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!

xx

Cycle Route to Africa

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23 Dec 2010

We're home in the snow!!

Wow what a shock: after months in desert environments with blazing sunshine we arrived in a snow storm on Schiphol! One big chaos because planes and trains didn't go and everyone in Xmas mood with lights and music everywhere. It was a miracle that our bags and bikes arrived, so we didn't have to join the 6-hour queue for lost luggage. But then we had to spend a few hours at the airport drinking beers to wait for a train. Which was great with all the festive atmosphere and stranded travellers. And so much food and drink to choose from! We're definitely not used to the western consumption society anymore. But it's lovely to be home, both in Groningen and in Lundie, enyoying cosy warm houses, beds with duvees, great food and above all: NO CYCLING :-)
Have a lovely X-mas everyone and thanks so much for all your support and messages.
Speak to you next year from our new home in Norway!
Happy New Year,
xxx 
 

16 Dec 2010

The Sudan and the Chinese Road

Dan: Always good to start a day with a poop...but 15 before 11am is a little excessive even by my standards! But the drugs and the I.V. drips seemed to get me sorted and we were on our way...via train to Aswan. I know it's cheating, but 200km in one day when you can barely walk didn't seem like a good plan.
Claire: The train was SO lekker!!!
Dan: Weird, but nice. Westerns aren't meant to travel via normal trains in Egypt...only meant to go on luxury night trains. After a bit of hassle (you can't buy a ticket for 2nd class trains so you just need to get on the train and then buy the ticket when the guy comes) we were off and arrived in Aswan 3 hours later.
Claire: Ferry tickets......sleeping and cycling the last 25 km to the ferry the next morning
Dan: New skinnier improved Dan seemed to do well on the hills to the ferry station :o)
Claire: What an experience this ferry! It's the only border crossing into Sudan and there is only one ferry per week, so everybody gets squeezed onto this little boat. Probably 1500 people on the boat with capacity for only 500 :-) The administrative dance you need to do before you get to the ferry was hilarious. We sort of gave up on understanding what everything was for and just followed the endless stream of people from one check point to the next. Passport checks, scanning the bags and bikes, getting weighed, paying something for the bikes, paying somewhere else for we don't know what but you get a stamp, taking the paper with the stamp to a different desk where you get another sticker, passport check again etc. Our bikes were about the smallest luggage items; we were in between people with fridges on their neck, huge bags of grains and food, televisions, food processors, an old wooden music installation and all sorts of funny things were being shuffed onto the boat. We had to go through the sitting area and the cafeteria with our bikes to find a nice place on the top deck under the life rafts in the shade. We met an Irish couple, Rafael and Emily, who are travelling through Africa. They're working on organic farms and maybe one day will set up their own farm. We spent most of the afternoon and evening sharing stories about both our travels. After a few hours we took off and soon we were lying on the deck in our sleeping bags watching the amazing sky full of stars. Very romantic!
Dan: I thought it was slightly too cold and some of the people talked a little too loud after 9pm...not really cricket.
Claire: Oh shut up
Dan: So we were off! After some faffing at the customs etc we were on the road again heading out into the desert. The days were long and the scenery was just amazing, golden sands and rugged mountains...not at all what we expected. We cycled for 2 days without seeing a village or bearly a soul! Real middle of no where...this is the sort of cycling that we've grown to love. After another couple of days we reached Dongola, the first big town and over 400km from our drop-off point in Wadi Halfa.
Claire: For most of the days we had a proper tail wind (finally) and the road was just finished. The chinese have recently surfaced the whole road from Wadi Halfa to Khartoum, which meant that there was new tarmac all the way. And with not much traffic and the tail wind it was zooming!! It made us think of Tibet a bit, because when we were cycling there in 2007 they were building new roads as well.
We were trying to enjoy the cycling as much as we could, knowing that there were only a few days on the bikes left. Strange to think of going home and how much has happened the past few months. Every morning we wake up in the cold morning air and feel so content. With what we choose to do, taking time for each other and the world, with how the hospitality has overwhelmed us, with a sense of achievement for the 9000 km and most of all with the freedom feeling it has given us. And next to feeling a bit sad that it is almost over we look forward to being home and having a shower and a bed and seeing our family and friends.
Dan: I thought it was ok to be honest :o) Nae it was totally amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

4 Dec 2010

Flat roads and illness

Dan: Leaving Cairo was predictably mad, and we seemed more to stumble across the right roads out of the city rather than navigate. We had a late start after picking up our visas for Sudan and saying good bye to Niek and Karin the motor bikers we’d met.

