Hi all, new video below (self explanatory) instead of a written entry. I'm feeling very lazy today, and loving it.
And have also added some photos to the new Ethiopia page
from my walk around Fasil Ghebbi castle
in Gondar this morning. It was incredible, and like many of the sites i've been to throughout Africa so far, I effectively had the place to myself.
I'm feeling 100% better and actually looking forward to riding tomorrow. I've literally stuffed myself stupid with (good, healthy) food today, so am currently laying down ready for a siesta before heading out to eat again. I stumbled across some scales and weighed myself before and have lost 8kgs in the last 4 weeks. I need more of the famous morning teas that my work team are renowned for...!!
Firstly, thank you for everyone's emails and messages- they've been so inspiring, motivating and moving. I'll endeavour to respond to each and everyone of you, but in the meantime please know that you've all collectively lifted my spirits and put things back into perspective for me. Thank you so much, it's all very over whelming.
Today's been a largely chilled day. We awoke early and Shane, Wade & I each had a 1 hour massage from a local masseuse who came to our lodge. The pain when she pummelled and kneaded my legs paled in significance to any of the hours i've spent getting tattooed. I had no idea my legs were that sore or tired. In hindsight, i'm not too surprised considering we've rode almost 3,000kms to date.
I'm still coming to terms with having lost my "E.F.I" status (meaning one's cycled Every Fabulous/F*#king Inch), but as was pointed out by someone, swallowing your pride is much better than soldiering on and self-inflicting some kind of (permanent?) damage. Perhaps that's melodramatic, but in these conditions and under these circumstances, the chance of something severe happening to your body are definitely increased. The world record for cycling through Africa was an average daily km amount of 160kms. We're about 10% behind this. Unintentionally, we're about 15% behind this pace.
Wade pointed out to me that the fact we've been at 2,000m-2,500m altitude would definitely have something to do with what I experienced, in that there's less oxygen at this altitude which increases the difficulty of physical activities. I hope he's right, as even today, I struggled to walk up a set of 5 stairs without panting and gasping and having to stop at the top.
Anyway, Gondar's a great place to be and our lodge is fantastic. It's been a perfect place for me to have a physical and emotional breakdown as I only have to limp about 20 metres to a cafe, a restaurant and an outdoor garden. The guys seem quite impressed with my choice.
In an attempt to feel somewhat more human, I crawled off this morning to find a barber and have a haircut and a shave. I'm someone who can complete both of these tasks, solo, in less than 10 minutes. My barber who I found today, on the other hand, took a cool 90 minutes as he meticulously converted me from a unkempt bearded hobo to a sleek and preened 'gentleman'. All without me being able to speak the local Ahmaric and him not unable to speak or understand English. If anyone out there wants a partner for any charades competitions: I'm your man.
The prevalence of machine guns in Ethiopia has increased exponentially. It's not that Sudan didn't have guys walking around with AK47s, it's just that they wore a uniform which tends to comfort you a little as you think that a) he’s probably undergone official training on how to shoot straight and b) wearing a uniform, he’s clearly a ‘good guy’ and only shoots ‘bad guys’ which us four clearly are not. In Ethiopia, more people carry the same, efficient AK47, but not one of them wears a uniform which eliminated the comfort one draws from a) and b) above. I’ve seen a guy out walking his goats and young daughters with a machine gun slung over his shoulder. We all hoped he was protecting his goats from non-human eating animals. Unfortunately, we recognize this as being a long shot. Walking around Gondar, you see people of all ages (i.e. 15-60) carrying machine guns. Again, they’re not in uniform either. I smile and try to do my best to look like a good guy. To date, this method has worked.
So that’s all from me today , I’ve uploaded a lot of photos too, so head over and check them out. I’ve put about 10 new ones on the Egypt page
and also added a Sudan page
and uploaded over 100 shots there too.
I’ve also added another youtube video of Gavan & I tuktuk’ing our way through Dongola, Sudan, to get a coffee.
Thank you again everyone, it means the world.
24 January 2011
Firstly, i apologise for the lack of updates. Sudan has very strict internet access and my website was amongst those sites unnecessarily restricted. As such, I wasn’t able to update until we left Sudan. I did, however, write out a couple of entries which I’ve included below. At some point tomorrow, i’ll upload some photos.
