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Author Topic: Africa - Photoreport (Prague to Cape Town)  (Read 47950 times)

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Offline Wooly Bugger

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Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #20 on: October 06, 2014, 01:18:16 pm »
 :sip:
+1
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Offline Xpat

Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #21 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).

Offline AJALP

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Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #22 on: October 06, 2014, 03:31:38 pm »
 :sip:
+1
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Offline melvman

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Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #23 on: October 06, 2014, 03:47:39 pm »
subscribed, magnificient photos, thanks for sharing
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Offline ROOI

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Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #24 on: October 06, 2014, 03:50:01 pm »
subscribed, magnificient photos, thanks for sharing
 :happy1:

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Offline Xpat

Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #25 on: October 06, 2014, 11:31:10 pm »
Egypt

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.

Abdul:






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.

Selfie:


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:

   





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.

Sunrise:












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:


Giza:








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
« Last Edit: July 11, 2015, 12:13:38 am by Xpat »
 

Offline Wolzak

Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #26 on: October 07, 2014, 08:42:52 am »
Wow those are beautiful Photos and a well written RR. :thumleft: Thank you!
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Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #27 on: October 07, 2014, 09:23:49 am »
Sub !
 

Offline Minxy

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Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #28 on: October 07, 2014, 10:31:44 am »
Beautiful, beautiful photos so far! Your trip looks just magic. Please keep it coming  :happy1:
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Offline Hentie @ Riders

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Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #29 on: October 07, 2014, 10:44:00 am »
 :happy1:  :thumleft:

Offline Wooly Bugger

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Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #30 on: October 07, 2014, 10:48:13 am »
+ 1 000 000!
epic stuff!
well done.
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Offline Airguitar

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Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #31 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!!
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Offline Xpat

Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #32 on: October 07, 2014, 04:07:47 pm »
Thank you for comments. I'll try to finish Egypt portion tonight.

Offline Xpat

Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #33 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):

   





   

Hieroglyphs:


   


Luxor:



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
« Last Edit: January 21, 2016, 06:03:17 pm by Xpat »
 

Offline Karoo Rider

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Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #34 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.
 

Offline evansv

Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #35 on: October 08, 2014, 06:01:20 am »
Sub :thumleft:
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Offline JACOVV

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Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #36 on: October 08, 2014, 06:31:24 am »
 :sip:

Very nice  :thumleft:
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Offline IRISH

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Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #37 on: October 08, 2014, 06:38:50 am »
Absolutely awesome! Thanks.
 

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Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #38 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!
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Offline Xpat

Re: Africa - Photoreport
« Reply #39 on: October 11, 2014, 01:57:05 am »
Sudan

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:


   




To be continued
« Last Edit: July 11, 2015, 12:31:36 am by Xpat »