Monday, June 8, 2009

Durban to Dublin 5th & 6th June

Friday 5th - This morning we were up at 07H00 went up to the restaurant for breakfast then ordered a taxi to get us to the airport to find out if our bikes had at last arrived from Khartoum. We really do not like the feeling of having left the bikes in a foreign land in someone else’s hands to get them loaded and sent off to us. The other thing that was bothering us was the thought that was going through all our minds. With all the hassels that we had been having with the customs and border officials all the way up Africa, and none of us being able to speak Italian we were wondering what was in store for us today.

We arrived at the airport cargo division, and after parting with 50 Euros for the taxi ride (Work that exchange rate out and you will see that Italy is not cheap) It is about R500. Sjoe!!!! Entering the customs reception we immediately see that this experience will be different, firstly the place is spotlessly clean and the computers work, the lady behind the counter, when she hears that our Italian extends as far as Bo journo, and no further, she calls over her shoulder to a bloke in the back room who speaks a bit of English. We explain our business there and after showing our passports she issues us with temp visitors passes and we are in. Not before I am pulled aside, when my money pouch is put through the x ray machine. I had forgotten my knife was in it. No problem the official says, leave it in his office and collect it on our way out.

The semi english speaking guy accompanies us to the office where the handling of goods takes place. We show the guy behind the counter our way bill. He goes to his working computer, looks up the info and tells us the bikes are still on route and would be in at 19H00. We can come back at 09H00 in the morning to collect them.

Our English speaking guide then takes us to the three offices that we will have to deal with in the morning to show us exactly where to go and what to do. This he informs us is because as tomorrow is Saturday he would not be at work, but not to worry the offices would be open. Now is that not service.

It is by this time now only 12h00 so we decided to catch a shuttle from there into town and go see the Vatican City.

We get a shuttle from the Airport to the Piazza Del Popolo, which is situated in the centre of town. We figure that we can walk from there to the Vatican, plus we have got to know a very nice Tratoria on the street near the Popolo so that is a good reference point.

The Vatican is about half an hour walk from the square, but this time it is an easy walk, we don’t have full rider gear on like the time at the Nile falls. Wow! That feels like a life time away now. So much has happened since then.
Arriving at the Vatican City we are left speechless, the place is HUGE. There is this massive square with a spire in the middle of it, but this is completely overshadowed by the main Cathedral with these huge marble columns supporting a covered walk way. Looking at the buildings I could not help remarking to Howard that here was proof that God is more powerful than the gods that Julius Caesar worshipped. His place has fallen down and is now a ruin that people visit. The Vatican is still standing and is in very good condition.

We stand in the square for awhile taking all of this in, then walk up to the entrance to go in and have a look at the Cathedral. Now at the Coliseum one has to pay to walk around, here it is free, Julius is still collecting his taxes. Unfortunately Jaco is denied entry to the inner sanctum because the Vatican guards say his shorts are to short. Howard and I enter and once again stand in awe of the place, the artwork and sculptures are amazing. The roof is probably 4 stories high and is intricately decorated with paintings and carvings. Words and pictures cannot fully describe the splendor of the whole place.

Walking around looking at all the paintings ranging from the last supper to the resurrection I said a quiet word of thanks and prayer that we had all made it safely so far on this journey and asked for guidance on the last leg.

Leaving the Vatican we walked back to the Piazza Del Popolo each of us very quite and reflecting on our own personal thoughts. A visit to the Vatican City seems to have an effect on one.

Back at our friendly Tratoria we order a Carafe of wine and Pizza’s all round and watch the sun setting in the west while a full moon was rising over the Cathedral of the Popolo.

Much later and in high spirits we head down to the rail station to catch the last train of the evening back to a station near our camp site.

Saturday 6th
- We are up very early and really looking forward to the day. Our bikes are in Italy and we are off to collect them.
After another 50 euro taxi ride we are back at the cargo handling section of the airport. As we walk into the reception the security guy calls out to me to say that I can once again leave my knife with him. How do you like that, a customs official with a memory and manners.

With in no time at all, we are once again issued ID cards and heading to the first of the 3 clearing offices. The clearing of the bikes is done quickly and with out too much fuss. Once the documentation is done the crates with the bikes in are brought to us on a forklift.

We set about breaking the crates open and are very relieved to see the bikes are all still in one piece. While we are unloading the bikes and refilling the engine oil a crowd of Italian workers crowd around us and watch in amazement as we work on the bikes. They are very interested in the trip that we are doing as well as the bikes. We have also discovered that most of the people here in Italy love bikes and cars. With our bikes fully loaded and displaying all our sponsor stickers we are being stopped often and asked about the bikes and our trip. Even driving down the motorway drivers hoot at us and give us thumbs up.

Once we have finished sorting the bikes out we wave good bye to our audience at the cargo shed and head back to the camp site.

Howard is by this stage not feeling very well. Think he has got the flu that Jaco and I have already had in Sudan. We stop at a chemist to get him some medication. The chemist says that he has swine flu, so not to bother buying any medication, waste of money cause people usually die from swine flu… Looking at the shocked look on Howard’s face he quickly tells him he is only joking and hands out a box of flu medication.

We get Howard safely back to the cabin at the camp site where he then went off to bed and rest.

Jaco and I get on the bikes and take a ride into Rome city to have a final look around before we leave town tomorrow.

After all that we have been through in Africa these few days rest in Rome have been great.
We are now looking forward to heading out back on the road tomorrow heading up Italy in the direction of our final destination, Dublin. We are planning on getting into Dublin on the 30th June where we are to be hosted to an end party by Dublin BMW

Durban to Dublin 1st June to 4th June

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.