26 December 2007

CYCLING SUDAN - Metemma to Wadi Halfa

1 December - Metemma - Galabat - Doka 88km

We crossed the border into Sudan at Galabat and headed north for about 80km on a flat but windy road. I did not feel very well and it was extremely hot and indy but we struggled on until we reached Doka where we camped at the police checkpoint, as they had plenty of water for both washing and cooking. Before setting up camp we first cycled into the village and found some potatoes and tomatoes.

2 December – Doka – Gedaref – 90km

From Doka to Gedaref was about 90km an another very hot, hot day - our second day in Sudan and the second day I had to drag myself along. I felt terrible but pushed on to Gedaref. When we stopped for water at a petrol station we spoke to a local farmer who gave us 50 Sudanese Pounds and so we shot off to the nearest cheap hotel. The man will never know how handy that money came in as I was sick all night and at least could be sick in my own room!!!

3 December - Gedaref – Migreh – 97km

The next morning I felt a lot better and we first tried to register at the police station (one needs to register at the police within 3 day's of arriving in Sudan) but they informed us that it was hard for them to do it and that we should register in Khartoum!!! So it was around 11h00 before we finally left. The wind was not that bad and we reached Migreh in good time - a distance of about 97km - where we once again camped behind the police depot to be close to some water.

4 December - Migreh – Desert camp 110km

We were unfortunately traveling into the prevailing wind, so cycling was a bit of a mission, especially since it was day after day, but at least there were various villages along the way and we hardly ever passed one without stopping and having a Marinda or a Pepsi. We did not try the food, which the locals make along the way, as it seems to be made in the morning and then left out in the sun for the rest of the day. Allthough we were cycling on a tarmac road, the road is in poor condition with very heavy traffic (large trucks) all apparently to be heading for Port Sudan. I was dead tired again (which seems to be ever night) and Ernest made a huge pot of pasta and sauce (he cooks every night) after which we went straight to bed.

5 December – Desert camp – Wad Medani – 41km

On the 5th we cycled from our desert camp to Wad Medani which was only about 41km but as it is quite a large place with accommodation and food, we stayed for the night and ate falafel after falafel.

6 December – Wad Medani – Desert camp – 81km

It was 81km from Wad Medani to our next desert camp and another bad, bad day. Very, very hot with a strong headwind. I'm tired and nauseous - things were just not going my way. As we pulled off the road to set up camp I immediately had about a 100 thorns in my tyre. This was just the last thing I needed!!! Ernest was a star again and just went ahead and changed both tyres and put sludge in both. I had no energy to even think about changing tyres (I wanted to go home) .

Once the sun sets iti s dark almost immediately and by 18h00 we needed to find a place to camp. The mozzies are quite wild around here and the safest place is in one's tent.

7 December – Desert camp – Truck stop 71km

We woke on the morning of the 7th and new it was going to be another day of battling into the wind, Ernest in front and me following as closely as possible, but we made little headway all day. There may be no beer in this country but at least there is plenty of cool water everywhere. Each little village has various pottery urns filled with water, which stays amazingly cool in this heat. That night we found a truck stop with restaurant, showers and toilets and as we were still 50km from Khartoum we camped at the back and enjoyed the luxury of a shower.

8/11 December – Truck stop – Khartoum – 50km

The next day we cycled into Khartoum (about 50km) and went straight to the Blue Nile Sailing Club which is definitely the best place in Khartoum, as it is next to the Nile with a nice little breeze coming off the water. There we also met Clive and Denise on a 1954 Triumph heading for Cape Town as well as Charles and Rensche also heading south.

We spent the next 4 days in Khartoum trying to extend our visas (without any success) and trying to register with the police. The rest of the time we spent eating anything in sight.

12 December – Khartoum – Desert Camp – 105km

So it was Wednesday 12 December when we finally left Khartoum, another day of battling into the wind and by 17h00 we have only done 105km. We left the Nile and took the desert road so, as soon as we found water, we set up camp, trying to hide out of the wind.

If ever you want to cycle through Africa, do it from North to South. At least the prevailing wind will be mostly behind you, not like us !!! The wind was especially fierce today and at one stage I sat down and was ready to take the bus (if only there was such a thing) but I kicked the bike and shouted at the wind a few times and then got on again (not much else one can do) .

14 December - Desert camp to Desert camp – 81km

On Friday we only managed 81km from one desert camp to the other. We must have really looked a sight - two lonely cycles at a snail's pace through the desert!!! There were hardly any water stops today and I saw nothing all day but Ernest's back wheel. He must have been dead tired by the end off the day but said nothing and still had the energy to cook a good meal of pasta.

15 December – Desert Camp – Deba – 111km

Today was no better and after 111km we reached Deba where we met up with the Nile again (it felt like meeting an old friend).

16 December – Deba – Sali – 92km

On the Sunday we cycled 92 km from Deba to Sali. The wind seemed stronger every day. We were cycling really close to the Nile and there seemed to be and endless number of villages scattered along the bank of the Nile. By 17h00 we turned into one of these villages to get some water for the night and were promptly offered a room. We had hardly lit our stove to make supper when a large tray with a variety of food arrived.

