Saturday, 2 February 2013

Sandstorms and Sudan so far...

From my naïve understanding, Sudan is a scary place of great danger, but after arriving in this country, all the TdA riders immediately felt the friendly presence of the locals. It has truly been a heart-warming experience, as I expected unrest and some kind of chaos. Welcomed so warmly, we all found it to be the complete opposite of what I, for one, had imagined. It just goes to show, one shouldn't make assumptions based on what one sees on TV.

The rest day in Dongola was pleasant, but frustrating at times. It was impossible to find effective Internet connections, so communicating with loved ones back home wasn’t possible and updating my blog was delayed. However, this is the deep parts of Africa. I should be pleased with an electrical socket to charge my phone, as these villages are as basic as they come. On the menu wherever we went for a meal there are only a handful of options, namely falafels, fried fish, fried chicken or beans... and that’s it. When you sit down at a local restaurant, they don’t just bring you one of the options. No, the table gets a platter of each dish and then you feast with your hands. I must say if you just close your eyes and imagine the food looks good, it actually does taste pretty delicious... just doesn’t look appetizing at all.

The next day we had our regular early start as the TdA crew made their way back into the desert for a 4-night adventure on the way to Khartoum. We had long distances to cover, more than 140km each riding day and everyone was starting to feel the effects of excessive exercise.

The first desert camp was named Dead Camels camp, and appropriately so, as we passed at least 50 to 60 deceased camels en route. This is when one realizes the actual harshness of the desert. If camels are dying... well, it’s a sign of no water for miles and miles around. Dehydration was our biggest danger during these few days and each rider made sure to replace lost fluids and salts. I’m so grateful for my Herbalife Hydrate Sachets of which I drink at least 4 liters a day, and the Endurance Rebuild has done wonders for me to recover quickly.

Arriving at Dead Camels Camp we were treated to the most spectacular desert sunset and full moon rise. I’ve never experienced so many shooting stars at night. In the desert, without any artificial light, the sky is blacker than black and the stars perfect diamonds glittering brighter than ever. The moon shines so brightly, it actually keeps me awake. I’m glad I kept my sleeping mask from Qatar Airways because without it I wouldn't have got much sleep with nature’s light shining down all night long.

The calmness of the desert, however, didn’t last very long. The following day's ride started off just as beautiful as before; one would never think weather was changing. Well after the lunch stop, a few riders and I hung out at a local roadside café, if one could call it that, and enjoyed a cold coke while sitting in the shade interacting with the locals.

Suddenly the wind picked up, and the advice of the locals was that it was time to head to camp. We were about 40km away, and it felt like 20 min and we were at the camp site. Until we stopped, we hadn’t realized how incredibly strong the tailwind was that had pushed us along the road.

It was very unpleasant being at camp after the raging sandstorm had hit us. Everyone was optimistic that by nightfall the wind would die down, well afternoon came and it seemed to only get stronger. It took the help of 5 people to set up my tent and I was truly afraid it would blow away with all my belongings, so I sat in the tent as an extra weight to keep it safe and keep myself sheltered. However, sand and dust still managed to get inside and smother me completely. With my cold and flu symptoms, it was half the desert coming out when I blew my nose, and with constant dust blowing into my eyes it felt like I was crying sand. We had dinner, sheltered behind the TdA bus. Each mouthful of food was spiced with a coating of desert sand. Frustrated, hungry, dirty, tired and unable to escape the wind and sand I knew there was little chance of getting any kind of rest that night. I crawled into my desert sand filled tent and tried my best to think of happy things and fall asleep. This was impossible, however, as my tent sounded like a massive sail flapping uncontrollably in the wind making a hell of a racket. If ever I did fall asleep from pure exhaustion, it was for no longer than 1 hour maximum.

I waited for the morning and the wind never seemed to weaken. Everyone looked like the walking dead as they emerged from their tents. Once again, 5 people needed to pack the tent down, and the mornings temperature dropped drastically. So there I was, dirty exhausted, sick, freezing cold and now I have to get on my bike and cycle 148km to the next desert camp. There was talk of the sandstorm lasting 3 days, but THANK GOD by the late afternoon it had dissipated. This day’s ride was one of the hardest. I felt I was going to fall asleep on my bike; I had to do stops along the way just to jump around and wake myself up. Luckily, there were numerous local tea stops to warm me up and keep me going.

I cycled a large part of the day alone. Visibility was about 15m and the buses along the road come out of nowhere at 140km/h and cause a wind vacuum as they pass, which can throw a rider off track easily if you're not concentrating. Definitely one of my scariest days on the road and I was just too happy to see camp by the end of the 149km cycle. I found a sheltered spot and made sure that I would get sleep that night no matter what.

Once my tent was up and it was cool enough for me to lie down inside, I was out for the count. I heard the call for dinner, but decided sleep was more important and I rested until the morning. I woke up feeling like a new person… Still extremely dirty, sick as a dog, but I had slept well and Khartoum was only 100km away, which meant shower time, laundry time and resting time.  

Filled with joy we rolled into Khartoum, a perfect developed city, and I had a hot shower in my sights. Once I was clean, fed and ready for bed,  thought back on the challenge of the sandstorm and overcoming the harshness of the desert... One cannot help but enjoy a great sense of achievement, especially when Khartoum marks the end of our first section, Pharoah's Delight. We managed to cover 1955km in 15 days and that is what its all about. Bring on Section 2, The Gorge. It's said to be the toughest of them all. We'll hit rough off roads and climb 2500m over 15 days as we cover 1600km. This is said to be most TdA riders' breaking point. I just pray my health will improve and I can give Section 2 my best shot.


  1. im happy u visit my country and experience our lovely haboob..come next time and experience dinder cnservation area also ..another taste their

  2. im happy u visit my country and experience our lovely haboob..come next time and experience dinder cnservation area also ..another taste their

  3. im happy u visit my country and experience our lovely haboob..come next time and experience dinder cnservation area also ..another taste their