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Hey Mazungu (English)

From Jinja at the Nile River to Kampala with the worst chaotic traffic, continuing over the highlands of Fort Portal with charming crater lakes and further South via Lake Bunyonyi to the Rwandan border. After the last really hot days at Lake Bogoria in Kenia we passed the boarder to Uganda at Malaba on the 23rd of January. We were welcomed by friendly people, rich vegetation and pleasant temperatures. If someone thinks of Africa, he probably imagines a country like Uganda: stunning nature with colorful tropical plants as well as smiling people on the roadside. These were the first impressions we got from Uganda.

Our first stop was Jinja. Jinja is situated directly where the Nile drains off Lake Victoria. And right at the Nile river few kilometres down the stream is one of the most beautiful campsites in Africa “The Haven” (GPS Coordinates N0 32.564 E33 05.387). The Haven overlooks the Nile rapids and is run purely by solar energy.  We rather felt like somewhere in Switzerland and not in Africa because it was so clean and tidy there. We spent the next day’s with writing, checking out the area and just relaxing. We had to recover from the exhausting journey.  The peaceful days were only interrupted by a rafting tour. One full day we were speeding down the Nile rapids and at the end we flipped over. That was great fun.

We also used the time to remove the damaged steering damper of our Toyota and to look for replacement. On the third day Dee, James together with their friend Collin, who lives in Jinja, came unexpectedly to “the Haven” for dinner. That was a big surprise and we were very happy to see each other again. What a coincidence that Collin has a workshop for Landcruisers. That was really lucky because the next day Julian together with Collin removed the suspension for the steering damper, straightened and welded it. That saved us a visit at the car repair shop, hence a lot of money. We only had to buy the heavy duty steering damper spare part in Kampala and inserted it by ourselves. At this stage we would like to highlight that our Toyota did not have any problems so far. The car is just perfect and drives and drives and drives, no matter if there is deep sand, lava rocks, 4000 meters altitude or 44 C boiling heat in the desert. We are very happy about that.

In Kampala we stayed at the Red Chili Hideway Camp (GPS coordinates N0 19.208 E32 37.800). Red Cili is a overlander hotspot with a lot of overland trucks, loud music and very good pizza. There we saw also Ali again; we met him the first time in Nairobi. He came with his girlfriend Mariska, who works for the NGO Foodstep. Mariska told us about the many unsolved problems in Uganda as well as her work at the children’s prison Kampiringisa. That caught our interest for our next project visit. As we were only allowed to visit the prison on Thursday we had to stay the next days in Kampala. Even though Kampala is a smelly, totally polluted and overcrowded city and it has the worst chaotic traffic we were quite happy that we stayed longer. We saw a different site of Uganda we normally would not get to know as tourists.

In the children’s prison Kampiringisa are approx. 300 kids from three years to seventeen years. These are mainly street kids and they are unfairly and unjustly imprisoned. The conditions in the buildings are awful and unbearable. The children do not get any school education, training or medical treatment. Further details and the background of the project will be published under FOCUS AFRICA shortly.

From Kampala we went further via the highland of Uganda to Fort Portal. There we stayed at Kluges Guest Farm (GPS coordinates N00.594857 E30.247947). It is really a nice spot.When we arrived there we were immediately invited to Stephan’s belated 60. Birthday party. We celebrated a great party at a big campfire until late night. At this place we would like to say thank you to Stefan for his invitation! Unfortunately Viktoria did not feel well the next days. She had a headache, fewer, was vomiting and had diarrhea. Initially we thought about an upset stomach, therefore we only went to the hospital on the third day. However the fewer that went in the meantime up to over 40 C was obvious and the blood test confirmed the result – Malaria! Viktoria had to take a vast amount of tablets and hat to stay in bed for two days. Luckily she felt much better after two days and the fewer was gone. What did we learn out of this: Next time we will go immediately to the hospital and don’t wait!

For a change and to fully recover we moved in between to the Nkuruba Nature Reserve community campsite (GPS coordinates N0 31.119 E30 18.133) directly at the crater lake Nkuruba. The campsite is beautifully situated and is viewing the lake. Apparently the lake is bilharzia free therefore Julian swam several times in it. The area is covered with these crater lakes which offers a beautiful natural spectacle. As Viktoria felt strong enough after four days, we continued our trip towards Lake Bunyoni. In between we stayed one more night at the Nyanzeebiri Community Campsite (GPS coordinates S0 15.653 E30 07.365) again directly at one of the crater lakes.

