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--- News and reports ---

 

Nr.III: AFRICA NORTH

04.04.2007 - 17.09.2007 (Equator)

 

17.09.2007, Nanyuki (Kenya): We are leaving Addis southwards. Strange, but the rains are never catching us while biking :-) We stop for a day in Awassa - for us the most relaxed city in Ethiopia. Afterwards it is really going for business. It is extremly hilly (physically exhausting) and for several days there is no minute (we have checked on our watches) without ten to hundred children "you-you-youing" and running after us (psycological exhausting). Anyway, people seem to be much less aggressive here than they were further north. Not a single stone was ever thrown after us! On the last three days before the kenian border it becomes dry and fairly unpopulated - oh gosh, how relaxing! Crossing the border is easy. Driving on the left side now and the asphalt stops. 534 kilometers of dirtroad ahead - that is the "Trans East African Highway"! Big gravel, fine gravel, big stones, small stones, sand and dust. Almost impossible to drive on that stuff. On our worst day we had an average of only 6 km/h and just 50 kilometers done in the evening. In addition to the roadconditions we are facing heavy headwinds, hundreds of Tse-Tse-flies are always around us and the desert heat of more that 40 degrees. Only a few villages on our way where we can get water, basic food and can sleep at missions and schools. In the middle of the track we reach Marsabit. We are stopping for two days and relax our legs. Then we hit the bumpy path again. After altogether 10 days we reach Isiolo and the asphalt starts again. People are friendly along our way and compared to Ethiopia it is almost a holiday to pass through villages. We skip our idea to climb Mt. Kenia due to the permanent bad weather on the mountain - heavy rainfalls every day - and keep heading south. At Nanyuki we cross over the Equator. From Northcape to here it is 15.000 kilometers :-)

  

  


23.08.2007, Addis Ababa (Ethiopia): Since a couple of days we are back in Ethiopia at the Schmidt Family's place (http://www.schmidt-familie.net/), maintening our bikes. We enjoy the african flair of Addis und visit the "Center for Mentally Challenged Children", where Christoph Schmidt is working (see Help for Africa). The rainy-season is not finished yet (as we were dreaming of) and enormous rainfalls are going down for hours/days, flooding everything. Anyway, we will start biking southwards tomorrow. 800 kilometers more of "You, you, you..." until the kenian border...

   


10.08.2007, Graz (Austria) - "Holiday": Rain is pooring day and night in Ethiopia - rainy season has started. Spontanuously we are leaving the thunders behind us. We are working for a month to supplement our accounts and make a stop at home in Austria, for a very special celebration: we get married on the 04th of August in Graz :-) On the 15th of August we will get back to Addis - hoping for the end of the rainy season - and continue cycling southwards. Now our Worldtour has eventually become our honeymoon...

 

   


