July 14, 2010

Final Thoughts

On 9 June 2010, I reached Cairo, just a few hours before sunset. My quest had lasted 14 weeks and taken me through 10 countries and kingdoms: South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt. By my daily GPS record, I have traveled over 14,000 kilometers. I fought through rain, hail, thunderstorms, sandstorms, extreme heat and fatigue to be able to finally say that I have conquered this continent.

The last few days of the trip were emblematic of the entire expedition, with highs and lows, solitude and joy, and encounters with both the natural wonders and teeming societies of the ancient and modern day African life. Over my quest, I learned that it was necessary for me to avoid fighting against the elements that make Africa what it is, but instead to embrace them, because the immeasurable power of the continent and its people will always win. Thus, I was able to save my energy to enjoy this truly humbling experience.

Whether it was encounters with the Kikuyu people of Kenya or strolling through the wondrous Pyramids of Giza, the experiences endure. The lands I have visited mixed natural beauty with the harshest living conditions that Africans, through the centuries, have managed to endure. If they can endure this, they can endure anything. I have experienced the beauty of the Mozambican coastline, the mouth-dropping setting of Lake Malawi, the open plains of the Serengeti, the majestic Kilimanjaro, the abundant Kenyan wildlife, the thunderous source of the Nile, the solitude of the 'Road to Hell', the dramatic Ethiopian highlands, the unrelenting heat of the Sahara, the life-giving Nile Valley and the overwhelming chaos of Cairo. Every location along the way provided its own challenges and held a unique reward that is embedded forever in my heart.

This has not only been a journey through Africa but it has also been a journey deep into my soul. I left expecting to only discover Africa, but have returned having also discovered myself. I have become my own best friend.

And now the trip has concluded.

Success? Bloody oath.

Life-changing? Definitely

Incredible? Maybe

Possible? Yes

More than ever, I am committed to the African land and its people that I have come to know and love. The international community, ever embarrassed about Africa, has turned its eye away from this wonderful continent. Hopefully my story will help in some small way to prove that Africa and its people will succeed. We dont need help, we just need time …

Thanks again for the support. Until next time.

Lots of love,
Gareth ‘ Bok’ Davey

July 08, 2010

Thank You!!

To all family, friends and colleagues.

After travelling for 14 weeks, I have eventually made it to my destination – Cairo, Egypt.

To date I have travelled over 14,000km’s, across 10 different countries and have had some unforgettable adventures along the way. This has been an absolutely life-changing experience and I encourage everyone to take some time off from your busy schedules and set into practice a memorable holiday/experience of your own! You will come out of it a better and happier person. I have had some great times, seen some spectacular sights, met some of the most amazing people and have made some great friends along the way. Most importantly I have learnt a lot about myself and my abilities and limits.

A special thank you for all the phone calls, emails, facebook messages and comments left on my blogsite. Your ongoing support has managed to keep me going through some tough times.

To date we have managed to raise £GBP 1130.00 – excluding AMEC’s contribution. Thank you to all of you who have contributed to this great cause. It is very much appreciated! To those of you who still intend to donate, you can either click on the “Sponsor me” button, or alternatively visit the website www.justgiving.com/gareth-davey. A very special thank you must go to Kathy Bam from the AMEC office in Johannesburg for her endless efforts towards this charity drive. I cannot thank Kathy enough for her ongoing support for this cause.



I have been extremely impressed with the motorbike, a KTM 990 Adventure (Big Ken). It has proven to be the ultimate tool in tackling the African continent. Not once has the motorcycle let me down. I have taken the motorbike down some really harsh roads and have spent hours on the saddle through some of the hottest and harshest areas that Africa has to offer. To be honest, I have not even had a puncture for the whole trip which is probably more of a testament to my lack of riding skills :-) I have serviced the motorcycle twice along the way and have changed the back tyre once. I have met up with many other motorcyclists along the way that were riding different motorcycle brands – they all had their share of problems with their motorbikes. On my KTM, I am proud to say that I had none! I would like to take this opportunity to thank the team from Causeway KTM in Perth, and especially Ram Wartheim, for his support. You are selling a great product and this is proof!! I am a dedicated fan.

Some statistics about the trip:

Total Distance Travelled: 14,112 km
Average speed: 50.1 km/h
Total Cost of the trip: (+/-) $AUD 16,000.00 (including motorcycle shipping)
Motorcycle services: 2
Breakdowns along the way: 0
Money raised for RFH charity: £GBP 1130.00 (to date) – excluding AMEC’s contribution
Visits to my blogsite: 15 261 (to date)


Thanks again and looking forward to catching up with you.

Regards,

Gareth 'Bok' Davey

June 14, 2010

Egypt

Early that evening we crossed the border into Egypt. We also crossed the Tropic of Cancer which is my third and last :-( big milestone for this trip. We were fortunate enough to witness a great sunset on the ferry, with the sun going down over the lake and the desert in the background. Beautiful!

Later that evening the ferry floated past the Great Temple of Abu Simbel, which was cut from the hillside to honour the gods Ra, Amun, Ptah and the defied Pharaoh Ramses II. The temple is beautifully lit at night, so it was easily visible from the ferry. The four colossal statues of Ramses II sit majestically facing east. Each statue is over 20m tall and is flanked by smaller statues of the Pharaoh’s mother and his beloved wife, Nefertari. In the 1960’s, Abu Simbel was winched to higher ground to avoid the rising waters of Lake Nasser in an ingenious feat of engineering.

We then settled down for another beautiful night under the stars, sleeping on the deck of the ferry.

We arrived at the ferry port of Aswan at about 11am the next morning to start the infamous Egyptian immigration / customs procedures. The Egyptian customs officials boarded the ferry and set about processing each of the passengers. Instead of letting the people disembark once their papers had been approved, they forced all three hundred passengers to stay onboard until all of the people had been approved ?!? This took a further three hours. They then opened one of the doors for all three hundred people to disembark. People here do not seem to understand the concept of queuing or just waiting your turn – all three hundred passengers pushed their way towards the door causing absolute chaos. It didn’t stop there! From there all three hundred people had to go through a single security machine and put their luggage through a single baggage security conveyor. Again, no queues were formed or enforced by the officials – instead there was just pushing, shoving, shouting and fighting to try and get through the security. The quiet, subdued people that had been praying so peacefully the evening before had turned into chaotic barbarians. Many sense-of-humour failures were witnessed – including mine on quite a few occasions! Absolute chaos! You would think that a country which has a ‘civilized’ history dating back to 4000BC would have invented a better, more organized system by now!! Ridiculous! Eventually, at about 3pm we managed to get through.

