Saturday, October 13, 2012

On the road to El Quesir

The sun is rising from the sea, the air is still fresh and streets are empty. We are cycling… out of Hurghada, up to the checkpoint and passing by the well-known junctions: Makadi, Soma Bay, and Safaga.

Since I’ve never been to Safaga, we drive through the long-drawn-out village and what belongs to it. Our saddle has become a cinema chair to watch the scenery: vegetable stalls and shops, in front of which men dressed in kaftans stand, walk, read the newspaper and women dressed in black balancing their shopping on their head, alternate with typical local coffee shops, run down schools and buildings. Garbage is everywhere and I remember Egyptians being excited about how clean Hurghada was. Europeans judge differently though.

We continue cycling. The streets lead us up and down across the foothills of the Red Sea Mountains. Its usually golden-yellow colour has changed into a grey-black since we let Safaga behind us. Like a dark grey stripe, the asphalt strap lays unrolled in front of us for many kilometres and gets lost somewhere in the shimmery horizon. The ascents offer us variations and motivation: after having reached the peak with the tail wind, we pedal even stronger and plummet down eagerly in order to cross the next well in a dash and to climb the next ascent with less effort. The street is ours alone since we left Safaga.
“Isn’t it a bit dangerous?” was a justified question by friends whom I told about our plan. No, it isn’t because a) I don’t go alone, b) we leave early in the morning and c) we have an escort vehicle.

Emad, our driver, goes along with us in a caring way: he stops at open spots, supplies us with cold water, takes pictures and unmistakably enjoys the air condition and the high-quality Hi-Fi of my cycling mate’s car.

Still cycling. The grey-black mountains have withdrawn; the well-known golden-yellow colour dominates. The scenery is monotonous: no hills, only gentle elevations. It is very hot and although I keep on drinking water, I never have to relief myself (which was not a good indication as I had to learn three weeks later). I eat an apple, some date biscuits, some nuts. I can’t eat a lot whereas my mate is continuously busy with eating.

The air is glistening in the heat. I can’t stop looking around, I take in the view of this strange, captivating scenery, which it still is for me although having lived here for more than three years. My eyes wander towards the sparkling sea and I discover… cyclists?... people on two wheels?... mountain bikes?... I fear having a hallucination or seeing a fata morgana. I call attention to Michael and yes, he sees them as well, they are real. We stop, shout and wave. They come towards us: mountain bikers from a hotel nearby biking with their guide. We are far more excited about seeing other bikers than they are. We don’t meet like-minded people as easily but contrarily are rather exotic in and around Hurghada.

A short while later, the road merges into one lane only and the asphalt strap follows close to the sea and the fine sandy beach. Now and there people enjoy themselves with a bath in the sea. We continue cycling towards our destination and come closer to a transhipment point for phosphate. A huge phosphate cloud cloaks us. A cargo vessel is being loaded with phosphate and lorries loaded with the precious dust start their journey to Cairo. I imagine the conditions under which the workers do their labour here and that sooner or later, they all end up with a black lung.


It’s getting hotter, sweat and dust sticks on the face, on arms and legs. We continue cycling silently, every one of us being busy with his/her thoughts, impressions and sufferings. A short exchange of words cheers us up. Mountains and hills become more varied and I feel again this longing for mountain biking in the Red Sea Mountains one day in the future.

We pass by the mining company which means: 15 km to go till El Quesir! I send a sms to the General Manager of the Hotel Mövenpick to announce our arrival. Shortly afterwards, we arrive at the hotel entrance and let Emad take another picture from us.  Tired but proud and full of joy we stow away our bicycles and after a shower, mingle unobtrusively with the hotel guests. Moving between shower, beach, bathing, eating and swimming pool is almost a bit tiring - we want to enjoy the beautiful hotel facility ;). Thank you Mr. Mehdy.
At dusk, we get on the car and go home with plenty of exhilarating impressions and heavy legs, with above us a beautiful desert sky full of stars.

It is thanks to Michael that I could undertake this journey. At present, this trip is not recommendable for a single woman, yet together, further trips are possible. For me, this signifies a new quality of life.

Key data: 130km, 4 hours cycling, tons of water

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