TransAfrica Edition 2010–02–28
Dear Lars and Nik Being someone with a hospitality background, was one of my task to look out for food and to ensure haute cuisine! Hence, I would like to describe our Transafrican adventure in form of a recipe. Recipe for a Transafrican stew served with a sourdough flatbread (The recipe must remain dynamic and can not be applied to every individual, it may differ strongly) Main ingredients: Friendship, communication, endurance, adventure desire, three completely different personalities After heating all this up add 2 continents, 19 countries, 7 months, 33â€™000 kilometres, 40 punctures, 1 motorbike, 1 Landcruiser, 2 brothers and in total 3 friends with 3 nationalities! Stir it for 7 years and pour it on a sourdough flatbread. Enjoy it yourself and share it with your family and friends and let them taste our African stew. After 7 years of distance to this exploration, the off-putting thoughts are digested and only the good bits and pieces are present. We had a fantastic and valuable time in Africa with easy, surprising and difficult times. We should always be proud of these unforgettable moments we experienced together. Meanwhile, all of us are advancing in their lives and start to forget. Therefore, I thought it is of relevance to have a glossy magazine on our lounge tables to re-live this fantastic period again. While I was working on the layout and design I had some great memories about us and had some daydreams about these times and I think we accomplished a landmark in our friendship. I am looking forward to seeing you soon somewhere in Africa or elsewhere for a common adventure.
UPDATE 1, 18th OF JUNE The actual driven route is indicated in black. The red spots indicate places/villages where we either stopped or stayed over night. The details are explained in the ‘Update text ‘ itself.
Nicole, my brother Nik and myself left Johannesburg with our Landcruiser HJ 75 and Yamaha Tenere 600 on the 6th of June and travelled westwards via Vryburg and Upington to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Vryburg didnt’ offer us anything special, except that almost all the lodges are owned by the same owner. On Fridays don’t miss out Jack Rabbit, the lcoal ‘rave’ club with international DJs... (as the one hotel was called ‘International Hotel’). Pulling the bike behind the Landcruiser wasn’t a problem at all – we only got some looks from people overtaking us and wondering what a bike with a Swiss number plate was doing behind a 4x4 from Gauteng... On the way towards Upington we saw a typical way of loading a truck and travelling on all the goods. If you believe it or not, but there’s one person, covered with the green blanket travelling in the bath tub. In Upington we stayed at the ‘Yebo’ Backpackers located in a quiet suburb close to the city centre on the way to Kgalagadi. The first incident hit us when we unloaded our monster as our Landcruiser was
called in Gangsta’s Paradise (referring to the GP number plate) and Nicole tore her finger nail. weakened immediately, turned green and finally fainted...Don’t miss out on the restaurant ‘Le Must’ on the main road, it’s really a must as you will enjoy the variety and quality of food prepared by students of the Culinary Institute of Upington. Midas and the Bike and Camping store provided us with all the necessary items that we had forgotten in Johannesburg. Finally we got all our stuff together and started on Monday, 8th June for our first adventure – the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP). The first stop lead us the the famous Molopo lodge, 60kms before the entrance gate. We enjoyed a luxury stay with good food and a nice bar – perfect except for the fact that the personnel didn’t have a clue about the area and the possibilities... The following morning we left late as we had to prepare the bike for the first gravel ride. As Nik wasn’t feeling that well, I had to ride the
bike to Twee Rivieren. Welcome to the world of sliding and moving bikes. The first couple of kms made me really feel unfomfortable. Anyway I managed and at the reception of the park we booked one night at Mata Mata and the other night at Nossob. Unfortunately we couldn’t cross over to Masuabuhe National Park in Botswana as we were not allowed to take our bike into the park which we basically already knew. As we were about to leave the reception we had our first fright of our trip – we coldn’t find the bike keys. Finally we decided to leave anyway and to hope for the best... and we were lucky, the keys just had slid into the box whre we stored the gaz bottles. The following morning we left Mata Mata for Nossob and encountered the only Giraffe herd in the park – 21 Giraffes at one spot – not too bad for the beginning – but that was it for the day except for all the Gemsboks (that’s why the park was called Gemsbok National Park previously)! The night was terribly cold at Nossob, everyone was freezing, a few degrees below zero, but we still intended to get up early for a morning drive heading back towards Twee Rivieren. The effort to leave in the cold morning was compensated as we could follow a male Lion walking on the road to the Marie se draai waterhole. After he had satisfied his thirst he continued on the road until he eventually decided to leave the road and head into the bush ... what a rewarding start! During the lunch break a Landcruiser with a German number plate stopped and of course we had a chat with Bernd and Sabine who were travelling from Ulm, Germany to the turning point in Cape Town. Their diary is available under www.afritracks.de.
Shortly after we hit the road again a few cars stopped in front of us – two Cheetahs close to the road. They were approaching some Gemsboks, it almost seemed as they were hunting...but the Gemsboks realized the danger and followed the Cheetahs in order to make sure that they don’t a create danger. Simply fantastic! We left Twee Rivieren at lunch time after our second fright – the Landcruiser wouldn’t start at all. After a few checks we found out that the glow plugs weren’t pre-heated and we could connect the positive pole of the battery directly to the glow plugs and pre-heat them manually (electrical tip for dummies). Between the two border posts I swapped my Swiss passport aginast my Finnish passport (work permit issues). The Botswana border official only asked me why the South African customs didn’t exit stamp my Finnish passport – a short explanation and I got my entry stamp in my Finnish passport. We backtracked to Bokpits on the Botswana side and turned into the Molopo river bed. After 200kms of dirt road, Nik on the bike, we spent the night just off the road before Middlepits, close to the border fence to South Africa. If you intend to camp for more than one night, you should speak to the village people in order to get permission. As we were a bit in a hurry, we decided to get up a bit early in order to make it to the Masuabuhe Park entrance gate. I put on all my bike gear and off we went. Be careful that you don’t miss the right turnoff in Middlepits. In Tsabhong, a small town of about 7000 inhabitants in the South-West of Botswana, we attracted quite some attention, in particular myself on the bike. Typically you would also share the road with cattle (isn’t that really Africa!). But we finally missed our main target to get to the bank (Barclay’s) before 11a.m in order
to change some money. We spent all our money on food supply and beer except for 100 Pula for emergencies .
what a disappointment! All the game scouts were asking us whether we saw any lions – apparently there should be many lions around...
After about 50kms we reached the end of the gravel road and entered the sand track. For the first time in my bike career I had to drive in deep sand – I didn’t feel like ‘Peterhansel’, a former Paris – Dakar champion. You have to ride the bike at a minimum speed of 60km/h in order to have a more or less stable ride. After a few riding tips from my brother I took off and it scared the LIVING DAYLIGHTS out of my...the result was that I had my first crash after a few kms (Willi and John, I tell you...), I definitely can say that riding at 30kms is the worst nighmare. Anyway I continued like ‘Peterhansel’ this time at 80kms/h and I didn’t fall until we reached the Mabuasehube Park entrance. In fact the Landcruiser could only travel at 50km/h which allowed me to take a short power nap on the side of the road (beware of Lions) whilst waiting for the Landcruiser.
On Monday morning we left quite early and headed from the park towards Kokotsha along the cutline through the bush. 1.5km North of the entrance gate you turn right and drive straight for 115kms until you reach Kokotsha. On the way we saw this burned out car – mabye one of the famous cars that caught too much grass underneath the chassis which lit a fire. There’s a nasty turn-off to the right after about 60kms with all major tracks which will lead you to Goa Village (cattle post). Nik was driving so fast that he actually took this turnoff instead of continuing the less travelled track. After Goa Village you travel on a sandy track for 27kms until your reach the trarred road towards Kokotsha. This route is described in the Shell Botswana Guide. We stopped quickly in Werda in order to attach the bike to the car – what an event for the local kids!
The park entrance fees were quite hefty compared to South Africa, in particular if you consider the fact that the EU financed the faciliies: - 20 Pula per person/day entry - 30 Pula per person/night camping - 4 Pula per car per day Fortunately we could pay in USD (wich saved our a.. as we had forgotten to change Pulas). The bike was stored in a storage room (hyenas) and off we were to our Mabuasehube Camp Sites. It was really relaxing to have our own camp site, the closest neighbours were a few hundred meters away.
We spent the night just off the Kalahari Highway between Sekoma and Jwaneng.
The following day was a Sunday – a day to chill an d relax. We enjoyed the view on the pan and did some necessary and unnecessary things... The afternoon drive didn’t reveal any animals at all –
Shortly after lunch we arrived in Gaborone, our first fix point as I had to drop off my Swiss passport at the local Ericsson Office. We checked in at Innisfree apartments, then bought Nicole’s air ticket Vic Falls – Jo’burg and finally watched the World Cup Soccer Game Italy – South Korea ... Gli Azzuri lost 2 -1, what a surprise!
UPDATE 2, 26th OF JUNE The actual driven route is indicated in black. The red spots indicate places/villages where we either stopped or stayed over night. The details are explained in the ‘Update text‘ itself.
The evening after the soccer game became our so far first nightmare. While we were enjoying our fillet steaks at the Bull & Bush, some criminals broke into our car, destroying our front left door lock using a screw driver and running off with quite a few valuable items: - Digital camera Sony DSC P 71 - GPS - 2 winter jackets - 4 pairs of Arnette sunglasses - 2 x 20 CDs in CD containers The total damage was about R15’000 and the insurance will only pay R3000. All this happened in front of about 3 security guards, one wonders whether the they were part of the whole thing... as usual no one saw anything! Always be careful is a GOOD ADVISE! Instead of heading off towards Khutse and Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) we
spent the next day reporting the incident to the police, I have never seen such an inefficiency, notifying Outsurance and replacing our stolen items. Fortunately a Cape Union Mart had recently opened its doors in the new River Walk mall. This mall definitely uplifted the shopping experience in Gaborone. We got the permit and the bookings for CKGR from the Wildlife Office in the Government Enclave, we were even assured that it’s possible to take the bike with us into the park if we pulled it. This was at least something positive. Finally we left Gabs the following day after updating our travel web page. Unfortunately we couldn’t upload all the text...As we left Gabs a bit too late in t he afternoon, we didn’t make it to the entrance gate. Instead we camped on the way to Khutse just off the road. The road got very sandy and we were worried about pulling the bike through the deep sand. We found out that this wasn’t a problem at all. The following day we drove into Khutse, one day late, and spent the night at camp site KH15 which is supposedly the most beautiful one
– in fact it was a very nice camp site. Just after dinner we suddenly heard the roaring of lions, first quite far away and a little bit later a lot closer. Nicole was shit scared and stayed in the car while Nik and myself jumped onto the car in oder to get a better view in the darkness with our magnificent spot light. Later at night the roaring was very, very close to the car although we couldn’t find any tracks the following morning. The drive from KH15 into CKGR and further to Xaxa was distance wise quite short but time wise extremely long. We understood why the game scout told us that it would take us 7h to do 180kms – the track was very sandy and BUMPY, in particular the first 70kms. The landscape was very much the same as in Mabuasehube and Khutse, bush and scrub. There aren’t may animals at all. We only saw some Gemsboks, Red Hartebeest and Springboks... nothing special! Thanks to our new Garmin eTrex GPS and the GPS co-ordinates from the Shell Botswana Map we had very accurate indications on where and how far to go. A GPS is simply a brilliant tool. The last 60kms from the Xaxa turn-off to the Xade Game Scout camp was horrible, very deep sand and bumpy. In 1997 the San people have actually moved away and only the Game Scout camp is left. After a quick shower and a short lunch we continued our trip towards Piper Pan and Deception Pan. Once we reached Piper Pan the landscape changed dramatically and the animal density increased as well. These areas must be magnificient during the rain season from January to March. We didn’t reach Deception Pan and decided to camp at the Letiahau camp site CKL3 which was slightly elevated from the Letiahau Pan. The following Monday morning we managed to leave resonably early depitpe the slight HO (hang-over) as Nik and myself had finished as small bottle of brandy... After 350kms and a lot of dust we reached Maun and drove directly to our favourite spot, the Audi Camp. Audi means fish eagle in the local language. The evening had an early start with some good white wine, good food and some red wine followed. Last but not least some beers round up the evening. The 25th of June was dedicated to shopping and the first Soccer World Cup semi final. Germany won 1-0 against the host underdogs South Korea. The evening we spent with some other world travellers, Arno from Holland who had travelled extensively through Africa in his Landrover, Jan from Germany who had bought a 25 years old Beetle and travelled from Tanzania to Nambia. He will continue his journey to Windhoek on only 2 cylinders at a maximum speed of 50km/h. Crazy or stupid – we didn’t find out! Jordan, the american guy whom I called John the previous night wasn’t around. Calling him John didn’t make him a good friend of mine... surprise? Of course we had to watch the second semi final as well. Score unkown...
UPDATE 3, 5th OF JULY The actual driven route is indicated in black. The red spots indicate places/villages where we either stopped or stayed over night. The details are explained in the ‘Update text ‘ itself.
Brazil won the second semi-final 1-0 against Turkey. Slightly late we left Maun for the community camp ground Kaziiniki. The following morning we left early for the South Gate of Moremi Game Reserve – without a permit. “Luck” was with us and we could get a reserve site at Xakanaxa for the first night, even a reserve site was booked at the North Gate for the following night. On the way through Moremi we had to cross several wooden bridges and saw lots of roaming elephants and water buffalos. Other game was as well abundant. At North Gate we realized the our fuel pump was broken... another surprise! Just wondering where we would find this fuel pump. After North Gate we drove along the river Kwaii towards Chobe National Park. The short track between the two Wildlife parks offered us loads of hippos and some crocs. The last section from the Mabata entrance gate to Savute camp site was terrible and full bad tracks which were created during the wet season. In Savute the elephants were walking through the camp sites
as they would belong to them and not to the visitors – which is basically true! The dumbos scared the shit out of us several times while cooking or brushing our teeths. They came as close as 3m from us and started digging a hole. In order to keep them away we actually lit a small fire in the hole, and it worked fairly well. Elephants can be very quiet if they don’t walk through the bush! After this rather breathtaking experience with the elephants we continued our journey on “shitty” roads through the Chobe forest. Thanks to the cutline we could shorten the distance to Ihaha in the Northern section of Chobe. We drifted across the 30m wide cutline as we went full steam ahead in the third gear, the engine almost cooking! Before we re-entered Chobe we took the tough decision not to drive to Kasane to watch the World Cup final. Ihaha was a new camp site as the old one had to be closed because of all the problems with the baboons. Again we saw a herd of elephants, hippos and crocs during our short early evening drive.
Kasane only served as a money, fuel and fuel pump stop as we had to meet Dominique in Victoria Falls. With 250l of diesel and 75l of petrol for the bike we left Kasane as we didn’t know when we would get fuel again travelling through Zimbabwe. Fortunately the border officials didn’t give us any hassles with the two Carnets de Passage. We met Dominique in one of the only semi serious bars, the Explorer bar. He had a good trip but didn’t bring us our beloved digital camera as something hadn’t worked out. Instead he had bought himself an even better Minolta camera. Good one! Our second fix point was reached/achieved. The adrenalin kicks of Vic Falls could start... The Vic Falls carried quite a bit of water, enough to soak us wet. The experience cost us 20USD. Thanks to the high water conditions we got a good deal for the rafting experience, 60 instead of 95USD but only watering at rapid 11 as rapid 9, Commercial Sui-
cide couldn’t be rafted. Anyway it was a gr8 x-perience including some water pythons that enjoyed rafting as much as we did. On Thursday evening we enjoyed the sunset at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge with dinner at their buffet place “La bouma”. Due to a cash flow shortage we couldn’t go and see “Binge Binge”, the local sangoma or witch doctor. Nicole, our psychological support left on Friday and the boyz will have to travel on their own – a good or bad sign? THEFT AGAIN... just before we wanted to leave Vic Falls!
This time it happened in the parking lot of the Victoria Falls Hotel, a Leading Hotels of the World! And again the security guards didn’t hear or see anything. The damage was initially: - Motorbike helmet - Camera Minolta 7000 - 40 Music CDs - Car recovery set - My A4 folder with all my personal documents excl. passport but including all my USDs! The Zimbabwean police in Vic Falls was a real pain in the a... The officer in charge was completely drunk, bluntely accused us of trying to defraud the insurance and threatened not to issue the report. What can you say more...? Finally after about 3hrs, at 3 o’clock in the morning we had the report and could go to bed. We were very lucky as the police recovered the helmet, all my personal documents and the recovery set. Big Thanks to the unkown person who alerted the police. The cash, camera and CDs are prob-
ably gone forever! Thanks to Dennis who owns Victoria Falls Backpackers at 357 Gibson road – an absolute must in Vic Falls (check out their travel possibilities with their own bus service), we could talk to the 2nd commander of the police station really listened to our complaint about the treatment at the police station the previous night. Finally we got some more stuff in order to improve the security of our car. Also the Victoria Falls Hotel “triple A” us (although the theft and loss manager was simply ridiculous – sometimes I wonder how such a person can be employed): - Apologise - Acknowledge - Act (we got a free drink) We got all our stuff and food together – ready for the short detour via Zambia, from Vic Falls to Ngonye or also Sioma Falls through Kafue National Park to Lusaka.
UPDATE 4, 15th OF JULY The actual driven route is indicated in black. The red spots indicate places/villages where we either stopped or stayed over night. The details are explained in the ‘Update text ‘ itself.
Zambian people are x-tremely nice despite the poverty and starvation. In Zimbabwe we could feel sort of an underlying dissatisfaction of the people which emerged in their behaviour towards tourists, trying to take advantage at many occasions. We drove over the famous bridge to Zambia where one can catch a supberbe view of the Victoria Falls. The friendliness of the people at the shop at the Sun Intercontinental Hotel was striking. The lady fetched drinking water for our 15l canister and even refused help. This kind of friendlyness would accompany us for the next two weeks. The road up to Sesheke gave us a first impression of the road conditions in Zambia – simply terrible, full of potholes that can destroy the car and bike. Dominique drove the bike for the first time on dirt roads – a 2nd Peterhansl although he fell after a few kms – you remember that the same happened to me as well. We spent the first night just off the road after the turn-off to Kazungula.
