[lang_all]I really can’t believe that I’ve made it – After ten months of cycling, I’ve finally reached Cape Town!! I’ve done it, but now its over, it feels kind of strange knowing that I don’t have to get on the bike to move on to the next place. I fly out of Cape Town on the 25th and land in England on the 26th, but now, its beer o’clock!
My name is Dave Briggs. I’ve always had a wanderlust, and about ten years ago, I put my dreams into reality with my first around the world trip which lasted for 15 months. Since then, I have become a regular traveller, only coming back to England to work for six months or so, before returning to the road with the money that I have saved. Each trip I undertake has some theme, from tours of archaeological ruins in South America to experiencing India on the railways. After my last travels, I decided that I wanted to do something that was more physically challenging, cycling from England to Cape Town.
As you can imagine, a bicycle expedition such as Cycling from England to South Africa requires a great deal of planning. Some people are fine with the ‘ I’ll turn up and see what happens ‘ approach, but I prefered to plan ahead as much as I could.
Northampton to Dover
Day 1 – Northampton to Islip – 23/7/06
I’ve been looking forwards to this cycling trip from England To South Africa for almost a year now, and it feels tremendous to be finally underway. I wanted an early start, as the weather had been unusually hot over the last week or so, and I set my alarm for five. I’d stayed the night at my brothers house (thanks Steve and Lowri!), although they weren’t there, as they had taken the kids to visit my parents for the weekend. After a shower and a cooked breakfast, i loaded my bike, and left at 06.15 (as per my plan!!).
The days cycling was reasonably uneventful – which is fine by me! The bike felt quite heavy when fully loaded, but I guess it’s something that I’ll get used too. The weather was kind to me, with lots of cloud cover blocking the heat from the sun, and despite threatening too, it didn’t rain, although i understand it was torrential in certain parts of Oxford.
It was a bit of a nightmare following the Sustrans route 51 cycle paths through Milton Keynes, as most of the signposts had been stolen. I decided to just follow the main roads instead, and the thought crossed my mind a couple of times that if I had just done that to Oxford from Northampton in the first place, I would have cut 30 miles from my journey. Oh well, you live and learn. Well I live, anyway.
Whilst following the A34 towards Oxford, I saw a signpost for a caravan site, and followed it to the Diamond Caravan and Camping park near Islip, where I paid fifteen pounds for the privilege of setting up my own tent in a field, surrounded by families with loud, shouty children. After a shower, I walked to a pub where I had Sunday lunch… it’s a hard life!
Day 2 – Islip to Clifton Hampden – 24/07/06
Well, i think there is only one word to sum up the days cycling effort… shit. It went wrong almost from the outset. I decided to take the A34 into Oxford rather than the Sustrans route, in what can only be described as a serious error of judgment. The traffic was absolutely insane, and in several places, the hard shoulder disappeared, and because of the sheer volume of traffic and the narrow lanes, i had to resort to pushing the bike along the grass verges. There was lots of cursing and shaking of the head. Eventually, I escaped the A34, and cycled into Oxford, where I easily picked up the Sustrans route 5, which would take me south.
An hour into this route, I was just starting to think that things had improved, and I’d be able to make some time back up. Silly me. Along the cycle track which ran parallel to a rail line, I started coming across big pools of blood. I’m no expert, but it looked only a few hours old. Whatever had bled, couldn’t have had a great deal of blood left in it, as i started coming across more and more of it. Maybe I was concentrating too much on the blood, maybe it was just bad luck, but I got my first puncture of the trip. Terrific. I unloaded my bike, took the wheel off, and then spent a while trying to wrestle the tyre from the wheel. Finding that the tiniest piece of wire had pierced both tyre and inner tube, i decided to fit a new tube and repair the old one later. During this time, people are passing backwards and forwards asking me if I’ve got a puncture (no, i just thought I’d take the wheel off for fun!), mentioning about the blood and commenting on the weather. I see a cyclist go by who kindly asks if I have everything i need, and I respond yes, although i mutter that i am slowly losing my will to live! The inner tube and tyre are eventually back on the wheel after another gargantuan wrestling effort, and then I start fumbling around with my Cyclair (copyright the crap company) cycling pump, which clearly does not want to inflate the tyre. People come, people go, policeman ride by on bicycles asking questions, and another half hour passes as i struggle to get my pump to work. Whatever I do, I can’t seem to inflate the damn tyre. The cyclist from before returns, and says that the police have cordoned off part of the track where I have just been whilst they investigate an incident. I borrow the cyclists pump, but between us, we still can’t get the thing to inflate. Worse still, the back tyre is going down now! Bouncing buggery bollocks. Short on inner tubes, and with a broken Crapair pump in my hand, I am unwilling to spend any more time trying to fix it there and then (1.5 hours lost already at this point), so i decide to push the bike to Abingdon. It’s hot, its sweaty, the pedals bash against my legs and police helicopters hover overhead. I eventually made it to Abingdon for 12.00, and dumped my bike in a bike shop, asking them to replace and fit the two inner tubes front and back, fix my front rack, which has decided to become loose, and sell me a decent pump. Sweating profusely (it’s a scorcher) and covered in oil and cuts to my legs, I get changed in the shop, and wander into town, seriously wondering if i will even get out of the country, let alone make it to South Africa.
I have a nice meal which helps to cheer me up a bit, buy a book, a map, and find out there is a campsite close by. I collected my bike at two, and headed out to Clifton Hampden where the strange old lady that runs it let me have a pitch for five pounds, which made me feel a little happier. After setting up camp, I sorted out a minor rear break problem. So the days lessons learned were…
1. Inflate the spare tube a little before using it to make sure that both tube and pump work.
2. Work faster
3. Throwing money at problems solves things as a last resort.
4. Cyclair pumps are crap.
I never found out where the blood came from, but am convinced that something bad happened, and that its bad karma helped to screw up my day!
Day 3 – Clifton Hampden to Laleham – 25/07/06
Well, today was a little more like it! There was a bit of a mist early in the morning, but it soon cleared when i set off. There were some steep climbs, but on a bike, you always get to speed down the other side, so it more than makes up for it. That’s why I think that jogging is so rubbish. When you run up a hill, you still have to run down the other side again… grow a brain people! Stopped off at a place called Knowls Hill for an all day breakfast, and then carried on the cycle route to Maidenhead, (which gets the Dave Briggs award for having the best signposted Sustrans route yet). Through Eton and Windsor, passed Staines and I arrived at Laleham, where i went to a campsite once more. Much of my ride was a long the River Thames, and it’s been that hot, that people were swimming in it. I know it’s supposed to be a very clean river nowadays, but I still have my reservations about it!
Day 4 – Laleham to Rochester – 26/07/06
It was incredibly warm and humid today. Even packing the tent away at 6.00 am made me sweat, and the temperature and humidity built steadily throughout the day. I left Laleham and followed the Sustrans route 4, which shadows the River Thames all the way to London. Most of the journey to Putney Bridge was quiet and tranquil, and I passed through Hampton, Kingston and Richmond. Although I didn’t reach Putney Bridge as fast as i wanted too, it was still reasonably early, so i made the decision to clear the city and get as far along my route as possible. Despite not having a map, and no idea of where I was going, I somehow managed to get through London, and joined up with the A2 heading towards Dover. The bicycle journey through London was not altogether pleasant, with a lot of traffic, oppressive heat and traffic lights, but it had to be done. I made a few stops in petrol stations to stock up on fluids, but made it through ok.
At some point, I’m not sure where, I joined back up with a Sustrans route 1, otherwise known as the Garden of England cycle route.
After much time and sweating, I made it to Rochester, and after taking a picture of the castle, I managed to find myself a bed and breakfast. At £45 for the night it’s certainly not cheap, but I was so exhausted, I didn’t care. Had a lovely cold bath! I currently have interesting tan marks (elbows to wrists), sunburn (calves) and insect bites ( ankles and knees). There is a certain satisfaction you get when you’ve had a hard physical day and you finally get to rest though that outweighs things like that.
Day 5 – Rochester to Dover – 27/07/06
Another monumental days cycling! After a big breakfast (how am I ever going to survive without a full English!?) I set off with the intention of making it to Canterbury. For some reason, I was flying along today, and i made Canterbury easily, so I pushed onwards to Dover. The A2 decide to go up every big hill possible, but the descent in to Dover was worth it. Booked into another B+B (where i am typing this up after ‘acquiring’ free wireless access), and had a wander around town. This will be my last night in England for a while. I get the ferry to France tomorrow, and i plan to stay the night in Calais, before embarking on the next stage of my journey which will take me across France and to the beginning of the River Danube section.
Calais to Charleville
Day 6 Friday 28/07/06, Dover to Calais
I updated my internet sites quite a bit last night, as I managed to pick up free wireless from some poor sod! Had a relatively late lay in until 07.00 and after a shower went down for yet another cooked breakfast. The eat anything and everything cyclists diet is in full swing now! I could feel my legs and hands aching, but it was basically a cycle free day so no worries. After stuffing my face, I went down to the ferry terminal, and after a bit of a wait, cycled onto the ferry. With the bike stowed below (i left my kit on it, but took the handlebar bag with my cash etc), I made my way straight to the food court. Since breakfast, I’d only had one snack, so it was time to eat again. I settled for a two course lunch, which i piled on the plate myself to make a pyramid that the Egyptians would have been proud of! After eating, it was time for a snooze, so I found myself a nice comfy sofa, and fell asleep for the duration of the voyage. And people think this travelling lark is hard!
When i woke up, we had one minute until we docked so I went down to the car dock and got my bike ready. Anyway, i am now in France! It took a few minutes to get used to the signpost system, but I soon cycled into Calais town centre, and after asking at the tourist information where the campsite was, i easily found it, and got a pitch for the night. Did some hand washing, bought a map and another meal. Have to remember… Stay on the right!!
Day 7, Calais – Lillers, Sat 29/07/06
I was feeling quite strong today, so I put in another big days ride, and made it to Lillers, which is just 12km short of Bethune. This means that I am two days ahead of my France schedule. Most of the cycle ride was along the N43, which i would say is the equivilant of an English A road, but no where near as busy.
Cycling on the right is not proving to be a problem so far, especially now I’ve got used to the roadsigns. It’s not that they are radically different to the UK signs, just that they are so subtly different as to catch you out every now and again. Much of the ride was over rolling countryside, and was quite picturesque. I stopped off at a Boulangerie for a cake and a drink 30kms in to the ride. As i neared Lillers, I picked up signs for the Municipal campground, and followed them in, where I paid 4E for the night. That’s more like it! better than those thieving bastards in Islip who took 15 quid! After i set up camp, i got some supplies in for the following day, just in case everything was closed on the Sunday. The weather was not as hot or humid as it had been back in England, and it felt quite pleasant to finish a ride and not be bathed in sweat!
Day 8, Lillers – Sauchy Lestree, Sunday 30/07/06
Another good days ride. Quite hilly at times, but enjoyable. I managed to get a chocolate eclair from a boulangerie on the way, so yey for me! Saw my first war memorials today, just outside of a village called Souchez. It was a commonwealth War Cemetery marking the dead of Vimy Ridge. I saw line after line of graves as i rode up a hill, and my heart just kind of went. There were just so many. the last two generations in Europe have been fortunate in that we haven’t had to be part of a war on that large a scale, and long may it stay that way. I checked the name register, and there was a Private Briggs from the Royal highlanders listed.
I wonder if he was some distant relative? But then, we’re all related, really. I carried on towards Cambrai, but stopped a few km’s short at a village called Sauchy Lestree for the night.
Day 9, Sauchy Lestree – Le Nouvion en Thierache, Monday 31/07/06
A shorter days ride today. The weather was a little rainy, but not too bad, although the hills were starting to wear me down. It was another low spending day, (which means i’m due a splurge soon!), and the campsite only cost 3E for the night. Sweet. I set up camp, and cycled into the town for supplies, only go be hampered by that great french tradition… The two hour lunch break. All the shops, including the supermarkets, were closed from 12-2. Incredible effort. When i got back to the tent, the person in the pitch opposite me was playing the most amazing selection of organ recital music known to man. So far, everybody I’ve met has been really nice, and i’d like to think that my French is improving a little bit.
Day 10, Le Nouvion en Thierache – ???
The days weather was not so good today, but it did mean that i could wear my wet weather gear rather than just carry it around with me on the bike. There’s not a lot to report on the days cycling, other than wind, rain and hills. At some point, between Signy le Petit and before Charleville i saw a sign saying Motel. It’s 39E a night, inclusive of an evening meal and breakfast, so it seemed the wise move!
Day 11, Middle of nowhere to Charleville Wed 02/08/06
It was a really easy ride into Charleville, and i followed the signposts to the campground. I have had a bit of a wander around the town, bought a map for the next stage in France and am battling with a French keyboard, which is not a qwerty one. Why do the French have to be different?
Charleville Mezziers to Strasbourg
Day 12 Charleville Mezziers to Doulcon Thursday 03/08/06
Just when I had finished packing the tent up from the previous nights camping, it decided to hammer it down, so my planned early start went out of the window as I cowered from the rain beneath an overhang near reception. I was about fifteen minutes waiting, and as it was the last major downpour (torrential type!) of the day, it was time well spent. Finding my way out of Charleville Mezziers proved to be no easy task, and convinced that I had gone wrong a long time before, I miraculously found myself on the right road. I love it when a plan comes together! My route towards Verdun followed all the back roads, and whilst this meant I barely saw a car all day, it did mean that I had to go up and down every hill in France! A little bit knackering. I got as far as Doulcon, which is 30kms short of Verdun, and a sign saying campsite lured me in. It’s been my lowest spending day yet at 5 euros, and I also clocked up my fastest speed so far… 53.7 kmh!! I told you those hills were steep! The campsite was quite full, and I got the impression it could be the start of the French ‘grande vacance’, when basically the whole country goes on holiday. This means that the shops will be shut even more than usual (is this possible?!?). And whilst talking about shops, I’d just like to comment on how useless the ones I seem to come across are. The concept of a general store has so far eluded the French in the towns I’ve been through! And that’s ignoring the two hour lunch break, and the fact they don’t open on Sundays. Apart from flower shops which appear to be open all the time. Which is a bonus. Still, I’ll be in Germany soon, where hopefully, they have their act together!
Day 13 Doulcon to Verdun Friday 04/08/06
It rained a lot last night, and was still raining in the morning, so I decided on a bit of a lay in, and left at nine. There was only a 34km cycle ride to Verdun, so it was relatively easy, despite the hills and rain! Stocked up in a hypermarche (civilization! it did not close for lunch!) and then concentrated on eating, as I felt i needed too! The campsite was quite a good one, but why not put seats on the toilets? To sit on the throne is one of lifes pleasures1
Day 14 Verdun to Chateau Salins Sat 05/08/06
The first hour and a half of leaving Verdun, it was back to the hills again, and then … flat!! I had a good couple of hours cycling along at a fair pace before hitting some more hills and then rain, again. Joy. I passed through some pretty towns, and bought a quiche Lorraine.. I was in the Lorraine region! It was a struggle at times, but I eventually made it to Chateau Salins. Quite tired, I booked into a hotel and filled my belly. I made the most distqnce so far, and an incredible top speed of 63.2kmh. I must admit my arse was flapping at that speed, sitting on a wobbly bike steaming down hill in a light drizzle with the brakes barely working.
Day 15 Chateau Salins to Saverne Sunday 06/08/06
I left at 8.30, and it was a bright, sunny morning! The roads were good to me, and i covered 20kms in the first hour, before stopping off for my daily chocolate eclair. After that, it was just head down, and onto Saverne. There were a few steep, energy sapping climbs, and just before Saverne, I climbed up 420 metres and then rocketed down into the town below, which was great fun. Unfortunately, the campsite was back up another hill, so I had to climb another 200 metres… oh well. When I had set up in the campsite, I cycled back down into the town again for some supplies, and had a look around. It had some great, wooden fronted buildings which were quite pretty. The evenings culinary delight was pasta and tuna… for a change.
Day 16 Saverne to Strasbourg Monday 07/08/06
Another day with good weather to cycle in. I hit one of the major roads to get some miles under my belt, and then with 16kms to go to Strasbourg, I cut onto the minor roads. You could tell that I was getting close to the German border, as all the towns started to have German sounding names. The architecture of the buildings also changed, with more wooden fronted buildings of varying colours. The ride took me through picturesque villages and cornfields, until I arrived on the outskirts of the city. I made my way into the centre of Strasbourg, and found the campsite with my normal mixture of skill, blind luck, and the occasionally well placed road sign. Once i had set up camp, I showered and made my way back into the centre. In the centre, it took me about an hour to achieve my main goal of finding a McDonalds. Once that was done, all the secondary tasks such as finding a map of Germany so I can see where I am going next, buying gas cannisters for the stove, and food came easily. The centre of Strasbourg is quite nice, but I didnt bother to take any pictures as I dont think its that nice! On the way back to the campsite, two police officers were directing pedestrians around a newly filled body bag which was laying in the street. Strangely, French body bags are more like huge plastic bags which leave the feet sticking out. Back qt camp, I discovered that the washing machines were five euros, so it was back to washing pants in the shower again.
Strasbourg to Blaustein
Day 18 Strasbourg to Herbolzheim Wed 09/08/06
I thought it was going to be a bit of a nightmare getting out of Strasbourg, but despite the initial roadworks and diversions, it proved to be a doddle. I discovered a previously unknown to me European cycle path from Strasbourg to Offenbourg, which was a bit of a bonus, as it meant that i missed all the major roads and of course their traffic. I decided it would be too early to stop in Offenbourg, so i carried on instead to Herbolzheim. I like germany so far. There are good cycle cumfarm tracks which run parallel to the roads, its been flat, and oh, the shops don’t shut for lunch! I cycled past lots of fields of corn on the cob again, and temptation became too much, so I had to lift one. And very nice it tasted too. After setting up camp, I popped down to the local supermarket, and the German equivelant of the Tour de France went by (Tour de Deutchsland??), so I stopped and watched with the waving locals, a few of whom I got talking too. So far, the Germans seem more open than the French. Also, every French house had shutters on the windows, and in Germany they don’t.
Day 19 Herbolzheim to Freiburg Thursday 10/08/06
The day started off well, and I made good time towards Freiburg. It all began to go wrong on the outskirts of the city, however. The road that I needed to take suddenly decided to not allow bicycles on it, so I had to find cycle paths and quiet roads which weren’t on any map that I had, all the while trying to keep track of where the main road was so that I was going in the right direction. At one point, I had no choice but to go onto the road, which made all the other motorists extremely happy, as it gave them an excuse to use their car and lorry horns. Then, just as I headed off onto a mission to find a quieter road running in roughly the same direction, the heavens opened. And I mean really opened. It was like somebody was pouring the sea out of the sky. I have possibly been wetter when swimming, but I doubt it. Drenched, and with no idea where I was or which direction I should go in, I found a river that had a cycle path, and decided to follow it…
Well, it had to go somewhere, right? And bizarrely, it did. I found a signpost for a campsite, followed it, and set up camp in the lesser of twelve puddles. After consulting a couple of maps, it appeared I was in roughly the right direction, so no worries mate! On a seperate note, I logged onto the internet and checked out www.warofempires.com as the current age was coming to an end. I logged in under my name of Darth Cupid (don’t ask!), and boosted myself up to number 8 before I had to go. I’d passed my account over to one of my clan buddys to play for me, and hopefully he logged on later and got me even higher before the game finished. I really don’t understand why I am still competitive over something I handed over to a friend 3 weeks earlier, but there we are. JUST LET IT GO!!!
Day 20 Freiburg to Donnaueschingen Friday 11/08/06
I think the words ‘super challenging’ may be an understatement of the days cycling. I had to climb so much. So much. Again, there were sections of main road I couldn’t travel on, and I had to find minor roads and pathways which weren’t on my maps. And more climbing. My legs ached and I was tired. I booked into a hotel for the night, and then considered that as I’d just cycled over the backbone of the black forest mountains, I hadn’t done too badly. The Start of the River Danube Section
Day 21 Donnaueschingen to Hausen Im Tal Sat 12/08/06
This is the obligitory photo of the source of The River Danube, which is a fountain in the grounds of a grand old house (currently under restoration) in Donnaueschingen. The Danube then actually flows into a rivers called the Brigach (notive the similarity with my last name there?) and then after a few metres, officially becomes the River Danube. The cycle route started by the riverside, and then diverted through fields for a while. Although the cycleway follows the rivers direction and course, it doesn’t always hug the bank, and wanders through fields and forests at times. The only hard bits of the day were when signposts were missing, and the actual cycling itself was easy, which was just as well given the previous days exertions! Most of the cycle path was smoothe surfaced, although there was one section going through a forested gorge with limestone pinacles which was rough track. It decided to rain 10kms before where I had decided my day would end, but I’d learned my lessons well, donned waterproofs and waited it out! Housen Im Tall had a campsite, and the inside of my tent just about dried out (it had become wet from where it had been packed away) before it started raining again. A group of Germans decided to bring a guitar out in one huge tent near me and sing until two in the morning. They were alright when they stuck to folk songs, and there were some quite beautiful harmonys, but they absolutely murdered Wonderwall and Whats Going On.
Day 22 Hausen Im Tall to Riedlingen Sun 13/08/06
Well, it started off raining in the morning, and it pretty much kept it up for the rest of the day. It wasn’t of the torrential type, more of a gentle soaking to the skin type. The days cycling itself was easy, it was more about having the right menatl attitude to keep going through the rain, knowing that almost everything you own stands a good chance of being wet. Fortunately, the rear panniers on my bike are quality ones, and everything inside (clothes, sleeping bag, laptop) is (or has been so far) quite safe from the weather. The handlebar bag and front panniers are not so good quality, but they’re doing a good job under the circumstances. It’s the tent which is not so good, because if it’s wet before you roll it away in the morning, the inside becomes damp, which means you have a nice cold, soggy floor to put your stuff on at the end of the day. I think the weather has been unusual for the time of year, and I overhead someone saying that it’s not normally cold and wet in October (13 degrees at midday… pathetic!). The only good thing, is that my German must be improving if I understood what they said. Riedlingen had a basic campsite, so i set up, and cycled into the town to have a coffee, where there were some other people looking like drowned rats as well. So, life for me is….
1. Stay as dry as possible.
2. Get to where I am going.
I quite like the simplicity of it all, (being a simple person), and my biggest stress is whether to have tuna in oil, or tuna in brine with my pasta at night.
Day 23 Riedlingen to Blaustein
Ok, it’s not the best photo in the world, but I had to take it myself, and there was this freaky German cyclist hanging around who had far too many teeth for his mouth and a crazed look in his eye.) Fortunately, it stopped raining during the night, which meant that my tent was almost dry before i packed it away… yipee! I got talking to a couple of French cyclists who were the only other people staying at the site, and we all agreed it was hard to get motivated when it was raining. I set off after a supermarket run (i have to get used to caryying three dyas supllies with me from now on), and it was a pretty straight forwards day. I passed a couple of cyclists for the third day running, who are also doing the Danube Cycleway. Whilst the sky wasn’t clear, the rain held off, and I passed through some pretty country side with outstanding churches and quaint villages.
I knew that Ulm, my planned destination, didn’t have a campsite, so no matter what happened, i would be staying in a hotel or Gasthaus for the night. I decided on on called Gasthof Lindenmeir which is in Blaustein, the village before Ulm. And I’m glad I did. For 31 Euros it’s a brilliant room, with TV, shower, and kitchen… luxury! I’ve washed some of my more incredibly smelling clothes in the shower, and i decided to type this up ready to be uploaded whenever I get internet access next.
And here we have the most appropriately named town ever for a cycle route.
Blaustein to Seebach
Day 24 Blaustein to Dillengen Tues 15/08/06
I felt fully rested, warm and full for the first time in ages as I set out in the morning. The breakfast was really good, and just what I needed. The rain stayed away during the days cycling, and I even caught a glimpse of blue sky at one point! The cycle route was easy to follow, and even though my Cicerone guide book to the Danube Cycle Way said there were some rough sections, I seemed to glide over them. The River Danube is much wider now than when I set off, and I passed a dam at one point. I decided to stay the night in a town called Dillengen, as its campsite was right next to the cycle way. There was a regional religious holiday, which meant that all the shops were shut and the streets deserted. A family turned up at the campsite, who are also cycling part of the Danube Way at 30kms or so a day. The kids even have their own panniers!
Day 25 Dillengen – Neuberg Wed 16/08/06
A reasonable nights sleep, and after I bought a bakers bag of misfit rolls for a Euro, I set off again. The days cycling was easy enough, with just a couple of steep climbs. I paced along, and even though I have overtaken other cycle tourists on my journey, I have yet to be overtaken by any. (What do you mean, it’s not a competition??) I didn’t have a map for today, and was relying on the Cicerone guide book and the signposts which did me fine up to the point when they decided to part company with one another. I decided to stick with the signposts, and ended up in the town of Neuberg, which I wasn’t expecting to do, but it had a campsite, so no worries. I bought a map sometime after I had lunch, so I could work out where in Germany I was, and after comparing it with the guidebook, it appears that the guidebooks author had taken the wrong route! Instead of the Donnau Radweg he veered off onto the Altmuhl Radweg by mistake, taking him away from the river, the nitwit! Anyway, Neuberg is a very pleasant town, with many fine old buildings.
Day 26 Neuberg – Limestherme Thursday 17/08/06
It wasn’t a hard days ride, but my legs felt a little stiff all day, which is hardly surprising, given the distance of covered with no days off. I must be due one soon! I didn’t really know what to expect from the route, as my guide book didn’t cover this section. There were a couple of tricky bits, where the cycle way seemed to disappear, but I came through all right, despite a few kms of cycling in the wrong direction! I stayed the night in a town called Limesterme, which is just outside of Neustadt. I don’t know why, but the place has a really nice, peaceful feeling to it. It’s also got a washing machine, so time for my clothes to have a treat, as my cycling shorts were becoming increasingly interesting to wear! The weather was absolutely gorgeous all day, with clear blue skies, and temperatures hitting the high twenties. It will be kind of ironic if throughout the whole trip, the hottest temperatures were in the UK at the start! Steve rang during the night, and it was really good to talk to him… thanks mate!
Day 27 Limestherme to Regensburg Friday 18/08/06
It was raining at the start of the day, but strong winds which blew in my favour also cleared the sky to make another hot and sunny day. The track was easy, apart from one section just before Kelheim, where it turned very rough as it wound its way steeply through a forest. The descent was worth it though, because there, at the bottom, was a McDonalds, just waiting for me. I managed to squeeze in a breakfast egg and bacon McMuffin before the cut off time, which was reward in itself. Marvelous. Onwards, then, to Regensburg, cycling for the most part on gravel tracks beside the rivers edge. The campsite in Regensburg, which is a fair sized city, is just off the cycleway, and easily found. Quite pricey though at E13.50 a night. Come on guys, play the game! After setting up, shower etc, I caught a bus into the city centre which was some distance, and there, at the bus station was another McDonalds.. Well, it was lunchtime! The only thing I would say, is stop giving me options when I order… I don’t sprechen sie lingre, ok? Fueled up, I found an internet cafe, and did some updates. Then looked around the old centre, which has a stunning cathedral and hundreds of fine old buildings. Stocked up at Nettos, and although I considered a glorious hatrick of McDonalds, I decided on a tin of Maggi Ravioli instead. I remember Maggi from my first trip around Australia, when Andrea and I were on an all noodle diet to save cash, and here they are again!
Day 28 Regensburg to Seebach Sat 19/08/06
I got a reasonably early start, and with a clear blue sky overhead, I got underway. I passed through some quaint villages with pretty churches, and through open countryside which was a bit of a slog at times. I easily made Strauberg, so I decided to push on to Deggendorf, all the while taking a break every 20kms which seemed to work quite well. The campsite in Deggendorf looked horrible, so I carried on, and stopped in a village called Seebach, and booked into a guest house instead. I haven’t paid for it yet, so todays expenditure is only 3 euros, which I spent on a kebab, that ever present German delicacy!
Day 29 Seebach to Schlogen Sunday 20/08/06
I made the breakfast at the guesthouse a good one, and also took a roll away with me for later on. I was really flying today, and didn’t want to stop! At one stage, i cycled with a group of German lads, and used them as a windshield until one of them fell off. I decided to bypass Passau, and carry on into Austria. There was no ‘welcome to Austria sign’, but here I am all the same, in my third different country so far.
I carried on pacing along, and my average speed of 20kmh is my fastest so far. The cycle path on the Austrian side is proving to be very smooth, and follows close to the River Danube’s edge. Had to take a two euro ferry across to the opposite side at one point.
