Thursday, November 1, 2012

2: Cairo to Bani Suef

Bikes rigged and ready in Tahiri Square, Cairo 

Left for us to Aswan, at some point 

Low fuel costs with a camel 

Alan on the open road 

Up at five with the morning call to prayer we quickly got the kit arranged and bikes rigged before getting a quick bite. The main reason to get started so early was to try and miss the morning traffic in Cairo’s city centre. A nervous feeling was certainly present as the care which Egyptian drivers have for their cars made me a little apprehensive about the care they may show for cyclists as there are not many on the roads. A good move the traffic was almost dead meaning a free wheel down from the Islamic quarter through down-town to Tahirir square. This apart from being the city centre is also a giant roundabout where only the Parisians could compete. The traffic was building but heading over the bridge to gain the West bank of the Nile where we followed this through ever building traffic  until the city starts to melt. From here its the Motorway a good three laned one where all are welcome it seems motorised, pedal powered camels and donkeys.  The general rule seems to be if you see space take it, any lane but take it with some confidence and you should get the space, dilly dally and your off.  Once you have the space await the next move assessing lanes. They wont push you out of it perhaps out of respect for being daft enough to cycle down the motorway. A last tip might be to  recommended that if using full panniers IE front and back to practice with them first. For me it was the first time I had ever cycled with them. They are quite unbalanced and Cairo's city centre and motorways  are not necceserliy the best training ground.

The lush Nile Valley thanks to the irrigation skills.

Dan heading along the Nile valley 

The city soon melted away and as the smog starts to shift a little you begin to find greenery. The Nile Valley heading towards Aswan is a very fertile area with only occasional glimpses of the desert edge and the odd pyramid. The irrigation throughout the valley is immaculate creating this green fertile area known as upper Egypt. This is a centuries old skill and if it where not for that it would simply be swallowed up by the encroaching desert.  
The plan had been to get somewhere between Cairo and Bani Suwaif but as it happens we kept on going having a respectable first day at 125km. It was certainly tough going and the heat needs to be acclimatised to along with the constant ‘Allo’ ‘Welcome’ and beeping of horns. Everyone wants to talk and are welcoming.  Tonight some Egyptian fare which costs penny's but certainly fills the whole was enjoyed on bustling alleys and squares. Egyptian food could be some of the tastiest I have come across although it may not last the further south we head. Off again tomorrow and we shall see where we end up, the next major town will be Asyut but could be a few days from now. 

Donkey with man on phone !