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   Welcome to mad nomad’s adventurous website! This site is about travelling the way I’ve been dreaming of as a child! When I took the decision to make my dream come true, it seemed remote and totally unfamiliar to me. Finally, after two years of profound research and intense preparation, I hit the road!

   On the 14th of April 2007 I set off solo from Thessaloniki, Greece by my small motorcycle (Honda XR 250S), on a journey to four countries, for ten months’ time: Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and India. During my trip, however, there were many changes in my schedule, and, finally, I ended up returning to Greece after two years and two and a half months, having covered 73,000 km. (45,361 miles), after travelling to fourteen Asian countries: Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh! This was my journey known as “greece2india“. You will find my trip reports from that time at: http://www.moto.gr/forums/showthread.php?t=38448

 

 

   On July 18th, 2013, we hit the road for an even longer journey! Africa and Middle East are calling us and we are eager to explore those lands! Why do I use the plural form? This time, Christina, the she-mad nomad, was travelling with me for 10 months. Therefore, we were riding two motorcycles of the same type (Honda XR 250), travelling according to my usual recipe: innumerous detours, in order to visit everything interesting, years on the road, to catch the scent of the local societies we are visiting, always guided by the love for People and Nature. Since August 2014, I keep traveling solo, as Christina decided to fly from Zambia back to Greece because of some personal reasons. This is the expedition called “mad about Africa“! You can check out our route on Live Trip Traveller and you can enjoy our reports at the Trip diary section.

  

Praktorio FM 104.9, April 14th, 2016

   Here is my live interview from Egypt by telephone at the broadcast “Saga” with Evi Karkiti. It was live on April 14th, 2016, 16:45 on Praktorio FM 104.9 (Athens – Macedonian News Agency). It is in Greek.

 

      Saga-104.9

 

Sudan: Africa’s friendliest nation!

   When somebody enters Sudan from Ethiopia, he immediately notices the difference… The roads are empty of people and animals which makes driving a piece of cake. The landscape is not mountainous and the road consists of endless straight lines. That means we could ride longer in a day’s time, so we reached Khartoum in a couple of days.

Animal market in Omdurman

Animal market in Omdurman

   Some say Khartoum is the Dubai of Africa. The last decade it’s booming and skyscrapers form the skyline. However, in places like Omdurman or Tuti Island, at the confluence of the White Nile and the Blue Nile, it feels like a large village. That was a great introduction for us in the Sudanese culture. It feels like a mesmerizing medley of Arabic and African culture. That was noticeable on the cuisine too… Everyday was a feast with shawarma (similar to gyros or döner kebab), falafel, grilled meat or beans! Fresh juice was available everywhere to cool us down.

Stalls serving fresh juice are common in Sudan... That was mango!

Stalls serving fresh juice are common in Sudan… That was mango!

   Leaving the capital, we took the road heading north. We first visited a couple of Kushite temples in the ancient Kingdom of Meroë. That was my first sight of the grand temples dedicated to ancient Egyptian or Kushite gods. I was astonished by them and their isolation in the middle of the desert was only adding to the charm.

The Kushite temple in Naqa, part of the ancient Kingdom of Meroë, was dedicated to the Egyptian god Amun.

The Kushite temple in Naqa, part of the ancient Kingdom of Meroë, was dedicated to the Egyptian god Amun.

   Most people link pyramids to Egypt but actually, many more pyramids have been found in Sudan! They were constructed there from 720 BC to 350 AD. They are not as grand as their Egyptian counterparts but their isolation is what makes them special. While the sun was getting lower on the horizon, we were exploring the Pyramids of Meroë without any other visitor on sight. Wild camping in the desert next to the pyramids was a memorable experience under the full moon’s light!

Pyramids were not built only in Egypt. Actually, many more have been found in Sudan, the most famous being in Meroë!

Pyramids were not built only in Egypt. Actually, many more have been found in Sudan, the most famous being in Meroë!

   After admiring the old, colonial architecture of Atbara, we headed west leaving the Nile behind us for a while. The Holy Mountain of Sudan, Jebel Barkal, is situated in Karima. The country’s most well-preserved pyramids are located there since the 3rd century BC. The neighbouring village of El Kurru hosts some impressive ancient royal tombs. That was the best spot for us to wild camp on the riverbank and enjoy a peaceful night next to the Nile!

The ancient Tomb of King Tantamani in El Kurru

The ancient Tomb of King Tantamani in El Kurru

   We made a loop to visit Old Dongola, an abandoned settlement on a beautiful riverside spot which was inhabited from the 7th to the 14th century AD. Some pillars, mud brick mausoleums and houses are still standing on the sand. There was nobody around and that added to the feel of exploration in such a remote place!

The sandstorm had brought a lot of sand on the road to Old Dongola.

The sandstorm had brought a lot of sand on the road to Old Dongola.

   We were hosted by a Sudanese family in the modern town of Dongola. They treated us like kings and when we tried to cause less troubles to them, the wife seriously said that according to the Sudanese culture, they must treat their guests with food, let them wash and offer them a good rest. They made us remember the hospitality of Asians…

Even when you ask for directions, you provoke the ancient hospitality traditions of Sudanese people. A hearty breakfast has to be provided on the field: pasta, potatoes, broad beans, tomato salad, bread, dates and tea.

Even when you ask for directions, you provoke the ancient hospitality traditions of Sudanese people. A hearty breakfast has to be provided on the field: pasta, potatoes, broad beans, tomato salad, bread, dates and tea.

   That was where Konstantina bid me farewell and made her way to Khartoum in order to fly back to Greece. I went on with my journey heading north to Kerma. That’s where the Western Deffufa is situated. It is considered one of the largest and oldest manmade structures in Africa! It used to be a mud brick temple on top of which ceremonies were held.

The Mausoleum of Sheikh Idris in the village of Quikkah

The Mausoleum of Sheikh Idris in the village of Quikkah

   The little used road through the desert soon took me to Wadi Halfa, a town close to the Egyptian border. Unfortunately, our visas did not allow us to stay more than two weeks in Sudan. However, we enjoyed a lot this country and the most important reason for this was its inhabitants. We were considering Guineans the most friendly nation in Africa but Sudanese set a whole new standard! I knew everything would be different and much harder once I would try to cross the border into Egypt but I had to keep riding…

I had heard about it but now I have no doubt... Sudanese make by far the most hospitable nation in Africa!

I had heard about it but now I have no doubt… Sudanese make by far the most hospitable nation in Africa!

You can check out the map with more photos and reports at: Live Trip Traveller

 

Ethiopia: The historical circuit of the north

   We had planned our itinerary in order to follow the religious festivals around Northern Ethiopia. Celebrating Christmas in the medieval, rock-hewn churches of Lalibela is a unique experience. During the night, thousands of pilgrims congregate around those grand monuments which were painfully carved out of the rock, some of them being monolithic. The yard, the rooms, the pillars, the decoration, everything was formed by carving a single piece of rock! The Christmas liturgy lasts the whole night with people chanting all together, praying and reading holy books with candles lit up.

Thousands of pilgrims spend the whole night of Christmas chanting, praying and reading holy books in the medieval, rock-hewn churches of Lalibela.

Thousands of pilgrims spend the whole night of Christmas chanting, praying and reading holy books in the medieval, rock-hewn churches of Lalibela.

   The most important religious festival in Ethiopia is Epiphany. The best place to celebrate that is Gonder, famous for its 17th-century African castles! The most famous of them is the impressive 32-meter (105 ft) tall Palace of Emperor Fasiladas. The celebration, actually, takes place in Fasiladas’ Baths. The huge pool is slowly filled with water over a period of three days. At the morning of Epiphany Day, when a priest puts out a candle in the water, it becomes blessed. That moment hundreds of devotees jump in the pool laughing and throwing water all over the place! People give them bottles to be filled with holy water while youngsters jump from really high trees in the shallow pool.

Epiphany is the most important religious festival in Ethiopia. Hundreds of devotees jump that day in Fasiladas' Baths at Gonder!

