Diary

We will be updating the diary as often as we can - check back regularly to catch up on our progress! Also, remember to check out photos page - we add the pictures of our travels as we go along!

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South Africa,  Our last border crossing, 20/09/10

 

We crossed from the Namibian customs post, both sides of the border controls were very clean and very easy to negotiate from office to office, we asked what would be the longest visa we could obtain at the immigration office and were granted ninety days, we will have to apply for an extension at one of the Home affairs offices in Cape Town.

 

On entering South Africa, we decided to head to the trips end at Duynefontein, this looked quite Close on the map but it in fact the day of driving turned out  to be seventeen hours of driving in total, which meant we arrived home in the early hours of the morning, after a few hours sleep, we went to a small township close to us & gave out the last of our pens, pencils, books & clothes we had brought with us, thanks to everyone who donated various items,  we then headed off to Cape Town to visit the city and Table Mountain with its magnificent views overlooking the sea and the city, this was to finish off our travels, we then realised we would had to take in Cape Point so we can say we have completed our journey, we have visited these places so many times but every time is a great pleasure to revisit.

 

At Cape Point we had a meal in one of our favourite restaurants which is called the Two Oceans, the view over the Indian & Atlantic oceans are very special indeed, we then climbed to the top of Cape point which was quite a trek as it was extremely windy, coming back down with the wind behind us was much easier, whilst we were doing this Sassy, who has been brilliant every mile of the way, was having a well earned rest in the car park overlooking the ocean.

 

Driving from London to Cape Town Turned out to be one of the most exciting, educational, frightening and different things we have ever done. For starters some of the borders we crossed were very frightening, along with some of the hotels being very scary due to being deserted, also some were well below a standard which we are accustomed to, one of the issues I thought I would have is that I don't really like foreign food but surprisingly we both found new foods we enjoyed & also some we did not. We also like sleeping in our own bed at home, but we soon adapted from our home comforts and we really enjoyed the change in life style, I don't like the heat but I survived it really well, in fact Kou struggled with the heat at times, the list goes on and on. However; we did make it. And now I miss the challenge. We spent just under three months away from our world that we know and it was tough at times, but somehow we feel we will miss the toughness, we will not miss not knowing if we will make it to the next town by nightfall, I am sure we will not miss not wondering if that town will have food/water/bandits in it, but most of all we will for sure miss meeting so many genuinely friendly and helpful people from all walks of life.

 

Along the way we have seen so many great countries, some of the views being natural and also some manmade; the great viewing of animals in the wild will stay with us for the rest of our lives, we have visited twenty one different countries on our trip and all of them have been interesting & sometimes an eye opener, one thing we have learnt is how fortunate we are to live in such a modern country as we do, there are so many people suffering  who do not even know where their next meal is going to come from.

 

The thing we have missed most throughout the journey is our family & friends; we are so grateful to modern communications which has allowed us to keep in contact with everyone from most places we have travelled through.

 

Finally Just to let everyone know, after enjoying this memorable adventure so much, we are now planning our next adventure for 2014, which will be from the East to the West coast of the good old US of A, route 66 to be precise all going well.

 

Thanks for following us.

 

We have not been everywhere yet, but it is on our list...

 

The End.

 

 

 

 

 

13th to the 20/09/11

 

After clearing the Namibian border the previous evening which we found to be very easy, we decided to take the road to Botswana to the customs post, the customs officers demanded that they must take all our food from us as it is apparently illegal to enter with food products, we did not believe this was true so we refused and turned round and headed back into Namibia, changing our route slightly and it was only a sixty mile detour, we settled at the Protea Zambezi hotel  which is on the banks of the river Zambezi in Namibia, in the morning we have to get our road fund licence from the local tax office, on exploring the town we notice most of the shops brands are the same & they also look identical to some of the shops in Cape Town, when we spotted Mr Price & PicknPay we knew we were now getting close to the end of our adventure, also some of our change was given to us in South African rand after buying local goods.

 

After about fifteen minutes after leaving the town we spot a female elephant with a young calf with her, then a few minutes a very large antelope jumped out in front of us & sprung across the road narrowly missing our car, unfortunately Kou could not get the picture in time, that evening we stop at Nkwazi Lodge camp site, after we set up camp for the night we went on a cruise across the river Kavango and we visited Angola as illegal immigrants, we chatted to some local Angolian children & watched the sunset, the river banks were alive with adults & children bathing & swimming, on return to the camp we had a wonderful home cooked meal around a log fired heater and we chatted the evening away with a lovely young couple Luci & Mike who were from Germany, they had hired a car in Cape Town and were on their way to Zambia to visit the falls.

 

The following morning we bid farewell to Mike & Luci & we set off for the Etosha national park, on arrival we pay our fees & set off to view the animals, we spot Giraffes, zebras, kudus, Eland, Oryx, elephants, wildebeests’,  monkeys but no siting of leopards or lions on this occasion,  that evening we set up camp in the national park camp site, we tried paying using our visa card but they were declined, after phoning visa they explained they had stopped them due to an abnormal spending pattern, they explained that the cards appear to be used in Namibia a country outside of Africa, I explained it is a country in Africa & one we had advised them that we will be visiting, they apologised and that they will reset our cards for us, later in the evening we were wandering around the camp site admiring all the camping equipment that the Namibian & south African folks use, later in the evening we notice some people with torches  heading to the rear of the camp site, curiosity takes over and we follow on, out of the camp site along a small lane which winds along up the hill side, in reaching the top we find a large group of people overlooking a water hole where two rhinoceros are feeding & drinking from the water, we sat for some time viewing them, we took a short video & will try uploading to YouTube but we have to say it was recorded in the dark.  

 

In the morning we packed up our equipment & wandered back up to the water hole and sat for a while but nothing came along, we set off for Kamanjab which is in the north west of Namibia, the road is long and apart from a few monkeys there was not much else apart from one guy who had a puncture, we stopped to help him out with some water & with some help on changing his wheel, we finally reached our destination for today which is the Oppi Koppi guest lodge where we book into for the next three nights, after being shown to our room is was very obvious it did not look like the one on their brochure, Kou is off to the reception to find out why this was, after some negotiation Kou gets us a free upgrade to a family room, that evening we eat in the restaurant & choose Zebra from the specials, this was the first time we had tried it, it was very much like salty steak, it was cooked to perfection & was very easy to chew.

 

 

On retiring to bed for the night Kou noticed a few ants on the bedroom floor, so Kou being so kind to insects sprayed the room with doom insect killer, in the morning we awake to find the room once again infested with ants plus all the dead ants from yesterdays treatment from Kou, once again Kou is off to reception & returns with a big smile on her face, we are now upgraded to the superior room at no extra charge, this was given because Kou said if they did nothing about it, we would pay our bill & leave early, the owner discussed this with her partner & conceded on the upgrade, we don’t want to sound like whinges,  but we are paying over £100 per night so we do expect some quality for this amount of money, whilst this was going on Dave was propositioned by one of the lodge staff, asked if he would marry her, as she wants to live in England, Dave kindly explained he was already happily married, Dave also warned me to show him respect as there are now options available to him, anyone looking for a wife contact Dave as he has her telephone number on speed dial.

 

Over the next couple of days, we rest & carry on preparing the updates and pictures for the website, we explore the local area & the Lodge site, it is very peaceful during the day, at night the whole area comes to life with the sounds of drums & singing, also as dawn approaches the sound of the wildlife really increases & ensures you are up early.

 

We set of for Windhoek which is also the capital of Namibia, as we are driving along we see lots of Warthogs, which all have the same name “Pumba”, we could not get a picture as they moved off so quickly as we approached them,  we spend some time looking around the city which is pretty small compared to most other cities we have visited, later in the day we found the sign marking the Tropic of Capricorn, not bad one out of three, that evening we stayed at the Bastion bed & breakfast, it has to be one of the best places we had stayed at, the rooms were clean, bright & very well laid out, the self catering kitchen was spotless & every item required for cooking & eating was available, we would highly recommend this as a great location to rest  ( www.bastionfarmyard.com ).

 

The following morning after a great nights rest we  head off for the south African border, the road to the border is very,very long & straight, the ever changing scenery of the endless plains & mountains ranges is absolutely awesome to view, on the telegraph poles there are massive birds nest built between the cables & the pole, also we find some of the trees with the same type of nests built in them, we spot our first Wimpy bar just north of the border and we just have to stop and treat ourselves again, Late in the day we arrive at the border and cross over to the South African side, the border controls & customs was very easy to deal with & all the officers were very helpful, all three of us were very happy to be safe & well at this point, just a little bit more to explore before the journey ends.

 

7th to the 12/11/2011

 

We use a fixer on the Zambian side of the border to ease our passage through the queue’s, this is the best way of dealing with all the different departments as there are so many lorries’ crossing at this point and being a private vehicle you are allowed to go to the front of the queue if you have someone to explain in the local language to all the drivers that you are in a private car and not just pushing in.

  

As night draws in we set up camp & after a peaceful but cold night at the Kings Highway camp site Zambia, we awake to a beautiful sunrise & the peace of our surroundings, we are the only campers on the site & the owners had set off early leaving us all alone, we sort ourselves out and pack away our tent & equipment and set off south.

 

The T2 road south was very pot holed & had seen many accidents recently and judging by some of the abandoned wrecked vehicles it was a very common occurrence, the kids were filling the holes with sand & asking for money for their labour, problem is there are so many holes that if you stopped for every child you would soon run out of money, also it would be wrong to pay money as this would only encourage them not to attend school, after about 300kms the road turned to a nice freshly tarmac road with road markings, we are glad we fitted a long range fuel tank as there were not many fuel stations on route and the ones we found were waiting for delivery of diesel.

 

That evening we stop at Forest Inn camp site, to our surprise we find a group of tourists camping there, we are surprised because all day we had been travelling and saw very few cars and only a few lorries, we get speaking to the group and it turns out they are all from Germany, they have hired a tour guide with vehicle from Mozambique, That evening we prepare ourselves for another cold night and settle down.

 

We are up at 5.30am and we are chatting to Didi the tour guide from Mozambique about wildlife in Zambia and in particular the lack of it, he explains most of the animals have been hunted for food or used for traditional medicines and that we would have to go far out into the bush to see any animals, also we were told it would be very risky to venture too far into the bush on our own as there is no rescue service, we then notice Didi lighting a fire under his engine, I ask him what is that for, and he explains that without the fire his engine will not start, this vehicle is going to be used to transport the people far out into the bush & bearing in mind what he told me about rescue!

 

Off to Luaska the capital of Zambia, after spending some time there, we decide it is really not for us and make the decision to move onto the small town of Livingstone, we are told it is only 300kms away so off we go, it turns out it is nearer 500kms away, the road there is very monotonous & the surrounding country side has been very damaged by fire, suspiciously we notice at the largest areas of burnt out country side there are people selling charcoal in large quantities, we arrive in Livingston at about 6pm, we find a nice hotel near the Victoria falls named the Zambezi Sun hotel, but is very expensive so we go looking for a better value hotel, after checking a couple more hotels which are fully booked, we run into the motor bikers who we had last met at the ferry at Wadi Halfi, we have a good chat about our experiences up to now, James the motor bike organiser tells us that he also struggled to find a reasonable priced hotel as all the rooms have been taken because the President of Zambia is in town doing his election campaign, we check a few more then head back to the first hotel to check in for the next three nights.  