I write this from the comfort of a “lodge”, alone in Gonder, while the guys are toughing it out through Ethiopia’s mountains in the most oppressive heat I’ve ever experienced, with minimal-to-no food or water and no local currency. Sadly, this last week’s intense riding has taken its toll on my body and mind with both having been broken. Yesterday’s ride from the border of Ethiopia in Meteme, up into the mountains, crushed me and resulted in me spending an unwanted amount of time last night on all fours as I continually emptied the contents of my stomach; unable to keep food or water down through absolute exhaustion.
Despite the last week’s riding, I barely slept last night and got this morning underway in almost utter silence. Trying not to be a complete and utter wet-mop of the group, I packed my camp up and gave it another shot on the bike- to no avail. I made it about 3 climbs (approx 10-15kms) and almost ended up back on all fours again- though this time I didn’t have anything to empty from my stomach. Defeated, we all agreed that it would be best if we flagged someone down and I got a lift to Gonder/Gondar, got some accommodation for everyone, and spent the rest of today resting up. I didn’t argue and 10 minutes later was sitting with about 14 other people (including one guy on my lap) in a minivan designed to carry no more than 7 people, driving through the mountain range that had just broken me. It was a bitter-sweet experience: being an overly proud person, I was struggling with the fact that I had been defeated, but also relishing in actually being able to appreciate and enjoy the surroundings from the non-existent comfort of an overcrowded minivan with a bunch of people who spoke no English.
The long and the short of this last week has been:
1- Upon our arrival into Khartoum approximately 1 week ago, the weather became ridiculously hot. The day following our departure from Khartoum, it was almost 50 degrees in the sun.
2- We’ve run out of sunscreen and are quite sunburnt. We’ve resorted to buying women’s lycra leggings, cutting the legs off and using them as sun shields arm shields.
3- The favourable northerly wind we’d come to love so much in our first 2 weeks of cycling became our worst enemy as we made an easterly push from Wad Madani to Al Qadarif in Sudan. Our speed reduced dramatically and the frankly easy cycling we’d come to enjoy went out the window as we gritted our teeth and, at times, cycled a little over walking pace
4- The Ethiopian border crossing was SO much easier than we imagined. Our get herded from office to office but to their credit, it was all quite efficient and expedient. We were done with the red-tape in less than 1hr and were free to drink beer (with Sudan being a dry country).
The cultural transition from Sudan into Ethiopia was immediate. Despite what I expected Sudan to be, it turned out to be a relatively developed country with immensely friendly, kind and generous people. Generally speaking, I can be pretty abrupt, rude and border on arrogant at times- my experience in Sudan may or may not have motivated me to change that- a little.
We’re in Gondar now for one, maybe two day’s rest (I hope 2) and I’m not sure I have the desire or motivation to leave bed, or the lodge. I have a lot of physical and emotional recuperation to go through. I don’t even plan to think about cycling for the next couple of days.
Also, i've uploaded some more youtube videos at www.youtube.com/justinvafrica
Sadly, Dongola marked the end of the famous Nubian culture we’ve all come to love and enjoy as we pushed south through the Nubian desert to Khartoum over 4 days (3 nights) where we camped the whole time in off the road in the desert. That’s not to say that the Sudanese hospitality and kindness doesn’t remain, it’s just not to the extent that we’ve experienced between Wadi Halfa to Dongola (Nubian territory) which has been nothing short of amazing.
We left our guesthouse in Dongola at about 9:00am on Saturday 14 January after literally waiting around for 1 hour for some kind of movement in the kitchen for our included breakfast to be prepared for us, to no avail. A little disappointed, we pushed off hungry and into the Dongola township to find something to eat and were fortunate enough to come across a roadside stall selling falafels and bread and contently consumed enough of both to feed a small army. Trying to hand gesture our way into ensuring non English speaking people that the four of us really do want enough food to feed 20 people is quickly becoming the norm and we are quite the experts now. Much to our embarrassment, we found that our guesthouse hosts had packed us egg rolls to eat on the road which was why they didn’t prepare anything for us on the morning of our departure in Dongola. Wade wrote in their guestbook and I hope his comments didn’t make mention of not having been provided with brekky. He did however steal their front door key- though whether this was accidental or retribution for the brekky fiasco is still the topic of hot debate.