17/18 December – Sali – Dongola – 70km

It was a further 70km to Dongola and needless to say that it was another day into the wind. In Dongola we found some good food and could stuff ourselves for the next desert starve! 

19 December - Dongola - Kerma - 54km

After spending the 18th in Dongola to do some washing and get more provisions for the road we left on the morning of the 19th. We stayed on the western side of the Nile and headed for Argo where we crossed the river by means of a small ferry. From Kerma it was about 53km to Kahli (not sure whether that is the name). The 'muggies' are ferocious in this part of the world, they get in everywhere - your nose, ears , mouth - so it's a matter of pitching your tent as quickly as possible and hiding inside till after sunset, when they seem to disappear into nowhere. We made a bit of an open desert crossing and what a good thing Ernest had a GPS and that Charles had given him some readings on where to find the river again. We camped on the bank of the Nile under some palm trees which sounds a lot more romantic than it was.

20 December - Kerma - Kali 53km

We are really into our sweet black tea by now and we can hardly wait for the tents to be pitched so we can boil some water for tea (strange things one does if there is no beer around - my mother will be so proud of me!) This was surely the hardest day to date as we were hitting the soft sand and corrugations and all that into a serious headwind!!! To such and extent that we could not even see where we were going. By then we had our buffs around our faces, just so we could breath.

21 December Khali - Abujara 52km

22 December
Abjara - Abri

We managed to do another 72km. It is getting really cold at night and in the mornings, so I'm always a bit reluctant to get up and it is 9h30 - 10h00 before we get on our way in the mornings which does not give us a lot of sunlight as the sun sets around 18h00. We tried to do a some longer distances but the going is dreadfully slow. We had better start pushing on if we want to get to the ferry on the 26th, which seems more and more unlikely by the day.

23 December Abri – Akasha - 74km

We cycled 74km to Akasha. We tried to leave a bit earlier but still only got away at 09h00. The road was deteriorating now and we soon left the Nile and headed over the mountains. It is getting worse by the day now, not only the wind but also sand, corrugations and mountains. At least we reached Akasha before dark, and there was even a small shop with limited supplies, so we filled up with water and headed out of the village and camped in a dry river bed. Ernest by now has to warm up some water for me to wash as it is freezing cold after sunset.

24 December Akasha - Desert Station 59km

We woke to another freezing cold morning and after some sweet tea set off for the next stretch. The road was quite bad and we had to do a fair amount of pushing of our bikes through the sand. We were still heading over the mountains and there were no water stops or villages along the road, except for one about 30km from where we camped. A further 30km along the road we found a road camp and the people there were kind enough to fill our water containers so we had enough water for cooking and washing.

25 December – Desert Station Wadi Halfa 72km

We headed for Wadi Halfa and received a great gift as 30km of the road outside Wadi Halfa is tarmac!!! So we reached Halfa early for a change and found a local hotel and some food. The next day we were up early to get our ferry tickets, police stamps and a million other stamps to get out of Sudan. The ferry left at 16h00 and we even splashed out and treated ourselves to a cabin on the boat!!

30 November 2007


15 November 2007
Addis Ababa

So there I was back in Ethiopia, as if cycling through Africa once was not enough!!! So back in the land of hills, Injera and stone throwing children. Little has changed since 2005, except that there are now a lot more cold drinks and cold beer available in the small villages.

We spent an entire week in Addis organizing visas for both Egypt and Sudan. Addis was a blaze of colour and light as they are celebrating the millennium, so there we were back in the year 2000 again!!!

While in Addis I bumped into Wondey, one of the guides of Tour D'Afrique. What a small world it is!!

16 November Addis – Muka – 80km

So it was 16 November by the time we cycled out of Addis. How unfit I became!!! The hills going out of Addis killed me and I was half dead by the time we reached Muka which was only 80km away. At least the countryside was colourful with greens and yellows everywhere. What a good time of year it is to visit Ethiopia. It is not too hot and there is a lot more colour. As 80% of the population are farmers, we cycled through farmlands mostly, where people still farm in the oldfashioned way with oxen and wooden plows.

17 November Muka – Fiche – 38km

It was only 38km to Fiche but my backside was not so used to cycling anymore so we made it a short day. People still stare at us with their mouths hanging open and children still shout, "You, You, give money" and if ignored, the stones will come flying!!

18 November Fiche – Goha Tisy – 76km

The 76km to Goha Tsiy was wonderfully colourful, hilly again and therefore fairly slow going, but we found the Blue Nile Hotel and rested up for the Gorge the next day.

19 November Goha Tisy – Debra Marcos – 70km

On 19 November we descended into the Blue Nile Gorge and to our surprise found the road half tarred, so the section down was easy, whereas the section up was not that easy. Workers were busy working on the road and had just put down a thick layer of gravel, so, baby I am I took a lift with a truck up the Gorge. No need to cycle the Blue Nile Gorge twice in a lifetime. Ernest, however, cycled all the way up with loaded bike and all!!!

