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Old 22 Jul 2013
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Good to see you're back on the road Jo
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Old 14 Aug 2013
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Spain - France - Italy

I had a wonderful time in Valencia with Carlos and his wife Alicia. They were fantastic hosts. And what’s more is that they rode with me from Valencia till about halfway to Madrid. Solidarity amongst riders/bikers, is something that I’ve come to really appreciate and cherish so much. It really is something special.

I was really looking forward to visiting Madrid as I’d be meeting up with a fellow adventurer named Alicia Sornosa. Alicia has ridden through America, from Alaska to the most southern point in South America. Through Australia and also from Egypt to Kenya. Later this year she will ride from Egypt to South Africa and we hope to meet up somewhere along the way.

I arrived in Madrid in the afternoon and met up with Alicia at her place. Unloaded the bike and had a quick shower before it was time to meet some friends and accompany Alicia to her talk at the National Geographic store in central Madrid. I met so many wonderful people and made so many new friends that evening. It was absolutely wonderful. We were a group of about 12 people, all adventure bikers, who spent the night eating tapas, drinking s and talking bikes and adventure. Absolutely in my element!

The next day was spent doing some ‘admin’. Editing photos and uploading updates etc. And also getting my phone fixed as the screen was giving me trouble. Then we spent the night exploring the ‘old city’ of Madrid and hopping from one café to the next sampling delicious food and . It was then decided that Alicia and a number of friends would accompany me the next day till about halfway to Terrassa, which is about 30km from Barcelona.

Alicia and I only got home around 3am. I knew the next day would be a long one (about 600km) so headed straight for bed to get some sleep. I got up at 7:30, had a quick shower and loaded my bike. By 9:00 we were ready to hit the road. Some of the guys pulled out and we were left with only 4 riders (including myself) out of the original 6.

And then, about 200km from Zaragoza, my chain broke at 120km/h on the highway. It broke at the master link and went whizzing past the 2 riders behind me. Luckily everyone steered clear of it and I also had no trouble with the chain getting caught on anything. We pulled over and assessed the damage. I have some spare links with me but I don’t have a chain breaker. Either way the chain was too damaged to repair anyway. So my fellow riders all jumped on their phones and within minutes it was decided that Emilio would ride back to the nearest town where he would buy a new chain. Polo and I pushed Dax to the nearest station and the three of us (Polo, Alicia and I) had breakfast…and of course some s!

Emilio returned with a new chain AND a BMW mechanic in tow! We ordered more s and the boys went about fixing my chain problem. Within no time the problem had been resolved, I had a new chain, a full tummy and having fun with great friends.

Although this had put quite a delay on the day’s riding and I worked out that I would probably only reach Terrassa round 9/10pm that night. We were all pretty tired but I knew I could cover the distance. About 100km from Zaragoza the rest turned back as they still had to ride all the way back to Madrid, and I carried on toward Terrassa.

Another friend, Domingo, met up with me about 100km from Terrassa and rode in with me. We finally reached his place around 11:00pm. I was finished! I had a quick shower and we sat chatting a bit and sampling his father’s home-grown tomatoes and locally sourced cheese and then I hit the sack. Hard!

Next morning I got up around 8:00 and got ready to get going again. I would crossing into France and staying with some dear friends in Montpellier. Domingo took me for breakfast and much needed coffee, then I filled up with fuel, checked tyre pressure and off I went again.

There are so many countries I would like to return to one day and Spain is definitely on the top 5 list!

Seems I have a knack for timing in terms of heat-waves. Throughout Spain and in France the weather hit 35 degrees plus. Just to get me ready for what lay ahead!
I, unfortunately, mostly stuck to the highways to make up for time. Never again! Firstly, it’s helluva expensive. Secondly, you miss all the good stuff!

Initially I would’ve stayed in France for 3 or 4 days. One night in Montpellier, one night in Marseille, one night in Nice and one night in Grenoble. But this was also where I needed to make a decision on whether I’d be gunning it for Tunisia and Libya, or take the long way round and catch a boat to Egypt. I really, really wanted to visit Tunisia and so decided on taking the boat from Italy (Civitavecchia) to Tunis. I booked my ticket in Montpellier and had 4 days to get there. And with that I decided on spending an extra day in Montpellier and then head straight for Italy.

I spent two wonderful days in Montpellier with my wonderful hosts, Charles and Michele. Really exceptional people. They took me on a small tour of the city and we went to a jazz concert under the stars. It was wonderful. I really wish I could’ve stayed longer but now I had a boat waiting for me.


Next up I’d be heading for Genova where I’d meet up with the ‘Cape Town to Dublin by Scooter’ boys from South Africa. We first met up in Johannesburg when they had just set out on their journey, riding through Africa on their scooters to raise funds and awareness for the Red Cross Children’s Hospital. And now we’d meet up again way up north, just about on the opposite end of the world! I was very excited to meet up with the guys!

Two things on my ride to Genova: 1. I have NEVER in my life ridden through so many tunnels in a single day. 101 tunnels from when you cross into Italy until you get to Genova. I counted them!! 2. Genova is probably the most confusing city I’ve ever been in. It took me about and hour and a half to finally find the guys. It’s a crazy, busy, noisy city operating at full steam with the hustle and bustle of people going about their business. I managed to get hold of Chris (one of the scooter boys) and he gave me a landmark to search for. “Search for the big ship with a tweety bird on it”. Well I eventually found the tweety bird and the guys. First thing was to buy some food and drinks for the evening. The boys were hosted by the Genova Vespa club and were kind enough to let me spend the night as well. So we all bought some pizza and s and then headed back to the ‘clubhouse’ where we had beds and showers and food. What more do you need?

I spent the night catching up with the boys and we exchanged stories from our adventures. The only thing that was missing was a nice campfire!

Next day I headed off to Lucca, where I would meet up with yet another old friend of mine. Though first, I would make a new friend on route. About 20km outside of Genova I noticed a bike behind me and I could sense this was someone also touring. Maybe on holiday or so. He passed me and signaled to pull over. It turned out to be a man named Rik, from Germany. He was making use of his holiday to tour around Italy a bit. We had a quick chat and decided to ride together for the day. This was also the only day I spent not riding on the highway and exploring the smaller roads a bit. It was fabulous!! I really had a fantastic time and will definitely have to return to do a proper tour of Europe someday.

I said goodbye to Rik in Livorno and headed back towards Lucca to meet up with Federico. We first met up last year in Morocco between Laayoune and Agadir. I had stopped off on the side of the road to take a break and Federico had spotted me and stopped to find out whether I was okay. He was touring from Italy to Mauritania and back and we happened to bump into each other here, in the middle of nowhere and decided to ride together until Agadir.

And now we got to meet up again in his hometown in Italy. It was so good to see him and I spent two very relaxed, wonderful days with him and his wife Bruna, relaxing and doing washing and bike maintenance etc. During the day I was home alone, left to sleep in and do my thing. At night we spent time together eating good Italian food, drinking good Italian wine and talking adventure. Of course. *

My passport landed in the wash in Montpellier and was still wet when I got to Lucca. Oops!

From Lucca I would head towards Civitavecchia to catch the boat to Tunis. But first I had to stop in Pisa to see the famous leaning tower. Getting into Pisa is easy…finding the tower or parking for the tower, not so easy. It took me a good hour and lots of riding around before I finally found my way to the tower. I spotted a couple on a loaded Super Tenere and decided to follow them. We pulled into a paid-parking garage and were chased out immediately by a guy waving and just saying: “No bikes, no bikes”. They couple stopped a block further and so did I to chat to them. Turned out it was a couple from the UK on holiday. We promptly decided to stick together and find a place to park so we could take the obligatory photos of the tower. If need be I’d look after their bike whilst they went in and they’d do the same for me.

We eventually found parking close to the entrance and I spoke to the Senegalese parking attendant in French to make sure he’d look after our bikes. With that we headed in, snapped a few pics, and back out again.

I bid my friends farewell and off I went towards the port.

I arrived at the port around 18:00, checked in and took my place in line to wait for boarding.

Life's a journey, enjoy the ride! www.jorust.com
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Old 14 Aug 2013
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Go jo

Through your words and photos, we have tasted Africa. Thank you for being an inspiration to humanity, for just being you, and for representing beyond words, the peace and understanding that comprises the heart of every true overlander. We love you Jo.

Xfiltrate and Rosa del Desierto
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Old 8 Sep 2013
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Magical Tunisia!

After standing in line for about 4 hours I was finally led onto the ship and parked Dax on the bottom deck with the rest of the bikes. Mine would be the only one heading for Tunis. The rest of the bikes would be disembarking at Palermo.

Tunisia is a country I have dreamed of visiting for a long time. For one, Cap Blanc in Tunisia is the most northern point in Africa, so literally the opposite side of the continent for me. (Being from South Africa). Secondly, I have friends who live in Tunisia who were very dear to me before I had even met them in real life. And lastly, it just holds some kind of magic that captures my soul.

On board I grabbed something to eat and then headed out on deck to watch as we hoisted anchor and started heading out of the port. There was a young man standing close to me and I could almost feel him burn a hole through me in the way he was staring at me. After a few minutes he approached me and said he’d seen me with my bike and wanted to know where I was from. From that point on the young man that was Bilel from Sousse didn’t leave my side until we disembarked in Tunis. He had obviously appointed himself as my personal guardian on board and we spent the next 24 hours chatting in four different languages (mainly French), drinking coffee whilst sitting outside on the deck and watching the stars overhead. He bought me food and drinks and made sure no potential unsavory characters came near me. Sweet boy.

