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At home in Egypt

Luxor was like diving into another world. The city and the surroundings offer stunning sights. Our favorite sights were the very well preserved temples (e.g. Karnak, etc.) as well as the tombs with beautiful wall paintings (Tutankhamun) in the Valley of the Kings. The absolute highlight was a hot-air balloon flight at sunrise over the Valley of the Kings and Hatschepsud temple for reasonable 350 LE (approx. 40 Euro).

However Luxor is a place full of contrasts. The locals try to surround their beautiful sights with as much noise as possible. Not only the muezzins warble the entire day from oversized loud speakers but also local oriental music entertains the entire city. You cannot escape. Since the tourism declined, an endless number of Nile cruisers are just waiting deserted on the river side. And the little numbers of tourists who are still in Luxor are chased by the locals.

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Luckily we met the tour guide Tony from Dragoman Overlanders in our Rezeiky camp. The Overlanders are a group of 20 travelers and drive the route Cairo – Cape Town in their small lorry. Tony was kind enough to submit our passports and Sudan visa forms at the Sudan consulate in Assuan. This gave us extra time in Luxor and especially facilitated our visa application process enormously. It usually takes a minimum of seven days.

After four days Luxor we drove to Aswan to get the ferry ticket and our Sudan visa. On the way we visited the temple “Horus” which is the best preserved temple in Egypt. In Aswan we stayed at the Isis hotel directly at the Nile river. That was peaceful and quiet. The next morning we coincidently met our motor bike friends, Susi, Mark and Tom again at the Nile Valley Cooperation. We saw them the last time in Little Petra in Jordan. Small World! We were very happy to see them and had to share a lot of experiences and stories. In order to get the ferry ticket we needed a police statement from the traffic court first. That confirms that we did not cause any accident and followed all traffic rules (which rules?) in Egypt. However when we got back to the Nile Valley Cooperation Mr. Salah told us that the “Pontoon” (our car has to go on that to Sudan) is still in Wadi Haifa (Sudan) and we shall come back tomorrow because “Inshallah” he might find a solution for our problem. Of course when we got there the next morning there was “Inshallah” still no solution and we had to come back on Saturday one week later! At least we finally got the Sudan Visa on that day after waiting at the Sudan consulate for five hours.

Up until today there is only a ferry connection between Egypt and Sudan at a very high price (online or pre-bookings are not possible). Even though a connecting street is almost finished (only 10 km have been missing for a while!), the two countries cannot find an agreement. However a street connection would also mean that the ferry company would not make any money anymore!

In order not to waste our time in Aswan we spontaneously drove to Marsa Alam at the Red Sea for snorkeling and diving. We spent our time at the diving spot Beach Safari Camp (GPS coordinates N25 11.767 E34 49.009).  It was beautiful but windy and chilly. On Friday the 25th of November we drove back to Aswan and booked ourselves a very nice hotel room at the Philae Hotel (GPS coordinates N24 05.357 E32 53.668). The hotel is lovely, has a beautiful view and is very clean and neat. In the afternoon the hotel owner invited us to a barbeque at his property directly at the Nile river. It was great for us to see a different site from Egypt.

And the next morning on the 26th of November – same game! We went to the Nile Valley Cooperation and Mr. Salah told us immediately that this time the pantoon crashed on the way to Aswan and can only be repaired in three days because there are public holidays in Egypt (again!). However we shall come back tomorrow and “inshallah” he will find a solution. The overlander lorry including Tom, the driver, also got stuck in Aswan (their 20 travelers took a ferry one week earlier). It was possible for Tom to put a lot of pressure on the ferry company because they are doing this tour all the time and make a lot of business with them. And what a surprise, all of a sudden the next morning (on the 27th of November) there was a slight change in the situation. Mr. Salah all of a sudden told us (after he sent us back again for a few hours) that there is a third pontoon, that is smaller and can take our cars tomorrow. What a nightmare!

We will tell you more about the ferry ride in our next blog….”Inshallah”…

Our impressions about Egypt

After four weeks of driving through Egypt we are slowly feeling like being at home. Suddenly we do not measure the locals with European expectations anymore. We do not want to improve everything because we know how it works. No, we only want to flow with this huge mass of people, odours and noises. We are even able to continue sleeping next to the noisy “chanting” of the muezzins at 04.30 h in the morning. Additionally we are well aware that we always play at least the double of the price compared to the locals and we just tolerate it with a smile.

The 80 million Egyptians have to go through a hard time at the moment. Since the revolution the tourism (which is a main source of income for the economy) has dropped enormously. At the same time the cost of living went up a lot. In addition the political and the legal environment became very unclear and insecure. On one hand we are lucky that we do not need to share the beautiful country with a lot of other tourists, however on the other hand we realize that the people are desperately looking for visitors to sell their services – to be honest, most of them just got on our nerves.

Interesting is the development of the two major groups in Egypt. There are the Muslims on the one hand. Since September 11th they have been able in general to strengthen their power and since the revolution in particular. On the other hand there are the Christian Coptic’s. For them life is getting more and more difficult. We talked to a few of them and they are really scared of the future.  For most of them they don’t see any Future in Egypt.