The following day we ventured further north towards Sesheke. In Sesheke the pub offered us a few beers, including one free beer, to clean our throat from the dust. Afterwards the ferry took us across the Zambezi – a bit of negotiations and the ferry ticket was a bit cheaper, but no receipt – is this the simplest form of “corruption”? We spent the night at the Mutemwa Lodge of Gavin and Penny Johnson, Gavin being a former Springbok player with 7 caps. He offer us a good deal which we couldn’t resist. We enjoyed the terrace and the dinner around the fire. His clients are mainly corporates from Johannesburg – maybe this would be a place for Ericsson management meetings? We continued our journey to Sioma where we camped at Maziba Bay, a beautiful spot. Fortunately for us the lodge burnt down a year ago and we could stay for free – 3 Angolan refugees were looking after the place. We could brush up our Portuguese for Mozambique... The Sioma/Ngonye Falls were O.K but not as spectacular as the Vicoria Falls. After a short “flirt” with a Sioma beauty at the village supermarket, a simple hut, and 3 soft drinks we headed further North
across the Zambezi to Senanga. Again we bargained the ferry fee. After about 30min of negotiation we settled for 40Pula and a pack of cheese instead of 30USD, note that cheese is very scarce and expensive in Zambia! In Senanga we stayed at the Senanga Safari Lodge, the showers reached the lowest hygenic level ever! There’s nothing more to say about this town. In Mongu we could stock up our supplies at Shoprite and change some money at Standard & Chartered- Thank you South Africa! We made it just to the entrance gate of Kafue National Park before it got dark. The park officials were so kind to offer us a camping spot for free. We actually thought we were next to a highway as trucks passed throughout the night. Kafue National Park offered us real wilderness but not so many animals, we expected to see herds of lions and leopards chasing elefants- guess this was just bad luck. Even the Busanga plains were animal wise quite disappointing. We left at 5 a.m for the 3 hour drive to Shumba camp where we met Map, the owner of Lufupa and Shumba. During the drive we only saw a pair of leopard eyes. By chance we visited the only other camp on the Busanga plains where we had an interesting chat about the problems of Kafue National Park such as subsistence poaching, over-fishing of the rivers due the starvation of the local people and corruption (fishing licences), bad road maintenance of the government due to lack of unds and so on. On the way back we saw loads of hippos and really fat crocs. Kafue National Park is really for people who have seen the Serengeti and Masai Mara and are looking for exclusivity which is guaranteed in the Busanga plains as only 14 people sleep in the two camp. Shumba camp is not really recommendable. At Lufupa Camp we met Steven Grabiner, an American who is heading up a missionary and a farm. He’s also involved in the World Food Programme (WFP) and looks after the food distribution in the Kafue district. He invited us to his Riverside Farm. Bruce who runs Lufupa camp was quite an interesting character, South African and had spent the last 6 years in this camp. Here are some of his highlights. “There are lots of pussy cats around, but no pussies..., in the bush you take anything..., if a girls stays for a few nights, she finished..., as a ski instructor you can’t go wrong...” Desperation in the bush... we have to say. Girls in Cape Town, beware when Bruce pops in during X-mas and New Year. Mabye he also fancies men... Lusaka didn’t offer us anything special and we decided to leave quite soon, only the nightlife for a Monday evening was really O.K. We stayed at Chachacha backpackers which is run by Wade, an Aussie. The place was so full that we had to camp in the parking lot. In fact we didn’t like the place too much, in particular the recptionist was a pain in the a.., at least the car was safe. Lusaka also suffers from time to time from waters shortages which we fully experienced. Soon after our arrival we met a Swiss guy, Toni, who was touring Zambia with his god son. He had some good stories of his previous Africa trips with his VW station wagon or “Pinzgauer”, a Swiss army vehicle. He
joined us the following day as a tour guide in Lusaka although we spent most of the day in the Toyota garage fixing the front springs, exchanging the power steering belt and changing the oil plus the oilfilter. After the work was done we quickly went to Manda Hill shopping centre, a place that’s full of South African chains where you can get anything you want. Fra Gi-Gi and the Polo Grill are recommended eating places. Fra Gi-Gi serves a wide range of Italian food and the Polo Grill is renowed for its T-bone steaks. We stopped over at Steven’s farm Riverside and enjoyed a tour of his farm. Steven had spent the last six years on this farm which works as a missonary. The farm has got 3 main sources of income: - Maize mill - Baby corn plantations (UK market) - Banana plantations (local market) Future plans include a spa for local business people that can recover from “Western” diseases such as high cholesterol, stress, heart problems and so on. His NGO (Non Governmental Orgranisation) is also responsible for the distribution of the UN WFP (World Food Program) relief aid in the Kafue district. Currently a 61mio USD food program will be started that brings in 8000 tons maize for a six months period. The discussions with Steven and among ourselves about famine in Southern Africa lead to some controversial conclusions. Famine is mainly a consequence of the African culture as people are solely focussed on their traditional eating habits (maize), refusing to diversify their nutrition habits. The best example was Steven’s irrigated baby corn plantations serving as export products for the UK market while people were starving next door. The revenues of the baby corn production allow Steven to buy maize for the people on his farm and his Kafue district. These revelations and conclusions were really an eye opener to all of us. On the farm we saw a riot, according to Steven it was the line of women queuing for their salary. The view of the Kafue river was simply splendid.
UPDATE 5, 29th OF JULY The actual driven route is indicated in black. The red spots indicate places/villages where we either stopped or stayed over night. The details are explained in the ‘Update text ‘ itself.
The road from Kafue to Kariba in Zimbabwe entered the hills shortly after Kafue. Dominique enjoyed the ride on the curvy road through the rugged hills. Truck breakdowns are as common as the African villages along the road – one after the other one! Steven Grabiner had warned us! Dominique could follow such a similar incident where a truck was towing another one. Suddenly the chain snapped and the towed truck swirfed into the ditch, the driver who was for some reason outside the truck buried his face in his hands, shook his head and gave Dominique a surprised look. Shit happens! Further towards Kariba we helped some Zimbabweans to change a flat tyre as they didn’t have the appropriate tools with them., Anyway it seemed as they had never changed a tyre before, therefore we quickly did it for them. Along the road traders jumped out of the bush, they seemed to come from nowwhere, offering snake skins. We declined politely. As we descended from the hills Lake Kariba appeared in the distance. Unfortunately the hazy sky blurred the view.
The border crossing formalities didn’t seem to want to end as all the papers were checked at the speed of light. We couldn’t convince the Zimbabwean officials to “upgrade” our single entry visa to a double entry. Again 30 USD per person were gone... At least the carnet de passage didn’t give us any hassles. The road between the two border posts was heavily barb-wired on the Zambian side. The dam”n” wall offered superbe views of Lake Kariba and the valley below. M.O.T.H camp had unbelievable cheap rates for camp sites (depending whether you took the official rate of 55ZD or the street rate of 550ZD), 82ZD per night per person. The reason for the cheap rates was that M.O.T.H camp was for the aged people but still was the most popular camp in Kariba. The old lady at the reception recommended the Yacht Club for dinner, Piri-Piri chicken for 600ZD – value for money. The price level was completely different from what we experienced in Vic Falls, now we had resonable prices for Zimbabwean standards. The following day we went shopping for a decent Lake Kariba trip. The night before Steve Pope, a famous lion scout, didn’t manage to convince us to pay him 100USD/day for a lion charge. He even invited
us to his house in order to show all the pics and mags he featured in. Probably the level of intoxication and his inabiltiy to negotiate made the deal fail. We were only really keen on his Landcruiser engine, appartently a turbo charged 3.5t truck engine. The engine really had impressed us up the road to his house. Anyway he will be a legend once he’s dead. Again the old lady gave a us a good tip for an agent, Gideon from ZimYork Safaris & Tours. We got a good deal as tourism is almost dead in Kariba due to the political situation. Gideon offer us a 45f Dolphin yacht, “Regal Star” for a local rate for 26’000ZD which was about 54USD, some negotiation brought it down to 50USD. In the afternoon we did all the necessary shopping including a doze of wine, beer and a bottle of “Admiral”, a local rum and off we were the following morning. The 3 nights / 4 days on the boat were extremely stressful – our skipper, we simply called him captain, looked after the route and Iphrahim tried to look after our eating and well-being, he actually failed the first test cooking some simple pasta with tomato sauce and was therefore dismissed from any kind of lunch or dinner preparation.He was still allowed to wash the dishes. We enjoyed the yachting as we got the feeling of being on high sea, in the afternoons we tried our luck fishing. It turned out very, very unsuccessful, with all honesty Iphrahim wasn’t a better fisherman either. Usually we got to see elefants, hippos, impalas and crocs that came to drink water. At one occasion we also saw a rhino! After the first night we had to convince our crew to move the boat to another bay as they were told by the owner not to move in order to save diesel, typically one thing that we weren’t told when we booked the yacht. The second night was our “clubbing” night with Nik as DJ, “Admiral” as our friend and Dominique and myself as hang-arounds. Guess, the backpackers boat that harboured next door was wondering what was going on... On the 4th morning all our backs were hurting and we were even more tired than before – time to move on. We were back in the Marineland harbour by 10 o’clock, packed all our stuff back into the car and left for Mana Pools. After so much space on the yacht it was a bit difficult to get used the car again where everything is so cramped and the packing becomes existential. The drive from Kariba to Mana Pools was very sceenic through the rugged hills on a curvy road. You will drive down a spectacular escarpment to get to Mana Pools as it lies in the Zambezi Valley. On the other (Zambian) side of the valley the escarpment takes you up to the plateau again. The Wildlife and National Parks official who gave us the entry permit didn’t really understand on which camp site we wanted to stay and wrote the wrong camp site onto the entry permit which gave us hassles on the second gate. The official wouldn’t let us go to our favourite camp sites but directed us to Mana Pools headquarters. We still can’t get used to this kind “customer help”. The two camp grounds at the headquarters lie directly on the Zambezi. The sunrise will wake you up after a loud and noisy night as hippos, ele-
fants, hyeanas, water buffaloes and antelopes roam through the camp. Even during day time you will see elefants close to your tent. As we were in particular focussed on lions we decided to go for a game walk in the early morning. Of course there was no game scout around and we had to go and look for him. We asked for him at the staff quarters, as he wasn’t there we asked for a description. Before the guy even could start describing, Nik went “I know he’s for sure black” which was of course true. Finally we found Keffers and left for Long Pool. After a 1.5h walk we eventually found 5 lions “chilling” in the morning sun. Unfortunately they were a bit afraid and walked away as soon as we got closer. Keffers was too scared anyway, as another tour operator said: “The National Parks guys are afraid of everything, even of impalas!” Initially we were supposed to pay 30USD per hour for the scout who hardly spoke English, finally the deal was that we could convert the USDs into ZDs at the official exchange rate which made the costs bearable. After the lion sighting we were supposed to walk back to the car, a long walk... by chance another driver on the road, Aubry from Cape Town, agreed to drive us back. Later in the evening we had a chat to him and his wife Alvina about the Eastern Highlands – good info and we still remember her joke about the baboon giving it to the lioness up her backside. The next stretch of our journey took us to Harare, the captial of Zimbabwe. Without any problems we found accomodation at the Hillside Backpackers Lodge. As we arrived on a Friday afternoon, we obviously had to check out the nightlife of Harare. After dinner at Chas-Chais, a typical Portuguese restaurant, we ventured to a concert of Oliver “Jacuzzi” Mkuntuzi at the showgrounds. Beware of thieves... already at the entrance someone tried to grab Nik’s wallet. During the entire concert we had to watch out for gangstas. After about 17 beers we continued our stroll to the Sheraton bar, no good party. Saturday was lazy, we faught battles with all the money changers, enjoyed rallying around in Makro where you can find everything – Thank you South Africa! Sunday was even worse... nothing happened at all, except for Pink Floyd that was flashing around. Nik convinced Dominique to watch “The Others” with Nicole Kidman for 20US cents although he didn’t want to watch a “scary thriller”, after all I am sure that he regretted his decision. We sacrified the Monday for another car and moterbike workshopsession inorder to fix some minor problems like brakes which don’t work, a tyre puncture, head and rear lights. And as we are getting used to we spent the whole day doing that! Patience is definitely a thing you are learning on this continent! While I was doing the update, Dominique and Nik were waiting in the bar at Meikles Hotel, “Leading Hotel of the World” and drinking good white wine. Francis, the barkeeper, had a good time with them. On the way to the food hall we met two Zimbabweans that stepped out of a pub. “Slightly happy” they welcomed us to Harare and Zimbabwe, telling us how “brave” we were to visit Zim these days. People still appreciate!
UPDATE 6, 8th OF AUGUST The actual driven route is indicated in black. The red spots indicate places/villages where we either stopped or stayed over night. The details are explained in the ‘Update text ‘ itself.
After a final touch of on the updated and a shopping spree at Makro we could finally race off towards the Eastern Highlands with Nyanga as our first destination. Due to the late start we only made it halfway to Nyanga and decided just to pull of the road and camp. There were unbelievable many passenger buses racing past us. Either there was a party somewhere or a lot of people were travelling... we didn’t find out! After a short night we continued the journey and reached Nyanga around 11 o’clock and headed straight for the tourist information located in the library. According to the Lonely Planet it’s the most helpful tourist office in Zimbabwe, they will even give you a temporary membership for the library if you require. The lady could book us in to Udu camp, a government run place for 1500ZD per hut and night, including a person who would clean up, do the dishwashing and bring firewood. Simply unreasonably cheap! In the afternoon we quickly ventured into our first challenge, the xxx Falls. Not too impressive but at least we climbed down to the bottom where Dominique lost his lid for the camera lense – bad luck, in particular as we won’t pass any photo shop in the near future.
The second challenge this day was a 4x4 trail indicated on the map we bought earlier. Happyily we drove off and didn’t expect too bad things... and we were wrong! Suddenly we had to stop in front of a steep descent which was completely washed out. It was to be serious 4x4ing – low range, filling holes, discussing wheel positions, spinning wheels and so on. “Obviously” we got stuck at one stage. No centimeter forward, no centimeter backwards, all deflating of the tyres didn’t help. We simply couldn’t understand why the car wouldn’t move until we had a look underneath the car... the rear differential as stuck on a rock and it was getting slowly dark. For the second time we had to use the highlift jack in order to lift the rear axle off the rock and move the car slowly forward. Fortunately this delicate action was mastered by driver Dominique and the two 4x4 specialists Nik and myself. After this adventure we relaxed at the Claremont Golf Club with a few drinks... We had planned to climb Mount Inyangani, the highest peak in Zimbabwe. As written in most brochures and travel books the peak was hidden in the clouds (almost as Table Mountain’s table cloth) which
made it impossible to climb – one adventure less in our books! We didn’t really know whether we should be sad or happy... Instead we chose another 4x4 trail through Nyazengu Nature Reserve where we stopped at the rainbow trout farm. Easily we “corrupted” the guys and bought two big trouts for dinner. Money makes the world go round! Finally we also visited Pungwe Gorge although the view was as looking into a TV with no program running, in particular at Pungwe View. The second stop in the Eastern Highlands was South of Mutare in the Vumba Mountains with the famous Leopard Rock Hotel and golf course. For lousy 7800ZD, equalling 39USD, we played 18 holes. This included a golf shirt we had to buy as Nik thought he could play his very first golf round ever in a lousy dirty T-shirt... Anyway in no other place in the world we would have been admitted to the golf course! Just in “brackets” Dominique emerged as the winner (to be expected after his long award winning golf career...), my birdie and par at holes 8 and 9 didn’t help. Usually the golf club bar serves as 19th “drinking” hole, instead we went for coffee and cake at Tony’s Coffee Shoppe. This is an absolute must in the Vumba Mountains, just enjoy the variety of coffees, teas and cakes. Some people would even enjoy Tony himself... Our accomodation was on a hilltop with a splendid view on Leopard Hill. The main house was built by an American, former secretary of state under the Kennedy administration, a masterpiece with stunning glass walls that accentuated the stunning views into Mozambique.
The next day we headed off early for Mozambique. At the border we had the “usual” hassles with all the money changers and the “speed of light” way of working of the immigration and customs officials. The roads towards Beira were good and by chance we took the detour avoiding Beira, a real highway is being built by South African road construction companies. As our target was Quelimane we drove until it got dark and ended up staying overnight in a gravel mine. A local guard was looking after two trucks and we were save for once. Shortyly before lunch we arrived in Caia where we had to cross the Zambezi for the 5th and last time. Previously we had crossed the Zambezi in Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe), Sesheke (Zambia), Senanga (Zambia) and Kariba (Zimbabwe). We clocked a few thousand kilometers between these 5 crossings which shows the enormous length of the Zambezi river. For the first time the ferry didn’t have a pre-defined schedule and we had to wait until enough cars had arrived to fuill the ferry. All Nik’s bribery attempts didn’t help and we were aware that this could take anything from one hour to half a day. Fortunatley we were lucky and could leave after an hour. We reached Quelimane in the afternoon. There’s nothing really special about this town and therefore we decided to head for Zalala which was 30kms North-East of Quelimane. We arrived when it was already dark, nevertheless Dominique had to slide around on the beach like a maniac. Learning by doing! After a quick dinner we went to bed, the terrible smell of poo as there’s no sewage system and the wind definitely helped our case as we had a tough ride to Ilha de Mozambique the next day.
Despite the early start we only made it to Nampuia, the captial of Northern Mozambique. Again we arrived at night and the first impressions were quite bad as drove through townships, badly lit streets, on the way to the city centre. We had a hard time finding accomodation, the second best hotel was fully booked and we were sent to other Pensaos which were worse than a shack. Finally we decided to change strategy and try to camp in the parking lot of the best hotel in town. If you believe it or not we managed to get approval! Just across the road was Copacabana where we had dinner and a few “Carajillos” (in Spanish coffee with liquor). Dominique went to bed early while Nik and myself were still watching Brave Heart. Dominique had to ask the security guard to help open the roof top tent which was one thing he definitely didn’t expect as we had said that we would sleep in the car. Anyway it worked out fine, probably not the best idea to reuse. From Nampula we drove straight to Ilha de Mozambique, an UNESCO world heritage site. During the Portuguese colonialisation the island was an important trading poste which eventually became the capital of Mozambique. As we were quite hungry we headed straight for the only restaurant in town, the Reliquias which offered us the long awaited seafood with good white wine and a beautiful view of the sea. We ended up drinking 3 bottles of white wine and some Martini bianco as we were trying to figure out where to stay overnight. There are a few options where people can stay, mainly Pensaos. Again we had the idea that we could just open the rooftop tent where the car was parked, not a problem for the owner of the restaurant. Well, we just saved a few dollars.
As it got dark we decided to check out Ilha de Mozambique by night. A local boy took us around showing us a few colonial buildings and finally taking us to the “Bar Jupiter”, the local drinking hole. It was a simple room with neon lightning and a wooden bar. A few people were hanging around. We had a few conversations, in particular Nik had a very good one with one local person who could give us some answers to our most burning questions about the continent Africa and its development that emerged during this trip. We always struggled to get an answer for the different cultural and economic development of Europe, America, Japan and Africa. The following summarises the answers: “Africans don’t care about the past, they live today and tomorrow is only important once it’s tomorrow.” “Ideals and materialism are planted into our heads by the West and we forget that we should remain Africans in Africa. Longterm thinking is not part their logic, growing business (food and others) above subsistence is not part of their goals. “Why should I grow business, extend properties, hire people, become CEO and own a “Gulfstream” and then retire in a small house in an idyllic spot which is what you had in the beginning” was another comment. You can reflect whether our Western approach is the right one in Africa’s context and history...
