I had the privilege of being part of the “Three Farmer’s and a Greek” trip to Cairo. Unfortunately my passport was stolen in the customs office while entering Sudan. I therefore did not get to experience Sudan and Egypt but saw Ethiopia twice as I had to ride back to Addis Ababa (940km) to get a temporary passport from the S.A. Embassy before flying home.
Africa is a fertile continent and anything grows here (tea,coffee, sugar cane, tobacco, bananas, pineapples, mangos, cut flowers, maize, teff rubber, timber etc etc. I am convinced that with its climate and rainfall Africa could feed the world. Africa however has it’s own rules and pace at which it operates. The people all live along the roads and this is where they do business. They are happy and content and always smiling in spite of extreme poverty, We found them to be very helpful and at no time did we feel unsafe or threatened.
We travelled through Namibia, which had just had a magnificent season and the grass was waving in seed. The Okavango river was in full flood and a sight to behold. Driving through the Caprivi we encountered elephant droppings on the tar and signs of their presence everywhere. We got a glimpse of 3 of them in the distance as we passed.
We camped above the Vic Falls in Zambia and awoke to the sounds of hippos in the morning. The falls were also at their highest level in many years.. On our way to Lusaka we passed through sparsely populated villages with their herds of cattle and goats. Lusaka is a relatively modern city with a lot of familiar franchises namely Spar, Shoprite, KFC and Wimpy etc.
In Malawi the poverty is particularly evident. We saw many bicycles loaded with goods weighing probably in excess of 400kgs. The country has not even got forex to purchase fuel supplies. All the resorts around the lake seem to be run by expats or foreigners.
Up to now we had had the roads pretty much to ourselves all the way from Cape Town. In Tanzania we encountered many heavily loaded trucks on the road. The number of wrecks and accidents that we encountered made one particularly careful and mindful of these rigs. We also encountered our first long stretches of dirt roads. The scenery was incredible and can only be appreciated by seeing the number of photographs taken. We had the privilege of spending a night at the Ngorongora Crater lodge as well as a trip into the crater which must surely be one of the highlights of this trip.
Nairobi is a vibrant city and can only be explained by saying the infrastructure has not kept pace with the population growth. The roads are incredibly congested. We spent 2 nights at Jungle Junction. This is a transit camp for travellers travelling North and South. This place has a vibe of its own. There are people skyping their families in the lounge, cooking in the kitchen, tinkering on their vehicles outside or discussing their trip with fellow travellers. We left Nairobi at 5am to avoid the traffic. Once across the equator Africa changes and even language becomes a problem. We were constantly in temperature of over 40oC and the landscape became hostile and arid with sparse vegetation and volcanic rock outcrops.
The nomadic people of this area spend their entire day collecting water with their camels and donkeys to water their livestock.
On entering Ethiopia our progress was a lot slower because of the winding roads and the never ending flow of people along the roads. The country is over populated and over stocked with livestock. This is very evident on the environment. The grazing is denuded and they are even cultivating crops on the steep stony mountain slopes. Trees are being chopped down either for timber or firewood and lorries carting this material can be seen all over. The country is very diverse and mountainous.
After leaving Addis Ababa we crossed the Blue Nile on our way north. It is a distance of 40kms from the top of the escarpment down to the river and back up the other side.The drop in altitude is 2000m and the temperature went from 16oC at the top to 47oC on the bridge at the bottom. The rock hewn churches of Lalibela must also rate as one of the highlights of the trip. The people of Ethiopia look slightly different and have almost European features. The beauty of this country lies in its diversity, from the highlands through the savannah to the desert area in the north, from it’s mountains to its rivers and vast lakes.
