Wild Dog Adventure Riding

Riding: Plan, Report and Racing => Ride Reports => Topic started by: Xpat on October 05, 2014, 06:31:13 pm

Title: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Xpat on October 05, 2014, 06:31:13 pm

I was asked at work to prepare a small presentation about bike trip I did in 2005/2006 that took me from Prague to Cape Town. While I was going through the pictures I thought there may be people here who may find the trip interesting. So here goes - itís not going to be standard ride report with detailed description of the trip as itís been long time ago (and it would take months of hard work which Iím not prone to), but rather a photo-report of highlights of each country with short commentaries and snippets I still remember to hopefully put things into a bit of context.

Little background: Over the years Iíve done quite a bit of backpacking around the world until 2000, when on my mates urging Iíve made driving licence, bought Africa Twin and went for a 3 months overland trip to India and back to Prague. Five years of rat race later, I felt in dire need of another proper R&R - another overland trip. Ever since the India trip I had Africa at the back of my mind. After Asia, Africa seemed as the most logical overland destination as there is no need to ship the bike, or only worst case only one way. Plus, quite frankly, Africa must be the top destination (bar none) for any self-respecting seasoned adventure biker.

Which I was not. Yes, I have ridden 25 000 km to India and back a month after I got drivers licence, but since then Iíve just ridden occasional summer weekend and eventually almost stopped biking completely. So when the time came for this trip I decided to substitute missing substance with form. I went full in and purchased the best the money could buy: almost new GSA1150, Touratech panniers, full BMW Rally twatsuit, tank bag and lots of other crap. Oh my, as Iím writing this I feel sympathy for the younger and slimmer naive idiot, but the truth is, if I could reach back in time I would have given my little self a proper klap over the back of the head to get some sense.

Here is the young slim idiot somewhere on Lake Nasser:

To my credit, I came up with all this on my own - I have never seen or heard about the two British lads (is that short of ladies?) prior to the trip and used to react very grudgingly when asked by random tourists if I ride the GS because of Evan. And to be fair, while I did end up sending quite a lot of stuff like rally jacket back home, the GS did quite well - out of total of 40 000 km, I have ridden about 15 000 km off tar and few thousands I would even qualify as offroad (e.g. deep sandy double tracks in Sinai, Sudan or rocky Kaokoland) The only issue I had by the time Iíve made it to Cape Town was slight leak in the rear shaft. And the only time I had to turn back was on the Kunene river track between Swartbortsdrift and Epupa Falls, and that was mainly because I hit it in the late afternoon and didnít have a clue where it is going.

But the trip would have been much more fun on 640 Adv, XT600 or DR650, to mention bikes available at the time (sadly, those are still probably the only options available now - maybe with exception of Tenere or possibly Terra) and of course using soft luggage.

In terms of route, I wanted to go overland down the east coast, via Syria and Jordan. Iím not big on planning and usually figure things out once on the way, so I have just secured upfront visa for Sudan and Ethiopia which were supposed to be very unpredictable (and maybe Syria, donít remember now), bought maps, Lonely Planet and was ready to go. This is the rough route I ended up doing (total of 40 000 km):


I did not have hard deadline (I quit my job), but I expected to take about 6 months to get down to Cape Town, ship bike and fly refreshed back to rat cage called Europe. I ended up taking one year to get to CT (September 2005 - September 2006), in the process got bitten by the African bug, managed to score a job in South Africa and stayed here since.

Iím not going to cover the Europe and Turkey portion as I have just rushed through those and they are not that interesting anyway (except for Turkey). To get to Syria I have ridden through Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Rokie on October 05, 2014, 08:12:44 pm
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on October 05, 2014, 08:22:26 pm

I find what  is happening in Syria now really tragic, as it is one of my favourite muslim countries. As other muslim countries there was palpable sense of community which was a nice contrast to the strong western individualism. People Iíve encountered were very welcoming and hospitable and despite the strict community/religious rules, life there seemed to keep the level of vibrancy I have not seen in other muslim countries (except Turkey) - I especially liked very lively souks (markets). This was quite a contrast to letís say Iran, where people are also extremely nice, but somewhat subdued probably due to the constant persecutions from the vice police.

The highlights for me were the town of Aleppo with its citadel and lively souk, and the Roman and medieval ruins scattered in surprising numbers throughout Syria - not surprising probably to someone with proper education, but to this idiot the heavy European influence came as quite a surprise.

My route through Syria:


On the way from turkish border to Aleppo I came across first set of Roman ruins - can't remember the name:



And a picture of my trusty steed - I have to say that it looks really weird on slicks, kind of like naked guy in tank top and socks. I have started on slicks to cover the boring tar and save the knobblies (which were waiting for me poste-restante in Amman in Jordan) for dirt, which I expected to start in earnest in Sinai. From Amman it was TKCs all the way to Cape Town.


Aleppo is the biggest Syrian city in the north-west - first major town I encountered in Syria and my favourite as it is centred around impressive citadel on the hill with adjacent lively souk (market). Entrance to the citadel:







(https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-SfU0w0h34tY/VC2mJRRqdpI/AAAAAAAABkk/mE2ieyVwogs/s576/051002%2520104-25.jpg)    (https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-yeok86X1_gA/VC2mOHyTkPI/AAAAAAAABk8/M_ZmdlwFLLM/s576/051003%2520104-13.jpg)

Souk - market:




While I kind of expected some Roman ruins as those predated muslims in the area, medieval fortress Krak des Chevaliers in the mountains to the north of Lebanon was total surprise as it clearly must have been built by Europeans long after the area was controlled by muslims. The fortress  was built and used by crusaders during their infamous exploits:


(https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-_iawy5aTqL8/VC2mjeLPgZI/AAAAAAAABmE/aMHZzqP85Gg/s576/051005%2520105-5.jpg)    (https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-WG-eek0CXDw/VC2mjnMeR_I/AAAAAAAABmI/A7VTYiVJWbw/s576/051005%2520105-30.jpg)

Next I moved to Palmyra - an oasis north east of Damascus, famous for the Roman ruins - quite impressive I have to say:




If I remember correctly Damaskus is one of the oldest if not the oldest inhabited city in the world, and of course the capital of Syria. It's main attraction is the Umayyad Mosque:








Damaskus streets and souks:




(https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-D9h5eS11ios/VC2m3Ej6fxI/AAAAAAAABnM/2Ym0_SkdC28/s576/051009%2520107A-01.jpg)    (https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-8J0uU6yC53U/VC2nWTvXqTI/AAAAAAAABpA/Mf0yJGXtEr4/s576/051009%2520108-55.jpg)



Next - Jordan
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: 4 Kays on October 05, 2014, 08:22:26 pm
 :sip:  :thumleft:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Dirt Junkie on October 05, 2014, 08:38:08 pm
Following with interest
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: gwild on October 05, 2014, 09:01:27 pm
Awesome keep it coming, thx for sharing  :thumleft:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: troos on October 05, 2014, 09:15:01 pm
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on October 05, 2014, 09:46:24 pm

I did not fell for Jordan the same way as I did for Syria - actually it left me quite cold. I think it finds itself in the odd position of the only Arab country allied (or at least genuinely non-threatening) to Israel. It is basically Israelís buffer zone against its enemies further east. My take on this history  - probably completely wrong - is that Jordan together with other arab countries attacked Israel (not sure if it was Jom Kipur or Six Day war) and got beaten badly. On top of it (but probably unrelated) the Palestinian refugees flooded across the border from Israel and created bases for the Palestinian resistance against Israel. They eventually threatened to overtake the Jordanian government if it does not give them free hand to do as they wish. At which point Jordanian king said enough, sent troops into the refugee camps and made pact with Israel to combat this common threat. As I said - I may be completely wrong on this one, but I cannot be bothered to do the research now.

As far as Iím concerned it's great that Jordan coexists  peacefully with Israel but it seemed to my untrained eye that Jordan may have payed with a bit of its soul for this pact. The contrast against Syria was quite stark. The people seemed colder and less hospitable. The difference was also visible in things like cars or military hardware - while Syrian military used mostly Russian weapons (tanks, BVPs, AKs), and surprising number of cars were Ladaís, or at best older frenchie motors, Jordanians used american military hardware (for example Humvees, M16s) and surprising number of cars on the road were american pick-up trucks and SUVs.

But maybe Iím just seeing ghosts and this all was just result of the fact that there is much more westerners in Jordan and therefore they are used to them and do not treat them any special.

Main highlights for me were quite obvious - Petra (yep the Indiana Jones film set) and Wadi Ram. Also, Iím not religious, but despite my extremely thin grasp of the biblical story (we somehow didnít cover that subject in the communist schools), I could not help but notice lots places with biblical references. Which was interesting as I kind of considered bible as more or less fairy tale (not trying to offend anybody here - just showing the depth of my ignorance) and to see that some of the places it refers to really exist (even though I kind of knew it, but also didnít) was a bit of an eye opener.

Map of my route through Jordan:


Northern Jordan - Roman ruins on Jordanian side, Golan heights and Sea of Galilee held by Israel across the valley:


Roman ruins in Jarash - there is something very special about them, but cannot remember what:










After I managed to extract my TKC tyres that I've sent upfront from the post office in Amman I headed in an a westward arch including Dead Sea towards Petra in the south. Some pictures along the way:





Petra is one of those annoying must see places. Don't take me wrong, it is very impressive, but lots of it's charm is stolen by the hordes of tourists, especially the  unsocialised ones like Russians. So if you are going, I recommend to start very early in the morning so you get some lead over the organised hordes - plus the light is much better for pictures:

The canyon leading to the valley (the one Harrison Ford rushes through on the horse back - you can do it too, for a fee). You all familiar with this - play the music in your head:

(https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-tm8yO2_L8RU/VC22Sv9oSqI/AAAAAAAABsg/GPLHqeG29Q0/s576/051014%2520111-03.jpg)    (https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-8KZ7d9E9XA0/VC22SRvZtjI/AAAAAAAABsc/4FEFrsFJMV0/s576/051014%2520111-12.jpg)










At the southern tip of Jordan lies jewel called Wadi Ram - set of beautiful wadis (valleys) and hiding place of Lawrence of Arabia. For me it was the first chance to pop my cherry in deep sand on GS. I've done the BMW off road training (equivalent of the Country Trax thingy but done directly by BMW in Germany), but my sand exposure there was limited to two tries to go throughout about 20 meters of sand - both unsuccessful.





After Wadi Ram it was short hop to Aqaba at the Red Sea, where I was to catch the boat to Nuweiba on Sinai peninsula in Egypt 70 km away - my first African country (is Sinai part of Africa or Asia??). There is slow boat in the evening used mostly by locals, and fast boat used by foreigners in the morning. I arrived in the afternoon and could have waited till morning, but I was kind of done with Jordan (somebody annoyed me that day at petrol station), so took the slow boat with locals. Locals were mostly Egyptian pilgrims (all in white) returning from haj to Mecca. The atmosphere on the boat was very relaxed and friendly - like one big family, including the adopted BMW branded idiot, and I've spent warm night on the upper deck surrounded by feasting families (it was Ramadan). But the boat was slow - it took whole night from 8:00 pm to 6:00 am to cross 70 km of calm water, partially because of all the praying that had to be done.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Jondu on October 05, 2014, 09:55:08 pm
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: DUSTRIDERS on October 05, 2014, 10:35:53 pm
Sub :thumleft:

Please could you only use pics with the GSA in it :deal: ;)
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Roarman on October 05, 2014, 11:36:53 pm
Awesome. Can't wait for the rest.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Draad on October 06, 2014, 01:37:24 am
 :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Airguitar on October 06, 2014, 08:51:55 am
I'm enjoying this one. I can even hear your Czech accent in my head as I read.  :biggrin:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Brandt on October 06, 2014, 08:56:28 am
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: westfrogger on October 06, 2014, 10:17:20 am

Thank you ... following with keen interest.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: ArthurS on October 06, 2014, 10:30:10 am
 :sip:  :deal:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: COLES on October 06, 2014, 10:31:36 am
magnificent report what a beautiful area such great photo,s you are a lucky fellow
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Wolzak on October 06, 2014, 10:41:00 am
Hell yes. Subscribed.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Jakkals on October 06, 2014, 10:52:53 am
Sub :thumleft:

Please could you only use pics with the GSA in it :deal: ;)

Why ?  :patch:

We all know how a GSA looks and can sure see he did the trip with his bike, nothing wrong with your foto's, it is great.  :thumleft:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: eSKaPe on October 06, 2014, 01:15:34 pm
Fascinating trip, carry on with the rest...
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Wooly Bugger on October 06, 2014, 01:18:16 pm
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on October 06, 2014, 02:12:21 pm
Thank you. Will post next installment tonight.

@ChrisL: Don't worry, as the 'civilization' thins-out and bush thickens, so will GS porn.

@ Airguitar: In my head I sound like Stephen Fry or Craig Ferguson - when I'm trying to be Scottish. To my annoyance people usually politely ask back 'Are you from Germany?' (quite bad) or '... from Russia?' (much worse).
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: AJALP on October 06, 2014, 03:31:38 pm
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: melvman on October 06, 2014, 03:47:39 pm
subscribed, magnificient photos, thanks for sharing
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: ROOI on October 06, 2014, 03:50:01 pm
subscribed, magnificient photos, thanks for sharing

Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on October 06, 2014, 11:31:10 pm

Egypt of course was seat of one of the worldís first civilizations, remains of which are today still one of its main revenue sources. That civilization was probably the most advanced society of its time. However the current is not and the Egyptians are probably painfully aware of that.

My general impression of Egyptian population was one of suppressed anger simmering right under the surface and kept at bay only by then dictator Mubarakís huge security services (Iíve heard somewhere that there were 5 million secret police busy keeping tabs on the population). I think the main reason was huge rift between the outwardly western orientated secular government, and the instincts of the predominantly conservative muslim population. Nowhere was this contrast better illustrated than in the Red Sea resorts of Hurghada, or Sharm el Sheikh where western woman (or rather northern woman, as these include huge numbers of Russians) sunbath in skimpy bikini or topless while being served by young Egyptians for whom that kind of sight is normally preceded by some serious long term commitment (to be fair to the northern woman, some of them charitably helped the young Egyptians to release the tension).

How this came about is anybodyís guess, mine is this: after the high hopes of the independence, the Egyptians got crushed badly in the Six Day war with Israel - they even lost for long period control of the Sinai peninsula. Somewhere in this mess  Mubarak took over in military coup and switched alliances from until then the main ally Soviet Union to USA/West. As an ally of US his regime gradually alienated the predominantly conservative Arab population with its policies (e.g. keeping peace with Israel, suppressing Muslim Brotherhood movement). To keep the general frustration in check he build extensive repressive force - and there is no mechanism in place to ventilate this accumulated frustration.  

While I could understand their frustration I found it difficult to root for the suppressed population - I have to say I did not find them easily likeable. The atmosphere to me was permeated by sulking macho pushy big gut attitude and lacked the courteousness and sophistication of Syrians or Iranians.

My route:


As said in the prior installment I got to Egypt - Nuweiba on Sinai - by boat from Aqaba in Jordan. I would have prefered to come overland, but that would have required crossing Israel which could potentially prevent me from getting to Sudan (Sudanese used to check passports not only for Israeli stamps - you can agree with Israelis not to stamp your passport, but also for the stamps of the crossings on the Jordanian and Egyptian side).

With a help of a young Egyptian police captain I got through the border formalities (which included getting Egyptian number plate for the bike) in Nuweiba within an hour - e.g. at about 7:00 am. I was knackered - I spend prior day riding, including sand in Wadi Ram and stayed up whole night on the boat. But there was nowhere to stay in Nuweiba, so I rode few dozen km on the empty tar road to the small seaside village of Dahab.

I have planned to stay 2 days in Dahab - Iím not a beach guy and one day is more than enough to get me bored out of my mind. But Dahab turned up to be very charming village with quite a few dive shops, traditional seaside restaurants furnished with ground mattresses and shishas, few bars and very laid back atmosphere. I ended up staying for two weeks (and came back later for one more week to wait for some parts I lost on the bike) - I got somehow hooked into a diverse constantly changing group of travellers, which included German couple who came from Thailand on Tuk-Tuk (via Japan, Russia and all those Stans in between as they wouldnít let them go through Burma), German and Australian oaks who came up from Cape Town (German on XT600, Aussie on 640 Adventure). They even managed to bully me to take open sea and advanced diving courses - I did not care about diving then and still donít today. Somehow Iíve lost all the pictures from Dahab, sorry.

While in Dahab Iíve found out that there is a KTM shop run by French guy in Sharm el Sheikh, which also runs bike trips through Sinai. Despite my dubious choice of bike I was very keen to do as much offroad as possible in Africa - but Wadi Ram showed me that I need some serious practice before I dive further into Africa. So I headed there to find out what I can learn.

Sharm el Sheik is this repulsive (to me) artificial tourist resort overrun by Russians, where locals feel like foreigners in their own country. I did not like it one bit, but then I had a purpose so just found quickly a hotel at the outskirts before I headed out into the desert where the KTM shop was located. In front of the hotel I found this sorry sight - it belonged to a Croatian guy who wanted to go to CT, but when he made it to Sharm he decided that his calling was to be a Divemaster (in frigging Sharm!!!) and promptly decided to stay indefinitely. These seemed to be quite frequent occurrence on Sinai:


KTM shop was not a dealership (pity - I was harbouring a secret hope for possible bike swap), but rather an offroad park in desert providing mostly for quad rides in the park and surrounds. I agreed with that to give me one day training in sand on their KTM 640 Enduro. My instructor was Abdul - he did not speak a word of English, but we managed just fine. Brm-brm in high pitched voice for higher revs, in low pitched for lower revs. The only misunderstanding - but pretty important one - was when I asked him to lower my GS tyre pressures (they had compressor with meter, I left mine in hotel) and he refused which was strange. I insisted and he eventually concurred. Iíve found only 4 days and 100s of km of deep sand riding later that instead of lowering the pressure he actually increased pressure from 2 to 3 bar.

They had a field about 100m long of really deep sand with crisscrossing tracks and within an hour I was riding through the sand like champ. But then I had to do the same on GS and I experienced viscerally the idiocy of my bike choice. But there was nothing to it so I persevered and eventually was able to get across without falling over. I also realised limitations of the BMW jacket in hot desert and bought for the overpriced (no choice china) second hand ballistic jacket (stitched with cable ties) and motocross shirt. That proved to be a winner - I ended up sending the Rally jacket back home from Khartoum.

To expand my skills the following two days Abdul took me each day on trips of about 120 km through the valleys of SInai - him on 640 me on GS (yes still on 3 bars). It was hot and hard work, but paid off million times back. The funny thing I did not realize at time was that it was Ramadan and Abdul was not allowed to drink anything during day - so he basically have ridder in scorching sun through lots of deep sand without a drop of water. Havenít complained once - respect.






Once done with the training I headed back to Dahab, but this time solo offroad with full luggage through the wadis Abdul took me through (I traced the tracks on GPS). It was a bit struggle but I was not falling much - I still had to dig-out and lift the bike many times when my rear wheel dug in.



I had to dig out the bitch sometimes 10 - 15 times a day:


From Dahab I headed to St. Catherine monastery sitting at the bottom of Mt. Sinai - yep, the place where Moses received the Ten Commandments, or Ark of Covenant. There is perfectly fine tar road going there, but Iíve found on a map (unfortunately on my GPS I had only Garmin world map, which is completely useless even for tar - I found out about T4A only much later in Etiopia) a line that indicated that there should be offroad route of about 90 km that could take me there. I found it and in two tries (once I had to return to Dahab and get new rear wheel screws when I found out that I lost two of them) made it eventually to the St. Catherine. I became quite good in sand, but still ended up picking the fully loaded bike at least 10 - 15 times a day, mostly because my rear wheel dug in and I had to throw the bike on its side to get it unstuck.

Wadis up to St. Catherine (I think ChrisL may enjoy these):










When I eventually made it to St.Catherine in the afternoon of the second try, I went immediately for hike with sleepover on the top of Mount Sinai. Itís quite a hike - especially once youíve just ridden 90 km in deep sand - and Iíve made it there just after sunset. It was very tranquil (there were just few other people sleeping over plus few local vendors), mystical and cold (I was sleeping on my blow up mattress and sleeping bag) and I was looking forward to the sunrise in the morning, hoping not to oversleep.

St.Catherine monastery:



Track to Mt.Sinai:



You can get yourself ferried part of the way:

(https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-Jsa2FiIdOpY/VC8Ow0ddR8I/AAAAAAAAByo/2LHnt1FhBvA/s576/051109%2520116-03.jpg)    (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-PgZC62sXnyI/VC8O41h8xMI/AAAAAAAABzA/-GM0DtvYs3c/s576/051109%2520116-18.jpg)


No need to worry - at about 5am I was woken up by a Russian herd stampeding all over me elbowing each other for best position for the sunrise shot. Apparently travel agencies herd them into the buses in Sharm el Sheikh at about 2:00 am drive them up 150 km and then run them up the hill to get that sunrise shot. Once the sun was above horizon, within 10 minutes they were all gone - quite bizarre, I wasnít sure that it really happened.













There is even a loo:


Next I headed to Cairo. Not my favourite - it is huge, bustling and dirty city, but obviously a must visit to see the pyramids in Giza. Oh yeah, and the Egyptian museum - I liked best the mummies, including the one of 7 meter long Nile crocodile (yep, Iím that simple).

On the way to Cairo:










Lady demonstrating the legendary Russian sensitivity for the host country (and the belly fat):


I tried to extend my visa in Cairo - I was quickly running out of allocated 1 month due to my exploits in Sinai. I was worried that me overstaying in a police state may have unpleasant repercussions, but it proved to be so much hassle that I eventually gave up and decided to wing it on the exit.

From Cairo I headed south-west to the Western Desert to visit the famous White Desert - an area where wind and water eroded the surface into surreal shapes, which for some to me unknown reason took on a white colour.





Overland truck and 4x4 overnighting below my spot:



Morning, including my secluded spot:




From the White Desert I headed south-east back to Nile and it's main tourist attraction - Luxor and it's Valley of Kings




To be continued
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Wolzak on October 07, 2014, 08:42:52 am
Wow those are beautiful Photos and a well written RR. :thumleft: Thank you!
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: mox on October 07, 2014, 09:23:49 am
Sub !
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Minxy on October 07, 2014, 10:31:44 am
Beautiful, beautiful photos so far! Your trip looks just magic. Please keep it coming  :happy1:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Hentie @ Riders on October 07, 2014, 10:44:00 am
 :happy1:  :thumleft:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Wooly Bugger on October 07, 2014, 10:48:13 am
+ 1 000 000!
epic stuff!
well done.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Airguitar on October 07, 2014, 12:12:40 pm
I'm enjoying this very much!  :thumleft:

Tell me these roads don't call out to something in you..


I think this is the best RR of Egypt I've ever seen! Bravo!!
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on October 07, 2014, 04:07:47 pm
Thank you for comments. I'll try to finish Egypt portion tonight.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on October 07, 2014, 11:37:57 pm
Egypt - part 2

Luxor is situated on the upper Nile (e.g. in the south of Egypt) and is the site of the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes. According to Wikipedia it has been frequently called Ďthe worldís greatest open air museumí, with the main highlights being ruins of the Karnak and Luxor temples situated in the city on the east side of Nile and Valley of Kings - a burial ground of some of the most prominent Egyptian pharaohs - across the river on the west side.

In other words - tourist trap. Iím probably starting to sound like a spoiled brat, but Luxor - like Petra in Jordan - is one of those places that you must see while passing by, even though you know that they cannot possibly live up to the hype. Donít take me wrong - the sights there are very impressive event to history numbnut like me. But as a result of the hype they are swarmed by groups of packaged tourist who cannot even pee without guide showing them where and how (surprising number of them Czechs), and inevitably leave you feeling a bit underwhelmed (due to your own exaggerated expectations). So the visit turns out rather like an obligatory chore, than a journey of wonder and enjoyment that you can experience at some other much less known sites (for example Lalibela in Ethiopia). Yes, I am a snob - though very unsophisticated one.

Valley of Kings - its full of tombs of famous pharaohs dug into the mountain, but pictures are not allowed inside so this is all I have:


Luxor on the other side of Nile - you can see clearly delineated green zone along Nile flanked on both sides by desert:








Guards of the road to the Valley of Kings:


Valley of Kings is on the other side of this hill:


Karnak temple (including public erection in muslim country):

(https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-xzLgfXHAFws/VC8QIsuYDqI/AAAAAAAAB4A/-a5cfLiVLyA/s576/051116%2520119-54.jpg)    (https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-RSJ_WeAVCYA/VC8P3zd_LPI/AAAAAAAAB3A/ZX6S9Bk0Dkk/s576/051116%2520119-08.jpg)




(https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-TMe_WX0hsbo/VC8P8fQjMMI/AAAAAAAAB3Q/iddglAEvWN4/s576/051116%2520119-17.jpg)    (https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-Kh5dAXJZmAw/VC8QAOMw1iI/AAAAAAAAB3g/YaQDbK5meIc/s576/051116%2520119-28.jpg)



(https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-w4eDNzY2_YY/VC8QB399i1I/AAAAAAAAB3s/85Ht5vAYvXc/s576/051116%2520119-45.jpg)    (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-snkU5Kime7g/VC8QCzLgCuI/AAAAAAAAB34/FFKEuQ-oJVw/s576/051116%2520119-48.jpg)





Cool machinery - most of it probably better in sand than my pony:






Luxor temple:





I have stayed in a hotel recommended through the travellers grapevine as the place where overlanders gather before they move on to Assuan (in group in obligatory police convoy - more about that below) and further into Sudan. And sure enough they were gathering in some numbers: in the courtyard Iíve met Bill & Claire from UK in Defender, the Dutch couple Eric and Daniela in one of those veteran Land Rovers with whooping 56 HP (the ones you have seen in the Elsa movies - youíll see pictures later) and 66 year old Belgian Loek in Landcruiser. Dutches and Brits were on the obligatory trip to Cape Town, Loek on his second trip to Ethiopia (for the only reason that really matters - love). Later arrivals were 4 Swedes from a Christian charity in Landcruiser trying to get from Sweden to Mozambique in 2 months - one of them and car had some charity gig there and the rest were in just for the ride.


As mentioned, we - foreigners - were allowed to travel from Luxor to Asuan (the southernmost Egyptian city on the north end of Lake Nasser and set-off point for Sudan) only in organized police convoys once a day. This turned out to be a comedy of note (which sometimes turns deadly - there was an accident about half a year ago when one of the convoy minibuses with tourists crashed into another at police check-point killing 4 Belgians). When we arrived to the staging area in the morning, the place was swarmed with heavily armed black clad police (one of the ninjas had no less than three different submachine guns hanging off him) leisurely swaggering among the minibuses trying to impress packaged tourists heading for Asuan. We had to register but got no further instructions. For a long time the atmosphere was very relaxed, jovial almost festive.

Then, without any warning, all hell broke lose. The police started running around chaotically and shouting, minibuses were started and revved to max and started moving while the police were jumping in. Once in they floored it and joined the main street more or less sideways and off they were. We watched in amazement until some leftover police shouting forced us to start moving as well. By the time we set-off the convoy opened huge gap on us that the Landies and Cruisers driven by sensible europeans through heavily populated area didnít have a chance to close. So they settled to leisurely tempo sightseeing through the the Nile green zone few dozen kms behind the convoy waving at the supposedly hostile population.

I, lacking the scrupules of my more mature co-travellers, caught up with the convoy in no time and for a while watched in amazement the lunacy in front of me - where can you race with police 120 kmh through heavily populated areas with kids and donkeys everywhere. Once my curiosity got satisfied, I decided to be adult as well and did the sensible thing - opened up, took over the convy and fucked-off. I had to pin it for a while to open up few km distance between me and them before I could start again act more responsibly and slow down in the places where there were people/animals milling around. Couldnít do it while still visible to the convoy as they would see this as clear sign of weakness and speed-up to catch me regardless of potential collateral damage. Iíve managed to stay away from them, while not killing anybody, but they didnít play clean - they radioed to the police blocks ahead of me to stop me. To be fair it was only the last one before Asuan, where we also had to wait for the slow overlanders to recoup into one group before we entered Asuan - it seemed to me that they didnít give a shit about people traveling solo between Luxor and Asuan, but for appearances sake we had to come to the destination as one group. I still donít know what we were needed to be protected from - judging by the absurdity of the whole circus probably grizzly bears.

Happy travel: sure, we survived the Egyptian police convoy


Asuan on the northern shore of the Lake Nasser is natural choking point for overlanders heading south to Sudan: The only way to get overland from Egypt to Sudan is actually by water - i.e. taking ferry along the length of Lake Nasser from Asuan to Wadi Haifa - there is no other border crossing (probably because of missing roads). And the ferry travels only once a week. Hence a week-worth number of overlanders gather every week to catch the ferry and then disperse eventually further south - some of them inter-meeting all the way to Cape Town.
When we arrived there it took us two days of negotiations to secure ferry tickets and some even managed to get Sudanese visa in 2 hours (huge feat considering in Europe it took about 3 months and in Cairo about 1 week). We all settled in to hotels/camps waiting for the day of departure and in the meantime explored Asuan.








Boat restaurant - common sight in tourist spots on Nile:


Dhow on Nile:


Next instalment - Sudan
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Karoo Rider on October 08, 2014, 05:28:31 am
Should never have clicked on this one - now I wouldn't be able to focus at work all day!

Awesome pics and RR.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: evansv on October 08, 2014, 06:01:20 am
Sub :thumleft:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: JACOVV on October 08, 2014, 06:31:24 am

Very nice  :thumleft:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: IRISH on October 08, 2014, 06:38:50 am
Absolutely awesome! Thanks.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Airguitar on October 08, 2014, 06:58:19 am
On my many trips to Egypt I have become increasingly convinced that the current population is not the same race that built the pyramids.
You have perfectly captured the chaos that is Egypt!
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on October 11, 2014, 01:57:05 am

Itís ironic that people from countries considered bad in the west are usually among the most pleasant to deal with - people like Syrians and Iranians. And Sudanese - at least the ones from the north Iíve encountered.

Sudan had become pariah mainly because of the wars in Darfur and South Sudan - at the time still part of the original british denominated Sudan concoction. Now I do not want to diminish in any way atrocities and suffering caused by these wars, and Iím all for the international pressure to end them, regardless of how ineffectual it may sometimes seem.  

