Saturday, January 29, 2011

TDA 2011 - Sudan

24 January 2011 - Travel day with ferry on Lake Nasser
We had a very short bike ride from our camp in Aswen (not great camp) to the docks from where the weekly ferry leaves for its 16 hour cruise inot Sudan. The ride was pleasant as we rode over the Aswan damn wall (great sight but not allowed to take pictures) and actually a stroll in the park compared to what we have been doing. Some riders rode in their normal clothes, but I decided to go with the cycling clothes and then I would just get dressed on the boat. Not take any chances with my bottom and no cycling shorts. We were warned before hand that the ferry loading would be a VERY long process and the fact that I know how Africa works, also made me mentally prepared - nothing happens quickly in Africa! To say the loading of people and cargo on the ferry  was chaotic would be an under statement! But somehow they managed it (organized chaos)! There were lots of locals on the ferry with their goods that they would be selling (from food mixers to tv stands) and then some other travelers as well. The riders were allocated "1st class" cabins
 that slept 2, but 4 had to use it. I shared with Sarge, Daniel and Sam and luckily all of us were pretty neat and packed all of our luggage in a nice area in the cabin. We loaded all of the bikes on the top deck and then it was basically a free for all on the top with riders and locals fighting for a good space (no seats and people have to make space for sleeping room on the deck). The people were building little first at the deck to hide them from the sun and later in the evening the cold (half of the riders had to sleep on the deck and alos stay there for the whole 16 hours!). We arrived at 10 am in the morning and we left the docks at 17:00 (Africa is slow, yes!). At night we had a beautiful view of the starts as the sky was so clear and pollution free. There was also almost no place to walk on the deck as every bit of space was taken. Luckily for me Daniel decided to sleep at the deck and Sam and Sage shared a bed, so I had a full bed to myself for the while night and actual got in a good sleep! We also a sea view cabin, which helped a lot! And surprisingly the food on the ferry was actually quite good. The toilet facilities left a lot to be desired though and I was just praying that I would not get a number 2 on this trip!

25 January 2011 - Travel day with ferry on Lake Nasser and arrival to Wadi Hafa (Sudan)
It was pretty chilly outside the next morning out on the lake. I had a great sleep, but eveyrone was quite keen to get off and get back on the land (not so sure about the bike though :) ). We arrived in port at 11:00 and we reached our camp in Wadi Hafi (which is 3km from the port) by 16:00 the afternoon. Like I said, nothing happens quick in Africa. But most of the riders were execting it, and also what I have lernt in Africa, do not fight these type o things. You will loose! Just chill out and be patient (although it is sometimes very difficult). What also added to the wait was that our group had till wait till last to get off - although I prefered this, because with all our gear and bikes with the size, the loadign was pain full and a mess. We also had to fill out more forms (which ask the same info over and over again). We finally entered Sudan and i was very glad and relieved that we had made it, especially with the recent events there. The trip would not have been the same if we could not pass here. We rode with our bikes to the camp site and you should have seen the locals faces with this big group of 60 riders riding through there villiage! Our new TDA trucks were also waiting for us, and they look a lot more official compared to our old trucks! Logos, more space, music etc. There were also some extra crew members that joined us, including 2 SA boytjies that are as Afrikaans as you can get. The locals appear to be very friendly (read about it plus all of the people we cycled past was waving, inluding the woman - this did not occur in Egypt). It just felt differently already. I am not sure what to expect from Sudan, but saying that, that is the theme of the trip "Expect the unexpected....". There was also a nice reminder from home as we got our ration of Energy Bars al the way from SA (before in Egypt we were using this crap stuff that is not really an energy bar), whichI love! I just need to make sure I do not eat all mine before our next batch (allowed 2 a day). Roll on Sudan......

26 January 2011 - Wadi Hafa to desert camp- 150 km
Dad's bday today so I sent him a sms to congrtulate him (phoning is VERYexpensive). Very good riding day with excellent tail wind and nice downhill or even strecth. My only problem was that my right knee was giving me problems now! It really starts playing on your mind if these probems happen to you, because your knees on a trip like this are precious! Not sure what it was, but my thinking was that I was either peddlaing in to high gears or not focussing on my pedal stroke (it should be in cicular motions). My knee was not swollen afterward, which i was relieved about, otherwise that might indicate some more serious problems. with the bike fitting and everything, which i know is right now, this is just more my knee/s having to get used to cycling for these distances in the day. Scenery was really good, lots of sand dunes and small tine remote villages. It felt a lot more like cycling in the desert than in Egypt. Also the roads are in excellent condition, as I know the Chinese have been here and doing some major road works in exchange for natural resources. The people are also so friedly here! I also suppose visitors here are a bit scarce in this side of the world. This was the second furthest cycling stage to date, but I got into camp at 1:30, which left me plenty of time to relax and also take a swim adn bactjh in the Nile. Also had my first hair wash in a week! At night when i was brushing my teeth, I saw the most amazing view of the sky and starts. It was so clear, a amazing site with starts just everywhere! Milky way etc..... so nice and I just gazed for a while to appreciate it and remembered again this is why I did this trip, to see things like this! And then you could see on the ground everyone's tents and the lights on in it as people were getting ready to go to sleep. Great  sight! Also thinking that at some stage I would need to sleep outside under these stars!

