asked if they had any food for sale and I got loaded up with cans of pineapple and army ration biscuits.

The road outside the park was rough, but far more used. Linking up tribal settlements I started passing by people again. After the solitude of the park it was nice to see some sign that people were around. There are few places in the world were you won’t have people wander by if you sit for long, and this remote corner of Kenya was no different. From here the road got better and better until it wasn’t.



I was riding along with my sunglasses on and I briefly realised that the track in front of me darkened. I wandered if there was a cloud and the next moment, I was flung off the bike and slid down the road in a clay covered blur. The entire area was a bolder field, and the geniuses in charge of road construction had carved the road a meter below the surrounding surface. Naturally every drip of water in the local area descended into this road and aside from a few short sections of paving the rest was calf deep clay mud.



I stripped the bags off again and after finally getting it upright I set about walking it down the track. Slipping and sliding my way towards Lioyangalani. I found the old track a few hundred meters later and rode down the old, dry road before dropping back into the muddy pool for the last stint to the river crossing. From here the road dried out, a few sections of paving appeared and finally I rolled along the shore of lake Turkana and into town as the sun set. Pulling up in the Palm Shade camp, I ordered a and collapsed into a muddy puddle as the heavens opened and I watched the rain through the palm fronds under a nice dry pergola.







For a more formatted version and the rest of my blog check out http://jordanwandersaround.com/2018/...ike-adventure/
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The Rest of Kenya

Click here to see my Kenya travel tips

My route into Kenya was the unconventional route via Lake Turkana. Unorthodox as there is no border post on the Kenyan side of the crossing and the routes range from extremely remote to a long way from anywhere. It was one of the hardest parts of the trip, but such is the price of adventure and I loved every second.


Click here to read my Turkana report

Samburu Country

Illeret had been my first taste of Kenya but Loiyangalani marked the end of the worst part of the route. The Palm Shade camp would have been a delightful place to spend a few more days but I was running short on cash and I was unable to exchange more than 10 USD for Kenyan Shillings in the town. Desperate for money I was forced to continue for fear of being stuck unable to buy petrol, food or a place to sleep.



While the dirt continued through to Baragoi, the road was in fairly decent condition until I encountered my first major wet season downpour. Desperate to hide and let the rain pass I pulled up under the cover of the local police station and sat it out hanging around with the locals. Luckily no one asked for any paperwork and as the rain calmed, I continued. Within 100m I passed the invisible line that ended the wet. These rain storms are so concentrated. *From then on, I vowed to plough on and get through from under the clouds when they let loose on me.



Down the east of Turkana, the fuel pump at Baragoi (both petrol and diesel) will be first or last fuel you’ll encounter in any great abundance. Fuel can be purchased in small amounts in Loiyangalani and Illeret in Kenya and Omerate and Turmi in Ethiopia but probably not in sufficient amounts to refill a car tank.

Unable to change any more dollars here either I put in some 130 shillings which worked out to be little more than a litre. I had officially reached the start of expensive petrol. From Egypt to Ethiopia it had been cheap as chips, from here south fuel played a much larger role in my budget.

Maralal

The road to Maralal was a much more frequently traversed road. I had to contend with traffic and corrugations rather than struggle through roads that appeared to have not been driven for a long time. Particularly cool was the long stretch of top-quality graded dirt road maintained privately by the company that owns the gigantic wind farm to the east of the lake. Its quite the contrast, tribal huts to massive whirring windmills swinging lazily in the breeze.

I cannot put into words the satisfaction I felt when I rolled through a roundabout and onto the first bit of tar I had seen since Ethiopia. Maralal offered a supermarket, an atm, a big petrol station and a chance to get some distance covered down towards Nairobi in the following days.

How quickly that elation fades. Refuelled, my coffers restocked I headed off towards an iOverlander recommendation just a little south of the town. It was the only campsite listed, I doubted there would be much chance for wild camping as the area was quite populated. Within a kilometre of the town on the road south, roadworks began. Proudly attempting to pave their way towards Nanyuki and the existing tar roads in central Kenya.

