It’s pretty difficult to put into words the emotions I’ve been having during the Cycle To Rwanda ride thus far.
As you will know from previous blogs, I have personally had problems in Europe ranging from mechanical failures to health failures (namely food poising). But the team also had it’s own failings.
Prior to this incredible 6000mile journey we, as a team had only spent minimal time together and I guess that was one of the down sides. We failed to recognise stresses and didn’t act quick enough to move forwards, meaning throughout Europe tensions were at times running very high.
Things came to a breaking point just outside Beograde in Serbia, where the two of us who had front & rear panniers were told we would not make the rest point that night (only a mere 100miles of which we had already done 30miles by 10am) so we decided as a group that it was time to split. I didn’t want to ride hard all day and stop for long lunches. I preferred to take in the local culture a little more and therefore the split was the best solution. Pete and I managed to meet some lovely local people along the way and soak in some of the culture while still clocking the miles off every day.
As we arrived in Athens (bang on schedule) Neil, our support rider, decided he no longer wanted to be part of the Cycle to Rwanda experience and flew back to the UK, leaving the two Pete’s and myself to crack Africa.
Arriving in Cairo was terrific. I’ve been many times and just love the vibe and feeling in the city. Sure it’s dirty and damn noisy but in many ways that’s part of the appeal. Mixed with the fact I was here while the biggest and most prominent elections in Egypt’s history are taking place, adds extra strength to my love for the city and country as a whole.
After a good few hours, we finally managed to get our Sudanese visas all sorted. So at 10:45am the next day Pete and I set out for our 135km day one of Egypt.
It was terrific. Tons of support from locals and everyone was just so friendly. This great feeling continued for a couple of days until I fell ill again. I had contracted gastroenteritis.. So ill in fact that the Police pickup agreed to give me a lift. Now this turned into a long and drawn out affair. Sat in the back of a closed in tin back truck in 42 degree heat was not my idea of fun! I was vomiting at every stop and at every police checkpoint I was made to swap vans, which most of the time was fine, but on more than one occasion I got in and had an AK47 resting against my stomach with the calming “don’t worry, it’s safe. I was less than convinced! Shortly after this, things became even more surreal when the police all got out of the truck for a cigarette break and proceeded to leave the gun on my lap.
After a rather horrendous couple of days, an Egyptian friend very kindly took me to a local Doctor who sorted me out and in no time at all I was back fighting fit. Cycling down towards Edfu and then onto Aswan.
We arrived in Aswan hoping to have ferry tickets for Sudan in our hands…but alas they did not happen. The boat was completely oversubscribed and we couldn’t even get close to getting on even though we made the journey to the ferry port on the off chance. Which had it’s own experiences, as on the way back to Aswan (14miles) I was cycling on my own, the army pulled me over and explained I couldn’t cycle over the Aswan Dam. So I waited for their suggestions (this is despite cycling over it in the morning!!) none forthcoming, so I paid them a bribe and amazingly was allowed to cycle! Until I got to the other smaller dam and the same thing happened. This time I was forced to wait for a pickup to drive me the 800 yards across the damn.
Without a ferry ticket it was back to the drawing board. One of the team is flying to Khartoum from Cairo, while I’m choosing to wait and get on the next Ferry. I chose not to fly into Sudan as for me, the whole experience of the ferry was part of the fun and buzz of this trip. I want to meet local people and experience something I’ve not done before. So I spent five hours being pushed, shoved and watching various fights break out at the ferry ticket office as people are desperate to get a ticket for the next ferry! Pete said he came round the corner to see a mass of people all being pushed and hit and he saw me smiling away..It was very tiring but nonetheless a great, if slightly insane experience.
Obviously loosing this time means that we will have to make some of the time up. A crucial part of the trip for me is the camping in the desert, so I still aim to do that, but may have to use a local truck to make the odd day up because of the late ferry crossing.