From Hamburg to Capetown by Vespa...

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Last update 1.Feb.05

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Have the Vespa-drivers gone across the Nil-river yet? What`s the weather like in Ethiopia right now?
Do you have to pay users-fee on the hubbly bumpy road in Sudan? You will find answers to those questions and more right here, even while we are on the road from Hamburg to Capetown from the 19th of june 2003 onwards. On this site you can share our adventure live!
The travellers will publish any news and pictures as often as they find internet cafes in the desert that are not totally covered in dust and therefore maybe working.

17.Jun.03 At 5am it is obvious: the trip will be postponed for one day. Christian had some difficulties to put his affairs in order (as maybe the one or the other had already suspected) wich ends in a very early phonecall at Jan`s place. There is an agreement on a 24-hour-postponement.

18.Jun.03 On the previous night, Jan and the passionate Vespa-cyclist Kai discovered that there might be a technical problem with the construction of a stronger spring at the rear shock absorber, charving the starter. This could cause some problems while crossing the Sudan. In that nightshift both vehicles will undergo a change from normal shock absorbers to Bitubo suspension struts. As in the morning two overtired screwers have to recognize that there will be another`s day postponement.


Ole M.

Meanwhile our friends Ole + Markus enjoy themselves in Prague/Czech Republic where we originally wantet to meet up in the former prison wich has been changed into a hostel called Pension Unitas . Even president Vaclav Havel enjoyed his stay there - that was before Glasnost.
It turned out that we would not date those two before Vienna, finally.

19.Jun.03 At last! Around 10 o`clock we passed the Elbtunnel to go as far South as is possible by land. Paul on his motorbike documents the first freestyle exersises on our heavily loaden rollers with the camera. Well, the first break down was inevitable. But we didn`t expect it to come in the Harburger Mountains already (approximately 20km south of Hamburg). What the heck, there is only another 17000 km to go... Anyway the fault is easily discovered and so we continue.



 14 miles after Hamburg - first unwanted stop

At the first stop we agree that the Vespas are horrible to drive, but we both expected the roadperformance to be even worse. As we have to stop for petrol every 120 km we quit the motorway for the second fuel stop just behind Braunschweig. Only we don`t get around to tank up. Klack, klack, klack... with horror we realize that the rear rim of Christian`s Vespa got loose. Thereby the funny thing containing the brak blocks and the rim itself got damaged so severely that there was no way to continue the trip by driving.

 Nearby Capetown? Not really!

Just over 200 km south of Hamburg we are forced to call the ADAC (the Germany automobil club) that took us to the next Piaggio garage - according to an old German folk song: 'High on the yellow coach...'- o.k., back to Braunschweig then.


Dammmmm... back to Braunschweig

Being dumped at the Piaggio center Schrader we have to wait (good training for Africa, isn`t it?) for the peak period to pass. IIt was worthwhile waiting. You must know that in the Schrader garage they have not only the agency for Vespa but they repair those lovely vehicles in third generation now! Schrader junior Heiko started repairing the Vespa right after closing time and as he was at it anyway, he did a complete check up. And he had a good look at Jan`s Vespa,too. The whole action went way over Heikos working time and therefor a huge THANK YOU again!




Vespa-Service by its finest - this is Schrader jun.

To crown it all, Heiko and his girlfriend Vera invited us to their home as ‘it was too late to continue the ride anyway'. A very nice evening develloped and the one or the other remark about Vespas was exchanged. Around 2.30am we retired in Vera`s study that she cleared for us - another THANK`s again!

20.Jun.03 In the morning we said goodbye to the Schrader family and started a second try to leave Braunschweig behind. And it worked, too! We took the route via Leipzig and Prague to Vienna, where we finally met our friends late in the evening. By the way: Schrader junior would have loved to join us!

21.Jun.-22.Jun.03 We joined the biggest Vespa meeting in Europe, the anual Eurovespa. This gathering in a way served us as a launching pad to our longterm-trip. Some friends even came down all the way from Hamburg to make shure we finally left.


Political uncorrect but funny: 'Jan and Christian goes Africa'

We enjoy western standard luxury for the last time and a little farewell party, where we -befitting our rank- were equipped with raffia-skirties and plastic bones.


Tasts good: restaurant proprietor Andreas S. with 'Wiener Schnitzel'

23.Jun.03 Monday morning we leave for the direction of Italy and Christian leaves his girlfriend behind, too, under taers of parting. Monday passes mainly unspectacular - besides Christian`s pain of parting. Around midday we enter a motorway restingplace which was given artistic form by Hundertwasser. Highly impressive for cultural interested people like us, of course. In the evening we get our first shower of rain but it is not really disturbing. That evening in Udine/Italy we go out for a meal and enjoy the mediteranian kitchen. Well-fed, we continue towards Venice and we soon reach the market place of some little village where we sleep beneath an Italian sky, not without having taken a good-night-beer in the lokal pub.

24.Jun.03 Now picture the following situation: Tuesday morning, somewhere close to Venice on some Piazza you find two completely overloaded Vespas. Close to the vehicles, two guys sleep deeply. What do you think will happen? Those two figures - let`s call them Christian + Jan - get served some freshly brewed coffee right in their sleepingbags, just to be invited by a friendly Italian couple to use their bathroom right afterwards. And then to be dismissed with a schnapps and loads of good wishes. Nice start in the day, isn`t it?



