Friday, 21 October 2011


Great Pyramid looking to Cairo.  Photo (as all others) on my iPhone
Seven weeks, eight countries, 12,453 km and now we're in Cairo.
This is how you get to Cairo: from Hurghada on the Red Sea, up the freeway to just south of the city of Suez, chuck a leftie and bingo! Cairo!  And that's what we did yesterday.
Strange to be here, after all those weeks of getting up, often at 5:00 am, to squeeze into the 'Stang and drive on through the continent, and now, no more...
Cheers to all!
Update (28th October 2011): Now basically finished on this blog, as the trip's over and I'm back in Hong Kong.  Do feel free to comment on any post, though, as I'll be notified of comments and like to keep dialogue going with readers and participants. 
Update (10th January, 2013): On the issue of Aid to Africa, which I said something about here and here: an article in The Spectator, "The great aid mystery", of 5th January 2013 is well worth a read.  A companion piece asks why there should be an arbitrary goal of 0.7% of GNP "rink-fenced" for aid, which is counter-productive to its responsible deployment, in "Greening's challenge".  

Update (4 September, 2013): Re Aid to Africa, Joe Nocera writes in the New York Times, about Jeffrey Sachs and the factors in Africa's recently better economic performances: seeming to be less to do with aid and more to do with better governance and sounder economic policies.... Fighting poverty and critics. [pdf]
Update (4 June, 2013):  There's been a bit of activity on the post about the first of these Cape to Cairo trips in 1913 (or attempt, for they did not make it), and there's going to be more as well, about which I'll remain mum until it's out.  Here.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

"In Egypt, a new pogrom"

I mentioned earlier Jeff Jacoby's International Herald Tribune article about anti-christian violence in Egypt, and I've now found the link, which is here.
We're in Egypt, and we travel past guarded churches... and wonder what the situation will be like in Cairo.  From Jacoby's article:
THIS IS what a pogrom looks like: “The Coptic Hospital tried its best to deal with the sudden influx of casualties,’’ wrote Sarah Carr, a Cairo-based journalist and blogger, in her firsthand account of Sunday’s deadly attack on Christian protesters by the Egyptian military. “Its floors were sticky with blood and there was barely room to move among the wounded.
Read the rest here, from the reprint in the Boston Globe, part of the New York Times network.  It's interesting to note that in the reports of the violence in left-wing media such as the BBC or The Guardian, it's always headlined as "Muslim-Christian violence", or "inter-sectarian troubles", or some such, inviting one to infer that the violence is from both sides, equally.  It is not.  It is Muslim attacks on Coptic Christians.  It's been happening for years.  It's been reported in many blogs for years (e.g, here).  In recent times -- since the rise of Islamists after the "Arab Spring" -- the attacks on Copts have become so bad that even the mainstream media have had to take note. But mostly with the bogus "neutrality" as above -- "inter-sectarian violence", you know, like the Copts bashing Muslims and vice versa, that sort of thing, each side has its story, both right/wrong in equal measure...  Jacoby's piece is refreshing in telling it like it is.

BTW: I did not mean to suggest, in an earlier post about the Aswan Nubians' criticism of the "troubles" -- aka the March revolution, part of the "Arab Spring" -- that there is any sympathy for Mubarak.  There is not.  They're glad he's gone.  It's just that post-revolution, not all's gone according to hopes (forget about "plans", there weren't any) -- the effect on tourism, the mainstay of Upper Egypt (Nubia!), is devastating.  
We see it here in Hurghada as well: rows and rows of half-finished apartment blocks and resort complexes, lying idle.  Hotels half full.
Back pockets count, and they're empty.  

Harghada: Butlins on the Red Sea

I didn't get my own photo of Harghada, on the Red Sea in Egypt,
 so I pinched this off the internet -- it rather flatters the place.....
Yesterday arvo, we limped in to this place, Harghada on the Red Sea, a horridly tacky strip of low rise resorts catering to the North European and Russian trade, for the all-inclusive, all you-can-eat-and-drink holiday on the Red Sea, the Butlins of Egypt.
We limped because we broke another leaf spring, this time the main rear right one, and car now at the workshop being fixed if it can.
Pity about that, as the drive down was really Mustang Country: desert, fine road, leading down to the sea by a range of mountains spiked up like, like... well, like "great big spiky things"....[*]
Broken springs brings to mind a quick car report:
The Kombi: we last left Ron and Wendy from Mexico back in Aswan as they'd been unable to clear their car due to paperwork issues.  I believe Ron's in Cairo trying to get the paperwork sorted, then will mosey on up through lower Egypt at his own pace and may or no catch us before we leave on Saturday.
The MGB: Ian and Val's little green monster has had the engine fully out twice on this trip, once at a lodge in Zambia, quite some going that.  Overheating problems sorted with Gordon's fix of the windscreen washer diverted to spray on the radiator... Other than brake and clutch problems, all ok...
The others: seem fine, and the lads are now working on Egyptian bureaucracy to get them cleared for shipping, and dealing with Egyptian bureaucracy is another level of surreal insanity.
The 'Stang will go either to Southampton or Sydney.
Gordie's gone off scuba diving in the Red Sea.
I'm just about to head off into a semi-submersible to "do" the Sea in a touch more comfort.
[*] Blackadder reference.  King George season.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Haggling in Egypt: "Life of Brian" comes to life

