Day 8: El Tor – Sharm el Sheikh: The Difference a Day Makes

Saturday May 28, 2011, 114 km (71 miles) – Total so far: 820 km (510 miles)

I awoke a new man! I had gotten a good night’s sleep and woke well rested. For the first time in nearly a week I actually felt somewhat close to healthy! It seemed the antibiotics were already doing their job. I got a good breakfast into me and stocked up with enough food and water for the 100km cycle to Sharm el Sheikh (another 100km desert stretch with no settlements.)

The town of El Tor

Once I was on the bike I noticed the ferocious tailwind that was now behind me. This tailwind was fantastic and put me in an even better mood. Outside El Tor I put the headphones in and put on some high tempo music full blast in my ears. This was brilliant! I was powering through the desert, being driven along at 25-30km/h by a huge tailwind. After such a tough day yesterday this was incredible for me. I was gliding along, just flying through the desert with a superb soundtrack in my ears, it felt fantastic. I made sure not to push too hard and whenever shade appeared I forced myself to take a quick rest. After 70km of bliss the road turned sharply so that the tailwind now became a strong crosswind. I had to lean the bike sideways to remain upright and was cycling at an angle the entire time. But now that the weakness, the stomach cramps and the diarrhea were gone and I felt healthy, this didn’t bother me one bit and I relished the challenge that this desert cycling was presenting.

Empty Desert
Rest Stop
Turning into the Crosswind

After a small bit of climbing I arrived at the edge of Ras Mohammed National Park. The scenery here actually wasn’t too bad. I knew nothing about this road seeing as it wasn’t on my original route. I had assumed it would just pass through barren desert as the road north had done but I was pleasantly surprised.

Sharm el Sheikh gateway
Going around Ras Mohammed National Park
Ras Mohammed National Park
Descending to Sharm el Sheikh

After a tough climb back into the ferocious wind I descended down to the Sharm el Sheikh toll booth where cars are charged for entering the city. There was no sign giving a price for bicycles so I was waved through. I ended up cycling nearly 20km around the ring road and through the city before I found a cheap hotel. I didn’t have a proper map so it was mostly guesswork. On my way around the city I passed by the hospital Mubarak was currently being held in. The perimeter was surrounded by a huge amount of soldiers, one every 2 metres for the entire perimeter. Obviously prepared to stop any attempt to be made on Mubarak’s life. In the end I was lucky to get a room for ~€16 as I had heard Sharm el Sheikh was by far the most expensive city in Egypt.

Walking around town that evening was a bit of a culture shock. I hadn’t even seen a woman’s elbows in over a week! So it came as a surprise to see tourists walking around with barely anything on. There were a huge amount of tourists here which I hadn’t expected. Cairo was extremely quiet and since leaving Alexandria I had only seen one group of 4 french tourists. It seems though that the tourist numbers here haven’t been affected too badly by the revolution.

With the amount of western restaurants/bars/shops around here it felt like being back in Ireland and nothing like the Egypt I had come to know and love. Due to this it was one of my least favourite towns/cities of the trip. It was just like being back home, it wasn’t what I had travelled so far to see. Nonetheless I succumbed to the Western outlets and had dinner in an English pub, the only place with food I could find showing the Champion’s League final. I took the 2nd dose of antibiotics that night and went to bed feeling a world of difference from the night before.

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