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...


Today, we came accross brick makers. The rich clay soil lying along the Nile makes it the perfect spot. It is still done in the most ancien way which is by mixing clay with cow or donkey dung. Then the brick are layed to dry into the sun. Some bricks are even manufactured on the building sites, saving transport and storage....

                     These guys are carrying the molds and lay the bricks on the soil to dry in the sun
            Mohamed and Amin were very friendly and exited about my interest for their brick work

                                                                     Laying the bricks

                   This guy has the hardest task. He mixes the clay and the donkey dung with water
                                   before filling by hand the mold. There are 3 bricks in one mold.

      Replenishing of calories at the lunch truck. Today the lunch truck was at km 68. It is normally
      a bit past the half way point. Most cyclist take a 10 to 15 minute break and refill with water,
      energy bars and bananas before tackling the remaining kilometers.

                               Brick making 3 guys can produce thousands of bricks on one day.
                               This seems to be a wide spread industry here as I saw many
                               people manufacturing bricks today.

                                The doors are always decorated and painted in bright colours.
                                They put a lot of effort as you can see and seem to express
                                wealth through this.

                                 Muslim cemeteries are very simple. The graves have just a few
                                stones on them and they have this one dome build with mud bricks.

                                        I love the wheel cap.... A new use for a Seven up bottle....

                                                In Africa, the donkey is always the plan B
                                            They love decorating their bikes here. And they also
                                            love "Toyota" here as you can see....

                              Talking about decorating their bikes, this guy did not lack of  imagination...

Friday, 29 January 2010


Another 150 km day in the Sudanese desert. Heat was definitely there today and it was good that most riders rode fast the early morning kilometers. I made camp before 14h00, which gave me another opportunity to have a swim in the Nile. The big question going around camp is "Are there crocodiles in there". Nobody really knows, but the swim was great and I am still here...

Not much to see, except sand and rocks. We followed the Nile from a distance and it is interesting to see that life here is limited to a 50 meter band along the Nile....

Every now and then some small villages with very neat houses made of mud bricks and decorated with some motives. They seem to express their wealth with their doors. The doors are always impeccably painted with bright colours. The life is really limited to the Nile, as soon as you leave the Nile, it is complete desert. Most houses are surrounded by a perimeter wall with its own entry door. That door seems to have a lot of importance as it is always beautiful and clean.

We are under attack by small flies, thousands of them which are so annoying. They try to get in your mouth, your ears and so on.... Oh and they love your eyes too...

Before going to sleep, Gabriele, Tony and myself decided to take a walk into the nearby village and look for Pepsi Cola. We were told that there is some warm Pepsi for sale... We were so thirsty for anything sweet that the appeal for a warm Pepsi might sound strange for you guys reading this back home, but for us, anything would do. Anyway, the Pepsi expedition turned out really well. After some infructuous search, we finally met Ahmed,, who spoke some English and he took us into what looked like just another house surrounded by a perimeter wall. And there it was, a tiny little shop that looked more like a garage, but it had some basics such as soap, biscuits and...3 hot pepsi... He he... These Pepsis tasted delicious, despite the thick dust cover that we did not even bother remove... In a few minutes, the shop had gathered all the neighborhood, who was now very curious about 3 white men who had arrived from nowhere, and the rumour was already going around that they had arrived on bicycle....

By then, the older man who lived on the premises offered us to have tea which we gladly accepted. The women started running around and in a few seconds they had set up a nice dining tables for us in their courtyard. Again, we were amazed at the hospitality of these people. The older man gave the order to switch the lights on by starting the diesel generator, probably the only one in the village, while the women were preparing the tea. Ahmed, the young man who took us to this place was acting as a translator. Everybody wanted to know where we are coming from and what were our names. This actually seems to be the Sudanese most favourite questions. Once the tea arrived, the older man pulled out a strange little metal box and explained to us that it was "Bob Marley"... Only once he started rolling a joint, did we understand that it was some kind of local Marijuana. He insisted we had a puff, which we again gladly accepted. Some more people started arriving and by then we decided it was time to go to sleep as another 150 km stage was waiting for us in the morning.After taking pictures of us (with their cell phones), we left our Sudanese hosts and walked back to camp highly touched by such a sense of hospitality. What a great idea it was to go and look for Pepsi!

The impact of cell phones in Africa is mind blowing. People are taking pictures of us. Just about everybody has a cell phone and some have really nice ones with cameras, so people are taking photos of us even in the middle of nowhere, you see them running to the road or stopping if they are driving and take a snap shot at us... Amazing contrast between the donkey carts and the wide spread of technology...

There are so many cell phone shops and street sellers of sim cards and air time everywhere that I often wonder, what did all these people do before the cell phone? There are even people selling power recharge in the street. They have a table with all sorts of connections and they can charge your phone while you are shopping...
                    We used the little shade we could manage to find at camp to escape from the heat
                                           The finish line at km 150 in the middle of nowhere
                                    This was pretty much today's sceneries, sand, rocks and heat
                           This is where peloton riding becomes handy, those long straight desert
                           roads can be painful when you ride alone, especially if the wind picks up.
                                  Typical houses that we encounter along the Nile as we make our
                                  way south towards Khartoum. They are always surrounded by a
                                  perimeter wall and build with mud bricks. The door is always
                                  painted with bright colours and seems to be representing wealth.

Thursday, 28 January 2010


Sudan is amazing! Today, our 150 km ride was one of the most beautiful and exotic ride, I have ever taken. Mind blowing! The desert is really scenic and the newly paved road (Thanks to the chinese) made our ride even more pleasant.

The people we met along the road were extremely friendly and even a bit shy. Unlike Egypt, nobody ever asked for money and people were genuinely interrested about us. They were so kind. At one stop, I was invited to share lunch with them, at another it was tea and so on. They speak very little english, but they all want to know what our name is and where we are going. If we answer "Cape Town", they just smile, because it is simply too far away and they have no idea where it is, but when we say we are going to Karthoum by bicycle, they are amazed!

Our camp is by the Nile and it is by far the best camp so far. At least it is clean here, again unlike Egypt where the road sides are used as waste bins. We all jumped into the Nile and washed ourselves. What a pleasure after a day of riding in the desert. It is now getting very hot as we progress south and even tonight, we feel that the heat is now here with us.

At camp many children came on their donkeys to observe this strange caravan of cyclist. We are definitely the attraction of the year for the locals. These kids are very respectful and they just watched our camp animation with their eyes open in little groups of 5 to 10 kids. Some of the more hasardous one came to chat, one girl on top of her donkey, proudly showed me her English lesson book. Cute!