When Roy and I left Awassa I was tired as I had run a marathon with Haile Gebrsalassie. He was good but I got ahead of him in the last 2 miles and never looked back. So, on the journey I fell asleep until a loud bang awoke me to a terrible clatter and the car jumping and bumping all over the road. When it stopped everything went quiet for a few seconds until Roy muttered words I can’t include in this report. Anyway, it seems that a truck going in the opposite direction had thrown up a stone and broken the windscreen and then we had driven into some holes in the road. Roy said we would have to put the car on a truck in Moyale, Kenya and have it driven to Nairobi.
I was really excited to ride in a big truck, but it did pong a bit. I am not sure what was in there before us but wasn’t very hygienic. Anyway it was night-time when lots of men started to push the car onto the truck. Roy had gone to the hotel and I couldn’t understand what the men were saying but one of them kept peering into the car through the whole where the windscreen had been. I am not sure what happened next but there was a terrible screeching sound as they moved Bridget and it was bumping about all over the place. I couldn’t see a thing until someone turned on a torch and then I could see that we were inside the lorry. Most of the men must of been outside as their voices were faint, but the man that had kept looking into the car appeared at the door. He leant in and before I knew what was happening he snatched me and stuffed me into a small bag. I couldn’t shout because it was so dusty and I was coughing and choking.
From the movement I was certain that I was being carried off and eventually the bag, with me inside, was dumped on a seat or bed. It was soft and quiet, and for ages there was no sound at all so I settled down for another sleep.
Most dogs would have been frightened by all this, but not me because I knew that help would be summoned as soon as it was realised that I had been snatched. If you remember, when we were in Turkey there was an attempt to kidnap me and following that a new secret intelligence service, the SBS (Special Benji Service) was created just in case it happened again. The SBS train with the SAS at Hereford and are very good.
Evidently Roy discovered I was missing and sent a Tweet saying I had been stolen. Although not even he knew it, from that moment the SBS swung into action. They contacted our agents in Kenya and told them to start making enquiries and a specialist team of SBS, led by a German Shepherd, started piecing together a plan to rescue me.
It seems that I was not snatched by professionals, to be held for ransom, but by a sneaky, greedy thief who just wanted to sell me. As soon as word got round that a European dog in an MG outfit was for sale our Kenyan agents were alerted and the man was identified. The SBS team flew from West London within the hour and arrived in Kenya some hours later the same day. They made their way to Moyale where the thief lived and fully armed with water pistols, spud guns and even two catapults, the team stormed into the man’s house. They found me tied to a chair, but still looking as cool and handsome as ever.
Roy had already left Moyale, so it was decided to take me safely back to England and Kimber House, where I am being looked after by Uncle Andy. So kids, don’t worry about me. I am fine and will have more adventures soon, thanks to the SBS (don’t tell anyone about them as they are a secret).
The drive from Addis Ababa to Awassa is only one hundred and ninety miles. The road is generally good and the hotel I was hoping to stay at, The Haile Resort, is less than a mile off the main highway.
As is often the way the most difficult part of the journey is finding the correct road. Indeed the town of Awassa was only mentioned when we had been on the road for forty-five miles. However the drive was otherwise straightforward and we arrived at 11:30. I was met on the steps of the resort by the General Manager, no less. An educated gentleman that has spent some of his life in Sheffield and Cambridge, England he was aware of MG and genuinely interested in the drive. The Haile Resort is a gem of a hotel set on the banks of Lake Awassa. Associated with Haile Gebrsalassie, the Olympian athlete, the hotel has all the health and fitness facilities you could want.
Chris sent me a text informing me that Dorothy’s radiator had a small hole and the head gasket was also blown. He was hoping the mechanic would complete the repairs that day, in which case he would only be two days behind. Then the final straw for Chris; he returned to England because of serious illness in his family. Apart from the upsetting news affecting his family, he was extremely disappointed at not being able to complete the odyssey.