Meanwhile in Tunis my dear, dear friends were waiting to welcome me at the port. I had told them that we’d be arriving around 21:00. I was one of the first people to disembark but with customs and all the paperwork to get through I finally made it out by 23:00. It felt good to be back on African soil!

Sahbi and Anis

Sahbi and Nawfel were standing just outside the port and waved at me as I went through the last few checks. When I was finally free to enter Tunisia I was welcomed by the rest of the group – Anis, Sahbi’s son Mehdi and daughter Ramla and Mehdi Barrak. First point of order was to get something to eat and drink and then I’d have to ride about 60km to where I’d be staying with Sahbi and his family in Nabeul. They were so kind as to let me stay with them in their beautiful home. I also had the pleasure of having dinner during Ramadan with Sahbi and his family.

Next day I spent on the beach in Hammamet (a very popular touristic area) with Mehdi and Mehdi. (Sahbi’s son and a friend of his) And later on Sahbi and some friends joined us (Including the crazy and very entertaining Jean-Baptiste). It was a day for relaxing and just soaking up the sun.

At night the guys took me out riding about town and drinking coffee at the medina in Jasmine Hammamet. I loved spending time with my friends.

From Nabeul I moved to Tunis where I stayed with Nawfel and his wife Lamia and their beautiful daughter Nadia. Such a kind family who I had a wonderful time with. Nawfel rode with me to Bizerte, about 60km from Tunis, where I finally got to visit Cap Blanc. The most northern point in Africa! And this also marked the halfway mark of my trip! A great moment and joyous occasion. I always said that: “If I can make it halfway, I can make it all the way”!

At Cap Blanc in Bizerte with Nawfel

At Cap Blanc in Bizerte with Mehdi Bachrouch

In Bizerte

Nawfel helped me as I serviced my bike back home and in return I spilt oil all over his floor! LoL. He was so kind he bought me new globes for my rear light, oil for my bike, gave me chain cleaner and new chain lube and even washed my bike! At night we’d all have dinner after breaking fast and I met so many wonderful people over wonderful meals.

Nawfel and his family also took me to visit Carthage to see the Carthaginian ruins of Phoenicians that populated the area before the Romans took over the city. I love that one can literally FEEL the history when you visit these places. I try to imagine what it looked like in ancient times. What the people looked like. The markets, the ports, the trade. Fascinating!

In the meantime I also had some admin related issues to attend to in the way of sorting my visa for Libya. Sahbi accompanied me and helped me to get my passport translated into Arabic and spoke to my Libyan friends over the phone and then relayed the information back to me. It was touch-and-go for a little while and at first it seemed that I would be refused a visa. I had to consider my options and come up with a plan B. *The only other option I’d have really is to return to Italy and then either take a boat from there to Israel or to Greece and ride through Turkey and then take a boat from there to get to Egypt. I was convinced that somehow everything would work out and I’d be granted my visa for Libya, so opted to take some time out and go on a four-day road trip to the southwest region of Tunisia with a good friend of mine, Anis, before tackling the issue with the visa again.

Before leaving for the south-west I spent a night with Anis and his family at their house. We all had a wonderful dinner together and then I had the opportunity to attend the protest in Le Bardo just west of Tunis. Although I try to refrain from getting involved in any political issues, I do have a great deal of respect for people who stand up for what they believe in and I was really excited to be part of this historical event.

Next morning Anis and I were up early, had a quick coffee and loaded our bikes. Me on my Dax and Anis on his Transalp. Direction – Tozeur, about 450/ 500km from Tunis. We had a good ride and made it to Tozeur around 4pm. We unloaded our bikes, had a quick shower and then headed to Naftah as I wanted to visit the Star Wars set. I am a die-hard Star Wars fan and had been dreaming of visiting the Star Wars sets for a long time. There’s a narrow, but good road that leads you through desert surroundings to the set. We made it just in time for the sunset, which was the absolute perfect time to visit this magnificent place. A dream come true! It was just like I imagined it! There are small markets in the ‘city’ where you can buy all kinds of souvenirs. The buildings are just as you see it in the movie and I was just waiting for a real-life Darth Vader to show up at any moment.

Next day we hit the road to do some really fun off-road riding to a lesser-known location known as Rommel Piste, near Gafsa. It is a road that was built by Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel (15 November 1891 – 14 October 1944) (also known as the "Desert Fox", Wüstenfuchs), who was perhaps the most famous German Field Marshal of World War II. It’s a windy (fairly challenging) road up and over a mountain from which the view is absolutely spectacular! From what I understand this road was built to carry supplies over the mountain during the war. (My more knowledgeable Tunisian friends can help me out on this one)

We made it in a cool 52 degree dry heat and took a break at the top to just sit on top of the world and take in the sights. Then we made our way back down the other side and rode on to Mides gorge which is just a few kilometers from the Algerian border and then we also went to visit the waterfall and oasis in Tamaqzah.

Anis - chilling out

There are so many wonderful and interesting sites to visit in this magnificent country and I’ll definitely be back to explore more…on a regular basis!

Next day our route took us back to Gafsa, then through Kasserine and on to El Kef where we would spend the night and another friend Mehdi Barrak would join us from Tunis.

Part of our route took us along the Algerian border, which was both exciting and annoying as it’s the only North African country I would not travel through due to being denied a visa.

We also visited the Table de Jugurtha (which made me miss Table Mountain back in Cape Town in South Africa), before heading into El Kef. We booked into a hotel for the night, parked our bikes and headed out for dinner and to meet up with Mehdi a little later on. We walked around town a bit and got to experience a bit of the nightlife. It’s a unique and interesting experience how places come alive at night during Ramadan. I really enjoy it.

Next day Anis, Mehdi and I rode together further north to Tabarka, which is a city on the coast, again, near the Algerian border. What caught my attention in this town is it’s obvious love for music and arts. Everywhere in town you will find big sculptures of musical instruments placed at intersections. It’s lovely.

From Tabarka we then headed back ‘home’ to Tunis. By the time we got back I had received confirmation that I would be able to get my visa for Libya at the border!

Since I now received the go-ahead to enter Libya I could start planning for my trip south to the border. Nawfel was so kind as to offer to ride with me! That evening we joined some friends for dinner with their family and another fellow North African Rider, Sofiane Meddeb, also offered to join us for the ride to the border. And so it was arranged! We would ride from Tunis to Tataouine, where I would get to visit more Star Wars sites and other really interesting and beautiful places.

From Tunis we headed to Sfax, then Gabes and on to Matmata for lunch. After Matmata we stopped off in Toujene to visit local carpet makers and were kindly offered tea and locally made flatbread and olive oil. From here we visited Ksar Hadada, another famous Star Wars site. From Ksar Hadada we headed for Tataouine where we booked into a hotel for the night and all jumped into the pool for a well-deserved ‘cooling down’.

Next day we left Tataouine and visited the the town of Chenini and then the abandoned city of Douiret. A town built up on the hills by nomadic folk years ago. These cities were used as the main storage facility for their food and supplies and the reason why it’s built high up on top of the hills is to give them a vantage point so as to see when enemies approach to potentially attack the village. Very interesting.

Sofiane and Nawfel

From here we then carried on to Djerba island. First stop was a pottery visit at a local potter’s shop. Here his son gave us a demonstration as to the processes in pottery making. Nawfel bought me a very cool souvenir. (I’ll try upload a video at some point of this genial souvenir).

We then had a wonderful, freshly grilled fish lunch at Guellala.

We then stayed at Hotel Riadh in Homt Souk for the night. A wonderful hotel with a beautiful open foyer where you can sit and have coffee and just relax. They even allowed us to park our bikes inside.

Next morning we had breakfast at Café Ben Yedder and then headed for the Libyan border at Ras Ajdir via Ben Guerdane.

Nawfel and Soufiane rode with me all the way to the border and didn’t leave until I was received by the Libyan guys from the other side! At first I was told that non-Tunisian and non-Libyan vehicles were not allowed through the border. But after some waiting and negotiating and calls to the chief, I was finally allowed through.

And with that I had to say farewell to my beautiful Tunisia!
Definitely my favorite country so far. I love all the countries I’ve traveled through so far, but Tunisia has something extra special!

I met so many amazing, amazing people and am super grateful for the fantastic hospitality and support shown to me. I really hope to return again very soon!! Inchallah!
Tunisia and her beautiful people will always have a special place in my heart!!
Life's a journey, enjoy the ride! www.jorust.com
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Old 8 Sep 2013
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Originally Posted by xfiltrate View Post
Through your words and photos, we have tasted Africa. Thank you for being an inspiration to humanity, for just being you, and for representing beyond words, the peace and understanding that comprises the heart of every true overlander. We love you Jo.

Xfiltrate and Rosa del Desierto
Thank you so much for your very kind words. Humbling and much appreciated!
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Old 9 Sep 2013
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Jou reisverslag sorg vir inspirasie.

Fantastic read, For me as a newbie to adventure riding this quite inspirational.
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Old 9 Sep 2013
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For JoRust from Buenos Aires

Sometimes it really is beyond words.


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Old 29 Sep 2013
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Liberating Libya:

Not the easiest country to get into or travel through. Firstly, it’s not easy to get a visa for Libya nowadays. They don’t give tourist visas, which means you have to get a business visa or transit visa, both of which are quite pricy. Secondly, you need to arrange with a travel agency to hire a guide/escort, who will accompany you throughout. And then there are the countless checkpoints you have to negotiate your way through.