These guys, here in Egypt, are straight out of central casting when it comes to the haggle.  Everything, but everything is up for haggle, and they do it just like Eric Idle in the wonderful Monty Python clip above.
They even haggle for stuff like toothpaste at the Pharmacy, or batteries at the corner shop.
"How much is the toothpaste".
"My friend, how much you want to pay?" (huh?)
"I don't know, it's your toothpaste - you tell me."
"50 pounds".  [Egyptian.  That's almost $US10.]
"Ridiculous" and you start walking out.
"How much you give me??  Ok, 40".
keep walking....
"Best price, for you, my friend, ok, 30"
keep walking... he follows you...
"My friend, my friend, I have a poor dying grandmother! Ok, 20, my last offer."
keep walking...
"Ok, mister, 10 pounds only!!"
Stop, turn, give the man 10 pounds.  No doubt still too much, but you need that paste... and one-fifth of the original price is what we've figured is the price -- still the rip-off price, but acceptable all round.
You take the paste and start walking out...
"My friend, I have some nice Viagra!  Only 250 Egyptian pounds!"
They have this other neat trick, as we first saw with our Nubian Christian friend Thomas.
He's been walking with Chris and me for some time, since we first met him at a shoe shop, where Chris wanted to buy a pair, that had to be cool...  He's come with us to a sort of department store, where he reckons we'll find what we want, but no cool shoes there, so now we're in the souk, the local market in Aswan, when he tell us
"Mister, I was with you on the boat yesterday, you remember?"
Huh?  Maybe he was, you kind of recollect a swarthy fellow with day's beard and 'tache.  But did he have that gap in his teeth?  You don't recall, but you'd better be polite and not ask what on earth the fellow was doing yesterday at the helm of the felucca and today he's a shoe salesman, and he's also a tailor and a silver merchant.  He knows all the people in the souk. But he could be the guy with the boat, so you say "Oh yes, yesterday, on the felucca. Imagine that...".
Of course, it's all nonsense.  Just playing on the fact that all foreigners would have had a go on a felucca and you're not quite sure, are you, one Arab Nubian looks like any other... and all that....
We buy some shoes (that I certify to Chris as being "VOC" = verging on cool).  We're walking back to our hotel, Chris and I.  After an unsuccessful attempt at getting some shirts from Ahmin.  Ahmin is the friendly (always friendly!) tailor with his father helping out in the shop.  His father is a copy of Ghandi, but half the size.  We'd settled with Ahmin on cloth types and cloth pattern, cloth sizes and shirt numbers.  I'd asked Ahmin numerous times for a price and he says "later, later", and finally quotes us $US35/shirt, and we're not even in the ballpark, not even for the one-fifth rule, and so we're out of there. "No worries, my friends, see you next time", at least they take it on the chin. We walk along the banks of the Nile, back to the hotel and a guy passes by and says
"My friends, I'm your cook at the hotel!  Remember me?"
Neat trick.  Establishing rapport.  These guys are master sales-men, a pleasure -- almost -- to see them in action.
But no way this guy is our cook!  I know our cook at the Aswan hotel, cause I helped him cook some eggs this morning....
[how to cook the perfect poached egg; but that's a whole 'nother story...]

How to have felucca at the Nile

Two feluccas raft up and speed up the Nile
Note the wake: power, man!
Ok, here it is: my ideal way to "do" the antiquities of the Nile.  (I'm an expert now; I've been here since Friday...)
Don't bother with any of the Lonely Planet ways to do it -- by road, plane, train, taxi, rickshaw, or any of that other nonsense.  Do it by felucca.
Here's how: fly in to Luxor and spend a coupla days here, maybe three, staying at a decent pub, like the one we're in now, the Steinberger, a five-star on the Nile, facing west.  Get a Nile-facing room.
Visit the magnificent temples and tombs that surround Luxor: about 100 just nearby.
Today we visited four, including the two big ones, Habu Temple and Hatshepsut's Temple (she was the only female Pharaoh, and had to exhibit some cunning to hold her throne), two magnificent and awe-inspiring monuments, quite as much "must-see" as the great monuments in Europe, St Peter's, St Paul's, Aztec's temples, Islam's Taj...

Then, organise yourself a felucca to float upriver to Aswan.
I investigated this in Aswan, thinking I'd leave on Saturday morning and get here to Luxor on Monday evening. But I couldn't get enough of my car-mates to come along.  And in any case, it seems that going upriver is better than going downriver, at least as the breezes are at the moment.  They're northerly, so that it's a nice run with the breeze behind you, whereas coming down river to Luxor you have to tack all the way.
These feluccas are really cool craft!  They have a big sail area and go like the clappers with a bit of weight of breeze.
The ideal trip....[click below]

Nubia: Respek, man!

Our buggy owner's son tries on my cool hat.  His dad, a Nubian,
bemoans the "troubles" of March -- ie, the so-called "Arab Spring"
One of the things I've learnt a touch more about on this trip has been Nubia.  This was the kingdom between today's Khartoum in Sudan up to Luxor in Egypt. The Nubians were sometimes under the suzerainty of Egypt and sometime independent, and always in a testy relationship with the latter.  Even today they see themselves as very much "Nubian", so that you'll meet people in Sudan or in Egypt's Aswan who insist they are Nubian, rather than Sudanese or Egyptian.
Nubia means "place of gold", the source of much that went into the treasures of the Pharaohic tombs.  Even today, we see gold being "mined" -- that is, thousands of Nubian peasants by the roadside in the desert on the way to Karima Sudan, digging the rock, crushing it by hand, then panning for specs of gold, in a scene from antiquity.  Hard-scrabble.
Their most famous kingdom was the Kingdom of Kush.  "Kush" means "troublemakers", or so our [very Egyptian] guide today informs us.  No doubt they were "troublemakers" for having had the temerity to resist the colonisation of the various dynasties of ancient Egypt.

A menagerie of photos: Sudan

Sufis in Khartoum -- men only -- whip into ecstatic stupor. Note
Barak Obama in the middle of the photo.  Friday night in Khartoum
Wallflowers on the same evening.  No place for women, even in
moderate Sufism

Click below to see some more photos of the last week or so.....

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Trubbel at Edfu...

We're still in Aswan, struggling with some technology, and planning when to leave for Luxor. 
We've just heard that there have been "troubles" in Edfu, which is half way from here to Luxor in the north and that there's a curfew from 4pm to 6am. There have been Muslim attacks on churches in Edfu. There's more on this at Raymond Ibrahim's site.
We were thinking of leaving in the morning, but now think we may mosey along the road to see how far we can get.
Heiko and Nicole have been waiting for a rental car to be delivered from Cairo, about 500km north. (Nicole just joined us in Aswan).   The car left at 6:00 am yesterday morning and is still not here 29 hours later: road blocks along the way for security and the curfew.
And to make matters worse.... Kiwis were up 14-6 at half time. Perspectives...

Catch up photos

Nubian ladies and kids, Karima, Sudan

Update 16 October: I've  not been able to get online for update and more photos, I'm afraid.... Connection dodgy/intermittent.... Sitting here in Aswan on the banks of the Nile. Lovely town, with tree lined streets and the feluccas, the latine-rigged sail-boats like the Dhows of Tanzania, sitting pretty along the river banks.  There's plenty of ancient temples and ruins surrounding us -- "I loove ruins" said Gough Whitlam and he'd love here.  The temple of Isis on Philae Island, saved in the sixties from the rising waters of the Aswan Dam, is in almost pristine shape and venue for a nightly sight and sound show.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Sudanese desert, nubile nubian lasses

We're fanging along the banks of the Sudanese Nile at a bit over 170 kph in the mighty Mustang (aka "the 'stang").  Now that's fun!
The Nile's on our left, a palm-green swoosh in the dry desert, glinting between date palms.
North from Khartoum in Sudan, there's a new road, not on any maps.  Not that you can buy maps in Sudan. The military government bans their sale for "security reasons" (never heard of satellite technology, fellas?).
So we set our noses for "North" and follow them.

Quick interim update from Aswan

Hi all, and sorry for no posts in last five days.  We've been in the Sudanese desert and flat out finding beds, let alone internet connection, so now's the first time we've managed to get online -- here in Egypt's wonderful Aswan, near the high dam that makes Lake Nasser.
I'll post more on the Sudanese experience -- Nubian houses, nubile nubian lasses and all -- in the next day or so, when get some piccies uploaded.
Meantime, thanks for various comments received via email, appreciated.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Wallabies in a nail-biter!

Yay!  Here in the Acropole hotel in Khartoum: three of the cars have stayed behind to watch the game -- two from Namibia barracking for the Springbocks and Gordie and I rooting for the right side....
What a nail-biter, coming down to the final minute, and Jamie O'Connor making the long penalty for the kick of his life.
We rather thought the Springbocks deserved the win and the Wallabies a bit lucky.
Now we face the All Blacks next week. We'll be in Aswan.
We're in the hotel awaiting some permissions we apparently need for the further trip north.
It's 44 degrees outside.
A fine clear day in Khartoum....
Last night to the Corinthian, a massive mini-London-gherkin, for Asian food on the top floor looking over the Nile.  Good food, with the maitre d' young Melamie from the Philippines.  Shades of Asian service with a smile.
Cheers for now, off to the North, through the desert, for a night at a Nubian house, sleeping on the balcony, under the stars, temps dropping to high thirties....

Saturday, 8 October 2011

A day on the Ethiopia-Sudan border... and Kharthoum

Dealing with Sudan customs
Al-Grammah grasps my hand and asks where I’m from.  "Australia', I say. "Aussie, Aussie, oy, oy, oy", he says, startlingly....
I’m seated on a stool, in a dark mud-alley behind the customs house of the Ethiopian side of the border with Sudan.  My passport’s at the bottom of a pile in the immigration house, a hundred yards yonder, been there about an hour and Gordie’s in the line there, we’ve waited an hour already, and there’s nothing much else to do, so I’ve gone back to find the local black market currency seller, to get some Sudanese pounds, which I’ve done in the shack next door, and now I’m having a coffee.
Al Grammah’s going the other way, he’s done the Sudanese side and tells me cheerfully that it takes “many hours” on the Sudanese side.  Great. 
Scene of activity at the border post

Grammah’s a government guy, with his mate Assad, beside me, and they’ve been on tour with an Ethiopian song and dance troupe showing the Sudanese their culture.  How’d it go, I ask.  Great, he says, they loved it.  I show him the pics of the group we’d seen in Addis at the Yod Abyssinia, which he knows and we agree they’re babes. [photo of the Addis babes here]
He asks why we’re in old cars. Can’t we afford new ones?  “Old guys, old cars”,  I say.  Old women too?  “No, young ones!” says Assad.  He tells me the proper price to pay for coffee, three birr.  And here we’ve been paying 10 all along. Oh well, we spread the wealth….

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Hannah and the Blue Nile

Hannah skips along the trail, rock to rock, her bare feet hardened to the hard earth.  Her hair is in corn-cob rows, her teeth white, she holds some shawls on her right arm.
We’re climbing the rocky path to the Blue Nile falls, and she’s trying to sell me a shawl.  She has a fine line in patter, and would make a good saleperson in any company.  But here in Ethiopia’s highlands, she’s born into a farming family of seven others, and she has to her bit to put food on the table.  She’s 10.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Crossing the Blue Nile

We're at 10,000 feet, Gordon and I and the 'Stang, looking down at the Blue Nile 6,000 feet below.  We drop down the road, a corrugated, holey, looping, switch-back and Gordon insists on stopping to get the photo of the grand view of this ancient, fabled, now mud-brown river below us. "You'll never capture it", I say, but he gives it a go.  The drops are vertiginous, thousands of feet; I'm driving and stick the car to the cliff wall...