After a goodbye to young Andraes, who was heading up to Suez with his family, on a train, we then headed into Aswan to find a hotel. As the barge would only be arriving on Saturday, we had a day in Aswan to kill before we could get our vehicles. We managed to find a fairly cheap hotel, with a great roof-top view, on the corniche - which is the road along the Nile River.

First things first – find a MacDonalds! I am not a big MacDonalds fan but after a few months of eating dodgy food (mainly) there is nothing better than eating a Big Mac!!! Egypt is the first country, since South Africa, which has MacDonalds.

I was pleasantly surprised by Aswan. Aswan is Egypt’s southernmost city and sits on the banks of a particularly beautiful stretch of the Nile, decorated with palm-fringed islands and white-sailed feluccas. The corniche is lined with many first world hotels and facilities – a huge difference to Sudan. In ancient times, Aswan was a garrison town for military campaigns against Nubia, its quarries provided the granite used in so many Egyptians sculptures and obelisks, and it was a prosperous marketplace at the crossroads of the ancient caravan routes.

Aswan is one of Egypt’s great travel destinations and as such has many tourists all year round. This unfortunately means that streets are filled with overenthusiastic (and often bogus) guides that have had centuries of experience in ripping off unsuspecting tourists for trips that are seldom well planned or executed. A further annoyance is the constant aggressive badgering to buy souvenirs. A walk along the corniche will often result in hundreds of approaches for felucca rides, ancient site tours, restaurant visits, hotels stays, taxi rides, carriage rides, horse rides, camel rides or just constant badgering to buy souvenirs. Very annoying! I have become a professional at just ignoring them. I find that ignoring them seems to work the best because it makes them more annoyed than they are making me … a bit of payback ha ha. Sometimes I make as if I don’t understand them ha ha – they usually try a string of different international languages before just giving up – for some reason they think I am Spanish? (probably my dark skin tan from the desert riding and my beard ha ha).

The following day Alf, Anders and I decided to visit some of the sites that Aswan has to offer. First stop was the ‘unfinished obelisk’. The unfinished obelisk lies in the granite quarries that supplied the stone for many of the pyramids and temples in Egypt. Three sides of the obelisk shaft, which is nearly 42m long, were completed except for inscriptions. The obelisk would have been the single biggest piece of stone that the early Egyptians ever fashioned. However, a flaw appeared in the rock at a late stage in the process. So it still lies where the disappointed cutters, sculptors and carvers left it.

We then visited the Nubia Museum, which was well worth the visit. The museum is a reminder of the Nubian culture and history, much of which was lost when Lake Nasser flooded their land. Exhibits are displayed with clearly written explanations that take you from 4500BC to present day. The museum starts with prehistoric artifacts and exhibits from the Kingdom of Kush and Meroe. There are also displays of Coptic and Islamic art from the region. I was fascinated by the photos and descriptions of the massive UNESCO projects to move Nubia’s most important historical monuments away from the rising waters of Lake Nasser. The moving of the Great Temple of Abu Simbel was one of these many projects.

The following day our vehicles arrived and we set about trying to get them released from customs. We met up with Kamall who had been recommended to us by our Sudanese fixer. Kamall would help us through the endless system of paperwork and bureaucracy. What a day! Egyptians seem to battle to understand the concept behind the Carnet de Passage – they insist that all motor vehicles that temporarily enter Egypt have to be fully licensed as an Egyptian vehicle with the associated Egyptian number plates, roadworthiness tests etc .etc. etc. All of this obviously comes at a tremendous cost that is probably shared between the corrupt officials who refuse to assist unless they receive large amounts of baksheesh (under handed payments).

First we had to go to the traffic office in Aswan and pay various amounts of money to various different officials, just so that they could get the ball rolling. This amounted in total to about £E 50.00. Every one of these officials wanted their share of the corruption. In return we received various informal signatures and stamps to get the process started at the port customs office. We then headed to the port customs office and completed more paperwork and (of course) had to pay a further £E 500.00 ($US 100.00). The customs manager found a ‘problem’ with Alf and Anders Norwegian carnet papers. He refused to accept their carnet as the words ‘Norwegian Automobile Association’ had not been typed on each of the carnet papers – only on the main front cover which also had the official Norwegian Automobile Association stamp. I suggested that they just write it in, but for some reason typed words are official in Egypt – written words are not?!? Ridiculous. All pages on their document had the official carnet number which relates it to the IAA, an internationally recognized body that documents each vehicles existence and movements through the various local Automobile Associations. So the customs manager was just being difficult!! All he had to do was phone the Egyptian Automobile Association and confirm that the carnet was legal. Twatis Maximus sp. (We found out later that he was being difficult because he had a serious dislike for our fixer Kamall! As it turned out, the next day Alf and Anders had to catch a train to Cairo – a 12 hour trip – to get the Egyptian Automobile Association to stamp the carnet on behalf of the Norwegian Automobile Association. They would then have to return to Aswan (another 12 hours). Basically, three days wasted and at a tremendous cost - all because the customs manager did not like our fixer!?!)

I (luckily) managed to get my carnet accepted and then headed off to the Traffic Roadworthy Department. I might mention here that I was not allowed to take my motorbike with me to the roadworthy department because it was not yet allowed out of the port – but with a bit of ‘baksheesh’ that was not a problem and my bike received its full roadworthy certification without it even being there. Once this had been done we had to go and fetch a traffic policeman, pay him some money, and get him to return with us to the motorbike (still at the port) to verify the chassis and engine numbers by stenciling the numbers onto an ‘official’ Lexmark A4 piece of paper?!? We then had to return to the traffic office, drop off the policeman (after paying him baksheesh) and head into the Licensing Centre which was back in Aswan town some 20km away. At the Licensing Centre I had to pay a further £E 126.00 for insurance for the motorcycle (They would not accept the Comesa Insurance that I paid $US 100.00 for and which covers all African countries, including Egypt) I also had to pay for the temporary motorbike license and number plates. Only then could I return to the port customs facility to fetch my motorbike. I then paid the customs officials and Kamall, a further £E 250.00 baksheesh for their help. It had taken me one whole day and cost me about $US 250 to get my motorbike released from customs! This process took me longer and cost me more money than all of the other African countries put together. I have never seen such a corrupt and inefficient system. I wonder how people like these manage to sleep with themselves at night! What annoys me is the arrogance with which these officials conduct themselves, whilst giving a brilliant display of absolute incompetence and corruption.