Epiphany is the most important religious festival in Ethiopia. Hundreds of devotees jump that day in Fasiladas’ Baths at Gonder!

   We crossed the beautiful Simien Mountains and after cornering the whole day on lovely and quiet mountain roads, we reached Aksum. That was the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Aksum. An advanced civilization started to develop there as early as 400 BC. Some huge steles stand there since ancient times, including the Great Stele, which was the largest single piece of stone that humanity ever tried to erect. It was weighing an enormous 520 tonnes! Things went wrong, however, and the Great Stele was left broken on the ground.

An advanced civilization started to develop in the Kingdom of Aksum as early as 400 BC. These huge steles were playing the role of tombstones and monuments to the local rulers.

An advanced civilization started to develop in the Kingdom of Aksum as early as 400 BC. These huge steles were playing the role of tombstones and monuments to the local rulers.

   After admiring the remote, medieval, rock-hewn churches of Tigray region, it was time to explore the most unique place in the whole of Ethiopia: the Danakil Depression! That’s like going to Mars… It’s one of the lowest and also the hottest inhabited place on earth. It is located next to Eritrea at 125 m (410 ft) below sea level. The temperature there often exceeds 50o C (122o F)! Only Afar people can survive in this inhospitable area but even themselves live a semi-nomadic life. They move to the mountains every summer.

Abuna Yemata Guh Church is carved in a small cave halfway up a rock pinnacle. It's a steep and scary climb but the setting and the old frescoes are worth the effort!

Abuna Yemata Guh Church is carved in a small cave halfway up a rock pinnacle. It’s a steep and scary climb but the setting and the old frescoes are worth the effort!

   It is not allowed for independent travellers to visit the Danakil Depression by themselves. So, I had to use the services of Ethio Travel and Tours (E.T.T.) and join a group. That landscape is definitely worth the effort… It’s amazing to see the Afar people extracting salt from the ground the same way their ancestors were doing hundreds of years ago. Even today the camel caravans are seen travelling for five days from -125 m (-410 ft) altitude to about 2,100 m (6,890 ft) in order to sell this precious commodity in the town of Mekele.

In the otherworldly Danakil Depression, one of the most inhospitable places on earth, Afar people mine salt since hundreds of years ago...

In the otherworldly Danakil Depression, one of the most inhospitable places on earth, Afar people mine salt since hundreds of years ago…

   Dallol Lake is an unearthly sight by itself… The rich minerals of the ground make an extraordinary colourful natural palette! Sulphur gives the yellow colour, copper gives the reddish, manganese gives the purple and salt fills in like snow with its white colour making weird formations. The water sounds bubbling and you must be careful not to let your toe in, since that thing is really acidic!

That's not Planet Mars... It's still on Earth! That's the natural palette of Dallol Lake!

That’s not Planet Mars… It’s still on Earth! That’s the natural palette of Dallol Lake!

   It was only becoming even more astonishing as we were approaching another enormous feature of Mars… eh, sorry, we are still on Earth! I never imagined I could be so close to one of the most active volcano’s crater, Irta’ale! We could actually see the lava floating and exploding. In the absolute darkness of the area, the flaming red lava was looking like an endless set of fireworks!

I never imagined I could be so close to one of the most active volcano's crater, Irta'ale!

I never imagined I could be so close to one of the most active volcano’s crater, Irta’ale!

   After almost three months and 8,500 km (5,282 miles) exploring this unique country, I can only confirm what is known about Ethiopia. Yes, the hassles are plentiful and many locals are not friendly. Unfortunately, they often make visitors feel unwelcome. We met tourists booking a flight urgently out of Ethiopia to save their holidays! If you are looking for a country where you can relax and enjoy your vacations, Ethiopia is not the ideal one. But if you are looking for adventure and a unique culture with ancient roots to experience, then Ethiopia will mesmerize you!

Everything is carved out of rock in the medieval churches of Lalibela.

Everything is carved out of rock in the medieval churches of Lalibela.

You can check out the map with more photos and reports at: Live Trip Traveller

  

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