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Author Topic: The Epic Delivery - Johannesburg to London in 39 days. 4 GS's. 4 Pizzas.  (Read 2121 times)

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Offline carlog

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  • Bike: BMW R1200GS Adventure
    Location: Gauteng
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  • Mini Me Fiver Niner
    • The Epic Delivery
We did the trip two years ago and while we posted the ride reports on other forms we never shared it with this forum.

Anyway - we have finally produced a DVD which we are selling online at www.theepicdelivery.co.za.  Respecting how forums work I've got to earn my keep and will post below the entire ride report from our epic adventure through Africa and Europe - all 60 odd pages of it. The report is the actual one we posted as we were doing the trip so please excuse some of the grammar if it sounds out of kilter.  We were in Africa after all and noting seems to work as it should.  

There are a ton of pictures in this ride report and you may sometimes get a red cross where there should be a picture - either reload your page by pushing F5 or right click on the cross and select "show picture" from the drop down menu that appears.

So here goes...

« Last Edit: January 02, 2010, 07:08:36 am by carlog »

'06 BMW 1200GS Adventure
'05 BMW 1150GS Adventure (Retired)
'04 BMW 1150GS (Retired) Ducati Monster SR2 (Retired) '08 Specialised Expert Stumpjumper  "Life is not a dress rehearsal, go big or go home"

Offline carlog

  • Puppy
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  • Bike: BMW R1200GS Adventure
    Location: Gauteng
  • Posts: 19
  • Mini Me Fiver Niner
    • The Epic Delivery
Ever heard of a bad idea after 6 beers? 

Well, what started as a planned trip through Europe with my mate Curt, ended in a planned 39 day mad dash through Africa from Johannesburg to London.  Oh yes… with a 30kg offroad freezer strapped to my GS adventure.  With four pizzas inside them. 

Look… maybe it was more like 12 beers. 

Some backround is probably required at this point. 

I run a pizza franchise in South Africa and have been riding a GS for about 5 years, which is the same time I have been riding a bike.  A have one broken leg as evidence of my learning curve and the destructive force of a boxer cylinder head as it gently comes to rest on it’s side after a 120kph back wheel slide.  I don’t try that anymore. 

My Dad is 64 and rides a standard 1200 as the adenture is too high for him.  He too has a broken leg for his efforts.  And collarbone.  And wrist.  All in one accident. 

Then there is Curt, which is where all this madness started.  He lives a cushy lifestyle in the UK and used to ride a 1100S.  He has been riding most of his live, but never set a footpeg offroad.  He doesn’t have a spleen as part of his leanring curve when a truck ran over him and his bike.  He reckons it wasn’t that bad because he got a free helicopter flip (he can be pretty tight) and a succesfull MVA claim, which he used to buy a car. 

Jay is the reallky odd one.  We asked him to be the support vehicle for this trip which he graciously declined and instead the thought that we nay have more fun then him, prompted him (after at least 6 beers) to buy a 1200 adventure and join us.  The thing is… Jay had never ridden a motorcycle in his life.  Not even a scooter. 

This also meant that we had no support vehicle… bet hey who needs a support vehicle?  Not after 6 beers at least. 

Then some way through our planning we had the daft idea that we could get some publicity by delivering a pizza to the South African ambassador in London.  And wouldn’t it be great if we tried to set a record for the fastest motorcylcle trip from Mandela Bridge in Johannesburg, to Tower Bridge in London.  (again, I fear more than 6 beers were behind that idea)  And that’s how I ended up with a 30kg freezer strapped to the back of my bike, and just 39 days to get it through the 15000kms of beuracray, gravel, sand and dust that is Africa. 

So that’s what this ride report is about.  Four riders, four pizzas, and our attempt to overcome our own ignorance about the magnitude of getting four GS’s through Africa and Europe. 

Although we do have a website it would be a cop out for us to just point you there so we will post the ride reports and pictures from the site here.  If you do want to go to the site the url is http://www.theepicscooterspizzadelivery.co.za/progress.htm

A disclaimer:  this is not punt about the business but rather an attempt at sharing what must surely be a dream for any male with red blood coursing through his veins.  I am starting to send this from half way through Africa, Aswan in the southern tip of Egypt.  Since we are still on this world record stint, time does not allow for a complete rewriting of the reports so I will post them as they appear on the site.  Jay takes credit for most of the ride reports, and curt and I share video and picture duties.

So… back to the story.

The Route
The route roughly mimics the route an F16 would take were it delivering a pizza from JHB to London.  Straight Up!    The route will see us travel through eastern Botswana, the length of Zambia and then into Tanzania.  Kenya next and then onto the Ethiopian highlands.   From there the plan was to head east into Sudan, doing our best to avoid (or ride over) the bandits in the region.  A short 18 hour ferry trip takes us into Egypt and then once we get to Cairo we head east along the coast of northern Africa through Libya and into Tunisia.  At Tunis we hop over the ocean in a ferry that drops us off in the home of pizza – Italy.  In Italy Luigi will deliver a pizza to his 94 year old mother celebrating the 40th year since Luigi left Italy.  After that we traverse the Italian Alps and push through to Paris, after which the next stop will be London.15000km.  33 riding days.   Over 500km per riding day.    4 sore butts.

Our departure from just below Mandela bridge was the stuff of wet dreams - police escourts (for all the right reasons this time) and speed!
This is the vid from our departure.


Our first border crossing into Botswana and we already broke our first rule - no night riding in Africa.  Going through so many countries we simply opted for USD and Euros for currency and then changed at each border.  Predictably, we got shafted on more than a few exchange rates but you can always change money at a border in Africa. 

Day two was a long day - 800 plus kilometres through Botswana to the kazangula border post where we boarded a ferry to take us across the mighty Zambezi River.

The ferry can take one truck at a time.  The queue of trucks (which we skipped) was over a kilometre long.

Most border crossings require one of us to watch the bikes to prevent theft, while the rest go in an do the mountains of paperwork, including the Carnet.  Since I have a helmet cam mounted I can record and narrate in the helmet without getting locked up in a Sudanese jail for all eternity.
There are "fixers" hanging around at each border which will direct you the relevant offices, which become more and more detached the further north you go.

The ride through Zambia was at warp speed and our first troubles started in Southern Tanzania, on this road.  It took us 8 hours to do 260kms from Iringa to Dodoma.

This is the firs ride report we posted after this hell trip.

From Dodoma, Southern Tanzania.
5th September 2007

Pre-dawn in the hilltop top town of Iringa and the Mullahs had begun their wailing call to invite the faithful to wake and pray. I found myself awoken unceremoniously from an exhausted sleep. Now, to be clear,  I invest a great deal of effort in having no opinion on most matters of a religious nature but as I lay in bed pondering the cause of my early wake up, it occurred to me how the first tiff between Christian and  Muslim may have arisen. I can imagine an early Christian sticking his head out of his window to yell at the first Mullah that got it in his head to start wailing from a tower at 4 AM one fine morning in early history and bang there you have it – several millennia of misunderstandings
Iringa is the bigger town in southern, central Tanzania and proved to be a colorful home for four weary pizza crusaders for a night that was spent uploading content for web site, video and radio via our Blue Sky Satellite Data Terminal. To give some context to the town, a quote from the ‘Lonely Planet Guide to Africa’ describes a local restaurant, ‘Hast Tast Too’ as one of Iringa’s highlights. We beat a hasty path to this apparent Mecca after having it recommended by two American students busy establishing a girls school outside of Iringa.  ‘Hasty Tasty Too’ turned out to be a run down 10 seater café on a dilapidated corner of Iringa’s main road. Not to be deterred by appearances, we charged in and soon fell into deep conversation with Mike, a large fellow originally from Boston, USA, and his Tanzanian wife and 3 charming kids. With assurances from Mike that the food would not disappoint, we tucked into welcome and well deserved meals while being regaled by tails of his more than 20 years in Tanzania aiding developing farmers with their livelihoods.
With our bellies once again obscuring our feet, we fell back into the Isimilia hotel, where we finished our labors and fell into a nervous sleep.
Nervous, only because we had committed to taking our bikes on the first serious patch of dirt, the next morning.  The wild 260 km track of corrugations and rocks between Iringa and Dodoma was to be the first real challenge to our heavily loaded GS 1200 bike’s weighing in at around 400 kg each, with rider.   We were each apprehensive as to how our ‘big girls’ would handle the indignities of a Tanzanian dirt track and did not have to wait long find out.

9 hours later, our dusk stained faces lit up at the sight of Dodoma. We had survived our first wild African dirt, ‘survive’ being the operative word. Dignity had been an optional extra for the day’s riding. Some of us arrived with it intact, others of has had spilled our lunch carts all over the sandy track and had put in some heavy lifting practice. Curt had tackled his first dirt on a GS ever and considering, had done well with only a single spill and a few near misses. At 15h00, we were famished, too tired to continue onwards to Arusha and only too keen to be adopted by a gentlemanly Tanzanian saint by the name of Wallace, who happened to own the Capital Park Café in Dodoma’s Nyerere park. Wallace sorted us out with a solid shot to the arm of chicken and chips which was panning out to be our staple African meal. He then drove us to a ‘safe, quite and cheap’ motel of his recommendation and made sure that we were settled and happy. An absolute gentleman  - we were privileged to have met him. 
Unfortunately we have lost 500 km from today’s route plan with our slow progress on the dirt.  Tomorrow, onwards to a big, big day and a 1000 km ride to Arusha in Tanzania’s North. Time is becoming of the essence if we are to get to Nairobi in time to have our bike’s serviced and our tires changed in preparation for the push into North Africa.

'06 BMW 1200GS Adventure
'05 BMW 1150GS Adventure (Retired)
'04 BMW 1150GS (Retired) Ducati Monster SR2 (Retired) '08 Specialised Expert Stumpjumper  "Life is not a dress rehearsal, go big or go home"

Offline carlog

  • Puppy
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  • Bike: BMW R1200GS Adventure
    Location: Gauteng
  • Posts: 19
  • Mini Me Fiver Niner
    • The Epic Delivery
This was the Oasis that Wallace owned in Dodoma.  He is an ex-policeman that was given this concession in Capital park which has statue of Nyerere at it;s centre.  personally I think the GS's give it the sparkle it lacked...

Oh yes... we met the ex-president of Zambia during one of our refuelling stops.  Kenneth Kaunda was genuinely taken back by Luigi attempting this trip. 

We ate at "Hasty tasty too" in Iringa and this is where we were warned about the road we had just travelled - given the shock that was to blow we should have listened to local knowledge. 

Some photos of the road from Iringa to Dodoma - our first hell road.  This road was to prove to be our first rear shock absorber breaker.

Lots of bridges over the river that should have been...

It would turn out that this donkey cart would get to our intended destination before us.

Curt picking his bike up after his first fall of the trip.  Not bad considering he had never done an offorad kilometre before and not bad considering he had never ridden his bike before this trip.  He bought it in SA and Carlo rode it in for him to it's first service.

The video after Curts little bike fall in the sand. (opens in a separate window)

this one is from my headcam


Our lunch break at half way.  140kms in 4 four hours.  Temparature was about 35 degrees.  In the shade we think. 

The best way to be riding a GS - upright and on the throttle.

Not an insanely technical road but with over 75kgs of packed weight per bike and a sandy road, the edge always looked too close...

Our meal in Dodoma - manna from heaven after the day we had had.  Chicken and chips was to be the staple up the equator.

This is the second ride report:

Dodoma to Arusha.  960kms.  No rearshock absorber.  One bouncy day!

When the German engineers at BMW Motorrad conceived the GS Adventure, I would suggest that they started with a massive rear shock absorber, bolted on some wheels, whipped an engine out of the first small car they came across and tacked this on, just to show they could.
The thing, you see, is that when the rear shock absorber on a GS goes, it is not an event that it easily ignored. This became abundantly clear to our group of four Pizzateers when we stopped to breath in the magnificent sunrise between Dodoma, the political capital of Tanzania and the Indian ocean coast to be greeted by the unmistakable drip, drip of hydraulic fluid from under the bike carrying the freezer.
Clearly the previous day’s punishment on the dirt from Iringa to Dodoma had been too much for the heavily laden bike and she was going to make us pay the price. And pay we did, Carlo rode the increasingly unridable beast over 900 km of Tanzanian roads and through the first puncture of the trip as we made a dash for Arusha, under the skirts of Kilimanjaro. By the time Uhuru peak stuck its head coyly from behind its veil of clouds, the ailing GS was bucking and side stepping like a crazed rodeo bull. To add to the excitement, the East African sun was racing for cover behind Kilimanjaro’s uglier sister, Mt Meru, bloodying Uhuru’s snowy flanks with a warning that we would be finishing our journey in the dark.
We were not disappointed, travelling at night on East African roads is a fate that should only be reserved for the criminally insane and the terminally stupid. We are not of the former group, which only leaves the latter option. Arusha is a mad house of weaving, hooting traffic and mildly psychotic pedestrians mixed in with a gentle infusion of milling goats and the odd cow. None, of the above, you will appreciate, being of the highly reflective sort. By the time we found sanctuary at the Link Hotel, we had nearly lost Luigi to a traffic inspired disaster in a concrete drainage canal that left our nerves badly jangled and in need of alchoholic consolation. Even the fact that the hotel was fully booked, could not persuade us back onto the seething road and we managed to impress on management the wisdom of allowing us to pitch our tents on the lawn outside the hotel bar.
So it was, that the hotel patrons all shared the wonders of changing out a busted GS shock with the spare shock that we had cleverly thought to bring along with us.
We had made good time today with just over 960 km under our belts to show for our efforts and almost back on schedule, with the Namanga border post and Nairobi in our sights for the next morning. It looked like we would make our critical date with ‘Mashikiri Motors’ in Nairobi and the tyre change and service that our bikes needed to carry us into North Africa.

