Tourist day and Preparations

While we kept waiting on quotes from different cargo companies, we used the metro bus back to Europe :p to do some of the sights of Istanbul. The following two nights we would stay with Kadir, a very good friend of my brother. Thanks again man, for the great time.

with Kadir at the roof terrace

Our first stop was the Galata Tower from where you have a beautiful view over Istanbul.

Topkapı Sarayı (palace of the sultans), Hagia Sophia, Sultan Ahmet Mosque (the Blue Mosque) and the Galata Bridge


From here we walked all the way to Sultanahmet to get a good impression of this part of the city. We had a small Kokoreç as a snack on the go ;), a quite fatty and little bit hot but very tasty dish mainly made of lamb colon. We visited the Sultan Ahmet Mosque (the Blue Mosque) and had a look at the Hagia Sophia right next to it. Than we spent some time in the Topkapı Sarayı (palace of the sultans) and walked through the grand bazar (Kapali Çarşı).blue mosque

blue mosque entering
Had to use a sheet, because my shorts didn’t cover the knees
almost 😉

On our way back we stopped for a balik ekmek (fish sandwich) at the Galata Bridge. In the evening we joined Kadir and his friend to watch the turkish super cup, Fenerbahçe vs. Galatasaray. The game was a bit chewy and it took to the penalties to see a goal and a winner (Fenerbahçe), but we had a good time with the guys.GaltaB

The next morning we took a ferry cross the Bosporus back to Altunizade and used the next days to plan the air freight of the bikes. Information kept coming in drop by drop. Sometimes it was really annoying and a challenge to keep calm… well, at some point we figured out that we had to organize the crates for the bikes ourselves. So we looked for a motorbike importer or retailer nearby and found the Motorium in Maltepe ( The very friendly and helpful shop owner Tolga Büyüköner, who used to ride an Africa Twin in the 90th, couldn’t provide us with used boxes but offered us to get them build by Kadir (another one 😉 ) a friend carpenter. With the language support of Ahmet Astepe we could make ourselves understood of what we needed and Kadir will even provide the straps to secure the bikes and deliver the boxes to the airport, which suits us well. Still there are many things to get done for the shipment on Tuesday, fingers crossed it will work out 🙂Motorium

The people in the Motorium are motorbike enthusiasts and were very interested in our trip so we promised to drop by on Saturday to talk a bit more about the things we already experienced and the places we want to go.

Lazy days in Istanbul

The next days until Sunday the 24th of August we spent at Daniels Grandparents house in Altunizade/Istanbul. We took it easy since it was very hot and humid. We had a lot of the very good Turkish cuisine. We are pretty much eating all the time. I have no idea how Turkish people stay skinny. The eating sessions were interrupted by visits to the local (air conditioned) shopping mall to use their free wifi and organize the next big step of our journey, the shipment to Sudan.

The bikes parked the grand parents house
The bikes parked the grand parents house


We got some beer at the swiss supermarket Migros, one of the few places selling alcohol here, which is quite funny since alcohol is pretty much the only thing they don’t sell at Migros in Switzerland.

We used the time at the house to do some maintenance work on the bikes. Daniels clutch was acting up on the way in which was most likely do to overheating in the heavy traffic and my speedometer decided to stop working since Greece. It’s not a big deal. I can drive without it, since my GPS is showing me the speed as well and no one seems to care about the speed limits here anyway. A bit more annoying is the lack of the trip distance which I use to guess the fuel level of my bike. Unfortunately, the all mighty Honda engineers did not consider a fuel indicator or reserve light as significant for the Africa Twin. A short operation in the garden delivered a broken speedometer gear in the front wheel as source of the malfunction. I ordered a replacement in Germany and have it shipped to Sudan (thanks Vanessa!).

Me use long lever!
Me use long lever!
Daniel updated his panniers
Daniel updated his panniers

Over the group Turkish Riders Support (, a very helpful initiative by motorbike enthusiasts here, we established contact to a workshop near our location to get our off road tires mounted and Daniels exhaust pipe welded. The workshop named Motorcat located in Kateköy, right behind the Fenebace stadium, is run by Yilmaz Aydemir, who won the Turkish motorbike championship in the 1000cc class on his Suzuki GSXR in 2009. They were extremely nice and helpful and got everything done well while they offered us very nice Turkish breakfast and a constant supply of tee. All day long people dropped in for a chat or small repairs and we had a great time talking to them. If you ever need motorbike support in Istanbul make sure to contact Yilmaz and his guys (N 40°59’09.1’’ E 29°02’18.2’’ Tel: 0261 5502998).