In the land of the Vespa: a friedly Italian

This day will offer some surprises later... Our two protagonists continued their way to Venice and they checked in 4 hrs before the ferry would leave - this is quiet a new experience! As Jan and Christian now felt a little hungry they decided to leave beautiful lagoon-city and look for a Pizza-place in nearby Mestre. So it occured that the two of them left their Vespas at the edge of an Italian Piazza and attended to their growling stomacs. After a yummi meal our Vespistis - up to now rather italophil - made it back to their vehicles. Only Jan`s Vespa could not be found on the spot where he had left it - but on top of a recovery vehicle... The surprise for the two travellers was quiet immense when the police explained that it was not allowed to park on any Piazza and the recovery service would be 100 Euros and the ticket another 34,50 Euros - that is 269 Euros alltogether. When we had the audacity to make a remark about the scratches in the helmets made by the recovery service the friendly policeman offered to store the Vespas for us if we decided not to pay.


Italy becomes bureaucratic within a decade participate the European Union

Our enthusiasm had reached the summit and we more or less happily payed the bill. Cheerfully and with a few Euros less we left Italy by ferry to go to greece.

25.Jun.03 After an absolutely relaxed night in a rather big airconditioned twin cabin we spent the day reading the newspaper, writing diary, sleeping - in one word: relaxing. This kind of existence we do master perfectly as anyone, who knows us, can imagine. But here we surpassed ourselves. The ferry was due to reach Igoumenitsa/Greece at 7.30 p.m. and we started to get our things together well in time. In the meantime a stewart threw his fists against the cabin door but it did`t disturb us. We finally got a little nervous when we reached the car deck and realized that there were missing a lot of cars already. But we were eased by a look to the still open loading ramp. Without any hurry we started to load the Vespas. This was definately a mistake as it would show in a short while...As true to the original story as possible we will tell the story from each one`s point of view.
Firstly Christian: 'As we reached the car deck I was a little alarmed by the quietness on board.There was one lonely car curving towards the loading ramp. But in expectation of a layed back southern mentality I was not prepared for the boat to reach the mooring and unload in record time. At least the loding ramp was still down - I thought. When I realized from the edge of my eye that the ramp was pulled up I jumped on my halfway loden Vespa and informed Jan ‘ I think they pull the ramp up!' and then with waving arms I drove towards a helper underdeck. He only shrugged with pitty and I had to realize open-mouthed that the ferry had left the harbour. Hadn`t we better taken a nurse or a guardian along?'
Jan: 'I felt a little odd but at least the ramp was still down. So I quickly packed the rest on the Vespa and then followed Christian. When I heared some Germans around me shouting ‘it`s too late!', I answered with a smile. But the second sentence ‘ we`re leaving already!' did finally disturb me and it was true: the ramp was pulled up.'
Another German travelar (fictive): ‘First I thought they were bloody Italians who appeared in the last minute and then started to fiddle about with their rollers. But when the dark haired one got rather hectic and raced to the ramp, swearing, I only thought: idiots.'
This is the story how it came that our two travellers continued their trip in the South of Greece (instead of the North). Let`s keep our fingers crossed that they don`t get lost there.
If someone now thinks, that one who misses the leaving of the ship will fall in deep depression or become discontent, he is completely wrong: There was quiet a heavy fit of laughter. This - you can`t really put it in a friendlier way - stupidity lead to endless phonecalls to work out a new route quickly.


Dummies - the captains on board

Thanks again to Henrik, Nisse und Kay! The new route was made to take us to Patras by ferry (as we still sat on it) and then further to Athens by Vespa. Then we planed to take another ferry to Turkey via the Greek island Rhodos. But it`s not all that easy with two travelling idiots... As we did not want the crew to realize they had two stowaways on board we had to give up our cabin. Thus we stayed on the cardeck overnight. Positive side effect: we shurely would not miss the arrival in Patras...
By now, even the willing reader will think us capable to miss important happenings?! The remaining time before turning in we spent in the disco on board to give three cheers for intelligence. In the seats next to us there were ten Greek people celebrating a marriage. The groom - as much weight as Buddah - introduced himself as a gifted Souflaki dancer. His wife - slim and willowy - and the rest of the bunch took Christian between them to taech him folk dance `til the early morning hours. Whoever might be curious to know how Christian`s death rattle sounds like after such a night is welcome to order the according MP 3 file from Jan.

26.Jun.03 The next day started as horrible as expected. At least our strategy of sleeping on the car deck was successful and we left the ferry in time (!). So we continued our trip from Patras to Athens. Christian did not seem to be too happy about the introduction to Greek folk dance (and the alcoholic side effects).
As soon as they reached Athens Jan started to check out the ferry connections to Turkey. The fragments of his travel companion were busy to find a little shadow for his head that meanwhile felt to be the size of two oil tanks. After some research finally a passage was found from Athens via Rhodos to Marmaris/Turkey. So our brave sailors entered a death trap - one of those the ADAC (German Automobile Club) always warned of - and sailed on to reach Rhodos the next day. The only remarkable things on that passage were the security line with which the Vespas were tied to the ship that had the thickness of a shoe lace and the strong odeur of diesel that finally made us sleep on deck.


Safety first

Outside there was enough fresh air and space as at night the storm blew everything of the ship - exept for our brave sailors in their sleepingbags, of course.