 

We awake early and outside our bedroom window is six Zebras grazing on the grass, after breakfast we explore the hotel which has a large group of monkeys & Kudus in the grounds, we decide to visit Victoria Falls which were amazing to view and the sound of falling water could be heard long before you saw them, we took as many pictures as we could, but in certain areas there was far too much water spray for the camera to be used, after such a great day we decided that we will take a cruise along the Zambezi river on the African Queen and take in the evening wild life with the sunset over the river, we booked our tickets which included transfer to the boat, once the craft had set off we were asked for our drink orders & all food and drink is complimentary, after a few red wines, beer & gin and tonics it was amazing what wild life we thought we had seen, the cruise was a really good experience and we was not expecting it to be all inclusive, also the sunset was a great experience to see from the Zambezi river.   

 

Today we decide to be really adventurous and book ourselves on an elephant ride, our elephant was called Mouse and she was eighteen years old, we spent about one hour on Mouse out in the bush, the ride was amazing as all the elephants moved so quietly and were handled so easily by their keepers, after the ride which was exciting and very unique we spend some time interacting & feeding the elephants, we will try uploading the video once we have a high speed internet connection.

Our final day at the hotel, before leaving we take a Segway tour around  the gardens of the hotel, Kou struggled for a while but she eventually mastered the balance required to operate the machine, unfortunately it is time to leave the hotel and the local area, on leaving Livingstone we stopped in one of the Police check points, we were approached by a Guy telling us we have to pay council tax, I asked him for some id as he was not in any uniform, he did not really like my request and was a bit stroppy, he had to go back to his hut and fetch back his local council badge, after viewing this we were happy to pay the charge, we are now on our way to the Namibian border on a perfect tarmac road, after about fifty kilometres, oops we get our first puncture of the trip, we work as a team as we change  the off side rear wheel, one of us had to keep an eye out for animals as we are out in the middle of the bush and there could be wild animals  nearby.

On arrival at the Zambian border for exit to Namibia, we are pleased to find that there is no crowds of people hassling you for money to help you, In fact we actually hassled the money changers for a better rate to exchange our Zambian Kwacha’s to Namibian dollars, the paperwork was done in minutes and the customs officer did not even check Sassy outside to ensure nothing had been altered on her.

 

 

30th to the 6/9/11

 

We enter Tanzania a at the Namanga border crossing, this was fairly simple & efficient, the only little problem we had was a few people offering to change our money from Kenyan Schillings to Tanzanian shillings, which can be very risky as a lot of the black market traders mix in forged note & obviously as a tourist it would be hard to spot these.

 

We arrived at Arusha late in the afternoon & picked out a camp site called Masai Camp, to our suprise an hour after our arrival our Italian friends turned up, of all the camp sites in the world, they walk into ours, They tell us they have been to the Ngorongoro park & had a great experience seeing all the wild animals, we chat & retire for the night.

 

In the morning we once again say our goodbyes & head our separate ways, it is time for Sassy to have a well deserved  oil change, so off we go to the local Toyota dealer for a check over and a filter & oil change, we ask for a price & while we wait for an estimate the car is taken into the workshop & they start the lube service, eventually we get a price, the workshop manager asks if the price is ok and before I could answer he walks away to the reception & after a short period of time he returns saying he has negotiated a fifty percent discount, so for a total of £35 we get an oil filter, oil change (our own oil) & all the levels checked and including prop shafts lubricated, all the work was carried out by a Toyota dealer as Sassy deserves the best after all the hard work she has done.

 

We drive to the Ngorongoro Park but the entrance fees for our car & the two of us is almost 500 us dollars, so we decide to visit Tarangire national park, the fees for this park are 170 us dollars including overnight camping, after driving around the park for an hour we feel we may have been better staying at the other park as there seems to be no animals here, all of a sudden we see zebra’s, wildebeests, monkeys, elephants, hogs, warthogs, hyena’s, various breeds of antelopes & lions, the bird life was amazing.

 

We arrive at our public campsite in the early evening to find two tents set up, we prepare our evening meal & much to our joy a park ranger turns up & tells us he will be stationed here for the night, one of the other campers turn up with firewood & starts a camp fire, we all sit round and chat about what we had seen that day, one couple had been really lucky & seen a rare silting of a cheetah.

 

We bedded down for the night & as time went on the darkness drew in,  the sky was spectacular with a very clear view of the stars and of the milky way galaxy, we really did not  know what to expect and a little bit of fear came into Kou & she struggled to fall asleep, you could hear all the animals in the distance, you could not get any closer to nature than this , you could also hear the mighty roar of the lions very clearly, they sounded as though  they were outside the tent, we were told in the morning they were probably about three kilometres away from us, the sound had so easily carried  through the night air & they really did sound as though they were much closer.  

 

In the morning we were up at 5.30am & off in search of the animals, the park comes to life with movement early in the morning, we find a very rough track through the centre of the park, which is definitely for four wheel drive vehicles only, to our amazement it leads us to a dried up lake which has a herd of elephants grazing, we sat very quietly watching them, it was very obvious that they were aware  of our presence & they were also watching us very closely, you could detect the larger elephants were protecting the young calves & keeping themselves between us & the young ones.

 

Hopefully these YouTube video links will work:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NslSB7kaskI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLKRk_JFBhA

 

Later in the day we set off for Dodoma the capital of Tanzania, all was fine for about fifty miles, all of a sudden the road ends & the next hundred & fifty miles are on unmade road with many mountain passes, Sassy once again carries out her duties impeccably & we arrive in Dodoma at about 6.30pm, we find a local hotel called the Twiga hotel, we have a cleanup & search for food,  The kind hotel staff open the kitchen & cook us some food, I have a couple of large beers & Kou requests a glass of wine, unfortunately they only sell it by the bottle which works out at about £20, I cheekily ask if we can bring in our own & the lady replies no problem, she even pulls the cork for us & supplies a nice sparkling clean glass, the evening meal, beer, breakfast &a nice clean bed sets us back £36, great value for money.  

 

Today the 1st of September we set off for Dar Es Salaam on the coast of the Indian ocean, the road is good apart from the crazy amount of sleeping police men they have on them, we are about 20 miles outside Dodoma when we are stopped by a lady police officer & she asks where are we from, we reply England & she says “good you have brought me gifts” every time she said gift I acted dumb & said what is gift we are going to Dar Es Salaam, after a short period of time she got bored and told us to go, everything was fine until we got to about thirty miles from Dar & we were stopped & accused of speeding this time, I asked why had they not stopped the cars in front of me who I had been following,  he said you speeding not them, he fined me 20,000 shillings I said that I wanted a receipt & he said “10,000 without receipt” I paid the money & he then asked me where I was from, I replied Poland & left him with a puzzled look on his face & about £4 better off.  

 

We spend the next two nights in the New Africa hotel in Dar Es Salaam, this gives us time to catch up with our diary & update some photo’s, we explore the local city but to be honest the part of the city we are in is pretty basic due to it being the business centre of Dar Es Salaam that we are staying in, we are opposite the Azania Front Lutheran Church A striking edifice, with a red-roofed belfry overlooking the water and  rather stern Gothic interior, this is one of the city’s major landmarks. The church was built at the turn of the 20th century by German missionaries and is still in active use for services and for choir rehearsals .we move off to kigamboni island by local ferry at a small cost of 60p for all three of us, we will spend the next two nights at Sunrise Beach Resort on the edge of the Indian Ocean which is built with African style huts by the beach, we enjoy  good food & sample most of the cocktails on the menu, Kou had to take one of her Pina coladas back for extra Bacardi rum as she could not taste the alcohol in the glass, the beach is very busy due to it being the weekend, there are big family gatherings, the atmosphere  and dancing was very impressive, at one point to our surprise a herd of cows and goats passed along the water line of the beach directly in front of us, Kou  & I looked at each other and said how  unusual to see a herd of animals  on a beach holiday, the  people on the beach were taking no notice of the passing animals.

 

We set off to catch the ferry back to the mainland, on entering the ferry a car pushed in front of us causing us to brake sharply, the same car on exiting the ferry caught his mirror on our car, We stopped to exchange details & the guy started demanding money, I pointed out to him that he has damaged my car & he must pay for the damage, he demanded that I park my car & go with him to the police station, I agreed to follow him, on arrival at the station a officer was found and the guy was talking to her in Swahili, Kou asked for this to be done in English, the guy explained what had happened & I explained that it seemed like the fellow was deliberately trying to have an accident with me, the officer said you must both attend court, I agreed to this & at that moment the guy jumped in his car & drove away with the police officer shouting “just go”.

 

Later that day we are travelling through the Mikumi  National park and to our surprise we spot Bob (Big Orange Bedford) in the distance being driven by David and accompanied by his wife Trisha, these are guys who we have been following on their blog for quite some time & up to that point we had only exchanged emails, we pull over for a chat  about all our experiences upto now, we hope to meet up in Cape Town later in the year, we stop at the Kengra motel in Iringa for the night, the beds are nice and clean and was good value for £16.

 

In the morning we set off early  for Tunduma the border crossing for Zambia, even though it is only about 300kms away it seemed to be really slow going with the crazy amount of speed humps placed randomly along the route & the constant stops by the police checking all vehicle movements, we eventually reach the border and as soon as we stopped at emigration a crowd of people gathered round us wanting to be our fixer to help us leave Tanzania, I politely declined but they would not stop harassing us, in the end I told them we have done this hundreds of times (not quite true) and just all to go away, to my amazement they all backed off, emigration & customs only took us ten minutes to complete our paper work and a further five minutes to clear the Tanzanian border.  

 

We will update photos as soon as we can find a suitable internet connection in Zambia, up to now the internet has been painfully slow to use.

 

 

24th to the 29/08/11

 

We have an early start to reach the border which turned out to be only a couple of minutes away, the Ethiopian border was fairly straight forward & completed in about 45 minutes, we then proceeded a short distance to the Kenyan border, we had to apply for Kenyan visas, whilst we were doing this Marinella took our carnet through to customs & returned a few minutes later with necessary stamps in place, this has to have been the swiftest border we have crossed up to this point in our journey.

All three cars grouped together to do the first 80 kilometres of the Moyale road, this is because of the past history of bandits stopping individuals & robbing them or even worse on the odd occasion, we set off & we all soon realised why this is classed as the worst road in Africa, it really is a car breaker, the road is made up of loose flint stone, sand, boulders & many pot holes , at times it is hard to know what is the road & what is the area surrounding the road.

After we had travelled through the first 100 kilometres we agreed to meet at Laisamis for our overnight stop, on reaching the far side of Marsabit we had lost the girls & the film crew, after waiting forty minutes we decided to go back & find them, they were in a tyre repair garage (I use the word garage loosely) having two tyres replaced on one car & three punctures replaced on the second car, we all decided it would be too dark to carry on that day, Sylvie went off to find a safe camping place & came back with good news that we could camp in the local Catholic church grounds, lucky for us the two Sisters of the church were Italian & were sweet talked by Sylvia, we set up camp & almost immediately the Muslim Mosque started calling for prays, which Kou thought had finished in Ethiopia.

