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Nile Bike Ride Journal

Cycling Day 3

Wednesday 13th February, Aswan-High Dam-Philae Island-Aswan (47Km)

A very pleasant day. Up at 6:30, omelettes for breakfast today (followed, of course, by sticky croissants), and off at 8. Rode out of Aswan, through the town. We were told it would be busy later, but that early in the morning it wasn't too crowded. The route was flat for a while, but then we started ascending sharply. There was one incredibly steep hill, and I found that quite tough first thing in the morning!

Once at the top of the hill, we were at the Low Dam (see right), which we needed to cross. Unfortunately, there was some kind of dispute between the local police, and they wouldn't let us cross. We were later told that a new person had started doing the job that day and wasn't sure of the situation so needed to check with his superior before give us the all clear. This took about half an hour. We sat on the wall with our bikes, reapplying sun cream and taking pictures and generally wanting to get going.

Eventually we were off again. Some more climbing to the monument at the High Dam, but this was not too strenuous as we had a very helpful tail wind. This monument (seen on the right, in a photo taken looking directly upwards out of the top of the monument), was erected as a tribute to Russian/Egyptian cooperation (the Russians built the dam), and we were given a guided tour. There was even a visitor's center with PROPER TOILETS! Conversation at this point was largely about the fact that we had half-killed ourselves completing yesterday's 120km yet were all fine to cycle today. I was on a definite high, and felt that I could accomplish anything. Jason kept wondering why he was feeling so good and when something was going to go wrong - and he says I'm a pessimist!

Then we rode the very short distance to the dam itself. We took a short break and sat looking over Lake Nasser. Interesting fact no. 4,559,598 - Lake Nasser is the largest man-made lake in the world by a very long way. When it was built, the whole of Nubia was flooded, and 90,000 Nubians were displaced. There were also a number of temples in this area, and the Egyptian government arranged for these to be moved to higher ground. (See, I did learn something!) One of these, Philae Temple, was moved to an island, now called (predictably enough) Philae Island, and this was our next destination.

After leaving the High Dam, we went back down the hill. This was actually fairly tough going, as we now had a head wind - having to put a lot of effort into cycling downhill is surprisingly demoralising. Another small ascent, and finally down the hill to the Philae ferry. I left Jason behind here for the first time all week - I had a spurt of energy and didn't want to go too slowly otherwise I'd pay for it later. After some fruit, nuts and water, we left the bikes here and piled onto boats to go across to the island.

Philae Temple (see right) was stunningly beautiful. We were given an extremely good guided tour, and then had some time to wander around the island before meeting up by the boats and crossing back to our bikes.

Jason and I and a few others missed the main group starting off due to being in the toilet (no, not together!), but soon caught up and moved through the field. There was a head wind again, but the road was quite twisty so we weren't moving into it the whole time. The last bit of today's ride was through the city of Aswan back to the boat. Aswan was now much busier than this morning, and I experienced a very scary half hour trying not to get crashed into or knocked over or die in any of the other ingenious ways the Egyptians seemed to have devised for us.

Amazingly, everyone survived, and we made it back to the boat. I was glad just to have survived the city, although Jason said it wasn't any worse than cycling through Dublin! Had a very nice lunch (for a change), then the boat set off towards Kom Ombo. (Apparently there aren't any suitable roads for cycling from Aswan to Kom Ombo, which is why we had to sail and not cycle - spending the day cycling around Aswan seemed to be a compromise.)

Spent a very pleasant afternoon sailing, watching Egypt float by. The only thing to mar the day was that during the afternoon I became aware that I had a cold coming on. By the evening I was feeling quite ill, and worried that I wouldn't be able to cycle tomorrow. This evening there was a Kaftan party, so in the afternoon we all crowded into the little shop on the boat to buy our kaftans. Turned up to dinner duly dressed up (even Jason!) and laughed at each other. Fairly amusing pictures on the right (and yes, that is my real hair).

Finally for today, the usual briefing in the bar. Theo and Gideon tried to give us confidence about tomorrow, but neither denied that it was going to be a tough day. Gideon gave us a demonstration of how to ride in groups in order to get through the head wind, with the people at the front dropping back when they got tired. Went to bed for yet another early night feeling very tired, and knowing that tomorrow was definitely not going to be easy. Gargled some TCP (Yuck!), took some Sudafed (thanks, Mark!), and went to bed hoping for the best. Terrible fear that I would be too ill to cycle tomorrow.

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