Monthly Archives: November 2013

Sudan: Nubian Desert

Without exception the Sudanese met on the road are polite, respectful, honest, friendly, welcoming, generous and often well educated. Although not rich in varied landscape cycling through the desert has a hypnotising beauty. This time of year the climate is good and nights warm enough to sleep under the stars on the dunes. The only thing to watch out are the scarab beetles that hide in the sand and creep up on you!

Ferry ~ Aswan to Wadi Halfa
Bit of an ordeal due to the massive amount of luggage / boxes / sacks /TVs that everyone as trying to carry on.  I even saw a fridge. I had to join the scrum to carry on the bike and panniers. On very fortunate outcome of this is the crossing of paths with fellow cycle tourer, Aurelien, who is cycling from Paris to Cape Town.
A fastidious chronicler of the journey he provides a for more detailed blog which can be viewed at huigaeb.blogspot.fr
We have made very good cycle companions. Evenings spent chatting, eating planning and doing chores means my blog has been somewhat neglected.

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Wadi Halfa to Dongala
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View over Wadi Halfa

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Start of the desert roads that follow the Nile to Khartoum

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Sudan has Sharia law, which means the town did not live up to its name.

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There is gold to be found, although not by this man.

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Occasional cafe is to be found serving tea and food

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The road follows the Nile, but away from the river banks there is little sign of green

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Afternoon breaks in the shade involve tea, snacks or full blown meals. A nice shaded spot next to the river

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Desert sunset

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Tomb built by its eventual occupier 300 years ago. His relatives are also buried inside.

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Crossing the Nile

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Team of French archaeologists leading a gang of locals excavating a Necropolis of mini pyramids

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Giant sand dune required a bit of difficult off off-roading to reach followed by a scramble to the top. Views were worth it in the end.

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Temple of Soleb
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Nearby informal guest house provided a break from the usual desert camping

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Big views

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Camel herders crossing the road
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Most night spent spent sleeping under the stars away from the road in the silence of the desert

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Saying hello the the locals. The most common word shouted out to us on the road is ‘welcome’

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Egypt: Luxor to Aswan

South from Luxor, the traffic is much calmer. I have been informed this stretch has less of a problem with board teenagers and indeed, many of the people I see have better things to do than annoy me.

Temple of Horus, Edfu.
One day ride from Luxor with without the delays of an escort is Edfu.

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The town boasts a large temple to the Falcon God, Horus. What is remarkable is the state of preservation due to it being buried in sand for most of its life. Now excavated it’s possible to look up at the intact ceilings that tower above.

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Luxor, Adams guest house
A few hours ride and 5km from Aswan is a lovely guesthouse set in a Nubian compound. The 3 bed dorm room has earth floors.

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That evening a Nubian wedding took place..The music was superb and many people were ‘stick dancing’

Aswan

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Traditional Felucca sailboat

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Aswan high dam

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A rare chance for some beers on the Nile with guests from the hotel

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I confess it’s been 5 months since my last McDonald’s!

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Unfinished obelisk. Abandoned in the quarry due to a big crack that appeared.
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Coptic Christian church. Flooded with yellow light.

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The Nubian museum covers the area around Aswan and south into Sudan. Many of the finds are from the excavation or relocation of sites before the creation of Lake Nasser by the Aswan dam in the 1960s

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Egypt: Sohag to Luxor

The joke appreciated by the first police escort was the fact they I have 5 armed guards to protect me from teenage husslers on motorbikes. They tailed me in a truck and to be honest I was happy there were there. The only problem is they change every 10km. This involves drinking tea at the roadblock waiting for the next escort to arrive and so it goes on. Progress is painfully slow. Informed in no uncertain terms I’m not allowed to stay in Qena was presented with a choice, put the bike in the back and we drive you to Luxor in one go. The only other option is to stay at the roadside police checkpoint overnight, probably not the safest place to be given the current climate.
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On the other hand, if you define safe as being driven on busy roads with siren blaring and high speed while sat in the back of a van on a ledge, overtaking on blind corners and playing chicken with oncoming trucks, then yes, I felt very ‘safe’. Given the amount of sharp breaking we only got violently shunted once from behind once during the whole journey, a miracle.

A few hours later I cycled the last 5km from the outskirts of Luxor to the hotel on the west bank. The locals are very helpful, “The ferry boat is this way..”, a quick glance at the GPS, “No it isn’t, it’s 300 meters in that direction, and off I cycle”.

The Cleopatra hotel in Luxor can’t be faulted. Top of the trip adviser ratings for my price bracket I took an instant liking to it, the family owners and the handful of guests that floated through during my 5 nights stay there. It’s on the west bank, a more relaxed place. They have been closed for a few months due to no bookings, but reopened after a short flurry. On my last night I was the only person staying there. It’s sad to see such nice place without guests.
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Shisha with on the roof terrace with Joy and Andy from Manchester.

