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The Solo Scooterist

Documenting my travels on a Vespa

Month: September 2014 (page 1 of 3)

The Desert

Leaving Khartoum was very difficult , it was so nice being in Peters home and out of the daily routine of pack and travel . I spent 5 nights being treated like royalty , nothing was to much and between Peters generosity , great sense of humour , Amira’s warm heart and  hospitality , I left under a cloud of sadness like I had not experienced on the trip to date . Always saying goodbye does put in perspective the transient state of life while on the road . I will hold my time in Khartoum close to my heart , for my heart was touched by two wonderful people who’s memory I do not want to let fade . Thank you once again my friends Peter and Amira .

The ride out of Khartoum was very busy and it took a good hour and a half to clear the city limits and find the open road , and my word was it to become the open road . The road soon finds the desert in all its wonder , vast , so very vast with the variation in landscape  not being the  vegetation but just differing colours of the sand  as you ride .

 

Vic's first fuel stop , damn where is Vic?

Vic’s first fuel stop , damn where is Vic?

As you ride deeper and deeper into the desert so her heat robs you of your  strength , the powerful hot wind erodes your resolve , all the while the temperature rises . As the morning was lost to the fireball above I had to start wrapping up , I pulled my jacket zipper to the top , gloves pulled high ,  jacket sleeves pulled down and tied , buff pulled over my head and helmet sealed , this was cooler than allowing the hot air in . You ride in a sauna , sweat mists the visor , burns your eyes and the helmet sucks down on your head . I could not believe the heat , never mind the wind that comes howling at you , catching Vic and I off guard , just to frighten the living daylights out of us and forcing me to attention .

 

Fine and fresh the sand covers everything.

Fine and fresh the sand covers everything.

 

Nothing much to distract your eye.

Nothing much to distract your eye.

 

Dash of green .

Dash of green .

The ride was very tiring , I found myself stopping for fuel more often then usual as Victoria’s consumption had gone through the roof . The head wind was so powerful that  I was battling to get 150 km to a tank . It was so hot that when we stopped to re fuel I could not touch any part of the scooter without wearing gloves , the body work was ticking , every part exposed to the sun was cooked ,  hard to believe but the searing truth. The ride took the entire day to cover the 525 kilometres and was I glad to finally arrive in Dongola .

 

The ride up to Dongola .

The ride up to Dongola .

 

Some colour to break the bleak .

Some colour to break the bleak .

The guest house I had chosen , was no longer  so I rode around for a while then managed to find an hotel. Hotel Ola , I think that is what it is called , my Arabic really needs improving in every aspect . I booked in showered and took off to find dinner and the town. The Sudanese people are the most hospitable , I have ever met , they come and introduce themselves , I met families just while strolling the streets , I was offered food , tea on so many occasions I lost count , just incredible . It is so hard to comprehend , yet when here it seems so natural .

 

My room for the night .

My room for the night .

I found a great restaurant , with a menu that was in Arabic , so how I ended up with a really tasty chicken pizza is beyond me , then back to the hotel , for an early night  . I wanted to try and get to Wadi Halfa before the big heat hit us , so it was to be a first light ride.

 

Sunrise on the road.

Sunrise on the road.

The ride up to Wadi  Halfa was a visual feast , the road runs along the Nile for the better part of the ride and as it snakes so you ride next to the beautiful lush green of the Nile , then find yourself thrown into the harsh desert with nothing but black rock dusted with  light pink sand or a beautiful jade green field of stone to your side , then back to palm trees and green. Yet all the while your nostrils are filled with the smell of the desert sand.

 

On your left the lush , cool green.

On your left the lush , cool green.

 

On your right the harsh reality.

On your right the harsh reality.

The ride up to Wadi Halfa was only around 420 kilometres on a fantastic road , but the wind came back to haunt our ride , you try and make yourself as  small as possible ,  you would think a guy on a Vespa deep in the Sahara would be small , not us , she found us , followed us and beat us , with a little more aggression than the day before . Consumption was worse due to the wind , and I feared  my neck might develop a power lifter look and feel , that been said the desert is intoxicating .

 

Along the Nile.

Along the Nile.

 

When you see the water , you fantasize about wallowing in it.

When you see the water , you fantasize about wallowing in it.