27.Jun.03 In the morning we entered Rhodos to take the afternoon ferry to Turkey. At least that was the information that was given to us in Athens. On Rhodos came the next shock: The socalled car ferry turned out to be a plain passenger ship and the next possibility of embarking would be one week later. Thus, Jan combed the travel and ferry agencies for another possibility. We were lucky this time: On this very day there was another boat due to go to the Isle of Kos in the North and from there another ferry to Turkey later today. Having become mistrustful we tried to verify this information and we got the same answer everywhere. Though none of the travel agencies were able to find a telefone number of the Greek-Turkish line.
According to the principle of hope we went to Kos which took us 4 hrs and quiet a few games of cards. We now spent almost more time by travelling on sea then on the road..
Reaching Kos we found out why it was so difficult to find out any suitable telefone number of the shipping company: none of the counters were open. Even when asking business keepers right next to the peer we did not get more than a vague ‘perhaps they open one hour before departure'. The counters didn`t open at all. Luckily Jan discovered a gentleman who was in charge. But this one regretted not to be able to take any vehicles on board as a huge engine blocks the ramp. As there was no crane available it could not be moved. Fortunately those people got creative and allowed two-wheelers to get past the engine on the car deck.Some of the cars were waiting for two days now as the mini ferry the previous day was completely booked - you can imagine their dismay! We wobbled on board via a provisional ramp, the sea beneath us not really being calm, and there in deed was a ships engine lying in the middle of the way. This situation picturized thad we left Europe and we had to adapt to other mentalities.


Not for car drivers!

On board besides a Turkish motorcyclist we met a Japanese photographer called Hiroto Yamada who travels the world for some years now on a Suzuki DR 250: South America, Asia, Australia, Europe and the southern part of Africa were part of his tour.


Hiroto Yamada (left) - a man drives around the world

Then we entered a new continent: Asia. Together with our Japanese friend we overcame the custom formalities and looked for a place to camp.


Asien part of turkey - a new continent

We filled the evening with drinks and globetrotter stories. By the way: not all Asian people are little-drinkers. Hiroto at least was our`s equal in consuming way.

28.Jun.03 We will not describe this morning for reasons of piety and respect towards the reader. Let's just say this: We have canceled the ferry trip and relax in front of a 17inch TV until our eyes go blurry.


Internet surfing in Turkey = noise and the boob tube

Now, you'll say, at least you can still hear, but sadly that's not quite true anymore either, because there was an infernal noise in the bar. As you can see, we go all the way for you :-)

29.Jun.03 After one day of relaxing we leave Bodrum in the direction of Antalya. The first part we travel together with our japanese friend Hiroto. We enjoy the beautyful landscape of this part of Turkey.


Coca Cola and mosque in peaceful harmony

And we also discovered the 'Turkish version of an air conditioning for cars without air conditioning'. It works like a giant shower for cars, no, not a carwash, but a big hose attached to a tree or the like which provides cold water. You can park directly underneath and enjoy the refreshment. This is also very enjoyable for scooterists, yet they don't park under it, but ride through. In the evening, we rest in a small village in the mountains in a simple restaurant run by a family.


Cooking like mother (100 years ago)

We ask whether we can erect the tent in the parking lot. And that's not a problem. After a very tasty dinner with table talk in German, Turkish, English, as well as with hands and feet, we are ushered into the living room and have the arguable pleasure of watching 'Scream 2' in Turkish before we fall asleep.

30.Jun.03 After the yummy breakfast we are shown the fruit orchard of the family and continue the ride to Antalya after a cordial farewell. Towards the evening, the roads get smaller and smaller, we keep following the coastline of the Mediterranean the whole time. That means that the road goes up and down, left and right. In sum, nice riding conditions. In order to keep us from getting bored, time and again serious potholes are placed in the road, as well as a tarmac melted by the heat in s that the scootertires leave tracks.


Living with a view on the sea - the next morning Christian had the beach all to himself 

Shaken to the bone we arrive at a campground which is all ours due to lack of tourists

01.Jul.03 Today is very similar to yesterday. We find our way through Turkey and time and again enjoy the beautiful landscapes. In the evening we ask for a camping site at a gas station and at once are invited to erect our tent there and then. The gas station has a restaurant where we have dinner. After a short while a 15 years old boy called Mehmed introduces himself and tells us that he is the son of the owner. The exchange turns into another evening of socializing with German-Turkish conversation, during which the host Ahmed joins us.


Christian with our Turkish hosts

As we finally turn to set up our tent, we are invited to sleep in the back room. An offer we gratefully accept.

02.Jul.03 After a quick breakfast we leave Mehmed and Ahmed. Today we're entering Syria. After an hour of riding we arrive at the Turkish-Syrian border and are almost shocked at first, because hundreds of people are waiting here. Most of them don't look like they have been there for only five minutes. As we are about to enter the police station, a guy comes up to us, takes our passports and motions us to follow him. With his help we get through the controls quite fast and for an 'express fee' of US$10 we soon leave Turkey and all the waiting people behind. Now we ride to the Syrians, who stick a thermometer into our ears in addition to a friendly welcome. After we've been declared 'healthy' in the sense of the doctors, we have the pleasure to experience Syrian bureaucracy. A two-hour marathon ensues from one office to the next, which we again survive with the help of a knowledgeable man. As a thank-you he demands US$20, which we gladly pay, because otherwise we would still be in Turkey...


