More days of desert, all the way from Dongola to Atbara!

The last 4 days of riding has been intense! Much riding, much sand, quite a few camels, and just some really long days!

Scroll ahead for the pics if that’s what you’re interested in. 😉

I’m getting sick of sand and desert though, which is sad because that’s what the next 6 days are. A desert crossing, no road, just desert and offroad tires. The 2nd and 3rd day of this week were the best!

Some general notes before I get going: Birgit and I continue to leave immediately after finishing breakfast, which for us is always around 7:45. We are constantly getting later and later since everyone else seems to be leaving earlier and earlier! I guess it makes sense with the wind picking up later in the day, but damn, how are they doing it! We’re not the slowest cyclists by far, but we spend a lot of time on breaks. If we take a break, often other cyclists will come, stop, say hi, take a break, and leave again before we’re ready to go. We also stop for photos. Especially of camels. I don’t think we got a goat photo.. Odd, that. I’m getting pretty good at packing my tent up though… No more rolling. Stuffing it in is the way to go! I wish my thermarest was as simple… It’s probably the most annoying part of my day that isn’t riding through 41 degree desert.

Day 1 was pretty uneventful as far as I remember. Watched the sun rise over the Nile, which was sweet, and then it was a couple turns out of Dongola and we were back on the road. The green stuff seemed to last a while, I think we traveled along the Nile more than I thought we would, since our plan was straight East to Atbara. One of the shortest days so far, I think it was only just over 100km, nothing special! lol. We did have mutton stuffing today to try and use up bread in an interesting way, but I didn’t much like it. I hardly found any mutton in my meal, there was too much feta (again, for me, I don’t eat cheese!) and it was just hard hard hard for me to get down. Backup nuts it was.

Day 2 we saw some Pyramids of the Kush Empire at a lunch stop, and then we (Jennilea and I – Birgit stayed below and guarded the bikes from some interested children, who are pictured below. They wanted handouts and were very interested in all the bike stuff, so it’s good she stayed there. I grabbed some pictures from her camera, which show up below) went up a nearby mountain and took some sweet photos from up there that are on Jennilea’s camera. I took some too, but not profile pic worthy ones… lol. Maybe I’ll try and add Jennilea’s pics to tomorrow’s blog if it happens!

The pyramids themselves were pretty cool though! I’m trying to look up some information about them now, but it’s proving impossible on Sudanese internet. They were near Karima and were part of the Kush Empire. We were told it was something like 8000 years old, the site? Which is nuts!!! Pics to come. This night we had Beef Curry and it was AMAZING. New food for Scott, woohoo! Like every other day. But this was amazing. 😀

Day 2 update: So I think the pyramids might only date back to 3000BC but the site of Napata might been much older, more like 8000 years. Nice. See more at the Jebel Barkal wikipedia page. I might have even been wrong about the Kush Empire.

Day 3 was 105k to the first and only coke stop of the day.. of desert and some random greenery here and there (one of the green towns we went through, the first kids of the trip tried to harm us… They threw sticks at our spokes trying to get them through. Ugh! Apparently this and rock throwing behaviour becomes more and more common in Ethiopia. Really not sure what we’re supposed to do… Sounds like nothing works, so basically we’re going to get hit by rocks!) At lunch we had more Beef Curry, omg! And in the morning someone got me to try Nutella, which I may have soon anyways, and wtf, what have I been doing with the last 32 years of my life? This stuff is amazing!! I had it at lunch too and again on Day 4 a bunch. At the coke stop at 105km, Birgit, Alessando, and Leah along with 4ish members of staff just hung out there inside (as far as Sudanese inside goes) for like 1.5 hours resting on cots. It was pretty sweet for sure! lol. Nice relax, then only 25k to go when we got back on. For supper it was a pasta dish with lots of cheese and eggs, so I finished off my nut stash instead, lol.

