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Turkey

 9-15th April 2014 Got out of Hatay airport, 40k from Iskenderun, our destination, at 10.30 pm with no booking for a hotel room. What to do? Well catch a bus into town and find a luxury hotel room for the price of a regular one, and discounted at that. I love Turkey already. People most friendly, helpful and not asking for a tip the whole time and the following is an example. The bus driver knew we didn’t have accommodation so he asked the passengers to help. An English speaking fellow translated, the bus driver rang ahead, we were met at the bus stop by a hotel employee, ATM’s galore (unguarded), got some money, short walk to the hotel.

16th April 2014 In the light of day Iskenderun is a delightful and modern seaside city surrounded by mountains, comparable at the very least to anything at home. Our car arrives tomorrow.

So far everything has worked out well for us considering the doubts about travelling any further north than Kenya. Some travellers did turn back but we have certainly been rewarded in persevering with our original plan. But, I had better not speak too soon as our car isn’t off the RO-RO yet.

17th April 2014 The formalities were completed with no problems but it took 8 ½ hours as our car was the last vehicle off the ferry. Got back to the hotel at 11pm.

Some items missing from the car. A springbok skin, Judy’s glasses, my sunnies and a roll of tape, reported to the police as a matter of record. Our Hotel Manager, Bilsay Gundogan could not have been more helpful, coming with us to the Police station to act as interpreter.

The detectives took it seriously enough to serve us numerous cups of sweet, Turkish tea and then driving us to the correct crime section.

18th April 2014 Drove most of the day on excellent motorways through pretty countryside. Turkey is a modern country with plenty of petrol stations, service centres, good internet and spotlessly clean.

19th April 2014 Woke up in Goreme, Cappadocia the land of Fairy Chimneys. These are volcanic (according to pamphlet. Looks like sedimentary to me) needles that have been burrowed out, in which people live. These structures surround the village and a unique scene it is. I have never seen anything like it and we will explore later, possibly by balloon.

Apparently the chimneys are both volcanic and sedimentary.

We are ensconced at the Panorama camp that, as the name suggests, looks over the entire valley.

Very windy today, no balloon flights.

20th April 2014 Balloons booked out due to the previous flight cancellations and took a tour instead.

They did look spectacular from our camp sight in the early morning, all two hundred of them.

21st April 2014 Turkey is Turiffic. Drove south toward the coast and warmer climes over large plains, most of which are cultivated. With imposing snow covered mountain ranges in the distance we descended to the coast through some very spectacular country to arrive at Akcakil Camp right on the Mediterranean coast, where we camp on a white pebble beach (they are really just big grains of sand), ready to look at the many old castles on this piece of coastline. It is early morning and already it is swimming weather here as I write this blog so I will write no more.

Later in the morning, as we left the campsite, we almost noticed some quizzical looks that the gardener and some other people along the road were giving us, and upon entering the motorway a strange flapping noise notified us that we had forgotten to pull the roof down, which made us look like an over-the-top speedway racer with the airfoil on top. Talk about a red face. I did notice, though, that it did improve the car’s roadholding abilities. Might leave it up.

24th April 2014 We are camped under the walls of Mamure Castle amongst not only gum trees but also wattle and bottlebrush. Just waiting for the wallaby to pop up.

There were already a Portuguese couple at the camp, who are cycling around the world, when the German couple from Cappadocia arrived and then another Portuguese couple, walking to Jerusalem, arrived pulling buggies complete with pet dog, not walking but sitting on the box. There are many ways to skin a cat.

A walk around the immediate locality led us around this formidable castle (largest on the Mediterranean) that originated in Roman times and then on through market gardens, one of which had a stall with very large punnets of mulberries and strawberries on offer. We took one of each but the stallholder would not accept any money.    I love Turkey.                     Gozleme for lunch.

25th April 2014 Anzac Day Lest we forget.

Tara emailed to us, as she called them, a plate of virtual Anzac biscuits. When I saw them I could taste them. Now what about the Anzac breakfast i.e. mashed potato and sausage?

We only motored for about 130 K’s today through winding, sea cliff roads with brunch at an eagle’s nest of a restaurant, ending at the very large tourist resort, Alanya. It is A1 as these places go and we have found a spot to stay overnight right by the Mediterranean shore in a nature reserve, overlooking the grand hotels and marinas. Camping is permitted.

We notice that there are a lot of signs here in Russian and when you look at the map you see it could well be a Russian tourist destination.

26th April 2014 Kind of stumbled upon Cirali. We are wild camped on the coast, a beach, which promises a geological freak in the form of flames issuing from the side of a mountain and to our left mount and village of Olympos (not Greece), complete with many archaeological offers such as necropoli, sarcophagi, Roman bath, theatre, crypt etc.

Tonight listening to a wedding across the road with live Turkish music, and these guy’s are good, complete with fireworks.

I love Turkey.

27th April 2014 Not disappointed with either of the above and ended up at the seaside town of Kas. The camping ground we were looking for was not open and we were directed to a horseshoe shaped cove with high cliffs all around on the edge of town. Several small shanty type of restaurants here and so I went into one to enquire about the camping. No problem and no charge the proprietor of one of the shanties, told me, but not only is the shower cold but it is also alfresco in full view of the beach. Oh well the price is right.

28th April 2014 Fantastic calcium deposits and pools at Pamukkale. Met a Dutch and Ukrainian couple at Tepes camp, a spectacular, mountain high, sleepover. We also re-met the next day, by chance, on the Med coast so we had to call ourselves Club Med.

2nd May 2014 I’ve been ruined.   No more ruins we said but just had to see Troy and yes the wooden horse is still there in amazingly good shape. The history and feature of every building there are presented in great detail but the legend of the Trojan horse is not even mentioned. We are getting so scrambled with knowledge e.g. Judy suggested we go and see a place we already saw two days ago.

Last night we stayed at Bates’s Motel (Psycho) meets the Hound of the Baskervilles     creeeeeeeepy     complete with run down amusement park next door, dogs howling, footsteps in the night etc.

Today drove up toward Gallipoli or Gelibolu, as it is called here, right along the Dardanelles, quite a narrow channel maybe 6k’s wide, very nice, wondering if there were a car ferry across to Gallipoli from Lapseki. I could not believe it. Arrived, turned left to the gate, paid AUD$15, on to the ferry, ½ hour, Gallipoli.

Couldn’t find Anzac Cove. That’s because it’s 40k south.

Now free camped on a beach 1k south of Anzac cove, looking into the sunset.

We found out the next day that camping is not permitted but nobody said anything to us.

I love Turkey.

3rd May 2014 Visited the places we have heard about every Anzac Day such as Lone Pine, The Nek, Chunuk Bair and saw the daunting terrain to give us both a new insight into this baptism of fire for Australia. A huge amount of Turks also visit this site, as it was a matter of survival for their country. They are magnanimous people.

4th May 2014 Took the long way along the Gallipoli Peninsula coast to Istanbul, through small villages with narrow lanes, as the main road, all a very pleasant drive. Istanbul is a city of fourteen million (metro) and how different to Cairo. Beautiful, well-planned city with civilised traffic and this is just the first impression.

We are now camped on the waterfront in the middle of town enjoying some aperitifs after walking around some of the cobbled lanes in this immediate locale. Not quite sure if we are in Europe or Asia Minor. Explore tomorrow.

Just checked, Europe.

5th May 2014 Car service and looked around the old city, huge Medina type of market, followed by a tram ride to a terminus and back to get a feel for the place, ending with dinner at a kitcheny, hole in the wall kind of restaurant playing blues music. Istanbul is a gem.

6th May 2014 At the Turkish border exit booth the officer greeted me as Michelle even before the car stopped, this was a change from the Marko I had been called throughout Africa but still I wondered how he knew my name. I guess the plate number was entered in their computer. I had read a similar story in a traveller’s blog and I think it may be one of their clever little jokes. Later on I also thought about how the tollway cameras are NOT linked to their computer system as I had gone through quite a few electronic tolls with no Etag.

I had tried to get one, too hard.

We loved Turkey

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Egypt Part Two

2nd April 2014 Cairo. Twenty million people. Bad traffic.

The first you see of Cairo, entering from the south, is a myriad of ten story blocks of units and as you drive in you reacquaint yourself with the African style of city driving, i.e. every man for himself but, having graduated from the Dar es-Salam school of driving, I survived, more or less.

We finally found the Isis Garden Camp owned by an Adelaide lady, Sue, who gave us a warm welcome, and her Egyptian husband, Helal who is also friendly and helpful, organising our sight seeing for the next three days. Their home is an interesting building of six floors, which houses their extended family and has views of the Great Pyramid of Giza only three K’s away. The Great Sphinx is also there, right in the middle of town. There is also a very nice garden, pool and camp kitchen. Parking is limited but gated and under security cameras.

