It is hot. We are sitting ducks under a relentless sun in the Sahara, the biggest sand pit in the world.
The Sahara spans the continent from east to west under several aliases covering 9 million square kilometres, 31% of Africa. Cycling in the Red Sea and other areas outside of the Nile delta in Egypt we were in the Eastern desert. The Nubian desert covers the area we find ourselves in now near Khartoum.
The iconic image of any desert are ergs (sand seas or large areas covered with sand dunes), but this forms only a minor part of the Sahara. Rocky hamada (stone plateaus) accounts for most of the area. The central Sahara is hyperarid, with sparse vegetation. We are beginning to see shrubbery, which indicates that we are coming into the Sahel, a transition zone between the Sahara to the north and the Sudanian Savana to the south.
Some readers were surprised to see riders in pants and sleeves in earlier posts. That’s over for now. 3 scorching days riding in the direction of Khartoum have topped 40 degrees. 145 km in a blast furnace is one thing, but when the destination is “Dead Camel Camp” ( the answer is yes), clean up involves an industrial sized wet nap, peeing in the sand barely leaves a wet spot and the heat from the ground still rises in the tent after sundown, well . . . life Tour d’Afrique style is hard upon us.
Stage 16: Dead Camel to Desert Camp, was 143 km dead into a 25 km/hr wind that offered no relief from the heat. Commercial traffic travelling at high speed forced us off the road at points, sandblasting us in their wake. This route was to be improved upon, but political unrest in Sudan dictated otherwise. Less than half the riders completed the day, with many calling it quits at the lunch stop at 80 km. After that point every km gained was a struggle, and Lenore became one of several casualties, actually shivering roadside in the impossible heat!
As her day ended after 90 km a 4X4 with 2 gentlemen and their driver pulled over to offer assistance. We consulted briefly and determined that they would be able to deliver her to camp – a pullout along the highway to Khartoum where they were headed. We loaded her bike into the vehicle and off she went, relieving TDA of one rescue. The rest of us peddled on.
“So you trusted complete strangers in Sudan of all places?” (We heard you). Yes. The people of Sudan have been among the friendliest we have ever met. As it turned out the Sudanese Minister of Agriculture and a businessman/ agricultural engineer from Turkey looking to establish maize and other types of plantations were perfect gentlemen though they were rather shocked to see the look of our accommodation for the night! We did not know of their credentials beforehand, but we went with our instincts. It’s how we got here in the first place, and it’s how we’ll make it to Capetown.
Stage 17: Desert Camp to Abu Dolooa, was 148 km with similar conditions to the previous stage, maybe hotter, but with one extra coke stop – more important than you can imagine! This time Gerry succumbed to the extreme conditions and rode the van in from lunch while Lenore arrived at camp after ten and a half hours on the road.
Each of our successful days were the toughest we have ever done on a bicycle. We lost our EFI (“every effing inch” – more on this later) status, but that was never a priority for us. This journey is a marathon. Heat stroke is serious business. We intend to play it safe and choose our battles.
Thank for reading.