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Pharaohs Delight

Cairo - Khartoum

15 Jan - 11 Feb

2 268 km

 

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I arrived in Cairo safe and sound, with all my bags, bike and spares.  Had to pay R1 500 more in JHB (after already paying R600 odd in CT for the bike on the plane).  I was taking a fat chance to only arrive the day before, as 4 people arrived without their bikes, which turned up a day or so later.

 

We are in Luxor today.  It is cool to cold, but excellent for cycling.  Luxor is not very big, but lots of tourists on the Nile.  It is a rest day today, and let me tell you everyone is thankful for that, our butts are very sore.  But I’m glad for all the training, as I am doing a lot better than expected.  The cycling is very easy as it is all on tar and the wind is behind us.  I’m also cycling on slicks and it makes a huge difference.   We do about 135 km a day but I find it very easy.  Egypt is a mess, every day something is wrong, they always say it is a different distance to the actual one.  It all started off in that manner - as we left Cairo the ambulance that followed us took down the sign saying "Start" as it did not fit underneath the sign.

 

Every night we have desert camping, which means we sleep next to the road (no water and no shower).  With us is a tour bus with all our bags, a mini van which is the lunch truck and 2 police vans.  Sleeping is not much fun as the police seem to work on their vans at night and talk very loud, they also put their sirens on in the middle of the night!

 

On Tuesday 18 Jan we were in Sarafana next to the Red Sea and we could stay in a hotel.  Fantastic, I could wash my hair and just repack my bags.

 

We are 32 cyclists in all, 4 of which are women. We seem to start in the morning at about 7h45 and I normally get to the camp site at around 13h30 - 14h30.  Except for the second day when we took the wrong road and did about 200 km and only got to the camp at around 17h00.

 

Well let me tell you, was I pleased about all the training that day.  I was not fine after cycling 200 km, slept well that night!

 

My bike is fantastic, my back side is not even very sore (or at least not as sore as the other people's).  Not every one is very fit, and every one thinks I have a fantastic bike.  We already had 2 accidents, one was not bad, but Alis broke his collarbone and is now going back to Holland, and will rejoin us later.  He was one of the racers and did very well so far.

 

The days are mostly the same as we get up, eat, and start the race,  Egypt is just sand and green trucks, but the roads are very good.  We stop for lunch, and then off to the camp site.  The food is kind of all right, and no one sits around for long after supper as it gets dark early and it is cold.  Mostly everyone is ready for bed at about 20h00!

 

Apparently I can use my website to send (and check) messages, I will try that later.  Well so far so good, the people are very nice and I will let you know what is happening here.

 

On 22 January, according to our routine we got up at 6h15, ate breakfast, and left Luxor in convoy with police in front and behind us. After Luxor we cycled to a town named Enfo, a 120 km cycle on a tarred road (easy ride).  That night we camped on a soccer field which was more like a dust bowl (with one old toilet).

 

On 23 January we left Enfo for Aswan on a nice road with the wind from behind, cycling all along the Nile (a nice change from desert to green fields and the river).  I tried the internet cafe in Aswan, but I now see it did not send the messages.  The computers were very slow. 

 

24 January we left Aswan again in convoy with police and traffic police.  There was some drama at the Aswan dam, as we had to wait for permission to cross the dam.  Then we cycled 170km to a desert camp next to the road.  It was a very nice road with desert on both sides, nice weather (not too hot and not too cold).  One day just flows into the next day by now.  The road from Aswan to Abu Simbel is not a busy road, and there were very few cars.  Our desert camp was next to a "shop", with chips and cooldrinks.

 

The 25th of January we cycled a short 120km into Abu Simbel.  We all got there early and went to the Abu Simbel Hotel, a bottom of the range hotel (but with showers and beds!).  Abu Simbel is very small with 2 temples, and it is on Lake Nasser.

 

26 January (yesterday) was a rest day, and we all just walked around and rested.

 

Today, 27 January, we are to leave for Wali Hafra (Sudan), but there is big drama as it is now 13h52 and we are still waiting.  The Minister of National Security does not want us to leave Egypt, we do not know why.  We are just sitting and waiting.  I do not think we will leave today, but at least it has given me a chance to get a connection at the internet cafe.  I do not know what we will do tonight, they just say it is for national security.  African Roots is waiting for us in Sudan, and we will have to make up this lost time somewhere.  No one knows what is going on.  It is now starting to become hot during the day, and it is not that cold at night anymore.  I think that the authorities want us to go back to Aswan and take a 2 day boat ride from there to Sudan (but why?).  We have now spent all our Egyptian money, and have nothing to do.