I was relieved to find that Big Ken had not been damaged during transit. :-)

The next day I left for Luxor. On the way I stopped at the town of Edfu and visited the Temple of Horas, which is Egypt’s best preserved temple. The Temple of Horus was constructed by Ptolemy III (246 - 221BC). Although this temple is much newer than the temples at Luxor, its excellent state of preservation helps to fill many historical gaps. The massive 36m-high gateway is guarded by two huge statues of the falcon faced god Horus. The walls of the temple are covered in large carvings and pictures of Ptolemy and Horus. Behind the temple walls are the court of offerings as well as the hypostyle halls, which are decorated by various scenes of battles between the gods. Very interesting and because it has been so well preserved, it is well worth the visit.

That afternoon I continued up the Nile to Luxor. Luxor is another great city with a fascinating history. Situated along the Nile it was first inhabited around 3000BC. It was originally known as Thebes and was the capital of the New Kingdom. The setting is absolutely beautiful, the Nile flowing between the modern town and the West Bank necropolis, backed by a stunning desert escarpment. Modern day Luxor can be considered nothing less than an open air museum. Scattered across the landscape is a multitude of ancient historic sites, from the temples of Karnak and Luxor on its East bank to the Collosi of Menmon and the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens on the West Bank.



The sun played an important role in ancient Egypt. The rising of the sun in the east not only marked the beginning of day, but also represented new life. As such the majority of settlements in ancient Egypt were on the East Bank of the Nile, where the people would live out their lives, before being buried on the western side of the Nile (sunset or death). In addition to this, the temples that were built to honour the gods (i.e. the temples for praying and worshipping the gods) were all on the East Bank. The temples on the West Bank, however, were built to honour the dead pharaoh's who often achieved a god-like status. The West Bank of Luxor is often described as the “deathbed of the world” as this is where the tombs of the ancient Kings and their families are found..

On my first day in Luxor (7/6), I organized a tour to the West Bank. The West bank of Luxor was the necropolis of ancient Thebes, a vast city of the dead where magnificent temples were raised to honour the cults of pharaohs entombed in the nearby cliffs, and where queens, nobles, priests and artisans built tombs with spectacular d├ęcor.

The first monuments you see are the Colossi of Memnon which are the largest monolithic statues ever carved. They are huge and standing at 18m high they are all that is left of the largest temple ever built in Egypt (built by Amenhotep III). The statues were attributed to Memnon, the African king who was believed to have been slain by Achilles. An earthquake formed a small crack in the one statue which causes a whistling sound when the wind blows – early inhabitants believed this to be the cry of Memnon greeting his mother Eos, the goddess of dawn. She in turn would weep tears of dew for his untimely death.

Next we visited Deir al-Bahri. One of the features that stands out on the West Bank are the rugged limestone cliffs that rise about 300m above the desert plains. These have been carved by the Nile as it makes it way through the desert towards the Mediterranean. A strikingly beautiful natural monument. At the foot of all this beauty lies the man-made monument of Deir al-Bahri which is even more extraordinary. The almost modern looking temple blends in beautifully with the cliffs, from which it is partly cut. It is one of Egypt’s finest monuments and I can only imagine how stunning it must have looked in centuries gone by, when it was approached by a great sphinx lined path and when it was surrounded by gardens of exotic plants. The ancient Egyptians often refer to this temple as the “Most holy of holies”. The temple is decorated with some amazingly beautiful Egyptian paintings depicting various scenes of wars, expeditions and meetings with the gods. Set in this surrounding, this is one of the most beautiful temples that I have seen. It is also very well preserved and makes for an amazing visit.



From here we went on to the Valley of the Kings. The Valley of the Kings consists of 63 magnificent royal tombs from the New Kingdom period (1500 – 1000BC). The tombs basically consist of long tunnels angled into the cliffs with a burial chamber (sometimes still with sarcophagus) at the end. The tunnels are lined with various scenes of the afterlife that the pharaoh would be expected to go through before his rebirth. From the first day of a new pharaoh’s coronation the tomb building would start and they would continue to dig down and decorate until the death of the pharaoh. For this reason the lengths of the tunnels differ considerably between the different tombs. The tombs have suffered great damage from treasure hunters, floods and in recent years, mass tourism, but are still a spectacular visit. Scenes depicted on the tomb walls are interesting and give a great insight into the culture and beliefs of the ancient Egyptian.

Next stop was Valley of the Queens. There are 75 tombs in the Valley of the Queens and this was where the queens and other members of the royal family were buried. As these have been less visited, they contain better preserved wall paintings. The most fascinating tomb was that of Ramses II’s favourite wife Queen Neferteri. The tomb is a shrine to her beauty and without doubt an exquisite labour of love. Also fascinating was the tomb of Amunherkhepshef who was the son of Ramses III and who died in his early teens. On the walls of the tomb are magnificent paintings of Ramses holding his sons hand and introducing him to the gods that will help him on his journey to the afterlife. The tomb also contains the skeleton of a mummified 5-month old foetus that it is thought was aborted by Amunherkhepshef’s mother on hearing of her son’s death.

Unfortunately no photography was allowed at the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens :-(

The next day I spent visiting the East Bank sites. First stop was the Karnak Temple. Here for more than 1500 years the pharaohs competed for the gods attention by outdoing each other’s architectural feats. Karnak is now and extraordinary complex of buildings, kiosks, pylons and obelisks dedicated to the gods. Everything is on a gigantic scale, while its main feature, the Temple of Amun is the largest religious building ever built. It was believed that this was where the god Amun lived when on earth surrounded by the two gigantic temples which housed his wife Mut and their son Khonsu. Built, added to, dismantled, restored, enlarged and decorated, Karnak is believed to have been the most sacred temple in the New Kingdom.

There is a 3km long paved avenue which was once lined with 730 human-headed, lion-bodied sphinxes that once joined the Temple of Karnak to the Temple of Luxor. 58 of these sphinx statues still remain. The avenue must have been a spectacular sight in its time!

