So today marks the last riding day in Egypt. I rode a total of 832 km in 8 days (out of 1005 km…more on that later), and my body is definitely feeling it, though getting stronger every day! There is so much to say, it’s hard to put into words, but I’ll try to give a general summary of my days thus far. It’s pretty simple really. All we do is bike, eat, sleep and repeat.
Egypt was a great place to start our tour as the roads are perfectly paved. Given how sore our bums still are, most of us wonder how we would have survived had the tour started with rougher roads. We also have a police and ambulance escort for the Egyptian section (they take tourist safety very seriously!). Their presence is reassuring but for the most part they just follow us girls and film our backsides.
Most Egyptians are incredibly supportive, with 9/10 who honking in support or yelling welcome/hello/what is your name (very enthusiastically). That being said, cycling in Egypt became very challenging once we entered the Nile valley (after five days of desert landscapes). Fertile lands equal more screaming children to dodge, donkeys, cars and tuk tuks. I can’t take my eyes off the road for more than one second or disaster could strike. We quickly discovered that the happy children of the valley loooove throwing anything they can get their hands on at cyclists. They also enjoy whipping us with sugar canes, or launching them like spears at our bikes.
Every day that we get on our bikes we assume the very real risk that we might not survive. Day 1: my friend Femke from Holland crashed with another cyclist. Day 3: I rode by myself, was followed by a truck driver for several kilometers and had someone try to “attack” me from the side of the road. My friend Marita from Ireland was molested by this boy minutes before I passed, and minutes after I passed, he pushed Shona from South Africa into a truck. Fortunately, the police and ambulance were at the scene in a matter of minutes, and an ER doctor and nurse from Canada were riding close behind. The truck driver chained the boy to his truck until the police arrived. It appears he may be mentally disabled/ill. That was the end of me riding by myself, for Egypt at least. Day 6: The attacks start. Our mechanic Doug, also from South Africa, had the worst luck. In an attempt to avoid getting whipped by a sugar cane, he was clipped by a car and went flying. He is ok but his bike is dead. Some people are pretty shaken as a result of these events but I feel it’s important to remember that the children are never really intending to be malicious. We also must remember that the rock wielding children will be worse and relentless once we hit Ethiopia. Day 7: Strategies for avoiding attacks from kids (riding in groups, starting earlier in the day, greeting them in Arabic, having water bottle handy etc) are a success. As scary as this all sounds, the reward has been great. The thrill of cycling in such a chaotic, developing and foreign (in terms of language, religion, customs etc) country, and facing my fears every single day can’t be beat.
Photos: Racer peleton leaving Safaga and me getting followed by the police
I’m very pleased to report I have found some kindred souls who share my chocolate addiction. Very convenient really, as we venture outside our campsites to find a couple chocolate bars each night. The food prepared by the tour has been surprisingly great! Even better, I have an excuse to eat three Nutella sandwiches every day! I switched to a vegetarian meal option when I discovered it was still very high in protein, yummy and not a high maintenance request. I’d guess around a quarter of the riders are vegetarians. In addition to 1-2 chocolate bars and 1-2 bags of chips per day, and 2 granola bars provided by the tour, we have:
Breakfast (6:45 a.m)
- Muesli and milk
- Peanut Butter and Nutella
Photo: Freezing at breakfast!
Lunch (between 9:30 and 1:00, depending on how fast we ride/how far the stop is…anywhere from 50 km to 75 km from camp)
- Tuna/egg salad/sandwich meat with cheese
- Tomatoes and cucumbers
- Bread and condiments
- Nutella and peanut butter
Generally, I wolf down two sandwiches with Nutella and bananas and peanut butter, and one “normal” sandwich. I then refill my water bottles.
Photo: Lunch stop on the Nile
- Vegetarian Dish: yummy beans, spices and veggies
- Meat Dish
- Veggie side
Well by the third night of sleeping on the ground without running water I had matched my camping record (Duke of Ed woowoo), so pretty proud of myself, particularly because it has been so damn cold and I haven’t been much of a baby about it at all! I’m adjusting well to baby wipe showers, wearing every warm item of clothing I brought to bed, and waking up to all my belongings covered in sand, but sleeping on a thin pad is going to take some getting used to. We’re usually in our tents by 6:30 and asleep by 7:00 (yup fun bunch we are), though hopefully this will change as it gets warmer, assuming the mosquitos aren’t too bad. We start packing up our stuff around 5:30, but I’m usually tossing and restless from 2:00 am-5:00 am, so eager to get ready by 5:30. In another post I’ll explain camp in more details, because this post is getting pretty long…
Never in a million years did I think I would enjoy cycling on hills. That and my bum isn’t too sore 🙂
- I rode my first 100 km on the first day only to ride my first 100 miles on the second! yay!
- I learned how to clean my drive train (is that what it’s called?) and fix a flat. I had one flat tire and it will hopefully be my last as I learned early on that you have to inflate your tires every night! One rider had 5 flats in one day, another couple have had 2 in one day.
- I didn’t die when the temperatures dropped to -1 overnight. I can confirm that my sleeping bad is indeed rated to 0.
- I survived 56 km of uphill riding (!!!!)
- I really enjoyed my rest day in Luxor (Karnak Temple, Nile cruise) and all the markets I have visited in Egypt. It is so much fun joking around with Egyptian vendors, they have a great sense of humor, even if the constant attention for being a female is a bit much.
- Getting to know all the riders! Please see my friend Carla from Canada’s blog for a better update and more information on our rest day excursions in Luxor, she is much more funny and organized than I am. http://www.carlabikesafrica.com
The Challenge Ahead
Tomorrow we catch the boat to Sudan. Apparently, this is when most riders first get sick, as we’ll be in questionable quarters, sharing the space with livestock for more than a day. I’ve been chosen, with 5 other riders to sleep with the staff on the deck of the boat (ie I don’t get a cabin). I hope this means that they think I’m easy going and not that they are trying to punish me. With Sudan comes HEAT, which we are all dying for, but will probably regret. With heat comes malaria, heat exhaustion and sunburns. We must be vigilant!
That’s probably enough for today huh? I think that’s enough for today 🙂 I’ll explain my injuries and schedule more in another post! Thank you all for reading!