Cape to Cairo 2010

A Motorcycle Diary

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13 August (Day 45)

13 Aug

We are spending the day in Karima to explore the surrounding archaeological sites of which there are many but also to bide time.

The only means of access to Egypt from the Sudan is via a ferry that departs Wadi Halfa in the North of Sudan and cruises for 18 hours to Aswan in Egypt…No road access!! This ferry departs Wadi Halfa once a week on Wednesdays only and therefore we need to be in Wadi Halfa by next Tuesday to clear customs out of the Sudan before the ferry on Wednesday. We are very far North and there is just not enough places to see or accommodation options between here and Wadi Halfa to take up the all the days and hence the stop for today. In retrospect, it probably would have been a better option to have pushed through the Sudan quicker and got the ferry of 2 days ago thus giving us more time to explore Egypt at leisure.

We were up at 6am to go and explore the tombs at Kurru and the pyramids at Nuri which are in the surrounding area but primarily to avoid the heat of the day which sets in, in full force by 11am. The road marked on T4A for the route to Kurru from Karima is, unbeknownst to us at the time, no longer used so after we had completed 5km of thick sand, 200m long mud pools, dropped bikes and severe sweat, a local in a kaftan came casually traipsing along to advise of a new tar road just 1 km away!!!!!!! GGGGRRRRRRR!!!

The tombs and pyramids of the area really are worth seeing if you have an interest in ancient Egypt, their culture, architecture and history. The Sudanese idea of administrating tourism to see these sites however leaves a lot to be desired; there is no infrastructure but an arbitrary local will appear from nowhere ask for your “ticket” to see the site (that has no signs, entry or enclosure) alternatively demand $20 to see and take pictures of what one could just as easily walk up to in the middle of the desert! Needless to say, we elected to drive a kilometre further and approach the site from a different point.

After breakfast we headed off to explore the local market and its surrounds, I gave up 30 minutes in due to the heat but Dale persevered and came back with some great photos.

The heat is now in full force..I would give my left arm for a real cold beer right now!!

Early morning wrong road!!!

Inside the Pharaohs tomb.

More tomb interior.

Climb down to the tomb is 33 steps underground.

The pyramids of Nuri.


Beautiful old Mosque (with graveyard in front) on the banks of the Nile.


Pyramids of Karima.

Pyramids of Karima.


Pyramids of Karima.


Katie and the Pyramids.

Dale at the Pyramids of Karima.

Abandoned old Nile steamers.

The Souk at Karima.

Local kids.


12 August (Day 44)

12 Aug

Left Atbara at 6.15am as planned to tackle this middle of the desert run. There is a new tar road that connects Atbara and Karima and because the surrounds are almost entirely uninhabited it is possible to do this 350km stretch at 120km/h meaning that we got to Karima by 9.30am. The wind on this road picks up dramatically at about 8am and notwithstanding the direction of the road, the wind ALWAYS comes at you at a 90° angle (meaning that you ride at a 45° angle just to keep going straight to counter the wind) and at times creates a sandstorm so thick you cant see 50m ahead. Note to other travellers on this road..The ride itself is pretty uneventful but there are no fuel stations along this stretch so make sure you are full before tackling it.

We are spending the night at the Nubian guest house in Karima which is a step up (and down) from “guest house” in Atbara of last night. Up, because it is Italian owned and managed, clean, neat, comfortable with food and water available. Down because notwithstanding the expensive $150/night rate, there are no air conditioners or ceiling fans to make the heat bearable. At 1pm, it was 50C and even the cold water coming out of the shower felt like it had just been boiled. there is just no escaping this heat!!!

At about 5pm when the heat had subsided to 40C we decided to take a walk up Jebel Barkal (the nearby holy mountain that was considered the home of the God Amun ( the Ram God) by the Ancient Egyptians). The views from the top of the surrounding pyramids, temple ruins, the Nile and the thousands of date plantations that run alongside the river are magnificent to see.

Early morning run to Karima.


Miles and miles of nothing but desert.


…and the occasional sandstorm.

I have no idea why this would be a road sign!!??


Nubian guest house in Karima with Jebel Barkal in the background.