Day 30 Scholgen – Au Monday 21/08/06
I felt quite cold during the night, and when i got up in the morning, a mist hung between the two forested banks of the Danube. it looked very picturesque, and cleared by the time I was underway for the day. Not a lot to report other than that really.
Day 31 Au – Melk Tuesday 22/08/06
Well, i make that over 2000kms now… wow! I must be mad. It started off raining today, but you’ve just got to ignore it and get going. I passed through some great scenary blah blah. Tried to use the internet but the connection was rubbish.
Day 32 Melk – Zwentendorf 23/08/06
The scenary between Melk and a town called Krems was absolutely outstanding today. The cycle way passed through wonderful villages, which were dotted between vinyards and fields full of trees heavy with fruit. The Danube snaked below, and up above, there were yet more terraces of vinyards. Very special. So far, I’ve managed to get across Austria without a map.
Day 33 Zwentendorf – Schonau 24/08/06
I set off with the intention of seeing what I felt like about staying in Vienna. I reached the city in reasonable time, and after cycling around for a while, I thought sod it, and decided to carry on. It was quite a task trying to find the cycle route out of Vienna, but i managed it eventually. There was one section which passed by an area of the Danube obviously popular with nudists. From what little I could see, not all Austrians are into big sausages. (Don’t start even thinking about kebabs). For the last ten kilometres, the wind was against me, so i decided to call it a day in Schonau, and booked into a guesthouse for the night, where i’ve also just had an immense mixed grill. I’ll fuel up on breakfast in the morning, and head for Bratislava. Incidently, a personal goal was achieved when i heard a couple of German tourists say ‘Achtung’ and ‘Jahvol’ within half an hour of each other. Marvelous.
Schonau – Budapest
Day 34 Schonau to Bratislava
A bit of an odd start to the day, as there didn’t apear to be anybody in the guesthouse when i woke up. No guests, no staff, no dogs…. nobody. I hung around until 8.30, but still no one appeared, so i thought sod ‘em and left. The only slight drawback, was that I hadn’t had any breakfast, so instead of the full amount of money, I left the following calulation behind on the bedside table (full amount-x for lightbulb not working – y for no breakfast – z for hassle). It meant I hadn’t spent as much as I had thought, but also meant that I had to cycle 30kms to the nearest town on an empty stomach, and anybody that knows me can tell you I hate doing things on an empty stomach! I reached hainburg, and stocked up in the supermarket before buying a map of Romania and having an excellent lunch in a restaurant. I was in two minds whether to stay the night in hainburg or not, as it had been absolutely chucking it down all day, but the rain seemed to grow tamer when i finished my meal, so i decided to push on. The border crossing into Slovakia was straightforwards, although some other cyclists on an oraganised tour (they didn’t have any baggage) asked me for help in what they should do. Do i look like a tour guide? ‘I’ll probably join the queue going into Slovakia’ I answered, barely masking the sarcasm. The cycle way into Bratislava was easy enough to find, and when I got into the centre, I milled about aimlessly for a bit before locating the tourist information. I got them to reserve me a room at a hostel close by and rode over. It was a nice enough place, but quite pricey at 31euros for a single room. Did have a TV though with English news. Checked internet, bought a map, wandered around, had a meal.
Day 35 Bratislava – Gyor
My bike was still in the lobby in the morning, so that was a semi-sleepless night worrying about it wasted! Got a reasonably early start, and the route was quite simple. From Bratislava to the border with Hungary i followed a purpose built cycleway for most of the way. The border crossing was straightforwards, and I changed 40Euros and my remaining Slovakian krones into Forints. Talking of Krones, I wonder what all the sour faced female money changers are going to do when the Euro takes over down here?? Work in a post office probably. Anyway, once in Hungary i followed quiet country roads, and then a purpose built cycle way once more. Stopped off for a stupidly cheap lunch, and then carried on into Gyor. There was a campsite on the cycle way so i dived in there. As I set up, I got mugged by the most vicious gang of mosquitoes and midges I have ever encountered. they almost emptied me of blood, but not quite. A quick shower and application of insect repellant later, and I walked into town, which I was quite impressed with. It had some lovely old buildings and a big square, where some sort of local festival was going on. On returning to the campsite, somebody kept buzzing it very low overhead in an old, engine misfiring bi-plane.
Day 36 Gyor – Neszmety
I was the only person staying in the campsite, which in reality was somebodys back garden. The exit from Gyor was as tricky as I had expected (no signing, all motorways), until out of nowhere, a Hungarian guy on a bicycle appeared and led me out of the city. he didn’t speak any English, and I certainly don’t speak any Hungarian, but i showed him where I needed to go on the map, and he led the way. It must have been totally out of his way, but ten minutes later, I was on the correct road, and we parted company with a handshake. I think acts of kindness like that are what make travelling such a pleasure, and it certainly reaffirms your faith in humanity. No sooner had i started on the new road, i was joined by an ultra-light German cyclist on his way to Poland. It was quite good cycling with somebody else for a change, and at one stage, we had a tractor in front of us acting as a nice windshield, so we cruised along at 25kmph for quite a while with little energy expended. At Neszmety I decided to call it a day, and the German guy carried on. The campsite was cheap, so treated myself to another cooked meal.
Day 37 Neszmety – Szentendre Mon 28/08/06
The traffic was a bit busier today, but other than that, not a lot to report.
Day 38 Szentendre – Budapest Tuesday 29/08/06
Not any easy ride into Budapest, but then cities are always harder for cyclists to get into. Got there in the end though, and even found my way somewhat miraculously to a campsite called Hiller Camping. Quite dear, but still way cheaper than a hostel. Anyhow, I set up, and got chatting to another cyclist. She was going to try to follow the River Danube all the way to the sea. Its not a bad idea, as things in Serbia are calmer now, but I’m all set to go to Romania now. Went to the supermarket. At 5 pence each, i will be living off bread rolls for a while. Also bought an electric extension lead… i now have internet in my tent!
Day 39 Budapest Wed 30/08/06
Not quite a day off cycling, as I used my bike to go sightseeing on. It seemed ever so weird cycling without three tonnes of crap on the back! I must say, I really like Budapest. It’s got some wonderful bridges, views and buildings. the weather has been a bit overcast all day, and it noticably chillier. So, the River Danube section is now done!! Go me! Everything is looking good. The only major equipment problems I have at the moment are
1. Sleeping bag – Ripped and a bit too lightweight.
2. Sleeping mat – Inadequate
3. Tent Pole – managed to break a bit off. thats going to annoy me as I set it up over the next year!
4. Bike – The tape on the handlebars is coming off.
The next section of my trip through Romania and Bulgaria to Istanbul will be harder, but I’m looking forwards to it all the same. Also looking forwards to hopefully seeing my brother in Istanbul for a couple of days. Steve – bring some teabags mate!!
Budapest to Carta
Day 40 Budapest 31/08/06 Thurs
Not a lot to report. Spent the day surfing net and watching films as I waited for my clothes to dry.
Day 41 Budapest – ??? 01/09/06 Friday
Wow… another new month! Doesn’t time just fly by? Although the last two days have been overcast and blustery, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky when I set off in the morning. It was still windy at times, but nothing compared to the gale force winds which had been ripping through the campsite and threatening to lift the tent off the floor! Although it was only really one day off from cycling, it still felt too long, and I couldn’t wait to get going again. That’s the feeling I like most from travelling… the actual movement of it. Some people look forwards to the destinations, but the train/bus/car/in this case cycling parts of it are the best bits for me. Knowing that you are going somewhere new, and not really knowing what to expect when you arrive. Being able to look at the countryside, and the different styles of houses. Anyway, I managed to find all the right roads first time, which is probably a never to be repeated first when leaving a city for me! The traffic was heavy for the first 15 kms or so, and I shared the cycling between hopelessly rough pavements with giant potholes, and hopelessly busy roads, with giant potholes. As I moved further out though, the traffic thinned, and the quality of the air improved. I headed towards the town of Rackeve, where according to my map there was a campsite. Alas, it had long been closed down, so I decided to push on towards Kecskemet, thinking that I would probably have to camp rough somewhere near Kisunsagi National Park. As luck would have it (according to some, I am a jammy little bleeder), I saw a signpost pointing out a campsite halfway between Kiskunlachaza and Domsod, so I dived in there. It appears to be some sort of fishing park, with a campsite attached. At 1000 Forints (4 Euros) its a bargain, and I was the only person camping. Strangely, I even managed to get an internet connection from the middle of a field, in the middle of nowhere. By the way, I must point out that a lot of these place names have dots and dashes over the vowels, but I can’t do that easily on my laptop.
Day 42 ??? – Fulophaza Sat 02/09/06
I left the campsite at about nine, and began cycling first to the town of Domsod, and then for Tass. From there, I had intended to cut straight across to Kecskemet, but I couldn’t find a road signposted, so I instead headed down to Szabadszallas, and afterwards, joined route 52 to Kecskemet. It was a Saturday, so the roads were relatively quiet, but the quality of them still left a lot to be desired. the heavy goods vehicles have created huge ruts, or tram lines in the road, and pushed the asphalt up on the edges. This means that as a cyclist the fastest part of the road is in one of the ruts, where the tarmac is smoothest, as the pushed up sections on the edge are unnavigable. The only drawback to this, is when a HGV comes thundering up behind you, as it gives you to choices. 1. Move over onto the raised bit, close your eyes, and pray. or 2. Keep your line, close your eyes, and pray. Seriously, its not quite that bad… after a while, you give up praying altogether.. it’s important to close you eyes though!! The Hungarian drivers are pretty good though, and will give you a lot of room if they can.
I stopped off at a garage for a vital coke and chocolate refill, and set off again. 70kms into my journey, I saw a sign for a campsite on the turning to Fulophaza, and decided to go for it. I’m still not sure if it was the right decision or not. Don’t get me wrong, the campsite was very nice, and i paid a little extra for an evening meal and breakfast which was worth it. The road towards the campsite, however, degenerated into a sand track. The photo shows a happy Dave Briggs pushing my bike and taking a photo at the same time… aren’t I clever?! The squiggly lines are my unsuccessful attempts at cycling in the sand. Some sections I could, some i couldn’t. I got to the campsite in the end though. Nuff said. The place itself was a horse ranch run by Germans for Germans and Dutch, and it goes without saying I was the only person on a bicycle. Treated myself to a couple of beers and slept like a baby.
Day 43 Fulophaza – Cserkeszolo Sunday 03/09/06
I made the most of the breakfast, which i needed, as I had to slog back through the sand to the main road again. half an hour to cover 4km – I can still feel the joy. When I eventually hit tarmac, my speed soon picked up again though, and I started pacing along strongly. Once in Kecskemet, I got onto route 44, which will be my friend now until the border with Romania. I met up with a couple of cyclists who were travelling together on the way. They had just spent some time in Poland, and were going to pick up the Danube and follow it to the Black Sea. I carried on until Cserkeszolo, and saw a signpost for a campsite. I’d done 70kms, and I can easily make the border in one day, so I decided to dive in. It’s quite pricey, but includes free use of the thermal pools (which I can’t be arsed too). Had a marvelous lunch with every meat represented and a small step ladder to climb. I’m making the most of the electricity with my laptop, as I get the feeling things are about to change when I enter Romania. Forgot to mention that i stopped off at a roadside fruit stall and asked for five peaches, which the woman let me have for free. Thank you very much!
Day 44 Cserkeszolo – Gyula Monday 04/09/06
I got an early start, but managed to leave my cycling computer wrapped up in my tent, so no boring statistics for today, which I’m sure is going to disappoint thousands of readers (thousands???). The weather was really hot and humid all day, so I made a couple of stops at garages for drinks. I basically followed route 44 to Gyula, and there were sporadic sections of quality cycling lanes which was a bonus. In Gyula, I went to the scummier of the two campsites, as the crazy old lady who ran it only wanted 1250 florint a night. (and she really was proper crazy). When I had set up, I checked the bike over, and discovered a shard of glass lodged in the rear tyre. It hadn’t caused a puncture, because i have Schwalbe Marathon XR tyres with Kevlar to stop that sort of thing, but it had split the tyre slightly. It was too late in the day to do anything about it, so i decided to sleep on the problem.
Day 45 Gyula Tuesday 05/09/06
A somewhat sleepless night as my subconscious tried unsubtly to wrestle with the tyre problem. I decided a day off cycling was in order, and I rode into town to find a bicycle shop. The third shop had a tyre of the correct size, but to call it a useless piece of crap would only be to describe its finer points. I decided that i had to have it anyway, and then got the shop to swap my front and rear tyres around. By putting the rear tyre on the front, I judges it as easier to change should i have to, and it would be carrying less weight. Even though the tyre would have a rip in it, I still considered it superior to the new one. The also gives me a higher quality Marathon XR on the back with a fair bit of tread left on it… enough to get me to Istanbul at least. The whole deal cost only 6 euros, although i would have preferred to have paid more, and bought the Marathon tires. I have a spare tyre now, which is something I would have to have bought anyway, although I hope i don’t have to use it, as it doesn’t look as though it would last more than a day! I visited the castle in Gyula, which is worth spending half an hour in if you have nothing better to do like me, and had a free use of the internet in the library to read some emails. Couldn’t update any my sites though. It was another outrageously hot day, so I also did a lot of drinking and eating. Posted back a bundle maps which should reduce the weight I carry significantly! Also filled the hole in the tyre with a cut up puncture repair patch and some of the glue.. Not sure if its a good idea or not, but we’ll see!
Day 46 Gyula – Vladimirescu Wed 06/09/06
Got a good start, and it was a simple border crossing into Romania. I also got the first stamps in my passport of the trip. After crossing the border, the road turned rougher, and a swirling wind blew against me during the 35 kms to Chrisneu Cris. When I reached the town, I decided to turn right at the junction and continue on to Arad. Ironically, as i passed Arad i got a puncture after all, in the tyre I considered to be the safe one… the rear tyre. As luck would have it though, I was right outside a motel. I had done my kms for the day, so i decided to book in. The motel cost 80 lei, or about 25 euros, but what the hell. I changed the inner tube and found the culprit – a three inch nail. No marathon XR was going to stop that! Although I’d changed some money at the border, because of the motel price, i needed to change some more, so i caught the tram into Arad. Got the cash, had a muckie D used the internet briefly and got the tram back. Mum and then Steve called in the evening… wow!! Hopefully, tomorrow will be high mileage low hassle day!
Day 47 Vladimirescu – Zam Thurs 07/09/06
Had a good breakfast at the motel, and set off for about 9.30. (I am now in a different time zone by the way). It was another hot un, and an unhelpful wind slowed me down at the start. Although I was still in a plains area, the ground was sloping upwards as I near the mountains. The road I’ve chosen to follow has so far meandered through a valley between a river to my right, and tree covered hill to my left. Its a bit up and downy (stop me if I’m being too technical), and the traffic isn’t too bad. The lorries sound their horns to let you know that they are approaching, and they will move over if they have room, but its not always possible. It was an event free day, and also a high mileage day, so job done there, but I’ve ended up staying in another motel though, as campsites are a bit sparse, and there didn’t look anywhere suitable to wild camp. I was going to go for the cheaper, no shower option of room, but the woman looked at me and said in Romanian ‘Are you sure?’. A good sign that I was Mr. Stinky today! I took the room with the shower, but the water is cold. Arse.
Day 48 Zam – Uroi Friday 08/09/06
A pretty good nights sleep. Sometimes, its just so tempting to say bollocks to it and lay in all day, but it won’t put many miles on the clock, so up and at em! After a cheap but filling breakfast, I got underway, and soon realised that I might be a bit higher than I thought as I cycled through a cloud. Some more hill sections, but I’ve still yet to come across a major ascent. Stopped off in Deva for a McDonalds (essential cyclist nutrition), and carried on through to Simeria, where a sign pointed off the main road toa village called Uroi and a campsite. I was the only person there, as I think I am slightly out of the traditional tourist season. Cycled into town for a pizza, which made it three cooked meals and a tent site for less than a tenner. Bargain. Steve phoned during the night (hey, we’re two hours ahead here dude, and I go to bed at 8.00 !!) to say he’s booked his flight to Istanbul, so its all systems go for a weekend of carnage. (I mean culture and sight seeing). Just means I have to cycle a bit faster now to meet him in time!
Day 49 Uroi – Garbova 09/09/06 Sat
I had breakfast at the campsites restaurant before I left, which again was a cheap meal. It seems pointless trying to locate shops for do it yourself meals when the food is so cheap and somebody else can cook it for you. I’m still having my regular evening meal of tuna and pasta though! Not a lot to report from the road. Stopped off for lunch somewhere. Carried on. tarmac, potholes, lorries, up, down, wind. About 75kms into the day, I saw a signpost pointing off the main road to a campsite in Garbova, so I went for it. Was the only one there again. I had a good view of the surrounding hills, and people on horse and carts were returning to the village from the outlaying fields. Its obviously hay making season, and whole families are in the fields with sythes. When the hay is cut, they use pitchforks to pile the hay into conical, hut like piles. Other than a deer following me into the toilet, nothing untoward happened today.
Day 50 Garbova – Carta 10/09/06 Sun
Day 50 !!! Wowsers. I was the only person staying on the campsite again. They sorted me out with a massive breakfast, that I was more than willing to pay extra for, inclucing a tip for the girl who got woken up especially to make it for me! 20 lei well spent there. I think I called it a day at the right point yesterday, as I seem to have spent most of the day climbing. The first hour and a bit towards Sibiu was almost all uphill, and there were some big uns! I met some Polish lads who are cycling to Athens here’s their website for the trip they did last year www.nordkapp2005.republika.pl . They seemed like a nice enough bunch of chaps, but I was a touch hungry, and had to stop off at a restaurant, although they carried on in the direction I will be taking, so our paths may cross again. At km 87, I saw another sign for a campsite at a village off the road called Carta or Cirta depending on which sign you read. Whoever said there wasn’t any campsites in Romania? Oh yes, whilst I remember, when I was waiting for my meal in the restaurant, a Phil Collins/Celine Dion medley, a panpipe version, drifted over from the speakers. Can you imagine anything more tortuous??[/lang_all][lang_all]
Carta to Madara (Bulgaria)
Day 51 Carta – Brasov Mon 11/09/06
Well, what a day! Its quite hard to describe the sheer pain of it all, now that the immediate memory has faded, and a good job too! I knew from the beginning that it was going to be a hard days cycling, as it was a very cold night, and I’m not really geared up for extremes of cold. This meant that sleep was more difficult, despite the two pairs of socks and full set of clothes I was wearing in the sleeping bag. Also, when I woke up, I was actually in a cloud. Breakfast wasn’t much, basically things I could pilfer from what was growing around the campsite – 1 bunch of grapes (not ready for wine making quite yet!), one mouldy apple, and six walnuts I found in a basket somewhere. (I had to crack them with my bicycle spanner). It was hills straight from the start as I cycled off from Carta. I stopped off at a small village shop to buy some chocolate, and soon after, I left the realm of hills and entered the domain of mountains. After that, it was basically just bloody hard work all day. I rode through to Brasov, and found a motel and after a meal, collapsed for the night!
Day 52 Brasov – Campuling Tuesday 12/09/06
Well, if i thought yesterday was hard, this was even harder! Again, more climbing for the entire 80kms from Brasov to Campuling (minus the last 5kms downhill!). I was looking forwards to seeing Bran Castle along the way, but I have to say, I thought it was rubbish. The general views were spectacular though, and more than made up for it. However, I was very tired at the end of the day, and because it made my brain ache as much as my legs, I have nothing else to add to this travelogue.
Day 53 Campuling – Some wood somewhere Wednesday 13/09/06
Another hard day… this isn’t what its supposed to be about!! Not so many hills this time, but the distance I covered was just stupid.. 150kms. What was i thinking!?! The route I had chosen to take was not the best one (Campuling – Pitesti – Bucherest), and to top it, there wasn’t one hotel along the way.. not one! Its hard to describe the riding, as I decided to switch off a part of my mind and just go into automatic. Not only were there no hotels, but also, there was not where to stop. Eventually, about thirty kms short of Bucherest, it started getting dark, and a section of woodland started to run along the dual carriage way. I pulled off the road, pushed the bike through the initial minefield of human excrement where countless drivers had stopped off for a poo, and then continued pushing the bike further into the wood. I found a suitable glade, took out my sleeping bag, and went to sleep almost straight away.
Day 54 The Faeces Forest – Bucherest Thursday 14/09/06
I got up early, but had to wait until it was light enough to push the bike back onto the road again. I stopped off at a garage for breakfast, then carried on cycling towards Bucherest. As I neared the city, the traffic became heavier and heavier, and although it wasn’t the most pleasant cycling I’ve done, I was looking forwards to a day off from cycling and to see Heidi. She’s been backpacking around Europe, and we decided to meet in Bucherest for a couple of days. I somehow made it to the area of the hotel, and sat down for a meal while I waited for her. She soon turned up, and then we headed off to the hotel.
Day 55 Bucherest Friday 15/09/06
We had a wander around Bucherest during the day. I was impressed by the Parliment building, and the historic section of Bucherest was quite good, but we both came to the conclusion that Bucherest isn’t all that nice. Still, we had a good time all the same.
Day 56 Bucherest – Ruse 16/09/06
It’s been a good couple of days, but its time to get moving again. I have to meet my brother in Istanbul in 12 days, so I had better get a move on! The exit out of Bucherest was reasonably easy, and being early on a Saturday, there wasn’t much traffic on the road. The weather was quite humid and blowy at times, but the road was good quality, and the cycling was enoyable. The only drawback was that my cycling computer wasn’t working, which was a real shame. I must look at it every 10 seconds or so to keep an eye on my speed and distance,but not today. I think one of the batteries may have worn out. I reached the border with between Romania and Bulgaria for about 12.00, and there weren’t a lot of people crossing over, so it was a quick exit from Romania. To enter Bulgaria, I crossed the River Danube on the so called Friendship Bridge, and after that, it was again easy to clear passport control. This is now my seventh foreign country of this current trip. They have a crazy alphabet thing going on over here in Bulgaria, which should make life interesting. The letters look like they are either mirror versions of ours, circles or squares. Its going to make finding my way around challenging! I had pre-booked a hostel in Ruse, and after eventually finding the bus station, I phoned the owners and they came over in the car. For 10 minutes I cycled after their car whilst eating an ice cream, and I found myself in a housing estate of high rise apartment blocks. Its not actually a hostel, more like a spare flat that they rent out, but as I am the only one here, and it only cost a tenner, its game on! Just not entirely sure where I am, but no doubt I’ll find the road out ok (fingers crossed).
Day 57 Ruse – Svestari Sunday 17/09/06
Extremely tough cycling all day. I managed to leave Ruse without any hassle, but after that a tremendous wind picked up which seemed to blow in my face all day. On the rare occasions it wasn’t trying to force me backwards, it was because it was trying to blow me off the side of the road. Not very pleasant, and that combined with a seemingly endless series of huge rolling hills sapped my strength and spirits. I decided to head towards a village called Svestari, where the owner of the hostel had said that there was an archeological site. My cycling computer still wasn’t working, but judging by road signs and the maps, I covered 100kms to get there. As I entered the village, a bunch of kids decided to follow me on their bikes towards the Thracian Tombs – there was obviously nothing on TV! The ten leva price at the ticket office included entry and a guide who was alright but nothing special. I think her main job was to lock and unlock the doors into the tombs to prevent vandalism really. The tombs themselves were constructed from stone, and resembled to my eye at least minature Greek Temples. The tombs, when the bodies were intered, were then covered in earth to make a mound. Dating from the Thracian era, the tombs had been robbed long ago, in all likeliness within years of their completion, however, after that, they had been left virtually untouched until the eighties, when archeologists started to investigate them. I’m not sure of the history of archeology in Bulgaria, but it seems amazing that they weren’t investigated long before. The area surrounding the village of Svestari contains many of these Thracian Tombs, and some are said to mirror the constellations. It was late in the day, and I had to move on which was a shame, so I cycled back into the village, and found a hotel. This is their website www.dani99.hit.bg. I really thought the room was going to be awful, but it was top quality, and all for ten quid. Lovely job! Had a stupidly cheap meal, and got some well deserved rest.
Day 58 Svestari – Madara Day 58 Monday18/09/06
I felt nice and rested in the morning, and after an omlette and a couple of cups of coffee, I stocked up on snacks and hit the road. The wind was nowhere near as strong as the previous day, and although the land was still hilly, it didn’t seem as bad. I took some back roads of varying quality through some beautiful countryside as I cycled towards Madara, where there is another archeological site. Quite close to it is a motel, where I have ended up in a glorified garden shed for the night – it brings back fond memories of New Zealand! I decided to visit to site the following day, as the weather had turned rainy and it was getting late in the day. My surreal moment of the day, was when two shaven headed Bulgarians standing by the side of the road simultaneously gave a Nazi salute and shouted Adolf Hitler as I whizzed downhill on my bicycle. Also, the Bulgarians nod for no and shake their heads for yes. I haven’t seen this much head movement since India.
Madara to Istanbul
Day 59 Madara – Varna Tuesday 19/09/06
I was looking forwards to seeing the archeological site in the morning, but unfortunately, when I woke up, the entire area was shrouded in mist and clouds. It would have meant that I couldn’t see a great deal, so i decided to push on instead. The ride to Varna was nice and easy, and when I reached the centre, I met up with Heidi and found the hotel no problem.
Day 60 Varna Wednesday 20/09/06
Not much to report in the travelogue today as this was a day off from cycling. Varna is a nice enough city, with some great places to eat. (I went on an eating frenzy!!). It also seems to be the main location for people to come who want to buy property in Bulgaria.
Day 61 Varna – Bjala Thursday 21/09/06
That will be the last time I see Heidi now, as our trips go in different directions. Leaving Varna was simple enough, and although there were some steep climbs, there was nothing too outrageous. One of the country lanes I cycled along was where all the prostitutes touted for business, and they were spaced out every 300 metres or so for about 6 kms, so the scenary was varied too. For the next day or so I will be following the Black Sea Coast, and I stopped off for the night in a town called Bjala, where I booked into a ten pound hotel for the night.
Day 62 Bjala – Kraimorie Friday 22/09/06
It started off raining today, and it just carried on. And on, and on. Not the most enjoyable of cycling conditions given some of the steep climbs as well, but thats life for you. With deadlines to meet, there is no choice but to just get on with it. 80kms of being wet and cold… lovely! Its a shame really, as some of the views of the Black Sea Coast would have been spectacular. I passed through quite a few areas that are being developed in the ongoing Bulgarian property boom, some of which are just plain ugly. I could see the appeal of buying a small cottage in a village, but not an apartment in some huge complex, but I suppose people buy those as rental properties. Anyway, I eventually made it to the hotel that I had prebooked and dried out. I checked my email in an internet cafe, and was pleased to see that my hostal and hotel booking website has earned me another commission payout. Income for doing nothing, thats what I like!
Day 63 Kraimorie – A wood somewhere again Saturday 23/09/06
After a big breakfast, I set out for the Turkish border. It was an overcast day, but it thankfully only rained for a little while. The going was hilly, and my cycling computer decided to work quite erratically, although I couldn’t trust the numbers it was giving out, so no boring statistics update, which I am sure will be a shame for people out there! I reached Malko Tarnova, the last town on the Bulgarian side of the border where I had intended to stay the night, but the town was so rubbish I decided to push on into Turkey instead. There was a steep hill to climb before i reached the border, and then I left Bulgaria and entered Turkey. I had to buy a ten pounds visa for Turkey, but there were no major border issues. I caried on for an hour more, but it was getting late in the day, and there was no way I was going to reach a town with a hotel in time. Somewhere between Korukoy and Demincihalil, I pulled over to the side of the road near a quarry and pushed my way through trees until I found a clearing where I set up camp for the night.
Day 64 A wood – Vize Sunday 24/09/06
It was quite misty when I woke up and set off, but soon cleared as I descended from the hills. The first hour or so was good going,with woodedhills all around and not much traffic. After that though, a tremendous wind picked up which made the whole day into a long, hard slog. A couple of times I almost got blown off the road, but I persevered until i reached the town of Vize, where a hotel called me in. It felt good to have a shower! My first impressions of Turkey are – Every town seems to have some sort of army presence. The villages are similar to those in Romania, but instead of churches they have mosques. The dogs are bigger and fiercer than Bulgaria.