African roadworks mean dozing a side road through whatever is next to the road and making all access to the well-established old road impossible. Add a little rain and a load of traffic the paddocks you’re driving through turn into slop. A sloppy, muddy, soaking wet ice rink.

Thinking I was through the worst of it, I then dropped the bike two more times and I was left feeling pretty down having arrived at the supposed campsite to discover it was permanently closed. Heading back out onto the road to head back into town and hopefully find a hotel I slid sideways straight into a ditch, sinking the bike to the base of the seat in the soft mud. Exhausted, sore and dejected I tried to pull it out. As expected this did little more than force me to slip over, land in the ditch and get even muddier.

Shattered I sat and yet again asked myself what on earth I was doing. This local chap in a defender pulled up and asked if I wanted a tow out of the swamp. Naturally, I accepted. Delighted not to be alone and struggle indefinitely. The memory of my struggle after my mistake south of Illeret was high on my mind.

Back out and making my way back through the swamp to town I came off again at one small bottleneck between two properties hanging myself up on a barbed wire fence in the process. I yanked my helmet off and swore loudly, throwing the latest of many hissy fits.

Suddenly I hear this voice ring out, a New Zealanders accent pierced through my frustration. *I look across to see this woman sitting in front of a small local butcher shop with a Masai man beside her. This was my first introduction to Julie and Moses, one of the most delightful pairs I met on the trip.

Julie met Moses while in Mombasa having hired him as a private detective to track something down that had been stolen. A romance ensued that neither expected but visa issues send her home. Communicating from overseas she cut him off after a friend convinced her that he must be a con artist. A trip back to Kenya resulted in them co-incidentally running into each other on the streets and making the decision that something wanted them to be together.

Those that have seen them together know that although unconventional they’re a such a perfect pair. The kiwi business trainer and the Masai warrior. Rarely such a combination works but between these two it does. I spent the most delightful night under their roof with their little family, who needs electricity and heating when you have the most delightful little house off the beaten track.

From their house out to Nanyuki I was back on the dirt, the new road running out an hour before Maralal. It's amazing how much quicker a tar road is.*Julie estimated that it would make the drive 3 times as fast. Halfway down I found my first Zebra, wild and roaming free. Who needs to visit the parks when you go explore the great wide world?

The world is rapidly getting smaller. Even the traditional route from Ethiopia via Moyale is now a major highway. Just a few years ago it used to hold the title for worst road in Africa home of bandits, cretins and bomb hole sized potholes.

Lake Naivasha

The moment I hit that bitumen and knew I’d be on it for a while was a victory if I’ve ever felt one. Within moments I settled into a comfortable 110kph cruise and blasted my way south to Lake Naivasha. It was somewhere here I hit the equator. Entirely unexpected I sailed right past the sign and it took a moment to register just how far I had come. England to the equator, how cool is that.

A delightful camp on the lake's edge called me and I couldn’t wait to enjoy the scenery and check out my first African fora. There are two options that are widely touted – Camp Carnelley’s and Fisherman’s. I settled down at Fisherman’s but only because I’d been told it was a little quieter and more popular with the backpackers due to the lower prices.

This lake is supposed to be hippo central but as with most of the places I stopped off at where there were supposed to be loads of wildlife I could just hear them in the distance. Got the chance to meet a brilliant Canadian named Mike who had abandoned an Overland truck tour in favour of backpacking on his own two feet and a lifetime Swiss traveller Edouard. Had some good s before my spaghetti and dates got stolen by monkeys and settled in for some good quality Kenyan chapati, chips, ‘smokey’ sausage and samosas.



The common choice here is to cough up for the Devils Gate NP and head into the park on a bicycle. Enjoy the scenery while you get up close and personal with the wildlife. There are no predators in the park so you don't have to worry about peddling past a lion.



Nairobi

Naivasha is delightfully close to Nairobi and if I ever head that way to live at all I would be spending most weekends in that little patch of paradise. The road to Nairobi is short and the best place to stay is Jungle Junction. Chris is an overlanding hero and has memories of the 90s when there were hundreds of riders and Overlanders passing through at any one time. Now he’s lucky if there are two or three. His garage is one of the most equipped in Africa and if you need repairs that’s the place to go.

