Posted by: Dana | 2010/01/19

Jan 19 – after four days in the desert

I am surprised and thrilled to have internet access here from Safaga, Egypt!!  We are four days into our journey and are camping tonight at the Red Sea.  Literally, my tent is about 10 feet away from the sea and it is beautiful.  Just ate a delicious fish meal and stretched the legs, and it is already hard to believe we’ve ridden hundreds of miles already.

I’ll try to describe a few things to provide a little more context.  We are a large, international group.  57 full tour riders, I think, from 14 countries, ranging in age from 18 to 71.  The largest group comes from Canada, then US, then South Africa, and rest are Europeans.  After just four days on the road, I feel like I’m starting to get to know some folks well–even too well!  Bathroom habits, saddle sores, and upset stomachs are the topics of conversation!  We have several vehicles accompanying us, including two huge off-road trucks that store our belongings during the day and carry all of the food and water.  Water is rationed carefully–plenty for drinking in Egypt but that is about it. None for showers or cleaning, except washing of hands. 

A typical day starts at 5am and it takes about 2 hours to get my camp packed up and bags stored on the trucks.  We generally eat something hot and mushy for breakfast and then we start riding at 7am.  The distances have been considerable!!  I’ll describe more about this in a minute.  We meet up with the lunch truck somewhere along the route and have sandwiches (I had four yesterday!) and then ride for the remainder of the day.  Most of my days seem to end close to sunset.  There is always delicious soup waiting at camp (which is cold by the time i get there!) and then we eat a gigantic dinner.  I struggle with breakfast and lunch, because I’m pretty finacky about my food. Dinners have been awesome.  I think it’s going to go downhill as fresh food gets harder to come by.  We set up tents and by 7pm we’re all in bed!!  No joke!

The convoy out of Cairo was totally crazy.  We had several police cars escorting us down the highway and a handful of Egyptian riders with us for the day.  Every vehicle that passed us blared their horn and people shouted out the windows and there was just so much chaos around us.  It was great to get out of that mess.  After about 38 kilometers, we were on our own to ride the remainder of the day into camp.  Riders do get pretty spaced out.  I was surprised even on the first day, at one point, to find myself in the middle of the desert with no other rider in sight.  I spent some time riding with the local Egyptian riders, including Haitham and Amira.  Amira, the only female local rider, is a 26 year old Cairo native who I liked very much.  We talked about everything from the veil she wears (even on the bike), dating, school, etc and could relate well to one another.

The second day of riding was brutal.  We had more than 100 miles to cover and it was straight into the wind.  Headwinds punished us all day.  And pushing mountain bikes (mine weighs well over 30 pounds with the rack in the back) all day isn’t like a road bike.  The scenery was pretty bleak and the ride was never ending.  By mid-afternoon, I started worrying about finishing the ride before dusk.  Riders are pulled off at sunset and with that would go my EFI status–which is something I think we are all striving for (every fabulous inch).  I made it just as the sun set, some 10+ hours after I started.  Delirious.  And, reduced to tears.  From this beautiful spot at the Red Sea, it’s hard to remember how miserable it was, but it sucked.  And moments after I arrived at camp, the skies opened up, and a rare desert storm came through.  Crazy lightening, soaked bikes, but I remained dry in my little tent, wolfed down dinner in the tent, and was ready for bed before 7pm. 

I hear tomorrow is another rough day, and then one more before our first rest day in Luxor.  Will be nice to do laundry and get another shower.  There are moments in the day, typically when I’m riding alone, when it just strikes me that I’m here and this is the ride I’ve been waiting for.  It’s amazing to think it takes some 90+ days and you can ride your bicycle across this great big continent.  Already, I think we’re almost about half way through Egypt.  Some folks asked before the ride why I would want to do this by bike, because I “wouldn’t see anything”.  I think they meant because I will always be moving from place to place.  But, the reality, is that I see EVERYTHING.  Every nook and cranny, every bump and puddle, litter and glass shards, night time skies, and morning smog.  I smell every donkey that passes on the street and can meet eyes with any one of the passersby.  I’m sure there will be many places I will find that I will want to return to with more time, but for now, this is an amazing way to see Africa. 

One last tidbit, which is very sad to report.  My brand new netbook got smooshed and isn’t working.  This happened on the very first day of the ride, and I discovered it the first night in my tent when I tried to open up the scrapbook to read messages from friends and family.  This is a HUGE disappointment, and will present big challenges to updating the blog regularly and posting photos.  Be patient, and I will try to do the same.   Signing off now from Safaga, and I’ll write again in a few days from Luxor! 

Hagerty friends, hope you’re enjoying the retreat!  And MOM, HAPPY BIRTHDAY.  I’ll try to call you later if I can figure out how!  xoxo


Responses

  1. Amazing account of the last few days. Can I send you another notebook to the address we discussed? I’m with you all the way. Miss you lots. Love you,
    AM

  2. Dana,
    It sounds like it’s going to be an amazing journey for you and sooo much more difficult than our ride across the USA was. I look forward to reading more of your journey.
    -Dan

  3. dana, you are such an amazing woman. i will think of you on those long lonely stretches and send you power! miss you here in DC- laren

  4. Dana — you rock! Keep the spirit up. It seems to be an unbelievable ride or up and down and hopefully mostly ups!! Here in RI we are wigging out on Martha Coakley losing in Massachusetts. This sucks. Stay tuned while u cross the continent. And keep posting!!!!!

  5. Dana

    you are all inspiring and i enjoy your updates whenever you post. it seems as though you will have lots of time to soak up all of africa…at you own pace and also take in all that is you. you have so much time to just ‘be’ and think. I envy you tremendously! enjoy every moment and stay strong. know that friends, old and new…are behind you!

    good luck old friend!

    franny

  6. Incredible, this is what movies are made of. Tell your Dad to Fed Ex. you a new net book so we can keep up with the journey.

    Watch out for the donkeys they can get mean.

    Stay safe.

    Tom Bloch


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