Day 65 Vize – Small town not on map near Kestalinek Monday 25/09/06
Made the most of breakfast, and set off on my merry way. No wind and much more pleasant! Not a lot to report, although obviously things happened from animated sign language/english/turkish conversations to dogs chasing after me, but it’s all in a days work. Finished up in a hotel 50kms from Istanbul. Where yesterdays hotel was brilliant value for money and good quality, this one was its oppostie. From the outside, it looked like it should be four star, and on first glance the rooms looked pretty good. It’s only after I had been there for 15 minutes that I realised that the entire place must have been built by Mr O’Reily, the builder from Fawlty Towers. Oh well, life is still good!
Day 66 Small town – Istanbul Tuesday 26/09/06
Breakfast was as shabby as the hotel. Its a pity i couldn’t find a garden gnome (watch fawlty Towers!). I got underway, and stuck to my intended route (20) to Istanbul, which was almost traffic free along quiet country roads. About 20kms from the ciy centre, things started to change however, and the chaos of cycling in Istanbul began. I found myself laughing at some points, as I realised how ridiculous I must look in my cycling shorts and top, riding a heavily laden bicycle through the suburbs of Istanbul. I haven’t seen another bicycle tourist in days, but today was unusual in that I didn’t see any other cyclists whatsoever, although you would have to be crazy, insane, or Dave Briggs to ride a bike into Istanbul. (There are plenty of other people who have done/will do it though). Anyway, after 2 and a half hours of cycling through dense traffic through a huge city which I have no map for, sucking exhaust fumes and stopping to ask for directions frequently, I eventually made it to Sultanahmet where I found my hostel.
So, this is the first stage of my journey, England – Istanbul, now over. 66 Days on the road, but now I will take a week off to organise visas, sort out my bike, and work out a rough route for the rest of Turkey, Syria and Jordan.
I’m writing this as one big update, which covered my week in Istanbul. A week off from cycling… wow! Actually, I’m kind of itching to get back on the road again, but here’s a brief update of the last weeks events. For most of the time, I’ve been based in the Sultanahmet area of Istanbul, which is also known as the old city. Whilst in this part I’ve been staying at the Antique Hostel, which was an ok place for a hostel. Breakfast could be bigger though!
It’s been quite handy staying here, as it’s close to all the major tourist sites, such as the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and St. Sophia. The area has a tourist feel to it, however, and some of the prices for meals reflect that, but there are some decent deals to be found.. One Mexican restaurant was particularly good value! The weather has been pretty good during the week here, but it is getting a bit colder at nights, and I can see the mountains being a touch chilly when I return to them!
I had several jobs to do whilst I was here, but before I did any of those, my brother flew out for a pint, which was nice of him. Whilst he was in Istanbul, we went for a more upmarket hotel and I swapped areas for the two days he was over. We stayed in Hotel Yigitalp which was a really classy four star hotel, in a similar area full of classy hotels. They were so impressed when I turned up on my crap covered bike! Oh well. After Steve turned up, we went for a beer (obviously!), and had a siesta in the afternoon. In the evening, we went down to the Sultanahmet area, and caught all the major sites lit up, which were quite impressive, and had a meal with more beer. It was good to catch up on what had changed back home (nothing) what i’d been up too (nothing new, he’d read this site!) and other things of major importance! Seriously, it was really good to see him, and we had a good chat.
The next day, we were due to do the culture vulture sight seeing thing, but first, we had to go over to the British Consulate so that I could get a letter of recommendation to take with me when I applied for the Syrian visa. The whole process of getting into the consulate was as new for me as it was for Steve, as we went through turnstiles and security checks to gain access. We found the office where I handed my passport over and told them what I needed. ‘Come back in an hour, oh and bring 125 lira (40 pounds) with you’.
With an hour to spend, we decided to have a look around what was basically the Galatassary area. There were far more bars and cafes here, so that was decision made on where we would be going at night! As we walked around, I was quite looking forwards to seeing what my 45 pounds would buy me from the consulate, so imagine my joy when we returned to collect an A4 piece of paper only half full of writing. I worked it out to be about a pound a word. A marvellous effort on behalf of the British Government ! Still, without that piece of paper, which I then guarded with my life for the next four days, a Syrian visa would be impossible.
Anyway, with the letter of recommendation now safely tucked away, we decided to visit Topkapi Palace to do our sight seeing quota for the day.
The rooms which housed the weapons were by far the most interesting sections, and we both agreed that you can’t have enough sharp, pointy stuff in a place like that. After we’d done a bit of sight seeing we returned to the hotel (i’m sure a McDonalds was involved somewhere, a beer was for sure), and had a rest before going out in the evening. We had a great meal and a few beers whilst we talked about, well, actually, neither of us are too sure what we talked about, but the world seemed a righter place for it! A good time was had by the both of us anyway, thats for sure!!
All too soon Steves time in Istanbul was at an end, and he had to get a flight back (on a dodgy stomach.. hope it went well!), and i had to return to my original hostel.
After I checked in, I took my bike into a workshop for some very urgent cleaning, repairing and servicing. The rear wheel was a bit wobbly and the chain needed replacing amongst other more minor problems, so I left the bike with the guy at Saracoglu Bisiklet, which is located in the bottom of an electronics mall in the Sercesi area, opposite the main railway station. There is a little cluster of shops there, but only this one had a workshop.
Saturday evening and Sunday I didn’t do a great deal… Just read books and vegged. On Monday, it was time to go to the Syrian Consulate to apply for my visa. The filling out the application form process was straight forwards, I then left my passport with them whilst I went into the bank over the road to pay in the 45 euro visa fee. The joy is constant! On my return, they said thanks a lot, and to return at 3 in the afternoon. Wandered around for a while and used the net. When I returned to collect, there was a problem with my application, as apparantly you can’t put none when asked what your religion is. Refilled the application form, and in half hour had my visa… SWEET! This means the route to Cairo is clear as far as paperwork is concerned. With the visa in my passport, it was off to collect the bike… nice and shiny, just like new! I also bought a spare chain, but i’m not sure why, as i don’t know how to replace one. Total bill – 70 pounds. I felt like crying at this point! (additional note added 07/10/06) My finances have taken a right battering, and there will be a lot of wild camping coming up!
Istanbul – Ankara
Day 74 Istanbul – Akcakese Wednesday 04/10/06
After leaving the hostel, I caught the ferry over to the Asian side, so I am now officially on a different continent. Istanbul also stretches on to that side, and so it was the usual, clueless madcap exit from a city with no maps which I’ve come to love so much. Along the way, I met a German cyclist called Rainhard, and we cycled the rest of the day together. There were some quite tough climbs but also some great views, and it did feel good to be back on the road again. As it neared dark, we found a campsite in Akcakese.
Day 75 Akcakese – Kandira Thursday 05/10/06
Rainhard and myself started off cycling together, but it some became clear that we had different cycling speeds and styles. The hills were extremely challenging, but it was obvious I was a far stronger rider, and it was putting Rainhard under stress trying to keep up, and me under stress having to stop for him all the time. We decided to seperate, which was a shame, as we were both going along the same route, but it was for the best. I think I made the right decision when I planned the trip to cycle by myself, as although its good to meet up with people from time to time, I prefer the freedom of the road at my own speed and in my own company. Anyway, the rest of the day was quite hard work, but with rewarding views to compensate. The sun was blazing hot all day, and I think that, combined with the exertions on the climbs, may have given me a little heatstroke. I recognised the signs for what they were though, and booked into a seven pounds hotel in Kandira and caned a load of water. Mum sent me a text in the evening, and it appears I have been on the receiving end of a credit card fraud, so I had to phone up the Halifax and sort that out. Hopefully, its now all under control, although it does mean that I haven’t got a credit card on me, so at some point, I’ll need one sending out to me. I’ll perhaps get one sent out to Egypt with some more bicycle spares.
Day 76 Kandira – Handek Friday 06/10/06
It’s quite difficult to sum up the day really. I started off feeling strong, and made good time to Kaynarca. Cycling through the town, my chain snapped, however. Luckily, there was a bicycle mechanic who tried to add a link, but this snapped within 200 metres. I took the bike back to him, and he fitted my spare chain – all this was for free. Thank you matey boy!! With no spare chain, and unsure if this one would hold, I decided to re-route and head towards Ankara. Although I wouldn’t reach it for a few days, I was hoping that Ankara would sell good quality Shimano chains, and the special pins to go with them. I spent the rest of the day in a pretty negative frame of mind, which isn’t like me, but there you go. What if the new chain isn’t fitted properly? What if it goes in the middle of nowhere? What if it goes in the middle of nowhere in Sudan? Have I got the kit to do it myself? What if something else goes wrong? What about my lack of cash? What about the credit card problem? What if, what if, what if? Cycling is a good way to travel, as it gives you time to think, but in this case, it wasn’t for the best! It didn’t help that not only did the guy in Istanbul who serviced my bicycle sting me on the price, he seemed to have done a bad job. It’s just a matter of trying to balance things out in your mind when things like this happen. At the end of the day, things worked out for me and I am sure they will again if something else should happen. The chain could have snapped in a much more remote place, and if it did? Then I would just have to hitch a ride into a town if I hadn’t got the spares. It’s all in a days work when you are cycling from England to South Africa!
Day 77 Handek – Dodgiest truck stop on the planet Saturday 07/10/06
I made the most of breakfast, and left in a more positive frame of mind. I’m still wary about putting too much strain on the chain, but if thats all I’ve got to worry about, then its an easy life really. Anyway, back to the cycling! After a bit of climbing came a couple of hours of flat road, which was a shock to the system. Its been well over a month since i’ve had any decent stretches of flat road, and it felt good to eat up the miles. It couldn’t last forever though, and another hard climb which lasted a couple of hours followed. The rewarding views were non-existant because I was in the clouds, which was a shame. After the descent, I noticed a tail wind pick up, so I decided to carry on and make the most of it. It could be against me tomorrow!
I got somewhere between Bolu and Gerede, and started to look for somewhere to wild camp, but there was nowhere suitable.Then, I caught sight of a sign saying Otel. It was joined onto a truckstop, so I went in. I asked the owner about the otel, but it had been closed down for sometime,but the look of disappointment on my face must have worked things in my favour. The owner fed me, and then showed me to the least smeggy of the disused rooms. This place has to rate as one of the most incredible that I have ever stayed in! The room was bare concrete with a mouldy old sofa for a bed, but the bathroom was the best thing of all, with its inch thick layer of green mould covering everything. Quality!
Day 78 Truck Stop – Kizilcahamam Sunday 08/10/06
I went down for a cup of chai in the morning, and when I asked to pay for the night, Kamil the owner said it was a gift. Thank you very much! Moments like that make travelling a real honour sometimes. And really, the world is made up of good people who want to treat each other well, you just have to see through the layers of selfishness sometimes. Anyway, firmly mounted back on the beast of good luck, I got on with the days cycling. I’ve changed my riding style, so that I no longer stand up on the pedals when going up hills in order to reduce the stress on the chain. What this also means though, is that my legs now ache in new and interesting places! There was a great deal of climbing, and one of the towns I passed through was at 1500 metres, although thankfully I didn’t have to climb from zero to get there!
Day 79 Kizilcahamam – Ankara Monday 09/10/06
After an intial hours climbing, it all seemed to be either downhill or flat. I’d forgotten how fast I can go on a good quality flat stretch of road! I was making good time, so I decided to carry on all the way to Ankara. It was quite straight forwards, and I soon found myself in Ulus, which is where all the budget hotels are located. I booked into Hotel Pinar for 25 lira a night, and its a good room. I’ve found an area with bicycle shops, so I’ll sort out a couple of spare chains tomorrow, one Shimano chain, and one local chain, and restock from the supermarket. As I walked down to the tourist information office, I saw Rainhard the German cyclist cycling along, so I stopped to chat to him for a while. Ironically, we both reached Ankara at the same time!
Day 80 Ankara Tuesday 10/10/06
This was a day off in Ankara whilst i sorted out getting some spare Shimano chains which i did…. I Feel a lot happier now!!
Ankara – Goreme
Day 81 Ankara – Somewhere near Karahamzali Wed 11/10/06
During my exit from Ankara, a couple of local riders on a training run rode with me for a while. One was on the board of the Turkish mountain bike association, and the other was the Turkish female mountain bike champion… I only rub shoulders with the best! They gave me the address of a rider in Goreme so if I run into any problems, I can give him a call. The exit from Ankara was pretty simple, and I followed route 750 south, which is signposted to Konya. The cycling was not particularly hard, but the landscape was ever so bleak. Very barren. The fields are being harvested for potatoes, so it seems that nothing is growing, and Turkish fields are not seperated by hedgerows. There were only a handful of trees scattered around which added to the bleakness. As I was cycling along, I noticed more and more areas which had been used as unofficial rubbish tips. The amount of plastic bottles and bags laying around was shocking, and I hope the Turkish government sees the light, and develops some sort of recycling program. That said, despite there being almost no bins in towns and cities, they are suprisingly clean. Cleaner perhaps than western cities. It’s just a shame the stuff gets dumped in the countryside. Come on guys, you’ve got to think about the world we live in and look after it! Anyway, now that bit of tree hugging hippy crap is out of the way, back to the cycling. I covered about 90kms before days end.
Day 82 Somewhere near Karahamzali – Sereflikochisar Thursday 12/10/06
The exposed countryside continued again today, but this time it and everything else seemed to conspire against me. A crosswind picked up, from which there was no respite as there were no hedges, a slight incline in the road and a rough surface all combined to sap my strength and moral. I was cutting through it all like a brick moving through treacle, and the wind was sending me deaf. I really had to shout hard to hear my own words.. ‘Bollocks, fucking hell, bastard features, fuck’ could only vaguely be heard, although I did frighten a few shephards along the way. To really dig it in, the road on the opposite side going the other way was perfectly smooth, a cyclists dream. Oh well, it’s just head down and shouting which gets me through in times like that! About halfway into my planned day, I checked my phone for messages, and Mum sent me one saying that I had received a letter mentioning something about a direct debit being authorised. I didn’t know anything about it, and so took this as a sign that I should get to the nearest town, stop for the day and sort it out. The next 10kms I did in about 10 minutes. Result – No problem with the account. Fleabag hotel room where I managed to get free WiFi access for the net from somewhere. A short day.
Day 83 Sereflikochisar – Aksaray Friday 13/10/06
It was an overcast day, but not bad cycling conditions. The road was ok, and I made good time early on. On every trip I make, I seem to meet some pretty odd people (its mainly why I travel!), and this trips two candidates for the craziest people award were an elderly French couple who were walking to Bethlehem. They’ve been on the road for seven months now, and hope to make it to Bethlehem for Christmas. Walking. Hmmm. Each to their own, but by their limps, I’m guessing that they hope the wings they are trying to earn will come early! I made it to Aksaray, which actually has a proper campsite. The toilets and shower blocks are nailed shut as its the end of the season, so I was forced to slum it by taking a shower in the next door five star hotels fitness room. The bonus of the campsite, is that I was camped beneath some apple trees, which although full when I arrived, seemed mysteriously stripped bare when I left.
Day 84 Aksaray Saturday 14/10/06
It was a cold, wet and miserable morning. As I didn’t want to be either cold, wet or miserable, I decided to take the day off. I felt guilty for all of two seconds, then built myself a bridge, and got over it. Spent the day researching the Sudan section of my trip, which will be by far the toughest section, although obviously, I have to get there yet!
Day 85 Aksaray – Goreme Sunday 15/10/06
It was another cold, wet and miserable morning. I didn’t want to be any of those things, but sometimes you can’t have what you don’t want, and so you are. (There was a lot of double negatives in there, but I think you get my meaning. Do you?) Anyway, I packed up my tent and moved on out. My not so waterproof coat and trousers did a tremendous job for the first five minutes and then decided to give up, leaving me soaked to the skin with four hours of cycling ahead of me. The weather varied between drizzle, downpour, torrential, and monsoon, so at least it wasn’t exactly the same all day. As a consequence, there was little enjoyment to be had out of the days cycling. Actually, to tell the truth, there was none at all, apart from when it ended, and you can’t really count that. The entrance into Goreme was pretty spectacular though, and the landscape looked just like a film set. Found myself a nice cheap hostel where I’ll spend maybe four nights whilst I explore the area and see some sights and sites. Had dinner with an Israeli couple who were also staying at the hostel.
Day 86 Goreme Monday 16/10/06
The sky was clear early in the morning, so I walked to the top of the hill overlooking the Goreme valley before breakfast to take a few photos. There were some hot air ballons just taking off as well – bet they had a good view! The landscape is truly remarkable, with ‘fairy chimneys’ dotted all over the valley, most of which have been carved out to make churches or pigeon homes. With the photo task done, I walked back down to the hostel for breakfast. The Israeli couple were there, and a Spanish guy turned up. Bernd, a German historian and temporary caretaker of the hostel offered to take us on a tour of some interesting places around the village of Goreme. I have to say it was one of those special, unplanned days which make a stay in a place such as Goreme worthwhile. We got the chance to see many things that a package tourist would never get the chance too, as although Goreme has the ‘open air museum’ which everyone visits, there is far more to see around the village. The most special place was an early bascilica, based on arab design, but by Christians and carved out of the rock. The most outstanding feature was a stone carved ‘two way’ pulpit, with stone steps leading up to it on opposite sides. The whole history surrounding the area is fascinating and mysterious … I could stay here for weeks! On a more practical note, I gave in a bunch of smeggy clothes to be washed.
Day 87 Goreme Tuesday 17/10/06
It was a bit overcast and cold, so I decided to take a veg day. I got clothes back, managed to find an ATM which dispensed US dollars which will come in handy later on in my trip, and generally farted around.
Day 88 Goreme Wednesday 18/10/06
I have to say, the breakfast at this hostel is absolutely out of this world. Lots of it and very nice too!! The weather was a little better, so I decided to do the Goreme ‘open air’ museum. It was ok, but not as good as the unofficial tour from a couple of daysago. The amount of tour groups was a bit off putting. That said, I’ve signed up for a tour of the local area for tomorrow! In the cafe it was fascinating watching the men collect freshly baked bread after their days work… How exciting is my life!!
Day 89 Thursday 19/10/06
After breakfast, I went out to meet the minibus for the local tour of Cappadocia. The tour was reasonable, but the guide was next to useless unfortunately. She’d learned what to say off by heart, but couldn’t answer any questions due to her bad English and lack of knowledge. It was good to have visited the underground city of Derinnkuyu though. I first read about them years ago in an Erich Von Danekin book. I can’t say that I agree with his spaceman theory, although the underground cities are mysterious. Why there should be so many of them in this area, why carved so deep, and when were theyconstructed are all unexplained. Although the early Christians used them as places of refuge in times of need, they were already in existance before they came along. At night, I had a meal with a couple of Kiwi girls from the tour who were ok people.
Day 90 Friday 20/10/06
Another day off in Goreme, doing some more clothes washing and generally resting. Tomorrow, the big push towards the Syrian border begins!
Goreme to Antakya
Day 91 Goreme – Nigde Saturday 21/10/06
The week off from cycling seems to have done me some good, and I hit the road again with a renewed energy and enthusiasm. I really enjoyed my time in Goreme, and can see myself returning there at some point, as well as seeing the coastal sections of Turkey that I didn’t get a chance to visit on this trip. Anyway… Onwards!! The initial hill out of Goreme was a bit tough, but after that I settled into a good ryhthmn. The roads were a bit rough in places, with large stones sealed into the surface rather than smooth tarmac. I figure that this is for when the snow comes, in order to give the car tyres more grip. When I reached Nigde, I booked into a hotel. Although the hostel I had been staying at in Goreme was excellent value with a massive breakfast all for four pounds a night, its major drawback was the showers. They were outside, and with no hot water, so I hadn’t really had one in a week. The hotel in Nigde had an actual bath though, so I had a good wallow. Bliss!
Day 92 Nigde – Some town beginning with P Sunday 22/10/06
A great days weather and cycling. It was a clear blue sky, but not too hot and with no wind making it perfect cycling conditions. The highlight of the day was cycling up some very steep hills, with snow capped mountains to one side. After that, it was mainly downhill through a gorge or valley, with the mountains on my right and through lots of rural areas. A very good day. – Not too sure what the town was called as it wasn’t signposted and that part of my map had disintegrated.
Day 93 The P town – Adana Monday 23/10/06
There was a lot of climbing at the start of the day leading up the hills with woods on either side, but it was a minor road with almost no traffic. In part they may have to do with the fact that Ramadam has ended, and now its a three day holiday… the people that I did see were happier than usual. An hour or two into my day, I saw the crazy French walkers again, and stopped for a chat in Franglais before heading on to Adana. Its a big industrial city with a big mosque. Thats all about Adana really!
Day 94 Adana – Dortkoyl Tuesday 24/10/06
It was a long, hot old day today. Not a lot to report… Some guys gave me free drinks and biscuits at a petrol station. This hotel room is dirt cheap. There’s a mossie buzzing around I can’t seem to kill. Just had some freshly baked bread. Correction – Dave 1 Mossies 0.
Day 95 Dortkoyl – Antakya Wed 25/10/06
Another longish day, and quite a tiring one. Midway through, there was a 500 metre rise in a little under 7 kms. Now that may not sound a lot, but what it actually translates into is near vertical climbing for over an hour. The views were pretty good, and the descent compensated, as I then turned a corner, and the wind started pushing me along. About time too! I reached Antakya and booked into a hotel for what will be my last night here in Turkey. I’ve really enjoyed this country, and the people are just wonderful, and I can see myself returning some day. Tomorrow, I cycle 45 kms to the border with Syria. No doubt there will be a bit of arsing around there, and then I have another 50kms to cycle to Aleppo, which is the first major city in Syria. I’ve still been unable to buy a map of Syria, but I’m sure I’ll muddle through somehow. I’m really looking forwards to the next section through Syria, as there are supposed to be some quite spectacular ruins right in the middle, which should be a challenge to reach. I’m guessing that my time in Syria will be two weeks, and although internet access is available throughout the country, I will probably update again from Damascus in a couple of weeks time.
Antakya – Damascus
Day 96 Antakya – Aleppo Thursday 26/10/06
I got an early start, as I had over 100kms to do and of course the border crossing into Syria. The cycling was pretty easy, and I passed through acres of cotton fields, where the workers seemed to do more waving at me than actual cotton picking. I must have said ‘Hello’ to people over a thousand times today!! As i approached the Turkish border, I saw maybe a hundred Turkish lorries stood still in a massively long queue waiting to go over. Coming from a warehouse background, there is only one thing more amusing than an impatient, delayed, helpless lorry driver, and that is a hundred of them! The Turkish side of the border was a shambolic affair, which involved visiting different windows to get my exit stamps. The Syrian one was more straightforwards, although I had something written in the notes section of my passport – not sure what that means as its in squiggles ( I mean Arabic). Anyway, welcome to Syria Dave!! Excellent stuff. I was a bit concerned about how I was going to read the road signs if they were in Arabic, but they are also signed in English which is handy for me! Still haven’t got a road map, but never mind. I stopped off at a dodgy roadside cafe for all the things you are not supposed to have – salad, under cooked meat, water, and then carried on to Aleppo. The immediate road leading into Aleppo was a bit odd, as it had a Union Jack every three hundred metres, alternating with the Syrian one. Not sure what all that was about, but I can only assume they knew I was coming. I was going to take a photo, but there was a military base on the other side, and I didn’t really want to get arrested on day one. I somehow found the district where the cheap hotels are located, and got myself the bargain of the trip so far at the equivilant of 2 English pounds. The room was possibly the smallest one that I have ever stayed in, and the graffiti described it as ‘the box’ or ‘the coffin’. My favourite writing on the wall said – ‘Tonight I won’t have any dreams, because there isn’t any room for them.’
Day 97 Aleppo Friday 27/10/06
Because it was Friday, a lot of the shops and souqs were closed. I visited the museum which had some interesting pieces, but the building itself looked like it would fall down at any moment. Messed around on the internet, and unsuccessfully attempted to buy a map of Syria again. Although there is only a handful of roads linking the few main cities and towns, it would be nice to know ofsmaller towns laying in between. Oh well, maps?? – Who gives a smeg??
Day 98 Aleppo – Hama Saturday 28/10/06
It was an overcast day, and rained for a little while, but in actual fact the cycling conditions were perfect. The road was of excellent quality, and the 150 kms seemed to fly by. I reached Hama for what I though was three, but later found out that the clocks had gone back an hour. Booked into the Cairo hotel in Hama which was 350 Syrian pounds for a good quality room. So far, Syria has proven to be a very cheap country, although it did cost 80 pounds for two pieces of paper to actually get here at all. Still no map.
Day 99 Hama – Homs Sunday 29/10/06
For some reason, todays 60 kms seemed harder than the previous days 150. I booked into a relatively expensive hotel, but I did manage to pick up a WiFi conection from somewhere. I’m not sure what the punishment for hacking into wireless systems is in Syria, but I’m guessing its not nice. I was in two minds which route I should take the following day. Damascus was only 150kms away, but if I headed inland, i would be able to see the ruins at Palmyra, although it would add four days and a lot more kms to my journey. (I’ve actually forgotten what a map looks like now.)
Day 100 Homs – Middle of a desert Monday 30/10/06
It was a day of two very different parts, so lets get the cycling section out of the way first – A tough, tough day. 130kms through the desert with the wind blowing against me all the way. No shelter, no towns, nothing. Just sand and rocks. Not altogether pleasant, but what doesn’t break us makes us, and all that bollocks. If I had left an hour or two earlier I may have been able to make Palmyra in one day, but the sun started setting at 4.30, and I was still a long way short. This is where the second part of my day kicked in. I noticed a small sign saying ‘gathering station’ and pulled over to take a look. I’m not sure what the place was about, as the only gathering that was happening was by a few rusty pieces of road working machinery gathering dust. There was a scruffy looking herbert of a caretaker there, so I asked if I could camp on the grounds for the night in a mixture of English, Arabic and sign language. He said it was ok, so I set the tent up, and we shared a meal. Then a truck turned up, and the driver started talking with the caretaker. There was a flurry of excitement and mobile phone usage, after which another two guys wearing red and white tea towels on their heads turned up on a motorbike. Another conversation in English, Arabic and sign language led me to believe that camping in the gathering place was not good enough, and that I should follow them to their encampment. It was pitch black by now, but what the hell. I packed the tent back up, loaded my bike, and followed the motorbike for fifteen minutes across the desert sands in the dark, after which we arrived at their compound which consisted of a larger tent (presumably where the women were, safely locked away from me), and a more solid structure which was basically a small room with a TV in one corner. (Electricity via a generator). This small room was evidently the mens room, where we spent the night talking, eating and drinking chai. Conversation was difficult, as I only know a handful of Arabic words and they knew no English, but we muddled through ok, and I stayed the night there. Nice chaps these Beduin fellas. (They didn’t have a map though)
Day 101 Middle of a desert – Palmyra Tuesday 31/11/06
After a round of chai, i waved goodbye, and cycled back out across the desert to the road. It was only 50kms to Palmyra, but it seemed quite hard work, although the previous evening lifted my spirits. When in Palmyra, I checked out a couple of hotels and booked into the Citadel hotel, and who should be there? Rainhard the German cyclist who I had first met when leaving Istanbul. It was good to catch up with him using our unique mix of German and English. Did a lot of eating.
Day 102 Palmyra Wednesday 01/11/06
Today was a day off from cycling, and I spent it sight seeing around the ruins of Palmyra. The temple of Bel was the standout point, although some of the outer walls had been reconstructed horrendously. The whole city only existed because of the oasis, and was a vital point on the silk road for trading caravans., and it must have been quite an imposing sight 2000 years ago, after crossing the desert for days. Spent the evening chatting with a couple of German girls (who initially thought i was German because they heard me talking yestarday – I’ve never been so insulted!!) and a Scottish guy called Eric who i met in Aleppo.
Day 103 Palmyra – Bagdad Café Thursday 02/11/06
Had a good breakfast and got off to a relatively early start, where it was back to the barren, featureless desert. At three in the afternoon, I came across a cafe in the middle of nowhere called the Bagdad cafe with a camel tied up outside. Got chatting with the owner, and kipped there for the night, where I watched BBC world until the generator ran out of diesel.
Day 104 Bagdad cafe – Damascus Friday 03/11/06
I left Sultan (yes, that really was the owners name) at the cafe and got off to another early start. With over 160kms still to cover to reach Damascus, this was always going to be a long, tough day. The initial four hours was very hard work, over continuous hills (ney, mountains!) and with a hugely strong wind blowing me to a standstill at times. The next six hours weren’t any easier, there were just less hills. It was getting late as I approached Damascus, and for the last 10 kms I was cycling in the dark along the motorway as I don’t have any lights, which I don’t recommend. On the outskirts of Damascus, I stumbled (literally) upon a campsite, and dived in there for the night.