Day 4 was rough. That was this morning. It was 70 something kilometers to lunch and I think I rested a bit too much there or something, I dunno, but after 1:30 lunch break, Birgit and I hit the road again (we basically cycle together every day.. I hope she’s not too sick of me just yet! ;)) and my spirits just plummetted… I was not looking forward to the further 60km and just everything started to go badly in my head. Between 80 and 105 km I think I hardly said a thing, though when we stopped Birgit force fed me some energy drink and it got better for a bit. There were no coke stops or towns or anything on this day, and the sun just kept beating down, probably one of the hottest days out there (I didn’t ask Sandro for the exact temperature, but it’s hit 41 other days on the road, and this felt hotter!). Anyways,  at 105km I came around the corner to see a bunch of Pepsi and other soda cartons stacked outside an unmarked building… Could it be?! It could! Birgit and I stumbled upon the most amazing thing ever on the day I needed it most, the coke stop! I had two bottles of Pepsi (normally they don’t even have Cola), and soaked myself in water from these awesome jars of water they have throughout Sudan (but no where we could see earlier in the day til now). WAS SO AMAZING. Birgit kept laughing at me on how much my mood changed from that Coke stop, and from there to camp at 130k, I was golden. We were chatting again and nothing could get me down! haha.

This evening in camp, I had a shower, which was outstanding! Even though it was just a single cold tap from above, it was amazing. Totally refreshing. I half setup my tent, and lounged around for a while chatting on Facebook. Wonderful to connect back home a bit on a day like today! We were supposed to go out with a bunch of the others but they abandoned us (admittedly we kind of deserved it, it was a long while between them asking us to go and us being ready to go, but they abandoned us minutes before we were ready, so ahhhhh)… But anyways, Birgit and Scott, apparently 8 hours of talking wasn’t enough for us, off we go into town together. Atbara’s a crazy place, it’s more of an industrial town and Tour D’Afrique has never been here before so they weren’t expecting us at all! We’re camping on the Confluence of the Atbara River and the Nile and again somehow our campsite has a ferris wheel and a swing set, lol. We had to go across a nearby bridge into town but there’s only 3 lanes… Rail, and two road. And the road lanes are just barely wide enough for a vehicle, so both on the way there and on the way back random cars picked us up to get across the bridge. Seems to be the way it’s done.

Some tuk-tuk driver and a guy we asked for directions picked us up too on our walk and took us into town to some random street restaurant area, where I got FALAFELS (of course), and tried some Foul! It’s a traditional Sudanese dish based on beans, and has all kinds of other things added, even cheese. I probably had about 6 bites with bread and a big pile of Foul on it too! Amazing, for me. 🙂 Then we walked around town and told some people we were from Canada (easier usually to be from the same place instead of Canada and Germany), and they wondered where that was. I tried to show them on a world map but my phone wasn’t working well. I’ll need to download a picture in the future. I said Canada was like 20000km away and I don’t think they believed me. They didn’t seem to believe it could be cold there right now, either. Vunderbar! Apparently in other countries here, Randy, one of the tour leaders, has shown the people a map of their own country and they are completely dumbfounded by it. Geography is not a big topic in school, I guess.

And now I’m here, writing this blog to you guys! Glad you’re all reading! I’ve been told by a few other camp people that their friends and family found my blog independently! Hooray, I’m famous! 😀 Welcome, hopefully you enjoy the pictures!

Tomorrow we’re off to the Pyramids of Meroe. A one hour bus ride, 2 hours at the Pyramids, lunch, and then return bus trip should have us back here by 1pm for about $25 USD. Not too bad, I guess. The bus and petrol for it are the greatest expense. Something different! Then it’s clothes and bike washing time and more city time… Hopefully with more friends than just Birgit and I (no offense, Birgit! haha)

Off to the pictures!

