The Iron Throne in Dalmatia 

Blog by Pete: 
We awoke to the most amazing view from the deck of our flat. The ocean was a beautiful turquoise and the sun wash shinning. We had bought some supplies the night before so we tussled up some eggs and bacon before we headed out to explore the Albanian riviera. We drive up and down for a couple of hours taking in the beautiful bays, beaches and little seaside villages before heading back to Sarande to find some lunch, and mote importantly to find somewhere to watch the South Africa vs New Zealand rugby. We found both and had a leisurely afternoon. The rugby was a bit of a disappointment seeing as South Africa lost, however some of the party didn’t share the same feelings.

The next morning we set off relatively early and headed for our destination of Budva in Montenegro. The drive up the Dalmatian coast is completely stunning. The roads were great, winding and beautiful. 

The town was very empty due to it being the end of the tourist season. Budva has a beautiful old town and amazing restaurants inside the old town. 

The next morning we made our way to Kotor. While it is only a stones throw away we decided to take the scenic route which goes inland and through beautiful mountain passes. This was really a stunning ride and coupled with an amazing lunch go cured ham and cheeses all made by the immediate farming community. 

Coming into Kotor is truly amazing. The insanely narrow and winding pass down makes for the most amazing views of the city perched on the water. Making it down the pass we checked into our flat that was right on the water. For all those wanting to travel this part of the world Budva and Kotor come highly recommended. 

Our next destination was Dubrovnik in Croatia. Which for me was the highlight of the Dalmatian coast. This walled coastal city is full of fun and interesting things. The history of the city is fascinating and the fact that a lot of the tv series game of thrones is filmed there makes it even more fantastic. And yes we did sit on the iron throne. 

We met up with some international students at a bar attached to the outside of the wall looking over the sea who sort of adopted us for the three days we were with them. This involved them taking us to the small island called Lokrum which happens to be where the game of thrones museum is. It also is incredibly beautiful and has cliffs that you can jump off into the sea, we did all the above. 


The rest of our time in Dubrovnik bounced between having drinks with the students and sightseeing. All in all it was a fantastic place to visit and I would go back in an instant. 

Next stop, Split. We had an average start with Split. The flat we had booked which was a two bedroom had ‘flooded’ and they had organized a different flat that was the same. It definitely was not the same. The two bedroom become a one bedroom and the lady insisted that we could all fit because the deb was queen sized and there was a sofa. Needless to say we made other sleeping arrangements. 
Aside from the accommodation hiccup Split was a beautiful town and we enjoyed walking around and even found somewhere to watch the rugby World Cup final. We left early on our day of departure because we had a long day to get all the way to Venice in Italy. Our route took us through Slovenia, we stopped for lunch just before the border at a really cool German beer house where we had an amazing mix of different kinds of meats. 

We were staying a 10 minute train ride outside if Venice for the simple reason that vehicles can’t get into the town. We checked into our hotel and caught the train. We couldn’t wait to have a look. I had been to Venice before but I don’t think it matters how many times you have been there it always seems to impress with its beautiful buildings and intricate system of canals. We walked for a while before finding a good Italian restaurant for our first meal in Italy. Having filled our bellies we retired ready for a full day of playing tourist tomorrow. 

The next day we got ourselves a water bus pass which would let us hop on and off all over the city. And we used them to the full. We covered almost every inch of the city. The highlight of which typically was st. Marc’s square where we very slowly enjoyed the world most expensive coffee and hot chocolate. We reason that you weren’t paying so much for the drinks but more for the live performance of classical music the restaurant provides which draws quite a crowd. 

   The rest of the day we just moved through the city having a look at whatever caught our attention. Having had enough we returned to the hotel and got ready for another big push across Italy to the south of France. It meant an early start but we were eager for a night not spent in a hotel. We were due to spend the next few nights with one of my mothers friends Sacha Ballard in Grasse. 

It is worth a mentioning just how easy traveling through Europe is compared to Africa. With respect to border crossing they are as easy as going through toll booths, all it requires is a show if the passport and on occasion a vehicle document. In some instances a passport wasn’t even required. Additionally especially in Italy and France the highways are big and have frequent petrol stations which means we can cover a lot of ground and the food in the petrol stations is fantastic. The only down side are the really expensive tolls. 
We made it to Sasha’s house in reasonably good time and were treated with tea and a tour of her beautiful home. That night we had our first home cooked meal in months and got to meet a few of Sacha’s friends. The next day Blaze and I were chomping at the bit a little. And decided we wanted to go to Monaco and have lunch so we could count it as a country visited. Micko decided to stay behind and relax as he had been to Monaco before and was not keen to navigate the big car through the narrow streets. 

We decided to make a run straight down to the coast at Cannes and follow the sea through Antibes and Nice to Monaco. It was slow going and we definitely were trying our hardest not to be slow. We made it to Monaco just on lunch and found a nice place for lunch right on the beach. 

Our way back was slightly more interesting without meaning to be. We wanted the quickest way back so we opted for the highway, but we got off the highway one off ramp too soon. Having no idea where we were we made as best a heading as we could with regular stops to consult with google maps. We eventually found ourselves very close, in fact so close we could basically see Sacha’s house but we seriously were struggling to get here. It was at this moment I thought to myself how the hell did we manage to make it through Africa when we can’t get to a place we can see!!!! in our defense the roads are very confusing in the south of France and there is generally only one main road in Africa.
We eventually found our way back just as they were thinking of sending a search party. Sacha took us out to a nice restaurant in the local town of Grasse, and the next morning we set off for Paris. 



