Saturday, 6 February 2010


So today we are starting stage 2 of Tour D'Afrique. Stage 2 and 3 are the hardest and we got to realise that as we left Khartoum. South of Khartoum is another Sudan. It is very different from the quiet, and peaceful desert.Khartoum is the place where the blue Nile and the White Nile meet to become the Nile. We are now following the blue Nile. The countryside changes immediately to a dark clayish soil that looks very fertile and farms are now everywhere. Trees are also appearing and with it came the people and the traffic. The roads so far have been in good shape and with so little traffic that apart from entering some cities, they have been very safe. Well, it all changed today... The road degraded as fast as our strong legs were pedalling south... We now realised that we had had it easy but it was over. Huge pot holes, uneven surface, crazy truck and bus drivers made the ride epic and reminded us that in Africa the cyclist sits at the bottom of the food chain... So as the TDA organisation had warned us, we all had quite a few situations where we just had to jump off the road into the non existent road side made of loose gravel and sand. This resulted in a few falls, but luckily nothing serious. It is a main road leading straight into Ethiopia and it carries a huge amount of traffic. Busy truck and bus drivers have no time to slow down for our luxury ride and clearly expect us to get out of their way, so they overtake into the incoming traffic without any considerations for us. I know it might sound frightening, but you get used to it pretty quickly and when your life is at risk, you become very wise, very soon. So the trick is to listen at the traffic behind you, they do hoot and when they are telling you to get off the road, it is a long, aggressive and loud hoot, and while you evaluate the seriousness of that hoot, you analyse the situation of the incoming traffic. If you see a truck being overtaken by another and you hear hooting behind, you get off the road. So the trick here is to ride in relatively small groups of cyclist and have a good communication system in place so that the guy at the back immediately informs the rest of the group about potential danger coming from behind, whilst the guy in front keep on monitoring the incoming traffic. In between, you still have to look and signal pot holes and other hazards such as stones and bricks on the road. So riding here is a challenge, but it is ok as long as you follow these steps.

By the way, on a positive note, the temperature has dropped significantly, so that was a bonus point.

As soon as you have high population concentration, you get the littering and we are now back in the middle of a dump site at camp. The roads are also heavily littered and plastic bags seems to be the most popular flower blooming in the short acacia trees that grow along the road. The nice surprise was that the blue Nile carries a white sand and its bergs are like a tropical beach. It did not take much convincing for all riders to jump into the Nile after having their recovery soup. (this is the first thing you do as you arrive at camp, you have a bol of soup, it contains salt and it dehydrates as well).

The camp also attracted the local communities, many young people who spoke some English. All of them would like to study abroad and are begging us for help. One of them, spoke to me for a while. He had a bachelor degree and had been looking for work since 2 years without any luck. He wants to come to Europe. I tried to explain to him that Europe also had its own employment issues, but he clearly did not believe me.

Today we also the first clouds since Day 2 and it was nice to see something else than just plain blue sky.

We have a very heavy week ahead with 7 riding days without a break, that is the longest of the tour. This includes two 160 km stages (today and tomorrow), then 2 days on dirt roads, then we will have another day back on the road also a long one, and will come 2 of the most cruel days of the tour... The climb into Ethiopia. EFI's status are going to fly....

But so far so good, despite today's challenging traffic conditions, all riders made it safe and early to camp. The tailwind is still there, so it helps for clocking kilometers.

                                       We are not the only one doing their washing in the Nile

                                                        Encounter along the Blue Nile

                                              Brick makers are working hard for very low pay.

                                 The clay is mixed on the site where it is found with the cattle dung
                                 and then carried further for molding
                                                     The clay site, next to the blue Nile

                                Tony, who wasn't feeling too well today, missed the finish flag
                                and carried on straight, adding an extra 30 km to the already
                               160 km long stage....

No comments: