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!
Distance for the day – 0 km
Odometer – 13 998 km
Hours on the Bike – 00:00
Donations up to date for Adelaide Hospital – R 235 396
We arrived at Oliver Thambo International this morning after an 8 ½ hour flight from Cairo. It was good to be back in civilisation and we were impressed with the smooth way everything went at the airport. The new airport is something to be proud of as South Africans, because it definitely compares with the rest of the modern world. We shortly thereafter took the connecting flight for our final destination, Port Elizabeth.
At PE Airport friends and family were awaiting us and the reunion was emotional and very special. We have done it and were extremely happy to be back. It has been a challenging journey with so many stories to be told shared by four ordinary men that have become friends for life.
We wish to express our thanks to everybody involved that have contributed in whatever way and supported us in a once in a life time experience. Thank you so much for following us on the Blog. Thank you for all the donations towards the Adelaide Hospital – be proud of yourselves- you have contributed to make a significant difference to many people’s lives.
This Blog will be ended by a final word from each of the Three Farmers and a Greek.
Distance for the day – 0 km
Odometer – 13 998 km
Hours on the Bike – 00:00
Donations up to date for Adelaide Hospital – R 234 296
This was our last day in Cairo and we were booked on a flight late the evening back home. There were still a few things on the to-do list in Cairo, the largest city in Africa with its 20 million inhabitants, like visit the Market and possibly the Famous Egyptian Museum as well, but first things first, which was to sign a final document for releasing our motorbikes.
We were picked up by Mostafa Kamel of the shipping company Pure, which is an integrated Logistic Services Company. He was a pleasant lad with a good sense of humour and asked us if we were ready to experience some frustrating bureaucracy in a way that only the Egyptians could present it. The goal was to sign an affidavit to the shipping company to give them the authority to sign on our behalf, with the process of shipping our motorbikes back to South Africa. To do this we had to go into town and luckily we did not have to take the motorbikes along. Upon arriving at the institution where the magic document had to be completed, we were faced with our first problem. Our passports did not have the necessary residence stamp in it? We could either go back to our Hotel, which was going to take the biggest part of an hour or we could get it done at the passport office near the famous Midan Tahrir square in downtown. This sounded exiting and we decided to do this. Mostafa was giving us all the news of what happened there recently with all the violence in Cairo and also was a saving grace at the Passport Offices. We were shunted back and fourth from one official to the next, one floor to the other and after an hour and a half we left the offices with the required stamp in our passports.
We went back to our first stop for the day and then learned that we had to appoint an official interpreter to help us with our documentation. This cost us R150 pp after negotiations that started at R500 pp. The irony was that Mostafa was a hundred times more fluent in English than our R150 pp interpreter, but he did not have the magic authorization stamp on his ID. This stamp nearly cost us to postpone our trip back to SA because it did not comply with what one of the officials was requesting. It ended up in a big argument between our “Interpreter” and the head of the office. The three of us ended on the pavement outside, waiting, waiting and waiting. Money was the only way to solve the problem and we left late the afternoon, leaving all the corrupt fat cats with their share and Mostafo jokingly asking if we enjoying the bureaucracy yet? This ordeal wasted our whole day and we were just too glad to be back at the Hotel with only a few hours left before leaving for Johannesburg. We were just happy that finally everything was now in place realizing that it would never have happened without the help of Amid and Mostafo.
We had our last beer next to the pool at the hotel and said our goodbyes to Anton v Zyl and Paul Schenck. We then left for the Airport.
We woke this morning with some anxiety to organize the shipment of our motorbikes. We had different quotes from companies in South Africa and sister companies in Cairo. There were a lot of unanswered questions with regards to the right procedures and paperwork that had to be finalized first. We realized that the language issue was going to be a problem and we had to get someone local to help us.
We went to the Hotel’s Concierge room and met with Ahmed Ismail. He immediately got to work and a few hours later, organised a meeting with a shipping company. We were shocked with the rates, especially if we wanted to air-freight our motorbikes back so we decided to rather do it by sea. We first had to deregister the motorbikes and return the Egyptian number plates to the licensing department.
After all of this we paid the Shipping Company and signed the final documentation – job done thanks to the excellent work of Ahmed. Later that afternoon, we got a message to meet the following morning with the guy from the shipping company, for a final document that we had to sign.