The Luxor Temple is a strikingly beautiful monument in the heart of the modern day Luxor. It was primarily built by Amenhotep III (1380 – 1352 BC) and Ramses II (1279 – 1213 BC), but has been added to over the centuries by Tutankhamun, Ramses III, Alexander the Great and various Romans. In the 14th Century a mosque dedicated to a local sheik was built in one of the inner courts. Both temples in Luxor are spectacular visits.



The following day (9/6) I decided to continue my journey up the Nile for my final destination Cairo. I think that the Egyptians think that they are in the brink of a war, as there are literally hundreds of police check points along the way. It got so bad that I could seldom get my motorbike into 5th gear before I would have to slow down for another check point. At the majority of the check points the police just wave you on, but I was stopped a number of times because they could see that I was a foreigner. Towards Debri, they insisted that they escort me through the smaller towns. They seemed to play tag team, contacting the police ahead to escort me through the towns along the way. I am not sure whether they were trying to protect me or trying to make sure I didn’t do anything. Eventually it got annoying as the police trucks seldom travel faster than 60km/h - even on the open road sections. The one police truck that I had to follow even stopped so that the policemen could steal some mango's off a farmers tree. They were also intent on putting their sirens on in town which was rather embarrassing! 6 policemen escorting one peaceful Jesus-looking bloke on a bike? I felt like a celebrity as everyone just stopped and stared to see who was being escorted.

This section of the Nile is great. The area is very lush and cultivated with a huge variety of different crops. There are hundreds of small towns to go through. Eventually the Cairo highway starts and the roads start getting ridiculously busy with traffic making its way to and from Cairo.

I got to Cairo in the early evening and managed to catch a glimpse of the pyramids, through the thick smog, off in the distance. The pyramids are an awesome sight and majestically tower high above Giza. They offer a mystical ora to the overcrowded and congested city! But more on the pyramids later ...

In many ways, Cairo is Egypt, an overcrowded city that dominates the country almost as much as it dominates the Arab culture. As with many other major African cities that I have visited, Cairo attracts many people from subsistence livelihoods (along the Nile) towards the often false promises of a better life. As with much of Egypt, visitors tend to enjoy Cairo in proportion to their tolerance levels. Surrounded by horn-blowing cars all squeezing to get into any available gap, buried under a cloud of noxious exhaust fumes, elbowed into a crowd or tricked into being “guided” to a place you don’t want to go, it takes a special patience to enjoy this city. Unfortunately I have none.

Cairo is packed with millions of buildings that seem to be thrown up and are in various states of being unfinished – no windows and no interior work. They’re also built with unfinished roof levels so that upper levels can be added on in the future, if needed. When a person buys a unit in one of the thousands of these buildings located throughout Cairo they have to add their own windows and doors and complete their own interior work (plastering and painting the walls, putting in floors, etc.). You have to see this housing to believe it – it is everywhere, and it is stark and eerie in its half-built, half-empty state. Quick, cheap housing is mainly what Cairo consists of.

I managed to hook up with my good mate, Sean Reynolds, that I played hockey with in my younger years. Sean has been living in Cairo for the past four years and has been working for the Intercontinental Hotel group. Great bloke and a good friend!! Sean offered me to stay with him in his 5-star apartment within the City Star InterContinental Hotel in Cairo! What a stroke of luck and what a great way to end the trip. The first few evenings were spent catching up over far too many beers whilst I tried to sort out motorcycle shipping back to Perth.

I got in contact with Waguih Guindy who owns a transport company (Escale Travel) and who had been recommended to me for shipping my motorcycle back to Perth. The monthly ship to Australia was to leave on 18/6, so I did not have much time to organize the crating. I took the motorcycle to his offices and started dismantling it for crating. It was rather upsetting parting with Big Ken. He has been a great companion during the trip and has not let me down once. As things were rather rushed, it was also disappointing not being able to take some photos of the motorbike at the pyramids – the traditional trans-africa shot.

The traffic in Cairo is ridiculous to say the least. Drivers are extremely impatient and travel at ridiculous speeds. Although the roads are often well demarcated with lanes, it seldom happens that drivers will stick to the lanes. Any gap that appears will very quickly be taken by a vehicle intent on getting there first. Drivers drive with their hands almost constantly on the hooter and are quite happy to cut other drivers off that are trying to squeeze their way past. On a motorbike this can be extremely dangerous. Whilst travelling down the ‘ring-road’ at ridiculous speeds (to keep up with the other traffic), cars would often try and squeeze past with only millimeters of clearance from the motorbike. Very nerve-racking and very dangerous! As with the rest of Africa, no motorcyclists wear helmets here. I have never seen such bad and impatient driving before!

I also had to organize a schengen visa for my trip to Europe to catch up with my good mate Olly Rhode. This turned out to be another nightmare. The German Embassy in Cairo only issues schengen visa’s to Egyptian citizens. They said that I need to apply for the visa in Pretoria. However, the German Embassy in Pretoria requires you to appear in person at the visa application which I obviously could not do. I was stuck. After much pleading I managed to get an appointment at the German Embassy in Cairo to plead my case. As it turned out the person who issues the schengen visa in Cairo was also an avid adventure biker and armed with my charity letter from ‘Riders for Health’ he issued me with a full one year multiple entrance visa into Europe!

On the 16/6 Mel arrived in Cairo to complete her Cape-to-Cairo trip which she had done on public transport. It was great catching up with her again and hearing her stories. Although we had traveled a similar route through Africa, her experiences on the trip were often very different to mine and it was interesting to hear her different point of view.

We decided to take a few days off from the hussle and bussle of Cairo and head to the diving resort town of Dahab on the Sinai side of the Red Sea. In order to spend more time in Dahab, we decided to fly to Sharm el-Sheik and then catch a bus to Dahab. At Sharm el-Sheik we ended up arguing a taxi driver down from L.E. 200 to L.E 20 to get us to the bus station. As with most of Egypt which is frequented by foreign tourists it becomes somewhat annoying and irritating having to argue with locals to be given a fair price. They are intent on ripping off all the foreigners which is not only frustrating, but has left me with a bad taste for the Egyptian locals. In Egypt it is very seldom that prices are openly displayed – instead the shop-owners / taxi drivers / hoteliers / restaurateurs will just quote a ridiculous price and you will then be left having to negotiate your way down to a more realistic and fair compromise.
Arguably the world’s most famous stretch of coastline, it is at the Red Sea that Moses allegedly parted the sea and set free the Hebrew slaves. Famed for its brilliant turquoise waters and coloured reefs, the Red Sea coastline attracts thousands of tourists annually. The diving here is truly first class.

