Guiness and Abri
The 23rd of February was a special day, it is the day that Michie was brought into the world 25 years ago. Haifa, Salama and the wonderful women that we were staying with in Guinness went as far as making Michie a birthday cake and singing the first few notes of 'happy birthday to you' every time they were all in the same room as Michie. Turning 25 in a tiny little desert town with one row of ful farms and the Nile river to the west and the Nubian desert to the east may seem like an unlikely place to be happiest but it was quite clear that Mich was in her element right here!
We had a lovely morning and long farewell with at least three rounds of hugs and kisses for all, with many a 'habibi - my love' exchanged between the women and Mich and Jess. Then we rolled on about 20km down the road, the rolling was due partly to the north wind, mostly to our recent excessive milky chai and kisara consumption and slightly due to the rolling nature of our bicycle wheels - Jess, Angus and Robbie all received comments on their 'good health' and 'nice round faces' by friends and family over the next week. It's true what they say about Sudan, the hospitality of the people is so great that you have to start saying no to offers of sharing meals!
After our short 20km stint of riding we spent the next 10 days resting and relaxing in a town called Abri. We had the fantastic privilege of spending our first night here next to the Nile with a local Nubian man named Maaz and all his extended family. We shared meals with all the other youth of the family, learned how a home mechanic fixes his bicycle and had another good night all in our own beds. For the next week and a half we stayed at a very kind man called Magzoub at his Nubian Traditional Guesthouse. He saved us from our atrocious idea of camping next to the Nile - the little flies that feed on date palms during spring swarm around the river by the million every afternoon, for the whole afternoon - and took us to stay at his guesthouse instead. This was also right on the Nile, so morning and afternoon swims couldn't have been closer to our doorstep!
At Magzoub's we spent most of each day between the kitchen, the beautifully decorated courtyard and our beds. Endless reading, writing, learning, drawing and conversation took place with breaks for delicious and some experimental food in between. The town market place was right next to us and as the days went by we learned what the best things to buy were and where to buy them - the best of these were the 'dakwah' (freshly ground in front of you from roasted peanuts), the 'rusks' at the supermarket and all the fresh fruit and vegetables just a hundred or so meters down the Nile from us.
Highlights of our time here were hot cups of tea and coffee each morning, cool swims in the Nile, fantastic long runs in the desert and among the date palms, watching the sunset over the Nile each night, spending some relaxed time together while not cycling, meeting and listening to a local well known Nubian singer in his home and meeting the people who passed through the guesthouse. This included the group of Archaeologists working on the ancient Nubian site on an island nearby, a fun German solo traveler and another cycle tourer from Japan!
Lowlights of our time here included Angus' midnight 'death stalker' scorpion sting. This had us all trundling to the hospital in the middle of the night in Magzoub's classic Morris minor feeling quite scared! It left Angus feeling like anything he touched was covered in toothpaste for the next 24 hours, and was forbidden to drink water or shower. It also left Angus with the inability of getting sick for the next three years according to Magzoub! Mich didn't have such a great time as she was feeling sick with a cold. She was helped by Magzoub's traditional healing methods, including dry cupping and the boiling and drinking of local plants and a separate anti-biotic course but was in bed most of the time we were in Abri.
With 800 km to go to Khartoum we left on the last day possible, giving ourselves one week to arrive on time to meet Cam Wheeler who is traveling down from England to meet us and join the tour for six weeks, yay!￼