Today is an important day for 3 reasons:
1. It's my mum's birthday! Happy Birthday Mum. 39 (again?!)
2. My bike flew to Addis Ababa/ Ethiopia on Lufthansa flight LH590
3. I fly to Addis on Ethiopian Airlines flight something or other
in precisely 15 hours.
At the mo, I only have one bit of advice: Don't
try to ship a motor vehicle out of Egypt, or even better don't go
to Egypt in the first place.
Slap me around the face with a wet, preferably
So, Greetings Team,
A merry, prosperous and healthy New Year to you, your family and
your friends. In the big scheme of things, they are all you have
and you must look after them. I think you can see where this is
My New Year's resolution is to start to take some
advice for once in my life. Sorry Grant, I must have been asleep
when you passed your words of wisdom on the land that borders the
Med and the Red Sea. Please, please, please.... next time.... slap
me around the face with a wet, preferably rancid, fish and shout
clearly and repeatedly:
NOT enter Egypt with a motor vehicle, because if you do, the monolithic
demon that is Egyptian customs will take you and do something
to you that is at the opposite end of the spectrum to having the
soft bits on the end of you ears nibbled by nubile angels sent
by God to comfort you!
Anyway, long time-no-hear from me.... well a thorough wrist and
thigh slapping is required. Egypt didn't really put me in the mood
to be creative and Ethiopia's Internet access is verging on non-existent.
Apart from that, I was preoccupied with riding on good dirt pistes,
riding very bad corrugated and mud-infested pistes, having the bike's
rear sub frame welded (in 4 places) and repairing punctures in the
front tyre (8 times - please don't ask me to say nice things about
my sponsor.... The wife's front wheel is now sporting a tyre from
France, whose logo is a fat bloke!)
We all make good and bad calls in life and I have
a few skeletons in my closet (to be divulged upon payment of many
beers), but boarding that ferry from Aqaba in Jordan to Neweiba
in Sinai (presently in Egypt) counts as a major clanger.
Following is a list of the pros and cons
Pros: a. Chocolate thick shakes at the Shark Bay restaurant
in Dahab, Sinai. b. The BMW garage in Cairo who worked on my bike
for free and replaced my broken starter motor. (I won't mention
that they put my K&N air filter back in upside down and that
rode for a hundred clicks before I noticed!) c. The chappie at the Valley of the Kings who let
me into the fourth tomb for free, even though I only had a ticket
for 3 tombs. d. The chap at the Sultan Hotel who helped me get
bits to replace the hose off my left carburettor after some nice
Egyptian stole the original. e.
(Hint.... there were no more!)
I will not recount the bad experiences, as they are too numerous
to mention. If there is a Hell on Earth, then it is Egypt and if
there is a Devil, then it is 'Shukri' the bloke at Cairo Customs
who does the tracings of the engine and chassis numbers!
Sinai was ruggedly beautiful, but I truthfully can't
imagine why the Israelis and the Egyptians would want to break the
6th Commandment so often for this desolate place.
Lots of R and R was had in Dahab. Snorkelling at
the Blue Hole with its wonderful coral and plethora of multi coloured
fish.... The gaudy batiks you see in the shops aren't really gaudy;
The fish really were the most un-camouflaged I have ever seen.
An interesting little event occurred while riding
around the Pyramids. An Aussie friend, Adam, and I took a horse
ride. Why? I really don't know! It was naff, but... on the way back
to the stable, the route goes through a cemetery. As would be expected
the horse speeds up, as he's on the home straight. Suddenly....
I didn't know what was going on. I was still on the horse's back,
but my legs were horizontal on the ground. The horse had fallen
into a tomb, landing on all 4 legs. Luckily I didn't fall in behind
the horse and he didn't break a leg. We got him out eventually.
When the guide asked for a ‘tip’ back at the stables,
I gave him one: 'don't go in the cemetery!'
The loneliness of Cairo was desolate and painful.
Not nice at all. All the hassle, a broken bike and hardly a kind
soul to chat to. I don't recommend it. I knew I would be alone at
times, but I met virtually no overlanders all the way to Cairo.
(Possibly they took Grant's advice!?)
In between patches of utter desolation facing the
might of the insult that is Egypt, I did meet Didi and Uli (hi Chiefs!)...
2 Germans on black XTs, whom I first met in Ephesus in Western Turkey,
a long time ago. We (and Adam) had a great few days. Lots of laughs.
Why didn't I ride with them all the way from Ephesus? They even
got into Egypt without a carnet.
The chance to appear in an Egyptian movie
I also gave up the chance to appear in an Egyptian
movie. Some weirdo of western extraction was touting in the hotel.
My question, as to which line of business he was in, fazed him somewhat.
'International marketing'... Yeh, right!
Just to cheer myself up I went to the Sudan Embassy
to check the progress of my visa application. (Having been ignored
in London and refused in Bonn...) After waiting an age, I talked
to bloke who couldn't find my application. The result of 3 hours
toil: 'Come back on Monday at 10am to see the Consul General, who
might know where the application is.' (Editor's note: He didn't!!!)
Flying became the only option. The bike wouldn't
fit into through an A320 Airbus of Egypt Air or a Boeing 757 of
Ethiopian Airlines cargo door. Only Lufthansa's A300 to Addis Ababa
had a door big enough.
No traffic violations
To clear customs (which took 5 days!) you have to get a 'no traffic
violations' confirmation from the traffic police. I violated at
least 4 rules to get the last 300 metres to the office.... u-turn
across the central reservation of a dual carriageway, ride over
a railwayline, drive the wrong way up a one way street and park
in a no parking zone... all under the watchful eye of 10 'busy'
When not spending time at the customs/ airport,
I decided to have a productive morning extending my visa. So many
people, pushing so many pieces of paper, achieving so little. Hundreds
of them and that was just the passport section. I counted that my
passport went through 28 pairs of hands. It is my firm belief that
Egypt is solely responsible for the hole in the ozone layer with
its generation of hot air and also for the depletion of the rain
forest, with its devouring of bits of paper. Unglaublich!!
Shipping wasn't an option as the routing from Alexandria
takes too long and Suez is in the clutches of Ahmed the Spiv, so
the bike eventually went for $580 ($350 freight, $230 for customs!!…
of this 230 smackers I had receipts for 50… the other 180
for bribes) on Lufthansa and me for $430 on Ethiopian Airlines to
special thanks must go to Messrs. Van Morrison, Jimmy Barnes
and John Coltrane, as well as, the entire soundtrack of
Easyrider for getting me through the nightmare.
Never forget, there is a soul out there, but not in Egypt.