Luxor Temple
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Restorers at work
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Avenue of the sphinx
Connecting the Luxor temple and Karnak is a 3km path lined with sphinx statues. Not all of it is excavated.
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Temple at Karnak
A huge complex of temples and courtyards covering a large outdoor area. Wandered around the mostly deserted site.
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Valley of the Kings
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The coach park at 1.30pm, just empty. Now is the time to visit! Cameras not allowed, hence this picture.

Temple of Ramasis
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Nile cruse boats
Sadly, moored along the riverfront are huge flotillas of cruse ships slowly gathering rust. This is one of 3 blocks in Luxor. There are more in Aswan. I have yet to see a Nile cruse boat on the water. Many of the people I meet are former workers on the boats trying to scratch a living elsewhere.
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Museum of Luxor, Mummification Museum
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Gardens of the museum, cameras not allowed. It’s very well arranged, and again I nearly had the place to myself.

Categories: Africa, Egypt | 1 Comment

Egypt: Cat and mouse in the upper Nile

What should be a pleasant ride with the prevailing winds along the shores of the Nile is not possible at the moment due to the gangs of youths on motorcycles that follow me of towns. Everyday so far by 1pm I have been surrounded by 10 or more youths pursuing me demanding personal items or money and trying to open my bags. It’s at this point I’m forced to see refuge. They seem to think I owe them something and would rob me blind if I didn’t either stand my ground or find somewhere safe to shelter. The only quiet time is from sunrise at 6am to 10am and then the problems get progressively worse.

When I’m forced to stop for the day I’ve received nothing but help, support, friendship and a safe place to stay for the rest of the day and night. The next day I starting cycling just before sunrise and this gives me a few hours of peaceful cycling before the games begin again.

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Desert road. I soon realised that this is not the safest place to cycle

On two occasions my refuge for the day and night is one of the many roadside ambulance stations. They are manned by fun and professional staff and someone always has a smattering of English.
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What I find amusing is the mix of political views and ‘banter’ the staff have. Some support ousted president Morsi, some the general. It’s all good natured.
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White bricks with the texture and  consistency of breeze blocks are cut directly from the hillside.

My first fall
It had to happen at some point.. A fall from the bike. What was the usual ‘hussle’ by a gang of 3 youths on a motorbike turned out to be something a bit more serious. They stopped ahead and one of them grabbed the handlebars as I passed by. Aided by a stiff tailwind and too much speed it knocked me off balance and I came crashing to the ground. They were somewhat sorry, helping me up and returning an item stolen after I had a good shout at them. 2 days later and still quite painful the doctor indicated that something had broken in my Scapula (shoulder blade) , although the xray doesn’t anything obvious. It may just be sprained.
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Red mark.. Contact with road
Black Tape.. Hurts when pressed
Yellow.. Bruising near collar bone
Tan lines.. Rather severe!

I must say, Menya university hospital was great. From walking in to exiting with an xray and prescription took 20 minutes. “Is it because I’m a westerner?”, I asked. “No, that’s how long it takes” said the porter. Total medical bill: £1.75

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Morning tablets, I feel like a junkie!
2 days rest in Menya as I’ve also picked up some amoebic bug called gardiasis that gives me hydrogen sulphide burps and zero appetite, amongst other things.. I blame the sugarcane juice in Cairo.

My 2 nights rest happen to coincide with the trial of Morsi and Moubarak so being off the road is probably a good thing. Security is tight around town, especially around the hotel. Protests seem good natured carnival type affairs.
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View from the hotel window onto a quiet street below.
In the distance is the new museum of Minya that got looted (pyramid shaped building). It’s a very sad story, you can read about it on the Internet.

Rescued near Deir Mawas
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After being forced to turn back to seek refuge in a near by town I was kindly hosted by the chief and his extended family, in particular Ahmed, a lawyer and Abdul, a student of pharmacology. It’s knowing the people of Egypt are just like them; kind, helpful and generous.. It restores my faith in the people of Egypt.
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One of the many family businesses is sugar molasses. They are produced from the locally grown sugarcane.
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Finished product into jars and boxed up.
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Me Abdul and bike.
We all went for coshary, the most popular Egyptian food takeout.

Coshary
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Sold everywhere, around 40p for a meal and very filling it’s.. Lentil, chickpea, dried onion, spaghetti, macaroni and rice. Added to taste are tomato sauce, and in the two vessels, garlic/lemon and chilli that are added to taste.
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When mixed it’s ready to eat.. It looks like this. Yummy!

Egyptian bread
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Cooked on a moving belt.. Flat dough in one end, 15 seconds later, flat breads out the other end. Very efficient.

Assyut
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Mohammed, kindly showed me around his university town. Also a great help at coaching me in Arabic phrases to use on the road.. (none of them kind!)
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Countryside wedding party celebrating in town. Stayed in the YMCA club, a great place. Watched the sports day from the balcony in the evening. Liked it so much I stayed for 2 nights

Sohag
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Chatted to a group of students at a roadside cafe after being pursued by youths with sticks. I was near a city so I managed to evade them.
As a matter of policy, the hotel inform the local police when a foreigner checks in. They called by to say hello..
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Categories: Africa, Egypt | 1 Comment

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