I just have a difficulty to reconcile the stories of horror from Darfur with how nice the ordinary Sudanese were - especially compared to the pissed-off Egyptians. The people (up north mostly Nubians, successors of the people that build the pyramids) were generous, courteous, polite and with strong sense of community. It felt like return back in time to the era, when time flowed much slower and people unhurriedly focused on the basics without stressing about cramming as much crap as possible into their life-time. This is one of the main reasons why I love traveling in the third world - itís basically travel back in time and I get to glimpse quickly disappearing world.

As with everything, there is a downside - at least for this seasoned rat racer. The vibe in Sudan was very subdued and static. People living contently more or less the same way as generations of their ancestors are not conductive to a vibrant entrepreneurial society (being muslim country,there is not even alcohol available to get their blood pumping). Apart from great Nubian desert riding up north and very charming dervish dance gathering in Omdurman (part of Khartoum) I do not recollect much more from week and a half Iíve spent in Sudan and eventually was really looking forward to Ethiopia. Now things would probably get much more kinetic if I would try to check-out Darfur, but I didnít as they wouldnít let me anyway - I saved the war zone tourism for later.

Route through Sudan:


On the day of ferry departure - still in Egypt - all overlanders heading for Sudan gathered in the port about 10 km south of Aswan to clear Egyptian customs and immigration and board the ships. There are actually two ships for each run - one is a passenger ferry with cabins ( if you pay extra) and restaurant for people, and the other pontoon attached to a barge for vehicles (with one john for a toilet).

In addition to the people Iíve met on the convoy from Luxor, there were few new faces & vehicles getting on ferry: John & Helen - british couple in Defender doing CT run, Ali from Turkey in Defender also driving to CT, Nando - spanish guy cycling to CT (on Czech - OK Czech branded bicycle), Chris - british guy doing public transport run to CT and Rupert.

Rupert - an austrian - was should I say a nonconformist: he was driving almost 40 year old VW Bus from Austria to Tanzania, so it was a good thing that he had strong family support on board - 3 years old Olivia, 5 years old Fabio and 7 years old Yannick (their mother sadly passed away). For three months the kids were eating exclusively spaghetti bolognaise, listening to Lion King tape every night before sleep, dirty and happy as kittens. They proved to be a great asset for the group. In these strongly family centered cultures even the most hardened officials melted like a cheese  when faced with the three little rogues and we used to send them ahead of us to distract and soften the officialdom before we swooped through whatever procedure we were supposed to go through. They were just no match to the kids. Thatís right - us bunch of hard core travelers were using three little kids as a human shield against the state oppression!

And it wasnít just officials - I remember in Khartoum in the only shopping mall (as we know it) in whole Sudan Rupert gave them money to go buy sweets to the supermarket (equivalent of Pick & Pay or such). They came back with lots of sweets and all the money - the cashiers refused to take money from them. Try that in your favourite supermarket!

Apart from us white eyes there were lots of locals - mostly Sudanese, who were going through the border and getting ready for the ferry. It felt like Iím about to hit the Ďrealí Africa - Egypt with the predominantly arab population felt more like appendix of Middle East. Plus there were tons of western tourists all over which for me somehow devalued the whole travelling experience - it just did not feel that special (did I mention that Iím travelling snob?). I knew that between where I was now and the southern border of Zambia, the only whites will be overlanders, NGO workers and few local farmers - only very few packages diluting the experience and those will be mostly concentrated in small areas like national parks..

The Egyptian customs and immigration was the standard oriental affair, but nothing extreme. We westerners made it through as a group, by following whatever the locals were doing - which on one occasion involved us trying to squeeze into a throng of locals around two guys seated at two tables. It turned out that they were scribes, filling the necessary forms for the mostly illiterate local passengers.

At the time the rule for boarding the ships was that there had to be one (and only one) person/owner travelling with each vehicle on the barge - everybody else had to go on the ferry. In my case it was easy - as the sole rider I had to go with the bike on the barge, but Rupert strictly speaking should have taken the barge while sending the kids on the ferry - not an option. The further consideration was that the passenger ferry takes about 1,5 day nonstop to cover about  420 km to Wadi Haifa, while the barge with the pontoon was supposed to take 1 day more as it was slower and for some reason it couldnít run through the night and had to anchor (our barge eventually took 4 days - not sure why). The couples naturally werenít keen to split. So we worked out the system when 8 people (for 8 vehicles) will go on barge without splitting any couples or Rupertís family. It was 4 Swedes, Bill & Claire, Loek and myself on the barge and the rest on the ferry.

Once all formalities were sorted and ships boarded we were off - ferry first, us pontoon people second.

Overlanding crowd gathering for ferry - Eric & Daniela's Landy & Swedish Cruiser with one of them on the lookout:


Rupert's wheels & kindergarten watched by one of the Swedes:


Spanish biker Nando and his Czech bike:


Locals waiting for boarding:



Boarding the pontoon:


On the way (check out how thoroughly is the first land secured against movement):


My little self on the boat:




Anchored for the overnight sleep-over:


On the way we passed Abu Simbel - another set of ancient Egypt treasures and an UNESCO site. The thing is - these statues and temples were relocated in 60s from what is now bottom of the lake Nasser to this new site - the hills they are located in are actually artificial hills:




Pushed through the days...


and through the night (not true - we were anchored):


Boat people:



Cosy evening on board (left to right: Swede (sorry I do not remember the names), myself squeezing food into my cheek pouches to be ready for Africa, Claire, Loek):


The crew:


(https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-iRJazEzv0v8/VDB1oDWQjPI/AAAAAAAAB_c/XXOEiLCXdd8/s576/051122%2520D70-10.jpg)    (https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-wLt-LsRj9XQ/VDB18r4e8NI/AAAAAAAACBE/u8uABvKyy7k/s576/051124%2520122-06.jpg)



To be continued
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Ian in Great Brak River on October 11, 2014, 05:22:19 am
Another excellent real life story Xpat ... thanks for sharing and the effort it takes to post all these old photos and memories.

Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Wooly Bugger on October 11, 2014, 07:57:36 am
 :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: DCR on October 11, 2014, 08:42:56 am
Wow, really looking forward to the rest! Beautiful photos and well written. Thanks!
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on October 11, 2014, 11:46:35 pm
Sudan - Part 2

We arrived to the Wadi Haifa port in the early afternoon, 4 days after we left Aswan . In the port we were welcomed by the gang from the ferry who after two days of waiting in Wadi Haifa could not wait to get into cars and start moving again. No wonder -  the village is a small non-descript desert mudhouse dwelling with two dirty hotels about 450 km away from the closest tar (well at the time it was, now Chinese tarred the whole 450 km), where the only excitement is the weekly passing of the passengers from/to ferry.  

First we had to clear the Sudanese immigration and customs. We knew from the travelers grapevine that customs in Wadi Haifa are manned either by a young guy who is cool and helpful or an elderly hardass Mr Ali. We got Mr Ali so Rupert let his pack loose and they did a good job on him (actually theyíve been working on him for past 2 days). But it was still a remote unhurried African border so it took us good few hours to get through. By the time we were through the sun was setting down so we have driven few km to the actual village (port is outside the village) for the overnighter.

The whole group heading for Wadi Haifa after clearing the customs - Rupert even gave Mr Ali lift, you can barely spot him holding Olivia in his arms:


At the outskirts of the village most of the cars headed for the most opportune spot and parked in the defensive circle for the overnight camp - theyíve seen enough of the hotels in Wadi Haifa to really appreciate their own roof tents and cooking.


That is except me, Ali (the Turk not the custom guy), Nando and Chris (riding with Ali) - as none of us had a roof tent. We all headed to the hotel rated by the ferry gang as somewhat more bearable - they knew theyíve been holidaying here for past 2 days. After sleeping 3 nights  on the corrugated floor of the pontoon I thought any hotel surely must be better. Ali was some kind of turkish telecom marketing mogul who I think was on a personal brand building exercise (I believe to be the first Turk to drive to CT) - and that was all he was interested in. He didnít care about the local people (he seemed to actually dislike them) or sightseeing and he didnít care (and came prepared) for camping and always stayed in the best hotels available. This strategy backfired quite badly in WH. To be fair, he was generous to Chris (on bicycle) and Nando (on public transport) and gave them ride for the next 400 km of corrugated dirt and deep sand (would be probably very tough or unrideable on bicycle) to Dongola.

Hotel Deffinitoad (no idea), Wadi Haifa:


The hotel was very basic with dark courtyard rooms with bare walls and dirty bedding, but from my point of view still preferable to sleeping on the ground. The only real challenge were the toilets - the usual hole in the ground affair (which I prefer in the countries where hygiene is not a priority), but the whole floor was crawling like a moving carpet with thousands and thousands of cockroaches. So every visit was very crunchy event and while there you had to keep your feet constantly moving, otherwise they started to crawl up on you.

Once unpacked I headed for a dinner to the open air buffet eatery Iíve spotted close by. The food and smells were unfamiliar to me. But after tasting unsuccessfully few of the non-descript dishes on display - one of them goat tongues that I fed to the nearby cat. The food proved to be a problem throughout the whole Sudan - the restaurants were very sparse and unappetizing (and I have traveled in third world before so Iím not picky) and selection in shops very limited. I have ended up surviving whole Sudan on the diet of canned tuna and laughing cow cheese.

As a plan B, I downed the universal disinfectant Coca Cola and headed out of village to infiltrate the overlanderís defensive perimeter and scavenge on whatever they were cooking. To show my gratitude Iíve challenged and beaten few of them in the game of chess, until I found my match in Rupert and spent next three stuck in it. By that time I lost it was about 2:00 am and I headed back in the dark to the hotel being shadowed by the pack of growling half feral dogs. The hotel was locked and dark and no one responded to my banging. So I went around the block, leapt over the rear wall which for some reason did not have the usual glass shards embedded and went to bed.

I overslept a bit and when I woke up all the overlanders were gone, except Loek waiting for me in front of the hotel. I was surprised, but cool about it - at the end of the day they were not my nannies and I was on a solo trip, but Loek was pissed-off. Loek turned out to be one of those uncut diamonds - man with big heart and passion. A bit rough around the edges, but if he liked you he would do anything for you, even though he just met you. So he could not understand how the rest could have left without me.

Once Iíve packed we set-off south through the Nubian desert on the heavily corrugated dirt road intersped with deep sand sections. It took me a while to figure out that the only way to ride the corrugations is fast. After about 40 km we came upon stationery early birds gathered around the broken swedish Cruiser - some shaft got broken or loose or something. When it became clear that itís going to take a while to sort out, the rest of the convoy set-off south again leaving the Swedes under Aliís supervision to vultures.

Loek, one of the Swedes, Chris and Nando checking out the broken Cruiser:


Rupert and his wagon:


Bill, Claire, Loek and myself still had to go through the mandatory police registration that had to be done within the first three days after arrival. The ferry people have managed to get it Wadi Haifa - the pontoon people arrived at the beginning of weekend so couldnít do it there. The next place to get registered was Dongola about 400 km of dirt and sand south, so we sped off to get there as soon as possible. Rupert and his Bus didnít have a chance to keep up, so he followed at much more leisured pace flanked by John & Helen for support. John - a co-owner of specialised travel agent in Blighty, was a real british gentleman, resourceful, perfectly prepared for the trip and always willing to help the weaklings in the group - i.e. Rupert and later myself. In my group I was generally riding few kms ahead of cars, stopping regularly to wait for them and take pictures (I just remembered that lots of pictures in this and previous instalment are from Bill and Claire, so I need to give them credit here):



One more of Nile without the bike (sorry ChrisL):



We have bumped into this guy going in opposite direction - I think he was actually South African. Even though he seemed to battle a bit with the heat, I cannot tell you how much envious I was of his set-up - this is how proper bike should look like and be set-up for this type of adventure (except for the helmet, I now only use open face helmet as it makes for much better comfort and contact with locals):


Sights along the way:



Nice locals, with Bill doing the secret service guy impression:



Evening caught up with us about half way through and we bush camped on the Nile riverbank:


Loek has driven through acacia branch and ended up with two flat tyres - Bill's helping to sort it out:


Sun setting over our camp and Nile:


Next day we continued and eventually made it in the late afternoon to Dongola - the first town in Sudan. Sights along the way:




Ferry across the Nile:





My gang - Bill, Claire & Loek:


We moved in the Lordís hotel and even scored a chicken dish in a nearby restaurant - the only respectable food we found in Sudan outside capital Khartoum.



My private room ... with en-suite bathroom - pretty cool, eh!

(https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/--1OifKFtXDs/VDB2l2lk3MI/AAAAAAAACD0/3BWsx4KIz9w/s576/051126%2520123-52.jpg)    (https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-8akv6MaXsQA/VDB2qUQ_lKI/AAAAAAAACEE/Sl75haQlrrw/s576/051126%2520123-54.jpg)



Next day in the morning we (and the Swedes who arrived in the late morning) managed to get the police registration - it took quite a while, but the officers were polite and courteous. Once done, Swedes headed south to Khartoum, while my gang crossed the Nile and set-off east free riding across the Nubian desert to the pyramids in Merowe and nearby town of Karima about 160 km away.

There is no road - not even dirt one - going there, but the route is marked by 2 meters high stakes every kilometer or so. This reminded me of a story in the kids book ĎGhost of Llano Estacadoí about a desert in the Wild West which had the route staked out for the travellers to get across. Bad bandits used to move the stakes and rob the the poor souls when they got lost and died. They wouldnít have a chance against us - none of us could see 1 km ahead so we lost the stakes pretty much within first 5 km and just headed east towards a point in GPS about 160 km away.


One more to show one of the few design problems of 1150 GSA (for the bike it is of course) - while standing my left heel always rested on the central stand lever effectively pushing the central stand half way down. On few occasions when I hit a stone or gully I got almost thrown off the bike and my heel hurt proper:



As we started relatively late, we havenít made it all the way to Karima and slept over in the desert.


Next day we continued east to Merowe and Karima:








Occasionally we got bogged down:



But then got going again:


Eventually we made it to Merowe:


The pyramids - biggest in Sudan, are quite underwhelming:



For the night we have camped directly in Karima village.

Next day Bill, Claire and myself still wanted to continue the off-road rally further east across the desert to Atbara about 200 km away, before turning south to Khartoum. Loek didnít feel well - we could see that he had enough of our off-road shenanigans, and he decided to turn south and hit the tar few dozen km south and head for Khartoum. Despite quite determined effort during which we crossed the local airport runway few times we didnít find the route that was supposed to head to Atbara (we didnít have any GPS tracks) so we eventually turned south and caught up with Loek on the way to Khartoum.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Wooly Bugger on October 12, 2014, 07:52:48 am
stunning, epic report!
thank you for sharing.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: I&horse on October 12, 2014, 09:05:59 am
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Varkboer on October 12, 2014, 12:26:03 pm
Live changing :thumleft:
Title: Re:
Post by: Brainbucket on October 12, 2014, 04:15:04 pm
Really entertaining! Can't wait for the next installment. Vicariously...
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on October 12, 2014, 09:03:56 pm
Thank you for nice comments.  :thumleft:

Will try to finish the Sudan tonight.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on October 12, 2014, 10:40:32 pm
Sudan - part 3

Sudanese capital Khartoum lays on the confluence of Blue and White Nile. It is big sprawling city of non-descript cement buildings typical for third world big cities. Despite its size it maintains the sleepy demeanour of the rest of Sudan. There are two campsites in town - one comparably expensive in the yacht club on the Nile, the other National campsite on the outskirts - and that is where we ended-up. It wasnít campsite as we know it, but rather big compound with camp like one storey buildings with dormitories for migrant workers, and a dirt parking lot in the middle of the compound the edges of which were used by overlanders for camping. The thing was, it wasnít designated camping ground, but rather parking lot and gathering place. So while it was empty and quiet in the evening when we went to sleep, we were usually woken up in the morning by hundreds of cars parking for a conference, or by marching conscripts gathered for the national service. After sleeping for the past week on the ground (except the two nights in hotels in Wadi Haifa and Dongola) I was keen for a bed, but that wasnít to be - all the dormitories were full, so it was back to cramped tent (Iíve made a mistake of taking a tent that was as small as possible - which gets really uncomfortable if used for extended periods).

Some machinery in the National Campsite parking lot:



On our arrival, we all quickly cleaned up and jumped excitedly to a taxi to take us to the only shopping mall in Sudan - turkish investment called Afra. Now, normally in SA or Europe shopping malls have the power to make me within an hour or two understand the mind of suicide bomber and taste viscerally the need to kill as many people as possible. But after more than week of eating canned tuna and laughing cow cheese (mostly three times a day) sitting cross legged on the ground, the prospect of mindless consumerism at a fast food restaurant turned me into over-excited squealing teenage girl. And it was good - you appreciate food (any food) properly only when you had to go without it for a while. While the shopping mall wasnít exactly Menlyn Park, there were few fast food restaurants where we feasted every day of our stay in Khartoum. On day 3 of our stay we even bumped there into Rupert and the kids - they were staying with a Sudanese family they bumped into on the way, and who adopted them for the duration of their stay in Khartoum. Next time Iím packing a kid into my rollie bag - seems to work like a charm.

We spent few days doing chores - Bill did some maintenance on Defender, I fixed air leak from the the cut I sustained on the front tyre sidewall by putting a patch inside the tyre (the knot was leaking), and Loek was organizing his Ethiopian visa. Bill & Claire - as soon as they were done with whatever little maintenance they had to do - packed-up and set-off to Ethiopia. They couldnít wait to get again to a country where they can get a beer (Sudan being muslim country was completely dry - in Egypt you could cheat in the sea resorts) and get some food variety - even the three fast food restaurants in Afra started to get old after few days.

I had still one thing to do here - a visit to the weekly dervish dancing gathering held outside a mosque in Omdurman - the more traditional part of Khartoum on the west side of Nile. Iím normally not a big fan of cultural events, but this one wasnít organised for tourists and came highly recommended from some people Iíve met on the way. And I found it really special. Of course Iíve heard about dervishes before, but Iíve never been to any of their dancing sessions - in Turkey these are mostly performances for tourists rather than real religious contemplations they are intended to be. What I really liked was relaxed spontaneous - almost hippie like - exaltic atmosphere of the gathering. The joy radiated by the dancers transmitted to all gathered including spectators and this godless heathen. It was such a big and refreshing contrast to the usual serious, submissive atmosphere of the traditional muslim (or catholic) prayers.

Dance participants admiring the silver thing:



People gathering for the dance:

(https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-i9hbrfZOMGA/VDB3i9JNGaI/AAAAAAAACHw/Rs4WbwP9BxI/s576/051202%2520124-28.jpg)    (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-hB1li9kvlJE/VDB3ny__2dI/AAAAAAAACIQ/iGQEDIPacTU/s576/051202%2520124-33.jpg)


(https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-ke5wegpyK_g/VDB3r7flfEI/AAAAAAAACIc/S24dE-_zwFA/s576/051202%2520124-35.jpg)    (https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-Gxbc1MmLNFI/VDB3t4EuxTI/AAAAAAAACIs/g2BLnikgnl0/s576/051202%2520124-37.jpg)

(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-Pwwqb9CSinA/VDB3sZ81ktI/AAAAAAAACIk/Mojoj38p2Bg/s576/051202%2520124-39.jpg)    (https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-mCbmS2xRvFU/VDB3xRMCONI/AAAAAAAACI0/avm62fQ1lkw/s576/051202%2520124-40.jpg)

Tempting - doesn't look like tuna or cow cheese...

(https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-x_J8DQQvEJI/VDB30e1nkeI/AAAAAAAACJE/K6AkjeB45Pc/s576/051202%2520124-50.jpg)    (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-kcHTvYI7PWM/VDB34P3WvBI/AAAAAAAACJY/PiHk0kvwkWo/s576/051202%2520124-60.jpg)




(https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-vPjsDjnsuBM/VDB4Dmf7bkI/AAAAAAAACKk/RsvngsKiIj0/s576/051202%2520124-89.jpg)    (https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-rvBLjDtz2Hs/VDB3_cafl3I/AAAAAAAACKE/xg4iQPAu8_I/s576/051202%2520124-78.jpg)



People there:








(https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-QX_drC_qy0s/VDB4OtcjZ9I/AAAAAAAACLQ/wHkW1AKiCxo/s576/051202%2520125-23.jpg)    (https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-2WCsSACOB3w/VDB4PeNgVvI/AAAAAAAACLU/BVY-pH2sTC0/s576/051202%2520125-25.jpg)

(https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-U5oH8ERQYno/VDB4U-tOuaI/AAAAAAAACLo/HaSZSbmlep0/s576/051202%2520125-36.jpg)    (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-ORsVi99IksE/VDB4WSsRThI/AAAAAAAACL0/28BrMOP4HJo/s576/051202%2520125-35.jpg)


Next morning I packed-up and headed south-east to the Ethiopian border. Loek was still busy getting his visa, so I was on my own again. It took me day and a half to get to the border - first half on tar, second on the dirt.

Proper african bush at last (north was just desert):



And picked up another flat - this time rear. This picture shows clearly why you need to carry full set of Spanish textbooks on any serious bike trip (I was considering plan to go round the world, so came prepared) - how else you are going to support rear without the wheel, ha?


Came upon this two - French newlyweds cycling to Cape Town. The night before in the village they slept somebody stole their bag with medicine, so I gave them malaria and water-purification pills that should get them to the next town where they can resuply - Gonder in Ethiopia about 300 km away. I planned to be there the same day (including crossing the border) - they expected to be there in a week. Hard work this cycling. I asked if they need some money but they declined. Loek caught up with them next day and gave them some american money anyway:


Public transport close to the border:


Next instalment - Ethiopia
Title: Re:
Post by: Brainbucket on October 13, 2014, 07:07:59 am
Now become my morning fix...
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Wooly Bugger on October 13, 2014, 11:15:05 am
what an experience!
Title: Re:
Post by: SuGnA on October 14, 2014, 10:58:43 am
Great RR cant wait for the rest
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Optimusprime on October 14, 2014, 08:56:19 pm
Amazing, love the report. My 1150 and I depart for Britian from ZA on 29 May 2017, less than 1000 days to departure. Thanks for sharing your amazing journey.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: alanB on October 15, 2014, 07:56:47 am
As usual - superb! :thumleft:

I'm half way through - enjoying it immensely.

You have done some really amazing stuff - not only do you have the balls to do stuff many of us probably wouldn't attempt alone, but you have a great eye for photography and tell a great story with a very amusing dry wit!  :biggrin:



Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Bernoulli on October 15, 2014, 10:09:53 am
Superb, thanks :thumleft:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on October 15, 2014, 11:03:06 am
Thank you for the appreciation, glad you enjoy the ride along.

I'm going through some surgery this and next week, so may not be in shape to post more this week, but will try to get on with it again before the end of next week.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: ArthurS on October 16, 2014, 10:40:59 am
My day at work is now buggered...  :sip: Great RR  :deal:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Lou1 on October 16, 2014, 12:34:41 pm
 :) :ricky:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: ArthurS on October 16, 2014, 02:57:08 pm
Xpat... This is something I would like to do. What no one ever tells you is what a journey like yours would cost to do in todays terms, and also what kind of paper work is involved in getting you there, and also the amount of reasonable time it woukld take you to do such a trip. Will you please shed some light on these aspects. Cheers  :thumleft:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on October 16, 2014, 04:28:27 pm
Xpat... This is something I would like to do. What no one ever tells you is what a journey like yours would cost to do in todays terms, and also what kind of paper work is involved in getting you there, and also the amount of reasonable time it woukld take you to do such a trip. Will you please shed some light on these aspects. Cheers  :thumleft:

I'll start with the easy bits:
- ideal duration: IMO 6 months (i've done it in 12, but I was lazy and spent 2 months chilling with friends in Gaborone, and another 2 months partying in Nairobi and Kampala). You can probably do it OK in 4 if you are interested mostly in just making it through, but given the diversity of countries you go through I would go for 6.
- documents: Passport, drivers licence (probably including International one - even though I never used it), vaccination ID (again never used it but rather have one) and Carnet de Passage for the bike. And you may consider getting some visa upfront (Ethiopia and Sudan used to be difficult), but for SA people this may be no worry.

Sorry I wouldn't know about the current costs as I've done the trip 9 years ago so the prices must have changed, and - funny as it may sound - I do not even know  how much the trip cost me. I was lucky to have enough money on hand to not have to think about it much and probably more importantly was willing to burn them all on the trip. And as I decided to stay in SA a lot of the money went into relocation, so I have no idea how much the trip cost me.

But to give you at least something to ponder: the costs will heavily depend on what you want from the trip - is it just to make it from CT to Cairo at one extreme (and that one can be done probably very cheaply, it's just about 9000 km trip, in other words about the distance of one proper trip through Bots and Nam), or is it about immersing yourself in Africa and enjoying most of what it has to offer (it costs obviously more). I was in the second movie, and tried to enjoy the trip from all aspects - seeing as much as possible (e.g. Gorillas, Kilimanjaro, diving courses in Dahab), going wherever my fancy will take me (I did Uganda, Congo and Rwanda, without originally planning any of that), sleeping comfortably (which in my case meant usually single room in Backpackers, I camped only if there was no other alternative), enjoying nightlife in Nairobi or Kampala, etc. Enjoy as much off road as possible with corresponding tyre costs (I went through 5 sets of rear TKCs on the trip)

If I would be doing calc for the trip now (which I'm not prone to before any trip) I would first calc the basics - petrol, accommodation and food and then add whatever extra I will need. So assuming 6 months trip and about 20 000 km ( that is what most people do, I did double) my calculation at current SA petrol prices and exchange rates are:
- Petrol costs, assuming 6l/100km consumption: 16 800 ZAR
- Accommodation, assuming about 30 USD per night (can be significantly lower if you camp): 62000 ZAR
- Food, assuming about 30 USD per day (can be lower if you cook or higher if you eat in expensive restaurants): 62 000 ZAR.

So the basis should be covered by about 140 000 ZAR. And then you need to add extras: tyres (depending whether you want to enjoy off road properly or are willing to use one of those 50/50 concoctions that may even take you whole way), activities: Kilimanjaro (about 1000 USD), Gorillas (probably another about 1000 USD - used to be 350 when I was there), diving, safaris, etc., entertainment.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: ArthurS on October 16, 2014, 04:41:42 pm
Xpat much appreciated ! Time to start gathering the entertainment vouchers  in RSA  :thumleft:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Optimusprime on October 16, 2014, 09:30:11 pm
Awesome advice xpat, thanks. I have similiar budget for my trip and up to 6months to U.K in 2017
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: ButtSlider on October 17, 2014, 10:53:42 am
Awesome advice xpat, thanks. I have similiar budget for my trip and up to 6months to U.K in 2017
Sub.  :sip:
Very cool RR :thumleft:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Scenic Ride on October 17, 2014, 01:43:55 pm

Great Ride Report Xpat...
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: silvrav on October 17, 2014, 01:59:34 pm
Sub!  :thumleft: :thumleft: Find it interesting that you decided to stay in SA. No family, friends back home?
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: E.T on October 17, 2014, 05:30:46 pm
This is one Epic trip!!!
Please update its like reading a novel :biggrin: :biggrin:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: adv on October 17, 2014, 11:31:45 pm
Superb. I have not seen one of these reports in years. There is hope for WD yet.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on October 18, 2014, 01:18:40 am

When talking about the trip I get asked often what was was my favourite country. Itís almost impossible to answer as African countries are just too diverse to compare - especially along the north - south axis when you cross most of the Africaís religious, racial and ethnic boundaries. My usual answer is Uganda, as I really enjoyed the vibe there.

Ethiopia, on the other hand, was definitely the most interesting. Based mostly on the 80ís Band Aid publicity circus I have expected country of emaciated suffering people solemnly surrendered to whatever fate has in store for them. Sure, the Ethiopians Iíve found were mostly skinny, but very far from solemn surrenderers. They were feisty, combative with that in yer face Ďwhat the fuck you looking atíattitude - definitely the most aggressive people Iíve encountered in Africa (except for us whiteys, but we are kind of more civilised about it). I have seen few times scenes of people fisting or throwing stones at each other on the streets - and surprisingly often the aggressors were women attacking men. Why is that so is anybodyís guess. My 2 cents worth guess is:

Another big eye opener to this uneducated idiot was the deep rooted ancient Christianity in Ethiopia. I thought that Christianity in Africa was new and foreign import brought in by the colonizing Europeans. But it turns out that the ancient Ethiopia was only the second country in the world (second to Armenia) to adopt Christianity  sometimes in the 4th century (AD obviously) while most of the mainland Europe was still worshipping squirrels, rocks and stuff. They have their own branch of the christianity - Ethiopian Orthodox Church, artefacts of which to me looked strikingly similar to the Russian Orthodox Church - the architecture of the churches, the iconographic murals inside as well as the priest attire and the masses. I was quite dumbfounded as it sometimes felt like eastern Europe rather than middle of Africa. And of course the official language is aramaic - supposedly the language spoken by Jesus and the original Ark of Covenant is rumoured to be hidden somewhere in Aksum in the north of Ethiopia.

And just for the laugh, Ethiopians use their own - Coptic based - calendar. So the year has 13 months (12 months of exactly 30 days and 1 month of 6-7 day), it is either 7 or 8 years behind our calendar (no idea why - its not constant for some reason) and the new years is either on Sept 11 or Sept 12 (again, no idea). This became very obvious to us (me and the gang from the Lake Nasser), as we spent the Christmas and New Year there and none of those days seemed to mean anything at all to the Ethiopians.

Map of the route I took through Ethiopia:


I have arrived to the border in the little shithole called Metema at about lunch time. I seemed to be the only guy crossing for a long time and the formalities went surprisingly smoothly. The immigration office on the Ethiopian side was a small dark rondavel with roof of banana leaves brandishing proudly framed mission and vision statements on the wall. Obviously some consultants must have been here on one of those charity gigs they do nowadays to insert an illusion of meaning into their otherwise meaningless lives (I know, Iíve been one of them). Surprisingly there was no customs office anywhere near by so I just set-off without getting my Carnet stamped (I knew I must have all the exit stamps for all countries Iím stamped in, but assumed that if I do not get stamped in, I may get away without getting stamped out - one less hassle).

Immediately, the contrast between Sudan and Ethiopia could not have been more stark. Compared to the solemn pious communal nice mannered atmosphere in Sudan, Metema looked like the aramaic version of the Wild West frontier town. There were dirty scrappy looking people - many of them scantily clothed women - and animals milling around, some of them clearly looking for a fight. Few of the people were already (it was lunchtime) drunk senseless and spread on the ground along the main dirt street. Most of the huts along the street were either bars, or (Iím guessing here) brothels - sight I havenít seen since Bulgaria and clear sign that Iím out of muslim world and back in the familiar christian territory.