We travelled through a country that used to live under a dictatorship for decades and is now going through a big change. No one knows what the future is going to be.

Our Highlights:

  • The beautiful temples of Luxor (Karnak, etc.) and the Valley of the Kings
  • A hot air balloon flight  over Luxor’s sights
  • The very well preserved Horus temple
  • The challenging Sudan ferry booking and long waiting period
  • Snorkeling in Marsa Alam, Red Sea

Who wants to win a personal post card from Sudan?

Please write a funny comment under these blog.  The most hilarious answer will win and will get a personal post card (as funny as the email is) from us. We will inform the winner via email and we then just need the postal address.

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Visiting the Pharaoh

In summary we can say that driving in Egypt is like playing „Tetris“ in the street. There are no rules. Everyone drives the way he feels like and the winner is the biggest or the loudest car. A four line street is made to a six line street and vehicles drive only centimeters apart from each other. The traffic is packed with busses (always stopping somewhere), donkey wagons and millions of cars and motorbikes. But now one by one…

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We booked a hotel room at the May Fair Hotel (GPS coordinates N30 03.565 E31 13.261) in Zamalek in located in the middle of the embassy quarter in Cairo. Very early next morning we went confidently and full of energy to the embassies in order to get the visas for Sudan and Ethiopia. When we arrived there the doors were closed and no one was working. Great! Not only Israel seems to have lots of public holidays but also Egypt. Or maybe it is us? Do we attract all the public holidays in the region? Because of the “Feast of Sacrifice” public holidays the Sudan embassy (GPS coordinates N30 02.371 E31 14.050) was closed for the entire week. The Ethiopia embassy (GPS coordinates N30 02.398 E31 12.279) for four days and the German embassy (for our Ethiopian recommendation letter) for two days (GPS coordinates N30 03.301 E31 13.134). What shall we do now? We decided spontaneously to stay in Cairo for four days for the Ethiopia visa and to get the Sudan visa later in Assuan at the consulate. We wanted to discover the city, museums and the surrounding areas instead for the next days.

We went to the great pyramids of Giza on the same day. Before we left we walked along the streets in Cairo and watched the “Feast of Sacrifice” spectacle. The Feast of Sacrifice holidays are the highest Islamic public holidays and religious Muslims have to sacrifice an animal.  Therefore the anyway overcrowded city was additionally packed with sheeps, goats and cows standing at the roadside and all waiting to be killed. The animals were slaughtered one by one in the quite dirty streets in front of sightseers or people who wanted to buy meet. Blood flowed in streams down the roads. We don’t want to go into more details with regards to our vegetarian friends (Viktoria has not touched any meet since).

The Giza pyramids were a great experience, disregarding the annoying people who were trying to sell anything. We could not walk for two meters and felt like being persecuted all the time.

Unfortunately luck was not on our side on that day. Somebody broke into our hotel room in the evening while we were working on our computers in the hotel lobby. Our computer tablet and some cash money got stolen. Pity! We were very down at the beginning however that did not take very long. TIA (this is Africa). We heard from locals that the police have not been doing their job properly anymore since the revolution in Egypt and the crime is gradually increasing.

The next day we drove to Sakkara to see the step pyramid and the fascinating chamber tombs including the very well kept reliefs. The streets were almost empty, therefore relatively easy to drive. The public holidays must have at least one advantage for us!

The next days in Cairo we visited the Egyptian Museum and the Bazar El Kalili. The Egyptian Museum is packed with the most beautiful pieces of art from several epochs. Even though the presentation is very poor, the museum is a highlight.

Finally on Thursday, the 10th of November we received the Ethiopia visa within a record time of three hours. As it usually takes a minimum of one day we were asking the responsible person very nicely – and it worked. At noon we were back on the road again towards Al Fayyum to go to the desert freshwater lakes and to Wadi El Hitan. The vastness, cleanliness and silence of the desert were such a pleasure after buzzing Cairo. We were very impressed by finding very well kept whale and dinosaur bones in the middle of the dessert Wadi El Hitan. The Campsite is directly at the entrance of Wadi El Hitan  (GPS coordinates N29 15.842 E30 01.351). Nevertheless we spent the night at one of the lakes under the stars with pure enjoyable silence. From there we drove straight through the desert to the oasis Bawiti. The 60 km off-road driving is a dream not only for us but also for every off-road driver. In Bawiti we stayed at the Eden Garden Camp  (GPS coordinates N28 18.060 E28 56.393). It was a friendly, nice and clean place to stay. The oasis was very special because of the hot springs. Pleasingly hot mineral water bubbled everywhere – perfect to put the feed in or to take a relaxing bath.

