Mediterranean Cycopaths

Fundraising Total

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

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January 9, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Team Cycopath’s TOP 5s

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:

  1. 222 kms Assalum – Marsa Martrouth (Egypt)
  2. 219 kms Nuckhel – Nuweiba (Egypt – Sinai)
  3. 216 kms Oran – Chlef (Algeria)
  4. 210 kms Amman (Jordan) – Damascus (Syria)
  5. 208 kms Sirt – Ras Lanuf (Libya)

Top 5 toughest days cycling:

  1. 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.
  2. 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, 
  3. Al-Hishah – Sirt (Libya): Straight into galeforce headwinds, on small narrow road with heavy traffic, all day.
  4. 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.
  5. 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:

  1. Youngsters Dicks
  2. Prostitutes Leg Sores
  3. Brothels in Sfax
  4. Colin Stobo
  5. Battle of Greasy Grass speed record

Top 5 best days cycling:

  1. Montenegrin Coast
  2. Costa Brava, Spain
  3. Taurus Mountains, Turkey
  4. Rif Mountains, Morocco
  5. 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):

  1. Nuckhel – Egypt (Camp beds, pre-existing unflushable floater, no running water, blood on the mattresses etc. etc.)
  2. Sidi Raman – Egypt (Camp beds, no running water, smell of urine permeating every corner, bed bugs, no toilet … )
  3. 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)
  4. 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)
  5. 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:

  1. The sausage fest
  2. Squat toilets, and showers over squat toilets
  3. Service taxis and people driving down the wrong side of the road as if it’s normal.  Paradoxically, I guess it is normal!?
  4. 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.
  5. 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:

  1. Moses / Mohammed / Christian (Nuweiba) – whatever you call the bloke, he was a tool.
  2. Ibo (Kas) – deluded psycho who wanted to knock Sean’s block off for answering a question correctly.
  3. Mayling (Rhodes) – preacher from your worst Jehovah’s Witness nightmare.
  4. Ahmed (Beirut) – Anglo bloke converted to Islam and on the search for a wife.  Laughable.
  5. 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):

  1. The Tripoli Crew: 24 missed calls in the space of 90 minutes doesn’t even begin to describe it.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Tahar: simply would not take no for an answer – to a disturbing extent.
  5. 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:

  1. Nile Valley, Egypt
  2. Leptis Magna – Roman Ruins, Libya
  3. Petra, Jordan
  4. Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
  5. Wadi Rum, Jordan

Top 5 party spots:

  1. Beirut
  2. Barcelona
  3. Valancia
  4. Santorini
  5. Nice

July 17, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

*** MISSION ACCOMPLISHED ***

Team Cycopath Storm to the Finish Line on the Champs-Elysees

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.

July 15, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 22 Comments

Never a Dull Moment – 1 DAY LEFT!!

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.

Punctured and Pissed Off

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)

July 14, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Hospitality and Home Cooking

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.

Cous-Cous Heaven

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

Jon

July 12, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Cycling Shorts #4

Motown – Deliver Your Verdict!

The competition has finished and the respective moustaches submitted to you, the judging public, below: 

Disco Stu style       Officer Barbrady style

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.

Uniform Madness

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!

July 11, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 20 Comments

Kabylie – Grande and Petite

Target: Yakouren – Ziama Mamsouria (140kms)

Status: Exceeded (Actual 163kms to Jijel) – 622kms remaining.

Report: An early morning start was the order of the day and after scarfing down breakfast, we were on the road by 07:20.  What a treat was in store!  The day would be divided between steady climbs and mountain scenery in the Grande Kabylie region before bottoming out near Bejaia and a coastal ride from there.

Three mountain passes were the first obstacles set before us and the TC steam train huffed and puffed over the top of them no problems at all, but not before pulling in at a couple of stations for picture opportunities.  The fresh mountain air was doing us the world of good – just a pity about the hot, acrid, black smoke that is unfailingly sent our way by overtaking trucks.  A big descent and we hit the coast, before stopping for an early lunch at a quiet looking roadside cafe where we wouldn’t get hassled too much…

A very lengthy French/Arabic/English conversation later (with many new friends that kept turning up out of nowhere), 8 or 9 pictures, the obligatory exchange of email addresses and countless handshakes, we were finally back on the road.  Some topics of conversation covered at lunch included:

  • The (abundant) similarities between Australians and Algerians
  • North African Berbers empathy for Australian Aborigines; and deep appreciation of their music
  • Russell Crowe’s brilliant acting skills
  • Zinedine Zidane’s Kabylie heritage

After that half-time ear bashing we ran (rode) out for the second half feeling a bit flat, but soon received two massive boosts –

  1. A thick cloud cover was providing welcome relief from the energy sapping midday sun; and
  2. The coastal road, which we were worried would be similar to the ups and downs of the Rif, was relatively even and flat. 