The route we took between Dongola to Khartoum showed absolutely no towns on Wade’s maps and we initially thought we’d have to carry enough food and water to get us through 3 days of cycling in Sudan’s ever-increasing temperatures. Fortunately, this is a well-travelled trucking route so there are small roadside “cafes” every 70-or so kilometers where the staple of fool (or foul) is served which we’ve essentially lived in for most lunches and even the occasional breakfast for most of Egypt and all of Sudan. Fool is a bean dish, with oil and spices and in its preparation involves a very sophisticated preparation method where the “chef” pummels the mix with a pepsi bottle. I’m lead to believe that one can also use a sprite or fanta bottle too with the same bland results. Foul is also served with bread, which when we are lucky was made sometime in the preceding 7 days and resembles the texture of your average house brick. However, we do not complain as food has now become more of akin to filling your car with fuel than a culinary experience. The amount of food we are consuming is not a problem: all of these roadside “cafes” are laden with cakes, biscuits and other local delicacies (dried dates!) which we buy as much as we can carry. And boy do we eat. At last count, I consumed an average of 6 chocolate bars a day, 3 or 4 cokes, about 7 litres of water and the equivalent of about 4 huge meals a day. Despite this, I’m losing weight rapidly and my bike clothes are starting to sag already. I’m quite excited to know that I’ve got to step up the amount of eating i’m doing. On the downside, I see an immediate dental appointment upon my return to Melbourne.
The days have been really tough with nothing significant to alter the terrain as we peddled our way through the desert. Quite annoyingly there are road signs which have counted down the kilometres until Khartoum, every kilometre, as soon as we arrived in Sudan in Wadi Halfa over 9 days ago. Being reminded of your progress, every kilometre, plays havoc on you and basically makes it impossible to tune out and have the kilometres melt away zen-style.
Our roadside camping has been fun: we’re pulling off the road at about 6pm which about 1 hour before sunset herein Sudan. At first we were very cautious and went to huge efforts to ensure we were very far off the road, behind dunes, sheltered from the wind and passing traffic. However, crossing soft sand, which has the consistency of talcum-powder, becomes old very quickly when you’re pushsing almost 40kgs of bike and by the third night we’d camped about 50 metres from the road behind a 30 centimetre drop- we were in full view of passing traffic and couldn’t care less. Sudan is absolutely safe and we don’t feel the need to be overly cautious at night.
The 3 days from Dongola to Khartoum really did pass without too much to report on. Shane’s still breaking spokes quite often. At last count he’s gone through about 10 or 11 rear spokes, with Gavan having also broken 2 and (touch wood) Wade & I not having broken any. We have no idea why Shane’s breaking any at all- considering we’ve gone to painstaking efforts to ensure his rear pannier bags contain next-to-nothing and have recently loosened all of his rear spokes as we’ve came to believe they were originally over tightened when they were built. It’s not a problem that he’s breaking them- it takes about 20-30 minutes to repair every time, but it can’t be good for his morale having this weighing on his mind all of the time.
The mornings in the desert have been absolutely freezing. I’ve spent a winter in the Canadian Rockies and I don’t remember having felt this cold before in my life. Perhaps its because I wasn’t wearing bloody bike shorts in the Rockies, or maybe Sudan’s mornings are just stupidly cold. I’ve started the last 4 mornings riding in shorts, pants, t-shirt, vest, jacket, gloves and my head scarf for the first hour or two. Things heat up by about 10am though and by the point in lathering myself in sunscreen every 2 hours for the rest of the afternoon. I have the most ridiculous tan lines ever- I even have these lines on my forehead where the sun’s been punishing me through the air vents in my helmet. Check out this photo for a chuckle.
It’s funny the things we do to occupy ourselves while turning the peddles every day. In Egypt, we had a ‘dead dog count’ which topped at 15 or so. In Sudan, we have a ‘dead camel count’ which we’ve literally lost count of but will hazard a guess to be somewhere around the 150-200 mark. I think i’ve seen more dead camels than live ones. This does not bode well for ones confidence to see an animal which has essentially evolved to live in the desert perish so often. Perhaps they’ve yet to discover fool.
Shane and I have also developed a sophisticated system where we rank country’s treatment of donkeys. This has been coined the CDI (Country Donkey Index) and we are pleased to report Sudan ranks quite high on the CDI with fat and healthy donkeys everywhere, unlike Egypt whose donkeys could use some TLC.
