Countdown to the Finish Line:
I created this blog to keep you updated on my bike ride from Cairo to Cape Town.
From January 17 – May 12, 2019 I will be embarking on a 12,000 km journey across Africa. I will post updates as often as I can, so please check back here regularly. You can also follow along on my Facebook and Instagram pages for even more photos!
Thank you for your support,
PS. For updates on my Fundraising progress, please visit: www.fundly.com/peter-cox
March 18, 2019: Tanzania
Aha – managed to retrieve some of the images. They do not reflect the beauty of today’s ride.
March 16 – 18, 2019: Tanzania
Scenes from Serengeti. Back on the bike and two big days from Arusha to Babati (173km) and Babati to Sengida (157km). Stunning scenery. Corrupted chip – no images. These will have to do.
March 16, 2019: Kenya
Seems like a lot of stages have passed. Into Nairobi – a huge bustling city. To camp at the same place my daughter, Sophie, did a year ago. Then to meet with Kaiser (a paediatrician I met in South Africa) and to indulge in meat of every kind at the same place Sophie ate (Carnivore).
Then out of Nairobi in heavy traffic through rolling hills and unpaved unfinished roads, acacia grassland, Mt. Kilimanjaro through the haze to the South and a long climb over the shoulder of Mt Meru to drop into Arusha Forrest days at Masai Camp. Another coincidence – to meet Patrick and Martin who guided Sophie from Kenya to Cape Town.
Tonight I am in my tent, no fly, gazing at the stars in the Serengeti. Saw so much today it is overwhelming. Lions, hyenas, elephant, rhino and many different species of deer (that is before mentioning the many birds I recognize). The changes in microclimate has been phenomenal. Arid to tropical rain forest all in the space of a cycle ride.
Hard to believe we are halfway through.
March 10, 2019: Kenya
Nanyuki to the Southern Hemisphere. Rolling hills through coffee, tea, papaya and banana plantations. Beautiful scenery. Hectic traffic. Nairobi tomorrow. In a few days, we are halfway through.
March 9, 2019: Kenya
Lasi through Isiolo to the equator. Overnight on boarding school grounds. Excellent sportsmen and athletes. Then long climb to base and around Mt. Kenya to Nanyuki – and the equator.
March 9, 2019: Globe & Mail Feature
Check out the exciting feature on Peter’s campaign in this week’s Globe and Mail:
March 2019: Kenya
Stage 39. Arrived in bustling town of Nanyuki. Few km from Equator. Beautiful 35km/1500m climb on great roads up to the base and then around Mt Kenya with its snowy crags. Lots of cultivated land. First we have seen in Kenya. Huge wheat fields and acres of hothouse flower growing for export. No tea plantations yet. Clearly far more prosperous area than where we have come from. Lingua Franca is English. More moderate climate and people. Had “scavenger hunt” collecting silly things and photos for an Equator party this evening. Interesting how competitive the teams got – pulled disparate groups together. A good thing as we roll in our bubble through the continent.
March 2019: Kenya
Stage 36/37. First two days in Kenya. Desert scrubland crisscrossed by animal paths making their way to whatever water there is – not a lot. A few watering holes will have herds of camels, cattle and goats waiting their turn to get to a small muddy hollow in the ground.
Strategically placed, men with AK 47 (or some other issue) rifles keep guard. Camel rustling is a big problem. The government appointed a bunch of reserves, and armed them which has addressed one problem and escalated another – tribalism. As well as the political refugee issue, tribalism and animal theft are the source of ongoing conflict. Elsewhere, water is tanked in. Seeing donkeys and women carrying the ubiquitous yellow plastic bottles with water for drinking, watering the herd and cooking, this highlights what I take for granted. Rarely does one see a male carrying anything other than the stick over his shoulders. Occasionally one will pass with yellow bottles draped over the back of his motorcycle.
Both days of riding were long and stinking hot into a strong headwind gusting over 30 km/hr. 13 of us got together taking turns front and side. To punch a hole in the wind. Only made exhaustion more tolerable. We were all knackered – particularly when the last 10 km into town were a constant grind uphill.
We are camped and having a rest day at a convent just outside of Marsibit. Sister Mary Jane clearly understands thirsty hungry cyclists. She had organized a more than ample supply of cold juices and beer – a great boost to sagging energies and spirits.