We have heard the call to prayers, that start early each morning, maybe at 5am, and throughout the day, but here in Cairo it is overwhelming. We have a Mosque just two doors down and they do have a PA system along with several other Mosques in the area and when they all get going at the same time it is a unique experience not entirely unpleasant.

3rd April 2014 Just did a bit of washing and walked down to the supermarket about 2K’s away and caught a tukk tukk back, these guys really do have some awesome driving skills.

There is no municipal garbage collection in most of Cairo.

Tomorrow we travel…………………by camel.

4th April 2014 We rode by camel to the Great Pyramid and Sphinx of Giza. Camels are much better on sand than on road and the ones we rode were decorated with ink designs which made them look even better. My camel’s name was Michael Jackson and Judy’s was Cleopatra. They were well behaved and didn’t spit or bite. I think Cleopatra took a liking to me.

The pyramids were also good.

5th April 2014 Cairo is a BIG town, we realised, as we headed toward the Egyptian Museum. This museum is right next to El-Tahrir square where the recent rioting occurred. The entire street in front of the museum was full of tanks ready for the next riot, also a big building burnt out next door.

The museum houses many relics from antiquity including King Tut’s stuff and we spent a couple of hours here before going with our driver, Walid, to see old Coptic churches and some very impressive mosques including the Mohamed Ali Mosque.

Lunch was Kusheri, a spicy mixture of mince, chick peas, noodle, and macaroni. Good.

I mentioned earlier that there was no municipal garbage collection. I may have been wrong as I saw a backhoe clearing a huge, accumulated, hill of rubbish. Maybe this is how they do it.

Through a keyhole

Through a keyhole

6th April 2014 We were taken on a tour to Saqqara. Because we were with an Egyptian guide we were able to bypass a lot of the hassling that goes on at all the tourist sites. We did see the very first pyramid ever built as well as other tombs and for an extra consideration were taken on the unofficial tour of an as yet unexcavated tomb. We clambered down an awkward entranceway, past a heap of rubbish and into a small tunnel from which several birds flew (no bats) and we explored the pitch black passageways for quite some way until we came upon a skull then another and finally two side rooms which were full of human bones. No explanation given.

There were some excavations going on around the site but when I tried to photograph it I was waved away, all very Indiana Jones.

 

Finally came to saying our goodbye at Isis Garden Camp and settling the bill. Very expensive. See “Travel notes/accommodation”.

8th April 2014 Arrived at Ras al Barr late yesterday, one of the most northerly points in Egypt from where our car will be shipped to Iskenderun in Turkey. We worried that the ferry may not be operating, it is, and we have the arrangements in place thanks to our agent here Mohamed Ali El-Hefnawy ntramagroup@gmail.com. Two days ago we applied for and were granted a three-month visa for Turkey on line US$60.00. Too easy.

Ras al Barr itself is a large resort city with hundreds of huge three story buildings that look to be hotels, though they all look empty at present. All appear to be built around the same era of the 50’s and 60’s, with surrounding palm trees, they remind me of Miami slightly past it’s prime. I have been told that this place really hots up around holiday time. In fact it did hot up on Saturday night, just like Brighton in Sydney, complete with drag racing, doughnuts, people milling and the odd firework. Very entertaining for us from our balcony.

The Nile empties into the Mediterranean Sea here so in a way it is a fitting end to the African section of our trip as we have followed the course of the Nile, on and off, from source to fin.

Just had yet another black out. Not me personally.

10th April 2014 

Sitting on our balcony overlooking the Mediterranean enjoying an Egyptian breakfast of boiled egg, cheese, olives and a bean dish, listening to the ABC’s Radio National

 

Took the ferry to the other side of the Nile to Al Malaqa village that is the opposite of Ras al Bar with busy markets and exotic smells.

Have you seen the old 50’s vintage cars in Havana, Cuba? Same here. I was admiring one of these old classics when the owner, Adel Ali came over and invited us for a coffee across the road and as we shared a shisha he explained that his Dodge had the original body but that the rest of the car was made up from various Japanese parts of different brands. I think he was trying to sell it to me.

14th April 2014 I’m not going to say Out of Africa but finally we say our good bye to Egypt.

The Ro-Ro (Roll on-Roll off) ferry to Turkey does not take passengers so we are flying to Turkey along with the 250 swarthy Turkish truck drivers who have their rigs on the vessel. Judy is the only female passenger on the plane. I must say they were a pleasant bunch and well behaved.

Just heard on the news of a bomb explosion on a Cairo bridge, killing two policemen.

 

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Egypt Part One

22nd March 2014 Adam Home is the home, a large compound, of two Nubian brothers who first of all gave us a “welcoming” mint tea and contacted Mohamed, their cousin, who can arrange anything. There is a shortage of diesel here no problem. Mohamed made a phone call and came with me to the petrol station as we were waved past the twenty or so trucks waiting in a queue.

Mohamed wrote DIESEL in Arabic

Mohamed wrote DIESEL in Arabic

I filled both tanks and two jerry cans @ 30 cents/litre. Meanwhile the truckies were crowding around having a good old laugh, joking around not minding me pushing in. Apparently in Egypt this is acceptable as earlier on in the day I was moved, by a soldier, to the front of an ATM queue. The only people who have preferential treatment to a tourist are women, who can go to the front of the queue in front of the tourist. Judy does the banking now.

When we returned to Adam Home, Mohamed took us on a tour of his Nubian village taking us to visit his sister, a charming woman, to take the best lemon drink. It is made with a little milk added and shaken to the Billyo, tastes like a lemon spider (soda). His sister was happy to show us through her large house with lots of rooms, again within a large walled compound with flat screen TV’s and air con etc. Not your average Nubian family home methinks. The hubby is an accountant at an oil field on the Red sea. Mohamed had also procured a bulk amount of lollies, which he distributed throughout the village, to any kid in sight, as we drove around, a little like the pied piper.

Mohamed is such an enthusiastic fellow and will take us on his felucca (boat) on a Nile cruise soon.

24th March 2014 Lost a day somewhere. Visited the Philae Temple (Temple of Isis), which is one of the structures sawn up and moved to higher ground when the Aswan dam was built prior to flooding the valley. Magnificent, everything you would expect from Egyptian antiquity even with some Napoleonic army graffiti from when they were here in the nineteenth century.

Hot dry days and cool nights.

We just went for a walk along the banks of the Nile over which Adam Home looks. It is oasis like with palm trees and lush farmland. I was surprised to find a sandy beach at the riverside until I realised that the Nile flows through the Sahara desert = sand.

25th March 2014 Went on Mohamed’s felucca for a day of Nile River cruising. The felucca is a wide beamed sailing boat about 30 feet long. The deck is one big bed with an annex over the top, so we cruised, lounging around and sleeping occasionally, being interrupted by sweet Hibiscus tea and food cooked on the boat by a crew member, whom we named Captain Cook. The feluccas are very agile and fast even under half sail and we passed several icons such as the Temple of Isis or the Botanical Gardens but were too lazy to get off the boat.

The Nile is surprisingly cold and apparently 50 metres deep in places.

26th March 2014 The Abu Simbel excursion did not come off so we did nothing until the evening when the German overlanders, with some fairly serious trucks, decided to have a cook up of Thai beef Green curry and beautiful salads for all, including various Nubians, Swiss, Aussies, a Serbian girl, a Brazilian girl and an Australian sheepdog al a “Babe”.

A fire was required, Bosnian firewood supplied, and so another gig, singing “Bosnian Wood “ to the melody of “Norwegian Wood” with a finale “fire dance” whilst singing Elvis.

In true German style various pilsners were tested and vast amounts of Egyptian wine were quaffed by the female contingent.

Do you get the Vibe?

All in all our stay at Adam Home was really nice with Mohamed, Sammi (dead ringer for Eddy Murphy) and Sabbi, the perfect hosts.

The locals would honk and wave as they drove past the campsite.

28TH March 2014 Antiquity overload.

am Temple of Karnak

mid day Museum of Luxor

pm Temple of Luxor

Temple of Luxor

Temple of Luxor

Tomorrow Valley of the Kings, Tuts Tomb and other assorted unbelieveables.

We have had a huge amount of pestering here and all sorts of tricks, the best one being this:

As we passed a souvenir shop the trader asked if I could read a message that he had received, in English, on his phone. The message was truly sad, about a friend who had had a stroke. He asked me to come into his shop to formulate an answer, which I did. Meanwhile Judy had looked at the phone and found that it was a truly old message, surprise ten. He was very subtle about trying to sell his papyrus paintings.

Full points for this one.

