UPDATED January 5, 2011
Ready or Not
It's time to go!
Only a short while now before most of you will be heading to Cairo to start your adventure. The first few weeks are always hectic. There are new routines to learn, people to meet and of course getting accustomed to riding 120+ kilometers per day can be a challenge.
This year’s logistics are slightly more complicated due to some precautions we’ve taken to avoid any potential problems in Sudan. Below we’ve listed some special considerations for this years tour and after that some common challenges faced by riders in the early days.
I hope these tips will help you better prepare for you trip and make the first few weeks on tour more enjoyable.
We’ve left all our support vehicles in Ethiopia to avoid any issues that might result from the referendum in Sudan on January 9th. We don’t expect any problems but just in case we can not ride through Sudan we did not want our vehicles stuck in Egypt. So we’ve hired temporary support vehicles to get us from Cairo to Aswan, where we will take the ferry to Sudan.
When all goes well with the referendum in Sudan we will have the vehicles driven to the Egyptian border to meet you when you get off the ferry. In the unlikely event we can not ride through Sudan we will assist every one in the process of flying to Addis Ababa and continue the tour, adding some stages in Ethiopia to account for the lost time.
Using support vehicles not necessarily designed for supporting a bike tour will create a bit of extra work for the staff but we’ve tried to minimize any impact on you as a rider. However there are some things to be aware of. We only mention these things to prepare you for ‘worst case scenarios’. We expect things will run smoothly most of the time. But Africa is unpredictable even for the most prepared so it’s good to be aware of the extra challenges.
Our temporary vehicles will not have lockers on them. Your bags and ours will be loaded and unloaded into the back of a cargo truck(s) every day. We will ask you to separate your things into permanent and daily bags to make this process a bit easier. You will only have access to your permanent bags on rest days.
Be sure everything you bring can be packed into two or three strong, reliable bags that are easy to carry. Nothing should be strapped to the outside of your bags and they should not be so stuffed that a zipper could break or the bag tear. The staff will work out a system to store electronics so they can be kept secure.
Usually when we arrive in Aswan we ask you to pack a small daily bag for the Ferry and the majority of your things stay on the trucks, locked and secure. This year you will have to carry all of your things onto the boat with you. We have booked cabins on the boat so your things can still be kept safe but the process of carrying them onto the Ferry will be a little more time consuming this year (we’ve done this before, back in the early days of the tour, the process is very manageable).
It is about a 1000 meter walk from the gate to the ferry so be sure your bags are packed in a way that allows you to carry them efficiently. You will also have to carry your spare tires with you onto the ferry. The staff will have to carry their own bags and all of the tour equipment (which is substantial) so we have to ask you to carry all of your own belongings onto the boat. We will arrange to have some local porters to assist with this process but it’s best not to count on their help.
If you can’t ride
Our ability to carry riders and bikes will also be limited through Egypt. Your safety and security is very important to us and we will never leave you unsupported. However you may have to wait a bit longer for a pick up if you can not finish a day’s ride and you might be a bit cramped if you choose to ride the truck for a full day.
Thank you in advance for your patience as we deal with the more difficult logistics though Egypt. You’ll be dong the first few weeks of the tour the “old school” way, the way they were done in the first few years of the tour. When you reach the border of Sudan we’ll load everything onto our proper support vehicles.
Some Tips for the First Few Weeks:
Even if we had all our proper support vehicles in Egypt you will still face many challenges. Here are a short list of tips based on our experiences.
Before you leave:
Your friends and family will want to keep track of you on tour. You’ll be able to email them about once a week but there is a way for them to get daily updates. They can follow the tour on twitter! We have dedicated a special twitter account (@tdalive) so we can send live updates from tour. They can also go to the Twitter Tab on our Facebook Page and see the same tweets or just follow our blog to get regular updates.
After landing you’ll have to get in line to get your Egyptian Visa and go through customs. You need to get your visa from the money exchange booth in the lobby of the airport. In the past this has been less than obvious but if in doubt just ask, people are very helpful. You’ll want to change money into Egyptian Pounds as well. This whole process can take a while but its pretty painless.
Tell the people you’re in line with you’ve come to Cairo to ride your bike to Cape Town, that’ll really blow their minds!
If you’ve arranged for someone to pick you up and take you to the hotel they should be waiting for you after immigration/customs as it’s not allowed for them walk past immigration (though some manage to sneak past). If you have not made arrangements for a ride then you’ll find taxis waiting outside. Negotiating for a taxi can be tough, especially with a bike in tow. Expect to pay around $50 USD for a ride with a bike to the hotel (though you should certainly try to negotiate for less). Often they may try to strap your bike to the roof of the taxi, avoid this if you can but if there is no choice just be sure it’s tied down securely. Don’t be afraid to assert yourself, Egyptian cabbies can be a bit aggressive.
Get ready for the ride of a lifetime, Cairo is well know for its crazy traffic.
Most bags and bikes will arrive on time. Every year however a few do not. We’ve dealt with this issue many times and the bags always arrive eventually. If your bags do not meet you when you land be sure to check in with your airline before you leave the airport. You should get a baggage claim slip from them, contact names and numbers and be sure to ask for a flight voucher for your trouble.
When you arrive at the hotel let the tour director know that your bags have been delayed (no need to wake them up at 3 am though) and they’ll help you manage the problem from there.
In Cairo we will hold several rider meetings so you can meet the riders and staff of the 2011 Tour and we can take care of some house keeping issues. There will be forms to sign, racers will get to register, timing chips handed out, tour logistics discussed etc… Be sure to make it to these meetings. Shortly after the last meeting we will weigh (yes, we do weigh them!) and pack your bags in to the trucks.
The First Few weeks on Tour:
Keep Clean – Saddle sores can put you off your bike quickly and they are very common in the early days of the tour. Use chamois cream daily and wear new shorts every day. Remove your bike clothes as soon as you get to camp and put on dry clothes.
Drink lots of water and eat plenty. It can take you’re body a few weeks to get used to your new activity level. In that time you may not feel like eating or drinking as much as you need. Eat and drink plenty in the early days of the tour and it will pay off for you later on.
Practice riding in a group. Bike Radar has just written a great post about group riding. Group riding skills are very important for your safety and the safety of your fellow tour mates. It’s a skill that takes time to develop and the early days of the tour, while we are on nice paved roads, are a good time to practice. You can also ask advice from the more experienced cyclists on the tour.
Get ready for the dirt. Eventually the pavement will end and we’ll hit the dirt roads. This is often a tough transition for riders. Riding on dirt is slower and rougher and can be more tiring. You’ll want to carry more water and food for a day riding on dirt roads than you would on paved ones. Dirt riding may require a change in body position on the bike and that can lead to new saddle sores or other issues.
Dirt is also, well…, dirty. They dust from the roads will cake everywhere are you’ll have to take extra care to keep your self, and your equipment clean. But its all part of the fun (sounds fun doesn’t it?). Be patient, stay positive and you’ll quickly adjust to this new kind of riding.
We’ll have lots of other tips and advice to share with you at our rider meetings in Cairo and along the journey. If you have any questions I’d like to suggest you post them to the discussion forum on our Facebook Page. Using the forum to answer frequently asked questions is much easier for us and it will give you a chance to meet your fellow riders before you leave.
Of course if you need to you can also email us with specific questions.
Have fun and enjoy the adventure.