So, onward we go! There’s a lot of text here, but 50 pictures below, so just scroll down if you’d like to see the pictures and captions. 🙂 Read the text if you’re interested!
We’ve had 4 ride days and most of one rest day at this point. They were not easy.
The first day was 87km total, including 15+ km through the city riding double file behind a police escort. Birgit and I were partners and rode together and chatted for this time, eventually leading to 4 days of riding together… It was alright, lots of people out waving etc, but most of us were interested in speeding it up and going a bit faster on the open road. Weather had a different idea for us.
30-50km winds, I’d guess… Pretty much all the way from Khartoum to Dongola. The first day of 97km took us something like 7 hours. Not what I expected. Birgit and I ended up on our own and I pulled her whenever practical.
The next day was an absolute slog. Fuck day 2. 148km of extreme headwinds the entire way. Eventually we got into a double line of about 8 people and it became my personal mission to get us all to the checkpoint before sunset cut off our riding. Phil and I pulled that line 90% of the way and we got everyone in! Success! But then the sun set immediately and we hardly had time for camp! lol. Off to bed. Every day bed is like 8pm, and I’m out like a light. Wake up a few times maybe, but always drift off again… 5am wakeups.
Day 3 was more hell. There was some times of light wind and we had a few more pullers in our little peloton but the peloton grew far too big and had too much inexperience probably, so a little after a delicious peanut butter bun lunch stop (seriously just put the whole jar of PB on that piece of bread for me please and I’ll eat it all, just lather it!) we had our first accident. Birgit motioned for Mateo to pass and there was a misunderstanding and the bikes collided. Luckily no one was seriously hurt, but Birgit’s shoulder has been bothering her since, Mateo’s helmet was cracked hardcore and, and everyone was a bit shaken up. I added 6km to my daily total by riding the 3km back to lunch as fast as I could to get a medic. Mateo was still lying in the road when I left and I feared the worst, but he was up and going by the time I got back (and the medic got there). Both their days were over though and Mateo’s been borrowing helmets, and will continue to do so until a new one flies its way here from Canada.
It was sad losing my riding partner Birgit, but we found some tailwind as we reached the Nile and the road turned slightly East (and maybe the wind shifted a bit too)… We clocked close to 30km/h for a while, and it was delicious! I hit 150k this day due to my 6km addon, and it was about 8 hours total, giving me a few hours at Dead Camel Camp to sit back and chat with friends and family back home (we do a lot of chatting on the road, it’s ok to spend some time on the phone in the middle of 1000s of miles of sand, lol).
Day 4 the end was in site, but I wasn’t sure how I was feeling. We had a time trial 20km into the day and the TT was 20km itself. I was feeling competitive and yappy, but as I’d find out, I had nothing in the tank.
Somehow there was a miscommunication again and my group thought I was ahead of them, so they left without me and thus I had no drafting group for the first 20km to the start of the TT. Just Birgit, Sonia and I, and no one was really pulling, we were just chatting. We got to the TT with minutes to rest, something like 3, and then I took off and immediately ran out of energy. The 20k ride to the TT was faster by far! I got in a bad mood about being left behind at camp and being alone on the bike (more and more evidence stacking up about my extrovertness), and my spirits were really down for the first time. Luckily I turned a corner and saw a group of camels sitting together and it made me smile and remember I was in Africa to cycle through Africa and the race was nothing. I stopped for a photo and my time was horrible, but I did it and was happier in the end. Birgit’s spirits were lifted by beating me, something she bragged about for the rest of the day. Nice work, Birgit! lol.
The day ended up very long and void of any kind of energy. I felt like shit coming into camp, I could hardly be excited about it. I had a cold shower, unpacked my locker into my tent, and got to the falafel eating. FALAFELS ALL THE TIME. Jennilea gave me about a dozen falafels, Ina gave me a few more, I slept, woke up, ate 5 more for breakfast, went into town, had a falafel sandwich, walked a bit, had a bag of falafels… Man, I love this stuff!
Oh yeah, an aside about food! I’ve tried so many foods it’s impossible to remember them all now. Hot peppers, random beef dish, soup (I know, right? What’s wrong with me that ‘soup’ is something I’ve never had), pasta with some sort of taco meat (delicious, though I don’t like the pasta texture still), crunch peanut butter, palmello (a new favourite, thanks Michael! He found me just to make me try it), curry (on chickpeas – also new!), Spanish Lamb Stew (too many bones, but delicious too), falafels, everything!!
So today we got to see Dongola, which was awesome. It was nice to be walking around and get to talk without wind sound… Everyone was looking for food but most of the food was falafel, so falafel we had! The pictures kind of explain the day better than I can.
Overall I think even the tour staff agree that the first days were too hard. They didn’t plan on the wind, even though Northerly wind is common for the area. 10 hour days 3 days in a row is just too much for everyone. EFI is a status of riders that finish and have cycled every ‘faboulus’ inch of the tour without getting on the truck for a ride. We basically lost most of the cyclists in those days. Myself and about 11-12 others still hold on to EFI, but man, for the first days of the tour!
The 4 days on Strava/GPS: 1, 2, 3, 4.
Today I’ve missed out on the town-going supper groups, so I guess it’s falafels and burgers at camp. And hopefully a shave. In cold water. In the dark. This sucks, lol. I’m dumb.
Anyways, onwards and upwards! Next days’ kms before break in Atbara: 112, 110, 130, 124. Those numbers look so small! And with a tailwind. Man, we’re gonna fly!!
Maybe I’ll go for a run! 😉 See you later, friends! Message me on FB, Twitter, etc! Always nice to hear from you.
12 thoughts on “First Days of Riding, 528km or so from Khartoum to Dongola, Sudan”
Awesome photos Scott!
Sounds like a great adventure Scott! Sounds like you are doing great – keep up the spirits and the hard work and enjoy the experience!
Sudan’s rich oil reserves make it one of the faetsst growing economies of the world you see signs of this?From where Dongala is located I’d guess that the road follows the Nile. Read that the Blue and the White Nile meet in Khartoum. Guess it’ll be another 15 or 20 days till you get there eh?
I’m the most excited that you are eating new foods lol. Fingers crossed you come back a changed man able to eat everything 😉 Eat a camel for me!!
I actually thought I was about to eat camel today but it turned out to be beef! lol
LOVE the pics!
Awesome photos Scott!
Awesome photos Scott. Glad everyone is ok after the accident! Don’t worry about the TTs, as you’re in Africa, and you need to stop and take photos of camels and the cool stone gate! Lovely photos by the way! Can’t wait to read your next post! Stay safe and have fun! With group traveling, you’ll start to embrace the alone time. Saying that, hope you don’t get left behind again! 🙂
When do you have time to do anything but ride? That’s crazy far and into the wind. Totally nuts!
Keep up the safe travels. Excited to hear more of the adventures! (That and I’m completely jealous)
The next time I hit a headwind I won’t be complaining 😀
just read your diary and saw your awesome pictures. I will follow your descriptions, too, within the next months.
Best greetings and wishes to you all ! Keep healthy and always stay in good mood.
Special greetings to my niece Birgit ! You are altogether “heroes of the year 2014”.
Keep moving ! Hilde