 

Beauty that makes you feel alive .

Beauty that makes you feel alive .

 

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The road until about a 120 kilometres from Wadi does show signs of life as well as proof of life , then you find yourself deep in the Sahara with nothing but space , sand and sun , not a spot of shade , nothing , no movement  but the wind , no life except that of yours  which starts to feel very vulnerable  and you have to catch your mind from wondering to far , just 80 km to , just 60 km to go and so you count them down until you your wheels find a safe place for the night .

 

Victoria in the Sahara.

Victoria in the Sahara.

 

The black rock with pink frosting.

The black rock with pink frosting.

 

Road to Wadi  Halfa.

Road to Wadi Halfa.

 

My welcome party.

My welcome party.

 

I arrived in Wadi to be met by Mazaar who is assisting me with the paperwork in getting Vic and I out of Sudan , on to the ferry and in to Egypt . I was so dehydrated by the heat that I stopped at the first shop I saw and downed two Fanta’s in very quick succession . What really shocks  me is that I never  drink the  fizzy stuff but up here I would kill for them , I think  the last time I had a Fanta , before arriving in the North was  over 20 years ago  At that moment in time the ice cold one had a similar feeling to winning the lotto I would imagine . Putting  life in perspective .

I am all settled in my hotel and enjoying the sounds of Arabic tunes as they blast from the restaurant kitchen , while I sip on sweet tea and meet and greet all those who happen by . The tea has cooled me down and washed the desert from body and mind , but the last two days of riding will be with me for a long while , they exhausted me , put fear into me , let my mind run free,  both to the beauty  and the  bad , the heat literally took my breath away , the wind my sanity , I hated every second while mother nature beat me , yet in the photographs I find a beauty and peace that wash the bad away and replace it with something different , a sense of wonder at this vast , magical and harsh place they call the Sahara.

So fed , rested , I feel ready to take on the 18 hour ferry ride that will start some time tomorrow in the afternoon , we set sail for Aswan and our 10th country we shall enter on Wednesday as we make our way to Italy . 18 000 kilometres we have travelled together , today the fourth month on the road takes us into spring in SA , I ordinarily would have my first swim to mark the day , yet here I sit in wonderful sweltering Sudan reflecting on a country made beautiful by its people and harsh by nature .

 

Vic outside the hotel.

Vic outside the hotel.

 

Hotel dining area.

Hotel dining area.

I will miss this place and will probably regret not spending more time here , but I do know that the heat and wind will take the memories I do have and deform them , so I will have to one day return in the winter to ride the route I planned . Thank you Sudan your people touched me deeply , your kindness unparalled   , your beauty harsh and dramatic.

Until we meet again.

 

 

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Wadi Halfa @ sunset .

Wadi Halfa .

Wadi Halfa .

 

To the lake.

To the lake.

 

A little old school.

A little old school.

 

In the shop.

In the shop.

 

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The last of the light.

The last of the light.

 

Until we meet again.

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The dreamliner

I woke up early with both excitement and anticipation for the crossing into Egypt , I was to meet Mazaar later in the morning to hopefully load Victoria and I on the same ferry  , as well  as process all the paperwork . So I went down to the restaurant to have my morning tea , as breakfast in The Sudan only kicks off after 11 in the morning . I met a father who had been give child minding  duty while his wife tried to get some sleep , so we sat , chatted and the children took a shine to me , so we sat three in a row tea and bread in hand and let the time tick by.

I packed up and rode down to the harbour to meet Mazaar who was running a little late so there I sat drinking tea with the officials once more chatting and answering many questions.

I met Mazaar at around 11 to get the bad news Vic and I had to part ways , it was to be a  solo crossing for both of us . The paperwork done both at immigration and customs it was time to board . This is when I got the second blow , that the cabins had been booked up and Mazaar was only able to get me what is loosely referred to as second class seating , rows of benches at hull level .

We boarded and Mazaar found a place for my luggage and we went to the dinning room to cool down and have something to drink . As I boarded the ferry I was met with both shock and horror at the conditions on this vessel , I don’t think it has been cleaned since the day of delivery decades ago , I am not sure it is equipped to carry so many passengers or cargo . It is only 18 hours I told myself and followed Mazaar to the place of refuge .

