25.01.2009 35 °C
These five days entering in Sudan have been days of many "first"
First real offroad rides: We started with a day of mostly pavement with about 30 kms of a sand & gravel - hum: Not so easy to bike through sand - I wondered if I could do it for long. The next day was half and half and I started to really wonder if my body and my bike would be able to ride more then 50 kms on these "roads". Well, I did on the third day - the most challenging ride I ever done so far!!! : About 108 km with 95% on sandy roads - through sand pitts & gravel that makes your bike and body shake as if you were in a mixer. We started at about 0800 an finished at close to 1700.. Speed often not more than 10-13km/hour trying to keep a balance on my bike as I learned to go through sand pitts. I had to walk a few times and did fall a few more times and than the sun hit us at noon with +40 celsius and stayed until we reached camp at 1700 - that was a hard hard day. We are told the worst is yet to come in Ethiopia and Northern Kenya - will see at that time - for the moment I am learning the 101 offroad biking - BUT IT IS ALL WORTH IT!
We did an open desert crossing - very nice - also biked along semi-desertic roads were on one side we still had the Nile and on the other side - the Sudanese are working the terrain for irrigation!!! Hard work and beautiful scenaries
First glimpse at how amazing the Sudan is: The people are really the most friendly people we have met so far. They want to help, are curious about yr name and where you come from (that is often as much as you can communicate in English) - As you go through the villages or see how proud and hard working these people are. There is not much money but still the houses are finished (mud walls) and the gates are painted in bright colors red, blue, etc (such a vivid contrast against the sand dust, the mud walls, the haze from the sun!) - They have these areas with shade in which they are usually 3-4 big clay jars of water that is so so cold - great to cool down when the sun is hot - I have not yet tried to drink that water but we are being told that it comes from under ground sources and past the test of smell and no flotaing objects - and thus should be ok to drink. I will try.
The kids are not throwing rocks (so nice) - a small minority are asking for money or pens or sweet- but even there they do it in a much more respectful way and the adults (if around) are telling them not to do that - the vast majority of kids will simply want to say hello! and ask "what is yr name"! I discovered I have an arabic name - Sonia - (Tu savais cela Maman?)!!!
I have stopped a few time to speak with people - one woman spoke great English and she started talking about politic and religion (how much christian and musulman must learned to leave together and how much she hoped Obama will help - that was in a small village in the middle of North of Sudan - unreal and so fantastic). I was surprised as we had been told that we should not talk about politics! To illustrate that: When entering Sudan, one must fill a paper which tells you that you cannot take pictures of strategic infrastructure, bridges, military areas, beggars and anything that portrays Sudan in a negative fashion!!! Despite that the country and the people from the North of Sudan are not what one would expect! They are hospitable, friendly, opened and gentle. I have been given chocolate in stores (buy one and they insist on giving you 2 more.. mium) , offered free bananas, and given kind of almond and beens from a women in one of the market. I gave her one of my energy bar to offer her a gift as well and she then grabbed both of my hands with a motherly smile!
The bread is so wonderful in Sudan - like big pita bread but more thick and fresh
First snake: Yep knew that I was bound to see a snake and be scared like hell - Well it happened when riding my bike, One snake crossed in front of me and I DID NOT YELLED! It was tiny and long but I did not ask his name so I can't say more except that I was scared!!!!
[/b] First cold: MY rear butt is now holding good but I got a cold with some fever - no panic I am ok and still riding - Hopefully I will be better tomorrow - tody is a rest day and I did very little just to try to recover
First real star nights Beautiful stars with no lights around to obstruct the view - I must learned the read the sky. In the mean time I slept without the "cover sheet" on my tent so I could looked at the star - but chose the wrong
night! I the middle of the night the wind started and my tent got full of sand!!! Plus the wind was still high in the morning and it blew my tent away when I started to pack - I litteraly had to chase my tent in the desert as it was rolling away from me - scaring and funny - only thing is that I had fever all night an so I was much slower than the tent! Lucky enough I managed to get it back
First swim in the Nile[b]: I though we were not supposed but the TDA people told us ok to go wash in the Nile - so I did and I am still alive for the moment!!! Ha les crocos, Ha les crocodiles, sur le bord du Nile ils sont parties n'en parlons plus....
By the way, the ferry crossing between Aswan (Egypt) and Sudan was not so bad. It took about 18 hours instead of 12 - the boat was completely full with people sleeping on deck - no place to walk and the ferry fully loaded with all kind of stuff - I am sure the boat did not meet the loadline requirement! I just brtied not to think about it
That's it for the moment - IT is 1800 here and I must go back to camp and find something to eat - must likely a falafel - good and not expensive!!
Anybody in the mood to send me some news from home - how are you surviving the winter? I think of you (sometimes) when I bike under the blazing sun and looked and these sceneries that are beyond description