Tanya Edwards (27) from Port Edward and her partner, Simon Bihr (31) from Germany are already nine months into their cycling and rock climbing trip from Germany to South Africa.
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They have so far completed over 6000 kilometers of their 20000 kilometre journey and have already cycled through 12 countries including Germany, Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzogovena, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Turkey, Egypt and Sudan.
The couple are having a great time although not without some potholes along the way.
We loved climbing across Europe in many scenic places, including Kalymnos Island (Greece), Paklenica National Park (Croatia) and Geyikbayiri (Turkey). Swimming in the Crystal clear waters of Croatia was a much needed refuge for from the sun. Cycling into what felt like another world was Albania. This country was isolated from the rest of the world for many years and yet its people are so open and giving and its landscape breathtaking.
Although, so far, they have planned the seasons for Africa well, they admit to not thinking too much about the summer in Europe. They cycled through the Balkan heatwave in temperatures of over 40 degrees.
“This lasted for a few months and we passed many wildfires on the way. This made Croatia, Montenegro and Albania much harder to cycle through than the Sahara Desert, which we crossed in winter. The hordes and hordes of tourists packed like sardines on the coast of Montenegro was also not our favourite time.”
As the couple couldn’t do without a good cup of coffee they set off with one luxury item – their Italian espresso coffee machine. But this was short lived, Simon and Tanya say that in Turkey they sent back their beloved espresso maker.
“Espresso ended for us in Europe. In Turkey, we discovered a new passion for mocha, which we can make in a pot. In Egypt and Sudan, the roadside cafes make the best coffees, by adding spices such as cardamom in Egypt and ginger in Sudan… our coffee addiction is well satisfied here.”
When the couple contacted the Herald they were in Khartoum and were planning to head into the beautiful country of Ethiopia in the coming weeks, which has a reputation, they say, for tough mountains and aggressive children.
We shall see what the road brings. Afterwards, we will loop around Lake Victoria through Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda and then onto South Africa, where we hope to arrive in Port Edward in early 2019. We are very excited for the road ahead and are already fascinated by this continent.
- A highlight for Simon and Tanya was meeting Mrs. Hook, a loving stray cat who had lost an eye and was very sick when she found them in Croatia.
She adopted them on their first night at a campsite in a climbing area called Omis and allowed us to treat her eye.
They found her help at an amazing animal shelter in Split where they operated on her, helped her heal and found her a home. The couple volunteered at the dog shelter and had an incredibly rewarding week with them.
- Climbing in Geyikbayiri, Turkey was also one of their highlights. It is a spot in the mountains in the middle of nature and surrounded by rock walls. What made this place special was not just the excellent climbing but the community.
Climbing with others and encouraging each other, cooking together, spending time at the camp fire and pizza and movie nights – it made us feel like we had found a home away from home.
- Discovering the ancient world of Egypt, with their gods, pharoahs and lost civilisation left them in wonder. Their favourites were actually the less popular Dendera temple and Step Pyramid, with its colourful reliefs still in tact.
- The desert of Sudan ‘was surreal’.
Camping under the endless stars of the night sky, witnessing the bright zodiacal light which neither of us had seen before, coming across herds of wild camels and camping next to them, the actual sound of silence – this was for us, pure bliss.
- Another highlight was the hospitality of the people in Sudan.
We, as strangers, were invited into many homes where we felt like part of the family.
Tanya also had the Sudanese version of a spa day where the ladies designed henna on her arms, shaped her eyebrows (with a blade) and dabbed sweet homemade perfume on her before dressing her in a tob – while Simon was out with the boys on the motorbike.
- Another highlight has been meeting other people also cycling through Africa. One great experience was camping on a beautiful, deserted beach with Vincent and Michael on Rab Island in Croatia.
Another cycle tourist, Arthur has also become a friend and the couple has met him three times along the way – in Cairo, the Red Sea and in Aswan and are sure they will see him on the road again.
The couple has experienced some dramas along the way, including accidentally camping in a quarry in Albania at night and hurrying to pack everything up before trucks drove over their tent. Their solar panel was stolen on a beach in Croatia, 10 meters in front of them.
Waking up to hear a bear next to their tent, camping 20km away from a large wildfire and dealing with one or two aggressive policemen in Egypt who tried to intimidate them with their guns.
Perhaps the biggest drama for them, though, was to witness how animals and the environment are treated.
They saw a cow slaughtered on the street as they were cycling past and many chickens and pigeons kept in tiny cages. Camels and donkeys regularly have their legs tied to stop them running away.
Stray cats and dogs rummaging through the open dumps on the side of the road, some disabled.
A very difficult moment for us was in Albania. We made friends with a friendly chicken we named Braveheart, as she was brave enough to eat out of our hands.On our last morning, however, we witnessed her beaten with a stick and her head cut off. We still carry a feather of hers with us. It seems, in some countries, slaughterhouses really do have ‘glass windows’.
Another huge disappointment for them is the amount of garbage that is produced by people.
Plastic bags and bottles caught on flora surround many towns, villages and cafes that they pass.
Going slowly on a bike makes you see the details. When family visited in Croatia, they commented on how clean Croatia was. We did the same stretch by bike the next day and we commented on how filthy it was!
If you would like to follow the couple adventures you can by going to: www.rock-road-rhino.com or the Facebook and Instagram accounts: Rock, Road & Rhino.