 

Mazaar and I enjoying a coke and a smile .

Mazaar and I enjoying a coke and a smile .

 

Mazaar left around 13h00 and I setteled in to enjoy my book and ferry life . After a while I needed the loo so off I went for a little orientation around the ferry , I found the washroom and yes you very much do need a wash after you have been in this room , never mind once you have used this room , I also walked past the first class cabins and yes they are a first in their class , then off to where I was meant to sit , I think it was designed to carry livestock but then converted into a space to fit a lot of people , this second class area was also a first in its class . Time for fresh air , so onto the deck I went , people everywhere , sleeping in the walkway , inside the lifeboats they made a home  , under the life boats for shade , if there was a gap or a space it was filled with a human or their goods . I thought it better to return to the dining car and read my book to pass the time . The ferry only set sail around 17h00 so I had been in her bowls for hours even before we set off . The dining room had filled up by the time I got back , it was now a die ing  room filled with smoke , spitting and the mixed scent of man and must . So began my sail across lake Nasser to Aswan .

In true Sudanese style soon I had been drawn into conversation with various tables around me , answering many , many questions , some directly others through interpreters, in no time many friends I had made , many different conversatins I was having and I was so loving the warmth of my fellow travellers .

 

Sunset on Lake Nasser .

Sunset on Lake Nasser .

 

I met a young couple from Khartoum , recently married after saving up for ten years , their dream finally realised as they sailed towards a honeymoon in Egypt on this Dreamliner . He from Darfur , where he hardly goes anymore due to the situation back home ,  to scared to take his radiant bride to visit his family for  fear what the soliders might do to her , his father and brother absent from his day of celebration , their lives taken by conflict . Yet his face filled with beauty and happiness for he has married his dream girl who he has loved for so long , a dream realised , the boat the means to complete the circle . I loved the way they looked at each other his eyes gentle as he takes in  her beauty   , her smile wide and complete as she returns his gaze , his words strong and proud as he tells of their future together . Her dream to work for the UN one day , his peace for his family and country , so we spoke , so we sailed into the night . We went on to the deck for some fresh air , as we took in the stars she sung for me , a beautiful  Arabic lullaby and he spoke of his love for Miriam Makeba all on the Dreamliner.

 

Newly weds .

Newly weds .

 

My next conversation with a young human rights lawyer currently doing her masters , sailing to Cairo to spend a month interviewing Christians on life surrounded by Islam . Her mind free in thought and her dreams bold for a better life in The Sudan for her and her people . Yet with a heavy heart she tells me of the restrictive life she leads , she has to be careful of what she says , how she behaves and how she lives . She dreams to be free to love who she chooses , to feel equal in a world that is dominated by the male , she dreams of freedoms we take for granted , a young mind paralysed by a way of life she did not choose. Her beauty of mind incredible , her face one second radiant with the thought of freedom the next a vale of sadness falls over her striking , hypnotising beauty as reality returns . The Dreamliner taking her to Cairo her mind taking her around the world. Thank you for our time together .

Time passed , the die room emptied and I asked the manager if I could sleep the night there . He finally agreed and around one in the morning the room  went dark and I found myself on my back staring at the ceiling as my fellow companions and I tried to find some sleep . The bench not to comfy , my camel pack no pillow , sleep ran away more than stayed , by 4h30 the die room was alive and kicking , by 5h30 the first passangers found their way to the coffee and tea and my day began.

 

The no sleep look. Taken by a fellow passenger who insisted I remember my night in a photograph.

The no sleep look. Taken by a fellow passenger who insisted I remember my night in a photograph.

 

I took my tea and headed for the deck to catch the sunrise and stretch after my night as a contortionist , I felt like I had not washed in weeks , the grime  my second skin and my eyes burning from time in the smoking room. I found a small space among the bodies to put my feet and waited for dawn .

 

Sunrise like no other .

Sunrise like no other .

 

The Dreamliner does have its advantages.

The Dreamliner does have its advantages.

 

After being witness to this spectacular sunrise I returned to my space with book and tea only to be joined by the family from the day before at the hotel . Father once again being given the task of child minder . The girls came to sit alongside me and the next thing I knew there I sat hand in hand with the youngsters , not a word passing our lips , just sitting holding hands as the Dreamliner sailed closer to home.