 

Thanks to everyone for all the messages.  (I have not yet been able to read the latest messages as I cannot retrieve them). 

 

Today we had to back up from Abu Simbel to Aswan, to take a barge to Sudan tomorrow.  The trip on the barge will take 28 hours, and we will travel right past Abu Simbel again (crazy!).  Somewhere we will have to make up these lost days.

 

Thanks again to all those who posted messages on my website, also the West Coast Club people.

 

On the morning of 29 January we slept a bit late at the camp site in Aswan as we were only leaving at 9h00. We packed up and waited for the trucks to arrive to take our bags and bikes to the harbour.  In the end our bus only left at 11h30, just for us to sit and wait again at the harbour.  Once again our passports disappeared into the system, but eventually we all boarded the barge (with bags, bikes and a Land Cruiser).  We left at 15h00, and although it was very hot we were all pleased that at least we were moving.  The barge is known as a frying pan as it is open and has a metal deck.  It has no engine of its own and is pushed by two tugs.  So off we sailed into the sunset.  As soon as it became dark, we anchored for about 2 hours and waited for the moon to rise, before we could continue on our way.

 

We spent 30 January all jammed into the barge, just sitting around and drinking some beers (which we brought with).  Our nurse (Edie) took blood pressures, and Randy talked about bike maintenance.  We moved at about 12 km per hour, with the lake as flat as a pan.  The scenery was very nice, but very barren along the shore.  We were lucky as there was a slight breeze, and therefore not too hot.  At 15h00 we passed Abu Simbel again (were it all started to go wrong).  We sailed and sailed, but no Wadi Halfa.  At about 20h00 a police boat came to meet us, and once again they disappeared with our passports!  We anchored for the night and out came the sleeping bags and sleeping mats once again.  It is quite a job finding a space to sleep on such a small boat.

 

The boat stayed put all night, and at about 7h00 on 31 January the police boat with the passports arrived and we could start up and move off again. Now we ate the last of our food (old pita bread and kit-kat’s).  We arrived at the harbour (very small) at Wahi Halfa at about 9h00, and they even had a big banner welcoming us (how nice). Customs were not bad at all and we cleared ourselves, bags and bikes very easily.  The African Roots trucks were waiting for us (needless to say they have been waiting for four days).  The cycle to the camp site was about 5 km (our first taste of the Sudanese roads), and we got there at about 15h00.  The camp site was just sand.  We were now introduced to our “red box” system (containing our daily stuff, tents, sleeping bags, sleeping mats, and cycling clothes.  The rest of the things stay in the “permanent bag” which goes on top of the trucks.  The red boxes are quite big, as just about everything fits into it.  We all had a wash in our “buckets”, and felt a lot better after 42 hours on the barge.  The African Roots staff are very nice (Croc, Wimpy, and Clair).  We also met our Sudanese guides (Midhat and Abdul Baghi).  From now on we were going to have energy drinks and energy bars every day.

 

On the morning of 1 February we started a 100km ride.  The roads were very bad, extremely corrugated and there was also a lot of sand that one cannot cycle through (you had to get off and push the bike through).  The cyclists were surprised by the bad conditions, as most have never been on such bad roads.  I was not really tired, but nearly lost my sense of humour on the corrugation (it just carries on and on).  This was the first day that not everyone made it, and had to be picked up by the truck.  We were very dusty and dirty, with no water to wash.  The ground was very hard and stony, and I borrowed a mattress from African Roots (excellent, nice and soft!).  This evening we attended a Nubian wedding, where we sat around and watched them dance (they were very nice and brought us chairs to sit on).

 

Since we’ve been with African Roots the breakfast consists of mielie pap, bread with peanut butter or marmite and coffee.  The wind constantly blows in Sudan and everything is very dusty.  On 2 February we cycled 100km.  I got a little lost (nothing serious) and met Bart from Belgium coming from the opposite direction.  We decided to stick to the Nile, and when we looked a gain we were at the luck truck.  The road was a little better this day, but still very difficult for cycling (I felt more tired this evening than previously).  At least one can look forward to a cooldrink at the end of the day (no alcohol in Sudan, so no more beers or wine for us until we get to Ethiopia).  The truck stocked up with pepsi (we can buy for 140 Sudanese Dinars - 250 Dinars to a US $).  We will pay anything for a cooldrink at the end of the day.  The African Roots staff also make very nice soup which is available just after the ride.  Only one person got picked up by the truck  on this day (another one did not cycle after the difficult ride of the previous day).  We camped next to a muddy canal and could at least wash ourselves a bit.