Our next stop was Debra Marcos which was about 70km away, where we arrived early and had lots of time to go to the market. We found dried beans, potatoes, onions and chillies. Ernest made a mean bean stew - something different for a change.

20/21 November Debra Marcos – Finote Selam – 85km

From Debra Marcos it was 85km to Finote Selam where we found a room with a piping hot shower for 30Birr!!! Fruit and vegetables seemed hard to get hold of. It must have been the wrong time of year, but at least there were bananas and oranges in most villages.

22 November Finote Salam – Dangla 99km

On 22 November we cycled from Finote Salam to Dangla where we once again enjoyed the local food. Firfir, my favourite, is Ingera fried in butter and a hot sauce. But by the time I went to bed I knew it was a mistake!!! So it was with the greatest of difficulty that I reached Barhir Dar the next day (will not go into detail).

23/24 November – Dangla – Barhir Dar - 80km

On reaching Barhir Dar we found the Gioa Hotel, which also offered camping on Lake Tana, but we opted for a room and what a good decision. We also spent the next day there as it really is a nice spot and as I was still feeling weak, it was much better to stay an extra day.

25 November Barhir Dar – Addis Zena – 88km

From Barhir Dar it was 88km to Addis Zena at the foothills of the Mountains. The road to Addis Zena is, however, fairly flat and stretches all along the lake. We found a cheap room and this time decided to make our own spaghetti and sauce (I am not yet up to the local food).

26/27 November – Addis Zena – Gondar – 100km

On Monday 26 November we headed for the hills from Addis Zena to Gondar, approx. 100km. Extremely hilly, but the scenery made up for the hills as the views were spectacular. So, a great ride, pity about the head wind in the last 50km. Needless to say I was once again buggered by the time we reached Gondar. We spent the next day roaming the streets of Gondar, as there was quite a bit to see and it might have been our last chance of to buy some essentials before heading for Sudan.

28 November 
Gondor to border

Ernest headed for the border on the 28th, but I decided to stay another day and take the bus (no one needs to cycle the Simian Mountains twice in a lifetime!!!)

29 November

So the next day I took a bus to Metema and what an experience, or shall I say rip off. First they charged me for putting the bike on the bus and later they charged me for taking it off again. In the end I arrived in Metema dusty and maybe more saddle sore than on the bike, as the bus seats are rather hard!!! We overtook Ernest along the way and by the time the bus broke down, I was sure Ernest was going to catch up with us. On arrival at Metema things were no better. A real dirty and dusty town where every second hut is a pub/brothel. I found accommodation consisting of a mud room with a bed and electricity that comes on when the generator comes on and goes off when they switch the generator off again.

30 November

Ernest arrived the next morning, covered in dust and sweat, and we found another room, not much better but at least a bit more spacious.

14 October 2007

CYCLING SYRIA - Atakia to Damascus

Atakia – Aleppo - 110km

I left the two Nepalese and cycled off on my own. I arrived at the Syrian border and met 4 guys on the way to South Africa by motorcycle. They introduce me to Ahmed, a tour guide who is helping them getting a visa. Ahmed is extremely helpful and gets all the forms filled in and 3 hours later I have my visa and I'm on my way!!!

Wow, what have I let myself in for!! This is a totally different world, different culture, different language, different scenery!!! I cycled into Aleppo at 18h00 in peak traffic and what a madhouse - cars everywhere!!! It's Ramadan and thousands of very hungry people are on their way home!!!

I found a very reasonable hotel - "Hotel Tourist" - which is centrally located and very clean. Achmad from the hotel is very friendly and offered to walk me around town.

23 September - Aleppo

Spent day in Aleppo, took a walk around the Citadel, Market and museum. Needed GPS to find my hotel - narrow streets, all looking the same. Achmad from the hotel offered to show me some more of the town. What friendly people the Syrians are!!

24 September - Aleppo – Idlep - 60km

After a strong headwind I reached Idlep, just to find that there was no suitable accommodation in town. In the process I met Agmad, who invited me to stay with them. They even invited me to supper with his brother and sister-in-law. What a wonderful experience!!! Somod (Agmad's wife) made various dishes of very tasty food and I left for my room very well fed!!

25 September - Idlep – Latakia - 130km

Into a headwind again and over a mountain range, so all in all, a slow and long day on the road.

Everyone along the road very friendly and helpful, but few can read the map, as it is in English, so it was rather difficult to ask for directions.

Everyone stared in amazement as, firstly I'm a woman, secondly I'm on a bike, and thirdly, I am travelling alone. So, everyone wants to try and communicate and I'm being offered food and drink all along the way. This is just such an amazingly frienly country.

26 September – Latakia

The traffic still amazes me, there are no rules, and if any, I do not know what they are!! Everyone appears to do their own thing, and all this without any accidents - quite amazing. This is also the land of the 3 wheel pickups - strange looking, small vehicles. These cart anything from people to building rubble but not at any great speed. It is quite easy for me to keep up and even overtake them, to the great delight of the children.

There are also surprisingly few tourists around, in fact I hardly see any, with the result that I stick out like a sore thumb.