My first solid internet connection since Israel, I downloaded a movie walked to the biggest and most complete supermarket I’d seen in three months cooked up a feast and settled down on a comfy couch. Both Edouard and Mike joined me, I enjoyed some great company before heading into the city centre to finally get officially immigrated into the great country of Kenya.

I wandered the back streets and as was becoming a trend on my trip found great pleasure in exploring the mechanic's area of town chasing up spare parts and aluminium welders. For pennies I had my tank brace fixed and found my first can of chain lube in three countries.

Kilifi

From Nairobi to Mombasa is an infamous road. Guy, who I had met in the Sudan recently described it as being like Death Race. I have never been so terrified in my life riding anywhere. I thought Australian drivers and their inability to check their mirrors set a high standard but here I witnessed a truck, overtaking a truck who was overtaking a bus. Three massive vehicles barrelling down the highway towards me using up every inch of tar with a well-eroded drop on both sides.

At one point I was hard on the brakes, shot off the ride of this drop and had aired on my bike for one of the first times ever. Skidding through the loose gravel I managed to arrest my momentum just meters from the crackling and electrified wildlife proof fence.

There were a few moments I was ever this damn tense. Nothing like highway speed to nought without any semblance of control. At one point I found myself face to face with the impact of the rainy season. The traffic drew to a halt. I jumped off and had a chat with some of the guys who at first told me a bridge was out, then that I should go back and wait. My typical enthusiasm had me head off road, down the steep embankment and through the scrub until the traffic had itself in orderly lines before I lane split for a few kilometres. A soldier waved me into the merging traffic and I passed a big old BMW motorbike parked up on the side of the road with the locals. I considered stopping to have a chat, but I was too focused on getting through the water running over the road.

A bus had already dropped off the edge into the torrents below, but I trusted that if the sedans coming the other way could survive I should be fine as well. Following in the wake of an army Landcruiser I felt the water trickling over the tops of my boots when I was forced to stop in the traffic.

After this, the run was almost uneventful. No one else tried to kill me and I didn’t get swept off in a torrent of running water. I arrived at Distant Relatives in Kilifi early enough to set up and chill out by the pool. The place is beautiful, I wandered down to the beach a little drunk and walked into the water looking up at the full moon. Food and drinks are a little expensive and sadly you have to pay for Wifi but the atmosphere is delightful. Lounging by the pool digesting some exceptionally uninteresting piece of literature I met Julieta, an Argentinian artist taking a few months to explore Africa.

Later I met the owners of the Camp Carnelleys. Lovat is a brilliant guy and fellow rider who gave me some insight into life as a white 6th generation Kenyan along with his family. Sitting beside the pool they had come to the coast to get away from the grind and enjoy a little break. Although they knew the owners at Distant Relatives they were staying nearby in some friend’s holiday house. Inviting me back for dinner I was gobsmacked when I saw this house. Sitting atop the cliffs looking out over the small inlet from the ocean it was a real treat. Thanks for having me guys!

Watamu

Hungover and a little exhausted I headed back to distant relatives to meet up with Julieta. Feeling a little more recovered we made plans to head north for the day to check out the Gede ruins and beach at Watamu. Curiously it seems that much of the coastline to the south of the town is part of a coastal national park and comes with standard Kenyan $50 entry fees. Instead, we rode north just a little way to where the beach becomes free and is just as beautiful. The area is known for its bizarre rock formations out in the shallows. It’s a nice spot for a dip to get away from the sweatbox that is the wet season heat.

Mombasa

Back to Kilifi and down to Mombasa we rode through the last of the light to Diani beach and a popular backpackers haunt on the coast. A pool and the ocean just meters away it made for a relaxing spot to pass a few nights. From there I sat at the famous beaches of Mombasa and watched the light disappear from the skies and the stars being to sparkle.

