Monday, January 29, 2007


Hello from Sunny Sudan!

My first stage win!  One goal for the tour complete

Curious Sudanese kids posing with my bike.  One of the smaller ones was able to ride my big 21.5" bike (of course he came back).

The loose sand and corriguations of Nubian Desert roads that made this section really fun!

Making our way through the Sahara desert now at the end of a 9 hour, >45°C day

I am at a loss of what to write since there is so much I want to pack in here.  Once again, I won't be able to post pictures this time.  I should be able to do it from Khartoum after another 5 riding days.  Here goes some point form again:
Thanks so much for your comments!  I will try to reply when I get to Khartoum and try to incorporate some questions that have been asked.
On to the Sahara desert!


Reflections of Egypt

I thought I would try to write a few words about each country after having ridden across the part that the tour covers.  The first of course is Egypt:
The dichotomy of time:
Very friendly!

Thanks Egypt!  I had a blast!

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Thanks Tree Huggers!

A shorter post here to extend many thanks to Tree Huggers Adventure Racing team!  With a little help from some friends, a huge amount of hard work and donating their own resources, they have raised an additional $400USD for the Tour d'Afrique Foundation!  This along with some other generous donations puts my total up to a stunning $2200USD which means that at least 22 new bikes will be donated to communities along our trip.  Amazing!  Spread the word and help spread this to even more communities across the continent.
Thanks guys!


Egypt (1032km): Done!

Sitting in the Valley of the Kings surrounded by tombs including Tutankhamen's

Riding with the locals on a non-race day.  This guy kept up with us for quite a while; impressive on that bike!

A view of the waterfront in Aswan

Well, it certainly feels weird saying this, but the first country of the tour has been completed!  Okay, to be exact, we have a 40km convoy ride to get to the ferry here in Aswan, then endure the gong show that is the actual embarking of the ferry, then sit on the ferry for 24 hours.  Why the ferry you ask?  We will sail the length of Lake Nasser not because we are sallies and are trying to cut distance off the traversing of the continent, but rather because Egyptian officials enjoy the monopoly that the ferry has for access to the Sudan making it the only place we can cross the border.
To recap the last couple of days, we had a fun rest day in Luxor where we saw a bunch of tombs in the Valley of the Queens and the Valley of the Kings (including King Tut's tomb), then saw a few different temples, walked around the city, enjoyed showers, did some laundry and the usual exciting stuff.  The next day was deemed a "non-racing" day because of all of the traffic ( i.e. car, truck, bus, donkey, tractor, bike, train, etc.), police stops and other stuff.  I enjoyed the decision and took our time to interact with the locals, with the kid that kept up with us at 30km/h, the other kid that used his rear rack as a seat (and the cringe that we all had when we thought he was going to sit on the bare seat post), and all of the other usual entertaining stuff.  We camped in a soccer field in Idfu which was another entertaining town where we got to walk around.
Today, we had a race day again.  Though I thought I had hung up my racing hat, the police insisted that we stay as a group en route to Idfu and it seemed that today was going to be the same so I stayed with the front group.  We hit some roads under construction (or not ever finished, not sure which) about 25km to the end so there was a break of 6 people that I hung with.  Once we got into Aswan, the finish line was unexpectedly at the far end of town.  We would race for a bit, but all slow down for each other when the traffic got a little more hairy.  About 1km from the end, the police shut down the road for our little group and we got to have a good sprint.  I had stuck with these guys all day and still didn't have a stage win to my name so you bet I was giving 'er!  I was the first to spot the finish flag so I broke and managed to open up ~20m behind me.  I was pushing pretty hard (heart rate 97% max) and thought I had it, but Adrie (the current tour leader) caught me with a few metres to go and beat me by half of a wheel to catch his 5th stage win (of 7 stages so far).  Well done Adrie!
We had fun this afternoon walking around Aswan and enjoying the sights that we flew by on the way in.  The Nile is beautiful here with tall limestone craggy islands and sandy dunes on the far side.  We also entertained ourselves with a quest for food since we need to provide our food for the ferry.  We got 12 pita breads straight out of the oven for the equivalent of ten cents Canadian.  The plastic bag they came in was just as expensive as the breads!  Mmmmm...are they ever good!
I'm sorry I was not able to include any pictures, there is no USB access here.  I will sign off for a little while.  Internet access in the Sudan will not be as readily available.  This is where the tour gets way more fun, hard, hot, different, and most importantly, more memorable!
Wish me luck in the Nubian desert!