Like on the trip from Kampala to Fort Portal we also drove on this trip from Fort Portal to Lake unyoni through a lot of forest fires. The locals burn not only the rest of the harvest, but also the last beautiful forests. There was thick smoke everywhere.Even Elisabeth Nationalpark was burned down half and totally black.

Not only the guide book writes, that Lake Bunyonyi is the most beautiful lake Uganda’s, we also can confirm that. This might also be because we found a wonderful Campsite, called Lake Bunyoni Overland Campsite (GPS coordinates S1 16.341 E29 56.243). Our car was parked directly at the shore overviewing the lake from both sites.

Nonetheless we drove to the Rwandan border after two days. The border crossing was very easy for us Germans, as we did not need any visa. After 45 minutes everything was done and we were already on the Rwandan site.

Altogether we can say that we really enjoyed travelling in Uganda. Uganda has not only a beautiful landscape but also the people are very friendly and helpful and we always felt safe. The kids were always waving at us excitedly and calling us happily “Mazungu” (white person).

Our Highlights:

  • The beautiful Campsite „The Haven“ in Jinja
  • The exciting rafting tour on the Nile rapits
  • The charming crater lakes around Fort Portal
  • The most beautiful lake Uganda’s – Lake Bunyonyi
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Hello Money – English

All the way through Ethiopia. From the beautiful hilly North, over Addis Ababa to the Kenyan border.  Over high mountains, fascinating monasteries as well as magnificent landscapes. And the question: Is begging in Ethiopia a national sport?
After the last night in Sudan the Ethiopian border welcomed us like a slap in our face. Everyone without any exception was holding out their hands. The customs officers only wanted to do their job for additional money. The helpers, the kids and all the others were asking for money, pens, food, cloths, exercise books, etc. Only few kilometers from the border some kids were throwing the first stones at our car. Just a general explanation: Throwing stones at each other seems to be part of the Ethiopian culture in some areas and is not only meant for tourists who don’t want to donate something.  We saw locals throwing stones at each other when they were angry. Even their animals got the stone punishment when they did something wrong. We were accompanied with the stone throwing almost on all roads until the Omo Valley in the South of Ethiopia. We in our car were pretty safe compared to motor bikers and especially cyclists.

