Archive for the ‘cycle tour ’99’ Category

So True.. Quote by Hemingway

So True.. Quote by Hemingway

Arriving in Egypt

Posted: December 21, 2010 in cycle tour '99

The story starts in Rome really...

Pyramids, Cairo

Pyramids, Cairo

Steve had decided to head back to London town to spend some time with Candice which meant I would be flying on my own to Cairo… with two bikes and a pretty much all our bags! The flight was intriguing to say the least. As I checked in @ the Alitalia counter the attendant asked me if I would like a smoking or non smoking seat. I selected non smoking only to find the row in front of me was a smoking seat. Basically I was flying in a pub.

The flight was full of a mix of what I thought to be adventurers from lost world, perhaps raiders of the lost ark? They had those hard round hats on with a mix of white and cream clothes ready to tackle the heat of the Egyptian terrain. Then there were Egyptians enjoying the smoking opportunity sucking back on as many cigarettes as possible as though there was some sort of world record on offer for the most cigarettes put back for the duration of this particular flight. The landing time was midnight. We hit the ground with a puff and immediately everyone in the cabin began to applaud. This was foreign to me, but I joined in anyway thankful I guess to have made it to Africa in one piece despite all the damage to my lungs. Then the doors opened.

The heat seemed to wrap its arms around me and smother me in some sort of awkward welcome. After the initial shock I breathed it all in as I was now in fact one step closer to home and more importantly I was back in AFRICA!! I can’t describe the feeling. Despite not being Egyptian and being a long way from South Africa it was as though my soul had finally returned to the land that it was made for. Now all we had to do was head south to South Africa.

Having been in first world countries for the first half of the year I was used to plain sailing through customs and border posts. I forgot I was back in Africa. As I waited in the queue I noticed what I considered a fairly dodgy set up. Why are there ATM’s this side of the customs desk? As I approached the officials I noticed he was in a glass cubical with a room attached to it which had had its windows blackened. I pushed my passport through the window as it I was letting it go forever. He opened it and began to page through it, a frown appearing on his face with every flip of the little green pages. Eventually getting to the end he looked up and me and inquired “Where is your visa?“. A visa – now that would have been a good idea! The only problem was when we left SA we didn’t need a visa to enter Egypt. Apparently in April the laws had changed. Shucks. I began to explain but was met with a hand gesture which pointed toward a row of seats conveniently positioned opposite the ATM’s. With his other hand he shoved my green passport into the black room via a small hole. It was gone.

I sat and waited. Around me was a whirl of officials in weird white uniforms walking around which a bunch of passports. What on earth was going on? I remembered that Steve had arranged for a host to fetch me so began to feel a little tight on time. Half hour later an official was walking around shouting “GALLEY, GALLEY, GALLEY” which I ignored until I realised he could in fact be shouting out my surname with an off Egyptian slant. “GALE?” I shouted.  “Yes, GALLEY” he replied promptly sitting down next to me and paging through the pages like the other official. And then it came, the repeat question you get in these situations as though no one actually talks to each other, ‘Where is your VISA?“.  I began the same explanation which seemed to fall on deafened ears. Luckily I had a man of reason. He came up with a pearler.

How much do you think it would cost to stay in a hotel in Cairo?” was his question.

Having never been here before, nor not really knowing exactly which category of hotel he was talking about – luxury, rustic, beach side villa, overlooking the pyramids – left me somewhat at a loss. All I could do was hazzard a decent guess so I went for middle of the range.

30 Dollars” I replied, shrugging my shoulders.

US Dollar” he checked

Of course” I said not even knowing what currency they had in this country.

Great. You are right (imagine that!). Tell you what we do, you can pay me for 3 nights accommodation right here (using the conveniently placed ATM’s) and I will give you a visa which will be good for your stay.” was the offer.

Now I am between a rock and a hard place. I am now an hour late for the hosts, don’t do the bribery thing and seem but have limited options. After some meaningless attempts at getting him to see my point of view I walked over to the ATM and put in my VISA card. 120 USD later and I was getting a nice big stamp in my passport. I was now free.

I rushed through to collect all the bikes and bags which thankfully were standing there waiting. I looked around for the next official to pounce and nail me for not having the correct tape on the box or something, but nothing happened. I walked through to the arrivals and saw my name on the piece of paper held by a middle aged European. He took me out to his car, or should I rather say his tin can on wheels. It was about as long as my bike and half my height. I had two bikes and a load of bags and they were not going anywhere in this vehicle.

