Thursday, December 23, 2010

Trip Complete!

So yesterday we arrived in Capetown for lunch, followed by a very scenic ride around the coast to the Cape Point, also known as the cape of good hope. The trip is all but over. Around about 13,000 miles in total. The old Honda has been a trusty companion, especially given its age and mileage (it began the trip with just under 60,000 miles on the clock). With the exception of a new battery in Tanzania, and the odd bit of altitude sickness, it hasn’t missed a beat. Just shows that you don’t need to spend the earth to do this trip. It can be achieved on a very modest machine and budget.

In the last two weeks we have passed through Namibia, visiting the sand dunes at Sosusvei, then heading south to the Fish river canyon, before hitting the South African border. The roads have been a mixture of tar and smooth gravel, the later taking a bit of time to master, but certainly great fun. The roads in Namibia are some of the best we have encountered on the trip, including the loose gravel sections.

The border crossing into south Africa was smooth and efficient, proving that we really are back in a developed civilised country. We followed the coast road down to Cape town, camping for an extra couple of nights along the way. The ride was quite boring to begin with, just hot dry deserted land, and long straight sections of tarmac road. Then we rode into wine country, and the temperatures fell as we neared the coast. With all the campsites booked out, we were offered a backyard to camp on by a local Afrikaans man who noticed we were in trouble. Turns out he was another keen over Lander himself. He also worked in the wine industry, so we had a constant supply of South African Sauvignon Blanc ‘forced’ upon us! So thanks to Stavi for making our first night in SA an accommodating and enjoyable one.

So now we are going through the process of sorting shipping and flights back to England. Actually its proving to be easier than we anticipated, due to us accumulating a few contacts along the way. Our flight back to England is booked for the 29th of Dec. Back to the cold dark damp England. I think we will make the most of our last few days in the sun, by organising a vineyard tour! Not a bad way to celebrate

Monday, December 13, 2010

Livingstone to Namibia

Quick update. We are now in Namibia at the coast. So we've officially crossed Africa, now we just have to do north to south. Capetown is near.

From Livingstone we ducked into Botswana where we did a flight over the Okavango Delta. Pretty cool, with plenty of game to be seen. We have been travelling with Max and Jacob, a couple of Germans travelling on KTM's. Good guys. Tommorow its off to meet Craigs girlfriend Eve in Windhoek. Almost out of Internet..... more later.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Tanzania to Livingstone, Zambia.

Since the last update we have been putting in some big riding days. From Arusha, Tanzania we have been travelling south fairly quickly, crossing the border into Malawi, and then across into Zambia. Highlights along the way; Lake Malawi, a huge blue fresh water lake that seems more like an ocean with golden sand beaches. Great chill out spot. Livingstonia; A very rough steep and winding 4wd track that rises above the lake to a small town with old colonial style buildings. Worth a look. The church has a stained glass window of David Livingstone, the great explorer. The ride up the road was also good fun.

So now after a few more long days (MP3 music player essential kit) we’ve reached the town of Livingstone and the Victoria falls. The backpackers (Jolly boys) here is a great setup. Seems very popular with over Landers as we have been reunited with some familiar faces from further north (Namely Peter in his Landrover and the Irish trio of Podge, Jane and John. Today we visited the falls, and tomorrow its white water action on the Zambezi River!

9000 miles travelled. About 2000 to go. We’ve been lucky so far with no major breakdowns. I’m still running the original tyres (Craig and Neil changed their rears in Nairobi. Not even a puncture to repair yet - touch wood. The bikes had there final service a few days ago. Hopefully its smooth sailing down to Capetown.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Nairobi to Arusha, Tanzania.

So we arrived at Jungle Junction in Nairobi, a renowned over Landers stop. This place is an overlanding Mecca with many 4wds, motorcycles and trucks parked in front of a large communal house. A great place to catch up on internet, and suck up information from other travellers. We were also reunited with Max and Jacob, a couple of German guys who we met earlier during the trip. Just down the road, a very modern shopping center, and a large supermarket. We spent a few days here resting, before Craig and I rode north to lake Naivasha, lake Begoria and also lake Baringo where we camped for the night. During the night we had Hippos grazing next to our tent. Perfectly safe we were told, as there was a guard who would shimmy them off if they got too close.

So back to Nairobi where we had left Neil to sort out his clutch cable. Another night at Jungle Junction and we headed for the coast, firstly stopping in Mombassa for some brief sightseeing, then onto Tiwi beach. We were greeted with gorgeous white sand and clear blue water. That afternoon we lit a camp fire and cooked fresh fish. Bloody Beauty mate.

From Tiwi it was into Tanzania. We decided to take the more direct route to the border, which included about 170km of pot holed tarmac and gravel, with the later being easier. We stamped out of Kenya and had to travel down a very poorly maintained road to the Tanzanian immigration. This road really was ‘no mans land’ with some of the slipperiest mud we had encountered on the trip. I dropped my bike four times over a distance of about five hundred meters, discovering that my front guard was choked with mud, and the front wheel was hardly turning. Also our boots had smooth soles making it very difficult to hold the bikes up. Neil crashed when a local guy on a 125 scooter ploughed into him. The stuff of real adventures can be found just between the border posts it seems. Crazy.

With the Carnet stamped, visas paid for, and my front mud guard cleaned out, we headed towards Moshi for the night. On the way we got a glimpse of mount Kilimanjaro, with its snowy peak just portruding out of the clouds. Quite lucky at this time of year. That night we chatted with a Japanese traveller who gave us good info on how to organise a budget Safari to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. So off to Arusha the next morning and onto a Safari we went the next day. Beginning at Lake Manyara national park we watched Elephants, Monkeys, Giraffe and Hippos among other things. The next Day we drove out to the Serengeti, a huge expansive plain of wilderness. There we sighted a Cheetah, Leopard eating its kill, more giraffe, a family of Lions playing and countless Zebra and Wilderbeast. The last day we entered the Ngorongoro crater, an giant extinct volcano renowned for a high concentration of wildlife gathered in one place. We weren’t disappointed when we were greeted by lion sitting at the edge of the road devouring their kill.

So tomorrow its down to business again. We have another 4000 miles to put in before reaching Cape town. Next country is Malawi, followed by Zambia, Botwana and Namibia where we meet Craig girlfriend Eve. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Addis Abeba to Isiolo, Kenya

From Addis we have been moving fairly swiftly south, making up for lost time. We spent the first night in just out of Shashemene close to some nice hot springs. Shashemene is apparently famous for its Rasta image, and the locals told us there were definitely ties to Jamaica. Interesting.

One more night spent wild camping and we arrived in the border town of Moyale. From Moyale south the road has a reputation for being the worst in East Africa. Large rocks and very rutted gravel. Historically it is also the most risky due to its close proximity to Somalia. The road has been dubbed the “Bandit Highway”. Fortunately for us the Kenyans have discovered oil not far from Marsabit, and hence the security has now improved and the Bandits are no longer. The road still proved rough and very slow going. It took us nine hours to travel 150 miles to Marsabit, arriving in the dark. My bike shaking its way along the rutted surface.

Day two of the Bandit highway proved more of the same, but for a much shorter distance of 90 miles till the new tarmac road. In Marsabit we awoke to our first African rain, making the first section of road quite muddy and slippery. It was short lived as soon we were back into dessert. We had a few kids throw rocks at us, with Craig landing one right in the chest. The locals are poor, and are shouting, or have their hands out for money at every other twist in the road.

So now as I am writing we are staying in the small town of Isiolo. We are yet to see Mount Kenya, which is still shrouded in the mist, hopefully we’ll get a glimpse as we head towards Nairobi today.

Khartoum to Addis Abeba

So we emerged from what seemed like endless dry dessert into the very green and mountainous Ethiopia. Quite a relief as we climbed higher into highlands and we felt the temperature falling from the forties to a much more bearable mid twenties, even requiring an extra layer in the evening. After another difficult border crossing we spent our first night camping at the side of the road, after Ed hit a giant rock, pinching his rear tube. Ethiopia is a country of 80 million people, making wild camping less than ideal. We were greeted in the morning by the local village kids who informed us that our tent had squashed a tiny piece of crop. One US dollar and they seemed happy.

So onto Gondor the next morning after a great roadside breakfast tasting our first Ethiopian coffee. Good atmosphere in the town, and the gateway for a side trip to the Simian mountains national park. We climbed to above 3000 meters, camping inside the National park for two nights. Some good fun gravel riding, even though my bike was struggling to breathe in the thin mountain air. Spectacular scenery all around. The nights were very cold, with frost in the morning.

We said our farewells to Matt, Kim, Ed, Dave and Steph back in Gondor. We had been travelling with them since Egypt. Craig and I needing make fairly swift progress from this point on, as we were held up in Egypt for three weeks with visa/ferry issues. Neil has decided he will travel with us for the time being. The ride south was an easy one through very nice Ethiopian rolling green countryside on decently sealed roads. My bike was still lacking power due to altitude which slowed the progress at times. We took three days to ride down to Addis Abeba where we were hosted by a very helpful Finnish family. They gave us a room to bunk down in, took us out to a German restaurant (Plenty of international influence in Addis) and even cooked us a proper breakfast. A slice of western comfort for three weary travellers. Thanks to Paivi and yuha for the great hospitality.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sand, sand, more sand, Tarmac never looked so good.

We all departed Wadi Halfa with excitement in the air. We had heard so many conflicting reports about the Nubian dessert. For the less adventurous, or perhaps more sensible there is now a sealed road all the way to Khartoum. But we had been looking forward to this for a while, so the dessert was the route of choice. Only a few meters into the first sandy bit and I dropped my bike. A few more meters and I was off again. Could it really be this difficult for the whole 230 miles.

About ten miles in and I looked back to see Dave and stephs landrover and a few of the bikes gathered round. Kim and had a nasty fall and sprained her wrist. Fortunately an Xray in Wadi Halfa later showed that it wasn't broken, although she would not be riding for a while. Craig and I decided we would ride on hoping for the sands to become firmer and easier. Day one we managed 70 miles. We pitched our tents with both of our bikes stuck in the sand near station 4 (there are railway tracks you can follow for easy navigation). A nervous night camping with many unanswered questions hanging over us. Would this ride take three days? We don't have enough water for three days? Will it get easier? The next day we set off early Hoping to make better progress and finnish the dessert section. We had heard of tarmac only 100 miles ahead (this later proved false, but it gave us a motivational boost nonetheless). A signalling man from station four pointed out in the dessert indicating that we should ride well out away from the rail tracks. Turned out to be good advice, as we found firmer sections and managed to pick up the pace. All in all I think we must have dropped the bikes in excess of 20 times. Very hard work, although by the later sections we were becoming more confident and relaxed, loosening up on the bars, essentially allowing the bike to be partially out of control in order to gain control, and finding that 35 MPH was about the minimum speed for keeping the bike up on a level plane. Eight hours and 150 miles later we reached station ten, where we found the best tasting coca cola in the world! What a relief as now it was Tarmac all the way to Khartoum.

After a night at Abu Hamid we reached the Meroe Pyramids and were reunited with a german Couple (thomas and Dakmar, sorry if the spellings wrong) travelling by truck. We camped with them for the night, and they cooked us a fantastic meal complemented with a continuous flow of red wine. Fantastic and a big thanks to you guys!

Now we are in Khartoum and have met back up with the rest of the group. We have found a great overlanding garage, with a very helpfull local man taking care of us, even arranging an appartment for us to stay in and inviting us to his families home for dinner. Despite the political troubles, Sudan is a very welcoming place, with the local people pleased to see us here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Egypt to Sudan

So today we arrived in Wadi Halfa, Sudan. Still hot as ever, still sweating like mad in the 40 degrees plus heat. First impressions are of a very friendly relaxed town.

We have come from Aswan in Southern Egypt by way of a long and crowded ferry. The bikes arrive either tomorrow or Thursday on a separate barge. Our last days in Egypt were spent sorting out official paperwork. First we had to get new number plates fabricated. This was due to the fact that the Alexandria port only issued one plate, and they require two in Aswan. The choice was either to seek a police report saying that one plate was lost/stolen, or make new plates, an easy task given that they are only painted in the first place. Seems an absurd thing to have to do, but this is Egypt and the later option saved us much hassle. The next day we set off for the traffic court, to obtain a slip of paper stating that we had not committed any driving offences. As expected this was a typical Egyptian Beurecratic nightmare, coming in at initially four hours, after which we realised all the slips had been handed out to the wrong people, with various numbers mixed up. The smile grin and bear approach followed with another two hours of waiting in the court office making small talk with the court chief and we finally managed some progress. Then it was back down to the Nile river ferry company to buy the tickets.

As for the ferry itself, certainly a hive of activity. It only runs weekly, and serves as the main way for the Sudanese to get all there supplies from Egypt. We saw all sorts of things dragged onto the ferry including a stack of dated 14 inch TV’s and kitchen sinks.

So far on the trip, the bike has been running well, especially given the 60,000 miles on the clock. Most of us did oil changes in Luxor/Aswan. I did manage to drop mine in the campsite in Luxor, breaking the rear right indicator. Didn’t really need that anyway! Also smashed my right rear vision mirror trying to man handle the bike into position on the back of the very full barge. Oh well.

From Wadi Halfa we head through the Nubian dessert to Abu Hamed and onto Khartoum, where Neil needs to get his Ethiopian visa. We’ve heard various reports about the route, all of which seem to be a bit vague. Tune in again soon.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cairo to Hurghada

So we finally got our visas for Sudan and Ethiopia after a long 9 days in Cairo. Neils Sudanese visa took a day longer meaning that due to weekends and public holidays he will have to wait until Khartoum to get his Ethiopian. We rang the ferry company in Aswan only to find out its fully booked till next Monday. This is the only route into Sudan, and the ferry operates weekly. So its three weeks in Egypt, and much longer than we’d hoped. After Egypt its land border crossings the whole way, meaning that we should be able to make up for lost time.

Currently we are residing in Hurghada, after a easy ride out to the Suez Canal and down the Red sea coastline. Our first night of wild camping was spent in an old metal quarry a few minutes off the highway, followed by our first swim in the Red Sea the next day! The warmest sea water I’ve ever encountered. Since reaching Hurghada we spent a day out at a coral reef swimming and snorkelling, with Craig and Ed Diving. Certainly beats English grey skies. Todays a rest day, before we bust it across to Luxor tomorrow where its supposedly about five degrees hotter. There’ll be no respite from the heat until we reach Ethiopia.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Still in Cairo...

So we're off to the Sudanese embassy tomorow to hopefully collect our Sudan visas. Then its a race over to the Ethiopian Embassy to apply for a visa there. Should be overnight processing. It'll be a relief to have those in our passport, as it means we can get moving again!

Today we spent the day with an Egyption guy named Alli and his family. Neil stumbled across him on the street last night, and managed to strike up a conversation. He offered to show us some of the sights and cook us a feast at his place. Turned out to be a huge feast, followed by visits to some pyramids and our first encounter of riding through sand! Alli seemed to enjoy riding on the back of Neils bike all day, making gestures to all his fellow villagers. Check out the pics...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Riding onto the African Continent

Whats been happening since Venice? Well it starts with a very long four days on an Italian Ferry. I knew I should have had a descent book at hand! The service is popular with overlanding people like us, reason being that it provides a direct link from Europe to Egypt cutting out Tunisia and Libya (saves time money and Libyan hassles) getting you to the real africa quicker. So we were not alone on the ferry, meeting some south africans, two travelling south by landrover and three others on bikes. No doubt we'll see more of them throughout the trip.

So off the ferry at Alexandria and down to Customs where we received the first stamping in our Carnets (equivalent to a passport for the bike). We paid for insurance, egyption plates and who knows what else! Five hours later after a long, confusing and drawn out process we were riding the streets of Alexandria, dodging people, taxis, Horses and 'you name it'. Egyption traffic best described as vaguely organised chaos! Eventually after a few laps of the streets and not much help from the GPS mapping, we recruited a taxi to escort us to a hotel. Along the way we encountered an Egyption Airforce F16 pilot (as you do) by the name of 'Miky'. Miky was able to help us negotiate a hotel, secure the bikes for the night, and then took us out to eat, saving the day and making our first evening in Egypt much more enjoyable. Thanks Miky!

