Saturday, 30 January 2010


Today, we are riding to Dongola. Everybody is excited because of the rest day coming up and the fact that it is a "short" ride ("only" 110 km); I am personally looking forward for cleaning up all my equipments. Sand is becoming a problem, it is everywhere. So much for my super tight sand and water proof bags... sand makes its way everywhere, it is a fine layer of dust that invades everything. I am worried about all the electronic equipments I carry. They are definitely going to give me problems with time.
Dongola also means COLD Pepsi and that is something to look forward to! We have ridden 410 km of desert in 3 days and this rest day coming up will do us all good.

My day started so well. Firstly, I had decided to wake up early so I would not have to rush getting my tent and my equipments packed into the truck. The first thing I did was to look for a number 2 toilet spot. It was still night and the rest of the camp was still asleep. The full moon was so bright that I did not need to use my spot light. I grabbed my portable toilet seat (he he, yes... This is Africa... but I am French...) and I walked toward the Nile. I found a perfect spot on a sand dune overseeing the Nile. The reflect of the moon on the shallow waters complimented by the sound of water gurglling turned this morning duty into something memorable... As I was sitting there, getting a few pounds lighter, the sound of the first prayers started echoing in the far distance. Wao! Now it was really amazing... Since we are in a very remote area, they don't have electricity and the prayers are still done by human voice and not loudspeakers which makes them a lot more pleasant to listen to. The funny thing though was that the only living thing that seemed to respond to the prayers were the donkeys who started braying....

The riding was great. I stuck to the leading group for the first 50 km. These guys who are racing for positions are really strong. At one stage I managed to look at my speedometer, we were doing 52 km per hour! I decided I would have my 2 minutes of glory and attacked.... I lead the Tour D'Afrique race for 2 minutes... It felt good... Now I was exhausted and could go back at the end of the peloton... The guys in front looked at me a bit surprised and I clearly had broken some of the peloton unspoken rules, so I did not get much words of congratulations, but I was happy...

The pace was so high that I made it to the lunch truck in less than one and a half hour. The great thing about that is that I now had plenty of time to shoot pictures on the remaining 45 km. So the pics you are getting here are partly to thank to my legs who are definitely getting stronger. On Day 3 I had tried to hang with the top guys and was dropped after 10 km, now I hanged with them for 50..
We were told that we would be camping at the Dongola zoo... Zoo here means there are a few animals made of stone. Outside, they have this huge amusement park advertisment board with Mickey mouse on it... The reality is it is a camping site with a few benches and some artwork.. Anyway, the ground is really nice, it has grass, first one we see in two weeks and it is a pleasure to put up our tents on it and start getting rid of the sand we have everywhere.The vibe is good here and they even sell cold drinks on site, so some of us who had planned to go to a hotel dropped the plan as the camping site is a lot more pleasant than the hotel rooms available in town. At least we are sure there are no bed mites in our tents.

Dongola is nice, it is quite dirty like most cities in Africa but everybody is pleasant, respectful and the many little restaurants along the dusty streets are vibrant. Shop owners are calm and do not try to force any sale on us. As we pass, most people greed us in the few english words they know. Many wish us "welcome in Sudan". Quite a different pictuire we have about this country back home, sadly because of Darfur. But Darfur is so far away from here, it is technically another country. The people here are Nubians, they are peaceful and education is relatively good here. There also seems to be a great deal of tolerance here. I had no problems taking photos of people, even during the prayers and in front of Mosques.

Rest days are actually wrongly called, because there is certainly very little rest on a rest day? This is the day when you are actually super busy, getting your laundry done, updating your blog, looking for food to buy,charging all your equipment and even more important, clean and maintain your bicycle.

We are now 500 km from Khartoum, so it means that we have 5 more riding days before entering the capital and ending stage 1. Ther is nothing between here and Khartoum, so it means another 4 desert camps ahead...


Anonymous said...

the donkey in front of the mosquee has toyota's logo !
great !


Jussi said...

Great Gerald, so far so good ! You are doing very well, so keep on "rocking"!! I follow your tour every day,amazing stories and photos!
Good luck!


Andrea said...

Hello Gerald, very nice blog with a lot of great information on Tour d'Afrique. We are follow you and Gabriele Bohrer from Switzerland. Here some GPS data and picture of your stage 11:

Have a good ride

Rainer & Claudia said...

Hi Gerald,
your pictures are really great! We love to look at them. They are giving use a good impression of what you and the other riders are going through. It's very exciting to follow the riders of the TDA through their blogs.
Take care, have fun and enjoy your ride. And please see warm greetings to Gisi.
Rainer and Claudia from Munich