Aurel: Mohy, the Egyptian we met thanks to www.advrider.com organized an off-road day in the dunes close to Cairo. We jumped on the occasion considering our itch for adventures!
It all began the day before when we swaped our road tyres for knobbies. Brand new TKC80 kindly offered by our sponsor Continental.
Even this is an adventure. We decide to go to a gas station to make the task easier and to see how they do that here. But the guy is a boor... more muscles than brain.
Loïc: The reasoning is clear and simple: "if it does not work it means I don't hit hard enough".
Aurel: We understood very quickly that if we let him do it we would never leave from here! Fortunately his colleague was more conscientious.
Once our tyres were fitted we stuffed ourselves with fishes and a bottle of rosé at the FishMarket on the Nil, a luxury! We did not stay late that night as we had to get up very early the day after to avoid the heat...the rendez-vous is at 7am with Mohy on a Cairo avenue. At this time even taxis drivers are still sleeping...
We filled up the CamelBack with cold water and we headed for the West. Mohy left the road 70 km later in the middle of nowhere to tackle the sand. It is time for us to lower the pressure of our tyres to be more stable and to have more motivity.
The first moments in the sand are a bit shaky. I have already ridden in the Moroccan sand on narrow tracks but never on such an area like this one. The approach is not the same at all, the speed neither. There is no landmark to estimate the speed and we feel like crawling at 100 km/h . Except that at this speed the handlebars shake from the left to the right so we get tense...
Loïc: I also tried to remember my experience in the Mongolian sand. I remembered that I should grip the handlebars as less as possible, let it as loose as possible and drive the bike by tilting it on the right or on the left. Anyway the first reflex is still to grip the handlebars very hard!
Aurel: Mohy is a very good guide. He starts easy and adapts his speed.
Loïc: And yet we were on the track for no more than 20 meters when Aurel was stuck on his bashplate on a 1 meter high bump.
Aurel: the first 20 km are flat which is the best to gain confidence and to anticipate the bends in the sand.
We just need to avoid the rest of rockets. The army used to often train here in the past.
The sun is a trap on huge flat areas such as this one. It starts to be burning, there is very little shadow and we are not able to anticipate the relief. We fall on bumps or holes at the last moment. But at 100 km/h it is better to anticipate...
Loïc: What also surprised me is that sometimes the bike goes fast and suddenly seems to loose 30% of power before speeding up again... only because the soil's consistency has changed (even if we could not see anything visually). Mohy quickly shared his secret with us: "throttle is your friend". Basically it means that the only thing to do when the bike dangerously vacillates is to speed up and stay "calm" as much as possible. Easy to say but that's the truth.
Aurel: Mohy takes us to the first cordon of dunes once we are confident in the sand.
We start easy by riding in the lower part of the dunes along the cordon.
The sand carries us. However there are some surprising soft areas where the motivity is almost null so we have to go through them quickly.
Loïc: The bikes sinks in the sand if we put weight on the rear to increase the motivity. But it also sinks if we lighten the weight as it lacks motivity.
Aurel: This is time for Loïc to do his first pirouette Fortunately without any damage except the bike's blinker. It is also the occasion for me to make fun of him. It's part of the game and I know he won't hesitate to do the same when it will be my turn
Loïc: OK, Aurel did not fall this time. But it looks like it:
Aurel: No, I am only bending over in the curves...
Loïc: Well now, a quick snack. No need to look for a shadow, there isn't any 40 km around us. We try to eat our sand sandwich and to protect our heads from the sun.
Aurel: Once we are confident along the dunes it's time to cross the cordon. There is only one way to do so: riding at high speed to reach the top, slowing down to see if the slope is not too steep behind and finally riding again at high speed on the slope to keep the bike's control.
It is the opportunity to help each other and to bind ourselves together, we always need a good friend in the sand!
The throttle is our best friend in the sand! Well, not always....
1 or 2 hours later Mohy stops on a dune's crest to take pictures of us from above. I stop nearby and we motion to Loïc to come see us. He rides fast, too fast not to sink in the sand... but the slope is too steep behind. So steep that Loïc flies in the air. His first instinct is to eject himself from the bike to fall next to it. For Mohy and mysef it is very impressive and we picture the worst. Thanksfully Loïc is safe, a miracle! The two stars watching over us on our logo are definitely there....!
Loïc: I had seen Mohy riding at this place and his wheel had abruptly sinked into the sand. It was clearly very soft so I prefered to keep up the speed; the soft sand would probably stop me anyway. I tried to slow down at the top when I saw that there was nothing 1 meter in front of me. But the bike kept on moving without slowing down probably because I had not disconnected the ABS. And next? I don't remember well... A jump in the air. I remembered cricri who told me not to try to hold the bike but to throw myself out. It seems that I did large movements when I was flying, like to swim in the air. I was not afraid of the fall but that the bikes fell on me. In the end the bike was immediately stopped by the sand and I fell one meter underneath. Happy not to be hurt. Sand all over my face but a large smile for an experience that ends well.
Aurel: Loïc ends the descent once the bike is put up again. Then it is our turn. Here lies the rub: I stopped a bit too early on the crest and it is not easy to pull away uphill on the sand.
Loïc: It looked like the sand was particularly soft up there and that it would not be a good place to stop!
Aurel: To give you an idea of the scale, Loïc is the small dark point, 50 m below my bike.
Loïc's left ankle hurts a bit so we decide to leave the dunes, get back on the road and rest.
Thanks to our rear tank www.AdvTank.com we help Mohy out as he is short of fuel. It's a pain to ride a BMW
Thanks Mohy for such a great day!
After a good night of sleep Loïc decides to have an X-ray to check that his ankle is not broken. Bad news, one bone is cracked. He could break it if the ankle twists; this would means a surgical intervention... The doctor recommends 3 weeks of plaster. What a blow!
In the end we decide to split the difference. 10 days in Cairo without riding so the bone can be fixed a little. Then we will ride leisurly along the red sea and the Nil toward Aswan. From there we will take a boat to Wadi Halfa in Sudan. Nothing better than a cruise on the Nil to recover, right?