Many people have been asking about the final tally of funds raised for The Fred Hollows Foundation. While it’s difficult to get an exact amount due to some donations going through without our fundraising id, the total amount is somewhere in the region of AUD$8000. FHF tells us that they perform 1 eye operation for every $25 raised which translates to 320 people seeing in the world today thanks to our project and your generosity. The appreciation of FHF has been communciated to us by letter so we pass on that gratitude to you, our donors. Thanks again, Sean & Jon
We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who followed our journey over the past 6 months and for the incredible amount of support we received via comments on the website, emails, text and phone calls. The trip has been the fulfilment of a three year dream, made possible by the support of many others.
We also wish to thank:
- Everyone on our route who helped us achieve our goal – Sami and the guys in Libya, the lads at the Algerian Embassy in Marseille and many, many others that either put us up for the night, bought us a meal or a drink, sent us in the right direction or simply cheered us on as we cycled by.
- All of our readers who were inspired to donate to the Fred Hollows Foundation. Your valuable contributions are vital to the Foundation achieving it’s aims of eradicating avoidable blindness in the world.
- Penny Tribe, Shaun Jones and Nina Murphy at Fred Hollows for their support of our adventure.
- Michael Tombs (with us for over a third of the distance), Rob Gourlay and Richard Parker for joining the ride, injecting some much needed fresh personality and no doubt reducing the likelihood of us strangling each other.
- Farn and Fiona for their assistance in setting up the very website you have the pleasure of perusing right now.
- Our other friends who made the weekend trips out – ensuring the European leg would add hangovers to the list of physical hurdles to overcome.
- Sean would also like to thank his beautiful girlfriend Harry, who has demonstrated a level of patience previously assumed to be beyond the realms of human ability.
We are in contact with the good people at Fred Hollows Foundation regularly and intend to post a fundraising tally in the coming weeks, so it is never to late to donate.
So what now for us? Sean is moving back to Australia in the coming weeks and Jon will be moving back to London for the time being. If you need to contact either of us, you can do so via a the following email addresses – email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Team Cycopath … OUT
The most memorable aspects of our trip – the best and the worst – summarised in the perrenially popular ‘Top 5′ format:
Top 5 distance cycled in a day:
- 222 kms Assalum – Marsa Martrouth (Egypt)
- 219 kms Nuckhel – Nuweiba (Egypt – Sinai)
- 216 kms Oran – Chlef (Algeria)
- 210 kms Amman (Jordan) – Damascus (Syria)
- 208 kms Sirt – Ras Lanuf (Libya)
Top 5 toughest days cycling:
- El-Jebha – Targuist (Morocco): Up and down all day, including a 1600m climb in searing heat on woeful surfaces, while knocking back offers of pot every couple of kms.
- Damascus – Beirut (Syria/Lebanon): Two mountain ranges, torrential rain, snow, frostnip and finished with a descent from 2000m over black ice and bombed out bridges/roads to finish at Beirut in near darkness,
- Al-Hishah – Sirt (Libya): Straight into galeforce headwinds, on small narrow road with heavy traffic, all day.
- Sarande – Vlore (Albania): Up and down on some of the steepest roads and poorest surfaces of the trip. Culminated in 1000m climb, where we were attacked by 6 vicious dogs, and then Sean’s (still standing) land speed record down the other side on newly paved road.
- Kislakesi – Agacik (Turkey): Same old story. Galeforce headwinds, long steep hills for the duration of the day.
Top 5 disturbing search terms people used to find the Cycopaths Blog (the search terms used daily are shown on our website statistics page), this is no joke:
- Youngsters Dicks
- Prostitutes Leg Sores
- Brothels in Sfax
- Colin Stobo
- Battle of Greasy Grass speed record
Top 5 best days cycling:
- Montenegrin Coast
- Costa Brava, Spain
- Taurus Mountains, Turkey
- Rif Mountains, Morocco
- Sinai Mountains, Egypt
Top 5 rattiest hotels (for most of these, the full extent of the problems didn’t come to light until either after we had checked in, or the next morning by which point we were too wrecked to consider re-packing and looking for alternatives, for the first two, there was simply no other option):
- Nuckhel – Egypt (Camp beds, pre-existing unflushable floater, no running water, blood on the mattresses etc. etc.)
- Sidi Raman – Egypt (Camp beds, no running water, smell of urine permeating every corner, bed bugs, no toilet … )
- Annaba – Algeria (Sagging beds shared with any number of bugs, ubiquitous urine smell and constant noise from the road as we scratched ourselves to sleep)
- Drioche – Morocco (THE most putridly stinking, filthy squat toilets in the history of that marvellous invention. Oh, and we had to ‘shower’ in cold water under a knee high tap)
- Tunis – Tunisia (Our very first hotel and it didn’t get much worse, select at random a combination of gripes above)
Top 5 things we won’t miss about travelling in Arabic countries:
- The sausage fest
- Squat toilets, and showers over squat toilets
- Service taxis and people driving down the wrong side of the road as if it’s normal. Paradoxically, I guess it is normal!?