The carriage drivers will do anything to get a fare, one even gave us the wrong directions, unasked, hoping to get our fare when we got sick of walking. They follow you along the road until you crack. Pay 1/3 of the asking fee.

We are almost the only tourists in town. There are huge river cruise boats tied up at their moorings by the hundred and hotel car parks empty, which means that we have no queues and can really negotiate a price, though maybe some tourist atmosphere is lacking.

There are police on every corner with an occasional Army post complete with sand bags, machine guns and the odd tank.

29th March 2014 No photography allowed. The Valley of the Kings contains the tombs of many Pharaohs and the entrance fee of 100 pounds (AUD$16.00) allows you to see three tombs of your own choosing. We saw the tombs of Ramses 3rd, Ramses 4th, Ramses 7th and Merenptah (yes I know it is four but they forgot to hole punch our ticket at one of the tombs). Tutankhamun’s tomb is an extra 100 pounds and contains his mummified remains and a gold sarcophagus (coffin). Did you know that Tutankhamun’s body spontaneously combusted in the sarcophagus after a botched embalming job? Me neither.

All the tombs contain painted hieroglyphics that could have been painted yesterday.

Unfortunately you are constantly badgered not only by the traders outside but the employees within the tomb complex. Their trick is to show you some detail and then ask for money. This goes on all the time and you find yourself not enjoying the experience and yes, Judy lost it. Scary!

We also saw the temple of Hatshepsut and the Colossi of Memnon.

We have been staying at the Rezeiky Camp Hotel and they have been killing us with kindness. It is a hotel of fifty or so suites, in central Luxor, with a huge forecourt, which is perfect for overlanders with trucks of any size, and we are the only guests. They have plied us with delicious food, arranged our tour taxi and helped with procuring diesel, which is scarce here. In fact the petrol station is just at the top of the entrance lane to the hotel so they just told me when the diesel had been delivered. Full tanks ready for the White desert tomorrow.

They even asked if we could stay another day to join them in an engagement party for the manager’s daughter tomorrow night, however we are running out of time with our visa and shipping arrangements so we have to go.

30th March 2012 Leaving Luxor we have taken a minor road as a short cut to the western desert. I thought it may be dirt but it is good tar all the way, saved 300k’s. We have passed through many check points with no hassle but it does show how tense this place is. Heard on Aussie radio that 500 Brotherhood of Muslim followers have been condemned to death for killing a policeman. Is this real? Starting to get a little tense myself.

Motored to the Kharga oasis and stumbled across the Hibis Temple, much more enjoyable with a guide who doesn’t ask for money all the time and a little further on the Bagawat Necropolis. This is a 1400-year-old cemetery with 250 odd tombs and churches all made of mud. With the extremes of temperature and wind but probably not rain, I wonder how they have survived.

We are now bush camped at the foot of a large dune and go in search of diesel tomorrow.

Actually two local Arab men have just come over for a chat. They speak no English and we speak no Arabic but they are determined to have a good old chinwag, I think they are lonely, There are some interesting periods of silence punctuated by a rush of words when a new possibility for communication comes to mind. In the end we kind of, sort of, understand one or two things, maybe. This was to be repeated in the morning.

31st March 2014 Found diesel and had felafels and chips for breakfast, not the healthiest of diets. They were meant to be for lunch but had been just made and smelt so good we couldn’t resist.

Only travelled about 150k’s before stopping at Beir El-Gabal Tourist camp that had been recommended and indeed it was positioned in front of some spectacular desert mountains, 41c in the shade. After dinner we bathed in the hot mineral springs, of 38c and although the evening was still well into the thirties’ we came out refreshed and cool. This thermal pool has an iron oxide base and in the morning we found that our sheets had rusted (in colour). We also met a German lady Friedel who has built a meditation centre next door and a beautiful building and accompanying garden it is. Friedel suggested that we go for an early morning walk around the locale, which we did, and it did not disappoint, improbable hues and textures of dune, rocky outcrop and mountain.

 

1st April 2014 Happy New Year!

Headed toward the White desert but on the way inspected the 1000 year old Muslim village just seven k’s north of Beir El-Gabal made of mud. Some buildings are three storey’s high with one minaret some thirty metres high and the subterranean streets and lanes take you through lots of nooks and cranny’s with workplaces such as mills and blacksmith’s. Although it is a very hot day the original air vents/shafts provide natural aircon.

 

Toward the end of the day we approached the White Desert with magnificent meringue and Pavlova like formations. Camping here is allowed and we found ourselves a nice, secluded spot nestled in next to a giant snowy mushroom.

As I topped up the fuel from our jerry cans we happened to notice eight four wheel drives, full of people, pull up next to us, a school group from Alexandria. Oh no! However, after talking to them they said we could accompany them in going deeper into the desert to where the most impressive formations were, so we followed.

 

Here we are now, having lost them, sitting in the middle of the desert, all alone. But not lost as there is a well-marked path back to the main road.

We go to the Black desert tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

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Sudan

15th March 2014 Entered Sudan with only a slight delay at the Sudanese customs. We had read on other blogs that this crossing, at Metema, was very costly and complicated, taking five hours to get through.

The only payment was for some police charges that amounted to 20 Sudanese pounds, AUD$3.87. There will be more with a registration payment in Khartoum, (see “Tips in Travel Notes” section)

Today is our first bush camp and it is in what looks to be arid land next to a Boab tree and an outcrop of rocks. We have met other travellers who have told us it is quite safe to do this here in Sudan.

Warmer weather now 35-40 degrees in the day.

16th March 2014 Proclaim the bush camp a success as we had a quiet night under a full moon with a cool night. A visit from the Bedouins would have been nice.

We had a look at The Blue Nile Sailing Club, in Khartoum, which was THE place for overlanders, however we found it to be rundown with bad toilets and for what it was, expensive. Instead we were able to park our car in a walled enclosure at the Khartoum Youth Hostel where there are clean toilets and showers with hot water, for a reasonable price. Also there is power to the car and WIFI. Ready to apply for our Egyptian visas tomorrow.

17th March 2014 Spent the morning registering as aliens for Sudan, not cheap (see “Tips” in Travel Notes section) and just veg-ing out in the afternoon before going for a stroll in the evening for dinner. Khartoum is a modern city in lots of ways i.e. all manner of consumer goods, restaurants, car dealerships and so on but still plenty of dirt roads and, watch out for some of the holes in the pavement, some are as big as a cave, bad at night. Definitely an OH&S (now WHS) issue.

We will get the Egyptian visas in Aswan.

18th March 2014 Sudan is 99% desert with very good roads and many road blocks manned by various government bodies, police, army, toll collectors, customs etc. who all want to see a different document some of which we don’t have. They seem to give up in the end.

We headed north and lunched at the Meroe pyramids before stopping overnight at the El Nassr Hotel in Karima. Strolled around town and had a great chicken and dips plate at an outdoor kitchen in their bazaar area.

The Sudanese are again very friendly people who will not badger you at all.

19th March 2014 Started early by taking a look at the Pyramids of Jebel Barkal archaeological site and loading up on Sudanese cakes (similar to Lebanese) for breko.

 

No alcohol  in Sudan

No alcohol in Sudan

 

 

Our Tracks4Africa map for our GPS really led us astray today, taking us on the completely wrong road, which led us to some sort of military installation (PROBLEM). No one spoke English at the two roadblocks here and they directed us to the Army base to “GET PAPER”. We were able to drive straight into the base with no ID or search, with the soldiers smiling and waving us in before explaining to us that we were on the wrong road (I think “PAPER” meant “MAP”). (no problem). We must have been their entertainment for the day.


Drove 500K through desert and are now at Wadi Halfa where we ship the car to Aswan, Egypt.

Along the way, throughout Sudan, we notice huge ceramic urns at the side of the road every few K’s. They are water for people waiting for busses and are filled by good Samaritans.

The car will go on a barge and we will follow on a Lake Nasser ferry cruise but it’s not what you think. A sixteen-hour overnight voyage, sleep on the deck, bring your own mattress.

20th March 2014 Goodbye car. Loaded it onto the barge and hope to see you some time soon. It was the only item on the barge, spoiled brat!

Our Agent who took care of all of the ticket, customs and exit details is a fellow named Mazar Mahir(mazarhalfa@gmail.com) who I would recommend as he was able to arrange everything within a few hours. Others have spent up to ten days at each end. He also showed us around town, we had a coffee and met some of his friends. He seemed to know everybody.

He actually asked for no money and when I enquired what would be a fair price for his services he said only what you are happy with. We had heard US$30 and another traveller paid $40 so we paid $45 as he spent most of today on the dealings and more tomorrow.

The barge fees have gone up, only this week, by US$100 which made the total price US$550. US$40 still at the Aswan end.

There is, apparently, a road, which can be used to bypass this ferry service, but it is only open to trucks.   Why???