27 September - Latakia – Tartus - App 80km

Not so far but I feel very tired and my itchy bumps are getting worse - I'm going crazy. By now I am totally covered in terrible bumps - my face, neck, arms and legs. Nothing seems to help and they seem to get more by the day.

I'm so irritated that I booked into an overpriced chalet just to discover that the place is infested with creepy crawlies - just what I need right now.

Although the coastline looks fantastic it is quite dirty with all kinds of rubbish everywhere.

28 September – Tartus

Woke up with a swollen eye and more itchy bumps - this can’t be true!!!! Must find a decent hotel and have a good shower. Cycled into Tartus only about 10 km or so and found a very nice hotel on the beach front, but at a price. I am not complaining as it even has a bath!!! The first bath I have seen since I left home 6 months ago. So this is the perfect time to sort out my things out and to find a pharmacy and get something for the itchy bites.

29 September - Tartus – Homs - 110km

The road to Homes is not that interesting as I followed the high way and it is very busy with plenty of large trucks. I don't have a good map of Syria so it is best to just follow the main roads - at least most of the road signs are in English as well, where as on the smaller road it is only in Arabic. I arrived fairly early due to a good tailwind and what a crazy crazy place!! I still don't understand the traffic rules. Even though the traffic light is red the cars still go and that with the traffic policeman in the middle of the road to help regulate the traffic.

Another interesting evening. I took taxi to a restaurant and the taxi driver stayed and had a meal with me. He speaks no English so it’s all very complicated.

30 September – Homs

As I saw little of the town yesterday I stayed one more day and walked the ancient markets and ate very sweet pastries with small cups of very strong coffee. It is still very hot and I wonder how the local women can walk around all covered in black from heat to toe. The men seem to be better off in their long white robes, or at least it looks a lot cooler.

The cities are a jumble of noise and colour as hooting is part of driving and mosques are calling people to prayer ever so often.

1 October - Homs – Damascus - 80km cycled 0f 160km

As I left Homs on my way to Damascus, the scenery suddenly changed and all I could see was desert. Gone were all the olive trees, pomegranates and figs - just barren land everywhere. And as that was not bad enough, a ferocious wind picked up and all one could see was a grey/yellow haze. I battled on, but knew I would not get very far in a wind like this. I had my head down to try and keep the sand from my eyes and nearly did not see a van parked alongside the road flagging me down. A wonderful French couple stopped and offered me a lift to Damascus - real saviours!!! This was too good an offer to decline so I jumped in and in no time at all we were in Damascus.

We stayed in the backyard of St Paul's convent and I pitched my tent in their herb garden (hope I did not flatten the parsley).

2 October – Damascus

I left the convent quite early as the gardener started to water the garden around me, so I waved goodbye to my saviours and cycled into the city centre in life threatening traffic. I found a really cheap hotel but first had to clean it. Imagine me cleaning a room, and one I had paid for!! Well, I wiped it down and sprayed it as my itchy bumps are just starting to get better, thanks to Nico who sent me a text message with what to take. Well thanks Nico, it worked!!

I stayed in Damascus a few days waiting for my sister, Amanda, to arrive from South Africa for a visit.

By Amanda

Saturday 6 October – Cape Town to Damascus via Doha

Depart from Cape Town to Doha on a day flight. The hotel, transport to the hotel, dinner and breakfast at Doha were included in the airfare.

Sunday 7 October - Doha to Damascus

I arrived in Damascus, the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, late afternoon where I met Leana at the Sultan Hotel. The hotel is approximately one kilometer from the old city which is now a bazaar. We immediately left for the old city where one can walk among all the shops until late.

It’s difficult to describe the traffic in Damascus, one have to experience it oneself. They don’t use indicators but hoot if they want to turn or overtake and then just turn. Nerveracking if you are the passenger. To cross a street is another story, one just hopes for the best and runs.

Monday 8 October - Damascus

After breakfast (1 boiled egg , Syrian bread , jam, butter, cheese and tea without milk , every morning the same the entire holiday) we took a taxi to Shrine of Saida Zeinab, 10 km from Damascus. Later the morning we took a minibus to Maalula, 56 kilometers from Damascus.

I quickly got used to the lifestyle in Syria. Nothing opens before 10h00 in the morning. Breakfast is usually served until 12h00. From 16h00 – 18h00 the shops close until 20h00. Then they open at 20h00 until late. Everyone is out on the streets and in the shops at night, even the children.

Tuesday 9 October – Damascus - Aleppo

We left early for the bus stop to get a bus to Aleppo where we stayed in the Hotel Norm Islander. Once again less than 15 minutes walk to the Citadel and the Souq (bazaar).

Wednesday 10 October - Aleppo

Visited the citadel and the souq. The souq in Aleppo is incredible busy, big (10km) and everything is under one roof. There were times that one could not pass the people.

Thursday 11 October – Aleppo - Hama

We took the bus to Ham where we stayed in the Raid hotel. We took a taxi to the Crack des Chevaliers castle, an hour’s drive from Hama.