27 January 2011 - desert camp to desert camp- 148 km
Great morning view with lots of stars and the moon (although not as much as the nigth before), as we woke up at 6, which is still dark outside then. Little afraid of today with the knee problem I was getting the day before.2 days in the desert for 150km is not a laugh, doign it with a sore knee not fun! But my knee held up well and I was actually surprised about how good I felt after lunch! Had a great tail wind in the morning, but after lunch, just around a corner, it all changed. Head wind and uphill. I just felt really good with this stretch and I was also taking over the Dj duties (using Sarges's speakers with an Ipod, so I played all of my more favorite songs, including some ACDC on the tough sections). You can also see the people are getting more and more bike fit, as they are getting to lunch stop quicker and also the camp site (probably more for the non-racers than the racers). Great scenery, the best one that I have seen thus far! We had this great Coke stop after lunch and then just endless sand everywhere (very flat, reminded me of Unyuni in Bolivia). I had a nice swim in the Nile again topped with a lovely hair wash (again). I was hoping that the knees would just hold up. The group also made its first bon fire, which I felt was sorely missing at this stage, as we were in Africa! I just love looking into the3 flames and just staring, glazing, thinking......So memorizing..... Some of the people including Wildcat Peter La Mond was up until "late" singing camp fire songs... I was thinking that I will start writing up some of the riders in our group on this blog as well. And then had a another wonderful night just gazing at the

28 January 2011 - desert camp to Dongola - 107km
It is very easy to get up in the morning for a ride if you know a rest day lies ahead. No motivation needed! Just the fact that you can chill for the following day and sleep late, wash etc is enough reason. We had a very nice and easy ride into Dongola, which is a very small little town on the Nile. I was just getting annoyed with some of the extra people that was riding in our group, which was annoying the living crap out of me. They just sit at the back of teh group and never ride in front. And then a the end of the day do not even have the decency to say than you after wards. Or new riders that ride with us, and when it is their turn to ride in front they ride so quickly that the group cannot keep up with them, because they are fresh from riding with very little resistance at the back of the goup, but then to dumb to realize that they are riding on their own in the front, because we could just see that this pace is not possible to maintain! Oh, I can see i am going to have some frustations with this! Our riding group is realy helpful towrds each other and also a lot of the sick people that are racers or fast riders ride with us when they are sick, because of our steady pace we maintain, but they should really learn to say than you after wards! They almost join the group hoping that no-one would notice them!  After lunch I also decided to go with just one pair of shorts again, which i will no do again! Two for me than you - althouhg it might be a little more warmer, I am going for bub comfort! Set up camp at the zoo (with no animals), but the area is great - grass all over, which will be a first for the trip - everything thus far has just been camping on sand. I was looking to do an upgrade, but when I saw the site with facilities, decided against it. Besides, my tent is actually getting quite cosey! I did some had washing with all of my cycling gear (my mom would have been very proud) and tomorro will be cleaing my bike. We wondered around town and found a local backery with some great treats - very sweet, I think they use a lot of honey or syrup on it, but still great! Also found abut abut this local that does a chicken barbecue, and with the word spreding, the whole camp site had dinner there (I had lunch and dinne). Also we had some talk about the weight and of anyone has lost anything. I can't tell really, but one thing is for sure, I have a massive appetite and I just cannot get enough sweet things in! Later in the evening, the camp also heard about the news in Egypt, which everyone very glad that we have just managed to miss! Still people in town are super friendly, so I am just hoping that it will stay this way! Oh, and we also had Wheetbix and Pronutro for breakfast in the morning, again, a nice little reminder of home and what is lying ahead (even though it might still be far away).

29 January 2011 - rest day - Dongola 
Great quote in the diary that Stephanie made for my diary that I thought is worth sharing " As soon as you start to pursue a dream, your life wakes up and everything has meaning". Sums up this trip for me. Allowed to sleep late, and woke up at 7:43 in the morning while the sun was shining, I new record for me on this trip! Also the fruit is a lot better here than in Egypt, had some great grape fruit this morning that I bought from the market yesterday fr breakfast. Also had a good look at the camp site today, four big grass areas divided by paths of rocks and a statue in the middle (of animals - still very ironic that there are no animals here - although maybe with our group you can say the zoo is in town :) ). The internet here at the computer school is SO slow, annoying the hell out of me, but at least managed to update the blog until now.Dongola is a small little vibrant city (except for on Friday's for obvious reasons - Musims, so prying, like a Sunday for Christians). Lots of tuck tucks around (little taxi's) which are all decorated in a very colourful manner. Not sure where the dogs are in the day, but boy, do they keep barking at night, just non-stop. Almost think they have some sort of dog war going on. And then the whole town was basically starring at us, which I can imagine must be pretty funny for them, because tourist these sides of the world are very scares (but the people are super friendly). Also gave my bike, ground sheet and normal clothes a good wash in the afternoon. Nice and clean.....

