To the Nile
“There it is” I yelled as I tapped my brakes. “Okay, see you later” said Lloyd as I lept off my bike and reached for my camera. I’d been chasing a Piliated Kingfisher down the canal, trying to get a decent picture, since we entered Qena and started following the canal. The bird kept taunting me, flying just out of range each time. Riding from desert camp to Luxor today was a study in contrasts. Out of the dry, mostly lifeless desert and into the lush, urban Nile Valley.
Paul Porter, one of the tour riders who also happens to be a Professor of Agriculture at the University of Minnesota, tells me that most of the food we have been eating for the last three days probably came from Qena, shipped to the towns along the Red Sea by train and semi-truck. Everywhere you look there are fields green with sugar cane, cabbage, canola and squash. All irrigated with long furrows filled by diesel pumps drawing water from the Nile canals. On the banks of the canals are onion and tomato gardens interspersed among the half finished, half decayed buildings that house the people and shops of Qena. The streets are busy with people walking, selling, driving donkey carts and bicycles. The smells are powerful and varied. One moment you are inhaling deeply to enjoy the smell of fresh baking bread, or whiff of some sweet flower, the next your choking on diesel fumes and donkey poop! Giving up on my quest for a photo I stop at a police checkpoint to chat with the officer there. I want to ride the dirt road that parallels the paved one I am on, but he refuses. “you will be bitten by dogs!” he says. While there a man driving a donkey cart full of sugar cane stopped and offered my a 4’ stick of cane. “Shukran” I said and bit into the sweet fibrous plant. It tastes good and quenches my thirst, so satisfying. It’s been a good day already and still ahead is Luxor, hot showers and cold beer! So far so good on the Tour d’Afrique.