Dahab is a tranquil seaside refuge from the unrelenting desert heat. It has a long history of luring backpackers – trapping them for days or weeks on end – with its fairly cheap backpackers lodges, golden beaches and a rugged desert backdrop. A short swim off the beach will find you in one of the world’s most pristine coral reefs – ideal for diving and snorkeling.

Although Dahab is one of the most relaxed destinations in Egypt, it has also been the target for a number of recent terrorist attacks. It was here that in April 2006 suicide bombers killed 23 people and injured dozens more. The government has tried to crack down on the seeds of Islamic fundamentalism by introducing dozens of road blocks and police checkpoints. It remains to be seen whether or not their approach is effective as the Sinai region is a melting point between different cultures and continents.

The first afternoon was obviously spent relaxing on the beach whilst sipping on cocktails and fighting off the local souvenir salesmen. The next day we organized a dive to ‘the Lighthouse’ which was a great reef about 100m off the beach. I was absolutely amazed with the sea-life and coral that can be found just off the beach. The underwater colours that the coral displays are dazzling and quite breathtaking.

That evening we decided to climb Mount Sinai. As the temperature in the Sinai Desert gets ridiculous in the day, Mount Sinai is best climbed at night in order to be at the summit to watch the morning sunrise over the desert, and to get down the mountain before the sun starts to heat things up.

Mount Sinai is revered by Christians, Muslems and Jews, all of which believe that this was where God delivered the Ten Commandments to Moses at its summit. It was also here that God spoke to Moses through the burning bush and it is also the mountain on which it is believed that Elijah heard the voice of God. For centuries Mount Sinai has been a place of religious pilgrimage. Unfortunately this means that the mountain is infected with souvenir salesmen and herdsmen offering camel rides up the mountain. There seems to be no control of these people and we were pestered along almost the entire trip up the mountain by these rude and persistent sales people.

In addition, the Egyptian authorities insist that all tourists are accompanied up the mountain by a Bedouin guide. I am not sure what the reason for this is, since the centuries of pilgrims have created a bloody great highway up the mountain and it is almost impossible for anyone to get lost. In addition, the “guides” are not trained in any way and cannot speak English so very few of them can offer any religious insight into the mountain. Another Egyptian money making / rip-off scheme.

We reached the top of Mount Sinai at about 04h30 and it was freezing cold at the top. We spent an hour or so catching up with some sleep in the large Bedouin tents that have been set up on the mountain, before heading to the church at the summit of the mountain to watch the sunrise. The church has been placed on the spot where it was believed that God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. The sunrise over Sinai was amazing and it was truly a breathtaking and spiritual experience.

On the way down the mountain we stopped at the St. Katherine’s monastery. The monastery has been placed at the spot that it is believed that God spoke to Moses from the burning bush. Here it is possible to see what is thought to be a descendant of the burning bush in the monastery compound. I might say that the bush has recovered well from the fire that nearly ended its life thousands of years ago. According to the monks this bush was transplanted here many centuries ago and continues to thrive to this day. Near the burning bush is also the Well of Moses, where it is thought that Moses drank from the spring – it is believed that anyone who drinks from the spring will have lifelong marital happiness.

Later that day we headed back to Dahab and spent the remaining few days lazing on the beach and diving some of the other dive sites. I managed to dive at “the Canyon” as well as the Blue Hole which has been rated as one of the top ten dive sites in the world. I cannot get over the underwater beauty that this area offers. The coral and fish life displays some spectacular colour and I spent hours trying to find Nemo.

I may say here that the reefs are not policed at all and I fear that they will not last for much longer. The small town of Dahab has over 60 dive centres that cater for thousands of divers every year. These dive centres compete for customers and often have 5 – 6 groups going out per day. Even whilst snorkeling, we could see evidence of damaged reefs and even scolded a local Arab for kicking a section of the reef that he was trying to break off as a souvenir!! If the authorities do not step in, I fear this pristine reef will end up being ruined - like that of Hurghada further down the coastline which was one of the most beautiful dive sites in the 1970’s but now has almost no coral left due to over-diving.

On 22/6 we headed back to Cairo to visit the remainder of the Egyptian sites.

The following day we went to see the Great Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. Built on a desert plateau and encroached upon by the modern Cairo city, the pyramids here are the last remaining wonder of the ancient world and a great place to end my trans-africa trip! They are built as the monuments to the pharaohs to help with their journey through the afterworld and into re-incarnation. Representing more a celebration of life, and a desire for life to continue, they were believed to have been constructed by thousands of artisans (not slaves) who were mindful of their part in creating something extraordinary.

Completed around 2600BC, the Great Pyramid of Kufu is the oldest pyramid at Giza and the largest at 146.5m high. The neighboring Pyramid of Khafre was built by Khufu’s son and the third (and smallest) pyramid was built by Menakaure who was Khafre’s son.

The pyramids of Giza are so iconic as to defy description. They have been puzzled over and plundered, visited and studied for 4000+ years. Their attraction continues unabated. The theories about why and wherefore and the speculations of divine intervention ensure that the pyramids will continue to keep alive the names of a father, son and grandson forever. Isn’t that what they were intended to do?

Guarding the Pyramid of Khafre is the Sphinx, which has the face of Khafre and the body of a lion. It was buried by sand several times now since its construction in 2500BC and was carved by a single piece of limestone. The sphinx is missing its nose which was shot off by Napoleons army in the 19th Century. It remains one of the most evocative monuments of the ancient world!

That afternoon we visited Egyptian Museum which houses a bewildering amount of Egyptian artifacts. This museum is one of the world’s most important museums of ancient history. Here the treasures of Tutankhamen lay alongside buried artifacts, mummies, jewellery, pottery and toys of ancient Egyptians whose names have been lost in history.

The number of exhibits long outgrew the available building space and the museum is literally bursting at the seams. Items are arranged chronologically throughout the building and show Egypts fascinating history. To walk through the museum is like embarking on an adventure through ancient time. Truly fascinating.

The following day we left for Germany.

Jaag maar aan.

