Tag Archives: travelling

Working Behind the Scenes

I have been quiet for the last few months as I ferreted away on setting up a new blog (current affairs, political, common sense, non PC – The Hungry Rabbit)  that will hopefully sustain us in the future for more adventure travel to raise awareness for autism.   I have almost finished with the initial setting up, and my focus is now returning to our next travel project – Europe.

Having decided that Europe was the next destination in the new year, I then had the thought that perhaps we should make it a bigger challenge and instead of a motorbike, that we should try a tandem bicycle.  A really great idea and challenge to be done, but I have realised that now is not the time.  Sofia is not ready to make that type of journey, coupled with the fact that at this point I think cultures will be a better learning for her than working through a physical punishment – and a physical punishment it would certainly be!

So we remain on the motorbike for this journey and will cover approximately 1000 miles a week, hoping to camp the entire way (peek season availability allowing) and taking in as much of the various cultures of Europe as possible.

As I think about this journey and I start to plan, I can feel that there will in fact be an enormous challenge in it for both of us and I wonder how I thought that it might not be enough!  Not only will we dealing with many different languages yet never staying long enough to really get to grips with them, but cities will most likely become a major feature of our travels.  This will present a challenge for me driving as I don’t like cities and have a propensity to get lost (yes really!  if it wasn’t for basic navigation knowledge of North and South we may have ended up in the Arctic in stead of Africa!), but also Sofia, who will now have an opportunity to develop her map reading skills, and her camping skills, both of which she was only just starting to get to grips with on our journey through Africa.

The Plan of Action:

We do our first event of the season next week at the MCN Show at the Excel in London (17th-19th) where we will hopefully pick up some kit sponsors for the trip and sell our T-shirts and stickers.  Expect a blog post, as this will be first time for me driving with a trailer and no doubt I will find myself in a pickle somewhere in London!

Start detailed planning – border controls for Ukraine and Russia; peg the definite destinations with time scales and sections where we can go off the beaten track.  Ensure that I have Ural knowledge bases fully mapped on the route as well!

Start planning kit – we will have to halve what we took with us to Africa, partly because Sofia has grown and partly because in hindsight I think the Zambian bikers were right, we were too heavy in Africa.  With Sofia also being older now, it may be easier to achieve this as well as I will feel less need as a mother to horde food and clothing!

Fundraising – This year I have set up an account on Patreon so that supporters can subscribe $1 per month (or more if they so choose).    Through this I hope that we achieve a regular support base upon which we can plan future events as well as start creating grants for other children with Autism and Autism organisations.  Please visit us on Patreon and become a patron now – https://www.patreon.com/AfricaWithAutism

Recording the event – This time I will be investing more time into planning the video recording and picture taking and hopefully get Sofia involved in the effort.   It was my biggest regret in Africa that I hadn’t had time to do this before hand and made more of that aspect of the journey.  So in Europe, I plan to make up for it.    I have also found a great app for turning speech to text and will make an effort to create book as we go.   I am currently using this for the book about the Africa journey, but sadly with so many other things on my plate it is not happening at the speed I would like!

Thank you for you continued support!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After 9 Months of Travelling

I really didn’t have a plan or even an idea of what the end of the trip would look like, but some how in the final two weeks it all started to fall into place with the key issue of bike transport resolved with Econotrans.  With the help of Antoinette who heads up the local branch of Autism SA, in the couple of days we were in East London, transport was arranged for the bike to Cape Town courtesy of Kargo, ‘the’ national logistics company.  Flights arranged and a week after arriving in East London SA, we were landing in West London UK.

As part of preparing for the journey we had moved out of our rented house and into a caravan, and on return, the caravan was wheeled out again until we found a permanent address.  I thought this would take a couple of months, but after a week and a half, I was done with out-door life and creature comforts were calling me very loudly.  Again, thinking that it would take time to find somewhere we would like, I was surprised that the second appartement we saw was perfect and empty and a week later we moved in.

It was strange having all our stuff out of storage, and so much of it as well – one of the wonderful side effects of travelling for a long period is that you let go of material attachments and keep only those things you actually need.  So, as I started up packing boxes, I started throwing stuff away.  I would say about three-quarters made it down to the dump.  Of course I have kept a few sentimental items, but even most of my books made it into the trash, and I love my books.