Arrival in the Middle East

First we must get gas. But at the gas station we are informed that payment by credit card is unknown. So we need cash and ride to a nearby town to find a bank. Once there we ask a man for a financial institution with the result that he wants to lead us there himself. You have to imagine the following picture: a small town in Syria, complete traffic chaos, everybody honks, it is hot and right in the middle of it all a Syrian on a Chinese 125cc softchopper with a white dress (not unlike pyjamas), behind him two completely overloaded Vespas from Hamburg and all going at a walking pace, so that the tourists don't get lost. After arriving at the right bank, Christian enters with our guide, is introduced to the bank director and assigned a clerk who takes care of everything for him. At the same time Jan is waiting outside and explains to the crowd where the two strange vehicles and their riders come from. After Christian is done in the bank and Jan has answered all questions, the nice guide leads the two back to the gas station and makes sure that they pay the same price locals do. But that is not all, he also shows them the way to the city limits, and you have to remember that the pace has been the same slow one the whole time.
After this nice start, we continue on in the direction of Damascus. The trip is without further incidents, except for two car doors, which drop from a truck full of junk right in front of Christian's scooter. A quick swerve prevents worse things from happening. In the evening we check into a hotel in Damascus and take a little walking tour of this city that never sleeps.

03.Jul.-04.Jul.03 We are possibly in the oldest, but definitely the longest permanently inhabited settlement of the world and we can't wait to get out of our hotel. On our way to the tourist office, we meet a young Syrian. Nedal is his name and meeting him is very lucky for us, he is studying in Damascus but grew up in the North.


Our man in Syria: 20 years old, clever, happy-go-lucky



Impressive: The Omayad-Mosque in Damascus

With his help we get to know Damascus from its special side, because he shows us many parts of the city which we would never have found by ourselves. We see the citadel; the oldest bathing house (hamam) in the Middle East; the tomb of Saladin; the Omayad-Mosque; the bazaar; the Christian quarter; the mountain where Cain slew Abel; several tea houses; we enjoy the minibus, and much more.
In the evening he invites us to his place and prepares a tasty dinner for us.


A high voltage powerline that runs directly along the balconies in this middle-class residential area - close enough to touch. The children in the street are yelling as we take this picture, our host, on the other hand, hits the line with a stick with a bored look during a power outage.
Christian is showered with sparks on our final day, as Nedal accidentally throws a water hose from the roof onto the line...


A knife at his throat ... Jan at the barber


There you go!

Afterwards we enjoy a hookah on the roof of the house where he lives and the nightly view over Damascus. We don't turn down an invitation to stay over night on the many pillows that are strewn all over the place.

05.Jul.03 Today it is goodbye to Nedal and Damascus. We start in the direction of Jordan and ride against the wind at an incredible 85 kph towards the border. Once there, we are processed in a record-breaking two hours and can ride our first few meters in Jordan.


Small detour to McDonald's... do they have it in Iraq yet?

Because it is getting dark, we approach a small town 80 kilometers north of Amman and ask for a camping site at the gas station. The owners tell us that there aren't any in the area but offer us to set up our tent next to the station. Gladly we accept the offer and ride into town to look for nourishment and an ATM.
After we found the 'money-out-of-the-wall' machine, we go to a restaurant where a group of young men approaches us. One of them, his name is Raid, asks us for an invitation to Germany so that he can apply for a visa. Asked what he wants in Germany, Raid explains that he wants to marry a German woman. When we tell him that this may not necessarily be that simple, he casts our concerns aside and claims that it won't be a problem. Thus we exchange addresses and since this day the brothers Christian and Jan live together in Munich under the family name Erwin. After dinner we return to the gas station and erect our tent, accompanied by the owner who gives us the advice to 'watch out for scorpions and snakes'. We are pretty tired and hit the sack.

06.Jul.03 After arriving in Amman, we decide to have breakfast first. While we're eating next to the road and observing the to and fro of the Jordanian capital, a man approaches us speaking German. We talk for a little while and he invites us to his place where he tells us a lot about Jordan and his time in Munich where he lived from 1960 to 1981. Incidentally, he is an old Vespa rider, who bought a brand new Vespa GS in 1961!

Interesting information about Israeli-Arab relations

After his wife, whom we hadn't seen during our whole visit as is custom in the country, has prepared a tasty meal for us, it is again time for goodbye. We are on our way to the Dead Sea. Our route leads us past the tomb of Moses, to which we pay a visit like the good tourists we are. We'd like to thank Andreas Z. at this point for supplying formula-1 racing results 'live'. Despite his sadness about the outcome of the race, Ferrari fan Christian is able to continue the trip and we reach the Dead Sea. It is really true: You can float in the Dead Sea without sinking. Thus there is no danger that Christian would do anything stupid because of the outcome of the race.


Jan in the Dead Sea: floats


The Vespas have 'catapulted' us to the Dead Sea without problems (please mentally turn picture by 90 degrees)

After our bath we mount the scooters in a crust of salt and soon search for a cheap and simple hotel in Akkara, where we get rid of the unwanted salt.

07.Jul.03 After we are woken by the muezzin of the mosque next door for the first time at 4 a.m. and for good by the remaining muezzins of Akkara, we leave our hotel still a little tired and are on our way to Petra. Petra is a very old town in Southern Jordan, whose special feature are buildings hewn out of the rock, and access to the town is only on foot through a very narrow canyon.
Because we are interested in history, nothing can stop us and we are on our way to visit Petra. We won't be disappointed.


All this without a jack hammer?

The 1.5 kilometer walk through the canyon is incredibly beautiful because the layers of stone are shimmering in many colors and enchant the eye of the beholder. But even more impressive is Petra itself. A very long time ago artists have chiseled a 50 meter high facade out of the stone. If you'd like to know more, please visit auf.
After this monumental experience, we are on our way to Aqaba at the southernmost tip of Jordan, where we intend to take the ferry to Egypt. But first there will be quite a number of kilometers on country roads.