UPDATE 7, 18th OF AUGUST The actual driven route is indicated in black. The red spots indicate places/villages where we either stopped or stayed over night. The details are explained in the ‘Update text ‘ itself.
The next stretch took us from Ilha de Mozambique to Pemba, apparently the paradise. Our dream of paradise didn’t come true, Pemba wasn’t a real “thriller”, probably also as we arrived after a long drive and the first thing we had to do was to repair the puncture of the rear motorcycle tyre. Accomodation wasn’t really a problem as there was only one place where one could camp – Russel’s place just after Wimbe beach. We just made it in time before it got dark in order to go for a swim. The following shower was fantastic as Dominique and myself had had the last shower about 2 days ago.
bad mood, we left Pemba around three thirty in the afternoon hoping to find a palm fringed beach along the secondary road towards Quissanga. Quite an illusion in my eyes!
The people that were running the place recommended us to drive up to Pangane which should really be a lonely palm fringed beach with white sand and turquoise sea. Sounded promising!
We drove for about 50kms until we saw a sign Praia de Mwema in a small village. A local person offered us to guide us to this palm beach, explaining that there wasn’t any problem at all camping at this beach / palm plantation. He was not quite right. At dawn locals urged us to get back to the village in order to seek permission for camping from the owner of the palm plantation. And of course I ended up driving back to the village and landing in the local police station. The entire procedure was simply hilarious – police men not speaking English but pretending to be the most important people in the world, asking all the details of our trip. After all everything was fine and we enjoyed the evening in the windy palm tree plantation next to the beach.
Withdrawing money and shopping made our live, in particular mine, diffult during the next morning. After all the hassles, I was in a very
In order to get to Pangane we had to drive back to the main road which was a huge detour and continue for about 50kms before we
For dinner we managed to get some seafood and white wine in one of the few restaurants along Wimbe beach.
could head back to the coast on a high speed sand track to Pangane. The beach and the camping area looked very promising and the people were very friendly. Only the local Mozambiqueans were a bit loud as they were probably celebrating something with either girls they knew or prostitutes. But it even got worse... The next day 3 4x4s pulled in with a herd of Italians â€“ the silence was gone! Just a few hours later an overlander pulled in with another herd of Italians â€“ simply too much, in particular as the people started putting up their tents in front of our car until we intervened! Fresh fish and seafood was on the menu every night (Dominique preferred chicken) as the fishermen came back with plenty of fish, crab and crayfish. During both days we had intensive discussions on our travel route whether we should drive Eastwards to Malawi or head straight North to Tanzania. After a close look into the last part of our trip through Northern Africa, I changed my mind and agreed to head straight North in order to have more time in Sudan, Chad, Niger and Algeria. Relaxed after two days of sun, fun and nothing to do, we left for the border to Tanzania at the Ruvuma river. Dominique rode the bike like a maniac until it broke down, tough luck as we had to start pulling the bike again. Many other vehicles were stranded along the roads and the busses were running like crazy. Just get out of their way! The formalities at the Mozambiquean border were quick but nevertheless we missed the ferry across the Ruvuma river by about an hour, cordially the locals offered us against a fee to paddle us across the river and to look for the captain of the ponton (which was defi-
nitely not our best decision during our trip) as it was getting dark and we could feel the thirst for money. The outcome of the paddle exercise was that the ponton would leave the next morning early which was O.K for us. The border formalities on the Tanzanian side were slow, slow and cost a lot of money, 20USD for the visa per person and 25USD per vehicle. 15th of August, Nik’s birthday, it started with U2, Jakatta and champagne at six thirty in the morning – a real head start! The rest of the day wasn’t so great as the roads continued to be in a terrible shape. Frankly they were the worst so far, bumpy, shakey, dilapidated, full of potholes, sandy, muddy and so on. President Mkapa should once have to drive from Dar-Es-Salaam to Lindi. At four in the afternoon we arrived in Dar-Es-Salaam and drove straight to the Ericsson office where we met Anders and Rakesh. Anders could organise that we can have Peter’s apartment until we leave for Zanzibar and Kilimanjaro. We spent the whole of Friday in town trying to organise our trips, more or less successful. The shoemake offered us a good price for the motorbike boot repairs. Answering Nik’s question about the price, he said, quite funny, that the locals would pay 2000 shiliing, Indians 3000 shilling as they own all businesses. After take-away pizzas we went to the famous Q-bar which is pumping on Fridays with expats, locals and “more sophisticated” prostitutes. Saturday was of course relaxed as we had to recover from Friday...
UPDATE 8, 25th OF AUGUST The actual driven route is indicated in black. The red spots indicate places/villages where we either stopped or stayed over night. The details are explained in the ‘Update text ‘ itself.
The ferry took us across to Zanzibar on Monday morning at 10.30 a.m. The sea was calm, nevertheless Dominique got a first impression of sea sickness. Roughly two hours later we arrived in Zanzibar, no hassles at the immigration» and headed straight for the «One Ocean» dive centre but they only had dive locations in Blue Bay. No good for us as we wanted to go to the Northern Tip. Blues at the «waterfront» was an absolute must before driving to the North. Blues does have another restaurant in Camps Bay, Cape Town. The view is as splendid as in Cape Town (for those who know) and the food excellent. Our taxi driver was still waiting outside – very comfortable, anyway for 35USD (=35’000shilling) the taxis will spend an entire day with their clients. The taxi ride lasted for about an hour and the last stretch was really bad, in fact as bad as the last stretch to Dar-Es-Salaam. Luckily we found a cheap place (Kigoma Bungalows) to sleep which was located in the very centre of Nungwe. Very basic but still 30USD
per night for the 3 of us. What we didn’t know was that this cheap place would get us into trouble later on... At the East Africa Watersport Centre we could book Nik’s PADI Open Water (350USD) and my Advanced Open Water course (250 USD). Even without wetsuit the course wouldn’t be a problem we were asured as Nik’s allergic against neopren. The centre is run by a German – South African couple, Micheal and Elaine. The first impression was that the courses would be relaxed which was very much true, maybe even too relaxed! We met as well the dive instructor Simon and the two «to become dive masters» Neil and Jan. Most of the accomodation in Nungwe were fully booked, mainly Italians were on holidays. There are many restaurants with excellent views onto the sea. Sunsets are really african with a large fire ball descending into the ocean. Right on the beach you will also find basic restaurants that offer you fresh fish and seafood. Our favorite restaurant was Jumbo brothers with delicious prawns «a la creme or curry».
There are as well a few bars and dance places around. One evening you will definitely end up at Cholo’s. It also became our favourite late afternoon spot. Tuesday and wednesday were easy diving days, one dive and then relaxing for the rest of the day. Only Nik had to follow the course while I was just reading the manual. Wednesday evening was a short evening, at least we thought so, and we went to bed early. The music was blasting into our ears as we jumped into bed, on top of it the DJ was so bad and the stereo even worse. After an hour Nik tried to convince them to lower the volume, successful for 5 minutes. A bit later Dominique got up again and tried to speak to the guys, successful for a few minutes. Again a few minutes later Dominique jumped out of the bed, boiling of anger, and rushed to the noisy bar. A heated argument started, Nik jumped out as well and a bar fight almost started! The guys just wouldn’t listen! Eventually at 1.30 a.m they closed the bar with the consequence that we would move to another place the next day – who cares anyway about that? Thursday was again a one dive day. Nik had his first real open water dives, Dominique was just chilling as he had enough of the sea sickness after the dhow ride to the Leven bank dive spot. For some reason Cholo’s got very busy, nice looking women and lots of men perving. We downed a few drinks, I left earlier and Dominique and Nik followed a bit later. Nik’s attempt to get the people dancing wasn’t very successfull although he played the top hits such as «Jacatta» of American Dreams. After an exhausting dive day with two dives at the Mnemba Atoll (Bill Gates rented the entire private owned island for his staff for the millenium). The dives at the Atoll were fantastic.. The second one was a drift dive and you could enjoy the fish and the coral as in a cinema seat. Loads of big turtles were swimming around. Already
on the way to Mnewba dolphins joined us for a short while. In the evening we did a «shitty» fishernet night dive (Dominique considered it as an expericne while I was rather pissed off), two people got trapped in the fishnet and Dominique was stung by a sea urge while trying to save a fish. After dinner we walked to Kendwa for the «Full Moon Party» with DJ «we forgot his name». Moneywise we were quite short, in fact we weren’t really sure how we were going to manage the return trip to Dar-Es-Salaam. We preferred to spend the money on a party instead of saving it for the return trip. The full moon was there but the rest of the party was definitely no highlight! The music didn’t kick start the people, the bar was indefinitely slow and the people were too quiet. Disappointed we left with a dhow back to Nungwe at 2 a.m as the high tide didn’t allow us to walk back. The following morning we had a slow start and as anticipated we ran into financial troubles. We managed to pay the accomodation and were left with 9000shilling, by far not enough to catch a taxi. Therefore we decided to «act local» and take a dala dala for 700shilling (instead of 35USD for the trip to Nungwe). The trip would be a «stop and go» ride for about 2 hours. By chance a mini van taxi drove past us and asked us whether we wanted to ride to Stonetown for 20USD. We denied. 2 minutes later he offered us the trip for 15USD. We denied. Another 2 minutes later he lowered the price to 10USD. Somewhere we found the missing dollar and happily we jumped into the taxi. It was to become a «nightmare» trip as the driver drove with skidding wheels to Stonetown. Even reminding the driver to slow down didn’t help. Glad to be alive we hopped off at Serene hotel in order to get some money for the return boat trip to Dar-Es-Salaam. Splitting the tasks I checked the internet for information from Oscar,
our local travel agent in Dar, on the Kilimanjaro hike and Dominique and Nik bought the tickets for the ferry that would leave on Sunday morning 7h30. The organising and booking of the Kili hike shouldn’t be a problem at all as we just have to drive to Arusha and met up with the tour operator Oscar recommended. Dinner was served at the local market place next to Blues restaurant. One would choose directly from the food displayed on the tables. Beef skewers, tuna, king fish, crab, lobster, chicken, fries and salad were offered at a very cheap price. At the Mercury (tribute to Freddy Mercury, Queen) bar we had a early evening cocktail, this place is known as the «Inn place» of Stonetown. We headed back to the hotel as we had to get up early on Sunday in order to catch the ferry. There was quite a swell on the way back to Dar-Es-Salaam. Most of the people got seasick and started throwing up all over the deck. At one instance there was even «yellow and green» slime dripping from the top deck onto someone’s head on the lower deck. Dominique fully experienced sea sickness... and swore not to buy a big yacht in St. Tropez, France...
UPDATE 9, 4th OF SEPTEMBER The actual driven route is indicated in black. The red spots indicate places/villages where we either stopped or stayed over night. The details are explained in the ‘Update text ‘ itself.
We left Dar-Es-Salaam early on Monday morning. Fuelling up and early Monday morning traffic in Dar-Es-Salaam delayed us quite a bit but eventually we were on the road towards Arusha where we were supposed to meet with Kassim from Bobby Tours who was recommended by our friend Oscar from Jumbo Tours.
Masai Camp outside town. Masai Camp is the place where all the Overlanders and budget travellers end up.
680kms lay in front of us, so far we only managed a maximum of about 500kms a day. Optimism is very helpful... and we made it in time to Arusha where Kassim picked us up outside town as we got lost, in fact Kassim was waiting for us for the entire day. The drive itself didn’t offer that much, bush ans shrubb as usual. We stopped for lunch in Segera in a real «highway restaurant» which indicated increasing tourism activities. Moshi was only a short drive worth.
As foreseen we spent the entire Tuesday, together with our guide Nuru, running after thermo underwear which isn’t available in town, gloves, hats, day packs, poles and power bars. Instead of thermo underwear (business case for South Africa’s Cape Union Mart?) we bought second hand training trousers and a second hand day pack. Strolling through town we even found extra motorbike tyres which relieved Kerhshini from bringing them to Kampala. In the late afternoon we started packing our things, had dinner again at Mezza Luna and went to bed early as we had to be Bobby Tours at 8 a.m. Finally the adventure would start!
After a quick explanation about the options we reached a consensus on the route and the price – Machame route in 6 days for 600USD, a real value for money deal! The next day we would organise all missing equipment and head off on Wednesday. We had a late dinner at Mezza Luna, the «best» Italian restaurant and stayed overnight at
We left the car at Bobby Tours and made our way to the Machame gate, an 1.5h drive from Arusha. On the way we stopped at a local butcher shop where Dominique checked for some meat. Fortunately the shop didn’t look to appealing and Dominique decided not to persue the opportunity. After some rain the roads were in a very slippery
state and we already had to get out of the mini-bus in order to help pushing. We were really wondering how th entire trip would end as we already struggled in the beginning. Several tour operators arrived at the check-in place. In total about 60 people were ready to take up the challenge to climb Kilimanjaro. After all the fomalities we set off for the first day wich would take us up to 3000m. The first hour was fine and then we entered the tropical rainforest and the mud started... for 3 hours we walked and climed through deep and slippery mud, only seeing mist in front of us... finally we arrived at Machame Camp after about 5 hours. The legs were hurting and a slight headache started (Explore Kilimanjaro for route descriptions) but we were very happy to have completed the first leg of the climb. Our porters had arrived earlier, had set up the tents and were preparing dinner for us. We went to bed very early, around 8 o’clock, and fell asleep immediately. The sun was shining when we woke up and we could get a first glimpse of the environment. We were really up in the mountains just above the tree border («Baumgrenze»). The temperature was still at a very comfortable level. Fortunately our muddy shoes were already dry again. We started early and Nuru announced a 5 hours hike. We climded from 3000m up to 3850m and arrived at th Shira hut after only 4 hours! The short hike allowed us to relax in the afternoon. During the day we met verious groups of people from all over the world. There was also a couple from Switzerland. Later we found out that they didn’t make it to the top. Not all Swiss are mountaineers! The third day was a bit tougher. We climbed from 3850m to 4500m and then down to 3900m. The last descent to the Barranco camp was very steep and we could see the famous Barranco wall in front of us. Again the porters had set up the tents and offered us some tea when we arrived. Later in the afternoon we took advantage of the last opportunity to fill up our water reserves in the small creek close by. Now we were really in a high altitude environment. There was only little vegetation left. The sun was very strong and during the night the temperature dropped to very low levels. The camp offered excellent views of the Redman glacier and we were relaxing during the rest of the afternoon. So far none of us was experiencing any kind of alltitude sickness. The fourth day took us from the Barranco camp up the steep Barranco wall (300m) to the Barafu camp, the starting point of the last ascent. The Barranco wall was actually the only difficult passage of the entire hike. The wall was vertical and the path was very narrow. One mistake and one could fall... no doubt that one wouldn’t survive...
We saw the track that we would be climing during the ascent to the top. It seemed to be a very short but extremely steep ascent. We all still felt very good, only a sligh headache was irritating us – no surprise as we were camping at 4850m, higher that Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. Nuru suggested that we go to bed very early as we will set off around midnight. The started at midnight with soup and tea. We set off a bit late in the dark with our headlights on. Only Dominique’s headlights lasted longer than 30min which didn’t make the ascent easier. Our steps got shorter and shorter, our stops more frequent. In the end we only put one foot in front of the other one. Consequently the average footstep length was about 30cm. The loose gravel also made it more difficult and slippery. We wore lots of clothes as it might get up to -15degrees cold. During the ascent all of us went through different stages of strength and weakness. I had big trouble reaching Stella point at 5700m as it was extremely steep. The wind was howling at Stella point and I just wanted to sit down for a few minutes. Sitting down would have been a big mistake as the probability increases exponentially to fall asleep. Surprisingly Nuru wasn’t going so strong. This was probably a consequence of him carrying our things during the first 3 days. It was quite flat from Stella point to Uhuru peak and didn’t give me and Dominique any problems. It took us only about 45min to get to the peak. Nik was going strong up to Stella point but afterwards he was on the verge of collapsing. He walked like a Zombie with his arms dangling and his head down. We were afraid that he wouldn’t make. It definitely helped that we could encourage each other and that we were a group that had a common goal – to reach the top of Africa. Finally we also reached the glacier and started walking on the snow and reached the peak just before sunrise and spent only a few minutes around signpost before we left again. I arrived first, Dominique a few minutes later and finally Nik about 15min later. We could only take one picture with our camera as it was so cold that the batteries didn’t work. We actually had forgotten to keep them warm... typically a beginner’s mistake! A quick hug and some pats on the shoulders to congratulate each other before we started the descent. It took only 15min to get back to Stella point and then we took the direct route down to Barfu camp. There was no track and we were basically running down through the gravel. Sometimes we jumped and flew a few metres downwards. This was no good for our legs and knees, in particular Dominique was suffering. We actually couldn’t believe that we had walked up the same way. In fact we were glad
that we didnt’ know in advance how steep it was. After two hours we were back at the camp again where we could rest for a couple of hours before we had to continue. It felt so good to have achieved what only a few people have done (I think it must be thousands of them every year...). Just after lunch we left the camp and it took us another 3 hours to get the last camp. These last 3 hours were really painful and Dominique’s knees were «fu....». As experienced handball players we taped his knees to give them more stability. The camp was situated at 3000m. In total we descended 3000m within a few hours, not too bad. As usual the porters had set up the tents and the food was being prepared. The camp was newly built but didn’t have any infrastructure at all. All groups arrived one after the other one and we chatted to a few of them. Finally there were quite a few people that didn’t make it to the top. With a sense of pride we went to bed and fell asleep immediately – no wonder after such a day. The last day was quite a rough descent through the rainforest and the mud. Initially we thought that we would get away without any mud but we were wrong. As it was the last day we didn’t really care about the mud and just walked straight through it. In some places the mud came half way up to our knees. It took us 6 hours, this after the ascent to the top of Kilimanjaro. Their trails definitely need a service. The enormous amount of national park fees should actually allow for some more maintencance and some upgrading of facilities. Still conservation organisations clean up the trails every year because the parks board can’t manage the environment and facilities properly. In conclusion the hike up to the Kiiimanjaro is technically no difficult. As porters are carrying all gear, one has only to carry its own personal belongings. Except for the ascent to the peak the daily hikes are not too long and leave enough time to relax and conserve energy. The only real problem is the altitude and there’s nothing one really can do to avoid altitude sickness. It’s advised that the trip is booked locally as you can negotiate good deals. We checked with various groups on the hike how much they had paid for the trip. The price for the same trip ranged from our 600 USD up to 1300 USD. It’s commonly expected to tip the guide and the porters and the amount will definitely lead to some discussions. We were back in Arusha in time for Dominique to speak to the travel agents about his flights to Germany. Bad luck neither Ethiopian Airlines nor KLM had good news, but there was still a chance the next day. Finally Dominique could book the flight and would be back in a few days.
UPDATE 10, 11th OF SEPTEMBER The actual driven route is indicated in black. The red spots indicate places/villages where we either stopped or stayed over night. The details are explained in the ‘Update text ‘ itself.