The road to Arusha was lush and long.

It was while posing for this photo that Luigi spotted some fluid leaking from my shock...  the start of a long and bouncy day

With over 900kms to do lunch was always going to be  short stop...

Bread, bananas and nik naks...

Along the way Jay was exploring all options in case another shock went..

We pushed too hard to get to Arusha and ended up there in the dark.  The traffic is nothing short of manic and after nearly crashing a few times we decided to pull into the first hotel... and not move for love nor money.  Trouble is they had no room and we had to camp in the courtyard. 

It was here that we changed the shock... the first time took about 45 minutes.  Not bad we thought for first timers.  Where did we get the shock?  We carried two extra ones...

Ride report three.

Arusha, Tanzania to Nairobi, Kenya

7 September 2007

Goats are a staple feature of the Masai landscape. I suspect that they are exceptionally useful creatures providing meat, milk, skin and probably the occasional solice to a lonely herd boy. No doubt, they also allow your average Masai tribesman to show off his cows in front of jealous neighbors for longer while he uses up his goats for the serious business of staying alive in the arid northern Tanzanian landscape.

The other thing about goats is that they make for lousy traction under a motorbike, a fact that Carlo nearly illustrated as we ran between Meru and Kilimanjaro for the Namanga border post into Kenya on the 8th day of our Epic Delivery.

Whether he bunny hopped over the startled creature or actually swerved is still a matter of debate amongst the team. For sure, there is one goat in the shadows of Kilimanjaro with an ever so slight knobbly pattern showing down one flank. That would make number 3 for Carlo. Puncture, shock absorber and now goat - let’s hope his tally rests here.

The border post into Kenya shrunk into our rear view mirrors with almost no incident bar some robber barons trying to sheist us with counterfeit 3rd party insurance.

We could almost taste Nairobi ahead of us and the prospect of a half a day out of the saddle.

Nothing that I have experienced previously could have prepared me for the traffic maelstrom that greeted us as far as 20 km outside of Nairobi. The sheer physics of trying to squeeze so many dilapidated skoro skoro’s, heavy trucks and battered 4x4’s onto Nairobi’s crumbling roads and endless roundabouts is enough to make the mind boggle.

We were lucky in that we were able to locate our destination without serious incident and get the all important work going on the bikes. In the short time that we stayed in Nairobi, we were to meet a collection of the most incredible and generous people that anyone could have been privileged to meet. From our mechanical angel, Mike, the boss man of Mashikiri Motors to Ian, Jamey and the other crazed young Kenyans and of course Nish and Jeremy – good friends of Curt’s brother, Brett. We were swept up in a blaze of action, servicing bikes, organizing forex, 3rd party insurance, resupplies for the road ahead, unpacking and repacking bikes, dinner, drinks, more drinks and bravely – one more drink.

Our experience on the dirt in Tanzania had struck a religious chord in each of us and of course the Lord helps those who travel light. All of us tore into our bikes with fundamentalist fervor, determined not to be the next Epic Rider to blow a shock and have to wrestle an unwilling steer over the Ethiopian border. Inevitably, this resulted in a pile of previously ‘essential’ items on the workshop floor that needed transportation home which was duly organized by one of our willing flock of Nairobi angels.

With less sleep than I might have liked and Gandhi’s flip flop clenched firmly between my teeth (I swear it was that last drink that did it !) we were ready to turn our bikes back into the stream of Nairobi traffic and fight our way north to Mt Kenya and an overnight stop at Nanyuki to gird our loins for possibly the most challenging section of road that our frozen pizza’s would have to face – the tortured track from Isiola to Moyale on the Ethiopian border. We were now lighter, wiser and mentally refreshed after our grueling run up to Nairobi from Johannesburg. North Africa – here we come !

The Tanzania/Kenya border was one of the easiest we have been through.  We didn;t even use a fixer for this one but it took two hours nonetheless.

Mount Kenya keeps a watchfull eye the going on in Nairobi

I must warn you about Mike Harrison at Mashiriki motors - he does what he says - we arrived in Nairobi through the mad traffic in the afternoon.  In three or four hours he arranged to have our bikes oil changed, rear tyres changed, arranged forex, got a quote from DHL to send stuff back home as we were too heavy, arranged COMESA 3rd party insurance, and still had time for a quick lunch with us.

We stayed at the Karen Campsite in Nairobi.  Well worth it - out of the traffic and owned by a freindly bunch of people.  It is an overlanders stopover so a great place to get information about roads etc either north or south bound.

The menu at the Karen campsite.  Little were we to know that just two days later, stranded in the middle of nowwhere, that this would be the only option.

It gets really hot in a topbox!  We forgot these is Jays topbox for two days while in Nairobi! 

The expat community in Nairobi is enormous and well resourced.  If you can think it they can probably arrange it.  This was at the double inn - owned by the lady in the centre bottom.  They make a horrible (only for me it seemed) vodka and honey shooter.  Big hangover the next day...

We used Continental TKC's for the Africa leg.  About 1200kms in total.  My tyre (on the LHS) has done 5200kms, of which about 900kms was done with no oil in the rear shock.  Laden with about 80kg of weight.  (freezer 30kgs, panniers 25kg each, including the stuff packed on top) 

And the last one before we left Nairobi.  I cam across this poster stuck on an overlander truck that was being stores at the Karen campsite.  It is an Itlian translation of the advert that Henry Shackleton placed when looking for volunteers his 1914 South Pole expedition.  Translated it reads:

"We are looking for men
for an expedition of great adventure.
Modest Pay. Extreme cold.
Long months of total darkness.
Constant danger.
Return home not gauranteed.
Honour and acknolwdgement
in the event of success."

Too beautiful!!

With our bikes serviced, our load lightened by the shedding of all stuff we hadn't used to date we prepared for the hell road in northern Kenya. Bandits, potholes corrugations. The plan was Nairobi to Nanyuki, a small stretch, as we had left Nairobi late and then take two days to so the 500km of offroad in the northern frontier...

Here is our ride report from the Nairobi - Nanyuki leg.

Nairobi to Nanyuki
8 September 2007

Trying to exit from Nairobi, for Nanyuki, it occurred to me why there are so many cars in the city. I suspect strongly that at any one time, a significant percentage of them have been driving aimlessly for days looking for a route out of the sprawling African metropolis. This city seems to suck you in and then hold on to you like quick sand. One confusing and congested traffic circle after the next, with hooters being used more as sonar devices than as warning signals. Thank goodness for our Garmin GPS’, I can imagine us having to eventually pull over and take up Kenyan wives and basket weaving in desperation at not being able to leave the city had it not been for our trusty Garmin Zumos.
An uneventful ride up to Nanyuki at the foot of Mt Kenya and a speedy crossing of the Equator which we stopped on to take pictures and dodge unruly hawkers that had apparently taken ownership of the Equator and were executing their duties as custodians of the imaginary line very seriously.
An early stop at the Sportman’s Arms Hotel outside of Nanyuki which has turned out to be a great spot to catch up on our chores and organize the Gigabytes of stills pictures and video and audio footage that we are building up to document our trip and keep our sponsors forking out the cash.
Tomorrow, a big day – Nanyuki to Marsabit, only 260 km, but apparently a road that has made grown

Finally at the equator.  The mythical line.  We actually did test the water draining out a hole and believe it or not 20m each side of the line the water did drain out in opposite directions, and in the middle it did not turn at all - just drained out.

The road from Nanyuki to Isiolo is tarred and then from Isiolo to Marsabit it is helluva pretty.  It needs to be to make up for the corrugations.  The road is fairly tricky for a heavy bike - a bit of sand, loose gravel, some areas of lots of sand and then the corrugations.... and more corrugations.

Our very optimistic GPS thought we would do the 333 from Nanyuki to Marsabit in a little over 4 hours.  As it turned out it was closer to 24 hours to reach Marsabit.   

Old world meets new...

The view from Meriele where we were stranded...

Nanyuki, Kenya to Merielle, Kenya.
9 September 2007

It has been said that in Africa, if it can go wrong, it will go wrong …. We are reflecting on these words here in an earth floored hut in Merille village. This is Al-azwad Hotel (‘Black’ hotel in Arabic). We have crossed from the Samburu tribe lands into the lands of the Rendille people. We would not know this except for the eloquent explanation of our Somali host, Mohammed, who is the owner and operator of this establishment. We are 120 km from Marsabit and 142 km from Isiola on a tortured road that has met us head on and bested us in a game of corrugations and rocks that no BMW engineer could have anticipated from his carpeted office in Munich. No less than two of the four bikes have blown their rear shock absorbers and we suspect that a third is on its way. This is despite the furious unpacking of unnecessary weight from the bikes in Nairobi. This road is like no other that we have encountered before. The corrugations need to be experienced to be believed and we have certainly experienced it and we are believers.
We cannot get over 25 km an hour with the shocks gone on our bikes and we run the danger of damaging our bikes irreparably by cracking a shock mounting or worse, a bike frame. We flag down a landrover stuffed to the brim with friendly, well armed military looking gentlemen who inform us that we are only a few kilometers from the next village. After some intense debate, we are clear that the best of a bad crop of options is to get our bikes onto a truck and make a run for the Moyale border post where we are hoping that the tar will start and give us reprieve enough to drive our wounded bikes as far as Addis Adaba, the capital of Ethiopia. First problem – how to find a truck both big enough and available enough to load four 300 kg motorcycles out here in one of the wildest places I have yet experienced ? Second problem, when we find a truck, where do we get two GS shock absorbers to replace our busted ones anywhere in Africa outside of South Africa ? Time to start working our satellite phones like our lives depend on it (and they probably do). After a few dead ends and voice messages, we get hold of Tamryn, Carlo’s wife, who starts trying to rouse the right people out of their South African Sunday afternoons. Nothing more we can do on that issue, we are in Tamryn’s hands.
Next challenge, find aforementioned truck. We set off for the pomised village and are not disappointed when we find the village of Merille a few kilometers up the road with, who would believe it, an 8 ton truck idling at the side of the road. Not so easy, we fall into deep negotiation with several serious looking gentleman, one of whom claims to own the truck, the other to be driving it and the chief negotiator who turns out to be a school teacher and several local spectators for good measure. The problem, as we soon find out, is that there are 150 irritable goats already occupying the truck, with an urgent appointment to keep at the Nairobi markets a full day and night’s drive to the south.
With Luigi heading up our negotiating team, we fall into an excruciatingly slow and insufferably polite African dance of bluff, parry and counterbluff. Feeling first for the scope of the deal then testing the extent of our need, taking a measure of our desperation, gently probing to ascertain just how much money we might have available to us before closing in ever deceasing circles on a vague offer of service and a price that might be acceptable to start disagreeing with.


'06 BMW 1200GS Adventure
'05 BMW 1150GS Adventure (Retired)
'04 BMW 1150GS (Retired) Ducati Monster SR2 (Retired) '08 Specialised Expert Stumpjumper  "Life is not a dress rehearsal, go big or go home"

Offline carlog

  • Puppy
  • *
  • Bike: BMW R1200GS Adventure
    Location: Gauteng
  • Posts: 19
  • Mini Me Fiver Niner
    • The Epic Delivery
This was at first our meeting and negoating room and once that part had been sorted out it became our hotel room until the goat truck arrived....

Luigi always seems to get the best attention in Africa.  Age is invaluable - well actually its value was one goat truck - to be exact.

Having not eaten since the previou night the 4pm offer of goat ribs and a potato seemd like manna - until we tried it.  Strangely goat was to feature a few more times during the next few days.

The inside of our hotel...

During the frist part of the rip we had been spending 9-11 hours per day in the saddle and Curts ass was starting to take the pain.  Here is his version of how sore his anoos was...


If you ever wanted to see what a blown, red shot shock look like here's your chance.  This is what 40 kilometres of corrugations, one 83kg person and 80kg of luggage will do to as GS adventure rear shock absorber.  It was positively sobbing!!!


Merielle to Moyale.
9 September.
The Goat Truck ride from hell.