I travelled on from Awassa towards Moyale, the Kenyan border and the reputedly worse main road in the world. I was determined that I would give it my best try. The distance to Moyale was around three hundred and twenty miles and my only real concern as I started out was that I hadn’t enough fuel and there was none available in Awassa. I stopped at every village along the route that had a fuel station only to be told “Diesel only, sorry” After driving some sixty five miles a garage attendant that originally told me he had no ‘benzene’ as they refer to petrol. Seeing the obvious concern on my face he summoned me to move the car over to another pump and confirmed he had petrol and would fill Bridget’s tank. It then became obvious to me why he had at first denied my request as fuel gushed out of a leak near the hosepipe’s nozzle.
Although the road surfaces for the first one hundred miles were poor and the temperature was fairly warm everything was going perfectly, which should have been a warning to me. Suddenly, without any warning there was a loud bang as an oncoming truck passed. This was followed by Bridget’s windscreen becoming opaque and because I couldn’t see a thing we crashed into a huge pothole and bounced about through several more. I braked hard and brought Bridget to a halt as quickly as possible, but the damage was done. I looked first at the crazy-pave pattern of the windscreen although I could see clearly through a hole some six inches wide. Then I looked down at the steering wheel and realised the wheel itself was ‘off centre’ suggesting that there was some damage to the steering gear.
I smashed out the remaining glass and proceeded to drive with my hat pulled down over my forehead, wearing my sunglasses and holding a mask around the remaining part of my face to prevent glass shards still in the windscreen frame from flying into my face.
I travelled in this manner for a distance of some one hundred and thirty miles before arriving at the border in the town of Moyale. I wanted to cross into Kenya quickly and couldn’t believe that the exit from Ethiopia took only fifteen minutes and then we approached Kenya. The immigration officer was perfect, being friendly extremely courteous and quick. With my visa stamped I proceeded to the Customs office to declare my car and have the carnet stamped. The door was locked. The compulsory border guard, that could easily deny entry to an invading army, approached and said “They all gone home” I asked how I could declare my car and he said “Just go, they not here” Needing no second bidding I started the engine and entered Kenya.
Bridget was clearly wounded bouncing about, suggesting she had shock absorber problems again and the offset steering. She was clearly not in the right condition to attempt the Moyale/Archers Post road. I decided to do what most people do and hire a truck to haul Bridget to Nairobi where I would be able to correct her problems.
It was arranged and Bridget was loaded into what I can only describe as a camel, cattle or sheep truck depending on what livestock was to be moved. She had her wheels tied off in just the same way as she was when loaded into a container for her sea travels previously. I was to be picked up the next morning at 08:00.
At 09:30 the hotel owner took me to where convoys of these lorries form-up and there was the truck with Bridget. We were not to travel alone. In the cab, apart from the driver, was a family of three, myself and another male passenger. In the back of the truck along with Bridget were some five other people, two passengers, one mechanic and two ‘goffers’. Also loaded was a range of packages some measuring as much as five feet, by two feet, by two. Some of these were placed strategically around Bridget.
The convoy left at around 11:00. The road is really a track consisting of a granite base with compressed sand and mud. The trucks that use the road daily have worn deep groves over time and natural ground movement create steep steps, crevices and potholes. Bridget would not be able to straddle the centre mound of the groves because she would ground like a beached whale. Then there are rocks and boulders all over the place that would cause serious damage to ordinary cars, whereas trucks are high enough to pass over them although they must still take care not to let their wheels actually run over them as that causes them to lurch violently.
Finally long stretches of the track are corrugated. If you can imagine riding a bicycle over some corrugated iron the effect is similar except everything is several times bigger. There are two schools of thought on the best way to pass over these sections; the first is to drive very slowly and the other is to drive at a velocity that causes the wheels to almost fly from crest to crest.
The total distance of this road is some three hundred miles, of which approximately half is corrugation. Our truck was driven down this track at speeds of up to seventy kilometres per hour! During the first section the truck had two failures of its breaking system followed by one puncture. The goffers jacked up the rear of the truck and removed the offending wheel and quickly removed the tyre and inner tube. There was a large rip in the tube and so one of the goffers climbed onto the roof of the truck and removed several other tubes. None of these were new and they chose to use one with at least five existing patches that I could see. They fitted this, tested it and re-fitted everything. When they removed the jack the tyre immediately went flat. This time they used a puncture repair but it still had to be done a third time before it was ready to go. Whilst they were working the sun set and I was fascinated to watch four different thunder storms in a ninety degree arch off in the distance. We started off again, into the night, and it started to rain. It quickly turned into a deluge. We arrived into Marsabit town some one hundred and forty miles from the start and the truck pulled into a side street. I thought at first they were going to eat which was supposedly the only thing they were due to stop for. However, there were trucks everywhere you looked and then we heard the road ahead was closed to all traffic.