After about 10 km there was a boom across the road next to an office - yep, the customs. It was lunchtime, so I had to wait an hour before the officers came back and stamped me into Ethiopia. Once done I set-off immediately as I had still about 100 km to cover to Gonder for the overnighter. The scenery has also changed dramatically at the border. While Sudan in the south was mostly flat dry African bush, on the Ethiopian side the road started almost immediately to wind up into the green mountains announcing the high plateau (about 2000 m high) covering most of the north-west Ethiopia - quite similar to the eastern Lesotho.


The road was hard packed dirt with sharp embedded rocks (again as you know it from Lesotho) after few initial cautious km I picked up the speed and was soon cruising at about 80 kmh - quite fast for the winding rocky mountain road. Inevitably I have punctured the sidewall of my front tyre in about 20 km. Iíve plugged it while being spectated by about 50 locals (wherever you stop in Ethiopia - no matter how remote, within 5 minutes there is crowd of begging kids keeping you at your toes) and moved on. Another 10 - 15 km later the plug shot out of the hole, the tyre deflated and slipped of the rim. I was doing probably 70 - 80 kmh and surprisingly managed to stop without a faceplant. I had one 19í tube with me just for this case and I took a while to get it in. by the time I was done the sun was setting (the days are much shorter as you get closer to the equator), so I just pulled off the road into close-by bush and set-up camp for overnighter. Somehow managed to remain undetected and therefore not hassled until a herdsman found me in the morning.

Morning in the bush camp with my private stalker on post:






Next day Iíve made uneventfully the remaining 50 km or so to Gonder. Gonder used to be a capital of the Ethiopian Empire long time ago and holds remains of several royal castles, that look strikingly as something out of a Scottish countryside - Wikipedia even says that it has been called ĎCamelot of Africaí. The most prominent are remains of Fassil Ghebi castle complex (see pictures below). Once in Gonder, Iíve found nice guesthouse (comparatively speaking) and settled in

Fassil Ghebi castle complex:



(https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-w7TosHHtT7s/VEGYkyodmFI/AAAAAAAACS4/-z7y0g9nW68/s512/051207%2520126-02.jpg)    (https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-w8wpROTMTwA/VEGYn9XXF5I/AAAAAAAACTA/nQGlYKMG8y4/s512/051207%2520126-04.jpg)




Nice guesthouse (comparatively speaking) I've found in Gonder:


Apart from sightseeing Iíve spent 2 days in Gonder eating, drinking and doing bike fixes. I went regularly to get real cooked food and the beer in the local restaurant. First day I enjoyed on my own. Day 2, Loek arrived and we spent a nice evening of getting shitfaced in the local bars with few other travellers - Loek again proved to be a star and manhandled me through the dark Gonder safely back to my bed.

Regarding the food, Ethiopian traditional dish is injera - a pancake with red mince of some kind. I had it only once - it actually does not taste that bad, but people eat it with their bare hands with the red mince all over their finger and faces and even though Iím normally not that squeamish, that sight somehow was enough to keep me off it. But there was almost always a choice of some fried chicken/beef/goat meat or spaghetti bolognaise available - big improvement on my canned tuna & laughing cow cheese diet Iíve been on in Sudan. And of course beer to flash it all down.

For the bike fixes I went through the local hardware stores looking for a tube for my rear wheel - the internal tyre patch I have put in Khartoum was leaking slowly and I had to stop regularly to pump it up. The closest Iíve found was an 18 inch tube for one of the 50 - 100 cc bikes they use here. I took it and and put it in back at the guesthouse. It lasted me thousand or two kms almost all the way to Arba Minch in southern Ethiopia where it finally exploded at about 100 kmh - oh, fun and games of being young (kind of), stupid and indestructible.

Some sights in Gonder streets:


Bars everywhere...:


Local gentleman ready to hit the streets:

(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-h1lMwZehLR4/VEGYVE854wI/AAAAAAAACSE/0JXnI2jbr2c/s512/051207%2520125A-08.jpg)    (https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-BYjmqNN-CgM/VEGYMd5--TI/AAAAAAAACRg/xsh1ooA9CoA/s512/051207%2520125A-02.jpg)


(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-nRfmBvvtRzM/VEGZR0j-apI/AAAAAAAACVQ/kNLLTZrym54/s512/051207%2520127-07.jpg)    (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-Hvm5AcUuBo4/VEGZODNttwI/AAAAAAAACVA/BqmUD86gKow/s512/051207%2520126-73.jpg)


There is also a church in Gonder famous for its murals - and sure enough I don't remember its name:




(https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/--ujxnapoO-U/VEGZFaQdedI/AAAAAAAACUo/EH0arS2rFYk/s512/051207%2520126-70.jpg)    (https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-SSEija85LrA/VEGZHjlSBqI/AAAAAAAACUw/NluKUN8hpHE/s512/051207%2520126-71.jpg)

(https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-vLQ5YZwjnAI/VEGY7S1P76I/AAAAAAAACUI/pYwnY0lb1tA/s512/051207%2520126-50.jpg)    (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-rBRnxL2zEic/VEGY9nS3bdI/AAAAAAAACUQ/z-c7GsmAZbU/s512/051207%2520126-53.jpg)

Next instalment - Northern Ethiopia
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on October 18, 2014, 01:28:21 am
Thank you for support.

@ Silvrav: Yep, I have parents, brother and wide family in Europe, and lots of mates. But I see them quite frequently either on Skype, in Europe, or when they come for safari. And seeing them physically once a year or two makes you appreciate them probably more than when you bump into each other all the time. And Africa rules hands down any day over the overpopulated, over-regulated, entitlement ridden, nanny Europe.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: BlueBull2007 on October 18, 2014, 03:40:32 am
As has been said earlier, this is magnificent. Magnificent pictures and writing. :hello2: :hello2: :hello2: :hello2:

Thank you for this labour of love. I hope you are enjoying reliving the experience. It certain made an impression on your (and us)!

Get well son from your operation and keep the rubber side down.

And Africa rules hands down any day over the overpopulated, over-regulated, entitlement ridden, nanny Europe.
+1000 Unfortunately I am moving to Spain, and all the rules and crap sicken me. Cant even get my bikes in there :(

I also share your snob feelings for the tourist traps! :thumleft:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: evansv on October 18, 2014, 07:06:48 am
I worked in Ethiopia for almost 2 years. The countryside in the highlands is stunning & would be fantastic DS bike country.

Getting equipment into Ethiopia is a VERY painful process & takes a LONG time if you're trying to get stuff in to work there.

One of our clients had a VSAT system stuck in Ethiopia customs for 3 years.

We worked in the Ogaden, close to the Somali border & later on in the Danakil depression, the hottest place on earth. 160 m below sea level.

Generally I found the Ethiopians friendly, except the Somalis in the Ogaden.   
Title: Re:
Post by: Brainbucket on October 19, 2014, 07:20:59 am
Xpat thanks again for sharing your story.  Wishing you well and a speady recovery.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on October 19, 2014, 10:30:51 pm
Ethiopia - part 2

Most overlanders head from Gonder south towards Lake Tana and Addis Ababa as its the shortest route to Kenya. I wanted to see the less visited north - particularly Simien mountains NP and Aksum famous for its obelisks and rumoured safekeeping of the original Ark of Covenant. So after our night out, I bid farewell to Loek who was keen to get asap to Addis for a rendezvous with his girlfriend, and packed for next day departure north. In the guesthouse Iíve hooked up with two canadian brothers and an english dude (unfortunately Iíve forgotten their names) who were also getting ready for a hike through Simiens and we agreed to go together. To get there they hired a Landcruiser with driver and next morning we set-off in  convoy (Cruiser and GS) to Debark about 100 km north, which is the starting for the treks in Simiens.

First sight of Simiens:


In Debark Iíve left the bike in a guesthouse on the main street and packed only the necessities for the three day trek (including two nights camping). To buy  food canadians and I headed to the local market - that turned out to be something straight from the middle ages. Like so:








(https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/--IIfx_4jo90/VEGZyfEhNnI/AAAAAAAACXQ/QFcXLkRmxN0/s512/051208%2520127-27.jpg)    (https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-p-CI8xkDkOY/VEGZyJBWSmI/AAAAAAAACXM/13ZL0-7y42k/s512/051208%2520127-28.jpg)


Once fully provisioned we jumped at about midday to the Cruiser that took us another 20 keys or so to the gate of the Simiens NP. Simiens - a World Heritage Site - is a plateau with steep escarpments rising about 1500 meters above the surrounding highlands. It also includes monumental rugged peaks, the highest of which is Ras Dashen at 4550 meters. They are similar to Drakensberg, just higher and more impressive. They are home to the unique gelada baboons unique by their long fur, live in large groups of hundreds of animals and are the only primates that primarily graze on grass. During the night they sleep on the steep cliffs to escape from the wolves and leopards.

At the gate Iíve bumped into Rupert and the kindergarten, who just returned from the trek. He had a jolly good laugh when he found out that to save weight I have left the tent behind and packed only mosquito net and told me that itís freezing in the night. Well the Englishman was kind enough to let me lodge in his tent so I did not end up dying of hypothermia few hundred km above equator.

We have paid our admission fees that included one local guy with a pony to carry the luggage (didnít know there will be one when I was packing) and another local village idiot named Adam with AK47 - for some reason that I havenít figure out the armed escort was non-negotiable. We didnít hire an english speaking guide mostly because Canadians and Englishman - who were backpacking across Africa - were on tight budget and didnít want to pay for one arguing that Adam will know the way anyway. That turned out to be a major source of entertainment in the next two days.

By the time we were done with preparations it was late afternoon and we hurried up to get to the first camp-site before nightfall. We more or less run the whole way and managed to squeeze what is normally 8 hour trek into about 3,5 hours (yes, a bit silly I know), so by the time we arrived to the camp we were all exhausted and suffering from symptoms of the altitude sickness. The whole plateau is at about 3500 - 4200 meters and the day 1 camp was at about 3700m - not too high, but combined with the exertion it provided for a headache and in one case a bit of vomiting.



Younger Canadian, AK47, Englishman:



Gelada baboons:








Canadians who were enthusiast cooks kindly prepared dinner for us - which as it turned included the pony guy and Adam. We were assured at the gate that they will have their own food which they did not (this is common story anywhere in Africa - except Kilimanjaro - so if you going for trek/expedition make provisions for the locals). I wasnít too bothered, but Canadians felt that we were being ripped off so insisted that the locals will at least wash the dishes in return. Which they did. So next morning we found ourselves without drinking water as they spent basically all our bottled water we brought for 3 days to spread the tomato sauce more evenly on the dishes. Luckily I had water purification tablets on me so we restocked from the near by stream, which we foolishly assumed they would use for dishes.

After dinner pretty soon we hit the sleeping bags - primarily because we did not manage to persuade Adam that itís not a good idea to hug his AK between the legs in front of the fire with the AKs curvy magazine sticking out to the flames. Not keen to see his crotch explode in a red mist and become potentially collateral damage, we half crawled back to tents and nursed our headaches to sleep.

Next day we set-off for an 8 hour hike along the very impressive escarpment. Feeling a bit tender from the day before we decided to miss one of the viewpoints and take shortcut across the plain. To explain it to Adam - cum - guide, we have drawn a triangle in the dirt with the name of the place we were at, the viewpoint A name (we were to miss) and the next viewpoint B we wanted to head for directly. We have crossed out the viewpoint A, and highlighted the shortcut on the triangle - Adam watched for minute or two, then nodded and set-off to viewpoint A. The rest of us set-off to viewpoint B, which confused hell out of Adam, but he did not use his trump card - did not cock the AK, and eventually followed wondering what is happening. Iíve had my share of inter-cultural misunderstandings and I am usually sooner or later able to see the point from the other guys perspective - here I just wasnít, as far as Iím concerned Adam and I were different species.





Yours truly:





The Englishman:






Nice ladies:






Next camp night was again freezing and ridden with altitude sickness, but with no further glitches - weíve learned our lessons. The last third day was just a 20 km walk back to the gate which was uneventful, except that Canadians - avid motivated sportsmen of American type set off at the competitive speed that us European rachitic intellectuals were not inclined to follow. This thrown Adam off as he could not provide machine gun support at the same time to the two separated groups. His solution was to try to coerce us weaklings to fucking hurry up, but again he did not use his trump card and eventually resigned and rushed ahead to support the Canadians. We did miss him somewhat, as the local begging kids (urged by their parents to go after us - westerners are considered fair game there) turned out to be major nuisance and we had to resort to a demonstrative stone throwing to keep them at bay at times. Anyway we all made it back to the gate OK, said teary eyed goodbye to Adam, jumped into the Cruiser and headed back to Debark. In Debark I said my farewells and de-bussed at the guesthouse for sleep over, while the rest were on their way back to Gonder.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on October 19, 2014, 10:32:25 pm
Ethiopia - part 3

Next day I set-off north towards Aksum. The winding road (dirt - all roads in the north were dirt) was very scenic, circumventing Simiens which later changed into almost moon like landscape (well at least my idea of it).







Ethiopian emergency response team:


Scrap metal along the way:




I have arrived to Aksum in the afternoon without any accident. That is quite an achievement as the people and animals in the north all live on or nearby that one road are not used to the motorised transport. So whenever they hear one - which is for some reason invariably only about 10 meters from them, they start acting completely erratically and unpredictably running across the road instead off the road, etc. I normally do not moan about road manners in the third world (basically the biggest has the right of way), as in some way I find them much simpler and straight-forward than the complicated rules in the west. But northern Ethiopia was something.

Aksum is the original capital of the Kingdom of Aksum (400 BC into the 10th century) and one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in Africa. It was this kingdom that converted to Christianity in 4th century. The main attractions are obelisks (oldest dating 5000 - 2000 BC) - oversize tombstones for rules as far as I know - similar to pyramids, the biggest of which 27 meters tall 1700 years old Obelisk of Aksum was stolen by Mussolini in 1937, who erected it in Rome. After lots of haggling it was finally returned back in 2005 - i.e. only 8 months before I arrived, good timing.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church also claims that the biblical Ark of Covenant with inscribed Ten Commandments is housed in the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion here. What I personally found most interesting was the avid road cyclists clad in colorful lycra training hard on the main street in Aksum the only few km stretch of tar in the northern Ethiopia. Compared to the surrounding poverty it was quite incongruous sight but Iíve was told that the sport has fanatical following here. Somebody told me story that during one of the many wars with nearby Eritrea (part of Ethiopia that split violently few decades ago) an Ethiopian armoured column heading for fight had to wait outside of Aksum till the time trials run at the time were finished.

All right, thatís all the trivia I can muster, here are some pics:

Obelisk of Aksum (I think):



Another one that didn't make it and the hurch of Our Lady Mary of Zion in the background:


Some kind of religious gathering:







Aksum and surrounds:







While in Aksum I also went to visit the Debre Damo monastery 100 km east - with pillion Robin, an Englishman who Iíve met in the hotel. Itís a 6th century monastery housed on the flat topped and accessible only via 17 meters long rope climb. Like so:



Ladies are not allowed, sorry. Which as far as Iím concerned is a good thing. When I came to the rope - which is basically thick rolled cow-hide, Iíve first waited for two monks by sight about 70 years old (which means in reality probably 35) to climb the rope up with ease and grace in about 15 seconds, followed then by Robin. When it was my turn I strictly refused to get tied up in the second rope to be pulled by three helpers to help me get up. I somehow forgot that it has been more than 20 years of chair farting since Iíve done any form of rock or rope climbing (which I used to be decent in) and considered the help to be beneath me. Robin eventually talked me into getting tied up in the second rope for safety. Which turned up right as after about three meters I was completely fucked (I forgot that you should use legs in climbing) and the remaining 14 meters was pulled up by the three 40 kg helpers more or less like a sack of potatoes. And no woman should be allowed to see that!

Pics from monastery:










600 year old (I think) bible ascribed on cow hide:


Views from the top:




The helpers:

Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: onderbroek on October 20, 2014, 07:27:05 am
Awesome report! and nice pictures
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Wolzak on October 20, 2014, 12:00:27 pm
All I can say is WOW. Awe inspiring beauty, thank you for sharing. :thumleft:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: E.T on October 22, 2014, 03:58:15 pm
Xpat you are only in Ethiopia now.... where is the rest my friend??
I am anxiously waiting :sip: :sip: :sip: :sip:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on October 22, 2014, 09:51:45 pm
Ethiopia - part 3

From Aksum Iíve headed towards next Ethiopian historical highlight - Lalibela. The main road to get there was kind of a hook - heading east to Adigrat and from there south on the main tar road (first tar for me in Ethiopia outside of Gonder and Aksum) through Mekele to Weldiya and there turn on dirt east again for about 100 km and turn north again for another 80 or so - the whole route of more than 500 km or so of switchbacks through Ethiopian highlands. But on the map I had (the GPS Garmin Worldmap completely useless - I have used GPS just to record my track for backtracking if needed) Iíve noticed a shortcut through the mountains heading south from Adwa about 25 km east of Aksum (itís even indicated in the map of the route through Ethiopia Iíve posted here. Keen to explore the route less travelled I took the shortcut, however within about 10 km or so after Adwa it turned into goat track and I had to eventually turn back once I came to huge washouts unpassable on the GS (or any other bike actually).

An image from the shortcut when it was still good:


So I took the main road and made it to Mekele, which is the capital of the northern region and home place of the then ruling Ethiopian clique. It was also a headquarter for the UN peacekeeping forces doing whatever they do to prevent one of the regularly occurring punch ups with Eritrea further north. Thanks to that Mekele was surprisingly modern town (for ethiopian standards) with few high glass buildings raising from the surrounding shantytowns, including hotel from one of the global chains (donít remember which). The Simiens race caught up with me there and I felt sick, so I splashed out for the two nights in the hotel. Which Iíve spent indulging myself in the hotel restaurant and sleeping in the modern air conditioned room. This was the only hotel/guesthouse in Ethiopia, where I havenít woken up in the morning bitten by bed bugs.

Once reinvigorated Iíve set-off south again on a good winding tar following the eastern outline of the Ethiopian highlands - west were the hot muslim plains and Danakil depression (the hottest and lowest place on the planet, which I was blissfully unaware of - will have to go back there) close to Somali borders . About 80 km north of Weldiya Iíve came across a dirt turnoff right, going west in the direction of Lalibela about 40 km away according to the useless Garmin Worldmap. It was already afternoon and I still had about 160 km to go on the original route, so I took the dirt shortcut. Well as those of you who have been to Lesotho know, the 40 km as the crow flies in mountains usually translates to much more than that. In this case it turned out to be about 100 km of the sharp rocky switchbacks (think Sani pass in the old days after rain - not the highway it is today) raising sharply up and down over the highlands. I have arrived knackered to Lalibela eventually after dark.

Some pics from the track to Lalibela:







Lalibela (about 2500 meters above the sea) is a town in northern Ethiopia that is famous for its 11 monolithic rock-cut churches hewn out of rock ground - i.e. hewn vertically down rather than horizontally on the rock face as is seen in other places). Lalibela is one of Ethiopia's holiest cities, second only to Aksum, and is a center of pilgrimage for much of the country. The churches have been build in the 12th or 13th century and the most impressive one is the Church of St. George shaped like the Georgian cross.

By chance I arrived on Saturday - which turned out to be very lucky, as Sunday is the mass day, when the people of Lalibela and surrounds gather to pray at the churches. Despite being an atheist who finds catholic services (all two or three of them that Iíve attended for funeral or wedding) incomprehensible and boring, I was deeply impressed by the level of devotion shown by the people in Lalibela. Their life is clearly no walk in the park, and the belief that there is someone lookout out for them maybe the only thing that makes it bearable. And I can relate to that - there were moments on this trip when even I prayed for a good outcome.

Mass in Lalibela:




(https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-hxpUdHyGE04/VEV_htGMSGI/AAAAAAAACmM/zYbW4Rrzp_Q/s512/051218%2520130-13.jpg)    (https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-ktKiqgTWkLs/VEV_5tZ9xnI/AAAAAAAACno/PrBBLs2eLxo/s512/051218%2520131-25.jpg)








(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-Q2mPChtuRuk/VEV__exUelI/AAAAAAAACoA/VGIeiU63j1s/s512/051218%2520131-35.jpg)    (https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-d1f4-vKtf7Q/VEWADuv4CpI/AAAAAAAACoI/C82M4NRARrs/s512/051218%2520131-36.jpg)



(https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-BOZGLvMyNME/VEWALHV7UlI/AAAAAAAACog/QPyZFiaWAMA/s512/051218%2520131-44.jpg)    (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-Pf1_O7ijmOg/VEWAM5qeTmI/AAAAAAAACow/LH1phuTcHSQ/s512/051218%2520131-43.jpg)

Church of St. George:




(https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-LV2D28hlTG4/VEWAYuxaHEI/AAAAAAAACpY/k3acR_s3DI0/s512/051218%2520131-59.jpg)    (https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-nKuNWYbko4Q/VEWAdnR8lYI/AAAAAAAACpo/zw5D7cvurTs/s512/051218%2520131-60.jpg)

(https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-9d58y0DjIEc/VEWAkoclCYI/AAAAAAAACp8/BeKWvj_YEpw/s512/051218%2520132-17.jpg)    (https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-D_nA-ph6GXk/VEWAl6IgacI/AAAAAAAACqI/5dwTher3JTQ/s512/051218%2520132-18.jpg)

(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-m7d5pW6wQnk/VEWApHexGWI/AAAAAAAACqQ/-3t-hfH9flk/s512/051218%2520132-19.jpg)    (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-8J3ROZ6K3KA/VEWAk9iqW9I/AAAAAAAACqA/Fs-jxuKtgHA/s512/051218%2520132-10.jpg)



Sights in Lalibela:







From Lalibela  I headed on dirt to Bahir Dar on Lake Tana about 100 km south from Gonder - so I came almost full circle. It was about 300 km of very dusty road with trucks, which made for the interesting game of chicken - taking over was quite an adrenalin as you could not see anything for kms sometimes during overtaking while ducking the trucks going in the opposite direction (as well as the truck I was overtaking - not visible till few meters from it) at the last moment.

On the way Iíve bumped into John & Helen from the Lake Nasser gang going in the opposite direction and we stopped to catch up. I had actually an agenda Iíve been working on since Khartoum to cover: the only official crossing from Ethiopia to Kenya is Moyale, from where the very bad rocky road heads south to Marsabit, Isiolo and Nanyuki next to Mt. Kenya. The road is back (that is a good thing as far as Iím concerned), and you are required to travel in the police convoy due to the activity of bandits from nearby Somalia. However in Khartoum Iíve bumped to some overlanders who told me that there is an alternative route from Omo Valley (where I and most of the gang were heading) south through the Samburu tribal area along the eastern shore of Lake Turkana. This one was actually technically illegal, as there was not official border crossing, however Kenyans were tolerating this route and allowed you to register once in Nairobi - on the other end of Kenya. However the route would require to cross more than 800 km of deep sand and rocks in extremely remote area with no petrol available. So I needed a vehicle with me to carry my petrol (being the idiot I am, the remoteness itself would not probably deter me from going it alone). And hence I started to pitch the route to J&H - theyíve heard about it and were considering it as well. So we agreed to meet up again in Addis Ababa to finalize the plans.

I have arrived to Bahir Dar in the afternoon and headed for the campsite on the Lake Tana recommended by J&H. There Iíve bumped into Eric & Daniela (again the Lake Nasser gang), who were leaving next day towards Addis - the short route south not including Lalibela and north. We had a dinner and they recommended to go visit islands on Lane Tana, which house monasteries with impressive murals (I know - I promise these are the last churches from Ethiopia). Next day they left and I went for guided tour of the islands. Like so:

Camp in Bahir Dar on Lake Tana:



Monasteries on the Lake Tana islands:








(https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-5VivyC4TjwI/VEWBVUQ2dLI/AAAAAAAACsw/KPvdE1M0ENA/s512/051220%2520133-23.jpg)    (https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-I0IonZJikyE/VEWBuwPE5WI/AAAAAAAACuI/kf32coVW_EU/s512/051220%2520133-48.jpg)

(https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-d59qHyuRdII/VEWBzZNRakI/AAAAAAAACuY/8jdUfyMdDNs/s512/051220%2520133-54.jpg)    (https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-9q4h_pJDcNo/VEWBMSZWbtI/AAAAAAAACsQ/z44olA0Bhkg/s512/051220%2520133-13.jpg)


Good news everybody! There is a hole in the hell...





And my first hippo on the way back:


Next instalment - south Ethiopia.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: DirtyHarry on October 22, 2014, 11:27:07 pm
Lovely pics and RR  :thumleft:
Title: Re:
Post by: Jackol. on October 23, 2014, 06:48:59 am
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: silvrav on October 23, 2014, 08:54:53 am

Is there a reason the church of St.georges was build in the ground?
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: ArthurS on October 23, 2014, 10:12:12 am
 :drif: Another morning at work buggered :sip: This is as said before one of the best RRs on this forum ! 
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on October 23, 2014, 10:16:36 am
Thank you.

@Silvrav: I don't know the reason for the layout, but it's not only the St.George that is 'dug out' of horizontal rock - all 11 churches are done in the same way (you can see it on other pictures - it's difficult to capture that though), they are just standard rectangles, so from the top visually less impressive than St. George - even though couple of them are much bigger and more impressive inside.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: XTRICK on October 23, 2014, 12:07:32 pm
Epic. Thanks. :ricky:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on October 23, 2014, 10:41:55 pm
For your viewing pleasure I have managed to resize retrospectively all the portrait pictures that came out originally too small.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on October 26, 2014, 03:39:56 pm
Ethiopia - part 4

From Bahir Dar I headed on tar south-east to Addis Ababa, where I arrived second day in the afternoon. Addis Ababa city of about 3.5 million people is capital of Ethiopia and the typical bustling dirty african city where slums surround few glass covered high rises along the main street. On approach it looked surprisingly small as it is squashed in a bowl surrounded by mountains on all sides.

After getting lost for an hour or so I have eventually found hotel Barro - travellerís nest in the centre of town recommended by 4 out of 5 overlanders. In the courtyard I found camping Eric and Daniela, who arrived day or two before from Bahir Dar, and John and Helen who came from Lalibela. They also told me about Loek staying in another hotel about 300 meters away, where his girlfriend works as a manager - contrary to the grapevine rumours of her being the 19 year old model, she turned out to be nice motherly lady in her late 30ís. 

Once settled in my room, I didnít waste any time and headed to courtyard to pitch the Lake Turkana trek to the Landie crews. I have strategically focused on Daniela, who was teacher and natural worrier. She was scared even of the standard Moyale route (rightly so, there were Somali bandits lurking there) and asked John to accompany them through the northern Kenya. John was keen to do lake Turkana and mentioned it to Daniela, but being real gentleman told her that if she wouldnít want to, he will accompany them on the Moyale route. Which would left me in a hard place - I could try to cross 800 km (including more or less illegal border crossing) of one of the most remote regions in Africa with no petrol available the whole way (I would have to carry somehow additional 20 litres of petrol on the bike through 100s of km of deep sand) solo, or chicken out and go Moyale. There was still an option to co-opt Rupert with whom Iíve discussed the option over email and who was willing to go, but even I knew that going only with Rupert and kids in VW Bus would be just plain stupid - Iíd rather go solo.

So I brought up my best game with Daniela. She had a time to prepare (probably using most of the at the time 10 MB/s internet bandwidth available to the whole of Ethiopia) and pulled on me a Dutch couple who did the Turkana route few months back and found a shot dying man along the route - too scared to stop they just left him there and pushed on. I came prepared too (using the rest of the ethiopian bandwidth) and trumped her with 30 people killed in a village close to Moyale about half a year ago. Both were episodes in the cattle wars, when villages raid each other to steal cattle. The wars were particularly nasty that year due to severe drought that killed a lot of cattle.

I have eventually got Daniella to see the merits of the Turkana route - all other things being more or less equal (cattle wars, rough terrain), there was no risk of Somali bandits on the Turkana route as they did not operate that far west from the Somali border. Plus we wouldnít have to backtrack to Moyale 100 or so km from Omo valley where we wanted to see the famous tribals as the Turkana route starts in Omo. We had a deal to go Turkana and I went to celebrate with John and Helen  to a nearby bar.

We spent a week or so in Addis doing chores, eating out and drinking in the surrounding bars. I have managed to withdraw $ from my Mastercard in an FX exchange office in Sheraton hotel - the only place accepting cards in the whole of Ethiopia at the time. I have also picked up new set of TKC tyres on the airport sent by my father from Europe. Iíve found that by far the best way to ship parcels anywhere in the world is using airlines - they are keen for any revenue and ship the package basically as a luggage. It is very flexible as they get it on the next plane to the destination (unlike seats there is always space in the luggage storage of the airplane) - so it can be almost anywhere in the world where there is an airport within 3 days. And they are comparably cheap - I think sending both tyres did cost slightly over 100 USD, while shipping companies asked more like 1000 USD due to what they call Ďvolume-weightí or some such. The only hassle is customs, but I somehow managed to get them from 3 different african airports, without paying any significant customs/bribes.

One day Eric and Daniela became a target of hilarious mugging attempt (I know that is wrong choice of words, but given nobody was hurt and nothing stolen it was quite funny) - while they were walking in the middle of the day on a busy street, a guy walking against them out of a blue dropped down to his knees in front of Eric, grabbed him tightly with both arms around the knees and started swaying Eric vigorously in circular motion. To keep the balance Eric was forced to swing his whole body in line with his knees with his arms flailing above his head involuntarily - like he was dancing on a rave party. An accomplice then jumped from behind and tried to pick Ericís pockets. Daniela, once she recovered from the initial shock started to shout and kick at them and they gave up and retreated empty handed.

So all good in the end, except that nobody came to help even though there were lots of people around. In my experience - and in big contrast to the brain dead individualistic indifference of most Europeans (myself included) - the strong communal sense of people in Africa usually prompts them to get involved vigorously when facing inappropriate behaviour. I myself had to save a thief who stole my MP3 player in Zambia from the outraged villagers who were ready to lynch him on spot. But not in Ethiopia where whiteys - or faranj in their vernacular, were considered fair game and people seemed to side with their own, regardless whether they were decent folks or criminals. Obviously Iím generalizing grossly and this was the most extreme case, but in many places in Ethiopia I had this funny feeling that if shit hits the fan Iím on my own against all of them - while for example in Sudan I was always treated as respected guest protected by local customs.