We've reached the river half-way along today's 450 km stage from Addis to Bahir Dar on Lake Tana.

This was the best scenery we've seen on the trip so far. Green Ethiopian Highlands, 7,000 to 10,000 feet.

After the rains, it's green to the far sky, and plotted with maize, barley, sunflowers and flowering yellow rape.  With touches of lilac in yellow fields.  And everywhere groves and windbreaks of Aussie trees: gums like manniferabicostata, big stringy-barks, majestic blue gums, wattles in yellow flower, whispering casuarinas.  If you took out Aussie trees, Ethiopia would be treeless. Nothing is fenced, nothing is commercial; it's all subsistence, plus what can be put away in hay-stacks and the local grain gathery.  There's bucolic contentment, it seems: cows resting by a gum-shady nook in the stream, their herder leaning on his stick.

It's hard to believe that this, too, can be famine country when the rains don't fall.

The people are well-off today with the good harvests to come, by African standards, that is.  They're fed (though never to the tune of their cousins in America...), clothed, housed.  They tend their cows, goats, sheep. In the vilages, they.... walk.... service the farmers... give a bed to the traveller.  Brew an excellent coffee and cook meaty stew-like tips with barley injera for a couple of Aussies...

We dodge through the usual melee of people walking here and walking there and walking everywhere, walking, walking, purposefully, but to where?  In the morning, it's kids in uniform off to school and we catch them further north out of school.  But all these adults?  Where are they walking to?  And from? And where do the kids go, when they've finished school?  Tending cattle?

Monday, 3 October 2011

Lalibela, the "Honey Eater", in North Central Ethiipia

King Lalibela carved this church out of rock 900 years ago....
the UN decided to "protect" it with this monstrosity three years ago...
King Lalibela (the "honey eater") was a 12th Century Christian King of what is today's northern Ethiopia.  He got it into his mind to carve ten churches out of the volcanic mountain rock high on the mountain, at 8,000 ft.  That is to literally carve away rock around the imagined church, then carve into the resulting block to create a church made of one solid piece of stone.  He had ten carved, one for each of the Ten Commandments, then added one more to the memory of St George.  They reminded me a bit of Goreme the troglodytic city in Turkey, though it's not at all like that..  It's amazing what Man will do in propitiation to their various gods.
This is a UN World Heritage site.
Three years ago, UNESCO decided it needed protecting and they built ugly canopies over the churches.  The local people, the priests, Ethiopians at large, did not want the protection.  After all, they've survived nine centuries with minimal wear, the climate is dry and benign.
Yet the UN went ahead anyway.  The designer should be shot without trial, says Korbus, our resident architect (Korbus "Mercedes").  Not only are they ugly, they are unnecessary.  If protection were needed, it could have been done with waterproofing liquids.
But that would have been too simple for the UN. Consider where the money went: to feasibility studies, weather studies, to UN review committees, to the designers and builders, an Italian firm.  Money wen't to western companies, to design a western concept, built with western goods and services.  All this would have been counted as "aid" to Africa, yet virtually all of it would have gone right "Out of Africa" again.
To add injury to insult: during construction, the "protection" structure fell over and damaged one of the churches: more than it has been weathered over the last 900 years.
A scandal, a calumny, a shame on UNESCO.
Priest contemplates the inanities of UNESCO...
Isn't this episode a perfect metaphor for so much of what passes for "aid" in Africa?  Well-intentioned idiots, spending other people's money to do things that the locals don't want, and only making things worse.

The country around Lalibela is picturesque valleys and mountains, growing maize, barley, wheat and aloe vera, seemingly fertile and well-to-do.  But this is also famine country.  When the dry hits, people starve.  Direct action to alleviate this is surely better than vanity canopies.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

What's cool?

"Still life: hat with banana" an unwitting work of art
You know what's cool?  Ngorongoro, that's cool.  I don't mean the giant caldera, which I posted about here. Though that's cool, to be sure.  I mean the word "Ngorongoro"; I reckon that's as cool a word as the word "Dhaulaghiri", the Nepali name of the 8,000+ metre monster right next to Annapurna, both of which I visited in 1995.  I love that word, it rolls in the mouth and in the mind.
What else is cool is Kenyans.  Africans in many other countries are cool too, of course, but I reckon Kenyans take the cool cake.
And my hat is, by common acclamation, cool.  I'm not going to post a photo of it; I wouldn't want to seem immodest. In any case, attentive readers will note that it's in most photos of me.
And what's the opposite of cool?  Well, David Pineo's Hat. Which they call a "Yarpie" (as in South Efrican) hat. I don't mean to be rude about it, but it's simply not cool.  I'm sorry, but it's the truth.
Unfortunately, in attempting to prove that David's hat is not cool, I took the above photo with my iPhone this morning, and it seems to have turned out an unwitting piece of art, inspired, perhaps, by Matisse.
I might have to concede that this hat, if not yet cool, is nonetheless, in certain contexts, a piece of work, post-modern abstract expressionism.

