May 2, 2017

TDA2009 videos

Lonely Planet has put together several videos of TDA2009, and several more will come out in the coming months.  To see the videos go to:

Segment 1: Cairo to Khartoum (sorry, this link does not always work.)

Segment 2: Khartoum to Addis Ababa

Segment 3:  Addis Ababa to Nairobi

There are also numerous YouTube clips related to the 2009TDA.  Several can be seen through this link –

Video featuring The Killers' "All these things that I have done" and TDA2009

Jan.19: On the Ferry Between Egypt and Sudan

Biked: 17 K Elevation: 183 masl
Lake Nasser – Entering Sudan

This morning we slept in. We had a rider meeting at 8:30a.m., and then departed by a police-escorted convoy. The convoy lasted the entire 17 kilometers to where we caught a ferry on Lake Nasser from the town of Aswan, which is on the east side of the Nile. We climbed a little, then traveled across the Low Dam to the west side of the Nile, then climbed a little more before crossing back over the Nile on the Aswan High Dam. There, on the east side of the river, is where our ferry awaited us and many others.

The convoy was slow, and as you can imagine, security was very tight. It would be fascinating to know more of the history of the Aswan High Dam, which was built during the height of the Cold War with Soviet Aid. It would also be fascinating to know more about the canal irrigation system, some of which was built over 100 years ago. Over recent history Egypt has exerted considerable influence over the water rights to the Nile, and the Nile breathes life into Egypt. Without the Nile this country would have only limited agriculture. With the Nile comes agriculture, clinging precariously along its shoreline.

We started boarding the ferry about noon. Only about half of the TDA riders got a cabin, based on sex and age. I got to share a cabin with Edward from the Netherlands. Gradually the ferry was loaded with people, products, and produce. I was told that there are about 620 people on board. Throughout the afternoon, the ferry was loaded.

Mid-afternoon I used my one meal ticket and ate a meal of rice, chicken, tomato, cucumber, something like okra and coffee. The food was fairly tasty for being mass-produced (on the ferry). I brought along bread, pastries, tuna, dates, and water for later. After sunset, at about 6:00 p.m. we departed. The trip across the lake would take about 18 hours. That is what a worker told me: “If,” he said, “the engines are good-and the engines are good because they are German made.”

This ferry departs Aswan, Egypt on Mondays for Wali Halfa, Sudan. On Wednesdays it departs Wadi Halfa for the return trip to Aswan. A second ferry departs Aswan on Fridays and returns Tuesdays. Near where we departed were two huge tourist ferries that take tourists to Abu Simbel and other archeological sights.

Jan. 18: A Sugar Cane Factory and Apples from Washington

Biked: 115 K Elevation: 128 masl
Aswan, eventually, after Paul gets lost
Irrigated Agriculture Fields Line the Nile River Banks:

Tomorrow (Monday) we ride 17 K to the ferry on Lake Nassar. The two support trucks left us last night with most of our gear in order to catch an earlier truck ferry and hopefully arrive about the same time as we do in Wahdi Halfa.

The estimated time line is we get to the ferry on Monday morning, it takes 6 hours to load everyone (tda folks and locals), we spend 14 hours on Lake Nassar getting to Wahdi Halfa, and it takes 6 hours to unload everyone. That is if all goes smoothly. Throw in another 0 to 24+ hours for any unknowns.

If all goes without a hitch, we will get to Wahdi Halfa on Tuesday morning. We will only travel a short distance to camp in Wahdi Halfa Tuesday night. If all goes without a hitch I should be able to make the call to the class Tuesday afternoon my time – morning your time. However it is entirely possible I will not.

Because the trucks went ahead with most of our gear, I only have the Iridium phone and not the Mini with me, thus I can’t downsize recent pictures and send them tonight.

All indications are that Sudan will be devoid of internet cafes until Khartoum, if then. So I will probably call and continue with the audio blogs.

There are several (more than several) others tda riders with blogs. I don’t see them or my own, but you will find them perhaps interesting. One is
Another is Scott’s from New Zealand – get to it by going to the Lonely Planet home page. The Lonely Planet has two riders riding each section. They write travel books. Evidently later in the tour the founder of the Lonely Planet will ride a segment with us. Their homepage gets 11 million hits a day…. I will attempt to get Scott to mention my blog site.

We have had great weather. I am in great shape. The paved roads have been good to me. In Wahdi Halfa we will switch over to fat tires (45s vs 28s) and ride sand – so far it has been all tarmac. Sand will be a new experience.

I took a wrong turn today. Went a few extra Ks (probably over 10). Crossed the Nile but shouldn’t have. Took a local ferry back across the Nile to get into Aswan. (Ferry ride cost me $1.00US = 5#Egyptian (more than the locals ‘because of the bike’). That’ll teach me to pay better attention to the daily directions.

Jan.17: Edfu Soccer Stadium

Biked: 117 K Elevation: 124masl
Edfu Soccer Stadium

I stood at mid-field in the center of the soccer stadium at Edfu. To the east was the Nile River, and both north and south of the field were mosques. The famed hieroglyph’s of Edfu in the temple to the Egyptian God Horus are about a kilometer away, thru town to the west.

Today’s ride of 117 kilometers, from Luxor to Edfu, was all along the east side of the Nile. For about the first half we actually followed an irrigation canal. All agricultural fields are irrigated either by flood irrigation of the whole paddock or furrow irrigation. There were agriculture fields all along the Nile today, sometimes the width of the green fields was more than a mile on each side of the river and sometimes the agriculture fields were only 100 meters or less before the desert sands began.

Today I saw a lot of relatively small Belarus tractors. I suspect they do primary tillage and bunding with these tractors on most of the fields we rode past. Again, lots of sugar cane followed by alfalfa and small grains was present. Harvesting, done by hand, of the sugarcane and alfalfa was occurring, but the small grains had yet to stem elongate.

One of the more interesting sights today was three camels kneeling or sitting in the back of a half-ton pickup truck. Something else that was striking today was the amount of pollutants spewing into the air from various factories along the route. Often it was not possible to see off in the distance because of the smog. One could blame it on all the blowing sand, except I can attest there was not much wind today. We climbed from an elevation of 78 meters to 124 meters today.

James, the chef, informed me that chickpeas are very hard to find now in Egypt and that most of the falafel we have been eating is made from the fava bean. Also, he pulled into Edfu earlier today and purchased enough frozen chicken leg quarters to feed our crew of about fifty meat eaters. There are about eleven people on the ride who are vegetarian. James makes sure we all get adequately fed.

Walking the streets in Edfu this afternoon I saw apples that came from China and a butcher who, after tearing meat off a bone, threw the bone up on the roof.

Jan.16: First Rest Day Activities – I’m Loving It

Biked: 0 K Elevation: 78masl
Rest Day – Luxor

Today was a rest day. This morning I walked over to the Karnak Temple to watch the sunrise. Although it was partly cloudy and cool all day, I wandered through the streets and took lots of photos, especially at the market or souq (also spelled souk, suk, sooq, souq and suq).

It’s Friday, which is a religious holiday of sorts. Thus, it was relatively calm at the souq, and shops were slow to open. Once they did I was treated to a wide array of sites: A sugar cane juice maker, live chickens and birds, animal parts for sale, a big peanut roasting machine, a shop where pita bread is made, produce of all sorts on donkey carts and flat bed trucks, falafel being made from boiling fava bean in some sort of vegetable oil and being sold as ful, spices of all sorts, dried hibiscus leaves for tea and other dried grasses also for tea. Almost any fruit or vegetable could be found in the small stalls and shops tucked in the narrow meandering streets. Above the shops were apartments, and out their windows hung laundry. Besides produce, one could find tailors, shoes and shoe repair, pots and pans, as well as tobacco smoking places and orange juice makers.

By a little later in the morning, the young guides came out to assist the tourist: “My friend I show you a good price.” I had a cup of sugar cane juice, two fuls with falafels, and peanuts.

