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by SS at 1:51 pm on Sunday 24th January

It's amazing what a single day of rest can do for your body. I was actively feeling the strain in my legs the last few days before we arrived in Luxor and the ride today was almost like starting from fresh. Last night in Luxor, I changed my saddle from the (pretty new and hence unmoulded) leather Brooks saddle to a spare Specialized Body Geometry saddle I had brought with me. My saddle sores are getting quite bad, to the point where I'm on antibiotics and the nurse wants me to see a Doctor as soon as possible! She recommended against cycling but so far I remain EFI* qualified and don't want to lose it until absolutely necessary.

As I was fitting my saddle in the dark, I was surprised by a trio of staff and riders who burst into a song of Happy Birthday and handed me a box of Hohos, a local chocolate cake wrapped sweet (similar to Twinkies in texture). I was so shocked that I dropped the box, no doubt waking up a dozen other riders who were fast asleep in preparation the next day.

The morning ride was 70 kilometres of pure pace (31-32 kmph average), we carried along the same highway that took us to Luxor. I realised today that the river that I thought was the Nile is actually just a side channel of it. Regardless, it's amazing how lush the banks were, compared to the dry, lifeless and seemingly infinite desert. As we rolled up to the lunch truck, we got a stunning view of the Nile itself, shining the bluest blue my eyes would recognise. A life-giving river indeed.

Every rider in the peloton I had ridden in with agreed that we should probably slow down and take a few more photos. It's ironic that individually we were all thinking the same thing but as a group the emphasis shifted to eating up tarmac as quickly as possible. The remaining 50km we took at a much more leisurely pace and stopped several times to-
- Take photos
- Give sweets to children (but only 7 children because I ran out pretty quickly)
- Drink carbonated beverages
- Tresspass on a local market

The last item was quite amusing. Just 5km approximately from the campsite, we noticed a market on the left where pick-up trucks were congregating to drop and pick up produce and local people. It was quite obvious that this wasn't a place on the usual tourist route, so we dismounted and rolled our bikes down the single carriageway on which all the stalls were set up. About 20 metres in, an official looking guard started speaking to me in Arabic (this has happened several times now, apparently I am easily mistaken for a local). I couldn't understand him but after he started pointing to his gun and then pointing to the riders who had gone walking ahead, I assumed that this was a cue to leave. Our understanding of it was that he was quite worried for our safety and didn't want us to get into trouble in the market...very odd.

The final few kilometres took us into the city of Idfu itself, via a bridge over the Nile. The Idfu end of the bridge consisted of a large roundabout which was surrounded by hordes of Egyptians. It was here that some moron in a van decided to try and throw a stick through the front wheel of Gerald's bicycle (a French rider). Gerald sped up and chastised the guy through his open window, quite a drama to observe. Luckily no harm was done but these sort of incidents are likely to become increasingly common as we head further south (I'll explain later as we approach).

The campsite here is a bit grungy, it's a soccer field in the middle of the city. There's at least two mosques on either side (and correspondingly prayers seem to be out of tune, out of sync and extremely loud). I won't go into too graphic a description of the showers / toilets but they are possibly the worst I've seen. The shovel option is non-existent here since our trucks have already left for Sudan, taking the shovels with them. In addition, the soccer field is surrounded by tower blocks of apartments.

I feel quite happy at the moment, I'm listening to a mixture of bhangra music and Coldplay in my home - my tent. I've just discovered two pockets on the walls and I've made a makeshift desk out of my day bag so there's an alternative to the awkward typing on the knees position. It's bedtime now. Last night I was dreaming of smooth flowing singletrack since all the riding so far has mainly been road riding. This whole trip will probably mostly be some form of road cycling too. If there are any mountain bikers reading this, the next time you hit a technical piece of singletrack, drop me a thought!

*I can't remember if I've mentioned EFI yet or not. EFI means Every F**king Inch, and is a accolade given to riders who cycle every single inch of the tour. Quite why it's in inches when the tour distance is measured in metric units I'm not sure. If your bike breaks or injury strikes - or for some reason you're unable to cycle any or part of any day, you lose your EFI status. Roughly 10 or 15 riders make EFI every year and hence it is quite an elite club - about 100 or so riders worldwide.

1 comment posted so far
wrote at 9:43 pm on Tue 26th Jan -
Respect all religious environments - please

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"Our thoughts define our reality." - Anon.