Archive for April, 2013

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Addis Ababa here we come!

April 30, 2013

\Thankfully the roads improved and the roadside dwelling multitudes diminished somewhat. The only spoiler on this rip was a policeman – fat, ugly and dirty – who tried to bully us into GIVING him our two safety reflective vests that we had slung over our seats. he even tried to tell us that our car was all broken (just because we had raised the back of our bonnet to allow for better cooling) but we stuck to our guns and eventually he realised we were not going to relent and he had no option but to let us go.

at yet another road block in a very strange and again filthy town a guy dressed in untidy civvies asked for our car papers and i showed him our carnet which he wanted to see it but i immediately got out of the car and asked him who he was and what authority he represented as i could see this NOBODY just taking our papers and vanishing off into the crowd never to be seen again. so i approached a nearby soldier who was actually laughing at this whole triad and in fact it seemed that this civvy oke was in fact the guy in charge of the whole gaggle of soldiers or police of customs officials or whatever the hell they were and in the final analysis all worked out fine and we were on our way again. Incidentally every now and then you travel through a different area of Ethiopia and these areas are controlled by these checkpoints that restrict one from passing through by a simple rope barrier. but based on the amount of firepower milling around these controls it would certainly be a folly to drive straight through, except for Chuck of course. Chuck Norris that is!

as we entered Addis being guided to a campsite mapped on our Garmin we we shock surprised to note the number plate of the Landrover in front of us showing that it was a New South Wales registered vehicle. I told Geoff to step on all of our tiny ponies and try to get alongside of them which he managed after about ten minutes in the horrible and heavy traffic that we were in and a quick chat through the windows and again we were traffic separated. a few minutes later to the consternation and noisy hooter blowing anger motorists behind us the Landie slowed and handed us a piece of paper with the coordinates of the place where they were staying. it took no time for us to redirect ourselves to the new spot and through the rain and terribly congested traffic we slowly crawled our way to Baro Pension where we then properly met with the Aussi Landie couple, Oliver and Lisa.

in fact interestingly a number of days earlier as i had been standing on the Moyale muddy road inspecting whether it would be ok for us to venture forth in out Imp this self same Landie came whizzing past and we shared big happy waves to each other never expecting ever to meet up again. another miracle on our travels had just unfolded in the thick traffic of Addis Ababa.

Having travelled through yet MORE rain in a country that i thought gets hardly ANY rain and with the prospect of more torrential downpours we had reservations about setting up camp at Baro and since we would be camping on the hard flagstones of the guest house parking we opted to spend the extra 10 dollars and take a room in the house.

Geoff wasted no time in showering off the dust of the tiring road trip and DRESSED SMART with his only short pants and tee shirt that wasn’t creased to go off and jump on the net with the free WiFi, Of course this together with copious cups of excellent Ethiopian coffee. we found accommodation and food prices here very bearable indeed and i even managed to put away a few good square meals to compensate for the forced starvation diet that we had endured on the road before Ethiopia.

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our mission in Addis was to have our wheels balanced as the left rear had already buckled and since we had only set our wheel alignment by eye it was definitely still not correct. the other big job was to repair our roof rack. so we had grandiose visions of getting to a tyre fitment centre with spotlessly clean four poster lifts and while the car was up we could also cleanout all the mud and gravel that was still in the various nooks and crannies of our little chariot. well the surprise was not a pleasant one! not only did we battle to find this tyre fitment HEAVEN but in fact the only tyre place that could assist with our balancing and alignment was in a grid of the city that had no electricity nor was like to have electricity for days to come! So looking down the barrel we decided to try to find a place where we could have our legless roof rack welded so we could move kit back to the roof and be able to see out our windows again! it does help in the traffic of course. especially when you are driving around a strange city and driving on the WRONG side of the road at the same time!!!

