Tag Archives: motorbike adventure

Stuck on the Side of the Road – Again!

Well what can I say, it seems almost repetitive to say we were stuck on the side of the road, but there we were, making a run for the border with a day to spare, and we lost all power.  First I thought it we had run out of fuel, but topping it up, it was clear that it wasn’t.  Then I thought is was compression, and discovered one of the cylinders was full of fuel.

Whilst I suspected all wasn’t well with the bike, I really believed we would make it to the border and didn’t top up the phone card and couldn’t even contact the mechanic to see what else I could do. So every vehicle that passed, I flagged down and asked for a tow to the border, but none were going that far, so the best option was to return to Yebello.  It eventually turned out to be the French tourists in their 4×4 with guide and driver who passed us on the road earlier, who we stopped to have a chat with, who had passed us again and were now on their way back to Yabello for the night, who towed our sorry bike to a place where a truck would be much easier to find should we need one to get to the border.

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We were being well looked after by 4 local boys who helped flag down cars etc to get us a tow – and NGO that stopped was concerned about out location, but to be honest we were always met helpfulness.  Whilst I wasn’t keen to linger, I didn’t feel in any danger either.
Armed with phone credit, I got in touch with Mick our mechanic, who instructed me to clean carbs thoroughly, and check the timing device.  Carbs cleaned just as it got dark, and no improvement in the bike. The next morning, I checked the interrupter and that seemed fine too.  So without further consultation, I arranged a truck.  Getting across the border was a higher priority now.

Truck found, price agreed, I thought we would be on road to Kenya, but 3 hours later, we found ourselves outside the house of the local transport official where her mother was persuaded to allow the driver to complete the necessary documents and sign it in her absence.  The legality obviously questionable, but when you in a hurry, you gotta do what you gotta do.

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Searching the back streets of Yabello trying to find the transport officer who wasn’t answering her phone!
Finally we were on the road to Moyales with Ethiopian folk music quietly playing in the back ground, whilst I tried to ignore the vulnerability of the situation we were in terms of crossing the border handicapped by a bike that didn’t work.

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Yay! we are in Kenya.  The photo doesn’t show it but by this point of travelling 5 days of which two days off road and breaking down and trucking, Sofia’s last t-shirt looked like it had been washed in a dried out river as did all her others!   I wasn’t actually able to get washing done until Nairobi!  
As soon as we arrived, with 2 hours to spare, the haggling commenced on how much for a bunch of guys to get the bike off the truck and local fixer/guide/helper/money changer extraordinaire made himself known and pointed me in all the right directions to documents stamped, fingerprints taken and photos logged.  Surprisingly, Ethiopia customs and immigration processed us quickly, and by 4.30pm I was encouraging the bike pushers to push harder to get the bike up the hill to the Kenyan customs and immigration.

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Parked out side the police station right by the boarder gate where I worked on the bike for a day.  The policemen where really nice and kinda took me under their wing a bit, making sure I got a decent mechanic, wasn’t over charged, and shooed away people if the crown got too big.
Finally we were in Kenya, and a feeling of safe in terms of visas!  The next day, I worked on the bike, still on the side of the road.  I sent the tank off to be cleaned, double/triple cleaned the carbs, and changed the oil yet again.  So back to the timer, and found that it had moved about half a cm.  Right on the border of Kenya and Ethiopia as not the place to find solutions, and despite the best efforts of the local mechanic, he clearly didn’t have tools or the right experience, and so another truck was arranged and it was time to go the Jungle Junction in Nairobi where a good mechanic and a great location beckoned us.

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Crossing the Equator on our way down to Nairobi – in the back ground is the truck carrying Sofia ( who was tired and sleepy and not impressed with the occasion!) and the bike.  

 

Memories of Sudan

We only left Sudan a week and a half ago, and yet already it feels so distant.  Sadly it is a country of restrictions and I wasn’t able to publish any posts during our time there, so now I am playing catch up and will try to give as much of our experience in one short post.

Top memories included:

Staying with a Nubian family on the banks of the Nile.  It was only for one night, and even though we became the local attraction, it felt like all the people who stopped by to meet us became instant friends even though we didn’t speak the same language!  Our hosts where generous to a fault and will be one of our strongest memories of this trip through Africa.

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Visiting JebaBerkal in Karima was like stepping back in time and exploring an Egyptian archaeology site 100 years ago.  The temples were only half excavated and the one cut in a rock needed a torch to see the paintings on the wall.  Karima itself was a lovely town with a colourful market and is where we spent our Christmas day.