On the way to the White Desert Julian took a bath in one of the oasis pump stations that was surrounded by an amazing desert panorama (GPS coordinates N28 02.057 E28 42.541). After the short bathing break we continued our way to the White Desert. The White Desert is outstandingly beautiful. Like an unreal dream is everything covered in pure unbelievably bright white. We have not seen something like that before. Our photos give a slight impression. In the middle of this white beauty we stayed in our favorite hotel “under the thousand stars” and enjoyed pesto, pasta, beer and campfire (GPS coordinates N27 15.764 E28 11.693). The next morning we continued our way to Luxor via the oasis Al-Farafra, Abu Minqar, Mut, Bala and Kharga. In Luxor we booked ourselves a hotel room at the Rezeiky Camp. (GPS Koordinaten N25 42.683 E32 38.919). This is an overlander hotspot with secure parking.

At this place we would like to mention that we are using the open street maps for Garmin for the Tracks4Africa. These two maps are a perfect combination for navigating. There are only some difficulties in Cairo when it comes to 3 streets on top of each other.

And further stories in our next blog…..

Our Highlights:

  • The “Feast of Sacrifice” spectacle in Cairo
  • The chaotic traffic in Cairo
  • The impressive sights of Cairo and surrounded areas.
  • The beautiful Al Fayyum freshwater lakes und the impressive wale bones in Wadi El Hitan
  • The outstandingly beautiful white desert

Follow our route on Google Maps

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From Asia to Africa

After we managed to finally board in Aqaba at 01:30 h in the morning, we had to go immediately on the ferry through the Egyptian pass control. Luckily an employee offered us to stay at the VIP lounge for the night. Great! This was such a relieve because the economy class was overbooked, loud and very smelly. Therefore we spent the night peacefully sleeping on white comfortable leather sofas. When we woke up in the morning we were already in Nuweiba. We only realized few days ago when we were reading the newspapers that we were even luckier. The ferry we took from Aqaba to Nuweiba caught fire in the boot only one week later. Almost no one got heart however our beautiful Toyota Landcruiser would have surely been damaged badly.

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The Egyptian border is very well known for making troubles. However our entry was relatively stress free.  A so called Tourist Police officer supported us with all administrative duties like entry form, insurance, customs paper and other forms. After one hour and paying 1200 LE (approx. 150 Euro) we were already out of the harbor. The first stop was again a petrol station. We could not believe that we only had to pay 0,19 Euro per liter diesel. From there we followed a travel guide recommendation and drove directly to the beach resort “Soft Beach” in Nuweiba (GPS coordinates N29.02283 E34.67382). And indeed it was good: clean, nice beaches and delicious food for little money. They even had internet, therefore the perfect place for us to get all important things done and organized for the next few days/weeks.

After spending four days at the sunny beach with delicious food and a lot of work on the computer we drove to Catherine Monastery on the 2nd of November. On the way we passed several police and military checkpoints without any problems. We left out the off-road tours through the White Wadi, because we did plenty off-road driving in Jordan.  We stopped directly at the Catherine Monastery. Katherine’s Monastery (GPS coordinates: 28° 33′ 21″ N, 33° 58′ 32″ O) has an altitude of 1500 meters and was established between the 548 and 565 century. The monastery today is run by Christian orthodox. Only some parts of the monastery are open for public.

We booked ourselves into the Farag Fox Camp (GPS Coordinates 28º33,85689’N, 33º57,50381’E) which is run by Bedouin’s. We can only recommend this place: beautifully situated, friendly people and interesting conversations at the fire place. In the afternoon the Bedouin’s included us in a medical camel treatment procedure. The general medicine did not work for this camel therefore the Bedouin’s used their traditional remedies. Firstly they cleaned the tongue with a cloth and a stone and then the entire mouth was rubbed with salt. At the end the camel was brand marked deeply three times on head and neck with a burning iron stick. The camel was totally fine with the torture remedy and felt better immediately – unbelievable.

On the 3rd of November 2011 early in the morning at 02:00 am we left for Moses Mountain together with a guide in order to watch the sunrise in the desert mountains.  The night was freezing cold. When we left the bright village behind us we were surrounded just by darkness, silence and an unbelievable starry sky. We started the tour on a deserted path that is only used by locals during the day – therefore far away from big tourist groups. Unfortunately our deserted path was linked together with the Catherine Monastery path the last 750 steps. And here you go, there were the masses of tourists climbing up with slippery shoes and improper equipment. No wonder that we could only do the rest of our tour very slowly like in snail paste. Nevertheless climbing up Moses Mountain was worthwhile because the first light of a rising sun is magical. And so were the photos we took.

