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Entry 50 // We're trapped

Update by: Luke | April 12th 2011

We leave the Yemen Embassy obviously dissapointed. We are out of land based options at this point. It looks like it's all aiir or sea. At least lets go back to the Saudi Arabia Embassy and tell them we are denied a Yemen visa. Maybe they will feel sorry for us, and grant us a Saudi visa from Djibouti. We go to the Saudi embassy, they do feel sorry for us, but they can not change their strick policy of only issuing air flight visas. Land based Saudi visas MUST be issued from Yemen. Ok, now lets try Sudan again just for kicks. We havn't tried Sudan since almost a month back in Nairobi. One of the guys working at the Saudi Embassy tells us to follow him. He's leaving anyway and will show us where the embassy is. This is awesome. It will save us an hour or so of driving around blindly and asking where it is. We arive at the Sudan Embassy around 2:00 p.m. We are happy to see that they are open and they are letting us inside. Usually embassys close at noon. we ask to apply for a visa not mentioning our problems we had with Sudan back in Nairobi. They ask for the dreaded letter, which we swiftly pull out with pride. (I had the US Embassy make us a Sudan letter too which we were in there for the Yemen letter.) We fill out the forms, hand over money and they tell us to come back tomorrow to pick up our visas! Fist pump! We got something done. We are good to go. This causes a little back tracking, but no big deal. We will be completely done with our business in Djibouti tomorow and head back into Ethiopia, where we can then cross into Sudan.

This unfortunatly causes us to spend a 3rd night in our $115 hotel, but whatever, at least we have the visa comming tomorrow. It feels good to get something done.

The next morning we have the bikes packed up, we pay our hotel bill and grab some breakfast. We arrive at the Sudan embassy a wee bit earily at ten to eleven. Inside we wait a while. Waiting is bad news when all you have to do is pick up your passport. Eventually we are called into the Chanclors office. He explains the problems. It comes down to this he says, America makes it really hard to get a visa for us, so we make it really hard to get a visa for you. I understand this. It makes perfect sense to me. You can see the chancellor wants to help us, but he can't. What he can do is tell us that we will eventually get a visa. It just takes time. The fastest being two weeks, the slowest being months. He also says that we don't have to wait here. We can go back to Ethiopia, and pick up our visa there and pay them money when it happens. He hands us back our visa and applican fees and wishes us good luck. We have his card and will be in contact with him.

Next we go to the Yemen travel agency. We ask them about getting us a Yemen visa through the airlines. They say they do not do this, which is strange because we were sent here by the Yemen embassy. It's a game of who saids what. We are beating our heads against the wall in this town. It's time to throw in the towel and call it. By now it's late in the afternoon. We give in and grab one last night at our hotel. 4 nights of $115 and no visas. It's a pretty unsuccessful trip. We will catch up on our blog and start the 600 mile drive back to Ethiopia in the morning.

We are giong to need some extra gas to make it the 350 miles to the next gas station. I grab 4.5 liters, Nick gets 3.Somthing I forgot to mention in the last update is that in Djibouti, my bike kept acting up. Seemingly out of nowhere it would through a F.I. code and run like crap. If you turned off the key, and restarted the bike, it would run normal again. This was getting more and more frequent. I looked up the code and fault is 9 long flashes, which means "Throttle valve position not plausible." I'm not so sure I like fuel injection so far. I long for a carb.I need to fix this problem, so I start by taking off my airfilter and checking the throttle valve inside the throttle body.The airfilter is dirty and the gas station worker wants to clean it for me. He is a mechanic and gets right to work. He uses his teeth to rip a 1.5 liter plastic bottle in half then he adds gas to it, and cleans the filter with the gas. Then he blows the filter dry with compressed air. I am checking the throttle valve and I do not see any thing suspect. I reassemble and give it a test drive. 3 miles and no code is flashing. That's the longest it's gone since it started throwing the code. Maybe he have it. I toss the guy a 5 spot and he is really happy. He never asked for anything, he just wanted to clean my filter. We take off.

Nicks intercom hasn't been able to take a charge, so we can not longer chat on the fly. This means we have to stop more offten to talk about things like, "are you hungry" and "I have to pee." Leaving this spot, I look behind me just in time to see Nicks bike spinning 180 degrees out of controll. I whip around, and he already has the bike back on two wheels, no picture of course. What happened was when Nick drove up the gravel bank on the shoulder of the road, his wheels lost grip and started doing a power slide. Then when he reached the edge of the asphalt he gained traction and the power slide turned into a bucking bronco, spinning the bike around 180 degrees and throwing him on the ground. Lucily he is fine, the bike is fine and we continue on. No picture of the bike on the ground, but you can see his tracks where he slid on the gravel.