Day 105 Damascus Saturday 04/11/06
I moved from the campsite into a hotel in the city centre, which involved the normal fun and games with the traffic. I will stay here for three nights before heading out to Jordan. The little area around the hotel has some cheap eats and internet, so perfect! Bought a couple of pirate DVD’s for a pound each – X-Men 3 and Superman returns.
Day 106 Damascus Sunday 05/11/06
Had breakfast in a cafe, and then walked over to the national museum. It was ok, but a bit higgledy piggeldy (I’ve always wanted to write that phrase down, but I am not convinced I’ve spelt it right). Used the internet for a bit. The current age of War of Empires is coming to an end, and it looks like I will get the Empire Destroyer title, and an old clan mate Ramet should win the age outright. Computer geeks of the world unite!!
Damascus to Petra
Day 108 Damascus – Daraa Tuesday 07/11/06
An uneventful day. The cycling was easy, and I covered the 100 kms to Daraa quickly, where I booked into a hotel for the night. Daraa is the last town in Syria, a country which I have really enjoyed cycling through, and hope to return too one day.
Day 109 Daraa – Jerash Wednesday 08/11/06
Another day, another country! As far as border crossings go, it all went pretty smoothly, and I managed to exchange my excess Syrian pounds easily on the Jordanian side. There were three other Europeans crossing the border at the same time.. Another French woman walking to Jerusalem (it has to be a French thing!), and a German couple travelling by a self converted camper van. The cycling from the border, although only 60kms, seemed to take forever into Jerash, but a massive descent when I got to the town meant that I must have been climbing for quite a while, which explained everything. Some of the roads can be deceptive, in that it looks like it is level or even downhill, but you are actually going up. Anyway, Jerash was a bit crazy, and a superb accident was blocking one of the very narrow streets which gave everybody a legitimate reason to use their horns, as the whole town came to a gridlock standstill. Had a couple of schwarmas,and headed out of town to where I had heard there was a campsite. Along the way, a guy selling olives at the side of the road called me over, and gave me some food and chai. There was at least equal amounts of sugar to water in the chai – excellent! He was also selling all sorts of natural remedys, at least thats what I assume they were from my less than basic grasp of Arabic and human gestures. I must have tried a sample of everything before I left him, so in theory it is now impossible for me to get ill! (Famous last words I fear!). I offered to pay him for everything, but he said it was a gift. I’ve never experienced such genuine hospitality from people before visiting Syria and Jordan, and its a little humbling. The hill up to the campsite was incredibly steep, and I had to push the bike some of the way. Booked in, set the tent up, and planned my route through Jordan. Had a feeling of calm and satisfaction all night. Not sure why, but it felt good.
Day 110 Jerash – Amman Thursday 09/11/06
Had a huge (couple of) meals the previous night, and a superb breakfast in the morning. Cornflakes have never tasted so good! The campsite was way up in the hills, so I basically glided back down to Jerash without using the pedals. I had intended to see the ruins before cycling on to Amman, but they wanted a ridiculous, to my mind anyway, 8 JD, so i didn’t bother, and carried on. There was a lot more downhill, but it soon became obvious that I was deep in a valley, and theres only one way out…. up! The 50 or so kms to Amman was hard work after that, as the hills that the city is built on are outrageously steep, and again, I had to get off and push. Somehow found my way to the downtown area, where the sites and cheap hotels are, and found myself a suitably dingy abode for a couple of nights. Stayed up very, very late (4.00 am sleeping time!) redesigning the home page of my website with this new layout.. what do you think?? All the new pages will be like this from now on, and on my more bored moments I will upgrade the old pages.
Day 111 Amman Friday 10/11/06
I visited the Roman theatre which is Ammans main attraction I suppose, and it was quite nice sitting up in the Gods, soaking up some sun, and not having to cycle! Did quite a lot of eating during the day.. there is definitely a fat bloke in me waiting to get out! The age in War of Empires came to an end, and I made the Hall of Fame with my character Cupid Stunt as the Empire Destroyer – 943 Regular troops killed, which is a new game record! There is something very addictive about that game, although this next age may prove difficult to play, as I head through Africa. Still, I’ll start an account just to keep my hand in. I’ve also got an game account in Travian, but if the truth be told, I don’t really know what the hell I am doing, and am just trying to upgrade everything to see what happens. Sorry to bore you all, but its not all about cycling up very steep hills – I like to exercise the mind as well! (Hmm.. if i put my energies into something worthwhile you say?? Well, who’s to say what is and isn’t worth while!)
Day 112 Amman – Madaba Saturday 11/11/06
I got off to a reasonably early start to avoid the city traffic, and made my way out of Amman. After that, it was just a short, easy ride to Madaba. I am now cycling along the Kings Highway, which will be a companion until I reach Petra. In Madaba, I had a look at a couple of places, and decided to go with Lulus Bed and Breakfast. Had an ace shower, (the one in Amman was rubbish), and downed cup after cup of free coffee. There are a couple of touristy things to do here, but couldn’t be bothered, so I didn’t. Stocked up on food, wandered around the town, ate some schwarmas, and watched some TV.
Day 113 Madaba – Karak Sunday 12/11/06
Quite a challenging day. I cycled along the Kings Highway heading south once more, and had to go down, and then back up, two gorges. The second one was massive, and its nickname is the Grand Canyon of Jordon, (official name Wadi Mujib). It took me ten minutes to descend and an hour and a half to get back up again. Reached Karak later in the afternoon and booked into a hotel with aching legs.
Day 114 Karak – Dana Monday 13/11/06
Another difficult day, with a deep wide Wadi (gorge) to cross. The whole kids throwing stones thing, which has been a part of cycling through Jordan unfortunately, was a real pain in the arse between Tafila and Dana. At the end of a long, hard day, its difficult for me to keep my temper, and eventually, I had to throw a rock back at one of the little bastards. Strike!! Made me feel a little better. The only thing I can suggest to other cyclists who may be thinking of cycling along the Kings Highway in Jordan, is to try to cycle when the kids are in school. If you happen to be cycling through a town when they are just leaving, its a nightmare. Not that I felt physically in danger, its more insulting than anything else. One of the joys of cycling is to wave and say hello to people, but it gets to the stage where you think to yourself why bother if they are just going to launch a stone at you behind your back. Don’t get me wrong, its not all of them, by any means, but enough to an unneeded stress to the day. The only reasons that I can work out for them doing it are – A) As they actually have almost no bicycles here in Jordan, anybody, especially a tourist on a bicycle, is a complete oddity and B) It’s in their culture, as they throw stones at each other as well. There’s no real malice in it, just cheekiness. Its given me mixed feelings about Jordan, and although the majority of people are overwhelmingly hospitable, once I have left Jordan, I would never consider returning. Anyway, when I eventually reached Dana, I booked into one hotel, but spent the evening at another one, where I had a meal, litres of chai, and chatted late into the night with the other guests.
Day 115 Dana – Petra Tuesday 14/11/06
After the initial struggle back up the steepest hill in the world, I was on the Kings Highway once more, and heading south to Petra. Easy, fast cycling. The Belgian guys who I had been chatting with the night before passed me at about 12.00 in their car. Their hangovers must have been quite bad, as between three of them, they had consumed 4 bottles of wine and a bottle of vodka the previous night. I had a look at a couple of hotels in Petra, and booked into the Valentine hotel for three nights. Used the net and made some calls. There was an Aussie girl staying in the hotel, and we talked a bit about the Muslim mens attitude towards western women as she was getting a bit of hassle from an ‘admirer’. As a male, its something I witness, but not know how it feels. It must be hard for western women to travel alone through Muslim countries, as its a real culture clash. In western countries, women are treated as mens equals, with their own minds and decisions (well, its getting there I suppose!!). In the rest of the world, however, women are very much second class citizens, to be rarely seen or heard. Sex before marriage in Muslim countries is taboo, and would lead to immediate marriage, whereas in western societies, sex before marriage and casual sex is not seen as that big of a deal. This leads the Muslim men to believe that western women are easy lays and fair game. Of course, it doesn’t help when western women have one night stands with the locals, as it only feeds the situation. Anyway, its not really got anything to do with me, so nuff said!
Petra – Suez
Day 116 Petra Wednesday 15/11/06
I spent the day sight seeing around the archeological complex of Petra. The approach to the site is down a long, narrow canyon with high walls, and at the end, is the first building which is known as the Treasury. A massive building carved out of the rock, it really is an impressive sight, especially with the sun illuminating it first thing in the morning. After that, I climbed up to the Place of High Sacrifice (ace name!), which had some great views. Even though there were quite a few tourists around, the site of Petra is so huge, that it is still possible to escape them and find a quiet place to sit and think. One of the things that I have enjoyed most from this trip, is the time that I have had to think, especially during the cycling. They’re not particularly important thoughts, but I like to think them anyway.
Day 117 Petra Thursday 16/11/06
I got talking to a Dutch couple last night, who were quite interesting people. They’d travelled to similar places that I had, and it was funny to remember back to previous trips and compare it with other peoples memories. Yeah, it was an evening well spent talking… something people rarely get a chance to do when they are wrapped up in the stress of everyday life. In the morning, I took the free transport from the hostel to the Petra site, and walked back through the canyon and to the very far end of the site to begin the walk up to ‘The Monastary’ or ‘Ad-Deir’. It looked similar to the Treasury but was bigger, and had some stunning views out over the land below. I spent quite a while up there, but when a bunch of tourists with kids in tow came trudging up the path, it was time to go! As I walked down, the Dutch couple were coming up on donkeys – the lazy sods! I had a looka round the rest of the site, and then took a taxi back to the hotel. I must say that the evening dinners in the hostel were truly outstanding!
Day 118 Petra – Aqaba Friday 17/11/06
Although I didn’t think there was anymore ‘up’ to go in Jordan, there was, so the first two or three hours were hard work. After that, it was much easier, as it was basically flat or downhill for the next 80kms. I went through the town of Aqaba and to the campsite on the other side, where 4 JD a night paid for camping and breakfast.
Day 119 Aqaba Saturday 18/11/06
After breakfast, I checked out the ferry times for the next day, and then hitched into town, where I did cultural activities such as using the internet and eating at Burger King.
Day 120 Aqaba – Nuweiba Sunday 19/11/06
After a nice breakfast, I made my way down to the ferry port. The process of buying a ticket was not as simple as it could have been, and to help out other people who may be reading this travelogue for information, here’s what you have to do.
1.Walk up the staircase of the building on the left, and go to the ticket counter and ask for a ticket.
2.Take the ticket to the bank counter opposite, and pay for it in the currency of your choice.
3.Take the ticket with receipt back to the original counter, where they will stamp it.
4. Take the ticket downstairs to the next section of the building, which is where you pay a departure tax of 5JD, where you will obtain another piece of paper.
5.Take the ticket, passport and all aquired pieces of paper back up the stairs in the original section of the building, and walk through to passport control, where they will check all said pieces of paper and stamp your passport.
6.You are now finished! Go back downstairs and outside!
I was waiting outside, chuckling at bemused backpackers struggling through the same crazy, inept system, I saw a Dragoman bus. Dragoman is a UK company that do overland tours for backpackers in huge buses, or in this case, a converted Class 2 truck to just about anywhere in the world. I’ve always thought that I might like to work for a company like that for a while, and see what it’s like. There seemed to be a fair mix of people on board, and I got chatting to an Aussie guy who had some interesting stories about working on a yacht for a while. Methinks I will see if anybody needs deckhands in South Africa, and try to sail home! (Sea-sickness permitting). Anyway, come 11.00ish, we boarded the ferry, and I tied my bike up down below to a pipe of some sort, and made my way back up to the main cabin, where I sat with the tour group. It’s funny how now, when I am travelling by bicycle, people go ‘wow’ etc. I don’t really see it as that big of a deal, as to be honest, up until now, its not been that hard. Once your mind is into the routine of cycling, its no problem. Anyway, halfway through the ferry journey, there was another routine to go through, which was …
1.Join a queue leading up to a table where two men were sitting.
2.Give them your passport, and say (in my case), I am travelling through all Egypt.
3.They stamp your passport.
4. They keep your passport, and give you a piece of paper.
Still, at least it didn’t cost me any money that time. When we docked, there was a bit of waiting, and then i pushed my way to the front of the queue where they were letting people off first who had pieces of paper but no passports. Back downstairs to collect the bike, and leaving the ship, started another routine…
1. Take the piece of paper to the bank, where in exchange for that and some money, you recieve two small stamps which are your visa.
2.Take the stamps to a building behind anothe bank, (signed only in Arabic) and knock on a door to the left.
3.Hand over your stamps, and identify your passport from a huge pile.
4. The man sticks the visas in and writes something.
5.Make your way to thearrivalssection where a large group of customs officials will stare and pint at your bike as though they have not seen one before.
5.Put bags though an x-ray machine.
6.Welcome to Egypt !!
I seemed to have my act particularly together, and was the first person through by a long way. Yay for me. I cycled out past the port and found a camp by the beach, where I paid 25 Egyptian pounds a night to stay in a bamboo hut, inclusive of breakfast. Marvelous.
Day 121 Nuweiba Monday 20/11/06
A bit of a strained nights sleep, as I couldn’t work out if the mosquitoes were buzzing inside the net or not. After breakfast, I told the guy I would stay a night longer, and cycled back out to the port to use the ATM machine. Over lunch, I talked for a couple of hours to Dr. Shish Kebab (really). Spent the afternoon laying on the beach sheltering from the 27 degree sun in a cusioned reed shelter. I don’t think people realise quite how hard cycling from England to South Africa is.
Day 122 Nuweiba – Desert Tuesday 21/11/06
I’m cycling up the coast against a strong northerly wind, which is crap. The sea is on the right, but I would swap the scenary for a windbreak. There are many unused/falling down/being built camps and resorts along this stretch of coast but no tourists. I have a bit of a cold which I must have pick up from the scummers on the ferry from Jordan. Not my best day. I reached an army checkpoint at Taba, and asked if there was a hotel nearby, and they pointed the way. After leaving my bicycle near the tank parked outside, I spent ten minutes trying to get through the metal detector and into the reception. The hotel wanted 45 US dollars that I haven’t got though, so I cycled back to the checkpoint, and then took the road to Naqb. A long steep climb up on to the plateau of the Sinai desert. Naqb was just a few houses which were all falling down, and one shop where I had to buy supplies at stupid prices. Even though I was knackered, i decided to soldier on until the end of the day towards Suez, and pulled over into the desert to set up camp when it got dark.
Day 123 Desert – Desert Wednesday 22/11/06
A nice early start, and I felt a bit more with it. The day was a long one of almost non-stop cycling, but the terrain wasn’t too hard. There were only two settlements with shops or places to eat along the way, so I made the most of them, and had two cheap meals of fuul and kofte. I was flagging towards the end of the day, and pulled over for another night in the desert. Proper sandy desert this one.
Day 124 Desert – Suez Thursday 23/11/06
It got really cold during the night, and it was still chilly when I got going at 07.30. Pretty uneventful cycling/slog through the desert again. At the tunnel going underneath the Suez canal, the police made me load the bike onto a pick up truck and ride through. It was fair enough, as there was only one lane. On the other side (the African side!! new continent!!) I cycled into Suez and somehow found a hotel. I’m quite tired and exhausted after the last three days of cycling, which have all been high mileage and high temperature. Somehow managed to eat six goat kebabs in front of a bemused kebab stand owner. Taking a day off tomorrow.[/lang_all][lang_all]
Suez – Cairo
Day 125 Suez Friday 24/11/06
Today was an R and R day in Suez, which basically involved a lot of eating and drinking.
Day126 Suez – Cairo Saturday 25/11/06
Most people who have cycled this route take two days, but I couldn’t be arsed with that, and decided to do it in one. The wind was a bit unkind for the first hour, but after that, the road changed direction and I flew along. 140 kms is still a long days cycling, especially when for the last 20 kms you are in the biggest city in Africa without a map, but what the hell! The traffic was a bit mad, but not as bad as I expected. In my mind, I was anticipating something like India, but it was far calmer. Still crazy, but a more chilled crazy. I somehow found where I needed to be, downtown Cairo, and booked into the Dahab hotel for five nights. A bit of an arse getting the bike up to the seventh floor, but the single room costs 25 Egyptian pounds a night, so no complaints here!
Day 127 Cairo Sunday 26/11/06
After breakfast, it was straight to the British Embassy, where I needed a letter of recommendation to take to the Sudan Embassy for my visa application. 22 GBP later, I had a letter which said that the British Government no longer issues letters of recommendation for its citizens. Still, a piece of paper is a piece of paper, and it was onwards to the Sudan Embassy. Filled out a form, left a couple of photos with my passport and paid 100 US dollars… (what!!!!!), and was asked to return at two. With time to kill, McDonalds was a no brainer. After that, i bought a compass (i’m going all boy scout for this next bit!), a new usb/lan connector for my laptop as my last one got accidently but brutally stamped into a million pieces by me because it wouldn’t work. Wandered around and played frogger with the traffic, and had a couple of fruit shakes. At two, I went back to the Sudan embassy, and….. I have it!! Yes!! I had been slighltly concerned just how I would do the trip if they had refused my visa, but its all systems go now. Bought lots of bargain cheap food.
Day 128 Cairo Monday 27/11/06
I took a taxi over to the Ethiopian Embassy, which was nowhere near the address given in the Lonely Planet Middle East guide book. When I eventually got there, the total lack of security was in stark contrast to the British Embassy, plus there were only three people working in the entire place. Filled the forms, and left my passport with them to be collected the next day. I didn’t really need to apply for my Ethipiopia visa yet, as I could have done it in Karthoum, Sudan, but I wanted to get it out of the way, and I should be able to use it before it expires. Caught a taxi back to downtown Cairo, and then spent the rest of the day in the Egyptian museum, where they tell you no cameras are allowed only after you’ve been through three levels of security. You then have to return to the ticket office, leave your camera at a building next door, and then go back through the security again. The exhibits in the museum were interesting, obviously, but they weren’t labelled or explained very well. There was an audio guide available which I didn’t take, but it suited me to mill aimlessly between the exhibits. After the museum, i tried for several hours to find a map of Sudan, but to no avail. I’m sure it won’t matter too much, as for the first 200 miles in Sudan, there aren’t any roads either!
Day 129 Cairo Tuesday 28/11/06
I collected my passport complete with Ethipiopian visa at the rather inconvieniant time of 11.00 and celebrated by visiting McDonalds. Caught a taxi back to downtown, and bought a new pair of trousers as the ones I was wearing were faded, stinky, ripped and had oil on them. Talked to some people in the hostel who are travelling by 4 wheel drive doing the same trip as I am. They will probably be on the same boat as me to Sudan.
Day 130 Cairo Wednesday 29/11/06
I decided to hire a taxi for the day, so that I could see the sites of Giza, Saqqara and Memphis, which worked out to be about 13 english pounds, which wasn’t too bad. The first stop, was the archeolgical site of Saqqara, whose main feature is the pyramid of Zoser. This pyramid is unique in many ways, as firstly it is a step pyramid, and secondly, in all probability it is the first pyramid ever constructed, and the largest human construction of its time. In a way, it reminded me of a pyramid I had seen in Mexico called Coba, only the Zoser pyramid has not got the distinctive Mayan staircase leading up the front. Allegedly the Zoser pyramid was the forerunner for the even more massive pyramids at Giza. I spent a little while wandering around it, and then made my way to the only other open area of the site which was the Mastaba of Ti. Although it was a tomb of a non-royal court official, the inscriptions and reliefs on the inside walls gave a good idea of life at the time of its construction. Many show people hunting, farming, fishing and ship building.
After Saqqara it was on to Memphis, but I found it a bit of a let down. The main feature, a gigantic limestione statue of Ramses II was very impressive, but the rest of the area was a bit nothingy.
Then, it was on to Giza, which is where the three largest and most famous pyramids are located, right on the edge of Greater Cairo. The Sphinx in front of the pyramids is just a great thing to see, and a real highlight of my trip so far. The pyramids themselves were huge, and despite the best efforts of the touts, drinks sellers, horse riders, camel hirers and souvenir sellers trying to spoil my day, I really enjoyed myself. I must say though, that I have come away with less of a sense of mystery than before. Ok, they are big, but if you’ve got enough guys that know what they are doing, time, and money, then building it is no problem. Although that said, it still doesn’t answer the question of why they were built though! Anyhow, for something over six thousand years old, they looked in pretty good shape, and will easily outlast most of the buildings that the current mob of Egyptians seem incapable of constructing well. A good day. The plan is now to cycle out of Cairo tomorrow, and follow the nile south as I head towards Sudan.
Cairo – Luxor
Day 131 Cairo – Beni Suef Thursday 30/11/06
Leaving Cairo proved to be a lot less painless than I had first thought it would. I followed the same route out as the taxi driver had taken the previous day, which put me on a nice quiet road. With a canal on my left hand side, I passed through lush, green countryside, although to my right, the desert was never far away. I must have said ‘hello’ to a thousand people today as I cycled through. With 35 kms to go to Beni Suef, I cut back onto the main road, which was a bit chaotic. At a police checkpoint, I was asked to wait whilst some phone calls were made. I was expecting delays at these police check points from reading other cyclists travelogues. Some people when writing seemed really off with the police and military, but there’s no point losing your rag with them, because it will only make things worse. At the end of the day, they have a job to do so I just smiled, made some jokes, said thank you a lot and was soon on my way. When I reached Beni Suef, the police were waiting for me, and another round of ‘hellos’ began. I explained that I wanted to stay the night in a hotel, and they led the way through the town in their blue police truck with machine gun toting guards in the back and I followed on the bike. The hotel wasn’t too bad, although on my arrival, it aquired an army soldier and not-so-undercover security services agent sitting outside. Had a kosheri for dinner which is a big mix of pasta, beans and other bits and bobs.
Day 132 Beni Suef – Minya Friday 01/12/06
The police led me back out of town again, and once on the road, it was flat going all the way to Minya. The cycling itself was uneventful, apart from when I passed a broken down truck, and saw two guys wrestling in the dust on the floor by it. It was quite a civilised bout, and they were even tapping out for submission. I tried to encourage them to start using fists, but they just stared up at me from the ground, and then started asking for money. On the outskirts of Minya, I had to stop at the police checkpoint whilst they did the usual phoning through to someone. The General of the police turned up with his blue truck jammed full of gun carrying, rotten toothed but thoroughly nice troops, and the escort through the town began. The hotel that I’ve ended up in is of a higher class than I am currently used too, but it works out to be 5GBP a night, so its not too bad. Outside, a new army guard and plain clothes agent are there for my ‘protection’ again. The plain clothes guy followed me to the supermarket, so I thought he might as well make himself useful, and made him carry the shopping back.
Day 133 Minya – Asyut Saturday 02/12/06
It was getting harder and harder to get through the police checkpoints today, as they were pretty insistant about me getting in the back of the police trucks. I managed to get my own way though, and cycled on each time, and then I came up with a cunning plan. I started telling them that I had made a promise to God and Allah that I would cycle from England to South Africa. The long term ramifications of blasphemy and roasting in the pits of hell I’ll have to deal with at a later time, for now though I was speeding through every road block. A police truck from each area accompanied me until the next area, so there was always some company! As for Asyut, well, perhaps I came in for a bit of a taster for what may be waiting for me in the afterlife. Its pretty clear that the hotel owners hate foreigners, or probably more precisely, hate the paperwork in having to deal with them and the eight soldiers that were accompanying me. One hotel said they were full (liar!), one wanted to charge 100 egyptian pounds for a room worth 30 (thief), and one was a three star hotel who clearly didn’t welcome my presence (snobs). At hotel four, I knocked the guy down to 50 for the night, but it was still over priced. The shopkeepers have been fine though, and charged me normal rates for everything, so it made me feel a little happier. I’m quite tired today, partly due to the fact that the brakes had locked onto the rear wheel, and i hadn’t noticed for 40 kms. Because of all the police escorts, I haven’t had a chance to look at it properly, and I’m hoping its nothing too serious.
Day 134 Asyut – Sohag Sunday 03/12/06
Quite a fast day today, mainly because I wasn’t delayed at any checkpoints. Instead, I was seemlessy handed over between different police escorts as I passed through their different divisions. In Sohag, I’m in a relatively expensive hotel, but hey, I’m on holiday! (sort of). On leaving the hotel to go shopping, I was accompanied by two armed guards. Its only when you are sitting in a crowded restaurant, eating a meal with two guys holding machine guns and a hundred other people staring at you, that you realise how bizarre life can be.
Day 135 Sohag – Luxor Monday 04/12/06
I’m still not sure whether I’m pissed off or not today. The day started fine, and I made rapid progress with a tail wind helping me along. There were delays in handing me over between police escorts, but that was ok, as I just took my breaks then. About three hours into the journey, however, the police started running out of vehicles. First a soldier flagged down a pickup to tail me to a handover point, but it was when at the change over, a soldier with AK47 had to hitch a ride on a moped that could barely keep up with me that i realised that some budgetary cutbacks must have been made. 35kms outside of Nag Hammandi, I got the major hassle that I had been dreading. At this checkpoint, it was pretty clear that they were unhappy with me cycling, and despite using the old ‘ doing it for Allah’ routine, I got nowhere. Turns out that the guy in charge was a Christian, and that he may have detected just the slightest hint of bullshit, and quite possibly sulphur. I spent a good twenty minutes trying to argue my case, but eventually reinforcements were called in. There’s only so much you can get away with in the face of a dozen heavily armed men, and reluctantly, I had to accept that I was getting onto a truck. Now this is kind of the part that pissed me off. They had said that it was for my ‘safety’, because there may be ‘terrorists’. So what did they do? Waved down some random stranger in a pickup truck who was going vaguely in my direction, loaded my bike on the back, put me in the front and then said see you later. How putting me in a pickup with someone who then drove like a lunatic for an hour constitutes as safety will perhaps have to remain a mystery. At a checkpoint in the town of Qena, I left the truck, and made the decision to cycle straight on to Luxor, which I was allowed to do. Arrived just before dusk, and booked into a hotel for three nights.
Day 136 Luxor Tuesday 06/12/06
Ah, a day off from cycling, and very much needed! I’ve done over 120kms a day since leaving Cairo, and my legs are feeling a little heavy! After breakfast, I visited the temple of Luxor, which was quite interesting. Situated next to the Nile, it has Greek and Roman addidtions to the ancient Egyptian architecture. Changed some money into US dollars, as banks will be scarce now until I reach Khartoum. used the net, had a McDonalds (they’re going to be scarce too!), and looked into getting the brakes on my bike sorted, but no joy there. Asked at tourist information about cycling south to Edfu and then Aswan. They seemed to think that I would need to be part of a convoy. I’ll just have to see what happens when I leave on Thursday.
Day 137 Luxor Wednesday 07/12/06
After breakfast, I cycled to the temple complex of Karnak, which was only a few km’s away from my hotel. Karnak is a huge archeological site, and during the course of 1500 years, buildings, improvements and alterations had been made, the majority of these being between 1570 and 1090 BC.
The Karnak complex is really magnificant, and in my opinion, no trip to Egypt would be complete without seeing it. The size of some of the stone columns, and the area it takes up is surely a testament to the power of the ancient Egyptians. I really enjoyed my time there, and left just as all the tourist buses started rocking up. On a different note, I managed to get a wireless connection last night by sitting out on the balcony. This meant that not only did I get free internet access, but I also managed to replace a missing system file, and restored the sound on my laptop. I can watch Red Dwarf again now!! The slight drawback to this is that from the 11th onwards, I won’t be anywhere with electricity for a few weeks. Oh well. Tomorrow I will leave for Edfu, and the day after Aswan, and I’m hoping that I’m going to be allowed through the police checkpoints unhindered.
Luxor – Karthoum
Day 138 Luxor – Edfu Thursday 07/12/06
The guys manning the checkpoints on leaving Luxor were so relaxed, it was pointless them being there, so all my worry about being stopped by them was pointless! Pretty uneventful cyclling all the way through to Edfu.
Day 139 Edfu – Aswan Friday 08/12/06
Another uneventful days cycling, with no hassle from military or police, but I arrived at long last in Aswan. Booked into a hotel for three nights at 25 Egyptian pounds a night…. not bad.
Day 140 Aswan Saturday 09/12/06
I went over to the Nile Navigation Company to buy my ferry ticket for Sudan. The ferry, which crosses Lake Nasser only leaves every Monday, so it was important to make sure I had one, as I didn’t really want to wait another week in Aswan if the ferry was full. There was a little crowd of Europeans waiting in the office to buy their tickets. The driver from the Dragoman company was there, as was the Dutch/Belgian couple from Cairo who are driving a 4 wheel drive, and a couple of German doctors, who were travelling overland to their new jobs in Ethiopia. Got the ferry ticket no problem, changed some money into US Dollars, and bought some supplies, most of which I had eaten within one hour.
