Four Wheels Around - A Road Trip from the UK to South Africa

In February 2009 we are setting off on the trip of a lifetime from Brighton, E-Sussex, UK to South Africa. Furthermore, we are raising money for the British Red Cross along the way. This blog will cover our preparation until we leave and our adventures whilst we are on the road.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Dahab and beyond....

We have finally left Dahab! It was difficult, and even 4 days on I am still hearing pretty much daily echoes of resentment from Alex and Jacques, along the lines of 'I miss Dahab...' or 'This campsite is no Dahab is it?' As nice as Dahab was, it was time to go and so we set off in the direction of St Katherines Monastry and Mount Sinai on saturday.

We reached Mount Sinai with a cunning plan. We decided to try and grab a few hours kip in the car park before embarking on a hike up to the summit at 2am to reach the peak for sunrise. We were dismayed that we had to have a guide to accompany us the 7km or so up the mountain. This rule I believe has only recently come into practice after a German guy just wondered off the path and over the edge of the mountain a few months back. We didn't need a guide, to be honest the path was pretty obvious and there were a number of other tourists taking the same route (the camel path) up to the top for sunrise so it was near impossible to get lost. Unfortunately we had to pay for this compulsory guide and he didn't come cheap! We reached the 2285m summat in good time, and waited for sunrise. I can safetly say that I haven't seen bvery many sunrises and although the trip up Mount Sinai is a bit of a cliche it was cool to see sunrise as it was pretty spectacular. We hiked up and down during the night and early morning, thus avoiding the scoorching daytime heat and we were back at the carpark by 7am ready for our next destination.

There is a lot of religious significance associated with Mount Sinai which is also known as gebel Musa (Moses Mountain). Different religions placing the occurance of different events here. There is very little information about this at the site. All we were aware of is that allegedly the 10 commandments were recited to Moses here by God.

From St Katherines we drove in the direction of Suez. Wedidn't expect to make it all the way there that day, it was quite a distance and we were all pretty knackered from our long hike! We ended up in a small town called Ras Sudr. We found a camp where they initially quoted us EGP10 per car per night (around GBP 1.25) then after some consideration decided to up that price to EGP 100! We weren't having any of that and promptly hot footed it away from the camp to motorway services where we spent the night instead. The camp wasn't even that nice. The Womens toilets looked as though they hadn't been used for years (probably because the beach is a bit of a no go area for Women) and there were no showers. There was very loud and repetitive Egyptian music pumping from a DJ booth and lots of chicken bones and litter on the beach! The service station was far nicer! Indeed, that night we were so tired after being up since 2am that we slept from 9pm until 8am the next day!

In Ras Sudr we deiced to try and get a few things fixed on Carol. She was in need of some welding and our leisure battery was playing up. We managed to get a lot of welding done. The water tank had a leak and the jacking points at the back of the vehicle were rusted through. The lack of health and safety was incredible. Spark and fire were flying all over the place and there was no protective clothing being worn, not even protective glasses. The guy doing the welding only had one thumb, we didn't ask if it was a welding accident or not?

We got back on the road to Suez. To reach Suez we had to use the tunnel which allows you to cross the Suez Canal. The Suez canal severs Africa from Asia and allows for transportation via water between Europe and Asia without having to detour around Africa. It was opened in 1869 and it is still extremely well used and important today. Crossing the canal signified reaching Africa proper for us. We stopped in Suezto make a few enquiries about reaching Sudan. We had heard that there is a ship that sails from Suez to Port Sudan. We knew it was a long shot but we wanted to double check that Aswan to Wadi Halfa is the only viable route for us into Sudan. We drove to the port and asked the guards where we could sleep. They directed us to a car park, it had some shade which has become a determining factor for us these days, as so we went for it.

We went to boat spot by the canal and at once become celebraties. People, mostly children, were fascinated by us. They followed us, poked us, took pictures of us (mainly of Mandy and I) from all angles and wanted as much attention from us as possible. It got frustrating after a while as all we wanted to do is relax and it was difficult as were suddenly the talk of Suez. We watched a few ships and even saw some dolphins which was far more interesting than boats!

Our make shift car park/camp site in Suez seemed to be a bit of a sketchy area! We noticed a few syringes strewn around and even some weith nneedles. We were told that these were from the drug users. Nice! The manager of the car park was very concerned by us. We were recieving quite a lot of attention from passing locals and he seemed keen to protect us from that! Suez was a very strange place or at least downtown Suez where we were camping. There were people just pissing in the street. Walking along they would lift up their robes and go there and then. Others were sleeping, just in the middle of the pavement or under some bushes.

Suez to me, has a lot of potential. It is a nicely set out city. It has the crystal clear waters of the canal, a lot of green areas and nice promenades. Unfortunately it has been destroyed. The locals leave litter everywhere. The green parks are covered in crap, dirty nappies, the remains of picnics from the previous day etc. It does seem to be a trait common to much of the Middle east but it seemed especially bad here.

Now we are in cairo. It is chaotic and very hot. We are camped up outside of town in a pleasant enough if mosquito ridden campsite. We are on the visa trail today trying to secure visas for Ethiopia and Sudan and then we will explore Cairo properly and obviously visit the Pyramids. The drivers are insane. I understand why our Carnet cost so much for Egypt now. The drivers cut each other up, they over take and under take, drive three abreast on a dual carriage way and they seem to have no concept of space, speed and distance. The Cairo ring road was mental to say the least. There is no use of lanes it is more of a free for all. At one point there was not even any lane markings let along lane use! We got a shared taxi into town this morning which was pretty scary!

Anyways, many things to do today and we currently don't really know where we are exactly let alone how to neagotiate our way back to camp later on today!
Photos to follow soon...I promise!


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