Today was a challenging day. We did not get started until 7 a.m. I was run off the road a number of times by large buses traveling at ridiculous speeds. Its not uncommon to be honked at by vehicles on the wrong side of the road. Passed a couple of dump trucks filled to the brim with sand that blasted me in the face as I passed. And rocks were thrown at me by two different groups of children. The second time, Honky and I stopped and started throwing them right back. Not to mention a strong headwind for much of the day that made riding arduous. Despite all this, the food in El Dabbah made it worth it. I ordered a large bowl of Foole fresh bread and a couple scrambled eggs. I was also able to dispose of my trash I had been carrying for several hundred miles into a trash can. In previous towns I’ve been told to throw my garbage on the ground. This is a common attitude in both Egypt and Sudan and something I refuse to take part in. We hung out in town for the hottest hours of the day and found a place to camp behind some sand dunes.
We awoke at 3:30 A.M. The moon was still up and bright. Within minutes we could hear a chorus of Muslims reciting morning prayers in Arabic coming from 3 or 4 different directions. It was a bit haunting but also beautiful. Within a few miles of being on the road I honked at a dog that was barking and running towards me. This seemed to further aggravate the animal and I needed to pedal fast to get away. A couple hours into the day, after retracing a missed turn, we made it to Dongola. I was excited to be able to purchase produce for the first time in a couple days. Also found some falafels, fried dough and rotisserie chicken for lunch. I have given up being a vegetarian for this trip because it is sometimes difficult to find healthy options that do not have meat. Several hours out of town it was getting dark and we set up camp in a giant hole that hid us from the highway.
A man herding goats along highway.
A fruit stand Dongola
Eroded road we had to go around.
Hole that we camped in next to highway.
We awoke again at 3:30 and experienced a beautiful sunrise. I found some cool caves on the side of the road in the dirt but decided not to explore deeper because a gaseous smell was emanating out from them. A couple hours into the ride a man in his vehicle tailed me for a couple miles. This made me a bit nervous but the man eventually drove beside me and said hello. I realized afterwards that even though his behavior was creepy he was just genuinely curious. Later we met two groups of cyclists, a couple from Holland and an American man. All of whom had started at Capetown and were near the end of their journey. I had my first experience using a pit toilet when we stopped in a small town. Asking for the location of a toilet proved difficult. The local I was talking with knew very little English. To my embarrassment I eventually resorted to gesturing pooping by squatting in front of him. He eventually understood and showed me to the pit toilet. I have come to understand that using toilet paper is uncommon in Sudan and people typically use their left hand and water when using the pit toilet. There are some sanitary concerns as I have never seen any soap to wash your hands with around these facilities. Later on in the day we were stopped by police at a checkpoint. The police were welcoming and enthusiastic to meet us. They never asked for our passports but instead insisted that we take a picture in front of a statue of a man they referred to as the John Cena of Sudan. Or the king of Sudan. Honky later told me that after taking photos one of the police officers was talking to him in Arabic gesturing to his crotch which made Honky very uncomfortable. During the heat of the afternoon we stopped at a water hut where some local Muslim men insisted that we join them and share a meal they were eating sitting on floor mats. The food tasted great. Honky was told disapprovingly not to use his left hand for food. I assume its because the left hand is considered unclean.
Pit toilet, aiming for the hole is important.
Entrance to the pit toilet.
“John Cena” of Sudan. with one of the guys at the police checkpoint.
Wild group of camels.
We awoke around 3:30 in the morning so we could get out before sunrise and ride during the coolest hours of the day. Early into the morning ride we stopped in a small village and bought some coffee and fried dough from the locals. Several times during the day we had to bike around sections of asphalt that had been eroded away during previous storms. We rode past some kids standing in the middle of the road and demanding that we stop and give them money. In the town of Abri we met many nice people who wanted to welcome us and ask us our names and a few other conversational questions that they knew in English. A group of friendly kids were also excited to race on foot next to me. At the local restaurant we got some Foole (beans dish) and eggs. The rest of the day we had a significant tail wind which pushed us along and allowed for fast cycling. As the day was coming to a close we had a difficult time finding a good campsite. We tried camping near the Nile in some palm trees, but the bugs were horrific. We wound up camping within sight of the highway where there was a slight breeze that kept the bugs at bay.