Just as we were waking for our early start the church bells sounded ,  we set off towards Nairobi, after twenty minutes on the road the film crews Land Rover Discovery developed a water leak, this turned out to be a water pump, Claudia had fortunately purchased a spare water pump in Khartoum, so once again I sprung into action and put my stig T shirt & replaced the pump,  once again we are off & onwards towards Nairobi, after about 380kms of the most gruelling road I have ever driven fresh new tarmac started, we had agreed to meet up here but after waiting for the guys for thirty minutes we decided to drive on slowly, we then got a text telling us they have had more tyre problems & that one of the cars roof racks had started coming off, they said they were okay & for us to go on, we then pushed through to Nairobi & on the way saw our first wild elephant very close to the road, we eventually reached the outskirts of Nairobi & the road works were never ending, after two long days sassy & ourselves had survived the moyale rd which we were grateful for,  eventually we reached our hotel for a much needed rest & clean up for all three of us and a stiff drink to celebrate our success.

We spent the next three nights at the Windsor Golf Hotel in Nairobi, we explored Nairobi which is a fast sprawling city, it is very clear which parts are up market & the not so places, Marinella, Sylvia & the guys who we never met up with during our stay due to them having to get both cars repaired ready for their next section of the trip, Marinella had her phone stolen through the open window of her car whilst in a traffic jam,  on our final night we went for a meal in the local village shopping centre, we then after had a few glasses of red wine & a couple of beers and ended up seeing Harry Potter & the deathly hallows part 2, for most of you that know me, this was quite an unusual thing for me to do, and also to Kous suprise I stayed awake all the way through the film, on the way back to the hotel we laughed about us coming all this way to see a film.

After breakfast we meet two guys who tell us they have been looking at our website & were really taken by the idea & they said how fantastic the experience must be & wished us luck for the rest of our trip, We leave Nairobi which is foggy & raining  behind us today, we travel across the Rift valley & visit the Maasai Mara National Park, on the way along the rugged & pot holed road we stop for our lunch, to my surprise Kou says she will have a drive & goes off into the vast sand plain for a test, on her return she says she will have a go on the road, Kou navigates the loose surface & avoids the pot holes as much as possible & this gives me a little break from driving, I have to say Kou was a natural on these roads and done really well.

On reaching the park gate we find the border crossing to Tanzania is closed to non residents, we set up camp at the Masaai Mara campsite which is run by the local community, we chat to some of the local Maasai people & one of the brave warriors is called David, we shared some of our dinner with the night guard as we thought it best to keep in with him as he had a very large rifle, by the morning he had gone from under the tree where we left him on guard, hope is was not eaten by a Lion, the night was cold due to it being mid winter but we slept well.

We travel back to Nairobi & onwards to the border crossing.

Kenya was a very modern country with a rich & diverse heritage which is evident everywhere, the soldiers are dressed in a very similar style to the British army & they salute you in the British style of saluting, I guess all this originates from the past years of the British commonwealth, is was really nice to be able to stop for a cuppa & a stretch of the legs without being constantly asked for money.

 

19th to the 23th of August 2011

 

We are changing the format of the diary so we can update one country at a time as we Progress through our journey, internet is getting quite difficult to find so we will update wherever possible.

 

Ethiopia (The name is from the Greek word for “of burned face”) is a country like we never imagined, we never thought  there would be so much greenery with its rolling hills & mountains, Kou thought it looked like the Lake District & I could see a resemblance to the Yorkshire Dales.

 

We are travelling from Bahir Dar to Addis Abeba , the route starts out with a good tarmac road, we are about three hundred kilometres from Addis when we get a text from our Italian friends asking where we are & they are about three hundred kilometres from Addis on the Eastern road, we are on the western road, we agree to meet in Addis that evening, shortly after this I thought we had taken the wrong road,  it had turned into a pot holed unmade road, after checking our GPS & maps we calculated that it was the right road, we seemed to be climbing up a hill for ever & the scenery was breath taking, we were now high in the Ethiopian Highlands, looking down into the Rift valley from a altitude of over four thousand metres, even at this height, high in the mountains there is still people herding animals & going about their daily business,  we started our decent into the valley but had to stop as the brakes were fading away with the heat, as I checked the vehicle you could hear the brake fluid boiling in the callipers with the heat & now the brake pedal had  dropped to the floor, we waited a while for everything to cool down & the pedal to become firm again, we then proceeded down the mountain in second gear using the engine for braking, The stream we could see from the top turned out to be the Blue Nile river which was about two hundred metres wide.

 

We then had to climb up out of the valley back up to the height we had descended from, there was a few vehicle accidents but fortunately no one seriously injured, the most frightening one was a tanker which had previously came off the road and had fallen down the side of the mountain (see pictures & also the road it came off is above the top rock formation),   we eventually arrived in Addis at 7pm & stayed at the Bole Ambassador hotel.

 

We had arranged to meet up with the film crew & the girls at the La Parisienne cafe bar & unknown to all of us, they were a chain of cafes & we both went o different locations, we arranged to meet up later for lunch, unfortunately the film crews car had sprung a power steering leak & I agreed to have a look, lucky enough I had the parts to repair it, we met that evening & we were treated to a meal at the Jewel of India Restaurant, We once again said our goodbyes & we all agreed to  meet in Kenya & do the Moyale road together.

 

We set of from Addis after visiting the Greek church where we lit a candle for someone close to us who is going through a rough time at the moment, whilst there we met the head of the Greek community of Ethiopia, He told us there is about five thousand Greeks living in Ethiopia at present, we are now heading for Shashemene where we spent the afternoon exploring the town, we then spent the night at the Rift Valley hotel. Shashemene is the area where the Jamaican Rastafarian culture originates from, with its roots dating back to the dark days of slavery; the local people are mainly dressed in the traditional Rastafarian style.

 

The following day we travelled to Arba Minch via Sodo, once again we met up with the girls as the film crews cars has had to stay in addis for replacement front wheel bearings, we go on to visit lake Abaye which is situated in the Nechisar National Park, we saw a very large gathering of Hippos & got really close to the crocodiles who were stalking the Pelicans.  The next morning we went off to explore Konso, where we took a local paid guide & visited a village high up in the hills, we were made very welcome in the village, our guide explained to us about the village, their way of life was very interesting & based solely around a community spirit, The women & men from the village were all working together to clear the land in preparation for the building of a new school, they were all singing & working with great enthusiasm , there was children running towards us from all directions & were happy to see us, Kou went to give a box of pens and the guide said no because the children must not be rewarded for begging as this becomes a way of life, they then fail to attend school as this is the easy option, towards the end  we decided to donate the pens to the local school,  later in the day we arrived in Moyale ready to cross into Kenya the following day.

 

A quick summary of Ethiopia, the country has spectacular scenery & the views from the road as you travel through the country are just amazing, camping is virtually impossible, because as soon as you stop there are people appearing from everywhere and nowhere, some are just being friendly, some curious & others think we are Mr & Mrs Bob Geldof & have pots of money to hand out to everyone, as the begging is constant but saying this, this would be one country we would like to visit again.

 

At least 98% of the people live by the road side & sometimes forget the road is now being used for vehicles & on occasions they need a little reminder with a little toot of the horn, it can be quite funny at times watching the people jump & run in both directions while deciding a safe route to the edge of the road, dogs are a major hazard & just run out in front of you when you are least expecting it, goats, sheep, donkeys & cattle on the other hand can be really stubborn & refuse to move, taking the locals to use their sticks or whips to persuade them, some children can be a real pain by demanding money from the road side & when you don’t stop they signal their friends to throw stones or try whipping the car, we even had two children hold a rope across the road to stop us, they realised their error & quickly dropped it when they realised we were not stopping.

 

The roads in general are very good, but you have to be careful as it is quite common for a bridge to be removed & the road marked with a few stones to warn you, the diversion in place can be up to 20 kilometres & bring you back just the other side of the bridge.  

 

Once again we will update whenever possible.    

    

18/08/11

 

Awoke to find Gonder completely covered in cloud below us, after breakfast we set of for the Blue Nile Water Falls, we stopped in Gonder & purchased some bread, we were immediately surrounded by mainly curious people & also the now compulsory people wanting free money,  the road which is about 180kms long was full of people herding animals in both directions with their long sticks being put to use in keeping the animals close to the edge of the road for most of the time, the Blue Nile Falls are the second highest falls in Africa, the road from Bahir Dar to the falls car park is 30kms of challenging pot hole dodging, but great fun to do, once in the car park it is about a forty minute walk to the falls, we had enlisted the help of a guide, who was very  good with English & explained to us about the local history of the people & their ways, if it had not been for the guide we would never had known which path to take.

 

On the way back we found a Toyota dealer & we purchased six spare wheel studs, unfortunately they had no wheel nuts in stock, hopefully we will not need them, the dealers secure parking area turned out to be nice quite place to have my cuppa & Kous daily cafe late.

 

Our hotel was opposite Lake Tana, it started to rain so our view was not as good as it could have been, but the lightning over the lake more than made up for this.

 

17/08/11

 

Arrived at Gallabat the Sudanese exit crossing to Ethiopia, we prepared for a seven hour crossing as this seems to be the norm for the customs at this crossing, the exit from Sudan was a bit difficult as we had to go back a couple of kilometres to a house in the middle of the village which is not signed in any way, the guy there asked where we were going, I said Ethiopia he then wrote our passport numbers down and said Good bye, we returned to the emigration department who said we must go back to the village & have our passports checked, after a little bit of talking we eventually explained that we had done this, the guy said ok you can go now, we went to Customs & had our carnet stamped, we then had to go & pay our carnet fee, this was quite difficult as the cashier was constantly on his mobile phone or disappearing from the office, he eventually took the money then started to write the receipt for customs, he got about half way through looked at his watch stood up removed his carpet from the wall knelt on it & started praying for the next twenty minutes, when he had finished he finished the receipt, returned to Customs guy & to my surprise he was now praying, eventually our carnet was handed back & we were free to leave Sudan.

 

Short drive across the bridge & we arrived at the Ethiopian customs & immigration, Passport control was really very fast, just a photocopy of the passport & onto customs, the customs guy came to check the vehicle & spotted our football, he asked for the ball & said it would make customs very easy, we handed over the ball he dropped the rope barrier & said welcome to Ethiopia, the only problem we had was the constant begging for money whilst we had to wait for all the processes to be completed in about three & a half hours, once we got going some of the children on the road side  would shout money, money, money & some would throw stones or attempt to whip the car as you passed.

 

We drove onto Gonder in the Simiem mountains, the country side was not what we had expected, Kou thought it was similar to the Lake District & I could see the similarities with the Yorkshire Dales, We stayed at the Goha Hotel which has the most amazing views perched on the top of a mountain high above Gonder.

 

16/08/11

 

We leave our hotel today, which has been a much-needed touch of luxury. Before leaving the hotel, the manager requested that we see him, we spoke about our trip & also his time in Sudan since taking up his position last October arriving from Harrow. The hotel apparently does not get very many Europeans staying there and it was a really nice gesture to be thanked for our patronage & chatted about the UK - He wished us well for the rest of the journey.