Day 141 Aswan Sunday 10/12/06
A nice day off, consisting of eating, sleeping, eating, buying food and eating.
Day 142 Lake Nasser Monday 11/12/06
On the way to the port, I met a Swiss cyclist who had started his trip in Alexandria. To get to the port, we had to bribe a policeman to take us over one dam in his car as the soldiers wouldn’t let us cycle, and then had to pay 10 Egyptian pounds to cycle back over another dam. It left a bad taste of anotherwise good experience in Egypt. At the port, I bumped into the Dragomanoverlanders again, as well as the doctors and belgian/dutch couple. The Dragoman driver said he didn’t mind taking a bag of mine on to Khartoum, which means that without the laptop, city clothes and book i will be about 6 kilos lighter for the desert crossing of Sudan. To get onto the ferry took a bewildering amount of queuing and paperwork, but I got through and was on the ferry for 11.00. I staked out a corner for myself and the Swiss man, (who hadn’t bought a ticket in advance), and over the next six hours, the ferry was loaded with more things and people than you would have though possible. The Swiss man made it onboard, and we agreed to do the next section from Wadi Halfa to khartoum together. I had some reservations, as he didn’t seem very organised (no ferry ticket, no food or water for the journey, no money to buy any), but on the positive side, he did have a map!
Day 143 Wadi Halfa Tuesday 12/12/06
Quite a good nights sleep on the deck of the ship. I’d defended my little corner well, so I had plenty of room to stretch out. We arrived at the port at 12.00, although it would have been earlier if the propellers had got tangled up in a fishing net. Unloading the ship was just as crazily chaotic as loading it, and customs and passport controll took quite a while. It fely good to be on dry land, and then pedal the first few kilometres across the sand to the town of Wadi Halfa. I’m in Sudan at last!! The hotel was extremely basic, but there were more shops and places to eat than I had thought there would be, and more importantly, bottled water was available. I bought nine 1.5 lire bottles which is the amount I estimated i would need to reache the next major town of Abri. There was no tarmac in Wadi Halfa, just sand, and it gave me an idea of how difficult this next section of cycling might be. I sorted out the bag for the overland crew to take, but as its weight was replaced with water, the bike is actually more heavy than usual.
Day 144 Wadi Halfa Wednesday 13/12/06
I got up reasonably early, as there was some paperwork to do before we could leave the town and get underway. It would have been nice to have left the same day, but unfortunately, things didn’t work out that way. I was doing well with my paperwork, but the Swiss guy kept doing a lot of dithering (which i absolutely can not stand). At 10.00 I had finished, but it took Leo another hour and a half, which meant that it was far too late to leave as it would be the hottest part of the day. There’s not a lot to do in Wadi Halfa, so I ate, drank and asked about the roads ahead.
Day 145 Wadi Halfa – El Bir Thursday 14/12/06
A nice early start, and we ventured into the unknown. Getting out of Wadi Halfa was probably the most complicated part of the day, but certainly not the hardest. Once out, it was into the middle of nowhere – no real roads, no people, no life, only snad. What the hell am I doing ???!?!?!? This route in Sudan is famous in the cycling world for being one of the hardest to tackle, and it certainly wasn’t easy going. Sometimes the corrugations in the rough track would shake every bone in your body, and then without warning, I’d snake wildly and end up pedalling to nowhere in a sand trap. Not very easy or pleasant, but I knew what i had let myself in for before I had started, so it was no use moaning, and I just got on with it. Leo proved to be pretty good at picking lines, and i was content to let him cycle ahead, as he had a much lighter load than me. (He’d decided to bring only 5 litres of liquid… I prefered to carry the weight and not be thirsty!) The day went on, and at about five o’clock the brackets on my rear rack decided to snap. Bugger. Fortunately, we were only ten kilometres away from the only settlement for 70kms in either direction. (By settlement, I mean truckstop with three buildings). I limped the bike in, set up my tent out back, and had two plates of fuul and a fanta before calling it a night. As Leo didn’t have a tent, he had to sleep in the cafe.
Day 146 El Bir – Abri Friday 15/12/06
After helping to push a twenty tonne truck in order to jump start it, I asked the guys at the truckstop to weld my rack back together. Here’s a tip for other cyclists thinking of cycling from England to South Africa via Sudan … Get steel racks. I could have sworn mine were, but they turned out to be aluminium, something than can not be welded. I was about to go all ‘ I think I’ll give the bike a good kicking’ when I came up with the idea of a support bracket. Sketching my idea in the sand, and trying to explain in English and Arabic what I meant, the guys got the idea, and knocked up a bracket out of a bit of scrap metal and some wire. I’m not sure that it will last all the way to Cape Town, but it certainly got me out of the brown stuff for the time being. During the day, the Dragoman, 2 four wheel drives and three motor cyclists passed us by, and I’m sure I’ll bump into some of them later on during my travels. The cycling was just another long, hard slog over the roughest tracks imaginable. Quite tiring, especially in the blazing sun, but we carried on, and eventually reached the town of Abri just gone dark, where we found a dodgy hotel where you had to take a torch into the toilet to use the squat loo. After something to eat, i went to sleep almost straight away.
Day 147 Abri – Nile Camp Saturday 16/12/06
The long sleep did me good, and i awoke feeling refreshed and positive. I’ve read a few other peoples travelogues, and some of them didn’t reach Abri until day 3,4 or 5, and we’d done it in two. After stocking up at the shops, we set out for another hard days cycling, over the same tough terrain. It’s a real test of man and metal this section, but we just keptgoing on, stopping for the night next to the River Nile… do they have crocodiles here??
Day 148 Nile Camp – Nile Camp Sunday 17/12/06
The roads just seem to get tougher and tougher. Today was Leos turn for his rack to break, although it didn’t just break, more like disintegrated into 8 different parts. We managed to stich it together with cable tie and brake cable, and it held until we reached a small village where a bed maker welded it back together. Because of the delays and the condition of the roads, we were 20 kms short of our goal of Kermah, which was our destination, so it was another night of sleeping by the Nile. The mosquitoes seem to love eating me, so there was nothing left for the crocodiles.
Day 149 Nile Camp – Dongola Monday 18/12/06
Today, the sand was starting to take its toll on us. To get some idea of what it was like download this short video clip of me in action!! We seemed to spend a lot of time pushing the bikes out of deep sand, which wasn’t fun. At this point, everythiing I own is covered in dust and sand, I’m filthy and haven’t had a hot shower in over a week. We stopped for lunch under a tree at some nameless Sudanese village, and a family came over to give us tea and talk. leo has this excellent way of shouting when he talks to the Sudanese, which is a trait I thought only the English possessed when talking to a foreigner. We made the ferry crossing across the Nile for five despite us both having flat tyres, and found our way into Dongola, which had tarmac roads…. Amazing!!
Day 150 Dongola Tuesday 19/12/06
A well deserved day off, consisting of bike fixing, cleaning, eating, washing and resting. It was at this point that getting to Khartoum for Christmas looked a real possibility.
Day 151 Dongola – Desert (nr Debah) Wednesday 20/12/06
We were in luck on leaving Dongola, as we discovered that Sudan is under going a road building phase from Dongola to Khartoum. Whilst the roads weren’t finished, and cars were not allowed on them, it was fine for cycling along, and far more preferable to the bumpy, sandy tracks leading through the desert. We had to make the occasional detour around drainage trenches and avoid the odd steam roller, but we made good progress all the same, despite Leo having two punctures along the way. We did a bit of cycling in the dark, but it became obvious we were not going to reach our goal, and so we pushed the bikes into the desert using the stars for light and camped underneath a very thorny tree.
Day 152 Desert (nr debah) – Desert (middle of Sudan) Thursday 21/12/06
We had an early start, and kept a good pace, although I hit the wall because i hadn’t had enough to eat. At Abu Dom, we feasted on fuul, and then bought supplies for the rest of the journey to Khartoum. We both discovered that we had a slight monetary crisis, in that although we had US dollars, we only had 3000 dinars each left, which is about seven quid, and it had to last two days. Leaving Abu Dom, we hammered down a tarmac road with the wind behind us, stopping for an expensive drink along the way. I managed to get a flat tyre in my increasingly wobbly rear wheel, but a quick change, and we carried on. Another night of sleeping in the desert.
Day 153 Desert (middle of Sudan) – Desert Friday 22/12/06
With a strong wind behind us, and good roads, we raced along. Even with a few fanta stops, we easily covered 200 kms. Leo has a problem with his front tyre, in that its bulging a little, and my rear wheel wobbles a bit. The roads have taken their toll on the bikes… and us. My lips are chapped, i’m sunburnt and filthy.
Day 154 Desert – Khartoum Saturday 23/12/06
Another race through the desert, and we reached the outskirts of Omderman, which is a small city on the outskirts of Khartoum. There were quite chaotic scenes as we tried to negotiate the way through the cars, tuk-tuks, donkeys, pedestrians and other moving and staionary objects. Asking directions along the way, and using the compass that served me well in the desert, we somehow entered Khartoum from completely the opposite end than we thought we were. Reached the Blue Nile Sailing Club for three, and after ten nights of sleeping in the desert, we must both have looked a right state! The club let us camp on their lawn (it has green grass!!!!), there is water to have a shower and everything! All for $1.50 a night which can’t be bad. So I made Khartoum for Christmas, and with time to spare. As I originally though I would be in Cairo at Christmas, I’m well ahead of schedule.
Day 155 Khartoum Sunday 24/12/06
Had a big breakfast, and changed some money first thing. I got talking to the Scottish lad and kenyan girl who I had first met on the ferry over from Aswan as they were also staying at the Blue Nile Sailing Club. Then, I got to cleaning my bike, and noticed a problem. A BIG problem. There were several bad cracks and splits around the spoke holes on the rear wheel rim. This was not good news. The chances of getting a rim of the right size, number of spoke holes and quality is almost nil in Khartoum, and getting one sent out from England would be problematic to say the least. I was not a happy chappy. That, combined with the fact that the bag I had given the overland crew had not turned up at the Blue Nile Sailing Club was not giving me a good day. I took out some of my frustrations on War of Empires, where I am playing with the user id Urination in this age (really, don’t ask!). It made me feel a bit better, but wouldn’t help the wheels on the bike go round and round. With a little bit of rage vented, I took my rear wheel to the huge souq in Omderman, which is just a crazily chaotic market place with everything you can imagine. I somehow managed to track down a bicycle repair man, who as luc would have it, is also a keen cyclist and member of what is probably the only bicycle racing team in Sudan. He said that he would phone around his friends, and see if anybody had a rim of the type that I needed. Still, Christmas tomorrow!!
Day 156 Khartoum Monday 25/12/06
Merry Christmas world!! To be honest, i’d never felt so bored. Last night, there was a huge celebration until the wee small hours at the catholic church almost opposite the Blue Nile Sailing Club, but today, there’s nothing happening. I couldn’t use the bike, and by 11.00 I’d already eaten my own body weight in dates. Still, the Club had a TV with English language films.
Day 157 Khartoum Tuesday 26/12/06
A more positive day today! I got my video clips from my camera burnt onto cd, and then I uploaded them to the TV company’s server. (Don’t know if I mentioned it, but a tv production company had been intouch with me wanting some clips. Not sure what will happen, but it was good fun shooting them!). After that, it was on to Omderman again to sort the wheel situation out. I met up with Izeddin again (tel – 0922589970 ), somehow finding him once more in the maze like souq. The rim wasn’t there yet, but I had a couple of things to buy, so I wandered around for a couple of hours, buying myself a new pair of trainers, as my cycling shoes had died when one of the clips got stuck in the pedal in the desert and I had to twist it off. When I went back to Izeddins section on the street, the rim was there and it looked ok. Joy!! I am such a lucky bastard. For the size wheel I have and number of spoke holes, the rims are almost non-existant outside of Europe, and yet somehow, he’d managed to find one. It was used, but in good shape. Marvelous! As izeddin built the wheel up using the hub and spokes from my old one, his friend tried to persuade me to help him sell ox gallstones in England. A bit odd. It was quite interesting sitting on the bicycle street of the souq, watching the guys build bicycles up which had been imported from China. Anyway, the wheel was rebuilt. result! On the bus back to Khartoum, a cross-eyed man with lots of scars tried to sell me a machete and ax through the window.
Day 158 Khartoum Wednesday 27/12/06
I tried to fit the wheel in the morning, but it just wasn’t having it. The pedals also needed changing, as I wanted to give the clip pedals to Izeddin and get normal ones for the bike, so I put the bike in a taxi, and went back over to the souq in Omderman. He had to restrip the wheel and build it up from scratch which took a while, but it’s perfect now. He also replaced the pedals and re-tied the handlebar tape. Sorted! Somewhere along the way, I have also been invited to an Eid meal on Saturday. I’m not too sure what it is, but i think it’s a religious holiday which involves killing and then eating a goat. Good, I’me getting sick of hamburgers now. I was in two minds in what to tell Leo the Swiss guy. It was good that we cycled together from Wadi Halfa to Khartoum, but now I really want to carry on by myself again. Plus, although he’s was fine when cycling, he’s just a little too odd when he isn’t for my liking. Anyway, I told him I was going to stay, and he decided to move on the next day. In the evening, my bag turned up… Marvelous!! I now have my clothes back as well as guide book and of course laptop!!
Day 159 Khartoum Thursday 28/12/06
Well, somehow, I managed to get a wireless access in the grounds of the Blue Nile Sailing Club. There’s a lot of government buildings around, and again, I’m not sure of the punishment for hacking in Sudan, but too late now! I visited the souq in the afternoon to sort out the Eid feast on Saturday and generally farted around on the internet.
Karthoum – Gondar
Day 160 Khartoum Friday 29/12/06
In the morning, Mohammed (obvious choice of name really), one of the Blue Nile Sailing Club members, said he needed some help sailing on the Nile as it was quite windy. I’ve never been sailing before, but as my job was just to pull very hard on ropes and hang over the edge of the boat so it didn’t capsize,it was easy to learn, but physically harder work than I thought. It was good fun sailing along the Nile as we raced another club member, and I worked up quite an appetite. Back on shore, and Eritraen church group was using the club grounds for their meeting, so there were a lot of Halelujah’s going on, but also some free food for me!
Day 161 Khartoum Saturday 30/12/06
Well, the Eid feast didn’t go according to plan. Izeddin was supposed to come to the club at 12.00 to meet me, but by two, he still hadn’t arrived. I was getting hungry, and as it was a publicholiday everywhere nearby was closed, so I had to walk into the centre and eat at some of the dodgy places by the bus stands. I did get to eat goat burgers though!
Day 162 Khartoum – Wad Medini
As I was packing my tent away, ready for an early start, a Sudanese cyclist who I had never seen before turned up at the club. He couldn’t speak much English, but I gathered that some more members of the Khartoum cycling club would be coming shortly. I packed my stuff away, and Izeddin and another guy who must have been nearly seven feet tall arrived. Izeddin explained that yesterday, his kid was ill, so he had taken him to the clinic, and that he’d come by the campsite at about 2.30. Oh well, never mind. With my bike loaded, the guys led me out of Khartoum to put me on the right road to Wad Medini. We stopped for lunch, and I wanted to pay to say thank you for finding the rim for the bike as well as all their help, but they wouldn’t let me pay a single dinar even formy own share. Typical Sudanese hospitality. Such an amazing people and far from the popular misconceptions we hear about Sudan back in England. We parted company, and I set off forWad Medini which was still some hundred and twenty kilometres away, and action packed, as today was accident on the road day. The first one, I’m putting down to donkey suicide. I’m cycling along, and I see this donkey start to amble onto the road about a hundred metres in front. I could tell this wasn’t going to end happily, and so pulled over to the side. A minibus whizzed by me and either didn’t see the large, brown donkey in the middle of the road, or thought it would move. It didn’t. There was a screech of brakes before the inevitable impact, and minibus fragments and donkey bits went flying up into the air. The main body of the poor animal did an impressive double somersault, followed by a backflip, a twist and a half pike before landing at the side of the road with its legs at strange angles in the air. I’ve passed by plenty of roadkill on this trip, many with their legs at strange angles, at least I know how it happens now. Anyway, as I was on a tight schedule and the people in the minibus seemed ok, I skirted around the crash site and tried not to let my tyres get too wet. Accident number two happened an hour later. Again, I could see it was going to happen and pulled over, as two hundred metres ahead, a car travelling in my direction somehow left the road and turned over twice in the sand before landing on its side. I cycled up to the accident and helped some other people push the car back over. The guy inside was obvioulsy injured, but their was nothing I could do and their were plenty of other people around, so I cycled on again. It was dark when I reached the outskirts of Wad Medini, and not wanting to be a part of accident number three, I made my way slowly into the centre. It was New Years Eve, and the hotel owners wanted stupid money for hotel rooms, but I eventually had to get one for 25 US dollars a night. The restaurant opposite looked expensive and it was, but I managed to eat two family sized meals anyway. I was too tired to make New Years Resolutions, and was just thankful to still be alive.
Day 163 Wad Medini – El Fau Monday 01/01/07
Another year. Wow! Not sure if this is the best way to start a new year, but on checking out of the hotel, there was a bit of a muppet working. I left him 20 US dollars, and later discovered I also had the key, so I hope the hotel owner has learned some vital lessons in a fair trade policy for all, and more importantly, getting the money up front. As for the days cycling, the wind was horrible to me all day, which combined with a slight incline did not make me cheerful. There were lots of drink/eat/swear stops and progress seemed slow. I stopped for the night at a truckstop, and the owners showed me where I could sleep outside.
Day 164 El Fau – Gedaref Tuesday 02/01/07
I didn’t get much sleep, as another guy sleeping outside had his radio on alt full volume all night. When asked why, he said it was because he didn’t want his face to get bitten off by hyenas. Wimp. Progress was slow and hard work again against a cutting wind. I made Gedaref for five, and got into a shower which was much needed. Very aching legs.
Day 165 Gedaref – Bush (nr Gallabat) Wednesday 03/01/07
I really wanted to stay another night in Gedaref to give my knee a break, which had been aching since I swapped from clips to normal pedals. After an hours fruitless walking around the town trying to get money changed, it became obvious I wouldn’t be able to due to the seemingly neverending holiday period. I had just enough dinar left to get me to the borde, so I decided to cycle on. Starting at 9.30 isn’t ideal, but never mind. The road was good, and the wind nothing compared to what it had been. The nature of the land has changed too, and now resembles what in my mind African bush should look like. I couldn’t quite get to the border before nighfall, so I camped wild for my last night in Sudan in the bush.
Day 166 Bush (nr Gallabat – Shehedi) Thursday 04/01/07
A pretty good nights sleep, and eating the last of my food, I left towards the border. This final twenty kilometres was on an unsealed gravel road, so I took it slowly as I don’t really want to cause the bike any more injury! At the border, there was the usual exercise in visiting three different buildings to complete various checks and paperwork. building number three was a bonus though.The passport control guys were having breakfast, and invited me to join them. As I munched on bread and goat, I realised how lucky i am to experience such hospitality, and I hope the world doesn’t change the people of Sudan. On the Ethiopian side, things were a little bit different. First, my passport had to be checked by a man in a wobbly lean-to shelter, and then I had to go to a building that looked like a farm house to get my passport stamped. Then it was back to the lean-to for the passport to be checked again, before I had to go to a man sitting at a table by the side of the road. Apparantly he was customs, but he just looked at my bike, grunted, and i was on my way. Welcome to Ethiopia ! My goal was the town of Shehedi some fifty kilometres away, and the road was a pretty terrible gravel track. Now its been hot before, but today was ridiculous and the sweat was pouring from me. Not ideal. It took me four hours to reach the town, and although the bank was shut for lunch, there was a hotel opposite, so i checked in for 20 Birr for the night (about one pound thirty) and went on a fanta frenzy. When the bank opened, i changed some money and had a look around the town, which basically consisted of shanty houses lining the gravel road. Stocked up on supplies.
Day 167 Shehedi – ??? Friday 05/01/07
After a breakfast of chai and a couple of deep fried doughnut things, I bought some bananas and set off. The road was pretty dreadful all day both in quality and the number of climbs. There were actually clouds in the sky, something I haven’t seen in a long time, and they helped to take away some of the fierceness of the sun but did nothing to help with the heat. Most of the stories of read from other cyclists mention the sheer number of kids and stone throwing. Maybe things have changed, perhaps most of the kids were at school, but I had no real problems. The kids chant of ‘you, you, you’ when they see me sounds aggressive, but I waved back and said hello and they were happy enough. If a village served chai, I stopped, and a little crowd would gather around to stare at me as I drank, and we made some sort of conversation before I carried on again. Today, I was passed by six European motorcyclists, none of whom stopped (cheers guys). A german couple in a four wheel drive stopped to see if everything was ok which was good of them. At about two, I arrived in a small town that I could never quite get the name of, and decided to stay the night in what is perhaps the most incredible place I have ever stopped. Now, I’ve travelled a bit, and I like to think that I’ve stayed in some of the cheaper and more unusual places on the planet. Nothing compared to this though. At the price of 10 Birr it was about 62 pence, making it by far the cheapest place, and the room was just spectacular. With corrugated iron roof and window, and wattle and daub walls, the room measured only seven feet by three and evidently used to be a stable, as in the room next door, they kept a cow. The outside toilet had to be seen to be believed, being just a slit in the ground leading to a ‘long drop’ with bits of poo around it which a thousand flies just seemed to adore. The place didn’t have a shower, so i washed some of the dust of with a bowl of water and went in search forsomething to eat. Injerra is the local dish, which is a sort of bread mad from local grass, with the look of carpet underlay but perhaps only half the nutritional value. The meat that comes with it is cooked in a red source which is as hot a lava. After that, I had a little walk around the villlage, and decided to have a shave at the barbers, although when i say barbers, i mean a stick walled hut with a chair and a guy with razor blades. Not only was there no shaving foam and only the tiniest amount of water, but a small crowd gathered to stare, which made the whole experience as pleasurable as having a tooth pulled.
Day 168 ??? – ??? Saturday 06/01/07
An extremely tough day in the saddle, although I actually spent the last two hours pushing the bike. It seemed to be uphill for most of the way, and everything was annoying me. It’s difficult enough to cycle uphill as it is on a gravel road, without flies trying to crawl into your eyes. The dust clouds from passing lorries seemed even more choking than usual, and although the views were amazing, it doesn’t stop me burning in the sun. The last two hours of bike pushing were particularly hard work, but I reached a small village for two, and checked into their stable for the night, declining the woman on offer. There was no water to wash with, which was a real pity as I was filthy, but never mind. The room was on a par with the one from the day before, but as it was bigger, had electricity at night, and also had a table (with four legs of differing lengths) I would say it was of higher quality. The toilet was actually worse though. Had something to eat in the only place in the village and got chatting to some people who asked me how their economic situation could be improved. I knew that they were angling for me to buy books/pens etc, so i told them in my own tactful way that having eight kids per family, and that the male population chewing qat (a mild narcotic) all afternoon was probablynot the way forwards. A small clump of ‘you, you, you’ shouting kids followed me around as I bought some bottled water from one of the shacks, and then I retired to the peace of my stableyard for a snooze.
Day 169 ??? – Gondar Sunday 07/01/07
I got an early start to avoid a lot of ‘you, you, you’, and buying some biscuits, I was on my way. Although there was a nice downhill section at the beginning, there was still far too much uphill for my liking. Becuase its Sunday, and Christmas Day for the people of Ethiopia, there were seemingly thousands of kids today, and they swapped from being curious of the stranger to hassling me for stuff. I would be cycling, or occasionally pushing the bike up a steep gravel track, and hordes of kids would suddenly stream down from the hills and over the fields. ‘You, you, you. Give me money/pen/book/clothes/highland’. It took me a while to work out what they meant by Highland, and then it clicked that they meant my bottled water. Not a chance!! You’ve got a river, use it! If i gave stuff to everybody that asked, i would already be on my way home penniless, without a bike and very thirsty. If I was naked, they would still want my earings. Basically, they want whatever they see, and they want it given to them. A total reversal from the hospitality to strangers shown in Sudan. For a people to have no dignity at all is a sad state of affairs. Don’t get me wrong, by western standards these people are piss poor, but the land is green and fertile, the rivers have water, they have cattle, crops, and goats. Instead of looking at one sweaty, filthy cyclist to give them things, perhaps their own government might buy a few less fighter planes??? Anyway, enough of that! I made it into Gondar and booked into a small pension for three nights, gave my putrid, festering cycling clothes for a local kid to wash (private enterprise… thats how to spread the wealth) and went on an eating frenzy.
Day 170 Gondar 08/01/07
Had breakfast, and on the way to the bank, a kid called me over saying Leo was still in Gondar. Great. I wandered over to seem him. Apparantly one of his tyres had exploded, and so he had to bus the last 80 kms into Gondar, and he’d been here five days, visiting churches and religious stuff like that. Anyway, he left today, but i’ll probably bump into him again in Addis. Spent the rest of the day typing this up and resting my legs.
Gondar – Addis Ababa
Day 172 Gondar – Addis Zemen Wed 10/01/07
The two days off doing nothing and eating tremendous amounts did me good, and I was looking forwards to moving on again, especially as the road should be sealed for most of the way! I made good time and the only obstacles were two fairly big climbs, and of course, hundreds of money wanting kids. Is Ethiopia a land of beggars? It would certainly be nice to see another side as i am cycling through. Arrived in Addis Zemen for one, and booked into a fifteen birr a night room, which was actually quite nice. Today was a fasting day, so the only food available was bread and eggs.
Day 173 Addis Zemen – Bahar Dar Thursday 11/01/07
Quite a good nights sleep, as the place had a mossie net. I thought I had been badly attacked by them a few days before reaching Gondar, but it turns out they were flea bites, so thats ok. Still, it was good to stick two fingers up at the mossies from inside my safety net! Breakfast was a stale roll and a black banana I found at the bottom of one of my bags, and after stocking up with supplies at one of the shops (well, biscuits as they didn’t have anything else), I was off. An easy days cycling, with no major hardships and only a dozen or so minor chase/begging incidents. One of them thought it was funny to throw stones at me, but I turned around and threw some back with more accuracy. I really didn’t think I would be cycling with a pocket full of rocks before I set off from England, but if its part of the culture to throw stuff at each other, then i simply MUST join in! I reached Bahar Dar which is situated next to Lake Tana, and made my way to the Ghion Hotel. As I cycled down the drive, I noticed a familiar orange truck. It seems I caught up with the Dragoman guys again! (The reason being that they detoured to the north and east of Ethiopia and rejoined the road to Addis, whereas I just stuck to the main route.) It was good to see them again, and they said it was ok to join them on a tour the following day, so I decided to camp there at least two nights.
Day 174 Bahar Dar Friday 12/01/07
In the morning, I went out with the Dragoman guys in their truck to the Blue Nile Falls. It took about an hour to walk down from the drop off point, and I got talking to Rich, one of the drivers. Dragoman sounds like quite a good company to work for, so maybe I’ll apply to join as a driver, as I could combine travel with work perfectly then! The falls themselves were pretty spectacular, and the spray could be felt some distance away. The power with which the water tumbles over was quite impressive, and it was a good place to chill out for a while. Back in town, I had lunch, stocked up on supplies and messed around on the net. A strain I’d felt in my stomach the previous day was lessening, so the day off was probably a good idea. I’ve been very lucky so far with health and fitness, (in fact no problems at all), so I’m aware of even the slightest niggle, and it was probably nothing to worry about.
Day 175 Bahar Dar Saturday 13/01/07
I spent last night talking with Clare, the other Dragoman driver, who needed a break from her clients. Bless ! I couldn’t sit there and not drink whilst she was steaming through the vodka, so I had a few beers as well, my first in a long time! However, beer = laziness, and after the second one, I had already decided to stay in Bahar Dar another day. The Dragoman guys moved on in the morning, but one of them had mentioned that he had been able to withdraw some money from a bank using his visa card. Result! I was getting low on dollars, so I got some cash out. Feeling plush, I had a few meals and generally dossed around on the internet, working on my website www.increaseyourtraffic.co.uk among other things. On a different note, when I was writing my diary outside in the dining area, I noticed a lot of monkeys up in the trees, indicating that it was probably monkey shit and not bird shit which landed on a Belgian girl the night before.