Camels outside small village where we got coffee.
It is common to see children or adults riding donkeys.
Foole and eggs.
The day started with us making our mandatory visit to the police station to register ourselves in Sudan. It took about an hour as we had to meet and talk with a number of different people at the station to complete the paperwork. After leaving the town we took a short lunch and began what would be a brutal day of riding around 11 am. The sun beat down on us and I squinted against the glare of the pavement as we rode through the hottest hours of the day. A number of dead cattle lay strewn across the side of the road. Flies were a nuisance and I was thankful whenever a breeze picked up, even was a headwind slowing me down. The landscape was beautiful in a very desolate way. Miles of desert lay in every direction with black rock outcroppings poking out as well as several mountains we rode through. I had to ration my water because I was drinking too much and making myself sick. Late afternoon we were pleased to find a hut with water for travelers in clay pots and a man willing to cook up eggs. As it was getting dark we took a dirt road a couple tenths of a mile away from the highway and set up camp for the night and cooked a tasty lentil spice dish with feta cheese.
Honky in the distance
Water pots for thirsty travelers. First of many we encountered
Water hut from a distance away.
We took a ferry across Lake Nassr in the morning and biked about 15 miles to the Sudanese border. We had heard many stories about how it can take 4 to 6 hours at the border and that they sometimes make you empty all your bags out for inspection. I was worried about what obstacles we might encounter given the struggles we have faced up to this point with the Egyptian bureaucracy. To my surprise the process was relatively fast and the Sudanese officials seemed happy to invite us into their country. I’m very happy to be out of Egypt and optimistic that we will have an easier time cycling through Sudan. Most of the time we spent at the border was counting and exchanging money. We first had to bargain with the money changer for a fair rate which we had been told is 2.9 Sudanese to 1 Egyptian. We needed to exchange enough cash to get us through Sudan which we’ve been told has no banks or functioning ATM machines. We continued on to the town of Wadi Halfa and found a place to stay for 300 Sudanese or about 6 U.S. dollars.
Riding to Wadi Halfa to enter Sudan. Excited to be back on my bicycle.
The ferry across lake Nassr
Solar Charging on ferry
We spent the day in Abu Simbel relaxing and getting much needed sleep. Experimented with Honky’s diesel burning stove, which I have termed the MSR “pyromaniac”. . . Getting the stove started often results in a barely contained fiery inferno. I also boiled some tea with a cat food can alcohol stove. This was the first time I got a chance to use it because I was able to obtain fuel in the form of spirits (smells like moonshine). I Also found an old replaceable blade safety razor.
We awoke early to get a bus to Abu Simbel. the bus arrived several hours late. The bus ride throughout the desert was sweltering hot and I came to regret the falafels I ate last night which were giving me symptoms akin to food poisoning. Upon arriving to Abu Simbel both Honky and I were surprised by the slow pace of life. A large group of children approach us. The air horn on my bike was a huge hit. They were all very excited to practice a few of the English words they had presumably learned in school. We found an affordable place to stay and met a nice Spanish couple who were riding bicycles to Khartoum, Sudan. We later headed to the Abu Simbel Temples, the main reason we took this route. The Abu Simbel temple might be the coolest archaeological site we’ve visited to date. There was a lengthy movie that was projected onto the rock face that felt a bit sensationalized for my liking but the size of the statues were humbling.
We spent the day in Aswan exploring the city and seeing the temples. We got a bit lost jumping from bus to bus trying to find the ferry to Elephantine island on the Nile. On Elephantine island there was a neat Nubian colony. We had to negotiate with several different boats to find one that wasn’t outrageously overpriced our first offer we rejected was (200LE or about 11 usd). The botanical gardens were nice although a bit overgrown.
Holding on to back of bus driving through Aswan Egypt.
Narrow Streets…. Nubian Colony Elephatine Island
Nubian Colony Elephantine Island
We got Feluca’d ! (which means convinced to ride on one of the many Feluca sailing boats on the Nile).