Really Sheeeep

150 kilometers before Aqaba we see the first accident. In the middle of the desert highway an old fuel truck (probably about 30-40 years old) has fallen on its side, is lying next to the road and releases its oil into the desert. If you think there must be endless numbers of emergency personnel and the road closed, you can't be more wrong. Instead there are four policemen smoking cigarettes and directing the traffic around the wreck.


The Lebanon - by way of its license plates already part of the next EU extension?

Our next encounter with the police follows soon after at a rest area. While we are refuelling the scooters from the jerrycan again, since they lack range, one of the two policemen who are doing a traffic control comes over and invites us to freshly brewed tea. Of course we accept the invitation, but can't help grinning when one of the stopped truckers has to prepare the tea. Then we are sent on our way to Aqaba with best wishes. By the time we arrive, it is 9 p.m. and, accordingly, dark. Nevertheless, we decide to look for the ferry port to get information about the ferry to Egypt. To make a long story short: At 11 p.m. we finally find the ferry terminal, only to realize that it's closed. After we ask around for a little while and are told departure times between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., we decide to spend the night at the port to make absolutely sure we won't miss the ferry (the inclined reader will remember our special relationship with ferries and departure times...). This night at the port is definitely not one of the more beautiful nights so far. You must imagine the following situation: a large area, a ferry terminal, noise and diesel fumes from the running engines of the prehistoric trucks, nothing to eat and a toilet beyond description because the water is not running (if you saw 'Trainspotting' you know roughly what I'm talking about, although you don't know the smell). If you think this is not so bad, after all you don't have to go the toilet all the time ... let me tell you that since Damascus we have been suffering from diarrhea as the English say. We will remember this night in Aqaba for a very long time...

08.Jul.03 The noise level at the ferry port does not allow for too much rest. Early in the morning we buy tickets to Africa without the shipping company being able to tell us when the trip will begin. The statements range from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. At the harbor we also complete all the exit visa paperwork. Jan is outraged that we are again picked out of the long line of (Arabic) people waiting and are given special treatment. Aleman, Aleman. You may have a different opinion on Schroeder's Iraq policy (there is bad and worse) - but we are celebrated as 'good Germans' in the Middle East. Finally, we end up departing at 6:30 p.m. to navigate through the gulf of Aqaba past Israel and Saudi-Arabia towards Egypt.


Transport a la Africa

Two hours later we berth, and after that nothing happens any more. Every ten minutes two people leave the ship, and we slowly realize how problematic entry into Egypt is. Other passenger have already told us horror stories, but what happens next was far beyond our expectations.
After we have been walking around the large customs area without visible (systematic) signs and the officers obviously made fun of us when we asked them for help, a tourist policeman appears. God or whoever be thanked for this man. After he has reamed out his colleagues (without any visible reaction), he gives us a crash course in Egyption immigration bureaucracy. For a total of 3.5 (in words: threeandahalf) hours we follow the officer running (!) to twenty different offices to get copies, stamps, insurance documents, money exchanged, new license plates, our luggage searched, the VIN verified, etc. etc. etc. Every other office requires a more or less heavy bloodletting, this is the most expensive border costing about US$200 for documents. It needs to be stressed that our police officer is running on the double, as mentioned, and guides us past the lines directly to the responsible officers. Without this man we'd probably still be camping in the customs area...
Around 2am we finally leave this place of overbearing old-fashioned bureaucracy and gratefully reach a nice holiday hotel complex after a few kilometers, where we can sleep for US$20 per person with air conditioning at cool temperatures for the first time in a long while. Not only that: In the middle of the night the kitchen is opened for us and serves cool beverages and hot sandwiches. German radio and the cultivated surroundings make everything appear as if we're in Cock-aigne.

09.Jul.03 The hotel complex is deserted. Only a handful of guests gathers around the breakfast buffet. Employees tell us that 9-11, the Iraq War, and the tension between Palestine and Israel are scaring away even regular guests. We have heard the same story in the tourist areas of Syria and Jordan.
We enjoy the quiet as well as the magnificent beach and go for a swim in the Red Sea. The sudden appearance of 7 young and beautiful girls who splash around in the hotel pool accompanied by a cameraman and two musclemen seems quite odd. Upon leaving we ask the shy women, where they come from. ‘Ukraina' is the uncommunicative answer, and without being sure we are still reminded of the cover story of DER SPIEGEL of three weeks ago [presumably about involuntary prostitutes from Eastern Europe].

10.Jul.03 Late in the morning, Jan and Christian go on their first trip to the desert. We cross the Sinai peninsula and wonder why wars are fought over this barren piece of land. Apart from Beduins and military the place is completely deserted. But the desert is trying to get back its due share by covering the road with sand. Rusty wrecks of vehicles from the Six Day War are lining our path.


Desert on the Sinai peninsula

Almost exactly at 4pm we pass the Suez Canal near the town of the same name. We don't need a ferry this time, a boring single-lane tunnel simplifies the matter. We decide to continue on to Cairo the same day, where we arrive early in the evening. Our goal is Giza to see the pyramids including the Sphinx. Due to lack of road signs we simply follow the setting sun to the west. This method provides the pleasure of getting a representative view of Cairo - the city is monstrous! Even more than in Syria the rule is that the stronger you are, the more you are right. Taxis vs. minivans, cars vs. mopeds, among them horse-drawn carriages, donkey carts, pedestrians and bicyclists. Actually, it is more like free-for-all - an incredible mess for Europeans, especially since everything takes place on wide paths. And we say 'paths' because in some areas we come through you can hardly call them 'roads'. These are slums, where life thrives on unpaved paths. Thus we are grateful that the first of what will be many punctured tires happens on a 'real' road, and above all near a gas station. A nail went straight through.
Nobody can really tell us the way to the pyramids, the road system of this huge town is too messed up. Nor can we find a camping site. Every fifth car is driving without lights, so we decide to go to a hotel - in the nicest location on the Nile. Thus we end up in one of the best hotels in town, the Semiramis Inter-Continental. Between big Mercedes and other luxury limousines we fight for a place to unpack our luggage in front of the lobby. A boy dressed up as a moor misunderstands the situation and tries to send us away. While probably very few Egyptians will ever see this hotel from the inside, compared to German prices this luxury place appears outright affordable. About US$70 per person per night for *****-luxury.