Desert Photos

Gordon in default mode: fixing shock-absorbers.
Wendy and Ron "Kombi" look on
Desert of Marsabit, North Kenya
Ian "Pajero" inspects volcanic rocks in the Marsabit desert.
The whole area is a giant shield volcano, with hundreds of cinder
cones and craters.  Awesome, vast, vast vistas.
Ian takes a cinder bit home for his son.
"Gee, thanks Dad!  A rock!"...

Nairobi Concours D'Elegance

Have now posted some photos from the event here.

Ethiopia's "New Flower"

From the Lonely Planet:
On first observing Addis Ababa ("New Flower" in Amharic) a little over a century ago, one foreigner called it 'noisy, dusty, sprawling and shambolic'.  Over the next century this tented camp has morphed into a modern business centre and Africa's fourth-largest city, yet travellers still turn up and utter the same phrase.  If that isn't reason enough to discount first impressions, we don't know what is!
Well, with due respect to the LP, it's still a spot-on description.  And we ought to know, we've been here all of two days... It is noisy, it is sprawling and it is shambolic.  The traffic is terrible.  Like most (all?) African cities, public transport's a joke when it's not non-existent.  And I wouldn't be crowing about being Africa's fourth-largest city, either, considering those above on the list: Lagos and the like....

"Shit Happens"

Ian's plaintive cry, on the bonnet of the Pajero
David Hall, Ian and Neil ('the lads') in the Pajero, our "tail gunners"
in the desert on the way to Moyale, North Kenya, two days ago,
before a stone stopped their fuel flow, 50km from Moyale

Sandi "Volvo" and Chris, welcome Dave to Moyale, next morning.
Dave and the lads now back in Nairobi

Enchanting Ethiopia and Addis Ababamamas

Barrelling along the road from Awassa to Addis Ababa at 5:45 am, the sun rising over lake Lagondo (Italian?), we're high, seven and eight thousand feet, just north of the equator, but it's cool, crisp, in the early high morning.
We're surprised, Gordon and I, thinking Ethiopia would be arid or semi-arid, like the rest of High Africa, that we've been on since early September.  It should really be High Dry Africa, as it's been arid scrubby trees, and grasses, ochres and grey-browns, the occasional deep red sand desert black-rocked like Mars.  
But here, as we motor along in the magic 'Stang, it's green, green, green, crops of corn, new wheat, barley, millet and guys leaning onto the road, arms outstretched, offering coffee beans, cobs of cooked corn, and wrapped watermelon-sized bunches of grass, which turns out to be Qat, a stimulant, illegal everywhere but here.  I'm thinking to try a bit, in the interests of cultural research.
It's like no other land we've seen in Africa so far: high meadows, spotted with grazing cattle, a mix of antipodean flora -- gums, casuarinas, bottlebrushes, wattles --  has taken good hold in forest-lets set in wide vistas of crystal air, to the cerise horizons.
Enchanting.  Ethiopia.
There's business on the land, as well: vast acreages of greenhouses, producing for European and African markets.  At six in the morning, the workers trudge along both sides of the road; this is Trade at work, better than aid, surely.

Friday, 30 September 2011

"The Road from Hell", and off to Addis

Update, 6 Nov: Sarah Henderson (Peugeot 404) send a link to a story about bandits on the "Road from Hell", which happened just after we went through....  Full text in comments below.  Tx Sarah!]

[Bit of a scrappy post, this, as it's on the run, in Awassa, Ethiopia, and we're off at 05:00 in the morning to Addis, to struggle with Sudan visas.   And it's all about the road and the cars, nothing about people and places, which after all is what the trip's about.  But that road was such an experience, that it takes first place for now]...

Wowie, Zowie, what a road!
I left you at the Samburu Lodge in Kenya, just as we were to set off on what is widely-known as “The Road from Hell” and what a road it was.  400 kilometers of bone-jarring, car-crunching gravel, horrendous corrugations, rocks, stones, wash-aways, rock and massive pot holes you could hide a donkey in.  A “car killer” said Gordon, whose done 2 London to Sydney Rallies, one Peking to Paris, the Himalayan Rally, and innumerable other rallies.  He said this one was “right up there”. 

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

High Plains Drifters

Mother and two children, in Samburu Park, North Kenya
The real high plains drifters


Beautiful drive today through the Aberdaires of Central Kenya.  The high plains country, the mighty Mustang drifting along winding valleys at over 8,000 feet.  Fine driving.

Monday, 26 September 2011

On the go... photos... (maybe)

Just about to get into cars, it's a fine cool Nairobi morning, trying to upload some nice photos from yesterday, as I pack..
We're cheered in to the Grand Parade
[ah well, no go.  See you in Addis..]
PF and Mark 2 Jag, similar colour to my old XK 120

(Just snuck a couple in.  Off now)

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Sandi first direct post

Hi all, we had a lovely day at the Nairobi Concors d'Elegance, will catch up with all of you when we reach Addis in 5 Days time.

Note to Followers of Sandi's blog

Sandi is now posting here: either I posting her notes, or her posting direct, in which case it'll be her name at the bottom of the post.
For those who have signed up to Follow her blog, please do sign up to follow this one now.
I'm not putting the "followers" on the right side of the blog, so you'll be anonymous, but will still be notified of posts.
As mentioned below, we don't expect to be able to post for five days or so; after we get through "the road from hell"...

Wish us luck....