Hama is famous for the oldest surviving water wheels in the world. We saw about 6 of them along the river and they are all still in working condition.

Friday 12 October – Hama - Palmyra

We took a mini taxi to Homes from where we took the bus to Palmyra. Palmyra is so small the bus doesn’t stop at the bus stop, but drops everyone off at their various destination. The driver dropped us at the Sun Hotel, one of the budget hotels in Palmyra.

Palmyra is famous for his pink city (a dead city) where queen Zenobia ruled. Later the evening we went up to the Arab Castle for a desert sunset.

The hotel owner’s mother will make supper for guests if one wants to eat there and we decided to make use of the offer instead of going out.

Saturday 13 October - Palmyra

We left Palmyra at about 10h00 by camel and arrived at a Bedouin camp at 14h00 (±10km). That was quite an experience with no one understanding one another; we stared at them and they stared at us. Later the afternoon we went to a water hole and on the way back to the camp we were in a sand storm. Not too bad, just a taste of a sandstorm.

Sunday 14 October – Palmyra - Damascus

After breakfast we said goodbye to the Bedouins and left for Palmyra by camle and then by bus for Damascus. It was the end of Ramadan and also a long weekend, with the result that nearly all the hotels were fully booked. We found a hotel, Dakara, not too far from where the Sultan hotel is and not too far from the old city for our last shopping in Syria.

21 September 2007


14 September – Girne

I now left the Baltic cycle group and was offered accommodation by Vidmantas, a friend of Sigitas, so I decided to stay and as he will be away for the weekend, I have the house to myself - what luxury!!

15 September - Girne

Took the bus to Nicosia to try and find out about the visa for Syria, but the Embassy is on the Southern side of the island and therefore on the Greek side where I can not go, as I have no visa for Greece. No one seems to be able to help so I go for a leg wax and pedicure instead.

16 September - Girne

A day cycling along the coast and what a fantastic coast line it is. The island is very mountainous and barren but the coast is wonderful with many beaches, and unfortunately many new developments, which spoils the rural feel of the island, but that’s development for you. I understand that it is also endangering the nesting places of the sea turtles which have been coming to breed here for centuries.

17 September - Girne

Will spend another day in town to see if I can get into contact with the Syrian Embassy. Vidmantes has offered to try and get the correct telephone number, no but no luck as no one will commit themselves to give an answer. So I'm going to try my luck and get a visa at the Syrian boarder. Wish me luck!!

18 September - Girne – Kaplica - (Odometer not working) app 60km

A short day, but such an idyllic spot, I could not cycle past it - lovely beach, bit of a dusty campsite, even a beach bar and restaurant. This is surely as good as it gets. This is the end of the season and only a few super white Brits in their Union Jack swim suits still remain.

I will soon be the naked cyclist as predicted by Esther, as at the rate I'm losing things, there soon will be nothing left to lose.

19 September - Kaplica – Famagusta - app 60km

Left my little paradise and cycled over the mountain (nothing like a mountain pass first thing in the morning). Although there are campsites outside Famagusta I opted for an hotel close to the harbour, as the ferry to Mersin leaves at 8h30 in the morning and the ticket office opens at 7h00.

What and interesting old city Famagusta is, one can spend hours wondering around.

I am terribly bitten and have pumps all over my face, arms and legs and nothing seems to stop the itching!!!

20 September - Famagusta - Mersin (Main land Turkey) - By Ferry

Have been up early just to find out that the ferry is at 8h30 pm and not in the morning as stated in the email. So I spent the day wandering around the Salamis Ruins which date back to the 11th Century BC and how amazing it is - after being destroyed by enemies and several earthquakes, there is still an amazing amount intact. Then, off to the harbour where I met 2 Nepali guys cycling around the world.

21 September - Mersin – Atakia - By Bus

What a rust bucket the ferry is, very basic but at least with some seats where one can try to sit and sleep. The trip does not take 9 hours as stated in the and we arrive at 9h00 in Mersin.

Had some drama on the boat as a man fell overboard and (rust bucket or not) the ferry promptly turned around and picket him up again.

Still with the 2 Nepali guys, as they are also heading for Syria. We decide to take the bus to Atakia as I'm worried about the Syrian visa. If I can not get it on the border, there will be enough time left on my Turkish visa to go back to Ankara to try and get a visa there.

In Atakia we found very good accommodation at Sister Barbara where we stayed for the night.

13 September 2007


27 August - Border – Kirklarel app 50km (second day I forgot to check the mileage)

We crossed into Turkey and headed for the nearest town as Eddy's bike's rim is so buckled he could not cycle anymore and while waiting it also started raining, so best to take a room. The rim also took longer than expected to repair.

Turkish people are very friendly and on the first day I have been offered tea, watermelon and coffee.

28 August - Karklareli – Safalan - 60 miles

Well, for one, Turkey is not flat, so it is up and down hills all day long again as we head to Istanbul. By 16h30 we reached a picnic site with restaurant and toilets and decided to set up camp for the night as one never knows whether a campsite will be available further along the road.