Christian in his decadence: pure luxury on the Vespa tour

In one of the 11 restaurants, we enjoy oxtail soup and filet steaks. Pure joy after the past two weeks. In the casino, Christian wins about US$250 - and loses them again.


11.07.03 Ein Besuch im Aegyptischen Museum laesst uns staunen: das Anfang des letzten Jahrhunderts gebaute Gebaeude beherbergt Berge von alten Kulturguetern.
Grabbeigaben, elegante Kosmetikbehälter, zart schillernde Lotosblüten, aufklappbare Goldmuscheln, Bildnisse großer Herrscher des Pyramidenzeitalters, hochrangige Hofangestellte, Paare, Familien, Kinder, vornehme Damen, Musikanten, Landarbeiter, Handwerker, Schreiber, Hausangestellte...
Wir staunen über die uns so vertrauten Dinge des täglichen Lebens, über Kleidung, Schminktechnik, Frisuren, Schmuck, Werkzeuge, Möbel...
Wir sehen den Menschen dieser Zeit zu, wie sie Fische fangen, Brot backen, kochen, Bier brauen, Stoffe weben, Holz bearbeiten, Tiere zählen und Tiere schlachten, wie sie tanzen und musizieren...
Wir sehen Soldaten im Gleichschritt kampfbereit marschierend...
Wir staunen über die Kleidung schöner Damen, über ihre Schminktechnik, über ihre kunstvollen Perücken...
Jede auch noch so kleine Skulptur, jedes Relief, jedes Gemälde, jeder Gebrauchs-und Kunstgegenstand wirkt auf uns wie ein Fotodokoment dieser im Wüstensand versunkenen Hochkultur am Nil. Es sind Schätze des Alten und Mittleren Reiches, welche von der Schönheit, Anmut und große Architektur im alten Ägypten Zeugnis ablegen. Als wohl bekanntester Vertreter seiner Zeit wird die Mumie Tutanchamuns zur Schau gestellt. Das Ägyptische Museum ist ein Fenster für 3000 Jahre Menschheitsgeschichte - vor unserer Zeitrechnung. Jan schwingt sich noch zu einem kurzen Segeltoern auf dem Nil auf, waehrend Christian genuesslich bei einem Cocktail die Tagespresse studiert.
Danach begeben wir uns wieder in den Dienst der aktuellen Menschheitsgeschichte und malen bis in die speate Nacht diese Zeilen.

12.07.03 Bevor wir Kairo verlassen, stehen die Pyramiden in Gizeh auf dem Programm. Wir stuerzen uns also wohlgemut ins Verkehrschaos von Kairo. Um uns herum wird kraeftig gehupt, Gas gegeben, gelacht, geschrien und zwei deutschen Vespa-Fahrern immer wieder der Daumen gen Himmel entgegen gereckt.


Im Damensitz: Vespa-Paerchen in Kairo

Nach kurzer Fahrtzeit erreichen wir die Pyramiden, welche recht ploetzlich hinter Haeuserfassaden auftauchen. Es ist schon komisch: in der einen Minute steckt man noch mitten im Verkehrschaos von Kairo und in der naechsten steht man vor einer Pyramide und muss sich den Souvenirhaendlern erwehren. Nachdem wir die ersten 'Weltbilligsten und Besten' Offerten ausgeschlagen haben, zahlen wir unsere Tickets und parken die Roller. Leider koennen wir nicht zu zweit los, da einer von uns schwer mit einem gewissen Herrn Montezuma zu kaempfen hat. Dieser eine hat aber sofort ungefaehr 1000 neue Freunde, die seine Wehrlosigkeit ausnutzen und ihn mit diversen Souvenirs ausstatten (Postkarten, Turban), welche natuerlich auch bezahlt werden wollen.
Der andere Protagonist macht sich derweil mit einem netten jungen Mann samt Kamel auf, die Pyramiden zu erkunden, was zunaechst auch sehr angenehm verlaeuft. Dann wird in die Wueste geritten, um ein paar 'very good pictures' von den Pyramyden zu machen. Und es stimmt: der Ausblick ist gigantisch, dass in der Wueste folgende Preisgespraech allerdings auch... Naja, Touristenabzocke eben, wie ein guter alter Freund der beiden Reisenden sagen wuerde.