Most of the rest of the day I sent reducing photo sizes so I could email them to Maggie for posting, cleaning my clothes and bike, and listening to the broadcast prayers from the mosques. I saw a sign for McDonalds, but did not attempt to find it or get a McDelivery. Ah Luxor, I’m loving it.

Jan.15: Luxor – Lots of Crops

Biked: 95 K Elevation: 78 masl
Luxor – Rezciky Camp Hotel Grounds

It was a cool morning this morning, probably in the lower fifties. Left the desert camp early, heading west toward Qena and the Nile River. Still in the desert we passed an isolated irrigated field of eggplant, dill, and an occasional sunflower. We interested the main north-south road before arriving in Qena and headed south along a canal east of the Nile. People everywhere, as were green irrigated fields and a multitude of crops. Across the Nile we could see the sandy hill of the Sahara Desert. Adjacent to the Nile just a narrow swath of green fields. All the fields were flood irrigated. The whole stretch from Qena to Luxor was either small fields, roads, or buildings. The only exception was a sand soccer field.

Of the fields I saw today, I would estimate approximately forty percent were growing sugar cane. Sugar cane harvest is underway and trucks loaded with cut cane passed us in both directions. Maybe thirty percent of the land was planted to alfalfa. Judging from the stacks of dried corn stalks I suspect the alfalfa was planted after corn. The remaining thirty percent of the agriculture fields were planted to tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, squash, sweet potato, wheat, onions, cabbage, a lupine, and ground nuts. Boxes of red tomatoes were being loaded from one field. The wheat I saw was not yet at the stem elongation stage. Occasionally we’d pass fishermen fishing with nets from small boats in the canal.

On the bike, today’s hazards included sugar cane stalks which had fallen from the trucks, donkey carts carrying produce and other goods, tourist buses, and kids. Hundreds of kids, many yelling hello, welcome. We biked ninety-five kilometers today. Luxor is about 78 meters above sea level. The temperature is a pleasant low in the seventies in the day and fifties in the evening. Tomorrow is a non-biking rest day, so we bikers must find our own dinner. For a little over 10 U.S. dollars I had a soup, a banana, fried vegetables, grilled fish (perhaps Nile Perch), rice and a Luxor beer made from locally grown wheat. Except for the rice, I suspect all the food I ate was produced within twenty miles of Luxor.

Jan.14: Only Agriculture is on Back of Trucks

Biked: 139 K Elevation: 178 masl
Desert camp on road from Safaga to Qena (26 k east of Qena)

Today we left the Red Sea and headed west toward Qena. The first 40 kilometers were a climb up into the mountains, and the last 60 kilometers were a gentle decline into the Nile watershed. The total distance biked was 139 kilometers, all through what is called the Eastern Desert. We rode on a two lane paved road which had lots of trucks loaded with vegetables coming from Qena. The trucks were headed east towards the Red Sea. We didn’t see a village the whole day. Didn’t see any agriculture (except on the trucks headed east) either. One truck was loaded with sugar cane stalks that were maybe ten feet long. Other trucks had tomatoes, oranges, onions.

Some years, riders have seen Bedouin nomads with livestock along this stretch, but we didn’t see any this year. The TDA crew bought carrots, onions, and green beans in a Safaga shop this morning. The shop owner wanted to offload some fairly poor quality green beans, but the TDA crew waited until the truck with vegetables came in a bit later in the morning and bought fresh green beans. They then transported them most of the way back toward Qena to our desert camp and we had them as part of our dinner tonight.

This desert camp is a police checkpoint-one of approximately ten we passed today. This checkpoint also guards a water pumping station. They pump water from the Nile over to the Red Sea for human use (just like they transport food in that direction). The later part of today, our road followed rail road tracks also heading east and west. Mountain peaks were over 1000 meters, but our maximum elevation was only about 625 meters above sea level. The promised head wind for the last part of the day never materialized, and instead we again had a pretty fail tail wind. Our current elevation is about 178 meters above sea level. At our desert camp there are about thirty Eucalyptus trees, on account of water from the pumping station. Eucalyptus trees are not indigenous to Africa. It makes me wonder: Am I?