21st March 2014 Started the day by walking into town, knowing we had to kill time until 2pm when we would be picked up for the ferry to Egypt, and noticing how many razor blades were lying around in the dirt streets, a small mystery. Went to a cafe for breakfast and had black ginger coffee when a shisha/ hubbly bubbly/hookah was produced and, not wanting to offend the supplier (and as an x-smoker) I smoked but did not inhale the aromas. The Internet cafe wasn’t open so I went for a haircut instead. This was interesting because I took my queue and sat down but when it was my turn nothing happened. I did not press the issue and waited, one of the barbers disappeared. I waited, nothing happened. I thought I had offended them in some way. In the end I asked you cut my hair? And he did it, no problems.

These barbers give you a cup of tea and a chat; they don’t use the traditional tools. Sure they have an electric cutter but the intricate work they do with a razor blade, often breaking it in half in the packet before use. This is what you would you call a close shave, cold water and razor blade held in hand and as he approached the jugular said at this moment, do not move. They also use the razor blade pressed up against the comb to cut hair to the exact requirement. Not one drop of blood spilt.

This explains the razor blades on the streets but not my trust of a complete stranger holding a razor blade to my neck.

Returned to our hotel about midday and already Mazar was they’re telling us to get ready to go to the ferry. This we did, got to the terminal melee and waited for the next five hours to board.

I think Mazar spelt backwards is wizard; he weaved his way through the red tape and got us on.

The voyage was better than expected with many welcoming conversations, a good meal, and  the deck wasn’t as uncomfortable as we thought it might be, bearing in mind that the ferry was filled to capacity with some 550 Sudanese, Egyptian and two Aussie passengers  although I bet it’s the first time Judy has slept next to a rather large Arab (she gave him what for in the argy bargy department when he moved out of his designated area, according to Judy).

In the morning had an Arab breakfast from the galley, boiled egg, bread, spicy beans and some very tasty goo. The Arab boys on the other side of us came around and created a salad feast which they invited us to and which we did not refuse. (I forgot to use my right hand but was soon advised of the correct way to eat).

They are all interested in us and like to know what we think of them and their country. I can only respond in the positive.

On arrival in Aswan the same confusion reigns. This only happens every day, but as “Tourists” we get waved through. I found myself apologising to the queue as we went past.

Our man in Aswan, Kamal, met us and we went through the rigmarole of collecting our car, which was conveniently there at the dock, on the barge, next to where the ferry berthed. But getting it was another thing. The exit ramp looked mighty steep, but forget that, there were three or four mooring ropes holding various other vessels in place, in the way. OK release one. Our ferry, a large ship, started to drift away. Plan B, move the barge slightly to the left and———–through.

We are now at our hotel having had a quick stroll through the bazaar (souk) and a meal and the first beer for some days at a harbour side restaurant.

The following day we completed the formalities, tied on the Egyptian number plates and headed for Adam Home, an overlanders meeting point 20k north of Aswan.

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Ethiopia

15th June 2006 No I haven’t got the date wrong, the Ethiopians use a different calendar and system of months which means that they have 12 ½ months. Also their day starts at dawn, 6am. Makes sense really, so 7am is 1 o’clock in their time. (Don’t know about their 24-hour clock). Ethiopia is one of the few countries in the world that have never been subjugated, except for Italy’s five-year attempt in the 40’s, and that don’t count so they’re fiercely independent.

Left Moyale and travelled north about 5k’s before being stopped at a road block which consisted of a thin rope slung across the road and a young fellow in civvies approaching. I had previously made a point of being very wary of people not in a uniform (now I’m wary of them both). I asked for ID, which was produced and showed that he was indeed a customs agent. No hard feelings, shook hands and proceeded.

We have had good relations with the roadblock police. I say hello to them, shake their hand and generally converse with them and the end result is often a salute (proper British one) from them. I like that kind of treatment and it certainly gives us tourists a happy impression of their country. Do you think this could happen in Aussie? I guess we need to have a roadblock first.

The Chinese are also busy here with road building and we travelled on roads varying from superhighways to dirt to pothole filled tar which would have been better off as dirt. (puncture No.7, in fairness to Cooper Tyres caused by a screw). I changed the wheel while Judy painted the audience’s fingernails. One funny sight along this long length of potholed ribbon was that every now and then there would be a fellow at the side of the road filling a pothole with dirt as a car approaches and asking for money for this service. If I gave them a cent for each pothole I would be broke. Arriving at Dilla, a frontier feel of a town, where we booked a good room at the local Hilton (the Hotel Delight). Showered up and went in search of sustenance. The main road is full of milling people with dimly lit alleyways, restaurants and other “premises”. Real atmosphere reminiscent of Sideshow Alley at the Easter Show. The People are real friendly and we ended up at a foodery where we devoured some delicious local tucker for the grand total of AUD$14.00 including two beers and a 10% tip.

ATM’s work here also.

Breakfast

Breakfast

 

17th June 2006 (24th February 2014) We have had trouble with the RMS with regard to reregistering our vehicle and may have to get a second inspection done. To our surprise in Awassa we found, straight away, a modern Toyota dealer and authorised inspection station, which took us over their high tech pits (second time in Africa). Unfortunately, in Ethiopia they only check headlights and brakes. Now I have the best brakes and headlights in Africa. The war must go on.

Now in a high-end hotel room, Ethiopia style, on the lake and had a pizza (Italian legacy) in the restaurant across the road. Ethiopia is a surprise. Some beautiful landscape, friendly people and quite advanced in some ways, for instance the hotels look modern but don’t look too closely at the workmanship of the building. Internet is excellent here when the power is on (lots of blackouts). Cheap diesel, food and accommodation. No camping areas so far.

18th June 2006 (25th February 2014) Boring car stuff today and rewarded ourselves by staying at the lakeside resort Lewi with aperitifs by the lake followed by a fantastic dinner listening to American country and western. Just had another power blackout but would you believe that the power point here in our room is an Aussie one (Aussie power plugs are common to Argentina, China, Fiji, NZ, PNG, Tonga and Uruguay. Interesting isn’t it! ) so whilst I am able to plug my Aussie power points directly into the socket, I don’t have power.

19th June 2006 Baboon breakfast. That is, we had breakfast with the baboons (and other monkeys) at the Lewi Resort. They were literally under foot as we ate, however there were guards there to keep the monkeys away, unfortunately the guards were also feeding them, and allowing the patrons to do the same. So we have the scene of the poor old monkey looking from food offered, to stick in the hand of the guard (talk about a mixed message) trying to work out a way of getting the food.     The monkeys won.    Then the “boss” came along, Head Baboon.  All acknowledged his karma.

Finished up at a basic campsite, Karako camp, on Lake Langano  by a pumice stone campfire. A nice change after the high life we have been leading lately.

20th June 2006 Good tar road all the way from Awassa to Addis Ababa but encountered huge traffic similar to Dar on entering Addis, eventually making it to Wim’s Holland House. This is a little piece of Holland in the middle of Ethiopia which is frequented by the expatriot Dutch population and is also an overlander’s meeting hub. It has a Dutch restaurant and Hof Brauhaus “mit kleiner beerture.” I think we will stay here.

21st June 2006 (28th February 2014) We have met a very nice Dutch couple, Peter and Leonie who are motorcycling from Holland to Cape Town and onward. They have been most helpful with information for our trip north. In speaking with Peter he warned us to be careful of pickpockets on our excursion to the city, even describing their methods of distraction. Our aim was to see “Lucy” our 3.18 million year old relative now residing at The National Museum of Ethiopia and just to have a general look around. We decided to walk the distance, some six kilometres away but had only gotten as far as the bus terminal when Judy was jostled by a hawker selling magazines whilst another fellow came close beside. That was when I saw a hand in her pocket and it wasn’t Judy’s. I pushed them off and asked them politely to move away, or words to that effect, which they did. A little further down the road I reported this incident to two police, on the beat, who were extremely concerned      not.

We walked the length of Churchill Avenue (One of many main streets in this city of five million), had an Ethoipian lunch, which was a selection of dips and spicy meats on a type of fermented pancake, (This pancake was a little hard for us at first but now we are getting used to it and it works well in conjunction with a spicy meat sauce.) and then looked at some shops. Saw “Lucy”, some other ancestors and Haile Sellassie’s throne. Addis Ababa is a city in transition with many new buildings going up and a huge rail system going in (Trams I think), however this also means that huge tracts of local road infrastructure is completely dug up with unbelievable rocky thoroughfares (Worse that anything the Northern Territory can throw at you) or completely impassable roads making travel through this town a nightmare, Dar es Salaam was the same.

