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Nile Bike Ride Journal

Cycling Day 4

Thursday 14th February, Kom Ombo-Esna (132km)

A very long and tough day. 132 km - around 80 miles - like Tuesday, further than most of us had every cycled in one day (my previous maximum was 75 miles). Woke up feeling under the weather, but better than last night, and OK to ride. Took another Sudafed.

Earlier start than usual - 6am - and many people were sleepy at breakfast, especially those who had stayed up for kaftan-clad fun last night! We set off at 7:30, all feeling quite daunted by the ride ahead. The sun was just coming up as we prepared to leave, and Kom Ombo temple looked beautiful with the sun rising behind it.

Wrote the notes for today at 6pm after the ride, and it had been such a long day that I could barely remember the start! The start of the route was slightly hilly, but nothing too strenuous, especially compared to the last two days. The first stop (shown here on the right) actually felt too early - I was on a roll and wanted to do another few km before resting. Got to the first stop with the leading group, but I knew I'd need to pace myself a bit better for the rest of the day if I was going to make it.

Set off again, taking it more steadily, knowing that there was still a long way to go. Jason stayed back when someone got a puncture, so we parted at this point. Rode with Heather, and we seemed to be quite suited pace-wise. Made the second stop without too much trouble. Here I had to walk a long way through desert and rocks to wee in a cave! More insects around today, and a bee attacked me, but I managed not to scream - how brave!

Got a demonstration of why helmets work when one of the riders wet over her handlebars. She was fine, but the helmet was wrecked - Gideon made sure that was a lesson to us all. Set off again on the last stint before dinner. Jasonless again, I ended up in a fairly fast group of 3. About 5km from the end, Theo joined us. I made the mistake of riding with him when he pulled off from the others, and staying with him all the way to the lunch stop. Theo was in the Dutch cycling team at some Olympics or other - he rides fast. When I got off the bike at the lunch stop my legs didn't want to move at all, and I knew I would pay for that speed later! Some people even congratulated me on my spurt of speed!

After a lunch of pasta, potatoes and bread (mmm, carbohydrates) and a hole-in-the-floor toilet with a door that locked, we set off once more. Again, I found the post-lunch stage difficult, and felt very sluggish. I also felt aware that my cold was getting worse. It was incredibly hot by this stage - got up to 30 degrees C this afternoon. I took this stage quite steadily, and ended up cycling with Jason again. He seemed to have his own little posse by now, which stayed together for the rest of the day. We took it in turns riding at the front, as instructed by Gideon at last night's briefing, and I think we all felt aware of really bonding as a group today. Still, the head wind made the going tough, and the first stop of the afternoon was very welcome.

The next stage was not so bad. The end was in sight at this stage, and we just pressed on determinedly. There were lots of children lining the road and the railway line that ran parallel to it, and they all shouted hello and other, often unusual greetings. Again, had that this-is-how-royalty-must-feel sensation. Had a bit of a dizzy/wobbly moment, but ate an energy bar on the move, and soon felt fine. The final stop of the day came quickly, but was still a sight for sore eyes (and arses!).It was quite busy here - there was a "super-market" (a little shack by the side of the road), lots of French tourists, and a big pile of rocks on the other side of the road (shown here in all its glory).

Home stretch now, and we all had this very much in mind. I was aching all over by now, due to both the long ride and to the worsening cold, and this stage seemed to take ages. Finally, we made it to Esna Bridge - and discovered that the surface was constructed of cobble stones - just what our poor hurting back sides needed! The journey through the town is a bit of a blur in my mind; I was so tired by then that my short-term memory seemed to switch off! I do know that this last bit of the journey felt like much further than it actually was. Had a near-miss with a bus at one corner. At last, we made it to the boat - and the last blow of the day was that we had to carry our bikes down several sets of steps before getting onto the boat.

Still, everyone was exhilarated at having got through this day. Tomorrow is a still daunting but comparitively short 80 km, and the worst is definitely behind us. Everyone was completely filthy today, so we went back to our cabins for a quick wash, then back up onto the deck for gratefully-received tea and biscuits. After a shower, my knees hurt a lot, and walking was interesting. Dinner was deep-fried lemony chicken - quite a departure from the standard shapeless, tasteless lumps! The usual briefing, and then bed again. This evening my cold felt very yucky and I knew that in the morning I would be too ill to cycle under normal circumstances; but I also knew that there was no way I was giving up now and I would complete the ride even if both my legs fell off overnight!

<<- Cycling Day 3 | Cycling Day 5 ->>
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