‘Be careful what you wish for, you might actually get it …’ One thing that we can all agree on is that this will be the last time that we load up 4 large motor bikes on the back of a Kenyan goat truck and make a 460 km hell run for the border at one am in the morning. I suspect that if we stay out of Kenya, this is a commitment that we may be able to keep.
A truck to load our damaged bikes on was something that all of us were praying for fervently in the village of Merille. Certainly, relative to the alternative of taking up Samburu wives and goat herding, the truck was our best route out of the northern Kenyan wastelands.
Having a truck actually appear out of the inky night and load up our bikes was surprising enough but when we pointed north and our driver slammed through the gears in search of his 100 km per hour cruising speed, we realized that this was not going to be any ordinary goat truck ride. Apparently (and we later worked this out to be true) you cannot travel on this road at slow speeds, because the corrugations will not be bearable so all the vehicles that we encountered on the track from Isiola to Marsabit were travelling at warp speed, in tornados of dust, barely under the control of their cheerful but slightly deranged drivers. It certainly felt that at this speed, the truck was only touching every second or third corrugation which improved things slightly. In the pitch black in the back of a truck, fresh back from a consignment of goats, loaded with sand to increase its weight and keep it on the ground plus ourselves and four motor bikes we hurtled towards Marsabit. Sand gritted our teeth and stung our eyes, the noise of clattering mettle was deafening and the truck bucked and yawed in every direction as we negotiated the shattered road at suicidal speed. Our every nerve was strained towards keeping the bikes firmly tied down and checking, rechecking and tightening the ratchet tie downs that we had not expected to use until the ferry crossing in to Egypt. Time and again the bikes broke free of their mooring as the nylon tie downs were eaten through by reverberating truck metal. In the light of our head torches we could clearly see subdued terror etched on each of our faces, only dulled by the extreme fatigue that was weighing in on the evening and of course the option of having to take up Samburu wives spurred us on to new levels of energy.
Marsabit came not a second too soon, we were nearing the end of our tethers both physically and mentally. Enduring this hell ride for three hours had left us in a bad way so we opted to call a brief halt in Marsabit and collapse in the back of the truck next to our bikes for 2 hours of sleep before we continued the run up to the border from Marsabit to Moyale. To add to the excitement, we knew that the next stretch of road was notorious for bandit activity so stopping was not going to be welcomed by our driver. If we could just get past the impassable Kenyan road to the Ethiopian side of the Moyale border, we could put our bikes on tar and stand a chance of making it to Addis Abeba and fresh shock absorbers courtesy of DHL and a host of willing hands back in SA. It certainly seemed that Tamryn had worked some magic and conjured up some shock absorbers for us which were on their way to Ethiopia as were we, although I suspect, not in a goat truck. The challenge of course was that we needed to get to Addis, over one thousand km North and repair the bikes before the close of the week else we were going to miss our date with the Sudan crossing in to Egypt which could ruin the trip completely.
Added to this was the recently learned fact that we were to arrive in Ethiopia on the day before the Ethiopian Millenium New Year and a five day celebration. You will be surprised to learn that Ethiopia runs on its own clock and its own calendar (and drives on the wrong side of the road) and accordingly is seven years behind the western calendar in terms of when the clock was started from the death of Jesus Christ, Given that Abyssinia (Ethiopia) was the first Christian empire in the hood, one wonders whose stopwatch might be right.
Anyhow, as historically fascinating as this is, it was not going to help us to procure new shock absorbers for our bikes and would probably mean that all of Ethiopia was going to have a hangover for the week. Not, I suspect, ideal for the smooth working of the Addis customs office.
Dawn in Marsabit, and Moyale was not going to come looking for us. Two replacement shocks – about ten grand each, another 10 hours in the goat truck from hell – priceless ! If somebody had described it to me, I would not have believed them, but the road north of Marsabit actually got worse. Things had improved from the evening before in that we could at least see what grisly fate was barreling down the road to meet us, but the blazing sun more than compensated for this slight reprieve.
There was also of course, no mistaking the bullet holes in a few trucks that passed us in the opposite direction – not helped by the military officer at Turbi who cheerfully informed us that they had lost a truckload of travelers three days earlier to some unexpected automatic rifle fire from a few inconvenient bandits. We were not sure whether he was trying to heard us in the direction of paying for an armed escort or was just genuinely making small talk but this news certainly invigorated our heart rates. Strange, though given that this would be just your average day on William Nicol in JHB and we had all survived that many times.
The northern Kenyan landscape is worth a mention as an important character in this story. It is starkly desolate, never ending and dry as a parched skull. It ranges from twiggy thornveld to rock strewn lava fields, all dramatically impaled by sharp mountains that protrude rudely from the flat and endless horizons. And it is big, very big. Many Kenyans say that Kenya ends at Isiola in the northern shadow of Mount Kenya and that beyond that is the Wild West. I could certainly see their point as our truck rumbled through the echoing kilometers, I ached at the splendid emptiness around us and wondered at how tough the people inhabiting this part of Kenya must be. There is a strangely exciting frontier air about this place, a confluence of peoples and cultures with Nilotic, Nguni and Kushite peoples flowing together with different styles of dress, strikingly different features and the strong undercurrent of Islam and Christianity vying for prime spot in the dusty villages we passed on the way. Of course none of this would be complete without throwing in a few Italian catholic missionaries and the odd heard of camels to complete the slightly manic feel of a Star Wars frontier town scene, none of us would have been surprised to find ‘Jaba the Hutt’ in any of the roadside huts that we stopped at for a Coca Cola to keep the East African heat at bay.
We can only wish this goat ride to an end, although preferably not via the business end of an AK47, all of us are having indecently pleasant thoughts of spending some quality time in border queue’s at Moyale. Anything but a goat truck. Hopefully tomorrow will bring Ethiopia and tar. Bring it on !

This vid sort of gives you an idea of what this damned truck was like.  Too many hours... too many bumps.. too much sand.  


The fact that we had to get into the truck from over the side should have been an indication that this would be a prison cell.

You can imagine if these bikes break free what chaos ensues.  Add hellish corrugations to a good dose of 80kph speed and you have the start of hell.

We had to stop every-so-often to re-tie the ratchet straps when they snapped or when the bikes bounced out under themselves.

We filled the truck with sand to stop the bouncing.  Apparently it would have been worse without this.  How we don't exactly know.  We had one hour sleep in the 48 hour stint.  In the truck.  As we were.

This is exactly how we felt in the morning.

Although daylight brought some reprieve the feeling of a mobile prison cell did not go away.

Taking the cue from the locals we realised the best place to be was on the roof.  By this stage we stopped really caring if the bikes broke free from the their moorings.

By the time the afternoon rolled in we were seeking rest anywhere at anytime.

When we finally got to the Ethiopia border they charged us to use this clay bank to offload the bikes.  We paid.

Moyale to Yirga Cheffe, Ethiopia

Wednesday, 12th September 2007

Moyale at last! We could have fallen to the dusty street and kissed it like it was home. First, to unload our bikes from their goat prison. Fighting through a gathering and unruly crowd of onlookers we managed to back up to an eroded clay bank and offload our steeds to be greeted by a disheveled looking individual demanding that we pay him a council tax of 600 Kenyan shillings for the use of his state of the art clay bank. With the crowd looking slightly ugly and one look at the worried expression from our driver, we shelled out the cash in return for a receipt in the form of a bus ticket for 600 shillings. Africa scores again! I could just imagine the scoreboard keeping tally of our trip; the mother continent: 10, idiots on motorbikes: 0. So once again, we pay and get on with it to avoid anything unpleasant, I can’t help but reflect that these people must think that Europeans are terminally stupid and I would be inclined to see their point.We finished unloading and repacking the bikes without incident, one bike jump started and Luigi feeling under the weather, we moved onto the Kenyan side of the border. Through Kenya and onto Ethiopia, endless paper work but charming people. Two and half hours later and we emerged relatively unscathed with Luigi feeling a little stronger and free to press on into Ethiopia.
Our spirits had been lifted by the appearance of 7 Kiwis also on Motorbikes, GS 650’s, who had over-nighted on the Kenyan side of Moyale to recover from their own dual with the Isiola to Marsibit hell run. Crazily, as one would expect from the Kiwi’s, this group had been trying to get across the entire planet in chunks over some years and had been on the road in Africa for 3 months (www.worldbybike.co.nz (com?). They had busted several shocks and ended up with their luggage and wounded bikes on a truck as well. For some reason this made us feel less like sissies with the wrong bike’s and we spent a pleasant, although very tired, evening in the company of the group, trading good natured rugby jibes and national insults.

Surprisingly to us, the only hotel in Moyale with room for was the Ghion, one of the few establishments loaded on our GPS as to be avoided at all costs – ‘site of Africa’s smelliest toilet’. We were not disappointed, no running water, generator providing only a few hours of electricity in the night and a squat latrine that made your stomach churn at the thought of having to relieve your self. All part of the adventure, we had all given up thoughts of sleeping in the linen provided by any of our hosts from Northern Tanzania and were now collapsing on our bedrolls, in sleeping bags on the beds provided.

Beer and goats meat shared around a dark table in the dusty courtyard of the Ghion sent us to our bed rolls knowing that we had to swap out one of the busted bike shocks with our last remaining spare in the morning before setting our sites on Addis Abeba and hopefully a date with DHL and the Ethiopian Customs office. So it was that we found ourselves riding through more wildernesses. Southern Ethiopia is as wild as Northern Kenya but less arid. People in traditional dress beamed and waved at us form the roadside, Ethiopia had definitely taken its happy pills today. One thing jumped out at us, all the friendly men over a certain age, waving at us, had AK 47’s strapped across their backs, bar none. No wonder Northern Kenya had a bandit problem. With any luck though, Ethiopian bandits restricted their efforts to non-Ethiopian soil. This only redoubled our commitment to reciprocate the waves enthusiastically until I felt that I was going to wear my waving arm out and started alternating waves with my left arm. We all felt it prudent to honor one of the golden rules of African Travel – ‘always wave and smile at the men with guns’.

Long kilometers passed as we made our way through bush landscape after bush landscape, the ever present peril of goats, cows and donkeys had now been supplemented by large herds of camels with scant regard for road etiquette. The camels were always tended by young men, but the cows and others were now being herded by the tiniest little children of as young as three or four years old. These little things were beaming at us and waving their sticks as if Father Christmas himself had just appeared over the horizon. My heart strings felt tugged at when I saw a little guy that reminded me of a blacker version of my own little boy safe with his Mom at home. He probably has not even seen a goat yet.

Carlo’s bike was bucking and pronking on its shock less coil spring and the going was slow with several stops to give him a chance to gather his wits. The roads were tar but far from great with pot holes and corrugations, not that we were complaining after our recent Kenyan commute. Clearly we were not going to make the seven hundred kilometers to Addis in one day at this speed and our minds turned to finding some shelter for the evening.The ubiquitous AK 47’s stated noticeably thinning and were replaced by long menacing looking spears, we assumed that we must be passing from one ethnic area to another and our GPS’ indicated that we were climbing rapidly in altitude up to two thousand meters and more. The landscape had a sudden change of heart and an unmistakable green tinge burst into full mountain forest. This was as unexpected as it was welcome, the road convulsed into twists and turns and the horizon burst into a hilly vista that skipped into the distance drenched in green, green and more green. None of us were prepared for this after six thousand kilometers of dust and thorns. We soon realized that the popular World Vision, famine plagued desert that all of us thought of us as Ethiopia was actually a myth. We had stumbled in to the vast central Ethiopian highlands where rain is plentiful and the land obscenely fertile. Village after village lined the main road and every village burst at the seams with healthy toothy children running after the bikes shouting ‘Yo, yo, yo …’. We never managed to figure out what this actually meant but figured that it must be something pleasant in Amharic the official but unfathomable Ethiopian language. Ethiopia is proud to be the only African country that has been spared the tender ravages of European colonialism apart from a brief brush with the Italians during the Second World War. Hence, a decided lack of fluency in any European language in the country and the inescapable fact that these people genuinely do run on their own calendar and clock. Maybe everybody was so happy and friendly because today was the millennium celebration and New Year’s Eve. We could see the signs of big preparations on the go in every village that we passed, reeds being cut and scattered on the floor in the villages and brightly colored traditional garments being sported wherever we looked. I felt myself being caught up in the mounting excitement and soon even forgave the fact that this celebration may mean a week’s lay over in Addis for us.

Lady luck was in our corner that evening. As we strained our eyes to pick up any sign of a hotel that might rescue us from the mounting darkness, the Lewison hotel sprang out at us form the side of the road in Yirga Cheffe, the biggest village we had seen for an hour. A rapid halt and a hurried enquiry in mimed and broken English and we established that they had room for us and were about to mount the millennium celebrations in their reed strewn courtyard and we were welcome to join.Needing no further invitation we got stuck into one of our most pleasant evenings so far on the Epic Delivery. Yirga Cheffe, we were proudly informed, is the birth place of coffee in Ethiopia as Ethiopia is the birth place of coffee for the world. We were treated to an elaborate coffee ceremony in which a traditionally robed maiden roasted us raw coffee beans over incense laden coals. The whole scene lit by colourful candles, the now roasted beans were ground and served to us in the establishment’s best espresso china. Wow, so this is what coffee actually tastes like! This was like being let into business class after years of economy. What a treat. Then fire works, drinking and what must pass for Amarhic rave music at which point we exited for an urgent engagement with our sleeping bags.

Tomorrow Addis Abeba and the moment of truth with customs.

The meal at the lewison was traditional Ethiopean...  Not many get to have two millenium celebrations

Taking a break on the side of the road.  Finally some good coffee!


'06 BMW 1200GS Adventure
'05 BMW 1150GS Adventure (Retired)
'04 BMW 1150GS (Retired) Ducati Monster SR2 (Retired) '08 Specialised Expert Stumpjumper  "Life is not a dress rehearsal, go big or go home"

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Yirga Cheffe to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Wednesday, 12th September 2007

Our plans to start the day at first light in a push for Addis had been inspired by an apparent deal with DHL to interrupt the public holiday and open their office for us at 08H00 for us to collect our shock absorbers. This meant a four hundred kilometer early morning dash to make the cut off. As insurance, we had struck a deal with the Lewison hotel owner in Yirga Cheffe, who it turned out, had relations in Addis. After some negotiation, he agreed to have one of his people at the office at 08H00 the next morning in case we did not make it on time. For a small compensation in US dollars of course.

