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Fruitseller in Cairo
Fruitseller in Cairo
So yellow!
2:10 am on Friday 15th January by SS
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by SS at 7:34 pm on Thursday 14th January

We had our start of tour rider briefing today, a few statistics for your perusal.

  • 22 rest days

  • 96 riding days

  • 14 nationalities of riders

  • Oldest rider is 71, the youngest is 18

  • 11,704 kilometres a(7315 miles)

  • Once we leave Cairo, it's going to be hard to stay connected - I will be regularly updating the stats by
    text message however. Most of the riders have now arrived, all different ages from a variety of countries.
    The strongest country (in terms of rider numbers) is Canada, where Tour D'Afrique (the company that
    organises the Tour D'Afrique) is based.

    A brief ride out to the pyramids of Sukkara this morning was slow but pleasant, with no major issues
    except my brakes locking up as I went over a speed bump too fast. We think that this was because the
    brake levers were loose on the handlebars - the impact of landing caused them to move and pull the
    brake cables.

    At the end of our rider briefing we were asked to choose whether we wished to ride as an expedition,
    after speaking to many of the other riders who are planning on casual racing, I made the switch to race
    too. The Tour D'Afrique is the longest bicycle race in the world, so it should be interesting to see how it

    The only annoying thing about being a racer is that there is no set time for lunch - this means that every
    minute I stop cycling in order to eat counts against me. Then again, I'm not doing it with any air of
    seriousness, so this shouldn't be a problem.

    The first day of riding is almost upon us - less than 36 hours now! The plan is to ride out to the Great
    Pyramid (see photos) for our 'official' start.
    From here it's a lengthy 136km first day. This should be interesting :-).
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    by SS at 3:59 pm on Wednesday 13th January

    The hours preceding my flight from Heathrow were possibly the most stressful few hours of my life. Five months away from home is a large amount of time, complicated by the fact that we're cycling for most of it! We left home about forty-five minutes later than we were aiming for (entirely my fault - a last minute shower + shave (possibly the last decent shave until June)), and reached the airport about 2.5 hours before the flight left. Having checked in online, it was a simple case of dropping my two bags and bicycle off. While queuing for the oversize bag drop, I received a phone call from a man at the Watford Observer, a local newspaper, inquiring about my trip!

    After a lengthy Italian lunch (a delightful gnocchi) at Carluccios with my parents, I ventured forth alone through the security at Terminal 5 and made it through unscathed. A rushed walk to the gate (since lunch was quite lengthy indeed) and I sat waiting before noticing people were walking away from the gate. A quick search online (via my internet tethered netbook) revealed that our flight was delayed by 45 minutes, a fact which was not displayed on the monitors next to the gate - strange. This extra 45 minutes gave me some much needed internet time and despite looking around every minute to check the plane hadn't left yet, I was still one of the last few passengers to board.

    The flight itself was a typically British Airways affair, we were further delayed out of Heathrow because of heavy traffic (there I was thinking flights were being cancelled!). I soon fell asleep though, a result of sleeping for only two hours on the previous night, and awoke some time later to drinks and another Italian meal for dinner (risotto this time). I was a bit confused at the number of people who appeared to be hovering around the immigration hall at Cairo Airport who weren't travellers - it seemed like anyone could just walk back through the desks. My bike was sitting by the side of the belt in the baggage hall waiting for me, looking surprisingly intact.

    The transfer to the resort was as dangerous as expected, Egyptian roads being similar to the roads I remember in Kenya. Luckily for another cyclist they picked up and I, they placed our bikes inside the minibus - supposedly the bikes of another two riders were on the roof and predictably fell off! Arriving at the hotel in Giza, there was a clear failure of communication as our escort (who had taken us from the airport) tried to claim money from us (but for what, he could not say). At reception, they could not understand that I'd be sharing with another rider who had already checked into a double room, repeating that he had already checked out (of his single room). This was no doubt true but their booking system (and their grasp of English) was sufficiently abysmal to result in an hour of arguing while they tried to 'sell' us another double room for 3 times the rate we had booked it at. Not acceptable for a '5*' hotel. They finally found the room and I got to sleep at about 4am, after breaking the zip on my only pair of pajama bottoms!