 

When we arrived at the car park, Sassy was telling all the UN Land Cruisers where she had travelled from & how brilliant she had been, we had to remind her of her hissy fit in Egypt, and how we all laughed.

 

Driving through Khartoum was such a pleasant experience considering Cairo & Damascus was so hectic, there are street traders everywhere trying to sell you anything from a rubber band to a donkey, they were all friendly & when you politely refused they just carried on with their business of selling.

 

As we travelled south away from Khartoum the climate was cloudy but still hot, the land was turning from desert conditions to greenery, there was an amazing amount of dead cows on the road side, we can only guess they had come into contacts with road vehicles sadly, the land started becoming very water logged and populated with people herding their goats, sheep & cows along the roads.

 

The roads started to deteriorate quite badly & some of the pot holes would cause severe damage to your vehicle if you were to run into some of them, We eventually set up camp on top of a hill where it was dry behind a rock formation, Kou said there is some form of path there, I replied it was probably the old road, we had our dinner & settled down for the night, well it turned out that path Kou had pointed out was a track for the herders to move their animals along at night time, (I really should listen to Kou more), animals were herded along this road from about 10pm until 6am, we awoke in the morning to be surrounded by hundreds of goats, this made it difficult to get back to the road, but we done it without harming any herders or animals.

 

15/08/11

 

Today was spent quietly around the hotel using the facilities, we went for a swim & relaxed in the Jacuzzi, I then caught up with the diary & posted all the remaining pictures, Kou dyed her hair and pampered herself, ready for some more exploring of Sudan starting tomorrow, we planned our route to Ethiopia & we should arrive at the border in the next couple of days or so.  

 

We went for our evening meal and afterwards went to the 18th floor to get a view of the city, when we arrived, there was a Ramadan Celebration party happening & we were invited to join in, the whole event was very loud and all the guests were really having fun & there was a great atmosphere to the whole occasion.

 

It may be a few days again before we get a good Internet connection, as soon as we can we will be updating once again.

 

Best Regards,

 

Sassy, Kou & Dave.

 

14/08/11

 

We had a very good night’s sleep followed by a wonderful breakfast, we decided we give sassy some attention, we completely emptied her in the car park & brushed all the sand out of her, with every stroke of the brush you could hear her purring, we cleaned everything & repacked her, I done some vehicle checks & changed the air filter which was completely clogged with sand, the car park attendant offered to wash our car & done a superb job & all for the Princely sum of £6.50, we spent the rest of the day completing our blog, pictures & catching up with Family & Friends.  

 

13/08/11

 

Awoke to find the car interior completely covered in a layer of sand & we were also in a mess with sand all over our bodies & a taste of grit in our mouths, any way morning tea had to be consumed & we used copious amounts of baby wipes to clean ourselves up, after only about ten minutes of travelling we came across a petrol station which would have made a perfect safe haven from the sand storm, we carried onto the Ancient Royal City of Meroe which has the site of the city of Meroë & is marked by more than two hundred pyramids in three groups, of which many are in ruins. They are identified as Nubian pyramids because of their distinctive size and proportions, we spent a few hours touring some of the pyramids, and we met some overlanders who were heading north after travelling down the west coast to Cape Town & are now travelling up the east coast, We followed the directions we were given to get back to the road & poor Sassy got all muddy as near to the road it got very boggy, but once again good old sassy done her duty & got us through it safely, we arrived in Khartoum later that afternoon & treated ourselves to three nights in a good quality hotel called the Burj Al-Fateh Hotel for some much needed R&R & Sassy was treated to a car park with a roof for shade.

 

12/08/11

 

We awoke after a very good night’s sleep to the sound of nearby camels, the night was much cooler in the desert & at one point Kou had to put a blanket on as she was feeling cold, We all made our way to the recovery vehicle to find it was in fact a cattle truck with a roof to which the vehicle would not fit under, the driver started cutting the roof off so he could get the vehicle on, at this point we sadly had to say goodbye to our new found friends who we have had so much fun with, we agreed to text each other To see where we are on the 19th & we may be able to meet up again to travel the Moyale road (Kenya) together.

 

Set off for Kerima to see the Merowe Pyramids & on the way we stopped in the Nubian Desert close to Wawa for our morning tea, after visiting the pyramids we set off for Atbara & we stopped for our night camp in the Bayuda Desert which was very remote, in fact in four hours we only saw three other vehicles on this road, we found a really nice spot a little distance from the road so we would not be seen or disturbed, we cooked our evening meal & cleaned up, we decided to get an early night so we could get a nice cool start in the morning, we were in bed for 8pm as the darkness had set in, after about an hour a breeze started which was quite nice as it was cooling us down, the breeze with no warning turned into what felt like a hurricane & filled the tent with fine sand dust, I had to move to the rear of the tent as it was trying to lift this section from the ground, The tent was in danger of collapsing on us & Kou was panicking & scared she was going to die, I had to keep calm & make the best decisions,  the wind was that ferocious that it was pushing sassy over on her suspension which is amazing as she weighs over three tons, I made my way out of the tent to prepare the car for us, the sand was hurting my exposed skin & I was finding it very hard to breathe & see where I was going.

 

I had to get Kou down from the tent & into the car, on the way down she had to keep looking away from the sand as it would have been really dangerous for her eyes, Just as I got Kou into the car the roof tent collapsed with the ladder damaging the rear tail gate door, by this time the car was creating a sand dune down the driver’s side,  We had to find our way back to the road which was really difficult, even with all the lights on we could not see where we were going  & had to make a quite a few attempts to find the route back to the road, once at the road we found a hill to shelter behind & managed to pack the roof tent away in a fashion, I had to wait for the wind to drop a little to go back & find the missing bits of the tent as without them we could not use it again, lucky for us the Girls earlier in the day had given us some bandannas which I used to protect my mouth & face, Luckily I managed to retrieve the roof tent parts, as we were parked there a lorry came through & was quite close as I think he did not see us to the last second, I opened the door to check if I had secured everything & just at that point the wind picked up & blew some of my money out of the dash holder, we decided to drive slowly until we could find somewhere safe, after driving about two hours and at some points could only see a few feet in front of sassy as the wind was blowing so much sand through the air, eventually we came across a wide piece of land where we could pull off onto safely & spent the next few hours sleeping on the front seats.   

 

11/08/11

 

The heat during the night had been extremely unbearable & at one point I went out to the front of the hotel & tried to sleep on the pavement in front of the hotel but a small cat wanted to play with me so I had to go back to the room, Once again we were waiting at 8am to get our Sassy back, eventually we were told the drivers only can go to the port to collect the vehicles, on arrival at the port the first thing I noticed was all the overlanders vehicles from yesterday were still there.

 

It was very clear we could not get our vehicles back as the barge was moored in an inaccessible position, After some negotiations’ they agreed to move the barge, The first thing I noticed that someone had stolen the GB sticker of the rear of Sassy & also attempted to steal the spot lamps but fortunately I had double nutted the mountings to help stop this sort of thing happening.

 

While waiting I had a quite word with Sassy & explained she doe’s not have to be away from us again & no more tinny number plates for her, she roared into life with a new found lease of life, we left the barge & she kicked up dust all the way to the customs house, all the paperwork was checked & cleared very quickly, back to the hotel & picked up Kou, Marinella & Cecilia the Italian girls invited us to a local market that Ali their guide was going to take them too, at the market which was very vibrant & stocked lots of vegetables & fruit, we purchased some Lamb (we think) for the next couple of days along with some fruit & Veg, the film crew & the girl’s were in a hurry to press on with their trip so we said our goodbyes.

We sorted ourselves out & organised our maps & bits & pieces, ten minutes after we set off we came across the two Land rovers with everyone waving us down in distress, we stopped to find out that they had overheated the film crew car, after letting it cool down we filled it with water & it was coming out as quick as we could fill it from the water pump, the smell of the engine indicated it was probably finished, I also noticed the power steering pump had sheared off its mounting, we changed the water pump & sent the power steering pump back to the village to have the broken bolts removed, we then played football & rested whilst waiting for the pump to be returned, the power steering pump was refitted &we then filled with water & started the engine just to have my earlier diagnosis of the engine confirmed.

 

Ali our guide said that there was no one in Wadi Halfa  that would be able to repair a Land Rover, the decision was made to tow it to Akesha & wait for a recovery vehicle to arrive from Khartoum, so it was connected to Sassy who was feeling very smug & kept saying this is what I was born to do, so we towed it through the desert and every now again she would give the land rover a little tug to show it who was the daddy.

 

We arrived at a small area just outside Akesha & set up camp for the night, we all shared each others food & had a lovely BBQ, just as we were ready for settling down the recovery vehicle arrived & it was agreed it would be loaded in the morning. We were just settling down when Ali brought to us some cool bottled water that he had purchased from a store some way down the road, a very kind & thoughtful gesture.

 

10/08/11

 

Another restless night due to the extreme heat, I asked about all the people sleeping on the balconies & the hallways to be told they had run out of rooms, so these spaces were used for accommodation. Ready for 8am to go & collect sassy who must have been missing us after been left alone amongst all them strange vehicles, whilst making enquires about the whereabouts of the barge we came across an English couple Terry & Jean, A South African couple & a German couple the Schneiders all returning from overland trips, After some discussion it was clear the barge must be here as they are shipping out today, then we had the news we did not want that the barge would not be here today, this caused confusion as the North bound overlanders have been told there vehicles will be going today, they all set of for the docks & they never came back so we were expecting someone to tell us the barge has arrived but they never did.

 

We spent the rest of the day resting & chatting with the local people, one young chap gave me a Sudanese pound as a souvenir, I was trying to give him it back but there was no way he would take it back, the evening was very similar to the previous one.

 

09/08/11

 

We eventually fell asleep last night only to be woken at 01.30am by a customs official demanding that we are to go the rear of the ship to complete documents & to check our passports, well I am not sure what I put on the forms as I was still half asleep as I was completing them but they seemed puzzled but happy.

Awoke in our luxury cabin (see pictures and all for £334.00) to a very hot day, we managed to get onto the fore deck of the ship, we had a chat to the motor bikers about their experiences of Egypt & they were very similar to our own, we were then very lucky to get such a good view of Abu Simbel as we sailed along Lake Nasser, the complex was relocated in its entirety in 1968, on an artificial hill made from a domed structure, high above the Aswan high dam reservoir.

The relocation of the temples was necessary to avoid their being submerged during the creation of Lake Nasser, the massive artificial water reservoir formed after the building of the Aswan High Dam on the Nile River. Abu Simbel remains one of Egypt's top tourist attractions.

We finally arrived at Wadi Halfa at 12.40pm, Mughdi the local fixer came to our cabin & asked us to quickly go to the rear of the ship & complete some documents for disembarkation, met up with the Italian film crew & the two Italian girls who are doing a trip to South Africa to raise money for a project based in Cape Town working with AIDS, Mughdi guided us of the boat before things got to hectic & onto a mini bus to take us all to Customs, Our next question was where were we going to sleep that night whilst waiting for our vehicles to turn up the following day, Mughdi said no problem I have arranged your hotel so off we went.

