Archive for December, 2012

Qarun Lake Ride

As usual, when it comes to special events the participation exceeds the normal rides. There were 12 riders: Dan, Ashraf, Sherif, Khadiga, Timo, Jun, Tom, Thomas, Erhard, Joe, Nick and myself. The whole thing was invented by Pascal, and ridden once before in the spring of 2012 by only a few. This time, he had a cold and couldn’t ride, but was happy to guide the tour with great commitment.

The start was rough, as one of the land vehicles didn’t make it at 6 am as arranged, and we had to change the plan and depart with Nick`s car, hoping to meet in the 6th of October where Thomas would join. We picked up Ashraf and Sherif in the Ring-Road, as the second mishap of the day happened, when one of them managed to mount his bike on the rack but he himself was left on the tarmac. He was rescued by the last vehicle and had to ride with 3 others in the back, which considerably warmed up the inner temperature. Outside it was 13 degrees.

After Thomas and the delayed car joined the group in the Mobile petrol station at 6th of October and shuffling around people and bikes, we hit the road to Fayoum and shortly thereafter went off road to the starting point in the north rim of the Qarun Lake. Pascal would not be able to shine on the sprints, but instead pulled out his best desert driving skills from hundreds of expeditions in the country. My driver, not used to the terrain, had trouble to keep up, hit the car bottom twice and struggled to keep control in the narrow asphalted part with the blind hills. We were a bit scared in tricky passages, but we were already enjoying the splendor of the desert. By the way -for future rides-, several passages were only passable with a 4WD vehicle. Good we didn’t have to bring Nick´s car.

We finally arrived at the beginning of the road north of Qarun and while mounting our bikes one of us noticed he was missing the front wheel! Big frustration, but at least Pascal was cautious enough to have brought two spare wheels, so at least he could do the ride. We thought we must have forgotten it at the petrol station, but none of us recalled having seen it. After some phone calls, the wheel was located in front of the owner´s apartment, left behind in the hectic of catching up with the group, and with jet lag. Fortunately this little story had a happy end after all.

All commotions were worth the while when the bikes started rolling at 8:25 am after the obligatory group pictures. The landscape of Qarun and the Fayoum Plain in the background is fantastic. One of the Egyptian riders confessed to me he had never done a trip deep into the desert, and was overwhelmed by the beauty of a country unknown to him. The geologists were delighted by the curious geoforms, aeolian boulders, ancient channels or limestones with oyster fossils seen in the outcrops. Very interesting, but it was time to concentrate in the ride as it became hilly and we were approaching the sand passages.

The first wind blown sand passage was about 100 m long, followed by other minor ones. Attempting to cross them without stepping off the bike was a challenge that Jun managed best. Two of us went down without consequences, most were more cautious and carried the bike, but got plenty of sand in their shoes. In any case, it added a flavor of adventure and wilderness. After 48 km of deserted, hilly and sandy road, this first leg ended at the western tip of the lake. A couple of km from there, the route was about to enter into the populated area of Fayoum, where we would encounter traffic, occasional spectators, and expected head wind.

That road along the south rim of the lake had a few donkey chariots and some car traffic, but not much in a Friday morning. Nevertheless, the potholes, mud lumps and speed control bumps required more concentration and hand signalling. With half of the ride ahead, riders quickly geared up to a high tempo and started rotating the lead. We rode for 38 km in an hour and a few minutes, which mean the head wind couldn’t have been strong, if at all. Riders progressively fell back with increasing kms, and in the end only 5 remained in the front pack. Among them was our young Khadiga, who actively contributed to pull this grupetto, and doesn’t cease to surprise us.

We regrouped at a small road junction where the ride ended last semester, but decided to go for an additional 6 km cool down leg until the Auberge Hotel. “Piano” is the jargon word for the controlled pace that was called for, which for Nick is still a 33 km/h pace. The ride ended at km 91 in front of the hotel, and after rejoining, Pascal drove back to fetch Ashrab, the “Laterne Rouge”, at the moment he was arriving slowly but surely. The ride ended with everybody smiling and happy to have been part of it. We wished each other season greetings and happy year end holidays, and wished also we can repeat it next year.

Special thanks go to Pascal for being the inventor, guide, driver, coach and Good Samaritan of the ride. He continues to get the award for riding the most amount of km in a car, but this time this was very much appreciated.