30 January 2011 - Dongola to dead camel camp - 141 km
Still having some problems with right knee (even annoying me to write it on here!). Had a chat to Gary (the doctor on tour) and Randy again, and I think I will make a few small adjustments to cleats (shoes). It was a nice ride into the camp, although we rode very slowly (almost a little too slowly as the heat really plays a factor here from around 11 am). The ride took us over 6 hours to complete, and a lot of it was the afternoon section where you just gradually get slower and slower. Will have to cycle quicker tomorrow morning and use the coolness in the morning and get some speed. Cycled through a lovely small town with locals waiving and some houses were delightfully painted and had blue doors (not sure why). We also drove past some desert sections were you could see the camels also find it very tough going in this heat (camel carcasses lying around in the sand). The one section actually looked like a camel grave yard, we saw so many carcasses. I swam in the Nile again at camp, but this would be my last time, as we were now cycling away from the Nile tomorrow to a short cut to Khartoum (where the Nile splits between the Blue and White Nile). Pieter also decided to ride with a quicker group today, and we picked up some new riders along the way, so our grouped looked a bit different than normal to when we completed the route (Christian, Wendy, Matt and his dad Paul also finished with us). And as the name of the camp site implies, there is a nice camel carcass lying on the camp site - someone actually stood his tent up right next to it!

31 January 2011 - dead camel camp to desert camp - 143 km
I was a bit skeptical of my knee today, with the problems form yesterday, but I went for broke on this one and decided to start off with a bang, Marelie, Pieter and myself leaving camp 15 minutes earlier than normal in order to catch up with the racer group for  a while. We actually hauled them in and it was like being on another planet! But these guys do not mess around and do some serious speed. We went for the quicker ride as the people riding with us in our group were going to slow and not all of them were pulling their weight. The riding group caught up with some other groups as well and at one stage I counted 24 riders riding 2 2 next to eacth other - quite a sight and nice being in it. Group riding in an effecient group makes such a difference. But after a while the racing group pulled away (anoyed with some of the speeds the front people were doing which was not quick enough for them) and Marelie and myself ended up in Terry goup's (the grand pa group, but these guys can still give it a kick - only one of them is a grand pa, but all of them are the older people nin the TDA riding group). But the pace was very good, all the riders doing their bit and we rode together for the whole day. Also nice being in a new group, specifically with "uncle" Terry and "uncle" Rodney around. Quite a good laugh and we had a few nice Coke stops along the way. And the funny moments from the day was every time we got a bit to quick for Rodney, he would just yell "terry, I am on holiday" and then the group would slow down. At one stage the heat was 35 degrees, so it was getting hot and the quicker start the morning helped us a lot. The end result was that I got into camp at 13\;20, which was about an hour off my time from yesterday! I felt pretty good and a very nice SMS from Stephanie made me feel even better! Average speed for the day was 30km/h, and we did 5\;30 hours o\f cycling. Camp was very windy and it was not easy to set up tent. Great day of riding, but was in bed pretty early to get a good rest!

1 February 2011 - desert camp to desert camp - 148 km
Got mielie pap for breakfast - man, it is nice having a SA company providing the breakfast!! Again, a long day and 3rd +140km in a row in this heat - not fun, but motivation was that this was the last one (for now). It was quite a big group on the morning, as everyone now was ju,ping o the early start at 7\;15 instead of 7;30. Some people stopped at the first Coke stop at 16km, but we rode on and was very luck when we stopped at 25km (which was a good time to stop) and these was a herd of camels and some locals, which ended up doing very cool poses for us and I think all of us got some great  FB pics.In the afternoon after lunch we ended up riding with another group, but this turned into one of those annoying group rides, where it wold probably have been better to ride on your own. A few selfish people in the group was causing me a lot of very hard riding, and it really worked on my nervous (had to bite my lip a few times from saying something). I think after this trip I am going to write a book about group riding and how to do it and good ethics on riding! Also realized that there are some people that just do not get it an also some people that are just looking after their own needs - not cool! Had a bad head wind the past part and it was very tough final section (different to the last 2 days before, which had great head winds). Still some lovely scenery on both sides with olden brown sand just everywhere, and the desert looking you on as you ride into the nothingness. Just you, your bike and some other crazy riders!Traffic is also getting busier as we are getting into Khartoum. 

2 February 2011 - desert camp to Khartoum - 101km

3 February 2011 – Rest day – KhartoumMe and Stephanie’s 9 month anniversary – yay!!! Started morning with some sightseeing of down town Khartoum (which also included an internet session and me uploading some pics on FB). Had my best coffee
at this lady across our hotel, just had a great taste to it and she also puts some cinnamon in it, which gives it a great flavor. There are various locals on the streets just brewing and making these coffee’s, Sudan’s version of Starbucks. It is also a great way to interact with the locals, as they are always willing to let you sit
down and interested in where you are from. Also saw the split of the Nile into the Blue and White Nile (you can very visibly see the difference in colors at the split and the one section does look white, so I am imagine that is where it got it’s name from). Also stopped at the local street markets they have, where I bought myself a new flashlight, shoes and cool cap for 40 Sudanese pounds. We also went to Agfa shopping mall just to stock up on some food and eat lunch and dinner there. It is like a normal mall in SA, but because we have been living in the bush for a few weeks now, this seemed like heaven! Also had my first ice cream in 3 weeks (must be a record)! It really felt like a different world in the mall, aircon, clean, lots of shops
etc….Khartoum is busy city, more modern that you would imagine, but also quite dusty and some areas are run down and some very new (they were also getting ready to host the African Cup of nations football).
Must admit, I prefer the desert section more.