We arrived at the Kleopatra hotel in the local village, it would of not been our normal choice of hotel but it was reasonable clean & cheap, The Italian guys were all put into a five berth room with a/c & we were given a two bed room with a ceiling fan which I thought would be ok, well I was wrong the faster you put the fan on the hotter the room became and with temperatures approaching 50 degrees it was unbearable, at least it would cool down in the evening.

The rest of the day we explored the village to find it was almost deserted and very little happening, we caught up with the young ladies & the film crew & they offered for us to go to dinner with them & their guide at 8pm, we gladly accepted this offer as we could find nowhere local to eat, at 8pm we met Ali the guide & we were told we would be eating local in the village, we walked across to the area we were in earlier & to our surprise the place was alive with people, music & food sellers & really had a great atmosphere about it, two tables were quickly pulled together for us & a young Portuguese guy joined us for company, this guy was back packing solo from Angola to Portugal & had some great tails tell us all, the shish kebabs & chicken was ordered, this was served piping hot along with pasta & various vegetables & tasted extremely good.

The next few hours the evening was spent getting to know each other & talking of our experiences of our travels to this remote meeting point, we all retired to the smoking area where most enjoyed the delicate flavoured Shisha tobacco. We decided to leave the guys to this after a while & went for a walk around the village which had come to life over the last couple of hours, at no point did we feel unsafe, in fact all the people were very kind & would stop us a for friendly welcome & for a chat, at this point we realised we are now starting our journey into the real Africa.

We settled down in our room & the heat just kept building & was almost unbearable, I left the room for some cooler air and I was surprised to find people sleeping in the corridors & on the balconies around the hotel, eventually lack of sleep from the journey caught up with us & we fell asleep (in our room… not in the corridor!).

 

08/08/11

 

We arrived at the police traffic office at 9am as instructed the day before, we ask for Yusuf the guy who we have to return our plates back to, we are told he will be in shortly, in the mean time we met up with some Italians guys who are also travelling to Cape Town for charity & producing a documentary of the journey, we all wait for Yusuf who eventually turns up at about 10.15am & he takes our paper work & disappears into his office, in the mean time nine motor bikers turn up and attract a lot of attention from the local people due to their very well equipped bikes they are riding, After chatting to the Guys it turns out they are mostly South Africans returning  back to Cape Town from their recent trip to Cairo.

 

We eventually get clearance for all the vehicles to be escorted in a tight convoy to the port which is about 20 kilometres away, the formation of vehicles lasted about 30 seconds as we were all caught in a traffic jam Egyptian style whilst trying to cross the unmanned nearby railway lines, the local people had to step in to guide traffic to get things moving, the Egyptian drivers are so inpatient, as soon as a space appears they have to drive into it without any thought of the chaos it will cause, We eventually arrive at the port & we are formed into groups of motor vehicles & motor bikes, we are met by one of the River Nile Navigation workers named Mubarec who guided us drivers through the complicated paper work process & I have to say he was a credit to his company, Kou had to go with the non driver group & process her paperwork through emigration Kou had to push her way through the waiting people as there is no etiquette for queuing in Egypt & people will just walk, sorry push their way to the front,  the vehicle had to go for inspection & the customs officer  gave me a choice to empty the vehicle completely & pass everything through the x-ray machine or give him 35 Egyptian pound (£3.80) easy choice really, so he duly signed off our vehicle declaring we had no drugs or firearms, to which I must add we had neither, we then have to go to another office where our number plates are taken back, the guys office had three boxes of cigarettes which might not sound a lot but they did contain 10,000 cigarettes in each box, the guy was constantly smoking the whole time we were there, eventually the number plates are handed back to Yusuf who may not be the best time keeper but was quite a nice Guy to deal with, Sassy is back to her British self once again.

 

Off to the ferry & once again another delay as the gate keeper cannot open the gates until another piece of paper is produced, Mubarec races off to get the document so that the gate keeper knows we are cleared to join the ferry, Gates open we proceed to the barge to load our vehicles & they tell us there will be a five minute delay, after an hour in the blistering heat they say Kou & the other non drivers can go to their First Class cabins, I helped Kou with her luggage board the ferry which was in chaos with people loading their baggage, fridges, coolers, air condition systems, drink coolers, blenders & other various items, everyone is pushing & shouting at each other, we eventually get to the cabin which can only described as shocking, if you kept an animal in such a dirty & poorly maintained room you would be prosecuted for cruelty, I had to leave Kou with her stomach churning with the thought of spending a night on this boat, I make my way back off the boat which was not easy as I was now going against the flow of everybody, eventually make it back to the car & after another two hours we load the vehicles, I then have to have to make my way through the boat back to Kou, the passengers seem to be getting very angry with each other & it all appears to be getting out of control, once back in the cabin all you could hear is the arguments between the passengers, lucky for me Kou had wisely packed some mosquito sheets which she had laid out on the bunk beds to allow us to rest, The 12 midday ferry eventually sailed at 06.30 in the evening.

 

Whilst waiting for the ferry Sarah had told us we must contact MasterCard fraud department, I was a little annoyed as I had already told them we will travelling through Africa & will be using our card in some areas we have not visited before, to my amazement I was told my card had been used online with Apple & I want that web sites, I was asked to confirm a list of transactions that I had or had not made, my credit card had to be cancelled as it had been used for many online purchases, this is a bit of a problem as we only have our backup card left to use.

 

07/08/11

 

We went to the Nile Navigation Company for 8am as agreed with the manager Mr Saleh. Just as well we went early as we could not find his office, when we did find his office it was closed - I was told he will be in at 10am, we waited until he arrived then he sent us to the Traffic Court to check if we had committed any dangerous acts of driving. I felt that would be amazing to have that on my C.V considering what we had seen on our travels, after two hours of checking with all the state departments that I had been a good boy, the Judge gave me a small piece of paper and sent me back to Salehs office, got our tickets and instructions for the escort from the Police station to the ferry in the morning as we would have returned our Egyptian plates to the Police by then and it is illegal to drive round without official plates.

 

Done a little sightseeing round Aswan this afternoon and it was fairly hassle free. Went to the local Nubian spice market which was very colourful and full of life, spent some time in the pool at the hotel and will be preparing for our adventure over Lake Nasser for the next couple of days, and we must be getting near the real Africa as we have took our first Anti Malarial tablet today.

 

Kou has been busy and completed her washing chores; our hotel Suite balcony is our new drying area and now looks like a scene from Dot’s Laundrette in Eastenders.

 

There may be a short spell where the diary will not be updated; as soon as we find a good Internet connection in Sudan we will update the diary.

 

Ta Ta for now.  

 

06/08/11

 

We filled our bellies with a fine breakfast and repacked the car to move onto Aswan. Leaving Luxor the road was lined with Boganvillier Plants and was very well cared for. The drive down was very pleasant as we travelled mainly parallel with the River Nile and saw many dwellings built into the sand stone of the hills, some of the villages reminded us of images from Biblical Bethlehem (or was it Life of Brian?), the road was very poorly maintained but as we were in no hurry this did not phase us and we soaked in the culture.

 

We arrived in Aswan and was trying to find our way to Eliphantie Island when a local car stopped us and asked if we need help, we asked for directions to the island, he took us directly to the boat crossing, we chatted for a while and we asked why there seemed more people about at night then what was around during the day, Mohamed explained due to Ramadan most people sleep all day and stay up all night which makes fasting easier for them. When he left  he went off with a big car tooting  wave.

 

05/08/11

 

After a few hours sleep we woke up and explored the Hotel and Gardens. It could only be described as magnificent. It turns out it was the Palace of King Farouk 1 and all the rooms and furniture are restored to the same standards as they were when the King was in Residence.

 

We had breakfast on fine bone china plates and silver cutlery (slumming it, I know!), we were waited on like Royalty, we found out that a few famous names had stayed there over the years -  Princess Diana, Tony Blair, Robbie Williams & the French President Sarkozy to name a few.

 

The hotel only had fifty guests, which would explain why the price was negotiated down. Most of the guests had booked package in a sister hotel & were upgraded to the Palace Hotel, this allowed them to completely shut their sister hotel down due to the down turn in tourists - the hotel had a real feeling that the guests were enjoying the opulence of it all.  

 

We went out to local restaurant, which is only a few minutes walk from the hotel called 7 Days – we were told the food was supposed to be excellent. On the way we were harassed by the drivers of the local horse carriages’ some were fine and others were very aggressive and very rude, a young lad of about six tried picking my pocket but a shopkeeper chased him off and he apologised for the lads behaviour.

 

The staff and the food were remarkable and was served ‘hot hot hot’ just as Kou likes it. I had an Egyptian dish called beef tagine which is cubes of beef marinated in spices and stewed with vegetables and beans; Kou went for beef mousaka not being quiet as adventurous – but truly letting her Greek side shine through. We would certainly recommend this restaurant to anyone visiting Luxor.

 

We found the people of Luxor much calmer and friendlier compared to the people from Cairo, only problem again was the constant harassment from people at the tourist sights.

 

We checked in with the ferry company to make a booking for Monday the 15th and were sadly told the last sailing in August will be on the 8th due to Ramadan - so we have to move on to Aswan in the morning.

 

 

04/08/11

 

We visited New Cairo today and it is a total contrast to where we had been staying. It was very modern and clean but once again full of armed security guards, so not really easy to wander around without feeling intimidated. So we set off for the great Pyramids of Giza, this really is a tourist trap and even before you get there people are banging on the windows trying to sell you something or begging for money, it was nonstop and really spoilt the experience.

 

We set off out of the city to the south, which is about 18 miles to the outskirts. We have read of tales from other travellers that it has taken some up to 5 hours to travel 18kms… Surely not! Three hours later through the chaos of the traffic we finally made it to the outskirts. We have not got used to traffic approaching in the wrong directions on their motorways and blowing their horns and flashing their lights for us to move out of the way.

 

We headed south through the Eastern Desert and after a couple of hours we pulled off on a deserted piece of land just a little away from the traffic - to our amazement two young men appeared from over a sand dune and approached us. Kou was a little worried (understandably) but I needed my tea (more importantly), the guys come up to us and offered us some fruit and asked us where we were from, after a few minutes they got bored with us and strolled off back into the desert.

 

The Eastern Desert Highway is completely bonking mad. We counted at least fifteen terrible vehicle accidents and there was numerous wrecks along the route which had just been left lying where they happened and were hazards for future accidents - at night time you are driving along with your dipped beam lights on and out of the darkness a lorry or car would put there lights on from nothing to full beam and then turn all their lights back off.

 

We set off for Asyut which was very clearly marked on our map, we were following the signs giving us the usual distance countdown, then the signs stopped being there, we approached a road junction which said Asyut to the north (sort off) 80kms, so we decided to move onto Sohag which was another 140kms to the south. We arrived in Sohag, which has a very large population, but only one hotel that was fully booked, so the decision was made to have a night in the roof tent. We searched for a camp site or a suitable area - to our surprise every piece of land along the Nile is populated, we eventually found a filling station which allowed us to camp at the rear, perfect we thought, so we started settling down and a guy approached us wearing traditional Egyptian clothing and carrying a very large machine gun, which I doubt I could have lifted let alone wander round with it. Kou’s hair turned grey in front of my eyes (under the hair dye of course), we explained we have permission from the owner, he smiled and said ‘ok too many bandits here’ - well that was that. Ten minutes later we were back on the road - we eventually ended up in Luxor some 800kms from where we started and found a hotel open at 2am. The manager explained to me as we have no reservation it would be 400 euros, as tired as I was that was not an option, he then said if you book two nights I will give you special deal of 200 euros and I said still too much per night he said ok two nights with breakfast for 200 euros. Good Night.    

