AFRICA - THE JOURNEY THERE
Vienna-Cairo. Around 5500 km, 4 to 20 October 2005
to describe the feeling of having closed the doors behind oneself
for some time and to go on a long trip, just with yourself and the
motorbike, after the many weeks of preparation. During her lunchbreak
I meet my girlfriend Gerdi, she brings Sushi and we have a small
lunch together; really, she would have loved to come with me.
So my journey started with a kiss ...
I have time, I begin slowly and roll along the (to me well-known)
route to the "Iron Door" in Romania,an area where the
Danube narrows to 100 meters and a big rock, looking like a head,
looks down on the travellers.
to Turnu Severin you drive 80 kms through Serbia.
Starting in Bulgaria it gets more difficult, because I am practically
an illiterate concerning the Cyrillic alphabet, The map, drawn to
a scale of 1:2 million, confuses me further and I lose my way several
times. I see compassionate shaking of heads if I try to ask for
the correct route. Nevertheless I find the monastery of Rila, beautiful
situated in the mountains; especially in the light of fall it looks
inexplicable reasons, the protective cover of the driving chain
begins to loosen from the motorbike and is damaged by the running
By replacing the screws and 'a bit of spitting' we were able to
improve the situation. The first Turkish word I learn is "Repair
Station" (garage) (Sanayi). I was taught this by a customs
officer, when the fully loaded motorbike nearly fell on his feet.
Of course, the side stand rips off right at the frontier. It is
not the last time during this trip that the XT has to be welded.
Some invitations to a cup of tea and a great dinner with fish at
sunset in Istanbul make up for these circumstances.
The Turkish prices for fuel are not really low, they range up
to 2 Euro per liter which increases the travelling expenses.
Thank God, Ramadan, the month of fasting, begins, so limiting
the costly culinary temptations. As I will continue the travel
with my Carinthian friend Sepp for one week (he rides a KTM
LC4), at least the costs for overnight will decrease.
Through Central Anatolia we drive with a constant speed of 90
to 100 km/h, alongside the big saltlake Tuz Goelu, through grasscovered
hilly areas, golden in the darkening light, nicely distinct
against the dark evening sky.
Of course we have a look at Kapadokia, before we drive on smaller
roads to Adana, close to the Syrian border.
Mersin, a new chain has to be mounted on the XT, and Mehmet from
the only Yamaha Service Company in this area, also has a look at
the brake cylinder that suddenly needs care. Drinking some beer
that evening, we take the first crash course in Arabic, together
with some local folks. In order to pronounce this language, it might
be helpful to have a heavy smoker's cough.
first impressions of Syria are cars driving on the wrong carriageway
and sheep on the motorway. Crak Des Chevaliers is the name of one
of the biggest and most impressive fortresses in the Near East,
constructed during the Crusades. Up to 5000 people were accomodated
in this fortress; it is somehow similar to the fortress of Salzburg.
really go down deep in Jordan; to be more exact, down to 400 metres
below sea level, and we 'imitate' airbeds in the Death Sea.
our way we have military controls every 10 kms. It's better not
to take any photos, so you don't get arrested by mistake, as a sympathizer
We reach Akkaba just as Lawrence of Arabia, from the side of the
desert, and we ship the bikes and ourselves to Nuweiba in Egypt.
easy it is to write all that, and how endless and undescribable
I will try it in an ultra-short description:
Background: just there is the division line between the Northafrican
(Western) part of the moslem world and the Asian, or Near
Eastern part of the Maghreb. Israel separates it. It would
be much easier to travel to Egypt through Israel, just a few
kilometers. But if you have a stamp of Israel in your passport,
some countries with moslem governments don't like to see you,
some don't even let you into their countries. It is also tricky
to have a second passport just for that reason.
here is an attempt to summarize 10 hours of bureaucracy including
a one-hour ferry across the Gulf of Aqabah from Aqabah to
Nuweiba: I'll really try NOT to say any more nasty words about
Austrian authorities. We were ordered to be at the ticket
counter at 8 o'clock. Change of personel at the counter at
8:30. Tickets were issued. We are sent to the bank for payment.
The bank will open in one hour (if it opens at all) Back to
the ticket counter to get our passports. Now to the police
to get departure stamps. Go to counter to pay departure tax.
Now to the Customs clearance to get stamp on carnets (international
document for customs safety for motorbikes). Check motorbikes.
Back to police: departure tax was not necessary, as we are
transit tourists. Back to the counter - we get the money back
(unbelievable!). The quantity of papers, freight documents
and covering letters is ridiculous, but we are allowed to
go on board.
we go to Egypt, with a speed of 70 km/h, estimated by GPS.
Fill in cards, 20th pass control. Angel Chalid of the Tourist
Police awaits us on arrival; we never would have found our
way through the Egyptian bureaucracy without him.Such angels
did appear several times on our route, and they are worth
each cent of tip. The vehicle identification number stamped
in the frame has to befilled in on a form. Sepp is nearly
cheated at the bank; Thank God he had paid attention. I take
the carnets to the deputy officer, fill in a form, take it
to the next officer to have it signed. No, they don't want
to have their picture taken, these poor people in their miserable
offices with the tattered files, about which nobody wants
to know anything. Then go to the copyshop (what a nice name
for a hut), insurance, registration office, - everywhere forms,
and after 3 hours we have the Egyptian license plates on our
bikes. After all we had already valid visas in our passports!
this effort was rewarded by a hut on the beach, the full moon
and stars shining through the roof, gentle lapping of the
waves and good feeling of having arrived in Africa.
tar and feather", this could happen in the Wild West. It can
also happen in Africa! Without previous warning, on a length of
100 meters, the road is filled with liquid hot tar. Me and my bike
too, afterwards. My mood sinks down to a level below that of the
Dead Sea. My girlfriend Gerdi would call this a test of character.
I love her. After a long while I am OK again.
While cleaning, a good portion of a tar-water-emulsion has come
on the brakes, leading to a certain moment of surprise in the heavy
traffic in the center of Suez. But after all why did I take a 23
liter tank of cleaning petrol along? And gasoline costs 0,15 Euro
in Egypt, which makes you feel very, very good.
another dream turns into reality: the Suez Canal. Dinner and breakfast
with a view on the Canal and the big ships passing by, and avoiding
the journey around an entire continent!
continue to Cairo ....