#1. From the Swiss Alps to the Pyramids of Egypt

Beyond the Saddle ....Cairo to Cape Town
Howard Fairbank
Fri 12 Jan 2007 19:50
   Issue #1

From the Swiss Alps
to the Pyramids of Cairo…….

The culture shock before the Start!!


          An unlikely training location...! Wengen, Switzerland three days ago.

11 January 2007


No, not by bicycle this leg!!…I, like the ‘harrassed’ Mr Blair took the fast route by plane and in the process also made my further contribution to global warming…..! (Are you thinking of not flying as much on your holiday this coming year!!  What next hey!)


I arrived in Cairo at 3 am this morning, after spending three wonderful weeks at my girlfriend Ruth’s chalet, in the beautiful Swiss Alpine village of Wengen, high above the Lauterbrennan valley. The skiing was great, but I have to admit I was a touch more conservative than normal, not wanting to place my cycle trip in jeopardy.


What an opposite to Cairo - the snow and the desert, the precision and the disorder, the natural beauty and the squalor, the ancient history roots with disputes over them, and the fundamental difference of cultures of the people…it is an amazingly diverse world we live in!. 


So what about the preparation then?… You may ask:…..How does one prepare for a bicycle ride that will take me nearly 12 000 kms over the length of the African continent, averaging more than 120km a day, for 96 days of almost everyday cycling?


Well firstly I have elected not to participate as a ‘full on’ racer…..yes believe it or not, there are about 10 guys treating this adventure as a sprint, and will be going full out each day attempting to break the record set last year of some 335 hrs.   


Unlike these ‘madmen’, I have decided to treat the trip as an adventure and an exploration of Africa, its diverse terrain, people, cultures, and nature, while at the same time having a goal to cycle ´every bit of the way’. With this in mind, and knowing I had a good base level cycling fitness from my activities of the year, I decided that I would spend November 2006 doing some long, tough rides in Cape Town, and then spend December in Switzerland focusing my mind and resting my body. Yes, knowing I would be with Ruth in Switzerland had a big impact on the shape of the plan!!!  With withdrawal symptoms coming on strong, I did get my bike out and do two wonderful, long training rides around the turquoise lakes and snowcapped mountains of Interlaken.


I will be using the first section through Egypt as ‘further training’, as the road is supposed to be the best of the trip, also flattish, scenic along the Nile, and apparently an ‘almost guaranteed tail wind’! (I hear those sailors of you saying ‘that’s tempting fate, it always blows opposite to where you want it to’….hmmm…. I’ll remain optimistic, and you will hear the outcome!


You will see with forthcoming newsletters, that I refer to ‘Sections’ of the route. All in all, there are eight sections with the start and end dates for each shown on the LHS menu.


At the key ‘mind level’, I have tried to envisage the trip in its entirety, then in The Sections and then most importantly, each day in a generic way, and how I will manage my mind and body through the highs and lows of the 5 to 8 hours I’ll be cycling. A lot of this is how to prevent the notorious ‘hitting the wall’, through correct energy and fluid replacement. Being heavier than the average participant I know I need a lot more food and liquid to complete the same distance, so in anticipation I have brought with me, 60 sachets of a corn syrup type energy booster, 100 varied pure energy bars, and 2.2 kg of Whey protein. The protein being key to assisting muscle recovery and repair after each day's ride.


Then in the preparation, there is the bike and equipment - I am using the same bike that I did in Patagonia last year - an aluminium, Fuji Pro Mountain Bike. After the conditions ‘we’ went through there I had it completely overhauled in Cape Town, all the drive train components replaced, and have a fairly comprehensive range of spares with me. Unlike Patagonia, I do not have to carry my own supplies and gear in panniers on the bike, as this will be transported in the support vehicles. This reduces the weight of the bike enormously, which translates into higher average speeds and much less stress on the components on the bike.


So, all in all, I probably feel under trained and over weight, but about to head into a two week shock training session to ‘fix’ that all up……I’m expecting a few ‘butt adjustments’, and have lots of Vaseline ready! On the emotions and feeling side, this all adds a bit more to the apprehension side of the excitement vs apprehension scale…but the Christmas dinners and relaxation (instead of training) was worth it!….Well lets hope so, time will tell! My level of excitement is extremely high at the moment, especially after assembling my bike this morning. There is a feeling of peace coming within me as I feel I will be out on the road, free on my bike again, in a new environment, taking in new things, and enjoying the high that comes with physically challenging myself. (Ooops - I hope I am not addicted…..!!)


