Friday, January 30, 2009

End of Pharoh's Delight

First Section of the the tour, the Pharoh's Delight, ended in Khartoum. Don't ask me who comes up with these names... last race day in to Khartoum was a 20km time trial, fun. I was 3rd over all. A little dissapointing, but I wasn't too far off the leader. Plus I was riding with rack and panniers. And I was sick. And the sun was in my eyes. And I didn't get a proper warmup. And my ipod was dead. And my tires were under inflated and 38mm wide. And....

I've been trying to ride easy and get some base miles in but it's hard not to ride with the racer's every once in a while. No one on the tour, except Marc our wrench (he won the time trial - but he had skinny tires and I'm pretty sure he dopes), know how to race so they are easy work over. Mark and I like to race a couple days a week and attack/counter until everyone is exhausted, then we drop out in the last 5 k and watch the sprint. Good times. The dirt stages are by far my favorite, it's what the poprad was built for, but there are only 4 or five dirt sections per stage.

Writing in my journal and on this blog is an interesting experience. I can't even come close to writing everything I would like to, I would be writing constantly. So many little stories to tell that are really special but just take too many words to capture properly. Mostly it's the people, riders, staff and a few locals, who I wish I could adequately describe to you. I think I'll come away from this trip with more that a few close friends.


... OK, so I just took a pee behind a bush in the corner of a WWII cemetery in Dowtown Khartoum, Sudan. I'm not sure things can get much more surreal. Had a great rest day today, hanging out with some guys from the khartoum YMCA: Visited a refugee camp, took a boat out on the nile to the conluence of the Blue and White Nile, Ate a fab meal at Waagi's house. I don't know if it's the desert heat, or the cycling or what but the watermelon here is incredible. After the YMCA trip Waagi dropped Malcolm and me at the Protestant Cemetery. Malcolm's grandfather was a missionary in the 50's and was buried there. We found his grave (after a bit of searching). Very emotional for Malcolm. I had some charcoal in my bag and a Sudanese newspaper so I helped him take a rubbing of the grave. Just a cool moment. Malcolm says it's his best day on tour so far.

"... desert wanderers discover in themselves a primeval calmness (known to the simplest savage) which is perhaps the same as the peace of God..."
Bruce Chatham, In Patagonia

... I think it must be suffering that is at the center of the rural African's sense of calm. Learning to suffer with peace... Sometimes, when things are really tough out here you can almost feel it, then of course you reach a rest day and satiate yourself... I don't know, I need to dwell on that some more.

Desert sky is so beautiful. Endless, cloudless, smooth. Just a smooth transition of color from milky gray at the horizon to a saturated pale blue at the apex. Sunsets, of course, are also great. But aren't they all.

Rode lunch sweep today...17km per hour. Christ. It's mystifying how a young man, in good health, can only manage 17km per hour. I stopped under a tree to let him get ahead. The only tree, actually, that I had see for 10kms. Nice shade, cool breeze, not bad. Pulled out a jam sandwich I made at lunch. Dropped a bit of jam on the sand, in 5 minutes there were a couple of ants, then 50, then 100. Then a caravan of who knows how many coming from the base of the tree to the spilled jam and back. A weird little albino ant showed up, took a bite of jam and freaked out, running away in spasms and dragging a ball of sand covered jam by its hid legs. 20 feet or so away something fast moving caught my eye. Almost like a water bug, it was racing over the ripples in the dune - up /down, up/down, up/down stop. Up/down, up/down, up/down stop. After 3 or 4 efforts it reachs the jam, a big scary looking ant with big f'in pinchers. Took a big gulp and it was off. I hoped more of those weren't coming. Nice place, that shady spot in the middle of the Nubian desert by the pavement. Quiet, cool. The sun behind the tree cast a cool shadow on the sand. Might be the most tranquil I have felt ever. Maybe. Not sure how long I was there watching the ants, 45 mintues maybe? Took me 20 minutes to catch back up to Mr. 17km/hr though. Going slow makes my butt hurt. But soon we reached the police check point 2 km from camp. he bought me a Coke at the tuck shop, which I didn't really want but accepted. More shade and a nice chat for a half hour or so and we rolled into camp in time to eat the last of the soup and hang out some more, in the shade of the trucks, in the desert.

No pictures will load. Always times out. Too bad, I've got some nice shots, must be more that 2500 pics on my camera now. I have no idea how I'll sort them if I can't do it along the way.

thanks to everyone for reading and your comments. It's nice to hear from you. In 4 days we'll be in Ethiopia where the road turns back to dirt, you can buy beer again and the kids throw rocks at you. Till then .


Human Wrecking Ball said...

Sooooo stoked for you Bro, I thought I was there with you, but that certainly would have hurt the tranquility. Would have been a good blog though.
Kick those slow BASTARDS in the arse!

BIGWORM said...

I can't explain it, but I so wanted to be there watching those ants. Thanks for the vignette, Pauly. It tells me that I need to stop more often, and look around. When I was first hooked by photography, every where I looked, there was something visually stunning. I lost that somewhere along the way. Thanks for the reminder.

Take care of yourself, and I look forward to the next post.

Anonymous said...

Spectacular Paul!! You paint a damn good visual picture. I can't speak for the others but I know I sure wish I could be right there with you, soaking up the sights, sounds and........smells.

I hope the posts don't become a chore, we sure look forward to reading them, take care buddy.

Steve Costa

Keith said...

Thanks for sharing Paul. Poetic.
If your images are timing out, you may be trying to send hi-res versions.
Maybe try scaling them down for upload. Cheers, keef

AucillaSinks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AucillaSinks said...

Hey Paul, where in Africa are you today? I've been looking at your Google map. It looks like Ethiopia has some good terrain and Lake Tana is beautiful and Gondor and Bahir must be really cool cities. You're not going to make us wait until Addis Ababa for an update are you? amesege'nallo'

Janet Alexander and Chris Maund said...

You don't know me but thanks for letting me relive another TDA trip through your blog(I did 2007 and 1/2 of 2008). Seriously someone took Zip 404's to Africa? You must be joking...
Hang in there with Kenya
Cheers Janet
P.S say hi to Wimpie and Miles