Six straight days, almost 700km, and finally we're back into green. It's amazing how revitalizing it is, just to have colour again. the vast terrain of mustard yellow was beautiful, but I know know the experience of coming upon an oasis.
We rode into Luxor just before noon. We had ridden for about 100km that morning. It was odly, the hardest ride. When you know that your rest day is at the end of the road, the road's end can't come quickly enough.
I last left off at Sufata, where we camped at the Red Sea. It was the most wonderful night. Realize, that we were still travelling with an almost full moon. The waves rolled in gently all night. Arabic music played in the distance with all of its bells and chant-like singing. It was meant to be cold, but I found a reed wind-break. It was heaven. Other than the fact that the alarm on my watch doesn't work, that is. I woke up at 4 am and every 15 minutes thereafter to check to see if it was time to get up yet. Finally 5:30 rolled around and I was a wreck. And of course, there was the nervous antidcipation for our day - 140 km, uphill for most of it, headwinds.
It's so great when predictions are wrong. Yes it was 140 km. The first 60 km were uphill with a slight headwind - we went up almost 700m over the whole distance - it was about a 2% grade the whole way. Unless you're from Saskatchewan, it was barely noticeable. The remaining ride was with a tailwind, so it was about the easiest ride ever - so unbelieveably enjoyable. And, since we were going through the mountain pass, it was gorgeous. The funny thing with the desert - because you're going through such a vast area, it's strangely comforting. When you're in the outer hill regions, it seems intimidating. I suppose it's because you know that if you were on foot, once you finally made it through the desert, you would still have to climb some mountains to get out of there.
And my bike is sooooo wonderful! For thhose of you who don't know the story - I picked up my bike on the way to the airport. I had gotten approximately an hour's riding time in on the same style of frame, but that was about it - which pretty much accounts for my knee problems and the blisters I've been getting (where no woman should ever get a blister). I reset my seat position and do tons of streches while riding, and it's great! It goes downhill so astoundingly fast! I've been doing on average 25km/hour, and my top speed so far was somewhere around 50km/hour - and we've barely seen any real hills. Whenever I'm on a downhill it's great because I can pretty much outrun everybody. I was so worried about taking a bike that wasn't Big Shiny Red (the tank I've been riding for over a decade now), but it's totally worked out.
And I'm loving the pelletons - I start out with the racers every morning when it's a race day, and we ride together for about 40km, then I tend to break off - photos or washroom usually beckon. I tend to catch them at the lunch truck again. I know I'm not the fastest - some of these folk are shockingly fast, but I'm having loads of fun. And stopping for tea is so great! Little thatch huts on the highway filled with laughing men who think the spandex is utterly ridiculous. And it allows us to break free from "Our Heroes" the police assigned to guard us this whole trip, but generally just follow the female packs and make it unbelievably uncomfortable for us to have pee-breaks. Sometimes they also like to re-route us without the Tour's knowing. Fortunately the one time they did that to us we managed to get back onto the trail.
The ride into Luxor was green and lush. Regal palms bracketed the roadside, farms were everywhere. Kids laughed and waved, "Hallo, Hallo", a break to the sameness of their everyday. Armed Bedouin guard the bridges across the Nile, their serious faces shining when smiles of greeting break through. And then the villages got closer and the kids started to block our road, throw the occasional stone, and hit us with sugar canes. They didn't come after me, though I'm sure that's still to come. When the parents caught them they would beat them or throw stones at them. It is what it is, right. It was also refreshing to see women again. Since they don't do the manual labour in the country, you don't see them in the desert.
Tomorrow I'm up at 5:30 again and will ride out to some new place. The Next day is Aswan, and then we get on the boat to Sudan. It's scheduled as a nine hour tour, should take 22 hours, but may take 48. You may not hear from me for three weeks. Last year there was no internet in the Sudan. Things change fast in Africa, but things stay the same for longer.
So, you will either hear from me when I get to Khartoum, or Addis Abiba. I will try to call home tonight, but who knows if that will work.