From my naïve understanding, Sudan is a scary place of great danger.
But after arriving in this country, all the TdA riders immediately felt the friendly presence of the locals. It has truly been a heart-warming experience – as I had expected unrest and some kind of chaos. Welcomed so warmly, we all found it to be the complete opposite of what I, for one, had imagined. It just goes to show – one shouldn’t make assumptions based on what we see on TV.
The rest day in Dongola was pleasant, but frustrating at times. It was impossible to find effective Internet connections, so communicating with loved ones back home wasn’t possible. I should be pleased with an electrical socket to charge my phone though, as these villages are as basic as they come!
The next day we had our regular early start as the TdA crew made their way back into the desert for a 4-night adventure on the way to Khartoum. We had long distances to cover, more than 140km each riding day and everyone was starting to feel the effects of excessive exercise.
The first desert camp was named Dead Camels camp, and appropriately so, as we passed at least 50 to 60 deceased camels en route. This is when one realizes the actual harshness of the desert. If camels are dying… well, it’s a sign of no water for miles and miles around. Dehydration was our biggest danger during these few days and each rider made sure to replace lost fluids and salts. I’m so grateful for my Herbalife Hydrate Sachets of which I drink at least 4 liters a day, and the Endurance Rebuild has done wonders for me to recover quickly.
Arriving at Dead Camels Camp we were treated to the most spectacular desert sunset and full moon rise. I’ve never experienced so many shooting stars at night. In the desert, without any artificial light, the sky is blacker than black and the stars perfect diamonds glittering brighter than ever. The moon shines so brightly, it actually keeps me awake.
The calmness of the desert, however, didn’t last very long. The following day’s ride started off just as beautiful as before; one would never think weather was changing. Well, after the lunch stop, a few riders and I hung out at a local roadside café, if one could call it that, and enjoyed a cold coke while sitting in the shade and interacting with the locals.
Suddenly the wind picked up, and the advice of the locals was that it was time to head to camp. We were about 40km away, and it felt like 20 min and we were at the camp site. Until we stopped, we hadn’t realized how incredibly strong the tailwind was that had pushed us along the road.
It was very unpleasant being at camp after the raging sandstorm had hit us. Everyone was optimistic that by nightfall the wind would die down, well afternoon came and it seemed to only get stronger. It took the help of 5 people to set up my tent and I was truly afraid it would blow away with all my belongings, so I sat in the tent as an extra weight to keep it safe and keep myself sheltered. However, sand and dust still managed to get inside and smother me completely. With my cold and flu symptoms, it was half the desert coming out when I blew my nose, and with constant dust blowing into my eyes it felt like I was crying sand. We had dinner, sheltered behind the TdA bus. Each mouthful of food was spiced with a coating of desert sand. Frustrated, hungry, dirty, tired and unable to escape the wind and sand I knew there was little chance of getting any kind of rest that night. I crawled into my desert sand filled tent and tried my best to think of happy things and fall asleep. This was impossible, however – as my tent sounded like a massive sail flapping uncontrollably in the wind making a hell of a racket. If ever I did fall asleep from pure exhaustion, it was for no longer than 1 hour maximum.
I waited for the morning and the wind never seemed to weaken. Everyone looked like the walking dead as they emerged from their tents. Once again, 5 people needed to pack the tent down, and the mornings temperature dropped drastically. So there I was, dirty, exhausted, sick, freezing cold and now I have to get on my bike and cycle 148km to the next desert camp. There was talk of the sandstorm lasting 3 days, but THANK GOD by the late afternoon it had dissipated. This day’s ride was one of the hardest. I felt I was going to fall asleep on my bike; I had to do stops along the way just to jump around and wake myself up. Luckily, there were numerous local tea stops to warm me up and keep me going.
Once my tent was up and it was cool enough for me to lie down inside, I was out for the count. I woke up feeling like a new person… Still extremely dirty, sick as a dog, but I had slept well and Khartoum was only 100km away, which meant shower time, laundry time and resting time.