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Initially we were planning to drive all the way through to Lake Tana. However the procedure at the customs took quite long and we decided spontaneously to bush camp together with our biker friends Igor and Johannes in a beautiful hilly area about 30 km before Lake Tana. As soon as we parked our Toyota and the motorbikes more and more children eyes were staring at us silently and curiously. Even though it got darker and darker the children wouldn’t leave.  However the later it got the more begging went on. At one point we were so desperate that we gave them bread, fruits and pens. We knew that this was the worst mistake tourists can make in a developing country. Successful begging will educate them to ask even harder next time. In our case it only rescued the evening because we got rid of them one by one. However the next morning at sunrise at 5:00 am the kids were back and asked more of the gifts we gave them the night before. In addition their hands were everywhere. We could not help but pack our stuff and leave without even having a cup of coffee. For the goodbye we got again stones thrown on our car. This was the first and last time we did bush camping in Ethiopia. We must add that the people in this area do not starve. There is efficient farming and enough to eat. Apparently begging became a habit.
Via Gonder we drove to the Simien Montains on that day. We reached our camp at 2800 m altitude after a very wild off-road tour. At the ticket office we had to hire a scout, because this is the national park rule.  We were quite disappointed when we found out that the scout did not speak one word of English. He did not even react to our question “what’s your name”. Additionally he has not seen a shower for a long long time. In spite of freezing temperatures we were only able to continue our way with open windows. Nonetheless he was fully armed in order to protect us from wild animals or gangsters (we have seen neither the one nor the other). We also could not convince him to go inside a hut instead of sitting next to our car for the entire night at minus temperatures. The Simien Mountains were very beautiful with a magnificent landscape. We spent the next day’s surrounded by a wild, exotic, natural mountain beauty.  Between capricorn’s, baboon’s, fern forests and palm trees we climbed up to 4430 meters.
Via Debark at the bottom of the Simien Mountains, we continued our way to Axum. We drove over adventurous but breathtaking passes, however terribly bad roads. In Ethiopia all streets are packed with people who are walking (everybody seems to be always on their feed and walking all the time). In addition little children were playing adventurously at the streets and waving wildly and excitedly at us while shouting “youyouyouyou” or “birr birr birr birr” (local currency) or “hello money”, etc. We were not even able to stop for one minute without being hassled by them. Little by little the streets in the North will be constructed (mainly by Chinese). We saw many women and kids working on the construction sites.
We managed to reach Axum in one day. Axum was the original capital of the eponymous Aksum Kingdom. Axum was a naval and trading power and ruled the region from 400 BC to the 10th century. Axum is up until today one of the most important and holiest places of the Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia. However we both did not find the city and the sights very exciting. After one day sightseeing of the up to 33 meters high stelae’s (their weight is more than 500 tons), the museum, few churches and the bath of the queen of Shaba’s we drove to the monastery Debre Damo. This monastery is situated on a rock plateau and can only be reached by climbing up the 30 meter upright rock wall. Only a leather rope holds the visitors. Unfortunately only men have access to this monastery and Viktoria had to wait at the bottom. Up there the time seems to stand still.  It seems that not much has changed since the 6th century. Die small huts and the monastery however are nor very spectacular. However the view over the mountains all the way to Eritrea is breathtaking.
One day later we reached Lalibela. The rough drive went again on bad roads, over beautiful passes and magnificent landscapes (200 km took us 8 hours). Lalibela (also called New-Jerusalem) is known for their rock churches and is one of the holiest cities in Ethiopia as well as the center of pilgrimage for much of the country. The massive churches are very impressive. The few story high churches were built in the 12th and 13th century and were literally carved out of the rocks. Today the churches belong to the UNESCO world heritage sites. Lalibela was the first place in Ethiopia where we could relax a bit. A tourist development and education program thought the locals how to treat tourists – hence not to hassle them and not beg for money etc. That was a pleasure for us.
We drove from Lalibela to Bahir Dar at Laka Tana after two days. Bahir Dar is a very green, nice and exotic village situated at the South of the lake. Lake Tana is known for the island monasteries of the Christian Orthodox Church from the 14th Century. We visited three of these beautiful monasteries. The colorful pictures demonstrate the religious story. According to our tour guide the majority population was illiterate in the 14th century and the picture facilitated the communication of the religious story. Apart from the monasteries we especially enjoyed the soft boat ride. We even saw a hippopotamus on the way.