26th June 2006 (5th March 2014) Spent the last few days sorting a new pink slip (We had a huge problem with the RMS with regard to the inspection certificate done in Cape Town, detailed in “Travel notes”). Wim was a huge help in getting the local authorities to do a safety inspection, they were reluctant, he even came with us and argued our case and let me say he didn’t mince words.

So we left Addis this morning and drove through some beautiful highland country reminiscent of Rwanda. As we drove we listened to the radio playing some indigenous music as well as country and western, blues and Renee Geyer singing “It’s a man’s world” as we drive past the many gum trees here (What the?) The road north of Addis has been very good tar and we have finished the days journey at the town of Hyke about 300 k’s north of Addis at a camp site on Lake Lago Haic complete with restaurant and Bob Marley DJ music. Two meals, three beers, one coke and camping = AUD$18.00 This may be a remote part of the world but the locals are again snappy dressers with the younger ones being particularly trendy, some with interesting accessories. Must be globalisation.

The Ethiopians in general are a most friendly bunch and eager to help you even if you don’t need the help. Sometimes they will ask for money but will readily accept a refusal. (Mean aren’t I), sometimes I soften.

 

 

27th June 2006 (6th March 2014) Breathtaking, and at 2500 metres it literally is. The scenery between Hyke and Lalibela is unbelievable with impossibly deep valleys (eat your heart out Grand Canyon), green and gold patchwork farms. The turnoff to Lalibela takes you the last 60K’s over dirt road which is reasonable in parts the rest being very rocky, twisting and steep but over all I would call it a passable (pun intended) road but a sheer pleasure (pun intended) to drive through. We are now in Lalibela at 3pm and working out our day for tomorrow visiting the eleven eleventh century churches here. Staying at the Seven Olives Hotel and have booked a room (US$24/night) mainly to use the shower and toilet but preferring to sleep in our car in the car park.

28th June 2006 (7th March 2014) These Christian churches have been carved out of rock from the top down (some 50 metres) and not just any rock but the basalt/volcanic variety. The astonishing thing is that all eleven churches were built over a period of only 24 years. The churches are still operational and we saw several ceremonies, chanting and even a baptism after which we had holy water splashed in our faces, good for the soul and refreshing. Entry was US$50 each, guide $30, shoe boy $3 (He minded our shoes when we entered the churches and $6 for a taxi back. We had been warned that the churches were full of fleas so before going we applied plenty of insecticide but did not see one of the beasts.

29th June 2006 (8th March 2014) Along the road people ask for money, some will work for it by doing a bit of a dance or filling in a pothole as you pass but as we approached Mek’ele there was a complete chorus line of young dancers in the distance doing the Ethiopian shoulder dance, spreading right across the road, in perfect synchronous movement. Ethiopia the Musical.

30th June 2006 (9thMarch 2014) Arrived in Axum the home of the Ark of the Covenant and yes we will see it tomorrow morning at 4.30am when it will be paraded through the streets. It will be however just a replica of the real Ark as nobody can set eyes upon it, not even the head of the Ethiopian church so my chances are slim. The Ark has one principle monk who has guarded and lived with it for the past fifty years since he was twenty five.

Today we saw the palace of the Queen Sheba (Shaba) and tombs of other kings, Kaleb and his son Gebremeskel from ancient history as well as their huge obelisk like monuments called stele (which is the plural for stela) the biggest being 500 tons and was hauled many miles by elephants and thousands of workers, a huge stone tablet inscribed in three different languages (2 metres high and looks like new concrete though it is granite) and Queen Sheba’s swimming pool which is 30 metres deep. So quite a bit of history in this very pleasant town of 60,000 Axumites.

In the afternoon we strolled through town and partook of the famous Ethiopian coffee making ceremony. This consists of a young and beautiful Ethiopian woman roasting the coffee beans in front of your eyes and percolating them somehow via many complex decanting movements and manipulation of coals under the coffee pot. The incense burning is not your usual stick burning but shavings placed on coals, similar to those used in Orthodox Church rituals.

This coffee is fantastic.

Now sitting on the pavement (a la Paris) of the Hotel Africa watching the passing parade and having a quiet one.

1st July 2006 (10th March 2014) Awoke at 4.30am and met our guide Effram with whom we went to the St Mary of Zion church, in the town centre, where the ceremony and procession began. It was done in orthodox fashion with chanting, incense and priests in colourful regalia. We saw The Ark, or rather the replica thereof. Effram took the edge off a little by informing us that it is one of 50,000 Arks in Ethiopia and that each church has one. There are 50,000 churches in Ethiopia. They believe that it is a direct link to God.

After the procession we headed north toward Gondar (also spelt Gondor). Still dark we saw the interesting sight of a roadwork gang already at work, wearing not only fluoro vests but also fluoro turbans. Not too far after this we encountered one of the worst stretches of road so far, 135 kilometres of narrow, rough, winding and steep dirt, still being built by the Chinese. This road would go up one kilometre and then go down one kilometre and so on, one ascent was two kilometres (altitude 3000 metres, way above Kosciusko). At one point we came to what seemed like the end of the road (this is a major road) with a hill of road base in front of us. A little puff of dust to my left heralded the approach of a bulldozer, which pushed the hill of road base out of our way with two or three sweeps, and we merrily proceeded on. (Just like Lesotho). Starting this morning the GPS told us that the 340 kilometre journey would take eleven hours to complete and I thought that it had made yet another miscalculation. It took ten hours. Stopped for the overnight stay at the Fogera Hotel at Gondar,we will sleep in our car in the car park and go sight seeing tomorrow.

2nd July 2006 (11th March 2014) Visited some astonishing castles and churches (World heritage sites) of medieval emperors here in Gondar, known as the African Camelot, before motoring south 50k to Tim and Kim’s camping on the shores of Lake Tana, the source of the blue Nile, for a couple of days of R&R after our busy schedule of late. Tim and Kim are a Dutch couple and have lived here for seven years developing their site into a very pleasant place to camp or stay in one of their mud and thatch rondavals, a real breath of fresh air after some of the places we have stayed at in Ethiopia. In speaking with Tim he tells me that they have a staff of fifteen and that they earn fifty birr per day, roughly AUD$3.00.

So long and Abyssinia.

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Kenya

9th February 2014 Crossed into Kenya yesterday with, again, a minimum of fuss. Both Ugandan and Kenyan officials most friendly. Visas cost USD$50 each and a road tax of USD$40. DSC05212

I described the road into Dar as the Highway to Hell. Well the one into Nairobi is Beyond Deathwish. Same deadly driving but when visibility decreased to about 20 metres due to rain fog and hail their driving techniques were not changed one iota. Same high speed and overtaking on blind bends and crests.

Recrossed the equator and arrived at the Wildebeest Eco camp where it is 15C. (Is this Africa?). This place is owned by an Aussie couple, Alan and Lynita, and is a green oasis. One of the best so far, with excellent facilities, Wi-Fi and restaurant all at a reasonable price.

13th February 2014 Arranging visas for Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt.

Letters of introduction from the Australian High Commission and other information was provided quickly and at no cost, just make sure you get there early as these services close at midday. Same for the Ethiopian embassy.

The Ethiopian embassy had some beaurocracy but not too bad. We had to undergo an interview, which was not unpleasant, as we had heard. The Ethiopian diplomat who interviewed us actually apologised for making us wait five minutes.

Cost USD$20 each for a two month visa.

At the Egyptian embassy we were told to apply for the Egyptian visa at Khartoum.

AUD$64 each for a one month visa for Sudan.

All of the above has gone smoothly as we were prepared with copies of all of our documents, passports, carnet, birth and marriage certificates, passport photos etc., were not cheeky with them and waited patiently. All in all the waiting was not too bad.

Having completed these formalities we have a wait of two or three days for the visas to be issued.

We experienced a similar “sheep following” ritual to the one in Dubai. We had gone to a local upmarket shopping centre, which is surrounded by new road works, nothing like what you have seen in Sydney. As we left I took the obvious dirt road back to camp. About half a kilometre on I came to a mountain of roadwork blocking the road ahead. WRONG WAY, but there were twenty cars behind, following me.

16th February 2014 Yesterday we went to the giraffe park, which is just a few kilometres away from our camping. Here you could hand feed them. They have long ( about 30cm ), blue, rough tongues and form them into a scoop shape just as you place the pellet onto them. They will also try to lick your face.

Today we went to the Kenya Wildlife National Park, which is also but a few minutes from our camping. It is quite a large park with a backdrop of Nairobi skyscrapers, so get the right angle and you can get a picture of some wild animals against a city skyline.

We, again, saw many animals, antelope, rhinoceros, hippo,  giraffe, zebra but no cats or elephants. It was still worth the US$50 each for entry.