May 30, 2010

Sudan

My crossing into Sudan marked my first step into the Muslim world and it’s associated ‘arabocracy’. (The Arab countries have a tendency to drown themselves in needless paperwork all in the name of keeping their borders secure from the feared ‘West’). The Immigration Section went fairly quickly and I managed to get myself through in about half an hour. The Customs Section, however, was a headache. I went from one official to the next who each had separate forms to fill out which requested the same information – mainly information on the motorbike – all of which is contained on the copy of the carne document which they keep anyway?!? Maybe a computer would have helped? Name, Make, Model, Year of Manufacture, Colour, Engine Number, Chassis Number, Number Plate etc. In the end seven separate documents (with receipts) were filled out before I was allowed to pass to the next section i.e. the Security Section. Here all my motorbike and passport documents were translated into Arabic and re-written into the security log book. I must admit that the border officials, however, were reasonably friendly which was a marked difference to the Ethiopians. Eventually, some two hours later, and with a strict warning to register myself ‘as an alien’ in Khartoum (within three days), I was off on my way …

The road continued to get drier and drier as I entered into the Sahara Desert. Scattered grasslands eventually disintegrated into sparse shrub and shadeless thorn trees. And it started to get HOT! By midday the temperature had already reached 40 degrees C. My initial intention was to stay in the town of Gedaref, but as the border crossing had been more efficient than I had expected (I had heard some horror stories), I arrived at Gedaref at about 13h00. Gedaref is a dirty, dusty town on the outskirts of the Sahara and has very little in the form of decent accommodation to account for. So I decided to stock up on water and head out into the Sahara, towards Khartoum, to do the first of my big desert crossings. Bad mistake!

The 420km stretch from Gedaref to join up with the Nile River at Khartoum is rather desolate. If I had thought that Gedaref was hot, I was in for big shock! I always knew that the Sahara would be hot, but never in my wildest dreams did I ever picture it as hot as this! In hindsight, it was a mistake to plan this section in summer (even though it is very early summer here). The temperature quickly increased to 44 degrees C and then remained between 44 & 48 degrees C for the remainder of the afternoon. The hot air felt like a hair dryer blowing onto my face at full power. Unbearable! To top it off the heat given off my 990cc motorbike, and all the protective gear that I was wearing, were adding to the ridiculous temperature. I managed to stop a few times at various watering points to refill my water supplies. I have never felt so helpless and vulnerable before! I worked out that I drank a massive 15 litres of water on this stretch! … and did not urinate once! I didn’t know that was possible? It felt better when I was on the motorbike as in this way there was at least a breeze using my sweat to cool me down. Towards the end of the trip I had to stop a few times as I was starting to feel sick – really sick – the first signs of heat stroke. I managed to make Khartoum at 21h00 that evening (it was 42 degrees C at 21h00!) and headed straight to the Blue Nile Sailing Club campsite. I spent two hours sitting by the water trough filling myself up with ice cold water and rehydration salts which helped to relieve some of the discomfort. Thankfully they also had an air conditioner in the pool room which felt like an absolute God send!

The next day, I was feeling awful again and just sat in the shade; whilst pumping water through my fragile body. There was also a stall across the road from the campsite that sold ice cold fruit juice which tasted so good – just what I needed – I think I became an instant ice-cold mango juice addict!


Khartoum was built where the White and Blue Nile’s meet. It is one of the more modern cities in Africa and has paved roads, high-rise buildings and the majority of services that are needed (although they do have ATM’s here, they cannot be used by any international bank cards!). The people here are extremely friendly, polite and hospitable. The riverside setting is attractive and Khartoum is very safe! BUT, it is hot!

Sudan is not a particularly rich country, but I am surprised how few beggars / homeless people there are here. Even in the large cities like Khartoum, beggars are seldom seen. The underprivileged seem to be well cared for by the general population. The very strict laws against drugs, alcohol and prostitution, that seem to plague the rest of Africa, also help to prevent people getting sucked into the downward spirals that often finds them living in the streets.

The following day I felt much better and set about registering myself at the Aliens Registration Office in Khartoum. The Sudanese think that anyone from outside of their country must have come from another planet and have thus enforced a rule that all non-Sudanese have to register themselves as ‘aliens’ on arrival in Khartoum – and within three days of entering a border post. Now, if only they had computers at the border posts they would be able to know who was in their country! To be honest, I think it shows arabocracy at its best and is just another money making incentive for the government officials. First I had to find the Alien Registration Office – none of the taxi drivers or policemen had any idea what I was talking about. I eventually got the address on the internet and set off with my GPS to find the place. After about two hours I eventually found the place – the signs to the office were in Sudanese (Arabic) and not in any of the official alien languages. To top it off none of the officials understood the particular brand of alien that I speak and I thus had no idea what I was meant to do to register. Luckily one of my fellow aliens understood Sudanese and I was sent back to the campsite to get an official letter from the Blue Nile Sailing Club to state that I was a guest at their campsite. With letter in hand, I returned to register, paid a whopping £S105 ($US 50), filled out my forms, gave them my photo and after a few hours of queuing I was a fully fledged and legal alien! (My form said that my address was: 1 Moon Rock Place, Mars (only a few light years from Perth) – no-one seemed to care – no-one could speak/read my brand of alien anyway - they had my money which is all that really mattered to them).

Later that day, I hooked up with Riaan (South African), Stephanie (Belgian) and Joel (Canadian) who are travelling together from South Africa to Sudan (and back again). It was great hearing their stories – they came up from Uganda to Sudan through the very dodgy southern Sudan region. Riaan and Stephanie are artists from Calvinia. Joel has been living in South Africa for a few years now and is completing his PhD in archaeology at Wits University (the university I went to). Joel has been rather sick since Livingstone (Zambia) and had apparently lost a lot of weight – he was off to see a doctor in Khartoum to see if he can identify the problem. The next day we went to town and had a huge ice-cream before doing some shopping in a huge (air-conditioned) shopping mall. I am not a big fan of shopping but I would do anything to get out of that heat! Riaan, Stephanie and Joel are all such great friendly people! I hope they make it back south safely.

The next day I decided to head off. There were two choices – firstly the loop road to see the Meroe Pyramids which was about a 300km detour - or secondly, the direct route to Abri Dom, straight across the desert to meet up again with the Nile River that had looped itself around. Because of my scary desert experience a few days before, I decided to take the shorter280km trip directly across the desert therefore minimizing my exposure to the desert elements. Besides, I would have more opportunities to see the much bigger Egyptian pyramids further up north. Also, I only had a two week visa for Sudan so I had to get going.

