I had a few things I wanted to try and purchase in Cairo. My first destination was Decathlon, about 15 kilometres back in the direction I’d entered Cairo.
I picked up a few things there, and stopped at an Orange shop to buy an Egyptian sim card. Then I rode across to the opposite side of the city and checked into the Pyramid Loft hotel.
The next morning, I went to see the Pyramids. I was allowed in a few minutes before they were supposed to open, so it was very quiet.
I set off walking into the sand to a viewpoint on a hill in the desert. Some police there wanted me to pay them to take pictures of their camels, but I declined.
A couple hours later I returned to the hotel and had a restful day there.
I arrived at the embassy about 10 o clock, as they opened. There were a couple windows outside and I queued up at one of these to collect a form. Officially a hotel booking is needed for a Sudan visa, but I’d read that they accept it if you just write the address of a hotel on the form, so that’s what I did. They also asked for religion – although Sudan is Islamic, they much rather Christians to atheists, so I said I was Christian.
When I went to return the form they told me I needed a second copy, and to staple them with my photos and the copies of my passport, so I went to a nearby photocopy shop. The guy there was obviously used to dealing with those forms and did it for me.
Back to the embassy, I handed it all in through the window and, after waiting a while, had it returned with a stamp on my application form. I was sent inside the embassy to pay, thereby receiving another form. I handed all this in at yet another desk inside, and sat down to wait.
I finished handing it all in at 12, and received my passport back, with visa, at 4. In the meantime there was a wedding ceremony at the embassy. Interestingly, it was two men who seemed to be exchanging vows – someone told me one of the men was a relative of the bride (homosexuality also being illegal in Sudan). They handed out some chocolates and biscuits as part of the wedding!
Traffic was chaotic and it took my taxi driver about an hour to cover the ten kilometres back to the hotel. This had been a busier day than I expected so I decided to take one more rest day in Cairo.
I was on the road before 6, cycling out of Cairo on roads that, although not empty, were much quieter and therefore more pleasant than they would be later in the day.
This was the beginning of a long ride up the Nile Valley. The Nile itself was quite far away from the roads I used, but a system of canals irrigates the land in a wide strip around the great river itself. I mostly rode alongside such canals. Unfortunately, they serve a dual purpose as rubbish heaps.
Although the police here are not quite as bad as in the Sinai region, they do generally insist that cyclists travel with police escorts. On top of this, they slow you down significantly with waits at every police checkpoint. Therefore it was my goal to avoid police checkpoints! I did this by sticking only to minor roads and tracks.
As I went to resume cycling after a break, I found my rear tyre flat. I removed the metal wire that had caused the puncture, patched it, and continued cycling.
This part of Egypt reminds me quite a lot of northern India, in several ways. The land is flat, green, very densely farmed and has a dense network of waterways. The vehicles on the road are an eclectic mixture – bicycles, motorcycles, tuktuks, tricycles, pickups, minibuses, lorries – you name it, it’s probably here.
The drivers of this vehicles do have a tendency to use their horns more than in most countries – though thankfully not as frequently as in India, nor are they modified to be as loud as India’s.
Also like India, the population density is high. I knew that camping was going to be difficult so when, half an hour or so before sunset, I saw a seemingly disused building, I went to investigate. Unfortunately it was locked, but there was a vineyard nearby. Unlike most of the crops grown here, grapevines are high enough to provide at least a little cover. I made my way along a track into the vineyard. I lay down and waited for it to get dark before setting up the tent.
A dog found my tent in the evening and barked for a while but eventually gave up and left. I was then woken at about 4 AM by various mosques blaring out the call to prayer. I packed up and waited for it to get light then started cycling.
It was an uneventful day. I continued to follow minor agricultural roads to avoid the police. These were occasionally unpaved, often potholed and had frequent speed bumps so it wasn’t the fastest but preferable to dealing with the police.
In the afternoon I took a back road into the town of Asyut and checked into a hotel. Wild camping is difficult here with the population density and I decided I’d rather the simplicity(and comfort) of staying in a hotel.
Oct 6: 204 km
Oct 7: 179 km