Loic: Aurel had a terrible experience at the Egyptian border, famous to be one of the worst of the world! Indeed it is a tough obstacle course, where everything is written in Arabic and where the steps are numerous and not always logical. In brief, we fill-in a form, then we go to the bank to exchange dollars against Egyptian pounds, then we buy the visa and finally we obtain the magic stamp! It seems so easy said like this...We were lucky as it was not too crowded and we could get kicked out quickly when finding out that we were missing a stamp or a magic form! The worst was for our bikes. We had to unpack all our stuff to go through the X rays and pack everything again.Then we were told that we needed money for the bikes registration documents, for the new licence plates, the insurance and 40 USD for the photocopies. It was 200€ in total for each bike! We got receipts so it is a completely legal rip-off but not corruption nor bakchich. We ended up with two files by bike full of photocopies and diverse forms. They accompanied us for the other steps (fortunately this time there was a civilian probably from the tourist police): verification of the frame and the engine numbers (we are lucky, many bikes do not have an engine's number on their bikes), verification that all these numbers match with our "carnet de passage en douane". We got the license plates in Arabic (in a bike format, in duplicate one for the front and one for the rear...). We scotch-taped them on the bikes on the front and they finally agreed that we don't have to use the ones on the front...
During this time, luggages were unloaded and loaded from vans; everything was opened, analysed, etc...
We were lucky one more time as with the bikes we could overtake the cars in the queue. It seems that everybody knew in the customs office that two bikes were there and this little fame surely helped. In the end we could say that everything went well, it took us only 4 hours to be set free in the Egyptian territory. A main step done!
Aurel: First view of Egypt, Salouh, a city at the border of Libya.
Loïc: We are finally on the Egyptian roads....well at the first stop a police car asks us where we come from and where we go, and tell us (authoritarian) they are going to escort us. At this time, we do not know yet if it is to protect us (from what? from whom?) or to control our itinerary. We do not like it, we try to explain to them that we would like to ride alone, but they don't want to hear anything. So we take the road following them.
It is really annoying as we have just spent 2000 km following our guide's car in Libya. Thus we stop at the first restaurant on the side of the road, letting them down. We have some food and we let them continue on the road. We see them coming back to us, a bit irritated, and this time they park just in front of our bikes so we cannot move. We explain that we want to eat and they let us finish our meal. We do not like it but well. We take our time and then we make a sign to them to explain that we are going to leave. Aurel asks them quite strongly to let us alone, we do not want them but they insist and get upset. It is the very first time that I see Aurel getting angry. I usually try to keep low profile especially with the police. We start following them again. We could outdistance them but there are usually some police controls. I make a sign to them to show that I am going to overtake their car but they make me understand that it is not a good idea. Are they going to Marsa Matruh with us? We are afraid they escort us until we find an hotel as we would prefer to camp in the desert....
In the end, after 50km of mutual irritation, they make a sign to us and we can just ride without them. Later we talk to an Egyptian who explains that they were probably bored and that escorting us kept them busy.
Once in Marsa Matruh (refer to the map in the "Where are we now" section of the site) we stop in a online café to contact a German girl who could host us in Siwa but we do not hear from her. Nothing serious.
We get out of the city for our first night in the desert just the two of us. We spot a corrugated shelter a couple of meters from the road. We decide to take refuge under it while the night falls to be kept from unexpected visits.
We have fun with our lights...
... and we get spotted! We hear voices, we see lights that don't last. We feel that there are some people around us but is a deep night. It is not going to be easy to sleep in those conditions so Aurel proposes that we make the first move toward our visitors and to meet them.
Aurel: if we sleep here I prefer to know who is close from us. I prefer to see them while I am still awake than at 3am fully asleep in my duvet.
Loïc: In fact there are 4 militaries in pyjamas/treillis who are even more afraid than us as they do not dare to come to us.
Aurel: it is a bit funny as the militaries are supposed to check who is on their ground...
Loïc: 100 meters from each others they shout "STOP" and ask for an explanation. We invite them in our camp, we show them our passport. They explain that we are on a military ground but that we can stay until the morning if we leave at 7am.
We have another visitor in the morning: a shepherd on his donkey. He leaves us happy, with a polaroid picture of him, Aurel and his donkey.
