A Travellerspoint blog

Gondar

Email update 15 Feb, 2012


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Hey all,

Now at Gondar, at the hotel Goha which is the closest I'll ever get to God, Muhammad, Jehovah or whoever for the next little while!!!!. It is pure luxury even if I am still in my tent.....Some people have taken rooms so as to enjoy a shower without being "on display"....but I am enjoying the calmness of lying in my tent listening to the wind in the early hours of the morning rustling through the pines, a noise similar to that of the casuarina tree (sheoak), a "silky" sound. Before dawn large hawks begin to "keen" as they fly effortlessly on the thermals catching the bugs that the breeze has shaken from the trees. I am happy, yet sad....another rest day here above the hubbub and noise of Gondar town.

It has been 9 or 10 days since last email. Everyday a different experience.....8 days of straight riding, each day more extreme than the previous.

Kms for the next 8 days ranged : 145.5, 155, 97, 95, 84, 95, 93, 108. Towns of Sennar, Dinder, Doka, Metama then Gondar. The small kms of 97, 95, and 84 are the off road stuff that had everyone in varying degrees of agony and the last day included a 2300m climb!!!!

Leaving Khartoum was a relief, only to be out of the city environment, and the dust. Leaving on the holy day means less traffic and time to actually look around as you ride. Out through the "upmarket" area - called "the avenue"... well to do homes and shops, such a contrast to the majority of city proper. Finally away from traffic and into the "market garden" produce area. Irrigation used, grain crops flourishing, date palms and the soil a deep rich brown, such a contrast from the earlier dusty dirt.

Housing more obvious with the richer soil colour in the mud bricks. Herds of goats along the roadside, lots of buildings which appeared abandoned....less and less donkey carts. Strong headwind all morning, so debilitating, mentally and physically. Mirage images appear as the heat and dust kicks in. Finally the "african" flat style tree on the landscape, a visual relief from sand only.

Two bikes stolen overnight....sneaky lot....both guys devastated, everyone advised to lock up tight and keep whatever you don't want stolen either in your truck locker or in your tent.....Sleeping with my smelly riding shoes has become a reality!!!!

The Sudanese are incredibly "security conscious" when it comes to people taking photos.....to the point of actually halting a rider, way out of Khartoum, and accusing her of taking photos with a telescope......20 security police jumped out of 2 vehicles, all wearing earpieces (bit like a movie....) and demanded they see her camera. She did not have a camera, even though they searched her backpack and said they saw her taking the pictures....they found nothing. Ah...Africa....as they say, "expect the unexpected"!!!

"Mandatory" (Mando) day. If you are "racing" then compulsory, or 12hrs automatically added to your time. Just plod along, and hope to make the 155kms in one piece. Traffic again heavy. This section of road very dangerous with trucks and buses not giving an "inch" when passing. Pushed off the road twice by oncoming buses actually passing another vehicle....safer on the dirt!!!

Now seeing crops of rice and cotton..(financed by Japan)..both water-hungry crops....oh for rain. Shanty towns amongst the plastic bag waste which attaches to every stick or bush as the wind blows.......Had my first "whipping" by a young lad....what do you do???? He laughed and laughed as I admonished him but ran away quickly when I turned around to chase him.....Up an alleyway I started, only to be stopped by a policeman......I was angry.....So my first real pain....sore backside, but no skin broken.... Another rider fell today while crossing railway tracks.....she was concussed and confused, we waited with her till the truck returned. Found a baby kid stuck in the mud.....maaa, maaa, maaa...how cruel life can be....I asked our mechanic to pull him out.....he obliged, laughed and said that "saving livestock" was not noted as part of his job description!!!!

Swimming in the canals for a couple of nights after riding...so cold and refreshing....wonderful for the muscles. Campsites of thorns....bikes being carried everywhere, placed upside down, many flat tyres for some people....Nothing worse than waking up at 6am to change tyres before breakfast. I have been lucky.

Previous afternoon and evening people were changing their tyres preparing for the rough stuff.....those mountain bikers were finally going to have some fun. I rested up, no tyre changes, just go with what I've got.