Cold, Wet and Broken (Bikes)

Blog by Blaze:

We had finally escaped Turkey and had arrived in Greece, what a relief!! As Nicky Rattray had come to visit us, with the hope of driving up the Dalmatian Coast from Sarande (Albania) to Split (Croatia), we were anxious to cover good ground for a couple of days to make it the ~1,000kms from Istanbul to Sarande. The weather forecast had looked ominous when we left Istanbul but had proven not to be too bad on the ride to the border of Greece. A small petering of rain but nothing that was concerning us too much. We travelled on from the border of Greece to Thessaloniki in what proved to be a relatively uneventful day. After the dramas of getting our vehicles through the Turkish customs this was welcomed by all of us. After finding a hotel just before dark, we got some dinner and had a quiet night with the hope of getting an early start the next day.

When we woke up in the morning Peter and I could hear a very light tap, tap, tap on our window. Drawing our curtains back we saw that it was already raining, and not lightly like the day before. I had always thought the most depressing way to start a motorbike ride was when you had to get up and start riding in the rain. I discovered in Sudan that the only thing worse was having to ride in extreme heat. On this particular occasion though, Peter and I were so happy to have our motorbikes back and to be on the road again that very little could dampen our spirits. We set off towards the border of Albania and very soon our visors were fogged up from rain and our wet weather gear was beginning to leak slowly. For the first hour the weather was above 10.0°C and we were managing fine. Shortly after this, we begun heading up an incline and in to the mountains. As we rose the visibility got worse and the wind got stronger. We began to see signs for ice on the side of the road and the LED signs were indicating that we should drive both under the speed limit and with extreme caution. We pushed on carefully and the temperature begun to slowly go down. At first it was manageable, but our gauges slowly begun to creep down towards an icy 5.0°C. The rain continued to come towards us at almost a 45° angle, due to the the wind, and Peter and I started to get cold. While we were not yet cold enough to wish for the scorching heat of Sudan, it was getting close. We radioed Micko and Nicky and our new destination was to the nearest petrol station, we hoped we would be able to warm up briefly and hoped to find a hot cup of coffee. 20 cold minutes later we arrived at a petrol station that had no coffee and a room hardly bigger than a telephone box with a small heater. The petrol station attendant didn’t exactly welcome us with open arms as we stood there dripping head to toe at their door but did kindly point us towards the only coffee shop in town. We arrived to find a small tavern with a fire cranking, what a stroke of good luck. Peter and I quickly removed our wet weather gear and made ourselves at home in front of the fire, while trying our best to dry our gloves and scarves as we defrosted. After a very slow cup of coffee and a snack it was decided we would aim for another 100km stretch before once again attempting to warm up. At this, we set off into the rain once more.

As we pushed on, the rain begun to soften ever so slightly. Just over 50km down the road, Peter and I were following Micko and Nicky, when Peter suddenly said, “Hold on, there’s something wrong with my bike.” A conclusion was instant in my mind, another flat tyre. This would have made a total of nine for the trip. Little did I realise that what was wrong this time would make us wish it was only a flat tyre. We pulled over and Peter said that his bike had suddenly turned off and the digital display had been flickering off and on as he pulled over. Unsure what was wrong, we did know that the bike had no power and would not start. As the others had been ahead of us, we stood in the pouring rain trying to contact them while thinking about what might be wrong with the bike. As we couldn’t get onto either Micko or Nicky we pulled the battery cover off, checked the wiring and everything else that seemed obvious but could not work out what was wrong. After about 25 minutes of trying to solve the problem MacGyver (Micko) arrived, after navigating his way through the Greek freeways, and quickly begun trying to fix Pete’s bike. It turned out that Micko was far more adept at fixing mechanical problems than us and he soon worked out that the battery terminal had broken off of the battery. This meant that the wires were still connected to the terminal but not attached to the battery. We worked out that if you pushed the broken terminal against the battery the bike would start. Success!!! We now knew what our problem was, so we jammed the broken terminal against the battery and set off towards the nearest town (Ioannina) to try and get a new battery.


MacGyver arriving to fix Peter’s bike

After about 50km of Peter’s bike turning off intermittently he pulled over and told us that his bike had switched off again. We stopped and checked the connection again but his bike would not start and his digital display was flashing, “EWS error.” As we were ~15km from Ioannina we decided that we would head into town and see if we could get a new battery, hoping this would solve the problem. Much to his dismay Peter was soon riding pillion on my bike and we were off towards town. Upon arriving in town, we had our first stroke of good luck when we discovered that the highway exit came out amongst Ioannina’s numerous car dealers and associated mechanics. We quickly found a store that sold batteries, they luckily had the type we needed, and we were back off towards the bike. We got the battery in to the bike but we still had the EWS warning. It seemed that our run of good luck had ended as quickly as it had begun. We called a BMW mechanic in Johannesburg who informed us that he had seen this problem before and that the computer needed to be reset. The bad news was that it had to be done by someone with the BMW motorcycle diagnostics machine. We got onto the internet and found out that our good luck may have returned and there was a BMW dealership in town, less than 2km from where we bought the battery. Peter quickly called them up only to be told that they only do cars and that there was little they could do to help us as the diagnostic machine for motorcycles are completely different to the one they had. The killer blow was when they told us that there was no one in that town that would this machine and that the nearest dealer was in Thessaloniki, 250 km away!!! By this stage, the rain was upon us once more and both Peter and I were wet, very wet. I wrung out my gloves and a steady stream of water poured from them. It seemed that not even Gore-Tex could save me from the elements. So here we were, cold and wet, and with a broken bike that we had no idea how to start.


Peter ‘enjoying’ his newfound role as a passenger

We decided that Peter and I would head into town and try to find a motorcycle mechanic who might have a diagnostics machine. After a conversation with the first mechanic we came across, they pointed us towards the BMW dealership. Despite having little progress in our earlier phone call we thought it would be worth a shot. The head mechanic (and dealer principal) begun to chat to us about our trip and after about 10 minutes started chatting to us about ways we might be able to solve the problem. He called the motorcycle mechanics in Thessaloniki and told us that they had never heard of this particular problem with this model. He discussed that it could potentially be the built in immobiliser ring antenna that goes around the keyhole but if it wasn’t that our only option was to get the bike towed to Thessaloniki. He called and got us a quote on the tow truck, it was going to be €450 to have I towed to the other dealer, OUCH! The other option was €65 to have it towed into Ioannina. Still unsure what to do, the gentleman offered that we get the bike towed to his dealership where we could keep it for the night and that he would swap the two immobilisers over from our bikes in the morning to see if this was the problem. He also recommended and booked us a hotel after he organised the pickup of Peter’s bike. It seemed our luck had once again turned around for the better, it had even stopped raining and the sun was out. We got the bike delivered to the dealership and made our way to the hotel. After a well needed hot shower we immediately made our way to the nearest Greek bistro as we were all starving due to not finding a chance to eat due all day due to the dramas.


Loading Peter’s bike


Almost ready for the trip into town

We set off back to the BMW dealership first thing in the morning and arrived to find Peter’s bike in pieces and the ring antenna already removed. Our new friend quickly pulled the one off of my bike and we went over to see if it would work in Peter’s. After getting his bike back together the moment of truth was upon us, would it start? Peter put the key in and when he hit the ignition we heard the roar of his engine. It seemed this day was going to be a lot better than the previous one. As the part was not available in Ioannina, they quickly phoned the BMW dealership in Thessaloniki who had one spare ring antenna in stock. To save us driving the 250km to pick it up, it was organised for a courier to pick it up and send it on the local bus that runs every two hours. All going to plan we would have the part by 3:00pm. It started to look like we might be making it to Albania after all. As we had nothing to do but ‘hurry up and wait’ we set off to explore Ioannina and its beautiful old town on the lake.


Peter, the BMW mechanic, fixing Peter Rattray’s bike


Exploring the beautiful lake at Ioannina 


Lunch with a view


Micko and Nicky exploring the old town

After a lovely lunch on the lake we called the mechanic who informed us that the courier had run late and the part would now be arriving at 5:00pm. As our next destination was only a two hour drive away we still had high hopes of making it to Albania that day. I dropped Peter off at the local mechanic just before 5:00pm and they set off to the bus station. Just before 6:00pm they arrived with the promised part in hand and quickly got Peter’s bike back together and running. What a relief, we were finally set to be back on the road. After many thanks to the gentleman who had helped us with our problems, we also found out that he didn’t want a cent for his time in helping us. Our luck had really improved. We set off just as it got dark, arrived at the border and simply handed them our passports to get a stamp – they didn’t even ask us to take our helmets off, what a welcome change from Africa – and were finally in Albania. After a windy ride into the Albanian Riviera we had finally arrived into Sarande. Tired but relieved, we all had a gin and tonic and laughed about the trials and tribulations of overland travelling.


Departure from Greece at last…


Peter’s bike enroute to Ioannina

Trapped in Turkey

Blog by Blaze and Micko:

As many of you know Micko O’Byrne has been an integral part of our traveling party but has not been writing on this blog as he continues to write his blog ( We have constantly threatened to have him as a guest blog writer and have finally decided to include one of his blogs as a majority of this post.

After we escaped Egypt with the knowledge that we had almost a week to kill, Peter and I headed off to the Greek Islands for R&R by the beach while Micko headed to Gallipoli. While it turned out to be a far cry from a relaxing days at the beach, we did enjoy the nightlife, and beach parties that Mykonos has to offer. To get around the island we had decided to hire scooters, as we felt that we were seasoned veterans of motorcycle adventures. Having crossed Africa relatively unscathed, I was less than impressed when I crashed my scooter on the first day riding around the island. My front wheel slid out go when I leant into a corner a little too hard but thankfully my body seemed to be less bruised than my ego and I was able to ride the scooter home (albeit with a flat tyre). It seems that these bikes are crashed so often that the owners didn’t even comment when I came in with a flat tyre and scratches down the side, then simply offered to get the tyre fixed and I incurred no charges whatsoever. After a few days of making new friends, enjoying European food and enjoying one of the party capitals of Greece we were off to Istanbul to get our bikes and get back on the road.

