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June 10, 2007

A Windfall in the Desert & arrival Wadi Halfa

LOCATION: Wadi Halfa, northern Sudan
Longitude: N:21deg.48'00.
Latitude: E: 031deg.20'56.
Kms from Djibouti: 3,213


The last day to Wadi Halfa was probably the toughest day's biking I've ever had. Aside from the terrible road conditions a sandstorm blew in early afternoon from the north, pinning me down in a particularly remote section where there was no shelter and all I could do was huddle behind the bike and block my nose and ears with my fingers to stop them getting filled with sand. For the remainder of what turned out to be a 14-hour day in the saddle the wind blew continuously at 25+ mph exclusively from the direction I was trying to go in. At one point my speed was so slow (average for the day - 4.5 mph) that I seriously considered hiding the bike plus panniers behind a pile of boulders and walking the rest of the way to Halfa, returning later with a vehicle of some sort to retrieve the gear. Anyway, I'm now safely in Halfa with the last of the bad African roads behind me, Hamdulilah!


The only people I saw on this last stretch from Abri were the British actors Charlie Boorman and Ewan Mcgregor plus production team en route south on their latest Long Way Down expedition by motorcycles from northern Scotland to Cape Town. We crossed paths on the most remote section of the desert highway where at most you'd expect to see a lorry carrying locals to or from Halfa. So I don't know who was more surprised to see who! Myself to encounter this huge entourage of support vehicles and camera crews in tow, or Charlie and Ewan to see this lone bicyclist in a desert region where people never usually travel alone or unsupported because of the extreme heat, lack of water and possibility of attack from wild animals (which the locals assure me are out there).


They too were finding the tough going. Since leaving Halfa the previous day they'd broken two sets of rear spring suspensions, putting one of the bikes out of action. When I told Ewan he could expect similar road conditions for the next 600+ kms he pursed his lips and said nothing.


Before parting ways the producers made a very generous cash donation of a thousand pounds to the expedition that will help to cover the satellite airtime costs associated with updating this blog. Even they too have found it excruciatingly difficult to procure sponsorship from the UK. When I told then that we'd been trying to get financial backing from the UK for 13-years but without success, I think they felt bad and reached into their emergency fund to share their budget a little. It's ironic that the largest contribution we've received from a single UK source has been another expedition!


Wadi Halfa is the end of the road for Sudan. From here people usually take the weekly ferry up to Aswan in Egypt, 200 miles to the north across Lake Nasser. I am looking to cross the lake by a canvas folbot kayak shipped up from Khartoum. Later this afternoon I'll take it down to the lake and give it a test run to make sure there's been no damage in transit. Meantime my friend Midhat Mahir in Khartoum has been liaising with the Egyptian embassy to arrange for the necessary permission to cross by kayak into Egypt. The powers that be in Cairo have given the tacit go ahead to being able to cross the border, and yesterday asked for specific details such as my exact routing, date of crossing into Egypt and whether there was a film crew following along. So I'm interpreting all this to mean that there's a very good chance something will happen. I've asked to cross over on the 12th, giving a couple of days to catch my breath and prepare for water born travel again.


> Total to raise: $4,500
> Total raised to date: $3,950
> Total still to raise: $550

Sincerest thanks to the following for your pledges -
- Will Waller, Dublin, $100
- Casey Dunn, USA, $100
- Anonymous, USA, $250
- The Sheltons, UK, $1,000
- Michael Rawlings, UK, $50
- Crister Brady, US, $50
- Karl Kaseoru, US, $500
- John and Bridget Maxwell, UK, $50
- Jennifer Mackenzie, US, $50
- Ian McCormick, UK, $200
- Terry Mason, California USA, $200
- Jackie and Jean Bernard, Djibouti, $250.
- Erden Eruc and Nancy Board of Around n Over, Seattle USA, $250
- Sharon Kessler, Colorado USA, $500
- Jane Koca, San Jose USA, $50
- John Caldwell, San Jose USA, $100
- Greg Kolodziejzyk of Pedal the Ocean, Canada, $250

Posted on June 10, 2007 10:23 AM