Pyramids of Karima as seen from the top of Jebel Barkel.


Ruins of the Temple of Amun and date plantations along the Nile as seen from the top of Jebel Barkel.

At the top of Jebel Barkel.


At the top of Jebel Barkel.


The temple of Amun with a row of Rams marking the entrance.


11 August (Day 43)

11 Aug

We left Khartoum at 7am as planned for a relatively short run of 220km to our intended destination for the night, Meroe.

Meroe is largely deserted but famous for the 3500 year old pyramids which still exist here from a time when the Egyptians controlled the Sudan. It was our intention to stay at the Meroe tented camp hotel which had pretty good reviews on trip adviser, however, when we got to the hotel, we were advised by the guard that it had been mothballed until October. The guard offered to let us stay for free in one of the rooms where there were beds, outside bathrooms with showers but no electricity. Initially we thought this was okay until the wind picked up and a proper desert sandstorm set in making it impossible to be outside, and even more so inside because of the stifling heat and as a result decided to spend a few hours looking at the pyramids and then pressing on to Atbara, the next town about 100km further up the road.

The pyramids themselves are interesting and certainly worth seeing if in the area. The state of preservation, considering the age of these structures is remarkable and a testament to the hot and dry climate of the area. Pyramids aside, we had an absolute blast riding the bikes around through the middle of the desert for a couple of hours.

On arrival in Atbara, we found our accommodation for the night at “guest house” on T4A (GPS software called tracks for Africa) and whilst it is the usual “wouldn’t let my dog stay there” type of accommodation that we have become accustomed to, at least there is a fan and an air conditioner in the room that works which in itself is surprising because of the 10,000 municipal electricity laws that must be being broken when one looks at how these things have been wired together!

The guest house serves no food, so we got out of our riding kit and went into “town” to find food and petrol. Riding in shorts, t-shirts, slops and no helmets initially sounds like a good idea but in fact the wind and heat is so intense that you may as well be walking across hot coals. Lunch and dinner are fresh rolls, tuna (I think..don’t really want to ask too many questions in this regard!) and Bavaria 0% beers.

We will be leaving at first light (about 6.15am) tomorrow as we have a 350km run through the middle of the desert on a stretch that is not connected to the Nile and therefore uninhabited. First light means that we will avoid the heat of the day (which is 35C by 7am and 45C by midday), the wind which picks up by 9am and turns everything including the sky brown and will reach our destination, Karima, by about 10am.

Pyramids of Meroe.



you got it..Meroe!


Katie and Massey in the middle of Nowhere…check out the brown sky!!


More “Conde Naste would be proud” type accommodation!

How cool is that, we have chocolate milk on tap!!!


10 August (Day 42)

10 Aug

Still in Khartoum however, we are departing early tomorrow morning for Meroe.

Started the day early as we wanted to get to see the Sudanese national museum before it got too hot. This country’s history and structures date back 3500 years and is incredible to take in. The Egyptians and Sudanese lives’ and history is so intertwined that it is not always possible to say which is which.

After the museum, in 45C heat, I went to hunt for a simple item like chain wax and oil for my bike…well, Midas, if you are listening, you can clean up in this place!!! One would think that buying a simple 20W/60 motor oil and a can of chain oil is a simple case of walking into a car accessory store and leaving again in 5 minutes?! No, no, not in Khartoum, the order of the day is drive around in this heat for an hour visiting one crappy “motor accessory store” after another that sells sheep skin seat covers, car freshener and bull bars..(That’s IT!!) until I found one that had oil, and another hour of driving before I settled on a can of grease because the concept of chain oil may as well have been akin to aliens landing on the Nile!

Enjoyed the Lebanese restaurant so much last night we went back there again. Going to miss the air-conditioned confines of the Burj but looking forward to getting back on the bike and exploring what Sudan has to offer…other than HEAT and SAND!

Morning at the museum.

Egyptian or Sudanese?


Graffiti, been around for ever!!

Dinner at Assaha…Again!