the only problem with finding a welder in Addis of course is the fact that without electricity no welding will be possible. no worries, a very helpful Ethiopian invited us to follow him to a guy that could possibly help us. in no time he pulled up at a terribly unkempt street side garage that had an old early 60’s Beetle sitting in the corner full of dirt and grime, in another corner was a spot where electric motor winding was carried out, on the man floor was a half worked on Mazda and the sidewalk section had two combies being flatted down in preparation for spray painting. and everywhere you walked throughout this tiny totally disorganised workshop you were a few inches deep in mud as a result of the huge rains on the previous night.

notwithstanding the conditions and the lack of electricity, the owner listened to our requirements took a few minutes to assess what could and needed to be done and then went about gathering his accoutrements and got to work. within an hour this artisan had gone and braised our four legs back onto our roof rack and made it so damn strong that the rack will now probably outlive the actual car!

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The Ethiopian journey begins.

April 29, 2013

 

YouYouYou.

you you you

 

for those of you you you who have been to Ethiopia will of course know exactly what i am referring to! yep good people, Ethiopia is blessed with a very large family; 78 million of them and i kid you not, most of these seemed to have lived on the road between Moyale and Awassa and every child and teenager and young adults would shout at us as we passed, YOU YOU YOU. till today we still do not know if it was an insult intended for us, a greeting, or a warning. based on the vehemence with which it was mostly bellowed at us i believe it would not have fallen into the category of ‘friendly greeting’. The YOU YOU YOU people also mostly had extended arms and upturned palms at the same time. Some however did not have open and upturned palms, those were the ones that chose to welcome us to their country by pelting rocks at our little car. We knew that this was an Ethiopian ;thing. so we never worried too much and even the Ethiopian who spat onto the windscreen of the Imp as we crawled through yet another massively overcrowded village we understood that this young adult who had not acquired common decency in his 20 or so years of living would not likely be taught much manners in a short dialogue with us. anyway he probably would not even speak English or French or Afrikaans or Zulu for that matter. If the truth be told, there were many times that Geoff wanted to EXPLAIN NICEKLY to these folk a thing or three using Afrikaans expletives.  Glad he didn’t.

Almost as numerous as the multitudes of people were the horse and donkey carts. during our trip through the southern part of Ethiopia two people cam every close to their maker with the help of the front of our front bumper.

 

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Just to give one an idea of just how many people live in Ethiopia; at one stage we wanted to pull off the road to reply to a call of nature so we drove to a spot where there were no people walking along the side of the road, WE MUST HAVE HAD TO DRIVE FOR ABOUT 150 kilos!!! Every step of the way on our way to Awassa there were people walking next to the road. either just going from here to there or trying to peddle some goods or fruit or whatever to passing motorists.

Back to the border. Remember we left Kenya through the most friendly and accommodating border officials that ever walked the Earth. now we arrive in Ethiopia, firstly to be irritated to distraction by ‘official’ helpers so called and flotillas of freelance money changers. “no we’re fine thank you was only an invitation for these rabble to insist even more intensely to the point that we wanted to punch someone’s lights out! When does NO mean YES???

We are too clever by now, seasoned travellers and WE’VE JUST CONQURED AFRICA’S WORST ROAD, a road so bad it could not be called a road. So we head in the direction of the Immigration office and the surly official there said,

‘come back one hour, lunch time”

So one hour later we return punctual as requested! Which hotel you staying in Ethiopia and what’s the telephone number? What a first class manner of making a tourist feel totally unwelcome! while our passports were reluctantly being processed the border office took great pleasure in telling tow German tourists that since they did not have the correct visas they would not be allowed through the border! Luckily we had heeded the good advice of our friend Arnold and got our Ethiopian visas before arriving t the border.

once, eventually, we got past the border we found a half decent hotel in the village and booked in to try to get ourselves semi back to normality after our ordeal on the Marsabit Moyale road including our previous night sleeping in the back of Brian’s cattle truck. the showers were cold which was just fine due to the extreme heat of the day and freshed up we decided to eat Ethiopian for our late lunch. well what a pleasant surprise. we so thoroughly enjoyed our lunch that we couldn’t wait to get hungry again. another plus was the fact that not only did we have electricity but we also had WIFI. so we were able to let the World know what our progress, albeit delayed progress, was and to let our families know that we were still alive even though we had been through the infamous bandit country of north Kenya. We even treated our car to a car wash. notwithstanding that we had to draw the water from a well on the hotel’s property.