Wackeliger als 'ne Vespa

Nachdem die beiden Weltenbummler wieder zusammen gefunden haben, werden noch die obligatorischen Fotos gemacht. Als wir uns schliesslich von der Sphinx verabschiedet haben, beginnt ein neuer Abschnitt unserer kleinen Ausfahrt. Ab hier werden wir naemlich nahezu bis zur sudanesischen Grenze immer am Nil, der Lebensader Aegyptens, entlang fahren. Doch zuerst muessen wir das Umland Kairos verlassen, was sich aufgrund der sagenhaften Auschilderung gar nicht so einfach gestaltet. Im Endeffekt klappt es aber doch halbwegs problemlos und am Abend erreichen wir Beni Suef. Nach etlichem Herumfragen finden wir schliesslich einen jungen Mann, welcher ein Hotel kennt. Da er uns den Weg aber nicht erklaeren kann, springt er kuzerhand bei Jan hinten auf die Alukiste und dirigiert ihn zum Hotel. Jan ist durchaus begeistert, seinen Roller mit weiteren 85 Kilogramm Zuladung durch die Strassen oder besser Schlaglochpisten Beni Suefs zu lenken und beschliesst, falls die Bitubo-Stossdaempfer bis Kapstadt halten, nie ein schlechtes Wort ueber diese fallen zu lassen. Am Hotel angekommen, verabschiedet sich der Aegypter und wir checken ein. Wir duerfen die Vespa direkt im Foyer parken, damit ihnen und dem Gepaeck nichts geschieht.


Roller inside: aegyptische Hotelrezeption


mmh, lekka

Um die Roller muessen wir uns also keine Sorgen mehr machen, bei uns sieht das schon anders aus. Unsere Zimmer erinnern Christian eher an ein tuerkisches Gefaengniss und das Klo ruft bei Jan Assoziationen hinsichtlich rumaenischer Campingplaetze hervor. Trotzdem fallen wir recht muede in die Betten und kommen dank der aegyptischen Eisenbahn doch nicht so recht zum Schlafen.

13.07.03 Morgens erwarten uns in der Hotel-'Lobby' eine unerwartete Ueberraschung: wir sollen nicht abfahren, bevor die Polizei kommt, welche dann nach wenigen Minuten auch mit einem Grossangebot anrueckt. Kein Beamter ist des englischen maechtig, und so wird mit Muehe und Not gegenseitig erklaert, dass 1.) wir ueber Suedaegypten in den Sudan wollen 2.) die Polizei will, dass wir ihnen folgen. Uns ist etwas unwohl zumute, nachdem wir bereits viel ueber korrupte Staatsdiener in Aegypten gehoert haben. Doch wir folgen dem Polizeifahrzeug, da eine Flucht aufgrund der allgegenwaertigen Kontrollen aussichtslos erscheint.
Unsere Vorbehalte erweisen sich dann auch nach wenigen Kilometern als unbegruendet: wir werden an ein anderes Polizeiteam uebergeben. Fortan begleitet uns mindestens ein Streifenwagen, besetzt mit mehreren maschinengewehrbewaffneten Beamten. Nach jeweils verschiedenen langen Distanzen wird das Begleitteam gewechselt, offensichtlich aufgrund unterschiedlicher Zustaendigkeitsbereiche. Als wir dann waehrend einer kurzen Pause (meist konnte man bei der Uebergabe von 'fliegendem Wechsel' sprechen) einen der englischen Sprache maechtigen Polizisten nach dem Sinn der Aktion befragen, lautet seine sinngemaesse Antwort 'Die Menschen werden Euch aufhaengen, wenn Ihr in eine Seitenstrasse fahrt'. Entweder sind wir jedoch recht naiv, oder die Bevoelkerung hat eine gute Schauspielerausbildung genossen: sie winken uns zu und rufen freundlich 'Hello' und 'Welcome'. Unsere Vermutung geht daher in die Richtung, dass die hiessige Regierung nach den Anschlaegen von Luxor hyperventiliert und uebervorsichtig vorgeht, was uns prinzipiell ja zugute kommt.
Bizarr wird die Situation, als uns ueber ca. 60km gepanzerte Fahrzeuge den Weg ebnen. Die Geschwindigkeit der vorausfahrenden Sicherheitsfahrzeuge schwankt erheblich. Einige schleichen mit selbst fuer Vespafahrer lahme 50km/h vor uns her, andere lassen uns mit knapp 100 Sachen und Blaulichteskorte durch Dorf und Stadt wie hoher Staatsbesuch erscheinen. Nicht ganz uncool...
Schliesslich landen wir in Assyut, einer als Islamistenhochburg bekannten Stadt. Die Roller werden direkt vor unserer Unterkunft ununterbrochen von 2-4 Polzisten bewacht, vom Stadtbummel wird abgeraten. Aber es gibt gutes Essen, und wie zur Strafe wird ueber unserem Zimmer wieder bis in die Nacht eine Hochzeit gefeiert.

14.Jul.03 Egyptian weddings are long... Despite this we manage to get up on time and to leave Assyut in Kojak-style with our escort. As on the previous day we are passed from one escort to the next and race through towns and villages, overtake in no-overtaking zones and with traffic coming towards us. And that with official instructions. The difference to yesterday is that there is no veil but two change-over stops during which we can have a break as something didn't go smoothly with the subsequent escort. 60 kilometres before Luxor we have the pleasure of driving in convoy with other vehicles (mainly minibuses). Now even crossroads are blocked for us. Once we arrive in Luxor we find a cheap hotel and park the scooters there.
As keen as we are for culture we go sightseeing in the impressive town. The temple in Luxor appealed to us especially. Anyone who wants to see more:

