Cycle like an Egyptian: Africa begins

Days on the road: 149 days (or 12,787,200 seconds)

Kilometres cycled: 5331

Countries visited: 17

Continents touched: 3

Punctures: 3

When we last left you, we were in Olympos, Turkey. Since then, Tobias had family obligations in England, so whilst he was there, we had an incredible week in Kadir’s Tree Houses (Olympos), full of dancing, music, cliff jumping, rock-climbing and a cheeky unplanned visit from someone special! We were also extremely fortunate to make a great group of friends there, one of whom invited us to stay with her family in Antalya, we’re now in Egypt and getting ready to really tackle an entire continent (Africa) head on, here is the story of that journey.

The 90km cycle to Antalya was a pleasant, but challenging one (due to the heat and hills). It was our last cycle in Turkey and it was one that we were going to relish. In general, the cycling in Turkey has been phenomenal; quiet roads, tailwinds, spectacular scenery and unbelievably friendly people. The same was true for our last day in Turkey. We made our way along the winding coastal road, lush mountains jumped out of the land at unexpected points, their peaks covered in broccoli-stemmed trees and jagged rocks; the only things to be breaking the blue canvas sky that we had become so use to. We had our last Turkish kebab at lunch and continued on our way to our destination, both sad that this would be the last time we’d cycle in Turkey for a very long while.

Upon arriving at Cansu’s family house, we were treated to a cold shower, a cold beer and a very warm reception. A full feast was laid on for us and we experienced the pinnacle of Turkish hospitality. Cansu’s uncle was also kind enough to help us with our bikes boxes and other airport admin we had to go through before catching our flight to Egypt. Tom was given a master class Turkish and piano lesson from Melissa, Cansu’s cousin, whilst I took advantage of the cold drinks and comfortable sofas. Our stay there was a truly memorable one and it was extremely sad to say goodbye to not only Turkey, but also a beautiful family.

The flight from Antalya to Alexandria (Egypt) is a short one. A small section of sea separates to the two coastal towns and a direct flight would have taken around 45 minutes, but that would be too easy. Instead, we decided to go with the more complicated version of flying back to Istanbul, waiting for 3 and half hours, and then flying to Alexandria. We packed our bikes into dubious looking boxes and entrusted their lives into the hands of the local baggage handlers. It would be around 7 hours until we knew their fate.

Tired, jaded and in need of a rest, we eventually arrived in Egypt at around 2am local time. Somehow, our 11 pieces of luggage and 3 bikes made it all the way (although the boxes had certainly taken some punishment along the way).

Tom and Tobias decided (correctly) that it would be a good idea to get some sleep before attempting to rebuild our bikes. I on the other hand, thought I would be clever to get started straight away. The lack of sleep had taken its toll, and simple tasks were proving difficult, but nevertheless, I managed to completely rebuild my bike. I was however, missing an extremely important bolt that holds the handle bar in place. My bike was broken and so was I.

Annoyed, worried and confused, there was no way I could get any sleep. So the next three hours were spent guarding our luggage and enviously watching the other two sleeping. When they eventually woke, I informed them of the bad news and attempted to assist them with building their bikes. However, with no sleep and a troubled mind, my temper was short, and I was soon sent away to the corner to calm down and have a cry (this travelling malarkey is emotional work!)

With three bikes (kind of) built, we decided the only thing to do was to find the missing bolt in the city. Unfortunately, my bike was not roadworthy and neither was Tobias’, meaning we’d have to pay for a taxi (two in fact) and again trust the lives of our bikes into the hands of motorized transport.

The journey from the airport took us through some pretty hectic streets; cars ignoring the rules of the road, pedestrians ignoring the cars, and a constant background noise of shouting and beeping. Egypt had welcomed us like a pig is welcomed to a slaughterhouse.

Unbelievably, the bikes made it to a cheap hotel in one piece, and we stepped out of the taxis to be presented with Faulty Towers Mark II. The hotel may not be the Ritz, but within minutes of arriving, our luck was changing. Tobias pointed out that the missing bolt on my bike was in fact not missing, but was exactly where it should be (tiredness affects us all), we’d also been told about a bike shop that would be able to provide Tobias with his missing part, and, to top it all off, we had three comfy beds in a better than average room.

Our delight was short lived however. The bike shop that was ‘close’, in fact turned out to be a 4km walk away, and then when we eventually arrived, we got the bad news that Tobias’ missing part didn’t exist in Egypt. Oh well, we thought, it’s not an essential part; we’ll make do without it. We headed back to the hotel, had a nice dinner, caught up on some admin and got ready for the following morning when we aimed to be on the road by 8.30-9am.

11am and we were back in contact with our beloved friend tarmac, our aim was to be on the road all day and cover at least 140km: our journey went like this:

  • Leave hotel and cross insanely busy road to take picture by sea – 35 minutes
  • Take picture – 5 minutes
  • Cycle 500m – see car crash and resulting fight
  • Cycle a further 250m – see bus window spontaneously implode
  • Cycle one more km – Tobias bike too broken to carry on
  • Create makeshift solution out of cable ties and superglue – 1 hour
  • Unconvinced of said fix making it further than 10km we admit defeat and do return journey back to hotel

To make matters worse, this all happened on a Sunday, so none of the bike or hardware shops would be open, meaning we’d have to stay until Monday and get it fixed then!

Monday morning I was awoken by stomach cramps that soon prompted multiple visits to toilet (spending time over and on the porcelain throne). The bug that had got me, also had a negative impact on the bowel movements of Tom and Tobias, so it’s fair to say our morning didn’t get off to a good start.

In between toiler visits, Tobias had called another bike shop only to find out that they didn’t have the part either. Therefore, he spent the next few hours in a metal welders successfully creating some kind of make shift part to fix his baby. Bike fixed.

It’s now Monday evening. Fingers crossed we have three working bikes, 3 semi fit cyclists and half a chance of making it out of Alexandria tomorrow. If we do, we’ll be in Cairo in a couple of days and we’ll get to see the last ancient wonder of the world, The Great Pyramid of Giza.

Although these events are minor inconveniences to our travels, it reminds us how lucky we are to be able to do something like this and it also acts as a very poignant reminder as to why we are doing this trip. The children that War Child protects have to endure unimaginable hardship day in, day out. They have no respite; they may not have family or friends to look after them, and it’s sad to say, but without charities like War Child, they would probably have no hope.

Please visit our just giving page and donate as much as you can. Your donations make such a difference to the lives of children affected by war. Please don’t ignore this, do something good today and donate some money.
Thanks for reading. x

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Posted on August 13, 2012, in General. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Tom's Aunty Wendy

    Sounds as if you have had a traumatic few days – good preparation for some hard times ahead. Hang on in there lads!!

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