Race stuff (not in the original audio blog): Today was a race day, and after lunch I decided to race hard. Initially, we had a 40kilometer assent, with lunch at 60 kilometers. Brian, who is a racer in my age group, took off early from lunch, ahead of the peloton. He had fallen off the peloton on the assent. I thought I would try to catch him, which I did maybe 5-10 kilometers later. I was hammering away and there was no head wind, as promised, so I kept hammering. I thought I would do okay as I was in the hardest gear most of the afternoon, but if the wind shifted, the peloton would easily catch me. The wind didn’t shift and I won today’s race – beating Brian by 11 minutes and the peloton by even more. It will be interesting to see the dynamics of the race. On the last race day, Brian wondered if he would come in ahead of me. I made a Gentleman’s agreement and said, “It’s yours.” So the next race day is his also (but I don’t intend on finishing 11 minutes behind him though).

Jan.13: Virtually No Agriculture Along Red Sea

Biked: 100 K Elevation: 3 masl .
Safaga on the Red Sea

Started the day about 35 Ks north of Hurghada. From the desert camp by the Gulf of Suez / Red Sea we could see the tip of the Sinai Peninsula, but it was too far across the Red Sea to see Saudi Arabia.

Today we road 100 K, all along the Red Sea. Again the riding directions were to keep the Red Sea to the left. Again, on the road we saw no agriculture – except for one agricultural farm of no more than 10 acres maximum and one greenhouse. No doubt both had a water source.

We skirted the town of Hurghada. It is known as a tourist area. We saw several airplanes landing. The area evidently has some fantastic diving.

Again today a tail wind blew us quickly to the town of Safaga, and we arrived shortly after noon. All four day we have ridden on a divided, paved road. Big truck carrying produce and other products go by. Again today we passed a wind farm, which generates electricity.

Our camp this evening is on the sea front. TDA (Tour dAfrique) rented the beach front and four rooms from a hotel so we could have a shower (first since Cairo). I walked downtown and took photos of some small shops: a butchery, a vegetable stand, and a spice stand. Most all vegetables and fruit are brought in – most from the Nile Delta, but some from Syria (at least that is what the box said).

I talked with a fellow rolling Egyptian pizza dough. He gave me some ‘nabk’ to eat. It was a small crab-apple like fruit from a tree across the way. He said it gives one strength.

For breakfast we had what South Africans call ‘pap’ made from ‘mealie meal’ – corn flour. The TDA hired an expedition company to drive two custom trucks up from South Africa. They are our support vehicles – one is the lunch truck and the other the dinner truck. Both contain individual storage space for the riders and support staff. On the trucks they brought most of the corn flour, oat meal, and dried vegetables we will consume over the next four months. It took the trucks one week to go from South Africa to Nairobi, and
five weeks to go from Nairobi to Cairo.

Our lunches are most always going to be finger food – usually 2 or 3 pita bread sandwiches – one peanut butter and jelly/honey and one a cold meat / cheese. In addition we currently get a banana and several slices of orange. Also TDA supplies 2 energy bars per day – given in boxes of 20. More on those bars later.

This writing was posted at an Internet Cafe in Safaga. Cost about $1US for 30 minutes. They have wireless and about 7 terminals. There are numerous internet cafes in town. Our group has quite a few people using the internet. Hopefully when I have more time photos will get sent.

Yesterday on the audio blog I misspoke. Cous-cous is made from wheat flour, not corn. Feel free to comment to the website, especially when I make mistakes… as may happen frequently given a bit of rush and fatigue.