29 August - Safalan – Istanbul - 85 miles

Gee, what a long day. Not that it was that far but coming into Istanbul is like any other large city - a nightmare as the traffic is heavy and one normally has no idea were one is going. None of the campsites indicated on the map is still there and by 21h00 it was time to give up and find a room in an hotel. The room is very expensive and we will try and find cheaper accommodation in the morning. At least I had my first glimpse of the Mediterranean.

31 August - Istanbul

We got up early and found a cheap backpackers in the hart of the tourist area, close to the Blue Mosque. We were sleeping on the roof with about a million others, nice and cosy!!! And will you believe it, bumped into Baltic Cycle Group again. So I decided to go with them for the next 2 weeks, or so, as they are kind of heading in the same direction as myself, and it will be nice to have some company along the way.

1 September - Istanbul to Bodrum - By Ferry

Got up early again, not that one can sleep late on the roof, and went down to the harbour to buy a ferry ticket to Bodrum. As the boat only left at 14h00 I went back to the hostel to say goodbye to Eddie and some of the Baltic cyclists group leaving today as only 15 of the cyclists will carry on to Cyprus.

The ferry is quite a surprise as it is much larger than I had expected with pool, gym, restaurants and the works!! The sea is like a lake so I lay on the deck by the pool all day. The restaurant is very expensive so one can only afford the very necessary. Sat out on the deck until after midnight, not a breath of wind and quite warm - how fantastic is that!!!

2 September Bodrum – Datca

More swimming in the pool and laying on the deck until we reach Bodrum at 15h00, then straight on another ferry to Datca, which took about 2 hours. We arrived in Datca at around 19h00 and quickly found a spot to make camp on the beach. There is even a nice little restaurant at the habour so some of us go for a bite and a beer.

3 September - Datca – Marmaris - 70km

A most scenic road, extremely hilly and hot (this is Turkey) but the views and beaches along the way make up for the hills. Stopped along the way for breakfast and a swim. Turkish breakfast is wonderful, consisting of a basket of bread, cheese, tomatoes, cucumber and olives.

The campsite is great again, right on the beach with excellent views of Marmaris across the bay. This is just too fantastic, warm evenings, beautiful sunsets and a beer on the beach - what more can I wish for!!

4 September - Marmaris – Mugla - 54km

Another very hot day (46 degrees), this time over a mountain pass, hard work, but with excellent views. Stopped midday at Ula, a small village along the way and decided to have a haircut. Very interesting as no one speaks English and all conversation is done by hand signals.

We are met by a local cyclist and lead into Mugla and through the old part of town where we were offered tea and a bike repair service. We camp at the local swimming pool, a another first for me - don't think I have camped at a swimming pool before. Nice green lawns.

5 September - Mugla – Koycegiz - 75km

Burent was there at 8h00 to lead us out of the village and along back roads through the forest to Koycegiz where we arrived fairly early and decided to take a boat trip across the lake to see Turtle Beach and the Lycian rock cut tombs of Dalyan. The caves are carved into the mountain and rather impressive.

What a trip! Absolutely stunning scenery, passed the caves and to Turtle Beach where we had a swim but did not spot any turtles. Even found a good campsite at Dalyan where we spent the rest of the evening lying on a timber deck drinking wine.

6 September - Dalyan – Fethiye (Oludeniz) - 75 km

This is really a nice group of people to cycle with, each one does kind of their own thing during the day and all arrive at camp in their own time. Most of the cyclists are Polish and speak limited English, only Bob is from Scotland and Saline from New Zealand. So most of the time it is easier to speak to them, purely because of the language problems with the others. Ella is Polish and a real nice person, so we kind of manage with hand signals and a dictionary. What a mad house!!

The Turkish pancakes are just the best thing ever!. Really large and with a variety of fillings, so we seldom walk or cycle past a pancake house without stopping.

7 September - Patara – Kale - Taking a lift

The people in Turkey is so frıendly. They are constantly stopping and asking if they can give one a lift, or they offer one tea and watermelon which, by the way we eat loads of. So we decided to see how easy it would be to hitch a ride. And so we split in pairs and set off. I went with Bob and in no time we got a lift, so the day passed quickly as we got in all sorts of cars. These are mostly driven with one hand only while the other is holding onto a cell phone – quite disconcerting if one is a passenger in the car!

8 September Kale – Olympos (Cirali) app 90km

Needless to say it is a very mountainous day again, but the scenery is so impressive that one forgets about the mountains. There are also so many swimming spots along the way that the day passes quite easily.

Olympos is a most impressive town with old ruins and an excellent beach.

9 September - Olympos (known as Cirali

Spent a relaxing day in Olympos, lying on the beach or on pillows on the timber deck at the campsite. We also walked up to mountain the see the natural gas burning through the rocks, apparently it has been burning for many thousands of years. The fuel source for the flames is natural gas, largely methane, seeping through cracks in the earth.

10 September Olympos (Cirali) – Anatalya 90km

11 September Anatalya – Side 74km

Another ancient town with loads of ruins, very impressive.