Through Dinder and the "off road" begins...first crossing wide river over old railway bridge converted to take cars, pedestrians, etc. Traffic held up on one side to allow our scruffy lot across!!!! Sand, sand, sand and follow the disused railway line all day.....occasionally cross a canal, watch for orange flagging tape...take wrong turns, how can one get lost when following a disused railway line!!!!! Trucks, cars, local cyclists using same track...how can those locals ride so quickly?...and stay upright???

The hot sun reflecting back up from the sand, burning, dry mouth, water in my water bottle hot. Coke stops, read cold water, where is the next town? How much liquid can one person consume? - 2lt water, 3x250ml grapefruit juice & 1x250ml 7Up....

First of the 3 days of off road over! In retrospect, an easy day. Day 2 - corrugations continuous for the entire day, gravel, sand, my first fall...grazed elbow, blood, pour on the dettol!! Some people fall constantly but don't give in, they are grazed and bloody! My forearms ache from steering, bike forever in fast forward gear! Mountain bikers fly past me, others on side of road with flats, some experiencing up to 9 changes! Camel herders move slowly past me, trekking their large herds up to Egypt, following the ancient track in the sand, waterhole to waterhole. Handsome men atop lead camels, following the life of their forefathers. Villages changing now, round houses still of mud brick but with thatched rooves, woven fences denote personal family areas, lots are swept clean and pathways outlined by rocks. The last 5kms my body is not functioning, seeing double, totally exhausted, 9hr day. Campsite at Stone VIllage, no grass,just small rocks. The local village gathered around, an enterprising young boy arrives with his donkey water cart.. Sit in bowl under hose, lather up and "heaven"!! My body cannot function, no dinner, struggle to erect tent.

Want desparately to vomit... But, I watch a magnificent sunset. The flat desert now disappearing and the beginning of Ethiopian mountains. The change is wonderful. But my body is not! Too tired & exhausted to ride next day. I'm on the truck with 13 other tired, injured, exhausted riders. Sardines jammed in a hot cabin travelling at slow speed along rough and at times, non existent roads.... Roll, roll, roll. Motion sickness....I must be crazy!

Passed small villages mining for gold...slag heaps everywhere. Visited village for well water. Many donkey carts lined up, drawing water from 4 spouts. This village relatively well off as they have a large tractor that pulls a water tanker, beside it stands a very old chevy-style truck. A young boy makes his own toy...a truck configured from: water bottle tops=wheels; wire=axles; metal trayback=cut down metal box of "quality super adhesive".

We wait our turn, life moves slowly. Little kids head off to school all carrying their miniature plastic chairs, bigger kids, girls, dressed in white top and trouser uniform, heads covered, wave to us as we chug by. The truck creates drama moving through some villages as the passageway is too narrow, the staff push and shove the woven fences back so we can squeeze thru. More riders need to get on board, casualties of heat and exhaustion.

Finally the day ends with both sun and the full moon awake in the sky. Last night in Sudan,it is good to be alive and I vow never to ride the truck again!

Many people beginning to experience the effects of malaria tablets and the sun....burning skin. For me it is an exceptionally dry mouth, cannot create saliva....lots and lots and lots of fluids now.

Ethiopia border today. Landscape quickly changing, lots of trees=green and cool, cacti-looking bushes with small flower, similar to Oz native frangipani, so delicate amidst the dirt. Camel drovers driving goat herds, big watering holes for stock and finally some downhill runs....first since Egypt, exhilarating!

Goodbye Sudan, hullo Ethiopia, and beer! Woman in western clothes, bare flesh, Christianity, lots of crosses, but no churches visible. New and tasty/spicy foods, injura bread. Gluten-free, full of goodness, small pieces of lamb, spice for dipping, goats cheese dipped in different spices, salad vegies, dried meat and all scooped into the bread with fingers.....oh so yum! Layered fruit juices = puréed mango, pawpaw,guava, and avocado! No water or milk, just pure fruit....soooooo delicious.

