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Cycling From Cairo To Capetown: Egypt - Sudan

Luxor Karnak Temple

Karnak Temple Egypt

Day 7 Friday 18th January - "A rest day in Luxor" Today was my first rest day so that means no cycling and lots of walking around the town ! I made it to the the Valley of the Kings - these are the tombs used after the time of the pyramids, the Karnac Temple which is an amazing tribute to ancient Egypt architecture from the Greek era. As with all Egyptian towns there are amazing mosques and buzzing streets waiting to be discovered. My knees an backside really appreciated the rest.

Day 8 Saturday 19th January - "Back in the saddle" 140kms Today was a day of mixed emotion. The cycling part of the day was easy. The terrain and conditions couldn't have been better. However there was a slight dampener in the form of a few cheeky children throwing stones.

It seems like innocent fun (I was a kid once) but stones can hurt ! I set up camp in a plot just outside the town of Edfu. Slightly frustrated I pumped up my soccer ball and started to practice a few skills. Within minutes 3 strangers came to compete – Naser, Mathmo and their father Abdul. I was playing against Nasser and Mathmo. Abdul went in goals for the match, which was extremely brave as he has chronic arthritis in his hands and Mathmo has a cracking shot.

Tour D Afrique Egypt bicycle tour The soccer fever spread like prairie fire through the nearby housing estate and before I knew it I was playing in a game of 13 v's 12 with Abdul a man of about 60 with very limited football skills was struggling in goal trying to save any shots with his belly ! A novice at Arabic; I didn't understand most of the words either team was speaking but I did add the occasional nod or "Iowa" (cheers in Arabic). This was the contact I thrived all day. I had great crack with the lads and Abdul even offered £110 Egyptian for the match ball.

My faith in Egypt had been both lost and restored in the same day. I can sleep happy tonight. But the happy sleep had to wait as Clive, Erika and I went in search of beer, which is difficult to find in these Islamic towns. After three restaurants tried to pretend non-alcoholic beer was real beer - after they remove the label !! It is comical when you order a bottle of beer, they return about five minutes later- their hands wet from stripping the non-alcoholic label off, sweat running down their face and a nervous look that says:

"I hope he can't taste the difference" We eventually found a local lad to fetch some beers on a motorbike It was a pretty sweet moment. A moment of achievement as it took hours to arrange these beers.

Aswan trucks getting on the ferry Day 9 Sunday January 20th - "The price of restoration" 128kms I woke up this morning to my usual alarm clock. My alarm clock is the muslim call to prayer blasted out via megaphones from wherever my local mosque is located. This is at 5am, everyday ! Also let's not forget the last call to prayer at 10pm. That said, I had a great night sleep but something was wrong. I tried to stand up, but couldn't. I couldn't bend my right leg at all. Yesterday's soccer had taken its toll - especially the hard ground. I spent the next 40 minutes warming up. I had a long ride ahead of me to the town of Aswan. This is the without doubt the most exhausting day so far. I can't bend my right knee and I'm cramping up all day.

My right leg weighs about a ton so I need to stay on my seat during the day. The only problem is that every cyclist needs to stand up every so often to air out the derriere.

It's a catch 22 when you can't sit down or stand up comfortably on a bike and makes every kilometer count. I eventually arrived in Aswan set up camp, had a meal and made sure to get a last couple of beers in. This will be the last alcohol I will touch for 18 days as I am getting the ferry to Sudan tomorrow. If you are caught drinking alcohol in Sudan they will chop your hand off ! I will leave from Aswan at 4pm and arrive sometime Tuesday- that's as precise as the ferry company are! The ferry leaves once a week and is complicated on each end by a long drawn customs process.

The next time I will meet civilization is Sudan's capital city of Khartoum in 13 days. According to travelers Sudan is the hardest country to negotiate in Africa. From what I hear Sudan has amazing people but terrible roads – thick sand, rocks everywhere. Combine this with substandard food and the desert arid heat and you have an "interesting challenge". Did I mention the mosquitoes ?

Monday 21st January : Sudan

Sudan-desert-people We left the port of Aswan in Egypt this morning bound for Waidi Halfa in Sudan. The ferry is an experience which words, photos or video clips can't explain. It was clear the second we boarded that we were leaving Egypt and entering a real African stronghold. Appearances changed both physically and in mannerisms. People were delighted for the opportunity to practice their English speaking skills or to teach you Arabic. Whenever you went to get a chi tea or some food at the bar one of your new found friends would insist to the point of embarrassment on paying for you. Whenever people would eat they don't offer you anything. They give you everything ! This is a remarkable and priceless trait for people who have a lot less then me and know it but only want to share.

Sudan Nubian desert My Irish seventh sense (or as my mum calls it - the alcohol gene)intuited to me by way of premonition that there is no alcohol in Sudan but the craic is 90. So, Everyone is saying 'welcome to Sudan' and in the background is laughter and singing. I boarded the ferry at 11am and the ferry left the port at 8pm ! For 9 hours I watched people load the tiny ferry with fridges, car parts and twinky bars! The ferry leaves once a week and there is a massive market for buying goods in Egypt and selling them in Sudan due to the strength of the Sudanese pound.

The ferry couldn't be more packed, as each truckload of random goods miraculously fits on the tiny vessel. The 9 hour wait before embarking on a 19 hour journey across Lake Nasser was not boring but a fascinating people watching experience. Desmond Morris would be drooling. Each merchant had to individually plea his case with the deckhand resulting in an argument or a chi tea and dinner bribe. When "an arrangement" is finally reached we set out across the man made lake from a wealthy nation with a poor currency to the Nasser made shores of a poor nation with a strong currency.

Namib desert in Sudan I managed to bump into some friends of mine from Ireland - Olly Fegan, Denis Dwyer & Niall Treacy who were also journeying to Capetown. The only thing that restricted this from being a debaucherous night was the lack of alcohol. However we knew the consequences of alcohol consumption under Sharia law.

I slept on the top deck under a full moon. The next day when I arrived In Waidi Halfa in Sudan I was happy to find a chilled out village with 3/4 lovely cafes and a lot of my new found friends were enjoying the African Cup soccer matches on T.V. I decided to take a rest day there as there was a lovely atmosphere with the friendly Sudan locals. If I hadn't just met these strangers I would swear I've known them for years. I also had a talk with a few local truck drivers and began to understand what lay ahead of me: The Nubian desert.

Wednesday 23rd January The Nubian Desert – 580kms On a map it has a road straight through it. This is the road I was to take. However it is not obvious from a map that it is a sand road and that thick nobby tires are a must. I had thick tires however due to baggage restrictions at Dublin airport I had to leave them in Dublin! There is 8kms of the 580kms paved road. The rest is stones, thick sand and potholes.

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