Egypt #3 – Cairo Business

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I have my hands full in Cairo, between meeting contacts and organising the logistics of the journey ahead.

I start by announcing myself at the Belgian embassy, not only to provide the itinerary I am planning to follow across Egypt and Sudan, but, also to receive the medical supplies that have been sent from Brussels through the diplomatic mail as explained in the “Logistics #2 – Getting Supplies while on the Road” article. Those supplies are supposed to cover my needs over a distance of 4000 km, across Egypt, Sudan and the first half of Ethiopia where I will find the next embassy of Belgium in Addis Ababa.

With ambassador Sibille de Cartier in Cairo

The first step is to send part of my supply to Aswan, 1000 km further south, to make sure I will have Continue reading “Egypt #3 – Cairo Business”

Egypt #2 – Simon & Tanya

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After a few days spent in a hotel in downtown Cairo, I am invited by Christian and Aurore Pyre, two teachers, to stay in their house. I was put in contact with them through a former colleague of theirs. Besides meeting them, it gives me the opportunity to present Bike with Diabetes in front of a group of children… I’m not sure how that will turn out.

While leaving the hotel with my helmet on my head and struggling with all my gear to move to the Pyre family, a young woman comes up to me in a rush, asking me if I need help and if I’m a cyclist.

I had noticed her, her boyfriend and her mother a couple of days earlier in the lobby of the hotel. My first thought was that they seemed nice. Yet, I didn’t approach them as,… Well, wouldn’t it be awkward if I were to approach everyone who seems nice?

Startled by her question and thinking she was referring to the crazy traffic in Cairo, I answer I am indeed a cyclist, but not so much in Cairo. « Simon! » she calls, « he’s a cyclist too! ». I soon realise Continue reading “Egypt #2 – Simon & Tanya”

Logistics #2 – Getting supplies while on the road

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Type 1 diabetes isn’t the kind of illness I can take a holiday from as it requires multiple injections of insulin every day. This means that I can’t skip my treatment for a few days in case I would fall short on supplies. Yet, counting on local pharmacies to refurnish my stock isn’t an option, since distribution of pharmaceutical products is problematic in most countries I am to cycle through. I hence need, as I explained it in my previous post about the temperature problematic, to organise my own supply chain along my route.

The Pharma Companies

To do so, my first step was to contact the pharmaceutical companies producing the insulin and the medical supplies to ask them if they would agree to support my project, by ensuring access to medical supplies in the different countries I would be cycling through. Bike with Diabetes did raise an interest among some of my interlocutors, and several Continue reading “Logistics #2 – Getting supplies while on the road”

Egypt #1 – First days in Egypt

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The traffic in Egypt is crazy. It seems only one rule applies: squeeze into a free space, even if that will block everyone, yourself included.

Cars, minibuses and trucks are old and their exhaust gases envelop the city in a grey smog cloud. Drivers use their horn, not to prevent an accident, but compulsively, probably to check that they are still alive, like one would pinch themselves. Pedestrians nearly all walk on the road, along the sidewalk instead of the sidewalk. It is understandable, given the amount of obstacles one encounters there: shop displays, potholes, parked cars, trees planted in the middle of the pavement, construction wastes, garbage. At every crossroad, the sidewalk itself becomes the obstacle, being sometimes 30 cm high.
The pedestrians walking on the road, and the drivers adapting to that situation, show that the space allocated to cars is disproportionate. I wonder about the number of car accidents that occur per day in Egypt. I am told by a doctor that they happen often but that these are seldom fatal, given the slowness of the circulation. Fair enough, but still…

The Nile Delta is one of the most densely populated places in the world. Its average population density is 2,300 inhabitants per square kilometer over a 24,000 km2 area. That figure explains the crazy traffic. I hence decide to take a train to reach Cairo, situated about 200 kilometers south of Alexandria, as I don’t see myself breathing all those exhaust gasses, and risk an accident while cycling. On my way to the train station, a taxi driver bumps into my trailer in the middle of Continue reading “Egypt #1 – First days in Egypt”

Gisele A #3 – The Name

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« Did you give a name to your Bicycle ? » asks Emre, the Chief Officer of Gisele A, a cup of coffee in one hand and a book in the other, his hair still wet from the shower he just took.

It is my fourth day on Gisele A, the container ship bringing me to Alexandria, in Egypt, since I embarked on 20 November 2017 in Fos-sur-Mer, near Marseille. Until now, we’ve had perfect weather conditions : clear skies, a soft breeze and a sea as flat as a mirror.

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Days are divided into Continue reading “Gisele A #3 – The Name”

Gisele A #2 – Boarding Gisele A

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On 20 November 2017, my father, my uncle Philippe Comeliau and I, load the bicycle, the trailer and my luggage in the back of a rented van. My father and Philippe came over to Marseille to greet me a last goodbye before I am to leave the European continent. We are expected at 9 am at the entrance of the Eurofos container ship terminal of Fos-sur-Mer, about 70 km away from Marseille, where I am to board Gisele A.

The restaurant of the hotel we are staying at is empty when we leave. Breakfast trays have been prepared by the morning team and have been placed on the bar of the restaurant, waiting to be served to the still sleeping guests. The sky is blue and the power of the wind that had been blowing for nearly a week now, has sensibly decreased overnight.

We arrive a bit early at the gate and wonder how things will go from now on. Boarding the ship, sailing on the Mediterranean, cycling in the desert and across Africa…

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A few minutes later, Gilbert Braun, Benjamin Picanias and Andre Zakari, escort me from the gate to the pier where Gisele A is berthing. I am welcomed at the foot of the passerelle by Continue reading “Gisele A #2 – Boarding Gisele A”

Gisele A #1 – Why and How did I get on a Container Ship ?

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On 28 November 2017 I reach Egypt in a rather unusual way. I hear from people involved in my passage from Marseille to Alexandria that boarding a container ship as a passenger would only happen in exceptional cases. And indeed, a lot of discussion, people and negotiations were involved in making this crossing possible. The reasons Continue reading “Gisele A #1 – Why and How did I get on a Container Ship ?”