As with all good things come some bad.....the rock throwing, stick wielding kids. They appear from nowhere along the roadside, all calling "you, you, you", what's your name, where you go, where you from, i love you, money! The girls are more vocal and agressive than the boys, pushing your bike sideways, pulling you backwards as you struggle up giant hills, poke sticks through your spokes, play chicken with you when descending a hill....we each cope in different ways with this new challenge. Grown men cry, I keep my face covered and ignore them...they are not sure what is behind the mask and sun glasses, so far I've been lucky and avoided both rocks and sticks. A couple had their camera stolen from their backpack, while pushing their bikes.....too many hands to watch. Rolling hills and 3 big climbs to end the day.

Campsite atop a hill with views out to the tabletop type Ethiopian mountains.... Following a path down the hillside, there is a natural spring, a young boy sits scooping the fresh water into a coconut style bowl and fills plastic tanks for the village. I drink fresh water...so cold and refreshing. Housing style changing again, square buildings with tin roofs and thatched roofs and round buildings made of saplings.

Six days of riding, still two to go before a welcome two-day rest. The group is tired, anxious about the 2300m climb on last day...everyone wants to get away early...I enjoyed the climb, not as difficult as I expected, kept my head down, pedal, pedal, pedal! Similar to a Paluma ride (Townsville) only longer with a couple of really steep pulls. Spectacular views through mountain gorges, crops on hillsides, birds singing, really....life is good. Down the mountain to the plain. Fields ploughed, men and women working together, chatting as they plant. Lots and lots of gum trees, home! I stop, eat a banana and watch a young man ploughing his rich brown soil, cow and old fashioned wooden hand plough!! The whistle and slap of the reins coming clearly through the quietness. Gums used as border fencing, also being harvested, very young saplings.

The second climb in the afternoon saw the majority of riders walking every hill, including me! 40kms....into Gondar. The final 2kms to camp was uphill, through the city. I was cursing the tour organiser!!! I arrived at Hotel, a 10hr day!!!

Sort of made "techno" history guys, the above was typed on an iPad several days ago now and finished about 1.35am.....somehow lost it allnd so have had to wait till next lay day to reconnect and I've managed to transfer it onto an AppleMac.....eegads, all this in the middle of Ethiopia,,,,, iPad....gotta have one.....how neat are they!!!! Obviously never to old to learn, even if it means taking a bike trip to Africa for 4 mths!!!!

Disjointed email, apologies for this. I've managed to lose information regarding Gondar, so this is all you can have till next lay day - Addis Adaba....5 days time.

Keep safe, enjoy life and keep smiling. All's well with me, just a little slimmer....lost about 5 kgs.....

Love to my family, especially Safta.....sending big hugs to you......
Big day today, 167kms.....just another day in paradise.

Bye,
Gennesse

Posted by gennesseb 19:57 Archived in Ethiopia Comments (0)

Khartoum

Email update 2 Feb, 2012

38 °C
View Gen's African Cycle 2012 on gennesseb's travel map.

Hey everyone,
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
icecream.....sooooooo good!

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
energy...

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
along.....
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)
4.5km
9km military checkpoint
75km Lunch
97km coke stop
148km camp - RHS

OR
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
75km lunch
115km coke stop
147km camp

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
recuperate!!!

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
camping ground.
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
robes.
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
interesting....

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.....

Posted by gennesseb 18:03 Archived in Sudan Comments (0)

Dongala - Sudan

Email update 28 Jan, 2012


View Gen's African Cycle 2012 on gennesseb's travel map.

Thankyou to everyone who has sent emails with encouragement and stories from home. I will try and reply to each of you somewhere along the line, but time restrictions will dictate that. Also please excuse my spelling etc, as I don't have time to reread.

How goes my Miss Puss? No doubt she has settled into her job routine and has forgotten who I am.....give her a neck scratch for me.....

Marni, hope you are enjoying having your own space and time to do what you want?

Thanks Gary for moving my cleats...everything is works perfectly. Haven't had any knee, feet or hand problems. Even my new seat has been bliss!!!! Most people are suffering with sore knees and bums.....