I set off early that morning. To be honest the 280km stretch across the desert was great and I had nothing to worry about. The heat only really starts to pick up at about mid-morning in these parts and by this time I had already managed to cross the majority of this stretch. The roads in Sudan are of excellent quality, some of the best I have seen in Africa! The only problem is that every now and again there are sand piles formed as sand blows onto the road, which are not fun riding over at 120km/h.

This part of the Sahara is known as the Nubian Desert and is renowned for its orange coloured desert sand. The rocky outcrops and occasional dunes make the scenery very picturesque. It was great meeting up with the Nile River again. The desolate desert suddenly erupts into an abundance of colour, as the fertile banks are harvested for their life supporting crops. After a long desert crossing with no water around, it is also quite a relief to have a huge river flowing next to you that has an emergency abundance of the necessary H2O.



Most of the Sudanese (and Egyptian) landmass consists of deserts, with the lifeblood of the Nile River being a green band flowing through them, drawing to it human settlements. Charismatic rivers flow through many countries but few govern the ebb and flow of a country’s fortunes quite as much as the Nile River has done for Sudan and Egypt. From at least 4000BC small settlements have clung together in loose affiliations along the Nile.



I stopped north of Abri Dom to have look at a bridge that was in construction across the Nile. There were some children swimming in the water close to the bridge, so I decided to join them. It felt so refreshing to be in the cold Nile water! I have been surprised at how fast the Nile River flows – from its sources at Lake Victoria and Lake Tana, both streams are fast flowing and even at this point the Nile is very strong with some strong side currents. It is also a huge river, a lot bigger and wider than I thought it would be. From Abri Dom the road winds its way along the banks of the Nile. The swim had been so refreshing that I decided to stop every now and again for a dip in the lovely cold water. It was great riding along with wet clothes on, keeping my body cool in the intense desert heat.

At the villages along the way are small shady stalls that have been set up by the locals which house amphora’s (big jars) of cold water. The locals keep the amphorae full of water, which is done out of kindness to the travelers – they are not paid to do so! These stands are found along the roadsides throughout Sudan. It doesn’t take long after you have stopped at a village for a young local to run across to you carrying a cup of cold water – and they want nothing in return. This is Nubian kindness and hospitality at its best!

That night I decided I was going to camp somewhere along the Nile River rather than spend the night at another dodgy lokanda (guesthouse). I found a great camping spot near a pump station, and in his very broken English, the local pump attendant said that I could sleep the night in the new pump house store room that was still empty and had a great view overlooking the river. I spent the rest of the afternoon swimming with his three young sons in the river and teaching them how to skip stones across the water. That evening the pump attendant invited me to share dinner with him and his sons (I have no idea where the mom was?). I am totally humbled by the opportunity to have had dinner with this family - they have so little yet they give of themselves so freely. The pump attendant wanted nothing in return and seemed annoyed when I offered him some money. He also brought me a bed down to the pump house as he said that because I was a guest I should not sleep on my mattress on the floor! What a great day! I am humbled by these friendly people. The next morning I had tea with the pump attendant and his sons before heading on further up the Nile. I have never met such kind and caring people!

I continued my journey up the Nile and stopped every so often for a refreshing swim. This is the way desert riding should be! That morning I stopped in Dongola to get my motorbike boots fixed again. The intense heat seems to have melted the glue between the leather and the rubber part of the soles, so I had to get them re-glued! I managed to find a shoe repair guy in town who knew of just the glue to fix it – apparently this happens quite often here to western made shoes ha ha.


Along the Nile are a number of temples, built in the 14th Century, which I stopped to view. Unfortunately they are all on the opposite bank so I couldn’t view them up close. The temples were very difficult to find – none of them were sign-posted in English and very few locals that I asked even new that they existed. The old temples don’t seem to play any role in modern Sudanese life. What this means, however, is that very few people visit the temples which makes them great sites to visit as a tourist – they are not like the Egyptian sites that are packed with hundreds of tourists and tour-guides hassling you.

Early that afternoon I stopped at a water-stand and took some photos of the surrounds. A young guy at the stand asked me if I would take a photo of him and his brothers and sisters. I said I would. He ran inside and hauled out his brothers and sisters and I took the photo. He then asked me to take the camera inside his house to surprise his mom with the photo. I followed him inside and met his mom. She loved the photo and asked me for a copy. Unfortunately I do not carry around a printer, and she does not have an address or email or anything (the mud hut they stayed in was in the middle of nowhere). I felt quite bad because she desperately wanted a copy – I don’t think she had ever seen all of her kids in a photo. She did however invite me to tea and asked me if I wanted food – she even offered me accommodation for the night. I unfortunately had to decline as I needed to push on.

Later that afternoon I stopped for fuel at a busy little town north of Delgo. They have recently discovered gold in the area and there are a number of local fortune seekers walking around with metal detectors trying to find their early retirement plan in the desert sand. I got chatting to a young student whose English was pretty good. He was studying to be an electronics engineer in Khartoum and was fixing metal detectors as part of his vacation work program. I went with him and some friends down to the river for another refreshing swim. Before I left, I was again offered water, food and accommodation for the evening, but much to their disappointment, I again decided to head on …

That evening I found an amazing camping spot. The spot was on a cliff overlooking the Nile. There was a path down to the water with a great rock pool, which was fed by a constant stream of ice cold Nile water. There was also a fishing boat rowing up and down the river and some beautiful eagles floating above the water. The sunset that evening was amazing and the night opened up into a spectacular display of coloured skies and desert stars. I was waiting for a big star to appear but I don’t think God could find another two wise men in the area ha ha … maybe next time. I had a great evening on my own (oh sorry, with my motorbike – Big Ken) under the desert stars ... truly an experience I will never forget!

I am amazed by the beauty of the Sahara desert. The colours and windswept sights that are created make for some fantastic scenery. Although the desert has a harsh and very brutal side to it, it also manages to draw you in by its mesmerizing beauty. The colours displayed at sunrise and sunsets are spectacular and there is nothing that can compare to a night out under a desert sky! This desert has a beauty that I have never before experienced and something that is really fascinating me.

The following day I headed on to Wadi Halfa. The desert from Abri to Wadi Halfa was some of the most beautiful desert that I have experienced. The desert remains fairly sandy but is scattered with large peach coloured dunes which are glazed with a black rocky cover. It reminded me of peach ice-cream covered with chocolate sprinkles. Along the way the wind started to pick up and it was not too long before a sand storm had started to develop. Riding the motorbike through a sandstorm is challenging to say the least! The windblown sand stings your skin while the wind throws the motorbike all over the road. I managed to get to Wadi Halfa safely though and was relieved to get out of the wind.