Mykonos 4

Sunset view from our hotel on arrival – a welcome change from Africa

Mykonos 2

Right after I had crashed my scooter, cut open knee and all

Mykonos 3

Peter checking out the sights of Mykonos


This is where I will defer to Micko’s blog as it gives quite a good summary of our rather protracted experience in Turkey and the pain we went through to get our vehicles back.

Blog by Micko:

We were initially delayed here due to misinformation about our shipping. We had been informed that our ship would leave Egypt on a Thursday evening and reach Turkey on the Sunday and that we should be able to collect our vehicles on the Monday, sounds good, and we cheerfully paid for that service. Calling the shipping office early on the Monday morning we were told “Sorry that ship will not be arriving until next Friday and will be unloaded on the weekend you should come back to our office next Monday to get your paperwork for the port, but it might take another week after that”. WHAT? We had already endured the fact that our container packed on the Sunday sat at the wharf in Port Said for an extra four days, at our expense. Nothing for it but too wait. Still, Istanbul was a far better place to wait than Wadi Haifa in Egypt.

There were things to do, places to see, yummy food to eat and a zillion carpet shops touting for your business. I had established a friendship with the owner of the small hotel I was staying at and he offers to assist us in the port process. MK had spent ten years in the USA and his English was terrific, as well as the hotel he has several other thriving small businesses on the go and was full of energy and charm. He was going to need both! The next few days were a nightmare of paper shuffling and one delay after another, seemingly caused by people who just appeared to make things up as they went along that slowed the processing of our paperwork. The fact that the shipping company office was 50kms from the port did not help matters. MK and I traipsed from office to office in the port doing and re doing forms and copies of forms which occasionally people lost and we had to start again. Each and every office seemed to require even more payments and more delay. We endured the whole day of Monday while Blaze and Peter somehow managed to befriend the wharf workers, in spite of their lack of Turkish, and they proved keen to help us. We actually had all paperwork completed and the container brought around to unload at 7pm Monday when the last guy who needed to sign the gate pass decided to go home leaving us stranded. We returned next day early to start AGAIN and the process went on. More payments for the extra day storage and for moving the container again, then the insurance guy mixed up the engine numbers on the motorbike form and they all had to be reissued and new copies made for everyone. Finally at 3pm all done, but NO, there was more.

MK helping us get our paperwork from the shipping agent

Someone had now decided our container needed to be X-rayed! The machine to do this was broken so the container had to be taken to another location, at our expense, and be done there. With all our patience and most of our money gone we managed not to kill the fork lift driver, gate guard, container truck driver and I think the cleaner, who ALL wanted complete copied sets of all our paperwork before we finally got the vehicles out and clear of the port at 9pm. Exhausted we joined Nicky at a nearby hotel, where she had patiently spent the last two days waiting, for a drink and late supper. BUT we had done it, we had finally got our vehicles out of the clutches of the Turkish Customs and Port. A huge thanks and suitable tip went to MK, who never wants to see us again I am sure. In spite of the shipping disaster we all enjoyed our time in Istanbul.


My excitement when I discovered that our vehicles had at least arrived in Turkey unscathed

 The next morning we set off early into pouring rain heading west towards Greece. The road was great and we stopped at a roadhouse for the best ever breakfast of fried eggs and sausage with cheese pastries and great coffee and tea. Not even the pouring rain could dampen our spirits. Hitting the border we encounter the usual go slow Turkish policy but to our surprise and delight the Greek side said “we are a bit busy at the moment with lots of trucks, so why don’t you go thru to the coffee shop and have some lunch and we will see you in about 20 minutes.” We returned at the appointed time and we’re immediately dealt with and all formalities completed with a cheery “Welcome to Greece.”


Sleeping on one of the berths while we waited…

Escaping Egypt

Post by Pete:
We began our morning with a swim, not because we particularly needed, or wanted one but just because we could. Almost instantly you notice the huge differences rest of Africa and Egypt. As soon as you cross that border you are well and truly in the Middle East. Everything is Arab, the food, the buildings and more importantly, the people. Most notably was the change in infrastructure the buildings were no longer mud huts but houses and there were even in this most Southern part, places that resembled shopping centers. 
We left Abu Simbel at a reasonable hour and embarked in a decidedly boring drive to Luxor where we planned to spend two nights. The road was good but dead straight and through the desert, it was particularly hot hanging around in the mid thirties. We made good time until we got to Aswan, we arrived by lunch and I’m afraid we opted to have Mcdonalds as we hadn’t seen any since we left Nairobi. It was also a convenient location for us to meet with our fixer from the previous day who was getting some special piece of paper we needed in order to ship our bikes out of Egypt. We delighted in our cheese burgers and fries after the horrendous food of Sudan. 
Once we finished lunch and got back to our bikes the perforator (aka me) had struck again. I’m sure you are all as over hearing about flat tires as I am of changing them so I won’t carry on with that but rather carry on with how our journey to Luxor got interesting. 

Anyone who has travelled through Egypt will be able to tell you how many police roadblocks there are, and along with the roadblocks comes the having to show documents. This isn’t a problem and we had expected the road blocks etc. what we hadn’t expected was that seemingly at random we were told to pull to one side and wait. Five minutes later a small pickup would arrive with four men in it, two in the front and two in the back in full combat gear carrying AK-47s. 