Lake Chala

The next day I bid my new friends adieu and headed for the Tanzanian border. The road passes through Voi before crossing Tsavo West National Park. It’s a major road and evidently, there are few predators so the main road carves the park in two.

Just a few km before the Taveta border crossing I turned off the tar and took a small dirt road along the border towards Lake Chala. Considered one of the deepest crater lakes in the world, its depths have never been tested, no one has ever made it to the bottom. The border bisects the lake, camping that night on the Kenyan side of the border I looked across at Tanzania for the first time. I woke the following morning to rare clear skies and unzipping my tent I saw Kilimanjaro rising in the background.



It’s an awe-inspiring sight. I hope to climb it one day. I met a bunch of real characters who introduced themselves as the local smugglers. Bringing whatever they could across from Tanzania informally by canoe across the lake. It is an amusing sight, this band of misfits with their nice jam and recently baked bread a long way from any sort of town. I rose early and continued towards Oloitokitok (pronounced Loitokitok). The road went from bad to worse as I pushed on through the slippery mud. Occasionally stopping and attempting to find out how long that awful bit would continue for.

Such questions are generally futile though. How can you hope to find out road*conditions from people who rarely stray from their immediate area? All roads are bad to them and trying to get a more detailed explanation is often impossible due to the language barrier. Rain makes the roads turn to slush and challenging to ride because the front wheel drops out from under you. But then when they dry they’re churned up and what remains is worst than even the most terrible corrugations.

Eventually, the road dried out and I picked up a smoother track. *Though its river crossings had at one point washed a crossing away. Yet again the perks of being on a motorbike were clear. While the road was reconstructed, cars and trucks were forced to wait while I simply forded the river and carried on my way.

Ultimately, I reached the proverbial crossroads. I could go left to Tanzania or right through Kenya to Uganda and Rwanda. Pushed for time, logic and the wet season compelled me to head south. Sorry Uganda and Rwanda, I’ll be back another day.

The process for leaving Kenya is straight forward, passport takes two minutes and a chat with a fella who found it very interesting that I study law. Before heading to customs for the carnet clearance which involves a stamp and a check of your permit.

Note: Kenya requires a foreign vehicle permit. A recent introduction it’s done online. It requires time to be ‘processed’. You get the first two weeks free but if you don’t leave the country before then you’ll be caught out. You have to get the invoice that says you have paid the fee. It didn’t need to be processed when I left, I merely had to pay. Coincidentally I had it refunded two weeks later so obviously if its cancelled while its processed they don’t charge for it.

Onwards to Tanzania!

For pics check out Kenya - Jordan Wanders Around
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Old 18 Jan 2019
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Hi Jordan,

Loving reading about your Journey mate, well done and good luck

Paul
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Old 25 Jan 2019
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Wow....this sounds like a ride of a life! It was really great even to read it, can't imagine how much rollercoster it is to pull out sometihng like this emotionally and physically!


Bravo Zulu!
neu
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Tanzania

Loitokitok

Loitokitok*sits to the northeast of Mount Kilimanjaro. Cloudy skies meant that I could see nothing but a mass of clouds swirling around the peak. Enthusiastically I decided to take the long way round to Arusha heading west around the mountain and through Moshi. I rapidly discovered I could not have been more wrong. The dry, warm wind whipped through my helmet and open jacket as I passed a school full of children almost done with their day. Just a few kilometers later I rode into a literal wall of water. Had it been coming off a waterfall it could not have been more solid. I was soaked to the bone in seconds. I slid to a halt and clumsily turned tail and ran back to the dry land. I shook myself as I popped back out into the sun and decided to forgo my circumnavigation of the mountain.



Off to Moshi, a hostel and a good*night’s*sleep. The next morning, I packed everything back onto my bike and moved to a different hostel for the night. Somewhere that had better reviews and a patch of grass I could just about fit my tent on. I spent a lovely rest day here wandering the small market and being aggressively offered trips up the mountain for ‘only’ 1500 USD.*I stupidly engaged in the impossible conversation attempting to explain just how slim my budget was. Explaining that that amount was my budget for 2 months I was treated as though I was blatantly lying.