13.06.2007, Addis Ababa (Ethiopia): After some relaxing days we are leaving Gondar towards the south. The road is in good condition. Suddenly we bump into a solo-cyclist coming the other way. It is Alvaro from Spain (see bikers we met). "Ethiopa is hell on earth!", he says, "Everyday kids are throwing stones after me. I am really glad to be out of this country soon! Good luck you two!" Yes, Ethiopia has a very bad reputation amongst long distance bikers: Stonethrowing children, kids threatening you with their sticks, halvlings yanking on your bags. Permanently the annoying "You! You! You!" and "Give me... money, pen, T-shirt!" and the barked or screamed "Farengi! Farengi!", which means as much as "foreigner" or "white nigger". Everybody is begging. As cycling through Ethiopia is the only possible north to south route in eastern Africa, we have to face this challenge and experience the following: In order to "greet" us, people open their hands: "Give money!", "Give pen!", "You! Give...!" Cycling through villages is tiring. Hordes of children are screaming "Youyouyouyouyouyouyou... Farengi! Give me... Give me... Give me...!!" Yes, it is annoying! And it is sad to see, that development assistance sometimes has negative effects such as changing a proud nation into a beggar's society. Education is definitly what is missing most in this country. Especially regarding the social aspects how to behave towards and live together with others and foreigners. People fighting each other in the center of town, which - since it is so common - nobody cares about or some stones thrown to back off children are normal course of life. Therefore it is understandable that kids are picking up stones and hit them on a "farengi" if this "white nigger" is not handing over the "pen" they were yelling for. The tactics bikers use while approaching crowds of children are varying. Some are using clubs to keep the little ones away from the bikes. Others are plugging their ears with a MP3-player and are trying the "close your eyes and keep going" method. We are pining our hope on smiling, waving and talking. We are also not using sunglasses in order to have more eye-contact with the children. Almost everyone is greeted and forced to greet us back. Seeing kids ahead, looking like stone-throwers, we get slower and try to catch them into some conversation. Usually this works. Sometimes chatting with the kids - while they are running with us for several kilometers uphill - turns out being very nice and entertaining. So far we had stones thrown after us just five times, and all in all we had far more positive than negative experiances with the Ethiopians. We definitely had scruple and were a bit scared before entering Ethiopia, but we were surprised in a positive way. Anyhow, it is very sad that the permanent begging and the sometimes agressive behaviour of children makes us close our eyes in anger and makes it hard to see the beauty of the country and the friendlyness of people - which can definitely be found here. The road leads us to Bahir Dar, where we take a break from biking for a day and join a boattrip on lake Tana, to visit some of the famous monasteries. During the next days of riding the road is winding its way across many hills until a steep escarpment: 1500 meters down into the Nile-gorge. This would be the greatest downhill ride of the whole country, if there was asphalt! 22 kilometers down and 20 kilometers steep uphill on the other side on an uncomfortable bumpy and dusty dirt road. This section takes us a whole day! Back on paved ground the road is leading us even higher up to more than 3000 meters above sealevel! The climate is nice and enjoyable. We almost forget about the 50 degrees of the sudanese desert. With joy we realise: time to put on socks! Afternoon thunderstorms (rain season is starting) are the order of the day. Because of that we start with the daylight at 06:00 AM. This comprises more than one advantage: Firstly when the rain starts in the afternoon we have already reached our target, secondly in the early mornings the roads are almost free of children and the grown ups are still sleepwalking. After a long and exhausting ride (not only physically, also mentally) we reach Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital. We stay as guests in the house of the Schmidts (a six-headed german family) and enjoy the european mentality...

 

   


28.05.2007, Gondar (Ethiopia): We are leaving Khartoum southwards. It is the first time of heavy traffic on sudanese roads. Trucks with up to 12 pairs of wheels, which remind us of the australian road-trains. Only a few times the situation gets a bit hairy, when a bus - coming towards us - passes a truck, while a minibus is passing us. But all in all other trafficers are nice and kind to us, passing us with big distance, waving and smiling out of the windows and showing us the thombs up. We meet three other ciclists (see bikers we met) and exchange stories. The sudanese hotel-culture is down on deepest bottom: Cockroachy dumps with disgusting smelly "shitholes" which meant to be toilets. We are happy to turn towards the ethiopian border. Almost no traffic and the country is mainly uninhabited and good for camping. Temperatures reach around 45-50 degrees, uncomfortable hot. Our last night on sudanese ground we spend camping between some thorny bushes beside the road. Since we didn't have rain for the last couple of months, we don't pay attention to the cloudy things accumulating in the sky above us. And suddenly we are in the middle of an enormous thunderstorm. Once across the border the surroundings are getting greener and greener and afternoon thunderstorms more and more common. Temperatures are nicely going down with every kilometer we make. On the first 200 kilometers in Ethiopia we are driving on a dirt road towards the town Gondar. During night we are stopping in small villages along the way, and during day we are climbing higher and higher to the ethiopian highlands - up to 2500 meter sea level. Crowds of yelling children are running with us, while we are pushing our bikes uphill with 5 km/h through villages of roundhuts. Since we crossed the border, people's mentality has changed drastically. The friendly "Hello! How are you? Welcome!" is shifting to a (by grown ups) loudly barked "You!". Children shout an endless "Youyouyouyouyouyouyouyou..." in order to catch our attention. Greeting and waving usually just comes as a response to our Hello's. The Ethiopians almost never greet first. Instead they are begging immediately. Blithely and permanent. Grandfathers, grandmothers, parents and of course the crowds of kids, all are opening their hands, when the white cyclists - dripping off sweat and being exhausted - are slowly hopping the dirt road uphill. They want "money", "pen", "T-shirt" and "Highland" (the local bottled water) - yes, do they really think that we are carrying loads of that stuff with us? Motorised traffic does almost not exist. Most Ethiopians are walking. It also seems that the wheel is not yet invented. Everything is carried. Loggs, firewood, water-canister, the plough to the field, small animals such as chicken to the market which is held in the village 10 km away. Larger animals walk themselves. Herdes of cattle, sheep and goats are walking on and across the road. Often it seems more like manoevering through an obstacle course than riding on one of the main roads of the country! Shortly before Gondar we are on paved road again - Hurray! A belgian couple - Lea and Kobe - is literally picking us off the road. They are cyclists (see bikers we met) who are living in Gondar now, helping in a social project for orphants (see help for Africa). It is shocking how many street-kids and beggars there are in this small town. Ethiopian poverty is always and everywhere visible...