Three days of garage work were necessaryor the Landcruiser and Yamaha to get them ready, i.e. roadworthy again. For the Landcruiser we fixed the front axle seals, added spring leafs to the front and rear suspension, added bullbar support brackets, changed all the suspension bushes, adjusted the breakes, fixed the air con (for the 3rd time...) and finally did a small service which included changing oil and several filters. For the Yamaha we just had to change the clutch pads which was finally quite a mission as the ‘fundis’ (slang for mechanics) weren’t really sure how to do it... One thing we learnt for sure again – don’t trust the people you don’t know as they will try to rip you off. A typical example was that the bike fundi had to buy gasket maker for 1800Sh (we had bought a tube the day before!). i gave him some money, reminded him of the receipt and and he came back with a receipt of 5000Sh! He had to give us the money back. Sometimes we really wonder whether it says ‘stupid tourist’ on our foreheads...
We spent the evenings in the Masai Camp talking to different people. We met South Africans/Scotts, Fiona and Pieter, that will move back from Edinburgh to ‘somewhere’ where you can make money out of tourism in South Africa. Another Swiss/Austrian couple was also around, they keep the car stored somewhere in Africa and pick it up for their holidays. Finally Paul and Rene, a Dutch couple was also hanging around as they had their car fixed. Their roof rack just had collapsed on the way from Ngorogoro to Serengeti – we still have problems understanding how exactly it happend. Anyway Paul had played a few ‘Underground Rock’ concerts in Biel, Switzerland (he even left his promotion CD) with us (not like DJ Renovator whom we had met in Victoria Falls). During the second night Nik and myself had very serious discussions... the outcome is strictly secret... Paul’s whiskey, our beer and wine helped us through the third night, the fourth night was short as we still had to recover from the previous night... Dominique had left us on Tuesday evening and would only be back from his grandmother’s 85th birthday on Monday evening. Finally we left Arusha on Saturday for a 3 days tour to Lake Natron and stopped at Twiga camp on the Ngorogoro road. During the whole day Nik didn’t feel too well... and we always think of Malaria...
The following morning we could really understand why Arusha is booming. Already at 8 a.m tour operators pulled in and started setting up tents for their clients. All clients/tourists are strictly European or American. We haven’t met any domesitic tourist (the steep park fees actually discourage domestic tourism!). Just before us several ‘self driving’ safari groups headed towards Ngorogoro, busy, busy! As we weren’t too sure about the distance to Lake Natron we started quite early on Sunday moring. After a few hours of very bad dirt roads we reached Lake Natron, e.g it took us 4.5h for 100kms. Already in Engaruka we had to pay a transit fee of 5USD per person (according to Tanzanian law this is illegal – should we try to explain that to the local people...?), successfully we managed to negotiate 6.5USD for both of use. ‘Habana money’ (=no money) helps quite often. We enjoyed splendid views of the Great Rift Valley which was formed during the of the continent Africa, the still acitve volcano Oldoinyo Lengai and the Masai Kids along the road. Just as we had crossed the last river before Lake Natron, a couple overtook us. They convinced us to have a look at their Camp Site ‘Lake Natron’. After lunch we drove around, didn’t find the second camp site and finally headed towards the lake with all its flamingos. This should be a very bad mistake as we got senseless stuck in mud. The hole appeard out of the blue, although we hadn’t respected the warning of the Lake Natron couple not to drive to close to the flamningoes. Of course shit happens if you don’t follow warnings! The mud was so deep that the Landcruiser got stuck with the rear differential, the left side of the chassis! and we hadn’t checked for the depth of the mud. Really professional! After a first try with the highlift jack we had to realize that the fastest way to get the car out, was to go and get help. I volunteered and ran/jogged back to the camp site and got help. Once the rope was attached to the car we simply could pull it out. Without help we would have tried for quite some time... we were lucky! The flamingos moved out of our scope! On the way back we didn’t manage to convince the park offical at the gate to give us a good deal, the first time there was no one at the gate when we had entered the gate. From intially 50USD we got down to 25USD without receipt!!! Back in Arusha we found out that we probably have been ripped off! The camping owners had some interesting information on the area. Close to the lake the landscape became desert like – overgrazing by cattle owned by the Masai. There’s no consciousness of the impact of their actions on the nature, not even that they compromise their own future. The camping owners always fight with the Masai to keep their cattle of their property as it’s the only green spot in the area. The hills of the Great Rift Valley around Lake Natron are covered by non-indigenous grass from South America (we don’t know how it ended up at Lake Natron) which is not eaten by the cattle. There’s also a short chapter that we would like to write about the Masai and the impact of the ‘modern’ world on their culture. The findings are purely personal and don’t necessarily reflect general facts.
My believe was that the Masai was still a very proud, indipendent tribe that would keep the distance to the tourists. Begging is very common (surprise), on the way to Lake Natron it was almost aggressive. The hunter & collector way of live is exchanged with farming, lousy tourism and cheap labour such as security guards. There’s not much left of this once proud tribe. Most of the Masai men still carry a spear but can only throw it a few meters, it was almost ridiculous when we asked one of the warriors to throw a spear. It seems as they would only use the spear as a walking stick. You can visit the Masai at http://www.masaivillage.com or at one of the cultural villages. After the chat Nik fixed dinner and I continued my update before we went to bed. We left Lake Natron camp site quite late and therefore decided to test the rally qualities of our beloved Landcruiser. We made it back to Arusha in 4h40 and challenged Yusuf, the rally driver, a day later for a 100USD to beat our time with a Landrover TDI, Back in Arusha we took Kassim andYusuf from Bobby Tours out for dinnner to Big Bites. Dominique joined us straight from his Frankfurt-Amsterdam-Killimanjaro International flight. A few beers, drinks and pool games later we went back to the Masai camp. The next day we wanted to quickly fix the breakes and the rear differentilal (it was still leaking). The ‘quickly’ become late afternoon as we had to replace some more things. The long range fuel tank almost fell off. Baileys in Kyalami, Johannesburg finally didn’t do a proper job as we had to add a bracket to the tank and replace the bolts for the highlift jack support on the bullbar as well as the bolts were made of only semi hardended steel. The bolts broke like a match as we wanted to lift the car. It came true what some people had that South African 4x4 experts are good as long as you don’t drive your car outside the national parks in South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. For areas further North they are simply lacking the experience! While driving back from a spare part supplier I was stopped by a police officer in front of the main police buildgin in Arusha as I wasn’t wearing a helment which was of course a traffic offence (although most of the locals don’t wear helmets...). The issue became serious as more police officers got involved and wouldn’t let me go with the ‘normal’ excuses and explanations. I got the feeling that it would become a ‘big’ thing. Fortunately I could phone Kassim and ask him to help me out. What I witnessed then was corruption pure! A few good words to all involved officers, 20USD changed hands and the issue was suddenly closed. Kassim confirmed that the police wanted to make a big issue and fine me at least 110USD, maybe they would even have found more things... Thank you Kassim! At dusk we were back at Twiga Camp site, close to Ngorogoro Conservation Area (NCA), and prepared for an early start the next day. I still could hardly recover from the fact that the police wanted to squeeze out so much money out of a ‘mazungu’ (white man is Swahili) and how quickly the issue was resolved with the help of the right people and some money. It shouldn’t be the last time!
After the last village before the NCA gate we stopped in order to change the number plates we had bought the previous day. With Tanzanian number plates we would only pay 5USD instead of 30USD per day. We had also some Bobby Tours stickers on both front doors and spare wheel covers to make it look real. For some unkown reason the park officials got suspicious and questioned our Tanzanian number plates, in fact they wanted to see our car papers which we obviously didn’t have. This time we phoned Yusuf who could clear the issue with the park official explaining nicely that we tried to do something stupid. Finally we had to paid the correct car fees, got a new permit and corrupted the park official with 10USD as advised by Yusuf. We managed to get the resident status which saved us a lot of money. Yusuf later confirmed that the park officials wanted to take the issue to the police which could have had nasty consequences... Thank you Yusuf!
The ascent to the Ngorogoro crater rim was very steep and the Landcruiser overheated the first time. The descent into the crater was as well quite steep in particular as we were pulling the motorbike. The bottom of the crater offer some mediocre wildlife sightings, zebras, impalas, few wildebeests and monkeys. We are probably too spoilt with all the wildlife we had seen on our trip. Just as we were to leave we saw a gathering of cars. There must be something we said and made our way to all the cars-indeed there was one single cheetah that was blocking of a herd of wildebeest. That was it for the day. On way out of the crater the Landcruiser over heated for the second time in the steepest part. Only low range could get us out again and we still had a long way to go the Seronera camp in the Serengeti! After about another two hours the car got hot again and over heated for the third time. This time we tried to cool it down be releasing some pressure from the radiator. For some reason Nik had the idea to take off the radiator cap and as a consequence a hot fountain splashed out of the radiator which emptied it in a few seconds. Anyway we made it to the Seronera camp in the dark. The next stretch would take us through the Western part of the Serengeti and further to Mwanza, the main town of Western Tanzania. We just saw the usual thing, two lions, zebras, impalas, red hartebeest and some other buck. The gathering of many vultures caught our attention and we decided to walk to the spot where the vultures were gathering. They tried to eat what was left over of a young wildebeest that was killed only a few hours ago by some lions. As we walked back, a camp owner stopped and warned us of walking in the Serengeti as the park officials would kick us out if caught. Late in the afternoon we arrived in Mwanza. Fortunately a tour operator left us his details in case we needed help. We met Masumini Tours (http://www.masuminitours.com) at their office and got useful information on accomodation and the roads to Kigali, Rwanda. Temba Hotel, 6kms out of town on the Shinganya road, was real good bet. It allowed us to stay over night for 12USD for all three of us, drink a few beers and have a long discussion on ourselves as they intensive travelling took its toll on our mood, behaviour and atmosphere.
A few conclusions richer we started the next day towards Kigali. We caught the ferry in Kinongo a bit late. On the ferry we met BBC (Big Black Cunt), a tall guy from Drillcorp, who would save our butt a bit later. As we landed on the other side of the bay, he said it’s time to fuck off and enjoy Tanzania which was of short duration as Dominique was stpped by the police for not wearing a helmet driving of the ferry. Again the police officers asked us to come to the office and to open a traffic offense case. Fortunatley BBC saw us, joined us and helped us, we still don’t know how. Without him it could have taken hours. and money was definitely somewhere in the game. Definitely very late we headed off for the border to Rwanda. 380kms and about 7 hours later on very rough and tarred roads we arrived at the border post which was already closed. The only choice we had, was to stay over night in front of the border gate, probably the second worst choice of our trip after the quarry in Northern Mozambique.
UPDATE 11, 19th of SEPTEMBER The actual driven route is indicated in black. The red spots indicate places/villages where we either stopped or stayed over night. The details are explained in the ‘Update text ‘ itself.
The first impression of Rwanda was actually great, a surprise as Zambia had been. We drove through a very green, lush and hilly landscape. In contrast to all other African countries the houses were made out of bricks and not thatch, either because of the humid climate or increased wealth. We saw very impressive red brick layed factories and churches. We arrived in Kigali after lunch and downed a few beers at the restaurant Belvedere as we were waiting for a response from the places where we wanted to stay over night. At the border we had met two Germans and a Dutchman who gave us the phone numbers from DED (Deutscher Entwicklungsdienst) and Jumelage Rheinland-PfalzRwanda. We got lucky with Nathalie from the Jumelage who allowed us to park in their yard and use the toilet and shower. After a quick brush up of the car, the motorbike (Dominique’s crash had bent a few parts) and ourselves we went for dinner to the ‘best’ Italian restaurant in East Africa, the Sole e Mar. Indeed the food and grappa were alright!
The ‘New Cadillac’, where locals, expata and women of the night hang out,was our next stop, as usual we could negotiate the entrance fee – 3 for 2. It was probably the best club we had seen on our trip so far. The place was a huge hall with the DJ standing on the second floor overseeing the dance floor. There were also two pool tables and a large bar. The walls were painted in black with some neon stripes. We enjoyed ourselves dancing, chatting to various people and having a FEW drinks, our bill must have been so high that the barman offered us free drinks from 4 o’clock onwards. We were definitely a bit intoxicated when we went home, definitely less ‘happy ‘than the local we saw at Sol e Mar staggering home. This poor guy was so drunk that he actually fell and couldn’t get up anymore... quite sad but we had good fun watching him. The following morning, after a slight hangover, we could organise the gorilla visit at the ‘Office du Tourisme et Parcs Nationaux’. The first possible day was Wednesday, in two days time. Nathalie from the Jumelage suggested we should go and visit the ‘French Riviera’ of Rwanda, Kibuye and Gisenyi at Lake Kivu which we obviously did.
Who can miss out the ‘Riviera’ of Rwanda – definitely not us! It’s never a good idea to have two co-pilots in a rally car. Dominique and myself missed the right-turn to Kibuye in Gitarama and continued on the main road... until we saw a sign Bjumubura... any clues – the capital of Burundi! We drove terribly wrong, almost to the border of Burundi but fortunately Rwanda is very small and we only had to backtrack 80kms. In the meanwhile Nik was waiting in Kibuye and wondering what had happened. After 3h he got worried and phone us as we were just entering Kibuye. The views on the 70kms from Gitarama to Kibuye were magnificent and the road newly finished – a real pleasure, even at night with bad head lights. At the Guest House we could pitch our tent. The next morning Kibuye offered us splendid views of the Lake and the water was inviting us for a swim despite the toxic gases that could ascend from the bottom of the lake. Apparently fish life doesn’t exist below 20m. We did some ‘spectaular’ dives, suntanned for a while before we headed off for Gisenyi a mere 90kms away. Sometimes the world is small – while we were doing the dives a a black ‘Gazelle’ joined us. After a few words she mentioned that she had seen us at ‘New Cadillac’. Hmmm, we were wondering why she had noticed us... her brother lifted the secret... Nik had taken her chair... naughty Nik! By the way she spent her last 10 years in Montreux, Switzerland being married to a Swiss. The drive through the mountains to Gisenyi took us about 5hrs including one wheel change stop. Again Nik was waiting for us in the one and only bar in Gisenyi, the Palm Beach Resort. Dominik, British, working for the UN and Hilton, South African, working for a tin producing company, were sitting at the same table. After a few beers destiny wanted it that Hilton offered us to stay at his place. Of course we couldn’t turn down his offer and happily continued with the beers, the evening was kick-started and the evening was to become very wet. Hilton organised a real South African braai with whatever he could find in Gisenyi. His wife Nina joined us a bit later, she had spent her
entire day at the hairdresser and spent all Hilton’s money. As the beers got fewer, Dominik insisted on leaving – what a coward! He surprised us as he came back a bit later with a case of cold beer which was desatrous for some of us. We really had a good laugh, in particular as Dominik was teasing Dominique being gay or a woman because of the ‘que’ ending of his name, of course he was so proud of his ‘k’ in the end of his name. One of Dominik’s better suggestions, apart of his typical British dry humour, was to visit Goma in the neighbouring DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo). Goma got famous as as the closeby volcano destroyed the city back on the 17th of January 2002, CNN had broadcasted live. Only the issue about re-entering Rwanda had to be solved. The next day shall be interesting we sought and indeed it would but not the way we had intended. Our Visas are only single entries, Carlos the chief officer of the border told us. Well we started negotiating, Dominique was lucky as he was using his German passport which doesn’t require a Visa, and we could get it down to 30USD for Nik and myself after an hour. This was still too steep but Carlos suggested we should speak to the DRC border official. He was very friendly and french but there was no bargaining. As we were about to give up, he said that we probably could avoid the Visa fees by not stamping the passport on both sides and offered to phone Carlos. ‘Un coup de fil’ (one phone call) and we were cleared we sought until the shit hit the fan when we wanted to re-enter Rwanda. We hired three ‘motards’ (motorbike drivers) and started for 10USD for all of us the tour of Goma. The destruction of the lava was unbelievable. Almost the entire city was covered with a 3-6m lava layer. The roads and the houses are being rebuilt on the lava. We visited the city centre, the main church, the entry point into lake and then continued to the lava exit point of the volcano which was almost at the bottom of the volcano. There wasn’t any spectacular erruption at the top when the lava started flowing. Halfway up we were stopped by a check point. The official intro-
duced himself as Patrik (as we became friends he told us his real name, Erick) and wanted to charge us 10USD each. We sat down on the chairs under the tree and started discussing using all our skills we had aquired on our trip. The compromise gets closer, ‘I really can feel it’, Nik said after half an hour. We were down to 10USD, not bribing but offering a tip. After another 15min using ‘rafiki’ (friend) as a bait we could continue without paying. The source of the lava flow wasn’t anything spectacular, just interesting to see that the lava just came out of the thick forest. We returned to the border post via the airport which was surrounded by lava. The one airstrip was still open for smaller planes. Back at the border we said goodbye to our ‘motards’ and the official who was really cool about our trip. On the other side we wanted to collect the Visas from the lady at the immigration. Not a problem she said, but you have to pay 60USD – big surprise as we had agreed that there was no fee! All argueing didn’t help us, she was simply not prepared to hand out our Visas as her boss had told her to collect the money, even though it was illegal of which she was fully aware of. We phoned Carlos and tried to make our point, not a chance and he wasn’t even prepared to see us and have a talk face to face. He was hiding behind family problems – what a laugh! Finally we decided to leave without the papers and have a go when leaving Rwanda. Then we decided to grasp our last chance and ask Hilton for help. After a quick chat with his colleagues they suggested to go and see the chief immigration officer, Mr. Habib and ask for assistance. He listened carefully, like the police commander in Vic Falls, picked up the phone and order the lady to hand out the papers. What a triumph for us and of course we had to celebrate it when we collected the papers. The lady even tried to talk herself out – what a joke! I am sure that she didn’t expect us to go the the top level in town. What we learned of this event and the one in Vic Falls, is that officials at a higher level are absolutely reasonable and don’t take ‘shit’ from lower ranked employees. Happy and smiling we made our way to Ruhungeri as the gorillas
were waiting... we stayed over night at the headquarters of the ‘Parc National des Volcans’ – for free although people from the guesthouse next to the headquarters tried to convince us that we were not allowed, in particular as it was dark when we arrived... ‘Knock, knock’ at 6h30 in the morning, what the hack was going on? It was a park official that wanted to check our papers in order to see what gorilla group we were supposed to visit. Our receipts didn’t say anything at all and he advised us to opt for the ‘Susa’ group with 35 members. Luckily he woke us up because we weren’t aware of the fact that there were 4 habituated groups with 8-12 gorillas except for the ‘Susa’ group. We got the jackpot! We made our way back to the office in Ruhungeri and left around 8 o’clock and drove up into the park area. After about 1h30min of climbing first through bamboo and then tropical forest we suddenly saw the first of 4 silverbacks of the group, he was part of the cabinet. The president, the vice president and the other cabinet member weren’t around. He CHARGED us as we probably got too close! As per rule we hid behind Vincent our guide. The tackle was quite rough as Vinc fell... really exciting and we already had gotten value for money! We then saw the first big group with youngsters, females and males. Suddenly the vice president appeared behind us. He felt as well that we were a bit too close and charged us... wowww a second time. They then continued and we followed them until we got to the next big group with about 20 gorillas including the president, a massive silberback. We watched, admired them for the allocated hour before we headed back to where we had parked the car. We continued straight away to the Rwandan border, no hassles except that everything worked at the ‘speed of light’. At the Ugandan border we left some money behind, 20USD per vehicle and 30USD per person for the Visa. The 90kms to Kabale took us through the mountains where farming was as intensive as in Rwanda. The entire journey from Ruhungeri to Kabale took us about 4h and we arrived at the White Horse Inn just before sunset. A fabulous Spaghetti Bolognaise dismissed us into our sweet dreams.
