Get me to Gondar!

Surviving scorpions and the searing heat of the Sahara.

Check out this excerpt from 'The Sidecar Guys' book 'Our Ridiculous World (Trip)'.

Matt Bishop and Reece Gilkes are the founders of The Armchair Adventure Festival but when they're not arranging portaloos and stewarding traffic, they are 'The Sidecar Guys'. They're called 'The Sidecar Guys' as the pair hold the very niche world record for the longest journey by scooter and sidecar after becoming the first people to circumnavigate the globe by scooter and sidecar. It was this 15 month expedition that opened the door in to the amazing world of adventure travel for them both. They'll both be speaking at this year's Armchair Adventure Festival but if you can't wait that long, you can also order a signed copy of their book here.

In the meantime, have a read of this excerpt from Northern Africa! We meet them as they are coming towards the end of their time in Sudan with a few nights of turbulent wild camping awaiting them before crossing the border in to Ethiopia! We hope you enjoy the read!


We managed to get our visas for Ethiopia, said goodbye to our friends in Sudan, and headed south for the border. All that stood in our way of Ethiopia was around 450 miles and a couple of nights in the desert. We pressed on south and found a camping spot easily. It was just off the main road and the farmer guys were over the moon to have us. We gave them a marshmallow and exchanged Facebook details on their smart phone before pitching our tent. The people of Sudan were probably the most welcoming, helpful, peaceful people we met on the whole trip. These guys sat with us for a while and we tried to chat but the language barrier was a bit of a problem. Eventually they left us to camp out on their land and went home.

A typical wild camping spot in Sudan

Reece was pretty pleased about this because he wasn’t feeling great. He had got food poisoning. “Poor bloke,” I thought. “Out in the middle of the desert and he’s ended up with a serious case of the shits.” About an hour later, I was sat there by the fire looking up at the incredible stars, pretty pleased it wasn’t me with the food poisoning, when I fully pooed myself. It hit me like a wave. We didn’t stop digging holes on that poor farmer’s land until the early hours of the morning. It was truly disgusting.

We woke up feeling really run down. We’d had very little sleep, we were pretty dehydrated, and a bit dazed. I was outside the tent, packing a bag when Reece crawled out. As he stood up, I saw a shadow flash up his leg. What was it? Surely, nothing. I’m just delusional from all of the hole digging. As the shadow shot up his leg, Reece sat down and perched on a small sandy mound. I thought it was probably nothing but had to make sure, so I told Reece to stay still while I had a peer around. Nothing there. But I did see something, I was sure I saw something. I asked Reece to stand up and I had another look around.

“Reece, stay very, very still. There is a scorpion on the back of your knee.”

“Oh my God, get it off, get it off, get it off, get it off, get it off!” Reece exclaimed in a very serious, worried voice.

I found a lighter and flicked it off Reece’s knee and onto the sand. Reece was saved. The scorpion wasn’t giving up yet, though, and every time we tried to flick it away it just kept scurrying back towards us. I think it was trying to burrow under the tent. I was scared, and rightfully so. We were 300 km from the nearest hospital, we were both exceptionally weak from the food poisoning and this potentially deadly creature was trying to join the team. We decided that we couldn’t take the risk of letting it hang around, and regretfully, I bludgeoned it with our camping mallet. It was a ridiculous moment. I didn’t want to do it, but at the time it felt like it was us or it. When we got some internet, we googled “scorpions” in and around that area. The first one that came up was called the Death Stalker and it was unmistakably the one that had been on the back of Reece’s knee. True to its name, the Death Stalker was known for killing the young, the elderly, and the weak. Fresh off the back of food poisoning and 300 km from the nearest hospital, Reece would have been dust. It was a close shave.

We eventually got packed up and back on the road. We just had one more night’s wild camping before we would be in Ethiopia and heading towards the relative civilisation of Gondar. Gondar is just a small tourist town in northern Ethiopia but after that bout of food poisoning, for us, it was the light at the end of the tunnel. We were absolutely desperate to get there. We had decided we would splash out a tenner each and get a nice bed for the night with a working toilet. Plus, reaching Ethiopia meant beer was back on the menu and my word could we do with a pint.