An exceptionally beautiful and unusual house directly next to our Bedouin camp caught our attention when we arrived. The owner of this house is a German guy called Cosmos. Cosmos, a former Beuys-student walked all the way with his wife Irma and two donkeys from Cologne (Germany) to Jerusalem (Israel) and finally to Catherine’s Monastery (Egypt). It took them 10 years from 1997 to 2007!  Next to the Bedouin camp beautifully situated they decided in 2007 to settle down and to build a house. He told us his amazing story in the afternoon while we were filming him. Please see also his interesting story on his website: cosmos-damian-factory.org

Later in the afternoon we also interviewed Dr. Hilary Gilbert. She is the founder of the South Sinai Foundation and she told us about her work and her daily challenges.  The South Sinai Foundation helps to improve the life and status of the Bedouin’s with small development projects. Her projects include: education, health, sustainable development and job creation, conservation of environment and heritage.  Please see more information on her website www.southsinaifoundation.org

On the 4th of November in the morning we left our Bedouin Camp and drove towards Cairo. We spent the night in the dessert in our roof tent because the only camp ground in this area resembled rather a rubbish dump. We arrived in Cairo the next morning after passing again thousands of police and military checkpoints. In Egypt there are always two checkpoints in each village or military institution (at the beginning and at the end). Luckily we could continue immediately as soon as the police officers realized that we are German nationals. We wanted to go to Cairo in order to get the Sudan and Ethiopia visa as well as confirmations from the German Embassy. Therefore we stayed at the “May Fair Hotel” right in the middle of the embassy area in Cairo. The Hotel is neat and clean (for Egyptian standards) (GPS coordiantes: N30.05941 E31.22102) .

And further stories in our next blog that will come soon….

Our Highlights:

  • Pleasant ferry ride in the VIP lounge und stress-free entry to Egypt
  • Busy working days at a beautiful beach in Sinai
  • Traditional Bedouin Camel remedy
  • Climbing up mount Sinai
  • Interview with Cosmos. A German who walked with two donkeys from Cologne to Jerusalem
  • Interview with Hilary. Founder of the South Sinai Foundation
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Welcome to Middle East

Getting out of the strict organization, out of security controls and getting into the orient. Bargaining, hawker’s on the highway, men with long robes, women with scarfs, luxury limousines parking next to goats, people living with goats, donkeys, camels and at the same time many luxury hotels and resorts. Hospitable, friendly and honest habitants. Diving into a fascinating country with a vast variety of contrast’s.

On the 23rd of October early in the morning we crossed the border to Jordan. The Israel departure was easy, without any troubles. We handed in the custom papers, paid 100 Shekel (approx.. 20 €) and after 15 minutes we already left Israel.

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In Jordan we went through passport controls and got vehicle insurance for one week (24 JHD, approx. 25 €). We couldn’t trust our eyes, after 20 minutes we were in Jordan! That was so relaxing after the challenging arrival at Israel port 10 days earlier. GPS’s are not allowed to bring to Jordan. Therefore we did not have one and asked people to find our way to Aqaba. Because we did not bring maps either. The first thing we did was looking for a petrol station because diesel in Jordan costs only 0,51 JHD (approx.. 0,53 Euro). It is pure pleasure filling up our tanks in Jordan with this price (we have two tanks, altogether 220 liter!).

We drove directly to Petra from Aqaba and arrived at the Ammarin Bedouin Camp in the afternoon. The Ammarin Bedouin Camp is beautifully situated in the middle of bizarrely shaped rocks. These present a fascinating landscape (GPS coordinates N30°22.912′ E35°27.032′). We can only recommend this marvelous place: friendly Bedouins, clean bathrooms and an incredible silence. Far away from muttering generators (camping in Israel), aircraft noises (camping in Eilat) or lovely Muezzins next door, that get you out of bed with an incredible shock early in the morning. No smelly garbage’s next to our roof tent and especially no one that looks at us as we were from another planet. We just enjoyed ourselves at this place for 3 nights.

As we really had a tough program in Israel, it was time to relax for one day on the 24th of October. So, we had a good night sleep, run some errands and did some sightseeing in Little Petra in the afternoon, which is also a charming place. In Little Petra we bumped into Tom and Susi. Small world, we met Tom in Venice at the campground two weeks earlier and Marc, who also belongs to their group, in Wadi Musa just few hours earlier. The three of them are also on their way to South Africa with their motor bikes. Their blogs are under 321offroad.com. We had a lot to share (routes, tours, experiences, etc.) and we got stuck at a Bedouin tea place in the middle of the rocks in Little Petra. Back at our Ammarin Bedouin camp, we were sitting at the fire place and talking to the guides in the evening. They told us that apparently the unstable situation in Syria, Egypt and Libya affects the tourisms in Jordan very badly. At least the Bedouin Camp was almost empty when we were there. Good for us but bad for the Bedouin business. Apart from the sightseeing highlight Petra we did not see many tourists either.

After a freezing cold night we visited Petra on the 25th of October during the day. Firstly we were a bit shocked by the entrance fees (55 Euro each); however we must admit that every cent was worthwhile to spend. We have not seen anything comparable yet (and we both have been travelling a lot). Even the Acropolis seems to be insignificant compared to Petra. It is unbelievable that almost 100 000 people used to live there in the old days. Disregarding the masses of tourists and the locals that are trying to sell something, Petra is a magical place. The contrasts between the rugged landscapes and the partly very well kept buildings that are mostly chopped out of stones, make you feel like diving into another world and time zone. The local Bedouins still live in Petra’s rock caves. During the day they are trying everything to convince the tourists using their means of transportation (horses, donkeys, camels). One guy called his super speed donkey Ferrari und was quite successful with it.