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Egypt almost done!

Me...desert. Too cool!

A bunch of Egyptian kids posing for the camera. That poor donkey hauls many loads and apparently gets used as a jungle gym!

We left Safaga the other day showered and excited to hit some climbing. I wore short sleeves for the first time because we heard the day was to start with a 40km long sustained climb. We left camp in two groups and the Egyptian Police escort (they won't let you go anywhere here without a police escort; it is to secure the tourism industry) decided that they knew a shortcut to where we were going so 5km out of town, they turned around the 2nd group and took us back into town to go the other way. Luckily, we ended up meeting the other group at the intended spot and no one was worse for wear, but the poor tour organizers had a little stress added to the morning coffee.

The reports were right, we did start with a 40km long climb, but as it turned out the grade wasn't too steep and we had a tail wind (again) in certain spots. We were averaging around 25km/h on the climb so it didn't turn out to be too stressful. Once at the top, we enjoyed the ride winding through the mountain tops and out on to the desert plateau where we stopped for a picture of the first natural tree we had seen in a long time! Myself, Patrick (South Africa) and Rémy (Montreal) eased our way along as a threesome until we caught another group in the last 30km where we worked as a team to fend off our first head winds.

We camped at an oasis that night. What an oddity it seemed! The landscape was the barren, desolate, dry desert we have become accustomed to, but we were in a small circle of greenery providing us with a commodity we had become foreign to: shade!

The next morning (this morning) we descended back down to the Nile again at Qena and turned south toward Luxor. My original plan was to stop with some others in Qena and take a look around, but once we arrived there, it was clear that the police wanted no part of that. I then decided that this would now be my last racing day since I figured there was nothing else to see along this road. Wrong was I!

Luckily (in an overly optimistic sense), I bent a chain hammering to catch up to the lead pack. I and some others got a little left behind when a pothole surprised us, I hopped it, others hit the brakes and went in the dirt, but no one went down. I cursed at my decrepid chain, repeatedly, then went to fix it watching my draft and my vie for a stage win spin into the distance. Whilst fixing my chain, a few locals came by to see what was going on and to try to earn some tips by offering assistance. I got going again with Patrick whom came back for me when he realized I wasn't in the peleton and with Rémy who had a flat on the start line and just caught up as I was finishing fixing my chain. We went along at a comfortably quick pace which in retrospect was a great way to spend the day. Now out of the desert and into the fertile and populated band surrounding the Nile, we were bombarded with "Hello!" "Hi" "Welcome" and the inevitable "Money, money, money,..." from what felt like thousands of people on either side of the road for the entire ~60km between my chain failure and Luxor. I can only imagine how alien we must look to them using things that they don't see often like sunglasses, bikes under 50lbs. and colourful spandex. Poor Dean, our mechanic who manned the lunch table alone had a large gaggle of ~20 kids around constantly asking for money or food from the table. We stopped for a little while to talk to the kids there, took pictures of their asses (there were two donkeys there) and the like. Remi had his multi-tool stolen from his under-seat bag without any of us noticing. We made the feeble attempt at spanning the language crevasse using the few Arabic words we know to ask who may have taken it. That was when the men with rifles yelled something at the kids and they all took off. Oh well, it was only a multi-tool.

We have our first rest day tomorrow in Luxor and we have some tours planned of the Valley of the Kings (incl. King Tut's tomb), Valley of the Queens and other historic sights. We only have two more riding days in Egypt, then we finally get to put the knobby tires on and hit the "roads" of Sudan. I am very excited for that since cruising at 40km/h along pavement doesn't make for too much challenge.

Next time from the sands of the Nubian desert (well, figuratively of course)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Getting to the start line is half the challenge!

Me at the start line. Half the challenge is done: I made it here!

The whole group at the start line in front of the pyramids.

The peleton this morning.

Arrived in Safaga tied for 2nd on the day. I'm camping on this beach on the Red Sea!

