Cairomania

Days on the road: 156 days

Kilometres cycled: 5562

Countries visited: 17

Continents touched: 3

Punctures: 3

At the time of our last post, we were in Alexandria, all feeling pretty ill and with a couple of broken bikes. Now, we are in Cairo and we had to tackle some pretty horrendous traffic in order to get here. Here is that journey…

We’ve all got diarrhea and it’s ridiculously hot. There’s rubbish everywhere and we’re constantly being harassed by overly enthusiastic/aggressive street salesmen, who are trying to pull some kind of scam. The roads are hectic, extremely bumpy and dangerous. But, weirdly, we love it here in Cairo.

There is a certain buzz here, one that none of us have felt in any other city before. Yes it’s overpopulated, and yes a lot of the buildings are ridiculously ugly, but despite all the negatives, there is a warmth here, a sense of deep history, one that you can’t escape from, no matter how many piles of rubbish you hide behind. In general, all the people are friendly and welcoming, especially the children. We do often feel people staring at us, but that is probably cause we are some of the only tourists here AND we are riding bicycles.

In order to get here, we had to cycle around 230km from Alexandria. The road was stupidly busy the whole way; two lanes turned into five, people undertaking, cars coming the wrong way, cars overtaking the cars coming the wrong way, and 10 year olds driving scooters and motorbikes in the middle of the road. Needless to say, our diarrhea was not the only cause of us crapping ourselves whilst on the road.

In fact, at one point, Tobias was so desperate for the toilet that we had to stop in order to find a place for him to relief himself. Unfortunately, the number of public toilets in Egypt is pretty low, so he had to result to desperate measures. To cut a long story short, Tobias did a poo behind a shop on a busy main road. He was completely overlook by flats, in view of the shop incumbents, sat next to a train track and surrounded by piles of rubbish. Consequently, this public poo only received a 1 out of 10 rating (it would have been a zero if it wasn’t for the swiftness of the procedure.)

Ramadan has just finished, and for those that don’t know, Ramadan is an Islamic tradition whereby Muslims are not allowed to eat, drink or smoke (or have sex) from sun rise to sun set. This explains two things:

  1. The short tempers and erratic nature of Egyptians (particularly in Cairo)
  2. The lack of food at restaurants and shops on the side of the road

Both of these issues create slight problems for us whilst on the road. The starving drivers don’t notice us on the road, and even if they do, they make every effort to get as close to us as possible, honking at the last minute, just in case they hadn’t scared us enough. Luckily, their pent up anger seems to be vented on to one another, rather than directly at us, and we have seen many fights and arguments that testify to this fact. The other, more slightly obvious issue is that of food. It’s essential we eat in order to carry on cycling throughout the day, so when we stumble upon a restaurant or café that is actually serving food, it’s an absolute godsend!

Half way between Alexandria and Cairo, we actually did happen to stumble upon a restaurant that would serve us food, in fact, that served us a banquet. Tasty salty soup, fresh salad, lamb that melted in your mouth, fluffy white rice and steaming hot pitta breads, all for less than £3! We had landed on our feet! To add to our delight, the locals and the people that worked there were incredibly friendly; showing a keen interest in our journey and why we were there. But, in contrast to some of the locals in rural Turkey, they understood our personal boundaries and got the message when we wanted to be alone.

Attached to the side of the restaurant was a quaint mosque, and it didn’t take long for the restaurant workers to invite us to sleep there for the evening. With the food being so good, and the people so friendly, we asked ourselves ‘why not!?’ The afternoon turned into evening, and it continued with a good atmosphere, and come sunset, the locals were ecstatic about breaking their fast. Eventually, we ate our share of food and then set up our temporary home in the mosque.

We hadn’t really considered what sleeping in a mosque would be like, and if we had, I’m sure we would have thought it would have been a peaceful nights sleep with no interruption. Unfortunately for us, this was not the case, and in addition to the constant barrage of flies on our face, road traffic noise and building works, we had the wonderful experience of waking up at 3am, to 30 odd men, humming and chanting their prayers whilst standing over our makeshift beds. It was a surreal experience and one that we hugely appreciated despite the terrible nights sleep.

The morning presented us with yet another cloudless day, and we were soon on the road, headed for Cairo. Approaching the bustling city, the traffic got heavier and heavier and people got less and less aware of our presence.

