Touring Ted

2 wheels & no sense. My Motorcycle travel blog.
23.02.2013

I’ve got my sights on my next trip.. UK to Magadan.

I’ve got the bike. An XR650L which I’ll be prepping and posting about shortly..

Watch this space :)


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21.10.2012

Apologies for the incredibly overdue final post to my blog. I guess I’ve been putting it off because it means my trip is over and there is nothing else to write about for a while..   That and my website went all a bit wierd for a few months and I didn’t have the time to fix it…

Anyway, from Mozambique  I arrived in Nelspruit in the North Easy of South Africa and settled into my first night in South Africa. It’s crazy just how modern South Africa is compared to my last 5 months of Northern Africa. It could almost be Europe.  Everything suddenly got really easy and cosy  Supermarkets are full of food I can recognise. Things ‘Work’ and everyone speaks English.  This is like travelling in Australia but with an African undertone.

After a few beers I got on the phone to James as we had agreed to meet up again in South Africa.  He was only a few KM away, hiding out in a field.  Within an hour or two he rolled up and friendly insults and greetings were exhanged.  It was good to see him again after riding alone through Mozambique. We had stories to share and had a good laugh about over the pool table.

For the last five months I had really wanted to visit a safari park and see some big game.  It was always so expensive though. Literally a FORTUNE.  Everyone told me “Wait until South Africa, it’s way way cheaper”… Alas I waited and waited and once I got to Nelspruit (the gateway to Kruger National park) I was keen to book a trip.  Well, it’s not cheap at all. £500 quid for a day in a game park.. F**K RIGHT OFF !!   Apparently its way cheaper if you have your own vehicle and bikes aren’t allowed due to obvious reasons.  So, there goes that idea. I’m just grateful that I saw so much game just on the roads. I have seen Elephants, Zebra, Giraffe, Baboons, Hippos, buffalo, crocs and countless birds, deer, monkeys etc.  I can’t really complain too much.  The big cats will have to wait for another visit.

Well South Africa is a big place with so much to do. Swaziland wasn’t too far and tales of epic mountains and landscapes had us convinced. So off we set to Swaziland.  As  we got closer to the border the roads became twisty and headed further and further into the mountains. After getting lost down a couple of dirt tracks we finally found are way to the border and were greeting by a group of menacing border guards.  After a “Hello” they soon came to life and ended up being super friendly and interested about our trip. They even let me jump in their jail van and we all posed for the camera, guns and batons in hand.. Only in Africa !!!

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SWAZILAND was simply stunning. What a beautiful mountainous landscape.  The jagged and seemingly endless mountains struck us in no time at all. As the broken road carried us further higher into the mountain passes there wasn’t much to think or do but listen to the sound of your engine and let the eyes absorb the images that you will treasure forever.

As we headed south to find  accommodation the landscape would again take our breath away. We camped up at a lovely lodge that night and the next day climbed a small peak that overlooked us. A great day !!

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As it’s such a small country, the following day we were again back into South Africa where we would head to the coast and check out the large Indian migrated city of Durban.

After a long and not so interesting ride we arrived in the large and busy city of Durban. Like most of South Africa, it has great beaches but again, lots of people, traffic, tourism and all ‘That jazz’. A nice place to stop off and check out but not much to hold us.

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I’d been communicating with a cool guy that I met on Horizons Unlimited called ‘Moto Zuli’, a German guy who has moved to South Africa and was running a small rental company. He lived just outside of Port Shepstone in a place called ‘Umtentweni’.. James had an idea to check out Lesotho so again we parted with an agreement to meet in Capetown. I set off early and just 45 minutes outside of the city in rather a rough part of town I felt the dreaded squirm of a flat tyre. Oh great. So out come the tools and the spare tube that I’d bought in Tanzania. As I removed the shredded and unrepairable ‘patched 20 times already’ inner tube I realised that my new one was not new at all. I’d been scammed. The shifty bloke in a old shack bike shop had sold me a tube with the valve ripped off it. BASTARD !!! I should of checked it but that’s life.

So now what ?. I’d passed a petrol station with a car garage about a mile back. So I packed up my tools, wiped my brow and starting pushing my bike back down the road. It took me a good hour and it nearly broke my will. This is definitely another good reason to have a small, lightweight bike. Imagine pushing a bigger BMW type bike with a flat tyre. It just ain’t happening.

