Oh Yes, It’s an ADVENTURE!!!
We were up at 5 am on October 22 and down in the lobby waiting for our bus to Alexandria by 6 am. Whew! That’s early! There was a group of 10 folks from Taiwan also waiting in the lobby along with a handful of other peeps. We had to do a bit of a hike to get to the bus as it was too big to fit in the hotel parking lot. It didn’t take long and we were loaded up and ready to roll. Did I mention Cairo traffic is awful? Well, our driver was awesome (of course he was driving a super huge coach) and we got on the equivalent of the Interstate and motored on down the highway in air conditioned comfort.
We made a short stop for coffee, bathroom, munchies, whatever here. There was a McDonald’s next door but nobody made the effort to go there.
Back on the bus we again motored closer to Alexandria, our destination for the night. Upon arrival at the Hilton Alexandria, we met up with the rest of the riders and the organizers. We spent the next several (too many) hours attending an overview meeting, getting our helmets badged with CEC logo and sponsor logos, and finally, getting our room.
Our organizers and staff for the CEC event.
Don't look at the big butt. Just look at the cool t-shirt. We each got 3 t-shirts and one polo. They call us the "Greensleeves" :-)
Our room was decent, but no view. No problem, we didn’t spend much time there. Shortly after getting our swag bag and the briefing, we all met in the parking lot for another bus ride. This time for a late lunch at a restaurant called The Jungle. There are almost 70 riders and another 8 or 10 peeps who are riding in a small bus for the Challenge. We all had a great lunch of chicken and rice. Interesting, the rice had a delicate cinnamon flavor. I really liked that! We also had two varieties of hummus and some kind of slaw salad along with puffed, hot pita bread. There were white, almost pink, flamingos in the pond alongside the dining tables. It was quite pleasant and unique.
After lunch we got back on the bus and went directly to where our scooters were being held. Then everything turned into chaos. We had already been assigned scooter numbers that matched our rider and helmet number. I was number 11 and Eric got 16. We thought we were going to get our scooters and bring them back to the hotel. Nope – they had other plans. I located my scooter and figured out the controls with the help of another rider. Okay, no problem, hahahaha. Oh, more hahahaha. It turned out, we were to ride the scooters to an event being held at the City Center. Okay, again no problem….hahahaha. (I had no idea that the "launch" party was really going to be a huge bash!)
Me and my scooter for the next nine days.
By the time we pull out of the mud, dirt, uneven lot where the scooters were held, it was DARK! And, Thursday night is like our Saturday night. Date night, night to go out and party. Yippee! Lots and lots of traffic and people out and about. We lined up in our groups to ride to the City Center. Eric and I were assigned group 2 (the motorcycles were group 1). I fired up the little Sym 150 scooter, turned on the light and got in line. Finally…….waiting……finally…..waiting…. we took off. Now, this is my first time ever on a scooter, it’s dark, I’m in a muddy, dirt parking lot, its dark AND the traffic is simply beyond description.
I took a deep breath, pulled on the throttle and the little scooter started to move. I had my eyes glued on the rider in front of me and entered the street. Everyone HONKS and HONKS and HONKS. Now, first time on a scooter, dark, brand new, never worn before helmet and tons and tons of traffic coupled with signs in a language I can’t read or understand. Oh yes, I’m on an Adventure, no doubt, what could possibly go wrong?
Somehow, I managed to make the next five or six miles without incident. Although, to be honest, my mouth went dry and I was terrified! We went to the City Center which is a huge mall and parked in the back and waited and waited and waited. I had no clue what was going on but I was going to find out shortly! We were instructed to line up in our Group order and then they gave the signal to go! And go we did – right to the front of the mall where we were a huge parade of bikes and scooters all branded with the Cross Egypt Challenge (both us and the bikes). It was surreal. We rode down an aisle thronged with peeps on both sides, cheering, giving high fives, thumbs up and waves. There were all kinds of strobe lights, loud music and somewhat controlled chaos.