The sun rising over the Nile at camp, just before leaving on Day 1. Sunrises and Sunsets are definitely a super highlight of this trip!
The sun rising over the Nile at camp, just before leaving on Day 1. Sunrises and Sunsets are definitely a super highlight of this trip!
Tan lines in the tent at night. Yup, seeing a bit of sun. I hadn't even gone long without sunscreen at this point!
Tan lines in the tent at night. Yup, seeing a bit of sun. I hadn’t even gone long without sunscreen at this point!
Me hoisting my bike in front of the Pyramids of Jebel Barkal! A 4iiii shoutout too!
Me hoisting my bike in front of the Pyramids of Jebel Barkal! A 4iiii shoutout too!
Birgit manages to lift her bike too, all on her own! Awesome since her shoulder has been bugging her since the accident, but she's cycled every inch since then too!
Birgit manages to lift her bike too, all on her own! Awesome since her shoulder has been bugging her since the accident, but she’s cycled every inch since then too!
Birgit by one of the pyramids, closer up! With a fancy camera.
Birgit by one of the pyramids, closer up! With a fancy camera.
And by a different pyramid! So different!
And by a different pyramid! So different!
Fast David!
Fast David!
Or is this one Fast David? All I know is that they're both fast and Davids, time will tell who is faster.
Or is this one Fast David? All I know is that they’re both fast and Davids, time will tell who is faster.
Diederik, a fellow Canadian, sheltering himself from the harsh neverending Sudanese Sun!
Diederik, a fellow Canadian, sheltering himself from the harsh neverending Sudanese Sun!
Me making a funny pose as Jennilea and I head up the mountain. Birgit takes our picture as she gets ready to fend off the children!
Me making a funny pose as Jennilea and I head up the mountain. Birgit takes our picture as she gets ready to fend off the children!
The local Karima Town kids making... gang signs? Alright then!
The local Karima Town kids making… gang signs? Alright then!
They're multiplying! Poor Birgit!
They’re multiplying! Poor Birgit!
Her goal with the pictures is to keep them away from the bikes, but it doesn't always work. They want to ride them!
Her goal with the pictures is to keep them away from the bikes, but it doesn’t always work. They want to ride them!
An adult arrives, hooray! When we found Birgit later there was 3 dudes just hanging out in the grass around her, doing nothing. This happens a lot!
An adult arrives, hooray! When we found Birgit later there was 3 dudes just hanging out in the grass around her, doing nothing. This happens a lot!
Breakdance moves! Awesome! And the kids are away from the bikes again.
Breakdance moves! Awesome! And the kids are away from the bikes again.
Hey, there's Jennilea and I atop Jebel Barkal!
Hey, there’s Jennilea and I atop Jebel Barkal!
The Pyramids from up above. Crazy perspective.
The Pyramids from up above. Crazy perspective.
Apparently this may be the ancient ruins of Napata! It's tough to know much without an interpreter or internet.
Apparently this may be the ancient ruins of Napata! It’s tough to know much without an interpreter or internet.
The Nile from atop Jebel Barkal!
The Nile from atop Jebel Barkal!
Me far away on the mountain. We got some great pictures in this area with Jennilea's camera. Watch for them later.
Me far away on the mountain. We got some great pictures in this area with Jennilea’s camera. Watch for them later.
A great Coke stop on day 2! After the pyramids. Turns out we were behind the sweep at this point too, but the cokes were 1.5 Sudanese Pounds, about 25c American... And we got free dates to share back at camp! They love giving us stuff for free here, it's crazy.
A great Coke stop on day 2! After the pyramids. Turns out we were behind the sweep at this point too, but the cokes were 1.5 Sudanese Pounds, about 25c American… And we got free dates to share back at camp! They love giving us stuff for free here, it’s crazy.
This camel has a ton of flies on it, omg, I'd be so annoyed!
This camel has a ton of flies on it, omg, I’d be so annoyed!
Dude was pretty friendly and tied up, in a manner, so we went in for a closer shot.
Dude was pretty friendly and tied up, in a manner, so we went in for a closer shot.
These melon like things exist all over Sudan, but apparently are inedible. I wanted to see what was in one!
These melon like things exist all over Sudan, but apparently are inedible. I wanted to see what was in one!
Taking a break. We do this a lot, and it is my favourite!
Taking a break. We do this a lot, and it is my favourite!
An intense game of Connect 4! David won them all, despite the 3rd game announcement in a very loud German style that Alessandro had won... Only to notice David won the previous turn. Exciting desert fun!
An intense game of Connect 4! David won them all, despite the 3rd game announcement in a very loud German style that Alessandro had won… Only to notice David won the previous turn. Exciting desert fun!
Hey, camels on the road. Better take pics! Great excuse for breaks, honestly. haha.
Hey, camels on the road. Better take pics! Great excuse for breaks, honestly. haha.
Birgit taking pictures of camels.
Birgit taking pictures of camels.
Camel being led through the desert! This guy was on a serious mission! He was just zooming through.
Camel being led through the desert! This guy was on a serious mission! He was just zooming through.
OMG baby camel!! Isn't it the cutest ugliest thing you've ever seen?! (Thanks Danielle for that apt description!)
OMG baby camel!! Isn’t it the cutest ugliest thing you’ve ever seen?! (Thanks Danielle for that apt description!)
8 time Ironman finisher Catherine cycles by the baby camel.
8 time Ironman finisher Catherine cycles by the baby camel.
Me at the greatest coke stop on the planet! I was trying to use a translator app and Arabic keyboard to talk to these guys so we could say more than just Atbara (the name of the upcoming town)... but after installing the keyboard on the fly and showing him how to type, he typed... Atbara.
Me at the greatest coke stop on the planet! I was trying to use a translator app and Arabic keyboard to talk to these guys so we could say more than just Atbara (the name of the upcoming town)… but after installing the keyboard on the fly and showing him how to type, he typed… Atbara.
The crates that alerted me to this awesome coke stop! Two real Pepsis, I still can't believe the luck! Just when I needed it!
The crates that alerted me to this awesome coke stop! Two real Pepsis, I still can’t believe the luck! Just when I needed it!
The Nile, again. I need to look at a map, because we crossed the Nile in Khartoum, Dongola, Karima, and now Atbara. How winding is this thing?
The Nile, again. I need to look at a map, because we crossed the Nile in Khartoum, Dongola, Karima, and now Atbara. How winding is this thing?
Tonight's ferris wheel! More next rest day I am sure! lol.
Tonight’s ferris wheel! More next rest day I am sure! lol.
Me trying Foul! Honestly this was my like, 6th bite, but I needed a picture for proof! I'm changing! Slowly..
Me trying Foul! Honestly this was my like, 6th bite, but I needed a picture for proof! I’m changing! Slowly..
Then across the street for a double burger, mmmm. lol.
Then across the street for a double burger, mmmm. lol.
Trying the translator app again to even less success. No internet! And this guy couldn't believe Canada was so far away. I think he was from the Darfur region and it still took him 7 days to get to Atbara by bus.
Trying the translator app again to even less success. No internet! And this guy couldn’t believe Canada was so far away. I think he was from the Darfur region and it still took him 7 days to get to Atbara by bus.
Thinking about trading in my cycle for one of these! Agree/Disagree? :D
Thinking about trading in my cycle for one of these! Agree/Disagree? 😀
Anyone been here? Random find in the street market in a crazy place like Atbara! I wonder if they have any idea. Is this stuff just second hand from America?
Anyone been here? Random find in the street market in a crazy place like Atbara! I wonder if they have any idea. Is this stuff just second hand from America?