The driver couldn’t speak any English other than the word follow. We did as we were told and the man took off at the speed of the clappers (far over the speed limit) we kept up and whenever the traffic got a bit busy he would simply put his siren on and everyone would move and allow us past. 

We didn’t really think about it at the time but after following the pickup for a couple of minutes a thought stuck in my head. Why do we need a heavily armed escort? The thought was slightly disturbing but we had no choice. 
The escort spat us out at a pother check point, obviously deeming the next section to be “safe”. After a while and a lot more check points, And it getting closer to dark, Blaze and I decided to leave Micko for a bit and meet up with him 70 is down the road. We covered the ground quickly and pulled over at a roadside stall for a cool drink and to wait for Micko.

The minutes ticked by and still no sign of him. We waited for about an hour until we finally managed to get in contact with him. It turns out that in one of the towns a local motorcyclist had run into the side of his car, the rider was fine however the good he was carrying weren’t. The situation was eventually resolved with the help of a Good Samaritan who could speak English. 
The end result was Micko had landed up driving up the West Bank of the Nile (we were on the East). And had therefore gone past us but he was back on the east bank. We quickly mounted up and rode like the clappers to catch up. It wasn’t too long until we caught him at another checkpoint not far from our destination. It was now well and truly dark, and had been for some time. It was deemed necessary by the police that we require a final escort. That was fine with us, and they took us almost right to the front door of our hotel. 
Egypt a tourism infrastructure is massive. They are geared up for thousands of tourists. The only problem is, that since Mohamed Morsi was overthrown by the Egyptian army in a coup d’état in 2013, tourism has dropped by a staggering 95%. This as you an imagine has had a massive effect on a country that used to thrive on tourism. This unfortunate situation meant that luckily for us things were cheap, our hotel for example was 60 dollars a room which included a buffet breakfast the likes if which I have never seen. The hotel reminded us of the resorts you get in Orlando’s Disney world, with three different swimming pools, snack bars and waiters all over the place. The highlight of the pool scene was definitely the infinity pool that overlooked the Nile. 

The other upside for us was that due to the decreased tourism we didn’t have the fabled crowds when we went to visit Queen Hatshepsut’s temple and the valley of the kings. What the ancient Egyptians managed to create is simply awe inspiring. The temple of Hatshepsut massive in every regard, the statues are huge, the pillars, the stairs, everything built by the Pharaoh’s of ancient Egypt surpasses all expectations. One cannot help but wonder how they accomplished these feats, in some instances blocks of stone weigh up to 12000 tons and were transported and placed with only man-power. Bear in mind these structures were built over 3000 years ago. 

The Valley of the Kings is way up there with the most amazing sights I have seen in my life. It’s really difficult to describe but I’ll give it a go. Firstly you are in the middle of the desert in these hills that are completely barren. If it weren’t for a reception building and some walkways you would never have any idea that this is the burial ground of numerous pharaoh’s and once stored riches beyond any of our wildest dreams. 

Our tour took us into three of the tombs. The first one was the most spectacular. The underground chambers were so perfectly carved out of the ground. The detail inside the tomb eclipses the buildings quality. Every square inch of the entire 150 meter long tomb was covered in hand carved and painted symbols and images. It is truly amazing to see. The next two were not as ornate or perfect but still amazing to look around. I apologize for a lack of photos but they are forbidden inside the tombs so I only have one photo of one of the lesser tombs. 

The afternoon was spent lounging by the infinity pool with a cold beer before we went to see the sound and light show at the Temple of Karnak. It is a must see. It gives you insight into Egyptian life and history as well as a wonderful walk through this massively impressive temple. Afterwards we headed back to the hotel to get a good night sleep before the long haul to Port Said the next day.

We departed Luxor as early as light would allow us too. We knew we had a long day ahead of us. A total of (900ks) would be a big effort. It would be worth it because our shipping agent had told us that if we got there on Thursday we could have our stuff on a ship on Sunday, this would be perfect for us and the reason for the big push. 

Our route took us along the Nile for about 120kms before a right turn and we cut across the desert to the Red Sea. The ride initially was what we had come to expect from Egypt, constant police check points and the occasional police escort. Once we hit the Red Sea we knew we were in tourist central. That entire coastline for about 500kms is littered with massive hotels. The only problem is there were no tourists. The coastline looked like a movie set, big building and no people. 

The drive up the coast is beautiful the weather was hot and I just wished we were staying and could enjoy the ocean, which was an amazing turquoise blue. I had heard stories that the scuba diving in the Red Sea is spectacular, but it was not to be. We pushed on making very good time. Only stopping for fuel and food at the road houses along the way. 

Once we hit Suez things got a little more complicated. The GPS’s we were following decided to take us on a scenic tour throughout the city which easily added an hour onto our travel time. Eventually we emerged from the city just after sunset. We still had a couple of hundred kilometers to go. So we resigned ourselves to our nighttime trek and made the final push to Port Said. 
We got to Port Said pretty late and had enormous difficulty finding our hotel that Eslam had booked us into. We managed to find it on google maps but we just struggled to get there. A combination of one way streets, Micko’s car being to big to fit down some of the streets and a market or two which we impassable made a very long day even longer. 