Africa had other plans. The rainy season in the Ethiopian highlands is from March to October and it just so happened that we had caught the highlands smack in the middle of an unusually heavy season. A curtain of water greeted Luigi, our official alarm clock, at 04H00 the next morning and our early departure met an early demise. Only after 07H00 did the weather ease enough for us to wave a goodbye to Yirga Cheffe and pick our way north through muddy villages and hung-over revelers from the previous evenings going’s on. Any thought of making swift progress was dashed by the density of the villages and the wet and muddy conditions. Ethiopia has seventy five million inhabitants in a country a third smaller than South Africa and this was noticeable as we rode through village after village bursting with small children all thronging the roadside to cheer the passing circus on.

Having resigned our fate to the gods and accepted that we would not make it to Addis before late afternoon, we settled into the ride and the amazing scenery unfolding around us. This part of Ethiopia brings new shades to the colour green that I am sure I have not seen before. Soon, massive lakes started rolling past us to add to the thrill of so much fertility. Iridescent green wheat fields punctuated with tall fig trees crowded the road which became progressively better. Mt Guraghe sulked off to our left. This little known mountain is just a few hundred meters shy of Mt Kenya and guards the road into Addis. Fifty kilometers outside of Addis and the heavens opened up in a tropical East African welcome. Stinging rain drops and near zero visibility guided us into the city which like most African cities can only be described as a soggy mess that does little justice to the landscape and peoples of the country.

So here we sit, having spent the night in the Imperial Hotel, across the road from the DHL offices, trying frantically to raise some intelligent life out of the courier. To be fare, this is not an unwelcome break. Access to both running and hot water (sort of) has given us the chance to catch up on some much needed washing both of ourselves and our clothes and get up to date with ride reports and audio and video content for our unrelenting media coordinator. We still have no certainty as to whether we can free our spare parts today and every hour that passes brings us closer to missing the train out of Khartoum on Monday to Wadi Halfa and our Egyptian crossing. If we get the shocks today, then we have a chance although we will have to cover almost two thousand kilometers in two days to get to Khartoum by Sunday. If we don’t then we are faced with a crushing one week delay to the Epic Delivery and missing our London deadline.

We shall see what we shall see.

The sign at the foot of the Goha Tsion mountain pass in Ethiopia

The GPS reading at the top of the mounatin pass - it drops down to the Nile and then back up again.

A view from the top...

Drivers kiss this cross before they start the descent towards the nile...

and what this guy does we're not really sure.  maybe he shoots drivers that dont kiss the cross!

With all the tankers stuck in the mess at the top of the pass there was no petrol after that.  We actually got far more milage (4.9L/100kms) on leaded petrol (vs 6.2L/100kms on unleaded)

Our only fall on tar so far on the trip - we all just made it through this cheeky little clay wash on the road but Luigi was not that lucky.  While the bike wad down on the ground a bus nearly crashed into it as it skidded with wheels fully locked just inches from the bike.

Not only were we in the Ethiopian rainy season, but also in the one of the worst flood periods in the last decade.

I think the GS's were more effective...

The video of us getting the bikes through the mess of mud at the top of the pass. 

Addis Ababa to Ghoa Tsion, Ethiopia

Thursday, 13th September 2007

The 13th of September was a red letter day for us. How we achieved what we achieved in Addis Ababa on that day can only have been through divine assistance. From which corner of the divine ring, we shall never know given the confused pantheon of Orthodox Christian, Catholic, Muslim and animist deities that populate the Ethiopian mindset. I am sure that we made requests to all of the above before mounting our quest to spring the shock absorbers and freedom from DHL and the Ethiopian customs office, smack in the middle of the Ethiopian Millennium celebrations.

Carlo and Luigi assumed responsibility for this important mission while Curt and I got buried into ride reports and preparing content for the next web upload.I am reliably informed by our Italian contingent that what ensued needed to be experienced to be believed.

At the DHL offices, it turned out that the documents for our shipment had been collected the previous day by the contact arranged from the Lewison Hotel, back in Yirga Cheffe. How this had transpired is a miracle in itself, given that we had not been able to raise this contact on any of the four contact numbers provided. Some more hurried use of a now working cell network and some success, a cheerful voice on the other side of the line agreed to meet at the hotel in half an hour. The voice turned out to be Yelebe, Teddy from the Lewison’s, brother. Yelebe runs a solar power business in Addis and true to most Ethiopians that we met had a warm and generous character. In fact given the events following, we believe that Luigi has put him forward for the next round of sainthoods at the Vatican.

To the airport customs offices, now with the correct paperwork.Obstacle number one, the customs office was cunningly hidden in the arrivals baggage claim area behind several nasty looking security personnel, possibly all nursing hangovers form the millennium celebrations. Some smooth talking from Yelebe, one or two fire cracker exchanges between Luigi and the Xray machine operator that had discovered his fold away machete that passes for an Italian pocket knife and we were through.

Obstacle number two, the duty on our shocks. In our haste and general stupidity we had not mentioned to the South African Home Office that the invoice for the spares should not reflect the actual amount paid but should perhaps have been a tad lower. 45% duty, 17% Vat and a 3rd percentage that none of us could understand, all compounded, we ended up at a duty amount of $1800, about 65% of the value of the spares in South Africa. This was a little unexpected.

Where to come up with this amount of cash in such a short time? Luckily, we had traveler’s checks to the rescue.Next challenge, getting these cashed by a bank in Addis. 3 banks later and our tireless angel of mercy, Yelebe, still smiling, had not found a bank that cashed traveler's checks. Fourth bank lucky. Right, cash in hand, back to customs and hopefully a quick exit as the clock was ticking and Khartoum was not getting any closer.

Obstacle number Four, it turns out that despite the duty being $1800 dollars, the customs office is not authorized to accept more than 10,000 Birr (about $ 1000 in the local currency) from any one person in any one day. OK, Yelebe to the rescue again, a tense exchange in Amarhic with the head of customs and we seem to have agreement to waive this rule for the day. Right, success is in sight and we are on the home straight, one exchange of money and we could have Khartoum in our sights again!

Disaster, Obstacle Number Five and the customs system is down, a small detail that the obliging customs officers had failed to mention to us in the preceding exchanges. True to form of course, the office was not authorized to accept manual payments and we would have to come back in 2015 to collect our shocks when it would be more convenient for all concerned. What? No, not going to happen, death before defeat! Luigi swings in to full battle cry, ably covered by Yelebe with short bursts of fire in Amharic. Overwhelmed, our aforesaid head of customs concedes defeat, accepts the cash and gives us a manual invoice.

The heady taste of victory! From a frantic phone call in dusty Merille village five days earlier and over 1400 km to the south in the Kenyan wastelands, to the reassuring weight of 3 shock absorbers firmly in our grubby hands in Addis Ababa. A red letter day indeed.Back to the hotel; strip the injured bike down to its underclothes and a hurried change of the shock absorber in the pouring Ethiopian rain.

With little light separating us from the livestock perils of darkness, we set off into the rain. Waiving a relieved goodbye to a soggy Addis Ababa, more green fields, more hills, and more rain. The going was slow but at least we were going, every northern kilometer meant one less kilometer between us and our train in Khartoum.

We knew that we had more dirt road between us and the Sudan but were a little vague on the details, how long, what condition and exactly where? Also lying in store for us was the Goha Tsiyon pass over the Blue Nile River which we knew had been a challenging character in previous ride reports that we had read and was definitely not a tar road.

The auto routing function on our trusty Garmin GPS’ had ceased at the Ethiopian border. This made our navigating a little more challenging, although to be fair, we had up until now, been incredibly spoiled by the idiot proof point and shoot functionality that the mapset loaded on our Garmins had given us. Loading each step of our route from the routes that Carlo had painstakingly mapped out while still back in South Africa, we were vaguely surprised when we raced through the town of Goha Tsion to have the land fall away from us into a dirt road decline that would have given a mountain goat second thoughts. Discretion, we decided, was the better part of valor, some tense words exchanged and we decided to turn back to the town and find shelter from the descending darkness. The ‘Blue Nile’ hotel turned out to be only one year old but had already more or less collapsed into a state of general disrepair that, had it not been dangerously unhygienic, may have been charming.

We had not made good progress that day, we were 363 km short of where we would like to have ended for the day, in Bahir Dir and the Sudanese border was not feeling any closer. Nothing that could be done about this except sleep and recharge our batteries.We could only hope that the next day would bring conditions that allowed us to make up time.

Two days and 1300 km of unknown terrain left to cover to Khartoum, the "Epic Delivery" was living up to its name.



'06 BMW 1200GS Adventure
'05 BMW 1150GS Adventure (Retired)
'04 BMW 1150GS (Retired) Ducati Monster SR2 (Retired) '08 Specialised Expert Stumpjumper  "Life is not a dress rehearsal, go big or go home"

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Ghoa Tsion to Bahir Dar, Western Ethiopia

Friday, 14th September 2007

'You mother f...!!!' The thick Italian accent crackled over the bike to bike radio giving Luigi's feelings away. The object of the 'Godfather's' affections was an Ethiopian boy still dancing and taunting in our rear view mirrors. We had just been introduced to the main form of entertainment for young people in the northern Ethiopian highlands. Throwing rocks at foreigners. Over the next 2 days we were all introduced to this sport as stones sticks and other nasties were tossed mischievously or just plan maliciously at us or into our paths. Why, we could not tell you. To be fair, less than 10 % of the millions of people thronging the roadside through the whole of the Ethiopian highlands looked like they might bear some malice towards us, the balance were the happy cheerful waving sort that we had become used to so far on our journey. But dodging missiles hurled form the roadside became a very real feature of our ride to the Sudanese border.

The green, green of Ethiopia was definitely starting to take its toll on us. As much as the verdant countryside lifted our spirits on first entering it, the constant rain and damp were weighing on our minds now. Mud and slippery pot holed tar, misted up helmet visors and the constant on and off of rain suits as we crossed form rain storm to sweltering humidity and back to rain again.

The fertility of the land was contrasted by the squirming poverty of the villages we passed. Every inch of the highlands is being tilled and worked to produce some form of crop but we did not see a single mechanical device in our entire journey through this countryside and not a single dwelling outside a village that had progressed beyond mud hut status.

We had all slept fitfully in the ‘Blue Nile Hotel’, partly due to the state of our accommodation and partly due to the anticipation of starting the morning off on the sheer Goha Tsiyon pass at first light the next morning.Our trepidation was not unfounded, we entered the pass with gusto the next morning to have our breath knocked from us by the shocking beauty of the escarpment plunging away from an altitude of 3000 meters, a sheer 2000 meters to the valley floor and the Blue Nile River far, far below. The track surface was rocky with gravel and patches of mud that required intense concentration to navigate the heavy bikes around and through without plunging off the side and into the abyss. With the rising sun throwing everything into a gentle orange relief, each of us made our way 20 km down to the bridge crossing the Blue Nile which was pregnant with flood waters. And now up again, back on to the plateau. This massive valley had been gouged out of the highlands by the Blue Nile over millions of years as it collected the constant rain of the Ethiopian highlands and sent this gushing down to joint the White Nile at Khartoum, in the Sudan.

The road wasted no time in gaining altitude again, straight up from the river, it made a push for the head of the escarpment that was wrapped in cloud above us. By 2000 meters we were seeing more and more mud until we rounded a twist in the track to find a queue of trucks stationary and stretching for a few hundred meters up the road. I suspect that there was a groan in each of us at this sight. “What now?” We navigated carefully past the stranded trucks up to the source of the problem to be greeted by muddy chaos. A bus, a truck and a four wheel drive all grounded up to their axles in a muddy porridge with vehicles queued up on either side trying to get through. This scene must have been like this for a day or so judging by the build up of traffic on either side.

After a brief reconnoiter, it was clear that we had two bad options to try getting through this mess onwards to our last Ethiopian destination, the town of Bahir Dir. We could try and squeeze our steeds between the stranded bus and truck in the middle of the road or we could try and navigate over the drainage ditch to the left of the carnage and over the piles of rocks that were being packed by willing truck drivers and bus passengers in an attempt to create an escape route.

One try at getting my bike through the first option ended in failure as the wide cylinder heads of the boxer engine would not fit through the gap provided. The last option did not look like a great one, thankfully another option was added as one truck broke through the mess and managed to free the stranded four wheel drive, opening a shallow stream of water that was exposing a rocky bottom along the side of the road. If we could get our bikes across the mud and into the stream we could make a run up the side of the chaos and break back into the road further up and beyond the jam. This had to be it, we wasted no time in tying a tow rope to the front fork of one of the bikes and plunging across the mud and into the stream with one person pulling, two pushing and Carlo paddling his feet like a Jesus lizard, we tortured the bike through a blue haze of clutch smoke up the stream over the rocks and back across the mud onto the road. Excellent, three more bikes to go and we were home free without any falls. At almost 3000 meters high and in the 100% humidity, this exertion had taken its toll on us and we mounted our bikes again with wobbly knees and wet to the outside of our riding jackets with sweat from the effort.

15 km more, the climb ended and we were back on tar and making good progress towards Bahir Dir. A brief scare at our first petrol stop as I searched frantically for the collective purse to pay the petrol attendant. A few heart stopping moments later, it turned out that Curt had picked it up from where it had fallen from my pocket the previous evening and stuffed it in his tank bag before forgetting about it.