Yilmaz changing the tires the hard way
Yilmaz changing the tires the hard way


The new tires on the bike look super rad :). Though, they are still a bit slippery on the smooth Istanbul roads which should be o.k. after the first 100 km. Just control the accelerator hand in curves.

New tires, yay!

In the evening Daniels aunt Suzy invited us to diner at a magnificent place down at the Bosporus were we enjoyed a delicious dinner (way too much, of course). Thanks Suzy!

At the Bosporus
At the Bosporus


Today we had perfect riding conditions and stopped only for a sip of water and fuel. We drove more than 600 km leaving Croatia passing Serbia and entering Bulgaria. The last part of the serbian route lead through a nice canyon and was a lot of fun to ride.

canyon in serbia

In the late evening we found a camping site east of Sofia, the only one for 50 km in any direction. Well the guy at the reception was quite surprised when he saw us. It was hard to tell if that was because of the bikes or because there hadn’t been any guests in the past decades… that’s what the place looked like. We got a key for the toilet, which turned out to be a complete apartment, a completely rotten apartment. There were black armchairs, which used to be red, mold in the corners and a huge slug with a tiger strip-like pattern on the back sliding across the bath room. I guess toilet wasn’t the wrong term, after all. As sundowner or “Feierabendbierche” we had a croatian pivo (beer).

Bulgarien camping
camp site                                                                                                                         the toilet

After a refreshing night in the tents we decided to not do another > 500 km trip to reach Istanbul. Instead we drove to Alexandropolis, a little town at the greek mediterranean coast. Mostly the condition of the bulgarian highway wasn’t that good, what made the speed limit of 140 km/h kind of pointless, at least if you didn’t want to stress test your suspensions. After a stress less border crossing and numberless construction sites on the greek highway we reached the gorgeous camping site which was only 50 m to the sea. After a quick swim we had calamari and sufklaki with an ice cold verina (greek beer). Then we went back to the beach to finish the day of with a bottle of bulgarian beer and a pipe, under a sky full of stars and even some shooting stars…

Alexandropolis camping
cut my toe on a rock… first use of the band aid

The next day we started unhurried at 11 o clock to reach our first major destination Istanbul. After 40 km driving along the coast, we arrived at the border and passed it without any hassle. We just needed to show the passports, the registration documents of the bikes and a valid insurance a few times. No need of a carnet so far.

welcome to istanbul
Welcome to Turkey

We sticked to the country road instead of taking the highway to see a bit more of the landscape and to skip the highway toll 😉 The closer we got to Istanbul the more cars were on the street. We wanted to spend the night at a camp site in Sultanahmet, the old and touristic center of Istanbul. This “otopark” had been recommended to us by a couple from cologne we met in Bulgaria on the parking lot of “Kaufland” supermarket. But when we got there, the traffic was already sticky, the guy wouldn’t let us in. We asked why and after a while it seemed that the park was booked out… probably.

closed camp site istanbul
“closed” otopark at Sultanahmet                                   there were nice things to 😀

So after a short rest we went on to the house of my grandparents on the asian site of Istanbul. I knew that there is always a lot of traffic in Istanbul, but since we had only to go 15 km what should go wrong. After three hours with nearly 40°C air temperature and 80°C coming from the engine we arrived like the last man standing. Since we consider safety first we were still wearing our full motorbike gear and helmet, this plus the constant pulling of the clutch with the left hand was a proper torture. The traffic to the bridge had been literally like lava, steaming hot and edging its way forward. In the meantime the sun had set when we crossed the bridge going dribbdebosporus. The traffic here is “slightly” different to Germany, but you get along quite well once your grown into it. But don’t get me wrong, with the heavy loaded bikes it still feels like being an elephant in a bee hive.

Arriving Istanbul
some guy selling water on the highway                      Istanbul trafic by night                                                   (both pics were taken by the afri pi)

We were warmly welcomed by Tante Suzy with hugs and a nice turkish dinner. Restored we went for a walk looking for a turkish beer. Unfortunately they don’t sell alcohol after 22 o’clock, which made Topher almost feel like being at home in Freiburg. So we had some Uludaǧ and Çamlıca lemonade, “schmeckt auch gut” (tastes good too).