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Khartoum ended up being a 2 week adventure for us and included such delights as visiting a school for autism (will do a separate blog about it), staying with Hiba, the founder of said school, and her family for several days and going to a pre-wedding party that absolutely rocked

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The desert wind was relentless and unfortunately not suitable for desert camping.  We did manage one night, our last night, and Sofia loved it so much she is always looking for an excuse to do it again.  The funniest thing though, was several people passed us and stopped and asked if we would prefer to stay in the local village (at least that is what I surmised) and they just couldn’t understand it when I kept saying no and walk away looking utterly baffled.

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There are many things I’ve not included here that won’t be forgotten, like the USD story and the broken wheel rim, which have otherwise been faithfully recorded in Facebook.

In a nutshell though, Sudan is an interesting place that feels like a bit of a time warp.  On the one hand modernised, yet on the other hand, still some where stuck in the 70s and unable to move forward.  What was really nice was the people. So hospitable!  I have never felt so safe anywhere and leaving Sudan I was keenly aware that we would never be so safe again on our journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Impressions of Egypt

We have been in Egypt now for almost three weeks, and it would be hard to detail all our experiences as there have been so many.  Even keeping a diary has been hard work as it has been a full time experience as well!  Not a moment has been with out it’s own story and a name to put to it, and to all the people we have met, thank you so much!  We have fallen in love with you all and the country that you represent so well.

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Egypt is a land of extreme contrasts, but what is consistent the whole way through is that the people are simply kind and helpful.  However, even with in that that there is contrast, as on the one hand you have your every day person who will bend over backwards to help you, for no other reason than it gives them pleasure to do so.  On the other hand you have the tourist touts, who are the same, but they want to make you pay for it.  Sadly this is tourism the world over, and not exclusive to Egypt.  However, it does let the side down.

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A simple example of this was walking down the road in Aswan and a man starts to follow and talk, asking where we are from etc.  I say that I’m not interested in what he is selling, and I say it several times, but he insists that he is not selling anything (making me feel aware even more that I am a mark that he is working on) eventually he says as many will do – I’m only wanting to make you happy, to have a good time in Egypt.  So I replied that it was difficult to do that with someone following me making me feel uncomfortable.  At this point he left us and we could breath again.  What was he selling?  hotel rooms (his friend he knows and an uncle over there and maybe good price if I’m not happy where we are staying right now)

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Yet even with in this constant desperation of the tourist worker there is still positive experiences to be found.  Our guide at the pyramids ended up taking us to his home for tea, meeting his lovely wife N’agua, lent some trousers for sofia to wear on the horses and we left with an offer to stay with them should we return.  Just nice easy hospitality that was over and above the call of financial need.

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The most amazing welcome and generosity we experienced though, was from the bikers of Egypt which all started with Omar Alfardy offering us a place to stay in Alexandria.  From there came the Alexandria Free Bikers, the Golden Riders, and the Soul Seekers and perhaps most importantly George Spartant, who helped us get our bike out of port, and became organiser extrordinaire buy organising the TV crew in Alexandria, with a ride out and visit to the fort, and escort out of Alex, across Cairo (in rush hour), a place to stay in New Cairo, before our onward journey to Hurgada, where Elena and the Soul Seekers, and Mohamed picked up the riens, with Mohamed seeing us through to Aswan, our final stop before our boarder run down to Abu Simble and Sudan.

Even bikers with out group association were there ready to help when we needed guidance through a town after stopping for fuel, or finding a hotel.  No bakshish required, it was just a pleasure for them to help.

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Some may argue that we have been extremely lucky, and yes in many respects we have, however, I don’t think any visitor to this country would need to try very hard to find this kind genuine side to Egypt.  Once you let go of trying to control your experience of the country it opens up into an amazing technicolor of people and lives and relationships, an energy that is constantly moving and can carry you to those places that you really came to see an experience when you imagined travel to distant lands.

 

 

Leaving as Soon as Possible After the 10th November!

Sometimes a fixed date is not what the universe wants, and certainly in our case, leaving on our journey, it is unlikely we are going to know what actual day we leave, possibly until we have left!  What I can say is that we need to be in Africa by Christmas so we can avoid the rains in northern Kenya.

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Sofia at Brightona – The bike meet on Brighton sea front

Reasons for the leaving date has become fluid is multiple, and trying to force any of them to comply to a fixed dated feels wrong as they all have their own time to develop.