Our last 4 days have also come with a very increased presence of Sudanese military who patrol the stretch of road in their camouflaged topless 4WDs with 50 calibre machine guns mounted on the back and carry 4 or 5 very hardened troops each carrying AK47s. They wave, we smile and wave and silently hope they keep driving, which they always have. About 40kms outside of Khartoum we had to cross a military checkpoint which was also mounted with whopping big machine guns and a small troop of soldiers. Gavan was ordered to remove his handlebar mounted camera at the checkpoint, which he did not object to. Quite concerning was the strong smell of gun powder at the checkpoint which we hoped was just bored troops letting off rounds and not the result of another tourist who’d also had a handlebar mounted camera.
We’ve checked into the Necropole Hotel in Khartoum where we’re paying an outrageous amount of money per night ($70USD/night) which we aren’t complaining about, considering none of us have had a shower in 4 or 5 days and the last shower we had (4 or 5 days ago) was cold water so didn’t really count as it involved a quick lather followed by 30 seconds of painstaking cleansing under freezing dribbling water. Upon arriving at the Necropole, the bottom of our showers resembled the desert floor with the amount of dirt and sand left behind. Just for comparison, taking this luxury hotel out of the equation, we’ll make it through Sudan having spent less than $300USD each.
It’s currently 4:30am and for some unknown reason i’m wide awake despite being a) absolutely exhausted, b) dosed up on over the counter Xanax and c) absolutely exhausted. Breakfast isn’t served for another 2 ½ hours so i’ll sneak back into bed in the hope I get another couple hours sleep before spending my day pushing the boundaries of safe caffeine and food consumption in Khartoum. We’ve almost ridden a total of 2,000 in about 15 or 16 days of riding, so my desire to spend my day off to run around Khartoum’s tourist sites today is non-existent. I plan on eating, giving my bike a once-over, eating some more, reading, walking downtown, eating and maybe even an afternoon nap, and I couldn’t be happier with this itinerary.
All in all, i’m loving this adventure. To Wade’s credit, his planned route though tough at times has rest days very well planned (every 5 or 6 days) and the daily kilometres have become relatively easy. After having pushed ourselves last week and smashed out two back-to-back 190km days, anything less seems like a walk in the park. Though, our next country (in approx 5 days) is Ethiopia where things are going to change drastically as we start climbing through mountains (over 4km high!). I’m probably going to need/want to quit smoking by then but the local cigarettes at $0.50AUD per packet are just too bloody tempting.
I won’t be sad to leave the desert. Everything I own is caked in sand and dirt. As i understand it, the route we’re about to take from Dongola to Ethiopia is quite green with lots of vegetation and a little more civilised. I just hope they serve more than fool and stale bread. Health-wise, everyone’s in top shape. We’re all looking out for each other and monitoring any small ailments, niggles etc which are treated immediately and managed well (i.e sore knees, achilles from improper bike fit). Quite hilariously, we’ve all developed a small case of nerve damage in our hands and all struggle with grip strength (as a result of sitting in the same position on the handlebars for up to 8 hours a day). It’s common to ask to help opening a screw top coke bottle. We’ve developed a sophisticated and manly routine to do on the bike every day to repair the damage, so fear not.
Again, thank you for everyone’s comments and emails. Internet has been difficult (i.e. almost impossible) to use or find in Sudan. I reply to as many as I can but still haven’t had a chance to reply to everyone’s. I read them all and thoroughly enjoy receiving them- they really give me and the others a big morale boost. Special thanks to Marg, Lorena and Nadia- your emails and messages have been great. Keep them coming- I couldn’t care less about the content, it’s just great to hear from you all about the random goings on life back home.
Shaun T- we’re all thinking of you and really hope you get the chance to join us at some point on this journey. Thanks for all of your comments and emails- hopefully we’ll get a chance to skype with you soon. Hot tip- there’s absolutely no relationship between smoking and cycle touring so don’t feel the need to train your butt off. Just get used to riding daily, even if it’s only 30-40kms or so. Though he doesn’t smoke, Gavan’s survived perfectly fine after not having ridden more than 2 decent rides in 2011! I think he might be part-freak though ;)
And for all your skypers out there, add me on skype (justinmolik) and i’ll hopefully catch you online at some point. Take care everyone. I’m back off to bed to try and get myself a couple hours more sleep before I make a pig of myself at the Necropole hotel’s buffet brekky at 7am.
Oh, and I learnt something about Sudan yesterday: quite hot and parched, we asked our hotel manager how serious Sudan was about it’s stance/ban on alcohol and whether there was somewhere that might sell one or two beers to us. His reply was that we’d go to jail if caught. If a Sudanese national was caught- they get 40 lashes. It’s amazing how quickly your motivation for beer can evaporate.