4 February 2011 – Khartoum to Rufasa – 145kmStart of a 8 day continuous riding schedule! Surita had sounded out the warning in the morning, the “warm up ” section was over now and the serious and more difficult one to start (this Stage is known as
“the Gorge”). She also stated that a lot of the riders would lose their EFI status in this session (some that rides “Every freaking Inch” of the route and for some riders a very big deal). She turned out to be right as well. Very touch first day, with over 35 degrees Celcius and big head wind to start most of the morning with. Luke lost his EFI because he was hungover and so dehydrated, he could not make 30km! He met up with a friend that works at the UK embassy, so they have beer and the two of them drank quite a bit the night before! Very funny, considering that alcohol is not allowed in Sudan! There was a great gas station stop at 114km, where I think every rider stopped to refill on liquids, it was just so hot. I was riding in our normal
group of 4, which was great. Pieter had a great section where he took the anchor role in the head wind from after 25km all the way to lunch, very good riding! At camp, Luke handed his left over beers to me, so
guess who was the most popular guy then! I handed all of the beers to some of the guys and had my first and only beer in Sudan (the beer was actually cooler than the water). A lot of the people were also
changing their tires for the off rode section that would start tomorrow – I am keeping my 1.75 tires on. Learnt today that head wind combined with hot weather is a deadly combo and very tough on a rider.
There was a lot of the people that took the bus from lunch or had to picked up on the road.

5 February 2011 – Rufasa to Sewar  – 155km
Another tough day at the office and people are loosing their EFI’s status like nothing. The heat is getting to a lot of the people or they are just getting sick (generally some good riders have been
getting sick and they have been forced to sit out a day – Megan, Andre, Daniel – all of them looked very good at the first few stages). The temperature was again over 35degrees Celcius and this just zaps
your energy. I felt pretty good the last stretch of today though, and could almost do a sprint to the finish! I think the drinking more water on a very regular basis is helping a lot. The first session was offrode, and you could see some of the riders struggling to adapt to their new bigger tires. The area is also getting more “bushie”, somehow getting the feeling that Ethiopia is close by….moving away from the desert stretch of the tour.. Chris was also with me on the last stretch and we really had a very nice ride in. We camped next to
a small river, so all the riders had a good swim and cooling off session (some naked as well, with Pieter La Mond taking the lead again…). The liters of liquids I am drinking is crazy, well over 6 liters a day. My body is just absorbing the liquids like a sponge. I am also trying to drink some soup and lots of tea after the ride, to
keep me hydrated. There were some very friendly kids along the road, and they love having their pictures taken and seeing it. It is alos so hot in the evenings now, I am not even sleeping with my wind sail on.
The other benefit is that you can lie on your back and look at the starts while trying to sleep! Full offroad section tomorrow. Also some o fthe riders had a very long day out, only getting in at at 5pm,
which meant they were exposed to the sun for most of the day. But respect to them, as most of them had already lost their EF, so it is easy to quit during th section, but they decided to fight it out (Alice, Ruth etc).

6 February 2011 – Sewar to Dinour – 100kmFul offroad section and boy, did it have some dramas with tires and flats! The people are still loosing EFI like crazy, and some of it was just because they got too many flats and did not have enough time or spare tubes to fix them. They had no choice, they had to get on the truck. The records number of flats by one rider for the day was 10! Offroad section was tough, but not hard core off-road stuff. Actually very enjoyable because you have to concentrate the whole time about your cycling and the scenery also changes. My bike choice was great, with the front suspension come in very handy for this section. Our route was basically to follow the rail way tracks the whole day, and we cycled past a great little town that we stopped at, interacted with the locals and took some great pictures. After lunch the section was very tough, again with dry hot heat and some head winds causing havoc. So grateful when we got into the town for a coke stop, although it was
quite funny, as the whole town gathered when we stopped for cokes and just looked at us like we were men from Mars! Now I know how a celebrity feels like! Crazy and very weird….I was very lucky and had
no punctures. I probably also had one of my bets riding days and got into campo just after 13:00, with the support staff wondering how I got there so quickly with a lot of the riders still out there! Also had the local tribal leader come out and had a small little speech and gave us some drinking water and juice (people here are so hospital and they felt extremely proud to be “hosting” us).

