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by SS at 3:52 pm on Friday 29th January

Well, I'm still EFI, for the moment. Determined not to give it up, I put aside medical advice not to cycle and cycled the whole 150 kilometres today standing up. Most of the weight is transferred to your legs when you stand up, roughly doubling the load on your knees and quads, so I took care to stretch my legs every 10 kilometres or so. At the moment they don't feel too bad but I worry that this is one of those cases where the day after always feels much worse. Tomorrow is another 150 kilometres and the Egyptian doctor I saw said 3 or 4 days of avoiding sitting in the saddle. It's now been 3 days, so I'm comtemplating my options for tomorrow.

Sudan is a beautiful country - unlike anything I've ever seen before. The landscapes are stunning panoramas of sand and rock, reminding me of the Planet Tatooine from Star Wars. (Mental note: put Star Wars soundtrack on MP3 player) It's crazy warm here, and is only going to get warmer as we head further into the desert. My water consumption is beginning to go up rapidly too. The sunset from the camp was beautiful tonight, an array of colour that seems impossible to replicate photographically.

Our camp tonight is by the river Nile. I found it strange but obvious that the Nile should flow through Sudan - years of education have left the notion fixed in my head that the Nile only passes through Egypt. There are swathes of flies around, about two dozen or so are camping on the roof of my tent. There are also some scary looking insects around; when I went towards the trees earlier to discard some of the water I'd been drinking all day, my eyes slowly came to focus in on some floating object right near my face. It took a few split seconds to realise that this was a spider at which point my reflex reaction was to bend backwards as fast as physically possible. No sign of the spider since, and luckily the encounter wasn't messy as it could nearly have been.

Connectivity is good but strangely difficult in Sudan. My Kenyan sim card is now working, and I bought a local number too. The only problem is that neither lets me send text messages to the UK, which renders my Twitter updating almost pointless (I'm now phoning in coordinates to home!). However, the local sim lets me use GPRS at a not-too-unreasonable rate, which I will try once I pick up some more credit in Dongola in a few days time.

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by SS at 2:43 pm on Sunday 24th January

The ride into Aswan today was similar to the ride to Idfu yesterday, lots of traffic, fairly smooth roads and quite a fast pace. We rolled into lunch at about 9:15am and then into camp itself at 11:30am. The mornings are nicest time to cycle, I've decided - the winds are usually much less fierce and everything looks much prettier.

It's winter here in Egypt and the weather varies quite massively, from near zero at night to baking hot in the afternoon (no exact figures I'm afraid). Every morning it becomes harder and harder to make the effort necessary to crawl out of my sleeping bag. This morning there was lots of dew - I didn't set up the flysheet for my tent properly last night and most of the inside of my tent was wet as a result too.

I spent most of the afternoon tracking down a doctor to get a professional opinion on my saddle sores. First the local tour company who is supporting us dropped me off to a hospital where I struggled to find someone who spoke English. When I succeeded, the woman who spoke English took me to a group of doctors who were working furiously on one ill looking gentleman on a surgical table. They said something in Arabic which apparently translated to 'come back tomorrow'. After some more time and a taxi ride, I managed to find another doctor who was available. I walked up there to find two people who spoke little English. In their broken English they told me to come back tomorrow. Not wanting to give up, I asked another guy downstairs who told me to come back at 2pm.

I walked around, bought a falafel and came back after 2pm when luckily the doctor had returned. I'll stray away from graphic imagery and tell you that the overall result was that I'm not allowed to cycle for 4 days. I've also been given some fairly heavy duty antibiotics to take for the same time period. The next couple of days are only 20 or so kilometres of convoy riding, which I could feasibly stand up and cycle. However, the next two days are solid 150km days and I fear these might not be rideable. This could be the end of my EFI status.

1 comment posted so far
Dave wrote at 8:14 pm on Wed 27th Jan -
Sad times man!
My ass is sad for you.

(also, the word you were looking for in the post below is 'tributary'. Who said my degree was a waste of time? :P)

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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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