I had planned to post long before now, too many other things on my plate! I'll put them in point form to help out:
  • Even though I have been preparing for this trip for months, it still came down to a sprint to get to the airport in time. I didn't even have time for a shower. Sad really. I still managed to get there with everything necessary. Thanks for the ride Linda!
  • I had a fun walk around Amsterdam for the day on my 12 hour layover. What a cool city. It was a very appropriate stop over before this trip since there are bicycles everywhere! That was great to see a city that thrives on the bicycle!
  • I arrived in Cairo and was VERY happy to find that all of my baggage had arrived safely and with me. I payed way too much to get a taxi downtown and stayed in some dodgy hotel, but found a cool roof-top hostel for the next couple of nights.
  • Walking around Cairo was absolutely hilarious. Apparently traffic laws were only adopted in 2000 so there is very little order to the madness. I walked around and saw many streets and markets around downtown. I felt like I slowly started to blend in and got to watch life in Cairo from a fly-on-the-wall perspective. ...well, blending in as much as someone with an orange shirt and a Salomon pack-vest can blend in that is.
  • Bikes are well used around Cairo. I saw one guy cycling with a 6 foot ladder on his head and both hands on the handlebars. I saw so many riding with a gargantuan basket of pita bread on their head and weaving their way through the insanity that is Cairo traffic. Too cool!
  • I finally made out to the hotel from which we were starting the day before the Tour. It was very strange to all of a sudden be around gear, fancy bikes and people whom are not trying to sell you something. It took me a little bit to adapt to that. I got to get on my bike and try it and my legs out since I wouldn't dare venture out on my bike in downtown traffic! The bike felt awesome; I was extremely excited to get started!
  • My alarm didn't work and we didn't get a wake-up call so myself and another Canadian rider had to get ready to leave on our bikes in all of about ten minutes. Gong-show! continued!
  • We rode to the pyramids and had an opening ceremony on a plateau overlooking the great pyramids. Pretty special!
  • We convoyed out of town and the Police closed down the east-bound lanes of a four-lane freeway for us. A little extreme, but appreciated.
  • Once out of town, the convoy was stopped and the race started. I pulled myself instantly back from the peleton and rode at a comfortably quick pace with some others for the first day of ~120km. I was a little tired, but overall felt pretty good. We camped by the side of the road in the desert; what a strange landscape!
  • The next day was a big day at 170km. The stage started downhill so the peleton stayed together for much longer. We were still ~15 strong all the way to lunch at 90km. We then dropped down to a group of four and slowly dwindled to the finish line where I finished 6th on the day. With the massive tail wind and the beautiful scenery of the Red Sea beside us, that was by far the easiest (and likely fastest with an average speed of 35.6km/h!) 170km I have ever done.
  • The following day was a shorter day at 140km: fast, fast, fast! The whole day was along the red sea and the wind was pounding at our backs. I averaged 44km/h over the whole distance! Though the landscape is pretty barren, the few people that we do see wave with a tonne of enthusiasm.
  • Today was another fast day. I decided that since the landscape was going to be the same, this would be my last racing day with the peleton so I started with the front in mind. The incredible tail wind was there again on this 110km shorter stage. A group of four of us broke off of the front but were unable to catch a Swiss rider that broke off early in the day. We hit 85km/h on a very slight downhill; a testament to the tailwinds! We ended up with a five way tie for 2nd place on the day.
  • Tomorrow we head uphill back toward the Nile. The day starts with a 40km long sustained climb. I will probably stop for more pictures along the way.
  • I have been getting to know the riders and there are some amazing people here! There is a blind Kenyan rider that is doing the whole tour on a tandem bike. They are extremely fast! There is a South African rider that has never ridden more than 25km in his life and many others that bought their first mountain bike for this tour. There is a South African girl that only found out about the tour on December 27, 2006 and she is here! The list goes on. Every single rider here has a pretty unique story and though we are all looking for something different out of this tour, we all have the same goal of cycling our way toward Cape Town!
    There is the extremely shortened version of what has been going on so far. Thanks to a long line of extremely generous donors, I have raised $1600USD toward the Tour d'Afrique Foundation. Many thanks!

Now in Safaga for the night, I'll go back to my tent on the beach of the Red Sea and sip my soup from the bar. Not bad!

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