As we approach the border of Djibouti and Ethiopia we come across this crashed Semi with barrels of tar or oil spilled all over the road.
While we are at this spill Nick notices he has a spill of his own. One of the bottles of gas in his Givi Tank blew up and made a mess everywhere. cleans it out and pours the remaining good bottle of gas into his tank. I also add my 4.5 liters to my tank now too.

It's border crossing time, but no one is in the booth. We wait for a bit, but then think about just leaving. Our Djibouti visa is only good for one entry. If we never get stamped out, it might help when we enter again. We hop on the bikes, and as we are ready to go, a guy shows up. He makes us get our passports stamped. If we need to come back here for whatever reason, we have to get a new visa. He asks for the paperwork for the bikes. We tell him we don't have any. He says it's impossible. I say it is possible because we are here, in the country without it. We did it. He shakes his head that we are wrong, but with no papers to show and get stamped out, he waves us on. Ethiopia is easy. We get the stamp to come back in (our Ethiopia visa was arranged before we left the states. it's good for multiple entries and 2 years.) They never ask for bike paper work and we take off before they remember or think of it. It's in the afternoon now, we have only a few buck in Ethiopian currency. My plan is to make it to the main town some 200 miles away and change money there and buy fuel, then find a place to sleep. What I forget though, is that Nick lost his satilate phone on this road, and wants to pick it back up. You see Nicks dad was somehow getting strange phone calls in the middle of the night back home in Michigan. The broken english was saying he had a phone that he found. THE SAT PHONE. Now a sat phone is worthless to who ever found it. It has a dead battery and they don't even have a way to charge it or know how to use it, but they want to return it for a reward. Nick of course wants to get it back because it's worth $1,000. Now it's getting dark, and we will be coming up on the town in 70k. We decide to camp and wait for the morning to play the find the sat phone game.

In the morning we wake up to this which is fairly normal. Kids curious of a tent and two motorcycles.So as we pack up we play with them a little bit, and give them some cookies.This is where the kids live.And this is what they sell for money. chucks of wood.Back on the road with only 70k to the town where the satalite phone is, My bike throws the same 9 long F.I. code again. Man, I thought I had that fixed. 200 some miles without the problem. Now I can't drive more than one mile between the error codes and the bike running like crap. I have to do somthing about this. I have to call the 690 expert. John from Rally Raid UK, but first I need to get out of this hot sun, get some food and take a dump. Of course we have no money so this is going to be fun. We find a restaurant and ask if they will take USD. They will so we are good to go. I use the toilet, and come back to get some food.I charge my laptop as we are eating food, and look at the fuel body schmetics and trouble shooting PDF's on my computer. No ideas here. I really just need to call John. With no satalite phone, we look for internet so I can Skype him. We find internet, but it only comes on in the afternoon. Hmm...next we find a phone. I give them the number and make the call. It's ringing! John picks up on the other side. I quickly tell him my problem. He has never had this code of off on him, but he tells me to reset my computer. To do this you turn on the ignition, twist the throttle slowly to the stop and back, then start the bike. Let it idle for exactly 15 minutes without touching the throttle, then shut it off. What an interesting process. I do this and set the stopwatch with my phone. The locals that gather to watch this kind of stuff must really be scratching their heads. When the process is done. I hop on the bike and we take off. No code, for 5 miles, no code for 20 miles, no code for 50 miles, and no we are at the town where the sat phone is. I think the bike is fixed again!

I got ahead of my self there. After the phone call I had to pay for it, but had no money. Nick goes off looking for a guy to exchange with, while I try to negoate a price in USD. They want 350 which is around $20. I offer them $25, but they don't really understand what that means. I show them the money, but he is hesitant. Luckily Nick shows up with some bur. I pay him the money then fix the bike.

This is the shop where I made the international phone call to John.

Now it's turn for some fun, track down his sat phone, but first he has to point out a big problem for my bike.Oh dear, my heart sinks. Is that head gasket material? I look closer to find that it's one of my spare tubes of patch glue. I have a few tubes taped to my frame for repairing flats, and one of them sprung a leak. Phew!!! Ok, now back to the sat phone. From an earlier conversation, Nick knows that he needs to show up to the clinic and start from there.Nicks story time.