The bike arrived in port a few weeks after us, and Mick took it straight to his workshop to give it a work over and MOT so it could be taxed for the road.  The list of work was long, and mostly associated with the wheels which had become a main issue at the end of the trip.  The engine was fine, but the timing had been set incorrectly by the South African mechanic, and the gear box is having to be reworked as the efforts of the South African mechanic made the 3rd gear issue we experienced in Ethiopia return.   The side car alignment was also incorrect as well as the rear wheel alignment – the two may be connected, an expert would know, sadly the issues they created all appeared after the bike’s ‘overhaul’ in South Africa.   All in all, it seems sending the bike to South Africa for an overhaul was a massive mistake.  Whilst there may have been pre-existing wear on the bike that may have contributed, that they didn’t make note of it and warn me of any potential future problems after releasing bike leads me to assume that there were no potential issues other than those that they had created.    And with out a doubt, a missing collet and a broken universal joint, incorrect timing and gear box problems would have all been avoided if the bike had not been in their care.

Sofia has settled down really well since moving into the apartment and started school the week after.  Her emotional well being is remarkable, and even now after 4  weeks, she is still positive, optimistic and looking ahead.  I hear last week that she will often apply her travel experiences to what she is learning in the class room which is wonderful.   I had originally wanted her to go to a more specialist school and had stopped the appeal process because I couldn’t find the mental space to focus on it whilst on the road, so I was really worried about how she would cope being on a large campus with a lot of students.  I’m please so say though that the special unit to which she is attached is making sure that she is fully supported in finding her way around and ensuring that she uses the unit as base between lessons.

On a personal level, the change in Sofia has been something I get to appreciate every day.  She is no so easily upset by change, personal hygiene has improved, contributing to the house by doing a few chores is no long a world war 3 scenario.  Generally her fight with me is 20% of what it used to be and I would say, it have moved into a more normal range of what you would expect of an 11 year old girl.   I am so proud of her, and every second of the journey we have taken across Europe and Africa has been worth every ounce of increased confidence she feels in herself and every inspired effort she makes to challenge herself.

For my part, I have not settled so well.  Once the first several whirlwind weeks of our return died down, I felt myself left wanting and not entirely sure why.  The sense that I was living in the real world and now had to return to a surreal world was confusing, and being at the Overland Event saw me starting to plan another trip with the idea of being back on the road in 6 months.  I had heard from other travellers about this, but I had not expected it to be so overwhelming and such a fight to redefine my identity.   None the less, I started to write, notes mostly so that I could start to get to grips with the story we had just lived.  A couple of weeks ago I found a starting point and now the first draft is under way.    I am still struggling to make sense of on my new static identity, but it is not nearly as distracting as it has been, and the more immersed I get into the book writing process, I’m sure it will eventually dissipate.

Going forward – I hope to post photos with stories of our travels, some might make it into the book, but many sadly won’t and yet still need to be told.  I hope you enjoy them and thank you for continuing to follow us.  We are still raising money through Africa With Autism (see donation links in the right column of this website)  – I’ve not decided on what we will do with the money just yet, but will keep you posted of any progress on that front.

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One of the lovely places we stayed in Namibia

 

 

 

Summary or our Final Months

It was not my intention to suddenly stop posting about the trip in blog format, but we ended up spending 3 months in Zimbabwe waiting to get the bike on the road.   In that time we had periods of activity, including a couple of trips to Mozambique and a week travelling around Zimbabwe courtesy of someone lending us a car.  But as you can imagine, that doesn’t exactly fill the time, so the rest of it was ostensibly waiting and Sofia took over the laptop to keep her entertained and it became hers for the rest of the trip.

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After sun down, the baboons return to the Great Zimbabwe ruins for the night.  Sofia was very excited about how close they were – me not so much!

I’d like to say that having sent the bike down to South Africa to the Ural expert there, that the rest of the trip became an effortless breeze through the deserts, bush and savannah, but sadly we were to have a further 5 more break downs.  One of which whilst driving the bike back from South Africa, which caused a moment of travel crisis and I almost fast track the journey to its end.

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Another wonderful example of how wonderful people in Africa are.  These two chaps helped fix the bike when the missing collet was discovered. 

Happily I didn’t, and with the continued support from Zimbabweans in Bulawayo and Victoria Falls (Victoria Falls hotel remains the hight light of the trip for Sofia)  we finally managed to exit the country to Botswana, where we stayed one night before heading to Namibia.

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Like an African, when all else fails, consult a witch doctor… and that is exactly what I did!  I decided that the bike must have an evil spirit causing all the problems and could he please get rid of them.  Sadly it wasn’t an evil spirit, because the problems continued for the rest of the journey!

After being rescued in the desert and once again receiving the amazing support of the local Namibians, once in Windhoek I decided it was time to stick to the tar roads for the remainder of the trip.  The words of our Zambian friends that the bike was over loaded definitely had meaning on the rough corrugated roads that make most of the routes in Namibia, and the bike was clearly struggling.

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Sofia’s favourite hotel in the world – so glad, because it has always been mine, and what a joy that we were hosted by them for 7 days whilst we were stuck in Victoria Falls.