We head off at 05:00 tomorrow morning, for the drive up through northern Kenya.  This is the roughest part of the trip.  The road is called "the road from hell".  You can't drive more than 20-30 kph, or you'll break your car.  More of a worry for us is the Shifta bandits, nomadic tribes that occasionally prey on travellers on the road to Moyale in N. Kenya.  Recent droughts have made them more aggressive.  And of course, one is assailed by middle-class angst. What does one do?...
In Archer's post tomorrow, we decide whether to take armed escorts along: local soldiers or police.
There's also the prospect of camping, as there's no lodges or inns.  Also then there's shortage of water and food. 
The least of the worries is no internet.... won't be back on line for five days or so, till we're in Addis Abbaba, Ethiopia.
You can still follow us on the tracker: instructions above in the Tab.
The itinerary and the detailed Route Schedule are also in Tabs above.
TTFN [= "ta ta for now"]

Cars, cars and more....

The Nabibii and their Mercs: winners of two prizes including cash

SandiPost I: "20-23 September 2011"

Tuesday 20 September 2011

A tappet was found - eventually – a tappet from a Land Rover – so Modesty is now working thanks to a Land Rover – we managed to have a anxious morning although we were trying to relax, remaining ever so positive that a tappet would be found.   Dulllah arrived after 2 pm – with tappet in hand it was installed  it was working with a couple  of praise to Allah off we went to see DHL – it was just fantastic seeing everyone – loads of staff changes but a great welcome and well worth the visit.  We also managed to catch up with Simon Maitland – we had arranged to meet at the Southern Sun at 5 pm.  It was wonderful to see him and to catch up with all his exiting times in Dar.  Blaze from DHL also came to see us and wonderful to meet him and hear all about his times with DHL (so far) in Dar.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Dealing with the Tanzanian Traffic Cops ("TTCs")

Back in Tanzania, we were stopped a minimum of 3 times a day and maximum 9 times, with three fines in the one day. In case loyal readers are thinking we must be mad men in motor cars, let me tell you this: that each and every one of the cars in our little fleet was stopped and fined multiple times per day while in Tanzania, even the stateliest of our drivers, the Canadians Rob and Wendy in the Kombi van. (aka "Ron and Wendy Kombi", as in, we're now "Gordon" or "Peter Mustang")

Even a local paper, the Guardian (motto: "We did not steal the name from the UK Guardian, promise"), had an op-ed the other day, bemoaning the harassment of motorists by the traffic police.

So, for posterity, here's some thoughts on how to motor through with the fewest fines.  It becomes a game after a while, wondering what they'll pick on next time, and going a day "O for four" (four stops, zero fines) is cause for satisfaction.

Six Strategies for dealing with TTCs:

Ngorongoro, "cow bells singing"

Ngorongoro from the rim, 7,800 feeet (click to enlarge)
I'm on the rim of the Ngoronogo crater, gazing down at the caldera 3,000 feet below.  This is the home of Olduvai gorge, the "cradle of mankind", where the Leakey's in the 1930s found the first traces of mankind, 1.8 million year old homo habilis, who eventually came "Out of Africa".
"Ngorongoro" is a Masai word, onomatopoeic, the sound of cow bells ringing. [*]
It's a magnificent view, impossible for we bears of little brain to capture on film, or pixels, though Gordon's done a pretty good job above.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Volvo to vhere?

First, welcome to readers of Sandi's blog, "Volvo-to-vhere", who will be posting here from now on."Volvo to vhere?", you ask. "Volvo into the bush", I answer.
Yesterday, the clutch in the valiant Volvo went, about 100km from Arusha.  Chris couldn't come to a halt, so when they were stopped by a police check point, he drove the car off the road, into some fields, round a hut, scattering chickens, goats, and startled villagers as they went.  Bumping over some sisal bushes they rounded the hut and back to the road.
The MG of Ian and Val, which was following, as its brakes are shot, thought the Volvo was simply taking a detour and followed along behind...
Next time, the Volvo strataegy on stopping by police was to stop, engine off, and get the police to help push the car for clutch start.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

The final word on Rita's house...

Final bit of the saga: note from Mutti, re the Quest to find Rita Hayworth's house in Dar es Salaam, which I posted part I here and part II here.

Thanks to Mutti for the post, and using the iPad with such facility!

Have just read what you had to say about your search.  I thought our area might have been Oyster Bay. Now that I think about it, the residential land ran around a bit of a point.  Lew Border teased Dad about sleeping in Rita's bed.  if only!!  Someone at bridge today suggested money may have come from Russia.  Don't know. From the sentences there you can see your blogs are read and discussed. Had card from Bron from Murren, so gather my research,using the I-Pad, is coming in useful.  have half an ear to the T.V. And hear that No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency will be on on Sunday.  Should be fun.  Enough rubbish.  Love.  M.
Sent from my iPad
Margaret F. (Mutti)
We're now in Arusha, gateway to the trekking business to Mt Kilimanjaro and surrounding hills. Arusha is a pretty town, the entering roads flanked by graceful trees and trimmed hedges.  One could almost see hints of Sydney, or an Australian country town; then you blink and, nah, it's still Africa....
This is exactly half way between Cape and Cairo.  There's a clock tower with a plaque attesting to this.

Questing Miss Hayworth

Well, I found it. (the house, that is: first read Part I of the saga here).
So, I'm sitting at the restaurant this morning, by the Zanzibar ferry.  I've split from the rest of the team, to make my way early back to Dar, in search of Rita Hayworth's old house, the one my parents lived in for three years in the early seventies.  Walking to the ferry by the back streets of Stone Town, through narrow winding alleys, one could almost be in an old Italian village -- if that village had no coffee, no cafes, no panetterie, no macellerie, no cheese shops and if its residents wore veils and Islamic skull caps.  Apart from that, exactly the same.....

