Thursday, 4 November 2010

The start of the journey - following the River Nile

The journey begins

All complications with directions visas and general culture in the big city have now minimalised to;
Sleep - Le
Tea - Che
Falafel - Falafel
Sun - Champs (and you immediately point and sit in the shade)
Journey - Cairo a la Aswan
English - Ingleterra

It is truly amazing how far you can get with these phrases. I now highly appreciate the game charades played every Christmas. It works wonders communicating with the rest of the world.

Having been let loose into a different culture, where head scarfs are worn to fit in, each with their own story and origin; I have added a few dreadlocks to my barnet. I can now join the crazy roads and routes down Africa.

I can definitely say these last few days cycling have allowed me to see the real people and countryside.

The roads were surprisingly smooth with extraordinary views and movements. People in the small villages are highly energetic constantly waving, shouting and honking their horns. Everyone is so excited to see you. After a while you really appreciate being on a bike so you can just speed past to an area of farmland; peace and quiet.

Teenagers slanted out of their tuck tucks (like UK kids on their scooters) took photos of me from the side. People travel on donkeys, camels or vehicles transporting goods, vegetables and livestock. Yes that is a donkey and camel in the back of a truck.

People live off their farmland exchanging goods and food along the main road making sure they have enough supplies for the family.

Fellow travelers are very friendly. I was given gifts on the side of the road just saying good morning in Arabic. A farmer gave me some spring onions and cucumbers. People are very proud of their crops.

The many species of birds were a huge attraction. I felt like I was cycling through a David Attenborough programme and soon figured out how difficult it was to capture the moment on camera. I have only got one photo as of yet!

Say no more....
Steve has exploded to poll on the punctures front. In these last few days he has had 7 punctures. The crowds gather very quickly and fixing the problem turns into a communal sport, everyone wants to help.
There was only 1 real problem out of 7 where a kid stole the cat eye - speedometer. We were very thankful the police miraculously appeared and with Steve going mad and explaining how useless it was to the group of kids in hand gestures it miraculously appeared.

Camping has been very interesting. I definitely did not appreciate our first night in the tents. We were left in peace with a stream to wash and food in the nearby town.

Happy Halloween (for all those who care about my safety it might be best to skip this section)

They do say the end of the month, the moon or something sparks activity. This night was scary for the second night of camping. We decided to go further from the main road due to the noise of the traffic the night before. As usual we asked a big family whether we could stay on their farmland and they were very welcoming. As dusk set there was lots of screaming the people at the nearby campfire went to the scene straight away. Shouting echoed around the village, screams and crying, e soon realised someone must have died. Prayers came shortly after and Steve kept justifying the small friendly village while I tried not to think of the witch doctors and the rumours of westerns bringing bad luck to villages.

That scenario made me sleep in Steve's tent for comfort and safety which was very lucky for the following oncoming events.

Later on around 11pm we were woken by a gang of teenagers. They were asking for money and while Steve and I had all eyes on the front of the tent they managed to steal a pannier full of clothes from the back. Steve now fully clothed went mad collecting the inexpensive items and throwing them back in the tent. They were disappointed it wasn't money so constantly surrounded the tent intimidating us to give them money. It was hard enough not understanding the language, we were helpless. Steve calmly told me to put my clothes on and I passed him the CS gas as instructed. After an hour of hassling I ran with all my might to the main road. It was hard to explain the situation, what is a cry for help in sign language? My wavering voice must have got them thinking as they reluctantly came over to the tent. These two guys from the road were generally the same age which did not help, but the rascals went away for a small amount of time. They all managed to slyly walk back to a near bush once the two guys had gone. We could here them whispering plotting their next moves. Steve and I spoke about all situations possible and highlighted the fact that teenagers respected their elders.

It was very lucky, at that moment one elderly man from the friendly village walked home and got an update from 2 smaller kids who had spectated from afar. He sorted out a bodyguard who slept next to our tent. I fell straight to sleep. In the morning the villagers gave us breakfast and showed us a place to wash. We thanked the bodyguard and gave him 10 Egyptian pounds (1 English pound) for saving our bacon. He then showed us his knife he would have used if he needed to - It was a kukri knife (hunting curved knife).

All hopes restored

The next evening we were having a quiet break and as per usual we were shouted at from afar. The guy made some hand signals to his home and offered us Che - tea. We kindly accepted and walked down a dusty path below the main road. The group gathered quickly they were all very lovely. 3 father figures in total than many more spouses, 2 water buffalo's, 3 donkeys and a cow. They invited us to stay and moved a buffalo to give us a stable which would protect us from the snakes (hand gestures again very useful)

They left us in peace for dinner then built us a fire near our stable and brought their self sufficient substances - buffalo cheese, eggs and buffalo milk with bread. The 3 men slept around our stable and placed the donkey by the side. I never felt so safe and slept well. Sunrise was beautiful that morning I appreciated it by the fire for breakfast with them all before getting back on the bike.

Police escort you down some of the Nile. This is due to safety, tourist management or protection of the land.
There are positive and negative things about escorts;


  • sleep in riding breaks knowing the bike and belongings are being guarded

  • buy 2 bananas simply for the right price instead of being forced 2 kilos of bananas - the police tend to shout at them then hand them my petty change

  • can ride until dusk knowing police lights will cause enough attention to remove the risk of crashes

  • have good cheap hostel/hotel knowledge

  • get escorted to the hotel at the end of the day when you are tired and need a bed

  • get water and food from any village as the police translate and give orders to the people


  • the excitement on the road dies down

  • when involving yourself with the villagers, taking photos... the final stages always end with a massive walloping - police authority is savage!

  • they are not very patient with breaks
Getting an early start is very important when cycling. The sunrise and sunset are definitely the best times of the day.

We have arrived in Aswan. I have completed my first 1000km of my trip 1/12. This is a small stepping stone for what is to come. Sudan is next; the biggest country in Africa. I am looking forward to the next hurdle; it'll be a definite change of scenery as I am about to enter the Sahara Desert.

1 comment:

  1. Nyomi! I'm so happy to hear of your adventure. I'm glad you are having an amazing experience (except for that full moon thingy... I told you to take pepper spray!). Cycle fast so you get home soon.

    Love you lots. Keep us updated :)