We have now surpassed the 2000 km mark and completed Pharoah’s Delight, the 1st of 8 sections of the tour ending just outside of Khartoum. We were bussed through that city for safety. Looking at the mayhem and sprawl through the windows we reflected on the words of the travel writer Paul Theroux, who wrote in Darkstar Safari, his chronicles of an overland Cairo to Capetown journey in 2002:
“Even at their best, African cities seemed to me miserable improvised anthills, attracting the poor and the desperate from the bush and turning them into thieves and devisors of cruel scams. Scamming is the survival mode in a city where tribal niceties do not apply and there are no sanctions except those of the police, a class of people who in Africa generally are little more than licensed thieves.”
Harsh words, which we would not hazard to comment upon. We certainly hope for a good outcome for the people of this country who have struggled under economic sanctions since 1997.
We are excited about the next phase of this year’s Tour d’Afrique: The Gorge. This 1250 km section comes with a TDA “far out” rating of 5 on 5. We will head south from Khartoum and pass through the Gezira region – the “bread basket” of Sudan. Approaching Ethiopia, the mosques we have seen in every town will give way to the more tribal and traditional nature of the Horn of Africa. We will have to set the alarm clocks in the absence of the 5:00 AM call to prayer.
Ethiopia offers some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world, as well as one of its most unique and ancient cultures. Our work will be cut out for us as soon as we cross the border, with two days of climbing up to Gondar (2500 meters worth on arrival day – the most of any stage on the tour).
We will be encouraged to sample the spicy local cuisine and somehow avoid the well documented “problems” it may give us. From a cycling standpoint, the highlight of this section will be the Blue Nile Gorge, a 1360 meter precipitous descent and ascent that will test our nerve. After that, the beautiful terrain of the central Ethiopian plateau will see us through to capital city of Addis Ababa.
We have a rest day today. Time to do laundry, bike maintenance and charge up devices. We will be entertained by traditional Sudanese musicians later this afternoon. The next 6 days will bring a change of scenery and new challenges.
Thanks for reading.