Wednesday, 3 February 2010

KHARTOUM

That is it!


Stage one of the Tour D'Afrique is already over. We reached Khartoum after a fun riding day. The TDA staff had organised a short 20 km time trial as we left camp and after that we would ride a further 45 km before stopping at the lunch truck. From there we would all convoy into Khartoum escorted by the police. The time trial was fun. I gave it a go, although my chances to rank well were non existent on a mountain bike against racers equipped with road bikes and drop bars. I gave myself a target of raising my speed of 5 km per hour each 5 km, so I started at 30 km per hour, then brought it to 35 and then 40 but unfortunately by km 15, I was not able to go any faster than 47 km per hour. I would need a few extra teeth on the front cranks. Anyway, it was fun and it lifted the spirit of all riders who took part in the time trial. It also lifted my heart rate pretty well...

We had to wait for everybody to arrive at the lunch truck before convoying through Khartoum escorted by armed police forces. This was the not so funny part of the day as convoying is always slow and Khartoum is a hot dry and dusty place. Anyway, I kind of enjoyed it as we were given presidential treatment here. They cut the entire traffic of this huge city, just for us. The policemen seemed to be having the most fun. They kept their sirens on all the time during this 2,5 hour process and were taking the task extremely seriously driving up and down our convoy at fast speed.... The people along the road looked amazed at this strange noisy group of cyclist who were getting so much official support.

Once we got at the camping site where the trucks were gonna spend the rest day, quite a few of us jumped into a bus organised by the representative of the ministry of tourism and we were taken to one of the better hotels in town. This hotel is called Khartoum Plaza and was built by the chinese a few years ago to accommodate their own citizens. (As I have previously mentioned, China is investing big time here in Sudan). The hotel is clean, has internet and working showers, all the necessary ingredients for TDA rider on his rest day.

Khartoum is a city that frightens you first. It is so messy, dirty, windy and everything is so run down, apart from a few modern buildings. But when you start walking around you get a second impression. Firstly, it is very safe and people are friendly, except for a few touk tuk drivers. The danger though is the mess everywhere. You really have to be careful. Traffic is horrific, there are no rules as you can imagine and traffic light are more used like Christmas decorations than anything else. As if watching traffic wasn't bad enough, you must look where you are walking. This city is so run down that many man hole covers are missing creating deadly traps on the walkways. Actually one of the TDA riders, Frans from Holland fell into one last week. He saved his live by having the very fast reflex to spread his arms open as he went down. The hole was 3 meter deep. He did hurt himself and Caroline, our South African nurse had to patch his legs. But it could have been a lot worst. It happened like in the comic strips books. Three of them were walking on the side walk of a dirty street, the two in the front avoided the hole by going around while Frans who was behind missed it completely and fell in. As the two in front turned around all they could see was his head and his two arms stuck around the hole.... A classic in comic strip books... But this was no comic strip and it was really a close call for Frans...

Khartoum is full of such holes, so tonight when we were walking back to the hotel in the dark, dirty and dusty streets, we were really careful. I wonder how many locals die every year in those open traps...
The good thing about Khartoum is that it has a true African soul. Plenty of side food stalls playing music, people sitting everywhere having tea or juices, wonderful smells of grilled meat coming out of every street corner and even quite a few international names such as Pizza hut and South African Steers. It is a busy city, the streets are packed with people and vehicles, most side streets are unpaved and the wind keeps on blowing dust all over, giving it a bit of a mad max movie atmosphere. There is dirt and waste lying everywhere, but as I said, once you get over that, you get to discover a vibrant community of people. The Sudanese people are surprisingly tall and the women are really beautiful. Khartoum seems to be a lot more relaxed than the small places we have been through and most women here do not cover their face or wear only a small scarf, so these are the first sudanese woman faces we get to enjoy, and they are really beautiful.

Tomorrow is our rest day, so I'll be walking around Khartoum and hopefully will be posting some interesting stuff about this city. Not many foreigner here, that is for sure, especially ones that come on a bicycle.

                              We had to convoy into Khartoum, so we gathered all riders and TDA
                              vehicles 40 km before the finish under heavy Tourism police security
                                                                   Tourism police car

                           The goat skin in which they cool down water, a very efficient and CO2
                           emission free way to refrigerate. It really works! The water in there
                           is so cold!
                                                                       Jim at a coke stop
                                                         Gabriele enjoying a short brake

The SA clan
                                        Watch the amount of sand coming out of that shoe...

1 comment:

yaluna said...

Goat skins look scarier than I thought! Great reports, great pics! you really make me look forward to the new ones every day!