7 February 2011 – Dinour to Village – 100km
Again, another full offrode day and again, a lot of casualties with the road and heat. It was at one stage over 40degrees Celcius and after lunch, you could only do stretches of 10km each before you had
to get some shade and cool down and take a waterbreak.There was no coke stops today unfortunately, so it meant we just had to use the drinking water supplied by TDA (which is not always ideal, as it also
get’s very hot late in the day, so buying a nice cold drink from a local is very refreshing). Today definitely relaised that my bike and parts choice was spot on for the trip. The road was very rough and the
people with speed bikes and no suspension had a dreadful day, and you could see how the riders were very frustrated by it (they are going a lot slower now than they are used to). There is also no more peleton
riding, so it means there is no place to hide! This one you have to do on your own strength and you cannot sit behind people and get covered. Rode by myself in the morning and afternoon I rode with Terry, which
was a lot of fun and we had a good talk, in between sweating like mad! The sunsets are now getting more African, where you see the sun setting against the bush and trees….Also during the ride, Terry, Scot
and myself got invited to a hut from one of the locals where the offered to make us some tea and gave us some drinking water (the locals are super friendly here). Still funny at camp in the evenings, which is mostly very close to next to a small village, the locals storm around our camp site to see the “men from Mars” do their thing…..

8 February 2011 – Village to Doka – 85kmGreat day of good old fashion cycling. I feel like I am getting my money’s worth now, feel like I am deserving my dinner in th evenings after a hard day’s ride. The rides are challenging, but not impossible. I am starting to feel pretty confident on the bike now and it is also nice to get some comments from the fellow riders on how
much I have improved and how much stronger I am getting. Most of the people know that I am not a cyclist and also where I finished the first week of cycling! I was feeling great this morning and felt like
I was flying over the gravel road (doing well over 20km/h). Unfortauntely the one point was very poorly marked and me and 3 other riders ended up doing an additional 8km! Not happy about it, but at
least it happened to me on a good daywhere I was feeling pretty strong. The celebrity feeling is still not going away, as we are treated like celebrities when we cycle through the villages. Pieter, Kim and myself had a great stop at a village just 6km from camp, where we had some ice colds cokes (I had 4!), also some tea and a nice watermelon to top it off. A lot of the sections today was on this gravel road that was through drie dout corn fields and it felt at some stages like we were just going in circles. Glad that we had those
orange markers to show us the way, otherwise ne can get lost very easily in this section. The road was also so bumpy that my saddle bag zip opened and some of my gear fell out, including my spare tube,
multi tool and some of my tire levers. Everything was picked up by riders following me expect for my multi tool, which I was not very happy about. Also a very nice feeling to not have knees that are
hurting and I now finally feel like I am on level playing field with the other riders. Again, no flats today, so very lucky that my tires had no flats in 3 days of off road (where most of the riders had at least one or two).

9 February 2011 – Doka to Matema – 96kmBqck on tar again today and I think it is a fair comment to say that most of the riders are very glad! It was a tough first 10k, but after that a pretty nice day of riding onto the border post of Ethiopia. I
was riding by myself for most of the day and just felt very good on the bike. Sometime nice to ride by yourself and juts put on some good music on the Itouch. You, music, the road……I think I am in pretty good
shape now and spirits are very high – I have also been fortunate that I have avoided getting sick, as some people have had some bad cases. Sad to be leaving Sudan today, as I really enjoyed my trip here. The
people are so friendly and hospitable, sad that more people cannot experience it, as they government makes it really a pain in the back to gte into the country (and it is very expensive to come). Border crossing on Sudan side was quick. Border crossing on Ethiopia side was painfully slow! It did however give us time to buy our first beer at the border and enjoy it! I was very tired when I got into camp and felt like I had no energy. Not sure if it was the two beers I have had, or just some tough riding days that have gone past. I know at some stages I was pushing it today as well, maybe going quicker than I was supposed to. Decided that getting into bed early would be the best solution. So 2 countries down and 8 to go! Wow, can’t believe that time has gone by so quickly! Also funny incident with one of the riders, Francis at the border post. When he was about to leave, he was looking for his red cycle helmet, although it was actually blue. He though that everyone in the room was playing a trick and hiding his helmet, so he juts goit more and more annoyed, as he could not find his “red” helmet and we were just laughing more and more as we saw how worked up he got!

