Sunday, 31 January 2010

HEAT, SORE THROAT AND DEAD CAMELS...

There is a throat and lung virus going around at camp and half the riders were feeling sick yesterday. Last night, I joined that 50% group and I had very bad night waking up every hour with a dry throat very painful and some fever. This morning as we were getting up, I realised that it was gonna be a hot day as the heat could already be felt and the sun had not even risen yet...

Hot, it was... A previous year rider wrote that nothing can prepare you for the heat in Sudan... Well, today, we all understood what that meant. We had well over 40 degrees with some hot burning wind throwing even more heat at our sweaty, salty faces. At one point the sweat coming down along my face was so salty that it felt like swallowing sea water... I am writing theses words from my tent which I have to unfortunately keep closed since as if it was not enough that we are in a permanent sauna, there are thousands of mosquitoes invading our tents. The Nile is just around the corner. It must still be at least be 30 degrees and it is full night already.

I really wasn't feeling well, my lungs were completely locked and my throat felt like I had eaten a liter of extra hot Nando's peri peri sauce... So I decided I would not race today and would enjoy the company of the slower riders. These guys often reach camp many hours after the first guys and are heroes in their own way as they actually spend a lot more time in the saddle than we do. Furthermore, riding slowly means that you ride the afternoon heat and today, it was a killer. It was nice to spend time with riders I have not had a chance to ride with and I enjoyed their company tremendously.

As soon as we got out of Dongola, we met 2 big camel groups lead by a few men. Apparently they bring them up from southern Sudan all the way to Egypt ,where they can be sold for meat or other purposes. I decided to leave the tarred road and go around these camels to get a good shot with some TDA riders on the background. After taking these shots, I realise that I was missing the off road ride and that it was really fun to ride the old gravel road, so I decided to stay on it. Now, I know that it might sound strange to do that especially since I was really sick, but anyway, I thought it was fun, so I rode my bike on the sand dunes, just like the previous TDA riders used to do. The tarred road we are enjoying was built last year and we are the first guys to enjoy this luxury. After an hour, another rider, Andre from Cape Town also joined me and we started riding the dunes together. Andre is a strong off road rider and since it is also one of my strength, we paired well and managed to ride at the same speed off road than the slower riders were doing on the tarred road. It was absolutely fun, but the kilometers did not clock very fast and we had 144 km to ride, so at km 55 we got back on the road and got the speed up. Unfortunately for us, by then the temperature had soared to well over 40 degrees and a light headwind was picking up. Now imagine a hair dryer blowing hot air at your face, that is how it felt.

I run out of water 10 km before the lunch truck and it was a relief to see it appearing in the horizon. Running out of water is the worst thing that can happen to a cyclist in such heat. It took me half an hour at the water point to recover. It was then a hard 65 km to the finish. The heat got so bad that at one point I picked up my water bottle and it was like drinking tea (my bottles are white and transparent, imagine any other colour...)

Andre and I sticked together all the way to the finish line taking turns in 2 km relays. We did very well actually and managed to catch up plenty of the middle field which was also struggling big time with the heat. At camp, our fellow riders shook their head with disbelief when they heard that we had braved the dunes as well.

The camp is as bold as a the head of a monk. There was so much heat and so little shade that some riders even took refuge underneath the trucks... There is an irrigation canal next to camp. The water looked a bit filthy, but it was running water, so I could not resist getting in there and washing myself. The camp also has an extra guest, a dead camel as dry as a biltong stick half buried in the burning sand. Andre and I passed many dead camel bodies today during our 55 km off road ride. So, it seems, that not every camel makes it to Egypt....

Tomorrow another big stage of 145 km and the next day even worst, over 160... so we need to recover and ride faster in the morning, to escape the afternoon heat.

                                 During our off road ride, Andre and I came across these people.
                                At first they were very shy and did not want to be photographed,
                                but once we had been there a few minutes, they accepted.
                             Finally a group of woman. In Sudan it is harder to get pictures of women,
                             they are really shy, looking away from the camera whilst the men tend to
                            come forward with a sense of pride. It took quite some convincing, but
                            eventually this group of women accepted to pose for me.
                                                                Another dead camel
                                    One of the camel shepard came to me and posed proudly
                                                                       The camel trains
                                  Eric, exhausted and dehydrated, recovering in the little shade
                               we get from the trucks. The TDA staff surprised us and managed
                                             to get hold of some cold drinks, it was Christmas!

                                                             The extra guest at the camp

                                                           Working on the equipments

                                                        A book matching the surroundings

                                                       Nobody can doubt anymore about
                                                            what we do for a hobby...

                                                             Hiding from the heat..
                              We came across these people and they invited us to share their meal.
                        Was good and confirms again the sense of hospitality of the Sudanese people

                                    Our senior rider who is 71 y.o. found a spot of shade away
                                            from the road, but could not resist the temptation....

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I hope you'll get well soon. You can follow Gerald on:
http://track-map.appspot.com
Click on the markers to get pictures and links to the daily blog.
Forza Gerald!
Tibor

Anonymous said...

Waouh que de belles photos chaque jour ! Difficile d'imaginer la chaleur là-bas, alors qu'ici il neige. Un peu de fraîcheur par la pensée... Mais surtout nous espérons que les petits maux de gorges s'arrangent, et beaucoup de courage pour la suite ! Bizzzz de Haegen, Nanou, Serge, Antoine et Hugo.

Anonymous said...

Hi Gerald,

Great blog, please send my regards to Andre'. I'm a friend from Cape Town and will appreciate it if you can do this.

Good luck,
Philip Geldenhuys

Klaus said...

Hi Gerald, Stay strong & feel better soon. Your news has become a part our daily routine which we look forward too...I love your photo's! What an incredible journey in the many senses of the word. Klaus & Linda xxx

Eero said...

Great pics and very very interesting report again. What a trip! Hope your sore throat is getting better soon.

Cheers,
Eero

Christa said...

Hi Gerald,
I'm Ted Remillard's friend and just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your blog. I run a full-time photography program at a college in Vancouver and I think your photos are great - they tell a wonderful story. I hope you're feeling better soon. You and your wife are doing such a great job keeping us informed. Looking forward to your next posting, and best of luck with the rest of the tour.

Christa