 

My breakfast companion.

My breakfast companion.

 

My other breakfast companion .

My other breakfast companion .

 

Dad and I  spoke of his dream to try and find work in Cairo as a driver , Sudan the country of his birth not able to offer him the life he wishes for his family . A tall dark powerful man with a strong will and gentle eyes he tells me of his life in The Sudan . As we speak I find myself drawn to his strength , inspired by his dream , taken by his unwavering faith , I felt we had been friends in a previous life that we  had  stood side by side and faced the world and its challenges . As he stood to take his leave , those strong hands taking his daughters in each , I found myself praying that he found more than his dream that his life would go beyond expectation and he would find all he dreamed of . As he walked away tall and proud my heart went with him and those two beautiful children of The Sudan.

The Dreamliner found port yet it was to be a further two hours before she laid anchor , it would be a full 24 hours before my feet found terra firma . I was met by Kamal my fixer on the Egyptian side who whisked me through immigration while the rest of the ferry queued in the blazing heat , we got through security and he then found  me a ride to my hotel . Was I glad to be on my way to a three hour shower ,  water , soap ,  toothbrush and mint to wash the ferry away.

Wow what a ride .

Until we meet again.

 

 

 

 

 

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Town of tourist ghosts

I booked into the Philae hotel in Aswan , the staff a total delight from the outset , I could not get into hot shower fast enough , scrub , rinse , scrub , rinse , I was turning pink from applying so much pressure , but damn it felt good , then I brushed my teeth for so long that I feared gum damage , finally the ferry washed off . I went down stairs to book a tour to Abu Simbal , which we had sailed past and it looked really impressive from the boat , I was told that I would be collected at 3 am yes AM to join the convoy that left Aswan at 4 am to drive the 300 kilometres to Abu Simbal . Oh what the hell , what harm would it do ,  another night of hardly any sleep . My wake up call felt like a cannon  going off next to me , I jumped  up showered and out. The drive is long and straight and we arrived just after 7 in the morning .

 

Sunrise en route to Abu Simbal .

Sunrise en route to Abu Simbal .

 

We had two and a half hours to explore until the convoy left back to Aswan . What makes Abu Simbal interesting is that it was saved by a joint venture between Egypt and Unesco from disappearing under the water once the Aswan dam construction  was completed , so the entire temple was cut into huge blocks and moved to take its place above the water line . Very impressive to say the least , we humans can be extraordinary on occasion cant we ?

 

The main temple .

The main temple .

 

 

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Temple constructed by Ramesses the second for his wife Nefertari.

Temple constructed by Ramesses the second for his wife Nefertari

 

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After exploring , it was back to the mini bus to take  the trip home , by the time we got back I was shattered , I took a shower and jumped into bed and slept like the dead .

I was to spend 4 nights in Aswan waiting for Victoria’s arrival in Egypt , so I spent my time walking the corniche , once bustling with the tourism trade now just dust and litter with hawkers of every kind not letting up . My friend , my friend you want , you want and so it goes , not making for a relaxing stroll along the Nile . I hardly saw any other tourists at all except for those I would meet in my hotel two days into my stay. The Nile river boats parked four deep all moth balled , looking as if the world had come to an end and they the only proof of civilisation  . Aswan really felt forlorn , I kept thinking to myself , Egypt made famous by its ancient ruins and now seems to be falling into ruin . The vanity of its Pharaohs still alive with the act of keeping their town neat and tidy beneath the locals  . I felt saddened by what I saw.

 

Main road along the Nile in Aswan .

Main road along the Nile in Aswan .

 

Down the Nile .

Down the Nile .

 

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The next morning at breakfast I met up with the Russian contingent driving their Chevrolet around the world in a year and David riding his bike south , so we hung out for the day trading information and doing what over landers do when together, chat , chat and chat. That afternoon we decided to enjoy the Nile powered by the wind so we set sail and took a boat out to enjoy the sunset and have a traditional Nubian dinner which was spectacular . I so enjoyed the company of other travellers and we spent the next two days in each others company.

 

The botanical gardens .

The botanical gardens .

 

Home to the Aga Khan , while in Egypt .

Home to the Aga Khan , while in Egypt .

