JNB, DOH, CAI

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JNB, DOH, CAI.  Johannesburg, South Africa; Doha, Qatar; Cairo, Egypt.  

Run to the bicycle shop to pick up bike boxes, catch a ride home in the shop’s team van.  Pack bikes.  Ride to Sandton Gautrain station, sitting next to boxes in back of a Honda CR-V.  Gautrain to O.R. Tambo airport.  Check in with Qatar, luggage under 30kg no problem, bikes fly free.  Process VAT tax refund for camera and shoes, money which will arrive on a cash card in 6 weeks or months.  Running to catch plane to Doha, despite lots of extra time.  Movie selection is great, lamb and basmati rice with French red wine and chocolate torte, hand wipes, earplugs and eye mask if you wish.  No sleep, just movies.  Doha, again. Never thought I would return.  This time it is amusing and comfortable.  Almost miss the flight to Cairo, for real, Lael somewhere between the bookshop and the ladies room, head in the clouds.  Movies, snacks and birdseye views of Arabia all the way to Cairo– Persian Gulf resorts, Arabian Desert farming, Suez Canal, and Cairo, the city seemingly made of sand.  Deboard.  Buy tourist visa for $25, fastest customs processing ever.  Reassemble bikes in the shade, with watchful but polite eyes.  Ride away on wide boulevard, peaceful for the first kilometer, followed by 20 mad kilometers, increasingly frenetic.  Ride fast to keep up with the stream, no traffic lights.  Finally, elevated highway with no exits and entrances and traffic slowed to 35 mph, safer if not safe.  Drop back into the madness, slowly understanding how 16 million people can move through the same city without a single traffic light– civility.  One truck carries thousands of eggs, neatly stacked and unsecured.  Traffic is jammed near the center, bikes win.  Hotel which I’d arranged is lame: empty, and politely rude on the phone, no thanks to Lonely Planet’s top recommendation online.  “Welcome to Egypt.  You need hotel.  I give you good price.”  No thanks, but one such clever streetcorner entrepreneur suggests the Blue Bird Hotel, which is perfect.  The young brothers that own the place, one named Islam, ask what we’d like for our welcome drink.  “Coffee?”  Of course.  There is a familiar spice in the coffee, which at least the Egyptians are humble enough to call Turkish coffee, unlike the Greeks.   Leave the bikes in a storage closet and sleep in a dark room for a long time.  Tomorrow we walk twenty miles to the pyramids.

The Gautrain takes bikes which are packed in a box or a bag, although plastic bags and tape can conceal a mostly complete bicycle.  Qatar Airlines accepts bikes weighing less than 30kg free of charge, but overweight items are ridiculously expensive.  Riding anywhere in Cairo is possible with nerves of steel; best to come and go in the morning– the city sleeps late and is slow to start.

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Arabian farming.

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Suez Canal.

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Cairo, the city seemingly made of sand.

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In and around Holland

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Just a day and a half away from New Mexico, and we are cycling in Holland.  A long way from home and a quick trip– both relative.  We took the El Paso-Los Angeles Limousines from ABQ to Denver.  Packed up the bikes at Denver B-Cycle, thanks to Andy and Phil.  Boarded an RTD commuter bus to DIA.  Flew IcelandAir to Reykjavik, then to Amsterdam and rebuilt the bikes in the airport.  Rode 15km towards the center of town, mouths agape at spectacular sea-level spring and cycling along infinite fietspad, the Dutch word for bike path, and canals.  At last–we are in Holland, in Europe, along well-signed fietspad, and soon, on dirt trails.  Our bikes are exciting and amazing to us.  Our opportunity, also exciting, in which we credit ourselves for hard work and planning and saving money.  While still late spring in the Netherlands, summer is here!

Thanks to Alle and Irena, our Warmshowers hosts in Amsterdam. We left town via the LF20 Flevoroute toward Haarlem, then connected with the LF1 Noordzeeroute towards the south along the coast.  Rolling along sand dunes at dusk, we took cover under a small shelter as coastal clouds rolled onshore.  Within a day, we will connect with the GR5 walking trail, which connects the North Sea with the Mediterranean.  Anyone in southern Holland or Belgium? Luxembourg or eastern France?  

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Enjoy our summer in Europe with us!  Lael has more great posts on her blog, Lael’s Globe of Adventure.

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NAHBS

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I can’t not go.  I’ve got two days off work and it’s really not that far away and it sounds really exciting.  Thus, I’m up to an alarm at 3:30AM, on a flight that is cheap, but about $150 more than I spend on anything else.  I’ll be in Denver this morning as the sun rises for NAHBS; this evening, I hope to attend this smaller second show of Bruce Gordons and Rene Herse bikes, among others; and hopefully,I’ll find something fun this evening.  Looking forward to seeing a lot of people, and a lot of great bikes.

If you are in Denver this weekend, look for me at any of these events.  I won’t be connected via internet much at all, so you’ll have to do it the old-fashioned way (make a sign, like a limo driver at the airport).

Oh yes, and I’m riding the Cannondale Hooligan to the airport, stuffing it into a thick black plastic trash bag with some duct tape, and riding around Denver this weekend.