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 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.
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 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.