15.Jul.03 After we swung our tired bones in the hotel disco last night, we manage to leave the hotel punctually. Our route takes us past the ‘Valley of the Kings'. There we park the scooters in front of the ever-present police and look at the richly decorated burial chambers of the various famous pharaohs. A visitor walks amazed through the various corridors between the chambers driven through the rocks. These corridors or better-said tunnels are made with an incredible precision and in addition richly decorated.
After this cultural climax we turn back to everyday business and drive on towards Asuan, to start without (!) the police. However: at the next but one police station our new freedom had an end and we have to carry on with a police escort. Unfortunately because of the speed of the escort there are no photos of the ‘Donkey Owner Group' meeting, which we could see at the edge of the road. These gatherings reminded us slightly of scooter-meetings: in front of one house there are innumerable donkeys, no scooters, and their proud jockeys.
Once we arrive in Asuan we find a cheap hotel as there is no campsite (this had been shut because of the lack of tourists after the attack on Luxor) and spend our evening on the roof terrace, with view of the Nile and gaze at the amazing sunset. This whole scene is, to our ‘enthusiasm', accompanied by recurring singing from a Muezzin in the nearby Mosque. Once the parson is finished we are pleased with the peace and enjoy the evening mood. But this does not last for long, as the Arabian evening begins. We have to live with approximately 1000db!

16.Jul.03 Today the shock. We learn that the ship to the Sudan only leaves once a week, on Mondays. And there is no other route. No roads, no alternative border crossing. So we are stuck. Today is Wednesday. Five days forced break. At least we assured that the ferry has enough space for 4 motorbikes. It is only possible to buy tickets for the people crossing in advance, and that not before Saturday. The scooter papers are not relevant at all. After much pleading we are assured that cargo spaces for the Vespas will be reserved - based on the chaos we have experienced in Africa until now we do not leave happy.

17.Jul.-20.Jul.03 We use the days to sort out our clothes, to do the washing and to work our way through various restaurants in the area - one worse than the next. Warm drinks and moderate food. Only the prices in Egypt are incredibly cheap. The clean and service-friendly accommodation costs (converted) only 5 US-Dollars per person and night - and that despite almost 100 staff-members for about 200 rooms. However this included air-conditioning, which seemed to us to be louder than a starting aeroplane. We had checked out of the hotel the previous day, with false hopes regarding the ferry crossing, only to stand at the reception 2 hours later. The shop owners, the security men and anyone else hanging around the area soon know us.
A small highlight is a sailing trip around the islands of Asuan booked exclusively for us. Peace, wonderful landscape and an amazing sunset compensate for the lost time.
Our partly packed Vespas are guarded 24 hours a day by security men, as we had always seen to that they weren't parked unguarded. Hence the days go pass with eating, reading the ‘Spiegel' (German news magazine) - certainly not the most uncomfortable part of the journey. A visit to an internet cafe puts the fear of God into us: the slowest computers that we have ever seen in our lives. It was as if all 10 ancient computers are bundled onto the same analogue line - after 15 futile minutes waiting for the simplest site to load we give up. On Sunday afternoon we meet other Africa travellers for the first time: 2 Swedish couples who are on their way in a Landrover. They have already done our preferred route through Libya but were less than impressed by the extreme ‘guides' and the increased limitation of movement imposed. Apart from that Libya seemed to be a beautiful and interesting country. We decide to have a really decadent meal on the last evening and visit the most expensive ‘joint' in the town. A magnificent old castle that has been converted into a hotel and restaurant waits. The restaurant manager is visibly unimpressed by our travelling clothes, but after a while we are allowed to enter! We enjoy the meal in a muted almost forced atmosphere. We are sure this will be the last decent meal for a very long time. However the recommended top Egyptian wine turns out not to be of our taste.

21.Jul.03 Early in the morning we go with the Swedes to the ferry company offices so that we can take part in the normal regional convoy. In front of the harbour the normal picture: loads of people, loud voices. The border crossing formalities happily turn out to be uncomplicated - thanks to helping hands in less than 2 hours, almost with no stress. We had expected lots worse after the bureaucracy entering the country. This returns when we see the ‘ferry': at least 50 years old and definitely nothing to do with a car-ferry but a foot-passenger ferry. We are assured again that the Vespas can go on board. The Swedes have a larger problem: it is definitely not possible to load a car on board. It is discussed if it is possible to attach a transport platform but in the end the Landrover is put onto a small freighter which should arrive either ‘6 hours before' or ‘6 hours after' us?! No one could decide about that. We have slowly got used to Africa and are not surprised about the time scale given. The scooters are loaded onto the entry area of the boat via wooden planks and temporary stones. However this was not without having to watch hours of chaos loading the boat. The steamer, as mentioned actually a passenger boat, is also used for freight. As good Europeans we stare at the complete lack of organisation. The large and small lorries fight their way on the narrow access passageway for every meter that they get nearer to the ‘loading ramp' (over 3 other boats and temporary plank ways). The complete freight is unloaded by hand and lugged pushing and shoving onto the boat.
It turns out to be the right decision to have booked first class, for 10 Euros more we get our own cabin. In the second class the people are piled between the luggage, chickens and sheep, the steamer is completely vile. The only thing that changes is the kind of people. There are mostly Sudanese on board, who turn out to be very friendly and helpful. Our ‘bank man' (money changer) lived in Frankfurt for 8 years in the seventies and speaks almost perfect German. Now he spends his time travelling by ferry between Cairo and the Sudan. We are not sure how he manages only with money changing, but he says that business is good and pulls, incautiously, a bagful of money out of his pockets. We don't need to be frightened of thieves in the Sudan. And that despite that we are surrounded by people who certainly don't earn more than 50 dollars a month. And those are the well off, as the static yearly income of a Sudanese is less than 300 dollars.
We start taking our Malaria tablets while we are on board. Yearly an incomprehensible 4,000,000 people die yearly from this disease, even though suitable medication exists. But: too expensive.


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