Jan.12: Oil Rigs on the Red Sea

Biked: 133 K Elevation: 11 masl
Desert camp north of Hurghada on the Red Sea

Today we continued going south along the Gulf of Suez. Riding directions for the day were relatively simple: keep the Gulf of Suez on your left. The ecosystem today was very much like yesterday- desert. No plentiful fields, no animals. I did see eleven birds flying (groups of 4, 4, and 3). The birds were doves or falcons, and here at the camp were a couple of wild dogs. The dogs must survive on something-perhaps human trash.

Yesterday afternoon I took photos of three big pipelines, each two feet or so in diameter. We could see oil facilities from our campsite, and oil platforms out on the Gulf. Occasionally we would hear a helicopter out over the Gulf flying between oil rig platforms. There were numerous tankers out on the Gulf of Suez, and we’ve been able to see across the Gulf to the Sinai Peninsula. That will probably change tomorrow as we begin riding along the Red Sea. It will be interesting to see whether or not we will be able to see Saudi Arabia across the Red Sea.

Today, like yesterday, we traveled on a divided four lane road. Traffic was light enough for us to ride in one full lane. Again, today we had a terrific tail wind and we bikers flew down the road-getting into camp early in the afternoon, even though we travelled 133 kilometers. That allowed me time to catch up some on bike maintenance, walk up to the base of some big hills to the west, snap some photos and take another swim in the Gulf of Suez. Temperatures these last few days have been pleasantly cold at night (low 50s) and mid-70s during the day. The sun is strong and sunscreen is needed.

The TDA tour chef is James. Hopefully we’ll hear from James later. He has been cooking great dinners and makes a mean lentil soup with couscous, and fresh figs. This evening I installed the Blackburn Bite computer. I had left the front wheel magnet at home, in Roseville. Craig from South Africa lent me his magnet. It has been tough without a bike computer because I am not sure how far I have gone or my pace- I have tended to pick up the pace inadvertently when I rotate to the front of the peloton.

Jan.11: The Race and Riding

Biked: 168 K Elevation: 8 masl
Desert camp on the Gulf of Suez near Ras Gharib

Last evening after the ride meeting there was a separate meeting for people that want to race. (I’ll briefly explain the race, but suggest readers check the TDA website for more information.) Riders have to decide and declare that they are racing. Racers don’t have to race every day, and not all days are race days. Some days only a portion of the ride that day is timed. All racers start at the same time in the morning. (The only exception is to this is when there are time trials.) Times are recorded at the start and end of that day’s stage.

An advantage for me to be a “racer” is that I ride in a group, or peloton, of really fast riders, and the riding day gets over much quicker. The disadvantage is that I feel compelled to stay with the peloton and not stop to take pictures or talk to people. Once dropped from the peloton, I wouldn’t be able to catch them again.

I decided last evening to sign up as a racer, but I don’t intend on racing every day, and I don’t really care how I finish in the overall standings. There are many stronger riders than I, and they can battle it out. One other disadvantage of being a racer is that my times will be posted, along with other racers, on the TDA website. Check out that site in the future to see how long I took each day. If I start early (before the other racers) it is on automatic penalty and a 12 hour time for that day is assessed.

So today was the first race day and I was happy to be able to stay with the lead peloton until the last 4 kilometers. Times were very fast, in part due to a 16 kilometer descent to the Gulf of Suez at the start of the day, but mainly due to a terrific tail wind.

Today was a long day- we raced about 130 kilometers of the 168 kilometer total. That’s a lot of rambling about the race. I promise I won’t dwell on it so much in the future.

The race gave me something to talk about. As far as agriculture and agroecosystems I observed- Nada, Zippo, Zilch. Not one planted field or animal the entire day. No agroecosystem today, just a desert ecosystem. Some shrub plants (brown from the blowing sand), but I was struck by the total absence of anything green.

There were also very few villages or farms. Numerous resorts along the Gulf, but they were typically walled off. One indication that this ecosystem hasn’t always been desert is the presence of massive oil facilities we pass by. More on that later. In the evening a number of us walked 500meters or so to the Gulf of Suez for a brief swim. The water was cold, like a Minnesota lake late in May, but the need for a bath after two days of riding was cleansing to say the least.