The rules of the road in Cairo:

  1. There are no rules
  2. Do not use wing mirrors (this is genuinely part of a recent change in their highway code)
  3. Do not wear seatbelts as a passenger (you can actually get fined for this)
  4. Ignore on lines on the road (seven rows of traffic on a three lane road is common here)
  5. Aim for pedestrians who are using the road
  6. If traffic is coming towards you, don’t worry, it doesn’t matter if you drive on the left, or the right
  7. For children, if you can’t find a riding school nearby, feel free to take your horse on the motorway
  8. Drive with you ears, not your eyes (constant honking of horns)
  9. If you get caught reversing on a motorway, you will get a gold star
  10. Failing all over rules, remember rule number one

Cycling here is like one of those computer games you had as kid, you know the ones, with asteroids coming towards you and the occasional alien trying to sneak attack you. Only difference here was the aliens were people, the asteroids were cars and potholes and we had run out of extra lives. 

We had one particularly close call with an undertaking van, and an even closer call with a dead donkey that happened to choose the road as it’s grave. Seriously, the roads are bloody mental, and the people are even crazier, they just step out in front of you without looking, fall asleep on the edge of the road or under their trucks, and  they purposefully step out in to seven lanes of traffic; remarkably (and thankfully), we didn’t see one accident (apart from the one in Alexandria).

We arrived at our destination bang on time, and received a warm welcome from an amazing couple, Cesar and Fabian, that were hosting us through http://www.couchsurfing.com The kindness of strangers never seizes to amaze me, and this situation was no exception. With a six month old baby, they allowed three smelly cyclists to stay in their apartment, they fed us and gave us a warm shower, and they did it all for free. Without them and their advice about Cairo, our stay here would have been much more expensive and much less enjoyable. Thanks so much for you hospitality and kindness…we hope you enjoyed your holiday!

We’d heard of some old rocks that were supposed to be nice to see, so with the help of Nada (Cesar’s friend), we made our way to some kind of desert at 3am in the morning. When we arrived, the locals (starved of tourism and therefore income) literally jumped in front and onto the taxi in an attempt to “give us good price” for a camel ride. Luckily, the taxi driver steamed straight past and we arrived at a local’s 300-year-old house; here we would be welcomed with cups of chai and ice cold water, prior to our mounting of the humped beasts.

We raced our camels through the back streets and could see the pyramids in the distance. The first glimpse we got was a truly breathtaking moment, and one that we will never forget. It’s been a childhood dream of mine to see the pyramids, and they certainly didn’t disappoint. You see them on TV and are impressed by their grandeur and size, but until I saw them up close, I couldn’t appreciate how massive they are. It seems impossible that they were built so many years ago, with such detail, infinite precision and impeccable quality. They are truly incredible and I recommend you get to see them at some point in your life.

One downside to the whole experience is the interaction with the local touts; every single one pretends they don’t want money and they are trying to be genuinely friendly, then as soon as you place your trust in them, they start asking for payment, looking at you as if you are a mobile cash machine (Tom fell victim to this in a huge way, but luckily Nada, our feisty Egyptian guide, set the tout straight). Another negative was the way in which the sites were so open to the public; you were allowed to walk on some pyramids, touch all of them and walk around the tombs unguided. It seems like there is no concept of preservation here, and although it’s nice to be able to get up close and personal with this ancient museum, it’s a shame that the lack of attention to this concept means that these incredible ruins are crumbling faster than they should be. One main reason behind this is the lack of money in the economy from tourism and therefore the lack of investment in preservation. Since the revolution here, the number of tourists has drastically declined and this has severely affected not only the preservation of historical sites, but also the people in and around Cairo.

Some of our time here has been spent in the Islamic Cairo, another tourist hub. But unfortunately for Egypt (and us), we were the only tourists! Every single shop owner knew who we were and where we were from, and the touts were even sneakier than those at the pyramids. The mosques and bazaars there are beautiful and well worth visiting, just make sure you are prepared for the onslaught of ‘special prices’ and ‘lovely gifts’ that will be offered to you every other minute.

Tomorrow, we head east to the red sea and then south for a few hundred km, before we head back west toward Luxor. In between here and there, there is not much other than desert, so it could be a tough leg mentally and physically. However, having been surrounded by 20 million plus people for the past few days, we are all relishing the prospect of being back on the road and away from civilization.

We recently released our new music video from the road. It’s dedicated to the War Child’s Syria appeal, so please have a watch and more importantly, donate.
Thanks for reading. x

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

Crouching toilet, hidden paper

We’re near the end of our leg through Turkey; politics, mountains and new Daring Dynamos have meant we’ve been here longer than expected, but nevertheless, we’ve had an awesome time and our leg from Izmir to Olympus has been an eventful one. Here is the story of that journey.

Prior to leaving Izmir, we headed out to town and indulged in a few of the local brews. Tobias, being slightly smaller in build than Tom and I, may have reacted to the alcohol at an increased rate. After going through the formalities (where do you live, what do you do, what’s your name, etc.) with a Dutch/Turkish girl, it was apparent to her that Tobias may have been a little tipsy:

“Tobias, you look like you may have drunk too much” she suggested cautiously

The look of anger was obvious on Tobias face, but he managed to control his dyke of fury and calmly replied, “Well, your belly looks like you may have eaten too much of that fruit” gesticulating toward a bowl of fruit on the middle of the table

This signaled the end of the conversation, and in turn, the end of our night. The following morning, we were back on the road.

We made our way to Fetiye, a super touristy destination, with many holidaymakers that looked like they were pulled straight from Blackpool beach. Tops off, tits out was the order of the day, and the tattooed Brits abroad did not disappoint with their perfectly salmon pink skin, “It will go brown tomorrow luv!” Despite the infestation of sunburnt Brits, the place was beautiful and we got to visit a beautiful cove named “Butterfly Valley”. Hidden away from the main beaches, and only accessible by boat, this valley provided some breathing space from the main town and some pretty awesome cliff jumping!

By chance, a friend of mine was holidaying nearby with her family (don’t worry, they didn’t fall into the Brits abroad trap). We were lucky enough to meet up with them for a night in Fetiye and the chance to see some pretty good traditional Turkish music. It was a fantastic night that we all enjoyed, thanks for making the effort to come and meet us Jo, Nats and Matt.

Having cycled across the entire width of Europe and after spending four months on the road, Tom and I hadn’t suffered a single puncture. Having cycled 250km and after spending 4 days on the road, Tobias suffered his first. Since then, Tom has also been hit twice with punctures, and we are now getting adept at the process of stripping down the bike and performing the necessary procedure.

The cycling has been tough, mainly due to the hills, angry wild dogs, and the heat (50oC on the road). Climb after climb in a blazing inferno, has seen the three of us resting in the shade and sweating profusely (literally like someone had turned an internal tap on). One day, I drank over 14 liters of water and didn’t do a single wee…that’s when you know it’s hot. If you want a better idea of how hard it has been, go to a sauna, take an exercise bike and set it to about 75% resistance, then pedal for around 110km…

This being Tobias’ first couple of weeks has meant he has really been thrown in at the deep end and will not be ashamed to admit, that at times he has wanted to stop early and just sleep. But, credit where credits due, the lad has pulled through and completed some monster days on the bike, albeit sleeping at every single rest stop we had and professing that there is no possible way he can take on the next hill.

The tough terrain we’ve encountered has inherent rewards; down hills and spectacularly breathtaking views to name a couple. The mountain scenery here is un-expectantly luscious and could be likened to that of a rainforest in SE Asia. We’ve also been lucky enough to have some pretty amazing camping spots; deserted beaches, lakeside mounds, olive groves, and the not so desirable inner city building site, where we spent the whole night listening to stray dogs, beeping cars and crowing cockerels.

Another obstacle we’ve had to deal with in Turkey is the dreaded crouching toilet. If anyone can explain the logistics of this to us, that would be much appreciated. There is no grab bar nor toilet paper, the floor is always wet (meaning your shorts getting covered in the previous users deposits), and there is always a bucket next to the basin. This logistical nightmare has given us an unexpected appreciation for the sit-down toilet, demonstrated by high fives and whoops whenever we are lucky enough to stumble upon one at a service station!

It’s been so hot here, that since leaving Istanbul we’ve slept outside every night we’ve camped. Sleeping under the stars is great, but we are waking up with handfuls of mosquito bites, sweaty and wet sleeping mats, and Tom has woken up with a few wet sleeping mats too.

After 5 nights super tramping, cycling every day and not having a shower, I’m sure you can imagine how we smelt and looked. Our stench is something we are now used to, and the bemused/gagging look that we get from locals who brave to sniff near us, is something that we have now come to ignore/relish. Nevertheless, the shower we received upon our arrival at Kadir’s Tree house hostel, Olympus, was certainly well received.

The hostel itself is pretty cool, a shed load of…sheds, right near the beach, with a tasty breakfast and dinner included. Only trouble is, there is no meat in this hippy joint, so we are currently searching the local shops for some form of dead animal to eat.

From here, we are heading to Antalya, where we will pack our bikes into boxes and entrust our babies lives into the hands of the ever-competent baggage handlers. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing crisis in Syria, it is not feasible for us to cycle from Turkey into Africa, so we have to fly into Alexandra in order to start our North to South journey of Africa.