On December 25th the whole Lake Nasser gang present + Loekís girlfriend squeezed into the russian Lada taxi (this licenced Fiat used to be the most powerful car in the Eastern block) and drove to a Chinese restaurant to celebrate the Christmas and Loekís 67th birthday. Over the typical Christmas dinner of spring rolls, Peking duck and a little cup of complimentary chinese liquor, Loek mentioned occasional shots heard in the city during the night and his GF explained that those are police suppressing student protests resulting in few dead every night (weíve also heard them but assumed they were fireworks). There were elections coming and students were not happy with the current ruling clique from the north. We didnít talked much about it and moved onto other more Christmasy topics.

Next day, pissed off Loek came to see us at Baro and told us that during the night a secret police woke him up in his hotel and confiscated his passport - he was supposed to go to police station to collect it. They wanted to know what he was talking about during the dinner. This was quite creepy as somebody must have followed us there or back - the people in the restaurant didnít have a clue about where we stayed, we just rocked up in a cab. Loek eventually got away without much hassle and with his passport, but after the episode I understood a bit better sour mood of the youth we encountered every day in the streets. The general atmosphere resembled South America during the reign of their mustachioed dictators where people disappeared during the night and were never seen again - the same rumours were circulating in the city.

Funnily enough for a photo report, I do not have any pictures for this instalment - but will post the next one with pics again shortly.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on October 26, 2014, 04:30:50 pm
Ethiopia - part 5

From Addis the whole gang (including Loek who wasnít going beyond Ethiopia, but still wanted to see us on our way) headed south to Awasa and Arba Minch. We departed individually over couple of days and agreed to regroup in Arba Minch for New Years Eve and push to Omo Valley and to Lake Turkana in Kenya.

The first objective was Awasa, main attraction of which was Jana - an immigrant from eastern Germany, who was famous on the travellers circuit for her cooking. While Ethiopian food selection was definite improvement on Sudan, a month of fried chicken, some uninspired beef and spaghetti bolognaise, gets old eventually - especially over Christmas. While I do not remember the menu, Jana definitely did not disappoint.

Other attraction of Awasa is its lake which is supposed to be a birdwatchers paradise - which Iím not, but tried and this is what I got:










And one monkey enjoying injera:


I chanced upon a religious gathering in town, here some pics:





(https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-9t8yxEr_bhc/VElj41mLnII/AAAAAAAACyE/sob_G8Lo1RM/s700/051228%2520135-33.jpg)    (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-E-spCjIGDbI/VElj3XNcZKI/AAAAAAAACx0/-GnpeIqgqkE/s700/051228%2520135-36.jpg)





These gangstas were cute - their attire, which their whole identity hinged on completely, was literaly the only set of clothes they had. So I've spotted them later at the bank of the lake waiting butt naked for their clothes to dry up after they done their own laundry:


These Marabu gangstas on the other hand stunk as shit (didn't know birds can stink, thought thats a mammal thing):


From Awasa we headed on a dirt road to Arba Minch in convoy with J&H, E&D and Loek with GF for meet up with Rupert before our push to Omo valley and Kenya. On the way there my rear moped tube blew up finally at about 100 kmh (I cannot remember why I have put the tube into the new tubeless TKC in Addis - probably something along the lines that more rubber will last longer or something). I tried to fix it quickly before arrival of the convoy behind me, but did not manage and so I had to listen to the comments like Ďleftie loosie, righty tightyí - well at least after that I finally remember how to screw a screw.

In Arba Minch, which is the biggest town in the southwest part of Ethiopia, we settled in a lodge outside of town on top of a hill overlooking the adjacent lakes. Rupert, his girlfriend Lena who joined them in Addis and kids were already there and next day the whole group went for a game drive in the nearby Nechisar NP (I took a ride with Loek as they wouldnít let me in on bike). The guards at the gate were strict that the route is 4x4 only, which Rupert assured them his Bus was (Haldex probably). Few km into the park on a steep rocky incline while being pulled by John (as the Bus didnít have enough power to make it) he eventually cracked the sump and lost all the oil.

Rupert assessing the damage watched by Loeks GF, while Eric and Daniela laugh at the kids hanging upside down about 7 meters up from the nearby rock:


and the kids with Lena:


Nothing will stop this man:


John had to pull him all the way back to Arba Minch for welding, while the rest of us continued through the park. In the retrospect the animals were a bit underwhelming - just boks and zebras, no big 5 there, but it was my first park so overexcited I took about million pictures of impalas and zebras - and deleted most of them later, so none of them make it here.

Much more interesting turned out to be the boat trip on one of the lakes in the park with lots of crocodiles and hippos:


Yannick (7) driving the Dutch veteran:







Right about here, our outboard motor called it a day, and our Ethiopian guide suggested that we jump into the lake and walk the 10-15 meters to the shore and walk back around the lake - he said it's not a problem, the water is not deep. Well it was deep enough for that mother on the bank to fill our all our lungs with it and still have some left, so he went alone. Surprisingly he made it and came back 40 minutes later on another boat with spare engine:




Laundry as an adrenaline sport - that lady has some cojones I have to say, even with the hubby on the lookout:


Back in the lodge we all were finishing the last preparations for the lake Turkana crossing - which mostly meant that Rupert got his Bus welded and then, when we told him there is no petrol along the way, went for search of jerry cans. Despite being major town, there were no jerry cans to be had in Arba Minch (warned upfront Iíve bought mine in Addis and deposited it in Johnís Landie), and the more knowledgeable of the gang talked Rupert out of buying 20 liter plastic cans used to sell cooking oil, as apparently they spark sometimes due to static electricity - not good with 20 liters of petrol in. I thought he is properly stuffed, but never underestimate Rupert! He eventually rocked up with 200 liter Shell drum strapped to his roof. Great, he now turned his 4x4 into a tanker.

The resident troop of baboons at the lodge proved to be proper pain in the ass. This alpha male even tried once to snatch Olivia to add her to his harem - luckily the alpha male of the Austrian troop was close enough to interfere (unfortunately his kick was too slow to connect though) and Olivia despite few scratched on her face seemed otherwise unaffected:



On the New Years Eve when we were all getting ready for New Yearís celebration and departure next day, a disaster hit. There was a sick Frenchman in one of the bungalows and Daniella found out that there is a meningitis epidemic raging in the southern Ethiopia. I couldnít care less - first if all I donít know what it is and secondly I was vaccinated against it, but Daniella freaked out and refused to continue to Omo and Lake Turkana (which would effectively force John & Helen out of it as well). She even refused to get vaccination freely provided (even to faranj) in any Ethiopian hospital, worried about the reuse of needles - I offered the sterile needles I was carrying, but she refused. Eventually we managed to talk sense to her - we were already in the affected zone and so was Moyale, where she wanted to go. She still refused to get vaccinated, but agreed to go lake Turkana, given we (at least the ones not vaccinated) will not visit the local village markets which were said to be the main source of infection. We agreed even though the village markets were the main reason for Omo visit - I was vaccinated so planned to go anyway. All other people from the gang sneaked out in the course of afternoon and got vaccinated as well, so ironically it was only Daniella and Eric who ended up being at the risk of contracting the disease.

To relieve the stress from this episode, I drunk up a storm later during the New Yearís celebration and blacked out with very scant memories of what happened. Which is probably a good thing as the last thing I remember was talking to nice crisp young european ladies fresh from the UN indoctrination training in New York and eager to save Africa. Iím afraid I may have told them what I think about development help in Africa - itís never a good idea to mix young sincere idealistic ladies with shit-faced horny corporate man-whore.

Next day we woke up late, said our farewells to Loek and GF and set-off to Omo. As we started late (me being the last) we had to sleep over in Konzo, only about 80 km from Arba Minch. From there we moved next day to Turmi village in Omo Valley on the way to Turkana, to get a glimpse of the famous local tribes.

Omo valley is a hot bowl surrounding the Omo river (tributary to Lake Turkana) in the south of Ethiopia. Itís famous for its inhabitants - the variety of animistic tribes looking like something straight out of stone age (sure, sprinkled with AK47 here and there). They are visually very impressive clothed in the animal skins and lots of bracelets and necklaces - I would say even more impressive than Himbaís in Namibia. The most famous is the tribe living in Jinca and surrounds, in which women cut their lower lip and wear plates embedded in. We didnít go to Jinca as it was out of the way and would cost us precious petrol and instead visited market in Turmi.

On the way to Turmi:


Turmi village market:







(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-ebwisdvONY8/VEllGZUA73I/AAAAAAAAC2k/PtUUiQua-E4/s700/060102%2520138-22.jpg)    (https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-SrhIaf2aE64/VEllHxm7yuI/AAAAAAAAC20/qt2QQCXflIk/s700/060102%2520138-27.jpg)

(https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-B_B363D6oF8/VEllHyxVjNI/AAAAAAAAC2w/ycLmH6K3ptY/s700/060102%2520138-28.jpg)    (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-jjJzduVoYyo/VEllKJStVvI/AAAAAAAAC28/W0wPsTLLjOs/s700/060102%2520138-33.jpg)



Don't ask, no idea...

(https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-VLJNH6Jw0ME/VEllfzZcDpI/AAAAAAAAC38/zqYck72nXuc/s700/060102%2520138-55.jpg)    (https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-LwPyDaqx1tw/VEllUVXjpMI/AAAAAAAAC3c/MUBMzBpz5go/s700/060102%2520138-42.jpg)







Rupert's 4x4 tanker camping in Turmi:


Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Vossie72 on October 26, 2014, 06:52:53 pm
Great RR.   
Makes you want to hit the road....
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on October 29, 2014, 09:30:22 pm
Kenya - part 1

Route through Kenya:


Keen to get into Kenya, next morning we set-off early from Turmi west on the completely deserted dirt road heading to Omorate (or Kelem on some maps).

Rupert setting off:


As usually I immediately picked up a few km lead - by now I got the T4A from John (I didnít buy it as I didnít know it existed - Iíve bought it twice since so hopefully that compensates for this transgression) so I knew my way and didnít have to wait for them until the turnoff south to Kenya, about 100 km from Turmi. I was in the zone - I was about to ride on a bike one of the most remote regions in Africa, through very rarely travelled track crossing Samburu and Turkana tribal homelands and 100s of km of deep sand and rock - life was good and I was smiling and singing with joy whatever crappy tune came up. So naturally at about 130 kmh  I have overlooked a bad corrugation before a right bend got carried out into the left side (in Ethiopia they still drive on the right side of the road - i.e. right), where I came face to face with the only vehicle I would meet for next 4 days (apart from my escort) - a truck full of gravel. There was no chance to make it back to my side of the road, so I just hugged the steep left shoulder (the road was about 1,5 meter above the surrounding bush) as close as possible and flexed all my muscles to deflect the hit. Luckily, the truck driver read the situation correctly and swerved to the left passing about meter from me - he even managed to blow the horn for an effect. That refocused me completely and the rest of the ride to the turnoff went without further hiccups.


The turn-off south towards Lake Turkana and Kenya turned out to be a double track in deep sand, like so:


It was hard to believe that this was really a start of 600 km route south to the next petrol station in Maralal. Once cars arrived we set-off . The track was mostly deep sand double track, including numerous crossings of dry riverbeds. I havenít ridden the sand since Sudan, but got quickly into it again, pushed ahead waiting in regular intervals for regroup with the rest of the convoy.







There are actually people living here:




We found large tribal village at the border indicated by GPS, but while we caused a big commotion (not many vehicles come there) nobody stopped us and we continued south into Kenya, without any formalities or stop whatsoever (I got my carnet stamped out of Ethiopia either in Addis or Arba Minch - canít remember now).

Rupert's 4x4 slightly out of it's depth:


As usually, John to the rescue:


My 2x1 out of its depth - about 60 km of this in Kenya heat has a way to highlight really clearly that GS is not an off road motorcycle:



About 60 km into the track we came to the northern border of the Sibioli NP. Correctly we - or at least me on the bike, were supposed to circumvent the park along its border to the east. But there was not gate so we just headed south through the park. The terrain - which until now was busn in a deep sand (I mean Mozambican sand monster), has changed a bit and deep sand was alternating with rocks on the higher ground. By now it was close to midday, bloody hot, and I was starting to feel funny. I suspected it was heat stroke / dehydration setting in, but wasnít sure what to do as I have already drunk more than 5 litres of liquids since the morning. Anyway it wasnít very dramatic yet - I just couldnít piss even though I thought I want to, and luckily we had a lunch break, as the kids had to eat properly, so I could rest a bit laying under the bike to catch some precious shade.


Lunch break:


No help whatsoever...


Through the park:



Lake Turkana:





After lunch I was still riding up front, but more cautiously as the reports differed on whether there were lions or not, and as I deteriorated further from the exhaustion and heat. Eventually cars caught up with me at one of my frequent vain piss attempts, asking whatís wrong. I told them itís just some indigestion and told them to carry on - I will catch up. We planned to camp in the park campsite on the lake of Lake Turkana about 25 km further on, so it didnít seem a big deal. So they set of, but John promised that he will come back looking for me if I do not rock up soon.

Which I almost didnít. I was deteriorating quickly and getting progressively weaker and dizzy. I pushed on but with about 5 km left in a deep sand on the lakeshore I dug the rear wheel in, and just couldnít find the strength to get it out. When I tried I vomited profusely - you know that proper one when you can taste your insides viscerally. I tried to drink, but that just went out immediately. I also started to hallucinate seeing lions all over the place, which actually helped a bit as a distraction.

Somehow I managed to get all the luggage off the bike, throw it on its side lift it and ride it out another 50 meters for firmer ground where I could use side stand. I went back 50 meters to pick the gear, but threw up 2-3 times to make the distance, so just grabbed on bag, left all the rest - cameras, boxes, helmet, body armour - laying there - I just managed to mark the viewpoint in GPS, sat on the bike and set-off. It was 5 km through the shittiest lake shore sand crisscrossed by car tracks, but weirdly enough I made it through sitting all the way (I did not have a chance to stand) without a single hiccup - go figure, but surrendering any pretense of control and easing into the ride probably had a lot to do with it.

When I made it to the campsite, which was one big buildings and few bungalows I could see from the faces of the others that I look like shit. I asked John to go and fetch my stuff and crashed into one of the bungalows - it was early afternoon and bloody hot. John came back with all my stuff but told me that when he arrived, there were 5 Samburus with spears and shit standing around my luggage and wondering what the fuck it was. I have sneaking suspicion that they must have watched me struggle with the bike while saying shit like Ďnice pussy cat, now just calm downí, bastards.

Anyway, few hours of rest in the shade and lots of litres of cold water worked like a miracle and by the dinner time I was on my feet circling the 4x4ís from some chow. Which was a good thing as while I was resting John called on satellite phone Bill & Claire (who were both doctors) to figure out how to deal with my condition. Luckily they didnít pick-up immediately and when they did return the call their only advice was to hang me upside-down from a tree or something, stick a hose where sun doesnít shine and pump some water in - no wonder British NHS is such a mess (to be fair as we didnít have a drip, and I was vomiting anything I put in my mouth, that was the last option how to get some liquid in). Luckily by the time they called I was already recovering well, so enema seemed unnecessary. I have spent rest of the night running out regularly for a piss among the big herds of zebras and wildebeest.

Next day we set-off to Loyangalani at the south end of Lake Turkana. We still had about 40 km to get to the gate of the NP and then another about 120 km south. The track through park continued to be deep sand through thorny bush and by the time we made it to the gate I was in pieces again. The concilium decided to wait with me one more day in the nearby park headquarters to give me more time to rehydrate and rest properly - should I not improve significantly by next morning day, they will call the bush doctor - a doctor coming in on a bush plane to take care of me.

Iíve spent whole day resting on a bed in the room they gave in park headquarters. To facilitate my recovery John designed a rigorous drinking plan (I was supposed to drink 12 litres of water that day), and encouraged my compliance by discussing casually the health and spiritual benefits of enema (great yogis apparently use enema regularly to cleanse themselves). He got my attention and by the end of the day I have managed to down 15 litres, the last three standing in the toilet with bottle at my mouth just letting the flow flow.

To give me maximum chance, next morning we set-off at about 4 am, while it was still dark and cool. The preparation paid off and I made it all the way to Loyangalani without a glitch. Loyangalani was a small dirty town at the shore of the lake, dominated by a luxury lodge owned by grumpy german piece of shit (clearly local capo), guests of which were shipped in and out by plane and. We camped in the community campsite, but food was proving to be a problem - we tried the lodge, but the nazi outright refused to bother with us as we didnít come on place (well I almost did). So eventually we scrapped something from the poor village shops - we were just one day from Maralal and civilisation.

As soon as I stopped being the trouble, Rupert took over. The Bus was very low on power and emitting very bluish exhaust fumes - John had to pull him for many kms through deep sand. Quick look into the engine bay made clear what was the problem - the air filter sitting on top of the engine was fastened by one screw instead of the original 4, so a lot of sand dust must have made it to the engine and it was burning a lot of oil - the car was at its last stretch. Men - Rupert, John and Eric took apart the carburetor to see if there is anything that can be done there. After I gave them few useful pointers (me:íwhat is that?í, rupert: Ď carburetorí, me: Ďcarburetor mixes petrol and airí) they send me make use of myself and play with the kids in camp pool, which is exactly what I did for the rest of the day.

Next day the weaklings - e.g. me, Eric and Daniela and Rupert started off towards Maralal 250 km away early, with John giving us 2 hours lead so that he can pick-up the broken pieces along the way. First 30 km from Loyangalani had ominous name Ďstaircaseí and was supposed to be hard riding up and down very rocky hills. I found it quite entertaining, but not that extreme and enjoyed myself greatly. Eric with Daniela started way ahead of me and because I stopped enough just to enjoy the scenery, I caught up with them only about 20 km before Maralal, when they were already worried that I went down again and John will have to deal with both me and Rupert. We made it together to Maralal where we filled up with petrol and headed to the beautiful lodge, famous for its once a year camel race - I think the biggest south of Sahara, but I may be wrong. Its probably not politically correct to say, but I was amazed (this was to be repeated many times when I came upon - mostly white to be honest - settlers/farmers across Africa) what can few committed settlers build out of a wild bush, while the locals still live more or less in the iron age at best. Kenya was the first country with proper colonial history and this was quite an eye opener for me. We could not wait for a steak we were promised for dinner and circled the kitchen an hour in advance.




Rift Valley:





Lodge in Maralal:





The only problem was - no Rupert and John, not a good sign. Eventually Johnís Defender rushed in occupied by John and Helen, Lena and the kids. Rupert could not make it through the staircase and so John left him behind to try to sort himself out. Anyway, there were more important things to attend to - steak and soft bed in a chalet.

Next day - no Rupert. Lena and kids were getting worried, and John was getting antsy - he was getting tired of getting this circus through Africa. I told him that I will wait with kids and if Rupert doesnít show till the evening I will ride back to see what I can do. Luckily Rupert arrived next morning - and in the Bus. I think somehow he managed to get a truck to get him across staircase and from there - via few refuels of oil in Samburu villages he made it - with one Samburu gentleman as a passenger. Rupert bought an oil from him but did not have any money left so took him along to pay him off in Maralal.

With this happy end John and Helen didnít wait whatís going to break next (the road from Maralal was good dirt road with some traffic on it), said their farewells and set-off south to Nairobi - as I mentioned before real gentleman. Rupert decided to chill for a day, and me and Dutch landie set-off separately south to Nakuru. While I was to bump into them few more times, this was the end of the Lake Nasser gang.

Bumped into few giraffes and zebras along the way:





And crossing the equator for the first time on this trip:


In Nakuru me and Eric and Daniela found accommodation in a nice campsite in a farm about 20 km out of town. The heat stroke caught up with me and I felt feverish so splashed out for a nicely treehouse for a few days of R&R.

Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: XT JOE on October 29, 2014, 09:52:00 pm
Wow- as mentioned this would be a good book- absolute swell read with stunning pics. Thanks :thumleft:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Ian in Great Brak River on October 30, 2014, 01:16:55 am
 This RR just gets better and better.

Thanks for sharing.

Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on October 30, 2014, 10:16:58 am
Thank you for nice comments.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Optimusprime on October 30, 2014, 10:23:55 pm
Hi xpat

What would you take with if you'd had to do the trip again, that you feel would make the trip 'easier'.

My pig has 105000, another 940 days to departure to UK.

Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on October 31, 2014, 01:04:23 am
Hi xpat

What would you take with if you'd had to do the trip again, that you feel would make the trip 'easier'.

My pig has 105000, another 940 days to departure to UK.


I already have properly modified XTZ so this is what I would take now:


However if I would not have XTZ yet, the top of my list would be properly modified XT660R (like on the picture - I already know based on my Tenere mods how to get it to about 60 HP, which is more than enough - of course the engine and suspension mods may affect reliability, but so far I had no major problems with Ten) with bigger tank:


or Terra TR650 with big tank like this (with some more appropriate windshield):


I would also look into some well preserved 640 adventure. I personally would steer clear of 690 though, with its enduro geometry unsuitable for long distance riding, close ratio gearbox and questionable reliability, and I don't care how many km Noah on advrider done on it. That bike is probably already on a 3rd throttle body assembly and did not finish trip through Africa with its prior owner if I'm not mistaken).

But as I said before, it all depends on what trip you want to do - if you just want to make it the shortest way to Cairo and beyond on the main roads, the GS you have is probably the best tool. If you want to do a lot of off road exploring as I would tend to, I would look into the above lighter single options - but not too light as those tend to be very tedious on the long straight bits (even dirt) and there will be lots of them even if you avoid main roads.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Minora on October 31, 2014, 03:06:52 pm
Thanks for the report Xpat - really enjoying the daily read and the pictures, nice pictures draws me  :thumleft:

Correct, Luke (Fishfund) had numerous troubles with the 690, currently ridden by Noah on his RTW trip
http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=653492 (http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=653492)

On the point of 690's and beautiful pictures, this is also a good read.
http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1006370 (http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1006370) (How does one "personalise" a Hyperlink?)

Sorry for the high-jack - Cant wait for the next instalment  :deal:

Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on October 31, 2014, 04:19:56 pm
No worries Minora, thanks for nice comment and the links.

But I have to say that festival of idiocy that was Fishfund's (+1 mate) trip through Africa still gets me going - I had to stop reading before I post something stupid and get banned for life from advrider. They wasted most of their time due to technical problems immersed in Africa between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, after which they decided to make up lost time by riding in 4-5 days from CT to Kilimanjaro straight, just so that they can meet with some buddy of theirs there, and then in similar fashion made interesting only by daily repairs of 690 made it to Ethiopia from which they shipped to Europe.

Now I can live with that - it's their trip, not mine - but their conclusion that Africa is vastly overrated, there are no animals there except if you pay in parks and that while they were keen to experience African culture all they got was Africans asking them for money (part of the African communal way of living, and what they expect when they were basically just going through border posts) just really rubs me the wrong way, as I love Africa. And the number of idiots on the advrider who gratefully found their stereotypes about Africa confirmed by this thorough African experience...

Well sorry about the rant - I will try to get Kenya out today.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: ArthurS on October 31, 2014, 04:49:10 pm
 :drif:  :sip: what a way to spend a friday afternoon at work... time to get on my pony this weekend... one of these beautiful african days i will drive up from RSA to Greece to visit some family. Hope to do it within the next 2 years !
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Difflock on October 31, 2014, 08:28:22 pm
Excellent RR, this inspires us also to seek that once in a life time adventure. You lived it, thanks for sharing.  :thumleft:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on November 01, 2014, 10:50:29 pm
Kenya - part 2

When talking with other travellers about Kenya, the correct way to behave seemed to be to grimace disgustedly and start bitching about the horrific corruption. Now I have no doubt that corruption is endemic there - Iíve heard that EU has  fully paid already twice tarring of the river bed between Moyale and Marsabit (the one I didnít do) that is still the only official connection with Ethiopia, without single km of tar being laid (Iím sure Chinese will sort it out soon). But Iím pretty sure that situation is very similar in most Eastern African countries, so I didnít understand why Kenya was being singled out. Well, there seemed to be an upside of this criticism for us muzungus - whenever I came upon one of the frequent police blocks, where police used to milk passing traffic for kickbacks, the officers smiled, saluted and waved me through. I assumed that this positive racism was motivated by the need to improve their tarnished reputation - at least in they muzungu eyes. Anyway the reality was that I did not pay a single bribe (not only in Kenya, but throughout the whole trip), not even during such an opportune moments like us rocking up in the immigration office in Nairobi to get stamped into the country about two weeks and about 1000 km after we actually entered the country - try that in EU or USA.

For me Kenya - the African poster country, was an oasis of civilisation thanks to its relatively well developed infrastructure (compared to the surrounding countries). Nairobi is an unrivalled metropolis of Eastern Africa, big bustling city with high rises, shopping malls including Executive Books, cinemas, ATMs, and good restaurants - things unheard of in Sudan or Ethiopia  and to an extent not even in Egypt (there was no place to get cash off a card in Sudan, and one office in Addis in Ethiopia). The truth is that this type of travel - while interesting, enjoyable and relaxing, usually does not provide sufficient intellectual stimulation, and after 5 months on the road I felt a bit bored and in a need of distraction. So I took three weeks break from travelling in Nairobi and indulged in nightlife, good food, and lots of reading.

Back to Nakuru where Iíve left you: Once sufficiently recovered Iíve headed from Nakuru south-east to Nairobi. The main road has been rebuild and the construction works combines with traffic was just a nightmare. I, as almost everybody else, was mostly riding on the dirt shoulder in a bowl of dust trying desperately not run into or be run over by hundreds of trucks driving in both directions without clear denomination of lanes, or even their number.

Iíve made it safely to Nairobi, and headed to Jungle Junction - travellers nest in one of the western suburbs. Jungle Junction is the place in Nairobi (and Eastern Africa actually) for the overlanders with their own wheels, except for overland trucks - another benefit (no drunk drug heads in their early 20s trying to get into panties of overweight western spinsters in their late 30s - or maybe the other way around). It is a villa with big courtyard situated in a quiet upmarket neighborhood lived in and run by german Chris and his kenyan wife. Chris came down zig zagging through Africa on a DR650 (or maybe 400 not sure), found a job as head mechanic in the local BMW dealership and later quit and started Jungle Junction. He also run workshop for travellers in the attached double garage and had a collection of second hand bikes - mostly BMWs at the back that he sold to the passing travellers in need (unfortunately for me no KTM, XT or DR though). He has been around and had some interesting stories. For example Swazi king sends once a year helicopter to pick Chris up and take him to Mbabane to service the BMW X5/X3 fleet used by his 30 or so wifes - this is supposedly cheaper than servicing the cars in Nelspruit (it would be interesting if he actually pays for the helicopter ride, or he just charges Swazi people - probably the same thing anyway).

Machinery in the courtyard of Jungle Junction:




Chris - the owner of Jungle Junction:


There were few of these parked in JJ - it seems to be pretty popular for european couples to buy one of these, spent summer in Europe while the truck is parked in JJ, and then spend European winter travelling through Africa:


Pretty, eh? Unfortunately this dude was stuck in JJ already about 3 months trying desperately to get the Landie going - all his wiring was fucked. He went for some standard service in Nairobi, and one of the illuminati there connected 220V to his fridge connector, basically frying all the wires - and then they promptly denied anything and forced him to get the car towed out of their yard.


The group from Lake Turkana reconvened one last time in Jungle Junction to go get stamped as one group (safety in numbers) into the country in the Nairobi immigration/customs office. Afterwards Eric & Daniela headed east to the beaches in Mombasa and then further south to Tanzania. John & Helen headed west to Uganda to see gorillas and Rupert with kids & I hanged in Jungle Junction for next few weeks. Iíve spent most of that time eating in the restaurants, buying and reading loads of books. For some reason I caught a taste for mercenary memoirs and read anything I could find on Executive Outcomes or SAS. I also came across the second hand copy of Jupiterís Travels from Ted Simon - biking overlanders bible. It was OK, but to be perfectly honest a bit like listening to Beatles - you know that they are what a lot of modern pop music is based on but find most of those later incarnations much more enticing (and anyway I prefer the Rolling Stones).

Chris seen all this bookwormish special forces fantasmagorie as a waste of precious opportunities and imposed a strict party regimen - Tuesday dance parties in establishment called Pavement, Wednesday or Thursday rock parties in Carnivores (the famous exotic meat eatery), and any other night my favourite dive - Mad House in CBD based above Shell petrol station, where as somebody noted it doesnít matter how old you are, your girlfriend is always 18.

After three weeks, culinarily, socially and romantically saturated, I was read to hit the road again. Original plan was to head to Tanzania and further south. But lots of travellers Iíve met recommended strongly Uganda, especially gorillas, so instead I headed back to Nakuru and then further on to Uganda, with few stopovers along the way.

First stop was at the Lake Naivasha, about 50 km before Nakuru. The lake is famous for its birdlife, but for me the main attraction was adjacent Hellís Gate national park. the main attraction of the park was that you could cycle through it on a rented bicycle - rare opportunity as they would not let me in parks on motorbike and I wasnít too keen on the organized game drives.

Of course the cycling was allowed in Hellís Gate only because there are no predators, so even bimbo like me could feel safe without cage. The thing is I ended up riding in the park through big herds of buffalos, probably more dangerous than a lion would be in a midday heat. Funny how official approval created false sense of security. Normally I was clueless even when I came across cattle an the road that was not inclined to move on. My standard operating procedure was to squint eyes like Clint Eastwood, rev the engine and/or blow the horn - all of which usually just attracted unwelcome attention of the biggest bull. Right at the point when I was about to execute emergency 180 pivot turn usually a 10 kg screaming kid run out of bush and had the 800 kg bull stampeding away in a blink of an eye. The kid would then invariably turn at me shouting Ďcandyí, Ďpení or Ďgive me moneyí, and I would hastily kick in 1st gear in a blind panic and rush off with rear wheel spinning in the cloud of dust. But somehow I felt unperturbed cycling within 10 meters of huge buffalo bulls, just because some Masai at the gate,who probably had to kill a lion with spear to be classified as a man) told me that itís perfectly safe - go figure.

Campsite on Lake Naivasha:





Hell's Gate NP:





(https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-JNF2SDznWfk/VFPLlLiWTFI/AAAAAAAADFo/BEO5cF3Jg4E/s700/060127%2520141-13.jpg)    (https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-KJ6tLYPJOL4/VFPLrtJawPI/AAAAAAAADGA/YKQPmJNl3GI/s700/060127%2520141-25.jpg)

(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-QXWrBFRZ4zo/VFPLmrfFPLI/AAAAAAAADF4/xz6v7ZtxupE/s700/060127%2520141-21.jpg)    (https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-nYxAKrcJHgs/VFPLtbzE3yI/AAAAAAAADGQ/FX8AbmPPSvI/s700/060127%2520141-22.jpg)


On the way to the gate to hell that gave name to the park; and the hell's gate itself - yep that little hole with sulphur fumes coming out:

(https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-PuwbPWVGlhg/VFPL0i9C7bI/AAAAAAAADGk/ifWCeXdgs64/s700/060127%2520141-28.jpg)    (https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-rqeZqUT8HZQ/VFPLyXF1XII/AAAAAAAADGY/JTKwjtaFU3A/s700/060127%2520141-32.jpg)

And a close up, in case you looking for a hole to hell:


After sleepover in Lake Naivasha, I headed next day to Nakuru and settled in the same camp I stayed in on the way down. I then somehow by asking around a lot managed to rent a car - Maruti 4x4 from some local big man (surprisingly for the number of tourists that come to Kenya, there arenít many services like car rental available for independent traveller) and went for two day drive through the Nakuru NP situated around Lake Nakuru. This one had lions and other predators so as far as Iím concerned it was the first real NP Iíve visited.