Some panoramas

I wanted to show a sample of the country we've been driving through.  From Cape to about Zambia, we've been in high veld: 3,500 to 6,000 feet above sea level all the way, and all the land a highland, dry Savanna, grassy in the south, scattered sometimes scrubby trees for the more northern Southern Africa.  Typical of it all, I've already posted towards bottom of the post here, thousands and thousands of miles of the same, though the practiced eye will spot the nuances.
Further north, from Zambia and into Tanzania, the country's rather more of the same, just interspersed with villages of rude huts, mud and grass.
The roads Cape to south Zambia mostly good, and straight, straight, straight.  Unpeopled till Zambia, and thence start deteriorating and en-peopled.  Then you've got to be on your wits driving, concentrating all the time, for the "3 P's": people, potholes and police.
Here's some samplers; multiply them in the mind, and you've got its nature, from Cape to here (Dar es Salaam, sitting in lobby of the Southern Sun hotel)
Zillions of huts like these...

Revisiting the pile

From Day 10, Kapishaya Lodge in Northern Zambia, via Ng'andu Lodge (aka "Africa House").  
The story of the Goore-Browns is told in "Africa House" by Christina Lamb, and the Shiba Ng'andu Estate's website is here.
The younger brother inherits this (Kapishaya Lodge)....

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Catch up photos

Kapishaya Hot springs, in Zambia, Day 11

Early morning swim in the springs

Michael and Paula, Triumph TR4A, Gordon and car-fanciers, Morogoro, Zambia

Gordon in typical mode...

Skyping Jenny, from double bed in Zambian game lodge.  It's tough touring Africa...

A day on the dhow

Yesterday arvo, ten of us take out the totally local, absolutely non-touristy dhow, a lateen rig (means "Latin"; does that help?), used in these parts for centuries.  I must get Stevo here with some North sails, as these scraps of cloth have a touch of the "mother hubbards" about them.... big tear in the mainsail (the one and only), I guess trying out the parasail concept....

Gordon does bow on the dhow

Deb and Val at Mid-mast

The Masters of the Mustang, Peter and Gordon get to grips with the performance of a dhow.
Note the colour of Peter's Crocs.  Carmen suggests they're not "cool". Whaaat??!

Hard working crew on the dhow...

And to bed  beer  

Zizzing in Zanzibar

Dhow on the Dar
Well, yes, catching up on some sleep, for sure, after ten days or more of up to 750km per day....
But also out and about in Zanzibar.... a much more multi-ethnic place after Southern Africa, and much more Muslim as well, about 90%.  A mix of African, Indian, Portuguese, Arab, mixin' and fixin' in Swahili, much more than the ubiquitous English of the South.
So, here's some photos of Dar and Zanzibar, an Island about 40nm north of Dar.  Beautiful beaches, pure hard white sand, protected by a reef to the East. And, not to forget — birthplace of Freddie Mercury. Which you note all around town…
Zizzing on the Zanzibar ferry

Waiting to praise Allah

Guy climbs coconut tree with just a bit of rope on his ankles
No health and safety nonsense
Lateen-rigged dhow
From restaurant at Zanzibar Ferry. Had a
“Freddy Mercury” menu

Monday, 19 September 2011

"Please watch my bumpers!"

"Movie star Rita Hayworth sacrifices her bumpers for Uncle Sam"
Who knew Rita Hayworth was interested in cars??  Reason enough, on this, a car-trip blog, to check out the luscious siren of Hollywood's golden era, famous for her "bumpers".  Check her, and more luscious pictures of the beautiful lady, here.

Tomorrow morning, I'm splitting briefly from the team, and heading off back to Dar es Salaam (we're in Zanzibar now, a 2-hour ferry ride north of Dar) on the ferry, before the rest go back by light plane, to look for Rita Hayworth's house.  Why?  Because my parents lived in Dar in the early seventies, when my father was High Commissioner to Tanzania.  And they lived in the Australian government's official residence, which was..... Rita Hayworth's old house!  She had lived in during her marriage to the then Aga Khan, Prince Aly Khan, 1949-53.

And there hangs another tale, as I was interviewed by the Prince's son, Aga Khan IV and his wife, the famous model Sarah "Sally" Frances Croker-Poole (who became, through the marriage, the "Begum Aga Khan"), for a job as driver to the Begum and their three young children.  This was 1974.  I was first interviewed by the Begum, then a tall blonde beauty, in her London Knightsbridge apartment.

"Can your drive a four-door Maserati?", she asked.  "Can I what!" sez I (or sum'fink similar).  The job was to drive her and her kids round Europe in the Maz, and in winter to their various Alpine chalets.  "Don't worry", she said, "there will be plenty of free time for you to ski as well".  Heaven, I was thinking, you do exist.... [it may be only be a four-door Maserati, not the coupe, but what the hell, you can't have everything..]

She gave me the all clear; as far as she was concerned I was to be her new driver.  "You will look well in a uniform", she said as I left....

She organised a first-class ticket for me to fly to Paris to be interviewed by her husband, the current Aga Khan IV.  He was staying in his Paris residence, a massive castle-like structure on the  Île de la Cité.   

The odd thing is that before getting down to the interview proper, he talked to me at length of how difficult it was, how great a responsibility, to be the head of the Ismaili sect of Islam.  This to a know-nothing lad of 24.  I listened politely (my future boss, after all...), and then he got down to tin tacks. Why did I want a driver's job, he asked, when I was a graduate in Economics and my father in the diplomatic corps. Of course, he'd done his research -- or had his people do it -- and I was caught off guard.  I could hardly say that the thought of squiring round his pulchritudinous wife -- a blonde version of the luscious Rita -- and in a Maserati, was the stuff of a young man's priapic fantasies.  Drop the ankle-biters off at ski school and "where to now, Ma'am?".

