Thursday, May 28, 2009

Thursday 21st May to Tuesday 26TH May

Thursday 21st - This morning we were up bright and early with Jaco in high spirits hoping that the mechanic that was modifying a shock for him would be able to fit it this morning.

I need to explain a bit here about the shock. You all know that Jaco has been riding his bike now for about 1000 km’s without a shock; He is basically riding on a spring with absolutely no damping. This has the effect of sending the bike into uncontrollable bouncing all over the road when riding over even the slightest bump in the road. And believe me the roads in these countries are by no means the smoothest.

Yesterday Jaco was taken to a “Bike Shop” where the “Mechanic “told him they could not fix his shock, but they would be able to find a shock that may fit. We were told to come back later in the afternoon and they would do the job. Well at 16:30 that afternoon Jaco and I were back at the shop looking at this second hand old Russian Lada shock. The “Mechanic” was convinced that he could get it to fit. So desperate was Jaco to have a decent ride that he agreed to give it a go. We asked the cost and nearly had a heart attack when they said 600 US Dollars !!! (That’s almost R 6000.00) Desperate times calls for desperate measures.

Within no time the old shock was out and the “new” one was being measured for fitting. A vernier caliper was produced and the “ mechanic” says proudly he can make this work. He then takes the shock, puts it in a vice and sets to it with an angle grinder. This is after taking the measurements with a vernier. How precise can one be with an angle grinder we asked ourselves? After a few trial fittings and the shock still would not fit out came the 4 pound hammer and the top mounting bracket was hit into an oblong shape to try and make it fit. Eventually at 21:30 that night they agreed that this was not going to work.

Jaco and I then suggested they take my old broken shock, cut the mounting brackets of weld them on the second hand shock and that may work. This they agreed to do. We left my old shock with them and headed of to the lodge to sleep after telling them we would be back in the morning at 9:00.

Now back to Thursday morning. On arrival at the workshop we were greeted by a happy smiling mechanic informing us he had managed to weld the brackets onto the shock, so with fingers crossed we whipped out the old shock and fitted the modified Lada, Ford, Toyota, who knows what shock it was. The shock went in ok, But!!! ... As Jaco pushed the bike of the centre stand the whole thing collapsed completely and the rear mudguard was sitting flat on the rear wheel. At that point I think Jaco could have burst into tears.

Well with no alternative we decided and Jaco agreed that we would push on carefully through to Khartoum, some 2000 km’s away, where hopefully a BMW shock would be waiting at the airport for us.

We strapped Jacob’s rear suspension to prevent too much up travel; this was to prevent the shock from coming apart completely, and headed out of Addis Abba, our next stop was a small town called Debris Marcos; on route there we crossed through the Nile Canyon and for the first time saw the Blue Nile. When we entered the canyon the temperature at the top was 30 degrees and when we reached the bottom and crossed the bridge the temp had climbed to 48 degrees, this was a taste of things to come.

Arriving at Debre Marcos we booked into a “Hotel” where there were groups of over Landers already booked in. We thought it would be great to sit and once again chat to some people of our own type again. The last time having been in Nairobi, booking in we first went to our rooms to freshen up only to find the hotel, in fact the whole village, had no water or electricity. This left us with no option but to head for the bar and wash the dust from our thoughts. There we met up with the over Landers, Tim and Jack(Heading North) and the three brothers, can’t remember their names. All I remember is they call themselves the last English Tribe. They were headed South. Anyway an enjoyable evening was had by all.

Friday 22nd - This morning after saying our goodbyes to everyone and arranging with our now new mates Tim and Jack to meet them in Bahir Dar our next stop over point we headed out of town. On route we passed a lot of shot out T55 tanks and BTR Troop carriers. A legacy of the civil war that took place here in Ethiopia, I sat a moment and looked at theses wrecks of war and thought back to my days in Angola, so many years ago, and wondered how many mothers around the world are mourning there dead sons due to some senseless war in some hot dusty land.

Arriving in Bahir Dar we headed for the Ghion hotel which is situated right on the edge of Lake Tana. Here we were relieved to see that they had hot and cold water as well as electricity, definitely the place to stop over for a night.

We checked in and then decided to take a ride down to the Blue Nile Falls, some 30 km’s out of town. Arriving at the office at the falls where you buy your ticket we were told its only a short 80 meter walk to the river then a boat ride across then another 8o meters to the falls. We employed the services of a local guide and headed off. Well they have NO perception of distance! 80 meters turned out to be 2.5 km’s a short boat ride then another 2 km’s before reaching the falls! All of this done in full rider gear and a temperature of about 38 degrees! We then had to do the same coming back. Boy did that beer taste great when we got back to the bikes. The falls were a bit of a disappointment. They used to be 200 meters wide and 40 meters high. Now due to a hydro electric facility that has been built at the top of the falls 75 percent of the water is diverted through this facility thus badly affecting the flow of water over the falls, so much for advancement. The country still suffers from power cuts, sound familiar to you back in SA?

Heading back to the hotel we had a lovely shower then went to meet up with Jack and Tim who by this time had also arrived. Sitting chatting to them we were joined by another over Lander couple, Sue and Stuart from the UK who is heading South. We had a few beers with them when Stuart suggested we all go to a local restaurant in town that he knew of for a meal, this we did. After dinner we were back at the Ghion and having one of Stuarts famous ABF’S. Stuart if you read this, ABF does actually mean Absolutely Bloody Final!!! Not the start of a long drinking session till the early hours of the morning. 3 in the morning is way past these three bikers bed time.

Saturday 23rd - With very heavy heads we set of this morning for the top of the lake some 250 km’s away. Our destination, Tim’s village, Tim and his wife Kim are a Dutch couple that have relocated out here to Ethiopia and are setting up a camp and lodge on the lake edge. When we arrived there we were made to feel very welcome by our hosts and within a few minutes we were drinking cold cokes and eating Kim’s delicious pancakes.

Tim then showed us were to put up our tents, then took us down for a welcome swim in the lake, I got a bit nervous when Tim told us not to stay in the water longer than 10 minutes at a time, because Bilharzia bacteria need 15 minutes to get through your skin. What the heck we enjoyed the swim anyway.

Not much later we were once again joined, by our now traveling companions Jack and Tim. After the swim we decided to chance it and hope it would not rain and sleep under the stars next to our bikes.

We headed up to Tim’s pad where we all enjoyed a lovely supper with Tim and Kim then headed for bed. Later that night whilst lying in our sleeping bags we heard a pair of Hyenas wooping not to far from where we were sleeping. Tim decided that discretion was the better part of velour and got his tent up in no time at all. His movement scared the hyena off as we heard them running through the bush. Tim thanks for a safe sleep.

Sunday 24th - We were up bright and early this morning and after eating Kim’s hearty breakfast. We said our goodbye’s and headed for the Sudan border and our next stop at Gederef, where we but very glad to be out of Ethiopia. The road and scenery now started to change dramatically; we at first before reaching the border climbed up this winding mountain pass then down again the other side. Taking in all the breathtaking scenery as we went on. Arriving at the border we got through the Ethiopian border with not much fuss. The customs office was a bit of a surprise. Nothing more than a mud hut.

On the Sudan side, the officials are very polite scrupuasly honest and frustratingly slow with the paper work.

Anyway about an hour later we were once again on our way passport stamped and travel docs in order. Arriving in Gederef we headed for the Aheer Hotel which is recommended in most travel books as the place to stay… Bad recommendation. It is nothing more than a filthy tip, plus we were expected to leave our bikes out on the street. We instead opted to stay at the Elmotwatmakil Hotel, a bit expensive but clean and they had a secure compound area for the bikes. At dinner we all ordered chicken and rice and Sudan being a dry country we all had cokes in place of beer. After dinner we were presented with the bill for the food. A whopping 25 Sudan Pounds. This is almost R 100! For a chicken leg and wing! Jack tried in his best British diplomatic manner to tell the manager that this was daylight robbery, but all of a sudden the manager did not speak or understand English.

Monday 25th - This morning we were again up bright and early. I think part of our early raising is due to the Mullanas that start their calling at 4:00 in the morning. We loaded our bikes and on the way out of town saw a local baker taking these fresh breads out of the oven. We HAD to stop to buy a few of those and a coke each to eat for breakfast out in the desert. Heading out of town, about 10 km’s out I saw a nice looking spot to pull over, I thought!!! To eat our healthy breakfast, Coke and bread. As we stopped Jaco took out his camera to take a pic of his meal and his bike, within two minutes we had two very angry looking soldiers demanding explanations from us as to why we were there and taking photo’s. Unbeknown to me we had stopped 2 meters from an army base, and not your average common army base. Skefs here has to stop outside a special forces training camp. The camera was taken away and one of the two soldiers trots back to his base to call his commanding officer. In the meantime we are trying to explain our way out of this with the remaining soldier. Try negotiating with someone when you do not speak Arabic or they English. The troops at the camp at that stage were on their morning parade so we were kept waiting for an hour before the commanding officer came. With his escort in the form of his Sergeant Major. Thank goodness him being an officer he could speak a bit of English.

We explained that we were no threat to them and all we wanted was to eat our breakfast and be on our way. After the officer had checked through the camera to make sure we had not taken any photos of national importance, He shook hands all round and wished us well on our journey.

For the rest of the trip to Khartoum we rode 300km’s through a fairly heavy sand storm. At times our bikes were leaning at an angle of 45 degrees against the side wind, and at the same time we were getting sand blasted.

Arriving in Khartoum we battled through the heavy traffic and by now 45 degree temperature we arrived at the Blue Nile Yacht Club, where we will be camping out for the next two days. Banish all visions of a beautiful club with green grassed lawns rolling down to the waters edge. We are camped in a very dusty car park and the club itself is a few lean two’s with a few boats berthed in the water. We are camped right next to Lord Kitcheners old gun boat that he used to patrol the Nile with, but I think poor old Kitchener is turning in his grave now looking at the state of his old boat.

Tuesday 26TH - Today we are resting and just hanging about in the car park. Jaco is trying to trace the shock that is supposed to be sent up to Khartoum for him, but the courier company can’t seem to find it. We have had a few local Sudanese people stop over for a chat and hello, one chap that has just left is a retired Sudan Army General, wish we knew him yesterday. Would loved to have seen the look on that officer’s face when I put a call through and said “Here, have a chat to my mate General Mohammed Younis”

This evening we have been invited to go on a ferry ride on the Nile for sundowners and a meal with the Pannar Seed contact guy here in Khartoum. We are all looking forward to that.

We stay in Khartoum tomorrow then on Thursday we start up through the desert to Wadi Halfa and the crossing into Egypt.