I am not like the majority of the group who have brought their own computers, ipods, imacs, iphones, I, I, I, I.......they have trouble charging so am happy to go with what I can find. No phone connection here in Sudan, unless you buy sim cards, but even then, others have found them not to work. As most of you know I am "technically challenged" so less is best.

Am sitting in an internet den or some sort, for locals....and free!!!! I am in Dongala, Sudan. The building is in near darkness and full of young boys playing games, facebooking and maybe doing homework? It is Saturday here and I will get to the market later on today for fruit and youghurt!!!! Yeh, when I can get that yoghurt. Oh, changing of the guard....all the boys have vacated and the girls are now in, with the door closed!!! I think I am in the middle of a class session as the teacher (male) has just arrived. I feel very privileged to be allowed to stay in the room. The girls introduced themselves to me, they are so beautiful.

Dinner yesterday at local chicken cafe. Half a chicken stuffed with rice and pita bread and chilli type sauce = $10 Sudanese which equates to US$3.50, a feast. Went out back and watched them making falafel.....they soak the chickpeas, then grind them into a paste and then use a tool like an icecream scoop to pick up the paste, press down on a lever and into the hot oil for cooking....the man was doing it so quickly....RSI.......for sure. Falafel so delicious when fresh and hot. Purchase of hot milk is from a huge container and ladelled into plastic bags....! Saves on plastic bottles, which by the way are all biodegradable. Drinking lots of water - no alcohol in Sudan.....if caught, 40 lashes!!!!

Back to diary.....So, we have left Egypt and the stone throwing kids behind. Vicious little critters at times, with sticks of sugar cane thrust into your spokes and even tossed off the back of passing trucks....managed to be missed by all.

Entered Sudan via ferry across Lake Nasser. What a circus it was getting ourselves, luggage and bikes onto the ferry. All I could wonder was how I would swim to shore if the vessel sank. How many people can fit onto those rust buckets???? More than what it is deemed to carry I'm sure. We had to fight and push our way on and off several times. And I thought carrying my bike up and down an escalator in France was difficult and challenging......try the steps up and down on a boat!!!! We had to load all the bikes on the top deck. We were lucky enough to all have cabins on first deck, although mine was an inside cabin, no window....but, believe it or not, AC.....Quite a number of people opted to sleep up on deck as the "claustrophobic" below. Wow, what didn't get loaded onto that ferry....Mattresses, boxes and boxes of saucepans, TV's, computers, electrical stuff, clothing etc. No "FedX" here!!!. So much yelling and pushing and SMOKING....Men, men, men...... Our first glimpse of Sudanese women....Yeh for colourful sari-type clothing. I awoke during the night to a commotion outside the cabin door and it was a women telling off this man who was smoking....."get outside" seemed to be the gist of the conversation!!!! People slept everywhere, on the stairs, in the lifeboats, wherever they could squeeze their body. We were told to expect the worst, especially with toilet facilities. I mean, 4 toilets, two for each sex, and ALL THOSE PEOPLE......The smell was overwhelming, and the rust, OMG..... We arrived at the ferry at noon but it did not sail until sunset. All of us sat up on deck....sort of like being in a zoo, us being the animals. Obviously not the normal cargo! The men were trying to befriend the younger girls, in the end it became harassment, but nothing could be done except ignore it all. Food was great..Always thinking of my stomach!!! Bean stew, omelette, rice, pita bread (always) and chicken. All eaten with fingers. Yeh, how much dirt and grime lies under my fingernails!!!