Eventually we made it to the hotel and checked ourselves in. Eslam came to meet us to discuss the plans for the shipping of our bikes and car. Bad news, Friday is a holiday in Egypt. And we would need at least two days to do all the paperwork, exit Sundays ship. The next ship we were told would not be until Thursday, now we were kicking ourselves for pushing through when we could have stayed another night in Luxor and see the Red Sea properly. 

Eslam told us not to worry and we should stay in Port Said and told us that it is very nice. We couldn’t disagree more than Eslam’s praise for Port Said, it has absolutely no redeeming features except maybe a patisserie that made really amazing sweets of all kinds. Blaze had a good description, “it would make the perfect set for a zombie apocalypse movie, all you’d have to do is take out some of the newer cars.” He hit the nail on the head. 

We decided to load the container as soon as possible and then just pay the storage fee until the ship left on Thursday rather than hanging around when we could be doing much better things. To Eslam’s credit he is very good at his job, navigating the beaureucracy of Port Said’s customs with relative ease, I use the word relative because it still took two days, but would’ve taken us far longer.
We loaded the container in the late afternoon of the second day, with lots of maneuvering and a lot of straps we got the car and bikers secure. We closed up the container locked it and said a small prayer that our container would meet us in turkey.  
What are we going to do until our container arrives in Istanbul? We (Blaze and I) decided that it would be a lot more fun to sit on an island in Greece waiting for the ship than in Port Said. Micko decided that partying in Greece was not his cup of tea, so he opted to go straight to Istanbul. 

Firstly however would be a visit to the Pyramids of Giza in Cairo. We caught a taxi in to Cairo and after getting ourselves lost and driving through areas of Cairo no tourist has ever been we eventually found our hotel. It was nearly 9 o’clock at this stage and we were all exhausted after a very long day. Needless to say we were in bed very soon after arrival. 

The next morning we had breakfast on the roof of the hotel and what a view it was! Right in front of us not more than two hundred meters away was the sphinx in all its glory. Even more impressive were the three pyramids of Giza in the background. It was just after sunrise and it made a magnifiscent spectacle while we had a coffee and a little breakfast.

We had organized to go on a tour of the sphinx and pyramids with the hotel’s guide. He was fantastic, his knowledge of the history was thorough and he was a lot of fun making jokes throughout the day. A highlight of the tour for me was riding a camel from the panorama view spot to the pyramids, I had never ridden a camel and having seen them since northern Kenya I had vowed that I wouldn’t leave Africa until I had ridden one.

After the tour we had a look around the Egyptian museum, the amount of stuff in there is just mind boggling. From statues to sarcophagus’s and actual mummies, one could spend days there and still not have seen anything. However the most spectacular is the Tutankamon exhibition which showcases this pharaoh’s solid gold sarcophagus and numerous pieces of jewelry. Of the hundreds of pieces in the room about 95% were solid gold including his headrests. 

To finish off the day we had a couple of cold beers on our hotel terrac watching the sun set behind the pyramids. Tomorrow, for the first time in two months the team would split and we would head our separate ways until we meet in Istanbul for the final leg of our journey. 

We had conquered Africa. 

Surviving Sudan

Blog by Blaze:

When you enter a country that is on your governments “Do not travel list” and then you can’t find a travel insurance company to cover you, you know you’re in for an interesting experience but Sudan eclipsed most of my expectations with the key upside proving to be the temperature gauge.

After waiting for the most part of a week in Ethiopia for Peter’s back shock to arrive we were all relieved when we were finally back on the road, heading to Sudan. We had been told it would be hot but none of us were prepared for just how hot it was about to become. We had departed around 2:00pm the day Peter’s new shock arrived and headed towards the border. After a small incident involving a very unlucky sheep, Peter’s motorcycle, and a very unhappy farmer, Peter was US$100 poorer and we were finally allowed to leave Ethiopia through the Metema border crossing. While we had experienced a relatively organised border post in Ethiopia the Sudanese side proved to be a lot slower. Despite the slow processing of the paperwork we were kept highly amused by the guard at the border post who insisted on taking selfies with all of us, separately, then together, then separately again, then together again. This was all the more amusing as we had been told you could not take pictures in Sudan without a permit. I was especially entertained when the border guard started using my phone to take selfies as well.

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Selfies with the Sudanese border guard

As it was almost dark, we visited the local “hotel” at the border and felt like we had been transported into a bad scene from the first Taken movie but without Liam Neeson there to save us. The rooms resembled the rooms from the film that people had been locked up in. Concrete floors, metal cots, no mattresses, mice running around and lights in the room if you were lucky. At 34.0°C our dream of an air-conditioned room with a comfortable bed wasn’t looking too good. We eventually decided we would push on to the next town, Al Qadarif. After dodging potholes in the dark for a couple of hours we arrived just after 9:00pm and much to out relief found a hotel that at least had air-conditioning, a mattress and staff who even offered to get us some food. While the deep fried fish, that was served to us cold, left a lot to be desired we were thankful for anything we could get at that time of night.

We got on the road at 6:00am the next day with Khartoum as our destination. We had been hoping that an early start would help us to avoid the heat. When we got outside to discover that it was already 28.5°C we realised that this might have been wishful thinking. We set off down the road and were hoping to be in Khartoum by midday. Everything was uneventful until Peter, “The Perforator”, Rattray struck again with another flat tyre. Flat tyre number 6 for the trip. After a very hot tyre change we were back on the road and watching our temperature gauges go up. By just after 12:30pm the temperature had reached 44.0°C. This was the first time in my life that I experienced the sensation of opening the visor on my helmet and the air getting hotter as opposed to colder. While I had experienced temperatures like this in Australia, I had never experienced them in the desert while wearing a full motorcycle riding suit. I don’t think I had ever been so relieved to arrive at a hotel as I was that day.