We cross the Equator on the 9th. Hard to believe where we are and how we got here.
February 2019: Southern Ethiopia & Northern Kenya
Changing faces. Changing scenes.
February 28, 2019: Ethiopia
Stage 33. Total contrast to yesterday. Rolling perfect road along the rim of the Rift Valley. Yellow wood trees in patches with louries, batis, meerkats and lots of little blue birds in the road edge. Majestic termite mounds poking up through through the dark red African soil. Climbed about 1400 m in the 120 km. Ended in Yabello – a bustling small town. Soon Kenya and then the equator.
February 2019: Ethiopia
Stage 32. Lake Koka to Ostrich camp. More of the same from 31. From the idyllic lake shore to a camp in semi arid acacia patch with ostriches through the camp and an occasional warthog. Lots of lovely birds including the splendid starling with its cinnamon breast and white collar and glossy back. Quite splendid!
Bus day along some of the worst roads to date into sub tropical Africa – banana plantations, papaya trees, thatched rondavels and a people whose features are darker and less angulated.
Green, which was absent through most of Egypt and Sudan is now the dominant colour. Early morning star gazing and there was the Southern Cross. Getting closer to home.
February 2019: Ethiopia
Stage 31. Left bustling Addis in a convoy at Monday morning rush hour – competing for space on the highway with crazy traffic, pedestrians, donkey carts and the occasional barrow load of sugar cane. Finally freeway – into a headwind though largish towns to turn South West into the Rift Valley. The savanna with beautiful flat topped acacias, herds of cattle (and camels!), Castel Vineyards, huge Chinese backed industry (their stamp is everywhere) to camp on Lake Koka. Marabou storks, sacred ibises, fish eagles, pelicans and smiling faces. Idyllic.
February 25, 2019: Ethiopia
Stage 30. Into Addis. Rough night led to rougher day. Ran out of juice as I ejected ALL my dinner and breakfast. 1200m of rolling hills (6-8% gradient), need energy. Approaching Addis was interesting to say the least. Traffic crawled up the hill in a cloud of diesel smoke. We crawled with them.
We gathered 15km out of Addis to ride in as convoy. Imagine any 2-3 lane highway at rush hour. Insert a bunch of wackos on bikes, the filling of a sandwich between two vehicles, taking over the road. Insert donkeys, goats and cars reversing (yes reversing), broken down trucks, car crashes … quite the ride.
At our camp I found that EVERYTHING in my permanent bag (which we access on rest days) was swimming in a pool of water. Ziplocks are not made for 2 day immersion. Clothes dry easily. Documents tend to get glued together; passports warp; cell phones fail; $ bills tear and mat to each other.
As Sophie said: “Dad, without sh*t days you wouldn’t know good days! Get some sleep.” I did get some sleep and all is good as we head for Moyale and cross into Kenya.
February 24, 2019: Ethiopia
REST DAY: Addis Ababa
Today I had the privilege of meeting the surgical team (Dr.’s Mekonen and Shiferaw) who do amazing work with Transforming Faces correcting cleft lip and palate. Dedicated, innovative, though still largely dependent on support from TF, they change lives. Show these pictures to your friends and help support what they do!
Funds raised so far will Transform the lives of over 2,000 kids.
In rural parts of Ethiopia, birth defects are considered a curse. Children born with defects are often not nourished and die as a consequence. Their focus is not only on repairing clefts. They are also trying to change attitudes! Help them if you can.
February 22, 2019: Ethiopia
Stage 29 – From the edge of the Gorge, climbing a further 1200m to pass the highest point of the tour. Stunning landscape; dogs and vultures sharing space; ploughing with oxen and a simple blade; suckling baby donkeys; trying to pass goats and cattle on shared road; intense farming and shifting clouds. Got to camp early enough to dry out fly of tent and sort out other gear after the storm. Another rider hospitalized and each day a bunch who are not able to ride. A real test of stamina and mental resilience.
February 21, 2019: Ethiopia
Stage 28. 89km and over 1800m climbing.