Onwards to Bahir Dar on Lake Tana with its island monasteries. We arrived at the run down but beautifully situated Ghion hotel on the shores of Lake Tana with some light to spare and made short work of booking in and ordering up two masseurs that were on offer at the reception counter. The ladies appeared shortly and after making sure that there was no expectation of this finishing in a happy ending, Curt and I treated ourselves to one of the best and most well deserved full body massages that we have ever experienced.

The massages worked their magic and for an hour we forgot about the 800 km that remained between us and Khartoum tomorrow.

The Sudanese border crossing awaited us and we had read many reports of the crushing paper work that lay ahead of us. Let’s hope that our luck continues. We are going to need it to make the kilometers tomorrow.

Watch the video of the Goha Tsion pass:

Bahir Dar, Ethiopia to Gedaref, Eastern Sudan
Saturday 15th September

Captains Log – Star date Uncertain, we have been drifting through this green star system for what seems like an eternity, we have still found no sign of intelligent life and it is requiring more and more effort to navigate around the bewildering number of life forms that we are finding in our path. Driving through Ethiopia, is like porting back a thousand years, except of course for the power lines following the passage of the road and the odd pair of Nikes on local feet and the smattering of AK47’s visible along the route; and the throwing of stones from the side of the road which I am sure would not have been tolerated in those times; and the maniac taxi buses that hurtle past us in both directions, and …. OK, so Ethiopia is nothing like being ported back 1000 years but I can guarantee that it is nothing like anything else that you have experienced or are likely to experience.
Ethiopia is a curious looking mix of tropical Asian, South American and African landscapes. It is a meeting point where the peoples of the North and the peoples of the South and the peoples of the West and East all mix together in a swirling and colourful whirlpool of racial types, ethnic dress and religious beliefs and mother tongues.
The ever present contrast of the obscene fertility of the fields we were passing, with the most basic living conditions of the thronging multitude of mostly bare foot Ethiopians no longer surprised us. The ever present damp was starting to eat into our squidgy bits and we were longing to feel the dry sandy heat of the desert again.
So towards the desert we would go and hopefully today. An early start from Bahir Dir, and we tiptoed our way out of the city in the dark. We knew that today the chips were down. We had 1 full day left before we needed to have our bikes loaded on the Khartoum train and Khartoum was over 800 km to the West and North of us but held the promise of escape from this suffocating damp and psychotically cheerful green landscape.

A couple of hours under our belts and a fantastic tarred mountain pass which took us plunging down and back up again through some exhilarating twists and turns. A tricky clay mud slide across the road claimed one victim as Luigi slipped on a slippery section and went into a slow motion slide across the road. A big fright for all concerned but little damage to the bike and only a bump to Luigi’s pride. This almost turned into tragedy as a mini-bus taxi rounded a corner and slid wildly across the road with its breaks in full lock. Four jangled bikers scattered out of the way, saying hasty Hail Marys, to thankfully see the vehicle slide past the downed bike by a few inches.
Back up and onwards, mercifully the land started to drop away and the rain clouds receded and it was time to turn West and off the tar towards the Matema border post and the Sudan.
180 km of good dirt road later, we had dropped 1000 m into wilderness again and had made great progress. It looked like we might actually pull this off. We made the Matema border post by lunch and got stuck into the border formalities. Luigi and I assumed responsibility for the foreign desk on this crossing and dived into our first challenge with gusto. We had passed the customs office earlier and been waived on. Like all good customs offices, this office was about 30 km before the border post. Imagine the genius that this set up required. The uniformed official manning the office had adamantly waived us on, miming that the customs officials at the immigration office up ahead would have stamps for our Carnet’s.
Trustingly, we had carried on towards the border only to have the ancient ‘customs official’ look at us blankly when we displayed our Carnet’s. After some back and forth and some masterful bonding from Luigi’s side, we managed to talk the old man down from sending us the 30 km back to go and argue with the previous guy. With some assistance from a young ‘facilitator’ that appeared with a welcome command of English we managed to progress towards rummaging in the old man’s desk for a stamp that might approximate a carnet stamp and we were away. Who knows what the Amahric stamp actually read but it was enough to complete the carnet process and we were free from Customs and onto Immigration in a sadly leaning hut on the other side of the dirt track. Here we sat squatting in the heat while a young man behind a desk took each passport and checked the passport number against an old hand written ledger of passport numbers that we assume had been blocked from crossing Ethiopian borders. This excruciating process was only slightly relieved by the polite interrogation that we received from his partner in crime who gently grilled us about our origins and activity on the trip so far. No malice intended, we moved on with success in our sights and finally broke free of wonderful Ethiopia into the tender embrace of the Sudan.

With luck on our side, there was a good chance that we could slip through this side of the border and get through to the beckoning tar road on the other side and on towards to Khartoum with time to spare. Having fathomed what the process was here, Immigration, register as an alien, then Customs, then register with security. Immigration was swift, although, paying the $70 each to register as an Alien was scandalously painful and we moved onto customs. Only blank stares from the uniformed gentlemen behind their fraying desks in the ram shackle building passing for a customs office. After some urgent miming and some broken English, it became clear that the only person that knew how to deal with Carnets was the ‘General’ and he unfortunately was not available due to him needing to take some urgent rest elsewhere. Lucky for us, there was a good chance that he would reappear at about 16H30, 3 hours from now. And so any chance of us making further progress in the light was dashed – Africa has a funny way of letting you build up your hopes and then smacking you back down again just to show you who is in charge. So wait we did, squatting around the customs office like we were part of the furniture.
16H30 and no sign of the ‘General’, after some commotion on our part, a local gentleman was roused and dispatched on a motorbike to see if he could locate the ‘General’. Thankfully for us, the ‘General’ appeared shortly, if rather grumpily and huffed and puffed his way into his office, slamming doors and muttering under his breath. We introduced ourselves as cheerfully as we could, given the circumstances and were told to sit down as he was ‘not fine, not fine at all…’. We sat in glum silence watching him shuffle papers around his desk, apparently aimlessly. His mood lightened substantially as we managed finally to break the ice with what was becoming our standard trick. Getting him to guess Luigi’s age, everybody so far has been amazed that Luigi is 64 years old given that anybody local, even near that age looks like Methuselah, gnarled and withered by the elements. This speeded things up marginally and after 2 hours of mind numbing paper work, including the serial numbers of all of our electronic equipment, we were free to press on into the now swiftly impending darkness. Our now, old friend, the ‘General’ waived us a toothy good bye, we never figured out exactly what his authoity was, but he certainly seemed to carry some clout and we were not about to test it.

If we were to stand any chance of making Khartoum in time, we had no choice to but to break our golden rule of ‘never ride in darkness in Africa’. So ride we did, to make matters worse we were heading into more bandit country along the Sudanese side of the Ethiopian border and in the worsening light, we could see that the landscape was wilderness to the horizon on either side.

A few hours later, the town of Gedarif could not have come soner, we stumbled into the chaos amidst hooting tuk tuks and white robed Muslims all now seeking respite from the day’s Ramadan fast.
We found shelter at a reasonable quality (given our now very low standards) but crazily expensive hotel and we had achieved our first foothold in the Sudan.
Khartoum lay within our reach, we would need to start our ride in darkness tomorrow and ride like the wind to make the loading time on our train by 14H00. We were feeling confident that we could do it, the next day would tell.

We should have brought out the big guns for our Metema border crossing... if only we had known:evil

We actually got tired of the rolling green hills of Ethiopia... until we got into the Sudan.  This is the last of the fantastic but unnamed mountain pass in north western Ethiopia.   Like the previous Ghoa Tsion pass... just tarred:clap

Arriving late at night in Gedaref after our wonderfull customs experiance in Sudan we simply dived into the first hotel we could find.  Empty, expensive, and ok.

Gederef to Khartoum
Sunday 16th September

Gedaref to Khartoum
Sunday 16th September 2007

“Carlott, are you sure we’re in the right city” is the just of what crackled over the autocomm two-way radio unit as we entered Khartoum. We found ourselves in a city with 4 lane highways, branded eating outlets, new hotels and a skyline pockmarked by construction cranes – always a sign of something happening in a city. As we entered form the South, having done an early morning dash of 420kms from Gederaf, we witnessed brand new hotels, a shopping mall, a tarred ring road, and Curt’s biggest signpost of civilization; paved walkways!

Unsure of our actual destination we headed for one of the few hotels that are pre-loaded in the Garmin unit. Using the now tried and tested navigation method of ever-decreasing-concentric-circles we eventually navigated our way through the now-expected traffic of a central African capital city – constant hooting and attacking each lane change with a hail-mary that the other guy has moderately functional brakes.

The Le-Meridian hotel had been re-named since Garmin update their database but it turned out that the hotel we did check into was indeed the Le-Meridian. This little piece of luck was to prove to be one of our last for some time.

From Khartoum there are two routes (well probably three if you include teleporting yourself) to get to Wadi Halfa, the gateway from Sudan into Egypt. One route heads east from Khartoum and follows the Nile from Dongola all the way to Wadi Halfa. This is the most often traveled route. The second heads north from Khartoum on a tar road to Atbarra and then hits the sand of the Nubian desert for about 600kms. This road is really just the sand next to the train track that departs weekly from Khartoum to Wadi Halfa.

We had heard reports that the road along the Nile had been flooded but this was not something we had verified for certain. Of more importance to us howevere was that we had lost a day with our shock absorber problems and doing either route would take 3 days, whereas the train is scheduled to take two days. We had heard reports of the this train and none were complimentary, but since the ferry from Wadi Halfa only leaves once a week – a delay would result in us having to wait in Wadi Halfa for a week and thereby a failed trip in terms of the 39 days arrival date in London. So the train it was…

This decision set in motion a chain of events that will stay with us for all time I believe.

"I'd rather ride than try and tie the bikes down in this" was Curts general feeling.  As it turns out he was right - for the wrong reason however.

We eventually convinced Curt that riding alone was not really an option...

They have this idea that the bikes need be drained of petrol before being loaded on the train.  So these guys end up drinking more petrol than they siffon, petrol puddles on the floor and, in the end leave enough petrol in for us to ride at least 100kms....  AWA - Africa Wins Again.   With temparatures exceeding 60 degrees celcius in this window-and -airless carriage and the train track littered with burnt our carriages we accede to local knowlegde however. 

With no actual tie down points, strapping the bike was an excercise in creativity.  It was also hot... very hot.  We paid 60USD for the boxes and tyres that you see the bikes jammed against.

Next... the actual train ride.

This is a video clip that Curt edited together.  The ride report from my perspective follows.



'06 BMW 1200GS Adventure
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'04 BMW 1150GS (Retired) Ducati Monster SR2 (Retired) '08 Specialised Expert Stumpjumper  "Life is not a dress rehearsal, go big or go home"

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Wadi Halfa, Sudan (Update)

Thursday, 20th September 2007

Khartoum to Wadi Halfa. By train and hope. 920kms

There's a Spanish train that runs between
Guadalquivir and old Saville,
And at dead of night the whistle blows,
and people hear she's running still...

The story goes that the train runs forever and that its passengers are the souls of the dead; with the devil and the Lord playing poker to decide who gets all the souls. Although the story comes from a Chris De Burgh song titled Spanish Train, the train trip from Khartoum to Wadi Halfa felt as if the lyrics had been written while on this train.

The train itself must have been an object of desire 45 years ago; when the fold out tables in each first class cabin supported bone china tea cups filled with Ceylon’s finest; while passengers watched the Nubian desert flash by, their faces gently washed by in-cabin fans and the regular offer of ice-cold face cloths laced with lime. And, of course, there would have been the food, prepared no doubt in accordance with the most stringent of British customs and practices. The cabins would be cleaned at each stop and the seats replaced at the first sign of non-optimum lumbar support. The latrines too would have been the focus of regular, mandatory maintenance and cleaning.

That was 45 years ago.

As our watch nudged past 2:30am, 17 hours after departure, the sandman fought a desperately losing battle with the train that was using all its tricks of the trade, learned after many years to keep us from mush needed rest. It was during this time that I could not stop my mind from reciting the opening refrain from Spanish Train. As my mind edged in and out of sleep, my thoughts were filled with being a passenger on a train of damned souls, heading into the forever with no chance of escape.

The giant grey beast bucked and rolled on suspension last replaced after the last world war. The heat seemed to intensify and close in at night, seemingly insulated by the blackness around us. Our fridge thermometer confirmed thirty six degrees Celsius. At 2am. The monotone chugging of the wheels and cogs and pistons of the ancient train did nothing to alleviate the feeling of desperation that seemed to engulf us as we lay in contorted positions in a futile attempt to get much needed rest. Like a bad dream we were hoping that if we slept we would wake up to find that it was in fact just a dream and that reality was somehow different. An attempt to get up and seek refuge in the great grey hulk was greeted by the sight of bodies clad in white robes, lit by the intermittent flicking of faulty neon tubes, scattered anywhere that would support the weight of a human body. One distinctly got the feeling that it did not matter if they were alive or not. The souls of the dead came to mind once again.