People Paddling up the Nile.
Narrow streets of Nubian Colony on Elephantine island
There are an amazing number of spice markets in
Aswan. Selling everything from Saffron to dried
Hibiscus for tea.
Cool bird at botanical garden.
We awoke around 4 am for the rescheduled balloon ride. the bus driver came up and we drove to a point along the Nile where we caught little boats across. There were a bunch of people already loaded in the boats and heading across the Nile when we arrived. Across the Nile we entered another bus which took us to the balloon takeoff site. It was still dark and the police were there as they often are at most places keeping an eye on things. I was chastised several times by my nervous guide who didn’t want me using my digital SLR camera near the police. At this point several balloons were being inflated. It was incredible seeing and hearing the jettisoning flames shoot out of the canisters in the baskets and inflate the balloons. When it was time we jumped in our balloon and practiced the crash position should we have an uncomfortable landing. I briefly questioned what I had gotten myself into. Finally we ascended into the atmosphere. the views were incredible. from 2500 ft we could see the Valley of the Kings and Hapshepsut Temple. we watched as the sun rose and illuminated the Nile and all the buildings and inhabitants of Luxor. I was surprised by the number of holes into the hillside dotted all over this area and outside of the main archaeological spectacles. There has to be a number of historical sites that have yet to be explored or discovered. It would be very cool to hike around this area through the desert. I;m sure you would find a bunch of ancient tunnels and tombs, if the police didnt arrest you first! Our balloon ride eventually came to an end and we thankfully had a soft landing. we were picked up and made the return trip to our hotel where we packed up and went to the train station to depart for Aswan. The train was a little over 2 hours late and it took us 2 and a half hours to travel to Aswan. We searched for hotels and found a dumpy but cheap hotel for 14 usd per night.
Early morning boat ride across Nile
View of Hatshepsut from above.
We awoke at 430 in the morning around the time of first prayer to go on a hot air balloon ride. however due to some confusion we missed the flight. Instead we decided to explore several of the sights on the West side of the Nile. In order to get there we took a small boat across the Nile and a taxi to our first destination the Valley of the Kings. These tombs lie several miles west of the the strip of fertile green land paralleling the Nile and into the desert mountains. there are dozens of tombs. We paid to check out 3 of them. We traveled to the tombs farthest from the parking lot with an understanding that they would be relatively empty. It was mind blowing how well preserved the art was inside each tomb. I can’t say that I am particularly passionate about Egyptology but just from an artistic standpoint, the intricacy and beauty of the paintings and etchings along the tunnel walls were impressive. Each one went several hundred feet into the mountainside and terminated with a cast of the corpse that had occupied the tomb. Pictures were not allowed unless you paid an additional fee. Honky and I still poached a couple photos much to the anger and frustration of the guides that followed us into the tombs. Afterwards we had just enough time to visit the Temple of Hatshepsut. we returned to the East Bank and headed to an ancient mosque after hitting up the falafel stand. It was interesting to see 20 plus people all knelt over in prayer including a police officer. It is different being in a country wherein there is less separation between government and religion. Reflection …. we were both mentally exhausted by the end of the day and did not have much patience. Throughout the day we had a number of people on the street blatantly ask for money or solicit services (carraige rides, guided tours etc.) It was difficult to get anywhere without someone stopping you ever 100 feet or so. It would almost always start politely with small talk such as them saying welcome to our country. There would be introductions and asking how our trip was going etc. then the solicitation would begin. The difficult part was no matter how insistently we would say no thank you in Arabic they would often push harder and follow us down the street. Often there was no way to escape without being rude and just ignore them as you walked off.However, even though it was frustrating I could sympathize for them. Making a living in Egypt is not easy for most. Jobs are difficult to find and about a third of the people make less than 2 USD per day. Many of these street vendors are just trying to scrape a living by doing all they know how. Hence why we both tried our best to be polite even though we sometimes failed and found ourselves yelling to be left alone. The poverty is not entirely negative. during my stay thus far I have noticed that it bonds people together. People lookout and take care of one another. We often got referred to other shops by vendors who wanted to give family members or friends business. It is also common to see civilians intercept fights and hold back punches when disagreements inevitably arise.