My motorcycle temperature gauge on arrival in Khartoum

On arrival in Khartoum we noticed that the town was strangely empty. There was hardly a car on the road, hardly a shop open and hardly anyone in sight. This was a strange thing to witness when we had heard this city had a population of over 6.5 million people. We later found out that it was one of the largest religious holidays of the year and that everything was closed for 5 days. Beginning to feel quite dehydrated, I drank another 2 litres of water, had a shower and we set out to find some lunch. With most of the city closed we were recommended an absolute gem of a café / patisserie that also sold what I must assume was the best ice-cream in Sudan. Delighted by this find, we all had lunch and then proceeded to eat cakes and ice-cream with the excitement of small children. As we left lunch my sense of dehydration / heat stroke only seemed to get worse. By the time we were back at our hotel all I could do was put myself to bed in a very dark room and pray that my oncoming migraine would subside. Heatstroke ended up well and truly getting the better of me and I hardly got out of bed for the rest of the day. What a welcome to Sudan!!

Micko and Peter kindly organised all of our paperwork, with the help of our ever gracious hosts at the Acropole Hotel, to get us signed in with the police and to make sure we had all of the relevant permits (including one to take photos) so we could get an early start the next day. We set off the following morning at around 6:30am but this day was even hotter, our temperature gauges were reading over 32.0°C. As we set off north of Khartoum, the landscape became exactly what we had imagined Sudan to be like, endless flat deserts with almost nothing in sight. The only saving grace was that the road was now pothole free and we could cover good distances in the time we had. Just over 200 km north and the winds were the strongest I had ever ridden in. It was so strong that as you overtook a truck you sped up by nearly 20 kmh. Very soon these same winds had turned the whole road into a sandstorm, it was reminiscent of scenes from Mad Max with visibility down to less than 500 meters. By this point it was over 45.0°C, we were drinking a litre of water an hour, there was sand everywhere and we could hardly see a thing. The idea of stopping had quickly become a worse prospect than the idea of riding but neither was holding particularly strong appeal. Even Micko was suffering in the car as his airconditioning had decided to stop working if he drove over 80 kmh. We had originally aimed to drive ~400 km and then pull up for the night but we arrived in Al Goled only to find the only hotel we knew about to be closed for the holiday. Peter wasn’t looking too good from what looked to be the onset of heatstroke so we had lunch and discussed what we would do. It was nearly 500 km to the border of Egypt at Wadi Halfa and this was likely the next place we would find a hotel. Peter mentioned that if he covered himself in water every hour he thought he might be alright to do the distance. Micko and I were a little apprehensive about his condition but Peter was determined to go on. As our temperature gauges hit 46.5°C, and stayed that way, we headed for the border. The sensation of feeling like you are being roasted by the sun, the heat of the road, your motorbike engine and any reflection that you glance at is not one I hope to experience again soon. With breaks every 45 minutes to cover our t-shirts in water and refill our water supplies we rode into Wadi Haifa at around 7:30pm with the temperature still at 44.0°C. Arriving 905 km later it had been our longest, and arguably our toughest, day of the trip.


A stop in the desert to refill our water supplies


Peter and I covering ourselves in water to make the ride more bearable

Our “fixer” who was set to help us through the Sudan border the next day had met us and taken us to a “hotel” in town. I have stayed in some very average places while traveling but this one took the cake. What made it the worst was hard to say but there was strong competition between the arrival at the top of the stairs to discover I was on open rooftop with concrete rooms built down one side, dirt coming out of the shower head when I turned it on, the worst ‘squat’ toilet I had ever seen, or the dead bugs on my sheets when I woke up, it was all pretty bad. I woke up the following morning ready to get to Egypt only to find Micko looking in pretty bad shape. It turned out the meal we had the night before had given him food poisoning. Peter and I had escaped this fate as Micko and I had different meals and Peter had opted for his bed as soon as we had arrived the previous evening. We had suggested we wait another day but Micko was adamant that we push on. As we begun to load the car he was once again sick and went to his room to have another shower before we headed off. After an extended wait I went to check on him only to find him passed out in his bed. I soon found out that he had fainted in the shower and crawled to bed. At this point it was definitively decided that we would leave the next day. Peter and I brought Micko food and water over the course of the day in between watching movies and enjoying the creature comforts of our “hotel” room on this balmy 45°C day.