I crossed the border from Tunisia to Libya at the Ras Jdir post on the northern coast, which is also Libya’s most northern point.

Libyan Border

It had been arranged with a friend from Tripoli to meet me at the border and accompany me to the capital. What I did not expect to find is more than twenty bikers to be waiting to surprise me on the other side of the border! I was astonished. What a wonderful surprise!

The paperwork went fairly quickly and smoothly on the Libyan side. I was issued a transit visa and had to pay 100 LYD (Libyan Dinar – 1 USD = 1.2 LYD). And in no time I was introduced to the group and we headed for Tripoli. First stop would be to see the 2000-year-old ancient Roman ruins in Sabratha. But first, I would be welcomed by way of automatic gunfire before we even reach Sabratha. About halfway between the border and the ancient ruins, we pass a pickup with a man sitting on the back, holding an AK47 / Kalashnikov. He fires a few rounds as a way of ‘saluting’ us as we pass by. Immediately, all eyes shoot to me to see how I might react? I just smile and give a thumbs-up to let everyone know I’m fine and not freaking out…yet.

We stop off in Sabratha and the guys show me around, giving me an informative tour of the ancient ruins. It’s a pretty amazing place to visit. These places fascinate me as I try to imagine what it must have been like back in those days. In the time of the Phoenicians and the Great Roman Empire.

After the tour and a rest under the trees, we continued on. We stopped at a fuel station and one of the riders asked me: “Why do you smile the whole time? Do you know you’re in Libya”? I found this a bit strange. Why do I smile all the time? Because I’m happy to be alive. Because I’m on a grand adventure. I have many reasons to smile.

We arrived in Tripoli and I was checked into Hotel Thobacts on Omar Al Mokhtar street. A very nice hotel that the ministry of tourism was so kind to put me up in for four days during my stay in Tripoli. I had initially planned to spend only a few days in Libya. Maybe one night in Tripoli, one night in Misrata, one in Sirte and finally in Benghazi. But it soon became very clear that there would be no chance of that. My hosts were extremely kind and adamant that I stay on longer.

I got to meet many riders in Tripoli and the amazingly talented (and slightly crazy) stunt riders that Libya is famous for amongst the biking communities. I was received by the Minister of Tourism, Ms Ikram Bash Imam, who welcomed me to Libya and wished me well for the rest of my journey. Very kind and she also offered any assistance I may need during my stay in Libya.

I also had the opportunity to meet with the head of the Libyan motorcycling federation, Masaud Jerbi who invited me for dinner and then surprised me with a donation from the federation towards my trip! A big, huge thank you to him for his amazing kindness and generosity. And also Mr Harim Al Turki who organized to meet with Mr Jerbi and who also serviced my bike at no charge.

Whilst in Tripoli I also got to meet up with a friend whom I first met in 2011 when I was still cycling around Africa. I met up with Philip Zaayman and his wife Janine in Namibia. I was on my way North towards Angola and they had ridden up from Jeffrey’s Bay in South Africa to attend a wedding in northern Namibia. And now, all this time later I got to meet up with Philip again on the other side of the continent! It’s a small world!

When the time came to finally hit the road again, I had two Honda Gold wings and four riders to accompany me all the way to Misrata. Normally, tourists are not allowed to travel alone in Libya and I was happy and grateful for the company. I had heard so many horror stories, especially when it comes to negotiating your way through checkpoints with heavily armed men who are not always interested in your long sad story.

The road from Libya to Misrata is fairly straightforward and easy to follow. Busy in places and maybe a bit broken here and there, but overall a good tar road. Before getting to Misrata we stopped off in Khoms to meet up with a group of riders and have a tour of the world famous Leptis Magna ruins. To quite from Wikipedia: “Today, the site of Leptis Magna is the site of some of the most impressive ruins of the Roman period.” It really is spectacular and well worth the visit!

Good luck with reading the sign posts

From Khoms we headed to Misrata where we would spend the night. I stayed in a hotel and the boys elsewhere with friends. I checked into my hotel and then went out with the guys to meet up with a big group of bikers who had come together to celebrate the wedding of a friend and fellow rider. It’s a custom in Libya that when a fellow rider gets married, all the riders in that city/town come together to celebrate the occasion by way of revving engines and spectacular stunts. The group comes together in a certain location and then awaits the groom’s arrival. Then the show starts. From here all the riders follow the groom’s car to the area where the rest of the wedding’s proceedings take place. The groom and bride are separate and the men don’t get to see the women as they celebrate on their own. The groom sits on a chair/sofa as his brothers, uncles, nephews, friends and rest of the men of the family come up to congratulate him. I got to congratulate both the groom and the bride. But out of respect I cannot reveal what goes on behind the curtain where the ladies celebrate. It’s a secret. It’s also become a custom nowadays in Libya for pistols and automatic rifles to be fired in celebration, especially at weddings.

Seeing as everyone and their dog have a gun in Libya, I became quite used to shots being fired around me all the time. As long as it’s not aimed at me, I don’t mind all that much.

After the celebrations I returned to my hotel and turned in for the night. Next morning I was informed that I would have to carry on, on my own as the guys would be returning to Libya. At first I was a bit shocked. As I mentioned, normally a foreigner is not allowed to travel alone. I didn’t have much of a choice and just sent out positive vibes that everything would be okay.

I rode alone from Misrata to Ajdabiya, which is a city just south of Benghazi. Just over 600 kilometers and countless checkpoints in between. First checkpoint – no problems. I was just waved through. So far so good. Second checkpoint – I get stopped and told to remove my helmet. I do as I’m ordered and the ‘officers’ (not all the checkpoints are manned by military officers, some are civilians, some are ‘other’ groups) are, understandably, taken aback to see a woman riding in Libya on her own. At first they tell me that I cannot ride on my own as it’s too dangerous. In my (very) limited Arabic, I try to explain to them that I was told that it would be no problem and the minister of tourism is aware that I am traveling through Libya. I phone my friend Ahmed Busefi in Tripoli and hand the phone to the officer. After a few minutes of incomprehensible discussion the officer hands me my phone back and indicates that I am free to proceed. He tells me not to stop for anyone and to keep going until I reach Ajdabiya. I thank them and proceed, wondering if this will be the case at every checkpoint.

I am happy to report that I do not get stopped at any of the checkpoints I pass through all the way to Ajdabiya.

On route I stop off in Sirte as I wanted to visit this city that had been nearly destroyed in the war. A friend of Ahmed receives me with a cameraman in tow. A very kind gentleman who takes me to his house and offers me dates and fresh milk. He takes me on a tour of the city and describes to me what it was like to sit in his house whilst bombs are being dropped outside and automatic weapons tore down his walls. My heart breaks as we ride through the city and I bare witness to the catastrophic consequences that war brings with it. The pain and anguish is so tangible it’s like a thick fog that hangs in the air. And for what? Visiting Sirte had an immense impact on me and it’s something I will never forget.

Life's a journey, enjoy the ride! www.jorust.com
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Old 29 Sep 2013
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After my visit to Sirte I headed straight for Ajdabiya and had no hassles at any of the checkpoints. Hamdoulah. (Thanks God in Arabic)
On route I had a few cars who hung around, either with kids who waved non stop and took pictures (very sweet) or people just following me out of curiosity. There was one Ford pickup who rode behind me, then passed me and slowed down again to ride next to me. The driver opened his window and shouted to me in English: “Where are you from”? I answered him and then his next question was: “You are a woman”? I guess he could hear that I am a woman because you can’t really tell when I’m wearing all my gear on the bike. I just nodded. He then tried to persuade me to load my bike on the back of the truck saying: “It’s really not safe to be riding in Libya”. I thanked him but refused his offer and told him that I would be fine. The last time I trusted some guys in a Ford pickup was when all my belongings got stolen in Angola. Once bitten, twice shy.

I did, admittedly, stop once before Ajdabiya to take a quick break. A car pulled over next to me and the man driving asked me if I was okay? “Kolo tmam” I answered. (All good)
He invited me to stay in his house with his family for the night and to have a meal with them. I had to decline as I had people waiting for me in Ajdabiya. I thanked him for his kind offer and then set off again for the last push to the town.

I arrived and luckily found the guys that Ahmed had arranged to meet with me and take me to my hotel. I stayed in the Amal Africa hotel and I was not to pay anything as my hosts kindly made me understand that it’s against Arab culture to let your guests pay. I am astonished at the number of really nice and high-class hotels in Libya. But I wonder how they manage to survive? I was starving as I’d only eaten a few dates so kindly offered to me in Sirte and a glass of milk. The guys took me out for dinner in town and we sat chatting about my trip and my time in Libya. Then on the way back to the hotel I asked if we could please stop at a shop so I could buy some snacks and cold drinks for the next day to Benghazi. In the shop I wanted to buy a can of Sprite and a pack of cookies. The owner of the shop took out another can and a handful of chocolate bars, put it in a bag and gave it to me. When I wanted to pay he refused and said: “Welcome in Libya”.

Next morning, a good friend of mine named Nabil rode to Ajdabiya along with four other bikers to meet me and accompany me to Benghazi. I thanked my kind hosts and we hit the road. It was very windy on the way to Benghazi. The road is good, surrounded by desert-like views most of the way. We stopped off for a quick coffee halfway and here I met a Tunisian man who owned the coffee shop. He was married to an English girl so his English was really good and we had a nice long chat. I told him how much I love and miss Tunisia. He also refused to let me pay for my coffee.

