Monday 1st - As I have said in my last report, we have the bikes now securely crated and ready to go. Our tickets have been payed for and we are booked on a Qatar airways flight out of Khartoum on Tuesday night 21H00.
The one problem we still sit with is the bikes have to be paid for before they can be checked on to the Qatar Cargo plane that will be taking them out of the country, now with the bank problems, we have been trying all sorts of avenues to get money into the country. Some ideas scary and some are outrageous, the scary option was: Pay the money into a friend of our fixer guy’s account and in three days once the money has been cleared he will pay the airline. We are talking about a sum of 5300 USD here! R52 750.00! Plus we will be out of the country by the next day. That idea was shot out the water very quickly.
The outrageous was for one of us to fly out of the country, draw the money from a bank where our cards will work then fly back with the cash. Desperate times calls for desperate measures.
Anyway before we made the final call on what to do, I put a call through to Nick Goble our Pannar sponser in SA and asked his advice. He suggested we contact Mahomed the Khartoum agent that so graciously took us out on the Barge on the Nile last Tuesday and see if he could not help. With a silent prayer I put a call through to him and explained our predicament. He tells me he is in Addis Abba but sure he can help. He tells me to phone him back in ten minutes, this I do. He has arranged everything for us. We are told to go to his office in down town Khartoum where his financial manager will have a cheque made out to the airline to settle the amount. We arrange to have the repayment made into his account and with a handshake in acceptance we are racing off to the airport to finalize the flight booking of the bikes. Mahomed and your fantastic team at your office we all three thank you for everything that you have done for us during our stay in Khartoum.
Arriving back at the airport we are given the weights of the bikes combined with crates as well as the crate dimentions and a formula is worked out and the total amount for flying the bikes across to Rome is worked out and the money is duly paid over to the airline.
We then thankfully leave the airport and catch an Amjate a local mini bus taxi looks like half loaf bread has very few instruments, you are lucky if the windows work no door handles plenty of mirrors a box of tissues on the dash and a driver that is suicidal. These drivers have the habit of hooting and going, no matter what is coming at them, and head back to our car park camp site where we now know will be our last nights sleep in Khartoum.
Tuesday 2nd - We wake this morning in high spirits knowing that we can pack up our tents and equipment head off to town to the coffee shop that has become our refuge from the heat and wait the day out until we need to go check in at 17H00 in the afternoon. Again we are reminded, never take things as complete and done in Africa. We had just finished packing up camp when I receive a call from Madi our fixit guy at the airport. He tells us that the Captain in charge of freight loading has inspected the crates and says they are too high and also need to be completely enclosed. This now on the day of departure.
We scramble to find a taxi to get us to the airport and get this not to small a job completed before we have to fly out.
Meeting Madi at the customs we are relieved to see he has already employed the services of a carpenter who is going at the crates with a saw and cutting the uprights shorter, Madi has also managed to find some wooden sheets to enclose the crates.
We by this stage have had enough of all the running about and the continual changing of plans. We check that Madi has everything under control and tell him because we have already paid him a lot of good money up till now for his help and we were in no doubt going to be paying him more for todays work. We were leaving him in charge and would be back at 15H00 to check the final crating, and we head off to the coffee shop. Not before we have had to strip the screens of our bikes to accomadate the shorter crates. Poor Howard was by this stage really over heating and was not taking all this to well. But when he saw the carpenter walking towards his bike with a saw and a glint in his eye he decided that he would take the the screen off him self, rather than in trust the job to an Arab with an attitude and a saw.
At 15H00 we are back and at last we breathe a sigh of relief when the captain arrives and inspects the crates and gives a final approval for them to fly.
Yet more money is handed over to Madi for his help and with the assurance from the captain that the bikes will be on the midnight plane to Doha, Qatar then on to Rome we say our final goodbyes and head off to departures to catch our plane.
We flew out of Khartoum at 21h00 via Doha which is the capital of Qatar. Never got to see much of the city as we landed at midnight and stayed in the airport while changing to our connecting flight to Rome.
Wednesday 3rd - After a not to comfortable sleep on the plane we looked out the window at 05h30 to see Italy and the city of Rome stretching out beneath us, and green grass!
The temp in Rome is about 18 degrees in the morning and goes up to 27 degrees during the day. Bliss after the 48 degrees we were experiencing in Sudan. After collecting our luggage, Jaco discovers that someone in Khartoum has had a final say. His bag had been opened and his camera and ipod is stolen.
Leaving the airport we approach a taxi driver and ask the price of a ride to the Flaminio Village. This is the camp site where we will be based while in Rome. 50 euros was the cost. We accept and follow him to his cab. We look at each other in amazement when he gets to a Mercedes Benz (New one) and opens the door for us. Quite a change in cars, after having been using Amjat’s and cabs in Khartoum that even if you paid a huge bribe in SA would never pass a roadworthy test.
Arriving at the camp site, we were able to open the cab door from the inside. This is a new experience for us. We decide to book a bungalow to stay in and spoil our selves for a few nights, The car park in Khartoum had not been the the most comfortable of places to camp.
This afternoon we decided to catch a train into Rome city centre to get a meal and have a look around.
Rome is a beautiful old city and we walked around taking in the sites with eyes wide open. We sat in the Pizza de Pablo an ancient cobbled square in the centre of Rome surrounded by these old buildings dating back to 1528 and watched the day turn to night. The sky turned a kind of Turquoise colour with thin wispy clouds and was absolutely beautiful. If you have ever been to Monti Casino in Johannesburg the ceiling that has been painted there looks a little bit like what the sky was like. And to top all of this there was this guy playing a saxophone in the square. We sat at a pavement Café drinking red wine and taking all of this in. I think we are all still a bit shell shocked after our African adventures.
Thursday 4th - Today we took a train back into Rome and spent the day walking around the city visiting the Coloseum and other sites. Rome is an amazing city. With lots of small roads and ally ways leading all over the place, getting lost here is not too difficult. With the buildings towering over you and all these old buildings on either side of the road and a lot of the roads look much the same.
Never the less the city is amazing to walk around and take in all these old sites. Walking down the cobbled alleyways one can close your eyes and almost hear the clopping of the legioners horses and the tramping of the soldiers feet coming down the street, and when you look down at the arena of the Coloseum it is not hard to picture the scene of a slain Gladiator laying in the dust while the victor looks up at Julius Ceaser to see if he gets a thumbs up or down, which will decide whether he lives or dies.
Using the time today to explore the city was great, we are now starting to get itchy feet again and can’t wait to get our bikes out of Customs tomorrow, when we can once again get back in the saddle and start riding up through the Italian countryside heading for our end destination, Dublin.
A few technical stats for those of you that may be interested: We have up until now been traveling at an overall average speed of 55km’s per hour since leaving Durban, This is according to our GPS data .We have ridden 12450 km’s . Poor Jaco has done 4500 km of that on a broken shock. We have had no punctures and only replaced our rear tyre’s (In Nairobi) We are still running on TKC’S and should reach Dublin on our current set. The bikes have not had to have the engine oil topped up, except for the oil change that we have done in Khartoum. The combined weight of the bike when fully loaded is 380 kg’s.
All in all the bikes are holding out very well.