I park the bike up and have a look around. No bike shops and the car garage doesn’t have anything that can fix my tubes or use as a replacement. Also, being Sunday, there would be nothing open. I couldn’t even grab a taxi to a bike shop. FECK !!! It looked like I was destined to sleep in a petrol station forecourt in a very rough neighbourhood in South Africa. Not an appealing thought at all.

After 30 mins of faffing and heads scratching, I see two guys pull up in their Pick up truck. I ask them if there are any bike shops that they know of as I was stranding with no usable inner tubes. Not expecting anything but a shrug they tell me to jump in the back of the pick up, with no arguments, as they’re going to get me sorted. WOW ! South Africans are cool.

In one of those ‘I didn’t expect this to be happening this morning’ moments, I’ve left my bike in a petrol station and now I’m lying in the back of a pick up truck flying down the highway with a couple of strangers heading to god knows where. They took me to bike shop after bike shop looking for one that was open and thank god, the last one we tried was open and stocked plenty of inner tubes. An hour later I was back in the petrol station putting my new tube in. These guys wouldn’t even an ice cream for their trouble. Fantastic. Life on the road eh.

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Finally I arrive in Umtentweni and check myself into the recommended hostel. Right on the beach with a lovely little garden and I was the only guest. Lovely. I spent a few days playing pool and hanging out with the super friendly hostel staff and chilled out with Moto Zulu. Just great, welcoming and super hospitable people.

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After a really nice chill out, I headed off once again down the coast to Chintsa beach and Buccaneers hostel. A great place spread out over forests, beaches and hillside. Many a day were spent playing Vollyball, walking down the beaches, canoeing down the little streams and generally enjoying traveller life at the hostel. South Africa was growing on me. BIG TIME !

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While in South Africa, I was determined to go to the very Southern point of Africa, to a place called Agulas. Over a couple of days I made my way down through a landscape which very much reminded me of Patagonia in South America. Wind and rain battered me mercilessly and I felt just like the weather torn landscape around me. As I rolled up to stone that marked the point, I wasn’t sure if it was worth the ride. Just a plinth on a rock next to the see. Still, one of the bucket list I guess…

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Now what ?? South Africa… SHARKS !!! Even better, cage-diving with great whites. My guide book told me to head to Gansbaii for the best chance to see great whites. Off I go.

South Africa is such a great country for biking. The roads are all pretty good and there are petrol stations, shops and amenities everywhere. It’s really easy. Saying that, it’s still such a large and wild country, you can very quickly feel totally African again. I love this contrast and mixture. You can ride dirt roads through the mountains all day and still relax in a comfortable hostel with a cold beer the same night.

so, I arrive in gansbaii and walk straight into town looking for a shark diving boat. It wasn’t hard. The place seems to thrive on it. The next day I was in a boat heading out to sea with a bunch of other rather nervous tourists about to be thrown into the cold water with some hungry Great Whites. I totally recommend this to anyone going to South Africa. You don’t often get to stare a great white right in the eye and live to write about it.

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I was getting close to my final destination. Cape town was literally a day away and I hadn’t even really thought about it. The next day would probably be the last day on the bike, travel wise… After nearly seven months, this was it. I was tired and ready for it but it’s a bag of mixed emotions. There would be no more borders to cross, languages to fumble over or maps to sprawl over.

My last days riding was a lovely end to the trip. Hugging the mountain roads all around the South West coast was a treat. I met quite a few local bikers who rode with me and insisting on buying me coffee. On the way to the capital, I obviously took the long route down to Cape point and took all the relevant photos. Here I was in Capetown, the end !!

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Time to find my hostel, meet up with James, start looking at shipping and flights and get home.

Not before a couple of fun weeks with some more very cool people though… That is another story all together.

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30.01.2011

After leaving our hosts in Blantyre, James and I headed to the border of Mozambique. We were almost there when I got pulled over for speeding… I might have been speeding, I’m not sure. The dodgy cop didn’t know either but he thought it was worth a punt.

The usual routine of bartering for bribes was avoided as I faked a case of Malaria and my desperation to get to a clinic for a test.  They let me go immediately and luckily couldn’t see James laughing under his helmet..

The border was smooth and easy like usual now. No problems at all once you get used to the hoards of money changers and hawkers…

We got to the town of Tete a couple of hours later and crossed the infamously crowded Zambezi Bridge in no time at all and looked for accommodation. As the only campsite was shut down, we ended up pitching our tents in a bar/motel car park!! Nice!!

We spent our first night battling with our Portuguese (yes they speak it in Mozambique) and getting used to the insufferable heat… Mozambique seems so much more developed than the rest of Africa. The signs of getting South I guess. ATMs are everywhere, internet, good food etc etc. And the prices were rising too.

Another days ride and we were in Chimoio and the “pink Papaya” hostel. Nice, but nothing special… The same old routine of wandering around town, doing some shopping etc etc.

At this point mine and James’s plans differed. I really wanted to head to the coast, the Indian ocean and all its spectacular glory. James wanted to stay inland and head to Zimbabwe. We shook hands and agreed to meet up in South Africa.

So off I set, 300 miles to my first coastal destination, Vilanculo.  A fantastic beach town and stunning coastline. I checked myself into “Boabab” campsite/bar and got comfortable. I met so many cool people, hung out on the beach, learnt to Scuba dive, chilled out of boats eating Calamari, partying in “Afrobar”  and getting back into running on the pristine white beaches. This was the life and a well deserved break from all the riding.

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Ten days later, I finally managed to drag my arse out of there and head 200 miles down the coast to yet another beach location. More touristy and “backpacker” than the last place but equally as pretty. I booked myself in for a Scuba dive and it true “me” style, I got some faulty equipment, ran out of air 20 metres underwater and had to so an emergency shared air ascent.. Life is never easy when you’re me. LOL!!  On the dive I met a great bunch of South Africans who treated me to my first “braii” and good South African wine.. Ahhhhhhh Life is good!!

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Alas, I had to move on eventually as I was meeting James in South Africa in a few days. Off I went and headed to the Mozambique capital, Maputo.

The road was smooth and modern and the miles fell away. The ony disruptions were the rain storms which completely soak you through in 30 seconds! Still, I am British and used to the rain on two wheels.

Rolling into Maputo I thought I was going to hate the place. The outskirts were dirty and derelict with lots of traffic. I headed straight to the centre and to “The base” backpackers where things changed quickly. What a lovely city. Very European and cosmopolitan with just enough African dirt and chaos to keep it different. You could really see the Portuguese money and influence there. It’s a shame the Africans have left a lot of it to go to shit once they kicked out the Portuguese.   I spent three great days hanging out with the guys I met at the hostel, watching Jazz bands and exploring the city. I could of spent a good while longer there but time was ticking on and I had a border to cross…

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So, after a few toll roads, long lines at the border and multiple passport stamps I made it through the border to South Africa..

BLIMEY! What a transition. I was in the west again.  Modern structures, working ATM’s, good fast roads, KFC’s, etc etc!!

I’m now in Nelspruit in a very modern hostel. They have a large LCD TV, hot water and a toaster. WOOOO!!! I bought a good bottle of red wine for £3 and sat down to watch the FA Cup games on a large TV. I realised I hadn’t seen any TV in five months which wasn’t a burnt out 14” portable TV with 50 other people huddled around it…

So, this is it … I’m in South Africa. I guess it’s all easy now!! Although, knowing me, there will be plenty of surprises to follow.


After a fantastic New years party at Cool Runnings, me and James headed to Cape Mclear; a little village into a peninsular in the South. On our way out of town, we were dissapointed to find out that there was no fuel.. We checked out tanks and decided we could make it and were counting on getting fuel at our destination.. We cruised down the nice tarmac road. We almost had the road to ourselves which really helps you to relax a little and absorb the always fantastic scenery… 10 miles short of our destination, we were faced with rutted and corrugated sand to get to the village.  To add to the fun, there was no fuel in town so we were going to be stuck there for a couple of days at least, preying for a fuel delivery. Malawians are all pretty friendly so I swapped phone numbers with the pump attendant so he could let us know when fuel was back in town…

We rattled, skidded and slid in the sand and finally made it to “Fat Monkeys” campsite, right on the beach. Sweeet !!!

There we met a great bunch of South Africans who were on their way North. We chilled out with them for a days and exchanged details. They gave us their addresses and demanded we stay in their houses while they were on the road. Brilliant.. That’s a common trend occurring with all the South Africans I’m meeting on the road. They’re bloody hospitable.

So as usual, I spent the next few days lazing on the beach, swapping stories with other travellers, walking into town and amusing the local kids with my white skin and watching the football with the locals in the beach bar. (Being an LFC fan is a little depressing though and boy, they love to take the piss).

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Alas, all good things come to an end. With a phone call to the petrol station, I was told fuel was once more available so we packed up and head off the next morning..

The rain had been hard the night before and the road had turned into a muddy swamp.  I was ok on my DRZ but James’ BMW with road tyres couldnt hack it and he had a topple which broke his “fisherprice” BMW plastic panniers…

After an hour of banging, hacking, screwing and bolting around on the muddy road his panniers were again usuable and we were on our way to blantyre… The last stop until Mozambique.

We spent the next couple of days in a bleek hostel in Blantyre. In that time we managed to get fined/bribed by local cops for not carrying out insurance documents with us, I managed to pay £90 for a tent I thought was £50 (and that was overpriced at that) and also meet up with some friends that we met at “Cool runnings” at New years. We went out drinking and then they offered to put us up in their house for a couple of extra days… Two days of creature comforts, BBQs, clean beds and country walks was just what the doctor ordered…

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We were ready for Mozambique…….


Malawi

Author: Ted Magnum
03.01.2011

Christmas Eve…..The border crossing from Tanzania to Malawi was straight forward as most of Africa is. We were in and out within an hour which was just as well in this new tropical heat.  What was different was the tenacity of the money changers. We were literally mobbed by 30 guys all waving money in our faces.. I was almost pulled off my bikes by these guys desperate to make a little commission.

When you’re dealing with hundreds of thousands in local currency with people throwing numbers and cash in your face it soon becomes very confusing ! Even me with my shrewd cash handling skills usually gets talked out of a few quid… You are just so keen to get rid of them, you lose your cool head.

Alas, we were in Malawi and finally heading to the lake !!  The scenery is lush, green and tropical. I have to constantly remind myself how lucky I am to be riding through such fantastic landscapes.  I guess I’m just used to it now. I don’t know anything different. It’s going to be a depressing shock to be back on the grey, dull, wet roads of the U.K.

We picked a campsite recommended to me by a guy I met in Egypt, Andre !! Barely 100 miles down the highway and a few miles down a sandy , rocky dirt path and we were at Singilo Sanctuary lodge, right on the lakeside…..  WOW!!!!

Lake Malawi was not what I expected. Beautiful, clear, still water and white clean beaches.  Little wooden lodges, candle lights and palm trees.  We were the only guests and had the place to ourselves. Mark, the Brit owner chatted to us and told us how Ewan and Charlie had stayed there on their “Long way down”… The stories he told us were quite amusing but hardly surprising… That’s another story though.

Anyway, we couldn’t hang around as we were looking for a cool place for Christmas.  In our minds was Nhkata Bay… An American girl on a bike that we met in Mbyer told that if there was a party on the lake, it would be there and she wasn’t wrong.

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60 miles south on the lake and we cruised into Nhkata bay and into really cool hostel spread over the lake front. Full of travellers, peace core volunteers and ex pats, it was really a great mixing pot. The next few days were spent drinking, eating, lounging about on the beach, swimming in the lake and hanging out with the local beach boys. Malawians are just SOOO friendly; anyone could be a friend for life.

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Christmas dinner was steak and chips in the Mzungu (white folk) bar in the town and plenty of cocktails followed by a Hawaiian fancy  dress party and lots of local cane spirit back at the hostel. As usual I got rather drunk and had a great time partying with people from all over the world… Boxing day (after the hangover had subsided) involved slaughtering a pig and hog roasting it over a fire pit ! And of course, a fair few more beers. (when in Rome)..

ta bay, we headed for another must stop spot called “kande beach”.  Being on the beach, we fumbled our way down the sand road but were rewarded with a fabulous camping site and bar literally on the beach…

So what have I been doing. Well, just cruising my way down Lake Malawi staying at beautiful beach side lodges.  Swimming in the warm, still waters, working on my tan and drinking cheap beer. It has been such a fantastic experience. The scenery is all gorgeous, green tropics, Mountains, lakes etc etc.