A kaleidoscope of colour and activity cycling 50km to the lip of the Blue Nile Gorge. Treacherous descent on a road destroyed by heavy weather and heavier truck traffic. Concertinaed tarmac or none at all, with gradients topping 12% (very, very steep for those who may not know what 12% means). No time to look at views as all eyes on road surface when you descend fast (which I love to do). 20km down passing trucks and dodging donkeys to cross the Blue Nile which originates on Lake Tana in Bahir Dar and heads South before looping back northward to join the White Nile at Khartoum.
Then a tough 20km ascent (average gradient 7+%) with very steep sections and many baboons cheering you on. The steep sections are often on course, potholed gravel as steepness is where trucks do most damage. The views back into the gorge are stunning. We are camping on the edge of the gorge looking back down at where we came from. Altitude is about 3000m (10,000 feet). Same as Leadville, Colorado.
Chilly at night. I used my sleeping bag last night for the first time in many nights.
The group has become quite tribal. Interesting to watch and be a part of.
February 21, 2019: Ethiopia
Stunningly beautiful day with changing light (and sore legs). Amazing climb looking back on the Blue Nile Gorge. Now camped on the rim of the gorge in my tent. Sound and light of thunderstorm and pouring rain on the tent roof. I am dry, warm and tired.
February 19, 2019: Ethiopia
Sudan to Ethiopia. Like entering a new world where every sense is stimulated. Strong, rich, sweet coffee, vibrant colour, music with beat and food with texture and taste.
People are beautiful, warm and inviting. Birdsong is everywhere. Jacarandas and lilacs in bloom.
Bussed from Metema (the border) to Gondor (an ancient city) under army escort passing a few burned out villages and vehicles, many check points and squads of uniformed armed soldiers (Kalashnikovs and AK 47s). Side trip from Gondor to Simian mountains through rolling hand tilled farmlands, past deep gorges and up to the national park. All a visual feast.
Back on the bike for 2-day ride from Gondor to Bahir Dar. Spectacular mountain pass into plain of village lines roads. Stopping for strong, sweet Ethiopian coffee an experience as it is both a ceremony and a taste treat.
Sunday is church day (Orthodox) which brings out white sarong draped crowds off to worship in every village we ride past.
Bahir Dar a vibrant lakeside city with colourful bustling market, the best fruit smoothies (guava and papaya my favourite). Early morning boat trip along the lake to the Blue Nile – hippos, kingfishers, hornbills, fish eagles and and fishermen and so much more.
Previous years have experienced trouble on the road out of here, so we bus to avoid sticks and stones from village kids and the then ride/climb out of Blue Nile Gorge over 3 days to get to Addis. From there head South to Moyale on the Kenyan border.
Two countries, one month and nearly 3,000 km in.
February 17, 2019: Ethiopia
Stage 26 – Gondor to farm camp. First big(ish) climbs, changing scenery, and different smiles.
February 16, 2019: Ethiopia
North of Gondor, the Simian Mountain Range is stunning.
February 15, 2019: Ethiopia
Dodging cars and potholes to get to Sudanese/Ethiopian border where money changers and colour wait and we wait for customs clearance.
February 15, 2019: Ethiopia
February 14, 2019: Ethiopia
Gondor, Ethiopia. Colour at last.
February 13, 2019: Sudan
The colourful markets of Sudan.
February 11, 2019: Sudan
Stage 22: Cycled east with strong wind gust off centre turning to cross wind. Felt like I had immersed myself in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Was like riding through scorched earth. Nothing but dried yellow grass on black soil. It looks like some crop (likely sorghum) is grown, though it’s hard to imagine it green.
Spending more time at “Coke Stops” to get some shade, fluid and – finally – spend time with some Sudanese. Far less conservative than the North. One little girl voluntarily walked over and shook my hand and asked my name (see photo of her below!). Lots of kids coming out of school and generally friendly and keen to practise English.
Tonight at Al Quadarif, I bought a bucket of water for my first real wash in a number of days (phew! Though we are all in the same boat). The bucket was drawn from a double 44 gallon drum, drawn by a donkey. I splashed around, soaped up and rinsed. I feel so refreshed. My cap gives some sense of salt accumulation (see photo below).
We reach the border with Ethiopia tomorrow afternoon, and cross over at Metema into Ethiopia. There has been a fair amount of unrest in that region. The military has advised against travel by bike. We will bus to Gondor. I will miss doing some challenging climbing, though it will be good to rest some sore joints. An extra day in Gondor will be a great opportunity to explore the National Park in the Simien Mountains, which will be spectacular by all accounts I have read.