It was a joy to ride on and the days distance was again extended.  If we can knock off 152kms tomorrow, we will have made up the day we lost due to our money woes in Algiers.

Scrotometer: It all sounds rather rosy above and I don’t want to give anyone sleepless nights by going into any more details about the effects of chaffing and spending so long on a bicycle day-in-day-out.  I am still searching for the root cause of why I am having so much trouble now when the last 12,000kms have been ok, so on this occasion I’ll just let the Scrotometer rating speak for itself: 2.9/10

Jon

July 9, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Living on the Breadline

7th July, 2007 

Alger La Blanche (‘Algiers The White’) – so named for the distinctive white of the City’s buildings as viewed from the sea by departing / returning seafarers.  This nickname resonated with us as the hilly city came into view.  Two rest days here was the plan, giving us time to wash our clothes and have a look around while recharging the batteries.  Oh, and get some cash out.

It was this last, seemingly straightforward, task that threw our plans into disarray.  We arrived on Wednesday afternoon, giving us Thursday to wash and get the cash before Friday which is always a day off in the Arabic working week.

To cut a long story short(ish), Thursday turned out to be Algerian Independence Day (July 5th, we should have known), effectively meaning no banks would be open for Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  This combined with the fact that ATMs here are effectively useless with foreign cards, including Mastercard and Visa, mean that we are unable to get any cash to pay for our hotel and see us out of the country, until Sunday.

Result:  Team Cycopath to stay in Algiers an extra day and survive on the equivalent of £5 (GBP) for nearly 3 days.

There is one, rather significant, saving grace in that we can eat evening meals at any of four 5 star hotels, the only places in town where credit cards are accepted.

Wonder what the poor people are doing?

The rest of the time it is bread-sticks, water and the occasional piece of fruit.  We can’t even afford internet access until after 18.00 when they drop the rates, it’s horrible.

Anyway, dinner time, must run up to the Suisse Hotel to see what’s on the Menu du Jour.  Hopefully no hitches with the banks tomorrow and we’ll be on our way again,

Jon 

July 7, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Dashboard – Week 24

  • Days Cycled – 4
  • Distance Covered – 556km
  • Cumulative Distance – 12227km
  • Almerian Tapas bars ravaged as we psyched ourselves up for Algerian night life – 7
  • Random Acts of Algerian Kindess – 6
  • July 3, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

    Bum, Bean and Vaseline – 1124km to Tunis

    Target: Chlef – Khemis Meliana (87kms)

    Status: Achieved (Actual 87kms) – 1037kms remaining.

    Report: As much as I enjoyed cycling 390kms in baking temperatures over the course of the last two days, when I peeled my shorts off to inspect the damage last night, my body told me in no uncertain terms that it had had enough. I will spare you details of the remedial actions taken but, after a better than average nights rest (still not great mind) and with enough vaseline lathered on to lubricate 10 Sumo wrestlers, I rejected Seans offer of a rest day and was ready and raring to go again this morning.

    The good news, thanks to our efforts of the previous days, was that Algiers – the capital of this big brown land – was only two shortish days away and the logical stop in between, Khemis Meliana, a lazy 87kms, which would allow us to avoid sleeping in some renowned trouble spots further down the road.

    So as I sit here, in a dingy room full of Algerian men looking at porn, after another days work (hopefully only 9 more to go), my bum is screaming at me to go back to the Team hotel and lie face down in a prone postion on the bed for the next 12 hours. Looking forward to those rest days in Algiers …

    Scrotometer: A much needed sleep-in meant another mid-morning departure – not at all advisable in these temperatures. However, the short distance, a two stop strategy and standing up on the bike whenever possible, all combined to ensure a far more comfortable day than the previous two (notwithstanding injuries already incurred) – 6.8/10.

    Jon

    July 3, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments