If this is Wednesday, this must be Ethiopia

On february 8 we crossed the border into Ethiopia and set up camp a few kilometers later. It’s incredible how much the landscape changed once we left Sudan. The border town is bustling with activity, with loud music playing, TVs blaring, dozens of stores displaying their wares, people calling out to us……very vibrant, and so different from Sudan which is also vibrant but in a very different way.

There are some serious hills here. Our first cycling day was about 95 km, with plenty of rollers. There were 2 very challenging climbs, the second one being the hardest. Somehow I managed to struggle to the top. An Ethiopian woman was sitting in the shade and she gestured for me to join her, which I gladly did. Then I noticed some writing on a road post “Attn TDA riders – definitely no resting here! Man up!” Lol

There were still about 10 kms to camp, and I seriously considered throwing my bike over the edge because I really didn’t want to see it again (perhaps I could donate it instead :D) but reason prevailed so I carried on, if for no others reason than pride because I didn’t want to get picked up by the sweep

At camp we were warned that the next days ride would be one of the toughest on the tour. I was stricken by fear – how could it be harder than what I had just done? Well, it wasn’t sugarcoated. That day was by far the toughest cycling I have ever done – bar none. Immediately after leaving camp, we started to climb. Then we climbed more, then some more, then some more. And still more. At about 21 km we started what was described as an “epic” climb. My only question was what the hell had we already been doing since leaving camp? The epic climb finally ended at about 34 k. The support vehicle passed me about 26 k, and I SO wanted to get in. But I persevered, digging deep like I never had before. My reward was a nice long downhill for several kms, then a few more short climbs til lunch. Pics to follow!

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Section 2 starts tomorrow!

We’ve finished the first section of the tour, Pharaohs Delight, and are in Khartoum, having cycled nearly 2000 kms. The days are long and hot, with the distances often more than 148 kms per day. But at least the roads have been good – all paved and in good condition. Tomorrow we start section 2 – The Gorge. In a couple of days we’ll put our big tires on and cycle off road, then we go into the mountains of Ethiopia 😮 which will no doubt be a true test of idiocy, oops I mean grit, determination, tenacity, and…….idiocy 😀

Let the fun begin! Next post – Gondar

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Sand, sand everywhere and not a drop to drink

Or maybe it’s not a drop to eat. Or not a single clothes fibre that doesn’t have a million drops of sand in it. Or something like that

Im staying in a hotel in Khartoum. Yes, I’ll admit it – I wimped out of camping on my rest day. I decided I needed a bed, a toothbrush and clothes that aren’t saturated with sand. I wish I’d taken a picture of the bottom of the tub after first shower because it was completely brown.

It took a few tries to get my hair completely clean, but what a luxury it was to have hot running water! I won’t be taking that for granted again – I’ll cherish each one.

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Having fun

There are a group of women on this expedition who are just having fun. They like to ride hard, and in fact are probably the strongest women cyclists, but they don’t take it too seriously. Last week we had a team trial, with 5 per team. Here is a picture of what we saw along the 30 km race route. Gotta love it, although I think the serious racers were a bit bemused

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Dongola

Sudan is beautiful. We’ve cycled another 400 kms. or so to get to Dongola. The days are long and tiring and we’re glad to get to camp at the end of the day. Most people have settled into a routine with their riding – either riding with a group or by themselves. Some people head off right after breakfast and pedal straight through the day, stopping as little as possible, and are the first ones to get to camp. Others take their time, stopping to visit the villages, take some pictures, and visit with locals. I fall into the latter group, which means I’m usually one of the last to get to camp, tired and hungry.

The people of Sudan are very friendly and hospitable. It is one of the nicest places I’ve been to. One morning I went for coffee and the next thing I knew I had a small plate of falafel in front of me. Payment was refused.

4 long days of riding ahead to get to Khartoum. 3 of them will be over 140 km. The temps are slowly rising so it will be hot as well. If nothing else, I’m getting fitter!

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Random pics again

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We are in Sudan!

The ferry crossing from Aswan to Wadi Halfa, Sudan was quite the adventure. We got to the dock about 10 a.m. on the 23rd, and from the there the white people were told to get on the boat. Since most of our group are white, we had the privilege of getting ourselves and our gear on. I’m not sure if this was arranged beforehand, or if white people have more privilege in Egypt and/or Sudan. Regardless, it sure is something we take for granted living in the west, i.e., our white skin privilege.