  

 


14.05.2007, Khartoum (Sudan): Before lunchtime we are already sitting on the upper deck of the passenger ferry from Aswan (Egypt) across lake Nasser to Wadi Halfa (Sudan). The boat should depart at midday. An illusion! Until everything (boxes, bags and humans) is on board and ready to go it is half past 5. On deck piles of everything that made it up there during the last hours. Everything has found its place. People are sitting and lying between the load. Including us! But the atmosphere is good, people are friendly and we get stuffed with their lunches. On half a square meter each – we are trying to find some sleep during the night. In the morning we are passing the temple of Abu Simbel and reach Wadi Halfa around lunchtime. Waiting again! Three hours later we are allowed to leave the ship. Entering Sudan is surprisingly easy – nobody wants us to put the bikes into an x-ray machine and not even our bags seem to be interesting enough to take a look inside. Welcome to Sudan! We are staying at the Wadi Nil Hotel – sand floor, the stuffing half way out of the mattress, no fan. Its hot like crazy! The next large village on our way is Dongola, 450 kilometers away. Yes, there is something to drive on – but not to be called a road! There is a dirt track, varying from sand to stone to humps. Its never good to drive. We use seven days to manage this part. Our average is 64.4 kilometers per day – on the best it was 81 and on the worst just 40. We ride,  pull and drag the bikes southwards. The first two days we are just in the desert, later on the Nile which offers more possibilities to find shade and water. Temperatures reach the upper 40s and on early afternoons its almost impossible to continue with “dragging the bikes through the sand”. We take a break and cool down by swimming in the Nile. From the second day on we are passing through beautiful small villages. There is water – usually dirty soup from the Nile – and small kiosks. People in Sudan are extremely friendly. All the time we get invited for tea, we are asked if we are hungry, two times we are staying overnight at families, who are picking us from the “road” in the evening. Also the Egyptian feeling of having to pay exaggerated tourist prices all the time is fading. And since we left the ferry at Wadi Halfa, there are suddenly women again - in shops, on the streets and in restaurants. It is nice to be in a more liberal society again. After seven days of eating dust and a dirt track that sucked on our energy, we reach Dongola, the first real small town on our way to Khartoum. “Where are you coming from?” are people shouting from beside the road. “We come from hell!” we reply with a smile. After a day of  break we are pushing the pedals again. We know that the road is under construction for the next 200 kilometers and not nice to ride. After that there are finally 350 kilometers of asphalt ahead. We are much faster than expected. A stormy tailwind lets us disappear in the dust but pushes us in only three days through the desert to Khartoum. Here in the capital we have to bear the always and everywhere Sudanese heat, the dust and chaotic traffic.  But on the other hand there is the joy of air condition, water in the shower and a friend from Thessaloniki, who is hosting us for a couple of days. Having the Ethiopian Visa in our passports we are heading southwards…



29.04.2007, Aswan (Egypt): Just a short ride of two days and we reach Aswan our southernmost point in Egypt. The only way to Sudan is by taking the weekly ferry across lake Nasser. To get tickets for this ride was hard work but finally we got them. Last evening in Egypt and tomorrow we will start sailing towards a new country. Hundreds of kiometers of sandy dirtroad ahead of us and temperatures already in the 40s...

