Sunday, April 20, 2014

Cycling from Hurghada to Marsa Alam

(originally posted on my German blog in November 2013)

I’ve already described the journey from Hurghada to El Quesir twice (here and here). In October 2013, we finally did a two-days-trip to Marsa Alam.


I’m awake even before the alarm clock rings – I didn’t sleep well, as usual, when I have to get up early. A glimmer of dawn is peeping through the curtains; I jump out of bed, quickly grasp my camera and tear open the door of the bungalow. A few steps only take me to the beach, just in time to watch a blazing fireball rise from the sea, dyeing the sky from a pale twilight into a bright red. Overwhelmed do I stand and watch this natural spectacle, listening to the quiet wash of the waves. Can I ever get enough of this?

Yet, I have to hurry, my cycling mate wants to climb the bike at six; so I go back to wash myself and brush my teeth. However, the tap stays dry – do they think here that we don’t need any water at night? – and I help myself with the remaining mineral water.
Moments later I’m standing in full cycling attire in front of the breakfast buffet or rather where it is supposed to be; because there isn’t any.


We finally leave at half past six; the fire ball has metamorphosed into the well-known sun. Temperatures are still pleasant, it’s still cool and we mutely are rolling on for an hour. I need some time to get awake, my legs are tired.

Suddenly, I’m getting aware of anything moving on my right hand side and I give a jerk: a dog is striding silently beside us. Normally, dogs bark and try to catch us – but this one here, it’s a she by the way, seems to have great fun accompanying us! She doesn’t let go, runs on the asphalt or changes the side of the street looking for a better terrain just to keep up with us. I watch her fascinatedly: her forelegs lunge out and her body stretches athletically… 

After a couple of kilometres we stop; I want to give her a biscuit and she gladly takes the refreshment. Yet, we have to go on, it’s getting warmer and we’ve only cycled a small part of the 135 km. We vigorously continue pedalling and the dog joins us, however, she increasingly falls back. She can’t keep up with us any more although she doesn’t give up for a long time. Again and again, I turn my head to see if she’s still there… eventually, I can’t make her out anymore. I’ll possibly never forget this encounter for the rest of my life.


I’m pedalling and pedalling. My legs move up and down, my hands are trying to find another position on the handlebar. The long asphalt line stretches in the sun, bends to the right and to the left, ascends naughtily in order to cling to incredibly steep hills, only to drop down boldly on the other side of the hill. I don’t notice the desert anymore and there’s hardly any traffic. All I can see is this long sordid asphalt line, the countless hills in front of me and the sparkling sea far to my left. 

From El Quesir on, there are street signs indicating the kilometres: Marsa Alam 85km, Shalateen 335 km. Marsa Alam 80km, Shalateen 330 km… I feel as if the distance decreases at slow motion only, whilst I’m pedalling with all my strength. Only much later, actually just before Marsa Alam, we find out that the distances given are inaccurate. The distance between El Quesir and Marsa Alam is 137 km; from Hurghada to Marsa Alam it is in total 270 km.


Does the street really have to climb and fall steadily? Since we’re at the sea! I feel terribly hot and am longing for some cold water. Stupidly, we didn’t cool down our stock of mineral water during the night and I have to count the costs… Cooling form inside is what I wish right now. On the way uphill short before Port Ghalib, I can see a petrol station. “Cold water” crosses my mind. Yet neither in the petrol station shop nor in the coffee shop beside can I get hold of the sought after liquid – although there are piles of boxes full of mineral water outside the coffee shop. The display refrigerators are locked and inside of the coffee shop I can’t find anybody. Well then, yes, it’s Eid El Kibir, the most important Muslim holiday and the guy might be having a nap somewhere… I’m disappointed and climb my bike again.


We pass by the turning to Port Ghalib and I console myself with the idea that tonight, I’ll be sitting there with a cold beer. For now, we roll down to the next plane and climb up the next hill.

I’m so tired that I actually should be falling off my bicycle. Yet the music in my head phones encourages me and as soon as I am on top of a hill and see the next valley ahead of me, I joyfully and boldly precipitate… just to climb up again a few minutes later. At every ascent, I fall back further behind my cycling mate – a clear sign that I’m at the end of my rope.


Suddenly, Marsa Alam is ahead of us. No “Welcome to Marsa Alam” sign, completely unspectacular, almost disappointed we arrive at our goal. We stow away our bikes in the escort car in a side street and I gulp down ice cold coke and water to cool down my working temperature.


We drive back to Port Ghalib where I stay two days while my cycling mate returns to Hurghada.

I frankly admit that the day after, I was so extremely tired, that I didn’t want to move at all but rather sit somewhere or even better: just lounge around. And eat. For two days running, I had two breakfasts and two lunches!

On my way back to Hurghada I honestly wondered how I could have cycled those 270km within two days – it’s still a miracle to me! But I made it and I’m proud of it.