Our hotel rooftop complete with our concrete rooms


Our ensuite bathroom complete with dirt on the shower floor from when we turned the shower on


Peter and my twin room complete with ill fitting sheets and stained mattresses

With Micko still a bit shaky but ready to get out of Wadi Haifa we headed off the next morning for the border crossing. We had been told by everyone who had been through this route that this would be the worst border crossing we would encounter. We arrived to meet 22 motorcyclist coming down from Egypt on a guided tour who had spent 10 hours at the Egyptian border the day before and had then been forced to camp in between Egypt and Sudan as the Sudanese border was closed. At 10:00am they were still in ‘no man’s land’ and we began preparing ourselves for a big day ahead. We got through the border at Sudan after a couple of hours but with relative ease and headed into Egypt. We were met at the border gate by a “fixer” named Kamal who was there helping some other people cross the border that day. He offered to do all of our paperwork for US$50 each so we accepted. The border guards spent about 15 minutes having a short look at our vehicles then it was time for coffee. Kamal asked us to go from one room to another to sign some papers then it was time for more coffee. After about 3 hours of chilling out while Kamal ran about we got given our Egyptian licences and number plates and we were off to catch the ferry across the Nile River into Egypt. After all the horror stories we had heard about this border crossing we found that it was a slow but positively pleasant experience. We couldn’t recommend Kamal’s services enough.


Coffee with our Sudanese “fixer” before we headed for the border


Patiently waiting at the Egypt border

After Peter got another flat tyre on the 30km stretch of road to the ferry we arrived and had a sunset cruise across the Nile River and into mainland Egypt. On arrival in Abu Simbel, we pulled into the first hotel we could find. Despite being substantially more expensive than what we expected we quickly accepted when we found out it had a swimming pool overlooking the Nile River. After the adventures of Sudan and its mind boggling heat this was truly one of the best swims we had ever had.


Micko with his trusty “Troopy” on our sunset cruise into Egypt


It was 46.5°C and the Sudanese government told me that I couldn’t have a beer so I did what any logical person would do, straight arm water

A bicycle race through Zululand

We recently received an email from Ben Henderson who runs The David Rattray Foundation about a bicycle rally that was organised by The DRF in support of our trip. We have copied Ben’s email below as it gives a great insight into the work that is undertaken by The DRF to promote education and to support school children in Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa. As some of you know Micko and Blaze organised a project earlier this year to get 300 bicycles sent from Australia to Rorke’s Drift (The Zulu Bicycle Project) and these are the bicycles Ben mentions in his below email.

From Ben:

Today there was an event organised by Shiyane and Oscarsberg schools [schools supported by The DRF in Rorke’s Drift] in support of the trip you three are doing and to say thank you for the work of The DRF and the bikes than they now have – which are making all their lives so much easier.

The event was initially billed as the 100 Bikes Rorke’s Drift To Brecon Cycle Rally. When it actually happened it needed to be re-billed as the 100+ bikes… We stopped counting at 119.



Kids from both Shiyane and Oscarsberg rode from Rorke’s Drift to Fugitive’s Drift Lodge (“FDL”) and back to Oscarsberg School. They were divided up into groups, each group representing one of the countries you are travelling through. As they came up the hill towards the FDL gate they were singing and carrying banners representing the various countries, Botswana came in first, singing and carrying the Botswana flag, followed by Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt. Each group sang the appropriate national anthem. Once they had all arrived at FDL, they sang and danced and laughed – even after cycling up that big hill near the gate! After all the festivities we were invited back to the Oscarsberg hall where, again, the kids sang and danced and – as they do – ululated with excitement. Then we moved into the school hall.





Once everyone was seated in the hall there were five student groups who each put on a short show.

The first show was by two kids who pretended to be Blaze and Peter as they sat around a campfire talking about their experiences as they travelled through Botswana. It was very cleverly done, lots of imagination and highlighted key features of the country.

This was followed by a second group who represented all three of you travellers and did something similar about Ethiopia, again designed to inform the other kids about the country in question.

The third group of four was interesting. Two of them pretended to be TV chat show hosts, interviewing Blaze and Peter as they were passing through their country. The interview questions were aimed at eliciting as much information about the country they were talking about, Kenya, as possible. One of the girls interviewing, was a natural. This should be her occupation!

The fourth presentation was three kids from the Primary School, each one of whom recited a blurb of information about the trip, the countries, the work of The DRF and how good a thing it was in their lives, etc. that brought a tear to many eyes in the room.

The final presentation was two girls who pretended they were running a TV game show and all their questions were directed to the audience and were on topics and points that had been covered during the previous presentations.



Lots of laughter and noise and then, when the main activities were over, a parent representative stood up to make a speech, in isiZulu, about how, as a parent, she was grateful for all the work that The DRF does, what a difference it has made in the lives of the children, how her own children could now speak English – whereas she couldn’t, how much the children’s education has improved, that everyone should support The DRF and reciprocate by getting good school results and so on. All very moving.

They put on a really good show and it was another of those amazing days that seem to happen up here. Just fantastic!!


To see more of the work that The DRF undertakes please visit its newly revamped website:

To support the Rorke’s Drift to Brecon fundraising efforts please click on the below link:

Any contribution you are able to make goes directly to the much needed educational work amongst the Zulus. For example £10 buys exercise books for a class for a term, £50 buys teaching materials and £1000 contributes towards teachers’ training for a whole school. The DRF want to spend £200,000 a year on this vital initiative, but any amount will help hugely.


Churches and Castles in Africa

Post by Pete
The Rock hewn churches of Lalibela are truly a site to behold. It looks as Micko said ” like someone showed these people a huge rock and said right guys there’s a church in there, now take out everything that isn’t a church.” The main religion of Ethiopia is Orthodox Christianity and it is this religion that the Lalibela churches follow. The churches were built in the 12th century in response to the take over of Jerusalem by the muslims. And that is how it has become known as the second Jerusalem.

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