 

03/08/11

 

I left early this morning to collect the visas from the Sudanese embassy as Kou could not face the harassment and the dangers of trying to cross the street. Kou was also tired as most of the night she had been kept awake by gunfire and shouting between the protestors gathered at the Police academy at the rear of the hotel as this is where the trial of ex president Mubarak was to start in the morning. On the way I was approached by a guy who wanted to be my guide - I politely declined, he started following me nonetheless and after a few minutes he said ‘you must pay me as I have guided you’, the first part of my dialogue with this man cannot be posted here as children may be reading this. As I walked away he started shouting at me in Arabic… don’t ask me why, but I just had the strangest feeling that he wasn’t telling me to have a nice day… I just carried on walking ignoring him until he just disappeared into the crowd at some point.

 

At the Sudanese embassy the guy who had dealt with me the day before recognised me and with just a few nods and some body language gave me our visas and I left with the only words that was spoken by me were ‘Thank you’ on my exit. If only all our interactions with the Egyptian people had been as easy as this!!

 

On the way back I went to the National Arab Bank and changed some sterling into us dollars and Egyptian pounds. Expecting this to be a long process (like everything else had been since we arrived in Egypt) I was pleasantly surprised how easy and quick it was, no id or name was even required and a favourable exchange rate was given.

 

Had a pleasant walk back to the hotel, maybe the word has gone round that it is no good picking on the grumpy looking British one as he will not give in. I met Kou on the roof terrace and had morning tea, how refined we are.

 

Great news, the yellow fever certificates turned up just after midday, they were delivered by Fedex which was a surprise as Matt had sent them by Royal Mail. With these and our visas in place we can now set off tomorrow to explore more of Egypt.

 

 

02/08/11

 

We both went to the Sudanese embassy to apply for our visas, after recent experiences we decided we would walk; this was not easy as every time you cross the streets here you take your life in your hands. We cannot emphasize enough how dangerous the streets are here for pedestrians and vehicles. The roads are completely lawless and road signs mean nothing. We were constantly harassed by taxi drivers telling us they will not charge if we get in their taxi. I would not get in another taxi in Cairo even if they were to pay me, then we also had to deal with street sellers and beggars who are a real pain to deal with.

 

We eventually arrived at the Embassy and were given some simple forms to fill out which were OK apart from the question on what blood group we were, we had to guess that one, the staff were helpful and after parting with 200us dollars we were told to come back at 10am tomorrow.

 

We went off to the Egyptian Museum; we had to pass through a sea of soldiers and Police officers who were guarding the recently cleared Tahrir Square. The museum has a spectacular collection of artefacts, but sadly they are very poorly displayed  with very little information on the exhibit. The atmosphere in the building was very intimidating, as there was so many security guards and staff watching you at all times and most were openly carrying guns - then just to put the icing on the cake there is a ban on any cameras being used.

 

On the way back we decided to walk along the Nile embankment away from the taxi drivers, big mistake as we were now harassed by boat people offering us free rides on their boats. I would hate to think how much it would cost to return to the river’s edge after your free ride.  

 

I was approached by a guy telling me he was an electrical engineer from Iraq working here. I was a little stand offish as you are always waiting for the catch, on this occasion I was wrong he was just a guy wanting a friendly chat.

 

 

01/08/11

 

Enjoyed Breakfast together and Kou retired to the Jacuzzi on the roof terrace (you can tell we’re slumming it!). I went off to the British embassy to collect our letter of introduction, on arrival I was expecting a very personalised letter from the embassy, in fact the lady went to a folder pulled out a photocopied letter and stamped it in front of me. I thought this was appalling firstly this cost £50 and there was no reason why this could have not been done the day before rather than have to go back again.

 

I then arranged with a local taxi driver from the hotel, after checking he knew where the Ethiopian embassy was, to take me there wait one hour then return to the hotel - a rate of 50 EP was agreed. We set off and he took me to the Russian Embassy, I told him this is not the Ethiopian Embassy, he said sorry and at break neck speed, sped off for us to arrive at the Kuwait Emabassy, once again I explained the f****** Ethiopian Embassy in Doki!! As we were driving around lost I spotted it and told him to stop, by this time I had missed the 1PM dead line for collections. I explained to the official at the gate our situation and she said ‘no problem I will try and get it for you’, as she walked away the taxi driver spoke to her very loudly and she left, ten minutes later a guy come to the gate and asked me what the problem was. I was a little confused as I had been waiting patiently, then it dawned on me the driver must have said something disrespectful. I explained the problems I have had getting here and how sorry I am in being late, he was kind enough to go and fetch us our visas… which took him half an hour.

 

On the way back to the hotel the driver drove like a total lunatic with no regard for his passenger or other road users. Once back at the hotel he said that will be 180EP, I said we agreed 50 and you told me you knew where the Ethiopian Embassy was. He kept shouting ‘you told me Russian and then Kuwait!’ at this point the real argument started between us and involved the hotel security staff keeping us apart. In the end I agreed to pay him 100 EP just to bring it to an end as the thought of being arrested did not justify the money.

 

Because the taxi driver cost me so much time we have now missed the Sudanese Embassy for today. We returned to our room to decide what to do next, we then noticed from our windows hundreds of soldiers and police officers moving about opposite our hotel and at this point we could hear gunfire, the streets were grid locked with traffic and people running in all directions. We later found out that the army had been sent in to clear Tahrir Square of its protesters, we stayed in for the rest of the day watching all this unfold.

 

 

31/07/11

 

 

Today we are off the to the British, Sudanese and Ethiopian embassies to get our letter of introduction and apply for our visas.

 

We used our prearranged taxi driver who was to be with us all day for an agreed rate of 400 Egyptian pounds (£44), after four hours of going round Cairo from one traffic jam to another (it was clear to see that the driver clearly did not know  where he was going), up to this point all we had achieved was a visit to the Ethiopian embassy.  We’d had enough and asked to be taken back to our hotel, he kept saying ‘You must see the pyramids’. I quite sternly told him we need to start our visa process, so he drove us to the pyramids…

 

By this time I was getting a bit wary of this driver,  on the way back he said you must pay me £400 British sterling, I said we will discuss this back at the hotel, on arrival at the hotel we discussed what I was going to pay and that was that!

 

Now we are left with a problem, do I now change my mind after refusing to drive in Cairo because of its crazy traffic situation or not. I decided to find out where the embassies are on a map and decide if we can walk to them - all apart from the Ethiopian embassies were within walking distance.

 

We walked to the British Embassy and ordered our letter of introduction to the Sudanese embassy, we paid 450 Egyptian pounds (£50) and told it would be ready for collection the following day.

 

Later that day we could not find the yellow fever certificates and our first disagreement of the trip was starting on who packed what. We decided to ring Sarah to see if we had left them behind. After a thorough search of the house Sarah found them. Matt (who was quite obviously the hero of the day) arranged postage to us in Cairo which will take two days using Royal Mail Global Express. Matt posted them the  following morning, it should all work out in the end as they  should arrive the same time as we get our Sudanese visa, we hope.

 

I suppose these  things are sent to try us, so we had a drink and laughed about it.

 

30/07/11

 

It was only after waking up this morning that we realised we were now on African time and soil. We were still extremely drained from yesterday’s events but we decided to push on none the less! The worst of our problems must be behind us now, we managed to get out of the Egyptian dock, we survived Syria and we had also been soldiering on through the blistering heat since Turkey – nothing else could phase us now!

We visited Nuweiba beach for a paddle and some fun time before setting off to Cairo, which was 400 miles away through mainly desert.  

 

We were about 50 miles into our journey, Kou was reading a text from Andy, I was trying to make sense of the road signs and then suddenly Sassy had a hissy fit – there was a bang and the front drivers side of the car dropped onto the road – we veered off to the right to avoid colliding into an already damaged Armco barrier. As this was happening the front wheel came up and removed the front wheel arch and disappeared down into a valley. We managed to stop safely. After inspecting what had happened I could not believe all six wheel studs had sheared off with no warning. I recovered the wheel, which was undamaged, and Kou walked back along the road and found four of the broken studs with nuts still attached and the centre cap. I stripped the front hub down and replaced all six studs that I had carried as spares just in case I damaged any on any wheel changes. I used the four nuts that Kou had picked up after removing the pieces of sheared stud and refitted the wheel that showed no sign of damage. The heat was quite simply unbearable - I must have consumed three litres of water in a very short period of time.

 

We were both a little shaken by our experience. Kou was a great support and got stuck in by being my apprentice. Just as we were finishing the police turned up to make sure we were ok, as someone had reported us being in distress.

 

After studying the broken wheel studs and undamaged wheel fixing area I can only conclude it was fatigue failure due to the road conditions being so poor in some countries we had travelled through, it has certainly taken its toll on us, but I guess it is all part of the adventure. We think Sassy may have been sulking as she had been fitted with strange number plates.

 

We set off again towards Cairo through miles of badly signed roads and sand storms that were building into sand dunes. On various stretches of the carriageway, we were stopped eight times & asked for our passports - they also wanted to know where we were going, all the soldiers were very young and we felt rather uneasy as they were all armed with machine guns, but in the end we have to be honest and say they were all friendly and helpful.

 

It is absolutely important anyone travelling in this area carry extra fuel as there are very few filling stations available and not all stations have fuel or even pumps.

 

They say the worst things happen at sea, so onwards we must go.

 

29/07/11

We set of for our ferryboat today to Egypt. We needed to be there two hours before our midday departure. All was calm and easy going until we entered the first compound, we both said OMG at the same time, there was people everywhere pushing and shouting at each other - we had to get into a sort of queue (which was more like a rugby scrum) and push ourselves forward at every opportunity so we could get our ticket confirmed. We were removed from the queue by an official and we were taken to another building to meet the port manager, he checked our tickets, we were shown to customs and our exit visas were completed. We were very lucky amidst the chaos to get the help we received from the kind official. We then had to wait outside for the loading instruction, all the shaded areas had been long taken – waiting in the heat was so draining. I got bored and took some pictures of the chaos only to be ticked off by a customs officer who appeared from nowhere and made me delete the photographs, after about two hours we were told to go to the ship and we thought that was it, but no, we had to go through a customs shed with all the other vehicles and be questioned on why we are going to Egypt and then Sassy was x-rayed. We eventually got loaded at 1pm (1 hour overdue) and were questioned yet again on where we was going.

 

Once the ship sailed at about 2pm we had to join a massive queue to get our passports stamped again, on my return Kou had got chatting to a young German guy from Bremen called Philip who was travelling from Germany to Kenya by public transport on his own, we wish the young man luck with his adventure.