Friday, January 21, 2011

TDA 2011 - Egypt

15 January 2011 - Cairo to desert camp - 134 km
Finally, the wait is over!!! All the months thinking, planning, talking, dreaming of it has finally arrived! Still to sure if I practiced enough, still not sure about a lot of things, but finally all will be revealed! No place to hide anymore! This is it! This IS the real deal! We woke up at 4:45 am for breakfast at 5, and you could definitely feel the excitement and tension in the air at breakfast. And everyone was eating for 3 people! Cannot remember when last I saw people east so much! Then met at 6 in front of the lobby where lots of pictures were being taken as well. Our bike ride would start from here and then up to the pyramids, which would be the official start point, and then ride off to our first camp. The police escorted us in a convey from the hotel to the pyramids (anyone that has been to Cairo with its traffic will know this is a must!). And even as we were riding though the streets, it felt pretty surreal. It was a slow pace, as all 60 riders had to ride together! Not so nice for the racers of the tour, but for the normal guys like me, lots of fun. The first 24km would be in a convoy and then after that the riders would be "let loose". Getting to the pyramids was very nice, because it was still very easily, there were no tourist or buses there, and the locals were getting out the camels etc out of the stalls etc, so a very nice sights to see all these camels walk past the pyramids - very Egyptian feel to it. Our start of point was a stunning platform with a great view of all 3 pyramids and a official TDA banner. So everyone was going nuts with pics at this stage! Felt very surreal at this stage. A great feeling, but still do not know what is lying ahead. We had some more snack's again at the start of the race, as a lot of the breakfast was used up on the riding to the pyramids, so the people were helping themselves to loads of cookies, muffins etc. And then we were finally off! One of the Dutch riders almost had a puncture just as we left, as the rode was on gravel before we head the paved highway of Cairo. I drove with Marelie and Kim from Denmark out of the pyramids. The highway section of Cairo was pretty bad, as the traffic is crazy even with the police escort and the pollution bad! Once we reached the end of this section, the second part was pretty tough. This was when i realised that this would not be an easy trip! I definitely had a "what the hell as I doing here" moment at this time, but luckily the lunch break came and all was forgotten! Also this section was very cold and miserable weather, which also added to the unpleasantness! From lunch it was a lot better (more equal terrain and also more downhill). Nice group of people with which I rode at this stage, Pieter from Holland, Kendra from USA and Kim (Denmark). My bum as doing better than I though, as this distance would be way past my previous personal best of 97km! But when I did arrive at camp, I had to give my back side some TLC. The bag thing was a bit annoying, as we could not get access to the lockers so we had to use this one bag for a week thing. So you really had to plan your packing well. Nothing really to see on the roads, just sand everywhere (looks like the movie Dune), with some signs of construction, but not sure what they are building or for whom, because there is nothing out there). After 90km's there were some mountains that appeared. Very nice to roll into camp,but the reality was that there was a LONG way to go! 93 stages still to be exact, with this section considered to be "easy". In general, some people had to stop along the route, as they could not make it, but all in all, everyone seems to be in a good mood. But sure it will change after a while. Setting up tent after a long ride is a pain in the backside and getting a bad spot to set up your tent (because you arrived after the other riders) even more so! What a first day!

16 January 2011 - desert camp to desert camp - 167 km
A day from hell! Today was a mando stage, which is considered to more difficult stages and the winner gets bonus points. There are 15 mando stages. I never came so close to quitting so many times in one day in my life than today! But after some pain pills, Vitamin C, muscle pills and anti-inflammatory pills, I am feeling a little better (just).I still cannot believe I managed to ride almost half of the distance (the last part) of 7km's on my own! Yesterday was my new personal best, today was just in a different league. I felt pretty good waking up in the morning, s I rode with terry and Luke, which are a lot quicker than me - first bad choice of the day. Later Kim and Pieter caught up with us, so I decided to ride with them instead, as I though they were more my pace. I made lunch at the 70km stop, but after that it was all downhill from there. It was such a struggle, big headwind around the 86km mark to 120km mark, and riding something like that on your own with littlee energy, not good! There as so many emotions going though my mind while I was alone. All of them negative and all of them zapping my energy further. Later on even my knees starting hurting! It was a very bad place to be in and one that you should try and avoid. Second bad choice of day, cycling alone in conditions like that. Eventually made camp at 5:30, pretty broken and very tired, but at least I still had my EFI attached. (every freaking inch). But learnt some very valuable lessons. Cycle in a group, use higher gears, adjust seat to higher height and do not start fast! So nice to get an SMS from Stephanie at night, was ust very down and needed some motivation, which I got from her (and from mom). Bum pretty sore as well, and also it made it difficult to cycle, because I could not get into a rhythm, because I had to stand the whole time. Scenery pretty boring. Just sand, sand and more sand. I basically just set up my tent, ate and went to bed. One of the worst days of my life and glad it is over! I spent 8 hours on my saddle that day!

17 January 2011 - desert camp to desert camp - 133 km
Wow, what a difference a day can make! I woke up feeling better than I expected, so I think it made a bit more optimistic. Still a long way to go for the day. I knew that if I could get through today, that tomorrow would be "easier" to do, as it was "only" a 100km, but it would also determine how I would go for the next odd 100 days.  This was a key day. I could not struggle again as much as yesterday. I needed to apply the lesson learnt from the day before, otherwise this trip would be over pretty quickly. Also my pills worked out really well from last night. First lesson learnt, ride with group and do no start fast. I decided to ride with Marelie, another Pieter (also from Holland), Sarge (Trinidad) and Beatrice (German). Peter rides at  a very good and steady pace, and it also a strong rider, like a energizer bunny, he can just go and go. And because he is a big guy, if you cycle behind him, he takes away a lot of the wind, so it makes it a lot easier to cycle. We picked up quite a few people along the way so our group got a little bigger. Astonishing to see what a differenc riding in a group makes! I will NOT ride alone again, except if i is downhill, a short distance and I know I have a tail wind. I only got annoyed at some of the people that were joining our riding group, as they were just sitting at the back doing very little, and it was only left to some of us to do all of the hard work and ride in the front the whole time. Scenery still pretty boring, although the red sea is on our left hand side the whole time as we are cycling south. Our camp site was pretty impressive being on a hill with a nice view of the red sea. People def getting more used to the daily camp life now, as well as doing your toilet business in the bush (ah, the wonders of a shovel!). The baby wipes are coming in very handy, as none of us have been ale to shower since Cairo. I also saw a cat that looked like Suiker (my cat) back home, so I took a few pictures and it reminded me of home for a few brief seconds. Dinners have been pretty good thus far, nothing fancy, but more than enough to eat - people, including me, have been consuming huge plates of food!