In Benghazi I stayed in Hotel Juliana. Amazing hotel! I met the owner of the hotel as well. A very kind, decent man who, once again, refused to let me pay for my stay. My friend Nabil looked after me very well and took me on a tour of the town. At night I had dinner with the guys who had ridden with me from Ajdabiya and we all became good friends. One of the things I will always remember about my time in Benghazi is the sound of fireworks and gunshots at night. Every night there would be wedding celebrations taking place right near the hotel. And every night we’d bare witness to firework shows and gun shots going off in celebration of newly weds.

View at Hotel Juliana

At this point is when the proverbial paw-paw hit the fan in Egypt and I had to make a decision. Either I would have to return to Tunisia or carry on to Egypt. A very good friend and very well known fellow adventure rider in Alexandria, Omar Mansour, was advising me on the situation in Egypt on a daily basis. Although I would’ve loved to return to my beloved Tunisia, there was just no way I could skip out on visiting ‘Om Edonia’ – The mother of the world, that is Egypt.

So after three nights’ stay in Benghazi I headed for Tubruq with my new friends who accompanied me all the way. We took the quiet desert road to Tubruq which was great. I love the desert and enjoy riding through the desert. (It’s a tar road, surrounded by desert)

At a stop to refuel I had a wonderful experience that brings a smile to my face even as I think back now. I was refilling my bike and an old man came to stand next to me. The guys explained to him who I am and in no time a small crowd of men gathered around me. This old man with wisdom in his eyes and deep settled wrinkles of experience on his face took my hand and repeated a dozen times: “Ahlan wa sahlan, marhaban, ahlan wa sahlan, ahlan wa sahlan”. Which basically means: welcome, welcome, welcome.

Just outside of Tubruq, a big group of riders had come to welcome us with a television crew in tow. After greetings and quick introductions I was taken to the Tubruq Square where snacks and refreshments had been prepared for everyone and lots and lots of photos were taken. A grand welcome in my last town in Libya before I would cross to Egypt.

Tubruq Square

I spent two nights in Tubruq in a nice little hotel near the square, my room overlooking the town with a nice view over a beautiful mosque nearby. I don’t know why but I feel deeply nostalgic when I hear the Adhan (Azan) – The call to prayer.

I had a small incident in this hotel when a young man who works in the hotel came to my room the morning after my arrival. He came under the pretenses of finding out whether I wanted to have breakfast brought to my room? I had just woken up and told him I would take breakfast in the restaurant a little later. He then pushed the door open and took a step towards me, trying to kiss me. I immediately stepped back and he asked: “Are you afraid of me”. No buddy, but come any closer and I’ll give you reason to be afraid of me! I pushed him back against the wall and told him to leave. He looked surprised and said: “Please, don’t tell anyone okay”? Later in the restaurant he brought me a chocolate as to ‘buy’ my silence. It wasn’t a big deal and at first I didn’t want to mention it. But later on that day I went to the beach with my friends and Nabil asked me if everything was okay and if the people at the hotel were treating me well? I decided to tell him about what happened. I explained to him that I didn’t want a fuss made over the issue. He told me not to say anything to anyone and that it would be taken care of.

Next morning I got ready to leave for the border. The guys arranged to meet me in front of my hotel early in the morning and then they would ride with me all the way. 7 Libyan riders arrived at the hotel and the head of the Tubruq riders asked me to point out the boy to him that had come to my room. I knew then that this was not to be a pleasant start to my day. How would you feel if seven big strong Libyan bikers descended on you all of the sudden? You would crap yourself! Trust me, I almost did and I was standing outside. Suffice it to say that the boy learned a very valuable lesson, the hard way. There was no blood, I can tell you that much. But there was a lot of screaming and shouting as he was dragged outside to apologize to me. I felt really bad!

And so, with some excitement to start the day with, we hit the road to the border.

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Old 2 Nov 2013
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Egypt: Mother of the world.

I’ve heard so many horror stories about the border between Libya and Egypt and with the morning’s excitement as a start to my day, I was feeling a tad more nervous as to what may lie ahead for me.

My Libyan friends rode with me from Tubruq and stayed with me all the way to the Salloum border. They even sorted me out in helping me get local sim cards for Egypt and also changing my Libyan Dinar to Egyptian Pounds.

I spent about an hour at the Libyan side of the border. I’m not sure what the holdup was but was made to wait, sitting between three customs officers and one very trigger-happy military officer that insisted on firing a few shots into the air right next to me.

Libyan friends with me just before the border

After about an hour I was let through to Egypt side of Salloum. An officer from Egyptian customs accompanied me into the customs and immigrations offices and I started with processing all the necessary paperwork. “This is all going pretty well”, I thought to myself. I was directed from office to office and offered tea and biscuits. Everything went pretty well until I was taken to see two gentlemen who are the equivalent of the Egyptian secret service. Then everything came to a grinding halt.

Meanwhile a good friend and one of Egypt’s very own adventure riders, Omar Mansour, had ridden all the way from Alexandria to meet me at the border. They eventually let him through and allowed him to join me in the building. He was a great help as nobody could really speak English and he was able to translate between the officers and myself.

Omar stayed with me the entire time and in the end I spent about nine hours at the border! Though I can honestly say that all the officers and staff were very friendly and helpful and accommodating.

I spent my first night in Egypt in the border town of El Salloum. Next morning we left early and made our way towards Marsa Matruh, had fresh lemon under a tree on the side of the road and then on to Marina where we had lunch. We weren’t sure whether we’d be able to make it to Cairo in time for the curfew that had been enforced at the time. I was supposed to have a police escort with me all the way but when they weren’t at the checkpoint in the morning when we left, we carried on without them.

I made it to Cairo from the border in one day! Something that kept delaying us on the road, were the military checkpoints where we needed to unpack all my kit every single time. One can understand this precaution, especially during those troubled times. Needless to say I was pretty tired by the time I crossed the Nile River (posed for a quick photo first of course) into Cairo. I unfortunately had to say goodbye to Omar as he had to return to Alexandria, but a friend of his (Bakir) took over and rode with me until the city limits where another friend, Mahmoud Mazen was waiting to escort me the rest of the way.

I had planned on spending maybe ten days to two weeks in Egypt. My first point of order was to sort out new visas for Sudan and Ethiopia. With the delays, waiting in Libya for things to calm down in Egypt, both my visas would have expired before I could make it to either Sudan or Ethiopia. It also soon became clear that Egypt had big plans for me.

I met up with the BikerZone team in Cairo who organized my stay at Le Meridien hotel in Heliopolis and also a big group ride to the Pyramids the next weekend, which was absolutely amazing. I have had many layovers on flights in Cairo before and always had this rule that I was never allowed to look out the window during landing or taking off, as to avoid seeing the pyramids. I had to see it in person, on my bike…and I finally did! I instantly made so many new wonderful friends in Cairo and everyone made me feel right at home. All over Egypt really. Wonderful people.

I was kept busy in Cairo with meeting fellow bikers, conducting press conferences and working on plans for my next project after I finish my tour around Africa. The Dakar Rally! I got to chat with the BikerZone team and they were very eager to get involved with my future plans. After some brainstorming and negotiating I signed with the team and they are now my sole representatives and managing team!

I took some time out whilst in Cairo and rode to the Bahariya oasis over a weekend to see a bit more of the country. Things to see in the area are the white and black deserts, which are amazing! A lot of friends were nervous about my riding out to the oasis area by myself because of banditry in the area. About a 730-kilometer round trip and I didn’t see any suspicious activities on the road. Just beautiful views of the desert all the way!

I spent about three weeks in Cairo and had a fantastic time. After I managed to sort a new visa for Ethiopia I set off for the coastal town of Hurghada. Omar joined me again for the ride to Hurghada, along with three other friends. (Ehab Hassanein, Emad Hassan, Mohamed Fareed El-Gohary). Omar, Ehad and Emad rode with me all the way and even spent a night at the resort as well. Very nice of them. A very famous touristic spot for diving, desert safaris and just relaxing next to the Red Sea. My stay was sponsored by the Sunrise Grand Select, Crystal Bay Resort! How awesome! I spent four nights at the resort and they even organized a guided quad desert safari and snorkeling, which was absolutely AMAZING! Going snorkeling opened up a whole new world for me. It was my first time and I didn’t want to leave. I just wanted to stay there in this new magical underwater world.

A press conference was held at the hotel and the Governor of Hurghada presented me with a medal to honor my efforts on my trip, which was so humbling.

From Hurghada, my next stop was in Luxor in Upper Egypt where I was hosted at the beautiful Maritime Jolie Ville hotel and resort on King’s Island. Luxor has frequently been characterized as the "world's greatest open air museum", as the ruins of the temple complexes at Karnak and Luxor stand within the modern city. I had the opportunity to see the temples, which are absolutely amazing! You can literally feel the history when walking among the ruins. Really something worth putting on one’s bucket list. The one thing that did break my heart was seeing how the tourism industry is suffering in Egypt. So many vendors tried desperately to get me to please just buy something as business is slow and they’re struggling to support their families. The day I visited the temples we were told that it was the busiest day since June!

After a tour of the temples I joined a group of men at a café, sitting outside on the street and drinking tea. I absolutely love these cultural experiences. One of the guys, nicknamed ‘Sisi’ (if you know a bit about what’s been going on in Egypt, you’ll know who General Sisi is), was absolutely adamant that I visit his family at a nearby tribe. He also wanted to ride with me to Aswan. I graciously declined his offer. Though I was a little worried that I might find him waiting next to my bike the next morning. He threatened to spend the night sleeping next to my bike as to not miss me the next morning. Hehe.