An attempt to navigate past the hordes of motionless white robed objects turned into a game of seemingly live and death hopscotch as the train used every trick to dislodge your footing and send you into the darkness. Over the bodies. In the dark.Sweat running down your face and dripping onto those under your feet. You arrive at your destination. Your body can longer harbour the vast quantities you have consumed during the forty degree sunlight hours and you arrive at a door with a small, intact, sign marked “WC”. The door is slightly ajar and bangs closed in tune with the train. Every second beat of the train is one beat of the door against its old metallic frame. It is as if the train and the room behind that door are in collusion. Despite the room not being lit, one can faintly make out the train tracks rushing by through the hole in the floor that is the toilet. The smell would indicate that despite this free flow system straight onto the train tracks that the motion of the train once again wins and that the floor is tainted with human waste. The same waste that is carried through the train by the bare feet that walk the corridors between cabins and toilet. The same corridors that are now occupied by those motionless figures.

Well that Spanish train still runs between,
Guadalquivir and old Saville,
And at dead of night the whistle blows,
And people fear she's running still...
And far away in some recess
The Lord and the Devil are now playing chess…

Sunrise brought much needed hope. And victory. It felt as if we had defied the chess game where the stakes were the souls of the dead. Our first class cabin started to look better. The fold out table was long since retired, the only remaining evidence of its existence being the steel supporting arm. The seats backs are held in place by nails that allow for easy removal at night so as to provide some reprise from the hard, waste strewn floors where people feign sleep. We use our blow up mattresses to cushion the aged suspension. The over-door fan, exquisitely made and still in good nick, has not turned in many years, yet has a switch – only for hope one can assume. The window does indeed close, but like all things on this train, it is a trade-off. Live with the dust the locomotive kicks up as it relentlessly pushes its way through the Nubian Desert, or live with the ever-increasing temperature that mounts when you close the window for even ten minutes. Having the window closed would be like boiling a frog slowly. You would surely die. Then there is the smell of people. All aspects of people. Spit, urine, waste, sweat. One gets the feeling that every action and movement is carefully planed and in some way contributes to surviving this journey. That is all that matters and those that do this journey often know this. We do not. As the sun breaks the flat horizon I start to understand that this is only about survival. Not about manners, or formalities, or courtesy. Just about survival.

As the shadows of the telephone poles that have followed our journey get shorter so too does the time to our destination. We follow on our GPS and with just 100kms to go to Wadi Halfa the conductor seems to sense defeat. There will be no souls for him on this journey – and he speeds up to the fastest we have been thus far – fifty kilometers per hour. Some ten kilometers out we are greeted by old Bedford trucks that have musical horns that follow at what seems to be breakneck speed alongside the train.

The only feeling I can muster after this journey is one of survival. The juxtaposition of seeing the Nile flood plains covered in water up to the train tracks, and the relentless desert on the other side is somehow watered down. The awe inspiring beauty of the Nubian Desert is not forgotten, but is not foremost in my mind. We have survived. Our precious cargo has survived. Our bikes have survived.

The Nile Hotel seemed like an Oasis, as it surely is after such a journey. At night the beds are moved out into the open, and during the day they are moved inside to escape the heat. Despite its relative size Wadi Halfa seems to live and die each week, on the arrival of the train, and the departure of the ferry to Aswan. 36cm television sets are placed outdoors for free viewing, three wheeled taxis scoot around dodging pedestrians and other movables, and immovable. Big old Bedford truck transport people and their belongings for free between the Lakondas (Hotels) and the ferry. There is lots of luggage everywhere as this trip seems to be a trip of hope for many. Escape to greener pastures, wither in northern Africa or even beyond. We met a guy who was going to stay with his brother in Australia. Another family were going to Libya, and yet another to Tunisia. I am sure they also feel like they have survived.

The lady that was to pull us through the depths of hell.

The rest of the grey snake that followed us around for two days

Not all trips to Wadi are succesfull.  There were many of these carriages along the tracks... as well as lots of a train wheels!

Our eccentric, if not cantakerous Sudanese cabin-fellow. 

The view from our 24 carriage prison cell

It would seem that these railway sleepers would be better served on the railway line...

Evidence of the Nile in flood.  Not the Nubian desert you would imagine.  On this side at least.

The forty year old suspension contrived to snap a 1000kg tie down.  The "droplets" in the air are actually the dust particles that are over exposed with the cameras flash.

First class haedrests for first class riders...  :D

If you can see it you can sleep eat or spit on it

The toilets in the train have a free flow system

and this is the other end. 

A short video of the loo!!! :puke1 :puke1

another view of the nile in train ride from hell....


Here one can see the route options once you're in Khartoum.  Folow the left loop next to the nile or follow the right loop through the nubian desert.  The train follows the right loop

Wadi Halfa to Aswan, Egypt

Friday, 21st September 2007

Anybody who believes that the world is round needs to come to the Sudan to calibrate their view of the world. I too once believed this untruth cooked up by NASA in a Hollywood movie studio, but now I have been to the Sudan and I know that the world is definitely flat, flat and dry and as inhospitable as Satan’s bald spot. In fact the memory of green and the memory of land that can hold the attention of so much as an anorexic goat has faded and the Nubian Desert has burned our heads full of rocks and dunes and stony plains stretched taut from horizon to horizon. What beat gets played out on this desert drum skin from season to season, I cannot imagine, as we did not see evidence of any natural life from Khartoum to Wadi Halfa. Barring of course for the mighty Nile which collects the waters of Lake Tana and Lake Victoria from the Blue and White Nile Rivers, far to the south and then oozes languorously (I’ve been dying to use that word) north from Khartoum through Wadi Halfa, down Lake Nasser (a monumental head stone to the first Egyptian president) past its prison wall at the northern end of the damn, through the southern Egyptian town of Aswan, then Luxor and its historical treasures, to a final curtain call with the Mediterranean at Alexandria which has been a crossroads of history since Phoenician times. This incredible journey of over 6000 km from the Ethiopian highlands at 3000 m to the Mediterranean sea (yes, at sea level !) makes this the longest river on the planet and our desert interrogation was rudely interrupted several times during the train journey as the Nile threw one of its flooded coils over the train track in an explosion of palm trees and cultivated fields.

The Nile took its leave of our train tracks well before the half way point of our journey and left us alone to the choking dust and heat of the Nubian Desert.

So it was that we made our way to Wadi Halfa on the southern tip of lake Nasser and after a pleasantly rural night’s accommodation in a reed hut at the Nile Hotel, boarded the ferry bound for Egypt and the port town of Aswan over 350 km to the north.The trick of course with boarding the ferry was that we had 4 monster bikes with luggage to get into the boat in competition with 600 screaming, spitting, less than accommodating Arabs, none of whom had improved their moods through the searing discipline of the Ramadan month.

Once our bikes were secured to the lower deck, we made our way up to the first class cabins that we had secured at the last minute through our invaluable Sudanese facilitator Midhat Mahir and were pleasantly surprised by habitable little holes with nothing less than freezer class air-conditioning. The traverse of the lake disappeared in air-conditioned delight with the extra-cabin excursions limited to procuring meals and water. We whiled away some happy hours swapping tall stories with a few other travelers thrown together at this North African cross roads: Bedaa and Katinka, a South African couple from the Cape that had been drifting up Africa for 5 and a half months; Will and Dave, a pair of British gentlemen that had been on expatriate contracts in South Africa and were now driving a Range Rover and a Land Rover Discovery from South Africa back to the UK and finally Dean, an eccentric loaner from Nebraska in the American Mid-West who was on leg number who knows what of a very long around the world adventure by public transport that he was documenting for his newspaper column back in the USA. As had become customary by now, we swapped web site addresses and e-mail addresses and sincere promises to stay in touch before docking in Aswan harbor. It was here that we were to suffer our first lesson in Egyptian bureaucracy that would make every other brush with African paper work look like tricycles with training wheels.

After the hope of a false dawn and having our passports stamped and being allowed to unload our motorbikes as we docked, we were crushed by a 5 hour wait cooped up in the ferry until all the 600 or so passengers had had their paper work completed and lined up through the vessel all aimed at the single exit to the dock. Then a mad scrum to exit and we made it to the customs office to have our Carne’s stamped by just after 13H00 to have it politely explained to us that the other offices we would need to visit before being road legal in Egypt were closing at 14H00 and would not reopen till Sunday. Our hopes of a speedy exit from Aswan dashed, we settled in to listen to the process that we would need to follow in order to achieve the much needed permission to continue our journey north. What follows cannot be made up, so must be true, I would suggest that nobody try this at home as we are trained professionals and take no liability for any crusty re-enactments back in South Africa.

Step number one in Egypt; get passports stamped by stern looking Egyptian official while onboard Lake Nasser Ferry, then get passport rechecked 5 hours later when exiting ferry. Step two; get Carnet stamped at Customs office after parking in the fourth location shouted in Arabic by more stern looking Egyptian gentlemen with bi guns. While at customs office, part with $ 100 US each for the pleasure of disgracing Egyptian roads with your vehicle and fill in badly put together form ‘confessing to pay any and all amounts that may be demanded by the Egyptian Consumables (Customs) office while in Egypt’. With this behind you, Step 3 involves taking a letter written in Arabic by the customs office to the local traffic police office which is 20 km away and only opens on Saturday again (today being Thursday) asking them to please write a letter to the insurance office, which only opens on Sunday (today being Thursday) which in turn will relieve you of some more money to issue extra Egyptian insurance on top of the COMESA third party insurance that you already have covering Egypt and then write a letter back to the traffic police who then, if they are in good spirits will write a letter back to customs who you will then take the aforesaid letter back to and given that God is smiling on that day, customs will then issue you with a set of Egyptian number plates allowing you to then report to the local Tourism Police office where you will hopefully be allowed to join a convoy at 14H00 on Sunday heading north to Luxor.

Simple! Certainly our young Egyptian host at the customs office looked rather puzzled at the dismay he saw unfolding on our faces as he explained the process to us. ‘You do zis differently in Sous Africa?’ he asked quizzically as if doubting that we could possibly have reached this level of sophistication in the far south. ‘ No, same process there too’ we reply, not wanting to lessen any chances of getting our Egyptian number plates released to us by this same young man at the end of the pointless marathon.

Anyhow, nothing left but to drown our frustrations in alcohol, which is mercifully available in Aswan, if for the price of a small third world country. The first beer in more than a week slides joyfully down our throats, we have shacked up in the Isis hotel on the banks of the Nile with nothing to do but watch the white sailed Felucca’s slide past and catch up on our beer deficit. Life could be worse but we will have some big kilometers to catch up on to Cairo to put us back in favor with our demanding schedule when Sunday comes around.

We did ask for the best accomodation money could buy in Wadi Halfa.  The Nile Hotel sounded the business...

They do put the ex-pats in one area and we met a few different groups, some going up and some going down.  A great source of information and also great to meet our first english speaking people in about 10 days.  Some guys did the route along the nile and the pictures of landrovers with water over their bonnets definately confirmed that we made the right decision to take the train... as bad as it was.  Spending a week in Wadi would possibly have killed me!

Dinner in these parts of the world are always a little like gambling.  We did however perfect the art of going into the kitchens and all but making our own food.


'06 BMW 1200GS Adventure
'05 BMW 1150GS Adventure (Retired)
'04 BMW 1150GS (Retired) Ducati Monster SR2 (Retired) '08 Specialised Expert Stumpjumper  "Life is not a dress rehearsal, go big or go home"

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This is the offices of uber-fixer, Midhat Mahir.  The only reason I mention this is because if you go anywhere near this part of the world you simply have to utilise this guy.  Midhats claim to fame is that he has about 0.5% body fat, has riddden through the Nubian desert (900km) on a mountain bike in something like 5 days!!  He can also organise anything.  Here's what he did for us: 

 - booked our super luxurious hotel in advance for us.  (you should do this because everyone wants to stay there while waiting for the ferry)
 - booked our train trip from Khartoum to Wadi and had his brother meet us in Khartoum and escourt us  to the train station and helped us get all that stuff sorted out
 - he arranged the exit from Sudan in it;s entirety, carnet, visa etc
 - his other brother, Mazar, actaully went with us in the ferry into Egypt and assisted with the calamatous entry procedure into Egypt.  Simply superb.:clap :clap :clap

This is a vid of getting on the ferry, which like all things African, is not what you expect. (1min48")


The cabin was small but had power and aircon.  The only problem was that you couldnt turn the aircon off so you can either freeze or boil.  No in between.

Toilets in central Africa are always quite an experiance. 

If you get a general accomodation ticket you can sleep anywhere!! 

There is food on-board but you should ask for the first class chicken!  Apparanetly there is a second class chicken.  They also the stock the most fantastic Guava juice known to man.  Seriously.:freaky

If you send your car (or bike) on the cargo ferry - this is it.  The downside is that you can only get it off the ferry a day later in some cases, and it leaves a day earlier from Wadi Halfa.

This is a longer video clip of the ferry, with some dupicated footage.  About 6minutes as a podcast.


Our next leg was to get to Cairo and here is the ride report from Jay

Aswan to Cairo, Egypt

Wednesday, 26th September 2007

Many countries are profoundly influenced by the great rivers that run through them but I have never experienced a country that has its fortunes so closely tied to the moods of a single waterway as Egypt is to the Nile River. Egypt harbors almost 80 million souls in a country that is mostly rock, sand and searing sun. The only respite from the desert is the Nile. This mighty river snakes through the old kingdom of Nubia in Northern Sudan and spills over the wall of the Aswan dam in Upper Egypt (southern Egypt) before winding its way down to the bustling port town of Alexandria on the Mediterranean in Lower Egypt (Northern Egypt). It brings with it an avalanche of date palms, maize fields, people and livestock that press up against the river for comfort from the desert staring dryly at the scene from the cliffs of the Nile Valley on either side.

