The following morning I left Hurghada and set off through what I presume to be the Sahara desert for the ancient city of Luxor. Along the way I pulled over to have a break about 100 km from anywhere. As I was pulling back onto the road and riding on soft sand the bike suddenly sunk. I got completely bogged down in this powder up to my panniers. The day was hot, dam hot and I was running low on water. I tried to get it out but it was stuck fast. I tried flagging down a few passing cars but no one would stop. I had no choice but to remove all my gear and panniers and drag the bike out sideways. By the time I was finished I was soaked with sweat and parched with the thirst.
I rode on and found a little town an hour later where I sculled 2 litres of water. Another hour later and my front wheel went flat again. Adventure riding at its finest today that’s for sure. I found another tire repair place and had the guy remove the tire and put it back on again properly this time. An hour later I was back on the road riding down along the Nile to the city of Luxor. After finding a hotel and trying to rehydrate through osmosis by soaking in the pool I headed into town to see the sights. There are some ruins here for sure. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to see them all as everything closed at 4 pm and I had to leave early the next morning. I saw what I could though and was well impressed. Why they can’t build architectural wonders like those today is beyond me. Contrary to popular belief slaves were not used to build these places, they just had better system of governments back then.
I left my hotel the next morning at 9 am for a 200 km ride. I reached my destination of Aswan just before 4 pm. The first problem that morning was my front tire; it was flat again when I got to my bike. I had noticed a tire repair place across the road on my way in so I went over to see if he could help. He pumped up my tire and started hitting it with a hammer. Even though it was still leaking I congratulated him a job well done gave him some money and told him to stop hitting my bike. I rode off in search of another shop. Halfway through Luxor I discovered my GPS was missing. I quickly shot back to the hotel and found it in the hands of the housekeeper as I walked in. He didn’t know what it was so I had to show him, thank god for honest people. I then went back in search of a tire repair shop and found one on the other side of town. This guy looked like he knew what he was doing but I was taking no chances. I removed the wheel and asked him to remove the tire. I then cleaned the tire and wheel toughly in a bath of water before greasing the wheel and getting him to put the tire back on again. Hey presto it looked fine; but it isn’t. I reckon the tire is a defect, there is a bulge and buckle in it that vibrates through the handle bars but I have no choice but to keep it on; I was just happy it stayed up this time.
Next it was off to get some petrol. Luxor is a fairly big town but none of the petrol stations had any gas. I did manage to find one with a secret stash out back though which was sold to me for 4 times the price. Finally about 2 hours later I was ready to leave town. I had been told to take the desert road as the main road would be congested with traffic so that’s what I did. As I was trying to persuade the army at the next checkpoint which was about 10 km out of town that I would be fine taking this route a car pulled alongside me. The driver honked and handed my gloves. I had them strapped to the back of the bike and they must have fallen off. I have no idea where they fell off or how this guy found me but I can’t thank him enough. The only other ones I have with me are winter gloves and there is no way I could wear them here. Again I was astonished by this man’s generosity; for him to go out of his way to find me was unbelievable. Diamonds in the rough and all that.
Instead of taking the desert road I took some other one by mistake. It ran alongside the Nile on the right hand side. Traffic was light but there were so many villages along the way I couldn’t make up time. I had to meet a guy named Kamal in Aswan at 2 pm. Although riding through the villages gave me a fascinating look into Egyptian life I couldn’t stand the pace. It took me an hour to ride 50 km. I cut back across a bridge and back onto the main road. What a nightmare this was. Thank f**k the traffic was light because it was a holiday of some sorts as there were speed humps every km or so. These are the type of speed humps that you almost have to stop to get over. There is a Q of traffic at every one of them as well. The biggest distance between humps I reckon was about 3 km and that was only once, most of the time it was a km max. It was one of the worst rides I have ever faced.
