Email update 2 Feb, 2012
29.01.2012 - 02.02.2012 38 °C
Would you believe it I am sitting in an "air conditioned
mall"......with fast internet.....Khartoum.....how quickly one
adjusts......sat down at a coffee shop and ordered an iced coffee with
real iceream and a bowl of fresh fruit salad + more
Anyway, bck a couple of days.....last time at Dongela.
Now the sun is "really" hot.....now more cold hands and
jackets....38deg riding, 46deg sitting around......how it saps your
Three gruelling days of 148kms!!!! Am I mad or what? Head
winds....I just kept thinking of our Townsville group and that dreaded
"Woodstock" ride....How I wish for those big boys up front to pull me
First day was just head wind all the way....Shared the riding with an
NZ guy, just 2km each about for hours up to lunch, averaging
18km/hr.... and then hooked up with 2 others....such relief to know
that you had a 6km break before your turn on the front....Pushing
Desert flat, flat, flat. No mountains but little green oasis every now
and then. Row upon row of telegraph poles, stretching into the
distance as far as the eye could see. Traffic heavy, especially the
buses....Wow, they travel at deadly speeds.....
Finally road kill!!!! Dead camels everywhere.....and our first
campsite of the 4 day desert camp stint (again) "Dead Camel Desert
Camp!!!! Camels just lying everywhere....Why?
Sudanese trek 1000's of male camels from as way south as Ethiopia up
to Egypt to sell as meat but many die on the way....3000km walk...not
much in the way of water it seems. Thankfully they do not smell. Some
have been at this campsite for years, just rotting away....clean white
bones, tough leathery hide....legs at awkward angles....agony on their
faces...life is hard!
Each day we have our route written on a white board:
R out of camp
L 50m up road
1.3km R @ t-junction(follow orange tape, hopefully the kids haven't removed it)
9km military checkpoint
97km coke stop
148km camp - RHS
R out of camp (although one girl went left and for several kms before
the "lightglobe" came on.....(every rider meeting the point is made
that we go "right", right hand, pointing right and every combination
of "right" the race coordinator can think up....)
48km straight @ roundabout
115km coke stop
I resisted the "coke" stops until day two of this gruelling stint. To
find a "cold" bottle of anything is pure gold! So go with the flow,
even have a falafel...
Fast boys crashed today....cracked shoulder for one of the german
riders, off the bike for at least 2-3 weeks. One of the trucks is
beginning to fill up with exhausted riders. Mainly girls, they do
either a morning or arvo shift in truck. If you hop in the truck you
lose your "EFI" (Every "F'ing!!!!???? Inch). So still retaining my
EFI and race place, not sure where that is at present....maybe about
7th in the female stakes....Will check the TdA blog one day!!!!
Sleeping in the desert at night is a bit like camping out bush, away
from populated areas, the sky is spectacular.....Wow, so close I feel
I could almost touch the "saucepan". How privileged I am to
experience this. Campsite is an interesting place. Riders always
arriving at different times, bikes always laying everywhere in the
sand, helmets upturned, also in the sand, some attached to
bikes....who cares, its camp and the ride is finally over... Hit the
tea, AND soup stand....a huge, and I mean HUGE tub of it....replaces
all the salt just lost during the day....several cups of
soup.....begin to feel "human" again...or rehydrated anyway.... and
lots of water..... Some people go and set up tent straight away....but
now that it is blistering hot others wait until after dinner, when sun
has about an hour left before setting.... That's me....who cares if
your sweaty and dusty, just relax, talk about the day, or just sit and
But I digress.....the 2nd of these three 148+days in real heat has
certainly tested my inner strength....I was shattered, exhausted to
the point of actually falling asleep during a conversation, and I was
the one talking!!!!! I consumed three huge mugs of soup, 3 bottles
of water, 2 mugs of tea and another bottle of hydrolite powder.....all
before dinner.....at which I could only manage a plate of real green
string beans and fresh fruit with yoghurt.....slept like a baby....not
even a midnight "p"!!!!!
Riding in a bigger group (10) certainly churns up the kms and gives a
decent break of about 20km before having to do a turn....all
psychological. I spent the day looking at a black tyre in front of
me. Am I "group racing in the desert".....yes I am!!!! But cannot
sustain the speed of the younger girls...especially uphill....(Nana
biker) and ride the last 15kms on my own...at last no headwind and so
slogged it out as fast as my chariot could go... The desert - dust,
wind and sand!
Little or no townships today, but begin to see "water tanks".....! Set
high in the air...when does it rain? Maybe bore water is pumped up to
the "header" tank???? At some coke stops there are urns of "water",
always under a canopy of sorts to keep it cool!!, and many have "moss"
actually growing on the outside.....apparently this is "drinkable
water", but am keeping to the bottled stuff. Have not had upset
stomach from any of the food, and although the water supplied at camp
is from the local towns, it is "treated".
Today's ride was "time trial" for 20km and mandatory if you are
racing.... It is only a short day's ride 110km, 37km of which will be
in convoy through the outer area and into Khartoum proper to the
Time trial....am I competitive, obviously yes....I pushed hard, using
the "yellow line" ("keep on the paint" - John Heufel), where possible
for a smoother ride which increases speed...bending low over the
handlebars when the fast buses blew past and pedalled like the
wind.....Yeh, averaged 29.5 over the 20km.....(a little bit of tail
wind assistance helped).
The remainder of ride to lunch saw the beginning of industrial build
up....fruit plantations behind treed and brick walls. Standing high on
pedals I spotted banana trees.... Also battery hen farms, very new
stainless sheeted modern sheds...no smell and lots of space so
hopefully the chookies get to free range???....always lots of eggs
available at market stall coke stops.
Sadly rubbish is now everywhere...plastic bags...environmental
disaster! Locals burn it, so there goes the ozone layer...... Change
of dress code now with men wearing western clothes, less of the white
Convoy with police escort. Wow, sirens blazing, ute full of police
with machinegun style rifles, lots of gesticulating and yelling and
traffic pushed to the side to allow us through...market areas selling
beds, the springs made in colourful patterns, very different...
lambswool car/wheel covers, orange stand after orange stand, ceramic
section with new white shining bathroom pieces.....stretch after
stretch, out in the open. Butcher shops looking clean and glistening
behind large windows, must be airconditioned. The animal
market....could smell it before we saw it....goats and donkeys just
lined up along the side of the road....what fate awaits them????? And
then the River Nile, again....Glistening modern government buildings
on one side of the road and slums on the other. Wind, wind wind...a
very hard slog at slowish speed. The air is full of dust, the sun is
dulled with so much dust.....
Like any city, lots of people, everywhere, vehicles, vehicles,
vehicles......pollution plus. I prefer the desert.
After Khartoum it is 8 days straight riding, no rest days....the
hardest bit of the entire trip.....Into Ethiopia, the beginning of bad
roads and rock-throwing kids. The Dr and nurse will be busy with the
cuts and bruises from bikes crashing, even at slow speed there will be
"pain". The moutain bikers will be in their element, changing of
tyres....more competition for the fast boys...it will be
Thanks again everyone for your encouraging words, prayers and "what is
happening at your place" stories. Penny Wilkins....you did this trip
in 1956.....from Uganda up to Egypt....what I am experiencing is
"luxury".....bitumen roads and telegraph poles compared to your trip
"across the desert, following poles....." Please get out your
precious diaries and begin your book...
Stay safe friends, remember hug the ones you love, often.....