My wheels:




(https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-yc45q37gKIk/VFO8wkXbV4I/AAAAAAAADC4/w0NAVp1jC8k/s650/060129%2520142-041.jpg)    (https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-CK2bslS2Xwo/VFO9BG8umFI/AAAAAAAADDk/Czy2dxG-IxM/s650/060129%2520142-121.jpg)

(https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-XZSzR1ePcwk/VFO9AUqhM-I/AAAAAAAADDc/FL2rYjLBTqE/s650/060129%2520142-091.jpg)    (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-hxLv20LZEFY/VFO89iLJAnI/AAAAAAAADDU/FHYCU8Pgr5E/s650/060129%2520142-071.jpg)





(https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-28QJrysJH_w/VFO9NJ7FFxI/AAAAAAAADEQ/RbnU9zSynS0/s700/060129%2520143-101.jpg)    (https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-LmgTgP3Ysjg/VFO9Nl7nxPI/AAAAAAAADEU/yMLy2Y7y0XQ/s700/060129%2520143-141.jpg)


The park is not big - probably about the size of Pilanesberg NP, but I decided to sleep over in one of the wild camps there for the experience. When I rocked up at the campground, the only vehicle there was the austrian 4x4 with Rupert & kids having good laugh at my Maruti. So Iíve spent next day driving with them and taking them to the camp Iíve stayed in.

Next day I said my last farewells to the austrian pack and headed north west to Uganda. I slept over in Eldoret and then headed to small border crossing north of Mount Elgon.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Laban on November 02, 2014, 05:45:56 pm

Öthis is mesmerisingÖthanks Xpat..  :thumleft:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Optimusprime on November 02, 2014, 10:35:55 pm
Hi xpat

What would you take with if you'd had to do the trip again, that you feel would make the trip 'easier'.

My pig has 105000, another 940 days to departure to UK.


I already have properly modified XTZ so this is what I would take now:


However if I would not have XTZ yet, the top of my list would be properly modified XT660R (like on the picture - I already know based on my Tenere mods how to get it to about 60 HP, which is more than enough - of course the engine and suspension mods may affect reliability, but so far I had no major problems with Ten) with bigger tank:


or Terra TR650 with big tank like this (with some more appropriate windshield):


I would also look into some well preserved 640 adventure. I personally would steer clear of 690 though, with its enduro geometry unsuitable for long distance riding, close ratio gearbox and questionable reliability, and I don't care how many km Noah on advrider done on it. That bike is probably already on a 3rd throttle body assembly and did not finish trip through Africa with its prior owner if I'm not mistaken).

But as I said before, it all depends on what trip you want to do - if you just want to make it the shortest way to Cairo and beyond on the main roads, the GS you have is probably the best tool. If you want to do a lot of off road exploring as I would tend to, I would look into the above lighter single options - but not too light as those tend to be very tedious on the long straight bits (even dirt) and there will be lots of them even if you avoid main roads.

Thanks for the info, appreciated.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: trevo on November 05, 2014, 08:58:43 am
 :sip: :bounce: :bounce: :bounce: :bounce: :amazon:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on November 05, 2014, 11:08:21 am
Sorry, I'm a bit busy catching up at work. May need to take this week off writing. But will try to catch up next week.

Thanks for support.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: trevo on November 18, 2014, 09:15:43 am
Jy maak nie mooi nie  :laughing4: :peepwall:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on November 18, 2014, 10:50:34 am
I know - sorry, got a writer's block or something and the work push before year end doesn't help. This trip took a year to ride, so will take some time to report on, with few breaks in between.

I'll try to get going again on weekend.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Wayne Duck on November 18, 2014, 03:41:26 pm
Magnificent...absolutely magnificent!  :thumleft:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: edgy on November 18, 2014, 04:45:43 pm
I`m enjoying! :thumleft:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Steekvlieg on November 19, 2014, 03:15:59 pm
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: KiLRoy on November 19, 2014, 03:22:25 pm
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: african dust on November 19, 2014, 06:52:06 pm
huge effort to put it all together for us to drool over. thanks. allows us to live the dream from the comfort of our computer screen.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on November 23, 2014, 11:01:20 pm
Uganda - part 1

I didnít know anything about Uganda, except that a dude named Idi Amin may have ruled there once upon a time. It turned out to be my favourite country of the whole trip - and that despite the fact that I experienced the lowest point of the trip there. The people were generally very friendly and easygoing, and the lush green tropical rain forests in the west with chimpanzees and gorillas provided an impressive contrast the bushy savannah covering most of the East Africa.

For a crash course in history I skimped quickly through the Lonely Planet and learned basics about the turbulent post-independence history dominated by two despotic cretins - Obote and Amin, ruling alternatively between 1966 and 1985. Milton Obote changed constitution in 1966 to become the typical African big man ruler. He got ousted in coup by infamous Idi Amin in 1971 who proceeded to devastate country until 1979, when he lost war with Tanzania that brought Obote back to power. While he didnít achieve notoriety of Amin, Obote was equally brutal and eventually got kicked out by insurgents led by current president Yoweri Museveni. In Nairobi Iíve stumbled upon book Dark Star Safari from Paul Theroux describing his travels on public transport from Cairo to Cape Town. During the trip he paid visit to Museveni, whom he taught few decades back in Malawi as a volunteer in Peace Corps. He seemed to be quite sympathetic to the president and described him as smart guy and one of the new breed of African rulers, who may be inclined to serve their country and play by the rules. Unfortunately just as I arrived the constitution has been changed to allow Museveni to run for the third time (prior constitution limited presidency to two terms), and he is still president now, so it seems he turned into just another african big man holding on to the power as long as possible.


Iíve entered Uganda through a small border crossing north of Mount Elgon NP. This turned out to be my favourite border crossing with very relaxed officers and no traffic. On the Kenyan side the officers spent most of their time gardening - planting and watering flowers in the pots hanging off the office walls. I havenít seen this kind of care shown by state employees anywhere else in Africa. The adjacent Ugandan offices were noticeably poorer and dilapidated, but the officers were still very friendly.

Once through the border I took off west on a winding mountainous dirt road circumventing Mount Elgon from north. The road seemed rarely used (think small remote road in Lesotho) with people and animals the only traffic in between the small villages. The people were noticeably poorer and friendlier than in Kenya, where they were more indifferent to muzungu. Most kids and adults smiled and waved as soon as they saw me, many showing the V sign for victory - the sign of the opposition party in the upcoming elections as I found later. It looked like most of the rural Uganda supported opposition, while towns supported the governing party (by waving three fingers - as in the third consecutive term).

Iíve made it to Chebonet on the north-western side of Mount Elgon NP famous for the Sipi Falls running through the town. Iíve stopped for sleepover in the local hostel and went for a walkabout.

Chebonet with the Sipi falls - the upper one in the right top corner, the bottom one on the left:


Bottom waterfall:


Top waterfall:

(https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-iUYviFLElEM/VFZNO4P0zyI/AAAAAAAADIA/i_IlVfUpN6I/s700/060202%2520143-181.jpg)    (https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-mX7eEbddyhw/VFZNCmsvWlI/AAAAAAAADHk/ceYz1YCCHZ8/s700/060202%2520143-081.jpg)







Back in the hostel I had to figure out where to next. I wanted to explore north of Uganda close to the Sudanese border. But everybody I talked to advised me strongly against visiting areas north of Nile, frequented by the notorious fuckface called Kony and his rumble of so-called rebels referring to themselves humbly as Lordís Army. What started long time ago supposedly as one of the rebel movements to protect local tribes (Acholi I think) against the Museveni government degenerated into blatant extortion of the local population. Most of the soldiers in the ĎArmyí were children kidnapped from the villages in the north (ironically mostly Acholi), some of them reportedly converted to the army by being forced to kill their own parents. All his efforts earned Kony prominent position on the list of international criminals wanted in Hague. His response was a vow to exterminate any whitey he can get his hands on - and sadly owner of one of the most popular hostels in Kampala - had been killed few months back north of Murchinson Falls.

However I found out from somebody that the north-east along the Kenyan/Sudanese border is Karamojo country. Karamojo are a tribe of fierce warriors you donít fuck with even if you believe Lord is your chief commander and Kony wisely opted to stay away. So it seemed as a possible safe enough option for a bit of exploration up north. That is of course if Karamojo would find me agreeable enough to leave me alone - some local expats told me later in Kampala that it may not be wise to visit solo without some kind of local Karamojo endorsement.

But before I headed north I needed to get Ugandan money. There was a branch of a bank in Chebonet but it didnít allow to withdraw money from Mastercard. I wanted to save US $ cash I carried for emergencies so I set off next day to Mbale - the next bigger town where I should be able to get cash from card, about 50 km south-west. Mbale played a role in the first James bond movie with Daniel Craig - the place in the beginning providing backdrop for the fight on the crane towering over Victoria lake. The thing is - Mbale is about 100 km north of Victoria lake, but hey - who cares. It did end up being a place of my own major misadventure though.

Mbale turned out to be a bustling provincial town. Iíve found a bank (I think Braclayís) on one of the major streets and managed to withdraw Ugandan Shillings from my card at a counter - score! Getting money from Mastercard turned out to be major hassle throughout Africa - even in countries where there were ATMs, as they generally supported only Visa. Outside the bank Iíve bumped into Dominic - a polish volunteer Iíve met in Jungle Junction. Dominic and his praises for Uganda were one of the main reasons I was here. After quick chat I geared up and got on bike to head north.

From the side street where I was parked I had to cross the main street to head out of town. The street was a main boulevard with three lanes in each direction separated by curbed park lane with trees and bushes with regular pass-through openings. There was an opening in front of the side street I wanted to use to join the lanes on the other side. The traffic was busy consisting mostly from bicycles and motorbikes with occasional car waving in between. I waited for gap but realised soon enough that there is not going to be one and that I will have to  bully my way across the street in the usual third world way - except for the occasional car I was the biggest vehicle on the road and therefore had the implicit right of way.

So I edged slowly into the road and as expected the traffic seamlessly flew around me like a river with no worry in the world. That is until I was slap bang in the middle lane when a guy on a motorbike swerved unseed from behind a bicycle loaded with bananas (e.g. not visible at all) and headed squarely at me. I tried to get out of his way and jumped into the third lane, and he swerved desperately to pass behind me, but there was not enough room and he hit me in the right pannier.

Iíve dropped the bike to the ground between my legs without falling over more out of shock than from the impact, which was surprisingly mild. The other guy wasnít so lucky - he flew over the handlebars and landed on the pavement with his head bleeding profusely. He was conscious, but half out of it. Still dumbfounded I left my bike on the ground and moved towards him to try to help somehow. I wasnít much of a use - there was already crowd including Dominic loading the guy to a sedan that stopped by to take him to the hospital. Some of the guys in the crowd were getting quite agitated with me pointing out that I wasnít supposed to cross the street there, but head up the street and use a roundabout about 100 m further to get to the opposite lanes. They were right - but unfortunately being new to the town I had no clue. Dominic seeing the situation possibly escalating out of hand told me to leave my bike there and just head to the police station across the street - he will get my bike sorted.

Still in the haze I walked across the street into the police station, where at the reception I just reported that I just caused an accident - which of course they already knew about from all the commotion outside (interestingly there were quite a few police dudes standing by on the street during accident but watched the whole aftermath with complete indifference). They took me to the station commander seated in the dark sparsely furnished office. He invited me to sit down and asked me what happened. When I reported the accident he told me that I was supposed to use the roundabout, and I confessed my ignorance and admitted my fault.

He started to write down the accident report in hand on a paper torn out of a notebook, while I - with the adrenaline wearing off - started to flap in my head. I have heard stories of corrupt officers in the third world countries trying to rip off westerners and strict warnings to not sign any report without an official from embassy being in place or something. I contemplated contacting the Czech embassy in Nairobi (no embassy in Uganda) for assistance, but eventually calmed down and decided against it - at least for the moment. My instincts were telling me not to make an unnecessary nuisance of myself and disrespect the local authorities as so far they were treating me politely and professionally despite the fact that I have fucked up royally.

So I went with the flow and once he was done signed the report as it reflected what I told him. With that done he told me to leave my bike in the police station courtyard (Dominic managed to get it there - I never had a chance to thank him for it properly) and come back in the morning to finalize proceedings - he recommended a hotel across the street for the accommodation. I went to see the bike and take some stuff for the night and was surprised that except for the squashed right pannier, there was no damage on the bike. I remember that my first thought after the accident was that the trip is over as the drive shaft surely must be fucked - well it wasnít even touched. At least some good news.

I crossed the street tentatively half expecting a mob waiting for me but all was well and Iíve made it to the hotel without being overrun. In the hotel I got the room and was surprised by the support shown by the receptionists who of course knew the whole story as the accident happened right in front of the hotel and recognised me immediately.After quick dinner in the little hotel restaurant I retreated into my room for the sleepless night praying that the guy will be OK and everything will turn out alright.

When I walked in in the morning, the police commander told me that the guy has died in hospital and he has to go to check the body. My heart sunk and my mind was in the full tailspin again. He send me to wait in one of the offices in the courtyard with young plump female junior officer for a company until he comes back. There Iíve spent two hours with my mind flapping big time, while the bored lady officer tried to flirt the shit out of me - I must have had that deep glow of a depressed man. She asked me for my mobile number (the Czech one), which I gave her absentmindedly and then tried to arrange calls with me across the table. When I didnít bite, she asked why I am so sad, but she still couldnít see it even after I explained that killing a man does leave me feeling a bit depressed. She explained that it is no big deal - I will either settle a payment with the family outside the court or go to judge and after paying some fine will be on my way again next day. Now I know itís wrong, but this gave me huge relief and I may have even managed to squeeze out a compliment or two afterwards.

Two hours later the commander came back and told me there was a mix-up and they found my guy alive in another hospital. Well thank fuck for that! We were to go to the hospital to negotiate settlement with the family - he talked to them and they prefered settlement out of the court. I couldnít help it but felt that the whole dead man story was just a tactic to soften me for the negotiations.

The private hospital resembled something out of a third world war zone with multiple patients sharing the same bed and many of them spread out on the ground. They showed me to the room with the guy from the accident - he laid awake on the bed with bandages all over his head and I appologised the best I could for the fuck-up. He was surprisingly accommodating and forgiving. I was also introduced to his wife and his uncle - a surprisingly jolly and friendly fellow (and owner of the damaged bike), who was to lead the negotiations for the family.

I had a Comesa third party insurance that Iíve arranged in Addis Ababa that covered all the sub saharan African countries, except RSA. Iíve proposed to arrange the settlement via Comesa rather than me paying once off sum - not to save money, but rather to cover any possible future expenses once Iím gone. But they were keen on cash - feeling guilty for this whole fuck-up I didnít argue and eventually paid 1000 USD - all the USD cash I had on me (which I used as a lever). Over the following 3 years out of guilt I did end up sending another about 3000 USD, whenever the family presented a believable story of despair. And I was also asked by the lady police office for some donation and gave her some Ugandan Shillings (contradicting what I said in the prior installment about not paying single bribe in Africa - forgot about this one, and anyway it felt much more like after fact voluntary donation, as I didnít need anything from them anymore).

The uncle seemed really happy with the deal and even proposed that one of his sons can fix my box smashed in the accident - for additional fee of course. We agreed and the son managed to hammer and rivet the box back roughly into its original shape in the hotel parking lot.

All this rollercoaster took the whole day to ride, so I stayed one more night in the hotel - this time actually sleeping and set-off again only next day.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: King Louis on November 24, 2014, 12:59:13 pm
Well written, great pics, thanks for sharing..... :thumleft:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Jondu on December 02, 2014, 04:29:47 pm
book mark Tnx man
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: ArthurS on December 03, 2014, 01:47:07 pm
 :sip: its stories like these you talk about around a camp fire... p.s Xpat... was that your only big adventure or have you done some more since then ? 
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on December 03, 2014, 03:49:37 pm
Well that was the biggest. Since I've done quite a few trips through Southern Africa - Kaokoland, Mozambique sand monster, Zim, Bots cutlines, etc. You can find one more ride report from me in my sig-line to give you some idea.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Geotraveller on December 18, 2014, 06:23:22 am
Those two British lad(ies) can smoke your socks mate! That was fantastic! Great writing and excellent photos. Thanks for the inspiration.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: pietas on December 18, 2014, 07:04:40 am
Can't believe I only now discover this gem. Thank you for sharing it
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Jackol. on December 30, 2014, 03:34:52 pm
This is a brilliant report!!!  Thanks for sharing!   :thumleft: :thumleft:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: THROTTLE JOCKEY on July 03, 2015, 09:47:42 am
Finish this now Pleeeeaaaaaassssse

Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Firecoast on July 03, 2015, 10:27:39 am
AMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!! Loving it so far!
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on July 03, 2015, 12:08:34 pm
Thank you. I go side tracked by the ride report I did from my last trip to Kaokoland.

I have been contemplating continuation of this thingy for a while now - will try to get going next week, once I have enough material for few installments.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: schalk vd merwe on July 04, 2015, 05:41:58 pm
Hi Xpat just read your story from beginning to end. Respect man. Would like to meet you one day. Will be on the road again from tomorrow. Schalk
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on July 04, 2015, 08:40:56 pm
Thank you Schalk! I'm very happy to meet once you are back in SA - just send me a PM and we can arrange a dinner or something. I live in Gauteng so very flexible.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on July 12, 2015, 10:22:03 pm
OK, I recovered sufficiently from my last Christmas Safari writing project, so it's time to move on with this one. I'm not going to finish the whole thing in one push though. I'll try to get back to Nairobi in this push, which is going to take us through 3,5 countries.

I really do hope you enjoy it as it takes lots of work to post  ;)
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: zetman on July 12, 2015, 10:34:57 pm
 :ricky: :ricky:GOOI Mielies
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on July 12, 2015, 10:37:23 pm
Uganda - part 2

From Mbale, the plan was to explore the Karamojo country in the north east all the way up to the Sudanese border and then head in the westward arch hopefully avoiding areas of operation of Kony and his Lordís Army back south to Jinja - start of the White Nile on the northern shore of Lake Victoria - for a bit of rafting. From Jinja I would head west to Kampala for a bout of admin, maintenance and socializing and then onwards south west towards chimps and gorillas.

Next day I slipped out of Mbale early morning heading north to Kidepo Game Reserve on the border with Sudan about 500 km away, with a halfway stopover for refuel at a place called Moroto. After initial 50 km on tar I turned left and hit dirt road heading north to Moroto. Initially I passed through few Karamojo villages with locals in their traditional attire milling around. I stopped for few pictures and the kids were friendly, but I wasnít tempted to get too jovial with the local men commanding natural respect thanks to their physique (resembling Masai - just taller, more angular and muscular) and displaying that one directional attitude of Ďyou are my friend, but Iím not yoursí.

On the way to Moroto:



Karamojo I've met along the way:





Once I passed few settlements at the beginning of the dirt, there were no visible settlements almost all the way to Moroto. The only vehicles Iíve met on the whole 200 km were a white UN World Food Programme truck flanked by two white armoured vehicles front and back gunning it as fast as they could - which did raise some questions about wisdom of this little tripie. Just few km after the convoy I came upon a platoon of soldiers in fatigues and wellingtons and hung up with variety of AK47s, machine guns, RPGs, wrapped abundantly in the chains of ammunition.

I noticed them in the bush only as I was almost on top of them and got a bit of fright. Now, by this stage I was quite immune to the sight of AKs and I considered them more a fashion accessory than a weapon. The fact that somebody had AK didnít usually affect one bit my position when discussing a difference or two with the owner, shamelessly leveraging the impunity that white skin still provides in most parts of Africa.

But this bunch looked different - they seemed very professional and efficient, not very common sight in Africa, so I waved at them and opened up to get the heck out of there asap. There was no need to worry - they turned out to be just regular Ugandan army patrol heading to their tented camp that I passed a km or two later.

Moroto was small dusty town with that frontier high testosterone rough around the edges feel, frequented by the groups of tall angular teenage Karamojos looking for trouble - and I must have looked just like the distraction they were looking for. The colonists with their Ďcivilizingí influence obviously did not reach this far.

Not thrilled by the vibe I was keen to continue to Kidepo Game Reserve about 250 km further north on the border with Sudan. For that I needed full tank and some extra petrol, as I could only about make/not make it to Kidepo and back on one tank. But it wasnít to be - the only petrol station in town was dry with petrol supposedly arriving sometimes in the next 5 days. Somebody told me that the catholic mission in town could have some petrol, but they didnít have any either. Flanked by the bored Karamojo gangstas wondering loudly in their vernacular about the dumbass whitey expecting to rock-up in petrol station and get petrol (I think - no clue what they were saying except that it probably wasnít very polite) I didnít feel like staying. But I wasnít keen to give up on the trip up north either yet, so I decided to wait one day for the petrol and found a room in a surprisingly modern hotel catering mostly for the passing UN traffic.

I went for a walk through the market and to buy some extra can for petrol, but the teenage scourge was too much (they kept their distance around adults, but as soon as I was on my own they were circling like vultures) so I retreated back to the hotel soon afterwards.

The petrol didnít arrive next day, so with heavy heart I gave up on the trip to Kidepo. Frankly I had not idea what is in Kidepo - most probably just another piece of dusty African bush Iíve ridden thousands of km through already - but at that stage I already built it up in my mind to be the highlight of Uganda.

Not keen to come back the same way I decided to take a dirt road west to Soroti for refill and wing it from there. It was in the direction of Kony and his kid soldiers, so I checked the safety situation with the hotel manager who said that it should be OK up to Lira, but advised strongly against venturing any further west.

The road to Soroti was the usual packed dirt road running through the bush and after 200 km of no traffic whatsoever I hit the tar in Soroti and found sorely needed petrol. I couldnít figure out any way how to get south across the Nile from Lira to Jinja, where I was headed, so I took the main tar road south-east back to Mbale, the place of my mishap,  where I turned west to Jinja.

On the way to Soroti:



Jinja is the adventure capital of Uganda and the whole of East Africa.It sits on the northern shore of Victoria Lake at the point where White Nile starts itís 6000 km route to the Mediterranean. The main attraction is rafting on the White Nile, which is why I stopped over. There are many camps and rafting operators - I headed to the Bujagali Falls Campsite sitting in the lush green tropical forest above the said falls about 10 km down-river from Jinja.

The campsite was busy with three overland trucks parked at the entrance - generally not a good sign, unless you are into some rowdy white trash partying. So it was nice to bump into some familiar faces - John and Helen from the Wadi Haifa gang, who were returning back to Kenya after their gorilla visit in Virungas. They just came back from the rafting and were singing praises, so I went to the reception and booked myself for a trip next day - based on some comments I considered rafting - without ever setting a foot in one - to be for girls and opted instead for a trip in tandem kayak, and just for a good measure booked myself for two dayís kayak training - idiotically after the big trip, but that is generally how I roll, I often first do shit and only then try to actually learn how.

Overland trucks with John&Helen's landie on the left:


The campsite sits on the higher ground over the lush green jungle surrounding Nile:




Annoyingly all the chalets and single rooms were taken - majority of them taken by belgian airline corporate team-build shindig (as much as I donít like those events, I have to admit that if you are going to have one, you probably cannot best Jinja). So the usual travelling riff-raff were relegated to the campsite and dormitories. I was not keen to camp for 3 nights in the middle of what seemed to be a build up to a big party, so I ended up squatting in a dorm with bunch of western kayaking youths who flock to Jinja as one of the paddling Meccas. Iíve done a fair share of backpacking around the world in my 20s including dorm dwelling, but at 35 I did feel a bit outdated to share snores, farts and jackass jokes with complete strangers at least 10 year younger. Still, I wasnít keen on camping in the middle of bloody Woodstock so I sucked it up.

Me casa:


For dinner I went with John and Helen to the restaurant in the nearby lodge with big screen TV - England was playing rugby and John tried his best to explain the rules to this uninitiated continental euro. Luckily the game was quite engaging and rules much more straightforward than that other british colonial weirdo pastime - cricket.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on July 13, 2015, 09:16:15 pm
Uganda - part 3

In the morning I joined the Belgian airline captains and stewardesses for the rafting shindig. Guides herded us into two or three buses and drove us back to Jinja where they released us at the start of White Nile under the dam holding back the mighty Lake Victoria. For us tourists there were 7 rafts, each taking 6 or so people plus a guide and two tandem kayaks. They also had an extra Ďrecoveryí raft, which would pick-up people who cannot take it anymore - the raft was somewhat bigger and more stable and was following easier routes (the Nile course was peppered with lots of islands and some routes were easier than others). Unbeknownst to me yet, the bloody thing would haunt me for most of the trip.

The other kayaker was a pretty blonde lady eye doctor from Canada. She asked my name and where Iím from. I replied and asked ĎAnd you?í. ĎVictoriaí, she said. So that is what I called her until she told me about 5 hours later that her name is actually Judy - she is just from Victoria city on the Vancouver island in Canada. She was nice about it and even expressed support for my poor country torn apart by war. I resisted an evil urge to exploit her compassion further by talking about how many cousins I have lost, and explained that Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia are indeed two different countries (actually at that stage 8 different countries) and they donít even share a border. Not sure what it is that gets most people confused - probably the Ďiaí at the end, but I still find it quite amusing.

On the way there, the guides explained that the trip is about 30 km long most of the time spent in the rapids, ranging between grades 2 and 5 (grade 5 are  highest grade that you can do in a raft or kayak, were were told). I have spent most of my summer school holidays in the river in Slovakia, swimming in the current, surfing the current on the old door while holding on to a long rope attached to a tree, diving into vortexes and catching my keep of fish with my hands among the tree roots under the washed out banks and doing couple of canoeing trips down the river with my parents. So how difficult can this Nile be? Quite - it turned out.

For a start, Judy and I had to go through the rehearsal of eskimo turn in the calm water under the dam. This naturally raised a question or five about the hippo/crocodile situation. We were told not to worry - Idi Aminís henchmen used the dam wall to dispose of their victimsí bodies to be carried away by Nile and the relatives of the victims killed all the crocodiles under dam to retrieve the bodies before crocs get to them. Since it was more than 20 years since the shitface retired to live out his existence peacefully in Saudi Arabia, 2 or 3 crocodiles have survived the trip from the lake through the turbines of the power station and were by now about 4- 5 meters long and living peacefully by the wall about 100 meters up the river from us. But donít worry, they never bother anybody.

Right, letís get in then and try to get them interested by flailing upside down in a little plastic coffin. We were assigned two grumpy local guides/kayak chiefs. They clearly werenít keen on the job and would rather be kayaking on their own as one of the support kayakers attached to the group who picked up whatever remained of the group after each rapid. So, without much enthusiasm, they explained that should we flip over, our job upfront was to lean forward and hug the kayak with our arms eliminating drag of our bodies in the water as much as possible, while they will execute the eskimo turn. Each of us have got one trial flipover - my chief managed to get us back upside up, while Judyís didnít and they had to bail out of the boat. Despite her calls for repeat, they said itís good enough, the rest of the group jumped into their rafts and we set off.

First set of rapids were relatively manageable grade 2 and 3. However I felt a bit confused at the front of the kayak. During my canoeing days I was told to tackle the rapids straight on, while the guy behind me seemed content to let us float through the rapids sideways, which didnít add to the stability, and he ignored my questions about that. So I took initiative in my hands and tried to steer to correct the course from up front.

Then we hit the first grade 4. The thing is - as you sit basically at the water level you do not see the grade 4 or 5 rapids upfront enough to psych yourself up for it (or rather paddle like crazy to get out of the river before the rapid) as they are usually significantly lower than where you sit right now. You just see a water flowing more or less peacefully over the horizon in front of you and hear distant rumble. So when we crested the first horizon and accelerated quickly into the the 1,5 meter high boiling cauldron ahead something closely resembling panic attack set-in.

You see, the difference between raft (and canoe, but I donít think anybody uses that on this part of the Nile) and kayak is, that raft floats on top of the rapids and if it flips, you fall out of it and the floating vest carries you through the rapids where you get picked up by the support guys - not much to do on your side, just go with the flow. Not so in kayak. First, in kayak you do not float over the rapids, but go through them kind of like a torpedo. So as you are about the hit the standing boiling wall you have to pierce it with your paddle, otherwise the paddle hitting the boil square while the kayak moves in may break you neck. Once you are inside the boiling cauldron - which in grade 4 - 5 usually means under the surface, you are completely disoriented and donít know if you have flipped or not. Which brings us to the second difference - in kayak you have to take an active action to bail out as you are stuck in the very narrow plastic body through a small opening and kept in place by a skirt tightened around that hole. So unless you pull that skirt off the opening and push yourself out, you will just hang dangling upside down in the overturned kayak and drown even in a meter of calm water.

Back to the kayak: Once we crested the horizon at the top of the descent, there was no way out of it. We were going in so I tried to suck in as much air as possible, but I couldnít help feeling that Iím going under already hopefully starved for the oxygen. Inside, as we got thrown around  I completely lost my bearings and after what felt like a minute (but was probably less than 10s) had enough and bailed out. I was in the full panic mode feeling completely out of breath. The rolling wave kept me under for another 5 - 10s during which I had to try my best to control the urge to suck the water into my lungs. Finally I surfaced and sucked the air in like I never sucked before. Floating over the rest of the rapids on my floating vest turned out to be much more preferable to this kayaking  thing.

After this I was ready to bail out and take the recovery raft, which I couldnít help to notice was filling up quickly. The only problem was the bloody Canadian - even in my state I couldnít bail out before a woman. They have flipped as well, but she just laughed it off and was ready for more. Shit!

She didnít bail, so both of us ended up going the whole way. Each of us wiped out two more times, but eventually we got better grip of this kayaking malarky and things improved significantly. Still I couldnít shake completely the onset of the panic attack before every major rapid, though I kept it under control.