UPDATE 12, 29th OF SEPTEMBER The black indicates the driven route. The red spots indicate locations where we either had stopped or stayed over night.
The ride to Kampala was quick and dangerous, Dominique on the bike got almost run over 4x by the big “Jaguar Long Distance Buses”. We saw some very funny things on the way to Kampala such as banana transports on overloaded “buckies”, pigs packed onto small mortorbikes. Oscar, my black skin friend from Ericsson South Africa kindly offered us his place in Munyongo. The cottage is beautifully located at the Speke resort right at the shore of Lake Victoria. Our girlfriends Kershini, Nicole and our father Herman would arrive the following day. We organised the 4x4 through private contacts at MTN Uganda. There was a big “hello” as I entered the offices as 4 Ericsson guys were currently in Kampala. Francis, the CTO, was around as well and allowed us to do the Update (which failed as our online readers might have noticed).
Nicole and Herman arrived as planned on Friday morning but the Nicole’s luggage didn’t have the same itinary and got lost, it would only be arriving on Monday. Kershini arrived as well as planned in the afternoon, her first real trip to Africa being South African. Kershini and myself prepared a delicious curry for dinner which fed us properly for the river rafting the following day. The early start went all wrong as the driver wanted to pick us up at 6 o’clock in the morning and we had agreed on 7 o’clock. As a result he was about 1.5h late and we still had to drop the Landcruiser in the garage (bushes and rear differential) and pick up some more people. The only other rafter got a bit anoyed about us as we were late! Finally we just arrived before noon in Jinja, the source of the white Nile. After a rather long introduction we headed of through some
73 grade 2 and 3 rapids. The 2 grade 5 rapids were really great and gave us an adrenalin kick. Some rapids could be rafted several times as there was a backdraft along the shores. Excitingly the second grade 5 tapid could be rafted several times which we OF COURSE did with the consequence that “Daddy Stuber’ became a long swimmer the second time. The three 3m waves really knocked him underwater and he really had to catch a breath every time he surfaced. Towards the end we tried to flip the raft by all ways but we didn’t succeed... After the braai we were driven back to Kampala. Sunday was just a relaxed day at the pool as we were only waiting for Monday to start our trip. Unfortunately we had to spend Monday as well in Kampala to get everything sorted. Finally on Tuesday we started our journey to Murchinson Falls. 320kms later we arrived at Red Chilli camp which was taken over recently from UWA. Almost as usual we had some hassles with the park officials. During the evening we got to know that we couldn’t drive our North bound route to Mbale as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) was attacking different targets and caused huge troubles. The boat trip up to the Murchinson Falls was really cool as we saw huge crocs, herds of hippos, buffalos and antelopes. Dennis our guide was really knowledgeable and could give us a lot of valuable information. The walk from the bottom of the falls to the top took us 45min under the burning sun. The views were really excellent, our pics look like the ones in all advertisments and brochures! Back in Red Chilli we simply relaxed and prepared us mentally for the drive back to Kampala. The storm during the night made the night even longer and we had to save our clothes from getting wet again in the middle of the night. On the way back to Kampala we had another problem with the park officials and the bike. On the way back from Murchinsion Falls we paid the delta between a one day and two day entry fees as there was a built-in discount. At the entrance the park official told us that this was not possible and now he was facing exactly what he didn’t wanted! After lots of words the official let us go, we even had threatened them to destroy the barrier and to drive off, in particular Dominique was a bit agitated. Dominique was riding and suddenly there was only black smoke and a lot of boiling oil sprayed around. The air release screw of the gearbox fell out and that’s why all the oil splashed out! We simply took of the oil filter lid and close the air release with a pop rivet and continued our journey to Kampala. The two incidents made it impossible to continue to Jinja and we decided to stay in Kampala at Red Chili. At the camp Dominique had a chat to Ralf who was driving a 22t 4 axle truck through Africa. We got some information on alternative routes through Ethiopia and the advice to fly or dig once we enter deep sand in Tchad. We will see what we will experience. We left early again as our aim was Sipi Falls at Mount Elgon. During the ride suddenly the battery and the filter light turned on. No
74 clue what it was – only later we should get the full understanding of the problem! Shopping was done on the way in Mbale and we arrived at Crow’s Nest in the late afternoon. A quick visit of the falls and then the crossing into Kenya was planned for the following day which was ditched as the Landcruiser wouldn’t start the following day. Only kick-starting would work. Fortunately we were parked on top of a short downhill. Car electrics were really not our favourite area and thanks to the local mechanic we found out that the cut-out was burnt. We even didn’t know what a cut-out was! Instead of Kenya, Kershini and myself drove back to Mbale to get the car fixed while the others did the Sipi Falls abseiling. On the way to Mbale I managed to stop the engine twice with the consequence that I had to pay the people 5000USh to help pushing the car. Nothing is for free! Fortunately we found the car electrician in Mbale and he was really helpfull as he also found out that the alternator had a problem. The brushes were finished and that’s why the batteries weren’t charged anymore. A few hours later and 30 dollars lighter we could head back to Sipi Falls. The Forex bureau was just a maize/grain wholesaler. The next day it took us about 4 hours to do the 100kms to Suam, the border post to Kenya. On the way we were stopped by the police and they started to give us hassles as we had to dig out all our papers. It even got worse when Nik passed as for some reason his passport didn’t have the visa stamp for Uganda. We could only guess that the border official forgot to stamp the passport when we entered Uganda coming from Rwanda! Nik, Nicole and my dad had to go back to the local bush police station to explain this problem. Fortunately we could show the visa fee receipts which got us off the hook and allowed us to continue our journey. For once the border crossing wasn’t a problem at all and Kenya welcomed us, without paying for the cars! It just started raining as we left the border post and Dominique was unlucky again as he was riding the bike. The first stop was Kitale, a small bustling town. We could withdraw some money and had a quick meal at one of the restaurants. People and books told us that we had to watch for all our things as theft is quite big in Kenya. Just by chance I had to go back to the car as I had forgotten to switch off the lights. The one padlock was already damaged – someone had already tried to get into our car. Was this a good or bad sign, in particular as we will spend some time in Nai’robbery’? The Scottish – South African couple we had met in Arusha, had given us a recommendation for accomodation close to Saiwa swamps. We arrived at Sarikwa Camp just before dawn. The people were somewhat strange... No one except for me and daddy Stuber were hungry – I just cooked a Bolognaise for the two (Dominique couldn’t resist) of us before we went to bed. The next stretch should take us to Lake Baringo.
UPDATE 13, 10th OF OCTOBER The black indicates the driven route. The red spots indicate locations where we either had stopped or stayed over night.
The journey to Lake Baringo took a few hours as we had to cross the Great Rift Valley. The descent was a steep 300m height difference. Driving the Landcruiser you could really feel how bad our breaks were, without the engine break we would have crashed somewhere against a rock wall. We climbed the Western ridge at low speed, still the Landcruiser overheated and Kershini and myself had to stop unvoluntarily to let the engine cool down. Most of Kenya’s lakes lie in the Rift Valley as they are all crater lakes. Lake Baringo is a very shallow (3.5m) mud lake which never clears up as the mud is carried from ridges the by the rivers into the lake. Robert’s camp is situated next to the lake. We got a huge two storey cottage for all six of us with a view on the lake. Right at the shore we saw some croscs and apparently at night the hippos venture through the camp. As we were about to leave for Lake Bogoria the next morning, the clutch cable of the motorbike broke. There’s simply no day when we don’t have to work on the bike. Nik, Dominique and Nicole stayed behind to fix while Kershini, my dad and myself continued the journey to Lake Bogoria to see the flamingos and the hot springs.
The lake was very clear and full of flamingos. The air traffic would have been a challenge for any air traffic controller! The hot springs were quite amazing, lots of water splashing out of the ground like fountains. It reminded me of “Old Faithful” in the Yellow Stone National Park, California. At the enrance we told the officials to tell the others that we continued our journey on the main road, unfortunately we forgot to tell people at the hot springs that we continued driving along the shore. We finally ended up at the exit gate in the South of the park. The ranger radioed to the main entrance gate to alert the others not to proceed as the road was very bad-too late! We just could hope that they would proceed as well and we would meet up again on the main road towards Nakuru. Luckily it worked out and we met again in although Nik, Nicole and Dominique were angry at us. We agreed to stop at every main intersection and at the entrance of Nakuru. Unfortunately we missed the first right turn into Nakuru and stopped at the second right turn. We waited for about 20min before we drove back and then realized that there was another right turn. Obviously the others had taken this road. Logically they should have stopped
at the first round-about as we weren’t there. Instead they just went shopping while we tried to find them in the whole town. Of course all mobile phones were in the Landcruiser. Anyway we finally met again at the first right turn. Dominique took this incident relatively easy while Nik and Nicole were fuming and started shooting at us which of course helped very much to calm the situation! This undeliberate incident costs us too much time to still towards Masai Mara and we decided to stay at Lake Navaisha. According to previous recommendations we wanted to stay at Fishermen’s camp which was of course full – Murphy’s law! We were told as well that most of the camps and hotels were fully booked – somehow strange we thought until we found out that Angelina Jolie was present, shooting parts of Tomb Raider II. We were to meet Anglina again under totally different circumstances... Top Hill camp still had a few beds left for us and we enjoyed sunset and a tender beef fillet. We definitely need some good food as the ride to Masai Mara would be a bit painful because so long. Thanks to an early start we arrived just in time for lunch at Keekorok Lodge, the cheapest accomodation around – we negotiated 170USD for a double room including full board. In the late afternoon we went for the first game drive, we decided to follow one tour bus, hoping to sight lions as most of the tour vans have radio communication. We only got to see a cheetah with 4 cubs. Back in the lodge the van driver told us that he was only tracking the cheetahs while all other vans saw a lion kill – bad luck, but tomorrow we will make sure that we can follow the right van.
The early morning drive was a lot more successful – we saw a lion couple from close range. They didnt’ bother at all about all the cars, vans and trucks surrounding them. We counted close to 20 vehicles. In fact they decided to lie down in the shadow of the Landcruiser! This was tourism adaptation pure. During the drive we came across the usual game such as elefant, zebra, giraffe, topi an other antelope. After breakfast we picked up our guide as we wanted to see the famous wildebeest migration, apparently there were still some large herds on the Mara side. Unfortunately there wasn’t any herd that was about to cross while we visited the river. The water level was quite low and the wildebeest wouldn’t have any problem crossing. In some areas close by we could see hippos and crocs again. We could see large herds on the other side of the Mara river (Serengeti, Tanzania) that had already crossed the river. There were thousands and thousands of wildebeest around. In order to avoid excessive hotel bills we decided to camp just outside the park. We stayed at one (Sunshade) of the 6 camps that are used by overland tour companies. The next morning we had a short disagreement with the camp manager about the price. After some discussions we met half way between his and our price. The next day should take us into the jungle of Nairobi. For the next week we would try to organise the second part of our trip, Nairobi to Switzerland. Kershini left me with a sad heart in Nairobi while she flew back to Johannesburg. The two weeks just passed too quickly. Our dad left
two days later and Nicole another 3 days later. Nairobi is a huge town with just a small city centre and a rather big industrial area around Enterprise Rd where we could get our car fixed and buy the relevant spare parts. We enjoyed bargaining at the City market, tried several nice restaurants – La Trattoria is a our favourite. Shopping is best either in downtown or in Westville, a posh suburb. Some decent bars, still filled with prostitutes, can be found as well. Nighlife can be enjoyed in Florida 2000 or Carnivore, of course there are many more places which we didn’t try out. Kool & The Gang (you remember the song “Celebration”) were playing on Tuesday during an HIV/Aids charity event, Nicole and Nik saw them while Dominique and myself sat in the Alfa garage watching the Landcruiser being fixed. Apparently the concert wasn’t a smash hit. Thursday was actually a public holiday and therefore Nairobi went mad on Wednesday evening. Nik and Nicole enjoyed La Trattoria while Dominique and myself saw “The new guy” in the movies. I refrain from a detailed movie critic, I would rate it two stars out of five. Afterwards we walked into the next noisy pub & restaurant. We felt a bit strange as we were the only Wazungus (plural for Mazungu), in particular as we got comments such as “wrong place for you” which we simply ignored. Staff was very friendly and helpful and tried to make us feel comfortable – we for sure had a good time! We got to know some locals who took us along to Carnivore in a London cab. The place was totally packed with people. Again we realized how small the world is as we bumped into a girl we had met in Zanzibar
who is teaching in a rural school somewhere in Kenya. We finished sometime early in the morning... Thursday was a chill day, the only thing we did was shopping in Nakumatt and surfing the web. Two Austrians from the camp site asked us whether we would like to join them for dinner at Carnivore – of course we joined them. Anneke and Jelte from Holland joined us as well. We were a bit late as we had to fight with the taxi driver about taxi fees, in fact we got out of the car after 100m as we didn’t agree on the price. Unfortunately there wasn’t another taxi around. After a second round of negotiations we could agree on the price and drive to Carnivore. The food wasn’t the highlight of the day... On the camp site we had the chance to talk to many other travellers who had been in Egypt, Sudan or Ethiopia, unfortunately no one had come through Tchad and Niger. Jelte and Anneke could only help us with the Middle East which we don’t consider. Giddy, the barman of the camp site was also an interesting character. He’s enjoying the green leaves all day long and his eyes are therefore always very small, he insists that he was born like that... Anyway time was rife for a move, the city jungle bored us and made us dream of vast plains and deserts that were waiting for us on the way up to Ethiopia past Lake Turkana.
UPDATE 14, 21th OF OCTOBER The actual driven route is indicated in black. The red spots indicate places/villages where we either stopped or stayed over night. The details are explained in the Update text iteslf.
Lawlessness, banditry, movie stars, burning villages, illegal border crossing, loaded guns, language barrier, difficult police, endless tyre punctures made our lives spicy and challenging! In my foreword for this update I would like to detail my impressions of Ethiopia, the best kept secret in Africa. Ethiopia is totally different to any other African country we have visited so far. The Italian influence can be seen everywhere, from espresso machines to Fiat and Iveco trucks, although the Italians tried only for 5 years before the second world war to colonialise Ethiopia – with no success. You will find pastry and coffee shops all over the place where people relax, like in Italy. Most of the coffees you have to order with its Italian name. The Arab influence leaves as well its marks. Amharic, the national language belongs to the same family as Arabic and the faces of the people have Arab features. The main road from Moyale to Addis Ababa is world class, probably built by Italians. Theft and crime is very low and you really feel save.
The last day in Nairobi should be busy. We wanted to leave Upper Hill camp at 7h45 in order to be at Alfa garage by 8 o’clock in order to get our brakes fixed, instead we left at 9h30 and Nik was in a bad mood as we weren’t prepared accordingly for our trip to Ethiopia through the middle of nowhere. According to our information it should be possible to cross into Ethiopia via Illeret through the bush, e.g. inofficial-illegal border and do all immigration formalities in Addis Ababa. It turned out that we were absolutely WRONG! The little driving we did the evening before was already enough to roughen the surface of the rear brakes and the right-pulling effect was gone which allowed us to skip the visit to the garage and the 1500KSh for the work on the brakes. Anyway the service of the car wasn’t perfect at all as we had to check the tyre pressure on our own. With some more spare parts and a very good map from the Public Map Office we finally set off for our journey to Lake Turkana at one o’clock in the afternoon, as usual quite late. The ride to Isiolo, the
end of the tarmac, across the Equator was smooth and we stopped at the Range Land Hotel for the night. The longer the night got, the more holes I had in my air matress... and I slept in the banda which we could use for the shower. A few days later I found out that my air matress didn’t have any holes at all... From Isiolo we drove via Archer’s Post to Maralal, an area well known for outlaws and bandits! For the first time we got to see camels, for us somehow a strange experience as we associate camels with Arabs and not black people. We arrived in the late afternoon and the first inquiries showed that we will need an escort to drive to Loyangolani! As a matter of fact we decided to stay at Yare & Safaris Club and Camp Sites and organise our escort for the next day. The security in the North of Kenya is described as follows: “The North of Kenya has always been wild and unpredictable. You will hear regular reports of lawlessness and banditry. Competition for grazing land and traditional cattle-rustling have always lead to the occasional inter-tribal conflicts, though the passing traveller will rarely see evidence of these conflicts. However, the influx of trusty AK-47s from Uganda, southern Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia has upped the ante and a more general form of banditry is on the increase.” After a relaxed night at resident rates we pitched up at the police station at 9h30 to pick up our escort, a young police officer from the district administration. We travelled through mountains and rough roads until we arrived in Baragoi, a small village in the middle of the cattle-rustling area. The village was full of cars and trucks and we wondered why... Angelina Jolie and Tomb Raider II were the reasons. Some sequences were shot at Desert Rose, a stunning building high up in the mountains and the convoy was about to pick up the staff and equipment. We almost decided to visit Angelina! As we wanted to proceed our escort chickened out... we didn’t know why, apparently he was told only to escort us to Baragoi which is half-way. Anyway we were stopped by the security of the movie convoy as we could see smoke of burning villages – bandits! It seemed to get real... After some time waiting and the checks of the security we could proceed in a convoy for the next 30kms. Our heart beat was rising... After the convoi turned left we continued on our own without escort to South Horr, a village in a narrow village. The last two hours of drive took us through a very arid and “stone desert” area with boulder tracks with splendid views of Lake Turkana. The first bike tyre puncture hit us just a few kms before Loyangalani and delayed our arrival. Anyway, thanks to a non-permanent tyre repair, we reached Loyangalani before sunset, the last place to get supplies for the next 400kms of mountains and desert.
