Date: 21 January 2013
Once we left the seaside village of Safaga, we made our way to yet another desert camp in amongst the mountains. This would be our first reminder of what climbing is all about. It was a gradual incline for the first 67km of the day’s ride but it was still an incline, along with a head wind that didn’t make things easier.
I started the morning riding alone, taking in the enormous beauty of the mountain range and enjoying being out in the complete open with the long road ahead, which seemed never ending. I reached the lunch stop and thereafter joined a group of strong cyclists, trying my best to keep up. To my surprise, I actually did. It felt very good to cover the day’s 134km ride with relative ease. I reached camp with plenty of energy left to socialize, even though it felt like a super long day. However, since the sun sets at 18h00, it was not too long before I retired to the comfort of my tent.
The next day’s ride to Luxor was a quick one, only 107km away. It felt like we reached our destination (and place of the first rest day) in no time. With the warning of local kids toying with passing cyclists, it was reckoned we stay in a group to ensure our safety. After the lunch stop, the group grew to about 10 cyclists and together we made way to Luxor without any problems whatsoever.
Luxor is a fairly well established town which, one could see, flourished once with boats cruising down the Nile packed with tourists. Nowadays, Luxor seems dilapidated, starved of the tourism and popularity it once had. The city’s potential is endless as it is home to the beautiful Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens, which is a large part of the Ancient Egyptians’ history.
On arrival at the camp site the option of staying in a hotel was too tempting, and so I got a cheap room. In the end it would probably have been better to camp. The facilities were disgusting and the bathroom super dirty… Oh well, welcome to Africa! It’s only going to get more and more interesting. With a cold shower and a bit of laundry done, I was ready to wander into town and find some good local cuisine. A few fellow TdA riders and I walked along the Nile’s waterfront, and then into town where the first relatively clean restaurant was spotted. With the entire restaurant to ourselves, we felt like royalty as service was tops by African standards, and the food tasted good. With some Bob Marley tunes playing in the background, I felt I could be on an island in the Caribbean somewhere, until a herd of Camels came past and ruined my short lived deja vu.
The evening before the rest day, everyone was incredibly social and enjoyed the rewarding beers at the local bar. I, however, still cannot bring myself to stay up later then 21h00. The rest day in Luxor was well organized. At 8h30 a bus was ready to collect any TdA riders who had signed up for a tour of Luxor. Like school children we all piled in. With snacks and water handy, everyone was looking forward to our very first field trip. We explored the beautifully decorated, well preserved Ancient tombs. It was an absolutely fascinating experience. For the first time in a long while, we came across other westerners and met some really fun, interesting youngsters travelling through Egypt with their families.
At each touristy stop, we got bombarded by children as we exited the bus, each trying to sell you anything and everything. Mantras like “… for good price, you my friend” were commonplace. The most memorable line I received was from an 8 year old boy, winking: “You, my future wife, how many camels?” Smooth operator, that one. Another little girl ran up to me and showed off her skills of counting in English, she rattled off 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 Egyptian pounds… which you were mean’t to pay once she reached 10. Not so smooth…
On the bus trip back to our hotel, things were running on AFRICA TIME!!! Next thing I know I’m scheduled to be interviewed by Sasha Martinengo on Ballz Visual Radio and here I am, still stuck on public transport. In the end it all worked out and I did the interview on the bus while surrounded by a live audience as my fellow TdA riders on the bus listened and gave me an encouraging thumbs up.
Once back in the comfort of my dirty hotel room, I organized myself for yet another early start as we would be making our way to the next small town of Idfu.
If you’ve missed any of Tessa’s previous posts, you can read them all here.