We were able to drive in one day from Bahir Dar to Addis Ababa on a relatively well kept tarmac road. At Wims New Holland House in Addis (GPS coordinates N9 00.589 E38 45.318) we were very happy to meet our friends from England, Dee and James and our biker friends Igor and Johannes again and celebrated Christmas together. Wims the owner is Dutch and has a solution or answer for any problem or question. In addition Wims New Holland House is an overlander camp were all people meet who are on the way to North or South. We also met further interesting people, on their way to South Africa.
Addis Ababa was packed with running errands. We got the visa at the Kenyan Embassy (GPS coordinates: N9 01.945 E38 46.994), the Commessa Insurance for our car (GPS coordinates N15 35.851 E32 31.624), the stamps for our Carnet de Passage at the Customs and Road Authority (GPS coordinates N9 00.874 E38 47.969. That was the only chance to get the administrational work done as we drove the Turkana Lake route and there are no customs hence no proper border. In addition we filled up our food stock and we could not believe to find Italian specialties in almost all shops we went, e.g. Panetone, pasta, mortadella, parmesan, etc. Good for us, that the Italians left their colonial tracks thoroughly and substantially. We were anyway surprised to get fresh vegies and fruits all over Ethiopia, sometimes also in small villages. We might have been lucky to be in Ethiopia at the right time for fruits and vegies. At an altitude of 3000 meters farmers even sold us their carrots at the window of our car. These were the best carrots we ever had.
One day before our departure we did a short interview with two employees of the Institute for Sustainable Development. The development project has the goal to spread and implement “best practice” technics among farmers. Because of the climate change farmers have to change their methods in order to produce more effectively and in order not to starve. This is especially important as more than 85% of the Ethiopians are working in farming. Farming goods are also one of the most important export goods.
After three days Addis Abeba we were heading off to Omo Valley. We drove via Butajira and Sodo. The streets were very good for a change. In Konso we were very lucky with our accommodation. We stayed at a fantastic lodge close to Konso in the middle of the countryside (GPS coordinates N9 00.874 E38 47.969). The owner is half Swiss and furnished the lodge with an interior design from Yemen and local fabrics and materials. In the evening we had a fantastic dinner at his restaurant.
We continued our way to Tumi the next day because we wanted to celebrate New Year’s Eve with all the overlander’s we have met at Wims in Addis. And it was a good idea because we had a lot of fun with a group of twelve people. Unfortunately Michael and Jeldau from Holland were a bit late because they had two flat tires about 40 km away from Tumi. When we heard about that at about 20:00 h two people of our group organized replacements and “rescued” them immediately.
Omo Valley has not only magnificent landscapes, but there are also some of the most fascinating and colorful ethnic tribes in Africa. However the tribe villages are very touristy and it rather feels like a visit in a zoo. Beside that tourists can only go there with a scout and a tour guide for a hell of a lot of money. They charge additionally to the scout and tour guide fees, entrance- and photo fees. We decided not to go to these villages as we are on the way towards South and we will see many more different ethnic tribes for free. So we only stopped by at one “Hammer-Tribe” village spontaneously and saw some more people of different tribes on the road on our way to Kenia.
The border crossing to Kenia went very smooth and was done within ten minutes as we already did all the formalities in Addis Ababa.
In summary we can say that we really enjoyed the beautiful, fascinating, hilly landscapes of Ethiopia in spite of terribly rough roads. However the Ethiopians were really a hassle. As already mentioned the locals even greeted us with “Hello Money” or with “You have to give me money!” It seems like that the people got really used to help from outside and this might be the reason why they are begging everyone that does not look like an Ethiopian. No doubt the country is very poor. Many people live and conduct their farms like 3000 years ago. We have not even seen one tractor on our way from the North to the South. The farmers were all working with wooden pitchforks and animals like bulls or donkeys. There seems to be something wrong with the development aid in Ethiopia. It seems like that Ethiopia gets more development aid support than all the other African countries. We saw in every single village (even the smallest village’s) minimum one sign of a development aid project. You can definitely find every possible development aid organization in Ethiopia. In Addis Ababa one of the best and most expensive hotels Africa’s is located. We have heard that employees of development aid organizations stay there. In addition these employees cruise around with the latest models and the most expensive four wheel drive vehicles. It is difficult for us to understand why in the east side of the country one of the worst starvation catastrophe is  going on right now in spite of successful harvests and a sufficient rainy season. We did not travel to the east side of the country because of the very bad roads as well as we did not want to get too close to the Somalian border for security reasons.