Day 176 Bahar Dar – Dangla Sunday 14/01/07
I was up quite late last night, as the manager of the hotel wanted help with some letters he was writing, and also wanted to work out how much material he needed for a new building he was planning. In one of my previous jobs, I used to have to read building plans and work out quantities for builders who couldn’t be bothered to do it for themselves, although why the manager should randomly ask me to help him as I passed by the reception area I don’t know. He offered to give me a night for free, but I really had to move on, and so after the biggest breakfast ever, I went on my way. I felt strong all day, (probably the omelette, eight slices of toast, porridge, juice and tea supplemented by biscuits helped), and it wasn’t too hot. Uneventful.
Day 177 Dangla – Burie Monday 15/01/07
It was probably just as well that I called it a day at Dangla, as some of the hills early on in the day were pretty brutal. They seem to save the steepest sections for going through hick towns, so that every kid can easily run alongside and behind my bike. ‘You you you. Money money money.’ etc etc. Yawn. They should really come up with something more original, although one teenager made me laugh when he asked if i could give him a ride into town because he was tired. Right-o ! The town of Burie is actually some two kilometres from the main road, but there were a couple of hotels on the main road. I didn’t really want to go into the town itself, because last year, another English cyclist was involved in an accident and was then stoned by a crowd before being arrested. At 8 Birr a night, the hotel was the cheapest so far, and rampaging mobs of stone throwing Ethiopians were not to be seen.
Day 178 Burie – Debre Markos Tuesday 16/01/07
The first two hours of the day were relatively easy, but then I reached a monster of a hill, which was a bit of a shirt drencher. After that, the day just got harder and harder, with climb after climb, and the exercise at altitude was making me a little dizzy at times. About thirty miles from Debre Markos, I checked the bike, and discovered that one of the spokes had broken on the rear wheel. Buggeration. The wheel had a bad wobble, but I decided to carry on to Debre Markos anyway. I booked into a posh hotel (by my standards!) for two nights with the intention of getting the wheel sorted out the following day, resting my legs, and having a beer.
Day 179 Debre Markos Wednesday 17/01/07
The beer (I recommend Meta) was quite tasty last night, but didn’t give me the lay in I had hoped for, so I was up at six as usual. Oh well. Had a giant breakfast, and at nine one of the guys in the hotel took me to somebody that repairs bicycles. The mechanic had never seen a bike like mine before, and couldn’t even let the air out of the tyres, which wasn’t the best of starts. Because the broken spoke was on the rear wheel, and neither of us had the tools to remove my cog set, it was difficult to put my spare spoke in. Eventually, we had to bend it around the cogs and then straighten it out with a pair of pliers. Not ideal, but no other choice. The next section of road to Addis includes an extremely tough part with a gravel road, so it was fingers crossed it would get me to Addis without any problems! Spent the rest of the day eating and using the internet at a frustratingly slow 56 kbps… where’s broadband when you need it?!?!
Day 180 Debre Markos – Dejen Thursday 18/01/07
Thirty five today !! Dear oh dear. Still, on with the cycling. There were yet more tough climbs, and I stopped frequently to check the rear wheel which I am even less confident about now. About three hours into the day, the rear went flat. Now, Ethiopia is not the place to get a flat tyre. It’s difficult enough getting two minutes to myself to take a piss at the side of the road without the countryside emptying and people surrounding me, let alone doing repairs to the bike. My luck was in though. I was at the top of a particularly tough peak, and over to my left was a pine forest which was not only devoid of people, but also provided shade. I would say that changing my inner tube 10 metres into the forest was the quietest time I have experienced in Ethiopia. No people – Bliss!! I carried on a bit happier and got to Dejen for two. The hotel didn’t have any water to wash with, but it did have a restaurant which served pasta, so I had two meals before having a siesta. When I woke up, I decided to check the bike over and noticed a loose spoke. Absolute buggeration. I have no doubt in my own ability to cycle to Cape Town, but these problems with the bike really get on my nerves. I knew that I should swap the front and rear tyres around anyway, so i decided to put in some work. On my birthday too! Somehow, I didn’t think I would be doing bicycle maintenance in a three pounds a night hotel room in some peasant town in Ethiopia on my thirty fifth birthday. Anyhow, after the usual wrestling match with the tyres, I got them off, tightened the spoke and put the tyres on opposite wheels. I really hope this rear wheel problem doesn’t persist, as I’ve still got about 8000 kms or so to go. I am also hoping that Nairobi has a quality bike shop where it can have a major service. I knew the next day was going to be a tough one, so I went back for a third helping of pasta.
Day 181 Dejen – Goha Tsion Friday 19/01/07
Today was a tough day. Possibly the toughest both physically and mentally of the whole trip so far. To set the scene, the distance I covered was only 42kms, but it involved descending 1400 metres and then immediately reascending 1200 metres as I crossed the Blue Nile Gorge. If this wasn’t bad enough, the road wasn’t really a road, but a rough gravel track, strewn with rocks, boulders and abandoned crashed cars. This was not a fun day. The descent, which took two hours, was more difficult than I thought it was going to be, and my hands ached all day from where I had been gripping onto the brakes. And the kids were back. In force. It was a public holiday, so school was closed, and feranji (foreigner) chasing was apparently the only thing for them to do all day. I’m holding on to the brakes and handlebars, trying desperately to stay on the damn bike and pick a good route through the rubble as I descend slowly at a steep angle, all the time hounded by kids. ‘Money, money. You, you. Give pen/clothes/highland’. It started getting to me today, as I realised that they don’t see me as a human being, struggling along on a bicycle. All they say is a ‘feranji’, who by definition is a walking cash machine, giver of pens and clothes, and somebody that doesn’t need the water they are carrying. Now, I’ve been trying hard to avoid falling into the trap of de-humanising them, but today I just couldn’t help it. They reacted the way a pack of dogs would as I passed by, and it wasn’t just one group but every single kid, without exception. So, this carried on for the first hour of me going down hill, with the usual ten or so kids running behind or alongside me yelling the normal stuff, only to drop back and be instantly replaced by another pack of kids. Then, as I passed one village, a massive collective roar of ‘you, you, you’ went up, and the village seemed to empty. Looking behind me I now had over one hundred kids running after me, all yelling for money, water, pens and clothes. Retrospectively, if somebody had a video camera, I’m sure it would have looked quite amusing, but at the time, I was probably at the lowest point of my trip. I mean, whats the fucking point? Where’s the enjoyment? It would be far easier just to flag down a bus, and I could be in Addis Ababa in a few hours. I wouldn’t have to worry about the bike, the road, hassle, looking over my shoulder all the time or any of the other things I have to be constantly aware of. More importantly, I could be away from these animals. But, then I thought about some people who said that cycling to South Africa was impossible, that I couldn’t do it and was mad to try. I have two lines from an L7 song I sing over and over again in my mind at times likes this.
For all the ones who put me down …. Shit list
For all the ones who fill my head with doubt ….. Shit list
Putting the enitre population of Ethiopia sixteen and under firmly at the top of my shit list kept me going, and fortunately, after five minutes of this massive crowd running after me, a guy stepped out into the middle of the road waving a stick and the kids stopped. Thanks mate!
When I reached the bottom of the gorge, I crossed a bridge over the River Nile, and then had the 21km ascent to look forwards too. The dust clouds from passing lorries were choking, the sun was a scorcher, and the sweat poured from me. It was impossible to cycle some of the sections, and I had to push the bike more than I wanted too. All in all it was just very, very hard work. Although I didn’t see any accidents, there were plenty of crashed lorries being towed away, and I saw one mashed in bus halfway down a cliff face. Looked like it could have been painful. Each bend was replaced by another, all going constantly up at the steepest angles imaginable, and then, after six hours of pain, tarmac!!! Joy!! My spirits instantly lifted as I cycled into the town of Goha Tsion. I’d done possibly the hardest thing in my life, hadn’t given up, and come through the other side. Anything and everything was now possible, and nothing left as I cycle to Cape Town can be as hard as this. ‘You’re wonderful’ a passing Ethiopian said as I cycled to a hotel. ‘You know what mate? I think you’re right’ I answered with a smile.
Day 182 Goha Tsion – Fiche Saturday 20/01/07
Hills, kids, blah blah blah. Finished the day at Fiche which left me 100 kms to cover to Addis Ababa.
Day 183 Fiche – Addis Ababa Sunday 21/01/07
I didn’t have a tremendously good nights sleep, but in the morning I felt strong, and all the accumulated negativity of the last few days had evapourated. Destination – Addis Ababa, where I could take a few days off and relax. The road was ok, although the final mountain climb getting into Addis was a bit of a killer. I somehow found my way into the centre, and located the Baro hotel. A room wasn’t available until eight, so I had something to eat and a wander around. When I got back, I noticed the Dutch/Belgian couple who have been driving overland, and I had first met them in Cairo and last saw them in Bahar Dar. So, I’m not going too slowly! We went out for a meal at night with another couple of travellers, one who was a freelance photographer and the other who was a film translator.
Day 184 Addis Ababa Monday 22/01/07
After breakfast, I managed to phone my parents and brother over the internet using Skype, which is by far the cheapest way for travellers to call home. It works out to be 0.017 euro cents a minute. Marvelous. Then, I looked for a new hotel as the Baro couldn’t give me a room for another night, and was very over rated as well. I’ve gone for the Taitu Hotel, and have taken one of the rooms in the main hotel building. Its expensive by my standards, but the room is huge, with a high ceiling and a great balcony. Well worth the extra money I think. After moving my stuff, I caught a taxi to the Sheraton, which has one of only two working ATM machines in Ethiopia, and took out some money. Then I caught a taxi to the Kenyan embassy to apply for a visa. 538 Birr lighter, I left to go back to the hotel, and spent an hour trying to true my bicycle wheel. I think I’ve done a reasonable job, but only a day on the road will tell. Found a shop near the hotel which sells a twix like chocolate bar made in Iran. I’ve now eaten eight of them, and still want more. Mmmmm … chocolate. Thats it for now folks, and the next update should come from Nairobi in a couple of weeks time.
Addis Ababa – Nairobi
Day 185 Addis Ababa 23/01/07
Took a while to get the updates online as Ethiopia doesn’t have the best internet access in the world. Went to the Kenyan embassy in the afternoon to collect my passport and visa, but they weren’t ready which was a pain. At night, there was some very strange chanting going on in the room next door to mine, made all the more concerning by the fact that the Italian lady in there looks like a witch.
Day 186 Addis Ababa 24/01/07
Slept, ate, internet, hired some movies. Went to the Kenyan embassy in the afternoon and the passport still wasn’t ready so have to go back tomorrow. In the evening it absolutely pissed down.
Day 187 Addis Ababa 25/01/07
Slept, ate, internet, hired some movies. Went to Kenyan embassy in the afternoon and the passport still wasn’t ready so have to go back tomorrow. I’m starting to hate Kenya, and I haven’t even been there yet.
Day 188 Addis Ababa Friday 26/01/07
Slept, woke, felt odd and sat on the toilet for an hour. It would seem that it is unwise to eat more than twelve chocolate bars in one evening session. In the afternoon my passport was actually ready!! Celebrated by having a chocolate bar, but just the one.
Day 189 Addis Ababa Saturday 27/01/07
Slept, woke, internet, hired some movies. I kept bumping into Adam, an Argentian guy who I’ve got to know over the last week, who was doing similar things to me… ie, wasting time before moving on. Checked the bike over, and made a list of things which i need to get repaired or replaced in Nairobi.
Day 190 Addis Ababa – Ziway Sunday 28/01/07
I think i made the right decision in leaving Addis on Sunday, as the usually chaotic traffic was minimal. It took me eight hours to cover the 160 kms to Ziway, which wasn’t a bad effort considering that it included the half hour of questioning by military police for allegedly photographing a secret army base.
Day 191 Ziway – Arsi Negele Monday 29/01/07
After the first hour, my legs just didn’t seem to want to turn the pedals. I kept checking the bike over to see if there was anything wrong, as I’m still not sure about the rear wheel, but I didn’t notice anything. 50kms was todays total, and then I called it a day. If anyone says that the Rift Valley is flat, give them a slap from me!
Day 192 Arsi Negele – Awassa Tuesday 30/01/07
A really easy two hour ride into Awassa, and along the way, the Dutch/Belgian couple that I first met in Cairo came driving from the other direction and pulled over and stopped. We had a chat for a bit, and then they recommended a campsite to stay in Awassa. Good recommendation guys, the place was ace!! It’s run by a German lady called Jana, who cooks the most amazing food in a rare oasis of calm in Ethiopia.
Day 193 Awassa Wednesday 31/01/07
They had some books at the campsite, and as I hadn’t read anything in English for a while, I decided to take a day off and spent it reading.
Day 194 Awassa Thursday 01/02/07
Well, I decided to take another day off as I hadn’t quite read all the books, and the food that Jana cooks up is magnificent! Used the internet for a while. Yet another age of War of Empires is drawing to an end, and a guy from our clan is set to win it (with a lot of support I might add!). In the evening, I talked for a while with a couple who had just arrived overland from Kenya, and another couple who were looking in on a charity project they are fund raisers for. My opinion of the effect that charity has had on Ethiopia, is that for the country as a whole, it is not a good thing. Because there will always be some charity to help out, the government does not bother to invest in the countries infrastructure and development. This means that a uniform approach to handling things such as education, orphans, HIV, drought and a host of others is non-existent. It also perpetuates and reinforces the image of white people as givers of services and gifts with no thanks needed in the minds of the Ethiopian people. Twenty years of charity and foreign aid have not helped Ethiopia – it is still the second poorest country in Africa. That said, the couple were sincere, and they are making a valid difference to a lot of peoples lives.[/lang_all][lang_all]
Day 195 Awassa – Dilla Friday 02/02/07
Quite a pleasant days cycling. There were a few uppy bits, but the downy bits more than made up for it.
Day 196 Dilla – ??? Saturday 03/02/07
Not a pleasant days cycling. Far too many uppy bits, and nowhere near enough downy bits. There was also absolutely unbelievable amounts of ‘You you you’ going on. At two ish, I arrived in some nameless town and booked into a cheap hotel for the night.
Day 197 ??? – Yabello Sunday 04/02/07
It was raining when I set off in the morning, and the last time that I cycled in the rain was almost four months ago in Turkey. Cycling in the rain made quite a refreshing change, with the added bonus that all but the most determined ‘You you you’ shouters stayed indoors. Of course, it also reminded me that my waterproof clothes are not exactly waterproof, but it made a change from being sunburnt. Bad news an hour and a half into the journey when I passed a town that I should have passed yesterday, which meant more distance to do today. The landscape has also changed. The countryside since leaving Awassa was lush and green, filled with banana trees so dense that you couldn’t see the ground. (Ok, strictly speaking a banana is a herb, but I’ll let it go). Now, the trees, which are covered in thorns, are more sparse, and the ground between them is red. The going was tough, with hill after hill. There was a lot of cursing going on, and I’m convinced my rear wheel isn’t going around properly. About 20 kms from Yabello, a couple of German motorcyclists pulled over (its always Germans on motorcycles!). They said ‘hi’ from Jana, and then carried on. I was flagging badly over the last 15kms, and Yabello lay 5kms off the main road, up a hill. The town was rubbish, and all the hotels were full which pleased me no end, as the Ethiopians are very helpful in circumstances like that (ie – they are not at all). On the way back down to the main road, the angle of the hill seemed to have changed so that i was cycling up again, or at least that was how it felt. There was a motel at the bottom which let me camp, which was a result, as I was utterly exhausted. In fact, I almost fell asleep at the table waiting for my meal to turn up. Once it was safely in my belly, I went over to the tent, lay down, and closed my eyes. Bliss!! Well, nearly. Five minutes later, some thumping music started up at Africa volume (thats the next notch past ten). If that wasn’t bad enough, a group of pissed up blokes then sang a collection of classic Ethiopian karaoke hits until 11.30, the speakers distorting all the time. Nice.
Day 198 Yebello – Mega Monday 03/02/07
Had a massive breakfast, and got underway for just past nine. To start off, the going was good, but the sheer number of hills got me in the end. The good thing is that there were hardly any kids, although there were large numbers of people wandering around the bush with spears and guns. At 3.30 i reached the town of Mega, although it goes without saying that its not all that mega.
Day 199 Mega – Moyalle Tuesday 06/02/07
The final, lingering, painful days cycling in Ethiopia. 125kms over shit quality roads, up and down hills with the wind blowing in my face all the while. It really did feel as though the country was throwing everything it could at me in a final, last ditch attempt to break me. Fortunately, the settlements along the road were quite spread out, so hassle was minimal. I passed quite a bit of wildlife – two tortoises crossing the road, camels, monkeys and some midget deer before arriving in Moyalle at three. I’m staying at a hotel only metres from the border, and I’m happy that this will be my last night in Ethiopia. At times, its really felt as though some malevolent force has been keeping me in Ethiopia, and I will be glad to leave. I hate Ethiopia. I hate the country, I hate the mountains, I hate the hills, I hate the roads, I hate the flies, I hate the wind, and mostly, I hate the people. If I never return again, it will be a million years too soon. On a different note, I checked the internet briefly, and Excalibur, the guy from our clan, won the age in War of Empires. Go us!!
Day 200 Moyalle – Marsabit Wednesday 07/02/07
I crossed the border reasonably early, and passed through Kenyan passport control with ease. On the Kenyan side of Moyalle, I found a bank, but had to wait for it to open, which gave me a chance to sort out a truck ride. I had been advised that I would have to catch a truck for the section between Moyalle and Isiolo due to security concerns in the area. Although the situation has improved over the last year, there had been a shooting during the night which left one person dead and a couple injured, so it was probably the wiser choice. It seemed a shame to break up my cycle journey after travelling for so long, but i would never have experienced what I did over the next few days had I been cycling. Anyway, I loaded my bike onto the back of a cattle truck (thankfully sans cattle) and tied it to the side. whilst all the locals made their way on to the caged roof of the truck, I made a little home amongst some old tyres and sacks by the headboard. There was no way that I was going to spend 20 hours sitting on the roof of the truck! About half ten we got underway on the second most crazy truck ride of my life. (The most crazy one happens later!) At insane speeds, the truck steamed down the rough gravel roads, throwing up a constant, huge cloud of dust. each bump seemed to jar every bone in my body and loosen my teeth, and in no time at all, I was covered from head to toe in dust. At about one, we pulled over into a village and whilst the driver and his cronies fixed a flat tyre, I had a couple of drinks and chatted with the other passengers. It made such a change to be able to actually talk, far from the hassle of Ethiopia! An hour and a half later, we were away once more for another crazily bumpy ride. Originally, the truck was going to carry on all the way through to Isiolo, but because we arrived late in Marsabit, the police insisted that we could not travel on during the evening as they didn’t let anybody leave the town past seven. Delphine, a girl I had been chatting too on the bus, had some brothers who lived in the town, so she gave them a call, and they came over to meet us. Sometimes you’ve got to be sensible, and sometimes you’ve just got to go with whats happening, and this was one of those times. They invited me to stay the night at their house, and so I left my bike and non essential bags on the truck, and we arranged a place for the truck to pick me and Delphine up in the morning. Now, when the guys said that they lived in the town, it wasn’t entirely accurate., as they actually lived behind a mountain on the other side, over an hours walk away through the African bush. It was about eight o’clock, and I’m wandering in the pitch black over mountain trails and through the bush with a bunch of people that I don’t really know – kids, don’t try this at home! But hey, i’m Dave, so it’ll be alright! An hour later, we reached their shack, and I was invited in. It was a simple building with mud walls and tin roof, with two rooms that housed eight people. There was no electricity, and light came from a couple of gas lamps. I was introduced to the whole family, and everybody was really nice and friendly as we chatted whilst Mum cooked up some rice and potatoes. At about eleven, after I had eaten, I was led by Mike to another shack of similar construction another 15 minutes away through the bush, where I was to spend the night. When we arrived, they turfed one guy (whose name was also dave) out of bed, and thats where I slept the night. Unbelievable friendship and hospitality. I’ve only been in Kenya one day, and I love it!
Day 201 Marsabit – Isolo Thursday 08/02/07
I woke up with the alarm at five, and after a breakfast of chai and chapatis (just like being in India this!) we set off for a trek across the mountain to the rendezvous place with the bus. Of course, being Africa, the meeting time of six a.m. turned out to be 8.30, but somewhat miraculously, my bike and bags were still onboard, so thats ok! Unfortunately, however, a few more people had joined the truck, which meant that I had lost my comfy nest against the headboard, and was positioned somewhat catastrophically above the rear wheels. Today then, was THE most crazy truck journey of my life! With total disregard for the passengers he was carrying (especially poor me!), the driver went twice as fast as yesterday, and four times as dangerously. It was impossible to position myself in a place where I didn’t get thrown around like a rag doll, and either sitting or laying was immensely uncomfortable. Eventually, I found it easier to stand and hold onto the side, springing up over the worst sections, and clutching on for dear life. At 1.30, at the junction towards a town called Wamba (which was coincidental, because I have been reading Ivanhoe, and Wamba is one of the characters in the book), the driver pulled over, and informed us that he was picking up a load of goats. Excellent. This would mean an hours journey into Wamba, and hour to select and load the goats, and then another hour back to the same junction if he went very fast. Plus, we would have to share the back of the truck with a load of goats. Cheers mate, but I should have known the guy was unreliable, as his truck had Arsenal and Highbury painted all over it. The passengers and myself decided to leave the truck to stay at the junction in the hope that we could flag down another vehicle to take us to Isiolo, and failing that, we could always leap back onboard when he returned. It gave me a chance to get to know the other passengers and experience their frustrations of daily life on the transport in Northern Kenya i suppose!
There were a bunch of army guys who were pretty sound people, and they liked my bike, so i let them have a go on it. During the next four and a half hours only three vehicles came past, and none of those would take us. At six, we finally managed to get on a truck and we were on our way (during this time our original transport had failed to reappear). It was dusk as we travelled, and although i was tired and filthy, I was also happy, because i managed to see some wildlife wandering near the road such as zebras, giraffes, antelopes and monkeys. Excellent stuff, although the ride was far too bumpy for me to take any pictures. We arrived in Isiolo, and myself, Delphine and a couple of the army guys went in search of a hotel. At 250 shillings a night for a single room it was pretty good value, and after a shave and a well needed shower, we all headed out for something to eat, and then I returned to the hotel where I slept like a log. Oh, i forgot to mention that in Kenya they drive on the left, which is a mark of truly civilised people the world over.
Day 202 Isiolo Friday 09/02/07
We all met up again for breakfast, which was a monumental event for me, because there were sausages… Kenya is great! Afterwards, Delphine showed me around the town, and we visited a few hotels just to see what they were like. Used the internet for a bit, and then we walked over to Delphines sisters house, which is on the hospital grounds because she is a nurse. I watched a bit of TV whilst they cooked chips (marvelous). In the evening, I had sausage, egg and chips followed by a Guiness – this is more like it!!
Day 203 Isiolo Saturday 10/02/07
A nice relaxing day off to give the bumps, cuts, bruises and flea bites a chance to heal. After breakfast, I used the net for a bit and read a newspaper. Went to Delphines sisters house in the afternoon for a meal and watched TV. They put some Kenyan music videos on, one of which featured two dancing midgets, which was quite worrying.
Day 204 Isiolo – Nanyiku 11/02/07
I left at eight, and the first four hours were uphill which was quite tough as it was outrageously hot, but with the hassle and abuse of Ethiopia long behind me, I didn’t really care too much! Everybody is friendly, and i can actually take a break at the side of the road without being mobbed by people. The last two hours of the days cycling were downhill, which was a joy. I’m camping in the grounds of a hotel which is expensive, but I figured that I can abuse the buffet (or in my mind eat as much as you can) breakfast.
Day 205 Nanyiku – Sagana 12/02/07
I totally demolished their breakfast… they were very happy, not. A good days cycling with my full stomach, and I made good time. Not a lot to report.
Day 206 Sagana – Nairobi 13/02/07
Had another good breakfast, and then set off for Nairobi. Although I had a flat along the way, I made Nairobi at two, and once again somehow managed to navigate myself to where i needed to be without the aid of a decent map. I’m staying at a place called Jungle Junction, which is where every overlander who has their own vehicle seems to end up at when in Kenya. Highly recommended!! The place is one of those wonderful oasis you stumble across whilst travelling occasionally where it is comfortable and relaxing, and also a great source of practical information. Chris, the German guy who runs it, is a bit of a legend, and is also a motorbike and bicycle mechanic which is a bonus for me! It’s a really good campsite, where people travelling can meet up and swap practical information on road conditions and such like. Needless to say, I am the only nutcase on a bicycle. In the evening, I went out for a meal with three people staying here, which was very nice.
Nairobi – Dar Es Salaam
Day 213 Nairobi Tuesday 20/2/07
A brief summary of my week off in Nairobi then. Jungle Junction was a great place to stay, which because it doesn’t feature in mainstream guidebooks, operates by word of mouth via anybody travelling Africa with their own transport. This means that there are no backpackers, and the conversation is actually interesting! Guus and Catarina, the dutch/Belgian couple arrived during the week, and its strange to think that i have been bumping into them in different countries since Cairo. There was also Dave the American motorcyclist, Sasha and his girlfriend also on motorbikes, and another German couple whose names I never caught again on motorbikes. We were the core of the people staying at Jungle Junction, although others came and went. We were also all going off again in different directions, so its the last time I will see any of them. Jungle Junction itself had plenty of books, so I had a week of reading! It also had plenty of maps … wow MAPS!!! I managed to plan out the rest of my journey up until South Africa, and I am now including Malawi, as a couple of people had said that it was beautiful by the lake. I used the internet a bit during my week off (goes without saying really!!), and a new age has started in War of Empires. I’m playing as Darth Thug, as we have revived SITH again for the round after our success last time, and I managed to build us a clan a day before anyone else did… I’ll stop being geeky now, and shut up about it. As for my websites, I’ve been trying to find ways of increasing visitors to them with varying degrees of success. Here’s a list of my websites, why not check them out??
So back to the travelling and the bicycle…
The bicycle is in pretty good order, but I couldn’t find new inner tubes or tyres anywhere in Nairobi. (My inner tubes are the long, narrow valve ones for racing bikes. Tyres are 32 x 700). Chris at Jungle Junction sorted the rear wheel out, and it makes a big difference now that it goes around properly!! He also put a new chain on for me, which although skips a little, is ok. Phoned home a couple of times to talk to my brother.
Day 214 Nairobi – Namanga Wed 21/02/07
Back on the bike again! Quite a long day of 180kms to the border town with Tanzania, but these things have to be done. Reasonably uneventful. I met Guus and Catarina on the 100km mark, who were coming back from a national park. That is positively the last time I will see them now, as they go on to Uganda for placement as doctors for three months. 40 kms from Namanga, the rear tyre went flat. As i was changing it, two guys cycled out of the bush and gave me a hand. The might have been good farmers/hunters/massai warriors, but they sucked as bicycle mechanics. The last few kilometres into Namanga were tough work, but i eventually pulled into the River Hotel, where I set my tent up. As I had a shower, a mosquito bit me on the left bollock. Ace.
Day 215 Namanga – Arusha Thur 22/02/07
The border crossing into Tanzania went smoothly, and I headed for the town of Arusha. The ride was ok until I reached a section which was a 40 km climb to the village of Simbu. A bit nasty that one, and the rear tyre went flat again, which only added to my joy. My inner tubes now have a ridiculous number of patches on them! From Simbu, it was basically downhill all the way into Arusha, which would have been fine, had the rear tyre not gone flat again. These constant tyre problems are really starting to get to me… the inner tubes are next to useless now, and my front tyre is splitting and bulging at the sidewalls and won’t last long. Anyhow, I passed a stand where some guys were repairing bikes, and got them to repair the tube, which was possibly an error on my part, as they over inflated it, causing an explosion. Great, another hole! Eventually, i got underway again, but as I reached the outskirts of Arusha, guess what, it went flat again. Triple arse !!! I was supposed to be heading for Massai camp, but I was tired and sweaty, and dived in at a place called the Outpost which was outrageously expensive but I was too knackered to carry on.