Slept through the night, missed sunrise and then we docked at Wadi Halfa, Sudan. Picture one long piece of cement, long enough to take the ferry....and a small office. That was the port. All around was the lake and desert.....not a town in sight... Like hoping off into the middle of "nowhere". The disembarking was way easier. We waited till everyone was off. No photos allowed, although we managed to sneak a few. National security!!!! We have to get a camera/photo permit....Did plenty of paperwork onboard, apparently one form was for photo taking.....but it had not been approved or passed by customs at
that stage. Loaded luggage onto truck and it went off to customs to be searched. We followed along the sandy rocky road. Luggage off truck, into the sand, dirt and dust...waiting for customs...everyone else were checked out inside a huge building but we had to wait in the sun. Luckily they only opened a couple of bags. While waiting we marvelled at the "calmness" of it all compared to Egypt. A group of musicians/dancers came up and entertained us. Three men playing tambourine-type drums, all dressed in white robes and 4 women in vivid green and pink dresses with a black net overlay, fitted neatly on their bodies and matching coloured scarf. They performed a national dance and had people from our group dancing with them. A welcome introduction to Sudan. Then after many hours of reloading gear back onto truck, signed off of each bike we had a police escort into the camp ground. For "camp ground" read sand oval with no facilities. The usual "desert camp". En route with sirens clanging, the lack of "rubbish" was very obvious. Lots of burning of rubbish here, where in Egypt it just piles up and blows around. Tents up and into town for dinner... Tuk-Tuks so useful... Wadi Halfa town, homes built around a walled courtyard, no or few windows, some with timber/glass frames. Lots of little shops selling everything one needs....lots of cafes, eating places. It appears many men eat out.....very few women around. We took over the eating places and indulged ourselves in falafel, pita bread, bean stew, giros (though called something else, swarmah, I think)....just delicious....bought yoghurt....hoorah. Lots of people on mobile phones....amidst all the dust, dirt and remoteness, mobile phones live!!

Wadi Halfa is where the new trucks with our lockers arrived. Brand new trucks, all decked out with space for their food storage, tables, chairs, canopies etc. It was fun watching people trying to fit their gear into a space of 45 wide, 60 high and 80 length....people actually broke the doors off their hinges. The locals were lucky that day, lots of gear left behind. Thankfully I had been warned by a previous trip traveller, so organized myself accordingly. I actually had space
left.....I am aghast at what people actually bring with them on a trip like this.....To my BM friends, my compact travelling has paid off, but I do miss the coffee stops and "menu" choices.

Three days of desert camps....each day of 148kms.....sometimes gruelling headwinds and then the blissful tailwinds.....yeh, hooked onto the "fast" pelaton group and got dragged along at 45km/hr....but couldn't sustain that speed for more than 15kms.....dropped off the back and cruised into lunch. Those boys are "serious"....

The Nubian Desert such a contrast to Egypt.... Deserts ain't deserts..... Beautiful hills of dark rock, people actually gold panning, crudely organized but all privately owned plots. The peacefulness of it all, no cars honking!!!! Vehicles are very new, taxis brightly coloured as are the buses; orange, lime green, purple.....and wow, do they travel fast....give great tail wind. Weather definitely warmer although still wearing my leg warmers for most of the day. Prayer calling doesn't appear to be as "frenetic" as in Egypt. More subdued in calling people to the mosque. Great alarm clock even out in a desert campt. Went swimming in the Nile...yeh...well paddling and rinsing my body with a face cloth....freezing and the nats just about carried me away!!! but so exhilarating and good for the muscles. A bunch of kids from the village descended on us, walking in amongst the tents and asking questions. The richness of the fields along the Nile on one side of the road and then dust and desert on the other. The tar road drifts away from the river and into the hills.....everywhere is so vast! Entering small villages with painted/sculptured walls, very tidy. People making mud bricks and some being put into kiln.... Bigger town with huge market, but off in the distance..telegraph poles going for for miles and miles....so incongruous to the surroundings.

Fun event of "Team Time Trial" for 30kms.... Joined the "castoffs" team.....3 Australians, 1 NZ and 1 Dutch. We came in second last, well really last because the "family team" of the four fastest girls and 1 fast guy, played games and took lots of photos of themselves; lying on the side of the road with their bikes, forming a human pyramid etc. They had fun. Our team was not competitive, first to leave and last to finish, but we chatted all the way and helped the two slower riders. It was all about participating and meeting other people. The fast group are hard to meet up on a day to day basis....they leave first, arrive first, are set up and relaxing/socializing by the time the "plebs" arrive. By the time we set up tents it's time for "rider meeting" and then it's dinner.....how quickly the day goes.....

