French Version Here, by Madame Varin: Raid moto en Egypte (Periple enEgypte)
Mrs Varin has traveled almost all Europe, part of Asia and Africa. She tells us about her travels …
Every year for 10 years, we went every summer for a motorcycle ‘raid’ (BMW called it such, but it was just an organized trip) organized by BMW. We were about a hundred bikes and we were very well supervised by doctors, physiotherapists, mechanics and TV, ‘La 5’. This trip was in August. The departure took place in Paris and during that month we rode between 1800 and 1900 kilometers. According to the budgets, the stages and the circumstances, we slept at the hotel or at the campsite. The conditions were sometimes a bit rudimentary especially for laundry, but it remains anecdotal.
No matter the weather we rode, direction the goal! One of these summers we went to Egypt, after crossing a part of France we drove to Germany, Yugoslavia, and Greece from where we took the boat to arrive at our destination. So far we had been very hot but in this beautiful country the heat was overwhelming, it was up to 60 ° C! on a motorcycle, it was unbearable. In spite of everything, it was necessary to advance. To do this we got up at 3 o’clock in the morning and we drove up to 9 hours, it was already 50 ° C. After a few hours of rest, we could enjoy the riches of the country and its inhabitants, I keep in memory beautiful pictures of pyramids, figurines …
In Egypt as in many African countries, the roads are not those we are familiar with, the conditions are very bad. The rules of the road are almost non-existent: pedestrians, drivers and cattle are at their head. It was necessary to be very vigilant, the accidents were quickly arrived. Many people came to us, it was quite exceptional to see so many motorbikes. Despite the language barrier we managed to communicate by simple gestures and the exchanges were very good. We have often been asked for money, a heartbreaking but common situation in a poor country. One day, we saw goats in trees in the middle of the desert. The poor animals ate the few leaves remaining. Amused and curious, we stopped to take pictures when a gang of children came up to us armed with sticks, they were young but very aggressive and determined to get some money. We gave in and took our photos quickly.
For the return we went through Venice and we had the chance to visit this charming city. At this point, the group was dispersing and everyone went back to his little corner of France full of memories.
My own recollection of this trip
Just stumbled across this post. I was one of the 3 mechanics hired by BMW France. This trip took place in 1977 or 78 (I can’t exactly remember). I was 19 or so at the time.
We met the bikes in ‘Place de La Concorde’. No better place since it has an Egyptian obelisk at the center. The Mechanics team was on 2 vehicles: a van containing all the parts and tools, and a 525i with a trailer attached. On the trailer, the bike of the Director of BMW France. In the van a very experienced mechanic (in his forties) and his young girl friend. I was riding in the car with an employee of BMW France, we took turns driving. From Paris, we headed to Munich (BMW headquarters). We stayed a few days there.
Then the real trip began. On the Autobahn, we went through Austria, and had hour first rest in Lubiana, Yugoslavia (now in Slovenia). After a night stay, we confronted the treacherous mountain roads of Yugoslavia, where many crashes plagued the riders. We only had space for 2 motorcycles, so we fixed on the road, the ones we could. Allas, a 3rd one needed the trailer. So I volunteered to ride the bike of the Director, until we reached our last night stay in Yugoslavia. I had no equipment, nor any warm clothes, and almost froze on that bike. When we got at destination, the group was having diner outside by the pool of some luxurious hotel. I got me a warm shower and then joined them for this diner party.
Next morning, we headed for Athens Greece. There we stayed at least 2 days from what I recollect. Arrival the first night was something else, we had a local music and dance diner in a beautiful garden terrace. Ate great local foods. The next day the riders enjoyed a day at the beach, with night camp fires and freshly caught fish cooked on the fire. Or so they said, because we were working to get some bikes fixed.
Then a boat through some canal , until Crete where the boat docked. But we stayed on board for the night. After that, it sailed directly to Alexandria Egypt.
Alexandria Egypt, some arrival it was. They had the city’s marching Band perform as we walked, rode, or drove of the boat. We lodged at the Club Med village. The next day we were greeted for lunch with a banquet courtesy of the Mayor of Alexandria.
A day or two later, we headed for Cairo. There we experienced the most dirty side streets I’ve ever seen in my life, trash up to our ankles. Cops try to direct traffic in the center of the city, but the loudness of the horns have priority. All day long, all you can hear is the jungle of car horns, and at night too. Luckily, the second night, we lodged in cabins next to the pyramids. We spent a few days there. Some tourism, for us mechanics, but mostly work, as the bikes lined up for maintenance of repairs.
One day, we were out shock absorbers, and a rider had broken the top of the shock. We, my co-rider and I went to the Medina with the broken piece, to find a machinist. My Moroccan Arabic was well understood in Egypt, aside from a few words. I was pleased to find out that I was well understood. The machinist did a tremendous job. While we sipped his graciously offered mango juice, he made the part needed.
For the most part, we always tried to find an outdoor spot with shade to do our work. We preferred under a tree, and not too far from a pool. Because after the work we dove into the pool.
Then after a few days, we took the road for Luxor. We used the road off the East of the Nile (there was only one). During that section of the trip, some of the most crazy things occurred. I was passenger. The car negotiated a fairly sharp turn, and in the middle of it, a kid hit the windshield with a stick. Later, I was driving, and my colleague got hit on his arm, that was hanging out of the window, by a soaked wet rag, a kid hit him with. They did all kinds of stupid and dangerous act. They threw stones at us too. I can’t imagine how the riders felt about this. We were in a car.
Somewhere, somehow, a journalist from Moto Revue, following the caravan, hit a donkey on the road, and it died. The locals wanted to hang him. But he paid them what they wanted for it and got to Luxor. He was afraid of the trip back.
I think we stayed in Luxor for over a week. From there, the riders made many personal small trips, and so did we. We did get some rest while staying there, and visited much: Aswan; Lake Nasser and it’s submerged temples. The riders did get to fly to Abu Simbel the reconstructed temple. Many temples where reconstructed because of the dam of Aswan. When it was built, it submerged much of the temples, and created Lake Nasser.
Then the trip back for the boat, and Venice Italy for a day and then headed back home. Quite a memory for me.
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