Back at our Ammarin Bedouin Camp at the fire place in the evening, we talked to two tour guides from Amman. The two of them are a perfect address for outdoor equipment, tips and information about outdoor vehicle equipment and Jordan. The  address is No1 4×4 8, Salim  Bin Al-Harath Al Bayader Industrial Area. Arman. Tel. 06-581-6174. E-mail no14x4@gmail.com.

On the 26th of October early in the morning we drove from Petra to Wadi Rum for off-road driving. Finally deep sand, finally wild camping, finally campfire. The people at the visitor center in Wadi Rum welcomed us friendly. Entrance fee per person 5 JHD and  20 JHD for our car (altogether approx. 33 Euro). The price included one dinner at the Bedouin camp and breakfast. However we preferred to cook by ourselves in the wilderness. Therefore we went immediately towards east in deep sand. Wadi Rum is a mixture of rugged mountains, deep canyons and in between high sand dunes. The nature offered spectacular sceneries that changed every few minutes even more beautifully while we were driving.

Lawrence from Arabia lived here for a long time and described the landscape fascinatingly.

The significant feature of the desert is not the vastness, the bright sunlight or the sparkling stars. But the significant feature is the dead silence. Nothing, quietness, no bird, no cracking, not even the slightest noise. Like that we spent the first night at the campfire in a siq (canyon). The temperature went from 30°C during the day down to 7°C.

27. 10. 2011. Viktoria got her first lesson in deep sand driving and she managed well. Dune’s up and down almost without any problems.  The Toyota also managed very well. We don’t have any troubles with the car so far apart from a small battery management problem from Sterling. It stops working from time to time and is not charging the second battery properly. Hopefully the problem will be solved soon.

After five hours and over 60 kilometers of driving through fascinating landscapes and sceneries we stopped at a huge mountain with a beautiful view for our place for the night. This place was a bit livelier then the one yesterday because we got some visits from local Bedouin’s – with camel, without camels with jeeps or with desert hunting dogs. All of them were very pleasant and accommodating. We opened a bottle of champagne (we brought with from Germany) and had it for sundowner. What a perfect day!

At this stage we would like to highlight that we were always welcomed very friendly and accommodating in Jordan. We felt from the first moment until the departure very comfortable.

On the 28th of October 2011 early in the morning we had to say good bye to our small paradise Wadi Rum in order to go back to Aqaba. We arrived at noon and bought immediately the tickets at the AB office in the center of Aqaba (GPS coordinates: N 29`31,7951 E 35`0,393975) for the ferry to Nuweiba, Sinai-Egypt. Departure of the ferry 18:00 h and 16:00 h arrival at the Aqaba port for check-in.  Great, what a fantastic time, we thought! In order to keep us updated we needed to look for a pace to get internet access. The Mövenpick Hotel in Aqaba was kind enough to give us free internet in their hotel lobby. Sitting at the hotel lobby we felt like in another world, far away from the backpacker and outdoor scene. Deep frozen up to our bones because of the freezing cold Mövenpick Hotel aircon and after three hours of hard computer work we went back to the turmoil and crush of Aqaba.  Sharp at 16:00 h we were at Aqaba port however nobody was working there at the check-in. The departure of the ferry was all of a sudden postponed to 23:00 h or maybe 01:00 h in the morning inshallah. At the end we drove with our car on the ferry at 01:30 h and the ferry left almost on time (with 9 hours delay) at 03:00 h in the morning. This was a first sign that we were getting closer to Africa. At the Aqaba ferry terminal was a big mess of people with huge luggage’s yelling  at each other and having big arguments. The whole of Aqaba city (as also is Eilat in Israel) is a duty free zone. Therefore it seemed (at least we had the impression) that the entire middle east shopped in Aqaba and used the ferries. The incredible big pieces of luggage could never be carried by one person alone. Therefore there were big empty lorries for carrying the luggage on the ferry. However the people had to fight for a space for their luggage on the lorries. What a disaster and mess… Therefore all the yelling and arguments.

We will tell more about the ferry trip in our next blog.

Altogether we can say that Jordan is an absolute fascinating country. Everyone should go there once in their life.

Our highlights were:

  • The unspectacular entry to Jordan
  • Beautiful, fascinating landscapes and sights in Petra and Wadi Rum
  • Off road driving in Wadi Rum’s deep sand
  • Wild camping in dead silence and under the stars of Wadi Rum
  • Very friendly helpful and open minded people
  • Chaotic situation at the Aqaba ferry terminal
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Driving through Holy Land

From Ashdod via Tel Aviv, Rosh Hanikra, Kafar Haruf, Ein Gev, Banias (Jordan Springs), Jerusalem, En Gedi, Mizpe Ramon to Eilat.

Looking back to our first week in Israel two things were remarkable for us. Firstly: apparently there are only public holidays and Shabbat days in Israel (or maybe we just were there at the wrong time). Secondly: The people in Israel appear to be insensitive to noises as well as they love to be continuously surrounded by loud music. You can also tell because they bring their muttering generators to the campsites.