We settled down for the night having found no accommodation available. The next morning it was still raining heavily and no traffic was leaving. It was almost 14:00 before it was deemed worth attempting the next section. All the potholes were filled with water and large ponds often covered more than half the track. Worst of all there were several sections where the sand, mud and water had mixed into a deep sludge that was dangerously slippery and long sections up-hill.
I lost count of the number of trucks, particularly those with trailers, which were stuck at crazy angles in deep sludge and slewed across the road. A bus we came across had been there for two nights complete with its passengers. We actually completed the bad section in some thirty six hours. My body ached from muscles continually flexing to counter the violent rocking from side to side as well as the bouncing caused by the corrugations. I had drunk three bottles of water and eaten a small packet of biscuits. Unfortunately Bridget had fared far worse.
Fortunately I had already contacted Jan Thoenes in Nairobi and he had arranged some workshop facilities with the CMC Motors Group, Landrover Division. I had Bridget delivered there where I examined her on a hoist. The initial analysis showed that in addition to the windscreen, shock absorbers and a roll bar link arm that were damaged in the accident, I would need a new exhaust, brake line, fuel line, fuel tank rear off-side light cover and front number plate. Also, the sump guard was badly bent and would need re-shaping, the floor pan damaged, passenger door damaged, broken exterior trim and 70% of the paintwork badly scratched. She looked pitiful and will need considerable restoration and a re-spray when she returns home.
Having now had the opportunity of examining all the damage I am convinced that much of it was caused when Bridget was loaded onto the truck. The force of some of the blows that caused the damage was very considerable as demonstrated by the sump guard, hit so hard that the eighth of an inch steel support was bent forty five degrees and denting the sump that it guarded!
I contacted Moss Europe at about 3:00pm GMT and gave them the list of items I would need to be able to get back on the road. By 4:00pm they had confirmed that the parts were with Fedex and should be with me on Monday. That is one hell of a service.
In the gallery are photos of the Moyale Road and the truck that has caused so much trouble, and also a set of photos of Bridget in CMC’s workshop. She will come back and finish the run.
From Khartoum we drove 250 miles east to the town of Gedaref close to the Ethiopian border. The heat was not as intense as it was across the desert, but it was still in the mid-thirties centigrade. The road surface deteriorated considerably for the last one hundred miles and although Bridget has been through worse, it was unexpected after the great roads prior to Khartoum.
On inspection of the cars that evening Chris discovered Dorothy had a broken rear leaf spring. By the usual MG good fortune a passer-by offered to help and whistled up a good mechanic within half an hour. It was arranged for Dorothy to go to the workshop the next morning and I would chase the British Embassy for the letters we needed for the border crossing.
I phoned the Embassy and, full of apologies, they admitted they had misread the dates and thought we needed the letter the following week. They promised to e-mail me later that day with the letter.
With Chris at the workshop with Dorothy I decided to give Bridget a thorough check over and discovered to my dismay the she had a broken rear shock absorber. After some hasty text messages I took the shock absorber to the same place as Dorothy was and, between me and the mechanic, we disassembled the shock. The lever arm had become totally detached but we also found that one of the seals on the piston was broken. We couldn’t get a replacement but the mechanic found a rubber seal that was the right size and would suffice. The shock was reassembled and fitted looking good as new.
Dorothy had a replacement spring from a donor Hillman Hunter (perhaps the Midget Register would rule on whether this disqualifies Dorothy as a Midget).
In the morning we made our way eighty miles to the Ethiopian border. This was when Chris discovered he had not got an Ethiopian visa! The only way for him to proceed would be to return to Khartoum and attempt to get one there. I continued through customs and immigration and started the drive into Ethiopia.