Distance for the day – 65 km
Odometer – 13 998 km
Hours on the Bike – 02:35
Donations up to date for Adelaide Hospital – R 234 296
Our mission for the day was to get to the famous 4000 year old Giza Pyramids to have a last photo of us and the bikes in front of it. Stelios decided to leave his motorbike at the hotel, because it keeps cutting out when the temperature gauge starts rising. He hopped on with Rufus and off they went on a short 30 km ride that was going to take them 1 ½ hours through the crazy traffic of Cairo to face the wall of noise, snarl of traffic, cry of hawkers and blanket of smog. Cairo, Africa’s largest city, is the capital city of Egypt and has been renowned for centuries as a centre of learning, culture and commerce.
Cairo is a unique mix of medieval buildings and skyscrapers, bazaars and modern shopping malls, museums packed with ancient relics and stunning new bridges.
We worked our way through the traffic, alert with the constant sound of hooting in the air. We had come to the conclusion that a normal three-lane road is used as a four-lane mass of vehicles moving in the same direction and that the actual lane lines does do not mean anything. The drivers are not driving aggressively and give way to whoever wants to cut across five lanes to make a u-turn at the next break in the pavement. The challenge, however, was that our Tracks4Africa software on the GPS did not facilitate the city map and was guiding us in a general direction after punching in the Co-ordinates of our destination. We have had this experience in most of the big cities we have travelled through and it would be wise to maybe get the street maps for them loaded before attempting to navigate.
When we reached the Giza pyramids we were faced with the unpleasant bureaucracy that people warn you of. About 500 m from the parking area locals tried to stop us, indicating that there is no parking ahead. They would then show you a parking space and offer their services as a self appointed tourist guide to help you go through security and get a ticket. This will be offered with no charge because “you are welcome” and they are your “friend”. It would obviously be expected from you to pay him at the end for his good will and this is often where the “friendship” ends. We ignored them and got to the first gate, with security.
They indicated that motorbikes were not allowed into the car parking area and waved us away. We then asked “special” permission to enter as far as the car park to take our photo. It was agreed and we went on. Another security officer stopped us ahead and shouted at us to turn back. After some more negotiations he allowed us to park in the car park. The problem was that nowhere could we get the appropriate picture, because of the buildings and security walls. Rufus spotted a security officer with some heavy brass on the shoulder and asked permission to bring the motorbikes closer to the main entrance, and park them on the side walk to have a quick photo taken and then immediately return. He agreed and we jumped the curb. Suddenly, all hell broke loose with security running towards us from all directions. A commotion started with people shouting back and fourth, with us just standing in silence, waiting for our fate. They were going on about national security and that we needed special permission from the governor to take our picture with the bikes in front of the pyramids. In the same token, busses and some privileged private cars and taxis were waved through another set of security gates to stop a stone throw away from the pyramids. We were shunted around and eventually had enough and left with our motorbikes to park outside the first security checkpoint on the sidewalk. With some tricks we managed to get a good photo.
We were all irritated and went back to buy our ticket and enter through the gates. The pyramids and sphinx was spectacular and a must-see when visiting Cairo. This is the sole survivor of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Tomorrow we need to finalize our deregistering of the bikes and arrangements with the shipping company.
Distance for the day – 152 km
Odometer – 13 933 km
Hours on the Bike – 02:21
Donations up to date for Adelaide Hospital – R 129 756.50
The Stella Di Mare turned out to be a very nice stay. We had good food and enjoyed the Beach with its exclusivity.
Rufus decided to take the opportunity for a Scuba dive with the Hotels Dive Charter, while Richard and Stelios relaxed in the sun.Stella Diving is run by two Italians, Matteo & Benedetta. They quickly got it all organized and Kiro and Bassem took Rufus to a nice spot by the name of Harris Rock. The dive was a little disappointing because of low visibility due to the heavy winds of the day before, but the sea life was beautiful with lots of colourful fish and hard and soft coral. Unfortunately the dive was deeper than what the camera could handle and it had to be left on board.
We left just after midday and headed west on our last stretch to Cairo. It was exiting and we could not wait.