9 August (Day 41)

09 Aug

Still in Khartoum. Spent the day resting and planning the balance of our route to Cairo. There are a number of sites to see in the Sudan as this is an ancient place. The Egyptian kingdom at its height stretched all the way down into Ethiopia and there are temples and pyramids scattered all over the Sudan that are well preserved because of the hot and dry climate that we are keen to see.

It is SO hot here that it is just not practical to go out after 10am or before 6pm so eating, exercise (hotel has a great gym and pool), sleeping and catching up with the rest of the world has been the order of the day.

We had dinner at a great Lebanese restaurant called Assaha. At 8.30pm when we left to go to dinner, it was so hot it felt like wading through hot water. No pics today unfortunately as we have not left the coolness of the hotel.


8 August (Day 40)

08 Aug

We spent the day washing and maintaining the ladies and then headed out into the town to explore at about 5pm when the heat had settled a little. It was 37C in the shade by 11am so going out any earlier was not possible.

We visited the local souk (market) which is always a fascinating experience because of the range of colours, sights and smells before heading off to a local Sudanese restaurant where we could have fish, fish or fish. Alcohol is forbidden in the Sudan because it is a Muslim country and so water and soft drinks are the only way to quench one’s thirst here.

Katie revealing her insides.

Local Souk.

hundreds of varieties of dates.

Our local transport.


The closest you will get to beer in the Sudan..beerly beer!!


Traditional Sudanese cuisine…fried fish, bread and sauces..all eaten by hand.


7 August (Day 39)

07 Aug

WOOOHHOOO Wireless Network!! Didn’t think I would ever get so excited about something so menial!! No data network on the Sudanese side either so updates will be limited to when we can.

We left Gedaref as early as possible because the place was a real hell hole. Our ride was 420km to Khartoum, the capital of Sudan and after the altitude and coolness of Ethiopia, the heat here is oppressive. We got to Khartoum at lunch time and it was 42°C, the result of which is that the bikes were taking strain after a long and fairly hard ride and my radiator guard got so hot that it melted a hole in my other (undamaged) auxiliary fuel tank!!!

Sudan is dusty, desolate and empty in comparison to Ethiopia, these guys definitely got the scenic raw deal but scored with the oil of which Ethiopia has none.

We are spending the next 3 days in Khartoum to rest, clean bikes, do maintenance and get ready for the last leg of our journey. We are spending these days at the awesome Burj Al Fateh Hotel so 3 nights of something decent until we get to Aswan in Egypt.

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Local kids on route to Khartoum.


2010 Sudanese MPV.

Katie springs another fuel leak!!

3 Days of Luxury at last!!!


6 August (Day 38)

06 Aug

We left the simien mountain lodge today as planned in order to head out of Ethiopia and into the Sudan. Our route took us via Gonder where we needed to get petrol and after searching every station in town had our first experience with the black market fuel dealers who sold us fuel at R10/L out of a scummy jerry can! It was that or we wouldn’t make the Sudan!

My final assessment of Ethiopia is that I loved it and disliked it (hate would be too strong a word). I loved the scenery, the drive and the warm and personable people when you interact with them on a one on one basis. I disliked the children throwing stones, the shepherds who purposefully and hurriedly herd their animals into the road in front of you either out of curiosity, or to beg, not realising the danger they are causing and the aggressive and persistent begging which has been brought about by ineffective aid that has simply created a culture of “if you are white and in Ethiopia, then you must be wealthy and here to give us something”! Unfortunately, after riding for over a month now, bone tiredness has set in and with that has come a certain irrational irritability which has become exacerbated by the dislikes I mention above, however, I am sure that time will dim the dislikes and what will be left is only the fond memories…as a good friend of mine always reminds me, “remember that you are looking forward to looking back”!! 

We got to Metema and did the Ethiopian immigration and customs easily enough however, although the immigration on the Sudanese side was effortless, customs for the bikes was a 2 hour exercise in frustration.As a result, we only got on the road to Gedaref (155km from the border) at 18h00 and ended up riding the last hour in the dark..not good, however, we are now in the Sudan, our PENULTIMATE country for this trip.

We are spending the night at another fleabag motel..I am SO done with this kind of accom!!!


Early departure from Simien.

The roof of the simiens.