I was heading for the town of Gondar, some two hundred and fifty miles away. The road is excellent although like all countries the roads of Ethiopia do have their own unique dangers. These consist of pedestrians and animals. Ethiopian people have no apparent appreciation of traffic and wander all over the roads rarely looking to see if there are any vehicles approaching. Children often run out unexpectedly and on many occasions adults walking in the road look straight at you but do not recognise the imminent danger of being hit until the last moment.
Animals are driven up and down the sides of the roads. Donkeys, cows, goats and sheep are all herded along the highway and it is not rare as you turn into a bend to find the whole road occupied. The most disconcerting thing I have found is that often the herder will, if crossing a road, drive the animals out into the path of oncoming vehicles and then stand back and watch to see if any are hit!
My expectation of Ethiopia, set by the media and in particular the famine appeals, was of a barren, hot country with little vegetation. In truth the countryside I have seen, which has taken in the whole of the north-west quarter of the country, is of very well established agricultural production. Everything is lush and the soil looks very rich. The scenery as a whole is nothing less than extraordinarily beautiful. There are many mountain ranges and hundreds of square miles of grasslands often depicted in films about Africa.
I arrived in Gondar at 15:00, quickly found a hotel and went exploring. There is a castle complex, consisting of what the locals refer to as six castles, but is more like one castle with five extensions. The people of Ethiopia are every bit as friendly as the Sudanese but there are the signs that tourism is making some of them more ‘commercial’, always looking to make a buck. Certainly not on the scale of the Egyptians though.
Chris e-mailed that he had arrived in Khartoum and hoped to return to Gedaref that evening. I replied that I would continue as per our schedule and see how things were when I reached Addis Ababa.
From Gondar Bridget and I drove down to Bahir Dar some one hundred and ten miles. The drive was without incident, but we were now around six thousand feet above sea level and the temperature was much cooler at twenty four degrees. Bahir is on the banks of Lake Tana. It is a progressive city and, I have to admit, my hotel was modern and very comfortable. The beer was cold, the food good and the bathroom clean. I took a boat across the lake to visit a couple of islands, both of which have Coptic monasteries.
That evening I e-mailed Chris and suggested he head straight to Bahir from the border and catch up a day. I gave him detailed information on the route and the location of the hotel. His response was that he hoped to cross the border the next day.
Meanwhile I struck out for Addis Ababa, a distance of three hundred and forty miles. The temperature was cool, we even had a thunderstorm during the previous evening, and the road started out as good as the previous ones. However that was all to come to a screaming halt at the one hundred and fifty mile mark. Suddenly the road surface undulated wildly and was badly broken in places creating large steps. It almost certainly has been caused by land movement and in some cases severe landslides.
Having crashed over the first patches I thought it was a temporary blip when suddenly there was more, followed by the total disappearance of any road. At first I thought this was just where they would be laying a new road, but soon found that this was a general long term situation. In total these conditions continued for eighty miles by which time Bridget was hot, bruised and very tired.
This nightmare run was however punctuated by the most spectacular scenery of the Blue Nile Gorge. This alone made the drive worthwhile even if Bridget couldn’t enjoy it. That was doubly the case when to get out of the gorge she had to climb some eight to ten thousand feet. The view for me was awesome.
Tired and battered Bridget made it to Addis, arriving around 17:00, but it took another two hours to find a hotel. As I arrived I received another text from Chris; he had crossed the border as planned, but now had a serious overheating problem. He suspected that he had blown a head gasket and would get a mechanic to check it for him.
I always like to say some positive things about the places I visit even when I may not particularly enjoy them. With Addis I make an exception. It has nothing to recommend it. None of the many international hotels I tried had any type of guide, there is nothing to guide people to, and none of them had a map of the city. I like to take at least one photo of every place I go and the only thing I could find in Addis was a Coptic Church.
I will be moving on tomorrow to Awasa and the last message from Chris was that he was transporting his car to Bahir Dar where he is hoping to repair it.
You should be aware from the two previous bulletins of Chris’s misfortune although it has turned out alright finally. The dog involved was identified by a local vet treating him for food poisoning and was not Benji.
The Aswan to Wadi Halfa ferry is not your usual car ferry as it consists of a passenger boat, a general cargo barge and a vehicle barge. The barges travel independently of the passenger boat, are slower therefore take longer, and as they leave at more or less the same time do not arrive until one or two days after the ferry.