Day one riding in Africa! Alexadria to Cairo. An easy 120 mile stretch of motorway, and a not so easy thirty something degree heat. After a two to three hour stint in the saddle we arrive at the Giza Pyramids, impressive as always. Tomorrow we have a full day in Cairo, trying to organise Visas for Ethiopia and Sudan. Lets hope it goes smoothly!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

Dover to Venice

Its been two weeks of solo travel and reaquanting myself with the idea of not having a home to go to each night. I think I'm now back into the groove and a bit more relaxed than when I first hit the ferry in Dover. Somehow I've managed five nights of free camping, mainly in France, trying to keep to my modest budget. The camp fees add up pretty quickly, and there's really no need to have facilities every night.

So far the route has been across France passing through Geneva and onto Chamonix Mt Blanc. I've visited Cyril and some crazy Frenchies in Avignon. Cheers for a good night out! Pretty bloody beauty indeed! Then I was 'beached as!' for a couple of days down at the Mediterranean sea. From there I've been following the coast all the way around to Pisa, soaking up the Mediterranean breeze and trying to learn how to not sweat like crazy in my riding gear. From there its been across Italy passing through Florence and onto Venice.

So now Its Venice for a couple of nights with Assi and the last chance to soak up some western comforts before heading off to Egypt. Words and Photographs don't do this place justice! You have to come here and see it for yourself. Our ferry leaves in a few days. Four days later we pull up in Alexandria, Egypt. It'l be a good chance to get to know Neil and Ted a little better, before we all turn very smelly and need to keep our distance from each other. Also a good opportunity to discuss some of the finer trip details a bit more! This is where the real adventure kicks off!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Tomorrow's D-day!

All the months of planning and thinking are finally at an end. Time to get on the bike and actually ride! After a month of working seven day weeks, I've finally had the time to pack and organize everything I'll need to take for 4 months of overlanding. Might seem a little last minute but today I finally loaded everything onto the bike for the first time (see the pictures below). Space is certainly at a premium, and it all adds up to a lot more weight than I imagined. Still the bike seems to be handling ohk. I'm pretty sure I'll become well versed in packing the bike over the next few weeks.

Day 1 will be Dover to Calais France, camping somewhere for the night. From here I'll have two weeks of solo travel across France and Italy before meeting Assi in Venice for a hotel retreat (Last bit of luxury for probably quite a while)!  Then its onto another ferry for 4 days (Venice to Alexandria in Egypt via Syria). I'll be meeting up with Craig, Ed and Neil for the ferry journey. Stay tuned for updates!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Not long now

Only two weeks of work left! Things are starting to come together. So far I've accumulated everything I should need for the bike - fingers crossed. According to the RAC my carnet should be in the post soon (this is the very expensive document that is necessary for travel outside of Europe). I'm immunised against a few more things and armed with Malaria prevention tablets. Our ferry from Venice/Italy to Alexandria/Egypt is booked (not cheap either).

All I need to do now is move out of my flat, buy travel insurance, change my rear tyre, replace the chain and sprockets on the bike, work out how to pack four months worth of stuff on a motorcycle, and well, get rolling!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

One month till Departure

So I thought maybe its about time to get a blog up and running. Time to get my writing cap on to keep those at home and about informed after a couple of years in the London wilderness. For those who don't know what this is about, here goes..

Last year sometime I stumbled across the idea of doing an overland bike trip to Capetown. So out went a Facebook message to try and get some more recruits onboard. Craig replied back a wee while later asking if I was actually serious, and I replied "yeah why not". Never one to miss out on the action, craig was the first to be enlisted. Since then we have been really fortunate to meet a couple of English guys, Ted and Neil. They had been planning a similar trip to us, and we crossed paths on the excellent overlanding website "Horizons Unlimited". A quick meeting for "Tea and Scones" in Wales was enough to convince us that we should join forces for at least the first section of the trip.

As for the route. We will take the eastern route through Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya etc, planning out the exact details as we go. A new Mediteranean ferry route from Venice to Alexandria providing the link up from Europe.

I was listening to that old 80's song in the shop today titled "The final countdown". Quite appropriate.