Once again this trip has been an experience of a life time and I have had the privilege of sharing it with three fantastic guys. Even being on a motor cycle is a different experience. One is exposed to the elements and therefore closer to nature. The fact that we were travelling without backup and only carrying our tents, tools and provisions etc gave one an almost pioneering feeling. It was just unfortunate that my trip was cut short and I was not able to finish in Cairo. I had all good intention of flying from Addis Ababa to Cairo to join my wife and son who had flown up to welcome the riders in. I arrived in A.A. on Tuesday evening and only had Wednesday to deal with all the red tape and beauracracy as Thursday was a public holiday and on Friday all government offices close at midday for 2 hrs so the Muslims can go to pray. There just wasn’t enough time to get a visa into Egypt and still complete all the paper work needed to ship my bike back to S.A. This would probably have added another 5 days to my stay in A.A. I flew home on Saturday and have had enough of airports. I arrived at A A airport at 6.30 am to catch my flight at 8.50 am. 7 minutes before take off I was still trying to get my passport stamped as they couldn’t find a record of me entering the country.I wore my riding boots under my jeans as there was no place for them in my luggage. At every security check I had to remove them and no sooner had I put them back on when I was confronted by an official saying, is that bag yours and can you please open it. My luggage as you can imagine was filthy and covered in dust and even mud so it attracted a lot of attention. Every time I opened it and exposed its contents it became more difficult to get it closed again. O.R Tambo was no different. By the time I had cleared costums in Jo-burg I had undressed 5 times and opened my bags 3 times. We landed in the rain in PE after the pilot threatened to divert to East London because of the rain. There was a travel agent waiting at the airport to take my passport and arrange a flight to Cairo as soon as I could get a visa .Needless to say I was gatvol and the only place that I was going to was home. I have come to terms with what happened and am grateful for the experience.
I would like to thank my wife and family for making it possible to embark on this lifetime adventure, which I experienced with the lads. I would also like to thank Rufus, Normanand Richard for the fellowship, comrade and teamwork that we experienced during our trip, which at times was challenging.
If there was something that I had learnt during the trip, it would be to exercise patience and tolerance amongst our friends and the local people, which at times may be difficult with all the bureaucracy that there is, especially with officials.
The trip has made me see things also in a different perspective and realize how fortunate we are back home in South-Africa.
I am sure we are going to make a difference to our local community with the incredible help of the sponsors, supporters and the broader public at large to this worthy course.
Thank you all for following and supporting us.
The trip was a lot easier than I had anticipated. Basically, we had the roads to ourselves, except when entering the larger cities: Lusaka, Nairobi, Kartoum and Cairo.
Throughout the trip the locals were friendly, helpful and pleasant.
It is so sad to see the huge potential in each country that is not being utilized.
The hygiene and levels of filth were also sad to see, especially Sudan, where they take it to a level all on it’s own – absolutely disgusting!
The unbearable heat was the only other negative contributing factor for me.
Definitely, without a doubt, the so called Western Aid to the African countries does more harm than good.
The success of the trip was largely due to Rufus whose navigational skills, computer skills and calm manner, made it all so enjoyable.
An experience of a lifetime!
This trip has made me realize how lucky we are with what we have and how special family and friends are. We take our busy career driven lives so seriously that we loose focus of the simple things in life. We have experienced and seen a mix of poverty and hardship to animal and human, as well as the luxury and splendour of those that play with the big money.
Africa is unique in many ways and the further we went up North the “wilder” it got. South Africa stands out as a leading country in Africa at a level that can be compared with the rest of the modern world. Most of the other countries we travelled through had a more relaxed atmosphere and if I may say a typical “African Way.” It initially irritated us to see the laid back, unprofessional approach of officials at border posts and the way people just seem to sit around everywhere, also the lack in general to keep things clean and tidy. I believe that it is a result of the unique exposures that we all get from our family homes. It would therefore be unfair to judge each other because our differences in standards and priorities.
The one thing that I realized was that we as South Africans should be grateful for what we have and be proud of our growing economy. In none of the other countries their governments do grants and handouts like ours. It has become so part of our lives and we are raising our children to expect nothing less. In big parts of Africa people work for “nothing” and are just too happy to have food to eat. In many of the arid rural areas in Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan the daily activity for those living there consists out of sourcing water and food for their animals.
I have learned that every problem has a solution, which might some times seem too big to solve, but with the right approach and help from your fellow citizen can be resolved. We as a group on our trip have come to know each other well and have formed a special bond through our hardship and joys. The support through the Blog was very special and we appreciate the interest we had through comments and media coverage. Thank you so much for helping our Hospital!