It is a very windy day today, thankfully no riding. Off to the market now....fruit and yes, yoghurt, yet again...grab it while I can.

Keep safe, smile lots and hug your love ones often. Miss your conversations and cheerful faces.
Till next
time......xxxxxxxxxOOOOOOOOxxxxx

Posted by gennesseb 21:07 Archived in Sudan Comments (0)

Day 9.......

Email update from 23 Jan, 2012


View Gen's African Cycle 2012 on gennesseb's travel map.

Hi everyone,
Sitting in a very dusty internet cafe in Aswan, awaiting the ferry to
Sudan, leaves tomorrow, takes 1.5days......
Biking has been an experience, I luv challenging the traffic, which is
somewhat crazy.....cars going up and down in wrong lanes but it all
seems to work....no headlights used in the city...apparently they
think it saves on their gas....???? Amidst all the constant honking of
horns and yelling from kids we dodge the donkey carts and the constant
stopping of the "taxis".....which range from tuk-tuks to closed in
utes.....the latter always overfull with people actually standing on
the back running board.

Cairo was frenetic with many of us trying to get our Sudanese
visas.....the Pyramid Resort was about 30mins out of town.....any trip
in a taxi in Cairo is chaotic.....4 lane highway becomes 6 and the
speed of travel is "fast", dodging, weaving, at times I closed my
eyes.....all drivers honk and there is no "road rage"......us Aussies
need a lesson!!! There appears to be no speed limits....police have
better things to do? The rubbish is appalling, it is everywhere,
piled high...plastic the scurge of the earth!!! Tahir Sq was quiet
and no political unrest...still some tents set up, but no agitating.
Unfortunately it was impossible to do any sightseeing as everything
takes forever......wait, wait wait...no hurry....time to learn the art
of patience!!!! We managed to get to the museum for 2 hours. Huge,
with so much history and artefacts.....lots of dust and very poor
lighting....as bit a a challenge for this girl!! Viewed King Tuts
tomb and all the goodies that he was buried with. Lots of mummies,
fascintating the way they are so well preserved. Bound with cloth and
reed-like binding. Toured (by taxi) Old Cairo cemetry. People
actually "live" in it....most appeared to be tidy and clean. The dust
pollution is chronic. Lots of men, women all covered and hidden
behind berkhas.
So much housing not completed, but apparently if your house isn't
completed you don't pay taxes.....
Everyone we spoke with about the "revolution" were happy and hopeful
for a better life.....time will tell.

The Team:
14 women - yeh! Youngest is 22 (Esther) from Australia. Eldest is
Beverley, 61 (5 months older than me). Majority from Canada, with 1
Irish, Dutch, Brit, South African, 3 Aust. All with varying
experience with biking, all sorts of bikes but mainly mountain bikes.
Men: Some "serious" racers.......again, majority from Canada, with
Swiss, Dutch, German, South African, US, Brit, NZ, Belgium, Italy.
Eldest is 65, with quite a number over 60, retired.

Riding out of Cairo was so much fun......48 people + staff, trying to
control the traffic. We have had security all the way through Egypt,
tourism police, police, army, ambulance and hangeroners who we assume
are also helping.....Negotiating roundabouts with 48
people....yeh....I just stayed at the front and moved with the
traffic. So glad I'm "traffice savvy"....thankyou Townsville!!! We
thought our roads were bad!!!! Spend a great deal of the riding days
calling and pointing.....

The Nasser highway was bliss....no traffic as a toll road.... Great
tail wind, sunshine, but cool. Scenery......dirt, desert, mountains
of sand and very little population.....Lots of trucks driving through
the desert, going somewhere, carting dirt....????

