It took some explaining before we could take this picutre of Nicolas with the priest
at one of the famous churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia.
Lit by a candle, this priest burns a couple of candles to wish Nicolas the best in his healing.
It was a tough climb for John, Nicolas and I up to the top of Mount Sinai
(Moses Mountain), Egypt. Very rewarding and at the end of the day we had climbed 4,700 stairs.
Time for some shopping with Nicolas.
It has been Nicolas' long wish to visit Mount Sinai, this time he had to settle for a hat.
More souvenirs for the man.
As we were shopping around with Nicolas one shopkeeper noticed that Flat Nicolas had a small
tear in the lamination. He immediately asked if he could fix this with some tape, very sweet gesture indeed.
A Bedouin at the entrance to the Saint Catherine's Monastery welcomes us with a good smile.
As seen from our hotel rooms the Pyramids of Giza, Egypt.
Sharm el-Sheikh on the southern part of the Sinai Peninzula was perfect for swimming.
After a long day on the road we all needed a rest.
On the shores of the Red Sea, Nicolas meets a family from Russia and suggests that they play a little together.
Cape to Pairs 2014
Having the Marsabit road behind us was a great achievement and relief. The Marsabit road is the stretch between Nairobi, Kenya, and the border to Ethiopia. Up through the years this stretch of road has been famous for its terrible conditions and quite frankly has interrupted many an expedition with mechanical breakdowns. Lately it has also been an area of fears fighting among local tribes and for this reason the ongoing roadwork has been further delayed.
We arrive at the border town of Moyale an early afternoon and decide to get a late lunch before we attached the border crossing. Two years prior I had stayed at The Hotel in town so I knew it had a restaurant. It was here that we met Dmitriy from Kazakstan traveling the world on a BMW LT. The day before we had met his chase vehicle and that way kind of knew their story of this around the world expedition. Vladimir, the English speaking person of the trio, had filled us in on the inns and outs of their journey, but as they say there are always two sides to a story. Dmitriy swept in on us as we were getting our lunch served. Before we knew it he had us go through a thick picture album of himself and his bike at different corners of the world and as soon as we were coming to the end of this album he brought out his iPhone and starting to play videos from his journeys. Busy watching the videos we were offered decals of his new journey around the world to decorate our bikes. Lunch were getting cold and to be honest this was way over the top of self promotions on a first meeting and we could no longer be polite, we had a border to cross.
As we left the hotel and headed for the Ethiopia border the chase vehicle with Vladimir arrived from the South, covered in mud. We took a few pictures together, see below start of my Gallery, and wished each other best of luck. But before we left Vladimir came up to me and said, “do you now see what I were telling you about my Boss”, I did I told him and we parted ways. They started to once again load his bike on the trailer, the only way to “ride” a LT in this part of the world.
Leaving Kenya behind we also switch to riding on the right side of the road and enjoyed the luxury of tarmac roads. Some placed there were more potholes than tarmac and to be honest I always enjoyed a good gravel road for any tarmac road, regardless of condition of the road. My wish came through as we turned of from the main road leading to the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, and headed due west.
Our detour would for the coming days take us to the South Western part of the country called the Omo Valley. Unfortunately we did not have enough time to discovery all of the Omo Valley, but the little we did see was very interesting. Personally I really enjoy meeting and learning from and about the local tribes and in this part of the world there are many. The roads however can get a little technical and rather difficult when it is raining.
With a US embargo on Sudan traveling though that country obtaining a visa can be difficult. On the 2012 Cape to Cairo Expedition we had learned a few tricks and made some good connections so this time getting a visa for Dan and John was no problem. We collected our Sudan visas at the Sudan Embassy in Addis Ababa and had dinner with Flavio that evening so that we could plan our upcoming tracks to the north of the country. Flavio has a motorcycle company called Africa Riding Adventures, he has rental bikes and some great rides to offer, check his web page.
With the visa out of the way we continued our tracks north to Lalibela. As you will see from the photo Gallery I have a good collection of pictures from this very special place. Perhaps the most famous of them all is the church that is literally carved in to the mountain or perhaps I should say carved down in to the mountain. A long carved trench is the entrance to the church and when you arrive at the doorstep you cannot believe that this has been hand carved. It is an unbelievable sight that no picture and or video can really convey.
As you might have noticed from my photography I do enjoy interacting with people and in Lalibela there were plenty of opportunities to do just so. Once again we had a great guide that were able to take us to the highlights of Lalibela, but to see it all you would need several days.
But the show must go on and in preparations for our further travels to northern Ethiopia we needed gasoline. The local station had non and asking around in the village the situation did not look good at all, would we be stuck in Lalibela until next delivery truck would arrive? No worries, we knew the way to go about this, just put out the word that we would pay three times the price of official gasoline price and before we knew it our tanks were filled to the brim.