  


 

25.04.2007, Luxor (Egypt): After watching the Sphinx (like thousands of other tourists too) for long enough, changing Philipps gear rings and having the sudanese visa in our pockets, we are leaving our nice suburb-domicil in Cairo and start for our next big hop "Cairo-Capetown". It is windy. After the first kilometers sand is blown up from the ground and minutes later a hurricane-like sandstorm is hitting the city. Biking is impossible and after 20 kilometers in total and one and a half hour ouside, we are - exhausted an sandcrusted - back to our starting point. The second start - a day later - is more sucessful and we are rolling towards the Red Sea. Tailwinds are nicely pushing us south along the coast. We reach Hurgada. Probably once it was a marvellous beach and a phantastic desert landscape. Today it appears as a accumulation of tourist-bunkers and almost naked sea-and-sun-tourists stalking around town. Beside this scarved women and man in frocks. Two worlds are bouncing against each other! We are escaping into the desert. Quiet nights under the stars. But during the day the heat is almost unbearable. Police-check-points. One after the other. On Sinai they were annoying. On the Red Sea amusing. And between Hurgarda and Luxor a pain in the ass. Tourist-convoi-obligation on the whole way. On purpose we are starting right after the convoi had left. Stop! Showing the passports. Valeska is taking the group of young-policemen. Unconscionable brainless staring on one side, giving the cold shoulder on the other. Philipp is dealing with the "master and commander" himself - propably he would have preferred to be a young-policeman today :-) The discussion is started and after a hundred times of, "Egypt people are best people - my friend!", friendly smiling, "My friend - no problem with bicycle in Egypt." and "We never went in convoi - my friend.", he returms our passports and we are allowed to continue without any police following us. From the opposite direction hundreds of busses, minibusses and taxi in convoi are coming towards us until we reach Luxor. Lush vegetation all over: Palm-trees, flowers, green fields. We are at the Nile, out of the desert.

   

We are staying as guests in the hotel "Villa Al Diwan" - an invitation of the manager. It is a luxury oasis with great Nile-views, away from the tourist-masses of the city, located in a village on the westbanks. www.al-diwan.fr

   


11.04.2007, Cairo (Egypt): We are speeding down 1200 meters of altitude from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea. After the chilly days in Israels capital, sweat is running down our bodies when we are on the lowest point on earth at -400 meters. Israel is by far the country where we are pushing the most meters uphill in the shortest timespan. After a bath in the Dead Sea, which reminds us more on soaking vegetables in salt-leach, we are again pushing another 1200 meters up until we reach the higher areas of the country. It is dry and warm and we are hiking for a day through gorges and canyons. While our first desert storms are howling in the streets, we are guests in the desert university of Ben Gurion. Then we are cruising down to Eilat on the Red Sea. We dont have a visa for Egypt (jet). In Amman and in Tel Aviv we were told that we dont need one. We didn't believe it and spent half a day to get to the egyptian embassy in Amman. But they didn't give us a visa ("You will get it on the border!") and sent us out on the street again. Finally now in Eilat they tell us that we - of course - need a visa, so we spend another day with getting it. By the way Eilat is an awful city - a mixture of Miami Beach and a redneckbeach in Italy. Before we are allowed to enter Egypt on the 04.04.2007 we experiance a great bordercheck and all (!) our luggage is opend and we have to explain what a leatherman-tool and a spare-chain are and how to use these strange things. On Sinai we decide to take the northern desert-route. Beautiful deserted landscapes and almost no traffic. Only us, our buzzing bikes, the sun (who is getting more and more our enemy) and ...SANDSTORMS! "Khansim" are these fellows with up to 150 km/h windspeed called. They occure mainly in May and April. Great timing! There is an average of four of these per month. And we experience two of them so far... The first starts in the afternoon and we want to escape into our tent. With the temperature of 35 degrees and the hot desert wind our tent becomes an oven. With the perspective of dying by overheating under the canvas, we prefer to sit beside it in the storm and wait for the sun to go down. The second storm is also catching us while we are on our way. Its almost impossible to bike, but we make it until Suez where we take a hotel with cold showers - but good enough to get off our bodies the coat of sunscreen, sand and dirt from the road . Since three days we are in Cairo - almost only running from one embassy to the other and back again. From Austria we need a letter of recommendation, from Sudan and Ethiopia a visa. That just needs some time...

   

   


  

   

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