- People that can’t read maps and too cool for school show-offs, usually soldiers or teenage boys, that giggle and laugh in front of their mates when asked directions.
- The integral role played by every member of any organisation – to the extent that if that person is absent, no matter how menial their role, the organisation ceases to function.
Top 5 village idiots:
- Moses / Mohammed / Christian (Nuweiba) – whatever you call the bloke, he was a tool.
- Ibo (Kas) – deluded psycho who wanted to knock Sean’s block off for answering a question correctly.
- Mayling (Rhodes) – preacher from your worst Jehovah’s Witness nightmare.
- Ahmed (Beirut) – Anglo bloke converted to Islam and on the search for a wife. Laughable.
- Kamahl (Libya) – our Benghazi cheuffeur, I still can’t believe we survived. Wouldn’t even start the car unless his one and only Bon Jovi tape was located and mobilised. We tried in vain to hide it.
Top 5 ‘taggers’ (the most insistent of the insistent):
- The Tripoli Crew: 24 missed calls in the space of 90 minutes doesn’t even begin to describe it.
- Ramzi: Benghazi’s self appointed ‘Main Man’. Favourite saying “Small time” still grates with Team Cycopath. Friends of his were still tracking us down in remote villages days later.
- Nasser & Rabbir: it wasn’t their fault but our racing cyclist come tour guide friends were a drag. Riding off on them was a masterstroke.
- Tahar: simply would not take no for an answer - to a disturbing extent.
- Sirt Taxi Driver: Followed and followed … and followed us around town after we refused to pay the requested fare, which had dramatically risen from the price agreed upon journey commencement.
Top 5 excursions:
- Nile Valley, Egypt
- Leptis Magna – Roman Ruins, Libya
- Petra, Jordan
- Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
- Wadi Rum, Jordan
Top 5 party spots:
Team Cycopath rode roughshod into Tunis today completing a lap of the Mediterranean Sea in just under 6 months. Stay tuned for a full review of our adventures over the next couple of days.
In the meantime, donations are still being gratefully received by the Fred Hollows Foundation – you can contribute by following these instructions.
- Days Cycled – 4
- Distance Covered – 413kms
- Cumulative Distance – 13225kms
- Laps of the Mediterranean Sea completed – 1
Target: Tabarka – Mateur (107kms)
Status: Re-aligned (Actual 116kms to Mejez el Bab) – 58kms remaining
Report: The weather forecast for our final days (35°C+, strong headwinds) meant there wasn’t going to be an easy run home – not that this epic trip warranted one – but we would try our best to manage the elements smartly and hopefully lady luck would see us through without too many (more) hassles.
We were 3 kilometres out of Tabarka when I heard the “Oh, Sh#t” from behind me. At first I hoped it was the Tunisian I had just overtaken on his (very slow) motorcycle, but the chances of him having a thick Australian accent, I knew, were slim. It turned out Sean, upon looking down to check the map, had realised that it wasn’t there. Along with his handle bar bag to which it is usually attached. After a mad dash back on Tahumi, he found it safely stashed at the hotel, with its invaluable contents fully intact. Never a dull moment with the boy - always trying to keep me entertained.
He met me up at a town down the road, after what had been a pleasent and interesting 30kms cycle through winding valleys and gently undulating hills – Commonwealth War graves, good views of the coast and lakes and a multitude of street side vendors cheering us on. It was here that things took a turn for the worse, literally.
We, foolishly and somewhat absentmindely, followed the signs to Tunis out of town, instead of our intended route closer to the coast. 6kms in we realised our mistake but, seeing as both routes were exactly the same distance, we thought we would continue on the ‘main’ road anyway, rather than back track to the leafy scenic route.
4 hours of woefully barren landscape, 10kms of roadworks, a punctured tyre and several long hills in sapping 40° heat later, we called it a day. It was like having a hair dryer directed at your face for the duration and when reaching for some relief in the form of a water bottle, you invariably find that it has heated up to the point of being undrinkable, certainly past any level of ‘refreshment’, despite having been filled with ice cold H2O 30 minutes previous.
So, we are dog tired but two-dicks happy – well poised, at 58 kilometres out, for an early morning assault on the finish line tomorrow and our hotel has a bar for a few contemplative Saturday night beers this evening.
After a prick of a day like this the big positive that we will take, as with all the hurdles we’ve had to over come in the last 6 months, is that it will make tomorrow’s celebration all the sweeter…
Scrotometer: As mentioned above, the scenery was woeful and we were sweating like perverts in a police line-up pretty much the whole day. But with the finish line nigh, no matter how many curve balls are thrown our way, we are floating in the saddles: 6.8/10 (nearly floating)
Target: Annaba – Tabarka (126kms)
Status: Achieved (Actual 124kms) – 176kms remaining
Report: With non-functioning toilets, mattresses that did little to buffer the barrage of prodding springs on any position change and the dank smell of urine permeating every corner, it is fair to say that The Royal Automobile Club Hotel – over the years host to thousands of people, and millions of bed bugs – had seen better days. Thus we didn’t need too much (extra) prodding to set a Cycopath Departure Time record of 06.45 for our final day cycling in Algeria.