What an incredible week it’s been. It started with a day off in Aswan, Egypt, before boarding the ferry on Monday 9 January 2011 to travel down Lake Nasser and into Wadi Halfa, Sudan. The ferry was perhaps one of the most unbelievable experiences of my lifetime. When purchasing our tickets in Aswan, we were lucky enough to snap up 2x ‘first class’ cabins (each sleeps 2 people) for $500 Egyptian Pounds per person. The other options were ‘second class’ which literally involved fighting for part of a bench seat in what appeared to be a cafeteria setting, or ‘third class’ which involved a similar amount of fighting for a seat on the upper deck (open air). People in second and third class, upon finding their 2m x 2m patch them set up a perimeter and did not move from that position for the remainder of the journey (24 hours, including about 8 hours of just sitting at the dock in Aswan waiting for everyone to board and get the journey underway).
The boarding process was a joke. Ancient Egyptians are known for their sophisticated social structures and efficiency but this seems to have been lost over the last couple of centuries. We were herded from office to office with hundreds of other people to complete the immigration departure process. In the end, I developed a stress headache from the exhausting process of hand gesturing our way through everything.
Once underway, it was almost impossible to navigate through the ship on account of how jam packed it was. At one point, I couldn’t even find somewhere to stand on the upper deck to have a smoke. Gavan and I decided to stay in our room and just read and watch videos on our laptops for the bulk of the journey. I managed to read an entire book. But, the experience was amazing. The ship was full of Sudanese people and their hospitality and friendliness was immediately obvious. We met some other travelers: a young French couple who were also on a touring cycle trip (7,000kms so far) and a New Zealand girl who has spent the last 14 or so months travelling the world solo on her motorbike. Once we entered Sudan; a similar (though more efficient) immigration process commenced where we all spent 4 or 5 hours together going from customs, to check points to immigration offices to get the necessary permission to enter Sudan. All in all, we finished up at about 3pm (after arriving into port about 10:30am) and all went to lunch together in Wadi Halfa.
We all said our farewells and the 4 of us headed off to get as many KMs in that evening in an attempt to dilute the following 2 day’s planned 300kms (i.e. 150km per day). We were fortunate enough to have a huge tailwind which saw us quite easily get 30kms of riding done in the first hour and set up a desert camp at a little before 5pm that evening. Despite being quiet warm in the day (approx 25) once the sun goes down we were all breaking out our thermals and jackets. The following morning, the weather was a cool 4 or 5 degrees when we woke at 6’ish. The previous day’s wind had picked up a little bit and our 20km/h average increased throughout the day to about 27km/h. To all you road bike riders out there who just scoffed at this, double the weight of your 7kg bikes, and add another 25kg of kit to get an idea of what it’s like to ride something so heavy. After only having 2 boiled eggs each for brekky that morning, the remoteness of Sudan quickly became apparent as we had to ride 120kms before we could find more food. We stocked up on the local staple of fool, eggs and bread (and cakes) and managed to ride 190kms for the day before stopping in a Nubian guesthouse Wawa for the night. Our local hosts spoke no English and initially refused to accept any money from us despite accommodating and feeding us for the night. We paid them a handsome sum for their generosity nonetheless. Not sure whether this was offensive or not but I couldn’t bring myself to take advantage of their hospitality. I had an awkward experience that night when I tipped my bed mattress (to get the mouse poo off it) I found I wad of money underneath is ($400 Egyptian Pounds). Figuring it was some silly backpacker’s forgotten stash, I quickly put it in my pack ready to stimulate local economies the following day. Shortly afterwards, one of the hosts came into our room and went straight for my bed, tipping the mattress looking for his stash. We played dumb until he left the room where we magically found his stash under my bed, much to his relief. I felt terrible, but all’s well that ends well. Dinner that night was brought into us by our 2 male host and consisted of more fool, breads, raw red onion, and a dish which appeared to be a green locally grown herb mixed with egg which you dip your bread into. We were surprised when our hosts sat down to eat with us and we all ate together, not being able to communicate with our hosts and us just grunting and pointing to our food claiming “good, good”. Despite having ridden 190kms and burnt somewhere in the tune of 4,000 calories, we struggled to finish everything. Immediately after dinner, our host laid out his prayer mat and did his evening prayer with the four of us awkwardly watching him, then turned in for the night absolutely exhausted (at 8pm).