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Now one by one: We arrived on the 13th of October in Ashdod and it was a public holiday. Nobody was working and the entire port was deserted. At least the ladies and gentlemen from the immigration and police came to our cargo ship and examined us for hours. However at the end they told us that we are not able to leave the ship at least for another day not even without our car. We were not suffering too much to stay for another day because the ship has become some kind of home for us after one week. So we stayed on the ship together with the crew.

The next morning we drove happily and energetically with our car from the ship, but we were stopped at the customs all of a sudden.” Sorry, no one is working today because it is Friday, there was a public holiday yesterday and there is Shabbat tomorrow.” Great, we had to leave the car at the port for another two days. So we decided spontaneously to take the bus from Ashdod to Tel Aviv because we did not want to stay any longer in our new home. The bus drive was very pleasant however the bus terminal in Tel Aviv was just a mess. Tel Aviv has the worst bus terminal that has ever been created by a human being! We walked the last 4 km to Old Jaffa because we did not want to stay any minute longer in this disgusting building. Luckily we still got a room in the Old Jaffa Hostel. It is nicely situated next to the old Jaffa market and has a lovely terrace. In the afternoon we visited our cargo ship companions Tessa and Giora in their beautiful house in Old Jaffa. They have a fantastic terrace overlooking Tel Aviv and a view to the mountains of Jerusalem. When we were visiting them we realized that we will miss their daily stories about their life and their time in Israel.

Tel Aviv is a wonderful city and we really enjoyed ourselves. Nonetheless we had to get out our car from the port in Ashdod. Therefore, we were heading off to our agency Grimaldi Lines in Ashdod (Alaluv, GPS Koordinaten N 31,827 E 34,653) on the 16th of October very early in the morning. To get our car out of the customs we needed insurance for the car. So we tried for about two hours unsuccessfully getting the insurance. Unfortunately all insurance employees were on vacation because of the public holiday week. Before we were almost giving up, our agency recommended us to take some kind of a customs helper. His name was Chacho. Chacho was expensive (80 Euro!) however we really needed him because without him we would still be sitting at the port in Ashdod. Via his connections we got a vehicle insurance for one month within short. In addition he escorted us smoothly through all administrational port duties, e.g. customs, port agent, security, police, etc. etc. He even approached the managing director of the Ashdod port in order to convince him to get one last stamp for our departure. Unfortunately the responsible person for that only worked until 14:00 h because of the public holiday week! Finally at 17:30 h after another detailed check of our car we got out of the port.  At this place a big thank you to Chacho. Whenever someone needs support at the Ashod port with a vehicle, we really recommend getting in touch with Chacho no: +972-507206901.

As it was already pitch dark at 17:30 h in Israel we decided to drive to a campsite north of Tel Aviv. It was beautifully situated directly at the see (Yanai Beach Campsite N 32,3875 E 34,8644).

In between just a quick note to the camping situation in Israel: Campers in Israel drive to the nature with minimum 20 plastic bags, foam mattresses and a generator. At their arrival the first thing they do is to put a plastic cover on the existing tables and turn on their muttering generators for their home fridge they brought with. Not to forget to switch on local music and bright halogen lights. Apparently only one type of camping tent in different sizes exists in Israel because every single one looks the same. No wonder that we were the center of happening with our car tent attached to our roof whenever we arrived at the camp grounds. People came to us and were asking astonishingly and even took photos from us and the spectacular car with the roof tent. We almost had the feeling that the people had never seen this kind of car roof tent before and we felt very exotic. However we had very nice conversations with the people. Surely we will not create any clichés , but camping in Israel is totally different to Europe or Africa.

Coming back to our trip we continued our journey to the north of Israel right at the Lebanon border. In Kfar Rosch HaNikra we took the cable car for 250 meters in order to see the caves at the chalk rocks. From there we went to the national park at the Sea of Galilee. We stayed one night in Ein Gev (this place is not recommendable – a lot of garbage and not very nice). The next day we drove to the Golan Hights to the Jordan springs in the northeast of Israel. Ein Panias is a wonderful place and was founded by the Greeks. There is one of the three Jordan springs that joins together with the two other springs and forms the Jordan River. The water pours in huge quantities just from the ground and is collected in antique water basins. After our sightseeing tour, we camped close to Ein Panias on a lovely camping ground directly at the Jordan river. (GPS Koordinaten N 33,2227 E 35,6118).

As we both knew Jerusalem already and it was impossible to get accommodations right at the spot (because of another public holiday at our arrival as well as Shabbat two days later) we decided spontaneously to skip Jerusalem and go directly to En Gedi.  We stayed directly at the dead see. And again, as soon as we arrived people came to us from all directions and asked us about our tent and our tour. We had some interesting conversations.

On the way to Eilat we stopped at the big crater at Negev desert in Mispe Ramon. It was really worthwhile to see. Especially our Toyota got the first time a sandy off-road tour. The night was freezing cold and windy; therefore we were heading off the next day to Eilat. Eilat is right in the South of Israel and reminds a little bit of Miami style beaches with tons of tourists. On the next day we were heading off to the Jordan border.