17th February 2014 I had the best haircut that I can remember today. It included a facial massage with balms applied, neck also, pressure points, beard trim with hot towels and some mild Chiropractic techniques. Judy was not quite as happy with hers as they were a little too timid with her hair.

After lunch we drove into Nairobi city to pick up our new Garman GPS. Nairobi is a very busy city but with quite a western feel to it. After negotiating the tortuous one-way streets and bypasses we finally approached our destination where I had several meetings with the city police. The first was when I made a right hand turn and, apparently, went against a red light. Two woman police officers pulled me over and explained to me the meaning of a red light. Again I apologised and pleaded ignorance I’m an Australian, whilst Judy did some quick talking and changed the subject. After talking for a bit the officer said you should buy some land here (I don’t know either), asked us for our phone number and said we should all go out together sometime soon. The next was when I parked illegally while Judy went in to get the parcel. There were other cars parked there also so I thought I was safe. Some “Clamping Inspectors” even walked past without comment. Hello, another policewoman. She informed me that she would have to impound my car and that it would cost me 6000 shillings to release it (about AUD$80). What are we going to do about this? She said, (you get my drift?) She then suggested that if I paid an instant fine of 3000 shillings all would be well. Luckily my wallet was a bit bare and she accepted 10 dollars of various currencies. As she walked off she told me that I was now allowed to park there. Not five minutes later two male police approached and with a big smile told me that they were going to arrest me and take me away. I told them that I had immunity because of the previous encounter. They were very interested in this information and went off in search of the officer allowing me to escape. I think they were joking with me. I might add that this city is known amongst travellers as I-rob-ya.

On the way home we called in at the Sudanese embassy, slightly late, and collected our passports and visas just as they had instructed.

I have a wallet with old credit cards and a small amount of money in it in case of robbery but I think that this is the wallet I will pull out whenever I speak to the police. See the connection?

At the Wildebeest camp we have met several other overlanders, a Czech couple Petra and

Tuck your shirt in, son !

Tuck your shirt in, son !

Pavel, a South African couple Jean and Rui, and a German, Jürgen. We all got on well and socialised in the evenings to become what I like to call the “Wildebeest Club”. Unfortunately we are all going in different directions but we may catch up with some of them later in Europe.

19th February 2014 We left Nairobi and headed north about 160k to the town of Nyeri where Baden Powell, creator of the Boy Scout Movement for you young’un’s, lived and died. He is buried here and we will visit his grave tomorrow, I as an old Boy Scout and Judy a Brownie.

Crossed the Equator again, 26c.

Big problems with Tracks4Africa see “Tips” section.

Camped now at Sandai camp and guesthouse looking toward a snow-capped Mount Kenya. This place is at the end of a ten kilometre black dirt road and the rain is just starting. Guess I’ll be testing by new rubber boots tomorrow. In the morning we had coffee with the owner, a German lady who was very welcoming and we would have liked to have stayed longer but the road is calling.

Really pouring now with hail. Cosy in our cubby. With a fire waiting to be lit in the shed, next to us.

Too miserable to light the fire, it is ready for the next man.

20th February 2014 didn’t have to dust off the Wellies but I did do a 360 doughnut in the mud, totally out of control but came to no grief. We did pay our respects to Baden Powell. There is quite a complex there, a museum, an indoor camping area his and his wife’s gravesite. We met the Head Guide who told us that she had recently met and shook the hand of Kenya’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta. So I shook the hand that shook the hand.

 

We then motored north to Umoj Waso Women’s Group Camp, which is a community project to protect abuse amongst the local women. There is no shower here and you have to pay corkage for any food or drink that you

consume that you do not buy at the restaurant. We are camped in a semi arid area next to a muddy river. The cook came up to me and asked if I needed some security and upon further quizzing told me that although there was no problem here, as we were travelling to Ethiopia ,we may need to enquire at the local police station as to the availability of security i.e. a man with a gun to accompany us north.

21st February 2014 The first 80k was a perfect tar road with little traffic and picture perfect countryside. The last 120k was a really bad dirt road and we have decided to stop early today at Henry’s camp, Marsabit before attempting the last 200k of bad dirt in Kenya.

Henry’s camp has a good hot shower, flushing toilet and a small open common room with some beer in the fridge. It is cool and very windy here at the moment (high altitude). Henry himself is a Swiss man who was stranded here thirty seven years ago and decided to stay. We have also ascertained that the road ahead is clear of bandits.

22nd February 2014 Encountered no bandits and the road was a little better that expected ie. Some tarmac, some good dirt and no rain. Plenty of interesting arid landscape, donkeys and camels and nomads in bright clothes. I tell you most of the good stuff is just driving along the road.

Entry into Ethiopia was easy until we reached customs. CLOSED, because the man went home early but operators in the area could ring him and get him back. (Remember Zambia). We kicked up a stink and sure enough we got through. We are learning.

 

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Uganda

4th February 2014 Entered Uganda with a minimum of fuss. The Ugandan authorities were very pleasant. US$50 each for a three month tourist visa and USh83,000.0000 or AUD$38.00 for road tax.

Uganda, to me, is even more spectacular than Rwanda with similar, garden like scape. We wound our way up to Bwindi Backpackers lodge which borders the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, gorilla country, and rumoured to be frequented by our ancestors (or maybe just mine) its very misty up here. The dirt road up for the 36k was very rough at times but very high, mountainous and pretty, well worth the drive. As I sit here writing this in the front seat, ten or so children just watching and being curious surround me. I note that they are gradually getting closer and closer.

The manager of the lodge is a young Ugandan by the name of Junior and he told us that he was a soccer player of note and was about to have a game just down the road, a short distance and would you like to come. Of course we would. A short distance in Uganda is different to ours. About two kilometres on and down a long, steep ravine we finally made it to the football field, a flat space at the bottom of the valley. On the way, however, we saw how friendly every one we passed was, with lots of hello’s and those smiles.

As usual we are the only guests here. There is no power here so it’s a candle lit dinner and warm beer. They are actually killing us with kindness, especially lighting the donkey (a boiler) for our shower and having the school children perform for us.

5th February 2014 We took a tour of a Pygmy (Batwah) village starting at about 9am, just Judy, our guide Richard, and myself. The path took us through some extremely steep and stunning terrain. As we walked and approached the Impenetrable forest, gorilla land, a familiar sound alerted me to an incoming phone call to Richard. Yes mobile reception is very good in the darkest of Africa in Uganda. When the nearby national park was established the Batwa were evicted from their natural habitat and resettled close to the park in huts provided by the government, the reasoning being was that they would continue to hunt in the park unless removed, depleting the animals.

Children's bedroom at left

Children’s bedroom at left

When we reached the village they were most welcoming and entertained us with several dances. I must say that they were taller than expected especially as I had seen what I thought was a true pygmy back at The Volcanoes. This person was about three feet tall and in perfect symmetry, not a dwarf. I think the people we saw were forest people. Amazing, though, how they can make a 20L plastic jerry can sound like an African drum.

The elderly woman of the village and chief dance meister took a look at the photo that I had just taken of her and declared that she looked like a gorilla.

Interestingly there were a couple of teenage males in the village who seemed too cool for school, sucking on a vodka sachet and smoking tailor made’s. Richard told me they also smoked the other. They were casual but when the dancing started they got up with gusto and stomped their gumboots down.

 

 

 

We returned, exhausted at 3.30pm but stopped at the community hotel, a mud hut where Richard introduced us to the non alcoholic version of sorghum juice, Bushera, which tasted like lemon flavoured yoghurt and looked like granular coco, not all that bad, but I could only drink a quarter of a huge mug. Richard told me he could drink five or six of these in quick succession and finished off what I couldn’t.

On this trek Judy and myself consumed copious amounts of water and sweated like pigs. Richard no sweat. He didn’t drink a drop of water but said he may crush some sorghum for the moisture.

Diving back down the mountain we sustained some collateral damage as I tried to negotiate my way around a truck stopped on a mountain bend. A fellow LandCruiser had just successfully negotiated it (a ute) however as I passed the back of the car slid down and  #$&^%*<. Judy thought I was remarkably composed.DSC05138 DSC05144

6th February 2014 Again we have ended up at a wonderful place, not having travelled too many K’s. The Bunyonyi Overland Resort by Lake Bunyonyi and, we are waterfront again.

The sun peeped out as we had a mid afternoon aperitif and Judy decided to do the washing while I blogged. The wind picked up and blew the washing down, a precursor of the wet season to come at the end of the month.

Absolutely pouring down now.

7th February 2014 Uganda has reverted to scenery similar to Tanzania and we have ended up at the Igongo Cultural Centre near Mbarara being the only customers bar two African bizzo types. This is a big complex with a fifty-room hotel almost built. We are camped amongst the building activity and at 7.30pm it is still full of construction workers. It opens in ten days to great fanfare to which we were invited. Unfortunately we leave tomorrow.