Next morning, I was up early and heading to Aswan, my last destination in Egypt. There are two roads one can take between Luxor and Aswan. The main road and the desert road. If I’m not mistaken I think one needs a permit for the desert road though. The main road is a very busy road with speed bumps every few kilometers. It’s not that far (About 220 kilometers) but it took me five hours to do because of the heavy traffic.

Once I arrived to Aswan I met up with Kamal, THE fixer in Aswan. Many, many overlanders know Kamal and have made use of his services. With Kamal was a French guy named Francois. I later found out that Francois was there on his BMW R1200GS and planning on riding down to South Africa.

First point of order was for me to sort a new visa for Sudan. We headed straight for the embassy and handed in my application. Quick and easy process. They assured me that I’d have my visa before I had to leave on the ferry to Wadi Halfa. After sorting the visa, Kamal led me to the hotel where I’d be staying. Mövenpick Resort Aswan. Again, this resort offered to sponsor my entire stay in Aswan! And I had the most wonderful welcome with traditional Nubian music and dancers. I even joined in and danced along as we took the barge across the river to the island on the Nile where the hotel is situated. Stunning hotel and I was absolutely spoilt rotten! I had my own double story apartment, complete with lounge and sliding doors that lead out onto the banks of the Nile River. Management and staff welcomed me with drinks and snacks in my room with a personalized welcome note.

I really had a wonderful stay in Aswan and appreciate all the effort the hotel’s staff and management went to, to make me feel special and right at home. I had dinner with management members every evening and also got to meet the Governor who had come to meet me and once again, I was given a medal in honor of my journey. (My luggage doubled in size in Egypt with all the gifts and medals! Haha)

I was taken on a felucca tour on the Nile to a traditional Nubian village where we had drinks looking out over the Nile. I also got a henna tattoo done by one of the local women.

Next day I had to take my Dax to be loaded onto the barge for Wadi Halfa. Another adventure rider, Obai, from Sudan had also arrived in the meantime. I knew he was on his way as friends in Tunisia first informed me that he was heading to Sudan. I could hardly believe that he had caught up with me. He started his trip in Senegal and was on the home stretch to finishing in his hometown, Khartoum. I was actually grateful for the company and all three of us (myself, Francois and Obai) all loaded our bikes on the barge for Wadi Halfa. We only got on the ferry two days later.

The famous ferry between Aswan and Wadi Halfa. What can I say? It’s an experience and a half!

We arrived at the port around ten in the morning. We headed straight to the ticketing office to sort out tickets. We all decided to take first class cabins so we could have a place to store our baggage. Then we headed off to board the ferry. We were WAY early as the ferry was only set to leave around 16:00.

A first class cabin consists of a set of bunk beds, and air conditioner and if you’re lucky (I was) a window. *You do NOT want to have to use the toilets, as it’s absolutely revolting! The food was actually quite good.

We headed out onto the deck to watch as people boarded and goods were loaded onto the, already, overloaded ferry. 16:00 came and gone and we finally got word from some of the other passengers that we were waiting for a group of forty young Sudanese men that were caught trying to cross to Libya illegally. They got lost in the desert and were now being taken back to Sudan. The sorry-looking bunch arrived around 18:30 and we finally set off around 19:00!

Francois, Obai and I went to have dinner, which consisted of foul (a bean dish), bread and some salad. *Next day's lunch was the same but with chicken added. Obai kept teasing me saying I’m like a typical Egyptian because I love foul and drink a lot of tea!

After dinner we all turned in for the night to pass the 20-something-hour journey to Wadi Halfa a little faster. I woke up around 03:00 and went outside on deck *and found a spot between the hundreds of people sleeping under the stars to watch the stars overhead. Absolutely gorgeous! I considered dragging my sleeping bag outside to also lie under the stars as I crossed from Egypt to Sudan. But the chilly wind soon had me retreating back to my cabin.

I was sad to leave Egypt. I left my heart there and will certainly return again soon!
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Old 3 Nov 2013
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Sudan: Smiles and Kindness.

We finally arrived in Wadi Halfa around 13:00 in the afternoon. A bit of a frantic scurry broke out on board as people were grabbing their baggage and pushing to get to the front of the queue to disembark. I was met by Mazar, THE fixer in Wadi Halfa. He came on board and led me to the dining room where we sat and started filling out all the paperwork I needed to go through.

Francois disappeared somewhere in between all the chaos, I later found out that he used another fixer. Obai and I got off together and made our way down the dock to the waiting area next to the customs and immigrations building. The barge with our bikes on it arrived literally minutes after we had docked. So we were rather hopeful that we might be able to get our bikes off the same day still.

I sat among the rest of the passengers and numerous people struck up a conversation with me whilst Obai and Mazar went about trying to get our bikes released. Sudanese people are incredibly friendly! Before I knew it I was sitting on a bench between about six men, eating peanuts and chatting about my trip. (Why is it always peanuts?)

About four hours later it became clear that we weren’t going to get our bikes and they’d only be able to release them the next morning. So Mazar took us to our hotel where we met up with Francois again. Turns out he’d been at the hotel the whole time.

We settled in and I took a long, blissful, hot shower, after which we headed out to find something for dinner. As this was Obai’s home turf he insisted on looking after us and refused to let us pay for any of our meals! Not only are Sudanese people super friendly, they’re also super generous!

There’s not much to see in Wadi Halfa. It’s a tiny, dusty border town with a hotel or two that offer you the basics and a number of curios shacks and little outdoor restaurants. Though it makes up in personality, smiles and good food. We took a tuk-tuk into town and had a wonderful meal at a local restaurant. Various fried meat strips with onions and humus. Very yummy. Obai also helped me get a local sim card for my phone before we headed back to our hotel to turn in for an early night.

Wadi Halfa

Next morning we headed back into town for breakfast, which consisted of deep-fried balls of dough, covered in sugar and very sweet milky tea. (Made with only milk)

After breakfast we headed back to the port to sort our bikes. Mazar was already at the port and sorted all the paperwork. I never even came into close contact with a single customs or immigrations official. Mazar sorted everything.
We headed off to the barge and there were immediately a dozen men gathering around to help and watch our bikes be offloaded. Off loading meant having to lift the bikes over the side of the barge and then maneuvering it down a plank back to solid ground. Obai’s bike was first, then my beloved Dax and Francois’ 1200 last. When all the bikes were safely back on solid ground I let out a great big “eHamdoulillah”, (Thank God) which was echoed by all the guys standing around, followed by a big round of applause. And with that we headed straight back to the hotel to load the bikes and within an hour we were off! Next stop – Dongola!

The 'road' to our hotel.

Mazar on his KLR that a South African guy gave to him.

The new main road through Sudan is absolutely fantastic! Beautiful lazy turns surrounded by desert as far as the eye can see. We stopped off about halfway for lunch. Every now and then you can find a little settlement on the side of the road with small restaurants where you can stop off for something to eat or drink.

We made it to Dongola and crossed the Nile into town late afternoon and Obai suggested a hotel for us to stay in whilst he’d be staying with some relatives of his. We agreed to all freshen up and then we’d meet up again to go out for dinner.

When I left the hotel, Francois was sitting across the road having tea and there were a few admirers ogling our bikes parked in front of the hotel. The hotel owner offered for us to park our bikes inside the lobby but we felt confident that our bikes would be fine outside. That’s another amazing thing about Sudan. I felt like I could leave Dax outside with all my gear on the bike and the keys in the ignition and not have to worry about anyone coming near my belongings. The only other place I’ve had that feeling has been Tunisia.

A few minutes later Obai and a cousin of his arrived and we, once again, got into a tuk-tuk to take us to the center of town where we’d be having dinner. It’s amazing how many people you can squash into a tuk-tuk! This time Obai’s cousin insisted on paying for dinner saying that we are all his guests. We had a wonderful dinner and decided to walk most of the way back to the hotel so we could see a bit of the town. It’s rather big in comparison to Wadi Halfa. Though it’s not difficult to find a town bigger than Halfa. And people are just so friendly everywhere!

The next day was a big day for Obai as it was the last day of his trip and he’d be arriving back home in Khartoum. I felt so excited for him and both Francois and I shook his hand and wished him luck before we set off. It was a real honor to be a part of those last few days of his journey. It made me think of what it will feel like when I near my finish line.

We left Dongola just as the sun started rising and it was obvious that Obai was eager to get home as he led and pushed our average speed quite a bit. There was a sense of accomplishment in the air and I found myself riding with a constant smile on my face, as I was just so darn happy and excited to see Obai finish his journey. I loved watching the sun slowly bringing light upon the desert and people with sleepy eyes emerge as we whizzed by on our bikes.

It’s just over five hundred kilometers from Dongola to Khartoum and we made it into town by around 15:00. With a breakfast stop and refueling and hydrating breaks on route. A television crew was waiting for Obai a few kilometers outside of town and followed him in. We followed behind and when he finally reached the finish line there were a big group of family and friends and television crew waiting for him. Awesome!

Francois had already booked himself into a hotel and I met up with another friend and fellow rider in Khartoum, Mohammed Nasir, who suggested I stay at the local youth hostel. Mohammed rode with us and we dropped Francois off at his hotel and then he rode with me to the youth hostel. I booked in and paid for two night’s as I knew Francois needed to get a visa for Ethiopia and we were hoping he’d get it sorted the next day. We had decided to ride together until Nairobi.