We actually loaded our cars onto the barge on Sunday and returned to board the ferry ourselves on the Monday at 09:30. The ferry does not leave until 17:00 and by then is a seething mass of humanity. It appears that every Arab that travels carries several huge bags of goods, enough to fill most small shops. So by the time the ferry leaves the dock there is hardly room to swing the proverbial cat.
Although cabins are available there are very few and frankly not to be recommended for the squeamish. As for the other facilities the less said the better. When buying our tickets, from the infamous Mr Saleh, we met several fellow foreign travellers most of whom were also doing Cairo to Cape Town or similar. In the main however they had far more suitable vehicles. We all had the same idea when boarding the ferry, which was to claim a spot under one of the lifeboats where the air was fresh, compared to the inside of the boat, and shade was available from the heat of the sun. We formed a ‘travellers club’ exchanging stories and experiences as well as tips. One very useful thing came out which is that we will require a letter from the British Embassy in Addis Ababa stating that they will take responsibility for our car whilst it is in the country ensuring that it isn’t sold, etc. We will have to contact the embassy as soon as we get to Khartoum.
The ferry crossing was not difficult. Leaving at 17:00 on the Monday it took almost sixteen hours to reach Wadi Halfa. The daytime was hot and the night a little cold, but not too bad. I had taken a camp bed with me so I was comfortable whilst everyone else complained of a hard deck. The night skies over Lake Nasser are something to behold, not only because of the millions of stars visible but also because of their brilliance.
We were not allowed to disembark from the ferry for two hours and then it was chaotic threading our way through customs, but we eventually made it at around midday. We were then bussed into the town of Wadi Halfa. That was a bit of a culture shock. Wadi, I suspect, exists only because of the passing trade via the ferry. It is a collection of mud brick and corrugated iron houses built where the desert meets the lake.
We were taken to our hotel, the Kilopatra; don’t blame me for the spelling and I don’t know if it was someone’s sense of humour or not. The rooms consist of a twelve foot square area containing two beds. The doors were tin as were the window shutters, and there was a fan in the ceiling. Power cuts are a daily occurrence and the common bathroom facilities were just about as basic as they come. By some good fortune we were destined to enjoy the hospitality of Wadi for three nights.
The second day there we all wanted to know when the ferry would arrive, following a ten minute exploration of the towns amenities. However you have to wait until a lookout spies it steaming towards the port. It arrived late that afternoon, after the customs officials had all gone home for the night. We were directed to appear at the port the next morning at 08:30, which we did. The cars cleared customs at 13:30 and we were free to go!
We had so enjoyed the hospitality of Wadi that we decided to stay for one more night, although the cynics said it was because the next sizable town was 5 hours away. We left Wadi at 06:35 next morning. It would be wrong however to leave anybody with the idea that everything about Wadi is poor; the fact is the people are gorgeous. They are friendly; love to chat to foreigners, honest and proud of their country. They are extremely good hosts.
The drive from Wadi was interesting, but hot. For the first sixty miles the cars drove perfectly and the morning sun had little heat, then the temperature started to rise fairly rapidly until by 10:00 it was over 35°C and still rising. Bridget started to develop some hesitation on acceleration and then started to misfire. This continued for around another one hundred miles when it started to get seriously bad. We pulled over and I started to check everything to do with the ignition. Eventually I altered the timing which appeared to clear the problem and we started off again.
About one hundred miles south of Wadi we came across the largest campsite I have ever seen, with literally thousands of people moving around, building things and being generally industrious. There were hundreds of temporary dwellings, some ramshackle huts and many tents of all sizes. Smoke was lazily wafting into the sky and there was a low level smoke screen across the road. This was the Sudanese gold rush. It is largely unregulated and very recent in its construction however it is, by all accounts, very productive.
The road from Wadi Halfa to Khartoum is excellent and is one of many newly laid roads built by the Chinese. Currently there is very little traffic on the roads in Sudan.
Bridget’s engine misfire became alarming and I was only able to maintain a speed of around 30 mph for the final twenty miles into Dongola. Dongola is in many respects very similar to Wadi, but larger and with one acceptable hotel. It wasn’t five stars but it was comfortable, clean and with working showers. It was the first time for five days that I came out of a shower feeling cleaner than when I went in.