Room and platform of blood sacrifices at Hatshepsut.
View of Luxor from Hatshepsut
Caves in distance which are closed to the public
Al Qaeda tunnel? Just kidding.
Street View in Luxor.
This picture and the next 3 pictures are views on Nile from boat after touring both Hatshepsut and Valley of the Kings Tombs
Valley of the Kings Tomb
Another mosque picture. Cool carvings!
View of Luxor Temple from the mosque.
Hole in the mosque allows you to see current level of the Nile River.
Not being able to bicycle further in Egypt means that we have a week to spare for sightseeing. We spent the first couple hours searching for a hotel that would allow us to bring our bicycles into our rooms. We stayed on the more touristy east side of the Nile. During this search we met a French couple on bicycles that are traveling a very similar route as our own to South Africa. They followed the Nile down from Cairo and said they had little trouble acquiring police escorts. We now know we were forbidden to ride the desert route as everyone is rejected on this route due to new legislation. . After finding a place to stay we continued on to explore Karnak Temple. The streets around the temple were lined with houses and children hanging out in the streets. a gaggle of kids followed us through the streets asking for money, baksheesh. I picked up some bananas after losing the first group of kids and decided to share them with the next group I came across. it wasn’t long before I had my chance. it began civilly. I gave 5 children each a banana when they approached me to ask for baksheesh. however soon kids streamed from the streets. I would be surprised if every kid within 10 blocks wasn’t there. A crowd formed and I was overwhelmed. they were frantically grabbing for the stuff in my hands. Honky yelled loudly and we were able to escape. It should be mentioned that none of these children looked malnourished. the Karnac Temple was definitely worth the visit. We spent several hours inside exploring and I’m sure we didn’t see everything.
We awoke early hoping to make significant progress towards Luxor. We were stopped at a police checkpoint around 9 am or 30 miles into the day. They rejected our repeated requests to continue on the road and repeatedly told us what the previous checkpoint had. That the road was unsafe for travel. We spent all day and tried to no avail to find a guide company to escort us through these checkpoints. Upon being denied a police escort and being threatened to be deported we rode back to Hurghada and caught a bus to Luxor. Its unfortunate but given the circumstances we decided it would be best not to test the police a 3rd time and to catch a bus and ferry to Sudan in a couple days. We arrived late in Luxor and found a hotel near the Cornish (road bordering the Nile) on the east (more touristy) side of the Nile.
I fell asleep early and woke up feeling refreshed. We jumped in the Red Sea and swam in the pool. The entirety of the ride today was along the sea and passed a number of large resorts, most were vacant or deserted. We also passed a group of children who all waved smiling and yelling to us. At mile 37 we came across a border checkpoint. We were told insistently that we could not continue on bicycles but had to get a bus because it was too dangerous on bike to Hurghada. I tried to convince the man for about 10 mins in charge that we would be o.k. and had been through much worse through Cairo. After much arguing Mohammed called somebody above him in the bureaucratic chain. We hung out for several hours and after much interrogation about our business in Egypt and cycling experience etc. we were told that in order to continue our trip through Egypt we would need to be accompanied by a travel company. As much as I wanted to cycle every foot of this route, I had to concede that skipping a section was better than trying to figure out the logistics of having a tour company follow us through the rest of Egypt. We were able to get a bus to Hurghada. However, what should have been a 3 hour trip turned into a 9 hour experience as the bus broke down within 5 miles and needed repairs. we made it to Hurghada around 5 am the following day just as the sun was rising. Today was a difficult day it was devastating conceding to skip 150 miles of the route, however I tried everything I could to get around the problem short of being escorted by a guide company and found no solution.
