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Kentz Cairo to Capetown
Cycle Challenge

Cycling From Cairo To Capetown

Egypt: Journey along the Nile

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Camping grounds are 128km outside Cairo in the desert. This journey doesn't usually take long as there is a tailwind assisting you all the way. However today was to be a little different. There was a savage headwind which slowed everything down. At some points of the day I was cycling at a speed of 7kmph ! I passed quite a few cyclists who had dismounted their bike and walked with their bike - for over 20kms in the desert !

Egypt-tourd-afrique-2011 When we did eventually reach the camping grounds it was almost sunset and we had little time to assemble our tents. The gale force didn't help either. I was disheartened and somewhat scared of what challenges layed ahead of me as the easiest day of the easiest country in Africa proved to be the most physically challenging day of my life. I lay there in the freezing desert night with my wide eyes open, the wind moving my tent (after pitching it for the first time !) like a wild kite praying that the Gods would take pity and change the wind for tomorrow.

Day 2 Sunday 13th January 2008 - "The winds of change" 168kms I woke up at sunrise this morning jumped out of my tent only to be met with another really strong wind. In the flat desert there are no palm trees to indicate the wind direction. I immediately licked my finger and raised it above my head. That wasn't good enough so I threw some sand in the air. Eureka ! what a discovery. I was absolutely delighted, I found out that it was going in a South/South Easterly direction and would be pushing me forward all day. This was the wind we had been promised yesterday and it delivered us to our new desert camp outside Rasgharib in record time. The day was an absolute pleasure as we rarely cycled below 30kmph.

Day 3 Monday 14th January - "Hello Red Sea" 138kms Today we enjoyed more of those Southerly winds on our backs. After a couple of days of seeing only desert barren landscape we were treated to the Red Sea. This was on our left all day as we journeyed South. The road conditions are excellent and spirits are high. I am starting to notice pain in my knees but it's to be expected with such distances to be covered.

I set up camp in the desert again beside the Red Sea outside the city of Hurghada. I get a cheeky swim in and retire as usual at sunset and try to rest up my knees. The sun sets are amazing in the desert. As the sun disappears over the horizon it is like watching the dying embers of a stubborn fire. As soon as it fizzles out, complete darkness engulfs the sandy plains and temperatures drop below 0.

red-sea-egypt-conor Day 4 Tuesday 15th January - "Goodbye Red Sea" 110kms The conditions are excellent once again. The things like wind, road, tyre pressure which I have previously taken for granted are critical to getting from A to B comfortably and quickly. Had I not experienced the conditions from my first day I wouldn't know how lucky I am today.

I leave my desert camp as usual at sunrise and cycle towards the town of Safaga where a lovely beach and perhaps a cool beer awaits me. As much as I miss the solitude of the desert and ample personal space it's great to get into a town and have a look around. I take another swim in the Red Sea and have a proper feed as I try to "beef up" before I hit Sudan next week. When I leave the Red Sea in the morning I won't see an ocean again until I reach Cape Town in May.

desert road in egypt Day 5 Wednesday 16th January- "Back to the desert" 140kms Today I was warned that if I want to get to the outskirts of Qena I have to pass 40kms of uphill desert to an altitude of 1200 metres. Not just that but also the road lanes are very small with cargo trucks only using the route. There is a very strong crosswind. Today was very difficult and my knees are seizing up pretty bad. Nothing a good stretch and painkillers won't sort out. I eventually make it to the outskirts of Qena and set up desert camp. Apparently there are a lot of deadly scorpions in this desert area and I am instructed not to leave my tent no matter how bad I have to go to the toilet! However I have the prospect of a day off in Luxor-Egypt to look forward to tomorrow and a very short cycle there to the tune of 95kms.

Day 6 Thursday 17th January - "Back to civilisation" 95kms Today's cycle was made a lot easier with the prospect of arriving in Luxor. This means being able to take a shower and sort out my gear. There are also a lot of tours to do there like visiting the Valley of The Kings and the Karnak Temple. As I leave my desert camp I journey towards Qina where I am reacquainted with my good friend Nile. As soon as I meet the river there are thousands of farms and schools. To say that people are dependent on it is a vast understatement. Kids are running beside the bike shouting "hello", "what's your name" & the favorite "Money, Money" I presume they know what all of the aforementioned mean.

As I look to my right I see a long flat mountain which spurs me on. It looks like Table Mountain in Cape Town and although I have never been there it's a reminder of how far away my goal is. As I enter Luxor still on the Nile, the kids start to throw things at me – stones, sticks and donkey / camel poo (not sure which, have no lab facilities to send a sample to). I pull in to try and make a little peace.

Sahara desert - bare! rubbish Maybe take a picture or give them some of the little toys I brought with me so as to make peace in these type of situations. They are not interested in the toys or photos ! Instead they begin to strip my bike of all my essentials for cycling – odometer, pump, water bottle, tool box & compass.

After a few hectic minutes of running in all directions I have recovered all my belongings. I had to use my mad face. I eventually get my gear back and cycle off. I crossed a railroad and got a flat tyre. Hoping it was just a flat and not a puncture I immediately pumped it up. The kids saw me stopping again and started to run at me. I got away but only just. I had visions of the skeleton of my bike sitting on bricks with no tyres on it.

I was wrong it was a puncture and I needed to change my tyre. I made it to a nearby police checkpoint and asked the officer there in my pigeon Arabic to keep the curious stone wielding kids at bay while I got busy. He obliged but only just and my exit from the checkpoint was like bat out of hell as the kids continued to sprint after me. It was an awesome day on the saddle but I learnt a few things about stopping over for pugnacious youths !!

I look forward to stopping in Luxor. I'm taking a rest day and will be resting my knees and seeing the Valley of the Kings, the Karnak Temple and drinking a few victory beers.

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