Day 216 Arusha Friday 23/02/07
The all inclusive breakfast was a bit of a disappointment. I had been mightily impressed with the sausages of Kenya, and was expecting more of the same in Tanzania, but it wasn’t to be. Instead of a banger, it was more like an anorexic hotdog sausage.. not breakfast material at all. The rear tyre was flat again in the morning. Feel the joy people. Feel the joy!! I swapped it around, and then cycled down to Massai camp, which at five dollars a night for camping was more like it. With the tent set up, I got down to some work on the bike by swapping inner tubes around and patching up holes. The bicycle pump was suffering a bit from over use and also needed a bit of TLC. Used the internet, had something to eat, and went in search of inner tubes. No result there though. They just don’t keep the size tubes that I need in Africa. The problem with my tubes is not one from punctures, but more from the high pressure I have to run the tyres at to carry all my bags. This means that new holes appear in the seams, and that repairs are only likely to last a couple of days before the air inside the tube finds yet another way of escaping. Basically, I need new ones, and it looks like if I can’t find any in Dar Es Salaam, (the next big city on my route), then I will have to get some sent from England along with a couple of new tyres. Anyway, I have to get a move on, so I leave for Moshi tomorrow, and hopefully will get a couple of hassle free days under my belt.
Day 217 Arusha – Moshi Sat 24/02/07
Had breakfast and then got underway.There were only 80kms to do today, and the first 40 of those were downhill. Although the town of Moshi is the closest one to Kilimanjaro, it felt as though the town of Arusha was higher. Two flats along the way, front and back, but I’m more confident with the repairs this time. In Moshi, I stayed in a hostel for 4 USD a night which included breakfast. I had a good look around for replacement tubes, but again, none to be found.
Day 218 Moshi Sunday 25/02/07
I sent an email back home asking the folks to look into how much sending me two new tyres and six inner tubes is going to be. Checked my tubes over and had one repaired. The tyres were still inflated on the bike, so hopefully I can get to Dar Es Salaam without any more delays.
Day 219 Moshi – Same Monday 26/02/07
At last, a good days cycling without any problems. Party time! The road I’m following towards Dar Es Salaam is good quality, and although it follows the South Pare Mountain range, the climbs haven’t given me any problems. I left Kilimanjaro behind me, and had my first clear view of it. Seems strange to have a snow capped mountain in Africa, especially with how hot it is! The going was good, the tyres stayed inflated, and I feel that I’ve regained my drive to get this cycling trip to South Africa finished. I arrived in Same at 1.30 with just over 100 kms clocked up and found a campground. Ate, stocked up on supplies, and slept early as tomorrow will be a longer day.
Day 220 Same – Green Hill
Another good day with 150 kms in the bag. It must have been warm, as parts of the road were melting, and my water was getting just a little tepid. I’m staying at a campsite 15 kms short of the town of Korogue, and am the only person here for the night. I’ll eat well and do another long distance day tomorrow.
Day 221 Green Hill – Mtaka
I was up early, and packed my stuff away before heading to the main building for breakfast. Despite me asking the night before if breakfast would be a problem, and being assured that it wouldn’t be, it obviously was. From the vast range of items being offered for breakfast, only eggs and coffee were available. Now worries, I’ll have scrambled eggs and coffee please love. At least it will be quick and I can get going. Wrong. I might have gotten speedier results if I had asked her to send a rocket to the moon, as it wasn’t until a full hour later that an anaemic looking omlette with a pot of coffee turned up. One hour! I’d rummaged around in the bottom of one of my bags and found a loaf of bread, so I had that with it as well. The loaf was a bit old, and I was going to eat around the mouldy bits, but I looked again at the omlette, and decided that some home grown penicillin might be a good move. I wolfed it all down in two minutes, and hit the road at 8.15, an hour later than I wanted too. Initially the cycling wasn’t too bad, but after three hours the constant rolling hills combined with an outrageous humidity level started to take their toll. I’ve been on the road seven months now, and yes its been hot before, but nothing like this. The locals were sweating just sitting in the shade underneath trees (as they always do), and titty bollocks here is pedalling up hills. A bit of a shirt and short drencher! I reached the town of Mkata and chose a suitably scummy guesthouse where I would fit right in.
Day 222 Mkata – Lugoba
A reasonably early start, and the massive storm last night seemed to have cleared some of the humidity. By eleven, both the heat and the humidity were back though, which also coincided with my tyre problems making an unwelcoming return. Wonderful stuff. VERY frustrating, especially when I’m leaking like a sieve. Due to the constant stopping to repump, and two stops to repatch, I didn’t make my target destination, which means tomorrow i have 140 kms to do to reach Dar Es Salaam.
Day 223 Lugoba – Dar Es Salaam Friday 02/03/07
7.00 am, and i left the hotel, and began cycling. I reached the junction at Chalinze for 8.00, and this time, it was my front tyre’s turn to go flat. Because I have to retrace this road from Dar Es Salaam back to here when I carry on, I was sorely tempted to say sod it and leap on a bus. It would have been a bit lame though, so instead I got somebody to fix the puncture whilst I had something to eat. I started off again at nine, and it was another long day in sweltering temperatures. About 40 kms short of Dar, I was starting to reach the end of my endurance when it began to rain. It made a pleasant change to be soaking because of water instead of sweat, and it revived me enough to carry on. I’ve checked in at the Pop Inn, which at 2 pounds a night is cheap if it isn’t clean.
Day 224 Dar Es Salaam Sat 03/03/07
The first of what look like many days off in Dar. I looked everywhere for inner tubes any tyres, but they are simply not available here. This means that I will have to get them delivered from England, which means I’ve probably got a week off here. I’m kicking myself a little for not sorting it out in Nairobi, but I can’t turn back the clock, and you have to carry on carrying on, you know.
Dar Es Salaam
This is probably not the most exciting travelogue update that I’ve ever made, but then again, it hasn’t been the most exciting week either! Basically, I’ve been waiting in Dar Es Salaam for a package to turn up from England with my new tyres and inner tubes. I suppose I could have gone over to Zanzibar for the week, but I’ve walked on a thousand beaches before and will probably walk on another thousand in the future. I’ve never spent a week being mind numbingly bored before though, so this is an important first for me. Life is about experience, the ups, the downs, and the in-betweens, so I thought I’d give being bored a go !!
Day 225 Dar Es Salaam Sun 04/03/07
The next few days are likely to be a repeat, so here it is in brief… slept, ate, bought newspaper, read newspaper, used internet, ate, slept, used internet, ate, slept.
Day 226 Dar Es Salaam Monday 05/03/07
I spent most of the day in the internet cafe, (you know, that one called the Hotspot in the JM Mall building on Samora Avenue), as I could use Skype to phone England and place the order for my tyres and inner tubes. Skype has been a real godsend on this trip. I can phone almost any landline in the world for less than a penny a minute, which saves heaps when you consider that some international calls can cost 2 USD a minute. Anyway, the upshot of it all, is that I have ordered two new tyres and six inner tubes from a company called sjscycles.com for a total inc of P+P cost of 148.00 pounds. Ouch. Still, not a lot I can do about it, and i WILL finish this trip to Cape Town no matter what. In War of Empires, I currently hold the Plunderer title.
Day 227 Dar Es Salaam Tuesday 06/03/07
Slept, ate, used internet. Had an email from SJS giving me a tracking number for my parcel.
My parcel is currently in – International Hub.
So thats clear.
Visited the museum, ate, used the internet. In the evening, I got a knock on the door, and two Aussies said ‘Hi’. They’d been reading my travelogue, and knew where I was staying. I’m so famous now that I get stalked !!! Seriously, they were sound people, and also cycling through Africa, having started in Addis Ababa and will finish in Cape Town. Their site is www.biking4bikes.com.au, why not check it out?? Like me, they were also waiting for a package, although they had to go up to Arusha the next day to collect theirs. They also shared my opinion of Ethiopians, so at least I know it’s not just me now! Perhaps our paths will cross again in the next two months… who knows??
War of Empires – Still hold the Plunderer title.
Day 228 Dar Es Salaam Wednesday 07/03/07
So, here’s my daily routine.
1. Buy breakfast from supermarket.
2. Eat breakfast whilst using internet for two hours.
3. Buy newspaper.
4. Go to Florida Pub. Read newspaper, drink Guinness, and eat pepper steak.
5. It’s all a bit tiring… Go back to hotel and have a siesta.
6. Back to the internet cafe for two hours.
7. Buy something to eat from supermarket, and a DVD from shop next door.
8. Go back to hotel, eat, watch films. It’s time for bed now !!!
Parcel Status – International Hub
War of Empires – Plunderer at 15,878,636 gold
As you see, life is pretty full.
Day 229 Dar Es Salaam Thursday 08/03/07
Parcel Status – Left country of origin.
War of Empires – Plunderer at 16,921,762 gold.
Day 230 Dar Es Salaam Friday 09/03/07
Bought Van Damne 7 in 1 DVD. I would prefer to have bought a Steven Seagal (the Master) DVD compilation but it was sadly unavailable. Van Damne films can be entertaining through their shear nonsense, and strange fixation of having a twin brother, but lack the underlying genius of a Steven Seagal film. If anyone is in doubt, check out On Deadly Ground, probably the Masters greatest work to date.
Parcel Status – Left country of origin.
War of Empires – Plunderer at 17,989,378 gold.
Day 231 Dar Es Salaam Saturday 10/04/07
Same routine. The barman now gets me a Guinness without even having to be asked. Oh dear, I have become a regular.
Swapped Van Damne film for Nicholas Cage compilation.
Parcel Status – Now in Dar Es Salaam.
War of Empires – Plunderer at 18,808,397 gold
My hotel room/bicycle workshop in Dar Es Salaam
Day 232 Dar Es Salaam Sunday 11/04/07
Same routine, although pub closed (you WHAT!!!!), so had pizza instead.
Parcel status – Now in Dar Es Salaam.
War of Empires – Plunderer at 20,029,631 gold
Day 233 Dar Es Salaam Monday 12/03/07
Not a tremendous nights sleep, as I had weird dreams about trying to fit strangely shaped tyres onto my bicycle.
Parcel status – Accepted (I assume this means by Tanzanian Postal Service)
War of Empires – Plunderer at 22,898,637 gold.
I think i am turning into a Zombie.
Day 234 Dar Es Salaam Tuesday 13/03/07
Followed routine steps 1 and 2, and then decided to see if I could collect my parcel. Wandered down to the main post office and got shunted between various buildings, filled out many different pieces of paper, and eventually caught sight of my parcel. The joy was immense!! It took another hour from me seeing it, to it actually being mine though, as I had to pay a duty at the customs office of approximately 25 pounds. I thought this must be a mistake, so i asked them again, and after checking my invoice, they said that yes it was a mistake, as they hadn’t included the duty i should pay on the postage and packaging. The new amount of customs duty to pay would have been sixty pounds. I hastily asked if we could keep the mistake, and the kind lady said yes, which was a relief. With customs duties like these, its no wonder that African nations will never pull themselves out of the poverty and scarcity of goods that they suffer from. Anyway, I had my tyres, so it was time to follow routine steps 3 and 4. I was greeted as I walked in ‘Jambo Mr. Dave’, and the barman gave me one of my drinks of Guinness for free. Not a bad day really!! Back to the hotel, where I had a kip, and then fitted the tyres. Everything looks good, so I will give the bike a test ride tomorrow and then get going on Thursday morning. Having to wait in Dar Es Salaam for so long has put me behind in time, and has also badly dented my finances, so i figure that i now have two months maximum to get to Cape Town. Have a look at the Rough Route to see where I’m going next. I’m looking forwards to getting going again, and getting this job jobbed now, it must be said.
Parcel status – Delivered.. YESSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!
War of Empires – Plunderer at 25,481,023 gold (I was on fire today).
Dar Es Salaam – Mbeya
Day 235 Dar Es Salaam Wed 14/03/07
I took the bike out for half hour in the morning to give it a test run, and everything seemed fine, which was a huge relief, as it meant that I could finally get going again. Followed The Routine (see previous travelogue entry).
Day 236 Dar Es Salaam – Chalinze Thursday 15/03/07
Back on the bike at last. It was good to get reacquainted with the road, although I must say, I hadn’t missed the feeling of having my nadgers being squashed against a hard bicycle seat. Todays distance was 109 kms, which was basically a retracing of my route from Dar back to the town of Chalinze. An uneventful ride, although the last 30kms felt like hard work, which was due to a combination of climbing back up from sea level and having done no exercise for 10 days. I stopped every now and again to test the tyres, but this was more out of force of habit than anything else, and the tyres are fine. Found a restaurant in Chalinze which did a buffet for 5000 shillings, which was good vale. There was a guest house next door, so I dived in there. Buffet for dinner. Red Dwarf. Bed.
Day 237 Chalinze – Morogoro Friday 16/03/07
I was heading in a westwards direction again today, which is nice, because it meant that my face was in the shade. If i do another cycling trip, I’ll have to make sure I go from east to west! Spent the day cycling steadily uphill, but it was nothing I hadn’t seen before. There was one ‘Holy Shit’ moment, when I cycled over the less dangerous end of a snake that was wriggling across the road. I’ve got further to cycle tomorrow, so an early night for me.
Day 238 Morogoro – Mikumi Saturday 17/03/07
I think today was one of the highlights of my trip so far. There was an uneventful first 40 kms, and then, after leaving a policeman blathering something about lions at a roadblock, I entered Mikumi National Park. I didn’t really expect to see anything, but as it turned out, I saw almost everything that people pay big bucks to go on safari to see, only I did it for free. Result ! The only exception, was that I didn’t get to see any lions, but given that I was on a bicycle, it was probably for the best. First up, were some wild boar and antelopes, but they were too fast for me to take any photos. Then, on a quiet stretch of road with no traffic, some elephants decided to cross right in front of me. Because they had some babies with them, I decided to give them plenty of room, as I didn’t really fancy being on the receiving end of a three tonne elephant charging at me. I got some photos though, and also took this short video clip – Elephant Video.
It was a pretty special encounter, and it put a huge grin on my face for the rest of the day! Then, ten minutes later, a herd of giraffe over to my left obviously thought that I was some sort of strange, two wheeled predator, as they got spooked, and started running en-masse ahead of me. They were pretty fast too, as I could barely keep pace with them on the old velocipede! I managed to get some video footage of that too, but until I find some way of editing it, it’s not good enough quality to put online. Giraffes look quite strange as they run, with their huge long necks. They almost look as though they are swimming elegantly through the air. After that, it was baboons, zebra and water buffalo. So, all in all, a pretty cool day!
Day 239 Mikumi – ??? Sunday 18/03/07
I initially thought that today was going to be a weird one, but once I’d shaken off the chain smoking midget on a bicycle who was tailing me out of Mikumi, it settled down. The first hour was steadily uphill, but then came an excellent hour of downhill, through the mountains and into a valley. After that, it was a rolling road leading steadily uphill through some mountain range that if i had a decent map I would be able to name. I switched my brain off when it started raining, and at about three, I found a service station complex which also had cheap rooms. Despite today being physically very hard work, I am in a much better frame of mind since leaving Dar Es Salaam, and enjoyed todays cycling.
Day 240 ??? – Tanangozi Monday 19/03/07
I must say, that I was expecting some downhill today, but it just never came. On leaving the complex, a monstrous climb began, which lasted for well over an hour on very steep roads. Still, without the bicycle problems that have plagued me since leaving Sudan, and the general abuse of Ethiopia, it was quite enjoyable all the same. It was hard work of course, but this is why I chose to do a bicycle trip, so that I could push myself physically and see what I am capable of. As I’m quite high up now, and further from the sea, the humidity has all but disappeared, and the heat is noticeably lower. The surroundings are lush and green as there has been quite a lot of rainfall over the last few days, and the main rivers are full and fast flowing. All in all, the landscape is pretty stunning. The day continued ever upwards until I reached the town of Iringa, where I had planned to spend the night. The main road didn’t actually go through the town itself though, and before I knew it, I had gone past. Oh well. I continued along the road for another 20 kms, and reached what can only be described as a squalid little settlement. It was two o’clock, the rain clouds were drawing in, and so I decided to stay in the guest house, where I can only assume I was the first mzungu to ever stay there. This town has to have the lowest prices for daily goods in Tanzania, which is saying something, as Tanzania is ridiculously cheap anyway. My legs were aching quite a lot, but I’ve done a lot of mileage over the last few days. I’ve now been on the road for eight months – Doesn’t time fly when you are having fun!
Day 241 Tanangozi – Sao Hill Tuesday 20/03/07
I had a really good nights sleep, and got off to an earlyish start. The previous evenings rains had reduced the temperature somewhat, and for the first hour, it was actually a bit nippy, which felt good. More rolling roads, although not as severe as yesterday. At one, the rain clouds were getting a bit close, so I stopped off in the settlement of Sao Hill, which mad Tanangozi look positively quaint and charming!
Day 242 Sao Hill – Igawa Wed 21/03/07
I felt pretty strong all day, and this combined with a couple of good downhill sections helped me to cover over 150 kms today. Along the way, I met two Dutch cyclists coming from the opposite direction. These are the first cyclists I’ve met on the road itself since meeting Leo in Egypt I think. They had started in Holland, and have cycled down the west coast of Africa, and are now making their way northwards up the east side. Oh, to have the cash to do that!! Their site is at www.worldbiker.whereareyou.net. They had a very professional, laminated card too, which is something I will definitely get sorted out for my next trip, which I’ve all but decided is going to be cycling from Alaska all the way down to the bottom of Chile. Back to this trip though – I stopped the night in what I assume to be the town of Igawa, but my map is not all that good, so it might somewhere else. The guest house is typical, in that it has bucket shower, although I didn’t have to get water from a well today, and squat toilet. The main problem with squat toilets, is that the mossies wait until you have your kegs down, and then launch their attacks. Bastards.
Day 243 Igawa – Mbeya Thursday 22/03/07
I don’t think the town I was in last night was called Igawa, it may have been Chimala… Oh well, doesn’t make THAT much difference to you, avid reader, does it?? Pretty hard work today, as the roads were deceptively and not so deceptively up mountains all day. Reached Mbeya for lunchtime though, and because I’ve had a few cheap days, I’ve splurged out on a nice hotel… Ah, a toilet I can sit down on, and not a hole in the ground!! On to Malawi tomorrow.
Mbeya – Lilongwe
Day 244 Mbeya – Karonga Friday 23/03/07
I had a good breakfast, and then set off for a new country. The first hour or so was tough, uphill work. Then came a couple of hours of downhill. Quiet roads, beautiful surroundings, clean air- what more do you need? Another hour of climbing up to the town of Tukuye followed, and then it was pretty much downhill all the way to the border. Some black market money changers gave me the usual spiel – there’s no bank on the other side, nowhere to change your money, blah blah blah. Sorry boys, I’ve crossed a few borders in my time, and I know you’re talking bollocks! Got stamped out of Tanzania, and then crossed the border into Malawi where I was given a free visa. Changed my money in the exchange building (you know, that one they said wasn’t there), and was on my merry way. Well, not quite so merry, as by this time I had already done a hundred kilometres, and still had another 45 to go.There was a slight headwind, a bit of an gradient going the wrong way, and somebody had also turned the temperature up by 10 degrees. A bit of a struggle getting into Karonga, but I did it in the end, and made my way to the Lakeshore Campsite, withdrawing some cash from a Visa card taking ATM along the way. Ate and drank. Bed.
Day 245 Karonga – Chitimba Sat 24/03/07
A very hard day. Headwind, slightly uphill, 1 puncture. When I arrived at the campsite I was utterly exhausted and knew that I needed a day off, as I had been on the bike everyday since leaving Dar Es Salaam.
Day 246 Chitimba Sun 25/03/07
What a perfect place to have a day off! The campsite was basic, but situated right on the lake shore, and the meals cheap, simple and filling. The family who runs it are lovely, and we had some good chats as I turned into a bicycle mechanic and fixed their bikes. There was only one other person staying at the camp, an Australian motorcyclist, who has some interesting stories, as he’s a yacht captain by profession. He was a really sound bloke, and it’s good to talk to someone who shares similar opinions – he didn’t rate Ethiopia either! I gave my own bike a service as well, swapped my bicycle seat for a local one and repaired an inner tube. The lake was warm, so i went for a swim, and generally farted around. What do you think of the class toilet seat? Beats squatting over a hole! It was a good day off, and although I was tempted to stay one more, I really have to be making tracks if I want to finish this trip by the end of May.
Day 247 Chitimba – Mzuzu Mon 26/03/07
Just because today was easier than I thought it was going to be, didn’t make it an easy day. The first hour and a bit was pretty brutal work, all uphill on extremely steep roads. Then came a slight descent into a valley, before the road again worked its way steadily upwards. This wasn’t too bad though, because a handy tailwind picked up, and I zoomed along at 30 kms for a couple of hours. The last few kilometres saw me flag a little, but it was a very long day, and by the time I’d finished, I’d clocked up over 140 kms. The hostel was ok, although pricey, as it was geared specifically towards travellers. There was one other person staying there, an Austrian girl who had lived and worked over on the west coast of Africa for a few years. We had quite a few stories to swap, and talked late into the night whilst watching Notting Hill. I’d forgotten just how dull that film was.
Day 248 Mzuzu – Nkharta Bay Tuesday 27/03/07
There was a huge thunderstorm and torrential rains at about three in the morning, and my tent started to soak up water, as I don’t have a separate ground sheet. I went to sit under a porch for a while, and when the storm ended, I went back to the tent and managed to get a few hours sleep. Over breakfast, I decided that a shorter day was in order, and so just cycled 50 kms to Nkharta Bay. It was mainly downhill, although there were a few sharp ascents to keep me on my toes. I booked into a banda (picture a bamboo hut on some rocks only a few feet above the lakes waters), which was quite relaxing. This is the life !
Day 249 Nkharta Bay – Ngala Beach Wednesday 28/03/07
I retraced my way back up to the main road, and then followed it along the shore of Lake Malawi, and through the countryside. A pretty uneventful day, apart from when I was cycling through a rubber tree plantation. A few Malawians, the astute business people that they are, saw me on my bicycle, and instantly surmised that I need to buy a large, rubber ball the size of a beach ball. Nice one chaps, thanks but no thanks. And that was about as exciting as today got! My destination was going to be Kande Beach, and although I looked for a signpost as I approached the small settlement of Kande, I couldn’t find one. Before I knew it, I was a few kilometres away and at the bottom of a hill, and as I couldn’t be bothered to cycle back up again, I carried on. With 120 kms in the bag, I reached a very expensive lake shore lodge called Ngala Beach and called it a day.
Day 250 Ngala Beach – Nkhotakota Thursday 29/03/07
Had a full English breakfast, and then hit the road. Uneventful stuff, and I reached Nhkotakota for 12.00. Stocked up in a supermarket, and checked into a cheap resthouse which should put my budget back on track. At eight at night, I got a knock on the door, and two guys tried to sell me some small, wooden elephants. Why don’t they try to sell something useful?? If they had been selling mossie repellent, I would have snapped it up, as I’ve been hammered by them over the last couple of days.
Day 251 Nkhotakota – Salima Friday 30/03/07
Today, I was Zidan once, Beckham once and Bartez twice. Must be the haircut. Not a lot to report from the road, just the usual amount of ‘Hello’ and ‘Good morning’ as I passed by local cyclists carrying random stuff on the back of their bikes. Where the women carry things on top of their heads, the men pile as much as they possibly can on the back of their bicycles. The guy cycling with a live goat strapped on the back of his bicycle got todays crazy man award though. I reached Salima in the afternoon, changed some cash, bought some water and booked into a hotel. I’ve tried playing the DVD I swapped with Damien, the Australian motorcyclist, and all the films work, apart from the one starring Milla Jovovich, which is absolutely gutting. (Some people think that she is typecast as a superior female being in the films she makes, but this is incorrect. She IS a superior female being! )
Day 252 Salima Saturday 31/03/07
And I was just thinking yesterday how lucky I had been with the weather so far, in that the rains hadn’t affected me too much, only that I shouldn’t write it down, as I would be tempting fate. It would seem that even thinking about it was tempting fate, however! From 5.00 am until 9.30 am it rained a proper rainy season rain, which was too much, and finished too late for me to move on today. So, a day off in Salima. Talked to the crazy owner of the hotel. I can only hope that because of his extreme views on dictatorship and the death sentence he never gets into power himself! Hired a DVD and ripped it onto the laptop, ate a bit and generally did not a great deal.
Day 253 Salima – Lilongwe Sunday 01/04/07
It rained a bit in the morning, but not enough to stop me riding, so I left at about 8.00 after a good breakfast. I knew that i would have to be heading uphill towards Lilongwe, and I was not to be proved wrong! Still, I made it in the end, and found Kiboko camp, which is where I’ll be staying for a few days. The Aussie couple, Ross and Christine, who dropped by my hotel in Dar Es Salaam and are also travelling by bicycle, have been staying at the campsite, although they leave tomorrow. It was good to see other cyclists, even if it is only to prove that I am not the only crazy person on two wheels! They are heading to Zambia tomorrow, and said that they would try to arrange a visa waiver for me with a campsite on the Zambian side. If I have to pay for a visa, it’s going to cost me 65 USD – WHAT!!!! I’ve decided to stay here until Wednesday morning, and then leave for Zambia which I should reach in one day. That way, if my free visa is waiting for me at the border, then its a good result, and if it’s not, then I only spend one extra day in Lilongwe than I had planned. The camp site is a great place, and has just been bought by a young English couple, and I wish them good luck with it. The people here are friendly, and I had a few beers last night as I don’t have to cycle tomorrow. So, a couple of days off here in Lilongwe is on the cards, and then a big push of about ten days through Zambia until I reach Victoria Falls.
Lilongwe – Lusaka
Day 254 Lilongwe Monday 02/04/07
A day off from cycling, where I updated the website, and did some shopping (There is a supermarket which actually has more in it than biscuits!) The evening turned a bit messy, when a couple of quiet beers deteriorated into an all night session. Before I knew it, it was three in the morning, and people were stage diving off the bar. Oddly, it wasn’t backpackers partaking in the debauchery (they all went to bed early like good little boys and girls), but a bunch of Janeys, the owners, friends. They were an excellent crowd, and the whole night was pretty good.
Day 255 Lilongwe Tuesday 03/04/07
It must be said that I wasn’t exactly 100 percent this morning, although at least I still had my voice, unlike Janey! A full English helped to sort me out, and by 10.00 am, my vision was fully restored. A good night! Received an email saying that my free visa would be waiting for me at the border.
Day 256 Lilongwe – Chipata Wed 04/04/07
Distance wise, it was quite a big day at around 150 kms, but the actual cycling was pretty easy. My free visa was waiting for me at the border, although I hadn’t realised that it would only last for fourteen days, so I will have to pedal a bit harder through Zambia now! Found a campsite, where Kim and her husband, who had also been staying in Lilongwe had arrived by bus before me. The meals were horrendously expensive, so I ended up with a plate of chips, and had butties.
Day 257 Chipata – Katete Thursday 05/04/07
I got off to an early start, and made my way back onto the main road. Other than both of my pedals falling off simultaneously, not a lot of note happened. I now have two local pedals with a six year guarantee – If they last six days I will be impressed! So, during this trip so far, I am now on..
Not bad going !! I arrived in Katete at 12.00 and although I was tempted to carry on, I didn’t, knowing that I had a couple of long days ahead. In the evening, I had a meal and a couple of beers in a sleazy looking bar (straw roof, plastic chairs, christmas tree, aids awareness posters, prostitutes). I got talking to a few of the locals, which is one of the things that I enjoy most about travelling by bicycle, especially in the small towns where they rarely see tourists, much less crazy ones on bicycles. One guy was a fighter pilot in the Zambian air force, but judging by how pissed he was and how bloodshot his eyes were, i shouldn’t think the Zambian air force is all that. There were also a couple of lorry drivers (which explained the presence of the prostitutes). I had chicken and nshima for dinner. Nshima is the local staple food made from maize, and looks a little like mashed potatoes and a certain ex-girlfriends initial attempts at boiled rice. The guest house I stayed in was obviously top quality, and the graffiti on the back of the door was religious in style, basically asking God to forgive someones sins for sleeping with prostitutes. Marvelous. Forgot to mention – I met a Japanese cyclist coming the other way who’s name was Hume I think. I love meeting the Japanese, as they are always so nice!
Day 258 Katete – Petauke Friday 06/04/07
Not a tremendous nights sleep, as not only was the room incredibly hot, but a bar somewhere down the road decided to play the same CD over and over again at Africa volume until six in the morning, which is when I get up anyway. The cycling was straight forwards, and I reached a campground called Zulu Kraal which was a bit run down. According to the guest book, I was the only person to have stayed there in two months. An early night, as there were some big days ahead.
Day 259 Petauke – Luangwa Bridge Saturday 07/04/07
I got off to a nice early start, and raced through to the town of Nyimba in three hours. After that, things got a bit tougher when a hilly section started. Either go up or go down, but what’s with the whole up down, up down thing?? I eventually made it through to Luangwa Bridge (which was not exactly Sydney Harbour Bridge!), and with over 160 kms in the bag, made my way down to the campsite. It was run by a South African alcoholic who sounded monumentally drunk, possibly due to the bottle of whiskey I saw him drink within four hours, and his chain smoking English wife. It was outrageously expensive to eat, at over ten pounds for a three course meal, but I was famished, and had no choice. It was really nice though, which made up for the price!
