I started the morning riding alone, just taking in the enormous beauty of the mountain range and enjoying just being out in the complete open with the long therapeutic road ahead, which seemed never ending. I reached the lunch stop and thereafter joined a group of strong cyclists, trying my best to keep up. To my surprise, I actually did. It felt very good to cover the day's 134km ride with relative ease. I reached camp with plenty of energy left to socialize, even though it felt like a super long day. However, since the sun sets at 18h00, it was not too long before I retired to the comfort of my tent.
The next day's ride to Luxor was a quick one, only 107km away. It felt like we reached our destination (... and place of the first rest day) in no time. With the warning of local kids toying with passing cyclists, it was reckoned we stay in a group to insure our safety. After the lunch stop the group grew to about 10 cyclists and together we made way to Luxor without any problems whatsoever.
Luxor is a fairly well established town which, one could see, once upon a time flourished with boats cruising down the Nile packed with tourists. Nowadays, however, Luxor seems dilapidated and starved of tourism and the popularity it once had. The city's potential is endless as it is home to the beautiful Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens, which is a large part of the Ancient Egyptians' history.
On arrival at the camp site the option of staying in a hotel was too tempting, and so I got a cheap room. In the end it would probably have been better to camp. The facilities were disgusting and the bathroom super dirty... Oh well, welcome to Africa! It's only going to get more and more interesting. With a cold shower and a bit of laundry done, I was ready to wander into town and find some good local cuisine. A few fellow TdA riders and I walked along the Nile's waterfront, and then into town where the first relatively clean restaurant was spotted. With the entire restaurant to ourselves, we felt like royalty as service was tops by African standards, and the food tasted good. With some Bob Marley tunes playing in the background, I felt I could be on an Island in the Caribbean somewhere, until a herd of Camels came past and ruined my short lived deja vu.
The evening before the rest day, everyone one was incredibly social and enjoyed the rewarding beers at the local bar. I, however, still cannot bring myself to stay up later then 21h00. The rest day in Luxor was well organized. At 8h30 a bus was ready to collect any TdA riders who had signed up for a tour of Luxor. Like school children we all piled in. With snacks and water handy, everyone was looking forward to our very first field trip. We explored the beautifully decorated, well preserved Ancient tombs. It was an absolutely fascinating experience. For the first time in a long while, we came across other westerners and met some really fun, interesting youngsters traveling through Egypt with their families. At each touristy stop, everyone of us got bombarded by children as we exited the bus, each trying to sell you anything and everything. Mantras like "... for good price, you my friend" were commonplace. The most memorable line I received was from an 8 year old boy, winking: "You my future wife, how many camels?" Smooth operator., that one. Another little girl ran up to me and showed off her skills of counting in English, she rattled off 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 Egyptian pounds... which you're meant to pay once she reached 10. Not so smooth...
On the bus trip back to our hotel things were running on AFRICA TIME!!! Next thing I know I'm scheduled to be interviewed by Sasha Martinengo on Ballz Visual Radio and here I am, still stuck on public transport. In the end it all worked out and I did the interview on the bus while surrounded by a live audience as my fellow TdA riders on the bus listened and gave me an encouraging thumbs up.
Once back in the comfort of my dirty hotel room, I organized myself for yet another early start as we would be making our way to the next small town of Idfu.
The cycle to Idfu was probably the most beautiful it had been thus far. It was greener everywhere, the locals were super friendly, and the fresh food market en route looked incredible. The distance to cover was 116km and it felt as though it went too quickly. Cycling in a good group of strong riders, we kept a steady, strong pace and covered the distance in 4 hours. When we arrived at camp, the truck carrying the luggage hadn't even arrived yet and so we just hung out, waiting for the support vehicle.
Idfu is a small village and we camped out on a dirt sports field, getting entertained by watching two local football teams play a heated match, local team Idfu vs Aswan... The TdA riders thought it was only fair that we support Idfu as we were guests of the town that evening, and to the joy of the locals, Idfu won.
After the sporting event, a few of us decided to explore town and see the market place. We gathered in a local tea shop and had some delicious freshly squeezed orange juice while watching Idfu's every day happenings pass us by.
The night's rest in Idfu was the worst we'd endured, because this sport field or open patch of dirt is surrounded by four mosques. Each of these is louder than the other, and when they sounded the first Calls to Prayer at 05h00 in the morning I started to pack down my tent and by 05h30 I was ready to go. It was still dark but there was no going back to sleep after the wake up call we got.
The ride into Aswan was long, and even though it was only 113km, I felt the wear and tear of the last few days of cycling. We have covered a distance of 1000km in 8 days and basically completed our first country, Egypt. All I could think was thank goodness I have good quality cycling clothing. So many riders on the tour are already complaining of saddle sores and rashes, which are a cause of major discomfort. I'll be honest, I can feel my bottom is sore, but it's more a muscle pain, which is probably because I'm not an experienced cyclist and now I'm developing new muscle I never had before. And so after being off the bike for a few hours I can honestly say it's not so bad, with a few good stretches and massaging muscle gel onto the legs, I always feel perfectly ready for the following days distance. No discomfort from saddle sores or rashes at this point and I am pretty confident it's got to do with the high quality clothing I was kindly sponsored by Cape Storm. Never going to look back, Cape Storm all the way when it comes to long distance cycling challenges, trust me on that... Tested and proven personally by my bottom as I trek through Africa.
Then Herbalife has also truly been a life saver. The food on the trip is delicious, don't get me wrong, but sometimes I don't like having a huge, heavy meal before bed or before a 165km cycle. So I usually have a delicious vanilla flavoured meal-replacement shake for breakfast together with a little bowl of porridge, and travel with a stock pile of fruit. This brings me to lunch comfortably, and sometimes you reach the lunch stop at 10h00. To have a heavy meal again so early after breakfast is not ideal, especially if you've still got another 70km to ride to camp, so for me another shake just mixed with water does the trick. Once at camp, I'll be honest, the hunger really sets in for me. Instead of stuffing myself with sweet and salty snacks, which is what I crave as my sugar and salt levels are exhausted after cycling great distances in the sun, the rebuild recovery shake is my favorite. It's got everything one needs after a long days workout and stops me eating all the unhealthy snack stuff I crave. If I'm still hungry I have a shake midday to keep my energy levels up until dinner time, when all cyclists carbo load for the next days ride. Throughout the day, Prolong is my best friend and once I reach the lunch stop the convenient small sized Hydrate sachets are super handy and keeps those terrible dehydration headache away, which I so often use to get in the past. They taste so good, its easy to keep hydrated. Sometimes the taste of warm water, (... which reminds me of pool water) in your camel-pack isn't what you want day after day. Staying hydrated and keeping your salt replenished is vital to your bodies performance. The Herbalife endurance 24 Sport Range has been spot on perfect for this journey through Africa. I don't think it would have been possible for me to remain this positive and perform this well without the spectacular standards and quality of the products I have at my disposal.
A huge thank you to Cape Storm and Herbalife.