Northeast Africa: Fear & Roving in Africa

Text: Ramona Eichhorn • Photography: Ramona Eichhorn, Uwe Krauss

If not for these unnerving roadblocks all the time, Egypt could be really enjoyable. A boiling hot ribbon of tar takes us through the densely populated Nile Valley. Palm trees lining the shores of the mighty river rush by. The lush green sugarcane plantations are dotted with workers dressed in luminous colors.

When I spot yet another police post, we quickly detour to sneak around through the fields. We know the coming procedure all too well.

In Luxor, 58 people died in a terrorist attack in 1997. The tourism industry collapsed. Egypt has recovered but the fear it may happen again is omnipresent. For safety reasons, the authorities force tourists to travel in convoys. This, however, seems most dangerous, more so from the realistic fear of encountering other madcap drivers than from the slight prospect of being hijacked.

Yesterday, we had to race through villages at 110 kmh when a crazed bus driver decided he was the cat and we were the mice, and all this over dismal roads covered with people, donkeys, and ox-drawn wagons.

Our decision to veer off the beaten track to a town of 300 souls promises an interesting time with the locals. News of the strangers on steel horses spreads quickly. Tourists never show their faces here.

The Egyptians offer a place to sleep in a tin shed that serves as a school, funeral home and wedding site all in one. Several rounds of sweet tea later, it's midnight. We're dead tired and strewn like rag dolls on two dusty benches when harsh pounding at the door rouses us. It's the police. Worried about our safety, they insist we follow them to the station. But in the course of a long discussion, we maneuver them out of the room and barricade the door with our motorbikes. The next morning we're surprised to learn a policeman was posted outside to guard us all night long. As we don't wish to cause any more trouble, we quickly hit the road.

After a fuel stop, our KTMs start coughing in the same ill rhythm. Oh, no - the apprentice filled the tanks with diesel! Sweating and swearing, we push the bikes the two kilometers back up the hill to clean out the carburetors. When I ask for petrol at the gas station, the apprentice acts stupefied. "Didn't you know that we only sell diesel here?" Fortunately, after this fellow had returned from another station with one of our jerry cans filled with the right stuff, the bikes recover from their poisoning without too much damage.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the March/April 2005 back issue.