This is going to be a long one. But first things first.

We were gently woken in Malta to the sound of a marching band, at 6:30 h in the morning. I was not amused and Daniel recalls some complaints coming out of my tent. Additionally, Malta turned out to be rather cold with around 4°C in the morning. But at least no rain anymore.

The waking band
The waking band


The cold was forgotten as the thermometer climbed to 35°C in the Karawangen Tunnel. We blasted within 3 h through Slovenia along the great country side and on the perfect highway. We entered Croatia and got some good distance on the infamous Autoput done. This transit highway from Turkey to western Europe was known for the many deadly car crashes by drivers falling asleep. Falling asleep comes easy on this monotonous and strait road.

Our boredom was soon over when Daniels engine stopped running in the middle of nowhere. We parked the bikes on the side way, put on the signal wests and looked what we can do. There was enough fuel in the tank and the electric was working. We could not find an apparent reason why the bike would not fire up anymore.

Daniel with the wrong tow guy
Will be unloaded soon again…


Within minutes a guy stopped on the other side of the highway, came over and offered to call the service which would bring Daniel and his bike to a workshop. They were working with the ADAC, so we accepted. A few minutes later a tow truck stopped again on the other side. The guy come over. Language barrier apart, he seemed to be the right guy. We loaded the bike on the truck and were ready to go when two cars with a trailer stopped on our side. They turned out to be the guys we called. Some loud words in Croatian were exchanged and the bike unloaded again… We are still on the autoput with no shades and a scorching sun. Fair enough, load the bike on the trailer. Wasn’t easy since it was only designed to carry cars but it worked out. Probably not approved by German TÜV standard.

Daniel drove with them to the workshop in Slavonski Brod and I followed on my bike. Arriving there the bike was disassembled with in no time and they looked for the fault. In the end it turned out to be a rotten pressure tube from the fuel pump which lead to not enough fuel pressure with an almost empty tank. Easy fix and the bike was running again J At this point we were super tiered and were offered to spent the night in an empty apartment they had in that workshop. Great! The guys were nice and friendly, all in all a surprising pleasant experience, apart from the money, of course… Nice side story. At the same workshop a Slovenian family was waiting for their VW Golf to be fixed. The Croatian guys organized an entire replacement engine that night, installed it and got the car running, it was Sunday. Imagine this in Germany!

Lesson One

Rushing through Europe to Istanbul and letting the adventure start in Africa… jap, that doesn’t work!

The first day I tiped my twin while hoping on, because of an uneven underground. Topher’s battery stopped working on a slip road and needed a jump start. It was raining the whole day. Again the battery, we already called the ADAC when Topher found a loose screw, which caused all the trouble. Never the less the battery should be replaced because, it probably had taken some damage through the old rectifier. To the nearest motorbike supplier we left our route taking a shortcut into Austria. Arriving at the local Louis store we realized that it’s a holiday in Austria… so back to Germany setting the route to Munich and try to find an store there, the next day.

Topher calling the ADAC, happy face

Late in the evening after not much more than 200 km from Freiburg 😛 we settled down in a very nice camping site at Bad Wörishofen.


Day two: Strange noises coming out of my exhaust, unfortunately the inner pipe broke… Really, I mean I already drove my bike 5.000 km without any problems…

In Munich we found the store after some detours, Topher replaced the battery and my exhaust problem was apparently not that bad. After stocking up on food we had shashlik for lunch at a road side stand in Munich which happened to be next to a brothel and the “pimp lady” sad next to us. In general the costumers of the food stand looked rather run down…

Off we went to Austria. It started raining in Munich and didn’t stop for the next 5 h. Temperature dropped to 8°C on the Austrian highway. No fun! The rain stopped after the Katschberg Tunnel and since we were so cold and we are too rich decided to warm up with a quick visit to Malta.

Here comes the rain again...
Here comes the rain again…
Malta Schalta
Malta Schalta

Entering Dribbdebach

We made it and started our trip, yay! After a nice and emotional farewell we finally crossed the Ignatz-Bubis-Bridge in Frankfurt heading into Dribbdebach country on a Tuesday with perfect riding weather.