 

3 February, and wow, what a day.  We cycled 125 km of really rough stuff, and it took me 9 hours (9 hot long hours!).  I was finished, very tired and wished for a shower!  Everything was dusty and dirty, we were low on water and couldn’t wash.  We were sore (bums, hands, arms, everything).  A lot of the cyclists didn’t make it.  We camped out in the desert, and it was good to see so many stars.  We ate a macaroni cheese dish (my favourite) but I couldn’t even finish it.  I just wanted to be horizontal.  I was really thankful for the training I had done in the Karoo, it helped!

 

On 4 February we had an open desert crossing.   It was only 30 km, but last year some cyclists got lost and the trucks got stuck, so we decided to ride in convoy to the next town, and through the town.  All went well, and nobody got lost.  It was another 25 km to the ferry across the Nile, where we had lunch and waited for the ferry captain to finish his prayers.  It was very hot, and we cycled a further 40 km into Dongola where we camped in the stadium.  There was a hot and dusty wind (dust in your ears, nose, mouth, clothes, red boxes, everywhere).  There were no showers at the stadium (just 3 dirty pit toilets and one tap!).  I just washed my face and went to sleep.

 

A rest day in Dongola (5 February) doesn’t sound that great, but it was well deserved and first on the list was to wash clothes in our red boxes.  I was so desperate that I bathed in my red box,  which made me feel much better and able to face another day.  It is wonderful what sleep, food and some water can do.  We took a three wheeled taxi to the market and ate falafel and local coffee (strange tasting strong coffee with lots of sugar and a slight cinnamon taste).

 

Back at camp I repacked my permanent bag and banged my camera a few times  (whala, it worked again!).

 

We left Dongola on 6 February, on our way to Khartoum.  This day was only 105 km, of which 50km was on a tarred road, can you believe that.  The rest of the road was not bad, just a little sandy in places (or are we just getting used to the bad roads).  The further south we go, the hotter the days get.   At camp we try to sit or lie on our mattresses in the shade of the trucks.  At this stage I only pitch my tent at about 18h00 due to the heat and dust.  Flies are everywhere (it's hell in Africa man!).  Everywhere you look are donkeys and donkey carts, and the  local people stop to come and look at us.

 

We cycled 115 km on 7 February, it was difficult again, with a lot of sand and the ever present corrugation (it’s hard man, and very hot).  We cycled into a head wind, making the going rather slow.  We camped in the desert, with a wind blowing, and I slept really well in my tent (must be getting used to it, or else I was just tired).  I have now decided to go much slower on the bike in order to get into camp a bit later.  It is very hot to just sit around the camp with all the flies,  it is in fact a little better on the bike with the breeze (don’t know if it will work, but I’ll try).  Most jokes are about getting a cold beer in Ethiopia (we are hanging!).

 

I set off a bit earlier on 8 February to get some cooler weather (and the wind is not so bad in the morning). Things went well and we had a tail wind for 100 km, where we stopped at a roadside "stall" for cooldrinks.  We decided to set up camp 30 km further. By now there was a headwind, and I cycled to camp with Hannie (it was nice just to talk and have some fun).

 

On 9 February we had 125 km on a tarred road with the wind from behind, but after the lunch stop the wind changed and we battled all the way to the camp site.  Again we had a desert camp, but we were all pleased to see the trucks as the wind is a bit frustrating to cycle into.  After sunset it became very nice and much cooler.  The sunset in the desert is fantastic, and the stars are very bright. 

 

The ride into Khartoum on 10 February was short, and we decided to have a 27.5 km time trial.  I did not take part in the time trail as it sounded like too much hard work.  We met the local cycle riders and police, and rode in convoy into town.  First we went to the public gardens for a number of speeches, food, and a big welcome for us. Then we cycled with the police escort to the Blue Nile sailing club were we camped (a real nice place on the Nile, and much cooler).

 

Today, 11 February, is a rest day.

 

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