Having experienced the unforgiving Turkish heat, we are slightly apprehensive about cycling through the Sahara in the height of summer. But, at the same time, we are unbelievable excited about the physical and mental challenge ahead of us, and the rewards that lie in wait for us after completing our task.

We hear the weather in England is good, and in perfect time for the Olympics too. Hope you are all enjoying it, thanks for reading, and if you have a spare buck or two, please visit our Just Giving page and get donating.

Love x

Istanbul to Izmir – Breaking Tobias in…?

Days on the road: 125

Kilometres cycled: 4675

Countries visited: 16

Punctures: 0

 

Eventually, we left Istanbul. Her strangle hold was too strong for just the two of us, but now with Tobias in tow, we managed to break free of her clutches. To say we had an amazing time there would be an understatement; there is so much to do and see. Every single sense is constantly active; the smell of spices, the noise of the street and the extreme heat from the blazing sun. However, after three weeks of this, it got a bit much, and we had to leave! Istanbul is incredible, but it is not a place for quiet reflection or a dose of relaxation. Would we go back there? Yes, but there is no way we could live there. It is mental. Here is a video about our time there…hopefully this gives you an impression of how crazy this place is; it really is 24/7.

 

 

As soon as we were on the road, it felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off our shoulders. We were back in charge of our destiny, of where we could go (apart from Pakistan and various other countries!) and what we did.

 

It was Tobias’ first day riding with a fully loaded bike. Tom and I were silently concerned about his ability to keep up with us.  We thought back to when we first started and then imagined doing that through Istanbul…talk about being thrown in at the deep end!

 

Although we were concerned, we may have also been intrigued (and a little excited) to see how fit we were after four months of conditioning. However, the three weeks in Istanbul had taken it’s toll and once on the open road, our new American friend was speeding off in front off us, leaving Tom and I bemused in his trail of dust. No words were exchanged on the matter, but Tom and I both knew that this situation could get embarrassing for the two of us!

 

After our first nights camping in a national park, we were back on the road and the beautiful tarmac gifted us with a loving 10% uphill gradient in 40-degree heat, surely this would prove too much for our yoga practicing amigo.

 

Tobias challenged the road to a duel and this time he won, speeding to the top and again leaving Tom and I pondering our fitness. Our worries were soon squashed however, when we got to the top and saw the next hill in front of us. Tobias’ heart sunk and the weight from his life giving muscle, rapidly moved down into his legs, making them heavy and fatigued. Normal service was resumed and Tom’s self esteem and mine were restored.

 

But, all jokes aside, Tobias has done tremendously well on his first week with us. We’ve taken on some serious hills, a lot of kilometers, dripped liters of sweat and he did it all with very little complaining. Well done sir.

 

We’ve made it to the west coast, to another bustling city called Izmir. The road here was pretty boring to be honest, but it was made more exciting by the hills and the strong tailwind we had behind us (adding about 5km an hour to our average speed).  We slept by lakes, in Olive groves, and in national parks, and for the first time on our trip, we slept under the stars. This was my first ever time sleeping under the stars, and it felt like a dream come true; gone were the days of envy when I wished I had the same stick-on-stars that all my friends had on their childhood ceilings. It’s so invigorating to fall asleep with a blanket of glistening diamonds above you and to be woken up by the gradually increasing warmth of the sun (or a cricket jumping on your head).

 

From here, we are heading along the coast and hope to visit some ancient ruins, the Valley of Butterflies and also jump off some cliffs. Then, we are heading to Antalya before crossing over to Africa to start the next big leg of our journey.

 

Any initial fears that Tom and I had about the dynamics changing with the addition of Tobias have totally dissipated. It had improved our camping efficiency, the quality of our meals, the laughter around the campsite and many other factors. The mood in camp has been very relaxed and full of laughter; all of us are seriously excited about the Africa leg and can’t wait for the physical and mental challenge that lies ahead of us.

 

Peace out and thanks for reading. x

Istanbul

Howdy.

After 3 and a half weeks, we are finally leaving Istanbul. It’s been too hot to write a blog on our time here, so instead, we made a video….enjoy.

 

 

We are now heading to the Asian side of Turkey, and then onto Egypt. We intend to continue south through Africa, until we hit Cape Town. Although we’ll have limited access to internet along the way, we will keep you as updated as we possibly can.

Please get donating now, every little helps. Just visit our Just Giving page and donate anything you can.

http://www.justgiving.com/DaringDynamos

Peace xx