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For new years eve we ended up in “Cool Runnings” lake side lodge. Hosted by the WONDERFUL Samantha, we relaxed even further and partied with the local ex pats and worldly travellers. I even came second place in the Hippie fancy dress party and won a boat trip out to one of the lake Islands for Scuba diving and other frolics…Fabulous !!

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Next stop is Blantyre and Mozambique… South Africa is getting closer !


21.12.2010

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.

Ethiopia.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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! ;)

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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!

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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..

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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”.

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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!!

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Kenya

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…

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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.

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UGANDA

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.

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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.

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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.

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Rwanda

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.

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Tanzania

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.

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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.

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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 !


Sudan

Author: Ted Magnum
09.11.2010

Apologies fro my lack of recent posts.  It’s been quite some time hasn’t it! The reason for that is that I have been asked to write a feature for a magazine.  “Adventure Bike rider” to be specific.  Go to their website and check in out. www.adventurebikerider.com. Subscribe and make sure you buy the January edition to read my full account of Sudan.  For now, you may have the very abridged version below ;)

So……After an infinite amount of time in Aswan sorting out our paperwork to leave Egypt, we finally managed to buy our tickets for the ferry to Sudan. It took three days of lots of waiting about and frustration but we were finally free. No one was sad to leave Egypt. The constant beaurocracy and “tourist rip off” tip society was very draining.

Down to the port and we had to put the bikes on a separate barge. A decrepid old boat which left the day after us. Very worrying leaving your bike behind but that’s Africa.

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So, the bikes were loaded up and we got onto our ferry. We didn’t have a cabin so we were crammed on deck along with 350 Sudanese and three years worth of shopping. Eight of us crammed into a space fit for two. As you can imagine we didn’t sleep well but a great experience.

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17 hours later we arranged in Wadi Halfa, and boy could we feel the heat. We wasted no time getting through customs and into town.  We found ourselves a two quid hotel with a cess pit for a toilet. It was so hot we barely slept but the next day we were excited as we should be reclaiming the bikes. After some bribes, paperwork and the usual messing about we had our bikes back and made plans to ride the infamous desert route south!

We awoke early, loaded up the bikes with extra fuel and water and headed off into the desert. It didn’t take long for the tarmac to disappear and for the deep sand to make our lives very difficult. Crash after crash left us exhausted and frustrated. The blazing 45c sun didn’t add to the fun either.  It didn’t take long for our first serious accident. Kim went straight over her bars and ended up badly hurt. She had broken her wrist, brushed her legs and cut up her face.. What a nightmare! Luckily Dave and Steph in the Landy were just behind and we managed to get Kim back to town and to the medical centre.. We arranged the local police to go out in their truck and collect the bike..

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Hours later, Kim was bandaged up and the bike was back in town. We arranged to have the bike sent to Khartoum in a truck and Kim would ride in the Landy.

After three days of long and hot riding through the desert we arrived in Khartoum.  I was exhausted with the heat and lack of sleep. We wild camped all the way down and the night temperatures were still in the high thirties.  In Khartoum we were lucky to get hooked up with a local garage owner. He hooked us up with an apartment, repaired the bike, built a bike trailer for the Landy to tow Kim’s bike and took us out for dinner and drinks! Fantastic…

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Eventually it was time for us to leave so we headed off for the Ethiopian boarder. Over the next few days, the sand turned to trees and grass and trees. Again wild camping, we ended up sleeping with local camel herders.

So, with bad sunburn, heat exhaustion, and a sore bum I left Sudan.  Check out Adventure Bike Rider magazine for far more details !!

Sorry for the lame post !!   :D


well, it’s been a long time since my last post and so much has happened that I don’t know where to start.

From my last post, we were all kicking back and enjoying the sun, sea and scuba in Hurghada, Egypt..

We left Hurgharda and headed down the Nile to luxor.  The same old story of blazing sun, desert roads, dead dogs and cut throat truck drivers tooting you along.  As we approached luxor things started to change. GREENARY !! Oh how i’ve missed it. The water irrigation really shows here and there are trees and fields running along the nile.  Even though the blazing sun would melt your visor, seeing flowers and palm trees lifted our spirita and urged us on.

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Eventually, we rolled into town and immediatly into the only camping ground in Luxor. Reziky camping (or something lol). Is a bit of a haven for overland trucks, bikes and landrovers… They have good camping, showers, wifi and A BAR  :) 
 The prices were rediculously expensive and required much bartering to get the beer down from 2 quid a bottle to 95p ! My salesmen skill come in handy now and again !  It was nice to chill out for a few days here and do nothing but play with the resident stray kittens.

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Not much for us in luxor so off we headed to Aswan and the ferry to Sudan. we knew this would be a nightmare of paperwork and running around so no one was really keen to go there…

We left early and after a few hours of desert road, we got there in one piece. We had the address of Mr Saleh, the shipping agent who would organise our tickets so headed straight there through backstreets, over railway tracks, between parked trucks. We had the wrong address !!!!  Just to add to my stress I realised that I had lost my offfical Egyptian number plate on the way somewhere ! These plates are was essential to hand back to the police in order to leave the country.. ahhhhhhhhhhh !! Not a happy bunny !

I decided to ride back the way I came to where I thought I might of lost it. Cam had clipped my bike in the madness of the traffic which I dismissed at the time but it was probably where my plate was lost. .. I rode up and down the roads scouring the dirty litter covered streets with to no evail..  Just when I thought life couldnt get any worse, a taxi driver decided to pull out in front of me requiring an emergency stop on a sandy patch of road.. Down went me and the bike !! .. Much swearing and hand genstures later  I was back upright with a broken exhaust bracket  and a temperature warning light.. Great !! could today get any worse !  at least I was ok !

I met back up with the other guys who by then had been adopted by a local copper who drove us aimlessly around town in the baking heat, taking us nowhere useful at all.. why ????  Anyway, we were saved by Matt’s GPS maps which showed the ferry company all along so off we blasted through the town just to find it was shut.

Now, the next task…. We all needed an extra number plate as we were meant to be issued with two in Alexandria. I  had NONE at all after my incident so was riding around illegaly and wouldnt be allowed out of Egypt without them. In true African style, we decided to forge some. We rode around looking for workshops and were eventually led to an old market by throwing a local kid on the back of Neils bike. I showed them a photo of my plate and they got to work making us some great forgeries while serving us tea and generally mucking around.. What a great experince.

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By now we were all pissed off, knackered, roasting in our bike clothes and dead tired. Off we headed to “Adams place”, a kind of hostel in the desert where we we could sleep and cook..  what a place though. Run by friendly nubians.

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The next couple of days in Aswan were a NIGHTMARE !! Running around from one office to the next with piles of paper we didnt understand. Paying for this and that, showing passports, getting lost, photocopying, waiting around, more waiting around and even more waiting around.  It’s an experience I never want to repeat and sums up Egyptian efficiency and beaurocracy perfectly.  Finally on monday morning, we were convoyed down to the port, passed off our fake plates,  finished our paperwork and customs and settled in for the the six hour wait to load our bikes on the barge and board the ferry. 

Now, loading the barge was a story in itself… It was a battered old barge with a broken ramp and obviously too small. It was a hustle and bustle of shouting and logistics but we finally got the vehicles on even after after a big German truck broke the ramp and beached the barge ! A few of the bikes had to be stashed on another barge so lets hope they make it to Sudan too….It was 6pm and just in time to get ourselves on the pasenger ferry.

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The passenger ferry was in itself an experience of a lifetime. 320 sudanese and egyptians with a years worth of shopping on a ferry built for maybe 150 people with no luggage. We were crammed into a small corner on the top deck, hopping and crawling over people and their belongings and thats where we spent the next 17 hours. Some us up sneaked up a ladder and onto the roof of the bridge to sleep and many people ended up in lifeboats and hanging off the sides etc ! Very funny !  We got into port at noon the next day and after an hour or two of hustle and bustle to get us and our bags off the boat we arrived in Sudan !!

So here I am, in wadi Halfa, sudan ! I’m waiting for the slow barge to arrive and then to head south to khartoum.  This small border town isnt really much to talk about but the Sudanese people are so warm and friendly and have a great sense of humour. The toilet in our “hotel” is a festering hole in the ground that you can smell from 50 feet away and the shower is a bucket of mudy water… still, I think im going to like Sudan !


08.10.2010

Well, what a time we’re having in Egypt. It’s been a right ol’e mixture of highs and lows. Where do I start !!

We got ourselves booked into a cosey hotel in Cairo in what seems like months ago. Nice place with a roof top pool, good internet, breakfast etc. The manager kindly let me haggle him down to 10 quid a night as long as he could jam four of us in a double room with some matresses… We will do anything for a discount and he even threw in free breakie when I told him I was going to send him lots of overlander business… Its the Swiss Inn, Giza !! Plugged !! :)

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We were all set to go into the city centre the next day, visit the embassies and get our visas for Sudan and Ethiopia and head south asap for the ferry to Sudan. We got our “letters of invitation” from the British Embassy easily enough so we set off for the Ethiopian embassy to get that stamp.  After walking around in the baking heat looking for an embassy that didnt exist (thanks lonely planet), asking loads of people, shops, soldiers, cab drivers etc we FINALLY found the embassy in its new hidden location.. It had just closed !! Great !
 Just as well really as they told us we needed our Sudanese visas first. The Sudanese Embassy was closed by then so back to the hotel for lazing around the pool… 

Next day, off we went to the Sudanese embassy to put our applications in… “Come back in four days” was the reply !  GREAT !  There went our plans to make the  Monday Ferry to Sudan and also our room was only booked until Saturday night and the hotel was now full… ahhhh

The silver lining in our plan was that I just recieved an email from fellow Brit  overlanders, Matt & Kim who were also waiting for their visas and were staying in a great little hostel in central Cairo. Bikes packed up and off we headed into the mayhem to find this place.

We eventually rocked up to a lovely little place called the “let me Inn” hostel run by a wonderful old couple and their friends. Very warm and welcoming and almost stress free if the 1920′s elevator didnt keep jamming between floors and slipping on it’s cables ! GULP !!

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By now, we’d been in Cairo over a week and it was really draining on us.. 

Luckily we were saved by Ali………..

We were all walking through town when Neil got talking to an Egyptian guy called Ali who invited us to his small village near the pyramids in Saquara. He wouldnt take no for an answer and arrangments were made to meet him the next day. We saddled up, met Ali (who just jumped on the back of Neils back) and were were whisked off through the city, into the country, through towns and then into his village.  This was REAL Egypt, where woman carried bags on their heads, goats lived in the kitchen and most of the kids hadn’t seen a tourist on a motorbike. We were instant celebs and show the unmost hospitality. We were cooked a meal by his family and taken for a private tour of closed Pyramids accross the desert as Ali’s father happened to be the town major !  A very tiring day.. Stuffing our faces, playing with the local kids and getting our bikes stuck in the desert, but it really broke up our frustration and boredom with Cairo.

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Monday came around and all six of us (Me, Neil, Cam, Craig, Matt & Kim) headed down to the Sudanese Embassy to collect our visas.  We all had an approval apart from Neil.. … “Come back tomorrow” & ” Not my problem” were the only grunts we got from the official..
 This was really bad news as it meant Neil would have to wait four more days to gethis Ethiopian visas due to the Arabic weekend and a public holiday. The five lucky ones decided to take a crazy fast cab to the Ethopian embassy and get our visas which we got the same day ! Neil couldnt bare to wait another four day in Cairo so ew decided to obtain it in Khartoom instead. Hopefully it will work out ok !

SOOOOOO !!  Out of Cairo we rolled and as we had now missed the ferry and the one the following week was booked out. (yes, we forgot to book it and have to wait until the 18th Oct)

As we have time to kill, the decision was made to ride up to Ismalia and visit the Suez canal. It turned out to be a 3-4 hour round trip to look at one big shit in a canal. hmmm ! Not my idea of time well spent but it was better than sitting in a hostel. 

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This rather long detour and our lack of sunset judgement put us in the outskirts of Suez, on a motorway with the sun going down very rapidly. We got to the point where it was just dangerous to carry on with the terrible roads and crazy fast truckers going hell for leather.  A wild camp it would have to be…
 We spotted a dirt track heading into the rocky moutains and very luckily it led us into a disused quarry where we spent a very cool night unders the stars. Our only company being cheaky long eared foxed and clicking bats ! Great fun though and 100% free :)  One of those memorable nights to be sure.

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We set off at 7am the next morning and headed down the coast road all the way to Hurgharda ! Six hours of sore bottom riding later (only broken up by a dip in the red sea on the way where I stood on a sea porcupine and got a foot full of spines) and here we are !!

We are chilling out here now, doing some scuba diving, sunbathing and bike maintenance. Soon we will leave for Luxor and then to Aswan for the boat to Sudan.

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Cairo to Hurghada
 

28.09.2010

Wooooo ! What a week it has been. 

We found our way from the campsite in Venice to the ferry terminal without too much drama. Our itinerary said “WE MUST CHECK IN SIX HOURS BEFORE DEPARTURE AT 10am”.. As always, the Italian ferry companies had f**ked this up as we couldn’t check on for quite a few hours later.  So, as always we sat around and waited. Eventually, the ticket office opened up and in ONLY two hours, 30 passengers we checked on board.  In fairness they did have to photocopy all our documents and deal with about six different nationalities. Waiting around is all part of the game.

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We eventually were given the all clear and rolled on board. Carrying all of our gear up three decks and across the length of the ship in sweltering heat was soul destroying and smashing a bottle of “stashed” red wine just added to our misery. (Nice one Neil grrrrrrrrrr )

We settled in on board well, somehow fitting our entire luggage into a small bunked cabin. That cabin was our home for four days.  Those four days were pretty dull and were spent reading, sunbathing, playing cards with the other overlanders on the ship and also cooking our meals. Now, using petrol stoves on the ship isn’t aloud so we just covered the smoke alarm and put the petrol stove in the shower. Although, I think half the ship knew our game as the smell of Tomato and Basil pasta flowing down the hall ways was a bit of a give away lol.

We settled in well, somehow fitting our entire luggage into a small bunked cabin. That cabin was our home for four days. We cooked our meals in the shower on the camp stoves as the 15 Euro meals were just too much for our budget, we munched away at muesli bars for breakfast and rationed out the booze sparingly..

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We pulled into Alexandria at 2pm. The Egyptian officers came aboard and by 4pm we were off the ship and ushered next to a trailer cabin for the real mayhem to begin.  We had to have our Carnets processed, Arabic number plates made, Egyptian driving licences produced and our luggage searched.  This whole debacle took about four more hours and was an absolute mass of confusion and panic (and that was just the Egyptians). 

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We had arranged to ride with three other South Africans to a campsite that was meant to be 5km from the port. It was clearly marked on one of their GPS maps.  Easy going for the first night in Egypt we thought.

It was about 8pm by the time we were cast into the dark, dirty chaotic streets of Alexandria.  If you haven’t driven in Egypt, at night in one of the busiest, craziest cities then words just can’t do it justice. There is no order, no rules.  People spill out into the street followed by their animals, cut throat taxi drivers live a life of no fear and all the time people trying to sell you things while you’re trying to stay alive. I thought I’d seen some crazy places in South America but Alex beats them all. 

After riding around aimlessly we cut a deal with a local man to take us to a hotel. He drove at cut throat speed through the manic traffic with us all following throwing all of our “western” driving principles to the wind. He took us to expensive or crap hotels until we were rescued by a fluent speaking Egyptian guy called “Micky” who came over after seeing us in a state of tired confusion. . He got rid of the other schemer, got us into a decent hotel, arranged safe parking across the street and even insisted on spending the evening with us, taking us to his favourite fish restaurant and along the quayside of the city. Micky just happend to be a Colonel in the Egyptian Air Force and an F-16 pilot. You really can’t make this stuff up.

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We left Alex this morning and battled the city to the highway and into Cairo where we are now.  Again, we were lost in this massive, crazy city with only Arabic road signs. Luckily, a taxi driver pulled over and agreed to take us to a decent hotel and that’s where im writing this from.

Tomorrow we head into the city and try to obtain Visas for Ethiopia and Sudan..  !