Idfu to Aswan
Yesterday morning we saddled up and left the comfort of Rezeiky Camp/ Liquor Camp in Luxor for the sleepy little burg of Idfu. After the incredible and much needed day of rest, the ride to Idfu went well, and although one of the support vehicles took a wrong turn and drove for about an hour in the wrong direction everyone made it to the city's erstwhile soccer field that was serving as our camp for the night. It was a busy one as riders and staff alike had to take a careful inventory of gear and decide what they absolutely needed and could fit in one bag. This was because after supper we bid adieu to both support vehicles as they needed to get to the Sudanese border early and load onto a large vehicle barge that will take them across Lake Nasser into Sudan. We hope against hope they will be there when we arrive in a Sudan in two days. The tour directors wisely hired a local falafel maker to arrive to our camp at 4am and when we woke this morning everyone was treated to a falafel sandwich, a fuul (pronounced fool) sandwich and an eggplant/potato chip sandwich. Delicious.
Today's riding started out with a chilly mist floating above the roads. As we crossed the bridge out of Idfu I looked from my vantage over fields and fields of sugarcane slowly escaping the ground fog, punctuated by the giant Egyptian palm trees giving the immediate landscape some form. The cold morning sat well with this Prairie Canadian and before long I was biking with another Edmontonian setting a solid pace and overtaking some of the riders who had left earlier in the day. As the temperature increased and the view became increasingly defined I noticed a startling and beautiful terrain dichotomy. On my right where the Nile River ran grew lush grasses, trees and sugarcane yet on the other side of the road to my left was nothing but simple dwellings cut out of the desert stone. I imagine that arable land is at such a premium in Southern Egypt that no one dreams of building their houses on a plot of land that could grow life.
With about 15 kms left before lunch my riding partner and I were stopped by a train crossing. Sitting for twenty minutes we were shortly joined by the racers who had left after us. By the time the crossing bars had gone up roughly 25 Tour d'Afrique riders had become bunched together. After a humiliating first day I decided to try my chops and keep pace with the racers. Riding in their peloton I felt quite comfortable and was able to hold my own, that is until the Egyptian cyclists took off like shots and everything went to hell with riders like Allan Benn, Nick Padt, Corola Tize, Lone Sand, Simon Exley and Scott Kennedy jumping forward at an incredible pace. Their sprint to the finish was another close finale with Nick Padt outsprinting his competition to take the stage victory.
After lunch we set out again for our last camp in Egypt in the city of Aswan. Expecting another quintessential Egyptian town with not much to offer in the way of Western comforts I was delighted as we turned onto the main street and was greeted with a decidedly European looking town replete with spotless streets, tree lined boulevards and traffic actually obeying the laws for the most part. doctor ordered for tonight.
Don't get me wrong, I am looking forward to experiencing authentic local culture as much as possible but with the torturous boat ride across Lake Nasser followed by a month in Sudan looming, a little Western flavour is just what the doctor ordered for tonight.