Locals took us to the local water hole where we could get “cool” beer. Turkana girls are the most expensive (100 cows or camels, keep in mind that one strong bull costs 15’000KSh = 200USD. That’s why most of the men have to take up a loan from the bank) girls to marry of the 4 major local tribes. In fact you have to kidnap the Turkana girl you want to marry by defeating her brothers who protect her. One is only allowed to bring 5 friends with whips. If you are defeated, you have to pay 10 cows to the brothers, if you are successful you take the girl and disappear for two weeks before you contact the elders for serious talks. As a joke one of the locals told one passing Turkana girl that we wanted to kidnap and marry her-she ran off as fast as she could. The permanent repair of the rear bike tyre puncture delayed us for 2 hours the next morning. The drive to the entrance gate of the Sibiloi National Park took us through an amazing landscape of stone and boulder desert. As a result Dominique had two punctures of the front tyre. For the first time we were happy to use a GPS and a decent mapdesert and hills as far as we could see! Only dry river beds and oasis gave us some hints. Suddenly I saw in the far distance some dark pointed triangles swaying in the glimmering heat of the day, it was close to 40 degrees hot! I tried to figure out what it was – maybe only a “Fata Morgana”? As we got closer we could see what it was – Gabbra nomads with all their belongings strapped onto their camels. Their behaviour wasn’t very friendly and we understood that we shouldn’t take pictures and that we should leave them alone. Anyway it was the first time that we got the feeling that we are leaving the permanent inhabited areas of Southern and Eastern Africa. We reached the Karsa gate of Sibiloi National Park, the cradle of mankind, just before sunset, our attempts to get student entry fees were successful even though officially the student fees for non-residents had been cancelled. In order to avoid the camping fees we pitched our roof top tent just outside the gate as the officials wouldn’t allow us to use the parking lot inside the park. What a flexibility! By the way we had to fix another bike puncture. Koobi Fora was our next stop where many of the hominid fossils were found that document the evolution of mankind. This time all our bargaining didn’t help and we had to pay the relevant fees for the museum, fossil site and guide. Under the glazing sun at 37 degrees (cool according to our guide) we visited the museum and the fossil sites. In a way it was unbelievable to visit areas where ancestors of the homo sapiens had lived about 1.5-2 million years ago.
After the visit we jumped into the Lake Turkana, the water was almost boiling. The water is very acid and for us non-locals not drinkable. Lake Turkana is also named “Jade sea” as the colour changes from blue to green during the day. Illeret, the last village before the border, consists of a police station, some permanent inhabitants and nomads. The visit of the police station was a must and we had to wait for the chiefs of the police station as they had gone for a swim. We needed permission to proceed as there’s no immigration office. The two chiefs were very nice, informed us that we were about to use and illegal border crossing but didn’t question us too much about our “illegal” border crossing plans. We were actually also allowed to camp on the police’s premises. Nik and Dominique went to fetch water from the bore hole, apparently a real experience as there were so many people queuing for water. It was a real rumble to get water. Strong winds kept us awake for some time during the night, hopefully the next day would be a bit less hot. All of us were in a good mood, U2 helped as well, as we started the drive across the “illegal” border. The tracks were well visible up to the next village. Thereafter we had to ask for directions and find our own way for a few kms before we got back on track again. Fortunately the GPS coordinates of the border stone help us finding our way. A few kms after the border we entered the first village where we were stopped by the Ethiopian police. TROUBLE STARTED!
The police wanted us to return where we came from (Illeret) as we didn’t have a written permission from the immigration to enter Ethiopia from Illeret. Our information from the travel books seemed to be outdated! After some talks the police decided to send us to Omarate (or Kelem) with a police officer in the car. Omarate is the area headquarters. Of course we had to cover for his expense by paying 5USD. The welcome of the police in Omarate was VERY unfriendly and the first reaction was: “Impossible, you crossed illegally into Ethiopia and you have to return to Kenya and enter via the official border post in Moyale (which would have taken us 5 days to get there). The language barrier didn’t make the discussions easier, in fact we had to organise our own translator as the police didn’t care. Our discussions / negotiations didn’t seem to advance, instead they be seemed to be dead-locked and on top of it the officials decided to go for lunch without telling us. Therefore we simply decided to leave, we started the engines and hell broke loose. The remaining police officers became furious and started pointed their rifles at us, one even made a loading movement! Well, well we thought, it’s probably not the best idea to drive off and instead waited for other police officers to return from lunch. After some more negotiations the police suggested to send us to the district headquarters in Jinka, a 4-5h car ride on bad roads. As Jinka was more or less on our route we agreed to travel to Jinka. Again we were accompanied by a police officer and again we had to pay for his expenses, an expensive 20USD. I was simply wondering whether the police tried to make some money or if
they were serious. I asked them whether we just could pay the money and leave which wasn’t a good idea as they got angry and answered that they are not “beggars” and didn’t want bribing money from us but simply cover the police officer’s expenses. With a letter in Amharic, Ethiopia’s own indigenous national language which is Semitic (like Arabic) in origin, we sped off towards Jinka. On the way we saw many indigenous people, mostly Hamar with their red mud coloured hair. Their clothes are mainly made of goat skin and they only wear a skirt and a shirt. Some of them were even totally naked, running out of the bush as we passed by! It’s absolutely amazing that such untouched cultures are still preserved in our modern world. Two days later we would even see more amazing people, the Mursi people. The first flat bike tyre hit us after about 3 hours, still during daylight. The second flat bike tyre hit us just after sunset, for the first time we had to do repairs with only car lights. Fortunately we had our police officer with us in case anything would happen. Dominique had to drive the last 30kms in front of us using our headlight as his lights didn’t work. Finally we arrived dead tired in Jinka where we could spend the night on the police’s premises. It seems as we would like police stations! The meeting with the police district head was set for 2 o’clock local time which corresponds to 8 o’clock GMT. Ethiopia is using 12 hours and the day starts at 6 o’clock in the morning our time. They also use the Julian calendar with 13 months, the last month has got only 5 days, which is 7 years behind our Gregorian calendar. The police made it very clear that we had done a mistake but was very understanding in the sense that we couldn’t go back to Kenya. After a few consultations we had to go and look for the district head who was on duty in town. He simply had a look at the letter with all additional notes and agreed to let us continue our trip without any conditions. The tourism responsible of the local administration didn’t insist on the usual border fees. Again it was proved that if you speak to the right people in the hierarchy problems are quickly solved. Happily we did some very basic shopping and were haggling with all the young street guides. Finally we chose Lukas and left for Mago National Park to visit the Mursi people. The park headquarters were only about 35kms away from Jinka but the trip through very steep escarpments took us 2 hours. Some drops of rain and the red soil turns into very deep mud which makes the road impassable. As we were a bit late we decided to relax and visit the Mursi people the following day. This half day relaxing was heaven for all of us as we have been travelling long hours for the past few days.
The Mursi village is 3 hours or 62kms from the headquarters away. We expected the worst such as stone throwing, stopping the car and harassing us when entering their area. Our guard and Lukas reassured us that it’s not too bad. As we approached the illegal village before the main Mursi village, small boys jumped onto the road and wouldn’t move, a few stones flew against the car and wooden sticks were banged against the chassis! Lukas just urged us to drive on... and we did. Seeing the Mursi people of the main village from close range was like entering a different world. The women still had their lips around small plates, bear breasted, colourful body paintings and lots of art around the neck, wrists and ankles. The ears were pierced with small plates as well. The reason for the lip plates dates back to the Sudanese slave traders. In order to avoid slavery the women were made unattractive by cutting the lips and inserting a plate. The men were dressed in simple skirts if at all, carrying either a spear or a rifle, wearing as well body paintings. They were amazingly friendly but still harassing you for pictures or their art. A picture cost 2Birr per person. After a while the people felt more comfortable and got a bit more aggressive by sticking their crafts into our pockets, pulling money for pictures out of our pockets, pulling our shirts and shorts. Dominique even let them have a look into his pants and see his willy. They couldn’t get enough! We left the village after having done all our deals – chewing tobacco against braclets and lip plates. On the way back we crossed some totally naked but fully body painted boys, even their intimate parts were painted. Mago National Park to Arba Minch, with a short stop in Jinka for the market, was a 8 hours drive on dirt roads. A few quite deep river crossings made Dominique’s life a bit more interesting. Arba Minch is the main town in South Ethiopia and boasts a few decent hotels and restaurants. Swaynes Hotel, part of Greenland Tours, offered us value for money, 15Birr for the 3 of us. A heavy rain storm shortened our dinner and the evening as well and the car puncture repair was postponed to the next morning. From Arba Minch we had to drive exactly 502kms to Addis Ababa in order to dive into the Sunday nighlifte which wasn’t any different from any other capital so far – full of prostitutes. For dinner we enjoyed traditional Ethiopian food with a show at IBEX hotel.
UPDATE 15, 1st OF NOVEMBER The actual driven route is indicated in black. The red spots indicate places/villages where we either stopped or stayed over night. The details are explained in the Update text itself.
All the different activities from Visa applications, travel updates, shopping and car repair took us just a bit longer than expected, 2 days instead of one day. The cheapest accomodation we could find was a “brothel” that rented out its rooms to couples per hour. We had the impression that most of the couples were boyfriend and girlfriend that couldn’t have sex at home because of their parents and their religion that forbids sex before marriage. As a consequence we had to pay for day and night use. Addis Ababa is the 3rd highest situated captital in the world and serves as the capital for the AU – African Union and as the highcourt for East Afrca. On Thursday morning we could finally leave for Weldiya, the starting ponit for the famous churches of Lalibela. On the way we lost
Dominique as he took a short-cut instead of the detour around a village. Nik an myself just prayed that he would drive to the same place – or course without map, money & repair kit, and after dawn without lights! Fortunately we met up again at the first local bar at the entrance fo the village. In the future we definitely should try to avoid these kind of situations. The drive itself was fascinating and we crossed at leat 3 passes of which one was 3150m high, higher than any pass in Switzerland. We prbably also drove through the 2 only tunnels in Etiopia, funded by the European Union. The landscape was very green and mountaineous and people everywhere with their cattle which is x-tremely dangerous for the bike rider. Later Dominique and Nik would experience it! To make things easier we had a flat tyre just as we entered Weldiya. Weldyia is a small very basic but bustling town. Banking, tourism and tyre repair
are the only services available. As usual we were the main attraction in town. As soon as you enter a town in Ethiopia with a foreign number plate and being faranji you are surrounded by lots of people that want to show you around – of course for money. Even the simplest question or directions turns out to be the most complicated which needs a guiding service! From Weldyia to Lablibela we had to climb up to thhe altitude plateau of Ehtiopia at 3530m above sea level. The plateau was very green and quite populated. While I was riding the bike in front, a tyre of the Landcruiser literally blew up, really there wasn’t much left. From the altitude plateau we followed a steep descent into the Lalibela area. As we entered Lalibela we were immediately surrounded by people that wanted to guide us. we picked one and he showed us the budget accomodation, the Asheten Hotel where we met Frank, a former director of a management consulting company in Amsterdam that took a sabbatical. He could give us some valuable information on Sudan although it was limited to Khartoum and the North with the pyramids which we won’t visit. The visit of the monolithic churches was programmed for the next day. We explored the churches together with Frank and a local student. In order to save some money we didn’t take an official guide and we paid the price for it. His English was quite bad and his knowledge of the history of the churches even worse. “You get what you pay for” is a famous saying. The churches were really impressive but after 11 buildings everyone had enough and we had “taj” in a local “taj place”. “Taj” is the local drink made out of honey, you can either have it without (sweet) alcohol or with. Initially we intended only to try one small sweet jug but we ended up having a few alcoholic ones. Shit happens! From Lalibella we climbed back up to the altitude plateau in order to head West towards Gondar. Cattle, donkeys and goats were all over the place – Nik actually collided with a donkey and took a dip into the ditch, fortunately with no consequences! Gondar is the main city in the Northwest of Ethiopia but only offered the castle. Therefore we decided to do a short trip to the Simien Mountains National Park, an UNESCO world heritage site. At the hotel where we stayed, we met two other travel groups from Germany that were carrying sand plates, the only thing we still were missing. The aim was to get these sand plates! Fortunately the one group decided as well to visit Simien Mountains and we would negotiate in the mountains.
Simien Mountains were only 130kms away from Gondar. The road climed up to 3100m again and we blew another tyre because the tyre repair guys had put too much pressure into the tyres. Bad luck and we were stupid enough not to check it! The views were splendid, driving on the altitude plateau seeing down to the eroded but rugged hills which are part of the Simien mountains. In the far distance we could see smoke, obviously people were living in these areas that are so extremely remote! The Gedah baboons are a famous sighing in the National Park. As it really gets very cold, they have not only a fur but real long hair. We really enjoyed seeing them! The German party arrived after dawn as their car isn’t a 4x4 and they could only drive slowly (the 2nd gear stopped working after the mechanic had repaired the clutch in Gondar...). After dinner and some negotiations we got the sand plates for 80EUR. Both sides were happy! The next day we left Simien Mountains early in the morning in order to head towards Metema, the border to Sudan. We descended from the altitude plateau down to the plains. Again cattle was all over the place and this time Dominique tried to run over a cow – with no success except for a damaged bike! In Metema we had to stop for the customs formalities. Fortunatley we could explain why we didn’t have our papers and the explanation was accepted. Shortly thereafter we had to take a detour and took the wrong road and ended up in the middle ot the Ethiopian bush. As it got dark we decided to stay over night and drive the 60kms back to Metema only the next morning. With hands and feet we tried to explain to the local people that we would like to camp where we were. Afer some time the people understood and we could stay for the night. I was rather upset with ourselves as we didn’t manage to read the signs that indicated that we were on the wrong road. There were absolutely no truck tracks and in the end the GPS indicated that we were driving in the wrong direction. We didn’t make it clear enough to the people we asked where we wanted to go and they told us just to continue on the road... two completely different indications and we choose the wrong one! In order to make it to Khartoum we got up a 5 o’clock in the morning, an absolute journey record. At 6h15 we started the engines and drove off, it was still dark. We almost missed the Ethiopian immigration office and were about to drive across the bridge to Sudan as there weren’t any signs again when an immigration official waved to
us. Fortunately we didn’t have any problems getting the exit stamp although he was asking for the entry stamp which we obviously didn’t have. The Sudanese customs and immigration didn’t give us any problems at all, it just took it’s time. The travel permit cost each of us 12USD and we still don’t know the difference between a Visa and a travel permit. The travel permit should allow us to move freely around in the country. We will see whether this is true when we will travel West towards Tchad. The first impression we got from Sudan was: flat, hot and very little agriculture. This wouldn’t change until we reached Khartoum at night. After Gedaref we openend 3 bottles of beer to celebrate our arrival in Sudan – note that Sudan is an Islamic country and alcohol is strictly forbidden. Kevin Murphy, the Ericsson Operations Director welcomed us at his place with a bottle of Vodka. At 1 o’clock in the morning we had finished 1.5 bottles and went to bed slightly intoxicated. As a consequence we had difficulties getting up the next morning. Our lives only really kicked in a 3 o’clock in the afternoon (we watched DVDs...) and fortunately we could get two new tyres, do the shopping and surf the net. Our attempts of getting money with our credit cards were not successful at all, instead Kevin offered us to lend us some money which we gladly accepted. We decided to stay another day and consequently enjoyed further DVDs and Vodka until 3h30 in the morning, Friday being our Sunday. Friday was relaxed, we got up late, changed the oil of the car and motorbike, tried to change money and got some updates on the security situation – we might face some difficulties in some areas (as expected)! Two weeks ago 4 Swiss guys were robbed of their car after Agadez, Niger towards Tamanrasset, Algeria. Hopefully this won’t happen to us! The next part of our trip will start at 6 o’clock in the morning and take us to Tchad. The day before we had met Yo, a Japanese motorbike rider who will join us on our journey to N’ Djamena, the captial of Tchad. Hopefully the real challenge will start NOW – and we didn’t know what was waiting for us, anyway we would really have a good time!
UPDATE 16, 1st OF NOVEMBER The actual driven route is indicated in black. The red spots indicate places/villages where we either stopped or stayed over night. The details are explained in the Update text itself.
Sudanese people are so X-tremely nice and helpful. Unlike Ethiopia we didn’t get hassled at any place where we had stopped so far, instead we were offered a warm welcome. In this respect Sudan should definitely be a role model for the rest of the World! For the first time we didn’t have too much information about the roads, security and accomodation. We definitely have to be a bit more careful and always check the situation. We left Khartoum without official travel permission and of course we were asked for it at the numerous police checks. We simply
ignored their request and told them that we had the travel permit from the border in Gallabat and this should be enough. We got away with it. We stopped half way in Kosti to change money and get fuel. Although all banks were closed we could change money in a bank, thanks to a private shop owner who phoned his friend in the bank. We were offer cool drinks while our request was processed – it’s our duty they said. Happily we left Kosti late in the afternoon and therefore we arrived at night in El Obeid where we asked the first people we saw for a hotel. We were referred to a rather posh house. The owner was a doctor who offered us to bring us to the best hotel in town – El Madina Hotel, probably the worst place to stay over night
so far – no showers and no drinkable water, but no complaints from our side as we were dead tired after almost 700kms. Before we could check in we had to go to the police station to register and get permission to stay for one night. From now on we have to register at every place where we want to stay over night. After dinner and some car repairs we went to bed and fell asleep despite the noisy fan, in particular Ryo as he drove all the way on his bike while we were pulling our bike. Hassan, the doctor who had helped us the evening before, visited us before he went to work in order to check whether everything was O.K. We couldn’t believe that people would care so much! He left a guide with us who helped us to get ready. We had to get our passports back from the police and were just ready to leave, when the police officer pulled into the driveway on his motorbike waving with our passsorts Sudanese Police acts really as friend and sservant. and don`t use it just as a slogan to get more credit from the society like it is done elsewhere. Surprisingly we found a tarred road which would take us to En Nahud – we thought until shit hit the fan. The car suddenly slowed down, I looked out of the window and saw smoke. l told Dominique to slow down and pull over. A second later the rear right wheel literally fell off, flames sparked and burning oil poured out of the rear axle. I started swearing as I had a very bad feeling... got out of the car to inspect the damage – impossible. We had to jack up the car in order to take the wheel off and then I saw the damage... The “fucking” rear axle shaft had melted and broken into two pieces at the ball bearing. This was VERY BAD NEWS! Most likely the ball bearing of the rear axle shaft was worn out, fell into pieces and then the shaft touched the axle tube. 1.9 tons pressed the shaft against the axle tube, friction created heat and the steel melted until it broke into pieces. As simple as that! Later we would find out exaxctly why the ball bearing was worn out! Nik and Ryo drove back to El Obeid to either organise a truck or get the resident mechanic to fix the damage on the spot. Dominique and myself were chilling in the burning sun and simply waited for Nik to come back.
