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Author Topic: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)  (Read 49007 times)

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Offline Xpat

Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)
« 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.
« Last Edit: July 18, 2015, 10:36:20 pm by Xpat »

Offline Rokie

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Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #1 on: October 05, 2014, 08:12:44 pm »
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Offline Xpat

Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #2 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:




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:


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:


Next - Jordan
« Last Edit: July 10, 2015, 11:54:46 pm by Xpat »

Offline 4 Kays

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Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #3 on: October 05, 2014, 08:22:26 pm »
 :sip:  :thumleft:

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Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #4 on: October 05, 2014, 08:38:08 pm »
Following with interest
2003 KTM 640 adv,  Aprilia RS 250, Yamaha YZ450F, 2014 KTM 690, 2010 KTM 690R, 2011 BMW F800GS, Yamaha XT600E , 2012 KTM 250 SX-F , KTM 400 EXC, Kawasaki  KLR650, Honda 125 estorm, 2012 KTM 300 XCW, 2008 KTM 690, 2006 BMW G650Xchallenge

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Offline gwild

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Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #5 on: October 05, 2014, 09:01:27 pm »
Awesome keep it coming, thx for sharing  :thumleft:

Offline troos

Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #6 on: October 05, 2014, 09:15:01 pm »

Offline Xpat

Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #7 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:


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.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2015, 12:03:47 am by Xpat »

Offline Jondu

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Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #8 on: October 05, 2014, 09:55:08 pm »


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Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #9 on: October 05, 2014, 10:35:53 pm »
Sub :thumleft:

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

Offline Roarman

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Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #10 on: October 05, 2014, 11:36:53 pm »
Awesome. Can't wait for the rest.


Offline Draad

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Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #11 on: October 06, 2014, 01:37:24 am »
 :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft:
Sies jou VARK !!

Offline Airguitar

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Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #12 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:
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Offline Brandt

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Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #13 on: October 06, 2014, 08:56:28 am »

Offline westfrogger

Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #14 on: October 06, 2014, 10:17:20 am »

Thank you ... following with keen interest.

Offline ArthurS

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Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #15 on: October 06, 2014, 10:30:10 am »
 :sip:  :deal:

Offline COLES

Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #16 on: October 06, 2014, 10:31:36 am »
magnificent report what a beautiful area such great photo,s you are a lucky fellow

Offline Wolzak

Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #17 on: October 06, 2014, 10:41:00 am »
Hell yes. Subscribed.
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Offline Jakkals

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Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #18 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:
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Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #19 on: October 06, 2014, 01:15:34 pm »
Fascinating trip, carry on with the rest...
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