First crash - I stayed upright, the other person hit the
deck.....badly scrapped face....but OK, put in the van to campsite.
She was back riding the next day - black eye and swollen face.
First campsite.......rocks and dirt - no facilities, same for next 4
days....Bad luck it you are a "cleanliness fanantic"...
First sunset, special.....night comes quickly as does the
cold....Brrrrr. Everyone in bed by 6.30pm!!! Warm in sleeping bag.
Silk liner, therml liner, skins and socks!!! Most attractive!
Packing up takes me 1hr. Getting dressed while still in sleeping bag
and organizing clothes to fit back into bag. Have it down pat now,
but still 1 hr, which includes pulling down and packing away the tent.
So its up at 5.30am and breakfast at 6.45. Hands freeze and everyone
laughs.....washing of hands and own plates has created
dermatitis....ah....the joys of roughing it. Finally purchased jar of
vaseline and lather it on at night and wear gloves to bed!!!
Population of Egypt = 82million!!!!

1000kms through Egypt and all on tar...varying degrees of condition.....
Second night was a challenge setting up tent.....very very windy, had
to help each other and with very sandy soil the tent pegs pulled
out....boulder gathering expedition to keep tent grounded!!!! The
second day leg was 169km...A big one for some, they had to be picked
up by van as could not make it into camp. Huge windfarm for miles -
financed by the Chinese government!

People have settled into group riding, pelaton style. Fast boys take
off early and arrive in camp before midday most days.
I've settled into several groups, but work really well with three guys
(all 60) and 1 other girl, in her 50's. We sit on 28-35 and more if
tail wind. Good group. Another lot of younger girls work well
together, but too fast for me, especially up hills!!!! Ah, youth...
They call me "mum" now.....

Our first big climb was only 836m but it was for 58kms.....up and up
and onward and upward....lots of people just riding on their own.
Lunch stop was much appreciated after that. The mountains were
closed in around you, with trucks, cars and buses flying past a
breakneck speeds...they all toot.....oh the constant noise.....

Our first 4 days were all big kms, over 130 each day.....the last
couple have been around 117km. One day with strong headwind, so
shortened the campsite stop.....what a relief that was. All desert
campsites have no water, or facilities and are on side of road. Trucks
begin at 2.30am....so not much sleeping!. Arrval at a campsite with
facilties....we had two rooms booked in an hotel for showers or all to
use. Ah, bliss, washed hair!!! Townships the same, dusty
alleyways, half built buildings, lots of little supermarkets, clothing
shops, car repairers etc. Just like any town....

Finally to Luxor.....the Nile River, fertile land, vegetable plots and
green, green, green.....such a change from desert, and it all appeared
so quickly. Lots of mud brick housing along the canals, kids calling
out "hullo, money".

Campsite with washing facilities. Into the Souk, but too much
hassling for me.....ahhhhhh. Eating off street carts, yum food.
Sightseeing to Karnak Temple. Originally found 1830 and most of the
excavation done up to 2004, but still being dug up....it is
phenomenal... huge walls. Rather more impressive than the pyramids,
mainly because you could walk amongst it all.....pillars 30m
high....look it up on web for information....just too much to tell.
Spent several hours just wandering through it, listening in to other
people's tour guides!!!!
Feluga trip on Nile with sunset....how romantic....well, with three
girls and a male....very calming, peaceful. The car honking could
not be heard....just the whoosh of slicing through the water under
sail. Again, no tourists so trip very cheap.

When in town campsites the "prayer" calling is crazy. Begins at 4.50
and goes on "forever"....inbuilt alarm clock.....So monotoneous......

Have registered for racing, from day one, and a couple of days ago was
ranking 19.....not bad for an old girl. Yesterday I won the
"stage"(daily time).....Yeh.....you receive a place card. Won't be
able to keep it up once we hit the gravel, dirt and stone areas.

Well guys, enough from me. All's well, food is great, vegetarian is
the way to go. Have bought lots of fruit for the ferry crossing...we
are in cabins, but will spend most time on deck. Weather has been
sunny, my face is as mess, but have found wearing your scarf Lauren,
prevents sun and windburn......Yeh to you. Some people are seriously
burnt with blistered lips. So odd to ride all day with a covered
face....feeling like a local woman.

Time to go....luv to all my friends...keep safe and I'll update again when able.

LeeLee, thanks for your txts and deciphering mine on to family. Big
hugs to you Safta.....luv you lots....Keep smiling sister mine and
Abigail.

Nite all....xxxxxxxxx

Posted by gennesseb 20:59 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

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