At 16h30 Awen, a local tyre business man, Nik, Ryo and two mechanics were back and brought the spare parts, axle shaft and ball bearing. What a surprise, the axle was too long. Well, I guess we have to refer to Murphy’s law. Anyway Awen and Nik returned back to El Obeid while the two mechanics tried to get the ball bearing out. Unfortunately they weren’t lucky and had to remove the entire axle in order to take it back to town. As it got dark they were done but they didn’t have transport to get back to town. All the trucks we stopped were fully loaded and couldn’t take them back. Dominique and myself were anyway prepared to stay overnight at the side of the road, hoping that no big truck would hit us. Unexpectedly Awen and Nik turned up at 11 o’clock at night in order to pick up the mechanics. They still hadn’t found the right axle. Nik and Ryo spent the night at Awen’s place. With the hazard lights on we spent the night in the middle of nowhere in Sudan, hoping as well that no bandits would pay us a visit! The next day all the people returned at lunch time with all the spare parts and the right axle. The mechanics were also exchanged. Awen had made it possible and Kevin from Khartoum didn’t know that we already had spent his 300USDs. They were absolutely crucial to allow us to make it to N’Djamena in Tchad. The mechanics worked like hell and shortly after dawn the car was back in the race again and we wanted to stay another night at the side of the road. Awen gave us options, either we stay at his place or we proceed to En Nahud, 200kms away. Happily we accepted and drove back to El Obeid, Dominique was riding the bike without lights... Back in town we went for dinner at one of the local eating places and we enjoyed the local food and Awen’s company. The journey to En Nahud took us longer than expected. After 103kms the tarred road was finished and the sandy tracks started. Unfortunately we only got to know later that there’s a car and a truck track, that’s why we drove on the truck track. The communication / procedures between the car drivers (Nik and myself) and the bike riders (Dominique and Ryo) wasn’t the best at all and we obviously lost each other and only met up in En Nahud again – this time we were lucky, maybe the next time we won’t drive to the same place. On the terrace of the only hotel we had a fabulous dinner although no one
except for Ryo was really hungry. Fillet steak, vegetables, penne and fresh parmesan was on the menu. Another day of driving was waiting for us the next day. The landscape was not changing at all – sand, thorn bushes and shrub. During day time it got extremely hot, Ryo’s thermometer showed 42 degrees. We fought our way through the sandy tracks and I definitely lost the battle as I fell a few times. The first 3 times it didn’t hurt but the 4th time my leg got caught between the engine and the front wheel. The pain was so bad that I got sick for a few minutes. We arrived at sunset in Nyala. The check-in at the police station took some time and it got slowly dark and we hadn’t found any place to stay over yet. By chance we knocked on a suspected hotel door. In fact it was the door of a former minister of education who invited us for dinner as the Ramadan had started. During Ramadan all people have to accomodate travellers during 3 days before they are allowed to send them off. This was one of the most amazing happenings of our trip. The only hotel in town didn’t have rooms at our “traveller’s” rate and then we went to the president’s palace where only government officials are accomodated who are visiting Nyala. Thanks to the former minister we could actually stay over. He was very much into architecture and wanted Nik to design his house somewhere outside Nyala. The following day to us from Nyala to El Geneina, the border post and Adre in Tchad. In El Geneina we had some hassles with fuelling up. After we had filled the tank we wanted to pay with US dollars which weren’t accepted. Despite all attempts we couldn’t change the money. Nik suggested that we just should drive off... I thought that this wasn’t a good idea at all. Finally we settled the bill at a horrendous exchange rate. The border formalities on the Sudanese side were quick and we could proceed to the border post on the Tchad side. Adre is situated on the edge of the Tibesti mountains where all the rebels are hiding. The French army has set up an army camp with about 300 solders and therefore it’s relatively quiet in the surroundings. Adre – Oum Hadjer was the next stretch. We spent the night at the prefecture where we got some water to take a shower. Only later we
found out that this area was extremely unsafe and that travellers are a common target for the the rebells. Just outside Oum Hadjer the front right spring leaves broke. Fortunately a French expat arrived and he helped us to get the spring leaves welded at a resonable price. We stayed over night at catholic mission in Bikine. In town with no electricity and water, we could actually buy some coke, what a nice taste. The last stretch was took us from Bikine to N’Djamena where we could stay over night at Rolf and Fati’s place. The Swiss Consulate actually wouldn’t let us stay in their compound. This was another example of the Swiss arrogance. The first day pause after 10 days of non-stop travelling was filled with essential things such as fixing the car, shopping and getting updates on the security situation along Lake Tchad. Instead of relaxing we were running around like mad chickens. In the evening we visited some fellow travellers that we had met in town. Pieter & Lenny, a dutch couple, Pieter, a Dutch KTM rider, Gert and his friend from Brussels were all staying at the Novotel and celebrating the departure of Gert & friend in their 2CV. You can find all their adventures under: http://www.brussels-capetown.com They were sponsored by different companies and Gert wrote weekly stories for a Belge newspaper. In fact we thought they were a bit crazy, in particular as they would drive the same stretch through Tchad and Sudan as we did – lots of sand and a 2CV is definitely not the perfect sand car... Good luck! We all enjoyed the many beers, I remember that we were all slightly drunk except for Dominique who was suffering of stomach cramps. I even didn’t realise how much my bum was hurting (no dirty thoughts...) as I was sitting on a craddle of beer. Only the next day I felt it while I was riding the bike.
UPDATE 17, 1st OF DECEMBER The actual driven route is indicated in black. The red spots indicate places/villages where we either stopped or stayed over night. The details are explained in the Update text itself.
Our aim was to drive along the Eastern – Northern shore of Lake Tchad to Nguimi. Lake Tchad is only a fraction of what it was some time ago. During the entire trip to Nguimi we didn’t catch a single sight of the lake. The only thing we saw was dry and sandy areas that were once part of the lake. Once upon a time the people were fishing and trading the fish against other goods. Nowadays there’s almost no fishing left and lots of people lost their job. We made it to Ngouri on the first day where we stayed over night next to the police station. Tomorrow I would turn 30... As I woke up everthing was brighter, my future looked clearer – 30 years made it possible ... My birthday started off with champagne and black Swiss chocolate. This was the highlight of my birthday as there wasn’t anything else in the bush. We camped out in the bush just after Liwa. After dinner I went through the highlights of my 30
years... there were really many such as my diploma thesis in Stockholm, my trip across South America, my first time I fell in love... and hopefully my marriage in during my next 30 years... We headed off after sunrise through deep sand towards Nguimi in Niger. The track got really sandy and we almost got stuck with the Landcruiser. At Daboue we could do all the paper work. As I sat in the office I didn’t hear the gunshot. There was a beige Landcruiser that drove around the barrier, hectic broke loose and the police fired a warning shot to stop the vehicle. Indeed the vehicle stopped and returned – it was Alex and Anne from Switzerland. Everyone was surprised that they didn’t see the barrier and that the police fired a gunshot. The consequences could have been quite severe but they got away after some sweet talks. They had come down from Djanet, Algeria right across the desert, a route which isn’t usually used by anyone else.
We continued and drove along the dry shore of Lake Tchad. The landscape changed and we crossed vaste sandy plains. The first 4 police checks and the customs didn’t give us any hassles at all. People were very friendly and we were happy to be in Niger and leave the unfriendly people of Tchad behind. Customs wasn’t any problem at all. Alex & Anne asked us to have a go first as they didn’t have the carnet the passage and promised us a real Swiss fondue. For 400CFA they got a “Laissez passer”. The last police check at the end of Nguimi started giving us hassles. The hassles would continue until the next day. We didn’t have the local insurance, unfortunately we were not even aware of such an insurance. Nik went straight for the confrontation and the situation got worse and we had to present all our papers. The officer in charge threatened Nik to send him back to Tchad. No insurance, no moving was their comment. Additionally we were supposed to pay a hefty fine which was only meant to make money out of us. In fact it wasn’t even possible to get the insurance in Nguimi. Alex and Anne were so kind to stay with us though they had an insurance in order to help us. The police tried to make us tired, instead we unpacked the chairs and the table and started eating some dry meat, bread and had some red wine. Alex has been travelling the Sahara for the last 25 years and knew many stories about bandits that were chasing him... and warned us of the possible Visa problems for Algeria. In fact we had a look at the alternative via Mali, Mauretania, Morocco and Spain... The Swiss fondue was an absoutely stunning – who could have imagined that we would get Swiss traditional food at the border Niger – Tchad at a police station! Later the police told us to move to the “Commisariat” to spend the night as it was too much publicity having two foreign cars at the side of the road... The “Chef de poste” arrived only the next morning at 10 o’clock and we could sort out the problems in a matter of minutes. The chef de poste allowed us to continue to Zinder in order to get the insurance and we only will have to present the insurance at the police in Zinder. All the other police officers were probably fuming as they couldn’t make money with us.
After only 130kms we ran into the next problem. As we left Diffa, we had to stop at the police check and we saw the barrier too late – we just managed to stop but touched the barrier. The police men came screaming “C’est quoi ca, infraction” and we had to get out of the car. The one officer was very angry and Nik went again for the confrontation pointing with his finger at the police officer. He didn’t appreciate and I had to pull Nik away in order to avoid further damage. The result was that he insisted on the fine and there wasn’t any negotiation any more. Fortunately I could talk to another officer and some sweet talk could bring the negotiation back on track and after 45min we could leave without paying the fine. We were lucky again! At sunset we drove off the road to camp in the bush. Alex and Anne just caught up with us and decided to spend the evening with us. We found a really nice spot inbetween some small dunes. Real Swiss “Roesti” and a beef fillet was on the menu. For desert we had some “Merengue” and cream. Another full program was waiting for us the next day. We arrived without any problems in Zinder. The plan was to get money, do the insurance, fuel up and leave for Tanout. While searching for the insurance company we bumped into our Swiss friends again. Alex was waving fiercely and we pulled over. He was talking to an Algerien business man whom he knew for some time already who had connections to the Algerian embassy in Niamey. Most likely Ali would be able to open the short cuts for us. He even invited us to his house to spend the night. In return we would take him up to Agadez. Gladly we accepted. Getting fuel was quite an adventure as we wanted to get the cheap fuel on the black market. Ali helped us again and we could get fuel almost 20% cheaper. The inofficial fuel station was next to a goods trading area were big trucks from Nigeria were parked and anything you can imagine was unloaded. Suddenly a private car appeared on the scene and our fuel guys disappeared... apparently the colonel of the police... Ali welcomed us at his place and offered us Algerian food and drinks. We were really a bit surprised after the police checks. Only later we would find out why he was so friendly and helpful. We simply skipped dinner and prepared us for the trip to Agadez.
As agreed we left Zinder together with Ali and reached Agadez late in the afternoon. We met Ali’s friends at their house and later we went for dinner at the restaurant “Le Pilier”, the best one in town. We faced a few problems finding accomodation as all of Ali’s friends had moved. Camping was strictly decouraged, there was an option in a garage. “Grand frere” Achmed, a friend of Ali, advised us not to stay there. Therefore we tried the “gendarmerie” – no luck and finally we decided anyway to stay at the garage. In fact it was a huge yard with one truck parked. There was a small brick house where Alfa, the owner lived. He allowed us to stay as long as we wanted which we gladly accepted. The following morning we arrived at 8h30 at the Algerian Consulate hoping that we wouldn’t have to wait for a week or so. A lot of people had warned us of the long Visa lead times. We filled in the papers and started waiting... at lunch time the secretary informed us to return at 14h30.... Was this a good or bad sign? We had lunch at the restaurant “Le Pilier”. Anxiously we returned to the Algerian Consulate. At 15h00 I was called to the office of the consul. My Visa was ready and with a big smile (or JBF look) I left his office. Nik was next and he fucked up everything! Dominique’s passport had only three quarters of a page left and the consul considered this as a problem. As the consul questioned this issue Nik suggested as a joke that he should charge Dominique an additional 5000CFA as a punishment for Dominique. Nik signed the papers and left without passport as we didn’t have the money with us to pay. Innocently Dominique enter the consul’s office and then the shit hit the fan. The consul had considered Nik’s joke as an attempt of bribery and gave Dominique shit for five minutes, told him to leave and to come back tomorrow. Dominique’s face was bleak of asthonishment as he joined us again and we felt the problems creeping up our backs... Well, we left the consulate puzzeled wondering “what next”. We spent the evening with all Achemed & Ali’s friends in a dark, gloomy room. The room had a simple entrance without door and one small window. The room was furnished with only two beds, a radio, a fan and a small coal holder for the tea. Everyone was sitting barefoot on the carpet and was smoking. If you believe it or not ithey were smoking joints like crazy! There was so much smoke from the joints and
the spices that are put onto the coal that we couldn’t see each other anymore... after all it was still Ramadan... Apparently the Koran doesn’t explicitely prohibit smoking joints... other people would even drink beer and pretend to be real muslims... and most of the wives wouldn’t know what their boys were doing... We learned many things about the Islam and its interpretation! We were introduced to Dodo Ousman, a former Tuareg rebel that earns his ive offering medical services to the villages in the Air mountains as his integration into the government didn’t work out yet. We could gain his services for about 20USD per day as a guide. The necessary papers would be arranged as well for a small fee. Well, the next day Dominique went to the consulate while we were waiting for him. The consul’s answer was simple: please come again tomorrow. Was that now the beginning of an endless waiting period? We could simply hope it wasn’t... This unexpected day of pause allowed us bring the car and bike into shape again. The front roof bars that keep the windshield in place were cracked and needed some welding. A small service was done as well for both vehicles. After sunset the happening started again at Achmed’s place. Later it was exlplained to us that Achmed’s place is frequented by people that want to smoke a joint in peace and without having to fear the police. People would come and go and Achmed wouldn’t even know them very well. Achmed is taking by risks accomodating these people. Luckily we got the transit Visas the next day. The good bye from Ali & Achmed had a very sour taste as Ali asked for 150USD for his services, we had offered him about 10USD as a geste. I asked him whether he was out of his mind... all the friendlyness and helpfullness was explained now – money, in particular as we were tourists he wanted to milk us like a cow. In fact we didn’t consider his services as very helpful, sometimes he was rather difficult. Anyway we gave him 30USD and left with Ousman. We only made it 25kms before it got dark and we stayed in a oued (dry river bed) next to a village. We were all so glad to have left the town life and to enjoy the bush again.
The journey took us through the rugged desert Air mountains on the old road towards Arlit. We drove until sunset in order to reach the Timia cascades. The last stretch reminded us a lot of the area of Lake Turkana. There was almost no vegetation at all and the soil was covered with reddish, roundish rocks. The cascades are a very popular tourist spot. Ousman told us that sometimes up to 20 vehicles were parked for the night. This was obviously before the Tuareg rebellion started in 1990 and ended in 1996. The rebellion killed all the tourism and hit the entire area of Agadez badly. Lots of hotels, restaurants and shops have closed since then. The main reason for the rebellion was the racism of the Haussa dominated government against the Tuareg. As an example Tuareg people weren’t allowed at universities, there were no Tuareg representatives in the government. Additional economic problems helped as well to fuel the rebellion. Agadez celebrated one of the main events back in 1986: the Paris – Dakar rally. All the people still remember this event. Apparently it was a huge party and the town was going wild. “Good old times” remember the old Agadezian people sadly. Waking-up in the next morning was really exciting. Small mountains and rocks surrounded us, the sunlight only crept slowly into the semi valley. The cascade flowed into a small pond with freezing cold water. Dominique couldn’t resist and jumped into the water. His shrieks could be heard from far away... We stopped briefly in Timia, a small “garden of Eden” as it lies in a narrow oue where the people grow all sorts of fruit and vegetable. We bought some oranges and grapefruits and continued our way towards the Tenere desert with its huge dunes. On the way we stopped in Assode, the former captial of the Air region. Only ruins were left including a cemetary, doubtless nothing spectacular. The Zagado valley opened up slowly and we could see the first dunes in the distance. We spent the night in a small oued just in front of the first dunes. Tomorrow we would see the dunes and ride the bike like a snowboard. Excited we went to bed... waiting anxiously for the next morning. Dominique was the lucky rider who could ride the virgin slopes of the dunes first. Nik of course had to challenge him to climb the first steep
dune, knowing that Dominique probably wouldn’t make it. After the second try Dominique made it to the top but didn’t stop in time and fell into very soft sand on the other side of the dune. It was really hard work to get the bike out of the sand again while we were waiting at the foot of the dune. After a narrow dune passage with mountains on the right and very high dunes on the left, we entered a vast plain with lots of small dunes. We had to look for the car tracks in order to detour some massive dunes. At different spots we did some photo shooting. In particular we wanted to catch a pic with rear bike wheel spinning and splashing sand into the sky. That’s when the clutch nightmare began. The clutch pads were worn out and there wasn’t any pressure anymore on the clutch which meant we couldn’t drive it anymore. Note, that we were in the middle of the desert surrounded by dunes. We didn’t have any other choice than to drain the oil and open the clutch in order to check the damage. Under the glazing sun we started this adventure. One clutch pad was completely finished. After some engineering discussions we decided to insert some additional rubber pads between two clutch pads in order to widen the entire clutch width. We had to remove the clutch disk between the two clutch pads in order to eliminate the friction as this would destroy the rubber pads immediately. We actually found this hint in our motorbike guide. After a few hours we were back in the race again and drove along a large dune cordon towards Fares, an artificial fountain where we spent the night. The aim was to reach Adrar Chiriek with its famous rock formations. There were different options on how to get there. We chose the dune route! First we had to find the entrance of the dune area, then the dunes arose in front of us. They were roughly 200m high and the crossing would be a real challenge. The sand was rippled and quite hard although there were some very soft areas which I had to discover first with the bike. real dune driving, no going through and returning when all our good luck turned into bad luck when I didn’t see a steep dune descent and flow over the bike handle bar and hit the sand – “CRACK” was the only thing I heard and I immediately knew that something had broken in my shoulder – the only question was “what”. By the way I didn’t have any insurance. For some reason I didn’t feel
that much pain and could still move my arm... anyway I was convinced that I had broken my collar bone and was angry at myself to allow such a stupid accident! The boys in the car returned soon as they feared an accident. Nik had seen such an accident a few years back in Libya... and he was obviously right. Our trip would suffer an unplanned short-cut and all the famous dunes of Temet were gone... Fortunately Ousman was a medic and he could put a bandage around my shoulder to allow us to drive to Iferouane. I simply had to take 3 of the strongest pain killers we had and all the pain was gone. It was even quite comfortable riding on these bad roads... To make things worse we had a flat bike tyre but finally we arrived a few hours later in Iferouane, the main town of the Äir mountains. By pure chance a French chirurg with some people from “Aviation sans Frontieres” was at the medical station at the very same hour we arrived. He was working for “Medecins du Monde” and was doing a facility survey in the area. He examined the damaged shoulder and relieved my fears of a broken collar bone. I suffer only of broken ligaments. The correct term in French was “dyjonction acromio-claviculaire de 2ème degré. 3 weeks of immobilisation and a X-ray was his prescription on the hospital pass. It was such a relief that the damage was rather small, I was prepared to fly home from Arlit! We left Iferouane and camped on the way to Arlit. I slept on the front seat as I couldn’t lie down. The following morning it felt as I had been on a flight from Johannesburg to Zurich... The following day we arrived in Arlit after having lost Dominique on the way as Ousman got lost... it was a hell of a ride for Dominique without maps, GPS and only a rough desription on how to get to Arlit. With very little water he had to cross dunes and the clutch started slipping and stopped working – don’t panic now was the only thing he could do. “What if... I can’t get the bike running again... I am stuck in the middle of nowhere and the only people who know what I was doing had left for Agadez...” – scary thoughts...
