Going With the Flow

Desert Camp at dinnertime

Our desert camp last night could not even provide a “bottle shower”.  Enter The Body Wipe –  an oversized moist towelette created as a shower replacement. Our homework before we embarked on this journey  promised good results.  We had doubts.  Mercifully, it did the job!  We are being thrown new challenges every day and are taking them on one at a time, going with the flow.


In ancient times, the predictability and fertile soil of the Nile  allowed the Egyptians to build an empire based on agricultural wealth.  As we rode our bicycles south from Luxor, against the flow of the Nile,  we passed through villages with teeming populations whose farming activity form a large part of the economic backbone of the country.

The Nile is the longest in the world at 6,650 km. It’s drainage basin covers  10% of the African continent over 11 countries, 4 of which we will be traversing on this tour: Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania. By comparison, geography buffs might be interested to know that the 3760 km Mississippi drains 40% of the continental United States.

The farm country was a welcome change from the 1st few days in the open desert.  As we rolled into villages children ran at us hoping to get a “high five” as they tested their english – “Hello!”, “ What is you name?”, “ I love you!” And the occasional “Money! Money!” Donkey driven carts laden with the alfalfa that is currently being harvested join tuk tuks and assorted other vehicles on the imperfect roads, forcing us to be vigilant.  Farmers tending to sugar cane, bananas, onions, cauliflower, cabbage and even rice crops respond with big grins to our easily offered waves.  Most of them are thrilled to pose for a photo.  Any group of cyclists pulling over for a coke stop (critical tour d’Afrique term for cold drink and snack opportunities) brings about a flurry of attention. We are undeserved rock stars. 

Pulling onions for our inspection
Nile farmer
Happy to “talk”


A Day in the Life

TDA runs a tight ship to everyone’s benefit.  Just over 30 is a large group. Schedules must be respected.  “Going with the flow” is a requirement.  Here is the agenda for a day on tour:

Before breakfast each person’s 90 litre bag must be deposited outside the overlander transport vehicle for transfer to that night’s campsite ( FYI we have another 90 litre “permanent bag” to which we only have access on rest days). This means a 5:00 AM alarm in our case, allowing enough time to deflate sleeping pads and pillows, dress, pack clothes,  camp gear, electronics, tear down tent, load bikes with necessities for the day’s ride, initiate navigation “toys”, and take care of personal hygiene.

Breakfast – 6:30 AM, preceded by coffee at 6:15.  Hygiene is critical in this closed society. A visit to the handwashing station before every meal is obligatory.  Dishes and cutlery undergo a traditional wash/rinse/bleach washing process before and after meals with each participant washing their own. Finally, an industrial sized ladel’s worth of porridge is served up cafeteria style, into which riders introduce a myriad of sweet or fruity enhancements. Yogurt is also available.  

Departure – riders leave camp any time after the leader’s vehicle has has a chance to go out and hang biodegradable orange flagging tape at route junctures. The “rabbits” are the 1st to go.  Yours truly are middle of the pack types. On some days we are advised  to cycle in groups, but we are left to our own discretion.  Over time the group’s will sort themselves out, either along lines of friendship or survival.  Watching this is part of the fun.

Lunch – usually just past the half way point of the day’s distance (average 130 km).  So far – always in the middle of nowhere.  There is a check in with a TDA staffer    stories of riders who have gotten lost are in the vault for now.  The group will have to prove itself before the leaders start “sharing” more.  We are still rookies.  A sweep rider ( back of the pack) from TDA is there to pick up the pieces should any difficulties arise. Same sanitation rules apply at a pull-off in the desert. Food buffet style.  “Dine and dash” at one’s own leisure. This is often a good time for a walk into the sandy beyond with a shovel in hand. 

Camp – check in. A restorative soup (a signature feature of all TDA tours) is available every riding day as we pull in. Set up camp, conduct any required bicycle maintenance, laundry as necessary, shower/“bottle” shower/giant wet-nap clean up.   The tour mechanic and medic are available for consults according to posted hours.  The rest of the afternoon, which may be hours for fast riders or nonexistent for those who have spent more time cycling or site seeing on the road, is unstructured. We try to hustle when there are things to see and do.  At Aswan we hired an old style a felluca with its skipper Abdullah for a sail on the Nile which provided us with a view of the Temples of the Nobles high above the river banks.

Rider Meeting – precedes dinner,  5:30.  A white board outlines the upcoming day’s route which we copy “old school” onto paper for mounting on our front panniers (most reliable way to get to camp). A photo also does the trick (until a battery runs out). Our leader Tallis tells us what to expect and briefs us on any issues of concern.  Today our doc, Jennifer reviewed our malaria regimes and informed us about symptoms which may befall us once we hit the danger zones despite the (imperfect) protection.

Dinner – 6:00. Riders get 1st crack – served buffet style.  Staff are next, then “open kitchen” is called for any leftovers. Chef Mark works summers at a Relais and Chateaux property in Anchorage.  His “bulk food” capabilities are very good as well.  3 riders are selected in rotation to clean pots and other kitchen items.

Lights out – whenever, but shockingly early by our home life standards!

Aswan Felluca with Abdullah

We are headed for Sudan.  Life is good.  Thanks for tagging along.

Author: Gerry

Gerry & Lenore have 3 daughters who they thought might want to keep track of their parents as they travel - hence the blogging. Oh. . . . we hope to put up some content worthy of your consideration as well!

26 thoughts on “Going With the Flow”

  1. Fascinating stuff, particularly your daily routine. But I have questions: Is the coffee good? Does it matter? Why do you assume we know what a 90-litre bag holds? Is that like a duffel bag or a bag of chips? Why is a shower so important? I would think, under the circumstances, it would be a nice-to-have but not a deal-breaker. You must be in denial, or at least near it.


    1. 90 litres IS the number Spyro. Not 60, not 120. When advised of the magic number by our organizers the Google was called in. Soon it was not about the number anymore, but about the quality of the fabric, the zipper, how waterproof and for how many dollars. When we wake up our mission is to eat, peddle and live out of 90 litres. It’s less than the average hockey bag.

      We are off coffee for now. Experience tells us that the worst coffee is served in the countries where the finest beans are grown. We get to enjoy them at home, after a nice shower.


  2. Sounds great Gerry. Glad you and Lenore are surviving so well. Enjoy my friend. We are loving the updates from you. It’s almost like being there without the extreme heat, bugs, snakes, bandits, and sore butts. Cheers.


  3. Amazing, you guys ARE rock stars! Hanging on every word, thanks for sharing it all with us who will never do this. Take care of yourselves.


  4. I admire you both for doing this!
    Your adventurous spirit is next to none!
    At least it is warmer than here!
    Bon courage!
    Alias Angelica H. Xox


    1. I keep reading your entries over and over – each time I get some new bit that makes these scenes more vivid. Never knew anyone on adventures like these before. Love the”restorative” soup – can almost taste it!! Thanks a hundredfold! xoxo Judy


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