I flagged a taxi and got him to follow us with the bikes attached to his roof and in his car. We left the airport and headed onto the national hiway. My living!! It was now close on 2am and the roads were as full as rush hour. The hiway was divided by an island which was full of half of Egypt playing football, having barbecues. There was even a few wedding couples having pictures next to the Air Egypt fountain! In front of me I could barely make out how many lanes were painted on the road as there was simply a myriad of red tail lights all blended into one another, dodging, winding, hooting and trying to avoid the donkey which all of a sudden pulled into the slow lane from an on ramp. It had happened. I was back in the 3rd world. I was back in the mayhem of Africa. I was back in the land of ‘anything can happen!’

Al I remember is that I sat with both my arms stretched out from either side of me, looking left and right and straight ahead at the mayhem around me, sometimes behind to check on the bikes with hugest grin on my face.

I was home.

Day 145 – 29/05/1999 – Carbon Dale – New York!!!! 106.14km –  5hr 31min 36sec –  avg speed: 19.2kmph –  odometer reading: 9457.1

USA - done and dusted!

USA - done and dusted!

We are here!!!! Boy what a mission it was getting here though… It was such a journey, one of immense discovery spiritually mixed with the exploration of an entirely new culture. This morning two sleepy heads had to drag themselves out of bed for one final ride to complete the US leg. Opening the curtains we were greeted by the rays of sunlight which shone bright on what was to be a nice hot day.  We had planned to approach New York in 2 days, sleeping over closer to the city but the big apple lured us in all the way in 1 day! We dodged cars to get through the whole of New Jersey in one day through memorial weekend traffic. Our trip ended on the George Washington Bridge, our chosen spot to celebrate the achievement of cycling across America in 2 months!

Kissing the George Washington!

Kissing the George Washington!

Finally we had reached our destination! As we overlooked the Hudson river, the huge city of New York stood tall before us. We took in the sight, remembering the days of cycling that we had had up until this point cycling South Africa, Australia and now the US. One thing was left to be done.

We took out the CD player and inserted the CD which had been made famous by the Castle Ad’s. Each of us shared a headphone and pressed play. There standing on the George Washington Bridge, we stood silent wrapped up in the emotion that the song brought to us. There is nothing better than that chorus, the memories of Africa flooding in!

It’s gonna take a lot to take me away from you
There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do

the end of a long long road...

the end of a long long road...

I bless the rains down in Africa
Gonna take some time to do the things we never have

Thank you TOTO!

Two cyclists led us to our point of pickup on the outskirts of the Bronx. We waited, watching interesting down towner’s who walked the streets, played ball, had conversations and listened to their music on their way to wherever.  I soaked in what was a completely new experience of people, different to all the others I had had so far in the US.

Our host arrived. We packed the bikes into his vehicle anticipating the week of rest without the bike. As I stepped into the car a woman who I had not seen, said from where she was standing on the corner….

“Good luck my friend….”

 

This had to be one of the most epic campsites we ever concocted!

Day 41 – 9/2/1999 – was a ride from Border Village to the ‘cliff’s’.

camping at the 'cliffs'

camping at the 'cliffs'

The ride was meant to take us to Nullarbor roadhouse. 50km before we got there we ended up at this spot and decided we simply had to set up camp. This is my journal entry for that day.

‘This is awesome! I am sitting watching the sunset, the sun making the clouds go red… 10 meters in front of me is the Great Australian Bite. 90 meters sheer cliff face dropping into a wild blue ocean.  This is an amazing sight! We are on our way to Nullarbor roadhouse and after having left Eucla the cliffs began to form so we decided to to set up camp. I have just had an amazing cup of Rooibos tea and the noodles are on the boil.  Gods presence is most certainly felt and this is one of His most awesome creations! South Australia is pretty and the trees seem to be disappearing as we hit the nullarbor, but we are on top of this trip!’

Here are some other campsite pics from the trip.

European camping style

European camping style

This particular one is in Europe.  It was a warm summer in ’99 so we were able to sleep without the tent most nights. The 3rd bike and sleeping bag belongs to Matt – a wacky Kiwi chap who met us on the ferry heading over to Amsterdam and decided to follow us all the way down to Rome. It was great to break all this time Steve and I were spending together with a 3rd person to talk to on the road! Think this is somewhere in Germany…

south african camping

south african camping

Then there was this one in South Africa. I think it was at 3 sister en route down to Cape Town on the N1. I see we decided to do some washing… 10 days into the trip!

Scotties camping

Scotties camping

Scotland Camping. This was up at john O’ Groats. Anyone noticed the size of the tent yet? eish… but you got to do what you got to do in order to carry less weight!  The weather was smashing up there.

USA Uni camping

USA Uni camping

Then there was the odd time a US campus would meet our camping needs with a little indoor luxury! Bliss… pure bliss!

egypt chillin

egypt chillin

Lastly… the only way to do it in Egypt! This was in Nuweiba… we didn’t actually camp here, we got a shack sorted with these little gems hanging outside… which is basically where we stayed!

Its all about the bike…

Posted: August 25, 2010 in cycle tour '99

This image was taken the day before we left.

day before we left

day before we left

The bike is a Giant ATX860, thanks to Dave Wiseman cycles.  Great bike. No nonsense, pretty simple, front shocks and decent components. We chose panniers over the back tires and chose not to have anything over the handle bars. We did carry small backpacks as well.  Inside the bags we carried:

  • tents (Steve took the tent)
  • pots and pans (I took the pots)
  • sleeping bags
  • reading / writing material
  • rain jacket
  • fleece
  • waterproof pants
  • fuel canister for cooking system
  • water purifier
  • spare parts – spokes, tubes, various tools
  • couple t-shirts, pair of baggies, extra cycling shorts
  • rolled up ground mattress on the back
  • extra water bottles
  • small camping chairs
  • hiking shoes
  • slops
  • South African flag
  • portable CD player
  • digital camera
  • film camera

That’s it as far as I can remember!  We also attached those ‘lean forward’ bars as I like to call them for comfort. Having the elbow rests higher up to hold onto was a bonus. We got frightened into acquiring some orthopedic seats. Man alive hey were uncomfortable… but probably made sense.

This next shot is taken in Dahab, Egypt.

bicycle in Dahab, Egypt

bicycle in Dahab, Egypt

This was half way through the tour. The bicycle had some additions:

  • drawing pins to keep the bags together due to broken zips
  • tape to keep the flag in tact due to speed of cycling!!
  • some serious dust

Still got the bike:)

I found Steve in the campsite after I got off the bus back at Balledonia. By campsite I mean a plot of gravel with some tree’s. He was pretty amped to get out of Balledonia. I felt bad I had got to see some new scenery whilst he had been sitting around doing nothing. We got the tire on and packed things up ready to leave early in the morning.

I was apprehensive as we kicked off as I feared the same thing would happen. Luckily we cycled straight past the spot where we had broken down without a hitch. Then 38km into the ride we cam across this sign.

146.6km dead straight road in Oz

146.6km dead straight road in Oz

I was devastated.  The headwind was starting to push and we knew we had to make it all the way to Caiguna to catch up on lost time. This just mean the cycle would be even more uneventful that some of the previous days had been. It’s weird to cycle a road that just does not turn, to hold onto the handle bar and not move it left or right. ever. we just carried on and on and on. You could see trucks in the distance mo minutes before they actually reached you. I just kept focused on the the blue signs (Australia marks every 5km with a blue sign… I used to love and hate those signs!). Given the headwind our progress was slow. We used to enjoy a 20kmph avg but on this particular day we averaged out at 16.7kmph. That plus stops meant that our total riding time ended up being 12hrs, 49,31 seconds. On day 32, from Norseman to Balledonia our ride had taken 12hrs, 49,08 seconds, covering a distance of 191.36km with an average speed of 17.7. whatever the stats, it just meant that we covered the distance from Norseman to Balldonia in 2 days doing a total of 371,91km. The second ride was the tougher, mainly because of the long straight. That and the can of ‘condensed milk.’

Steve had bought a can of condensed milk for us to share when the going got tough.  We knew we had to push and with no stops in between these two towns any sugar we could in would help. As we got nearer to finishing up the ride, the sun started to dip out the sky. We still had 30km left so thought that this would be the best time to crack open the can of condensed frikken energy booster. We pulled over and walked over to a rock, can in hand. Steve took out his pen knife and as he began to open it he put his head in his hands and started to groan! Wondering what was up I looked at the can and saw that it in fact was not condensed milk but a can of chick peas. Which I detest. Crap. We walked back to our bikes in silence. Its hard to explain how a small can has the ability to send you into the pits of despair… deep down in negativity and demotivation plundering any positive thoughts you had. That can was our one hope which we had held out on. We had waited for hours displaying tremendous amounts of self control. This was the opportune moment, right there on that rock with the sun setting. And it all folded before us.

