Mediterranean Cycopaths

Siwa Oasis and the Fading Stars

18th February 2007

After 7 days straight on the bikes, some more fruitful than others due to tough conditions and my dodgy stomach, we stopped for a couple of nights at the Egyptian port town of Marsa Matruh. From here we took a (long) bus ride to the desert oasis of Siwa, which bills itself as the world’s oldest tourist destination (Alexander the Great visted circa 330 BC to have his fortune told by the local oracle). It is an amazing place and after strolling leisurely around the temples and various springs during the afternoon our day was capped off by a stunning sunset (see pictures).

The cycling in Egypt has been a bit of a change from Libya, with the big new hotels and apartments juxtaposed against the local towns and villages affecting our experience – i.e. we cycle into a small village and ask for a funduq (hotel), they think we’re lost and direct us down the road to the the big package holiday resort complete with armed guards at the front gate. In Libya, they would be falling over themselves to have us stay at their own house.

My faith was soon restored when we stopped at a service station. I went into the building to ask for a map, only to find it empty. I heard some sounds coming from the adjoining shed, so stuck my head through the door. As my eyes became accustomed to the light, I see this guy (ethnic Berber I think) sitting on a blanket tucking into a massive bowl of spaghetti. He looks up, sees me and, without even blinking, picks up another spoon and ushers for me to sit down next to him and join in. Brilliant.

In general the Egyptians are extremely friendly (nothing at all like the Libyans told us they would be!) and I’m happy to report that we are still capturing imaginations across the region (and then releasing them unharmed). One particularly funny incident occurred when we were simply walking along a Marsa Matruh street in casual clothes not looking extraordinarily out of place, in my opinion. We had a faint feeling of being watched by a couple of people, which we ignored, until we hear this big crash and thump from behind – a guy carrying a load of hot bread on a bicycle had crashed into a telegraph pole sending himself sprawling and scattering pita all over the street. Thus another potential slogan for our mooted t-shirts was born – Team Cycopath: Remember to look where you’re going while you’re staring at them.

Another thing missing from our time in Libya is the TV cameras. This has hit Sean pretty hard as he immensely enjoyed pandering to them. The last 2 nights I have heard him sleep talking, interviewing himself in a different voice and then answering in his own – apparently pretending that he is still the international sporting hero of last week.

We have made good progress across Egypt so far and with the trip exactly one calendar month old we were 20 kilometres shy of the 3000km mark – something we wouldn’t have dreamt of at the start of the trip. That milestone, since passed, was celebrated in Alexandria with our first beers in 25 days. The second ones followed very shortly thereafter.

Jon

Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/46593233@N00/

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February 18, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized

2 Comments »

  1. Boys, You have an uncommon ability to pick the meat off the bones of these cultures, swallow them whole and digest them onto these pages. Like a sparrow regurgitating for its young, you in effect leave these flavors for our incapsulated spirits to swallow and grow as well.
    Thanks for the inspiration.
    (Any photo shoots latey Sean “sunshine boy” Smee)

    Comment by Byron Molloy | February 21, 2007 | Reply

  2. great work fellas, keep up the good work I really wish I was with you guys doing this extraordinary trip. Its a pity you dont have a film guy with you, so you could eventually do a dvd of the trip. But I am sure you will have a book planned for it. Anyway keep going hard and shaun you arabian heart throb be good. cheers boys paul sluyters

    Comment by paul sluyters | March 8, 2007 | Reply


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