Having had my first shower in three days and my first bed there in Moshi since Debark in northern Ethiopia I stormed off unwilling to continue a conversation that wasn’t going to meet any reasonable response. Granted us foreigners had money but to presume that 1500 USD was a drop in our buckets I literally laughed in his face.

Singida

Done with the tourist trap I was back on the bike early the next morning aiming vaguely in the direction of Lake Victoria. Having not seen it in Kenya, and no longer including Rwanda or Uganda in*the route, I felt it was a necessary choice. My plan to spend just a few days in Tanzania was already being stretched out. 400km later I arrived in*Singida*and set about lapping the same block a dozen times before I finally found the entry to the small hostel posted on*iOverlander*that had my second bed in as many nights for just 5 USD. I had a half chicken grilled on the street side for dinner and another early night as I was committed to making it to Mwanza the next day via a back route that didn’t quite exist on google maps. Rather than the slightly more*circuitous but clearly tar road I was willing to compromise speed for the more direct as the crow*flies route.

The back route to Mwanza

Turning off the main drag at*Iguna*I filled up with a full tank of fuel and headed through the township. As the kilometers rolled by the road narrowed and its quality deteriorated. Eventually being little more than a tractors width carved between fields of corn and wheat.

Naturally the situation deteriorated further as I was confronted by a completely bloated and swollen river. My maps had me a kilometre from the bridge, but the water was lapping at the edges of the raised road. Flowing to my right the river had breached my little track in several places leaving me to ford rocky, muddy crossings. Several local men were busy hoisting loads over their heads as they crossed the puddles while I walked across to determine their depth. The shallowest at knee depth was easy enough to cross aside from the fact that it filled my boots with water, the deepest had an uneven and exceptionally rocky base that made riding it an awkward waddle all the meanwhile worried about the bike inhaling water as it lapped at the base of the seat.

This is where traveling with company would have been excellent, it would have made for some great photo opportunities but traveling solo and with a focus on getting myself to where I was going pulling the camera out was not high on the priorities.

Having managed my water crossings, I rode over the bridge and on through the town. My stomach sank as the rear of my bike started feeling bizarre and I wondered if I had buggered a bearing coming through the water. Slowing gradually to a stop I discovered my first flat.*A nail has sunk itself between the remaining blocks of tread in the tire.

Unlike the ease of a tubeless plug and re-inflate, I rolled the bike off the road and set about my puncture repair. Thankful for the rarely used center*stand I had the wheel off and bead broken in minutes with my excellent Motion Pro*bead breakers. Although a little short to be comfortable tire levers*they are very good at being the best possible size compromise.

I’ve never had much luck with tire patches and that day in central Tanzania proved to be no different. Having patched both sides of the tube as the nail had punched holes everywhere It was back in and I set my compressor up only to discover that it wasn’t working! Loath to admit that I should have brought a hand pump I set about seeing if I could ‘repair’ it.

It was about this time that an old*old*man rolled past on his bicycle. Stopping next to me he set about his own tire repairs. Strapped to the back of his bike was a small hand pump that he obviously used often to keep himself rolling. Bemused by my collection of tools I gave him a set of bicycle tire levers that included a little rasp for cleaning up the leak area before you patch it. Buried in the bottom of my spares bag and completely useless to me he was absolutely delighted.

I often get asked how I know how to fix or bodge things. Aside from several years of watching a lot of repairs and bodges being done by my father my own approach is one of logic. Two large screws held the ‘head’ of the compressor on. So logically, removing those is as good a start as any to work out the problem. With the head off, I discovered I was unable to blow any air through the*hose of the compressor. There seemed to be something wrong with the simple little valve that allowed it to intake air and prevent air flowing back through the compressor from the tire.

Using the nail that had given me the flat I screwed the hose and the head of the compressor onto my still full front tire and pressed down on the little anti-return value. Blowing air through in reverse seemed to have unblocked the hose, so I crossed my fingers and reassembled the compressor before*setting it all back up again and crossing every digit (fingers and toes) on my body.

Luckily it started working and the tire slowly inflated. Before equally slowly deflating all over again. I grumpily pulled the tube out and set about putting my spare front tube into the rear tire. While not advisable, in a pinch, a*21-inch*tube will put in a 17-inch rear tire with a section folded over. Once*again*I got the bead of the tire over the rim and then set about the process of getting the bead to seat. Glad I had practiced tire changes I now have a yet more well-practiced technique of lubrication with my bar of soap and water as well as the back side of my spoon to tr toy tease the bead out as much as possible.

Aside from this, I discovered that getting it mostly settled and then cranking it down the road ultimately gets the bead to seat properly as the heat from the riding causes the pressure to rise and pop the bead on as it spins.

Mwanza

Reassembled and full of air again I rode the last 100km out to the tar road and punched it out to Mwanza. The second biggest city in Tanzania I slightly underestimated just how long it would take me to negotiate the cities traffic. Wiggling, weaving, lane splitting and cursing my way through the bedlam I finally arrived at the Yacht club which offered a campsite on the side of Lake Victoria. Sweaty, hot and exhausted from a big day of riding I set up camp and slept like a baby.

Waking up the next morning to sunshine and boats sailing past the campsite made the whole day before worth it. I headed off to explore the city, attempting to find a supermarket listed on*iOverlander*as ‘amazing’ for foreigners. Sadly, a sign on its doors indicated that it had shut permanently the day before due to an ‘irreconcilable family dispute’. Unperturbed I took up a stool at the nearest street food vendor and had a delightfully simple, cheap and tasty chapati and beans.

I rarely eat at ‘tourist’ restaurants and will only occasionally treat myself to an all-out restaurant experience. Otherwise, I cook what I can find it markets and shops or eat whatever the locals are having. I have yet to have had a bad stomach from anything other than a meal from a fancy restaurant in northern Vietnam that had me sick in bed the whole following day.

I spent a long day attempting to find motorbike oil which was eventually found in one of the most equipped spare parts shops I had yet found*in eastern Africa. Even better was the fact that it was legitimate Castrol 4 Stroke oil that*I use*at home.*On top of this, I wandered around investigating the possibility of a ferry so that I might be able to sail, even a short leg of the trip. But no luck as all ferry’s into Uganda, Rwanda and even along the Tanzanian shore of the lake were an option.

Looking at my map that evening over a I pondered where to head next. Back when McGregor and Boorman did Long Way Down they*took*a vague ‘road to the west’ that was several hundred kilometres of dust and fesh-fesh (bull dust to Australians) – think ‘beige talcum powder’ according to the producer of LWD. You can stir it, step in it whatever and it acts like a liquid. It’s a bizarre substance.

Over to the west, Lake*Tangayika*defines the countries western border. It was in the north that Stanley found Livingstone under his mango tree on the bank of the lake.*All in*all,*it was a much bigger loop than I had had planned in Tanzania but I was glad I did. Leaving*Mwanza*the next morning I headed towards Kigoma.

Nyakanazi

Desperate to get off the main roads,*I took a cut through from*Bwanga*to near*Uyovu*that would bring me to*Nyakanazi*and the main road west. The dirt was well maintained as the road was the primary access route for a major gold mine. Blasting along the track I felt like I was almost back in Australia. The flora was so similar, the weather very similar and the road as good.

With dusk approaching, I started looking for a place to set up camp. Figuring that this track would be a better bet than a major arterial I found a spot before heading into town to stock up on water, grab some chips and some veg for dinner. The local pastor was all over me the moment I*stopped*and I was repeatedly encouraged to confess my sins. Feeling a little put out I decided to carry on, confident I’d find somewhere a long the road, rather than heading back the way I’d come and staying near to the town.

In hindsight, I was somewhat over the*top*but exhaustion and weariness make fools of us all. 10 kilometres later I realised that there was a small track, the old road running parallel to the nice strip of tar. When there was no one on the road I rode across the ditch and through the scrub before heading up the track and darting off up the hill before anyone saw me.

