Chapter 5
Hell on Earth

Hell on Earth

A important day…


Dear All!
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 yesterday.
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 rancid, fish


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 leading....

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:

Do 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!)

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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 of Egypt:


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.



(Hint.... there were no more!)

The cons:
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.

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The Blue Hole


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' police officers.

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Depletion of the rain forest


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 Addis Ababa.

A 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.

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