The other treat that awaits is some excellent Ethiopian wine I tried last November. Last time I had wine was January 11th. A cold beer will be equally good. Sudan is ‘dry’ in more senses than one.
February 9 & 10, 2019: Sudan
Stage 20 & 21: Covered 270 odd kilometers towards the Ethiopian border, Khartoum is where the White and Blue Nile meet. There is an almost Miraculous change in the environment from the emptiness of the desert to semi-cultivated scrub farmland. Bird life has changed and there are many plovers, egrets, little brown birds (LBB), vultures and shrikes to mention a few.
Today (Stage 21) we started a slow climb toward the low hills that will become the Ethiopian Highlands. Our interaction with the Sudanese has been limited to tea and coke stops. As we move south, there is more prosperity, people are friendlier but roads are narrower. One has to be extra vigilant as the buses do not particularly like to see cyclists on the road. On more than one occasion, I had to get off the road very fast – ‘right-of-weight’ rather than right of way.
Today for the first time I saw my first wild African animal – a troop of baboons.
I am excited to get to Ethiopia, which is considered to be the cradle of mankind. We will spend a few days in Gondor (look it up on the net) before riding to Addis Ababa.
February 2019: Sudan
Stage 18 & 19 disappeared from our plan for security reasons. We were bussed from the police checkpoint into Khartoum where we spent two nights in a shady campsite. I did go into the downtown core as I had some mechanical issues to deal with. All good.
February 8, 2019: Sudan
February 2019: Sudan
Stage 17: Another day with the desert through-wind and heat straight into our face. Temperatures over 45°C with a strong headwind. I can understand how they make bread using just the heat of the sun as the stove. My Garmin when we stop for a drink read a temperature of over 58°C. That’s not far off what I use in the Big Green Egg to do a pulled pork (which admittedly takes more than the 7+ hours I was riding). Go figure.
The day ended at sunset, close to a police checkpoint. I was able to have water poured over me from a 2 1/4 inch pipe. It was the hottest shower since leaving Canada. How clean the water was is irrelevant. My arms and body were caked with salt. Interesting that today I have drank about 8L of fluid and put out probably 200mL of urine. In the ICU they would call that pre-renal failure. I think I did pee a few crystals but that was it. Coca-Cola stops are a life saver.
I am in my tent at 7:16pm with only the netting. It is too hot to use the fly. I can see many stars and a fingernail clipping of a new moon through the roof of the tent. In the background, there is a call to prayer as well as the screech and honking of diesel trucks as they stop at the police checkpoint.
This is my bedside story for tonight.
February 2019: Sudan
Stage 16: Today must be the hottest, most exhausting day in my riding life.
We started before 7am and headed straight into a hot, searing, soul-sapping headwind which pushed our average speed to 12 – 15km/h, and pushed up saddle time.
Inside my tent feels like a sauna at 8pm and the temperate of the sand (and for the tent to reflect) today is at 43°C. The temperature has backed off quite a bit, and it is now at 39°C. Alex, Jerome and I rode together from the lunch stop, and so we were able to support each other into the wind.
We managed to complete the stage. We are camped in the middle of the desert. I can hear the thump of the diesel truck charging battery to keep the fridge cool enough to protect both food and medication should it be needed.
Tomorrow is another 145km day. We have asked the Wind Gods that the wind is behind us. Many of us faced the reality of how hard the ride is. We will also mark the 2,000km of the trip about 40km into Stage 17. Hard to believe that we have cycled that far in only 17 days. Quite the experience, and morale is maintained by camaraderie and laughter.
February 1, 2019: Sudan
115 km but I took a shortcut to join a herd of about 20 camels. No human leading them. They seemed to know exactly where they were going. Apparently when they are roaming in the middle of nowhere they are able to find their way back ‘home ‘ which is some transient space somewhere.
We are in Dongola now – crossed the Nile again to the West side. I can see the bridge we came over. Chinese engineering built it – and in return they get 40% of the petroleum industry as well as a bunch of perks including arms deals. We are well above the Aswan dam now and the river flows quite fast. More noticeable is the amount of agriculture. I suspect they have access to the silt which the dam has covered lower down.