As the sun*set,*I put my camp together and scrounged around for enough wood to get my food cooked up for the evening. Potato chip*stirfry*anyone? Before retiring blissfully ignorant of the unexpectedly exhausting day that was about to occur.

Up with the sun and back on the road soon after I got to*Nyakanazi*and was surprised to find the road to the west was dirt. Stopping for some breakfast at a*truckstop*I asked the locals if there was any tar on the road to Kigoma. A half dozen drivers all said Yes! Of course!

Kigoma

Full and excited to get to Kigoma I was on road and heading west towards Lake*Tangaika. Parallel to the Rwandan and Burundi borders the road went from bad to worst. The drivers had spoken a half truth. There was*tar*but it was uncomplete and still under construction. Huge piles of debris were*pilled*up every kilometre to stop people from cruising down the nice smooth road. The alternative was a typical Africa road works track. Rougher than most*four wheel*drive tracks, sloppy wet mud slowed me down regularly.*It was the ultimate tease, struggling along while a nice new ribbon of the blacktop ran next to me.

Unlike in the Sudan where I intentionally rode along the dirt track*here*I headed onto the tar whenever I could. Having the occasional road worker flapping their arms at me as I sailed by before dropping off the side onto the crap track whenever the debris demanded.

The ride improved dramatically when the roadworks*ended*and I was able to cruise along down the good quality dirt road. The running went smooth and then suddenly the rear of the bike welt loose again.

Pulling off the road, I set about another puncture repair. Relying on the last of my repair patches I scuffed the latest hole up before settling down and letting the glue dry. Reassembled, pumped up and back on the road I made it just 10 km before I found another nail. Buried deep through the largest of the blocks of tread it destroyed my last tube.

Resigned to not making it to Kigoma for the evening I pulled everything apart and sat by the road. Within a short while the small crowd that assembled around me was joined by another motorbike. A young local potting along I showed him the problem and managed to communicate that I’d pay him to go fetch one from the next town. Thinking it was just a few km later I would have walked but that would have required me to abandon the bike so I’m glad I found the alternative. For the princely sum of 24 I had a brand spanking new tube delivered to me and*installed in minutes.

Back on the road I prayed that I’d make it to Kigoma without any more dramas.*Aside from the road deteriorating further, ridden by washouts and bizarre trenches cut through the track I made it to*Jacobsens*Camp on the edge of Lake Tanganyika. Home to almost a quarter of the worlds fresh water it is filled by the combined wet season rains of the Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia to the south.

Kigoma is known as the place where Stanley found Dr Livingstone sitting under his Mango tree. Interestingly the site*is now a couple of hundred meters from the waters edge. Several decades the water level dropped overnight, almost 20 vertical meters which put the waters edge hundreds of meters away. Overnight villagers had a trek down to the waters edge to conduct their daily lives. In the years since the water level has risen gradually. Lodges such as the Paradise Lodge I stayed at a few days later to the south developed when water levels were low are slowly getting swallowed up by the rising water level.

No Mangos remain, and instead, a monument and an interesting museum stand in its place. Livingstone's work ending the slave trade that boomed in the region is a worthy thing to stop and take in.

The*water level*at*Jacobsens*was encroaching on their beautiful beach but it was still a solid spot for a*nights*sleep.*A rest day in Kigoma, and the torturous question of whether I would spend the money to get to the*Mahale*Ape Sanctuary had me on the edge of my set. Sadly, hearing stories that the last family hadn’t even come across a group of the amazing group I resolved that it would be a site for another day.*If only to give some attention to my dear bike. Which as you can see, was in need of some love.

It was while at*Jacobsen’s*that I met the Schultz’s and the delightful South Africans Paul and Sally. The former are an Aussie family whose three children had grown up in South Africa and the latter returning to Cape Town after several years working in Tanzania.*The Schultz decided to stay a third day while I headed south with the South Africans. For a short while, the road to the next town was Tar. Blissful tar, punctuated by a few speed bumps that appeared out of nowhere. The product of the ceaseless roadworks.

