Vienna-Cairo. Around 5500 km, 4 to 20 October 2005

Difficult 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 ...

As 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.

Close 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 overwhelming.

For inexplicable reasons, the protective cover of the driving chain begins to loosen from the motorbike and is damaged by the running chain.
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.

In 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.

The 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.

We 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.

On 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 of Mossad.
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.

How easy it is to write all that, and how endless and undescribable is reality!
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.

So, 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.

Then 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!

All 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.


""To 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.

And 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!

Let's continue to Cairo ....



1. report: Vienna-Cairo. 04.-20.Oct. 2005 | Wolfgang Niescher | www.globebiker.com–––––––––––––––––-–––––––– >> see 2. report

1. Reisebericht: Wien-Kairo. 5500 km, 04.-20.10.2005 | Wolfgang Niescher | www.globebiker.com––––––––__-<< back to africa-page