I stopped in some delightful town for lunch parking outside a little cafe. As soon as I got off the bike I was accused of being Israeli. I almost had to pull out my passport and show them I wasn’t. These guys then just walked off without even apologising. What a thing to be called! I think they were just looking for someone to vent their anger on or someone’s head to bash in. I was real glad they said “Irish ok, Ireland good” before heading off in search of another victim. I was soon surrounded by another bunch with sticks so I decided this may not be the best town for lunch and popped back on my helmet and took off. I grabbed some fruit at a stall down the road and just eat as I rode along.
I had planned to stay at a place called “Adams House” about 9 km out of Aswan so that’s where I went. Just before I unloaded my bike Kamal called to find out where I was. He told me I had to come meet him that night as my bike was going on a barge first thing in the morning. I had previously thought my bike wasn’t going until the next Saturday and that I was going the following Sunday. (Vehicles are not permitted on the passenger ferry so you have to travel separately). Well this changed everything because there was no way I could be stuck out of town for six days without a bike. I had to find a hotel in town. I found one on an island in the middle of the Nile that would do just fine. It was far enough away from the traffic and city noise but only took five minutes to get to by boat. I checked in and met Kamal who explained the procedure for getting myself and the bike to Sudan.
At 7:30 am the next morning we were off to customs down in the docks. It officially didn’t open until 9 am but Kamal picked up a few customs officials on route. Money talks in a big way in this country. When we arrived the whole place was still locked down but we managed to gain access. Kamal had the paperwork sorted in 20 minutes. I then had to push the bike through the offices as the gates were all still locked. We got some abuse for this by the staff coming into work. I then rode down to a little barge and straight onto it parking beside bags of rice. I met the captain who was from Sudan, gave him all my paperwork and keys and waved goodbye as the barge was pulled away. There was another 4×4 on the barge beside my bike; they had an email address on the side so I emailed them to tell them the boat had left. I got a very warm reply, these guys are already in Sudan and have been waiting god knows how long for their car.
We then set off for the Sudanese embassy so I could get a visa. I filled out some forms showed my passport and was told I could pick the visa up on Sunday morning before going to the passenger ferry. It was all straightforward and easy with Kamal’s help. We then had to go to some other government office to give back my licence and make sure I wasn’t wanted for any traffic offences; to my delight I wasn’t. I don’t think I’ve stopped at a red light since Switzerland. To get anything done by government officials in this country you have to bribe them. They are perfectly open about it as well. 5 pounds here 5 pounds there and you’re done. If you’re not willing to pay well then you had better take the whole day off. I also needed a visa for Egypt as I never got one on the way in because they don’t issue them at the border I crossed. It costs 15$ but for 20$ I was told I don’t need it which saved a lot of hassle.
I spent the next 2 days in bed with food poisoning, a departing gift from Egypt. I hadn’t been that sick in a very long time. On the Sunday morning I departed for Sudan aboard a boat loaded to the sky. The boat trip was an adventure within the adventure unlike anything I have experienced before. It was a real African voyage with people piled atop of cargo and more cargo atop of the people. It was chaos from the moment I reached the docks. The gates to the boat were closed and there was a mass of people lined up behind them ready to board. Then people started to literally climb over one another to get to the front. Parcels of all sorts of everything were also passed up and thrown over the gates and soon the mass started to climb over. Soon enough the gates were opened and everyone was in a comical heap buried in TV’s, fridges and who know what else.
The boat itself was about 60 years old and had originally been made in England. I couldn’t get a first class cabin as they were all booked up ages ago but I did manage to bribe one of the 5 captains on board so I could sit in front of bridge for the night. I was joined by a Swiss couple Gianni and Fabi who I met in Aswan so I had company and someone to look after my stuff while I explored the boat. 3rd class on the bottom deck was some sight. There were people crammed all over, even lying on the shelves; food and filth covered the floors. The toilets were overflowing into the corridors and people were walking through it spreading it throughout the boat. 2nd class was no better but a little less crowded. We spent the whole journey on the deck away from it all up the front. It got a little cold at night but luckily I had my sleeping bag with me. 18 hours later I was in Sudan where people wear smiles on their faces and don’t look on you with disdain.