We Set Off Together

March 30-31, 2014

Breakfast at the Rahala Hotel in Farafra was, again, amazing. More and more food kept arriving and we ate until we were stuffed. The night before we’d decided that the four of us would leave together. Scott and I were looking forward to having riding partners again.

Thanks to Nico for this great photo of us.

Thanks to Nico for this great photo of us.

We set out together, sharing stories of the road. Nico and Julia had gone to some remote places and we enjoyed hearing their stories of rural Mongolia especially, one of their favorite countries so far.

Not too far from Farafra was Abu Minqr. The western-most point of the road, it’s not much more than a military checkpoint and a few buildings. We stopped for tea at the only cafe we saw. Two older men were engaged in a lively game of dominoes. When I looked on, they invited us to join them and play.

Even with a coach, I still lost.

Even with a coach, I still lost.

Nico and I played each other, both coached by one of the old men. I did my best but Nico destroyed me in nearly each game.

We passed through the checkpoint where the young soldiers where curious about our passports and our trip. A few months later, we learned that this checkpoint had been attacked by terrorists who had crossed over from Libya and over 20 soldiers had died in the attack. We remembered how young all the men there were, bored and alone in the desert, most of them waiting until they could return home to their families in more populated areas.

Nico and Julia.

Nico and Julia.

It was a flat area with few choices for stealthy camping, but we found a series of small dunes shortly after the checkpoint. It was right next to the highway and a lot more open than we were used to, but it was starting to get late and we didn’t have a choice.

A lone dune.

A lone dune.

Later that night Scott and I were woken up by some men with flashlights walking around. Nico and Julia were up a small hill and didn’t see or hear anything. When the men saw our tent, they hurried away and the next morning we followed their footprints until they ended at a small metal trash heap and we guessed that they were looking for scrap metal, probably illegally.

Even in a tiny outpost, there's still a cafe for tea and shisha.

Even in a tiny outpost, there’s still a cafe for tea and shisha.

We’d enjoyed the few days respite from the wind, but as soon as we turned and started heading back east towards the Nile, we found ourselves struggling against the wind. Scott and I took a little solace that it wasn’t quite as bad as when we left Cairo, but everyone was pushing so hard we couldn’t talk to each other anymore.

It was hot. Nico and Julia took a break in the shade of their bikes, but Scott and I, used to riding through the whole day continued on. To our surprise and delight, after a short time of riding with the wind in our faces, it changed directions completely and was pushing us along.

Nico, hard at work.

Nico, hard at work.

The kilometers passed quickly with nearly no effort on our part. When we arrived at the next checkpoint, we stopped to rest for a little while and were surprised when Nico and Julia pulled up shortly after we did. As we’d expected, the soldiers were friendly and welcoming. They offered us tea and cookies while Nico and Scott took advantage of the full water tank to dump water over their heads.

More desert landscapes.

More desert landscapes.

We’d hoped to camp there, but the soldiers had to ask their commanders who were stationed somewhere out of the desert. We waited for what felt like a long time and finally the response came back. No, we had to keep going. We needed to find somewhere to camp soon, and only a few kilometers up the road we found an acceptable spot up a hill and out of sight of the checkpoint.

We so few cars, we could take up the whole lane.

We so few cars, we could take up the whole lane.

The previous night we’d snacked on falafel for dinner, but this night we set out to cook a proper meal. In our opinion, the food we cook on the road is only basic and simple meals, but all the other cyclists we’ve met have been impressed. Nico and Julia marveled at our lentil curry, looking on jealously from their rice and tuna.

Before sleeping, we all agreed to try to get an early start the next morning. The afternoon heat made for tough riding and we weren’t so far from Dhakla, the next oasis.


March 30-31, 2014: 189.54 km (Total km: 8615.6 km)

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