Stage 19: Khartoum to Rufaa
We start a hard 6-day section, taking us out of Sudan in 4 more days, then the climbing comes in Ethiopia.
Warmest morning by far on the tour so far; certainly didn’t need outer jacket layer or warm gloves. Today we were joined by a group of riders from the SCN (Sudanese Cycling Network); 7 in all and including 2 young women. It was a real send off, complete with a camera-mounted drone recording the massed start; I wonder if I’ll ever get to see that video clip?
We all headed east from the Blue Nile Sailing Club among relatively quiet streets of Khartoum, it being a Friday morning; once we got out of town, and crossed over the river, we swing to the right, the route taking us along the northeastern bank of the Blue Nile. The countryside is dead flat; whether it’s old flood plain or the remnant of an inland sea, I’m not sure. But flat!
The road is rough tarmac, lots of cracks and potholes from which to choose. No shoulder to speak of, and a nastily abrupt falloff onto pitted gravel. Traffic is uncomfortably busy for the first 2-3 hours, then only moderately so. Road surface is the worst we’ve experienced so far, although I suspect this will become the new norm. Once again, thanks to Ed at Mighty Riders for putting me on these fatter tires, not to mention the suspension forks. It’s still tiring but at least my hands, feet and butt aren’t suffering as would otherwise have been the case. Plus it’s just a whole lot more secure under these conditions.
Gusty crosswinds accentuated by the blasts of air and dust coming off the large transport trucks make this day interesting. We arrive at the lunch spot only a little behind normal time, but it’s now really warm as the morning cloud cover has completely burnt off. I don’t think I’ve been drinking enough; really have to make myself drink more water. Setting off again, there’s a reversal in pattern; as we swing a little more to the SSE, the crosswinds shift to now come at least partially from behind, resulting in a little easier going. Plus the traffic seems to abate somewhat. Landscape is dominated by agribusiness-type operations, with some massive irrigation systems feeding east from the Nile.
Overall, a rather uninspiring day; the SCN riders turned back at ~50 km so we lost that chatter to divert. Camp is set up a little further down the road than originally planned; but that’s ok, as it means 4 less kms tomorrow. Bush camp tonight, and we arrive hot & sweaty in 38° temperatures. But... welcome surprise. Alam and Jim have organized a local driver and van to ferry us to the river. The water is fabulous ... feels so remarkably good after such a day. Instant attitude adjustment!
Riders meeting: Tallis gives a more thorough briefing on what to expect from the rock-throwing kids of Ethiopia in a few more days. That will be a challenge in itself, let alone with the climbing included. I’ll put all that aside until we actually cross over on Tuesday; need to focus on a day at a time.
Excellent dinner and another great sunset to accompany. Everyone’s in their tent early tonight.