Simon Alston and Craig Northam are two South Africans cycling from Cairo to Cape Town to raise money for two charities that provide bicycles, and promote their use, in African communities.
Please help us support the good work of Re~Cycle and BEN by making a donation, however small. It costs £2,500 to send a large shipment of bicycles to Africa, but with your help we hope we can raise at least double that – thank you!
Cars whiz by in every direction, hooters blaring, switching lanes as they please, pushing through every little gap; only half have their lights on in the night, no-one obeys a single traffic light and people cross as if they are indestructible…hectic! Unfortunately we are stuck here for a while as we failed to get a Sudanese visa before the Arabic weekend starts tomorrow. We tried yesterday but needed a letter of referral from the SA embassy! So off early this morning to the embassy to request the letter…30 minutes they said…which turned into 1h30min…and more! Eventually Simon rushed off to the Sudanese to try and keep them open while I waited on the letters…and the commissioner, who seemed to be having a lie-in this morning!
Eventually I jumped into a cab which proceeded to get lost, so carried on by foot (I new better than he where to go…guess they don’t do The Knowledge here then?) and got there as they were going to close…only to find that the next phase of the application was now closed so we’d have to wait anyway…We should have them on Sunday morning at 10am, apparently!
We left Cairo on Sunday, cycling through the dusty City of the Dead, a vast stretch of modern-day tombs sprawling south. The nightmare that was getting into and out of Cairo has been forgotten as smooth roads and strong tail winds have pushed us quickly south along the Red Sea Coast. We have covered almost 700km in 5 days, some days well over 30km/h despite carrying around 30kg of equipment and water. Like sailors superstitious about the wind we don’t talk about p********s. Our Kona Sutra’s roll easily along the smooth tarmac and every lorry and car toots as they pass. Rounding a corner we find a recently overturned lorry, dead driver covered in a soiled carpet, and wonder if he had tooted further back.
After a second complimentary tea (get what you can!) we left the “Hotel Almadina”, happy to be leaving! (3rd hotel out of 4 with a terrible toilet…not high on the list of priorities for local people obviously!) We thought of writing a message in their visitor’s book in Afrikaans to warn some people who may think of staying there…but weren’t given the option, perhaps they sensed what we had planned!? I could feel that it would be a hard day. It was already hot and my wrist (that I has stupidly sprained the day before) had kept me up much of the night. We stocked up on food fro the falafel-stall-owner that Simon had befriended the night before and then sat outside the Temple of Horus and ate breakfast. We didn’t have the time to visit this one, so we set off from Edfu on the road to Aswan.
We did little in Qena apart from eat, sleep and hold broken conversations with the locals over tea. Sit down and within minutes you have the first tentative questions, more people joining your table as things warm up. We talk often about football, occasionally Bush and Blair as few people are openly political. Without fail we are asked about our relationships as there isn’t the same concept here of dating before marriage. In Qena we are joined by the local stoner, all sleepy eyes and giggles, and as we head south we find we are offered hashish more and more often and openly. Either it is our changing appearance after 3 weeks on the road, or life is more liberal away from the capital. Arabic lessons are normally the most entertaining for the crowd, and I now keep a postcard on my handlebars in my own crude phonetics, trying to learn new words as I cycle.
Craig and Simon have successfully completed their first country, Egypt from Cairo to Aswan. Above are extracts from updates received. Please visit the website for complete stories updated on the Blog page and wonderful photographs. We expect the updates to be less frequent as they progress into the next country, Sudan. Their equipment is holding up well and the only casualties so far are spokes in Craig’s back wheel and the front bar-bag clips.
Watch this space for the next instalment.