Lake Nasser Memories
In 2014, there is a strong possibility that the Tour d’Afrique cycling expedition may be able to cross the Egypt/Sudan border on a new road, thereby eliminating one of the most unique experiences on the ride – the Lake Nasser ferry from Aswan to Wadi Halfa. We have asked some TDA alumni to share their memories of this experience with us. TDA 2010 cyclist Sunil Shah on his crossing…
“In 2010, we were very lucky to be offered a limited number of cabins in which to sleep the night. Adrian Lutey managed to get one of these rooms and having seen the wonderfully cramped conditions people were trying to set up their nests in on the top deck, I quickly asked him if I could sleep on the other bunk. We were about to head to sleep when Eric Dufour knocked on our door. We let him in, he walked over to the bed and lifted up the corner of the mattress to point out roaches. So many roaches. They were happy enough crawling around in their dark and warm home under the mattress and didn’t appear to be venturing out ‘above mattress’ too often. That said, the thought of about fifty of these fat, dark roaches crawling just a few inches below my back was enough to keep me from sleeping in just my sleeping bag. I improvised a ‘protective’ cocoon out of the inner part of my tent and after spending a while making sure I wouldn’t need anything at all (getting in and out of the tent was somewhat difficult), I tried to relax enough to fall asleep.
What seemed like an eternity later, although it was only an hour or two – I was roused from the deepest of sleep by the sound of tour leader Paul McManus calling all TDA riders to report for a medical examination. This was deeply puzzling but was the second hint at what Sudan was going to be like (fascinatingly bureaucratic) – my visa application which took five trips to the embassy being the first. Struggling to get out of my protective suit (I woke up and, for a moment, forgot what I was trapped in) – I lethargically trooped to the meeting point. After some fun trying to distribute and retrieve passports, all seventy or so riders queued up around several corners of a narrow corridor in the belly of the ferry for an unknown ‘medical’ examination. Anticipation of the fate to befall us was the topic of every conversation, although rumours occasionally made their way back after riders successfully navigated the medical examination and emerged victorious, passport in hand.
Eventually, I reached the room, while the previous rider was still in there. An official looking doctor (wearing a dirty white coat) shoved a thermometer in my ear and signed a form. Immediately afterwards, the same thermometer was used for the following rider and was no doubt used for every patient without being cleaned. If we weren’t ill before the medical examination, we were almost certain to become ill after it! Slightly nervous after my recent battle with aggressive saddle sores, I managed to muster enough composure to make it through the examination. After a short walk back to our room, I crawled back into my tent to barely sleep for the rest of the night.”