Photography by El-Qamar and Michael Manoly
Back in March we had a couple of excellent guest posts about cycling trips from Hurghada to El Quseir (here and here), now here’s the latest instalment in the series: from Hurghada to Marsa Alam, a 284 km (176.5 mi) road trip on two wheels over two days. Enjoy.
I’m awake even before the alarm clock rings—as usual, I don’t sleep well when I have to get up this early. A glimmer of dawn is peeping through the curtains; I jump out of bed, quickly grasp my camera and tear open the door of the bungalow. Only a few steps take me to the beach, just in time to watch a blazing fireball rise from the sea, flooding the sky from a pale twilight into a bright red. I stand overwhelmed by this natural spectacle, listening to the quiet wash of the waves. I don’t think I can ever get enough of this.
And yet I have to hurry, my cycling mate wants to be on the bike by six; so it’s go back to the bungalow for a quick wash and to brush my teeth. To my dismay, though, the tap remains dry – it makes me wonder if they don’t think that we need any water at night?! – and I help myself with the remaining mineral water.
Moments later I’m standing in full cycling attire in front of the breakfast buffet or rather where it is supposed to be; because there isn’t any!
We finally leave at half past six; the fireball has metamorphosed into a full blown sun. Temperatures are still pleasant, it’s still cool and we silently roll on for an hour. I need some time to get awake, my legs are tired.
All of a sudden I get the feeling we are being followed. Startled, I looked over my right shoulder and there it was… a dog is running silently beside us. Normally dogs bark and try to catch us, but this one here – it’s a she by the way – seemed to have great fun just running along! And she was persistent, running on the asphalt or changing sides of the street looking for a better terrain just to keep up with us. I watch her, fascinated with her atheletic prowess.
After a couple of kilometres we stop; I want to give her a biscuit and she gladly takes the refreshment. Yet, we have to go on, it’s getting warmer and we’ve only cycled a small part of the first leg of our journey (135 km). We vigorously continue pedalling with the dog trying to keep up, however, she increasingly falls back. In the end she couldn’t keep up with us any more. Again and again, I turn my head to see if she was still there but I can’t make her out anymore. I’ll possibly never forget this encounter for the rest of my life.
On and on I pedal, my legs moving up and down, my hands trying to find a more comfortable position on the handlebar. The long asphalt line stretched in the sun, meandering right and left, ascending and straightening up an infinitely steep hill, only to drop down nastily on the other side of the hill. I don’t notice the desert any more and there’s hardly any traffic. All I can see is this long sordid ribbon of asphalt, the countless hills in front of me and the sparkling sea far to my left.
Onward from El Quesir, there are street signs indicating the kilometres: Marsa Alam 85 km, Shalateen 335 km… Marsa Alam 80 km, Shalateen 330 km… It feels as if the distance is decreasing in slow motion while I’m pedalling with all my strength. Only much later – actually just before Marsa Alam – do we find out that the distances given are inaccurate! The distance between El Quesir and Marsa Alam is 137 km; and from Hurghada to Marsa Alam it is a total of 270 km (284 km according to Google Maps).
Does the street really have to climb and fall steadily? We’re next to the sea and I feel terribly hot and am longing for some cold water. Unfortunately, we didn’t cool down our stock of mineral water during the previous night and now we are paying the price. All I wish for right now is to be cooled from the inside. On the way uphill, shortly before Port Ghalib, I can see a petrol station. “Cold water” crosses my mind; yet neither in the petrol station shop nor in the coffee shop beside can I get hold of the sought after liquid—although there are piles of boxes full of mineral water outside the coffee shop. The display refrigerators are locked and inside of the coffee shop I can’t find anybody. Well then, yes, it’s Eid El Kibir (Eidul-Adha), the most important Muslim holiday and the guy might be having a nap somewhere… Disappointed, I get back on my saddle.
We pass by the turning to Port Ghalib and I console myself with the idea that tonight, I’ll be sitting there with a cold drink. For now, however, we follow the road, up and down and over the hills.
I’m so tired that I actually would fall off my bicycle. Yet the music in my head phones encourages me and as soon as I am on top of a hill and see the next valley ahead of me, I joyfully and courageously cycle down the hill… just to climb up again a few minutes later, and with every ascent, I fall back further behind my cycling mate – a clear sign that I’m at the end of my rope.
Suddenly, Marsa Alam is ahead of us. No “Welcome to Marsa Alam” sign, utterly unspectacular, and borderline disappointing. We stow away our bikes in the escort car on a side street and I gulp down ice cold coke and water to cool down my inner core.
We drive back to Port Ghalib where I stay two days while my cycling mate returns to Hurghada. I have to admit though, that the day after I was so extremely tired, that I didn’t want to move at all. I wanted to sit somewhere, or even better, just lounge around… And eat. For two days straight , I had two breakfasts and two lunches!
On my way back to Hurghada I honestly wondered how I could have cycled those 270 km within two days—it’s still a miracle to me! But I made it and I’m proud of it.
El Qamar hails from one of the smallest countries in the world, Liechtenstein.
El-Qamar means “moon” in Arabic which is referred to as something noble, beautiful and precious. I like this name as a pseudonym for a blog from an Arabic speaking country.Biking, Cycling, Egypt, Eid Al-Adha, El Quseir, Featured, Hurghada, Liechtenstein, Marsa Alam, Mountains, Port Ghalib, Red Sea