We set off the following morning (Wednesday 11 January 2012) at about 8:30am and made the most of the still-favorable winds for about 20kms before having to make a 90 degree turn for another 20-or-so kms into a strong cross wind which saw our speed reduce to a demoralizing about 13km/h while we gritted our teeth and toughed it out for a demoralizing couple of hours. Shane broke another spoke (7 or 8 thus far) about 4 hours into the ride so we had a roadside stop to do the 30-minute repair. We’re all getting quite worried about Shane’s spoke breaking- we expect to break a handful each, but not this many so early on. To Shane’s credit, he’s not allowing this to obviously impact his spirits. I can’t say I’d be as positive if it was me- I’d be in a state of fury and panic. The day passed rather uneventfully and we decided to do another Herculean day and hit out another 190kms and push into Dongola (a day ahead of schedule) where we’re currently enjoying a day off.
We’re staying at the Nubian guest house in Dongola which is ran by a South Korean couple and their 3 young children. They backpacked here a few years ago, loved it, and relocated here to open this great guesthouse. We’ve all put in our orders for bibimbap and kimchi for dinner.
I can’t speak highly enough about Sudan and the Nubian people. The transition between the Egyptian people and the Sudanese are two complete ends of the spectrum. Egypt, obviously being known for its tourism industry, has a very nonchalant and almost approach to tourists. We were ripped off and stolen from in Egypt (only a bike light), but in Sudan we’ve been met with nothing but friendly and happy people who will continually go out of their way to help us. We even had a young guy buy us coffee at our lunch stop yesterday which I felt bad about but he seemed very honored to be able to extend this gesture of hospitality to us. Despite Dongola being dirty, dusty and remote as well as having absolutely nothing in the way of huge amenities (the toilet is still a hole in the ground with no toilet paper (we have some though)), I would happily come back here for a holiday and just eat myself stupid on the local foods, relax with coffee and listen to everyone’s stories. I honestly feel safer here than I do in Melbourne; which is so surprising considering this is the part of the trip which I was most concerned about. Just goes to show you that you shouldn’t believe everything you hear on the TV.
All in all- we’re all having a great time and are getting along well together. I can honestly say that I haven’t laughed this much in ages. The daily kilometers are getting easier to do and isn’t as much as a chore as it was only a week or so ago.
From here, we head to Sudan’s capital Khartoum which we should reach in about 4 or 5 days (i.e. 17 or 18 January 2012) which will be pretty remote.
A very quick blog update to let you all we have almost officially survived Egypt. We’re currently in Aswan
where we’ve got a day off today (Sunday 8 Jan 12) where we’re going to do a couple of tourist things (Aswan Dam!
), resupply and kick up our feet until tomorrow morning where we board the ferry which takes us down Lake Nasser and into Sudan.
Up to Aswan, we’ve done 1,000kms (almost exactly) and save and except a handful of broken spokes and my no long-forgotten gastro, it has been a fairly uneventful first leg. The kilometres are becoming easy and to do our average daily quota of 120km is already not a chore.
I’m enjoying this of Egypt much more than the first part and am really enjoying being off the tourist trail. Of note was the Edfu Temple
(in Edfu) which we were fortunate enough to go and see on Wednesday night. This was easily the biggest and most spectacular temple we’ve seen and to make it better, we had the whole place to ourselves at sunset. It was eerie to be there in absolute silence (silence in Egypt is essentially non-existent). I won’t forget that in a hurry.
We’re all enjoying ourselves and each other’s company and are proud and excited at our both small and large achievement at having done so well with our first country.
As far as we can tell, internet & mobile internet coverage in Sudan isn’t thriving so updates will be infrequent. We still hope to be able to update our twitter feed (which is imbedded on the homepage of this site), or you can follow us @ridetocapetown.
Again, I want to thank everyone for their emails and messages. They really, really do lift spirits and give a little more spring in
Until next time!
2 posts in 1 day- a record...
Gavan's equipped with a serious piece of bike GPS hardware that gives accurate directions to all of our destinations and also allows us to upload these maps and stats for your viewing pleasure. You can check out our account here
. Bookmark the page and keep coming back to see our progress (i'll upload about once a week).
Otherwise, 4x new (dodgy) videos uploaded to youtube.com/justinvafrica
For convenience, i've put the maps for the first 6 days below:
We’ve made it to Luxor- what a grueling 5 days. I knew this trip was going to be tough, I, perhaps naively, didn’t realize it would be so tough so soon.