IMG_2766 (Copy)

Our first stop was Stuttgart where we met with our good friend Benny, who was our generous host for that night. After some barbeque and a good time on the PS4 we had a rather short night, which was kinda hard for 50% of us ;).


IMG_2782 (Copy)

The next day, the weather changed after ten minutes on the road and it didn’t stop raining till we reached our next stop, lovely Freiburg.

IMG_2784 (Copy)
Can’t leave home without lab cloves

In Freiburg we stayed for a fortnight at Vanessa’s and Topher’s place, to exchange the rectifier on Tophers Twin to finally abolished the electrical issues… and we uprgrades the boxes of the bikes 🙂




Today we had a nice evening with Vanessa and “freibugarian” friends in a cozy tavern with Spätzle and beer 🙂 Tomorrow we will travel on finally leaving Germany heading towards Austria.



the last preparation entry?

They say the hardest part when doing a long distance travel is leaving. We start to realise why. Not only do you leave your friends and loved once, but also the comfort and security of a home. Additionally, over the last week we faced all kinds of issues when preparing the bikes . Somehow every potently easy task turned out to be difficult due to thinks like stuff not fitting and the necessity of brute force or super tight screws that needed power tools to be removed. The Frankfurt dialect offers the fitting term for this condition with “scheiss gefuddel”. Luckily, Daniels Grandpa has a very well equipped workshop and we made use of that!

Successfully drilled screw from the front brake
Successfully drilled screw from the front brake

And, on the upside we do know the bikes in and out by now.

Daniel and his brother Timur installed a very cool technical gizmo on Daniels bike. Its called a Pi and is basically a small computer collecting data. Daniels Pi collects with two thermometers the engine and air temperature, logs our current GPS position, measures the battery voltage and, with a small camera pointing in driving direction, takes every 15 min a photo. The installation was far from plug and play but they managed to get the Pi going.

Timur and the Pi
Timur and the Pi

We returned to Frankfurt on Saturday night, very tiered. Starting our journey on Sunday was out of the question. I had some weird vibration in my front wheel and used the calm Sunday to disassemble the front wheel and check for potential reasons. Since I don’t have access to a proper garage in Frankfurt I did the working on the street. After working for one week in a garage with perfect weather it of course rained. Plus, temperatures close to 30°C with almost 100 % humidity. Well, neverminde, training for the tropics and the vibration issue is gone as well.

The umbrella is rather handy. Maybe we should take it along.
The umbrella is rather handy. Maybe we should take it along.

So we hope to leave tomorrow morning! Our first day will lead us to Stuttgart where we want to meet with David, a fellow traveller who will go the same way as we do on his BMW F650GS (the 800cc version, I don’t claim to understand the BMW model naming logic) and we hope to meet again along the way in Africa. The night we want to spend at our common friend Bennys place in Stuttgart. The stop after that will be Freiburg and from there we will leave Germany direction south east.

That’s the status for now. Oh almost forgot, the Sudan visa are ready and waiting for us in Freiburg.



The tale of the rear suspension

Once upon a time two young biologists named Daniel and Topher thought about replacing the weak rear suspension spring  of the Honda Africa Twin RD07a with a stronger spring to be able to drive with a lot of luggage through the African continent. Naive as they are they browsed the all mighty internet for answers and found them in the form of online forums where previous travellers told the legend of the rear suspension spring.

So the idea was born. The two will replace the spring in question. After removing the rear shock unit from the bikes they sadly realised they are lacking the right tool to disassemble the unit. Luckily they life in one of the top industry nations of this world where access to good tools is a basic right. So they thought. How hard can it be to find a fitting hook spanner like this one? Very hard!

The mystic hock spanner.
The mystic hock spanner.

So the quest for the hock spanner or a work shop that could help them began! It took them to countless DIY stores, car garages, motorbike garages and motorbike supply shops and everybody looked in disbelive at them shaking their heads in shock “what you want to do is impossible” or “this can not be done” or “pure madness”. Until they found a Honda dealer willing to chalenge the quest! Two days later he texted our two heros telling them “what you want to do is impossible, this can not be done and is pure madness!”.

So, Daniel and Topher went on carrying the two suspensions and the two springs through this country, doomed to continue the eternal quest of the rear suspension.

The endless quest continues
The endless quest continues

The last hope they found was a shining mechanic in white armor who claimed to be able to solve every suspension problem. So the quest took them to the town of Bergen-Enkheim and they would not trust their eyes but the shining mechanic, after a lot of trying and using every trick in the box, managed to replace the springs!