The starkness of this contrast makes for dramatic scenery that was thrown into gentle relief by the setting Sahara sun as we finally broke free from Aswan, Egyptian paper work in hand and turned our bikes towards Luxor. Our 3 day ordeal at the hands of Egyptian customs officers, traffic police and insurance brokers had finally ended and with Egyptian plates duck taped to our bikes, we were free to open up our throttles legally on Egyptian tarmac. To be fair, we did not meet an individual Egyptian, barring the unpleasant Aswan traffic police and a few rogues and con artists on the Aswan waterfront, that was not exceptionally pleasant and willing to help, but this brush with bureaucracy had left a sour taste in all of our mouths. In fact, in the Bureaucracy Olympics, I think that we may have found a team to rival the previously uncontested South African Home Affairs Department competing in the Mindless Arrogance, Incompetence and Spectacular Indifference events.

So, this behind us, we had established that we could make it to Luxor without being subjected to a police convoy and we were soon beguiled by the magic unfolding through our helmet visors. The lazy Nile on the one side with white sailed Felucca’s sailing in both directions, the riotous green cultivated up to the water’s edge and a sharp exclamation mark as the green fields ended and the desert sand began.

We rode through crowded village after crowded village and made it to Luxor in reasonable time as the last of the light disappeared. Having beaten a hasty retreat to the Isis Hotel and wrestled a decent night’s sleep from the refreshingly clean bed linen, we headed off at first light for the 680 km track to Cairo.

Our progress was slow through the villages and our frustration mounted when we were stopped by the traffic police in the town of Sohaag and sternly instructed to ‘wait 5 minutes’. This being the only English available to our group of Arab captors, it was clear that we were not going to argue our way out of this stop as we had at the stops we had encountered already this morning. Now, ‘wait 5 minutes’ accompanied by a gesture of the hand with fingers outstretched and closed together but facing upwards, we had learned, was bad news in Egypt as it could mean a wait of anything from literally 5 minutes to 3 days. ‘Wait 1 minute’ was generally more promising as this generally indicated that the issue at hand would, at worst, get sorted out within the day. Our ambitions of reaching Cairo that day were badly battered as we kicked the dust aimlessly waiting for the local senior officer to raise an armed vehicle from the town to come and escort us up to the opposite municipal boundary of Sohaag.

True to form, after a small eternity and several attempts at reasoning with the serious looking officers, a vehicle appeared, fill to the brim with machine gun toting gentleman who would ensure us a safe passage through Sohaag. We followed the vehicle in a line, the inter bike radio grimly silent as we all sulked at the strictly enforced (for us only) 60 km speed limit that left us all battling to find a comfortable place in 5’th gear to accommodate. This became the theme of our day well up to lunch time. Every time we approached a municipal boundary; our incumbent escort would peel off and be replaced by a new escort from the territory ahead.

By lunch, we had entered an area where the local police seemed a lot less interested in us than previously and were more concerned with our quick passage than our safe passage. This suited us just fine and we increased our speed nicely before an unexpected left turn burst us free of our escort and the now claustrophobic Nile Valley and onto a desert highway that pointed us north and towards Cairo at speeds that we had only been dreaming off all morning.

Another Egyptian sun set and a new city. Cairo has 12 million inhabitants and in places, the city stretches from horizon to horizon. Certainly, it seemed that all 12 million people had gotten behind the wheels of their cars and were on the roads to greet us with a tumult of hooting, revving and smoking traffic that was difficult to comprehend. By now, we had figured out that the only rule of Egyptian driving is that there are no rules. With this nugget under our belts, we clung to our GS’s and rode our hooters like they were cannons, parting traffic as we went.

As fortune would have it, it took us about half an hour for us to admit that we were hopelessly lost in this metropolitan wilderness. Not to worry, employing a recently learned trick, we snagged a taxi out of the traffic stream and 40 Egyptian Pounds later, were following this lunatic as he piloted his ramshackle Peugeot through the traffic snarls like an F16 pilot. This got us to our chosen destination and the great Pyramids of Giza before darkness and with our options limited to a single hotel and none of us wanting to brave the mounting traffic again; we bit the bullet and checked in to the expensive but spectacularly well appointed Oberoi hotel at the base of the Pyramids. What a treat, rooms with a view of the big Korfu Pyramid and beds that could almost make us forget the procession of rank little hovels that we had endured up to the Egyptian border.

Today had been 13 hours in the saddle and we needed all the clean hot water that Egypt had to offer. We had good reason to be pleased with ourselves, though, we had caught up to our schedule and made Cairo in an epic 24 days – something that we had been warned back home, could not be done. This put us in a good place for our final assault on Tunis and our date with the Mediterranean ferry to Salerno in Italy. As things turn out, the ferry departure time in our schedule had been incorrect and recent information now put it at a day earlier than our original plan. No rest for the wicked, there wouldn’t time to take in the sights and sounds of Cairo, it would be a first light departure and from the Egyptian capital and an 800 km dash across the Sahara and into Libya the next day.

The pizza must get through; there was nothing for it but to savor our last Sakara beer until the opposite border of Libya which is alcohol free and in strict observance of the Ramadan month. Some big riding days lay ahead of us. Bring on Tunis!
We managed to avoid these police conveys most of the time, but when they got hold of us it was like death by thousand paper cuts!  They travel at a real speed of about 50km/h, which is slower than the general traffic which means you are always dodging cars about to rear-end you! 

Egypt truly is a world of contrasts.  The life blood effect of the nile extends for a few kilometres either side and then loses its battle against the desert, with scenery like this.

Riding through the desert is in fact quote draining.  There is almost always a wind that seems to have picked up speed from about 500 kilometres away so you spend the day leaning into the wind.  Its also hot.  Duh!:1drink 

Finally - the pyramids.  For most this is a journey of a lifetime.  Cape To Cairo!  For us it was another 6000km to go.:deal

After the trials of the Cairo traffic we stopped at the first hotel we found.  We didnt care what it cost.  Apparently the Oberoi is over 150 years old and certainly has the feeling of a grand old hotel.

A small video with 6000kms to go!

Some thoughts of why we rate the Autocomm bike to bike system the best gadget we took with us. 

:clap :clap


25 September 2007

Cairo to Tripoli

Before the ride report here are scans of the acual maps we used with the planned routes.


Heading West from Cairo through Alexandria...

and then into Libya...

With our experience in Egypt so far, plagued by bureaucracy and painfully slow going, the route west from Cairo, through Alexandria and along the Mediterranean coast of mama Africa, was blessed by go-as-fast-as-you-want highways and very little officialdom of any nature. 

The luxury of the Oberoi hotel behind us, we headed off west into the moonset with the sun rising behind us. The craziness of Cairo traffic at sunset the previous day was replaced by an empty four lane highway from Cairo to Alexandria. 
Our first sniff of the Mediterranean came 200kms outside of Cairo, and a little west of Alexandria. After the desert emptiness of the previous days, the azure blue of the sea lifted our spirits and saw us in search of access down to the beach. True to form, Carlo found the first sandy track and headed towards the sea, through a construction site and then into the quicksand.  After getting stuck and then nonchalantly not calling for assistance he nearly sent his bike rolling down a steep embankment into a salty lake.  Discretion became the better part of valour and his call for assistance quickly freed his bike from the soft sand. 

We continued west towards the Libyan border, the road teased us with glimpses of the sea before plunging us back into desert time and again. Curiously, this part of the Egyptian coast is crowded with sea side holiday apartments, all eerily empty with the road almost to ourselves. We could only imagine what chaos this must be in high season.

Our sights were set on the border town of El Sallum and all of our fingers were secretly crossed for an uneventful border crossing into Libya.
We made good time and swept up the impressive pass outside of El Sallum which laid the blue, blue Mediterranean at our feet for a brief moment before sweeping us over the plateau and on to a mercifully dull border crossing where we met up with our Libyan guide, Waheed. We swept through onto a Libyan border clearance after only a small heart stopping misunderstanding with the authorities as Curt tried to dispose of some Vodka that had mysteriously stowed away in his pannier, Libya, as with most strictly Muslim countries, suffered from a serious sense of humor failure relating to alcohol consumption within its borders.

Libya has only opened up to foreign tourists in recent years and curiously, forbids unaccompanied travel in the country by foreigners. This compelled us to rent a ‘tour guide’ for a princely sum, who would accompany us through the countless road blocks to the other side of Libya. As frustrating as this was for us, we soon realized how hopeless our travels would have been had it not been for Waheed. No English, nothing, neither written nor spoken, Libya is almost entirely English free, to the point that I doubt we would have been able to recognize even a hotel in the few small towns that we whisked through. Added to this, are the incredible distances between towns, distances that are filled with desert and more desert.
With only the odd camel to distract us we made great time through Tobruk, then Sert and onto Tripoli. In Sert, we required special police permission to check into the Sert Hotel (clearly not mad about foreigners in this part of the world).
Libyans found us an oddity, as witnessed by the number of cars that passed us with the driver’s cell phone pointed in our direction to either take a picture or a movie of our progress. This brings us to another point of interest in Libya, Libyan drivers. You might have noted, correctly, that it is not strictly normal for the driver of a car to be operating his cell phone camera while simultaneously operating heavy machinery on a national highway. Especially if said heavy machinery is careering into oncoming traffic while overtaking 4 motorcycles that are already doing 120 km an hour. Our recent experience with Egyptian drivers paled into insignificance in the face of the daring antics that we witnessed on Libyan roads. In fact one Libyan explained to us dismissively that you could identify Egyptian drivers on Libyan roads by the use of their hooters. The tone of his explanation made it clear that no Libyan would stoop to the nerdy lengths of actually employing the safety features of his car. This became abundantly clear to us as we fought our way west towards Tripoli. At the risk of national embarrassment, every battered old truck, car and farm vehicle did its best to either overtake us or catch up to us regardless of the danger to life or limb. I swear that many of these cars must have had their accelerators replaced with on / off switches and their breaking gear removed to drop their racing weight. Some had clearly even foregone their indicators and the use of their prefrontal brain lobes to get down to racing weight.

Not far into Libya, it became apparent that a contributor to such an assortment of incredibly old and dilapidated cars on the roads was the amazingly low petrol price. 
Presumably, the ever rising cost of petrol is some deterrent to car ownership in most countries. If say for example the only car one could afford, was free, it might still be unlikely that you would be driving it, given the cost of a tank of petrol.
Not the case in Libya, petrol here is literally cheaper than water. So much so, that the first petrol stop had us scratching our heads and searching for a calculator to confirm what our tired brains were telling us, given the conversion from Libyan Dinnars to Egyptian Pounds back to Sudanese Pounds back to Ethiopian Birr, to Dollars with a half twist double flip dismount back to Rands. Less than R1 per litre !
Impossible but true. In Libya, they price petrol by the 10 litres at the pump and 10 litres costs under R10.00. This is literally less that the cost of bottled water (the only type worth risking in Libya) which will set you back on average about R6 or more per litre. There it is, reason number one (and the only one) to consider immigrating to Libya.     

From the Egyptian border to Tripoli, there truly is very little more to report about Libya but desert and grey unfinished looking little towns.

The Libyan capital is, however, a different story. The same strict observance of Muslim custom in that there is no alcohol available and Ramadan discipline makes food hard to come by any time before 21H00 in the evening, but a sophisticated and progressive air pervades the city. Wide open, clean boulevards, trendy crowds of well dressed people thronging the boulevards at night and the clear availability of luxuries, from cars to electronics. The ever present azure of the Mediterranean sea front doesn’t hurt either in lending charm to the city.

This is definitely a city that we could have explored a bit further but this was not to be as the ferry to Italy wasn’t about to make a mercy stop in Tripoli for us and another 800 km lay between us and Tunis where we needed to board our ticket off of the dark continent and on to London to complete our Epic Delivery a week later.


'06 BMW 1200GS Adventure
'05 BMW 1150GS Adventure (Retired)
'04 BMW 1150GS (Retired) Ducati Monster SR2 (Retired) '08 Specialised Expert Stumpjumper  "Life is not a dress rehearsal, go big or go home"

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Once you get of Cairo you are immediately ambushed by 200km of billboards that cannot be seen anywhere else in the world!

As you move west however the scenery becomes a little more predictable... and does not change very much...

not very much...

at all!

After riding all day with the same view a sunset was quite welcoming. 

I tried to find a way to the sea... :evil
and didnt.

The Gulf of Sallum is the last bit of civilisation you see before entering Libya.  What a welcome surprise!

Typical accomodation in Libya.  Although things get more civilised still very different, especially during Ramadan month.

With Libya observing fasting laws explicitly, the only food available was by special arrangement.  Its not often this is the extent of the breakfast room in a large hotel.  Made "specially" for us. 

We had to ask to have the coffee bar opened and it turned out to be the best cappuchino we had had since we left South Africa on August 31st!!  Africa truly is full of surprises

Once again looking for trouble... and finding it

In typical African fashion... sweating the asset!

Petrol in Libya is dirt cheap... about 20c per litre, compared to to $2 for a litre of water.  In many cases they dont even bother charging you!!

Early morning sunrise as we start another mammoth day on our way to Tunis

And the moon setting in front of us...

Tripoli to Tunisia, Tunisia

Sunday, 30th September 2007

Having left the surprisingly European city of Tripoli in our rear view mirrors and swiftly covered the 180km to the Tunisian border, we were well set to make an early morning border crossing and attack our last kilometers on the African continent. Libya had proved a breeze relative to some of the countries further south and we had traversed the entire country without witnessing any of the dark goings on that Colonel Gadaffi and his henchmen are constantly accused of.