Our Highlights:

  • The fascinating landspaces of Ethiopia
  • The magnificent beauty of the Simien Mountains
  • The impressive rock churches of Lalibela
  • The lovely and exotic village Bahir Dar
  • The beautiful island monasteries on Lake Tana
  • The various colourful ethnic tribes at Omo Valley
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The Patience Test

We will never forget the ferry crossing experience of the Nasser Lake from Egypt to Sudan, even though we would like to. After we were already waiting for one week, there was just a big mess short time before our departure: The pontoon full of holes was repaired temporarily with wet cement only in the morning of our departure. In addition, all off of a sudden the captain of the pontoon had a week off, except the amount of “bakshish” (tip) could convince him to work. We couldn’t help but collecting some money from our tour members from England, Germany, Italy and Australia and at the end we were successful in convincing him to postpone his vacation.

Finally on Monday, 29th of November we drove our Toyota on the Pontoon, hoping that the fresh wet cement will hold. We left our Toyota with a last wave and went on the passenger ferry. The passenger ferry was not really equivalent to a luxury boat, but was rather a rusty old barge endangered to sink shortly. The next twenty hours we had to share the “luxury barge” squeezed in with a countless number of people from Egypt, Sudan, Libya as well as hundreds of bag’s, suitcase’s, TV’s, washmachine’s and all kinds of other strange stuff. This was really a long border crossing from Assuan (Egypt) to Wadi Halfa (Sudan).
We received some compensation at the moment we touched Sudanese ground. The Sudanese people were just lovely and welcomed us warmhearted. Our initial distrust was totally wrong because the Sudanese people did not want to sell something or cheating on us like their Egyptian neighbors. They were just friendly and even the prices in the shops were absolutely correct. This was just a pleasure after four weeks Egypt.
However one day after the other we got more and more desperate because the pontoon did not arrive on the second day as promised nor on the third or on the fourth day. We were not even able to get in touch with the captain. The worst case scenario was already in our head – our Toyota on the bottom of the Nasser Lake. We were so relieved when our “bush taxi” finally arrived at the harbor of Wadi Halfa on the fifth day. The reason for the delay was the badly repaired hole as well as the fact that the pontoon was dreadfully overloaded. The pontoon was lying very deeply in the water and drove slowly like a snail. In addition a lot of water went into the pontoon. The only way we could get distracted during that waiting period was just with eating tons of falafels, drinking a lot of tea and coffee as well as having exciting conversations with our travel companions. These were Mick from Dragoman Overlanders from Australia, Dee and James from England as well as Igor and Johannes from Germany www.zweidurchafrika.de. They are on the road with a lorry, a land cruiser and motorbikes . We shared a lot of information and experiences and laughed a lot while we were waiting patiently for the pontoon to arrive.
During that time we also met Barbara and Franz (www.stoerch-besel.de.tl). The couple drove all the way from Cape Town to Wadi Halfa with their mountain bikes and have already managed 9000 km. They want to go further to Egypt. Needless to say they looked incredibly fit and shared their exciting experiences with us. They were kind enough to give us their Sudanese SIM Card. In Sudan it is possible to surf in the internet for only 0,18 Euro for the entire day. This is possible with mobile reception.
Unfortunately we were only able to pick up our car on the next day because all of a sudden the computers at the customs did not work anymore. And we were waiting again patiently. On Sunday, the 5th of December, the sixth day after our arrival, we were able to drive our car out of the harbor. The first thing we did was getting water and buying groceries at the farmers market (yes, it is possible to buy strawberries in the middle of the dessert) and then we went immediately into deep sand. We drove about 300 km South along a deserted railway road through the Nubian dessert. Beautiful off road-driving, taking showers with 360 degree panorama view as well as campfire and sleeping under thousands of stars made our days.

On the third day we reached Abu Hamed, the first city at the Nile, where we filled our tanks thirstily. We went further towards South along the Nile between Atbara and the pyramids of Meroe. In a small valley off the road we did bush camping. The next morning we visited the beautiful pyramids of Meroe and met coincidentally our friends from England Dee and James. We decided spontaneously to drive the temple trail around Musawwarat together. In the evening again relaxing campfire and this time intercultural exchange with “excellent British Earl Grey Tea”. The Temple trail contains well-kept temples and we drove through stunning landscapes, passed by small villages, wells as well as wild camels. In the afternoon we reached Khartum.
Firstly we went to the German Embassy to get an entrance letter for our car to Ethiopia. However we learned that the letter is not necessary anymore and it was like that at the Ethiopian border. Afterwards we drove directly to the National Camp Ground. The camp ground manager helped us to get rid of the dust of our car. We cleaned the car directly in front the mosque. We were very happy to coincidentally meet our biker friends Johannes and Igor there. The following two days passed by with running errands, e.g. washing, cleaning, servicing of our car, etc. One highlight in Khartum were the dancing Derwishes. Every Friday afternoon, the Derwishes meet in front of a big mosque at the cemetery Hamid El-Nile Tomb (GPS Koordinaten N15 37.588 E32 27.773) for singing, drumming, dancing, laughing and talking. It did not take long until we were also captivated by them. It was nice to experience one part authentic Africa.
The next morning we left Khartum together with Igor and Johannes and our English friends Dee and James towards Ethiopian border. The first night, we did bush camping directly at a river on a field with tons of dried cowpats. We realized that the cowpats are just perfect for campfires if there is no wood available. The next morning we continued our way to the border. We had to bush camp again 30 km before the boarder because the customs were already closed for the day. This time we stayed next to a well. As we noticed the next morning the well serves water for the surrounded inhabitants and their animals. When we woke up, we were surrounded by herds of sheep’s, goats and camels as well as some people. They all wanted to quench thirst for the day. The people were watching us respectfully from a distance and were waving at us shyly.
We got to know the North Sudan only with lovely, helpful and honest people. For us it is difficult to understand, that only view kilometers away there is still a terrible war going on – more or less between their own people. For security reasons it is not possible for tourist to travel from North Sudan to South Sudan. Therefore we might try at a later stage to travel to South Sudan via Uganda or Kenya.

Highlights

  • The beauty of the Nubian Dessert
  • The lovely pyramids of Meroe
  • The impressive temple trail with stunning landscapes
  • Bush camping at a well just before the Ethiopian border
  • The honest and lovely Sudanese people
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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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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