Fun fun fun.. the combination of rain and trucks first thing in the morning. It is this sort of thing that contributes to the weight loss that everybody makes reference to. Getting fat Katie and Massey across this is equal to an hour’s cardio session with Chris Van Loggerenberg!!!

Dealing with the black market fuel dealers,not my favourite sport!

The normal African type Bureau de Change!!


The El Motwakl Hotel in Gedaref, Sudan..the flash actually makes it look okay!!


5 August (Day 37)

05 Aug

The road to Debark from Axum turned out to be worse than we anticipated. Whilst the drive itself is magnificent from a scenery perspective, there are roadwork’s going on, on the mountain passes that just make the roads a mess and barely passable. The fact that its the rainy season and the roads are a muddy slush in half the places doesn’t help either!! Roadwork’s aside, the road itself was tough. The 350km to Debark took 9 hours to complete.

We are spending the night at the simien mountain lodge which is supposedly the highest hotel in Africa at 3300m and although we were planning on spending three nights here, we have decided to press on to the Sudan tomorrow as we are unimpressed with this place for the money they charge.

We are absolutely exhausted and tomorrow will be the 4th day of riding in a row…apologies for the curt entry today but I cant keep my eyes open!

Roadwork’s everywhere!


Dale navigating a pass. Can you spot the camel?


More dramatic Ethiopian countryside.

Rui on a road at about 3000m.

Simien mountain Lodge.


4 August (Day 36)

04 Aug

We left Mekhele at 7am because we wanted to get to Axum by Lunch time to enable us to spend the afternoon seeing the sites as we are only here for 1 night. The ride to Adrigat from Mekhele was littered with the usual mountain passes however, from Adrigat to Axum the road becomes a bikers paradise. New smooth tar and about 100km of fast, unpopulated, scenic and sweeping mountain passes..Loved it!! I have said it a thousand times already, Ethiopia is AMAZING. The loop from Bahir Dar to Lalibela, Mekhele, Axum, Adi Arkay and Gonder MUST be done by car or bike to appreciate this place but put this country on your list of MUST SEE!!

Flavio Benaiuti is an Ethiopian that specialises in bike tours through Ethiopia, and the loop mentioned above in particular and also supplies the bikes (KTM’s) so this trip is a possibility without having to ride a bike all the way here from SA.

We arrived in Axum at about 12pm and immediately headed out to explore Axum. Axum was the original stronghold of the Queen of Sheba and the Axumites, a civilisation that dominated the region for about 500 years and where the original obelisks (Think Asterix and Obelix) come from. In addition, Axum is famous for supposedly housing the ORIGINAL Ark of the covenant that is rumoured to hold the tablets on which Moses wrote the 10 commandments.

We are spending the night at the Yeha Hotel in Axum which is definitely the best hotel in town (flea, not fine) and owned by the same chain (Ghion Hotels) that own the Lake Tana Hotel, in Bahir Dar (where I was snacked on by bed bugs)!!

We are leaving early tomorrow for Debark, 350km away on a questionable gravel road that T4A says will take us 7 hours of riding time to do as we are wanting to spend the next 3 nights at the simien mountain lodge, a lodge set at 3300m in the middle of the simien mountains to relax before tackling the Sudan!

Thank you to everybody for your comments, it is such an inspiration to see how many people log into the site everyday (I have a counter on the admin back end) and your comments really keep the morale up on the days when the last thing we feel like is getting back into the saddle.

Also, our charity drive has now hit its R250,000 target and will exceed it it by the end of this trip. I cant express my Thanks enough to all the people and companies that have rallied behind this cause..Thank you,Thank you, Thank you!!!!

To the kids of MaAfrika Tikkun, I understand that you are following our journey every day. Our thanks goes out to you too as it is partly the knowledge that our ride will in a small way assist you too that makes the hard and dark days easier to manage.


Mist coming down one of the mountain passes.


Endless Beautiful views.


Dale navigating his tractor through a rough patch.


Countless mountain passes.


Where the original ark of the covenant is supposedly kept.


Modern day Obelisk.

Largest Obelisk ever..collapsed. (Thats a human size doorway on the left for perspective).


The ruins of the palace of the Queen of Sheba.