Altogether we can say that we really enjoyed travelling through Israel.

The highlights of our Israel-Tour were:

  • The challenging arrival at the port in Ashdod
  • Passionate, interested und helpful people
  • Beautiful landscapes
  • Short Distances (Israel is really small)

The travel blog from  Tanja und Cederic from Israel. (In German only)

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A boat trip is funny a boat trip is beautiful…

Start of our journey in Stuttgart over the Alps to Venice. Then in Monfalcone on a cargo ship via Cypress to Israel. Or the question, why on earth do we have to go half around the world?

Rudyard Kilping said once: “There are two kinds of men and woman: Those who stay at home. Or the others.” The last couple of days before our departure we have asked ourselves very often: should we just have stayed at home? Is such a journey all the pressure, hard work and travel preparations really worthwhile? However just one week later we can only say, yes it is! We are getting the confirmation every day, every minute and by each new experience.

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Looking back: We left Stuttgart to our first destination Italy on the 1st of October as planned. Fully packed we drove over the Alps to South Tirol, Italy. There we spent some wonderful days.  We continued our journey to Venice on the 5th of October.  In Venice we met the Swiss couple Tanja and Cederic. They are also on their way to Cape Town. www.sanduku.ch (in Germany only).

The two days in Venice could have been some kind of romantic and very beautiful. However the thousands and thousands of American, Asians and other tourists were a little bit disturbing.

On the 7th of October we drove to Monfalcone, which is about 130 km away from Venice, in order to catch our cargo ship. The day started with a freezing rain and the temperature dropped enormously.   We drove in convoy with Tanja and Cederic and had to fight with heavy almost tropical rain. Monalfcone is very well known for their large shipyards. That might be the reason why we got frightening easily through the customs and directly on our cargo ship “Spees” (belongs to the Grimaldi Group).

Just a short additional note regarding travelling on cargo ships: Cargo ships should not be mixed up with ferries or cruise ships. In the earlier days it was possible to work on a cargo ship in order to discover the world easily and reasonably cheap. Nowadays this is almost impossible anymore because the crew has been reduced. Because of the satellite navigation and global data communication limited numbers of people are required.  And instead of leaving the cabin’s empty, the cargo ships sell them to travellers.  But the travellers cannot really be considered as guests, but as additional crew people on the boat without duties.

Apart from our two Toyota Landcruiser’s there are another 3300 brand new cars on the ship as well as other passengers. For example there are Tessa and Giora. She is originally from England and he from Israel and they have been married for 50 years. The couple is not on the boat in order to experience an exciting journey on a cargo ship. No, Tessa has decided when she was 25 years old that she will never enter a plane again. Therefore we got a lot of exciting and funny travel stories far away from airports and jetset. For example Tessa and Giora travelled ones from Hong Kong to San Francisco on a cargo ship for 3 weeks. It would have been a beautiful journey, but the ship was covered in fog all the way. They were not even able to see the railing on the boat. We really enjoyed the lunches and dinners because of the exciting and interesting conversations with them. We learned a lot about Israel, about their time at a Kibbuz, about political difficulties and about the change that continuously takes place.

Another passenger on board was Daniel. He is living in Bern, Switzerland, is Freelancer and a master of the art of living. He is travelling with his Mitsubishi including a trailer packed with motor bike parts. He developed the project “Rider 4 Africa” and is on his way to Kairo where he will put together the motor bikes. The bikes can be booked from Kairo to Swaziland by motorbike drivers and when they have reached Swaziland the bikes will be given to the “Red Cross” as a present.

We were on the boat altogether for six days. We were passing the Cyclades, Greece and were in Limassol, Cypress for a very short time before we went on the last 12 hours tour to Ashdod, Israel.

During our journey we had a lot of time to relax and recover because we were restricted to a radius of 150 m. That is not a lot of space for doing something. Also the ship was swaying us into drowsiness and it was difficult to break out of it.

Luckily we had a lot of Time. Time for thoughts, time for sound ideas as well as for long and interesting conversations. Far away from internet and mobile access you all of a sudden discover again things that usually get lost in a busy daily life. And maybe this is the purpose of such a journey – going into yourself and focus on your inner values. In addition, liberating yourself from daily worries and sorrows and having time again to tell and listen to stories and thoughts.

Tomorrow we have to go through the notorious customs in Israel and will report about it in our next blog.

Highlights:

  • To travel as a passenger on a cargo ship.
  • To be swayed into sleep on evenings and afternoons.
  • To have wonderful meals three times a day.
  • To have plenty of time for thoughts, sound ideas and good conversations.
  • To deal easily without any access to mobile and internet.
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African Air

Flying in a motorized paraglider over one of the most diverse continents in the world, George Steinmetz captures the stunning beauty of Africa’s landscapes and people. His pictures show not only the spectacular patterns of the land, but also the potential and hope that the continent encompasses. In „African Air“, Steinmetz captures stunning panoramas in more than fourteen countries in Africa, giving readers captivating and intimate views of areas that have rarely, if ever before, been photographed. From densely packed urban centres to small, remote villages, from migrating herds of wildebeests and elephants to infinite miles of desert, „African Air“ is a compelling testament and celebration of the majesty and splendour of Africa’s most breathtaking landscapes. With extraordinary vision and a unique perspective, Steinmetz portrays sky, land and water in ways that have never been expressed before.

