Crikey… It’s been such a long time since I updated my blog. Apologies!!!!!! I have actually crossed five countries since my last posting. I’ve been busy but mostly lazy and with lack of easy internet access, it’s not been easy…
Well, sit back and get ready for an EPIC blog post. Sorry, no photos at the moment. The internet is just sooo slow I can’t upload any.
I crossed into Ethiopia (let me check my passport), on the 28th October. The night before the border, we wild camped in the desert and were descended upon by two Nubian farmers riding on their camels with about 200 goats in tow. They sat down, eat my dinner, drank most of our water and moved on with a smile and a wave. Nubian traditions eh…
As we set off the next morning, the road gradually changed from dusty barren Nubian desert into a lush hilly landscape as we approached Ethiopia. We were really looking forward to the cool temperatures, greenery and scenery that we knew Ethiopia would offer.
After a NIGHTMARE at the border messing about customs officials who demanded letters from our embassy (or a bribe). Using a local’s laptop, the banks printer and many phone calls to our embassy we were finally let go after a four hour, stressful encounter. But, WOW !! What a landscape. Huge Mountain ranges further than the eye could see and endless climbing up mountain hairpin roads. I hadn’t ridden roads like this since Colombia. My GPS read about 4000 metres at one point and my spluttering bikeconfirmed it.
After the delay at the border, slow riding and endless picture taking we found ourselves 20 miles short of our destination town with the sun about the set. Now, riding at night in Ethiopia is not like in the western world. The road is full of cattle, goats, children, rocks, barriers, potholes etc. With ZERO lighting, It’s blacker than black when the sun goes down and very dangerous.
We made the silly decision to battle on in the dark. There was nowhere to stay anyway. After a few close calls I finally fell victim to the Ethiopian roads. I hit a MASSIVE rock, the bike catapulted and my back tyre almost exploded. I fought with the bike and came to a stop safely by the side of the road. A 3” gash in my tyre meant I couldn’t continue so our first night in Ethiopia ended up as a nightmarish wild camp in a rocky field in the pitch dark. Not fun at all.
After waking up at 5am to fix the puncture, we were once again moving on and arrived in the our first Ethiopian town, Gondar. We quickly settled into the secure hostel Belegez and enjoyed a beer and good food for the first time in a while.
The next few days in Gondar were spent indulging in alcohol, goat meat, painfully slow internet and racing around town looking for spare tubes and a tyre to replace my ruined tyre.
I had great fun in Gondar, throwing local boys on the back of my bike to guide me around town to all the best places, get me a mobile phone contract, get a fuel can carrier made and take us to the local bars.. Fantastic.
I was actually very surprised just how modern Ethiopia was in the towns. I just expected mud huts and skinny kids all the way down. Gondar had internet cafes, supermarkets, workshops and a 4* hotel…. Still very backwards compared to Europe but more modern than I had imagined.
While in Gondar with the kiwis, Neil, matt and kim (still in plaster) and Dave and Steff (the Land rover support crew) turned up. We decided to take a three day trip into the awesome Simian mountains together. We spent the next three days on a 150 mile gravel ride through the most spectacular mountains you can imagine and it was well worth it. I thought I had seen some mountains but these blew me away. That and being harassed by baboons made it a fantastic experience. I even got to play with our guides AK47! Snowdonia national park is isn’t!
Back in Gondar I decided to wait behind and let the Kiwis and Neil go on ahead. Their schedule and riding plans didn’t work with mine at this point. I was determined not to race through Africa after all my planning, saving and dreaming, I just wasn’t prepared to blast my way through Africa in 8 weeks… So, off they went and I was alone in Africa!!!
Two days later, after more relaxing in Gondar, I made my way south to the Capital of Addis Ababa. The riding south was unbelievable yet again. I just can’t describe the scenery of Ethiopia. It’s so lush, green, mountainous and untouched. Every time I pulled over, kids was appear from nowhere with their big smiling facing and once they realised they weren’t getting a pen or a few coins they were happy to smile for photos, sit on my bike and just be kids!! Wonderful!