    On Tuesday I joined up with a group of Australians who had arrived much earlier to sort out visas and we went to go visit the Great Pyramid, not far at all from Giza. Finding transportation here is quite an adventure - most taxi drivers are 'off' the meter, so it's a question of negotiating the price down. The funny thing is that most drivers will gladly haggle hard but they won't know where you want to go. It's only after you've gotten into the cab, arranged a price and been driven around for a few miles that they will meekly pull over and ask for directions. It was clear each time that this happened that they hadn't known where they were going from the start since we usually ended up pulling a u-turn!

    The weather in Cairo at this time is quite cool - getting slightly chilly at night - and it was unfortunate that when we went to visit the pyramids, it was quite overcast. Regardless of how the photos came out, the pyramids themselves are quite an impressive sight. Journeying into the burial chamber of the Great Pyramid itself was quite an experience, walking up with a hunched back something inbetween a ladder and a staircase in a confined passageway. To be fair though, we had a bit of forewarning that this was likely to be the case from the flustered faces of the overweight tourists leaving as we entered.

    After walking around trying to find an internet cafe (and finding possibly the dirtiest such cafe I have ever seen), we went for an early dinner to have some of the local Egyptian koshary. Koshary is apparently a staple food here and is supposedly 'a complete dietary dish containing carbohydrates, proteins, fat, vitamins and minerals'. It's pretty cheap too, coming in about 50 pence for a pretty hefty serving. It's perfect food for any cyclist - sort of like a spicy spaghetti bolognaise.

    After dinner was a sound and light show on the pyramids where our total lack of preparation for the cold meant that we were all sitting shivering until one of the riders found out you could hire blankets. I was feeling warm enough at that point so I decided to bear it out - it struck me about twenty minutes later and I was shivering for most of the rest of the show.

    This morning, after breakfast, we ventured out for a hour long short ride. All went well aside from realising that my cycling computer wasn't working because my front wheel was on backwards. The seat was also slightly hard (it's a Brooks leather saddle which needs to be 'broken in'), which might be the only comfort issue that I can immediately foresee.

    A long, traffic slowed, taxi ride to Cairo later, we arrived at the National Museum. A disorganised place, it has some genuinely interesting exhibits (although these are quite reminiscent of my memories of the British Museum's Egyptian section). It seems the ancient Egyptians were obsessed with their afterlife and it put me in a pensive mood about what legacy I'd like to leave on the world. A statue or Tomb would be a bit annoying for the generations after me, and I wouldn't really want it to be pilfered in order to buff up some museum exhibition's contents. Instead, I think I'd want my own Wikipedia page - and not something that would be immediately reverted back to empty disk space. I think it'd involve doing something genuinely interesting so that it would be worth having a biography there for people to learn from. Hopefully it would be useful enough information so that it would stay relevent throughout the course of time.

    The other riders are all good fun, many of them also have blogs. Check out the TDA Profiles page to read more about them!

    Dinner now, time for more koshary!

    4 comments posted so far
    Paul B wrote at 9:13 pm on Wed 13th Jan -
    Glad you made it out ok, BA are being tricksome by all accounts. Great photos, pyramids always a good place to start - though a friend of mine was asking why you didn't start from alexandria instead of cairo and do the entire length of the continent...
    Dave wrote at 12:46 pm on Thu 14th Jan -
    Ace dude, I'm almost jealous, but then I realise the pain and effort coming and I feel better :p

    as for Wikipage, I like it. I don't know what you'd do to get it, but I promise a concentrated trolling effort to keep the facts of your life 'accurate'.
    wrote at 3:56 pm on Fri 15th Jan -
    The new white taxi's are all metered
    johnrosa wrote at 7:15 am on Mon 23rd Jun -
    Use the Infocabs management suite to manage your drivers and their vehicles efficiently and effectively. http://www.infocabs.co.uk/

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    1:20 am on Wednesday 13th January by SS
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