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First real climb

Updated: May 7, 2023

Stage 5: Safaga to Police check point campsite

I thought I was all organized the night before, ready to break camp and hit the 6:00 breakfast for an early start to our first real climb of this tour. A quick check of the bike threw that plan out; a very soft front tyre and as we’d pumped it up the night before, nothing else to do but to deal with it now. I’ve been running with tubeless tyres as some of you know, using ‘Stan’s sealant’ to stop most leaks. I guess that puncture in Cairo took care of that idea. So broke out a tube and have gone conventional (at least on the front). Oh well, better to deal with it at start of the day, with a floor pump and nearby coffee, then on the side of the road somewhere up the track. Got it done and managed to forage a breakfast; but started out 30 minutes after most others had left.

As I exited, Pete was having the same issue, unfortunately. So he and Naomi also would have got a late get-away. Fairly soon I saw Jim up ahead at some distance; I caught him on early stages of the climb only because he stopped for photos. Anyway, it was pleasant to be able to converse spinning uphill instead of dwelling on the climb itself in sweaty solitude.

The Red Sea Mountains looked great this morning; really austere, almost vertical wall of shattered carbonates(?), I believe forming the western wall of the Red Sea Rift here. There’s also apparently a recently-established long distance hiking trail running through this range, which if I get the time, I’ll try to research a bit.

We continued up for some 60 km; long steady hill, but definitely not steep. I can’t think of a longer climb in my life, and certainly not one which goes on so long, but actually only gets up to about 750 m asl. We’re on a very good tarmac road, a divided highway with 2 lanes on either side of a simply huge median (hundreds of metres, at least). Light traffic... really a beautiful morning except for the initial headwinds coming out of Safaga, and then persistent gusty conditions for remainder of day.

Jim dropped me to continue at a brisker pace, I continued at my own spin rate. He then flatted about 2/3 of the way up; he waved me on by, saying all was in-hand. We eventually re-grouped on the 15 km descent to lunch truck.

The last 65-70 km was supposed to be steady downhill, but cross and head-winds took care of that notion. Still, we made it to the final Police checkpoint of the day, and our designated campsite. Overall, a good ride.

This campsite not so good, however; trucks rolling through all night, I’m afraid. We’re set up on gravelly, calcrete surface only a stone’s throw from highway. Security is impressive though; a squadron of Egyptian military arriving about 5:00 to surround us with armoured vehicles, various weaponry and I think foot patrols through the night. I state the latter as I can hear them chatting with one another just outside this tent, at least as breaks in the truck traffic allow.

Point of information: All the road far travelled have not infrequent ‘police check points’ presumably to monitor things like vehicular insurance and licensing. At any rate, we’ve so far just been waved through.

Well, will have to wait until tomorrow and we’re in Luxor to post this, I think; cellular not great here.

PS. Had to get up to pee just shy of midnight; a guard in heavy coat (parka?) escorted me to the appropriate spot with a flashlight to guide my footing, past the armoured machine gun -turreted truck. Coming back to tent, he came all the way; I was getting worried (visions of Circassian monks and an uncomfortable incident in Spain a year or two back) but I think he was just being especially conscientious. He said good night as he zipped up the vestibule after I’d crawled back into my shelter.

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