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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Bunch of Jerks


I really enjoyed Egypt. The markets were a bit of a hassel, really aggressive haggling, and the kids could be a bit much at times. But compared to the Sudanese people the Egyptians we met are a bunch of jerks. Of course you need to take that comment with a grain of salt, bu the Sudanese are very friendly, not threatening or agressive at all, and ery welcoming as well. 3 or 4 times a day am invited into someones home for tea and snacks. They are just as happy to chat with you as they are to leave you alone. I think the entire group has had the same experience. Upper Egypt (remember that's actually southern Egypt) south of Aswan is also called Nubia, and it's people Nubians. The Nothern State of Sudan (where I am now - in it's capital, Dongola) is also part of Nubia. So the very southern part of Egypt and the North of Sudan are populated by a similar cuture and people. Reminds me a lot of Zambia, Dongola is about the size of Chipata.

The reason the difference between Sudan and Egypt seems so great to me is that we stopped travelling over land in Aswan and took a ferry down Lake Nasser to the border at Wadi Halfa, Sudan. Currently there is no official road that crosses from Egypt to Sudan. There is a road being built and it may be done by next year. While the road should be great for the economy of Upper Egypt and Sudan I'm worried it will be the end of teh nice, rural villages that currently exist along the dirt roads we have been travelling the last few days.

The last few days of riding have been great fun. Very hard riding, but fun. Many of our riders coudn't make it the entire day and had to e picked up. The roads are really rocky, sandy, hilly, corregated and hot. Perfect conditions for a good soul crushing ride! And at the end of the day all you have for comfort is warm water to drink and hard ground to sleep on. It's been tough on many of the riders and todays rest day could't have come soon enough. I wish it was harder (of course) and am having the time of my life. Every day something really cool happens. There have been some lonely moments, and some moments of frustration, but they are few and I recover from them quickly.

Internet speed here is slowwwww. so I'm not sure how many pics I will upload... Check the picassa site and see. Khartoum is supposed to have better internet (internet in Dongola is new, actually) so hopefully more pics there.

Smatterings from my journal:

... Randy's (our tour leader) house in Canada burned to the ground yesterday. Crazy. You're not supposed to have alchohol in Sudan but the staff broke out a smuggled bottle of (really bad) south african brandy and commiserated with him. Everything he owns now fits in Locker 19...

Travelling with TdF is nice, but somehow lacks soul...

arrived at the dock in Aswan at 10:30 am to find out there were only enough cabins for 35 people (there are 61 of us)... boarded at 11:30 - riders with bags and bikes battling Egyptians and Sudanese with all kinds of merchandise and baggage from clothes to soap bars to TV's - Chaos, but everyone who should have a cabin gets one and I head to the top deck to claim my spot before it gets too crowded...4:30 and still docked... 7:00 pm and the bow ropes are finally released, only 20hrs to go to get to Sudan, inshallah... docked at Wadi Halfa at 1:30 pm... Thru customs at 5:30, camp at 6:30, trucks made it through customs (lucky) so no delays, we leave tomorrow.

... toughest ride yet today, after lunch was especially tough. Deep sand and headwinds! Scot and Tom got lost and missed lunch so I threw a couple of sandwiches in my bag and took off to find them. Found them at 88 clicks, only 20 more to go but they were sure relived to be found...

... riders are starting to hook up with each other already....

... looks like Randy and Erin are getting close, I really hope that doesn't mess up the staff dynamic...

the trip is beggining to feel a bit voyeristic, kind of like a theme park ride... I need to find a way to get people to notice more and get involved. Be patient. Listen. Notice the funeral, recognize the shops, sit in the market long enough to become part of the background...

... spent the day in the market today with Yancey, we had a great talk and I think I've found a confidant, sorely needed too.

... Not a single camp yet has been quiet. Always there are dogs, or donkeys, or trucks on the road all night, or a town with loud music and 3 mosques annoucing prayer 5 times a day. If I camped in my back yard I would have more peace!...

... The Sudan has been great but the falfel in Dongola sucks. Good Shwarmas though.

'Till Kharoum -

2 comments:

Mingo said...

Killer descriptions. “The last few days of riding” paragraph was my favorite. Those are all the things I’d look for in an epic ride, all within a unique cultural.

The voyeuristic aspect comes with the large groups. It is hard for people to shake their skin with so many people around. I was with a group in a remote area of Alaska, there were only 12 of us, after a 5 hour up hill trudge on cross country skis we stopped to look over the horizon. One of the leaders, Charlie, says: I gotta get away from you guys, it just isn’t the right being here and having so many people around. We all spilt up, some ten some a hundred feet apart, we sat alone for about 40 minutes. He was right, everyone paid a little more attention to their surroundings than each other.

Thanks for the post.

Paul McManus said...

Thanks for the nice comment, you're definitely right about the large group size. Had some nice, non voyeristic moments in Khartoum with a few riders, Just need to push peoples comfort zones (and mine) a littel more...