Monthly Archives: May 2015

Saying Goodbye: Dust, Salt and Tears of Egypt

An 11 minute read


Egypt gave birth to what later would become known as ‘Western Civilization,’ long before the greatness of Greece and Rome.”John Henrik Clarke, Writer/Historian

“Hello, hello, hello!” “Stop, Stop, Stop!” Children walk in groups on route home from school. The occasional bicycle challenges and a friendly laugh. Questions and staring eyes ensue on a dusty road. Scorched by desert heat, the ground quivers in a haze. The morning sun blisters in the open spaces. Later, descending hard and fast in the early evening. Green on the right and endless desert expanses on the left. Don’t wander far. Respect the sky. Cherish the wind at your back. Finishing ever last drop of the day, like water in a crushed empty bottle. Rubber and pavement. Sun and sky. Water and life.Me and the road. Partners in this challenge.

Egypt. One of the countries I had been anticipating the most on this trip. An astounding history with modern complexities. The very notion of Egypt sends endorphins of anticipation to my senses. Walking about Cairo amid the pyramids and ancient markets, I was blown away. Words cannot describe the majesty and depth of power that radiates from it. This extends much deeper than ancient temples and tombs. If you look under the curtain of the tourist touts you will find something captivating. A modern Egypt. One without self-entitlement and full of generosity.

Staying for a few days in Cairo with an extremely nice family, I learned of the modern difficulties that plague Egypt as well as their successes over the last decade. There is a changing face of a new Egypt with a deeply passionate people. I shared my story of challenge and charity to eager students at the Canadian International School of Egypt. With a kind welcome to the school, it was an excellent start to a new continent. While staying with the most hospitable family they shared their house, food and experiences with me from home and abroad. A humbled guest, I was lost without words at the realization of how little I have to offer. How do I repay all of the wonderful people along the way? To the countless souls who have opened their doors and let this weary traveller enter their lives, I extend my most heartfelt thank you. For being an inconvenience, a drag and general annoyance at times, I am sorry.

“Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.” ~ Mark Twain

Due to the security situation in Egypt I was urged by many to start my journey a little further south of Cairo. To respect the wishes of government officials, family and the general concerned I took their advice. Beginning my African odyssey, I held the vibrant colours of the life-giving Nile River on my right and rocky moonscape of desert on my left. A slow wind urged me along as I explored Luxor and the Valley of the Kings. Sites of eternal glory. As I rode towards Aswan the temperatures rose with the sun. My bike computer peaked at 52 degrees as my pants split in the decaying heat and my shirt crusted over like old cardboard from evaporated sweaty salt. Drinking water on the edge of being boiled, keeping cool was a constant issue. The dry weather cracked my lips and burned my face. Closing my eyes, I could feel the heat inside my eyeballs. Little room for escape.

Regardless, I loved the ride. It had been so long since I felt the warm scorch of the day. The visible strain and challenge of riding in difficult countries. Europe was a scenic break. Camping was simple and grocery stories readily available. Egypt was a rebirth into what I love. The moments of struggle. Seeing the visible rewards of my achievements and miles under my tires. Pushing hard with regained conviction of my purpose. Dirt, dust, sweat and salt of my labours. Badges on my fading clothes. To stumble with exhaustion into stores with cooked eggs for brains in search of nameless items. The local staple of ‘Kushari‘ (recipe) was my go to dish at less than a dollar per carbohydrate loaded serving. A dish that brings together the cultural influence of countless regions over Egyptian history. Rice, pastas, chick peas and lentils mixed in a hearty tomato sauce, topped with fried onions and spiced to taste. I was in food cycling heaven.

“It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.” ~ Fight Club

Arriving in Aswan I was set to acquire the elusive Sudanese tourist visa. My next destination. While waiting I got a frantic message to call home. Never a good sign. Tragedy had struck. My cousin Jamie had been swept away into the ocean by a wave while exploring out east with his girlfriend at Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia. I was in utter disbelief. My family brought to their knees in grief. How could something like this be possible? It is still very hard to believe. Life can change just like that. I was on a plane home the next day. During that time of extended solitary contemplation I had a great deal of time to think about Jamie’s life, our connection and what it all meant.

Jamie was a wonderful person that I shared many close memories with. Growing up together we were like brothers. We played together for years as kids and worked side-by-side for many more. He had an amazing joy for life and held dear to him the people that mattered most. He was never anything but himself. He brought the best out in those around him and made the world a better place. Fair and true. Funny and respectable. We will all miss you more than words can ever describe. To Uncle Jim, Aunt Caroline, Jessica, Jeremy, Jeanna, his loving girlfriend Brittany and her family, we are all here with you even if we can’t be near each other. Life is fragile. Love family. Cherish your moments together.

“Tears shed for another person are not a sign of weakness. They are a sign of a pure heart.” José N. Harris, A Story of Faith, Hope and Love

*CLICK HERE to read more about my Aunt Caroline and Brittany’s initiative to make Peggy’s Cove safer for tourists. It is the hope that no other families have to feel that same pain and loss of someone taken too soon.

**Thank you for the continued support of the schools in Eastern Ontario. I would like to thank St. Gregory’s and St. Mary’s specifically for your most recent donations. The kids of Verdara, India are now that much closer to achieving new hope and a new school. CLICK HERE TO DONATE

***Tomorrow I head to Sudan, my 13th country on this trip. It is with great anticipation I resume my journey through Africa. To the intense heat, sand and dust of the Nubian Desert ahead. See weather report for the next week with temperatures set for the mid-forties and UV index of 12 HERE.

India by Cycle: GoPro Hero 3+ Video



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