The first couple of days passed without much to update on. We had a couple of hiccups which saw us riding into our destinations an hour or 2 later than planned and in the dark which was an immediately breach of our unwritten rule of being off the roads 1 hour before the sun went down.
We skirted the Red Sea for a couple of days and at Safaga rode inland through an incredible mountain range for 2 days/2 nights . We climbed to about 750m (above sea level) with mountains 2-3 times higher either side of us. It was stunning and one of the nicest natural sites I’ve seen. However, about this time, I was beginning to come down with what can only be described as a violent bout gastro that’s been with me now for 3 full days and sadly tarnished the 2 days we spent riding between Safaga and Qena in the desert through the stunning mountain ranges.
The first night I fell ill (Monday 2nd Jan), we camped off the side of the road, in a dried out creek bed, behind a mountain so that we were well out of site of traffic and could camp safely. We set up camp at 4pm and I was asleep by 4:30pm, unable to eat dinner (or move). Anyone who knows me well should understand how ill I need to be to pass food, especially after having cycled 100-odd kms. Later that night the fun began with all of the symptoms one can expect from gastro. I awoke (I say awoke as if I’d actually had some sleep, which I hadn’t) at 6:30am feeling like doing nothing more than tossing and turning in my tent in my state of feverish hallucinatory anguish. Convincing myself that the cure to all of this is 100kms on the bike, I somehow found the focus to pack up my camp and get back on the bike for what would become the hardest and most despised day of my life. The guys were such a good help- from Shane (Doc) monitoring and feeding me full of medicines and rehydration salts, to Wade continually motivating me (despite my ongoing grunts in reply) and Gavan silently riding next to me as I struggled to ride up 45kms uphill. Somehow, and I don’t know how, we got through 90kms of our planned 120’ish. I felt good that I hadn’t let the guys down and I’m so thankful for everyone’s help.
My symptoms continued through the next day (today) with many, many unplanned toilet breaks between Qena and Luxor. The route between Qena and Luxor was about 65kms and skirted a canal the entire way which was home to tens of small rural communities. This was my first taste of what I had perceived Africa to be like- as all of the people within each community came out yelling “Hello, hello” and clapping and cheering us as we cruised past. I’ve never really wondered what it would be like to be a celebrity but after having experienced this level of public interest for 3 solid hours, I actually feel sorry for them (celebs). And, horn honking: imagine spending 8 hours riding down the Eastern Fwy where 4 out of every 5 cars honked (repeatedly) at you. This is what we’ve endured every day for the past 6 days. It’s driving me insane. And I have no idea what the honks mean- it could be “hello”, “just warning you that I’m here” or “get the hell out of the way”: I have no idea but it irritates the shit out of me.
People have asked how safe the roads are to cycle on and I can confidently say that I’d rather cycle on any Egyptian road than any metropolitan Melbourne road. I’ve never felt safer. Cars/trucks/donkey & carts will literally drive into the path of oncoming traffic to give us sufficient room on our bikes. I’ve not experienced one instance of angst against us.
We’ve ridden almost 800kms in 6 days and have finally got a day off (tomorrow) in Luxor. The guys are all drinking beer celebrating our big effort while I drink water and try and replace some of what I’ve lost over the last 2 days. Woe is me.
There’s been times where I’ve sat there cycling looking down at my legs asking myself “how are you managing this???” and I really have no idea how. I wouldn’t yet say I’m thoroughly enjoying myself but I am glad I’m here and giving this a shot. Things will get a little easier, I imagine, over the coming 2 weeks when we adapt to the kms and life on a bike in general. Egypt’s not been as wonderful and grand as I’d thought- it’s dilapidated, undeveloped and full of people who seem to only want to fleece you of money. But now that we’ve entered the more rural part of Egypt things have definitely changed for the better.
As it stands now, it’s been 3 days of symptoms and I’m dangerously undernourished and dehydrated. I’m still struggling to keep food down. Thankfully I’ve got a rest day and can really monitor myself and rest up and if need be seek medical aid. Otherwise, if I’m well enough, I’ll go out and check some of Luxor’s sites.
I also wanted to thank everyone for their emails. I’m not having any luck in responding yet but I wanted to let you know they’ve really lifted my spirits and are very appreciated. Thanks to Toby M, Saffie Shane, Cec, Sarah B, Marg B for your emails and messages.