Monday, 1 February 2010

Up the Hill

Thursday, 1.30am and just 4 hours sleep, we must be mad. Cake & tea then a short coach ride to the base of Mt. Sinai, dark, chilly and feeling very wary. Passes purchased, through the security check and its off. The first thing that strikes you is the dust, it could almost be snowing the dust is that thick, picked out by the snaking line of "head torches" lighting the way up the mountain. The second, this is where all the camels are, loads of them all doing their best, well the guides, to get you to hop on the back......... for a small fee! We stuck to two legs and with a steady pace passed many groups resting up. We had a tight schedule today as after the climb just 115kms to cycle, so it was steady, steady keep going. The last section was steps and a queue, no chance of passing and here the camels gave way to human guides eager to grab your hand and give you a helping pull up, temptation again resisted. We reach the summit and grab a place to watch the sunrise amongst the many dozens, even hundreds we had joined.

Sun Up, away we went, the time schedule ticking away, a different, much less crowded route down, with a brief stop where I was able to duck away from the path and build a Cairn in memory of Steve, I don't know how long it will last but it was tooked away so am hopeful it will be around for a while.

Today was going to be tough, a hill within the first few kms, then a head wind all day. The group was split into 2, a 75km group and a 115km group meeting at lunch with a (approx) 25km ride to the fun part of the day - 15km down hill straight into the nights hotel. The first 25km had the hill to start and then up and down against the head wind, sapping stuff. First water stop made and then, well a massive downhill section, smooth tarmac, flowing bends on a good "racing" bike I dread to think how fast you would have been going, for us it was belly on saddle and away!
The trend followed for a while, up, then a fast descent. A comfort stop, and I lost touch with the leaders, no resting up here!, as I began to position myself for a fast downhill in a bid to gain ground, the road turned and the full force of the wind hit me, anchor like! It was a long lonely ride, looking behind no one in sight and the front riders dots ahead. Water stop, last before lunch and the regroup, however, one of the guides let slip that the 75km group were not that far ahead. We cycled a long flat strecth, the ground falling away to our left and so able to watch the road disappear ahead of us as it curved round. Maybe a mile, two maybe through the heat shimmer a slow moving vehicle could be made out, the 75km group. The pedals now a blur as we tried to get across the gap, which we did, in what seamed no time at all, the target pulling us along as we got ever closer.

Lunch once again a good meal, served in the shade of a cliff, with comfy cushions to boot, heaven after so long in the saddle. The early raising mountain climbers where beginning to feel it, it had already been a long day and after this rest we had three big hills to get over. From here to the top of the "hill" was a slog, hills, wind and riders falling off the back of groups to catch up again as someone else hit a low and dropped back. There had been concern that we wouldn't make it the the top of the "hill" before nightfall, but we did, all of us. The dangers of the hill explained - "it is fast, be careful", wine gums shared off we went 15kms of flying, again little other traffic and smooth surface saw us flying along, trying to get a pedal in when we could. A great finish to the days ride, the day though was far from over!

We had ourselves a Beach Hut Hotel, the Beach Bar open, ready and waiting, in no time our aching bodies in the sea, a short swim washed down by a beer, well one or two, but we had earned it today! It has to be said that dinner was a bit of a blur, the dancing with the local guides after even more so, but it was great fun. 22 hours, one mountain, 115 cycled km, a swim and a few beers not a bad day in any ones books!

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