That evening I set to work on the engine problem, changing the HT leads, distributor cap and going right through the timing setup. By the time I had finished she sounded good again. Dorothy was running fine so Chris went off with three ‘bikers’, we had met on the ferry, to have dinner.
The next morning Bridget refused to start. It was as if she was saying “I’ve been telling you I have a problem but you haven’t been listening. Now I go no further until you sort it” I can’t tell you the resolution at the moment as it will be the subject of a competition, but I will let you know later, but we resolved it.
Although leaving two hours later than planned we drove the three hundred miles from Dongola to Khartoum. The drive was very enjoyable across Sudan’s Nubian Desert, but the environment for the cars was easily the harshest to date. Midday temperature was around 45°C and sand was being whipped up by a fairly strong breeze. Stopping just the once for fuel we arrived around 15:00 and found the Plaza Hotel.
Khartoum is a bustling city with a mixture of traditional Nubian, old colonial and ultra-modern architecture. It, like the rest of Sudan, is not geared up to tourism and with a closed economy is unlikely to change in the near future. This means that no credit or debit cards are acceptable, no ATM machines exist except for Sudanese bank account holders, therefore you have to have US dollars, GB pounds or Euros. Photography is also disliked, particularly in Khartoum, where we were warned to stop using our cameras on more than one occasion.
From here we will be heading for Ethiopia.
Twitter users will already know, but for those that do not follow us on Twitter, I am pleased to announce that Chris did not have to return home after all. The doctor in Aswan came up with an alternative course of injections that allowed Chris to continue on this odyssey and so he is still touring.
A report on our latest adventures will be posted sometime tomorrow once I have had a shower and good nights sleep.
Chris Vernon has been bitten by a dog, in Aswan, Southern Egypt. He has to have a course of anti rabies injections over the next three weeks available only from hospitals or clinics. As there are no guarantees that such facilities will be available along much of the route we plan to take Chris has reluctantly withdrawn from this challenge and will return to the UK in due course.
I am sure everyone wishes him well.
No further bulletins will be available until the end of next week when Bridget, Benji and Roy expect to arrive in Khartoum.
Henry and I went to see the pyramids, which are pointy buildings in the desert. Roy said something about mummy being found in one and being taken to the museum in Cairo. I didn’t know she was lost and don’t understand why they took her there, but Henry and I went to see her anyway.
We searched the museum and found the Mummies Department but it was full of injured people all bandaged up. There must have been a very bad accident. We then found a room for Animal Mummies but didn’t find mine there either, so I think Roy must be confused, again.
We drove to a town called Hurghada where Henry and I wanted to play on the beach, but Roy and Chris didn’t like it and refused to stay. So we continued to Luxor. It has become very hot now and Henry’s coat is too heavy so he has decided to moult. There is fur everywhere.
We visited some temples around Luxor and I went off to the Valley of the Queens. I suddenly smelt a bone and, as I was feeling peckish, I started to dig. I soon had three bones and was digging furiously for a fourth when a guard lifted me bodily and threw me out of the site. He didn’t even let me fetch the bones I had already got, so I assume he must have wanted them for himself.
We are now in a town called Aswan. I am going to search in the desert for more bones and Henry was last seen sun-bathing. He says his new coat is too light and he wants to give it a tan. Roy says we are waiting for a boat, but Henry and I are quite happy here.
Don’t forget to take a look at Benji’s Odyssey in the photo gallery. There are forty pictures, now.
Hurghada is a manufactured sunshine resort with little to recommend it, however we did give the cars their first complete service having completed over 4,000 miles. Fresh engine oil, topped up gearboxes, rear diffs and carburettor dampers. Chris found that one of Dorothy’s exhaust brackets was broken for which he found a man who welded it together and I replaced Bridget’s distributor points and adjusted the timing a fraction.
The following day we drove to Luxor and it was quickly evident that Bridget still needed further timing adjustment as her engine was pinking voraciously, otherwise everything appeared to be operating well. The drive across the Egyptian Desert was most enjoyable with the craggy desert mountains, followed by the lush green of the vegetation and the beautiful orange, red, white and purple hibiscus, at the roadside, as we arrived in the Nile Valley.