I settled into my dorm room and found out that I was the only person at the youth hostel, so had the whole dorm to myself. I unloaded Dax, freshened up and then went out to find something to eat. I found a Subway shop near the hostel and the owner started chatting to me right away. It just so happened that friends of mine, three guys on scooters, who had ridden from Cape Town to Dublin, had also stayed at the hostel and also met this guy at the Subway shop! Small world!

Later on we went out to dinner with Obai. I was surprised that he was willing to come out with us to dinner, as I would’ve thought he’d want to spend the time with his family. But he considered us his guests and would go out of his way to make our stay comfortable. He even helped Francois to get his visa the next day and invited us for lunch at his house with his family. It was wonderful!

There were many reports of protests and instability in and around Khartoum, though I never saw any evidence of this. I walked around on my own and felt completely safe doing so.

We had dinner with a group of bikers that evening before we left Khartoum and had a bit of a ride through town. The guys tried desperately to convince us to stay longer but Francois had time constrictions and a schedule to keep to, so we unfortunately had to decline their offer.

We hit the road early the next morning and the plan was to find a place to set up camp about fifty kilometers from the border. It’s amazing how the landscape starts changing from Khartoum to the south. It starts getting greener and suddenly you’re surrounded by thorn trees and more and more animals (donkeys and goats mainly). The road is good all the way through and makes for easy riding.

About sixty kilometers from the border we came to a checkpoint and I asked the officers if they maybe knew of a spot nearby where we could pitch our tents? They just shook their heads and said that it’s not permitted to camp wild anywhere on the road.

So we carried on for another ten kilometers and then we found a spot to camp anyway. Out of sight just next to the road.

We had stopped for lunch during earlier at a hotel in Qadarif and stocked up on bread, boiled eggs and some deep fried fish, knowing that we were planning on camping. So we pitched our tents and got out our food and watched a thunderstorm rolling in with a spectacular lightning show as we pondered what Ethiopia might be like when we cross the border the next day.
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Old 4 Nov 2013
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Amazing Trip

Hi Jo,
In NZ at the moment returning to UK via Cape town up the East side Sudan Egypt Libya and Tunisia to Italy next year, but with a few reservations, but you seem to have bypassed the problems we hear on the news. I would rather return through Africa, but plan B is to return via Vladivostok through Russia. You have feet on the ground in Africa, I'm only guessing what the situation is like. I have until January to decide.
I think you whole journey has been fantastic and brilliant pictures. I'm just keeping an eye on all news on Horizons site to make a decision.
Ride Safe,
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I was up before the sun the next morning and went about boiling some water for coffee on my cool MSR expedition stove. It was my last day in Sudan and I was happy I’d spent it in a tent. I hadn’t spent much time in my tent and I was, after all, lugging it with me all the way around Africa! Might as well use it every now and then!

Francois got up as the first rays of the sun peeked over the horizon. I had already packed my bike. We had our coffee and enjoyed the fresh morning air, contemplating what the next border might be like?

We filled up just before we reached the Ethiopian border. We had camped only 40 kilometers from the border, so it didn’t take us all that long to reach the invisible line that divides Sudan and Ethiopia.*

We were directed to a building next to the road. A small decent down a muddy path brought us to a small group of immigration officials. We were greeted with friendly smiles and shown inside. No fuss, no hassles. Quick and easy. So quick and easy that I wondered off in search of some coffee at one of the little “cafés” that are situated all along the road. After we’d had our coffee it was off to immigration to have our baggage checked and our Carnet’s stamped. Once again we were met by a friendly face and efficient service. You are shown to a seat inside a building and the officer on the other side of the desk asks you questions. “Where are you from”, “Where are you going to”, “Any electronics to declare?” – and here you declare things like your mobile phone, cameras, laptops, tablets, gps etc.

After the paperwork has been completed, you get ushered to your vehicle, where they check that your vehicle’s VIN number and the VIN number on your Carnet match. And then you’re free to proceed.

We planned to stay over at Tim & Kim Village (Tim & Kim Village) in Gorgora next to Lake Tana that night. Not that far from the border and so we weren’t in any rush.

Francois took an early turn-off toward Lake Tana and I could see on my GPS that this was not a tarred road. This was an off road detour. Francois stopped and looked back at me and asked whether this was the road we were supposed to take? I quickly made some calculations as to whether we’d have enough fuel for the detour, and figured, seeing as Francois didn’t have a great deal of off road experience…the more practice, the better. I smiled quietly and indicated that he should take the detour.

It wasn’t that bad. Maybe 60 kilometers off road with fairly good graded gravel and the odd river crossing. I was having a ball. Although Francois was a little stressed out, I think deep down he was also enjoying himself a great deal. There were a few deep and tricky water crossings, but Francois just soldiered on right through them. He did a fantastic job I’d hoped this bit of off road would help him get into a more comfortable rhythm by the time we reached ‘hell road’ in Kenya.

Reaching Tim & Kim Village in Gorgora was like arriving in paradise. It is an absolute jewel of a place. You make your way up and down a two-track road and then you’re most likely to be greeted personally by either Tim or Kim…or both, as you’re welcomed to their beautiful piece of heaven. You can choose between staying in a bungalow or pitching your tent or staying in one of their tents. They have great facilities. You’re right on Lake Tana and as a result you can enjoy the most spectacular views whilst kicking back and enjoying an ice cold one after a hard days riding.

We did exactly that and spent the afternoon relaxing. Later that evening we were introduced to another South African who joined us for dinner. Seeing as there were now two South Africans at the village, a fire and a braai (BBQ) was in order. We spent the rest of the evening in conversation with our hosts and swopping out stories with everyone around the table.

The next morning I was up early enough to watch the sun rise over the Lake. After breakfast we loaded our bikes and headed off towards Debre Markos, where we would spend the night before heading to Wim’s Holland House in Addis. We had to take the same gravel road out towards Gondar to fill up with fuel before turning southwards again. It had, by now, become apparent that we might struggle with finding fuel everywhere. We were shown away from a number of filling stations before finding one that was willing to help us out. Seems that Ethiopia has a bit of a fuel problem.

The road to Debre Markos is a good tarmac road leading you through some beautiful Ethiopian countryside. We also made our way through a number of smaller villages. We stopped off in one of said villages for a coffee and the obligatory Injera (traditional Ethiopian flatbread) and inadvertently became the main attraction as hundreds of locals started gathering around our bikes, pointing and engaging in pensive conversation. The children come closer and put their hands out, chanting: “you, you, you…money, money, money”. Though at the same time I’ve had children come up to me and simply ask for stationary! Broke my heart that I didn’t have any pens or books to give them.

We were going at a very easy pace through Ethiopia, which gives you a chance to really take in the scenery. It is such a beautiful country and definitely one of the top three most beautiful countries I’ve ridden through. It is such a rich and fertile land with lush green hills that just roll on forever. Mountains that tower over you in all their majestic greatness and valleys that plunge down beside you to reveal neat farms down below.

That being said, Addis Ababa was not one of my favorite cities visited. When we arrived in Addis it was raining. Coming down the steep hill into town visibility was minimal and the traffic at a slow-go. It all seemed pretty straightforward at first and I thought I’d have us at Wim’s Holland House in no time…until I realized that half the city had been dug up in road works and what seemed to be a new underground train system in progress. I got us within 500 meters of our destination, but just couldn’t find a way that would get us TO Wim’s place.*

I eventually admitted defeat and phoned Wim. I had stopped just beyond a big roundabout and hoped it might be enough of a landmark for him to explain to me how to get to his place. Whilst talking to him on the phone, a young boy came and stood next to me. Really close, right up against me. Then another appeared. And another. And another. And then, I felt a little hand slipping into my bag that I’ve always carried over my shoulder, under my jacket and kind of on my hip. I’ve never had any issues despite people always thinking it makes for an easy target.

The boys pretended to be looking at my GPS and asked me questions whilst the one that was right up against me went to work with finding whatever he could in my bag. I didn’t make a fuss. I just reached down, took hold of his arm and started twisting. With a somewhat surprised and slightly bewildered look in his eyes, the teenager just turned and walked away. I was trying to indicate to Francois that we needed to get out of there, but he was talking to two guys on a bike who said they could take us to Wim’s. My inner voice was telling me that this is a very bad idea and before I could stop Francois he was following the two guys on their bike. I started chasing after them and after almost 20 kilometers of riding in the complete opposite direction I got Francois’ attention and we turned around. The two guys on the bike ahead of us turned around as well, chasing after us, but we managed to lose them in the traffic. I’ve heard some horror stories in other countries where travelers had been mugged or had their vehicles stolen after being told to follow someone, so I’m glad we got out of that one.

We made our way and I tried to find a way around the road works to Wim’s place. The city was in chaos with construction vehicles all over and no way of figuring out where one might find a detour. We eventually landed up in front of a police office and I phoned Wim again. We were still only 500 meters from his place and still just couldn’t find a way through to the street we needed to be on. He told us to stay put and he’d come and fetch us. It took him half an hour to get to us, 500 meters away!