The ride ended at a massive grade 6 rapid, which according to our guides was a no go - at least the whole of it. We still could carry the boats half way through and do the bottom more manageable parts - that is in rafts, kayaks were off limits. Most people had enough and headed straight for the refreshment tables set-up by people who came to fetch us. So Judy and I were offered ride in a raft, which we accepted. We were picked by a raft from which number of people bailed out. Remaining guys were by now well bonded White Nile veterans, but facing this last rapid we could sense clearly that they had some serious doubts. They were trying to keep the spirit up with motivational shouts like ĎWe can do this!!!í and shit like that, but their heart was not in it.

Anyway, we eventually set-off following leaders commands - when he shouted Ďbrace yourselvesí we dropped the paddles, grabbed the ropes and kept our bodies down. The raft went through a little bump and that was it - we were done as indicated by boisterous shouts of victory emitted by the crew. I looked at Judy and could see that we thought the same: ĎReally?í.

I don't have any pictures from our rafting trip, so these pics of the Bujagali falls under our campsite - one of the rapids we went through (can't remember if it was grade 3 or 4) - will have to do:



The rapids apparently needed protection:

(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-jm9CQrzh55Q/VaKrKGSOClI/AAAAAAAAENQ/SO5bLGV3NN8/s750-Ic42/Favorites%252520-%25252019%252520of%25252053.jpg)    (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-X3duphH_3P8/VaKrcfpUtII/AAAAAAAAEN0/9kCku1k3hTk/s750-Ic42/Favorites%252520-%25252022%252520of%25252053.jpg)

An notice board for the local stuntmen - famous Bujagali swimmers'. If you pay them some change they jump into and float through the rapid holding on to empty 20 litre plastic bottle from cooking oil. Number of independent sources confirmed that they cannot swim. I passed:





And here come the next batch of wanna be adventurers with obligatory cameraman on station:


And the first kayaker of the support team making good progress - yep that paddle sticking out of the water:

Few more kayakers spearheaded the group to get ready pick-up pieces at the bottom:









Check the nose clip - little more about that later:


Local pack waiting at the bottom to pick up pieces:


And here comes the meat:


Looking good:


Still good:





And few more as I have nothing else to show:



This dude (big bloke in charge of the raft) was the one who took Judy and I through that last rapid in a raft day before:



Nope, didn't make it either:



And the last one:


All the stresses of the day came to head at the evening party held in the campsite bar. Any pretensions have been swept away by the White Nileís waterboarding and people went apeshit. Previously neat conservative Belgian airplane captains with triathlon athlete physique were groping giggling Russian stewardesses and slurping compliments/profanities in the alcoholic esperanto. The whole scene was surreal and reminiscent of that US army jungle Playboy party in the Apocalypse Now: white Ďcivilisedí people going bonkers in the hot tropical night in the middle of jungle of the third world country watched by mesmerised locals from behind the linked fence (vendors from the trinket selling stalls surrounding the campsite, which for them was off limit). All that was missing was a tragic angle, which was readily supplied by one of the drunk independent kayaker dudes. He managed to get up on the bar, get everybodyís attention and requested that we all drink to their mate, who drowned that day in one of the rapids below (and was still stuck there in his kayak as there was no way to get him out). Of course everybody did, which somehow accelerated festivities even further. Some fucken party!

I have to admit a little sour grapes here - I joined a bit late and despite my best whisky efforts somehow couldnít get over the surreality of the whole thing. Most importantly, by the time I arrived Judy was already courted hard by two Danish youngsters and I was out of luck. So I downed few more double whiskeys to no effect and crawled back to my den to lick my wounds.

In the morning, the airliners were gone and the campsite was quiet. I was booked for the kayaking training - still shaken a bit by the prior day misadventure I considered cancelling, but then decided to rather conquer my fears and went for it. My trainer was a young pretty alternative girl who was part of the western gang living in the campsite and working as a guide. Scarred from my prior night failure I immediately fell for her. Shame then that I ended up beating her up with a paddle. But it was her fault!!!

You see, the first thing you need to learn on kayak is the eskimo turn - flipping yourself back up after you flipped over. The sensible thing would be just to show me the easiest method, but for some reason my lovely trainer decided to teach me the most complicated one - so called sweep turn (or something like that). The normal is pretty straightforward - you hang upside down underwater, reach out and put your paddle on the surface perpendicular to the boat, pull the paddle down, swing your hips and Bobís your auntie. The sweep one required complicated choreography of rotating your hips and shoulders moving along different axis and sweeping the paddle in half circuit along the surface of the water.

Now as I explained already, you can drown in very little water hanging upside down from kayak. To prevent this the trainer had to stand next to the upturned kayak and flip me over should I not be able to get myself up - directly in the line of my sweep. She said upfront I may hit her and asked to try not to, but I failed. So after three of four strong hits (you sweep like your life depends on it, when it does) we both agreed to call it a day. Just my luck.

Next day I took a day off from the water sports and continued my training the following day - this time with a young South African dude. Being pragmatic guy he didnít fart about and showed me the easiest way to eskimo, which I executed perfectly on the first try and then every single afterwards. He also identified the source of my panic - it was the stupid nose clip on the helmet to prevent water getting up your nose. For some reason with my nose blocked I had this strong sense that I donít have enough air even with my lungs full. As soon as I took it off the feeling of impending doom was gone and I was happy chappy afterwards - we even went for a little trip down the river.

Now that I finally felt comfortable in the kayak it was a time to pack up and head to Kampala to work on my clearly atrophied socializing skills.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: zetman on July 13, 2015, 09:55:19 pm
 :biggrin:LOVE YOUR HUMOR and writing please continue  :ricky: :ricky: :ricky:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on July 14, 2015, 11:21:15 am
Thanks zetman, glad you enjoy it.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Mev Vis Arend on July 14, 2015, 01:36:42 pm
WOW, I don't have words.  Thanks for sharing. 
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Crossed-up on July 14, 2015, 03:41:22 pm
What an adventure you have had!
Thanks for sharing. Not only do we appreciate your efforts mightily, but in 5 year's time you'll be very glad you did.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on July 14, 2015, 04:46:14 pm
Thank you.

Croosed-up, sorry to read about your mishap, wishing you speedy recovery.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on July 16, 2015, 12:14:42 am
Uganda - part 4

Unlike bustling, impersonal and somewhat hostile Nairobi, Kampala - spread out across series of small hills - is charmingly enticing capital city with strong African flair. Still a bit wobbly from the misadventures of the prior week, I couldnít resist an urge for another extended R&R, less than two weeks since the last one in Nairobi.
So I ended up farting away another three weeks in one of the more popular Backpackers establishments in town. Iíve spent most of the days laying about in the shade of  my room or bar, reading whatever I picked up on my regular trips to the shopping mall called Green-acres (or something like that)  rumoured to be owned by presidentís wife. Normally trips to shopping mall make me understand the mind of suicide bomber, but in the land of subsistence farming I came to appreciate their air-conditioning and internet cafes. For balance Iíve spent few nights honing my socializing skills in Kampalaís party establishments - Rock Garden seemed to be the pick of the season at the time. Iím pleased to report that I did not to beat up any local lady - at least not in an unpleasant way. In-between the laying about and partying, I fetched and fitted new TKC80s that my father sent from Europe to the Entebbe airport, got third and last (at least in this life) hepatitis vaccination and dropped ice-cream in my crotch in the company of three Czech female charity workers.
During my stay in the backpackers I came to know few other interesting guests. Mark and Debbie Ė mixed Dutch and English couple taking a break from travelling after they drove up in a Landrover from South Africa . Chillaxing across Africa was the main focus of their trip as I found when I bumped into them again later on in Malawi Ė as noble motif as there is for travelling if you ask me.
Steven on the other hand was a man on a mission. A black Ugandan and  a Tibetan Buddhist monk on a mission from Dalai-lama to bring the emptiness into the lives of ordinary Ugandans. He has been sent to study in India as part of a government exchange program, and he ended up vowing to end the worldís suffering. He wore  the trademark purple Buddhist wraparound, lived in funny Tibetan looking hanging of a tree tent (about 2 meters high, 1 meter wide Ė I guess ideal for spending the night sitting in the lotus position), and practiced regular walking meditation. A  nice gentle guy by nature he didnít dare to venture much out of the campground, and face the ridicule of the ordinary Ugandans. So instead he kept pitching nirvana to the pretty receptionists to no avail. They were outraged by suggestions that there may not be a big buddy rooting for them out there, but rather emptiness is form and vice versa. At the end, all he got for his efforts was a bout of malaria.
Also, while returning from a night prowl one morning, I found Chris from the Wadi Haifa gang sleeping in the reception on a couch. He was staying in the other backpackers across the town and got robbed as he was returning from his own prowl Ė a boda boda rider who brought him back (boda boda Ė local motorcycle taxi, the scariest mode of transportation known to me, 10 on the scale 1-10, where double kayak with grumpy Ugandan is 7) snatched his valet and rode off. The guards at the backpackers not keen on any trouble from police refused to let Chris in, so he somehow hitched ride to my backpackers, where he was waiting for help from somebody he knew stayed there. He declined my offer to help and got sorted  soon after, so everything worked out fine, all things considered.
But all good things must come to an end. About 3 weeks into R&R my afternoon siesta was interrupted abruptly by staccato of machine gun fire uncomfortably close by. It was shortly before elections and we could see people every day spontaneously gathering and singing support for one of the two main competing parties every day. You could feel a lot of energy in the air, but so far it was all in a good jest.
Until that bloody afternoon that is. It all came to head during a goodwill meeting between Buganda king (traditional chief leaning towards opposition), and government officials (naturally supporting the governing party). The meeting took place in kingís villa about 500 meters up the road from the backpackers and the kingís subjects flocked in and surrounded the villa to show support for their boss and opposition. So far so good. Except when the government convoy was leaving the compound through the throngs of the people, one of the brain surgeons in the convoy (according to the newspapers it was no other but the one responsible for the security of the convoy) decided to flash the government partyís hand signal and the kingís subjects went ape-shit. Sitting in the cars attacked from close quarters by angry mob, the only option left to the idiot was to empty a magazine of his AK47 into the crowd, killing 4 and wounding unknown number of others. The government dudes got away Ė they always do.
After the incident the situation became noticeably more tense and less predictable, so us long-termers made our plans to leave. Mark and Debbie headed east to Kenya, Steven caught a flight to New York and I decided to head west for the safety of Democratic Republic of Congo.

First I headed west to Fort Portal and adjacent Kibale Forest National Park to see the chimpanzees. On the way there I got caught up by huge storm, that I waited up with some locals in a little shack before continuing. I have arrived to Fort Portal at early afternoon, and headed straight for the park, where I set myself up in the first lodge I found on nice lake still shy about 10 km from the park. The receptionist helped me to organize the chimp trek next day.

Next day me and 2 or 3 other people joining the trek jumped into a car waiting for us at the lodge and were driven 15 or so km to the park headquarters. To my surprise - given the explosive pre-election situation in Uganda and relative remoteness of the area which would normally suffice to keep tourists out, there were already 10 - 15 well groomed whiteys waiting in small groups for the trek. Normally when whitey meets another one in the middle of Africa they greet each other and even might have a little chit-chat. Not this lot - they didnít acknowledge us at all and looked through us the same way you look through beggars on the robots (traffic lights for non South Africans). I immediately sensed the affliction - high net worth.

And we were treated along this class divide - they were chaperoned away first by swarm of polite guides for an early start undoubtedly on a premium spot with the highest probability of chimp encounter. Us 4 squatters (none of us booked upfront, tsk tsk), had to wait for a while before a guide who must have lost the bet and acted accordingly emerged. He had a demeanor of an army officer or headmaster expecting unconditional discipline form the inferiors. He checked each of us disapprovingly and ordered that we should put our trousers into the socks as there are man eating fire ants in the forest. I rocked up in those three quarter shorts, so I was straight away on his wrong side.

Fat cats:


Watching these:

(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-nX0AcltFdTw/VaVhgjbyhrI/AAAAAAAAEbk/Jf2jQCYbNWM/s750-Ic42/UGD3%252520-%2525202.jpg)      (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-70dTVCKSon8/VaVhCDoCbyI/AAAAAAAAEak/-Osxv4ZtsJs/s750-Ic42/UGD3%252520-%2525201.jpg)



Once the fat cats were safely positioned for the best chimp encounter somewhere in the forest, we were ordered to jump on the back of the creaking bakkie and taken another 10 km into the forest, where we debussed and started hiking through the forest in complete silence ordered by the chief honcho, to help him hear the chimps and not scare them away. We walked for about an hour in complete silence, except one episode when Stephan - a belgian charity worker with whom I was to get quite friendly - during a tense stop when the guide was listening intently for any sign of chimp, started squealing, flailing around and trying desperately to rip his jeans off while trying to retain at least some degree of dignity. Luckily it wasnít epileptic fit - just the fire ants somehow penetrated into his crotch area. The headmaster squinted in disgust, other two visitors in horror, while I was laughing my head off, undoubtedly collecting few more black points. I couldnít care less - by now I was pretty sure that the honcho was just taking us for a walk away from the richies, so we donít spoil their scenery (they paid to view chimps, not white trash) or heaven forbid share a view of a chimp.

Looking for the chimps:

(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-Yh4uXjXq5f4/VaVleKFnMGI/AAAAAAAAEio/XxS6zFFZhKw/s750-Ic42/UGD3%252520-%2525207.jpg)      (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-13CTLfZXExg/VaVm7J0_ToI/AAAAAAAAEkk/c_kE_SmI8aA/s750-Ic42/UGD3%252520-%2525209.jpg)

Make your own joke:

(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-zapdPkcPys4/VaVmfnl8-II/AAAAAAAAEkE/NoiniF9dBg0/s750-Ic42/UGD3%252520-%2525208.jpg)      (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-DOsFaqzwwg8/VaVkpGDUnhI/AAAAAAAAEhc/9RX62NOiUJQ/s750-Ic42/UGD3%252520-%2525206.jpg)

(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-lBcWSf4Fbv4/VaVjJA0t3SI/AAAAAAAAEd8/oK5LqjqdnQU/s750-Ic42/UGD3%252520-%25252034.jpg)      (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-TqS6FwZMe5A/VaViyceSvzI/AAAAAAAAEdU/8pTLcbDU8fg/s750-Ic42/UGD3%252520-%25252030.jpg)

Which he probably was, but the God of Proletariat was on duty that day and we eventually happened upon a group of chimps who then stayed around us for about an hour. And it was quite a sight! The chimps are wild, but habituated - that means they do not mind presence of people around as they donít mind presence of other animals around. So they went about their business more or less as if we were not there. I was just frustrated with my camera, which just wasnít up to a task in the low light forest environment, especially against the bright sky when the chimps were in the trees.












Once the chimps left we returned to the headquarters where we found from the other guides that the fat cats had one glimpse of chimp who immediately moved away. Up yours, smart money!

Back in the lodge we celebrated victory in the class struggle with Stephan  by getting plastered in the bar and by bitching about French. Stephan was Belgian French and as is often the case, animosities are most pronounced among relatives. Frenchies never did anything bad to me (except letting me rot on the side of the road when I hitchhiked through France about 15 years ago), but never one to miss a good bitching session I played along.

Area around the lodge:



Tea plantation encroaching on the forest - big problem in this part of the world:



(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-xiw9n-1tt00/VaVi0f0V4DI/AAAAAAAAEdc/vuBmo9yCT10/s750-Ic42/UGD3%252520-%25252033.jpg)      (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-wUaoZm_Lv6Y/VaVh01YxfcI/AAAAAAAAEcM/vsbfiwj2hUY/s750-Ic42/UGD3%252520-%25252025.jpg)

Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: sidetrack on July 16, 2015, 08:57:40 am
Fantastic, no place like Africa !
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on July 16, 2015, 09:01:41 pm
Uganda - part 5

Next day I headed to the nearby Queen Elizabeth NP sitting between Lake George and Lake Edward on the border with Congo. Uganda was the only country allowing people officially to enter parks on the motorbikes - a privilege I was somewhat tentatively (Iím scared of animals) keen to exploit.

On the way there I have crossed Equator for the third time, and later that day 2 more times when I went to buy some provisions in nearby town and then returned back to the lodge in the park. Itís not often that I cross Equator 5 times on one trip:



In the park I have found an accommodation at the only lodge in the area, took the luggage off and went for a ride through the park. I kept to the main dirt roads only occasionally exploring sandy double tracks here and there. I could ride them no problem, but I wouldnít be able to turn around should I came upon an elephant behind the bush.










And finally first elephants on this trip:




My safari 2x1:








Next morning I headed 150 km south to the Ishasha NP (a section of QE NP), famous for its tree climbing lions. I didnít know it before, but lions supposedly climb regularly trees only here and then somewhere in Tanzania - I didnít found out why that is.

Not keen to try to outrun lions on winding double tracks on fully loaded GSA, I headed first to the headquarters where I hoped to get on a safari drive. There were no safari drives on offer and no visitors, except two Norwegian guys in Nissan Patrol, who kindly took me for a drive looking for the cats.

Can you see the kitty?


And now?


Yes, it is there:






We were back at the headquarters relatively early, so instead of spending night on my own in the deserted lodge I decided to push on further south to Kabale and Lake Bunyonyi, on the north side of the border with Rwanda. On the way I have been caught up by tropical downpour, which I waited out in one of the local shops along the way. I made it to the campsite at Lake Bunyonyi after sunset and was pretty knackered. Next day I took a day off and went for a walkabout around the lake:




Following day I headed further west to Kisoro along the northern side of magnificent Ruwenzoris - home of mountain gorillas. Unfortunately I have lost all the pics of the mountains - a chain of 7 or 8 volcanoes reaching over 4000 meters each. Kisoro about 10 km from Rwanda and another 15 from Congo is one of the staging places for gorilla trips. The options were to go to see them in Bwindi impenetrable forest in Uganda to the north, head to Rwanda and see them there, or even go for quick one day trip across the border to Congo - the cheapest, but dodgies option. I have already made my mind to see the gorillas in Rwanda, and came to Kisoro because I wanted to visit little bit of Congo along the Ugandan/Rwandan border.

But even I knew that this is very fishy ide. The area I wanted to visit - an area between Rutshuru and Goma was frequently contested by different fractions supported by Congo, Uganda and Rwanda. The fighting regularly flared up out of a blue and then died again - I have seen on BBC in Ethiopia that the zone was hot again. So I decided to stay a day or two in Kisoro and seek out as much information as possible about what is going on across the border, before committing.

I found accommodation in the famous Eagleís Nest (or Travellerís Nest - just cannot remember), which was founded by a guy who was a mentor to famous Gorilla lady Diane Fossey when she was staring here exploits there. The manager was a friendly Dutch guy with whom I enquired about the Congo trip. He said that there was a fighting across the border two weeks ago (which they know as the town is flooded by refugees from Congo when fighting flares up - as soon as itís finished, people flock back home), but now all seems quiet. He didnít seem to be too discouraging. So I will give it a day and then make my decision.

In the meantime local kids took me for a Ďsnake safarií - a walk through one of the island on the nearby lake to spot pythons. All I have seen was a tail a small snake disappearing in the undergrowth, but it was nice walk anyway.

(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-geLFB5ABrrM/VaVmAISzK7I/AAAAAAAAEjc/RUNWi7R3LmM/s750-Ic42/UGD3%252520-%25252076.jpg)      (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-HHPRXIBs1m8/VaVl-Filg-I/AAAAAAAAEjU/K3CttWfj60o/s750-Ic42/UGD3%252520-%25252077.jpg)


(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/---NHahCGcLA/VaVmaejgLGI/AAAAAAAAEj8/AddS4w2dl6M/s750-Ic42/UGD3%252520-%25252081.jpg)      (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-z4fsVx8WS0U/VaVmmp97T3I/AAAAAAAAEkM/f_apyMKGJX0/s750-Ic42/UGD3%252520-%25252082.jpg)

(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-KEovttftjro/VaVmx2Yfw8I/AAAAAAAAEkc/zgMrHWYiC2Y/s750-Ic42/UGD3%252520-%25252083.jpg)      (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-JK7768r0H8c/VaVmxEKGJPI/AAAAAAAAEkU/gUFRBLzeZkU/s750-Ic42/UGD3%252520-%25252084.jpg)
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Xpat on July 16, 2015, 10:00:14 pm
Thanks everybody for comments.

Keep them coming - need to get to the next page, too many photos on this one.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport
Post by: Ian in Great Brak River on July 16, 2015, 10:14:54 pm
Classic stuff, Xpat, love the humour!

Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Roulof on July 23, 2015, 02:04:21 pm
Just plainly beautiful Xpat!

You manner of story telling and photos make for wonderful reading.

Keep it up!
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: onderbroek on July 23, 2015, 04:26:58 pm
Loving the story and the photographs
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Xpat on July 23, 2015, 09:54:50 pm
Thank you for comments, it felt a bit deserted here lately.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Xpat on July 23, 2015, 10:07:45 pm

Or rather Democratic Republic of Congo, as there is a separate much smaller country officially called Congo adjacent to DRC on its northwest border. However for me DRC is the Congo and will continue calling it that further on.

Congo to me is the epitome of Africa. The name evokes deep distant sound of drumming in the jungle - mysterious, deeply unsettling, even threatening. Spread along (and far beyond) the banks of Congo river right in the middle of Africa it remained mysterious place for centuries, feared by Europeans who didnít dare to venture inland into the green darkness of the jungle. It always had a power to stir deep primordial fear of the unknown in the hearts of outsiders, as shown in that literally classic Heart of Darkness (and inspired another film classic Apocalypse Now, even though that one took place in the jungles of Vietnam).

When at the end of 19th century the first European - british explorer Stanley - crossed Africa overland from East to West along the Congo river, out of the original crew of 50 only 4 made it to the other side alive. Unfortunately this conquest started a long history of Congo as a site of exploitation and war. The ruthless exploitation started by belgian king Leopold who turned Congo into his private fiefdom continued unabated post-independence by Congoís own dictator Mobutu Sese Seko supported by the West in a bid to counter Soviet influence in Africa. After his fall in 1996 the country descended into prolonged civil war, resulting in a death of over 5 million people, the highest death count of any war since WW2.

At the time I arrived the war has fizzled out in most of the Congo and morphed into precarious, peace. However it was still prone to flare up here and there and nowhere more likely so than in the eastern Congo along the borders of Uganda and Rwanda, where each of these countries tried to exploit the power vacuum for their own means using one of the many rebel groups in the region as a proxy.

To assess wisdom of this venture I have spent a day in Kisoro - last town in Uganda before the border trying to get as much up to date information as possible. The indications seemed positive - Dutch manager of the guesthouse where I stayed said that since the last shooting about two weeks ago the situation calmed down and Chris from the Wadi Haifa gang told me via email that he did a day trip across the border to see gorillas few days before.

So I decided to give it a try. The plan was just a short trip along the border south to Goma about 120 km south, have a look around there, and if it looks OK circumvent from the west Lake Kivu to Bukavu where I would cross to Rwanda in Cyangugu. Like so:


The border was very quiet and surprisingly pleasant affair. I exited Uganda in no time and was surprised to find Congolese officers speaking English (Congo is part of the French speaking Africa) and helpful. Which ironically almost made me turn the tail, when one of the senior officers - a kind elderly gentleman, looked me in the eyes for what seemed like ages and asked ĎDo you really want to go in?í. Like a father looking at a son who is about to do something stupid fully knowing that he cannot prevent the boy to make his own mistakes. If he would tell me Iím being stupid or some such I would just brush him off, but the soft caring approach sent my mind into a tailspin for a while. When I calmed down a bit I told myself to try few kms in and should it feel dodgy, Iíll just come back.

With that and lengthy cross border formalities settled, I set-off into Congo on a single vehicle dirt road heading west towards Rutshuru. On the way I passed through couple of poor villages, and drawn some encouragement from the local people who seemed surprised, but genuinely pleased to see me. Maybe this place isnít as bad as I assumed.

After about 25 km of dirt I came to a T-junction with the main tar road running north-south between Rutshuru and Goma. The junction was manned by a ragtag gang of 20 or so armed individuals - some of them in military fatigues with inevitable AKs and RPGs, others outfitted in outrageously orange uniforms with orange hard hats - presumably some kind of traffic police, and few in civvies.

There was no traffic and they were clearly bored out of their mind in the midday heat, so the robocop on a huge silver two wheel contraption caught them completely off-guard. Soothed by the friendly reception on the border and in the villages, I gave them a friendly wave and turned left on tar heading to Goma. I almost made it past them when they sprung into action and the shouting started - stupidly I thought they are just overjoyed to see me and instead of opening up and buggering off I stopped for a friendly chit chat. They surrounded me in no time growling aggressively in French. Iím no hero and not particularly aggressive, but against a better judgement I ignored their superior numbers and firepower and started growling back in impolite English, pissed off by their poor manners. This quickly escalated into an idiotic shouting match - you know that spiel - if somebody doesnít speak your language, just repeat it slower and louder again and again. It was getting a bit out of hand, but luckily one of the civvies did speak English and explained that Iíve just committed a transgressed Congolese traffic rules.

Contrary to the eastern Africa - former part of British empire, in Congo - former Belgian colony, you are supposed to drive on the right side of the road. As I came from the border on a dirt road wide enough for one car with no traffic whatsoever, I somehow missed that. When I came to the T junction, there was a stone size of my fist planted slap bang in the middle of the dirt road - an obvious roundabout for a local, but not to this idiot. As I was turning left, I passed to the left of the stone, endangering other people vehicles, should there be any. Contemplating my crime threw me off my shouting for a second which was enough for this rabble to get an upper hand in the psychological chess game. When I realized my mistake I was already on back foot, and while I resumed directing some abuse towards the crowd for appearances sake I felt losing ground and grudgingly started cooperate to an extent. They required inspection of my luggage (which nobody bothered for on the border), which I let them do watching their every move and then asked for a fine, which I declined. To break the impasse they said I need to go see their commander - a plump sweaty woman in dirty fatigues sitting in the shade of a tree on upturned beer case 50 meters away. Facing a lady (kind of), I finally came back to my senses and presented myself in the most presentable way I could muster, smiling, making cooing noises and throwing in a compliment or two (which of course she didnít understand). She looked at me for a while without saying a word and then acquitted me with slight of a hand. I still had to go to the nearby hut with the English speaking civvy dude to register and pay 10$ fee, for which he refused to provide receipt. I considered hammering him to the ground - he was a diminutive man, but eventually just swore at him, walked out, got on bike and rode off. Iím not very proud of this whole episode, as I clearly behaved stupidly and it could have gone badly wrong, but funnily enough couldnít help it feeling that making a nuisance of myself somehow granted me a degree of immunity I wouldnít have if I would just submit readily.

After 80 or so km on a pretty good asphalt road winding through dense tropical forest with almost no traffic I arrived at the outskirts of Goma where I had to go through two other checkpoints, but these were manned by unarmed students of some kind and not threatening, just a nuisance.

If there ever was a geo pathological zone, Goma is it. Leaving aside for a second 20 years of war atrocities it went through, it is situated slap bang in-between an active volcano Nyiragongo and beautiful, but potentially even more deadly Lake Kivu.

This is what Wikipedia has to say about Nyiragongo:
Mount Nyiragongo is an active stratovolcano with an elevation of 3470 m. Since 1882, it has erupted at least 34 times, including many periods where activity was continuous for years at a time, often in the form of a churning lava lake in the crater. The lava emitted in eruptions at Nyiragongo is often unusually fluid. Whereas most lava flows move rather slowly and rarely pose a danger to human life, Nyiragongo's lava flows may race downhill at up to 60 miles per hour (up to 100 km/h). This is because of the extremely low silica content (the lava is mafic). Nowhere else in the world does such a steep-sided stratovolcano contain a lake of such fluid lava. Nyiragongo's proximity to heavily populated areas increases its potential for causing a natural disaster. On 10 January 1977, the crater walls fractured, and the lava lake drained in less than an hour. The lava flowed down the flanks of the volcano at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour on the upper slopes, overwhelming villages and killing at least 70 people.
Another major eruption of the volcano began on January 17, 2002. A 13 km fissure opened in the south flank of the volcano, spreading in a few hours from 2800 m to 1550 m elevation and reaching the outskirts of the city of Goma, the provincial capital on the northern shore of Lake Kivu. The fissure and flowed in a stream 200 to 1000 m wide and up to 2 m deep through Goma. Warnings had been given and 400,000 people were evacuated from the city across the Rwandan border into neighbouring Gisenyi during the eruption. Lava covered the northern end of the runway at Goma International Airport, leaving the southern two-thirds usable, and reached Lake Kivu. About 147 people died in the eruption from asphyxiation by carbon dioxide and buildings collapsing due to the lava and earthquakes.[2] At least 15% of Goma comprising 4,500 buildings were destroyed, leaving about 120,000 people homeless. The eruption was the most destructive effusive eruption in modern history.

As for the Lake Kivu:
Lake Kivu is a fresh water lake is one of three lakes that experience limnic eruptions. A limnic eruption, also referred to as a lake overturn, is a rare type of natural disaster in which dissolved carbon dioxide (CO2) suddenly erupts from deep lake water, suffocating wildlife, livestock and humans. Around the lake, geologists found evidence of massive biological extinctions about every thousand years, caused by outgassing events. The risk from a possible Lake Kivu overturn is catastrophic, dwarfing other documented lake overturns at Lakes Nyos and Monoun, because of the approximately two million people living in the lake basin. Here is a documentary on lake overturn: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WcaoajVDYA8. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WcaoajVDYA8.)

Some location...

I arrived into the Goma proper in the late afternoon and started looking for accommodation. Locals looked at me with suspicion and werenít much of a help as nobody spoke English. Eventually I bumped into patrol of Pakistani UN forces (Ďpeacemakersí, whatever that is), who directed me to a lodge frequented by the expats lucky enough to visit Goma. The lodge was a stark contrast to the decrepit war torn town - catering for wealthy (mostly government paid) foreigners, it was situated in a lovely garden on the shores of tranquil Lake Kivu. This was the most luxurious accommodation so far on the trip, but tired of all the hassle of the day and shunned by not exactly welcoming locals in town, I settled into one of the chalets, with the first bathtub I have seen since home.

The lodge:




Next day, looking for some sightseeing tips, a friendly receptionist recommended a hike up the Nyiragongo. Now, I have never been on an active volcano, so I agreed immediately and she organized local taxi driver to come pick me up for the trip next day. Iíve spent rest of the day lounging about and doing few tentative walkabouts into the town. It seemed to me that this is probably about the toughest place on the planet. Unlike the rest of Africa, people - terrorized for decades by marauding gangs of rebels and government forces (be it Congolese, Rwandan or Ugandan - each of which took their turn at one point at on time or another to exploit the area), were not smiling at all - not even children - and generally kept their heads down. There was an ugly kind of karma involved as many of the locals were Hutu refugees from Rwanda, who had to run away after they partook in the Rwandan genocide and were eventually chased away by the Tutsi led rebel army.


