Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Not Every Inch

Leaving the market town of Atbara, there was the notion that I would complete the entire 12,000 kilometre route without getting off the bike. By the end of the riding day, the vaunted EFI goal was lost. And it was so close. Had it not been for sand, intense heat and ultimately mental exhaustion, I would have rode or pushed into camp.

The group exited Atbara on a dirt track which merged onto a paved road. The course veered toward the open desert and that is where the rough ride began. Lunch was set up 58 km. from Atbara in a non-descript patch of sand. Most of that stretch required heavy pedalling as the track was intermittently "hard pack" and sand. While the former surface affords some purchase and therefore momentum, the latter can be torturous.

The dominant plant in the desert is the acacia, a tree marked by piercing thorns. We fixed several punctures today. Mercifully, I only had one. With my flat repaired, I followed a route that led to a green mosque. At that point, our navigation had no landmarks other than red flagging tape set about 2 kms. apart. Though I covered the day's distance of 102 kms., at the 90 km. mark, I lost the route and became disoriented in an ocean of sand. Having ridden and dragged my vehicle for 10 hours, much of it through nasty heat, I put all my energy into finding a fellow rider.

Off on the horizon, there was the glint of a bicycle. Saved! I managed to push to the place where we were supposed to be and waited until the TDA sag wagon came along. Although I was crestfallen to forego the accomplishment of doing every inch, the wise decision was to remain healthy. With me on the truck were others who had succumb to the heat and relentless sand. Medic Hannah plied us with oral rehydration to replenish our electrolytes.

This was the beginning of a five-day run of sand. Ah yes, the fabled desert passage. Below, you get an image of the flats. However, there is a vehicle and a settlement on the horizon. Most of the passage was through barren, arid, unpopulated earth. When we did come across nomads, they were invariably friendly. Camels, goats and donkeys surely outnumber people in this part of the Sudan.

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