 

The crossing took about an hour and while we approached the dock some form of protest broke out in the forward section of the ship. All children and women were moved into our section and the doors were locked to let the protest carry on contained. When we docked it was still another 30 minutes until we as allowed to go to our vehicles. As we were leaving the doors were opened for the forward section of the ship and there was a massive stampede down to the lower deck. After we left the ferry, the real fun began.

 

The customs buildings were totally rundown and difficult to find amongst the ruins. We had no idea where to go, so we followed some other vehicles around the dock until they stopped in an old warehouse. This was customs. As we were driving around the docks there was chaos amongst the people was unbelievable - we witnessed two young men fighting… this just shows peoples desperation of wanting to leave the dock and get on with their lives!

 

The ferry company had farm tractors and trailers to move the baggage from the ferry to the customs area. They were loaded so high with goods and people clinging on – as the tractors moved along goods and people were falling off onto the ground and being left behind.

 

We found someone wearing a uniform and asked for advice about the procedures on how to get out of the shipping area. After waiting another 30 minutes we were told we needed a shipping paper – Kou guarded the car whilst I ran around like a headless chicken going in and out of different shacks to pay for road tax, insurance 4x4 tax, number plates, registration of the vehicle, the fitting of the Egyptian number plates and various money passes. Whilst the authorities were burning a hole in my wallet, Kou was cooking nicely in the car.

 

After about two hours of marching around the docks we were given the thumbs up to leave. We could now continue on our journey!!! We set off for the exit and yet again, sat in another queue. We were pulled over and were told that we couldn’t leave until we purchased a visa fee. Lets just say they didn’t get another penny out of us and we were on our merry way in a matter of minutes.

 

By the time we left the port we were exhausted. The nearest hotel was a Hilton – they wanted $160 for one night, apparently they was ‘the cheapest hotel around’! After travelling a couple of minutes down the road we came across another hotel – they offered us dinner, breakfast and a meal for £44. Yes please! Head down! Goodnight world!!

 

(We were given a very nice clean room on the beachfront, once again it is very evident how the recent problems of a country have affected the tourist trade, this hotel had around three hundred rooms available but only twelve guests stayed here tonight).

 

28/07/11

 

Have a relaxing day in Aquaba, we toured the town today by foot which was not easy as the temperature was touching 46 degrees, we had to take our first rehydration mixture today as we were both feeling a little exhausted.

 

We enlisted the help of a local taxi driver to show us where to purchase our ferry ticket to which made the purchase extremely easy as he showed us a local ticket office. The ferry crossing must be one of the most expensive considering it is only a one hour crossing & cost 272 Jordian dinar which is about £270.

 

We tried to to walk to the beach today but was disappointed not to be able to reach it because all the hotels had cordoned off the beach for their guests use only.

 

 

27/07/11

 

 

We spent the night at The Legend Hotel in the Wadi Rum Desert. I must have been tired the previous night as it was not a nice place to stop off at, but I was thoroughly exhausted with the heat and the driving. And to top it all the owner and all his staff thought we were walking ATM machines. It was almost like being around my children!

 

Kou was woken at about 10pm with singing and praying from twelve people all dressed in white outside our room on mats praying - this frightened Kou a little and she found it hard to sleep that night, apparently Kou tried to wake me up but I do not recall this, so Kou was on guard duty last night.

 

We had midday tea in the Wadi Rum desert – the local people seemed to be fascinated with us and were constantly waving and greeting us. When we arrived just outside Aqaba and had to proceed through a security checkpoint – there were fully armed soldiers on guard and were plenty of armoured vehicles with M60 machine guns fitted to them… but once again we were waved through with a smile.

 

We are now going to have a couple of days in Aqaba and we have just checked into the Aqaba Gulf Hotel for a little treat. We had our first visit to a local fish restaurant, which was ‘different’ to say the least! We ordered two grilled fish dinners and as some of you know I do not like bones in my fish let alone the head, eyes and tail… I rest my case.

 

Aqaba is very nice but like the rest of Jordan it is very expensive.

 

We are booked on the ferry for the 29th and we will update our diary once we are in Egypt. In the meantime don’t forget to check out our latest pictures!

 

 

26/07/11

 

We are up early (well I never really slept well as I was on guard duty most of the night protecting my dearest co pilot). The temperature was already up to 36 degrees! We were the only people staying at a hotel which has about 100 rooms - the issues in Syria has stopped any tourists visiting for obvious reasons; it’s a real shame to see someone’s hard work in building a top class hotel is now struggling to survive, as the owner said last night, the tourist trade may never return.

 

I asked for a beer at the hotel (what else do you drink in the morning?) and we were told no alcohol was allowed in the hotel… the colour from Kous’ face drained; she had to be seated quick before she fainted. We felt really guilty settling our bill before leaving as we had spent a night in a top class hotel with an evening meal and breakfast for $45. We left the hotel and carried on our merry way. People were continually waving, flashing their lights, sounding their horn and saluting us as we drove through the whole of Syria, we soon got in the spirit of waving and we felt like the Arab version of the Beckhams.

 

We set off on the M1 heading to Damascus. You have to be very alert to survive on the roads - the road was very rough and the road markings were completely warn out, the road signs were difficult to understand as they pointed right when you should have gone left, at one point I thought this was because they are in Arabic and maybe in reverse - there appeared to be no motorway way regulations as quite often you would have to avoid cars and lorries driving towards you on completely the wrong side of the motorway. Being a foreigner this was difficult to deal with, as you had to constantly check that we were on the right side of the motorway. There were plenty of army vehicles and troops heading north, my co pilot photographer was shaking with fright as she tried taking pictures and it didn’t help that the road was very bumpy. We were stopped in a queue of traffic which was a road block, as we approached the soldiers with nice shiny machine guns stood back, smiled and waved to us and gestured for us to proceed with no questions.

 

Damascus was the most difficult place I have ever experienced for traffic, when you allowed for a gap between the vehicle in front of you to move off cars would just jump into the space and you would be left not moving at all. You had to have a very aggressive style of driving to make any headway. I soon learnt a toot on the hooter meant beware there is a car or lorry approaching from somewhere and wants that bit of tarmac you are on.

 

We made good time and did not even stop for a cuppa whilst we were heading to Jordan. We had to eventually stop for fuel which was very close to the border -  as I was filling up I was approached by a Syrian guy who asked me if we had food, I honestly replied ‘sorry we have very little left’, he turned away from me and left. I let out a sigh of relief after he had left, and a few minutes later he returned with about ten packs of crisps and said you must have food with you on your journey - the kind guy would take no money and kept saying you are a guest in my country and you must be treated well, after filling with fuel he washed both our hands with a lemon scented hand wash – if only there was more people like him in the world!

 

We arrived at the Jordan border at about midday and followed all the procedures to get our carnet stamped, collect visas and pay fuel taxes, after a vehicle search and two hours later we were in Jordan. We drove on through Amman which was very similar to Damascus, we eventually found a hotel just outside the city as I was now exhausted and needed some rest.

 

 

25/07/11

 

At 9am the temperature was 41 degrees – today could be the day that Kou’s thermals finally come off! We set of for Adana to find a hotel to get us ready for the journey to Syria. We thought we thought we had climbed all the mountains the yesterday but we were amazed that the climb over the mountains today were even steeper then the day before… Poor Sassy. We stopped at a service station and asked a Policeman for some advice on Syria and what would be the best crossing point – he assured us that Syria would be no problem at all directed us to a little unknown crossing point used by the local people. The drive to the crossing was spectacular over rugged mountainous terrain and the view of the towns below us stretching down to the Mediterranean in the distance was very picturesque.

 

We stopped for some fuel and to ask for directions to a hotel only to be told that there was none in the area. We decided to drive to the border and find a camping spot. When we went to start Sassy the alarm system wouldn’t allow the ignition to start but luckily enough I had fitted a sneaky over ride system which got us out of trouble for now. As we got closer to the border we were surprised to find that there was no places to stop and park – so we made the decision to cross into Syria. We approached a set of heavy metal gates and there were loads of people dressed in uniforms pretending to be border security trying to stop you – something definitely felt dodgy about all this! There were loads of modern vehicles abandoned on the sides of the road stripped down to their body shells – our guess is they fell foul of the bandits trying to stop them. Even though they were dressed as ‘officials’ we didn’t stop – if anything we put our foot down… lucky for them they jumped out of the way, good ol’ Sassy definitely frightened a few of them. Eventually we reached another set of steel gates that opened on our approach and we were finally in the safety of the Syrian customs. We paid our diesel duty, insurance and custom fees. Abdul, the guy that worked for the Syrian tourist board was a massive help – he advised us to offer a token of goodwill to the customs guard to save Sassy from being totally emptied and searched – well worth the £4.

 

We left the border and headed off to find a hotel for the night. Our first views of the country looked very biblical with the stone built houses, the roads were very wide at times and hard to know which part to use. As we got closer to Idleb the amount of tanks on the roadside certainly didn’t make us feel too comfortable but some of the tank crews were waving and shouting welcome. The roads were very poor and once darkness had fallen it was suicidal to travel any further so we stopped at a hotel and called it a day.

 

Later on that night we went to a local restaurant and amidst all the calmness there was a sudden massive explosion. People were out of their seats and the manager quickly told people that it was ok as it was a cars petrol tank that had explode and that things like this was a regular occurrence… Judging by the state of some of the vehicles I am not surprised. Sassy showed her annoyance by setting of her alarm.

 

 

 

24/07/11

 

Last night we had a pleasant evening with Phil, we chatted away, shared a water melon and had a few beers (Kou obviously having her Shiraz red wine!). The bats in the night put on an amazing show for us and the big frogs and large bugs came out in force to come meet us - check out our pictures! We forgot to have an evening meal as we were so carried away with our surroundings, but after a long day all we wanted was our bed! Or tent should I say…  our little palace beckoned us with its freshly washed sheets.

 

We woke up around 6.30am, had a nice refreshing shower and packed away our tent and said our goodbyes to our new pals – Phil and Izmet. We set of expecting a major traffic jam around Istanbul and to our pleasant surprise it was plane sailing all the way through Istanbul - we even managed to purchase a toll card for the motorways, which should stop the worry of us being chased by the Police every time we set the alarms off as we drive through the tolls.

 

Istanbul really deserves more time exploring – there are hundreds of beautiful Mosques and historic buildings, but with our tight schedule to enter Syria before our Visa’s expires is really making us push on. We will be so pleased to reach Jordan so we can take some time out to explore. We crossed the Bosporus Bridge today and we are now officially in Asia. It’s a strange feeling leaving the safety of Europe behind. It dawned on us pretty quickly that Turkey is a beautiful and a very modern country with somewhat of a European feel about it, we will come back one day to explore in greater depth.

 

The day today was very hot indeed and Sassy was performing heroically on the mountain climbs and kept us cool with her air conditioning. We arrived in Sereflikoghisar after a long journey from our start point and we decided to find a hotel for the night, we found one that offered bed, breakfast and air con for the equivalent of £32. We headed of to a Turkish Kebab restaurant located in the back streets of the town. We must admit, we did not know what we was going to end up with when we ordered two chicken kebabs but it was simply beautiful! Served traditional style, enormous side salad, load of pitta bread and to top it off we were treated like royalty – not too shabby for £8!!!