When we show up to the clinic, they immediately know why. Our friend Seid had been calling ahead trying to arrange this for us. They tell us to wait because the man who has the phone is a tribesman and live about 10 kilometers out of town. They tell us he should be here in about two hours. After talking in broken english for awhile, it's decided that one of the men get on the back of my motorcycle and we drive together the 10 k to meet the man. This is going to be amazing if it works. The guy on my bike seems to know where to go. We stop at a dry riverbed 10 k away and tells me to wait with the bike. He gets off and walks into the bush. 10 minutes later he is back with another man. They tell me the guy with the phone is at a different village. This time the tribesman hops on the back of my motorcycle and we go for a mile ride down the road. This guy has never been on a bike before, or at least that is what I'm guessing. The first minute of being on the bike he had a death grip on me using his thighs. By the end of the ride he was relaxed, not much of a smile though. Once again I waited with the bike while the tribesman walked the half mile to the village the man with the phone was. Now I don't know what to think. Are we going to go from village to village trying to find this guy. I wait by the road for 45 minutes before the men return. They have a new tribesman with them. Unfortunately he doesn't have a phone on him. I ask the guy from the clinic how it went. The man they found takes his shirt off and there the phone is, and not a scratch on it. I can't believe we tracked this thing down. Now all we have to do is negotiate the reward. It ends up being 500 birr, about $30. Me and the guy from the clinic hope on the bike and head back into town to meet Luke. I can't believe this worked.

meanwhile, I hung out with the village kids and watched in awe how this village gets their water. It's pretty self explainatory. Guy digging a hole in a dry river bed, under a bridge.This is a goat skin they made into a canteen. It doesn't leak either.The kids here loved Karate and called me Jet Lee.I tried teaching them handstands and then went up to the restaurant, where I eventually met Nick. Back on the road, full and with running bikes and a sat phone, we are feeling pretty good.

We come across some kind of military training operation. There was 4 tanks that we saw running a couple mile course. Hauling through the desert kicking up dust and going to dry creek beds. The guys were cool and waved at us, but I didn't take a picture till they had their backs to us. You never know with military stuff.We book around a corner and I see a girl who couldn't be older than 14 and her little brother waving an empty water bottle. I stop and fill up their bottle with my water bag. They were pretty happy, but very scared of us. Eventually I gave them some cookies, and tried to take a few photos. The girl never wanted in, but the boy like it. Especially when I showed him the picture on the back of the camera.I wonder if this is their everyday job. Standing on the side of the road, flagging down people with water. There isn't much in this area.Eventually we make it to our gas station. It's a good thing too. My fuel light is on, but I think I still had about 40 miles to go. Driving easy, I managed to get 53 mpg on this 350 mile run. Not bad, but not good when Nick is getting in the 60's with a bigger bike. Between finding the sat phone and fixing my bike, and looking for internet, our day has been exhausting and is nearing completion. We decide to run the 200 miles left to Addis in the morning and stay at the same hotel that we did 6 days earlier. It's handy because I forgot to take the room key out of my pocket when we left before. The first time we were here, everything was great. The guy who gave us a room and helped me order food was very kind and helpful. He wasn't here this time. The waitstaff tried to rip us off 3 times during our meal. This left a bad taste in our mouth, and we head back to the room earily to watch a movie on the computer (A Bronx Tale.) It was so hot and stuffy laying in the room and the mosquitos would not leave me alone, so I set up the tent outside and slept peacefully for the rest of the night. The next day was an easy drive of 200 miles to Addis. From here on you leave the desert and hit mountains. The roads are smooth and twisty. Really fun, and we can crank on them because we don't have to worry about our gas milage for this strech of road. We have plenty of gas for the next station. This is a beautiful pass at over 3,000 meters. It's definitally chilly up here. No heated jacket this time around, but I'd be liying if I said I didn't use my heated grips.This is also on the other side of that 1/4 mile tunnel you have to pass through. It's awesome being on motorcycles because we passed everyone that was stopped waiting to get through and head for the front of the line. The guys are working on the tunnel, but we talk them into letting us pass through real quick. a work truck exits the tunnel and we bomb though saving who knows how much time. Both sides of the tunnel have long lines of cars just waiting.

The scaffolding always amazes me on these buildings. This is everywhere. Home sweet home, back in Addis bombing through the 16 lane main interestion of the capitol of Ethiopia.We head straight to our hotel, and are immeditally greated with a warm welcome from our friends that we left a week earlier. We head straight for pizza and get caught up on everyones adventures.




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