Wim instructed one of his workers to show us to his place and left to go do some shopping. This poor man ran all the way, through the traffic to show us where to go and after an eventful few hours since we’d arrived in Addis, we finally made it to Wim’s Holland House. We immediately went straight to the bar to have something cold to drink and then found out that they didn’t have any accommodation available. When Wim arrived back he said we could either camp in the parking area (there was some grass) or he’d let us sleep in his house. He even provided us with some mattresses and made some space for us in his living room. The only reason we didn’t camp was because it was raining.*

The bar is like a local hangout for overlanders of all walks of life. We spent the evening meeting people from all over the world and swapping out stories. Some traveling in Land Rovers, others by public transport and a guy in a car who had some crazy stories to tell about how he was chased by Bedouins through the desert in the south of Egypt. How he was thrown in jail in Iran. It seemed that everywhere this guy went, trouble followed. I loved chatting to all these interesting people. I sat chatting to Wim for a while as well and asked him about routes going south. He suggested we not take the main road heading towards Kenya but rather take a back route that’s not as congested and far more interesting. He drew me a map and wrote down directions on 3 different scraps of paper and with that I turned in for the night, confident that I’d be able to navigate us safely out of Addis the next morning.

Luckily I am pretty good with directions and managed to get us out of Addis and onto the back road Wim had suggested. I am not very fond of Addis. In fact, it might make my top 3 “least-favorite-cities” list. I felt very uneasy, even before the attempted pickpocketing incident and wouldn’t go there again unless I absolutely had to.

And so we made our way towards Arba Minch, via Butajira and through Sodo. Francois had read about a very posh looking lodge next to Lake Abaya, which he wanted to check out and so, it was decided that we’d head in that direction.

This road was far quieter and I felt more at ease on it as well. Felt like I could breathe again. We stopped off alongside the road for breakfast at a small hotel, which was really good, and then kept a very easy pace making our way through the beautiful countryside.*

When we got to the town of Arba Minch we first went in search of fuel as both of us needed to fill up. After two unsuccessful visits to filling stations I was getting a little nervous. We were told that they might have fuel the next morning. We had little choice and started searching for Francois’ lodge. We couldn’t find the place and eventually were helped by two local boys on a scooter who showed us to different lodges in the area. (This time I felt completely comfortable following them around. Amazing how your instincts guide you!)

It was getting dark and we needed to make a decision as to where we were going to stay. We found a beautiful lodge with the most stunning views over the Lake, but it was pricey. $60 per person per night. I wasn’t willing to pay that and we tried to negotiate for a better price. We eventually got away with $40 each. Still a bit steep but we decided to bite the bullet. Just the views made it worth it.

Next morning we started our hunt for fuel after we’d had breakfast. We couldn’t find fuel anywhere, but a tour guide back at the lodge arranged for another two local boys to help us. Again we were following two young men on a bike. They led us down into the valley to a village and then stopped about a kilometer outside the village. They told us to wait next to the road because, if we went into the village with them to buy fuel off the black market and people saw we are tourists, the price would automatically be doubled. I thought it rather considerate of them. We did as we were told and waited next to the road. Within minutes we had attracted quite a crowd. People pointing and smiling, conversing, frowning, laughing. I was starting to get a tiny bit claustrophobic and then our two saviors appeared with twenty liters worth of fuel in two liter plastic bottles. We emptied the bottles into our tanks, paid the boys (we still had to pay quite a hefty price for the fuel), bid farewell to the crowds and hit the road.

We had just passed through the village when we came down a hill and the most extraordinary site greeted us…There, in the road…not on the side of the road but IN the road…blocking the entire road, were thousands upon thousands (I kid you not) of cattle. I have never seen so many cows in my life! It quickly became clear that we were going to have to, painstakingly and very slowly, weave our way through all these cattle. My bike is pretty loud and I hoped this might help in clearing a path through the herds, but it was obvious that these cattle were used to all kinds of traffic making their way around them. No amount of revving or hooting really helped. I just tried to avoid their horns. Every now and then a bull would bump into Dax and I’d struggle to maneuver as to not bump into another bull. It was chaos! But fun in a limited kind of a way.

The tarmac road ended as soon as we finally got through the herds of cattle and we had quite a bit of off road to do until we’d rejoin the main road down to the border town of Moyale between Ethiopia and Kenya. It was a good, graded, gravel road though and we could easily average 80 kilometers per hour, sometimes a bit slower as we climbed up a beautiful mountain pass and then plunged down into an equally beautiful valley.

When we finally rejoined the main road heading down to Kenya, we stopped off for lunch and refueled the bikes. Tomorrow we would start on the notorious ‘Hell Road’ after crossing into Kenya. I knew it would be challenging, but I was looking forward to it!
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Old 22 Apr 2014
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The road towards Moyale, the border town between Ethiopia and Kenya, was clearly being worked on and we found ourselves riding on a piece of tarred road running alongside the new road in progress. On arrival in the border town we filled up with fuel and went about looking for a place to stay for the night. We found a cheap hotel that seemed popular to overlanders just before the border. (I can’t remember the hotel’s name. It’s on the right hand side as you approach the border. It has secure parking, clean rooms, restaurant and bar and wifi. And relatively cheap)

Francois’ bike started losing spokes on the rear wheel. This was a little concerning and we started checking on all the spokes. Some of them were pretty loose and we went about tightening them. He also wanted to fit his knobblies that he was carrying for ‘hell road’ and went in search of a workshop that could do this for him. I remained at the hotel, had a shower and went to find a guy I had seen earlier on another 1200 adv.

The guy on the 1200 turned out to be an Israeli gentleman named Odette and I also found out that he’d run into some South African adventure rider friends of mine in China on their tour earlier in the year! Small world! I sat chatting to Odette and having a whilst waiting for Francois to return. It started getting dark and I was getting worried. It doesn’t take THAT long to change a set of tyres. Alas, before I could saddle up to go rescue the Frenchman, he pulled up about thirty minutes later with a new set of tyres and a beaming smile. I think, psychologically, this gave him more confidence for the road ahead. In the end he wouldn’t really need it.

Next morning we were up early and joined Odette for breakfast before we started heading south to cross the border and Odette would head up north towards Addis. Hell road – here we come!

And then…30 kilometers in…this happens!

My poor bike’s rear suspension gave in only 30 kilometers into Hell Road! This meant I’d have to do almost 300 kilometers of off road without a rear shock. It was like riding a pogo stick for hundreds of kilometers. Once the shock went I knew that we wouldn’t be able to make it to Nairobi the next day. We had planned on making it to Marsabit the first day and then Nairobi on day 2. I told Francois that I thought it best if we stayed over in this tiny village called Torbi and then carry on to Marsabit the next day. I could only get up to 40 km/h max so there was no way we’d make it anyway. The going was slow and tiring. The riding wasn’t anything technical but my body was just taking a beating, as it was now acting as the shock absorber.

We made it to Torbi and asked whether the ‘hotel’ could accommodate us for the night. The people were extremely friendly and kind and invited us in to sit in the shade whilst we negotiated a rate for two single rooms. We were told that we’d have to wait a little while whilst they prepared the rooms for us. This didn’t faze us at all and we ordered some lunch and something to drink whilst waiting. Lunch consisted of some meat strips with flat bread. Simple but really tasty.

The rooms were very basic. Two single beds in each room, no electricity, no running water. I asked where I could wash myself and was shown to a shack about 30 meters away and given a bucket of water. I’ve washed myself out of a bucket many times, so this was not an issue for me. Francois however, found it a little difficult. Of course there were no flushing toilets either but a ‘long-drop’ across from our rooms. Personally, I prefer to rather go out in the bush than use a long-drop. I just think it more hygienic, personally.

I couldn’t sleep as it was so hot and decided to rather go lie outside a bit to cool down and watch the stars. Though when I opened my door there was a man lying on a mattress in front of the door. I had to step over him to go outside. I still don’t know what that was in aid of? Maybe some security? Didn’t bother me though…I just carefully stepped over him when going in or out of the room throughout the night.

Next morning, as we were loading the bikes and getting ready for the road to Marsabit, a Rastafarian approached me and indicated that he was absolutely fascinated with my collection of bracelets from all the countries I’d been through. He asked if he could have one? I explained to him that most of the bracelets had been given to me as a gift from someone in each country I’d traveled through. He stood quiet, pondering this for a little while…and then took off one of the bracelets and gave it to me!

With that we bid our hosts farewell and hit the road. It was a long, hot slog towards Marsabit. There’s not a great deal in the way of scenery in northern Kenya. Besides I was so focused on the corrugated road and dodging rocks and carefully making my way through the sand patches as I was adamant that I would not fall on Hell Road! My friend and fellow adventure rider Omar, in Alexandria (Egypt) bet me that I’d fall at least once on Hell Road. Challenge accepted of course! Francois unfortunately wouldn’t win the bet. I really felt for him and wished we could pretend it never happened.

We passed a military officer carrying his AK47 somewhere between Torbi and Marsabit. He gesticulated, trying to tell us to stop. I was a bit weary of stopping for anyone on this road and so just smiled (slightly nervously), waved and carried on riding. I figured that the chances of him chasing after us was so slim that, even if he did get into his vehicle and come after us, we’d have put enough distance between us and him to successfully outrun him. Francois later told me that he was really worried and seeing as he was at the back, he was afraid he might get shot at first. LoL. I assured him I’d never leave him behind.

The road wasn’t that difficult, just tiring and even more so without my rear shock. Both Francois and I grew quiet and just concentrated at getting to Marsabit. Every now and then we’d pass by a group of men working on the road and be greeted with whistles and waves.