We awoke to the complex being overrun with police and army. The manager proudly took me on a tour of the hotel

and later, on the radio, we heard that the opening of the complex was indeed a celebrity event with government ministers to attend. Alas without our presence.

8th February 2014 We reached the Equator at about 11am, the temperature was 26C, before arriving in Kampala.

Uganda has fully reverted to Tanzania with roads that range from superhighways to arterial roads with potholes a foot deep, no exaggeration, and, the same crazy driving.

Kampala has also mimicked Dar Es Salam with unbelievable traffic. Whilst stuck in one of the traffic jams I took a couple of photos of the pandemonium and before too long two women police came up and asked if I had been taking their photo. I pleaded ignorance and they let me pass, perhaps it is a no no.

Crossed the Victoria (White) Nile in the late afternoon and are now camped close to it.

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Rwanda

 

 30th January 2014 Entered Rwanda with formalities which took two hours, though fairly straightforward. US$30 each for a visa. An almighty rainstorm poured down for about half an hour in the midst of a ramshackle border post hosting about one hundred juggernauts but no worries as we were well trained at the Zambian entry point.

 

Rwanda is already a beautiful, mountainous terrain and, although the villages are similar to Tanzania, the tree lined roads, hedges, grass and no rubbish or brick heaps present a much more pleasant picture. Also no speed bumps and humps, which in Tanzania are vicious.

Staying tonight at the back of a motel, had dinner and got some local Kwachas (francs) in the town of Kayonza, about 60k from Kigali.

31st January 2014 Started the day by taking a drive some 20k out of Kayonza to a genocide memorial. The last 10k took us along a very rough road to the site but when we arrived we found a church and some graves, lager than the usual, but not much else. Parking there trying to figure if we were at the right place a man standing nearby walked across and introduced himself as Andrew. He explained that there were three thousand victims of the genocide buried here who had been killed in cold blood in the surrounding buildings, and that they were in the process of building the memorial.

We offered him a lift to where he was going which happened to be 60k along the road to Kigali and as we travelled it turned out that he was a Catholic priest, educated in Chicago, well travelled, but was now a parish priest and sometime advisor to a private school near Kigali.

Rwanda is a breath of fresh air. Beautiful, mountainous, with tree blossomed roads all the way to Kigali. It is a manicured garden.

Kigali is a modern, clean, efficient city. One or two set of lights, (digital ones that do a count down to the change of colour), and the rest controlled by roundabouts. I haven’t driven in the right hand lane for forty years but I can tell you this was the easiest of reintroductions. This seems to be the most advanced African country so far.

Registered at the Kigali Youth Hostel, though it should be called the Kigali Aged Hostel for obvious reasons, plenty of oldies.

In the afternoon we went to the Rwanda memorial and museum in Kigali, which opened our eyes to what went on here twenty years ago. It’s unimaginable. After the German holocaust they said never again. Well I think it’s ever again, it just keeps happening. 250,000 buried here.

In the evening I had a jam session with a Rwandan reggae man and an American wildlife ranger, it pumped, attracting various Germans and others with nothing better to do.

 1st February 2014 Motored west across the same beautiful, mountainous country to Kibuye on the shores of Lake Kivu where we are camped, among the gum trees in the grounds of a luxury hotel, the Bethany. Right on the lake, we look across to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There is an African choir singing just above us on the next outdoor level.

We are in the territory of Diana Fossey (Gorillas in the mist); she is buried in nearby Volcanoes National Park where her gorillas still live. We may go to see them but the asking price is $750 each so I’m not sure we will do it.

I got out of the car to look at the choir and their photographer invited me to come closer. I asked for permission to film and it was granted. Turns out they were making a promotional film for their out coming CD. I think they liked that I was interested and saw that I was dancing along. The music was very good and I bought a CD, they all cheered. Later they asked me if I would like to join them in the choir, singing and being part of the film clip. That was the start of my film career. I had a lot of fun up there with them; they even gave me a robe to wear so you could hardly tell that I wasn’t really a member of their choir. Eat your heart out Geoffrey Rush (Bran nue dae).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m the one in the black robe.

 

Met Katarina and Daniel, from Sweden, who have the knowledge of the source of the Nile so we will go in search of it later, just like Livingstone. I have my own theory of where it is.

We later had dinner with this couple and may meet up with the family in Europe this summer.

2nd February 2014 Yep, found it, the source of the Nile, but no. To this day it is undetermined but we were in the general area, maybe. In our search we drove the back tracks of North West Rwanda and saw much of the continuously cultivated countryside. It seems no part is untouched by human hand and people are everywhere. On entering the Gisenyi area we passed a Unicef transition camp but not sure where these refugees are from, possibly South Sudan or Central African Republic. Stayed at Gisenyi overnight at the Dian Fossey (Dian not a typo) hotel car park and set of next morning in search of Gorilla.

3rd February 2014 Paused at Musanze to get some Ugandan and US money and to stock up on vegetables, which we had not had for quite some time. The roadside stall stall we stopped had a good selection and the women stallholders helped load up our bag with their choicest examples. When I asked if I could take a picture a small riot erupted with people laughing, asking for money and a final result of the head woman demanding a picture of herself, standing defiantly, arms folded with a frowned expression on her face, all antics hilarious.

On the subject of food, we have not seen a lot of salad, vegetables or fruit apart from bananas. In preparing any of the vegetables, they have to be washed in bottled water as any other water is of dubious quality. The locals may be more used to it as we saw them collecting water and washing their hands in the storm water running along the streets of the towns.

Chicken is about the only meat as the beef is of very poor quality, nearly as tender as camel hoof. The fish we did not like to try as the lakes here, huge as they are, are polluted, certainly close to shore.

This reminds me of a recipe for cooking camel hooves.

Recipe: Place the hooves, one brick, four bay leaves and seasoning to taste, into a pot of water and bring to the simmer. Simmer for three weeks. The brick is then ready to eat.

Reached the Volcanos National park where, the asking price to see the Gorillas was, truly, $750 per person. Not only that but any other trail of interest, such as Dian Fossey’s final resting place was $100 per person and you could not enter the park independently. Some volcanoes in this area are still active, the last one going off in 2010. Next stop Uganda.

We are very close to the equator, latitude 1 or 2 but I have a jumper on with daytime temperatures in the low 20’s and nights 15 or 16c. This is due to the higher altitude and the moderating effects of the great lakes system in central Africa.

Reached the Volcanos National park where, the asking price to see the Gorillas was, truly, $750 per person. Not only that but any other trail of interest, such as Dian Fossey’s final resting place was $100 per person and you could not enter the park independently. Some volcanoes in this area are still active, the last one going off in 2010. Next stop Uganda.

We are very close to the equator, latitude 1 or 2 but I have a jumper on with daytime temperatures in the low 20’s and nights 15 or 16c. This is due to the higher altitude and the moderating effects of the great lakes system in central Africa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tanzania Part Two

13th January 2014 The voyage back to Dar was much easier that the one to Zanzibar with hindsight for the planning and a VIP lounge to sit in. The on board entertainment was a movie, Captain Phillips, which involved piracy, terrorism and general mayhem of a container vessel in the very waters we were sailing in. The copy we saw was a pirated one, how appropriate and it was turned off five minutes before the climax. 0 out of 10 for that one.

14th January 2014 Took Nicola and Jacob to the airport for their flight to Arusha where they begin their assault on Mt Kilimanjaro. We still have to get two new tyres and a car service.

18th January 2014 It was a bad day on the roads of Dar the day we left, utter confusion and chaos, even our GPS was befuddled. As we were just clearing the last gridlock I made a right turn and was stopped in the middle of this busiest of intersections by the police. I had seen the No U turn sign but they claimed it was a No right turn sign. They also claimed two other charges, one of obstructing traffic (The traffic obstructs itself in Dar) and another undetermined charge with a total fine of Tsh90, 000 or AUD$63.00. This smelt of dodgyness to me so I argued that I was prepared to go to court and placed my arms out in front ready for the cuffs ( This is called bluff or possibly stupidity) . The officer then said what is your budget and I replied 30,000 no receipt required to which he replied 40,000. DEAL AUD$28.00.

Had lunch at Bagamoyo, a picturesque and historical town before heading further north to a seaside camping resort called Peponi just 20k south of Tanga to which we arrived at 9.30pm. The willing staff were happy to provide us with a meal and we woke up camped on the beach with a dhow silhouetted within a rising sun.

When you pull in late at night you just don’t know what you are going to get in the morning.

19th January 2014 Our wedding anniversary.

Happy Anniversary Judy.

