… Well, we’ve managed to do everything we set ourselves in Cairo! It’s not been easy, and we took it to the wire, but we did it! Those who are uninitiated might think, as we naively did, that in a large city like Cairo it might be relatively easy to get everything you need with a minimum of fuss and not much effort. Alas, we had not accounted first of all for the 3 days of weekend and public holidaying associated with Eid which would greet us when we arrived in this dustbowl of a city. At first this was very annoying, as we just wanted to get on with our chores; but it did actually turn out to be a blessing in disguise, as it gave us time to do the touristy things (they were open, thank goodness!) as well as just have a day of R&R at a local resort (posing, as you do, as one of the paying guests!). All the while, we were, however, on tenterhooks about two things: whether or not we would be granted a visa to enter Sudan, and how on earth we would get Glyn’s bike’s rear sprocket bearings seen to. As is often the case with these things, though, we needn’t have worried.
After Eid was over, we made a beeline for the Sudanese embassy, which we’d taken the opportunity to find when roads were quieter over the holiday period. This wasn’t an easy task, as it’s a bit hidden away among a variety of other embassies in a suburb known, generously, as Garden City. We were the first eager beavers to arrive, and waited at the back door to which we’d been ushered until 9am. By 10am, we’d finally been issued with some forms to fill in, and joined a queue that now threatened to overrun the only open counter. The forms required photocopying (for which there is a charge) and the visas cost $100 each, so it wasn’t a cheap exercise. But we got them! And all within two hours! What elation. We were told to return in 2 hours time for our passports with visas suitably attached.
This gave us just enough time to rush over to the BMW Bavaria Auto which we’d located on our scouting mission over the weekend. However, having been told previously by staff who came to the gate that ‘of course they could help’ a suit behind his polished desk now told us that this BMW dealer just ‘doesn’t deal with bikes’ (adding, pointedly, but non-verbally, that he would much appreciate it if we would kindly remove our rather mucky bikes, and selves, from his pristine forecourt). We were given the name of someone who might be able to help, and some sketchy directions, but were dubious about this ‘friend who knows a friend’ suggestion. This put something of a dent in our spirits, as we had hoped that this chore would be a simple exercise. We opted for our Plan B, which was to go in search of the ‘largest Suzuki dealer’ in the country. Much good this did us. When we finally arrived at what would be the only bike shop we’ve seen in Cairo, it was closed. Plus, it was only the size of a broom closet! By this point, we were hot, bothered, and seriously fed up, having endured a nightmarish ride through parts of Cairo that no tourist should ever be allowed to see. We returned to camp, again via some rather dodgy parts of town, a bit down at heart and hungry too because we’d had no time for lunch, and our supplies for dinner were at an all-time low. Thankfully, cup-a-soup and a strong lager saved the day!
This morning we were considering not bothering to fix Glyn’s bike, since it seemed to be running OK now anyway. We did need to swap over to our off-road tyres though, but had decided to get this done by one of the many roadside tyre-lever jockies that we’d seen in Cairo. Fortunately, the one near us was closed when we went. Next door said they’d be 2 hours, so in the meantime we headed for the nearby shopping mall to stock up on some ‘luxuries’ (tinned tomatoes, mosquito bite cream and dental floss – you know, life’s essentials). We also treated ourselves to a cappuccino each! Imagine that! Anyway, this mall is not far from said BMW dealer, so in vain hopes of discovering that they perhaps had the relevant spare part, we returned to them and were again told that there was a guy who knew a guy (etc.!) who could help.
This time there was no denying it. Resistance was futile. And anyway, what option did we have? The same pattern of riding for a bit, stopping for directions (mostly delivered in a mixture of sign language and Arabic), moving off again (repeat ad infinitum) was followed for about 45 minutes. Eventually, though, we did locate Mr Hamdy Motos. He was evidently asleep, and with the help of a fruit seller whose stall sits beneath his window, we managed to wake him up (it was 2pm). Long story short? He did know a guy who was a motor mechanic: Azoz (pronounced ‘azuuz’). Two hours of his efforts, a lot of grease, and some twenty quid later, we were sorted. A very good thing it was too, as Glyn’s rear sprocket bearing was absolutely fine; but Cathy’s was a total disaster zone! Much further, and it would have been sure to give up the ghost, giving us far more cause for being down in the dumps than we have experienced this far!
All in all, we have been incredibly lucky. Although neither of us are particularly keen to visit this city again, we did manage to achieve everything we set our sights on – and that within the 6 days which Glyn’s itinerary allowed for. Howzat!?