The next morning we were honored to share breakfast together. There was a wide variety of food that was tasty. Before eating we washed our faces and hands in the wash room and took off our shoes. We sat on cushions on the carpet and ate off a low table with our hands. We conversed via google translate and learned much about our hosts family and beliefs. The people we met are all part of the same tribe (group of family and friends). He also told us that in his tradition once you share a meal with someone you form a pact of friendship, and that last night while conversing between themselves they decided that it was their duty as faithful Muslims to help us out as they considered it unsafe for us to continue on in the dark. We were sad to say goodbye but had to leave in order to make it to Giza (the start of the official Tour d Afrique route). After 60 miles we stopped at a small bakery and ate some Baklava and other sweet pastries. Entering Giza was an exciting experience. Traffic increased and I was chased by 3 dogs. I was thankful for my air horn which stunned them long enough for me to get away. We let google maps guide us to a hotel which often creates an interesting route. we soon found ourselves going through dirt alleyways with kids running around, men sitting outside and a few small shops. We almost got trampled by a horse running down the street. With some difficulty and lots of questioning locals we found the happy days inn down an unnamed dirt alleyway. It was unfortunately a multi floored building. which meant carrying our heavy bikes and gear up four flights of stairs. It has become somewhat common to book rooms on the third or fourth floor and also to have doors that are difficult to lock and missing door handles. It was worth it though, from the roof we had a spectacular view of the pyramids. we could also see the main street full of people walking around, taxis, children running and playing, venders hawking souvenirs, and a man riding a donkey. You could also see the spire of a mosque next door which broadcasted the daily prayers over loud speakers. I find that I feel at home in these lively neighborhoods.
Family i was honored to stay with and share breakfast
View from the rooftop
We awoke early and scrambled some eggs in the hotels dining room. We were happy to escape from the busy streets of Alexandria, and were able to bike 60 miles. Along the way were a number of interesting structures we’ve been told are for birds. We were also passed by a number of cars and trucks that would honk and wave to us. I gave high fives to people as I passed them on the road. we had two groups of people stop and welcome us to their country. They also asked for pictures with us. I get the impression that the tourism industry is weak and seeing outsiders is a special occasion. The people of Egypt have been incredibly friendly and more welcoming then I could have ever imagined possible. As it was getting dark and we were looking for a place to stay a police car pulled over to ask us how we were doing. we found a place to eat and continued on in the night through the town of Wadi El Natroun. We came across a group of men dressed in traditional clothing and talked with them for awhile trying to get directions to a nearby hotel. We were warned earlier not to stay at the local hotel because the owners were crazy according to the restaurant owners and something about “mavi” which we both thought sounded a lot like the word mafia. The men we were talking with invited us to drink tea and coffee with them and after talking and getting to know them better they told us we should stay with them and that they had an open room. We were thankful to not have to ride 13 more miles in the night to the next hotel.
Group that invited me for Tea and Coffee
Building in which we were invited to stay in.
We took a 3 hour harrowing shuttle from the Cairo airport to Alexandria. our driver would weave quickly between cars with little clearance on either side of the vehicle. he seemed to find joy in making these Nascaresque maneuvers. I got some tea in a shop. As Egypt has a high Muslim population there are fewer bars. Hookah/ tea shops are very common. We assembled bikes in hotel room and went for a night ride. Navigating on the streets can be interesting because bikes and pedestrians don’t have the right of way like they do back in the U.S. The lines denoting different car lanes often seem like nothing more than a friendly reminder and horns are frequently used. My air horn on my bike works great and makes biking enjoyable as I can blast it as I go through traffic to alert people where I am. it might be my favorite piece of equipment.
View from our Hotel Room in Alexandria
Street Vendors Alexandria
I have arrived, 11/4/2018 in Cairo, Egypt. The flight was long, really long. I met up with Free Range in NY, he barely made the flight. We landed in Cairo and caught a bus with our bikes to Alexandria, about 120 miles North. Found a hotel with an ocean view for only about 12 dollars per day. Assembled our bikes, and braved the city traffic. Pedestrians and bikers definitely do not have the right of way. Horns are used to communicate everything from, i see you, to get out of the way. They are common place and not considered offensive. My bike horn is far louder than the vehicle horns. We are planning our first leg from Alexandria to Cairo, 150 miles by bicycle. All for now.