Crossing into South Africa was not to prove an easy task as a current immigration law requires all children under the age of 12 (or 13, I’m not sure) to have extra documentation.  Thankfully the British Consulate in Namibia who had been our host in Windhoek managed to put together a document that met the immigration need and finally we found ourselves in the final country of our journey.  Sofia was so happy to be in the first world once again.  She had enjoyed the trip, but she missed home comforts.

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Ah! the roads of Namibia!  next time i won’t carry any luggage!  

We took our time reaching Cape Town, and had a wonderful ride in supported by the bikers of Yzerfontein.  In fact the hospitality we recieved in all the way through South Africa was amazing, we had people contacting us and offering us a place to stay most nights and in terms of publications, we were front page of at least 3 local newpapers telling our story.

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Walvis Bay on the Skeleton Coast

Finally we arrived in East London!  and we did it on our own wheels – which was really the best bit.  After countless break downs, it felt like nothing short of a miracle that the bike wasn’t sitting on the back of another lorry!  But that was as far as I was going to go with it.  With the help of the local autism organisation we were offered transport for the bike back to Cape Town, where shipping had been arranged.  And just like that, 7 days later we were back in Blighty with the bike safely tucked up in a container to travel back to the UK.

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We made it to the most Southern Tip of Africa.  A momentous occasion – the trip wasn’t over yet though…  A few days later a long the coast in East London, we could finally hang our coats and put away our helmets – we were complete.

I realise this is a horribly brief summary of our final months, the book (yes I have started working on it! ) promises to have a lot more detail to enjoy.

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Thank you Kargo for transporting the bike back to Cape Town for us 
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Thank you Econotrans and Motofreight for sponsoring the shipping of the bike back to the UK

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Arriving In Africa – Culture Shock!

Finally we were on our way to Africa!  Happy to be leaving European winter as the weather in Athens started to deteriorate.

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Wind and rain in Athens

I was very excited and very terrified all in a bundle mixed up in my stomach.  Sofia was more focused on the immediate event of flying in an airplane – she hasn’t been on one since she was 3yrs old.

We checked in early, got charged an arm and a leg for being overweight (all tools etc weren’t allowed to go with the bike)  and finally, half asleep, we found ourselves boarding the plane.

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The motorbike checked in for its journey by boat.

Sofia didn’t want the window seat to begin with but after  a while – she forgot her fear and as we landed in Cairo, the bet was on as to who could spot a pyramid first.  Neither of us did, but it became the game until we finally saw them. The first to spot the sphinx got bonus points. 

We arrived in Egypt at 2am in the morning and having arranged airport transfer, it was a little disoncerting for it not to be there when we arrived. Another taxi obligingly phoned the hotel and 10mins later and wheezing driver arrived.  I wasn’t sure he would be able to get bags into his car boot (trunk) but despite apparent health problems he managed to sling them in.

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On our way to the Pyramids

And then we were off!  At about 100mph the driver sped down the motorway.  Not a huge concern immediately, however as we came into town the expectation that he would slow down was sorely miss placed!  Oh did I mention he was on the phone constantly as well?

One near miss and I went ballistic.   He laughed.  At least he stopped using the phone.  But I can’t say he slowed down or that I felt any safer.

Finally at the hotel, we checked in and headed for some much needed sleep.  That never really came for me as all I could think about was how on earth I was going to drive on Egyptian roads! 

Realising I was in culture shock and in no doubt Sofia would be feeling it too with the noise of horns, general traffic, and people that was in full flow by 9am, I dragged her out onto the streets to speed up the aclimatisation process.

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Good times

One can always question the wisdom of mixing culture shock with lack of sleep and the results were getting back to the hotel by midday with Sofia fusing about flies and mozi bites and me feeling like a battered tourist.  That afternoon I decided the sooner we out of the city and back on the road the better,  culture shock or not, Cairo is not a place a tourist can ever really feel comfortable. 

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Sofia nervous and off balance to start was soon looking very comfortable on a horse

The following day, a good night’s sleep away and the promise of pyramids saw both Sofia and I up early.  Glad we had gone out the previous day as we were both much more prepared to be ‘tourists’.

We had a wonderful day that took is not only to the pyramids and horse rides to the desert, but to the ally ways of the supporting town where we met our guide’s family, who were fantastic hosts and invited us back for a meal the following day.

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Our guide Ruby

Both Sofia and returned to the hotel feeling full of of experiences and far more certain that we have a fantastic journey ahead of us.

We have not been able to attract financial sponsors for this journey to raise awareness for autism – we rely entirely on you donations – please click the following link to donate and share.  Thank you.

http://m.virginmoneygiving.com/mt/uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charity-web/charity/finalCharityHomepage.action?charityId=1005498

Ps.  Pls let me know if you experience any formatting issues with this post.  Done from my phone so I can only see the android results.  Thx.