18 January 2011 - desert camp to Safaga - 100 km
Nice short riding day! Funny how quickly your perception of short changes. Back home short would have been 25km! Here it is 100km! I also started putting on 2 cycling shorts at a time, so double padding and it has also helped a bit! A nice tailwind meant we were averaging a very nice speed of about 30km an hour. e had lunch at 9:30 (lunch is at half way mark of the trip), and were at camp in a town on the red see called Safaga at 12. Very nice being in a bit earlier and actually having time to service the bike, put up your tent in day light, relaxing etc. The camp site was on the beach, although some people did go for the room upgrade (there was a huge wind the night before so a few people had tent trouble and did not have a very good night sleep). Again, the sight seeing a bit disappointing as nothing much to see. But in all honesty, it is nice for me, as it is giving me time to adjust the bike,. get to know my bike and also getting cycle fit and used to sitting on a bike for 4-5 hours a day minimum. A good warm up for things to come. I drove with the same group as the day before (Pieter, Marelie and Sarge). We walked around time and I had my first local Egyptian coffee, which was very good. I astcoked up on some chocolates and I could also use the Internet for the first time on the trip. Had a great Skype chat with Stephanie as well (I almost missed dinner because of it). It was Lindsey's bday today, so the resort place arranged to have a big bday cake made for him, which everyone climbed into.

19 January 2011 - Safaga to desert camp - 139 km
Must admit, I was a bit afraid of today. Left knee was giving me problems and it was 2 more days to go before the rest day (and the distance was far and first 40km was uphill!).And the mental games start kicking in as well, as you just want to make it to the rest day. But in the end, I cam probably say that it was my best riding day thus far! We had our normal riding group of 5, which then became 4, and then ended up being 15! Everyone was joining our group, as they could see we were working well, riding at a good pace and also we were a chatty bunch of people. I really got to know quite a lot of the other riders on this ride by cycling next to them and just making conversation. It was amazing to see how quickly the time went by! My knee held up, but I am starting to feel this pain in my next, which is coming from the tension in my neck because of the way that I am sitting on the bike and also probably not enough stretching. Scenery is changing more and more and def feeling a lot more like a desert now - but more Egyptian than before. And the mountains were a nice taste of what was to come later on in Ethiopia. It def knocked some people, but I felt pretty good going up there (at least the training I did in Pretoria was coming in handy for something). We camped next to a polic checkpoint. And because we rode the stage in such a good time, i managed to make Kendras daily yoga class! Tent and toilet life becoming all to familiar now.

20 January 2011 - desert camp to Luxor -  93 km
Nice "short" stage today. Funny still to me how my distance comparison is changing!  A few months ago that would have been unthinkable of, now I consider it short! The short ride is a nice reward for all of the riders, because most of the people left by 7, so most of the riders were in by 12, which gives you another hlaf day off to the additional full off day - hey, you have to take eveyrthing you can get here! I did not enjoy the firts part of the ride, as my left knee was still troubling me, and later it became my right as well (getting very fed up at this stage, as I do not know how many times I have moved my saddle now!). Very unpleasant when this happens, as you get various negatvie thoughts, because cycling and knees is a major combo, if your knees go the tour is over! The scenery was a lot better now, as we re rding into a lot more towns so all of the kids come out and wave like crazy! You actually feel like a celeb! Only unfortunat thing was that the some of the little buggers are naughty and trhow stones at the riders (so a little intro of what Ethiopia will be like).I was lucky and did not get anything. What also helps in these scenarios is riding in big groups. On one of the sops Len also suggested that I lower my seat slightly when I told him of my knee problem, and the rest of the ride from there was pretty easy (also makes a huge mental impact when you suddenly do not have any discomfort cycling). I arrived at about 11:30 in Luxor, and Terry arrnaged rooms for us with an Auzzie girl that is married to an Egyptian man, and they run a hotel called Boomerang! She arranged for our group a trip on the nile with some ice cold beers! Great experience, and we also enjoyed our very "hardened" skippers, a 17 and 11 year old boy. It was a great way to start our rest day and the beers were enjoyed by all. Luxor is definately abetter place to see than Cairo, althouhg the people still do tend to bug you a bit (not as much as in Cairo). We had dinner at night at a very casual restaurant and all of us where in bed at 9pm. Man down! Way past our bed time and also so nice to sleep on a bed for the first timne in a week! Oh, how you enjoy the comforts of life when they are taken away!