Wadi Halfa was founded by a handful of Nubian families from the original Halfa (now buried under Lake Nasser) who resisted the governments forced relocation. The ferry to Egypt now docks here and leaves Wadi Halfa every Wednesday to Luxor. This means that I have a four day wait, in Wadi Halfa, for the ferry to arrive.

I booked into a place called Deffintood which is a very rough lokanda (room with a number of beds in it). I was surprised to find that it had electricity and a fan, but no other services were user friendly (showers, toilets etc). I made quite good friends with the local flies and bedbugs that seem to infest this place. To my surprise the owner insisted I park my motorbike in the small reception area at the front of the lokanda! He said that the motorbike may attract other guests ha ha. So I have pimped Big Ken out to the reception area in hope that by flashing his gearbox to unsuspecting customers he may attract them into this bug infested lair :-)

As very few tourists visit Sudan, the Sudanese have very little in the form of decent accommodation. Facilities are generally poor throughout the country, with the exception of a few hotels in Khartoum. This makes comfortable travel in Sudan virtually non-existent. Travel here is rough and ready and if this is not your style, then Sudan is not for you. A tent is about as close to “first class accommodation” as you will get whilst traveling here.

The following day (28/5) I decided to head out into the desert to take some more photos as there had been a sand storm the day before and I hadn’t managed to get any photos of this section of desert. It was great riding my bike on the dusty desert tracks. At one stage I saw a great look-out point just off the track and thought it would be easy enough to get to on my motorbike. Big mistake. As soon as I ventured off the track the motorbike sunk deep into the desert sand. Nothing I did seemed to help. I even tried digging the motorbike out but because the sand was so soft it just sunk deeper under its own weight. At this stage I was about 15km into the desert from Wadi Halfa and had no water with me. So I started to worry. Luckily, I was not too far from the Wadi Halfa – Dongola road so I managed to walk to the road. About twenty minutes later a taxi passed and I managed to flag it down. There were three men in the taxi and they walked with me back to the motorbike and within about ten minutes we had managed to lift the motorbike out of the sand and back onto the desert track. What a relief! I had visions of loosing Big Ken to the sandy desert. I continued to venture off into the desert but this time I was very careful not to leave the ‘tried and tested’ desert tracks. I managed to take some good pictures before heading back into Wadi Halfa.


There is a restaurant in Wadi Halfa that sells the most amazing mango juice!! (Have I told you that I have become a mango juice addict?) The mango is liquidized into a thin pulp and then frozen into an icy liquid that tastes absolutely amazing. I have never tasted anything as refreshing as this! A great thirst quencher for the hot sun and at only £S 1 (US 40c) for 500ml, it is an absolute God send.

The next day I bumped into Andraes Habek and family. Andraes is a great young (German) bloke that I had met in Nairobi (at Jungle Junction). He is 13 years old and has been travelling around the world with his parents (Hans and Carola) and his cute 2 year old brother Thomas. At only 13 years of age, Andraes has been fortunate enough to see most of the world in his travels with his parents – 5 out of his 13 years have been spent travelling the world by boat, car, bus, train and even walking. Hans (Andraes’ dad) has written a book (in German) about their shoestring travels around the world. Carola is a teacher and keeps Andraes up to speed with his schooling – in fact he manages to do very well at school and achieves well above average for his school year. It was interesting chatting to young Andraes. Being well travelled, he has a maturity well beyond his age and his worldly view on things makes the young man very interesting to chat to. He is also a dedicated KTM fan after I took him for a ride on Big Ken. That afternoon I climbed the mountain behind Wadi Halfa, with Andraes, and managed to take some good photos of Wadi Halfa, Lake Nasser and the surrounding desert.



The following day (2/6), the ferry was set to leave for Aswan (Egypt). The ferry is currently the only way of entering Egypt from Sudan – there are no land crossings between the two countries. Apparently a road is currently being built between Egypt and Sudan and it should be ready in the next five years.

That morning I met up with Alf and Anders, two guys from Norway, who have been travelling up from South Africa in their Land Rover and are heading back to Norway. The vehicles unfortunately could not travel with us on the ferry and had to travel on a separate barge. The barge was meant to leave before the ferry which was great because that meant that we could manage the loading of the vehicles ourselves. We spent the whole morning going through the Sudan (exit) Immigration and Customs and if it had not been for our assistant Mazar Mahir, it would have taken much longer. He seemed to know all the customs officials and we managed to skip all the queues – but, it still took us the whole morning to get through. I cannot get over all this arabocracy!! By 3pm we still had not managed to put our vehicles on the barge as they were still unloading goods off the barge. Eventually, much to my displeasure, I had to leave my motorbike for Mazar Mahir to load onto the barge while I boarded the ferry. I was really annoyed as I had wanted to manage the loading to ensure it was not damaged in any way.

The ferry left at 5pm. Alf, Anders and I managed to get a place on the top deck underneath the lifeboats which gave us some shelter from the sun. Andraes soon joined us, and we made ourselves comfortable for a night of sleeping under the stars.

Lake Nasser is absolutely massive. The original dam was built by the British at the beginning of the 20th Century; however, it was insufficient to keep the Nile in check during its annual spate. The Egyptian government was joined by several nations in building a new dam in the 1960’s. It was opened in 1971 and came to be seen as a symbol of Egypt’s independence. As the full environmental impact of the dam began to be understood, however, it became the source of much international controversy, not least on account of the ancient sites and the Nubian communities that were swallowed up by the creation of Lake Nasser.

That evening I was privileged to witness a gathering of Muslim men on the deck of the ferry all praying to Mecca in the east. I have been quite impressed by the devotion shown by these people to their religion. I am also very surprised by the gentle, kind and friendly nature shown by these people – very different to the impression that I have been given by the western press!

Sudan is the largest country in Africa and is one of the least visited countries on earth due to its various ongoing conflicts which are predominantly in the southern and western (Dafur) regions. However, the northeast Nubian region is one of the safest places in the world and with some of the friendliest and most hospitable people on earth (and with a natural generosity that far belies their poverty), it make for one of the most enjoyable countries I have ever visited.

Jaag maar aan.