When we made it to Marsabit we headed straight to a hotel called Nomads Trail. Clean hotel with secure parking, restaurant and wifi. We had something to eat and decided we both needed some rest and turned in to our rooms for a shower and a nap. Later on we went about exploring the town a bit and search for a few cold s which we found at a local bar that had a big screen television and were screening a movie.

I asked the locals about the road ahead and how far we still had to go before we would hit the tarred road? Answers ranged from 40 to 120 kilometers! Haha! So I figured I’d go with a number in between and set it at 60 kilometers. Francois was obviously getting fed up with Hell Road now. Next morning after about 40 kilometers (I found the last bit to be the worst of it with loose rocks and some ruts and sandy patches), whilst taking a break Francois turned to me and asked: “How far still to go Jo? This is your Africa. You should know!” In the end it turned out to be about another 90 kilometers until we reached the tar road. I’ll never forget the look of relief on Francois’ face!

From hereon out the landscape also started changing from the arid, dry surrounding we’d seen the last few days to more greenery and some hills surrounding us now. From Marsabit we made our way to Nanyuki where we’d spend the night with a friend of a friend of mine who lives near Mount Kenya. This was also the point where I crossed the equator again, on the other side of the continent! I could feel that I was now entering the final stage of the tour and it filled me with mixed emotions. Though I still had quite a way to go!

Form Nanyuki we headed into Nairobi where we’d stay at the famous overlander camp, Jungle Junction, run by Chris. Jungle Junction had just moved from their old spot and Odette in Moyale was kind enough to have given me a leaflet with directions to their new address. They were now situated at the southern end of Nairobi and we braved the traffic through the city. When we got to JJ’s the first thing I could see was a load of bikes parked at one end of the property and 4x4’s all over the place. This felt like home! We decided to treat ourselves to rooms as opposed to camping and settled in for a few days. The next three days were spent catching up on admin such as washing, and giving Francois’ bike a once-over as he’d be carrying on, on his own from hereon out whilst I stayed behind in Nairobi to fix my Dax.

We met a number of travelers from all over the world ranging from a Japanese bloke on a bicycle, a French couple with their 4x4, a South African bird-watcher, a lovely girl photographer from the Netherlands and a group from Namibia. It felt both strange and wonderful to be amongst like-minded people and our evenings were spent around a table sharing stories from our different journeys.

Meanwhile I had the issue of Dax’s broken rear shock. A good friend of mine back in South Africa and, yes you guessed it, another adventure traveler along with his wife (Michnus and Elsabie Olivier from ATG) offered me the spare shock of one of their Dakars. They were traveling Europe at that time and so the planning started to get the shock shipped up to me in Nairobi. I approached TNT back in SA and they very kindly offered to ship the shock up at no charge! Awesome! So now just had to wait for the shock to arrive. In the meantime I made arrangements to move to a friend’s place when Francois left.
The day came and I bid Francois farewell, wishing him well for the road ahead and said I’d try to catch up to visit with him and his girlfriend in Cape Town. His girlfriends was flying out from France to visit him at the end of his journey. I later found out that Francois settled my bill without saying anything at JJ’s as a way of saying thank you for being his ‘guide’ on the first leg of his trip. Incredibly generous and very kind of him.

I then met up with Chantal Young and her family. Chantal had contacted me on Facebook after reading about me on a mutual friend’s page. So this was the first time we actually met in person. We were like best friends instantly and it turned out that they lived just around the corner from JJ’s, so I just had to ride around the block to their house where they very kindly allowed me to stay for the next few weeks whilst waiting for the shock to arrive from South Africa.

Most of Chantal’s family has been or are currently involved in rally racing. Chantal herself is a rally car navigator and so when it came to having to fit my new shock it was no problem for a bunch of petrol heads like ourselves.

In the meantime Chantal kept me entertained by going on a road trip to Nakuru National Park where I got to view some wild animals for the first time in (what felt like) forever! It was absolutely wonderful and I had such an amazing time! We were very lucky and got to see loads of buffalo, zebra and giraffes and we even saw some rhino and lions!

Riding around in a car in Kenya was a different experience and it also gave me the opportunity to have a look around and note things I might normally not see when concentrating whilst riding on the bike.

Back in Nairobi my shock had arrived and I, along with my amazingly skilled team, fitted it in no time flat! It was a bittersweet occasion as this meant I could now continue on my journey, but I’d have to leave my new-found family in Nairobi! (Thank you to the Youngs!)

I also had the opportunity to visit the David Sheldrick Wildlife trust and see elephants…wait for it…bare yourself…FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER! Elephants are my favorite animals so this was a very special occasion for me!

I tried to delay for as long as I possibly could, but then the time came for me to get on with it and make my way to the next country on route. Tanzania!
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Old 23 Apr 2014
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From Nairobi I made my way down to the Namanga border, which is near the Amboseli National Park. The best view of Mt. Kilimanjaro is supposed to be from Amboseli. I’ve definitely seen some stunning photos of the majestic mountain taken from this park. Chantal rode out with me a few kilometers and we stopped off for breakfast on route at a place called ‘Whistling Thorns’, about an hour’s drive from Nairobi. They also offer accommodation here. www.whistlingthorns.com

After breakfast it was time to finally bid farewell to my new sister/friend/travel companion. It was really difficult saying goodbye and so I didn’t hang around for too long. I hate goodbyes!

At the Namanga border I ran into two of the Holgate 4x4’s. I got so excited! I’m a big Kingsley Holgate fan! Though there was no sign of the man himself, and not surprisingly I was through and done with my paperwork before the two 4x4’s. (I figure they have more things that have to be checked on/in the vehicles). I stopped on the other side of the border to buy a new sim card. Though I stopped too far down the road and the telecoms-shacks were the ones just as you exit/enter the border. I didn’t feel like walking back and decided I’d go about finding a sim card in Arusha.

In Arusha I stayed at a place called Sakina Camp (www.sakinacamp.com) . Basic but affordable. So affordable that I opted on taking a room rather than camping. Besides, it looked like it might rain. The owner of the establishment is super friendly and helpful. After chatting for while and helping me carry my bags to my room he gave me information on where I could get food and anything else I might need. I liked Tanzania already!

I was looking forward to seeing Mt. Kilimanjaro the next day, but it soon became clear that it was just not meant to be. It rained throughout the night and it was still drizzling when I left Sakina Camp. By the time I got to Moshi and passed Mt. Kilimanjaro I could just make out the base of the mountain, the rest was just clouds! I didn’t bother waiting around to see if the clouds may lift as I still had a long way to go. I opted to skip Dar Es Salaam and would head for Morogoro instead. From here I’d make my way inland down to Malawi!

I soon learned that Tanzania has a great plethora of accommodation options! There are hotels and guesthouses and camping spots around every corner and at really affordable rates! I could afford to stay in hotels or guesthouses every night, as it was just so cheap! (US$20 average – this wouldn’t give you 5 star accommodation but the basics)

From Morogoro I made my way down to Mbeya via Iringa and stayed in a hotel right on the outskirts of town, overlooking the main roundabout that leads you to the Malawian border. On route I passed through ‘Baobab Valley’ situation between Mikumi and Iringa on the edge of the Udzungwa Mountains National Park – it was stunning! All these baobab trees for as far as the eye can see! It was a very welcome surprise, as I didn’t even know about the existence of ‘Baobab Valley’. Lovely!

You don't want to accidentally hit anything whilst riding through the park!

That thing of: “You have to be extra careful nearing the end of a journey”, is very true! Although I was still some way from home, I was now in the home stretch and wouldn’t have anticipated that I’d come off for the first time ever on tar…and hard!

It was raining a lot whilst I was riding through Tanzania and on route, just before getting to Mbeya I was riding up this beautiful mountain pass. Right before getting to the top I was in the final corner, a tight hairpin bend to the right. I didn’t see the spilt diesel in the road though and next thing I knew I was high-sided and skidding across the road on my stomach. I hit my chin on the tarmac first (thank goodness for protective gear!) and then felt myself sliding off the other side of the road. Amazing how many thoughts go through your mind in a split second! First thought that went through my mind was: “Shiiiiiiiit”. Second thought was: “Please let my bike be okay”. Third: “Please don’t let me break any bones!”

After I’d come to a halt, I jumped right up as I knew my bike was lying right in the turn and wouldn’t be visible to oncoming traffic! I could immediately assess that I hadn’t broken anything. Well all my limbs were functional so I figured I came off lightly! I hobbled across (okay I was hurting a bit), to my bike that was now lying in the road and facing the wrong way. There was a man that had been standing at the top of the hill. He saw it all happen and ran down to check if I was okay. All I could say was: “Please help me move my bike!” Once we got Dax out of harm’s way I started with damage assessment. Dax seemed fine, apart from a new dent in the right hand side pannier, a few scrapes and the handlebar guard was loose. My left arm was in a great deal of pain. I hit my elbow coming off and my arm got stuck under my body as I was skidding across the road. My left shoulder was killing me! I didn’t think anything was broken though.

After five minutes of going over Dax and myself, I thanked the Samaritan and then I was on my way again.

By the time I reached the hotel I had such a headache from a) the knock on the road and b) the adrenalin that had worn off …and I couldn’t move my arm. I took a hot shower and plonked myself down onto the bed and promptly passed out after I’d ordered some food.

A feeling of urgency started to fill me. I guess because I was now so close from the finish line, and yet so far! Just two more countries to go and I’d be back on home soil! I found myself in two minds. I just wanted to get to that finish line…but at the same time I didn’t want this journey to end just yet!
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