We actually rode into a blocked off areas after passing under an inflatable arch with the Cross Egypt Challenge logo printed on it. Gee, I felt like a celebrity! Really, I did. Probably a good portion of Alexandria was there and wanted to touch, take a picture or talk to us. Wow! They had a big stage set up and a roped off area for us to park the scooters. Fireworks, live music, laser light show, vendors, food booths and more! Full on television coverage! I had no idea the CEC was such a big deal. Heck, I thought we were just going on a quiet adventure. NOT!
It was a great big party. One of Egypt’s most loved celebrity singer/dancer performed along with some other acts. Speeches were made, thanks was given and the party lasted until 10 pm. Man, was I tired. So was everyone else who was riding. We’d gotten up at 5 am that morning and now it was 10 pm. We only had the one meal at The Jungle and it was wearing on us. I’m thrilled for the organizers that it was such a big deal and a great turnout to launch the Challenge. I was sorry for all of us that were beat tired and had to hang for the entire program before going back to the hotel.
I have to admit, the entertainment was stellar if a little loud. But, then again, I’m old, and no longer like loud with flashing disco lights. Regardless, we had no idea what a BIG DEAL the CEC is!! We were treated like rock stars. The media were there, television cameras, interviews. Tons of people were there and we were the center of attention! It lasted for hours – really – hours. We picked up the bikes and left the dirt lot around 6:00 pm and got back to our rooms at 11:00 pm. Long, long, long day packed full of excitement. We were tired, very tired. Fortunately we only had to ride the scooters to the back side of the mall and not through the traffic back to the dirt lot.
Back on the bus, we got to the hotel and straight to bed. We had to get up at 5 am the next morning.
The alarm went off way too early but we dragged ourselves out of our snuggly, warm, cozy bed and got dressed. We dragged our luggage to the breakfast buffet and had a few bites and next thing we knew, we were back on the bus to the City Center to pick up our scooters and really begin the adventure.
We were sorted into our groups and began our journey from Alexandria to Cairo. Yes, it was an adventure! A number of Egyptian riding clubs met us at the City Center to ride along with us to Cairo. This made our tour group massive!!! I’m sure we were quite a sight to see and pretty much everyone who passed us had their cameras out taking pictures and videos. We were definitely what was going on in Egypt! At first, our group and probably all the groups were just a mad, hot mess. People weren’t paying attention to lane discipline or keeping up so the group got the accordion effect going pretty good. We stopped after about 100 kilometers for a fuel stop from the CEC fuel truck. That was a new experience and took quite a bit of time.
Our first "on-the-road fuel stop.
By now we were riding on the freeway but our scooters would only go 59 mph, (just under 100 kph), tops. Most often we seemed to be cruising at 55, (90 kph), but then we’d go 35 and then 55 and then slow to almost a stop. Some of the slowdowns were caused by giant speed bumps – yup – giant speed bumps on the freeway! We rode another 100 plus kilometers and stopped for another fuel stop and lunch.
Our stops took forever because of the number of people on this particular portion of the Challenge. I’m sure tomorrow will be much quicker and more coordinated as we won’t have the hangers on and hopefully the peeps on the Challenge have sorted out how to ride in formation properly.
The view from our room.
Yup, it’s just a big adventure! We finished our ride today in a massive windstorm. The wind was so strong on the last leg of our ride! I thought we might be in for a sandstorm (how Egyptian is that!). There was lots of sand being blown about but along with the sand was tons of plastic bags, sheets of plastic, huge sheets of cardboard and other debris. I thought for sure one of the riders would catch some debris in the face and crash. However, we all managed to power our way through it and arrive at a lovely Hilton hotel for the night.
We had police escorts for most of the trip today. They were especially helpful by blocking and stopping traffic when we entered or exited the freeway. We had dinner and off to bed. A belly dancer was scheduled for our event later that evening but we were too tired and bed was calling. No, bed was screaming at us! It was good to go to bed :-)
Thanks for following. Internet access is horrible but I'll try to get another blog out soon!
Thanks for following. Internet access is horrible but I'll try to get another blog out soon!