April 6-8, 2014
It took a long time to leave Kharga. The development stretched out for at least 50 kilometers after the center of the town. We tried to guess where we thought Nico and Julia had spent the night and wondered if we would see them that day.
We had our first sign of Nico and Julia at the turn-off towards Luxor. There was a police checkpoint and a few hundred meters further down the road was an army checkpoint. The soliders, friendly as always, offered us tea and gave us a note from Nico and Julia. They had been there only an hour or two before us.
At the same time the soldiers brought us our tea, they also brought out a big cardboard box and kept gesturing at it. Scott was asked to read what was written on the side of the box,, which was: “This box is made from recycled cardboard”. We congratulated the men on their environmental thoughtfulness. Unfortunately, they didn’t speak enough English to understand and we didn’t speak enough Arabic to know why they were showing us the box. They kept mentioning something about “no lights”.
Finally, they gestured at Scott to follow them. He disappeared around the side of the building and I was left to sip my tea with a few of the guys who remained. Apparently, whatever Scott was supposed to be doing didn’t work, since a female friend was called on the phone who spoke a little English. She didn’t speak enough to explain what was going on.
I’d finished my tea and with no sign of Scott, began to get worried. I went around the side of the building to find him in a small shack. The box was from the converter for their solar panels. It allowed them to store the energy in large batteries. It was broken and they were hoping we could help with the instructions that were written in English on the side of the box. Things would have been much clearer if they’d shown us the other side of the box first!
Neither of us hd any background in solar energy, but we did our best and managed to turn the machine on again. It probably still didn’t work, but the soldiers seemed satisfied. Without solar power they had nothing to do out in the desert–no radio, no lights, no cell phones. They were very bored.
We’d read in other blogs, that the desert became boring after the turn towards Luxor, but we found it to be some of the most stunning scenery of the whole ride. There were many massive dunes alongside the road that formed stunning, undulating vistas. It was an easy and enjoyable ride on an empty road.
Shortly after leaving the military checkpoint we passed some German overlanders who were on their way home after driving down the coast of west Africa and up the eastern side. They’d seen Nico and Julia around lunch time and told us we weren’t far behind them.
It was hot and we were sucking down water. It was a relief to come to the next police checkpoint so we could refill. Unfortunately, they gave us bad water, which we only discovered after leaving. Luckily we still had some reserves left.
Nico and Julia had been there only thirty minutes before us, but after the requisite tea and chatting, we knew we’d never catch up to them that night. We rode up a big hill and camped off the old abandoned highway. That night, we were visited by a curious mouse. It had big eyes and ears to help it navigate the desert nights and was interested in our bikes. It kept climbing up onto them to explore.
Here the desert felt more abandoned than anywhere else we’d been. We couldn’t see any lights from trucker camps in the distance and it was a rare vehicle that we heard on the road. It was magificent. That night we slept well after riding a big 150 kilometer day.
In the morning we got off to an early start and hit the police checkpoint down the road again just thirty minutes after Nico and Julia. We were anxious to get moving and try to catch up with them, but we couldn’t resist the offer of fried potato breakfast and sweet tea. Of course we were faced with all the usual questions, including “How old are you? Where are you from? Where are you going? All the way by bicycle? How many children do you have? None? Why don’t you have any?”
We finally caught up to Nico and Julia at an ambulance station. The were taking a break and told us the welcome wasn’t warm. It was an easy choice to continue down the road. It had been a hot day and when we saw some hills to one side, we decided to call it an early night. Nico and Julia continued on down the road.
To find a good campsite, we had to push through the sand for a while, but it was worth it. We camped in soft sand, protected from the wind by a small dune. That night we had another nocturnal visitor. This time it was a fox with white fur. It was a little shy, but was very curious about us. Every time we looked up, it ran away, only to circle around our camp and approach from another direction.
In the morning we found a number of animal tracks around our tent, but we could only identify two of them. We rode along a plateau for what felt like a long time before beginning to descend towards what we knew would be the Nile. We stopped at a rest house at a big junction for some foul and tea. We hadn’t seen so many people together since we’d arrived in the desert.
We’d expected it to be a quick ride into Luxor since it should have been all downhill. Unfortunately, we struggled against a headwind the whole time. Still far away from the Nile, we began to see small plants and bits of color in the sand. As we got closer there was more and more vegetation until we were riding through verdant fields.
I hadn’t realized that I’d missed seeing green, living things until I found myself surrounded by them again. We ran into Nico and Julia again just before Luxor. They were stopped for a break, and we decided to head on to Luxor.
It was still early. We had some koshary and figured out where to stay. We ended up in a place that catered to tourists at one point, but now seemed to have a mostly Egyptian clientele. With wifi that worked most of the time and a clean enough room, it was perfect for us.
April 6-8, 2014: 348.32 km (Total km: 9301.47 km)