The last 30km were hell. We pushed hard but had to get off the road every time we saw lights coming up behind us. Australia’s trucks drove in what they call ‘road trains’ aptly named because of how many trucks are driving in close proximity to each other to save on fuel. At night this is no joke. They can’t see you and probably won’t notice you when they turn you to pulp. Now only one thing motivated us. An extra large coka cola and a double beef burger with chips. The imagery kept us going, the anticipation of biting into that first mouthful.

Which is exactly what we did when we got there.

Burger in Caiguna

Burger in Caiguna

What was a crazy period of the tour had come to an end. Crazy and beautiful all at the same time. In many ways these events were what I really enjoyed… making a plan, adapting to situations and keeping positive about getting around hurdles. Steve and I had encountered a challenge which we had managed to overcome, even thought it meant going backwards in order to go forwards. In many ways it happened at the right place. If we had been any further it might have been a different story. You are just simply at the mercy of your equipment and this was a learning curve for us. It largely had to do with an overloaded bike on my part, so I stripped down some of my gear and shipped it to Sydney to lighten the load. 5 days. 2 long rides, 1 shorter one, a few nights in the same campsite, a friendly bike shop to fix a problem, a couple of helpful rides, some interesting people…. and quite honestly a painful backside from that saddle time.

Funny I would probably do it again!

It was the 2nd February 1999.

We left Balledonia to head to Caiguna. The day before, day 32 of the tour, had been long. Very long. We did 191km in about 14hours leaving the town of Norseman at 06h30 and arriving at 9pm. Given we were cycling between road houses with absolutely nothing in between we simply put our heads down and pushed forward.

great sign to check when cycling!

great sign to check when cycling!

Hence we decided to take this ride a little easier and set up camp 90km in along the side of the road. But that never happened…

30km in a heard the first ‘ping!’. a spoke had gone. Then another and another. 5 spokes down I stopped riding and pulled over. Steve and I had left equipped with tools to fix these sorts of things but this job just wasn’t going according to plan and soon I was standing on the side of the road with my thumb pointed skyward. We thought someone might be able to give us a hand in Balledonia. After all we had 3 people to choose from. Low and behold my ride appeared and in it – two Saffa’s! I left Steve on the side of the road and headed back with my wheel. Unfortunately the first thing these two positive O’s said was “South Africa… You can keep the joint. It has no future.” The mess continued. I needed a particular part as a piece of my rim had torn. It had to be trucked in from Esperence. I hitched back to Steve, this time riding with a more positive chap in a Land Rover who stopped at his mothers farm on the way. She had the most magnificent painting which she had done hanging on the walls. Steve and I then hitched back to Balledonia arriving to a small crew who were also staying over, joining them for a drink given we had a day wait for the part. A 92 year old man challenged me to a game of pool. I lost and went to bed.

On the morning of the 3rd we were already starting to get bored. We couldn’t wait for the part to arrive. When it did we still had no luck fixing the wheel. The wheel was terribly buckled and we weren’t going to get anywhere. My next ride would be on a greyhound. A few towns back we had passed Kalgoorlie, a larger town which we knew had a bicycle shop. I hopped on the bus in the early hours of the morning and headed through. On the bus I sat next to a Dutch couple who we would later stay with when cycling Europe. We laughed together as the wacky bus driver told us stories of UFO’s sightings!  I was enjoying the Ozzies. Despite what seemed like a secluded lifestyle out in the outback, they were good people who seemed to have plenty to share. Everyday caravans and motor homes would pass us, retired couples heading around the vast expanse that is Australia, cruising for years and years as they explore. I started to love the life of exploration, getting on the bike each day and heading out into the unknown not sure of what I would find or who I would meet. Every day was turning into an adventure. I never imagined I would be sitting on a greyhound talking to a lekker dutch couple and wacky Ozzie bus driver on the 3rd Feb!  But that’s the reality of travel. Its the reality of putting yourself out there and living differently. Those moments are hard to explain but I was loving it.

The bus rolled into Kalgoorlie. I hopped out and walked along the streets to the bicycle shop, dropped of the tire and explored a town with a rich gold digging history. Fascinating place. That afternoon the tire was ready which gave me enough time to get back to the bus stop and head back to Steve, who I am sure by now was getting very very frustrated parking in a tent listening to the irritating squawk of the crows…. I chuckled at the thought of it!