 

Aswan corniche from the boat .

Aswan corniche from the boat .

 

Private villa along the Nile.

Private villa along the Nile.

 

The crew at sunset .

The crew at sunset .

I was up early , Victoria had arrived and Kamal was coming to collect me so we could free her from customs , this was to be one of my most frustrating days in living memory , dealing with Egyptian bureaucracy is torture , even with a fixer it took 6 hours to free Vic . What makes it so frustrating is that it took 6 hours to complete two forms of which I filled in one and to get a stamp in my carnet. This process in the past took around 5 minutes at other border posts , just unbelievable . Kamal then had to go to the traffic department get my registration plates , insurance and finally we could leave .

 

Victoria arrives in the land of the Pharaohs.

Victoria arrives in the land of the Pharaohs.

 

Proof I was here .

Proof I was here .

 

Waiting , waiting , waiting .

Waiting , waiting , waiting .

 

Finally back at the hotel , I did a routine check up on Vic and then took another long shower before meeting David for dinner . Off to bed to get ready for our ride up to Luxor .

I woke up early , packed the scooter and was on the road by 8h30 , it was cool and I only had just over 200 kilometres to ride . Then my ordeal started it took me three hours and around 60 kilometres of riding to find petrol , which I eventually found way past the airport on the road back to Abu Simbal , the entire town was out , I must have tried close to 20 fuel stations , finally now 11h30 we rode out in the heat of the day with Luxor in our sights . I took the road up that runs along the Nile which was to prove very slow due to the fact that it is full of very long trucks and speed bumps every couple of kilometres that bring you to a grinding halt . Some so steep they tickled Vic’ s under carriage . If this was not enough I must have been pulled over 5 times to check my documentation , what a long day it was .

 

 

The ride up to Luxor .

The ride up to Luxor .

 

Finally we arrived in Luxor , it would be another two hours before I finally got the scooter unpacked and the reams of paperwork completed to park Victoria with hotel security and me checked into my room . Showered and changed we watched the sunset over the Nile not even enough energy to go up to my room to get the camera  to capture the moment . Enjoying the orange of the sunset I matched it with the orange of my Fanta . Dinner and off to bed .

Until we meet again .

 

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Luxurious Luxor

After a good nights rest , I woke to a picture perfect morning , indulged with the array of vanities at my disposal and then down to breakfast to complete the  extravagance with pastries , fresh coffee , a fluffy omelette and the chilled fresh fruits , mmmhhh.  What a start to what was going to be a very lazy day , complete with slops , board shorts and a little sun screen .

 

Tranquil turquoise .

Tranquil turquoise .

 

I spent the day around the pool trying to secure a boat from Africa across the Mediterranean to Italy , which is only weeks away so I thought it prudent to get cracking . I am currently waiting for confirmation that I can get a spot aboard one of the container ships that sail the route .

Later as the heat of the day subsided I thought I would go for a walk along the Nile past the Luxor Temple and then back to the hotel . This was to be as relaxing as Chinese torture . Luxor although not as empty as Aswan still sports the 4 to 5 deep Nile river boats tied and locked , the corniche empty but for me and the ever near and present danger of the Felucca skipper offering you a trip around the bay. Luxor is far better kept , much cleaner and greener .

 

Strolling Luxor .

Strolling Luxor .

 

Barge city not so pretty.

Barge city not so pretty.

 

Luxor Temple .

Luxor Temple .

 

Still the Temple .

Still the Temple .

 

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The only real difference between walking around Luxor to Aswan is here I am not referred to as My friend , My friend good price felucca ride , but rather moustache , moustache good price felucca ride .Even though in my heart of hearts I understand the desperation of the situation , trying to make a living with so few tourists , they really can wear you down with the one hundredth offer of the same thing with the same words . Eventually running  the gauntlet frayed my patience and nerves so  I made a run for the sanctuary of the hotel poolside to sip on ice cold water and enjoy a latte in a world where the sounds of the great composers fill your ears and the ever present colourful cocktails pass by  on trays held high .

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The West bank .

The West bank .

 

The sun started to set , I enjoyed the last rays from inside the pool before the day came to an end . I have decided to spend another night here and go ballooning before sunrise .

 

Magic

Magic

 

Until we meet again .

 

 

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