It is Friday and everything is closed. The vast majority of the population practice Islam (although it was a Christian country prior to the 12th century). I did not realize how conservative Sudan still is. 80% of women have genital mutilation; crucifixion, stoning (of women) and hanging are still practiced under sharia law; education penetration is variable and below 20% in some areas. Poverty is rife. Sudan is the 5th hungriest nation in the world and ranks 167 on human development index. It is also one of the most corrupt countries around. The history of the country is complex and getting more so. Independence from British and Egyptian rule (!) in the 1950’s and split into North and South Sudan not that long ago. Strife is ongoing therefore our change in route (including being bussed around Khartoum).
Jan 31, 2019: Sudan
Stage 13. Farka to Nile Ferry Camp. 145km, on the gradual incline to Ethiopia through Sudan, a lot of it straight into a headwind. The first real test of our cycling strength. The road is generally good. Built by the Chinese. There is no maintenance, so where a flash flood destroyed part of the road, it remains destroyed.
The hills have what look like goat tracks although there is no sign of goats out there. I guess they could be millennia old.
There is a distinct change in architecture from Arabian to Nubian. It is more simple with beautiful lines. Although buildings are made from brown mud blocks, doors and windows are often brightly painted – pinks, greens and blues. We watched a bunch of very friendly kids heading off to school, some in Gap sweat-shirts, others in traditional white.
We have been cycling close to the Nile until today. We veered off into this lunar scape which became a hive of activity – artisanal alluvial mining for gold. Hundreds of dark skinned men, many with metal detectors, others with simple pick axes trying to eke out a living. I am told this is what The Klondike looked like (though no saloons or bars here). There is one big, open-pit, modern mine owned by a Turkish company.
Our camp tonight is close enough to the river to have another refreshing swim before watching the sun set over the Nile.
We are bypassing Khartoum because of political strife. Smart move.
Jan 30, 2019: Sudan
Crossed from Abu Simbel to the eastern coast of Aswan Dam (Nasser Lake).
After a 30km ride we spent a good four hours getting through Egyptian and Sudanese immigration procedures. Then had a beautiful ride through unspoiled desert on a road recently built by the Chinese to Wadi Halfa.
Arrived here just before sunset to a meal of chicken, beans and salad. The camp is quiet – and it is not yet 8pm. No wifi, patchy internet and no pub. Only prayers from a few local mosques and now dogs barking and an occasional truck rumbling by. A donkey has just started braying.
Today we rode 70 km and on Sunday 151 km. We are well into the routine now. Up before 5am to strike our tent pack and load our bags, then have breakfast of tea or coffee, oatmeal, pita bread and bananas.
Tomorrow we ride about 150 km into the remote desert and camp in the middle of nowhere.
Cycling through Egypt: The Start of the Tour d’Afrique!
Jan 29, 2019: Sudan
We are heading into Sudan today and will be out of any contact through the internet until we get to Ethiopia in about 15 days time. We are doing this to remain safe and secure and will not be going into Khartoum where there is ongoing unrest. I will post photographs as soon as I have signal again in Ethiopia.
We have covered about 1,200 km and have cycled across one country!
Thanks for the ongoing support.
Last breakfast in Egypt.
Jan 28, 2019: Egypt
What an incredible day. We left Aswan earlier this morning and rode into a strong side wind through a very boring Desert. Stop for lunch after the first 80 km and continue for another 20 before turning East with the wind behind us. This tail wind allowed us to make up for lost time.
What it did not do was regenerate my energy. We camped in a small city called Abu Simbel which is on the banks of the Aswan Dam. Some of you may remember the temple that was moved to protect it prior to it being flooded (UNESCO project). I will visit that tomorrow. We have a rest day before leaving Egypt and heading into Sudan.
Stage 10 into Abu Simbal. Through the most vicious windstorm. If you look carefully, you will see a wall. A big and beautiful wall. Built to keep the sand out. It does not work. Maybe we should advise our American neighbour.
Jan 27, 2019: Egypt
Stage 9 Complete. 136km. Camp in the middle of the Desert. Sand everywhere.
Jan 25, 2019: Egypt
Another day in the saddle. Can’t believe we’re already a week in – tomorrow we cycle 134km and camp in the desert.