New settlements in the places destroyed by lava in 2002:





The most wide spread load carrying contraption - kick scooter:




Nyiragongo hidden in the clouds:


To be continued.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: facmp on July 24, 2015, 10:26:10 am
Wow. this one amazing adventure. thank you for sharing
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Ian in Great Brak River on July 24, 2015, 02:04:09 pm
Gets better and better ... I am, of course, not surprised by this anymore.

... oh, and thanks for the HD pic's of the CRF 1000, best I have seen yet. Might have to change to the Rally colour scheme.

Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: XT JOE on July 26, 2015, 09:20:19 pm
Thanks for sharing :thumleft: awesome trip
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Xpat on July 26, 2015, 09:24:04 pm
Congo - part 2

Next morning I packed whatever I needed for a two day hike up and down Nyiragongo with a sleepover on top and left the rest with the bike in the lodge. The arranged taxi arrived and we drove about 15 km out of town on the same road I have arrived in from Uganda to the Nyiragongo park reception, where I was to start the hike. The reception was basically a house taken over by the families of park rangers - IĒm sure unpaid for years, and I hooked up there with my guide for the trip - John. He said I will need two porters to carry my mattress, tent, sleeping bag, a food and water for two days, which seemed unnecessary as I used to hike in the mountains carrying my own stuff. But then seeing that Iím a very rare source of revenue for these families I didnít push it, agreed to two porters who turned out to be father and a son and paid a total fee of about 120 USD.



John, with obligatory gun. I kept wondering if it was and AK47 or indeed our own Czech vz.58 - I flunked out of the army service, so wasn't sure:


They packed my stuff into the white nylon bags used to store crops put them on their heads and we set-off. The hike wasnít exactly a walk in the park - we had almost 2000 altitude meters to climb and by the time we set-off it was almost midday and hot.



The fissure at the side of the mountain, through which lava poured out in 2002 and destroyed part of Goma:



John and the porters (sorry, don't remember their names), taking break over the fissure:



We have made it to the rim of the crater at the top at about 4 pm. The view down the massive 2 km wide crater with lava lake 800 meters below the rim was very impressive for this volcano virgin.







With my initial curiosity satisfied, we set-up camp on the upwind side of the crater out of the poisonous sulphur fumes. With camp set-up I wanted to walk the crater circumference and if possible visit a crazy French volcanologist who lived somewhere on the other side of the crater monitoring volcanic activity and serving as an early warning system for Goma underneath, dodging occasional robbery attacks from whatever rebel movement was the flavour of the month and desperate enough to climb up desolate volcano for few pennies.

Leaving porters in the camp John and I went for the walk, but soon walked into the column of sickening sulphur killing anything alive on that side of the crater. We walked in it for a bit with John trailing me solemnly, but eventually I decided that weíve been intoxicated enough and we turned back.


(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-Kqvvy1RYdQ8/Va6kJj-MW0I/AAAAAAAAEm8/I5J21LhOL-Y/s750-Ic42/DRC%252520-%25252020.jpg)      (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-bkmaiZGkoE8/Va6kZ3YCbtI/AAAAAAAAEnE/QjyRFFbl6JQ/s750-Ic42/DRC%252520-%25252019.jpg)

(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-eCoe_p4MSno/Va6j_ZvtkyI/AAAAAAAAEm0/jdRNPy-oIV4/s750-Ic42/DRC%252520-%25252021.jpg)      (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-1R9S7JblAWM/Va6lPYH3aSI/AAAAAAAAEnQ/UE6LsPLS-NA/s750-Ic42/DRC%252520-%25252022.jpg)

I was very surprised to find a group of 7-8 French men and women and their support team at our camp. They were a group of volcano enthusiasts (didnít have a clue there are people like that) on their two week holiday in Africa fully dedicated to staring down a volcano or two. Theyíve spent the first week in Tanzania sitting on top of a volcano called Oldoinyo Lengai, towering over Lake Natron on the eastern flank of much more famous (but completely inactive by now) Ngorongoro crater. For the second week they came here - to one of the most dodgy areas in the world to sit on top of another crater devoid of life breathing sulphur staring at red lava for next 4 days. They came ready with the camping chairs and Gucci gas masks. Some holidayÖ They were a nice bunch though, and gave me information about Oldoinyo Lengai which I never heard of before, but pencilled it down for possible visit later as I was heading into the area.


Back in camp I started to cook a dinner of smash and bangers and was quite dismayed to find out that my companions didnít bring any food for themselves - contrary to what I was told when arranging the trip. Now I should have known better based on my experience in Simiens in Ethiopia, but got complacent when I was assured they will have food. I wasnít pissed off because I had to provide the food, but because they didnít tell me to and so I havenít brought enough for the 4 of us - I brought just enough for me. We ended up all sharing the one meal I planned for myself and some biscuits.

After dinner I positioned myself at the top of the rim to try take some night pictures with my tragically slow lenses of the lava below. Like so:





In the morning, after a cold night at about 3,500 meters, we had a quick breakfast of few remaining biscuits, broke down the camp and set-off back down:

On the way down walking through a clearing where lava destroyed the forest:






Back at the park reception we were welcomed by the families of my companions, and - while waiting for my taxi to pick me up - chatted about life here. It wasnít good is the least I can say. They werenít paid by government for years and had to find ways to sustain their families. I assumed that the money I paid for the trip (not just the tip I gave them on return) will end up in their pockets. And who can blame them - I didnít. On top of that they used to get attacked regularly by different gangs of Ďrebelsí and armies passing through the area - Johnís mother and brother were killed by the Rwandan army during their punitive excursion into Congo against the exiled Hutus. This was properly depressing stuff.

Images taken while waiting for the taxi and on the taxi ride back to Goma:

(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-X_Mgu2ZTMCk/Va6vPbApC4I/AAAAAAAAEtQ/4Z8zlLRhk3E/s750-Ic42/DRC%252520-%25252064.jpg)      (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-QAKKpjd7an0/Va6u05syGPI/AAAAAAAAEtA/QjCb0geXvaI/s750-Ic42/DRC%252520-%25252063.jpg)







Back in the lodge on the Lake Kivu I went to the friendly receptionist to enquire about the safety of the road along the western shore of the lake heading down to Bukavu. She connected me on the phone via some high ranking UN officer in town, who told me that right not it should be OK during the day - but to hide my money and just keep enough out to pay my way out of the trouble should I get in one. I thought about it for a bit, but in my guts I knew I was done with this quite frankly a bit voyeuristic excursion into a Ďwar zoneí. Looking at the people who have been through a lot and clearly didnít have much capacity for joy left in them wasnít fun at all, and me Ďsightseeingí the misery without being any help whatsoever felt just self indulgent. So ended my trip through Congo in Goma and decided to head next day to Rwanda across the border few km away.

Last night in Congo I got invited for a birthday dinner by a nice Belgian NGO worker and long time resident in one of the chalets in the compound. The dinner turned out to be highly cultured French affair with wine, delicious food, candles and the cream of the Gomaís NGO circuit in attendance. Fittingly, it reminded me of another scene from the Apocalypse Now, where Martin Sheen encounters in the middle of Vietnam jungle a family of French plantation owners, who argue fiercely over a dinner of finest French cuisine their determination to stand their ground or die, while the world as they knew it is quickly collapsing around them.

Unlike Martin Sheen, I didnít end up in bed with a French lady - two souls lost in a jungle trying to lose themselves in each other and forget the impending doom. Badly outclassed, with my French limited to Ďmercií and Ďbonjourí, somewhat sketchy table manners and deeply ingrained scepticism about western development help, I didnít exactly fit in, so after dinner I excused myself and headed back to my chalet on my own.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: XT JOE on July 26, 2015, 09:26:45 pm
Thanks for sharing- ditto
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Xpat on July 26, 2015, 09:29:24 pm
Thank you for comments.

Ian, glad you like the new AT - I will have a look once it is here, but most probably stick with the Ten for the time being - until (if) the new one is on the way. The AT seems just too heavy for my usage - I do not need 1000 cc bike.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Xpat on July 26, 2015, 09:31:05 pm
Thanks for sharing- ditto

Thank you Joe, glad you enjoy the report.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Horizon Seeker on July 27, 2015, 01:56:16 pm
This has to go on the Roll of Honour! Brilliant!
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Xpat on July 27, 2015, 10:01:39 pm
Thank you HS  :thumleft:.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Xpat on August 02, 2015, 05:34:44 pm

Rwanda is a small rural African country, that most people didnít even know existed, until 1994 when it sadly became a byword for a mass genocide. Triggered by the death of then president whoís airplane got shot down supposedly by Tutsi rebels (but possibly set-up by rival faction in the government), majority Hutu population prompted by their leaders turned on their Tutsi neighbours and within 4 months between April and July 1994 massacred up to 1 million of Tutsis and moderate Hutus. This wasnít an industrial cold efficient affair perfected by totalitarian regimes in Europe, but messy gruesome one with fanaticized ordinary people eagerly taking part in the killings using rudimentary agricultural implements. The genocide was eventually stopped by the Tutsi rebel movement RPF, which defeated the government forces and took over the country. In the aftermath millions of Hutus run into the neighbouring Congo fearing reprisals from the new government - which did follow them across the border contributing to the civil war in that country.

While I do not generally share the western guilt about everything that goes wrong in Africa and this horrific act was primarily internal Rwandan affair, I think the world represented in Rwanda by the impotent UN peacekeepers did fuck-up big time and many people could have been saved if UN leadership have shown some courage. I understand that Americans have just burned their fingers in Somalia and werenít interested in another African adventure, while UN was heavily involved in the war in Yugoslavia. But there seems to have been a solution available (and I think I read somewhere that UN honcho Kofi Annan did consider it at the time) - using private mercenary company such as South African Executive Outcomes to put out the fire quickly. Executive Outcomes have done exactly that successfully in Angola and Sierra Leone for a fraction of the costs of any UN deployment, and with zero political risks stemming from possible casualties - they are just disposable dogs of war at the end of the day in most people's opinion. Instead UN leadership decided to keep supposedly high moral ground and avoid using the mercenaries. Which most probably resulted in avoidable death of hundreds of thousands of people - not the first or last time that empty morality costed many people's lives.

When I arrived, 10 years after the genocide, the western media were portraying Rwanda as a country that has been through hell, then catharsis and is fast on the mend. I didnít see it that way. Most predominantly Hutu people seemed stunted and withdrawn - there seemed to be palpable poisonous undercurrent of guilt and defeat just waiting to get out. Given half a chance I felt they would be back at it again in the blink of an eye. There are many people - including some of the former RPF fighters criticizing the current government, and Iím sure they are no saints. However, it seemed to me that possible alternatives were much worse and strong government was reasonable price to pay to prevent another catastrophe.
My route through Rwanda:


I crossed the border in Gisenyi, which is basically extension of Goma on the other side of the border. On the border I got accosted by a local guy with horrific scar across half of his neck - somebody clearly tried to cut off his head with machete and got only half way through, how he survived that is beyond me. He was friendly, spoke English (Rwanda, apart from local languages of course, is part of the former francophone Africa) and helped me through the procedures - I didnít dare to ask about the scar.

From Gisenyi I headed on good widing tar east to Ruhengeri sitting on the southern side of Ruwenzori mountains. Ruhengeri is the place in Rwanda to visit gorillas. I found accommodation in a local guesthouse and started to ask around about the gorilla trek. Many people warned me that the treks are booked months ahead and there is no way to just rock-up and go - which didnít dissuade me to do exactly that, I hate booking anything ahead. People in the guesthouse didnít know if there are any spaces left, and told me the best would be for me to try arrange the trek next morning at the park headquarters about 20 km out of town.

Next morning I followed another car with tourists heading for the trek to the park headquarters, where they said no problem, I paid my admission fee of 370 USD, was allocated to a group of 4 other tourists waiting for the trek and got introduction of the gorilla family we are going to visit (there are multiple families and each is visited every day only by one group of tourists and the visits are limited to one hour). We were assigned English speaking guide and a very professionally looking military support group with clean fatigues and more importantly clean well maintained AKs. They kept their distance and didnít want us to take the pictures of them - their presence felt reassuring as there were 8 tourists killed on gorilla trek on the Ugandan side by Congolese rebels few years back. There were trackers since early morning up the mountains looking for the gorilla family - the gorillas are habituated to human presence, but they migrate every night, so park sends a forward party every morning to track them down and direct tourists to the apes. Occasionally they fail and the tourists will miss the gorillas.

We drove few more km and debussed at the local school playground to start the trek checking the mountains above us. The Rwenzori mountains are impressive chain of 6 or 7 volcanoes towering over 4500 meters high. Their higher reaches are overgrown by dense rainforest, the lower reaches are heavily populated and the forest was cleared for tea plantations, sadly encroaching on the gorillas habitat.

At the park headquarters:


The schoolyard - star of the hike:

(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-WOh3tZ1waYc/VbZ3_OydYHI/AAAAAAAAEyE/B_pRfo-4GLM/s750-Ic42/RWD%252520-%2525202.jpg)      (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-7p1wCqKrjFU/VbZ89vi4moI/AAAAAAAAEzk/TAnZMljDt2g/s750-Ic42/RWD%252520-%2525203.jpg)

The lower reaches of the forest have lots of bamboo - gorillas love bamboo shoots as they keep them slightly intoxicated:



Once you reach the slope of volcano the going gets really steep:


And then there they were . I have seen most of the african animals in the wild - including great white sharks and saltwater crocodiles, but nothing - and I mean nothing - matches meeting gorillas in the wild. Itís probably cliche to say that they look like long lost forest tribe, but they do. Itís just eerie feeling to be completely exposed in the midst of a group of animals that can take your head off with one blow while they just go quietly about their business unperturbed by the bunch of neurotic hairless apes in their midst trying to keep their little anxieties in check. And there is something very humbling when they look you in the eye without any trace of aggression or nervosity, just curiosity. 



(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-FrtOeefZyoc/VbZ1b-NbXQI/AAAAAAAAExI/z0l0zUgQS0E/s750-Ic42/RWD%252520-%25252013.jpg)      (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-sNsTqHJdh9I/VbZ2BEXkwvI/AAAAAAAAExU/ixcKuguq3WQ/s750-Ic42/RWD%252520-%25252015.jpg)

Mother with a baby:

(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-mk8K2V7Z5nY/VbZ30nsdcGI/AAAAAAAAEx8/Mm8iZdsspdQ/s750-Ic42/RWD%252520-%25252019.jpg)      (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-7352hvKpoqg/VbZ3g6kbsAI/AAAAAAAAEx0/WVvSdIm17Fo/s750-Ic42/RWD%252520-%25252018.jpg)

This one seemed to be the group's intellectual:

(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-3cOgz4GYlxM/VbZ6z8sdjzI/AAAAAAAAEy0/p_P23g2Xz3w/s750-Ic42/RWD%252520-%25252023.jpg)      (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-nivwFIouuSk/VbZ6RhxFZpI/AAAAAAAAEys/-IYSyvJbADw/s750-Ic42/RWD%252520-%25252024.jpg)


(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-sOs_partNKQ/VbZ7xmd2TvI/AAAAAAAAEzI/u0VtbydkmxQ/s750-Ic42/RWD%252520-%25252027.jpg)      (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-Xc7A_tqLhfU/VbZ8h1iW6SI/AAAAAAAAEzY/jdsc5q_0pck/s750-Ic42/RWD%252520-%25252028.jpg)

The males - youngster and the dominant silverback, who most of the time kept away from us:

(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-tzBsoZDyMFI/VbZ9VgrIANI/AAAAAAAAEzs/hS-N9PxzLII/s750-Ic42/RWD%252520-%25252030.jpg)      (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-CknL85R3nO4/VbZ9ofOuNuI/AAAAAAAAEz8/jJplr5mw32U/s750-Ic42/RWD%252520-%25252031.jpg)


Mischievous youngsters - a bit of a problem as they tried to touch us and we were told to avoid any contact so that they do not catch our ugly diseases. We ended up back-pedalling a bit from the little ones:



About half way into our visit I almost screwed-up big time - I was busy taking pictures of the young male lazily showing off about 3 meters from us, when unbeknownst to me the silverback (dominant male) crept to about meter and half of me and started pissed off growl and aggressive display - telling the youngster to cut it off or something. Taken completely by surprise by the sight of 200 kgs of pissed of meat within an arm's reach, my immediate instinct was to run. Now in the induction we were told that whatever we do, we should never run as it will trigger the hunterís instinct in the animals and they will give a chase, which of course we are going to lose. We were supposed to stand our ground and if shit hits the fan, bow down in a display of submission. Now that is nice and dandy if you at least have a clue that itís about to hit off, but I didnít and taken by surprise my instincts took over. Luckily, the guide has seen it coming and pinned me down to the ground (I was crouching to get picture and he was standing behind me) with all his weight hissing through his teeth ďStay where you are!Ē. Which I did and everything returned back to normal as soon as the silverback felt satisfied that the young jock got the message.

The young jock showing-off - just yawning, not threatening:










And the boss:





(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-Vgc2UuZcrkc/VbaE1fnGUcI/AAAAAAAAE3A/bubSheSB9jc/s750-Ic42/RWD%252520-%25252054.jpg)      (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-PscGfY685xo/VbaFmN9QmuI/AAAAAAAAE3Q/EulducKlfJc/s750-Ic42/RWD%252520-%25252056.jpg)

Funnily enough, exactly an hour after we found them and our allocated time slot expired, the gorillas all stood up as one man and moved off - not unlike most other 9 to 5 employees I know.

(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-HQlDsZGXUn0/VbaGY1XD5SI/AAAAAAAAE3g/mm9q77PYfQM/s750-Ic42/RWD%252520-%25252058.jpg)      (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-2XckfiIecsU/VbaHLCmozFI/AAAAAAAAE3s/sDaFGbJ1oo4/s750-Ic42/RWD%252520-%25252059.jpg)

Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Xpat on August 02, 2015, 05:51:30 pm
Rwanda - part 2

Next day I went for another hike up one of the volcanoes (not tracking gorillas this time), this time with a Russian dude and Slovenian girl, who were in Africa on some kind of charity or study gig. They have travelled all the way from Malawi and then decided that gorillas were too expensive so they are not going to see them - now, they are expensive, but if you already paid all the money to get there it seemed silly to me not to go and see them. Funnily we have actually bumped into a gorilla family, but were pushed on by our guides as we didnít pay for the privilege.

Pics from the hike:


(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-wLHVNIdNbwk/VbaHUwj0sJI/AAAAAAAAE30/87vdRi52h_Q/s750-Ic42/RWD%252520-%2525206.jpg)      (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-hC8_QhjEZlI/VbaH6uYxs6I/AAAAAAAAE4E/d-ZkpYG9wZQ/s750-Ic42/RWD%252520-%25252060.jpg)

(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-0wgI7Du3cd0/VbaIkGAByUI/AAAAAAAAE4U/CV5q_UfsES8/s750-Ic42/RWD%252520-%25252062.jpg)      (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-cDLCKTdwQwY/VbaJCkGkLZI/AAAAAAAAE4k/kFcSM1rh7_U/s750-Ic42/RWD%252520-%25252064.jpg)

Sneaky one of our machine gun support barely visible in his fatigues:





And the crater lake at the top at about 4500 meters:


And the way down through the rainforest:


And the tea plantations encroaching on the forest higher up:




With the main attraction -  gorillas, safely stored on the memory cards, I headed back west to explore a bit more of Rwanda in a roundabout trip. I retraced back to Gisenyi and took a dirt road following the eastern shore of the Lake Kivu south to Kibuye. The dirt road snaked over the sea of typical green hills - the reason why Rwanda is called a country of thousand hills, along the eastern shore of the lake providing beautiful vistas. While this is pretty remote area, I could see that overpopulation is a problem here as there was no forest left and almost every piece of land was covered by the terrace fields.





Kibuye turned out to be a lovely little town perched on a hill above the lake. And sadly, as any other major settlement in Rwanda, was a site of one of the worst massacres during the genocide, when people who took a refuge in picturesque catholic church up on a hill were handed over the the priests to the wild crowd outside and massacred. You wouldnít know it by looking at the place - I happened to find an accommodation in the old monastery/cloister adjacent to the church, and marvelled at the tranquility of the place. Until I found about its history, that is. There is a little museum there documenting the genocide - I didnít go for a visit there or in any of the multitude of other genocide museums dotted across Rwanda. I knew enough about what has happened, and could almost sense in the air why, so I didnít see a point at gawking at the pictures or even human remains of this horror. I find the modern visual fascination with death too voyeuristic, selfish and insensitive to the victims.

I went for a late lunch to the restaurant at the shore of the lake, where Iíve spotted a whitey approaching across the lake on a canoe. It turned out to be Chris from the Wadi Haifa gang - he hooked up with some expat who lived in a house on the shore of the lake and borrowed his canoe for a little trip. Over a bottle of beer or three we caught up on our travels - Chris has done gorillas trek in Congo and then managed hitchhike his way all the way to Goma, where he took a boat across lake Kivu to Bukavu at the southern tip of the lake - the place I wanted to go originally when I planned to circumvent Kivu on the congolese side. He got into massive problems there as the local honchos told him that his visa was valid only for North Kivu province and he was now in the South Kivu illegally. He managed to get out of that predicament somehow - probably paying some fake fine or something, jumped across the border to Rwanda and hitchhiked/public transported his way up to Kibuye. Well, it was probably a good thing then that I didnít go to Bukavu. Somehow, I have lost al the pictures from Kibuye, sorry.

Next day I continued on the dirt track south all the way to Gisuma at the southern tip of the lake where I hit tar and turned east towards Nyungwe Forest NP, another place to go see chimpanzees, which is what I wanted to do. On the tar I have come across one of the most bizarre manifestation of the European guilt - the Germans, decided that the best way to heal Rwandan scars is to provide their police with a fleet of BMW GS1150s. When I first met one going in the opposite direction on otherwise empty road, I thought Iím hallucinating - and the same seemed to be true about the policeman. Later on in Kigali I found a compound that was supposedly servicing the bikes - and about half of the fleet was already there in different stages of disrepair. But it was all good and provided for a nice ice breaker at the police checkpoints all over Rwanda.

Once in the park I found accommodation in one of the chalets at the headquarters and went for a hike with an American couple, who worked in Peace Corps in Kigali. The forest was impressive, but we havenít met any chimps - except once the guide pointed up to the canopy about 20-30 meter above saying there is a chimp there. We all strained our necks and did that ďOh, yeah!Ē sound, but weíve seen bugger all. the highlight of the trek came when we were going through a dense undergrowth and out of a blue the rangers tensed noticeably and indicated to us to keep quiet. There were poacher in the vicinity and they were going to try to arrest them. I imagined hardened rebels armed up to their teeth prowling around and felt distinctly exposed in the group - Iím the opposite of the herd animal, when the shit hits the fan my instinct is to go on my own as far as possible from any group. Well, the poachers turned out to be 4 local motherly ladies getting some wood in the forest which is prohibited. They had to follow us up to the ranger station where after a little talking to they were released.

Nyungwe Forest NP:

(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-KjiPWbTN3M0/VbaMA8GO6qI/AAAAAAAAE6M/3LtI4uIQyTc/s750-Ic42/RWD%252520-%25252075.jpg)      (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-qKcD5xnO1ss/VbaL5maTFtI/AAAAAAAAE58/TiSYfjorLtE/s750-Ic42/RWD%252520-%25252076.jpg)

(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-XhmIxMcn4Do/VbaOmNV4a6I/AAAAAAAAE7M/y0a1zLeVruk/s750-Ic42/3.jpg)      (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-GN_3ttOBFb8/VbaOrGcpcGI/AAAAAAAAE7U/So6ws0lbrBU/s750-Ic42/4.jpg)

From the Nyungwe Forest NP I headed to Kigali - the capital. Even by african standards, Kigali is a dump. It is more or less an impoverished village of the little rondavel houses spread across the surrounding hills with a little big of incongruous glass and concrete buildings in the middle. Iíve spent there about a week on the internet updating my family and friends, doing little maintenance, lazing about and planning where to next. Chris - who funnily enough was ahead of me on public transport, sent me a e-mail warning me off the area in Tanzania adjacent to the Rwandan border at Rusuma Falls. He has hitched a ride in a local 4x4 and out in the sticks a minibus they were following came into a crossfire from the bush, one of the ricochets going through their front window. They managed to turn around and get away safely - and later found out that minibus also got away with two people injured, but he strongly recommended to consider different route. There were reportedly lots of Rwandan refugees living in the area and having no other way to provide for themselves they resorted to road-side robberies.

It was exactly where I was heading so I pondered for a day or two my options - the only other option being to back track through Uganda. Eventually I decided to risk it - I felt the weird big bike and my space shuttle attire, gave me the necessary element of surprise and speed to make it through a potential ambush. I would feel differently in 4x4, but I believe the crime is a business as any other and while the robbers would see a value in 4x4 which they may sell or use, there was no value for them in a bike that can still carry at most 3 people with no luggage to speak of, while burning as much fuel as a car. So after a week in Kigali I packed up and set-off to the Tanzanian border at Rusumo Falls.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Hingsding on August 02, 2015, 11:16:38 pm
Awesome Awesome Awesome
Thank you for the writeup!
While waiting for the rest, I switch over to the Christmas safari
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Xpat on August 03, 2015, 08:39:15 am
Thanks Hinksding.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: shanti on August 03, 2015, 09:53:24 am
beautiful images , great journey ! I love reading your RR's Xpat , incredible places you go to with an element of risk which makes them further interesting - thank you .
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: sidetrack on August 03, 2015, 10:14:11 am
Gorillas  :thumleft: They deserve to be free and untouched till the end of time, let's hope their little spot on this farked up planet stays in tact.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: E.T on August 03, 2015, 10:35:14 am
!!you really got a way of telling a story!!
                  !!GREAT STUFF!!
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Xpat on August 03, 2015, 11:09:08 am
Well, thank you very much  :thumleft:! Glad people are reading and enjoying the report.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: cloudgazer on August 03, 2015, 03:10:36 pm
I stumbled on your report this morning... and as a result have done fuckall work today, thank you very much.

Now, get back to your typing and give us another chapter.

Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Xpat on August 03, 2015, 08:02:26 pm
Thanks, will try to post next one tomorrow.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Xpat on August 04, 2015, 11:59:05 pm
Tanzania, together with Kenya, is the main tourist attraction of Eastern Africa, its highlights including Serengeti Ė the most famous national park in Africa, Kilimanjaro Ė the highest mountain in Africa and the highest freestanding mountain in the world, and exotic Zanzibar. It had pretty standard Africa history: Being colonized first by Germans during the scramble for Africa in the late 19th century, it was taken over by British after German defeat in WWI and finally became independent in the early 60ís. Ruled by the lefty intellectual Nyerere it followed one of those hefty nice sounding ideas of socialism, third way or some such, which brought it to the verge of starvation and made it dependent on the foreign aid. It has returned to multiparty democracy some time ago and after decades of social experiments it started slowly inching forward like the rest of sub-saharan Africa.

My impressions of Tanzania are pretty bland - which in comparison with Rwanda or DRC is not necessarily a bad thing. There are some wonderful things to see and experience, but it seemed to miss the lively energetic vibes of Uganda, Ethiopia or even Kenya. It was probably just the route I took, but the country felt a bit like a african theme tourist park, rather than a place with its own strong character.

Regarding the route - I was a bit torn. On one hand I was quite keen to explore the less travelled areas of western Tanzania along the coast of Lake Tanganyika - the name of which itself for me is a synonym for mystery and adventure. On the other hand, I wanted to climb Kilimanjaro and explore the areas around Ngorongoro, which both sit at the opposite corner of the country north east along the border with Kenya. After a bit of deliberation I have decided to head east and maybe head back to Tanganyika later.

My route through Tanzania:


Iíve crossed to Tanzania via the Rusumo Falls border post and made it in two days tar to Shinyanga about half way through to Kilimanjaro. Most of the route was good tar with minimum traffic under the broadest sky Iíve ever seen (I promise you much broader even than the Makgadikgadi pans in Botswana - no idea why), last about 100 km was good gravel. Iíve made it to Shinyanga without a glitch - no dodging of automatic fire, Iím glad to report.

Once settled in a guesthouse In Shinyanga, Iíve run into a problem though. The shortest way to get to Ngorongoro crater - the first objective, was on what looked like a main dirt road crossing from west to east Serengeti NP. Now I knew that normally they wouldnít let me through NP on a bike, but in Uganda they did and as this was a main thoroughfare from Lake Victoria to Ngorongoro and Kilimanjaro about 400 km east, they may let me go as long as I stay on the main road (as they do for example in Chobe NP in Botswana). But the tourist information centre in town told me there is no way they will let me in. The only alternative was a long boring way around on tar south to Singida then up north to Karatu and from there back west to Ngorongoro. I wasnít thrilled.

But then looking at the Michelin map (if you need one map to cross Africa, this is the one - or the three of them covering whole africa) Iíve seen there was indicated trek going almost in a straight line from Shinyanga to Ngorongoro running on the southern boundary of Serengeti and north of lake Eyasi. First half it run along Serengeti, the second half run through something called Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Well, if it doesnít have national park in the name, surely Iím allowed in, right?

With that settled I prepared for departure next day, and went to do a bit web browsing to the local Telkom office with the local youngster named Deo, who was brother of my hotelís manager. He was quite helpful so I paid for an hour of internet for him and logged into my website so that he can browse through the pictures of my trip. When I checked on him after the hour expired, he was still on the same page I left him on - only with some message window with OK/cancel on it. The poor soul didnít have a clue how Windows or mouse work. Now, if he has been a Masai herds boy I could understand, but Deo was university graduate and lived in a hotel where he had access to a computer in reception. This experience left me wondering about prospects of this African country.

Next day I packed up and set-off on the gravel roads east. After about 70 km I reached the south-western corner of Serengeti and continued along the boundary on rocky double track winding in and out of bush. There was no traffic whatsoever and I felt a bit apprehensive as I half expected a lion leaping out of the bush for a bit of petting. I havenít encountered any game worth mentioning though. My speed was quite low - there were few quite technical rocky sections, creek crossings  and such, which sapped my energy quite a lot.

