Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Bad start, means it can only get better...

Day 1: We started the day super early. I was up at 04:30, unable to sleep anymore as the excitement just took over. We finally set off in a police escorted convoy through the busy city of Cairo toward the magical pyramids for the opening ceremony of the TDA. Seeing the sunrise over the pyramids was truly special, and a moment I'll always remember.

The conditions were very cold, but as the cycling began the body began to warm up. As the TDA group of cyclists made their way over the highways, 20km before exiting Cairo, a rusty nail destroyed my back wheel. The road was too busy for repairs to be done alongside it, so with my safety in mind, I hopped onto the support vehicle which carried me to the city exit, where I changed my first flat of the trip. I couldn't believe I was already having bike problems only about 35km into the TDA. All i could think was please let this not be a sign for the days to come. Well, wow, was that wishful thinking!

In the end I got to our first dessert camp just before sunset. There is absolutely nothing for miles and miles but sand, sand, and if you're lucky, more SAND!!! So after a lovely babywipes "shower", and good food in the tummy, I was in my tent already as the sun set at 17:30, and asleep by 18:30. This has become the norm, subsequently. It takes a little longer to fall asleep if it's a cold night with a howling wind keeping you up. On those nights, I'm asleep by 19:00.

Day 2: I woke up just before sunrise at 05:30, took down my tent and got myself into cycling mode. Early in the morning, out in the desert, it is freezing. You put on your gear and hope it warms up quickly. I left camp at a good time, 06:45. I cycled along the Red Sea for the first 50km alone and enjoyed the ride.

At 60km I was joined by my dear Kiwi friend, Vincent, who became a great support for a what was to become a tough day. We had a distance of 165km to cover, and my luck, as it turned out, was terrible once again. After the lunch stop, Vic and I set off, only to discover that my front tubeless tire pressure was too high. This caused it to pop straight off its rim. I was covered in tubeless tire slime and so I faced my next challenge. I went on to repair the messy damage, and discovered that I didn't have another spare. Vic very generously gave me his spare road tube, which we pumped up to it's full capacity. This carried me along for another 70km, until some dirt caught between the tire and tube, causing yet another puncture. Feeling defeated, and with neither of us carrying more spares, I was pretty much screwed. A group of cyclists passed by and asked if everything was okay? After explaining about all that had happened, a fellow TDA cyclist was willing to donate her spare so that I could continue the day's ride. With another 80km to go I just prayed I would get to camp before sunset. I finally arrived at the desert camp and members from the TDA group all came over individually to give advice and words of encouragement. I was in bed very early that night, completely exhausted after a long day in the sun and the constant holdup caused by flats.

Day 3: I woke up and knew this will be my good luck day. Well, it was until about 65km into the ride when I reached 5km from the lunch stop, and felt my bike getting heavier after each turn of my peddle. If I have learned anything, it's that the slower a bike becomes, the higher the probability of a slow leak in a tube... and there it was. My back wheel was slowly going flat. I pumped it up as much as I could just to make it to the lunch stop, when I'd replace it with the shape tube I had been traveling with. However if this wasn't bad enough, as I reached the lunch stop at 70km, someone pointed out to me that my front tire was also flat. So there I was once again with only one spare tube and two flat tires. Feeling completely defeated, I tried to find a spot somewhere out of the wind, dust and dirt. I sat there for a while, wondering how I'd pick myself up from this. Basically you just gotta get on with it. At least it's just another bike problem which can be fixed. I'm still fit and healthy and so what if I finish last? It's not about winning for me at this point, it's about not giving up.

Yet again a fellow TDA member shared a tube with me. Everyone feels very sorry for me and the bad luck I've been having, and everyone is so happy to help because they can see I don't wanna give up, not at this stage, not so early into the trip. If I didn't get another share tube, I was almost thinking about pushing my bike back to camp. It was 70km away and I had about 7 hours of daylight left, so it could be done. Luckily after spending a hour doing 2 more tube repairs I was on my way. I have never been to happy to arrive at camp and the welcome was well appreciated. I decided it was time to start fresh. I pulled out a set of new tires and repaired all my tubes perfectly to ensure my bad luck was over. With new tires and new tubes Day 4 had to be a good day.

Day 4: I woke up that morning and everyone wished me well as I started the days 100km ride. I thought to myself if you get another flat well then you just keep doing what your doing. This is much easier said than done, I MUST ADMIT. All I can do is try my best. Day 4's 100km was amazing, no flats for the first time and I finished under 3 hours and reached an average speed of 29kph. I was flying and it felt great to keep up with the group and cycle at a speedy pace. We arrived in Safaga and I immediately rewarded myself with a hotel room and the longest, hottest shower... No words can describe and good it feels to be clean, at least for a little while.

Tomorrow we begin climbing, so here we go heading into the mountains. We'll be covering a distance of 136km and yet another starry desert camp. This will be a true physical challenge, but it's not long now and then it's rest day number 1 in Luxor. If it's at all possible, I'll be shopping around for road tires to help make my life a little easier on the long tar roads.

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