 

With our blogsite updated, Car nicely cleaned and our tummies filled AGAIN with a tasty dinner we headed off to an early sleep along with about one MILLION mozzies, yoh!

 

Our plan; get up 04h30 to head off early to arrive in Awassa by lunchtime or mid afternoon at the latest. this went the shape of a frot pear very early on in the day’s proceeding! Some completely inconsiderate individual just parked their bakkie right behind us and blocked the exit from the hotel parking. it now took us about twenty minutes for the security guard to rouse this illegal parker and get him to remove his vehicle. we need not have bothered to rush in any event… as we progressed up the village to get to the road to Awassa we were confronted firstly by some of the worst potholes we had encountered on our journey so far but we guessed it must just be on the way out of the border town as all the reports were that the road to Awassa was FANTASTIC! well we cold not get on to this FANTASTIC road because we were confronted with a police road block – that only opened at 06h00 – So we had now one full hour to sit and watch in the pre-dawn darkness a troop of about 12 soldiers/police get themselves ready for the duties of the day. their first duty of course was to open up the gate out of Moyale for us to be able to head north. Once again we were robbed of one hour’s drive time due to CONTROLS!

at least the road to Awassa is near perfect we consoled ourselves and we would easily make up the time! NOT TRUE! the road had almost 100 kilometres of gravel road just as bad as the Marsabit to Moyale road except this was dry so although rough it was manageable, but NOT enjoyable! Probably worse, far worse in fact was the stretches of good tar surface.1 Reason being that one gets lulled into a false sense of comfort and with the little Imp barrelling away at between eighty and ninety all or a sardine you get introduced to the foundations of the previously tar surface and the wheels tumble straight into the massive unavoidable cavernous craters in the middle of the road. ! how our suspension and tyres stood up to this new punishment is truly amazing! i believe the solid advice of our good friend and great travel advisor Roger Pearce of the Randburg based EmGee Workshop to put industrial tyres on the Imp paid dividends in these conditions.

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so from what we expected to be quite an enjoyable and relatively easy drive turned out to be a seriously stressful and challenging journey that saw us deal with desperate road surfaces, millions of people all across the roads, endless and over crowded villages that seemed to be queued up one after the other all along the road from just outside Moyale right up to the entrance to Awassa.

a shock to us was the absolute filth of the country and people just chucking rubbish on the roadside in the vain hope that when they would bring another load the next day or week the previous would have mysteriously vanished! Not likely! it was then not surprising to have seen a dead hyena in a street of one of the small towns we travelled through! and why a hyena would be fond wandering around a build up area! well we know that hyenas love filth and dirt.

we arrived in Awassa just as darkness fell; another tough day behind the wheel!

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Unbelievable Hospitality from Kenyan Police

April 29, 2013

 

It would be remiss on me not to highlight the kindness that we were shown at the Turbi police station. Arrived as we did with our ailing car towed to the police compound, we were immediately made to feel like welcome guests that were very quickly made into friends.

At this particular stage of the voyage our minds were in complete spins with a badly damaged car, impassable roads, the worst rains in Kenyan recorded history and a very tight timeframe to get to Coventry for the Imp gathering. Within minutes of our arrival the police that were off duty but living in the little huts on the police compound were tripping over each other in assisting us in our endeavours to get our car sorted. one went off to buy cool drinks and mineral waters for us, another organised a 20 litre drum of rainwater for us to use in cleaning the mud off our car and yet another said he would get some food prepared for us to eat dinner with them.

As we manfully toiled on our car repair and drank gallons of the cool drinks and water in the searing heat we were all the time checked in on by the various members of the police to ensure we had all we needed. John the chief of the station late joined us and insisted on us accepting yet another 20 litre drum of rainwater for our exclusive use which we duly used to wash our by now mud caked filthy clothes.

Now 20 litres of rainwater in just that, 20 litres of rainwater; but bear in mind this little settlement sees rain once or twice every five years or so. therefore this rainwater is delivered to Turbi by truck AND SOLD TO THE TURBI PEOPLE FOR 20 US dollars a pop!!!

with the car suspension sorted we set up camp next to John’s hut and washed out clothes and hung them out to dry on the cloths line just behind our tent. it took only a few hours and each and every item of our washing was bone dry again. it was quite strange to have been held prisoner in this tiny village on Kenya by serious flooding yet there was not a drop of water to be had in the entire place.

We left Turbi with very fond memories of a superb team of people of the Police station of Turbi and if anyone reading this blog intends ever to travel past Turbi in the near or distant future and if you could spare the time to stop for ten minutes and stretch your legs, please do us one tiny favour; pop up to the police station and give them a few bottles of water and a bag of rice. i know its not much but if many people do this, then the guys in blue there will have a nice little collection over time. its just our way of saying a massive THANK YOU to the Turbi police who were to us modern day saviours.

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Turbi to Moyale in a cattle truck!

April 28, 2013

When Brian finally arrived in Turbi we were quite excited to get the car loaded and very keen to be on our way again although there was still no guarantee that we would still make Moyale as the road was still very wet and treacherous in many places still as we would soon find out.

After trying in vain for nearly one hour to reverse the cattle truck on the loose sand towards the cattle loading ditch Brian decided to think straight out of the box and went back on to the road and drove straight over the cattle loading ditch and stopped in perfect position so that we could load the African Imp in the empty section at the rear of the load bin. In fact at one stage he actually stalled the engine and his battery was too weak to fire it up again so he had to borrow a battery from a passing Landrover to get it running again.

 

With the Imp in and strapped down to the best of Geoff’s ability, we were ready to head off to Moyale. Now since we had to part with a sizeable part of our fortune for the privilege of have our car transported to Moyale we knew that at least we would be given the comfortable passenger seats in the cabin with the driver.Not likely; we were unceremoniously sent packing to the bars on the to of the cattle truck that we had to hold on to for dear life. In fact uncomfortable as it was, it was better because from there we were able to monitor the state of our precious little cargo at the back of the truck and let me tell you it fairly hopped and bounced around. How it never smashed against the sidewalls of the truck is a miracle in itself. The only thing saving it was a ring of plastic bags stuffed with more plastic bags that were en route to Moyale to be Brim filled with beans for import to Kenya from Ethiopia.

Brian was clearly on a mission and he pounded his truck mercilessly over the hell road as fast as he dared, and he dared fast, until every now and then he would have to slow right down to a standstill to negotiate difficult patches. All the while Geoff and I surmised if in fact we would have made it in the Imp as lots of the track was reasonably dry and we knew would have been possible. Had we wasted our money? The answer came not once not twice but numerous times during the next 18 hours or so, where the truck in the expert skilled hands of Brian barely made it through numerous deep rutted, muddy with glue like clay mud long stretches of churned up quagmire. No, the imp could not even have been DRAGGED through these except by a caterpillar track vehicle.

As night fell the oppressive heat turned to bearable wind in our faces as we sat up on the cattle truck bars and peering at the road ahead lit up only by the headlights of the powerful Mitsubishi truck and above us was a velvet black mat of billions of stars, flickering and twinkling, completely oblivious to our stressful, extremely uncomfortable and tiring journey.

At about 23h00 the truck came to a stop behind another truck and we wondered what was up! The truck in front of us had it lights switched off so we assumed it had some technical problem. We peered around the side of the truck that was now blocking our way and to our horror we found that it was one of many parked in a line; all standing dead still and the drivers all milling around chatting and chewing happy leaves. The problem? The stretch ahead of about a kilometre was far too dangerous to attempt in the dark as one wrong move by any truck would send it broadside and off the road making the road then impassable for days until help arrived in this middle of nowhere desert now turned swamp so the risks we too great. The convoy was a total of 11 Mitsubishis all laden to the absolute hilt. So one more night on the Moyale hell road and this time I chose the comfort of the bags of plastic bags as my mattress and while Geoff tossed and turned in the uncomfortable confines of the Imp passenger seat I slept like a baby all night long together with the big black bugs that Geoff was worried about. However due to Terence not showering that night….they, the bugs, ran for cover and therefore the great night rest that Terence got..

 

shortly after dawn it was time to walk the mud bath to assess the state of the surface. it was not a comforting examination. some very stage heads shared their knowledge and vast experience of well over an hour before the first truck of the convoy slowly got itself ready to attempt the crossing.

It was with much more than with baited breath that we waited as the first Mitsubishi truck started out into the muddy ice rink and watched as it slithered this way and that for about half the distance before almost getting its back wheels slide right over to the very edge of grip and dance perilously close to disaster but thankfully the driver tapped off the gas and brought the power slide under control enough to keep the lorry pointed in the correct direction. in a few minutes that seemed like hours, the first of the eleven truck had safely made it across,

now for the remaining ten. Of course, with every set of vastly overladen wheels that churning up the already churned up mud, it made the task for Brian, the last of the trucks even more challenging.

One by one the skilled truckers brought their vehicles through the muddy mess.

some, so over-laden put the fear of God into us when they listed hopelessly almost to the point of toppling over and solidly blocking any further crossings!

Clearly someone out there was praying for us because not only did Brian safely negotiate the hazard but within thirty minutes or so he had ripped past all ten of the convoy that were ahead of him and then he set off for Moyale at a merry pace. a point to note however was the fact that Brian still had a pap battery and it took at least thirty of us huffing and puffing and pushing and shoving his lorry in the mud to eventually get it push-started.

More rain at any time could easily have arrested our progress so we stressed right up until we finally arrived in the dirty little town of Moyale. let it be said that it was in this town of Moyale that we encountered the most wonderful customs and border control people. This only on the Kenyan side mind you the Ethiopian crowd were insolent and unwelcoming to the extreme.

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Thanks Domi

April 28, 2013

 

A big UP to Domi of http://herbiesworldtour.com/ who introduced me to this wonderful MS tool Windows live writer.

 

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“another tank of gas and we’re back on the road again” LOBO

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Roadside repair at the Giza Pyramids

April 27, 2013

Wow, we have honestly spend much more time waiting for the red tape of border crossing than we have actually driving!

Today Geoff and felt honestly cheated since we only had about four hours driving! The rest of the day was sitting waiting for our ‘fixer’ to deregister our car from its Egyptian registration and clear it through customs. The day did not start off perfect either!

As we drove out of the hotel parking to head past the Giza pyramids to photograph the car in front of it, Geoff said it was impossible to control the car even at a very slow pace. In fact I had heard tyres squealing as we left the parking also and wondered if in fact it had been our wheels and to our astonishment it turned out that it was!

Earlier in the morning I had rotated the back tyres to the front as the damaged steering rod that we had replaced with a rather second hand one (one that had huge play in the rubber bush) in Turbi and had to later change back to the original one that I had hammered straight, at least sort of straight, since the speed wobble was uncontrollable.

Geoff very politely asked if perhaps I might not have properly tightened all the wheel nuts but I was positive that I had done all of them up correctly. After about half a kilometre we realised we had to find a place to stop and examine the front suspension. To our horror we found the steering arm once again bend almost as badly as it had been on the Moyale dirt road! Worse than this, it also had a meaningful break in the arm just at the beginning of the threads! We were seriously lucky that this did not break off completely!

So we were now resorted to using the wibby wobbly wonder and would have to deal with the speed rattle between 67 and 86 kilometres per hour. Not a nice option!

No worries! With McGyver Geoff on board the problems just melt into simple solutions. Guess what he did to firm up the ailing steering arm bush? He cut and chopped a plastic bottle top and meticulously inserted them into the bush and we reassembled it.

With the advice of the guys back home we used a piece of rope to sort of align the wheels and our trip from Cairo to Port Said was pleasurable and the fronts are still in one piece! 

 

 

 

 

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imp barge 5

April 27, 2013

imp barge 5