Red Sea Then Back to the Nile 7051miles
We all met as planned outside the Rugby Club in the hours before the heat and headed off towards the motorway. We flew along the three empty lanes at 80mph. I did this sort of nonsense years ago but I need to get my bike round the planet this time and prefer speeds of around 60mph which should mean that all the mechanical bits stay where they should. It was only desert though so no significant scenery to enjoy. I toddled along and started a game where I lined up both Nicks and had to keep them one behind the other. This meant a fair deal of lane-changing but the motorway really was empty. Eventually we got to the end and saw the Red Sea as the motorway ran out. The road even began to wind a little along the coast and the Nicks slowed down to a more reasonable speed. They had a video camera which they asked Rachel to use. We overtook them, let them overtake us and generally played at 'Tour de France' for a bit. Then I heard the screech from my front wheel. Closer inspection suggested a wheel bearing on its way out. The Nicks headed off when I decided we could make it to the next petrol station. We made it easily and spent a few hours trying to get the spindle out. My new pillion had a surprising number of useful ideas about how to do this - but none of them worked, and neither did any of mine! The biggest hammer in the place wouldn't get it out! We decided to go a little further in search of a mechanic with more tools. However, it was getting darker so we found it prudent to camp in the desert, Rachel's first time. Fantastic. Shooting stars in the desert sky, somebody to say "did you see that one!?" to, and an excellent sleep.
In the morning we managed only 11 miles before the bearing collapsed completely. A passing truck soon picked us up though, and took us to Hargada, a holiday town on the coast. Sadly I noticed the absence of the tank bag, with my iPod, camera, binoculars and other useful things. While the mechanics fixed the bike I searched the road in a car which went far too fast for me to see anything. No sign of any debris so I concluded it must still be in one piece, either bounced to the side of the road or in someone else's car. I looked again in the morning - 50 miles standing up on the footpegs of the bike but nothing there. By the time Rachel and I had had a quick dip in the Red Sea and then run around on a wild goose chase (having been told by the hotelier that the bag was in such and such a place that didn't exist) it was well into the heat of the day. In blazing sunshine and stifling heat we rode through the brown, dry hills towards Qena, determined to make it to Luxor that night. Only one stop at an Ambulance station meant we got lots of cold, cold, cold water and re-filled the thermos flask with ice-cold water. All for free. There were frequent stops while road guards asked where we were going, where we had been, which country we came from and other nonsensical questions about nothing. These get really tiresome after a while, but they are 'only doing their jobs'! My pillion proved her worth once more by managing to smile and charm through these episodes. I'd have done this myself had I been alone, but it's amazing how having someone else around to do it lets you grump a wee bit. Grumping is effortless while smiling and grinning through repetitive nonsense can be wearing! We rolled into Qena hot, tired and in sore need of water, fuel and a place to sleep. Policemen waved us towards Luxor and we rode through - not stopping.
Next thing there was a police pick-up in the mirror all flashing lights and screaming sirens. I pulled over to let them pass, convinced I hadn't offended anyone. But the soldiers in the back patted the tailgate - I was to go with them. And there was another pick up behind us to ensure we didn't sneak off! I couldn't imagine what we'd done. We sped through the rush-hour traffic. Sirens blasting cars and buses out of the way. I got a little closer to the van in front and tried to signal that we needed fuel. He smiled and just kept going. 70, 75, 80mph - these guys were moving. Out into the countryside and through more checkpoints at top speed!! It suddenly dawned on us that WE were being escorted, not to jail, but to Luxor!! Cool! The bike wouldn't go any faster, with all that luggage but our escort comprised eight armed guards in two vehicles. What a buzz!
Rachel had stayed in Luxor before and knew the very place to go. A lovely wee hostel called the Happy Hotel. They had a welcome drink called 'kerkerdi' made from hibiscus tea. Delicious and very refreshing. Rachel even got the hostel to organise some sailing!! Watch the sunset on the Nile for next to no money at all. I was dazed with fatigue since the early morning search for the tank-bag but it was a refreshing thing to do. The felucca captain even let me on the tiller. That's my retirement sorted out then! We needed to be up early in the morning to catch the next convoy to Aswan, where we would catch up with the Nicks and find out about the fabled ferry to Wadi Halfa in the Sudan.
All photographs here and till Khartoum are courtesy of Rachel Walton.