12 September Side - Alanya 70km

While in Alanya we took a walk up to the Seljuk Turkish fortress which dominates the town and offers stunning views over the harbor.

13 September Alanya – Cyprus - By ferry

Another excellent Turkish breakfast, then down to the harbour to board the ferry to Cyprus - a 4 hour trip. Cyprus appears extremely mountainous but at least the first 20 km to camp was rather flat. We will see how the rest of the time here will go.

27 August 2007

CYCLING BULGARIA - Oltenita to Turkish Border

17 August - Oltenita, Romania - Silistra, Bulgaria

After a breakfast of fresh tomatoes and paprika from Peter's garden we were on our way to Calarasi where a border crossing is also indicated on the map. This time we were in luck and took the ferry across the river to Silistra. Now for the dreaded border control, to see what they will do about my Romanian Visa dilemma. I have now been in the country 20 days on a 2 day visa!!! Well, I said nothing and just handed them my passport with which they disappeared. After a while they appeared again and just handed me my passport and all this without a single word!!! Bravo, now I am in Bulgaria!!

I can see that communication is going to be an even bigger problem as here the alphabet is different and on top of that they nod their heads for no and shake it sideways for yes. What a confusion.

18 August - Silistra -Balcik - 85 miles (136 km)

A long day on the bike and the road very. Hilly farmlands, mostly corn and sunflowers. No camping in Balcik and had to go another 15km north to Kavarna to find a good site on the sea. My first day at the Black Sea and on the beach. The water is lukewarm - fantastic!!

19 August - Kavarna

Spent the day on the beach and ran into Baltic Cycle group again - all of 60 cyclists, mostly from Poland. Had a good night trying to communicate. The beach is fantastic. Check out the cool dudes - bit young for me, but good to look at.

20 August - Kavarna - Kancija via Verna - 60 miles (96 km)

Very hard to find places as most of the signboards are in Hungarian and impossible to read. Campsite very basic but good beach - night out with Baltic Cycle group again. These people can party. The restaurant owner invited as over and produced some local drink and homemade wine. Local stuff really strong but better than campsite which is mozzıe infested

21 August - Kamcija

Spent the entire day on the beach again. Loads of sunshine, long white beach, warm water - what more can one ask for. Even adopted a cat at the campsite.

22 August - Kamcija - Nesebar - 65 miles (104 km)

Cycling all along the Black Sea and camping again at same campsite as Baltic cyclists. They are becoming like family now. Met a German gentleman of 70 years at campsite pushing a bike and trailer around the world. He started a year ago in Germany and is still going strong!!

23 August - Nesebar

Spent another day on the beach. Life is so good.

24 August - Nesebar - Yuk Camping - 60 miles (96 km)

Good thing the Baltic Cycle group told me where they will be camping as this is definitely the best campside in the area. Stopped in both Pomarie and Sozapol today for a swim as it is very hot and and a good way to cool off.

25 August - Yuk Camping

The Baltic Cycle group moved on and so did Eddy, so I spent the day on the beach trying to get rid of my cycle tan.

26 August - Yuk Camping - Border 75km

Bulgaria is extremely hilly as soon as one leaves the coast. We spent the entire day cycling up and down hills, it was also very hot, perspiration just pored off one. Flies are another problem and buzz in hordes all around one. Eddy came cycling back along the road and we cycled on to a small village just before the Turkish border where we turned in for some refreshments and decided to stay. There is no campsite here and no rooms for rent but we were directed to the local hospital where we stayed for the night. This is definitely a first. Have never stayed in a hospital before.

17 August 2007

CYLING ROMANIA - Szeget to Oltenita

30 July - Szeget – Arad – 78km

Left Szeget with a stiff tail wind which became a near gale force cross wind, difficult to keep bike on the road, with all the trucks, road very busy. Arrived at border post to find that Hungarian visa, was not what I had expected, but in fact 2 x 10 day visas, (where did that come from?). I therefore overstayed and after a lot of hand signals, back and forth from building to building, I was allowed to go.

Arrived in Arad very late looking for a campsite, as indicated on the map but all that remain of the campsite, is an abandon field. So now it is raining and quite dark. So booked into a pension at 120 Lei. 3.1 euros to a Lei

The language still remains a problem, everything (as expected) is in Romanian.

31 July - Arad – Bârzava - 60km

Arad is a very busy town, with many old buildings, but few seems to be in good condition, most appear to need some TLC. 50 Years of communism also left its mark and there are numerous apartment blocks, all very unattractive and in a state of poor repair.

Got on the road to Barzava by 12:00 and found the countryside interesting with many small villages, gypsies, horse carts and old ladies dressed in black.

Campsites are few and far between and the cheapest places to stay are at the truck stops where there is cheap food and accommodation.

1 August - Barzava – Deva - 100km

Fixed slow puncture and then on the road again, the roads are extremely busy with trucks of all shapes and sizes. The small villages are however very quiet and people stare at you in amazement. Each village also appears to have a well where water is colleted.

The road is still fairly flat between wooded mountains.