The further out of Cairo you get the more and more poverty of Egypt hits you. If I’d have thought of Egypt before this trip I’d picture friends talking about great diving trips, ancient Egypt sites, posh hotels and the occasional Nile cruise. And I guess these are reality here...but the other side to this reality is starkly different; a country under a 30 year long state of emergency, failing infrastructure and a divided society. ..the poverty here is comparable with India in many ways. People are commonly living in mud huts surrounded by the rubbish and from talking to people many live off $1 a day.

Claire: As we left the suburbs of Cairo we entered the lush green valley of the Nile, with on both sides of the river a thin strip of farmland and behind that the sand-coloured desert hills. It’s incredibly green, with fields of growing vegetables and palm trees in between them. They flood their land with Nile water every night, so it’s very fresh and lush. Great to camp in, but a bit wet! There are loads of villages along the road, as 90% of the population lives in the fertile valley strip, so we had plenty of Fanta and Cay stops every day. The people again are very friendly, inviting us for tea and lots of ‘whats your name’ and ‘how are you?’ everywhere. In one village we sat drinking tea in a local bar while the shisha-smoking men were trying to get the group of 20 giggling kids that surrounded us to leave us alone (we didn’t mind but in many cafes we’ve seen them chase away the kids). Lots of fun and when we cycled off they all waved us goodbye shouting and running with us. These little bits of mentalness are fantastic on a long, hot cycling day and immediately give you new energy. We’ve been cycling 100 km days again (sort of left that regime in Bulgaria when we left the Danube) and that means we need to go for it a bit because it gets dark at 5 pm and between 12 and 2 it’s really too hot to cycle. So there’s not many hours in the day.

We felt free and happy cruising along in our own pace until we hit the umpteenth police check point after 350 km and they suddenly said: ‘wait, tourist police needs to go with you’. After about 10 minutes of arguing we gave up and set off with a car full of bored policemen 10 meters behind us. I don’t think they realised what they had gotten themselves into, because after a few stops of buying water, having Fanta and going for a pee they were getting very impatient and kept asking how long until our destination, shouting ‘jalla jalla’ (let’s go) etc. But of course we were trying to annoy them a bit more coz it is so frustrating to have a noisy car behind you on your nice cycle trip in the fresh air! And every time you enter a village they would let their sirens of very loud so no one dares to speak to you anymore. The first time I went for a pee they stopped the car got out waving their hands and asked ‘what?’. I said ‘pipi, don’t look’ and walked towards the bushes but they went all panicky and shouted no. One guy took me by the arm and walked to the nearest house, where about 10 people were busy in the courtyard, and asked if this lady could use their toilet. When I came out the audience had multiplied and everyone was giggling... The most annoying of all was that every 20 km or so the police convoy would swap with the next one and we would start all over again with trying to explain that we didn’t want noise or shouting jalla and that we really didn’t need police. Bit difficult to communicate when none of the policemen speak English...

Dan: One funny moment though was when we stopped for lunch, again they said no. I got proper annoyed, which seemed to work. It’s an odd thing having an argument with a guy holding a gun and neither of you speak very much of one and others language. Anyway, he didn’t shoot me and we tried to cross the road to get away from them. Fat man number 1 with a small gun stopped us and another in plain clothes said it was dangerous! He was meaning the traffic...I was beginning to lose the plot with these guys and just walked out across the road and promptly got shouted at and almost hit by a passing car. We eventually sat on a fallen date palm, and a dead cat, and ate our lunch with police busily searching the bushes for god only knows what! FANNIES!!!!!

This was the theme for the rest of that day, we tried to piss them off as much possible if they got annoying on the road by turning busy villages. But wild camping was out of the question and we slept in a car scrap yard under police guard or in a police station. All in all we had 3 days under escort (on and off for some reason!)

North of Luxor we’d lost the police, they just said ‘no more police’. Soon after this something a bit odd did happen: we were cycling past a small gathering of man sitting in a square and there was a loud popping noise and then an arm reached up holding an AK47 and fired off a full magazine into the air. We both looked at each other and Claire said ‘That’s not too nice’, we cycled a bit faster! We think it just had to do with some local elections...I guess we were cycling though the area of Egypt where people are properly pissed off with the crap dictatorship (sorry government?).

Claire was also ill for a day in Asyut with food poisoning and now I’ve been ill in Luxor for 3 days with fever and poopin (lots of poopin!!! Had 2 IV fluids bags and a big bag of drugs). Both on the mend and looking forward to the ferry to Sudan on Monday for our last leg of the trip, we’re going to have to take a train to the city of Aswan tomorrow (200km) as we’re out of time due to the illness :o(

Egypt has been great! Very annoying at times but we’ve met some lovely people and the cycling on flat roads through lush green was amazing.

Take care and happy Sinterklaas tomorrow! xx