The first reason to present itself was my riding skills.  Granted, I’ve not see much of the bike over the summer with it being in an out of the workshop all summer and one mechanic holding it for a month for now reason too boot.  Now finally it is stablised! yay!

Out Training with Mick of MPC Ural Motorcycles
Out Training with Mick of MPC Ural Motorcycles

This has seen a number of forays into the world of off road, both with and without experienced back up, and I’m pleased to announce that not only have I clearly returned alive, but as a result my confidence and skill has been improving.  My most recent story I posted on our Facebook page – Africa With Autism.  For me what is important (because the expectation to ride like I have 20 yrs experience is not my agenda) is that I am able to work through situations on the road that might occur.  I feel now that I will be able to do that.  The fear and panic has now given way to a proactive approach to problems.  I’m still learning though, as you can see from the post!

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Out training with Dave (retired) in the Devils Punch Bowl, Hindhead

Another aspect to the date is Sofia’s school application process for September 2016.  Sofia in now in her transition year, which is effectively her final year of Junior school.  As she has special educational needs, there is a process by which senior schools are applied for.   One of the reasons this trip is possible is that it fits nicely within the process within the process.  We do however, need to ensure that all the paperwork has been done before we leave.  This is something we can’t put a date on as yet especially as the school we are choosing needs to finish its assessment process.

Finally, and perhaps the biggest show stopper of them all is the finances!  We are otherwise ready to go.  We have nearly all the kit, The bike is almost ready, and will make its final trip for tyres and modifications etc next week.  Financially though, we need a lot of money to get this project on the road.  Yes, believe it or not, it is the paper work that costs the most, and there is a lot of paper work that needs to be completed. It is the single biggest reason why many who would love to travel overland, don’t.   So now the project becomes a challenge to win hearts and minds for autism, and help create an amazing story with which to raise funds for autism for years to come.

Please donate to our Charity Foundation – Africa With Autism

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eeek! 8 Weeks to Go!

Oh my! only 8 weeks before we are due to leave!  Some how it seems so far away, but at the same time, 8 weeks can pass in the blink of an eye.  There are many things that still need to happen between now and then, and to be honest, I’m not sure how they will happen, I am just trusting that they will.

20150813_135544Since I last wrote the main high lights have been all to do with the motorbike going through a perpetual round of repairs.  It is shocking how much damage can be done on a bike in its poultry 10,000km life.  Most of the issues set up in its first 7,500km with lack of riding on the one hand and really bad riding and maintenance on the other.  None the less, we are on the road to recovery, and the main thing is to keep up the mileage I do on it before we go to make sure that it is fully tested and any faults are picked up before we leave.

The big up swing in getting the bike ready has been finding the right man for the job, not only is the bike getting excellent attention, but also great modifications.  I am also being well trained in the art of driving the Ural sidecar combination, and my mechanical skills have shot up to the point where I now feel confident to get my tools out on the side of the road if necessary.  It would be great to fix it on the side of the road as well, so tempting fate, I would not be unhappy if that where to happen before we leave so that my handy work can be assessed and improved upon if necessary.

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Green Light PBS Ltd was formed in 2009 to address shortfalls in autism care and support in Cornwall. The company has grown and now offers several family sized properties, flats and apartments, supporting people with autism and other complex needs. Green Light provide care for people with Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Epilepsy, Learning Disability, Prader-Willi Syndrome, Associated Challenging Behaviour

We may have missed much of the summer on the bike, however, we are making up for lost time and where invited over to Cornwall to meet with the Greenlight organisation that is providing support for families affected by autism.  In the process we where able to experience the road for 3 nights with bike and tent, stopping in Poole on the way.  I am pleased to say that both Sofia and I have prepared well both psychologically and emotionally, as the 3 days didn’t seem to feel ‘unnatural’ or awkward in anyway and where both taking a proactive stance of learning better ways of doing things.  I even had to wonderful experience of extremely limited phone connection (yes Cornwall seems to have been left off the grid)  and hardly a free wifi spot to hook into.  On the one had it was frustrating because there is still so much to do, on the other, it was great to have the break, and focus on the job at hand of experiencing the wonderful facilities that GreenLight provide, as well making our story available to them to inspire their community.  We are very much looking forward to returning with our experience under our belts.

September is now screaming to an end, and a carnet de passage application form is plaguing my mind!  Visa application start at the beginning of October and we look forward to working with another Autism Wessex at the end of the October before we leave on our adventure!

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