We checked into the Sonesta St George Hotel which had secure parking, an important feature as the cars would be easily damaged in these parts by enthusiastic fans. The following morning Chris went off to explore the West Bank of the Nile and I firstly adjusted Bridget’s timing and then visited Karnak Temple. I had already seen most of the sites in the Luxor area some five years ago but some of them justify repeat visits.
That afternoon fellow endurance tourer Roger Pearce, in a MG Magnet, arrived from Cape Town, heading up several classic Mercedes, a MGB and a Volvo 122. They had left on the 6th September and were heading for Cairo. Once they had blown the dust off Roger, Chris and myself, visited Murphy’s pub just down the road for a medicinal glass. Roger was able to give us a few tips on where to stay, some useful contacts, but most importantly the low-down on the condition of the road between Moyale and Archers Post in Kenya. This is an infamous stretch of road that can be a car breaker. From what we gather from Roger it was at its worst when they came through. They met a group of BMW motorcyclists that were giving up and returning from whence they came, and the suspension of Rogers care was rammed up into the rear passenger area by rocks. All of the cars suffered damage to some extent and Roger admitted he wasn’t sure they would make it.
We set off from Luxor the next morning to drive down the Nile Valley road to Aswan where we expected to get the ferry into Sudan the next day. Disaster, the ferry left on the day we arrived and we were told the next one would be in precisely 1 week! We arranged a meeting with Kammal, a ferry Mr Fixit.
Kammal has turned out to be a very helpful guy who knows all the ropes and pitfalls of leaving Egypt aboard the Aswan ferry and entering Sudan. He will smooth most of the bureaucracy for us and we will just need to put in personal appearances here and there. There were no cabins available so we will be on the deck for the 16 hour crossing of Lake Nasser, but in addition we need to board the boat at 10:00am even though we will not leave until around 5:00pm. A total of 23/4 hours without using a toilet if possible!
The cars will be loaded on Saturday prior to our departure.
This will be our last bulletin until we arrive in Khartoum, around next Wednesday, as long as we can get an internet connection there. We will continue to Tweet using my mobile as things happen, until then we apologise for the disruption in service. Meanwhile there are loads of photos to catch up with, so enjoy.
The indignity of it all; Egyptian registration plates we can’t even read! Well, some of the things Bridget and Dorothy have to do for their drivers, but it’s only until we get to Aswan.
Following a very pleasant rest in Nuweiba’s Swisscare Hotel we struck out for Suez. Leaving at around 08:30 we thought it would be a brief and pleasant two hundred mile drive. As it turned out it was a hot, dusty drive in something like 37/38°C temperatures across the Sinai desert. We almost missed a left turn, just past Taba airport that would have resulted in a brief, but highly illegal visit into Israel, had I not seen the signs at the last minute.
Re-fuelling in Egypt is not an exact science. Some stations have 90/92 octane petrol, some have unacceptable 80 octane, some have only diesel and some have nothing (I couldn’t figure out why they open at all). Tedious, and often threatening serious damage, sleeping policemen abound in parts of the highway system and checkpoints are numerous. Then there was the road tunnel under the Suez canal; single lanes in each direction with one closed for no apparent reason other than allowing the police vehicles a traffic free lane. Therefore all other traffic took it in turns to cross through the tunnel.
We decided to refuel before entering the tunnel and so pulled over to the side of the road to disgorge our jerry cans. Whilst doing this the army wanted us to move on and the mosquitoes wanted me to stay whilst they sapped every millilitre of blood that I could produce. Otherwise it was a good drive.
We arrived in Suez town which must rank as the rear-end of Egypt. It is filthy, smelly and probably very bad for your long term health. However, I had seen the Panama canal and wanted to see this one for the set! There is only one hotel that we could find that you would allow your dog to stay in and that appeared to make most of its income serving as a stopover point for ship’s crew.
We were not unhappy to leave the next morning and head on the Cairo road to Le Giza and the pyramids. At the last moment I decided to abandon my usual habit of finding somewhere to stay when we arrived in the city, and booked the Movenpick hotel before breakfast. On arriving in Giza, we pulled over to the side of the road and I hailed a taxi. I agreed a price and the taxi drove to the hotel with us following behind. It took some ten minutes, in convoy, to find the location which in Cairo traffic was some feat.
