Our cycling scenery has changed completely from last week. We’re now following the Nile—Egypt’s main water source. Instead of a desert almost devoid of life, we’re now surrounded by palm trees, sugar cane, banana plantations, agriculture and other greenery.
However, that also means a dramatic increase in people and traffic. There are kids everywhere, running after us, waving and shouting excitedly. Cycling alone, I also get a fair bit of attention from adolescent men. “Hello-o,” they shout after me. I acknowledge them with a friendly smile. “What’s your name?” some want to know, and sometimes follow me with their motorbikes or tuck-tucks. “What’s your name?” they shout again, but I keep cycling. Eventually, they let go and—perhaps—wait for their next victim.
Contrary to the teenagers that get a bit tiring, my heart warms big time when I pass by mothers with their young daughters, all waving at me with big smiles. To me, they seem the most friendly and happy to see us. I wonder whether these women, all covered in headscarves and long dresses, see us female cyclists as an inspiration, hoping for a better future for their own daughters?
While the girls are all very peaceful, the young boys keep us on constant alert. There’s just so many of them, and one never knows how they react. Most of them just wave and shout “hello”. Some, however, hold sugar canes that they threateningly point at us. When they see us coming, they sometimes move to the middle of the road, as if they wanted to stop us.
I try to smile and wave at all of them. Replicating their hellos, or even greeting them with “SabāH al-xeir”, Egyptian Arabic for “good morning”, keeps them benign. All they seem to want is to be acknowledged rather than being ignored. As soon as they get our attention, they drop their sugar canes and step aside. A smile works wonders.
But dare you ignore the boys! I was in my best cycling performance after today’s lunch, hanging on to Niklas (our youngest rider who was going for a good race time), when all of a sudden a stone the size of a tennis ball hit my handlebar. Fortunately, I managed to keep my cool and not fall over, despite my raging heart rate. I turned around, and a bunch of boys that I hadn’t seen cautiously awaited my reaction. I made a U-turn as if I was about to come chasing after them, and off they ran.
Lesson learnt—always give people your full attention. As long as we keep smiling and waving, at each and every kid along the way, we seem to stay safe. 🙂
Stage 7: Luxor – Idfu (Egypt), 113.5km
Road & traffic condition:
Lots of speed bumps and police check points. Also far more traffic than we’ve had so far—donkey carts everywhere, little tuck-tucks driven by five-year olds, motorbikes accommodating entire families, and trucks with black exhaust clouds.
Sunny, but not too hot. Perfect for riding.
More a scenery highlight than a culinary highlight—lunch by the Nile. To my big surprise, the Nile’s water looks as clear and clean as the rivers in Switzerland. According to our local riders, it’s drinking water quality!
First day cycling along the Nile with big change of scenery—lots of kids, dogs, little villages and people everywhere. Certainly more entertaining than riding through the desert, but also requires constant attention to avoid accidents.
I’ve brought two sizes of cycling shorts—large and medium. That’s because—idiot me—was very concerned about sporting a muffin top. I thought I’d change to my medium-sized ones half way through. Well, I’ve already changed today!
Here’s what I hadn’t expected: 1) I’ve become more concerned about my butt and functionality rather than looks (loose fits causing more chafing). 2) I’m wearing my wind jersey all the time, so no one can see my belly anyway. 3) I think—but I’m not sure—that my muffin top has mostly disappeared. Cycling not only trains your legs, but also strengthens your abs muscles!