More mad dogs, and Irish men in the midday sun.

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tent eastern dessert, originally uploaded by new_dles.

Friday: Hurghada to Ras Ghareb

Day 5

Distance 100km

Duration: 5am to 9pm

Narrative: Today was by far the hardest yet. As we left Hurghada we were immediately hit by the hot and dusty head wind that was to plague us for the next 16hrs. It was relentless buffeting our bodies- drying our mouths out within minutes supping from our water bottles.

The terrain was a depressing monochrome of dusty brown, and pancake flat. Objects, trucks and deserted buildings, would gradually appear on the hazy horizon 5 kilometres in the distance and gradually grow larger and clearer until they would slowly struggle past. Even the sound of a truck not making an impact on the constant soundtrack of the gusting gale.

Psychologically, the landscape and climate were demoralising. The unchanging flat sandy dunes giving little impression of progress and the wind sapping any energy or spirit to go further.

By 11am we knew we were in trouble. We had covered only 70km, and had not encountered any signs of civilisation. As it was becoming to hot to cycle, and there was no sign of any shade, we decided to pitch the tent and wait out the midday sun in its shade. This is, in theory a great idea, but in practice the tent became even hotter than the 38/9 degree heat outside.

We passed 5hrs huddled in the suana like tent that seemed likely to become airborne at any moment. The heat took a toll on our water supplies and more importantly on our energy and morale. At 4pm we packed up our gear and pushed on in earnest.

20km onwards we encountered our first signs of humanity- a grubby truck stop, where we had a plate of stewed fava beans and bread. We also discovered from one of the truckers that our destination, which appeared to be a town on the map, was in-fact only an oil refinery. So, we would have to continue on an extra 30km to Ras Ghareb to find food, water and a bed for the night.

As we donned our head lamps and set off into the pitch of the night we wear weary and dispirited and had a cycle of around 70km ahead of us. We battled on for two hours more.  Suddenly a pack of dogs appeared on a ledge above the road. They wear snarling growling wildly. All we could see was the reflections of their beady eyes as the flinching beams of our lights passed across them. We stepped on the pedals to outrun them, accelerating using our last reserves of energy. When we were at a safe distance we fell off our bikes and sat wheezing by the roadside. Our situation seemed stark, we were totally spent.

We decided to flag down a passing truck to Ras Ghareb. It was only when we were ensconced in the dimly lit cab of the six axled lorry that we released how tired we actually were. The truck driver admonished us for being out so far at night. It was “very dangerous place” he said with wolves and other animals.

We were just glad to be going somewhere.

We arrived in Ras Ghareb and after a Spanish inquisition by the police, they seemed particularly interested in our father’s first names and what our jobs were, we were allowed to check into a spartan hotel by the bus station.

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