A list of reasons some find this journey to be pure folly begins with incomprehension when it comes to sitting on a bicycle seat for long hours (” Doesn’t your rear end hurt?”). Next in line on the items people can’t get their head around is the idea of camping . . . ever . . . let alone for 4 months. (“You know there is such a thing as a hotel . . . right?”).
Well, we are happy to report that our bodies are holding up after 6 riding days from Cairo (699 km) preceding today’s off day in Luxor. That said, the tour medic fully expects to be having a look at the saddle sores of a majority of riders before we reach Capetown. We are tired, but that is to be expected when trying to figure out how to live in a totally different manner than we are accustomed to.
On the camping front, we were spoiled with our early sites on the Red Sea – including one right on the beach property of a hotel with a couple of rooms made available for showering. Things turned Tour d’Afrique style after that with a night at “Police Camp”. This random roadside spot in the desert offered all night trucking traffic, police sentries guarding the perimeter with the usual automatic weapons, dogs, no electricity, a 2 liter per person water ration for bathing after 145 km in the saddle, and finally a selection of shovels to take into the desert as nature required. With all this bounty no one uttered a word of complaint. This is what we signed up for – are paying for! The dinner presented in this spartan setting consisted of bbq’d chicken, lentils, sweet potatoes and coleslaw. Impressive and delicious. Who needs the Ritz when most of us are in our tents counting passing vehicles and dreading the early morning calls to prayer by 7:30? You can find a short video of the police camp at the bottom of this post.
Riding in the desert is all about endless sand and gravel and wide open skies. Long stretches of very good road surfaces and minimal navigation clear the mind. The group is settling into patterns. We spent about 40 km in a pace line (drafting off the rider in front of us) to ease the load on a high mileage day. This isn’t something we are accustomed to, or even like to do (full concentration is required so earbuds and photography are out), but it may make a big difference as the days get warmer and the body starts to complain. We emerged from the desert quite suddenly into great concentrations of brutalist style concrete housing complexes on the outskirts of Luxor. It was nice to see happy childrens’ faces as they vied for our attention.
Luxor is the site of the Ancient Egyptian city of Waset, known to the Greeks as Thebes. It has frequently been characterized as the “world’s greatest open-air museum”. Our in flight magazine on Air Egypt stated that 30% of the world’s monuments are to be found here! Hard to imagine? Every time someone sticks a shovel in the ground there is a new discovery, so much so that in the past year the military government has decreed that some sites are to be “left for future generations to unveil”.
Our tour organizers arranged for a local guide to help us make the most out of our short time here. We visited the otherworldly Valley of the Kings where our entry allowed us access into 3 tombs, although not that of the famous King Tut (which has been stripped of its artifacts in any event). We also spent time at Karnak Temple and Pharoah Hatshepsut’s Temple. The scale and beauty of these works, many untouched for 3000 years, must be seen to be fully appreciated. We are lucky to be passing through.
Thank you for reading.