Friday, January 18, 2008
The ride through the limestone mountains was a lot better than I thought. It was a steady climb for 40k. My riding companions for the day were Joachim, Maxime Allard (French Canadian) and Connor (the Irish bloke). We rode steadily through rather spectacular scenery: denuded mountains that poked out of a completely blue sky. If you have seen the 10 Commandments you can imagine the bare rocky mountain formations where hardly a tree grows. No wonder why the burning bush was such a big deal! The lunch truck was welcome and several people are already ditching the riding and stashing themselves and their bikes in the trucks due to hurt knees, ilial-tibial bands, and sore bums. The day ended with a strong headwind but it was only the last 15k's. The other thing of notice were these two young women with their flocks of sheep. There is nothing for the sheep to eat but they are hardy creatures. Once we got to camp we were told not to "use the bathroom" in a certain part of our camp as there are lots of snakes and scorpions. Apparently, they sprayed some poison to kill them. I haven't seen a snake or scorpion yet. In fact, I haven't even begun to take my malaria pills as we aren't in a malarial area yet. We had time to wash some clothes in camp and enjoy a beer at sunset. Sudan is a dry country so it is nice to enjoy a post-ride beer while we can. At dinner there is plentiful food and great conversation. My friend Natalia crashed today because her front tire hit Josh's and she totally got road rash. When I got to camp she was covered in iodine but has good spirits. I am sure she will be sore tomorrow.
It was cold during the night so it was hard to get out of the sleeping bag. January 17th was the most eventful riding of all. We rode only 54 miles from our desert camp to Luxor, the ancient capital of Thebes. We passed through rural villages where people are farming their narrow strip of fertile land with donkeys and lots of manual labor. We passed fields of large cabbages, radishes, alfalfa, and lettuce. This time we had a fan club and it felt like we were in the Tour d'France: kids would run along us cheering us on, wanting to give a high-five, saying hello, hello, hello, practicing their English. Sometimes it was too much because the odd teenager would try and slap your hard as hard as he could and it hurt. We also had the odd young child spitting at us but they didn't have the propulsion to hit us! I don't think it was done maliciously just out of being a young kid.
A funny point is when you are passing these military check points only to see it spelled "chick point." Seeing several of these misspellings makes me wonder if it was spelled this way on purpose!
Once finishing the ride and setting up camp at Camp Reziky we had a chance to take our first warm shower. Ah...to feel human again. The rest of the day was spent exploring Luxor, eating falafel for 2 Egyptian pounds-40 cents, walking along the Nile, and seeing the light show at the Karnak Temple. It was well done. You walk throughout the enormous columns and humongous stone carvings of gods to the sounds of two voices narrating a story of ancient Egypt. It really is hard to believe that I am here experiencing this for real what I only once read in textbooks and seen in documentaries. The largeness of everything is what has impacted me. You are completely dwarfed by the columns and temples. I can readily see how whomever lived here had the power and respect of the commoners.
Today, Jan. 18th was our official first rest day. It was spent doing laundry, buying water for our upcoming ferry ride across the Aswan Dam into Sudan. We also went on a tour to the West Nile and visited the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, and Ramesseum Temple. These seem to be located in the middle of nowhere; not even that close to the Nile. It is remarkable that Howard Carter among others even found these tombs. Everyone is allowed to see three tombs. The hieroglyphics are impressive in the depth of the carvings and the colors that have still persisted through time. Way down the shaft one always finds a heavy stone sarcophagus which workers had to slide on logs and ropes in order to get it deep in these shafts.
Tomorrow begins our ride to Edfu and then to the Aswan Dam. I probably won't have internet access for at least a week while we cross into Sudan and ride through the northern part. Entering Sudan, I think we will find who the true riders are: I heard that this is when the going gets tough. I am trying to rest a lot and I always seem to be tired. But, the body is holding up and other than a sore bum I have no complaints except for this lingering cold.