After getting everything on, we sat on the upper deck while everyone else loaded their stuff on. Evidently people from Sudan cross border shop in Egypt and bring it back. There were hundreds of people carrying all sorts of things – mattresses, fridges, furniture, TV’s, satellite receivers, and the list goes on. There seemed to be no order or routine to this process, and it’s really hard to describe the chaos. People were yelling, pushing, shoving, jumping – it was madness. This went on for several hours. The boat was literally teeming with people, and just when it seemed there couldn’t possibly be any more room for another body, it seemed we were ready to sail. But no, the ferry pulled back into the dock and a few dozen more people got on. How they all fit on with their belongings is beyond me and defies belief.

We finally set off at about 7:00 p.m., after darkness had fallen. The white people were assigned cabins, to share with another cyclist, but after I saw 2 cockroaches in the dining room, I decided I would be sleeping outside on the top deck. This started out to be a fairly pleasant experience – i was pitch black and the sky was filled with star. But then many people started to move into the area where I had set up camp & talked and smoked incessantly into the night. Then, of course, we had the call to prayer, which has now become routine, at around 5:00 a.m. Many of the passengers formed several lines on the deck, facing east, in order to pray. This is actually quite a beautiful thing to see – many people praying in synch.

The food was surprisingly good, as was the arabic coffee. Eventually, at about 12:00 p.m., some 29 hours later, we docked at Wadi Halfa, and began the process of unloading & going through customs. Another lengthy process. Eventually we got underway to cycle to our camp for the night.

Next post – Dongola! I’m hoping to post pictures soon, but I need wifi to do that – hoping that when I get to Khartoum I’ll find that

 

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Egypt in 8 days

Well, I’m excited. Fina, after several attempts, I think I’m actually going to be able to post. I’ve typed up and then lost many posts in the last several days, so here’s hoping this one will get published!

So – in case anyone was wondering :D, it is possible to cross Egypt in 8 days by bicycle. We left Cairo on Jan. 14 in a convoy, and 9 days, 8 of which were cycling, we arrived in Aswan. Total distance pedalled in Egypt was about 970 kms.

My last post was about the frustrations, and well, dangers of cycling through Egypt. Apparently the rock throwing wasn’t a problem last year, so I presume it has something to do with the revolution of last year.Anyway, a few of us cycled with a Canadian woman who is a teacher living and working in Cairo. She speaks some Arabic, and her strategy was that, as soon as she saw a group of kids ahead who had rocks in their hands, she would slow down and engage them in conversation, i.e., “What’s up?” and “good morning (sabal el kheir).” They would put their rocks down and smile and respond.

Once we figured this out, we were able to continue on without incident, and it actually turned out to be quite a nice experience. All of the villagers were friendly, shouting out Welcome! and Hello!! as we passed.

Before I lost this post as well, I’ll publish it & start another one – stay tuned for the adventures of crossing Lake Nasser into Sudan!

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Random pics

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The journey has started!

After 6 days and about 740 kms of cycling, we have arrived in Luxor, Egypt. Our journey on 2 wheels began last Saturday, January 14 when we left Cairo and pedalled 136 km that day. For the most part the roads have been in pretty good shape and with the exception of day 5, reasonably flat. We have had a police escort for most of the way, which is nice, but the police car, usually with 4 men in it sometimes will follow at close distance for a long way. Not convenient when you need to use the bathroom!

There is a group of 44 riders, all very friendly and supportive. Already we have learned a lot about each other, which is inevitable when we are camping, eating, and everything else in very close quarters

Day 5 had a 56 km climb – yikes! Not too steep but relentless. The lunch truck was a welcome sight. We were promised a long downhill after that, but it was negated by strong cross and head winds. It was a very tough day.

That paled in comparison to yesterday, when, after leaving the lunch truck, we cycled through villages where most cyclists were pelted with rocks by kids, as well as hit by sugar cane sticks. I had chosen to go off on my own and it was a little terrifying, especially when at one point I saw a kid down the road break a beer bottle and wave it threateningly at me. Not a good feeling being by myself! Evidently this the Egyptian kids’ post revolution way of greeting tourists. When we leave here I’ll make sure to ride with some big guys! Still, I guess this is a good warm up for Ethiopia where rocks thrown at cyclists is the norm.

But it’s all good so far. Today is a very welcome rest day, then tomorrow we leave here on route to Aswan, where we’ll take the ferry & cross the Nile into Sudan.

I’m hoping to post some photos soon – just have to figure out how to do it. The internet is quite slow so it takes awhile to send a photo – haven’t been successful so far, but I hope to sort that out soon

Stay tuned!

 

 

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