from Cairo to Ethiopia, 21 October to 5 November

Cairo has 15 million inhabitants and they say every year another million is added. Every third household has no electricity, no water and no drainage system. The worst thing of all is the traffic, an infarct, putting Los Angeles in the shade: The traffic asks from you phlegmatic coolness, skill and the capability to react promptly, plus a good pinch of trust in God.
It is helpful to completely ignore roadmarkings, (not really easy at first), and in any case press the horn instead of flashing. In general as you set off, it is best to sound the horn unscrupulously and without reason.

To make it a little more amusing: because of ramadan, in the afternoon the drivers are already pretty hungry and dehydrated. With an extra helping of good nerves and thanks to GPS I get through Cairo within 4 hours. Later on, the XT has a break to cool down, the oil thermometer having shown 130 degrees in the shade!

And now the big moment, when "thousands of years look upon you" - hopefully not in a double meaning - and with my motorbike I reach the pyramids of Gizeh! A small moment for humanity - a big one for me!

Nothing keeps me in Cairo and after a bit of trouble I find the famous route via the oases, leading on 1200 kilometers through the Libyian Desert and finally to Luxor.

On my way lies the White Sahara with its bizarre white formations of rock - and quantities of mud. Yes, in the middle of the Sahara, the motorbike nearly slips over in ankle-deep mud, where water has been sprayed on a building site, to prevent dust formation.

There are about ten military controls a day, for safety reasons of course, and these are always carried out very correctly.


If you want to describe the desert with its various faces, sand dunes, stone deserts, plains with gravel, table mountains, you have to have experienced it. Just like the Karnac Temple in Luxor with its mighty hall of columns. How fascinating it must have been thousands of years ago!

For reasons of safety - of course - the journey from Luxor to Assuan is only possible in a police convoy with siren blaring and at breakneck speed - for safety? - through the villages along the Nile, the river that I will drive along for the next three weeks.

In Assuan a jolly group gets together: Mike from Scotland on a BMW, Jan from the Netherlands on his 47 liter tank Africa Twin (we call her the mothership) and me. Together we get hold of the very last tickets for the M/S Scrapheap, bringing us over the Nasser Artificial Lake to the Sudan. This saves us from waiting a week in Assuan.

The XT celebrates 50.000km on the clock, when I mount the touring tyres. I send home a parcel with excess equipment and I go to the harbour. The loading of the ship reminds me of hand-to-hand fighting; it makes me shiver to see what the carriers have to bear. Now it is clear how they managed to build the Pyramids. The motorbikes are loaded on a separate cargo ship and filled up to the handlebars with beds, sacks of onions, and many undefinable pieces of luggage.

Marion and Arno are travelling with their Pajero, of which nothing can be seen any more. The second class is similar to a slave transporter and is not very comfortable for a journey. How lucky we are to travel first class, where it is still more or less bearable.

After 18 hours we go ashore in Wadi Halfa, Sudan and it feels to me like the end of the world, or alternatively the beginning of a new one: this is really where Africa seems to begin.

The next day our motorbikes arrive. Unloading, paying duty and entrance fees takes until early evening. On the third day we can start at last. Through the desert, over sand, across gravel fields, through villages where time seems to stand still and Nubian women wave to us.

We meet Uli and a Japanese on their way to Cape Town by bicyle! We are already suffering from the 48 degree temperature and have the utmost respect for their achievement, to tackle this difficult route on unmade roads with uncertain possibilities of supply just using muscle power.

We sleep happily and cheaply in a 1000-star hotel and strengthen ourselves with bread, sardines and cookies. Consumption of water per head and day: about 5 liters. This area is certainly not a tourist region.

Only sometimes are there villages where you can get water, food and perhaps gasoline. Once we get lost in a square kilometer field of deep sand.

My bike is the lightest and has the best tyres, so it is my honourable and perspiration-generating job to find the way out.

The GPS is really helpful, especially when the wind is blowing so hard, that you cannot see more than 20 meters ahead. Normally I prefer to navigate with maps and compass: here, for the second time during this trip it is indispensable supplementary equipment.

When the three of us stop in a village for a Pepsi, the landing of 3 UFOs could not be more impressive. Then it is usually very funny to show immediately the photos taken with the digital camera.

We meet Marion and Arno again, we camp with them right on the shore of the Nile, and they invite us, the dusty and sweaty bikers, for dinner.

I ignore all reservations concerning crocodiles and before dinner jump into the Nile to get clean. Should there have been any crocodiles, I would have frightened them away.

After 500 off road kilometers without traffic signs, traffic lights or such, we reach Dongola. Mike's BMW is finally loaded on a pick-up. Driving through the sandy area was good for neither her nor him.

When we get to Dongola the 5 bank institutes inform us, without batting an eyelid, that the government in Khartoum has forbidden foreign money exchange, irrespective of our hotel bills and the need of gasoline for the motorbikes. But the manager of the Hotel Lord rescues us and changes enough money for getting through to Khartoum. Before this though, Jan and I drive to the pyramids of Nuri.

On our way back, already in the direction of Khartoum and after hundreds of kilometers off road, we finally get to a relaxing asphalt road!

A bit too relaxed. Behind a bump there is a hidden pothole. Actually more like a trench. It is long and above all deep, and the edges are sharp. What happens next makes up for all the potholes that I had previously sped over in happy ignorance.

Later I am informed that I am not the only one by far to come to grief at this spot. After a mighty noise I let the XT roll out, she is a bit lower at the back and makes nasty noises. The rim looks more like a pentagramm and I am afraid that I have sent the valuable rear shock to that great scrapyard in the sky.

I screw up the spokes as best as I can but nevertheless drive to Khartoum in slow motion, where, late that evening, we do not find the campsite. Of course nobody knows where it is, but they confidently point us in the opposite direction that the previous person had indicated.

As we are rather tired we bother a group of policeman, until they finally escort us with blue light and sirens to the Blue Nile Sailing Club, the camping ground. It is terrible how these tourists behave!


And once again - one of these African Mr. Make-it-possible helps us find a garage. Alhamdulilah - the damper seems to have survived, part of the frame did not, however.

The guys here certainly know how to weld! They treat the sledge with the help of discs and hammer - until she runs round again and gets a new last life.

Against all expectations, the journey continues the next day. But I change from "Knocking-on-Heavens-Door" modus to "We have all the time in the world" and that evening I reach the pyramids of Meroe, the old capital of the Upper-Egyptian kingdom of Kush.

A very idyllic place with hardly anybody there except me. In the nearby Italian Camp I get a guestbed in the servant's house, and one guest even has some cold beer (alcohol is prohibited in Sudan). As he would rather drive along with me than go back to his office, he gives me a Carlsberg. From him (an employee of the Embassy) I hear that the 130 NGOs have contributed immensely with their capital to a dramatic rise in prices in some fields, especially to a massive income gap among the population. No donor is informed all of this, of course.

East of Wad Medani we see half a dozen of Russian one-motor Aeroflot airplanes, with strings meticulously attached to the ground. They have certainly not been in operation for 30 years. Their coverings hang down from the wings. As nothing seems forbidden to a pilot, I climb up into the cockpit of one of these planes and simulate to be Lindberg. Unfortunately I am unable to start that thing, besides, there are no pretty stewardesses around. Just some goats are chewing the bit of grass they find in this bushy savanna.

Actually I have already left the Sahara behind me; sometimes I can even see a bit of green in the middle of the yellow region.

I can see more and more villages with round thatched huts, herds of cattle - sometimes decimated by trucks that seem to have no brakes.
The last 100 kilometers before the Ethiopian frontier are characterized by knee-deep skidmarks and stones sharp as knives.

Just before leaving the mobile telephone net, I get an SMS by Gerdi: "Mass.revolts in Ethiopia with hundreds of dead people - DON'T enter Ethiopia!"


2. report: Cairo-Ethiopic Boarder. 21.10-05.11.2005 | Wolfgang Niescher | www.globebiker.com–––––––––_____-–>> see 3. report

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