Dan and Claire on Sabbatical!!

Welcome to our blog, we hope you enjoy following our adventures!
We split our sabbatical in 2 parts:
Part 1 was from March to June 2010 touring around in our campervan in France and Spain.
Part 2 started on the 7th of July when we left Scotland to cycle through Europe and the Middle East to Africa in the remaining 6 months (back for Xmas).
Have a look at the route below and we'll try to post pics as much as we can!


Cycle Route to Africa

21 Nov 2010

Welcome to Egypt!!!!!

Dan: Claire is moe (Dutch for tired), cos she got too pissed on free wine on the weird night out we had last night...more later on that. So you're stuck with me! (Claire just read this and says 'I wasn't pissed!')

So how was five star livin' in Aqaba...well great!!! I barely left the room in five days, aircon on cold and the TV on crappy movies all day. Claire loved the beach and read books in the sun...might have already written this before.

Anyway, money doesn't grow on trees and we had to leave the hotel and take the ferry to Egypt and the task of cycling across the Sinai Desert. The ferry was mental busy, but great fun and we were really excited about the coming few days of cycling and the unknown of the desert road ahead. It's the good thing about being so disorganised...we have no idea what's coming. However, this almost ended in a mini-disaster when we tried to take a Sinai 'shortcut' through a mountain road with no water for 2 days cycling...we didn't know there was no water (and had 2 litres between us). Thankfully the jolly nice Egyptian police said the road was closed, so we cycled up the coast road back towards Jordan and Israel instead. A detour, but ok and with lots of water and food.

Once we got up on to the high Sinai plateau it was amazing, but just nothing there! We cycled for 6 more days across the desert to Cairo, sometimes having to carry 9 litres of water each and food for a few days. The sand just gets everywhere and i mean everywhere. It was really hard at times, but well worth it and we both think of those days as one of the true highlights of the trip. On the way we met two super nice Dutch motorcyclists, who are travelling down into Africa (they've got a cool website http://www.polarsteps.com/jambo)

So we finally reached the Suez canal and got chucked on a local truck by the police to cross through the tunnel and cycled into Cairo...which because of the Eid holidays wasn't as mental as we'd feared. That’s until we got to the Downtown area and some little shit kid stabbed me with a stick and then another tried to push me off my bike. The next kid to annoy me is getting an ass kicking!!!! :o)

But for the most part the people in Cairo and Egypt as a whole are amazing, we really like it here. Such a nice change from Jordan. Yeah they still try and over charge you for everything, but it seems ok here...even nice in a way :o)

We've been spending a good bit of time with Niek and Karin (Dutch motorcyclists), which has been cool. Good to spend time with like minded people and swop ideas. We've even got a new trip idea (several years away though).

So, last night...we met Nick and Karen for cake in a Costa coffee and then went to a random Lebanese restaurant for beers. It was a nice quite night, just a few beers, and I'm not drinking as i'm on antibiotics (not had a solid poop since Syria...maybe not a good sign). Anyway, randomly a Finnish motorcyclist who knew Niek and Karin walk by us and said he'd bumped into an american media type in the street with a massive BMW motorbike. Turns out that this american had posted a comment about motor biking in the middle east that the Finnish guy had used to plan his trip. Anyway, the American, a Texan, invited us to a private dinner club. So we said ok… the club was hidden away at the top of a residential building in Garden City, a middle-class area of Cairo where many foreign embassies are (with, not surprisingly, a very heavy security detail). A Sudanese waiter welcomed us into the vast, sumptuous flat decorated in art deco style. It used to belong to Hoda Shaarawi, an Egyptian feminist leader, born in 1879, who wrote poetry in Arabic and French, and was the first Egyptian woman to remove her veil in public, in 1923. It turns out it’s a big meeting place for beautiful crowd in Cairo, particularly media types. To cut this long story short we spent the evening talking to a brain surgeon and some for bigwigs from Al Jazeera and other Arab news thingies and it was all free…well we left without paying…think thats ok though? A very surreal night when you’ve been sleeping in the desert for a week and not washing etc etc.

I’ll shut up now! Think we’ve got our Sudan visa too :o) We can pick it up tomorrow and start cyling along the Nile.