Received a phone call from Nicola with the news that her and Jacob had reached the summit and were now at base camp. They said it was very hard, almost vertical at times but a great buzz on reaching the summit The phone reception from Mount Kilimanjaro is much better than at home in Sydney but that’s a third world country for you.( But which country am I talking about )

Congratulations and what a great anniversary present for us.

Judy and I had warm baguettes for breako and I procured a bottle of Spanish champagne for later.

Later we drove up to the Tangani ruins where an African guide, Job, took us around this 13th century Muslim mosque and the forty tombs surrounding it. No slavery here. Onward with a mini tour of Tanga a pleasant, mid sized town with more greenery than is usual in Tanzanian towns.

21st January 2014 Lake Chala is on the border of Tanzania and Kenya, in fact the border line runs right through the middle of it. We were trying to get to the Tanzanian side but ended up at the Kenyan border so we had to double back. In doing this we bumped into our old friends from Mikadi Beach, in Dar, Michaela, Tim and family who were also lost. Together we eventually located the southern shore of Lake Chala and its camping/resort. The view from up high is not only of the lake but also of a waterhole where animals drink. Elephants were here up until September of last year when they were all poached.

Lake Chala is a caldera (extinct volcano) and is meant to be three kilometres deep at one point so the next day we walked down to the waterside. All alone we stripped off, I did a little aboriginal dance and in we went. That was when I noticed the other people just along a bit, a fisherman canoeist and the chalets on the other side of the lake. The water temperature was just right.

Speaking of temperature, the weather throughout Africa, for the most part has been surprisingly moderate with daytime temperatures around 30c and cool nights. I believe its been 40c in Melbourne.

Off to arusha to meet up with Nicola and Jacob

22nd January 2014 Arrived at Ngorongoro Conservation Park, which is also a caldera with the animals more or less contained within. The beauty from the rim is nothing like I have seen before. We found our camping spot and then found a lodge for Nicola and Jacob where, from the balcony we could see many animals including lions and were treated to a double rainbow when the storm came in.

1.30am Judy said to me open your eyes but don’t make a sound. I did as I was told and found myself face to face with an elephant, a big one too with big tusks. He was not more than a metre away and upon raising his trunk sniffed at the mesh window of our pop-top not 30 centimetres away. The aroma may have offended him as he then slowly moved on never to be seen again. Later two jackals scavenged around the campfire.

23rd January 2014 Happy Birthday Tara. At 6am we picked up our African guide, Eric, Nicola and Jacob for the decent into the crater and what a sight it was. It looks man made, as if it were landscaped and so many animals. Even with out the animals this place would be unique but no lions this time.

We witnessed the birth of a wildebeest and as Eric, the guide, explained the wildebeest synchronise the births of their young to the same day as a possible survival strategy. If the new wildebeest cannot stand up within five minutes it is abandoned, if it can other wildebeest and zebra come around to congratulate the new mother.

Time to leave and, as we only had a 24-hour pass, we left in what we thought was good time for the exit gate.

As beautiful as this place is the park authorities do not give you any information and no maps were provided.

From the front gate the crater is about ten kilometres away but to the exit gate is a ride of 90 kilometres across THE worst roads I have ever been on, so it was a race against time to get to the gate so as to avoid a fine.

The road from the exit gate to Serengeti was equally bad. I saw a grader but it was not being used, perhaps they should start it up.

On the way to the Serengeti we were rewarded with the annual migration of the wildebeest and zebra, a carpet of animals stretching for miles and we saw a leopard.

The same thing at the Serengeti gate no information or map available at the office. On reaching the campsite found it to be substandard for such a well-known park. No toilet paper, cold shower, concrete cafeteria with mesh windows and rats running around. The subcontractors did provide a very good meal at a moderate price.

24th January 2014 Drove the length of the Serengeti Plain and saw many animals, no lions, they truly are elusive but then that’s their job. The Serengeti is much greener than I expected and a very nice drive through it is. We arrived at the town of Mwanza on the shore of Lake Victoria at the Malaika Beach Resort and again landed on our feet as we are camped on a fake beach right on the lake, infinity pool, free Wi-Fi and gourmet restaurant.

26th January 2014 Celebrated Australia Day by doing nothing other than watching the Australian Open. In the afternoon we watched the cricket, India v India, right here in the hotel campground (remember I hit a hundred in the backyard at Mum’s) whilst refreshing ourselves in the good old Aussie way by having a couple of beers. Not VB’s. Here they are called Kilimanjaro’s, Serengeti’s or Safari’s but just as good.

 

 

 

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Zanzibar

7th January 2014 We find ourselves waking up on the northern tip of Zanzibar at Nungwi. I think I might have died and woken up in heaven. I know I’m repeating myself.

We are staying at Langi Langi Bungalows right above the white, coral sand beach and water a colour starting as light lime green, changing to an aquamarine colour then turning to a Mitchell blue to become the sky. I can’t do it justice. This end of the island is a tourist mecca but I must say in a very good way. The hawkers don’t hound you too much and as you walk along the beach there are numerous resorts, bungalows and Maasai markets. Langi Langi has a reputation for fine food and after last nights offering I can vouch for it.

Backtracking, my daughter Nicola and her good friend Jacob arrived at Dar on the 6th and next morning we departed in two tuk tuk’s, a type of covered, open air, motor scooter that can carry two passengers. These things are terrific, we need them in Sydney.

The tuk tuk’s deposited us at the ferry terminal our tickets being pre booked from the Mikadi camping area at Dar, so no worries.

They did it again, conned. When we arrived there were about twenty booking offices to choose from and we were late, with only twenty minutes to go before departure. Porters grabbed some of our luggage and took off with it to their booking office. Wrong booking office, time running out, deals being offered right, left and centre, even a flight. We missed the boat. No matter we caught the 11am ferry which ended up costing a little more and after a three hour voyage arrived at Stone Town where we haggled a taxi for the one hour trip to cloud nine. (I’m running out of words for heaven).

I keep babbling to myself this is fantastic.

8th January 2014 Travelled to Stone Town via the Government spice farm. Much more interesting than I imagined. I never quite knew how a spice originated but as we sampled the spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, pepper (pepper is fascinating, see later), turmeric, cloves, vanilla, ginger, straight from the bush they tasted exactly as we knew them multiplied by ten. They are just, by and large, dried and shipped, simple.

PEPPER I cant remember the exact sequence but as it grows it changes colour from white to red, black and green all with different characteristics and we could taste them all.

Tried jackfruit, not bad, a cross between bananas, rockmelon and pineapple.

On to Stone Town, a fabulous maze of donkey width alleys with all manner of goods mostly targeting us tourists. It is reminiscent of Fez in Morocco but a little more contemporary.

Stone Town is meant to have a reputation for badgering hawkers, pickpockets and backpack slashers but we found none of this. The hawkers would try to sell you something or try to entice you into their shop but would stop after a polite no thank you I already have one and, we weren’t robbed once.

In the evening we had dinner at the next resort and entertainment was supplied by an African from Dodoma, the capital of Tanzania. He was dressed in traditional garb and played several instruments including an African piano (a box with metal prongs which are depressed and released to make a note) and then a type of violin. I really enjoyed this and gave him a tip and I think he thought he was onto a good thing. However as the night progressed I may have made more demands of him than usual, such as posing with me for several photos ending with one where I’m playing his guitar/violin. After that he seemed to make wide arcs around our table whenever he approached. Sorry Peter (His western name). I did buy the CD but was disappointed later to see him in a T-shirt and jeans.

10th January 2014 Happy Birthday Nicola Today we did a tour of the village next to our hotel, it is a village of 15,000 people. We were taken by a guide and were allowed to take some pictures avoiding the elderly, as they don’t like it and children, unless given permission. The people here don’t have the material things in life that we do but they have a perfect climate, no hunger and beautiful surroundings. A highlight was the traditional boat building done with blacksmith made tools and nails (about six inches long). A twenty foot dhow may cost six million shillings or AUD$4000.DSC04355

On arriving back our hotel manager, Sele, or as he likes to be known Sele Rasta Chef, shouted us a bottle of Aussie champagne and as I thanked him, mentioned that his timing was perfect as it was our daughter’s Birthday. His ears visibly pricked up at this as he asked her name and the spelling of it, twice. He then proceeded to shout the four of us a delicious lunch and when Nicola went to her room later, found Happy Birthday Nicola written on her bed in petals.

I call that “good service”.  It was thoughtful and I thank you Sele.

I just bumped into him and he has told me that there is a cake involved also.

11th January 2014 We went on a game fishing trip today, it was a trip that Jacob had been looking forward to for about six months, as he is a keen fisherman. All I can say about it is that it took six people, six hours to catch one fish head. As Jacob pulled in the only bite of the day we noticed that the yellow fin tuna, he had on the line had, in fact, no body. A shark had taken it.

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