As we got closer to the city the traffic started to increase and before we new it we were part of an intimidating mass of vehicles, honking, pushing and shoving to work our way to the Hotel. The estimates on the GPS were completely out and we understood why people say that Cairo has the worst drivers. We did not have the correct coordinates for the InterContinental Citystars Hotel and ended at a place +/- 2 km’s away. A process of asking locals, and phoning the Hotel helped us to find our way. At some stage Rufus handed his helmet to a bellboy at a Hotel to speak to someone at our destination, via the Bluetooth connection. It was quit a site to see the guy with his uniform on wearing a helmet and making hand signals while he was talking. Now this of course was a helmet that has just done a 46 day ride from Cape Town, brown with dirt and sweat on the inside and the Bellboy handed it back in disgust.
We eventually got to the Hotel and were blown away with the glamour and warm welcoming at the Hotel Entrance with refreshments. Paul Schenck, the Executive Assistant Manager of InterContinental Cairo Citystars, accompanied by Anton v Zyl of Coca-Cola Cairo had it all perfectly planed with a lovely dinner later in the evening.
The five star Hotel is a fine example of absolute luxury and the stunning décor is everything you could wish for. It has 790 spacious rooms that are elegantly furnished with mahogany vanities. What a way to end our trip!
Tomorrow we will visit the pyramids and take the famous “Look where are we now photo”. We have to organize the shipment for our bikes and will be flying back with SAA on Wednesday night to arrive at 11:55 on Thursday 19 May 2011 in Port Elizabeth.
Distance for the day – 625 km
Odometer – 13 781 km
Hours on the Bike – 07:32
Donations up to date for Adelaide Hospital – R 129 756.50
We had our last long hall today and covered 625 km’s on a road that would, under normal circumstances, be easy driving, but was a huge challenge for us because of Gail force winds. We averaged on the trip thus far a fuel consumption of just over 21km/L. Well, today we at some stages barely got 14km/L.
We left Luxor, following the route North all along the Nile for the first 60 km’s, which was scenic but slow, because of many security Police checkpoints, every one to five km’s apart. They mostly waved us through at these checkpoints with a couple that we had to stop to answer the usual questions. “Wher’e you come from, wher’e you going?” They were all very friendly and we had no problems. We then turned east on a quiet road to the Red Sea to join a beautiful double road along the coastline heading North.
We were all amazed by the developments along the coastline of the Red Sea. The one impressive Holiday Resort upon the next is being built. A lot of them seem to be halted for some reason and you drive through these ghost towns with half finished buildings everywhere. Where are all these Holiday makers coming from? Hurghada seems to be the favourite spot with most developments around here. Another very scenic area, with big mountains on the shore line is a further 300 km’s north of Hurghada, also bursting out of it seems with new resorts being built.
The brown hostile Dessert landscape is edged off with the bright blue colour of the beautiful Red Sea. The Red Sea stretches over an area of 2 250 km’s in length and 355 km’s in width .It is the world’s northern most tropical sea and is a diving Mecca for the adventurous that likes to scuba dive, with over 2000km’s of coral reefs to explore. The Suez Canal in the northern part joins the Red sea with the Mediterranean Sea and has always been a popular gateway for ships. It however lost its popularity in the 70’s due to wars and currently the route around Cape Town is still mostly used.
The Red Sea is one of the most saline bodies of water in the world, due to high evaporation and very little precipitation as well as the lack of significant rivers or streams draining into the sea. Wind is the driving force in the Red Sea for transporting the material either as suspension or as bed load.
We had it all planned to stop the night at an isolated resort by the name of Hotel Mar Rojo. We arrived at 15:30 at a closed entrance. The name of the resort was now the Zaafarana Hotel & Resort, but unfortunately closed not so long ago.
Is this the effect of the political unrest that Egypt is currently facing and the decline in 95% in the tourist business, as one businessman reported? The Hotel in Luxor was also a shining example of what the whole tourist industry is currently facing. It had hundreds of rooms with only a handful of visitors. In fact the section of the Hotel that we occupied was without electricity when we arrived, which obviously was isolated when not in use. The number of horse coaches and taxi’s in Luxor that are just parked is another testament of an industry in a bleeding stage. They hassle you with a sense of urgency and are prepared to cut their rates to the bone, just to get your business.
We ended the day at the Stella Mare Hotel & Resort and were glad to stop, unpack and relax. The wind of day was most challenging and we were all pretty tired. The rate for the night of $50 per person included dinner, bed and breakfast. Tomorrow we have only 150km to Cairo and are all much exited to finish the journey.