To the Red Sea
"Ok guys, let's go home!"
The proclamation made by Michie as the first pedal strokes towards the red sea were made. A single sentence which seemed to resonate incredibly with everyone in the group.
This journey we have the privilege of making is truly amazing, and made even more so knowing that each turn of the wheel brings us closer to not just a new adventure, new friends or new spectacles to behold, but home as well.
Our second week of touring took us along the coast of The Red Sea, a stark contrast to the week before. Instead of cute little villages and bustling cities we encountered sea side resorts and industrial zones, with short blissful periods of nothing in between. These areas gave the opportunity to finally get the tents out of their bags and blow the first breaths of air into our camping matrases. We found spots nestled between sanddunes along the side of the road, and a spot atop a rocky hill overlooking the sea, but for me there was one night's stop which clearly stood out.
Cruising along with a glorious tail wind between Hurghada and Sofaga, neither my eyes or Robbie's spent much time on the road, but on an a mountain range inland to our right. The sharp, jagged profile of the mountains seemed almost 2D and the trail runner inside each of us couldn't resist.
It wasn't hard to get the girls on board with an idea for a little detour.
Almost as good as the actual mountains was the route to get there, or lack of route rather. The 6km of flat desert sand was just hard enough for us to ride our bikes most of the time and push them the rest. Our hearts and our bikes were both smiling as we weaved our way between shrubs and sandy patches, making up our own path. One of the happiest momements of the tour so far was certainly arriving together at the foot of the range, Tanariwen providing our soundtrack, finally able to say that we were Mountain Biking across Africa
Traveling this section of coastline, while incredibly beautiful at moments, really opened our eyes to how well the natural beauty of our own coastline in South Africa has been preserved and has remained accessible. Several times we remarked on how the road could easily have matched Chapman's Peak, had it not been for extreme landscaping of the mountains or buildings built right next to the road blocking the sea view. Many of the beautiful beaches that were accessible by road were privately owned by resorts and allowed no public access. Robbie and I went for a morning run along the beach and were stopped 200m in by a security guard. We turned around and tried in the other direction but didn't get much further. This restriction didn't seem to bother the local Egyptian holiday makers, who seemed more than happy to be locked inside whatever resort they were staying in.
As much as we didn't want to, we spent 2 nights in such resorts due to us not being the healthiest group of humans at the start of our trip. One night I started awake thinking a dog was about to bite my face off, relieved to find it was just one of the others having a 'little' midnight cough. This group sickness lasted almost the full week, which meant that we took riding very easy, cycling between 20 to 60km a day.
We had heard from people who have cycled the route before that the Egyptian police were not the fondest of cyclists riding particular stretches of road. Egypt has seen a huge decline in tourism in recent years and is trying desperately to prevent any bad press involving tourists. This is a bit of a shame since one of the only unpleasant things we have experienced in this beautiful country has been the constant protection and restrictions of the police.
Anyway, after fighting our way through a sand storm most of one morning, we stopped 3km shy of a notorious checkpoint and hitched a lift in a bakkie, hoping to get out just the other side. Unfortunately the police were not blind and easily spotted the bikes on the back, pulling over our driver and forcing us onto the next bus to Hurghada, 250km down the coast.
Hurghada was an interesting experience. We arrived late in the evening and spent the night with a very kind Couchsurfing host, Victor, who let all four of us, gear and all, squeeze into his small apartment, while already hosting another Couchsurfer from Japan. We explored the city the next day and met a group of friendly Egyptians occupying an unfinished house on the only public beach in the area, who kindly offered us the unfinished house next to them. We gratiously accepted and returned with our gear to enjoy a late night swim in the sea, some tea boiled on their fire and a good night's rest before an incredible sunrise in the morning.
Most mornings have started with a bowl of oats soaked in water overnight and topped with an array of magical powders. Cocoa, maringa, coffee, cinnamon, Malasis and banana. A happy way to start a happy day. Our last sunrise by the ocean was experienced eating this breakfast on the beach in front of ProKiteVilla, just south of Sofaga.
We were lucky enough to have experienced the incredible hospitality of Max and Max, two Italian kiteboarders who have packed their boards, kites and pizza recipes, to relocated to this part of the sea where they can spend every day frothing out on the crazy good prevailing wind. Their villa has the coolest kite boarding décor and beautiful white pillared roof, which is where we spent our final night by the waves
While The Red Sea wasn't quite all we had hoped it would be, every day brought new joys, new observations and always contrasted greatly from the one that had come before. Reflecting at the end of a day on the activities of the previous morning seemed like thinking about last week. Knowing that we have 10 months left of this is difficult to imagine but so, so exciting. I'm greatful for each day that passes knowing that tomorrow another adventure awaits. Sofaga so good.