Another wonderfully boring border crossing (amazing what pleases you after a month on the road in Africa). Libyan number plates handed in and our bike registration papers and passports presented on the Tunisian side, we burst free into Tunisia and waived goodbye to Waheed, our pleasant, but compulsory, Libyan guide.

Not much change in scenery from the Libyan side except for a spectacularly unregulated petrol industry. For the first 100 km or so, the road side was littered with little stalls selling petrol in rows of plastic containers. We could only assume that this must be petrol bought in Libya at the ludicrously low Libyan prices and smuggled across the border. This was confirmed at our first Tunisian petrol stop where were treated to petrol at about 10 times the Libyan price. Oh well all good things must come to an end and even the petrol price could not tempt me to immigrate to Libya.

Our first petrol stop, however, brought minor disaster. Luigi’s bike cut out and stubbornly refused to start again. Some hasty dismantling and a frantic call back to South Africa established that the battery was properly done for. A failed attempt at temporarily swapping batteries between bikes to get it started saw us come to another grinding halt opposite nothing else but, would you believe it, a line of parked tow trucks.

Our humour was reaching its limit and Tunis was not getting any closer so we wasted no time in beating down the ridiculous price quoted by the tow truck owner and loaded the bike for its second undignified run in a truck (remember the goat truck in Northern Kenya), for this trip.

So, Luigi and bike comfortably housed in the tow truck, the remaining three bikes carried on west. The scenery began a rapid change as we wore down the kilometers between us and Tunis. Olive groves, fields of chili bushes, melons and pomegranates started to open up and the flat horizons were disturbed by hills and then mountains.

After several thousand kilometers of every flavor of desert, this fertile scene struck us as vaguely surreal and it only improved as we neared the capital city until we could be forgiven for thinking that we had blundered across the Mediterranean and into Southern France.

The strange sense of order about this African country also became difficult to ignore, traffic officers in neat, well pressed and very formal uniforms, well signposted roads (if only in Arabic and French), fairly new looking cars on the road and almost sane drivers. This was not like any African country that we had passed through so far and the city of Tunis did not disappoint either, given this build up. If Tripoli had a vague European air about it then Tunis must be the Southern most European city.

Tunis, as we were to learn has in fact had a long history of mixed involvement in European affairs from the old empire centered in Carthage (now modern day Tunis) that spawned Hannibal’s elephant powered march into Italy, where he gave the Roman empire a bloody nose, to Roman conquest and some time spent as the ‘bread basket’ province of the Roman empire to the Turkish invasion and a spell as part of the Ottoman empire and onto a sneaky deal between Britain and France in the second half of the 1900’s that cleared the way for French forces to sweep in from Algeria and snatch Tunisia out from under Italian noses to become a French colony before finally reaching independence in 1956. Since then it has had only two presidents, the current incumbent, enjoying his umpteenth term in office and maintaining a tight strangle hold on the political life of the country. So it is, that Tunis today is outwardly an unmistakably French city but with a strongly beating conservative Islamic heart.

We are now comfortably housed in the centre of Tunis and have reconnoitered our route to the ferry boarding tomorrow morning and our passage to Europe.

Our last night in Africa, brings a conflicting mix of melancholy and relief at our impending departure from the mother continent.

Melancholy at the collage of sights sounds and adventures that have come our way since the frenetic police escort from Johannesburg, 30 days ago, north into the wilds of Botswana, across the empty bush horizons of Zambia, under Kilimanjaro’s shadow in Tanzania, into Kenya and its punishing northern waste lands, up over the green damp of the Ethiopian highlands, down into the searing heat and sand of the Sudan, racing the busy Nile Valley through Egypt, west across the parched skull of Libya and now into a fertile and orderly Tunisia.

It is definitely too much to make sense of in our travel weary heads, right now, but I am sure that we will have many forgotten images of our over 12,000 km dash through Africa popping into memory for months to come.

Melancholy aside, we cannot escape the relief that comes with our last African stop, the many nasty little ‘hotels’ that we collapsed in overnight through east and central Africa, the grueling riding hours and unending early mornings, the punishing mindless bureaucracy of the border crossings and disappointment at the pressing mass of humanity that has banished any romantic notions of wild Africa from much of the route that we took. Africa would seem to be a continent groaning under the weight of too many people and hopeless mismanagement. Certainly it has its fair share of jewels but these are at times, set against an ocean of filth and despair that leave one feeling quite beaten. Our beloved continent has many challenges in its future and we can’t ignore these as we try to order our feelings and prepare ourselves for the final straight across Europe and into London to complete the Pizza challenge that we have set for ourselves.

Tomorrow we must get Luigi’s stricken bike onto the ferry and to Italy where it can be repaired. If fortune smiles on us, we may even be able to talk our way out of the deck seats that have been booked for us and into a cabin for the 22 hour crossing.

Bring on Europe, bring on flush toilets, and bring on London.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though. Nine days, several thousand kilometers and two ferry crossings still stand between us and our wives and families in London.

Let’s hope that our bikes, bodies and friendships can with stand the last remaining challenges on the home straight.

In the name of Pizza, we continue!

With petrol being dirt cheap in Libya the petrol stations in Tunisia consist of petrol bought in Libya and then sold out of drums and barrels in Tunisia.  This is a normal petrol station!
This was a 'small' one...

and this a larger one...

Tunisia was a huge surprise for us - like ethiopia.  Olive groves, vineyards, road signs in french and fields of agriculture left us feeling like we were in a province of southern France.

Here is a small video of the petrol stations and our thoughts on Tunisia.


Ariving in Salerno...

In Solerno in Italy we changed tyres from knobblies to dual purpose tyres in anticipation of rain.  What we really wanted was to turn up the gas a little since we wouldnt have to worry about conserving tyres any longer!!  :clap

We left Johannesburg from new knobblies front and rear and took a spare rear knobbly with us, which we changed after 4300kms in Nairobi.  Between us we then took just one spare rear with us for the 8000kms through the rest of Africa.  This is what a rear knobbly looks like after 8000kms...  with about 80kg of weight plus a rider.

I reckon it still had 3000km in it..

And then the front...  quite a bit worse off given that all the weight has to be stopped primarily by this guy...  the strange shapes on the edges of tge bottom row of knobblies were due (i think) to me riding about 500km with the tyres too soft.  We rode with the rear at 3bar and the front at 2.7.  The chunks missing are from breaking hard.

The `strange wear pattern can be better seen by looking at the top of this picture - the two knobblies in the upper row.

All in all a great performance from the knobblies.  :clap :clap :clap

If you recall all this madness started over some beers... and then the idea of a pizza delivery.  The main reason for having heard so little about the pizza so far is that... well there was nothing to tell.  The off-road freezer we used worked perfectly every hour of the way and the pizzas stayed frozen all the way.  We had only checked on them once - in Aswan - and now would come the moment of truth.  From Salerno we would take the quickest route north through Italy to Fidenza (about 100kms south of Milan).  Fidenza, you see, is the birth place of Luigi, as well as his mom.  She has lived there all her ilife and now she was going to have her son and grandson deliver a pizza all the way from South Africa.  Would she approve?  CVheck out the video of the first pizza delivery and the new record for the longest overland pizza delivery in the world.

(about 4min)

With one pizza delivery out of the way and some fantastic food we set off two days later.  We had originally planned to go through the alps and around the the mont blanc area.  We did however realise that the Springbok rugby team was going to be in Marseille in the south of France preparing for their qurter final game in the Rugby World Cup finals.  We had spoken before the trip that we may deliver a pizza to them but we had a whole lot of red tape to overcome and almost forgot about it.  We did however have a spare pizza....  with that we chanegd plans and headed down towards Marseille - thourgh the entire French riviera and followed the road closest to the sea at all times.  You just need to see the road on a GPS to realise how much fun it can be.  Just as well we changed to those dual purpose tyres.

A quick stop in Maranello to see the Ferrari factory.

and then the second pizza delivery of our trip... to the Springbok rugby team!! They ended up winning the world cup and we're sure it was because of the pizza!!:freaky :freaky

Here is the video of the delivery: 


With the second delivery done we broke our previous record for the longest delivery!  With the end in sight we headed north through the middle of France and overnighted in Beurne before spending our last night together in the rather lacklustre port town of Calais  in northern France. 

The 8th October saw us board a ferry for the last time.  38 nights together.  16000 shared kilometres.  Just 220 kms into London and the final pizza delivery to the South African ambassodor in London.  Here is the last video from our trip, including our thoughts moments after we saw our families again.


The official end point - tower bridge in London - after we started at Mandela bridge in Johannesburg. 

Very happy to see my wife...

And the rest of our families

And here is Jays last ride report...


'06 BMW 1200GS Adventure
'05 BMW 1150GS Adventure (Retired)
'04 BMW 1150GS (Retired) Ducati Monster SR2 (Retired) '08 Specialised Expert Stumpjumper  "Life is not a dress rehearsal, go big or go home"

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    • The Epic Delivery
London - Final Post

Wednesday, 14th November 2007

I am writing to complete the final task given to the chronicler of the Epic Scooters Pizza Delivery. This report puts a final and well deserved cross over the city of London, on our web site map.

More than 2 weeks have passed since our tumultuous arrival in the British capital and our triumphant delivery of the final pizza to the South African High Commission in Trafalgar square.

13 countries, 16,100 km and 39 days since our departure from Mandela Bridge in Johannesburg, we wrestled our steeds through London traffic like Knights returning from the crusades and made our final entry onto Tower Bridge with the biggest grins lighting up our helmets.
The sight of our families waiting to great us at the entrance of Tower Bridge Hotel was a release from the relentless focus of the Epic Delivery that made us all feel giddy.

We had done it ! Nobody was more surprised than we were. We had clinched an official world record for the longest pizza delivery by land (sure it may be one of the silliest records around but it’s our record !) and unofficially, we had made the Trans-Africa crossing in the fastest time that we were aware of.
Four amateurs, four trusty (most of the time) motor bikes, four long suffering and tolerant families and an army of great people and willing sponsors that had supported the planning and execution of the trip in every shape and form.
The high’s, lows, hardships and pleasures of the previous 39 days were washed into a jolly glow by the first draft beer that appeared on the scene. Photographers, TV cameras and admirers confirmed that we were indeed celebrities for the next 20 minutes and that somebody appreciated just how chuffed we were with ourselves for having made it.

This trip is one of those experiences that gets better and better in the retelling. Certainly I don’t think many people, stopped halfway through an ultra-marathon, would be telling you how clever they were to have embarked on this lunacy and what a rollicking good time they were having metabolizing their own calf muscles. I suspect that this trip is a bit like that. A monumental challenge at the time but will make for a great story as the memory of the hardships fade and the pleasures come to the fore.

Thank you to everybody that made this trip possible, thank you to our families for letting us go and most of all thank you to my three mates (yes, Luigi, you have been demoted from Godfather to mate) that stuck through this adventure and pulled his weight each in his own way to make the sloppy kiss from my wife, on Tower Bridge, possible. In the words of John Smit, our fearless Springbok captain, when we delivered our pizza to the Boks in Marseilles, “We are certainly going to dominate upfront with the Pub stories for a while”. This is the chronicler of the Epic Scooters Pizza Delivery signing out for the last time, good night and good luck !

'06 BMW 1200GS Adventure
'05 BMW 1150GS Adventure (Retired)
'04 BMW 1150GS (Retired) Ducati Monster SR2 (Retired) '08 Specialised Expert Stumpjumper  "Life is not a dress rehearsal, go big or go home"

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So there you have it.  If you liked that you'll enjoy the DVD. 

The idea to film it was really driven by Curt and was borne out of our belief that the only way our granchildren will know we are such cool grandparents is if we have irrefutable evidence that we did a once-in-a-life-time trip like this. We think the DVD is great given the limitations of the trip and if veiwed in the context of not having a support vehicle and camera crew on the trip itself.  I think it shows what ordinary riders can do with a bit of imagination and understanding wives. 
As our editor said its view of Africa not commonly seen - from footpegs and quite raw.

In case you're wondering - this is not a commercial venture. We privately funded the majority of the trip costs as well as the production of the DVD - just to show it can be done! 

The DVD is 4h25 long with an extra 45 minutes of bonus footage covering our off-road training, some technical stuff, the bike prep and how to make an espresso in Ethiopia.  It is a 3 DISC DVd box set with an A3 size fold out map of the route.  The DVD retails for R270 (vat incl) and is available from selcted BMW outlets and online at http://shop.theepicdelivery.co.za/pEPIC01PAL/The-Epic-Delivery---3-Disc-Box-Set-PAL.aspx.  We'll ship for free anywhere in South Africa and for R80 anywhere in the world. 

I recommend buying a case of beer, giving your wife the creidt card for the afteroon and inviting some freinds around to watch!

'06 BMW 1200GS Adventure
'05 BMW 1150GS Adventure (Retired)
'04 BMW 1150GS (Retired) Ducati Monster SR2 (Retired) '08 Specialised Expert Stumpjumper  "Life is not a dress rehearsal, go big or go home"

Online El Zeffo

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Excellent report and ride. :thumleft:
I used to be called Captain Slow but then i got Zef
Most people say "Be like Elon" or "Be like Bill". I say "Be like Pablo" :biggrin: