Goodbye Africa

Sally suggested that I write something to finish off the African leg of our trip, which I guess is fitting. Leaving the continent has sneaked up on us a bit, one minute we were at Lake Turkana in northern Kenya, marvelling at the unique and hard way of life that the African tribal people live, next thing we were eating njera bread in Ethiopia where the people looked more a mix of Arab, Persian and African and a couple of weeks later we were staring at the pyramids in a country that doesn’t consider itself to be African at all (and actually takes offence at the assertion that they are in fact African).

It was always going to be a short, relatively easy trip by our standards, but even so it feels like it was over a bit too quickly. In retrospect we would have stayed longer in the southern countries as our concerns about spending a lot of money further north didn’t actually materialise, and we’ve arrived in Europe having spent a lot less than we budgeted for.

Which is good because everything here is so damned expensive!

On the flip side, it’s left us with a possible future plan to return for a month or three and just visit some of the national parks.

Anyway, our plan from here seems to be changing by the hour, but broadly it involves visiting some of Italy, Switzerland, France, the UK, Spain, Portugal and Morocco, and then finding something to do with the rest of our lives 🙂

Betsy is now on a boat headed to Ravenna (near Rimini in Italy), hopefully she arrives safely on Monday and we can get back on the road. Pretty scary seeing a short Egyptian man wobble away into oncoming traffic on her the other day (I wasn’t allowed to ride into the port), times like that I’m glad she’s already well worn and scratched!

For the next week we’re staying in Katie’s apartment in Siena, she’s given us her bed and is sleeping in a cot in the corridoor, thanks Katie, very kind!!!

It’s “the Palio” time here in Siena, something about a horse race through the centre of town contested by local families, has been going on for hundreds of years, lots of singing and drinking by the locals… we’re doing our best to fit in 🙂

Love to all xxoo

Edit… Monday’s bike collection has turned into Wednesday now, so we’re getting out of Katie’s hair and planning on going to either Modena or Bologna to wait it out for a couple of days.

Huge thanks again to Kitty Katie for her warm hospitality, comfy bed and constant desire to ring the aperetivo bell 🤗 We’ll miss you this afternoon!

Leaving Egypt

We’re in the car on the way to the airport, it has no headlights or seatbelts and the driver is really going for it!

This could be the most dangerous thing we’ve done so far!

Egypt

While we’re standing here waiting for yet another piece of paper to get stamped in order for us to ship the bike to Italy I thought I’d write a quick post.

This is the third building we’ve been taken to which is packed with people and paper and very little order. We have a little man doing everything for us (which seems to consist of pushing his way to the front of every queue) while we are ushered into different rooms and corners to wait. We’re still waiting to see why we needed to be here in the first place… (eventually I had to sign some paperwork by putting my thumb print onto lots of pieces of paper – odd)

We’re now in Alexandria, the very north of Egypt organising our shipping to Europe. Alexandria is a lot more Mediterranean than the rest of Egypt in terms of weather and architecture and the streets are filled with makeshift markets and men drinking coffee/smoking sheesha. They may not be allowed to drink but they sure make up for it with sugar and sheesha!

Back at the Sudanese/Egyptian border, after a long and frustrating day processing customs to enter Egypt, we spent the night in Abu Simbel, the first town you get to from the border and one that also has a temple.

We had our first beer in a week and were pleasantly surprised with the friendliness of the people. The roads were good, there were buildings and the street lamps worked…it started feeling like we were getting closer to Europe.

We got up early to beat the heat and went to visit the temple which was really impressive. It was the first time we’d seen any Egyptian temples and it was very unique.

We then got back on the road for another day in the desert and 44° heat. Bottles and bottles of water were poured over ourselves before reaching Luxor.

There’s lots to see in Luxor and it was the first time we’d experienced the extreme pestering of the Egyptians wanting to sell us something. Horse rides and market tours seemed to be the things that EVERYONE wanted to sell us. A polite ‘no’ was never enough until it got to the point of me loosing it at them, telling them to leave us alone

‘Smile, why you not smile? You’re on holiday’

This really didn’t help.

We visited Valley of the King’s and Karnak temple among others which were amazing, it was just a shame it was so hot.

We decided to ride from Luxor to Cairo in one day as we really wanted to get the bikes on the next ferry to Europe. It was a long day with nothing to see and at random intervals we had to have a police escort. We have no idea why, but it only seemed to be for 10-20 kms at a time so it didn’t slow us down too much.

In Cairo we stayed at a hotel which had a roof that overlooked the pyramids and displayed the evening light show.

The next day we went to visit the pyramids and saw the Sphinx which was the highlight – smaller than we’d imagined but pretty cool to see.

We raced to Alexandria hoping that if everything lined up for us we’d be able to get the bike on the boat due to depart for Italy on the 15th. Luckily for us it did!

Egypt for me has been a pleasant surprise. I expected the Egyptians to make life a lot harder for us with constant searching of the bike and general dodgyness, however unless they’re trying to sell you something, the Egyptians have been lovely.

We’ve had daily issues with the price of food increasing from when we order it to when we go to pay for it which has been frustrating but as I said, if they’re not trying to squeeze you for all the money you have they’ve been great!

As always the food was great to start with but before long we got a bit sick of the same few ingredients served in pita bread.

We take for granted the wide range of food we have available to us in Australia. Whilst in a foreign country we only ever eat local food and unfortunately in Africa there is no variety so it doesn’t take long to crave something new.

We’re off to Italy tomorrow and I’m dreaming of pizza, cheese and cold meat.

And wine.

Obviously.

Sudan (or India?)

A helpful local leading us the way on his donkey

Today as we were riding through the Sudanese desert for the third day, in 45 degree heat a thought came to my mind:

‘Would I prefer to be in Sudan or India?’

Just to put this into perspective, whilst I was in India I lost hair and felt like I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I also hold India responsible for going grey.

You can imagine how I’m feeling about Sudan.

As I said to Dean the other day: ‘this is my idea of hell’

After we left India I was unable to look at any photo I’d taken there for at least 6 months…but…at least I took photos….lots of them….so many….however here…I’m finding it hard to find anything very interesting.

It’s hot….so so hot, with no shade and no relief.

It’s an Islamic country which I always find depressing.

And there’s nothing here….just miles and miles of desert. It’s not unusual to see piles and piles of carcasses of cows, horses and donkeys off in the distance – the terrain so harsh animals just collapse and die.

Walking over a dune leading to one of Sudan’s many Nubian Pyramids

The people are lovely, very welcoming and friendly, as were Indians (when they weren’t trying to kill us on the road) and whilst here they have religion ruling their lives, India had the caste system which was equally as oppressive. Here Islam also has its own sort of caste system where men are the most important and women and animals come second and third – I’m not sure which comes second, women or animals but I do know the men spend alot more time with their animals than their wives (plural).

lovely lady selling chai (sweet black tea) on the highway where we took a break and drenched ourselves before continuing in the desert.

The terrain is dry and barren with mostly sand and rocks however one night we wild camped in some stunning sand dunes which was a beautiful experience.

Our camp in the dunes at one of the Nubian ruins

 

We have visited a few Nubian ruins, mostly small (30m high) sets of sandstone pyramids used for burying important people.  They’re something like 3000 years old!!  Pretty amazing when you consider that everything else in modern Africa is completely ruined within about three years.

The Sudanese haven’t worked out how much money tourism can bring, so we were able to ride up to most of the pyramids with no entrance fee at all, which is great for us. (India on the other hand was the other extreme and reamed tourists wherever they had the chance)

we didnt really want to pose for this, but Matias insisted 🙂


The most famous Ruin at Meroe, as seen from our camp. You can also see main set of pyramids off in the distance.

I came to the conclusion that I would choose India and then I remembered the horns…the incessant,stupid, loud, annoying horns which I think contributed to my almost nervous breakdown….no no no!!!

Ok, ok….so its not that bad here….it would probably be half enjoyable if it wasn’t so hot….

We’ve been showering in water from the Nile for the last few days and it looks like we will continue to do so until Cairo. The Nile is brown and so are our showers. Not just a bit brown, but completely brown, like putting a spade full of soil in a bucket, swirling it around and then showering in that.

this is the water coming from one of the many water “filters” around the place.

People here also drink it! We’re tough, but we’re not that tough. Throughout our whole trip we have avoided buying bottles of water and have filtered water when required. We’ve also refused the numerous plastic bags given to us in shops whilst trying to spread the word that plastic is bad (usually followed by blank looks). However here there’s too much dirt in the water to filter it, so we have no option other than to buy plastic bottles, which hurts our soul.

As a way to stay cool and sane, we refill 2 litre bottles with Nile water and soak our t-shirts and pants every time we stop the bike, so when we’re moving again the air cools the wet shirt and for about 30mins we escape the heat. The locals who are dressed head to toe in gowns and wear hats (and sometimes gloves and socks too) look at us like we’re crazy.

 

We were going to camp tonight but thankfully found a guesthouse with a fan. It’s 9pm and still 38°. Dean and I have both had a muddy shower and are preparing for another hot, sweaty night (not the good kind 😳) dean plans to lay a soaked t-shirt on him to try to stay cool, I may have to follow suit.

Heading to the border tomorrow where this is promise of air conditioning…

 

Hi all, I’ve just read Sal’s post and feel that maybe I should restore a little balance.  The Saharan desert here in Sudan is incredibly beautiful, but in the most harsh way.  I really like it, not so much the heat, but the vastness and the “don’t fuck with me or you’ll die out here” sense of it all.  It just seems to go on forever, dunes, stony mountains or rocky boulders strewn around the landscape like some giant sandpit, with the Nile feeding this thin line of green through the rock and sand.  And it’s HUGE, we’ve been riding north for a few days now, and have another three days to reach Cairo! 

We cross to Egypt tomorrow, please god, let there be cold beer in Egypt.

xxoo