Flying in a motorized paraglider over one of the most diverse continents in the world, George Steinmetz captures in his photographs the stunning beauty, potential and hope of Africa’s landscapes and people. See the project at http://mediastorm.com/publication/african-air


George Steinmetz
ist ein amerikanischer Naturfotograf. Für seine Fotografie erhielt er den Pictures of the Year, vom Overseas Press Club und den Life Magazine’s Alfred Eisenstaedt Awards. 1995 und 1998 erhielt er darüber hinaus den ersten Preis in den Rubriken Wissenschaft und Technologie von World Press Photo. Neben National Geographic arbeitet er für Architectural Digest, Condé Nast Traveler, GEO und Stern. Er lebt mit seiner Frau, der Journalistin Lisa Bannon, und seinen drei Kindern in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. Er ist insbesondere für seien Luftaufnahmen mit einem motorisierten Gleitschirm bekannt.

Die Webseite von George Steinmetz
Das Buch bei von George Steinmetz

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Focus Africa (English)

The adventure tour FOCUS AFRICA begins in Germany and continues all the way to Namibia/South Africa.  Throughout the ten-month, twenty-country adventure, we will report on best practice development projects and the interesting people involved in those projects, as well as Africa’s enchanting and mesmerizing landscapes and sceneries.

Our intent is to highlight the brave efforts of the many people, as well as their rich and diverse cultural backgrounds, who are actively working on development projects throughout the African continent.  We aim to demonstrate that best practice development projects lead to sustainable success that enable the African people to not only acquire the dignity that comes through self-sufficiency, but also to raise their standard of living.

Status quo

Most Europeans believe that Africa is a highly under-developed, fractured, war-torn, and politically unstable continent.  This is not surprising as the mainstream media only reports about the negative circumstances that occur from time to time.  As the old adage goes “bad news is good news” and bad news sells.

We believe, however, there are plenty of positive and noteworthy examples from various African countries that deserve media attention.  Many of these examples stem from development projects that are conducted with a variety of local and international assistance.

As such, the tour dubbed FOCUS AFRICA can be considered as a mediator. We are focusing on creative projects and courageous people who persist and survive under desperate conditions—ultimately creating a higher quality of life for the African peoples.

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To make development aid visible

In general, people are only informed superficially about African development and emergency aid, largely because Africa does not command attention on the world’s stage other than high profile crises that further perpetuate the perception that Africa is under-developed and volatile.

FOCUS AFRICA will endeavor to see “behind the curtain” by getting in touch directly with the people leading development projects; we aim to highlight and profile their ideas, innovations, and perseverance.  We hope that by offering an insider’s view based on grounded truth, our stories will inspire readers to develop a more open and positive frame of mind towards Africa’s possibilities and potentials.

FOCUS AFRICA’s primary project partner is Diakonie Emergency Aid Germany. We are convinced that our reports will generate attention among interested people and will additionally connect traveler attracted groups with project supporters.

FOCUS AFRICA believes that target-oriented development aid will lead to further foreign direct investment, which in turn will create broader economic success across the African continent.

The media distribution channels

FOCUS AFRICA will take pictures, make videos and write stimulating and lively reports about successful, creative and effective development aid projects. This could be in cities, villages or organizations. The results will be published via our website, online portals, and print publications of the aid organizations as well as the newspapers. In addition we are going to distribute our reports via social media, over Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Needless to say this kind of interactive communication will also attract a younger target group.

We would like to highlight that FOCUS AFRICA will be a media connector of various features over the course of ten months.

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Do you want to become visible?

Throughout the ten-month period, all of FOCUS AFRICA’s sponsors will be acknowledged positively in the context of development aid and adventure tours.  At the same time we will continuously draw attention via our publications in daily newspapers, magazines and online/media. By using social media platforms we also attract younger target groups.

We are happy about any kind of support and will provide you in return a great deal of attention in the media world.

About us:

Viktoria Bottner, Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Marketing, has been working for Daimler Financial Services AG since 1997—serving in a variety of marketing-related capacities in Germany, the United States, Japan, and Singapore.  Since 2009, Viktoria has been responsible for Marketing Communication Projects of Daimler Financial Services AG Stuttgart.

Julian Hillebrand. Julian Hillebrand studied social work and special education in Basel and then worked for four years as an installation and development manager for an art exhibit titled, “Coexistence“ that has traveled from Jerusalem‘s Museum on the Seam to Africa, North and South America, Europe, and Asia. Julian completed a two-year MBA in Social Management at the Vienna University of Economics and Business before joining the Zeitenspiegel agency where he is responsible for project development and business administration.

Focus Africa – project PDF