Take care

Dan (and the now sleeping Claire Zzzzzz)
ps new picture too and we saw the pyramids

11 Nov 2010

Hilly Jordan

Claire: cycling in Jordan is more like sightseeing on a bike! It's only small but the last 500 kilometers have taken us almost 10 days. And now we've been in a beach resort on the Red Sea for the last 5 days and I'm loving it! Nice croissants for breakfast, reading an English newspaper on your beach-lounger under the parasol and swimming in the sea to cool off. Oh I almost forgot the white wine on the terrace at night. And the spa with sauna...

Dan: Cycling in Jordan blows goats! Syria is so much nicer :o)
Claire: Oh stop moaning!
Dan: Ok the landscape is amazing, but the whole place feels designed to rip you off...and the hills are very, very big! It’s the first place where the people have started to become annoying and amazingly the universal 'welcome to Jordan' that everyone says is really getting up my nose (as it's usually accompanied by 'that'll be 20 times the price a local would pay...but hey you're white so it's ok for us to cheat you!'). But to be honest it's not that bad, just a little galling when Jordanians pay 1 euro (90p) for entry to Petra and foreigners pay 50 euro (£45!!!!) and it’s really not worth half of that. PISSES ME OFF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Claire: Petra is an amazing place. It’s a huge city of houses and big buildings carved out in the red/pink rocks, a lot bigger than only the famous Indiana Jones building. You walk through a big gorge and can go exploring in the hills and find cave houses and carved out steps everywhere. But I agree, you don’t want to pay 50 euro for any museum or ruin anywhere in the world. It really is excessive. And the local hotel people are not happy with the government raise in price at all because it might keep people away from Petra.
Dan: Ok no more moaning...
Claire: We also went to see the Dead Sea. A very special valley. It’s 400 m below sea level and very dry and hot (37 degrees C). The road runs along the shore of the salty lake and on the other side there are big cliffs and mountains. You can see Israel on the other side. It’s true that the place is so desolate nothing can live there. Except for millions of flies! They were all over us, especially if you stopped. They luckily disappeared after sunset so we could camp and cook but at 5 am in the morning they were back and sitting on our tent waiting for us to come out.
But we had a lovely float in the sea (you can sit upright in the salty water and read a book!) and a beautiful site to camp.
Dan: From the Dead Sea we planned to cycle back up from -400m to 1200m to the King Hussein Highway and a place called Karak. We set off early at 6am to avoid the heat and quickly cycle the 30km before the climb...but the wind had another idea. We had the strongest head wind ever and the short cycle took 3 hours...not fun! We were soon fixed after a falafel sandwich and we were off at midday for our 1600m climb from the valley of the Dead :o)
Claire: After 1 km I was ready to catch a lift. It was just too hot...almost 40 degree C in the sun.
Dan: Ok, not a good start for the heroic Team Richardson. We sat in the shade for an hour or so hoping the day would cool off and then set off. It was still 37 degrees C and the hill was properly steep. Anyway, the hill got even steeper as the kms passed and then the flies attacked!!! More flies than either of us have ever experienced, you could barely breathe. Things got so bad that I fell off my bike while trying to wave the flies off. I broke... and got a lighter and my deodorant out and started blow torching the flies from the air and the bike. ‘Moo Ha Ha...Kill them all!!!!’
Claire: It was such a ridiculous sight (but so hilarious ) that we flagged down the first chicken-truck and asked for a lift. With our bikes in the back we had a lovely drive for 18 km through the suddenly pretty looking gorge. Up in Karak it was nice and cold and we finished our day cycling in a good mood again.
Dan: We cycled on for a couple of days and 2000m of climbing up and down to a really cool nature reserve called Dana. Beautifully peaceful and no tourons! We did a little hike with Fay and Phil from Zermatt and stayed in the great eco-project Dana guesthouse. We met a really nice English couple Joe and George. Joe fixed my gears and broke them :o) All ended well and he gave me his shifter...thanks again Joe!
Claire: So all in all Jordan is a pretty amazing holiday country, just not on a bike...

Off to Egypt tomorrow on the ferry. Our 14th country and 3rd continent on this trip!!! xx
ps: all the photos are on the flickr site http://www.flickr.com/photos/40131711@N05/