Stopping at the end of the nice road we attempted to ask a local which was the road to Mpanda was. North, south, east, west, what, on, earth? Mpanda... After repeating the name a dozen times the exact same way the bewildered expression was suddenly replaced by comprehension.

Sent back out of the town on the road we came in on, we were directed down a small single lane dirt track. The major route south, this was the only option. Little more than a four wheel drive track. Naturally, we rounded a bend and discovered a*broken down*truck blocking the whole road. Although I could scoot past on the*bike Paul and Sally were not so lucky. While I continued on alone, they settled down for a waiting session.

The road was good, dried up after the recent rains long sections were as smooth as any good*bitumen*road. Admittedly there were still some wet patches. Several of which had busses or cars swallowed*whole*but I continued south largely uninhibited.

To get to the*aforementioned Paradise*Lodge it involves a 50 km run back towards the Lake just after you pick up the main highway. The road is good, to be fair but it is a big loop if*you’re*not with your own transportation. However, the ride, walk, hike, pedal, bus, transfer is worth it. The lodge is one of my*favourite*spots in Africa. I hope to be back*one day, in one of their lovely rooms and not camping.



From here south I aimed for the Malawi border. Planning on wild camping I came hammering around a bend to find three big bikes parked up on the hard shoulder. The flyby was enough for me to register what I’d seen and hit the brakes. Heading back to the small huddle. A group of Americans*riding down from Rwanda were busy patching their friend up who had had an off. Offering my*help*I followed them into town before heading off in search of accommodation with their leader. After that, while he fetched the other*bike*I fetched the other guys, leading them back to the accommodations for the night.

The next*morning*we rose early, arranging to get their injured member onto a plane to Nairobi and onto the states. Arrangements were made for the bike and then the remaining guys hit the road. Meanwhile, I*potted*on to the south. Dodging the rain clouds and was almost successful all the way to the border when at the last moment the sky*opened up*on me.*I was able to see the end of*rain*and the start of the*sunlight*so I raced on through, getting drenched in the process.

Shortly before the last main city I took yet another cut through. The tar turned to dirt, which turned to a track, which turned to two ruts through the grass before it became little more than a single lane dirt path. Figuring I would at least find somewhere to camp I headed onwards hoping to reach a campsite near the border. The slow going resulted in me turning off and loosing myself deep in the jungle. For what was one of my*eeriest*nights of wild camping I was lodged in the undergrowth. My bike almost disappearing in the tall grass.*I woke early, the sounds of the little rain forest waking me. Unzipping my*tent*I crawled out and found myself in*such a bizarre little corner. A layer of fog had settled, just a meter above my head making the place all the*creepier.

Just a few hundred meters on the path opened onto a nice road and I wound my way through the little villages. Breakfast in a small shop consisted of warmed and sugared milk while I stuffed my face with little pastries. Delightful little balls of down deep fried and then coated in some tasty little jam and a bit of sugar.

Onto the tar and then down towards the Malawi border. Dropping down from the range you curve your way towards the lake, a sweeping road of amazing bends and beautiful lush scenery. It is quite bizarre feeling the temperature change. I spent the last of my Tanzanian Shillings on petrol before the border.

The mark of an open country is when you find people standing both sides of the borders changing currency.*Often times*the rate offered will be fairly consistent but if you have no idea what the rate is you will probably get screwed over.*Often times*I tried to avoid it as much as possible. Knowing I would likely be able to find a cash machine somewhere I changed just enough to be able to get me through to The Mushroom Farm a few hours ride over the border.

The border to depart Tanzania is as easy as any in Africa. Into a small building, fill out a departure form, stamp and sent onwards. Customs had my carnet done in a snap and suddenly I was done with another country. Out the gate, over the bridge and onto a new country.

To see pictures and link to more of my adventure: Tanzania - Jordan Wanders Around
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  #13  
Old 4 Mar 2019
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Hi Jordan,

What an inspirational trip!
Reading about your adventure makes me want to hit the road again.

Cheers
Max
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Old 19 Jun 2019
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Loved reading about your trip. Well done. I have just visited your website, loved the bit about street food. Dunno why. I just did!!
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