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...