 

We were also lucky enough to witness a local wedding taking place; we watched the happy couple and their family parading through the streets… It would have been rude of us not to join in! What a great day today was!

 

 

 

23/07/11

 

Today we stopped of at the Royal Hotel in Svilengrad – we thought it best to stop of as we were getting close to the Turkish border, which was notoriously difficult to pass through. We had good tidy up of Sassy, chucked away all the empty wine bottles and used tea bags and repacked the contents whilst in the car park. We had loads of hot water and the air conditioning was a godsend.

 

As we approached the border we were met with a queue of lorries waiting to enter Turkey, we say a while and was passed by some cars going down the wrong side of the road... so naturally, we decided to follow. When the cars met oncoming traffic they would take to the grass and re pass them… I just can’t help but wonder what the M25 would be like if this was the norm back home! But then again, the British do like queuing!

 

We got to the Turkish border at Edirne which to my surprise was easy to negotiate and all the customs and visa staff were very polite – the first question I was asked was ‘Do you come from Manchester United?’ I replied ‘No, Tottenham Hotspur.’ And he informed us that he wants to go Manchester United for a holiday… one day eh!

 

We arrived at Istanbul and found a great camp site at Selimpasa and set up for the remainder of the day. I investigated a little from with split charge system that I had purchased before leaving the UK, quite surprised as that it failed as the company had a good reputation… I did some modifications to the unit and this should get us by for not… hopefully.

 

Whilst I was hiding under the bonnet sorting out the electrics, Kou was busy doing her weekly washing chores – we are a fun bunch!

 

We had a long chat with a guy from the UK who had taken two weeks to drive his camper van down – he’s picking his wife up from the airport tomorrow as she prefers to fly… After being told this I could feel the daggers from my dearest wife Kou. I’m only joking… She is happy as Larry at the moment enjoying the heat!

 

Tomorrow we should be in Asia when we cross the Bosporus straights.

 

 

 

22/07/11

 

We spent the night in a hotel called Tiha Noc near the Bulgarian border. The hotel owner was very helpful despite the slight language barrier – we got a bed and breakfast, and an evening meal with a couple of beers all for 37 Euros – a really good deal! Following the news on the weather we were told it was going to be very hot today… Dave doesn’t like heat!!!

 

As we were making our way to the Bulgarian border Sassy’s power steering came back to life! Yes!

 

The people driving in Bulgaria are completely different to those driving in other parts of Europe that we have been to – signs for no overtaking and the max speed limit are totally ignored by most… I was even overtaken by a car using the hard shoulder rather than the outside lane!

 

The ring road around Sofia was very slow going and took us about 2 hours to cover about 15 miles.

 

The border crossing into Bulgaria was very busy and you had to be very assertive and push your way forward at any chance.

 

21/07/11

 

Another early start for us today! We packed away the roof tent and then realised we left our phone in the tent so we had to unpack it all… fun! The drive down the mountain was certainly interesting to say the least. It was extremely hazardous and to make things even more ‘safe’ the power steering failed after a few minutes of driving… and to add even more danger the brakes were fading away with the weight of the vehicle and the extreme downward gradients. Regardless of journey downhill – you have to be very alert whilst driving in the parts of Romania that we were in, it is common for a herds of horses, cows, dogs, chickens and goats to be wandering around out in the roads.

 

We were advised our best route was Nis via Serbia so we thought why not! Serbia wasn’t on our original route but this is a great opportunity to visit somewhere new on our travels. We purchased our first green card for insurance at a cost of 120 Euros. The last section of the road to Nis is absolutely stunning with a scenic river and a railway running alongside it and there was towering mountains surrounding us.

 

We found a small hotel in Pirot and we will be having a nice chill out this evening.

 

 

20/07/11

 

Even though we didn’t sleep much last night we decided to still have an early start and make our way to Romania. We had our first police stop – the officer checked our passports, licences and done a vehicle check – no faults were found and the officer was quite amazed by how deep the tread was on our tyres. On a side not - Kou got told off for taking a picture of the officer.

 

When we hit Romania time moved forward one hour.

 

We passed by a mini tornado earlier – it was possibly one of the strangest things we have ever seen. There was a flock of birds just flying around in circles in the tornado and the dust was lifting from the ground getting darker and darker as rose from the ground – we managed to get a picture of it.

 

After being told that the Semenic Mountains has a great camp site and is an excellent site for natural beauty we decided to head off there – and as luck would have it, we ran into a massive rain storm. The rain was flowing down the roads like rivers of thick of mud. Words cannot even describe what the drive up was like. Luckily once reaching the campsite the rain eased off and we were able to go for a walk and the views were truly spectacular even though it was very cloudy and not very clear.

 

The night in the tent on the campsite was very wet and cold with thunderstorms once again.

 

 

19/07/11

 

Oddly enough, we found it a cross between the USA and Australia. The people were very friendly and the scenery was simply beautiful. The only downside to Austria was that the cashiers in Lidl refused to take any credit cards – we can live without food, but we was running low on tea bags – scary times. Throughout driving through Europe so far we have seen so many wind turbines and solar panels but Austria had so much more than anywhere else we have been.

 

Our Sassy struggled on some of the steeper hills around Vienna – one hill had a summit of 1811 metres! But Sassy pulled herself together and made it up there just fine.

 

We bought a football! Check out the pictures – Rooney eat your heart out.

 

We also entered Hungary today (we don’t waste no time!). Finding a camp site was fun… people kept directing us back to the same spot in Kecskemet when there was no site there, then eventually we were told it shut down a few years ago – we gave up and found a quite country lane (or so we thought) to set up camp – after dark it was really busy with people coming back from the local bars, and then to top it of we had a massive thunder and lightning storm above us.

 

 

18/07/11

 

We left our lonely motel at 10am – and shortly after we were struck with our first disaster – our electric kettle failed. Panic. Absolute panic. How could we go on? Surely we must turn back, this trip is doomed to be a disaster! But our troubles were solved after we popped into Aldi and bought a new one. Panic over. So after that traumatic experience we decided to press onto Austria – we found a nice hotel called Gurtler-Das Stadhotel in Amstetten. We have just been out for a well needed proper meal in the town centre and we are currently catching up with our blog, chilling out and enjoying our first glass of wine together. However… it’s still raining!! We just can’t help but feel that with all the rain we have been having we are bound to end up taking it with us to Kenya and neighbouring countries to help with their drought!

 

 

17/07/11

 

Day 2! We left Belgium and headed to Luxembourg – here we visited Luxembourg City, stocked up on supplies and filled up with diesel at 1.18 euros per litre. We then travelled onto Manheim, passing through the Mossell wine region of Germany – Kou was in her element! We came across a very lonely and deserted looking motel in Neunstein which we decided to nickname Bates Motel – we were the only people on the premises – the only other noises you heard was the sound of the wind hitting against the hotel. The room cost us 44 Euros – really good value we thought, especially for a place that looked newly built and very clean. It also had a brilliant shower and there was plenty of hot water! The only downside was that the Internet did not work…

 

 

16/07/11

 

Today is the day! It’s was a weird day for July, cold and wet – it was almost as if the tears of the nation were falling from the skies on to us wishing us to not go… but alas the day had come! We would like to say a massive thank you to all the family and friends that’s came to see us off at the Harvester, we really appreciate it and we are going to miss you all! After a million and one photos we left the Harvester at 2.30 – 30 minutes behind schedule! We got a lovely comment from the people at the Channel Tunnle saying to us ‘I’m not sure about Sassy… but you do look sassy!’. The train left at 17.40hrs, and arrived in Calais at 18.12hrs (uk time). We decided to press on to get to Belgium – it seemed as if we bought the UK weather with us, the night consisted of very heavy rainfall and strong wind – we spent our first night sleeping in the car. A very eventful first day!

 

 

15/07/2011

 

I would firstly like to say Happy Birthday to my wife Kou.  And we would both like to say a massive thank you to all those who has given us bon voyage gifts, cards, their well wishes and also a thank you to all of those who have donated items to us for the journey. And also a special thanks to Andy who treated me to brekky at the café!

 

Sassy went in for a clean and a shine up today at Bobby’s Tyres on the Hertford Road – they done a fantastic job. One more day to go…

 

 

 

12/07/2011

 

We decided to take our usual family car to travel to Cardiff to celebrate our daughter’s graduation at the Millennium Centre and her 21st birthday – we thought we’d give Sassy a little rest before we hit the road on the 16th! We also bought a few more bits n bobs for the trip from Millets – I think it’s safe to say that we pretty much have everything and more to make sure that we have a comfy journey! Only 4 more days left!

 

 

08/07/2011

 

Sassy is nearly full to the brim with stuff to help us on our journeys – a fridge, a 2000W inverter, tools, camping equipment, a 25ltr water canister, a cooker, a portable bbq, gas bottle, my electric toothbrush, kous blow-dryer and not to mention the endless amount of boxes of Kou’s hair dye! We have yet to add our luggage to the journey – finding space should be a fun challenge. All we have to do is shift a few things about and then that just leaves convincing Kou that she doesn’t need her whole wardrobe for the journey!

 

 

07/07/2011

 

We received our travel and vehicle asset insurance today (arranged through Campbell Irvine). For a 12 month single trip for two its cost us £750 – can’t pay enough for safety I suppose! We are tying up all our last little bits and sorting out our documents and I think now it has dawned on us that we’re leaving in a little over a week.

 

 

06/07/2011

 

Only 10 days to go now! We took Sassy in for the MOT at Advanced Tyres in Enfield – this only cost us £25 as it was a July special offer, bargain! We must be the only people in the world to ask the mechanics to check the car twice over just incase there was any faults he might have missed. The last thing we want is a breakdown in the middle of the desert! Luckily for us, Sassy passed with flying colours and the mechanic took a liking to the amount of ‘shiny bits’ on the land cruiser.

 

 

 

05/07/2011

 

The Carnet De Passage came through today. This is a passport for the vehicle that allows us to get through the borders of the countries in our journeys without having to pay at every border crossing.  We’re very happy this came today as we only have 11 days left till we go! This has made our journey that little bit easier now.  This however was our second passport as the first one excluded us from crossing the Syrian border. We’re still unsure about the Syrian situation and whether we would be travelling through Syria at all but we thought it best to have changed as hopefully luck will be on our side and we could travel straight through Syria after visiting Turkey.  

 

On another note, Sassy goes in for her MOT tomorrow… Hope she passes!!

 

 

12/06/2011

 

We will be following the news very closely regarding the situation in Syria before leaving, and we will make our final decision on whether to cross the border from Turkey or not as we get closer to the Syrian border. If we hear the sound of machine guns we may take a U-turn and head back home, think of another route which may involve travelling through Iraq or possibly sending Kou in first to Syria to see how safe it is before me and my baby Sassy enter the country. I’m sure everything will be ok by the time we get there. Fingers crossed!

 

 

03/05/2011

 

We have now set our departure date for the 16th of July 2011. I’m sure it will come around quicker than what we could ever imagine! We have pre booked the Channel Tunnel crossing – in the next few days we will be sorting our visas, passports and insurance for the rest of our journey once we leave the UK.