2 August- Deva - Geoagiu Băi – 27km

Left the busy town of Deva along the main road, but found the road extremely busy and the road in very poor condition, which makes cycling plain dangerous. So turned off onto a smaller road at the first opportunity.

As I turned off I found a sign for a Roman thermal bath, so as it was only 12 km away I headed in that direction. Geoagiu Băi is a small but busy town.

Camping was in a lady’s back yard with chickens, dogs and an old long drop.

3 August - Geoagiu Băi – Blaj - 91km

Carried on along a gravel road, past numerous small villages, farmlands with cornfields and even some vineyards. Now in the hart of Transylvania.

4/5 August - Blaj - Fagaras - 135km

6 August - Făgăraş – Bran 63km

Tried to find breakfast but at 9.30am it seems to be to early for food, but not to early for beer, everywhere people are sitting drinking beer, but when I asked for food the reply was "don't know at this hour". A most beautiful ride through the mountains, heavily wooded and along a river. Arrived in Bran expecting to find clues to Dracula Castle but only found "Vampire Camping".

7 August - Bran

Spent the day in Bran visited Bran Castle (very touristy) and at last got the real story about old Vlad and the castle.

8 August Bran – Campulung - 37 miles (59km)

Came over the Carpation Mountains via Bran Pass. Not a bad ride and the dividing line between Transylvania and Valencia. Found excellent accommodation in a pension, very up market at 120 Lei.

Lanuage still a problem have by now bought yeast instead of butter, a fountain pen without ink instead of a ballpoint pen and cream instead of yogurt!!

9 August Campulung – Targovista - 41 miles (65km)

Excellent downhill ride, got to Targovista early but better to stay over than to carry on to Bucharest which is still about 80km, and not so good to arrive in a big city after dark. Found accommodation in "pension king", which is not much of a king of a place, real back street next to scrap yard but very cheap.

10 August Targovista – Bucharest 61 miles (98km)

Getting into Bucharest is as hair raising as most cities, loads of traffic, specially on a Friday afternoon. Got directions from taxi driver for a campsite, on the other side of the town, later found internet cafe and found the real campsite all the way back through the city where we came from in the first place. Camp slightly mozzie infested but at least lots of trees.

Discover Romanian visa was only granted for 2 days (valid for 3 months) and not granted for 3 months as expected!!!!! Plan of action is to try and find SA Embassy and see what can be done about the situation.

11 August - Bucharest

Still in Casa Alba Campsite, doing usual, shopping, laundry etc. Very nice city lots of old buildings with oyster shell shaped canopies. Loads and loads of high rise blocks of flats from communist era.

12 August – Bucharest

Found out that there was no SA Embassy in Bucharest.

13 August – Bucharest

So up and down to the Romanian External Affairs to try to sort out my visa, but they sent me to the Romanian Consulate and they in turn sent me to the Illegal Aliens department. After all this I got told to contact the border police or go to the border and they will deal with it there, it does not sound quite right, but what can a person do?

After all this running around I was to late for the Bulgarian Embassy which is only open between 10 - 12!!!!

They also need booking confirmation for the time that you plan to spent there, so back to the internet to book some Youth hostels, I found a website, but you still need to pay a 10% deposit which is not refundable.

14 August – Bucharest

Up early this morning and made sure I am at the Embassy at 10:00 after a lot of frowning they accepted my application and I can phone tomorrow after 3:00 to see if it is approved. So wait and see again.

I also tried the Turkish Embassy but they informed me that I can only apply for a visa in my home country. What a bummer.

Well after phoning Amanda in SA, she came back with the news that the Turkish Embassy in SA said that I must just ask again.

15 August – Bucharest

So back to the Turkish Embassy to beg for a visa and it worked, had my visa by five o'clock!!! I phoned the Bulgarian Embassy and yes the visa was granted, I could pick it up the following day!!.

16 August - Bucharest – Oltenita - 61 miles (98km)

Well needless to say I was at the Hungarian Embassy at 10:00 sharp, just to find a lot of people milling about. There seems to be no rhyme or reason as to this order of things, so after a while, they pointed at me and took me to the front of the row and I was promptly handed my visa. So a visa was granted for 15 day which is fair enough and by 12:00 I was on my way to the border. So instead of taking the main highway to Giurgiu, we (still cycling with Eddie) decided to go to Oltenita which is a much smaller road, only to find that there is no border crossing as indicated on the map!!!!. I can't seem to get out of Romania!!

In the process we met Peter, a local Romanian, who invited us to his house, a very small 2 room wooden house without a bathroom or kitchen. One can however go for a wee in the back garden amongst the chickens.

17 August - Oltenita - Silistra - 85km

After a breakfast of fresh tomatoes and paprika from Peter's garden we were on our way to Calarasi where a border crossing is also indicated on the map. This time we were in luck and took the ferry across the river to Silistra. Now for the dreaded border control, to see what they will do about my Romanian Visa dilemma. I have now been in the country 20 days on a 2 day visa!!! Well, I said nothing and just handed them my passport with which they disappeared. After a while they appeared again and just handed me my passport and all this without a single word!!! Bravo, now I am in Bulgaria!!