Jan 24, 2019: Egypt
Cycling up the Nile.
Every sense is teased (well nearly!).
Colours, smells, sights and sounds.
We were passed from the praying in one mosque to the next. People fishing, washing and minding their herds. Friendly kids and folk until the last section where rocks were tossed at us, kids tried to block the way and some of the riders were threatened with canes (sugar). All good at the end of the day.
Water can turn the desert green – the railway seemed to be the watershed.
Beginning to see lots of African birds I recognize.
Jan 23, 2019: Egypt
Police Camp to Luxor. Heading to Nile with a lunch stop: the menu gets abbreviated as items get finished. We have 100% hand washing compliance- no one wants to get sick. Garbage is dumped roadside.
As we head into Luxor it is the first time to see green since leaving Cairo. All along the whole trip so far is unfinished construction.
Jan 22, 2019: Egypt
Safaga overnight and then to Police Camp. 60km climb hoping to get a freebie downhill. Had to pedal straight in to head wind. Police camp was no more than a spot next to a checkpoint with a body wash with 500ml water. Interesting
Press “play” for a few video clips from our ride today.
Jan 20, 2019: Egypt
Our last day on the Red Sea before heading West over those mountains toward the Nile.
Jan 19, 2019: Egypt – Day 3
Another dramatic day. The Sinai Peninsula ends at the Gulf of Aqaba. Oil lines snake through the desert. Our first night of camping. Cold outside shower and a sink to wash clothes in.
Jan 18, 2019: Egypt – Day 2
Moses led his people free from somewhere along the road I cycled today. I suspect it looks just the same now as then (unlike the Nile which is a polluted cesspit – no place for an infant in a papyrus basket).
My perception of Egypt was shaped by childhood trips to the movies. Ben Hur and others. It is very different in real life.
Jan 17, 2019: Cairo – First Day of the Ride
We started before dawn to ride up to the pyramids, the start of this crazy ride. Watched the sun come up over the desert and then bussed to the outskirts of Cairo to avoid the hectic traffic (makes the 401 look free flowing).
With the wind on our backs we cycled down the Gulf of Suez – the first section being through the Sahara. Quite something in its nothingness. Huge open space with no life other than plastic bags and bottles and the occasional scrub bush and scavenging crow. In places it looks like they have spent hours bulldozing sand from one pile to another.
Lots of security check points and freely pointed AK 47s.
Then along the coast South East with dusty resort towns, fish stalls and the occasional patient flamingo trying to be unnoticed. Hotel stay tonight for security reasons (and again tomorrow).
Video from Day One
Jan 16, 2019: Cairo
Before heading off to Luxor, I had to see Tahrir Square.
The sandstorm was surreal as it could have been tear gas.
Tonight Cairo is covered in a layer of dust.
And then I smelled it – rain on dry sand. Well, a few drops anyway.
We ride out early in the morning.
Day 1 of a four month journey.
What was I thinking??
Jan 16, 2019: Cairo
First daily brief.
Jan 12, 2019: Off to Cairo
Packed and ready for the adventure! Will have a few days in Cairo and will be starting the ride on January 17th.
Jan 7, 2019: Preparing for the Adventure of a Lifetime
We are only ten days away from the start date on January 17th.
Between packing and training, the adventure is starting to feel real!
Sep 11, 2018: Announcement
For over 30 years I have had the privilege of working at SickKids Hospital, in one of the leading Intensive Care Units in the world. At the end of this year, that chapter of my career is coming to a close.
In January 2019, I will embark on a life-long dream: cycling from Cairo to Cape Town.
12,000 km 11 countries 100% pedal-powered
As you can guess, planning this adventure is putting a huge smile on my face! And along the way, I will be raising funds for children born with cleft lip and palate – a devastating and very visible condition impacting the lives of many children in Africa, and around the world.
Every dollar I raise will go towards Transforming Faces (TF), a charity that helps transform the lives of children born with cleft to ensure that they can lead happy, smiling lives.
- TF will invest 100% of every dollar I raise towards delivering life-changing care for children born with cleft
- A private foundation has already committed to matching all donations, dollar for dollar, up to $50,000
- Together, our focus will be on providing essential services to kids and families in Ethiopia and Uganda