The road north was a rough gravel road filled with potholes and washboard, but beautiful in nature with big scenic vistas and small villages.
In the photo gallery below you will see several pictures of the very famous Gelada Mountain Monkeys. We hired an armed guide, required for this activity, and went for a leisurely hike in the Simien Mountains. The purpose was to see the Gelada Monkeys and we sure did, what a wonderful experience. Being surrounded by dozens of Gelada’s and gently follow them as they were grassing was quite entertaining, how lucky we were for this experience.
Before leaving Ethiopia and starting our tracks in Sudan I have to tell you a little about why we had had enough of Ethiopia and could not leave fast enough. Please keep in mind that Ethiopia has tons of incredible experiences and beautiful people, but unfortunately it also have this dark side.
There is only one other country that I have had some of the same experiences and that is in Somalia. So what is the problem you wonder, well for some reason or the other riding in Ethiopia you soon learn that you are a moving target for stone throwing young kids. Yes, you read right, we had stones thrown at us from the day we entered the country until the day we left. Believe me I have analyzed this, looked at it from any angel imaginable and talked to local people and other travelers about the issue and have yet to come with an a explanation. There were places that were better and there were places that made us paranoid looking out for the next kid that would through a rock at you and your bike. This happened only when we were riding and when we turned around to confront the kids they always would run away.
I am not going to beat this issue to death here, but it is a valid concern for anyone traveling overland in Ethiopia, even a German family in their 4x4 with four kids told us that Ethiopia had tested them to the point that they were relived to cross the border to Sudan.
Sudan, after Ethiopia, was like night and day. The border was hot, flat and desert like and so would the coming weeks be as we crossed Sudan on our way to Egypt. Roads were good, people very friendly and almost shy compared to what we have had. We had definitely come to a Muslim country where most men were dressed in white and call for prayer was part of the daily routine. Sudan is also a country that is now suffering from having lost much of its wealth, read oil, to South Sudan. This just happened a few years ago when the country were divided in to South Sudan and Sudan and I could feel the effect of the changes in prices from having been there just two years back.
To us it felt as if our Sudan experience was more of a transit part of the journey. We had a tight deadline for the ferry to Egypt and there were really not too much to be seen on the way to the ferry.
Yes, the dreaded ferry crossing to Egypt. To be a over lander you have only one choice and that is to put your vehicle on a barge in Wadi Halfa and take a separate ship across Lake Nasser. The journey itself is about 18 hours and your destination will be Aswan, Egypt. We were a little worried about leaving our bikes behind and crossing in to Egypt with the promise that the bikes would follow the next day or so. To cope with our anxiety I made sure that our InReach SE satellite transmitter was fully charged and mounted on my bike. The InReach SE is the device that you have seen on the main page of this journal plotting our tracks across Africa. This way we were able to track the barge with the bikes from the comfort of our hotel in Aswan and by doing so we would know exactly when the barge with the bikes arrived. You got to love high tech some times.
As we are doing our custom clearing of our bikes in Aswan we once again run in to the Kazakhstan motorcycle expedition. The poor guys have been stuck in customs for over a week. Fortunately for us we were able to get the bikes after only two days of red tape.
Highlights on our Egypt journey were Luxor, Giza, Cairo and to my surprise the Sinai Peninsula. We had a few incidents were we had to be escorted by police, but for the most part we were free to ride wherever we chose. Two days prior to our venture in to the Sinai Peninsula three bombs had gone off and one of them were a suicide bomber on a buss. We passed the burned out skeleton of that buss as we were riding south to Sharm el-Shake. Were we afraid, I don’t think so, more alert, absolutely. But as our Egyptian friend Omar told us in a text message that day wishing us good luck; “Remember guys, a bombing is rarely followed by another bombing, ride safe."
After a couple of days enjoying the beaches along the Red Sea and doing some snorkeling Dan took of for Aqaba, Jordan, to meet his wife where she would arrive to join us for a few weeks. John and I go for a hike to the top of Mount Sinai, also called Moses Mountain. We have a Bedouin guide lead us up the very steep and rocky mountain. This is a hike where your shoes better fit snug and your stamina should be good. After all we were told that the venture involved some 4,700 steps and these were steps made out of rocks on steep hills. Despite or perhaps because of the hardship of the hike we loved every bit of it. John had rented a walking stick that gave him powers assembling Moses and he soon brought thunder and lightening to the sky. That night it rained like it had not rained for a long time on the Sinai Peninsula.
The following morning we were unable to leave Santa Catarina because of flooded roads. The whole region was flooded, but in the afternoon the police opened the road and we could continue our journey to Jordan. Imagine if John’s walking stick had not been a rental.
Thanks for following along and we will see you in the final chapter as we enter Jordan on the way to Paris.