Now let the bad roads of Africa come. We are not afraid!

The moral of this tale: If you have suspensions issues, go directly to in Frankfurt Bergen-Enkheim.


A bit of start and a lot of preparation

The start of our trip was planed to be roughly this week. But, before the start we still needed to do some alterations on the bikes. It’s exactly what everyboys says “don’t do the modifications directly before you leave”. Well, we did it anyway 🙂

So the plan was that I (Topher) leave with my bike fully packed and meet Daniel at his Grandpas place near Rüdesheim at the Rhine river. There we can use his garage to work on the bikes. After this is done Daniel has to do some minor things, like handing in his PhD Thesis 😉 and we are good to go!

Well, as always, live happens when you’re making plans. Last week the ferry service from Turkey to Egypt, we intended to use, was cancelled. Bummer! So the endless story of how do we get to Africa starts again. On top of this we hear all kinds of horror stories from overlandes who just did the Turkey – Egypt crossing. Customs at the Egyptian ports are pure mayham. People take 5 days to get their vehicles out of the port and have pay ridiculous “fees”. There is apperently another ferry going from Iskenderun to Egypt, but our enthusiasm of getting ourself into the egyptian port crazyniss is limited… We are right now looking into alternatives including air shippment of the bikes and ourself from Istanbul to Khartoum, thus avoiding Egypt all together. It would be really sad to miss all the interesseting and amazing places in Egypt. Also the ferry transport across lake Nasser is probably an adventure in itself, but options are limited and we can always return to Egypt as “normal” tourists without paying several thousand USD in “special fees”.

With this in mind I had a small but nice farewell party with my former colleagues and friends in my old lab. The first stop after leaving home then was after 3 km at my favorite döner place in Freiburg where I had a nice goodbye meal with friends 🙂 Next dönerstop Istanbul!

Saying goodbye to Vanessa was a bit hard, but we will probably drop by Freiburg once more on our way south and we will see each other once more before we are off to Africa.

So I left with the heavy loaded bike direction north to prepare it to go all the way south. The day was quite hot and since school holidays startet there were a lot of traffic jams on the autobahn. Sitting on the bike in the scorching sun with the heavy gear on is a good preparation for the African heat 🙂

Almost fully loaded bike. Some spare parts and the extra tires are in Frankfurt.
Almost fully loaded bike. Some spare parts and the extra tyres are in Frankfurt.

After 200 km I had a break next to the autobahn in the shade of some trees. Very Relaxing! The relaxation was over after I tried to continue the drive and the electronic of the bike was gone. The battery had so little voltage, the starter engine made not even the slightest noice, Pushing the bike in the heat with the gear on is an even better preparation for the African heat. I found two very nice people to help me push the bike so I could get it startet. One of them only spoke french but was very much into motorbikes. I think he tried to tell me that he drives an old Yamaha XJ900. Starting the bike by pushing was no big deal and I left the parking lot without any more breaks and reached the place of Daniels Grandpa in the evening where we had a nice BBQ with the excellent white wine for which this region is famous for.

The next days we were working on the bikes from dawn (ok not really dawn) to dusk.

The garage which has been kindly provided by Daniels Grandpa. Who made the stay at his place very pleasant.
The garage which has been kindly provided by Daniels Grandpa. Who made the stay at his place very pleasant.
Changing tyre tupes in the dusk. Easier than we thought. Still a pain.


What bike do we drive again?
Daniels bike needs a case of beer to stand upright.
This looks happier than I was. Stupid break pads...
This looks happier than I was. Stupid break pads…

Most of the things we wanted to do worked quite ok. We did run into issues with the replacement of the rear suspension spring. We simply can’t do that with the tools we have so we took them to some workshops. Intersting enough they as well can’t do it which led us to drive with the rear suspension in the trunk of the car from garage to garage.  We hope this issue is solved by the end of the week.  Obviuosly we can’t start without the suspension.

So right now we are in Frankfurt. Daniel gets his thesis in a submittible form, I look into transport options to Africa and we try to get the suspension issue solved. Tomorrow we probably head back to the Rhine and continue the work on the bikes. So, we most likely won’t be able to start the trip before the end of this week.

Oh, by the way. No news on the Sudan visa. It should be ready this week.