This morning at breakfast I met many of the other participants - 34 in total, all ages, many women, and from all parts of the world, but with one thing in common….to challenge themselves over the continent of Africa! (If you would like to know more about the participants and/or the tour there is a lot of info on the official Tour d’Afrique website…. www.tourdafrique.com


The group side of the tour is something I am not sure about……I’ll take it as it comes….but I am sure in the end I will have made some really good friends. 


So Saturday the 13th sees the real start of the adventure and I look forward to having you along with me as I experience what will no doubt be ‘The Ride of My Life’.


Till I talk to you again after the start, take care….



Current Position is Cataract Pyramid Resort,  29:57.856N 31:10.722E



           Cairo - a classic tourist one....but sorry no camels, they were all out...!


The Progress So Far

  • Current Section:
    Cairo to Khartoum

  • Distance cycled since last newsletter:
    0 Km

  • Hrs cycled since last newsletter:

  • Kms to go to Cape Town:

Busy with....Section One: 
Cairo to Khartoum


The journey starts at the magnificent Pyramids on the outskirts of one of the worlds most visited and ancient cities, Cairo. It is the perfect beginning for the longest, hardest cycling tour which then heads along the shores of the Red Sea, across the rugged mountains of central Egypt, through the Valley of the Kings, and Karnak in Luxor, following the magnificent coast of the Nile until arriving at Aswan at the head of Lake Nasser.


From Aswan it's bicycles on a boat for the journey down Lake Nasser into Sudan, one of the most remote and least visited countries in the world, and a country torn by civil conflict. Cycling once again with the Nile River as companion, the route passes through villages that have not changed in hundreds of years and whose inhabitants could not exist without the river and its fertile valley. The section ends in the legendary and historic city of Khartoum, capital of Sudan, and a city that sits proudly at the confluence of both the Blue and White Nile rivers.


Section dates:  
13 January to 3 February

Coming up....Next Section:
Khartoum to Addis Abba


From the city of Khartoum to the border of Ethiopia, the route passes through the “bread basket” of the Sudan. The countryside gradually changes towards Ethiopia and there is much evidence of the transformation from the Arabic Muslim world of northern Africa to the more tribal and traditional nature of the Horn of Africa.


Once in Ethiopia, the ride of a life begins. Ethiopia contains some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world. This section will challenge the body more than any other section due to the high altitude riding. However, beyond the mountains there are also many interesting stops throughout Ethiopia such as Lake Tana with visits to the ancient monasteries and the Blue Nile Falls.


From a cycling standpoint, the highlight of this section will be the Blue Nile Gorge, an 1800-meter precipitous descent and ascent over a crumbling road that will test the mettle of cyclists of any calibre. Once the Blue Nile Gorge has been conquered, the beautiful rolling hills of central Ethiopia will ‘whiz by’ as the route moves to a newly paved road into the capital city of Addis Ababa. The descent from the surrounding hills of Addis into the downtown core will be an experience not to be forgotten.

The Complete Route

  • Total Distance Cairo to Cape Town: 11900 Km

  • Countries through which the route passes:
    Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa

  • Sections:  
    1. Cairo to Khartoum 
    Khartoum to Addis Ababa
    Addis Ababa to Nairobi
    Nairobi to Iringa
    Iringa to Lilongwe
    Lilongwe to Victoria Falls. 
    Victoria Falls to Windhoek
    8. Windhoek to Cape Town   
        (Namibia/South Africa)

  • Expected arrival in Cape Town:  
    12 May 2007

Helping Conserve Africa …
The Deal


As a subscriber to this newsletter, Thank You for agreeing to do your bit by helping to conserve Africa through our two partners:


The African Conservation Foundation:


Over the course of the trip, through this newsletter, you will get a chance to learn more about these organisations and their projects on the ground.

Follow the ride on Google Earth:


Read Past Newsletters:


If you think others would benefit from receiving this newsletter, they can request to be included on the distribution list by emailing:
africa {DOT} cycle {DOT} trip {CHANGE TO AT} mweb {DOT} co {DOT} za  

Depending on satellite phone communication and availability of power, the quality of the images may vary according to file size.



To unsubscribe to this newsletter please send an email with "Unsubscribe" in the Subject Box to: africa {DOT} cycle {DOT} trip {CHANGE TO AT} mweb {DOT} co {DOT} za

Any problems or queries may also be addressed to the above.