On the way to Addis, I stayed at lake Tana with Mat, Kim, Dave and steff. We took a boat ride out to the monastarys on the lake and enjoyed local cheap food.. yum..
Once in Addis, I made my way to “Wims Hollands” place. A Dutch, western overland campsite and bar. It was nice to put my feet up with good beer for a while and watch the world go by. In Addis I visited “lucy”, the oldest skeleton ever found, ate at local restaurants, swapped stories with other travellers explored the city. In Addis, I eventually up with James and coco, a Brit and German biker also on their way South. We agreed to stick together on our way to Kenya and battle the infamous “BANDIT HIGHWAY”.
The road South to the Kenyan border was just as fabulous as the rest of Ethiopia. We wild camped on lakes, mingled with the wild locals at the markets and sucked in the whole REAL Africa experience. Ethiopia remains one of my favourite Africa countries.
By the time we arrived at the Kenya border town of Moyale some days later, we had arranged to hook up with “THE POLISH”… A van full of three Polish 23 year olds on their RTW trip whom James had travelled with in Sudan. We agreed to all stay together for the three days adventure down the bandit highway.. Let it commence.
I think I better explain the bandit highway. It’s the “road” from Ethiopia into Kenya. Over 300 miles of the most unimaginable conditions through NOTHING but desert and open prairie. Everything from deep sand, rock fields, massive drop-offs, pot holes, dust, gravel and corrugations that shake every bone in your body . It can’t be called a road. If that isn’t bad enough, the local trucks and buses tear down it without a care in the world making it even more dangerous. This road seems never to end and is the biggest test of riding stamina I have ever faced. Our vehicles all needed repairs after it… Blimey!!
After we battled with the “road” for three days we finally arrived in Nairobi totally exhausted and utterly destroyed. Our vehicles were rattling, falling apart and we needed a well deserved rest. Our sanctuary was in the form of “jungle junction”. A large rest stop, hostel, campground for overlanders in the richer side of Nairobi. It’s run by big German Chris and is the most western, modern place I’d stayed in on the whole trip. We enjoyed wifi, western supermarkets, good beer and food!! It all seemed far too easy from what we had experienced in the North. I wasn’t complaining though…
After a week of bike repairs, waiting for DHL to send me spares and general recuperation it was time to move on. Coco was heading to Mombasa to fly home to his family in Germany; the Polish were off to the east coast leaving myself and James to head west to the jewels of Lake Victoria. We would have loved to visit the Safari parks that Kenya is famous for but at a minimum $100 a day, they are way over my budget and the parks are much cheaper, if less well known in the South of Africa.
As we headed around to the lake we stopped off at lake Nyvasha and Lake Buringo where we got to camp with Monkeys (who stole our breakfast), hippos and crocodiles. Not your average under canvas experience I can tell you. Hearing Hippos graze around your tent is pretty scary considering they kill more people than any other wild animal in Africa… As usual the riding was hairy but very picturesque. Large trucks on bad roads and mental mini bus taxi driving require constant 100% road attention which is rather frustrating when you’re riding through beautiful forests, valleys and deltas etc.
Before we knew it we were at the Uganda border. More lush greenery and scenery making dream riding. Our destination was the town on Jinja. This is where the white nile runs into Lake Victoria over some of the biggest rapids in the world. Obviously white water rafting is prominent here so I couldn’t miss the opportunity to ride grade 5 rapids !! After a puncture 20 miles short of jinja we arrived and camped at Adrift campsite who’s bar literally overhung the river. What a view. We stayed here a few days, met up with “The belguiques” ( a trio of Belgium lads in a land cruiser we had bumped into all the way south) and we all went rafting together.
The rafting was magnificent. It was my first time doing this so being thrown straight into the highest grade commercial rapids was a little scary but it was simply amazing. I definitely have to do it again another time. After more go food, internet and beer we headed west around to lake to Uganda’s capital, Kampala.
We stayed at the Red chilli hostel which was so full of tourists it got pretty depressing. East Africa is totally overrun with gap year students, overland safari trucks and overlanders like me. It barely feels like travelling it’s so easy ! We stayed there five days indulging in all the things we missed from home then headed west into the mountains to get away from the tourists.
With “The Belguiques” in tow, we rode to Fort portal, a town in the mountains, surrounded by Waterfalls, open countryside and great scenery. We spent a couple of nights here in the serene peace and quiet, taking a long walk into the hills with a local guy.
Our final stop in Uganda was to be Lake Bunyoni. A huge, magnificent lake scattered with lush green islands and small campsites. We hung out with the Belguiques and two British girls, Emma and Bec who were working in Uganda and taking a break by the lake. It was lovely to sit outside overlooking this wonderful lake, sipping cold beers and letting the world go around.
Rwanda is a tiny country the size of Wales and is practically on the way to Tanzania so it seemed pointless to miss it. Rwanda is probably best known for the horrendous genocide and massacres in 1994. We didn’t know what to imagine.
As we rolled through the border we were greated by one of the most beautiful counties in east Africa. Once again, lush, green forests and mountain roads. Talking of the roads, they were as good as any in Europe and some of the best in Africa. As we entered the capital of Kagali, we were again shocked to how clean, organanised and friendly it was. We visited the genocide museum, memorial and mass grave sites. Very depressing and eerie. I was ashamed how little I knew about this and was embossed to be western when I learned how it was all left to happen by the UN and how France even sold the rebels the weapons and machetes that were used to butcher innocent women and children.
After this humbling experience we couldn’t leave Rwanda with just the memory of Genocide. We headed south to see the countryside on the way to the Tanzanian border. We rode dirt roads through small villages taking in the landscape. The locals would wave and great us. Big smiles and waving children will be my everlasting memory of Rwanda.
With Rwanda being small, it was no time at all before we were at the Tanzanian border. Our passports were stamped by a friendly official called Nab who insisted we add her on facebook (imagine that in the UK)…
As we headed South/West we left the lush greenery behind and we into bleak, desert like landscapes again. Not much to see apart from scattered trees, brush and dirty towns. The west of Tanzania is pretty undeveloped and we couldn’t find an ATM or fuel station for a couple of days. Black market fuel and wild camping it was to be on the first day… As we put out tents up on the outskirts of a small town, we were surrounded by all the kids who lived about. We were a total novelty as we fixed yet another puncture and cooked our dinner on our “magic” camping stove. It was actually really good fun and we soon were playing chase and acting a fool with them. A great experience that you can only get in the sticks.
We had agreed to pass through Tanzania as quickly as possible. We spent so much time in Uganda that we were really pressed for time if we were to make Malawi for Christmas. Long days in the saddle followed while we heading South. Not much to see or report really so just as well we powered on. Our progress was hampered by endless punctures and failed patches. 6-7 tube repairs in 24 hours were a nightmare. James didn’t have any spare tubes so we were forced to repair punctures with patches that just wouldn’t stick in the heat… We finally found a small motorcycle shop where spares could be bought and once again we were mobile. We arrived at the capital city of Dodoma a few days ago and after a failed attempt to cross a 160 mile short cut on sand, dirt roads we headed east and South to divert it. We were pretty pissed off at the extra mileage but as always, fate was on our side and we got to pass through a national park where we saw Elephants, Zebra, Giraffe and impala. How cool!! And no $100 a day fees like you get in Kenya.
So here I am now in Mbeya, just about to cross the border into Malawi 65 miles away… Its Christmas in four days and I’m sitting in a small hotel under cloudy skys while James delivers a letter he’s been carrying from the UK to a small primary school in the Countryside.
So, sorry for so much info in one posting.
Merry Christmas to everyone !