I have eventually arrived in the afternoon to the western gate of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and as I expected will be the case despite my NP theory, was told by the Masai rangers, that itís no go on the bike. They were friendly though and interested in the bike as there are probably none coming this way. Sensing the potential opening and not keen to backtrack just to ride almost full circle on hundreds of kms of boring tar, I just kept straight face and lied. I told them that I do not have enough petrol to go back and am scared of the track I just came on as itís too tough. Being nice hosts they were, the commander called his boss at the park headquarters on the top of the Ngorongoro crater about 70 km east, who eventually granted permission for me to cross next day. The commander even invited me to stay the night with him in his room, which I gladly accepted not keen to camp in the prime animal area.

Karma caught up with me immediately next morning. I packed up early and set-off for the 70 km ride to the Ngorongoro crater. Those 70 km took me better part of 8 hours to ride. The double track was running across those trademark african plains with thousand and thousands of wildebeest, zebra and buffalo around.

That on its own proved to be a challenge, as I worried that there must be swarms of predators following along, so I was constantly scanning the plains for a sign of lion or hyena. To my dismay I fully realized how scared I am of the animals. I had glimpses of that fear before when encountering bulls parked square in the middle of the road and completely ignoring my attempts to pass. I would try different tactics from blowing the horn, revving the engine to making a snake eyes a la Clint Eastwood and snarling something threatening - and nothing. Invariably, this impasse will end with a 10 kg child jumping  out of the bush screaming at the 1 ton bull which at that point will be running in blind panic away for dear life. Done with the bull the kid would turn to me - staring mesmerized by the whole scene - and scream ďGive me money/candy/pen!Ē. At which point I would snap out of my daydreaming, kick in the gear and ride away in the cloud of dust and panic, with rear wheel spinning. The police should use these for the crowd control.

The bigger problem though was the rain season and the fact that the whole track was covered by that bloody cotton mud. TKC 80s are reasonably decent universal tyres, but they are useless in mud clogging very quickly and not cleaning themselves. I found this viscerally within a few hundred meters when out of a blue the bike without any provocation flipped from underneath me and I connected with the ground - hard. Trying to pick the bike up in the mud once I got my breathing going proved to be real joy. As soon as I got the bike to about 45 degrees, it would just slide away from me in circles pivoting on the rear wheel, and there were few instances when I did few full circles before I eventually managed to get it up somehow. I had to pick the bike up at least 10 times on those 70 km and ended up duck walking the bike probably at least 20 km constantly on the verge of fall or broken leg.

The mud doesn't look like much, but believe me it will have you on your ass within 15 meters:


Giraffes wondering what is this idiot up to:


At one particularly yummy swamp I caught up with two Masai woman carrying heavy load of water and wood to their village few km away. Now you do not want to be born as a Masai woman - thatís about the toughest existence I can imagine. In the polygamous society where Masai man has many wives, the women have to do all the hard work and are literally valued way below the cows. Unexpected audience - of female type no less - made me to stand up for a bit more flattering form, inevitably ending up in a faceplant. With my dignity gone I asked this hard working women if they would be so kind and help me lift my ridiculously overweight and overloaded bike, which they did. Just for me to bite the mud about 5 meters further. They looked at this idiot riding around with a shit worth probably more than their whole village, including all the women, with those tired eyes of suffering mothers - they were both probably 15 years my juniors. Beyond shame, I looked back with the begging eyes of basset, and putting down their heavy loads once again, they helped to get me up again.

The inability to lift the bike quickly combined with the potential predator threat made me very jumpy on the plains while standing next to laying bike. On few occasions Iíve heard something approaching on the track behind the bushes, flapping big time looking for some hide-out. These always turned out to be Masai children walking from a school somewhere between 10 - 30 km away. But they had a stick, while I was completely defenseless! All this hard work resulted in no pictures unfortunately from this track.

Eventually I made it in the afternoon tired, wet and muddy to the headquarters on the top of the Ngorongoro crater, where the head honcho adopted me, showed me to the campsite on the top of the crater and gave me for me his own (well governmentís) car to take me to for safari to the crater next day. Iím sure none of the money I paid (including special 100 USD enviromental fee to enter the crater on top of standard admission - I mentioned the tourist theme park earlier, didnít I) didnít go to the government or national park, but hey - who am I to judge.

The campsite, with the scavengers ready:



Ngorongoro crater from the top:



Ngorongoro crater, as the name says is a crater 20 km in diameter and 600 meters deep, at the bottom of which live separated the full variety of the african animals, big five notwithstanding. The set-up of the crater is impressive, and the animal viewing opportunities unparalleled as the animals are confined to the crater area with relatively very few places to hide. But this also gives it a bit of a zoo feel, where not much effort is required to see the animals. Itís limited size in combination with its accessibility along the main tourist route also results in the season in the ridiculous traffic jams when you just move slowly in the long train of 4x4 vehicles crawling across the crater floor. I was lucky and there wasnít too much traffic, the game viewing was great, but still, not my favourite place for safari.

Ngorongoro safari:









One of the biggest killers of african savannahs - Tse Tse fly:


And the pussy cat - isn't it cute:












And probably the biggest elephant I've ever seen:




The lions don't even bother to get off the road:









Last look back:

Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Xpat on August 05, 2015, 07:43:45 pm
Tanzania - part 2

Once back from safari I packed up and set-off east out of the Ngorongoro conservation area toward Arusha. But I had one more detour to do. You might remember that the Frenchie volcano enthusiasts Iíve met on the top of Nyiragongo above Goma told me about another active volcano Ol Doinyo Lengai sitting to the east of the Ngorongoro at the southern tip of Lake Natron (I love that name, sounds like something from James Bond). I was keen to go as it seemed to be properly off the beaten tourist track and seemed like a good antidote to the Ngorongoro zoo. But it was late, so I slept over in catholic mission in Karatu and set-off north next day.

The track followed about 120 km along the eastern flank of the Ngorongoro. First 40 km or so were good gravel, which turned into a double track and eventually turned into properly deep sand track for the last 30 km to the lake. I arrived there in the afternoon and enquired in the small Masai village if I can hike up the volcano. They said sure and will provide guide and one porter, just not now. They told me that I cannot walk during the day because of the heat (it was bloody hot), so we will go at 10 pm and walk overnight up for the sunrise at the top. It is almost exactly 2000 altitude meters up from about 900 meters to 2900 meters at the top - proper walk by any measures.

Ol Doinyo Legai from the campsite and close-ups:



And the top with the smoking lava chimney's sticking out of the flat top:


So I tried more or less unsuccessfully to catch some sleep in the midday heat before we set-off. At about 9:00 pm we were picked up by local 4x4 which took us 3 the 15 km or so to the bottom of the mountain, where we picked up the luggage and set-off. Iím not professional mountaineer, and there is something cool about climbing a volcano in the darkness of the night. However it became obvious that this is going to be hard work. The sides of the conical volcano are steep and made of hardened lava - like walking on tiles angles at about 45 degrees. If you slip there is nothing to hold on to so its not inconceivable that you just roll down back most of those 2 km. The guide told me that right now there is no visible lava at the top - a bummer as the French guys few weeks back have witnessed lava eruptions. On the other hand I could see fresh lava streams all around me and when I asked innocently how fast does lava flow, the guide told me that faster than water, so maybe not so bad.

I do not have any pictures from the ascent as it was pitch dark, so I've stolen these from Google to give you some idea:



We made it to the top before sunrise, and it was bloody cold - freezing actually. So from the risk of a heat stroke working pig in the heavy sand to the hypothermia in the space of few hours. Idiotically I didnít bring sleeping bag, only mattress to sit on and some thermal underwear.

Eventually the sunrise came, and it was worth all the hard work and the freezing balls. Here are the sunrise pictures of Kilimanjaro (left) and Mount Meru about 200 km away:








As I said, it was bloody cold and my two companions sat shivering until the sun came fully up and the day warmed up:


(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-C9TV57ld3g4/Vb-8K7TjpzI/AAAAAAAAFCw/GeQap_prd1M/s750-Ic42/53.jpg)      (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-qCCouLLnBWk/Vb-8w5NmvGI/AAAAAAAAFDA/bDfgyhW6lgs/s750-Ic42/55.jpg)

Unlike other volcanos the top is not a crater, but flat with few chimneys towering above the hardened lava. I didn't have wide enough lens to capture it so here is another steal from Google:



I gingerly walked around on top of the hardened lava keeping to the outer perimeter not keen to crush through into a hot lava lake:


(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-FMgehDp4_K4/Vb--q3LhYbI/AAAAAAAAFEA/zZH_xirRMr4/s750-Ic42/60.jpg)      (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-zfkwf6apZKY/Vb--qNi04FI/AAAAAAAAFD4/kLzFCT3NpHg/s750-Ic42/64.jpg)



Hardened lava I tip toed on:



(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-x-UYNSkXK3s/Vb_A6h9n0yI/AAAAAAAAFE0/WmL1Qt3VhiI/s750-Ic42/67.jpg)      (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-ohtjIsuOEHo/Vb_Aqm2bmpI/AAAAAAAAFEs/dBq2H7sY8go/s750-Ic42/66.jpg)

(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-B1tV7UZ5ECk/Vb_B3NUSXtI/AAAAAAAAFFQ/u9btdOkaoPc/s750-Ic42/70.jpg)      (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-Yqccw0t5MWY/Vb-7CgSjE3I/AAAAAAAAFCg/aG-v_0_ZIQc/s750-Ic42/52.jpg)



The main overflow - but there are couple of others on each side:




The views of the nearby Ngorongoro massive and Lake Natron from 2 km above are impressive indeed:






As I wasn't lucky enough to catch lava on top, here are few more pics of lava on top shamelessly stoled from internet:




After few hours on top, we made our way back down and then walked those remaining 15 km to the village in the midday heat. Tired as dog I fell asleep and woke up only next morning, when I packed up and retraced back to Karatu and onwards to Arusha and Moshi, the base for Kilimanjaro climb.

On the descent:


Lake Natron:


My Masai porter back at the base:


And few more from the ride back to tar in Karatu 120 km away. Pig with OL behind hidden in the clouds:


Wildlife along the way:




Masai and baobab:



This Ol Doinyo Lengai trippie was definitely my highlight of Tanzania. It is impressive in its own right, but the fact that it's off beaten tourist circuit and doesn't feature as a prominent highlight of Tanzania helps one to keep his expectations at check and be very much impressed when there. As my pictures suck (I've lost some good ones unfortunately) I will close this one with few more stolen ones to give OL the proper send off:



Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Ian in Great Brak River on August 05, 2015, 10:47:01 pm
WOW !!
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Chris_M on August 06, 2015, 03:14:47 am
Fantastic, really enjoying this. Thanks
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: E.T on August 06, 2015, 10:48:57 am
 :thumleft: : :drif: :thumleft: :drif: :thumleft: :drif:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Knucklhead on August 06, 2015, 11:18:15 am
cool stuff  :thumleft:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Xpat on August 06, 2015, 02:29:38 pm
Thanks for comments, good to know people like the report.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Horizon Seeker on August 06, 2015, 04:21:12 pm
You really should put this into a book man :thumleft: :thumleft: I'll buy the first one!
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Clockwork Orange on August 07, 2015, 08:36:56 am
You really should put this into a book man :thumleft: :thumleft: I'll buy the first one!

Agreed, I will buy the next.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Xpat on August 07, 2015, 09:52:51 am
Thank you. You will get it here for free, so no need for a book  ;).

I will post next installment after the weekend.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Hingsding on August 09, 2015, 03:51:46 pm
Feed me! Feed me! Feed me!
I know there's going an awful lot of time into typing an RR, but please do the rest. I'll switch back to the Christmas safari for now.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Xpat on August 10, 2015, 10:58:50 pm
Tanzania - part 3

Moshi is a town sitting at the foot of Kilimanjaro, at 5895 meters highest mountain in Africa and highest freestanding mountain in the world. As a base for the Kilimanjaro treks the whole town is geared towards the tourists keen to pay lots of money for high-altitude headache, vomit and frostbite. The townís main revenue sources are hotels, souvenir trinket shops and agents organizing the Kili trek.

I have arrived from Ol Doinyo Lengai in the late afternoon and found accommodation in one of the many guesthouses along the main road. I was immediately hassled vigorously by swarms of hustlers trying to sell me the Kili trek. In a country devoid of opportunities, Kili provides one of the few rare places to make buck and therefore attracts disproportionately more sellers than buyers, with all the attendant hassle. They were not allowed up into the rooms, so I managed to get my luggage up to my room and get out of the biking gear and then headed back down to face the gauntlet and arrange the trek. With the benefit of hindsight I should have probably go to one of the upscale hotels and organize the trip through them, but I felt street-wise enough to be able to deal with these hustlers associated loosely with one of the few independent trek providers. I have picked the least untrustworthy looking guy and he took me to their nearby office to discuss specifics.

Kilimanjaro towering 5000 meters above Moshi:



Standard Kilimanjaro trek takes 5 days - 3,5 up and 1,5 down. I suck at altitude - literally. Iíve been to altitudes above 5000 meters in Tibet, Ladakh, Karakoram and Altiplano and almost always ended up gasping for breath with bad headache and occasional throw up. So I opted for a 6 day trek - the extra day giving me more time to acclimatise. It cost more but I was happy to pay to increase my chances of making it to the top - which is not guaranteed by any chance. Iím not sure there is anywhere else in the world where you have to climb 5 altitude km from the feet of the mountain to the top.

There are number of different routes to the top - the easiest main one being nicknamed ĎCoca Cola routeí. Being the snob I am, I would normally opt for one of the less travelled more difficult alternative routes but, after short deliberation about my prior high altitude fails (I tried to climb 6000 meters mountain in Bolivia and didnít make it), I have decided to be safe and take the Coca Cola route. Being the least strenuous it also provided cottages for sleepovers, while other routes required camping - with more stuff to lug around and hence more porters. And it was a rain season - I didnít fancy sleeping for 5 nights in freezing temperatures in a wet tent.

We agreed on the route and price, but not the departure date. I was keen to start next day, but they were non-committal, as they yet didnít yet have enough tourists for a group for next day - they pool people together from different agencies to split the costs. I have prepared and packed for next day departure anyway to be ready should other hikers show up and went to bed.

They managed to get a group together, so late next morning I boarded minibus for the ride to the Kilimanjaro national park about 20 km away. On the way we picked up the other 3 hikers - 2 ladies and 1 man. They were together volunteering in a Tanzanian hospital somewhere in the sticks - 2 of them were doctors and 1 a british nurse Hannah. An interesting fact - Hannah once dated a heir of the Cadbury chocolate company, which for some reason I will remember till I die. In stark contrast, the names of the two doctors - a lady doctor from Germany and gentleman from Austria, who both helped me great deal when I got sick on the way down, sadly completely elude me (though I have an inkling that the guyís name was Florian, so that is what Iím going to call him).

We have debussed at the gate to the NP where we met with our guides and porters - a lot of them. I didnít start on the right foot with our guide chief a young chap of about 30. During introduction he said ĎGood luckí to which I answered ĎAnd good luck to youí to which he visibly irritated replied that his name is actually Goodluck. Now I must have bumped into this African habit of naming people with characteristics like Pretty, or Patience (the best Iíve heard was in Malawi, where a guy was called Section 5 - after the section of the hospital he was born in) before, but this was the first time when it properly sunk in.

After registration and payment of the admission fees we set-off towards the first camp about 2700 meters high. It was an easy hike raising very gently along well trodden wide track and we made it to the first camp without sweat in the late afternoon despite the late start and over 1700 altitude meters we had to climb. We were assigned into a cottage and went for a walkabout while our support group prepared dinner.

Secondary Kilimanjaro peak with the main one hidden behind to the left:




(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-tDqaa3Fl8UQ/VcZ79_4-FOI/AAAAAAAAFSA/xUswo9RJk6c/s750-Ic42/6.jpg)      (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-iLZ-scSRouE/VcZugfL0jGI/AAAAAAAAFK8/xKuKCRYfCp0/s750-Ic42/1.jpg)




Next day we continued on the gently rising trail to the second camp at about 3700 meters. Camp with the main massive in the background:







My hiking group:


On day 3 we have arrived in the early afternoon to the last camp situated at the start of the steep crater wall we were to climb to get to the rim and the top. The camp was at about 4700 meters and I was supposed to stay here on more day to acclimatize before the final push. but I already knew that they mixed me with a group that was here only for 5 days. When I found out in one of the previous days I had a word with the guide reiterating that I paid for 6 days. I could sense that he would prefer I didnít bring it up, but he said that I may stay one more day in the top camp. As an alternative he suggested that I may attempt to go with the group and if Iím sick I may return and retry next day. I felt surprisingly good with no hint of altitude sickness so I stupidly agreed to his alternative not realizing that should I not make it first day, I will be too knackered to attempt the second anyway.

The huts with the track sneaking up the mountain behind:




We had an early dinner and then were ushered to beds very early at about 6 pm. The reason was that we were to wake up and start climbing at midnight to make it to the top by sunrise. We all dug into our sleeping bags - as soon as the sun set-down it was freezing properly. I was feeling chuffed and strong. Not so Florian. He was suffering badly from the altitude already on our arrival and despite the rest was getting worse quickly. Eventually, it was decided to get him down asap (people die here from the altitude regularly), and he was put in his sleeping bag on a funny stretcher, which had under a center a one wheel (with suspension and all) and 4 porters set-off with him at admirable pace down with the stretcher bumping on the rocky path.

Our group, as well as all the other groups we were sharing big room with, raised at 12:00, geared up and set-off. Most of the people didnít manage to sleep much due to the early bed-time and cold. Contrary to the prior days, we were in for a very steep over 1000 altitude meters on a loose dirt, in which after each step you slipped half a step back. This is the the steep part of the crater the one usually white on the pictures of Kilimanjaro as it used to be covered in snow. There was no snow when I was there, thanks to global warming.

We walked in almost complete darkness, the path illuminated only by dozens of head torches. We sneaked upwards slowly and I was on high alert for any sign of altitude sickness, which werenít coming. This was proper work-out but I felt fine and despite deliberately going as slow as possible was in the leading group that separated soon from the slower core group.

That lasted to about 50 altitude meters from the rim of the crater, when the altitude sickness struck me with a vengeance. I started to feel weak, got horrible headache and my stomach started churning. I continued, but slowed down almost to a standstill, being taken over by most of the stragglers, including the two ladies from my group. I pushed on and eventually made it to the Gilmanís point at the top of the crater rim at 5681 meters. From here we were to walk another few km along the crater rim and then climb another 200 altitude meters to the top.


But it wasnít going to happen for me. I was in a bad way - I have had altitude sickness enough times before to know when it is serious. And I was weak, dizzy, feeling like vomiting and of course freezing - it was still dark and probably -20 degrees Celsius. I knew itís game over for me, but the junior guide they left with me while the rest of the group continued to the top, tried to prompt me to push on clearly worried that I will not be inclined to tip him if I do not make it. I still had enough wits about me to make very clear that itís not going to happen and after 10 minutes or so on the top where I caught the sight of diminishing glacier in the crater, we set off down.

Soon the sunrise was upon us and my mood improved as with every step down into the more dense air my situation gradually improved.



This is what remains of that trademark white snowcap - and it will be gone by lunchtime:





We have made it to the 3rd camp, where we waited for the rest of the group to come down from the top. Now, theoretically this was my chance for a sleepover and second attempt next day, but I knew itís not going to happen - I just went too far today and wasted too much energy to have a repeat. Both ladies made it to the top, while both guys failed - Iím sure there is some joke about the weaker sex somewhere there. For the rest of the day we pushed on through the 2nd camp to the 1st camp for the overnighter.








(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-tHpbCAvYVY8/VcZ3eZfU6zI/AAAAAAAAFQI/n8ntHcrnKSg/s750-Ic42/46.jpg)      (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-VsStcxBvKEA/VcZ3KAWduaI/AAAAAAAAFP4/ZmDeyxcDkOQ/s750-Ic42/47.jpg)

The whole group  - minus Florian - on the descent with guides and porters


While I have recovered from the altitude sickness, some nasty virus/bacteria (I have a sneaky suspicion that we have run out of the water that has been boiled and the guides gave untreated water from a stream) - probably in combination with dehydration - latched into my weakened self and I got proper nausea and fever. I thought a good night sleep will take care of it, but in the morning I felt only marginally better. I have managed to walk down the the reception where we were to be picked up by bus, but I just turned into a pile of jelly on the ground. I havenít been this weak without excessive abuse of alcohol probably ever.

When the bus came the ladies and guides basically loaded me in and we returned to Moshi. Now in the last push to extract some money from the poor hikers, the groups are usually on return brought to the agency shop for a Ďcelebrationí where they are of course encouraged to buy some souvenirs. They tried that with us, but laying on the seat I told them in uncertain terms to take me straight to the hotel, which they eventually did. Once there I said feeble goodbye to the ladies and crawled into my room to die.

Later on somebody knocked on my door, and it was Florian - now fully recovered - who came to check-up on me as a good doctor he is. He gave me some pills that I took and managed to survive the day between bed and toilet. Next day he checked on me keen to take me to the hospital, but luckily started to improve gradually. Iíve spent one or two more days doing bugger all in the hotel room until I recovered enough to start moving again.

By now I felt ready for another break from this overlanding business. The logical solution would be to ride down Dar es Salaam and spent a week or on the beaches of Zanzibar. But I was keen on exploration and rather craved something familiar. So instead I decided still a bit feverish to backtrack a bit illogically 350 km back to Nairobi for another lay-about in the Jungle Junction.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Xpat on August 11, 2015, 10:28:44 am
Feed me! Feed me! Feed me!
I know there's going an awful lot of time into typing an RR, but please do the rest. I'll switch back to the Christmas safari for now.

There you go, as promised.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: schalk vd merwe on August 11, 2015, 02:26:57 pm
XPAT fantastic photos man, very very good
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Xpat on August 11, 2015, 04:09:34 pm
Thanks Schalk, hopefully the pictures may give you some ideas for your return trip.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: shanti on August 11, 2015, 09:12:32 pm
enjoying your journey Xpat , beautiful images and great writing
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Xpat on August 11, 2015, 10:58:23 pm
Thank you shanti.

I will not manage new instalment today - will try to post next one tomorrow.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Horizon Seeker on August 12, 2015, 02:02:30 pm
Xpat what camera did you use on your travels? A DSLR or really good compact?
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Xpat on August 12, 2015, 03:06:43 pm
I used one of the first consumer DSLRs Canon 350 D with Tamron 18-200mm, which quite frankly is handy universal lens zoom for travel, but will limit you seriously for example in low light.

While 350 was a decent camera for the time (2005), today IMO it wouldn't match up to most (if any) enthusiast compacts, such as Sony RX100, Panasonic LX100 and IMO to none of the interchangeable lenses mirror less cameras - especially in terms of low light capabilities, that really bitten me badly with gorillas and chimps - where I had to take pictures of black moving animals in dark forest on relatively small aperture of the zoomed in lens.

I'm no pro and take pictures only on the trips, but today I would go for small compact interchangeable lens camera such as M43 system like Olympus OMD EM5/Panasonic GX7, or APS-C sized sensor like Sony A6000/Fuji X series.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Crossed-up on August 13, 2015, 06:31:38 pm
I've been lucky enough to read and enjoy your report twice. The first time was when I was on some strong meds after an op to repair my wrist. Now that I'm 'sober' I find I have no recollection of the first time even though I wrote here that I enjoyed it.

So I have the great pleasure to read your report for the first time again. It's a stand-out report in its forthright delivery and excellent pics.

Thank you.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Xpat on August 13, 2015, 09:24:15 pm
Thank you Crossed-up and once again wish you speedy recovery.

I have stalled on this report as I have to prepare two trips for the end of month and September. I will try to post few more before my departure next week, but cannot guarantee it. Will hopefully get back to it properly again in September.

Thanks of support.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Ian in Great Brak River on August 13, 2015, 10:19:46 pm
Details Details ... don't let life get in the way of a good RR!

(You will get little sympathy here...)

Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: DirtyHarry on August 14, 2015, 07:32:38 pm
Great RR Xpat.
Your travels could fill many books  :thumleft:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: JACOVV on August 16, 2015, 08:05:36 pm
As always - great  :deal:   :thumleft:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Koet on August 24, 2015, 02:54:16 pm
Read through from start to finish.  Really enjoyed it.  Thanx Martin.   :thumleft:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: andrew5336 on August 28, 2015, 11:27:18 am
This is amazing. Thanks for your effort in putting it all down.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Xpat on August 29, 2015, 10:34:45 pm
Thank you for support!
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Hingsding on August 30, 2015, 08:32:19 pm
Feed me! Feed me! Feed me!
I know there's going an awful lot of time into typing an RR, but please do the rest. I'll switch back to the Christmas safari for now.

There you go, as promised.

You won't please me that quick. :biggrin: You're not in CT yet.  :biggrin:

Loved the Killimanjaro part.  Pity you couldn't make it to the top.
Waiting anxiously on the rest. I'm hooked! Thanks
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: andrew5336 on September 07, 2015, 12:19:08 pm
Veeeeery quiet on here?

Please let us have MORE!
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Trail Blazer on September 08, 2015, 12:10:25 pm
This is one amazing,once in a lifetime trip that you have shared with us,Thank You ! You have taken us to places we only can dream of,what an awesome trip and ride report.You are a brave man,well done to you.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Xpat on September 08, 2015, 10:11:27 pm
Well, thank you very much. I'm taking break from this RR as it takes a lot of effort to keep going. But I will come back to it and finish it eventually.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Horizon Seeker on October 08, 2015, 10:47:37 am
Any idea when you will be able to post some more??? ??? I love this ride report!
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Xpat on October 08, 2015, 11:58:39 am
Sorry, I'm swamped right now. I will finish this, but I may be able to get back to it only in November. Hopefully it will be worth the wait.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: andrew5336 on December 02, 2015, 03:55:10 pm
Ok it's December now haha!
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Xpat on December 03, 2015, 11:24:42 pm
Sorry, I lost an inspiration and drive on this one. It will come back, but only next year sometimes, as I'll be busy riding sticks most of the December. Look at it as the next sequel  ;).
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Jacobsroodt on December 07, 2015, 04:44:34 pm
Thanks for this brilliant report. There goes my productivity!☺
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: CDog on August 01, 2016, 06:22:33 am
Its been a long time without any update on this thread.
Any chance the ride Report could get finished :peepwall:, personally I found it extremely interesting. :ricky:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Xpat on August 01, 2016, 10:20:23 am
I'll see what I can do. It is lots of work and I have just finished another report from Swaziland - third this year, so I'm no exactly slacking.

But I have a broken leg and cannot do any riding or anything else. except laying in bed, so you may get lucky in next two months. Seriously, I want to finish it, it just takes effort and time.
Title: Re:
Post by: tmotten on August 01, 2016, 04:04:36 pm
Sorry to hear about your leg. Is that a riding injury?

Sent from my SM-G920W8 using Tapatalk
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Xpat on August 01, 2016, 04:12:25 pm
Yes it is: http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=196404.0 (http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=196404.0)
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Tom van Brits on March 29, 2017, 12:47:45 am
This is one of the most amazing RR's and I can't understand how I missed it?

The Roman ruins in the Middle East and North Africa always fascinates me and it's a pity that the history was not very well recorded throughout ancient times.
One think you have done a bit of traveling till you stumble onto a thread like this....

Never though one can travel safely through Syria on a bike, as I have worked for a while on the road bordering Iraq and Syria in 2005/6 and is was extremely dangerous there back then for any x patriots!

Martin your photography is really good, it tells the story and I hope you get time to continue this thread!
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: cruizaman on March 31, 2017, 09:31:01 am
Thanx Tom, your post revived this report which I haven't read before. I enjoyed every moment of it over the past couple of days when I had the time. Xpat, there is serious pressure on you to complete this, we are all looking forward to the rest!
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: cheesy on April 07, 2017, 09:09:42 pm
X-Pat you have captured a wonderful lifetime experience, This trip describes a brave adventurous person willing to take risks after careful assessment of conditions. RESPECT Sir, thank you for sharing. thoroughly entertaining. I am one of those who would have loved to do a trip like this. B T W you certainly have an eye for good photography.
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Tom van Brits on April 09, 2017, 12:26:58 am
I have now finished reading about the white water rafting in Uganda, and read this RR like a weekly magazine as I refuse to continue before I see all the pics. That means hitting the refresh button constantly but it is worth the while. Amazing report and pictures giving one a real and trueful reflection of what Africa is all about. It reminds me of good times, a love affair with Africa which started 2004 in the DRC with demining. I have never been to Europe or a first world country other than Dubai for visas, but I still dream about Africa.....It is in Africa where I have learned the true meaning of 'less is more'.

Every place in Africa I have visited, there was some strange 'Muzungu' (white man) who has decided to stay. In 'Wau' South Sudan I met a Dutchman who cycled many years back to Africa and decided to stay once he reached Wau and became a welder. In Marsabit I met a guy that can do anything, from furniture to fixing vehicles to machining (engineering) and his sons are just as capable (Marsabit Kenya) and in Turkana (Lodwar) I met a guy who came from the USA and bought a drill rig and he is doing water wells (water is very deep in the Chalbe desert and now I cannot recall the other desert in North Kenya - he has been living there for many years and also operates in East Ethiopia (Jijiga) all the way to Puntland. In Bukavu I have met a Frenshman running a security business (like body guarding) and 4x4 vehicle rental. There were more but these were just the interesting guys which I got to work and deal with.

Brilliant RR like said and I will eventually get to work through it!  :thumleft:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: GSLaaitie on April 13, 2017, 12:49:35 pm
sub. In case Xpat gets the opportunity to finish it.

This RR was what got me through the inhumanely long 4-day week!
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: NoRush on April 13, 2017, 03:31:07 pm
Xpat, i have now read this RR for second time and apart from your writing skills i love the way you photograph the daily routine and people going about their day. No posers.
Please explain a bit more about the sand riding. How did you do it ? thank you.  :thumleft:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Jacobsroodt on May 03, 2017, 03:01:14 pm
 :sip:  :ricky:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: armpump on February 28, 2018, 07:45:34 am
2018 reminder Xpat :)

Great R/R and some really good pic's
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: landieman on February 28, 2018, 06:04:40 pm
BRILLIANT!!!!come on,finish the RR please
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: Ri on May 04, 2018, 09:10:07 am
No pressure.  :sip:
Title: Re: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
Post by: JustBendIt on May 09, 2018, 11:55:55 am
Absolutely brilliant RR Martin  :thumleft:

I have just finished reading it (even though it is not finished yet) and am left in complete awe and envy of your trip and experiences ...and even moreso because I know you now and we have just experienced Kaokoland together

That pig of big heavy GS must have been hard work ...good thing you were still young, dumb and strong in those days

Very well done ...I look forward to more