Day 260 Luangwa Bridge – Rafunsa Sunday 08/04/07
Although my wallet was a little lighter when I left Bridge Camp, it didn’t seem to make a positive difference to my progress back out on the hills. There was lots of climbing which was pretty tough in places, but nothing that I hadn’t seen before. I reached Rafunsa for just gone 12.00, and although I considered carrying on, I decided to stay the night instead. Rafunsa was little more than a collection of wonky looking shops and stalls clustered on the road, and had one guest house. I did some competition winning eating and drinking and generally relaxed, knowing that tomorrow would be a pretty big one.
Day 262 Rafunsa – Lusaka Monday 09/04/07
Today was a massive day at over 170 kms and over tough, if a little boring to look at, terrain. I found my way to Chachacha backpackers sometime after three, where I pitched my tent. Ross and Christine the Aussie cyclists were also there, and we chatted for a while about the journey from Lilongwe and our experiences on the road. Christine has come down with malaria, which isn’t good news, but at least she is not suffering as badly as some people I have met, and she has seen a doctor in time and has been given a course of treatment.
Day 263 Lusaka Tuesday 10/04/07
A day off, and much needed as the backs of my legs are aching something chronic! I walked over to the shopping mall, which had shops which have actually got stuff in them. Result! One of them was called Game, which sold everything from nipple cream to wrenches and spanners – essential stuff. Loaded up on supplies in Shoprite and took some money out which I hope will last me until Botswana. A slight monetary crisis is looming, which I hope will be alleviated by a large sub being placed in my bank account soon – Please, pretty please! Lunch was pasta and my random purchase of hot chilli pilchards – You know it sounds yum! I’m hoping for an early night and an early start tomorrow so that I can be on course to reach Livingstone in four days.
Lusaka – Livingstone
Day 263 Lusaka – Monze Wednesday 11/04/07
A reasonably early start, and the first two hours were some of the easiest cycling that I have ever done, mainly due to a strong tailwind and a downhill section, which was a bit of a Brucie bonus. Ross and Christine had started off before me, and I found them having breakfast at the side of the road just past the town of Kafue. After a quick chat, I left them eating, and carried on, thinking that I would see them at some other point during the day, but as it turned out, that never happened. My original destination was going to be the town of Mazabako, where I had heard that there was a campsite on the south side of town, but after 10 kms, it became apparent that it wasn’t there. I was feeling pretty good, so I decided to carry on to the town of Monze, where I successfully found the Moorings campsite. It was a pretty big day all told, with over 170kms, and although I felt ok, I’m not sure how the bike was feeling, as there were some strange noises going on with the pedals. At least I hope its the pedals, because if its the bottom bracket, then I’m screwed, as I have no idea how it works or how to repair it.
Day 264 Monze – Choma Thursday 12/04/07
I had a really sound nights sleep last night, but then near exhaustion will do that to you! Todays cycling was pretty, well, boring actually. The landscape was uninspiring, there weren’t many people around, and even a puncture failed to break the monotony of it. In Choma, I decided to opt for a guest house in the centre so that I could use the internet for entertainment, as the campsite was on the edge of town.
Day 265 Choma – Zimba Friday 13/04/07
The road was smooth, there was a tailwind, and the going was extremely fast. I made the small town of Zimba for 12.00, and although I had plenty of time and energy to carry on to Livingstone, the guest house was only charging 6 USD for a big room with a TV and bathroom, so I decided to stay. Watched a lot of films on the laptop. Hard life.
Day 266 Zimba – Livingstone
On leaving Zimba, the road turned inexplicably crap, which was a shame, but at least it meant that I had to concentrate! After an hour, a couple of trucks passed by, who were the support crew for the Tour D’Afrique, and said that they were setting up a lunch stop for the riders, and that I was welcome to stop by. Half an hour later, I was eating free food and talking to the crew. Now I’ve heard differing stories about the Tour (called by some the Tour of Freaks!), but the support crew seemed nice enough, and after I’d helped myself to as much as I could eat, I decided to carry on before the cyclists arrived. Since leaving Lilongwe, I have been determined to reach Livingstone before the Tour, so I was a bit dissapointed when one rider whizzed past me on the outskirts of the town, but it’s not like he was carrying any luggage, and he did have legs like tree trunks! I found Jollyboys backpackers at 11.00, and booked myself in to camp for three nights. A bit later in the day, Ross and Christine turned up. Chris had been ill because of a reaction to the medication she was given for malaria, but they still managed to do a day of 190kms to get into Livingstone… Give her a medal now!
Day 267 Livingstone
It’s come to my attention that I may have miscounted the days that I have been away, and have either skipped or added the number of days taken on this trip… If someone would be so kind as to read the whole travelogue and let me know where I went wrong, it would be most appreciated, as I can’t really be arsed right now. Anyhow, today I visited Victoria Falls. There were a couple of walks you could do around the site, and one of the first places I visited was nicknamed the boiling pot. The picture to the left shows where the water tumbles off the falls and then flows very rapidly against a rock face, creating whirlpools and fast flowing currents. The bridge in the picture is where various idiots throw themselves off attached to lengths of rubber and scream there heads off as they bounce up and down above the water. Bungee jumping – right-o! Victoria falls themselves were pretty awesome, although the were difficult to see in their entirety because of the amount of spray they throw up.
There are helicopter rides which give an amazing view of the whole of Victoria falls, but they also cost an amazing price as well. There has been a lot of rain in the region over the last few months, and so there is a massive amount of water. One of the walks takes you over a bridge near to the falls, and I ended up drenched within seconds, but it gives you a good idea of the sheer power of mother nature. Still, there’s only so long you can look at water tumbling from a very high thing to a very low thing, and so I went back to town. My brother left me a message in the guest book saying that he wants to come over to Cape Town, which should be good fun, although it does mean that I now have to make some sort of schedule and keep it. I figure that I should reach Cape Town for around May 23rd, and will book my flight back to England for the 30th of May I think.
Day 268 Livingstone
A day off from cycling, and really a do nothing day. I will repair some inner tubes, wash some clothes, maybe wash myself, and generally veg out. The next update should come in a weeks time from Gabarone, the capital of Botswana.[/lang_all][lang_all]
Livingstone – Gaborone
Day 269 Livingstone – Kasane Tuesday 17/04/07
I left just after 7.00, and cycled the 65kms to the ferry which would take me over the Zambezi and into Botswana. It was really easy going, and I was fortunate enough to see some more elephants crossing the road just in front of me, although I was too slow to get the camera out and take any photos. I had thought that by having three nights in Livingstone, the Tour de Freaks would have been a day ahead of me, but it seems that they also took two days off, and I met them again on the Zambia side of the river. They are not a bad bunch of lycra lovers, but as there is only one road to Nata, it meant that I would be following them for the next couple of days. The ferry ride over the river took little more than five minutes, and once in Botswana, I cycled into the town of Kasane, where I quickly discovered that things are not as cheap as the rest of Africa. I met Ross and Christine who were outside a campsite, grumbling about how expensive it was. It seems that the going rate for camping in Botswana is nearly 10 USD, which is double the price that we were expecting. There wasn’t a lot of choice though, so we dived in, cycling past the beautifully kept lush green lawn around the chalets, to camp in the rock hard mud and dust tucked around the back. Once I had set up, I phoned Steve up on Skype to see if he’s still coming over to Cape Town, and stocked up on supplies. Back at the campsite, it started to spit with rain, so I went into my tent to read a book. After ten minutes, I heard some noises which didn’t sound right coming from Ross and Christines camp. I went out to take a look, and through the trees, I could see one of their bags being dragged away. thinking that they were being robbed, I ran around to their camp ready for action, to find that it was actually a troop of baboons, who quickly legged it, leaving behind the items they were trying to steal. I put the stuff back in their camp, and went back around to my tent, only to hear the baboons return. A couple of well aimed stones saw them off for good, and I hung around until Christine returned. I explained what had happened, and on closer inspection, it turned out that the baboons had actually ripped a large hole in their tent, which was not good news. When Ross turned up he was not a happy chappy! The campsite management put them up in an onsite tent for the night, whilst they mad gafa tape repairs to their own tent.
Day 270 Kasane – Bush Camp Wed 18/04/07
Ross and Christine decided to stay another night in Kasane as they wanted to put a day between themselves and the Tour. I understood where they were coming from, but I wanted to push on regardless. I knew that this next section as I cycled towards Francistown would be quite hard work, as it involved three days of cycling over 160 kms a day, so it was better to just to get on with it. The first 100 kms to the town of Pendamentaga went pretty quickly, and as I stocked up on food and liquid in the shop, I noticed that some of the tail enders of the Tour were also taking a break. They said that they were heading to a bush camp some 60 kms further down the road, and invited me to stay there the night. I had planned to bush camp at about that distance anyway, so I decided to join them. It was a little difficult to cycle after stuffing my face and drinking over 3 litres of water and juice, so the going was somewhat slower. A few hours later, I reached their bush camp, said hi to everyone, and set up camp. I spent the evening chatting to the people on the Tour, and hit the sack pretty early.
Day 271 Bush Camp – Nata Thursday 19/04/07
Off to a very early start, as there were a lot of kilometres to cover. Today was a bit of a grind, with boring roads, no elephants and samey scenery. I cycled with some of the guys from the Tour for a while, and the conversation helped to relieve the boredom of the road. I reached Nata for two, stocked up with supplies, and then headed out to the Nata Lodge, which was the only place to camp in town. This would be the last night that the Tour de Freak and myself would be on the same road, as the Tour heads towards Namibia. In the evening, a slight culinary error meant that I had chilli corned beef in Chelsea buns for dinner.
Day 272 Nata – Francistown Friday 20/04/07
Cycling against the wind for 180 kms is wank.
Day 273 Francistown Saturday 21/04/07
Last night, I ended up in a campsite called Woodlands Stopover, as it was the first campsite that I had come across. It was 8 kms down a gravel track, and I just made it before dark. I bought a Braii pack (bbq meat pack) from the shop and a stack of unburnable wood, and finally managed to get a fire going to cook it. With my stomach full with half cooked dead animal parts, it was time for bed. In the morning, I woke up to discover that ants had eaten a hole in the bottom of my tent and were swarming around inside. Morning world!! I killed as many as I could in a variety of pointlessly cruel and unusual ways, and packed my stuff up. Just 20kms cycling to the other side of Francistown, and I checked into the Marang Hotel’s campsite for the night. I spent some of the afternoon killing yet more ants in the tent, which I assume were part of the original contingent that had survived my initial onslaught.
Day 274 Francistown – Palapye Sunday 22/04/07
A big, big day at over 190 kms. I was cycling pretty fast though – Like a rocket stuck up the backside of a bat out of hell chasing a speeding bullet. Or something like that. I reached the campsite at Palapye for about three, and set up. Now sometimes, after a hard day on the bike, a couple of beers are in order, and today was one of those days. Years of training have given me a certain tolerance to alcohol, and as I was quite thirsty anyway, the beers were going down well. After my fourth, I could see that it was going to be an alllnighter, and as other people were buying me drinks, I could hardly say no now, could I? The evening turned into night, and only became more debauched after some electronic scales were plugged in to weigh a loud mouthed American girls breasts. (5kg). There was dancing on the bar, (although no stage diving), and general acts of insanity. With double figures, not including shots, more than easily achieved, I called it a night at 1.00 am. Bar tab for the evening, including a steak, – 6 pounds. Thanks for the free beer guys!
Day 275 Palapye Monday 23/04/07
Not surprisingly, I was in no condition to be cycling anywhere today. My excuse was that my legs needed a rest. One of the Afrikaans guys who had been drinking at the bar last night gave me a map of South Africa and let me use his phone to call home.
Day 276 Palapye – Mahalapye Tuesday 24/04/07
Its strange to think that i now call 80 kms a short day, but there we go, thats what it was. I’ve booked into a guesthouse for the night which is expensive for my budget, but I know that if I want to make Gaborone tomorrow which is 200 kms away, I could do with a little luxury tonight!
Day 277 Mahalapye – Gaborone Wednesday 25/04/07
One of the longest days cycling of the trip so far at 200 kms. It wasn’t too bad though as there were some nice smooth sections of road and a little tailwind at times, and it took me ten hours including breaks. The picture shows me standing by the road on the Tropic of Capricorn – Roadworks meant that I couldn’t get to the official sign. As usual, I seem incapable of smiling for a photograph, which is why i don’t put too many of me on here! I’ve booked into Citi-Camp for three nights, which is the only camping in Gaborone, although it is worryingly close to the Bull and Bush pub. Whilst here, I have to book my flight back to England from Cape Town, and give the bike a bit of a service.
Just a couple of notes –
Thanks Alan and Ange for pointing out that I had two Day 263’s. It’s on my list of things to fix when I get back.
Christine – One of the Tour guys picked up your cycling gloves at the border and gave them to me to give to you, as I thought I would see you guys in Francistown. I’ll leave them with the reception at Citi-Camp. Good luck with the rest of your trip.
And so that’s it for now. My next update should come from South Africa, the last country I will visit on this cycling trip, in a weeks time.
Gaborone – Springbok
Day 278 Gaborone Thursday 26/04/07
Today, I attempted to book my flight back to England from Cape Town, which didn’t go quite as smoothly as I had planned. I wanted to use British Airways, as they have something called an E-ticket which basically means that no paper tickets are issued, and for me, this would be a bonus, as it would mean that I wouldn’t have to wait anywhere for paper tickets to turn up. However, try as I might, I couldn’t get my bank card to work on their online booking system, as it kept saying that the card number did not match the card type, which is rubbish, as I use it everywhere without any problems. After an hour, I gave up trying, and decided to find a British Airways office in Gaborone using the internet. I quickly found the information I needed, and as it was on the other side of town, I leapt in a taxi. As we drove into the car park and I saw the British Airways sign, I had a bit of a smile on my face as it looked like I would get a result after all. That simile soon vanished however. When I walked inside the shopping mall and located the shop, which still had a British Airways sign hanging over it, I was gutted to find out that it is now a creche. Wading through a sea of ankle deep children, I asked the woman running the place if she knew where British Airways had moved to. She said she couldn’t really help, but thought that BA had closed all their offices in Africa. Wonderful news. I was a bit peckish as well as peeved, and so I had a burger at Wimpy, which was marginally better than the ones still to be found occasionally at English motorway service stations, and tried to plan my next move. STA are a pretty good travel company, and so I decided that I would try to book a flight through them. Back in another internet cafe, the main version of the STA website was US based, and would have let me book the flight that i wanted, but required that i register with the site first using a US zip code. No go there. The UK version of the STA website didn’t require me to register first, but would only let me book flights leaving the UK. No go there either. The South African version of the STA website did let me book the flight, although it required an address in South Africa where they could post the tickets to. I decided to book it, giving the address of a hostel I will stay at in Cape Town, and it all went through, so now its just fingers crossed that it all goes without a hitch. The ironic thing, is that the flight is actually with British Airways, and is the one that I had tried to book earlier. So thats how I spent the day, but I guess I got a result of sorts in the end.
Day 279 Gaborone Friday 27/04/07
In the morning, I gave my bike a bit of a service and replaced the pedals. Went into town, phoned home using Skype, and had a meal in the pub. No confirmation about the flight yet, but I’m looking forwards to starting off tomorrow and getting into South Africa, my last country!
Day 280 Gaborone – Zeerust Sat 28/04/07
Today was supposed to be a little bit of a celebration, as I have finally cycled into South Africa, the last country of this trip. The actual cycling today was so horrible though, that I felt too exhausted to move at the end of the day, much less celebrate. On leaving Gaborone, I started cycling over hill country, which by itself would probably have been ok, but the strong winds totally destroyed me. I’ve cycled through the wind before, but its never been like that. No matter where the road turned, the wind was constantly blowing against me, and at times, I was cycling as hard as i could just to stay still. Its hard to describe just how soul destroying and knackering it is cycling into a constant, relentless and deafening headwind, up and over hills. 140 kms of hell later, I was in the South African town of Zeerust. I was going to camp, but it had been so cold all day, that I succumbed to weakness and went for a B+B instead. So, last country – Yay!! Aching body – boo.
Day 281 Zeerust – Mafikeng Sunday 29/04/07
I spent some of last night having liquid ablutions, which was just simply delightful until the Imoddium kicked in. I’m not sure what brought it on – Bad water from the campsite in Gaborone, the extreme changes in temperature, the huge mixed grill I had the previous night or a combination of all three. I felt alright in the morning though, and only had a short day ahead of me. It was zero degrees first thing, and there was frost on some of the car windows, so it was a good job I chose not to camp I think. Its amazing how just travelling south from Gaborone for a 100 kms or so has made such a noticeable change in temperature. It’s definitely winter here in South Africa! The cycling was just a short journey of 70kms or so.
Day 282 Mafikeng – Vryburg Monday 30/04/07
Uneventful cycling through the countryside to Vryburg. Thats about it really.
Day 283 Vryburg – Kuruman Tuesday 01/05/07
Again, not a lot to report. The road I am taking passes through farming countryside, and is reasonably flat, so there’s not a great deal to look at really. I made good time though, covering the 140 kms in six hours, due in part to a tailwind which blew me along for a couple of hours. As I approached Kuruman, I came across a campsite, and freezing cold temperatures or not, I have to put the budget back on track. Some guy at the site mentioned that there is another campsite just outside of Oliphantshoek, which is my next destination.
Day 284 Kuruman – Oliphantshoek Wed 02/05/07
It got pretty cold last night, and my ripped, torn, smelly sleeping bag with a broken zip struggled to meet the challenge. There were a few hills today, but also an amazingly flat section where the wind just blew me along. In Oliphantshoek, I opted for the campsite again, and decided to check my bike over, and a good job I did. The rear wheel had a really loose spoke, and on closer inspection, there was a bigger problem. (Isn’t there always??). The spoke sits in a unique kind of socket which in turn sits in the rim. The socket had become corroded and has broken, leading to the loose spoke. A trip into town was useless, as they didn’t have a bicycle shop, and so I spent the afternoon trying to bodge a repair together. The first prototype made from aluminium was a failure, and I nearly sliced the top of my finger off in manufacturing it. Version 2, made from a cut up section of old inner tube, blood, sweat (but no tears. I’m hard, aren’t I ?), was more successful. With 160 kms to go to Upington which was the next major town, and with no settlements in between, it was bandaged fingers crossed that the repair would hold.
Day 285 Oliphantshoek – Upington Thursday 03/05/07
Today was a long one at 165 kms, especially with the regular stops to check on the rear wheel situation. Again, the landscape was a bit nothingy, and so I spent a lot of the time daydreaming as I cycled along. I was just getting to the good bit of what I would do with Kierra Knightly given half a chance, when some guy pulled over in his car, gave me a coke, talked a bit, and then drove off again. Thanks for the coke mate, but make it a cold one next time will you? I couldn’t get back on the same train of thought, and instead started thinking about great food combinations – Pie and chips, bacon and eggs, jelly and ice cream, bananas and custard. As you can see, I spend my time wisely. I reached Upington for four, and found a campsite.
Day 286 Upington Friday 04/05/07
A well earned day off, as I’d covered quite a few kilometres since leaving Gabs. After breakfast, I visited the towns bicycle shop, and although I already knew the answers, I had to ask the questions anyway.
Have you got one of these mate ? – No
What about a rim with 36 spoke holes ?? – No
Oh, what about a tyre 32 x 700 ??? – No
Cheers, thanks a lot.
I have a about 1000 kms to go to Cape Town, and I just have to hope that my bodge job repair holds all the way. My tyres are starting to look like slicks now, so say a little prayer for them also! So near, and yet so far !! I used the internet for a while to make a few phone calls, and although I haven’t got ticket for the flight home yet, I’m a step closer, but it looks like I will have to sort it out in Cape Town. Had my first cooked meal in a long time, and stocked up on supplies. In the afternoon, I made versions 3 and 4 of spare repair parts in case I need them, as the next section covers 400 kms to the regional capital town of Springbok.
Day 287 Upington – Kakamas Saturday 05/05/07
Only 85kms cycling today, past vineyards, barren countryside, and over the occasional hill. It was a bit warm today, in the low 30’s, but at least there was no humidity. A couple of randoms pulled over at one point to have their photo taken with me – Not sure what that was all about. I also passed this Willie Winkels place and I have even less idea what that was about. The spoke and wheel survived another day, and in Kakamas I booked into a good quality B and B. I deserve a treat, and with two days hard cycling ahead, good food combined with a good nights sleep seems like a wise move.
Day 288 Kakamas – Pofadder Sunday 06/05/07
There was little traffic on the road today, and I saw barely six cars an hour, which made the desolate and barren surroundings seem more personal. At times, it was like I was within a circle of reality only 200 metres around, and that this bubble moved with me as I cycled constantly towards a hazy landscape painting of hills.
Day 289 Pofadder – Springbok Monday 07/05/07
A long day, and pretty tough in places as I crossed a couple of hill sections. The last 60 kms was particularly hard when a cross wind picked up to coincide with the most hilly section. I knew that this was my last long day of the trip though, so I just plodded on. Springbok is a town in the middle of nowhere, nestled in some hills. There doesn’t look a great deal to do, but as I’ve got plenty of time to get to Cape Town, I’ve decided to take a couple of days off. I’ve managed to get a self contained chalet for 110 Rand a night, which is about 7 or eight pounds, and two days of laying in sounds good. From here to Cape Town is about 500 kms, which I plan to do in shorter journeys over 7 or eight days, meaning that I should reach Cape Town for some time around the 20th of May. Almost there… Almost there !!
Springbok – Cape Town
Day 290 Springbok Tuesday 08/05/07
It felt quite nice to have a lay in for a change and not really have to do anything. After breakfast, I went to an internet place (extortionately expensive), and bought two new pairs of socks and a pair of boxer shorts. The state of the two pairs of boxers that I’ve had since the start of my trip 10 months ago is quite remarkable, and I’m unsure whether to bin them or donate them to a modern art gallery. Spent the rest of the day vegging. It’s a hard life.
Day 291 Springbok Wednesday 09/05/07
I was going to give the bike a service today, but the more I looked at it, the more I could see things that I didn’t like – Spokes bent, frayed wires, wheels not going around properly. It’s only got 550 kms to go, so I just cleaned the chain a little and left the rest alone. Crossing my fingers is probably going to be more effective than tinkering with it at this stage.
Day 292 Springbok Thursday 10/05/07
Just a veg day of doing nothing. I’m looking forwards to starting off again tomorrow and reaching the end of my journey.
Day 293 Springbok – Kamieskroon Friday 11/05/07
Back on the bike again for this last section of cycling to Cape Town. I rode through some quite stunning mountains during what was a short day of only 70 kms. In Kamieskroon I found a cheapish guest house, and spent an hour or so trying to true my rear wheel. It goes around marginally better now, but the rim and spokes definitely need replacing. In fact, so do the chain, cassette, hubs, seat, tyres and cables as well. A big rebuild could be in order when I get it back to England! This is my first sighting of a signpost for Cape Town since leaving England on the bicycle nearly ten months ago – Not far to go now!
Day 294 Kamieskroon – Garies Saturday 12/05/07
I’ve decided to split the rest of my journey to Cape Town into shorter days for several reasons – To relax and wind down a little, to have plenty of time to maintain the rear wheel, and because I have some time until I have to return to England. As a consequence, I only had 50 kms to cover today to the town of Garies, and had a pit stop halfway to play with the spokes on my rear wheel again. All they’ve got to do is hold together for another 400 kms or so – PLEASE!! I cycled into Garies at about midday, and the first place I tried was full. The drunk, crazy owner suggested somewhere to try, but to avoid the caravan park as ‘they will rob you there’. The South Africans are all really petrified about crime, and always say of the next town on my list – ‘Be careful there, there is a lot of crime’. When I say that I have cycled from England, and the countries which I have passed through, the first question they always ask is ‘Did you have any problems with the crime?’. I feel sad for them, trapped in a prison of their own fear.
Day 295 Garies – Bitterfontein Sunday 13/05/07
Todays little section of 65 kms was extremely hilly all throughout, and it would have been quite tough to do it as part of a longer day. Actually, I’m enjoying these short days of cycling – it’s a good way of winding down towards the end of the trip.
Day 296 Bitterfontein – Vanrhynsdorp Monday 14/05/07
It was really windy last night, and it was still giving it some this morning, so I was in two minds whether to set off or not. I’m glad that I did though, because the wind was blowing the right way, and of the three and a half hours it took me to cover the 90 kms to Vanrhynsdorp, I only had to pedal for half an hour. I picked up a bargain hotel room for 100 Rand, and I hired a couple of DVD’s to watch in the afternoon. Looking in the map book given to me by Mr. Mullet in Palapye, I am now on the final page (6), and have 300 kms left to Cape Town. I’ve been thinking about at exactly what point I say that I have cycled to Cape Town – Do I finish at Table Mountain, Cape Point or what? I’ve decided that as soon as I see the ‘Welcome to Cape Town’ sign I’ve done it though!
Day 297 Vanrhynsdorp – Clanwilliam Tuesday 15/05/07
Today was one of the hardest days of the trip. Unlike yesterday, the wind and mountains were not in my favour. There were no flat sections, and any downhill parts were strategically placed so that I was going directly into a headwind and had to pedal just as hard as if I was going up. And the uphill sections were insanely steep. Of course, if my rear wheel went around properly, it might have been a little easier. I had a puncture in the rear with 20 kms to go, which was great fun repairing in gale force winds at the side of the road. Why do people sound their horn when driving past somebody changing an inner tube at the side of the road? Am I likely to be in a good mood and want to wave back?? As I changed it, I noticed that not only was the sidewall splitting, but that the tyre is now so thin as to be almost see through. That can’t be good. I considered putting the spare tyre on, but its been folded up for so long that I seriously doubt it would resemble anything approaching round when unpacked. Saying that, it might fit my misshaped rear wheel like a glove. 220 kms to Cape Town remain.
Day 298 Clanwilliam – Citrusdal Wednesday 16/05/07
Todays 60 kms passed through very picturesque fruit growing valleys, so there was more mountain work, but thankfully the wind was minimal. I took a break halfway through the journey at one of the regular picnic tables to spend an hour sorting out the spokes on the rear wheel again. 160 kms to Cape Town.
Day 299 Citrusdal – Piketberg Thursday 17/05/07
The first hour was all uphill as I ascended a mountain, but the views from the top were simply amazing. It was only a short day to Piketberg, as I decided to split the rest of my journey so that I arrive in Cape Town on Saturday, when hopefully the traffic will be lighter. I used the internet in the afternoon – Assuming I can get a flight back in time, I may fly back to England on the 25th of May, and start back at work on the 28th.
Day 300 Piketberg – Malmesbury Friday 18/05/07
There was quite heavy fog first thing in the morning, and lots more hill work to do.
My legs are feeling quite tired, but its the last day tomorrow, and only 70 kms to go to Cape Town!! (I’ve stayed in thousands of hotel rooms over the years, and so its not often that I get excited by them, but this one is so cool!! I can watch TV from the bath – Perfect!)
Day 301 Malmesbury Saturday 19/05/07
Well, rain stopped play today. And not just rain, torrential rain combined with gale force winds of 40 kmh which meant that cycling was impossible. I made the most of the day though, and finally booked my flight back to England leaving on the 25th of May and landing on the 26th. Going back to England – It’s been such a long time now, and the thought is almost as exciting as finishing this trip! The weather is supposed to be pretty miserable tomorrow, so I’ll stay here one more night, and then move on to Cape Town on Monday.
Day 302 Malmesbury Sunday 20/05/07
So, another day off. Not a lot to do but veg out, have a long bath and watch TV. I’ll be back at work soon, so I have to make the most of it!
Day 303 Malmesbury – Cape Town 21/05/07
After a big breakfast, I finally hit the road for the last time! The weather wasn’t exactly good, but at least it wasn’t as bad as it had been over the weekend. According to the news, a fair bit of damage had been done in Cape Town by the winds and rain then. There was no real wind today, but pretty regular spells of rain accompanied me all the way, and it was quite cold. Not to worry though – It was my last time of cycling on this trip!! Who cares if the rear wheel is an oval shape and the tyres are transparant??!!?? After 10 months of cycling through deserts, over mountains, eating the strangest food and meeting even stranger people (most of them nice though!!) its now over. I”VE MADE IT TO CAPE TOWN !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!