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Desert Travels - Motorcycle Journeys in the Sahara and West Africa!

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  #1  
Old 19 Jun 2004
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Egypt's western desert

We're planning a bicycle trip into Egypt's western desert in november. We will ride the classic loop from Cairo to Luxor, but want to take some offroad pistes. Has anyone some experiences (also by car) to share: waypoints, which (also digital) topographic maps to use, water supply etc. We're especially interested in the old caravan roads between the four main oases.

Cheers,
Rafke
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  #2  
Old 20 Jun 2004
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Sounds like a great trip. Spent e few weekends out from Bahareya, and many more after this summer. I would say that off road on a bicycle you would need to carry a stack of water. Or hire a guide with support vehicle. There are some excellent guys in Bahareya for about $30-$40 a day ( that might be per person )

I am sure there are others with more info, and I'll keep an ear open.

Good luck with preparations
JT
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  #3  
Old 20 Jun 2004
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Howdy
I go out there every weekend from Cairo. Its a fantastic place. I mainly use 4x4s as I have tried an offroad bike (pedal) but found the terrain (soft sand) limiting.

Decent topographical maps are hard to find. The best ones were surveyed by the Brits in 1941. Copies are available from the Desert Survey at Giza (near the Zoo) but it is not a reliable source. I have digital copies - I am not sure if they are email-able though, sizewise. NASA at the Stennis Space Centre have just made a load of sat pix publically readable but you need a fast connection for downloads.

By bicycle offroad your best bet is to explore the White Desert (lots of hard packed chalk) and the Gebel Qatrani escarpment (lots of circular routes and firm sand) on the Bahariya road coming out of Cairo. There are some springs in the desert where fresh water is available but you will need to purify it first.

Any chance you are in Britain this summer? Its something we would be better discussing over a with a big table for maps etc
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Old 20 Jun 2004
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Thanks for the replies!
Few more questions: any idea of the main wind direction in november (hope it comes from the north), which water purification method will do, and: do we have to care about the egyptian permit hassle on a bicycle?
Runner, I'm very interested in the maps. My provider allows emails up to 5 MB, so if you have a good connection... if I can't make it to Britain I can bring Belgian to Cairo in november!
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  #5  
Old 20 Jun 2004
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Rafke
Ok Ill try and sort the maps out. Whats your email address?
I dont purify water much here, as I am in a vehicle I can carry bottled water. However when I need to, I use either a First Need pumped system (quite compact and would fit in bike luggage) or a PWP (cant remember the make) that fits over the lip of certain types of water bottle.

I might be around Belgium in August, en route to Portugal and northern Spain. Would you fancy meeting up?

Basically I have a huge stack of GPS references and photos and things you might find useful, too much to mention on here! I cant guarantee being around in Cairo in November as we may be heading south to the Gilf Kebir and Uweinat round that time.
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Old 20 Jun 2004
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That's very nice, my email address is:
raf.verbeelen@telenet.be

Will be great to meet up in Belgium, you're my guest!
Meanwhile I can still trouble you for info? ;-)
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  #7  
Old 30 Jun 2004
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A word of caution:

Do you have any experience in cycling off-road in sandy areas ?

The only water sources available are at or very close to the oases, none between them. The distances are 200-300 kilometres. With a bike laden with you and your baggage on the kind of terrain encountered, your progress will be little better than walking pace. Before starting out on long waterless stretches, test yourself on shorter sorties to get a feel of it.

I know a few people who did Farafra - Dakhla on foot (180 km) in 6 days, but they had camel support. On a bike you would be able to carry no more than 10-15 litres of water, that is enough for about 2-3 days if you exercise hard (as you will have to).


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Old 1 Jul 2004
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Yes, Andras, don't worry ;-) we do have some experience.
Last year in Morocco we did the piste Merzouga - Tagounite (260 km), some pushing required, carrying 15 litres of water each, which was not necessary as there was enough water supply.

We are aware of the fact that the Western Desert is more arid, and are now up to carry 20 litres of water.
What bothers us most, is indeed the sand, and the route finding.
And, having visited your website regularly, I think you can help me with some info, especially regarding the terrain. We will follow the paved road and do some off-road excursions, but if possible we'd like to try any old caravan road between the oases. We know that it will be sandy, the question is: HOW sandy...

What are we considering?
Bahariya - Farafra via the old route east of the paved road.
Farafra - Dakhla, your example, did already seem to be off-limit, but we still look for more details.
Dakhla - Kharga via Ain Amur especially, because it seems we can find water in Ain Amur.

So, any info on the terrain and route finding is more than welcome!

Thanks,
Rafke.
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  #9  
Old 1 Jul 2004
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Rafke,

In the mean time I saw your website, seen you've done quite some trips. Hope no offence taken

Generally the western desert is much sandier than what you have encountered before. I can only relate to 4wd, never done any cycling myself. Most people who have a go at the wd with their own known and tested cars find fuel consumption up by 20-40% compared to central saharan pistes - that means soft ground everywhere.

The first route you mention, Baharya - Farafra sounds the most manageable. Between the two depressions the ground is generally chalky rock outcrops, you'd find that manageable. If not, you are always reasonably close to the road to opt out if necessary.

The Farafra - Dakhla bit is not possible without support. With 20l of water you might barely make it in cold weather, but the issue is you HAVE TO make it - no wells or anything else along the route (and lots of sand), and the road makes a big loop away from the direct route.

I'm not familiar with the Ain Amur route, it might be doable, but even the Dakhla - Ain Amur route is long and far from any help if needed. I'm not sure if Ain Amur actually has a well or not these days, most of the old caravan route wells are disused and have been grown over or sanded up - you may have to do a lot of digging.

Regarding permits, in principle you need none as long as you stay to the inner (eastern) side of the oasis road loop.

Email me for more details if needed.



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