Posted by: Dana | 2010/01/15

Jan 15 – Impressions of Cairo

While I provided a short update yesterday from the internet café in Cairo, I realize I was completely overwhelmed and out of my mind, and could barely write or think.  So, while I’m still in Cairo, I figured I’d try to write another update with initial impressions and thoughts. 

Cairo is smelly and dusty.  But the pyramids are magnificent.  They are surrounded by poor neighborhoods and getting there was surprisingly convoluted by taxi when one considers that the pyramids rank as one of the top tourist sites in the world.  There seemed to be little in the way of infrastructure for tourists;  The pyramids are surrounded by tiny streets and dilapitad apartment buildings, some of which seem too close to the pyramids themselves.  There appeared to be very little protections for these incredible structures—if you can push beyond the throngs of local guys on camels, you can step right up onto the pyramids themselves and climb up a few steps.  There were very few tourists, which meant that the camel guys were particularly aggressive to make a buck by offering camel rides, posing for pictures, or even dressing tourists with Egyptian head dresses and then expecting payment.  Twice I was forced to claim a nearby TDA rider was my husband to avoid harassment, and I was reminded of how annoying traveling as a single woman can be in some countries.

The streets are completely chaotic.  Cars, donkey carts, scooters, tuk-tuks, bicyclists, etc share the streets;  people and animals dart in and out of traffic;  cars get so close to one another that one driver can almost reach into the adjacent car;  and, as I mentioned in my earlier posting, there are very few traffic signs or signals.  And amazingly, amidst this chaos, our adventure begins.

We did a little test ride yesterday.  After assembling our bikes, folks were eager to get on them and work out the tweaks.   So we rolled out of the hotel and into the streets and I thought to myself just how incredible it is that I’m here and that it’s starting NOW!  The streetscapes, of course, were crazy.  Odd smells, uneven roads, darting cars and donkeys, trash, stray animals, and now we had cheering and waving fans to add to the mix.  The locals, while baffled by the caravan of cyclist, curiously and eagerly waved, cheered, and offered high-fives.   It was pretty surreal.   I was surprised by how civil the traffic was, and then I noticed we had police escorts at both the front and rear of the caravan.  I’m not sure if the TDA arranged for this assistance, of whether the local police provided it on their own.  In any event, it made for a really pleasant introduction to riding in Africa and it was appreciated.

Since the ride yesterday, the remainer of our time here in Cairo was spent in team meetings, discussing everything from how and where to poop, what to expect in the way of resources at “bush camps”, meal times, and ensuring safety for all riders.  The big stress was packing our belongings in duffels and then worrying whether they would pass the weigh-in and the cramming into tiny lockers on the trucks.  I passed the weigh in but not the cramming.  I don’t even want to talk about this.  It was a mess.  I was the very last rider to cram my stuff in, only after everything was taken out of my bags on the roadside, and restuffed in a way that I now won’t find anything with the help of a staff member.  It was not pretty and I can’t imagine how I’m going to fit my stuff into that locker 120 more times (each day from here on out). 

So, tomorrow we start.  After months of preparations, and years dreaming about this, it’s hard to believe that our wake up call is just five hours from now (4AM).  Breakfast is at 4:30AM and we leave in covoy to the pyramids where we have opening ceremonies.  From there we have a 90+mile ride to our first bush camp—the first of six consecutive bush camps—where we will NOT have showers or running water or any facilities for that matter.  Maintaining good hygiene and avoiding saddle sores is going to be really tricky but critical.  I guess I’m ready, but it’s not going to be pretty.

Obviously, I won’t have internet access for at least the next week, so I won’t be updating this blog or emailing anyone.  Please know that I’m safe and happy, making my way south in Egypt towards Luxor, soaking in the sounds, the sights, the smells, and the scenery of this country.  I hear we can take a dip in the Red Sea in another 6 days or so.  I’m sure, by then, the body could use a good washing!  Off I go.  Love from Cairo!!!


Responses

  1. Woah, sounds like quite the experience

  2. I read this to the kids and Maya had a few questions.

    Did you ride a camel?
    How was the test ride and the cheering of kids on the side of the road?
    How does Africa look with all of the sand? Dry, I bet.

    We miss you.
    Love, Maya

  3. Hi Dana,
    I am a friend of your Aunt Margie’s and she told me all about your trip! What an opportunity and experience! I was in Cairo this summer and enjoyed reading your descriptions which brought back memories! We likened our attempts to cross the streets as playing the “Frogger” video game! Some locals were nice enough to stop traffic for us. I hope you get a chance to see the sites around Luxor. Karnak was one of my favorites, and the Luxor Museum was outstanding. I’m sure you’ve sampled some karkaday (hibiscus tea)–we found it very refreshing. Best of luck as your adventure begins!

  4. Perhaps you can purchase some room in someone elses duffel. Do the camel jockeys follow you all the way?

    Stay safe and strong.

    Tom Bloch

  5. Glad to hear you arrived safely. i guess the pictures of you riding a camel or wearing an Egyptian head dress have not made it onto your photo gallery yet. i’ll check back in a week. 90+ miles out of the chute. nice. hope it is all down hill or that you have a nice cushy saddle. According to the weather channel, you should have a strong tail wind at your back for the next 7,500 miles. Be safe and keep that lion spray handy. ks


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