BONUS! More pictures from Birgit’s camera of earlier… A bunch with me featured!

Myself, Birgit, and Jennilea. Day 1 back in Khartoum! Fast friends.
Myself, Birgit, and Jennilea. Day 1 back in Khartoum! Fast friends.
Yeah, I don't stick out at all!
Yeah, I don’t stick out at all!
Lunchtime back in Dongola! Claudia, Cam, Kam, Mateo, and myself. Birgit's taking it.
Lunchtime back in Dongola! Claudia, Cam, Kam, Mateo, and myself. Birgit’s taking it.
Birgit took a much nicer picture of the Nile at our last campsite! We're near it again today, so maybe another pic is in the future!
Birgit took a much nicer picture of the Nile at our last campsite! We’re near it again today, so maybe another pic is in the future!
Piers and I on yes, another break!
Piers and I on yes, another break!
These guys drive 100s of kms like this! Full vehicles! Crazy! This, buses, and vans... all full of people.. is most of what passes us in a day!
These guys drive 100s of kms like this! Full vehicles! Crazy! This, buses, and vans… all full of people.. is most of what passes us in a day!

5 thoughts on “More days of desert, all the way from Dongola to Atbara!”

  1. I am jealous that you saw pyramids and lots of camels. stay safe and thanks for the updates! 🙂 Great photos btw! 🙂

  2. Thank you for all the blog info. We look forward to seeing the photos too. Our friend Michael is on the trip also!
    Please tell him hello from all the Florida gang. Hope all is well and safe travels!!

  3. My brother Ross Mallinson is riding on tda and I follow his tweets which linked to your blog which I am really enjoying. Thanks for taking me on your journey.

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