To ensure the days toil didn’t run too smoothly, we were helped by a Police Officer (who we didn’t ask), who in turn recruited an English speaking local to explain to us that to get from our current location (which I pointed out on our map) to our final destination (which I also pointed out on our map) all we had to do was follow the big red line (on the map): Thankyou Christopher Columbus!
Minutes later a ute-driving local tried his best to take me out by turning right a millimetre in front of my wheel. Naturally, I deviated from my intended path at full sprint to chase him for 100m screaming (another) torrent of abuse. Humourously, our English-speaking navigational guru, not seeing the incident, chased me down the side-road in his car, in order to lead me back to the main highway and eagerly point out the Billboard-sized roadsign indicating TUNIS. Steam still coming out of my ears he was afforded my best wry smile.
Despite this it was a lovely day cycling around wetlands and through pine forests. This was the habitat of storks, wild boars and tortoises – at least if the road kill is anything to go by - but also surprisingly of eucalypt and wattle trees. The day was also a celebration of some fairly significant milestones: 13000kms cycled, last border crossing, last double chevron hill climbed, last friday on tour (ok, I know I’m stretching the point a little…).
So here we are in Tabarka, Tunisia – with a Jazz festival and beach to check out, it looks like a relaxing evening is in store.
Scrotometer: 2 significant hills (and several idiots) in the midday heat tempered an otherwise comfortable ride: 7.2/10
Target: Skikda – Annaba (108kms)
Status: Achieved (Actual 112kms) – 302kms remaining (after recent map review)
Report: Our final rest day was taken in the port city of Skikda and we were fortunte enough to be hosted for lunch by the extremely hospitable Zaid family, the eldest son of whom, Tahar, had accosted us in the street and determined that he was going to help / guide / manage us in every pursuit we undertook whilst in the city whether we liked it or not.
We did like most of it – except for the fact that he insisted on dancing and singing his way through the days agenda – and a delicious home cooked cous-cous lunch was the undoubted highlight in a day that also saw us visit the beach, walk along the Corniche and have a newspaper interview for the local rag.
Today, it was back on the bikes (Tahar dropped by at 06:40 to bring some breakfast and watch us get ready) and we were away at a reasonable hour for what turned out to be an uneventful ride to Annaba where we arrived at Midday. Highlight of the day was seeing ‘Tunis’ appear on the road signs.
Scrotometer: Just off a rest day, early start, short distance, not too hot – all factors combining for a comfortable journey: 8.3/10
Motown - Deliver Your Verdict!
The competition has finished and the respective moustaches submitted to you, the judging public, below:
Click on the pictures for a closer inspection and then leave your vote and/or disparaging remarks via the comments button below. Don’t hold back, we’re quite thick skinned.
I know we have touched on this previously, but a recent incident again highlighted the absurdity of police not wearing uniforms …
We are casually cycling along the picturesque Corniche Kabyle when a man wearing slacks and casual button up shirt starts waving excitedly and holding up his hand telling us to stop. Nothing unsual there, happens multiple times a day – people are interested and want to ask us the same 4 or 5 questions everyone else wants to (and then exchange details, invite us to stay with them etc. etc) - as also happens multiple times each day, we cycled straight past.
500 metres down the road, a car careers past and brakes heavily to cut us off, nearly taking Sean out. The same man jumps out of the back waving frantically with a radio in his hand for us to stop. Turns out he is a policeman and wants the usual details (what are you doing, where are you going, would you like to have lunch).
In fairness, you can’t really blame the boys in blue (or whatever colour their uniforms actually are) for dressing in civvies – most of the recent terrorist attacks here have been targeted at police – but if they do decide to leave it at home they need to alter their expectations accordingly.
Comfort on Cold Winter Nights
For those of you currently hibernating through winter in southern Australia, here’s a recipe we picked up in Libya about 5 months ago to help you through. We call it ’Sharia Fish‘ (that’s how it phoentically sounds when people say anyway) and, available at any cafe in the country, it’s a real winner:
Ingredients: Corn Flakes, Milk, Crushed Almonds, Liquid Chocolate (in one of those squeezable containers) and Honey
Instructions: Pour a large cup or mug 3/4 full with Cornflakes and then drown in hot milk (preferably heated via one of those coffee machine steamers). Top with honey / chocolate to taste and sprinkle with Almonds. Enjoy!
“avoid any unnecessary movement and maintain extreme caution”; “reconsider your need to travel by road”; “exercise extreme vigilance”; “ensure (you) have appropriate personal security protection measures in place.”