So, long story short, I didn't get that job, but the connections, Rita, cars, Dar, Aga Khan....  "spooky, darlings", as Dame Edna would say.

And that's not the end of the connections.  I phoned my mother just now to find out where the residence was/is.  She said it's on the right hand side of the harbour as we come in on the ferry and right next to the Chinese embassy.  Spooky, or what?!

Stay tuned for the update on if I find it.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

In the "House of Peace"

Disaster!  Ireland beats Oz in the Rugby World Cup, and our Irish contingent (the TR4, half of, the MGB GT, all of) won't let us forget, so I've declared a time limit on gloating.....

We're now in Dar Es Salaam, capital of Tanzania, and my rudimentary Arabic suggests it means "House of Peace".  My mum and dad were here in the Australian High Commission in the seventies, (see Mutti's comments here), but sadly I won't have time to visit Rita Hayworth's old house.

Rewind to a few days back: the 734 km trip brought us to Kapishaya Lodge in N. Zambia, where we thought we'd have to camp, but found us a couple of rooms.  The main feature: hot springs, which well up from 6km down, the water arriving at the surface a perfect 41 degrees celcius.

Next morning we visited the Edwardian pile, Shiba Ngandu ("Royal Crocodile') built in the early 20th C by the Gore-Browns, minor English nobility, who trekked 350 miles to find the most remote place to build it: something of the best of British Victorian-Edwardian spirit there, the colonial and his trusted servants, to this day working with the family's descendants, in the shape of Bright, who showed us round the place that his grandfather also worked at.  Showing also some of the best of the British notion of fair play, as Gore Brown the granddad fought for Zambian independence, and was honoured at his death with a full State Funeral and a weeks' mourning, and buried in a cemetery for African Chiefs.

The story of the Gore Browns is told vividly in "The Africa House; the true story of an English Gentleman and his African dream", by Christina Lamb.  See also here for more on the estate of Shiba Ng'andu.

Next day brought us to Utengulu Lodge via a border crossing into Tanzania, and thank goodness that Roger in front SMS'd us to say that the "border is chaos", otherwise we wouldn't have noticed...

And yesterday, the 650km drive down into the Baobab forest, along a spectacular road, winding down the Rift Valley bringing us from 6,200 ft above sea level to around 2,000 and the town of Mgorongoro, via the eponymous Game Park -- vultures, zebra, elephant, buffalo, impala....  Gordon at the wheel, giving the mighty Mustang a bit of stick, we drifted round the corners, like a nice ski run down a groomed slope.

Highlight of the driving: we were stopped 9 times by police checkpoints, and fined three times: that's just Gordon and me in the Mustang.  Every other one of the classic cars was stopped and fined for something, including one for not having a fire extinguisher.  I didn't realise driving here hewed to Category One offshore rules.  Basically it's a squeeze on anyone who looks like tourists, and it's either a direct cash payment to the cops, or a higher payment with receipts... in the range 15-20 US $ per.  Our fines were: Gordon 56 in 50 zone, crossing white line and me 89 in 90 zone (don't ask....).

Car damage report: the Triumph TR4, clutch problem stuck in 3-4 gear, having to drive into town without stopping, making left turns instead of coming to rest; Dave's Merc alternator blew; our Mustang, another flat tyre.  All fixed.

And so the drive this morning to here to Dar es Salaam, the Southern Sun Hotel, where I'm sitting in the lobby blogging this, waiting for the others to arrive, and for the bus to then take us to the ferry for Zanzibar, where we're going to spend two nights with cars remaining here at the hotel.

Photos later (it takes aaaages to upload on these African connections).

Thursday, 15 September 2011

To Mpika.... and Mutti's birthday

Tomorrow, we do the longest drive of the rally: 734km to Mpika in Northern Zambia, where we try out our own tent for the first time.  Going to be fun (not) trying to get Gordon and me to fit in...
It's also my Mum's ("Mutti") 90th birthday: Happy Birthday Mutti!
Piccie of Peter and Mutti, 3 Nov 09, at the Melbourne Cup do at the Marina Club Hong Kong...
Peter and Mutti, Melbourne Cup in Hong Kong, '09

Cape to Cairenes II

Update 19th September (see bottom of post)
Val and Ian Gallagher, Nata Lodge, Botswana, 10 Sep
Val and Ian are Namibians from Windhoek.  Originally from Ireland, they've been in Namibia for 20 years, in the construction and real estate business.  They have only recently become involved in classic cars.  Their 1968 MGB GT, in traditional British Racing Green, is lovely, but's given some problems along the way: first a burst gasket, fixed in Springbok, SA, then blown clutch near Windhoek, Namibia.  The clutch fix needed the engine taken out overnight, with great help from Walter, travelling with one of the Mercedes.  After herculean effort, they got it done and managed to catch up with us in Hwange, two days ago.  Great job guys!
Ian at the Kariba Dam Ferry, 13 Sept

Ian gets down and dirty in Windhoek: in the engine bay of the B...
Update 19th September: Val has asked me to post a couple of pictures of Frankie at a garage in Mbeya, who gave them a very good lesson in geography, on Africa, England and Italy, written in the sand. 
Ian, Frankie and welders, fix the muffler
"The car may not make it to Cairo, but the muffler will" says Ian

Catch-up photos

Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
From 2 days ago at Hwange Game Park, Zimbawe's largest, at 1,000 sq km.
06:00 am on the trail of game:
Jacki, David and Debbie in front, Gordon, Sandi and Chris
Lazarus, top game spotter
The obligatory elephant shot: there were over 100 right at the Lodge

Zebra with fork-tailed finches