21 January 2011 - Luxor - rest day
Today was the chill/rest day. We were woken up early in the morning by the surround sound of the Muslim singing and paying in the morning. The whole city is connected to speakers and then these guys just start singing over the micro phones and it echos throughout the whole city. Surround sound, you should check this out! It was a great sightseeing day, and places that we visited were Valley of the Kings and Queens (various Rammes tombs which are stunning!), temple of Hatshepsut (temple againts background of mountain, like something out of Lord of the Rings) and temple of Karnak (stunning! A muts on any visitor's list of things to see in Egypt). Still amazed by how old these tombs and temples are! All dating back to before Christ! Amazing. Egypt might not be the mots tourist friendly place, but boy, do they have some pretty impressive tourist things to see and also old things! Our group of people that went was Terry, Luke, Rodney, the 2 Kim's, Pieter and Ram. Also the breakfast at Boomerang was fantastic and the boys really climbed in. Also funny but inevatable that we ran into various of the cyclist at the toursit places. We headed back to camp in the evening and slept in our tents again (the general consensus was that it would be easier and less hassle if we slept in a hotel and had to wake up early, get taxi etc).I would defnitly recommend Luxor ahead of Cairo, and the sight of the Nile along the city is soemthing to behold. Feel quite privaliged that I have been able to see the wolrds logest river (Nile) as well as widest (Amazon) and had cruises on both of them with some ice cold beers! Updated my blog at night and then also managed to sneek in a Skye session with Stephanie, which was great!

22 January 2011 - Luxor to Edfu- 116 km
Shortish day of riding with nothing to dramatic. But I did not enjoy the ride at all, my knees were giving me serious problems now! I could feel them tehem the whole way. And the frustating thing to me was that i knew it did not have something to do with me just having bad knees, but rather that a big problem was that it was lying in my shoes (cleats position) and my saddle. If these are not spot on, and on a trip like this with the distances we do, it will very quicly show out and you can get serious problems. Luckily there is a guy on the trip, Randy, who had owned a bike shop for 20 years, so he knew a thing or two about bikes and saddle heights etc. So at lcnh stop, quicklly arrnaged that we would meet in the afternoon to go over all my things. It defiantley also feels more like Egypt. Seeing loads more people as we are cycling thugh the villages, next to the water canals, the way the people are dressed (all Muslim dress), lots of donkey cars (who are way over worked and under fed unfortauntely), the buildings style, the mosques we drive by, men sitting down and smoking hubblies, woman all covered up with the black dresses etc Becasue the first week was mostly tough the desert, there was not much to see, but it has changed now (whcih I am glad about, as it makes the trip more interesting). Camped on a old soccer field for juniors. We are still cycling in our core group of 4 riders, but getting some people to join us from the start of they just fall in as we pass them. We ride really well, keeping a very good pace but also stopping regularly. The toilets are getting to those squate toilets now, which I am not too keen on. At least we had some shwers at our camp site, although the water was cold and conditions much to be desired (need to get used to this, will have it for a long way still). Biggest break though for me was being able to spend about an hour with Randy. We ended up adjusting my shoes's cleats, saddle was moved up and backwards. For cyling, these changes are major and you would norally not make all these changes at once. But my case was extreme, and I needed it for my knees (and it was as if we did a bike fit from start). But feeling much more optimistic now for my knees as well! I am getting very used to the camp life now, where eveything comes in my tent - people getting into the routine now. There were some great views of the Nile as well, as we cyclied next to it. Also one of the riders (Sam) and an Egyptian rider had the first big accident on the trip,. but luckily no serious injury. And unfortunately Peter and myself wanted to see the temple of Edfu, which was apprenatly very nice, but we were too late and it was already closed (still I rather have my bike sorted with my knees, so still not to sad I miised it).

23 January 2011 - Edfu to Aswan- 115 km
Here, the end of the Egypt route! Cannot believed it,I cycled though Egypt! Even as I am writing this, it still has not sunk in yet! Sounds unreal! And better to get back to reality, there is still 9 countries to go, but I did saviour the moment with a McDonasls lunch (Bic Mac with McFlurry) and beers at a restaurant next to the Nile! The McDonads lunch was a nice change from the normal pita bread with fillings that we have had every lunch stop in Egypt. Man, the surround sound in the cities are pretty special. Was woken again with the huming and haging of the morning prays and songs of the people. Ride was good, and I could really feel the difference with my knees. It was still hurting slighly, but this was more because of the previous's day's riding, and not so much today's. Again had a great veiw of the nile as we were cycling down to Aswan. Felt pretty good cycling into the city, and I just for one second imagined it was Cape Town and this is how it would feel cycling in. Traffic everywhere and the people do stop and stare at you, wondering from where and to where you are cycling. If they only knew...... Egypt done, tick! Probably 3 things that stand out of Egypt or things that influence the Egiptian people, and it is religion, famiy and business (all of them wheel and deal and it is a real pain in the back side).  Cairo is a dump and try to avoid, although the pyramids is a must! It is truley amazing! So the temples and tombs! The cycling was fairly easy from what I heard from the race organises, as it gets much more difficult in Sudan and Ethopa (although it was pretty challenging for me). I guess what it does do is gives the people chance to get to know each other and use to camp life, and also for the cyclist and non cyclist to see how you can can cope with riding consistently for over 100km a day for 6 days in sucsession. And also for some (like me) sort our cycling issues, like saddle heights etc....


9 January 2011 to 14 January 2011
Will be updated soon.......