We visited the pyramids and Sphinx the following morning and found the Sudanese Embassy in the afternoon. We have to apply for visas here, but the visa section was closed today and so we will extend our stay in Giza by a day so that we can get them. We returned to the hotel by way of Tahrir Square where there was rioting yesterday. It is reported locally that thirteen people were killed, but everything appeared calm today.
We returned to the Embassy of Sudan in the morning as requested and were told to go away again and get a letter from the British Embassy requesting that we should be allowed to travel in Sudan (whatever happened to ‘Her Britanic Majesty demands, etc. without let or hindrance’). Anyway we obtained the necessary letter, and an extra one for the Ethiopians who I understand have also started demanding these letters, and were charged £50 Sterling for each one! Thank you HM Government.
Returning to the Sudan Embassy for the third time we submitted our application and were promptly told to return at 15:00 that afternoon. We went off and spent four hours looking around the Egyptian Museum. Returning for the fourth time we received our passports complete with visas and planned our departure for Hurghada.
We left Giza at 7:00 behind a taxi that showed us the way to the Hurghada autoroute. Even with that assistance we managed to get on the wrong road and headed due south past Helwan and eventually to the Al Wassa Bridge where we turned right towards the Red Sea coast and then south to Hurgharda. The road was littered with sleeping policemen (road humps) some quite impossible to see. We hit two of these at around 50mph that sent shudders to Bridget’s nether regions. Additionally there were many deep pot-holes and the vibration caused by these were taking their toll.
Bridget was not happy, her engine misfiring a little and suffering hesitation. Around the halfway mark her engine cut-out completely and then picked up again. This happened several times before cutting out completely some 110 miles north of our destination. I checked that fuel was getting through and that the HT lead from the coil was properly attached. As it was a complete loss of power it had to be fuel or electrical and so having discounted fuel that left the alternative.
Just at that moment a car drew alongside and I thought “Oh no, assistance has arrived” It transpired however that Mohammed was a mechanical engineer and soon understood the basics of Bridget’s engine. Once I had explained what I had done so far we set about going through the obvious alternatives. I had been worried for some time that Bridgets’ alternator was packing up and we concluded that was the most likely cause of this problem after dismissing the HT lead and coil. Chris came to the rescue with a spare alternator which we quickly changed. I turned the ignition key and everything came to life, so the job was completed and we went on our way.
Just a few kilometres down the road and the engine cut out again. I decided to pull in to a roadside restaurant area to look under the bonnet again. Once again Mohammed appeared having stopped here after leaving us earlier and so we set about trying to identify the cause. Unknown to me Mohammed phoned a friend of his who is a vehicle electrician and he came out to help. Then I noticed a wire hanging loosely near the coil. I quickly identified it as an ignition low tension lead that should be connected. I reconnected it and it was obvious that it had become detached due to the vibration of the earlier beating that Bridget had taken from the speed humps, etc. The engine suffered no further cut-outs although she felt a bit lumpy. We arrived in Hurghada some 12 hours after starting and after dark for the first time on this adventure.
Hello everyone. Sorry I haven’t written recently but I am in disgrace. I said I had a secret that Roy wasn’t aware of and I have been caught out. Part of my punishment was being banned from writing on the website.
You see I have a little friend, Henry, who I smuggled into Bridget the day we were leaving. Henry is a TLC teddy bear who I met some months ago and I told him what we were doing and how we are raising funds for CoCo and African children. It turned out that Henry is in fact a charity worker himself and he and hundreds of his friends help children in hospitals in the UK. We got on so well I wanted him to come with us and experience travelling in different countries, but I forgot to ask Roy first.
Anyway, when we got off the Aquaba ferry a nosey customs officer found him hiding behind Bridget’s seats and demanded to know what he was doing. Roy got into trouble for not declaring him and not having a passport or visa for him. So Roy was really angry.
Luckily, he is gradually forgiving me and I am starting to be allowed out again and Henry is going to be allowed to join us sometimes. Roy has managed to get him a passport.
We are in Egypt where I am sure I heard Roy say my mummy is, so I shall try to find her (I thought she was from Abingdon). We are going to the Pyramids later today so I will let you know what happens in my next report.