Well sometimes it is difficult to know who is the donkey....
We take the road to Siwa, an oasis in the desert after 300km of as straight road without any petrol station. We would not have reached our destination without the advtank.com additional fuel tank
We take the liberty of visiting some dromedaries.
Fortunately we take a break to have a drink.
Aurel: the last 50 km to reach Siwa are quite tough. There is a strong crosswind. We eat sand for one hour... but we finally get there!
Loïc: We enjoy our first ride in the soft sand while looking for a camping close to the dunes. We do not fall but we are not far from it...
Aurel: We did not feel like staying in the camping... there was only sand with a toilet. The "shower" was supplied by a hot water-spring (there are many in Siwa). But we are reluctant to wash in this water, even our feet...
Loïc: We finally end up in a small hotel in the city center where we relax for 24h after our long ride from the beginning of the trip. We appreciate to stay in this village at the desert's gates.
We treat ourselves with the services of a young Egyptian who guide us in the oasis, seated on one of our bike.
The night life, the chica on the hotel's roof,
A fertile oasis with finally some small montains,
Deserted bedouin villages,
A large salty lake,
Mountains' names to scare tourists,
Nice young Egyptians ready to make us discover the region,
We are clearly out of our elements,
Aurel: Loïc is so disoriented that a cart runs into his bike!
This relaxing day makes us some good, we start to enjoy the trip.
The young Egyptian who were showing us the area proposed us to swim in one of the hot water-springs of Siwa but to be honest the water was really dirty... We settled for a coke in the cafés surrounding the springs.
We went to the barber during one of our break in the afternoon. It was not a luxury! We even decided to follow the Egyptian fashion and to get some beautiful moustaches! The barber was very nice and shaved us while watching the football world cup on a TV from another time.
Loïc: I think that Aurel looks like the "Commissaire Valentin des Brigades du Tigres". Aurel finds that I look like Gomez in the Adams family.
Aurel: We meet again our young Egyptian at the sunset with one of his friend (a biker). We decide to go see the sunset on the salty lakefront.
It seems that our bikes make them dream!
Theirs make Loïc dream
This peaceful atmosphere is the right time for a swim in the hot and salty lake.
Loïc: We got to know some people after this relaxing day, in particular a nice bike mechanic, Atof. After an hour of discussion he suggested to meet at night to drink alcohol in the desert.
Alcohol consumption is officially not an offence. But it has to be done discreetly to avoid any trouble. Giant Facebook drink parties would never happen in Egypt. Desert is the ideal place to have this kind of "entertainement"...We like the idea but we do not want to ride there. We take a touktouk (a small bike with a kind of trunk) to drink a bottle of alcohol made of dates.
Aurel: It was not far from midnight when we got there. I admit that at this time I lost my motivation a bit...
Loïc: Actually the alcohol was not too strong, between wine and hooch, but it is better not to drink it excessively. We discuss and some friends join with a sort of tamtam. They start singing, it was quite repetitive but nice.
A calm improvised evening in the soft heat of the desert with our new friends. Brilliant.
Back at the hotel, like a Kenyan warrior, I have a black thought: if we were going to Egypt for a week, this authentic and rich evening would have been the best time of the trip. The kind of thing that you proudly talk about with all your coworkers at lunch time when you are back. The highlight of the trip. But here I know that it was a really good time but it is going to be drown among many other amazing adventures. And what if such a rich trip was lowering the intensity of the moments lived after all? I hope not but this idea makes me uncomfortable. We'll see in the next few months...
Aurel: The day after we hang around in Siwa avoiding the heat before taking the road to go back in the North.
When we leave the wind is not blowing contrary to when we arrived at Siwa and we can enjoy the view of the desert.
We ride leisurly toward Marsa Matruh to arrive there before the night and to camp at the same place, on the military ground.
More the sun sets and more I feel good alone in my helmet to think of this and that. Suddenly I feel a huge happiness, I find this trip so beautiful and amazing.
We are surprised to meet our shepherd again when we reach our camp, this time with his herd.
We go sleep in our tents after working a little on our bikes and a quick meal.
Tomorrow Alexandria. Then Cairo. We enjoy those last calm moments in the desert before getting in the madness of large Egyptian cities.