Luckily the clutch had grip again and he could continue until he reached the tarred road towards Arlit. We headed straight for the hospital in order to do the X-ray which confirmed that there wasn’t any fracture! A bit later Dominique arrived as well! Ousman took us to Amadou, a friend of his that used to fix the cars of the rebels during the Tuareg rebellion. We enjoyed his hospitality for the next 2 days. It was the 28th of November and I had to give the bad news of my shoulder as a 60th birthday present to our dad! He was glad that it wasn’t anything worse, our mother almost had heart attack... With all vehicles in shape, at least we thought it, we left Ousman and Amadou the following day to drive Arlit – Assamaka. The landscape was flat with absolutely no vegetation. We crossed some rocky sections and suddenly Nik didn’t move anymore. Well, we knew exactly what it was – the clutch again. Instead of fixing it, we attached the bike to the car and continued until one strap broke and the bike fell half of the support. Unfortunately we didn’t realize it immediately and pulled the bike for a couple of hundred meteres on the ground with the consequence that the exhaust was severly damaged. We were about to loose all hope for the bike and sunset was very close and we still had 60kms in front of us – not a very accomodating though! For the first and hopefull the last time we had to drive at night. It was pitch dark and we didn’t have any references at all except for the GPS map which showed that we were following the border to Algeria in a distance of about 25kms. We didn’t have the coordinates of Assamaka which meant that we didn’t know whether we were going in the right direction or not! Suddenly we saw lights in the far distance which went off again – strange we thought, maybe bandits! As we got closer the lights went on and off again. A little bit later the lights started flashing and ordered us to stop. Under no circumstances we would stop in the middle of the desert and continued until we reached Assamaka despite their efforts to stop us. It was the army! They explained to us that it was not allowed to enter Assamaka at night but as we were tourists they made an exception. Later it was explained to us that they had positioned additional fast cars in case we wanted to escape. Quite an adventure to be stopped by the army while entering a town illegally and not facing any consequences!
We needed a rest after this adventure. After dinner I fell asleep while Nik and Dominique open the clutch and repaired it until 1 o’clock in the morning. Nik had glued some rubber parts onto one clutch pad. All the friction in the clutch had worn out these rubber parts in a very short while and that’s when the clutch stopped working. The final assembly would only take place in the next morning. After the final assemly of the bike clutch we left Assamaka towards In Guezzam following the truck tracks through the middle of nowhere. From far we could see the customs building behind thick walls. Before we could enter the compound the clutch didn’t release and Nik couldn’t change gears anymore. Not again... it really got to us! Anyway we still made the remaining 200m and as we entered the compound we could immediately note the difference between Algeria and Niger. The buildings were proper, outside lamp poles with solar power and only light coloured people working for the customs and the police. It seemed as there was a separation between the Arab and Black population of Algeria... The formalities were long but we finally got all the papers. For the time being we had enough of the bike and decided to put it onto a truck. We finally found one that would take our bike to Tamanrasset for 2000Dinar (=25USD). We left the compound and engaged in the “route of death” towards Tamanrasset. Every year there are people that get lost and die a terrible death as the water runs out. Recently 8 customs officials died... and there’s a story in a the very reputated GEO magazine of a family with a baby who chose suicide before dying of thirst. They suffocated the baby and cut their main artery... most of these people don’t use appropriate maps or a GPS. Simply imagine that our GPS would break down... troubles would be preprogrammed! Thanks to the GPS we could easily follow the tracks and camped halfway between In Guezzam and Tamanrasset off the main track. During the whole night one could hear trucks passing. First we thought that it might be bandits approaching us... The next day we brought the remaining 200kms behind us, the last 100kms were in a terrible condition after the heavy rains in September – October..
UPDATE 18, 10th OF DECEMBER The actual driven route is indicated in black. The red spots indicate places/villages where we either stopped or stayed over night. The details are explained in the Update text itself.
We arrived in time in Tamanrasset in order to pick up the bike. The only problem was that there wasn’t any bike around. We spent the entire afternoon at the customs reception and waited for the truck to arrive. Fortunately we could already retrieve the money from Western Union, at least we could buy some drinks and didn’t have sit around starving of hunger and thirst.
a German truck who accompanied bike riders. They recommmended the Bordj 4x4 camp site. Before we went to bed we had a chat to the bike riders. It was a group of 19 people with 10 bikes, 2 4x4s and one big truck. All the luggage is stored in the truck and the bike riders can race through the desert without luggage. If you are interested, check http://www.africano.info.
Tamanrasset is captial of the Southern province and therefore offers a very comfortable live style. For the first time in one month there was no dust in the roads, people would sit outside in cafes and you could buy decent newspapers. We were all SO HAPPY to be back in civilisation again. There are lots of government, customs, police and gendarmeris buildings with high wall and watch towers. Most of the signs are in Arabic. Heaven for us! Dinner was excellent at the restaurant “Imzad” chez Fahri. On the search for accomodation we met
In the morning Mr. Fahri, the restaurant owner, helped us to get the breakes of the car fixed. Finally the last break cylinder seal was replaced. In the beginning of the the afternoon he took me to a doctor who confirmed that everything was O.K with my shoulder. Mr. Fahri, 55 years old and a father of 5, was a real character. He considers the Ramadan as the total economic disaster and only follows the procedures because of his family. He used to spend Ramadan in Paris or Geneva in order to escape this torture. To him most of the Muslim
people are hypocrites as they pretend to follow the Koran but as soon as they are behind their own walls they do what they want. Apparentlt the worst or the Saudis and Kuwaitis... at least in Algeria we don’t touch the alcohol. This was basically the confirmation of what we had experienced in Niger. But the bike still hadn’t arrived! Dominique and myself sat in the internet cafe until 1h30 in the morning and the cafe was full of people until 5 o’clock in the morning. For the first time in a while we could sleep in, relax during the whole day and plan the last stretch of our trip. While I was staying at the camp site, Nik and Dominique went shopping together with Mr. Fahri. The rest of day was dedicated to the internet and finally the search for the bike was very successful. At 5 o’clock in the afternoon the manager of the camping knocked on my door and 3 heads pushed through the door – the truck drivers! We went to the customs area, unloaded the bike, paid the guys and left for dinner in the old part of the town. The menus are very limited during Ramadan as no one is going out for dinner. But the streets are still full of people... and the end of the Ramadan is very close which will bring all the life back to town. Rather late we hit the road towards Djanet. My tape around the shoulder had to be renewed and Dominique tightened the elastic tape until it broke and I stared crying of pain. But it was really tight and gave me a feeling of security that the collar bone wouldn’t move. As we wanted to leave, Dominique couldn’t engage the first gear. What the hack was going on now? We desperately looked for a mechanic who could help us. As it was the end of the Ramadan no one wanted to work and the only advice we got was that it was the sproket of the first gear and that we shouldn’t worry. Just continue and in case you get stuck in sand, use the gear reduction. Well we continued and on the main road we found out that the fifth gear wasn’t working either. Fortunately we wouldn’t use it until we reach Djanet. Out of 5 gears, only 3 were working and the 2nd and reverse gear were difficult to engage! It was really time to get home as long as things were still working. The road was terrible, in particular after we left the tarmac, and the scenery boring. We camped about 5kms West of Hirzafok behind some big rocks. The temperature dropped and the wind started off. I was forced to sleep in the car which was a huge project with my shoulder. I hardly slept this night and turned around several times which killed my shoulder. We enjoyed the morning and slowly got going. We reached Ideles after about 2 hours and drove passed the village on the Eastern side.
Some kids came running towards the car and were screaming “Donnez moi un stylo”. We slowly drove past them and suddenly we heard the sound of breaking glass. Nik jammed on the brakes, got out of the car, chased them until he got the first one. Poor kid as he got some punches and then Nik let him go as he thought nothing was broken. As I let him know that the rear window was broken, he left again looking for the kid who had thrown the stone. In the meantime the locals realized what had happened and assured us that the damage would be covered. Anyway they insisted that the case was reported to the police, We ad settled the damage for 3000Dinar with the locals. They had to collect the money among themselves. All this happened after the Ramadan was over and everyone was celebrating. We continued our journey towards Serouenout and camped on the way after having passed the dead VW bus where we left our message: - Broken gearbox, just 2nd, 3rd and 4th - Slipping bike clutch - Broken collar bone ligaments - Two mentally sick
All this after 6 months travelling through Africa – we will definitely make it to go skiing at X-mas – Inshallah! After a freezing cold night and some warm sunlight in the morning we continued our journey towards Serouenout. We decided to take a direct line from our camp spot to the track which was a bit of a rough ride as we had to cross many small ripples which were caused by heavy rains. Dominique drove in front and as we caught up with him, we heard a spraying noise and water started dripping from the engine. What was going on now again? We opened the hood and discovered a leak in the cooler hose. Strange, we thought and checked the hose. What a surprise that we discovered that the hose had been mounted incorrectly by the mechanics in Arlit and that one fan belt wheel was touching the hose... Serouenout consisted only of a police station with 10 brand new Landcruisers that are used to clamp down on illegal smuggling activities (cigarettes). So far we enough GPS waypoints that described the route, but now the next GPS point was 160kms ahead! The police gave us roughly the direction and we simply had to head East in order to reach Djanet – as simple as that. Fortunately there were many tracks heading East that we could follow. We camped in small dunes 50kms East of Serouenout. Just as we were about to stop the car we got stuck and had to use our sand lad-
ders in order to get out again. Dominique prepared a “Gala Dinner” with ratatouille, lamb fillet and butternut. We have been carrying the butternut since we left Nairobi! Finally everything comes to an end! Unfortunately there wasn’t any tin foil left and therefore the butternut wasn’t perfectly cooked and the lamb fillet wasn’t really tender... anyway we enjoyed it! After another 100kms of gravel desert of the Admer plain we had to look for our way approaching the dunes of the Erg Admer. We had two GPS waypoints which we had to check in order to find the dune entry. The first waypoint was actually the exit of the route coming from Djanet and wed didn’t dare entering as you probably can enter but not exit... so we decided to go the the other waypoint 17kms further North. This route seemed easier and we entered the first 200m high dune. Four wheel drive and low range gears allowed us to crawl up the dune. The landscape was really dramatic. Sand, sand and once more sand surrouneded us. We felt like kids with a small shovel in a indefinite big sand box! After the first dune we entered a dune valley, unfortunately this should be our last dune of our trip. The colors of the dunes changed with the day time, from very light beige to dark brown in the late afternoon. In Djanet we checked in at the hotel Zeribas which offered as well camping. Shortly after our arrival two 10t trucks with German and Swiss number plates entered the camping. We started chatting to them and were immediately offered an ice-cold beer, the first one in weeks! Together the two couples had come down the Grand Erg Oriental from Hassi Messaoud. This is about 300kms of pure dunes! They could give us some GPS waypoints in case we wanted to travel a similar route with a bit less dunes. Unfortunately my floppy drive stopped working and I couldn’t download their GPS tracks. Slowly Djanet woke up with all kinds of different noises. It was Sunday and everything was slower than usual. We read our books, chatted to the two couples and enjoyed a relaxed morning as we planned to leave in the afternoon in order to camp somewhere in the dunes outside Djanet. Dominique prepared a wonderful lamb leg on the fire in the desert, surrounded by dunes. Absolute silence and millions of stars, including a few satellites watched us falling asleep. Soon our trip would end. A sad feeling filled our minds... Fortunately we didn’t know that in January 2004 some 30-40 tourists would be kidnapped in the same area. They were kept by the terrorists for about 3 months before they were released after special forces stormed their camp. From now on we could travel on tarmac which made life a lot easiern. The ride through the Tassili N’Ajjer was very curvy and bumpy.
The scenery was quite boring, all along we crossed a rocky plateau. We reached Illizi before sunset and left after sunset as we had to do some shopping. As it got dark we drove off the road and camped in a sand quarry. Hopefully no one would disturbe us early in the morning like in Mozambique. We continued the ride and climbed another plateau. The landscape didn’t change – pure stone desert. We camped about 90kms before Deb-Deb, the border town to Libya and the beginning of the Grand Erg Oriental. This is also where the bike’s rear suspension broke down. The bike was finally finished and we decided to tow it back to Switzerland. The track across the Grand Erg Oriental was rather sandy as the road was full of potholes and the central section covered with sand which made deviations necessary. Soon we realized why there was this road. Black smoke and blazing flames came out of tall cheminees – black gold! As usual we camped just off the road and managed to gather some wood to start a fire. Later this night we were visited by an army patrol as we were in an oil exploration area. We expected some complications but they only wanted to know what we were up to and left after 10 minutes. We reached Hassi Messaoud, the oil exploration capital of Algeria. Without problems we passed numerous police controls. It took us some time until we found some accomodation as all camp sites were either closed or far away from the city centre. Finally we camped in the parking lot of the hotel Petrolier and could use their showers. In the evening we wandered across the town which was in a reasonable state. There were still no alcohol and pubs around, but at least we found an Internet cafe. We drove from Hassi Messaoud to El Oued, one of the largest plam tree oasis, and camped outside the town in one of the palm tree plantations. As we were ab it short of money we had to change some money in the Hotel Palace Ritane through some friends of the receptionist. The following day we just drove a few kilometers to the border. Every time we had crossed a village from Hassi onwards the kids made movements to throw stones at us. Slowing down and pulling a face was very helpful and the kids got scared. We still haven’t found an answer for this behaviour.
UPDATE 19, 21st OF DECEMBER The actual driven route is indicated in black. The red spots indicate places/villages where we either stopped or stayed over night. The details are explained in the Update text itself.
The entry into Tunisia went without problem. We decided to head East towards Sfax, the 2nd largest town in Tunisia. According to the travel books there’s no other reason for travellers to visit Sfax than the medina or the fact that it serves as a transit town towards Libya. We arrived after sunset and checked in at the Youth Hostel “Maison des Jeunes”. Sfax was civilisation again and we were so happy to do some window shopping, enjoying the movies and drink a few beers in the city centre. After dinner in a 2nd class pizzeria we found a local drinking
hole. We realized on thing immediately: if Tunisians start drinking, they don’t stop... and one guy didn’t stop patting / hitting my shoulder. I really got angry but he still thought that he was funny – a typical side effect of being drunk! Fortunately he left after Dominique told him to piss off. Afterwards we enjoyed the movie Kull which was an absolute disaster, seldomly we had seen such a bad Hollywood movie! Before we went to bed we checked the Internet for updates. Apart from disasters, war threats and killings we didn’t find anything special!
Hammamet was the next and 2nd last destination on the African continent. It’s one of the main tourist destinations in Tunisia. After some troubles we found the city centre with its medina located at the shore of the sea. But we didn’t find the camp site because it didn’t exist anymore. The camp site was moved outside town and we decided to check in after a few drinks. The few drinks became a few bottles of white wine, dinner (instead of Dominique’s chicken curry!) and a night of clubbing in the middle of the week during low season. Many pictures were taking at the restaurant... Anyway later we had fun telling the people in the Europa bar that we have been training for the Rallye Dakar and that we had to cancel the rallye because I broke my collar bone ligaments. Nik was the mechanic, Dominique the cook and our car was full of spare parts! After the Europa bar we headed for the Galaxy nightclub where we stayed until early in the morning although there weren’t hardly any people. Of course we couldn’t drive to the camp site and simply pitched our tent in the parking where we had left it in the beginning of the evening. The view of the bay and the medina was splendid when we woke up late in the morning. Surprisingly no one asked us to move... After breakfast we drove to Tunis and looked for accomodation. We tried the Youth Hostel in the medina and left the car in a parking
after a quest through the entire city. The Youth Hostel turned out to be a nightmare. Everyone was snoring, mobile phones were beeping and as a matter of fact Dominique got quite excited... and told old the people off during the whole night. Dinner was set in the parking lot as we still had the chicken left. We moved the car to a quiet spot in the parking, took out all our camping gear and had a delicious curry. “Pêche originel” with Antonio Banderas and Angelina Jolie was on the movies after dinner. The movie wasn’t a real highlight. We got the tickets for the ferry the next day and found a Toyota garage where we could get our gear box repaired. In the afternoon we went for lunch to “La Goulette”, a touristy suburb. Dominique headed back to the medina while Nik and myself visited different suburbs. “La Carthage with its Romain sites, “Lar Marsa” et “Gammarth” with its restaurants and hotels. We met again in the hotel. The taxi driver could only think of one Italian restaurant “La Mamma” – in fact there wasn’t any other Italian restaurant. Long discussions about the difference in behaviour between the students of the Hotel Management School and the Institue of Technology closed the evening. There wasn’t a real conclusion! On the corner to the Avenue de France a strange person started talking to us and offered us any kind of help – if we needed drugs, women
or men, he could organise everything. We decided to have a beer with him... Our second last day in Tunisia was filled with individual programs as each and everyone enjoyed to do something on his own. Dominique strolled through the medina and enjoyed a Hamman bath. Nik took advantage of the cheap prices to get the car cleaned and I strolled through the city in search of a internet cafe. By chance Nik and myself met up in a restaurant where we had a very long discussion with a Tunisian journalist who had lived for 34 years in Europe on Israel, Palestine, its connectioni with terrorism and the Islam. His attitude towards the Israel – Palestine problem was scary... in his opinion the Americans are responsible for all problems and terrorism is legimate to reach your own goals! On our last day on the African continent we only had to board the ferry to Italy. The Habib was a comfortable boat with two restaurants, 2 bars and a nightclub. Dominique tried to get an upgrade for a “De Luxe cabin”, unfortunately it didn’t work out but we got a 2nd cabin for free. We passed the rest of the afternoon in the nightclub watching TV. After dinner we went again to the nightclub but hardly anybody was there and we went to bed early.
toms stopping us after 30’000kms telling us to leave the bike behind. We came up with various scenarios from leaving the bike in Chiasso to driving the bike across the border etc. I opted to simply rock up and see what happens. We were surprised by the quick appearance of the customs and simply didn’t have any other choice than to drive across with the bike being towed. No problem what so ever. We had to buy a very expensive insurance and continued the last leg of our journey on Swiss soil. We didn’t experience any problems at all and it was a smooth ride back home. We were in continuous contact with our beloved ones to announce our exact arrival time. Finally we arrived shortly after midnight in Schuepfen, after almost 7 months and 33’000kms. We did it and we can be very proud of it – it was an unforgettable experience and no one can take it from us – well done! Hey guys, looking forward to seeing you soon at one of these fascinating ancient archaeological sites! Dominique
According to schedule we arrived in Genua. Luckily we could buy the necessary light bulbs for the bike in order to get the rear bike lamp working. During the crossing we had long discussions on how to get the bike into Switzerland. We were too scared about the Swiss cus-
Tra nsafrica Ed i t i o n 2 010 – 02 –28